open thread – June 23-23, 2023

It’s the Friday open thread!

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

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

{ 856 comments… read them below }

  1. Egg-Citing Interview...*

    Any UK civil servants about? Got an interview with defra next week and I’ve never been so interesting in a job opportunity! It’s a junior civil servant role but they’ve not really made it clear which of the success profiles they’re focusing on? Any comments greatly appreciated!

    1. mkaibear*

      Hi;

      I’m a civil servant in the UK. Happy to try to translate for you if you drop it on here?

    2. Ex Publisher*

      I’m a relatively recent UK Civil Servant (I was the person late last year with the good news post which used ‘defenestrate’ and generated some lively discussion), so I might be able to help with learning to read civil service language.

    3. Madame Arcati*

      Been a uk civil servant over twenty years, have sifted applications and interviewed, and am currently embroiled in the process myself apropos of an internal promotion campaign. If you can copy and paste the text on here I am sure between us we can help!

  2. DisneyChannelThis*

    What software do you use to stay organized at work? Anyone have a good digital Gantt chart system or Kanban app?

    1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      Trello! everyone loves it. Sadly I have to use a notebook but I realized that outlook has a todo thing included and I might try it.

      1. DivergentStitches*

        I love the Outlook To-Do task list. You can drag/drop emails over there to follow up on.

      2. WantonSeedStitch*

        I’ve just started learning to use Trello. I have only been using it as a way of collecting feedback from folks on a specific project so far, but I have been eyeing it as a way of staying organized as well. It’s very intuitive, and I like it a lot!

        1. Quinalla*

          Yes, planner. I use it sometimes, but mostly I just have my one-note built from the GTD framework + my calendar.

    2. ferrina*

      I like Monday, but I have coworkers that swear by Wrike. Trello seems to be the undisputed Kanban champion.

    3. A BA PO*

      I am a huge fan of Asana, though their free version is less than stellar. I used it a ton in my last job, but now I use it for my own personal planning as well.

      I recently started using Coda – on the surface the app just appears like it is a note taking tool, like Notion, I have found it is pretty powerful for task management. I just started at a super small company and I helped develop our project & task management system in Coda.

    4. Koala Tea*

      I love a good organizational system!
      For company facing task lists, my place of employment has been having success trialing the list option in SharePoint. It also comes with Kanban and Gantt chart views as well as the option to include attachments. Each item is coupled with a Teams chat so discussion is kept in one thread.
      We also use Planner. However, Planner Boards are best used for a singular project, with each card representing a singular action item or micro project assigned to one person at a time.
      I personally use One Note to plan my daily task list. I have a page for each week and a check list for each day. This helps me plan out my micro steps for projects over long timeframes. To Do is a great option for some. I personally love lots of notes and the ease of saving photos, links, and calculations in One Note so it works better for my needs.
      There are some amazing automation options with Power Automate such as creating To Do tasks simply by flagging an email.
      I recognize this is all Microsoft program-based suggestions, that’s what I’m most familiar with. And there is a plethora of how to’s on YouTube to make learning easy. I hope you find something that works for you.

    5. aubrey*

      We use KanbanFlow at my company and love it! We used Trello before but prefer this for metrics.

    6. Ahdez*

      Monday.com is my favorite; it has a bit more of a learning curve that Trello, which is a good free option if you only want a Kanban, but I like how Monday is set up.

      1. Lady Alys*

        My job uses Monday.com as well, although I’m finding that I still need my paper and fancy pen. Monday works great for us for documenting processes and making sure recurring events are taken care of properly (the kind of event that recurs just infrequently enough that you can’t hold all the details in your short-term memory!).

        If you work at a non-profit, ask Monday.com about giving you a free account – we pay nothing for ours and have full functionality.

      2. Joron Twiner*

        I like Monday but I hate that you have to pay to add on every little feature. It’s like they stopped developing improvements to it and instead outsourced that to third party developers who nickel and dime you for every basic feature. Plus every integration wants access to all the data in your board so IT won’t even approve it, even if it would make your life easier…

    7. mreasy*

      I used to use Trello and now use Asana to align with my team – luckily the Asana board view is enough like Trello that it was an easy switch.

      1. Sloanicota*

        I did *not* like Asana but I think it was more a symptom of my office culture than the tool itself. It was way too easy for coworkers to off-load tasks onto me (with deadlines!) and no context. I’d log in and find all these random tasks that had been dumped on my plate which I’d then have to track down and figure out what they really were and if the deadline was “real” or meaningful at all. It was generally used to dodge responsibility since “I assigned the review to Chris, thus it’s not my fault the project was late.”

        1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

          I’m sorry, that sounds awful :|

          whenever this type of question comes up in my workplace, I ask, “Do we have a software problem or a people problem?” Your example illustrates why I always ask: In my experience, most organizational softwares/platforms have a similar core, so the important part is how they are deployed and used day-to-day.

    8. Random Dice*

      I use Microsoft Teams’ “Tasks” app. It’s how I keep organized with my direct reports, and reporting upward.

    9. OtterB*

      I am just getting started using the free version of ClickUp which I think I saw someone recommend in comments here before. It has a few more features than I really need, leading to a learning curve getting settled in, but I think it’s going to be good so I’m sticking with it. The thing it offers that I was having trouble finding otherwise is the ability to have separate workspaces (mine are work and personal but could potentially be more) but have a single to-do list drawing items from both.

    10. km85*

      At work I use Outlook tasks, rules, and reminders. Like, an email I get twice every workday is irrelevant to me all but like 10 times a year, so I’ve written a rule that if my name is in said email, Outlook flags it for follow-up, which adds it to your tasks. I find rules really helpful!

      But in my personal life, Trello all the way!

  3. Scripts for Negotiating New Duties?*

    There is a certain type of work task that I have always failed at: it is one where you have to keep something like a spreadsheet or database updated intermittently, with no particular deadline but ideally you’d always be doing it in the background. I always, without fail, end up letting it get away from me, then have a shame spiral about how it’s not done, then make a heroic effort to catch up all at once, and then it immediately starts getting away from me again. So many times I have resolved I’m going to do better, “just do it once a day / week / month / right when it comes in” and fail. Luckily, I am now mid career and this type of task doesn’t come up nearly as often as it did when I was entry level, and the type of work I want to do and am good at is not of this nature (I am really great when something is complicated with a tight deadline – I could create the database originally, for example – just not maintain it). Unfortunately, I’m at a small nonprofit where people wear a lot of hats. We have not replaced our admin and now we’re not going to, and I worry my boss is going to ask me to be the one to keep our donor system updated, because I already agreed to be the person who gets the mail and deposits the checks (not my job either!). I am well respected in my current role and I worry it will reflect badly if I explain my issue. As a manager, is there anything you might you hear from an employee you were hoping to take on a (thankless, crappy, out-of-scope) task that you don’t want to have to do yourself anymore, that wouldn’t annoy you?

    1. DisneyChannelThis*

      A willingness to take on another thankless crappy out of scope task in exchange. Is there any other task you could do instead? It makes you look like a team player who just really doesn’t want task A, instead of having to dive into all the trouble you anticipate having with task A.

      1. Scripts for Negotiating New Duties?**

        haha yeah ugh I thought I was already doing that by offering to be the mail person. It’s pretty danged annoying to have to drive across town to go get the mail and sort it (and then not lose it or the mail key). But because it’s an “event” I can be counted on to do that at least weekly.

        1. erg*

          Is there a place near the mail pickup where you could update the DB when you do the mail run? Then the DB update (if you don’t avoid it!) becomes part of the event rather than a separate task (it’s now “mail run and sit at coffee shopw for an hour to update the database every Friday morning” instead of just “get the mail on Friday morning.”)

          1. parrot*

            Seconding this! Mentally tying two tasks together is the only way I’ll ever get some things done.

          2. Been There Done That*

            not advisable to enter donor information into a database in public – donor information should be kept private. Usually in a donor database, you have contact information along with giving history – should be not where just anyone can see it.

    2. Panicked*

      Is the main issue that you don’t want to do the task or that you forget to do the task?

      If it’s the first, I’d approach it as “I can take on some of the workload; tasks X, Y, and Z align well with my current tasks.” Just try to take on those that you like better instead of waiting for assignments.

      If it’s the latter, I find that if I’m intentional and block out times on my calendar each day/week/month/whatever, I don’t have nearly as much difficulty completing them.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        That’s what I do. I have a recurring block of time on my calendar to fill out a spreadsheet. If I’ve been keeping up with it through the week, great, if not, the time is designated.

        1. PJs*

          This is what I do, and it works well! I just have a standing weekly “meeting” in my calendar to update X spreadsheet, and make sure I use that time as intended. If I can’t (meeting is booked over, I have the day off, etc), I either move it to a different day or extend the meeting time for the next week.

        2. Jelizabug*

          Seconding and thirding this… I have recurring reminders set up in my Outlook tasks for those tasks that I only do weekly/ monthly/ yearly. They are super helpful for me.

    3. Jami*

      I think sharing it’s not your greatest strength to stay on top of this kind of database is a fair thing to share with your boss—that you want this important information to be updated and available, and you wonder if anyone else is more up to this task. Like others say, offering to exchange a task with the person who takes it on might be nice.

      (Also, I’d you do get stuck with it, could you make it a part of the process when a check comes in? Log check, deposit check, update data about the donor)

    4. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Part of getting out of the shame spiral is knowing about expectations. You’re putting expectations on yourself, but you should be operating according to your boss’ expectations instead.

      If I were your manager, and I assigned the task to you, then I’d prefer to hear something from you along the lines of:

      “I’ve never been very good at these intermittent update kind of tasks — they end up at the bottom of my to-do list and always gets pushed off because of other things that are more urgent. How important is it that this be up to date all the time? Is it ok for me to save it up, and then block out the first Friday of the month to do the spreadsheet?”

      If you get that once-a-month thing approved, then absolutely do block out that day, and push back when anything else gets dropped in your lap — and tell people that it was your boss’ direct instruction to do so.

    5. Goddess47*

      Is this the sort of work you could supervise someone else doing? Esp if you’re a non-profit, do you have part-time help or volunteers and this could be their job to actually do and you just supervise it. You’d need a relatively reliable person. And, yes, I know, it’s sometimes easier to do it yourself than train someone to do it, but it sounds like you would do the training (since that has a deadline) and then the other person would actually do the work when it’s there.

      Good luck!

      1. Scripts for Negotiating New Duties?*

        Yes I am great at delegating haha. I know what needs to be done, I am happy to train and support, I just always fail at actually doing it!! I should have said, I’m not really looking for tips on getting this done by just believing in myself and trying harder, I’m looking for scripts on discussing this with my boss. At the very least, I need to warn her upfront that I will probably be terrible at maintaining the files, even if she decides I have to be the one to take it on and there’s no way around it. And no, I don’t have ADHD.

    6. Tio*

      Are you actually able to take on a new task? If even taking it on is a bit of a stretch, can you push back a bit with the old, “My plate is really full right now with X, Y, and Z, taking A would mean I would need to drop something. What would be the priority?”

      1. Scripts for Negotiating New Duties?*

        Ugh, yeah, I probably do need to have this broader conversation at some point, but I know she has no solutions. We’re down to only three staff now and she’s way overstretched herself. I’m very concerned my job is going to become increasingly administrative and I think I need to start job searching. Which stinks.

        1. Tio*

          Just because she doesn’t have a solution doesn’t mean you don’t have the conversation – sometimes the solution is “I don’t get to X task most days and we all know about it” but the purpose is that your boss knows all these tasks aren’t doable by you at the same time without something falling off

        2. linger*

          N.B. that’s all the more reason for initiating cross-training in the tasks left only to you at present. (It’s a Good Idea at all times, for other reasons that you could share with Boss, but if you know you might leave, that does increase the urgency.)

    7. Suddenly_Seymour*

      Following this thread for tips and really appreciate the question raised – this is something I struggle with as well. The shame spiral and anxiety is real – things push naturally due to priority, and that’s fine, but at some point it transitions into a land of Untouchable Tasks and I agonize over it until it is enough of a critical need that I absolutely must do it. Also mid career and worried about how this pattern could reflect or impact future goals. Thanks for making me feel less alone!

      1. Scripts for Negotiating New Duties?*

        I hope not to get too deluged with tricks and tips for how I can do better, as it’s a bit like when punctual people (which I am) try to tell perpetually-late people how to be on time, or people who don’t struggle with overeating sharing weight loss tips. It’s not like I don’t know “how to do it” it’s just that there’s a disconnect in my brain about doing it – and at 50 years old I’m more interesting in finding jobs that avoid as much admin-type work as possible versus becoming the queen of spreadsheets.

        1. Marketing Ninja Unicorn*

          So, I am a manager and my direct report recently came to me with a parallel problem. She was tasked with doing X, but it is time-consuming and fiddly and she can’t do it if she gets interrupted because she loses her train of thought and also she really hates doing it and it always falls to the bottom of her to-do list and then off the list entirely until it’s months behind and then she shame spirals.

          As it happens, there’s another person in our department who EXCELS at this kind of work but has another task she doesn’t like.

          My direct report was honest with me about why Task X didn’t get done timely and how much she hates it. She offered to switch her Task X with the other person’s Task Y and she outlined for me what that would look like and how each of them would handle it. She had clearly talked to the other person first and both were on-board with the changes.

          Because the tasks are still getting done, only now we have two tasks getting done timely rather than two tasks getting done way late, everybody wins.

          I’d outline for your boss why the DB task isn’t a good fit, suggest a way you can pick up another admin task (or point out you’re already doing one by picking up the mail and depositing the checks), and let her decide how to handle it. If she’s a halfway decent boss, she will understand that you’re saying this task isn’t something you’re ever going to be able to do well, so if it’s mission-critical (and donor databases are to non-profits!) then she’ll find someone else to do it.

          If you come with at least a partial solution (you’ll train a volunteer to do it and commit to managing that volunteer) you might get traction.

    8. theletter*

      When it comes to things like updating databases spreadsheets, I look for ways to automate the process as much as possible, or find systems already in place that keep the data as part of the course.

      Donor checks can be tracked in accounting software, and if you can connect it to the bank account, you can see all the checks deposited and who wrote them. Your accounting software may be able to to track donor’s checks by donor’s names, and if you have that, no more spreadsheets needed!

    9. Quinalla*

      When you figure it out, let me know, my nemesis in this space is keeping my timesheet up to date. Timesheets are an annoying necessity at my job and I end up waiting until I start getting the reminder messages and then do 2 weeks at once. It would be way easier to do it daily or twice a day, but I don’t. I tried setting a reminder for it, but I’d push it off for something more urgent then forget. I used to get about a month behind, but now we do financial tracking so it is important to do it every two weeks, so I’m doing that now cause I know it is important. I may just resign to that is the best I can do here haha.

      For other task like you are talking about, I have a running list of some kind to keep track of updates I need to make and then when I go to add something and I’m like, this list has enough to get in there and do it now, that is when I update it.

      As far as how to approach delegating this task, I’d be up front that it is a somewhat tedious but very important and necessary task. You don’t have the bandwith to keep it updated regularly and trust the person you are delegating to will more easily be able to fit it in. Maybe have a follow-up in a month and make sure things are going smoothly and give them the opportunity to complain, say they actually can’t handle it, etc.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Yeah when people are telling me “schedule the time on your calendar!!” or “set a reminder for yourself!!” I’m like … yeahhhhhh … this is like “just loose weight by eating less calories and working out more!!!” to me.

        1. Tiny clay insects*

          Same. The trick that now works for me is when I update whatever it is, I type an email to myself reminding me to do it again–but then use “schedule send” so I don’t actually get the email until a week later or whenever I need the reminder.

          For whatever reason, my brain can ignore calendar items with no problem, but a new email is different.

          (not that I think the OP should just use my method and do the task! by all means, make a trade for something to which you are better suited! I just wanted to share because it took me till 40 to figure out this workaround for my brain.)

    10. Tex*

      I put in an outlook calendar invite for 0 minutes to “Fill out XXX” every two weeks at Thursday at 4 pm. That way it is a task I can snooze but it keeps popping back up unless I take care of it.

    11. Aquamarine*

      I would try to bring it up in the larger discussion of how tasks are going to be shared among staff so that it comes with a reminder of the additional things you’re taking on. I’m thinking like, “Maintaining a database like that isn’t a strength of mine, so I was hoping someone else could take that on while I add the mail and check deposits to my to-do list. Will that work?”

    12. Random Dice*

      This sounds a lot like my own ADHD task management struggles. For projects with a set completion point and deadline, no problem, I can Microsoft Teams’ Tasks kamban the bell out of them.

      Endless tasks that have no deadlines and no end… that’s my “Wall of Awful” as YouTube’s “How to ADHD” calls it.

      Instead, think of who has the strength you lack, here, so you can focus on your strengths. There are people who are really good at this kind of task but not at driving forward a whole complicated program. They like doing regular straightforward tasks that aren’t stressful or overwhelming. So … find that person and let them wear that hat.

    13. Janeric*

      I think it depends on your relationship with your boss — if it’s friendly and open, you could probably tell her that this is the kind of task that takes up an outsized amount of emotional real estate and will make you less effective overall.

      You also say you’re understaffed — if you do get pressured into taking it on, I’d insist on an end date and have … realistic expectations for how much time to commit. Realistic means small. When an organization is understaffed output suffers, that’s expected.

      Also if you’re doing a great job in other duties and you communicate clearly then it would be Natural Consequences for the organization if you do the thing you hate Very Badly.

    14. Been There Done That*

      Just going to throw this out there….because I spent more than 20 years in development/fundraising. Caveat – this is totally dependent on the number of people on staff and I realize there are a great many non profits who don’t have this option, but best practices is that whoever opens the mail is NOT the person who makes the deposits or updates the donor database. Need a system of checks and balances – your auditors could have a field day with that one. So, if you are the person who opens the mail, if at all possible do not let yourself be in the position of depositing the checks AND entering the info into the database. At the very least, have the boss make the deposits.

  4. a raging ball of distinction*

    This year I signed up to mentor summer interns at my company and recently heard from two different folks. Company culture is very much one of getting meetings thrown at our calendars left and right. Accordingly, I responded to each of their intros with “it’s great to meet you! my calendar is up-to-date, please send me an invite.” So far I have received zero invites. Both folks are in undergrad, so there is some adjusting to norms, but I’m a little taken aback that neither has acted on my very clear ask. I’d appreciate other folks’ reactions and advice from people at large corporations who have experience mentoring summer interns. Thanks!

    1. DisneyChannelThis*

      “Just checking in, I haven’t received a calendar invite from you. I’m free this Thursday at 1pm if you want to have a quick meeting then”. It’s very possible the calendar system is new to them or they don’t fully understand how to use it, or didn’t know how to spell your name to find you in the application. When learning professional norms its also possible they thought that send me an invite was a polite no or something too. I’d make 1 effort to offer them a time directly in case it is that sort of issue.

      1. ccsquared*

        Yep, this! Interns and entry level folk can sometimes be more worried about doing something wrong than not doing something they need to do to move things forward. I’d give them a nudge and if that doesn’t work, book the meeting yourself and put this topic on the agenda. After that, it’s reasonable to expect them to show more initiative, but there are all sorts of reasons why they may not have booked the meeting that deserve the benefit of the doubt at this stage.

    2. Sloanicota*

      Hmm, just curious, I wonder if they are set up in Outlook or even know how to create meeting invites on other people’s calendars? I know our interns sometimes kept using their student emails that weren’t on our platform, which was annoying for everyone in a bunch of ways.

      1. a raging ball of distinction*

        thank you for bringing these points up! both asks came through our company email/Teams. I’ll look for an easy “setting up meetings in Outlook” link to send with a second ask just in case that is the issue

      2. Squirrel Nutkin (the teach, not the admin)*

        Great point! I am not an intern, but the first time someone asked me to do this, I had NO clue!

    3. Lady_Lessa*

      Are you sure that they know how to do that? Or are they waiting for the senior person to do the inviting? Even now, I tend to let the busier person do the inviting.

      1. I have RBF*

        IME, that’s actually the norm. The senior or busier person sets up the meeting, unless they specifically request someone else do it. Casually asking them to set up a meeting may not come across as permission to initiate the process.

        1. ccsquared*

          This varies by industry and company. The places I’ve worked tend to be more about whoever asks for the meeting/has a bigger stake in it happening sets it up, which would presumably be the interns in this case. But if this is the norm at OP’s workplace, it definitely makes sense to make it more explicit for them in case they are more in this seniority mindset.

    4. CoffeeIsMyFriend*

      I wonder if they know how to check the calendar and send an invite? I’m a professor and my students don’t do much of this / are generally used to just getting links and being told when to show up.

      1. Melissa*

        I am 40 years old but I just learned how to do this!! The system I was used to in the past was, by email, “Hey can you meet at 9 tomorrow?” “No but i can do 11” “I can’t do 11, but how about Tuesday?” It was NOT efficient, but it was what I was used to. It definitely felt odd the first time I looked at someone else’s calendar (it feels so invasive!) and scheduled a time they were free to meet with me.

        1. b-reezy*

          Are using the scheduling assistant? I never look at anyone else’s calendar directly (no idea how to do that and don’t want to anyway), if I need to schedule a meeting, I use the scheduling assistant (which just shows times that are blocked off/available with no details) to see when we’re all free.

          1. amoeba*

            That depends on the settings though! Same for us but in a lot of companies the calender is public and then, yes, you do see what the meetings are on the scheduling assistant as well!

    5. Dell*

      I have had interns & new hires that don’t follow up on simple things like that and it was usually a sign of bigger issues with accountability. HOWEVER, you signed up to mentor them. This is exactly the kind of thing that you can mentor them on. They might not even be entirely sure how to use Outlook to send an invite like that. When I was a new grad, I had never used Outlook before (I had three internships but none used Outlook). They might also not even be sure how much of their own schedule is free yet if they are that new. I would reach out to them again and see if you can’t work together to get intro sessions set up.

    6. Anon for This*

      In a similar situation I was told that, due to my rank, junior people were afraid of me. As I have always been the approachable person in my org this was something of a shock! I had success in scheduling the first meeting so they could get to know me, dispel any fears, then I put it on them to schedule the next meeting(s) on a notional schedule. E.g., we should meet for an hour every two weeks. Please send a calendar invite for the next meeting by COB. It worked for most of them, but there was on mentee that I only met with that one time. His loss.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        Heh, when I was an intern, I was afraid of everyone who wasn’t also an intern. Nothing to do with how approachable individual people seemed, the mere fact that everyone was a “real” adult with a full-time job was enough to intimidate me.

    7. Blue*

      I think you missed one very simple part of the ask that would have made this a lot more comprehensible to someone completely new to an office setting. “Send me an invite *for a time you see open on my calendar.*”I’m assuming that in your system it is easy to look at individual calendars but if it’s not 100% obvious, a note about how to do that would help too.

      This also might be a case where the path of least resistance is for you to suggest a time for the first meeting, then explain what you’d like them to do to schedule future meetings.

    8. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Did you ever explicitly say “I am your intern mentor, and we need to meet every X weeks”, or explain the meeting/invite culture?

      Part of mentoring is explaining those things in black and white at the beginning for the inexperienced.

      1. a raging ball of distinction*

        yep, they specifically asked for next week and I said “great, you can see when I’m available next week”

        1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

          I obviously don’t know everything you said, but I’m putting myself in the shoes of a timid intern. Do you think they heard “It is your job to pick a time and schedule our meeting”, or are they awkwardly dancing around which one of you is going to click on the Outlook icon?

    9. Parenthesis Guy*

      You have to send emails to undergrads to set up meetings. Asking them to do it is asking a lot at their experience level.

      1. The Person from the Resume*

        I think that’s ridiculious. Setting up a meeting in Outlook is not that hard. It’s a MS product and MS interface. Even if someone has never done it before which is totally possible with a student, any reasonably technically literate person should be able to figure it out or google it to figure it out.

        1. Claire de Lunar*

          It’s not about being physically capable of it. It’s a huge psychological ask when someone is much junior, inexperienced and unfamiliar with these processes. There is a reason these people are being offered mentoring, and that is precisely to teach them hie to handle these situations. Understanding that is a major component of being a good mentor.

        2. Parenthesis Guy*

          I’m sure an intern can figure out how to send a meeting.

          It’s that having someone new in their career set up a meeting with someone senior is the challenge. If I was an intern, I know I’d be intimidated to ask someone for a meeting out of the blue because I would feel their time is more important than mine.

    10. But Not the Hippopotamus*

      I’ll echo that they might not be set up to do this (not in the system yet, not able to see your calendar, etc.) but I will also mention that you gave an ask with no timeline, which might make it look more like an option or open-ended. I suggest following up with something like, “please schedule a 30-minute meeting for some time in the next two weeks. my calendar is up to date, but it gets filled quickly so this needs to be done by the end of the day tomorrow ” or whatever timelines make sense in your case.

      They might not have enough information (for their experience level) to know what to do.

    11. CTT*

      Echoing what everyone else has said, and also that I have consistently m noticed with our interns (law students) that they don’t really get calendar/scheduling etiquette. And that makes sense, because it is not taught to them and undergrad is a place where you are not really beholden to the schedules of others. It may be worth doing a quick “here is how we use our calendars and why that’s important” session as part of your onboarding.

    12. HigherEdAdminista*

      When I was an intern, I would have felt like I was being presumptuous to invite someone to a meeting with me. You did say that directly, but it can be intimidating to folks who are new to think a more senior person isn’t just being nice and really does want to meet with them.

      We see that in social situations all the time that people suggest getting together when they actually have no interest in it. They are just saying it to be polite — the whole “we should get coffee sometime” thing. It may be that they are judging by those norms and not grasping that this situation is different.

    13. Momma Bear*

      I’d set up the first meeting and then walk them through the process for future meetings. They’re learning office norms and company culture. Try leading by example. Many of our interns are so nervous – they refer to people by last name and title (Ms./Mr. Smith) until they are told otherwise/more comfortable. We are not that formal but they’re erring on the side of caution. I bet some of that is at play here, too.

      It may not be as clear to them as it is to you. If you didn’t set a timeframe, they may be intending to do it, but don’t feel the same urgency b/c it wasn’t communicated. They may be feeling like responding to their boss/onboarding is a higher priority right now. So just invite them and level-set the expectations for this relationship.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        Seconding this. When I mentored an few interns, I set up the meetings first and set the expectations (we will meet weekly, I will check in with you about XYZ, feel free to ask me about ABC topics, etc.).

    14. I have RBF*

      You have a few problems here:
      1) Interns usually don’t know how to use Outlook to schedule meetings. Universities don’t use it to schedule classes
      2) IME, the more senior person schedules the meeting. Even though I’m late career, one on one type meetings are scheduled by the senior person, because their calendar is busier.
      3) Even if they know how to schedule a meeting in Outlook, they may not know how to check to see that the other person is available with the scheduling assistant.

      If you really want them to schedule meetings with people who are senior to them, you are going to:
      A) Have to schedule the first one
      B) Need to show them how to use Outlook to check people’s availability
      C) Explain that who schedules meetings can vary in a corporate environment, but a senior person asking a junior person to set up a meeting is permission to do so.

  5. Ann O'Nemity*

    Should performance goals vary based on vacation time?

    My company gives more vacation time to employees based on years of service. There’s a big difference between a 10-year employee and a new employee.

    Performance in our department is easily tracked with KPIs. The more hours worked, the higher the numbers will be. Skill does come into play, but someone who has significantly more vacation time (like an extra two weeks) will not reach the same numbers – unless they put in extra hours.

    So should someone with more vacation time have lower annual performance goals? It doesn’t seem fair to ask someone to work extra hours to get their numbers, but it also seems weird to tell a new employee that their goal is higher than more tenured coworkers.

    1. ThatGirl*

      Personally I don’t think KPIs should be directly tied to hours worked for exactly this reason. It’s not unreasonable for a longer tenure employee to have goals that are more of a “reach” but it IS unreasonable to tie them to number of hours worked.

      1. lost academic*

        For the most part, but there are certain industries where what you are directly selling is time, so you need a lot of hours worked to generate profit. Maintaining a certain level of billability is crucial. It’s always going to be a big part – selling, if you’re in a seller-doer model, keeping junior staff billable and keeping yourself billable are the three biggest metrics for more senior success.

    2. Alex*

      The thing that jumps out at me is that new employees and seasoned employees have the same measurement of success. That’s super weird!

      It sounds like everyone’s job is making widgets, and everyone can make 1 widget an hour, regardless of tenure, and your enitre performance is based on how many widgets you make.

      More seasoned employees should be contributing more than just 40 widgets a week, They should be lending ideas on how to improve widgets, mentoring new widget makers, etc. So in my view none of this makes sense!

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        In this case, the employees are in the same exact job with similar experience levels. The difference is if they’ve worked for this company for a long time or if they came in with prior experience from other companies.

    3. lost academic*

      What we have done is not use a raw billable hours goal but a percent utilization instead, which is billable time against the potential hours worked. PTO doesn’t count against you so it’s not a factor. (At an old firm, where they had sick time in a different bucket then PTO, sick time did somehow factor into your availability so it basically did count against you, which everyone objected to strenuously – thought we only got 6 sick days a year.)

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        This – we do production, not billable hours, but the production measurement is based on a percentage of their actual clocked hours, so someone who worked 32 hours in a week has the same “per worked hour” goal as someone who worked all 40 and as someone who was off for the week.

    4. ferrina*

      Usually no, but it sounds like it might make sense in your particular workplace.

      Usually the KPIs would be similar because people with more experience tend to have the higher rates of vacation and also tend to be faster. Or KPIs might vary based on an individual’s specialty or particular area of responsibility
      But it sounds like that’s not the case at your work- at yours, the productivity is very directly tied to hours worked. It sounds like the higher rates of vacation are an incentive designed to reduce turnover (sometimes it can also be a way to reward high performers- rainmakers or very senior people get more vacation time, etc). If people feel like they can’t take their vacation, you’ll undermine the incentive the vacation policy was designed for.

      What if you tie KPIs to hours worked? “Maintain an average of 5 widgets created per hour”. That way it doesn’t look like you have lower expectations of people that have more vacation.

    5. Mill Miker*

      Is it directly tied to hours, or something like “number of widgets made” and more hours just means more widgets?

      I think you’ll run into this problem with any kind of cumulative total. If you want to avoid giving newer employees higher goals, then maybe some kind of rolling average would work? So instead of “Total number of widgets produced” you could use “Average number of widgets produced per day, over the last 30 workdays” and that way just putting in more days can’t inflate the number.

    6. fhqwhgads*

      Generally the expectation is people with that much more experience can do more in less time, which is why they get more vacation but don’t have lower goals. In the scenario you describe I wonder if A) the KPIs they’re using don’t make sense or B) if the longer-tenured person can’t get more done in less time, maybe that’s just straight up a performance issue.
      But the question really is: is it impossible to meet the goals if they use all their vacation time because the goals literally make that impossible due to math? or is it impossible because the person with the more vacation time can’t use it and still get the stuff done?

    7. The Person from the Resume*

      I’e never had it, but my KPIs and my employees KPIs have never been directly tied to hours worked.

      I’m shocked that yours can reasonably be so 1:1, but if it’s reasonable then you need to take into account their extra vacation time.

    8. theletter*

      Why are the hours tracked yearly? I thought hours were usually tracked as an average of hours worked during working weeks. So the KPI would be ‘worked 32 hours a week, on average, not including PTO days,’ instead of ‘worked 1664 hours this year,’ which doesn’t really account for the vacation time earned through seniority.

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

      In general, goals should not vary based on vacation time, but since your org has goals tied to hours worked, I think the most fair to everyone is that the goal is based upon either the average or median amount of vacation time (depends on what the range is and if only 1 person is skewing that average), rather than the lowest.

      • Average-tenured employee, with close to the average/median amount of vacation, can make their goal with no extra hours
      • Junior employee, with less vacation time, can make their goal without having to hustle so hard
      • Most senior — well the trade off of so much vacation is that they might need to put in a few extra hours. That seems fair.

    10. Firecat*

      KPIs should be just that, key indicators of performance. Grand totals rarely achieve this. I’ve never worked anywhere that didn’t tie the metrics to working hours. Even when I worked at a hospital and looked at total patient visit by Dr. it was tied to working hours so we could compare apples to apples throughout regardless of of they were a PT or FT Dr. etc.

  6. Potatoes gonna Potate*

    Has anyone been through something similar and come out well? Looking for encouraging words and anecdotes.

    I had my annual review yesterday – I agreed with their assessment that my performance wasn’t up to expectations. They said due to my low performance, they couldn’t justify any salary increase and that we will sit together shortly to come up with some action items/plan (not sure if this is a PIP). After 2 months we can revisit the salary increase. 

    Honestly, it felt super awful in the moment, and I’m still feeling a little raw about it. I wasn’t expecting much increase, but at least enough to cover the cost of our health insurance premiums which are increasing. I know if I remove myself from the situation, I can objectively say just focus on the work, etc. Looking for a new job is not an option so I feel a little stuck. But it doesn’t feel great knowing that my deep fear (that they think I suck) is openly said. (I mean they didn’t say it exactly like that, they were very kind and professional).

    I know from reading this site a PIP is the final nail on the coffin so when we meet I plan to ask exactly what the consequences are. anything else I need to ask? 

    1. Sloanicota*

      Oh dear. Are you sure you can’t look for a new job? This doesn’t sound like it’s going in a positive direction. What if you took whatever sick leave you might have and used it to job search? Could you negotiate some severance if you “leave quietly” now and everybody saves face? I hate to think of you struggling through a PIP that may be somewhat performative anyway.

      1. Potatoes gonna Potate*

        I don’t think so – if it comes down to it I’d just get unemployment if I were terminated. (I did verify with state DOL that I’d be eligible in a situation of poor performance)

    2. Panicked*

      Giving you a timeline (two months) of reevaluation is actually really helpful; now you know how much time you have to improve.

      It sounds like they are using the probable PIP to help you improve; if they wanted to term you, they already would have.

      I’d really think about what you want here. I get the vibe that you’re not happy or at least mentally checked out. Is it a workload issue? Mental health? Lack of training? Burnout? Interpersonal issues? Without addressing the root cause, there’s not really much of a path forward.

      1. Potatoes gonna Potate*

        Giving you a timeline (two months) of reevaluation is actually really helpful; now you know how much time you have to improve.
        It sounds like they are using the probable PIP to help you improve; if they wanted to term you, they already would have.
        I’d really think about what you want here. I get the vibe that you’re not happy or at least mentally checked out. Is it a workload issue? Mental health? Lack of training? Burnout? Interpersonal issues? Without addressing the root cause, there’s not really much of a path forward.

        I think it is – they did reassure me that they’d never make me wait a whole year for it

        what I want – to do my job well. Make my boss happy (and he’s not hard to please he is reasonable IMO).

        If I’m honest it’s lack of focus and anxiety. I have spent way too much time and energy worrying that my colleagues don’t like me and freeze me out (I have legit examples and another manager actually did talk to me about a while back). I take forever to start an assignment but when I do I can spend a while on it. I do have adhd and I’m taking medicine and I’m in CBT for neg self talk and other issues. i will be talking with therapist about this.

        1. Newbie New-Bi*

          Those were exactly the two steps I was going to suggest! This sounds so familiar.

          Another thing that came up in my own life was the way childhood trauma made me hypervigilant to the emotions of others. Until I had EMDR

          1. Newbie New-Bi*

            …Until I had EMDR therapy, I felt like I was walking around without the skin that others have, emotionally. I’d know that someone was having a negative feeling, and then with my super-empathy (hypervigilance!) I would then feel a negative feeling in my own body, then I’d spiral up about it being either my fault or my responsibility to fix it.

            EMDR gave me release from all of that exhausting mess. I’m still more empathetic than others, and I can’t just ignore the pain of others like so many humans seem to… but it’s not so debilitating these days. There is a lot of liberty and freedom.

            Not sure if I’m totally projecting, but thought I’d mention the possibility.

    3. DisneyChannelThis*

      I almost failed probation once. It was a kick in the butt I needed. Got myself over to therapy, spent a lot of time working out the issues I was having personally that impacted my whole life. Found work a lot easier after that. A year after that my boss told me I was one of their most valued workers. A lot of times it’s not “you suck” it’s “you’re handling a variety of diverse issues and it’s impacting your life more than you’d like”. The thing about PIP/similar is that a PIP gives you very clear, very measurable goals. That can really help instead of the nebulous “I know I’m not meeting expectations and I’m not sure how to fix it” problem. Also sucking at work often means the work is a bad fit for you, not that you are bad at work, don’t let that negativity infect you.

      1. Potatoes gonna Potate*

        TYSM for sharing that. Good to know it helps.
        I actually enjoy the work. Funny thing is that my boss knows I have a heavy situation at home and he said he loves that I have a good attitude that I come in, smiling friendly helpful etc. it was nice to hear that but kind of felt hollow (maybe this is the net self talk).

        1. GythaOgden*

          I think in your situation and with your background, you need to find some kind of therapy. It has worked wonders for me trying to get out of a crappy job situation: it’s not like a therapist can advocate for you directly with your employer, but in my case she has built me up with enough confidence over 18 months to get me to where I’ve got a good idea of my strengths and weaknesses and I’m able to see things more clearly. It doesn’t come cheap — it’s not something the UK health service provides at the level I need it, so I’m paying out of pocket completely — and it’s not a magic wand and it probably won’t make much difference in this situation right here. But it has really helped me focus my attention, eliminate some of the mental problems that arise from being neurodivergent (autistic in my case) and just held my hand through some of the most absurd situations I’ve ever been in as a working adult. So while you still have insurance, look at getting something to bolster you now. You do have to be proactive in this but it will be really helpful. The simile I’d use is it’s like a comb going through tangled hair. Not only do you feel good afterwards, it’ll help avoid the lurking problems that build up below the surface and can affect your overall well-being. (Ask me how I know. My hair is thick and tangles easily and I have to stay on top of washing it because otherwise it quickly becomes a rat’s nest. My own psyche is very much similar!!)

          I think — with all compassion, because there’s a lot here I recognise about myself as a younger adult (I’m in my 40s now but I went to heck and back between the ages of 21 and 31 before I started my Masters and met my lovely but sadly late husband), and I’ve definitely been here myself — you need to take charge of yourself and your situation and get some help from a therapist or work counsellor. I’ve seen some of your posts over the past few years and my heart does go out to you because as I slowly got to grips with adult life I was fired or had to hand in my notice three times, including in an ex-pat situation in Poland, because my autistic brain just could not cope with the expectations of a workplace. I went on incapacity benefit which was possible over here, but it was a twilight life — I had some voluntary placements thanks to my mum’s network in non-profit communities where I could do administration as a volunteer, but my triggers got to me every time and I learned very little. My mum and dad kept me on my toes a bit — they wanted me to get out and about and find something that allowed me some independence — and when I proved to them I could focus at least on something more than my own issues, they paid the £5000 or so for the UK Masters (which is a drop in the ocean compared to US costs). On the back of that, I got a PhD place at a prestigious college at the University of London, literally just across the road from where I did my undergraduate…just not funding to do it. But by that time I was also working anyway and holding down a job because I’d learned all too well that I hated being unemployed, and I loved the combination of having money and simply leaving work at work rather than having to study all evening as well as all day.

          But it was definitely the motivation of finding someone else and wanting to move in with him as well as finding a job I could manage that I had any sort of longevity in a job. I’m now ironically I’m suffering from staying somewhere dead-end too long because I enjoyed just having a job for a few years, then the brown stuff hit my personal fan. The next thing I know, five years have passed and I’ve seen large parts of my job eroded by the pandemic, just at the point where I need fresh, relevant experience to convince people in an interview situation I can do what I claim to be able to do.

          This is the first time I’ve been able to comment on a thread of yours, but from personal experience of chartered accountancy (I started as a trainee after graduating) here in the UK, it’s not for everyone. You have issues you need to deal with first. It sucks about your insurance premiums, but employers can’t help you if you can’t give them what they need in return (again, I’ve totally been there and I know what pain you go through even if you’re not losing your health insurance). You’re on a PIP and you need to take it seriously, because even in worker-friendly Europe, two times I was fired and just asked to get my stuff and leave (the other time I was given the dignity of notice and a short secondment, I guess so my previous bosses didn’t have to deal with my drama…). Seriously, I see a lot of myself in you and it’s really painful to realise you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. You need to either take ownership of this job here and work your socks off and show the employer you’re worth them keeping you on, or you need to resign and find something you can cope with better. The salary issue is neither here nor there at the moment because you’re not bringing them in the value you need to bring in.

          It’s absolutely one of the most horrible, horrible things in the world to feel like you can’t hold down a job (and I’m laughing at myself now because I’d actually be better off, over here with rigid rules about the process, if they made me redundant!) but it’s something only you can work on to fix. It’s not a quick fix but it’s really important to do something proactive here rather than worry about a pay raise. You really have to earn it in many companies, just like you have to go through the interview process which is not my strong point either. So put the effort in to really working through this PIP-in-all-but-name and show them why you’re worth the raise you’re after.

          But also: good luck. You’re very tenacious with these jobs and despite everything haven’t given up, so at some point you should find your niche. It’s incredibly hard when you’re in any way struggling with family or internal stuff (and you are certainly doing that AFAICT) to bring your A game to work. But really step up to the challenge of improving your metrics and you’ll be better able to advocate for their further investment in you. Or quit and find a job you find you can settle into easier and fits your skills and way of working better.

    4. Juicebox Hero*

      I didn’t end up on a PIP for it, but a couple of years ago my work was definitely not up to snuff, and I know the bosses noticed. In my case, it was a combination of anxiety, panic attacks, the state of the world in 2020, and depression that made me afraid to do the most basic things, like answering the phone or opening the mail.

      For me, it meant facing those mental issues and getting to the root cause of why I felt that way. I ended up doing cognitive behavioral therapy, which helped me identify where the negative thoughts were coming from and coping strategies for when I felt my mind going in that direction. It was a ~$15 workbook I got from Amazon so it wasn’t expensive.

      The fact that you’re afraid they think you suck is pretty telling, and finding out where that idea comes from is worth a try. Don’t think of the PIP as the final nail in the coffin. Try reframing it as them liking you enough to give you another chance. The PIP doesn’t have to be the final nail in the coffin. Remember, we only hear about the extreme cases here. Plenty of people on PIPs improve and get back on track.

      Whatever you do, best of luck to you. It sucks when your brain is your own worst enemy.

      1. Potatoes gonna Potate*

        100000% on the brain. And bad self talk. I’m in CBT but it’s painfully slow. I bought a few books too buttttt irony – no time to read them lol

        1. GythaOgden*

          I’ve finally been able to afford the therapy I need and it’s been a game-changer. I’ve gone from a passive observer to an active hand in my own life and become far less intimidated by things than I was when I started out. Medication helped for me to curb the anxious parts of my brain, but it really helps to have some kind of guide for part of the journey and there’s no doubt OP here needs to grasp things with both hands.

    5. Goddess47*

      If you have some PTO, take a day (or two, but not too long) and do the long, hard think about what you need to do. Give yourself a chance to breathe outside of work, get what I suspect is some overdue rest, and, heck, treat yourself to something (lunch, a spa day, a massage, but no big drinking things! you need a clear head!).

      Hopefully, that gives you a chance to decide how to proceed. You sound like you know what you need to do at work, but if you need something (training, resources, closer/less supervision) now will be the time to ask for it. While your supervisor should have a list for you, be prepared with your own go-forward list. That will show initiative.

      And, yes, while a PIP can be a last step, there are stories here about how that has turned folk around or made them take the next step in their careers. So if it is a PIP, it’s not the end of the world… believe in yourself! (And come back here for moral support! We’ll always believe in you!)

      Good luck!

      1. Potatoes gonna Potate*

        Thank you for the kind words!
        Yes, I think a weekend of rest should help. I know i would prefer more check ins – thing is boss is a proud non micromanager so I’ve always been a little hesitant to ask too many questions because the last thing a micromanager wants is to micromanage. But maybe that needs reframing…?

        1. Jobbyjob*

          A good manager knows when to be hands off and when to lean in. Performance issues is time for much more hands on management (to the point where it would look like micromanagement for a high performer). I think you should definitely ask your boss for additional check ins and support through this process over the next couple of months (with an eye toward more independence once you’ve righted the ship).

          1. Potatoes gonna potate*

            Thank you for helping reframe this, I definitely wasn’t used to a non-micromanaging manager but this will help me open up more.

    6. ferrina*

      Bad news: Yep, you’re being put on a PIP.

      Good news: A good PIP is designed to help you. It gives you clear goals and priorities. It tells you exactly what you need to do for the next 2 months. You can and should ask your boss for training and resources (at my company, our training coordinator will actually design custom trainings for some PIPs)

      Mixed news: How well a company uses a PIP will vary. Some companies use a PIP as a two-months notice that they’ll fire you, and even if you do amazing they will never let you stay. Some companies use a PIP as a guide to help you get to where you need to be- the company doesn’t want the cost of replacing you if they have an option to keep you.

      I’ve beaten a PIP. It meant that work was my main focus for several months. I worked overtime studying documents, asking questions, learning everything I could and double checking everything. I was incredibly professional throughout, which really made me stand out. When I did make a mistake, I immediately brought it up to my boss for help remediating. She could have fired me at that point, but she was impressed by how much improvement I had made, how I was clearly dedicated to improving and taking initiative in a lot of ways, and how professional I was through it all (the PIP process is really hard on the manager, too).
      That said, it’s a good idea to update your resume. You might not have energy for a job search right now, but updating your resume will 1) remind you of your accomplishments and how awesome you are and 2) give you a little time to quantify your responsibilities if needed- for example, if you aren’t sure how many widgets you made, you can double check your emails, which you can’t do once you leave the company.
      Good luck!

      1. Irish Teacher*

        I’m definitely no expert on this, having never worked anywhere that used PIPs and only finding out they exist from this site, but given the comment about revisiting the pay increase in a couple of months, it sounds to me like this company is using the PIP in the healthy way and not as notice that “you’re going to get fired.” It does sound like they think there is a good chance both that Potatoes gonna Potate will still be an employee of the company in a couple of months and that they can bring their work up to a standard where a pay increase might be considered.

        Now, of course, there are companies that will keep dangling something like that or who won’t want to admit “you might never get it” but it doesn’t sound like they are hinting at a firing.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          Hmm, I worry that at the end of the 2 months (assuming OP has been able to make some improvement so they aren’t fired) it will be more like “we haven’t seen the full improvement we expected so we still can’t give you the salary bump, let’s extend it and see where we are in another 3 months” etc etc.

          1. Potatoes gonna Potate*

            I really don’t get the sense they will do that. Based on my short conversation with him today they haven’t considered what will happen in that case

      2. Potatoes gonna Potate*

        Thank you for sharing and the advice. this helps a lot. I’m fully committed to improving.

    7. Gondorff*

      I really want to caution you against the mindset that a PIP is always the final nail in the coffin. It certainly *can* be, especially in organizations where there’s no other means of offloading an employee, but it isn’t always, and it really sounds like your organization wants you to succeed and wants you to use these two months to get there.

      To that end, it really helps to ground yourself in the concrete and especially the indisputable. Which means no putting words in their mouths either (like assuming they think you suck)! You agree with their assessment that your performance isn’t up to snuff, so come up with some concrete areas that you feel your performance hasn’t been where it should be. Going into that next meeting with a list of 3-4 areas of improvement or goals, especially ones with concrete metrics to back them up, will go a long way in showing them that you’re as committed to improvement as they are. Even better if you can come prepared with an action plan to achieving those goals. But also be willing to listen, because it may turn out there where you feel like you’re falling behind is an area where they think you’re doing fine, and the reason they think you need improvement is because you’ve been neglecting something else.

      Overall, the more open you can be to the process, the more likely it will be that it works.

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        Tbh the only time I’ve ever heard about a PIP being a bad thing is on here – I’ve not yet seen it in practice at my past jobs. I’ve read on here how it’s a bad thing but I never really understood why unless the company moves the goals or has secret/unspoken goals to meet so as to set the person up to fail.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          I guess it’s a bad thing because it means the company isn’t pleased with your current performance and because you can end up losing your job if you are unable to improve.

          I don’t think it likely most companies are setting up the person to fail but often when a person is underperforming, it’s because they can’t perform some aspect of their job or their job just isn’t the right fit for them and they may not be able to improve enough to meet the goals and therefore it’s bad news for them, because they know it is unlikely they will be able to do what they need to.

          If, for example, the PIP says they need to make a minimum of 5 chocolate teapots an hour and the spout and handle need to be well-attached and it takes them half an hour to create a spout and handle so they won’t fall off, then that PIP is bad news for them, especially if they have really been trying to improve their chocolate teapot making but they know that the reality is they have to choose between doing a rush job that probably won’t stay on or only getting a maximum of two done in an hour.

        2. ferrina*

          Good! Many companies are really good about PIPs- it sounds like your company might be one of them.

          It’s like any business policy- there will always be some companies/managers use it in sketchy ways. I’ve had 2 completely different experiences with PIPs:
          1) I had a manager that put me on an “informal PIP” that just was a weekly list of why she was unhappy with me that week. In that case, she didn’t want me fired, she just wanted a record of why I shouldn’t be promoted so she could promote her (far less qualified) favorite employee. That place was toxic for a long list of reasons.
          2) Years later at a different company I was struggling due to a perfect storm of factors (bad onboarding, chaotic re-org, depression). My manager had to put me on a PIP, but was really rooting for me to succeed. She made as much time as she could to train me, and actually recommended me for another position at the company that I was better suited for (and have thrived at). This company also includes the training coordinator on PIPs so she can put together training plans. They don’t put you on a PIP unless they think you have a reasonable chance of succeeding. They aren’t perfect, but they genuinely care and strive to improve and advocate for their people

          1. Potatoes gonna Potate*

            Thanks @ferrina this makes me feel better. I think bad onboarding (or lack thereof) is a factor though I never explicitly stated that.

    8. really*

      This stuck out to me
      After 2 months we can revisit the salary increase.
      So it seems more about getting to a place where a higher salary is justified and not we will let you go.

      1. WantonSeedStitch*

        That’s how it sounded to me as well, but I would want to make sure that’s clear in the upcoming discussion, if I were Potatoes. Potatoes, you want to come out of that meeting with a clear understanding of WHAT is expected of you, HOW your progress will be measured, WHEN you need to reach a certain level of progress, what will happen if you DO reach that level, and what will happen if you DON’T reach that level, by that time.

        1. Potatoes gonna potate*

          Yes, initially it sounded like initially, but I can’t assume – I want clarity, and what you said, that’s exactly what I plan to ask.

    9. Nesta*

      I received a negative review earlier in my career that really shook me. I wasn’t used to the management style in my department, where they were very hands off, so I was quietly doing my work and assuming they knew that. It turned out they just assumed I wasn’t doing much.

      Like you said, it was devastating. I struggle with low self-worth and hearing from someone else that I wasn’t meeting expectations made me feel like I was worthless. What I did was work hard on making sure I improved what needed to be improved, but I also tried to remember the source of the critique was not someone who could weigh my worth as a person.

      That’s easier said than done, but it can be done. In my case, this person had many failings of their own that I was aware of, and I tried to remind myself of those. They weren’t judging me from a place of perfection. They were just a flawed person who was also making mistakes. Even if your boss is better, they still are not a perfect person. They make all sorts of mistakes in their life. You wouldn’t think it makes them a sucky person so you deserve the same grace.

      I would also try to keep track of all the good things at work and in your life you get complimented for or that make you feel good. Remember that those things are real too. Don’t dismiss them because it is easier or more comfortable to dismiss anything good and to latch onto the bad. Write those things down in a journal or the notes app on your phone. Re-read them daily. You have to essentially write a new pathway in your brain so that you can start to believe this new information. Repetition will help!

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        > the source of the critique was not someone who could weigh my worth as a person

        Yes! They aren’t judging ‘you’ really, they’re judging *the work*.

      2. Potatoes gonna Potate*

        Thanks I will use these tips!
        It is hard to not internalize it. But these come from deeper issues that don’t belong at work. Just have to remind myself being bad at my job doesn’t mean I’m bad at everything. But I think even the person with the strongest self esteem would feel the sting on this tbh.

        1. Gathering Moss*

          I’m not even sure you’re bad at your job, from what your saying. If you’re actually bad-bad at it, I’d expect them to be firing you, not working on a PIP. There are just some areas where they want you to do better – that’s not the same as an all- encompassing ‘bad at your job’!

    10. Momma Bear*

      You say looking is not an option, but still might be good to put out feelers to see your options.

      Take a moment to think about what’s going on with you – are you struggling personally? Is this role no longer a good fit? Is it time to consider a transfer or request something that will help your work/life balance? In the meantime, go into that meeting/possible PIP with an open mind. Maybe this will help you reset, be it to stay there or to move on. No one likes to hear they didn’t do well, but if they’re genuinely willing to help you fix it, take the offer. They could have just fired you.

      I had a very poor midyear review that actually caught me by surprise once. I took a long look at my situation and realized that it was time for something new. It wasn’t that I “sucked” but that the project scope and management had changed and it was no longer a good fit for me. I landed somewhere else a few months after that meeting and am doing much better. Sometimes it’s not who you are but where you are.

      1. Potatoes gonna Potate*

        Thank you for sharing. I agree with your last sentence. I want to give it my 1000% before I consider leaving.

    11. Another Michael*

      Sharing my perspective from the other side of the table in case it’s also helpful!

      I have an employee that was also not performing up to expectations; we set up some clear behaviors and action items that need to be improved during his annual review and made plans for how he would improve them. I did have to make it clear that we would more formalize a plan for improvement with a PIP if we didn’t see growth in the next quarter. However, I’m fully invest in supporting this improvement and have already seen positive movement. It’s my sincere hope that this was the needed wake-up call and we don’t have to progress to a PIP. Take the opportunity to plan with your manager and work hard to meet those objectives – it’s possible and even likely that they want to see you improve too! Good luck!

    12. Tio*

      So, you are probably headed for a PIP or similar, so what do you want to do next?

      It sounds like you want/need to keep this job, and that you agree your performance wasn’t up to snuff. So what do you do with that information?

      What are the areas you’re not performing well in? Can you come up with some solutions you could use? For example, if you’re not grooming enough llamas, or you are but you’re giving them real bad haircuts, can you say “I Want to do better, so I’m going to spend more time reading the shears manual” or “Asking Cecil to show me how he does the amazing perms so I can do a better one” or something similar? If you know you’re not up to snuff, it is possible to put out an ask for specific training or mentorship from a colleague who’s better, or finding other resources to study with. Also, coming in with a few ideas of your own means it will look like you’ve put thought into it and want to do better. But you can also ask them for help – “Do you know any resources that will help my grooming?” There may be things you didn’t know about or overlooked available.

      When they do give you your improvement plan, look over it, look at what they’re asking you ad on what timeline. Are the goals clear? Are they feasible? (Are they feasible for a regular employee, and are they feasible for you? If yes to the first but no to the second, you may have another problem.) Do they give you any check ins, and if not, can you ask for some? How are you going to track your targets?

      It probably feels like a lot, but it’s not insurmountable. Bu if you look at it and it looks or feels like misery, or too much, you may NEED a different job. Either way, brush up your resume.

      1. Potatoes gonna Potate*

        That’s really helpful, thank you! Yes I want to keep it as long as I possibly can!

    13. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Did they specifically say they would review a salary increase in 2 months,
      or did you ask about an increase and they said the review of your action items would be in 2 months?

      In the first case, that doesn’t really sound like a PIP, but more that you are currently only achieving the bare minimum and that is insufficient to justify any increase. Or their kindness may be interfering with their clarity and this will indeed be a PIP.

      So, first I would ask whether you are not reaching the minimum required for your job, or not reaching the standard required for a raise.

      Do you know why your performance is NOK?
      Do you think e.g. you are making too many mistakes, or are you working too slowly, or are you unable to do certain tasks, or have you had too many absences?

      Before the meeting to discuss the action plan, see if you can list what you need to improve and what you can suggest – e.g. training – in the meeting to achieve each item.
      The meeting may also bring up additional tasks you hadn’t realised you were missing.

      In the meeting, make sure you know exactly what you have to do and on what timescale – ask for specific tasks and whether there are checkpoints within the 2 months.
      If you are unclear about anything, ask. You should receive the action plan as a document/EM. If you only think of a question after the meeting, then ask your manager immediately; don’t lose time.

      Obviously concentrate 100% on fulfilling the action plan. If there is anything interfering with this, stressing or tiring you out say, that you can drop for now e.g. home renovation, side hustle or volunteering , then do so.

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        Did they specifically say they would review a salary increase in 2 months,
        or did you ask about an increase and they said the review of your action items would be in 2 months?

        They said that evaluation time is usually when they grant increases but given my performance, it didn’t warrant it but that we can revisit it in 2-3 months, they wouldn’t make me wait a whole year. 
        Do you know why your performance is NOK?
        Do you think e.g. you are making too many mistakes, or are you working too slowly, or are you unable to do certain tasks, or have you had too many absences?

        So they said that my performance wasn’t in line with what they expected of someone who’d been in this industry. I did explain that I was always honest about my lack of experience and knowledge. I only interviewed with one person, I never really got into detail with anyone else. But the specific things they pointed out were things like timeliness – that certain assignments take too long or I sit on them too long. I explained why they took so long for each case. Sometimes it was unavoidable and sometimes it wasn’t.

        Before the meeting to discuss the action plan, see if you can list what you need to improve and what you can suggest – e.g. training – in the meeting to achieve each item.
        The meeting may also bring up additional tasks you hadn’t realised you were missing.In the meeting, make sure you know exactly what you have to do and on what timescale – ask for specific tasks and whether there are checkpoints within the 2 months.
        If you are unclear about anything, ask. You should receive the action plan as a document/EM. If you only think of a question after the meeting, then ask your manager immediately; don’t lose time.Obviously concentrate 100% on fulfilling the action plan. If there is anything interfering with this, stressing or tiring you out say, that you can drop for now e.g. home renovation, side hustle or volunteering , then do so.

        Thanks for this. I’ll make notes of these. unfortunately not much in personal life that I can set aside. Other than putting off “starting” something new like a diet/exercise routine. 

        1. RagingADHD*

          I would encourage you not to postpone the personal health goals. They are not the same kind of stressful that the previous commenter is talking about. Things like exercise reduce your stress and improve your energy, clarity, and concentration rather than sapping it the way home renovation or a side hustle would.

          1. Potatoes gonna Potate*

            That’s truly a good point but in order for me to exercise I need to wake up 2+ hours earlier due to my daughters therapy and husbands work schedules.

            1. JSPA*

              While exercise may or may not be the answer, depending how physically demanding your daily life already is…

              That “i’d have to get up 2 hours early” is only true if you have a very set definition of “exercise.” One that’s not currently serving you well.

              Taking one extra set of stairs = exercise. Doing some biceps curls with the can of tomatoes before its time to open them and dump them in the pot = exercise. A few lunges (or any equivalent “silly walk”) = exercise. Wall push ups during your daughter’s therapy, anytime you’re not hands-on with her = exercise. Getting off the bus a stop early, parking the car a block farther away… every one of those is potential extra physical movement to power up your body and quiet your jangling brain.

              If you define everything to be a massive task, they all become impossible–but most tasks break down into smaller parts that you can tackle in 30 second-to-10-minute chunks.

              1. Potatoes gonna potate*

                I can do those.

                If you define everything to be a massive task, they all become impossible–but most tasks break down into smaller parts that you can tackle in 30 second-to-10-minute chunks. – this is what I try to follow. could be the executive dysfunction/ADHD. Takes me forever to wake up.

                I had a very defined and set routine in the before life. This is something I could expand more on in a different post.

    14. JSPA*

      this site repeatedly, explicitly says that a PIP is NOT (necessarily nor ideally) the final nail in the coffin.

      If you are unable to do the job (whether due to lack of skills, lack of guidance, self-sabotage / cayastrophizing, life stresses, deficits in executive function or whatever else) then, yes, the failure to meet the PIP will formalize that, and lead to you leaving. But if the feedback gives you new clarity about what’s getting in your way, as far as doing a job that you CAN reasonably do, it absolutely can be a reboot, not a coffin nail.

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        Strange, that’s the sense I got from many posts here over the years. I am optimistic that it can be a reboot.

    15. Potatoes gonna potate*

      Quick update – I just went to my boss and asked him if at our 2-month check in I’m not progressing as much as they want will I be terminated – he said they never really considered that. Tbh I’m relieved – I will do my best, but it’s easing my anxiety to know this much and not assume. (for now I’m not going to think that I just put that idea in his head).

      1. Shirley Keeldar*

        That’s wonderful news! And cheers for being so brave. That conversation took guts! Good for you!

        1. Potatoes gonna potate*

          Thanks!
          I told him that I know he’ll be meeting with partners in the coming week and we’ll talk in more detail, but I just need to know what the consequence is if by some chance I don’t.

          Maybe it wasn’t the smartest move, but my desire to not have this hanging over me for 4 days outweighed any other impulse I guess.

          1. Random Dice*

            It was a great thing to do! They weren’t clear, you got clarity, now you can release the impending doom cloud and focus on the stuff you know you need to do.

      2. GythaOgden*

        Do it. Exercise is one of those things that I struggle with too, partly due to being lame in one ankle, but also because you’ve got to break through the pain barrier first. (The only good things I can say about my injury is I’m glad I’m not a horse, and that when I had it, I was bloody lucky that I only landed on my ankle — it could have been a LOT worse given the circumstances.)

        Anecdote time. I stay with my parents in a small village from time to time. It’s closer to my work than the place I actually live in, but that’s one of the absurdities in my life that I’m trying to eliminate. The bus to work normally goes through the main part of the village, but last time I stayed there that road was closed to traffic for resurfacing. So I had to walk along to the main road into town to find a bus. Walking isn’t kind to me any more — I used to do it a lot, but with the ankle injury that feels like an imposition. But on this day I just had to do it. No option if I wanted to get to work. The first ten minutes were not pleasant. The following ten minutes were some of the best I’ve ever spent while walking since my injury. It helped that it was spring and the trees were in leaf and the birds were singing, but it was actually healing to do it. I wouldn’t do it every day, but hey, I got around Disney World with a walking stick. I can’t stand still for a long time, but I can walk and it gets me good exercise and a certain amount of endorphins if I stick out that first ten minutes and don’t overdo it such that my feet are in incredible pain. Unfortunately there were no food trucks by the roadside selling Mickey Mouse pretzels or ice-cream sandwiches like in Disney.

        If you can get up that two hours early, do it. There is a pain gate you have to get through in a lot of situations, but finding something that improves your mental and physical health at the same time is dynamite. I’m sending you all the love and hugs and good thoughts I can muster so you can get out of this cycle of despair. Best of luck!

    16. Punk*

      I’m saying this gently: are you sure you’re in the field that’s right for you? I ask this because I’ve seen your posts for the past few years and your job trajectory tends to follow a pattern of you interviewing well enough to get some finance/receivables job, but then relatively quickly you come up against a norm or skill that you’re presumed to know but you’re blindsided for whatever reason. It’s just this years-long pattern of watching you try to force yourself into this career that doesn’t seem to be a good fit and it’s breaking my heart a little. If I remember correctly, your degree is in another subject? Can’t you take some time and pursue that? Or can you take some accounting courses to fill in the gaps in your skill set?

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        Can we please not – I have neither the intention nor desire of changing my field.

            1. Nope.*

              Then filling in the knowledge gaps is a must, not something to merely put under consideration.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Yeah, this is the root cause of your situation, though. Like if you have a deadly disease that’s causing you pain. You can take all the painkillers in the world, but treating the disease will be far more effective in the long run.

          It’s not going to get any better if you don’t analyse this part of the situation as well as the surface level issues at each job. It’s tough, and at least for me the decision was made for me — it would have been madness for me to get sacked from one chartered accountancy practice and immediately try to get another job in another practice. Instead, I tried something new and have done a lot better in a job where I could manage the workload and focus on the details rather than the big picture my mind isn’t equipped to handle.

          You’re only hurting yourself and possibly your family who count on your paycheck by not looking long and hard at the field you’re in and not thinking more strategically. It’s not a matter of personal identity you can never change; work isn’t gender, sexuality, ethnicity or even something like a permanent disability that you just have to cope with. It’s something that really ought to be part of your calculations at this point, and it’s a good thing that people can change careers and fields — it makes it far easier to cope with the challenges you face here than if you were being discriminated against because of something you can’t change.

    17. Observer*

      I know from reading this site a PIP is the final nail on the coffin

      I don’t think that this is really the case. Also, it’s hard to believe that your boss mentioned revisiting the idea of a raise in a couple of moths, it he’s already working on a plan for your firing.

      I’m not saying it couldn’t happen. But unless there is a lot more going on that you indicate here, it just doesn’t seem like the most likely scenario. That doesn’t mean that you don’t need to improve performance but you know that already.

      Also, you know your situation better than we do obviously, but I urge you to take a really good look at your situation and figure out if you REALLY can’t job hunt, or it’s more like “not so easy” plus a dose of negative self talk.

      1. Potatoes gonna potate*

        Yes, I couldn’t really understand why it would be a final nail unless there were unrealistic/unspoken goals mentioned. But glad to know that it isn’t.

        Re job hunting – it’s a bit of “not so easy” but also, like, if the problem is me, I’ll still be me at the next job.

        1. Sloanicota*

          To be clear, there are some companies where you cannot fire someone without first going through the PIP process – which is fine as a policy! But sometimes a manager wants an employee gone and is just jumping through the hoops to document this, and the PIP is a hoop. So it can be quite unfair to the employee because the PIP is not genuine, they are not even expected to improve. I think such places are in the minority. I also think if this was the case in your workplace, you might have a sense – the manager would likely seem checked out, not very invested in the PIP, and the PIP itself might be either vague or unreachable or just not very thoughtfully written. By no means is it always a nail in the coffin.

          1. Potatoes gonna potate*

            That’s a good point – they do seem genuine in all of this. I’ll know more when we actually sit down next week…

            1. Irish Teacher*

              It really doesn’t sound as if that is the situation in your case, given that they said they aren’t even considering firing you and that they might consider a pay increase in the future.

        2. Irish Teacher*

          Even if the problem was you, it wouldn’t necessarily mean the same thing would arise in the next job. There are all kinds of reasons why a job might not be right for somebody, but they could do really well at another job. I’m not convinced there are many people who are doomed to fail at every job possible but there are definitely people in jobs that don’t match their skills.

          Heck, as a teacher, I’ve had some colleagues who aren’t at all suited to our school (where about a third to 40% of our students have additional learning needs) and who really struggle but who would be excellent in a school where there were a large number of high achieving students and would be really popular with the kids there, because they are so knowledgeable about their subject. Unfortunately, they lack the ability to explain it to students who struggle. Equally, there are teachers who are really talented with our students but who would hate a school where it’s very academic and there is a lot of pressure from parents to support their students in getting top grades.

          But it does sound like it’s more a lack of experience thing.

          And I will say I had difficulty in my first teaching job because I was thrown into a school where there were massive behavioural problems (let’s put it this way; the next interview I went for after leaving there, they asked me to tell them about a discipline problem I faced and how I dealt with it and added “and looking at the last school you taught in, I’m sure you have plenty to choose from”) and I hadn’t the experience to deal with the level of needs there were in that school. Didn’t stop me being a pretty successful teacher later on in my career.

          1. GythaOgden*

            Same. Getting a job in pre-EU accession Poland (second city, Łódź, not Warsaw) was really hard for an expat who didn’t want to teach English. I got the qualification I needed but had always known I didn’t want to go into classroom teaching, but getting a Polish visa and work permit meant I had to. I lasted like two months before crashing and burning. Bits of the resulting personal implosion could probably be found in Berlin, if not Moscow. I was on the next bus home to the UK, and that was twenty years ago and I’ve never looked for a teaching job again.

            There is a conversation to be had here, I think, about whether Potatoes is in the right career, but it’s something you can experiment a bit with when you’re young and find your niche easier than at 40+ when things are more entrenched (ask me how I know that). It’s important to try and see whether a particular job or field can be salvaged, but it’s virtually never the end of the world if it can’t.

            1. Potatoes gonna potate*

              I’ve already politely asked that this not be suggested and Im starting to feel like my request is being ignored now.

              1. JSPA*

                I don’t know your field / have not been following the conversation for months and years, but dang… there are so few fields where the borders are 100% defined, such that you’re 100% in or 100% out.

                What is far more common is that people who have self-doubt (most people, that is!) define a “real and admirable” job in their field as one that they can barely stretch to do, and that gives them a potent mix of “the dream that I could suddenly do that!” and the procrastination hit of, “but it’s monumental and I don’t know where to start.”

                That’s often true even when

                a) there are many small bits they could easily start in on,

                b) support and training for the other bits are available

                and also

                c) there are a bunch of jobs that are on the borders of the field (and well within their skill set) which are not open for consideration only because they’ve defined those jobs as, “clearly not worth having, because even I could do them easily.”

                This is such a common pattern that “stop banging your head on the wall, or move over 18 inches from the brick wall to the wicker fence, or buy a helmet” are full and reasonable feedback.

                If you mentally set up hard barriers between fields (where none otherwise exist) life gets that much harder to navigate. (That’s true of all-or-none thinking in general, I suppose.)

                So: pick your fence, buy a hemet, and if there’s banging that really must be done…get a hammer. Heads are not for banging on immovable objects.

              2. Yoli*

                I mean, I think this is the cost-benefit ratio of using the same username (or changing usernames but making it clear what your old one was) and writing about your struggles over multiple years. Crowdsourced advice from strangers is always a “take what you need and leave the rest” scenario, but if you struggle to do that the easiest fix in your locus of control is to change your username.

    18. Potatoes gonna potate*

      Thank you everyone for the kind and helpful words. I’m feeling a lot better now and already feeling refreshed and optimistic. I’m spending the weekend planning how to approach the meeting using the advice here and preparing for what’s ahead. I put a meeting on the calendar for 2 months from today that boss accepted and planning to meet with a few other seniors in the coming week.

  7. ThatGirl*

    Got some excellent news this week, and I definitely wasn’t expecting it. I work on a smallish in-house creative team as a copywriter, and my team had an opening to replace a copywriter who left. Part one of the good news is that a former coworker and friend of mine was hired for the job, so I get an excellent coworker and a referral bonus. Part two, the unexpected part, is that my manager saw what my friend asked for, which was a bit more than my current salary, and decided that meant I was underpaid – so I get about a 4.5% salary adjustment! Whoohoo!

    1. Jess R.*

      Congrats, that’s great! How excellent that your manager did that without prompting. :D

      1. ThatGirl*

        She’s only been my manager since December (been at this job 2.5 years), and that definitely earned her some loyalty from me.

    2. Quinalla*

      Nice, more companies should do this kind of comp adjustment without prompting. We just did a comp review at my place to make sure we were up to market and adjust a couple folks, but overall we were doing well. But if you don’t check it often, you can end up with some lopsided stuff!

  8. Lost in Translation*

    I’m in between jobs right now. I worked for almost 20 years as a manager in public service. Due to burnout, I decided to leave and switch careers. I’m in the US, but was born in a Spanish speaking country. Translating is a natural skill for me, and I used it frequently at work, but it wasn’t officially my job. Now I want to make it my job, preferably remote. I even got a translation online certificate, but I’ve not been able to find a job so far. Any suggestions? Should a traditional resumé work for me or should I get creative? I’ve been trying to up my game with cover letters, but not every application allows for one.

    1. Sloanicota*

      This is just my random background, but we were very eager for spanish legal translators at a previous job – but it took some extra certification / training on legal matters and confidentiality. It was remote, through a phone / hotline type thing. I wonder if being specialized in a certain niche (not necessarily law, that’s just an example) could help you connect to work?

    2. sagewhiz*

      Join the Editorial Freelancers Assoc. Membership fee is a but pricey, but the jobs board is an excellent source.

    3. RainyDayHappyDance*

      I am in several groups online for homeschooling parents, and there is quite a bit of discussion about how to find good virtual/online Spanish lessons where children can practice speaking and build fluency. There is an online learning platform called Outschool that you may want to look into if this interests you. It sounds like it is especially difficult to find classes for middle school and high school students. I’ve read several posts from parents who both use and teach on the platform, and they love the flexibility. There are also sites like italki as well. I know this isn’t what you’re targeting, but I wanted to share in case it might be something you would like to do on the side. Best of luck in your search!

    4. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      I think some US states have freelancer pools that local governments will draw on for translators. Maybe poke around your city/county/state websites? It may be tied to the courts.

      1. Lost in Translation*

        Through Univ of Central Florida, but the classes were out of California (ed2go).

  9. Brunost*

    Where would you draw the line on tasks in an interview process? I’m on interview 2, and the want a press release, blog post, donor pitch and three strategies. That… is a lot.

    1. ThatGirl*

      I wouldn’t spend more than an hour or two max on an unpaid interview assignment. So if they wanted me to choose ONE of those, okay. But all of them? Way too much.

      1. Brunost*

        Yes! I think I’ll find some diplomatic language about limited time on top of my current job and send some portfolio pieces instead.

      1. Rex Libris*

        Or at the very least haven’t adjusted to reality, and still expect applicants to be willing to jump through any hoop for the “honor” of being considered.

    2. Sherm*

      For me, a few things would factor into my decision: Do I like these people in general, or am I seeing red flags? Am I getting paid for these exercises? Would I really be doing all these 4 tasks in the job? Are they acknowledging that it is a lot, or are they approaching with an attitude of entitlement?

      1. Brunost*

        Good points! Yes to red flags, no to pay, they seem unaware of what goes into a strategy. It’s helpful to get a gut check, thanks!

    3. Zzzzzz*

      Strategies as part of an assignment for an interview? Sounds like they don’t know what goes into creating those and who should be working on them… let alone writing the other items given that they want all 3. I’d run from this company.

      1. Brunost*

        Thanks, that’s my gut feeling too. I could talk about the steps involved in creating a strategy, but it relies on a lot of data and internal insight that a candidate wouldn’t have.

        1. Zzzzzz*

          Exactly. But even if you did that, think about the amount of work it would be TO work with/for them if you have to explain this to them as an outsider in an interview…

    4. Anon for This*

      Are they assigning a topic for this based on some new initiative they have? Honestly, given the “donor pitch” it sounds like a non-profit, and I have heard before of some of them using a “hiring process” to get work/ideas for free and end up not filling the position because the funding fell through. (There was one in my hometown that was known for this – eventually it stopped getting any applicants.)

      1. Tio*

        This – If you gave them pitches based around a fake campaign, like llama grooming, would they accept it? Otherwise sounds like free work to me

    5. JSPA*

      sounds like they’re getting free work from their candidates (and planning to use it without paying). That’s not legal. Suggest that if they want that level of immediately usable work, they need to pay your freelance rates. If they balk… they were not worth the time anyway.

    6. Ahdez*

      Two interviews is fine, all the other stuff is not. I do think asking for writing samples is fine for a communications-related position, but not necessarily ones written specifically for them. I’d just politely say that you could send some examples of your past work.

      1. JR*

        If they’re asking for samples of existing work, fine (though you prob couldn’t share strategies you developed for someone else). If they want you to write something from scratch, they need to pick one of those, maybe two max. Shouldn’t be more than about two hours of your time (assuming it’s unpaid).

    7. BadCultureFit*

      I am someone who is very pro interview assessments (and it sounds like we’re in the same field) — and even to me that is a LOT to ask for!

  10. Dell*

    I’ve been giving a lot of presentations at work lately even though it is not normally a part of my job. Afterwards, people may compliment the presentation. I have really high standards for myself in public speaking (it’s not a big part of my job, but I enjoy doing it & my mother was a professional journalist who taught me a lot of public speaking skills) and I often think these presentations were mediocre at best.

    How do I know if peoples’ compliments are genuine, or if they are just trying to be nice because they know public speaking is stressful? I noticed I have been responding with things like, “Thank you, but I talked too fast.” or “Thanks! I enjoyed it but I wish I hadn’t stumbled on that last part!” This is probably not an ideal response especially if I’m talking to senior leaders.

    1. EMP*

      Even if you really did stumble or talk too fast, try to train yourself out of putting those caveats in a thank you in this context! “Thanks, glad you found it helpful/I enjoyed the opportunity” is much more appropriate. Turning it around to your (perceived) failures just makes it awkward.

      They may have genuinely thought you were great *and* you stumbled/talked too fast/said um all the time. If you really want to know how you did to your own standard, I would film yourself and watch it privately later.

    2. Jujyfruits*

      I would assume they’re genuine! Stop your sentence before “but.” Just say “thank you!”

      It sounds like you hold yourself to higher standards. Which is okay, just don’t be self-deprecating about it.

    3. really*

      I suspect that they are genuine. Most people dislike public speaking of this type. And yes stop after the thanks. Any addition should be .. I enjoyed it. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I hope you found it helpful/interesting. Whatever fits the situation.

    4. Ranon*

      I’d just go with “thanks!” Most folks, especially senior leaders, evaluate presentation quality on whether they got the info they wanted in an acceptable amount of time in an easy to comprehend way, perfect speaking pace or what have you is not generally a criteria.

      They are probably not complimenting you just to be nice but even if they are, just take the compliment. Perfection is not a standard you need to hold yourself to and you certainly don’t need to point flaws out to others, either they noticed or they didn’t and if they didn’t, no need to bring it up!

    5. ecnaseener*

      You’ll probably never know for sure if the compliments are genuine, but I don’t think it’s an either/or situation! Like, if I notice someone talked a little too fast but was overall an engaging speaker, and I say great job, that’s not out of pity or politeness, it’s because they did a great, albeit imperfect, job.

    6. Charlotte Lucas*

      I also vote for genuine. My office creates & gives a lot of presentations. The are informative but not necessarily that engaging. It sounds like yours are to a higher standard.

    7. Cacofonix*

      They meant it. Say thank you. Then stop.

      Or better, slide in a short pitch related to the presentation topic especially if you’re hoping for a decision or support for your project.

    8. Leia Oregano*

      So I give regular presentations at work, always to different groups of people (they’re info sessions, so people don’t need them twice). I’m a lot harder on myself than anyone else is, and frequently get compliments even during my roughest sessions. My advice is to take the compliment, say thank you, and let it give you that warm happy feeling, even if it’s for a few seconds and even if you have constructive thoughts for yourself. People don’t usually take the time to give platitudes they don’t at least half-mean, imo, especially when it comes to public speaking.

      I think the average person has a low bar for what constitutes “good” public speaking. They think they could never get up in front of a group (I can give sessions that are 5 people or 500 people in my line of work) and give a spiel or a talk, so they gloss over or don’t even notice when you stumble or talk a little too fast.

      When I was a student employee in this same office close to a decade ago, I gave tours during the summer. I also have intense allergies to grass (and everything else), so I prefaced every tour by letting my group know that I have allergies and our facilities folks are great, which means they’re outside maintaining the grass everyday. I’d cough, but it didn’t mean I was sick. I would apologize pretty frequently and interrupt myself to do so. I actually had a person on my tour once tell me, “Don’t bother apologizing because it takes away the focus. You’re doing a great job, just cough and move on. No one will notice.” I really took that to heart, and it was true: no one notices that stumble or when you misspeak or pause for a few seconds to cough because a facilities person on a lawn mower just came by. Just correct if you need to and keep going.

      Also, I’m a fast speaker! I make an effort to slow down but I’m also careful to enunciate at speed. The university president once complimented the speed and thoroughness of my talking. As long as your words aren’t mushing together, you’re probably fine. And fast talkers are better than people who trail on and on and on and talk slowly while doing it — you’ll keep the audience on their toes, the slow talker will put them to sleep.

      Would it help to maybe ask your manager or a trusted work friend to watch you give a practice presentation and give you feedback, if they have it? I did that a few times before I was put on the info session roster regularly and it really helped — I didn’t get much in the way of constructive advice, but when the presentation manager/trainer and your boss both tell you that you did well, it’s hard to argue with. Eventually my self-critical brain figured it out, and now I can laugh about the sessions that suck (yesterday for example. it was my first time giving the session in nearly two months and I was a little rusty. I stumbled on my words a lot. I gave two sessions that weren’t my best. But I still got the info across and the groups out on the next stage, and that’s all that matters. I’m there to impart info accurately and within a specific time window, not be the next TedTalk sensation)

    9. WantonSeedStitch*

      Take people at their word! Just stop yourself at “thank you,”or switch to “thank you, I’m glad it was helpful.” If there’s a particular presentation you have to give repeatedly (orientation, training, etc.), you could add, “I’m always looking to improve on this presentation, since it’s one I have to give often/to a lot of people. If there’s anything you feel could be done better, I’d love your feedback!”

    10. Policy Wonk*

      Probably genuine, but even if not, do not self-deprecate here – it only undermines what you just presented. Just say thank you and move on to another topic.

      1. JSPA*

        This! there’s zero too be gained by undercutting yourself.

        If you must editorialize…

        “thanks! I really wish I could have included a bit about [your passion project] but couldn’t get it in without interupting the flow.”

        (That opens the door for additional future presentations, rather than knocking the one you just gave. )

        You can also occasionally ask for feedback–“how was the pacing?” or “was the intro about right, on detail?” But then sit back and listen to the response! Don’t jump into “self-sabotage” mode.

    11. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Don’t overthink it.
      Just regard the praise as genuine and accept it gracefully with thanks and without any self-deprecation, e.g.
      “Thanks, I enjoyed it”
      “I’m grateful for the opportunity to present my work”

    12. Irish Teacher*

      I would assume people’s compliments are genuine. Even if they are not, there’s really nothing to lose by assuming it.

      Remember that a lot of people really hate presentations and are thinking that they would make a complete mess of it in your shoes, whether they really would or not, so it is very likely you look good compared to their fears about their own skills.

      And yeah, like others have said, most people are probably thinking more of the content and how clear you were than about whether you spoke slowly or quickly or stumbled over a word. Those things don’t really matter in the great scheme of things and are really things we notice far more about ourselves than about others. They likely didn’t even notice.

    13. Thunder kitten*

      Switch the focus.
      “Glad you found it enjoyable” or “I’m hoping that it provided some useful perspective” or whatever where you focus not on how you felt about the talk, to how the users responded, or how you would like them to respond.

    14. Quinalla*

      They are likely being genuine.

      That said, if you are searching for some “real” feedback, see if you can recruit one or two trusted people – whether peers or your boss/mentor – and tell them you want to improve and to give you constructive criticism. Not sure if you are a woman, but I’ve found I have to be more explicit in asking for real feedback as folks tend to soften or give very vague feedback to women. I really have to push for specific feedback. Having a few folks I can go to that I trust to give me real, specific feedback has been super helpful!

    15. I'm A Little Teapot*

      I’m going to turn this around.

      Say you go to a presentation and you think the presenter did a good job. Then later, you tell them so. How would you feel if they were questioning if you actually thought they did a good job or were just being nice?

      Take the compliment then stop talking.

    16. Ahdez*

      I think the function of the compliment after the presentation and your own self-criticism are fundamentally different. Your own self evaluation is meant to help you improve if you reflect on areas you could strengthen, but it’s something to keep to yourself, unless you specifically ask a mentor to help you and provide feedback. People giving compliments after a presentation aren’t thinking that deeply… they went to the presentation, got the information they needed, and so from their perspective it was successful and they want to give you positive feedback, which is great! Like previous commenters said, just say thanks and feel good that you’ve been effective from their perspective.

    17. RagingADHD*

      Just say thank you and then talk positively about something that relates to them.

      When people give you a compliment, it does not matter at all how genuine it is, or whether their standards are similar to your own. Leaders at work give compliments because they are making a micro-investment in their relationship with you and with your future growth.

      Take.The.Compliment.

    18. goddessoftransitory*

      Accept compliments as gifts.

      If someone gave you a birthday gift, you probably wouldn’t hand it back saying “thanks, but I did/didn’t do XYZ so I can’t take this.” It would be weird and awkward! You would accept the gift graciously and say thank you.

      So think of people who are giving you compliments/congratulations as people handing you some nicely wrapped words. Gracious thanks are all you need.

    19. Blink*

      Do you want people to agree with you? “yea now you mentioned it, you were a little fast”. What happens next?

      People are paying you a compliment, with varying degrees of expertise and sincerity. If you want actual actionable feedback, find a peer whose public speaking skills you admire and get them to critique you.

      Otherwise you’re making people participate in a game where they say something nice and you tell them why they’re wrong. That game sucks.

  11. Alex*

    Looking for ways to diplomatically handle a coworker at my new job who sometimes behaves as though she has authority over me. She definitely doesn’t, and over the past couple of months that I’ve been here, it is clear that she’s not super great at her job and I don’t want to listen to her advice.

    But when we are assigned to a project together, I get a lot of “direction” from her. She often turns out to be wrong. If I push back, she just talks over me and shuts down the conversation with “Nope, no, that’s not how it is,” as though she is the authority on the work.

    I’m kind of at a loss on how to maintain a collegial relationship with her, which I definitely want to do, without allowing her professional missteps to affect my own reputation, which I definitely don’t want to do. I don’t have a good sense of how she is viewed by our boss, so I don’t want to complain about her or throw her under the bus to him.

    1. ThatGirl*

      Is there a higher authority you can appeal to? like, “well, hm, why don’t we check with Bob on that” or “Jane has said otherwise” or something like that?

    2. Sloanicota*

      I think you could very innocently make sure to clear up authority with your boss. “When Lucinda tells me X, is it safe to assume that’s coming from you? Because I had thought we said it was supposed to be Y, but I may be confused.” You need your bosses’ backing here. Then you can redirect to the boss’ authority in future.

    3. Jess R.*

      I’m wondering if you can check in with the boss, not in an accusatory way, but in a neutral, fact-finding way. “Hey Sandra, Jane and I were talking about Project X, and she was pretty insistent that we do Thing Z, but I’m fairly sure that Thing Y is the right choice. Would you be able to confirm for us so we’re managing Project X right all the way through?” Idk, my wording is stilted, but something like that?

      1. erg*

        I think this is a good strategy – and want to point out that the proposed language isn’t actually neutral (which may or may not be how OP wants to approach it. Sometimes you want to signal “I think they’re wrong” and sometimes you don’t.)

        To me, neutral language would look more like “Jane and I were talking about project X, and disagree on how to handle situation A. We have identified Thing Z and Thing Y as potential options. Can you help us determine the right path/direct us on how to proceed/work through the options/tell us if we’ve missed something and how to decide?”

        1. Jess R.*

          You make an excellent point! I was very much struggling to figure out the right neutral wording.

    4. But Not the Hippopotamus*

      Try getting your boss to assign these group projects a leader. someone who is responsible for how it goes overall. This should be done on most things anyway, but then it’ll be clear where the buck stops. also, you can put pushback in writing if she’s lead on something (just an email confirming you understand correctly). For stuff you lead, you will then be within your rights to just say no and if she pushes inappropriately, you can table it, talk to your boss and ask how they prefer you handle it when she ignores your guidance, refuses, or whatever.

    5. Cacofonix*

      Since you’re new, you can always ask why. Why do you propose to do it that way? I’ve approached it this way successfully before, where do you see a problem? Make her explain. If she’s not great at her job, she may not have a good answer. But she also might. Manager X asked us to do it this way because it will be easier to report on one of our KPIs.

      As for the shutting down Nope declarations. Kindly, firmly, “you know, I find those kind of negative statements unhelpful on teams. It feels… parental. We’ll be a lot more effective if we work collaboratively as coworkers. Don’t you agree?” Wait expectantly for an answer.

      I find going to managers right away is akin to throwing up your hands. Especially if you haven’t done specific, direct actions to deal with it first. Then do the “I don’t agree with that. Let’s ask Sally to advise us here if we can’t solve it on our own.” Better be high stakes to use that in my opinion though.

    6. Alex*

      A lot of the time, her advice is to “ignore X person.” (When that person explicitly emailed us with a question.) Or “That’s not our job.” (It is.) Or “They didn’t give us any instructions so we can’t do that.” (They did, they are right here.) And if I say I’m going to ask our boss, or I point out something she claims we don’t have, she gets super defensive and shuts down the whole conversation. Triggering her defensiveness is extremely easy, and as soon as I say I’ll ask someone else it roars its head.

      Writing this out, I wonder if she is trying to manipulate the situation on purpose and try to break down communications between me and others in the office.

      1. All Het Up About It*

        Given these examples, I think the recommendation above of asking “Why” could be helpful in gauging her motivations. Maybe in some of these cases she has legitimate reasons for ignoring certain people or thinking something isn’t your job.

        I’d also advise stop telling her you’re going to ask another person. If you need to check in with someone else, do it and then report back “oh I was talking to so and so” and they gave some more clarity about X.

        But als0 – you might have to have a convo with your boss. This isn’t about throwing someone under the bus, or complaining about someone just because you don’t like them or hate that they use the phrase “out of pocket.” Either your co-worker is actively interfering with you doing your job (purposefully or no) OR you don’t fully understand your job. Erg gave some really great neutral language examples here, and I think using those, or modifying them to check in with your boss in general is a great idea.

      2. Cookie Monster*

        If she says to ignore someone, can you just say in a friendly way, “Oh, I don’t think I could do that. I’ll just tell them [x]” or “I’ll just email them back.”

        As for the defensiveness, can you call it out in the moment, with a confused/concerned look/tone while saying something like, “That seemed to have upset you. Is everything okay?” or “But their instructions are right here. Is it a problem for me to point that out?”

        If she keeps trying to shut it down, I think you can keep playing up the confused/concerned thing with language like, “But we can’t just NOT talk about it, right? This is what we’re here to figure out.”

      3. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        Are all of the conflicts about “not doing that” in some sense, or do you also disagree with her about active courses of action (she thinks it should be A, but you think it is B)?

        It just strikes me that all the examples you gave are things where she’s saying “We shouldn’t do that work because…” (not our job, no instructions, etc).

        The motivation could be as simple as just laziness or not wanting to do those tasks for some reason (e.g. she thinks they are a bore and would rather work on this interesting project instead). Or she just has very rigid ideas and little flexibility in thinking. Or she has a variation of the old chestnut “we’re not paid enough to think”. I can’t tell from this what the motivation is, but I expect you can figure that out just by probing a little. And then with that info, it may well be something to bring up to your manager; try solving it with her first as that’s probably the first thing the manager will ask, but not really with any expectation of succeeding.

      4. Random Dice*

        I had a new but more-senior coworker who told us to ignore the instructions from our collective boss. We all got fired by that boss, except for the sabotager. If we had told the boss it might have been different.

        Don’t be a casualty to that situation.

    7. Momma Bear*

      I agree to check in with the boss if you need to. “Can I have some clarity on Project? I thought the direction/scope was ABC but coworker says PDQ and that just doesn’t seem right.” You may also want to CC the boss or PM or whoever when you think they need insight into how you’re handling the thing and why you’re not doing it Coworker’s way. I also like the idea of assigning a task lead, but be clear that you feel you’re up to speed enough to BE that leader, not that you just want to follow.

      If you don’t go “Coworker is an idiot and I can’t stand her” to your boss, then you’re not throwing her under the bus. Asking for clarification is OK. I’ve reached out to my boss about similar direction conflicts. I didn’t throw them under the bus but I did need some intervention because what was going on was confusing and not productive for the task at hand. A good manager will look into it/make changes. Could be as simple as looping your concerns through another Team Lead or back to Boss directly.

    8. JSPA*

      “I’ve always found it helpful when the different people in a collaboration focus on what seems most relevant to them, rather than training each other to have the same focus. Unless [boss’s name] tells me otherwise, I’d want to continue doing that here, even if it hasn’t been the default.”

      That cuts way back on the “who’s right” energy, while acknowledging that the two of you are not on the same page.

    9. Nesprin*

      It’s not throwing someone under the bus to clarify with your boss whether coworker is generally right and worth listening to, or not. Approach with your boss that coworker is giving you advice that you’re not sure is right with curiosity and open mind and ask boss how to handle- should you checkin with boss when coworker says something that you think is wrong? accept coworker’s input? ignore coworker ? document?

    10. Shirley Keeldar*

      Can you sort of…take ownership of these pieces she’s trying to tell you not to do? If she says “Ignore that person,” can you just say, “Oh, no, I wouldn’t feel comfortable just ignoring her, I’ll handle it.” If she says, “They didn’t give us instructions so we don’t have to do that,” can you say, “Oh, well, the instructions here seem pretty clear, so I’ll go ahead and do XYZ, I’ve got it.” I don’t know how collaborative these projects are, and maybe you can’t split it up like that. But if you can just do your half and let her not do hers, so it’s clear to your managers who’s working and who’s not…might that help?

    11. maringe*

      I suspect your boss knows your co-worker is the way you describe, and is using her to manage you so he doesn’t have to.

      I hope I am wrong on that, but your co-worker is a dime-a-dozen, and your boss would have to be blind to not have noticed her domineering ways.

      I’m sorry you’re in this situation, regardless.

  12. Jess R.*

    What do you do when you’re about to inherit a mess?

    I posted a couple weeks ago about being newly Team Lead. Right after that, my manager put in her two weeks, and I am being placed in the interim manager position. This is exciting for me; I think I’m really going to thrive in that role here.

    The thing is, she’s leaving a *mess*. Her desk is covered in paperwork that I know is wildly overdue (as in, missing state deadlines, not just internal ones), she’s outright said there are a whole lot of client emails in her inbox she just hasn’t responded to, and it has been impacting our team for a long time. I’m actually really eager to get in there and dig through the mess and start setting things to rights.

    I have two plans going in: First, sort through everything before dealing with anything (unless I can delegate it immediately) so I can prioritize work properly. And second, document, document, document! So it’s clear what came from her mess and it won’t get blamed on me.

    What other recommendations do you have for what to do when you’re inheriting a mess?

    1. Everything All The Time*

      mentally prepare yourself that it may be worse than you think, and schedule self-care and when you’re leaving work at work times.

      I have inherited smaller messes like that and your sort/prioritize/document is sound. Is it possible to not accept new work until the mess is clean?

      1. Jess R.*

        We can’t refuse new work as a team, but I should be able to have my team do pretty much everything new that comes in, with a few exceptions. They’re honestly a lot more competent than my previous manager seemed to acknowledge; she did a lot of surface praise without passing on work that we could definitely have handled for her. So that’s good!

        And I really appreciate the nudge to recognize that it might be worse than I think. I truly do not know how that could be possible, but you’re right; I won’t know until I’m in it.

      2. I'm A Little Teapot*

        I’m an auditor, and I’ve seen all sorts of these situations. It is worse than realized. It always is.

    2. Warrior Princess Xena*

      Is there any way for you to proactively let your boss know that there is going to be a mess (missing deadlines, etc?) That’s the sort of thing where looping them in early so that you’re not getting the brunt of the external wrath can be critically helpful.

      1. WantonSeedStitch*

        THIS. Talk to your boss about it. Also talk to departing messy colleague about it and see if you can get her to give you an idea of what the biggest problems are. When you talk to your boss, talk about that stuff, and ask boss what you should prioritize for cleanup. Also, let them know that since this cleanup is necessary, it might be hard for you to ramp up on other new duties or changes as fast as you would otherwise. See if you can work out a plan with them on what you’ll be taking on and when.

        1. Jess R.*

          Yeah, I think you’re both right about this! I’ll be reporting to the executive director (we’re a nonprofit) once my manager leaves, and he already reached out about having a meeting next week to discuss. I’m lucky to have a pretty decent idea of what the problems are — the way the work is structured, the majority of the problems directly impact the team, so it’s no secret. The downside is that the ED has been *super* hands-off since this team was created, so I think a lot of this will come as a surprise to him.

          1. Warrior Princess Xena*

            Oof, yeah, that’s not a fun situation to be in but makes it even more critical that you let him know ASAP what kind of state it is in. Partly so that he can know what’s coming but also partly so that you don’t get blamed for the mess when he does find out.

      2. Ama*

        Yes — I had a coworker in a similar situation, her boss actually got fired because he wasn’t doing any work, and she went to our CEO and asked if she could have a week where her calendar was completely free so she could sort through the mess he’d left behind and come up with a plan to proceed. (Most people were told she was on vacation so she’d be left completely alone and not expected to respond to anyone– coworker and I were friends outside of work so she told me in confidence.)

    3. Gondorff*

      As someone who went through very similar not terribly long ago, one thing I did that immensely helped was putting an out-of-office message on that briefly explained the situation. Like, “I have recently taken over this role. Please pardon any delay in returning your email. I aim to be back to you in [insert reasonable time-frame here]. In the meantime, if this is time-sensitive, please contact me via [whatever method you prefer, or, even better, if you can delegate this immediately to someone, put their contact info here].” That allowed me to focus on both the most time-sensitive things and getting everything in order while not seeming like I was just another person in that position ignoring clients.

    4. Little Pig*

      Buy yourself a lot of time to get through the backlog. Be wary of other responsibilities (collaborating with other departments, managing the team) that could start eating up your time right away. Get cover from your new boss to put off other responsibilities until you’ve made it through the mess

      1. Jess R.*

        Yeah, I’m anticipating a full week just to sort and prioritize, and then I’ll be able to judge a timeline for the actual remaining work. I appreciate the warning — I do think those other responsibilities could take up a lot of time if I’m not careful! And they should, eventually, but yeah, not while I’m clean-up crew.

    5. Firefly*

      Oh, I did this in October! it was very rewarding, but the challenge of learning a new position while digging through a disaster of dropped balls took me out of my comfort zone for sure. Here are my tips: check with your manager for their priorities – like the safety compliance stuff, that was where I had to start – and which clients to focus on first. Communicate those priorities clearly to your team, as well as which ‘regular tasks’ you will be setting aside for now and when you hope to pick them back up. Relationships – reach out to all stakeholders (clients, other departments, etc) with an introductory email, explaining that you have taken the position and are working to establish priorities and what are the most important things you need to know about their file? This way you can try to make progress on something that will have a big impact for them and they are taking some of the load off you making decisions on what to work on next. And then maintain regular updates throughout the start up process. When you think you have things in hand, send a summary to your boss and your team asking for feedback – they might see something you missed. And when you feel you’ve finished digging through the backlog, make that clear too so people start to see the next steps as your work. Good luck! It is really rewarding but hard to acknowledge you actually can’t do everything at once

      1. Jess R.*

        I especially like the suggestions to let clients/stakeholders help prioritize and to send a summary to boss and team alike. I have already been chatting with someone at an organization we’re partnering with on this project, and she offhandedly mentioned that something I was planning on doing had been on her “wish list” for departing manager, so I asked her what else was on that wish list — it was about what I expected, but great to have it confirmed.

        Your description is about what I’m anticipating: hard, out of my comfort zone, and also really rewarding.

    6. Csethiro Ceredin*

      I’m doing this now and one thing that’s really helped me is keeping my boss in the loop about what I have found, what I am working on, and checking that he agrees with my priorities as I plug away at the backlog. I do it in a neutral tone (not complaining about the person who left).

      He appreciates the updates and I appreciate the fact that he knows what is done (and undone) and wouldn’t think it was my failure.

      1. Jess R.*

        Yessss, a friend I was chatting to about this gave me some tips on how to talk about the backlog without it coming across as bad-mouthing the departing manager. (I don’t know her life! I don’t know why the backlog happened! And that’s honestly not my business.)

      2. I have RBF*

        The neutral tone is key, even when the mess item is a complete yikes. But definitely keep your boss in the loop.

        Example: “Hey Boss? I just discovered that our sales tax return is 3 months overdue! I’ll prioritize having Bob and Sue working on that ASAP, but I thought you should know.”

        Note that this doesn’t directly throw the prior manager under the bus – there could be lots of reasons why. The real priority is getting it fixed. The bus will find its own route, just make sure that you aren’t standing in the street.

    7. Tio*

      Skim everything as quickly as possible, and make a list of the problem and the deadline (even if the deadline is past, because those can get worse the longer they’re left). Block off at least a day of this. Once you have a general idea of what all is in there, then you can start prioritizing and diving deeper. Get input for this, as you want your priorities to match your boss’s. For tasks you’re trying to take care of, see how much you can break them down and spread them out to your team so you can have as many people working on them as possible, and make sure everyone knows what the priorities are.

      Good luck! Hopefully if you can do this it’ll really make you shine to the higher ups!

    8. Nesprin*

      Break down into a sorting/organizing/todo-list-making phase and a dealing with stuff phase.
      Borrow a conference room for a week to spread out, sort and organize, and file, list out todo list things on white board and who to give them to.

    9. Manchmal*

      I couldn’t quite tell from your post whether your manager is now gone, or whether she still has some time left in the position. If she is still around, could you try to get in to the materials now instead of waiting until after her last day? Is she open enough to walk you through some of the mess?

      1. Jess R.*

        Today is her last day, unfortunately, and she’s been working from home all week but not terribly reachable. So I’ve gotten a little from her today, but tbh it’s like pulling teeth, plus she’s busy doing annual reviews before she leaves.

    10. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Be mentally prepared for all sorts of other “messes” to come out of the woodwork, not just the ones you are already aware of.

      If her approach has been impacting the team (I’m sure it has) – a decisive and active approach should get them on your side pretty quickly.

      Don’t take it personally if things wrong in the team seem to be blamed on you as the head of – but also don’t be tempted to blame it all off on the outgoing manager (this will be obvious already to most people by the sounds of it).

  13. Stuckinacrazyjob*

    What is your worksona ( who you are at work) like? I would like to have a calm collected one, but instead I talk constantly and make jokes despite not having a sense of humor. My mother always complains about me not going on the promotion track but you must act promotable and I don’t have that in me.

    1. Panicked*

      What are your goals? Forget your mom for a minute- do you want to be promoted? If not, keep doing what you’re doing, as long as you are getting good feedback from your manager/team.

      One good piece of advice I received early on in my career is “Silence is not a bad thing.” It’s completely okay to not have every minute filled with chatter. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but you’ll get used to it! Not to say that you can’t talk or join in on conversations, but you don’t need to fill every spare moment.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        I agree with the first part of this SO MUCH (well, the whole post but this specifically.)

        Do you want to be promoted? Is there a specific position or role you have as a goal, or is it just your mom/work culture in general insisting that if you aren’t “promotable” you may as well just wither away?

        In my job, I absolutely do NOT want to be promoted to manager, because many of their duties are things I utterly despise dealing with. My bosses love me and as long as the business is around I should have a job as long as I don’t burn the place down, and that’s fine with me.

        1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

          I don’t actually want to be a manager. When I try to get people to do things they don’t do them or do something completely different! A good manager can make or break your experience so my poor management would ruin potential gems for the company. Managers at my job are on call more! Also I am not detail oriented and in meetings I fidget!

          I just like to have fun, geek out and goof off. I’m not actually a ‘ working ‘ person but we all must work

    2. DisneyChannelThis*

      Oh man, work me is super peppy cheerful and never swears and people think I won’t understand PG13 rated jokes haha. Real me has dark humor and swears a lot. I found work super awkward socially when I was starting out, so manifesting a super cheerful vibe made stuff less awkward, especially smoothing over any faux socially. It also made me approachable which is needed for my job. It also helps mentally to like code switch so I don’t drop the F bomb a lot at work.

    3. Zzzzzz*

      Your mom should have ZERO input on your career track. Shut that one down. No wonder you aren’t calm at work. Perhaps some therapy to dive into this and mom…

    4. Juicebox Hero*

      I tone down my profanity and sarcasm, but I’m not going to pretend to be someone I’m not. I spent too long doing that in order to please the unpleasable and I’m over it.

      Your mother sounds like the reason Alison wants to bar parents from ever giving their children workplace advice :D “Acting promotable” means doing your job in a way that lets your skills shine through, not sucking up to management or bragging what a great manager you’d make.

      Plus, there’s nothing wrong with not wanting to be promoted. Keep your eye on what YOU want for YOURSELF, not what anyone else is telling you you should want.

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        Tbh mom thinks I wouldn’t stay out late all the time or whatever, but a manager has to remember all the rules, sit through meetings and if anyone has drama, I can’t just ignore them. You have to deal with the emergencies of 40 children instead of just 10. And you gotta hear your subordinates complain and your boss? sounds hard!

        also you don’t get to go and color with kids as often either

        1. Irish Teacher*

          Do you actually want a promotion? There’s nothing at all wrong with it if you don’t.

    5. Irish Teacher*

      Honestly, my worksona probably isn’t that different from my normal personality and…the colleagues I work most closely with seem happy with that. I joke that they keep me around “for obsessing purposes.” They’ve realised my obsessiveness is useful when they want something researched, etc.

      I swing between talking too much and going silent, depending on what is going on, what the conversations are about, etc.

      I am obsessive, a bit socially awkward, talk a lot about history and books and stuff, am pretty positive and generally easy-going and willing to work with or around people. Basically, not that different to ouside work. I pretty much told one of the colleagues I work most closely with that I am happy to do the research and curriculum planning stuff so long as she and our SENCO do the parts about talking to parents, outside professionals, etc.

      I don’t think talking a lot prevents one from being promotable. Heck, I’ve a colleague who can out-talk me and who is pretty hyperactive and loud and distractable and she was promoted and I would have been shocked if she hadn’t been, given that she is awesome at her job.

    6. Bird Lady*

      My worksona is essentially a G-Rated version of me. I’m goofy, love a good “dad-joke”, info dump about birds, and do llama yoga as much as possible. While working I refrain from foul language (I grew up with a grandmother who was an army nurse and around a bunch of sailors, so I drop f-bombs irl), and don’t share stories about birds getting it on with their favorite toys. I’ve always found that the high quality and quantity of my work has been the considering factor in any promotion track. And during times of high stress my ability to share a terrible pun has broken the tension and allowed people to relax back into the workflow. It’s appreciated!

      If you feel like you aren’t on a promotion track, chat with your manager about ways you can act that way. But it’s also okay to find roles in which you aren’t managing people. I did just that; I manage processes now. I’m much happier and my dorky jokes help keep things light.

    7. Jess R.*

      My worksona is *way* less funny and interesting than I am, but that’s on purpose. I am a chronic oversharer in real life (and also nosy as heck) and I have to actively remind myself not to share certain things or ask certain questions. It’s an effort.

      I wonder where your tendency to talk and make jokes at work is coming from. It’s not inherently a bad thing! And regardless of what your mother thinks, if you want a different worksona, that’s worth looking at: What do you want to be like at work? You say calm and collected. In the moments when you’re not acting that way, take a moment later to think through what prompted the actions you took. Were you anxious and it was the result of nervous energy? Were you trying to get a certain reaction? Were you aware of what you were doing and couldn’t stop, or did you not realize until after?

      Again, I don’t think talking and joking at work is a bad thing, but it clearly bothers you.

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        Oh I’m always anxious and have tons of thoughts and when I try to express them they always end up as just disorganized thoughts instead of clear expression. Sometimes I can see how awkward I am and steer away but often I’ll go over the awkward edge.

    8. Everything All The Time*

      oh work me is cheerful and preppy and ready for basically anything (I call it “Smiley McSmiler”) but outside of work I am an introverted couch potato who talks like Roy Kent.

      You don’t have to have that attitude to get promoted, if that’s what you want. If you want a promotion you should ask your manager what the metrics are to be considered for career advancement. There are skills you can learn, but it’s not “put on the entire persona.” I just do it because I am not Roy Kent and will be fired for loudly saying the f word at work when asked to do something in my job description that I hate doing.

    9. WantonSeedStitch*

      My worksona is a lot like my personal persona: I tend to be energetic and fairly outgoing and make jokes (but generally well-timed and appropriate to the audience). I think the biggest difference is that my worksona is a bit more assertive/authoritative than I am otherwise, mostly due to the fact that I’m in a management role.

      It sounds like your constant talking and joking might be due to nerves. Is that true? If so, that sounds like something that CAN be overcome. Practicing allowing silence or taking a beat to think before talking can work wonders. But “calm and collected” is not the only personality that people might think of as promotable. “energetic and enthusiastic” can work as well!

    10. Nea*

      I’m a polite cryptid. I’ll get right on that new task. Here are my ideas for the (whatever). Thing is ready for your approval; here is a copy and it is also (hosted on website).

      Nothing about my personal life unless it impinges on my work in some manner. (Example: “I will be in late today; taking cat to emergency vet appointment.”) Not. One. Thing.

      It’s not that I don’t have a life full of personal interests, it’s that they’re usually wildly out of step with everyone else. (Think: media nerd among sports fans) So I stay a cryptid.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        I have an image of you blinking shyly from the edge of the piney woods now…

    11. A Person*

      Mine is pretty much me + more cheerful + more optimism + more assertive – sarcasm . (As a manager I don’t want misunderstandings so the only sarcasm I deploy is very very targeted and usually just with my manager since she seems to “get it”.)

      I’m an introvert in “real life” so if anything I actually have to talk more than is natural to me at work.

      It has definitely taken awhile to really make this persona (I’ve been in the non-academia workforce for almost 20 years now). I’ve never really been able to change what I do based on the idea of getting a promotion, but as I’ve moved up into mentorship and leadership I’ve naturally wanted to curate the persona. (Let me tell you, the first time someone who reported to me read WAY too much into a joke or offhand remark definitely was a behavior changer).

      The optimism one was hard, I got direct feedback that I was leading with why not to do things instead of how things can get accomplished and had to handle it pretty deliberately.

      I’m not sure why I’m more cheerful at work – that was natural and I was shocked when I got positive reviews on that. I do HIGHLY value being easy to work with so generally that means being pleasant when people come to me with requests or asks, even when I’m turning them down or redirecting them.

    12. Quinalla*

      I am me but (mostly) work appropriate. I say mostly as I can get away with some swearing at work – we are construction adjacent so it’s more acceptable. But yes, I avoid certain topics, tolerate annoying but harmless behavior from coworkers that outside of work I would get away from that person, I dress appropriate to the situation (I WFH, so this is pretty relaxed, when I go to a construction site or meet a client, suitable attire for the occasion.)

      That said, if there are nervous habits (talking a lot and making jokes for you maybe?) that you want to work on making more professional, nothing wrong with working on that. But do it because you want to! I like to tell jokes at work, but I don’t do it too much. Jokes can really help connect folks or at least warm people up a bit, but again they need to be work appropriate!

    13. ONFM*

      Your question made me smile, because I finally have been able to become the calm, collected one, but I honestly think it was more maturity/life experience rather than a tip or trick. However – if your problem is you talk too much, consider carrying something that reminds you to be quiet. Maybe it’s a specific pen, or a bracelet to wear so you can actually look at to remind yourself not to verbally respond to every single thing? I used to very much be a “talk with my hands” person, so I started consciously crossing my hands in my lap during meetings, or holding my pen in my lap with both hands so I had to let go of it in order to talk! Ha. Does talking too much make you unable to promote? In some places, yes, because no one wants to work the The Annoying Person in the Office. But you can get over it, for sure.

    14. Distractinator*

      My worksona is way more methodical and efficient than my home persona. In fact when I have to do non-work organization (volunteer org emails, phoning about utility bills, making a vacation packing list) I can feel my work self settling in to handle this for me, and then going away to let me watch tv and play candycrush in peace. But also, that’s my ideal worksona. When I actually get a difficult or non-routine task at work and start to panic over what needs to happen and how, I’m trying to actively push away from “let’s ask Fergus” and into “how would Fergus handle this, maybe I can just try that”, which is maybe turning me into mini-Fergus. On the “acting promotable” front, I definitely have a client-facing and boss-chat worksona that is different from my project-team worksona, both cheerful but one way less formal. My current conundrum is how to be approachable and present complex concepts in a non-intimidating and engaging way, without coming off as haphazard, incorrect/vague, or disrespectful. It’s always a balancing act. But no individual event/interaction is the nail in the coffin, just keep trying and trying again.

    15. Toxic Workplace Survivor*

      Ideally, you want your worksona (love the term!) to be as closely aligned with your real self as possible, with a professional veneer over top. That’s what many of the examples in the comments have in common – “me but less sarcastic when my boss is around,” or “I still talk too much but consciously try to rein it in” or “I lean into my love of organizing but check in with others to make sure I’m not going too far.”

      My line of work is rapidly evolving from something that used to be pretty harsh and hierarchical (think politics) to something a bit less toxic; at management training last year geared to my sector we were reminded that it’s important to go with our own instincts rather than try to emulate managers we may have had in the past, who were part of a broken model. Finding a way to do work in a way that works for YOU is key to this.

      Instead of trying to be one specific thing, start thinking about why you need to project a worksona: what message are you trying to convey to peers, bosses and subordinates and how are you getting that message across? Do you need to adapt your communication style to the person – by sending an email rather than a conversation, or vice versa (or both)? Are you making sure to foster relationships with colleagues while also getting your own work done? Framing things in terms of objectives and relationships can help you develop the right persona.

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        I want people to take me seriously so I only have to say ‘ yo you have to obey our gun policy ‘ once. I also would like people to listen to my dire warnings! But I talk too much and seem airheaded… I want to get along with people but I’m too much of a people pleaser. also my natural self has grown around mild ADHD symptoms I’ve had since childhood so it can be off-putting to many. I’m certainly the sort of person that people say ‘ be yourself;’ ….’ not like that ‘ to.

    16. Rara Avis*

      I am not patient by nature and I skew introverted, but I spend my entire day practicing patience and interacting with so many humans. (I teach middle school.). I come home and I usually need an hour or two before I’m ready for people again.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        Weirdly, as a fellow teacher who is not patient by nature, I am very patient when teaching, to the point my colleagues would probably stare at me if I mentioned being impatient, so I guess that is one part of my worksona that does differ from my self outside work. But it’s not intentional. At all. I think it is just because at work, I am focussed on answering questions from teenagers, whereas outside work, I am doing other things and less prepared for basic level questions.

      2. Mimmy*

        I am very similar except that I teach a specific skill in a vocational rehab training program. When I first started this job, my co-instructor said that it requires a lot of patience. I groaned internally because I can be very impatient. However, I ended up surprising myself and am very patient with my students, many of them telling me as much.

    17. Mimmy*

      As with many others in this thread, I am pretty much myself at work and at home except that I don’t swear, and I am a lot more careful about what I say out loud. I agree with Toxic Workplace Survivor in that you should be your true self with a “professional veneer”. You should never feel like you have to be someone you are not at work.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, this. I’m a chatty introvert. I’m a translator, so I spend most of my workdays writing alone as the job requires none to minimal synchronous collaboration. I’m development-minded, though, so I talk quite a lot in our team meetings, to the point that I’ve asked my team lead to tell me to zip it if I veer off course too much or simply ramble on too long. I’m improving, though, and my soliloquies are shorter than they used to be.

        At work I don’t swear and I’m a lot less prone to sarcastic comments than in my personal life.

        I value relationships and try to cultivate friendly professional relationships with all my coworkers. I don’t mind sharing some details about my personal life at work, but nothing too detailed. My work friendships tend to be situational and I rarely bother to keep in touch with former coworkers. I enjoy going to lunch with my coworkers on our in-office days, but I’m rarely interested in socializing with my coworkers outside of working hours.

  14. Telephone Sanitizer, Third Class*

    What do you do if you’re not good at your job?

    I’ve been in my field for five years and this job for two, but even though I’ve had some big successes, I still can’t get above a rookie proficiency. I keep forgetting steps in the project management system, or making other mistakes.

    The work is especially difficult because we use a lot of different applications and integrations, there are unending legal considerations, and many details are driven by rules that aren’t obviously documented, so it’s difficult to account for all the edge cases.

    I’m trying to brush up on connecting the technical details to the business initiatives, but it’s still a stressful struggle to capture everything I need to do, and then pull together the test data to get the scenarios executed, and then validate all the details, reports, and downstream data without forgetting or missing anything.

    If this isn’t a good field for me, I have no idea what else to try or even how to get a foothold in a different role/field. I’m good enough at technical stuff to impress non-tech people (reading code, running SQL queries, testing APIs) but I know I’m not cut out for dev. I’d love to work on the higher-level strategy side of things instead of in the weeds, but that’s exactly what I’m told I’m falling short in.

    I’m terrified I’ll lose my job and not have any marketable skills for another.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Ugh I feel you. I feel like I don’t have the right kind of skills or personality for the career track I’m currently on, and I can’t figure out how to get off. Solidarity, it’s hard. In my case, I think the skillset I have and the things I’m naturally good at just – aren’t very desirable or marketable in our society (I have an artistic mindset, which is far less valuable than being very conscientious / great at small details / technically-minded). I might have been better at something more human-oriented, maybe teaching or carework. But my current role is far more lucrative, I’m just never great at it, and that wears me down.

    2. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      I am also bad at my job. I lack the detail orientation to succeed. Uh .. I do not know what to do about this. I guess I could try to network with my former coworkers to see where they landed

    3. Prospect Gone Bad*

      It sounds like you work in my sort of arena. It sounds like you think you either fail or are a guru making 200K. There is actually a huge middle ground. My only problem with your comment is that you want to work on “strategy” but also say you can’t get past a certain level of proficiency. That is an attitude problem and not a logical one. Companies actually need those mid-level people doing this things you “can’t move past.” That’s actual a good thing, I would never even dream of firing someone for that. But I would scratch my head at someone wanting to strategize after not mastering the work. As in, even if I was your fan, are you capable of strategizing about stuff you don’t know? Watch out, you might get strategy stuff that involves the vague legal stuff. That, in my opinion, is much more painful than strategizing the API and technical items. The strategizing in the former will involve lots of guessing what to do, long emails with lawyers that aren’t about much, and is actually quite boring. It’s also much easier to petition for a raise when you say “set up APIs” versus “sat in many strategy calls with lawyers that didn’t know what was going on, didn’t have much to contribute”

      1. Telephone Sanitizer, Third Class*

        I’d be happy to run queries for people. I’d even be happy to listen to lawyers. But I keep getting assigned new projects

        1. Telephone Sanitizer, Third Class*

          Clicked too soon. Projects with fiddly details that aren’t easy to simulate or find examples of in production, and then just as I think I’m getting the hang of it, turns out I missed a follow up item on the last project… (I’ve started adding those to my calendar)

        2. Prospect Gone Bad*

          what kind of new projects? there has to be some sort of pattern between them that we can recognize and build a (limited) skill set based on

    4. Super Duper Anon*

      Since I don’t really know what you do now, this may be an off-base recommendation, but have you considered technical writing? Specifically, API documentation? I was also heading down the computer science path and realized that I absolutely didn’t have the chops to be in dev. I pivoted to technical writing and found my place. Lately, API documentation is becoming a large part of the technical writing scene. It allows you to keep using your technical stuff without being a dev.

      1. Telephone Sanitizer, Third Class*

        I actually applied to be a technical writer at my first job and was pushed into QA. I might take another look at the field if I can’t hang on here. Might also take another swing at learning QA automation.

        1. Nea*

          Technical writer here. It’s never too late to become a TW; you can even get your start right where you are. Document those undocumented rules. Make yourself a flow chart of all the stuff that needs to be gathered and then checked. Write up “what to do with this edge case” processes.

          Even if you’re just writing for yourself, you’re getting a firm grip on clear communication, information flow, basic troubleshooting – all the things a TW needs to document.

          Plus it may help you with those little details. Even better, when you bail for something you like more, you’ve already written up the SOP on your job for the next person.

          1. Telephone Sanitizer, Third Class*

            I did write up a training document for some of the more technical processes once. I really enjoyed doing it, and the document helped other people learn the process, so I was no longer the only one who knew how. I’ll try to keep doing things like that! Thanks for the encouragement!

    5. Dancing Otter*

      Do I understand you correctly that there aren’t desktop procedures? Then you should create them. They don’t have to be polished prose, at least not initially, since they’re just for your own use.

      Checklists and decision trees, even flowcharts, will help you to remember all the standard steps. Branches for those “edge cases” can at least guide choices, and maybe you can flesh them out later. If there are already procedures for some steps, you can use hyperlinks.

      Once you have drafts, ask your boss or team lead to review for completeness or mistakes. This has the added benefit of demonstrating you are trying to improve.

    6. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      In a word – checklists and SOPs (standard operating procedures). Start documenting this stuff and soon, not only will you ne no longer forgetting manual steps, you will also start to become the local expert on all the intricacies of those APIs, integrations, legal gotchas etc.

    7. Lucy Van Pelt*

      Is there anyone you can confide in, someone to whom you can ask the “stupid” questions? I know that I can get so scared of showing that I don’t understand something that I get stuck and can’t move forward even on stuff that I do know how to do.
      This is on top of the moral support that I hope you are getting here, and it would be great if there is also someone in real life who can help you deal with that feeling of being terrified (whether that is by distracting you with baked goods, reassuring you and reminding you of past successes, mapping out your marketable skills, whatever will help you face the workday with less fear).

  15. PJs*

    I’ve been job hunting for the past few months, and am currently negotiating an offer (yay!) Of course, it’s a conditional offer pending background check (eye roll), which means I’m not able to give notice at my current job just yet. Here’s where it gets tricky:
    My office is closed for the first week of July, so everyone is on vacation that week. My questions are:
    1. If the background check clears next week before the office closes, when I give my notice, should I give two calendar weeks, or two working weeks?
    2. If the background check clears while the office is closed, is there any way for me to give notice? Or do I need to wait until we’re all back to start the two week clock?

    I have a really good working relationship with my manager and want to make my transition off the team as smooth as possible, but it’s not as though my new employer will be expecting an extra week in the timeline, and I just don’t know what the etiquette is.

    1. Zzzzzz*

      What’s the rush if it could be just an extra week and over/during the holiday? If you have a hard start date, that’s a shame for your current company but oh well. In my experience tho, companies that need background-check approval and it’s a holiday, are understanding about when the start date is so you can give proper notice.

    2. WellRed*

      There’s no law that says you must give two exactly weeks or that new employers absolutely expect you to. It’s just a standard. When the background check clears, figure out what makes the most sense and give that as your start date. If it cleared today, I’d give two weeks notice with Friday, July 7 as my last day. Clean and simple.

    3. AnOtterMouse*

      In most places, one extra week won’t be an issue. You could try something like, “Hi [NewJob]. I wasn’t expecting the timeline to work out this way, but [CurrentJob]’s office is closed this week and I have no way to give notice until [DATE]. From that day, I’ll need to work the full two weeks of transition, and I can start with you at [NewJob] on [DATE]. Thanks for understanding; I look forward to working with you!”

      1. PJs*

        Oooo I really like this wording! (Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate everyone else’s comments, but I love when I can copy/paste and make slight adjustments to tone so it feels more “me”). I was struggling to find a way to phrase things and this is super helpful. It also allows me to provide a bit more support to my current team before leaving (already feeling guilty about that and I haven’t even put in my notice…)

    4. GGGGGG*

      Most new employers will understand the need for an additional week before starting. Based on your comment that you want to make your transition smooth, I would try to give a full 2 working weeks notice if possible.
      If you get the offer during the week off, just plan to give your notice first thing on 7/10. And enjoy that week off!

      1. PJs*

        Yes, I love this! Thanks for the encouragement (and the reminder to enjoy the time off and not stress)

  16. Pink Shoe Laces*

    Would you put your Myers–Briggs Type on your Slack profile?

    I just started a new job and we have the option to do that. I’m a woman and I work in a male dominated office, a few of the men who work there have their type on their Slack profile.

    For context, I typically find the Myer-Briggs stuff to be kind of pretenious (I usually swipe left on apps if a man has it on their profile lol) but wonder if it might be good to it on my profile. Honestly, I doubt most are looking lol

    1. Sloanicota*

      I don’t think I would, because I don’t really believe in that, and if I see that others have it listed I would assume they’ve very invested in that system. I wouldn’t want to misrepresent myself.

    2. WishIWasATimeTraveller*

      I wouldn’t. MBTI can be useful in limited situations, but it’s too easy to be pigeon-holed, and there are many people who look down on these types of things.

    3. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      They weren’t real scientists, and their work is a bunch of confirmation bias hooey that’s benefited from good marketing and is enjoying being a current fad. Why would you want to associate yourself with it, especially in a professional context? It’d be only marginally better than putting your Hogwarts house on the company slack channel.

      1. BubbleTea*

        I think almost worse, because most people would not presume the Hogwarts house was intended seriously, so although it would make me side-eye someone from a personal and political perspective, it wouldn’t make me question their professional judgement. Myers Briggs type is usually meant seriously by people who refer to it, so that would make me wonder about their critical thinking skills.

    4. Irish Teacher*

      Personally, I wouldn’t, because I see it as a “just for fun” sort of thing and on a par with putting your Hogwarts house there (honestly, I’d probably put more store in somebody’s Hogwarts house because that is generally something they choose themselves and their choice probably says something about them, whereas people usually got their Myer-Briggs from doing a questionnaire).

      I’d think it less pretentious and more just it would make me think they took it a bit too seriously. Like Sloanicota said, I would assume they have an investment in it and that they believe it to be accurate and…since a lot of people don’t, it could lead to mild judgement.

      Like those who consider it pseudoscience might think those who post their types are gullible for thinking it valid or that they are basing their understanding of themselves on it rather than on their own self-awareness. Not saying either of these things is necessarily true but opinions on it vary quite a bit and some people have negative opinions on it.

    5. WantonSeedStitch*

      Nope. M-B is about as useful as your Zodiac sign. Worse, it’ll sometimes lead people to unconsciously judge or pigeonhole you. (“I need to assign this presentation to someone. Oh, Pink Shoe Laces is an ISTP. That’s not the kind of person who’s good at presenting!”)

    6. Chauncy Gardener*

      I vote no on that. Agree with Stuckinacrazy job that it’s like astrology for business folk
      INTJ here, so it would just out how unlike everyone else I am, lol

    7. fanciestcat*

      I wouldn’t, there’s no real good outcome to it. If the person viewing your profile hates M-B, it might bias them against you. It they are ambivalent or don’t know what it is, they’ll ignore it. If they are super into it, they’ll use it to profile you which you also probably don’t want.

    8. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I think I’m in the minority here in that I do think it has utility and ‘explanatory power’ if applied in the right context as opposed to pigeonholing people into “Soo won’t be a good project manager as their type says they will be disorganised” etc etc. If someone else lists their MBTI type I do find it useful background information (along with a bunch of other stuff) in perhaps understanding why they do the things they do, what motivates them or what sort of communication they might respond better with, etc.

    9. RagingADHD*

      No, because Myers-Briggs is meaningless, unscientific bunkum and I don’t want people to think I believe in such a thing. And even if I did, my ADHD random cycling through symptoms, interests, and tendencies means I get a completely different type of profile every time I’m required to take any sort of personality assessment.

      So if I were a believer, I still wouldn’t know which profile to list.

    10. linger*

      Once upon a time, I taught a module that looked at the evidence base for various factors suggested to predict success in language learning. One of those was a set of predictions for preferred learning styles based on MBTI. So I got the students to take an online MBTI. What I found was:
      (i) most students scored close to the midpoint on most scales — i.e. the scales described normal distributions, not binary categories;
      (ii) if I simply presented students with the learning style description matching their MBTI category, they agreed that the description was accurate for them; BUT
      (iii) if I presented students with 3 unlabelled learning style descriptions (one matching their MBTI category, one unmatched on 2 dimensions, and one for the “opposite” category), they chose the supposedly “most closely matched” description with a probability not significantly higher than random chance.
      Hence either the learning style description, or some elements of MBTI itself, were demonstrably no better than a horoscope.
      (That said, the introversion/extroversion scale at least has some genetic basis, and comes closest to having an evidence base for differences in preferred learning styles. Though it is not clear whether a course should attempt to lean into existing preferences, or instead attempt to develop complementary strategies; and there are limits to how flexible information delivery can be, anyway.)

  17. Casper Lives*

    I’m trying to decide if a 20% salary increase is worth commuting an hour each way 3x/week for a new job. The other parts of the job are comparable to my current job. I’m not in financial difficulties but I do worry about my current company’s future. They’re having hiring freezes across departments. Not mine, for now.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Oh dear, this would be a hard choice for me too. I guess only you know how likely it is that you might get another opportunity that doesn’t have this requirement, how badly that drive is likely to annoy you, how traffick-y the route, etc. I did an hour on train and it was fine. I would not be able to drive it that often.

      1. Casper Lives*

        It’s a car commute! Traffic isn’t great on that highway. It’s an optimistic 45 min but more realistically, an hour. And sometimes more time is likely based on my knowledge of Atlanta’s traffic patterns.

        1. Ranon*

          There are some hour commutes I would take (e.g. rural Midwest to mid sized Midwest city) but an hour across urban Atlanta is pretty soundly in my absolutely not list, lol. It’s not DC but that’s a stressful hour you’re looking at.

          1. Medical Librarian*

            And I was thinking I wouldn’t want to make that commute anywhere with variable weather and driving conditions like the Midwest, though I agree on urban traffic being a challenge of a different kind.

        2. nope*

          You’d essentially be spending an extra 6* hours a week on getting work done. Assuming a 40 hour work week, an extra 6 hours is adding 15% more work time in your life. So you’d really only be coming ahead 5%. 5% is nothing to sneeze at, but will it make enough of a difference to make the changeworth it? Only you know the answer.

          *assuming it’s an hour each way, not just morning or afternoon

        3. adminanon*

          I would say it depends on what your home life looks like. Right now, my commute is 45 minutes each way, 5 days a week and it’s a struggle. I’ve got middle aged kids at home and I’m definitely missing out on time with them. The driving isn’t bad, it’s the time away from home that is the hard part.

      2. Roland*

        Also consider how much of that difference that 20% (after taxes, gas and parking) will make. Twenty percent is a lot of money, but depending on your finances, the difference it makes to your quality of life vs the quality of life lost by commuting might stack up differently against one another.

    2. WellRed*

      How will it impact your life? What do you lose when you lose those six hours? How much if the increase will be eaten up by extra commuting expense?

    3. Amanda*

      If I were the one making that choice, I’d weigh the quality-of-life impact of the commute versus the quality-of-life impact of the salary increase. Are there specific goals you are working toward in your life that the salary increase would allow you to meet in the next year or two, and would that help keep you going when you’re sitting in traffic? Although that’s just me, it really depends on what motivates you.

    4. EMP*

      I hate commuting and I’m comfortable financially, personally I wouldn’t take that trade off right now. Money isn’t everything and this (probably) isn’t your only other option if you want to start looking elsewhere.

    5. WantonSeedStitch*

      It really depends how losing that time will affect you. For me, that would be a deal-breaker: I have a toddler and really value being there for him in the morning and evening. If I didn’t have kids, it wouldn’t be a big deal. Pre-pandemic (and pre-pregnancy), I used to commute 70-90 minutes each way every day, and didn’t hate it. That was a walking and public transit commute, FWIW.

    6. Retired Accountant*

      In my experience those kinds of things sound doable but then start to suck very quickly. Not sure how much of a net increase it is for you, but an hour commute really cuts into your ability to do things after work (happy hour? Sounds great, I’ll be there at 6:30, etc.)

    7. Just a Minion*

      I made this move 7 years ago. Commute changed from 15min to 1hr but for about 20% salary increase. The commute is part highway and part backroads. I was working longer hrs at the short commute job so it kind of worked out to the same amount of time away from home with more pay.

      I think it depends on other life factors. As a young adult, with a partner but no kids and no dogs, that hr didn’t hurt much. Once we had kids it got increasingly harder until it just didn’t work anymore and I left. If you have hobbies, volunteer work, people, etc that is important to you during the week, a longer commute may not work out

      1. Ali + Nino*

        Not to mention that depending on your family situation you might need to hire additional help for your kids if you are out commuting – for me the extra cost would end up canceling out the raise, unfortunately.

    8. Quinalla*

      I’ve done an hour commute before for a summer job, would be a hard pass for me. For some an hour commute is no big deal, but for me it was awful. I have no commute now, but my last commute was ~20-25 on normal traffic days and that occasionally turned into 45-60 on really bad days. That is about my limit and the worse the traffic is the less time I’m willing. That was pretty heavy traffic, but generally moving fine.

    9. Gallumpher*

      If it were me, based on the situation you described, I would continue looking to find a different job without the commute.

      For my last job where I had an hour commute 3-5 days a week, I started doing a calculation that really helped to put my commute into perspective. If you commute 6 hours/day x 50 weeks/year, that’s 300 hours of commuting a year. If you divide that by average waking hours a day (16), that’s ~19 DAYS a year where you’re spending the entirety of your waking hours commuting. Does that amount of time lost in your life sound worth it to you?

    10. Firecat*

      one thing that helps me with this is calculating the commute time into total hours to compare the hourly rate with the commute (6 hours additional each week for just 3 days is will they ever want you to do extra days here and there?) against my currently hourly rate.

      then I consider of that measly raise is really worth the added stress of the job + commute.

    11. Nicosloanica*

      If you’re interested, look at Alison’s comment on here about the decision coach looking for podcast guests :D

    12. DannyG*

      Taught 3 days a week at university about 45 minutes from my home in addition to my regular hospital gig. The up side is that I used the time to listen to continuing education audio programs during my commute. Only about 5 minutes was in urban areas, which made that easier. Can you find a way to use the drive time constructively?

    13. londonedit*

      An hour’s commute (on public transport) is absolutely normal here in London, as no one can afford to live in the centre of town. Many people live out in the suburbs/surrounding towns and commute in on the train, and then you’ll often have a walk/bus/tube journey from the mainline station. So an hour’s commute wouldn’t bother me, especially for such a big pay rise! But if it’s completely different from what you’re used to, and it’s going to have a negative impact on your life, then it might be a different consideration.

  18. MissGirl*

    I’ve got an interview question and a negotiation question.

    I have two interviews today, both I applied to before I got laid off. The first interview is a recruiter screen so I’m sure they’ll ask why I’m looking. Of course, I will focus my answer on what I like about the company and the position. However, I think I have to mention the layoff because I was only at my company for five months, and I don’t want to look flakey. Do I just matter-of-factly bring it up? Or, do I not all together?

    The second is a final round, case question interview. I’ve already told them that I’m leaving my old company due to possible layoffs a few weeks ago. I don’t think it’ll come up again prior to a possible offer. Do I need to mention I’ve since been laid off? I’ve updated my LinkedIn but haven’t made any public statements yet so it’s not obvious.

    Negotiation question: I left my older company last year due to layoffs. They were cutting 10% and asked for volunteers with a generous severance. I was bored and already looking so I figured why not. I thought I landed at a company doing great (as they told me), but they had a massive round of layoffs a month after I started. I survived that round but got caught in the second. Because of this, I am terrified of starting the cycle all over again.

    I listen to a financial podcast where she’d heard a lot more people were negotiating severance as part of their job offer. I’ve only seen exit packages in leadership roles but this sounds intriguing. Has anyone negotiated a severance package prior to accepting a job offer? How did it go? What did you ask for? Any other thoughts?

    1. kris dreemurr*

      I can’t see a layoff looking flakey on you – it’s pretty much as no-fault for you as it can get. Like, at most as an interviewer I’d think you had unfortunate luck!

      1. MissGirl*

        I guess my question is more if I don’t mention the layoff will they think I’m flakey for only being at my job for five months? My old resume shows I’m still there.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          You should definitely mention the layoff. You were at a job for five months, so why you’re looking is a very good question. “I was laid off” is a really straightforward answer and stops the question right there. Especially if you’re talking to a recruiter.

    2. Qwerty*

      Mention the layoff as a slight update so they have accurate information. Many interviews start with a softball question asking for a brief summary of your recent experience, so include it in that.

      If they don’t give you an opening opportunity like that…

      Recruiter screen – Should be easy to work in a comment “I was affected by CompanyX’s layoff last week so I’m looking for Y”. Tons of recruiter questions are relevant (why are you looking, what start date are you looking for, etc)

      Final Interview – The first time you mention CompanyX or get asked about your current/latest position, just slip in that you are no longer with CompanyX due to their recent layoff, then answer their question.

      I have never heard of negotiating severance for a non-executive position. I suspect that would come across oddly. I could see maybe doing it someone was leaving a long, stable position to take a risk on say a startup, or a role that sounds like it won’t last long.

  19. kris dreemurr*

    Sorry to be asking things semi-often lately – new job means lots of questions!

    I can’t drive, and I’ve discovered my commute is unbussable. I can take Uber/Lyft, but it runs a bit rich for my blood. (Also bussing part of the way and Lyfting the rest is… doable, but very “worst of both worlds” in that it’s both still pretty pricy and takes like an hour and a half compared to a 20 minute drive time). I’ve spoken to coworkers, and unfortunately none share a route with me. However, they did say that they think if I speak to my boss, he may be able to set up a stipend or discount or something to help me out. They seem confident he won’t mind my asking.

    Can someone help me script what to say? I tend to get guilty and overapologetic when asking for more than I’ve been given, and I don’t want to get in there and immediately trip over my feet apologizing.

    1. ThatGirl*

      Practice a few times while you’re alone so you don’t feel too flustered – but just be straightforward. “I don’t/can’t drive, and I’ve realized that public transportation doesn’t get me all the way here. Is there any sort of rideshare stipend or discount available to help offset that cost?” then just wait.

      1. lost academic*

        But do not say “don’t” if that’s not true. You don’t need to give them details about why you can’t drive, but be clear that it’s can’t and not a personal preference towards not driving. “Can’t” is something that won’t change no matter the time and money. “Don’t” will read very much like a preference and as someone else noted… getting to your job is an expectation of being hired to do it. No reason not to get help if it’s available but try as you can to manage the impression.

    2. Sloanicota*

      Hmm, my gut instinct is that a workplace assumes employees will handle their own commute and/or considered it before they agreed to the role, so they’re not likely to be super sympathetic, but your workplace may be different than the places I’ve been at! Good luck! Perhaps you can get a reduced ride from someone if you can guarantee you’ll be a daily customer.

    3. lost academic*

      If you can’t drive, and I will take your statement to mean it’s not physically possible for whatever reason, you maybe be able to contact your transit authority to see if they can help with that since you’re not directly on a bus route. I’ve seen many municipalities offer these services to help folks with disabilities that prevent them getting to necessary places like work, doctors, etc get around.

      1. kris dreemurr*

        To be clear: I do not have a driver’s license, I do not have any driver’s ed, and I do suspect my medical issues would make driving difficult for me. I wasn’t taught as a teen, and now do not have the time or money to begin learning, much less to afford a car. If I end up with money, I’d love to at least try to get a license in case of emergencies, but right now I’m stuck in a loop where I don’t have the money to get driving because not driving is expensive…

        1. lost academic*

          OK, that’s very helpful information.

          Having been somewhat in your position in my 20s without money, a license, or driver’s ed – I definitely structured everything in my life around being able to get around. Where I lived and worked needed to have ready access for walking and busing for day to day needs. But I knew that it wasn’t going to be a long term strategy unless I moved to a city where mass transit and walking are normal and supported by the infrastructure, also something I didn’t want to do. So I had to make a plan to aggressively train to drive and save for a car (and really, the insurance!).

          First off – talk to your doctor and find out if you would have a prohibition against driving for a medical reason. (Used to be the case with epilepsy, now it isn’t much anymore.) If that’s true, then after investigating options in your area it’s more reasonable to go to your company and ask if they can help you to some extent. Be prepared for some pushback – at some point you are likely to get asked why you didn’t consider this before accepting the offer.

          If you don’t have a medical prohibition…. I think you’re most likely going to need to solve this on your own and that’s hard because I know how challenging saving up for this will be. It really is an expectation that you be able to do the basic things to do your job – dress appropriately, be in office (or remote) at the expected hours, be hygienic, etc. It’s probably time regardless of which situation you’re in to lean on your network to help get you over this hump so you can be more independent in this fashion. See if there are some services in your area that can help network you with driving lessons and getting a vehicle and insurance. A social worker might have some information for your area. (Division of Health and Human services it’s sometimes called or similar, in the US, and I am just assuming that’s where you are.)

          You could also move but lord knows that’s expensive and time consuming too.

          1. kris dreemurr*

            I’m actually in a metro area with a good transit system, so I have that, which is why I haven’t felt TOO much pressure to learn. I’m just in a weird dead zone now where the busses get much more sparse than they are everywhere else. (This is also why I didn’t realize this would be an issue when I accepted the offer – literally nowhere else I worked, including the place behind two ID checks, has been so stranded.) So at least I don’t have to move!

            Thank you for the advice.

            1. lost academic*

              Does the weather/your ability support biking? You could add that to your bus commute perhaps. I realize that also means you’ve got to get a bike if you don’t have one but it’s a lot more attainable then saving for a car in the short term. Plus it’s an easier thing to borrow for a bit of a longer spell.

              Also, look into if the transit system does rideshare support – some places there are basically ways to get connected with others for that kind of carpooling.

              1. I have RBF*

                Yeah, if biking is doable, some busses have bike racks on the front, so you could bike for the hard parts, but catch the (faster) bus when it goes where you want.

    4. Ssssssss*

      In my area, there’s some government/NPO partnerships that help people figure out alternative commute options. If your boss isn’t familiar with what kind of options are out there, if you have an office manager or HR type person, they might know. (A internet search of “‘insert state’ commute options” might also help you). I’m the person in my office that goes to all the meetings property management puts together for tenants, and we regularly get told about programs offered to help people figure out how to rely less on driving themselves, beyond just busses.

    5. kris dreemurr*

      Update: Talked to boss, turns out coworker actually lives close to one possible light rail stop for me getting home. We’re going with that. :)

      1. notataxi*

        Does this coworker want to give you a ride though, or are they being told they have to? This solution doesn’t seem terribly fair to them. I’d hate to be suddenly told by a boss that I was now responsible for providing transport for someone who had taken the job without working out how they were going to get to work.

        1. kris dreemurr*

          Oh no, she volunteered loudly and enthusiastically! She just hadn’t realized the light rail station would help me until it came up and then called across the office to point it out.

          I… don’t know how to feel about the constant telling me that I should have known everything about the route before taking the job. Like, I would have loved to have the luxury of trying out the commute several times and learning all about the poor condition of the road between me and the bus stop and the fact Google Maps was full on lying about things being an easy 10 minute walk, but… I didn’t? I was unemployed due to my previous company no longer existing and the situation was kind of urgent.

          1. Y'all come back now, ya hear?*

            I’m glad that you were able to find something that would work for you and that your colleague is happy to help! I don’t know that you should the commenters’ questions personally – I know that rural and suburban people in the US are so car dependent, that it’s a foreign concept to not have to plan a commute. I know my area doesn’t have any public transportation options within 14 counties.

          2. GythaOgden*

            I have the same issue with driving, but I work with it rather than against it. It is your responsibility as an adult to sort it out, and I’ve turned down a lot of jobs recruiters have suggested to me because of transportation issues. Suuuuucks big time. Cool job that I could probably do? Sorry, it’s based in-person at our head office two hundred miles away, so it’s a non-starter — I don’t want to move away from my friends and family and the house I shared with my late husband, so I can’t apply. (I’ve even been in the situation where a conversation about applying for a job with an internal colleague had to stop because, this being a highly regulated public sector recruitment programme, they had to do the interviews on a particular day…when I’d be two hundred miles away on holiday with my in-laws.)

            It’s one of those things that we all have to deal with periodically. It’s like a lot of people here on AAM would be horrified to learn that in the UK most if not all office buildings have shared or open desk arrangements. Every job or office I’ve ever been in, be it recruitment, accountancy, a job centre or even the ones I can see into from the bus stop I use in town or driving past the swanky new office developments outside town, is open plan. We don’t generally have the option of asking for private offices until we’re at the stage in our careers that we just get given them. If you were working over here and trying to angle to be given a private office after you’d been there a few months, there’s no way you’d get anything resembling one and you’d be a bit strange to be asking for one. So yeah, it’s by the by, unfortunately, that you don’t love what we’re saying. We can’t wave a magic wand and make it a non-issue.

            The time to think about feasibility of commute is when you’re thinking about applying for the job. In my case, I decided the long commute did not outweigh the experience and money I’d get from the job, and I’m certainly trying to get something else now the balance has tipped the other way. But it’s not my boss’s problem to solve — they have let me go early on occasion when snow meant the possibility of difficulty getting home on the train (and I was actually stranded in town once because the buses that can cope with a bit of snow couldn’t handle a blizzard) but they need a bottom in my seat at 11 o’clock on the dot until 4pm on most days and it sucks to be me and have to leave at 9am for that to happen, but I’ve made it work for 9 years.

            Everyone else in the office will have things that aren’t immediately obvious to you but have a similar impact on their lives to that of your commuting issues. Being an adult often means you have to take the least worst option — and sometimes that’s finding a job closer to home or to a transport stop. It’s also why we have advice forums full of people who can swap notes and help you come up with a solution, but at the end of the day everyone has something in their lives that doesn’t work properly or that they have to juggle to keep personally afloat — so an assumption that you shouldn’t have to compromise to keep going to a particular place of work is probably not going to help in the long run.

      2. m2*

        Start saving for driving lessons and/or a bike. When I didn’t have $ for a car I either walked (90+ minutes) or biked (30-45+ minutes) to work each way.

        It’s a nice thing for your coworker to do, but after awhile it might be hard for them. If they want to stop at a store, doctor appointment, family issue, etc. What will you do when the coworker is sick?

        I think it’s very thoughtful, but sounds like a temporary long-term solution and you should start thinking of ways you’ll get to work if it doesn’t work out.

        Also, how far is the office from a bus store or light rail? Might you walk or bike from a stop if you need in future? Most buses have bike racks.

    6. fairy twinkletoes*

      I don’t know about your area, but where I live buses have racks for bikes. Can you bike partway, and bus the rest? This will probably not take less time, but you will be doing exercise for a couple of hours a day. You’d also need to research bike routes, because you shouldn’t/can’t bike on major roads/highways. Just an idea.

    7. cleo*

      “I heard (from so and so, if you want to name drop) that there might be a stipend or discount for commuting costs and I’d like to learn more about it”

      You could also ask HR or whoever did your onboarding. That actually be more comfortable than asking your boss.

      I used to work for a company that offered a pre-tax option for public transit and that was set up through HR or payroll. They’d transfer money from my paycheck to my account with our regional public transit system. It was my money, but it didn’t get taxed, so it was a savings.

  20. Ask a Manager* Post author

    If you remember the interview I did last fall with the decision coach, who people hire to help them make decisions…

    She’s starting a new podcast called “The Decision Coach” where she will help real people resolve major life decisions. She’s especially interested in helping people resolve career-related decisions, and they’re currently looking to find one more person for their roster for the first season. If you’re interested in going on the show for help with a career-related decision, you can apply here:

    https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSf1FaotCYjwsFTIQJ-tvQMOhUh9SmB14p3YYZw9n69kgEKD9A/viewform

    (You’d participate in two recordings — a recorded pre-interview, and a free session with Nell.)

    1. Ali + Nino*

      It’s like an advice column in real-time – I love it! Thanks for the heads up.

  21. New networker*

    Hi all! So I’m a new grad who applied for an entry-level role somewhere I used to intern at, just on a different team. Afterwards I emailed my former manager and he said I would be great for it and that he let the team know… and that’s it. It was only a couple of days ago so I’ll assume I’ll just have to wait to see if anyone reaches out to me, but should I be reaching out to my other contacts at the organization? None of them are on that specific team either and I figured I’d already expressed my interest, but I wanted to double-check that I’m doing this networking thing correctly :)

  22. Froggerman*

    I keep getting let go for not being a good “culture fit”. Is this code for anything specific, or have I just been extraordinarily unlucky?

    My most recent job, I was there for about 3 months before being let go for “culture fit”. I was always very graceful about any notes/corrections given to me, but I hadn’t heard anything in the month before I was let go. In fact, I was starting to get more responsibilities right upto my last day. If I had received any corrections/PIPs, I would’ve been happy for the opportunity to improve.

    Out of my last seven jobs, I’ve been let go from five for culture fit (the other two were companies going under). I’m really trying to build up long-term job on my resume, but I keep losing jobs to culture fit reasons, and I just wish I knew what I was doing wrong so I could fix it. Is there even anything I can do? Any help would be so appreciated.

    1. ArtsNerd*

      In what ways could you be considered an “outsider” at these companies? Are you of a different demographic than most of the staff? Neurodivergent? Someone who super-respects work-life boundaries while other people work all the time? Do you dress differently from your colleagues? Speak your mind?

      None of these are reasons to fire someone but they might help point you toward answers to what they actually mean by “culture fit.”

    2. Nicki Name*

      It could be a lot of things. If you’re a member of a disadvantaged group, it could be illegal discrimination pretending not to be, although I’d like to think there couldn’t be that many discriminatory companies out there to put together that long a string of them. But what do I know, as a relatively privileged person.

      Are there any ways you can think of that you tend to be out of sync with your coworkers, even ones that feel innocuous to you? Different politics, different daily rhythm, different sense of humor? Are you the one person who doesn’t go to the weekly team happy hour?

      What sorts of things have those notes or corrections been about?

      1. Froggerman*

        I am part of quite a few disadvantaged groups, so I can’t discount that entirely. However, I’ve worked in a major city, and most of the people who’ve let me go have also been part of disadvantaged groups, some of which have been the same as me. Could still be bias there, but I can’t know for sure. I tend to be “out of step” with coworkers and not socialize much, but since I work as an admin, that honestly tends to be reciprocal.

        Most of the notes/corrections I’ve gotten were for fairly small things. “I know it’s easy to forget X, Y, Z, but these are important, so please stay on top of them.” or “We use this software in this way. It may be more time-consuming to you, but you need to do it our way for consistency.” Nothing egregious, just small corrections here and there that I’ve been happy and grateful to take on. All my previous managers have also been willing to act as references, so I know at least that thy weren’t mortally offended by anything I’ve done.

        1. Jujyfruits*

          It doesn’t sound like those are minor corrections. If you’re being coached to follow all the steps of a process or use a specific software repeatedly, that is more than a small correction. I could be wrong, but the way that feedback comes across seems important.

          1. MissGirl*

            Yes, I fall in with you that these may not actually be small things. I used to have a tendency to ask too many questions, which can come off as arguing or defensive. For instance your example of, “We use this software in this way. It may be more time-consuming to you, but you need to do it our way for consistency.” That feels like a statement that came after a lot of you questioning things, which can get old if it keeps happening.

            For me, the conversation might go something like:

            “Why do we use Software X? At my last job, we used Y.”

            “We like X here.”

            “Yes, but Y does all these things.”

            “X handles these tasks better.”

            “That’s interesting. Because I noticed that Y also does this. Have you thought about that component?”

            This goes on for a few minutes until I get the above response.

            1. RVA Cat*

              This. I work in an industry where some of the inefficiencies are part of maintaining the audit trail. It can be frustrating but that is also an issue of fit with the industry and role. Sounds like you may be attempting that Gifted Child thing of trying to impress them with All The Ideas before you are even done training.

            2. Lemon Zinger*

              It sounds like you’re repeatedly questioning and/or arguing after you’ve been given a directive. That can be a serious issue from both cultural and performance standpoints.

            3. Turingtested*

              So I have an employee who does this and it’s a serious problem. Like it or not I don’t have to justify everything we do it needs to get done. I’m happy to make a brief comment but switching systems is a years long process.

              Requests from supervisors, no matter how kindly worded, are actually orders and need to be understood as such. Obviously you shouldn’t do anything that will literally hurt you or the business, be subjected to discrimination etc but at a certain point all employees including myself need to do as they’re told.

              1. Don't Call Me Shirley*

                I have a team member who does this, and it’s exhausting. He also pushes back on taking initiative for things, he’s blocked so he waits, when nobody is working on the blocker task.

                He is smart. He knows his technical stuff. He may not keep this contract.

        2. TPS Reporter*

          That sounds like they’re politely trying to say that they don’t think you’re up to the job and that from what they’ve seen so far they don’t think you’ll get there. I.e. the culture is to get work done in a specific way in a specific turnaround time and we don’t think you can do that (which is why we have a trial period).

          Next time can you try to get more frequent evaluations right away so you can get good feedback and try to correct errors? I’m assuming these companies tend to be more hands off, just thinking you’ll pick it up without them saying anything.

      2. Prospect Gone Bad*

        I mean, if a company discriminated based on things its illegal to judge candidates based on, the person wouldn’t have been hired in the first place. Yes, something less obvious like political affiliation could creep in but this OP also said they’ve had multiple firings. Meaning at at least 3 of these, if not all, the firing got ran by HR. And they had to come up with some reasonable sounding reason that passed the sniff test.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          I don’t think it’s necessarily true that the person would not have been hired in the first place if the company discriminated against a group they were part of. If they were a woman or a POC, sure. Those things are obvious from the get-go, but there are a whole load of other minorities a person might be part of that a company might not realise until they were in the job.

          For example, they could have an invisible disability and the company might only realise when they ask for accommodations or need time off. They could become pregnant while working in the job and the company could be biased against parents
          (or specifically mothers) due to a perception that they are likely to take more time off. The person could be part of a religion the company is prejudiced against or be gay or transgender, which might only come up say when an employee mentions their same sex partner or talks about a religious holiday that makes their religion obvious.

          I agree it’s improbable that five different companies would all be willing to fire illegally, but there are circumstances in which it wouldn’t entirely surprise me. I would not be at all surprised to hear, for example, that a member of the Travelling Community got fired from five different companies for “cultural fit” once the company realised their ethnicity.

          I agree something like the being very socially awkward you mention below sounds more probable, although that can be another form of discrimination, since often issues like that can be due to either some form of disability or neurodivergence on the part of the employee or due to different cultural norms

    3. DisneyChannelThis*

      Demographically are you a minority at all? I’m wondering if it’s code for discrimination (religion, sexuality, gender, ethnicity). I suppose it could just be rotten luck.

      How are you socially at work? Can you make polite water cooler chit chat? Do you use appropriate language, humor etc?

      Do you ever get upset or angry when things don’t work correctly?

      How are you at handling criticism?

    4. Sloanicota*

      Oh dear, I’m sorry. Candidly, it does sound like you may be misaligned on professional norms somehow. Anyone could be fired once for culture fit but not five. However, your bosses really would have been doing you a kindness to give you more of a hint as to the problem. We aren’t going to know either without more information. If you can’t think back to any times when you were clearly out of step with others (were you ever yelling? crying? Did you bosses ever seem particularly upset with you? Are people generally comfortable around you? Women?) – Do you think it might be possible to get in touch with someone from a previous job (perhaps a colleague?) and ask them directly. “I would be so grateful if you’d help me understand why this keeps happening to me. Are you aware of anything I’m doing that is causing it?” Do not be defensive no matter what they say, and perhaps make it clear you’re not trying to come back to the role. It could be something specific to your career track, like salesmen have to be unusual aggressive and lawyers have to bill big hours, or it could be something more general. If that doesn’t work, perhaps friends/family/a therapist/a professional mentor or career coach could help point you in the right direction. Good luck to you!!

    5. Prospect Gone Bad*

      It can be “code” for many things but the thing is, the “thing” may not be that deep and probably isn’t nefarious. My one and only firing was for “fit” and TBH I 100% felt out of place. I felt like my natural abilities and aura were “above” or outside the position and felt like I kept having to censor what I saw or even noticed to sort of artificially fit into the role. Do you not have this sort of feeling at all?

      TBH the only other times I hear this is when someone is generally not updating themselves and their skills with the times or needs. For example, someone who insists on remaining 100% backoffice despite the work needing someone who speaks to customers occasionally. Or someone who thinks they’re done growing at basic excel skills when the role needs someone analytical. Sometimes the person ignores all advice and assignments and ends up only hearing the “fit” part when they are let go.

      If you’ve lost five, it’s most likely a “you” problem and I suggest you give some thought into why it is. We can help, if you are honest with us. It may hurt to think about but will help you long-term.
      One former coworker I often think about had a string of firings like this. She was just generally very socially awkward and it annoyed people. Things like standing at peoples’ desks and talking at them too long, talking over people as if she didn’t hear them talking. Then she’d take forever to learn basic tasks and wanted a document for every little situation. We kept thinking “do you really need an 80138 page training document to handle every situation under the sun?” So then everyone became BEC with her and she was let go for picking random work from a shared in-box despite bring told repeatedly to wait to be assigned work, so it can be distributed evenly. Something that is not actually a big deal but was used as a sort of excuse to let her go

      1. Sloanicota*

        I agree, I’ve seen this in past employees, and they probably were very bewildered as to the source of the problem, which is unfortunate. Some examples are: 1. Needs too much handholding on everything / needs very rigid instructions / asks a lot of questions – sometimes we just don’t have time to help and need someone who can pick things up without a ton of help 2. Lack of common sense – this is a really hard one because the general idea is it can’t be taught, but if someone makes a couple really weird mistakes in a row it makes you question their judgement 3. Awkward/unpleasant demeanor – (seems to be) leering at women, talks too much, is too blunt, too negative, intrudes on people’s personal stuff, won’t go away, makes people uncomfortable … I mean, it could be anything. We’re not well positioned to help OP here.

        1. Hedwig*

          I’m about to lose my job for many of these reasons. From my perspective, the culture is that of blame and punishment, and there was no proper onboarding, just things thrown at me, and I’m expected to guess the right answer. Get it wrong and ‘you should be able to figure this out yourself’

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

        I think this is probably more likely than illegal discrimination — something/s that are small, petty and superficial, but make an impact on the office — talks too much, at the wrong time or keeps picking topics that aren’t bad but no one cares about (sports, music, Marvel Comics, Artificial Intelligence, plants, pets, children…); makes small noises that are unconscious and needed to be reminded about (hums, sighs repeatedly, cracks knuckles, clicks their pen, jiggles their leg); wears the “wrong” clothing but not enough to violate a dress code, just not in step with the office vibe (this happened to a friend who was a mid-career professional: the office was very high-end lux, and she bought office-appropriate clothes from mall stores).

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

            true, but their clientele were wealthy, and they expected to walk into Miranda Priestly’s office so the org had a bit of a point. An employee isn’t just dressing for the office work, but the clients walking through.

    6. Glazed Donut*

      I’ll agree with the others that occasionally people will point to “culture fit” as an underhanded discrimination line.
      However, it could also be that you haven’t been able to pick up on the office norms in the time period they’d like. Usually your onboarding lays out the very clear policies (requesting sick leave, etc), but the more subtle parts of an office really take a keen eye to pick up on.
      Small things: do people reply to calendar invites, or accept without sending a response? Do people put the whole question in the initial Teams/Slack message or just begin with a “Hello”? How quickly do others complete common tasks? How are employees expected to participate in meetings (is it normal for them to ask questions, or do they wait until a 1:1 to ask questions)? Are workers’ tone more direct and straightforward or nice/passive-aggressive? How do people dress, address each other, and write emails?
      All of those could reflect the culture of the workplace. If this has happened multiple times, I wonder if there’s some implicit rules you’re not picking up on and others expect you to realize. Also, I’d think with this background, you should be well armed for the next job to ask about how you can better adjust to culture, ask others to describe the culture, etc with the interview process or with the onboarding process.

    7. Not So Little My*

      If you’re neurodivergent and don’t mask well, it could be disability discrimination.

    8. Enbious*

      I think you should try just directly asking. Email or call the boss, or maybe someone else you worked closely with (calling might be better because I can imagine some bosses being hesitant to put that kind of thing in writing). Say something like, “I’m currently prepping for future interviews so I wanted to ask if you could give me a bit more information about the reasons for my termination. I know you stated that it was for culture fit reasons, but was there anything specific that I could work on improving in the future?”

      You could even try calling the boss/someone at the other positions where this has happened, not just the most recent, since it sounds like it’s only been a few months. Best case, you finally get some solid reasoning. Worst case, they just don’t answer you.

      1. Froggerman*

        I have tried this, actually! Every time, I’ve gotten some variation of “Oh no, you were great, you just weren’t a good culture fit!” Even if I pressed for examples, they’d say the same thing. Trust me, if someone could just tell me what I’m doing wrong, I’d be more than happy to change what I need to change.

        1. Sloanicota*

          That is really weird. Like, *really* weird. You pressed for examples and in five different circumstances people just kept saying “culture fit” like some watchword when it doesn’t actually mean anything? (if it meant something, they’d be able to explain what the culture is any why you didn’t fit it). Do you happen to work in a field with tons of layoffs and reorgs all the time? That’s the only other thing I can think of.

        2. But Not the Hippopotamus*

          I was going to suggest this, but since you have already tried, maybe ask a person you know outside of work, but not your family of origin (because maybe there’s something you picked up as a norm there that drives many other people batty).

          so sorry you are going through this!

        3. Girasol*

          Although it would be uncomfortable, you might ask your manager, “Can you tell me about a time when I did something and you thought, ‘Wow, he just doesn’t get the culture!'” Prepare yourself to say, “Thank you,” and nothing more, no explanations or excuses, however much you disagree with the reply. Another possibility: if you have friends you can trust in the office, you might ask if they have any idea what the trouble is.

        4. dear liza dear liza*

          Since these managers have been willing to serve as references, they have a certain amount of good will to you. Have you tried being more clear: “I’ve been let go from 5 jobs for not being a good ‘cultural fit.’ I know this might be awkward for you but if I’m ever going to succeed, I really need some specific examples of what behaviors people are seeing that I am not.”

        5. fhqwhgads*

          “Culture fit” can mean a lot of things. It can be code for “we dislike you for illegal discrimination reasons so we’re not gonna say it”. It could be shorthand for “we think you’re a jerk”. Or it could be a sincere mismatch of working styles, like you always want meetings to start exactly on time and end exactly on time, and they prefer to ease in with some chitchat and might go over (or vice versa). or they expect people to respond to emails/texts off hours, and you strongly hold the boundary to never do that, not even here or there. Could be you want a ton of structure and they want to be more laissez faire (again or the other way around). Etc. No idea if any of those examples make any sense in the positions you’ve been in, but when people sincerely mean “bad culture fit” it’s usually something like those examples, where one way isn’t objectively wrong or right, and some people will prefer a work culture that tends to do things more one style or the other. They’re basically saying “you’re a structure employee and we’re a go with the flow employer” (or the other way around, or whatever it is). It’s like a “you’re not wrong to want to work in a place that’s like X, but have no intention of being a place that’s like X” kinda thing.

    9. Goddess47*

      Decide if you really want to know and find someone from your last job that you trust at a basic level, preferably who is not a friend, and ask if they will go out to coffee, your treat, and talk about it. Be prepared to keep your cool and cordial. You can be (quietly!) emotional but do not lose your cool.

      Also, being let go from five jobs for culture fit may mean you’re in the wrong industry. Hopefully, your colleague can tell you that.

      If you don’t have someone neutral you feel you can talk to, if you’re in the US, check out your local Department of Labor office and start with the career change approach. If you find you’re comfortable with the person in the office, you can bring up the culture fit aspect and see what they can suggest.

      Good luck!

    10. Froggerman*

      I appreciate everyone chiming in so far! I wanted to clarify a few things from questions I keep seeing pop up. I really, truly do want to improve so I can keep a job for a few years and build my resume, so I hope these insights can help build a bigger picture.

      1) I am a member of several disadvantaged groups, both visibly and invisibly. (Woman, person of color, invisible physical disability, etc.) Most notably, I am neurodivergent, so I do indeed struggle with social cues.
      2) I have put in effort to get good at “water cooler talk”. I chat about weather, sports, and equally light topics, but try to keep those conversations brief. If they’re brought up, I usually ask people about family and hobbies. “How’re the kids?”, “How’d that sailing trip with your dad go?”, Things like that.
      3) I have never yelled, cried, stormed off, or gotten visibly angry at work. If something goes wrong, my main focus is one fixing the problem.
      4) I value work-life balance and do not enjoy corporate culture/mandatory fun events. To the best of my ability, I interview to filter out those sorts of companies.
      5) Related to some of the above, I work as an admin/receptionist/assistant. These roles are usually excluded from a lot of mandatory fun, happy hours, off-site events, etc. I know people here have complained about that before, but it’s actually the main reason I like these jobs in the first place.
      6) I have worked in a variety of industries, including finance, non-profit, sports, and fashion. The issue is pervasive across all these fields.

      The main issue I see popping up is the “asking too many questions” critique. I almost certainly do this in the early stages of a job, and it’s something I try to work on, but I still need to improve on. It’s hard as a new admin, because usually every company has a set way they want things done, and how am I meant to know that if I don’t ask? I do try to figure things out on my own first, but that can lead to other issues too. Is there anyway I can improve on that front?

      1. I have RBF*

        So, the way I handle needing answers to newbie questions is layered:
        1) I write down my questions so I don’t forget them, and group them by area
        2) I triage my questions: is it a “I gotta have an answer now or I may not be able to proceed” or “I did X, but I am wondering why, what to improve, better process, etc, that can be answered later”
        3) I try to batch my questions that are not immediate – immediate I will ask my boss or onboarding partner in chat, but not immediate I will save up for my next one on one, or whatever.
        4) When a question is answered, I put it in my notes so I don’t look like an idiot by asking it again.

        That way I’m not like the pesky kid always asking “Why?” or “Can I have a cookie?”

        The trick is to balance the questions that are immediate and urgent versus the general workflow process questions. Because I know that asking too many questions in the immediate mode will annoy my coworkers, so I keep that for areas where I’m actually stuck. Then the process or business questions I save up for the person who can best answer them, so I have one session with a lot of questions, instead of constant interruptions with seemingly inane questions (that are otherwise necessary to helping me understand the business.)

        Just FYI, I’m ADHD and have memory issues from brain injury, so some of this is adaptation to my disabilities. YMMV, hope this helps.

      2. RVA Cat*

        I think 5 and 6 are working against each other. There’s an expectation that admins are very “polished” which has all kinds of baggage but really works against women who are neurodivergent and come from a background that isn’t white middle class. It may he a holdover from decades ago when these jobs catered to married women whose husband was the primary breadwinner. Now those Boomer admins are retiring but companies keep expecting a level of soft skills out of line with the actual tasks and especially the compensation.

        1. Lisa Simpson*

          I’ve run into a lot of jobs where they’re into Performing Femininity in a particular way, even if it’s not beneficial to the job. Ex: women should always be caring and nurturing and make everyone else feel good, which makes it impossible to function as a leader.

      3. Quinalla*

        One way I try to strike a balance between too many and not enough questions is to bring 2 or 3 options “Great, I’ll schedule that meeting. Should I do it X, Y or Z way?” or bring my understanding to my boss “You asked me to do X task. I’m planning to do this portion and have you review and then wrap it up for a final review, sound good?” Both of these methods broadcast that you know what you are doing AND that you are making sure you are following new job procedures, etc. As someone who is in leadership, I hate when people go to the extremes here of asking 5000 questions without thinking – basically seems like they want me to spoon feed them – or when someone spins their wheels for 4 hours trying to figure something out when they should have asked a simple question that would have unstuck them. It is HARD to figure out where you are sometime on this spectrum, but try to land in the middle of the two best you can and SHOW your boss you are doing it.

      4. Sloanicota*

        Genuinely trying to help, not a criticism – I just don’t think “asking too many questions” as a new admin would be the silver bullet for this issue. If I had a new admin at my company, I may note “boy, OP asks a LOT of questions, I hope they’ll work out” but I wouldn’t fire them as a “bad fit” several months to a year later, which from what I understand has happened repeatedly to you. So I don’t think that’s it (just so you’re not barking up the wrong tree). Unless you’re still basically unable to do much with out a ton of direction and hand-holding six months later, this wouldn’t explain it to me. Again, anything can happen once, but five times is a pattern.

        1. Luna*

          I don’t know, I think it depends heavily on how many questions we’re talking about and also how they are phrased. One of the hard things about being an admin is that in many places they’re expected to operate relatively independently despite being considered a more junior role. Like I don’t really want to be constantly answering questions about basic things like how to use doodle or whether they should keep trying to find a time for a meeting I asked them to set up (answer: Yes). Especially if these questions are being posed to your boss/executive rather than a coworker who is maybe in a similar role. Admins are typically there to take tasks off the executive’s plate so they can focus on higher level work. If the number/types of questions rise to the level of needing too much hand holding, that’s not being a good admin because then you’re not really taking things off my plate if I have to spend so much time answering basic questions that it starts to feel like it would be easier if I just did the task myself.

      5. Mill Miker*

        3) I have never yelled, cried, stormed off, or gotten visibly angry at work. If something goes wrong, my main focus is one fixing the problem.

        It sounds odd, and I’m just spitballing, since nothing sticks out as obviously a problem, but I wonder if maybe you’re playing it too cool when responding to criticism/corrections/problems? I’m all for focusing on the problem, not assigning blame, taking feedback in stride, etc. But if you’re getting corrected frequently, or in a more service-y roll, people might expect a more apologetic or sympathetic reaction, even if you have nothing to apologize for.

        For example, if they come to you with “My parking pass has my name misspelled” do you respond with something like “I’ll get it fixed, and double-check our records so this doesn’t happen again” or more like “I’m so sorry about that, I’ll get right on it”?

        The first one sounds more professional, has a lot more assurances that the problem will be fixed, doesn’t assign or take blame, and really feels like it should be the better option. However, some people put a lot of stake in that “I’m so sorry” over everything else.

        Again, I’m grasping at straws here.

      6. Irish Teacher*

        I really suspect it could be related to your being neurodivergent. Even looking above, a lot of the actions people are giving as examples of “odd things about people that can be out of place in the workplace” are typical neurodivergent traits. I don’t know if you have any of those, but…it’s not unusual for people who are neurodivergent to struggle to fit in.

        Not sure how much use this is, but have you heard of the “double empathy problem?” It basically posits that neurotypical and neurodivergent people often mutually misunderstand each other and…unfortunately because the neurotypical are in the majority, the neurodivergent are the ones considered to be “in the wrong,” when really, neither is wrong. It’s just different forms of communication.

        It’s also possible that trying to keep conversations brief could be misunderstood by people as indicating you are not interested in them/are unfriendly, but I wouldn’t expect this to lead to your being fired.

      7. catsoverpeople*

        You mentioned you’re an admin/reception/assistant, and I’ve worked those roles a few times myself. So, you did mention your invisible disability, and I am certainly not trying to pry for details that are none of my business, but….could that affect the perception of your job performance in some way? Do you have frequent medical appointments or related absences that mean arranging coverage for the front desk or phones, and no one wants to fill in for you as often as you’re asking? I know from my past jobs that it can be difficult getting someone to answer the phone for two minutes if you just need a bathroom break outside of your regularly scheduled lunch hour.

        Are there other tasks that you’re expected to perform that are more difficult for you or require more accommodation, and they’re (wrongly) unwilling to do so? For example, if the admin is supposed to reload the office copiers and printers daily but the bending/lifting boxes of paper is painful due to past back surgeries, so you won’t do that stuff and someone else has to do it instead.

        I value work/life balance, too, but sometimes a receptionist is expected to arrive earlier or stay later than everyone else, so if you’re out the door at exactly closing time instead of finishing an assigned project first, your coworkers could be resenting you for that. A combination of any of these things could lead to an impression that you’re just not a good fit someplace even if you’re not doing anything that seems wrong and if no one knows about your invisible disability (and please excuse my ignorance of whether or not you’d be required to disclose any of it!) If they do know about it, but can’t figure out a way to accommodate you, they’re just using the “too many questions” thing and “culture fit” thing to cover for any legal consequences. Or, they just want someone who can be chained to the desk and headset all day yet be the sparkling wit at every company party, and that’s just not the job for you.

      8. Random Dice*

        For those of us with neurodiversity who struggle with social cues…

        A book that made my head explode, almost literally, was Michelle Garcia Winner’s “Curiously Social, Socially Curious”. This book just lays out all these unwritten social expectations and how you can influence how others perceive you. (I got it used on eBay because it’s expensive new.)

        I am an adult who’s figured a lot social interactions out through trial and error, but man it would have been helpful to have had this social bible a lot earlier. My ND husband said the same, the whole time he was reading it.

        Another thing you might try is specifically saying “given my brain wiring, I know I miss out on social cues. It would be such a kindness if you would give me a clue. I really want to get this right, and spend so much time analyzing and trying to figure it out. Real feedback would really be a blessing.”

      9. Tex*

        Maybe being an Admin is the wrong line of work for you. I always see that role as a best fit for someone who has extremely high social iq and can easily go with the flow while making sure things are progressing. Even if you only do the things you have been told to do, in some companies Admins are just expected to pick up the slack and support the exec or remind the staff of X or Y even if they have not been explicitly told.

        If you need set parameters and guidelines, another sort of back office job might be a better fit.

    11. Qwerty*

      I suspect there’s a communication issue.

      For the two jobs where the company went under – were those longer tenures? Was there something different about those 2 compared to the 5 where you were let go? This will help examine if you are picking jobs/work that isn’t suited well to your skills and personality.

      Do you have peers from one of the recent companies who you can get more info from? Not anyone in management or HR – they have to stick to the same reasons they gave when they let you go. What you need is someone who could answer “when we first met, what did I do that was out of step with the office norms?” Your friends/family already know your norms/quirks, so they won’t be able to answer that well.

      If you are ND, look into the communication differences from a site that will give you the unvarnished details. Understanding where the gaps are between (A) “what you meant” -> (B) “what you said” -> (C) “what they heard” will help both sides of communicating. You can adjust on your end, but also naming the issue will help the listener with the B->C translation so they can communicate more effectively with you in return. Some examples I have seen:
      – Being overly literal. This is probably the most common one.
      – Monotone + objective statements made one guy sound like a condescending jerk. I figured out his speech patterns pretty quickly and got along fine, but others found him really off putting and I can’t blame them.
      – Asking 15 questions about every task drives people batty
      – Brutal honesty does not make friends, some stuff needs to be filtered out or rephrased

      It is also possible that the communication issues mean that you are learning the job slower than they planned on, so they think you won’t work out long term. Or even just giving the appearance of being slower (ex: by asking lots of questions even if you can do the process just fine). Based on the quotes you gave above, doing the job incorrectly seems to be part of the issue. But I also noticed that both phrases were really soft pedaled yet pointed to recurring issues, so some further things to consider:
      – In the moment, did that feel like the first correction or part of an escalating series? Could there have been previous corrections that you may have missed due to being indirect?
      – How good are you at picking up at hints in general?
      – Had you pushed back on previous conversations or could your response have been *interpreted* as pushing back? Like the one about a process being time-consuming – if they told you to do X and you talked a lot about how time consuming it is because to you it is an Interesting Fact but reads to Boss as you not wanting to spend your time on the task.

      Socializing
      You mention that you don’t do much socializing and it one of the perks, but I think that is hurting you. The more people interact with you as a person, the quicker they will get to know your quirks and you will have a better chance learning how to communicate with them.

      Are you getting invited to social events like happy hours? Or could people be inviting you but you are not realizing it? If so, how do you turn it down? “Thanks for thinking of me! I can’t make it tonight” will read as warmer than a simple “No thanks” The places I’ve worked generally consider the admin teams to be adjacent to their team so they usually get invited to team related events. I wonder if you are missing that and it is being read as standoff-ish?

      Receptionist jobs do require a certain level of EQ – they tend to be social roles that require being “on” a lot more and making people feel welcome. That might not be a good fit for you.

      Other Culture Stuff
      I focused a lot on communication, but here is some brainstorming of other office cultures where someone could be a great fit on one side but do terribly on the other end of the spectrum
      – Fast paced chaos vs Slow and steady
      – Corporate vs Startup vs the whole range in between
      – Repetitive tasks that are thoroughly documented vs Each task is a one-off that requires independent problem solving skills
      – External facing roles vs Purely internal roles
      – Self reliant vs Heavy Mentorship

      1. GythaOgden*

        I wouldn’t ever have seen myself on reception, but it was a wonderful fit. I think what helped me was living in two cultures (Ireland and Poland) which were more naturally outgoing than my own, and those took the edges off my very British introversion. Marriage taught me a lot about sharing what I had, even the most intimate of things, with other people, but sadly hubby died and I had to learn to cope on my own. I still need time alone to recharge, but I’m better at weathering social events as a result of being in those very collective and hospitable cultures (including holy matrimony!) and learning how to make small talk over a cup of tea, how to casually drop in and drop out of things, understand that just because someone else is in the house we don’t have to be joined at the hip and so on. That and taking Drama at GCSE (getting out of my own mind and into someone else’s like you do when acting) really helped me shake off some of the superficial awkwardness of being autistic (there are much deeper struggles I’ve had which have actually resulted in medication to fix, but I had to peel off some of the layers of issues before I could directly tackle the deeper roots of the problems I had) and not being prickly about sharing things with colleagues. I’m not the type to be bosom buddies with someone (the only soulmate I’ve had, as I said, passed away :(…), but being exposed to radically different ways of thinking about social life and living in more collective and sociable societies where everyone pitched in emotionally whether they like it or not, did really good things for my social habits.

        I’ve even enjoyed interviewing recently despite not being able to articulate enough relevant experience for other reasons. I think it’s good practice to try at least to be collegial and not bristle too much. In the UK we don’t have a ‘mandatory fun’ culture, and certainly in the 20 years I’ve been of working age, there’s been more of an acceptance of disability and neurodivergence in the workplace. But it’s not all one-sided; with that greater understanding of disability and neurodiversity by other people comes the reciprocal personal development and social ability that we need to cultivate in ourselves. It’s never been enough for me to just say ‘I’m autistic, it’s who I am and you’re just gonna have to put up with it’, but in return I don’t think I’ve ever just masked — I think I’ve developed as a person by being open to new experiences and expectations. It’s been painful and discouraging at times (and now I’m also physically disabled it’s taken a lot for me to have to establish boundaries with people who expected me to pitch in with physical tasks before I literally hit rock bottom and permanently injured my ankle) but exhilarating at others — I’ve built more than just a facade and it’s something that changed me as a person interacting with the world without disturbing the core of my identity. In another context, I described it as ‘my opinions have changed but my values haven’t’ — that developing as a person and in how I deal with the outside world did not, as many fear it might do, change my fundamental personhood and identity. That part of me will never change, but the way I interacted with others could.

        It takes work but remember also — everyone else is doing the same kind of work inside themselves. Everyone has struggles of a personal nature that may not map onto any particular social justice framework, but are just things we as individual human beings have to deal with. I found that reassuring when I realised it — and it made me feel not so alone and frightened to know that I wasn’t the only one suffering as everyone around me coped perfectly with stuff. It made it far easier to work with myself and my own needs but also understand those of others and work to compromise with them, find common ground, and work as a team on common goals. And that made it feel way, way easier to cope on a day to day basis.

        Best of luck, OP. We’re always here if you need to talk.

    12. Former Retail Manager*

      Very late to the party today, but my advice would be to find someone in your life that you can trust to be brutally honest, maybe even someone that you consider to lean a bit a-holey or mean, as long as you can trust them to give you the honest truth. Perhaps a friend or family member and ideally someone who knows your work history and themselves has worked in a professional environment.

      We could all speculate all day, but you really need someone who knows you to be honest with you. You should prepare yourself for the fact that you very well may not like what you hear, and it may hurt to hear it or even make you angry. If you have an old co-worker that you trusted and have kept in contact with that was known for their honesty, that could also work.

      In my experience, “culture fit” was always code for either 1) you’re a jerk/so difficult to work with that it isn’t worth it or 2) you’re weird in a way that makes people feel unsettled and/or potentially unsafe (i.e. creepy). To have this many jobs let you go with all of them citing the same reason, I’m inclined to believe that there is something about you that is rubbing people the wrong way.

      And to be honest, the fact that you have not put the pieces together on your own, by now, tells me that you may be neurodivergent. I don’t mean that in a mean way. If you can swing it financially, I’d really consider speaking with a professional and undergoing any recommended testing to determine if that may be in play.

      1. RVA Cat*

        It says so much about our society that a neurodivergent woman of color in an admin role is more harshly penalized for either 1 or 2 than, say, a white male in STEM.

    13. RagingADHD*

      IDK if this relates, but there was someone posting earlier this year with a username very similar to yours who made an offhand comment that they hate socializing so much, they made up a fake family and frequently lied about having kids to get out of it.

      If that was you, and that’s the kind of thing you do regularly, people a) can probably tell something is “off” even if they don’t immediately know you are lying, which will make them uneasy around you, or b) they may figure out somehow that you are definitely lying. And that’s exactly the sort of thing that isn’t a work-related reason to let someone go, but many people would want to get rid of an employee who is known to be lying about their entire life to such a degree.

      Apologies if I have you mixed up with someone else, but that comment stuck in my mind as such an extreme example.

    14. SamuelWhiskers*

      Froggerman, you’ve shared a lot about your life and jobs here and I have to be honest, some of what you’ve shared has been a little alarming. You recently posted that you habitually pretend to have a child so you can get out of things, that you’ve created an entire fake persona and fake backstory for your colleagues and bosses. That you refuse to ever attend any kind of social or after hours work events. I understand your motivation/explanation that you do this in your jobs as a temp because you don’t want to become friendly with people you’ll only be working with briefly, but it’s potentially unnerving people.

      Hell, you posted a comment here not long ago saying that you’d never been fired, and now you’re saying that you’ve been fired from 5 of your last 7 jobs. So that makes me uncomfortable because I don’t know when you’re telling the truth. It’s possible the pattern of not being honest is making people in your professional life equally uncomfortable.

      In a lot of jobs, having soft skills is important. This commentariat is often a bit sneery about soft skills, but the ability to get on with people is crucial to career success in most industries. It’s crappy, but never socialising, never attending events, and making up fake personas and inventing factious children are all things that could be preventing you from succeeding. I know this comment sounds harsh, but I’m writing because I identify with a lot of what you’ve posted. I used to say things that weren’t true a lot because I had extreme self-loathing due to childhood trauma, and I used to really struggle to connect with people and be social with people. Therapy really helped me, and I wonder if it might be potentially helpful to you?

    15. BadCultureFit*

      Getting fired 5 times for “bad culture fit” is incredibly unusual. To the point that I wonder if people sense something from you that they find hard or scary to articulate, and it’s just easier to say you don’t fit the culture.

      I genuinely don’t know how you can overcome that. I would suggest temping. Same role, but you don’t stick around long enough for folks to fire you.

    16. Anonymous 75*

      with all due respect, you’ve written in the past about making up entire fake histories for yourself when at a new job, including fake relatives. while it’s very possible that there is something nefarious happening at your past workplaces it’s also possible that your colleagues are picking up on the fact that something is off about you and when you’re interacting with them and they don’t like being deceived.

  23. Nicki Name*

    Question for the neurodivergent here:

    There have been a number of letters lately where it’s possible that someone was just not picking up on the unspoken rules of the office and needed them explained explicitly. Is there some “Unspoken Office Rules 101” document out there that you’ve found useful, and would be helpful to recommend in that case?

      1. MissGirl*

        Right! I went from a company where folks on meeting calls waited for a good pause and jumped in with their perspective. At my last company, everyone used the raise the hand feature. I still forget that and then feel rude.

    1. EMP*

      There have been “ask the readers” days on here before for this kind of thing and it REALLY seems to vary by field, location, and individual office. So a broad guide may not be helpful for any one situation.

      I know it’s not always possible but if you have someone who seems to know the ropes who you trust as a mentor, just asking them things like “hey, it seems like everyone understands when it’s OK to use the microwave and I use it at the wrong time, what are the unspoken rules there?” could be one route.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Yeah, I don’t think there is one rule for professional behavior – people say things on here that are eye-popping to me sometimes and totally normal to them. It’s about watching the senior people in some things (but not assuming perks/benefits enjoyed by senior people will apply to junior people) and looking at someone else who is well-respected or solidly middle of the road at your same level in other things. It helps to be extra-attentive to hierarchy if you’re unsure; nobody ever got fired for being too respectful of higher-ups.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          Yeah, I’ve seen things here that most people agree to be “something you should never say/discuss/do in the workplace” and it is something…that would be completely normal to say/discuss/do in my workplace and I don’t think we are being dysfunctional. It’s just that context matters. Sometimes, it’s an issue that specifically seems to be more divisive in the US than here, but sometimes it’s just that my workplace is pretty laidback about some things.

          1. Sloanicota*

            I guess as a baseline you could say, “if you’re unsure of the culture, it’s better never to bring up X Y Z things, but if you see other people frequently discussing those topics it might be okay to join in and assume your culture is unique in this element” (unless those topics are things you don’t want to discuss, of course).

          2. GythaOgden*

            I definitely agree. For instance my American expat friend was absolutely horrified when I said we had to buy tickets to my husband’s work’s Christmas do. In return it was optional, but fundamentally, in small firms here, you are generally expected to chip in, as small firms don’t have huge budgets for that kind of thing and no-one blinks at £20 a head for an optional rubber-chicken meal down at the local golf club.

            The reverse of the situation is we don’t really do pot-lucks here. If someone asks for food to be brought in for a staff lunch, they mean go to Sainsburys and buy a tub of sausage rolls and a boxed cake. People are generally expected to contribute (the perk of being a receptionist is that you can wander round these lunches without contributing; it’s like a tip for our services…!)

            Also charity in the workplace is very well established. It’s not uncommon for us to have collecting tins for important things like the Poppy Appeal in November or for a department to run a Macmillan coffee morning in aid of a charity that has helped me out considerably while my husband had cancer (with free therapy sessions for both of us) and with information, help with navigating the benefits system and so on.

            Nonprofit and charity work can get closer to their clients and know their needs better than government machinery can, and as a student 35 years ago I attended a really eye-opening lecture about it from Shelter as to how charities fit in to the service community and how actually just sitting back and demanding the government take care of it doesn’t actually help that much for people’s immediate needs. The Macmillan therapist could help in a more timely, accessible and charitable way than sitting on an NHS waiting list or paying through the nose for private provision could.

            Britain is the most generous nation when it comes to fundraising in general, but at work there’s a mentality of what goes around, comes around for me: at some point in your life you may need other people’s help, so you fill the hat when it gets passed round. My boss is an ex-Navy sniper and I know there are at least a couple of other veterans in the office who work hard for veterans’ charities. I certainly give back generously, particularly to cancer charities, because the political changes are slow coming and often face resistance (e.g. the National Insurance rise to pay for better social care was beaten back because it came at an awkward economic time, but my BIL faced care bills of £8000 a week at one point and was obviously never going to be able to come up with that kind of money, and if the government is going to provide that kind of cash ordinary taxpayers are going to have to cover it). Charities fill a necessary material gap imo while the social and economic climate changes slowly above us, and I’m proud of what we do here in the UK to support this sort of thing at work.

    2. nope*

      No document or guide, but learning about the concept of “the hidden curriculum” was very impactful for me. I didn’t learn of it until I was in college but it made so much sense to me. Now whenever I enter a new job, I try to observe others and see what “hidden curriculum” is embedded in how others behave. Finding one kind person that you can ask blunt questions is also essential, at least for me.

    3. Irish Teacher*

      I think a lot of the unspoken office rules differ very much by office (and field and country and seniority and probably a whole lot of other things too).

      My current go-to is just to half-joke about my density around these things and ask for clarification, but…that is easier to do when you have been in a job a while and trust your coworkers (and I’m pretty sure many of them have noticed anyway, so I’m not disclosing anything they haven’t already guessed) than it is to do in a new job.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Yeah I start out extremely bland, respectful, and job-oriented. I’m really interested in (the topic my role is in). I have a cute dog! I like your sweater. I will maintain that for at least 6 weeks while I get the lay of the land before trying anything daring like a non-dad joke or a political comment.

    4. Nesprin*

      Oh that super depends on workplace: what holds as professional for tech in the bay area versus a law firm in the south is going to be almost entirely orthogonal.

      The only advice I can give is try to be the median- wear clothes of median formality for your office, be median level sociable, etc.

      That and make sure you shower daily.

    5. Random Dice*

      Not office specific, but Michelle Garcia Winner’s “Curiously Social, Socially Curious” is basically a social skills bible. It’s geared at teenagers but man this seasoned adult found it mind-blowing. It’s simple, logical, actionable, and specific.

      There’s a bit on how much eye contact do neurotypicals actually want, and it was incredible. It talked through:

      – Routine conversational eye contact (and most importantly for how long), and then glancing away before it feels like staring or aggression, and how long before making the brief eye contact again.
      – Shifting who to look at when different people talk.
      – Specific body language that indicates attention and engagement in a group or conversation.

      Other things I especially remember:
      – Understanding what the unwritten group goal is in one setting vs another. (Eg when it’s ok to joke and goof off, vs when people want to focus and will find off-topics annoying)
      – How to join a group or conversational circle.
      – How to tell if someone is teasing you in a friendly way, versus making fun of you.
      – How you can influence the way others think of you through a baseline of expected behaviors, especially in the initial phase of getting to know someone. (With clear guidance on what that is)

      Buy used, it’s expensive new.

    6. Rainstorm*

      For this purpose I’ve seen others here recommend a book called “The Unspoken Rules: Secrets to Starting Your Career Off Right” by Gorick Ng.

  24. Everything All The Time*

    anyone got a script for “I cannot talk about this with you”?
    I’m mentoring two interns and during a big meeting with the entire department in every single satellite office, my second intern put his foot in his mouth during his introduction. I’ve talked to him about how that wasn’t appropriate to say so that bit is covered, HR and my boss are aware of the steps I’ve taken to course correct and have their own things to do… he doubled down on his inappropriate comment, hence HR’s continued involvement.
    HOWEVER everyone from other offices who heard him has been messaging me non-stop asking if he meant what he said, and what happened to him/what’s GOING to happen to him.
    If he hadn’t doubled down, or even apologized for being inappropriate at work I would’ve brushed it off with “Oh you know, who hasn’t put their foot in their mouth when put on the spot” or “Yeahhh that was dumb to say in that setting, comes from inexperience…”
    HR asked me not to say anything until he either no longer works here or the situation is resolved but I have no idea when that’ll be.

    1. Sloanicota*

      “I was asked not to speak about this any more” is okay to say, IMO. If people are just gossiping, make it boring for them to keep asking.

    2. soontoberetired*

      It is okay saying, I cannot talk about this with you. It may be a bit blunt but people should actually know that matters like these at work are confidential.

      Or try I understand your concern, we’re handling things.

    3. EMP*

      Seconding. “HR is involved but I can’t say anything else until the situation is resolved” is the truth and should shut the questions donw.

    4. Aelfwynn*

      “I’m sorry, I’m not at liberty to talk about it.” Or, if you want to explain further: “I’m sorry, I was told I can’t discuss it.” And leave it at that. The gossips will likely pressure you for more info, but don’t give in. Just keep telling them you can’t discuss it.

    5. Nesta*

      Maybe something like, “I can’t speak about that right now, but I can reassure you that the organization took it seriously.” It shows that there are reasons you can’t say anything (the organization is involved) and that there is something on-going with it.

      If someone asks persistently or seems to be asking for more than gossip reasons, perhaps you can direct them to your boss or HR?

    6. The Prettiest Curse*

      You could say that HR are handling the situation and therefore you can’t discuss it any further. People will often get the point if you emphasise that HR involvement means that an issue is not up for casual discussion.

    7. WantonSeedStitch*

      “Sorry, I’ve been asked not to discuss that situation–hope you understand.”

      1. RVA Cat*

        I’m picturing something he’d say to his frat bros that’s *at best* immature (fart jokes?) and at worse sexual harassment. With HR involved I’m thinking the latter.

      2. WellRed*

        There was a letter once about an intern or whoever making a 911 joke. Or, maybe he comes from the Don Lemon school of thought on women. The possibilities are endless.

    8. Qwerty*

      For the people asking what happened or what is going to happen – “Obviously I can’t discuss any details with you”

      Using “obviously” should jolt them to remembering that you are the intern’s supervisor.

      Since you are a mentor not a manager, I think you’d also be fine to ask your HR person for a company approved script. Some might be ok with you saying “HR is handling it”, others might not want you to say anything at all. It is probably good for them to know how much the gossip mill is running on this, because they also don’t want to give the impression that company didn’t take it seriously. If HR doesn’t help, then ask your boss.

      To HR – “A lot of people are inquiring on how the incident is being handled since so many people heard the initial comments. Do you have a script for how to respond when I am asked directly? I’m avoiding the subject the best I can but would appreciate guidance on how to shut down the conversation without implying the situation isn’t being taken seriously”

  25. Mimmy*

    I know there have been recent posts about it being okay to not be interested in getting into management. That is the case for me. I just do not see myself having direct reports and being responsible for hiring and performance management. I’m not ruling out eventually taking on leadership roles or management that doesn’t entail employee supervision.

    I have two masters degrees. My goal for each was to enter into the field related to each degree (earned 15 years apart) at a professional level using the knowledge and skills gained in school and other work/volunteer experiences. However, I am becoming increasingly concerned that having even ONE masters degree sets the expectation that the individual is looking for management-level positions. Case in point: I recently posted my resume on a field-specific job board. Yesterday, I got an email through the site’s portal from a recruiter inviting me to apply for a Director position. Hard pass! Also, I might’ve mentioned before that I have experience in a lot of things, but my experience in the field I want to get into now is limited.

    Can anyone offer suggestions for getting around this? The one thought I had was to only put the recent masters on my resume. Other than that, am I completely screwed? There are factors for why I am educationally overqualified that I’ve mentioned here before but would rather not get into right now.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      A few ideas:

      – I think only putting your most recent degree on your resume is on the right track, because that’s the field you want to work in now. The earlier degree isn’t relevant.

      – Do you already have work experience in this field? If so, try taking your recent degree off too, and just leave the relevant work experience on.

      – I also wouldn’t read to much into recruiters reaching out to you. My experience with LinkedIn is that recruiters are more “miss” than “hit” (ex. sending jobs in California to people who specified they are looking for opportunities in Florida, sending jobs for “manufacturing quality engineer” to someone with experience as a software QA tester–both jobs have ‘quality’ in the title but are otherwise unrelated).

      – Write cover letters for positions you apply for. If you have a well-written letter explaining your love of grooming llamas, a hiring manager isn’t going to see your master’s degree and automatically assume you want to manage the llama groomers.

      1. Mimmy*

        I definitely agree with you about recruiters. However, this was not on LinkedIn, it was on HigherEdJobs.com (that’s the field I’m trying to enter).

        I had a couple of internships in my desired field; otherwise, I don’t have much direct experience. The field I work in now is semi-related though, so I try to leverage that experience where possible.

        If you have a well-written letter explaining your love of grooming llamas, a hiring manager isn’t going to see your master’s degree and automatically assume you want to manage the llama groomers.

        Thank you, this helps!!

        1. Nesprin*

          So academia would be the exception to keeping education off your resume- academia lives on degrees, and showing that you’ve been around education long enough to pick up 2 masters is a selling point.

            1. linger*

              Mostly, unless one of your degrees was in Management or some adjacent field. There tends to be a higher concentration of degrees among admin staff at a university anyway.

  26. ArtsNerd*

    Could use some advice on pushing through chronic illness flareups to get work done with ADHD. I am working on getting the chronic illness properly diagnosed and treated but in the meantime I still have to meet deadlines, and I honestly cannot figure out how to get started on anything, let alone finish, when I feel like this.

    1. Critical Rolls*

      I’m going to live up to my name here. Sometimes when I just can’t move forward, I make a numbered list of six things I need to do and literally roll a die. Or two things and flip a coin.

    2. Minions and Onions*

      I have RA and when a flare-up hits, I retreat to getting only the personal ultra-basics done so that I have enough energy to continue working. It’s not pretty, but it works for me.

      For me that’s: I’m clean (so I take a shower, but very often no makeup, and basic hair care), I’m fed (I buy lunch meat and salad mix and other extra basic meal ingredients – there is no CookingTM, just ingredient assemblages that fill me up – and all of that comes via Instacart if it’s real bad), and sleep – I go to bed as early as possible and sleep as late as possible. Toddler early some nights. Other things I just have to let slide. Dust bunnies? Who cares!

      I used this method this week to work through a flareup and it helped. I was productive at work and I’m getting better physically.

      I hope that helps.

      1. Random Dice*

        So much this when I’m in a chronic illness flare.

        For food, I either heat up a Factor 75 meal in the microwave, or eat a ham-and-cheese rollup or two.

        I take meetings off camera, lying down, when I can.

        I work on deep belly breathing and quieting down the voice that catastrophizes about pain and fatigue. Alex Howard’s book Decode Your Fatigue (and a related program after I found the book helpful) really helped me learn that while my pain and fatigue is real, I do have control over how I interpret it – which can help reduce it. This is not something to do in a flare – but one thing you can do now is to say to yourself about your pain and fatigue “huh, what an INTERESTING sensation” like you’re an anthropologist.

    3. Hermione Danger*

      You might look at the How to ADHD channel on YouTube, specifically her video on the Wall of Awful.

    4. RagingADHD*

      1) Grease the skids: tell yourself you’re just going to get out all the stuff or open the files that you have to work on, and review them. That’s easy. Reviewing them can often create momentum to get a little something done.

      2) Timers: make a deal with yourself that you only have to do X for 20 minutes. If you do more than that, great. If not, do your 20 and take a break, then repeat.

      3) Breakdown: Break everything down into the tiniest possible action step. For example, instead of your task being “get guy to do the complicated thing that makes my head hurt” or even “email the guy about the complicated thing,” your first task would be “look up guy’s email address that I don’t already have in my contacts.” then “create a draft email with an appropriate subject line” and so forth.

      4) Spoonful of sugar method: set up something that feels like a treat while you do the thing (not afterward). Music playlist, favorite snack or beverage, fuzzy socks, whatever it may be. Build the reward into the task.

      5) Stim: I concentrate better on deep solo work when I can crunch things with my teeth or kick/pedal my feet. Gum will do in a pinch, but crunchy things are better. Figure out a thing that helps.

  27. BRR*

    Question: I’m in talks to get a higher title but I’m unhappy with what I’m being offered. Is there a professional way to say that I’m displeased?

    I received a promotion last year (elevating my current role, not being moved into an open/existing position). Due to how promotions work at my employer, you have to write an updated job description that justifies being moved upwards and HR determines your title. When it got approved, HR didn’t have any discussions with me or my boss about title and gave me a title that is entry level in my field. I have about a decade of experience in my field and would say that my role is somewhere in the middle of the org chart in terms of seniority. I raised the issue at the time but my boss didn’t really care and left for a new job around the same time.

    I got a new boss and mentioned it when he started but also didn’t press the issue because I didn’t want to basically say “hi new boss, you don’t know exactly what I do here or my work but I should actually have a much more senior title than I have.” I’ve recently brought it up again and asked for a director title (which was a bit of a stretch ask but still within reason) with my thinking being that associate director would be a reasonable compromise and feasible. Well, my boss comes back and says it would probably have to be assistant director. I’m livid and it’s important enough to me that I want to a) try and push back before it’s finalized and b) make it known that assistant director is unsatisfactory.

    Other context – I’ve tried explaining why a higher title would be appropriate but am basically being told that assistant director is already higher than I am now (which ignores that this is really correcting a mistake that should have ever happened) and since I’m in a union, union members “aren’t really associate directors here.” Unfortunately the union agreement does not say anything titles and they won’t be able to help me here. Lastly, I specifically didn’t ask for a raise with this because I received a raise with my promotion last year and don’t feel like I have a case for another raise. Plus we’re in a moderate budget crunch so I think it would be an automatic no if I didn’t ask for a raise. And as far as I know, titles are not tied to pay bands here so it’s not like they would have to pay me more. I just want appropriate recognition for the work I’m doing.

    1. cardigarden*

      Can you find a similar job description with the title you want at a few other companies so you can show the decision-makers that what they’ve proposed is out of step with the industry?

  28. TeenieBopper*

    So, I left my last job about three months ago – I wasn’t looking to leave but was contacted by a recruiter and it ended up being a good opportunity. I left on good terms. My direct supervisor’s last day is today. We were a department of two. They only in the past few weeks hired someone for my old position. Needless to say, the company is in a bit of a pinch. My grandboss has reached out to me about doing some contracting work for them. I don’t need the money, but it’s not like it’ll hurt and I think I can pretty easily fit a couple hours a week/~10 hours a month into my schedule for it.

    He sent over a quick overview with scope of work, general expectations, and pay rate. The rate is… not great (which is part of the reason I left the actual job). The hourly rate is basically what I get at my current job. If the scope of work was just walking the new person through the various reports, queries, and dashboards we’ve built and pointing them in the right direction on how to solve problems, I’d still want close to double what is being offered. But it sounds like there will be actual coding and report design/creation and dashboard creation, which I would want even more.

    I talked to my previous supervisor and asked if 2*$X for consulting and 2.25*$X is unreasonable and he said no, that if he was in my position that’s probably what he would say too. We also both know what other contractors and they’re all making more than what I would be asking for.

    I’ve never been in this position before. I want to be able to help the new person because they’re a good acquaintance, but at the same time, I don’t need the money and I value my time. How should I approach this and/or ask for more money?

    1. Goddess47*

      If you’re in the US, you’ll get a 1099 form at the end of the year and be on the hook for your own taxes, social security and such. You can point that out and say to break even for the time spent you need to be paid at least $X… and, if you know, that a true consultant will cost $Y, which is likely significantly more.

      Make it factual and to the point.

      And get a specific scope of work and fight the scope creep. “Could you just do [yet another task] while you’re at it…” definitely will happen! Protect yourself here.

      Good luck!

      1. I have RBF*

        This. Your 1099 rate needs to be at least twice what your W2 rate is because of the tax issues. Some folks do 3 X. Get the contract in writing, too.

    2. WellRed*

      You owe this company nothing. And grand boss is not valuing you. Ask for what you want or be prepared to take a tax hit. I’d also worry it will be more hours than originally planned. But personally, I’d just say no, I need to focus on my new job.

    3. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      Don’t overthink it. Just respond what work you are willing to do for what amount of money, and that’s it! You’re not obligated and you’re in a good position to say yes/no on your terms.

      You’re on the right track, 2x is the starting point for this kind of consulting so start there and go up as needed. Choose a number that feels *really* good to you, up to x hours at y rate — enough so you won’t feel grumpy about it, it doesn’t feel like you’re doing them a favor, it covers the higher level work. (Go with one rate. Don’t try to offer some tasks at one rate and some at another.) Pad it a bit if you want room to negotiate, or make it a take it or leave it offer.

    4. WestsideStory*

      Every time an independent contractor underbids, an angel cries.
      Seriously, you do everyone in your industry a disservice when you lowball, and personally, you are setting yourself up to be taken advantage of by your acquaintance.
      Quote them 2.5 X of your current rate, if they push back you should only feel sorry for them enough to go down to 2X.
      It doesn’t matter if you need the money or not. However, the consideration of your time is worth reflecting on. Can the work possibly be done on a part-time basis, or can you structure the contract so that all work is done during a certain parameter, so you’re not stuck being on call 24/7? Clearly they value your work; now is the opportunity to set things up to respect your time and keep a schedule that fits your life now.

    5. Still*

      There is no reason you should work at a rate that’s lower than what would make you happy to do the work, it why you should do more work than you feel you have the bandwidth for. The company needs your help. If they’re not willing to pay a fair rate, it means they would rather make do without your help. You cannot be more invested than they are in making this work. The new person is not your responsibility, even if they’re lovely and deserve support, you don’t have to be the one to give it.

      Offer them exactly as much as you’d be happy to do without feeling resentment, and they can take it or leave it.

      “Hi grandboss, thank you for getting back to me. Given the scope of the work, I would need to charge 2x for A and B and 2.5x for C and D, for a maximum of 10 hours a month. I know this is higher than the number you had in mind so please let me know if it still makes sense for me to consult or if you would rather look for another solution.”

      1. Manchmal*

        Perfect script. You just be really matter of fact that you’re unable to do it for what’s being offered. If they need you that bad, they’ll cough it up.

  29. AnonContractWorker*

    What fields are hiring right now? I work in tech in an adjacent function (think something like HR) that can be done in any industry. People usually want industry-specific experience but I want to branch out. There are less remote jobs and more competition right now. I’m also having trouble finding employers who pay fairly. Thankfully my current job pays fairly but I’m not sure if my contract will be renewed. As someone who worked remote pre-pandemic, I tried hybrid and it did not work for me. I’m currently under a medical accommodation to WFH and I’d prefer to work at a company where they provide flexibility without having to jump through hoops.

    1. cardigarden*

      No advice, but following. I’m also tech-adjacent (but in libraries and management) but am struggling with impressions that library experience isn’t portable even if my skills are.

    2. Generic Name*

      I’m job searching and I’m seeing tons of postings from renewable energy companies and engineering and construction companies. Not just for technical roles, but roles across the board.

    3. Damn it, Hardison!*

      It seems like biotech is hiring, although a bit slower than a couple of years ago. Sounds like you are in a general/administrative function, which don’t usually require much industry specific experience (except in certain support functions like facilities and EHS, because of regulations). I work in a biotech support function (although very specific) and from what I hear from my peers at other orgs they are either entirely remote or hybrid.

  30. DivergentStitches*

    I’ve been at my current role for 4 months. I came from a Llama Grooming position, which was specialized but underpaid at my old company. This role is a Llama Generalist, which is less specialized but was a 55% increase that I couldn’t pass up.

    They have openings in Llama Grooming here now, I’d love to go back over there, but they have a rule that you have to be in the company for a year before you can apply internally unless “for specific business needs.” So I guess they’d waive that for the right scenario.

    Would it be worth it at all to reach out to the hiring managers or internal recruiters for those postings to let them know my qualifications and experience, to see if they’d be interested in having me go over there now?

    Would it be worth it at all

    1. SereneScientist*

      Even if you can’t formally apply yet because of that year rule, it’s never a bad idea to reach out and make a connection. I did something similar when I started at my current role about a year ago–I connected with a director from another department working in an area I’d like to get back to someday so she knows who I am. She isn’t able to hire right now and I actually feel pretty good about my role, but if there’s ever an opening in the future–I’m hopeful I’ll be top of mind for her.

    2. Luna*

      I think the language about business specific reasons is more likely referring to situations where the company decides they have a need to change someone’s position or restructure. My company has the same rule and we would not be able to do anything in a situation like yours, even if we wanted to. It’s hard without knowing the specifics, but it does risk coming across poorly that you’d be looking to leave so soon or like you took one job just to get in.

  31. Minions and Onions*

    My fellow readers with a chronic illness – when and how, if at all did you disclose your illness to a new boss/job? I have RA and a vertigo condition. (The vertigo is not constant, but episodic.) I just started a new job a month ago and while I’m really enjoying it, the stress of the new job plus the new, more physically demanding commute threw me right into a flare-up. It’s a very casual hybrid environment, so my boss didn’t really bat an eye at me working from home every day this week, but we had discussed me being in the office 3 days a week for face-time with other staff, which is important to establish me as a SME. (Our department is needed but newish to the org.) All that said, right now, that seems impossible. The physical toll is too great. And, after being WFH this week, I’ve can honestly say I’ve been super productive and able to have my planned meetings online which went just fine. And, I don’t feel so tired that I could nap on any flat surface. Most of my time in the office was spent working with remote staff anyway – my boss is in a different state.

    TL;DR – Got a chronic illness – disclose or no? If yes, how to frame it?

    1. AnonContractWorker*

      So I’m paid by a 3rd party but I was in the same boat as you. Hybrid but WFH days were way more productive! I requested a medical accommodation to WFH. They have a specific way they do it, so no one I work with is aware that I have a specific medical issue (even tho the paperwork is pretty detailed).

      I’d encourage you to approach it as an accommodation. Maybe you don’t need full time WFH but you need flexibility to come in when you can vs a set schedule. You don’t have to disclose your medical issue while having this discussion. There is lots of advice here, that’s how I was brave enough to ask in the first place (it was scary for me, I didn’t want to be fired).

    2. Blomma*

      I ended up sort of disclosing during my first interview for my current role. At the end, they asked me if there was anything we’d discussed during the interview that I didn’t like the sound of. That gave me a way to say that, because I have a type of arthritis, I would not be able to occasionally drive 2 hours one way to work in our other office. They immediately said “ok you wouldn’t have to do that.” I was trying to leave a toxic job where I suspect that they’d have found a reason to fire me if I’d disclosed chronic illnesses. I wanted to find a way to sort of disclose when interviewing so I wouldn’t end up in that situation again and fortunately it worked out perfectly.

      I’ve still not told anyone at my current job specifically what type of arthritis I have or that I have fibromyalgia (though I think my current manager has guessed that’s what’s going on). I prefer to point to accommodations that would make dealing with specific symptoms easier (fatigue, pain in certain body parts, etc.)

    3. Dragon Hoard*

      Personally, I do not. I have never had a good experience with my employer knowing I have a chronic illness. After a few bad experiences, I now pretend every issue is a transient, acute illness. The difference between how my sick days get treated when people know it’s from an autoimmune disorder vs thinking I am a healthy person who’s temporarily sick is like night and day.

      I feel conflicted about actually telling people to do that, but it’s what I do.

    4. Random Dice*

      Yes disclose, and do so calling it an “Americans with Disabilities Act reasonable accommodations”. (And then send your manager an email with that language, then forward it privately to your personal email address.)

      It’s made all the difference in my life.

      I regret all the energy I poured into being in the office and looking Not Disabled Nosiree Bob!, rather than pouring that energy into me or my family. I’m still disabled, but my pain and fatigue levels are so much lower now that I’m remote. We spoonies* can’t just make more spoons appear, even though we really want them to.

      As an aside, my large corporation definitely checks if someone has a disability when doing layoffs, because they don’t want to have to pay out for a discrimination lawsuit. So formally requesting a reasonable accommodation may actually be a form of protection.

      *Spoon Theory of Disability

  32. penelope lane*

    What are some small talk topics to chat about with coworkers beside the weather and TV before meetings? I recently started a new role where my boss and I don’t have anything in common (he seems awesome though) so we usually chat about the weather or which shows I’m watching. I don’t want to necessarily tell him all about my personal life, but he probably thinks I just watch TV outside of work

    1. Sloanicota*

      I think sports is a classic for a reason. Pets/animals are good. Asking him questions is probably the best way to go. Listen carefully to what he says and follow up on it. What does he do after work?

      1. Hlao-roo*

        I am not a big sports person and I love sports small talk with the sports fan in the office. Takes me less than 5 min to google the results of recent games, then I open with “heard the [team] won last night” and my coworker can say “yeah, it was a great game.” Then I can ask if there were any particularly good plays, if any of the stars are injured, if any tough games are coming up in the schedule, etc.

    2. Melissa*

      Summer plans! Even if they’re not anything crazy– “I’m so glad the weather warmed up [there’s your segue if you were already talking about the weather] because I want to go hiking on the trail in Cromwell this weekend.” (Oh, you hike? Well I used to but since we had the kids blah blah blah, it’ll be a good conversation starter). “Happy Friday! I heard there’s a big music festival in town this weekend. That is definitely not my scene, I’m planning to avoid that part of town and just work on my puzzle.”

    3. WantonSeedStitch*

      Good restaurants in town (“Has anyone been to Chez Wakeen over on the West Side? Or do you recommend anywhere else to get a great steak?”)

      Current events that don’t revolve around politics (“Did you hear about that fire over on Fifth Street? I could see the flames all the way from my house!”)

      Other food-related topics (“I made the best lasagna this weekend! Have you guys ever had lasagna with smoked mozzarella in it?”)

    4. Generic Name*

      For my industry and area of the country, here are my 3 go-to topics: pets, kids, hunting.

    5. My Brain is Exploding*

      You could make a list of things you’d like to ask him…such as, “What were you doing for work when you were my age?,” “I’d like to know how you got started with our company,” etc. Not peppering him with questions but having some good ones up your sleeve that will help you learn about him, the company, and your job.

    6. I have RBF*

      So, I don’t watch TV, so that’s out for me. I don’t follow sports, either.

      That leaves the weather, what we did over the weekend, pets, current reading, light hobbies, food/restaurants (if you’re in orfice), and home maintenance (if you or your coworkers are homeowners.)

    7. RagingADHD*

      I listen to NPR Science Friday and/or The TED Radio Hour. Always some interesting factoid or topic to bring up.

    8. fhqwhgads*

      Restaurant you like/went to recently
      Recipe you tried recently
      Sports (or Major Sporting Event Nearby even if you don’t follow sports)
      Professional development stuff

  33. Make it anon*

    How do you cope with burnout when you can’t take a break?

    I’m not happy with my performance lately. I’m stalling on tasks, getting behind, and struggling to *make* myself do things. If I stay on this trajectory I’m going to get in trouble, deservedly. It started when things were difficult in my personal life and I had to pull back some at work, but I am having a really hard time getting back to where I was. Ideally I might take a week off, but I don’t have a ton of PTO left (see the personal life stuff) and we are entering a very busy period. I have a little kid I love to bits but I don’t get much downtime at home either.

    I generally like my work and want to do it well. My industry is hard to break into, so leaving and coming back would be extremely difficult even if it were financially smart (it isn’t). I just don’t know how to break out of the low-performing procrastination rut I’m in. Reorganize my office so it feels different? Start meditating somehow? Listen to death metal on my commute so I’m ready to SMASH THE DAY!? Anything that’s helped you I’d love to hear about.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Ugh are you me. I have been floundering all year. I’m so disappointed in myself. It’s not just work, it’s everything. I can barely do the things I want to do anymore, never mind the things I don’t want to do. Is it depression, perhaps, but burnout is also part of it. The pandemic took it out of all of us I think. I am doing twice-a-day walks outdoors, trying to get eight hours of sleep every night, trying to eat better (this one is not going well) and forgiving myself for only doing what I can do right now. Even one hour of productivity is better than nothing. Try mixing up locations – I can sometimes find productivity at the coffee shop – and playing upbeat music. Sometimes I can only work for the length of one song but that’s something.

    2. Duckles*

      Maybe the opposite what you’re expecting but can you take the rest of your PTO in one batch (take at least 10 calendar days off) with absolutely zero work at that time? Just reset, no expectations, no dread, just do things you enjoy, maybe take some day trips if you can. When you come back, you’ll have perspective on whether you actually do want to lean back into work or you realize you’re permanently checked out and need a fresh start.

      (I know this is hard to do, but since you’re already feeling that you’re on the path towards a PIP, I think you need to take drastic steps.)

    3. Ashley*

      I would be trying to get as much of a break and time to reset outside of the office. The nature of the personal stuff could make this hard, but any self care you can get outside of work usually helps me with a reset.

    4. Goddess47*

      In addition to the above, take the time to identify exactly what parts of your job are required and have to be done and what parts are ‘nice to do’ sorts of things. It’s too easy to pick up some of those nice to do things but then they bog you down.

      Focus on the core parts of your job for a bit and see if that helps.

      If you have a reasonable supervisor, ask for help. They may not see you stumbling and not realize you need guidance.

      Alternatively, do you have a peer you can trade off a couple of tasks with? “Hey, I need a break doing X right now, can you do X and I’ll do Y for you.” Maybe a change like that will give you a new focus.

      Breathe for a minute. Good luck!

    5. SereneScientist*

      Not much additional advise beyond what other folks have responded to you with, but sending lots of empathy and support from an internet stranger. I feel this a lot and I hope you can give yourself some grace for how much pressure you’re under.

    6. Anthology*

      Minimize the decisions you have to make. Eat repetitive meals, streamline your outfits, declutter your most-used spaces. Hoard every bit of mental energy so you can channel it more precisely.

    7. Random Dice*

      First thing I always look at is my antidepressant dosage. My neurotransmitters are lying little boogers, and sometimes I need a tuning.

      Then I look at my depression checklist – yes, I keep it on my phone and printed out on the side of my fridge, and move it to the front when I’m struggling. I don’t have brain space for remembering when I’m struggling.

      I made up my depression checklist from two places:
      1) The Calm app’s “Rethinking Depression” series by Steven Ilardi. So useful and helpful and practical!

      2) Protecting the microbiome (which has huge impact on mood and energy) with fiber (prebiotics).

      3) the Nagoski sisters’ book Burnout. Get it on Audible or Libby (library audible) because when you’re in burnout already you don’t need another hard task like reading an actual book.

      What I liked about it was a neuroscience take on what they call “completing the stress cycle” (I’m pretty sure they have a TED Talk or YouTube video on it, for the short version.)

      The idea is that our nervous systems are set up for ancient stressors – being chased by a predator and the like – and our bodies process stress in predictable ways that match those stressors. Today, our stressors are digital and nontactile, but we can still use our ancient reset buttons periodically to let the stress go.

      Those biological hacks can give you breathing room.

      But honestly… true burnout is fixed with rest. Which doesn’t necessarily mean quitting and sitting in a corner staring at the wall. (Can you tell I’ve been deep in the burnout well?)

      But for me it meant really dealing with my crap in therapy, and then making work/life boundaries that were hard but so incredible. I’ve finally rested in place at work long enough that I can be ambitious again. But it was a slog!

    8. Joron Twiner*

      Actually yes, you’ve listed some things I’ve done to power through!

      -turn your desk or clean up your office so it looks a little different (I recommend Dear Modern on YouTube for some suggestions)

      -play upbeat music on your commute and as much as possible while working. When you start feeling frantic or tired turn the music up on your headphones until you can’t hear your thoughts lol

      -pomodoro or similar timed focus system. Only having to work for 20 min at a time helps me get started and afterwards I feel like well at least I did that. Works great in conjunction with loud music above.

      -drastically pare down or modify your to do list and your standards for completion. This is not the time to aim for perfect or to chip away at personal development projects. I have a paper planner with 4 tiny lines per day so I can only aim to do 4 things.

      -I can’t find the online template anymore but there was a great ADHD task auto-prioritizer that I have modified in Excel and similar programs. Basically: assign each task a due date, a priority (high/medium/low), a status (not started, in progress, on hold, complete), and an estimate of time or effort (I like to assign in chunks: 15min, 30min, 60min, 90min). On a hidden sheet or cell you can assign numbers to each of those qualities: high priority=-2, medium=-1, low=1; due date of next week=5, due date of tomorrow=-1, due date of today=-2. Mess with the numbers until you get an auto-priority system that assigns you tasks in the way you prefer. For example, something high priority due today should be priority 1, something medium due tomorrow is 2 or 3. I like to set it so low priority with an overdue due date is actually 5 or lower on my to-do list because if I let it get overdue then it’s less important than high priority tasks coming up. But having a number helps offload some of that decision making from my brain.

    9. It's me*

      I was the same and what’s working for me is reducing the amount of stuff taking up space in my brain. I wrote down everything on my to-do list and everything I was worrying about, then sorted them into “must progress this week” and “other”. And then any time I find myself thinking about anything that isn’t on the “this week” list, I tell myself that I’m not thinking about that yet. It’s worked wonders.

  34. Crossroads*

    I’m at a professional crossroads and am hoping for some guidance.

    My job works really well in a lot of ways: primarily that it’s low stress and deadlines are flexible. However, it isn’t very high-paying and the industry is dwindling and doesn’t feel like a place I can have a robust career. I have two daycare-ages kids and a spouse that travels a lot for work (making 3x my salary) so I’m the default primary parent and flexibility is the only way any job works for me.

    I was hired whenever everyone was working remotely but now HR is pushing a return to office. My commute is 1.5hrs each way and my schedule is a bit different so I’m either away from home for 12hrs on a “normal office day” or drive ~3hrs to work for 6 when I have to do daycare drop off/pick up. I’ve been going in 1d/week and it’s been tolerable (but frankly annoying since it doesn’t add to my productivity) but now HR is requiring 2 days minimum. My options are to suck it up and likely spend 6hrs/week commuting (my boss is understandable and ok with short days if I’m on daycare duty, but expects me to make up that time); reduce my hours/salary to maintain 1d/week (apparently “part time” staff can stay at 1d/week); or quit altogether (freelancing is common in my role).

    I’m in the middle of discussing a promotion with my boss that could give me some really interesting new responsibilities while hopefully offsetting any reduction in pay I’d have to take going part time, but honestly I’m not optimistic it’s going to go smoothly. It’d be a great add to my resume (and hopefully make it feel worthwhile for me to stay) but I’m unsure if furthering myself in this industry even makes sense. I’ve been out sick most of the past few weeks with my kids anyways and am feeling totally burnt to a crisp. I can do this job well and I have capacity to take on new responsibilities, but it would likely eat up any bandwidth I have. I know a lot of parents regret stepping out of the workforce but how do you know if it’s worth fighting through the slog? Either way has it’s risks and, being extremely risk-averse, I’m spinning.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Hmm, it does sound like something has to give. If you take the new role, is the increased money enough to pay for extended daycare or a nanny or housekeeper? Would your husband be willing to cut back if he was no longer carrying as much of the financial burden? Could you take the promotion for one year, even if the money mostly went to these things, and get the benefit for the rest of your career if you left to freelance at that point, or does that thought just exhaust you? I think it’s okay to decide you want to freelance now and perhaps things will look different when the kids are older, if that thought fills you with more enthusiasm.

    2. Nesta*

      As someone who is also risk-averse, I am going to focus on that more than the practical considerations. I have been so risk averse in my life that there are several major areas of my life that are kind of empty… or at least emptier than I would like them to be.

      It is cliche, but the truth is everything is a risk. You can tough out your job situation and find later in life it meant very little to your career trajectory, and you regret it. You could quit and be a stay at home parent and find out it works beautifully, and you never regret it. You could find this is absolutely worth it and gets you exactly where you want to go, so you never even think about that commute anymore.

      You don’t know and there is no way to know. That is terrifying when you are risk averse, but I think for me the antidote has been reminding myself there is not one right answer. It isn’t you do this or your career fails forever and you can never recover. If you didn’t do this, it would set you on a different path. Some doors would close and others would open. It is possible one of those closed doors would have made you happy, but it isn’t the only way to be happy. You might be very secure, happy, and fulfilled going through a door you aren’t even aware of right now.

      To me, this is a helpful way to approach things. When I think with the idea of scarcity, that if I don’t do whatever thing is in front of me right now, I won’t have any other opportunities… I just feel more scared and more risk averse. I want certainty and security even more. But if I tell myself there is no one thing that means I am forever doomed or forever stuck… and I remind myself of the times I have survived changing course (in big and small ways), then I can make it through a little better.

      Additionally, I am trying to accept that there will always be lives we don’t live. Sometimes, I regret decisions with my higher education. I think about the different paths I could have taken and the good it could have done for me. But that is only a story in my mind. I can tell myself that it might have done me good, but there might have been other costs I might not have liked so much. I heard something recently that said all we can do when we see a life unlived is wish it well from the shore as it sails by us, and I like that.

      There are so many different lives we could have lived, but none of them are free of risk or disappointment. We make the best decision that we can according to our actual needs, desires, and values (if you haven’t gotten real with yourself about what those are, doing so will help too!), and we trust that we are doing the best we can. We remember that we are strong and capable, and that if we come across obstacles, we can navigate them because we have always had to; they are inevitable in life.

      I hope this helps and you work out what is best for you :)

      1. Jess R.*

        I love that quote! It’s by Cheryl Strayed, from one of her Dear Sugar columns:

        “I’ll never know and neither will you of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.”

    3. A Simple Narwhal*

      How firm is this in office requirement, and how does your boss feel about it/what’s your relationship like with them? Because my office technically requires us to be in the office 50% of the time, but I’m definitely not close to hitting that. And most of the people I talk to are in closer to 40% of the time. So as far as we can all tell, no one is actually enforcing the in-office requirement. If your office is similar, you might be able to get away with not going in that often while you job hunt. Because I think you should start job hunting.

      It doesn’t mean you’re immediately jumping ship, you’re just seeing what’s out there. You might discover that you can’t find something better than where you’re at and choose to stay (and feel better that it’s your active decision to do so), or you might find something so much better! Fully remote, flexible jobs are out there, it wouldn’t be impossible to find one.

      I’ve been so burnt out at work before that I knew I wouldn’t be able to put a real effort into finding a new job, and I ended up quitting with nothing lined up. It allowed me to heal first and then dedicate the proper energy and effort into finding a good job that was a good fit, and not just the first port in a storm. I don’t know your financial situation, but if it’s feasible you might consider doing that. You say you’re burnt to a crisp and you call your job “fighting through the slog” – you’ll know your situation best but know that it’s perfectly fine to walk away from a bad situation and find a better one.

    4. Nicosloanica*

      Look up Alison’s comment on here about the decision coach looking for another candidate!!

    5. Crossroads*

      Thanks, everyone. This is all really helpful— the comments about risk aversion especially. And I did see that decision coach link and hope to submit something! I had to press pause when it wanted an audio recording since I’m still knee deep in sick toddlers. I’m leaning towards sticking it out in the short term if I can reach an agreement with my boss (who personally doesn’t care about working in office and is very pro flexibility, but is getting pressure from HR to make sure everyone complies). But if it doesn’t work out, freelancing will have to suffice.

  35. Hotdog not dog*

    I’m frustrated that my interview for another position in my current company was canceled. My current team has gone from 8 to 4 people with an increase in our overall workload and it’s just not sustainable. We also have a hiring freeze while the powers that be decide whether to reorganize us, so we’ve been told to expect to be overworked in the meantime. (Our deliverables are based on actual laws, so we’re not able to let anything slide, it’s all priority.) The team I had hoped to move to was told that they absolutely cannot hire anyone from our department because we’re short handed, so now I’m stuck looking outside my firm. I would have preferred to stay where I am since I have a lot of contacts and institutional knowledge, and I enjoy my job, but I’ve been down to the Last Person Left on a team and refuse to go through that again. Why do companies do this? Do they not realize that they’re going to end up pushing out good employees? I’m struggling to see how it makes business sense – I get that it reduces head count, but doesn’t it matter which heads are being reduced? And shouldn’t there be exceptions to a hiring freeze when it comes to compliance?

    1. WellRed*

      Nope, they don’t think that clearly. Instead of keeping you at the company just in a different team, they will lose you totally because your current team is shorthanded. Now, they’ll still be short handed.

      1. Hotdog not dog*

        The last 2 out the door specifically said it was due to the overwork coupled with the very frank announcement that no new team members would be added until at least 2024. We are all looking, so it’s just a matter of time until there’s nobody left.

  36. nope*

    I work for a company that gets its funding from reimbursement from a federal agency. My company is pressuring workers to sign a petition asking for the reimbursement rate to be raised. Is that legal/ethical/allowed?

  37. Duckles*

    Calling any academics– early stages of considering a second career in academia. I know academia has a bad reputation but I don’t really understand why– aside from low pay and constant pressure to get funding, it seems like something I would like (research, teaching). Could anyone elaborate why they’d warn someone away from academia, if you would?

    1. Ranon*

      Not an academic but have family and friends who are- how do you feel about playing politics in a giant bureaucracy? Because that’s a not insignificant part of the deal, assuming you even make it into the field.

      1. Duckles*

        That’s a bit what I’m afraid of– I’m just so over the politics that increase at you get to more senior levels in companies (“Project X makes no sense for our business model but Bill wants to do it and Bill has a lot of clout so you need to make it work so we’re on Bill’s good side”) that I hoped academia might be a bit more rationale, but I have heard politics are a huge thing there too.

        1. Rex Libris*

          My spouse was a professor at a state university for a number of years before bailing to the public nonprofit world. I’m sure institutions vary, but it was a nightmare. It was constant politics. Every department was its own petty kingdom, and they were constantly at odds with each other just on general principle. Your department head wanted you to go in one direction, the tenure committee wanted you to go in another direction, displeasing either risked your employment, the tenure requirements were a constantly moving target based mostly on who’s good side you were on that month etc. etc. Unless you think Game of Thrones is a work environment to aspire to, I personally would avoid it.

          And I should note this was years ago, when tenure track jobs were easier to come by, and you weren’t guaranteed to end up as a less than minimum wage earning adjunct for who knows how long.

    2. Sloanicota*

      I have a lot of friends who went the PhD route and then found it was very hard to get a tenure track job these days. Adjuncting has undercut the job market and that job doesn’t provide enough pay or security. I think they just graduate more PhDs than the field can/will employ humanely. The ones who succeeded were the ones who were able to take ANY tenure track job and were willing to relocate to rural America to do it, without family considerations.

      1. CoffeeIsMyFriend*

        seconding this – hard to get tenure track positions if you want to do research. I’m not sure what the state of research positions are but those typically require you to find your own funding.

        and any one who says oh I’ll just teach at a community College (I realize you aren’t saying that) hasn’t job searched in academia…

      2. fueled by coffee*

        Exactly this. The job market is hyper-competitive and even if you are lucky enough to land a job, you have to go wherever the job is, which might be across the country, in a super high cost-of-living area, in a very remote area, etc.

        Assuming you’re in the United States, a PhD is also not necessarily the best financial decision, depending on your field and background. You should only go to a PhD program that’s funded (meaning you don’t pay tuition, and they give you a stipend in exchange for teaching or working as a research assistant), but stipends are low (~$12,000/year at the low end and ~$40,000 at the high end) and you lose benefits that other jobs sometimes have like 401K matching for the 5-7ish years you’re there. I don’t regret pursuing a PhD, but I was lucky enough to have my student loans from undergrad paid off already, be in grad school in an area with a more reasonable cost of living, and not have a partner/kids who were reliant on my income.

        If you are considering this, and are willing to accept the financial implications, I would look into the typical non-academic jobs that PhDs in your field of interest tend to go into. For example, my understanding is that many STEM PhDs land industry jobs in R&D that pay well and allow them to do research (though not necessarily teach). There are also plenty of non-academic jobs for people with humanities PhDs, but most of them don’t actually require a PhD and they don’t pay as well as, say, Big Pharma might. If you can plan out a reasonable alternative career path that you would be happy with if academia does not work out long term, then sure, go for it. But I think it’s really important to be clear-eyed about the reality of the academic job market and the more than likely chance that you won’t end up as a professor at the end of it.

    3. YNWA*

      I’m faculty. Have been for over 15 years at my current institution. I’ve worked at 4 others prior. Faculty are the bottom of the feeding pool. We’re the last to know what’s coming and the first expected to take on extra burdens.

      It’s not always research and teaching. Sometimes it’s teaching and admin work. Sometimes it’s a little research, a lot of teaching, a lot of admin. Oftentimes, depending on your department, your research is on your own time and not compensated.

      Salaries are not great. Benefits can be pretty good, but annual raises are pretty skint. Some universities can’t match retirement savings. Since the pandemic there’s increasing pressure to be EXTREMELY kind and generous to student situations but that same kindness is not extended to faculty situations (a student’s grandparent dies at the end of the term, you’re expected to give extensions. Your father dies, you get three days bereavement and you’d better keep up on your classes). You don’t really get summers off any more than K-12 faculty do. There’s meetings, trainings, conferences, and a bunch of paperwork that eats away at your time off.

      It’s highly political. My department (Humanities and Communication) had to fight off a full on attack from the Business school because they wanted to teach our classes and thought that they had all the specific skills to do so. It was ugly. There’s still a lot of hard feelings. And that’s at a small school that isn’t constantly looking to cut departments left and right to “save money” i.e. continue to hire in admins at six figure salaries who ultimately are redundant but once they’re there, they’re like ticks and impossible to get rid of.

      But. . .if you like teaching, it’s worth it. I love my students. They’re what keeps me coming back.

    4. recovering academic*

      Aside from the low pay, constant threat of defunding, and ridiculous hours, I found a lot of toxic environments in academia. Unreasonable expectations, poor management, vicious politics, favoritism all abounded in the departments I was familiar with.

    5. Lifelong student*

      Did a bit of a second career in academia. Liked the teaching and hours. Could not stand the fact that holding college students accountable for not doing any work was deemed unacceptable. YMMV

    6. quicksilver*

      From the perspective of someone leaving academia after finishing a PhD: it’s all a house of cards built on extracting ever higher tuition fees from students while cutting pay and benefits to faculty and tutors. There’s effectively a point where “low pay” becomes “no pay” for certain duties because there are so many extra ones piled on with no corresponding compensation — you may like teaching and research, but how do you feel about admin and career counselling? Especially as a PhD or adjunct, you will be expected to take a lot of busy work away from tenured faculty, such as organising seminars and other departmental events. It’s very easy to end up with poor work-life balance because you have so many things to do and without strictly defined hours, you’re expected to be “on” at all times for a lot of them.

      With regard to teaching, be aware that you may not be allowed to uphold your idea of academic standards; if students fail out, the school loses their tuition, so good luck giving anyone lower than a C (…even if plagiarism is involved and the school’s written policy says that plagiarism results in an automatic fail. I was in fact told that my expectations were too high for *MSc* students when I tried to fail one for copy-pasting the entire first paragraph of a Wikipedia article). At the same time, you probably won’t be paid enough for it to be worth spending the time on the kind of extensive constructive feedback that students actually need/deserve, so you’re forced to choose between cutting corners or overworking yourself and effectively reducing your wage. The bottom line is that universities are being run like businesses, with actual pedagogy and knowledge production taking a backseat.

      I was mostly spared from the politics aspect by the pandemic putting us all in WFH mode for most of the duration of my degree, but that’s also a major issue. Especially at a large research-oriented university like mine, individual departments can be so insular that there may be no recourse if one person in a position of power/influence/vitality to operations does something untoward. Case in point: over the course of three years my programme director did and said multiple things to me that were really inappropriate but she was also the DEI contact and effectively ran the department in lieu of the tenured professors who were all focused on their own research and were frequently on sabbatical, and HR may as well have been on another planet. I would have only tanked my reputation by going against her, whereas the way to get a good reputation is by smiling and saying yes to everything that’s asked of you.

      I probably sound bitter, but there was a time not so long ago when I thought academia was something I was actually uniquely suited to — because hey I love research and writing! — and I’m still kind of reeling from the whiplash of what my experience has actually been. I hope things will improve somehow, but as they currently stand, I’d hate to think of someone going in under the same illusions I had.

    7. Spearmint*

      I’m not an academic but my ex is a PhD student and I strongly considered going into academia at one point. I’m going to focus on the negative since that’s what’s you’re asking about. There are positives to academia but you need your eyes wide open about the downsides if you want to go into it.

      The biggest problem is that there are far more PhDs graduating each year than there are good jobs available. By “good jobs” I’m talking about tenure track jobs, yes, but also anything
      that merely has decent pay, benefits, and a guarantee of employment for at least a year (this includes post docs, visiting professorships, and non-tenured lecturer positions). That means everyone else has to work adjunct positions, which have very low pay, usually no benefits, often not full time, no support for research, and are on a per-semester basis. Also, once you get stuck adjuncting for more than a year or two, it’s very unlikely you’ll get a more stable job, no matter how good of a teacher you are. Even top PhD programs will have many graduates who never get a tenure track job. And graduates from outside of the top programs (top 10 – top 25, depending on the field) will be very unlikely to get a tenure track job.

      Another thing to realize is PhD programs are very demanding and have high dropout rates (I’ve heard they’re as high at 40% in some fields). In the lab sciences you’ll be working long hours at the whims of your advisor while juggling courses and research. In all other fields you’ll be expected to do a dissertation on your own with little guidance and try to get papers published as you go. Burnout is rampant. Some people enjoy being PhD students, but it’s hard to know if you’ll be that person going into it.

      And even if you’re lucky enough to get a tenure track job, many of them are not as glamorous as you might think. The research-focused jobs at major universities you’ve heard of do exist, but they’re a minority of tenure track positions. Most are at teaching-focused schools where you’ll be teaching 3-4 courses a semester, most of which will be intro undergraduate courses, and where you’ll have little time or financial support to do research. And most of these will be at regional colleges in undesirable locations where you’ll have ok but not great pay. Oh, and yes, you’ll need to be prepared to move anywhere in the country because the job market is so competitive.

      So basically, there’s a good chance you’ll flame out of your PhD program, and even if you don’t there’s a good chance you won’t find secure employment, and even if you do find secure employment it will probably be teaching-focused and you’ll have no control over what part of the country it’s in.

    8. Princess Peach*

      I’m a tenure track academic, and I like my job. (I’m unionized, FWIW) Here’s my cons & pros list:

      1. Getting the degrees to land a TT position is expensive, and most professors who entered the field within the last 10-15 years are carrying a lot of debt in exchange for an unimpressive salary. Those jobs are also obscenely competitive, and many qualified people aren’t ever able to break in. I know a lot of frustrated, overworked professors and frustrated, underemployed PhD holders.

      2. Adjunct positions are easier to get, but adjuncts are horribly underpaid, often poorly treated, and don’t get any time or funding to do research. Most work other jobs and teach on the side. I’ve seen that at huge universities and small community colleges both. (However, you can often teach at a CC with a Master’s Degree, which is nice. Not everything requires the doctorate)

      3. Politics. Politics everywhere. The exact nature of it varies, and some schools or departments are more supportive than others. Still, departments all compete for increasingly limited money, you’re constantly trying to prove your worth to people really eager to cut budgets, and disgruntled coworkers get a say in your tenure case if you’re TT.

      4. Upper administration tends to have very business-oriented goals that don’t always align with providing a good education or what is best for students. Unsustainably rising tuition costs are only a part of that.

      5. State and national politics also have a major impact on higher ed, and I don’t have high hopes for the future of the academia as a viable career track.

      6. The pressure to publish and constantly churn out innovative, exciting, important, groundbreaking-but-not-too-groundbreaking research is a bit much sometimes. Your achievements are never quite enough, and you’re always expected to have something new in the works.

      Pros –
      A. I like research and teaching, haha. My day-to-day is pretty good most of the time, and it’s really nice to have a job I enjoy, even with the downsides.

      B. My department is supportive and I like my coworkers. It’s worth a lot to me to have a common goal and work with other people who share some traits like intellectual curiosity and belief in the benefits of education. That hasn’t always been the case in other jobs, and I’ve learned it’s something I value quite a bit.

      C. Having worked outside of academia for over a decade, I’m pretty confident in saying every place has irritating internal politics. I like my job well enough that I don’t mind most of the time. Here, I feel like I’m doing a good thing and making a tiny but positive impact. Measuring intellectual output gets irritating because that value can’t always be quantified, but I prefer it to having my value measured by whether or not a CEO got to buy a ski lodge this year.

      D. I really, really enjoy working with students and I still have some naive appreciation for learning & the social good of education. It’s fulfilling to be a part of that despite being labeled a communist brainwasher or seen as an necessarily evil a student needs to get past to eventually get the job they want.

      E. The campus is pretty. I like having a physical work environment that I enjoy.

    9. Nesprin*

      Am an academic. I’d recommend not getting a PhD or going into academia unless you literally cannot imagine doing anything else. Both require a deep level of passion and commitment.

      Research and teaching are great and endlessly enjoyable (and the community of people who do science is a fascinating, wonderful fishbowl with a few turds floating around), and if that was all my job I’d be thrilled. It’s all the other stuff that comes with academia that is rough.

      It’s competitive and the pay is low- on a fundamental level, you’ll be working for a decade on student/postdoc salary for the hope of a professorship somewhere, and even if you get an assistant prof slot, continued funding is not guaranteed. Most of my life is spent on trying to get funding to make sure I keep my trainees fed and my lights on.

      Department politics are exhausting. Especially if you’re not a member of the in group.

      The interaction of academic life with a personal life is also really challenging- the peak years to do the work that’ll get you setup in an assistant professorship are peak childbirth/rearing years as well, not to mention how folks will ask why you got a PhD only to make 43k/yr in one of the most expensive cities in the world.

      Academia does tend to attract all-consumed sorts who will fight to the bitter end on whether NS2 is protumorigenic or antitumorigenic, and whether they get 30″ of lab space or 36″ of lab space, and whether their contributions merit 4th authorship or 5th. (yep, real examples)

      1. escapee*

        Former academic, here to second this: “I’d recommend not getting a PhD or going into academia unless you literally cannot imagine doing anything else.” It’s no longer a reasonable normal career track. It’s for someone who is obsessed and willing to give up everything. And even then, the odds you’ll live your dream are very low, given the job market. One thing that makes me very glad to be out of academia is that I’m no longer training grad students who can’t get jobs. Wanting to be a tenured professor who concentrates on research is like wanting to be a bestselling author or a movie star nowadays – the vast majority of people who want to do it aren’t going to make it.

    10. connie*

      I would think about your field and how it relates to the political climate of the state in which you’d teach. If you are in a state that has adopted anti-DEI legislation for public schools, those laws may say they don’t apply to your research but may cover what you teach and what you say during class discussions. States are also trying to get rid of tenure in state-funded publics, so if you are applying for a tenure-track position, you’d need to think about the, too.

      You haven’t said whether you have the terminal degree in your field. If you have yet to earn one, I’d take a pass honestly.

    11. AFac*

      How do you like middle management? Because in a way, that’s what a TT academic position is. You are responsible for certain tasks, you are responsible for helping people you manage complete certain tasks, you are responsible for working well with peers, and you also need to do a bit of managing up so that the higher ups know you and that your work is important. You also need to keep track of budgets, interact with people who don’t always meet expectations, and accept that decisions will be made that impact you that you do not agree with and there’s nothing you can do about it. And it can be very hard (sometimes impossible) to ‘fire’ people you ‘oversee’.

      For some of us, we’re ok with the various trade offs to do what we like to do. But it doesn’t mean we’re happy about everything.

    12. I have RBF*

      One word: politics

      I don’t mean national party politics, although that can bleed over too (see Florida).

      I mean university politics.

      My last university gig each school was its own little fiefdom, with its own hierarchy. Then the university service area, that I was in, had different politics based on who the director was and how they wanted thing done. Then add it the subtle sexism, despite the DEI and ERG stuff, and the “go along to get along” ethic that made it real easy for senior or longer term employees to be bullies, and it was… A Lot™

      Add in to that the low pay, the moving us out of offices into a crappy open plan off campus, and the pointless in office shit, and it just sucked.

      I’m now back in tech, fully remote, and am doing better.

    13. nameless witness*

      I know this isn’t what you asked for, Duckles, but I’m going to recommend a book. How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low-Wage Nation, by Marc Bousquet. Good luck!

  38. Accounting Certificate?*

    The mention of bookkeeping/accounting certificates has got me thinking. For anyone who’s done one, what did you think of the experience? Has it been worth the money/helped you in getting a job?

    I’m in admin and while I don’t do much accounting-wise in my current job because we have a bookkeeping service, I run into a lot of job listings for roles that would be a step up for me with mostly transferable skills except that they want someone with more accounting/bookkeeping experience. I’m willing to spend the money if the program is worth it in the long term, but I’d love to hear more about it from someone with experience first.

    1. Lifelong student*

      Been a CPA for over 20 years. Not sure what certificates exist other than the CPA license but if there are ones other than specific software training like Quick Books- a general type course it could be useful. There is always a need for people willing and able to handle such matters.

    2. RagingADHD*

      For the type of admin role I was looking for, just having “Certified in QuickBooks Desktop” made me more attractive to recruiters. They didn’t really care what kind of certificate it was. There are short courses on LinkedIn that will give you a certificate of completion, and your first month of LI Learning is free.

      If you want more, you can take a very in-depth (40 hour) course on bookkeeping in Quickbooks for free from Intuit, through their Intuit Academy. It is software specific but also covers a lot of general bookkeeping concepts, knowledge and best practices.

    3. Dancing Otter*

      Are you located where a local community college offers a two-year associate’s degree in bookkeeping/accounting? Is that the sort of certificate you mean? It can be a good way to go from administrative support roles to a first bookkeeping or accounting clerk position.

      From there, if you decide you like it, you can take more classes toward a full accounting degree. (And possibly with tuition reimbursement.) Most corporate accounting jobs don’t require a CPA-type certificate. Even CPA firms employ some non-certified people, depending on the job duties.

      A Certified (or Chartered) Public Accountant or Certified Internal Auditor credential requires not only a grueling exam, but a certain number of college credit hours just to register for the exam. (150, last time I checked) Unless you want to go into auditing or public accounting, they’re not terribly relevant. (I have a CPA, but worked neither audit nor tax. I don’t think it ever benefited me in the least.)

      There’s also an Enrolled Agent credential for tax professionals. A good exam prep course might be enough for that – you can check the IRS website.

  39. New Job New Me*

    Trying to figure out how to set actual boundaries with myself around being “helpful” and overly obsequious at work now that I’m entering a position of more seniority. I was raised in a household where I was required to manage the emotions of my parents and being “helpful” by doing things without being prompted was one of the only was for me to get positive reinforcement. Same with my first corporate job, I was the most junior person and even though I’m a subject matter expert, as the most junior I did a lot of admin, IT, and cleaning.

    But now I’m in a department super professional, competent admin support, custodians, IT professionals, etc. and I’m finding that my knee-jerk reaction is to still volunteer to do or help where maybe I could get away with not doing that. So how do I be strategic about it? I guess part of my issue is that I don’t know how to stand out or prove that I’m competent if I’m not giving 110%, yet these people clearly don’t want that (and one person in my new group said “You know I’m not your boss, right? We’re peers” so clearly I’m being a little over the top).

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      You have to start thinking strategically.

      What is the best use of your limited time and energy to meet your employer’s needs and objectives? Spending an hour helping somebody put together folders for a conference, or practicing the keynote address you’ll be giving at that conference?

      Now, sometimes needs must, and it’s all hands on deck to stuff folders. And sometimes a small amount of unprompted help to people lower in the hierarchy is a great way to build goodwill & camaraderie. But in general, before you start doing something that isn’t specifically your responsibility, ask yourself where that stands vis-a-vis the things that are yours to deal with.

      1. SereneScientist*

        I’m going to second Alton Brown’s Evil Twin (such a great username!), as you get higher up in seniority, your work becomes less of that day to day helping and doing and more about direction and strategy. Indeed, as you supervise more people, you’ll have more hands around to delegate to so you can spend your time wisely.

    2. Generic Name*

      This is such a great question. I was raised the same way, and it’s negatively affecting my work. I agree about thinking strategically. If you volunteer to help, are you doing it to “be nice” or does it align with your overall career goals. Also think about the highest and best use of your time. If you are doing thankless data entry, is there someone lower who could do it, which would free you up to do something only you can do?

    3. De-Lurking For This*

      One thing to think about is that you will get no *professional* credit for all that selfless, helpful, stereotypically women’s work.
      And because it undermines your appearance as a competent, effective, proficient professional at you actual job, it slows down! or prevents!!! promotion.

      What’s going on with female-coded drudge-work at work —
      > women everywhere are unfairly burdened with “non-promotable work”
      — and how to NOT do so much of it, explained in the book _The No Club: Putting a Stop to Women’s Dead-End Work_ by Linda Babcock and others.
      Link in the next reply so this gets through moderation faster.

  40. Sloanicota*

    I could use some help thinking through my next career move when it comes to Generalist vs Specialist. I have observed in myself that I don’t like being in a generalist role. I get overwhelmed easily and start hiding / things start slipping through the cracks; the fact that things pop up at such different scales throws me off. I was doing better as a specialist, where I had a specific scope of work with my own deadlines within my own control – not everything under the sun. My current role started out that way, but more and more random things got added to my plate and suddenly I’m managing a program again. Do you think this happens to me largely because of my recent track record in smaller nonprofits? Is it a nonprofit thing generally, or if I look for roles at larger nonprofits can I prevent it? Are there certain tracks within nonprofit where this is less likely to happen (comms versus development versus programs)?

    1. Joron Twiner*

      Can’t speak to the nonprofit part but I think having to wear many hats is a common thing in smaller organizations. A bigger org will allow you to specialize and stay there.

  41. R*

    I recently found out that my teammate got a promotion. That’s great, I’m happy for him, and it’s not a job I would want anyway. The problem is I found out through a coworker in another department who casually mentioned it in conversation recently. It was officially announced today, and still no one has talked to me about it. Before my coworker said something, I had no idea any of this was happening. I don’t know if I’m supposed to report to him now, if we’re still peers, if he’s a level above me…? I think it’s a supervisor position, but there’s no one left on the team to supervise besides me, so I assume I’ll be reporting to him?

    I feel incredibly disrespected and just like shit in general. I’ve never fit in with the team or company in general, and lately I’ve been excluded from meetings and left out of the loop on things. In fact, the coworker who told me found out in a meeting I wasn’t invited to. Apparently, it was announced there.

    Are they trying to get me to quit? Are they planning to fire me? I thought I was doing a good job, but I guess not.

    I know this means it’s time to move on to another job. I’ve been looking for a while, but I’m not having any success. My confidence is rock bottom right now, so I don’t see how I can do well in an interview. I don’t do well in them already.

    How can I continue to be motivated and do my best in this job? We’re incredibly busy, and I’m already stressed. Since the official announcement this morning, I’ve had trouble concentrating on my work.

    1. Alex*

      It seems to me like there are a whole lot of unverified assumptions going into what is contributing to your low confidence. There could be a ton of explanations for what you are seeing that have nothing to do with you or your work. Have you brought your concerns to your boss? “I heard there was a meeting about pancakes, which I wasn’t invited to. Should I have been? My work on maple syrup is very relevant and I’m concerned I’m missing important info.” You could hear that the meeting was actually to discuss the exploding pancake problem, which actually had nothing to do with syrup.

      1. R*

        Thanks for replying. I know for certain that many of the meetings I’ve been excluded from are directly relevant to my work, and I’ve had trouble completing some of my tasks because I don’t know the information that was shared in them.

        I haven’t talked to my (old?) boss because I’m too embarrassed. My instinctual response when I feel like I’m being bullied is to pretend like I don’t notice it’s happening. How can someone take pleasure in hurting me if I’m not actually hurt? (I know this way of thinking isn’t right, but it’s how I feel, and I don’t know how to change it.) I’m also the only woman on my team and one of only three in the entire department, and I don’t want to seem too delicate or emotional in a department of so many men. I know I should probably just talk to my boss about the change, but I’m having trouble handling my emotions around this.

    2. Irish Teacher*

      Honestly, while this seems like really poor communication and very annoying, I really don’t think it is likely that they are trying to make you quit or planning to fire you or that it is any reason to assume you are doing a poor job.

      It sounds like whoever should be organising the heirarchy and making it clear is doing a poor job but that…does not relate in any way to whether you are doing a good job or not and there is nothing at all here to make you doubt you are doing a good job. Not being invited to a meeting doesn’t imply you aren’t doing a good job. It indicates that either somebody forgot to invite you or that the meeting was about something that wasn’t relevant to you. Or possibly that something shady is going on, but that is probably the least likely option and even then it is likely to be something like they promoted him for reasons that aren’t about his ability (like he’s a friend of somebody). It’s highly unlikely it has anything to do with you.

      1. R*

        Thanks for your reply. I guess there’s more going into it than what I wrote, but I don’t want to share too much. It’s been nearly every meeting for the last few months, and a lot of them are definitely relevant to my work. And like I said, there’s other stuff going on. I also have a history of being bullied by exclusion at work (and really, back into early childhood), so I guess that plays into my feelings and thoughts too. I don’t really mind that my teammate got the promotion. Even if they had offered it to me, I might have said no thank you. I’m just really hurt that there didn’t even bother to tell me.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          They definitely should have told you, if only for practical reasons.

          My immediate thought is that they don’t realise you weren’t interested and that they thought both of you would be good choices for the promotion and are just really bad at having difficult conversations and are afraid you’ll be disappointed he was chosen so…they are putting off telling you.

          I am probably wrong on that one, as it would be really poor management on their part and pretty ridiculous to worry about you being offended without even checking whether you were interested in the role firstly.

          I think it is really understandable that you would be hurt, both by being excluded from meetings and the way you found out about the promotion. I think anybody would be.

          But it sounds very much like the problem is with them and nothing to do with how good you are at your job.

        2. Random Academic Cog*

          When I hear “a history of being bullied” that stretches far back across multiple contexts involving different people, I immediately wonder if counseling would be beneficial. It’s common to bullied in random environments, but if there’s a pattern and the only thing in common is you, it might help to get some objective feedback in case there’s something you could be doing differently. Best of luck.

          1. R*

            Yeah, I recognize the pattern and know the problem is me. I’ve always been “different.” In fact, one of my old bosses used to tell me all the time I’m weird, but it’s just who I am, and I can’t change it. I’ve spent years in counseling, but it hasn’t helped.

    3. Qwerty*

      It is really common for information to get rolled out in stages
      – Soft roll outs happen before the big announcements. Sometimes it is on purpose – like when talking with decision makers and needing them to know the change is coming. Sometimes it is accidental – maybe someone referenced in a meeting and they had to do a mini-announcement, maybe the meeting shifted from A to B and the info became relevant, maybe the official announcement was supposed to go out yesterday but Boss got delayed in sending it.
      – Official announcement gets sent out
      – Details regarding how the promotion affects everyone get communicated in the next 1×1 following the promotion. Ideally OldBoss would talk through the transition in your next 1×1, then NewSupervisor would start scheduling 1x1s with you.

      Your next move – Ask your boss for more info! But you can’t be defensive – if you go in with your current mood there is a good chance you’ll self sabotage. Ask open questions – “Hey, it sounds like Jake’s new position is a supervisor, will that affect my reporting structure? Can we talk through what impact, if any, this will have on my workflow?”

      Do you wish you’d been offered the promotion? Take a moment to reflect on that. You say you wouldn’t have wanted it, but sometimes we like to have had the opportunity. That’s ok if you feel that way! But process those emotions separately from the others.

      How has your boss responded when you tell him you aren’t being invited to relevant meetings? I think that’s a separate issue, but could also explain why you didn’t realize there was a change coming because you don’t have some of the bigger picture pieces. Could it be a good thing if you ended up reporting to PotentialSupervisor? Maybe he can be more proactive about resolving being out of the loop.

  42. Snake Boots*

    Am I being too harsh with my intern? I recently had a talk with him about being 1.5 hours late to an event and how that is not okay (I first asked what happened and he said that he got distracted), and I also had to talk to him about taking responsibility for his projects. If I give him a project, he will not do anything without me first asking him to do each specific task.

    I know that he is learning, so a few months ago I sat him down and had a similar conversation and asked him what kind of structure he would need to be successful. I gave specific examples of me providing timelines, us working together to develop checklists, having weekly meetings to go over what was done, what needed to be done, and what questions he still had. He refused all of those options, saying that he didn’t need them.

    Well, with this newest project it was the same thing all over again–two weeks before I ask about how things are going, he says fine, I ask what’s been done, he hems and haws and it is basically nothing. I sat him down and said that his performance is not adequate and if he doesn’t improve in the next few months (providing examples of what improvement looks like), I will be very hesitant to recommend him to other employers. He now won’t look at me and I’ve noticed him whispering with other interns who then all glare at me.

    I think I was fair and supportive. I was direct, but in my opinion not harsh. However, am I missing something? What else can I be doing to better support him?

    1. ThatGirl*

      Given where you’re at, I do not think you’re being too harsh.

      I do think it might have been helpful to build in the extra support (weekly meetings, etc) in the beginning, and I would probably not have given him a say in scheduling regular meetings, etc. I would also ask him directly what he needs to get started successfully.

      1. Snake Boots*

        Yeah, normally I do start with weekly meetings but I inherited him after he’d already been here a few months (his previous supervisor left, so I was the one who stepped to supervise him). His old boss hadn’t done weekly meetings, and I really regret not starting them once we began working together. It is definitely a lesson learned.

        1. ThatGirl*

          At a wild guess, he might have been used to being largely unsupervised, assumed someone would tell him if something *really* needed to be done, or just has problems motivating himself to get going. I don’t think it’s 100% too late to get him back on track, but it really depends on how much hand-holding and talking to him you want to do – and I totally understand why you’re about fed up.

    2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Can you get rid of him?
      As well as being a useless time suck who refuses improvement suggestions, he is turning the other interns against you – they shouldn’t get the idea that obvious whispering & glaring at one’s supervisor is tolerated at a normal workplace.

      1. Rex Libris*

        I’d also send them packing, assuming you have the authority to do so. Going on the data you’ve shared, you have someone who A) Thinks it’s okay to be an hour and a half late because they were “distracted.” B) Resists your attempts to address their performance and C) Is involving the other interns in their toxicity and resentment.

        All of this would get even an otherwise high performing individual fired in any sane workplace.

    3. Nesta*

      I think you are over-correcting here and trying to be too supportive. You tried to support him, and he refused all examples of support and provided no other ideas. He did not ask any questions. He does not do the work that is assigned to him without direct prompting about each and every step. He avoids you after receiving feedback. He is now, seemingly, spreading gossip about you to other interns who believe his tales.

      I would report him to his supervisor at the university, if this is a uni-based internship, and remove him from the intern pool if at all possible.

      Not everyone person is in need of support, though you are kind to want to provide it! It sounds like he just doesn’t belong in this environment and has a really poor attitude and work ethic.

    4. Turingtested*

      I’ve worked with a lot of young people and have about a 50% success rate with giving them a speech about how x will help at this job, y will help at any job, and that’s why I’m so pushy on y. It’s not to punish, it’s to help you succeed in a variety of environments.

  43. Rusty Tech Manager*

    New company uses Teams and Outlook – help with tips?? I have generally used Slack for IM and Teams just feels…messy? unintuitive? My coworkers agree but haven’t found efficient/effective workflows either. Outlook has been redesigned since I last used it and I swear I can’t find anything. I’m stuck in a ” don’t know what I don’t know” scenario and online tutorials show only the simplest steps or are out of date.

    If it is relevant, I mostly use the app version of each program. Our license is for office 365 so I think the apps have less functionality that the full desktop program (at least that is how Word functions)

    1. WellRed*

      I agree with your assessment as a former Slack user. But it gets easier. Outlook however will never not suck for me. Just wanted to say solidarity!

    2. Enbious*

      Have to agree with you that Teams drives me crazy. My biggest QOL suggestion: Settings-> Notifications-> Custom-> Set “Likes and Reactions” to OFF. I do not need a sound and a pop-up and a big red number every time someone just hits a Thumbs-Up!

      1. Hlao-roo*

        Also, you can right click a thread (or maybe click the “…”–not sure how it looks on Office365) and mute it on Teams. Particularly useful if you’re in big meetings where everyone sends a “thank you!” message at the end.

    3. Just here for the scripts*

      There are piles of trainings and support at support.office.com—it’s usually free for folks with work licenses…and if you have full client/app rather than just the web-based version, both Outlook and teams can go on turbo-drive!

      Personally I way prefer teams to almost anything else because I can share screenshots and other image-based communications not just text/words.

      1. Duckles*

        I’m not understanding your final comment since Slack is very intuitive for sharing content (photos, videos, etc)?

    4. Duckles*

      Agreed that Teams is garbage compared to Slack, so I don’t have a ton of tips there unfortunately (::currently cries in webex::). I actually don’t hate outlook (mail, anyway, the calender is a pain); I like that
      – it’s very easy to set rules, so you can divert messages to different folders, etc or color code them if it’s helpful
      – I love the “find related messages” feature. Make sure you’ve turned on the option to group by conversation if you haven’t already too.
      -It’s easy to flag tasks, and you can drop flags in onenote that sync so all your tasks are in the same place (I forward them all to asana and work from there).
      -Use the “remind me” feature in mail if there’s something you need to follow up on

    5. Khatul Madame*

      I love it when tech workers whinge and moan about basic office tools. We (usually) don’t have a choice in what the employer provides, so what’s the point in complaining? Especially as a new employee, coming in and announcing how much better things worked at your old workplace is not the best look for you – and I say this while being fully aware of Teams’ drawbacks compared to other IM tools.
      Start a Teams group chat to share ways to make the platform work for you and links to the Office knowledge base. It’s really not that bad.

    6. RagingADHD*

      Personally, I like Outlook. There are so many possible tips that it would be helpful to know what you’re trying to do. If it’s just getting used to the interface, that will come with time.

    7. Roland*

      Not sure what you mean by app vs desktop – are you using it through a web browser or a program installed on your computer? Either way, you should be able to use the other one as well, unless they have a very funky license. You may need IT’s help in how to set up server settings etc but office 365 doesn’t mean you have less functionality or fewer choices. You might just have a weird IT department if they say you can’t do one of the two.

  44. Big Sigh*

    My company had layoffs this week, and they spared me by shuffling me to a different department and role. Unfortunately, it’s a terrible fit for my experience / skills / interests. Not to mention it involves taking on higher-level, management type work that I had so far been able to push back on. (I’m not at a place in my life or career where I want to move up. I want to stay a senior IC but no longer think that’s going to be possible here.) So my timeline for an exit strategy has accelerated! But I’m just now getting past a Series of Unfortunate Events in my life and was excited to reengage with my life and friends this summer — that’s where I wanted my energy to go, not to learning a new job or finding a different one. I’m a low energy (& ND) person, I don’t have a lot of spoons and am unhappy I will have to spend so many of them on this.

    How do you keep your head up at work when just thinking about it makes you tired?

    1. Goddess47*

      If you have planned PTO, take it! You’re entitled to your time off.

      And do the basic ‘new manager’ technique of watching and listening. Especially since this is new, unless you know different, assume the folk you’re working with have a reasonable workflow in place. Talk to the folk in this area one-on-one and see what they have to say, suggest, and what do they hate?

      Figure out what is required in your new position and what’s nice and maybe can slide until you find those spoons (or maybe a spork!). Talk to your supervisor about their expectations and get them to hone in on what’s required versus what’s nice-to-do. Paring the job back to the basics hopefully will make it more manageable.

      Good luck!

    2. Cat*

      I’m in kind of a similar situation and I’m struggling to find the energy to job search on top of my current work. I’ll second Goddess47s pto suggestion bc I have just not found it to be possible to stack job hunting on top of my job changes.

      Outside of work I’ve also started watching an episode of a show I haven’t seen before once a week as kind of a motivator each week. I don’t think it’s super helpful in giving me the energy to get stuff done but it gives me something to look forward to and keeps my mood up.

  45. Not my circus, not my monkeys*

    Say my boss asks for my feedback on the work a coworker is doing. It might not be glowing feedback, and the boss may also speak with this coworker about their work quality. Said coworker will probably, out of displeasure, also tell one or two coworkers about their discussion with the boss. Once it gets back around to me (because it probably will, and trust that I do not go looking for it), what is a way for me to respond to coworker that makes it clear they should keep that discussion with the boss, but also, that I wish to continue having a friendly, non-gossipy, functional working relationship with everyone involved?

    1. Goddess47*

      Allison would have a better script…

      “That’s between co-worker and boss.” Said with a shrug and calmly hopefully implies you’re not involved.

      “Why are you telling me that?” is always a good conversation stopper. And especially if the ‘pass the secret’ thing has happened and what you’re being told is different from what you know has happened.

      “Then you talk to boss, I can’t do anything.” is another possible option.

      Good luck!

  46. Non-profit rule change*

    In January, I gave six months notice to a nonprofit I have been a volunteer with for the past ten years. I left because the national office (there are local chapters across the country) hired a new director and she did a 180 and decided to make a discriminatory policy against trans women receiving financial support from the non-profit. It’s a sad circumstance because we’ve openly helped trans women (and all women) for a decade or more and the local chapters (if they are to be a part of the national network) don’t have the option to decide which rules they can and can’t abide by. The lawyers at the national level have shared that the Supreme Court upholds the ability for a non-profit to “make rules” (cough *discriminate*) about who they will serve or help.

    Now, I’m officially out (as per my notice); but I discovered the head of my local chapter hasn’t shared this with anyone else and didn’t find a replacement because they were hoping the rules would either change or I’d change my mind.

    When others contact me and I let them know I’m not affiliated with the local non-profit anymore (which has been shocking people because I was a beneficiary of the non-profit as a young person and an outspoken advocate prior to the rule change) what is the best long term way to share my reasoning? I’m cis and not concerned about my safety. But I do live in a part of the US that has been trying to implement discriminatory and dangerous policies and legislation. And I’m increasingly aware that some of the people around me…might actually be awful human beings?

    Anyone have any good wording that is direct but professional; and a little emotionally detached? I don’t want to sugarcoat my reasoning; but I don’t want to invite debate or argument either.

    1. EMP*

      If you want to be honest, maybe something like “I’m grateful for my time with/help from Nonprofit, but the recent decision to exclude trans women from our services was incompatible with my values and I decided to move on”

      1. Hlao-roo*

        I like this wording! I can’t think of a way to phrase it better, so I just want to add:

        (1) I’m sorry the non-profit made this policy change and

        (2) thank you for leaving and telling people why you left

  47. VLookupsAreMyLife*

    TLDR: addressing rudeness from a colleague

    One of my employees forwarded me a message they received from a colleague in another department that they found to be rude & condescending. I agree and think it’s worth addressing with this person, but I’m debating on the best approach. For example, do I reply in writing since that’s how the message was sent? I *LOATHE* phone calls, but I’m wondering if that would be the better way to handle this? Or, maybe a Teams chat?

    Also, I’m debating on addressing it directly vs going to their manager and having them address it. I see pros & cons to both approaches. Thoughts?

    Add’l context – my team has historically been on the receiving end of poor treatment by others, unchecked. One of my goals as their new manager is to ensure they are treated with respect. While I won’t necessarily address every single instance, I have determined this is an appropriate opportunity to engage. I do not manage the person who sent the rude message, but I am at peer-level with their manager.

    1. Enbious*

      If you trust that the rude employee’s manager would handle it appropriately, I would definitely go that route and ask them to address it with the employee. I can imagine that if I was the rude employee and someone else’s manager tried to talk to me about my tone, I might not be as receptive (I might think “this person doesn’t understand my job, they don’t realize that I was actually right to make that request even if I was a little too blunt when I did it” etc etc). But if MY manager came and told me that I needed to change my tone with another department going forward, I would definitely take that feedback to heart.

    2. WellRed*

      If you’re not their manager, you need to address it with their manager. Given the larger context, I’d forward the email to that manager and ask for a meeting to discuss the poor treatment of your team and what can you all do to create a better working relationship.

    3. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Forward the message to their manager with the comment that you found it rude and request they address this with their employee.

      It would be over-stepping to address it with RudeBugger directly and might additionally damage relations with their manager.

      Also, addressing the manager could prompt her to remind all her reports about professional courtesy, which would help you more.

    4. Qwerty*

      Meet with their manager and let them handle their direct report.

      Sensitive items deserve verbal conversations. There is just too much that gets lost over text and there is a tendency to talk *at* someone rather than have a conversation *with* them

    5. Random Academic Cog*

      1) Take it to the manager. Or even take it up the ladder to get senior leadership involved. Possibly have a managers meeting with all your peers if that would cover all or most of the problematic personnel. You could even start with a general email explaining the problem (unprofessional behavior) and the new expectation (respectful communication from everyone).

      2) Address it as part of a pattern of behavior across multiple individuals and/or departments and use this as a specific example (and any others, especially recent) without necessarily naming names.

      If this has been widespread and “acceptable” until now, I don’t know that it’s entirely fair to single out one lower-level individual without putting everyone on notice first.

  48. EJane*

    This is a weird one, I think. Lots of very specific problems.

    I work for a health related agency doing patient-facing work where my pay is based on the number of hours I can bill to insurance.
    In my contract that I signed, and I screwed up here by not having a lawyer review it first, I’ll own it, the pay was stipulated as being half due the following month, like a normal monthly pay period, and half paid out when insurance reimburses the agency.
    The problem is a. There’s no time limit, I.e. it’s when insurance reimburses, period, not when insurance reimburses or after four months, whichever comes sooner, and b. The division of pay means that my first two or three paychecks are not enough to live on. These are also monthly paychecks that are paid out mid-month, aka after rent is due.

    My issue is not with the overall pay, that is very fair, even when you take into account hours spent working outside of billable time. But HALF pay is well under median household income in our area.

    There are a couple problems: we don’t start working full-time, our schedule builds up as we work with office staff to book clients. In terms of work life balance, this slow build is VERY necessary. In terms of pay, it’s devastating.
    This is very much a situation where, once things get going, it’s fine, but for people who are starting out and living paycheck to paycheck, it simply isn’t doable. My paycheck for the month of May was pocket money, and my paycheck for the month of June will be barely enough to cover my rent, and just my rent. If my mom wasn’t fully supporting me, I would be facing evictiom next month.

    I’m aware that this issue with waiting on insurance reimbursement sans time limit is questionably legal, because we are full W-4 employees, not contractors. I don’t want to come at this from a legal angle, because I just spent six months unemployed after one of the most traumatic working situations I have ever been in, and I just don’t have it in me to risk animosity.
    I also ADORE this job.

    I genuinely don’t think that the agency’s founder realizes how devastating this is for people starting out, because if you’re working a full caseload and have even a third of your outstanding reimbursements rolling in each month, then it’s more than fine. I’m basically looking for feedback, and ideas that I can bring to management for how to renegotiate this in a way that supports new employees.

    1. Less Bread More Taxes*

      This is insane. If I’m understanding correctly, if it takes insurance 6 months to reimburse, you get paid 6 months late? What happens is insurance doesn’t pay out for some reason? My point is, if legally they have to pay you (which obviously they do), why isn’t the agency covering that half and then keeping the reimbursement themselves? That’s where I’d start.

    2. ferrina*

      Post on Glassdoor. Include the good parts as well as the salary struggles. That can be really helpful for anyone coming in. A lot of companies also monitor their Glassdoor reviews, so that can also send a message that way. If you really want to escalate it, call a news outlet- this is a really interesting practice, and I could imagine a health journalist being really interested in this.

      Honestly, it sounds like you’re so new you may not be able to renegotiate it with management. It sounds like this is their standard practice and it’s working for them, so they don’t have incentive to change it. You’ll have more leverage as your case load ramps up and you become more indispensable, or when you’re willing to walk away over this. Right now your leverage is really limited.

      Good luck!

      1. EJane*

        The good news is that this is a recent change, so pushback on how much it’s NOT working is actually possibly effective. I know I’m not the only one; there’s one other current employee who’s considering leaving over it, and a new employee coming in who will absolutely struggle.

    3. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      You could raise the question to your state’s DOL wage and hours division. They’ll do the research and determination for you once you raise the question.

      1. Llellayena*

        I would second going quietly to DOL. It sounds like this violates both state laws on how soon you need to be paid AND possibly minimum wage standards for the period where you’re just starting up. It’s also discriminating against people who don’t have savings/assistance to fall back on which is disproportionate to race. But if you don’t want to affect your job, staying annonymous is useful.

        An alternate would be to bring it up to someone who is NOT management but who has capital to spend and might be willing to push the issue. Approach it as “hey, I’m having this issue, have you had to worry about this?” and it shouldn’t come across as complaining.

    4. Ama*

      Do you have to give them the actual plan for action, or can you just point out how much of a hardship this will be for some people? Many years ago I got a promotion at a job and wasn’t told until the month promotion was effective that the promotion moved me from a biweekly paycheck to a monthly paycheck — and because of when the monthly payroll was cut I had to go six full weeks between paychecks (I was already in week two of that period when I was told I wouldn’t get paid again for a month).

      I was okay because I happened to have quite a bit of savings at the time, but I made sure to point out to my boss that that would NOT have been okay for a lot of people (the office was based in a very high cost of living area where most people pay more than 50% of their monthly income in rent), and she agreed with me that she would make a note to HR that they needed to tell people when the promotion was offered what the payment ramifications would be so they could plan.

  49. Oenophile*

    It’s well known in my office that I have a good knowledge of wines and spirits. It’s a genuine hobby, not just a “I really like a drink after work”- I volunteer on the board of a local alcoholic drinks producer, am studying for a qualification in the area, and regularly visit vineyards and attend wine tastings in my free time. I’m often asked for recommendations for wines/ spirits/ bars, and I am always more than happy to advise- it gives me a huge amount of pleasure to share this knowledge!
    The issue is that my grandboss finds it really funny to joke about this, and I’m really worried that some day he’s going to make a joke in front of someone who doesn’t have the context that this is a genuine hobby and not a problem. For context, he’s called me a “wino” (okayyy but not really great) and a “proto-alcoholic” (so not okay!!) in work social settings previously (he also makes other somewhat blue jokes about others too, so this is not just something he does to/ about me). What language can I use the next time he says something like this to get him to stop making these jokes?!

    1. Sloanicota*

      Oh yeah that’s … not especially funny. Proto-alcoholic isn’t really a good natured joke, that’s fairly direct IMO.

    2. EMP*

      YIKES!! I don’t know if you can get it to stop, but hopefully you can call it out in a way that makes it clear to observers he’s off base.

      “That’s a bad joke, , I’m actually training to be a sommelier in my spare time.”
      “I don’t know why you’d joke like that, I serve on the board at [producer] and it’s a position I take seriously”

      Or just “Wow, please don’t call me that” if you’re comfortable being more confrontational/direct with him.

    3. ferrina*

      Take him seriously.
      “Are you concerned about me? Is there something that we should talk about?” Say it earnestly and with deep concern.
      When he back-pedals, say seriously “Alcoholism is a serious issue. If you have any concerns, I definitely want to hear them. And of course, I don’t want to trigger or alienate anyone who is struggling with addiction or has a loved one struggling with addiction.”

      Do this several times, each time completely serious and solemn. It’s okay if you get a reputation as the person who sounds like a public service message. If your boss doesn’t internalize what you’re saying (he probably won’t) he’ll be disincentivized from telling these jokes because he gets a boring reaction from you.

      1. SereneScientist*

        Seconding this approach! Your boss may not realize exactly what he’s implying with these jokes, especially if you have a fairly collegial relationship to begin with.

      2. Oenophile*

        Oh I actually love this!!! I think he’d be very flustered by it and it would actually make him think. Thank you for the suggestion!

    4. ecnaseener*

      Maybe a sort of wry “I know you don’t really think all sommeliers are alcoholic!”

    5. Enbious*

      My mind immediately went to the video of Dakota Johnson saying, “That’s not the truth, Ellen.” That’s the energy you should bring to these comments when it happens in the moment!

      But if you are comfortable doing so I would suggest talking to him about it privately before just trying to quash it in the moment. Phrase it like you’re concerned about how it makes him look rather than how it makes you look (like “Alcohol addiction is a serious medical condition and I don’t want either of us to look unsympathetic or get in any trouble for joking around about it at work.”). I think that would make it harder for him to brush you aside as being too sensitive or worrying too much.

      Since you said he jokes about lots of people like this, you could also suggest that he pivot into a different kind of joke for you — like a “wine-nerd” instead of a “wino” and a “walking alcohol encyclopedia” instead of a “proto-alcoholic” — so you sound more like a knowledgeable expert rather than someone struggling with addiction.

      1. Oenophile*

        These are great ideas!! I definitely think I could bring it up the following day if (when?) it happens again, and phrase it that way. Thank you, really helpful!

  50. Imposter*

    After 9 months as a temp, the company i was temping at signed me on as a permanent employee, but due to bureaucratic structures, my direct supervisor and several coworkers had to go to bat for me.
    Another thing to know is that this job came after a decade-long period of struggling financially, developing several mental health issues (which i am currently only in the process of adressing), periods of starving, and overall sense that any misstep might result in me crashing.
    So now anytime I make a slightly bigger mistake at work, I spiral with guilt. How do i get out of this?

    1. Library Person*

      For me it was therapy. And I’m still working on it (I had one of those moments last night, in fact). But also recognizing the guilt spiral is really helpful. Also, one question to ask yourself I learned from my therapist is “is this a rational thought?” I once had a really big spiral and was able to work myself out of it by asking myself that and writing down my answers in a notebook.

    2. ferrina*

      This is so, so normal. When you’re transitioning from a long period of instability to a position of stability, it’s going to feel weird. Instability is familiar; stability is not. Your brain synapses are very well practiced in focusing on survival; anticipating things going wrong was a way of protecting yourself. Now you are moving to a place where survival will be easier, so the habit of thinking things will go wrong is now working against you. That guilt is your brain trying to protect you, but in a maladapted way.

      Some of the things that helped me:
      -Keeping a nightly journal of all the things I did right that day. It can be little or big. The goal is to refocus your brain from “what could go wrong” to “what happened”. You’re counterbalancing your brain’s over-attention to wrongness with a dedicated focus on rightness.
      -Listen to the smart people around you. When your focuses on fear, you’re inadvertently doing a disservice to the people around you. They are less concerned about the mistake and more concerned about what you learned from it. I found it helpful to refocus my efforts as doing right by my coworkers by listening and moving forward with them.
      -Leaning into the discomfort. My brain is going to want to push me towards the familiar, but when the familiar things are survival-based/chaotic/dangerous, you don’t want to go back to that. Things that feel good will also feel uncomfortable because they are unfamiliar. Be in touch with yourself to ask “why am I feeling uncomfortable? is this dangerous, or is it unfamiliar?”
      -Keep working on that health/mental health stuff. Anything that your body (including brain) is going through will wear on you, and it will be nice to have that stuff in a good place. Don’t set it aside.
      -Maybe look up cPTSD? What you’re describing can be a symptom of PTSD; even for folks that don’t have cPTSD, there’s some great resources around how to address things that are common symptoms of cPTSD (like fear/guilt spirals)

      Good luck! If you want them, here’s some hugs!

    3. Hlao-roo*

      One piece of reframing around mistakes:

      Everyone makes them. What’s important is how you handle them. Own up as soon as possible, do what you can to fix it, and then (if applicable) change the process to minimize the chance of making the same mistake in the future. Usually, the sooner you realize a mistake has been made and start to fix it, the easier it is to fix and the less damage has been done.

      I have to remind myself of this regularly, because my first impulse when I realize I made a mistake is a shame-driven “cover it up, no one can ever know!!!” So I use the above paragraph to talk myself out of it.

  51. Which way do I go?*

    I have to opportunity to work part time for an engineer company either as an employee or as a 1099 contract labor. I don’t need health benefits since I’m a government retiree so I’m not sure which way to go. So far the only advantage I see is as an employee don’t have to keep up with taxes and do invoices etc. but how much work is that really? Anyone who has done this before what do you recommend? Pluses and minuses to either option?

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Depending on how much money is involved, if you’re a 1099 employee you will need to file taxes quarterly, not annually. IRS website should have rules, and maybe a calculator.

    2. A Simple Narwhal*

      Are there other benefits to being an employee vs a contractor? Such as earning sick time/PTO, or would you have to take it unpaid as a contractor? I know that employees at my company also get other benefits that contractors don’t, such as a transportation stipend, discount on our phone plans, money back on gym memberships, etc, I’m not sure if things like that would be at play, and maybe those extra benefits aren’t available to part-timers, just something to consider!

    3. Lifelong student*

      If the position fits the standards set by the government to determine if one is a contractor or employee, the company cannot chose one or the other. There are multiple items in the list- mostly about the level of control over work, etc. Remember, contractors also pay both sides of social security.

    4. Dancing Otter*

      TLDR: look at the money, but IRS rules may decide for you.

      Invoicing doesn’t have to be onerous. You can set up a form in a spreadsheet, or use an upgraded version of Quicken. Dropping in your hours worked is no worse than filling out a timesheet. Following up when they don’t pay the invoice can be a pain: you’re not covered by wage & hour laws about timely payment. You do need a clear understanding upfront about invoice terms.

      But think hard about the tax differences. Not only do you have to remember to make estimated tax payments, but you will be responsible for the employer’s share of payroll taxes. Being retired doesn’t exempt you from paying Social Security and Medicare. It adds up fast. That’s why contractors try to bill so much higher per hour than their hourly rate as employees.

      1099 contractors are not covered by other Labor department protections, either. You want disability coverage? Buy the insurance yourself – and it can be expensive. No Workers Comp, and no unemployment when they decide to let you go.

      On the other hand, as a contractor you can file schedule C and deduct expenses that aren’t deductible for employees.

      Having said all that, the IRS has really firm rules about what is or is not an employee versus an independent contractor. You should go over them yourself, because a lot of companies are … casual, shall we say, about the distinction.

    5. Alianora*

      As an employee who doesn’t need health benefits, you could potentially negotiate a monthly stipend in exchange for waiving healthcare. At my job, we’ll do that if the employee requests it, but we don’t specifically offer it.

      I would personally rather be a regular employee if the hours are the same because it seems simpler, you potentially get PTO and other benefits, and the company is more committed to keeping you around, but I suppose there is a degree of flexibility that comes with being a contractor.

  52. I'm an immigrant, not an ex-pat*

    For the person from last Saturday’s open thread who was asking about moving to Europe…

    I got my contracts through networking. My husband had a lot of college friends who worked in IT. The first contract was small – 6 weeks of work at a software startup. One of his friend’s suggested me for the job. The second one was 3 months at a mid-sized software company to work on a particular guide — one of his friends suggested that I apply because she worked at a related company that shared office space with this company. And then the company she worked with ended up having a full-time opening crop up near the end of my contract.

    To give time frames – I arrived in April, got the 6-week contract in July, and the 3 month contract in October/November. I started the full-time job in March of the next year.

    But after I got that first full-time job, I had no further problems getting jobs even after a couple of redundancies. It can feel really frustrating and like you’ll never find a job, but my experience is that by building up some in-country experience, I made it clear that I lived here and was going to be staying.

    Definitely if you can find a degree or certification or experience in a field that will make you more employable, then by all means, go for it.

    Good luck – moving to Ireland was one of the best things we did.

  53. JustaTech*

    How much experience do you really need?

    I found a job opening I think I would be great at, except that it asks for 3 years experience “leading a team”. I’ve never lead a team (or been a manager), because my current company is pretty small.
    I have done a ton of training of new folks, and been the lead on projects, but I haven’t done any real people managing (or formal project management).
    Should I try to talk up my training work and other things I do at work that show leadership in my cover letter? Or is this one of those things that’s not possible to wiggle around?

    1. Sloanicota*

      If it were me I’d figure it can’t hurt to apply, but I wouldn’t expect to be very competitive and wouldn’t get my hopes up. If the application was very burdensome it might be the one I’d jettison. In your cover letter, try to play up any managerial experience you do have. The reason I’d think this is that being a manager is not a super hard-to-find type experience so I’d assume some of my competition has lead a team officially, and they’re going to look like better candidates than me. But I’d still try – you never know!

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      When you were the lead on projects, did you assign work to other people, deal with problems, and coordinate integrating all their work together? If so, then congratulations, you lead a team.

      “Team” can be ad hoc or permanent.

    3. ferrina*

      Apply, but know that this is a big stretch.

      The “3 years” is often code for “we want someone that’s already gone through the learning curve and don’t have time/interest to teach you how to do this”. You don’t meet that criteria, so unless you have some other compelling experience, you’re not likely to get an interview. That said, if it’s something you’re interested in, just apply- you’re close enough that there might be some other experience that makes you stick out to them. You never know what random skill/experience will be the one that gets you noticed, and you’ll only lose an hour in applying.

      Training and team leading are completely different. A good trainer has no correlation with a good manager- training is a sprint, managing is a long distance swim. Yes, there is some overlap, but you’re looking at different objectives in different time periods. Training is always a nice thing to have on a resume, but it’s one bullet point, not a focus.

      Project leads is great, especially if you were delegating work and giving feedback. Anything where you were in charge of people is helpful. A lot of project leading is informal, so unless you were acting under someone else’s direction, this is good experience to highlight.
      Good luck!

    4. Rex Libris*

      I’m sure it depends on the company, but realistically, if you had no supervisory experience and were applying for a role that required three years of it, our HR dept. wouldn’t pass your resume along to the hiring manager.

    5. Khatul Madame*

      In matrixed environments people managers often cannot claim to be leading a team – they just supervise a bunch of people who may or may not work together on projects.
      Leading a team is not the same as people management. If you were a project lead, you led a project team (literally the job requirement), unless they were solo projects for the entire duration.
      Leading a project team normally includes managing workload, giving feedback, developing people, and being a conduit between the team and management. Quite often team leads interview candidates and contribute to job descriptions. If you did any of these things, use them to shore up your claim of team lead experience.

    6. Qwerty*

      Apply anyway and during interviews give an accurate depiction of what it meant to be the lead on projects / how much experience you have with that.

      Leading can mean a variety of things to a variety of people. If this is for a manager position, it probably isn’t a good fit. If it is for a senior IC position that has to lead projects, then you might have relevant experience.

      I’m guessing this doesn’t match your skills, but I also don’t want you to get caught up on technicalities and potentially sell yourself short if your time leading projects is relevant. Just don’t oversell yourself, because you don’t want to be in a position where you get hired and they need someone with more/different experience than what you have.

  54. Library Person*

    Any library people here? We’re trying to better coordinate and streamline our library programs in our branch and what it looks like we may need is almost like a ticketing system. We work in government so there is a process to everything. Any suggestions for something free or that we might have with our Microsoft subscription already?

    Also, while a separate question, relevant: if you are a librarian (in the US), especially at a public library, we’re you trained on programming at all in library school? I’m a paraprofessional and I’m considering it, but honestly because my passion falls closer to programming, I’m still torn about whether it’s the best path for me.

    1. Kate B.*

      Do you mean programming in the computer programming sense (help desk tickets because something is wrong in the ILS or on the website, learning to write code) or programming in the library sense (tickets to make sure a reasonable number of people attend a program, learning how to plan and present a program)?

    2. Kimmy Schmidt*

      By programming, I’m assuming you mean events planning rather than computer languages. I took a class on youth programming in library school. I entered library school planning to become a children’s librarian but now I work with “older children” in academia. I loved my programming class, and it was definitely one of the most transferable skills I took away from library school. We learned about things like grant writing, organization, multi-level communication and organizing, public speaking, outreach, and assessment.

    3. Enbious*

      I would say most of the classes for my library degree at least somewhat involved & discussed planning programs/events. Like I had a “Readers Advisory” class and while it was mainly about navigating different interests & how to recommend books to people, there was also an element of “What kind of program would people who like these books attend? How or what would you market to people who have this interest?”

      Or, as another example, I had a “Library Management” class that mainly focused on how to be an effective manager in a library, but there were a lot of discussions about: “Your library is hosting a sex-ed program and some of the parents in the community are upset. How will you handle this?” / “An author has asked to have a reading at your library; you know this author has made discriminatory remarks on social media recently. Will you go forward with the program?”

      Basically, you’ll likely take some classes that are specific to programming, but you will also come across things involving programming when you’re in other courses as well. If you decide to attend, good luck!

      1. Enbious*

        Oh whoops, I assumed you were talking about library programs! If you meant computer programming: my experience was that there was very minimal training in the way of coding/programming with relation to library work.

    4. Third Boleyn*

      In terms of programming and scheduling, we use EventKeeper, which is not my favorite system to use. I know that my old library used to use LibCal, which I found was a very intuitive and easy to use system, but YMMV. Unfortunately, I think they’re both paid–we use Outlook for our staff calendar and hey, it’s Microsoft, but I loathe it with the passion of a thousand burning suns.

      In terms of being trained on programming, the answer is “sort of.” I didn’t take any specific classes during my masters, but it all sort of seeped in anyways since I was doing the youth services / school media specialist track. I ended up doing specific workshops like Mother Goose On The Loose when I was at my first library, and that counted as professional training.

    5. Rex Libris*

      It’s been a bit since my graduate school days, but there was nothing about programming in our general track. It was all reference work, cataloging, databases, organization of information, bibliographic instruction, library management etc. It may be entirely different if you go to a school that offers a specialized track for children’s librarians.

      1. Rex Libris*

        I do seem to remember that we offered a school media certification that covered some stuff about programs, story times and such, now that I think about it.

    6. Broken scones*

      *raises hand* I’m a librarian. I currently work in reference but I have a background in children and teen services and have my certificate for youth services as well. My school did have a children’s class for storytimes (the prof even played guitar!) but bc of scheduling, I couldn’t take it. However, for some of my other youth services classes, the topic of programming (planning and executing them) was baked in but there weren’t many classes specifically *about* programming. Library school gives you foundational knowledge and then you build upon it; programming is something you constantly brainstorm, tailor towards your community’s needs and you network with other professionals to see what they do and consider trying it at your library. Also, always be on the lookout for grants!

  55. MeowYC*

    Please share your tips on keeping your job search motivation up – or renewing the motivation after it sinks. I’ll start with a few of mine (with varying degrees of success):

    1) Go outside and put in some movement in the morning. This is more a general mental health thing, but I feel a dip in job search-specific motivation when I don’t get out first thing in the morning.
    2) Keep track of applications so I can gamify some aspects of the process and celebrate small wins – like “this month’s application-to-interview rate is higher” or “I applied to 2 more positions this week than the last.”

    Two others I’ve seen mentioned and want to try:

    3) Connect more with people. I’ve been reaching out to friends whom I haven’t talked to in ages, but not much beyond that.
    4) Try something new, in terms of job search strategy or tactics.

    What has been helpful to you and your job search motivation?

    1. Sloanicota*

      Do you have a job search buddy who is also searching? I found that pretty helpful (although it does sting if one of you is more successful than the other).

    2. Hlao-roo*

      The last time I was job-searching, I had a CD that I played while I was working on my resume/cover letter/job applications. It was about 1hr of upbeat music, so I only worked on my job search while the CD was playing and tried to work through the whole thing. There were nights where I stopped before the last few songs, but overall it worked pretty well to keep me on track with my goal of 1 hr of job searching work per day.

    3. ferrina*

      Buy a lottery ticket for each application (or 3 applications or whatever cadence makes sense for you).

      Eventually you’ve got to win, right?

  56. Prospect Gone Bad*

    computer help for which google shows 100s of useless links:

    Anyone notice that the search function in Microsoft outlook suddenly went to garbage last year? I feel like I can write an email with an exact phrase, then go search for the exact phrase, and it either doesn’t come up or is 100 down on the list. Anyone find a way to go back to the way it was, or generally improve search results? I keep having trouble finding emails now

    Excel Spill – anyone find an actual use for this? I can’t find an explanation for “doesn’t fit” and what it even means. I mean, you can expand columns to fit multiple paragraphs in one cell. But suddenly v lookups pulling in two characters “don’t fit?”

    1. WantonSeedStitch*

      I’ve always had that problem, but for me, it’s mostly because I have SO DAMN MANY emails that indexing is just a crapshow. I find that using the webmail version of Outlook for searching is MUCH more reliable.

    2. Too Many Tabs Open*

      Are you searching with the exact phrase in quotes, e.g. “transmitting the llama specs”? That’s the only way I can get Outlook to give me decent results.

    3. StellaBella*

      well when MSFT bought Outlook back in the day we called it Lookout for anlong time for a reason.

    4. Qwerty*

      I feel like search went to garbage a few years ago. Though I noticed it when I switched from a job with an older desktop version of Outlook to a new job with Office 365 so not sure if that is related.

  57. Biff Chippington*

    Strategies/ Tips/ Resources for being a better note taker? My new job tends to rotate note taking in meetings, which is great in theory, but I’ve generally tried to avoid note taking… and I don’t think I’m very good at it? Any ideas on how to improve would be appreciated!

    1. Kimmy Schmidt*

      Do you have any ideas on what you might need to improve? Getting info down fast enough, organization, being motivated to go back through your notes, have legible notes for others’ review?

      1. Biff Chippington*

        I think some of it is speed, some of it is knowing what’s worth writing down. I think I get bogged down with unimportant stuff.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      If you know the agenda in advance, go ahead and build out a skeleton incorporating that stuff before the meeting starts. Do stuff like setting up some empty bullet-list rows for each section, so you aren’t trying to format at the same time as you’re typing.

      Don’t worry about spelling & punctuation – just get the stuff down, and then after the meeting spend 20 minutes cleaning it up.

      Use initials for people, instead of trying to type their full names.

      1. Seahorse*

        Seconding all of this. Also, it helps to know what the notes are for and how they’ll be used. My org only wants a listing of final decisions and task assignments, not a detailed accounting of long discussions.

        For example, if Agenda Item 2 addresses restructuring the goldfish department and results in a half hour argument and twelve “what if” scenarios, no one needs to know that. At the end, despite enjoying the drama, my notes would say something like:

        2 – Goldfish Restructuring
        Lucy presented plans found at (link here)
        Travis to get purchase order for larger aquariums
        Charlotte to coordinate with the Grounds Dept to set up installation date
        Project to be complete by end of summer

        1. J*

          I second the documenting of decisions and assignments. Though I will sometimes document what was covered in the discussion as a CYA type thing since I overlap in Legal & Compliance. “Jenni and Erin discussed implications of CPOM laws, agreed this does not require consulting with outside counsel given the laws in Pennsylvania but will follow up if expanding to NJ/NY” would be an example of my notes on it. This was an area I used to be weaker in, basically documenting when a future action item might trigger and the context around it. My before might have said something like “Erin to talk to outside counsel if expanding to NJ” and then Erin wouldn’t know the why or which outside counsel.

      2. A Girl Named Fred*

        Agreed! This is absolutely the time to make use of whatever chat/text-speak you want to. I’m an admin so a frequent notetaker, and my “first drafts” (aka me just getting words onto the page) are barely English. Plenty of “bc”, “JS will f/u Mon”, and more.

        One thing that helps me is to figure out one or two super-easy “shorthands” for especially important things. For example, one of mine is that any action item goes into my first draft IN ALL CAPS ALWAYS, so that when I go back to edit they immediately jump out at me.

        Also – and honestly, I type fast enough that I definitely struggle with NOT doing this one – remember that notes are not supposed to be a transcript. You don’t need to capture “Alex said we should consider llama brushes and Betty said combs will work better with our herd’s temperament and…” Something like “benefits of llama combs vs brushes were discussed, concerns about snagging noted but team agreed to use brushes” is fine.

        I hope that helps, and good luck!

    3. Damn it, Hardison!*

      I prep my notes template before the meeting using the agenda, creating a separate section for each agenda item with spots for key points, decisions, and action items. If I’m the note taker I also read back the decisions and action items at the end of the meeting so that if I miss something, someone can point it out.

    4. ferrina*

      Everyone’s style will differ. The trick is to know why these notes are needed and then how you tend to think/capture that need in your own mind. Once you’ve captured it for yourself, you can go back later and clean p your notes.

      First- are you looking for transcription style or content style? Transcription captures quotes and content captures general themes and conversation outcomes. You usually can’t do both at the same time- brains just don’t work that way.

      Second- what helps you think in the way that the notes are needed? Think about if it’s easier to type or handwrite, or if color-coding is a way your mind works. I tend to type for transcription and handwrite for context notes. My handwritten notes also come in technicolor- sometimes I use different colors for different participants and sometimes I color code by conversation topic. Sometimes I’ve used Excel to organize and categorize information. Just depends what my notes need to capture.

      Third- how organized is the conversation? If the conversation closely follows the agenda, great! It gives you a pre-built note structure. If the conversation skips around, think about how you’ll capture that. Post-it notes can help with handwritten notes, or copious amounts of arrows or side notes. For typing, I’ll add a comment in the doc.

      Fourth- don’t worry about making it legible to anyone but you. Some people can take very clean, organized notes on the first pass. Great. My notes look like a kindergartener got ahold of colored pens and post-its was playing with a thesaurus and left out half the letters. But I can read it. If you know the abbreviation, that’s all that matters. If you understand the color coding, that’s the important part. If you can follow the arrows that go everywhere on the page, or the multi-layered bullet points, cool.
      It just needs to be a tool to keep you organized; once you have a minute you’ll go back and turn it into a form that works for everyone.

  58. Decidedly Me*

    Does anyone have ideas/suggestions for virtual get together activities? Games, discussion topics, etc.? I have a team that’s feeling disconnected and would like to set up some fun activities. Nothing that is super US based (the team is global – so trivia that is US focused would be out for example). Low/no cost is preferred, but open to any ideas so I can keep them for a time with more budget. Thank you!

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      We did some stuff during the pandemic like guess who has the coolest/messiest/biggest desk setup, or the most art in their office, or two truths & a lie.

      People took photos & wrote their truths/lies, and sent them to our culture committee, who then sent out survey questions to everybody. Then the next day we all had a hangout where the answers were revealed.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      Jackbox games can be played remotely, and are fairly cheap. Only one person (the host) has to buy the game. I played a few times with coworkers during the pandemic. I don’t know if it can be played internationally as everyone was in the US.

    3. Maestra*

      I used google slides to make a scattergories game. I looked up scattergories lists on google and then found a YouTube video of a two-minute countdown timer to also embed in each slide. Then on a zoom, I’d share my screen and we would all take the two minutes to think and then share our answers.

      There are probably other games you could play this way, too!

    4. Qwerty*

      My team loved Drawasaurus during the pandemic (free). It’s basically pictionary played individually. Every does a terrible job at drawing, but results in lots of laughter. Works best in groups of <8 because each word gets harder, so the person who goes first gets "cat" and the tenth person gets an amorphous concept.

      I've pulled out question decks from games like Imaginiff and just picked silly work appropriate questions to ask the group (What superpower would you like to have? If you were a truck, what kind of truck would you be? [followed by the multiple choice questions, though not limiting people to those options])

  59. Misshapen Pupfish*

    How do we kill the handshake? I hoped covid would be the last nail in that coffin but people still want to grab my hand, even when I keep my hands hidden/down. How do I refuse a handshake quickly and diplomatically, without coming off like a jerk?

    1. Hlao-roo*

      If it’s people you will only see once, “I’m getting over a cold” will usually work. It’s probably better to just explain “[sorry/thanks], I don’t shake hands.” You can wave your hand or nod/bow your head as a gesture of “nice to meet/see you” or whatever a handshake is usually a gesture of.

      1. Nesta*

        Someone I know puts their hand over their heart in this instance. A person reaches for their hand and they put their hand over their heart and say, “It’s great to meet/see you, pardon me but I don’t shake hands.”

    2. Just a Minion*

      Would touching elbows be more comfortable to you? People are familiar with that now, even though it didn’t permanently replace the handshake. If you proactively stick out your elbow, I think most people will roll with it.

    3. Qwerty*

      I wave when I introduce myself “Hi, I’m Qwerty”. If they reach for my hand, I pull it back, *smile*, and say something like “oh, Covid killed my interest in handshakes” or “sorry, pandemic broke me of that habit”

      If they try to switch to a fistbump or worse, an elbow bump, I respond “Nope, I don’t really need to touch people to greet them”. Again – with a good natured smile. It has worked pretty well – usually the response I get is agreement that its a weird human habit.

  60. waffles*

    My employer has been framing an opportunity to me as a job offer, when I think in reality it’s more of a forced restructure. What is the best way to set myself up for success if I am not sure if I want to be restructured, but also am not ready to decide I want to leave?

    1. ferrina*

      Be faintly oblivious to the overtones.
      “Gosh, that’s really cool, but I’m super excited about where I am, thanks for thinking of me though! Can I tell you about this cool thing I’m working on?”

      If they won’t say it, don’t read between the lines. Be cheerful and professional in a natural way. It also gives you the space to “suddenly realize” what’s actually going on and backtrack if you need to.

  61. Too Many Apologies*

    I have a coworker at peer level who does excellent work but is always self-deprecating. She continuously apologizes for not getting to things fast enough (even though the timeline was fine), for not paying close enough attention (even though the details look great), and for generally not being good enough (even though her work quality is consistently stellar).

    It’s really frustrating! It seems like saying something directly would be an overstep, but the constant apologies are wearing on me. Taking the soft approach and saying something like, “there’s no need to apologize, this looks fantastic” somehow results in even more self-recriminations.

    I also struggle with over-apologizing and having my self-worth too wrapped up in work, so maybe I’m extra sensitive. I also know my coworker previously worked in a place notorious for unrealistic expectations. Still, I realized this week that I don’t want to do an upcoming project with her despite her talent and suitability because I don’t want to be her emotional manager. Suggestions on either stopping the flood of sorrys or reframing things in my own head?

    1. MsM*

      I think Alison’s had a few letters specifically on this subject, but I’d consider rephrasing “there’s no need to apologize” to “I think I understand where the instinct is coming from, but I really need you to stop preemptively apologizing, and just focus on hearing and absorbing my actual feedback.” And that doesn’t work, you can just ignore the self-deprecating comments and move on to the next thing that needs doing.

      1. ferrina*

        Yeah, I think you need to talk about it directly. It’s a little different when you’re peers, but you can still say something like:
        “Hey, you apologize a lot. It’s actually getting distracting! Any chance you can apologize less? Like, can I just assume that for some reason you feel apologetic about producing amazing work, you can assume that I am baffled by why you feel apologetic, and we can just skip that part of the conversation and move on to the fun stuff?”

        I also use sarcasm from time to time:
        Coworker: “I’m sorry the report isn’t very good!”
        Me: “It’s not? What, were you going to add gold plating and have Morgan Freeman create an audio narration? In that case, I accept your apology- I would love to hear this in Morgan Freeman’s voice! Though now that I think about it, he’s probably out of our budget.”

    2. Ms. Norbury*

      If you have a somewhat friendly relationship, next time it happens you could gently say “You know, you apologise a lot. Have you noticed that?” and then add that she really does need to it so much, and that you will definitely let her know in case you need something done faster ou differently.

  62. Junior Dev*

    I’ve been having a really hard time concentrating due to personal stuff—my relationship with my roommate blew up and we had been best friends, so I both have been needing to search for apartments and mourning this really important relationship being destroyed or massively changed—and everyone on my team has been very understanding. Yesterday I did a couple hours of documentation work, then spent several hours alternating between moving logistics and crying on the couch, then maybe one hour of writing code.

    My boss is extremely hands off because he has way too much responsibility. I’ve told my immediate team members that I am going through some personal stuff and none of them are pushing me to get more done. They’re also congratulating me on doing stuff like facilitating a meeting to mail down a thorny technical architecture problem that no one has been able to concretely manage before.

    I think it’ll be ok but I got fired from my last programming job when I was sick and had to leave early to go sleep a lot; so it’s scary to me to be unable to be fully productive. I think I have done a lot better here of forming relationships with people and showing my general desire to be reliable and make other people’s jobs easier. God it’s so nerve wracking though.

    I also have a month and a half left on my contract and I will probably be asked to convert to a permanent employee, and I want to negotiate more salary and hopefully more PTO, but I get scared that the intermittent availability of these last few weeks will be held against me.

    If anyone has advice it’d be welcomed but mostly I just want to feel like I’m not constantly failing to meet people’s expectations and in danger of having everything fall apart, or like failure to navigate the next couple months perfectly will have some sort of disastrous consequence for my long term finances and career.

    I’m sure I’m overthinking this and it’ll be ok.

    Has anyone been on either side of this and can say what helped? Been the overwhelmed person or their coworker and know what helps everything be less stressful for the team as a whole?

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Would it be easier for you to manage if you simply scheduled a day or two off that you could plan to just settle and regroup? There’s magic in a day off on a Tuesday. The team will manage. And having a day to look forward to is therapeutic in and of itself.

      When my work situation was overwhelming (it was a toxic colleague situation) I used to carefully manage my calendar to leave at least a day out of 10 as being “call-out-able”. I rarely called out but then I’d be blessed with a quiet day that I could do heads-down work, so win-win.

    2. Qwerty*

      How good are you at prioritization? Is there a senior team member who can help if your boss is too busy?

      I forget who said this:
      “The key to juggling is to know that some of the balls you have in the air are made of plastic and some are made of glass. And if you drop a plastic ball, it bounces, no harm done”

      Focus on the glass balls. At home, that means moving and grieving, but it might a messy move where the boxes aren’t organized great and you only unpack the most urgent ones when you get the new place. At work, that’s where the prioritization help comes into play to figure what you have to stay on top of and what you can get help on. Remind yourself of the tech architecture win to help keep your confidence in your own skills and value to the team.

      If you haven’t alerted your boss, reach out despite him being hands off and let him know that you are dealing with some personal items that includes a sudden move and expect a drop in your productivity for the next , but you’ll be able to stay on top of X & Y during that time and Jane has agreed to help with Z if needed. (where X & Y are the glassiest of the balls and items that you have confidence in being able to do and Z is something past your capacity but an important glass ball)

  63. Anon for this*

    I just applied for a job and realized it is against my ethical standards.

    I have experience in aerospace, but turns out this company is one of those that wants to make Mars liveable. It calls it “interplanetary.” Just makes my skin crawl. I think we should be spending our time, energy, and resources to make Earth more liveable. I wonder if they know something I don’t? Like…is it too late? Either way, I don’t think the answer is to live on Mars.

    Problem is, the money is decent. And I am really underemployed and in a lot of debt. I would have to think hard if they call me for an interview.

    Thoughts on any of this or care to share any experiences?

    1. Hlao-roo*

      I think working for a company whose goals you don’t agree with can be tough, especially long-term.

      But, I also don’t think living on Mars is even possible*, so maybe you could be OK with keeping your job skills sharp and collecting money from people with pie-in-the-sky ideas. I don’t know that you’ll be actively harming anyone the way you would if you worked at, say, a tobacco company.

      *not super knowledgeable on this, so I could be very wrong, but I think the radiation damage from sending humans on a multi-month voyage to Mars will be prohibitive to successful colonization/settlement

      1. Too Many Tabs Open*

        I recall someone pointing out that it would be easier to colonize Antarctica than Mars. Temperature’s warmer, and there’s a breathable atmosphere.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      My only thought is that a lot of the technologies needed for developing livable spaces on Mars would also be very useful here.

      Fully closed-loop recycling systems, water desalination, 3D printed habitats, modular power generation & storage, etc.

    3. fairy twinkletoes*

      I’m a scientist, and I just got laid off from a company whose goals (though lofty) I didn’t think were possible. I’d say: if the money is decent, look at it as working to increase your own or humanity’s technological skills. We will probably never live on Mars, but you could help to develop technology that makes the Earth a better place to live ( look to all the tech developed for the moon landing in the 60’s for examples). My part of the world is rapidly turning from rain forest to a dry environment (Literally: rain forest to drier than Nevada in < 30 years), so developing ways to help humidity, recycle water etc would be hugely helpful. Could that be applied to the edges of deserts, where people now live and will have to move? We don't have a carbon-low way of cooling people's houses in an increasingly warm world. (Southern US would be unliveable as it is, without AC, and most of the rest of the US would be uncomfortable). Can the skills you develop at this job for 5 years help with that?

      You don't have to drink the kool-aid to develop something that helps all of humanity eventually. I'd go for it, focus on developing lots of skills, then in 5 years turn your attention to a company whose goals are more in sync with your own.

    4. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Many companies produce non-essential or luxury items & services for our consumer society – our economy would be subsistence level without this – so you could just regard Mars as another luxury item with a very long leadtime.

      More prosaically, I don’t see making Earth more liveable or Mars as being in conflict.
      We’ve already gained a lot of technologies from space exploration that are useful on Earth.

      Personally, I’d rather we didn’t have all our eggs in one basket, or one planet, but even a tiny population living on Mars is a very longterm project.

    5. Nicosloanica*

      I have done space stuff and partly I think, well, maybe there’s a future where we send a lot of the population to uninhabited planets where they can’t damage existing ecosystems – all those people who want to live in giant paved shopping malls might be happy as clams. Maybe earth becomes a preserve with a more sustainable population number (cuz this ain’t it). I would not want to take a job I thought was evil, but if I just thought the goal was off and needed the money … I mean I’d go to the interview, at least

    6. Qwerty*

      Google Inventions from Space Race

      Among the credited items are CAT scans, land mine removal, artificial limbs, insulin pumps…

      I feel the same way as you – if we move to the moon or mars after destroying Earth, I feel like humans would be more of a planetary plague. BUT I would totally jump at a Mars project if it got to work on a product that could have Earth-related benefits.

      Plus companies prompt spin-offs – so maybe you start at Mars Inc but when a project stops being directly Mars-related, they spin off a startup PURE that fixes air pollution and you go with them. Or a year or two at Mars Inc teaches you a bunch of stuff so you have a strong resume to go work for climate saving companies.

    7. Junior Dev*

      I guess I’d ask what harm you think is being done by this work, and if it’s any worse than working at a company that is sort of neutral regarding the problems we face as a species. Which is going to be most employers. I think if you specifically want a career that helps the world you should focus on moving in that direction.

      And not to be too rude about it, but a lot of careers in aerospace are actively harming humanity by creating weapons, fighter jets, etc. Or by creating airplanes that cause a ton of carbon emissions.

      It all depends on your own values – but I cannot think of a way that researching technology for life on Mars is materially worse for humanity than the average job in aerospace. And as others have pointed out, sometimes this research leads to unexpected benefits in science or medicine that do benefit people on Earth.

      I’ll link an xkcd comic that I think summarizes my thoughts on this in the reply.

  64. JoAnna*

    Feeling really discouraged right now. I’ve been job-hunting since April. I’ve had three interviews but (so far) no offers. I might get an offer next week for a job I interviewed for earlier this week, but I don’t really want the job. (Long commute, second shift.) I’m quickly running out of options, though. I can’t afford to turn it down it’s the only offer I’ll get.

    I’ve revamped my resume twice, I work hard on engaging cover letters, and nothing.

    I sent in my application for a job I’d love in early May. I have a friend who works at the company and I networked with her, asking her to put in a good word for me. The company sent me an email on June 7 saying that they apologized for the delay but were still going through applications, and my contact has no idea what the timeline is. The wait is so frustrating.

    (And don’t get me started about the job with my state government I applied for in April and that has had the status listed in their tracking system as “Hiring Manager Review” ever since…)

    Just needed to vent. Thanks for “listening.”

    1. Nicosloanica*

      Sympathies, I know it’s frustrating. The good news is, you’re getting interviews and maybe even offers, so you know your materials are in the right shape. Second place syndrome is definitely a thing though, and when you need a job it’s cold comfort. Would you feel better if you had a paid gig to keep the lights on? Freelancing or something in retail?

      1. JoAnna*

        I’m already freelancing but it doesn’t bring in much at the moment. We need decent insurance more than anything else right now, hence job hunting.

    2. RagingADHD*

      I got some insight from speaking with outside recruiters about how to strengthen my resume. They gave some good suggestions about what skills to list.

      And, I know it’s frustrating, but 2 or 3 months is a short time in the current climate. You’re doing well to have a semi-reasonable offer in that timeframe.

  65. B*tch in the Corner of the Poster*

    Are Objectives becoming a thing on resumes again? I keep seeing “objectives”, “about me’s”, double columns, etc. Am I behind the times?

    1. Rex Libris*

      I don’t think so. I think career centers and resume services just keep pushing (or recycling) different gimmicks because “Make it simple and quick to read.” doesn’t keep them in business, even though it’s what literally every hiring manager on the planet actually wants to see.

      1. the cat's pajamas*

        According to the internets, now you need a “personal statement” which is basically the influencer version of a souped up objective with more marketing speak… ugh…. (facepalm)

    2. Glazed Donut*

      Currently hiring for a position and these drive me insane. Half of them say “Objective: secure employment at [place they are applying] to be [position they’re applying for” — like no duh

    3. Alianora*

      As someone who screens a lot of resumes for positions I’m not intimately knowledgeable about, I actually don’t mind objectives/about me’s. Sometimes they’re useless. Sometimes they’re helpful. Like maybe the candidate didn’t phrase a bullet point in a way I’m familiar with, but the objective lets me contextualize it and see that it’s relevant.

  66. sewsandreads*

    Thoughts on leaving a relatively good job for one that’s a massive pay jump but, by all accounts, probably would land on AAM’s list of WTF workplaces? I’m leaning towards not going for this role and feel guilty.

    There’s a job going at our parent company that looks pretty decent — in my area of expertise, too, and pretty similar to what I currently do. It’s a newly created role. The massive salary made me suspicious (and I know the manager of that team, which made me extra hesitant), so I phoned someone I knew up at the parent company who is involved in hiring for all positions, but who I knew would give it to me honestly. In summary: “toxic workplace wouldn’t begin to cover it.” She asked if I liked where I am, I said that I like the support and autonomy I get in my current role, and she advised me that if I liked that, don’t give it up for a place like our parent company.

    I suppose I’ve been conditioned to think that pay is everything, but honestly, my current pay leaves me comfortable — a 25% increase would be awesome, but not desperately needed. It would more closely align my job with what I went to uni for. There’s no scope for further pay at my current job; parent company can set their own parameters, but our offshoots are aligned to an award and parent company frowns upon anyone getting above that. (But then, at the parent company they’re hiring 5 positions at any given time to cover people bailing.)

    Am I right in taking the approach of not going for it, and trying to retrain my brain into remembering salary isn’t the only benefit?

    1. Camellia*

      It sounds like to me that you are making the right choice. You are choosing your mental and emotional health over the bump in salary.

      1. sewsandreads*

        Thanks for your reply — and definitely, I think I have to remind myself that mental and emotional health have immense value!

    2. Still*

      It sounds like you want to stay and I think it seems like the right choice. You’re already financially comfortable. More money is always nice but a toxic workplace and a bad manager can really make you miserable and I’d much rather earn 1x doing a job I like than 1.25x doing a job I hate. If you feel like there’s no way to increase your salary at your current job, it sounds like you’re in a good position to casually job hunt and look for something with both a pay bump and a good work environment. It’s not this job or the other one, there’ll be other jobs.

      1. sewsandreads*

        Thank you for this — and for the reminder there WILL be other jobs! I’m very good at all or nothing thinking, and definitely need to keep this in mind.

    3. Warrant Officer Georgiana Breakspear-Goldfinch*

      As someone who picked collegiality and interesting work over an excellent salary and has no regrets, I vote stay in the place where the environment is good. How much would you spend on therapy and dentistry if you went to the known-toxic place? (Joking, but not joking.)

      1. sewsandreads*

        Literally the way my partner put it to me: “that pay increase will basically just fund extra therapy, won’t it?”

        The interesting work thing is another part of it — the thing with the job I’m in is that there’s so much variety on any given day, and I truly think I’d miss that. Thanks for your reply!

    4. Never Knew I Was a Dancer*

      “toxic workplace wouldn’t begin to cover it.”

      I think you realized by asking this question here that “don’t take it” is the right answer. But just highlighting this comment from your colleague. Sounds like this would be trading out your soul and sanity for money you don’t even really need. Maybe there’s some sort of skill you could learn there in theory, but along the way you’d also pick up warped and twisted habits that could take a very, very long time to recover from.

      And we here of the AAM commentariat like to read crazy bananapants stories, but would you really want to go out of your way to supply us with more? (Please don’t, ha!)

    5. Pocket Mouse*

      It’s not an increase in overall income if you have to quit with nothing lined up and conduct a job search while unemployed. You’re doing the right thing by skipping it!

  67. NeonDreams*

    Two folded question. I can’t remember if I’ve asked part of this before or not. Forgive me if I have.

    Anyone have any ideas for side gigs while working as a news paper reporter? My hours have shifted from 9-5 to more like 12-8 or later, depending on when the event I’m going to cover is. I used to do Doordash and such when I got off my previous job but it doesn’t fit in as well as it used to. My previous job was work at home so I liked the variety of driving in my town after being home all day. I’d be open to more freelance writing but I have no idea where to start. My town is on the smaller side, so not as much opportunity there.

    Which leads to the second half of my question. I was miserable in my previous job and it wasn’t great pay (17/hour in a low cost of living state) but I’m making 4 dollars less now. The catch is, I’m so much happier here. So there’s a sense of grief that the job I’m good at and went to school for (degree is in journalism) is less valued than my previous industry (healthcare). I know there’s nothing I can do to change that, but it hurts. Part of me wonders if I made a mistake, But I know I didn’t. I would have been fired from my previous position if I hadn’t left when I did. Plus I got screwed out of an interview that was writing related at my previous company that would have been good. I feel so much jealousy of others who are financially stable while I’m here working at a job I enjoy but it doesn’t meet my needs financially. I plan to stay here for awhile so I can get some clips under my belt to break into the media industry (which is my long term career goal).

    Anyway, that’s the Reader’s Digest