my finances don’t make sense now that I’m single, rude comments because I work in oil and gas, and more

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

1. My finances made sense in a relationship, but now I’m single

My finances made sense when I was in a relationship, but now I’m single and am struggling on my salary. Otherwise I want to stay at my current job. How do I talk to my boss about this — and should I? Or should I just look for a new job?

My partner and I separated last fall, we have a baby together (we are both women), and we were never married. When we were together, we lived in housing paid for by her employer. I work full-time but am a writer and am hoping to be able to make a living off of writing (fiction — so book deal, residuals, teaching, talks, etc.) in the next 3-5 years. I love the org I work for and my coworkers, and the job provides me a lot of flexibility as a new parent.

However. Now that I am living alone, paying rent on and furnishing a two-bedroom apartment, paying for therapy, paid legal fees, and other costs of breaking up, my finances don’t make sense! They made sense in our relationship but now I’m constantly stressed about money and having trouble staying within my budget. I’ve been watching my savings dwindle for the past year.

I work for a nonprofit but in my field I could make $20-30k more if I went corporate or into government work. One more wrinkle is that I work remotely and the health insurance given by my employer is really hard to navigate or find places that will take it where I live. I don’t want to leave my current job but I don’t know how to make it work on my current salary. I was hoping to stay in this job until I could make a living from writing (but then the breakup).

Do I talk to my boss about this? If so, how? Should I look for a new job and build back up my savings, even if it might mean putting the writing career on hold for longer? What do you do when your life circumstances change and it throws everything out of whack?

Well … you probably need to look for a higher-paying job.

That said, you can certainly try asking for a raise if you can make a work-based case for one; just keep in mind that it needs to be based on your work, not on the change in your circumstances. But $20K is a pretty significant jump, so you’d want to think about whether that’s realistic for your current organization, based on what you know about your its salary structure, budget, how much they want to retain you, etc.

There’s a good chance, though, that changing jobs will be what ends up making the most sense. I know that sucks when you like your job! It can be very much the reality though, especially when you work in nonprofits, and definitely for writers. (For what it’s worth — and you probably don’t need me to tell you this — it’s very difficult to make a living writing fiction full-time and most fiction writers do it on the side rather than as their primary job. There are some interesting pieces out there like this and this about how often full-time writers need to be financially supported by a partner.) And really, the health insurance situation alone might nudge you in that direction.

2. Rude comments at conferences because I work in oil and gas

I work in the corporate office for an oil and gas company, and over the last couple of years have encountered some situations at national conferences I’m not sure how to handle. These conferences are for things like a type of software that multiple industries use, so it brings together a wide range of attendees.

On at least four separate occasions during conference-provided lunches or happy hours, someone in the group I am socializing with, upon learning I work in the oil and gas industry, has made a snide remark along the lines of “Oh I couldn’t live with myself if I knew I was contributing so much to global warming” or “It must be terrible to work in a dying industry.”

How do I even respond to that? So far I’ve just ignored the comments and continued on with the conversation, but it’s awkward. And I feel judged — these people know nothing about me yet based on my current industry they seem to assume I deny climate change and am against green/renewable energy (both of which happen to be very incorrect assumptions).

After the first incident, I stopped voluntarily providing the name of the company I work at. But in true conference style, we’re all wearing name badges that also proudly declare where we work. My company name isn’t well known, but it’s obvious from the name what the company does.

That’s obnoxious. It’s not that there isn’t an important conversation to be had about the harms of that industry! But they’re not having it; they’re just being rude to a stranger whose circumstances they know nothing about.

You’re probably better off continuing to ignore it or briefly raising your eyebrows or similar since there’s likely little point in getting into it with people who aren’t attempting to have a real conversation.

3. Employer asked me to do a multi-hour exercise before even interviewing me

I applied to a job six weeks ago. It is with the central office of a school district I used to teach in. I have considerable relevant experience and am objectively well-qualified for the role. Also, the role is challenging to hire for and retain staff due to its niche, in which I am literally a published author. It is not a highly-desired field or organization, and I cannot imagine they are drowning in applicants.

Today, I received an email asking me to complete a performance task, even though they never reached out to do an initial interview or phone screening. The email states that the task will take 4-6 hours and be due within 72 hours.

Is it normal practice to expect candidates to do a 4-6 hour performance task on short notice, without even a brief phone interview first? I have happily done hiring exercises before, even extensive ones that I spent a few hours on. But those were after short phone interviews to ensure appropriate fit. And if it is normal practice … it’s not good practice, right?

Nope, that’s way too long to ask a candidate to spend on a hiring exercise — at any stage, but especially pre-interview when you haven’t yet had an opportunity to ask your own questions and determine if you’re even interested in moving forward and when they haven’t bothered to first narrow down their candidate pool with interviews so that they’re only asking finalists to spend time on this.

The 72-hour deadline is also BS when they haven’t checked in with you first about a time period that would work for you. What if you’re traveling, or in a busy period with your job, or a million other possibilities that make that timeline impossible?

4. Best way to list times you’re available to interview

A hiring manager asked me to provide some days and times that I was available to do a phone screen, so I listed a few days and times like “Tuesday, between 1:00 and 3:00 pm.” I meant I was available starting at 1:00 and had to be done the phone screen by 3:00. The hiring manager scheduled the phone screen for 3:00-3:30, so I guess I wasn’t clear?

Is there a better way to way to provide availability times to avoid confusion?

Yeah, this is a thing people sometimes do, and it’s confusing — you’re clearly stating the block of time you’re available within, but they’re hearing that those are the times when the call could begin. The only way to make it crystal clear is to say something like, “Tuesday between 1 and 3 pm (with a hard stop at 3 pm).”

It’s also fine when this happens to respond and say, “I apologize if I wasn’t clear — I’m only available up until 3 pm, so we’d need to begin the call earlier so it ends by then.”

5. Leaving a job right after learning that I am just below the pay cap

This probably shouldn’t be a moral dilemma for me, but I’m considering leaving my job and I feel strangely guilty about it.

I love my current job. I really do! I have problems with the management sometimes, but the work is great. The pay isn’t even that bad, all things considered. (Think if I were a clam harvester making $20 an hour whereas most clam harvesters make $17.) But … I did just learn that I can never make more than $21 as a clam harvester, at least at my current company. This was in the middle of a meeting where my boss was telling me that everything I do is great and they’d hate to lose me, BUT…

So I did what anyone else would do in that situation and immediately started looking for another job. I only applied for one job that day, and then decided to cool my jets and wait a bit on one of the proposed solutions my boss had given me. (I could move from Clam Harvester to Clam Tamer, and Clam Tamers make more money! Sure, it’s not a job I’m that interested in, but money!) But today I got a call from that one job I applied to asking to schedule an interview. They’re in the same field, so I’d be doing something not totally dissimilar to what I already do.

Obviously it’s too early to depend on an offer from the other job. But I’m already having thoughts about how I might break it to my boss if I do get a decent offer. What do I say? “Sorry, but they’re offering me more money, bye Felicia”? “Hey, I know my performance review was stellar, but I’m outie”? Can I say this opportunity fell in my lap and I couldn’t turn it down (not technically a lie, since this is actually a company I’ve wanted to work for for a long time)? Will he know it’s because of the conversation we had? If he does, does it actually matter? Is it really okay to tell him it’s all about the money? If not, what on earth do I say?

You can say pretty much anything you want. You can say the job fell in your lap and was too good to turn down. You can say you appreciated his candor about the limits on your pay and you want to earn more. (We work for money! It’s not shameful or something you need to be coy about.) You can say they offered you an amount you couldn’t turn down. You can say you’re just ready for something new.

You don’t need to have a “good enough” reason; you get to leave for any of those reasons or any other. It’s very, very normal to leave your job at some point, even if you’re relatively happy there, even if you’re getting good reviews, even if you like your boss. You don’t need to worry so much about the messaging; this is a routine thing that people do!

{ 695 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Letter-writer #2 is presumably aware of the issues with the oil and gas industry. Comments insulting them/their professional choices aren’t useful here and will be removed.

  2. Rara Avis*

    Regarding #1, I’ve been curious how health insurance works for remote workers scattered across multiple states. In my area there’s a giant HMO that serves many employers, but you have to go to their facilities, so remote workers wouldn’t have access.

    1. Cold and Tired*

      I’m a remote worker that works for a company where the local workers all go to HMOs in that city that aren’t accessible out of state (or city). We have a separate plan for us that is more expensive than the HMO plans (still reasonable especially compared to what I know my friends and family pay for their insurance, but premiums are double the HMO rates per month), but gives us access to most major health networks across the country. I’m sure there are a variety of approaches to this, but it’s worked out really well for me thus far!

    2. Single Struggling and Remote*

      Hi, question asker here!! My employer insurance is Kaiser, so I’m in the situation you described. It’s not impossible for me to access care, especially urgent or emergency services, but primary and preventive care is tricky—they admin gets confused about my insurance and it’s really hard to tell ahead of time what the cost will be to me. When I’m in town for work (once or twice a year) I do my primary care appts with Kaiser but that approach is not very sustainable.

      1. Rara Avis*

        I was referencing Kaiser! I wondered how many of the tech companies in Silicon Valley with high numbers of remote workers use Kaiser.

    3. CB*

      I just went remote and moved out of state and was relieved to find the insurance situation is really easy. I had/have a PPO plan with Blue Shield of (former state). I get to keep my exact same insurance and it will be accepted anywhere that accepts Blue Shield of (new state)’s PPO plan.

    4. doreen*

      Not a remote worker – but I’ve always worked for employers that had employees scattered over a large area. And that’s really what’s important – not so much whether there are remote workers, but whether all or almost all of the employees live and work in a relatively small area. If the employer has only one location and no remote employees , they can use a plan like yours. They might even do that if there are remote employees but only one or two are too far away to use that plan. But an employer that has employees at locations scattered all over Pennsylvania isn’t going to have a single plan that is only useful to Philadelphia area employees that the Pittsburgh area employees can’t use. They will either have multiple options of HMO that cover different areas or at least one non-HMO plan that has broader coverage ( larger network and/or out of network coverage)

    5. DannyG*

      I am working remotely for a major healthcare system. I am 400 miles from their nearest hospital (and 450 miles from the facility I was on site for during the COVID years). One of the choices for insurance is specifically designed for those without easy access to their facilities. It’s a more expensive option, with no HSA, but it’s with a major insurance company and I have had no major problems. Same with the dental and eye care insurance.

    6. Expert Paper Pusher*

      I’m a remote worker for a regional health care company, and they deal with this by having different coverage for “out of area” employees. The bulk of employees live in areas covered by our company and stick to our company for health care, but people like me who live farther away have taurine insurance coverage instead.

    7. Snow Globe*

      My company offers both HMO options and PPO options. Since I am in a different state, I take the PPO option. It is with a large, well-known insurer, so there is a network here.

    8. Person from the Resume*

      I work for the federal government. We have many options for healthcare plans. Some are local and available to employees in certain areas.

      Of course being the federal government with so many employees, lots of insurance companies and HMOs want a shot at these customers. But I imagine smaller employers must do something similar. Making sure there are options for employees wherever they live.

    9. alienor*

      I’m a remote worker and my company offers a choice of plans from a few of the major nationwide insurers. It’s been exactly like when I used to work in the home office, the only difference is that I’m in a provider network for my location. When I needed to see a dermatologist recently, I just found one through the member portal on the insurer’s website and booked an appointment. I don’t love the health insurance industry as a concept, but this part of it at least has been no problem to deal with.

    10. I am Emily's failing memory*

      My insurance doesn’t work any differently as a remote worker, from my perspective at least, then it did when I went to an office. My employer has a provider and I can choose from 3 different plans the provider offers. An HDHP, one that is kind of HMO-like in that it has lower premiums and copays in network and very high coinsurance if you go out of network, and one that’s like a PPO which has the highest premiums and copays are a bit higher in-network than the HMO-like one but the coverage if you have to go out of network is better.

      I’ve worked here for 10 years and was office based for the first 5, and my health insurance options never changed when I went remote.

    11. BookMom*

      A lot of health insurance plans that have a very limited network for locals have a broader network to tap into when getting care outside their service area. My work plan has only a few in network primary care offices locally but my remote colleagues can choose from most doctors in their area. Or the employer opts for a plan that isn’t so restrictive as a HMO. My spouse’s employer has employees in all 50 states and he has a Blue Cross PPO plan that’s officially in another state, but the Blue Cross network does some reciprocity so his doctors file claims with our local BC office and it still gets paid. It’s a tangled web but if the employer has a lot of remote employees their insurance broker is surely taking this into account.

    12. Amy*

      I work for a company with thousands of remote workers across 50 states. I just have a regular HMO plan. There are no special facilities I need to use. 95% of the providers I’ve encountered are “in-network.”

    13. Also-ADHD*

      I’m remote and my healthcare is just normal healthcare through a major insurer, literally the same insurer I had at my old job, though there’s minor plan differences (some better, some worse, overall better). I didn’t realize this was a big issue for remote workers or that healthcare had to be local.

      1. Adultiest Adult*

        It can be an issue if your company only offers plans through a single health insurance carrier, and if that carrier is regional rather than national. As a child, I was covered by my parents’ Blue Cross plan, which operates in all 50 U.S. states and offers pretty easy reciprocity, so no problem to get care anywhere. Currently I am covered by Harvard Pilgrim, which is a major New England carrier but doesn’t have national reach. In emergencies out of area, I can access United’s network of healthcare providers, because they’ve contracted with them for out of area coverage, but if I attempted to select a primary care physician through United, I am certain they would deny my claim because they are only contracted for emergency care.

    14. fhqwhgads*

      I’ve been a remote worker for multiple companies with presence in 40+ states. The health insurance options I’ve seen tend to all be PPOs with the giant insurance companies.

    15. MCMonkeyBean*

      I live in NC and briefly worked for a large company that is headquartered in NC. For some reason the insurance they gave me was Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama. It was very odd to me but it covered all the same things my previous BCBS of NC insurance had.

      Plus I guess even if the remote work aspect is newer at a lot of companies, being a large company with employees in multiple states is pretty common so I imagine lots of insurance companies are prepared to work in a situation like that.

    16. Alex*

      At my workplace you have a choice between a few insurance options, and one specifically allows you to choose doctors in other locations/states and is for remote employees.

    17. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Obviously very US specific: If you have Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance, they are actually 50ish separate companies and have a program setup between all of them so it doesn’t matter where you are. So for example, if your employer is based in Illinois and have BCBS of IL insurance, but you live in California, when you go to the doctor it runs through the California BCBS company and the IL company reimburses the CA company. (Very abbreviated obviously).

      Other insurance companies I don’t know how it works.

    18. Sassy SAAS*

      I work remotely for a company a few states away. Most of our employees are in 2 states, but I think we’ve got folks in at least 10 states at this point. We have different plans than the folks who work in the state we’re headquartered out of. I’m in Massachusetts, so I have a few MA-specific plans that my coworkers wouldn’t have access to, and vice versa. But otherwise, it works the same as any health insurance plan I’ve had for an in-office position!

    19. Ama*

      Having just navigated this as I moved from near my employer’s main office to being full time remote in another state at the beginning of the year. I was lucky in that my employer’s plans are both through a major insurance provider that operates nationwide, and even though the main network of the plans are localized around the main office, they each list a nationwide network that you can access from pretty much anywhere in the country (for some specialists I feel like I actually have more choice here in my new city). That said my employer mostly offers PPO plans so there’s already inherently more flexibility than an HMO.

      I will say when we had benefit elections in April I elected to move to the more expensive plan because the insurance company decided the plan that I was on was going to change its nationwide network to a smaller one but the more expensive one was keeping the larger network. I decided it was worth the extra expense to not have to risk changing doctors again.

    20. Momma Bear*

      My ex had the family on Kaiser and when I had the opportunity I went with a PPO for flexibility.

      I think OP#1 can talk to their boss but their personal situation is not really the company’s problem. Their life has changed and it seems that they need a new job to go with it. I’d put my energy into finding one of those local, higher-paying jobs. OP has the benefit of being currently employed to not just find a job but the right job.

    21. J*

      My company has a HQ plan for their home office with a smaller plan and then a benefit administrator that came up with 5 different UHC plans that the rest of us can access. I think even the HQ employees can opt into our plans but they don’t get the state-discount that they usually get if they use the smaller plan. I think next year they’ll be pushing us all to the benefit mix of plans because we have a second location that’s getting bigger and employees keep transferring which makes a mess. I’m fully remote and found my UHC plan is basically identical to my one with a local employer and the one through my husband’s employer since I’ve had 3 insurance plans in 3 years.

  3. Happy meal with extra happy*

    #2 – I used to work in an industry that’s often portrayed as the baddies in shows and movies. Depending on your views, it’s a necessary evil, and I was able to sleep at night. However, I had a couple more generic answers I would give people when they asked what I did. I didn’t feel the need to justify or defend what I did, so I didn’t mind somewhat stretching the truth on what I did.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      I’m completely mystified by people’s unkillable desire to identify the heretic, make a pointy finger and be the one who starts the shame circle in the room. I was actually really pleased to see the OP had brought this question here where people are generally kind and there is much less of that “head on a pike” attitude you see elsewhere on the internet, and then I see Alison’s warning! How virtuous can you really feel when being a boor? Anyways, OP I would probably sit back, and look at the wider situation instead of the exchange they’re offering you. They think they’re pointing out your shame but most important to them is that they think they look brave. What they’re doing is tanking their reputation with anyone of sense. I would be surprised if people aren’t mentioning it to you, or making WTF eye contact with you, unless bad manners are catching. I can’t improve on Alison’s no script script either. Just respond like someone farted.

      1. scandi*

        On a high level, shame is a primary motivator for moderating a lot of behaviour in every single human society. It can obviously be used “for good” or “for bad” depending on the behaviour that is shamed (I would, e.g. argue that it’s good if people feel ashamed to play TikTok videos with the sound on in public and a bad thing when women feel ashamed to go outside without makeup), but the basic idea of shaming unacceptable behaviour is a cornerstone of how large groups of people can live together. Both the people who shame LW2 for the industry they work in, and those who, like you, think that behaviour is rude are engaging in shaming to try to encourage what you see as pro-social behaviour. You simply disagree on which things merit public shaming.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          I think it’s less about which things merit public shaming and more about how it’s done and who it’s done to. I can’t speak for Ellis Bell, of course, but to me, the issue isn’t that “we shouldn’t ever make people feel shame” as that the people who shame LW2 are likely doing it more to feel virtuous than to achieve anything.

          Shaming the companies could achieve something. But shaming the LW for working for them is unlikely to do so. The most it would do is encourage her to look for another job and even if she gets one, the companies will find somebody to replace her. Criticising her isn’t likely to have any impact on the industry or its output.

          So I don’t really think those people are trying to encourage pro-social behaviour. I think they are trying to assert themselves as being in opposition to climate change and they are doing it in a way that requires minimal effort or change from them (of course, they may also be taking care not to buy from such companies, voting for parties and policies that work against climate change, engaging in protests, etc, but either way, this is low effort and high visibility).

          1. Spreadsheet Hero*

            On the other hand: corporations are faceless things that don’t appear to feel shame. _People_ are what feel shame. So “make the bad thing stop being bad by shaming people connected to the bad thing” may not be effective, but it is an easy logical leap for many people to make.

            The fact that LW is a replaceable cog in a machine that will continue to grind until the gears rust to nothing doesn’t really occur to them in that moment. They know climate change is scary, they know oil & gas are partly responsible, and LW has, in the act of introducing themself, stepped up to the plate to be the face of a source of a bad, scary thing.

            On the other hand, we’ve created an addiction to righteous anger, and that encourages shaming others even more.

            I don’t know. LW can make peace with the fact that being a replaceable cog in a vast machine of badness means certain kinds of people are likely to react badly to meeting them, LW can use a more neutral identifier when meeting new people if it really bothers them, or LW can get out of oil & gas. Those are the solutions I see.

            1. Anne Elliot*

              OR rather than concede they are “a replaceable cog in a vast machine of badness,” and thus a hypocrite, they can conceive of their industry as providing a societal good, or is perhaps a necessary evil, and decide that earning a living by supporting it is morally and ethically defensible. You may not agree with that — seems likely that you don’t — but the options are not limited to “acknowledge your complicity in a bad thing,” “lie about what you do or at least evade it,” or “quit your job.”

            2. LW#2*

              I object strongly to your assertions that my only options are put up with it or get out. Would you tell a veterinarian that met some rude people “oh well, guess you gotta get a new job”?

              I’m seeking advice on how to deal with people that are so addicted to righteous anger (a great phrase btw) that they are seeking to publicly embarrass others in what should be a completely professional setting.

              1. Chinookwind*

                I hate to say it, but learning to “turn the other cheek” while knowing that I act in an ethical manner (because I only can control my actions) and am willing to speak up if I see something wrong is the only way I have survived this. After a few times, you do grow calluses and become more immune to the “righteous anger” that speaks more of the speaker than it does of you or your company.

              2. KMD*

                LW#2, I’m also in Oil & Gas, (and now Power Gen) and sometimes get this at conferences, or just in regular life! Rude people are going to be rude. But they aren’t paying my bills, and Oil & Gas is, soooo….

                Depending on my snark levels that day, my response will range between ignoring them, or responding with “Did you turn on the lights in your house today? Use electricity at all? Then you probably have Gas to thank for that.”

                1. Distracted Librarian*

                  Yeah, I’d be inclined to ask if they flew or drove to the meeting. “Then you’re here because of oil and gas.”

                  To be clear, I think we need to move to renewable energy as soon as possible, but I also drive, fly, use gas appliances, and use electricity that is generated in part by coal, so I have exactly no room to shame someone who works in the oil and gas industry. I’m guessing most of the attendees at LW2’s meetings are in the same (gas-powered) boat.

                2. Hohumdrum*

                  I wouldn’t respond with that. Because part of the complaint against oil & gas is the fact that the industry has worked to ensure society *is* dependent on it. So pointing out that we’re forced to rely on it at this point isn’t really a gotcha but instead making it sound like you’re gleefully oblivious to why people have issues.

              3. Melody Powers*

                Having worked with a lot of vets, I actually do think there are plenty of times when it might be worthwhile for them to reconsider their career. Not everyone is equipped to deal with the unique stresses of each career or industry. Some of those stresses in your industry are its reputation and these types of people you’re dealing with. There may come a point when nothing you do can make them stop and you will need to either put up with it or decide the job isn’t worth it. I think the point you’re responding to is more about reframing this as a Them problem rather than a You problem. That can sometimes make it easier to deal with comments like the ones you’re getting.

                But it sounds like what you’re looking for is more in the way of scripts to use in the moment. That would depend on what your goal is. Comments to shut it down will probably look different than ones that might get them thinking about the assumptions they’re making. Personally I’m pretty non-confrontational and would probably say something like “yeah I get that a lot” in a neutral tone and change the subject. I might also find some ways to slip in some comments that signal that I don’t actually fit their stereotypes of the industry, since it sounds like the assumptions that you’re a climate change denier, etc are one of the things bothering you most here. That’s my usual response to people making wrong assumptions about me. A direct argument doesn’t do much but offering a bunch of details about myself that don’t fit what they expect, without drawing attention to it, has worked well for me in many situations.

              4. Nupalie*

                Yes, I think these people are basically using you as their car, and slapping a bumper sticker on you to advertise their opinion. It’s disrespectful to you as a person to conflate you with your employer. (I worked for a wastewater utility, so what would that make me?)
                Also…exactly what positive change do they think is going to result from their rudeness to you?

            3. Weiner Mom*

              I think the problem here is that the people at the conference weren’t being specific enough with thier questions. I don’t think it’s actually rude to ask someone who works at the corporate office of an oil and gas company, “What specific steps are your company taking to reduce carbon emissions, come into compliance with worldwide safety and pollution laws, and how specifically is your company committed to fighting climate change?”

              This person didn’t just choose this job, presumably they also put some effort into getting it. Only judging corporations and not the individuals who voluntarily perpetuate them because companies aren’t people and, as others have pointed out, don’t have feelings.

              The only thing companies do in response to public shaming is damage control and maybe release a shiny new product.

              The individuals who perpetuate these systems need to stop and think about what they’re doing if we have any chance of fixing the current capitalist nightmare we find ourselves in.

              So yeah. I’m actually ok with some jobs drawing righteous anger. The survival of the planet is more important than one person feeling embarrassed that they work somewhere that does monstrous things to birds.

          2. Ellis Bell*

            Yeah, that’s a pretty much what I meant. Of course there are times when we shouldn’t be morally silent, and something dire is happening right in front of us, but I think there is a pretty persistently annoying group of people so addicted to virtue that they are always looking to nit pick something tangential – like the company you belong to – and make it into a huge thing purely for the dopamine hit of classing themselves on the side of right. They don’t expect any real outcome, or for OP to care about their opinion, but that’s not why they do it. It’s hard to explain… but sometimes their glee is palpable.

          3. My Useless 2 Cents*

            I think this is more virtue signaling than true shaming but having a few statements up OP’s sleeve could make things less awkward (for them)
            If they say something about global warming or can’t sleep, I’d try something like
            “Well, I figured you have to be in the system to change the system.”
            “Yeah, I can do more to combat global warming by making sure the company is run responsibly so I sleep just fine, thanks!”
            If it’s about being in a dying industry something like the following could make sense…
            “The need for energy is increasing, and actually, oil & gas have a lot of research going into alternate energy sources, I know I personally push the company into more sustainable sources whenever I can.”

          4. AVP*

            To be fair, shaming individual employees works extremely well sometimes! And if you can, let’s say, create enough shame around being the CEO of Leopard Face Eating Inc., such that they end up with a subpar CEO instead of the best person they can afford, you may actual mitigated some of Leopard Face Eating’s work by making it less effective or less voluminous, no?

            Works less for lower down workers but at the top it does seem to be effective without comment on the merits. cc the Clean Creatives campaign, for example.

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              I would actually thing this works better for lower-level employees. There are plenty of top-shelf people who are excellent at CEOing and could not care less about public outrage if the money is right. CEOs tend to have the money and golden parachutes to make the social risk worth it – lower-level employees don’t have personal security or a way to pay their rent if they quit/get fired.

              Having worked with and for high-level executives, there are plenty who do not feel shame at all. And, as much as we’d hope that sociopaths and villains are subpar, plenty of them are also excellent at their jobs.

        2. cabbagepants*

          Humans have plenty of impulses that don’t need to be trotted out during the social time at professional conferences. If someone believes in their heart that oil&gas professionals should be banned from the conference, then they should take it up with the conference organizers.

        3. NeedRain47*

          Shame is actually a terrible motivator which only breeds resentment and we’d all be better off if we never used it.

        4. Boof*

          I really wonder how many of the people who try to shame LW1 ever use oil/gas themselves? I get that the industry can do a lot of problematic things, but my guess is LW1 has nothing to do with high level decisions, and as a (global!) society we still rely on these products a LOT for many basic needs. It’s like yelling at a farmer for growing Monsato products to me.

          1. Drago Cucina*

            This is a good point. My husband, in a non-related field, would have these conversations come up from family and friends. He would start naming all the medical devices he used at work that were produced by oil/gas. Not allowed to be used again. Then it was personal medical devices that they probably used. It was easier for him because it wasn’t his livelihood.

            I did something similar when I worked as a contractor for a Federal space agency.

            With the shame-calling often comes a lot of ignorance.

            1. Starrrry*

              these objections are really kissing the point on why people are upset. is it *just* the existence and extraction of oil an gas? no, it’s the vast buckets of money these companies pour into denying the evidence of the harm they’re causing. it’s the same reason people (rightly) loathe tobacco companies – they hid evidence that they were hurting people when they knew what was happening. it’s really disappointing to see so many people arguing for the comfort of those in an industry that is, right now, responsible for making millions of people in this country very uncomfortable indeed. enforcing the veneer of civility isn’t going to protect anyone from that.

              1. Liv*

                THANK YOU. Having to gas up your car to get to work isn’t remotely comparable to an industry that knew the devastating effects it was having on the planet and actively lied about the danger and fought tooth and nail against any mitigation.

                1. OK*

                  That’s ridiculous.

                  Most of things we have today we rely on oil and gas. How many people do you know who rely on sustenance farming or live off the grid?

                  Look around you, how many products are made of plastic? How do you thing the food and other products are brought to you? It’s all by trucks and planes, using tons of gas&oil. Who exactly brings you the gas to fill your car? It’s these companies. How do most people in the US get their electricity?

                  It’s so intertwined in our lives, that it doesn’t even make sense to feel self righteous about.

                2. HQetc*

                  Yes, but that’s sort of the point. I suspect the LW’s level of complicity (she has to survive in this capitalist society too) is much closer to the level of gassing up your car (or, say, flying to a conference) than it is to being an oil exec who lied to the FDA or whatever. Obviously I don’t know her place on the food chain, and maybe my argument would be different if she said she was part of the C-suite and is choosing to use her power to crush renewable energy businesses so her bonus comes in bigger, but that’s really not the sense I got from the letter (given her stated views on this things). So the people snarking at her are about as out of line as they would be if the sneered at every tradesperson who drives a truck, or office worker who can’t afford to live on a public transportation line, or whatever.

          2. Tired*

            my sister works in an oil-adjacent industry and if people every say anything she asks if they drive an electric car. most people don’t say much after that.

            1. KT*

              That’s a pretty silly response. There’s a lot of reasons why someone might hate O&G and still be forced to use an ICE vehicle, such as EVs being expensive to buy because there’s not much of a used EV market yet, they might live in an area with poor EV infrastructure, etc. O&G have forced a reliance on their products. O&G companies have gone out of their way to delay the death of their industry by spreading misinformation, harming climate science and climate scientists, and burying new technologies that could have reduced our reliance on O&G a long time ago. Intentions matter. And I say that as a former Geophysicist in the industry who saw the light decades ago and left.

        5. Cherries Jubilee*

          This, plus a lot of people sweep every amount of public friction they experience as a result of people being off, put by their choices as “public shaming”, which, depending on the circumstances can be a little grandiose.

          If you find out that someone works for Goldman Sachs or something, it’s OK to factor that into your opinion of their character (of course allowing for a possible variation in personal circumstances). It’s a fact about them, and you’re allowed to react to that fact.

          A raised eyebrow or a vibe of “really dude?” isn’t quite the same thing as marching you down the streets, bringing the shame bell with everyone booing.

        6. The Shenanigans*

          The problem with shaming about jobs is that…there is no job without some sort of problematic morality. None. At all. In every single industry, there are companies, CEOs, and business practices that are demonstrably harmful. So, if you’re gonna go after someone in oil and gas, you need to be going after healthcare (for literally killing people by denying needed care), nonprofits (lots of stories here about the damage some of those do), policing (see the news for that one), retail (Amazon, Walmart), producing food and drink (Monsanto, banana republics, Coca-Cola’s death troops)…I could do this for literally every industry.

          You can absolutely make your own calls about where you draw your own moral lines but don’t pretend there are bright lines denoting Good Industries and Bad Industries. So the best thing to do is just make your own choices as best you can and decide that others are doing so too, and don’t judge them.

          The thing with public shame that makes it useful is if it is for behavior that is 100% under the control of someone. A too-loud phone is entirely under the control of the phone owner. A person deciding to be rude to others is making a choice that is under their control.

          The business practices of an industry or company are not even a little bit under the control of someone under the C-level. Sometimes even the job they are in isn’t entirely under their control. It may be the only job they’ve found since 2020 that paid a living wage or had health insurance or something. The point is that the immoral actions of the company or industry aren’t 100% under their control, even for the C-suite, so shaming isn’t useful.

          Shame is the most POPULAR way to control social behavior, but that doesn’t make it the BEST way.

          1. Distracted Librarian*

            Best comment yet. I have yet to meet a holier-than-thou person whose behavior met their own standards.

          2. NotAnotherManager!*

            Thank you. There is far more gray in industry than black and white, and there is so much personal subjectivity about how dark a gray some of them are. And most of us have to eat and pay rent and, in the US at least, have health insurance.

            In LW2’s position, I’d have a hard time not leaning in and going with a series of philosophical musings about the virtues and sins of various other jobs I’ve held and possibly the companies that the commenters work for.

            I have feelings about public shaming in general, particularly in the age of social media. The vast majority of what I see is focused less on changing behavior and more on pack-mentality displays of moral “superiority”.

      2. MassMatt*

        I was hoping that the warning was preemptive, after all who would make such boorish comments on a letter asking about how to handle boorish comments?

        But sadly, it seems it was not, I see below that comments quickly veered straight toward exactly that.

        1. Jodi*

          I was thinking the same thing as I read all the commenters jumping on the “ OP is bad and should be ashamed of themself” bandwagon.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Yeah, it disappointed me as this place is normally very supportive of people being fed up of being criticised for stuff that is nobody else’s business.

            ‘You accepted this when you took this job’ is unacceptable to me. It’s miles off from ‘you invited the attention by dressing like that’ but it’s in the same country.

            1. The Shenanigans*

              Yes exactly. I think it comes from people wanting to believe in the whole Just World fallacy. Good people do good things and take good jobs in good industries and so deserve good things. Bad people do bad things and take bad jobs in bad industries and therefore deserve whatever they get. It’s understandable after the chaos and pain and fear and grief of the last three years. However, it is extremely damaging.

              1. NotAnotherManager!*

                Thank you, this hit the nail on the head of what’s bothering me about it. It’s such simplistic, binary thinking that is likely reinforced in echo chambers.

        2. LW#2*

          Unfortunately I had hoped the same… but apparently I’ve been to conferences with quite a few of these people recently ;)

          1. ADidgeridooForYou*

            Maybe it has to do with anonymity? Even at a face-to-face conference, there’s some level of anonymity – you don’t know them and probably won’t see them again. It’s also easy for commenters here or elsewhere to hurl judgments at you because they’re behind a screen. People are generally emboldened by anonymity, and the fact that they don’t know the person personally makes it easy to put them into categories of “good” or “bad.”

            I used to work at a big climate change organization, then moved and switched over to a company that we actively railed against. My old coworkers don’t begrudge me, though, because they know me well and know I’m not an evil person set on capitalism ruling the world.

        3. cabbagepants*

          I think this nicely embodies something else that Alison has said on this site: that general communications about “please don’t do X” often fail because the worst offenders read them and think “well obviously they don’t mean ME.”

      3. Mockingjay*

        I’m a defense contractor and I’ve often run into the “I can’t believe you do/work for X.” I interviewed with several private industry software companies. (I love what I do, but loathe being at the mercy of annual congressional funds fights, so tried to break out of contracting.) None of the private companies believed my experience would translate to what they do. I had all the things they were looking for, but they couldn’t get past Hollywood stereotypes of Big Sinister Government. I built a bigger nest egg to handle the occasional furloughs and stayed in my industry.

        No advice other than what Alison recommended: just don’t bring your industry up with ‘outsiders’ (ugh, not sure what else to call them) and deflect as needed.

      4. Hohumdrum*

        I mean…I think everyone would have a job/industry that they think is capital B bad. There are several sectors that make me internally wince when someone says they’re a part of them, and maybe even consider not associating with them depending on how they talk about their work. Not to shame them necessarily, but because their values are so clearly, clearly misaligned with mine that I’m not interested in pursuing a further connection to them. That said, one of my core values is recognizing humanity in all and also recognizing that we need to change systems and hold large scale actors accountable vs going after individuals who likely are just trying to survive our unjust and unequal world themselves, so I generally try to keep judgments to myself and wouldn’t be rude to someone like LW2 at a party, that is uselessly rude behavior.

        But I will say I’m not gonna just smile and nod if you talk about your work in a way I find morally repugnant. I met a guy once who worked in corrections and talked with glee about using violence and acts of oppression on prisoners and referred to them in dehumanizing ways, that guy got an earful and I don’t feel remotely bad about it. Sometimes people are rude to you because you deserve social ostracization for the things you are presenting as good or normal.

        But obviously that’s an outlier. You tell me you work in corrections and I’m most likely to smile and nod and move on to the next person because I think that’s a better expression of my values and I save my energy for actual prison reform possibilities, not getting shots in at a party.

        1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

          I think you hit the nail on the head about separating the industry and the people in it– and those in it who see the moral and ethical failings as a feature and not a bug.

        2. Hohumdrum*

          Sorry, kept thinking about this and realized I had another thought about this-

          It’s not just how you talk about your job it’s also what you do there. Both a clerk at a gas station and the attorney leading the charge on fighting for access to drill in the arctic are “working in oil and gas” but one is much more culpable than the other. The higher up the org you go, the more responsible you are for how that org operates. Shaming a secretary at the Exxon Mobile office is very different than shaming the CEO. I don’t think I could meet the executive team at any of the orgs I despise and not give them a piece of my mind, tbh (luckily for them I am an insignificant nobody who will most likely never be anywhere near an executive team of any org).

          LW, depending on your job offering either clarity on your position or more vagueness may help.

      5. Nupalie*

        There’s a joke with the punch line “Bless your heart”….,(wherein that phrase is really ‘code’ for another short and ruder phrase)
        I would have been very very tempted to respond, “Well, bless your heart”

    2. Watry*

      I also have moral and political disagreements with the existence of my workplace, and this is what I do as well. It isn’t “I work in Llama Groomer Support”, it’s “Oh, I do finance” or “I work for (less objectionable parent org)” or whatever works for your situation.

    3. Kelly*

      I work in the opposite kind of industry and have started lying about what I do. My job SOUNDS depressing and awful, but people really appreciate it when they need it (think funeral director). After getting lots of “I could NEVER do your job!” with sad faces I either lie or just redirect the conversation immediately to them. It gets really damn old since I don’t find my job depressing and it pays really well because no one wants to do it.

    4. Chief Bottle Washer*

      I work in an industry that is similarly required but which some people choose to portray negatively. I am not ashamed of what I do and am happy to tell people where I work, what we do, and why it’s necessary. The reality for LW’s industry is that we do need it and the people insulting them are probably consumers of that industry. So it’s awfully boorish of them to adopt a holier than thou attitude with someone they’ve just met. I would probably come up with a standard remark that acknowledges their rudeness, along the lines of “Wow, are you always so prejudiced?”

      1. Cup of coffee*

        It reminds me of a few years back when there were a lot of large forest fires in a town that’s close to well known oil sands and reliant on the O&G industry. A lot of evacuations and homes lost, animals lost, and there were many comments along the lines of “they deserve it because they live in that town.” Ugh.

        1. Chinookwind*

          We are hearing murmerings of that this year again in Alberta. What none of these people seem to understand is that, when you live in these areas, you are usually much more connected to nature and it hurts your heart to see it burn (even if your town survives). As well, we are more aware that many of those fires are man-made. For example , one recent major fire is believed to have been started by a wayward spark by someone with a holiday trailer whose chains aren’t correctly connected, so they spark their way down a highway during the driest part of the year. People behind them were literally stopping to put out the fires as these people drove on, causing havoc and destruction. Police are investigating other such incidents throughout the province (as well as in BC).

          But, oh no, the people who see these places maybe once in their lifetime think that the locals deserve to have everything burn around them because they dare to work in an industry who, if they don’t supply those products, the only alternatives are from literally dictatorships which have major human right s violations. Wouldn’t want to encourage a local source with equal rights for women and good labour laws now, would you? (And, OP, I may have used the last line once when someone wouldn’t let the issue drop.).

          1. Orphea*

            Okay, people don’t deserve forest fires. No one deserves forest fires, especially since they hurt far more than just humans, let alone just local humans. That’s an abjectly stupid and cruel thing to say and no one should be saying it.

            But let’s not ignore the fact that this is the hottest year on record, ever, and hot dry temperatures create perfect conditions for record wildfires. Even man-made fires require kindling, which climate change is providing.

            Let’s also not ignore that according to climate predictions, we will break this year’s temperature record again very soon. Or that the oil and gas industry actively lobbies to remove environmental protections while the planet burns.

            (Also, how many of those people who are sooo connected to nature and sooo heartbroken to see it burn voted for Danielle Smith, who thinks that decreasing emissions is a direct attack on Alberta?)

            And let’s not pretend that oil and gas are inevitable. We have alternatives, we’re just not willing to commit to them at anything but a pathetically plodding pace. Nuclear has its own environmental issues, but it is overall far cleaner and safer and more sustainable. Solar, wind, and biogas can at the very least supplement existing use. It may not be a simple or easy switch, and it requires investment, but we could most definitely be using less oil/gas than we’re using now — it’s just that it’s, you know, not as immediately profitable.

            Well, and Alberta’s government will fight any attempt at change tooth and nail.

            “The industry that’s quite literally destroying the livability of our planet has labour rights in Canada” isn’t that great of a flex, either. Like, congrats to Alberta’s petroleum industry for doing the bare minimum? The people in the global South who are looking at wet bulb temperatures of 30+ centigrade really appreciate the commitment to equity, I’m sure.

            None of that should be laid at the feet of individual workers. People need money to eat, and someone is going to take that job if you don’t. But just because you work in the industry doesn’t mean you have to defend it, or gloss over the fact that it’s helping to drive us heedlessly towards an actual extinction event.

        2. The Shenanigans*

          How awful! If any of the people saying that have gas cars or heat their homes with more than wood fire, it is also unbelievably hypocritical.

    5. Glomarization, Esq.*

      I’ve had lawyering and lawyering-adjacent gigs in oil and gas. At the time, among friends I would say, “It’s not my favorite sector to work in, but it’s paying the bills. I’m hoping to leverage the experience and move on soon. How ’bout them Sportsteam?”

      Among professionals, though, I wouldn’t disparage the companies. (Definitely wouldn’t do so if the company were footing the bill for me to wear their name at a work conference!) I’d say something more along the lines of, “You’d be surprised at the advances OilAndGasCo is making in renewables. So about that Topic We Were Talking About …”

      1. Anne Elliot*

        I’m a lawyer in an area that is either Very Good (at one end of the current US politic spectrum) or Very Bad (at the other end of the political spectrum). And I am a government employee, so I have a vested interest in not adopting either of those presently-politicized positions, given the vagaries of political ascendencies. It’s tough to defend my role without aligning myself with a political position, and my job is safer if I don’ do that. I raise this as another reason why such judgey comments are loathsome. There may be reasons that you don’t even know why the person can’t defend themself or even entertain the discussion that Captain Judgey would like to have.

        I have been asked how I sleep at night, and I reply, “On my left side.”

        1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

          Also a lawyer who is, thankfully, in an area of law only some super conservative state elected officials seem to have a massive problem with. I generally try and see each lawyer’s “job” as just that, their job…not who they are.

          Having said that, I did cut one person completely out of my life. She was a lawyer for a firearms manufacturing company who was actively fighting victims of gun violence from being able to sue the manufacturer when the manufacturer made illegal gun sales to vendors who then illegally sold the guns to people who killed their kids. And she was PROUD of this work saying “Not like Company shot their kids!”. She otherwise seemed like a nice person, but I really couldn’t get past that.

        2. LW#2*

          “I have been asked how I sleep at night, and I reply, “On my left side.””

          Great phrase I’ll be stealing – thank you!

        3. NotAnotherManager!*

          Not a lawyer, but worked in a support capacity in BigLaw for years. The comments were amazing. I got chewed out a few times for matters that my firm wasn’t even a part of because apparently working with any lawyer was supporting the worst of the worst.

          My spouse is career civil servant, and he has also had his fair share of comments despite not being appointed, having no party affiliation, doing nothing related to policy, and, frankly working for one of the most boring parts of the government. It’s like people think he works for presidents or congresspeople directly (he does not even work on the Hill).

    6. Roy G. Biv*

      OP 2 is at the conference. So are all the other attendees. How did they arrive? Teleportation? Magic carpet? Or more likely by some method of travel that used oil and gas. I might just arch that eyebrow and ask them how they arrived at the conference center today, and then maybe arch the other eyebrow during the answer. No comments beyond that, just eyebrow commentary.

        1. Rainy*

          Yup. And irony being what it is, you’d probably say that to someone who lives local to the conference and biked there, and then you’d look so silly. (I’ve been the person that someone thought they were gotcha-ing about fossil fuel consumption before. I walk to work. It didn’t turn out quite how they’d pictured in their head.)

          1. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

            Yes, but odds are very high that bike was made in China, and it didn’t teleport across the ocean; fossil fuels are also used for the production of all of those electric vehicles (and for the electricity, depending where you are) (and likely in the soles of those shoes you were walking in too).

            I’m not an O&G apologist; I left my childhood region as soon as I could because I didn’t want a career in that sector – but landed in a forestry region. I was thinking about this tension between forest conservation and needing things like houses, chairs, sides for my community garden plot. It’s basically impossible to live purely and we’d all be better off if we could apply some nuance here.

        2. jasmine*

          I think the point is that personal circumstances sometimes lead to taking part in harmful things, and you can’t judge someone’s circumstances when you don’t know them.

          Like you can buy an electric car and avoid using petrol. But there are a lot of reasons why someone might not. Similarly, strangers shouldn’t be making snarky comments about OP’s job.

          1. SillyPeopleSaySillyThings*

            Electrical vehicles use hydrocarbons for manufacturing the cars. No one in modern society can claim that they don’t use or consume hydrocarbons.

            1. Kim*

              How on Earth is the electricity needed to charge electric cars generated ??? Oil, gas and nuclear! That’s why there won’t be enough charging stations until more power plants are built .
              LW 1, Allison is right, it’s best to ignore these people

          2. CRM*

            Exactly! In the US, electric vehicles are still very expensive to purchase. Even if you do have the means to buy one, if you don’t live in an area with an abundance of charging stations, then you are pretty limited as to where you can drive it. We will definitely see a shift in this within the next decade or so, but the reality is that it’s still out of reach for most Americans.

            1. Distracted Librarian*

              Also: I drive a 24-year-old vehicle that runs like a champ. Yes, it runs on gasoline, but it makes zero environmental sense for me to buy any kind of new vehicle–made and shipped with non-renewable resources–when my old one works fine.

              Caring for the environment can take many forms.

          3. Bunny Lake Is Found*

            Someone mentioned upthread about corrections officers and I thought something similarly. There are places where the prison is the major employer, and the only one that pays decently. I can’t judge someone who is trying to support their family for taking a steady job with decent pay that happens to be in a broken system they have no control over.

        3. Pescadero*

          I will say – there is a difference between the folks using fossil fuels and the corporations literally crushing science and buying politicians to deny reality.

          1. OK*

            Why do you think these companies still exist? Because every day people are using oil&gas.

            Most people would not be ready to give up the comforts of every day modern living. They can’t exist without consumers.

            1. Pescadero*

              “Why do you think these companies still exist?”

              1) Because every day people are using oil&gas.
              2) Because the industry has lobbied themselves massive subsidies, protections from regulation/lawsuit, and spent billions on propaganda to convince the public not to transition

              Tobacco companies did as well as they did for a long time not only because of their users, but also because of the propaganda, fake science, and buying of politicians to hide reality from their consumers.

            2. Lydia*

              Because wealthfare exists and the government hands them a lot of money to exist, which has created a situation where they haven’t had to do a lot of adaptation to a changing world and instead, we get lobbying for new pipelines instead of investment in renewable energies. That’s a big part of why they still exist.

            3. Starbuck*

              We still “need” oil and gas because these companies have fought against societal and governmental pushes towards programs and resources that would make them obsolete to protect their own profits. Where I live, our grid is 96% renewable. It can be done, if they’d get out of the way of progress and hadn’t fought SO HARD to convince so many people that climate change isn’t real, isn’t a problem, and can’t be solved.

          2. cabbagepants*

            The way to fight this is through your elected officials and through organizing, not by harassing random people at conferences.

            1. Hohumdrum*

              100% agree, but I think the issue happening here is that a lot of the suggested responses to LW2 are starting to head in the direction of “it’s ridiculous to have a problem with oil & gas in the first place”, which is not actually helpful here. LW2 is looking for help with people being rude, utilizing retorts that scoff at the real concerns of people who are oil & gas critical is not gonna decrease the tension or make LW come off well either.

              1. Orphea*

                Yeah, like, can we not pretend that the oil & gas industry is beyond reproach? Obviously individual workers have no control over whether the people who own these companies burn down the planet or not, and it’s stupid to give them shit for it, but in the same vein it’s not reasonable to expect anyone to live in a grass hut and weave their own flip flops from scavenged materials before they’re allowed to criticise the petroleum industry.

                The point is, those industries do everything they can to deny reality, avoid oversight (including weaseling out of responsibility for environmental disasters like oil spills), and bully out any alternatives to gas & oil. That’s unambiguously awful.

        4. Lydia*

          I keep that meme saved on my phone because of this exact thing. I admit, I worked with a guy who used to work in the tobacco industry, and it made me wonder about his overall view of the world. But I was working with him in an industry that was so outside of tobacco it wasn’t really important, and in reality he took a job he needed to pay his bills. People have to live and work in the world as it is.

    7. the-honey-eater*

      I also used to work in a maligned industry (journalism). I was continually shocked by how casually rude people were to me in social situations about it. I would usually just let their comments hang in the air for an uncomfortable amount of time and then be like, “oooook. So anyway, how do you know the bride/groom/expectant mom?”

    8. Elizabeth*

      I used to be an auto claims insurance adjuster and my running joke at the time was “I’m in insurance, but I usually tell people I’m a drug dealer because it’s more respectable.”

      I left that to join oil and gas, and now I say “Well, I used to be in insurance, but I can do more good for the world in this position.”

      I feel OP2 deeply, but I don’t think there’s any job that gets a pass. Even teachers get “oh, you like having summers off and only working 6 hours a day, huh?”

    9. Sparkles McFadden*

      I’m just go ahead and say that I cannot think of any morally pure professions. Most of our choices as consumers are tainted as well. Yes, there are extreme situations, but the idea of berating the LW for where she works is crazy. It’s not like she’s disemboweling kittens for a living.

      If I were you, LW #2, I’d be tempted to ask your interrogators how each of them got to the conference in question. Are they driving huge a vehicle that gets 12 mpgs? If they are driving an electric vehicle you could talk to them about environmental concerns about the manufacture and disposal of lithium batteries.

      But none of that is helpful to you so the only advice I have is just give such a person a death stare and then move along. Such people are not worth your time. There are just some people who look for opportunities to be insulting. It makes them feel better about themselves somehow.

    10. annalisakarenina*

      I was going to say, I work in an Evil Industry, and I am strongly opposed to it, really. But my bills don’t have morals and they do not stop. And, like OP1, I am single, so it’s just me.

    11. Unreasonable Doubt*

      #2 – When I was in law school, I was very active in a clinic that was criminal defense oriented, specifically helping people who had been unfairly treated or were factually innocent. At one point one of our group said that she had gotten an offer to work for the State’s Attorney office post-graduation, and confessed that she was embarrassed to admit that she was seriously considering it because we had encountered so much horrible behavior from prosecutors. My law professor vehemently objected to that feeling, and I’ll never forget what he said: how much better would we ALL be if principled, smart, and compassionate people took those jobs. Granted, it’s not that one person should go into an organization expecting to reform the whole thing. But you can still make a difference.

      OP, I agree with Alison’s advice that it’s fine to not say anything. But if you wanted a quick retort, (and you don’t want to be snarky), I think there’s a play along those lines- saying something like “Sometimes you can do the greatest good by working within an industry where we want to see change occur.” or: “There are definitely issues in my field, which is one of the reasons I like working there – it gives me a chance to make things better.” or (in response to the “dying field” comment: “It feels like opportunity to work towards new and better approaches that support both people and the environment.”

      1. The New Wanderer*

        This is a really important point. I heard a similar thing when I was talking to a colleague who was interested in working in the defense contracting/manufacturing world. Their perspective was that the industry and the need exist and aren’t going away, so isn’t it better if the people who do those jobs are conscientious, capable, and qualified.

      2. Starbuck*

        “Sometimes you can do the greatest good by working within an industry where we want to see change occur.”

        It doesn’t sound like that’s at all what LW2 is trying to do, though, so this would be disingenuous.

    12. Chinookwind*

      I am in an oil & gas industry adjacent company but previously worked for a pipeline company, so I know the OP’s pain. Part of what helped is knowing that I was also judged as being equally evil and close-minded for being from the province where most of that oil & gas comes from, so I know that those who speak to me like that will rarely be willing to hear my side and I learned to grow a thick skin.

      For those who did honestly want to know how I slept at night, I was able to respond by pointing out that I and my colleagues were in a position to ensure the industry evolved “the right way” and I knew many people who would “rat out” our employer in a heartbeat of they didn’t follow even the spirit of the laws. And that was important since the department I worked for did the actual inspections and repairs on the now 70 year old pipe. Even if the shut it down today, it would take a decade to remove and remediate the pipe (which would be better than leaving it there to leech and rot). And we were all for the twinning of the pipe because it meant we could start remediating/removing the 70 year old pipe now while still providing a needed product (which includes the jet fuel used to fly to all those environmental protest meetings).

      Ass for why did I choose to even join the industry? I got a job offer through a temp agency and then I did my diligence and was impressed by the environmental and First Nations’ reconciliation activities that were being done out of sight of the media (my family lives near the pipe, so they heard things). And, intuitively, I knew that, if “good people” don’t work inside those companies, that only leaves “bad people” there with no one to stop them before they get started.

    1. Marissa*

      LW2 does not owe an apology to rude people. That’s just validating their unacceptable and hypocritical behavior.

    2. Zarniwoop*

      Do you drive a car?
      If you have electricity in your home, does all of it come from renewables and/or nuclear?

      1. Gerry Kaey*

        there’s a difference between living in a society that runs off oil and making your living working for that industry. one of those is a choice.

        1. Spencer Hastings*

          It may be easy to forget on this website, because so many people here are super talented and accomplished, but not everyone is a rockstar who can find another job as easily as snapping their fingers. (Let alone one that pays them enough to live on — see #1.)

    1. coffee*

      Yes! I am imagining the LW wielding a tiny chair and whip while a clam leaps through a hoop and the crowd goes wild.

      1. justin joseph king*

        Clam taming these days is based much more on behavioral observation and positive reinforcement. Those old clam circuses were really problematic and they’re trying to get away from that image of clams as fierce and exotic spectacles.

      2. darsynia*

        As a kid we did word games in the car and one of them used alliteration and had a script of, like (and now I gotta do this with my kids and open up the gender roles, can you tell this was early 90’s), ‘Hi my name is Alison and my husband’s name is Arthur, we come from Alameda and we Arbitrate Ardvarks!’ on through the alphabet.

        The alliterative professions were my favorite part, and ‘Wasp Wiping’ has been my go-to for fake stories forever. I’ve never needed to write in but I’m keeping it under my belt because just picturing that for years has given me untold joy :D

    2. Aphrodite*

      I agree. I love steamed littlenecks so much that were there such a job and clams were part of the pay (or better, bonus) I’d be applying in a nanosecond.

        1. Distracted Librarian*

          And… I’m really glad I wasn’t drinking anything when I read this.

    3. Blackcat*

      I mean, I was thinking a clam tamer better make more than that! The fishing industry is dangerous!
      But perhaps a clam tamer is like a zookeeper, a job that is criminally underpaid?

    4. Sloanicota*

      I was a little confused by this letter. Is OP sure the new job offers more money? Or are they just asking about the ethics of interviewing?

      1. Rainy*

        It seemed to me that OP feels like jumping ship immediately after they’ve just been told that they’ve topped out their earning potential at their current employer looks bad, like maybe they live in a capitalist system that requires large amounts of money to procure the necessities of life and they don’t just work for the sense of satisfaction they get.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Which funny to me, because their boss explicitly told them that they’re approaching the salary cap. If my boss said that to me, what I would hear is: “You probably want to be job searching.”

          1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

            Bingo. Some jobs are only every going to be worth X amount to a company. If X is something you can live with, great! If not, well, you need to go to a company where that job is worth >X or move to a job at current company that is worth >X to the company. The boss is actually being pretty awesome here giving LW the lay of the land and making it pretty clear that LW would not be unreasonable for deciding “Yeah, I need to make more than that long term” and taking steps towards achieving that goal.

          2. Alanna*

            As a boss, I agree. OP’s boss is saying pretty clearly to OP that there is a ceiling in their current role, and offering an alternate path (going into clam taming). They understand what they are saying and they are not going to be surprised if OP takes that information into account and makes choices accordingly.

            Fwiw, from the limited information we’re given, OP’s boss sounds like a reasonable person who wants the best for their direct reports. It’s normal to be a little dismayed when someone gives notice, but I sincerely doubt they will be surprised or upset.

          3. Rainy*

            Yes, exactly. I think (I hope) the boss thinks “I am doing OP a solid by letting them know that the current job has hit a wall, but here is this other option” and OP is worried that they’re going to look materialistic if they make decisions around needing more money.

    5. Erin*

      +1 to this! Visions of taming clams to possibly perform in a show or march in rows like a little infantry (both with the appropriate costumes, obviously) are lovely to think about!

    6. DJ Hymnotic*

      Yes, long past time for all those wild clams out there to be domesticated!

      On a serious note, LW 5, I think you would be doing your current employer a disservice if you weren’t up front with them about your reason for wanting to leave, because it sounds like their salary range might be verging on inadequate in today’s clam industry, and before long they could find themselves losing more clam harvesters like you to clam taming, unable to hire more experienced clam harvesters, or both.

      (My employer is in a somewhat similar situation, in that it pays us better than many other local employers in our field, but it can’t or won’t match the starting pay range of a couple of their biggest competitors. So even though I’m already paid slightly above market rate for a clam technician with my experience and clam credentials, it’s in my employer’s best interest to give me those annual raises so that I don’t jump ship to one of those better-paying competitors. I wish your employer would display that sort of nuance and thoughtfulness with you so that you can continue to be paid equitably for doing the clam work you love.)

  4. Name*

    #3 – my guess is they have an internal candidate in mind and are looking at ways to eliminate candidates before conducting interviews.

    1. Artemesia*

      If so this is even more grotesquely abusive than if it were not so. No one is going to really read and evaluate these projects. We used to have candidates to performances that required a lot of preparation — this was limited to the two or three finalists who spend a couple of days being flown in and wined, dined, interviewed and evaluated by us. I wish all the candidates asks to do this kind of task pre-interview would just say they cannot do this until they are interviewed and a finalist for the position. Awful.

    2. Emmy Noether*

      okay, that’s worse.

      Also, what if an external candidate does much better on the exercise than the internal? Interviews are much easier to fudge to go the way one wants them to.

        1. Hanani*

          Yeah, I suspect there’s nothing ominous at all, just people who are completely clueless about appropriate hiring practices. They would find this exercise useful before deciding who to spend their precious time talking to, and the fact that their applicants also have precious time just does not occur to them.

    3. linger*

      There may not even necessarily be an internal candidate. (It’s more likely if the task is something an internal candidate might already have completed for their work, but that’s not clearly the case here.) Rather they may be, in effect, selecting for the most desperate candidates. Especially, those without current employment, who might be most expected to have sufficient time available at relatively short notice. In itself it may not quite be a red flag (because many companies are genuinely that unrealistic about sample tasks), but it’s not an encouraging sign, and you should watch out for other potential problems.

      1. linger*

        In particular, you should be prepared to ask some questions about how the company promotes a healthy work-life balance in this role, because this task does not demonstrate respect for the candidate’s time!

      2. BlueSwimmer*

        I had to do a performance task like this for a school system that I was already teaching in. It was the first step in being accepted to the candidate pool for instructional coaches. Once you are in the pool, you can then apply for instructional coach jobs at schools. This is a sought-after position in my school system. It’s the same pay as teaching but you help other teachers and don’t have to grade papers, spend all day in the classroom, or deal with student misbehavior or critical parents. I think the assumption is that anyone who wants the job is willing to jump through almost any hoops to get into the pool. I know from my experience and from friends in central office that the performance task is a way to gate-keep and looks for specific buzzwords and instructional strategies that follow the current gurus the school system wants all schools to model their instruction on.

        Interestingly, when I applied for two higher-ranked jobs in the same school system, with much wider responsibilities and a higher profile, I just had to do a 30 minute writing sample and a panel interview.

      3. A CAD Monkey*

        I’m on the more cynical side of this, where they need the work done because they haven’t someone in the role for a while -|the role is challenging to hire for and retain staff|- and are farming it out to the applicants so they can use the one they like best. There is definitely something here that doesn’t pass the smell test.

    4. MK*

      Unfortunately likely. They may have a marginally qualified candidate they want to hire, but cannot justify picking them over someone as qualified as OP, and are trying to eliminate the others. Then they can say their intended pick was the best/only candidate.

    5. Cj*

      I was actually thinking the opposite. since the OP used to work in this school district, I figured they know them, and that the school is certain they want to move them forward in the process. which is why they skipped the phone screen and went straight to the exercise.

      however, if I’m correct, the potential employer is forgetting the part where the candidate is also interviewing them, and wants the phone screen to determine if they (the OP) are interested before they complete such a lengthy exercise.

    6. Snow Globe*

      I vote for just lazy. It’s easier for the hiring manager to select candidates to move forward if they have a work sample in addition to resume/application.

    7. I should really pick a name*

      There are easier ways to eliminate candidates.

      The LW has stated that this position is difficult to hire for, so we should believe that.

    8. Also-ADHD*

      Could be, but honestly school district central office stuff can be so messed up that this didn’t end surprise me. I work in private industry now but used to teach and work in school administration, as well as educational consulting and training educators. I still adjunct as well, in training educators and work with a nonprofit part time (not my full time gig at all, which is remote and flexible and lets me have side gigs). I make so much more money now than I could at nearly any role in my school district, and yet I heard from a friend they can’t find anyone to fill a role she thought I’d be interested in (no, they wouldn’t let me do my side gigs even if I fit them in because unlike teaching, school admin and central office requires no outside employment, losing 40-50k in income, it wouldn’t be remote or even hybrid, and it pays 20-30K less than my full time job). She did mention that I didn’t have a doctorate so selling the department head might be a stretch (I have multiple Masters, all related) and they might offer an even lower pay rate! Plus the interview process was 7 steps and included a full day task. They’ve had trouble finding qualified folks to interview, especially midyear when they can’t hire from schools but even now in summer because teachers would lose some pension benefits and their union status so the small pay bump is not appealing to them for the 12 month position. They refuse to hire someone who was laid off because they’re worried they’ll leave for money. It sounds like a nightmare, and this isn’t the first hiring nightmare I’ve heard from the central office. The pay just isn’t much more than in schools and while teacher pay is okay here because of the union, the attitude central office has that their jobs are so “good” they must find a unicorn makes it even harder.

    9. Carrie as in Caraway*

      This seems really unlikely. Of course there’s no way for us to know for sure, but a lot of bad interview practices we read about here on AAM are most likely due to incompetence or inexperience, rather than representing some secret test or a sneaky way to eliminate candidates. I’ve been involved in a lot of hiring in my career (not always as the hiring manager), and I’ve seen it done both really well and extremely poorly, depending on the skill and experience of the interviewer and the quality of the guidance they’re getting from HR. My guess here (and again, no way to know for sure!) is that they either haven’t thought through the process well enough to realize it doesn’t make sense for them or the candidate to invest this time prior to a conversation, or it’s a workplace that’s cavalier with employees’ time, too. Either option is not great and probably will eliminate candidates, but I’d be surprised if that’s their actual goal with this assignment.

    10. Landslide*

      I have found that secondary public education is filled with rigid rule-makers who often overlook the reasonable or professional in favor of their ‘rules.’ I would imagine they loose a lot of otherwise talented people because of that. When I was looking and (briefly) working in that environment, schools often wanted huge amounts of paperwork, including background checks and written references (fresh) before even speaking with me. When I would question that, they were often dismissive and rude, “well, that’s the way we do it.”

      If I ever went further, or got to know the place later, yes – they continued to be that way. Difficult and hard to deal with. Asking candidates to provide written references (new), in other words inconveniencing busy and valuable supportive people and we haven’t even spoken? No, no no

    11. Anonymosity*

      The deadline is very suspicious. When I see something like this, my mind immediately goes to an attempt to get free labor. As in, “We have this task and no one to do it; let’s see if we can con some poor sap into completing it as part of their job application!”

    12. College Career Counselor*

      Because of the industry (education/school district), I suspect that there is a standard format (every candidate does the XYZ exercise in 72 hours) for “fairness”. What this winds up doing is making things equal, but not fair to the candidate(s), as Alison points out (what if you’re traveling, what if you learn you don’t want the role after talking to people).

      I see this in higher education all the time. “Please give us a CV/resume/cover letter (fine), a diversity statement, a teaching statement, and written letters of recommendation from 3-7 people by Month/Day.”

      They ask everyone to do ALL the things so that they have them in case they’re needed, so they don’t lose time asking for them later once they’ve determined their “short list.” This is highly ironic, since higher education should very often more appropriately be termed “Slower Ed” given the amount of time it takes to do things.

  5. Viki*

    LW1, ask for a raise based on merit, cost of living work etc—just don’t say “Now that I’m single, my expenses are up, so I need a raise.” Your relationship status cannot factor into how raises are given.

    But, I do think you probably would find it easier to jump to corporate for a 20k raise if that’s the gap you need to fill.

    1. Stephanie*

      Yeah, I think jumping to the corporate would probably be the easiest path. Government might also be higher paying (if there’s an analogous role), if you like the public service aspect.

      1. Jackalope*

        Also pointing out that government positions tend to have good benefits, which makes the value of your salary higher than it seems. Plus they tend to be pretty stable, which can be helpful if you’re wanting to have an outside job that is your *real* passion.

    2. bamcheeks*

      I agree with this. I also think it’s worth ~noticing~ that your non-profit organisation doesn’t pay people enough to live on and is effectively subsidised by employing people with higher-earning partners. This is unfortunately one of the ways in which non-profits suck.

      1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        Eh, it doesn’t pay enough to raise a family on, definitely. I’d have to have a better idea of the actual pay, local cost of living, and career stage to decide if the pay is unethically low. I do think it’s reasonable if a early career job pays “comfortable if you have roommates” low, which is going to be lower than “pay for a two bedroom by yourself”.

      2. Jackalope*

        If you don’t get a raise at this employer (which as Alison pointed out, may not work out), then this is a useful thing to mention in an exit interview. Letting them know that you really enjoyed the job but are regretfully leaving because of the salary may be a help to future employees.

      3. Owlet101*

        Yeah. I only worked for one non-profit. Pay was definitely an issue. What made it worse is that they included me on an email of what they were charging the state for our services. It was fun finding out that in one month they charged the state 75% of my annual salary for my services alone.

        I like the mission of most non-profits, but having to rely on a partner for your finances can be stressful at times.

      4. Smithy*

        As someone in the nonprofit industry – while I acknowledge that the salaries available are often less – I think what often exacerbates this is how nonprofits are funded. Which is a factor set by other sectors around them.

        As this speaks to the OP themselves, the growth opportunities year after year at nonprofits are regularly more limited than in other sectors. And genuine pay increases are primarily attainable via internal promotions as opposed to merit or COLA increases. It’s also typical to see the pay increases available via internal promotions capped as well.

        I put all of this out there to say that while pay increases within one nonprofit are more difficult – when I’ve changed jobs within the nonprofit sector from one nonprofit to another – all of my pay increases have been at least $20k more. I don’t know what the OP does, so perhaps for their skill set – this isn’t possible. But I just provide this context because if the OP is just looking for more money, it may very been within the nonprofit sector but at another nonprofit.

      5. ferrina*

        It sounds like OP was okay with the pay when she was with her partner, but is not okay with it now that her life circumstances changes. That’s interesting to me because it sounds like she wasn’t looking at value-based pay either.

        1. Meep*

          +1 Not to be unkind, but she is part of the problem. It is great nonprofits can subsidize pay because people going into nonprofits have traditionally had higher-earning spouses (or other financial securities). But normalizing it led OP to the problem many SAHP’s come to terms with when their relationship breaks up – they have no financial security net.

          1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

            This actually does confuse me because based on LW1’s description it sounds like she should be getting some sort of alimony from her partner– at least short term, as LW1 is only in a lower paying job BECAUSE her partner had a better gig and could support a basic standard of living.

              1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

                Um, yes it is. At least in the state I got divorced in. The purpose of alimony is so the lower earning spouse’s standard of living doesn’t crash…and opportunity costs can function into the length of alimony payments and amounts.

            1. Ace in the Hole*

              LW1 specified that they were never married. Even in states where this might warrant alimony, that only applies to spouses. You can’t force an ex to pay you if there was never a legal relationship established via marriage.

        2. Bunny Lake Is Found*

          I think more that she was willing to trade monetary compensation for flexibility. If her partner’s housing is paid for by partner’s company it leads me to believe that partner’s job requires partner to work in a specific location…so LW1’s ability to follow partner, as well as stay home with their child, was simply of a higher “value” than LW1’s monetary compensation in a job.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Agreed. I had to leave a job I really loved when circumstances meant I couldn’t survive on it any longer. It hurts, I miss that place so much and I’d love to go back but in the end necessities meant working in a totally different firm.

    4. Barrie*

      OP1 – As someone who in the past was told my married colleague “deserved” a larger bonus because he was supporting a wife and child this whole question (from both single and partnered perspectives) really irks me- although I do see the logic. Personal circumstance should have no bearing on pay at all. Definitely ask for a work performance related raise, otherwise next steps are to find a higher paying job or a second part time income.

      1. Government_Wonk*

        I was once let go because our company (we’re govt contractors) was asked to remove a colleague from a program for lack of performance. My boss had hired this man 10 years earlier and wanted to pull him into our program, but it was only funded for one of “us” (same job titles, I’d been there 1 year). When he told me, he said “I only have enough funding for one of you and “Fred” has a family to support on only his; you have a husband to support you.” He never understood why I was so livid. He’d essentially been FIRED by his client, but I was the one let go because he was supporting a family. In the end, I ended up with a much better job, making a lot more money, and held no ill will towards Fred–it wasn’t his doing but I lost all respect for that manager–who for years would say to people after seeing me at a conference or something, “I don’t understand why Wonk is still mad at me when I see her.”

        1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

          That is especially galling because the manager could have just said “Fred has 10 years, you have 1 year. LIFO. It’s a bummer but I will give you a stellar reference because you are great at this job.”

      2. Hannah Lee*

        Yeah, I’ve heard this explanation before. It is so aggravating. I remember one time I was managing a team and had input into performance reviews, but zero control of annual salary adjustments (aside from having the performance reviews feed into the process)

        My personal performance review was “exceptional – exceeds expectations”
        One of the people on my team was rated “satisfactory – needs improvement in some areas”

        – The guy I managed had a wife and kids at home
        – I was a single woman … and I was providing substantial financial support to my elderly mother and disabled adult sibling, something I didn’t disclose at work because a) it’s none of their business and b) for female employees at that company, being seen as ‘too involved’ in family was not a good thing professionally and c) it shouldn’t matter for compensation, merit raises, promotions.

        Guess which one of us got the larger raise that year, in both % increase and total $ value?

        Spoiler alert: it was the one who matched the manager’s demographic – male, while, married, stay at home wife, 2 young children.

        And because I was a level higher than him in the department – I was a manager which much more responsibility, he was an analyst – the fact that it was not just a higher % but also a higher AMOUNT made it all the more egregious.

    5. Person from the Resume*

      Precisely. Relationship or not. Single motherhood or not, you need to be paid more. Luckily your field does pay someone with your skill set more. Unfortunately your organization (a non-profit) doesn’t so this isn’t personal to you. You’re not being underpaid compared to coworkers. You need to switch jobs to get paid more.

      It is worth noting, though, that the flexibility you value as a new mother is a perk. You can’t pay for food or housing with the perk, but for a higher paycheck you may not have that flexibility. But since you’ve got to pay for stuff as a single person now, you need more money.

      And I am sorry to say your plan to be a full time published writer strikes me as naive. It is hard to get published. It is even harder to make a living as a writer. Creative writing professor positions are few and far between and incredibly competitive. All the problems of academia plus those associated with becoming a successful famous person in the kind of jobs children dream off.

      I am aware of at least a few writers who publish to acclaim and awards that can’t survive as a single parent as a writer. One is clear that with her health problems she absolutely needs a day job for employer sponsored healthcare. Another even more famous and longtime writer lives in a rural area and relies on their spouse’s health insurance for them and their kid.

      You need to plan your future without plan A being become a full time writer in 3-5 years. You need a job that doesn’t drain your savings but instead increases it since the full time writer plan may never come to fruition.

    6. ferrina*

      Your relationship status cannot factor into how raises are given.

      Exactly. LW is going through a really, really normal struggle that a lot of people go through when they break up with a partner they were cohabitating with. This is a very real (and very known) issue with divorce/LTR, and part of what gets factored in when deciding whether or not to split. It’s sucks and it’s hard and it’s a decision I wish no one had to make, but it’s a fact of life. And it’s not your employer’s job to solve this.

      LW, life will probably be tough for a year or two. I went through a divorce and started a new job within a few months of each other. It was the most difficult time in my life (and I’m a childhood abuse survivor). The new job paid much, much better and allowed me to keep life as stable as possible for my kids, but I was exhausted all the time. It took about a year and a half to feel like I had my feet under me again.

    7. MassMatt*

      The mindset where someone’s expenses and not the value of their work determines their pay is what traditionally led men (supporting a family) to be paid more than women (working for “extra money”).

      LW needs to make the case for a raise based on the value they bring to the job, and perhaps a comparison with industry averages in the area, not on their increased costs. But a large jump would probably require either a promotion or change in employer, if not career.

    8. M*

      I think it’s kind of nuts that “you don’t pay me enough to make ends meet” isn’t a valid reason to ask for more money.

        1. ferrina*

          Exactly. OPs ends were meeting when she originally accepted the pay, but life circumstances changed and now she has a different set of expenses. That’s not on the organization to solve (though they should be paying her fair compensation all along).

          Similarly, if a company adjusts increases pay for someone who is newly single, does that mean they should decrease pay for someone who is newly coupled?

      1. Petty_Boop*

        I once mentioned to my manager that I’d found out my male colleagues were making ~20% more than I was, despite the fact that I had an advanced degree in our field and 2 relevant and desirable certifications. His response was a shrug and “you should have negotiated better.” I said, “I intend to with the next company I interview with.”

      2. The Person from the Resume*

        They did pay her enough … when LW1 lived in a two income household and shared expenses with another working adult (and who’s house was provided by partner’s employer). They still may be paying her enough now if she were a single person who could live in a one bathroom house/apartment or live with a roommmate. It’s not enough for a single parent who child lives with her enough that she needs to afford a two bedroom house/apartment on one income.

        Echoing what MassMatt said The mindset where someone’s expenses and not the value of their work determines their pay is what traditionally led men (supporting a family) to be paid more than women (working for “extra money”).

        1. kiki*

          I agree with you that “pay enough to live off of” is really variable based on life circumstances. But in this case, it sounds like all of LW’s housing was previously paid for by her previous partner’s workplace. So it wouldn’t surprise me to find that LW’s pay is absurdly low and very difficult for anyone to actually live off of, which should be concerning to any employer. Having pay so low that only people who don’t need to live off of the money they make limits the employee pool in ways that are often bad for DE&I.

    9. TootsNYC*

      someone who worked for me asked for a raise because she said it would make it easier to take a taxi home if she worked late.

      I pointed out that the company would expense the taxi long before they’d use that as a reason to change her base pay. And why wasn’t she expensing them?

    10. Meep*

      I kind of hope LW learns from this and maintains her financial independence once she gets it.

      This is why SAHPs make me nervous. If the working partner is not paying into a fund to the stay-at-home one, the SAHP has no recourse when their world falls apart. LW is just learning this from a slightly better position, because while she did not pay for housing, at least she had a job.

    11. Bee*

      Yeahhh, unfortunately this is just – welcome to single life, everything is too expensive when you pay for it alone. :/ You’ll likely either need to change your lifestyle or change your job, and with a baby, the first probably isn’t possible.

    12. Single Struggling and Remote*

      LW1 here — So grateful for all of these replies and perspectives! Thank you all! It’s true that I have been accepting being underpaid for the flexibility and because it worked in my old life setup (w a partner). I wasn’t thinking about asking for a raise bc of life circumstances. I agree that that is problematic. more like “should I spell this out for my boss and see what they say BEFORE starting to apply for other jobs”. But I appreciate the idea that this is something to share in an exit interview instead. So helpful y’all!

  6. Penny Pasta*

    OP2 – Real Answer: When you get a snarky comment, look them straight in the eye and say, “Wow – what a rude thing to say. As I was saying…” You’ll look classy while also calling them out.

    Dream Answer: “I don’t know what you mean by that; can you explain?” Then cut them off with, “Just kidding – I don’t care what you think!”

      1. anonymous sibling*

        Sending solidarity to LW#2. I have a sibling who works for a fracking company and I live in a different and more liberal part of the country. It doesn’t come up often but I now just say they’re “in the energy industry.” Probably not as useful at conferences, but feel free to use that in other situations.

        I’ve gotten occasional flack for it in the past, like I have control over other people, which is totally not cool and ugh. I imagine it’s much worse for you, though.

        At least in their situation, they work on the safety equipment, so it’s helping minimize harm. Sometimes that can be a useful talking point. If you have something like that in your work it might help for the small talk side.

    1. Earlk*

      the problem with your second suugested response is that some people would actually have a good explanation. I don’t think they should be criticising people’s careers at a work conference- how does it benefit anyone?- but it isn’t a difficult opinion to back up.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        I think that’s why it’s a fantasy exchange aka dream answer. You get to control the other person’s responses.

      2. Penny Pasta*

        Well, as I noted, it’s a dream response (what OP might actually want to say in their head or – in a perfect world – have the nerve to pull off with no negative repercussions). As cogent or ridiculous as the rude person’s explanation may be, if the answer to that is always, “I don’t care what you think,” the OP still comes out on top.

        This isn’t about how correct the rude person may be in their argument against working for an oil company, it’s that they had the gall to criticize a stranger’s career choice because they think they know better.

    2. Expiring Cat Memes*

      I’m kind of amazed that anyone going to a conference (presumably in part to network!) would say something so unbelievably rude. I would be so sorely tempted to respond with a cheery “Oh really, so did you walk or cycle to the conference today?” Or anything else that’d call attention to the obvious hypocrisy. But the high road is always better.

    3. Heather*

      I don’t think calling people rude to their face will come across as classy…but just moving on is definitely the way to go.

      1. Lydia*

        I don’t think we should always worry about looking classy, and this idea of the importance of being polite and what’s classy is frequently decided by the people being shitty so they don’t have to face consequences for their shitty behavior. It’s not always a great idea to go hard, but it isn’t always a bad idea, either.

    4. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      I was thinking LW2 could say (if they were inclined to get into it) a version of what Alison said:

      “It sounds like you’re saying there is an important conversation to be had about the harms of the oil and gas industry, and I agree! But you’re not attempting to have a conversation; you’re just being rude to a stranger whose circumstances you know nothing about, so let’s move on. Deadpan/breezy subject change.”

    5. Jane Anonsten*

      I work for an electric utility and my go-to answer when people do this to me is a raised eyebrow and “thanks for letting me know” + subject change addressed to someone else in the group. Bonus if that answer is a non sequitur, like it would be to “how does it feel to work in a dying industry.”

      I’m happy to discuss the pros and cons of my industry (along with the things my company is doing to try to make clean, renewable energy that is just as reliable when you turn on the light switch in your house as the energy produced by coal) but I’m only happy to do that with people who are entering the conversation in good faith.

      1. TootsNYC*

        this phrase is actually very applicable, no matter what literal words they say, because it’s responding to their underlying message, which is:

        “I do not approve of you.”

        OK, thanks for letting me know.

      2. Moths*

        As someone who also works in an industry that is doubly maligned — for what we do and how we do it — I feel for OP2 and have had to deal with similar comments before as well. I really like this answer and will have to give it a go at a conference I’m headed to next week where it will surely come up. The benefit of “Thanks for letting me know…” is that there’s not the risk of coming off as confrontational or rude, especially if said in a way as if you totally mean it — but then turning to someone else and changing the subject. Thanks for the idea!

    6. Glomarization, Esq.*

      I don’t think this is a strategy I’d use with professional colleagues at a national conference, honestly. In my view a conversation-halting clapback doesn’t come across as professional or collegial.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          Exactly – The initial approach/rude comment wasn’t a conversation in the first place, so there is no “conversation” to be halted.

    7. VaguelySpecific*

      Or they could point out something the commenter is using which is made of/uses plastic….their glasses, reusable water bottle, water filters, their phone, etc.

      Not saying oil/gas doesn’t have its problems, but people also forget how much of the things they use every day come from it beyond gasoline.

    8. Ccbac*

      I do think responding like this would backfire and leave OP even more isolated/ostracized from their peers… I don’t think OP will “look classy” using your first suggestion and it will likely just affirm others thoughts about OP’s industry and what that says about OP themselves.

    9. SweetestCin*

      Slight variation on Dream Answer: “in order to be insulted by your opinion, I would have to first have to value your opinion, and I don’t”. (Mild apologies to the character of Doc in Tombstone, its pretty close to something he said in the movie)

      Real twist on Dream Answer, especially if I’m in a mood: “I’m sorry, I don’t quite understand what you mean by that, could you explain? Okay, but I’m not sure how that exactly applies to me, who you’ve never met, could you explain? Okay, but I’m still not sure why you think I can do something about XYZ, especially since you’ve literally just met me by telling me that I’m a horrible person, could you please explain yourself?”

    10. BubbleTea*

      An answer in between those: (in a genuinely interested and excited tone) “Oh, do you live entirely off grid then? I’d love to hear more about that! It’s so hard to reduce our reliance on this industry that I’m always interested in hearing the details of how people have achieved it.”

      Then when they inevitably clarify that they meant that they merely take advantage of the existence of the system without being employed by it, but are still completely reliant on it, you can simply say, “Oh, I see.” Leave it at that.

      I’m no fossil fuel fan, but for as long as we as consumers rely on fossil fuels, people have to work in the corporations that provide them. Any ire directed towards individuals should be saved for the very very very high up people who are making the strategic decisions (and even then, ire is not exactly a productive approach).

    11. Bella*


      I used to work for oil and gas and it was full of proud, hard workers.
      I also used to work for a huge multi-national chain store that is known for not doing the best things. when I was asked about it, I said “it feeds my family so it’s not bad.”

    12. Risha*

      Yes to both of these comments. Depending on how I felt that day, I may use the second comment.

      Can people get any more rude? There are certain industries/jobs/etc I’m not too fond of myself. But when I meet people in those fields, I’m polite to them, just like I would be to anyone else.

    13. ferrina*

      I work as a vendor in a problematic-ish industry (concepts are good, execution is deeply flawed and sometimes hurts a lot of people). I’ve gotten a few snarky comments, though likely not as many as OP.

      My response: [sigh deeply] I know. It’s got good points and it’s definitely important to [overarching goal of industry], but yeah, the way it’s structured is super problematic. It’s interesting because it’s not a monolith, and I’ve gotten to work with some really good people who are working to [positive thing the industry is doing]. Yes, there are some really, really crappy people. I’m really hoping that [legislation] passes to limit what these crappy people can do!

      Important to note that I was willing to engage in the debate and go into deep conversation. It’s also part of my job to be able to engage opposing viewpoints in dialogue, so this was familiar territory. This wasn’t a shutting-down tactic. For a shut-down tactic, I’d give a vague confused smile, then suddenly find somewhere else to be.

    14. Observer*

      Snarky dream answer #2:

      Do you never fly? Or have a lawn that you need to water? And I’m SURE you never buy anything that needs to be shipped from overseas?

    15. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I actually like Dream Answer, without the ‘Just kidding!’ part.

      When someone tells me an offensive joke, or makes a racist/bigoted comment with a knowing look, etc., I say, ‘I don’t understand. Can you explain that to me?’ Watching someone squirm as they realize I’m calling attention to their obnoxious comment – or not collapsing in tears because of their righteous indignation about my industry! – has proven to be very gratifying.

      Miss Manners recommends this approach, saying that while someone may make a racist joke in her presence, they will not do it again.

      1. ferrina*

        This is a little different than a racist/bigoted answer, because the person making the rude comment will probably be happy to explain what they mean (whereas Miss Manners’ strategy relies on people not being comfortable saying the silent part out loud)

      2. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Guys, I was just using that as an example in my response to Penny Pasta’s Dream Answer. The technique works for a lot of bad or worse behaviors.

        People have openly insulted my industry or my role in it, and I used that technique with good results. People who insult you – or behave crassly – don’t expect someone to call them on it. When it happens, they sometimes realize their mistake. At least they won’t bother me with it again.

    16. Eukomos*

      If you deliver a comeback like these to a polite person they’d probably realize the error of their ways and quietly slink off, but by the nature of the conversation you’re talking to a rude person who’s kind of picking a fight. They may well take these responses as taking them up on that fight and start chewing you out for like, all of climate change. You can probably get away with the “wow” and some Miss Manners meaningful pause/raised eyebrow stuff without them feeling like you took the bait, but if you push it you’re taking them up on the invitation.

    17. LW#2*

      Would love to be able to trot out that dream response, but unfortunately I don’t think it would help the situation. Sure will make me feel better playing the interaction back in my head and fantasizing that’s what I said!

      So far the most effective response was my very first one – I was so shocked that I barked a laugh right in their face. They turned red and walked away, and everyone else moved on. Unfortunately I’m not great at laughing on command…

  7. dirty_capitalist*

    LW2, as someone who’s previous job was making rich people richer, i feel your pain & offer you my go-to response to people who gave me a hard time about it: “you are welcome to pay me to do something else” or the less confrontational “someone has to do it”

    1. filthy_defensive*

      I work in Defence.

      The rude comments have diminished to nil, for obvious reasons, but my go-to line in the 1990s was “so you really believe that the country should not be defended?”

      (That said, then there were many people, including some who should have known better, who actually believed that everyone would get on).

          1. amoeba*

            The war in Ukraine as well, at least in Europe – that’s certainly changed people’s views…

          2. MissElizaTudor*

            It can’t have been post-9/11, since that was a time where the US started multiple offensive wars.

            It’s almost certainly the war in Ukraine. That’s actually a defensive war, and a lot of people didn’t have deeply held principled opposition to war and the military industrial complex, they opposed things they didn’t like. And even some who did have those principles have changed their minds or shifted on the idea of being prepared for actual defensive wars.

          3. The Person from the Resume*

            Similarly I joined a college ROTC program in 1992 AFTER the Gulf War. There were a number of students who dropped the ROTC program because they were shocked Americans were going to war. They has just joined mostly for the college scholarship anddid not expect to have to go to war. Similarly there were news reports about military reservist who objected to the possiblility of going to war with their units. They had joined for the college benefits offered by “1 weekend a month; 2 weeks a year” which admittedly was the well known marking campaign at the time.

            I was surprised too. At my age (18), America had only known peace. And then the Gulf War was over very quick and it happened very far away so we entered another period of seeming peace for us until Sptember 11, 2001.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              My uncle was in the navy at the time of the (first) Gulf War. I asked him if he’d served in it, and he said the war was over before his ship could get there.

              Slightly different from 20 years of attempted nation-building in Afghanistan.

          4. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            I also remember 1998 being the peak of the late-60’s flower-power revival; it was well into a sharp decline even before the terrorist attacks.

            I’m still looking for a quality pair of teashades.

      1. Brooklyn*

        I’m surprised this works for you, because if I heard that exchange, I wouldn’t think you’d gotten the better of it. One of my least favorite things about people in industries with questionable ethical ramifications is when they belittle those questions. Certainly you understand that the private defense industry does a lot of harm, even if you believe that the good outweighs that?

        I think OP really doesn’t want to argue with strangers, and a confrontational approach like this is unlikely to pan out. I don’t have a better answer; my solution was to quit my job, take a pay cut, and work on climate solutions, which I’m not offering anyone else.

        1. ADidgeridooForYou*

          But these people aren’t trying to start a thoughtful conversation. Asking “how do you live with yourself” contributes absolutely nothing to the dialogue around the ethics of the industry (plus, even if it did, I’m not sure that a 5-minute interaction at a networking reception is the place to do it). Plus, people are naturally going to give a confrontational answer when they get a confrontational question. I work at a company that shall not be named but is widely known and hated, and while I personally believe the work I do is beneficial, I have a LOT of issues with the organization that I’m not afraid to vocalize. However, I’m not going to want to talk about them when the first question out of someone’s mouth is “how do you sleep at night.”

      2. hbc*

        I’m surprised that strawman worked on anyone rude enough to start the convo. You can be against industry practices without thinking the industry needs to disappear entirely. I would think less of both the person who picked the fight and the one who responded with an escalation.

        I think OP is better off with something like a cool “I’m glad you found something that suits you then” and changing the subject. Or if they can pull it off, maybe an “Oh, shoot, I thought I was here for a software conference, not to do PR for my entire industry. Must’ve wandered into the wrong room!”

        1. Ellis Bell*

          I really quite like the idea of saying something about not being up for doing an industry wide PR speech.

      3. mucky_fortifier*

        Yeah, I’ve worked in defense and have pointed out that the military are also responding to natural disasters and search-and-rescue. It is politicians who decide to wage wars, and I suggest that if they don’t like war then maybe they should complain to their representatives rather than me. Many in the military want to defend their nation and help people, not go to a remote country for political reasons.

        Many oil and gas companies are now pivoting to renewables. If this is true of OP’s company, I’d be tempted to respond “How are renewable energies ‘dying’?”

        1. MigraineMonth*

          OP, if your company (like many oil & gas companies) is involved in renewables, that might be a quick way to bring the conversation back to neutral. “I know, that’s why [my company]’s investment in renewable energy such as [energy source] is so important to me. How about that [sports team]?”

    2. Beanie*

      This! Certain roles can involve years of specific training, and there’s more folks trained in those things than there are openings to do it in other sectors, which might mean starting from scratch in something else. It’s not always as easy as ppl think even if someone was motivated to leave the industry, and I wish folks had slightly more empathy around that aspect when they raise critiques.

    3. Hotdog not dog*

      I also work for a company that makes rich people richer, and it’s one that frequently makes the news for bad behavior. Sometimes I get called out for that, but I point out that my specific job is to review everyone’s work to make sure they’re following the rules, so I’ve got a ton of job security.

    4. ecnaseener*

      Does “someone has to do it” really work? I feel like a lot of people’s responses would be “uh, no, the world would keep turning just fine if no one did that.”

      1. ADidgeridooForYou*

        Although I hate the oil and gas industry, I do think the world would come to a big screeching fiery halt if everyone just stopped one day

      2. Dahlia*

        If we stopped having gas/oil tomorrow millions of people would die. So for now, yes, someone does indeed need to do it.

    5. NNT*

      “You are welcome to pay me to do something else” is the perfect response- a little tongue in cheek, while still getting across the point that whoever is giving you a hard time isn’t actually going to do anything to make the situation better, and you still need to make money to live. If I’m ever in this situation I’m stealing this.

    6. El l*

      As an energy economist working in the power industry – which is becoming a competitor – I’ll be the first to say that oil & gas has a necessary role to play for at least the next 50 years.

      Anyone saying that is not only rude. They’re shallow.

    7. Lydia*

      Well, “somebody has to do it” is not a great answer because, literally, nobody has to do it, but Capitalism gonna do its thing.

      1. LW#2*

        Actually, yes, someone does have to do it. Modern society would literally collapse if every oil and gas professional walked away tomorrow.

        1. Lydia*

          I was talking to the person who “made rich people richer,” so no. It’s not actually a job that has to be done.

        2. HoHumDrum*

          I think Lydia is responding to the poster who described their job as “making rich people richer,” which no, no one has to do that. No hate to the poster, but Lydia is correct that that is not a response that will move you *away* from confrontation because that is not an essential job.

  8. Tinkerbell*

    LW5, sometimes the skills you bring to the table are worth more than your company can justify paying you for. Imagine you’re a super-fast cashier at a grocery store – twice as fast as the next-fastest coworker. They’d LOVE for everyone to be as fast as you are, but they’re not going to pay you double even though you’re literally doing double the work in the same amount of time. When that happens, you either have to accept the amount you’re worth to the (even if it’s less than you provide) or you go job-hunting.

    This is especially difficult when the skills in question aren’t something you can prove – lots of potential employees claim to be “good with people,” but you’ve got no way to demonstrate that you’re EXCEPTIONAL with customers other than by showing metrics from previous jobs (better-than-expected customer retention, notes in your file from adoring customers singing your praises, whatever)… and even then, the company may decide they’d rather hire someone “good enough” rather than the absolute best if they can save a buck while doing so :-\ My advice would be to look at jobs/fields where your specific skills are a larger part of the job, so they’re more valuable to the company!

    1. The Person from the Resume*

      Yes. LW5 you should feel no guilt about doing what is best for you. (Same for you LW1; although, her issue with leaving is less to do with with guilt.)

      Your company is not even terrible. They do pay you more than many clam harvesters. They are not underpaying you compared to others. They just don’t have a career path for clam harvesters to keep giving you raises past $21 an hour. And they are even offering you a way to change jobs to keep getting raises. But you want to remain a clam harvester forever (or at least do not want to become a clam tamer; it does sound very different).

      It’s time for an amiable separation. Job hunt for clam harvester jobs with higher pay scales or other jobs that you’re interested in. When you get an offer you want, take it. tell your boss and people that you’re sorry to go but you’d reached the top of growth and pay for a clam harvester at your company and that’s where your heart is.

    2. Starbuck*

      “When that happens, you either have to accept the amount you’re worth to the (even if it’s less than you provide) or you go job-hunting.”

      Or, slow down and work at the rate they’re paying you for. This isn’t an answer for ambitious career-driven types, I suppose, but if you’re not going to compensate extra for my extra effort/skills – those are going to go away.

  9. Tiger Snake*

    #2; I’ve worked at a tax. My solution was to focus on the good it does; the term necessarily evil starts with ‘necessary’ after all.

    So in your case; talk about the side benefits the job offers, and think about all those critical infrastructure services that need oil and gas. Talk about how it’ll you’re glad that you’re able to make sure hospital backup generators don’t cost too much, because they’re able to ensure easy storage and constant energy output. Talk about oil’s versatility as a construction object rather than a fuel – did you know all the synthetic fibres in our clothes are made of oil?

    1. Risk analyzer*

      yes and… if the company is a good employer with good wages and benefits, a diverse, inclusive workforce, partnering with local organizations to do good in the community, and/or discloses information in a transparent manner – these are all things any employee or leader should brag about their company to anyone, really, not just to Rude Raymond or Negative Nancy

      1. LW#2*

        I truly work for a unicorn of a company – great bosses, great culture, excellent pay and phenomenal 401k match. If someone is actually interested in a conversation around the “why’s” they’re hard-pressed to get me to shut up.

        1. GingerNP*

          I love this for you. And we, unfortunately, still need gas and oil. Someday maybe not as much, but for now we do.

      1. Boof*

        I don’t love this as much because frankly, we need oil/gas, and the criticism should be at the ones making the bad decisions not the ones just providing a pretty vital good/service with no control over what is drilled where etc.

    2. Emmy Noether*

      Yeah, oil and gas are definitely necessary evils to our society as it’s set up today. Do we really want everyone that works there to collectively quit tomorrow? That wouldn’t help!

      Also, LW doesn’t sound like a cackling villain who is fine with destroying the earth. Oil companies should ideally be run by conscientious people who make sure that it’s not worse than it has to be. Don’t leave it to just the villains!

      Tangent to your last point: I actually think oil-as-fuel is less evil than synthetic fibers in clothes (where those fibers don’t fulfill a technical function, such as waterproofing). Fast fashion and the cheap synthetics that make it possible are also evil.

      1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        I do take your point about about the fast fashion industry, and I agree that the kind of people who are willing to sneer at gasoline aren’t going to be taken aback by being told that the petrochemicals are also used in polyester. But there are a VAST array of other things petrochemicals are used in. Asphalt, solvents, fertilizers and dyes to name a few. There were very few washfast dyes before aniline dyes were invented. I’m just glad I live in an era where small children aren’t dressed in white (white!) because it was actually the easiest to keep clean-you could just boil and bleach it.

        But I don’t think this argument is short and snappy enough to use against a random sneerer.

        1. Too Many Tabs Open*

          I donate platelets regularly, and there is quite a bit of single-use plastic involved in the donation and processing of blood products. I’m not going to stop donating platelets because of that. Nor am I going to refuse medical care in general because it generates plastic waste.

      2. Boof*

        But cheap synthetics provide people with clothes that look good, last, and don’t cost as much?
        Long term we need to figure out how to recycle plastics better, and have more alternatives (ie, wax paper products for a lot of food containers seems better to me?) but there’s a reason they’re so ubiquitous; they are AMAZING at what they do

        1. Lydia*

          I agree. I am kept alive by single use plastics. It’s a reality I think about. But I also realize the reason we’ve come up with so many plastic uses is because all our time, effort, research, and money went into developing them to the exclusion of other, more sustainable, products. More environmentally friendly products would be all those things you listed if effort had been in developing them ages ago so that perhaps our reliance on plastics, single use and otherwise, would have been dramatically reduced. Not eliminated, but definitely reduced.

      3. ThursdaysGeek*

        I work for a gas utility, and one of the things I checked before taking the job was their reputation. And it seems like a responsible company that knows we all need to live in this environment, cares deeply about safety and ethics. I’m working in a LEED certified building, and helping to provide a utility that people depend on. I don’t work for a villain.

        We all have evils that we put up with and a few that we don’t. My brother won’t buy ‘slave chocolate’ – pretty much every major brand of chocolate uses slave or child labor. Most of us are fine buying shoes from China, which has its own ethical problems. We are all part of the problem, and many of us are also trying to be part of the solution.

    3. I should really pick a name*

      Maybe I’m a weirdo, but I generally think taxes are a good thing.

      How high they should be, and how they should be allocated is a fruitful area for debate, but they’re a big part of how regions function.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        There was an ad campaign way back when income tax started that was about how great and patriotic it was to pay taxes. I’ve always been pretty proud of it, myself, and I would gladly pay higher taxes in exchange for better social supports.

    4. amoeba*

      I mean, I’d be careful not to sound like an lobbyist there… I’m from a field that also has it’s less-than-popular moments, and hearing people wax poetic about how great plastic is (which has happened!) has definitely not let me take them any more seriously. And I’m in the same field!

      I’d say you don’t have to discuss the field/job at all! But if you do want to, I’d focus on the things that you’re actually excited about, or that you think you’re doing something good with (safer products, better solutions, whatever). Or yeah, sure, openly acknowledging the things that are less than great can be a good thing as well! But that’s really only if you actually feel like having a conversation about the topic, which, honestly, in that kind of setting I probably wouldn’t.

    5. Blarg*

      Alison — I’d be really interested in a post asking people who work in “controversial” industries handle it. I sometimes look at working for pharma, who do so much good — vaccines! life saving medication! — and also so much not good — price gouging! patent manipulation! In my area of expertise, I could do quite well financially in the field, but have always hesitated. Even folks who work for specific companies that have bad reputations but are also ubiquitous (no one likes Bezos, but so many people got ‘deals’ on Prime Day). Thanks!

    6. noooo*

      Sorry, what is a tax? A bit confused by this and searching for it only brings up taxation sites.

    7. LW#2*

      I have no issue having a rational discussion about the industry with people, but the people that have made these comments are not in any way trying to start an actual conversation. They tend to make these remarks as introductions are going around a group of strangers, for example.

    8. Starbuck*

      “did you know all the synthetic fibres in our clothes are made of oil?”

      Ok but you know that’s bad, right? Those microplastic fibers come off in the wash, go down drains, and end up in aquatic and marine ecosystems where they enter the food web. It’s not good!
      Look, this is not the path toward “winning” the argument, even someone moderately informed is going to make you look really bad if you try this. The simple deflections are probably the best way to go if they just want to avoid discomfort.

  10. Stephanie*

    #2: I work in the US auto industry, which you could argue is just as much of a major contributor to climate change (although it seems to not receive nearly as much vitriol as oil and gas). On a rare occasion, I get someone who lectures. Not too often since America is pretty car dependent.

    In your case, I’d just brush it off. It’s unlikely you’re really seeing some of these conference attendees again and getting into a debate at a conference happy hour may just prove more frustrating than anything.

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      Very specific to my location: “So you certainly voted for the public transportation mils last election cycle, yes? And you voted against the proposal to permit (basically rich cities in one of the richest counties in the US) to opt out of the local public transit, yes?”

    2. LW#2*

      I definitely don’t want to start a debate (and they honestly don’t seem inclined either – they seem content with potshots). But I do feel like nonprofessional behavior in a professional setting should be called out.

      So far the most effective response was the first time it happened – I was so shocked that I barked a laugh right in their face. They turned red and walked away, and everyone else moved on. Unfortunately I’m not great at laughing on command…

  11. Evil CEO*

    #2: As someone who works in the green industry, those people are so rude! Being a judgmental asshole is a good way to alienate people.

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      Thank you. I can appreciate where LW2 is coming from. I was new to an area, and visiting a church singles group for the first time. Almost immediately after introducing myself, there was a comment about my employer being a big polluter in the area. (I hope by now that their supplier has reformulated the cause). Then my Southern accent was teased about. The worst thing about the accent is that NO one called the joker/imitator down.

      I never went back.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        Ugh when someone imitates your accent it is the WORST. I don’t understand how grown adults can think that is polite. I like to say concernedly: “You didn’t…. just imitate my accent did you?” Anything less than a blush or some sign of shame, and I walk away.

    2. UKgreen*

      I have just moved jobs into a green energy-adjacent organisation (in the UK) and I think there is a lot of acknowledgement that ‘brown energy’ companies are actually starting to do a fair bit of improvement to their processes – yes, there’s inevitable greenwashing, especially when marketing to consumers, but if people want to keep their lights on and their houses warm, they will do well to remember that not all energy can come from wind turbines and solar farms YET, however hard they wish it would.

      1. American City Resident*

        Exactly, while long term the goal is to use renewable energy, in the meantime we still need power. It’s good to have people who’s job is to make it as efficient and clean as is possible.

      2. Ellis Bell*

        “Well this is so exciting! I had no idea we were due to go over entirely to green energy yet! Please tell me more, I had thought my industry would have known about this first.”

      3. Evil CEO*

        Exactly! I think the issue with concerns about the climate is that it requires systemic changes, and I would never demonize a singular individual for a global, system-wide problem. It’s still important to be kind to one another and maintain our sense of community, or we will never get out of this mess.

    3. Landslide*

      I liked Alison’s answer, just a brief pause as you stop and examine the speaker for a moment but not say anything. Sometimes even the dog-head-tilt ever so slightly can be helpful, along with a slightly quizzical look. Then continue on with your conversation. Rude people don’t need any acknowledgement.

      PS – I initially wrote “god-head-tilt” and actually paused to reconsider, when I went to correct the typo. I love dogs !!

  12. Artemesia*

    #1. I know a lot of people who had gotten very nice raises with new jobs after really wanting to stay at an old job that just wasn’t going to reward them very well. You really need to find a job that doesn’t leave you gasping at the end of the month and struggling to find a place that takes your insurance.

    My oldest friend had a close friend who is a fairly well known writer of a couple of police procedural series i.e. she is successful in writing popular fiction that sells well enough for her to have three series — her first series now has 28, volumes, her second 22 and a third has 20. A number of years ago she told me that she remembers when her friend had been at it for a few years, had a number of successful books and was celebrating because she had finally made enough from her writing to remodel her kitchen. Few people are as successful as she is, but even with a lot of success, being well off from writing was slow in coming.

    Focus on a better day job and keep writing.

    1. Deuce of Gears*

      Hello OP #1! I’m a full-time novelist (mid-career), I am doing very well by sf/f writer standards, and also, my husband was the breadwinner for a number of years while I established myself. To be blunt, I am generally pulling low six figures and would STILL want my husband’s job as a safety net because of health insurance – I’m in the USA and have health/vision/dental through my *husband’s* work (staff scientist at a R1 uni) – plus making sure to reserve $$$ for self-employment quarterly estimated tax payments. As you probably know, this is a notoriously unstable field and in the near future it’s only going to be more so. Go in prepared, have a backup plan and a nice savings cushion, make sure the numbers make sense before you quit to go full-time in writing, and good luck!

      (Also, did you mean royalties or residuals? Are you also in screenwriting and/or represented by a film agent for your IPs? I’m pretty sure *my* poor film agent has ulcers given the WGA strike and SAG-AFTRA about to join them…)

      1. Angry socialist*

        Ack! Deuce of Gears is on this site! WHAAATTT. I’m so excited. Wow!

        I’m sorry to be off topic.

      2. Single Struggling and Remote*

        Lol I think I meant royalties! I really appreciate your response (and others in the comments) giving me even more of a reality check than I already have on the finances of writing.

        1. Deuce of Gears*

          Yes – something else to factor in that people may not realize is traditional publishing is SLOW and payments can be SLOW so cash flow issues are a problem unless you plan for them (or have a spouse with a cushy job, hi). If you’re doing self-pub, disregard all of this; it has its own money stuff but the model is completely different. (That said, I have friends making a few thousand PER YEAR in self-pub and others making low six figures. It’s generally not fast and it has its own advantages/pitfalls.)

          First…even if you have an agent, it’s typical for a book to sit with publishers for months up to a year (or more) before anyone nibbles.

          Say you get an advance of $60,000. (Has happened to me.) Great!

          If you are VERY lucky, this is 50% on signing and 50% on delivery/acceptance (D&A). If the manuscript is already written, you might get 50% within 1-3 months of signing, depending on how prompt the publisher is and processing time at your agent. If you’re VERY lucky, structural edits only take a few months and your editor is not backlogged with other books and you get the other 50% within 1-3 months after that. (In my case, I had sold 3 chapters + synopsis, which you generally can’t do breaking in, so I had to finish writing the thing.) It is theoretically possible you might get the D&A payment in the same (fiscal) year you sell the book but not always likely. And don’t forget that your agent takes a 15% cut, so you get 85%.

          More common: your advance is structured in thirds or even quarters. I have one trilogy with a very large advance in quarters: 25% for all three books on signing (great!), 25% *per individual book* on delivery & acceptance, 25% *per individual book* on publication (or within 18 mos. of D&A, whichever is sooner, in case of publication delays – you definitely want that protective clause in case of publication delays outside your control, because YOU don’t control scheduling), the last 25% *per individual book* one year after publication (or whenever the third-quarter payment was released).

          If you’re unlucky, the editor is backlogged, you get the edits NINE MONTHS after you turn in the draft, it takes another several months for the editor to be satisfied with the edits and sign off on the D&A payment (then processing time etc.). There might be publication delays because of editing delays or a world stuff or publishing supply chain issues or the phase of the moon (and the longer the delay, the longer before your book is on the shelves, and the longer because you make sales and start possibly earning out your advance, if you do – many books don’t).

          And as for royalties – they’re amazing when they happen! But accounting periods – for example, if your book is accounted twice yearly (say January and June), often the publisher has NINETY DAYS to pony up any royalties, it’s wild. You can almost guarantee they will wait until DAY NINETY (sometimes later), and then it goes to the agency etc. before it reaches you. At least this is pretty predictable so you can plan for it.

          But of course the higher the advance, the harder it is to earn out and/or the publisher to make a profit on the book (for complicated math reasons, they can profit on a book before you start seeing royalties). They’ll usually be incentivized to promote a splashy big-advance book to make back their investment…but there’s also more pressure to perform. If a book with a $10,000 advance flops, it’s not great but you can probably try again depending on your strategy. If a book with a *$150,000 advance* flops, you have career strategy problems because now the publisher doesn’t want to take a risk on you again when they can move on to the next shiny new debut author. This is not to scare you off big advances! Just know that this is the kind of consideration a good agent will discuss with you.

          We won’t even get into foreign rights – they’re nice! Extra money! My overwhelming experience is that “on signing” foreign rights payments waltz in ONE YEAR after signing.

          All this saying, if you sell a book or series, great! But be aware that cash flow is something that throws a lot of people when they first break in, and make sure you prepare for it.

    2. Bunny Lake Is Found*

      Yes regarding the day job.

      Do not focus on the idea that in a handful of years you can quit and write full time because it may lead you to pick a job that you can “tough out” for 3 years when, for most artists, it will take more than that to be able to be a full time artist. Set yourself up for success with a job that pays enough for your to comfortably live and does not leave you physically or mentally drained at the end of most days.

      I’m an entertainment lawyer and legitimately, even those making their living from their work in the industry I am in require so many income streams to do so. And by the time they are on my radar, they are already in the top 1-5% of the niche area I work in.

      1. Single Struggling and Remote*

        LW1 here. This is a super helpful framing—not to focus on a job that I can “get out of” in a few years.

  13. Stephanie*

    #1: I recently got a job offer in the public sector that sounded super interesting…and was a 15% pay cut from my current private sector job. I did counter because I was thinking “ooh my rent went up slightly and the student loan pause is ending and…” but I couldn’t say that even if that was some of the reason I was countering. I just focused on the skills I brought to the role. Still waiting to hear back, but am keeping in the back of my mind that I may need to walk away due to pay.

    Like others said, I’d base a raise request on performance. I’d also allow yourself to not feel guilty if you’re leaving for a higher paying role. We all work for money and it’s ok if you need to find something more lucrative because your financial situation changed.

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      Yes, I changed jobs at the end of last year after my workload increased, but no promotion or pay-rise materialised to accompany it. Of course, you can follow the economising tips from Martin Lewis on Moneysaving Expert (or similar), however I often think that to get more money, it’s necessary to change jobs.

  14. Aphrodite*

    OP #1, I found (for myself) that having a normal 40 hour, decently paid, extremely well-benefitted position that I could leave behind after eight hours made my writing a lot easier. At first, it felt like a letdown, even a failure. But with time, I have realized this somewhat boring administrative assistant job in higher education provided me with an enormous gift–the ability to apply much more to my writing because I no longer had to worry about my living. I am totally secure in my life, and my job takes no mental or physical energy or passion away from my writing.

    1. Sloanicota*

      For me, part time + novelist is a good combination. Only because I actually do make a steady income writing … just not a high enough one to live off of. I did not go down to part time until that started to come true. Then for a while I was trying to do freelance + writing – woo, that was too much unstructured time for me. I did realize *late* that a loooot of the other writers I know who were “full time” – and making some real money! – were heavily subsidized by partners / were also heavily providing childcare work (basically, a lot of the people I thought were full-time writers were actually stay-at-home-parents). That was not obvious to me at first.

      1. Single Struggling and Remote*

        Ahh maybe I have also been seeing the folks I know who are “full time writers” and not noticing the subsidizing that’s marking that possible. (-LW1)

    2. Blackbeard*

      Very sound advice.

      Reality check: not wanting to put down the OP, but the chances she will be able to fully sustain herself financially as a fiction writer are nil. (Unless she becomes the next Stephen King.)

      1. Sloanicota*

        I do know folks who self-publish at a high volume that seem to be able to sustain themselves. You seem to have to be writing in the right kind of in-demand genre and be prolific (and very entrepreneurial – it’s all about ads, which means spending money to make money) but at least it’s somewhat within your control, as opposed to traditional publishing which I find more gratifying but also has set, limited income opportunities that you have to sort of take or leave. Maybe OP can check out the Facebook group “20 Books to 50K.”

      2. Cherries Jubilee*

        Yes, unfortunately I think the average that professional writers make exclusively from writing as something like $10,000 a year? It’s dispiriting but worth knowing.

      3. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        I mean, I know multiple people who aren’t Steven King but who make a living as fiction writers, but they make compromises. The ones who don’t have a partner contributing to household expenses tend to (a) write a LOT, putting in many hours beyond a “full time” job’s requirements and (b) live very cheaply (have roommates and/or live someplace with a low COL, no vacations other than book promo stuff) unless they have a big windfall of some kind. It’s similar to the people I know trying to make a living as musicians in terms of financial lifestyle, although the musicians tend to have a much shorter turn-around between doing a thing and getting paid for that thing. (There are also people who try to make a living as writer-musician combos, picking up some music gigs here and there to supplement their writing income. These people definitely are living as low-cost a lifestyle as they can possibly manage, which is what lets them try and make that work.)

        (One of the hard things about writing, particularly with traditional publishers, is not only is the money usually not very good, it comes in somewhat unpredictable bursts and sometimes with quite a delay after you actually wrote the thing. This makes it hard to budget and plan, and means that you need a big cushion of savings for when the financial stars don’t align that quarter. It also makes it hard to come up with extra money quickly to cover a shortfall compared to a lot of other “freelance creative” type pathways. This is one reason that a lot of writers also have Patreons where they post short fiction and such – that gives them a small, steady monthly income to help smooth things out.)

    3. Thegreatprevaricator*

      Yes! I’m not a writer but my public sector job with flexible working, decent pay (not amazing but infinitely better than small non profit in cultural sector) contributes a lot to my ability to have brain function, weekends, ability to pay for childcare… and that capacity can be deployed to things I would like to focus on

    4. JSPA*

      Same’s true for some of our most decorated writers / poets.

      (Wallace Stevens worked most of his life as an insurance executive.)

      That said, if you want to go the artist-in-a-garret route, a 2BR appartment is quite a lot to swing. Roommates (have another single parent friend?) or a studio with a sleeping nook are probably easier to swing on a newly-single budget, even counting in a storage unit for excess furniture.

      Which, if you have to wait X number of months for better health care, may be worth doing. (But do check if the child’s health care, at least, is covered by the state. More states are doing this, as you probably know.)

      1. BubbleTea*

        My assumption was that the second bedroom was for the child, so not available for lodgers.

      2. Dahlia*

        LW1 has a child. It’s not really appropriate to plan to raise a child in a studio apartment with a sleeping nook. They might be a baby now, but they’re going to grow up into a person who needs privacy and space.

        1. JSPA*

          1. Entire families (still) live in single rooms without damage; it’s not so many generations since most of us did this. It’s not somehow shocking for a small child and single parent to bed down in the same room. There’s no reason to “other-ize” a common cost-savings that’s kept many small families safely housed, on a limited income.

          2. downsizing for a year or two in no way commits a parent to sharing a room when the kid is 12.

          3. if you’ve got a small child, you’re supervising them when they’re at home, whether there’s a door or not.

          4. Playpens still exist.

          5. as do noise-canceling headphones.

          6. the kid can have a room (for safety, I guess?) and the parent can do the sofa bed / murphy bed / daybed as bed thing.

          Look, finance isn’t magic. If being a self supporting artist is the key goal, something else has to give, to balance the books. And that something is usually a simpler, downsized or more bohemian lifestyle.

          If you want a steady, guaranteed professional-type life, you work the sorts of jobs that provide the income.

    5. Boof*

      Maybe think of it as potential fodder for writing material? I realize that might not apply to everyone but I sort of lulz every time I read a stephen king book where the protagonist is a recovering alcoholic writer (or close family thereof)

    6. Bunny Lake Is Found*

      In the industry I work in, about half the people in my office (at various levels) work in the industry as creators as well. For them, it means they can work on the projects they WANT and never have to just take a gig for the money or turn one down because the pay is too low. Some have transition into full time creators, others actually realized the full time “hustle” of being a full time creator was just a terrible fit for them, so they stick with doing it on the side.

  15. John Smith*

    #2 “What a wonderful world you live in.” then move the conversation to another topic. There is no point in engaging with someone who has so readily stated their opinion and is probably looking for an argument. I mean, are they expecting you to solve a world energy crisis by resigning your job?
    Read the tale of the tiger and the donkey on the subject of grass colour. It’s helped me on so many occasions dealing with my manager and I heartily recommend it as required reading.

      1. Lizard the Second*

        Probably not a good idea for OP to use a quote related to extreme climate change.

        1. Dahlia*

          “Sweet summer child” is originates in the Victorian era and was popularized by Game of Thrones. It’s not about climate change.

      2. WorkerBee (Germany)*

        Love that quote.

        I feel similar about my industry. It is a necessary evil and unless society as a whole decides to go back to the Middle Ages, my and also OPs industry will remain a necessary evil and somebody needs to work there too.

      3. Cherries Jubilee*

        Either of those answers is likely to just reinforce the stereotype that the people talking to OP already assume, which is that she’s some kind of unprincipled sellout. It sounds from the letter like she wants to leave the impression that she’s thoughtful about her choices and actually does care about the environment, which both of those answers would imply are not the case.

      4. sparrow*

        this seems like responding to assholes by becoming an asshole which hardly seems to solve the problem

      5. Seal*

        Having lived in the Deep South for a time, I can attest to the effectiveness of “Well bless your heart” in these situations.

      6. Seal*

        Having lived in the Deep South for a few years, I can attest to the effectiveness of “Well bless your heart!” in such situations.

        1. LW#2*

          Might have to bust that one out in the future – even have the southern accent to go with it!

    1. Fluff*

      I just read the Tiger and the Donkey – had to share this line:

      “When ignorance screams, intelligence moves on.”

      Thanks for this gem.

  16. Trout*

    #2: My husband is a faller in BC Canada during some intense times around logging old growth forests. I realized that forestry, like oil and gas, is not an industry that a person can opt out of. Whether you’re a consumer or a producer we’re all culpable, and the average joe trying to make a living has no more impact than an “eco friendly” shopper buying local free range organic Douglas fir flooring for their home. My logger husband could be accurately compared to a tree planter as they’re both cogs in the wheel of forestry. A labourer drilling oil is doing the same thing as the biologist studying frogs along the pipeline – getting oil to the consumer. And a consumer, whether or not they drive an electric car, is in the same damn boat if culpability in climate change. Unless you’re a corrupt oil exec, those judgey conference folks can go stuff it!

    1. Nodramalama*

      I agree that the people at the conference are rude, but as someone who used to work for a similar industry, I was never very convinced by the argument “everyone’s culpable it they use electricity/own a car/own an iPhone”. There were many reasons I worked with that industry, but I was never unclear on the fact that their impact on climate change drastically outstrips anything any individual does.

      I just think that line of thinking goes nowhere productive.

      1. Caroline*

        Can you name an industry that on a large scale is clean as a whistle and causes little to no harm?

        Pharma? Government? Cosmetic? Food? Clothing? Technology? All of them – ALL of them – cause massive harms / suffering on a large scale.

        Apart from very, very niche ones, I cannot think of any that are in a position to be making rude, ignorant remarks to strangers.

        1. Sloanicota*

          Well, they are poorly paid industries, because of how our society is structured. Librarians. Nonprofits. Caregiving. Not that they never consume resources in the course of their jobs, just as all individuals do, but they do not do harm.

          1. ADidgeridooForYou*

            Eh, as someone who worked at many nonprofits, they have a lot of issues too. There are many good ones, of course, but I truly believe that for every effective nonprofit, there are 5 more who achieve absolutely nothing and cause more harm in their communities of practice than good.

          2. Lilac*

            I’m a librarian (records manager) at an oil and gas company, so things aren’t that cut and dried!

          3. Distracted Librarian*

            I’m a librarian at a land grant university, a/k/a someone who profits from an organization existing on and founded with funding from land stolen from Indigenous people.

            A few jobs ago, I worked for a nonprofit that treated its employees badly and sometimes abusively.

            So yeah, if people are going to get judgy, almost anyone’s job can be judged negatively.

            And as other commenters have pointed out, every profession and every person consumes materials from nonrenewable sources and uses equipment that includes toxic chemicals. Many were also manufactured in factories with unethical (to say the least) labor practices and shipped to us using fossil fuels.

            It’s up to each of us to figure out how we can work for positive change where we are and within our personal constraints. And give each other grace while we do so.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          NPR had a piece on this, and broadly speaking if you either produce stuff or move stuff, you are using a lot of energy. Low-energy industries make and move information bits (think Spotify and banking).

          One cannot live on pixels.

          1. Observer*

            Yes. That was a really interesting episode. And they made some really good points about about what actually works to reduce issues vs what feels good.

          2. Moths*

            Do you know what program it was on or any more about the segment? It sounds interesting and I’d love to listen, but am having trouble finding it. Thanks!

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              I believe that it is Freakonomics 546 Are ESG Investors Actually Helping the Environment?

        3. I should really pick a name*

          I believe that Nodramalama’s point is that you don’t need to tell yourself an industry is squeaky clean to stop yourself from making snarky remarks.

          You can have problems with the oil industry AND avoid snarky remarks at the same time.

        4. MissElizaTudor*

          Fully agree the entire system is fundamentally massively harmful and destructive. Slow reform is hardly adequate in the face of the massive so many of our industries cause.

          Of course, that’s not a reason to avoid criticizing parts of that system that are worse than others or less necessary than others. And it’s not a reason to avoid criticizing the individuals who work in those parts push them to take other options if they’re available to them or work to create other options for those who don’t currently have them.

          None of that makes it good to be sanctimonious to a stranger at a conference. You keep those thoughts to yourself because criticizing someone in that way and in that context isn’t productive or helpful, and because you don’t know that person or their life.

          The comments aren’t going to stop anytime soon and LW2 isn’t going to stop being bothered when they get the comments. I think a sort of “Yeah, well, it is what it is” comment is a good way to move past the snark with minimal friction.

        5. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

          I work in surgery and we provide a life saving or life improving service to people. We also generate tons and tons of single use waste – every drape, every anesthesia circuit, every syringe. Some of it is not avoidable for health reasons, some could be improved. Anesthetic gases are also a cause of greenhouse gas admissions.

          So, true, no one can claim to be completely benign for the planet.

        6. Silver Robin*

          I mean, it depends on your definition of harm? It also depends on what kind of harm you are looking at.

          This answer is a bit twee, but like non-profits or other “do-gooder” industries are generally viewed as good faith industries, even though they absolutely do cause harm. I would still argue that they cause less harm than most for-profit industries though. For profit example could be…accounting firms (not confident there)?

          It is certainly much harder to find a for profit example of something relatively less harmful but that is because…

          Ultimately, capitalism makes everything horrifically extractive and exploitative eventually, so there are no perfect, ethical choices. But that is not the same as saying all industries are equivalently bad. And, more importantly to the question at hand: it also does not mean that individuals are equally as culpable as industries, because industries (or oil/gas; clothing; agriculture) absolutely do more harm than individuals (somebody who has a car; buys clothes; eats food). Especially since our basic needs (food, shelter, clothing) are all provided by for-profit industries, so individuals have literally no way to avoid them, while the industry itself could certainly choose to act more ethically.

          1. ADidgeridooForYou*

            I agree completely with this statement. Ultimately I think that for-profit companies cause more harm than nonprofits (though I did leave nonprofits to work in the commercial sector, haha), but I do think nonprofits cause a lot more harm than people imagine. They’re looked at somewhat through rose-colored lenses, and while I do believe the intention is good, there are so many that end up causing more harm in their communities than good.

        7. JB (not in Houston)*

          Nodramalama was not defending the people making rude remarks made by the people at the conference, so why you are directing your comment at them? And they are absolutely correct that individual choices can’t be compared to the industries that knowingly have done incalculable harm for decades.

          We don’t know why OP2 works for the industry, so we don’t need to judge them, and nobody should be making remarks to them at conferences. But we can say that without absolving the industry (or any of the other ones you’ve named).

        8. A Simple Narwhal*

          It reminds me of The Good Place where they’re analyzing how hard it is to earn good person points in life by pointing out that someone in 1534 gave their grandmother flowers for her birthday and earned points but someone in 2009 doing the exact same thing actually lost points – “because he ordered the roses using a cell phone that was made in a sweatshop, the flowers were grown with toxic pesticides, picked by exploited migrant workers, delivered from thousands of miles away, which created a massive carbon footprint, and his money went to a billionaire racist CEO who sends his female employees pictures of his genitals.”

          And it ends with this awesome quote: “Don’t you understand? The Bad Place isn’t tampering with points. They don’t have to. Because every day, the world gets a little more complicated, and being a good person gets a little harder.”

          So yea, it’s pretty misguided for someone to be rude and claim the moral high ground when we’re all compromised.

          1. Kit*

            There is no ethical consumption under capitalism, is the version I’m familiar with – existing and participating in modern society means engaging with and enabling bad actors, to some degree. There’s just not a viable alternative for most folks… which is why I too suggest that LW2 ask the sanctimonious types what job they’re offering her instead.

      2. amoeba*

        I mean, nobody’s in a position to make rude remark to strangers, ever! (OK, actual nazis aside, maybe…)
        And anyway, an employee in the oil industry is… not the one responsible.

        If it were the CEO at that company, I’d think very differently about it, though, and I do not agree at all that I’m just as responsible for climate change as he is.

      3. Observer*

        I was never very convinced by the argument “everyone’s culpable it they use electricity/own a car/own an iPhone”.

        That’s not entirely true. Consumer behavior DOES matter, as do legal structures and investment.

        Here is an example – Apple products made in China had a *terrible* track record in terms of abuse of employees. Steve Jobs didn’t care at all, and Tim Cook looked the other way. Then a few stories hit the news and guess what? Suddenly Apple was able to force some changes in how employees are treated. Is it perfect? Of course not, but now Apple is one of the companies to really does enforce some requirements around things like safety and general work conditions. Tim Cook may be a nice guy, but that’s not why it changed – it changed because the *economics* changed.

        Similarly, I was just listening to a podcast yesterday which was discussing dying of clothes and the dangers of many dying facilities. And the reported pointed out that the facilities attached to some big name brands are actually designed to be reasonably comfortable tow work in and safe. Again, they didn’t do this because they are saints, but because they don’t want to deal with the fall out of a major industrial accident.

        1. ADidgeridooForYou*

          Yup. I work at a very controversial company and definitely get a lot of comments about how terrible it is. The thing is that half of those people actively seek out and use the company’s services frequently, sometimes on a daily or weekly basis. When I ask them about it, they say that they’re just one person, and that even if they stopped, the machine would keep going. On a certain level, they’re kind of right – a single person isn’t going to make or break the company. And of course, the guys at the top making billions off of worker exploitation should get the lion’s share of the blame. However, if the number of people I’ve heard say “I’m just one person” stopped using the company, I can guarantee it would make an impact. It’s not the exact same as oil and gas (we depend on cars and fossil fuels, whereas people could definitely get by just fine without the company I’m at), but our personal consumer choices can make more of an impact than we think.

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      My husband is a faller in BC Canada during some intense times around logging old growth forests … My logger husband could be accurately compared to a tree planter as they’re both cogs in the wheel of forestry.

      I, for one, appreciate your husband’s work. It’s humbling to think of the hands that each board I’m shaping into a new desk has passed through on its way to me–and anyone who plants tomorrow’s forests is a hero in my book.

  17. learnedthehardway*

    OP3 – yes, people are idiots. I can’t tell you how many times I have said, please pick a time between 2 and 4 PM, and someone picks 4 PM.

    I have resorted to telling people they can schedule from 2 – 3. That means when they schedule at 3 PM, I am actually available.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Yes. I have started telling clients the time for the last appointment. That means when it starts. Because if I say a block of time, they invariably pick the last time and then I am stuck with a late day appointment I don’t want.

      This is aside from the people that when you say you are available from 1-3, pick 10 a.m. beecause for some reason they think the1-3 means not during that time.

    2. Boof*

      Ah, and that is why I usually say “I am available 2-4” as I think that implies a little more that I need to be DONE by 4pm – for whatever reason my brain also interprets your phrase as saying 4pm is an option since it’s apparently available to pick

    3. Interplanet Janet*

      I also do this because in my current position things either end at least 15 minutes early or can easily go over by an hour, and it’s hard to predict which. When things are going smoothly we can essentially let the car drive itself, but when something’s awry it’s all consuming, and I can’t always predict which it’ll be – so I build in buffers for myself when I can.

    4. Peanut Hamper*

      Yeah, this is how you have to do it, I’m afraid.

      You will still get people who plan a meeting for 2:45, but at least you know you still have an extra hour of padding there for the meeting to “run over”.

    5. NotRealAnonForThis*

      OMylanta, yes. This. Wasn’t scheduling an interview, but we had a higher-up who routinely scheduled meetings for AFTER my department was gone for the day, and wondered why the pushback? (Um, we’re salaried, we start 3-4 hours before you do, so of course, we are done 3-4 hours before you’re ready to call it quits. The industry we support works the hours we do, not that you do. There’s no sense in working the hours you do because we’d be unavailable to support the industry 50% of the time.)

      Standing meetings
      One ofs
      Skip levels
      You name it, he scheduled it for “quitting time for department X”

    6. M*

      Yeah, this is a good move. I’m a freelance journalist but i have a fulltime day job too. When i’m scheduling interviews, if i’m free from 5pm to 8pm tuesday night, i’ll usually offer “5pm to 7pm” with the understanding it’s quite possible they’ll choose 7pm. And then if they do, i can still be done by 8pm.

    7. kiki*

      I always say, “I’m open from 2-4, but have a hard stop at 4pm,” to make it clearer that 4pm isn’t the latest appt start time– it’s the time I must be done by. This also helps make sure folks know that if they schedule at 3:45, the meeting can genuinely only be 15 minutes. This strategy has mostly alleviated issues I was facing, but I still get the occasional, “Oh great, 4pm works for me!”

    1. Myrin*

      I’d say it’s worth a try but I honestly don’t think it would help because if someone misunderstand a “to” or a dash (-) they are going to misunderstand “until” in the same way.

      1. Other Alice*

        I have come to the conclusion that some people are either stupid or inconsiderate of other people’s time. I no longer have qualms when I have to tell them no, I’m not available after 4pm.

      2. doreen*

        I think that part of the problem is that “to” and the dash are used differently by different people. There are absolutely people/organizations who say 2pm-4pm and mean ‘as long as it starts/you get here by 4pm” rather than “it must start early enough to finish by 4pm”. And I agree that the same thing will happen with “until”. Mentioning a hard stop at 4 pm might work but I think the only foolproof way is to give your availability as ending at whatever time you need to start to be finished at 4.

      3. MassMatt*

        I have to make lots of appointments with both clients and vendors in my job and scheduling was always a huge PITA, with many emails and calls going back and forth and much miscommunication. Many times I would say “I can meet any time Wednesday, and anytime Thursday EXCEPT between 1-2” and get back “OK, Thursday at 1” and endless variations thereof.

        It may not be appropriate in this situation, but things really improved for me when I started using an online calendar system. Instead of days of back-and-forth emails and confusion about when I was or was not available, they click a link and see only times that ARE available, and can book it right then.

        Some commentators have said they find these systems off-putting, but they have led to more appointments for me with much less work. I also notice that there are far fewer no-shows for online or phone meetings, and clients show up with more focus on the agenda for the meeting, also.

    2. SAS*

      It’s less elegant than saying “between 11am-3pm” but I have started saying “I’m free anytime starting after 11am and ending before 3pm””

      1. Ama*

        This is what I do, too, it’s really the only language I’ve found clear enough to largely prevent anyone misunderstanding.

  18. Ted*

    Re: LW #2.

    Ultimately, I think you need to accept that this is going to be the price of continuing to work in that industry. So your response needs to be either to ignore it, or move jobs.

    When people say things like that it’s undoubtedly rude, and to be clear I wouldn’t go around saying things like that, as I think there are better ways of tackling these issues. But the basic thrust of their point – that these industries in their present form are causing serious harm to our planet to the point of being an existential threat to our future – is unarguable.

    Now that is of course not all on you, and you could make a counter argument that we are always going to need some of these things in some form. But, just as if you worked in tobacco, or gambling, or any other field that causes social harm as an inescapable part of its business, you can’t distance yourself from its impact if you literally work in it.

    You have an absolute right to work in whatever field you like. But you don’t have an absolute to be immune from criticism for doing so.

    1. Emma*

      Right. I don’t agree with the framing that most of the comments are viewing these interactions with. Maybe some people – especially the “dying industry” folks – are just being rude, but I don’t think the majority are. I also don’t think they’re assuming that LW is a climate denier or doesn’t personally support decarbonisation etc.; but they are making the point that if your job is to make fossil fuel extraction run better, be more efficient or more profitable, then your actions are contributing to enormous and likely irreversible ecological damage.

      Here on AAM, we often encourage posters who see someone else doing harm to point it out, often in a way that suggests that the person’s actions are not lining up with their values. You don’t have to respond or get into a debate, LW; it’s not a conversation starter and you’re free to just not engage: the point of so-called “calling in” is to encourage the person to reflect on their actions privately.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        It’s also part of the teachings of this site to know when it’s right to call out harm (like harassment, racism et al) and when it’s not (telling your coworkers their food is unhealthy to the environment and they shouldn’t be eating it).

        One is acceptable, the other is not. One is a direct choice to be that harassing/bigoted person and is demonstrated to be harmful. The other is a *perceived* harm that the person is doing based upon their actions and is really not anybody else’s business.

      2. I should really pick a name*

        Here on AAM, we often encourage posters who see someone else doing harm to point it out, often in a way that suggests that the person’s actions are not lining up with their values.

        I can’t say that’s what I’ve taken away from the blog.

        A random person at a conference doesn’t have the standing to weigh in on the moral value of your job. And how would they even know your values to be able you tell if your actions are lining up with them or not?

      3. Happy meal with extra happy*

        Just a pro-life tip, if you think “calling out the harm” of the job of a random person you meet at a conference is going to make them quit their job or even drastically change how they think about it, you’re wrong. These comments only make the person saying them feel good about themselves.

        1. Nerville*

          pedantically– a “life pro-tip” is the phrase you were thinking of– its funny how a tiny change in wording can drastically impact the meaning

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        What if this doesn’t actually work in practice the way it does in the speaker’s head?

        Feel free to take that in a calling-in sense.

      5. Thegreatprevaricator*

        I think this is a helpful way of looking at it. I work for a big public funder of culture. People have Opinions about my employer – the funding decisions specifically, whether public money should fund the arts, whether it should be employer who gives out money etc etc. For good or ill, when I am at an event in a professional capacity I am the face and representative of my employer. I haven’t encountered rudeness but people have wanted to challenge my employer on certain things so I hear about that. I’m pretty clear on my role and why I’m doing what I do. Obviously structurally I’m not going to change arts funding in my role, and I’m not responsible for strategic decisions by my organisation. However I take the view that I can do more good in than out. I’m happy to explain that and tbh I’m also prepared to hear about the hard time people have and not get in a debate about it. I do literally have to sit on my hands sometimes. I can let off steam with colleagues who know what it’s like, but I accept that part of the job is that I will be recipient of peoples opinions about it. Sometimes annoying but they are allowed to have their opinions, I know why I’m doing my job.

      6. KTC*

        I think the point is that these “interactions” are wholly inappropriate for the setting and uninvited by the OP. These are jabs made in passing by people the OP doesn’t know and who presumably have no idea what her role encompasses and/or what her particular company is doing to further sustainable fuels. The big players in decarbonization– renewable diesel, sustainable aviation fuel, etc… ARE petroleum companies. It doesn’t happen overnight and there are more moving pieces in terms of policy, infrastructure, education, technology, training, etc… than you can imagine.

        OP, I work in Big Ag and occasionally get those comments as well. I remind myself that they likely know only what they’ve heard thru Twitter/Facebook/etc… and that anyone who wants to have a serious conversation about the extreme complexities of our food supply isn’t going to do it by winging some remark at me about highly processed food or pesticides at a random happy hour.

      7. NeedRain47*

        well said… I know a few people who work in that industry and I don’t argue with them just for existing, but I *will* argue when they start to defend fracking or some such.

      8. Trout*

        This seems like a very reasonable viewpoint, but I’m not sure you realize that a lot of people living in rural communities have very few options for work, and big industry/resource extraction is their only option. Its a little unfair to tell people that their day-to-day working life is causing enormous harm when they’re just trying to survive. For them to switch jobs, they might need to move out of town, away from family, re-train, etc, which would be a huge cost/impact on the individual and would make literally no difference to climate change… the company would just hire someone else.

        Also, your line of reasoning gets very blurry depending on the job… it’s easy to target the oil worker, but what about the nanny taking care of the kids so the parents can work the tar sands? Wouldn’t she be also contributing to enormous ecological damage, and should she also reconsider her career? Where do you draw the line between evil and virtuous jobs?

        1. Lydia*

          You’re drawing false equivalencies and straying dangerously close to sandwich territory. People are aware there are sometimes limitations in which field is available in a given area. I would argue that large corporations that actively make money off harmful practices count on that. That doesn’t make them immune to hearing criticisms of their industry.

    2. Nebula*

      Yes, I think this is it. If you work in an industry that many people find immoral, then you may sometimes have to put up with people criticising your choices. That’s the case for people who work in a wide range of different areas: for example, the sex industry, or abortion providers. Personally, I think both of those areas of work are fine (in the case of abortion providers, I think that is a moral good), but if you go into those lines of work, part and parcel of it is that certain people will criticise or outright harass you for that. You have to decide whether that’s worth it: whether it aligns with your internal values and/or whether it’s the most practical decision for you.

      If you, LW#2, are otherwise comfortable with the calculus you’ve made on this, then accept that these people’s comments are part of your job and continue to ignore them. Maybe thinking of it as part of your job will help with that, but you feel judged because they are judging you, and just as you have a right to work in that industry, they have a right to have opinions on it.

    3. Helen*

      Agreed, I work on climate change and what people are missing here is that outsiders have very little leverage over the oil and gas industries. We’ve tried working with the companies in the past and it’s just greenwash even when they say they’re working on a specific green initiative, so we’ve had to give up the direct engagement route. Also worth saying that US oil and gas companies are very far behind on the climate agenda – and some of them (most notably Exxon) have funded a lot of the disinformation campaigns around the science.

      One of the most influential routes for change in the past few years across sustainability issues has been the employees of companies challenging their bosses or voting with their feet. Many companies who are doing good things on climate when they’re asked why will cite competition for talent, and that their employees are demanding things of them. Making it uncomfortable for people to carry on working in the fossil fuel industries is a legitimate tactic I think.

      Personally I try not to be rude I think there’s a better way to engage. But for example I’ve been asked “what would it take for your organisation to engage with ours” and I have an answer to that (abandon new exploration), so there’s a way to do it.

      Increasingly, again as you compare with tobacco, the oil and gas industries are having to pay high salaries to compensate for this discomfort which also limits my sympathy a little. At this point this is a choice that people are actively making.

      1. Liv*

        Best comment on this thread. I work for some clients whose work I find pretty immoral but I’m paid extremely well for it. If people want to make snide comments about my line of work I really do not take personal offense (I basically agree with them, lol)

      2. perstreperous*

        Agreed. A former employer (consultancy) had a large contract with a tobacco company. During the 1990s it became harder and harder to get employees to work on the contract and, eventually, it terminated it. $11m (current prices) per annum wasn’t worth the reputational cost.

      3. Ellis Bell*

        I do think this is a great point, but as with everything…. the devil is in the detail. Asking someone in good faith how they reconcile the ethics, or even just saying that they’re very opposed to the industry is different to dropping some drive by snark. Opening up a conversation and ideas, like the person you’re talking to is a person instead of a target.

      4. KTC*

        Making it uncomfortable for people working in those industries to do their jobs is a legitimate tactic? That’s gross and I have to imagine, wildly ineffective. I’m sure companies cite employee wishes as reasons they advance sustainability goals, but surely no one thinks that’s actually true…? If consumers stopped consuming, companies would stop producing. In reality, of course, it’s nowhere near that simple, particularly with something as complex as fuel.

        I think people who live in such idealistic bubbles forget that there are many, many realities for people besides what you think they *should* care about.

      5. Wren_Song*

        This is a thoughtful, articulate response to a very complicated situation. Thank you!

      6. LW#2*

        “Increasingly, again as you compare with tobacco, the oil and gas industries are having to pay high salaries to compensate for this discomfort which also limits my sympathy a little. At this point this is a choice that people are actively making.”

        Congratulations on showing you actually don’t know what oil and gas salaries are based on? Wages have trended higher than many other industries for multiple reasons, but for corporate jobs there are two main drivers – it’s an incredibly complex business and inherently unstable due to the boom and bust cycle of commodity prices. You’re hard-pressed to find someone that hasn’t been laid off at least once and companies have to pay more to make the instability worth it.

        Discomfort is not a factor in salaries, sorry.

        1. Lydia*

          I’m not entirely sure why you’re being so combative. People are pointing out valid criticisms, but they aren’t criticizing you personally.

          1. LW#2*

            Other than the fact that these criticisms have nothing to do with the letter, in no way attempt any good-faith advice, and in this particular case, state something as a truth when it isn’t?

    4. Empress Ki*

      There’s a lot of hypocrisy to criticise someone working in the oil and gas industry, as we all use it, unless we are some kind of hermit at the top of a mountain.
      I could be more critical to someone working in the tobacco or gambling industry, as tobacco and gambling aren’t essential.

      1. Aquamarine*

        This is what gets me. People want to act like it’s “the industry” that’s the problem – but it’s us, we are all the problem.

        1. Helen*

          Funnily enough, it’s the oil and gas industry that has made you think that to a large extent – did you know that the ‘personal carbon footprint’ was pushed out very hard by BP to make people think that we’re indiviually responsible and divert attention. But most of the changes that we need are at the governmental and industry level. The fossil fuels industry has known about the science for decades now (since late 70s) and spent an enormous amount denying it and actively pushing public misinformation campaigns.

          In the end as long as when you turn your lights on they come on, most of us would be just as happy (if not happier) if the electricity was being generated by wind turbine as by oil field. But for the most part, that’s not a choice we get to make. Yes, there are of course things we can do (eat less meat, fly less etc) and some people can take their house off-grid and onto say solar, but for the most part we need big structural changes that are in the hands of industry and government.

          (Unless you’re Charles Koch and have personally spent well north of $100m on climate denial projects, then ignore all of this – you are responsible – but I don’t get an AAM reader vibe from him, so i’m guessing not.)

          But otherwise yes we’re all part of the problem, but the solutions lie with the industries which have been wilfully pushing off the issue for decades now and not taking the action they could have done.

          1. Lydia*

            I appreciate this comment so much. Every comment about “yeah, but you use it” has made me think about how cars used to be very fuel efficient and were becoming more efficient in the 70s, and how electric cars were coming online, but the oil & gas industry and their political pals, lobbied, pushed, and passed laws that affected their manufacture and sales, and so they pretty much disappeared from the market. Even Tesla, with their myriad problems, have been legislated against. In Texas and a few other states, laws were passed blocking the sale of vehicles that weren’t through a dealership. The laws pretty much blocked Tesla from selling cars in those states since Tesla don’t have dealerships.

        2. ThursdaysGeek*

          As long as we’re buying SUVs to commute to work, buying chocolate and clothing and shoes made with slave labor, buying fresh vegetables and fruits shipped from across the country – I could go on and on. The industries exist because we buy.

        3. I Sold My Soul to the Company Store*

          No, that’s were I disagree. This industry IS 100% part of the problem. And to be clear, *I* work in the oil and gas industry, and I have for over 20 years now. I sold my soul to the company store long ago for that sweet O&G paycheck, and unlike LW2 I made my peace with the fact that some people morally disapprove of that a long time ago.

          The industry has funded a lot of the disinformation campaigns around climate change. They use their money to lobby against laws designed to protect the environment to fatten up their bottom line. In my experience, they will happily watch this planet burn just to increase their quarterly profits.

          If you want to argue there’s no moral consumtion in modern capitalism, I won’t argue with you. If you want to argue the oil and gas industry isn’t part of the problem, I strongly disagree with you.

          1. ADidgeridooForYou*

            I personally think it’s a combination. The industry is ultimately the perpetrator, but individual decisions do matter. One person alone may not be able to change the tide, but when more and more individuals commit themselves to something, it becomes a movement that can make an impact. It’s like a field with a sign that says “don’t pick the flowers.” One person can go and say “oh, I’m just picking one flower – there’s still a whole field.” But if everyone does that, the entire field disappears. If you’re going to criticize something, it’s important to take at least some kind of accountability.

            That being said, there are certain industries (oil and gas being one) that have truly made it impossible to not depend on them in some way. In this day and age, we can’t survive (or at least survive well) without a phone or a car. Or we just can’t afford the alternative options, like electric vehicles and non-fast fashion. That, I believe, was created purely by the industries, and it’s on them to fix it. Not us.

          2. Aquamarine*

            Definitely didn’t mean to suggest that the industry wasn’t part (or even most) of the problem!

        4. nodramalama*

          But it IS the industry thats the problem. The reason why its hard for individuals to transition to renewable energy, or electric cars or to decrease their footprint is because oil and gas has lobbied governments for generations to convince them to actively make it hard for renewable energies to get a foothold, to bring down the prices of other kinds of power, to help transition power to more sustainable methods.

    5. ecnaseener*

      +1, this is a great way of framing it. You can’t prevent people from saying “I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I had your job,” and you can’t argue them out of that feeling or shut them down with a perfect zinger (because there simply isn’t one in this case). It’s rude, but it’s going to happen as long as you’re in that field.

    6. Ccbac*

      I think this is a very wise response– I have several schoolmates (no longer friends, whether due to distance or career choices, who can say) who went on to work for large defense contractors and regularly say things like “well the projects I work on aren’t the bad ones$ or “this job paid more than the others” (ignoring, of course, that with an advanced stem degree all jobs pays an extremely good wage and refusing to contemplate why the company with the dark reputation has to pay more to get people…) and it is increasingly difficult to separate their chosen profession from the good person I thought they were and they generally are extremely vague about where they work when being introduced to new people due to embarrassment. we all make choices and pretending that the work we choose to do is always immune from criticism is a weird path society is on. “business” isn’t just business! (note: big difference between say, an Amazon warehouse worker and Amazon executive in terms of choice and culpability. for the positions in between, there may be a lot of gray areas)

      1. filthy_defensive*

        Although there are unexpected benefits – should you be that way inclined – to such jobs:

        1. Less competition. X% of potential candidates rule themselves out because they think the employer or job is evil, Y% are ruled out because they do not (or would not) pass security clearance, and Z% are not interested because home working is often not possible. (I am not going to speculate about the magnitude of X, Y or Z).

        2. Slower pace of work because of massive amounts of verification.

        3. Long-term projects and low staff turnover – because of the first point it is hard to replace anyone.

        It is also very likely that they were vague about their jobs because of the jobs’ security classification; nothing to do with being embarrassed. In some cases literally nothing can be said about the job outside the job, not even that it exists.

    7. mlem*

      I think this is where I land. There will always be people who see working for a system as perpetuating that system — oil/gas, luxury finance, policing, political parties, tobacco, lumber, alcohol, etc. Maybe it is; maybe change can only come from within; maybe it’s the only viable job for whatever reason … but working in those sectors will draw commentary. Some folks will want to challenge the commentary, some brush it off, some get defensive; but the commentary is going to come with the job. You just have to figure out if that’s a cost you’re willing to bear in exchange for what you get in compensation.

    8. Glenn*

      I agree with this and I wonder if the comments here would be the same if OP worked for the DeSantis administration or the company that manufactures AR-15s or one that scams elderly people out of their savings, etc.

      I say this as somebody who used to work for Jared Kushner’s company and stopped for ethical reasons

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I used to work for a firm that actually ended up with the CEOs being put in prison for fraud. And I’d show as much support to someone who was just a cog in one of those industries as I hoped to find in mine.

        It’s like a debate – criticise the idea, not the person. Or in this case criticise the firm and not the person working for it.

      2. Observer*

        I wonder if the comments here would be the same if OP worked for the DeSantis administration or the company that manufactures AR-15s or one that scams elderly people out of their savings, etc.

        This is the kind of comment that’s part of the problem. There is a huge difference between, for example, a company whose whole existence is theft (scamming people out of their savigns) vs working for an industry that has undeniable problems but also is at the moment a source of things that people literally cannot live without – and, to be honest, a source of *luxuries* that many of the rude commenters the OP is dealing with are using.

      3. ADidgeridooForYou*

        I do think there’s a difference, though. AR-15s are not nuanced. There is absolutely no need for an AR-15. Scams are also purely made to screw other people over. Oil and gas – while destructive and harmful – are more complicated. While I think we should be actively working to find alternatives, we do need them. If non-military AR-15s and scams disappeared from the US tomorrow, we’d be better off. If oil and gas disappeared, we’d be screwed. Of course, that shouldn’t be an excuse to stick to the status quo, but it does make it a different beast.

      4. nodramalama*

        Yeah I think some of these comments are kind of funny because I remember previous examples of LWs who wrote in about coworkers who attended for-profit universities or those massive mega church universities. And so many commentators said “i would question someones judgment who attended that school. Attending the university suggests they endorse the university’s position on LGBT+ rights etc”

        And yet here it’s “if you drive a car you’re as guilty as Exxon”

    9. I Sold My Soul to the Company Store*

      I just want to thank Ted for saying exactly what I was thinking in way that feels respectful. “you don’t have an absolute to be immune from criticism” sums up my feelings on this subject perfectly.

  19. Not A Manager*

    For LW4, I say, “I am available starting at 1 and ending at 3.” It still doesn’t completely solve the problem, but it helps.

    1. Roland*

      I usually say something like “I’m free from X to Y”. Ultimately though some people will just see the numbers and assume you match whatever is natural to them out of “available X to Y” or “can start between X and Y” without actually reading your words.

      1. Blue wall*

        I say this also and I’ve never had the issue that LW’s interviewer did. LW, I wouldn’t worry about it, the interviewer misread a common phrasing.

      2. Elitist Semicolon*

        I’ve had to be very specific: “I am available for a call that starts at or after 1 p.m. and ends before 3 p.m.” I did once have someone say, “Fantastic! See you then!” because they thought I meant “call whenever,” but that was corrected with a quick email on my part asking for a specific time.

    2. Miette*

      This is good wording, but still may not cover for some folks.

      FWIW OP, I have made the same mistake as this hiring manager, when my attention wasn’t fully on the task at hand, and felt a bit dumb but grateful when my error was shared back. “Give me some times you’re available” plainly means a range of time, the later of which represents the very end of a person’s available, and there was nothing wrong with your response.

    3. ferrina*

      I’ll sometimes pad the times that I give, especially if I think the call might go long and I don’t want to rush off the phone. If’ I’m available from 1-3, I might say “1-2:30”, then say “I have a few more minutes” if the call starts to run long.

    4. SpaceySteph*

      I also use “ending at” because it has less ambiguity but I think its more likely the person setting up this interview wasn’t reading carefully and nothing would have helped.

  20. MedWriter*

    LW #3 – any chance different time zones is playing a role? In addition to Alison’s advice, when trying to schedule a meeting with someone who cannot see my calendar, I make sure to include my time zone. If you don’t specify time zone and are in a different time zone from the person scheduling the call, they may be assuming you are listing a time in their time zone.

    I will use this opportunity to air a minor pet peeve – when someone specifies Standard Time (ex, EST) during a time when Daylight Time (EDT) is being observed. It may be because I work with people in locations that do not observe DT, and I’m in a location that does and have had to clarify that 10 am EST in the summer is 11 am EDT for me and they meant 10 am EDT… I’m sure situations like that are extremely rare, but food for thought. If ever unsure if it is currently Standard or Daylight Time, I suggest just stating, “10 am Eastern” or “10 am ET” and leave out the Standard/Daylight part.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      Agree with you on the pet peeve. For those who don’t know, Arizona and Hawaii do not observe Daylight Time. The UK (and I think the rest of Europe?) do observe Daylight Time, but they switch their clocks at a different time of year. So it’s extra important to be accurate when scheduling meetings with people in Arizona and Hawaii during all of Daylight Time and with people in the UK in March and in October/November.

    2. Decidedly Me*

      This is what I always do (re: timezones). I don’t have the patience for remembering if it’s currently DT or ST.

    3. ferrina*

      EST vs EDT is the bane of my scheduling! I regularly have to schedule meetings across several different timezones. I can track the time difference, but Daylight vs Standard just doesn’t fit in my brain! I usually do what you do- 10am ET.

    4. Dang time zones*

      The time zones have gotten me in the past. I was already for my interview at 2 and never received a phone call. I then went back to work and at 3, got a call, which I couldn’t answer, but called perhaps 10 minutes later. But yes, she was an hour earlier than me. She was aware of the time zone difference, but I didn’t.

  21. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

    LW 1: If your income and your expenses aren’t matching, at least one of them needs to change (if not both). Because you want to eventually make a living as a writer, which can be a pretty precarious field, you may want to try and optimize both parts as hard as you can. That would give you both a lower target amount of money to need to quit your job, and more buffer space in your budget to save up the cushion you’d need. It can be hard to find that sweet spot of a day job that leaves you enough brainspace to write and enough money to live on, particularly since you’ve also got a small child involved who takes up both money and brainspace as well.

    Since your current job is remote, is there any way you can move someplace less expensive that’s still close enough for whatever custody situation you’re in? (I assume that it doesn’t make sense for you to move to where finding providers on your job’s health insurance would be simpler or else you would have already done that.) Moving to an exurb instead of living in a city can sometimes make a big difference in rental costs while still being a do-able distance to drive a kid back and forth each week. I haven’t priced it out recently, but when I was earlier in my career living an extra hour out of the metro area meant I could rent a 3 bedroom house for notably less than an apartment in the city.

    I also know of several authors who rent rooms to housemates partially to save on housing expenses and partially so that there’s someone still living at the home when the author is very publicly traveling on a book tour or convention travel. (Authors can have the same issues of very public travel schedules letting thieves know when the house will be vacant as athletes or other celebrities, but without the corresponding budget to hire security.) I have no idea if this is a current or future direction that makes sense for you (small children make that a much more challenging prospect!), but I thought I’d throw it out there.

    1. Single Struggling and Remote*

      Thank you! Yeah I am already living 30 min away in a cheaper area. I’d never thought about the public travel and home safety aspect thank you for sharing that! -LW1

    2. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      I think I’d rather make $20-30K more doing a similar job for a for profit company than have a roommate (LW would need a 3 bedroom then since presumably 1 of the current 2 bedrooms is for the kid) or live in the boonies especially if that meant a lot of driving due to exchanging kid. Just saying.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      Seconding all of this.

      Your finances are none of your employer’s business, but this cuts both ways: They can’t/shouldn’t examine how you use your money, but you can’t expect a raise because your living and family situation changed. So it’s time to look for another job and/or reevaluate your living situation and see if there are ways to pare down those expenses. Where I live, a two-bedroom apartment in the city would easily eat up most of my take-home, but one it the suburbs would be a lot less.

  22. Tau*

    Re #3 –

    As a minor counterpoint to Alison’s answer, there are industries where 4-6 hour tasks you are expected to do at home during the interview process are, sadly enough, normal. I’m in one (tech), I hate it, but it’s entrenched enough that it’s hard to push back against.

    That said…
    * if you’re in one of these industries, you should know
    * tech coding challenges generally happen prior to the final interview set. Having them before any sort of initial screening would be completely unreasonable!

    1. Roland*

      I’m a software engineer and have not encountered take-home exercises that take 4-6 hours. I am sure they exist but they’re not normal imo.

      1. Tau*

        Huh. Maybe it’s a regional thing – I’m in Germany – but every single job I’ve applied to after the junior level has had a coding challenge that takes around this time. For the one at my current job, 4 hours is honestly on the low end (I think I needed more like 8), and although I tried to push back against it recently I made zero headway.

      2. fhqwhgads*

        Same. All the take-home exercises I’ve encountered as a software engineer are of the “this should take less than an hour” variety.

        1. I Have RBF*

          They say “this should take less than an hour”, but in reality? It takes an hour just to set up the environment to be able to run the program in, much less write it, test it, and debug it.

          1. Tau*

            This is such a pernicious time sink – like, if you ask me “code a backend that does X”, I might spend two hours just trying to figure out how to set up a HTTP server with a database connection because guess what, although I work with those day to day I never have to code one from scratch! I don’t need to start a new service that often and when I do I just copy-paste the skeleton of one that’s already there!

            I may need to job-search soon and I’m considering just spending the time to build myself an empty skeleton project that has a lot of the bells and whistles that might be called for, and fork that for coding challenges. This is the only way I can imagine it actually working in the time they expect. Of course, if then they want me to run their specific environment or use a different stack all bets are off.

    2. Graybeard*

      As someone who’s been in tech for more than a few decades now, this isn’t something I’ve seen (or imposed on junior positions I’m hiring for). Maybe I’m senior enough (and being hired by people who worked with me at building successful products in the past) for that not to be a thing, but… eventually, it isn’t a thing.

      (The best interview process I’ve been through did have a 1-1.5 hour exercise, but that was on site, most of the way through a day-long round of interviews; the company had already put me in 1:1 meetings with people whose time was very precious, so there was nothing disrespectful about the process).

    3. Mairead*

      Also in tech and I’ve done a few of these. Some had a time limit (e.g. 3 problems to solve in 2 hours) and others didn’t. But in all cases, I had already done at least one interview first.

    4. Bk*

      I’m wondering if some initial screening steps were skipped because LW mentions having previously worked for the same school district, so perhaps they already have certain information on file for her.

      In which case that definitely should have been communicated to her so that she understands she’s ‘in the running’ and not just doing free work to potentially earn the right to interview.

    5. learnedthehardway*

      Yes – I work in an area where case studies, presentations, etc. are often part of the hiring process. Your choice is to either participate or withdraw.

    6. NeedRain47*

      I just spent three days writing, creating slides for, and practicing a presentation that was 20 minutes of an 8 hour job interview, so I can be an academic and work a lot harder for not much more money. Good times?

    7. I Have RBF*

      I have nearly 25 years in Tech. I hate “coding challenges”, “take home tests”, etc. I have turned down jobs that wanted then, usually because they tell me “oh, it’ll only take an hour”, but when I look at the scope of the thing I have to spend three hours setting up an environment to do their stupid test in, work with a specific stack that I don’t have in my home environment, and do stuff that I usually only have to even think about once in five years, all for a contrived test proctored by some snotty jerk who wants to prove how much smarter he is than me. If the fact that I have a verifiable track record of walking in to a company and becoming an SME on an internal, bespoke tech stack isn’t good enough, then all the contrived “tests” or “exercises” won’t prove that.

      IMO, the mark of skill in tech is the ability to learn new things, not jump through hoops on a contrived exercise. Sure, if the job involves some tool or stack that I am not currently using, there’s a learning curve. But every job I have ever had has been like that. I’m not going to upskill on a specific stack on spec. There’s just too much, and it changes too quickly. I keep up with basic trends, but I don’t go deep into stuff unless I’m paid to do so. I like having time for other pursuits, after all.

  23. PhotoCynthia*

    LW2, my parents used to run the petrol station in the small village I grew up in, and I now work for a climate change related NGO (after getting a PhD in climate change related research), so life can be funny that way! (And since I worked there in summers and my parent finacially supported some of my studies I even sometimes joke that the fossil fuel industry helped me with me carreer).

    I think it is a matter of just learning to ignore the comments, or to not take them personally. There will always be rude people with opinions in life.

    (On a general note though, not to LW2, I do not agree with some commenters that as a person working in a certain industry you cannot make changes. It is a shame though that there is not more Trade Union action nowadays, but there’s a lovely documentary about a group of workers in the Scottish Roll Royce Factory who refused to work on the engines that Pinochet was using to bomb citizens in Chile. But as I said, they could only stand strong because of their trade union protection. The documentary is callen Nae Passaran and I highly recommend it, very uplifting)

    1. MissElizaTudor*

      Thank you for the recommendation! My partner and I will definitely be watching that to kick off our next date night.

  24. Emmy Noether*

    Depends on what you mean by “right”. Right in the sense that global warming is a problem of catastrophic dimensions and fossil fuel consumption drives it? Obviously, and LW acknowledges that.

    However, they are wrong in that what they are saying makes no dang sense. They can live with themselves having probably flown or driven to this conference (or did they all ride there on a bike? really?), but couldn’t live with themselves being a person that makes that possible? Come on! That type of thinking is not helpful. They are wrong in thinking that LW not working where (s)he works would help any.

    And I say this as someone who is very, VERY pro-environment. I don’t own a car or air condition for this reason. I no longer fly, and buy 100% renewable electricity. I had to leave a comment section here recently because could tell staying would lead to an environmental anxiety meltdown on my part. But hypocrisy is not *right* or helpful. We have to concentrate on doing things that are actually possible, not point fingers at those we think are worse.

    1. Katie Impact*

      It’s not helpful, but I do think it’s a common way of thinking; there are a lot of people who will happily eat meat but could never work in a slaughterhouse. Ultimately, I think many people who make comments like that don’t actually want you personally to change industries; they just don’t want to be reminded that you exist. That’s not something you need to accommodate.

    2. amoeba*

      Yeah, they do sound a bit like somebody criticising the meat industry over a nice steak.

  25. Yoli*

    #2: My advice is to just say, “OK” in a neutral tone of voice and then go back to your conversation. Some of the comments might be poor attempts to make connections, others are definitely malicious, but either way you can’t really argue with OK. (there’s nothing wrong with ignoring altogether but depending onthe room/convo set up, no response leaves people thinking you didn’t hear them and saying it again, louder.

    #3 I work for a school district central office. Things tend to be slow at this time of year (incl. responsiveness, deliverables, folks generally being on top of things) while at the same time, people are desperate to fill vacancies before the school year starts. All that to say, what they sent you could be a mistake or they could be fast-tracking you in the process and just didn’t communicate that well. I’d reach out to whoever you submitted your initial application to and ask, then you can decide whether it’s worth your time.

    1. WS*

      +1, my aunt was one of the first female chemical engineers for a well-known oil company and just retired recently. In the last decade or so she got a lot of these comments. She would say “Okay,” or nod, to acknowledge they had spoken and gone on with her conversation.

  26. GythaOgden*

    Pay caps are the pits. They’re there for a reason — at some point, if you don’t want to actively work for a promotion and are happy as a Clam Harvester (ahem!) you need to look for more professional development and a step up. I can look for another reception job but they all pay very similar amounts to what full time would at my desk. So if I want a really significant raise, I need to be able to take on more work and responsibility. Ironically, I’m not the one standing in the way of that progress, but that’s another story for another day. Just know that I’m on your side and I’m giving you a fist-bump in solidarity as you look for another job.

    LW1 — I’ve had this argument with friends. My dad works in civil engineering and knows a lot about power generation beyond ‘fossil fuels bad, renewable good’. Many renewable sources of energy aren’t yet efficient enough to replace oil and gas, and, having worked on nuclear power plants, he spent one evening at a dinner party breaking down why things are stalling in that industry. I went for a job locally in 2008 where they were researching and developing prototype solar panels that worked in the gloomy British climate as well as they might work in the Sahara. I saw the fruits of that particular office when my friends got the working domestic solar panels and slashed their energy bills significantly — but it was 6 or 7 years after I went for the interview (for an accounting/bookkeeping position). And that’s a very short time in engineering.

    What people see from the outside is not as intricate or complex as what happens on the inside. Knowing how power is generated and how far off we are from, say, cost-effective hydrogen power (yeah, we all want it, but are we prepared to get a shocking electricity bill — sorry, it’s WAY too early for puns but I couldn’t not — at home or pay the taxes associated with government help for homes? — because ultimately even taxing the rich won’t generate the necessary amount of revenue, so it will end up on middle class shoulders), and that people are working on it is frustrating when you’re arguing against people who don’t get to see that inner landscape. It’s the same for a lot of other professions. Don’t get me started on healthcare. No, seriously.

    I’m personally with an energy supplier that is 100% renewable and I’m grateful for that. But it takes time and money to find replacements for oil and gas. The rise of Tesla as an electric car pioneer also shows that even if companies who rely on oil were squashing development of alternative products, the benefit of capitalism is that an upstart company can disrupt that market. Russian involvement in Ukraine has started to wean Europe off fossil fuels, and before that the oil crash of 2015 onwards (that put my BIL out of work and made him have to shift fields) disincentivised new exploration and forced existing rigs to be mothballed. But it’s a process, not a binary — it takes time to shift market forces and develop the technology available to us in prototype form into really useful stuff that also obeys the laws of thermodynamics. Oil companies are taking some interest and shares in new technology — they don’t stand still on this either. The OPEC Gulf states shifted to tourism to make up for lost oil revenue; companies themselves don’t want to go bust so they diversify to stay in business.

    So I completely sympathise. It’s way, way more complicated than the public think. No-one has a magic wand. It’s just so frustrating when your explanation of the actual situation would entail a whole semester of science education and you just get dismissed as a corporate shill. But we’re not at the stage yet where we can jettison fossil fuels and still keep society in the way it has become accustomed to living. The process of change is happening, but just at the same pace as every other shift in human process — too slow for short-lived individuals to see definite progress. And yeah, I’ve got several slightly singed bridges with friends over this but what baffles me is that they know my dad is in engineering and what I’m saying is what he’s explained to me about what he does and what the roadblocks are.

    Good luck to you, mate. It’s a tough row to hoe any time your knowledge gets challenged by other people who only see a very small part of the actual situation. I can’t give you justice, but I can also give you the fist-bump of solidarity.

    1. Earlk*

      Just a slight positive addition to your comment- the majority of energy used in the UK is now produced by windfarms, so sustainable energy is getting there :)

      1. GythaOgden*

        That is good! We’ve certainly got a lot of wind to harness. My employer in NHS facilities has a big push towards achieving net zero carbon and it’s something I feel good to be part of.

        Like the news that several reservoirs in California are fuller than they were two years ago and that the Siberian tiger has rebounded in population. We had red kites reintroduced in the Chilterns a while ago and they thrived. Beaver populations in Europe have exploded in number. They’re baby, baby steps, and the California good news is out of our direct human control, but at the same time there are a lot of people out there working hard to develop answers to the problems and I’m definitely someone who can be more encouraged by good news than bad. Just like in my personal life, it feels empowering when you can celebrate the successes.

    2. Plantfan*

      Another fist bump of solidarity here! I used to work in plant genetic engineering while living in a very liberal area where everyone thought all farms should be organic, biodynamic, etc. Some people were actually interested in my thoughts—and most plant scientists went into that field with lofty ideals of feeding the world! Most were not, and this includes anyone making a rude comment on your conference name tag. I once had the experience of being at an academic conference and going to an evening session about intellectual property, and finding my small startup’s patent estate held up as an example of the evils of privatization of science! Ignoring them is best, but if you want an occasional snappy rejoinder, just ask how they got to the conference. “I see you’re from Far Away City—how did you get here?” Don’t comment further when they said they flew or drove—just let the irony hang.

    3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I saw the fruits of that particular office when my friends got the working domestic solar panels and slashed their energy bills significantly — but it was 6 or 7 years after I went for the interview (for an accounting/bookkeeping position).

      I am thrilled with our home solar solution, but the only way I could make the numbers work when we were shopping for it was tapping home equity–which drilled home much of the economic limitations of the current solar industry/economy.

      I’d do it again in a heartbeat, but “go solar” as a solution shares too much with “bring a sandwich” from Alison’s FAQ for my comfort.

      1. Observer*

        I’d do it again in a heartbeat, but “go solar” as a solution shares too much with “bring a sandwich” from Alison’s FAQ for my comfort.

        I don’t think they are saying “go solar” as much as “I’m doing my best to be as carbon neutral as possible, and I see the benefits to people when it works.” And also that it’s kind of context setting for the rest of the comment which is pointing out that for all the problems with the fossil fuel industry, it’s just not a matter of snapping your fingers and done.

        And I think that all of this is true.

      2. GythaOgden*

        The point about the sandwich rule was not to call people out for making suggestions that not everyone can take up — like the exact opposite of what you’re saying about my post. She is asking us not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. She’s asking us not to howl down people suggesting packing sandwiches if you’re personally unable to eat them, on the basis that no-one knows the exact experiences of everyone else and can only talk about their own preferences or ideas or what they might do in that situation and advice like that can be taken or left depending on what the advisee knows about their own situation. (The response to ‘Could you perhaps pack a sandwich?’ is ‘I don’t think that works for me because I’m coeliac’, not ‘OMG people here might be coeliac so you’re being offensive by even suggesting wheat products to me!’) I think I’d go back and read the actual rule and what it says before nitpicking someone’s post.

        And I haven’t gone solar myself — I just used it as an example as something I saw in the process of jobhunting that piqued my interest in a nerdy kind of way and made me feel like people were working hard in the background on solutions to the issues of the day, but that also took two thirds to three quarters of a decade or so to go from prototype to commercial product.

        I don’t have a roof that is orientated in the right direction (south facing) to take advantage of. I understand that it is a large capital outlay and would only pay off in the long run. But my post was long enough as it was without having to read minds and elaborate on every single point.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          I think I’d go back and read the actual rule and what it says before nitpicking someone’s post.

          Yea, the Economics of “going solar” in the present are rooted in privileges (e.g. the wealth that is home equity or a huge pile of liquid or liquidatable assets) and I’m painfully aware not everyone has access to those. That is the axis on which it’s too close to sandwiches for me.

        2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          I think I’d go back and read the actual rule and what it says before nitpicking someone’s post.

          I had understood the rule to be more about being understanding about solutions (and problems, etc) not being global and equally good (or bad, etc) for everyone.

          Rereading it with the context of nitpicking instead, I can see where you’re coming from and owe you an apology for the nitpicking inherent in my first response.

    4. Boof*

      I hear you! Although I do think we are seeing pretty remarkable changes; I just got my first plug in hybrid a year or so ago and have used under 30 gallons of gas driving an hour a day, for the last year, probably?? That is not supposed to be a self pat just saying the tech is there now that wasn’t 30 years ago. And yes now we need to find “clean” sources of said electricity but, I think having cars depending on electricity rather than petroleum is a big step.
      next step; solar roof for me; maybe eventually geothermal heating. So much infrastructure needed @-@

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        next step; solar roof for me; maybe eventually geothermal heating.

        Geothermal HVAC is awesome; I can’t recommend it enough, either.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Ha! I went to an exhibition at the Tower of London and saw what mediaeval kings hung in their bedroom. Tapestries were not just decorative — they were insulation too. (And I’ve heard wall-hangings like this were also a feature of American pioneer homes and lingered on as a tradition.)

          I’m a knitter and crocheter and am frantically needling my way to a warmer house this winter. I just need someone to help hang the woolly blankets.

      2. GythaOgden*

        That’s my point — technology takes a while to catch up but it does get there. I had an argument with my friend about hydrogen power which is currently under development but not yet efficient enough to be a serious source of energy. My friend claimed the usual stuff about companies hiding the technology so they could continue to profit off oil — which makes zero sense, because if hydrogen power was profitable the corporations probably don’t care where the money comes from at all. (Ironically, a large oil and gas producing nation like Russia might care because it sees itself slightly differently — they would lose revenue from a resource they own to another country. But if there’s money to be made the money makers will continue to make it, whether it’s in fossil fuels, hydrogen or llama burps, and the Peruvian government will be rubbing their hands with glee.)

        1. Lydia*

          The thing is, though, they do care, because they have done a LOT of lobbying and spent a LOT of money to prevent new technologies from coming to market simply to keep their profits up. It’s not about hiding it, though, it’s about creating a narrative that dismisses it and using their influence to make it more difficult to bring to market. I posted about this previously, but electric cars existed in the 70s. They certainly weren’t as efficient as they are now, but if large corporations didn’t actually care where the money came from, they would have done a lot more 40+ years ago to develop technology that would pay off long term rather than convincing the public and politicians it wasn’t practical or “American.”

  27. Caroline*

    Oil and gas OP AND some of the commenters… um… what? So… at a conference, where professional people are networking socially, there are those who think that that kind of thing is okay?

    Now. I understand – because I don’t live under a rock – that the oil and gas industry is problematic as a whole. So are… lots of things. Big pharma has many questions that require answers, government of any country and at any level, same-same, then of course there’s the garment industry, or food. Palm oil, anyone? Cosmetics!! That industry is gross. Any industry where air miles are a necessity (using… ya know, oil and gas), and don’t get me started on ELECTRIC VEHICLE TECHNOLOGY, with the whole cobalt situation. On and on we could go.

    Strongly suggest very blandly saying ”Now. I wonder why you would feel comfortable saying that to me? I don’t think we’ve ever met, or have we?” then leave. It’s rude, rude, rude and needs calling out immediately, politely.

    1. Heather*

      Absolutely, it is unbelievably rude. I am shocked that some people here are supporting it.

      “Oh, you live in Town? God, with suburbs’ history of racism, I cant even imagine being comfortable living there.”

      “You went on vacation to National Park last summer? It was forcibly stolen from Native people. It makes me nauseous to think about giving the national parks service an admission fee. I never would.”

      Like… okay— any of those comments have some reality to them, but surely surely you wouldn’t walk up to a person you’ve never met and blurt them out in a lobby??! (An IN-PERSON lobby. This person isn’t asking about interactions he’s having on Twitter. It’s two humans speaking to each other.)

      1. KTC*

        100% agree. I’ve never, ever in my life had a sincere, life changing conversation about anything, let alone the moral and environmental implications of my job at a coffee buffet in the back of a Hyatt ballroom/conference room.

        It’s not only rude, it’s incredibly presumptuous, smug and weirdly posturing to think that you can or should say something like that to someone. It brings to mind the recent letter about proselytizing at work, which if I recall correctly, was unpopular in the comment section. This is similar–injecting your own personal opinion into someone’s daily life when they didn’t ask for it is ridiculously rude.

    2. MissElizaTudor*

      I think your suggestion is the best one I’ve seen if they want to point out the rudeness and extend that part of the conversation,

      It definitely depends on LW2’s goal, though, since it definitely won’t move things along smoothly and will probably make the uncomfortable part go on longer.

    3. Risha*

      “Strongly suggest very blandly saying ”Now. I wonder why you would feel comfortable saying that to me? I don’t think we’ve ever met, or have we?” then leave. It’s rude, rude, rude and needs calling out immediately, politely.”

      I agree with this 100%. I don’t know what is wrong with people or why they think it’s ok to just say whatever rude thing comes to their minds. OP, return the rudeness back to them.

    4. Harmon*

      I’m not sure I understand your argument beyond the fact that there are some other industries which behave poorly?
      These also are deserving of comment and discussion of their negative impact.
      Certainly if I met someone who worked in pharma, especially an opioid company, I would be interested in that person’s perspective and justification.

      1. Happy meal with extra happy*

        You may be interested in it, but actually asking for it is a level of entitlement that is off the charts. You’re not asking the CEOs, senior execs of these companies but some random employee who does not have to justify to you anything about their lives.

        1. Margaret Cavendish*

          Yes, and also the context matters. This person is at the conference to learn about software or whatever, not to justify their industry or their personal life choices to curious bystanders.

      2. ADidgeridooForYou*

        I work at a very contentious, very large company that I won’t name but everybody knows, so believe me, I get those questions. And I’m happy to discuss them! I have openly voiced my disagreement with many of my company’s decisions to both bystanders and coworkers. My issue comes from a) the nature of the questions (“How has your organization grappled with the increased scrutiny as climate change worsens” is very different in tone and intent than “how can you live with yourself”) and b) the timing/platform of the questions (a one-on-one conversation vs. a 5-minute large-group interaction at a networking reception).

      3. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I actually hope you don’t. Unless the person has shown an interest in talking about their work!

        (And please, as a chronic pain patient, don’t make opioids impossible to get)

    5. OneElle*

      Yes, THIS: ”Now. I wonder why you would feel comfortable saying that to me? I don’t think we’ve ever met, or have we?” then leave.
      Yes, yes, yes!

    6. kanej*

      it is a common misconception that electric cars use large amounts of cobalt. They on average use less than is used in petroleum manufacturing

    7. NP08*

      Yes yes yes to this comment. I have lots of ethical issues with many many industries and ways of doing business even in less problematic industries. Yet I understand that walking around lecturing complete strangers from my moral high ground is not only incredibly rude, but ineffective.

      1. Margaret Cavendish*

        Right? Literally every industry is problematic in some way or other – look at all the letters on this site about not-for-profits who exploit their workers in the name of “passion.” And I’m sure there’s an entire internet full of places to discuss it if you want to. There’s no need to coerce unwilling strangers at an unrelated conference.

    8. Dahlia*

      Right??? Can you imagine meeting someone and the first thing they do is tell you you’re an awful person because of your job.

      “Hi, I’m Joe, I work at the Walmart over on 5th.”
      “I don’t know how you sleep at night. Don’t you know how awful Walmart is?”

      That is incredibly not normal!

  28. Keymaster of Gozer*

    OP 2: I work for an industry that uses very large diesel burning engines that burp fumes all over the place and yeah there’s people with opinions about that.

    To me it’s like people who see me eating meat and decide that now is a time to lecture me on how evil it is. I don’t owe them a response of why I am eating it, or why I don’t care about their opinion because I’m doing something that enables me to live and stay employed. I’m not required to defend myself or apologise for my decision.

    In a professional setting that boils down to ‘so, anyway’ and changing the subject in my experience. Best to say in the tone of voice that implies that was you just heard was nonsensical and irrelevant. If they continue then it’s a raised eyebrow and ‘seriously?!’ and move away if you can.

  29. Jellyfish Catcher*

    #1: Your writing is not a career now. The reality is that you need a better paying job with decent health care. Children bring unexpected needs and expenses and your responsibility is finding financial stability for you and your child.

    You didn’t mention your former partner as being involved in the child’s
    care or support, but stated “we had a child.” Was she listed as a parent?
    You should get a legal opinion regarding possible child support and/or involvement from your previous partner. The best to you.

  30. V*

    #2: I would 100% prepare a number of sarcastic or snide remarks ready to fire back with. From “These bags of money get me all the sleep medication I need” or “I sleep better now that I can pay my partner’s cancer treatment.” to “Hey, it’s certainly an improvement over my previous life as a Seal Clubber.” Or even something targeted depending on the company of the Rude One: “We just dig up long-dead dinosaurs, I couldn’t live with myself working at a place that slaughtered helpless animals for food.” or “At least we don’t rely on modern plantation slave labor.” And so on.

    Not really taking the high road but guaranteed to get you out of that conversation immediately I’d say.

  31. Blue wall*

    LW1- welcome to the Single Tax, where life is more expensive as 1 of 1 than 1 of 2.

    1. SBT*

      Yep! This is something that is rarely discussed. If you choose to live by yourself (and at 37, I’m not looking for a roommate other than my dog), it’s twice as pricey! There’s no splitting bills, and equally important, there’s no splitting chores. All the cleaning, cooking, bill-paying, house/car maintenance, pet care, and other admin tasks it takes to run your life can’t be shared responsibilities with someone else.

      OP 1 – it sounds like you’ll need a higher-paying job, plain and simple. I’ve worked in education and in nonprofits my whole career, and the challenge to sustain yourself in these industries without a second income to augment or fall back on is very real. Sending you good vibes and wishing you the best of luck!

      1. Single Struggling and Remote*

        Thanks for the good vibes and validation about the single tax :)

  32. bamcheeks*

    LW2, I think this is a situation where you need to think about what the outcome you want is. From what you’ve written here, it feels like your ideal outcome is probably “people stop making these comments and I don’t feel judged”: that’s not reasonably within your control. People are going to feel the way they feel about oil and gas as industries, and some of those people are going to express that in ways that feel hostile, rude, uncivil or inappropriate. I think that’s probably only going to get more true in the next couple of decades and it would be pragmatic to factor that into your cost/benefit analysis of working in that sector.

    So think about what’s realistic and achievable when you say, “how do I respond”. There are different levels of energy you can choose to invest in justifying your choice, trying to change other people’s minds, or simply carrying on the conversation with the minimum of conflict. If you want to challenge it, you can decide which part you want to challenge: the viewpoint that working in the oil/gas industry is destructive / shameful / stigmatised; the appropriateness of expressing it in that setting; or the assumptions you think they are making about you. If you want to take a stand for the industry or defend your personal choices, you can strategise how to do that and practice appropriate responses. But any kind of challenge has the potential to create more conflict, and increase the awkwardness, and it always come with the risk that whoever is observing will sympathise more with the other person than with you: there is no snappy comeback or even long, detailed argument that comes with a guaranteed outcome of silencing your critic and establishing you as a person with a solid ethical centre and good reasons for working where you do.

    Presumably you have the job for good reasons, and it meets your personal ethical standards: the best thing to do is carry that certainty with you, categorise anyone who chooses to challenge you in a public and professional space as rude, and move the conversation on as swiftly as possible. Nine times out of ten, that’s going to conclude the conversation and make you look more professional and appropriate than whoever challenged you, and to be honest that’s a much more reasonable and achievable goal than winning hearts and minds.

    1. Walking in the garden*

      The “I don’t feel judged” part is reasonably within OP’s control, and it can help drive their response. Changing how the comments make you feel can be done by changing your relationship to the comments. Framing them as rude might be accurate, but it’s not helpful in the situation. Let go of thinking about whether the comments are rude or not rude and just think of them as comments that you have a choice to engage with or not engage with. When I say “engage with,” I don’t just mean “respond to.” I also mean that you have a choice to judge the comments as rude or not judge the comments as rude; you have the choice to only observe the comments. Coming at the comments from a place of observation will give you some distance to respond more calmly.

      The sad truth is that a lot of bystanders will agree with the sentiments that they could never work in oil & gas, so you can’t count on the sympathy of the crowd. Moving past the comments with a polite but mild response is going to be your best bet. I used to work on nuclear missiles, so I have been in there with people expressing their opposition. Don’t call it out, just move past it and change the subject.

    2. Bunny Lake Is Found*

      This is honestly the best comment for this letter. Some folks have commented basically “get used to it or get a new job”, but I think this comment better sums up the nuances of “you know how the industry you are working in is viewed, it is up to you to decide on what course of action works best for you.”

      As a lawyer, it would be ridiculous of me to not expect (even in a professional setting) negative comments about lawyers and my job. It is practically part of our culture. If I couldn’t handle it at all, I should not be a lawyer. But since I like being a lawyer, I have made decisions about how to engage with the comments in various situations. Sometimes people are coming from the place of having a very bad experience with the legal system, others are just parroting the old Henry VI chestnut.

      I am lucky to be a lawyer in a larger industry that generally people don’t think negatively about, but I know some Employer side Labor and Employment lawyers who are great people but get the cruelest comments. They handle it in stride with those outside the legal profession because they knew this is how their area of the law is viewed by most people. They can be more confrontational with those inside the legal profession (especially with White Collar Defense lawyers because, pot meet kettle, right?)

  33. Knope Knope Knope*

    OP 1: another commenter says it well, if your income and expenses don’t add up, one has to change. I feel for you. I make a great salary but find myself in the same boat. I love my job but if I could find one that took away my financial stress and didn’t eat up my savings… c ya. As a parent, you also need to think about savings as an emergency fund, a college fund, the cost of clothes, daycare etc. Alison has great advice on asking for raises and job searching.

    Also, I wasn’t clear if your belief you will make a lot of money from fiction is because you currently have a deal and a publisher/agent. If so, can you talk to them about your outlook? If not, definitely work on that second job.

    If you can find a licensed fiduciary that fits into your budget, they can help with financial planning and aren’t incentives to sell you anything like other financial planners.

    Final thought, can you do some freelance writing for extra money? I’m not sure what genre of fiction you’re in but if you start growing your following as a writer now it will help with the success of your book. Just don’t get pulled into any copywriting #sidehistke schemes.

  34. I need coffee before I can make coffee*

    From reading this blog, I think #5 should consider moving to the llama industry…

      1. Elitist Semicolon*

        Ugh, Wakeen. But he’s still not as bad as Avocado Bob. I hear he won’t let employees eat while travelling for work.

  35. Longtime Lurker*

    Re #3 and the hours long exercise, Alison or the commentariat, do we have any previous columns or insights as to why anyone would think that this would make sense? Or are companies just “shocked” at the dropout rate when applicants decline to do this?

    1. Hlao-roo*

      I have two thoughts on this, and they can both be true at the same time.

      The first is that the company/organization generally doesn’t know what they’re missing. They don’t hire the people who drop out at the “complete this 4 hour task” stage, so they never have a way to say “oh wow, turns out Fergus is actually a great employee! too bad our 4 hour task drove him away.” The LW may have the ability to nudge their thinking on this, if the LW let’s them know “I’m not interested in completing this task without a phone screen first,” because the LW has worked for them before.

      The second is that if the company/organization can always hire good or adequate candidates for their jobs, they have no incentive to look at and change their hiring processes. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality, and point one makes it difficult for them to asses how broke their process is.

      1. doreen*

        My son recently went through a hiring process that was terrible , even for a government agency. The job had a huge salary range , something like $65K to $140K. Most government jobs here are predictable as far as pay goes – either everyone starts at $65K or people who have currently been employed by the jurisdiction for at least 3 years starts at $70K or those currently employed get a specified percentage raise for each salary grade increase. Not this one – pay depended on your particular assignment and my son dropped out when they couldn’t give him any idea of how much he would be paid until after he accepted the job and the assignment was known. We assume that’s because they have more than enough candidates who will take it at $65K.

  36. Insert pun here*

    I’m sympathetic to newly single OP 1, who sounds like she’s in a genuinely tough situation at an emotionally fraught time. But also, if I found out that my employer was handing out raises based on family status, I would immediately start looking for a new job.

  37. not a hippo*

    LW 2: I must begrudgingly admit that my industry also contributes to pollution (PVC is at the center and that crap is vile) but unfortunately, we live in a late capitalistic hellscape, so tell those people “oh are you offering a better job? No? Well it was nice meeting you but I must go.”

  38. Peanut Hamper*

    #2 — “Everybody contributes to global warming.” would be my go-to response.

    Because it’s true. Unless these people walked to the conference and are wearing a suit made of lettuce leaves they grew themselves, they presumably took some form of transportation to get there and are consuming things that result in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere. Even electric cars contribute to global warming during their manufacture and transport. Just eating a hamburger contributes because cows are a major source of atmospheric methane.

    So yes, we all contribute to global warming. Some of us contribute far more, but it’s impossible to live a life that has zero emissions.

    1. Pete*

      My response: Interesting, if oil and gas productions stopped today there would be mass starvation and a collapse of society, discuss

    2. Pescadero*

      I think in some ways this misses the point about the oil/gas industry (and tobacco) – as the old saying goes, “it’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up”.

      We all contribute to global warming – we don’t all use our resources to attempt to crush science that informs about global warming, or spend billions on propaganda denying global warming, etc.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        True, but this is not what people are saying to LW. As Alison pointed out, LW is presumably aware of this.

        Also, every industry does its best to promote a certain point of view and discouraging others that are not favorable to it.

        1. Lydia*

          To your last point, that’s called whataboutism and what most companies do is not equivalent to an industry pouring billions into covering up their crimes. I don’t know how the LW sleeps at night, and it doesn’t matter, because they’re not someone at the top making decisions about how to manipulate the public and politicians to keep from having to make changes. They’re a person doing a job. Unless they are one of those people making those top-level decisions, in which case, perhaps some self-reflection is warranted. But it’s unlikely.

  39. Heather*

    I was interested to read those linked articles about writing. I’ve never given any thought to how much that field pays or how people survive in it, so they were enlightening.

  40. LB33*

    I had an acquaintance who worked for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms – talk about industries that are doing real damage.

    But I would never “call her out” in a public situation like that – it’s just their job and like all of us are cogs in a machine

    1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      The Bureau regulates those industries, though. The ATF does not itself manufacture tobacco, alcohol or firearms.

      1. Anonie*

        They do help enforce laws that are used to control and imprison people in poverty and in marginalized communities. They aren’t that great.

  41. DJ Abbott*

    #2, I grew up in an area where people did this a lot. IME such people are looking for an argument so they can prove they’re superior, and will do this with any convenient subject.
    I agree the only thing to do is ignore them. That way they don’t get the attention and motivation they’re looking for.
    If it works with what you’re doing, you could stop, look at them like they lost their mind, and then go on as if they had never spoken. :D

    1. LW#2*

      This has been how I’ve handled it, but wasn’t sure if it was the best. So far the most effective response was the first time it happened – I was so shocked that I barked a laugh right in their face. They turned red and walked away, and everyone else moved on. Unfortunately I’m not great at laughing on command…

      1. DJ Abbott*

        Oh, that’s funny! :D

        They want you to engage with them, they want attention, they want an argument and a chance to prove you’re wrong (or they’re right). I think the key is to not give them any of that. Whether you can do it with a look, or a laugh, or just completely ignoring them, do what feels best in the moment.

  42. RIP Pillowfort*

    OP 2- I’m a geologist and know a lot of people that have at one point or another worked in oil and gas. It’s a very prolific employer and I’ve had a lot of people incorrectly assume I must work in that industry since I’m a geologist. So I’ve been exposed to some of these comments before.

    These comments are not new and if you ask co-workers I’m sure they’ve all experienced some variant of this. Climate change is a huge crisis and people feel strongly about things that have accelerated it. There’s no magic set of words to make people not feel strongly about this or realize they’re insulting an employee, not a CEO/major decision maker.

    This is not to say you have to put up with rudeness. But Alison is 100% right that you’re not going to be able to effectively engage people who do this to you. Believe me some of them will still argue with you when you try to point that our (ask me how I know). Find a way to politely disengage and note these people are not ones you want to network with.

  43. Oryx*

    OP #1 I don’t know how much you know about publishing and the financial side but even with a best seller it’s unlikely you’ll be able to quit your job in 3-5 years.

    Even if you signed a contract with a publishing company today, the book probably wouldn’t be coming out until 2025. The advance you get would be split into as many as 4 payments paid out in installments. Once those are all paid out to you, you don’t get any additional royalties until you earn that advance back to your publisher. If you do earn out, royalties are sent out only a couple times a year so you have to make it stretch.

    Many many books never earn out. If you sign a multi book deal that complicates things even more because those installments get paid out over all the books not just the first.

    The reality is also that most authors do not sell their first novel. I have an agent, my first novel failed on submission. So I am writing a new one that hopefully will sell to a publisher but won’t know until we cross that bridge. Almost all of my writer friends are in the same boat, they have an agent but the book they queried with didn’t sell.

    Writers who write full time? They have many many books out and they hustle because if they aren’t writing they aren’t publishing and if they aren’t publishing they aren’t getting paid. And even when they do get paid they have to put that aside for self employment taxes, health care, etc.

    Writing full time can provide a lot of freedom but it can also create financial insecurity of another variety.

    Keep writing! But I think it’s important writers who hope to do this full time have a full picture of the industry.

    1. Single Struggling and Remote*

      Thanks I really appreciate this.I do understand the finances of the publishing industry (at least the basics) and am aware that to be a “full time writer” means hustling a lot. But I have to believe in myself at least a little bit! This is so helpful as a reality check to remind me that even 3-5 years is too short of a timeline, and I need to figure out how to make it work NOW not in some future world.

  44. Melonhead*

    LW2, I might be tempted to look blankly at thr person and say, “Oh. You’re vegan and you don’t own a car or use A/C in your home?”

    Or at least think it to myself, since it’s probably not a very professional response.

    1. Bus fan*

      They’d have to be a vegan who also didn’t use plastic-based leather and other clothing substitutes and whose milk substitutes were sustainably grown, preferably fairly close to where they lived. No almond milk for them.

    2. LW#2*

      I’ve done a great job at coming up with completely unprofessional responses in my head, so I decided some advice from Alison would be better ;)

  45. Aelfwynn*

    LW 1 – in addition to job advice, hopefully your former partner is paying her half of the child support? Make sure this is an adequate amount given your former standard of living. Child support is for the benefit of the child which includes the roof over the child’s head, food, clothing, utilities, etc. If the amount is not adequate, it would be a good thing to raise with family court.

  46. Casual Fribsday*

    LW2, you can always pull out my wife’s favorite line when anyone is rude to her—“What a weird thing to say to me.” (Odd and strange also work well depending on your vibe.)

    1. JustaTech*

      Yes to this!

      I wonder if the people who are talking to LW2 are actually speaking to the audience of the other people at the conference, rather than really talking to LW2. Like, if I’m at a conference and I see someone with a badge that says they’re from “Baby Seal Clubbers, INC”, then I’m just not going to talk to them. It would be arrogant in the extreme for me to think that a single rude comment from a stranger would cause someone to change their entire profession.
      But I can totally see someone trying to increase their social standing by being rude to someone from an industry like oil and gas. It’s not about LW2 at all, it’s about the performance.

  47. LW from days long gone*

    LW4, just wanted to commiserate because I’ve written in before with almost this exact issue – so I’m kinda relieved to know I’m not the only one who’s experienced this! (It’s also not exclusive to scheduling across time zones!)

    From my perspective, someone would have to explicitly tell me they’re “available to *start* anytime between 2PM-4PM” to even consider scheduling something after 4PM. Otherwise, I’m visualizing the em dash, “to”, etc. as a literal block on a calendar (e.g. in Google Calendar if an event says 3-5PM, everyone knows that the meeting should end at 5).

    Now that I’m thinking about it, I’ve never had this issue when scheduling meetings at work – it only seemed to happen when I was job searching. Not exactly sure what that means, though, haha.

    That being said, I’m willing to try being more explicit in the future knowing what I know now – I was just surprised it happened so often to begin with!

  48. Snooks*

    The word “really” works great in response to inappropriate questions and comments. Delivered absolutely flatly with no inflection at all, it throws the commenter off their game.

    1. LW#2*

      I’m afraid they would take that as an invitation to engage, and it isn’t the time or place. I’m happy to have a rational discussion with someone, but they are obviously very much not interested in anything other than taking potshots.

      1. Lydia*

        Yep. The kinds of comments they’re making to you aren’t the kind that are to open a door on a conversation. They aren’t asking with actual curiosity if you find it difficult or anything at all. “I don’t know if I could sleep at night” implies if you do sleep at night, you must be some kind of soulless monster and how do you respond to that?

        1. LW#2*

          Which honestly is unfortunate. I do enjoy having a rational discussion with people. I usually learn something, and I hope the person I’m speaking with does as well.

  49. Coyote River*

    LW2 – I know that feeling, as a younger man I worked in security contracting. Just remind them you do what pays the bills.

  50. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    Honestly, the way I would have interpreted that statement from my boss is “You’re great as a clam harvester, but the company has a pay cap for that job category. My hands are tied. So I’m not going to be surprised if you go elsewhere.”

    He’s tacitly telling you that he thinks you should start looking.

  51. Coffee*

    OP 2, your best bet is probably to just agree with whoever is making these comments, like saying “you’re not wrong” that kind of thing, or say something like “well, I’ve got to pay the bills somehow!”. You want to convey that obviously you agree with the people making those comments (as any reasonable person would), but you’re currently unable to leave your job in the industry for some unspecified reason. But I certainly wouldn’t raise an eyebrow or otherwise disagree with them – you certainly don’t want to come off as supporting the oil/gas industries and their effects on climate change.
    I suppose this is difficult if you’re in some way representing your company at these conferences but even then, you want to find a way to convey gently that your employment is out of necessity and not representative of your personal convictions.

    1. LW#2*

      “…but you’re currently unable to leave your job in the industry for some unspecified reason.”

      Except I am able but uninterested in leaving either my job or the industry. I work for a unicorn of a company (great bosses, great culture, excellent pay and phenomenal 401k match) and I find the oil and gas business itself interesting. It’s an incredibly complex business that takes years just to scratch the surface knowledge.

    2. Observer*

      You want to convey that obviously you agree with the people making those comments (as any reasonable person would),

      I have to disagree with this. There is a lot of information, both elsewhere and in the discussion here, that clearly show that it really is not so simple.

      Sure, no reasonable person can deny that the industry has fundamental problems and that they need to be resolved. But that’s not what people are saying to OP. And it’s quite possible that the people who are saying this are working for industries that are contributing every bit as much to either global warming or other serious issues as the fossil fuel industry, possibly with less excuse. (Fast fashion? Any company that uses slave labor? Shipping?)

  52. Frankie Mermaids*

    LW #5 I don’t think your manager let the pay cap slip by accident. I think that was their way of saying “You are an incredible employee and I want to be transparent that you can make more money somewhere else.” I had manager make a similar hint early in my career but I was struggling with too much imposter syndrome to hear it for what it was. I think you can absolve yourself of any guilt and be frank with them, and they will understand

  53. Miette*

    LW5: I feel like perhaps your boss meant you to read between the lines when they said they’d hate to lose you BUT… If you find a new job (which you should absolutely do without a shred of guilty feeling), and you feel comfortable, I would absolutely share that back with the boss. Perhaps they’ve been trying to get the pay band adjusted for your position, and this would be the proof needed.

  54. Insert pun here*

    I’m sympathetic to newly single LW 1, who is going through a really tough time and seems to be chronically underpaid to boot. But if I found out (or even strongly suspected) that my employer was giving out raises based on family status, I’d start looking for a new job pretty much immediately.

  55. Spicy Narwhal*

    LW #2, I used to work as a laboratory animal caretaker at medical research facilities. I had a lot of people say the weirdest things to me about that. For a while I was willing to get confrontational about it, pointing out that they benefited directly from animal studies if they, their loved ones, or their pets had ever received any kind of medical care. There’s a push in the industry to reduce the number of animals used in medical research, but for the moment, we don’t have a lot of other good options for developing treatments.

    But I eventually realized that it was rarely worth it to engage. I’d talk about the realities of research with people who seemed willing to listen, but mostly I made noncommittal noises to any comments. You’re not going to change most people’s minds, so don’t let it bother you.

    1. Anonie*

      I have a friend who does medically based research, which involves mice and having to euthanize them to study them and I find it awful, but I don’t find her awful. I wonder how she does it, but like…in a “you’re a kind person who loves animals so how do you cope with having that be part of your work without feeling bad” way. I think that’s an important part of knowing about these fields and addressing the kinds of questions people might get. And maybe these controversial fields might do well to offer training in how to handle questions/comments/snark.

  56. Fluff*

    OP #2 – This is so not right. I suspect more and more industries become the face of “all that is bad.” Weird how that happens. Practice your responses because it is hard to do on the fly.

    1. You can follow the advice of the awesome Captain Awkward and return that package of awkward back to sender. “What a rude / strange / comment.” Look perplexed like this is as unexpected as turning into a bat. Walk away, get a snack or enjoy the squirm as you repeat similar.

    2. Be sweetly acidic. “Oh, that’s so precious.” Like you are talking to a cute dachshund puppy and chuckle. Shrug shoulders and walk away happily.

    3. Friendly “Hmm, I’d love to hear about your off the grid living arrangement, foraging and growing your own food, how you filter your rain water, and not using any modern amenities. I have always been interested in folks who live totally off the grid.” Eyes wide, be enthusiastic and enjoy. Then end with an all knowing “oh” when they cannot tell you about all that good stuff.

    I know, snarky. Sometimes you can enjoy the snark.

    1. LW#2*

      Would love to give a snarky answer (someone above suggested “Bless your heart” which I might try in the future) but 1) I don’t want to come across as unprofessional, I’ll leave that honor to the person trying to take potshots and 2) I really don’t want to give the impression I want to engage with them. I’m happy to have a rational discussion with someone about the oil and gas industry, but these people are obviously not interested in anything other than a heated argument.

      1. HQetc*

        Honestly, I think there is a polite version of the “off the grid” answer: just a fairly-cheery “well, we can’t all live off-the-grid just yet,” then a subject change. It hints at the point of “dude, you use it too, you dink” without being too adversarial, but still works on the (vanishingly small) chance that you are talking to someone who has somehow managed to go fully off-grid (which, no, they haven’t, because if they are at a conference, they almost *certainly* use the internet, and data servers are hardly a paragon of environmental harmlessness).

  57. Trek*

    OP #2 Ask the person how hard was it for them to give up their car and using all fossil fuels? How long did it take them to travel to the conference vs fly? Where do they buy their clothes? What’s it like to grow their own food? When they state they do none of this say you’re welcome for being able to live the life you have due to companies like mine. Until there is another alternative oil and gas is it.

    1. bamcheeks*

      I mean, you can take this kind of reverse-aggressive approach if you want, but all you’re really going to do is come off equally self-righteous in the opposite direction, or look like a tit if you are in fact talking to someone who doesn’t have a car, got public transport to the conference and only buys secondhand clothes. It’s a high risk strategy!

      1. ecnaseener*

        Thank you. The zingers are fun to come up with, but they’re not going to help LW in the context of a conference.

      2. Bunny Lake Is Found*

        Exactly. I promise everyone, no one at LW2’s company wants them being snarky and rude in response to someone else being snarky and rude at a professional conference. Whereas professional, cool and composed will make LW2 appear competent and able to handle the realities of working in a controversial industry.

  58. Tasha*

    #4, when giving your range of times, don’t forget to include your time zone because the person doing the scheduling may be in a different time zone, and different from the person conducting the interview.

  59. Frankie Mermaids*

    LW #5– I don’t think your manager told you the top of the salary range by accident. That might have been a nice way to tell you that you’re an excellent employee but that you could be making more money elsewhere. Early in my career, I had a manager give me a similar hint, but my imposter syndrome was too strong to see it for what it was. I think you can absolve yourself of any guilt and be honest and they will understand.

  60. Michelle Smith*

    LW2: I don’t have good advice for you. My gut, here, alone, at my keyboard is to respond with something like “Wow, that’s awfully rude” and walk away, but I also worked for a long time in a deeply maligned industry and never have done that when people find out about my background (yes, the rude comments continue even after I’ve moved to a different industry that is more socially acceptable in my circles). I don’t know that I have much to add here except I understand and I’m sorry you’re dealing with it. We would all do a lot better to listen first and judge later, rather than judging people we just met on things like this.

    1. LW#2*

      I have refused to walk away from a group when it’s occurred so far – I am not the one being unprofessional so I will not slink away with my tail between my legs. I would like to find a way to call out their unprofessional behavior, but I think an arch look and moving on (while unfulfilling for my need for snark) is probably the best action.

      1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

        I get that in these situations there is a desire to “fight back”, but if you are truly OK working in the industry you do, at the company you do, then remind yourself this: you have done nothing that requires a defense and they have said nothing that merits a response.

  61. Fluffy Fish*

    OP1 – I was an truly single parent (no other parent involved) and for me my focus was always jobs that paid ok and were fairly secure. I ended up in government and have been in local government for 20 years. I am paid well – not corporate rates, but well. And the benefits are incredible – pension, good health insurance, a generous amount of leave. Plus the unwritten benefits of flexibility and job security and living relatively close to work.

    I never had to miss any school events or sports games. I could take off when kid was sick. I could flex my hours and on the rare occasion I needed to bring kid to work.

    I could have done corporate and made more money but I don’t think I would have had the same benefits.

    It’s worked well for me. Hope that gives you some food for thought as you’re figuring out what’s best for your situation.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      I should also add that with government and pensions, often you only have to work 25 years and then you can retire and draw. So I will be able to draw my pension and go work an entirely different career before Im 50. And having that financial security blanket means I can take risks or do a job for passion over security/money.

  62. RaginMiner*

    I live in deep southern Louisiana. I understand the ramifications of the oil and gas industry, but I need some of the commenters to understand this: many of us who live in this region basically can’t escape working in the industry in some capacity. Be it in the office, on the rig, on the tugboat moving barges of supplies, the aviation company flying workers to the rigs, etc, etc, etc. In my region, if you want a well paying, relatively stable job, you don’t have much of a choice other than oil and gas. I am one of the lucky few who doesn’t, and even then, I work at a mine- also the target of vitriol.

  63. Risha*

    LW2, I don’t have any advice, I just want to say I’m sorry people are so rude to you. I don’t know what is wrong with people and why they think it’s ok to say such rude things to a stranger. You don’t owe anyone any explanation or apology. Depending on the situation, you may try saying something like “wow, that was rude”, or “why would you say something like that to me?”. Never feel guilty for your job, it’s what pays your bills so F what people think about your career choice.

    I’m an RN and work in a health insurance company. People also have strong feelings about insurance companies. I hear things like “why would you work there, nurses are supposed to help people, not hurt them”, or “ya’ll denied my (insert relative here) hospital visit, why did you do that”. Like I have control over those decisions. Someone even said to me “I guess people are willing to sell their ethics for the right amount of money” (most insurance companies pay nurses very well, more than a lot of hospitals do). These people don’t know what my role is, or what goes on behind the scenes. They just want to be rude and run their mouths.

    Depending on who they are and in what setting, I may ask them what do they want me to do about it, or what makes them think that’s appropriate to say to someone they do not know. I told the person that made the ethics comment that if he’s willing to pay my bills and provide the standard of living that my family is acclimated to, I’ll quit and work somewhere else.

    1. LW#2*

      My sympathies – any job in healthcare is such a lightning rod, particularly these last several years.

  64. DC*

    I get similar comments for being in the defense industry. I just ignore them. I like my job and it pays well. Not every job is perfect.

  65. DramaQ*

    I work in research and if I had a dollar for every rude comment made about my profession I wouldn’t have to work at all. I understand the issues in my profession and I will debate with people who actually know their stuff. It is a good conversation when I am in the mood and I do sometimes learn something.

    I don’t have time for the judgement police who expect me to stutter and apologize for doing something they disapprove of. I am sure there are things they do in their day to day lives that I would disapprove of. I change the subject when that happens.

    The best comeback was one of my husband’s during Ebola. People were demanding to know why he “allowed” me to work in research during this time because I happened to work across the street from the hospital that housed patients. He looked them in the eye and said “Because I like living” lol. That shut up the naysayers.

  66. Littorally*

    2. Rude comments about your industry

    Oh man, OP, I feel you. Working for a Wall Street firm (though I’m in a cheap ops center elsewhere) carries a lot of similar stigmas, though I’m sure not as intensely as oil/gas. I’ve heard “oh you’re the guys that caused the Great Recession” and similar much more often than I’d like.

    Alison’s advice is more or less what I do when I don’t feel like engaging with that. My usual dismissal is a shrug and “I’m just a cog, man. Gotta keep a roof over my head somehow.”

    When I do feel like engaging, I have a whole speech about how I feel like I have a role in encouraging my firm to be more cautious, more client- and employee-conscious, and engage in less pressure to bring in more AUM at all costs. (And that is a big part of my role – I do a lot with policy implementation and regulatory interpretation.) It boils down to “this industry isn’t going to go away anytime soon, and if all the ethical people quit, who’s left?” If someone won’t take the hint to disengage, or you feel like there’s a teachable moment to be had, that might be another arrow to keep in your quiver.

    Comments about the dying industry seem ripe to me for “well, that’s for the future; for the moment, this is keeping the rent paid.”

    It’s good and important for people to remember that the principle of “no ethical consumption under capitalism” very much also applies to “no ethical employment under capitalism.” Being able to center your career around optimally virtuous industries and employers is a privilege that not everyone has.

    5. Leaving when you’re hitting pay cap

    The word I would use here instead of pay is “growth” or “progression.” If you are hitting the cap for what your employer will pay you as a clam harvester, that SHOULD also mean you are hitting the cap for how far your career can progress in the harvesting speciality. It sounds like that is the case, since the proposed solution from your boss is to move into a different role with what sound like very different responsibilities. So you can say “I appreciate your willingness to help me move into a different line of specialization in the clam field, but this new job is offering me more growth opportunity in my current career as a harvester.” Sometimes them’s the breaks – companies can only offer so much scope in a particular line, and larger companies can offer both more specialized roles and progression within them, and also (often) more money and benefits.

  67. Angstrom*

    #1: This is the flip side of the “We’re going to pay you less because you have a partner who works” problem that has come up previously. Pay changes based on relationship status are not a reasonable way of doing business.
    I’m sorry that your financial situation has changed for the worse.

  68. Jonathan*

    LW#2: I encounter the same thing and like to point out all the industry is responsible for. Plastics, fertilizer, medicines all made possible by oil and gas. The industry is cleaning up but unless they walk/bike everywhere, grow their own food, and avoid modern medicine its better to just point out their ignorance and hypocrisy.

  69. Observer*

    #5 – Looking at other jobs

    “Hey, I know my performance review was stellar, but I’m outie”?

    You obviously know your boss and workplace the best, but this is actually an EXCELLENT thing to say, albeit with one edit. I’d so “*so* I’m out” not “but”. The bottom line is that you looked for a new job *because* you know you are good at what you are doing, but you still can’t get more money. If he’s at all reasonable, this will be something so normal that it won’t burn a bridge and won’t have any negative effect on your reference. And the rest doesn’t matter. He doesn’t need to like your decision, nor does he need to get “permission.”

  70. Somewhere in Texas*

    LW #2- It might be helpful to take some time to check your company’s sustainability report to get an understanding of the actions they are taking in this space. Most US-based oil and gas companies are making real and sustainable changes to address these issues. Reliance on oil and gas, and the whole host of things made from petroleum byproducts (almost everything you touch) isn’t going away anytime soon. Having companies that are actively evolving domestically versus importing these products or petroleum from countries with less regulations is needed.

    I’d also suggest watching the Energy Switch series on PBS to get a feel for some of the important conversations being had in this space. Each episode presents opposing viewpoints in a non-confrontational way.

  71. Monster*

    I was starting a new job in DHS when the top news story of the day was how they were keeping immigrant children in cages and deliberately separating them from their families. Indefensible cruelty.

    I wasn’t ashamed of the work I had signed up for – DHS is a very large organization that does a mix of good and bad things. So I refused to act ashamed. While I think caging babies is indeed reprehensible and unforgiveable, I made a joke of it when people who ought to know my line of work would make rude assumptions and try to shame me.

    “All the baby-caging jobs were full, so I’m working on X Topic instead. I’m on the wait-list for baby caging when they have openings.” Glare firmly, raise eyebrow. Almost uniformly, people laughed and backed down immediately.

    1. Alice*

      I mean, I’m glad it worked for you — but I’m honestly surprised it did. “Reprehensible” and “unforgivable” don’t usually coincide with “funny.” Certainly, with more and more people experiencing climate change disasters in their own lives, I think OP2 should be very hesitant to turn it into a joke. Your interlocutor, who started off indignant, is going to end up feeling indignant plus insulted — not a win for you I think.

  72. learnedthehardway*

    OP#1 – unfortunately, you really can’t use your personal situation as a reason for a salary increase. It’s not relevant to the business’s interests, and they won’t take it as a reason to pay you more. Make your argument based on the quality of your work, new responsibilities you have taken on, compensation rates in the industry/geographic area for your expertise, etc.

    OP#2 – I once had someone make a very rude comment about my industry / profession, along the lines of yours. It was personal, based on ignorance, and pretty nasty. It took me a long time to come to terms with the attitude, because there WAS some truth to it, but I eventually did a project based on my industry for an ethics class, and it helped me realize that my industry also creates major benefits to society, the economy, etc. I now have a philosophical / ethical underpinning to what I do, and that informs how I do my job, and it also gives me a response to people who are critical of my industry.

    For your situation, you can point out that until oil & gas are replaced with other energy sources that don’t pollute, don’t divert resources (eg. corn-based oil takes up land, reduces farming land), and that meet global needs, that you are happy to work towards making your industry greener, more efficient, and safer. Hopefully, those energy sources will evolve and you hope to be there to work on them when they are viable. Until then, your industry is going to operate with or without you – you can make it your personal mission within your industry to support sustainability, environmental responsibility, etc.

    You can also ask people if they are willing to give up everything that oil does for them – plastics, cars, glasses, medical devices, etc. etc. etc. There’s a certain hypocrisy entailed in using the benefits of an industry while taking potshots at people who work within it.

  73. negligent apparitions*

    Comment: “Oh I couldn’t live with myself if I knew I was contributing so much to global warming”
    Answer: Good thing it’s me and not you, then!

    Comment: “It must be terrible to work in a dying industry.”
    Answer: Suprisingly, we do quite well, thanks to people like you who used oil/gas to get to this conference!

  74. JSPA*

    Alison’s reaction–that there are important conversations to be had on that topic, but that’s not a great way to start one, actually works as a response:

    “there are important conversations to be had on that topic, but that’s not a great way to start one.”

    That should separate people who had an ungated reaction (but would like to walk it back) from those who are intentionally yanking your chain / getting purity points.

  75. the-honey-eater*

    I also used to work in a maligned industry (journalism). I was continually shocked by how casually rude people were to me in social situations about it. I would usually just let their comments hang in the air for an uncomfortable amount of time and then be like, “oooook. So anyway, how do you know the bride/groom/expectant mom?”

  76. Long Time Lurker*

    I am a writer (with book deals from top three publishers, teaching gigs, and speaking engagements) and I have a full-time job as well because I also have a mortgage and a kid headed to college and “being a fiction writer” is wonderful and awesome but not really a great plan for your finances. Not only is the money less than you might imagine, it’s also sporadic and unpredictable. As I tell my students, finding a career you enjoy and that allows you to spend the time you want writing is the best way to be a writer.

  77. OneElle*

    I empathize with LW #2. I work in Transportation but for a Plastics distributor. I went to an orthopedic doctor about a year ago for some shoulder pain. He asked what I do for a living so I told him it’s a desk job, Transportation. Interested, he asked about the industry so I told him. Immediately, the interest turned to disgust and he started spewing negative comments about plastics, how could I work for such an industry. I cut him off and said, “How would you do YOUR job without it?” I’m a single parent, I work very hard at what I do, how dare anyone disparage that?

    1. Margaret Cavendish*

      I was thinking about plastic this morning for some reason, and how pervasive it is in all of our lives. I do my best to reduce my own use of plastic, but just sitting here at my desk I’m surrounded by it – the casing on my laptop, monitor, and mouse; my security pass; my bus pass; the buttons on my clothes; the zipper and clasps on my backpack – it’s literally everywhere. We’d have a very hard time living without plastic these days.

    2. LW#2*

      Wow, you would think someone in the medical field would be a little more aware about how plastics are intwined with his ability to do his job!

    3. Observer*

      That’s just jaw dropping.

      How on earth does he think he could do his job without plastics?

      Also, he is a *doctor* treating a patient. This is just wildly unprofessional. If it were a social . networking occasion, it would be rude and stupid. But to a patient?! I hope he shut up when you responded. I also hope that he didn’t give you a hard time as a patient.

  78. gmg22*

    LW2’s experience is emblematic of something I’ve been thinking about for awhile as a comms professional — a phenomenon of people being unwilling to have thoughtful conversations in social settings, as the style of discourse we engage in on social media has spilled over into real life. Instead this type of person would rather make a sarcastic zing so they can feel like they’ve “owned” or shamed you. Completely useless for the purposes of thoughtfully considering a problem.

    LW2, my experience of authentic climate-policy discourse (coming at it from the clean energy policy side) is that most of the people really doing the serious work feel that we can, should and MUST have open and honest discussions with people in the fossil-fuel industry. People working in your industry understand the current system and they understand how it could change. And there is also the trend of fossil-fuel industry employees being interested in making the jump over to clean-energy work — where again, they are welcomed by anyone who is serious about doing the work as opposed to spending their time virtue-signaling!

    1. LW#2*

      I think you hit the nail on the head with your first paragraph – there’s no attempt at real engagement, but they think it has become socially (and apparently professionally) acceptable to be rude.

      I do enjoy having rational discussions with people about the industry. I tend to learn a lot and I hope I’m able to return the favor and the person I’m talking to also learns something from the conversation.

  79. Observer*

    Talking about needing a “good enough” reason to leave a job, did anyone see the piece going around supposedly for a McDonald franchise that says that people are “not allowed” to quit until they have spoken to a manager or area supervisor?

    OP #5, if you look at most of the responses to this you’ll see that it’s mostly “No, you don’t get to tell someone whether they can quit or not. And if you want people to stick around pay them well, treat them well, and make sure there is an actual usable way for people to resolve problem that they *know about.” You are not getting paid well, and you know it’s not going to change. So do what you need to do.

  80. NeedRain47*

    LW#1, good luck to you…. US society no longer allows solo people. Almost no jobs pay enough for a single person to have a reasonable life and not struggle. The majority of my (quite decent by local standards) will always go to basic needs, there will never be any “getting ahead”. That’s just how financial circumstances are in the US these days, the concept of paying one person enough to support themself entirely is out the window.

    1. Single and OK with It*

      I will disagree with you on that blanket statement. I live in a big city and I know several other singles who are doing quite well. That said, it is harder to go from a situation with a partner to a single income than to have been single all along.

      1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

        Word. The shift is the killer. I am in my 30s and went from coupled to single and it was rough financially to adjust.

        But I know single people my age doing just fine financially who, at the mention of coupling up, admit there would be financial benefit, but really don’t want to suddenly want to be half of a unit. Some of them date, but they aren’t interested in moving in with someone or getting married. They like their independent lives and aren’t willing to give that up just for the financial benefits.

  81. PRM*

    #2: our choices are purposefully and structurally limited under capitalism; when criticized for my ‘choices’, I tend to share this line of anti-capitalistic thought.

  82. Blarg*

    OP1, you went from two incomes with no housing costs to one income, housing costs, and a baby! Plus you’re dealing with the grief of the loss of your relationship (even if it was your choice/a good thing/etc, it is still hard) and new parenthood — and finding out that the job you love has capped their love for you. This sounds like a really overwhelming time, during which you’re also being faced with a lot of decisions. I hope that you have friends or loved ones you trust who you can lean on and bounce ideas off of.

    Some things I’d consider would be downsizing to a one bedroom — a baby/toddler really doesn’t need their own room, and exploring the jump to government work which sometimes (depending on level of gov) comes with very excellent benefits along with higher wages and more security.

    Best wishes to you!

  83. Mrs. Badcrumble*

    OP5 — My industry has pay caps, too, and when you reach them your “raise” comes as a lump sum that would be roughly equivalent instead. I’m not sure if that’s the same where you are, just wanted to mention it as something to check before you bail.

  84. Joan*

    For LW#2, the best solution is probably to try and find a different job. Hope this helps!

    1. LW#2*

      Umm no it doesn’t? In what world is a handful of snarky comments over a couple of years justification for finding a new job?

    2. Observer*


      How exactly do you think you would be able to survive if the fossil fuel / petrochemical industrial sector just went away?

      I’m not being snarky. Right now, these are literally life critical industries.

  85. James M*

    As an employee of a renewable energy company that is owned by a gas company and who used to work for a finance company whose principle job was helping rich people get richer I feel uniquely qualified to respond to LW#2.

    First, I wouldn’t try to hide it. As you note it’s on your badge.

    Option #1. Ignore it and move on. Pros: minimal conflict. Cons: Some folks feel more uncomfortable not sticking up for themselves in the long run.
    Option #2. “I’m not sure why you would say that to someone you just met at a conference. Now as I was saying…” Pros: minor conflict, but still putting some level of shame on them for a wildly inappropriate conference, simple to deliver, works for all snide comments about industry.
    Option #3. Ask them how their car runs, how they heat their homes, where their electricity comes from, how they got to the conference. If they are among the 99% of people who get at least one of those avenues from fossil energy, then just nod and move on with a raised eyebrow and an archly stated “Oh. Ok.” If they are the small but growing number who have managed to totally decarbonize their existence, then say something like, “Congratulations! That’s a great accomplishment. I look forward to the day that is within financial reach for all americans. Until that day we’ll continue to serve them, and i’ll try to help us do it as efficiently and cleanly as possible.” Pros: Nice and simple. Almost everyone uses fossil fuels. Cons: more confrontational.
    Option #4. “You know, i’m not in love with everything my industry does,, but I’m [learning a lot][have a lot of freedom to do my job][using it as a stepping stone to something else][pick your reason for doing it] and for better or worse the world still needs what what we are selling. Now, can we get back to [whatever you came to the conference for]?

    Sorry they’re being rude.

  86. Addison DeWitt*

    “I couldn’t work for the oil and gas industry.”
    “Did you fly here, or did you come by horse?”

  87. IEanon*

    I sat next to a guy at an event who’d worked at Philip Morris as his first job. He said he had been eager to leave it, and I said something along the lines that I, too, would have been morally conflicted.

    His response was, “Oh, I was never conflicted. I just didn’t like that they sent me to live in South America.” And then went off on some tangent about how racist the people there were towards him, the humble, white representative of the tobacco overlords. That taught me a lesson about assuming people’s attitudes towards their employers…

    The rest of the event was similarly awkward.

  88. Some Dude*

    RE: OP2, I don’t know how much of that I could take before I started getting snarky. “Yes, I’m trying to counter that by giving up fancy electronics. Can you believe the number of people in this room with cell phones built with rare metals mined by slave labor? What assholes!” “There’s no ethical consumption under capitalism” and all that jazz.

    Maybe I’m biased as my father owned a propane company in rural Ohio for 30 some years, but these industries can’t just magically change or disappear. Families rely on these fuels for food and heat. They can’t afford to replace their furnace and stove just to be green. Someone needs to provide that for them. Farmers need to dry their grain.

  89. HonorBox*

    OP2 – I’m sorry that’s happening to you. That sucks. As I’ve told my children several times recently, just because we have a right to our own opinions, we don’t necessarily have a right to share them all. People who are sharing their opinions about your industry/workplace with you at a conference happy hour are assuming they have a right to share their opinions with you, and they don’t.

  90. MC Girl*

    Re LW2, I walked out of a job interview because the interviewer wanted me to do an “exercise” which turned out to mean produce free work.

    No regrets, even though the company is doing phenomenally well today.

    That is simple bad form for a potential employer to demand.

  91. extremely anonymous*

    LW 2, I work in Oil and Gas too. I’ve always had conflicting feelings about it, but thus far I have justified it to myself by 1) having a role that directly contributes to either safety or reducing our environmental impact and 2) knowing that I’d rather have the oil and gas industry employ people like me who believe in its impact on climate change and are working from within to reduce it than a bunch of cartoon villains only focused on profit.

    Your employer, like mine, is probably working on a ton of projects to generate energy (that society needs to function!) in a greener way. Can you get involved in one of them? Or learn more about them? It probably won’t stop clueless people from their comments, but it may give you a snappy comeback or at least the confidence to let the comments roll off your back.

  92. Dusty*

    For #2, the eyebrow raise followed by a topic change is probably your best bet. I have had similar experiences due to my job in the pharma industry, which (among other things) involved animal testing. It is rare for people to push, but when they do a well placed “I hope you never need to use any of our medicines” usually stops them. A similar phrase from you could be something like “have you even driven a car?” or “did you bike to this conference (on a bike manufactured in a factory powered by the grid)?” but that is only for extreme situations.

  93. Beth*

    Just in case nobody else has linked to Scalzi’s classic article about writing and money, I’ll do so in a comment on this post. The advice is priceless.

      1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

        I have seen the most brilliant people – at least one with an ACTUAL MacArthur Fellowship (aka “Genius Grant”) – end up owing tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid taxes, having banks foreclose on their houses, or just generally living royalty/residual check to royalty/residual check. Money is the weird black hole where brilliant minds are just missing crucial analytical skills.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Thank you for this! Scalzi always has good things on his blog. Don’t know how I missed this one.

  94. Falling Diphthong*

    For #3, I suspect that someone in the hiring process views the lengthy exercise as a way to gather more data about applicants. And more data is good, right? Who could object to amassing more information about everyone in the applicant pool? The decision about which ones to advance to the next stage will then be better, because it has more data in it.

    As an applicant, you need to know the norms of your industry–if this is the norm for hiring clam tamers in your area and you a) really want to be a clam tamer, b) cannot point to how you are the Elton John of clam tamers and companies should be doing a 7-hour task for you before you agree to hear their pitch, then you need to do the task. Norms are usually going to win out, because just doing it the existing way is easier than changing.

    In practice, in most industries placing the time-consuming task this early screens for desperation. The information it will likely glean is “63% of our applicant pool chose to withdraw at this point, including what looks like all of the top 10%.”

  95. Elle*

    On LW2: in reading some of the comments, I think it’s beside the point to talk about the validity of the industry criticism. The people who are making these comments to the LW aren’t interested in a deeper conversation about necessary evils, or discussing constructive changes that can be made from within, and LW doesn’t owe anything beyond ignoring them or a quick retort in line with what others have suggested.

    As for “just making a point” about how problematic a particular industry is: what is being accomplished? This isn’t a case of calling out bad behavior or ignorant commentary in the moment (such as if LW was making statements calling climate change a hoax), where speaking up in the moment at least helps model good behavior and normalize the drive for change. There aren’t any micro-actions or changes arising from making these comments. They are simply rude and contribute nothing.

  96. BellyButton*

    #5, tell them straight up you are leaving because of the pay cap. You have been a good employee with great performance reviews but they have shown they do not value you (any employee in the same situation) enough to increase your pay. They should know this. The need to know this.

    1. Clisby*

      From what the LW said, I doubt seriously this would come as any surprise to her boss. It sounds like the boss was basically telling her she needed to move on to get higher pay.

  97. HonorBox*

    LW2 – I tell my children that we are entitled to our opinions, but we are not entitled to always share them. Someone giving you a hard time at a conference happy hour because of the industry you work in is being rude, and is not entitled to share their opinion with you. I’m sorry that’s happening. It really sucks.

  98. birb*

    I do want to push back gently against the idea that this comments to LW2 are unbearably and insanely rude – the examples quoted are saying oil and gas is a dying industry (true, in the sense that either it will die or we will all die) or that the speaker personally couldn’t live with themselves. As a management consultant, I’ve definitely gotten the second comment to me before! working in a industry widely known to be “bad” is going to get these kind of comments when all the person knows about you is that you’re at the same conference as them and working in oil and gas. Brush them off and endeavour to live a life in line with your values and accept that sometimes that won’t line up with others people’s. These people are hardly tarring and feathering you in the public square.

    1. HonorBox*

      While you’re correct that the comments cited are far from ones that would leave people running for the door in tears, the point is that they’re still rude… as are the ones that you’ve had to encounter. It can be hard to know what to do with a comment like that and I think there should be ways a person can respond to point out how it isn’t kind or necessary to make those types of comments when all a person knows is where someone works.

  99. Ritxa*

    I’d say having no money recognition after a rave review, is all the more reason to look elsewhere. Bad review would many make me stay and improve but if you know you are good, your employer agrees, why stay? Be happy being a stellar worker elsewhere for more.

  100. Coco*

    LW1: I’m very sorry. It’s a tough position to be in, although a very common one. With inflation and the housing crisis, It’s extremely difficult to live off a single income these days. Getting a higher paying job isn’t always realistic or possible. But if you can, do it! As a writer, could you do some copy editing type work on the side? I know people who stay in unhappy relationships simply because they can’t afford to be alone. I know parents who work opposite shifts because they can’t afford to live on one income alone (nor can they afford childcare). It’s all terrible. I’m sorry.

  101. Phony Genius*

    On #4, the difficulty is that they don’t tell you how long of a period of time to block out. It would be helpful if people asking for when somebody is available to state how long of a period of time is needed. 30 minutes? An hour?

  102. Sean*

    LW#2, I feel you – when I worked in newspapers as a reporter for many, many years, it all of a sudden turned into A Thing in certain circles when the political rhetoric against the press started ramping up in the early 2010s. I specifically remember being at a wine tasting — a WINE TASTING — in Wisconsin right around the time that Scott Walker was doing his nonsense as governor and making conversation with the other couple there. When I said I worked as a newspaper reporter, he said (in effect) “Well, I think all your liberal positions is why your industry is dying.” And that was the high point of the conversation!!

    It’s obviously harder to be circumspect about where you work when you’re at an industry conference, but being vague is a good start. Then start practicing your arched eyebrow and changing the subject with a “how dare you?!” tone to your voice. People who would make those kinds of comments to a total stranger are accomplishing nothing and are not interested in whatever you may say, so don’t waste your breath.

  103. Worksinpublishingdragon*

    Not to be too much of a downer for LW#1, but the idea of becoming a well-paid writer who also makes royalties, gets plum teaching gigs and gives paid talks in 3-5 years, is a bit of a daydream. It does happen for some, but for most, not at all or very little (most published writers makes less than $10K off their writing careers per year and never reach the threshold for royalties). Keep at it in regard to finding a job that allows you the time to write and not worry so much about finances but don’t rely on the plan of ‘future publishing money’ to keep you in a job now that is not providing adequately for you and your family’s needs.

  104. Cruciatus*

    #5 I’m in a somewhat similar situation. My employer (a major university!) has so much going for it…except pay. In the 8 years I’ve been here I only make a few thousand more than when I started (and that includes 1 job switch). They’ve recently revamped our job titles but–(not a) surprise!–they don’t have the funds to pay us for our new titles. So. yeah. I’m not out to make a million dollars a year but I would like to see actual upward movement a little. One of my job duties was basically “other duties as needed” helping out another worker in my department. I saw a job at a local company that is known for being good to employees and turns out that little bit of work I did was enough to get me a job offer that’s $10K more than I make now (still not a lot of money, but the most I’ve ever made!) and this week my references were contacted and I took a drug test (which I’m not a fan of, but should be able to pass no problem). It’s not really my dream job but I don’t know what is anyway, and I think I can do it happily enough.

    But anyway, on Monday, or sometime next week, I may have to tell my supervisor I’m officially hired elsewhere. I’m dreading it because I do really like it here so much. I think in the end my supervisor WILL understand–she has gone to bat for us as much as she can regarding pay and has expressed her own frustrations regarding pay. But it’s just crappy timing (her mom just died! The school year is about to begin in a month!). But you have to do what you have to do and so do I. I think I’m just going to say I’ve been offered another position and my final day will be X and answer any questions she has after that (I won’t mind answering them, but I know not everyone is comfortable with that).

  105. Petty_Boop*

    LW2: I’d raise my eyebrows and say, “So, I presume you either rode your horse or drove a fully electric vehicle here?” If it’s an international conference, even better since it’s likely they flew in an airplane…powered by gasoline based jet fuel.

    1. Samwise*

      Fully electric vehicles have their own environmental and human costs. Mining for materials for batteries, for starters.

  106. Former Young Lady*

    OP2, as someone who also used to work in the corporate arm of Oil and Gas, I feel this!

    I got through six years of people’s reactions by smiling wearily and saying, “I know, I KNOW!” and then changing the subject as quickly as possible, or emphasizing that I definitely had my own opinions about the energy industry. (In my case, I tempered my annoyance by remembering that most of my coworkers had even ruder things to say about us bleeding-heart environmentalists.)

    At the level of education and experience I had back then, the money was too good to walk away from, so I’d never judge anyone for making a similar decision.

    A relative (who usually drives me around the bend) said something really heartening to me back then: “It’s hard for any of us to keep our hands clean these days.” There aren’t many industries with perfect track records of ethics, sustainability, etc. If you worked for the airlines, or the snack food industry, or fast fashion, some people would blame you for their sins as well.

    And I’d bet most of those people would have worn a cheap shirt in the past week, or eaten cookies on the flight to the conference. Purity-testing is futile. Hang in there!

  107. MappingBanana*

    Just a commiseration with OP 2 here – I work primarily in environmental consultancy now but some of our clients are gas and oil, and I used to do a lot more of it in my offshore life, as well as offshore renewables. G&O isn’t going away any time soon (renewable tech is nowhere near ready for full societal support), and anyone who thinks otherwise is being naïve. So what do we do? We make G&O better – this and mining need more of us greenies in it! I see my place in this industry as helping clients repair, restore, to decommission in a way that leaves it as close to as-if-they-were-never-there as possible. To not just comply with the basic regulatory requirements but to understand and engage with them. Depending on the crowd making the rude comments to me, I tend to explain the above – and no one can argue that with any sense.

  108. Elizabeth West*

    #1–Yep. I was just talking about that with someone and rushed to post those articles for them.

    I might also add that chronic unemployment is not conducive to creativity either. I did produce one book in 2018, but by 2023 I couldn’t even read anything because of the stress, let alone write much beyond a sporadic sentence or two. Now I have a job but that’s eight hours of my day, plus I also have a two-hour commute (both ways) on days I go to the office. Definitely cuts into my writing hours and I have to sleep sometime. I can’t imagine what it would be like if I had a kid. And if you’re indie publishing, you have to do all the stuff a publisher does in addition to writing.

    I’m grateful to be working, but it’s a pipe dream to be writing fiction full-time at this point (not saying it’s impossible, just unlikely). It takes a long time for most writers to get to that point, if they ever do. Not to mention how undervalued it is and how little we get paid — just look at the WGA strike, for example.

  109. Nea*

    LW#1 – talk to your boss, but the stability and lack of stress involved in having a day job (with regular benefits) are immeasurable, especially with a child involved. The writing I want to do is treated as a passion project until it steadily makes enough for me to quit the day job.

  110. Kate*

    OP1, you have my sympathy. I went through a divorce and am now a single parent, and one of the most frustrating realities is that I had to leave a job I loved in favour of one I definitely don’t love but has better working hours to accommodate my single parent life. It also entailed a pay *cut*, and means I have to take on a 2nd job after kiddo’s bedtime to pay the bills.

    It sucks.

  111. Sara without an H*

    LW#1: I know you like your job and the option to work remotely, but I don’t think this job is going to give you what you need right now. That’s one of the downsides of the non-profit sector. Certainly, talk with your boss about compensation IF you can make a work-related case for it, but you really need to start looking for something that pays better and has better health insurance. Check the AAM archives for advice.

    LW#2: Ah, yes, the joys of moral grandstanding. Do not take it personally. Stare at them, pause, then say something along the lines of, “As I was saying,…” Affect and tone of voice should be neutral to chilly.

    LW#3: I’m not surprised they have trouble hiring and retaining people. Is there someone can call and let them know that you’re not comfortable doing this amount of work without at least a phone screen?

    LW#4: Yes, I agree it’s irritating, but it’s one of those things that happens. Use Alison’s script and make your life easier.

    LW#5: It’s okay to leave a job when you obviously can’t go any farther in it. (Don’t start me on why artificial pay caps are a bad idea. Just take it as read.) You are a highly qualified Clam Harvester and there seems to be a demand for them in your local area. Review the job search topics in the AAM archives and start looking. When you leave, though, be sure to tell your boss and anyone else who’s listening, that you love the company, but that the pay cap is a deal breaker. They need to hear this. A lot.

    1. Wenike*

      LW#3, if you can push back on them I freely offer my life demands for the next month if you need to borrow them! Namely, I have a house under construction and just found out last week that closing will be Aug 3rd, with my final tour on Aug 2nd and inspection on July 26th. But my grandfather passed on July 2nd and his internment is July 28th (found out that date a couple of days after I got the closing date). All of this while my company is in the middle of merging with another and my team being heavily involved with that process (and sadly, one of my direct reports also dealing with bereavement too).

  112. Ginger Cat Lady*

    OP 5: It’s not a bad thing for companies to know that pay caps (or any other issue with pay) is making them lose good employees. So don’t try to disguise why you’re leaving or worry that it makes you look bad. Be clear and unapologetic. We all work for money. Cost of living is going up, and pay should increase as well! If employers fail to do that, they need to know they will lose good, valued employees as a result.

  113. Environmental Compliance*

    Solidarity with LW2. I work in HSE compliance, and I’ve gotten some pretty nasty comments about working in industry and “how soul sucking it must be to be working for the people you hate”. Because, you know, if you’re environmental you must deeply loathe all industry. And clearly the best way to handle industries that do have a higher risk is to just… not have any HSE work for them?

    One super obnoxious person I shut up with a “well, I know I can have the most impact with this type of industry work, actually, here I can do a lot to help improve processes and standards and slowly improve the field overall.” YMMV, as some folks seem to just want to be hateful about it regardless.

    Oddly, I’ve gotten those types of comments on both sides from the same people. It wasn’t okay with them when I worked at the gov’t enforcing regulation and it wasn’t okay when I jumped over to industry. I am not entirely sure what they thought environmental people do other than straight up activism. And then you get the people who think Environmental = Activist!!! and they get rude about that.

    So, I suppose in all of that – Internet Hugs if you’d like, LW. People can really suck for the weirdest of reasons.

    1. Mouseketeer*

      Fellow compliance practitioner here. Yes, please, do tell me all about how much you hate your compliance department and do everything you can do avoid their awful training. No, I have never heard anything like that before. Yes, keep going.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        Usually followed with a “I just don’t understand why there are so many rules!! Why do I have to do all this [expletive removed], I just don’t give a [expletive removed]”.

        Honey, someone has to protect you from yourself, given I had pulled you out of your task because I caught you wearing none of the required PPE. You can work on sticking shrapnel in your eyeballs or ripping your arm off with a lathe at home, please. Not here.

      2. LW#2*

        While I’m not in compliance (and I admit I will sometimes roll my eyes when the next round of training comes up) too many people don’t realize there’s a reason *why*. Too many of these regs and standards were written with blood.

        Thanks for doing the hard work you two!

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          In fairness, my current workplace’s HSE compliance I also rolled my eyes at because it was so dry *I* was about to fall asleep. Some trainings do objectively suck. My favorite part of our current training is when we talk about the haz waste in Love Canal dumped by the Hooker Chemical Company. :D

  114. Jiminy cricket*

    For LW2: Have you ever tried saying something like, “That is a much bigger conversation than we can have right now.” You could add: “Happy to let you buy me coffee and talk about it sometime, though.” (If you are.)

    My ingrained response to uncomfortable or inappropriate comments is just not to respond at all. Just silence. Or “Hmm.” Or turning to another person in the group. Or walking away. Just letting it die on the vine.

    (And, now, I’m cringing thinking of a conference lunch conversation I had long ago with someone from an industry that was causing me particular heartache at the time. It wasn’t the place for it and he wasn’t the right audience for it and I feel bad.)

  115. ScruffyInternHerder*

    LW3 – assuming this is not in an industry where this is the known-norm (though that boggles my mind, proving I am not in one of those industries), there’s a great mantra from sweary yoga. It fits a LOT of situations:

    (Forget) this (stuff).

  116. Samwise*

    Almost nobody works in a morally pure industry. Nor does anyone live a completely morally pure life.

    If you want to get a bit confrontational:
    1. Interesting. So lemme ask you, how’d you get to this conference? Fly, train, Uber? Huh. I guess you used some of those reprehensible petroleum products to get here.

    2. Hmm. So, where do you work? Wow, it must be tough to work somewhere that…

    For instance, I work at a large state university directly assisting students. I think my job has socially redeeming value. But you could say to me: Must be tough to work somewhere that turns a blind eye to sexual assault at frat houses! [or whatever the scandal du jour, or systemic oppression, that’s lately been in the news ]

    Sure, some industries are more obviously culpable, or have a wide sphere of culpability. But ain’t no one as clean as Jesus.

  117. urbosa_wife*

    LW2 – you work in an industry that you know is controversial and you don’t necessarily support 100% yourself. It’s unsurprising people are going to have negative opinions of where you work, and may make those opinions known to you. It comes with the territory. At some point you have to just move on – and if you can’t, then that’s a sign you may need to move to a different industry.

    1. LW#2*

      Seeking advice on how to shut down rude comments in a professional setting is a sign that I need to move to a different industry? If a veterinarian encountered a handful of rude comments would you also recommend they change industries?

  118. NP08*

    There’s a whole lot of people who believe “speaking truth to power” means being deliberately rude to anyone they disagree with, and couching it in a way that the worse they act or make someone feel, then the better they’ve done their job. What’s the saying about afflicting the comfortable? Except people take it to mean that every person they disagree with needs to hear how wrong and problematic they are, no matter how inappropriate the context or how misguided the target.

  119. MaewintheLascerator*

    LW5: The fact that your boss was transparent with you about the salary cap makes me think that he is looking out for your best interests and you coming to tell him you took a better job for more pay will not be a shock. Good luck.

  120. Rage*

    OP2 – years ago, I worked at our local humane society. Loved the work, honestly, but it was super-toxic, and the idea of animal shelters/rescues does bring out some emotions in people. I was looking to get out, and actively interviewing for a new field (ANY new field), and I generally got 2 responses when they found out where I worked:
    1. Oh! But you get to play with puppies and kittens ALL DAY! Why would you want to leave?
    2. Oh, so you’re the person who kills all of those puppies and kittens. How can you sleep at night?

    For #1, I usually just deadpanned “I put 50 dogs to sleep today. Why do you think I want to leave?” For #2, I just knew I wasn’t getting the job no matter what I said, and just ignored it.

    OP4: that’s how I always consider available time frames – if they say “1-3 PM” I assume that their availability ENDS at 3 PM, and to schedule at 2:30 or earlier.

    1. Mimmy*

      OP4: that’s how I always consider available time frames – if they say “1-3 PM” I assume that their availability ENDS at 3 PM, and to schedule at 2:30 or earlier.

      I think that’s how most people consider it. I have never had an issue when I give available time frames. If I say I’m available from 1-3 pm and the other person says “okay, let’s do 3:00 pm”, that would annoy me.

  121. LB33*

    Before coming down too hard on #2, here’s always the chance they have purposely infiltrated the Oil and gas industry, to try and bring the system down from within.

  122. Shelly*

    LW2: oooo yeah, I feel you there. I had a childhood friend “joke” that I was working for the bad guys because I work in oil and gas… I was unemployed for almost an entire year after finishing school, applying for all sorts of jobs all over my state, and the one that finally hired me happened to be in oil and gas. So, like, I really don’t appreciate being treated like a bad guy for just trying to get a paycheck so I could pay my student loans and move out of my childhood bedroom.

  123. TootsNYC*

    5. Leaving a job right after learning that I am just below the pay cap

    Your boss knows what he told you.
    He’s not going to be surprised that you look for work; he may even have expected or intended it (either because it helps his budget to be able to start out with someone at the lower end of the bracket, or because he feels an obligation to look out for you and provide you with this information).

    A decent manager is always expecting that their people might leave at any time, for any reason that works for the employee.

  124. Rose*

    Speaking as the author of multiple published fiction books: OP1, even if you become quite successful as a fiction writer, it is very unlikely that you will be able to make a living off solely off writing fiction. It will be super awesome if it happens, but it’s like winning the lottery — do not plan your life around it.

    However! That doesn’t mean you can’t make a living off writing. Look into journalism, copywriting, UX writing, PR…there are so many ways. I am a journalist, and many of my coworkers are also successful authors of fiction and nonfiction.

  125. Laura Charles*

    LW #2 — What if you tried saying something like “I’ve found its faster to effect change from within”? As a feminist who is part of a faith tradition without the best optics historically re: women, that’s usually how I explain my continued involvement. In my experience, TPTB tend to listen better to those who are “on their side;” leaving in protest doesn’t result in change the way sticking around and pointing out fixable problems. As you’re someone who is pro-environment, renewable / clean energy, etc., is it accurate to say that you’re working towards changing the company / process / whatever? If so, maybe try using that?

  126. Jennie*

    Does the answer to LW3 change if the company is paying? I ask because I very recently was recruited to interview with a company, and they had me do two very time-consuming exercises before extending an interview. I thought it seemed annoying, but they also offered to pay me quite well for doing the exercises, so I just shrugged and did it.

    1. Observer*

      If they are paying it totally changes the conversation.

      It still may not be practical, but it is a legitimate thing to ask by and large.

  127. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

    OP#2: “A job’s a job.”

    You don’t owe anyone an explanation on why you’re making the calculation to work for your industry or your specific job. Lots of people work jobs they don’t morally align with because it keeps food on the table and (in the US at least) health coverage for the family. I would just give a brief non-answer and refuse to engage any further. I’m sorry people are being so rude!

  128. Full time novelist*

    Regular poster going anon for this comment.

    Wow, quite a few of us full time novelists on here. We really should get back to work!

    LW #1, probably you already know some of this and maybe all of this, but it may also be useful to others who are considering this route.

    So, here goes:

    1. Out of scores of professional novelists I know personally, only four besides myself are not married to someone with a regular job. And those four are married to each other. (Er, two couples!)

    2. I quit my day job after selling my first two books, thinking I needed two more years to make a living from my books. In fact I needed four years.

    3. Right now I’m making about $30,000 a year. I get my insurance through (thank God for) Obamacare. Before Obamacare, I had no health insurance.

    4. Most of my income is from just one book, out of the many I’ve written. That one book became a perennial sleeper bestseller. And that could stop at any time.

    5. Paying gigs to speak and teach are few and far between. From my bestselling book I get about $500 a year in paid gigs. Quite frankly, these opportunities are more freely handed out to men than women. I’ve been turned down to my face because “we really would prefer a man”.

    6. I live in a place I hate. I live in it because it’s cheap, and I never know when my royalties may drop or something may not sell… whine whine, but the point here is it’s very hard to do anything financial when you have to show banks or the state or whoever an income tax form without a regular paycheck.

    All of that being said, I know I am one lucky duck and I am sure you can be too with perseverance and hard work. But as far as immediate plans, and with a child to consider, I agree with Alison that looking for a new job is probably the best way to get the stability you need.

    Hope this helps.

  129. too many dogs*

    To LW#2: Almost every profession gets comments from people either trying to be witty, or just being rude. Trust me — I’m a librarian, and I’ve heard many too many inane, condescending, and rude comments. You’re right: it is annoying, and insulting, and unfair. It’s difficult, but you learn to rise above it. The comments you are getting are meaner than the ones I get ( “Must be nice to get paid to read all day” “Shouldn’t you have a pencil stuck in your hair?” ). Your commenters sound like they would be happy to argue with you. The way you win? Don’t let them pull you into an argument. I usually respond with a bland, “Hmmm. Interesting.” and then ask them a question (where do you work? Have you been to these conferences before?….) . They will look like a rude person, while you will look like a professional.

    1. Rook Thomas*

      Ah yes . . . me too. The “Must be nice to get paid to read all day” is met with a smile (I have perfected my somewhat unfriendly smile just for this). The “Oh do people still go to libraries?” is met with “Yep! We’re always very busy.” And the “I didn’t think anyone needed the library because everything is online” is met with a Miss Manners-type nice smile with the response of “Oh yes — you know, just because people invented escalators didn’t mean they removed all the stairs” kind of comment.

      I remain friendly the whole time, but these kinds of comments are tiresome, especially when it’s clear the other person is either trying to be witty or just wants to provoke a response. Being relentlessly friendly — or Miss Manners-esque response of “Sorry?” to make them repeat themselves and then meeting that with calm silence — are techniques I use so I don’t start grinding my teeth.

  130. Dawn*

    LW5: Your boss was literally giving you the message that it was time to move on, without quite crossing the line over into explicitly stating it, and will likely to be thrilled to hear that you are going to be paid more in line with what you’re worth at a company willing to do it.

    They are very aware of the issue and will not fault you one little bit for seeking to move elsewhere after they explicitly told you “Hey, we’ll never be able to pay you more than this in your role, and you’re an amazing employee.” That’s exactly what they were hoping you’d do, for your sake.

  131. Tobias Funke*

    I have worked in a field that gets awful remarks regularly (from folks I’ve worked with as clients as well as from many, many, many outside observers making unsolicited remarks). At some point I just started saying “thank you!” and changed the subject or ended the conversation. You don’t have to be the rude person whisperer.

    You have your calculus on your job as I had on mine and as folks in here have on theirs. Nobody else has to agree with it or validate it for it to be what makes sense for you. If you ever decide the price of admission is too high (IF, not when – nobody gets to decide for you) then YOU make a change. Until then, folks can mind their business. And if they don’t you are not obligated to entertain them or defend yourself.

  132. RagingADHD*

    #1, as a multi-pubbed author and (till recently) professional ghostwriter, the current economy is an excellent time for writers to have a well-paying day job id they can find one, totally unrelated to writing.

    I mean, that’s always been true, but now even more so.

    Unless you already have several lucrative freelance clients and connections to more, that are willing to pay the equivalent of $100/ hour and up, don’t plan to live on your writing anytime soon.

  133. Lobsterman*

    I don’t quite understand the point of printing LW2’s letter, if it was so obviously inflammatory that it can’t be discussed.

      1. Moleface*

        Yes but we’re not allowed to talk about the central issue which is the impact of the fossil fuel industry and the consequences.

        Rather, it’s about how it’s the same as when people make annoying jokes to librarians.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Because it’s irrelevant to the original letter!

          If I write in about being the subject of rude comments for eating a ham sandwich I do not need a lecture or a whole page about why I shouldn’t eat meat.

          I just want to get the comments to stop!

          1. Moleface*


            Thank you for your comment – which I will confess has made me reflect on my own hypocrisy because I eat meat and would not enjoy a lecture on the subject.

            I suppose I have been living in a deep sense of climate gloom for the past few weeks and this post has sparked in me a sense of how profoundly unprepared we are for the coming decades of climate collapse.

            I would say, that if Alison wants my opinion (and I’m clearly in a minority!) I think that the choice to chose this question and proscribe any conversation about the climate crisis has led to some unfortunately conversations.

            But I also think that I’m not being entirely fair.

            Much to reflect on this, in this turbulent time.

            Have a nice evening!

        2. Dahlia*

          …that’s not the issue though? LW2’s not asking for career advice.

          The issue is people are being rude to their face and they want to know how to deal with that rudeness.

        3. nnn*

          Where are you getting this? I see lots of comments on this page about the impact of the industry. The rule was don’t insult them, which is always the rule here.

          1. Moleface*

            “The LW is presumably aware of the issues with the industry, so no more of this, please.”

            Explicitly, discussing the impact of the fossil fuel industry is off limits.

    1. Moleface*

      Yes, I think it’s weird.

      No hate to the OP at all – and I’m sorry that people are rude to them.

      But I think it’s questionable, considering the news of the last few weeks where the increasing chaos of the climate crisis has never been more glaringly apparent, for Alison to open up a discussion which is explicitly centered on protecting the feelings of an immensly (by global standards) privaledged person and leading to repetition of the fossil fuel industry’s propaganda around ‘carbon footprints’.

      I suspect that in 20 years time, if people are reading the comments, they’ll find it laughable and offensive.

    2. LW#2*

      Apparently we’ve gone to the same conference before!

      In all seriousness, if you don’t understand why someone is asking how to shut down unprofessional behavior in a professional setting, then maybe this isn’t the right comment section for you.

      1. Moleface*

        With respect, you have been somewhat snarky in this comment section. Which … fair enough! However, that does make your strong aversion to snark at these conferences less palatable, to be honest.

        1. LW#2*

          Snark has it’s place but not in some professional settings. Joking around with coworkers? Go for it. First time you’re meeting strangers at a work-related conference? Absolutely not.

          Trust me I’ve come up with probably hundreds of snarky responses after the fact that I wish (but not really) I had said at the time. But stooping to their level is not constructive.

          1. Moleface*

            Thank you for engaging.

            You’ve been snarky and very direct in the comments. I get that’s a common way of interacting online. You haven’t, I would say, engaged in any good faith criticism of yourself.

            Online, if people take a less than entirely sympathetic view of you, your responses are harsh and sarcastic.

            In-person, if people make harsh and sarcastic comments, you view that as a totally unacceptable breach of ettiquete.

            Perhaps this isn’t hypocritical – afterall they are very different areas in which to operate.

            I would say, if I may, that you should perhaps think a little about that discrepancy. In my opinion, if you were truly reconciled to your place in the oil and gas industry (and therefore the climate crisis) you would be both less snarky, and less sensitive to snark.

            It is late where I am so I will wish you a good night and will not correspond further tonight.

            1. LW#2*

              “You haven’t, I would say, engaged in any good faith criticism of yourself.”

              I’m sorry but this is truly flabbergasting and I am 100% serious. My actions are not the ones in question here. I am not asking if I should change jobs, or if I should be morally conflicted about working where I do, or any other sort of self introspection. What at all in my letter gave you the impression that I am asking for (or need!) criticism or an evaluation of MY behavior?

              Yes I’ve left several snarky responses – you’ll note that they are all in response to people that are in no way offering good-faith advice about the situation I wrote in about. Someone using this so they can grandstand about their opinions on a particular industry, which is in NO WAY related to the issue I wrote about, might receive a sarcastic comment because they are completely unhelpful.

              I also object to your assertion that I view sarcastic comments as a totally unacceptable breach of etiquette. Again, in the situation that I asked advice on, it would be inappropriate and unprofessional. How would you feel if you’re standing around trying to network and make small talk and two random conference attendees start lobbing rude and sarcastic remarks at each other? I’ll bet it doesn’t raise your opinion of them.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Got to say I’m not impressed with some of the comments here today. This whole idea of ‘you deserve the verbal bashing because you work in an industry I disapprove of’ isn’t professional.

        When we had a letter from someone working at Twitter (and boy is that platform doing some harm) there was less criticism.

        Take the good suggestions from here, if any appeal, and just ignore the other comments.

        1. LW#2*

          Thank you – there has been some discussion that has been very helpful. I am honestly surprised at a lot of these comments. I wrote in because I tend to find the commenters engaging and helpful.

          I had also debated on even including what industry I work in and instead replacing with something generic like basket weaving, but ultimately decided to leave it in as I thought it would influence responses. Which it did, but not in the way I had hoped…

  134. Lobsterman*

    LW1: just get a new job. There are a lot of assumptions that need to be challenged, but the very first is that a job shouldn’t pay you enough to live on. Anyone who holds that belief is not going to change it for you. By far the least exhausting option will be for you to move on.

  135. BlueWolf*

    LW1: Not the exact same situation, but I went through a similar calculus when I turned 26 (and therefore no longer able to be on my parents’ health insurance). I did actually ask for a stipend at my job to cover some of the cost of purchasing healthcare through the exchange, which they gave me. This was a very small business so we didn’t really have anything in the way of benefits, not PTO, 401k, insurance, and the pay wasn’t amazing. I knew there wasn’t any opportunity for growth and was never going to be making a ton of money there. I started job hunting and actually applied for one job and was hired within a week. It was a similar type of job in a much better paying industry with room for growth and great benefits. I gave my notice about a month after my 26th birthday. My manager wasn’t at all surprised and was happy for me. She knew I wasn’t going to stay there forever. All this to say that most reasonable employers understand that we do our jobs for money and you have to do what’s best for you and your situation.

    1. BlueWolf*

      Oops I guess I kind of conflated 1 and 5 in my head, so I guess this sort of applies to both.

  136. TG*

    LE#1 – I was divorced in 2014 and had to do a big reset after living on one income.
    You need to budget out all your fixed and necessary expenses first to see the bare minimum you need to keep things going with home and insurance etc.
    the do the same for variable expenses.

    The track what your actual date for a couple of months and analyze – when I did this incur cable, a lot of extras like coffee runs, subscriptions, gym, misc spending etc. I have to be very lean.
    Ultimately I’m making a lot more now that I’m back in my feet but I save that towards college and retirement and any debts like car or credit cards.
    I live in the same small house I had at the divorce because it is what I can afford (and I locked in at 3% thanks goodness).
    Lastly I work a second job when she is with my ex – it brings in $800 a month I use on extras like her dance camps/school and fun activities.
    I hope this helps – your child will be fine amid you need to move. Don’t overspend on housing if you can help it.

  137. Melody Powers*

    Anyone else have a hankering to read The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas after all the discussion around #2?

  138. Anyone got the time?*

    For OP#4, and maybe someone else knows. When I was interviewing, I would get e-mails or it would be a part of the application process, “please list some dates / times that you are available for a phone interview.” How far out should you go? A week, two weeks? I never heard back, so was never really concerned.

  139. Tapestry Weaver*

    LW2: If you do feel like engaging with people who criticize your industry (and you for working in it), there is one approach you could try. Every energy company that I’ve ever heard of is doing at least SOMETHING to try to either protect the environment, develop sustainable sources of energy, create alternative fuels, create electric car charging stations, etc.

    Mentioning what your company is doing could go a long way towards balancing the image of an energy company as one stuck in the 1950s – which you surely are NOT! Alison’s advice is excellent, of course, but if you’re working for a company that’s doing some innovative work of which you’re especially proud, why not point it out?

  140. Anonymous Post-It Note*

    OP#2, tell them there’s no ethical consumption under capitalism and if they flew or drove to the event, they’re being a hypocrite.

Comments are closed.