open thread – August 11-12, 2023

It’s the Friday open thread!

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

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

{ 837 comments… read them below }

  1. EngGirl*

    Advice for managing a direct report who is considerably older than you? I started a new job a few months ago and I have a direct report who is 30+ years my senior and who has been working at this company for about 15 years (which is more than double the amount of time I’ve been in the workforce at all). I’m also female in a very male dominated profession, and I’ve had an pretty massive industry shift with this job, so I am fully aware that this person vastly outweighs me in practical knowledge, and I acknowledge that to him regularly.

    I’m used to working with people directly out of school so there was always a relatively easy power dynamic there. I never really felt weird giving guidance or feedback because I had more knowledge and experience. Now I’m struggling with how to give feedback about things like professionalism to someone who is older than my parents. I have no problem asking him to do work a different way or giving him priorities,but I feel like I may offend him if I try to coach him on soft skills. I also struggle to relate on a professionally appropriate personal level because we’re at such different stages in our lives.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      It sounds like your anticipating a problem before it happens.

      I think you really need to just try what you would do if he was closer to your age.

      He may respond fine to that. If he doesn’t, as his manager, you’re well within your rights to take action. If that offends him, that’s on him, not you. You’re the one with the power in the situation.

    2. Two Dog Night*

      Honestly, try not to think about his age–treat him like a person. Do you have any non-work friends who are a good bit older than you? If not, it might be a good idea to make some–it will make you more comfortable dealing with people of various ages in any situation.

    3. Tio*

      I had to manage people who were older than me, who at least *should* have had more knowledge/experience. The key thing is to be direct and clear – “When you do X, I need you to Y.” Expect a lot of “I’ve never done it that way before” or “this was never a problem before” and be prepared to hold firm and tell them “This is the expectation for this role going forward. Will you be able to do that? Do you need anything from me to help you get it done?” If needed, and this must be carefully deployed based on circumstances, you can say something like “You do such a great job with Z I know you’ll be able to get this down, but let me know if you have problems with it.” You just need to be really careful on that to ensure hat 1. they are actually really great at Z and 2. they don’t take that to mean they’re so valuable they don’t need to do Y. But it works great on certain types. Tread carefully.

      Follow up is also important, because it solidifies that you are watching and that you’re willing to call them out if they’re dodging your expectations. You can’t let them slide because they’re a good performer. If you see the behavior you don’t like, call them in and use some of Alison’s “We talked about this and I’m still seeing it” scripts. Be ready to impose consequences.

      It feels weird because of your age, but in reality age has very little to do with it, and you have to act that way.

    4. Gondorff*

      Do you need to coach him on soft skills? Obviously if there’s an issue, as a manager it’s something you need to address, but do you just feel like you need to talk to him about professionalism/soft skills because it’s what you’re used to doing with folks straight out of school, or because it’s something that genuinely needs to change? That should determine how you proceed, because if it’s the latter, it’s exactly the same as addressing working in a different way, and you should couch it in similar terms.

      Also, stop acknowledging that he outweighs you in practical knowledge! The only thing you’re doing is undercutting yourself. You have the position you have for a reason; he’s in the position he’s in for a reason. Practical knowledge is clearly not the only factor.

      Finally, in terms of relating…again, do you need to? You don’t need to personally relate in order to be friendly and ask about his kids (or grandkids), or check in on how his day is going. Anything deeper than that will come organically (or it won’t! and that’s ok, too).

      1. Prospect Gone Bad*

        Just commented the same thing! Framing managing as “coaching soft skills” IMO is actually a way to set yourself up to fail. Learned that one early in my career. Few people are open to being called out for typos in emails or the occasional dumb comment in a meeting unless you’re offering meaningful-to-them coaching in other ways, such as technical training or fighting to get them onto better projects.

        but I don’t see what’s wrong in admitting someone has better skills than you? It’s literally obvious when you’re in the workplace, actually denying it would cause there to be a weird elephant in the room that doesn’t need to exist. For example, I manage someone who is better at python than me. I don’t pretend to know python better, just because. I publicly praise him for it and invite him to meetings where we might need python

        1. Gondorff*

          It depends entirely on the context. Admitting that you don’t know the answer to something and someone on your team does is great. Starting unrelated conversations with that acknowledge is unnecessary. To be clear, I’m not advocating for her to deny it, but there’s a difference between “routinely acknowledging” something and acknowledging it when relevant and then moving on.

      2. EngGirl*

        It’s definitely because he needs it, not just because I’m used to it. There have been some comments about it from others. Not in a “you need to work on this with him way” more in a kind of “yeah… that’s good old Fergus” way, and usually those comments are on things I’ve mentally flagged.

        I’m going to have to disagree with you on the acknowledgment of practical knowledge though! One of my former bosses did a horrible job with this when I was the one with practical knowledge which typically resulted in them making promises that my department couldn’t keep because they didn’t understand the issue they were talking about. They had a very “I am your boss so I obviously know more than you” attitude which resulted in lots of issues. I’m a firm believer that it’s ok to say when you don’t know something and ask for info/help from those below you on the org chart as long as I’m not passing the buck on my own work.

        1. Clisby*

          But everyone should expect that he’ll have more practical knowledge about the job than you, since he has twice the experience. I don’t think employers typically hire managers because they’re the most experienced SMEs – at least when I worked as a computer programmer, nobody thought our managers knew anything like as much as we did about actual programming. That wasn’t their job, so it would have been ridiculous for them to present themselves as experts on technical issues.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            I worked at a company where they promoted the most successful SMEs to management, which was also a disaster. On the upside, my manager always understood the technical issues I was struggling with. On the downside, they didn’t have management skills and most of them just wanted to go back to being individual contributors.

        2. Gondorff*

          But there’s a big difference between having an “I must know more than you” attitude and going out of your way to routinely acknowledge something. Asking for help in specific instances is great, and I would never advocate against that, but from your initial post, it sounds like you go out of your way to acknowledge it when it’s not necessarily relevant. And that’s what undercuts you, especially if it eats into the times when you’re trying to manage him on unrelated issues (such as those soft skills).

        3. Artemesia*

          You don’t do this by telling him you realize he has more expertise than you do; you do it by consulting him and following his advice on technical matters. The ‘acknowledging’ undercuts your authority; the listening and respecting expertise just makes you a competent manager. If there are specific soft skills that are creating problems, especially with clients or that verge on sexual harassment or racial insensitivity then tackle those as you would with anyone else. Let the little stuff go.

          1. Reluctant Mezzo*

            Yes, if you have a resource who Knows Things, use it! Maybe there’s a good reason they never did things that way before. Maybe it’s not valid any more, or maybe doing things differently will a) cause things to explode and/or b) miff off a major customer/vendor. Maybe the new way of doing things will make everybody happy, but the transition is going to be a booger. Transparency is a good thing.

      3. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

        I agree with Gondorff. You don’t need to prepare him for the working world the way you would with a recent graduate. Presumably he already knows and/or has built his career without the soft skills you think he lacks. Sometimes with tenure in a company, the older person has built up enough personal capital to maybe do away with some of the soft skills that a new hire or entry-level person would need to get established within the org or industry.

        It’s good to acknowledge that he has maybe more subject matter knowledge…maybe, his info might be outdated… but that still doesn’t mean he “outweighs” you. You should expect that you have org strategy/mission/politics info that outweighs his subject matter info.

      4. DrD*

        I disagree with the advice to stop acknowledging that he has more practical knowledge. He brings something you don’t, and failure to acknowledge that makes you look insecure and oblivious. Of course your role asks for something different, but that doesn’t mean the practical skills he has don’t matter. In a lot of cases, folks with a lot of practical experience want to do that; they don’t want your job. But they want what they know and do to be respected. You bring different things to the table, and there is nothing wrong with acknowledging it. Acknowledge what you bring too!

    5. Prospect Gone Bad*

      Why do you think you will have to coach someone on soft skills or professionalism? TBH I would avoid those topics unless someone does something egregious or that stunts their professional growth. Those aren’t really your focus as a manager unless you’re managing entry level people or interns.

      Your job should be to keep the department running, not police behavior to make people behave in very specific ways. Unless they’re doing something wrong. Of course, it depends on the industry. I just know I’d be loathed by the people I manage who are younger than me if I thought my job was to focus on those and not things like keeping wages competitive, keeping our software functioning, keeping processes working, smoothing out problems with other departments, raising “meta” complaints to my boss, etc.

      You should be mentally framing this as “great I have someone with experience I can leverage” and not view yourself as “above” them. When you talk with them, just do it as regular conversations. Ask them what they think, what they would do, if they would like to handle a problem or if you need to handle it. Stuff like that. Only bring up soft skills if he is tone deaf and does things like monopolizing every meeting. But you need to learn to overlook the occasional faux pas. Every single person, regardless of what they think, makes them.

      1. EngGirl*

        Your last paragraph is how I handle most things. I defer to his knowledge a lot, because he does know more than me. When it comes to the actual job functions I have no issues managing

        I’m not micromanaging his soft skills by any means, but there are some things that I do think are an issue and have lead to a less than great reputation for our department. Monopolizing a meeting is actually a really good example. If I’be called a meeting for issue X and it’s tangentially related to problem Y, Fergus will only want to talk about problem Y. I’ll bring it back to X repeatedly, but I think sometimes I let the Y conversation go on too long because I don’t know enough to know if he’s got a point that Y is very relevant to X.

        I guess maybe it’s less about age and more about experience level

        1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

          In this case, re the meeting, it might be good to find out from him how relevant it is. If its something you don’t necessarily anticipate, I do think it is okay to say, in the moment, “Unless there’s a direct correlation specifically with Problem X, before we derail much further let’s table that and perhaps set up a separate meeting so we can address those issues as well.” That gives him an opportunity to say, “Well because of Problem Y we can’t solve Problem X” if that’s actually the case.

        2. Ellis Bell*

          I would be matter of fact and treat it more like a discussion than an opportunity for coaching. “I called the meeting to talk about X but you kept coming back to Y. Is there something I’m overlooking about the connection between the two?” If you need him to get to the point of that connection faster, or stay on the topic of x, just communicate that. I think when people have more experience it’s less ‘coaching’ and more ‘communicating priorities’. You need the communication to flow both ways so that you can benefit from their experienced perspective though, so leave room for him to interject: “I keep thinking I need more A from you, but I want to be aware that there may be a reason you focus so much on B; what’s your take?”

        3. neuroanonymous*

          So, as someone who’s “good” at accidentally derailing meetings, one thing to think about: assuming Ferguson has had at least some good management in the past, the big difference between him and junior people with perhaps the same level of “soft skills” —he’s heard whatever you’re going to say before. (And obviously the issue still exists, so you can’t necessarily avoid it, but be ready to listen to his response.)

          For me, I’ve gotten about as good as I can get at reading the room; I am not trying to derail conversations, I just am not actually capable of understanding all the nuances of nonverbal communication. Managers that have helped have been the ones that listened, believed me, and said “so how can we change the dynamics of the meeting so that you can contribute better” rather than “just try harder at listening” because I already was trying my hardest, it just wasn’t working. I’m not saying Fergus has my issues, but that you’re unlikely to be pointing out the problem for the first time, whatever it is, and that’s a different story than someone who is new to the workplace/field/etc who might just need a quick redirection.

    6. Smithy*

      This isn’t specifically about age, but I do think can present itself as a tension between senior individual contributors and supervisors new to a specific management role is around long-term vision and strategy.

      For someone who’s been a long time senior individual contributor, taking individual directions from a supervisor – regardless of age or tenure isn’t often very difficult. Certainly some people are very set in their ways and are unhappy in having to go from blue pens to black pens, but provided that’s not the issue at hand – tension can build over time as they’re waiting for a new supervisor to share their team vision and for the individual contributors to see how they fit into that larger vision.

      If this team works on blue, yellow, and red works streams – and blue and yellow are going really well but red needs help, then it may be that individual contributors on blue and yellow will be expected to develop those strategies for your approval and then lead more independently whereas red should expect more collaborative work with you until certain achievements are met. Or maybe that’s what blue and yellow think should happen, but you see it differently and want to set up the team differently.

      Either way, whether it’s age or a difference in tenure – I think an area for tension to build over time between largely professional and accommodating senior individual contributors and new supervisors is when this kind of long-term vision is never articulated. Then people who are able of working largely independently feel like they’re waiting for an increased level of one-off sets of instructions and permissions as opposed to developing a longer-term strategy and work-plan with intermittent check-ins.

    7. Earlk*

      I’m female and I managed a man who had a son my age- I was very worried about it and it turned out to be no problem at all, I may have just got luck but it’s easy to build things up to be a bigger problem than they are before you actually start.

    8. Midwest Manager*

      I once managed someone who was not only the same age as my parents but also was my predecessor in the role I had taken on (they voluntarily stepped back from the role). I feel you on this.

      The best advice I can give for coaching soft skills is:
      – When you notice a problem, state the issue plainly “The email you sent to Bob yesterday was worded a bit tersely. Going forward, I need you to XXX”. Just as Tio said above, handle it very similarly to how you would any other employee.
      – Be careful about over-acknowledging their seniority and greater subject knowledge. You risk undermining your own authority by showing too much deference. They are less likely to respect your management and coaching if they think you are suffering imposter syndrome. You can interact with them as a resource for your own learning about the field, and build your relationship around that.
      – Remember that you were offered this role for a reason. You have something in your skillset that this person lacks (even if it’s simply the desire to be a manager/leader). Hold onto that, and don’t let this individual’s age/industry knowlege intimidate you into treating them differently.

      1. Clisby*

        Saying an email was worded a bit tersely seems like a wild micromanagement. So what if it was terse?

        1. Smithy*

          The original question was about managing soft skills – and I do think that if you’re hearing from someone that an email was worded tersely or too casually or something else to do with tone – then that is part of soft skill management.

          If the situation is one where the email was being sent to a client, the CEO, a junior colleague in their first week of training – a very “terse” email can have a tone of being rude, mean or otherwise not what a manager would want to see. Same with being too casual.

          However, when a supervisor is concerned that they’re not being listened to (i.e. because they’re a woman, because they’re young – etc.) – dismissing their observations and authority whether or not an issue is worth addressing I think is part of where these concerns come from. Particularly on soft skills.

    9. lost academic*

      Focus specifically (make a list!) on what you can and can’t, should and shouldn’t be managing with respect to him. Not every direct report will get the same specific management, but there are things that are pretty universal based on your setup (like, if you’re in charge of approving timesheets, expense reports, things that are more administrative in nature) and some that aren’t (ensuring that the team is working well together and fairly, that everyone is getting the right level of support to succeed in both what they were hired to do and where they want to go in their career). It’s easy with any kind of direct report to swing to extremes – being too hands off or too focused. Keep notes and goals for your management and it’ll help.

    10. PerraFortunata*

      Hi, I can see why you wonder about this. But, us humans are about the same people we always were!
      I’m in my sixties, still working, have friends in their twenties and thirties and all decades.
      Sounds like you’re doing a great job respecting your team member. I think you’ve got the gist! Trust yourself and keep going! ❤️

      1. Not Australian*

        Yes. Just coming here to say that the older a worker becomes, the more used they are to taking direction from someone younger. Our lives all take very different trajectories and we prioritise different things at different times, which generally leads to very random selections of age and experience in any given workplace. You just work with what you have, rather than thinking about what could, should or might have been in other circumstances. Treat every individual with respect and you won’t go far wrong.

    11. The YM (Younger Manager)*

      I supervise multiple people with that kind of age gap because I work in a field where most people actually prefer to stay as SMEs / individual contributors their entire career.

      If you feel like it’s an issue, it’s going to put the issue into the room. Treat it like a nonissue and if they have a capable sense of professionalism, they will as well.

      I also always triangulate the performance plan / project into the conversations and get as specific as possible about what I need as them. It’s not about “being more professional” it’s about “When working this shared inbox, the expectation for everyone on the team is that we use these salutations / reply within 24 hours / whatever your metrics may be”

      On times that I’ve had to coach on issues, such as wanting work done a different way, I just stick to the facts. I’ve had team members try to plead out with “I’ve never done it this way, it’s faster if I do it my way” type replies, and I just cheerfully respond “The time isn’t the focus here, I’m not worried about how long it takes. It’s about trying this process” And then once they get the hang of it and it comes back to time, we can easily switch over to “Great, now that you’ve got the hang of it, the expectation is….” etc. etc.

      1. DrD*

        First, I want to acknowledge that I’m coming at this differently. My partner and I are both highly educated SMEs in very different fields (think higher Ed and medicine) but they’re similar fields in that most folks want to remain SMEs rather than managers. We’ve both seen disasters come from managers that do not have the subject matter / technical knowledge. From that perspective, a lot of the recommendations including the one to disregard concerns about efficiency with “I’m not concerned about how long it takes; moving forwards…” are shortsighted and tone-deaf. Maybe OP is dealing with an incompetent team member, or simply a very different situation, but in so many cases, acknowledging what you don’t bring to the table makes for better management.

        1. H.P.S.*

          Hello Dr D – Very insightful. From my mid-twenties until my early fifties I managed a woman who was 20+ years older than I was. (I am a male in a female dominated profession.) She was highly skilled and highly productive, but had next to no “soft skills”; and was set in her ways. I channeled her work to concentrate on her efficiency and productivity taking on communication and others matters myself that others in her position did or might be expected to do. She retired at age 75. H.

    12. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      So, somewhat related, I had to manage someone who, at one point in time, had actually beaten ME out for a promotion. (Shortly after she got that role, a parallel role opened which I got and we were peers; years later when our boss was promoted, I ended up getting that job over her.) The dynamic was definitely tricky, and I knew the reasons I got the job over her had to do with some of that. I also knew, the reasons she had gotten the job all those years ago over me was her technical expertise. LEAN INTO THIS with your interactions. If you make a point of giving him the latitude he deserves from a technical standpoint and don’t micromanage that piece of it, that will go a long way.

      As it turned out, she and I ended up having a good working relationship – better, actually, than when we were peers. Funny enough, we actually had a GREAT working relationship when she was briefly my boss, because she treated me in the same way I treated her with regard to respect for each other’s technical knowledge. We had very different management styles in general which is why we tended to clash as peers.

    13. Harper*

      Remember that technical skills and management skills are completely different. Your report might be brilliant technically, but he may struggle in some of the areas where you excel, and you can develop his skills in those areas. And keep in mind that a lot of people who are really good at “doing” sometimes hate managing. He may be relieved that you’re in that role, and happy to hand the reins to you. Get into the mindset that you’re managing the work, not doing the work. Your focus areas should be: is the team, and the individuals on the team, meeting their goals and deadlines? Are they doing it with accuracy? What roadblocks can I remove for them? What support do they need from me? How can I better leverage their talents for their benefit and the benefit of the company?

    14. Baron*

      I think there’s a school of thought that being the manager is the brass ring you get to grasp for being the person who knows the most and has the most wisdom to impart to their underlings, and that you might be buying into that a little bit. I’m in a similar situation to yours—hired to lead a nonprofit, and my second-in-command is both 20+ years my senior and knows *everything* about this place and our field while I know comparatively little. But that doesn’t mean I can’t manage her, or lead the organization. It’s just a different job.

      (Note, I’m a middle-aged man managing an older-than-me woman, and I get that that’s in many important ways a much, much different dynamic from a younger woman managing an older man.)

    15. So they all cheap-ass rolled over and one fell out*

      I was a senior engineer reporting to a manager with less experience and tenure (and years on earth) than me.

      First, I assume that he doesn’t want to be a manager, otherwise he would be already. So he shouldn’t be resentful or easily offended by getting direction from a less-senior manager. Given his experience he’s probably reported to more than one manager with less experience already.

      Second, I would recommend a perspective not of command, but of asymmetric information. He has a lot of information on the practical aspects of your company’s product or service. You presumably go to meetings with higher-ups and get to know the projects in the pipeline and the priorities thereof.

      As far as soft skills, I have to admit, if it were me I may or may not be open (or able) to changing the way I do that kind of stuff. That said, it can be helpful to get outside perspective sometimes. Kind of like how your voice sounds different to yourself vs. when you hear it recorded and how other people hear it.

    16. ina*

      This perspective makes me think you should try and see if there aren’t management support courses your org offers. You’re making problems where there are not and you’re not giving your direct report any benefit of the doubt or goodwill. He’s been there 15 yrs – if he wanted your job, he could have had it. Some people don’t want to be the boss and just wanna do their assigned work and go.

      Also, does he need coaching on soft skills? I feel like you’re over-managing and you’re nervousness in managing someone older than you makes me, just reading this, uncomfortable because you might tank this relationship before it’s even there. This is your primary job as a manager: “I have no problem asking him to do work a different way or giving him priorities” and you have no issue doing it. You don’t need to relate on a personal level – you need to be kind and decent and treat him like a normal person. Cross bridges when you come to them.

    17. Thunder Kitten*

      Is he showing overt signs that he doesnt respect your authority or comments ? I’m not sure whether your struggle is internal as far as making yourself feel comfortable, or external – he scoffs at your statements, etc.

  2. Collie*

    I’m not currently actively job searching but do from time to time and undoubtedly will in the future. However — I find the idea of PTO accrual dropping back down to the minimum pretty demoralizing to the point where I can see myself sticking around a workplace I dislike for longer than I should just to avoid going back to fewer hours accrued for however many years.

    I’m in a field (public libraries) where any type of negotiation including around PTO is uncommon and in many cases impossible — particularly when I already earn far above higher than average in the field due to location (though even adjusted for COL, it’s usually a good bit more than the average).

    So, how do I get over this and prepare myself to eventually take that hit in the name of achieving other career goals/compensation? Is it just convincing myself a little more $ outweighs PTO time and eventually I’ll accrue at a higher rate again? If it’s not obvious, I live in the US.

    1. OrdinaryJoe*

      I struggled with the same thing and held on to a job longer then I should have for this exact same reason! Other changes besides money finally pushed me over the edge …

      Maybe focus on those other goals that you are trying to accomplish. Just like going back to school for a masters or changing careers, if the Other Goal is worth the sacrifice, you know you just need to make those (short term) sacrifices to achieve your long term goals. It’s hard though and sucked for a couple of years only having two weeks vacation after having four weeks :-)

    2. Hlao-roo*

      how do I get over this and prepare myself to eventually take that hit in the name of achieving other career goals/compensation?

      I suggest taking some time (now or during a future job search) to think about what your values in life are. There are some formal exercises for this (you can find them online) or you can just do it on your own (sit and think, journal, go for a walk while you ponder, etc.). If you feel that career goals/compensation outweigh the amount of vacation time you will lose, then whenever you feel sad about losing the vacation time, remind yourself of the gains (climbing the career ladder, taking on new challenges, whatever you’re spending the extra money on, etc.). If you don’t feel like the trade-off is worth it, there’s nothing wrong with deciding to stay in your current job because you value your vacation time more than career goals/higher salary/etc.

      In a different vein, is it at all possible to negotiate for unpaid leave? Would you be willing to start a new job for $X more than your current salary, two weeks of paid vacation, plus one week of unpaid leave? Maybe not possible, maybe possible but something you’re uninterested in, just thought I’d throw the idea out there in case it’s feasible (for you and the library).

      1. The New Wanderer*

        A similar option, not sure if it’s relevant to your field, is to see whether they offer comp/credit time – work extra hours that you can bank and take off later.

        I went from a job with a really good amount of PTO (for the US) to one that has almost 2 weeks less per year to start (non-negotiable, I tried). The only way it could work for me was to be able to take unpaid leave and/or credited leave up to the level I had previously enjoyed. Technically I could borrow ahead against future leave accrual as well, but I would still end up using unpaid/credit hours anyway. Salary was a small bump and benefits were roughly equal, but the limited vacation period ends after three years and after that, I’ll be almost as satisfied as I was before about the leave and far more satisfied job-wise.

      2. Iselle*

        Yes, it’s YOUR decision what tradeoffs are worthwhile! Right now I’m staying in a job that’s a step down for me because of the flexibility to travel to take care of my mother when needed.

    3. EngGirl*

      As someone who recently dealt with this, for me it was about weighing pros and cons of the new opportunity vs my current job. Was I going to take a PTO hit? Yup! Was the pay way better? Also yes. It also seemed like I’d be moving into an environment that would be better for my mental health, so my quality of life would go up even with fewer PTO days.

      It’s also worth asking about total time off and looking at how they structure that. My new job had a couple of additional holidays and they had separate sick and personal banks, so it came out to be almost a wash. It sucks that I have to go another 5 years before I’m bumped up to more vacation to get me at the level I was at, but I think it’s worth it. Now if I had like 25 days and was going back down to 10 it may not have been enough lol.

    4. Cyborg Llama Horde*

      Do enough research to make sure you actually ARE going to take a PTO hit. I stayed in my last job too long for exactly this reason, but after I got laid off during COVID, I wound up in a role with slightly more PTO.

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        Yes! I can’t speak for all municipalities, but it is not uncommon for different sectors of government to have reciprocity agreements with one another when it comes to time and attendance or benefits. You may actually be able to pick up where you are leaving off, or close to it, depending on the circumstances.

        1. Collie*

          Ooh, that’s an interesting concept — the systems around here have a patron reciprocity agreement and now I’m wondering if it sort of extends to staff in that way, too (though I have found they’ve been unwilling to match salary even for steps up in roles). Thanks!

    5. Stephanie*

      If you can afford to take time off between jobs, that might help with the vacation hit. But I just remind yourself that vacation isn’t the *only* reason you’re leaving this job and that in the long, it will hopefully be worth it. But I get what you mean! I have an overseas trip planned in November and am actively job searching. I’ve resigned myself that I may need to cancel it (I used airline miles, so the flight is 100% refundable) if I have a new job and not enough vacation. But I also am very ready to switch roles and am willing to take that hit.

      Also, my current job does use or lose and grants you all your vacation if you start before June 30 or half of it if you start after June 30. Not everyone necessarily does accruals.

      1. Texan In Exile*

        I planned a trip while interviewing and was able to take it after starting the new job. I asked, “Would you like me to start after this vacation I already planned/paid for? Or I can take the time off unpaid with you?”

        They just let me take the time and paid me anyhow. :) (“It’s too hard to work with payroll to not pay you.”)

    6. Generic Name*

      I mean, you won’t know that you’ll have to give up PTO until you start applying for jobs and seeing what benefits they offer. I’m leaving a role where I have 4 weeks of vacation plus hundreds of hours of accrued sick time. I have a flat 4 weeks of PTO (combined sick/vacation leave) at my soon to be new job. I’m not super happy about that, but I’m getting such a massive pay raise that if I need to take unpaid leave, it will be do-able. Companies offer more vacation with tenure as a retention policy.

    7. librariesrock*

      I work in US libraries too and have the same type of problem, except mine is related to salary (I’m in an awkward position of making significantly above the average for someone at my career level, in my geographic location) and wanting to progress my career but needing to take a salary cut in order to do so.
      I’ve dealt with it in a variety of ways:
      -sought out therapy to deal with the emotions & anxiety around this issue; I lucked out in that my therapist had a first career as a recruiter, so she understood some of the implications of what I wanted beyond just helping me deal with the emotional aspect of it;
      -continuous assessment of what my needs vs. wants are (career-wise) and have found that I waiver on making something a ‘want’ vs. a ‘need’ depending on what’s happening with my employer at that specific point, and that has helped a lot with identifying what I really want to accomplish professionally;
      -seeking out ways to increase my professional skills–within my current position–to make myself more attractive & employable to the positions that pay what I need to make (this came about specifically out of feedback I got from interviews where I didn’t receive a job offer).

    8. AnonAcademicLibrarian*

      So, I gave up a lot of PTO when I took my current job and PTO was not negotiable. However, I got a raise, got to move to an area I wanted to be in, and got a promotion out of it. Do I miss my 25 vacation days? (Oh yes, I do!) However, I also realize that this was the cost of the other things I wanted, so I was willing to make that shift. Plus, nearly five years in, next year I’ll be accruing at the higher rate and five years just isn’t that long. My work is also cool with unpaid leave, as long as you get approval ahead of time. My point is, the only way to decide you can do this, is that the other things you’re getting are worth it to you. You’re the only person who can answer that question.

    9. Loopy*

      Consider if they had a way to build up “comp time” if that would help alleviate the initial loss. Yes it’s not as much of a benefit because eits hours you works, but having a comp time bank will at least allow you more wiggle room to make plans.

      My company allows us to keep a bank of up to 40 hours and it’s a godsend to have the option.

    10. LuckyClover*

      I can sympathize. I went from the foundation side of a University to the Stateside and got booted down to the first tier of PTO accrual – because foundation didn’t count towards their years of service. I lost 5 days in the process, but was able to leverage that loss into a starting salary towards the top of the hiring range. I make more than or close to the same as colleagues who have been here longer for that reason, which I guess counts for something.

      I am bummed about the vacation, but ultimately it was the only way for me to get salary mobility, union representation, and a pension sooo I try to keep my focus on those parts. The change was good for me for work / life balance as well.

    11. SpaceySteph*

      Many workplaces allow you to go negative on vacation, so that can help if you have things you need to take off for (kids school breaks, personal errands, etc), and other than that I’d say try to time your job change for a time of year you don’t usually vacation anyway. That could be a busy season at work, a good weather season where you don’t need to get away from home/can staycation one weekend, away from any major holidays you celebrate, etc. Then you can build up enough vacation to handle those items a few months later.

      Maybe plan yourself a good vacation for when you do have the time accrued and it can be your something to look forward to?

      Do you get a separate sick leave bucket? I changed jobs last year and my whole family totally got covid 4 weeks into the job. Thankfully none of us were particularly sick, but since I didn’t have any childcare I also couldn’t get much work done in a house with 3 kids all going stir crazy from being quarantined. I was lucky I had the sick time to fall back on so there wasn’t a big hit to my minimal accrued PTO.

    12. GythaOgden*

      I have to admit I’m feeling the same. I’m hoping to be at the point in September where I can stay on within the public sector, but for me, while it’s not regularly the case that we accrue holiday (in the UK), it’s more than number of days we get here in the public sector compared to what’s given in the private sector, and the generous paid sick leave that you don’t tend to get in the private sector.

      It means that I’m looking elsewhere in the NHS/public sector and can afford to be picky. There’s nothing really wrong with the job I have, but I don’t get to do much, it’s being eroded by management being weird and while there’s a promise of me being trained on some crunchier admin systems, that seems to be a low priority at the moment. I’m not sure how much longer I can hold out, but even just quitting would still require me to work out a month’s notice, so I am just treading water until everyone is back from their summer holiday and they can start coming good on those promises.

      If I quit I still have money — lots of it due to a legacy and my husband having the incredible foresight to take out two life insurance policies — but I’d like to have a solid income and some occupation. I do best when I’m engaged and occupied; I’m not looking for huge amounts of money but the public sector does give generous amounts of time off and sick pay in return for taking a hit on salary, which is good when you have the sort of struggles with stamina that I do. I just want to do more with my brain than I’m doing now, so sticking it out so that I’m still working with people who know me and are generally personally supportive but more actively working rather than just sat on reception reading AAM and TV Tropes would be the best possible outcome ever.

  3. New Mom*

    I posted here last week about trying to get out of working in advertising, which is not my passion. My manager unexpectedly followed up with me saying that she’d be willing to look around for me outside of ads!

    At first I was terrified that maybe she reads this blog?! She really is a good manager, so it wouldn’t surprise me. But then I found out that my company was doing a 10% layoff which I’ve apparently survived, so there might be more room to move around.

    So Dr. B., if you’re reading this, sorry for posting during work hours ;)

  4. Professor Plum*

    I heard an excellent podcast on grief in the workplace this week. The podcast is On with Kara Shwishet. The episode is Esther Perel on Grief — In Memory of Blakeney Schick. Blakeney was a producer on their team who died unexpectedly at a young age. We’ve seen examples here at AAM of some very unhelpful ways to deal with grief in the workplace—this is filled with helpful thoughts and ideas.

    1. I gave Barbie the color pink*

      I listened to this one, too. It was helpful to me. Although I haven’t lost co-workers to death, we recently lost the majority of our team members to resignation and while not death, those of us left behind are going through our own grieving process.

    2. Lucy P*

      Thank you for sharing this. We lost a long time coworker just last month. We’ve all handled it well despite the unexpectedness of it. The first week of mourning, coupled with having to deal with the HR side of it, was awful. Good to know there are helpful resources.

  5. WellRed*

    Oh the irony! If Zoom is calling employees back to the office not sure if there’s hope for other employees of large corporations to WFH.

    1. Collie*

      Biden just called for federal government workers to get back in person, too. DMV traffic is only slightly better than pre-pandemic…I can hardly wait to see how much worse it gets in the coming months with this change. And Amazon joining the area with their new HQ soon.

      Too bad companies can’t leave well enough alone.

      1. DMV hater*

        If I could leave this wretched state, I’d be out of here in a heartbeat. Crap pay, crap traffic, crap politicians working to strip us of our human rights, crap high cost of living, crap Amazon HQ, the list goes on

        1. Audiophile*

          I’m in a role that might necessitate relocating from NY to the DMV area. I’m really hoping I find something else before that conversation even has to happen.

    2. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      That’s a bummer because WFH is so helpful when you’re sick but not so sick you need to call off work or when you have to go to the doctor but it’s not going to take the whole day

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        This is why I am so heavily in favor of hybrid as a solution in these circumstances. My role is in person, but I have the ability to work from home as needed for special circumstances such as exactly those scenarios (or, say, when I had a Peloton* delivered in June, ha ha!)

        *As it so happens, my boss is a proud member of the Peloton cult as well and she was SO EXCITED I finally bit the bullet from DIY to “the real thing” she was more than happy to approve my wfh request that day.

      2. Whomst*

        I work in tech, so this could be specific to that field, but every company that I’ve seen that is “we work in-office” is actually still really open to flexibly working from home, just not on a permanent schedule. Oh, you’re sick? Work from home. Sick kid? Work from home. Got a plumber coming over some time between 10 and 2? Work from home. At this point, whenever a tech company says that they’re fully in-person, I kinda just assume that if they have reasonable management there will actually be some opportunity to work from home, for the very reasons that you mentioned.

    3. MissGirl*

      It really depends. I think Zoom is doing this as a quiet layoff. They over-hired (like a lot of tech companies) and didn’t properly account for the inevitable drop in business post-C0vid. This is an easy way to look like they’re doing something without looking like they’re laying people off.

      1. Prospect Gone Bad*

        “it depends” is correct. Some people are great or the same as usual while WFH. But last month I covered some tasks for a less experienced person and was cringing at how cumbersome their processes (or lack thereof) were. That’s the type of stuff I’d catch working in the office and TBH ocassionally glancing over at them. Or even if they are behind a cube wall, they’d mindlessly talk and you could pick up what they were doing and start questioning why some things were inefficient. It would have been nice if they had asked for help or thought outside the box and wondered if their “4 hour” task could take an hour. But they didn’t ask those questions. These type of things come up naturally in the office when you can observe people more. So maybe it’s an experienced vs. inexperienced thing, or working in an industry where processes can be improved

      2. Ama*

        This is my theory, too. Especially because they are saying it goes for anyone within 50 miles of the office. It seems designed to get a bunch of people to voluntarily quit.

        1. Peter*

          Just FYI Zoom’s layoffs are not really quiet, at least not the ones in Feb. https://abc7.com/zoom-layoffs-2023-tech-companies-in/12782118/

          And on companies requiring people to come back into the office generally, I wonder how much of their investment portfolio is in real estate, such that it is beyond just their office leases which are causing them to have an economic incentive to require workers to be in office.

          1. Green beans*

            I don’t know how much of it is real estate, as it is the very real impact of remote work. a study just got published showing a drop on productivity with remote work & frankly, you can see a difference in coworker relationships at my company with people who come in regularly vs those who don’t. That isn’t incidental – building those relationships has significantly benefited me (and my teammates, who are absolutely allowed to ask me to use those relationships for them.) it also makes it easier to do a bunch of little things that really add up – I almost never message my department head but when she’s in I usually have three or four questions that pop up that she can answer, or updates I can give her directly. some really useful stuff comes out of those interactions (and she can work from home when she doesn’t want to be disturbed as much.)

            I really like a hybrid model when possible – people get to work from home enough to feel the benefits but also come in enough to feel like part of a team.

    4. TeenieBopper*

      Which is good for small to medium employers who will use remote/hybrid work as a recruiting tool.

      I really think there was a paradigm shift that was accelerated due to COVID that is going to result in workers having more power. Not only was there a shift in perspective of workers, but it also accelerated the retirement of mid and late Boomers. For the past 20 years, companies have had the two largest generations in American history in the work force simultaneously. That’s not really going to be the case anymore. They’re going to have to adjust to fewer workers who want more (money, PTO, flexibility, freedom).

      Also, be skeptical of every company who wants to bring people back to the office. The company never has been and never will be your friend.

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        Unfortunately, for those of us in government, it has a lot to do with public distrust of government workers in general. I have private sector friends who are *100 percent remote* say that BUT OF COURSE YOU need to be in the office! And then quickly, “Well I don’t mean you personally of course because I know YOU have a good work ethic.” To which I want to respond, what makes you think that is the exception and not the rule?

        1. Frickityfrack*

          Even some of my fellow (older, more entrenched/change-averse) government coworkers seem to have that view. I asked them how much they got done when they were at home and they said oh tons of work. I asked if they thought I didn’t do anything when I worked from home (at a different, though also government, job) and they said oh of course not, it’s not *you* we have doubts about.

          Like, why do you think we’re the only handful of people capable of getting things done at home? It’s such a weird viewpoint.

          1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

            Oh, yes, this. One in particular was like, “If I hear one more dish being washed during a conference call…” and I was thinking, why on earth do you care? WFH days are 100 percent laundry days for me! (For example.)

        2. Irish Teacher*

          And that also assumes that managers can’t manage while people are working remotely. Not that government workers are more likely than anybody else to take advantage of lack of oversight, but less oversight isn’t a given anyway.

          I correct the state exams which has always been remote (as is probably obvious). There has always been way more oversight on that than I have ever had while teaching (even as a student teacher) despite the fact that the latter is in person. This year, we started correcting online, instead of collecting the physical papers and that has increased the oversight even more greatly (to the point that the Chief Advising Examiner jokingly reassured us that she was not planning to be Big Brother).

          In the old days, you would have to call your advising examiner after each 100 papers you’d corrected and they would then ask for some at random to monitor. Now, they can see everything we do, when we log in, how many papers we correct, how long we spend correcting, they can check any paper they wish to…

          A principal would have to be sitting in my classroom all day to have a similar level of insight into what I do.

          Somebody who can’t be trusted to work from home can’t really be trusted in the office either, especially in a lot of office jobs where a person could be sitting at their desk or in their office, scrolling AAM or playing solitare or something. And I think we’ve had letters here about people who assured their boss they were working on a particular project and when asked to see it, turned out to have little done.

          Of course it is going to differ by role, but being in the office doesn’t necessarily mean easier to supervise and working from home doesn’t mean little or no supervision.

    5. Teapot Wrangler*

      I think they want people in the office 2 days per week – as most places are hybrid this isn’t as huge as it seems to be being made out IMO.
      People who live further from the office not being called back too. I assume most people are in 2/3 days a week unless I hear otherwise

    6. Stephanie*

      Interestingly enough, I’ve seen my job (at a MegaCorp) posted as fully remote. But we also travel 50 – 75%, so I think they just gave up on trying to make us come into the office that one day a week. Other teams that don’t travel as much are definitely getting “gentle” pressure to come in a couple of days a week.

      1. new year, new name*

        Yeah, we have a requirement to be in a certain number of days per month, but if you are traveling or at off-site meetings that counts. I guess they figure we are collaborating in person with SOMEONE (or at least not at home in our pajamas) and that’s good enough.

    7. Yes And*

      I dunno. Commercial real estate is still in the cellar – they can’t give office space away. If WFH were truly coming to an end economy-wide, wouldn’t corporations be reclaiming their office space?

    8. Sleepy in the stacks*

      Upon further investigation (because I was curious and surprised thinking they’d be fully in person), they’re not 100% returning to the office. It is a hybrid model where employees who live close to an office WFH 3 days and go in for 2 days a week.

    9. Nancy*

      They are asking local employees to work in the office twice a week. A hybrid model that is very common across many industries and allows people to still WFH part of the week.

    10. Lynne879*

      …But why. Literally what is the point for ZOOM employees of all people to go back into the office.

  6. Changing Fields*

    I am looking to change careers from healthcare to something like workers’ compensation, short or long term disability, or professional liability insurance. Is it worth it to get a LOMA Level 1 certificate? I would prefer to go into underwriting, although plan to apply for adjuster positions as well. Would a LOMA certificate strengthen my application or is it an unnecessary expense?

    1. An Australian In London*

      I can’t speak to the industry specifically so all I have are some general tips.

      Do job ads for junior underwriter and adjuster positions typically require LOMA Level 1 or suggest it is an advantage? Do you have any sense of what number of people in those roles (or the next one up in seniority) tend to have this certificate? That might be a great thing to (politely) ask some companies in the field.

      I often say that many job applications especially for junior roles are like an Olympic 50m sprint: the different between gold and silver might be measured in hundredths of a second. Anything that helps one stand out even slightly – relevant certifications and professional society memberships – can be the tie-breaker and reason to pick us rather than any of the other basically equivalent other top 5.

    2. ChatGPT*

      It would give you a leg up, although insurance companies are so starved for talent or even interest that it might not matter. I think it could give you salary negotiating leverage though. And at the very least it could help you decide what area to go in to. Also look into the INS21, 22, 23 series from the Insurance Institute, or the Associate in Insurance which I believe is more entry level. They also run the CPCU and CLU programs and might be more well recognized – look at what employers reference in your locality. I’m in the Northeast and The Institute courses were widely acknowledged as the gold standard, might be different out West, say. In 30 years I had never heard of the LOMA courses but that’s certainly not to say that can’t be high quality.
      As for specialization, do put some thought into what AI will be doing/has been doing to different job functions. 30 years ago there were desks full of personal lines UW’s and now they are as rare as an Ivory Billed Woodpecker. Turns out a computer makes better decisions -in the aggregate- than an individual who cannot possibly aggregate all of the data points accurately. It was pretty easy to automate that even without high powered computing since it is a pretty homogenous pool of risks. Companies found that having an individual in the loop actually subtracted value. Same thing has been happening in small (commercial) lines where the data can be aggregated and the black box makes the underwriting and pricing decision. There is still an underwriter to talk to, but often they are there to manage the relationship with the broker and apologize that they can’t override what the underwriting model came up with. So one underwriter can handle vastly more today than one 15 years ago. Only where the premiums get above $100,000 per line do underwriters have more input and authority, although with the associated pain of a home office referral to justify their decision. I seriously had more authority at age 25 than some of the senior level underwriters do today. If you were seen as knowledgeable and sharp and motivated, it’s certainly possible that you could be hired on as a trainee in larger commercial lines and learn on the job.

      A large part of my job as an underwriter and later as a broker was to gather data and then analyze it and I always wondered right from the start of my career why computers weren’t doing a lot of my job. We always seemed to be 10 years behind the curve technology wise as most carriers are tight with money and kept running legacy systems well beyond their useful life. Now that computing power is much cheaper and true AI is finally here, expect things to take a huge leap forward.

      Areas that can’t be as easily automated are those dealing with people directly – Work Comp claims, nurse case manager, loss control and engineering, large casualty claims.
      Look into contacting a professional society locally – those are populated with loads of professionals from all areas of focus and you could probably offer to buy someone a cup of coffee to get the lay of the land locally and even referrals to hiring managers. Look at larger brokers too for jobs – they have similar positions (we had our own claims and loss control folks for instance to better advocate for our clients) and larger ones are able and willing to train.
      I hope I don’t come off too negative, but just be aware (as with most fields right now) that the way things have been for the past 20 years is not how they are going to look going forward – the roles will be different (and likely fewer) and the tools will be more powerful. Plenty of opportunity for someone who puts forth the effort that you do. Good luck!

  7. Flak Jacket*

    Not a question, just looking for camaraderie.

    I’ve been having performance conversations with my direct report for about a year. Recently, I let him know we were going to put him on a PIP. The news was not surprising (I confirmed), but he disagreed with my year-end assessment and he began ticking off examples of what he did right and why it wasn’t his fault that something was a problem — or that I was misrepresenting the issue to make him look bad. (He said this more neutrally, but I get the definite impression that he thinks I’m picking on him). It’s not uncommon for him to push back on feedback. The issue is that a very large part of our job is to present and package products in the best light. So if you’re a Llama Groomer and a llama has cut themselves on a fence, you may not shave that area to avoid irritation or making it worse. He will either shave that area because it’s his job or he may try to put a bandaid on it, getting said bandaid stuck in the fur and making the situation worse. In all cases, the cut wasn’t his fault, but his response to it was uniquely flawed to the point that I have concerns about his ability to do his job. We will usually have an extensive dialog about how to handle it in the future, which is not always applied to next time. While he genuinely wants to do better at his job, after our recent conversation, it is becoming increasingly clear that he is not able to understand the nuances of the job. If I’m being honest, I do not think he will be successful with the PIP. I’m not hoping he fails, I just don’t think he’s capable of understanding what is needed and the next couple of months are going to be a lot more conversations that aren’t as productive as they’re meant to be. 

    1. NotBatman*

      I feel like Ask A Manager is full of examples of employees whose response to being told “don’t do that anymore” is infinitely more revelatory than their decision to do whichever thing in the first place. The recycling re-sorter, the rude jokes person, the one who complained their boss is “bossy,” so on. They all turned what could have been a minor error into a major sign they don’t fit in this workplace, through refusing to take feedback.

    2. Someone Else's Boss*

      Are you ever in a position to include a third party in these conversations? Although it does make employees uneasy, sometimes including HR in these performance conversations can be helpful. When I have a direct report who doesn’t seem to be on my same page, I usually start by naming the problem. For example, “Although you didn’t cause the cut in Llama Henry, you also did not follow our best practices around llama face cuts. We’ve discussed this a few times, and I’ve also asked you to review the manual for llama cut protocol. Do you understand what steps you should take if a llama has a cut?” And then sit in silence and wait for a response. It’s hard and awkward, but super important when you truly want the other person to think things through. If his response doesn’t get you on the same page, name it again. “You were right when you said our best practice is to treat the cut and not shave the face, and yet you shaved the face of Llama Henry. Can you explain why you didn’t follow best practices in that case?” I also like to end the conversation by making them state what they will do next time. “Just to ensure we’re on the same page, can you tell me what steps you’ll take the next time you see a llama with a face cut?”

      Who knows why some employees can’t just follow the rules laid out for them. It may be because they don’t understand the purpose of the rule. It may be because they disagree with the rule. It may be because they’ve been doing the job for a long time and the rules have changed and it’s harder to keep them straight. No matter why it happens, it’s frustrating as a manager. It’s also exhausting to know you’ve done everything you can to se them up for success, and they’re blaming you when they fail. But as the old adage says, that’s why you get paid the big bucks! (Of course, maybe you don’t, but you probably make more than the llama groomers do). Good luck!

      1. Flak Jacket*

        HR will be joining me when we give him the PIP. I think it’s likely he’ll rehash some of his arguments. When we do discuss things to do differently next time, he has a tendency to focus on individual tasks and will lean heavily on why what he did wasn’t wrong or that the situation wasn’t his fault. He may reference an earlier situation when a Llama had matted fur and we shaved it off. Not recognizing the differences between the two situations. And also not recognizing that if he hasn’t worked on a similar situation the best course of action is to sometimes just ask me. I’ll try to explain why the two situations are different and also try to outline what he should do in the future, and yet his attention to detail is poor and he usually ends up relying on what he knows, not realizing that what he knows is not what is best… and the cycle starts again. To be fair, our department handles very nuanced needs that are frequently subject to change and there are not always protocols for how to handle specifics. But, that’s why I’ve always stressed that he should ask questions and come to me if there are issues. And yet, he will shave the Llama because that’s his job and no one told him not to shave the Llama.

        Then when I tell him, hey don’t shave the Llama with a cut and then a month later when a Llama with matted fur comes in, he will not shave the Llama because I told him not to the previous time, even though he was aware that we shaved the Llama with matted fur when it happened before. And then when I call him out for that, he will get defensive and say that the rules changed and it wasn’t his fault.

        Thank you for letting me vent and your support!

        1. Elvish Presley*

          I have nothing useful to add except that I think “Shaving the llama” is the best new euphemism in my repertoire.

        2. Toxic Workplace Survivor*

          FJ, I had to let go an employee like this and the PIP/firing was the most stressful thing in my first five years of managing. It’s frustrating because reactions like those you describe are derailing, but you don’t want to shut down the conversation because you are trying to explain to them how they aren’t doing the job. And if they are genuinely trying, it’s even harder because they just fundamentally don’t have the critical thinking skills you need.

          There was a critical thinking/PIP question in a short answers segment sometime in the last few weeks that might have some helpful thoughts in the comments section.

        3. Toxic Workplace Survivor*

          Should have noted this above: yes, the process is stressful for everyone involved but, when you are at the point where the person doesn’t understand the job in the way you’re describing, everyone on the team suffers. I have never been sorry I made the decision to let my employee go, even though it was difficult. I got through it, and the other side was indeed much better. You can do it. Keep venting here when you need to!

    3. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      IS there any validity that he is being rated on something that is not entirely within his control (e.g. another person cut the lama which makes it difficult for him to shave the lama)?

      1. Flak Jacket*

        He is not being rated on the cut or someone else’s mistakes. He’s not even being judged on making a mistake. (That happens). Largely this is about the fact that I regularly have to give him extensive guidance and because he is unable to see the big picture and focuses on the task rather than the nature of the problem, he doesn’t apply the lesson learned for the next time. So if the next Llama has a pimple, which may result in a cut when shaved, we repeat the cycle.

        1. Large Pink Rabbit*

          My first thought is to make sure you write the PIP appropriately. My take away is that the problem is his ability to distinguish special cases rather than a problem with his technical skill. That ability to distinguish and apply judgment can be learned, but it’s harder to measure than technical ability. The analogy I would make is that when you learn physics, it’s easy to learn to plug numbers into an equation. Most people get that with no trouble. They start to flounder when they don’t have all the numbers they need and don’t know how to derive an equation to calculate the missing numbers. Since most physics students pass physics, that skill of knowing how to find what you are missing is one that is teachable. That’s what you need in this guy. The skill of figuring what you need when the problem is not presented perfectly.

          I don’t know if I would even write a PIP just yet. I would start him giving him more oversight and more coaching on how to spot a special case and distinguish between other special cases. Like a llama comes in, walk him through how to look for cuts, pimples, mats, etc. Ask him if something is similar or different to the last llama that came in with a cut, pimple, or mat. Ask him how he would proceed and why. If he’s like, “well there’s no cut, and when there’s no cut we groom per spec.” Then you can jump in with, “correct, there is no cut, but there is a pimple, and shaving a pimple per spec can result in a cut. So what are you going to do instead?” Give that a month or so and tell him if he doesn’t improve with extra coaching, the next step will be a PIP.

          1. ECHM*

            I see a lot of myself in Large Pink Rabbit’s description, and this is how I would appreciate being treated.

      2. RagingADHD*

        But he’s not supposed to shave a cut llama at all. That’s the part he’s doing wrong: following correct protocol and responding appropriately to problems. The source of the problem doesn’t really matter.

    4. Don’t put metal in the science oven*

      Agree this employee may not be a good fit for the job. I seem to remember AAM having some scripts telling employees for their PIP they need to stop, evaluate each situation & come up with a solution in line with company practices AND have the ability to problem solve. AAM had some great scripts for these floundering unable to pivot employees.

    5. Fikly*

      “It’s not my fault this is a problem” is often missing the point. It’s usually their job to solve it when it’s the problem, regardless of who caused it to be a problem. Reframe and focus on that.

      I work in customer service, and 9 times out of 10, I have nothing to do with the cause of the problem, and sometimes my company itself doesn’t. But I still have to solve it! This applies to a lot more roles than customer service.

    1. Collie*

      I did grad school FT, a FT job, and 2 PT jobs all at once (lived with then-boyfriend, no kids). A solid scheduling system was key for me, as was being adamant about my sleep schedule. I am not a super social person but I did try to fit in some socializing for mental health, too. It was hard, but totally doable for me.

    2. Capybara Manager*

      Not currently, but I used to — I worked full-time while also freelancing somewhere between 5 and 20 hours a week (yes, actually) doing the kind of work I had done before unfortunately becoming a manager. (No shade to managers! I just didn’t want to be one.)

      It was fine for up to about 10 hours a week, and after that it was Very Much Not Fine. I have a lot of tips for managing it, but they’re all for freelance work where you choose your own hours and can turn down work, so may not be helpful for a more traditional kind of part-time job, idk.

    3. Stephanie*

      I did a full-time job and a part-time grad program (but it was like 4-5 classes a term) for 2.5 years. Strict scheduling helps. Outsourcing what you can helps (I had a cleaning lady come to do deep cleaning).

    4. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      It’s been years, but yes, I did this for a time. It was rough. I had very little PTO in my FT job and zero in my PT job. I ended up needing to take more sick time just because I was burning the candle at both ends. I definitely recommend liberally utilizing your PTO for mental health days as much as possible.

    5. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Not currently, but in the past I spent a year working a full time (M-F first shift) desk job, 25-30 hours a week cashiering at Target, 10 hours a week as an adult advisor for a youth leadership group, and also a full time student at community college. Most, but not all, of my CC classes were online, which helped. It worked fine, though it wouldn’t be my first choice to do it again :)

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I am currently a full-time manager and a half-time community college student, but both my job and all my classes are remote this time. Easy-mode for me. :)

    6. An Australian In London*

      I worked FT while studying at grad school PT. I’m currently working FT with a PT side-hustle.

      In both scenarios I have learned that for me the only way to cope is to acknowledge that there will never really be time to catch up on anything, so I must never fall behind in anything.

      If studying FT I might let study time slip for a class one week knowing I can make it up later – not realistic with more than FT load. Plan and schedule and never let anything slip short of actual emergencies.

      Prioritising self-care is important also. Unless this is a short-term arrangement treat it like a marathon not a sprint. Sustainability is key. Get enough sleep. Do the things your body, mind, and spirit need to still be doing all this in 3 months. This includes downtime, social time, entertainment time, exercise time – whatever you need to do thing long term.

      I also find strong boundaries are necessary especially if any of this is WFH. I’ve had to say “if you wouldn’t call me on the phone in the office to tell me this then you can’t come into the room to say it to me either because this *is* my office”.

    7. Alex*

      I do! It helps that my two jobs are wildly different. It works fine, but also, I’m single with no kids, so, I have time on my hands. In total I work about 52-55 hours a week (it varies slightly), with some hours on every day of the week. Three of those days I can WFH.

    8. Justin*

      I teach/adjunct in addition to my job. I can set my own hours (it’s a virtual class) for the adjuncting so it’s fine and gives me something to do.

    9. new year, new name*

      I simultaneously worked full time and went to grad school full time (and had some regular volunteering gigs) and it was fine in my particular circumstances, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to anyone!

      Currently I have a full-time desk job and a part-time customer service job for extra cash/because it’s fun but I typically only work one shift per week. I do think my part-time gig actually helps me be better at my full-time job even though it’s a very different type of work.

    10. Salted Caramel*

      I currently work FT remote, am in a PT remote grad program, and share parenting 50/50 with my ex. I agree that a strict routine is helpful, but it’s not ideal and I am not my best self when there are competing deadlines. I’ve got 3 more semesters left and you bet I’m counting down the days.
      I will echo outsourcing when possible, and scheduling time for exercise and intimacy (sexy, I know). My partner is super supportive, which is also very important to me and the sustainability of our relationship.
      I have hobbies and relationships that I feel are suffering due to my school engagements, but I also have a friends who’s hobby is working, so it definitely depends on the person if you feel like you can do this kind of thing long-term.
      Best of luck!

    11. allathian*

      In my early 20s I juggled a PT job (about 20 hours/week) and full-time college studies, although because I’m in Finland where we don’t pay for college tuition, I didn’t have to cram my semesters full of classes.

      I worked retail, and my store managers were very good about scheduling unpaid time off for me so I could study for exams when I needed it.

      In high school I also juggled a 20-hour PT job, but that was because I didn’t have any extracurriculars except our school English club, and that was 90 minutes once a week after school. The boys’ PE teacher was Irish, and he ran an English conversation club for reasonably fluent English speakers. I always said that my job was my extracurricular.

      As long as you stay in Finland, places at colleges and other institutions of further education are determined pretty much purely on academic merit, so doing a bunch of extracurricular activities just to secure a place at college isn’t a thing here. Obviously it depends on the field, if you want to study something like art or music, you need to be able to show that your skills can be honed to a professional level with further practice and study.

      As a teen and young adult my energy levels were much higher than they’re now that I’m over 50. I need a lot more downtime in my schedule now than I did then. I’d be very interested in hearing if there’s anyone who’s at least 35 who juggles a FT and a PT job without being unduly stressed by it.

    12. Jessi*

      I did! My main job was 50 hours a week and then I did another 23.

      It worked okay only because both of those roles were coverage based roles, so while I had tasks that had to be done in down/slow times I could do things like figure out a menu for next week and order groceries to be delivered. I certainly wouldn’t recommend that many hours. I was often very tired, and felt like I hardly saw my partner for 6 months. I only did so as I was saving for a once in a life time type trip

  8. ADAer*

    ADA accommodation wording?

    If I don’t get enough sleep (9-10 solid hours per night) or if I get stressed (physically, mentally, or emotionally) my body throws off flares in every possible direction: migraines, muscle pain on par with shingles nerve pain, blisters on my tongue and the roof of my mouth, GI issues, fatigue, joint pain, and brain fog.

    I haven’t pursued a definitive diagnosis in the past because my employer has been flexible about WFH and smoothing work loads across the team when someone gets sick, and I’ve been able to manage by getting enough sleep and not getting stressed. At least, not too much and not too often.

    But we have a new CEO who is implementing draconian policies designed to drive “weak” employees off the payroll.

    I’m 99% sure I qualify for ADA accommodation, but I’m not sure how to word it.

    I need flexible WFH arrangements, preferably no more than 2 days in the office per week (more than that, and my symptoms start to flare), and occasional flexible work hours to allow for doctors’ appointments.

    The WFH days are because, when I have to go into the office, I can’t get enough sleep. I wake up at 5:00 AM to get everything done with pets, me, and my elderly mother so that I can safely leave them alone for 11-12 hours. Leave the house at 7:30 AM to get to work by 8:30-9:00. Leave the office 9 hours later at 5:30-6:00 and get home at 6:30-7:00. Immediately give one cat her every-12-hours insulin injection, and then do 2-3 hours of required stuff for the pets, me, and my elderly mother. It’s now 10:00 PM and, even if I fall asleep immediately, I’ll only get 7 hours of sleep before starting all over again.

    I’m a salaried knowledge worker. I don’t need to be in the office. Me not being there isn’t a burden to the business. The new CEO can’t justify a strict in-office policy (with rules like, “You can’t come in before 6:30AM and you can’t leave the building until 3:30PM”) other than to keep repeating, “Culture. Culture. Culture.”

    The people I work with are spread throughout North America and India. Maybe 15% of them are in the office building the CEO is trying to force me to sit in for 45 hours a week. (Oh, yeah, a one-hour lunch is mandatory; or, rather, being in the building 9 hours a day is mandatory).

    Has anyone successfully gotten a flexible WFH accommodation? If so, what did you need to do?

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Your first step is to talk to your doctor. Your employer isn’t entitled to know all of your medical details, but they can request a doctor sign off on any necessary accommodations before they grant them to you or begin the cooperative process. Your doctor, in theory, should also be fairly knowledgeable about the ADA process and can give you advice on how to move forward.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I will caution you that not getting enough sleep because of your personal obligations *probably* isn’t something your employer needs to consider. Focus on the flares and the associated symptoms. IANAD but that sounds like it could be some kind of MCAS.

      2. Gyne*

        I actually disagree with this, I think you should go to your manager first with your requested accomodations, start the interactive process, and then if needed go to your doctor for whatever supportive documentation you might need. If they need medical documentation, then go to the doctor with the specifics. As a physician I have no idea what the essential functions of all my patient’s jobs are, but I have no problem writing a note that says “due to a medical condition, I recommend breaks of x min every y hours, be allowed to sit at their workstation” and so on. the danger you run from getting a doctor’s note that says “It is medically necessary that ADAEr must work from home” is that the employer can say, “well, work from home isn’t an option, and your doctor says you can’t come into the office, so when do you want your last day to be?” because now you’ve just submitted formal documentation that you can’t do your job anymore.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          To clarify: I don’t think they should bring in documentation. However they don’t have a diagnosis right now. It sounds like this employer isn’t going to be gracious about the process, so a conversation with a doctor about a) if there is even an ADA eligible condition at play and b) what accommodations ADAer could ask for to relieve that condition arms them to go in and make the requests, knowing they can get supporting documentation if necessary.

          Not everything a doctor might write a note for is something an employer is obligated to engage in an interactive ADA process around. And asking for an ADA accommodation that a doctor won’t back up can burn a LOT of capital, especially at an untrustworthy employer.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            Another clarification: Kez downthread is right that you don’t need a formal diagnosis and I shouldn’t have worded it that way. You go to the doctor to get a diagnosis OR to reach pre-agreement that you have limitations that your employer needs to work with.

          2. GythaOgden*

            Yeah. My disability makes my long commute exhausting but that’s not something that they can change without changing the entire nature of my job, because we’re in-person because my company needs things done to maintain the office and provide hub services. We’re looking into the possibility of moving me slightly so I can manage things better and get some more administrative experience than I am right now, but although we have the same sort of disability adjustment rights here in the UK, an employer doesn’t have to consider personal need factors or things like commutes, and like me you might have to start thinking of trying to find a new job that allows you to meet your personal obligations better.

            OP: caring responsibilities aren’t something you should have during working hours. While of course infrastructure should be there to cope with demand, there are plenty of people out there who don’t have any opportunities to WFH but have similar obligations and personal stresses, and while it should be possible to make adaptations in your situation, remember that WFH is a privilege and that asking for it due to caring responsibilities can come across as tone-deaf given your employers’ needs and the way that other people’s jobs force them to be in-person, and act with the appropriate degree of understanding that it’s a privilege rather than a right. It really rubs me up the wrong way when people complain about it because a lot of in-person workers have the same issues but cannot WFH, so be careful and diplomatic when discussing it rather than displaying entitled. We know it’s really stressful to be on the kind of treadmill you’re on, but it’s the reality for a lot more people at all levels, so being too aggressive with demands can just come across as if you don’t understand other people’s needs and perspectives and what they need from you to keep you on payroll.

    2. octotoes*

      If your WFH isn’t successful, it sounds like you need to hire someone to come in, in the day for 1 hour and do pet stuff, and maybe mother stuff.

        1. Jaydee*

          Since you’re clearly in the US, contact your local Area Agency on Aging to see what services they offer that your mom might qualify for to get her out of the house (and cared for) during the day while you’re at work and/or bring caregivers into the home for a few hours a day to do some of the things you currently do for her.

    3. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      ADA accommodations are purely for the dx symptoms and not the reason they may develop. You need to have a dx and the doctor has to be able to document how the symptoms are problematic and require reasonable accommodations at work (or school). Your sleep schedule is within your control so you are not likely to get this as an accommodation for WFH. Now if there are mobility issues that may come up (e.g. flare up in joints etc.) that make it not safe to commute this may be a different story.

      1. not a hippo*

        Your sleep schedule is within your control

        It is and it isn’t. I struggle with night terrors (which have only gotten worse because of a recent traumatic experience) so unless I go to sleep an hour after getting home, I am perpetually running on empty. I go to bed at a reasonable hour but it doesn’t really matter when I’m waking up multiple times a night in a full blown panic attack, every single night.

        But yes, OP should stick to the more medical stuff because they’re bound to get a response like yours if they mention their personal obligations.

    4. Cyborg Llama Horde*

      Also, this wasn’t your question, but have you thought about a new job? Something fully-remote, where that’s written into the terms of employment (especially if the rest of the company is also fully-remote) will probably work a lot better for your scheduling needs and generally quality of life than trying to stick it out under a CEO who’s dead set on “weeding out the weak.”

      Should you have to leave an otherwise good job because of a douchebro? No. But this particular douchebro is at the top of the org, and it’s unlikely that in-office time is the only thing he’ll have an impact on (or that your career won’t suffer, even if you can get an accommodation).

      1. ADAer*

        Already on it. I won’t be able to find that unicorn of a job within the next six weeks, though, and that’s when the new punitive rules kick in. Hence, ADA accomodations.

    5. RagingADHD*

      Caregiving obligations would be an intermittent FMLA issue, in addition to the ADA issue for yourself. So you potentially have a 2-pronged approach here.

      I agree with the other poster that it might also behoove you to contact your Area Agency on Aging to see if your mom qualifies for help like adult daycare or a home visitor that could take some of this off your plate.

    6. Turingtested*

      As others have stated, doctor visit first.

      Each case is unique, but the ADA comes down to essential functions of the job. Provided your accommodations allow you to perform the essential functions of your job without undue hardship to the business (high bar there in favor of employees) they should be granted if you have a diagnosed disability.

      Do bear in mind that neither party has to accept recommended accomodations.

      This is not legal advice just experience with ADA accomodations.

    7. Annika Hansen*

      Caveat: not an HR professional. The ADA is an interactive process. You may not get the exact accommodation you requested. Like if you want to work from home because the lighting causes migraines, the employer can instead get you an office with different lighting instead of allowing you to work from home. The problem that I see with your request is that the lack of sleep is not because you are working long days. They could say move closer to work, get a carer for your mother, get a cat nurse, etc. You can check out AskJan for more about ADA and accommodations.

      Personally, I think anyone who can work from home should be able to, but I don’t run the world. It has made such a positive difference in my life.

      1. I Have RBF*

        IIRC they can’t require her to “move closer” if WFH mitigates the problem, but IANAL. (Moving is expensive, even if you rent.)

        The fact that in-office work aggravates her stress symptoms that in turn cause physical problems is probably legitimate under ADA. I know that when my stress flares up I get migraines and it sets off my IBS-D drastically. I sometimes am clueless enough that I don’t recognized the stressor until my body tells me the hard way that it’s there. Working remotely is a lifesaver, because I can run to the bathroom for half an hour, or work in a darkened room, etc.

        1. Cj*

          I’m not sure I agree with you. it didn’t sound to me like it is working in the office that causes her symptoms, it is the fact that when she does she doesn’t get enough sleep. in fact, she specifically states that is the reason for her work from home request.

          the reason for the lack of sleep when working from the office is due to personal obligations. even if caring for her mom might lead to some leeway, caring for her pets will not, at least not at this employer with the CEO. as a pet parent of six cats and four dogs, I get it, but still…

          I hope they can get something worked out, I just have a hard time seeing it happen under the company’s current leadership.

          I don’t think there’s any way to present this as a lack of sleep issue and end up with the result you want. if you would try to say you get certain symptoms when you work from the office, like a migraine (which they do mention getting when they don’t get enough sleep), but not say lack of sleep is the underlying cause, then the employer will rightly say what is it about the office that causes migraines so we can try to mitigate it. like the lighting or scents or whatever. that would only work if there is a symptom that is could legitimately be caused by being in the office, and that there would not be an in-office accommodation for.

          1. Cj*

            I guess one way to look at this would be if you need a certain amount of sleep in order to not get these symptoms, whether that be 6 hours or 10 hours, and you’re not getting that much sleep because you have a newborn. somebody tell me if I’m wrong, but it doesn’t seem like that would require the employer to give you an ADA accommodation to work from home.

            just like caring for her mom, if the kid actually has health problems, that might qualify for fmla, but not ADA..

    8. mreasy*

      Yes, I have anxiety and my old office (transit plus noise plus crowd) gave me panic attacks. I asked my boss for an accommodation to only come in once a week, and she said yes. I could have gotten a doc’s note if I needed it but luckily I didn’t. I would just say that you have a medical reason that working from home is much healthier for you and that you’d like to come in two days a week. If they ask for a doctor’s note, it seems like you could get one.

    9. ina*

      A WFH accommodation usually means you have a flexible & considerate employer…which you do not. In absence of that, you need to get formal ADA accommodations, which aren’t initiated by you on self-reported information. You need to go to the doctor, as others have said, and get a dx & a doctor’s note. You then work with your HR to see what the process is for getting accommodations. I’m going to be honest, you might have to doctor shop if you go in saying “I feel bad when I don’t get 10 hrs of sleep.” They might tell you to just…get more sleep or improve sleep hygiene. Gently, I also think you’re very, very stressed out & that’s also where some of these gnarly symptoms come from – just reading your schedule…you don’t rest except when you sleep! Maybe FMLA is something that might help (esp for the caring for your mother) – would they rather have you gone for weeks or just give you WFH?

      However, my issue here is the weird need of your CEO to have bodies in seats. You should be remote just because your job doesn’t need you to be there…Reading some of Alison’s negotiating advice might be helpful. This feels like a reasonable thing to give someone if the only reason is “culture.”

      1. ADAer*

        We’ve tried all the reasonable and logical arguments in our requests. Even parents with children who need to be picked up from daycare/school at 3:30 PM have been told to suck it. They can’t leave the office building until 3:30. So now they have to pay another adult to get their children.

        And, again, for jobs that can be done literally anywhere and where the people we work with are scattered across North America in dozens of locations.

        He’s not being reasonable because he wants to reduce the payroll, and he’s super happy if parents/caretakers (usually women) and disabled people see themselves out the door.

        As to my stress: When we first went fully WFH at the start of the pandemic, I woke up one morning about 3 weeks into it and was *shocked* that I wasn’t in pain. I was like, “I haven’t changed anything: same food, same meds, same exercise, same…. holy hell! I’ve actually been able to get enough sleep!!”

        I had no idea what it felt like to be healthy and whole and have my brain firing all of its cylinders at the same time. So if I don’t have to drive to the office 5 days a week (hell, 2 is probably a tad too much), then I have to time to take care of my body and there isn’t any stress.

        I won’t have to doctor shop. My doc is fully aware of all my symptoms. He’s the one prescribing steroidal dental paste when my mouth turns into raw hamburger from the blisters, and migraine medication, and pain medication, and strong anti-inflammatories, and asthma inhalers, etc.

        He knows how bad it is and he knows that it’s not just from a lack of sleep. Normal people can get 6-7 hours of sleep 5 nights a week and just… be tired. Their bodies don’t revolt on them, making the tiniest of everyday things damned near impossible.

        I’m honestly kind of stunned at all the commenters reducing my illness down to “personal life gets in the way of sleep”.

        If adequate sleep is the thing that keeps my symptoms at bay and allows me to function like normal, then it is a treatment for my illness. No one would say to a diabetic, “You shouldn’t tell your employer that if you don’t get insulin, you feel bad.”

        1. Tio*

          I think, because your employer sounds like the type to fight, the fight they pick is not going to be “You don’t need adequate sleep.” The fight they are going to pick is going to be “Your job only takes up x hours per day, we are not preventing you from getting adequate sleep so you don’t need an accommodation from us.” That is where the sticking point is most likely to be, and what you’ll likely need to be prepared to work against. You should bring that part up with your doctor and find out what options you have to fight back.

          1. ADAer*

            100%. My and my doctor’s framing will be, “This [WFH and flexible work hours accommodation] is what is needed to both successfully treat this chronic illness and to allow ADAer to be successful in her job.”

            Actual wording will differ, based on his experience with ADA accommodations and what my company’s HR team needs.

            1. Tio*

              I believe you about your doctor – but remember, as mentioned below, ADA accommodation is an “interactive” process, and your employer doesn’t have to accept the first accommodation suggested. I hope it goes well, but this sounds like the kind of company where it may not. You and your doctor should discuss and prepare for that.

            2. Gyne*

              My fear for you, though, is what are you going to do if your manager says, “We are no longer equipped to support teleworking. What accomodations will you need to be in person in the office from 8-5?” (Not asking you to answer here – suggesting you have a plan in mind for this situation.)

        2. Large Pink Rabbit*

          “personal life gets in the way of sleep”

          I mean this kindly, but this framing is not wrong. The 4-6 hours you need per day to do caretaking is what makes commuting to this job incompatible with 9-10 hours of sleep. I think it would help you to look at the bare facts without the emotional load, bc that is how your employer will view things.

          You will not be able to get an accommodation bc you have extensive caregiving obligations, and you should leave those out of the discussion. You don’t need a diagnosis, and your job is not allowed to ask for a diagnosis. They are only allowed to ask how the accommodation allows you to perform job-related functions. The heart of your conversation, and of any supporting documentation from your doctor, should be that working from home allows your illness to stay dormant, enabling you to perform essential job functions. The AskJAN website has some suggestions on how to talk about telework as an accommodation.

        3. RagingADHD*

          They aren’t reducing your illness. They are pointing out that the job is not the sole possible point of leverage in getting enough sleep and managing your stress.

          1. Cj*

            yes to this. I don’t think that anybody is disagreeing that she need that much sleep. but the lack of sleep itself isn’t caused by a medical condition, like insomnia. it is caused by her personal commitments.

            the question was how to present this to their employer in such a way that they will get a work from home accommodation, and people are simply pointing out that it is unlikely that will happen.

            she could probably work reduced hours using FMLA because of caring for her mom. but then she would probably have to use up all her PTO and then take the time unpaid.

        4. ina*

          Good luck with your accommodation, however you are the one who has framed as personal obligations get in the way of sleep so that is the only context I have. I have trouble sleeping myself and know how disruptive it can be as a whole to one’s life; it’s not even on your level as well, so I do feel for you. I am very sympathetic, but other commenters telling you to go in with a clear, level-head are correct. If you’re fighting with people who are sympathetic and supportive, then I can’t imagine how this will go with a combative company.

          I wish you will and success in this process.

    10. Kez*

      Hi friend, and I’m so sorry that you’re currently dealing with this on top of everything else!

      So a lot of good advice on this thread, but one very important thing to clear up is that you do NOT need a diagnosis to get disability accommodations. You do need to speak with a doctor who can help write up a description of your symptoms and the limitations on certain activities that come with them.

      The important thing for ADA accommodation is that you are legally considered disabled. You can check out the federal ADA FAQ page or use the JAN (Job Accommodation Network) to get some ideas of what this means, but it’s important to note here that you can be disabled without yet having a diagnosis. Disability is defined by its interference in activities of daily living, and based on your symptom list you are experiencing this.

      For folks confused by this distinction, consider someone who is suddenly experiencing severe nerve pain if they sit in a chair for more than an hour: they may need accommodations at work before they and their doctors have discerned the specific diagnosis that explains these symptoms. Your situation sounds similar to this in that you know you’re experiencing symptoms but you’re not sure of the cause.

      An important caveat here is that because of ableism, it will be significantly easier to get a doctor’s help and the accommodations you need if you DO know what diagnosis applies to these symptoms. So as much as I hate to suggest putting one more thing on your plate, I do think that it would be wise to start pursuing the cause of this with the help of a supportive medical team. Taking intermittent FMLA to take care of yourself, attend appointments, and care for your mother might ease some of this burden, so the recommendation to pursue both ADA accommodations and FMLA is a good one. The bright side of seeking diagnosis is that as you learn more about your symptoms you can learn from communities of disabled folks with similar symptoms about their coping mechanisms and suggestions for living a sustainable and enjoyable life even when stress and inconsistent sleep are unavoidable. Disabled folks rock, and even prior to my own diagnoses I found it really helpful to learn from folks in communities affected by similar symptoms, so go forth and enjoy the support and knowledge of the various sleep-disorder-affected people of this planet!

      I wish you all the best!

        1. Adhdgenxer*

          ADAer, a lot of the comments have focused on the physical limitations experienced. But I wanted to focus on the anxiety mentioned, as anxiety is covered by the ADA and many companies have become more familiar with reasonable accommodations for anxiety. One flag- dr’s note + an ADA letter together make a more compelling case. For one of my staff, our HR didn’t feel the details in the ADA letter were sufficient, but the detail in the dr note was a huge help.
          Last, chronic fatigue is a beast to deal with. One of the good things about pursuing treatment is that there are meds that can help. My dd has POTS, and chronic fatigue is common. Her dr was able to rx an early am dose of short acting adhd meds to help counter the fatigue, before she takes her long acting adhd meds. Used as an example, not to armchair dx you.

          Big hugs as you navigate this!

        2. Kez*

          Absolutely, we the “Less Exploitable” (this is a term pulled from Marta Russell’s book Capitalism and Disability which I learned about in a video by the excellent YouTube video essayist LeslieExp) have to stick together!

          My hope for you is that with the supports and time that you need (and will hopefully be able to take via FMLA leave), you can find more tools and strategies for coping with your symptoms and the attendant stressors of living disabled in a world where working is often our only option.

          While very tone-policey and somewhat confrontational, I agree with folks who point out that when requesting accommodations from a workplace which is a stickler for in-person attendance, you want to maintain as much calm, cool professionalism as you can. If you have access to a therapist or a great doctor, consider role-playing the conversation or writing an email together which can have the documentation attached. You have good reason to be angry, and also good reason to keep that under wraps when advocating for yourself in this situation.

          Again, much luck and appreciation from me. Take care!

    11. Rachel*

      I think it might help you to stop framing this as a draconian initiative designed to weed out weak employees.

      Venting feels good, everybody needs to do it. I respect that need. But there comes a point where venting does not help you anymore and I think you are at that point.

      You are assuming a lot about motivations in this situation that might feel true but isn’t true. And if you are in a headspace that this is how they are, you are not in a good headspace to negotiate or communicate.

      I would start by focusing on what is in your control, namely, a doctors appointment for a diagnosis.

        1. Rachel*

          Entering interactive, collaborative processes with the right headspace is crucial to success.

        2. GythaOgden*

          I mean, it’s practical advice. As someone with disabilities and similar stress but who works in-person, there are points in your post that would get you an accommodation and points where my response would be ‘sucks to be you, but…’ — that people who can’t work from home also have these issues and we have to be able to manage them while holding down our jobs, and we can’t just change our environment to suit our needs. So you not only have to preach to the choir, you have to convince people who don’t have the same views on WFH as you do and who don’t see things your way.

          It’s going to be much less easy if you think your boss is doing this for nefarious reasons, because thoughts influence our actions in a lot of very subtle ways. He actually may well not be thinking along those lines, but see different aspects of productivity to what you do and that actually it may be ok to sacrifice a little bit of productivity to get more collaborative approaches in the workplace and prevent people from losing touch altogether.

          Something I’ve also had to learn as someone struggling with chronic conditions — we are the centre of our own worlds, but other people have other situations that they need to manage while facing job situations that preclude us being in the perfect spot for our own needs. We do have to give as well as get. Management also tends to be more aware of when something isn’t actually working as it should and try to find ways of ironing things out, and a lot of the time they have access to a bigger picture than we do.

          You don’t have to convince us about your obvious needs to WFH, as everyone here is generally on your side. I’m looking for a WFH job because of similar stamina based problems with a commute that used to be a breeze but now feels like a slog. But you will have to convince your hard-nosed boss that you’re going to be able to make compromises that help you work with him, and going in in this mindset isn’t going to work well. Or look for alternative work.

          And I get it — I’ve been struggling with personal stress for a long time and thus stayed in a dead end job way longer than I should have done — but the job still needs to get done and you need to make a professional case for these accommodations rather than appear to be assuming bad faith of everyone else. The better things for me started when I stopped being so vocally frustrated about my situation and was able to demonstrate to a new regional manager how capable I was and how underemployed I was and how much I wanted to move up. It’s still taken a long time for her to get anything sorted for me — not because she’s secretly an evil witch sent to torment me, but because she’s got a whole region of people like me to talk to and guide and structure to get the best out of everyone and that necessarily has a higher priority than my job does.

          So you did ask for assistance — and people need to be able to say that you’re coming across in a way that won’t necessarily help other people meet you in the middle and work with you. It’s not that we’re not sympathetic or empathetic — it’s that the reality is going to be that your approach is going to mean you struggle to present your case as clearly and cooperatively as you can to convince someone at arm’s length from your life to help you out.

      1. nnn*

        Where are you seeing venting? I’m seeing a request for help. You’re assuming a lot about this writer this isn’t supported by what they wrote, and forgetting that they know a lot more about what their employer is doing than you do.

        1. Rachel*

          They asked for advice on how to discuss this issue with their employer. I am giving advice on the exact question they asked.

          My advice is to focus less on the motivations behind the employer’s decisions and more on how to work with them to the extent possible.

    12. Julie*

      Regardless of accommodations, you need to seek proper healthcare if your body is struggling with routine functioning. Focusing on working from home at the expense of diagnosis and proper treatment could put your long-term health at grave risk.

  9. Stripes*

    tldr: How can I find out about issues two levels below me?

    I manage a few people who have their own teams. About a year ago, some people from Amy’s team came to me to tell me they were having issues with Amy – Amy didn’t answer questions clearly, didn’t have meetings with purpose, and snapped at someone once for asking a follow-up question. The team mentioned “hostile work environment” (no protected classes involved here, afaik), so my boss and I did a listening tour where we met with everyone to ask questions. Nearly all the team members said “yeah that time Amy snapped was not good but things are better.” One team member had no criticisms to offer. 

    Speed to this summer. The team members have come to me, individually and unprompted, to tell me about how horrible it has been to work with Amy over the past few months: she questions nearly everything (Who were you on a call with? Why did your meeting go long? What did you talk about?), won’t answer questions – or gives clearly wrong answers, and has shown horrible judgement/leadership/human decency (ex: telling someone taking bereavement leave she can find another job if she loses this one). I’ve experienced some of this myself VERY recently but didn’t realize the extent to which it was happening to others. Amy, of course, hasn’t mentioned any of this to me in any of our check ins – only when her team members have been wrong or made mistakes or other stories where she can paint herself as the one who has been wronged. If the team didn’t come to me to tell me directly and Amy didn’t recently lash out at me herself, I may have never known or only known when someone quits.

    There are clearly changes coming now and Amy won’t be a manager for much longer. In the future: How can I keep a pulse on the skip-level-below while giving the manager the space/authority/trust to act using her own leadership skills? If I am primarily meeting with my own direct reports, and trusting them to bring information to me, how do I get this information if my own direct reports each have their own teams of 5-10 people? We work virtually and across states/time zones, so it’s not like we run into each other in the office. 

    1. Stripes*

      And I’ll add here – a 360 review isn’t an option. It’s not done anywhere in my company and would not go over well for just this team/department to have it in addition to all the other performance areas that are measured, recorded, scored, etc. This manager had an average performance review this year.

      1. Somehow_I_Manage*

        I think you did a great job, and I’m not sure anything needs to change in your approach.

        You did your due diligence on Amy. It didn’t work out. But you have to trust and empower your managers to succeed. And giving them space to succeed, means they also have space to fail.

        Staff felt comfortable approaching you directly -that’s good. You can also tell if staff start leaving or transferring off her team. You got the message, saw those red flags and acted on it. I’m not convinced you (or your future managers) would benefit from opening a back door to monitor things further.

        /Just because things didn’t work out with Amy doesn’t mean you didn’t do a great job.

    2. Panda (she/her)*

      I think the way you’ve been doing it so far is about all you can do if a 360 isn’t an option. Keep having conversations with the people she manages, and follow up on their concerns

    3. Tio*

      So… When these issues first came up about Amy, what did you say to her to improve? because while this isn’t a hostile workplace, it sounds like she was managing poorly! Did you talk to her about not answering questions and setting meeting agendas? did you follow up, perhaps by sitting in on some meetings, coaching her, and seeing how she’d improved? Because you don’t mention any ways in which you tried to improve Amy’s performance or prevent these problems which it sounds like just continued on?

      It sounds like you had a pulse on the skip levels, they told you she wasn’t doing a good job, and then… it continued and now you’re going to have to let Amy go. I mean, you can do occasional town halls with direct reports, but it sounds like that wasn’t the problem here

      1. Stripes*

        Yes, I did all of those things you mentioned. We worked on meeting agendas together. I sat in on meetings and gave her coaching on responding to questions including when her answers were long and unclear, not accurate, etc. I sat in on her 1:1s. She seemed to be improving, and I didn’t hear any other concerns. Her own team said things were better. The issues now are not the same issues before.
        My question was less about my experience coaching Amy and more about how to open communication in the future, although I can see how (without all the context) these seem to be tightly intertwined.

        1. Tio*

          Ok yeah, that section was missing a little; because showing that you’re managing the problem someone brought actively in some way is one of the best ways to encourage people to come back to you with issues.

          It does actually seem like you’re doing fine on the skip levels, since they do keep coming to you with issues. You could consider doing specific 1:1 meetings every few months to get a feel on the reports, not just on Amy but on their feelings on the company as a whole, their accounts, process, whatever, maybe every 3-6 months if things seem to be going ok, 2-4 if there seem to be bumps or they’re bringing your problems. But given the additional context, you’re probably doing fine.

    4. Goddess47*

      Just do the skip-level meetings as ‘routine’… yeah, it’s more work for you but if you do it with everyone then there are (hopefully) fewer surprises. It makes you a better-known person to the skip-level folk… once a year, fifteen minutes, ‘how are you, how are things going?’ sort of a meeting.

      If you think there are too many people to do this, then small groups are an option. But, like no more than 4-6 at at time. You want to actually talk to everyone.

      Think of it as an investment in the work environment.

      1. I Have RBF*

        This.

        IMO regular skip levels are rare in a lot of companies, but are very useful. It allows front line employees to ask more strategic level questions of their grandboss that they wouldn’t expect their boss to have the answers to, for one.

      2. Honey Badger*

        I am casting my vote for this as well! Skip level 1:1s are absolutely valuable for your extended team. They aren’t done on the same frequency as your 1:1s with your directs. Say 1x per month max. But you want this interaction ESPECIALLY in a team that isn’t centrally located. We do it at my company. Heck, we even have forums for skip skip and skip skip skip 1:1s!

    5. Hiring Mgr*

      I don’t know if this is feasible depending on how many people are involved, but can you do monthly skip level 1-1s? Or at least with Amy’s team? Either way you need a better handle on what’s happening day to day

    6. Safflower*

      My org is small (~20 people, all remote, across state & country lines) but we have quarterly skip-level meetings. The purpose isn’t to complain about the middle management, but if there are complaints, there’s an opportunity to share them.

      But more important than that, we have established a culture of open feedback, where people aren’t afraid to speak up and share criticism. It’s all done in the spirit of finding ways to improve, and anyone can share at anytime. We even had a feedback methods training so everything is constructive and meaningful.

      We also have an anonymous feedback form that goes to the ED.

    7. argle_bargled*

      In a way, the fact that people came to you individually and unprompted to share their experience shows that you have a (implicit) system that works – probably prompted/reinforced by your listening tour!

      You can continue to message that you appreciated people coming forward, and what kinds of issues you’re available to discuss/want to hear from folks about directly – really you want to get this idea into the peer-level whisper network. Lots of people and orgs also use formal skip-level meetings – you could schedule monthly or quarterly. That kind of structure or mechanism for ongoing manager feedback should definitely be in place for folks with known issues, like Amy.

    8. Purely Allegorical*

      I would encourage you to do occasional anonymous survey to everyone in your team. Doesn’t have to be a formal 360 review, but it can be an informal pulse check to see how people are feeling. Anonymous forums allow people to be a lot freer with their opinions — many people simply will not provide feedback if they know it is attributable.

      1. Thunder Kitten*

        great idea if folks trust the system and/or grandboss enough to believe that they would be truly anonymous.

    9. Jinni*

      I think the question is why did the reports say, it was bad, but it’s better now? Do you get the feeling Amy bullied them into that position? Everything you did initially seems fine, except…it continued (started again). I think that’s the pain point. Whether that’s sitting in (where possible) after the first complaints, or coaching the Amys of the world, I don’t know. But I’d look into why everything appeared ‘fine’ for that short period of time.

    10. Buggalugs*

      One thing you can do as well assuming you all work out of the office is to just walk around visit with people a little bit here and there. Maybe weekly at different times, or join some people for lunch if that’s feasible. Basically be visible so it might not take so long to get the feedback given to you. But you sound like everyone is ok bringing you issues and I feel that’s likely the hardest step. If everyone’s WFH I got nothing but good on you for doing something about the Amy problem.

  10. Aspiring FedJob*

    I am back in DC and not loving the job that brought be back a year ago. Over the years I’ve lurked on USA Jobs and submitted a few applications but I haven’t invested the time I know you need to navigate the unique federal hiring – I have a great resume but not a great fed resume. I’ll be looking for a Public Affairs post. I’m thinking about hiring a fed resume expert to revamp. I did read the federal hiring tip book a few years ago but I think I need external assistance to be motivated enough to invest and jump into the process. Anyone have experience they want to share, good or bad?

    1. FlorAzul*

      I currently have 3 applications with USAJobs: one of them closes today, another 2 or 3 weeks ago and the other one 6 weeks ago! Both of the now closed ones say “reviewing applications”. So I guess you have to be prepared for a long wait? Sending good vibes your way.

      1. Hiring Fed*

        To be candid with you, they may never leave “reviewing applications” status. USAjobs is notoriously known among feds for not being an accurate source of status. Often once it’s transmitted to the agency platform, USAJobs is never updated again.

        1. Panicked*

          This is frustratingly true, as I literally just received a “not selected” email for a federal job I applied for 6 years ago.

          1. Hiring Fed*

            Applicants have a lot of (justified) frustration with federal hiring managers, but all I can offer is that trust me, it frustrates us too. The system is set up to corner us into being pretty uncourteous at times. We don’t handle any communication or timelines around screening OR selection. We’re sent a batch of resumes to review and interview, then tell HR who we select and who our alternates are. HR is supposed to communicate non-selections and selections in a timely manner, and usually don’t. I don’t know exactly why, my best guess is being very overworked and working in bad systems themselves that don’t communicate with USAJobs very well. In the end it can be discouraging for both managers and candidates, but I totally understand empathize with candidate’s frustrations towards us (I am also a candidate at times after all!)

    2. Hiring Fed*

      Use the USAJobs resume builder and add WAY more detail than you think you need. My fed resume is six pages long. You can add a more stylish, formatted PDF resume if you really want to as an attached additional document, but that builder includes all the information you need to even get considered, things you wont think of as standard. Don’t includes average hours you worked weekly? Resume could get tossed.

      I advise pulling up the posting and using the exact phrasing in your resume. Don’t lie, of course, but realize that the HR officer is pre-screening before anyone in your field gets a chance to look at it, so you need to make it as EASY a possible for them to recognize your experience. I just went to USA Jobs and searched for a PAO position to get an example. If your resume says “Authored and submitted stories to news outlets in all media types” and the USA jobs post says “Develop and disseminate information concerning the activities of the Department through newspapers, radio, television or other information media and to all field office public/consumer information officers.” – that’s the same thing, but if you don’t list all the media types individually, that could be a reason to eliminate you from referral.

      Unrelated to your resume, but consider if you qualify for any special hiring authorities that would allow you to apply with less competitive pools than the general public (Schedule A and Vets Pref are the two big ones). They help but aren’t a dealbreaker – I came into service from a general public candidate pool with no preferences and I know many others who have as well!

      Good luck! The fed process is arduous, and long (6 months app > start date is a good timeline nowadays), but it’s not as insurmountable as some people say.

      1. Former Retail Manager*

        YES…THIS! Current fed….it is all about the buzz words and matching as many words in the posting to your experience as you can. There is really no need to pay someone. And don’t worry about the conventional one page resume. With the feds, that is all out the window. And the federal process remains lenghty and arduous with many pitfalls. I can say that some agencies are better than others and it also depends on how in-demand your position is in terms of how quickly you may be onboarded, but you should expect a minimum of 3-6 months from application to start date, on average.

  11. tfb*

    What’s the best answer if you’re asked why you’re leaving your job, and the answer is “they’re giving me too much, things are falling through the cracks, and when I’ve asked for support, they said they can’t?”

    I’m about to start job searching which really stinks, because I really like the people I work with and even the stuff that I do. The problem is – it’s just too much! I just had my mid year review where I raised there’s a lot on my plate and could we hire someone to help take some of my responsibilities off my plate, and the response I got was “we know there’s a lot on your plate, but we’re implementing a hiring freeze so we will not hire – also, balls are being dropped, the workload is only going to increase, so the solution is just to work more nights and weekends.” Which… no.

    For a variety of reasons, I’m not looking to leave til the end of the year so I have time to get my ducks in a row. But this question is plaguing me – “they’re giving me too much work” seems… like I’m lazy? Like I don’t want to work? What’s the best way to answer this?

    1. Panda (she/her)*

      I wouldn’t even mention it, just say the opportunity came up and you can’t pass on it. You have tried to push back and they haven’t listened…you don’t need to get into it when you leave.

    2. Professor Plum*

      Can you quantify it and then state the facts neutrally? I’m regularly expected to work 60 hours per work and the workload is increasing with a hiring freeze.

    3. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

      Maybe something like, “I enjoy the work that I’m doing, but due to hiring freezes, there hasn’t been the support or time to do that work at the level it needs to be done. That’s why I’m looking for a workplace that invests in itself and responds to employee feedback.” Something like that?

    4. Gondorff*

      I personally always find that the best way to reframe the ‘why are you leaving’ question is to focus more on ‘what are you looking for in your next job that you aren’t getting in your current job’. So for example, lack of advancement opportunities would translate to looking for a place to grow, etc.

      In your case, reframe it as you’re looking for a more supportive or collaborative/team-based environment and I think you’ll be fine without getting into the nitty gritty of the issues at your current job.

      And good luck!

      1. SansaStark*

        This is how I answered that question a couple years ago when I was experiencing the same issues. I have such a wide variety of experience on my resume that the hiring manager was able to read between the lines and see that I was managing WAY more than I should have been at a crappy title. They hired me and we’ve now had far more candid conversations about the burnout and she was like “yeah, I could tell they were working you to death over there and I could do a lot better for you with a lot more money.”

      2. Ama*

        One phrasing I used when leaving a general admin job where I was overworked and expected to handle a lot of “emergencies” (that were only that because people waited until the last minute to talk to me) was “I’m looking for a workplace where I can be more of a specialist than a generalist, and while I know emergencies happen, I’d like to work somewhere where I can more proactively plan rather than just react to problems as they pop up.”

    5. Hlao-roo*

      Other commenters have already suggested some good phrases. I’m here to add on that once you answer the direct question, tag on “and I was excited to see XYZ in your job ad because ABC.” Interviewers care far more about why you applied for their job than they do about why you’re leaving your current job.

    6. Akcipitrokulo*

      Find another reason. Ideally one that says why you want to work for new company/what excites you about it. A bland “wrll, I felt it was time to move on” followed by ” and your llama grooming department is exactly where I want my career to go!”

      Or find a neutral reason – that doesn’t apply to new job.

    7. tfb*

      Sorry for the confusion – I meant when interviewing for another job and if they ask “why are you leaving?”

    8. Generic Name*

      I just went through this. I’ve been at my company for over a decade and recently the balance tipped from enjoying my job to not (underpaid, underappreciated, too many dinky projects, etc.). Because I’ve been here so long, literally everyone has accepted a bland, “I’ve been at my company for a really long time, and it’s time for something new”. Or something along those lines. I’m also in consulting, so it’s been easy to say, “I’m looking to move on from consulting” when I interviewed with non-consulting companies.

      1. tfb*

        Hi are you me? That’s awesome to hear – I’ve been with them for a long time too. My concern is my company is growing and we’re doing lots of new things, so it’s not like I can get bored, but good to hear that most people accept “looking for something new” as a legitimate reason.

    9. Stephanie*

      I personally wouldn’t go into it — I’d imagine it’d be hard to say that in a way that your potential employer could confirm. Unless it’s somewhere that has very publicly had massive layoffs like Twitter, it would be hard for NewEmployer to know if you just legitimately had too much work or you weren’t good at managing your workload or what. I would just focus on why you’re interested in the new job.

      I get it though — my department has had two rounds of layoffs in the last year (with rumors of another one by year end) and my workload has increased to where things just have to slip if I don’t want to work 60 – 70 hours a week every week. I probably wouldn’t mention that was why I was looking for a new role, however.

      1. I Have RBF*

        For you: “There have been two rounds of layoffs in the last year already, and rumors of a third, so I’m looking for a new place that is more stable.” IMO, people who read the writing on the wall about their company and start looking are “proactive”, not lazy. You don’t have to get into the 70 hours a week insanity.

    10. Alex*

      You don’t actually have to be honest. You can say you are looking for a new challenge, looking to grow your career, super interested in [whatever is different about potential job from current job] and are jumping at the opportunity, etc. It’s totally fine to pretend you are running towards something when you are actually running away from something.

    11. Large Pink Rabbit*

      Lie. Say you are happy where you are, but you saw XYZ in the ad and thought you would explore the possibility.

      1. Helewise*

        This just isn’t a case where dishonesty is warranted, and it just isn’t good practice to jump straight to lying. It’s too easy to start making that a habit. Being honest – even selectively so – is a big part of being trustworthy and so important in creating and maintaining good relationships, even and especially at work.

        1. Reality is Harsh*

          As someone who’s been through many interviews lately, I agree with Large Pink Rabbit. Interviewers don’t want to hear the truth. They only want to hear positivity and how highly you think of their company. “I was so excited to see XYZ in your ad that I had to reach out!” is the way to go.

    12. Somehow_I_Manage*

      “I pride myself on customer service. While I love what I do, our team at Megacorp isn’t in a position to provide resources needed to keep up with demand. If I can’t deliver for my customers, I won’t be able to to maintain my reputation. I’m looking to work someplace where I can have access to the right level of resources to keep my promises to clients and grow sustainably.”

      /By the way, your situation is super common and reasonable. It’s worth being transparent. And it’s worth getting aligned on expectations with any firm you interview. You don’t want take a job where you’ll be in the same position- a savior. You want to join forces with a solid team and take them to the next level.

    13. Jaydee*

      It’s not just “too much work” it’s that the workload has increased to the point you’re always in crisis mode rather than able to focus on high priority projects and there’s a hiring freeze meaning that won’t change/improve for the foreseeable future.

    14. ccsquared*

      I’m leaving a job for similar reasons, and I made the focus not the volume of work or the overall stress but the type of work occupying my time versus what I wanted to be doing. So “Well, I’m really passionate about A and B, but in my current role, the focus has been more on C and D, so I’m looking to move back towards something where A and B are a bigger part of the day to day.”

      I didn’t actually need that for the interviews, but it’s working wonders this week in all the “hey, I’m leaving!” conversations. And to a lot of people, I’m just leaving it at “I’m going to have the opportunity to do more of A and B” but in a job interview where you might want to suss out if C and D are part of the bargain, I’d probably be more specific about that.

    15. Green beans*

      I like to just list out job duties, without emphasis or rancor, as they seem relevant to the questions, until the interviewers mention that it’s a lot and then I go yeah I’ve learned a lot and now I’m looking for something a little more focused and team-based.

      you have to be very value neutral, “like oh yes I did A, B, and C” to one question, and then, “oh I did D, E, and F which would really help me with X,” to another, plus a broad “at my current job, I’m responsible for Q, R, S, and T.”

      plus it’s a handy way to screen for what they think is a reasonable workload – anyone who doesn’t flinch you probably don’t want to work for.

  12. hypoglycemic rage (hopeful ex librarian)*

    Hi yall! I wanted to give a small update after my post from last week (in which I asked for help understanding why my trainer says “we’ve been over this” often). The answers I got were really helpful and I appreciate the insight into training, since I’ve never trained anyone. I also was not fully aware of how this could be coming across/perceived, so although some of the responses were a little rough to read, I am ultimately so glad I asked.

    This week, I’ve been really trying to take notes super in-depth. I think I posted this in a comment, but this job has been a huge learning experience for me in a lot of ways, so I’ve had to kind of re-learn stuff in terms of what works and what does not work. One of which is having to take notes and then also refer back to them. Usually in past jobs, I’d take notes on something but then would eventually become familiar enough with the project to where I didn’t need the notes anymore. I think things are going better, although I notice sometimes I interpret internal notes incorrectly, but I don’t realize there are even other ways of interpreting it until my trainer comes back to me about it and asks. It’s not that I don’t want to ask a question, but something doesn’t always click to where I think I should ask, because I truly think I understand. I don’t really know how to fix that, but I think if there are any internal notes that are not 100% clear, I’ll ask.

    I also want to shout out my trainer (who volunteered to train me, knowing at least on some level that I have issues to work out and on). I so appreciate their help – I am making less mistakes, which is awesome, but even in general I feel much more confident at work overall. They have a way of explaining things that make sense, which is really apparent now that I am learning things that are completely new and doing better with the new stuff (especially error-wise) than I had in the past. They also have my back, especially with management.

    I am def not out of the woods yet, but I feel so much better from where I was, mentally, a month or so ago when I got put on my PIP.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      I’m glad the changes have already led to a bit of an improvement! Hope things continue to go well for you!

    2. Samwise*

      “I notice sometimes I interpret internal notes incorrectly, but I don’t realize there are even other ways of interpreting it until my trainer comes back to me about it and asks”

      Could you meet with your trainer –even a quick check in — to specifically ask about situations where you are sure you are correct? “Hey trainer, could I run this by you quickly? I checked my notes and my interpretation is A because BCD. Am I on the right track here, or is there another way of looking at this?” Trainer says A is not right, or A is only sometimes right, really it’s K — you say “Hmmm, is that because LMN?” Trainer, “Actually, it’s because XYZ”

      When you do this, you show you are being attentive (taking notes), thinking about the situation, taking seriously the need to understand and learn. If your trainer is good at explaining the because, you will learn from that.

      1. hypoglycemic rage (hopeful ex librarian)*

        oooo i like this!!! i meant “internal” more like “departmental” notes that i did not make/type/do. but this same process could for sure apply to that situation as well as my own notes, too! :)

    3. Potatoes gonna potate*

      I am so happy for you! Following along on your posts. This sounds so much like my own experience. Rooting for you here <3

      1. hypoglycemic rage (hopeful ex librarian)*

        well right before i read this, i made another error and got told that we “talked about this already.” my other trainer never typed this (we were remote), so i don’t know if she thought this and didn’t voice it aloud, but i have come to really hate this phrase haha. it’s not something she says every day, but if i get something wrong that i should “for sure” know, or of it’s something we’ve gone over recently, that’s when it gets said. my problem is that i don’t always get when i should be grouping concepts together, and that’s when i make mistakes. so if it’s something like exactly what we discussed, it’s better, but if it’s not, that’s where i feel like i struggle.

    4. goddessoftransitory*

      Yay!
      I am an internet stranger, but I am genuinely proud of you for sticking with such a hard task and working to such a degree to learn new skills and rework how you think/take notes. It’s a gargantuan task and I hope you’re treating yourself a bit as a reward for all your labors.

      1. Hypoglycemic rage (hopeful ex librarian)*

        This is really hard, yeah! Especially because it’s for a role I didn’t apply for (I was moved to it without any consideration and I wasn’t asked), and tbh I’m still bitter about that.

        But yes, tonight I’m gonna find the video someone uploaded of one of the Taylor swift concert, actually put it on my tv, and drink wine bc this has been A Week. :)

    5. GythaOgden*

      I’m glad we were of assistance. The truth can hurt a little sometimes but I’ve had similar wake-up calls and pulled things together and it’s quite liberating when you do feel you’re making progress.

      I hope everything goes well for you :).

      1. Hypoglycemic rage (hopeful ex librarian)*

        Honestly I’d rather have this feedback and be able to actually do something about it, you know? Like I thought things were going pretty well at work – not great, but not as bad as they are (my PIP). Had I known, I could have done stuff differently.

        Anyway, progress is slow, but I do feel like things are different, and you’re right, it feels great. I’m still making mistakes, but they’re not as many and I’m doing really well on the newer stuff I’m learning, the first things that trainer 2 is teaching me from scratch.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Exactly. I’ve just had my personal organiser helping me get rid of stuff and that can be hard work. It’s been an exhausting couple of weeks as everything seems to be overwhelming, but it’s worth it in the long run.

          Best of luck and take care of yourself.

  13. Panda (she/her)*

    Why is quitting so hard? I just resigned this week for another opportunity that is a $35k increase over my current job, hybrid with a 10-minute commute (I struggle with full remote) and also a step up career-wise, but I do love my current team and boss and I’ve really been struggling with feeling like I’m letting everyone down by leaving. I know that they will be fine without me, and I shouldn’t be agonizing over this, but I am. Please help me feel better about this!

    1. C.*

      Feel your feelings! Closing a chapter can be a big hurdle for people, and there’s nothing wrong or weird about that—especially if you care about your colleagues, work, company, clients, industry, etc. I would bet that, once you’re settled in your new role, these feelings you’re having now will start to fade over time, especially when you’ll have new experiences in your new role to look forward to.

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        This! I left my former role in January – I loved my job, I loved my team, I truly didn’t see myself moving on from it anytime soon, but then an amazing opportunity fell into my lap so of course I took it! It was hard! I still keep in close touch with a lot of people there (and even crashed their summer picnic last month, ha ha!)

        However, if your boss/team are any good (and you probably wouldn’t feel so guilty if they weren’t!), they are HAPPY for you. This all sounds like a positive move for you!

    2. Hlao-roo*

      Seconding C.’s advice! You like the people you work with–very normal. You won’t be seeing as much of them going forward, so you feel sad about that–also very normal! You’re invested in the work you’re doing and/or in the team dynamics and you know that leaving is going to be a change for you and them. So feel sad now. Tell your coworkers and boss that you appreciated working with them. Get contact info for anyone you’ll want to keep in touch with in the future. You and your current coworkers will all move on relatively quickly once you’ve started at your new company.

    3. lost academic*

      Because you aren’t a sociopath and (these) people matter to you, as do relationships.

      Because change is hard.

    4. And I'm the alchemist of the hinterlands*

      Second what the others are saying. Even if the move is a good one for you, it’s still a change and a loss, and it’s natural to grieve changes and loss. My last two jobs were pretty devastated when I left, and I told them who knows, the next person might be better than me! (The last job actually didn’t replace me, but that’s not my problem).

    5. Capybara Manager*

      I completely feel you! A while back I quit a job that had become SUPER toxic, one I’d been wanting to quit for almost a year, and it took me ~6 months and a ton of therapy and a lot of crying with my office door closed to actually do it, because what about my team? what about my customers? etc., etc., etc.

      I have no idea how many times my therapist, my retired ex-boss, and various friends said, “People leave jobs. It’s a totally normal thing. These aren’t your kids. You’re allowed to quit.” But I would guess the number was in the thousands.

      So: feel how you feel! But try to think of it as a difficult but good change in your life, not as something you are *doing to* the people in your old job.

    6. Fikly*

      Capitalism brainwashing.

      They tell you that they are letting everyone down by leaving, that you have a personal responsibility to your coworkers, that they are your fellow humans. It’s your employer’s responsibility to staff appropriately and have things in place to deal with transitioning employees.

      And then everyone buys into it and doesn’t blame the actual villain.

      And don’t forget that they would screw you over without a second thought and tell you it’s just business.

    7. Critical Rolls*

      Think about how you’ve felt in the past when a coworker you liked left. You probably weren’t devastated! You are only a piece of the work picture for your boss and coworkers, and while they value and will miss you, you’re only affecting like 10% of the landscape. When I have this conversation with myself, and that inner voice says, “Whatever will they do without you?!” my inner smart aleck replies, “Probably whatever they did before you got there.” I find it kind of fun to take this line of thinking and make it ridiculous. The boss giving a work version of the Mr Darcy speech! Morose gif exchanges in Slack! A literal raincloud over the building, summoned by the concentrated sadness at my departure!

    8. Girasol*

      When you leave your job for a better one it’s not like you’re a quitter but for me that “Never be a quitter!” thing kicks in anyway.

  14. Anonymous Educator*

    What do you all think of orgs using a “homework” assignment as a screening tool before interviews?

    This isn’t after they’ve already done a phone screen and considered you a viable candidate—just as an initial screen. This is something that takes several hours to complete. But it’s also not something they can use in their business (it’s not something where they’d be stealing your ideas or using your work to improve their own processes).

    Is that a dealbreaker for you when looking at jobs? Have you ever done it? Did you end up getting/taking that job?

    1. hypoglycemic rage (hopeful ex librarian)*

      I’ve had this before – I applied for a job where they wanted me to complete a “test” to see how I was with typos and spotting mistakes and all that. It only took like 30 minutes, so that was fine. Anything other than that, though, and it would be odd, just because it shouldn’t take several hours. I don’t know if that would be a dealbreaker for me personally, I guess it depends on how desperate I am for a(nother) job. Like if I had other options, I might pass on this, but if I didn’t, I would take what I could get, you know?

    2. Voluptuousfire*

      I had that once. I did a short project for a role where he had to write a few short emails that were pertinent to the role. Ordinarily, I pass on things like this as an initial screen since it’s an investment that I’m not always willing to put in before I talk to someone about the role and company.

      The pay was particularly high for the role, so I figured a 45 minute investment would be worth it. In the end I didn’t pass because my emails were not “dynamic enough.”

    3. Teapot Wrangler*

      Several hours would be! I do set tasks sometimes early on in the process but never anything that would take more than 30-60 minutes max

    4. Stephanie*

      Several hours would be a dealbreaker unless I was really desperate. 30 minutes is annoying, but I’d do it.

    5. Clara*

      Before an interview? Absolutely a dealbreaker. So rude to give homework without at least some type of conversation.

    6. RagingADHD*

      It really depends on the job, how well it pays, and how easy or hard it is to demonstrate skill on a resume. I have done this for well-paying writing jobs, because the roles are in very high demand and Dunning Kruger syndrome is so pervasive — tons of people think they are amazing writers. Very few actually understand what is necessary to take raw material from a client and turn it into interesting, motivating, or even readable nonfiction. And it’s really, really easy to bullshit a writing resume. People submit fake samples, or they claim they ghostwrote books that they didn’t. A hiring manager can’t really check on that kind of stuff because of NDA’s.

      So there will often be a pre-screen task, like taking raw material for a book chapter and either rewriting it with notes to the imaginary client about why you made the changes, or giving editorial notes on a first draft. The notes are more important than the rewrite, in some ways, because they demonstrate your thinking about the work, as well as your ability to deliver feedback clearly and with an appropriate tone (such as being mindful of a client’s feelings so you don’t offend them). I’ve done a few of those. Some I got, some not.

      For a job that’s more straightforward in terms of the ability to screen for needed skills, or if the pay weren’t worth it, I would not be willing to do a project like that, early on or even at all.

      But all in all, I prefer project-based “homework” to automated skills testing. For example, I have seen some EA or admin job listings that wanted extensive skill testing on standard office software packages. I’ve never gotten one of those jobs (even though I am experienced with the software) because they don’t allow the kind of shortcuts I normally use, they may or may not be using the current version (so menu items are in different places) and they mark you down for random keystrokes or clicks.

      I have combined-subtype ADHD. Up to 30% of my keystrokes or clicks are random. And those random keystrokes have nothing to do with my ability to do the job, unless the job is entirely or mostly high-speed, high-volume word processing and data entry. Which are not the jobs I’m looking for anyway.

    7. uncivil servant*

      I like it, because I’m always at my best in writing. I probably work for my current organization because they usually do a written test before interviews, unlike everyone else who declined to hire me because I was so bad at interviewing back then.

      I work for a large government body and the justification is that the written test/assignment evaluates job-specific knowledge, and then the interview can be used more for soft skills. The real reason is that external job postings can get hundreds of semi-qualified applicants, so it’s helpful to weed out the many people who aren’t at all motivated.

      I do think it should be a reasonable assignment. When I started applying, there were a lot more demanding assignments – I had one where I had to show up in person for a two-hour test, and another that was quite ridiculous in the number of questions and amount of research they wanted. Just one of the questions had a maximum word count of 2000!! I think that these kinds of assignments have been flagged as a DEI issue and now it’s more common to have two questions that require a few paragraphs of thoughtful writing.

    8. I Have RBF*

      Unless it’s absolutely my dream job for twice what I’m making now, I will not do several hours of homework for an interview, especially before I’ve even had a phone screen. They’re wanting several hundreds of dollars in my time, for free, before they even talk to me? That’s called “pre-screening candidates to see who is desperate”, IMO. I’m not a trained monkey who performs on command at any time for any reason for any duration.

      I also refuse to take “personality tests” or “cognitive ability tests”. The latter is built in discrimination against even mundane cognitive disabilities like color-blindness, dyslexia, dyscalculia, etc., and are brutal for people like me who have memory issues plus ADHD. IMO, cognitive aptitude/ability tests for employment should be illegal unless they are only for certain things absolutely required for the job.

    9. Drowning in Spreadsheets*

      Oh hell yes . Really, it’s a dealbreaker for me at any time in the process.

      When I was out of work recently, I was given an assignment after an interview that took me over 10 hours to complete. That’s more than a full night’s sleep! I didn’t get the job and I swore I wouldn’t give anyone free work again. For all I know they’re using what I gave them.

      This trend needs to go. So do one-way video screenings.

    10. The New Wanderer*

      I’d do it on three conditions: 1) it’s directly relevant to the job, 2) it takes less than 30 min, and 3) it’s not something they can use without permission/payment.

      So, simple writing task to demonstrate basic written communications skills, I’d consider it. Personality profile, general intelligence test, or other fluff? Nope. “Write 3 blog posts in our style on these hot topics!” Nope.

    11. Wordybird*

      This would definitely be a dealbreaker for me. I don’t even like doing assignments post-screen if I’m not paid for it.

    12. fhqwhgads*

      If it takes less than 15 minutes, I’m ok with it. I haven’t been asked to at that stage, only later, but if it’s that short it’s not a dealbreaker for me, especially if it’s clear that it’s directly relevant.
      Longer or not clearly directly relevant, then yes, dealbreaker.

    13. GythaOgden*

      I’m an outlier here but because I can be a bit gawky in interviews and I’m at the level where it’s not going to be high-level or in-depth projects I’m assigned, but… I enjoy them. My problem in this round of job interviewing is that I haven’t had the opportunity to show people what I can do — my experience is stale because my job was eroded by the pandemic, and so I can’t draw on many ‘tell me about a time you…’ questions as everything is now several years in the past. If you sat me down at a computer and gave me some routine paperwork to do, I’d have it done for you very quickly. But of course that’s work and would need to be paid for, particularly in the low-level clerical/admin positions I’m looking into.

      The time I did do it, though, was going for a political party job as a researcher for a unit in Westminster assisting MPs asked to write a political briefing paper on a subject that was not necessarily something everyone would agree with (not bigoted, just a matter of reasonable debate) in order to get a feel for how I presented factual knowledge in a detached manner about a necessarily complicated and ambivalent topic. I actually changed my mind writing it — it was within my dad’s actual job purview and he helped me with some research and statistics that were very useful in building a bigger picture than the one often presented in the media. So I learned something myself from doing it.

      I got an interview and blew it by having an incredibly controversial opinion on what the party could do with their leadership contest (stick it where the sun doesn’t shine…not in so many words of course but it was a done deal and I’d have had to work with the outcome, so it just proved to me that I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to work in the political meat-grinder that is Westminster these days), but I did the meat of the job well enough I got party bigwigs’ attention, which was an achievement in itself for a mere provincial such as myself.

      But yeah, as I said, I’m not going to be asked to put together a draft marketing campaign or write a sophisticated computer program. It has helped me shine in the past, but there’s a limit to what’s practical and responsible for employers to ask of candidates. However, it might be useful for low level admin employees who struggle at interview but can show how they would hit the ground running. It would make the process more accessible for people like me who have dormant skills and want to show them off but are diffident in an interview. I think there should be more of that to interviews, rather than less.

    14. Honorificabilitudinitatibus*

      This isn’t as widespread in my (EU) country as it seems to be in the US, but it does happen occasionally.

      In general, I agree that for some jobs, doing something practical and pertinent can be a better indicator than how you perform in an interview situation. So I have done work as part of a job application process before – but only under the premise that it was paid for, and that they offered to do so without me having to ask. Otherwise, I would have to be truly desperate to do such an amount of work for free.

      1. Honorificabilitudinitatibus*

        Sorry, should have specified: Yes, I did get/take that job and am happy I did.

    15. Gary Patterson's Cat*

      I was both a graphic designer AND a hiring manager of designers, so it was pretty normal to give some type of skills test to see if they could really design something. I’ve also taken many such employment tests in the past. Here are my suggestions:

      I think it best to do so AFTER or DURING the first interview and before the second. This will help you get to the finalists. I don’t like the idea of doing it after a phone screen, because it can be a lot of work just to maybe get an interview.

      Keep it short: the exercise shouldn’t be more than 1 to 1-1/2 hours long. I created a design test where I gave them the photos and text copy, and all they had to do was layout a spread or small booklet to show they could bring in text, use a style sheet and create a basic layout however they liked. For writing, it should be something like “turn this press release into a short blog article + 3-4 social posts.” This should be enough to test their skill and creativity without being some onerous project. If you truly know how to do it, the good candidates will fly through it.

  15. Just doing my best*

    TL; DR: Does anyone have recommendations on how to speak with HR and steps for follow up when it comes to incorrect withholdings on paychecks?

    A family member has had their withholdings messed up this entire calendar year, and despite multiple attempts to have HR correct the error via phone calls (HR is outsourced to a company out of state), HR continues to insist things must be correct because “we obviously put all the information in the pay roll program right.” But they definitely aren’t right. Most paychecks have nothing withheld and the most that has been withheld this year is mere pennies (literally less than a dollar for all federal and state withholdings together) on one single pay period. Perhaps useful information: Withholdings were correct the past five-ish years they worked for the company and they never amended any forms/filled out new ones/etc. that could lead to a change in calculations or anything. Also, this is a person who works in a lower level position in an organization without a union (think maintenance, housekeeping, warehouse, etc.) so there is limited respect for the employee AND the employee has a different skillset and life experiences to most people in power/the types of jobs and roles represented by the AAM commentariat (not typical white collar office worker with all the knowledge of email, CYA experience, knowledge of how to advocate for themselves and their rights, etc.). They are super good at their work with exceptional reviews and deeply appreciated by peers and those they directly serve in their role! It’s just a different type of job to most commenters here, and also why I’ve been asked to help try to troubleshoot despite my own inexperience and lack of upbringing/preparation for trying to navigate white collar stuff. Anyway, we’re all getting rather anxious to have this corrected as I don’t know how I’m going to begin to cover the taxes that are going to be owed. Even if we could get half the year corrected it’d help me when it comes time to cover the rest of what will be owed next spring. Any help anyone could provide would be appreciated, especially scripts to follow, words/jargon to use, and exact follow up steps. My role probably won’t allow me to interact much in the comments (typing this on a bathroom break), but you have my sincere thanks if anyone can help!

    1. Tio*

      Can they perhaps get an accountant consult and have that accountant review their paycheck and explain what needs to be updated in a written document they could present to HR? Maybe a family friend if you don’t want to pay a tax company? it’s much easier for HR to argue with someone with “no experience” than, say, H&R block. But yeah, those taxes are going to suck. My company accidentally didn’t withhold state taxes from my paycheck for two months at the end of the year, and it cost a lot. (They also, however, corrected the mistake immediately when pointed out.)

    2. Goddess47*

      Start with the paperwork. If you know someone who knows even a little about taxes, ask them for help.

      At the very least, insist in filing another withholding form that will definitely take more money from your paycheck. That will formalize the request for withholding. That will feel painful when it hits but it will go a long way to ensure you have enough withheld to cover your taxes.

      See if someone in Legal Aid can help you, also. You may need someone who knows the laws to poke at this for you.

      Good luck!

      1. BlueWolf*

        I agree about filling out a new withholding form to try to cover some of the gap in withholding now. I recently updated my W4 because I realized that I had it set up based on doing itemized deductions like I did last year, but since I’m getting married later this year I’ll most likely not be itemizing so I would have ended up owing some taxes. And as others said, the withholding tables changed somewhat recently, so maybe that is somehow causing the issue.

    3. Rick Tq*

      Has your family member contacted the state Dept of Labor to see if they can help? The tax laws changed a few years back so they should have filed new Fed and State W4 forms with the company.

      To start taking care of taxes I suggest you sit down with them and look at last year’s return for taxed owed to see what the impact of zero deductions will be next April. It may be they won’t owe any taxes las

      Is their company at least withholding Medicare and Social Security? Those are easy since they are flat percentages without any reductions. If even those aren’t correct that is a red flag something is seriously wrong and the DoL will want to know about it.

    4. sa.greyhound*

      tax tables changed in 2020 and it’s now set up so that people should be coming out even (no refund, no taxes owed). I’m sure the taxes were inputted correctly as we’ve had many people (myself included) owing taxes when the form changed.

      I recommend that your family member ask for additional taxes to be withheld. I owed $1400 in 2021 so I took that amount, divvied it up amongst my pays and lo and behold – I got a refund this year.

      1. Former Retail Manager*

        Yes, THIS!!! When there were changes in 2020, many people did not adjust their W-4 and even if their earnings remained the same, substantially less withholding (and in some cases none) was coming out of their paychecks. This was the case for many people despite how much they may earn. I had 6 figure co-workers aghast that their withholding was like $20 per paycheck and they immediately updated their W-4.

        So, I do believe that nothing was changed in the payroll system, but this change likely impacted your friend. They should sit down with someone who has a basic knowledge of taxes, along with their past couple of years’ worth of returns, and their most recent pay stub, and use this information to revise their W-4 depending upon whether they are someone who is content to “break even” every year or if they are someone who prefers a larger refund at tax time.

    5. mreasy*

      This is something that the employee should take up with their boss. Also a paycheck calculator online as referenced below could help. But if literally only pennies are being withheld, that is obviously incorrect and HR is not only being absurd but violating the law.

    6. Hillary*

      This is all assuming they didn’t change their classification from W2 to 1099. Theoretically your family member would have had to sign paperwork for that, it’s doubtful unless the employer is seriously shady.

      So I suspect this is a distinction between payroll and HR. This looks like a problem with the payroll company (ADP or whoever). This absolutely is not going to make your family member look bad.

      Before you go to legal aid or report them, start with internal channels.

      Step one is they ask their manager for help (this may or may not be their supervisor, depending on the structure). Explain what’s going wrong, lay out what you’ve tried, and ask them to intervene. The manager will know who in HR to go to next, and may just go to HR themselves. The person who owns the relationship with the payroll company will get involved. This is the kind of nonsense that causes good employees to quit and it’s usually straightforward to fix – they’re very motivated to help.

      At some companies there will also be an HR generalist who can help. This is the person who leads the benefit meetings in the fall. At my last company they all sat near the computer where folks who worked on the floor could print paystubs etc. Literally anyone who worked in that area could and would help. I ended up helping someone once when I was borrowing a desk in that area even though I wasn’t in HR or from that plant. :-) If there isn’t HR on site, there should be contact info on the company intranet or in the handbook.

      If it’s one of those companies with many, many locations that outsources everything poorly, the word you’re looking for is “escalation.” Next time you call them back keep your town super calm & disappointed, think first grade teacher. We’ve tried to resolve this x times this year and it hasn’t worked. It looks like there’s a bug in the payroll system because stuff looks like it’s entered correctly but it isn’t withholding taxes. Can you escalate my ticket? Or is there a supervisor who can help?

    7. My Brain is Exploding*

      First, you relative should be (and should have been) setting aside tax money in a separate account. Second, is the employer withholding FICA? Also an issue. I suggest your relative start with their boss/their boss’s boss and enlist them in escalating this. If this doesn’t work, a certified letter attesting to the error and affirming their deductions. Are they making so little that they wouldn’t have taxes deducted (have they received a refund in prior years)? Finally, you could consult an attorney (or call the appropriate agency in your state for advice).

    8. Any older username*

      Can they go to their supervisor and ask them to send an email to the payroll/HR company asking what is going on. Or escalate it to higher up in the payroll/HR company – calling their helpdesk hasn’t worked – it’s time to go to a supervisor/manager there. There must be some sort of complaints process. And as others have mentioned ask for help from the Labor Dept.

    9. I Have RBF*

      Caveat: US specific advice. IIRC there are online payroll/tax estimators where you input your state, deductions and pay, and they estimate what gets taken out and how much is left. You may want to look for one of those that covers your state, so that at least your family member can set aside the right amounts so they aren’t caught without the money come tax time. Then you could try taking the results of that, printing them out and telling the payroll company “This is what an independent source say should be taken out for these withholding specs. Please fix your process.” Even better if you can find one from ADP (a payroll processing company) or H&R Block (a tax preparation company.)

      If they don’t respect the employees, they may not care that they will be financially harmed by their carelessness. The IRS doesn’t care that these companies get withholding wrong, they still go after the hapless employee for the money, and not even a slap on the wrist for skeevy payroll processors.

    10. Imtheone*

      As an FYI, for anyone who finds themselves owing taxes they can’t pay, they can set up a payment plan with the IRS. Of course, it’s better not to be in this situation, but if it arises, it’s good to know.

    11. moql*

      I don’t have any recommendations for the employer side of things, but several people are recommending you consult with an accountant. If that’s out of the budget, try looking into if the county has any volunteers who help with taxes. Its not in season, so you may have trouble finding it, but if they have an established program you might be able to set up an appointment to meet with someone. My dad’s retirement “job” is spending February and March volunteering to do people’s taxes at the local library and he’d be happy to help with this sort of thing. Try the county first, then email the library and see if they can put you in touch with someone.

    12. Green beans*

      “Can you walk me through my paycheck and explain my withholdings? I have my deductions worksheet on me and I’d really like to understand how my withholdings have changed so drastically this year.”

      1. Enai*

        Ooh, excellent script! It forces the person on the other end of the phone to at least look at the problem.

    13. Daisy--Duck, not Duke*

      My partner has had this problem at his PT job for a non-profit. It’s a 10 hr/week, Federal minimum wage job, and because of his few hours and low wage he doesn’t have much federal taxes withheld from his check. I think they withheld something like $250 out of the $5K-ish he earned last year at that job. They do withhold Social Security and Medicare, and it might not be a problem if not for his pesky full-time job.
      He has extra withheld from him primary job since they have payroll and HR staff, as opposed to the volunteer who handles payroll for the non-profit.
      It was incredibly frustrating when I saw his W-2, since I don’t think I ever saw a pay stub for that job. he didn’t think it was an issue until I made him write the IRS a check.

  16. Discouraged and losing hope*

    How do you keep your confidence during a long and difficult job search? Been looking for about a year, recent masters degree. I’m making a midlife career switch, so I’m older than most candidates for entry level jobs. (and the first comment in this open thread is an example of what I’m worried might be happening. Old people in entry level jobs = scary and don’t know what to do with them…)
    All the jobs – even entry level jobs – are looking for people with experience. I’ve been applying to all jobs that want <10 years of experience. I've done – and continue to do – volunteer work to gain experience, but I've been told they want "real" experience. I've joined the local professional organization and attended events. I've participated in the group's mentoring and resume review program. In the last year, I've been through one or more interviews for jobs 5 times, and each time when I asked for feedback it came down to "not enough experience"
    Can't get a job without experience.
    Can't get experience without a job.
    And now with a reorganization and layoffs, my current job is changing in ways that might be intolerable. I'm feeling hopeless and stuck. How do I manage to stay confident and break into the new field?

    1. I gave Barbie the color pink*

      Get experience through pro bono volunteering. Most of what I did during the pandemic, I did through Catchafire and TapRoot. The set up is nice because you apply for projects that non-profits post, you interview and then they select you. Ideally, you’d create a project management process with them based on their needs/timeline, do the work and – done! It’s like a mini job each time. I completed 25 of them in 2020 and used it on my resume. My current team said it was what made them look at me closer than others who did traditional volunteering (which I’ve done many times over with every move).

      Unless you’re out there in the zoology world or something you will probably find a good project to work on.

      1. Discouraged and losing hope*

        As I mentioned, I have done and continue to do this, but they don’t consider it “real” experience.

        1. I gave Barbie the color pink*

          No, you mentioned volunteering and pro bono work is beyond volunteering. It’s application of your professional skills and services, not licking envelopes. When you say ‘they want real experience’ I interpreted it as that’s what they could be looking for. Are you pro bono volunteering such that the work you’re doing is what you’d be doing in that job? Perhaps your volunteering isn’t aligned with the work you want to be paid for.

          You’re feeling hopeless and stuck and I’m going with your curt response as such. When you ask for help and people provide it, say ‘thank you’.

          1. Discouraged and losing hope*

            Yes, I am actually doing the job I would be doing on a volunteer basis. That is what I said, and I felt like you didn’t bother to read what I said I had been doing.
            Plus, my question was about how to *remain confident* not advice to do what I’m already doing.
            But since you insist: Thank you.

          2. shaw of dorset*

            no one here is 5 years old, so there’s no need to lecture anyone about saying “thank you”

    2. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

      Is there any way at all that you can translate your current/previous jobs’ experience into experience for the new jobs you’re looking for? Highlighting transferable skills, etc.? Make sure that you’re highlighting the actual work you’ve done while volunteering so they can see what real experience you actually have there?

      Breaking into a new field takes time, so don’t give up. You might just have to be more persistent than others.

      1. Discouraged and losing hope*

        That was something we talked about extensively in the mentoring/resume review process. I’ve done that the best I can, but there’s not a whole lot of overlap.

    3. Sherm*

      I’ve been there before. A long, long job search that seemed like it would never end. But it did. A few considerations:

      –All you need is one yes. If your job search success rate is 0.001%, then congratulations, you got the job.
      –Is there any freelancing you could possibly do?
      –Getting to the interview stage 5 times is pretty encouraging! I would do a mock interview with a friend. I know, it is your lack of experience that they brought up…but, they knew about this lack of experience before they brought you in, so maybe they were hoping SOMETHING would happen at the interview to convince them to hire you anyway, and that “something” didn’t happen. Regardless, we could all improve!

    4. NaoNao*

      Can this job be done overseas at all? That’s how I escaped the need job for experience / need experience for job trap. I moved from a call center associate role to a call center coach/trainer BUT it was in SE Asia, a contract role, and working overnights. I really thrived in that role and stayed for 3 years, and was able to build enough of a professional resume that once I repatriated to the States, I was able to relatively easily get a job.

      But the other answer is networking. By which I mean going to the people at the volunteer jobs, and the professional associations and directly asking for a referral or informational interview about openings in their company. That’s honestly how most people make the leap–a friend or relative knows an opening, refers them, and has an advantage due to the referral.

    5. Teapot Wrangler*

      I would try to get a foot in the door with a less desirable role – for example, I really struggled to get into my industry because there was always someone with experience. In the end, I got a job doing a non-desirable type of work within that industry and then parlayed that into another role once I had industry experience

    6. cleo*

      That’s so hard. I also went through a long job search / period of being under employed and not loosing confidence was a big challenge.

      A few things that helped me:

      Doing one social thing per week that had nothing to do with networking or job searching. Even doing low key things like playing a board game with friends or going to any kind of weekly group helped. I found my weekly meditation group to be really helpful because I got to be around people who liked me but I didn’t have to talk much.

      Set up regular calls with two of my best “team me” friends – they both believed in me and thought I was great and would also follow my lead and not ask about job stuff if I didn’t bring it up.

      Got as much mental health support as I could afford.

      1. cleo*

        Oh, and one more thing that helped me was to talk to other people who’d done something similar to the type of career change I was trying to make. I talked with a couple people who were really honest about how hard it was for them to make the change and knowing that it eventually worked for them helped me not lose hope. And they also had some practical advice – some of their advice worked for me and some didn’t.

    7. Rachel*

      I set aside specific blocks of time to think about job searching and to execute the tasks I need to complete.

      Do a lot of activities that boost your self esteem and confidence generally, not just about job searching.

      If you can stop yourself from ruminating and boost how you feel about yourself, it will help.

    8. Champagne Cocktail*

      When you’re going through hell, keep going.

      It’s really hard to be where you are and the market is brutal. Entry level used to mean, “No experience, but an internship on your CV would be good,” and now nobody seems to use it that way. It’s not just you going through this.

      To keep your sanity, here’s something that worked for me: every week, take a day off where you don’t do one blessed thing to do with job hunting. Reconnect with your loved ones, with yourself as a person. This will remind you that are NOT your resume.

      Jobscan.com is a site that will scan your resume and compare it to a job description to help you get looked at a bit more. They have a free account version for limited scans a month.

      I found some resources via my public library as well. Maybe yours has some?

    9. ccsquared*

      This sounds really hard, and I’m sorry you’re going through this.

      I’m also in the midst of a midcareer pivot, and after looking at a bunch of job postings for what I thought I wanted to do, I decided it might be easier to make several small moves instead of a hard pivot – so instead of different skills, different sector, different industry, different job could I do the same job but at a company where I could learn different skills? Or stick with the skills but use it in a different job/sector where I could later make a lateral move after developing new skills? (The latter is more or less the move I’m in the process of making.)

      It sounds like, though, if you got a degree you might be going in a direction that’s more linear, but even so, it might be worth exploring further if you can ease into it. LinkedIn can be really helpful for this if people in the new field use it – find people with the job you want and look at how they actually got their experience. The goal is to spot trends, but honestly the surprising stuff also gave me hope and broke me out of the rut of thinking I had no options.

      Also, I really like the exercise of writing out 5-7 stories about your professional accomplishments and using that as the way to identify your top skills, versus just thinking about past job duties. (This exercise is in What Color Is Your Parachute? but I’ve also seen blog posts that describe how to do it.) For me, that was just a huge mental boost after a year of feeling like a failure at my current job, and it might give some fresh perspectives on how these would apply to the new field that just rewording resume bullets might not.

      Hoping for the best for you!

    10. Thunder Kitten*

      You are not your resume. You are not your job. Please remember that. And as other posters have said : all you need is 1 yes. Do your best with applications – and also give yourself permission to take a break and do something fun.

      And while anecdotes are not data, I job hunted futilely (breaking into a new field after time off for kid raising and going back to school) for a FULL YEAR +. It is soul sapping. And then I got to 3 final stage interviews within 2 weeks of each other.

  17. Samantha P*

    I’m two months into my new job and noticing my boss’s limited understanding of what we do and retaining information. For additional context, I’m a few years older than him. I have extensive experience in technical llama grooming, while I don’t think he has much experience doing llama grooming. Has anyone dealt with something similar or have advice?

    – He struggles with time management in meetings, often rescheduling due to other meetings going over. This past week we had our weekly 1:1, which was 30 minutes. It ended up being 1 hour and 40 minutes because he wanted to go over 2H company OKRs and to get my recommendations on what I wanted them to be. I was kind of miffed, but I didn’t feel comfortable saying anything.
    – There have been instances where he asks for updates to emails he’s copied on and for me to resend this. For example, this past week, one of our external partners sent us a document. My boss messaged me if I could add him to the document, and I’m thinking, “I’m not your secretary”. Instead I said, “I think he already added you?”, and then meticulously he was able to find it lol.
    – While he’s receptive to ideas, he seems to not connect the dots. When I give him information on something, he’ll respond with “yeah!” and reiterate what I’ve said, but then he asks the same question later related to what we’ve talked about. He seems focused on immediate status rather than trends.
    – He’s having me pull weekly reports, but I don’t know how he’s actually looking at them and using that information? I’ve tried going over them during our 1:1s to talk about the main takeaways and trends, but he doesn’t come up any direction from the data, which he really should be
    – We’ve had a few meetings, which include a junior level person who reports to him, where I drive. These are starting to get painful because he’s so wishy washy. I’ll try to go over what I’m presenting, then try to discuss takeaways and what the next steps are. But we’ll talk about making A the primary priority, and B the secondary priority. But then in the next meeting, he’ll be talking as if B is the priority, and I’ll bring up A, and again he’s just like, “yeah!” without setting clear direction.
    – The biggest missing piece I noticed is that I don’t think my boss understands how to manage, set up or how to read these technical accounts. I don’t think he ever worked at junior levels on this type of llama grooming, I think he worked on similar grooming accounts and is now the director because it’s kind of similar. I can keep trying to explain it, but I’m not sure if it’s something he can understand.

    I’m getting the feeling this company might be more about “buzzwords” than actual good performance. Luckily no one seems pretentious, and we’re meeting goals. I’m just coming off a terrible boss at my last company, who really had no clue what he was doing (his reasoning was wrong and he made frequent mistakes), and was a huge jerk. I’m hoping this doesn’t evolve into a situation where he gets insecure and lashes out.

    1. Goddess47*

      For meeting length, have you tried going in with “I have a hard stop at X, because I have a meeting with Lucinda” and sticking to it? Set a small alarm on your phone/watch that is five minutes before you need to go and say brightly, “Oh! Sorry, that’s my reminder I have to leave. ” — but then you really do need to leave in five minutes…

      Some of the wishy-washy will depend on your level of commitment to taking notes and following up. “Oh, you want B? In my notes for yesterday’s meeting, you said A? Please confirm.” See what happens.

      And, as you have, if he has no direct experience in the subject matter, you’re going to have to decide how much of that you can live with.

      Good luck!

    2. Prospect Gone Bad*

      Getting my popcorn out for the comments. I’ve been browsing long enough to know that most commenters and people online in general are super supportive of the manager in these sorts of situations (“how dare a subordinate with more experience question your authority!” seems to be the consensus). But this is how it plays out in most cases. Been there done that.

      My boss from circa 2010-2011 was my age and was put in management because he was more visible in corporate and could do the “higher level” corporate stuff like financial planning. But that’s all he could do. We bought and resold a lot of technical equipment that had legal requirements attached to it. He could not help with any questions I had on equipment. Could not answer or direct me to the correct place for legal questions. Was not good dealing with our demanding customers so couldn’t help with account management or contract revisions.

      At a certain point, you legitimately start wondering why the person is your manager. He latched onto his limited skill set (reading financials) so would think he’s genius when he’d ocassionally spot that some expense went up. Like it was some amazing revelation he noticed a few months after the industry. So while he was a nice person, it felt like having no manager.

      In your case though, I see one area you can improve. You mention weekly reports. I still do reporting and you need to do it for a long time at one job and start noticing what changes month to month yourself. That’s part of doing the reports in my experience. Don’t expect anyone else to be able to read your data better than you can.

      also forwarding an email is not “being a secretary” so mentally reframe that one! This is common at all levels. People get barraged with emails. I’ve sat at my boss’s desk telling him what keyword to search outlook for…and the email I just sent last week was like the 20th email down. The mysteries of Outlook. So you definitely need to cut people slack on that one.

      But TBH sounds like your manager isn’t actually fulfilling their role. IMO, spoon feed them data and ideas as is appropriate for your level, and then your part is done. Who knows, maybe he’ll be replaced or moved in a year or two. Or maybe your type of project will get moved to a different dept. Who knows, maybe you’ll get promoted in a few years. Stuff like things lingers but doesn’t last forever IMO. Hang in there!

      1. Gary Patterson's Cat*

        Unfortunately, a lot of higher-level managers get put in charge of things they know nothing about. Especially men seem to “fail upwards,” though it also happens with women. They’re incredibly difficult to work with, especially if they are micromanagers in addition to not knowing anything (like my last manager). If they’re a laissez-faire type of manager, then sometimes you can deal with them, as long as they stay out of your way.

    3. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      I’d let him know that there is a hard stop on meeting times because of other time commitments. If he is asking for information that he has access to I would refer him back to the source where it is “oh you can find that in X document in the X drive”. Now if he is asking me for advice for what to do I would hedge and state “well there may be more variables than I know about so I can’t say for sure, maybe something along the lines of X”

    4. Anon for this*

      Much of this describes my current boss. He started as a manager about a year ago, after doing contract monitoring (for ONE contract) for nearly a decade. It’s as if he has never observed how his manager(s) did things, & he cannot connect dots, or he half listens then jumps to conclusions.

      I am now job searching. My grand grand boss knows & will give me a reference, but my grand boss (who herself struggles with soft skills, but absolutely can connect dots) thinks it’s a workload issue (our team was understaffed when he started), not a personality conflict.

      I am too old to deal with a manager who might work up to mediocre in a few years, so I am job searching.

      Side note: I am taking some leadership training that he also went through before becoming a manager. It is clear that he clung to details of the training, rather than big picture things.

      1. Anon for this*

        In summary, sometimes you just need to find a new situation, because a lot of this is very personality based. (I have been in my role long enough to be able to talk to my leadership about this without them dismissing my concerns).

    5. CheeryO*

      Is he new to management? This sounds a lot like my boss, who means well and is trying his best but is having some growing pains in his new role. In his defense, he gets absolutely blasted with emails and meetings, so it’s not easy to remember everything. It’s also not necessarily his job to know all of the technical details, and part of my job is to answer his technical questions even when they’re repetitive so he has the tools to do his job.

      If he’s nice and easy enough to work with otherwise, I’d probably internally roll my eyes and try to live with it. Just know that meetings are likely to run over, you may have to repeat yourself, etc. At the same time, it’s totally fine to push back a little bit (within reason – you don’t have a lot of capital at two months). I think it’s fine that you told him that he was copied on an email, as long as you weren’t snarky about it.

      1. Samantha P*

        Yeah I think he’s newish. He seems nice enough, thankfully I’m full remote. If I were in the office I think it would be harder

  18. Scorpio*

    I was wondering what would be a tactful way to determine if I can get in trouble at work for doing something illegal on a Federal level but has become legal in my state (recreational cannabis). Can I just ask our HR department or would that be weird?

    1. ThatGirl*

      I’m curious what circumstances you’re worried about? like drug testing? because either way you shouldn’t smoke/take edibles on the clock or show up impaired, obviously. But if you don’t work in a federal job, I don’t think your job can penalize you for legal use outside of work.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        They can. They can have their own policies and many do, especially national corporations.

        1. ThatGirl*

          Either way, I’d like to know what Scorpio is worried about specifically. If there IS random drug testing involved in their job, that’s a different story than if there isn’t.

    2. Gondorff*

      Since it’s just become legal, it’s not at all weird to ask. In fact, your HR department should be updating your company’s drug policy regardless to reflect the change in legal status, and it should include that information. Your conversation with them might prompt that if they haven’t already thought about it.

    3. Peanut Hamper*

      I would ask for guidance “in light of the new law”.

      Weed is legal in my state too, and many companies I know of are looking the other way when it comes to weed, or even saying that they don’t test for it in their job ads because they need workers.

      But I know a lot of companies around me are continuing to test and will fire people for a failed test. (Lot of pharmaceutical companies here.)

      1. Pretty as a Princess*

        Defense contractors will be the same. Positive tests or admitting use will pop as an adverse finding if someone holds a clearance. While it may not result in the clearance being rescinded, it can result in not being able to access different facilities or data on different programs. That of course has ramifications on the contract.

        I would first check your employee handbook. Is there a drug policy? If it’s older than the new law, you could ask HR if the handbook is being updated in light of the new law. If there is no policy, you should ask if they are planning to document one in light of the new law.

        You can always invoke a “friend” – “My friend was prescribed medical pot but was told it violated her employer’s drug use policy. I think it would be good for me to always understand our current policy if this ever was a situation I could be in.”

        1. Large Pink Rabbit*

          Most defense contractors will just fire your ass for federally illegal drug use. They won’t wait for your security clearance to be renewed or your SCI request to be denied.

          1. I Have RBF*

            Any government contractor that is under the federal drug use rules will can you.

            BTDT. The company told me there was “just a background check”, and I can pass those easily. Nope. It was a “public trust clearance” that was hideously invasive. I got canned because I would not promise not to use medical marijuana any more. I literally had to pick between my job and my health (insomnia can really f you up), and my health won. I was writing software, not even for defense. Didn’t matter. Thank you Tricky Dick Nixon and Ronald Reagan for your stupid “War On (some) Drugs.”

            Yes, I’m still peeved about it. It was such a waste of time.

      2. I Have RBF*

        I live in California, where even recreational weed is legal. My employer, also in California, drug tests everyone, but does not screen for marijuana. So I, a medical cannabis user, passed their drug screen in spite of the fact that I use it every night to get to sleep (far fewer side effects than Ambien, let me tell you.)

        So, if weed in newly legal in your state, ask if they have “revised their policy in light of the new law, because it affects who you might refer to the company.” Never admit it’s because you want it until you know the policy will allow it.

        Be aware, though, that if it requires any clearance whatsoever from the Federal Government, even a bottom level one marijuana use will absolutely get you rejected unless you basically vow to never use it again. Both the Obama and Biden administrations had issues with some of their non-career Federal employees over this.

    4. not a hippo*

      Ask to see the handbook. See if there’s a drug use policy. Weed isn’t legal in my state but my company’s policy is basically “we don’t give a fuck what you do at home, but do not come work high. Coming to work intoxicated is grounds for immediate termination.”

      It’s also important to note that my job can order mandatory drug testing if they think you’re intoxicated. Check if that’s a thing too.

    5. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      In addition to the good advice in this thread, if you work in what is determined a “safety sensitive” position there may be federal guidelines in place that require frequent drug testing and inability to use recreational cannabis. (Think, say, for example, forklift operator.) Again, this is all things you should be able to ask HR about with no recourse because, as you stated, it is now legal in your state.

    6. Problem!*

      I’d ask but I wouldn’t be surprised if you got a “random” drug test shortly after asking.

      1. I Have RBF*

        If there are open job reqs, ask about it so you can decide whether to try to refer a friend or not.

  19. MissGirl*

    I was recently rejected in a second-round interview for reasons that didn’t make sense as I had the experience they said I lacked. I’m curious if I should’ve responded differently or how I should’ve responded.

    In the interview with the hiring manager, they asked me to tell them about a project I worked on that had a measurable impact. I pulled out one that I usually use as it affected a change in strategy for a large company, had me working with multiple stakeholders, and required deep experience (project went on for months). I also did a quick run-through of my resume and offered to dive more deeply into each role. I finished the interview asking if there was anything else they needed to know or wanted more info on.

    The reason they gave for rejecting me was that I only work on long-term projects and they need someone who’s comfortable with quick turnaround times. They also wished I’d dived more deeply into my last role.

    Here’s the thing though, 90 percent of my projects last anywhere from under a day to under a month; the example was an outlier. I am super experienced in quick turnaround times but that was never once brought up in the interview. I also didn’t delve too deeply into my last role because I was only there five months before being laid off. I have no outcomes to point to as the stakeholders I worked with would be laid off and my projects dropped. Initiatives were constantly changing. I finished projects but have no idea if they made any impact whatsoever.

    I wrote back to the recruiter and explained that I did have a lot of experience with short projects and was happy to speak to my experience. That I hoped for another chance to demonstrate my capabilities. Of course, I never heard back. It’s probably for the best as I’m assuming the manager didn’t like me for other reasons but used this as an easy excuse.

    Besides redoing the interview with completely different answers, is there anything I should’ve done after rejection?

    1. rainyday*

      I don’t think there’s anything you could have done, tbh. The reasons given for rejection are very often not the actual reasons – or at least, not the whole truth or nothing but the truth… If they had really wanted to know more about your involvement with short-term projects, or with your current job, they would have asked you to provide further info about that in the actual interview.

      1. MissGirl*

        That’s where I’ve landed. They rejected me for some nebulous reason so they used this as a concrete one. I just wish they’d gone with, “We have candidates with more direct experience.” I get that all the time as I’m applying in different industries.

    2. pally*

      I think you sized up the situation correctly: they rejected you for reasons other than those they cited. Been there before! It is frustrating each time it happens. Best to move on with the job search. Try not to dwell on it.

      After the rejection I don’t think there’s much one can do. Maybe congratulate them on filling the position. Then reiterate that should the position open up again (or a similar one become available) you’d very much welcome their reaching out to you.

      1. MissGirl*

        This rejection came in the second round with two rounds left. I was hoping to get them to reconsider. Now I think they probably had another reason to reject me that wasn’t communicated.

        1. GythaOgden*

          If you’re out, you’re out. They may just have others more qualified than you (sometimes that is really just the case) and I don’t think arguing on what amounts to a point of order is going to change their minds and reconsider you.

    3. Firecat*

      I’ve been in your shoes and it’s really annoying but I don’t think there is anything you did wrong or should change.

      Sometimes interviewers jump to conclusions or fail to ask the questions that will suss out what they want.

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

      I think you did a good, and they messed up. It doesn’t sound like they talked at all about what they were looking for. And if they wanted more information they should have asked. Like how comfortable you are or ifi you have any experience with shorter time tables. I’m not sure if you mentioned it in the interview or not but you could have said how your previous job you and the stakeholders you worked for were laid off, so you do not have examples of that role. Or you could give an example of something you worked on but clarify that you don’t know what the impact was since the layoffs.
      But honestly if they are wanting more information its up to them to ask the right questions.

    5. Somehow_I_Manage*

      Nothing to be done. Their stated reasons don’t really matter. They’ve likely hired someone else or made other plans.

    6. Reality is Harsh*

      Nothing I can think of. Honestly, I think if an interviewer is actually interested in hiring you, they will make more of an effort to listen to you and give you more of an opportunity to address their concerns. When they don’t take the time to fully understand what you bring to the table, I can only assume that they were looking for a reason to pass from the beginning, and if that’s the case, it was never a worthwhile opportunity. I was in a similar situation recently, and I understand the desire to want to figure out what you can improve on, but having been on the other side of the interview table, these kinds of decisions can be incredibly subjective and biased and can have absolutely nothing to do with you as a candidate at all. Best to just move on and forget about them. You probably dodged a bullet.

  20. Mbarr*

    I feel like ratting someone out, but I won’t. I just want validation that I’m not wrong with my feelings.

    It’s half way through the year, which of course means that my large multinational company is starting its annual, “Whoa, we’ve spent too much money. Stop traveling. Stop doing lunches. Stop everything,” warnings. (Legit happens every year, so I’m not concerned.)

    My issue is with my colleague Gilbert.
    – Gilbert used to live in my country, and work from our office (but he lived in a city over an hour away).
    – He moved to the US over a year ago, but is coming back to my country to visit extended family.
    – While Gilbert’s visiting our country, he’s planning on traveling to our office.
    – I just found out (from Gilbert) that he’s going to claim mileage for the visit. He has no business case for traveling here. And he has visited us at least once since he moved, so I suspect he claimed mileage that time too.

    It’s obviously my manager’s prerogative to approve his mileage claim and it’s not my business. But this is wrong, right? (For context, our local office is very sparsely populated. Most of Gilbert’s and my team work in other parts of the US.)

    1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

      I think this is a “not my circus, not my monkeys” situation.

      There could be some business case for traveling there that you don’t know about, but even if there isn’t, it’s just not your business and you shouldn’t worry about it unless the amount he’s claiming in mileage is going to directly impact your ability to do something you NEED to do for your job. Which is unlikely.

    2. Hiring Mgr*

      I’m not seeing what’s wrong exactly – as you said, the manager will approve this or not, and it’s not really your concern.

      1. A Girl Named Fred*

        Agreed. If he’s traveling to the office, I don’t see what’s wrong with submitting the mileage reimbursement (or asking his manager, or whatever else the approval process is) to see if it would be covered. Just because the company is saying “Hey, pare back,” doesn’t mean it’s unreasonable or wrong to say, “I’m using my personal vehicle to visit on XYZ dates, I think that’s a boon to the team/the org because ABC; is there a way to still get my mileage covered?”

        1. mreasy*

          Agreed, even if the claim is just to visit the office and say hello / work for a few hours / have lunch with a colleague, it’s still something he’s doing as part of his job. I wouldn’t hesitate to claim this unless my manager had expressly told me not to. If he’s driving 300 miles (which would be a LOT), the mileage at the IRS rate is under $200 so it’s unlikely to be a huge deal anyway. But it’s up to his manager to say “don’t do this again” or to reject the claim for sure. It’s not something to worry about.

    3. Magpie*

      I’m not clear on what you would be accomplishing by getting involved. Your manager would have to approve his claim and she presumably knows about the company’s warnings that everyone needs to cut back on travel. It seems like everyone involved already has all the relevant information. If the company wants to cut back on travel expenses and they don’t think his claim has merit, they’ll reject the claim.

    4. Tio*

      It’s not necessarily wrong. Maybe your manager thinks there’s real value in having this person at the office, even if it’s just for relationship building. Maybe in reality, there’s a “stop expensing” notice in the company, but mileage is so small of a reimbursement that they’re not worried about it compared to the perceived value of the face time at the office. (We all know how weird companies can be lately about face time.) Maybe the mileage is so small of a reimbursement period, that they don’t care. (An hour’s drive, even round trip, is probably not going to be a very big reimbursement.)

      Whatever the case, I wouldn’t really think of this as wrong. It’s not like he’s going to be able to skip the reimbursement approval steps, and if the people above him don’t have a problem with it, it’s not something that should take up space in your head. It’s literally other people’s jobs to worry about this, so don’t make it yours too.

    5. NaoNao*

      Maybe I’m missing something, but what’s the benefit to Gilbert for traveling to the office + claiming mileage? Is he going to “pad” his expense claim with *all* the miles he drove the entire trip basically and claim they were to and from the office? I would think any savvy auditor could easily see that, for example, 400 miles is not the same as the expected 20 or so (back and forth from hotel to office daily or whatever). Or do you mean like…airline miles? “Mileage” typically means by car, but I could be misreading that one.

      1. M2*

        It’s not your business. If the manager approves it there is a reason. Nothing worse than office busy-bodies!

        An office busy-body in another department told me “you came into the office at 10 and left at 3” and all sorts of other stuff. Needless to say I do excellent work, have been promoted multiple times, etc. I then told her her yeah I did because I just came back from work travel where I traveled and flew on Saturday morning, worked all day Sunday and the following week and flew home Saturday. I had an work dinner that night of the day she complained about from 6:30-9, but she didn’t know any of that because it’s not her business!

        MYOB.

        End rant.

    6. Double A*

      I’m not sure what you would be ratting out. If he’s submitting the mileage then there’s no secret here?

    7. Teapot Wrangler*

      No, not necessarily. Also, the US might cover the mileage rather than your office anyway

    8. RagingADHD*

      Ratting out usually implies there’s a secret to tell. What’s the secret? An expense report submitted to your manager is not a secret.

    9. Alex*

      Is he lying about what he is claiming mileage for? If he is actually coming into the office, and he says he is, well, it is the business’s decision whether or not to reimburse mileage for that. That his travel might not be super useful or needed is a subjective opinion (even if it is a completely reasonable opinion). As long as he’s not lying about what he’s doing I don’t see anything wrong.

    10. ina*

      Huh? He’s coming to the office to see the people he works with…a “sparsely populated” office, too, where this face-time might be considered of value. At my old job, this was par for course because it was considered “team building” to see each other in person. And beyond that, of course he’d claim mileage: he’s NOT coming to the office for funsies – I am at a loss as to why you think he shouldn’t claim this…??? You say, “He has no business case for traveling here” but your manager knows he is, right??

      Respectfully, I would tell you to mind your business. Seriously, “I suspect he claimed mileage that time too” — yeah and I am sure his boss approved it, which is why he’s doing it again. This post reads as you not really liking Gilbert as a person…

    11. Alisaurus*

      Are you upset because he’s tacking business onto a personal trip and you think he shouldn’t claim those expenses since it’ll be a personal trip? And/or because he’s presumably also seeing these warnings (which you say happen every year and aren’t concerning) and coming anyway? Are you thinking he’s deceiving your manager and claiming this is just a business trip while he’s getting a “free” family visit out of it?

      It’s really not your problem, regardless. Your manager is the one approving it, and she’d turn it down if she didn’t think it was needed. So EVEN IF he’s tacking on a visit to family on a trip where he’s getting his travel reimbursed… so what? Lots of people add in personal stuff in their off-time on business trips, especially if they know people in the area. It’s okay. It’s normal.

      *Also, I’m slightly confused about what you mean by his “claiming mileage.” This makes me think his travel to your country is something he’s covering himself because family trip and he’s simply claiming mileage for driving to the office once he’s there (as many people do when they travel outside of the course of their normal duties). If that’s the case, it really makes sense he’d want to visit the office while he’s there for team-building/other business reasons and easily got that approved by your manager.

    12. Leigh*

      You say you’re not going to rat out your coworker (which is good), but I’m really curious what “ratting out” would even look like in this situation. Gilbert is submitting an expense report, and someone is presumably going to look at what’s on it, whether it’s your manager or HR or whoever. What would you say to your manager? There’s nothing really to rat out, unless the mileage numbers are wrong (and that’s still not your circus).

      Or is “ratting out” here more like telling your manager that you don’t think Gilbert should be allowed to expense the travel? I’m not trying to nitpick your wording; I’m honestly curious about what specifically you mean here.

  21. Interview needs writing sample*

    Hi all,

    As part of an interview I was told there’s a written component….and it is: “Provide a sample of writing (at least one page) that demonstrates your ability to highlight messages and strategic content for an audience of senior management”.

    So should I provide an actual work item I’ve done for another company at this interview? I’m guessing it would be all confidential? Is this a normal practice now?

    1. C.*

      That’s what I would do, but I would probably either “[REDACT]” any confidential/identifying information in the document or I would alter the text enough to change up names and details.

      1. Interview needs writing sample*

        There would be a lot of redaction….I wonder if I should just makeup a writing sample based on a fictional example….

        1. I Have RBF*

          Instead of redacting, substitute fictional people and project details. Make sure it still flows after the substitutions.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      That seems like kind of a dicey assignment, especially if you have NDAs or special legal restrictions on your prior work. What industry is this in?

      1. Interview needs writing sample*

        Right?! It is dicey as this organization is a partner organization (not a competitor) and in the same sector… healthcare.

        Don’t have any NDA…but I feel uneasy sharing the work….

    3. Eldritch Office Worker*

      It can be fictional, or if you use a previous work sample you can redact it/change names and details. They’re just looking for the structure.

    4. rainyday*

      if you’ve got something that fits, I’d use that but redact all identifying details. Its good to have a real example, as you can then talk through it at the interview, explaining how it benefited your company etc

    5. mreasy*

      I would redact company info and any identifying details – e.g. if you were working on a project around, say, a proposal on how to maximize output from phlebotomists, see if you can change it to another type of technician where you’d be able to show a similar outcome? Especially if this is a competitor, you don’t want them to be able to reverse engineer it based on your resume.

    6. ina*

      Can you take a real example and do what Alison does and replace the names and occupations and references to the real thing with a more out-there example (like llama groomer)?

    7. AcademiaNut*

      I’d be very wary of using a real work example from healthcare, even redacted/llama substituted, without your current employer’s consent.

      Maybe do a mockup based on previous writing, that’s sufficiently different from the real documents, and a note that you’re providing this because your current work can’t be shared. Then you can keep it on hand for future applications.

  22. No_Money_For_Bookcases*

    I’m wondering about how to add “accomplishments” to my resume when my current job wants me to do the same task over and over again, as quickly and accurately as possible. I don’t work in an Amazon warehouse (anymore), but my workplace has the same “don’t try and do anything new, just do your very narrow job as fast as you can.”

    How can I follow Allison’s advice about highlighting accomplishments when my job wants me to just follow my job description?

    1. Tio*

      Generally, focus on speed and quality of the work. Exceeded required output consistently, least defective teapots in the department, best paint jobs on the line whatever you can come up with.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      Honestly, I’ve almost never phrased my bullet points as accomplishments unless it’s warranted, and I haven’t had problems getting jobs. It’s okay to just lay out your responsibilities, and you can highlight in your cover letter how efficient you are.

    3. Firecat*

      I’ve actually had more success recently moving away from accomplishment based resumes and including a mixture of both.

      This isn’t a universal rule, but in general accomplishment based resumes can be easily misunderstood. I’ve ran into a few jobs where they were like “Were looking for someone with experience in X” and even though I had that experience it wasn’t on my resume because it wasn’t one of my 3 top accomishments. I now lay out 1 or 2 major accomishments and the rest are tasks I completed in the role.

    4. NaoNao*

      I’d highlight attendance, contributions to company culture (if any), accuracy, efficiency, meeting or exceeding KPIs. This is really a great case for the cover letter–you can put a lot of “color commentary” about the context and your other skills in the letter that aren’t clear from the resume.

    5. Large Pink Rabbit*

      First, everything doesn’t have to be an accomplishment.

      Second, can you quantify it? “Performed 47 tasks per week with 98% accuracy.”

  23. Well...*

    Starting a new job next week as a professor at an R1. Very excited! I’ve been preparing for months, but any last minute tips for joining a new workplace in a new role? I’ve felt pretty independent for a long time in my research, but now I’ll be managing students more directly and really being my own boss, so any advice on that would be useful too.

    Also moving back to the US after several years abroad. Any tips for feeling at home but also a little out of place when you move back?

    1. Another Academic Librarian*

      Congratulations. One mistake I made was not availing myself of faculty housing offer. I was relocating and was stressed about the move and finding a place to live and was offered temporary housing.
      In retrospect- if I had taken that offer, I would have been in a cohort of new hires and met others who were also starting at the University.

      Get a mentor for tenure and promotion-

    2. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

      Prepare for reverse culture shock–I’ve found it can be worse than regular culture shock.

      And I don’t know what previous experience you’ve had with this particular R1, but with any university, you will want to hang back a bit and see what the culture is like before getting too deep into managing/changing how things are done.

      If you’re new to the area, drive around/take a the bus/take a walk outside the campus to see what’s around. Try to go to university events/mixers for new employees, take advantage of any introduction things they have for profs (get in touch with your library/reference people! they want to help!), just try to make connections with people so you don’t silo yourself off too much. If there’s a teaching component to your work, ask students what they like about the campus and/or the area.

      1. Well...*

        Yes, seeing the no guns sign in the airport right next to the no smoking signs gave me a bit of a shock. Also needing to drive places that are seemingly next door on the maps (except to follow pedestrian walking paths and avoid fences, it becomes >40min walk). The weather is perfect for walking to go get a coffee in the mornings, except you can’t.

        I am enjoying snacks at the grocery store that I’ve missed for years. Pop tarts and Honey Bunches of Oats, how I’ve missed you.

    3. AnonAcademicLibrarian*

      Personally, I find I’m just seconding what Another Academic Librarian and Jaunty Banana Hat 1 have said. I would expect some culture shock and if there’s a housing offer, I would take it. I would also be sure to find a way to integrate with the community outside of campus- find a knitting club (if that’s your thing) or a Church (if that’s your thing) or something. Because I have noticed that new professors sometimes end up relying on their students for some amount of initial social engagement and that can rapidly become toxic and problematic as heck. I get the temptation (and I have felt it myself, especially when working with older graduate students), but fight that temptation.

      Also, keep your mouth shut and your eyes open for the first semester. That way you can avoid massively stepping on any toes until you have the lay of the land. Assume things are going to be weird, but if things seem super “dumb” at first glance, be aware there maybe a real reason that they are structured that way.

    4. constant_craving*

      Congratulations!

      As a PhD student, I can’t fully give you tips of succeeding as a professor. But since you mention supervising students, here are my thoughts on things you can do that students will really appreciate:

      Pay attention to the culture and norms of your program. Don’t assume because the school you got your PhD at did something a certain way means that’s how it’s done at your new place of employment.

      Know the contents of the student handbook, such as required milestones and corresponding deadlines.

      Hold your students to reasonable standards and provide guidance, but don’t set excessively high standards out of a fear that them performing at a student-appropriate level will reflect badly on you.

    5. deesse877*

      Some R1’s are very isolated, and others are in big cities or metro areas. I think there’s a big difference between the 2. If you’re in a small college town, commit to some colleges town socializing early: your dept will probably hold social events, and try to find one other thing, ideally involving other new hires. If you’re in or near a big city, you can probably play it more by ear, and there may be less social expectation from your immediate coworkers.

      The reason to engage immediately if you’re in an isolated place is because in a small community the quirks will come at you fast. I briefly worked at a very rural R2, and I have a clear memory from the first semester of sitting with colleagues sometime in October and realizing that everyone who hadn’t changed out-of-state plates yet had been pulled over by local cops in the past few weeks. Vital daily-life info that we couldn’t have gotten other ways. It’s also important to know people for small emergencies, finding dentist or vets or whatever.

    6. All Research, All the Time*

      Congrats! If any of your research involves grant funding or regulatory approvals, get started on that paperwork right away. IACUC/IBC/IRB approvals can take months and you don’t want to hold up your research or your funding. Many R1s have comprehensive research resource offices, so check into that.
      Someone else mentioned mentors, and senior faculty typically take on that role within individual departments. But they might not always be your best guide to research needs. They could have a different research focus, or they could just be slack PIs. Faculty don’t often think to ask the regulatory staff who might be a good faculty resource, but we know who is doing well-run research in your general field and most of us are willing to help you make those connections.
      Students are great and it’s fulfilling to help them mature into the next generation of teachers and scientists. But you are also going to be a boss. Especially if you have lab or clinical research projects, as the PI you have an obligation to the research subjects, the institution, any funding agencies, and the general public to ensure research in your lab is done ethically and correctly. Train your lab members, provide frequent and thorough oversight, and never tolerate bad behavior. I’ve seen PI’s in so much trouble because they didn’t want to come down on a student or staff member who couldn’t follow the rules. Helping them be compliant now will help them be worthwhile researchers later, so do the hard work of managing your lab. Good luck!

  24. Chirpy*

    What should I say to my manager when I ask for more help? My department head is about to go on a 2-week vacation which will leave me alone in the department during a fairly busy time. She’s also gone today, and I’ve already asked a coworker for help with something they’re all supposed to also know how to do, and was told “absolutely not” (this is a customer direct interaction, so the customer is left waiting until I can get there if someone just calls me instead of doing it. it’s fairly easy but makes the rest of my job take longer if I have to walk halfway across the building).

    I’ve recently been told by management that we will not be hiring more help, and I’m afraid that I’m being seen as “too needy” for asking, but it really is more work than I can do – we’re short staffed even when everyone is here. But my coworkers who won’t help also complain loudly if I can’t get everything done myself.

    1. BellaStella*

      Ask for prioritisation help? “I cannot do ABC and D but can do a and b, and get to c and d next week, is this ok?” So sorry you are in this situation. Hope soon it is better.

      1. Tio*

        Yeah, this is the way to go. Perhaps see if you can sketch out a general timetable of things you can and can’t get done that week, and let her know that you expect those things to not be done unless you have help. Then if she wants to assign someone, ask her to contact them directly since you were refused help.

        Alternatively, you can email anyone assigned to help with her in copy, and say “Hi Fergus! Jane said while she was out you would be able to complete task X. Here’s the materials I have on it, Let me know if you have any questions.”

        1. Chirpy*

          It’s retail, and physical objects piling up because one person can’t do a typical day’s freight for a whole department by themselves (and as I work in the biggest department, some days we get multiple semi trucks just for my department…)

      2. Chirpy*

        Unfortunately, it’s mostly the sort of stuff that can’t be put off, and in the past I’ve been told to “do what you can” but then punished for not doing everything (both by uncooperative coworkers, and I can’t help customers when freight is piling up and I need to literally dig through it for what they need).

        What I’d like to say is “good luck trying to replace me”, but I can’t afford to quit until I have a new job.

  25. Twenk*

    Thoughts on finding a part-time job with health insurance benefits that pays at least $50-$60k? I’m a knowledge worker in NYC, but not a computer scientist or software engineer. Long shot, I know! Wondering if working for local/state/federal govt. would get me close…I’d be willing to go up to a maximum of 35 hours/week if there were 4+ weeks vacation. Just finished reading “The Good Enough Job” and desperately wanting to reclaim time for my non-work life!

    1. Hlao-roo*

      I know some federal positions let people work 80% (four 8-hour days per week) for 80% of their salary and (I think) full benefits. I don’t know if NY state or city let their employees do the same; you can try reaching out to anyone you know who works for the state or city government to find out. In the meantime, look at federal jobs that list salaries of $62.5 – $75k (80% of that range is $50-$60k).

    2. Double A*

      Something like a teaching aid. 6 hours z day, lots of break though they’re at a fixed time. And you’ll likely be eligible for benefits. Frankly $50-60k is in my opinion solidly a full time salary, but not sure what NYC pay might look like.

    3. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      You would have to have a very specialized skill that is in demand for part time at that salary with benefits I would think.

    4. Stephanie*

      Might have to start off full-time, but I know my MegaCorp will do job shares where two people share one FTE role. Usually, though, you have to have a good track record and the job has to be eligible for it. But I’ve seen some pretty high-up roles (like director level) be eligible for it.

      My former employer (the shipping company that just went through very public union negotiations) hired people PT at ~30 hours a week with pretty solid benefits. The pay was not very good though.

    5. Teapot Wrangler*

      I assume not because you mention location so specifically but have you considered moving overseas? In London 35 hours a week is full time and 25 days holiday plus sick leave and public holidays (usually 8 days) is absolutely standard although the legal minimum is 20 days. Most white collar workers also get health insurance although there is often an excess of a few hundred pounds per financial year to use it. I’ve always had it for free although partners and children incur a cost to add them to your coverage.

      Apologies if this isn’t helpful – I know not everyone wants to or can move – but thought I’d throw it into the mix as an idea in case you would enjoy it but you’d not thought of it!

    6. BlueWolf*

      Maybe look at law firm jobs? There are a number of different types of staff roles, not sure what your specific field is. 35 hours is considered full time for our NY office, I believe.

      1. BlueWolf*

        I should add, we have pretty generous leave (although sick and vacation is one bucket), 11 holidays, decent health insurance coverage, among other benefits. Also, since NYC positions have to list salary range, it’s pretty easy to weed out now.

    7. Generic Name*

      I work in a STEM discipline that is adjacent to the construction and engineering industry. That would be possible in my field, but hard to find. Not the salary, but the part time aspect. I’d look for smaller companies who may need help but don’t have the work/budget for a full time position.

    8. Rachel*

      You might need to apply a “I can have anything I want but not everything I want” lens to this.

    9. kendall^2*

      Might be worth checking local universities’ listings; I’m not making the money you require (also, not in NYC), but I’m working half time and getting full benefits at the institution I’m at now.

    10. WestsideStory*

      Book publishing. Most entry level jobs hover in the high 40s and skilled communicators can get to $60-80 – and legit publishers tend to offer health insurance and other good benefits.
      NYC is a publishing hub and I’ve seen tons of jobs advertised lately. Check out Publishers Lunch, BookJobs and LinkedIn to see where your skills might be welcomed.

    11. ccsquared*

      I searched long and hard for this job, but to no avail. I could have lived easily on half my current salary, but part time versions of my role simply don’t exist anywhere. One of my colleagues was able to negotiate a four-day – 32 hrs not 4 10s – workweek and keep his benefits; it was only approved because he intends to retire in a couple of years and it was viewed as a transitional arrangement.

      What I am doing, though, is leaving the corporate world for a staff position in higher ed. I’m doubtful this will get me down to less than 35 hours a week, but not having to work overtime so that the stock goes up (or more often just to make leadership feel like everyone is working hard to make the stock go up) will reclaim some time and a whole lot of mental energy.

  26. Hiring Mgr*

    I’m not seeing what’s wrong exactly – as you said, the manager will approve this or not, and it’s not really your concern.

  27. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

    I have a low performing employee who has been receiving detailed feedback about the discrepancy between his performance and the needs of this role. We’ve had conversations about how we may end up needing to fire him if he doesn’t improve, so nothing will come as a surprise.

    For the last 6 weeks, he’s been on an informal PIP I put together to give him a chance to improve. It defines expectations, goalposts, checkins, and assessments for a 2-month period. He’s been told that if he doesn’t meet the goals by the end of August, he may be allowed to continue working at his current level until we can replace him, but he may also end up being let go before then. I’ve mentioned that if things don’t work, he may want to start looking for jobs at other companies and not just see if he can do an internal transfer.

    My boss has been inclined to just leave him in place until we have the budget to replace him at a higher salary, which might be in 6 months or 18 months or who knows.

    I’m inclined to try to see if we can get him to leave voluntarily and not wait around 6-18 months, since not having to go through the firing process would be the best possible outcome for him and us.

    My inclination, since the informal PIP isn’t working out, is to set his last day as the end of the year, point out to him the benefits of finding a new job, and be prepared start an official PIP in time to fire him by the end of the year if he hasn’t left voluntarily by then. I am absolutely not counting on him leaving voluntarily, and I want a backup plan. And obviously if he starts totally phoning it in between now and then, or he starts displaying a bad attitude, or does anything malicious, that’s it, we’re not waiting out the PIP. But assuming that doesn’t happen, he’s always been a hard worker with a great attitude, and we have no objection to letting him job search while getting some work done for us, since we can’t replace him now anyway.

    My boss thinks that while we can certainly put him on a PIP and fire him if it doesn’t work out, and tell him that’s what we’re doing, and let him do what he wants with that information, we can’t tell him that there are many benefits to him finding a job and leaving voluntarily before then.

    I, on the other hand, don’t think that would be inappropriate, as a mentoring conversation.

    What do other people think?

    1. MsM*

      Honestly, I think the whole dragging this out until the end of the year plan is overcomplicated. Either formalize the PIP, or just decide you’re letting him go at the end of August. If he doesn’t want to read the writing on the wall and be actively searching for a new job now, that’s on him, but I suspect he’ll feel more urgency about it if you’re not hemming and hawing about there maybe being a chance this could still work out when it sounds like you’re pretty sure it’s not going to.

      1. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

        So I agree about the hemming and hawing, and I’m trying to push back on that (which is mostly my boss) and set a firm date with “this is not working out and you will be gone by this date,” instead of “we can keep you around doing some work indefinitely, until further notice.” I am absolutely planning on telling him next week that the PIP-lite isn’t looking good, and at the end of August, that he hasn’t demonstrated success and this is not working.

        Part of the reason I would like to give him a chance to leave voluntarily is that it’s a lot less paperwork and conversations with HR than firing him, and this guy has already taken up a lot of my time with the informal PIP. If I have to go through the firing process, I will, but if we can get some work out of him in the meantime and then have him leave voluntarily, that’s a win. If I could replace him with someone better, that would be a different story, but since I can’t, a small net positive for a few months might be worth it.

        There was an article in which Alison seemed to think it was fine to let someone with a good atittude job search with a firm end date that’s not in the immediate future because they’re not working out, contingent on their good behavior. My question is whether I can tell him, “It would benefit you to job search and leave voluntarily before then, as opposed to sticking it out to the bitter end,” and detail some of the benefits of leaving vs. being fired (he’s quite young and might not have thought of them), as opposed to just setting an end date and telling him he will be let go on that date, and leaving it to him figure it out from there.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          The longer you let him keep coasting, the less likely he is to leave on his own. Because really, if you’re not gonna fire him, why SHOULD he leave when he can keep getting paid for doing the same not-much-not-right he’s been doing all along and not see any real consequences of it?

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            Right now what he’s getting is a work-equivalent of “Good night Wesley, we’ll most likely fire you in the morning,” but Wesley ended up inheriting the whole dang pirate ship after five years, not getting killed fired.

            1. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

              Haha! Yes, that’s exactly why I want to set a firm termination date of “you will be gone one way or the other by this date,” not let him hang around until we get the budget to replace him. I’ve been pushing back on the indefinite approach and advocating for making the call to get rid of him. I see no way he’s going to leave if he doesn’t have a termination date.

              What I want to do is encourage him to leave earlier than the termination date, and preferably before I have to go through a complex process with HR. Say it takes 1-2 months to fire someone for documented performance reasons that aren’t super egregious. If I tell him now his last date is December 31, and he leaves voluntarily in October, I don’t have to start the time-intensive PIP-and-firing process in November. If he’s still here come November 1, I have to start that process. If he leaves mid-November, I at least don’t have to finish the process. If he sticks it out, well, then I have to do what I have to do, but at least I gave it my best shot.

              The question is whether I can improve the odds of my preferred outcome by saying, “One way or another, you’ll be gone, but here are the advantages of it being the one way instead of the other,” or whether I can only say, “December 31 (or whatever date) will be your last date here.”

              If it matters, I’ve been giving him a *whole* lot of career mentoring, so this will not come out of the blue.

              1. MsM*

                I feel like “I’d recommend you start job searching ASAP: you don’t know how long it’s going to take you to find something, and don’t worry about leaving us shorthanded if you find something before your official end date” is probably sufficient in your capacity as mentor. Again, if he’s smart, that should be all the encouragement he needs. If he’s going to hold out anyway despite having run out of chances to appeal, there really is only so much you can do.

    2. Prospect Gone Bad*

      Do your plan if his work doesn’t impact the company or other departments too badly.

      If it’s impacting other people, you need to let him go sooner though. Or at least set his end date sooner.

      Saw another manager do what you’re trying to do, but with someone who’s work impacted other departments. So many potentially revenue generating projects just sat for months because no one wanted to deal with the guy, some people who had a feeling something was up, started to get resentful and wondering why we were favoring the guy so much over the company and rest of the team

      1. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

        Agreed. Part of the reason we’re considering keeping him around is that he seems to have a net positive impact on the rest of the team: he asks good/helpful questions, he’s in the weekly on-call rotation (meaning everyone else gets one more week before it’s their turn again), and people seem to enjoy working with him (and I do check in regularly in 1:1s on how much his work or lack thereof is impacting other people). If that changes, I am definitely prepared to move more quickly.

        (Honestly, I have more concerns in the other direction: people being surprised he was let go, and I’m preparing to reassure them that if they’re having performance issues, they will know about it well in advance.)

        1. Prospect Gone Bad*

          Oh, I might keep him on longer then! I may be an exception but every company I’ve worked at was basically “employment at will in name only” and let horrible employees stick around for years, impacting the morale of good people. But in your case, that is not happening, and it’s sort of crazy for me personally to hear! I wonder if one of his coworkers tried to step up and help train him or fix whatever the performance issue is

          1. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

            I think maybe your last sentence got cut off? If you mean “if that would help,” I can tell you that he has gotten extensive help from coworkers as well as from me and my boss, and this 8-week chance to improve wasn’t just “do your regular work and meet these standards” but was also a fairly intensive hands-on training course from me and my boss. He has failed to either follow directions or exhibit success, unfortunately.

            He has been given ample, ample opportunity and support to see if he can succeed in this role, and we can see he’s put in a lot of effort. Unfortunately, his skills seem more geared toward roles other than this one, and none of us have been able to get him past that block.

            That’s one of the reasons I want to let him go in less than 18 months: we have a culture of cross-training and helping on this team, and people have been happy to help train him on things, but at some point I have to believe the training is going to pay off to where it’s someday going to take us less time to coach him through doing something than to do the work ourselves. I am not seeing evidence that the tons of coaching is ever going to pay off to where the cost-benefit of his net productivity vis-a-vis his salary is a net win. (More on that in another comment I’m going to make shortly.)

    3. Parenthesis Guy*

      Your boss is probably right. Your employee is clearly a value add and better than nobody. He clearly has his pluses. I don’t know why you’re in a rush to fire him if you can’t replace him. The only thing I can think of is that you think you can get someone much better at the same salary level.

      I understand why you want to talk to your employee about leaving voluntarily. I can understand why your boss thinks that’s inappropriate also. It’s not something that’s in the best interests of the company to have this guy leave. I don’t think you should do it.

      1. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

        Let me explain how the salary and career path model works in tech.

        You hire a junior engineer with little to no relevant schooling or experience. You pay them far more than they bring in, and you invest more time in training them than it would take for you to do the work yourself. You do this in hopes that after 2 or so years, they have absorbed a ton of information and become a productive, contributing member of the compny, and then you promote them to mid-level engineer and pay them more. A mid-level engineer’s salary is less than the amount of value they bring to the company, so a net profit for the company. A junior engineer’s salary is more than the amount of value they bring to the company, so an investment for the company. This is by design, because tech is not something you can realistically expect to learn enough of in school to be productive at a company. This business model has been massively successful for people with the potential to climb a steep learning curve in return for high pay. I myself started out entry-level and doubled my salary in something like 3 years.

        I’ve compared this model to being on scholarship. You get paid to study for a couple of years, and then the scholarship expires and you have to start earning your keep.

        This guy, a junior engineer, is earning a salary that it’s hard to justify if there’s no sign the company’s money is being well invested. Furthermore, some much more highly paid mid-level engineers, senior engineers, and managers are having to spend more time explaining things to him and correcting his mistakes than it would take to just assign the work to us on top of our existing workloads. This is fine if it’s going to pay off, less fine if it’s not.

        My low performer may have a net positive effect on the morale of his coworkers with his cheerful attitude, but the net effect of money the company is paying out directly (his salary) and indirectly (time spent coaching him and fixing his mistakes), compared to the extra work that’s getting done, is hovering around zero. That’s why reasonable people can disagree on whether it’s a net negative and we should let him go and put the salary money to better uses, or a slight net positive and we should keep him around until we can find someone better. My boss and I are absorbing most of the negatives of his lack of skills and shielding the team by doing his work when he can’t do it, fixing his mistakes, and coaching him…but my boss and I are also the highest paid members of the team and have to justify how we’re spending our time.

        The reason we wouldn’t be able to replace him with someone better is that for a junior salary we would get another junior engineer, who would also effectively be on scholarship, and that person would need hand-holding that would cost a lot of highly-paid engineer and manager time. If we found someone with the potential to become a mid-level engineer, that investment would pay off in about 2 years (and the amount of loss would decline over the course of the 2 years), but there are two problems with that. Problem one, this is our second consecutive failed attempt to train and promote a junior engineer in this role (I say “our”–I wasn’t involved in the hiring of either, I might or might not be able to make a better selection, but I’m not confident I can), and after 4 years, it’s getting harder to justify investments that haven’t paid off. What we need is a mid-level engineer who can do a reasonable amount of work, and since we’ve failed to create one so far, we’re going to have to ask for a higher salary to hire a mid-level engineer who can start contributing right away. But that requires having extra budget, which leads to my second problem with keeping this guy around indefinitely: we’re under a budget crunch. No one is getting regularly scheduled raises this year except in very exceptional circumstances, and we’re getting messages that if someone quits or is let go, they might not be backfilled at all, as opposed to upper management going, “Oh thank goodness, that’s one less person we have to lay off.”

        So there is very much a case to be made that it’s in the best interests of the company to have this guy leave. Approximately the same amount of work would get done at minus the cost of his salary if we didn’t replace him. And I don’t know exactly how much he makes, but you can google “junior software engineer salary” for the midwestern US and subtract a little, and tell me if you would pay that on scholarship to someone who wasn’t learning and was only ever going to get a small amount of work done.

        1. Former Retail Manager*

          Nothing to add to this comment or your overall quandry, but this was a fantastic explanation of the hiring/ROI side of tech! Thanks for that. I’m not in tech, nor do I have friends in that space, so I’ve just always kind of wondered because it has always seemed to me like there must be a steep learning curve straight out of school. Interesting to know that it takes a couple of years for them to generate a positive ROI.

          1. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

            Thank you, I’m glad it was helpful/interesting! That’s why I posted it, not just to answer the question, but in hopes it would be informative to other readers.

            It doesn’t necessarily take a couple years to generate a positive ROI; a couple years is about the grace period you have for needing a lot of hand-holding, and it’s the expected time to be promoted or fired (up or out). If you consider that the promotion comes with a significant raise, though, the successful engineers must have been generating a positive ROI (more than junior salary) sooner than 2 years in order to merit a mid-level salary at 2 years.

            In my experience, most people fall into one of two categories: those who experience a mental block and never get past junior, and those who can get past junior, and if you’re in the second category, the sky is usually the limit. Obviously some people soar higher and faster than others, but once you get past the initial hurdle, you *usually* don’t stop at mid-level. I’ve seen people who have, but that usually comes with a vibe from your boss and peers that “You’ve been doing this for five+ years and you’re not senior yet, what went wrong?”

            This binary of no success vs. fast success plays out really interestingly in the role I started at, which was below junior engineer: level 2 tech supporter. Level 2 tech supporter is when the person who talks on the phone to users can’t figure out the problem, so they escalate the bug to someone who knows more about tech than the phone-answerers, but less than the people who wrote the code. These level 2 tech supporters are responsible for doing more advanced troubleshooting, identifying and solving the simpler bugs, and escalating the more complex bugs to developers. The escalation step involves a certain amount of translation, so you have to speak customer support language and tech language. Because a customer will call in and say “When I sync my data, I get this error,” and a developer will say, “I have no idea what you mean by ‘sync my data.’ I’ve never used our software, and the person who built this feature left four years ago.” Level 2 has to walk the developer through the steps that actually get performed, at a level that’s technical enough to be helpful for a developer to figure out where in the code to look.

            My last company found it really hard to keep someone in this position, because you’d either get someone who could troubleshoot effectively and create simple routine automations reliably, and within 2 years that person would be bored and need a promotion to a full-time techie position, and you’d be stuck backfilling the level 2 tech support role, or else you’d get someone who couldn’t troubleshoot effectively, and then you might as well not pay them.

            Because if you have the cognitive skills to master one technology, you probably have the cognitive skills to master lots of technologies, and then the world is your oyster. And that’s why, for junior positions, you usually either get a high ROI quickly, or after 2 years you have to cut the cord, because your ROI is almost the same as it was when you started.

            Now, making the leap from mid-level to senior requires a bunch of softer skills beyond mastering a technology, which is why some people get stuck there. And there are also some sub-areas of tech where you can get away with only having some of the hard technical skills for a very long time, and thus you can end up with a senior title and 20 years of experience despite not being able to do anything that isn’t fairly routine. But the norm I’ve observed is going from “contributing almost nothing because I’ve mastered no technologies” to “have successfully mastered one technology and proved that I can master anything you throw at me” to “have mastered lots of technologies, and if you don’t pay me lots of money, someone else will.”

            1. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

              Because a customer will call in and say “When I sync my data, I get this error,” and a developer will say, “I have no idea what you mean by ‘sync my data.’ I’ve never used our software, and the person who built this feature left four years ago.”

              To clarify, in this model, developers are not allowed to talk to customers, because this is the kind of thing they would say. ;) Level 2 tech support exists because if customer support came and relayed “Customer can’t sync their data” to developers, developer would go “???” Level 2 is the translation layer. Customer talks to customer support, customer support talks to level 2 tech support, level 2 tech support talks to developers, developer fixes bug. If said developer needs more information, follow-up questions get relayed along that chain and translated at each level.

              At one point at a conference, a developer colleague of mine got cornered by a customer who discovered he was a developer, and started relaying all his frustrations and feature requests like he’d finally found the person with the power to change things. My colleague was sitting there thinking, “I don’t even work on that app. This is all Greek to me.”

              (I talked to a customer on the phone once by mistake, and it was very mutually confusing, until we figured out I had called a customer instead of a vendor. We tech types are very grateful to our colleagues who can be trusted to talk to customers effectively!)

    4. Drowning in Spreadsheets*

      So you can’t replace him now, so getting rid of him will leave a gap. The question is, is the change in gap between what he’s getting done and your needs much bigger than the gap would be if he’s gone?

      If your boss wants to replace him with someone you can pay more, I’m assuming that your boss wants someone with more experience? If that’s what’s needed, are there other places a hard worker wtih a good attitude can be transferred to?

      1. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

        “The question is, is the change in gap between what he’s getting done and your needs much bigger than the gap would be if he’s gone?”

        That’s what’s borderline and what reasonable people can disagree on. Both reasonable people (me and my boss) agree it’s near the borderline and that’s what makes the right call not obvious.

        “If your boss wants to replace him with someone you can pay more, I’m assuming that your boss wants someone with more experience?”

        Exactly, see my comment above on why we would need to do this, and why we don’t have the budget for that at this time and don’t know when we’ll get it.

        “If that’s what’s needed, are there other places a hard worker wtih a good attitude can be transferred to?”

        That is what my low performer (who transferred to us from a different team) wants to happen, but my boss says that while we can try, the budget crunch (see same comment above) means it’s unlikely. The parts of the company that my low performer might succeed in are feeling the pinch even more than ours is. That said, I’ve told my low performer that my boss and I are willing to have a couple conversations with other managers to see if there’s an opportunity, though we can’t guarantee anything and obviously can’t put huge amounts of time into it. I’ve advised him that if it comes to the point where we’re doing that after the improvement plan fails, he should also start looking at other companies simultaneously.

    5. Large Pink Rabbit*

      Do you need a PIP to fire him?

      Pushing him out is not good management. If you need to fire him, just fire him. If you need the PIP due to some internal process where you document poor performance, then I guess you have to follow the process.

      However, a good manager will write a PIP in good faith as a neutral description of the expectations that the employee has to meet. In other words, there is equal opportunity for the employee to succeed as to fail. If your goal is to write a PIP to set him up for failure so that he leaves, you are not a good manager.

      1. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

        As I explained in the previous comments, my boss and I have already done a good-faith informal PIP and invested a large amount of time in helping him succeed. The only thing we haven’t done is tie it to a specific termination date, but I’ve told him it will determine whether he can succeed in this role and that he should start looking for other jobs if it doesn’t work out.

        I’ve also seen him put a lot of time and effort into trying to improve, so I don’t think the problem is motivation and that tying a second, official PIP to a termination date is going to result in a better outcome. He’s been taking this one seriously, and I think this represents his best effort. We’re 75% of the way through, and he is still nowhere near what we need to see to believe he’s ever going to make it to mid-level engineer. (See above on a junior engineer role being like a scholarship.)

        So if I were going to go through another PIP, my motivation would be to follow the official process and make sure HR is looped in every week on the progress, the right forms are filled out, etc., so we could get approval to fire. Of course, he would have the same opportunities to improve as on this one, and if he *did* improve to the level we need, the performance difference would be obvious and I would be happy! But I have no reason to believe it will happen if he isn’t improving on the current, informal PIP.

        If I *can* get permission to fire using my informal PIP and all the documentation that’s coming out of it, then I will take it, but we’re a medium-large company with a lot of structure, and I believe there’s a process. I could be wrong, but we’ll find out.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          I think “informal PIP” is where you went wrong, really. Do it for real or don’t do it. If someone is PIP-worthy you have to be willing to let them go at the end, and what you’ve done here is create a loop for yourself wherein the person gets to fail twice. Can’t be undone, but if he’s not going to pass this one and he’s not going to pass the real one, then he ought to be gone and any of the discussion about extending or staying til a replacement are all pointless.

          1. NL*

            Yes and you are opening yourself up to people in the future expecting this approach if they’re flailing too. Do the real PIP with a termination date so he understands the timeline and consequences.

            1. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

              One, one other person on this team has been put on an informal PIP in past years by a previous boss, and he improved, and he’s still here. Another was recently put on something that my boss saw as an informal PIP and I saw as “proving to my boss that the employee will do good work if managed effectively,” and it did indeed prove to my boss that he needed to do a better job managing people before talking about firing them. So there’s precedent.

              Two, nobody knows when anybody else is put on a formal or informal PIP (I don’t think they should? performance issues should be private), so, no, I don’t think that it will lead to anyone expecting this for themselves (but they might get it anyway).

          2. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

            I tried to go for a real PIP, but I couldn’t get buy-in from my boss, who wanted to keep him indefinitely. A major value of the informal PIP has been that the increased scrutiny is having some effect in convincing my boss we need to let him go eventually, and preferably on our own initiative this year and not just when we have budget for a mid-level hire someday. (My boss may continue coming around more to my point of view, and this may end being a moot question, but I have to have a backup plan in case I don’t get that kind of buy-in in the next week.)

            I have had to compromise a lot on this issue, and since the guy is delivering *some* value (although, I would argue, not the value of his paycheck), I have been willing to not spend all my capital dying on this hill. If the guy were producing no work or were bringing down morale, I would have spent more capital insisting we have to fire him.

            But given that the comments here are divided between “You should keep him!” and “You should let him go asap!”, that’s exactly why reasonable people like me and my boss can disagree on what to do: it’s not a clear-cut case. And that’s also why I’m willing to compromise and not spend all my political capital on doing it my way. I’m trying to save up my political capital for more important causes–somebody getting a paycheck for a few extra months in return for doing *some* work (but arguably not enough) is not the biggest tragedy that could happen to this team.

            I also want to point out that Alison said in another article that it was fine to let a diligent worker with a good attitude stay past the end of the PIP while job searching, contingent on their good behavior and their help making the transition smooth, as long as there’s a clear termination date by which they have to be gone, voluntarily or involuntarily.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Just to clarify since I’m being cited here: I don’t know that I’d recommend letting someone on a PIP stay past its end date; that can set a precedent for other people that they don’t really need to take a PIP ending date seriously, which could lead to all kinds of problems. I think what you’re thinking of is that I’ve said in the past that if it’s clear someone isn’t working out, sometimes it makes sense to have an honest conversation with them about that and agree to give them time to job search and you time to look for a replacement, rather than having them leaving immediately. But that wouldn’t typically be in the context of a PIP (in fact, if anything, I’d normally advise saying “we can go the formal PIP route if you want to and my sense is that it would end with us needing to let you go, but an alternative would be this other arrangement where we give you some time to search and us some time to transition your work”).

              If that’s not what you were thinking of and you have a link to the column you’re referencing, let me know!

              1. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

                Perhaps I misunderstood, then!

                I’m referencing this column: https://www.askamanager.org/2021/10/can-you-give-an-employee-time-to-find-a-new-job-before-theyre-fired.html

                As I read it, the LW was in a position very similar to mine: hard-working employee with a good attitude, who gave it their best, but just wasn’t a good fit for the role. They failed a PIP (mine has two weeks to go but is failing to meet the goalposts set), and the LW wanted to keep them on a while longer to job search while the LW hunted for a replacement. Presumably the LW’s company was, like mine, getting *some* value out of this employee to justify continuing to pay their salary a while longer.

                Your verdict was that the LW should set a firm termination date in the future and communicate that this was contingent on good behavior, and you said that this kind of arrangement can often work out for employees like this.

                My thinking is that as long as there’s a firm termination date, the employee will have an incentive to take the PIP seriously, even if the termination date is after the assessment period rather than being on the last day of the assessment period. And as far as I can tell, my employee *is* taking it seriously–I wouldn’t propose this approach if not!

                My situation is a little bit more complicated in that I was given permission to do an informal PIP (but not call it that to the employee) without a termination date. If I have to also go the formal PIP route, I will make sure to set a firm termination date at the end of the PIP. I will try to get buy-in to not have to do a formal PIP but be allowed to rely on the documentation I’ve created for the informal one, but as noted, I have bigger battles to fight, especially with the budget crunch, so I will do the formal PIP if I have to.

                I greatly appreciate your blog and comment section, as always!

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Ah, I somehow completely missed that you were saying “as long as there’s a clear termination date by which they have to be gone, voluntarily or involuntarily,” which I do think is the key it has to hinge on. Otherwise it can really easily become “you failed the PIP, we’re letting you stay indefinitely, and now you and we and your coworkers are in this weird limbo where we’re not investing in you but we’re still paying you and you’re not meeting the bar we need, and it’s not clear exactly when and how this will wrap up.” But that doesn’t apply to your situation; apologies that I missed that (very key) detail on first read.

                  I think what you’re proposing, with the very clear and firm end date either way, is a good way to go in these circumstances. I will say I don’t love the informal PIP and wouldn’t have advised that; if you’re at that point and your company requires a PIP before firing, I’d say just do the real PIP at that point, so that you don’t both end up going through the whole process twice. (That’s not to say I wouldn’t advise a short period of intensive coaching with very clear benchmarks — I love that part! That’s good management when someone is struggling! What I don’t love is the informal PIP framing with this part: “He’s been told that if he doesn’t meet the goals by the end of August, he may be allowed to continue working at his current level until we can replace him, but he may also end up being let go before then” … if you’re going to then follow it with a more formal process that basically repeats the same thing.) But it’s too late for that advice now, and I think the plan you’re laying out makes sense for resolving the whole situation as it stands now (again, assuming your company will require the formal PIP, which it sounds like they do).

    6. Phoenix*

      I think it would be a kindness to clearly tell your low performer that he *will* be laid off at the end of the year and encourage him to job search before then. But I think odds are good that he won’t really hear the message.

      A friend of mine recently went through this as the low performer. His manager told him to job search, I told him to job search, other friends and family told him to job search. But he was convinced things would work out — and I think that’s very human. Denial is powerful. We often see what we want to see.

      1. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

        Yep, he is a relentless optimist, and I am absolutely convinced he will remain an optimist throughout the firing process. That’s why I would like to spell out the many benefits to him of leaving voluntarily. It still might not work, and I’m prepared to shut off his access on the last day. But I want to give it a try.

  28. The Only Person Worrying About Money*

    I need some insight on my next career move. I currently work a job that is a little silly, which I accept for my own reasons. The organization lacks capacity, not just money and staff but like, strategic thinking or longterm planning. I have become the sole development staff, despite no background in most development work; I do our events, much of our major donor and member, as well as grant writing and corporate fundraising (I also manage the grants when we get them, LOL). It’s a classic can’t-care-more-than-the-higher-ups situation (they have like, taken indirect and admin out of grant budgets I have prepared, then come to me later about our lack of general support funding in a how-are-you-going-to-solve-this? way. I think I’m in a good position to exit development in my next job, because 1) my past career was mostly programmatic and 2) my position title is broad and general – think “manager.” I want to apply to non-development roles and focus on the grants management piece of what I do now. But, at least at the reference stage, my bosses are going to focus on my development role if asked. How can I make sure I’m not pigeonholed in the future?

    1. Hlao-roo*

      Can you reach out to your references and say “I’m applying for [non-development role] at XYZ Org. If/when they can you for a reference, can you play up my [specific, non-development] experience?” You can also email your references the resume you used to apply (which should highlight your non-development accomplishments) and the job ad (if you’re in the finalist stages for a specific job) to help give your references some talking points.

    2. MsM*

      I think if you’re picking the right roles at the right organizations, they’re not going to turn around and go, “forget what we hired you to do; you should just keep doing development” based on what your current bosses have to say. And you should be able to figure that out in the interview stage; if you’re getting vibes that a place is similarly disorganized, or they seem way too interested in your event and donor experience despite you being very clear that a big part of why you’re leaving the current place is to get away from all that, then withdraw from consideration and keep looking.

  29. Hip-Hop Day (hey ho - hey ho)*

    For the OG’s out there – we may be experienced, but we still need a leader.

    We have an interim Director and an interim staff member We lost 4 team members leaving 2 of us to assume the work. Interim staff member is a recent master’ graduate with no real-world working skills and requires a lot of oversight by the interim Director who is technically my boss, too. The interim Director spends insane amount of time teaching the interim staff member how do to their job, professionally, technically, and subject matter. I’m very happy the Director is here, as well as the interim staff member, but it’s like no woman’s land out here.

    While I revel in my very flexible hybrid work schedule and autonomy, I’m also missing the guidance and interest a director would normally provide. I’m fully competent to do and confident in my work so I don’t need that management per se. I miss having a leader who is a helper and guide, being a sounding board for new ideas, developing stalled ones, and providing big picture thoughts.

    1. lost academic*

      The leader role is a job. It takes not just experience but time. Period. You don’t have the headcount you need in your team (nor the experience at all the levels) to be meeting the expectations as a team.

      But it might be easier to hire at the lower levels (more experienced staff that the ID isn’t having to tutor) so that she can do the job she’s supposed to do. It’s certainly cheaper.

      1. Hip-Hop Day (hey ho - hey ho)*

        Agree. I wish they hired a more competent interim staff member who would have had more capacity and experience to understand the work and move with it. They require a lot of oversight despite being very earnest in learning the job and wanting to do well. Our ID is amazing and so well prepared for this. Had they not been, this would have been more than me simply missing my team and coveted leadership. And the ID is experienced in working with this age group and nascent experience level.

  30. Earlk*

    What’s a professional way of asking someone who claims they make notes whenever they’re being given instructions (we’re largely remote) but repeatedly makes the same mistakes and is never visibly making notes?

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      If you manage them, you can just point out this behavior and ask to see the notes as a way of trying to improve their performance.

      “You keep making this mistake. I know you take notes because you’ve told me you do, so why don’t we go over them to see how this mistake is getting made?”

    2. mandalay*

      Clarence, I know you take notes to the the procedure correct, but I’m noticing that t’s were not crossed and you dotted an x. Can we go over your notes to make sure you’ve got the details correct?

    3. Angstrom*

      “Before we close, let’s go over your notes to make sure I didn’t miss anything that you need to know.”
      If they type notes, you can ask them to share their screen and “work on your notes together so they are clear for both of us”.
      Can the instructions be written?

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        Yeah, I’d have them share their screen while taking notes. Honestly, I do this anyway during meetings. It’s good practice in general, so people have the opportunity to check the notes you’re taking (Did you accurately capture the key points?).

        But even for notes for instructions, a screen share can be helpful, especially if you’re in training mode (which it seems you are for this employee).

    4. Purple Cat*

      I assume this is a direct report of yours?
      I can’t say this is the MOST professional way of handling it, but when I had a direct report in a similar situation, I would flat out name it. “X I don’t see you taking notes on this and it’s very important. Do you need to grab a notebook? I’ll wait.”

      And if they claim to be taking notes online, ask them to share them at the end “So you can identify any gaps.”

    5. Not A Manager*

      Is the issue the lack of notes, or is the issue the repeated mistakes? Because unless you are their manager, I’d just address the actual issue and not how to solve it.

      1. Earlk*

        I’m their manager, the mistakes are the issue but also I’m starting to think their lack of follow through from instructions is also a respect thing.

  31. BadVibeorNot*

    Recently finished a job interview and I’m getting a bad vibe.

    The interview was done by a manager who I presume will be working under. Without revealing too much, the manager IMO kept talking negatively about his department, people I will most likely be working with. To be fair, it might’ve been his way of humor and/or breaking the ice. He “jokingly” talked about how he “can never know if they are doing their job right” or that they “do things in a way he isn’t keen about (ie They never really listen to me!).” He hopes I won’t “be influenced by them (regarding work ethics)” and such. Again all in a joking matter (imagine something like ending almost all sentences with a laugh).

    But wow. I dunno how I’d feel if my manager talked crap even if jokingly about me to a potential new employee. Gave off a jerky micromanager vibe. But the position does pay well and the position is something I’d like to do so should I overlook it? Would this be like a huge red flag?

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      This 15% sounds like someone who doesn’t know how to interview, which is not the worst thing in the world, because interviewing is a learned skill.

      But it 85% sounds like someone who doesn’t know how to manage. How much of it is a red flag depends on how he actually manages. I would be curious to know what kind of questions you asked of him.

    2. MsM*

      I’d be concerned. Do you have any other contacts at this organization you can talk to? Or if you haven’t had a chance to interact with the other members of the team and ask them questions, can you make sure that happens before you accept an offer?

    3. Not Today, Satan*

      If the manager is talking smack about the company/employees, I’d run fast from this opportunity.

      A nervous laugh covers a lot of hard truths.

      I have a manager who talks smack about colleagues. I find it mean-spirited, demoralizing and frankly, not good management. I want my manager to model good behavior, not run down my coworkers!

    4. Not Today, Satan*

      He’s telling you who he is: insecure, unable to manage properly, and kinda mean. What kind of person talks smack about their direct reports to a prospective employee? A bad one.

    5. ccsquared*

      The vibe is bad, my friend. Same rule as a first date: if this is how he is showing up when there is no commitment, imagine how he’ll be when you’re in the role.

  32. Spreadsheet Hero*

    Is it unreasonable to feel like my boss muttering curses and slamming things around in his office makes it difficult to concentrate? Like am I being too precious about totally normal expressions of frustration, or is this work, and those kinds of expressions of frustration are less appropriate?

    I feel like I’m taking crazy pills. (Yes, this is the boss I talked about last week.) (Yes, his difficult personality is still causing issues, why do you ask.)

    1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      I get distracted by office chatter and have to put headphones on in the office and they aren’t even mad at me. so I get it.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      Very reasonable to be distracted by a near-by persons visible and audible displays of anger. Your brain will devote some amount of bandwidth to monitoring the situation to ensure you are safe (or to realize when it’s time to get out). This is a built-in safety function and, again, very reasonable. Sorry your boss is like this :(

    3. RagingADHD*

      It is not unreasonable to find a grown adult throwing a temper tantrum distracting and inappropriate. Because it is completely inappropriate, and he is attention-seeking.

      People who aren’t trying to be intrusive or distract you don’t slam things in a shared space. If he needs to let off steam, he can go outside.

    4. Alex*

      No that would really bother me.

      I tend to (very inconveniently) take on the emotions of people around me, so people being really angry around me really stresses me out. Not to mention that slamming things and cursing implies that someone doesn’t have total control over themselves, and that is a stressful thing to be around.

    5. JustaTech*

      It’s not unreasonable at all to not want to work around someone who’s being audibly angry. At the very least it’s distracting, at worst it can be very upsetting.

      It is normal to get frustrated at work. It is not normal, or acceptable, to vent those frustrations by slamming things around. (The muttered curses might get a pass if they are genuinely muttered and not directed at any person.)

      So yeah, your boss is a jerk.

  33. Requesting FMLA for fostering?*

    Hi – curious if anyone here has any experience for requesting FMLA leave for a non-medical situation like fostering and how you determined a reasonable request/approached it with your manager.

    I’m about to foster my niece and am really struggling with feeling like I can request leave for this and figuring out what is actually reasonable amount of time. FMLA allows leave for placement of foster children for bonding, but that sounds so odd in a situation where it’s my family. I know I will be very busy for some time with getting her set up in the home and all her appts, etc. scheduled for, and ideally I wouldn’t be working full time while getting stabilized but I’m not sure how to mention this to my manager.

    My mgr is aware I’m about to step in as the foster parent for my niece and I will need some flexibility while things settle, but ideally I’d like to get actual leave time approved so I’m covered and everyone can plan accordingly. I’ve waited to mention time off because I don’t know exactly how to explain my request. I’m struggling with scripts and even getting over my own feelings that I shouldn’t need time off for taking care of a child (so many parents take care of children and work full time), but at the same time I know I’d be overwhelmed trying to do both at first since I’m not a parent and am suddenly going to be caring for a 9 year old.

    Any tips or personal experiences from people who’ve had to request time off for something like this would be helpful!

    TIA

    1. BellaStella*

      I took FMLA several years ago to care for my mom who was very ill. If you can do it I would say go for it to build a bond with her.

    2. Double A*

      I have not done this but I just want to affirm that you totally deserve FMLA for this! When someone has a biological baby, it’s also family but they need leave because it’s a huge adjustment. You’re having a child come into your life and home. That’s a huge adjustment (in some ways going from no child to 9 year old is more complicated than having a newborn!) and you need time to adjust and take care of getting your niece set up, which is the purpose of FMLA.

      The only thing I would wonder about is this an informal foster situation or is there a legal transfer of guardianship? mt only concern would be if it’s informal you might not be able to get it but you’d definitely need to talk to experts about that.

      1. Requesting FMLA*

        Thank you! Yeah the fact she’s 9 is actually what’s stressing me the most because she’s already a little person with a life that we’re trying to keep somewhat normal through this. It is a formal arrangement through the state, so I’m like 99% sure this will apply to FMLA.

        I appreciate the affirmations. I can’t tell how much of this is me overthinking things or not

    3. lost academic*

      It’s not odd at all. It doesn’t matter that it’s your niece. You are getting a foster child. You are allowed that time. You NEED that time and I guarantee she does too. If you were having a baby or adopting a baby, same deal. And yes people DO take off time to care for new children! I sure did. Twice. It wasn’t just because I had to build them inside my uterus and then push them out and recover physically. I had a whole new human to integrate into my life who needed my support. Your niece is a whole new human you will be integrating into your life who needs your support. It’s exactly the same and it’s why FMLA covers it.

      What will help is sitting down with what you know you’ll need to do, sketching out how much block time and intermittent time you’ll need over what overarching initial period you want covered and then laying that out to HR. It won’t be the first time they’ve seen it. What will help everyone is seeing you planning it proactively.

      I’ll tell you right now if you worked for me, that’s what I’d want to see and I’d be really proud of you for doing all of it.

      1. Requesting FMLA*

        Thank you so much! I really appreciate the perspective since i keep second guessing the request. On one hand, it would be nice to focus on her and getting her settled. On the other, this is a family member and that seems like taking time off is overboard.

        I do need to sketch out what this would look like in an ideal state and go from there. Thank you

        1. Quandong*

          I think you’re letting the fact that your foster child is a part of your biological family get in the way here. Don’t let it be a stumbling block for asking for what you need, including FMLA. It’s not odd or overboard to take time off, no matter where your foster child is from.

    4. Tio*

      Our company specifically has parental leave for people who are adopting/fostering, regardless of the incoming child’s age. I don’t know if it’s covered by FMLA, but if it’s not, see if it can be covered by parental leave.

    5. rainyday*

      But you’re not just asking for time off to take care of a child, its to take care of a “new” child, which is very different. Perhaps think of it like a maternity leave – yes, after a period of time you will be expected to adjust to life as a working parent/carer, but not immediately. This is a huge adjustment for you both, and you will need the time.
      I can’t speak to FMLA but in the UK you can get leave for new fostering and adoption arrangements, it’s completely accepted that you will need this family time. It’s a totally reasonable request.

    6. TCO*

      Your request is perfectly reasonable and you have the right to take the FMLA you need in order to help a child settle into a new home. Don’t focus on the fact that you already know your niece and she’s already family. The point is that this is a huge transition for your family and of course you’ll need some extra time to handle both the logistical and emotional needs of that transition. It’s not gratuitous and it’s not selfish.

      Like many other managers here, I wouldn’t blink at having an employee make this request. I’d be proud of you for making it and for stepping in to care for your niece. You’re having a new child enter your home, likely under traumatic and challenging circumstances, and you and she deserve the time you need to help her have the best possible care. There’s a reason the law recognizes how important this is.

    7. Alex*

      This is what FMLA is for! It is literally for this. You don’t have to frame it as “reasonable” because it is already defined as reasonable for you. Your manager doesn’t need framing for something that is already well known and framed for you.

      “I’d like to discuss how to set up taking FMLA leave so that I can dedicate some time to caring for my niece as we all adjust to this new family arrangement.” Also, remember that you can take FMLA intermittently–you don’t have to be out for X weeks completely and then return completely, if that isn’t the set up that works best for you.

    8. Goddess47*

      Make sure you have time to breathe in all of this. At 9, your niece will have her own personality and not need the care of a baby or a toddler, but once you’re done with appointments and getting settled, make sure you have time to catch your own life up.

      Also, give her alone time. Be overt. “Do you need to rest? Read a book?” Or, “I’m going to do X for a bit, do you want to help or are you okay on your own while I’m busy?” The instinct is to help her out but some kids will want their own time… it’s all new and scary for her, too…

      You’re doing a good thing! Go for the FLMA and Good luck!

    9. Lbd*

      Laura – Foster Parent Partner has a youtube channel with lots of very well done, short videos that cover many aspects of fostering. She is a working parent and has to navigate day care and time off for appointments for foster children, but there are lots of other topics that she covers that could also be very helpful for you! She covers topics that are particular to infants, toddlers, children and teens. Her videos even sometimes bring comfort to people who have had negative experiences as children!

    10. WorkingRachel*

      Yes, you should definitely take FMLA! Maybe it would help to frame this as being for her rather than for you (it’s for both of you, but maybe it would be easier for you to feel “entitled” to by focusing on her). Whatever the circumstances that led to her living with you, she has been through something traumatic and difficult. She needs to know that you will be there for her in the ways that a parent should be. Taking as much FMLA as you need for this transition may help signal that to her: that you have time to settle her in her new living quarters, figure out her new school situation, set up medical providers, etc., and aren’t stressing out trying to fit her into the margins of your existing life.

      Good luck! You are doing something kind and loving for your niece and stepping up in (what I assume are in one way or another) tough circumstances.

  34. Bluebonnet*

    Anyone have any career path suggestions for friendly extroverts who like working in team settings and helping individuals to small groups of people? I have a Bachelor’s in journalism and am pursuing a Student Affairs Master’s Degree full time while working full-time (two classes away from graduation this May).

    Although I intend to finish the degree, I am open to a variety of jobs and do not want this degree to limit me. I really wish I had a good left brain since the money seems to be in STEM, but am more right brained. Thank you for any suggestions!

    1. Morgan Proctor*

      Teaching? Not necessarily in academia or public k-12, unless you have ambitions to that end. You could lead workshops for non-profits or summer camps. You go into arts education for a museum.

      Or, event planning? You could do it for a STEM company. There are tons of non-tech job opportunities in STEM!

    2. Alex*

      Corporate training? Social work? Sales? Financial planning? But also, student affairs seems like a good fit, too!

    3. All Research, All the Time*

      Look at research support roles. We have people who meet with investigators and study coordinators, help them write grants, connect them with the various offices they need for approvals, etc. This is a growing field as the process gets more complicated so room for career growth. I know the hospital side has patient navigators – similar type of role.

    4. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

      Librarianship? Public service librarians in both colleges and public libraries tend to work in teams helping individuals/small groups. Special librarians (working for government, businesses, etc.) tend to do more solo work.

  35. Stuckinacrazyjob*

    How is everyone keeping their work up with cold/ flu/ covid season? My energy levels plunge whenever I get sick and I’m not looking forward to not doing a great job again.

    1. DisneyChannelThis*

      I was just looking to see when the new covid booster shots come out. I normally do flu shot after Halloween but before Thanksgiving, I think I want to do covid booster like end of September then….

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        I’ll probably double up again. The issue is that fall illness season starts at the new school year in August. Suffering a lot!

    2. GigglyPuff*

      Yeah I usually get my flu shot as soon as they come out since it takes a few weeks to kick in. Will definitely get another COVID booster.

      But honestly going to sound crazy. A couple years before the pandemic I stopped touching any doorknobs at work with my bare hands. I used to get 2-3 colds a year, but once I started using my shirt or sleeves on doorknobs I haven’t gotten sick once.

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        My problem is children. I often mask to avoid the worst of it, but somehow I get what they get sometimes

        1. Mim*

          I feel you! It’s so frustrating that even among formerly covid cautious folks masking has become a strangely politicized thing of the past, making it so difficult for “personal choices” about masking to give actual robust protection. (My child does not wear a mask at school. I wish she would, but the result of the “personal responsibility” b.s. is that the kids who are lower in the social hierarchy don’t actually have a choice to mask. My kid is already bullied relentlessly about less conspicuous things, and nobody else there masks. It would be a complete disaster. The only way to truly protect myself is to quit my career and pull my kid from school. Which I have seriously considered, because I’d also like my kid to be protected from Covid. Literally out here weighing the potential acute and long-term negative effects of covid infections with the the potential financial and personal disaster of losing my income and potential future job prospects.)

    3. Rara Avis*

      I caught a bad cold two weeks ago and stayed home and slept for 3 days. Especially since you can’t tell us it’s Covid at the beginning, it’s better to take the sick days.

    4. allathian*

      My husband got sick two weeks ago, but neither I nor our son got sick, in spite of us not taking any extra precautions. He snores and I can’t sleep in the same bedroom, so we sleep in separate rooms already. He tested negative for Covid throughout, though.

    5. Thunder Kitten*

      this is not meant to be medical advice, but I have an otherwise healthy diet, but feel like taking multivitamin supplements (with iron and zinc) has boosted my immune system. I seldom (obviously it doesnt always work) get knocked out by school germs, public transit germs, etc. that the rest of my family brings home. I dont know why but it works for me – your mileage will vary.

    6. Mim*

      *masking*

      And for me the accompanying social anxiety of being the only masked person anywhere I go, leading me to just not going many places. The upside of being higher risk is that the precautions I need to take result in me getting sick less often than folks who aren’t high risk, or who at least didn’t used to be before multiple covid infections blasted their immune systems to bits?

      Also, if you are able to, take time off to rest (and actually rest – something I struggle with) at the first signs that you need it, instead of trying to push through. In the end I feel like this is often more efficient, and certainly better for your physical and mental health than pushing through when you feel off and exhausting yourself even more.

  36. Crazy Dog Lady*

    I started a new position in llama grooming a few months ago. It is a new industry for me but I’m learning and getting good feedback. I was brought on to replace a llama groomer (Janet) who resigned to become a SAHM and is much beloved by my colleagues. Throughout the following several months, I’ve heard both from my colleagues and from my manager things like, “Boy, Janet sure wishes she could come” and “Janet was just posting about how much she misses her work besties.” When I was hired, our manager indicated that Janet might remain as a consultant to help with llama maintenance, llama feeding, llama transportation, etc.. This didn’t raise any red flags with me, since I am a llama groomer. Fast forward a few months and Janet is now in the office weekly and has recently taken to directing me on the finer points of llama grooming. It is a very small department and Janet was much beloved by my colleagues and manager, all of whom seem to be somewhat unaware that Janet is trying to work more with llama grooming. I appreciate the insight that Janet can offer, but I am getting the picture that she really wants her old job back. As evidence, a colleague said recently, “Wow, Janet told me she really wants to come in more often. Can you find any llama grooming tasks for her to do?” I feel I should involve our manager at some point, but don’t know exactly what my message should be. Any advice appreciated.

    1. Isben Takes Tea*

      I think you should involve your manager now, and can be as simple as “I’ve been asked by Alice to find llama grooming tasks for Janet. I was under the impression that she was just working in maintenance and feeding, so I wanted to get a clear picture from you about how you wanted me to handle it.”

      Of course, the manager could then direct you to transfer some of your tasks to Janet, but at least you’d have a clearer picture of the situation.

  37. BellaStella*

    So, how do you professionally say (and put on linkedin): “The trust this grant shows, from the donor, is super positive and, as this is the largest grant given to this team in several years, I am proud to say that I worked on it with external partners A B and C, and my boss, for whom I am thankful….I am excited to share this new project that we are hiring for….” when a missing stair colleague who did nothing for this grant but sit in some meetings (not talking, no contribution to the documents, nothing….he will want to claim credit and he is the director’s pet so she will thank him not me? I am so tired of having to try to be political and such. Also found out recently he was claiming another woman colleague’s work as his for another similar project.

    1. RagingADHD*

      Well, on Linkedin you want to put the reason for sharing the post first. Without knowing the nuances, I’d go for something like this:

      ‘I am excited to share that we are now hiring for (Role / Project). This new project is funded by a grant from our wonderful donor (name), and demonstrates an amazing level of trust. Not only is it (reasons why the grant is special/competitive), it represents the largest grant given to this team in (X) years. The award of this grant is an honor and a great point of pride for the team (particular thanks to Boss and external partners A, B, and C), for the organization, and for me personally. Thank you to (donor)!”

      1. BellaStella*

        this is perfect thanks! not braggy just perfect. will re word a bit but great guidance. thank you.

  38. bankofyou*

    My one summer intern has been quite a challenge to manage as they’re so new to the work world and slow to learn. Usually that would be understanable and not an issue but they now graduated and they’re actively applying for positions in the field. We don’t have any open positions in our branch, that was communicated at the start, no issue. But our field is very tightknit, and I know some of the branches they have applied to will reach out to me for a reference (regardless of if they put me as a reference). This intern isnt really up to speed or work ready (yet) and I feel there’s only so much I can do for them to prepare them for work in the last days of their internship. Any suggestions how I can navigate giving fair feedback to my colleagues in other branches and/or mentoring intern for their next steps?

    1. geek5508*

      Be honest, use the words you mention – “this intern is not work ready”
      If your field is really tightknit, then a positive recommendation for an intern who does not deserve it might damage your credibility

    2. Firecat*

      Honestly, I don’t think it’s your call to say they aren’t ready for entry level and it would be wrong to voice that opinion in a reference call imo.

      You mention their performance wouldn’t be a problem given they are an intern… so give them the same reference you would if they were a Jr. in college and not a Sr./recent grad.

      By all means feel free to tell the intern you think they will benefit from doing another internship, but again it’s not really your call if they decide to jump to entey level to try and stop that.

    3. AcademiaNut*

      A good middle ground could be to say that the intern works hard, but will likely need a lot of intense, hands-on supervision in the new positions, and the hiring person can then decide.

      1. bankofyou*

        That’s a good suggestion, the intern has done well in some parts of the job/internship and I offered to literally give them the employee training like they’re a staff member in the roles I know they applied for. I don’t think the training will stick first time but it’s all I can do to help them out.

    4. Irish Teacher*

      I’m definitely no expert on this, never having been in the position of giving references but I’d be inclined to stick very much to the facts: “Intern is good at x and has shown themself willing to work hard, learn (whatever is true). However they are still learning y and may need some extra support in adapting to z.”

      Say what they did well, then say what they are still learning and that you didn’t have time to give them full training on that but that you feel with the training, they will have the ability to succeed (if you think this is true).

  39. Chidi has a stomach ache*

    This may be a niche question – but I’m curious about people’s experiences with scale and pilot projects in the NGO world. I started this position about 6 mos ago, and I’m still learning institutional backstory. About 5 years ago my org piloted a new way to involve volunteer llama groomers. About 3 years ago, they went through a major re-org to support scaling up the llama groomer pilot project. Now, they are looking to set goals for the next five years, which my manager is closely involved in. He sent me some documents with the key principles behind our reorg for a task I’m working on, and I’m a little perplexed by them. The first principle is “to enable exponential increase in the number of llama groomers involved in our work,” but the next principle is “assume no increase in budget levels or the number of positions.”

    This seems kind of contradictory to me? Don’t industry projects and startups expect to hire more people and increase their revenue as they scale up?

    I get that NGOs need to keep overhead costs low, but this seems like the project is setting itself up for failure. I don’t get the impression these principles are written in stone, but I worry that I’ll end up being asked to support deeply unrealistic goals after we’re done with this phase of strategic planning.

    1. Overeducated*

      For one thing, I think someone doesn’t know what “exponential increase” means. Maybe you could start with talking about a more accurate and realistic metric.

      I hear you though. I’ve also been told to review our strategic plan so we can discuss progress in a meeting next week. I was just looking at it and thinking “oh, here are a bunch of projects we haven’t made progress on 2 years into the 3 year strategic plan, that’s definitely because it says we should do more things without increasing staff or reducing any other areas of our workload.” It’s not just you!

    2. JustaTech*

      I guess the exponent could be less than one, that would be one way to have “exponential” growth without more money.

      Maybe they just mean more volunteer llama groomers (that they don’t have to pay)?

    3. linger*

      The only way that’s potentially a coherent plan is if some proportion of volunteers will be expected to assist in coordinating the volunteers — i.e., performing some of your current job duties too — thus supposedly reducing the workload, and possibly even the numbers, of paid staff. Apart from the time you’d have to spend (i) training volunteers to do your job and (ii) coordinating the inherently unstable rotation of volunteer coordinators into a unit giving the same coverage as a stable full-time position. But if that’s the plan, one wonders if this Mongolian-Hordes cluster strategy is also to extend up to those managing the coordinators, and it might be interesting to hear your boss’s opinion on that.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      I eat pizza by hand at work (same way I eat it when I’m with friends or by myself). Slight caveat that pizza-at-work for me has been more of a “lunch before/after team training meeting in a conference room” situation than a “dine out with higher-ups and/or customers” situation.

    2. Twenk*

      I’d look at what my boss/director level people were doing! if it were a casual picnic vibe, probably hands assuming I could wash my hands before/after, otherwise cutlery.

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      Depends on the pizza. If it can be eaten easily by hand, I’ll eat by hand. If it’s super messy, I’ll eat with a fork and knife.

    4. ThatGirl*

      With my hands unless it’s big thick deep dish pieces, which are often eaten with a knife and fork anyway.

    5. Antilles*

      However you want. Pizza is accepted enough as a “eat by hand food” that you’re generally fine if that’s what you want to do.
      If the slice in question is likely to be messy (e.g., thin/floppy crust, tons of toppings, very oversized piece), you might want to eat it with cutlery so it doesn’t get everywhere though.

    6. Alex*

      I have never eaten pizza with cutlery. I’m from NY, where that is crime punishable by extreme public mocking.

      1. WestsideStory*

        Same here. The proper method is to fold the slice lengthways (pros use one hand) and begin nibbling from the pointy end.

    7. RagingADHD*

      With my mouth, primarily. No but seriously, pick it up unless all the senior people are sitting at a table with real plates, real silverware, and cloth napkins, and they are all using cutlery. (In which case I can’t imagine why they would have pizza in the first place).

      If it’s plasticware and a disposable plate, you can’t cut it anyway.

    8. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Pause, look at how your management & experienced coworkers are eating, then copy them.

      If you see a mixture of eating styles from them, then cutting your portion of pizza into small (2-3 bites) sections beforehand should enable you to eat by hand with reasonable decorum.

    9. Random Bystander*

      Generally, depends on the sort of pizza. Deep dish gets cutlery, all others (unless very toppings heavy and likely to collapse under the weight thereof) are by hand. Fold over in the middle if desired.

  40. Manager in progress*

    I’d love to get some advice on a management issue. I’ve had some feedback from some individuals on my team that they feel I pick on them and criticise them in public (and that others see it too). I really want to change this and make sure I follow the praise publicly and coach privately model but can find it hard in the moment. I think it often arises when I disagree with something or I think we’re going off topic and I want to resteer the conversation to meet the meeting objectives. I think it also stems from the fact that I may be having specific performance issues with the individuals which is colouring my view in the moment. Any practical advice on things to keep front of mind to prompt me in the moment? I want my team to think I will always go to bat for them and I’m very aware that I’m not living up to this so want to do better. Any suggestions would be gratefully received!

    1. Morgan Proctor*

      “I think it also stems from the fact that I may be having specific performance issues with the individuals which is colouring my view in the moment.”

      Be aware that your public criticism might be exacerbating or even be the origin their performance issues. It could create tension, stress, resentment, and general unhappiness that could create an environment where it feels like it’s impossible to improve those performance issues. I’ve witnessed this and experienced this. It’s a really undesirable quality in a manager.

      1. Chicago Anon*

        “Practical advice” is what the poster requested.

        What about making a rule for yourself that when you disagree or feel the discussion is going off topic, you *must write that down*. Say, “Just a moment, let me make a note,” jot down the comment or concept that triggered the disagreement/derailment, and then come back to the person/meeting when you’ve given yourself a moment to think? It’s sort of like “counting to ten,” but with a physical task to do to help yourself take the time to think how best to handle the situation, and remember all the things you want to do right, instead of reacting before you’ve thought it through.

    2. rainyday*

      is there something about making sure you are focusing on the task/behaviour/situation, rather than the person? What is happening – the meeting is veering off topic – what needs to happen – I will redirect us back to the point. Try to keep the people and emotions out of it. Imagine you are all robots, maybe? Not sure if that’s feasible!
      In terms of prompting in the moment – I tend to write codes on my notes, or even occasionally on my hands – in a previous job, it was usually “ssh” to stop me getting involved in debates I know I am not going to win…

    3. Somehow_I_Manage*

      Can you first seek an objective opinion? This would be a good moment to bring in a third party to observe a meeting or two. There is skill in delivering a message that is direct and clear without being mean or personal. A peer or your manager would be able to give you an honest assessment and help direct you to specific examples.

    4. Tio*

      Is the problem that they’re suggesting things in the meeting and you think they won’t work and you’re getting off track discussing it?

      If so, you can say “I’ll take a note of that idea and we can discuss it in a bit” and write it down, and think it over and discuss it later with them one on one. If you’ve already decided on something and want to move on, you can say something like “We’ve already decided a course on this issue, but you can email me some feedback later” and then explain to them why it won’t work. Both of these end the conversation politely and open you up to coaching them privately on why this won’t work.

    5. Reality is Harsh*

      Honestly, it should be pretty simple. Do unto others. How would you feel if you were ripped into in public? Is your criticism objectively valid or are your emotions influencing how you feel? If you really want to make this shift, you need to unpack the motivation behind your reactive criticism. Is there something you are insecure about? Afraid of? Do you have a need to always be right? Do you need to always feel like you’re in control of everything? You’ve got to face whatever your true intention is behind your action. Good managers have self-awareness and empathy. They care about how others feel. They want their team to succeed. They do what they can to facilitate that. They focus on the positive and strengths. The intention behind their actions is a desire to be of service to others. If your mindset always is “how can I best serve you?” you will not criticize your own team publicly.

      1. Cj*

        of course, for situations like this, tone can be everything. but the examples that were given, especially getting the meeting back on track, don’t really seem to me to be public criticisms. or even the disagreeing part, as long as you aren’t disagreeing about work they’ve already performed and calling them out in public that you think they did it wrong. in fact, I think discussing things you disagree on in public can be helpful, because other team members be in on this discussion. if it’s actually something that there may be disagreement on, and just not outright saying the person is wrong, it can be helpful to hear other people’s opinions. again, tone is everything here.

        however, since multiple members of their staff have come to them if this issue, it seems like there must be more to it than this.

        1. Cj*

          semi nesting fail. this wasn’t intended to be a reply directly to the comment above mine, just to this discussion in general.

  41. Elsewise*

    My boss is grooming me for a promotion I’m not sure I want and it’s attracting attention!

    Recently, my lovely direct supervisor left our company. Let’s say I do Level 1 Llama Coordination. Before she left, my supervisor told me that she thought there would be a Level 2 Llama Trainer position open and I should apply. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a trainer, but I did like the idea of moving up to Level 2. Now I temporarily report to my old supervisor’s boss, Fergusina, and she is extremely gung-ho about preparing me for the Llama Trainer position. She wants our current Llama Trainers to move into two open management positions. One is interested, the other isn’t sure and (rumor has it) has been a little upset at how much Fergusina is pushing her. I told Fergusina that I’m not sure about being a Trainer, but she said I’d be great at it.

    The problem is, Trainers work longer hours- we’re all salaried, so I’m not sure exactly how much, plus they have to build relationships with clients. I have pretty severe anxiety and the idea of doing that all day makes me sick. I WANT to be good at it, I want to want the job, but I’m just… not sure if I do. The other side of this is, in our field to advance past a certain level, you NEED to have training experience. If I’m okay capping out at a manager level, I can just do the behind-the-scenes work, but if I ever want to be a director or above, I’ll need to be a trainer, and a good one.

    Meanwhile, another manager, Jane, has an opening on her team for a Level 2 Llama, oh I don’t know, Painter. I love painting llamas, and I’ve done a lot of it in past jobs, but not much in my current role. I told Fergusina (who is also Jane’s boss) that I’d really prefer to do Llama Painting, and she said she’d also thought of me when that role came up.

    With Fergusina’s blessing, I’m meeting with Jane next week to talk about the Llama Painting role. But I know that Fergusina is really invested in me being a trainer! She’s been giving me a lot of training work to prepare me (and to fill in some coverage gaps), I’m the only Level 1 person who has a regular 1:1 with her, and my fellow Level 1 coworkers are noticing. I’ve had a lot of people ask me if I’m going to be the next Llama Trainer- there isn’t even a position open yet! Aside from Jane and Fergusina, no one else in my department knows that I’m interested in Llama Painting. I’m really excited about the job and don’t want to have to share my disappointment if I don’t get it. So far I’ve just been telling coworkers who ask that I don’t know if I’ll apply for a Trainer position if one opens up. I have no idea if Fergusina would influence Jane not to hire me for the Painter role, or if Jane even thinks I’d be good at it or is at all interested in hiring internally. But I’m an excellent Painter and I’m really, really hopeful.

    I don’t know if I’m asking for advice or just venting. Has anyone had a similar experience?

    1. constant_craving*

      If you want to do Llama Painting and don’t want to become a trainer, that’s ok! People are not obligated to take the most aggressive career path. Choose the one that’s right for you.

      That being said, it sounds like maybe you do want to be a trainer but your anxiety is holding you back? In that case, I’d try to keep in mind that anxiety typically makes thinking about something far worse than the reality. If I’m reading that correctly, it might be worth giving it a shot! You can always loop in with your therapist/etc. to get some advice and strategies for giving you the best shot of keeping your anxiety from interfering.

  42. PekoeBoo*

    A question on peer interviews, for an executive-level position in government.

    Context: I applied for a position recently and the hiring manager contacted me afterwards to say they have an internal candidate for that position but she has an upcoming vacancy at the same level and she thought I was the kind of person she needed. It was definitely a personality/management style fit she was seeing as the job, on paper, was less good of a fit for my background than the position I applied for. I said I was interested in moving forward with next steps, which she identified as a fit interview with her leadership team that would give me a chance to ask any questions I had.

    I haven’t had a peer interview since I was applying for entry level positions so I’m looking for advice on what to ask!

    Thanks in advance for any thoughts you have.

    1. Antilles*

      I’m not in government, but I’ve been on both sides of peer interviews quite a bit in private industry. For questions to ask, I usually focus less on asking about nitty-gritty details of the job and more on getting (or providing, if I’m the peer interviewer) a holistic view of the company. What’s the culture like? How does your typical day go in the company? How closely do you work with other departments? What does success look like to the company? That sort of stuff.

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        As someone in government, agree with all of these suggestions. In this case, it’s very similar. Good luck, PekoeBoo!

      2. THE PANCREAS*

        A question I like asking to peers is a sort of a version of the magic question – “if you hire a great person in this role, how does your life get easier?” I think that answer speaks to what their expectations are for someone in the role and how they interact with the role, while making it about them (which they are an expert in).

  43. New Senior Mgr*

    We are understaffed by 1 person on our team and undergoing a new financial mgmt system. One of my direct reports, who is my highest performer on the team, told me this morning she has an offer from another company with a title two levels higher than her current role. She said her current salary is not an issue and she loves the company but what are the odds she will be promoted to this higher level within the next year. She’s right, it would take at least another 2 years to reach this level in our company. She says she loves the company, culture, and everything about her role, but she wants that higher title. I’ve scheduled a meeting with our HR team for Tuesday morning, but I’m interested in others’ thoughts about this.

    1. BellaStella*

      Put a risk table together. Risks if she leaves (more understaffed, hiring time and costs, training time etc) and benefits, and see what HR says about her moving up and risks for other colleague’s perceptions if suddenly she is two levels up – what do they have to do for the same outcomes?. Go to bat for her if you want her to stay.

    2. Prospect Gone Bad*

      It will be tough for your either way. Only give the promotion if it’s an actual promotion. If not, you’ll have to go through the pain of hiring a replacement. Realize that having someone on board with a promotion and inflated title you don’t need will also cause you problems. So there is no easy road.

      I worked somewhere that handed out titles and faux promotions like that and you just end up with “Senior Directors” who don’t manage anyone and can barely make decisions, but also feel they no longer need to do the low level work. But there is no one else there to do it. So, the worst of both worlds.

    3. New Senior Mgr*

      Thanks everyone, I do want her to stay. We’ve been understaffed for 3 months and just lost another person last week to a move abroad with her spouse. This direct report in question is my only direct report who can work independently and effectively exceptionally well. I don’t want to have rose colored glasses but I do think she prefers to stay otherwise why bother discussing it with me? I will go to bat for her.

  44. Sleepwalker*

    It is so darn frustrating that I can’t seem to vent to anyone about not having enough work to do at my job. I have had barely anything to do all week, not even an hours worth of work each day. But if I vent to my family and friends about how bored I am, they all just say “I wish I had that problem, I always have things to do. Must be so nice to kick your feet up and relax”. Obviously it’s not that I want to be worked to the point of exhaustion and be stressed 24/, but no one seems to understand that having nothing to do and being really bored is also terrible. It makes me feel pointless in my work. And though I don’t live to work, I do take pride in doing a good job and enjoy being helpful and contributing. So not being able to do that makes me feel insignificant. Obviously most office jobs have downtime, but I am having way more downtime than I am actual work time.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Sometimes it’s nice to have people to vent to, but it doesn’t seem you do?

      That said, is this something you can discuss with your manager to fix? Or could you use the extra time to learn a work-adjacent skill?

    2. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      OMG I’ve been in your shoes. It SUCKS.
      Agree, definitely discuss with your manager and see if there are any projects that have been shelved that need attention, or something else you can learn or provide value with!

      1. Girasol*

        Me too. Busy people don’t appreciate how frantic you can get when you have hours and hours more at your desk before you can leave and you have nothing at all to do. If there’s training available, it might be a way to while away the time. If not, you may be able to get away with reading if you’re not obvious about it. Be careful asking your manager for work, though. Your manager may already be tearing their hair out trying to solve the problem. If you sense that’s the situation it’s best to avoid being too pushy lest you accidentally hint that your manager isn’t doing their job. In any case, my sympathy! Too big a lull in the workload can be crazy-making.

    3. onyxzinnia*

      First, my sympathies. I have been there and it is not a nice feeling at all. Early in my career I briefly temped as a receptionist for an advertising agency and outside of checking guests in for meetings…there were long periods with nothing to do. There’s only so long you can browse the same websites and stare at the clock.

      First, is this a temporary season (as in this is a lull period and the busy period will pick up eventually) or an ongoing concern?

      If this is ongoing, I agree with Anonymous Educator that you should discuss this with your manager. However, it will be more powerful if you come to the table with ideas of activities you could be doing instead. I wonder if you could look around and identify opportunities to create a new project or help a coworker/different team out with an existing project they don’t have time for. Maybe consider scheduling a few coffee chats with colleagues whose work you’re interested in learning more about? That might organically open up some opportunities for you.

      Your boss might also be willing to pay for work-related certification/training opportunities that could take up some time to study for. I would especially recommend this route if this downtime is a temporary season.

    4. C.*

      I feel the exact same way. In my case, I take it with a grain of salt because I know the busy season is coming and I will be yearning for these days, but the summer is just… dead. Aside from little maintenance projects and answering an email or two here or there, it’s crickets. I’m in the process of looking for a new position because of this very arrangement; it makes me feel like I’m going insane and, worse, that my actual skills are stagnating from having nothing to do for an entire season. Even when it gets busy, my skills are still underutilized, so there’s not much reprieve then, either.

      But yeah, I feel you! And it’s hard to talk about with others because it sounds like the epitome of a Not Problem, but it is. And even though I don’t have much on my plate, it’s not like I’m sitting on the beach sipping daiquiris by the water. I still feel like I have to be “on” and performing work in some way, so it’s never relaxing.

    5. Large Pink Rabbit*

      You can vent to me, bc that was my last job! I sat on overhead for like a year, picking up the occasional odd assignment that lasted a couple weeks before I was back to twiddling my thumbs. It was soul crushing. And all that “Do training!” advice is bullshit bc after a year, I had had more than enough of training. Can you read novels? Watch Netflix? Job hunt?

  45. Ghosted on Aisle Nine*

    Hey friends, I have kind of a weird one. I recently interviewed with a local nonprofit that does great work I really love, and the interview seemed to go really well, including asking about possible start dates, etc.

    ‘We’re making a decision next (last, now) week,’ the interviewer said.

    Great. Didn’t hear, nudged on Friday, still didn’t hear.

    He hasn’t contacted me this week. Do I nudge again? Do I assume there was a funding snarl or something or do I accept the possibility that I have been ghosted by someone I will see VERY regularly? It’s a small town, if you want groceries or a movie or prescriptions there are limited options. This will be very awkward.

    I want to avoid a passive-aggressive nudge (‘at this point I assume you have gone with another candidate’) but uh what do I say? Good old fashioned ‘just following up on this’?

    1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      Hiring decisions ALWAYS take longer than everyone anticipates. Including (especially!) the hiring manager.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        ESPECIALLY in August. I can do one step of the approval process, but my HR contact was on vacation last week and my boss is on vacation this week. She’s back next week, but then I’m out, and the big boss is out for two weeks overlapping, so we can’t get the final sign-off, blah blah blah.

        Hang in there, Ghosted!

    2. mreasy*

      I have gotten jobs where it took them 4+ weeks longer than they estimated to make a decision. I would do one more nudge in another week if you must, then let it go. They won’t forget you want the job if you’re their top candidate!

      1. Ghosted on Aisle Nine*

        Ah I like the idea of waiting until next week (two weeks since last contact) rather than hounding them weekly, thank you!

    3. Ryan Howard’s White Suit*

      I work at a nonprofit and have been involved in the hiring of every new person since I started 18+ months ago. NO process has ever taken the time I anticipated it taking—there’s always some sort of snag, whether it’s waiting for one key person to conduct an interview, waiting to know specifics of how many we can hire (this happens with interns), delays in getting together to discuss candidates, etc. My team and I can dismiss the candidates we don’t want pretty much right away, but the process for the ones remaining is just always long (and was for me, too—the time from my application to start date was 3 months).

      Good luck!

      1. Ghosted on Aisle Nine*

        My last nonprofit from interview to start of work took six agonizing months! Was hoping a much smaller org would be different but nonprofits gonna nonprofit.

  46. Prospect Gone Bad*

    I am burnt out from dealing with other companies in the tech space that are under-funded and under-staffed and under-resourced and where the staff seems unhappy. I am so over it.

    I feel like too many negative things are overlapping at once. I usually never side with the “corporate greed ruins everything” side (mostly because I follow Wall St closely and earnings are overwhelmingly lower than people think they are, and are going down, and it’s going to be an interesting economic storm soon IMO, like people are still talking about “record earnings” when they’re declining this year and companies like Apple have been declining for multiple quarters).

    But many of my problems recently could be solved with companies investing more in their staff and service and software. Not even huge amounts either.

    Even at my own job where management is receptive to ideas, it still feels like we’re on a shoe string budget. Everyone I know is saying the same thing about their jobs.

    The whole AI/automation thing is also a much larger pain than companies want to admit. Things that are 20 hours a week of work get treated like little side-projects. My biggest logistical issue with automation is it relies on other companies. The company will have a big name but the deeper you get into your setup, the more you realize their platforms are limited, their staff inexperienced, no one really addresses concerns beyond the basics, it takes too much work to set anything up. And if you need to change companies, you need to redo the automation and AI setup from scratch at a new company, which takes months.

    At my own job, I’ve postponed PTO because of one mini-crisis after another and am now at a point where I’m thinking, this is just how it’s going to be if we don’t want to hire people. On a larger scale, it seems like the real economy is so different from what is being reported in a way I’ve never seen before. Everyone is reeling from inflation and so many companies aren’t doing great but the media is making it sound like the economy is awesome, which I think is demotivating workers who then think the way things are now is what a good economy looks like.

    1. Goddess47*

      If nothing else, there will always be a crisis. Take that PTO — and *really* disconnect. Time away will always help.

      There’s no good answer… all I can do is wish you good luck!

    2. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      100% we’ve taken lean too far. (And, related, have hollowed out “middle management”, the people who connected the dots, trained folks up, and attended all those darn meetings.) This attempt to remove every scrap of fat means there’s no cushion much less room to breathe and grow. It’s so short-sighted.

      I blame a lot of things. How analysts / investors seem only to care about short term numbers. How we put people on the “liabilities” side of the balance sheet. How execs are afraid of weird economic conditions and cutting back out of fear, rather than investing to generate new capacity. We’re trapped in a very weird cycle and I wonder if we’ll get out of it.

  47. BellaStella*

    Low stakes question.
    When a 10-year at the company colleague announces at the lunch table to an intern and other colleagues that he ‘just does not do emails’ …. when our org and life runs on emails….. how do you address this? Looking at the intern and saying, ‘we do emails and we do our work’ was a bit touch but come on, ffs, people. Thoughts?

    1. NaoNao*

      I dunno, someone with 10 years at the org likely has a ton of capital and sway, and it sounds like one of those bluff-y, off the cuff things people say which has no meaning and is not at all literal. I learned to recognize this type of “open mouth and say whatever floats through your mind” as a kind of aural static years ago, and it took some doing because as someone who is ND, I take things very literally.

      My guess is that the 10-year-vet likely means that they’re not dependent on email, only checks it very occasionally, feels they’re “above” email and all about relationships and being the “mayor of the office”, is “flexing” that they have an EA or any number of “subtext” things, but doesn’t literally mean “I don’t use email”

      I’d say something like “That may work for Thumbelino, but all joking aside, most of us live and die by email here.” or take intern aside later and say “Just FYI, take what Thumbelino said about email with a grain of salt. We do use email all day, every day.”

  48. Alldogsarepuppies*

    I just “inherited” the Fun Committee at my office. Our budget in fairly limited, and I’m against forced fun…but what are some optional things done in offices you’ve been to that has good turn out and reception. I’m presuming that the people that do not enjoy “work place fun” will opt out of everything (and not be shamed for it at all!) so positive responses only please.

    1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      One year a couple of my staff were tasked by my boss to throw a May the Fourth Be With You potluck. Some people didn’t participate (or only brought a random dish to contribute), whereas others got really into it and even wore costumes! It was definitely low-stakes fun that allowed for as much or as little participation as people wanted.

    2. Goddess47*

      Especially with a limited budget, one option might be a [pick a random ‘holiday’] celebration. Like, if you were librarians, celebrate Gutenberg’s birthday. If you work in llama grooming, celebrate the development of the weaving loom. Something faintly business relation but decidedly away from any and all of the traditional holidays. Do the pot-luck lunch or breakfast thing.

      If you have the capacity/funds, try a ‘come and get a treat in the break room’ at random. Things like ‘lemon ice’ on a warm summer day fits the non-dairy, non-gluten, vegetarian end of the spectrum.

      Try a ‘raffle’ where everyone gets tickets and then there are random prizes. Yes, folk want food and money, but if all you have are coffee mugs and tacky pull-overs, that’s what you have.

      Good luck!

    3. Can't Sit Still*

      Pi Day on March 14 (assuming you use MM/DD dates, although it could be fun even if you don’t!) Silly Hat day is something that remote employees can participate in, too. In-office or at-home scavenger hunts. Cube and/or Zoom background decorating contests for any holiday or season of your choice (a summer beach theme could be fun. I recommend banning noise makers in-office.)

      My team LOVES potlucks, but some teams loath and despise potlucks.

    4. Panicked*

      We had a “book fair” and ice cream social that went well. Everyone brought in books they didn’t want anymore and we set them up in the conference room with a bunch of new pencils, bookmarks, and all the other little trinkets that you used to be able to find at the book fair in elementary school. We had ice cream and a ton of toppings set up right outside the conference room, so everyone had a chance to attend the book fair and grab the books they wanted, eat some ice cream, and just enjoy themselves. Any leftover books were donated to a local adult literacy non-profit.

    5. Girasol*

      The events I remember being especially appreciated were mainly in-office events that involved free food and a little free time, so that people had a break and a chance to chat together without being away all afternoon and falling behind on their work. It was especially appreciated at the company where sad desk lunch was a thing and working through lunch hour was part of the culture. When there’s free food conveniently close, even the reluctant ones tend to show up if only for a few minutes.

    6. JustaTech*

      Things we’ve done that were fun/well received:
      Coffee cart – we hired in a little espresso cart to make folks drinks (coffee and not). (Costs money, depends on the size of your group.)
      We’ve also done “tea” where we just use the tea bags we already have and buy a couple of boxes of grocery store bakery cookies. Folks enjoy a little break!
      Ice cream social.
      A mustard tasting for Oktoberfest (but you could really do it for anything) where you have folks try to guess the second flavor in the mustard.

    7. Sinezona*

      Our end of year party had a baby goat petting zoo so I don’t think you can beat that. Aside from that flexibility and food generally make office fun enjoyable

    8. Irish Teacher*

      One thing we had good fun with during covid when we couldn’t have a staff party was a sort of raffle where people brought in things to use as prizes and some were bought with the “ticket money” and one lunch time, we did the draw and each person whose name came out chose a prize.

      We also usually have a dress up for Halloween thing. This is supposedly for the students, but I think we have as much fun with it as they do. Maybe 2/3rds of the staff dress up?

  49. AnonymooseToday*

    Beating myself up a little. Applied for a fed job several weeks ago, got the auto non-referred because I didn’t submit my transcripts….except I’m 100% sure I did because I had to photograph them (lol yeah last min app). The recruiter was nice enough to double check but they weren’t there. Figured out it was probably a filenaming error on my part, I use underscores in most of my stuff and usajobs considers that an irregular character. I don’t think I caught the upload error because I was doing it thru the steps of the application thru the department’s website instead of just uploading them into my usajobs profile account. UGH.

    1. Generic Name*

      Aw man, this almost exact thing happened to me. I applied to a position with the EPA right out of grad school. I totally spaced providing transcripts. I just….didn’t do it. I actually got a call from someone telling me I didn’t submit them, which I took to mean I would have gotten an interview if I had just submitted the damn transcript. I’ve had a great career since then, but sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like if I had started out as a fed. Oh well.

    2. The New Wanderer*

      I’m sorry, that sucks. I think something similar might have happened to me on my first application – I had the transcripts but not sure if they ever got submitted properly. At least I suspect that was the issue, because I reapplied the next year with essentially the same materials and this time got confirmation that they were submitted.

      If it’s any consolation, usajobs is awful and it can happen to anyone. We had a senior level person with many years at the agency get disqualified for a promotion because of a lost attachment. That person would have been the frontrunner, but there’s no flexibility with that system.

  50. Parent anon*

    I made a stupid mistake. I applied for a competitive leadership development program in my org and was accepted…and it turns out it requires travel over a week with both a holiday and both of my children’s birthdays. YIKES. What’s the least bad choice here?

    Details: I signed up knowing the travel weeks, but didn’t think it would be an issue because my colleagues who’ve previously done the program only had to travel to a training center in our local area, so I’d be home for dinner and celebrations and so on. It turns out this year, the travel is all across the country, it just wasn’t specified either way and I made a bad assumption.

    The program is a year long, it is supposed to be good for networking and visibility but won’t put me in a pipeline for a specific promotion path. I could withdraw. It would probably be the last chance I’d have that opportunity to participate, and my supervisors and upper management would know I did. Or I could just try to have celebrations with the kids the weekends before and after. They are both pretty young and still really, really into birthdays and the fun holiday. WWYD?

    1. So they all cheap-ass rolled over and one fell out*

      We celebrated our 9 year old’s birthday until a month afterwards, she didn’t seem to mind even though she had been marking off the days until her birthday on a calendar. Also we always have the kid’s friends birthday party on the weekends to maximize attendance.

      1. Parent anon*

        Yes, we always do weekend parties as well, but that seems to wind up with multiple birthday celebrations when it falls on a weekday, e.g. the birthday kid gets to pick dinner/dessert or bring a treat to school and open immediate family gifts on the actual day. (If the grandparents visit a different weekend, it turns into a whole birthday week, which is a little much.) What did you do on your 9 year old’s actual birthday, did you do anything or save 100% of birthday stuff for the big celebration?

        1. So they all cheap-ass rolled over and one fell out*

          We happened to be on vacation this year on the actual date of her birthday. We went out to dinner only because we were on vacation, the waiters didn’t sing to her or anything. Her card from her grandparents (who live on the opposite coast) was in the pile of mail we got when we got back. Her teacher had the class sign a card for her. That’s pretty much it.

      2. Panicked*

        I have nothing to add to this thread but your username SENT me. That is the best username on the site, hands down.

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

      For one thing its really stupid of them to require work travel over a holiday, especially if that would be a time you typically would have off from work.

      Is this something that you have to attend every event? Could you go to the program head and say something like “I really want to take this, and I knew that the events would be during X days. However , speaking with my coworkers who have done the program in the past, it has always been held local, so I didn’t think it would be an issue. Now that I know that it is throughout the country I will be traveling during a holiday and during a child birthday. Would I be able to skip those days?”

      Good luck

      1. Cj*

        I’m making an assumption here, but I kind of figured the holiday was something like Halloween. not something work would worry about, but something young kids would be into.

    3. Alex*

      I doubt most kids really care about the actual date as long as there is an awesome celebration. Is the “fun holiday” Halloween by any chance? When I was a kid I LOVED doing a Halloween sleepover with a friend…maybe enlist your kids friends to help make it special for them?

      1. RagingADHD*

        I would celebrate with my kids before / after. Partly because that’s a totally normal thing to do. And partly because I want to encourage my kids to enjoy and celebrate things at any opportunity without being fixated on whether it perfectly matches what everyone else is doing, or whether it perfectly matches their prior expectations.

        If there is only one extremely specific way for things to be “right” and everything else is “wrong,” they are going to be unhappy and disappointed more often than not in their lives. I want my kids to appreciate multiple ways for things to be right and good, so they will have more opportunity for joy later on.

      2. RagingADHD*

        There are also more and more community events popping up in the weeks leading up to Halloween where kids can dress up in their costumes and play games or get candy. There are entire neighborhoods near me who have collectively decided to have trick or treat on a weekend if it fell on a school night, for example.

      3. Parent anon*

        Yes, it’s Halloween. Was trying not to get too specific, but if my coworkers who know I’m in this situation recognize me…hi!!! Unfortunately it’s a Tuesday this year, as are both birthdays (if any were on a weekend I’d be there), so no sleepovers.

        I will try to arrange fun parties on the weekends either side, but having a regular weekday birthday is already a bummer for a kid, so not even having your parents both home to make a fuss over you probably feels even worse. I wouldn’t know because my parents never missed mine. I would not have applied if I’d understood that the travel requirement would be to different places this year, but backing out feels a lot different than not signing up in the first place.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          I think if you don’t make “missing their birthday” a huge deal, they won’t make it a huge deal, either. You’ll have the party on the weekend, call them on the day, and everything will be fine.

          You’ve got this!!!

          1. moql*

            Yes, I think Parent anon is worried because their parents always made that day such a big deal, but that’s really just what their parents did. Mine both traveled a ton and we were very used to things being moved around a bit. It was still very exciting to celebrate the week after or before!

    4. mreasy*

      YMMV but I used to have birthday observed in the summer because my birthday was always during winter break in elementary school when nobody was around. I bet if you still have parties for them, your kids will be stoked. Maybe do something extra for each of them since you won’t be there on the actual day? Lots of kids have to have bday celebrations on the weekends anyway if their days fall on the weekday.

    5. Whomst*

      Depends on your family dynamic, but loads of people reschedule holiday/birthday/anniversary celebrations around work schedules (nurses and pilots come to mind) and it’s normal and expected and they still feel appreciated. It’s not like you’re refusing to celebrate their birthday, it’s just that you can’t celebrate on that exact day. The reason I say it depends on the family dynamic is that some families and individuals don’t want to be flexible about THEIR DAY and it would cause offense. Little kids probably haven’t formed those opinions yet, so you’re probably safe there, it’s just the rest of your family you’d have to contend with. If you want to do the program, this really shouldn’t be a dealbreaker.

    6. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

      I think the holiday part of it depends partly on if you can celebrate it separately as a family, or if it’s something like Halloween where you can’t change the day everyone celebrates. But even with something like Halloween, you can probably find ways to celebrate that happen on the weekend instead, and possibly the kids can do the day-of celebrations with other family or friends?

      I personally think it’s a good thing for kids to learn that sometimes birthdays get celebrated on a different day than the actual day. My parents always made a big deal of celebrating on the day of–even if the celebration itself wasn’t big–until I finished high school. It was a hard adjustment for my younger brother to make along with all the other changes that come with growing up. He was just so used to us making birthdays a priority to be home for that when things got in the way once I moved out for college(like me being literally away in another country, unable to travel back), it really upset him, and it shouldn’t have.

    7. Camelid coordinator*

      Congratulations on the program! It sounds like it will be a great experience for you. I agree with the other commenters that the kiddos will be fine having their parties on a different day this year. The person holding down the fort with the kids while you are at the program might be able to make the actual day a little special (cupcakes for breakfast, anyone?), and then it would be like they had two birthdays!

      1. Parent anon*

        Thanks for the reassurance. One of the kids has already requested my cinnamon rolls for breakfast on his birthday, several months in advance, so I guess I’ll be making and freezing those ahead of time!

    8. kiki*

      My dad traveled a lot for work when I was a kid and for friend-heavy holidays like Halloween I kind of loved when he was out of town because it meant I got multiple celebrations! On the actual holiday I could do things with my friends and then on days before or after I got a cool family celebration.

      I would still go, but be very intentional about making sure that you being gone means that they get double the fun– a full celebration with friends while you’re away and another once you’re back.

    9. Not A Manager*

      “This year you get a full BIRTHDAY WEEK! Your party will be on the weekend after as always, but this year we will ALSO have your special family celebration the weekend before, AS WELL AS you get special private dinner out with Other Parent/Loving Adult on your actual birthday.”

  51. An Australian In London*

    Alison suggested I post this for the open thread so here goes.

    How does the standard advice here for employees change for freelancers and other consultants?

    For example #1: there are no prospects for promotion or changing their client-side job title. There is very little opportunity to change duties or remuneration during an engagement. This seems to negate almost everything said here about negotiation… or does it?

    For example #2: working B2B as a consultant or even just as a contractor means one typically has none of the usual HR protections, such as they are.

    For example #3: consultants almost by definition have no standing. I might even say they have negative standing in terms of effecting any organisational or cultural change. Engaging a consultant is always a political move (despite what the client says).

    I’m sure there are others. To what extent would any of your AAM standard advice change for a consultant in a B2B engagement? (I am open to being told “all of it! AAM is for employees only.”)

    1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      I’d argue that #1 is not true at all as a consultant/freelancer. Every single new project and client is a negotiation. During a specific scope or engagement period you are often working per a set agreement, but it’s not forever. You could find out that what you were brought in to do isn’t what you are being asked to do or scoped to do — that’s a change order / rescope / new rate convo. You could take on more and more as time goes by — just like any consulting company /agency the goal is to expand the work, take on more important tasks, and ultimately charge more. Even if nothing changes in the work itself, you can raise rates with existing clients — because you came in too low, to keep up with the market, or just because you want to.

      2: Can’t argue here. If you’re in a contract role where you’re a W2 employee of a contracting agency there’s some but that’s not something I expect to use. If I were being harassed as a consultant, i’d probably take that to someone, but overall i don’t expect HR support. I have never needed it.

      3: Disagree again, at least in part. Depends how we define standing. While I have almost no protections, generally I have a pretty high degree of status and am listened to more than employees. (Which really sucks and i use my power to advocate for employees because they know the real deal, but it is what it is). However you are correct I can’t effect change. That’s up to the client. I have some methods for engaging activating employees, if they’ll let me.

      1. An Australian In London*

        Hmm, yeah ok. In some ways a consultant might have more power than an employee to negotiate rate and scope before the work begins, but less so once they’re there. I’ve seen multi-year contracts in London where they refuse to consider even inflation-only rate increases. If I had somewhere else long term to go I’d call them on it. I don’t.

        Re. standing… thank you for reminding me of these aspects. Yes I am usually brought in as a consultant to settle some deadlocked issue so in that sense I have standing to address the one narrowly scoped item I was brought in to do, but not for any cultural issues causing the technology issues.

        Some things to think about. Thank you.

    2. Zebydeb*

      For #1, I suppose for freelancers, the window for negotiation comes at the beginning of each new engagement. And rather than getting promoted, you can try to take on more advanced and better-paid jobs over time. I’ve certainly had freelancers start to turn down the mundane jobs they used to accept, as they gained experience and clients over time.
      Tricky if it’s a rolling contract but I think it would be possible to negotiate after a while. You might frame it in terms of what your rates are as a service provider, rather than the language on here for employees discussing salaries.

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

        I agree. Unless you know that they would need something specific for college gift card would be a good idea. If you know they will need books or something you could even get a gift card to the campus bookstore to help with that cost.

        1. constant_craving*

          I would actually stay away from campus bookstore gift cards. My textbooks are lots more $$$ through the bookstore than buying basically anywhere else and that’s pretty true of campus bookstores generally. Or give one of a size assuming it’s going to be used for something relatively smaller, like a branded sweatshirt or other swag.

      2. mreasy*

        If you know they like Starbucks (or even better, a local coffee shop), a GC to a coffee place is a really nice gift. Students who drink coffee drink a LOT of it, and getting the upgrade vs. the dining hall/dorm brew sometimes will be a treat.

      3. Enough*

        Do make sure gift cards fit their needs, likes and can be used locally. For my daughter Wal-Mart and Starbucks would have been best.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Depending on your budget and if they already have one, a tablet with a stylus (they don’t have to be bundled together; a table with stylus support and an inexpensive generic stylus are good).

      Once one gets into the handwriting recognition, an infinite notepad that syncs to the cloud continuously would be an amazing asset going into the intense learning experience that college is intended to be.

      I’d do a glass screen protector, too, because ideally that stylus is going to spend a lot of time gliding over the screen, but I also have a tendency to over-engineer my devices that way, so YMMV in the real world.

    2. kiki*

      Unless you know there’s something the intern has their eye on, I think gift cards or cash are always the best bet for students. Being a student is just so expensive. It can be a huge source of joy to not have to pay for some books or a meal.

  52. MigraineMonth*

    Just wanted to celebrate the fact that, 12 years into my career, I just got promoted for the first time! (I spent most of that time working for a company where the only promotion path was moving into management, and the last few years there hasn’t been an opening for me to move into.)

    It didn’t feel worth a “Good News Friday” post, but I did buy cheesecake to celebrate.

  53. LizzyinaTizzy*

    I need to vent about work so skip if you’re not in the mood for a long rambling rant.

    Numerous things have happened lately that are making me very burnt out. In the background I’ve gone through 3 people in the last 3 years for an essential role on the team. I was hired in with 0 experience and thrived and we haven’t been able to replicate that and there’s no budget for someone with experience.

    I just did the biggest project of my career. Weeks of overtime. Desperate data gathering so all departments will have what they need. Then endless criticism and inaction. The root cause of the criticism was that someone used a filter on my excel sheet, forgot they used it and claimed I hadn’t supplied the necessary data. Person in question is a self proclaimed excel expert.

    So the project didn’t go well. I have just reached my limit on doing others work. Other people didn’t supply their stuff because they’re busy.

    My boss is ok with everything but I’m not. I’m behind on other stuff, realizing we’ll never fill the position at this rate, and exhausted that we have a member of management who does very little actual work for years and nothing is done.

    I’m beyond burnt out but any vacation just means more work. I’m not fit to apply to other jobs while this tired.

    Hopefully in a few days I’ll be rejuvenated and able to see a path forward.

    1. Prospect Gone Bad*

      Hello friend! I am contemplating redoing a few software implementation projects with outside parties who always overpromise and under-deliver, but the current cases are at a ridiculous level.

      I burnt myself out like you did, but figured “after it’s done I will rest” but now it’s never “done” and TBH I regret/would want to redo huge parts even if they are technically ok.

      And part of the burn out was other departments. Getting them to read anything. Give me technical requirements. Getting them to test anything. Getting them to show up to meetings. Then you have one training with them and they can’t even pay attention for half an hour. You see these fabulous grandiose job titles and linkedin profiles but these people can’t even make a simple timeline, or test something and give specific feedback. It really makes you jaded and adds to the stress, and you’re thinking about work on weekends stewing over stuff. Like, you don’t need an MBA to be able to write an email that says “I need x y and z in the new system. Preferably ABD too. thanks!”

      1. LizzyinaTizzy*

        Thank you! Yes I can relate. I work in sales support and had to plan and price out our biggest bid ever. In the past I’d call potential suppliers, get someone technical on the phone and figure out if they could meet our needs prior to any emails. There’s been an organizational change and another department handles it. They pride themselves on not knowing the technical end and refusing to learn anything about it. I am not being facetious have heard it from their manager on many occasions in public and private over the last 5 years.

        You can imagine how that went. And I feel like I’ve outgrown the place. If they want to run departments based on what worked when we were one fifth the size to avoid bruising egos fine. But I don’t want to participate anymore.

        I’m not angry. I need to gather my strength and start a leisurely job search.

  54. inv*

    Still hunting for an entry level data analyst job. I’d like to specifically do healthcare data analysis. I have my second bachelor’s degree in healthcare management. Would it be worth applying and pursuing exclusively healthcare data analyst roles since I have healthcare experience, the management degree, and it’s what I want to do long term anyways?

    1. Parenthesis Guy*

      Yes. Healthcare is a big field with plenty of opportunities. The one challenge you may have is that even the entry level people in healthcare usually have some experience.

      1. inv*

        Every data analyst position I apply to wants experience. I don’t have any direct work experience yet. I do have two years of patient access, just not data analysis experience.

    2. ina*

      Hello fellow data analyst (with similar username!!)

      I do recommend you stick to your ‘wheel house’ when trying to break in from another field & esp if that’s where you want to be. I recommend figuring out which EHR your local hospitals use. If it’s Epic, bone up on Epic Clarity and any other database systems they might use (the job postings might give you a list of desirable knowledge sets). I would learn either Python, R, SQL, or some statistical, coding, or database language (I will throw in SAS if you wanna work at the state-level). I would tailor your knowledge base to whatever place you want to work & their needs, they’re usually the same across internal postings. Personally, my area is saturated with data scientists (BS and masters level), MPHs, MPAs, and MBAs so health care analyst jobs are competitive-ish. The most entry-level ones want 2 yrs of experience in some cases and “prefer” a masters. It might be the area I live in though.

      Have you looked into research at a public institution as a place to start? You might be roped into doing non-data analytics things but it’s a good place to get some practice in with real datasets.

      1. inv*

        I live near Atlanta and I know the EHR the hospital uses. I have looked into research but nothing yet. I should bone up on looking at that. I’ve learned sql, r, and I’m starting to learn python. I’ve also learned excel and cognos analytics.

        1. ina*

          Sounds like it would be a similar area to mine, especially with Emory and CDC being around. I think research work for one year would be a good path & really look for a project that would allow you to do some data analysis – many of these research studies are looking for data scientists for cheap (although compared to what a data scientist can make, it’s still good money).

          Fellowships/internships are another options, they’re paid for the most part. Most fellowships are for recent grads though but I know the CDC has a few for career professionals.

            1. inv*

              Also I’m planning on going back for my masters degree in data analytics in about a year and a half. So far everyone I’ve talked to in the industry recommends it. Would you?

  55. Meg*

    Anyone have advice (or even commiserate) about an employee you have to manage but cannot stand their personality?

    I’ve got a student worker that I manage and her personality drives me up the wall. She’s very much the “pick me” type of personality and does and says things to be quirky and weird. She does good work, but dang, do I really dislike her as a person.

    Best I’ve been able to do it realize that this is a “me” thing and try not to ice her out or take it out on her. I’ll correct her behavior as it applies to the job, but I’ll be very glad when the summer is over and I’ll be seeing less of her.

    1. Morgan Proctor*

      Just be aware that even the smallest microaggressions will be noticeable by others. Not even talking about the student worker. I mean, your colleagues will notice that you don’t like her. Act accordingly.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        This is crucial – as Morgan says if you are at all treating her differently or coldly, it WILL be noticed and that will reflect poorly on you. So I’d make an extra effort to be consciously professional and polite.

    2. Turungtested*

      This is a little corny but I read somewhere that 1 in 8 people just won’t like you no matter what. When I’ve been in your shoes I try to remember that it’s normal to not like everyone I work with, and that thoughts and feelings don’t count, actions do.

      So keep being polite and respectful and don’t worry about not liking her. Keep things job focused and know there’s an end in sight.

    3. ina*

      Is she much younger than you? I found that when we took in an intern at my job, I was hit with “wow 22 year olds are BABIES!! who think they are Very Mature ADULTS!!” However, I remember what it was like to be 22 (my memory is long) and I realize that this is likely how I was, too. And I was treated as if I was a Very Mature ADULT!! by the people around me, because they realized that is where I was in life & I would grow, learn, and mature as I aged. We do this with literal children, don’t we? They know what they know and think what they think and you need to work with that rather than say “you should act more like XYZ.”

      Yes, she’s going out of her way to be quirky and weird. This annoys me, too, if I am being honest (very few people are truly weird and quirky…and the ones that are don’t realize it – it’s part of their charm!) Just engage with her on her level & don’t give her the satisfaction of thinking artificial weird and quirkiness will get her a big reaction. However, I agree with Turungtested. Do engage with her at her level with a smile and genuinely probe her when she says things, same as you would any other person.

      1. MsM*

        Yeah, the good thing about her being a student (besides the fact there’s a finite duration to her employment) is that there’s still plenty of time for her to grow out of it. And looking back, she probably will appreciate that you gave her nonjudgmental advice and correction where it was needed for the job, and didn’t go out of your way to call her on the rest of it.

    4. Reality is Harsh*

      Your job is to develop her talent so focus on doing that well and fairly and ignore your personal feelings. They are not relevant.

  56. There You Are*

    What do I say in interviews when I’m leaving a job because new leadership has turned the place toxic, punitive, and restrictive?

    Prior to the leadership change, I loved everything about my job and my company. I have tons of opportunities and work on really interesting things 75% of the time. The other 25% is just the normal stuff that comes with every job that you don’t love but don’t loathe, either.

    I don’t want to sound like sour grapes by saying something negative about the new regime, but I can’t honestly or realistically say anything about no growth opportunities, or that I’m looking to use more of Skill X and less of Skill Y, because I want to get a job doing pretty much the same thing I’m doing now, but at the kind of company mine used to be.

    1. Alex*

      I think it is fine to say that there has been a change in leadership that came with a significant change in work culture. The key is to highlight what you do value rather than list off what you don’t like.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      Seconding Alex’s advice, and adding in what I wrote to another commenter upthread:

      Once you answer the direct question, tag on “and I was excited to see XYZ in your job ad because ABC.” Interviewers care far more about why you applied for their job than they do about why you’re leaving your current job.

      1. There You Are*

        Another excellent suggestion. Thank you!

        I get so hung up on the negatives that I forget there’s a whole other side to the coin: the positives — of what I like about my current job and what I like about the new job / company.

  57. Justin*

    Massive months long project turning out better (and earlier) than I could have hoped. Now, to be clear, this is not surprising when I’m doing my academic work/writing, but this depended on a lot of folks, I had to stay motivated through a ton of tasks, and there was a deadline (mostly self-imposed).

    This will have a positive impact on the entire (300 person) organization and most of them don’t even know it yet.

    And, in my other career, my students all wrote very positive things about the class I changed to fit my true ideals.

    Sure, it would be nice (for the primary work project) to get a promotion/raise out of it, and I might early next year when those things occur, but mostly it just feels nice to have been confident enough to make decisions that are really paying off.

    That is all.

    1. Justin*

      Oh a question – what is a comment from a colleague (I’ve started receiving several) that really made you feel appreciated?

      1. onyxzinnia*

        I delivered a training webinar yesterday to over 100 customers. A colleague told me that outside of our boss, I was the most natural presenter he had ever worked with on the webinar series. That meant a lot to me because public speaking makes me so nervous.

        At my old job the CEO gave me a shout out in an all-company email about how I elevated the content presented at the customer conference. I hadn’t realized that he knew I was the one who hired and prepped all the external speakers.

      2. Lore*

        One of the nice things about working in publishing is that sometimes those nice comments end up in print in the acknowledgments. However, my favorite is from a few years back. One of the 50+ authors on a complicated , high profile anthology did more than the usual amount of fussing and tweaking, and sent a very nice email thanking me for my patience and my editorial skill when it was all over. He cced the editor and the publishing manager and they had the cover designer create a mock-up of the cover with that line at the top like a blurb, then had it framed for me. If you didn’t look really closely at it, you’d think I just had it because we all worked so hard on the book and it was successful, but I know.

  58. Green Goose*

    Background: I’m a subject matter expert on Topic A. It’s part of a larger body of work that I do, but people in my niche industry will sometimes use me as a go-to for Topic A, this has been the case for about six+ years. There is another organization run by Jane that is fully dedicated to Topic A, and they have been around for about three or four years. For a long time I would refer people to Jane’s organization. I’ve never met Jane but we’ve messaged on LinkedIn over the years and I’ve regularly praised her work publicly.
    A few very strange things have been done by Jane and her employee in the past six months that make me no longer comfortable endorsing their work. Jane reacted publicly when a well-known publication interviewed me about Topic A, I had even told the journalist to look into Jane’s work, and in the final piece there was a positive write up about Jane’s organization but I guess that wasn’t enough for Jane? I don’t really understand, but she publicly commented that other people were taking credit for her work, and while I was not named, the implication was there. I was pretty upset about that, but my organization told me not to respond. There have been several other incidents where she publicly discredits others who work on the topic, and one where she even claimed Topic A was HER intellectual property.

    I’m going to an industry conference soon, and I know people are going to ask me about Jane’s organization. I don’t feel comfortable getting into the nitty gritty with networkers about why I don’t endorse Jane/her organization anymore but I also can’t pretend I don’t know who she is. Topic A is a really hot topic in our industry, and I’m even giving a presentation about it at the conference so I’m worried about being put on the spot. I still think that her website is a good resource, but based on multiple public things she has done in the past six months I really don’t want to speak publicly about her. Any tips?

    1. RagingADHD*

      Don’t bring her up. If they ask about her directly, you can say “It looks like the website has some useful resources, but I can’t speak to the rest of Jane’s work.”

      If they ask about specific incidents, you can say “Oh yes, I heard about that.” Probably good to change the subject, too.

      It will be noticeable if you used to endorse her enthusiastically and are now non-committal. But I think that’s unavoidable. Just stay brief and neutral and be comfortable with pauses in the conversation.

    2. AnonAcademicLibrarian*

      Practice what I call the Southern Lady approach. (As a non Southerner in the South, I learned this and still use it.) The trick to this is to never say anything negative, but also don’t say anything positive either. Also, keep smiling the whole time.

      Try phrases like, “Janes Organization has a website with lots of useful information and that is a helpful resource for people.” (If you think this is true.)

      If someone asks you directly about Jane consider, “I’m glad her organization continues to do work on this topic.” (If you are.) OR “Her organization works hard on this topic and bring attention to it.”

      Or try phrases like, “Jane is very invested and passionate about Topic A.” Or “Jane has many opinions about Topic A.” Or “Jane often speaks about her work in Topic A.”

      But allow silence to speak here, which means you say the sentence and then don’t add anything. If they push, continue with neutrality.

      1. not a hippo*

        “Jane has many opinions about Topic A” is just the right amount of shade. It’s honest, it’s neutral, but people can read between the lines.

    3. Elsewise*

      How specific do you think these comments are likely to get? If it’s “are you familiar with Jane’s work?”, you could just say “yes, Jane’s organization is one of the organizations that does Topic A work.” Sometimes you can even put people off by providing information (which they may or may not know) that isn’t an answer. “What do you think of Jane’s organization?” “Oh, Jane’s organization does some work on Topic A. There’s a lot of fantastic groups that do Topic A work. Jane’s organization in particular is based out of Texas.”

      If you think you’re going to get more targeted questions, you can either be direct but positive or just refuse to engage. “Was Jane talking about you when she said that someone stole her work?” “I’m sure she wasn’t, here’s my background on this work. I know that crediting work within Topic A can be a hot-button conversation in this field, and I’m so glad that we’re discussing academic honesty.” Or “Do you endorse Jane’s work?” “I prefer not to discuss specific organizations at these sorts of events.”

      1. Green Goose*

        I’m not sure how specific, but two times in the past month someone in the field who was unaware of the public negative comments has shared stories about Topic A and tagged both me and Jane, since there are so few people who are SMEs.

        “I’m sure she wasn’t, here’s my background on this work. I know that crediting work within Topic A can be a hot-button conversation in this field, and I’m so glad that we’re discussing academic honesty.” Is very helpful thank you.

  59. So they all cheap-ass rolled over and one fell out*

    I got a new manager this year and the whole team agrees he sucks and probably isn’t going to change. Nothing that would qualify him for Worst Boss of the Year, but a lot of little things that add up to a frustrating and ineffective leader. We used to have a second manager on our team and he was awesome. I was hoping his replacement would at least average out the suckiness, but I just noticed that the manager position isn’t listed on our company’s website any more. Other, similar teams in our organization have not just two but typically three managers.

  60. A Girl Named Fred*

    Does anyone here happen to be or to work with a Technical Artist? During my last job search, this was a role that popped up on quite a few sites I was checking and every time I read the job description it seemed intriguing; I recently took one of those career explorer tests and Technical Artist was one of the roles it suggested looking into. But, while I get the general gist of “bridges the gap between the technical and artistic sides of a project, using skills and expertise from both”, I don’t understand what the day-to-day tasks would be like or what skills I should start learning to see if it’s something I’m interested in pursuing. Any insights into what they do, whether there are similar roles in industries other than video games(1), or where else I should be using for research would be appreciated!

    (1) – I’d be happy to work in video games, just want to make sure that’s not the ONLY place these skills could be used if I pursue it!

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      “Technical Artist” as a title is a little weird to me — mostly I see that kind of thing called a “UX Designer”. Which is something that any company doing app design or web design might use in order to have a pleasing visual experience for their product.

      So you’d want to know how to use prototyping tools like Figma. And you probably should get familiar with what A/B testing is — you put together 2 alternate versions of a new feature or whatever, then write a brief script explaining the concept and get a group of real people to give you their opinion about which one looks better, is more intuitive, etc.

      You should also be familiar with things like section 508 and ADA (making sure your product can be used by people with impaired vision). And you would need to demonstrate in your work that you can set and enforce style guides, and work with developers to make sure the product is visually coherent and consistent.

      1. A Girl Named Fred*

        It definitely is a weird title! I see it almost exclusively on sites for video game developers/publishers, where it seems to be about helping the programmers build their engine to support as high-quality graphics as is possible, and helping the artists to render their assets to work as smoothly with the game engine as possible.

        I did wonder if it might be similar to UX/UI at all! I’ll take a look at the softwares and things you mentioned and also check out some UX/UI job postings to see how they compare – that’s something I’ve always been intrigued by too. Thank you!

    2. AnimationAnon*

      Technical artist is one of those job titles that can vary quite a bit from studio to studio, and even from job posting to job posting. The Animation/VFX/Game Industry Job Postings google docs job board (it should be the first result if you search it) has a whole bunch of technical artist jobs on it at the moment, and if you go though a couple of them you’ll see the variety of work and job responsibilities that get put under that title. One studio’s technical artist might be another studio’s rigging artist, or one studio’s technical artist might be another studio’s lighting artist, and so on. Experience with programming is a common requirement though, typically Python, C++, and/or C#. Experience with animation and/or video game software is also common, but the specifics depend on the job posting.

      In addition to the video games industry, technical artists are also found in feature film animation, TV animation, and VFX.

      People in these industries are pretty chatty, so you can find quite a lot of info on this stuff if you check on Youtube (the channels GDC and Gnomon should be a good starting place). ArtStation is a good place to search for more info too, and I would also check out r/AnimationCareer on Reddit.

      1. A Girl Named Fred*

        This is super helpful, thank you so much! I’ll check out those resources and compare those job titles you mentioned.

  61. LeftAcademia*

    Remote working and voice loss.
    I have a job I love. About half of it is working on my own: research, programming, writing.
    The other half heavily involves communication skills – advising colleagues, providing expertise during brainstorming, leading master theses, coaching younger colleagues.
    After a scary health diagnosis and a planned life saving surgery, I am unfortunately stuck with a rare side effect. My voice is too weak to last more than 10 minutes and not loud enough to communicate in person under less than ideal conditions (background noise). In addition, I work from home. Any ideas on making communication with colleagues easier? So far we have tried, them talking and me chatting in response. Did not work as well as expected, because it is hard to get noticed.

    1. RagingADHD*

      I haven’t tried them, but there are Text-To-Speech apps like Speechify and Speaktor that claim to work with online meeting services like Zoom or MS Teams. There would still be a lag between typing and speaking, but you’d be heard.

    2. Morgan Proctor*

      If you’re using zoom, use the Raise Hand function to signal that you’re saying something in the chat? This might require communication with your boss. You should tell your boss that you need this accommodation (wouldn’t hurt to have a formal ADA request with HR), and your boss needs to let your coworkers know that they need to monitor the chat.

      1. Alex*

        This is also what I was going to suggest.

        It also might take some time for your coworkers to get in the habit of checking the chat. I know with some groups I’ve been in, using the chat is heavily a part of the culture and everyone reads the chat as well as speaks, and in other groups, people close that entire window and never read them. So there may need to be a bit of a group culture change as people adjust.

        For now, though, I’d keep raising your hand and then directing people to the chat so it becomes normalized.

        1. WantonSeedStitch*

          I would recommend recruiting meeting facilitators and asking them to start meetings with “please make sure you keep an eye on the chat because we have some people who will primarily be participating there.” They should also call out when a new chat message appears, or recruit someone else in the meeting to do so.

      2. Girasol*

        If they’re audio focused, can you use something that makes a sound, like a bell, to say, “Hey, it’s me chiming in! Check my chat message!”

    3. Whomst*

      In my experience, if you’re unable to participate verbally in a group discussion that’s mostly verbal, you’re going to need someone who is assigned to pay attention to your comments and make sure they get noticed/addressed in a timely fashion. Not sure how you could make that work (make it the task of an intern? get an aide? assign another meeting attendee to do it? make sure meetings have some sort of moderator to do it?), but that’s they only thing I’ve seen work. I think the text-to-speech could also work, if you can type fast enough, but I don’t have experience with that.

      For interactions with only one or a couple people, they have no excuse not to just let you use a chat feature or write things. They’re not caught up following what other people are saying and following the flow of the meeting, they can read. They may find it less personal, but that can be mitigated by being a little less formal in your chats (emojis, gifs, references to common interests) and emoting on-camera.

    4. ina*

      How much of your communication work can be written and not “live”? That was my first thought – triaging your voice.

      1. LeftAcademia*

        Thank you for the input. This is definitely something I should look into. Some things will have to be reorganized.

  62. Trixie*

    Based on change in administration in my department, I’m considering two potential options for next steps. I was already looking at changes due to mostly remote status, with my prior boss was just let go.

    One is Board Governance with new team and I know many of the team members. Salary should be better but I know anything Board related is high profile and potentially more stressful.

    The other role is with current team as internal PM. We have crazy amount of consultants at our organization (not a great sign by itself) but we need PMs to help ensure our team is moving things forward as needed, or getting attention on problems/flags. We’ll have an interim lead for the next bit while they replace the leader.

    My question for AAM collective is this: Between Board Governance and PM work, does one or both offer the most potential value for future roles. Salary is top priority but there is a draw to changing teams to Board group. Our department will be in freewill for a while without a permanent leader.

  63. chocolate muffins*

    What is a work-related accomplishment from this past week that you’re proud of? Someone suggested making this a somewhat regular thread last week so I figured I’d post it again!

    1. Alex*

      Oh I like this!

      I produced some work that the team lead for the project called “Absolutely beautiful.”

      I’m still fairly new so that felt good! And I also have a little crush on the team lead so….lol.

    2. WantonSeedStitch*

      When one of my reports presented me with a hint from our internal clients that they would like some training on the basics of the work my team does so they can do it themselves (this is actually something that would be more likely to save our time than to step on our toes), my first thought was “yeah, that would be great, but I don’t have time to do that!” But I didn’t say that, and instead, I decided it would be a great development opportunity for a member of the team, and even thought of some specific skills that the team member could train folks on that would help them a lot and save more of our time. I presented the idea to my boss, and she thought it was GREAT. Now we just need to figure out who’s going to be the one to do it.

    3. onyxzinnia*

      My win for the week was that I gave a solo webinar presentation to over 100 customers yesterday! I was nervous but I practiced enough that there were no awkward pauses and my colleague said I was one of the most natural speakers he’s worked with on the webinar series.

    4. JustaTech*

      I was able to dig up some very old report that should let us switch materials without having to do months of very expensive testing or having to buy some super expensive materials.

      (Now if only I could get the people who need the info to *read* said reports.)

    5. Honorificabilitudinitatibus*

      I make hiring decisions fairly regularly, though it’s not my main job. This week, unprompted, two people from our team of 30-ish coworkers came up to me and said how impressed they were with two people I’ve hired during the past months. Chuffed to have played a part in strengthening our team and seeing the new hires thrive!

  64. What The Whatever*

    What’s the best course of action when working with someone who is just really bad at their job but they’re not going anywhere?

    I recently joined a state agency and really enjoy the work, and all of my colleagues are amazing, except one (we’ll call her Nancy).

    Nancy is just horrible at her job. She gets confused easily, talks in circles and tasks that should take no longer than 15 minutes take her half the day at least, and then aren’t completed well. While she’s been there for over 20 years, other long-termers say she’s always been this way.

    She doesn’t take any feedback well (she’ll get publicly snippy and cause a scene). Plus, she is so focused on her POV, that regardless of input about how she’s doing something, she’s doing it her way. Then telling our boss that you told her to do it that way (which I’ve experienced) when it comes back as unusable. I’ve also been given extra work because she completely screwed up, and then dealt with off-hand comments from her as she liked the project that was transferred over to me from her.

    Where I feel bad is that it’s common for people to vent about their frustrations working with her behind her back which is uncomfortable, but understandable. I try to avoid her entirely, and the discussions about her, but I’ve caught myself joining in after dealing with her or her reactions to something. It’s to the point that it has really discolored my feelings about Nancy as a person in general. Whenever I’m WFH and in a meeting that she is attending, I have to turn off my camera because I will inevitably roll my eyes, or drop my jaw at something she says or reported doing that it’s hard not to have those reactions to perfectly normal comments that I wouldn’t bat an eye on if someone else said them.

    I won’t be able to do anything to change this situation beyond changing myself. So, has anyone dealt with this kind of situation before? Any words of advice? Thank you.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I’ve had two peers like that. With both of them, I’ve had to just let them do what they do and distance myself from their work/output.

      In time, each opened their minds a little and I was able to help them in small ways, but big improvements were and are off the table, and it was incumbent upon me to accept that.

    2. Goddess47*

      Document, document, document.

      You can’t do anything about Nancy but you need to audit trail to defend your own work. You’ve already learned that you really can’t trust her, so protecting yourself is where you have to go. Instructions to her are in writing, always.

      If you have meetings, take notes (who was there, what was said), so you have witnesses. And, when you can, have ‘hard stops’ on meeting. “I have a meeting with Lucinda at X, so we need to keep on task.” And set an audible reminder (phone/watch) five minutes before, so you can do that “five more minutes, let’s wrap this up”.

      It’s not pretty and it’s very frustrating. Focus on your own things is the best you can do.

      Good luck!

      1. Antilles*

        I agree, document everything. One other point is that if something is said in a meeting, follow up with an email “to make sure we’re on the same page” because that’s a very common trick with people like this, that they’ll try to do everything verbally to avoid the written record.
        Oh, and if you do document the agreed-upon path forward and she deviates from it, don’t hesitate for a second to pull that email right out of your Sent Items and (professionally) call her on it. Though in my experience, the mere act of sending that first “just to confirm” email often means that she won’t even try the “but you said…” play.

    3. Nesprin*

      Oh this is familiar….

      Work without her- if you don’t have to do anything that she’s involved in, do that. If you can change projects so she’s not involved, do that. If you can’t,

      Work around her whenever possible- if there’s other people who can do what Nancy does, use them. If you can do it yourself instead of asking Nancy (get permission for this one before trying- make sure your boss understands it’s faster to do it yourself, or that Nancy is so busy you don’t want to add to her workload) do that. If you can’t,

      Work in written/document friently format whenever possible- email/text over calling/meeting and if you have to call/meet with her, send a followup CYA email afterwards summarizing what you said, and asking for her confirmation (‘did I capture our conversation correctly? Any thing to add’?). If that doesn’t help,

      Work with your management chain- if you need Nancy to do X by friday, CC your boss and/or her boss so she isn’t just getting snippy with you. Do not give her feedback again- give your manager the feedback and ask them to deliver.

      And last but not least, do not badmouth, insult, or otherwise eyeroll at Nancy- time to break out icy professionalism. You need to demonstrate that she’s the problem and not you, which you cannot do if your management chain thinks you’re hostile, or challenging to work with or that you have a problem with Nancy’s protected characteristic.

      1. MsM*

        Agreed with all of this, and tagging on to the last but not least bit: resist the temptation to join the venting sessions with other coworkers about her. As you’re seeing, it doesn’t actually make dealing with her any easier, let alone fix any of the problems; it just reinforces and even magnifies the frustrations. If you’re going to band together, it should be to come up with some kind of collective plan to get management to do something about the situation. And I assume no one has any real hope of that working, or it presumably would’ve happened by now.

        1. Busy Bee*

          I second this. The problem person in my group also happened to be extremely friendly with the boss so I had a hard time getting support and when others would complain about her, I did my best to distance myself because there was a snitch in the group. It all came to a head once when the problem person went to the boss with “they’re all saying mean things” and everyone got chastised and I was lucky to have had just enough distance from the gossip to not get torn apart by the manager.

  65. HonorBox*

    I’m not the direct boss but have a leadership role within my business that would allow me the right/give me the responsibility of saying something in a situation, and I’m curious how others would suggest approaching this. A department manager oversees a younger team. This manager is a person who feels like they need to be available ALL THE TIME (think: making sure that people know they were up at 5am answering emails, etc.). They recently took PTO and I heard them say no fewer than seven times in about 10 minutes before they walked out the door that they’d have their phone and laptop and to contact them if someone needed something. Their team members assured them that they wouldn’t except in an emergency and would grab me or someone else from the team if they ran into a question they couldn’t answer. I assured the manager that everything would be under control and they said that someone they’re working on a project with would already be calling them several times, so it wasn’t a big deal.

    I’m looking for a good way to approach them to let them know that while we know how to reach them in the event of something urgent, it sets a bad example for their team and for others in the business, making it seem like a person can’t get away and unplug. I don’t want to come across as though I’m saying their role isn’t important to our success or have them feel like I’m dismissing their value to the team and as a manager, but want them to feel comfortable and confident that things will be OK for a few days.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      I think saying “hey, I don’t know if you’ve realized this, but by [answering emails at 5am, telling everyone multiple times you’ll have your laptop on vacation], you’re setting a bad example for the team and they might feel like they should also be [answering emails at 5am, working on vacation]. Especially with such a young team, they might be looking at your behavior more than listening to your words, and I know neither you nor I want them to feel like they can never take a break” in a gentle tone.

    2. Goddess47*

      In addition to talking to them directly, is there an option to get their manager (i.e. your boss) involved. “Overenthusiastic manager is setting an unnecessary example on availability and it seems unfair that their direct reports might think this is required across the company.”

      Just because you’re seeing it, grandboss may not be seeing it… worth checking on.

      Good luck.

  66. Justme, The OG*

    My boss has been winding down towards retirement for about 6 months. She’s been training me since then. Her job finally posted and I applied. And now I’m nervous.

    1. HonorBox*

      Sending you good thoughts! The training she’s provided will give you great insights and help you through the interview process. You’ve got this!

  67. Llama Wrangler*

    My sister is applying to jobs for the first time and I’ve helped her put together her resume. She’s looking for a part time job she can work flexibly while she focuses on some other things, and has a high school education and no other prior work experience. She loves animals and was looking into applying for some pet-sitting jobs or pet stores etc, and the job listings ask for things like well “love of animals”. She insists she should tailor a new version of her resume to those jobs that includes her extensive experience caring for our personal pets, and insists it belongs on her resume because since she has no other work experience she has no other way to indicate that she matches those qualifications and feels she will be overlooked for such jobs if she doesn’t have something on there relating to animals. I feel like it doesn’t quite belong on a resume and is something she could expand on more in a cover letter, but also I do see her point. Or perhaps we’re both overthinking it? Fellow commenters, what are your thoughts?

    1. Nesprin*

      So first time jobs have some more leeway than usual, but generally its a thing that can go on a resume if you can get fired from it. She can mention her personal pets in her cover letter/interview, but not in a resume.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      It would definitely come across as naive to put those things in a resume, but it’s great to expand on them in a cover letter.

    3. GigglyPuff*

      My first ever job was at a doggie daycare, luckily only had to do a resume. But I do remember during the 15 minute “interview” they asked about my experience with dogs and I pretty much went with family pet answer. Then they got me my work shirts at the end, lol. I think it would be fine to bring up in the interview but probably not on the resume…unless they have an objective which I usually think should not be there but early jobs and needing to add more info when there’s no cover letter option, might be a good idea.

    4. Large Pink Rabbit*

      It’s in the job listing. I would go ahead and put it in the resume just for those jobs which have “love of animals” in the listing. This isn’t for an office manager job where she is listing her experience as a mom as relevant. This is for retail and pet-sitting, where her experience loving and caring for her own pets is relevant. It’s ok to loosen up a little on office standards for non-office jobs.

    5. Not A Manager*

      In general personal home experience like that shouldn’t be on a resume, but tbh in this case I agree with your sister. She doesn’t have much else to put there, and in fact it is relevant. I think she could have a line like 2015-present: Total responsibility for all household pets including 2 cats, an iguana, and a potbellied pig. Managed specialized diets, researched best practices, and administered meds including eyedrops and twice weekly injections. According to the special-needs reptile vet, “this iguana wouldn’t have lasted two weeks without you.”

      In fact, if she did interface with vets, specialized pet shops, etc. perhaps they could serve as references regarding her love of, and care for, animals.

      1. HoundMom*

        One of my kids got a job because she took care of an elderly dog with continence issues. The thought being she was kind and willing to work.

        Another of my kids did Rover and picked up dog walking and sitting all through college.

        Veterinarian clinics often have positions and liking animals and not being afraid of them is big.

        There are also customer service reps for pet insurance where a love of animals is highly valued.

  68. Aimlessly living but also loving it*

    Hello! I quit my corporate job back in the spring after a few progressively worse years of more responsibility, less recognition and less satisfaction with my work. I was great at some stuff and not great at others, and the majority of my plate became full of the stuff I wasn’t great at (by nature of everyone else on my team stepping back and busying themselves with other things.) My health and personal life tanked and my partner lovingly supported me in leaving without having another job, to take some time for myself. I’m going on month 5 now and I’m dreading going back into the same field (corporate HR.) It doesn’t seem possible to find a part time corporate-type arrangement, most of the part time jobs I’m seeing are low-skill or low-pay, or both. I’d love a 4 day workweek, as I have chronic health issues and have less to offer the working world than the average bear. I could work full time, but it would come at a significant cost that I’m not willing to pay. I’m interested in other fields that might allow for my ADHD hyperfocus to really shine- the idea of furniture restoration/upholstery intrigues me, for example, but I know many people get started doing that as a hobby. It’s not the kind of thing that companies with benefits are hiring for. I’m not opposed to trades, but I also am not sure what would be a good fit for me and wouldn’t overtax my body.

    Anyway- all this to say, any tips for pivoting after a decade long career in HR? Should I stick with corporate america and enjoy the 401(k) match? Should I start doing things as a hobby and try to monetize it? Should I take a low stress PT gig and not worry about my resume?

    1. ina*

      >> I have chronic health issues and have less to offer the working world than the average bear

      I very much push back against this. An HR rep who understands what it’s like to have a chronic health issue at work is just invaluable and all too rare. I do think furniture restoration/upholstery is more physically involved though.

      Is a part-time gig at a lower salary achievable for you? Sounds like you’re willing to take a pay cut. I don’t recommend trying to monetize a hobby, particularly one you’re just starting and will take time to build up a base in. It’s more a business than it’s just doing the work (unless you get employed by a shop).

      1. GythaOgden*

        Yup. To use another example from elsewhere, my mum got a lot of positive feedback from her students when she became their headmistress while my sister and I were also at that stage. She could relate to them and their needs and interests much more than other people could and they reciprocated that affection because they knew she understood them. She used records from my collection to illustrate things for her students, including using an anti-drugs song from my favourite artist to warn them that it can be fun to be high but there can be lasting consequences and not to get swept away chasing the buzz and end up in situations beyond your control. It worked with them to warn about the actual dangers rather than just fingerwag them, and as a teacher my mum really knows how to explain these things in ways that get through to young minds. Having us be in our teens when she was in charge of teens was a great way to win the trust of her students even if she had a job to do that involved discipline and focus on learning.

        The experiences we carry with us are valuable and they are becoming increasingly easier to talk about without the sort of prejudice and stigma that accompanied them previously.

        Because of my health issues, I can do more at work to help out patients who need to trust that I’ll listen to them, and having been in mental distress and been trying to find someone who will listen to me through various routes, I can listen to someone who needs it even if I can’t do anything for them. Empathy does not mean you break the rules for people who are like you, but it means more that you can help guide them through things that can be exhaustingly bureaucratic and stressful to cope with at a time when they’re least able to cope.

        The time with one of my bosses when he explained about his battles with anxiety in the context of finding accommodations for mine was the best five minutes I’ve ever spent with a manager. He didn’t have to admit to it but it showed he had had experiences that I’d understand and may well have been helpful for him to process what he could do for others in that situation as well.

        We are in public healthcare so maybe those in charge ought to be more understanding than the average workplace about health and anxiety, but it matters a lot that those with power or in authority over others are seen to have been through the same things that we have or have a connection to the people they’re working with.

        You also know what works and what doesn’t. My experience with neurodivergence helped me make comments on how workplace campaigns came across and helped combat a bit of patronising language/imagery in some documents. Having that kind of experience and expertise is invaluable and the sort of thing we need if we’re going to move forward as a society.

        And please don’t do yourself down. It’s a struggle, and even if everything were perfect out there, for a lot of us disability and such issues are still with us. We may not have the stamina to deal with the stress of a demanding job — I know I haven’t — but we shouldn’t rule ourselves out in that kind of negative way.

  69. Beth T.*

    I have a coworker who was hired about 3 months ago and still on probation that I have concerns about. I have talked in person and emailed my manager. My manger just says we have to give him time and extra support when training, but some of these issues are not related to training at all.
    He is doing things like working while not clocked in, coming in before scheduled start times even after being told by the manager not to, not doing part of the job duties, not taking breaks (so potentially affecting his timecard, we have to confirm we took our lunch period and breaks when we clock out), refusing to do part of the training tasks when directly told by the manager.

    I am not a lead or have any supervision over him, so I could just leave it as not my problem. I am considering go to HR about this. We do have a union as well, but they said they only enforce contract terms and protect workers when I asked them about it.

    1. Alex*

      I think you’ve already done your part–you’ve notified your manager what you are seeing, and it is up to your manager to either care or not. It doesn’t sound like he is doing anything that affects your work, so I don’t think there’s much else you can do.

    2. ina*

      You might be better served by identifying why *you’re* concerned. I see what you’ve listed but I’m confused on why you care about these things. The only thing that affects you is “not doing part of the job duties” & “refusing to do part of the training tasks when directly told by the manager” (are these the same things listed twice?) and your manager has already said “we have to give him time and extra support when training.” You’re not a lead and you don’t have supervision over him but you’ve talked to your manager twice about this and you’re considering going to HR…I am gonna operate off concern, but…do you not like this new hire? Why haven’t you actually spoken to them directly, coworker-to-coworker?

      His time card isn’t your concern nor are his work hours. If you think he shouldn’t be working off the clock, why haven’t you pulled him aside to let him know it’s ok to clock in when he is supposed to and take his breaks, even if he’s on probation (which is probably where some of this weirdness is coming from)? And let him know the union will enforce the contract for him??

      1. Beth T.*

        Yeah I agree, I was still heated from our confrontation yesterday where I did talk to him about these things and have before as well. I will leave it alone.
        The things that affect me are the not doing part of the job duties, which means the rest of us have to pick up the slack and do it. I asked to him to do something that the first person in for the day does and he hadn’t done it yet. He later said the reason why he didn’t do it was he wasn’t clock in yet and wasn’t working, yet I saw him literally working that’s why I assumed he was.
        The refusing to do part of the training means I have to watch him which takes away from my job duties.

      2. Riju of Gerudo*

        If and when his actions affect your work, notify your manager if the impact (had to reschedule x, y will be delayed because I had to deal with z, and so on). Keep it factual and focused on the impact on the work. Leave everything else alone – not your problem. Address the stuff that directly impacts your work, and let the manager deal with anything else. There is certainly no reason to involve HR or the union here!

    3. Meg*

      Not your circus, not your monkeys. His manager is aware of his issues thanks to you, so its his managers problem now. Do not make yourself the office busybody.

    4. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Not your responsibility. Don’t go to HR; it woulkd seem overreaching.
      Your manager is aware of all this and it’s her job to deal with it.

      However, you should inform your manager if this is impeding your own work, or increasing your workload – if appropriate, ask what tasks you can drop to keep within your normal hours, which might motivate her to deal more quickly with this coworker.

  70. WhirlwindBrain*

    My work is having us watch a series of Linkedin videos about “wellness,” some benign, some seemingly inappropriate for work – I don’t want my manager asking about my financial well being and spending habits, or whether I feel as though I’m socially connected to loved ones, or telling me I should begin a practice such as yoga.

    I know there was a recent thread about pushing back on inappropriate intrusive values-listing for someone’s workplace, but I haven’t been able to find it. My manager really wants the staff to feel all-in, and any suggestion that we find doing our work professionally without constantly striving to Be All We Can Be is perceived as just sandbagging. I would love suggestions about how to professionally push back on this kind of “work wellness” pushing when we debrief.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      I feel you.

      I don’t know how to actually say it, but my position is: “In order for me to Be All I Can Be, I need to compartmentalize the various aspects of my life. My brain works best when it concentrates on one thing at a time. I appreciate that the company wants us to feel supported and have a good, well-rounded life — but the way I accomplish that is by putting those things in their own mental buckets and only dealing with one at a time.”

      1. WantonSeedStitch*

        Yeah–“I think the most important thing for my well being is a good work-life balance and work-life separation. Trying to focus on work when I’m not working, or on personal stuff when I am working, makes me feel stressed and distracted.”

    2. WantonSeedStitch*

      If you feel like you can’t really fight it, see how much of it you can tie back into work-related stuff rather than personal stuff. “The video about financial well-being made me think it might be worth looking at some of the resources we pay for to see if we’re getting the full value out of them, and if there are any that are duplicative–we might want to get rid of those.” “The one on social connection made me think of a great idea for a team-building exercise.” “The one about exercise made me think I might try taking the last 20 minutes of my lunch break every day to get a walk in.”

    3. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      I learned that work-life balance and work keeping its nose out of what I do when I’m not working were essential for my wellness.

      1. Girasol*

        Considerable stress can be caused by workplace bullies, poor managers, 24×7 on-call duty, and precarious finances caused by underpayment and inadequate health insurance. It seems like workplace wellness programs have plenty of more pressing concerns than counting my steps or my vegetables. Besides, their unfailingly patronizing tone is so annoying.

  71. Anonymous White Interviewee*

    I am a white person applying to a managerial position at an orgazization focused on Black people with a majority Black staff. I have deep expertise in the area the business focuses on & am well-qualified for the position, but recognize that it might not be a good look too have a white person in this role. I’ve been invited to interview. My question: do I acknowledge my sensitivity to the racial politics in the interview? I don’t want to seem oblivious, and I totally understand if they want to go on a different direction. Yet I also want the job and am competitive for it based on my work experience! Thanks

    1. ina*

      You’ve been invited for an interview so they think you’re qualified. Orgs want to be successful so they can continue their mission and their purpose and sometimes keeping a job open to find the candidate that would be ‘ideal’ isn’t feasible. It’s great you are conscious of this and it’s likely going to be asked in the interview so you should be prepared to answer. You’re probably gonna be asked ‘why do you want this job?’ as well & definitely about racial equity if it’s focused organization.

      What is the mission of this org? Does your worry about the ‘optics’ tie into it in a broader way? I think you can’t really work at an org for marginalized peoples without acknowledging these things. I think you can do it & tie it into what exactly this org does & its goals. It probably exists due to the ‘racial politics’ of society as a whole.

      1. MsM*

        Yeah, I’d be very surprised if there’s not at least one DEI-focused question in the interview that will give you a chance to address those things. And if there isn’t, you should probably come prepared to ask one yourself.

  72. CaffeinatedPanda*

    I’m a teacher getting myself and my kid ready to go back to school next week (I’m back working already, but not with students yet). Back in November, my district announced that teachers who returned this year would receive performance bonuses related to our evaluation results for 2022-2023. The attached FAQ to the announcement said that the bonus would be paid today, August 11. However, the direct deposit has not shown up and when I asked, payroll said it is going to be paid Monday.

    It’s been a rough summer financially (major home repairs) and to be honest I was counting on that bonus to be able to do some back to school shopping this weekend. We’re not going to starve or anything, but it is creating a lot of stress for how to get things done before school starts next week when I won’t have a day where I am free and have money to spend at the same time.

    Should I give someone some feedback here? I literally just got out of an inservice session on having direct conversations to resolve conflicts rather than letting things fester, but that was about in-person conversations between people on our campus, whereas this would necessarily involve an email to a faceless mailbox at the district. I could talk to my direct admin and she would be sympathetic, but would have no direct knowledge or influence to change things. And ultimately my finances are my responsibility and a weekend delay shouldn’t be a hardship in theory. I think essentially I am feeling stressed and frustrated and I want someone to know that the change had this impact on me, but I’m not sure it would actually be productive to do so.

    1. WellRed*

      I would not bother. It’s only a weekend and it’s too late to effect any change. I gut why you’re irritated though.

    2. Glazed Donut*

      If they said it would be today and it will be Monday, I’m not sure the one-business-day difference is a big enough deal to treat it as a serious conflict that needs the type of conversation you had training on.
      They sent the FAQ in November and got the distribution date wrong by 3 days 9 months later. November is very early to make this kind of prediction. As someone who has worked in education, I can see perhaps the amount was distributed to the district today and then the district will re-distribute to teachers Monday. If it were a month or a large sum that would be for rent, etc., and you were about to be facing Very Difficult Choices, then it would be worth mentioning to your principal to have that in her pocket to vouch for teachers if needed.
      But as it is now, I think if you emailed the district payroll office, that would be a good move to show you care and are eagerly awaiting the amount you’re owed. Your issue here is with district office, not someone at your school who is responsible for this and could be a festering issue.

  73. Hopalong Cassidy*

    Microsoft Teams failed me this week. It happened during several interviews, which flustered the candidates, even though I told them it would not be held against them.

    Not that it’s my choice, but I don’t really want to use Zoom. Zoom will allow their recordings to be scraped by AI bots.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I had Zoom crap out during an interview a month or so ago and I felt so bad for the candidate. They all glitch.

    2. BellyButton*

      Fathom is the Zoom app. You have to downloaded it, add it, and turn it on for each recording. It announces it is being recorded to everyone. If you don’t want the person to record you you can say so, and you can also type “opt out” in the chat box and won’t record you.

      I love it and use the summary feature for almost every meeting. It saves me so much time by summarizing the meeting and capturing all the actions.

    3. WellRed*

      Teams was failing us all over the place last week. I T individually gave us all a patch of some sort to fix.

  74. Sage*

    Some time ago I read someone’s linkedIn profile, and one of the skills that person listed was “head of the blatherskites”. This aligns with his sense of humour. Is it me, or does it indeed come across as quite unprofessional?

    To be fair, he used to be a coworker of mine, and that alligns with his sense of humour. I want to check if I percieve it as a red flag because it is, or because I dislike him.

    1. I'm A Little Teapot*

      I disregard that section of Linkedin entirely. I know mine has some screwy stuff on it and I couldn’t figure out how to remove it. Sounds like you’re biased here.

    2. Champagne Cocktail*

      While LinkedIn has become more like Facebook in the last few years, I still like to see more professional descriptions. Maybe it’s because I’m cynical and middle-aged, but I wouldn’t call him in for an interivew if I got his resume.

    3. Large Pink Rabbit*

      I assume there are other skills.

      It’s ok to be a little bit light-hearted now and then. People are whole, complete people, and sometimes that includes traits that you personally do not like. Let it go.

  75. Drowning in Spreadsheets*

    I’m hiring someone to play with kittens. For most of the questions, they asked me and the other interviewer to repeat the question, and it appeared they were using a search engine and reading what came up on the first page. Even if we couldn’t see what was on the screen, it was very obvious they were reading or at best reciting

    And they seemed very smug and confident at the end, asking when they would start.

      1. PollyQ*

        I’d say anyone who interviews, no matter how badly, should get an actual notification that they haven’t been chosen, even if it’s a two-sentence form letter.

        1. Drowning in Spreadsheets*

          Oh they will get one and within a reasonable timeframe. I always get those out. I’ve been on the candidate side all too recently and know what that tension is like.

          1. Drowning in Spreadsheets*

            They have to be done by a certain person who isn’t me, but that person was alerted today that one needs to go out and I’ll follow up as needed.

    1. Chicago Anon*

      It sounds like you actually interviewed a cat (not good at listening, yet smug and confident, maybe thinks they used to be a kitten so would be good at the job).

    2. LemonToast*

      I had one of those people. I was hiring for a mid-level database administrator, and their resume seemed really good. But then I got on a video call with them, and they were clearly googling the answers. They even read me the Wikipedia page for “database management system”. When I asked them if they were just searching for answers, they did a “oooohhhh my connection just got bad….can’t hear you…hang on….” and then exited the call.

      1. CeeCee*

        Fake applications could be more common than we anticipated. Google “Connor Tumbleson: Someone is pretending to be me” for a story how this software developer discovered an organization that copied the resumes from real people and hired someone to interview for the job.

  76. ImpatientBetty*

    So what jobs do you recommend for someone like me that works better in a “quantity > quality” or “meeting deadlines > product quality” environment? Distribution centers are the closest I can think of, but I am not a physical person and prefer being in an office setting.

    I have come to terms with the fact that I am naturally an impatient person, and I should find a job or career that uses my impatience to my advantage than rearing it in.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Hmm. Data entry maybe? You’re not going to find a lot of office jobs where quality or accuracy doesn’t matter, but something like data entry or coding is at least a steady level of predictable quality standards. It doesn’t require a lot of creativity or “going above and beyond”.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I gave those caveats, but they also didn’t say they don’t care about accuracy. Meeting deadlines is still accuracy. Consistent accuracy is different than reaching for quality.

          1. Large Pink Rabbit*

            “Consistent accuracy is different than reaching for quality.”

            Not in data entry, it’s not.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I’m not sure whether you mean medical coding or computer programming coding, but for the former, our quality standards are both predictable and very high, and are coupled with productivity standards. And you definitely have to think outside the box.

    2. RagingADHD*

      What skills do you have? This sounds like a service-based role might be better than a product-based role, but the range of jobs available really varies based on what you’re able to do or have prior experience in.

      There are also creative type product roles where there are multiple layers of internal review & checks, so getting the first round of something ready for internal review is more important than polishing it. (I’m thinking certain types of visual design, writing, software design systems, etc). But again, those type of roles usually require a fairly high level of skill.

    3. Mill Miker*

      Project management/Project Coordinator at a web agency.

      Downside: You’ll have to deal with some portion of the development team being regularly frustrated with you (because the less quality there is, the harder it is to keep up the pace on quantity), and the developers who aren’t frustrated by you might be a source of frustration for you (for the same reason).

      Upside: My experience is that these business very much value setting and meeting deadlines. Even when the development team is missing their deadlines, your deadlines will more likely revolve around reporting the progress, and taking actions to keep the project on track. Your tendencies will probably endear you to management (as long as your not actually making completely unrealistic promises to clients).

      Disclaimer: I’m very much a frustrated and embittered developer, and I honestly can’t gauge if I’m suggesting this reluctantly, or if I’m suggesting it flippantly. So take it with more than a few grains of salt.

      1. Green beans*

        if you have good organization skills and good attention to detail, project management could be a really good fit! As the project manager, you’re not responsible for the quality of the product; your job is all about making sure things are tracked, on time, and with the right people.

        it is a LOT of moving details around and tracking things and following up with people. but that also means very detailed, very long to-do lists that are easy to check off, usually with a tangible result, which might make you feel quite satisfied. for instance, for my project now there’s about 90 documents/images I’m tracking and moving and logging. that’s a lot of movement to track and check off.

        (I am the opposite of you and I loathe project management. I will be so happy when this week is done and I’m done moving things around and can just focus on making the project awesome again.)

    4. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      Do you have good interpersonal skills? Sales or generating sales leads, even if they don’t always close with a sale, is a quantity > quality environment. Any technical knowledge or can you learn quickly? Answering low level help desk questions is another quantity > quality job.

    5. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      News desk (TV, radio stations) would have meeting deadlines as highest priority; accuracy (sadly) not as important

      1. Computer Says Yes*