how to handle interrupters/ramblers at meetings, will it hurt my career to quit after taking lots of time off, and more

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

1. How to handle chronic interrupters/ramblers at meetings

I’m on a team at work with a coworker who always jumps in with personal anecdotes or non sequiturs whenever we’re in a meeting. Our team lead (not her supervisor but the person who assigns the team work) will be leading a meeting, telling a story to make a point, and she’ll jump in with her own experience. It basically triples the length of our meetings. The lead doesn’t do anything to turn it down, but I don’t know if he’s just being polite or what. He’s also pretty new so I think he doesn’t want to make waves. I currently just ignore her and vent to anyone who will listen (not the best strategy, I know, but she’s SO ANNOYING).

My concern is I just got a promotion and I’m about to go to another team to be the team lead, and I have no clue what I should do as a leader if I’m faced with someone like her. I realize I can’t just shout “shut up!” but I’m not sure what I could do to politely shut it down. My ideal scenario is I won’t have someone like her, but just in case I want to be ready.

You have to be willing to assertively manage the flow of the meetings — and to see that as just as much your job as, say, meeting deadlines is. That means things things like:

* Saying in response to rambling or off-topic tangents: “I’m going to interject because we have a lot to get through today and I want to stick to our agenda.”
* Or: “Let’s hold that for the end of the meeting if we have time remaining. Right now I want to stay focused on X.”
* Making it clear your meetings will start and end on time (and sticking to that).
* Saying things at the start like, “We have one hour to cover A, B, and C and I’m going to try to keep us really focused so we get through all of that.”
* Talking privately to repeat offenders and asking them to share the air time and stay focused on the agenda.

Side note that may or may not work for your context: someone I know who runs extremely effective meetings will often use the last five minutes of a meeting to ask everyone say one thing that worked well about the meeting and one thing that could have been improved. (This is only for significant/longer meetings, not at quick half-hour ones.) It opens the door for people to say “we spent too long on X” or “we got sidetracked by Y and never got to talk about Z” or “we need to be better about sticking to the agenda and not having side tangents” or “it would have been helpful to be able to review X ahead of time” or so forth.

why meetings suck and how to make them useful for your team

2. How to hire someone who can roll with changes

I run a small growing company. I recently had an employee quit because she was frustrated and angry about changes to our processes. Most of the time, the things that set her off were small glitches that I was available to help her work through. To be clear, maybe three days a month would be impacted by a glitch — the day she found it, the day we fixed it, and the day we double-checked that it was fixed. About once a year, it might take a week to resolve it, but we provide support, so she wasn’t dealing with it alone. From my perspective, dealing with this is part of the job, but it’s not constant.

But because I didn’t know the glitch was going to happen ahead of time, I couldn’t warn her (her main complaint) — we are a “building the plane in the air” kind of company. I understand that’s not for everyone, and I want to do a better job of hiring someone who won’t find this quite so upsetting to replace her.

Do you have any suggestions for how to describe this situation to prospective employees and filter for people who will be able to roll with things being broken from time to time?

Be really straightforward about it! Say something like, “I want to tell you about the primary frustration the last person in this role had,” describe what you explained here, and then say, “Dealing with this is part of the job, but it’s not for everyone, so I want to be transparent about it so you can decide if you’d be okay with that or not.”

In addition, you could ask about times candidates have had their work thrown off by something unexpected and how they responded to that, and you could ask references about how they rolled with unanticipated changes. But I think just laying it out really openly is your best bet. Plus, people are often a lot less frustrated by this kind of thing when it was disclosed ahead of time and they knew they were signing up for it.

3. Can my reference be someone who works in the department where I’m applying?

I landed an interview for an open position in a different branch of my organization, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be asked for references at some point soon. I’ve actually worked in this branch before, in a temporary entry-level position that ended months before the pandemic hit. I was able to land my current job roughly a year after the temporary one ended. Can I use my supervisor from that temporary job as a reference for the job I’m trying to get? My other choices are internship supervisors from five years ago who aren’t as familiar with my current work, or managers from food service jobs I picked up in between who definitely aren’t familiar with my work. It feels weird to use people as references who are already in the department that I’m trying to get into, and I’m not sure if I’m overthinking it.

People already in the department you’re applying to are ideal references! From the perspective of the reference-checker, they’re more likely to be candid and more likely to know what is and isn’t important to succeed there, and they know the nuances of the work and the culture in a way an outside reference won’t. The reference-checker is also more likely to trust their judgment if she already knows them. So these are the best references; definitely use them!

(To be clear, they’re highly likely to talk to that person anyway once they realized you worked for her, whether you list her as a reference or not. But she’s a great person to put on your official list.)

4. Will it hurt my career to quit after taking lots of FMLA?

For personal reasons, I’m considering spending a few months outside of the workforce (and am in a position where this is a financially feasible thing to do). But I wanted a second opinion on if doing this would have inadvertent consequences, either with my current company’s willingness to give a decent reference (they’re the only Real Job I’ve ever had, so their opinion counts for a lot) or if the gap in employment would cause future employers to give me side-eye. Specifically, I’m particularly worried about my current company’s reaction, given this would follow me taking a sizable amount of leave.

Some context, because I suspect the situation is meaningfully different from me quitting after, say, a long vacation: I’ve gone through two rounds of continuous FMLA and accompanying bereavement leave this year. Both were in regards to people who were my only immediate family members — the second relative’s health started worsening a few weeks after the first one passed away. Even when I was at work between these leaves, I wasn’t particularly functioning, since things like unexpected late night emergency room trips still happened. I don’t think I want to come back to my job after my current bereavement leave is done, but I worry leaving now/soon would make my employer feel like I was taking advantage of their good will, especially because they paid my full salary during my continuous leave and offered more than the industry standard of bereavement. And to be frank, I admittedly did stick around mainly because switching jobs would have jeopardized my FMLA protection.

Is it likely to cause problems if I submit a two-week notice when I get back? Or is there anything I can do to protect my reference if it does? Are future employers going to worry about me not having a job for a bit, and if so is there a way to offer context that doesn’t sound too “oh poor me”-ish in tone? (When I tried to explain to a recruiter what was going on earlier in this process, I suspect he heard “for family reasons” as “I’m pregnant.” Not that there’s anything wrong with being pregnant, but there’s still amount of institutional bias against pregnant people so I’d rather not give recruiters or employers that impression when it’s not true.)

If you frame it to your employer as having realized that you’ve been through a lot and need some time away before you return to work, that’s likely to make a lot of sense to them! It logically follows what you’ve been through. You can thank them for how flexible they’ve been, then say you’ve realized you need more time off than you can reasonably ask of them. (Do be prepared, though, for them to offer you long-term leave where you’d return at the end of it. If that happens, you could say, “I’m honestly not sure what I”ll want to do when I’m ready to work again, but I really appreciate you offering that.”)

As for future interviewers wondering about the gap, it’s perfectly fine to say, “I was dealing with some family health issues that have since been resolved.” A few months out of the workforce is not a big deal at all.

{ 197 comments… read them below }

  1. Random Academic Cog*

    LW 3 – I’m not her supervisor, but I’ve had the chance to work with an impressive temp in a related office and I just sent her the link to an open FTE role in another division of my office today. If she applies, I absolutely will get a call from the hiring manager as soon as she sees the candidate’s current office listed. This is really common.

  2. Catgirl*

    I read somewhere once that a way to deal with nonstop talkers is to tell them we need to move on so can you wrap up your point / tell your story in 30 seconds? Then cut them off at 30 seconds. May be better suited for personal situations than for work, though.

    1. Allison K*

      I lead writing workshops, where it’s important both to stay on track and make sure everyone gets their time, and to make sure people feel heard when it is their time. I’ve found it helps to say flat out what’s happening: “Sam, I’m going to interrupt here because we need to get back to X. It sounds like [summarize his point] and thanks for offering that.” Then dive immediately into the next thing, without further input from Sam—either continue what I’m teaching, or call on the next person to speak.

    2. WellRed*

      Unfortunately it can be really hard to find a point in the rambling to do that and it really should come from whoever is leading the mtg. If they don’t know how to rein it in, it’s unfair to the rest of us.

      1. NotBatman*

        Yeah, the chronic rambler in my office tends to structure comments as “One time in Seattle — this was the third time we were in Seattle, not the first — and Seattle just changed so much from the first to the third trip — like did you know they’re dealing with serious poverty in the Pacific northwest? — poverty can have the following impacts…” and we’re five tangents deep before long. It’s very hard to find a time to jump in because it might be 15 minutes before we’re back to the original point.

        1. OP1*

          That’s what she does! She’ll share a related story then jump to another then another and it’s been 15 minutes of our one hour meeting.
          She just moved to another state (she’s our only fully remote team member), so I think she might just be lonely and want people to talk to. She’s really nice too, congratulated me and chatted about my promotion and a recent trip I took, it just frustrates me when I want the lead to get to topic x but we spend all our time with rambler’s input on topic y and then we’re out of time.

          1. Two Pop Tarts*

            My spouse and their entire family is like this.

            They will take 15 minutes to tell me the entire story of their shopping trip to let me know: the engine light in the car came on.

            1. Dust Bunny*

              Someone once asked my dad about a house we lived in for a few years and he started with the geologic history of the hill on which it was built. Not kidding.

              My maternal grandfather suggested that his epitaph should be, “He never used a sentence where a paragraph would do.”

              1. Slow Gin Lizz*

                That kind of sounds like my uncle. In his case, he just thinks that details are verrrrrry important and that everyone needs to know them. I just tune him out until he gets to the relevant parts of the story, lol.

                1. Dinwar*

                  I’ve done this. But then, geeking out about geology is something of a job requirement for me, and there are multiple members of the family who have backgrounds in geology or civil engineering (which is sort of like anti-geology). And my house happens to sit near the K/Pg Boundary, on one of the last formations laid down before the asteroid hit (some portions appear to have been eroded after the asteroid wiped out the forest that was here before). So when you ask about landscapes, you know what you’re getting yourself into and have no one to blame but yourself!

            2. daffodil*

              my husband can be like this sometimes. I’ve interrupted with “hold on, am I going to need to take an action or is this just a story”

          2. Dust Bunny*

            Just cut her off. Not snappishly, of course, but monologuing is rude and you’re well within your rights to say, “Thanks for that but we have a lot to cover,” and just end it. It’s nice of you to think she’s nice and might be lonely, but this isn’t the venue through which she should remedy that.

          3. Slow Gin Lizz*

            My boss does this! She’s actually my grandboss but my boss is out on FMLA so I’m reporting to grandboss, and she goes off on long explanations of why we need to do something or not do something, after someone has already succinctly explained the issue and I do not need more backstory. So I have taken to actually interrupting her to move the meeting on to the next point.

            Someone else: We want staff members to send the checks, not volunteers. Just for some extra security.
            Me: Gotcha, that makes sense.
            Grandboss: We can’t have the volunteers send the checks because [blah blah blah long drawn out explanation].
            Me, interrupting her: Ok, so should we have staff mail them or FedEx them?

            My point (again, not sure if I really have one?) is that even though I am the underling, I can also try to get the mtg back on point. My grandboss doesn’t seem to mind being interrupted, though. I’m not sure if you could pull this off with someone who would take it super personally, but then again, having someone take up that much of the mtg time should definitely be shut down. If she is an interrupter she might not be so sensitive to being interrupted herself, so this could actually be quite effective. You could interrupt her with a question about topic x (even if you already know the answer to the question) and get the mtg back on track.

            This, of course, is all helpful if you are not in charge of the mtg. If you are, of course, you can shut things down even more effectively by requesting ppl stay on topic.

          4. Smithy*

            For the truly notorious ramblers, I do think the best thing to do is to interrupt them as quickly as possible once you realize it’s going to be a longer story and genuinely promise to return to them at the end of the meeting (vs giving folks 4 minutes back). I think saying “being mindful of time, we still have a few more agenda points I want to make sure we get through, but we’ll return to you at the end of the meeting.”

            However, to the point of someone becoming full time remote and perhaps missing more regular social interaction with the team, as you become a team lead – I do think it’s worth questioning whether your team’s online chat as well as meeting culture is giving staff enough opportunity to appropriately socially engage with one another. This isn’t about needing to have best friends or taking an hour coffee break a day to socially engage with colleagues in order to work well, but rather feeling socially engaged with colleagues to ease asking relevant workplace questions as well as sharing information from your side.

            I used to work with a team who was a big fan of setting 15 or 20 minute meetings, and perhaps on their team this was highly functional. For cross-team meetings, I found it useless, because inevitably one key person in the meeting would be slow to join and we were left skipping introductions (that could share helpful personal information about someone being in a new time zone or location with weak internet) and racing through bullet points. Ultimately, I pushed back for all our meetings to be at least 30 min and likely 45 min – and while most of it was related to the agenda needs – part of it was the need to include time for some socialization.

            Meeting ramblers are still going to meeting ramble and require active moderation to curb that. However, I think it’s also being mindful that someone can be a meeting rambler and have a valid need for more socialization to be built into their meetings.

          5. Clorinda*

            It’s going to feel rude, but the meeting leader could easily interrupt: “Sorry, Laura, we don’t have time. We’ll circle back to you at the end if we can.”
            Don’t even wait for her to breathe. Just say it.

          6. Tired*

            I do this, I’ve always felt dreadful about it but I can’t control it if I’m tired or stressed or anxious – I am now old enough/out of f**ks enough that I quietly catch the meeting lead before the meeting & say “please tell me if I’m rambling – I would appreciate the check, I won’t be offended” – because I know it’s often socially awkward to cut people off. I know colleagues still find it annoying to infuriating but I find it almost impossible to control unless a) I am silent throughout the meeting and b) my hands are busy… a private word with the person might be very helpful!

            & if she’s remote & maybe a bit lonely, could you ask a sociable team member if they’d be up for having a virtual lunch or coffee break with her once a week or so? (Sociable = already spends lunches/breaks socialising with colleagues, does not use the time for solitude or errands, so it’s less of an imposition…).

            For the curious & the silent diagnosers – I’m 54, was diagnosed with ADHD earlier this year & so I am pursuing both medication & specialist therapy options for treatment which might help – & have also been referred for autism screening (in the UK so everything takes ages right now). So I genuinely can’t always control blurting out, going off topic, & General Verbosity, it’s not just personal incompetence… it’s going to take a long time to retrain my brain!

          7. Kevin Sours*

            Some thoughts.
            * As lead, you are the one who has to control the meeting. Nobody else will or really can.
            * Start meetings on time. If people aren’t present either start without them after a minute or two or cancel the meeting. It’s a pain but I’ve found that if you make a habit of it people adapt and start showing on time. Starting on time is key to ending on time.
            * Set an agenda for the meeting.
            * I prefer to keep my injections a little less wordy than the examples in the advice “We need to get back to X”, “We need to move on to Y”, etc. That may be a style thing but I find it easier to cut in when I don’t have a mouthful of words to get out. Having an agenda is useful here because it provides a baseline for “this is what we came here to talk about” when shutting down things that are not that.
            * I’m not as fond of the “hold to the end” language. Unless the comment really is important in some way *and* appropriate to the current audience then better to frame it in a way that people are going to feel compelled to talk about something they don’t need to hang around for. Either let it happen naturally at the after the meeting with people staying for it or dropping out as they want to, or set up an additional meeting to address it with the relevant people: “Why don’t you, Joe, and Sara, take that offline?”
            * Another phrase I find useful is: “We’re getting a little too far into the weeds here” or less jargony “We’re getting into too much detail for this meeting”. Useful when you have a large group of high level stakeholders who don’t need to be around for a long discussion of specifics they don’t care about and may not really understand.

      2. BatManDan*

        If these are digital, that’s what the mute button is for. If they are in-person, you probably won’t have to cut someone off more than once or twice before they, and everyone else, get the point. But, the longer you have let it go, the longer it will take to extinguish this behavior.

        1. Gerry Kaey*

          Muting someone else is for when someone left their mic on accidentally, not for doing the equivalent of putting your hand over someone’s mouth. If the convo can’t happen mid-meeting, have a big picture convo separately.

          1. Nesprin*

            Eh, if polite interruptions don’t work and you don’t have time, less polite interruptions become acceptable. Muting someone should not be the first, second or third way to stop someone’s rambling, but I think it’s fine as a fourth line.

            1. Kevin Sours*

              The is a difference between direct and impolite. Most of us have rambled at some point in time. It happens. You jump in and redirect and everybody moves on. Don’t start with hinting in a meeting to be “polite”, it’s just a waste of time.

          2. Indigo a la mode*

            Totally agree. Muting someone midsentence is rude and drastic and if it were me, I’d feel humiliated.

    3. fhqwhgads*

      Nah, no need to give them more time. If you get to the part of “we need to move on”, you’re stopping them then and there and moving on.

    4. ferrina*

      Yep, this can work fine. You can also just say “Sorry Jane, but I need to jump in. We’ve got a lot on the agenda, and only a short time for this meeting. I’d love to hear the rest of the story later!” Then move to the next topic.
      This strategy only works if you have strong rapport with Jane to start. I’m a talker- if someone is kind about interrupting me, I’m super responsive to it. I don’t always notice time going by

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yep, you’ve got to be willing to literally interrupt — cut them off while they’re speaking if they don’t leave any pauses for you to jump into and say, “I’m sorry to cut you off, we have a lot to get through but we can come back to you at the end if we have time.” And then big picture conversation if you have to do that repeatedly.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          Yeah, because some of the ramblers in my life don’t have any breaks when they are talking. I don’t know if they don’t breathe or what, but the words are continuous with no slight pauses even at the end of sentence.

    5. Cheesy Toast*

      In a previous career, I supervised a rambler.
      The corporate culture at this particular employer was to never interrupt anyone, ever, because they deserved to be heard. Interrupting was disrespectful. Yes, interrupting someone can be rude if done in a rude way, but what happened to respecting people’s time? The daily 15 minute morning check-in should not be running 70 minutes!

  3. Pennyworth*

    I sometimes wonder how many people are never exposed to really well run meetings. I was fortunate enough to be involved in a community club growing up which had an excellent president who ran committee meetings brilliantly. I think he was a CEO of a company IRL, but he treated our little club as an organization that needed to follow proper procedure, kept to the agenda and a tight time frame despite a lot of opinionated parents wanting to vent. I assumed all meetings were run that way until I joined the real world as an adult, and I don’t think I’ve come across anyone who exceeds him.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      Meetings of voluntary associations are a bit different, and with any meeting the number in attendance makes a big difference. My experience running meetings is in the church context, running from congregational to council to committee meetings. The ideal is that if anything at all controversial is on the table, to let everyone have their say. Let them have their say and they will generally accept the vote, even if they disagree with it. Don’t let them and they have a festering grievance, and not unreasonably so. Balanced against this is that we all want to go home. For the congregational meeting, you need to follow rules of order: the speakers take turns, holding a microphone, and they have to keep it brief, with the president enforcing the process. For a committee meeting, with perhaps half a dozen people, we are sitting around a table having a conversation, with the chair occasionally nudging things along. But the underlying principle, that everyone who wishes to gets their say, is the same.

      A work meeting is different, and really there are so many different sorts of work meetings that it is hard to generalize.

      1. Heather*

        You’re right about churches. I was thinking recently that church management is truly its own skill set, separate from most other types of management. I attend a small, very active church, which has many assorted committees doing a lot of different things. We have one member who is so unreliable– he constantly volunteers to sit on committees, and then doesn’t do any of the tasks assigned to him. He always has an excuse about why he was too busy or whatever. But in a church, the top priority in a situation like this really is keeping him involved and fulfilled! It isn’t like a job, where we would have a serious talk with him about not meeting his obligations. Nor are we going to say, “You can’t serve on committee X because you never come to the meetings.” It’s this really delicate balance of trying to accomplish tasks, while also trying to keep everyone feeling good. (And, of course, if he flakes on a task, and it falls to someone else, they are going to feel resentful which is then an additional interpersonal problem to solve.)

        1. Talker*

          I’m a talker and it was church-type organization meetings that got me to be more mindful. One of the first (volunteer) recorders I experienced after joining was very thorough and attributed every comment in the meeting notes, so when I found out the national organization was going to have to read “Talker said…” in our regional minutes every time I piped up, I learned to be more circumspect. After that lesson, I only spoke after waiting to see if someone else didn’t raise the concern or solution I had in mind.

          1. Melissa*

            Oh my gosh haha, that would make me shut up too! “Melissa said. And then Melissa said. And Melissa said…”

    2. Sloanicota*

      Venting around controversial or emotional issues is a tough one – people do need to have their say sometimes. But that doesn’t even sound like what OP is dealing with, if the coworker is just jumping in to share a rambling anecdote. I have a coworker like this and the main management trick seems to be not creating opportunities for people to jump in randomly – the agenda is pointed and asks for specific feedback on specific ideas (“raise your hand if you like X vs Y? Okay, great. Does anyone have a comment specific to the drawbacks on X approach?”). The lead should probably stop sharing random anecdotes even if they’re appreciated and aim for more efficiency, TBH.

      1. NotBatman*

        I like the idea of leaving less time to talk and structuring what people talk about. In the past I’ve tried to leave “vent time” by arriving 10 minutes early and leaving 10 minutes late from important big-group meetings. Otherwise my politically-passionate coworker will turn a vent on the new Excel format into a vent on sexism in Congress without even pausing for breath. Both are frustrating, but only one is relevant to work.

      2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        > the lead should probably stop sharing random anecdotes

        This is huge: the lead is telling a story to illustrate a point, but it sets the example that story-telling is a Thing that can happen during the meeting. Ask them to skip this for two meetings and see how much that affects Rambler’s behavior.

    3. AFac*

      I’ve been told I run a good meeting. Maybe that’s true.

      But I worry that I’m not giving everyone the chance to have their say, that in the desire for efficiency, I’m preventing people who might have really important things to say from saying them. Maybe I intimidate them. Maybe they’re afraid to break up the flow of the meeting. Maybe they don’t want to speak out of turn.

      Thus far, the meetings I run have small groups, few agenda items, and relatively low stakes. I’m not sure how I’d do with a department-wide meeting to plan a multi-million dollar annual budget.

      1. Clorinda*

        Do you have a way for people to contact you ahead of time and ask if issue X can be added to the agenda?
        You’re probably fine, though. When’s the last time you heard anyone complain that a meeting was too short? Ever?

        1. AFac*

          Most of my meetings are ad-hoc. We are meeting to discuss a specific issue*, which I tell to everyone in advance. Even when I ask for input, it’s usually about a specific topic–e.g. “what are some problems you’re having with the new classrooms?” rather than a broad “what problems are you having?” But as I said, I’m not trying to get consensus from 30 people on the annual budget.

          I’m not sure they’d complain about a meeting being too short; they’d complain that I’m not a good listener or I won’t let them talk. They might not even complain to my face. I dunno. Maybe the committees I lead are just populated with less rambly people.

          (*Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today…)

      2. daffodil*

        When the stakes are higher or the group is larger, I tend to shift into more formal Roberts Rules. This is the motion we are discussing. You can speak for or against the motion at hand. You may only speak a second time if nobody else wants to speak a first time. We don’t use all the rules, and sometimes the technicalities can bog us down, but it is useful for keeping things focused and making space for all voices.

  4. takeachip*

    LW4, even if you do follow Allison’s solid advice, I think you need to be prepared for this to influence the type of recommendation you get from your current employer. A lot will depend on how they handle reference checks (do they just confirm dates of employment or do they actually provide a meaningful reference? what are managers allowed to say/not say) and your manager’s disposition. Some managers would be very sympathetic and not hold this against you or bring it up; others might view it more negatively and/or mention the circumstances surrounding your departure as something they think a future employer should be aware of. I’m not weighing in on what is fair or reasonable, just saying that there is some risk involved here that you can’t completely eliminate.

    Have you considered being open to negotiating a little and trying to approach this from the standpoint of wanting to jointly figure out the best transition? For instance, could you use Allison’s suggested approach and also offer to stay for 3-4 weeks instead of 2 if that will help with the transition for them? Even if they reject that, the offer itself shows that you are aware of the impact your absence has had and that your unexpected departure will have and that you’re trying to work with them in good faith. Are you obligated to do this? No, you were within your rights to use FMLA and the company’s bereavement leave, and a two-week notice is standard. But this type of gesture can go a long way toward ending things on a more positive note, and I personally like to feel that I did what I could to manage a situation so that if there is a negative consequence for me, I at least don’t have regrets about the way I handled it and don’t have to second guess myself.

    1. Need More Sunshine*

      OP4, you need to do what is best for you and your mental and physical health. Your employer may feel a little put out (I think that’s only natural when they’ve been so flexible and covered pay for longer than they are obligated to), but ultimately they should realize that it’s all business. It’s the circumstances that suck, not any of the people.

      One thing to be aware of – if you’ve been enrolled in insurance with your employer and they’ve been paying for it while you were out on FMLA, they can require you to pay back all those premiums if you leave them within 30 days of your return to work.

    2. Coco*

      There is always the risk that someone is going to take this poorly. OP knows their employer best. Do they have a history of reacting poorly when people resign? If you have concerns, it might help to offer some kind of negotiation for an exit plan. Would you be willing to give 3-4 weeks notice? Possibly even working part time the last week or two? I think it partially depends on how high up in the organization. It’s common for C suite executives or VPs to give much longer notice periods (if possible), because the recruiting/transitional process for those roles is more difficult/lengthy.

    3. New Senior Mgr*

      Agree. This happened to me. After 6 months of intermittent leave, I took 2 weeks of bereavement, returned, gave two weeks notice. My new company’s HR Director told me that my manager sang my praises but was a little dismayed at when/how I left. And told her the history of my FMLA and how flexible they were with me etc. It didn’t stop me from getting the next (better) job but clearly my ending left a bad taste in my otherwise wonderful boss’ mouth.

      1. Coin Purse*

        We had a maternity leave/unrelated FMLA/extended bereavement colleague quit after they came back. The company felt really violated because they worked with them in good faith. An offer of more notice might have helped.

  5. Emmy Noether*

    I’m a bit confused by #2: are these changes , or glitches that were frustrating her? Because those are not the same thing.

    With the headline, I was imagining a disorganized place where processes aren’t thought through and someone higher up keeps on changing them at a whim. Then the letter itself presents it as if these are unforeseeable bugs that can be fixed fairly quickly. The first situation would frustrate most people, the second is completely normal for some types of job, with once a month being fairly infrequent even. Or maybe it’s a combination and the glitches are caused by poorly thought-out processes that keep changing?

    1. Myrin*

      Usually it’s Alison who writes the headlines so I personally don’t let those deter me and go by what’s in the letters themselves, so in this case it does indeed sound like unforeseen bugs. (I think by “changes of processes” OP meant that these were interruptions to the employee’s routine work she couldn’t just use her normal/regular processes for, but I could of course be wrong.)

      1. Emmy Noether*

        Mmmh, true, but the first sentence also calls it “changes”, the headline seems pulled from that.

    2. Emmy Noether*

      Also want to add: what field/sort of job is this? If it is, say, accounting, and processes keep being patched and changed and everything is an inconsistent mess because of that, I don’t know if anyone would be really ok with that. If it’s development, for instance, that’s much more expected and ex-employee is the outlier.

      1. RunShaker*

        The issues described in letter sound fairly normal to me. But then I’ve worked in departments that were small and experienced growth so changes and glitches were the norm. I’m wondering if this employee wasn’t the best fit.

      2. Eldritch Office Worker*

        It read to me as operations, given the building the plane in the air bit – or something tech based, since that’s where “glitches” is a common term. In either case this rate of hiccup would be fairly normal.

    3. FD*

      I could be understanding wrong, but to me it sounded like a workplace where they were in the middle of transitioning from System A to System B and they were running into bugs during the transition, which were sometimes minor and easily fixed and sometimes required major work and delays.

    4. ferrina*

      If changes in processes/policies only were 3 days of loss, I would be shocked. I worked at a couple places that loved to change their minds about company-wide priorities on a whim. I would lose months of effort that way.

      Given that LW refers to testing and fixing glitches, I suspect it’s more like software updates with glitches. This isn’t uncommon if you don’t have the staff to thoroughly test and need to roll out updates asap. You can’t test every possibility on the dev server.
      That said, it depends on what the employee’s job was. If she does a time-sensitive function and can’t do her job, that’s a major problem. You’d need to update your testing protocol to ensure that she can do her work. But if it’s not time-sensitive, honestly LW’s timeline isn’t bad.

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*


        If you were to ask the manufactuer how long I lost due to a software “issue” (manufacturer’s known bug that they don’t think is important enough to fix) they’d tell you that I lost the half hour I spent with software tech support and that’s that.

        They’re not accounting for the nearly 8 hours of downtime, with no shift in my deadline.

      2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        I’m not sure what you mean by “3 days of loss”, but from LW’s description, it’s 3 days that are affected, but not 3 lost days of work: the day of discovery (which could be any time during the day); the day of fixing (which could take any amount of time); and the day they check that the fix worked (which doesn’t seem like it would take very much time at all).

    5. Smokey skies*

      My question from this letter was whether or not the repercussions from the glitches were actually 3 days or if LW was missing some of the longer term effects that impacted the employees ability to do their job. If yes, then maybe LW needs to provide more direct support for a little longer than the three days. If no then yeah, screen for a better fit.

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        Employee is upset that LW can’t schedule these glitches so they happen with no warning. Which is kind of the definition, yeah? And this happens every month. I’m calling it a bad fit.

  6. John Smith*

    re #1. I’d be interested in what tge advice would be when the rambler is actually the person who is supposed to be controlling the meeting (usually the manager).
    A previous manager of mine used to use meetings to avoid doing any actual work and typically made them last 4-5 hours. infuriating didn’t cover it.

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      I usually come into those meetings and say, “I have a hard stop at 3,” hope we get to my agenda items before then and then just excuse myself at 3: “So sorry, I need to leave for my next commitment. Mary, I’ll review the minutes for any updates to the llama grooming policy.”

      If you have a skip level meeting, that’s another place to bring it up. 4-5 hour meetings are WILDLY inefficient.

      1. ferrina*

        This. I’d also start showing up to meetings with “a few things I’d love to discuss with the group” i.e., a rebel agenda. Gently insert your agenda items. Respond blandly to their personal stories and very enthusiastically to work. Always bring the conversation back to work. Make yourself a very unsatisfying audience.

      2. I Have RBF*

        We have been known to do 8 hour Zoom “working meetings” to solve a high impact problem, usually at the behest of senior management. We have people from multiple departments, both ICs and managers, lots of screen sharing, etc. They do not often go off on tangents, but they aren’t very efficient in that indirect managers are there too.

    2. Bitter Betty*

      I had to start doing what Fashionably Evil mentioned — “I have a hard stop at X,” at the beginning of the meeting or, “I only have X minutes because of Z,” if it was an improptu call.

      Otherwise “Do you have a minute for a quick call?” would turn into an hour+ Teams call or a 30 minite meeting would turn into “I looked at your calendars and you all don’t have anything after this, so we can keep going, right?” multiple times a day/week. Then I’d be asked why I wasn’t on target for finishing things… well, Linda, when you’ve takeen up 6 hours of my past two days with pointless chit chat and stories about your nieces or other employees, I can’t get things done, can I? She hasn’t been my boss for almost a year and I am still bitter…

    3. ThursdaysGeek*

      Ah yes. I had a boss years ago that another co-worker described as having ‘diarrhea of the mouth.’ We would have status meetings where he would tell us things we already knew and things we didn’t need to know. I took up doodling to stay awake. At least they were only an hour or so.

    4. JayNay*

      4-5 hour meetings is wild! At that point you likely have people leaving /considering leaving over how inefficient their workday is being managed.
      I’d bring it to someone above in a matter-of-fact way, as in „I’m finding meetings in this team often take quite long, for example last Wednesday we discussed the lama grooming updates for 5 hours and it’s causing a time crunch for me completing xyz. I’m wondering if there’s any advice you have for me in this situation.“
      The skip level person can then manage your manager to improve their meeting skills.

  7. The Prettiest Curse*

    #2 – for anyone who needs to hire someone who can just roll with changes, look for people with a background in event planning/coordination. If you don’t have that ability, you won’t be an event coordinator for very long, because a big chunk of the job is dealing with minor crises. (If you’re any good at planning, you will minimise the minor crises, but any large event will inevitably have a few.)

    1. Dinwar*

      Cooking works too. I spent five years as a cook in a small place, and learned to enjoy it (it was never a career goal, just a way to make money). Cooking is nothing BUT constant changes and dealing with issues that arise–even if you know the dish forward and backward, any agricultural product is going to have variances, and customers always change things. There’s a state where the kitchen is working well, but it takes everything you can give it for it to work well, and you’re constantly dealing with issues but keeping ahead of it, and as long as you keep pushing forward it’s a hell of a rush.

    2. Ranon*

      Construction, utilities, almost anything with field work, any kind of client facing/ user driven job- so many fields where 15% glitches would honestly feel like vacation.

    3. Nesprin*

      Or someone who displays ADHD tendencies- key words on a CV would be “good in a crisis”, “able to multitask”, “energetic enthusiasm” etc.

    4. Frustration Nation*

      I would also add entertainment (TV and film) workers to this list. There are a lot of us who are fed up from the exploitation during the pandemic and now the issues from the strikes, and just need to find steady, stable work, and are having a very tough time transitioning to new fields. We are highly adaptable, since we usually work short gigs, rapid problem solvers, learn new software/concepts quickly, and generally roll with any changes, since production is nothing but change every day. Every hour, even. A lot of us are not interested in going back to entertainment when things get back to normal, so these wouldn’t be short term hires.

  8. Coverage Associate*

    I recently had an interview that brought home how resume gaps are not a big deal. I have one of 6 months between my first job in my industry and my second. I was asked why I moved to the second employer in a way that implied it was smooth. I had to point out the gap and explain I was laid off. The interviewer hadn’t noticed the gap.

    I was mentoring someone this summer who was worried about a resume with either a 3 month gap (tops) or a job she was in for only 2 months. I tried to reassure her that it’s unlikely anyone will care about the gap. (She has a very good work related reason for the job hopping too, but I would not put the short job on a resume to someone who didn’t already know the story.)

    1. londonedit*

      I think as long as you can give a sensible reason for a gap, any reasonable interviewer isn’t going to count it against you (and if they do, they’re probably someone you wouldn’t want to work for). It’s so long ago that I only briefly mention it on my CV now, but early in my career I had a gap/period of slightly odd job-hopping because I was made redundant, did a bit of interim freelancing, did a short-term job and then ended up going back to the company I started at. People always asked about it, but I framed it all positively – I had the chance to strengthen my editorial skills in my freelance work, I had the chance to work on illustrated books in the short-term job which added another string to my bow, etc. Even with something like the OP’s situation, as Alison says, if you frame it as ‘I took some time away from work to deal with a family health issue, which is now resolved’ and then you segue straight from that into ‘…and I’m now looking forward to finding a role where I can use my skills in XYZ’ or whatever, I don’t think anyone would have an issue with that.

    2. Sloanicota*

      The time it matters, IME, is when you are first trying to get a new job after the gap. After that, assuming the newer job goes well, it doesn’t matter at all. I wish more people were able to take a few months between jobs in their lives. And that more jobs offered sabbaticals. Life is so short!

    3. Dr. Vibrissae*

      I’m curious about this too. If I saw someone had ended one job in 2021 and started a new job later in 2021, I wouldn’t take the time to do math on how many days between end and start date. I’d read that as a pretty steady job history. Lots of jobs in a short period, or large (years long) gaps would trigger questions, but jobs that start within months of each other would barely register.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Particularly between 2020 and 2023, I don’t blink twice at gaps. COVID impacted a lot of people (and continues to impact, of course, but with vaccines and paxlovid and everything people are able to work more steadily now). The only time I really register a gap is if it’s been awhile since the person’s last job – and then I just want a basic answer. “Health stuff, personal time, family time, travel, study” – any broad category and an assurance that they’re ready to return to work full time is all I need.

        But that’s me, there’s a broad range of reactions to resume gaps.

    4. A Person*

      As a hiring manager I find asking about gaps is almost always useless. Any reasonable candidate is going to have an answer, and few of those answers are going to be relevant to their work – maybe you went on a 2 year world tour and it’ll be fun to ask you about Antartica, but otherwise learning you had a gap due to a family issue or medical issue is completely irrelevant.

      Similarly for asking why you’ve left past jobs – unless I see a huge pattern of leaving after a few months most people are going to have a reasonable explanation for why. The one time I did ask it just turned out it wasn’t super obvious they were consulting / short term roles.

  9. Healthcare Manager*

    RE 1 & interrupting ramblers in meetings

    The best lesson I ever learnt in managing this is, it’s okay to interrupt – you’re not being rude. It’s that simple. You don’t need to wait for the right moment, you don’t need to summarise what they’ve said and get them to confirm you’ve understood. Just interrupt and say ‘thanks for that’ and IMMEDIATELY move on, don’t even pause for a second.

    It’s a skill that takes practise to get used to, chronic ramblers will also be used to be managed this way and they know.

    Also look up ‘containment’ techniques.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      Many chronic monologuers know perfectly well that they’re being rude, they just don’t care. It’s not rude to interrupt someone who’s already being rude to everyone else!

      1. Sloanicota*

        Eh, I don’t think they always know and are deliberately rude – let’s not attribute malice to something that is just as likely to be incompetence. The chronic rambler in my life just has a looot of trouble organizing her thoughts succinctly and doesn’t realize how disruptive “talking her thoughts out” can be.

        1. Beany*

          Agreed. We have one particular group member (this is an academic environment) who combines having a lot to say with being slightly hard of hearing, so it’s difficult to derail him when he gets going. Especially when we’re in a hybrid meeting situation, and he’s one of the remote participants, with consequent lag and audio issues.

        2. The Prettiest Curse*

          I said “many”, not “all” are being intentionally rude. But the end result is still rudeness if they are monopolising air time just to hear themselves talk.

          1. Kevin Sours*

            Meh. It happens. People get on a tangent and lose track of where they are going. More importantly it really doesn’t matter so there is no reason not to extend grace and assume they are just having a moment instead of intentionally being rude (or even unintentionally being rude). Just redirect the meeting and move on.

            If they fight that then you need to have a private word but honestly just setting boundaries in the moment is generally effective.

            1. Willow Pillow*

              Yes, giving people the benefit of the doubt doesn’t mean excusing issues that stem from whatever they’re doing. Ascribing negative motives is more likely to make you resentful than to address the issue.

    2. SarahKay*

      Seconding this. I used to have a daily ‘stand-up’ that should have been 20 minutes but usually ran to 45 minutes or more. In this instance it was two people rambling and one of them was our manager so I had to live with it.
      Rambling-on manager moved on and I became the meeting facilitator and you can bet your bottom dollar I cut off any other ramblers quick-smart. Daily stand up went down to 15 minutes most days, and maybe 25 on a really bad day. I was polite, but also no-nonsense in my tone and if I had to interrupt then I would.
      I’ve since moved on to a new role and was recently chatting to one of my ex-coworkers. He said they all missed me running those meetings because I did such a professional job of keeping them fast and on-topic, so I’m pretty sure that the rest of OP#1’s team will be similarly grateful.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        Yeah, standups are supposed to be 15 minutes and no one person should go longer than 2 minutes. So the rule of thumb I’ve seen is if you’ve got more than 7 people in a single standup, it might be too big, but I’ve also been in plenty of SU with more people than that and kept on time. But if you have 7 or fewer people and run over, you’ve got 1 or more ramblers (or to give benefit of the doubt: people who could be non-ramblers if someone explained how these meetings are supposed to work).

        1. SarahKay*

          We usually had about 10 depending on the day, although not everyone needed to talk. And sadly the second rambler was the person whose job function was implement standardisation, efficiency, focused meetings, etc for our site – facepalm! – so we really were doomed.

        2. Kevin Sours*

          If you can’t get through the standup in under 15 minutes most days you need to take a hard look at how it’s structured.

  10. LinZella*

    OP #1: People stop venting aka gossiping! Everyone can understand the urge to do so – especially when dealing with such an annoying situation.
    But you’re being promoted – you need to be a role model – especially now.
    Good luck!

    1. Katrina*


      There’s a key difference between saying “this situation is annoying me” and “this *person* is annoying.”

      OP, if you’re going to be a team lead, you need to look at your team members as people with strengths and weaknesses, not obstacles or annoyances. Maybe your coworker genuinely thinks she’s contributing to the conversation. Maybe the lead’s stories are just really engaging to her. Who knows? If there’s a problem behavior, address it head-on in a professional manner.

      If you find yourself about to lose your temper with someone you manage, you can’t just dump all the blame on the person you’re short-tempered with.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        Remind yourself she’s not trying to annoy or hurt you. She’s trying to make a contribution. Give her feedback in a professional, supportive way.
        When I was starting a new job that was a big step up, I found one of my colleagues so annoying! It was all I could do to keep it to myself. After several months, my annoyance went away. It also became clear her annoying behavior was necessary – raising her voice and interrupting to get the attention of busy physicians. I even did it myself a few times.
        If you must vent, do it far away from work where no one from work will ever see or hear it. I was working for the most horrible person I’ve ever known and had vented way too much to my friends. I started typing it all into a word document on Friday evenings. At home, on my home computer. I also worked on my skills and professionalism so I could get a better job. After a couple of years I didn’t need to vent anymore.

        1. OP1*

          I’m OP1! I realize venting isn’t a good strategy, and don’t worry I’m not venting to anyone at work about her! I didn’t even realize others were annoyed too for weeks because I wasn’t talking about it with people close to the situation.

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            I had a coworker who monopolized meetings in the same manner. To be fair, we had a weekly standing tradition at our Monday meetings of everyone saying something about how their weekends went, so a personal story was exactly what was expected, but she would tell these long drawn-out dramatic stories about weird or ridiculous things that happened to her. (And actually now that I think about it, she would also tell these kinds of stories in other mtgs when we supposedly were only there to talk about work things.) Some of my coworkers seemed to find her charming and amusing so they never told her to rein it in but it got on my nerves and one time I said something silly and slightly teasing (not mean, just a little bit like “why would that be a good thing?” or something, I don’t remember). After that mtg another coworker told me she appreciated what I said, that she also was tired of the first coworker’s ridiculous stories. I had no idea, I thought I was the only one! So my point (if I even have one, lol) is that if you find something annoying others might too and it wouldn’t hurt to ask the person in charge to maybe do something about it. And since you’ll be the person in charge now, you are well within your rights to do something about it!

        2. Myrin*

          I’m sorry but why is this of all topics bringing out therapy-esque talk about how OP has to look inwards and maybe the annoying coworker has reasons and so on and so forth?
          OP is describing a legitimate problem at work, the “venting” sentence (one sentence!) is written in such a way that seems pretty clearly hyperbolic to me (I don’t know that I’ve ever encountered a literally-meant “everyone who will listen”), and people like that are genuinely aggravating. It’s not that deep.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Specifically if the thing you’re annoyed about is someone who corners you and talk your ear off.

      That “anyone who will listen” line stood out to me, LW.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Right? Don’t talk a lot to complain about people who talk a lot.

        Honestly, I would be especially unimpressed if someone in a leadership-ish position were in the habit of doing this.

        1. OP1*

          I mean, there’s a difference between telling a friend who often vents to me as well “Jane prevented us from covering this topic AGAIN today” and completely dominating a work conversation so that the topic isn’t even covered.

          1. HonorBox*

            Agree OP1. If you’re having a glass of wine with a friend and you’re sharing work concerns, that’s perfectly normal.

          2. Office Lobster DJ*

            For what it’s worth, OP, I did read “vent to anyone who will listen” as a tongue in cheek reference to gossip between friends outside of work.

            I respect that people wanted to flag something that stood out to them, but hopefully now that you’ve had a chance to clarify we can shift focus.

          3. ferrina*

            Is that friend at the place where you work? If it’s a coworker-friend, you probably want to tone it down. As annoying as Jane is, talking behind her back at work is still a bad look. It’s petty and it makes you look powerless. It’s a much better look to be directly addressing it and diplomatic when talking to third parties. It also puts you in a better position to directly address issues- if people think that you’ll gossip about them when you’re annoyed, they aren’t going to trust you. If people know you as the person who addresses things directly and is diplomatic as needed, they’ll trust you a lot more and be more willing to work with you.

            If it’s someone unconnected to work, vent away.

              1. Knope Knope Knope*

                In the original letter she said it’s anyone who will listen, so it’s a little confusing.

    3. ThatGirl*

      I will say, sometimes it helps to bring up concerns about specific people’s behaviors because it’s affecting others as well. It IS a line to walk to be specific about the behavior over the person, and not get into whiny-griping mode at work. But when I’ve mentioned concerns about various folks, I’ve found that others had them too and it needed to be addressed.

  11. Wetpigeon*

    2.) 3 days a month is 15% of their working time. If they had time off, there was a holiday, or you were undercounting, that can easily shoot up to 30% of their working hours fixing problems that should not exist.

    Combined with the way you’re describing it–building a plane in the air–makes me think that the issue is that company could improve their communication. Poor communication will make every employee upset, so what I think you’re really asking for is someone who has a high tolerance for a job that does not have strong communication or clarity at its foundation.

    1. Happy meal with extra happy*

      I think this is extreme for what’s in the letter, that every employee is likely upset and that there’s no foundation for the company. If you’re creating something, there’s going to be issues, and you’re going to have to fix those issues. It sounds like the employee here didn’t like the environment, but that doesn’t mean it’s a massive systemic issue like you’re implying.

    2. nnn*

      That’s a stretch. Startups often function this way, even successful ones. Some people thrive on that, some don’t.

      1. No Longer Working*

        Unexpected glitches also happen in established companies when adopting new software. A process won’t work and a solution has to be figured out, sometimes consulting the software vendor to see if they have a solution or workaround. Sometimes you get the “It’s not a bug, it’s a feature!” dreaded answer. It’s very frustrating when the prior software didn’t have this problem. Being able to roll with glitches at work is something all employees have to deal at some point and not being able to is a huge problem, I think. Grumble, sigh, commiserate with coworkers over it, but it’s just a fact of life.

      2. ferrina*

        Yeah, “building the plane as you fly it” is the mantra of start-ups. Honestly, from my days working at a start-up, 3 days of glitches is not bad at all. Sounds like LW’s company gets things fixed pretty quickly, but are just too small to have exhaustive testing before release.

    3. Allonge*

      In a growing company, there might be a lower bar for what issues should and should not exist (and certainly will be a lower one for what issues do exist).

      Of course communications can be improved (although if the issues that come up are not predictable, I am not sure exactly how that would solve the issue), but I think OP just needs to be really clear at the interview that this is not a job for someone who prefers that procedures are in place for almost everything, and that there are regularly days when new problems will arise. Plenty of people enjoy this kind of semi-firefighting environment!

    4. New Jack Karyn*

      That’s only if each Glitch Day was actually a whole day, and I don’t think they were.

      1. Oh Snap!*

        yah even in a bigger/stable company this strikes me as really normal. If you are always trying to improve and you are bringing new products/services to the market to grow, and you are trying to be improve internal processes, or an employee makes a mistake I. an existing process… all these things lead to glitches. I really can’t imagine many workplaces where you don’t have the occasional glitch you have to work through.

        1. Trotwood*

          I work in manufacturing for a Fortune 500 company, and “responding to unexpected circumstances” is the whole job. If everything happened as expected 100% of the time, they’d hardly need employees to run the plant. Days where you can really focus on a long-term project or objective are the exception. While I’m sure there are jobs to suit someone who never wants to come to work and find some problem to solve that they didn’t know about the day before, it doesn’t seem like a reasonable expectation for many environments.

          1. anne of mean gables*

            Agreed – it of course varies job to job and industry to industry, but I think it’s really normal for “dealing with unexpected &*^#$” to be part of regular job duties. I’d say it’s 5-10% of my time – where I need to drop everything for an hour or a day, for a grant deadline or central office request. To me it’s just an extension of “managing competing priorities” – some things are urgent, some are not, and some things are both unexpected and “on fire” levels of urgent. It sounds like the LW’s former employee may be particularly ill-suited to a job that has “working to solve sudden problems” as a major part of the role.

          2. Not Totally Subclinical*

            The jobs where you’re regularly dealing with the unexpected are the jobs that are least likely to be replaced by automated processes.

            1. I Have RBF*

              This. At least half of my “value add” at my current job is solving problems rapidly. If there were never any problems, I wouldn’t be needed, and I could be replaced with a shell script running as a cron job. I’m a sysadmin in an IT support role for other groups/departments. My work is tickets and chat requests. Things can get fixed in a few hours up to weeks of back and forth.

              To interview people who can roll with changes and glitches, you need to ask things like:
              * “How do you handle sudden, high priority problems?”,
              * “When have you dealt with an outage, how did you handle it?”,
              * “When you discover a problem, how do you go about solving it?”
              * “How often do your priorities have to shift during a day?”, and
              * “When you log on in the morning, you have an bunch of increasingly urgent emails about a production problem. How do you address solving the problem and communicating with all the stakeholders?”

              You are looking for someone who can do things like write actionable bugs, surface problems to the right people, judge how big a problem is (triage), and things like that.

              That being said, I hate change for the sake of change. If you are changing something that is going to make a ton of extra work for me, I need to know why, for no other reason than to decide how much other stuff to drop. If your reason for the change is “It’s new, therefore it’s better!“, but can’t/won’t tell me why or how it’s better, then I will not be supporting your change. Part of my job involves making things as stable as possible, and if you want to do a major change that impacts my work just so you can put it on your resume, I will not be pleased.

          3. A person*

            Also agree. I’ve worked in manufacturing and currently work in research that supports manufacturing. Pretty much all we do all day long is work thru “glitches”… that’s like… my actual job. Haha. And I love it!

            It’s definitely not for everyone though.

            I love the “building the plane in the air” analogy. That is like how we always do stuff in a pilot plant. We’ve never done a lot of it before, so we take a best guess at a place to start and adjust as we go and learn. Not every experiment or first draft of an equipment set up works. And it is great fun.

    5. Adam*

      This is actually totally normal for a growing company. There’s always going to be the first time you get a customer in Japan and have to fill out Japanese tax forms or a customer sends in a bigger order than ever before and you have to scramble to fill it or whatever. Being able to roll with stuff is important in a small company, and it’s reasonable that they would want to filter for that ability in hiring.

    6. Sloanicota*

      I admit, I have a personal bete noir with that phrase, because I mostly hear it from places who could be doing a lot better, but they’ve accepted a catastrophic level of chaos (even in their own metaphor, it’s pretty obvious a plane will crash if you’re still trying to attach wings after takeoff!). However, I think it’s fair to say you need an employee who’s eager to take on this kind of challenge rather than being thrown by it.

    7. Dust Bunny*

      “Should not exist”? Sometimes problems are new problems. If business grow and change, glitches will come up simply because there was no precedent for them until the business reached that point. My job has what I guess you would call glitches fairly regularly simply because the best practices in the discipline keep evolving, and sometimes we get asked things we haven’t been asked before and thus haven’t had to consider.

      This employee sounds uncommonly inflexible. Which is a thing and she’s allowed to be that, but obviously this wasn’t the job for her. (And that’s from someone who does not like change.)

    8. HonorBox*

      That seems like incorrect assumptions. While 3 days a month is 15% of working days, we don’t know how much time these glitches take up. It might be a 10 or 15 minute issue, not taking up an ENTIRE work day. While some of the fixes the LW mentions take a little longer to fix, we don’t know enough about the glitch to make large calculations like you’re making.

      Things come up, and as long as they’re addressed and fixed, people do need to figure out how to navigate that.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        EXACTLY. Things happen. It sounds like when the glitches happen, OP stepped in to help and fix it. Then double checked it to make sure it stayed fixed. Not just oh well it glitched again, deal with it to the employee.

        Honestly the employee sounds like someone who doesn’t like change, want to do what she always does and gets mad if there is change. There are employees like that.

        BUT ANY JOB is going to have glitches. Because humans are imperfect.

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

      As others have mentioned this is a bit harsh. And I don’t think it has anything to do with poor communication. Especially with certain things like software glitches happen and no one knows its going to happen until it does.
      At my last job we switched to a new system. Part of my job was taking phone calls for our wholesale clients. We provided learning materials and systems to real estate schools. We used to have a list of what tier a school was in, as some schools paid more for different levels of support. The new system was implemented and we were supposed to see what tier the client was on. However, half of the team did not have that while some people could see some things. Others couldn’t even pull up the client. There was no way to know in advance that some users would have this problem. It took about a week to get fixed (as there were literally hundreds of clients the IT people had to check). In all the testing that was done before going live there was no indication that this was going to be a problem.

    10. Ranon*

      15% of working time is under the 80/20 rule, as a ratio it seems pretty reasonable to me (but my work is project based for external clients so the level of chaos and user initiated change that’s just a completely normal part of my day is, well, most of it- my job is to smooth the chaos into a structure so my people can do their jobs).

      They genuinely aren’t asking for a level of flexibility that would be remotely unusual in my field of work, or on a construction site, or many many other fields.

    11. Office Lobster DJ*

      I’m not sure there’s enough in the letter to say one way or the other. I will say that the Person Who Has to Do the Thing often has a much different experience with changes/”glitches” than the Person Making the Decisions, despite everyone’s best intentions or offers of support.

      In any case, I think OP is doing a very, very good thing by wanting to be transparent about the environment, to the benefit of both the company and the candidates.

    12. Daisy-dog*

      I would be speechless if someone came to me to quit and said: “I spent 30% of my working month on this. That’s double from last month!” And it’s because they were off work for 2 weeks that month. I could say the same thing about everything if I was off work for 2 weeks in a month.

    13. lil falafel wrap*

      It doesn’t sound like a communication problem at all to me. It sounds like it’s a job where unexpected things come up–but that doesn’t necessarily mean the breakdown is communication! Since it’s a start-up, it more likely means they’re still figuring things out. And that’s not an environment everyone likes, but some people (like me!) thrive in that environment. I’m in the nonprofit world, so probably a different industry, but most of my jobs were ones where I was the first person in that role, which meant that probably over half my time was responding to issues we didn’t realize would exist. And that wasn’t anyone’s fault! It was the nature of the job and the work. If you don’t like that, there’s nothing wrong with that–but that doesn’t mean there’s anything inherently wrong with that type of environment.

  12. The Rafters*

    OP 1, I had 2 coworkers who I think really tried to outdo one another with this. I used to wait for the one droner to come up for air and say to the last person who spoke about their work-related topic, “Ellen, I think you were talking about your Collie grooming technique. Can you elaborate on why you used shedding brush A instead of D?” After only a couple of weeks of this, the droners got the message. It didn’t stop, but the rambling slowed way down.

  13. WellRed*

    PSA for people who lead meetings. Please don’t let people hog the meeting or ramble on. Unless you want people to abjectly hate mtgs more than usual, grow to resent the rambler and question your abilities as a leader. You are wasting everyone’s time. In my case, the rambler kept talking about family members heath issues in ever greater detail. It finally stopped when I interrupted with a “please, can we not talk about open wounds.” You could fell the shock ripples through the group. I was reprimanded after the fact. But. It. Stopped.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      So often the AAM lesson for managers is “So we bent over backward to accommodate the unreasonable person, and then the reasonable people around him all started quitting!”

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Side eye to whoever reprimanded you for requesting open wounds to not be a topic of conversation. That’s an absolutely reasonable request no matter where you are! (Ok, maybe not if you work in the health industry but otherwise, yes.)

  14. Dear liza dear liza*

    OP #1 – I’m a huge fan of time boxing. When we have a full agenda, a time limit is assigned to each item. Then I’m pretty ruthless about keeping us to the times. At first it took a lot of prompting by me to stick to the limits, but now people police themselves and others.

    1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      Yes for an agenda! It allows you to say things like: “We only have 10 minites left for this topic. Do we need to cover anything else before we wrap it up?” or “It might be, but I want to make sure this is what we want to be talking about with only 10 minutes left on this topic?” With an agenda, the clock is your best weapon/friend.

    2. I Have RBF*

      Yes for an agenda!! Plus keeping things on track, etc.

      I am one of those socially awkward people who, if the agenda is not clear, will bring up issues that I think are related, but actually aren’t. Because my brain maps things differently than most people.

      So if your “agenda” says “Talk about llama grooming problems”, but no more detail than that, if I’m having an issue with the latest batch of hood picks I will absolutely bring it up, when in reality the organizer only wants to talk about the defective shears problem, but did not actually put that in the agenda.

      The point is that agendas are minimum table stakes for good meetings. The more concise the agenda the easier it is to filter out tangents.

  15. Wrench Turner*

    On #2, “building a plane in the air”: Companies also need to be real honest with themselves about what’s a “just a glitch” and what’s operational failure that needs addressing.

    At my last company there were communication issues for sure, which the owner acknowledged and I wasn’t always happy but tried to roll with. (IE, “So you’re on call this weekend.”… Wait, what? OK, I’ll make it work. Please give me a schedule going forward.) Or office not ordering everything I need for a job because they didn’t know replacing flux capacitors requires a whole retrofit kit, etc. So I spent an off weekend and designed and offered training and communications templates that outlined major systems we work on, parts kits that have to be ordered together every time and rough completion times for major jobs. The company enthusiastically embraced it. Glitches get fixes.

    Then there were operational things like I had to swap work vehicles 4 times in 6 weeks because they were unsafe and kept breaking down – the equivalent of swapping your whole office, cube, break room, supply closet, computer and all. It was impossible to stay organized, which I already struggle with. Because of expense card issues I had to repeatedly front money to buy needed tools/supplies. I was always reimbursed but after it totaled nearly a week’s pay, I said I couldn’t anymore – what if I didn’t have the money? Then I suddenly had to front the deposit to rent my own work vehicle because mine broke down again. I complained but said we’ll deal with it to keep things moving.

    The morning we dropped the rental back off, I was suddenly fired. I was told something vague about “It’s not you, we’re a small business and we’re changing and going a different direction, etc.” I had only been there just over 6 weeks.

    Thank goodness for unions, I had another job lined up in 48 hours.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      “We’re building the plane in the air” is what the people running FyreFest would have said.

      1. Beka Cooper*

        This gave me a laugh because I was just reading the Wikipedia page for Fyre Fest and telling my husband about it, then scrolled a little and saw this comment. Did you know the organizer is currently promoting Fyre Fest 2? An anti-MLM podcaster I follow, Roberta Blevins, has been posting a lot about it on Instagram and I’m just amazed at the audacity of the guy.

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          Oh I need to see what Roberta Blevins is saying about this latest scam.

          back on topic, honestly a glitch once a month that gets fixed faily quickly seems pretty normal to me. If you have a perfect system where nothing every goes wrong, you are either just doing things the way you always have without any thought as to why or someone is hiding problems.

    2. Ferret*

      This doesn’t really sound like what LW2 is talking about and I’m not sure what actual advice is in here?

      1. Helewise*

        I disagree. I think this comment does a great job expressing the difference between an expected glitch and unacceptable organizational chaos. If you’re the one running things it can be easier to dismiss chaos as glitchiness (or similar), but in this case it was bad enough to make at least one employee leave. It could be that employee’s temperament, but it would be in the LW’s best interests to to take a hard look at their company and processes to see if that employee has a point. Otherwise this will just continue to happen.

        1. Anna*

          Personally I’m more curious what types of glitches we’re talking about, and in what field. I’m in software development, and frankly 3 days a month wrangling glitches would be on the low end, especially if you’re dealing with anything you’re altering while live (which “building a plane while in the air” implies). If you’re making a product, you should assume users can and will use it in a way you didn’t expect (and that you might have to do damage control). If you’re reliant on other people’s services, there will be times where *they* do something unexpected or off-protocol that will become your problem, even if on your end you did everything right.

          There are many, many jobs where “unexpected things can and will happen” is part of them. And LW hasn’t said anything that leads me to doubt this is the case with this position, here.

          Now there are things you can do to make jobs like that *easier* on employees. It might be worth confirming on your end if:
          – the things that came up were predictable in some way where you could indeed have offered some warning (e.g., “we’re changing over to this software” means an increased risk something might happen in the transition, so you should let people who might be impacted know it’s happening)
          – their workload and timelines has some buffer in it to account for unexpected things that might come up

          So it might be worth taking some time to consider if one of the above might be at the core of what the employee was complaining about, because those *are* in your control.

          But at the end of the day, ya, there are some jobs where “warning before a glitch happens” is just not feasible – and it’s worth putting a heads-up about that in the job description so people can self-select out.

  16. L-squared*

    #2. I’m all about taking LWs at their word. I also know that managers often underestimate how “minor” and unobtrusive some changes/glitches can be to the people actually doing the work. In my job, there are a lot of these small things, both glitches and changes that happen. Thing is, they happen far more than my manager realizes, because discussing every single instance of it would be pointless. So I suck it up and am pretty intentional on the things I do tell her. For example, when its a problem with a system I knew from the beginning would be bad, I make sure to tell her everytime. When its just a glitch on something that is annoying, but overall tolerable, I don’t.

    All this is to say that your employees frustration may be very warranted. And maybe you should ask her AND her colleagues if stuff is happening more than you realize.

    In terms of screening for that, just be VERY up front that things don’t always work as planned.

  17. Risha*

    LW2, I really like Alison’s advice. All too often, hiring managers do not tell candidates the downsides to a job, and keep it like some top secret. Then when the employee gets there, they’re disappointed. And often times, candidates are too timid to ask about the negatives (to them) of the job, or don’t even think about it.

    Since you know what the biggest potential issue may be, it’s a great idea to let them know ahead of time. I work in an industry that’s like you describe, and I love the different challenges that come up, so believe me many people are ok with it. But those of us in this industry expect it and have to already be ok with it to even apply for jobs at any company.

  18. Dinwar*

    #2: I work for a huge company, but my actual working group is tiny (5 core people, maybe 5-6 people we can rely on to help out if needed). And we tend to work the way you describe. The nature of the job and the site is that it’s always changing, and we need to roll with it. Gotta love a site where you can’t access the jobsite because it’s currently on fire or flooded on a fairly regular basis!

    What we’ve found seems to work is to have new hires interview current staff onsite. Set aside time for them to have a real conversation with the people working on the site. About the third time the conversation gets interrupted by a “We need you to figure this out for us” phone call, most people get an understanding of the nature of the work. Either they consider the constant changing nature and constant need to figure things out a perk or a deal breaker; I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who’s reaction was “Meh”.

    Also, be prepared for turnover. It takes a special kind of insanity to really enjoy a job like you’re describing–I call it “Optimistic pessimism”, an attitude of “Things are going to go horribly wrong; it’ll be fun!” We’ve found that the 18-24 month period is critical. If they’re going to break they’ll break then. If they make it past 24 months, usually they’re going to be fine. But turnover is fairly high while you try to find that person. I think at one point 90% of people the company hired left within 3 years, something like 75% of them leaving within 2. If the job is chaotic, high turnover is a cost of doing business.

  19. Vaca*

    This is going to be unpopular, but #4 owes more to their employer. They’ve bent over backwards to accommodate very lengthy absences way beyond what is required. If you quit immediately after drawing your full salary for months, it’s not going to hurt you, but it is going to make the employer think twice before offering that kind of flexibility to the next person. I know that wasn’t the question that was asked, but I would submit that you would always get a highly qualified recommendation from me and I would certainly feel taken advantage of.

    1. Silver Robin*

      if they are not in a good place to work (and they say their quality of work was meh), then what exactly can they give the employer? Months of mediocre output while they delay healing/grieving properly?

      Alison’s script is good: it acknowledges everything the employer has done. Other comments mentioned offering to extend the notice by a week or two to help with transition, but honestly…what else is there for OP to do?

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      You shouldn’t feel taken advantage of. Life happens – sometimes if you give a little you get a little, and sometimes when people get a little time off to reflect and take stock they realize how bad things actually are for them and have to make decisions accordingly. Your relationship with your employer is a business one, and while the employee can express their apologies for how things worked out, they are not required to stay in a business relationship that no longer serves them.

      I’ve handled a lot of these leaves, and frankly after a certain period of time a good employer should be operating under the assumption that the employee may not be coming back, or may not be able to come back at full capacity. It’s a really normal thing to have happen. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t hold their job or help them transition back, but it does mean it shouldn’t be a shock to the heart if someone needs a considerable amount of time off and it turns out that didn’t solve the underlying problems.

    3. searching for a new name*

      “way beyond what is required”??? LW said FMLA, which is legally required, by law. I think your comment is a bit uncharitable and lacks empathy for LWs situation.

        1. OP 4*

          Ya, they paid full salary, which is not legally required.

          Fwiw, if it makes a difference, I don’t think it caused them too much financial distress. It’s quite a large company, and I’m definitely on the lower range of their salaries. (It wasn’t an exception for me, either – paying full salary for stuff like that is their standard policy.)

    4. Lily Potter*

      I understand what you’re saying here. OP#4’s management went above and beyond what’s legally required and the employee still left them. This is one of the reasons that I suspect employers aren’t more on board with paid maternity leave. Works great with an employee that actually comes back after 12 weeks ready to resume her career. However, there’s always going to be women that use up every dollar of paid leave and then quit the Friday before they’re due to come back to work. Shoot, I’ve seen that happen many times with the woman not even having paid maternity leave – they tell the employer that they’re coming back (even when they know that they won’t be) because they want to use up short term disability, sick leave, and employer-subsidized health care benefits for the first 12 weeks of baby’s life. It ALWAYS leaves a bad taste in the employer’s mouth when they turn in their notice at the last minute. Rightly or wrongly, management feels played and lied to. Yes, some women intend to come back and then don’t for whatever reason, but the assumption is usually that it was the woman’s plan to quit all along.

      1. Lily Potter*

        I should note that the system encourages everyone to be less than forthcoming. Women don’t want to be 100% forthcoming about their plans to stay home after having a baby because of the small chance of something going wrong with the birth or on the very off chance that they hate parenthood and want to come back to work. If only there were a way for women to say “Plan on me taking FMLA for these three months, and then I probably won’t be coming back – but I reserve the right to change my mind”.

      2. Emmy Noether*

        This is only true if maternity leave is seen as an investment in future work (like paying for education, and even then one does not morally become an indentured servant that cannot leave).
        Maternity leave is a right/benefit that has been obtained by work done in the past, and is instituted for the good of society. It’s like switching insurance providers right after having a claim paid out – your insurance shouldn’t feel cheated about you leaving after you benefitted, that’s not how that works.

        1. An Honest Nudibranch*

          Ya – I think you actually hit the nail on the head here. Because people frame the issue as “ohhh, some selfish women just want to lie to get more money even though they know they’re leaving,” when like – what’s usually actually going through the heads of people requesting maternity leave is “can I afford to risk suddenly losing my income and health insurance during this time period that I cannot work?”

          Same with short-term disability. Employers see it as an investment in future work – but employees might be thinking closer to “what happens if I lose my income and health insurance given that I *cannot work right now*?”

          And I think it’s worth investigating why that feels like betrayal, because like. If someone worked for you for years, do you really consider the only non-betrayal alternative to be them giving up any security they have by quitting or seriously risking being fired, during a time period where they probably need that income and insurance more than usual, and when their normal options for job searching aren’t available?

          At least in the US, employers are only required to offer FMLA and the like for employees who have worked at a company for a certain period of time, anyways. It might ease feelings of betrayal and bitterness to stop thinking of it as “an advance on future work,” and think of it closer to “giving an employee who has done hard work for you the ability to not be looking over their shoulder about going into medical debt when life happens.”

  20. Sweet 'N Low*

    #1 – This obviously isn’t quite the same situation, but I’m a coach and I constantly have to handle students who talk for too long and derail classes/lessons. I like to encourage an open dialogue, but sometimes it gets too long winded, too off topic, we literally just don’t have time, etc.

    I usually handle those situations by telling the student we need to move on, but we can come back to that topic/story/question later (either at the end or privately afterwards, depending) and then *actually* coming back to it later. Helps us stay on topic while still making sure that my students feel like I care about what they have to say.

  21. Two Pop Tarts*

    Re: talking in meetings

    I tend to be quit. I believe if you don’t have anything to contribute, you shouldn’t say anything.

    I’ve been told multiple times in my career I need to speak more in meetings. Even if I don’t have anything to add I need to say something–anything–to show I’m “engaged”.

    The person sidetracking the meetings may have gotten similar advice. That it doesn’t matter what you are saying, as long as you are talking. And the more you talk the better, because that means you are participating more.

    1. OP1*

      That’s a good point. I’m the same as you and in talks with my team lead I think he’s similar as well. Knowing the talker’s background, I bet she has gotten similar advice to contribute.
      Thanks for your comment. It’s good to get a different perspective on why this might happen.

  22. Enn Pee*

    For OP1 – At a previous job, we had to take a lot of training in effective meetings, and this is what I found most helpful from what I learned:
    1 – Create agendas that include the amount of time that will be devoted to a topic. If you can, assign a timekeeper to keep track of the time for each topic. (This made SUCH A BIG DIFFERENCE in my previous workplace – everyone knew that you need to keep to the deadline for each item.)
    2 – Parking lots. When the 10 minutes is up, if there are still items to be discussed, there can be a “parking lot” (on a whiteboard – or if the meeting is virtual, as part of the minutes being taken). Those can be items for another meeting.
    3 – I also like to take the minutes with the agenda so that people know they’re being listened to (and either project on the screen in the conference room or in the zoom room). In some ways, I find this helps focus the conversation.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Agendas with time allocations are so key. I can’t write agendas any differently now. They’re life savers.

      1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

        Yep. The clock is neutral. It doesnt have any loyalties to question or hidden agendas — it’s just the clock. It’s not you wanting to move on from someone’s great story or pet project because you don’t like them or want to give another perosn more time. It’s just the clock following the agenda.

  23. ugh*

    #1 – I work with someone like this and it’s exhausting. She interrupts everyone constantly, and redirects all conversations back to her own personal issues, often oversharing details of her life again and again. Our manager hasn’t taken any action, so I’ve just given up on talking in team meetings. If you want your other employees to be able to participate, you gotta step in and talk to this person.

  24. WantonSeedStitch*

    When hiring people during times of change (which seems to be pretty much all the time lately), I’ve used both of the strategies Alison recommends, talking about the state of things as an intro to the question I ask: “With a lot of higher-level turnover happening lately and a big fundraising campaign ending–and the next one almost visible over the horizon–we’re seeing a lot of changes around here. Can you tell me about a time when changes outside your control affected your work, and how you responded to those changes?” Or maybe for someone who’s in a management role, “can you tell me about a time when you helped steer organizational changes in a direction that you felt was best for your team?”

  25. Generic Name*

    4. Your career exists to serve you. Not the other way around. If you need a break, and your finances can handle it, do it!! I’d much rather hire someone who told me that after dealing with a series of family health issues, you took time off to reset. I think now, more than ever, people recognize that health and family come first. And those that don’t, struggle to hire and retain staff.

    I had 2 recent examples at a recent job. One person suddenly had to leave a new job to become a full time caregiver to a family member. She was told she’d be welcomed back when the time came that she was able to work again. Another person was apparently struggling with some family stuff, but I guess tried to soldier through. They ended up dropping balls and then just quit with no notice. A resume gap would be better than that.

  26. MicroManagered*

    OP1 I couldn’t help but notice that you sounded a little critical of the lead in these meetings for not shutting down your chatty coworker, and then in the next sentence you say you are about to get promoted to a lead position and have no idea how you’d handle this.

    I understand the frustration with a coworker who routinely derails meetings and goes on long tangents, I really do, but I think it’s important for you to notice that… this kind of thing is hard to shut down! You don’t even know how you would do it! It’s tricky!

    So I guess my advice to you is to just… remember that. Be empathetic toward your leaders at work. It’s a really hard job that many of us have to figure out as we go, which is why this blog is so popular.

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

      I think OP is looking at it that the other team lead has more experience so they should know how to do it where they themselves are new. It’s common to think someone in a higher roll should know how to do something when in reality they can be stuck too, or that once you become a leader you realize that you don’t know how to do something or its not as easy as you thought it was.

      1. MicroManagered*

        Yes it’s really easy to complain that your boss (or someone in a leadership role) should just wave their wand to deal with something that annoys you… but reality is often far more complicated. I was inviting OP1 to begin thinking more like a leader and less about her individual concerns. :)

        1. OP1*

          Thanks I appreciate the feedback. It’s definitely a hard mentality shift and I really meant it more as “this person who’s been in this role for over a decade hasn’t done anything so what do I do?” Rather than blaming him. Like he’s a mentor to me so I don’t know what to do if I can’t use his example.

  27. Eldritch Office Worker*

    #1 – the problem I have with this is that the people who derail meetings the most often are usually my superiors. One will bowl over all my attempts to move the meeting along, another will chastise me afterwards for not shutting it down better. And I run a decent meeting! These dynamics can just get so tricky.

    You WILL have someone like this when you’re leading meetings, at some point. There are so many ramblers. You have good advice all around here, but I’d also work on not letting it get under your skin quite so much. It’s part of working with other people. Just build your toolbox to handle it – and when you have that toolbox, be willing to help another facilitator if it seems like they’re overwhelmed.

  28. irritable vowel*

    OP4 – I did something similar after my spouse died. I knew when I went out on leave that I wasn’t going to come back to the job, but I didn’t say anything until after he died and the time was nigh to let work know what my plans were for coming back. I did not return to work – I resigned while I was still out on leave. My boss was incredibly understanding and has subsequently given me a great reference. I had someone reporting to me at the time and I met her for coffee outside of work to let her know, and she was also very understanding. I had been wanting to move on from that job/career for some time, and the burnout on top of the trauma in my personal life really meant I needed to take some time off. If I had gone back to work, I feel like it would have been harder to leave once I got back into projects and stuff. Our HR was really helpful and supportive as well. I took a few months off and then there was a global pandemic, lol, so I ended up being out of the workforce for longer than I had envisioned but it all worked out in the end.

    1. irritable vowel*

      I’ll add that it’s so important to be kind to yourself during this time. As my therapist at the time said, “if you want to eat the cookie, eat the cookie” – this can apply to either small or big things. If you have a life insurance payment that will allow you to not work for a while, do it!

  29. BellyButton*

    OP#4, I am sorry for your loss. What you are thinking of doing is so common. Whatever caused someone to take FMLA is often major enough that they end up quitting their job as soon as they get back or even before coming back. I have seen it often, and I have never once thought “they took advantage!” never, not once. Maybe someone would who is selfish and lacks empathy, but I think most people understand. Good luck.

    1. I Have RBF*

      A person that I worked with went out on leave a couple months after I started. He managed to train me somewhat on one area of my job, then I suddenly had to take it all over. He was out for months, and then resigned.

      The best I can figure out, from what others said to me about working with him, is that he was extremely stressed and struggling with doing both the technical and the interpersonal aspects of that area, and was burned out. When I started taking some stuff over, it was like the rubber band finally relaxed a little and broke. I was glad he was able to get out of doing something that caused him a great deal of stress.

  30. Cora*

    For the ramblers – is there a polite way to literally interrupt them? The ramblers I know will talk continuously without even half a pause for me to say anything of the things Alison listed. I’ve had to take the moment they take a breadth to move the topic along sometimes.

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

      Don’t wait for a pause. Just talk over and say “sorry Debrah but we need to keep on task.”

      1. Kevin Sours*

        I prefer the phrasing “we need to get back to X”. I think it comes across as little less of a rebuke. But that could just be me.

        But yes, if you are leading a meeting you have standing to keep it on track. Polite really doesn’t come into it.

  31. Bookworm*

    #2: Thank you for asking this question. A lot of managers don’t ever consider that this is something that, at the very minimum, that this is something the employee should know.

    “Plus, people are often a lot less frustrated by this kind of thing when it was disclosed ahead of time and they knew they were signing up for it.” I think just straight-up acknowledging this + asking them about similar situations could really help.

  32. Casioninja*

    OP#1- I am a person like this but usually only when I have not taken my ADD medication. Personally, I don’t always realize I’m doing it, and appreciate someone (gently) redirecting me back to the meeting. Sometimes it’s also that I have had nothing else to contribute to the meeting so anything that I can pop in with feels amazing.

    Just wanted to try to give some perspective from the rambling side of things. Some of the suggestions other commenters had for keeping the meeting on track sounded really good.

  33. Royal Blue*

    #4, if you quit immediately upon returning from FMLA, your employer can require you to pay back the cost of company paid insurance while you were out. To avoid this, you would need to stay 30 days after returning before exiting the company. You might need to take this into consideration.

  34. Gigi*

    #1: There have definitely been times when I have been the rambler at the meeting. It’s a product of my ADHD – verbal processors with impaired executive function tend to go on tangents without realizing what they’re doing.
    Only now I’m the boss, so no one will interrupt me, which is bad. But I’ve come up with a few tricks, which maybe will help you.

    During a leadership training I took, the facilitator had several small stuffed animals. Participants could pass the owl to someone who had just said something they found useful or profound, for example. The stuffed pig was for someone who was “hogging all the air in the room.” No one ever had the guts to give someone the pig, but I did buy one to keep next to my monitor as a self check during virtual meetings. Everyone loves Rosie the pig. It’s a little cutesie for a lot of offices, but maybe you could suggest general cues people could use – flags or whatever – to both recognize and check people. This would help prompt self awareness for the talker without calling her out directly.
    If I’m talking one on one with someone, or maybe just a few people, and I know I’m processing something out, I start with “come on this journey with me.” Then they know that I do, in fact, have a point and it might take a second to get there.

    This is all predicated on how self-aware the talker is. But please don’t gossip or shame her. I would be mortified if I knew someone saying that I’m “so annoying” to anyone who would listen. I’d just stop talking altogether, which means you’ll miss a lot from this employee.

  35. Fun Police*

    I am pretty sure that I worked for #2’s company. These “glitches” weren’t little things that took a minimal amount of time to address during working hours. These were glaring issues that would be ignored and when they cropped up, the owner would just say “Well, nobody told me!”. Even though they had been told several times. It happened so often that you felt like you were slowly losing your sanity.
    Is it possible that the owner may think that these “glitches” only take up to three days, but when are those three days occurring? Is it on holidays? Is it outside of normal business hours? Are they consecutive three days? Are employees who aren’t the owner bombarded with questions or complaints while waiting for something to be fixed?
    These “glitches” also required everyone at a certain level to be ready to spring into action 24/7/365 to resolve. So, yeah, you had “help”, but that just meant multiple people were sacrificing their work life balance and their mental health…together! All the while the owner is blissfully unaware of what is occurring.
    You need to stop building the plane and just fly it. That is such a sorry way to describe your chaotic and toxic work environment. Formalize your processes and work on your communication. Yes, glitches and mistakes can happen, but it if you are losing staff over it, it is time to figure out why they are happening.

  36. Anna*

    For #4, you mentioned taking “a few months” not working. That’s such a short time that if you are thinking of coming back to the workforce after that time, I think it makes more sense to request an unpaid leave from your current employer, rather than resign and then potentially have to spend months job hunting and interviewing. They might say no, and decide that they really need to have the position filled in order to cover their workload, but based on what they’ve done so far, it seems like they value you and want to keep you in the role. Would you want to do that?

  37. Jules the 3rd*

    LW 2: Look for people with prior roles in food service, retail, and procurement. They would consider one ‘glitch’ per month to be heaven…

  38. Semi-retired admin*

    Re: LW#2, I’d also add what is the fallout from these glitches? Do they result in staying late to fix problems, or to compensate for the down time? If there’s a glitch on Tuesday, is will the person be expected to work until it’s resolved, regardless of any plans/appointments/commitments they may have after work? That is much different than just not being able to “go with the flow”.

    The job I recently left included doing a crucial report once a year. There were supporting documents that had to be date stamped on a very specific day. I was sure to really clearly state in my instructions for my successor that this is non-negotiable, and regardless of what happens during the day, there’s no going home until it’s done.

  39. Neurodivergents United*

    I have to say, this is the first time I’ve been curious if someone is writing in about me ;-) OP1, I have severe ADHD and while it’s medicated, that’s kind of hit or miss depending on what my brain is doing any given day.

    Fortunately my condition(s) are covered under the ADA, and I’ve been open with my teammates and supervisors about it.

    Sometimes I hear “Name, that’s not what we are talking about right now but I’m taking a note because I want to look at it later” and sometimes I hear “Meds not working today?” which is fine, because both are cues that I need to exercise the control I possess and can access in situations where I need to, and clue me in that the connections I’m making in my head are, in fact, not obvious to those around me.

    So yes. I can identify with your ‘rambler’ to whom sharing connected stories and infodumping is a valid way of showing empathy and socializing.

    Not everyone is comfortable disclosing who they are and the accommodations they need, but just because I’m not using visible mobility aids doesn’t mean my brain falls within standard parameters.

    Remember that when you interact with anyone in your life with those characteristics, ok? Because believe me, neurodivergent folks are keenly aware of our differences and how they can be perceived/mocked/hold us back when neurotypical folks don’t have the lens with which to view us.

    1. Willow Pillow*

      Thanks for saying this. The comments emphasizing that people doing this know they’re doing it and that they’re being rude frustrate me so much. This doesn’t mean LW’s team lead is neurodivergent or that they need to be treated with kid gloves. It doesn’t even mean anything should be done differently! Giving people the benefit of the doubt is a kinder and more productive stance.

    2. OP1*

      I’m pretty sure it’s not you based on your description of the situation. :) I think she’s mostly lonely because she moved to another state and lives alone and is our only fully remote team member. I’m trying to empathize while also staying on topic, and I don’t want to make anyone feel bad or anything but also want to make sure we’re not rushing through important business because Jane spent twenty minutes talking about the time she went to a steakhouse with the CEO of her former company.

    3. SB*

      Hello there fellow ADHD person. Always a fun time when people assume that neurodivergence is deliberate rudeness!!!

      I am also lucky that I have a team who will remind me when I am breaking my own rules & tell me that we need to stay on track & if there is time at the end we can come back to whatever tangent I went off on!!

  40. Anonymous was already taken*

    LW2: what would be frustrating for me in that situation is, if I said gosh it’s frutrawhen this happens and I think we could prevent it happening by doing X, but then that never happens because I’m too far down the food chain or the people who need to hear that or act on it aren’t listening. Whilst I’m fully able to deal with contingency management, the frustrating bit is if the powers that be are not willing to try something to stop it happening again. It sounds like in your business that is not the case and if a person were to put forward a suggestion that it would be at the very least, listened to and considered.

  41. Susan*

    For the ramblers, I’ve found it helpful to assign actual times to agenda items so everyone can see when we start to run behind (for example, Topic A – 10 minutes – 3:00 to 3:10). Then it’s easy to say to the rambler, “Sorry to interrupt, but if we’re going to get through everything we need to wrap up this agenda item in the next two minutes.”

  42. Vio*

    I found that once I’d gained the confidence to speak at meetings I would often comment with puns, anecdotes, questions and advice. Sometimes it was useful but I struggled (and occasionally still do) getting the balance right and recognising when it would be helpful and when it would be counterproductive. I’ve been lucky enough to work with people who have given constructive criticism and helped me to get a better balance.

  43. Yellow cake*

    LW4 – yes this will likely leave a bit of a bad taste, but if you are honest with them about taking a break then I think they will understand. It wouldn’t affect my reference if you approached it as – look clearly I’m not ok and I’m not able to do my job properly, I think it makes sense on both sides for me to resign. I really appreciate the support you’ve provided me, and I wanted to be back – but it isn’t working.

    However – if a month or so later I saw you’d taken a role with a competitor then I’d suspect that you were simply looking for a way to quit for another job without looking bad. Any understanding would evaporate.

  44. Nespresso Addict*

    I strongly endorse this approach based on my own experience going through a similar situation. Rather than resigning, why not contact your employer/HR before you’re due to return and let them know you are not going to be able to return on the scheduled date and would like to explore the possibility of extending your leave of absence on an unpaid basis. Worst case, they say no, and then you resign – but even if that happens you’re probably better off “optically” having handled it this way. Best case, they say yes and you get to take the additional time you need and still have the option of returning to work there.

  45. SB*

    LW1 – We have a rule in meetings; if it is not on the agenda it will not be discussed until all agenda items are addressed & only if we have time. If we do not have time then the item can be added to the agenda for the next meeting.

  46. Garriga*

    If you have a problem with her Rambling, tell her. Be assertive and professional.

    And venting about another coworker’s idiosyncrasies to other people in the organization is no a good idea. And in some cases can be seen as bullying and harassment.
    The person in charge of the meeting is responsible for allowing the rambler to ramble or not allowing the rambler to ramble. If he has an issue with the rambler who rambles, he will handle the issue.

    Good luck! Hope the rambler rambles on…

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