open thread – September 22-23, 2023

It’s the Friday open thread!

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

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

{ 982 comments… read them below }

  1. Mike Ehrmentraut*

    What distinguishes an executive recruiter from a standard recruiter? How does one determine which to engage during a job search? If opting for an executive recruiter, how can one become noticeable to them?
    A family member has been intricately involved with a small independent manufacturer sales representative group, handling everything from finances, HR, and sales management to office maintenance. With the principal retiring soon, she is on the lookout for a new role. While she’s not limited to the same sector, her experience predominantly lies there. From my observations and insights from reading AAM, she is well-suited for an executive role, perhaps at a larger company but with a narrower focus. Your expert advice would be invaluable. Thank you to this wonderful community!

    1. Let me be dark and twisty*

      In my line of work, an executive recruiter is someone who recruits specifically/only for executive leadership roles. As part of the recruitment process, they’ll work with prospective candidates to improve and develop their resume/application materials to standard and coach them through the hiring process. It’s very rare to have an executive recruiter reach out to someone and initiate a partnership so the onus is on the individual who wants an executive position to find a headhunter to work for them. The best way to do this is to look up “executive recruiters” on the web and start calling the people/companies you find in the results.

      If your family member would rather do this on their own, your local public library or business school might be a good place to start – they’ll both have career centers (or career help resources, in the library’s case) that might be worth checking out to see what they offer for executive development or executive leadership roles.

    2. LCH*

      yes, an executive recruiter is doing placements for executive roles.

      i worked for one for creative positions (art directors, creative directors, etc. at large companies like J&J). we did collection information on mid-level staff at similar companies to see who was around that could be presented for higher level positions, but mainly focused on people already working at the executive level. your family member should definitely reach out since it doesn’t sound likely that a recruiter would just happen upon her.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      Executive search is really about the level of position that the search firm deals with. There’s a real range, of course, from companies that deal only with major global firms’ top executive roles, to firms that work on roles down to senior management level for small to mid-size companies.

      Some firms are very focused on the level of roles that they work on. Others are more focused on industry or functional areas. Still others are quite generalist but tend to work at all levels within their client companies. There’s a huge range.

      The real difference is between companies that do contingency search, retained search, and recruitment process outsourcing.

      Contingency is when the firm gets paid once a hire is made and not before – these firms tend to focus on specific industries or functional specialties, as they need to fill roles fast from a database of candidates. They typically work at individual contributor to mid-management levels, but some firms work on more senior roles. The focus is to get the role filled fast with suitable candidates. From experience on the hiring side, most will work hard on a role for 2 weeks, then move on to something else.

      Retained firms are focused on finding the exact right person for the role through extensive research and extensive interviewing for both qualifications and fit. They take more time on projects to meet client needs for hard-to-fill, confidential, senior level, and complex roles with a lot of requirements. They are paid in installments by the client, with an upfront fee to start the project, and interim fees due during the project. They typically offer longer term guarantees on candidate placements.

      RPO is when a firm acts as the outsourced recruitment team for a company, almost as if they were another arm of HR. They will work on a range of roles from individual contributor to senior mid-management, typically. Depending on the relationship, they might work on more senior roles too. They are paid essentially as contractors or on a standard project fee basis. They will often be quite embedded with their client – eg. they will interview both internal and external candidates.

    1. Ann*

      I would if my husband was willing to job hunt at the same time. I get some interesting calls from recruiters now and then, but there’s no point to talking with them when I can’t get the whole family to move.
      This even though the cost of living here has more than doubled for us in the last three years, and I’m sure it will keep going up. Sigh…

    2. Busy Middle Manager*

      I’m in the area and will leave soon if the housing market doesn’t change. Everyone added $200K or $300K to their home price in 2020 and now is blaming it on supply and demand. Well, that isn’t supply and demand unless the population of the tri-state area doubled overnight! I went on a work trip to Texas and people were so much friendlier and I had way more low stakes interactions with people than I do in NJ or CT or Westchester and realized I am not anti-social, I just am more reserved in the NE because there are more frigid people. I feel like too many people in the NE corridor areas have “main character syndrome” and you don’t even realize how difficult they are to deal with until you go somewhere else. Who knows, maybe Texans are just extremely friendly.

      Also the income and wealth gap has been increasing around where I live. I am now the baby at many places I go because the only people who can afford the rather plain houses and apartments near me are people at the peak of their careers. So I might go to a place that is more diverse like parts of Texas. Oh, didn’t realize how mixed some other places are either, including age wise.

      1. Reluctant Mezzo*

        Texas can be iffy about health care. There are horror stories, documented, about women forced to sit in the parking lot until they’re about ready to bleed to death before any intervention can occur. Legal reviews must occurs at some times, and can take too long.

      2. NancyDrew*

        Not to discount your experience, but I have the total opposite experience than you do. I find NYers to be incredibly warm — just busy and fast! — and cannot say the same about the south. Weird!

      3. epizeugma*

        As a Texan, the warmth of interactions with strangers very much depends on where in Texas you are, and what demographics/social locations you hold.

    3. PassThePeasPlease*

      I’m open to it in the next 2-3 years. Never saw it as feasible to buy in the area and the thought of renting forever is getting more and more daunting with each rent hike. The biggest impact on the timing will be finding something elsewhere that isn’t too much of a pay cut (knowing that the COL is lower in most places but not that much!). I still want to be able to save at an aggressive rate even after moving.

    4. Feral Humanist*

      I just left NYC for a much lower cost of living area because I wanted to try working for myself. I’d been there for eight years –– moved there because of one professional opportunity and stayed for a second –– and I feel like I’ve been released from a hostage situation. People are so much nicer here because they’re not impatient and in a hurry to be somewhere else. New Yorkers are really invested in being New Yorkers, and I think giving up that identity is hard –– but I don’t miss the city at all. My people in the city, yes. But not the city itself.

    5. NYCer*

      I would leave in a heartbeat. The city I used to love is so terrible now. I work in a specific field and it is not easy to find other jobs.

  2. Stuckinacrazyjob*

    So we’re up to our ass in alligators and my blood pressure is ‘ concerning ‘. How are you building in mindful breaks in the day to destress at work?

    1. Rainy*

      Honestly I’m mostly just hanging on til the busy season is over, but one thing that has helped is, if you run your own schedule, never schedule anything back to back. I used to schedule myself with 15 minutes between appointments/meetings and now I try to do at least half an hour and every day I try to build in an hour where I don’t have anything scheduled (that isn’t my lunch! lunch is its own thing). And every week I try to have a couple of hours free all together on either Thursday or Friday. I build my schedule two weeks out, rolling day by day, so I’m able to be a little intentional about how my week is looking. It has definitely helped, especially since I had a little real talk with the head of reception about never again asking me to “put up more appointments since I’m fully booked”. Now if I can just get reception to stop saying I’m “not taking new clients” which is a different thing to “booked out for the next two weeks, try again tomorrow”…!

    2. Kel*

      I block off lunch; and make sure it’s dedicated to not socializing either. I need that alone time to come the f*ck down.

    3. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      My husband has anxiety, and a recent thing he has found helpful is to “check in” with himself a few times a day. So like, after lunch, he’ll sit for a few minutes and find out if his brain is still worrying a problem he’s already resolved or if there is something bothering him he can’t do anything about right now or he’s still thinking about something from last week. Sort of surfacing the background stuff so that he’s aware of it and then setting it aside (he uses CBT and does a visual of packing it away in a box and putting the box in the basement, may or may not be work for you). It has brought his stress levels down so much just to be aware of the whirl in the background.

    4. ENFP in Texas*

      Even taking 5 minutes to do some deep breathing exercises a few times a day can help with your blood pressure. I would recommend checking out Calm or some of the other apps out there that provide deep breathing/guided breathing exercises.

      1. amoeba*

        Yup – and meditation, if that’s something you’d be interested in trying! I think calm has that as well? I’m using headspace and quite happy with it. I usually do 10-20 mins in the evening, but they also offer quick breathing exercises etc. for during the workday.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          Newer fitbits have a “relax” option where you can do a 2′ or 5′ breathing session. Might be helpful if you don’t have a lot of time, and I’m sure there’s an app out there that will do the same thing!

          1. ENFP in Texas*

            Just a heads up, the FitBit Charge 5 does not have the guided breathing option. For some reason they dropped it when they upgraded from the Charge 4. the Inspire 3 does, however.

      2. Just here for the scripts*

        The nytimes had a great interactive breathing article (I’ll link below) and I got the most current version of the audiobook “10% happier”—it has some great guided meditations at the end. When I got a 50% off coupon for the app, I signed up. I don’t do it everyday, but—coupled with my breathing exercises—I’ve lowered my blood pressure enough they had to reduce my meds.

    5. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      No advice but watching this thread intently. I have things I do that work when I’m at home (a few minutes on my punching bag, a stardew valley break, a pet break, etc) that just don’t work for me on in office days. Would love to know people’s experience with meeting their needs without looking like a slacker.

      1. allathian*

        I’m so glad I’m in an environment where looks count for very little. My performance shows I’m not a slacker, so mini breaks throughout the day are perfectly acceptable and nobody comments on them.

    6. Walk on by*

      If you can, go outside even for 5 minutes. Or just walk around someplace other than your office where people might ask you work questions. I’ll be so stressed and there’s no way I can take a break from work because there’s so much to be done. But after taking a walk 5-15 minutes, or at least walking away from the immediate office space, I’m so much more productive and calm.

    7. NotBatman*

      I make excuses to walk to the next building over on errands, or to ask questions of coworkers in person. Outdoorsiness, light exercise, fresh air, and sunlight all do wonders for resetting my mood.

    8. Jess R.*

      I have no advice that hasn’t already been shared (although I strongly support the “go outside for five minutes” breaks; that makes a huge difference for me), but I need to tell you that “up to our ass in alligators” is a phenomenal phrase that I have never heard before but will be incorporating into my vocabulary immediately.

      1. SnappinTerrapin*

        When you’re in that state, it’s sometimes hard to remember that the original objective was to drain the swamp.

    9. thelettermegan*

      I find timed breaks always end up being more distracting than helpful, so managing stress is more about the alligators I choose to fight rather than contorting myself to accommodate all the alligators that swim up our alley.

      The book ‘The Phoenix Project’ has a lot of insights into how dysfunctional work environments can be changed successfully.

      Prioritizing your alligators by ROI can help as well. They probably follow the 80/20 rule, so if you can pinpoint the alligators that are 20% work for 80% revenue and focus on those, you might be able to re-balance your alligators and get a set that are more zoo friendly and less feral and toothy.

      One thing I’ve been trying to do is set up a emotional tracking system where I just rate how I feel at the end of the day (red, yellow, green) so that I can review later whenever I try to rationalize the frustration.

    10. mostly harmless*

      I wouldn’t rely simply on destressing exercises, but would talk to your doctor about blood pressure medications. I started one because another medication I take can cause high blood pressure, and the only way I could take it was to make sure that my blood pressure stayed low enough.

      Have to say – other than not being allowed to eat grapefruit – no side effects. Blood pressure is in the normal range. Well worth it.

    11. Momma Bear*

      I take a lunch break, out of the office if I can, or behind a closed door if I can’t. But it’s a *break*. Working through lunch all the time isn’t a break and can be more stressful. Even if it’s 30 mins, shut down from work. The alligators can bite someone else during your reasonable break.

    12. Elizabeth West*

      If I’m overextended, I try to find a good moment to take a pause and then get up and walk away from my desk. For tea, for lunch, for a wee. Sometimes I just go look out the window — at the trees if I’m at home, or at the buildings on the opposite side of the office if I’m there.

      Regular meditation has given me the ability to check in on myself if I start to tense up. This doesn’t always work; some days are better than others, but I’ve found it helpful and it keeps me calmer overall. I can also take a minute or two to ground myself.

    13. Pajamas on Bananas*

      I have an alarm scheduled for the start of each of my breaks, labeled BREAK. I noticed I didn’t always hear my phone, so I also scheduled them in the clock app on my desktop. I had to make a rule I’m not allowed to ignore it.

    1. SGPB*

      Yes. The best part is getting a project that is basically a big puzzle to solve. The worst is tedious data cleanup projects.

      1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        Ha. My husband loves to clean up data. I think it gives him a sense of satisfaction. I do not.

        What I find annoying is when you provide the data to the person who requested it and they try to argue that the data is wrong somehow because it contradicts what they “know”.

      2. Twenk*

        could you say a bit more about how you end up cleaning data? Do you use OpenRefine, regex, manual text editor/find and replace? I’m thinking I want to break into data analyst jobs from a related field, but my facility to date is mostly Excel-related (vlookup, basic formulas/simple power query) and weirdly niche programs. No SQL expertise or python/R knowledge to speak of yet, for example.

        1. Rainy*

          One thing you have to keep in mind is that since the advent of data science professional master’s programs that spit out thousands and thousands of candidates every year with a credential, entry-level jobs in data science are *ridiculously* competitive. There are a lot of them, sure, but there are also many more freshly graduated candidates with shiny new master’s degrees that literally say “data science” on them.

        2. amoeba*

          As an “amateur data scientist” (just completed a few months qualification on it and try to use it a bit in my scientific job), Python/Pandas. I’m not an Excel expert by any means, but Python is so much more powerful and also easier/less annoying once you know it!
          Would really recommend to pick up some skills in that area, there are loads of resources on Udemy, etc. It’s really useful and will also definitely look good on your CV!

          1. Ria*

            Seconding this, and throwing in a recommendation for DataCamp! I’m no kind of expert but I’ve taken courses there and like their interface a lot.

    2. Caramel & Cheddar*

      follow-up question: what is your work background and how did you move into becoming a data analyst?

    3. Rage*

      My cube neighbor is a data analyst, and I asked her. She said the most annoying part of her work is being randomly assigned to complete the annual DCF (yes, that’s Department of Children and Families) audit. About which she knew nothing. (Fortunately, I was able to coach her on how to get that project moved to somebody who, ya know, actually knew something about DCF regs.) LOL

    4. Miss Bean*

      Yes, I like my job as a data analyst.

      Pros
      + Plenty of opportunities across a variety of industries. I’ve worked for insurance companies, a digital marketing company, and a CPG (consumer packaged goods) company.

      + I enjoy validating data, searching for and explaining discrepancies/issues, solving problems, and creating visualizations. While these are my preferences, other people enjoy (and excel at) various kinds of reporting, automating processes or analyzing the business and sharing their findings/suggestions with leadership.

      + There are tons of free/cheap ways to build technical skills (Excel, Tableau, Power BI, SQL, R, Python, etc.). Building skills is also a great way to fill the time during slower periods at work and the majority of my managers have encouraged us pursue our interests as time allows.

      + My analyst jobs have been fairly flexible – the hours aren’t super strict and I can work from nearly anywhere as long as my assignments are completed.

      Cons
      + “Data Analyst” sometimes feels like a catch-all title. Your work responsibilities can vary A LOT from position to position or from company to company.

      + It can be frustrating when people don’t want to learn new technology or tools (though I fully understand this is an issue across many, many fields). For example, people who are very comfortable in using Excel for all their analysis work aren’t interested in migrating to Tableau or using R/Python/etc. scripts to automate processes that can be quite tedious/manual.

      + Sometimes it can be a challenge to work with business partners. They might not have a good understanding of the data available and struggle to articulate what they need/why the need it/how they plan to use it. It’s taken me a while to figure out which questions to ask (or how to ask them) to gather most of/all the information I need to complete a request the first (or second) try.

      + If you struggle with ambiguity, some roles can be difficult because there isn’t necessarily one specific way to solve a problem. But, from my experience, as you build skills, confidence, and an understanding of your data it will become easier to navigate these situations.

    5. House On The Rock*

      I’m a former analyst who now manages a team of analysts. It can be very satisfying work but sometimes requires a certain amount of fineness. The best part when I did the work, and what my staff most enjoys, are projects that help answer real world questions and provide actionable information to “front line” workers (e.g. clinicians and researchers in the health care space). I always loved hearing the success stories about how my work helped improve outcomes for patients or make day to day work easier for nurses.

      On the flip side, what can be frustrating is gathering requirements from non- technical or analytic users and trying to figure out what’s really going to help them. Also, frequently what the customer thinks is easy or straightforward is anything but (think “just run this exact same metric but on a totally different population and time period with X, Y, Z exceptions and additions..but it’s really just the same!”). On the other hand, what is easy for you, they think is magic (“you put a filter on my spreadsheet, thank you!!!!”). You have to be patient and realize that almost never will your first pass at a deliverable meet all their needs and it’s an iterative process. But that can be fun in and of itself if managed correctly.

      Good luck if you go this route!

      1. There You Are*

        I have had reverse-image experiences from what you describe when working with my company’s data analysts.

        I say, “See this Fill Rate Qlik report for our Sourcing team with 20 columns of info? I want literally the same thing but with a column added for ‘Quantity of Out-of-Stock Line Items’*. I need to know the quantity of each material number on each order that we can’t fulfill, and I need to know the dollar value of each of those material numbers.”

        But the data analyst comes back and gives me five columns of data, one of which is my requested Quantity, but two aren’t even on the Fill Rate report and I have no idea why he chose them. And none of the columns has the dollar value of the line items.

        I have built my own sheets in Qlik Sense and know that you can literally just copy a sheet, and add a column/field from the source data. And I know that “Quantity” sits in the same table as “Order Number”, “Material Number”, and “Fulfillment Code”. I can look the table up in SAP and see the [bleeping] fields.

        *[For some ridiculous reason, our Sourcing team didn’t have line item quantity in their report. How can you report on your ability to fill customer orders if you don’t know how many items that customers wanted were out of stock?? It’s meaningless to say: “We were unable to fulfill 100 orders,” when some of those orders had dozens of line items with only one stockout, and other orders had dozens of line items with dozens of stockouts.]

        Ah. Sorry for the rant. :-)

    6. I'm a data analyst*

      The best part for me is making sense of large amounts of data and reporting it in ways that people can understand and use for themselves – imposing order on the chaos, if you will.

      The most annoying part is sometimes being sent urgent questions and having to report on data that I wish I had more time to familiarize myself with and feel confident in.

      My experience is that if you “get” data, working in Excel is a good background to have, and your skills should translate pretty well to other tools. They all involve the same processes – they just require different approaches and language to accomplish them.

  3. security clearances*

    Does anyone have experience with security clearances, particularly the culture around wanting or avoiding them?

    I’m job searching for a technical content role, and a lot of what I’m finding is agency work that may require a clearance for gov/aerospace contracts.

    I am 95% sure I would not pass a clearance, due to some family issues that are out of my control and that I am not willing to share with an employer. It’s complicated, embarrassing, and not their business. Even if I WOULD pass, I still don’t want this information out there.

    So how do I handle this? Simply avoid any job where this is a possibility? State that I’m not eligible and say nothing else? Say I am willing to work any industry other than defense?

    1. Kel*

      As someone who works for Fed.Gov you likely can’t avoid it in that field, I don’t think. It is, however, usually protected information so people aren’t able to like, see it or share it willy nilly. Also, depending on the level of clearance, don’t assume you won’t pass. A lot of jobs will require a fairly low clearance. I was sure I’d never pass and still did.

    2. Chidi has a stomach ache*

      For a lot of those roles, being able to pass clearance is a requirement — like the listings that say you have to be able to be on your feet/lift 20lbs, or speak a specific language. If you’re sure you don’t even want to attempt the process of applying for one, you might need to avoid them.

    3. RagingADHD*

      I have done a clearance for agency / contract work, and at the level I think you’re describing, I think it’s unlikely you would fail unless the complicated / embarrassing actions are things you personally did. AFAIK, even things that would potentially be flagged would not necessarily be disclosed to the employer or require discussion – just a pass/fail.

      If you don’t want to risk it, then don’t apply to any listing that states it is required. If it comes up in a situation where the agency asks about different types of roles where some might require clearance, just say you aren’t eligible and are interested in roles where it isn’t required.

    4. CommanderBanana*

      I had a security clearance for several years and have a family member who has been a background investigator for going on 20 years now.

      It’s definitely your prerogative to avoid any jobs that require a clearance. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, don’t state that you’re not eligible for a clearance – that’s not true. There’s not really such a thing as being “ineligible” for a clearance. That decision is up to whatever agency is adjudicating the results of your background investigation.

      I absolutely hated the clearance process, and I had nothing in my background (literally, this was my first job). I kept the clearance through two other jobs, but because I moved federal agencies, had to go through most of the process all over again, because clearances don’t transfer between agencies (which is a whole other massive waste of time and government money that I won’t get into).

      Don’t assume you wouldn’t pass a clearance because of family issues! People pass clearances with ALL sorts of issues in their background, up to and including criminal behavior. The clearance is not necessarily looking for what someone did or didn’t do, it’s really looking for whether you lied on your clearance paperwork. As long as you don’t lie, you are more likely than not going to get a clearance, in my experience.

      If you are really set on not going through the clearance process, I would just avoid jobs that require one.

      1. Pretty as a Princess*

        Clearances are transferred all the time. But what can be an issue is if you need a different *type* of clearance (moving from DHS Suitability or a DOE clearance to DOD for example) or if you need SAP clearances which are granted case by case for the specific program. But those ride on top of an existing TS – you don’t need to get a new TS if you already hold it and move from program to program or whatnot.

        1. juneybug*

          My security clearance from the military didn’t transfer to a staff job of a local school (after I retired from active duty). The school required a new background check with fingerprints. My fingerprints are nearly impossible to read/scan so I came veryclose to not being employed. The school HR waived the fingerprints requirement so I can be hired. Since you never know what could happen with background checks, security clearances, etc., I would apply and see what happens.

    5. ZSD*

      To echo what others said about not assuming you’d fail, keep in mind that secret clearance is much easier to attain than top secret. As long as the jobs you’re looking at only require secret clearance, it’s worth a shot.

    6. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      I wouldn’t assume you won’t pass unless your family has Russian mob ties. Don’t say you’re not eligible when you don’t know that.

      Also, for the feds, it is totally confidential – you don’t tell your employer anything. The information isn’t “out there” anymore than it already is. You seem to think there’s a group of people all sharing clearance applications with each other and mocking the applicants or something. It would likely be a breach of their own clearance for them to talk about anything on your application.

      My husband used to have a Secret clearance, and we have no idea who they talked to. Never heard a word about it. It did, however, take 10 months to get because they were backlogged, so he had to do non-confidential work while waiting for it to clear.

      Finally… it *is* their business if it is something that could lead to you being blackmailed into giving up classified documents. That’s the main worry.

      1. Observer*

        Finally… it *is* their business if it is something that could lead to you being blackmailed into giving up classified documents. That’s the main worry.

        Yes. And it’s your reaction that is more concerning for them than the existence of your family background per se.

        To make up an example – Joe Shmoe has a brother who has been in and out of prison 14 times, and a 1st cousin who shows up to family events even though family knows that he “messes” with the Kids (ie he’s a pedophile and no one wants to acknowledge it.) That’s not what’s going to cause Joe to not get clearance. But if the agency (or contractor) knows just how strongly you feel about the information being “out there” to the point that you don’t even want an investigator (who couldn’t care less about this, and is also required to keep their mouth shut) to know about it, *that* might worry them. Because the fact that you have these problem characters in your family doesn’t say anything about you, but your worry about it coming could make you more susceptible to blackmail.

    7. Rainy*

      My husband was interviewed for his brother’s very high-level security clearance process some years back (and they might have interviewed me as well if we’d already been married), and they’re not making anything public. The clearance process is sponsored by your employer but not *handled* by your employer, and they don’t any info except “pass/no pass” and no indication of why. My clients who have gone through security clearance have all been apprehensive, but ultimately as long as you don’t lie most of whatever you’re worried about probably isn’t going to be an issue. Your family’s actions shouldn’t have any bearing as long as you’re honest about it.

    8. Cyborg Llama Horde*

      If you want one of those jobs, you should listen to all the people in the thread above who know much more about security clearances than I do.

      That said? You can also just say that you aren’t interested in a job that requires security clearance. I work in IT (systems) and don’t want to work on anything defense-related for personal moral/religious reasons, and I just don’t apply to those jobs, and if a recruiter reaches out about one, I say that I’m not interested in defense work. (It’s true that the set of jobs that require a security clearance is not a perfect subset of the jobs I’m not interested in, but it’s close enough that I just don’t bother.) It’s not that unusual to want to avoid defense work, and I’ve never had someone ask why. It will limit the jobs available to you, but if there are enough jobs left over, or you aren’t in a rush, it’s absolutely something you can do.

      1. RagingADHD*

        I would just like to point out that there are lots of government contract jobs that require some level of clearance that have nothing to do with defense. I worked with materials for the White House, the Smithsonian, and the US Marshals. The majority of my work actually wound up being public record, but I needed the clearance just to make it easier to assign things to a “pool’ without having to be so selective about which assignments were available to which person.

        Technical content is more likely to be defense related, but not necessarily.

        1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

          That’s fair — I’m in the northeast (so not as many catch-all federal jobs) and most of the clearance-requiring jobs I see look like they’re supporting things I wouldn’t be comfortable with.

        2. RussianInTexas*

          I used to work for a company that processed oilfield data (as one of the side of the business).
          Because it had a contract with the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, and even though the contract was literally limited to the processing the data from the operators in the Gulf of Mexico as required by BSEE, everyone had to get the clearance.
          Yes, even the person paid $10/hour to scan well logs.

    9. Llama Llama*

      To echo what others have said, my company does a thorough background check. I, as the hiring manager, have no idea what came back from that check. I know people have mentioned being called when there are problems but I don’t know that as the hiring manager. I just know I am cleared to hire them.

    10. Charlotte Lucas*

      I had security clearance for a job. It only went back 7 years, and it was completely confidential.

      They had a new rule that required it (federal contract), and if anyone in our division didn’t pass, I never heard about it.

      Fun fact: There were people who committed crimes *after* passing their clearance. One was arrested at work. The other quit her job and become a bank robber. (Also got arrested.)

      1. anonymous security flunkie*

        Don’t you have to disclose medical information, including things like mental illness/neurodiversity? I ended up not going into security for reasons, but that kept me away when I very briefly looked into clearance jobs.

        1. Pretty as a Princess*

          No, this is a little more nuanced. The rules were changed significantly/clarified some years ago.

          Neurodiversity? There is nothing to report. THere are no questions about this. (Are you neurodiverse, do you have autism, whatever – no such questions.)

          Mental/emotional health: you do have to disclose significant conditions like bipolar. However, this is a) not shared with your employer and b) not necessarily a disqualifier. I worked for many years with someone who held a TS and was quite open about his bipolar diagnosis because he wanted to destigmatize it.

        2. Kesnit*

          It’s been about 20 years since I last got a clearance, but I don’t remember anything like that on the form. (I had TS/SCI.)

          1. True Faux*

            Your memory is faulty. 20 years ago, they asked if you had ever consulted with a mental health care provider or with another provider about a mental health condition. If you answered yes, you had to provide the dates of treatment and the name and address of the provider. And they would ask for details in a follow up. And people’s clearances were jeopardized.
            Things are a little different now.

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              I don’t remember having that as a question (I would have to dig out my copy). However, I know one of my coworkers was bipolar and in recovery for alcohol addiction. It did not affect her clearance.

              1. True Faux*

                Go ahead and dig out your copy, then. I believe it was section 12 back in those days. My disclosure of having seen a doctor for panic attacks and anxiety did not affect my clearance either.
                There is a common misconception that the requirement to disclose automatically means your clearance will be denied. That is simply not the case.

        3. Let me be dark and twisty*

          You have to disclose if a court or agency ever declared you mentally incompetent; if a court or agency ordered you to consult with a mental health professional; if you’ve ever been hospitalized for a mental health condition; if you’ve ever been officially diagnosed with certain specific mental health conditions; and your criminal history.

          Answering yes to any of those questions is not grounds for immediate disqualification. It just means that they will probably investigate further. What they’re trying to understand is how much of a security risk you are to the U.S. – how badly is your judgment and trustworthiness affected if you’re having active symptoms and what are you most likely going to do when your symptoms present, and they determine that by asking certain kinds of questions to your character references based on what you disclose in the application, like “what does X do in their free time? What does X like to do on vacation? What is it like working with X? How does X handle stress? Does X miss a lot of work?”

          For instance, if you’re having active symptoms and all you need to manage is it is regularly scheduled time off and you’re under a doctor’s care, not a big deal and you’ll probably pass the investigation, at which point it becomes a matter of reasonable accommodations. But if your active symptoms makes you manic and you have a history of disappearing without notice only to show up on the other side of the world with no recollection of how you got there or your symptoms lead to violent behavior requiring legal intervention, those are huge red flags and you won’t pass the investigation.

        4. True Faux*

          There is an psychological and emotional health section on the questionnaire. There is a list of diagnoses that you must disclose if you have one, and there is a more general question about whether you have a mental health condition that adversely affects your judgment. It’s a funny question, bc if your judgment is adversely affected, do you have good enough judgment to say so?

          Having one of those diagnoses that you must disclose is not necessarily a deal-breaker. It might limit your clearance, but you can have a happy career with just a secret clearance. A lot of people don’t want the greater scrutiny that comes with higher clearance levels.

          I don’t know how they view the question about judgment. They are trying to screen for people who will be vulnerable to social engineering, insider threats, and/or blackmail. If you have bad judgment, then it seems like you would be vulnerable to all or any of those things. I am not a security officer, though, so I wouldn’t know.

    11. TX_Trucker*

      Security clearance is not a “one size fits all.” Do you know what type of clearance you would need? A government tier 1 or 2 will likely only look at your background – not family. And even then, is is mostly looking at very basic things, like criminal history and verification of credentials. A top secret, tier 5 is complex will require interviews of family, and may take months.

    12. Pretty as a Princess*

      As a PP said, unless you have family who are in the Russian mob, you should assume that your family members’ situations will have no effect. I had a colleague once who was nervous about filling out his paperwork because he had siblings from whom he’d been estranged for years and he didn’t have their contact info. It turns out that was very easy to handle and the security office gave him guidance about how to represent it. He had no trouble obtaining the clearance needed for his position.

      Your employer does not administer the clearance process. That is run by a federal agency. Your employer’s security team will get you the access you need to fill out an SF-86 but they don’t get to read it. It is transmitted electronically to DIA or whoever is doing them now. No one at your employer knows what is in the file. If there is an adverse finding that prevents a clearance there is specific language that will be used but it will not be the details.

      You absolutely should never tell someone you are ineligible for a clearance. That will be interpreted as one of
      – you are not a US national (which is still a requirement in many positions that work with govt contracts even if you don’t need a clearance and could cost you opportunities via this recruiter)
      – you have held a clearance in the past and had it revoked
      – you have a substantial criminal record

      I would not say “I won’t work in defense” unless defense is really the line for you. (But also, “defense” includes research related to basic engineering and science that has other applications as well.) Some positions in or serving the DOE require clearances because of critical infrastructure and nuclear regulatory issues. DHS has their Suitability process if you will be handling certain kinds of data.

      I would not let the need or potential need for a clearance scare you away from jobs. If you have a personal/ethical/moral consideration I’d think that through and be very explicit about what you will and won’t look for.

    13. UKDancer*

      I know people who’ve had clearances in the UK. My understanding is they’re more interested in what you can be blackmailed for. So it’s fine to have whatever relationships you want (as long as it’s legal and consensual) but not to hide them. So being gay is fine, being gay and in the closet, married to a woman and seeing men on the downlow is likely not.

      It’s not problematic having people with issues in your family, as long as you aren’t blackmailable over them.

      Once they’ve checked out your criminal convictions and associations to make sure you’re not dodgy, the key question in the UK is whether you are susceptible to pressure.

      1. WheresMyPen*

        Yep, I had to be interviewed for a friend’s job and was asked about her behaviour while I’d known her, if she had any political affiliations, strong views, examples of bad character/judgement etc.

    14. mostly harmless*

      I wouldn’t avoid applying to roles that interest you. You don’t know what the organization would consider okay or not. And really, the main thing with security clearances is to ensure that people aren’t hiding something nefarious, that they aren’t likely to disclose things they shouldn’t disclose, and that they aren’t at risk of being pressured to do things against the organization’s (or country’s) interests. The employer will assess the risks and will make a hiring decision from a risk perspective based on whether they feel the risks can be managed.

      The key is to be honest and up front with whoever is doing the security clearance checks. And – if there is serious concern that you’re aware of – you might want to flag that if you get past the initial interview phases. eg. perhaps wait until a second hiring manager interview to bring it up. At that point, the employer will have some buy-in regarding your candidacy, they won’t summarily reject you because it’s a hassle to deal with your security situation, and you’ll have maintained your privacy to a reasonable extent.

      1. Pretty as a Princess*

        The only thing an employer can ask on this front is if you
        – have ever had a clearance revoked
        – are *aware of any reason you would not be able to obtain a clearance*

        If the situation at hand is something done/said by a family member (including estrangement/whatnot) then the LW has nothing to disclose. Because the clearance is about the LW, and not about the family member. LW doesn’t need to say “My uncle Joe robbed a bank in Ohio and he’s incarcerated” or anything.

        If the LW has close & continuing contact with family members in a nation state like China, Russia, NK, that is something I would ask about and be up front about. I have been the hiring manager managing a candidacy for someone with close and continuing family contacts in interesting parts of the world. But even that will not necessarily prevent a clearance. It will probably prevent *access to specifc programs* but if the employee is up front that they have such close and continuing contact it still is not going to be an automatic employment blocker.

    15. Momma Bear*

      You might have a problem….or you might not. If having a clearance is truly not something you want to bother with, then avoid those roles. You might also consider working for a contractor where you could be be fed-adjacent, but might not be so strongly required to have additional clearances. If the reason is embarrassment, remember that the info provided wouldn’t be to all of the company or even HR. It would be between you, the agency/investigator, and your security officer.

    16. An Australian In London*

      My experience is only with Australia and the UK, not the USA, so I’m unsure how much will carry over.

      In both countries I was told they’re mostly looking for things that could become levers to pressure someone into unwanted behaviours. Extreme financial pressure or vulnerability to blackmail were the main things but not the only things.

      Vulnerability to blackmail was viewed through the lens of how the candidate felt about any given matter. Someone openly bisexual and poly – as in out at work and in public social media – was not regarded as a security risk. Someone with sex work in their past that they wanted no-one to know about would be.

    17. constant_craving*

      I had to have background clearance for a previous volunteer position. Generally, if clearance is required you can’t really avoid it.

      I’m not sure what level of clearance you need, but unless the family issues are so significant that they set you up as an easy target for extortion, etc., they’re unlikely to set you up not pass. The focus is on you, not your family. The clearance is also not typically conducted by the people you work with.

      Up to you, but you’ll likely have to decide between just going ahead and getting the clearance or not working for the government or anyone who handles government contracts.

    18. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      Many, many years ago, I needed a top level military security clearance. My personal background was bland because I was young and had only basic education and small part-time jobs in my past. The people I listed as references weren’t necessarily interviewed, but people who knew the references were. The ones who were asked about me weren’t my direct references, so my parents got a few calls from acquaintances wondering what on earth I was up to. It was pretty funny. I wound up not getting the super-high top secret clearance, but I never knew why. The only questionable information would have been having living relatives (all of my Mom’s aunts, uncles, and cousins) in a communist country (this when the Iron Curtain was a THING), and my sibling’s involvement with a person who was strongly affiliated with an active so-called radical group. At any rate, I still got a clearance a few grades lower and was transferred to a different work area. There was a section called “Holding and Training” where people who were waiting for security clearances were temporarily assigned. It was all programmers and data analysts, so some people worked on lower-level projects, but a lot of time was spent playing battleship and taking long coffee breaks in the cafeteria. One guy spent his entire enlistment waiting for a clearance – I guess they lost his paperwork. All I learned was slothful work habits.

    19. Slightly Less Evil Bunny*

      As others have noted, don’t assume that you wouldn’t pass a clearance investigation. If you see positions that interest you, it can’t hurt to try. You would need to be upfront about certain stuff though, so if that would really be a problem for you, then maybe cleared work really isn’t a good match.

      Note that having a clearance may require certain actions on your part, depending on the level involved. You may need to inform your company/organization/agency about any foreign travel, and in some cases you might actually need to get such travel approved. You also may have to report any close or continuing foreign contacts. And certain life events (marriage/divorce, receipt of inheritances or other financial windfalls, debts, etc.) may have to be reported. Some people may not be willing to sign up for all of that.

      The paperwork involved, and any documentation generated by the investigators (yes, they do talk to your neighbors and people who know you) is not shared with your employer and is supposed to be securely stored. But it hasn’t always been kept secured – Google “OPM hack” for more info. That was a massive scandal, and the government has taken steps to make everything more secure. At some point, you really have to just trust in the system that your info is protected if you want to work in the cleared realm.

    20. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

      I mean, yeah. Just don’t apply. Not sure why you’re saying you’re not eligible though; if you find the thought of someone finding out embarrassing, that’s valid, but don’t make up things that aren’t true up front.

      The only people able to determine whether that thing you don’t want them to know about is just a complicated, embarrassing thing you happened to be involved in or if it’s disqualifying is the agency. This doesn’t really do anything about the fact they may find out about it — that’s a whole separate issue you need to work through mentally.

    21. eve*

      I avoid jobs that needed a clearance. I have seen a lot of friends go through the process of obtaining a high level clearance. The feds interview your family and friends and it’s just all very invasive.

      For one friend, she had some mental health issues in the past and she had to discuss that with federal clearance investigators. She still got the clearance but it’s hard and traumatic in itself to revisit painful times.

      So no clearance for me. Plus I smoke weed hahahaha

    1. AlabamaAnonymous*

      We have times of the year when people can opt for a 4-day work week. That’s as far as they have been willing to flex so far!

    2. Rainy*

      Hahahah no. If they could, they’d make me work 24 hour days since I stubbornly refuse to spontaneously become three people.

        1. Rainy*

          My division has a shocking amount of upper management bloat but refuses to staff up at the levels that actually do the freaking work, so we (and people all across the institution) are constantly doing our best with zero support and then being chastised with a broad brush by people at the AVC level for not accomplishing “enough”.

          1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

            Do you work at the same place as me? Because same. We actually got told to “find work/extra things that need doing” as if we weren’t already drowning in short staffing AND budget cuts.

              1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

                Academic, but it’s happening across the board to staff in every single department. But of course we have plenty of money to hire executive vp director of whatever…

            1. Kelly*

              As someone with a supervisor obsessed with making sure all of their direct reports look busy, even if it means doing meaningless busywork that’s insubstantial and doesn’t match any goals set by our leadership team, it’s not good. We’re already short staffed but expected to pick up more work without getting recognized or compensated for it. Of course, it’s fine for my supervisor to drop some of their less appealing tasks because they’re “doing the work of two people”, but not fine for others who are also doing the same. Some of the tasks they have dropped or set aside are actually more of the core duties for both our unit and their position. Instead, they focus on the duties that are less essential but allow them to promote themselves and their ego.

              I’ve pushed back because I’m worn out and tired of having to take on meaningless project work. I’m fine doing that type of work if it contributes to essential operations and needs to get done, but when it’s work that I have to spend more time coming up with than it’s worth, no thanks. I’m the only one whose pushed back and I’m feeling the consequences. They didn’t take it well and accused me of insubordination when I was being honest. I do think that their supervisor and HR will probably have my back because they’ve made enough of a nuisance of themself in the past and wasted their time with petty nonsense that have made a tense workplace worse. Plus, unlike my colleague who goes to their supervisor every time he feels slighted, I don’t use that option because I’m aware that it’s not good for our workplace climate. If you can’t have an honest discussion about workplace issues, then something isn’t going well.

              The 4 day work week, whether it’s a 4/10 or 32 to 35 hour work week would not be happening due to understaffing and coverage issues.

          2. green beans*

            oh in my old academic (research, not students) job, we were told we could work 9 hours and take a half day on summer Fridays, but they wanted to make it clear that we couldn’t work 8 hrs and just hang around for an extra hour doing nothing to get that sweet, sweet half-day off.

            this place was wildly understaffed, had grown 30% in labs without adding any extra support staff, and most people were working loads of overtime each week on top of just coming out of a year+ of insane hours because we did COVID research plus couldn’t completely halt work during the shutdowns.

    3. Grogu's Mom*

      No. Sometimes an HR website will list it as one of several flexible options, but in practice it is never approved.

        1. Caramel & Cheddar*

          I always have to give a side-eye to the 4-10s. The point of a four day week is to have a reduction in hours for the same rate of pay, not to cram all your hours into fewer days. I get that 4-10s appeals to a lot of people over 5-8s, but I often wish we wouldn’t call it a four day work week because that’s not what the movement means when they say that.

          1. GythaOgden*

            I think though that people in white collar jobs getting a four day week for no reduction in pay would be something not enjoyed by the rest of us. It privileges people with jobs that allow that kind of thing but, like with WFH, it’s not necessarily accessible to people in service jobs who would be working to provide services people in the white collar world get to consume on their three day weekend.

            1. Caramel & Cheddar*

              Sure, I just think “I can’t have it so no one should” is not a great way to improve people’s working conditions vs asking “Okay, how do we make this idea work for sectors that aren’t currently M-F 9-5?”

              1. Lily Potter*

                Thank you, Caramel & Cheddar. “No one can have something unless everyone can have it” is soooo counterproductive.

            2. somehow*

              Nurses often work 4/10s. I don’t, and I am not a nurse, but I certainly don’t begrudge people who have a situation I’d like, especially when their 4/10 schedule often involve jobs that might be a emotionally difficult for a lot of us – like nursing. I don’t think most service and retail workers begrudge others; their jobs can’t be worked from home, and they know that when they accept the job, although of course they might be frustrated over an other-job shortage in their area or what have you. Indeed, many service workers likely are aspiring to the very jobs that do have wfh flexibility. I think “privilege” is a bit-over-used and over-emphasized where wfh is concerned, and thus is deleterious for more useful applications of the term, like SES, poverty cycles, taxes for public school (or lack of), etc.

          2. Dust Bunny*

            I used to work 4-10s and appreciated 20% less commuting, plus the extended hours mean I missed peak rush hour. (I did not want fewer hours overall, though.)

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              That’s pretty much where I come down; if 4×10 is an option, let’s just skip to 3×13. I’m not going to get to anything with the 4×14 I’m not working; that’s enough time for commute, eating, hygiene, and sleeping.

          3. Gyne*

            I don’t think it’s at all realistic to expect reducing hours for the same pay, though – in my private economy, I hired a woman who cleans my house twice a month. If she wanted to only come once a month and charge me the same rate as I’m paying now, I don’t know that I’d keep her on. My house still gets dirty at the same speed and if I’m now doing half the work I used to pay someone else for, but spending the same amount, (or have to hire an additional person to do the cleaning for me and spending more than before), that isn’t really worth it to me. I am not so wealthy that I can keep scaling up my spending that way, and a lot of businesses don’t have margins like that either.

            1. WheresMyPen*

              There has been evidence though that being expected to do the same amount of work in 4 days rather than 5 makes people more productive. If you think about how much office time gets used for standing chatting round the water cooler, checking news sites, making tea, having excessively long meetings etc. people could often get all their work done in 4 days if they had to. Might not apply to your cleaner if she’s already working as fast and efficiently as possible but it works for other types of work

          4. ccsquared*

            Right – 4/10s as an option is a flexible work arrangement, but 4/8s is about redefining what it means to be full-time. Both have their merits, but conflating the two as if they have the same goal really muddies the water in these discussions.

      1. Rainy*

        I work a 9/80 which has been saving my life for 2 years now, and the division is constantly threatening to take it away. Which would make me laugh a bit, because no one has done the math on me being able to offer appointments til 6–which is VERY popular–being possible ONLY because I work a 9/80. I’m trying to imagine the AVC’s shocked Pikachu face when they discover that taking away flextime results in no more pre-8am or post-4:30pm appointments. (I have colleagues who flex their day early, colleagues who flex their day late, and several of us do 9/80s. Nobody can hack 4/10s though–not with our work.)

          1. ThatGirl*

            4/10 means working 4 ten-hour days a week instead of 5 eight-hour days. 9/80 can vary but basically fitting 80 hours of work into 9 days instead of 10.

          2. Rainy*

            80 hours in 9 days instead of 10, so I work 8:30 to 6 and a half hour lunch MTWR, and then I’m either off or work 8:30-5 on F.

            4 10s is 4 10 hour days.

              1. Rainy*

                No worries! When they first offered that kind of flexibility I jumped on it–when I was younger my mum worked for the federal gov’t and 9/80 was standard over the summer in her agency so I was familiar already–but I ended up having several colleagues also adopt the schedule when they saw me doing it. I think unless you’ve seen it in action it doesn’t sound doable, but my every other Friday off (like today) is legitimately a lifesaver.

            1. Rainy*

              And for the record, do I ever actually “take” a lunch? No. Lunch is when I answer all the emails that built up over the morning, or work on programming, while trying to stuff enough food into my face that I don’t collapse on my 1.5 mile walk home when I finally leave the office. (This past week, I was at work until 7 twice.)

                1. Rainy*

                  I could eat snacks, but my ADHD meds have a very unfortunate appetite-suppressing side effect so I honestly don’t usually notice until it’s too late for a snack to do much. Eating lunch on time is hard enough to remember. I’m also often on camera or in in-person meetings pretty much all day.

          3. riverofmolecules*

            I believe 9/80 means working 80 hours over 9 days (rather than 10 8-hour days), so you’re off every other Friday or something but flex those 8 hours over the other days.

            4/10 would be 4 10-hour work week.

            So options for working fewer days but not fewer hours.

            1. bamcheeks*

              They should be called 4/40 and 9/80 or 4/10 and 9/9! The inconsistency is killing me!

              (Technically 9/8.888888)

    4. WantonSeedStitch*

      No. Even if they did, I wouldn’t want it unless it meant cutting eight hours off my work week while still paying me the same. I do not want 10-hour days even if I am working from home. If I didn’t have a kid? Maybe. But having one, it’s impossible for me.

    5. sam_i_am*

      Only if you mean a compressed workweek. Not fewer hours, just the option of the same hours in fewer days. My university allows for it, and I’m currently doing half day fridays.

      1. GythaOgden*

        Yup. Flexitime gets complicated as well for those of us in coverage jobs. I tried it one summer when my husband was ill by compressing a 25 hour week into 4 days rather than 5, but that meant my colleague. There is barely enough work for two of us and training a temp only for Fridays would be uneconomical for both them and us, so it’s not practical when work continues over the standard five day week.

        The problem with just giving us a day off is that we’re paid for five days of productivity. Pay going up in numerical terms doesn’t mean a thing if the company has to hike prices to cover that loss — that is where inflation comes from. Price rises in one place mean knock-on effects in others; the cost of living crisis over the last two years was fuelled by price rises of raw materials. Numbers mean very little because expenditure has to be made up for in income, and if expenditure goes up as income goes down, that’s really not good for anyone.

        The better approach is to overhaul structures to be equitable to everyone — to make sure the white-collar world getting more time to consume stuff doesn’t mean the service and manufacturing sectors have to work overtime to provide that productivity elsewhere in the economy. It ends up being more regressive even than current capitalism; more like a return to the days when the rich lived off the backs of the poor to a ridiculous extent. Everyone gets out what they put in and shorter hours for the same pay would make inflation worse, which hits the people at the bottom even harder.

        I’ve just found a new job which is more white-collar than pink and gives me more opportunities in the future. NGL, I’m doing a happy dance at the prospects of not having to slog in and out of town on a ridiculous commute every day. But it’s also up to me to remember that privilege and not act to further screw over the people who make my new job possible. And giving the richer parts of the workplace more perks that actively create economic hardship for others isn’t the hill I’m going to die on.

    6. LuckyClover*

      Every time someone in my union asks about exploring benefits like flexible work, 4 day work weeks, remote opportunities etc we get the cold shoulder. The only thing they seem comfortable discussing is salary – and even then we are currently double digits below market right now…

    7. PrincessFlyingHedgehog*

      Noooo …. There’s still a push from the very top to get more folks in the office, more often … despite there being a huge space shortage ….

      1. Rainy*

        Yup. Space is a constant concern at my institution, most of the units in my division are crammed into suites that don’t have enough offices for all the staff, and for some reason they increased the in-person standard to 3 days in-office from 2, making office sharing impossible.

    8. This Old House*

      We aren’t even allowed to work from home, and to take summer Fridays we have to work 4/10s the rest of the week. There’s approximately a 0% chance of going to a 4-day workweek.

      When they talk about “employee satisfaction” or the “employee experience,” they mean things like, “offering professional development webinars.”

    9. NotBatman*

      I don’t even know what “4-day week” would mean for higher ed. Some terms I teach 5 days, some I teach 3 days, but I always have 25 – 30 credits a year (3 – 4 classes a term). I have colleagues who teach 8 hours (3 classes) on Mondays, and have no classroom hours any other day of the week — but none of that means that we’re working fewer than 40 hours. Higher ed is so self-paced that if tomorrow the university said “No classes on Fridays ever again,” I think most people’s workload would go up, not down.

      1. AFac*

        Yeah, as faculty a 4-day work week is meaningless. We’d all still work on Friday to do all the lab work, paper writing, grading, etc. that we can’t do in the days we teach or have meetings. We might be a little cold because they’ve turned the heat to ‘vacation’ mode, but most of us would probably be working either in the office or from home.

    10. THE PANCREAS*

      We are theoretically allowed to request it, but the list of reasons a supervisor is allowed to deny a “flex” schedule is ten chapters long and includes “it will look bad to other people not working a flex schedule.”

    11. Ann O'Nemity*

      For us a four-day workweek means four ten-hour days. In this budget climate I can’t imagine any reduction in hours for the foreseeable future.

    12. dear liza dear liza*

      Not as long as classes are held M-F. Students and faculty understandably expect offices and services to be available during the week. (They’d also like them nights and weekends, but it’s easier to deny than to take away things.)

      I’m in the library which is open a lot more hours, of course, and it is a total PITA in the summer when some offices go to 4/10 and then people are calling us, as the only place open, to ask about financial aid or registration or housing.

    13. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I wish! But I think some miraculous cultural shift would have to happen, like when Covid made it possible for us to work remotely when it had been previously unheard-of for us to be able to do that.

      1. Twenk*

        that’s what I’m thinking of — like, D’Youville University moved to a 32-hour workweek for no reduction in pay. A hundred years ago, people worked 6 days a week until Italian Anarchists in the US made the radical 5-day 8-hour workweek the norm. There could be ways to ensure coverage, like, staggering shifts of people who have Sat-Mon off, and Fri-Sun off. I feel like society is ready to give people back more time, given all the efficiencies that have been reached in every sector/level!

    14. Tired*

      My place is still in the why didn’t you do this at the weekend when students aren’t around so you have more time to work phase…

    15. Jello Stapler*

      No. Not at all, at least not student-facing roles. They don’t even like us being remote one day. If it does, it will be no student-facing and could create even more of a cultural/climate divide in the industry.

  4. Chidi has a stomach ache*

    I survived layoffs, but 11 of 50 positions in my dept were eliminated. It’s pretty brutal. My org (and NGO) hasn’t had layoffs in over 20 years. Everyone is really emotional about it. Advice on what to say/how to react to my colleagues who are getting laid off (when they’re ready to talk)? I’m very self-conscious about being very new when folks who have been there decades are being let go.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I know “don’t be self-conscious” is useless advice, but survivor’s guilt in these situations can be very real and please know that you didn’t do anything wrong.

      Do you mean talking with colleagues outside of work, or passing them in the hallway? Outside of work, try to focus on their lives and how they’re doing unless they specifically ask questions about the office. Do everything you can not to have a pitying tone, just be kind and friendly.

      In the hallway…is awkward. Again trying to act as normal as possible and follow their lead is ideal. Things are going to be rough and emotional for a bit, and I know you’re going to feel like you’re walking on eggshells even around people who are also staying, but again just try to remember that you did nothing wrong and you don’t have to apologize or feel badly about keeping your job.

      1. NotBatman*

        I agree that acknowledging what just happened, while also trying to keep conversations light-ish and work-focused, is probably the best method. “Hey all, we’re feeling Cheryl’s absence and wish her well, but let’s get into these llama comb reports” or something.

    2. Lady_Lessa*

      Treat them as if (and they are) mourning something big. Let them take the lead in the conversation.

      Offer to take them out (afterwards) for a meal or coffee (and be clear that it is your treat.)

      DO NOT say, “You are in my thoughts and prayers” and do nothing. That happened to me several times, and is worse than saying nothing. At the time, I would have been willing just to join them while they were running errands, etc.

    3. UnemployedInGreenland*

      As someone who has been laid off several times (and it just happened again on 9/1), I can offer the following advice:

      – Reach out to those who have been laid off. Often. Being alone with the phone silent and no emails coming in is very soul-crushing. Getting a call or a text from a friend, former co-worker, etc. can really make someone’s day.

      – Don’t act like anything that goes on at the company they just left is top secret. I’ve had that happen several times, where as soon as I was gone I was treated like a spy trying to get confidential info. It’s OK to just say “O we had a cake for Jackie’s birthday today.” or something innocuous like that. No one is trying to steal proprietary information.

      – Make introductions on LinkedIn or via email to people who might be able to help. Pass on the names of recruiters you’ve used in the past and the names of contacts at companies which are hiring.

      – Ask them about how they are doing and listen, really listen, to the responses. Some people get into a very dark headspace after a layoff and providing a sympathetic ear really helps.

      – Offer to review their resume or help them do a practice interview. They may be a bit rusty with these skills and need some assistance.

      – Don’t forget them. Send a text or make a call after a few weeks have gone by. Believe me, it means so much.

      1. Busy Middle Manager*

        I love your advice. I would add, let them “vent.” I remember I spent a few years building really complicated relationships and contracts at my last job. Then at the second meeting with my former coworkers, they were acting like it was time to move on. I was thinking, this was no different than any other relationship that gets broken off. I miss talking to some of the customers but don’t have a reason to call them up to chat. Give me five minutes!

        Agreed with the “don’t treat me like a covert agent.” I already have our customer list and apparently didn’t steal all of the clients. Granted, I probably annoyed a coworker or two by commenting on how my replacements did things horribly. But they did, they didn’t care, they just didn’t do whole areas of account management and just hoped customers didn’t cancel. Excuse me if I get annoyed when someone ruins what I spent years creating!

    4. still sad and looking for work*

      I got laid off earlier this year, after working at the company nearly 20 years. What hurts the most is how most of my former colleagues didn’t bother to reach out at all, to say anything (I for sure remember the 2 or 3 that did reach out). At least acknowledge for people that it’s a huge shock and pretty devastating.

      1. Busy Middle Manager*

        Agreed. People online say “it’s only a job” which isn’t always true! Some of us had deep relationships. I built a product line at my past job and it felt like my baby. My company wanted me to be completely invested into it then totally forget about it and the partners and customers overnight? Not how the brain works

      2. OrangeCup*

        Yep, i have a colleague who got laid off and I’m one of the few still in touch with him – and I worked with him for half the time of some of the people on our team. My direct boss will ask me “how’s “Bob” doing”, and I’m like, you could ask Bob yourself! Except at this point Bob would never want to hear from him when he’s pissed off my boss never reached out after 20 years of knowing him.

    5. Hiring Mgr*

      Just on a practical note, if you’re brand new and these people that you barely know are leaving…are you really going to be having these conversations after they’ve left?

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Offer your contact info ahead of time and keep lightly in touch with people.

      I’ve been laid off twice, and it was easier to bounce back from the one where co-workers didn’t ignore me like a pariah.

      I don’t mean any big production by the way. A few people just occasionally called to ask me to meet for a beer, emailed job leads, or shared a funny story.

    7. ccsquared*

      I was in the tech industry at the beginning of the year at one of the companies that did a 10% staff reduction. (I was not laid off and later left of my own accord.) Here were things I did and observed my peers doing that seemed to be received as supportive by those who were let go:

      – Tell people that you enjoyed working with them, and the more personal and specific you can make why you enjoyed it, the better. Even the most level-headed and rational person is going to be wondering “why me?” and feeling a hit to their self-esteem.
      – Offer concrete assistance. Things that I offered that people accepted or that they asked for were LinkedIn recommendations, making intros, passing along job leads or sharing their resume, or letting them talk through their feelings or thoughts on their next move.
      – this is hard and the one I probably screwed up the most, but listen more than you talk. Being an empathetic listener is probably more useful and valued than offering your analysis on the situation.

      A lot of this is similar to advice around bereavement because it is on many levels a grieving process, both for those let go and for those who have to stay and pick up the pieces.

      And on that note, be kind to yourself as well and look for people outside of your company/industry who can offer emotional support, including mental health professionals if that’s accessible to you and you feel you need it. While it’s true that people who are laid off have additional burdens, that doesn’t mean that if you keep your job you’re immune from the effects of layoffs or that you’re a bad person if you are also experiencing grief and anxiety.

  5. Miss Bianca*

    I’m at a new job and have a 45-day check-in with my boss’s boss where he is going to talk about my onboarding experience, etc. (standard for all new hires). I’m not sure how or what to talk about because it’s been a poor onboarding experience due to my boss. I’ve actually updated my resume and started looking for new jobs because I can’t deal with him long term. He was unqualified and put into his role a year ago. He deeply needs management training and an understanding of his authority and responsibility level.

    + He simply doesn’t listen to me. This means even though I’m communicating and escalating information to him, the information goes in one ear and out the other, and then he doesn’t communicate what he needs to to his boss and leadership. This has already caused a few fires. I’ve since been sending him everything via email to CMA, but he ignores or doesn’t read them
    + His communication skills in general are terrible. There have been a few instances where he’s downplayed something to me, and then I find out via someone else that something is a big deal. I’m not confident I’m getting all the communication I need correctly
    + Every time I ask him a question, he pushes the decision making back on me. We end up talking in circles because I can’t get direction or feedback from him. He’s said he’s wary of making a decision on X (which is something our jobs involve) but then doesn’t give solutions or what he needs to arrive at a decision.
    + He doesn’t step in and correct me. I’ve run into 2 occasions where I’ve told him verbally and in writing, “I’m working on project Z”, and he’ll respond back acknowledging it, but then I found out later on that I shouldn’t have been working on project Z. I mentioned to him, “I would expect you to tell me if I’m doing something wrong if you’re aware of it”, and he shrugged it off, “I assume you know what you’re doing”. It feels flippant because while I know what I’m doing with skills, I still need his guidance and direction with what’s best for the company and how I approach things.

    Another thing with my boss is that he likes to ask personal questions before every meeting and 1:1, so meetings aren’t productive. It’s been getting weird, this week he kept asking me what I was doing while sick this past weekend, then what upcoming plans I have, if I’m going to visit family (which I said no…), then he kept digging in and asked if I was close with my family…..I don’t talk to my family but I didn’t tell him that and started with my work questions. But it’s like he is more interested in my personal life than supporting me at work…

    Obviously I want to be professional at the skip level without complaining about my boss.

    1. Totally Minnie*

      I think the key to expressing things like this calmly and professionally is practice. Pick the most high level problems and the examples that best illustrate them, and practice saying them out loud over and over until you can do it with as little emotion in your voice and face as possible.

      Write out an intro paragraph where you say something like “it feels uncomfortable to bring this up, and I’m not trying to complain or get anyone in trouble, but it’s been difficult to establish effective communication patterns with (boss’s name) and I feel like that’s been a big hindrance in the onboarding process.” Then practice saying it out loud until you sound calm and reasonable.

      Do you have a friend or family member who could role play some of this with you?

    2. cabbagepants*

      I had a boss just like this. The good news is that his incompetence is known across the organization, so you don’t need to feel pressure to break the news to your grandboss. The bad news is that he is a symptom of an organization with some kind of rot. So job searching is a good idea.

      As for what to say to your grandboss, given how junior you are I’d say the safest course of action would be to couch these issues (that anyone can tell are due to your boss’s incompetence) as a communication issue on your part. Ask your grandboss for coaching on how to communicate with your boss, and share some examples. Let your grandboss make their own conclusion about where the real problem lies.

      1. Miss Bianca*

        I’ve noticed after a big fire, my grandboss has been stepping in more, which has been extremely helpful. I have a feeling he probably knows, but I don’t know if my boss will actually face consequences

        1. Tio*

          It’s entirely possible that he’s coming to you to find out if there’s actionable information you can give him. Having concrete situations and examples really helps set a course for management issues. If your grandboss is stepping in and specifically asking about onboarding, I agree he probably knows something is up. Give him your specific examples – the ones you listed above are great – and see if he does anything about it. If your boss gets cranky or anything, the good news is that’s a sign the grandboss talked to him and is trying to change things, I think, even though it might get awkward. But that also means you can probably go to the grandboss if things do get bad

          1. Miss Bianca*

            The 45-day check in is something he does with all hires, but him stepping in more might be a promising sign. However, I’m still so new and I don’t know what my boss’s relationship to other leadership is.

            1. Tio*

              Hmmm. I think you could still go in with your points then but tread lightly. And leave the personal bits out; some bosses, even overall good ones, are like that. It can be nice sometimes in better environments.

    3. MsM*

      If boss’s boss seems like a better manager than yours: “I’ve been running into some communication challenges that are making it difficult for me to assess how I’m doing or what the processes should be. How should I be navigating this?” Or, more generally, “Do you have any suggestions on how to work most effectively with Boss?”

      If the dysfunction seems like it goes all the way to the top, then stick to noncommittal responses, and good luck with the job hunt.

    4. KatyKat*

      Honestly… if you don’t think there’s a realistic chance you’re staying (i.e. the boss issues are bad enough that they’re not fixable on a reasonable timeline, which it sounds like is the case), I would personally aim to be bland and get in and out of there with the least amount of stress.

      That means I’d focus as much as possible on company onboarding feedback (IT, paperwork, culture/welcome events, etc.) and avoid getting into boss issues. If pressed on the boss, I’d try to use the most neutral possible examples of communication issues — i.e. not things that can be misinterpreted as a YOU issue (the ‘project Z’ example jumps out here) — and emphasize what you’re doing to solve from your end.

      I’ve made the mistake of trying to raise a personnel issue in an onboarding meeting, and found that it is VERY easy for it to turn into an assumption that it’s a ME issue, since the other person involved is a known quantity and I’m new.

      Good luck getting out of there, sounds truly awful.

      1. Throwaway Account*

        I agree with KatyKat!
        There is no upside for you in spelling it all out even if you are staying.

        You don’t know your boss’s boss well enough yet to know what he will do with this information, how he will take it. Maybe your boss is his golden child. Maybe your boss is the bane of his existence. If you are not 100% sure, I would be as bland as possible!

        Good luck!

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Agreed, but you can test the waters by using one of my suggestions below and if grandboss doesn’t respond well to it, then you know that your boss sucks and isn’t going to change. But if you don’t feel like addressing any of it and are 100% sure you are moving on, then yeah, just keep the meeting bland.

    5. Zephy*

      Most of the things you mention sound pretty serious, though, and like things his boss needs to hear about. Maybe less about the weird digging into your personal life (mention that last if anything), but all the rest of that stuff is seriously impacting your ability to do your job and making it seem like you’re being set up to fail.

      You’re trying to go through the proper channels to convey information to other departments and upper management by going through him, but he’s not passing the message along – you say this has already caused problems, mention those specific examples. Especially in the cases where he told you X was not a big deal and then it turned out to actually be a big deal, that’s something his boss should know about. Telling an employee who’s been there for barely over a month “I assume you know what you’re doing” is especially alarming, and if your title doesn’t include a word like “executive” or “director,” prioritization of tasks and decision-making is probably not in your purview, but rather his.

    6. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I think you can be professional and complain about your boss, as long as you turn the complaints into business issues that you need solved. I did this recently re: my grandboss; she was getting in the way of me working on a project so I talked to the person at the same level as her who is overseeing the project lead and asked him if I should be involved in the project (because I was getting absolutely mixed messages from grandboss vs the project lead) and he said yes, I absolutely should be and that he’d talk to grandboss for me and tell her that.

      In other words, say to your grandboss things like, “I’m not sure if I should be working on project Z or not, I’m very confused about that,” “I wasn’t sure about what happened with that situation that turned out to be a big deal; boss indicated to me that it wasn’t,” and “I am not sure how to make a decision about Y” (with the hope that grandboss will realize that boss is the one who is supposed to make the decision, not you). Grandboss’ response to what you’re saying will help you figure out what to do next. If grandboss is reasonable, he’ll act concerned about these issues and deal with boss and help you figure out what to do. If grandboss is unreasonable, then he’ll just give you the run-around or tell you you should figure it out (similar to what boss is doing) and then you’ll know you should definitely go find a new job.

      Good luck! That sounds like a nightmare situation and I hope either way you are rid of your terrible boss!

    7. Dom*

      The key will be to not sound like you’re blaming your boss specifically, and instead talk about what problems you’re facing entirely from the perspective of ‘I need but am not getting and do not know where I can get it.’ So for example, rather than ‘My boss doesn’t escalate necessary issues’ you can say ‘I’ve needed to escalate issues in the past and haven’t been able to do so; I’ve informed my boss but this hasn’t worked and I’m not sure who else I could directly reach out to about these issues.’ That leaves open the (unlikely) possibility that maybe your boss isn’t actually meant to be dealing with this, but your onboarding didn’t cover who to reach out to instead.

    8. Charlotte Lucas*

      Until the end (personal questions), I thought you might work on my team.

      Do you have someone more experienced on your team who you can ask how to address this? I went with a newer employee to talk about our boss’s communication issues with our grand boss, who had no idea how bad it was. (A new issue has come up now that he clearly prefers the staff who came on after him to the staff who were already on the team.)

      Some things have gotten better, but I am still job hunting. I am at BEC stage at this point.

      1. Miss Bianca*

        lol the other person on my team (who was more junior) got fired last month for “poor performance”…

    9. mostly harmless*

      I think you should talk to HR and bring up your concerns with them. Also I think you should talk to your manager’s manager.

      Admittedly, this is a risk as you’re new, but if you’re ready to quit the job and are starting to actively look again, then I think you don’t have much to lose.

      These people will probably want to know what you have done to resolve the issues with your manager, so I would keep trying to work on (his) communication and make sure you’re CYA with emails, etc. But if he’s not taking your concerns seriously, is letting you work on the wrong things, isn’t providing appropriate direction, and is miscommunicating what you’re telling him to higher-ups, you really need to do something.

      1. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

        Nope. HR is about not getting sued, *not* solving management problems. No faster way to a downward spiral at a new job than going to HR with this. I think there are a lot of good scripts/suggestions upthread on how to bring this forward with the grandboss.

    10. Vanilla lattes are the best*

      I see you work for my former manager. You have my sympathies.

      Part of the issue I had with my manager is that he had zero background of my role (think writing about llamas), and his background was something completely different (think the anatomy of llamas). Manager also had anger management issues (would yell and scream at the drop of a hat), so there was really no way to effectively communicate with him.

      I ended up leaving for an external role a few months later. I had been looking to leave for awhile, so it all worked out.

    11. Toxic Workplace Survivor*

      Note: I once had this and was looking forward to it until I realized my boss was in the meeting WITH US. I did not know how to deal with it AT ALL. I hope that doesn’t happen to you but perhaps keep it in mind in case you need a new plan in the moment. Good luck!

  6. Twenk*

    looking for ideas for jobs that pay well but don’t require all day sitting at a desk. what are some jobs that a general 4-year degree is qualified for that involved some standing/walking/moving around?

    1. NameRequired*

      I’ve heard of people getting side work as tour guides at museums and the like. I’m not sure if it can be full time, but it could be worth checking out.

      1. Snoozing not schmoozing*

        In a lo of museums, docents (volunteer level) are the regular tour guides. For in-depth specialty tours, it would be a curator or someone from the educational or interpretive departments.

    2. Jane Bingley*

      If you’re open to working in political circles, I found it a very active job! I spent a summer interning as a constituency assistant and nearly every day we were visiting another office or government workplace, moving between the office and the legislature, running errands like getting coffee/lunch or picking up supplies, sorting and cleaning political signs… It was the most active office job I’ve ever had!

      1. Hlao-roo*

        Seconding this. I’m in engineering and have worked at manufacturing companies before. Design engineering tends to be mostly desk-bound, but quality engineering and manufacturing engineering have a lot of walking around. And there are many non-engineering jobs that involve standing/walking/moving at warehouses and manufacturing companies.

      2. Lily Dale*

        That’s what I thought too. QA, warehouse coordinator, or something in operations where you have a desk but get to walk around a lot.

    3. ZSD*

      When I worked in student services at a university, I often moved around to take meetings during the day. And even when I was physically sitting at my desk, it was common for me to be turned away from my computer and focused on the student who was sitting in my office. If being in front of a computer is the real problem, moreso than sitting at a desk, then looking for jobs that involve an aspect of in-person customer service could be an option.

    4. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

      Teaching was the most energy-intensive job I’ve ever had. You’ve gotta work your mind, body, and spirit all at the same time! You’ll need certifications beyond a standard college degree to be a classroom teacher, but there are all kinds of substitute and teaching assistant jobs that could get you into the industry without the extra certification.

      1. NotBatman*

        Truth! You’re getting paid to do public speaking — it’s exhilarating for those of us who like the job, even if it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

      2. Amory Blaine*

        Yup, I was going to suggest paraprofessional! There are lots of kinds: special ed aides, instructional tutors, depending on the school district you can also be a specialized aide like ELL, speech, preschool, library… you are up and down and walking around all day. Pay isn’t amazing but, for example, my district starts at $21/ hour with great benefits.

      3. ?*

        Even jobs that don’t involve working directly with students tend to be more active if they are in schools—our office staff moved around a lot more than the average receptionist. I work for a small school, not a big district (obviously it’s different if you’re working in a big central office somewhere) and our data analyst, HR director, etc., all get plenty of moving around time. Of course you have to be comfortable with kids even if you’re not teaching them.

    5. The Meat Embezzler*

      Field technician work can pay tremendously well depending on what you fix/work on. I know of several technicians that do repair work on hospital equipment like X-Ray and MRI machines that regularly make close to 6 figures. Granted, the hours can be screwy and at times you can get called away at all hours of the night if there is an emergency.

    6. Trixie*

      Event planning is very active role, and back in action from a quiet spell around Covid. Also, what I think of commercial design around internal staff taking lead on work space design. That often requires lots of in-person site visits, and balances out the desk time.

    7. Janeric*

      Construction site inspection, SWPP monitoring, environmental monitoring — 10% of the stress of construction, 60% of the pay.

      1. CheeryO*

        Yep, or you could go for the civil/environmental regulatory side (local/state/federal government) and have a nice mix of desk time and field work.

    8. kiwiii*

      Government jobs that require ensuring facilities are set up correctly, being run correctly. A lot of it’s the paperwork around it, but most folks will have a few inspections per week. I had coworkers in my state’s DCF have to go observe child care facilities, but I imagine there are equivalent positions around a bunch of different types of facilities in other branches.

      1. J*

        When I worked for elections, some months I’d be at a desk reviewing petitions and other months I would do 18,000 steps a day ahead of an election. And election day I’d do a 14 hour shift with very little downtime. Lots of facility and equipment checks there too, but also reading of new election laws or helping other teams ahead of voter registration deadlines. I still miss it sometimes; the elected official was chaos but the work was so physical that I loved it.

    9. Lady_Lessa*

      If you are somewhat anal about details, then look for quality control positions. Most of them involve moving around, using various instruments, etc. Another good thing, most employers will expect to train you because of unique instruments, and requirements.

    10. Ann*

      Construction and development-related work (civil or environmental engineering, acoustics, traffic planning). Green infrastructure development. All kinds of building inspections. Wetland restoration and maintenance.

    11. DeeDee*

      Something in training. My former government agency had a whole training department that did both in-person and online training for different staff. So lots of computer work reading policy and prepping, but also travel to different buildings, standing in training rooms.

      Similar would be meeting facilitation work.

  7. Disgruntled Auditor*

    This is just a rant, but please feel free to commiserate or offer up opinions or advice that occur to you.

    I work for a government agency in a field that has a really strong presence in the private sector as well. People who do the work we do in the private sector get paid more, but most of them end up working 50-55 hours a week compared to the 40 hours a week we do as government workers. My department is currently wildly understaffed. We’ve got somewhere in the neighborhood of 40-50 vacancies across all our various teams. There are statutory requirements for when we have to complete our projects, and this year has been especially difficult, since we’re trying to do the same level of statutorily required work on extremely reduced staffing. But we’re doing it. The reports are getting submitted on time, and they’re good. I think we have a lot to be proud of.

    But last week, the head of our department sent out an email saying that our telecommuting policy will be changing from two days in office a week to three, because in person work is better for collaboration and productivity. The email went out late on Friday afternoon when a lot of people had already left for the weekend. Those of us who saw it didn’t have many coworkers available to process the information with and ended up stewing about it all weekend.

    It’s really insulting that this announcement about needing to increase productivity came out just as we’re completing this enormous amount of work with such reduced staffing. I think it’s truly amazing that we were able to accomplish this at all, and then at the end of that process, to hear that our collaboration and productivity is supposedly lacking feels like a slap in the face. And when we’re already competing with the much higher pay people can get from the private sector, what makes them think that reducing the few perks available to us is going to fill those 50 vacant jobs?

    For me, it’s much less about the policy change and much more about the way it was announced. We have an in person all staff meeting coming up in a couple of weeks. But instead of doing us the courtesy of making this announcement in person where we could ask questions about it, they sent an email on Friday afternoon when they knew a lot of people were already gone. It was cowardly and it was disrespectful, and I think it’s probably permanently harmed my opinion of our department leadership.

    I’m relatively new to this field, so I don’t yet have the experience I want to have before I start job searching, but after the announcement came out, I reached out to a local college and enrolled in a certification program that will make me a stronger job candidate. I don’t know if I’m willing to leave over this yet, but I want my options open just in case.

    1. Hypoglycemic rage (hopeful ex librarian)*

      I don’t have any advice, but that sucks, I’m so sorry. They took the cowardly way out, imo, and that’s not a good look. If they really wanted to do it by email, Friday in general isn’t good, but Friday when a lot of people had left is even worse. To say nothing about the message itself, which would feel like a slap in the face to me, too.

      If it helps at all, I agree with you about your company and I don’t even work there!

    2. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Yeah, they did the classic late Friday info dump to bury the bad news. That’s terrible. Has there been any praise at all? Because I think that’s what makes this 2x the suck. First, no acknowledgment of accomplishments, then second, you’re not productive enough so we’re taking away some of your work from home time.

      And I guess third, no acknowledgment that the understaffing is the true cause of the lower productivity. Ugh. I sympathize.

    3. Ama*

      I completely sympathize — my employer spent the entire pandemic shutdown (we work with a largely immunocompromised population so we were totally WFH for almost 3 years) telling us how great a job we were doing, and the instant the big bosses decided it was safe to go back to 3 days a week required in office (you HAVE to be in the office T-W-Th and then M-F are optional, you can’t swap which days of the week are required) the only reasoning we got when we pushed as to why we couldn’t have a little more flexibility was “well not everyone did as well working from home.” Which makes us feel like they were either lying to us, or do not care that the people who excelled working from home now feel like they are being punished for other people’s bad behavior. Middle managers like me feel like they are stuck enforcing policies they don’t agree with and spend all our time having to nickle and dime high performers about their PTO even when we manage people who could easily do 90% of their jobs from home.

      They handled the roll out better than your company did (they announced the plan two months in advance) but their stubborn refusal to give anyone any concrete reasons WHY they decided on this plan did so much damage to what had been a pretty happy workforce, even in the face of all the pandemic stressors.

      What they now have is a very demoralized work force, who all leave exactly at 5 on required work in office days. The days of people routinely going above and beyond because that effort was recognized and rewarded with flexibility are gone. I’ve accelerated my timeline for leaving over this (I am trying to build up a sidegig into full time work — because of this I went from “maybe I’ll leave in 2-3 years” to “I’m out next summer.”)

      1. Trixie*

        Yes to leaving exactly at 5pm, and maintaining some boundaries. I’m looking at new roles now and much of what I would apply for could be fully or mostly remote. Due to circumstances, I need to move on something sooner than later which may be in office M-F. Will likely continue to look at opportunities for something hybrid.

    4. Quinalla*

      Ugh, that’s awful. Can you push back with a group of coworkers? Even if all you do is make your opinions knowns, sometimes that’s worthwhile even if you don’t get the change you want right away or ever. Sometimes it is just worth it to call them out on their BS.

      There ARE legit reasons to be in the office, I’m not going to argue it, but nearly every RTO change I’ve seen has some BS reasons with it and it is so enraging, especially when there are clear numbers showing the opposite of whatever they are saying.

      My company doesn’t have it all figured out, but they know that our weird mix of fully remote, hybrid of all types, some fully in office and a ton of flexibility on when you work is making us more profitable and making us an attractive place for a lot of folks to work – not everyone, some folks would hate it for sure. We don’t always get it right, but leadership approaches it from a standpoint of let’s look at the data we have and ask folks what they want and try things and see what works and what doesn’t instead of feeding us BS about requiring folks to come in X days a week will definitely increase collaboration and productivity with no other planning. Uh huh, nope!

    5. Yes And*

      That sucks, and I’m sorry.

      I’m curious about the reason for all those vacancies. Are they not hiring, or are they unable to keep up with churn (i.e., every time they hire someone, someone else quits)? Is there a hiring freeze? Are they unable to find qualified people willing to work under the terms they offer?

      It seems to me like this new policy of theirs will only exacerbate their problems, but maybe there’s some detail I’m missing.

      1. Disgruntled Auditor*

        A lot of people quit during or just after COVID happened, and we’ve never fully bounced back from it. I also don’t think they’re advertising the positions as effectively as they could be. I’ve never seen our openings posted to places like Indeed or LinkedIn, just on the government hiring website for our state and our departmental website. We send people out to college career fairs, but we’re not really getting the job postings in front of as many people as we could be. That plus the much higher salary people can get by working in private industry is kind of a recipe for understaffing.

        1. Yes And*

          So it sounds like the main thing stopping them from restaffing is their own incompetence and/or laziness?

          Yeah, this organization can’t be saved. At least not from within. It’s just going to get worse until leadership changes. I’m afraid the best thing you can do is make the most of your time until you can move on.

    6. Ann*

      I’m sorry. This is so annoying. It’s probably nothing to do with your productivity. It might just be that your agency is coming under pressure from the top to fix the issue of empty real estate/dying downtowns at the expense of less flexibility for workers.
      I’d still think twice before going to the private sector. We’re also unbelievably understaffed and can’t seem to catch up. It’s constant stress and burnout, and in many fields your job is really, really not going to be 9 to 5. You might gain flexibility on paper, but not so much in reality because even if you’re home, you’re dealing with a lot more work and stress.

      1. Disgruntled Auditor*

        Yeah, I’m still planning to stick with government if I can. A lot of my state’s departments have internal auditor/analyst positions separate from the ones in the auditing department where I currently am. They don’t have more WFH days, but they’re in a part of town that’s closer to where I live than my current office so I would lose less time commuting overall. I need a little more experience before I’m eligible for those positions though, so I’m biding my time and taking some courses to get myself ready.

    7. Let me be dark and twisty*

      It sounds like you’re a fed because a lot of what you describe is typical of what a lot of federal agencies are going through now. (If you are a fed, hello! Fellow fed here.) I totally sympathize with you and I also dread when my agency is instructed to come back to the office too.

      Something to keep in mind is that government work (no matter which level but especially for feds) tends to be steadier than the private/industry sector in the long run. Simply because of that — have you considered transferring to another agency vs. leaving civil service entirely?

      If you are a fed and if you are willing to consider working in civil service, take a look at the FEVS results and the “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government” rankings – both will go a long way in finding agencies that allow remote work, have good leaders/managers, are appropriately staffed. Then you can apply to specific agencies instead of casting a wide net hoping you land somewhere better.

      Something else to think about if you are a fed – stick it out where you are until you’re fully-fledged career reserved. If you can wait till you become career reserved before jumping ship, it’ll be much easier to transfer to another agency or come back to civil service. You’ll have creditable time in service if you wait till you’re career-reserved, which will give you an enormous leg up applying to other federal jobs. (I don’t know what you mean when you said you’re still “relatively new” but in my agency, that means you’re still in probationary status so I’m assuming this is your status. Apologies if you’re an experienced fed and this is old news to you.)

      1. Disgruntled Auditor*

        I’m actually in state government. I’ve been in government for decades, but I’ve only been doing audit work for just under a year. I’ve been thinking about looking into fed work, so your suggestions are good ones!

    8. goddessoftransitory*

      They seem to want this reduced staff sprint-marathon to be “the new normal”–bringing everybody into the office more means that employees won’t be able to work at their own pace are more likely to start thinking this version of all out Iron Man dog-paddling is just how things are around here. That way they don’t have to bother with the endless hassle of finding and hiring at least fifty people or advocating for higher salaries (even as you and your fellow workers end up working constant “temporary” fifty five hour weeks for a forty hour salary.)

      Yeah, I hope you can bail soon.

    9. Anon4this*

      It’s across the federal government and is a response to pressure from some in Congress that wants to decimate funding and employment for federal agencies, and reduce the size and scope of the federal government.

  8. Jess R.*

    I’m currently a first-time project coordinator, running a grant-funded program at a nonprofit, but I find myself itching to get into accounting. As someone with a liberal arts BA and a ton of aptitude in numbers & spreadsheets (but no formal training past undergrad upper division math classes), what’s my best course of action for getting into accounting/bookkeeping?

    1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      I also have thought about this. FYI, accounting requires going back to school for a 4 year degree. So unless you want to do that, go the bookkeeping route. My community college seems to only offer it online.

      1. Throwaway Account*

        I have 2 bachelor’s degrees, and the second one was the most fun thing I ever did!!

        I did not have to take any gen ed requirements, only the courses for the major, even though my first degree was almost 20 years earlier. I cannot remember, but I think it took me 2 years.

        So check before you reject this option. You might be surprised!

      2. Quarter-Life Crisis Accountant*

        Not necessarily — I had a BA (and MA) in an unrelated field and enrolled in an accounting MS program where I spent a total of 2.5 years (including summer sessions). I was taking undergrad-level classes at first because I had no accounting background, but I was classified as a grad student the entire time. Not all schools will let you do this, but some do (and it’s a lot faster).

    2. I'm A Little Teapot*

      I’m a CPA. Look at your local community college and start taking classes. Or look for a reputable online school (I don’t know them at all, sorry). Basically, to get far in accounting you’re going to need some formal education. Not because you’re not capable, but because the field in general requires it.

      Do you have a specific goal? If yes, figure out what you need to hit that goal, and start working towards it. CPA is different from bookkeeper for example. Grant accounting/management is a job. There’s a huge range of possibilities in accounting. The most flexible path for you will be an accounting degree . You already have a BA, so if you take all the accounting and business classes that you’d need to get the accounting degree, that would probably get you there.

      1. There You Are*

        And the cool thing about an accounting degree is that you can find yourself a job doing things that are tangential to accounting but a lot more fun (IMO). Internal audit, business compliance, risk management, business analyst, etc.

        I went back to school to finish my Bachelor’s and chose accounting, thinking that I’d be a bookkeeper. After a year-ish, I realized that I could complete my Master’s in only one year instead of two, so went for that thinking I’d be a CPA and do taxes for small businesses.

        And then I learned about internal audit, and taxes and debits and credits and month-end close and journal entries and reconciliations went out the window. :-)

    3. RagingADHD*

      If you want to get your feet wet for free and see how you like it, Intuit offers free training through their online Academy to become an independent tax preparer / bookkeeper. It’s 30-40 hours of self-paced work. This also prepares you to work through Intuit.

    4. Yes And*

      Are you looking to get into accounting within your nonprofit field, or outside of it? If outside, others on this thread have offered great advice that I can’t add to. But if within, people who excel (ba dum bum) at financial reporting to grantors are jewels to be treasured. If your position doesn’t already include those duties, see if you can take it on. If it does, see if you can improve the program’s processes for generating those reports. Getting that kind of experience on your resume will be a huge help in advancing your future career.

      I got into nonprofit finance from being a working artist with no financial background. I took the first entry-level job in my field that offered it to me, and it happened to be in a finance office. I built up a decade and a half of progressively responsible experience before going back for my MBA, and now I’m CFO of a major organization. It can be done!

    5. Unkempt Flatware*

      do you think you’d enjoy fund accounting at a government agency? I work/have worked in government agencies where we have a finance person who does the obligations/deobligations, and general grant account for us. I think you may have the background for it. You could also look in MPOs or COGs, which are often quasi-governmental orgs with their own boards.

    6. Lily Dale*

      Accounting usually requires a special degree, but if you want to work with numbers professionally you might look into business analyst roles.

      You could pivot by using vba to automate some reports, learning about the database if your organization has one, and working up visualizations for yourself and others to use in reports and grant applications. Just take on the data oriented tasks that other people don’t want to deal with.

  9. Hypoglycemic rage (hopeful ex librarian)*

    So I spent this last week on PTO. Twas glorious. Thanks Seattle, love you lots. But while I was there, I came to some Realizations.

    The biggest one is: even if I were to talk to management about my concerns, about my PIP, heck even about my initial move, I don’t trust them. And I don’t trust them to not pull something later on, even if they answered my questions. Not just if I were to ask them about all of it, but in general, I don’t trust them. That’s a sobering realization to have, imo, and there’s no way to come back from this (that I know of).

    This week off really helped me realize that I shouldn’t stay (and honestly that, for my mental health, I can’t stay in). It also made me realize that the whole “I don’t want to go home and back to work” thing is way different when this job is more than just “oh I don’t like it” or something. Like, I don’t think anyone loves going back to work after a vacation, but this is more than that.

    So! I am still going to hopefully make it through my PIP, but I am going to also look for other jobs. Unfortunately it’s just me and my plants so I can’t leave without anything lined up.

    But thanks to y’all for your support – the replies and advice throughout my various posts helped me realize this is more than just a job I might not like as much, or leadership I don’t enjoy. I am now going to be actively looking to get out.

    1. Totally Minnie*

      I’m really happy for you that you’re making these realizations. There’s something so freeing in making the decision to leave, even if you can’t quit right this moment. Best of luck to you in finding the right situation in the future!

      1. Hypoglycemic rage (hopeful ex librarian)*

        Yeah I mean I can’t say this is the best feeling – I didn’t think I’d be in this job forever, but I definitely didn’t see myself even considering looking for something else so soon. But I guess it does feel a tiny bit freeing, which is good! Hopefully more so the longer this goes on, if that makes sense?

    2. Hamster pants*

      I haven’t followed all of your posts but I know we’ posted around the same time(s) about somewhat similar things. Im rooting for you and hoping your situation gets better. <3

    3. AnotherLibrarian*

      I used to think I was going to cry on the way to a job every morning (sometimes, I even did cry) and it still took me months to realize that I needed to go find a different one. Searching for jobs sucks, but staying in one that is a bad fit is immeasurably harder. I am so glad you found some clarity.

      1. Hypoglycemic rage (hopeful ex librarian)*

        I’ve cried at and shoot work more times than I care to admit in the last couple months and it STILL took me awhile to realize I should look for something else, that I’m really not the right fit but also that management carries a decent amount of responsibility for how things played out, too.

    4. goddessoftransitory*

      Glad you enjoyed our fair city and the last of the summer weather! It’s a bummer to realize you can’t invest yourself in your job because your employers aren’t trustworthy, but knowing that gives you a much steadier place to stand. Rather than trying to please where pleasing is impossible, you can please yourself and find a better fitting employment.

      1. Hypoglycemic rage (hopeful ex librarian)*

        Omfg I LOVED Seattle!!! I hadn’t ever been, but I will be going back. Your city is so easy to get around (I stayed in, I believe, the belltown area, I could see the space needle from my hotel) and so walkable! I also got a taste of fall, which I loved as it’s my favorite season.

        But yes, I also feel like no matter what I do at work, something is going to be wrong (sometimes that’s literal). My trainer really has my back (and I’m also finally getting great training!) but I don’t think that’s enough. Like their words can only do so much. So, I’m gonna see what’s out there.

  10. Elle*

    I’m hiring a new supervisor for my team and my “head full of soup” employee is applying. There are many reasons that they will not get this job and a more “with it” person would understand this. I know I will interview them and give very specific things they need to work on before they have a shot at being promoted. None of this should be a surprise to them as we have discussed these issues many times.
    My question is to the folks that have turned down staff for promotions. How did the suggestions of how to improve go? I will no longer be supervising this person directly so they will need to work on the plan with the new person.

    1. Decidedly Me*

      I have someone who applied every time a particular promotion has opened up (about 2 or 3 times now). He’s at times doing well at his current role, but isn’t consistent, which is a performance issue in the current role. That alone is a big enough reason for not getting the promotion, but I also feel he would be a bad fit for the role for other reasons.

      When denying the promotion, the conversations have gone…ok? He listens to, but pushes back on the feedback. I think he has it in his head that tenure alone should guarantee the promotion, so I’ve yet to see him really apply the feedback, even though it’s been the same each time.

      1. Elle*

        I think this person also thinks they should get the promotion due to tenure. But they can barely do their current job. They do the bare minimum to avoid a PIP but anything above that is a struggle. Just today they resisted taking on an additional very easy task that they have the capacity to do. They display no leadership skills, no outside the box thinking, and need a lot of handholding to get stuff done.

    2. WantonSeedStitch*

      The folks I’ve turned down for promotions took the suggestions with good grace, but for the most part, I never really saw them go after those suggestions and try to implement them with any zeal. I suspect that they might have come to the realization that if X, Y, and Z were really important for the job, then maybe it wasn’t actually what they wanted to do.

    3. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      I would lay out very concreate improvements that need to be made to qualify for a leadership role. Ask behaviorally specific questions about these skills in the interview to illustrate how they do NOT current possess these skills. “Tell me about a time when . . .”

      1. Elle*

        This is very helpful. Something like “tell me about a time you went above and beyond to help a coworker or client”?

        1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

          Yes, or “tell me about a time when you were a team player to help meet a goal. What was the goal and how were you proactive with helping?”

    4. Doctor is In*

      I would not “interview” them for the job if you know you will not consider them. Instead would call it a meeting to discuss what they need to work on to be considered.

    5. Turingtested*

      When I was in the same position I was kind but blunt. In my case they struggled to make decisions and were very focused on tone and perceived slights and I told them that I’d need to see ongoing changes in those areas for at least a year before considering making them a supervisor. The response was a polite man I am not cut out to be a supervisor.

    6. Eng Girl*

      Honestly it depends on what the feedback is. I’ve had ok success with people who need minor fixes, I’m talking people who just need a little more time/experience or to work on one specific thing that I could help coach them on like public speaking or something similar.

      I’ve had almost no success with my own head full of soup employees. A lot of the time it was because they thought they were improving leaps and bounds, but to me it was not enough of an improvement. Or they focus on one area where they can improve and don’t understand one area isn’t cutting it. The employee then gets discouraged and feels like I was blowing smoke and setting an impossible task.

      For example I once had an employee who wanted to advance. I have them a list of what I was looking for from them, and was very open that it would be at least 6-12 months for them to develop the skills I needed to see. One of the things was punctuality and time management. They came to me like 2 months later because they wanted to reevaluate and thought they should move up because they were “mostly on time now”. They’d started coming to work on time 3 out of 5 days instead of 1 out of 5. They didn’t understand why they couldn’t move up

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        That’s why “improvement” is such a damn slippery eel of a word! Because any increase is technically improvement, but X amount of increase and maintaining that level is what is needed.

        It’s like a convicted arsonist going well, since my last parole hearing I only set three fires instead of six! That is inarguably fewer fires, but it is not an indicator that the person has become trustworthy to work at the match factory.

    7. Capt. Liam Shaw*

      Give actionable advice.

      Make sure you know what leadership programs your company offers and even if your staff is eligible.

      Don’t be surprised if someone departs if you turn them down. I have always left after being turned down for promotions.

      Lastly, if someone does depart, don’t be a jerk about it. Your soon to be former employee is making a decision best for their family. Just as you turning them down was a business decision. Them leaving is one for them.

    8. Vio*

      Unfortunately I can’t imagine the conversation will go any better with this employee than it has in the previous times you’ve had it with them. If they still feel they deserve the promotion and are able to do the job despite the issues having raised before, the higher stakes are likely to make them more defensive instead of more receptive. I hope I’m wrong though.

  11. Downward facing llama*

    Non-profit: We’re hiring a 25-year business professional as our development director.

    Reader: Did you transition from for-profit to non-profit and what helped you?

    Reader: Did you hire a businessperson for fundraising? What helped you, help them transition?

    Pro: new ideas, new energy, new everything really. They’re nice, friendly, engaging. They’re earnest in wanting to change their career field and learning from us. They want to put more meaning to their last career journey. They have some experience with us, they’ve volunteered with us, and they live close to one of our satellite locations.

    Con: As I’ve experienced, even with my current non-profit, that business minds think they’ll come in, clean up, orient us to for-profit thinking, in 6-mos or less. Mostly because that’s what they were able to do in their previous line of work. Then they’re frustrated with the collaboration, partnering and other slow down aspects (which is annoying, I get it) and want to rip their hair out. Also, this person has extensive experience as a vendor in a service area that we also utilize so they might, out of habit and belief for good, spend a lot of time in that area (which is on another team) and forget what they were hired for.

    As this person will be my boss, I’m being looked to as a ‘what do you think of them?’ I’m for this person, but I know they’ll need a lot of tending. The CEO is their shepherd however, I’m a 23-yr non-profit professional and have worked in all the roles, to include theirs. I can add value from that perspective. I also know, and love, my current job. I’ll be a good support and historian for their learning the department work and when they’re ready to hire our 3rd staff member for this team. I’m not a ‘that’s not how we do it’ person; I’m a ‘this is what we’ve done in the past for context; where do you want to take it?’ I’m a follower and leader, ready to step up and back as needed. Their success is my/our success.

    1. Elsewise*

      I’ve been in nonprofits my whole career, but my boss was actually in the for-profit industry for about 20 years before she took this job. I was hired after the transition, but there have been some really good benefits to her experience! Specifically, she’s great at corporate fundraising. She has a PR background, so she can help a lot with media engagement, and she understands corporate thought processes in a way a lot of us career non-profits don’t. She helped me figure out why some businesses might give us large amounts of money but then turn down recognition and I know she’s talked our leadership through how more business-minded individual donors might view some things our org does.

    2. EA*

      A nonprofit I worked at previously hired a business professional as the top development role and it was a huge flop. The person asked for and received a salary much higher than typical (which created resentment within the existing fundraising staff and also set goals much higher than was even feasible), and then they became frustrated with the restrictions on spending, like on new platforms, events, etc. I also think there was a fundamental mismatch in their thinking on how to “sell” donating to a nonprofit vs. selling a product, and this particular person was unable to make that leap to the nonprofit world and kept pushing corporate strategies that just didn’t work (and were also $$$!). I would personally make sure the new person has the chance to really understand the existing strategy before proposing changes, and to internalize the NGO’s mission and why people would want to donate/volunteer/support the work – maybe a retreat with staff, time in the field (depending on what you all do), that sort of thing in the first months would help.

  12. M*

    Anyone have tips on how to get better at catching fine detail errors? I had a recent performance review that I found disappointing and most of the critique was related to my fine detail accuracy. I do proofread but have always struggled with this – for example, in high school I was a straight A student except for math, where I made consistent B/Cs solely due to things like transposing two numbers or leaving off a negative sign halfway through an algebra problem. It was so frustrating because I understood the concepts perfectly and I would proof my work multiple times and still be unable to catch these errors. I do have some neurodivergence but am not dyslexic. Any tips?

    1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

      Have you looked into dyscalculia as opposed to dyslexia?

      Otherwise, have you tried stepping away from things and coming back to them with fresh eyes? Or literally reading them aloud to yourself? Or, if you’re doing the work on the computer, also write it out by hand and then compare?

      Barring that, is there a coworker you could trade proofing for in exchange for some other bit of help you might be able to offer?

      1. jellied brains*

        +1 to dyscalculia. I have it and it’s ass. In HS all my math teachers thought I was stupid so no one realized why I was struggling until my senior year.

        I never got official guidance (because again, public school) but I’ve found that saying the number out loud or writing it VERY LARGE or spacing it out if there’s more than 3 numbers helps me catch things. (So if the number is 2235, I will write out 2 2 3 5 because otherwise it mushes all together)

        Also doing the math several times. I don’t have to do much math in my job but there’s enough that I need to double-check myself every time. It’s just become a habit, like looking both ways when crossing the street.

      2. fine tipped pen aficionado*

        Another +1! It’s wild because I can spot a spelling or grammatical error at a glance but I once submitted a contract where the ultimate not to exceed amount was correct and all the numbers in the breakdown chart summed up to that number, but every single number in that chart was wrong. I still have no idea how I did it.

        Anyway, the only real solution I have is to never rush and come back later after I’ve lowkey forgotten what it was (ADHD helps here) to check the work. And I have a checklist of specifically how to check (don’t forget to check the numbers in the chart and not just the total!) so I don’t miss a step.

      3. Dust Bunny*

        Fourthing this: I was TERRIBLE about transposing numbers and mashing together problems that were next to each other. Yup . . . dyscalculia.

        Otherwise, I also do the fresh-eyes method.

      4. M*

        I had wondered about dyscalculia in the past but descriptions of it generally include being unable to grasp numbers and mathematical concepts and I don’t have that issue at all so I’m not sure if it fits? My issues aren’t just limited to numbers either, I will do things like forgetting to make sure all check boxes are checked either yes or no on lengthy forms where each check requires a description of why you made that selection – I’ll do the description and forget to check the box. Lots of similar examples with tiny stuff that I don’t catch when I go back over it not limited to just number stuff, although that one is a big one.

        1. office hobbit*

          Try talking to yourself as you go down the form. “Retrieve llama brushes Check!” then check the box. “Section llama’s fur for grooming. Check!” another box. Sounds like the oversights may be coming from moving too fast, so forcing yourself to process things out loud will slow you down.

        2. fine tipped pen aficionado*

          Have you talked to your doctor about ADHD? Not saying that’s it–perfectly neurotypical brains miss steps in processes that are boring (like forms) allllll the time–but if it’s having a big impact or you’re concerned, it’s worth asking!

    2. Rainy*

      Yeah, I agree with the above commenter–this sounds like dyscalculia, which has a different assessment protocol to dyslexia from what I know. (Also, the dyslexia assessments are great at catching the “standard” types of dyslexia like my sister’s but absolute shite at catching weird types like mine, so she was dxed in HS and I’m undxed but pretty obviously have some dyslexia.)

    3. WantonSeedStitch*

      It depends on what kind of work has the errors, and what kind of errors they are. If it’s stuff like typos that aren’t caught by spellcheck, or word-substitution errors (e.g., using “father” instead of “brother”), one helpful tool is the read-aloud function in Word. It reads your work aloud to you in a synthesized voice, which sometimes makes it easier to catch stuff that doesn’t make sense.

    4. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Is it something you could read/proof backwards? With text, if you start at the bottom and work backwards, the fact that you’re reading it out of order and not as a flowing sentence leads to catching errors.

      1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        That trick works for me! (I don’t try to read the sentences in reverse order, just the pages from last to first.) I figure it solves two things — disrupting expected order so I have to pay more attention, and overcoming proofing fatigue where the first couple of pages probably always get the closest attention and the last ones get no attention. On a different pass I check one type of thing at a time — check all the headlines in the doc, then all the graphs, all the page numbers, etc. If I try to do one whole page at a time, I’ll always miss something. Probably several somethings. When I was a designer, I turned final proof pages upside down to spot missing things. Anything that slows you down and keeps your brain from seeing what it expects to see helps.

    5. RagingADHD*

      Don’t proof in the same format you worked in. Change something: out loud, backwards, color, font, size, use a reading program to read it to you, make it double or triple-spaced, etc.

      Particularly if you are working onscreen. If possible, print it out.

      1. C.*

        I agree with all these suggestions. It’s amazing what a simple font change in Word reveals that I wouldn’t have caught before.

        In addition, and it seems kind of obvious, but I also recommend slowing down when you read the document out loud. If you’re quickly reading aloud with a “script” in mind, you’re more likely to gloss over the error. But if you read it slowly and as if you’re reading to an audience, it’s likelier you’ll catch the errors.

    6. AnotherLibrarian*

      Super dyslexic (letters and numbers), so my brain does not do fine detail. A few tricks that work for me (but might not work for other people)- I work on paper. I try to give myself at least 24 hours of not looking at something before I proof it (building in that checking time is critical for my workflow) and I place a piece of paper over the text, so I have to work sentence by sentence backwards through the document. Basically, trying to trick my brain into not filling in what it thinks are there. I do the same thing with numbers.

      Lastly, and I know this isn’t maybe good news, I avoid jobs where super detail stuff matters. After a long time with my brain, I’ve learned that I just am never going to be super good at that sort of thing.

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

      If there are there mistakes that you make often, you could create check lists for tasks so that you check off that you’ve “reviewed” that detail.

      For my work, I always run the “find” and “replace” function for a few details that are easy to miss: extra spaces, the & symbol, hyphens and dashes (double check if the word actually needs a hyphen or if the wrong dash length is used), quotation marks to make sure that there is always a start and end mark, and commonly mistaken words or names (county instead of country, Alison instead of Allison). It can be time consuming to always run a find/replace but it does a good job catching details you know you commonly miss.

      For details in numbers, you could stop and think “does that make sense?” For example: “21 donuts in the box,” would make me verify that number, because 12 (dozen) is more common for a box of donuts; “We have main offices in 3 countries: U.S., India, Japan, and Mexico” so close; or the last 6 months you purchased an item for about $100, but this month you see an entry of $1,000 …if you have any sense of what you think the number/detail should be, but what you have doesn’t “make sense” you should take the extra time to verify.

    8. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      I wonder if some of the fonts that work for people with dyslexia would work for numbers?

    9. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Adding to the list of things to read up on — dysgraphia.

      For me the list of alternatives is useful for more than a diagnosis — we can all try out tools published to help a particular condition.

  13. KateM*

    I know that if I wrote AAM that I cry daily at work then the suggestion would be to find a new job, but what if the finding-new-job part is the one that makes me cry? I hate paperwork with a passion, and having to offer myself to projects and update my CV makes me cry, procrastinate, and cry&procrastinate, in random order. I love the actual working part.

    1. Kel*

      Applying/looking for a job is a full-time job. Is there any way you can treat it like a work task/appointment where you set yourself a specific time to do it, and maybe go do it like, at a cafe or something?

      1. Sassy SAAS*

        This! I also did not enjoy job hunting, but also knew I couldn’t stay at my former job. I would dedicate an hour here and there to the search so that it didn’t feel like a full time job. Break it into parts: update resume, then update a cover letter that can easily be customized, then apply for a couple jobs, then a couple more.

        Or eventually you’ll hit a point where you have to kick things into high gear to get out of your current spot!

    2. Where Wolf?*

      What helped me was having someone holding me accountable. A friend or family who had I to check in weekly and say “This week, I applied to three jobs and set up a phone interview for a fourth job”. Having someone who could gently keep me accountable (they weren’t mean about it, just checked in with me once a week and gently rebuffed me if I did nothing for a while) helped me keep going on job searching even when I felt miserable about it.

      1. NotBatman*

        I did this too! My mom was in town for the week, and I asked if she’d be okay with taking a Saturday, going to an empty conference room, and not leaving until I’d applied for 10 jobs. We were in there for 4 hours, and I think I applied to almost 20, but having her there to give me a constant stream of conversation (and commiseration — job application portals are AWFUL) was enough to get me through the process.

    3. Totally Minnie*

      During my last job search, I basically bribed myself to submit applications. So, I’d set myself a goal, and if I completed that goal I’d give myself a treat. Like, “today I will update my resume and get it ready to submit, and when I’m finished I will have a home spa night as a reward.”

    4. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      You have to decide what you hate more, your current job or doing the paper work to find a new job.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Pretty much this.

        There is [usually] no magic solution whereby you get the new job without the awful paperwork and searching part.

    5. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      I think you’re saying the job makes you cry, but also the idea of job searching makes you cry? You sound like you’re putting yourself mentally in a no win situation and the result is frustration and crying. You have options, but you won’t let yourself take any of them.

      It sounds like you need to sit down with yourself and find out what you want. Do you want a new job? If yes, then job hunting is necessary. If not, then give yourself permission not to job search and to be okay with the job you have. You don’t have to offer yourself to a project. You don’t have to update your CV. Nobody can make you.

      But if you do… Stop telling yourself you “hate paperwork with a passion”. You’re making things miserable for yourself by imagining hating the process when you haven’t even done anything yet. I mean, of course you’re procrastinating something that you think will suck.

      Try to take the emotion out of it. It’s just a document, it can’t hurt you. Try to remember the positive parts – do you enjoy being picked to interview? Actually interviewing? Starting a new job that has promise to be a good one? Focus on those things.

      And hell, reward yourself each time you do a thing. Updated your CV – have some of your favorite candy, buy a new book, stream a movie. Next day, job search for half an hour. Even if you don’t find anything, reward yourself for looking. Make it a better process for yourself instead of punishing yourself.

        1. Tio*

          ” if I wrote AAM that I cry daily at work then the suggestion would be to find a new job,”

          The job makes them cry daily AND so does job searching

          To me, the main difference is that job searching ends eventually so you will stop crying, whereas there’s no indication the daily job crying will stop. So you’ll just have to push through.

          1. KateM*

            I am an employee in a company where, once my project ends, I need to search for a new project, so kinda searching for a job inside the company. Basically searching for a new project is part of my job right now and I hate it so much I almost would rather be fired, but I know that if I do find a new project, I will probably like it.

    6. Hang in there!*

      Looking for work is so stressful! Honestly for me, a temporary lift with anxiety meds was helpful. As was a therapist to help process the anxiety and depression from the process. But even the meds alone calmed my system enough that I could get on with it with just an ordinary amount of stress rather than a sense of overwhelm and high emotion.

    7. ursula*

      It’s a bit counter-intuitive, but I have actually had some success unsticking my dread-procrastination loop by promising myself that I will only work on Dreaded Task for a maximum of X time per day (30min? an hour?) and then I am allowed to stop no matter what. I have a much easier time getting myself started on something when I know I only have to do it for 30 minutes, rather than “write this cover letter, and if it takes you all night, then I guess you just don’t deserve any relaxing time tonight”, which is how it feels to me otherwise. I fully sympathize, KateM, and I’m rooting for you.

      1. AnotherLibrarian*

        Yeah. For me, a 25 minute timer is basically a god send. I can do anything for 25 minutes and once I’m done- than I’m done for the moment. Sometimes I go back and do another 25 minutes, sometimes I don’t, but setting a physical timer and knowing I only have to do the thing for exactly that long makes it much easier for me. Also, can a friend some keep you company while you work on it? Or be on the phone with you? Having someone else root you on can really help.

    8. goddessoftransitory*

      I sympathize–I despise job hunting!

      One thing that did work for me was not trying to make myself “like” it, and more than I would like getting a filling or shots. But it was something I could either focus on getting through or beat myself up about when the latter did nothing but make me feel bad.

      You aren’t a bad person for not liking this task. It’s okay. You don’t have to date job-hunting, just sit next to it on the bus until you get to your destination.

    9. There You Are*

      What worked for me was the “20 seconds of courage” mindset. It took 20 seconds of courage to flip my status on LinkedIn to “Hey, recruiters, I’m open to opportunities.”

      And that set in motion a process where I was essentially forced to update my resume. I would tell a recruiter that the position they called me about sounded interesting enough to want more details and they would say, “Great! Send me a copy of your resume and I’ll get you scheduled for an interview with the hiring company.” Ope.

      Then I used another 20 seconds of courage every time I agreed to and scheduled a video or in-person interview.

      Basically, I did a quick thing that cornered me into doing longer, more painful things.

      It helped that I was already employed, albeit unhappily. I was “safe”, so to speak. There was nothing bad that could come from an imperfect resume or a flubbed interview. The worst that could happen is that I’d be in the same place as if I hadn’t made baby steps that led to adult steps.

      That mindset let me pretend that all of those uncomfortable steps were actually part of a new hobby I was trying out. (“Fine. My friends all seem to love playing D&D; I might as well spend some time learning how to play it.”)

      My mantras were “You are safe; this can’t hurt you,” and “The only way out is through.” It made it easier to do the things I, too, hate to do (update my resume, fill out online applications, create presentations to “sell myself” in an interview, perform a case study to show I actually do know what I’m talking about, etc.).

  14. Kimmy Schmidt*

    What are your most useful keyboard shortcuts? I’m trying to make my workflow more efficient.

    It took me way too long to discover CTRL+Z to undo! I’m also a big fan of CTRL+Shift+T because I have clunky fingers and always close the wrong tab.

      1. Mimmy*

        I’m a keyboarding instructor and a student recently asked me how to make the ~ over the n. I had her do it the hard way–by inserting a symbol *facepalm*. I will definitely pass this along to her! (does anyone know the combo for ~ over n?)

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          charmap.exe has them all.

          My single favorite thing is knowing that the Alt key brings up menus where the underlined letter can be tapped on keyboard to select.

          my least favorite thing is that developers will change the keyboard shortcuts between releases, so my muscle memory may be wrong.

    1. anon24*

      Basic ones, but the ones I use daily are Win+Shift+S to outline a custom screen grab (Win 10, not sure if it works in 11), Ctrl X to cut, Ctrl C to copy, and Ctrl V to paste.

    2. MechanicalPencil*

      The Ctrl + Shift + V to paste text without formatting.
      Windows key + E to open file explorer.
      Windows + L to lock my computer.

      1. Jess R.*

        YESSSS I love Windows + L to lock! Knowing that made me MUCH more responsible about locking my computer every time I walk away from my desk because I can’t go “oh but it’s so many steps and I’ll just be away for a minute”

      2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Ctrl + Alt + L to lock is one of mine. Works on at least the two major operating systems, possibly the 3rd as well.

    3. Elle Woods*

      Ctrl + W to close a tab.
      Ctrl + D to edit/add/remove a bookmark in my browser.
      Ctrl + backspace to delete an entire word at a time.

    4. ENFP in Texas*

      Alt-Tab if you often have multiple programs/windows/documents open. It let’s you flip through the windows instead of having to use your mouse to select one.

      In Excel: when I send a workbook to someone, I like to have all pages at A1 so users don’t open a worksheet halfway down the data. I will use Ctrl-Home to return to A1, then Ctrl-PgDn to flip to the next worksheet. when I’ve done all the sheets, I’ll Ctrl-PgUp back through the workbook to the first sheet.

    5. WantonSeedStitch*

      On a Mac: Command + tab to swap between open apps, and Command + ` to swap between windows within an app (this is AMAZEBALLS when I have multiple spreadsheets open in Excel).

      1. Billy Preston*

        Also on a mac:
        command + shift + 3 to take a screenshot of the entire screen
        command + shift + 4 to get crosshairs to select part of the screen you want to screenshot

        1. Mill Miker*

          command + shift + 5 to open the fancy screen capture/record tool (it’s newer than the other 2 shortcuts)

    6. Potato Potato*

      Ctrl+Y is redo in a lot of programs.

      Alt+Tab to switch windows. This one often saved my butt as a teenager when I was playing games while I was supposed to be doing homework

      I’m assuming you know Ctrl+X to cut, Ctrl+C to copy, and Ctrl+V to paste. But if you don’t, those are the most important ones imo

      In a web form, hitting tab usually navigates you to the next field

    7. lemon*

      In Excel, you can use ctrl + D to copy values down a column, rather than having to look for the teeny-tiny green square icon in the lower right corner and pulling that down with your mouse.

      1. Spice*

        This is my favorite recently discovered Excel keyboard shortcut as well! It’s much faster than highlighting, copying, and pasting.

      2. Spencer Hastings*

        I’d been using that one for a while, but only recently learned that Ctrl+R does the same for copying left to right.

    8. Billy Preston*

      shift + tab to move back a form field instead of forward (tab)
      windows + right or left arrow to dock a window on the right or left side of the screen
      ctrl + shift + z (or sometimes ctrl + y) to redo your last undo

    9. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      CTRL-F to find text within a document, web page, etc.

      CTRL-N to open a new document

      CTRL-F4 to close a window/document within an application.
      ALT-F4 to close/exit the entire application.

      CTRL-K to insert a hyperlink

      Not a keyboard shortcut, but in Excel, if you double-click the format paintbrush, it copies the formatting of the cell you are in and then you can easily copy that formatting to other cells. Seems like hardly anyone knows this.

    10. Lawnonymous*

      The F4 key when the Function Lock is on is “do again”. (e.g. bold some text, highlight more text and then hit F4)

    11. RagingADHD*

      Alt + 0151. My beloved em dash that you will have to pry from my cold dead hands. Do I overuse it? Absolutely. Am I going to change that? Never.

    12. SalesInParties*

      For the AAM-ers who have made the leap to running their own business, what are the books/podcasts, etc that have helped you get a handle on marketing/making sales? I help my husband run a small llama grooming and bathing business, but we’re struggling to bathing customers in the door.

      We have a reasonable stable of grooming clients, but we also need to raise prices a bit there (about 10%). Any thoughts on wording?

      thanks, y’all

    13. ecnaseener*

      I think I learned about this one from another thread on this site a few weeks ago: Windows key + V to pull up a list of ALL the things you copied recently and paste whichever one you want. Game-changer if like me you’re prone to getting sidetracked in between copying & pasting!

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        This is one of my favorites too! You can also “pin” things in that menu, which is useful if you have a few things that you say repeatedly since you can just permanently have them in your paste buffer.

      2. anon24*

        Just want to point out that this only works if clipboard history is turned on. And from a security perspective, consider whether you want it turned on. For some people, this is completely fine, but for others who may be copying and pasting sensitive data it isn’t, because anyone with access to your computer (nefarious or other) can get access to your clipboard history. Think about if you use a password manager and copy passwords/usernames out of it into a field rather than auto filling them, if you copy and paste financial or health info, or anything else sensitive you copy and paste. Just your friendly PSA! I have it turned on on one of my computers and off on another, because I use them differently.

    14. TX_Trucker*

      In Excel, F4 will lock a cell position, for using it in formulas

      In Word, CTRL+Y to repeat an action.

      1. Dancing Otter*

        Yes, and F4 repeated will switch between absolute reference, absolute column only, absolute row only, and back to relative address. Love it!

    15. Lady Alys*

      Getting something like Espanso or Beeftext (both free) set up on your computer (TextExpander for Mac users[$]) lets you create your own shortcuts for frequently-used text. I have my email address, phone number, standard email phrases and signatures, etc etc etc all set up with hotkeys. Any time I find myself typing something more than a few times, I make a shortcut for it. This has been an amazing timesaver over the years.

    16. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Ctrl + Shift + Esc – Task manager (Windows)
      Shift + Esc – Task Manager (Chrome)
      Alt + (numeric keypad): 130 – é, 160 – á, 161 – í, 162 – ó, 163 – ú, 164 – ñ, 171 -¡, 173 – ¿
      Windows + R, Alt + F2 – run application (dialog box)
      Ctrl + Ins = Ctrl + X
      Shift + Ins = Ctrl + V
      Windows + Tab = Task switch (as an array)
      Ctrl + Alt + L = lock computer

      1. Anax*

        The Task Manager shortcut has been a lifesaver for me! I used to have a computer where Windows Explorer would lock up, and it was hard to open Task Manager in the ‘normal’ way – which is a pain, because Task Manager is the easiest way to restart Windows Explorer. And it always impresses friends and colleagues, lol.

    17. beep beep*

      Ctrl + A to grab EVERYTHING. Super helpful if you’re copying and pasting a lot of data! Also holding down ctrl while selecting more than one (but not every) file in your file explorer (like if you’re uploading multiple documents to a website, or moving them to a different folder, or whatever.)

      1. StarryStarryNight*

        Seconding CTRL + Shift + V to paste something without any formatting. If you do anything that involves writing or editing, this will save you a lot of hassle.

        Also, Windows key + . (period) will bring up an emoji keyboard which I use rarely, but it always cheers me up when I do

    18. Quinalla*

      Lots of good ones suggested, I also use:

      CTRL+A to select all (usually text) in a cell/document/etc.
      CTRL+N to create a new page in a lot of programs, I use it in onenote a ton
      CTRL+B/U/I for bold, underline, or italic respectively
      WindowsKey+Shift+L/Rarrow – move windows between monitors
      ALT+F4 to close out of a program

    19. Anax*

      Windows + R to open the “run” window. Then … lots of things, like “cmd”, “regedit”, and “services.msc”.

      This is mostly handy if you’re in IT; it can be the easiest way to get to a lot of the “power user” programs like the above, especially if search indexing is running slow or Windows keeps trying to point you at “user-friendly” apps and not the power-user versions.

      More importantly for most people, if you’re on the line with tech support and they need to check some specific setting or run a specific script – this is probably how they’ll do it. The hotkey is the invisible step you can’t see while they’re remoted into your computer.

    20. Laika*

      When entering text into a field (like Word, or an AAM comment!), you can use ctrl+left/right arrow keys to jump the cursor over whole words instead of letter-by-letter.

      You can pair this with shift+ctrl+arrow to select multiple words at a time. Makes re-writing things so much quicker!

    21. allathian*

      In addition to ctrl+Z, ctrl+C, ctrl+V and ctrl+X, I also use ctrl+S to save a lot. That’s going to change as we switch from network drives to the cloud and constant autosaves, but for now it’s necessary.

      But my absolute favorite is ctrl+shift+spacebar for a hard space. I mainly write in Finnish and Swedish and in those languages units like the percent sign, currencies, etc. require a space when they’re preceded by a number. The hard space ensures that they stay together and the sign doesn’t get dropped to the next line.

    22. WheresMyPen*

      Finding out that I can get accented characters to pop up on a Mac by long-pressing the different letters is game changing for me! I regularly type in French and Spanish and can never remember the different shortcuts so this helps me so much!

  15. Hamster pants*

    Work relationships vs friendships

    In the camping trip post from earlier this week, Alison wrote about how work relationships are important:

    Relationships matter at work — they influence who gets turned to for input, who gets extra help, whose voices are listened to and elevated, who get mentored and supported, who’s given grace and the benefit of the doubt (and who isn’t), who’s more comfortable with who, and who gets thought of for a job years from now when you’ve all moved on to other employers. There’s a reason networking with coworkers is valuable

    This was always my understanding of healthy professional friendly relationships at work. and that of course there are boundaries and behavior to maintain to keep that line between work friend and friend friend.

    Personally at my current job my expectation/goal was to have a good relationship with my team. Reality has been that the team I am on is very cliquish. Admittedly it did bother me in the past but I’ve moved past it now.

    For the most part, I get along with most everyone else. I’m friendly, have a good attitude and disposition at work. I’ve found the people I can ask for (work) advice or bounce ideas/questions off of. I have many ppls contact info but don’t really talk to anyone outside of work, much less see anyone (the latter only because my life just doesn’t allow for it right now but if I was invited, I’d probably be open to it.)

    I know I brought up this topic in a different context a few months ago and people said my expectations were skewed. I have since then reflected and modified my mindset and behavior. So…everyone says “you’re not at work to make friends” but I feel there is a huge difference between cultivating positive work relationships and needing to create bonds.

    Am I missing anything? What else is needed to cultivate strong work relationships? is there a diff between good attitude and disposition? Can a struggling performer ever be “liked”? I read the post about Perdita as well, and while I recognized some similarities, I don’t feel I’m the same behavior as them….

    1. TechWorker*

      To answer a tiny bit of this, yes struggling performers can definitely be liked. There are people at my site who I got on with socially/are generally well liked (& still do get on with them, tho at more of a distance) before they moved onto my team and it was clear they struggle with the work. If you struggle to the point you make your coworkers jobs harder those particular coworkers may not be able to separate that socially, but some will, and there’s nothing stopping you being friendly with people who work a little further away from your own work.

      1. Hamster pants*

        If you struggle to the point you make your coworkers jobs harder those particular coworkers may not be able to separate that socially, but some will, and there’s nothing stopping you being friendly with people who work a little further away from your own work.

        that makes SO MUCH sense, thanks!

      2. There You Are*

        Yep. There’s a person on my team who is as sweet and kind as the day is long, but she appears to be incapable of making the leap from, “This is really complex, please tell me what to do,” to “This is really complex, but it looks like it’s made up of a bunch of smaller things that I’ve encountered before, so I can apply that knowledge to this problem and know exactly what to do.”

    2. jellied brains*

      To your question about struggling performers, I think it depends on what they’re doing and how they respond to advice/constructive criticism.

      I worked with a dude who was such a pigheaded idiot. He lasted far longer than he should have but this is why people didn’t like him: He’d make a mistake, we’d correct him, he’d act like he never made the mistake or imply we were liars for pointing out the error. This was a job where incorrect information was dangerous, not simply annoying to correct.
      He was just so incredibly difficult to work with that no one liked him.

      But I’ve also worked with people who were awesome, but not right for the role and I missed them when they were fired. They worked hard and did their best, so even though they were failing, they didn’t make it anyone else’s problem to solve.

      1. Hamster pants*

        That’s a good point I didn’t really think about. I’ve known ppl at my previous jobs who’d be really difficult when corrected.
        I just mentioned Perdita because the “coming to me with tears” resonated with me.
        Being corrected is still something I’m not sure how to “master” – I know not to be rude, or deny, but in an effort to show that I’m serious and not being careless or cavalier, I err on the side of being quiet.

        1. There You Are*

          The work I do is frequently reviewed by peers before it is reviewed by management. We correct each other’s stuff all the time, which has made it easier to receive corrections overall.

          My go-to is, “Ooh! Good catch. Thank you so much for finding that!”

    3. Rainy*

      I don’t really socialize with coworkers outside of work except for a couple of people that I really super click with. But I do socialize *inside* of work with people across my office, both in person if we’re both in that day, or on Teams chat. I find that that’s really all I need, it keeps the doors open for collaboration etc, and people are pretty understanding of my need for a lot of alone time to recharge given my role. The people who aren’t understanding of that aren’t my people and I don’t care what they think as long as they respect our differences.

      1. allathian*

        I don’t socialize with any coworkers outside of work because there isn’t anyone I currently work with who I click with to that point. But I get along with all of them and questions about vacation plans or what we did last weekend aren’t fraught at all, because all answers are valid. I’m very comfortable saying simply “I vegetated on the couch and watched Netflix all weekend” if that’s what I’ve done.

        I’m a translator so there’s very little collaboration and what little there is, is almost exclusively asynchronous (proofreading). My job description doesn’t require me to go to the office at all, except for the occasional in-person development day, but when I go, I basically go there to socialize. Obviously I respect that others go there to work, and I don’t sit in the break room all day, either, but I get much more done at home and my manager accepts that. But I’ve noticed that my job satisfaction’s gone up now that I can go to the office occasionally.

    4. K8T*

      Tbh the best thing “struggling” workers can do is cultivate strong work bonds to offset potential deficiencies. In each job I’ve been at there’s been someone who may not be great but everyone likes them so they have more wiggle room performance-wise (when I say struggling I mean an occasional error or we may have had to do some extra prompting for a task – nothing /too/ annoying otherwise the likability wouldn’t matter.) It’s not necessarily fair but social capital can get you pretty far.

      I think the best way to connect with people is to remember details and then ask them about it later. Like “Tom” mentions his daughter is playing a softball tournament over the weekend on a Friday – asking him on Monday how she did really reflects well on you.

    5. Hiring Mgr*

      There’s also nothing really wrong with actually being friends with colleagues outside work. Thousands and thousands of people do this all the time with no issues. I had some colleagues at my wedding, and there are still folks from old jobs I’m friends with now.

      I know there are pitfalls, but it’s really super common

      1. K8T*

        Agreed! One of my best friends is a coworker from a few jobs ago. It makes sense to connect with people you spend 40 hours a week with.

      2. RagingADHD*

        Yes, this is very common. However, I think if someone is looking to work as their only / primary source of social connections it can put too much pressure on coworkers and actually push people away. The adage that “you’re not at work to make friends” doesn’t preclude making real friends. It’s a question of focus.

        1. Hamster pants*

          It’s a question of focus.
          I think this is the best way to have put this and I can’t believe it never registered or stuck until very recently. When the focus on being liked/building relationships eclipses focusing on work, this is crossing into the *not-great* territory.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            I am close friends with some people I work with, because we get along, obviously, and more importantly it’s clear that we aren’t using work time to fill our friendship bag, if that makes sense. We don’t take up tons of time discussing personal topics or plans (some, maybe five minutes at a stretch.) We ask after each others’ pets and so on, but when at work we are working.

            I also work with another person who is a human gum wad on a chair, waiting desperately to attach himself to your pants. He is DESPERATE to be liked, rabid for friendship, and it’s clear that there’s no way to be “occasionally including” him–ask him to join you for one movie and as far as he’s concerned you are Ride or Die BFFS 4 LYFE. It is exhausting, and his visceral longing for a social life is ironically what’s keeping him at arm’s length from having any real bonds at work.

            1. Hamster pants*

              Oh no! I feel bad for him; I knew someone like that as well and I felt so guilty for being put off by it but he would say things like “aw you look so tired, are you OK?” Like…I’m FINE I’m just not wearing makeup!
              I hope he’s doing fine wherever he is.
              I have made 1 friend who’s in a separate department, but I’ve made sure to stay careful.

        2. Sleepy in the stacks*

          Completely agree with this. I’m someone who doesn’t mind being friendly with coworkers, but I don’t want to be friends with them necessarily. It’s nice to be able to divide my work life and home life. I had a coworker who used work as a way to make friends and it was exhausting to work with them because every conversation turned into something we could do that weekend. Like, I spend 40 hours with you a week, I want me time, family time, etc. It really made me start avoiding her as much as possible.

      3. mreasy*

        It’s basically impossible not to do that in my niche or my industry. Sometimes it causes some complexity, but because it’s so common people are used to how you have to separate those relationships in work evaluations etc.

      4. Hamster pants*

        I honestly don’t think there’s anything wrong with that either. One of my best friends is actually my former coworkers and his wife – our kids are the same age and we have a lot of things in common. When I was still working there, I was friends with enough people, dinners out a few times a year etc (I also did not have a child at that time, so there was that).

        I didn’t come in to this job looking to replicate that though, but definitely yes to wanting good relationships.

      5. Tio*

        The biggest thing about this though is relative position in the company. If you’re at the same level or in a non-supervisory role, absolutely. But where it gets messy being friends outside work is when you are, or can reasonably anticipate supervising them or being in any in charge of or influencing their career path then it becomes murky.

        That said, you don’t have to be friends with people outside of work to build strong bonds with them. Remember personal bits and ask them about it; hang out at lunch time or do an activity with them during lunch (walking/book club/weekly new restaurant order) and you can build some strong relationships.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            The old adage “People may forget what you do or say, but never how you made them feel” is a good one. Simple asking after someone’s pet, enquiring how a hobby’s going, etc. pay enormous dividends because knowing “Hamster Pants pays enough attention to remember X about me” can mean the world.

            1. Hamster pants*

              I feel like that belongs up there with that golden rule! Ive never gone out of my way to be mean or rude to anyone but maybe it comes across that way when I’m upset about something or concentrating hard – I’ve been told my concentration face looks “upset”

    6. RagingADHD*

      People who have worked together a long time are naturally going to have a closer bond that someone who is newer, and there really is no magic technique to jump the line. It just takes time.

      I think a struggling performer can be liked, but one important aspect of all relationships is reciprocity. It can be harder for someone who is struggling with their work to be in a position to help other people. Part of what builds those strong friendly relationships is knowing that the other person has your back. If someone repeatedly lets you down or is always needing something, you don’t feel like you can turn to them when you need something yourself.

      So think about what you’re bringing to the group work-wise as well as personality wise. Do you have the time / capacity to pick up minor tasks for others when they are slammed? Can you be relied on to pass messages or follow up on things? Are you organized so you always have the right form/contact info/ policy number handy? Do you keep on top of all the company announcements so you can clarify when the party is? Even something as simple as asking if anyone needs anything if you’re ordering lunch or supplies can be a cheerful little favor.

      I’m not saying you have to do all these things, but it helps if you can be counted on for something.

      1. Hamster pants*

        This is really amazing and helpful advice, thank you!

        Realistically, yes I might not be able to answer a question. But if someone comes up and asks “does anyone have time to do task” I can certainly volunteer. (The problem sometimes is by the time I’m ready to volunteer, the other person has already jumped up to volunteer). But everything else, makes a LOT of sense.

        One thing I’ve done differently over the last few months is if someone asks me to do something, I do it right away/push it to front of the line if I’m in the middle of a task. One of the issues I was talked to about was timeliness, so I decided that if something will take less than 2 hours, I’ll do it right away unless they specify after xyz is OK.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Asking for a timeline from the person who needs the task will mean a lot–when you say “Sure! Right now I can either finish Project X and get this done by tomorrow, or I can finish this by the end of today and X by Thursday” shows you know your schedule and how to juggle things. (It also keeps you from taking on too much and then realizing you have to finish A-Z by five pm!)

          1. Hamster pants*

            Oh that’s helpful. When I first started I did struggle with asking my boss if something was high priority or not – eventually we figured out a rhythm.

    7. Punk*

      I’m saying this out of kindness in the interest of honestly answering the question you’re asking. Every week you post similar questions here and it’s just known that you’re not going to follow the advice. But you keep asking as if there’s a way to get a response saying that you’re doing nothing wrong and everyone else is failing you. Is there a chance you’re doing this at work? Are you trauma dumping? Saying too much about your mom and health concerns? Because – and again I’m sorry – but someone who frequently runs afoul of the rules on this online forum might also be missing social cues in real life.

      But also, real people are not vehicles for other people’s learning experiences. They don’t exist so other people can experiment with different modes of friendship on them. You can expect your coworkers to give you unlimited chances to figure out how to interact with them. I don’t really know what else to say. I feel like we’ve been answering different versions of this question for five years. If I’m feeling this way I can imagine that your coworkers feel similarly.

      I’m rooting for you, I really am, but if you truly want to get a handle on the basics social interaction, you’re not going to accomplish that in the comments section of a workplace advice blog.

      1. Hamster pants*

        Oh, I don’t trauma dump at work. I have made it a very firm rule to not discuss my problems like that at work.

        1. MSTe*

          I’m going to bet it has a lot to do with asking the same questions over and over. People don’t really like that.

      2. Polly Hedron*

        I’m saying this out of kindness in the interest of honestly answering the question you’re asking. Every week you post similar questions here and it’s just known that you’re not going to follow the advice.
        But you keep asking as if there’s a way to get a response saying that you’re doing nothing wrong and everyone else is failing you.

        Punk, Hamster Pants has not been posting every week. I can find posts only on the open thread for September 8-9 and to a post on May 23. Links to follow below.

        1. It's Not You, It's Me*

          Hamster Pants also goes by different names (which is fine!) but if you were only searching by that name, you wouldn’t see how often she posts.

            1. It's Not You, It's Me*

              because Hamster Pants has herself said what her past usernames were. I think she even said she is Potatoes in one of the posts you linked.

              1. Over It*

                And she was Flowers before that, MOAS before that, Nervous Accountant as well. None of this is a secret.

            2. YNWA*

              And in the past this particular poster has become quite snippy if someone wasn’t fully aware of her posting history and situation due to her name switching so I think now she readily admits new/old names.

    8. Lily Potter*

      Part of the problem when discussing this topic is that people have wildly different interpretations of the word “friend”. To some, “friend” is anyone you’ve talked with for a half hour at a cocktail party. To others, you need to have known the person for many years and stood beside one another through emotional trauma in order to gain the title “friend”.

      To your question “What else is needed to cultivate strong work relationships?” – I’m not going to be popular in saying this, but only once in 30+ years of working have I seen someone be very successful at cultivating strong co-worker relationships while being a remote worker. I truly do think that, in order to really bond, people need to spend time in one another’s physical presence. Off-topic chit-chat, private grousing about the boss, and experiencing the thrill that is the common office fridge are examples of the kind of things that don’t translate well to Zoom. Drive by “Come on into my office, let me show you something and bounce around some ideas” happens often in person, not so much with Zoom. Or something as silly as the interested office women running over to Daphne’s cube to see her wedding photo proofs when she gets them or running over to admire the new baby of a co-worker. Good relationships and friendships are both strengthened by regular, physical proximity.

      1. Hamster pants*

        Those are really good points!
        and yes to being physical. I’m sure there are people who can be very social and have great work relationships being remote but I need the physical proximity (of course with the proper physical distance/personal space!)

      2. RagingADHD*

        I don’t know that it has to be physical, but frequent, spontaneous, casual engagement is what builds authentic personal connections. That happens in some kinds of online spaces where people go to “hang out” in a similar way that they hang out in person. It’s not unusual for people to wind up in long-term relationships or get married that way.

        It is highly unlikely to happen through remote work because 1) instant messages are distracting and too short for real conversation; 2) video meetings almost always have to be scheduled; and 3) you always have this awareness that anything you commit to company resources can be monitored.

        It’s just not conducive.

    9. ABC*

      Does your job performance affect anyone else? Does anyone else have to spend a lot of their time answering your repeated questions, performing multiple reviews of your work, correcting your work, etc.? If so, the hard truth is that will absolutely affect your relationship with your coworkers, and they might not be inclined to be sociable. It’s the same way that I don’t really want to be friends with the one neighbor who blows their leaves into my yard, even if they seem like an okay person otherwise.

    10. green beans*

      I have a very, very low tolerance for incompetence (real incompetence, not “I haven’t been trained yet”; “early in career”; “new to the field/task/whatever” “not new but still learning and making progress” or “I’m having issues and have clearly communicated reasonable accomodations needed to get the work done”) – whether or not I ‘like’ you as a coworker comes down to “are you competent when I am working with you” and “are you a decent human being who treats others well?” If the answer to either is no, we generally will have issues.

      I have been the first person multiple times to flag/escalate smaller issues with coworkers that later turned into huge issues apparent throughout their work. (In fact, come to think of it, I’ve never escalated issues that didn’t later turn out to be part of a much bigger overall problem. Most issues can be solved with a conversation, or at most, a “hey this process isn’t working for either of us, help us make it better” with a manager. Most people can succeed with proper support and resources.)

      But a lot of times, the reason I’m the first person to flag is because I really don’t care how nice you are, or how hard you’re trying, or the fifty million reasons why you can’t. So I would say, yes, being nice and well-liked matters a lot, and it can buy a lot of social capital that can earn more leeway than is warranted.

    11. Away message*

      I’m confused about your expectations. It sounds like you are friendly at work? Are you defining work friends as people who hang out outside of work?

      And as for the struggling performer part, I’d be cordial and professional, but if someone was dragging down my team I’d have a hard time being work BFFs.

      1. almost retired*

        I made it a rule not to make personal friends at work. I’m professional and polite, be sure to ask how xx is doing, or what they did that summer, and congratulate people on their success. I’ll help someone if I am asked. And I work hard and perform and get excellent evaluations. But work colleagues have no place in my private life, and I don’t share much with them other than innocuous information…I liked that movie, we enjoyed our visit to x event, etc.

        I’ve started WFH almost entirely a couple years ago, and that also helps maintain good boundaries. When I was younger and starting out in the workforce, that boundary was too blurred, and it hurt me professionally when I was betrayed by someone very competitive. So now, just surface info is all I’ll share. Work colleagues are kind of to me what neighbours are…you are friendly, polite, give them misaddressed packages, and you maintain your property and don’t make noise/be obnoxious. Same parameters at work. You do your job, you are friendly/professional, and help out. But you limit the chit-chat, etc. don’t mix business with pleasure.

  16. jellied brains*

    This is probably better for a letter but: how do you become more sociable at work when there are very few work events?

    I had my annual review last week and one of the things I got dinged on was that I’m not demonstrably social enough for the C-suite. Normally I wouldn’t care because I don’t go to work to fill my social meter, but apparently this is stopping me from being promoted/being sent to industry conferences which I’d really like to do.

    I say hello/good morning to people, I’m polite and “have a good attitude” according to the review. I don’t get any opportunities to speak to the C-suite because hello, I’m just a grunt. I know I sound like a grump but I really do make an effort to be upbeat and personable at work. I scored the second highest on this metric, just not high enough.

    I’m really at a loss. I asked my boss and she could only give me an example from like 6 months ago where I declined a last minute happy hour invitation because I had previous plans.

    Any advice?

    1. Kel*

      Can you step in and organize your own event? Bring treats in for people on a Friday? Organize another happy hour? A lunch and learn?

      1. MsM*

        Or see if any of the C-suite folks are willing to meet for lunch/coffee one on one? “Just a grunt” doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not willing to talk to you if you’re taking the initiative to seek their advice.

        1. The Meat Embezzler*

          Yup, this is what I’d suggest. If your organization doesn’t have much in the way of networking/social events where you can get face time with the higher ups, you need to blaze your own path.

            1. MsM*

              Email request, copying their assistants if they have them. You can be direct that you’re looking to take on more responsibility or a more public face with the organization, and would welcome their insight and advice.

            2. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

              Is this feedback actually coming from them? Or from your boss?

              Not sure how many levels you have, but you can still schedule skip level meetings or drop in if they have an open door policy. I had a director I really disliked, but he thought he was friendly. So once when I was out sick he gave an update on some pet project. The next time we were both in the office, I dropped in to say I had missed it and asked him if he would give me the update in person. It made him happy and it gave me face time with him while he grumbled about a project that mattered to him. My boss was thrilled when I told her I did this.

              Alternately, if they work in a different part of the building, can you go to the water cooler, kitchen area, coffee maker near their offices? Then you can run into them more often.

              Or you could be more formal and actually schedule a skip level meeting to talk about what the path to promotion looks like.

            3. Throwaway Account*

              Can you ask their admin to make an appointment for coffee with them? That is really all it takes. Ask for an appointment!
              Treat it like an information interview, to learn more about how they got where they are and if you have your ducks in a row to get where you want to go.

            4. UKDancer*

              Drop them an email (or to their assistant) and set something up.

              Most people love talking about themselves and being the wise mentor. Ask them about a particular project, or their strategic vision for the company, or their career journey. Unless someone is extremely taciturn, most people will be up for sharing their experiences.

    2. Elle*

      That is very unhelpful of your boss. I would go back and see if you can get specific examples of how you can be more social going forward. Try to find out what the expectations are.

      1. WantonSeedStitch*

        This. It’s important to follow up “you need to be more X” with examples of what being more X would look like. “You need to be more sociable.” “When you’re in a project meeting, you often come across as impatient with any discussion not directly related to the project. In situations like that, joining in social discussion can help build and strengthen relationships, which can be more important than pure efficiency. Trust the facilitator to keep the meeting on track, or talk to them privately after the meeting if the work really isn’t getting done.”

      2. fine tipped pen aficionado*

        Another +1 to this. Part of your manager’s role is to either give you the solution or guide you through figuring out the solution for yourself.

      3. Quinalla*

        Agreed, go back and get more from your boss. If you can, bring a few ideas and ask if these ideas will be helpful to improve or no.

    3. Rainy*

      Lol, I’d probably start looking for another job, because if the metric for success is me turning into Miss Congeniality, that’s just never going to happen. My actual work more than satisfies any need I’d have for talking to other people at work. I mostly don’t go to happy hours and other outside of work stuff like that–Mr Rainy is sober (going on 2 years!) and so I don’t want to make him sit through spouses invited stuff at bars, and while I’ll still have a drink when I’m out sometimes, at a certain point you’re just…paying too much for lemonade and most people are talking about work anyway.

    4. EA*

      If you drink coffee/tea, I find that chatting with people while getting coffee, drinking coffee, and even washing your cup is an informal way to socialize.

      I think a being “social” is considered a C Suite quality because you end up doing more people management than anything else. Do you think this could be their (not very helpful) way of saying that you haven’t demonstrated leadership skills? Could you offer to lead / coordinate some projects going forward?

    5. AnotherLibrarian*

      If this is stopping you from being sent to conferences or being promoted, than I think you need to speak with your boss and ask a slightly different question, maybe something like, “I would really like to develop more professionally and maybe go to a conference sometime. What would I need to do to make something like that an option?” And then listen.

      I think what they might be pointing at is a need to learn how to be “on” which is a sort of a hard to explain networking skill where you make friendly small talk and leave a warm impression on people. It’s the 5 minutes of chatting before the meeting gets down to business. It’s offering to grab everyone coffee when you go to get yours. It’s occasionally bringing in baked treats or emailing a colleague a funny cartoon you saw that made you think of them. All of these things add up in small ways to being “congenial” at work. It’s tough, because like a lot of soft skills, it is not an easy thing to teach or explain or give feedback on without sounding like you’re criticizing someone’s entire personality.

    6. Irish Teacher.*

      The first thing I’d ask is…are you sure your boss is being reasonable? If he could only give one example and it’s a pretty ridiculous one, it’s possible he’s just completely off base here.

      Otherwise, do you eat lunch with people? Chat to people during downtimes? When you say “hello/good morning” to people, do you just say that and move on or do you stop for a chat? Do you ask questions that indicate you have an interest in people, like “how’s your mum now? You mentioned last week she was sick” or “did you enjoy that play you mentioned you were going to see at the weekend?”

  17. Queer Columbo*

    This is a very silly question but…:

    For those of you who take a lot of video calls AND wear makeup…how do you look Awake and Refreshed in the morning? My responsibilities are changing (in a good way!) and I will now be in a lot more meetings. We don’t really have a camera-on video culture, but since I am remote and most of my coworkers are in an office, being on video would be helpful. My hours are shifting slightly to start at 6-7am my time and I am a perpetually bad sleeper. I do enjoy wearing makeup and normally do on calls but would prefer any additional tips to looking REAL awake and like a born morning person. Thank you!

    1. Educator*

      I finally got one of those ring lights to make sure I am bathed in a warm, flattering glow during every call, regardless of time of day. It made more of a difference for the early morning calls than the entire contents of my makeup bag.

        1. Rainy*

          Yup. You’re looking for a ring light that has multiple light temperatures, and is more than 8″ in diameter.

        2. Educator*

          Yes, if you search “ring light” on Amazon, you will get about 20 pages of results. Mine is literally in a ring shape and attaches to my monitor, right next to the webcam.

      1. K8T*

        +1000
        Lighting is the key here – nothing too harsh. Most ring lights have adjustable settings so you can play around and see which works best for you. Also the best lighting in the morning may not be the best lighting in the afternoon.

      2. Three Cats in a Trenchcoat*

        I second this! I have a video camera with a built in ringlight that is definitely overkill for doing telemedicine with (its designed for people streaming video, I think), but the better lighting goes a LONG way to making me look more put together than I am.

      3. The New Wanderer*

        I got a ring light for the same reason, it makes a big difference in how I appear on video. However, I discovered that I hate having it on. Something about the light or its position in front of me just hurts my eyes, regardless of the color temp or brightness. I am also prone to migraines so that is probably a factor in how sensitive my eyes are to light. It is workable because I never have a video-on call longer than an hour and usually don’t have video on at all, but something to be aware of if you need to use it multiple hours per day, every day.

        For makeup, I find that even simple eye liner or eye shadow by itself helps me look more awake. A colleague does noticeable lipstick in addition to eye makeup, which works for her.

        1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

          Seconding the eyeliner! Key for me is NOT to put it on the tear line – it makes eyes look smaller and emphasizes any redness.

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          Eyeliner is my desert island cosmetic–I can do without everything else, but liner makes the difference between “I am a pulled together professional adult” and “I woke up on a beach wearing a thong and a sombrero twenty minutes ago.”

    2. Baby Yoda*

      I get up at least an hour and a half before starting time and drink a lot of coffee. Might not work for everyone though.

    3. WantonSeedStitch*

      Concealer under the eyes, powder or matte setting spray to help your face reflect light better on camera, mascara, maybe some brow makeup. It makes a world of difference. You can add more fun stuff later on in the day if you have time, but those basics are quick and do the most to help your on-camera look.

      1. SansaStark*

        These are all what I do and curl my eyelashes for a more “awake” look. I also add tinted lipgloss because my lips aren’t particularly pigmented so the gloss helps that illusion of a put-together face.

        1. mreasy*

          A bold lip is also great for meetings in which you need to speak a lot. I find it helps people pay attention (and gives me a bit of confidence).

      2. fine tipped pen aficionado*

        Spot on! And as Cookies suggests, if you have long hair put that in an updo. It only has to look good from the front. And everyone is right about the ring light as well. Even with the ring light, try not to be backlit by a window.

        Another pro tip, both Zoom and Teams have lighting adjustments and softening filters that can help you look a little more lively. I find slightly raising my brows and smiling also helps.

        Good luck! And for the record — it’s fine to not care and look like a swamp creature. It’s also fine if you don’t want to!! But loads of people drag in the mornings and you aren’t going to stand out in a bad way if you do, too. Still totally valid to want to fake it til you make it or stand out as being someone who doesn’t drag in the AM. :)

      3. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Seconding this. You don’t need a full face of makeup – I do brows, lashes, lips (meaning a smidge of mascara and some lipbalm/lipgloss not a full evening lip) And it makes a world of difference. I think about it as highlighting the things people look at to read your expressions, so sprucing them a bit makes you look more expressive and therefore more awake.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Depending on the office culture, the full slap might look a little odd at six am as well! I would expect most people to be “I have on a shirt and I brushed my hair. You want more, come back after ten” as their look at that hour.

      4. Ama*

        Brow makeup is the absolute biggest difference for me — my natural brows don’t read well on camera but I find even a little bit of powder makes me look both more awake and more polished — brow powder and slightly tinted lip balm reads like an entire face of makeup on screen for me.

    4. Cookies for Breakfast*

      As a woman who looks a lot younger than her age, I used to wear makeup every day when working in-office. Now I work mostly remotely (at a workplace with a fairly strong camera-on culture), I never do if I’m working from home. Makeup is very much an “outside” thing for me, so I don’t enjoy using up my products unless I’m going somewhere else later in the day.

      This is what serves me well in my current job:

      1) If I don’t have time to shower before a call, I put on a top that doesn’t scream “this is what I slept in” (i.e. no visible creases or brash colours / quirky patterns). It’s always something that blends in with my colleagues’ casual dress code: band / event t-shirts and hoodies are not out of place where I work, and everything else I wear is somewhere in the “business casual” spectrum. My partner wears office-appropriate shirts on top of the shorts he sleeps in, which is a pretty funny sight when I happen to walk past.

      2) I brush my hair and pull up the sides, so I don’t look like I have matted hair, or messy strands covering my forehead. With this + point 1, I look like someone who’s ready to go about their day and could easily leave the house for an errand at any point, and that’s enough to look functional at my workplace. I used to straighten my hair every day to go to the office, again because it made me feel more confident of my professional look, and now I’ve learnt my hair looks just as fine without.

      3) If I can, I have breakfast before calls begin. I get the mental high from having had my coffee, and since I’ve had some time to be out of bed minding my own business, I end up looking and feeling more awake in the meetings, even when my innermost desire is rolling back into bed.

      I hope at least a little bit of this helps. I’ll say that constantly seeing myself on camera looking this casual has helped me become a lot less self-conscious about makeup, which I’ve cut down on a lot even when I go out. Of course, this is very much a “know your workplace” situation, and luckily I’m in a pretty relaxed culture :)

    5. Chauncy Gardener*

      Seconding the good lighting. Also, if you’re using zoom you can increase the personal appearance filter. I swear it takes off ten years!

      1. No Tribble At All*

        Here to also recommend the “touch up my appearance” slider on Zoom. With just a little blurring it can auto-airbrush your skin so you can get away with much lighter foundation (ie just a powder). I usually do thick eyeliner, slight brows, and a brighter lip color so I’m less washed out if I’m going to be on camera for a Big Event. But letting Zoom take care of the even-out-my-skin thing is great!

        1. Just here for the scripts*

          Was coming here to say this—and man I wish I could find the lipstick color zoom gives me in a store somewhere! What difference!

      2. AMC*

        under eye patches/masks are a huge help for puffiness in the morning. You just need them o for maybe 10 minutes. Also hilighter or a very light colored eyeshadow in the inside corner of your eyes really makes look more awake.

    6. RagingADHD*

      Use a dot of light concealer on the inside and outside corner of your eyes. Add a dot of blush (I like a cream blush) to the center of your eyelids and the outer top angle of your cheekbones (not so much the apple of the cheek). Blend, of course.

      Having a little color in your face really helps.

    7. Just Here for the Llama Grooming*

      Ring lights rock. I also keep a solid color scarf (a pashmina sort of thing) and a lipstick in my desk for any “oh crap, two minutes and I look like death warmed over!” moments. Scarf covers the unfortunate encounter with lunch and lights up my face, lipstick can be cheek color too. Generally I wear a soft foundation, more brow makeup than I used to (postmenopausal women lose brow definition like, overnight), blush, and mascara. Also glasses! My frames are thin but a flattering color and I think that helps.

    8. Unkempt Flatware*

      Keep a jade roller frozen at all times and use every morning after washing and before moisturizing/foundation.

    9. WheresMyPen*

      Could you pop outside for five minutes or even sit by an open window before the call? I find fresh air really helps to wake me up on early mornings

  18. UnemployedInGreenland*

    So while I am looking for a full time job I have an offer to do a 5 week contract position on a training project out of town. They will pay me a per diem rate plus all travel expenses. I have a call with the woman from the contract company later today to get some more information. Anyone have any suggestions about what I should ask her? Any pitfalls I should look out for? I haven’t received the contract yet, but I know there is one coming at some point. She is still filling out the rest of the team.

    Thanks!

    1. Ssssssss*

      Do you know what all is considered a travel expense? What do they require receipts for? For example, our travel policy has a cap on per day meal reimbursement (needs receipts), does not normally cover laundry service, and has a specific “incidentals” amount that is typically very small for domestic travel but no receipts needed for it.

      Other questions that come to mind are do you get gas reimbursed, mileage, or both?

      I have no idea on what bigger questions to ask about the job itself, but that’s the kind of thing I’d ask about the travel policy just to try to limit surprise bills.

    2. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

      The first thing that leaps to mind is are they finding you accommodation and if so do you get to approve it? Or if you find it yourself, can they pay directly? I think that helps for your accounting purposes as a contractor. Do you get reimbursed for one or two trips back home during the 5 weeks? (if that’s something you’d want to do)

    3. kalli*

      What do they expect for out of hours availability – will you be expected to attend dinners, mark tests, prep materials etc? Are you just delivering a program or designing or customising it? Who are you training – are they all at the same level or different levels/teams?

      What does someone who finishes the program ready to take their new skill/s and use them look like?

  19. Hamster pants*

    A low stakes question – is it weird to have your own solo pictures in your office space? 

    In my office, the people who have pictures up have pix of their family, grandkids, pets etc. 

    I had a digital frame that I just never got time to set up (whoops!). So for now, I just have a picture of myself as a kid with my father. I brought it in to scan into a PDF (we’re allowed to do that). But I’ve ended up keeping it cz, well, dad’s dead and I miss him. It’s pretty hidden away so I can see it but no one else can.

    Again, it’s pretty low stakes. Just curious if there’s a perception and how it is in other ppls offices….

    1. Kel*

      It’s a picture of you and your dad, not a solo photo. If it was like, a headshot of yourself I might be a little weirded out, but this feels super normal.

    2. jellied brains*

      Echoing everyone else: it’s not a solo photo if someone else is in it.

      It’s perfectly normal to have a photo of you + someone else displayed.

      I’m sorry for your loss.

    3. Grogu's Mom*

      If it’s just like a headshot of you or something, then I would think that’s a little weird. But not weird if it’s with other people or pets, and not weird if it’s just you but doing an activity/hobby like holding up a fish you caught or posing in front of the Eiffel Tower on your last vacation. Definitely not weird to have one of you and your dad, as long as you don’t mind people noticing and commenting on it.

      1. Rainy*

        I love taking selfies of myself against whatever skyline or horizon is very distinctive (to me) when I go places, so I have a bunch of selfies of my face in one corner and beach/city/landmark behind me that it wouldn’t even have occurred to me would be odd to put up. (But I don’t have any in my office, it’s true.)

        1. RagingADHD*

          I don’t think that’s weird for the same reason – it’s about a specific memory of something you did.

    4. Double A*

      I think it would be weird if you just had, like, portraits of yourself or selfies. But it wouldn’t be weird if they were activity or travel pictures with just you in them, because presumably that would be about the memory, which is what the picture with your dad is. And pictures with you and another person are totally normal!

    5. Rainy*

      I have had a couple of colleagues over the years who were identical twins and they often had photos of their twin around their office to hilarious effect. But for what it’s worth, if I walked into someone’s office and saw a bunch (like A BUNCH) of photos that seemed like portraits of themself I would probably just assume they were a twin. :)

      Photos of you with someone else, though? Not at all weird and definitely not a “solo photo”.

    6. Hiring Mgr*

      As others have said, this isn’t a solo pic since your dad’s in it too. But even if it was just you, personally I couldn’t care less what type of photos people display. Wouldnt’ even register to me as anything unusual,

    7. Single Parent Barbie*

      That is something I never thought about. All though I do wonder about people who have a picture of themself, solo, on their phone as their screen saver.

      Its you, as a kid, with your dad. It is a non starter. In my office, I have a pic of my dad at work in the mid 70s. (OH THE SUITS AND HAIR!) A pic of me with my kids, a pic of my dogs, and a pic of me with my boyfriend. They are small, framed and in a bookshelf so I can see them from my desk, but anyone who walks in would have to turn around to look.

      True store – I dated a guy in college, and the first time he brought me home to “meet mom” , I walked into his room and there is a POSTER SIZE picture of him on the wall above his bed skiing. I should have seen that as the red flag it was. But I was young.

      1. Rainy*

        My bff dated a guy who slept on a twin size mattress on the floor and had a 3′ tall framed portrait of himself as a 5yo leaned against the wall next to it and she only told me after he dumped her because, and I quote “I told myself it wasn’t a big deal but I knew you would think it was, and you were right.”

      2. RagingADHD*

        My first thought about the lock screen would be that everyone their household has similar phones and leaves them around the house. Saves everyone yelling, “Whose phone is this?”

        1. Rainy*

          Oh, that makes perfect sense. I don’t know that I’d leap to it because I’ve always been in mixed relationships (I am Mac, I have never been with a fellow Mac-user). I offered to buy my husband an iPhone when he needed to replace his phone a few weeks ago and he bought another Android :P

    8. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      Hot take – I don’t care if it’s weird. I don’t have any pictures up at all, but I’m about to put up a bunch that are just me. I’m fun to look at and I won’t apologize!

      It varies from office to office, but honestly being a little bit quirky in largely harmless and unobtrusive ways has been beneficial in my office. It’s charming and memorable. People don’t forget who I am and there’s always something at hand to make small talk about. :) The unicorn mugs are very popular and get folks talking about their kids which is great because then all I have to do is listen.

    9. Hamster pants*

      Haha sorry folks, I should have clarified – I know the pic I described isn’t a solo picture. I was thinking more along the lines of selfies/or just me in random places.

      1. Tio*

        In specific places, like at a foreign city or something where that’s a focus in the picture, that’s normal. But if I went in and you just had like, a picture of yourself, unless it was a graduation picture or something obvious like that, I would find it weird, ngl XD

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        As long as you don’t have candles lit around them and an altar placed for offerings, I think you’re cool :)

    10. EA*

      I think it’s fine if the background is interesting, like places you’ve traveled. I had a picture of myself solo traveling in China at one point. But the main attraction and conversation starter was the Great Wall, not just my face!

      I would think a Glamour Shots type photo would be a little odd, though.

      1. Rainy*

        There’s a moderate trend in my office to use some filter/application that, if you input a photo of someone, will generate that very 80s Glamour Shot photo with the laser background etc, on people’s birthdays with a photo of them but not their knowledge, print the result, and stick it on their door as a surprise. I bet it looks a little weird to visitors…

  20. Bunny Watson*

    I’m wondering how long it’s taking people on average to find a job these days? I know it varies by industry, but just curious for an entry level position for a recent graduate how long it might take? Anyone with recent stories? Since several industries/companies are laying off people there is no shortage of people with some experience compared to a recent grad so I’m wondering how long of a ride I’m in for. Thanks.

    1. SalesInParties*

      For the AAM-ers who have made the leap to running their own business, what are the books/podcasts, etc that have helped you get a handle on marketing/making sales? I help my husband run a small llama grooming and bathing business, but we’re struggling to bathing customers in the door.

      We have a reasonable stable of grooming clients, but we also need to raise prices a bit there (about 10%). Any thoughts on wording?

      thanks, y’all

      1. SalesInParties*

        ack, I double-posted and replies both times?

        sorry. still getting a handle on the commenting interface

    2. Rainy*

      The standard average time to find a job is about 6-9 months. Recently I’ve seen people manage it in 3 1/2 months but for some more niche fields or people with very specific requirements it can take more like 8-10 months. Entry level for a recent graduate I’d probably expect it taking somewhere around 8 months from when you first started really applying.

    3. SalesInParties*

      6-9 months is not unusual. I know some people who have managed 3-4 but I would prepare for the search to take a while

    4. C.*

      It’s been taking me a while, to be honest. To be fair to myself, I’ve been offered positions this year, but they weren’t quite right. I was “second” for the one I really wanted, so that’s been a tough pill to swallow. But I think a big reason why it’s been slow is because I haven’t found many listings that have excited me—and now that I’m higher up and used to a certain salary bracket, those positions seem to be few and far between in my area. It’s going to take a while more, I would bet.

  21. HannahS*

    This is more school related, but anyway. I need to sticker-chart myself into studying more for my qualifying exams. I work more than full-time, volunteer for the union, and have a kid, so on days that I study, it means I either don’t get to time to be alone with my partner and decompress or I have to stay up super late and am exhausted the next day. All that to say, motivation is not coming easily.

    What are the rewards that you give yourself? I can’t stomach anything that would deprive me (like, “You can’t have another cup of tea until you study for an hour) but I can’t think of anything that I want. I’m sort of stuck on the fact that all I really want is hobby time, but I’m so short of time already that I honestly don’t think there’s room for it in my life right now. I need suggestions of more material things, or special outings, or something.

    1. Rage*

      Maybe just break up your studying with other tasks? For example, spend 30 minutes studying, then 30 minutes of “hobby-time”? Alternate back and forth. I’ve done this a lot and it’s amazing how much I can get done in a few hours.

      1. Anax*

        I do this too; I find it hugely helpful.

        There are a lot of pomodoro timers which you can put on your computer or phone, and I find that really helpful – it lets me reserve my clock app for things where I actually want an audible noise, like waking up from a nap on time. (My current favorite is “minimalist pomodoro timer” on Android.)

    2. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

      When I was a grad student working full time, I used to buy a box of fancy chocolates and tell myself I could have one once I did X study/school thing. It worked most of the time.

      Maybe you could let yourself buy something for your hobby after you accomplish X thing? That way, you’re preparing for when you have time to do your hobby?

    3. ZSD*

      Oh, man, I didn’t start working full-time until I was ABD and had collected all my dissertation data. I can’t imagine how exhausting it must be to study for quals while working.
      If what you want is hobby time, then you truly can make that your reward. For every ten (or eight, or whatever) articles you read, you get to spend two hours reading/knitting/building a birdhouse without feeling guilty about it.
      Personally, I’m into food, so my rewards were more along the lines of, “If I read at least 18 articles this week, I get to bake brownies on Sunday.” (But 18 was a reasonable goal for me since I wasn’t working outside of school. Obviously, you need to calibrate according to your situation.) If you want a special outing to be your reward, make it, “If I read at least X articles this week, we’ll get a baby-sitter and go to the nearest state parks as a couple this Sunday.”
      Best wishes for your success!

    4. KatyKat*

      I use an actual sticker chart. Yes, as an adult in my mid 30s.

      My system, in case any part of this is helpful to you: I print out a calendar and set a weekly goal (do X for 30 min per day, 4 days per week). I write on the calendar each time I do it, and if I hit the goal for the week I get a sticker on that week. I find that visual to be super helpful, as long as the goal is really achievable – i.e. what I’m tracking should be the “minimum” amount I want to do rather than the “it would really be ideal if I did twice that much” goal. That also helps on the days I REALLY don’t want to do it, to say “ok, it’s only 30 minutes, other times I’ve done a whole hour, I can drag myself through this today!”

      I’ve used this for a few personal goals and I really haven’t needed an actual physical reward. I’m with you that “No tea until you finish” is not really helpful, I need to be positively motivated.

      It sounds like you’re also already stretched so thin. Is there anywhere you can give yourself more flexibility / permission to deprioritize? You could see if you can conserve some of your energy, even if you can’t realistically remove time commitments. Ex. could you say “for the next 8 weeks, while I focus on this, I have my own permission to be a B- employee rather than aiming for A+”?

      1. Ama*

        I bought fancy stamps for the social media/marketing calendar for my sidegig — when I come up with a post idea and put it on the calendar I put a little square stamp and when I get it all written and scheduled for posting I add a checkmark stamp to the square. Yes, I could draw them on with pencil, but I’m way more motivated to do it when I use the stamps.

        On the rewards side, I have some fancy skincare products (serum+ moisturizer) that I’m not supposed to use everyday so I only use it on days that I do my running workouts. I’m not sure it motivates me to run *more* but it is nice to know I have a small luxury to reward myself with when I’m done.

    5. Tiny clay insects*

      I have found that delaying rewards doesn’t work for me (“if I finish this, THEN I can have that”)

      Instead, I have more success setting things up to be pleasant in the moment. Brewing good tea, getting out some chocolate, putting on music I like, and then doing the work.

      Forcing myself to do something unpleasant with a promise of a future reward, even if it is just 15 minutes into the future, won’t entice my brain. I have to find ways to make the activity enjoyable DURING it.

      Not sure if that helps you, but realizing this about myself made a big difference.

    6. SansaStark*

      This isn’t exactly the same thing, but I have a fancy/expensive candle that I looooove. I “treated” myself to burning it while I was studying for an exam. So maybe find a little ritual or treat that you can enjoy in the background like favorite music, a lovely candle, etc and use it as an incentive to enjoy the studying experience a little more?

    7. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Can you free up some time by temporarily volunteering less/not at all? I note that you want hobby time, but aren’t letting yourself have it (see above volunteering). The exam prep has a finite end date and then you can go back to being superwoman.

      Don’t deprive yourself, but also, don’t set such big chunks to earn your reward. An hour is a loooooong time. Reward yourself after 15 minutes or after X number of pages or whatever chunking works, but make it smaller. Have a glass of wine, a fancy chocolate, a fancy cheese, some popcorn, buy a new song, book, subscription, magazine, etc.

    8. NotBatman*

      For my qualifying exams, I recorded myself summarizing each chapter and article I needed to know… and then I did crafts while listening to my own recordings. It was great incentive to go “Once I have this article read, summarized, and paraphrased in my own words, then I’ll be able to spend all afternoon making cookies and building shelves — while also restudying this material at the same time.” It was like making the world’s most boring podcast, but it worked.

    9. EA*

      That kind of reward doesn’t work for me. What does work for me is getting into the right frame of mind, either by setting the scene and getting out of the house, like going to a nice coffee shop, or making sure I have a set amount of “focus time” where it’s ensured I’m not going to be interrupted by my kids. If I feel like I’m going to be interrupted, I just can’t focus. For example, my husband will sometimes take the kids to his sister’s on the weekend and I know I have a few hours and can focus. I’m always the most productive if I get out of the house and preferably have a delicious coffee by my side!

    10. Anax*

      Oh, man. Kudos and good luck, that’s a tough road.

      When I’m trying to motivate myself through a big, miserable task list, I find it really helpful to have a physical marker of achievement – something that I can look at and say ‘wow, I really did get a lot done, maybe this isn’t an infinite treadmill of pain that I can only tread water in forever’.

      (School was… a lot, I was an overachiever in my youth.)

      When I was in school, I liked to use a scrum board, color-coded by class/subject. This is mostly an IT thing, but the idea works well for school – you break down your whole to-do list into bite-sized chunks, and put them on post-its (or digital equivalents). Those post-its are arranged into ‘to do’, ‘in progress’, and ‘done’ columns. (It’s easy to find examples for this online.)

      What I found helpful was: Moving a post-it every time I finished a task made it feel more like I actually achieved something. Color-coding meant it was easy to make sure I made a little progress in every subject, every day, without feeling like I was neglecting any of them. And watching the ‘done’ column grow made it feel like I was actually getting things done – there might be a lot left to do, but again, it made the achievements feel concrete every time I looked at the wall.

      These days, I usually have a “done list” instead – I write down everything I’ve done in a day, as I do it. Less work than post-its, but it still gives me a big list to look at at the end of the day and say “wow, I actually did a lot” – especially when I’ve done a dozen tiny tasks around the house which would be easy to forget if I hadn’t written them down.

      A little rambly, apologies, but I do think you’re onto something with that sticker-chart. Making purely mental achievements tangible is really good for dopamine!

    11. almost retired*

      I remember those days…I worked a full-on job and was finishing writing up my dissertation. Being able to watch a movie on TV was a huge treat. But I remembered it was only for 18 months, and ruthlessly dropped anything not related to job or finishing the dissertation. Can you cut back on the volunteering for a while; your union would understand you are overstretched. I’d also bet if you took 2-3 hours a week for your hobby, you’d be more productive in studying. All the best to you.

  22. TechWorker*

    People who’ve stayed at one company for a long time – pros and cons?

    I’ve worked at the same place since I graduated (nearly 10 years!!). I like my colleagues, I like my job, my commute is short & the pay is very good for the work/life balance (/I could likely earn more in fintech but not sure I want to work in fintech). I’ve had multiple promotions so don’t feel stagnant but sure there’s some risk of becoming institutionalised. I’ve not exactly seen anything better out there, but then I’m also not trying that hard because I don’t *really* feel much urge to leave. Spoke to a recruiter last week more out of interest than anything else but it didn’t sound like he understood the type of role I want (& also seemed surprised by my salary requirements) so that’s unlikely to go anywhere :)

    1. WantonSeedStitch*

      I’ve been at the same place for 17 years. Yes, I do love it here. I have also had multiple promotions. The fact of the matter, though, is the higher you go, the fewer opportunities for promotion there are. If I wanted to move into a position at the next level, I’d need my manager to leave. That’s really the only slot I could reasonably move into, as any move to a different team would be a different enough job that I wouldn’t even be qualified for a position at my current level. If my manager wasn’t going to leave before I really wanted to move up, I’d have to look elsewhere. Another con is that often, you really can’t make as much money staying in one place as you can if you move around a bit. If your current company really is good at paying people what they’re worth and does regular market reviews of salaries, you probably won’t suffer as much, but if not, the only way you can make a significant salary increase will be to go elsewhere.

      There are also pros and cons to the issue of all your exposure being in one place. You can amass a lot of institutional knowledge. You can be the person who said “we tried doing that five years ago, but it really didn’t work out because XYZ.” You can be the person who says “we did a similar project back in 2016, and I still have the documentation on how we went about it, so we shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel.” But on the other hand, it can limit your exposure to new ideas, new ways of doing things. You can combat that with some rigorous professional development, conference attendance, etc., or even just networking and talking shop with peers at other places.

      Personally, I don’t want to move up TOO much more in my career. I prefer that my area of responsibility not include too much more than what I have direct experience with as an individual contributor, and two rungs up the ladder from me it gets VERY different. I am also lucky to be in a place that does regular salary reviews, and that is also very supportive of professional development. Between that, the fact that I genuinely love working here, and the fact that the benefits are pretty excellent, I don’t imagine I’ll be leaving if I can avoid it.

    2. Cookies for Breakfast*

      The con for me was definitely a stagnating skill set. My former workplace was very set in doing things a certain, dysfunctional way. I knew the theory of all the best practices other companies see as experience of being successful in my kind of role, but because I couldn’t point to big real-life achievements in those areas, job hunting when I decided to get out took a lot longer than I hoped for. In practice, I think many companies out there fall in the same traps when it comes to day-to-day work, so I had a lot more real-world experience than I gave myself credit for. But everyone’s looking for the most impressive candidate with a wow factor, and that was often not me.

      The pro of at that former workplace was enjoying extremely good benefits and a lot of flexibility with my time. But the flexibility was because I worked in a department that offered a lot of autonomy (other departments had a lot more micromanagement going on), and my current role is very similar in that sense; and the benefits felt like golden handcuffs at times, because I knew I wouldn’t get the same anywhere else.

      I totally hear you about fintech, by the way! When I was job hunting, every other job seemed to be in that sector, and I was really not interested. But it did feel like the sector most recruiters were pushing candidates towards, and they’d always try to pushed back when I said it was not for me.

    3. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      I stayed at one job for 15 years, mostly because of the benefits. And it was stable and never going to go anywhere. Then the pandemic hit and I was laid off (with an amazing severance, but still). It turns out I had sort of grown into a niche version of my job because of my institutional knowledge and it made it hard to find anything that met both my skills and my salary requirements.

      Maybe it won’t hurt you to stay, but it might make it hard if you ever need to look. But if you’re up to date on your industry trends instead of working with outdated software and processes you’ll be fine.

    4. Ann*

      Pros: if you’ve been around that long, there’s probably something really attractive keeping you in that job. For me, it’s the flexibility.
      Cons: you might find yourself growing less because you’re relying on others’ knowledge in some areas. And you might get pigeonholed into a specific role. And probably less opportunity for a pay raise.

    5. The New Wanderer*

      I stayed for almost 15 years at one company, but moved departments or entire divisions every couple of years. The company has the kind of environment where you are still considered new after 3 years and institutional knowledge is highly prized… in theory. In practice, it has led to silos, information hoarding, and not much passing down knowledge to new people. There were some attempts to change that culture when I left, not sure how well it’s worked. On the compensation side, they paid well, had annual raises and bonuses, and the benefits were really good, so those factors didn’t motivate me to look around or want to move on.

      I didn’t intend to stay that long but moving groups every few years kept me from feeling restless and let me learn a whole lot of stuff about different aspects of the work. If I’d changed companies as often I’d also have been learning an entirely new company’s culture or product but staying at a pretty shallow level. More versatile skills, but less depth of knowledge (in my field the latter is preferable).

      I eventually left when I realized my career wasn’t going to progress any further. All things considered, if I’d been promoted as I believe I earned and deserved, I might have stayed much longer.

    6. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

      I’m sure this varies in importance by industry, but at my last full time job, many of the people who had been there 10+ years, which in many cases was more like 15-20, comprising their only professional job as an adult, did not have a very broad perspective and certainly had no idea what industry standard best practices were. Of course this is a generalization but I’ve seen versions of this in all my workplaces. This particular situation was perhaps also exacerbated by the workplace’s practice of hiring in waves or cohorts, so there was a group that had all been there 15 years, say, so they were really each other’s echo chamber. I think this can let a lot of dysfunction fly under the radar because the mid-managers have no other points of reference.

    7. Rara Avis*

      I’ve been at one employer for 22 years. Pros: I know the work. I have a lot of seniority and capital. My employer knows and trusts me, so I can push back when new ideas need more thought. Cons: I’m not necessarily growing and stretching. Sometimes it’s too easy to coast. Maybe a little burnout. (I’m in a profession where people tend to stay put for a long time, but also one that asks a lot.)

    8. Eng Girl*

      As someone who worked at the same place for 7ish years from graduation in and recently switched jobs

      Pros: Not having to constantly prove yourself. People trust your skill set and knowledge. A certain amount of stability. Vacation accrual (I miss this more than I can say). Having decent relationships with your coworkers. There’s something comforting about limiting the unknown

      Cons: Burnout (may not be applicable). Becoming a “go to” person too often. Collecting additional responsibilities with a lack of raise/title increase. I think this applies especially because you got the job out of school, but it’s a lot harder to backtrack on boundaries than if you’re setting them up from scratch.

    9. C.*

      I’ve been at my current company for 6 years now, and I’m pretty certain that this will be it for me until I retire. Is it perfect? No, far from it. But as it’s higher education, there are a zillion different areas around campus I feel like I could jump to—in a professional way, for volunteering, freelancing, learning enrichment, etc.—so I don’t think I’ll ever be bored. It pays well, certainly much better than most places in this state, and its benefits package is generous. So, although I feel ready to leave my current post, I’m pretty happy with finishing the rest of my career here.

      The cons for me are specific to this institution and not necessarily related to staying with one company for a long while. This place moves very slowly, can be allergic to technology and innovation, and many of its senior administrators—whether they intend to or not—red tape a lot of progressive (and necessary) initiatives.

    10. Pamela Adams*

      23 years in higher ed. PENSION! Also, some 23,000 students over the years who I helped. It’s nice to run into them out in the world.

    11. allathian*

      I’ve been working for my current employer for 16 years. I’m sure I could get a better salary somewhere else, but I really enjoy being a known quantity and the long vacations I get as a government employee more than make up for the slightly lower salary. I could switch to another employer in the public sector and keep my vacation accrual, but few employers offer as much work flexibility as mine does, and I’m not willing to give that up.

    12. Silence*

      I have been at my current company 16 years.
      Pros: in depth knowledge, trust, autonomy
      Cons: am looking around and previous managers feel it is too long to be a decent reference for me.

    13. 653-CXK*

      In ExJob (health insurance company), I worked there for a little over 21-1/2 years.

      Pros: Excellent benefits (paid no more than $50 for insurance, but the tradeoff was that if you wanted a certain provider, you had to pay more); buses right at the front door; huge cafeteria; occasional bonuses worth a week’s pay (taxes did get taken out, though); C-suite and directors served lunch for Christmas (tradeoff: very long lines).

      Cons: The salary way under market; raises were 2-3% unless you kissed up to upper management; quota work/incentive programs (quality and production – if you missed either, you were subject to progressive discipline); lots of toxicity (ageism, favoritism); fear of layoffs; managing out for cheaper employees, especially if you reached the end of your salary band.

  23. Blockie*

    Urgh, I have a dilemma. I’m interviewing for a role that would require me to move to a higher COL (though I don’t mind that, it’s somewhere I want to live) but the position has been open for nearly a year. I asked why and they said that every candidate has turned it down due to it being fully in person. They don’t allow hybrid work in that department any more (though other departments do.)

    I asked a friend at a different department and they have a rule where if you worked there 6 months, you’d be eligible for hybrid work.

    I’ve been lucky that my current role is remote. It pays way less than the job I’m interviewing for and is not as aligned with my career goals as the one I’m interviewing for. But it’s sooo nice to be remote. I do miss the office so I’d kill for hybrid!

    My questions are this…
    1) is there an amount of salary I should think about if I’m going to take a fully in person position (considering commuting, loss of flexibility, etc.) is it reasonable to consider more money for going back in the office?
    2) I’m guessing there’s no way to negotiate hybrid if they’ve already said that’s there sticking point (it’s just wild to me, because they’ve had several positions open due to this), but could I ask if there’s a policy like the neighboring department (6 months and then..?)
    3) for those who have returned to fully in person, what’s the like for you now?

    1. ferrina*

      1- this will vary person-to-person. The obvious consideration is a COL adjustment. Look up salaries for this role in this particular region so you know what a reasonable salary is. Compare that to the range that they are offering. Look at cost of housing and day-to-day living expenses. Think about how you will be commuting and factor that in. Think about it’s impact on your life- what is it about remote work that you enjoy now? Is it being able to sleep more since you aren’t commuting? Will you need to invest in a new wardrobe? Is it emotionally draining to be physically among people all day? For some people, these are all things that make them want to be in-person–there’s a more set schedule, they enjoy their professional clothes and appearance, and they love working next to others. Great! If that’s not you, think about what kind of trade-off would make it worth it. Better career opportunities, better hours, etc. Most companies won’t pay a premium to have their employees in-office, but if you just say “I was thinking of compensation of $X.” and leave it there, that may be all the negotiation you need. Of course, $X should be close to what they were thinking- if you are too far apart, just walk away.

      2- You can certainly ask, especially if this is something you’re willing to walk away over. If there is any internal advocates for remote work, this is fodder for them: “We’re having trouble hiring candidates because the best candidates want the flexibility of hybrid.” Of course, you won’t know if that conversation is even happening. I’d be wary of trusting a “yes” though- there are some companies that will say “yes” when they mean “it’s theoretical but you will be subtly punished just for asking, and we’ll always have a reason why you can’t possibly telework right now.”

      3- Not me! I love my hybrid role, and it will take a very short commute before I consider full in-person again.

    2. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      For 2, you just gotta set that aside. Asked and answered! And assume any theoretical “maybe in 6 months” won’t happen. It might, but don’t take the job banking on it. Would you take this job for 100% in person, with no expectation of hybrid? If not, this isn’t for you.

      If you would, what’s your price? To your 1 there’s no universal “reasonable” number. Some people would be okay with it with a small bump just to cover costs of gas / lunch / clothes / daycare late fees. Others will factor in commuting time. For me, going in would require MASSIVE amounts more to compensate for the mental energy, peace of mind, and loss of time — for the commute itself, and also getting ready and food prep and lack of ability to run my laundry — because I’m particularly dug in on working from home, and have been for a lot longer than the pandemic. For an incredible role I’d maybe do it for double my salary and even then I’d have no intention of doing it for more than a year.

    3. Hlao-roo*

      3 – I’m almost fully in-person (occasional work-from-home days for things like bad weather, taking the car into the shop, etc. Probably 6-10 days a year). I like being in the office. Most of the people in my department are also in the office every single day (a few people have a more regular hybrid schedule of one or two days WFH every week). There are other departments in my building where most people are only in the office two days a week, WFH three days a week.

      There are a few different things wrapped up in my “I like to be in the office” statement, and the breakdown is:

      – I know I’m more productive when I’m in the office than when I work from home.
      – My immediate team is (mostly) in the office everyday, so I can work with them in person and meetings are in person. I would not like coming into the office every day if I had to sit in virtual meetings.
      – My commute is ~15 min in the morning and ~20 min in the afternoon/evening.

    4. Magpie*

      If hybrid work is really important to you, I would be wary even if you ask and they say they might consider it down the road. They might just be saying that to get you to accept and then would renege on it later since it seems like they really dislike remote work. I would only accept this job if you’re ok being 100% in person indefinitely.

    5. Loreli*

      Other minor considerations (that often turn out to be not-minor)
      – what is the commute REALLY like? You can’t rely on map apps to give an accurate timeframe because of heavy traffic hours.
      – is there parking? Do you have to pay for it?
      – how does the job handle things like doctor’s appointments, or having to stay home for the plumber?
      -what are the benefits? Do people on vacation have to check their mail etc? (of course this is harder to find out at the interview stage)

    6. RagingADHD*

      3) I worked remote before the pandemic, and was heartily sick of it. I really like being in person. We also have a lot of virtual meetings because we are geographically spread out, but it has been very nice having work be totally separate from home life. It helps my brain decompress.

      1. Anon4this*

        I really prefer mostly in person too. I’ve got adhd and a strong tendency to overwork, so the boundaries are good. We only have to be in 2-3 days a week for T, W, or R. This week I got to wfh all week and my work life balance really suffered.

  24. Unconscious Vocal Habit*

    I say “uh” (or, well, a similar kind of sound) a LOT, and I think it undermines my credibility / status when speaking at events, meetings etc. The exact sound is one that’s very common within my minority group culture, embedded in our speech patterns since we begin talking, but outside of that culture people don’t use these kinds of sounds half as much. I’m only aware of one other person in my industry community who does it. Thing is, I am NOT aware of doing it myself until – once every few years or so – I accidentally hear a recording of myself and cringe. Any thoughts on how to get out of this unconscious habit?

    1. ENFP in Texas*

      There are some good websites on how to help eliminate “verbal pauses” or “filler words”, since it’s pretty common! The main things seem to be “be aware that you’re doing it”, and then “don’t be afraid to be quiet instead of trying to fill the pause with sound”.

      I don’t know if I can post links, but an internet search on “how to stop using verbal pauses” may be helpful. Good luck!

      (I accidentally posted this as a standalone below, hopefully someone can delete that one!)

    2. ferrina*

      Rumor at my high school was that the debate team would load up spray bottles or supersoakers and have the person give a speech. Any time they said “Um”, they got sprayed. I have no idea if that was true, or if so, how effective it was.

      My trick was to speak slower and have phrases that explain the pause. “Let me think on that for a moment.” “That’s interesting- let me see if I can answer that.”

      I’d love to be able to say that we all have filler phrases and it’s not a big deal, but you know better than I do if it is impacting you professionally. You also have the option to just own it- “yeah, that’s just my culture’s version of ‘um’ “. But again, you know better than I do what kind of biases or stigma you might face for that (I really wish that weren’t a factor!)

      1. AngryOctopus*

        I wanted to do this spray bottle trick SO BADLY to someone in my company who’s filler words were “like, you know”, and he used them almost every sentence. Not a joke. I told my work BFF we needed a drinking contest around it and she was like “no, that’s too much alcohol for a person”.
        He was told about it and asked to be more mindful of it, but nothing changed. OP, for a real way to encourage yourself to change, you can either take the mindfulness approach when you practice and see where those words come up and try to slow down around that section (or whatever you think might help you), or you might want to join a Toastmasters branch, esp. if you give a lot of talks.

    3. Purple m&m*

      Try randomly recording yourself (make sure you get permission from the other person in the conversation) & then listen to your recordings. This might jar you into being more aware as you’re speaking. Also, slow down when you’re speaking to give your brain a chance to catch up – which is what those filler words & sounds do. Like, uhhh, y’know.

    4. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      You could join Toastmasters, since they’re all about public speaking. Or hire a speech coach.

    5. NotBatman*

      Literally just pausing more often as I speak has been helpful for me. So “I like the, uh, the chart you made” becomes “I like… the chart you made.” Those pauses always feel longer to the speaker than they sound to the listener, and they’re called “filler” words for a reason.

    6. Chauncy Gardener*

      I found listening to those recordings over and over really helped with that.
      And Toastmasters really helped my husband with all his public speaking

    7. AMY*

      My son had a sort of verbal tic where he would say “uh” a LOT. Until he and his friend started a podcast and he was in charge of sound editing. When it took him like HOURS to remove his “uh” sounds from the audio track every week, he became very conscious of it and very motivated to NOT do that.

      Maybe something similar would work, like recording yourself speaking and force yourself to edit it out? Just a thought. Its tedious but it may force you to think about every time you do it there will be a negative consequence later lol.

    8. Ariana Jinx*

      As a lifelong stammerer, I’d find some of these suggestions tricky and daunting, though everyone is different – perusing recordings or video would only make me more painfully self-conscious and I’d be inclined to clam up altogether.
      What truly works for me is “limbering up” for any public presentations and establishing a vocal rhythm. I do that a few days in advance by reading out poetry or passages from a book or play I like (Shakespeare, Keats, Bleak House, or some Elvish from LOTR are my go-tos!), then gradually increasing the speed. It’s fun! It’s something I discovered myself when I was 12 and very shy. I do it before interviews as well.
      I also follow the old actors’ advice of practising taking more time over single syllable words than longer ones. If it’s a public presentation I also practise my “lines” in front of a mirror, to remind myself to talk to the audience rather than my notes or the wall. And be sure to rehearse snappy openers and punchlines, and introduce slides with questions.
      What also works for me is that I imagine I’m acting or singing, during neither of which I stammer – though I know that won’t be helpful for everyone! Also, forget Toastmasters and try drama classes. Make speaking a pleasure rather than a challenge.
      Having said that, if you’re having an off-day or the tech is playing up, people barely notice a few “uh”s, provided that you and the content are engaging enough.

  25. riverofmolecules*

    I posted in an open thread a couple weeks ago about being asked to sign a non-compete at my non-profit org.

    I ended up consulting a lawyer, who answered some questions. He gave some advice and how some parts were unenforceable (but not nearly as much as I and some commenters thought/hoped). He confirmed that based on the written text, if I left and got a job elsewhere, my org could sue me. His non-legal advice was to find a new job.

    I wrote an email to our CEO (I was directed to follow up with them after I had sent the Operations Director a list of questions to clarify the agreement, twice, and got no answer) and stated what I was not comfortable signing and what I would sign (e.g. the agreement narrowed to not stealing clients). My manager immediately responded and said I was hostile and unprofessional and we were meeting the next work day

    In the meeting, he told me the non-compete is not meant to restrict where I can work or anything like I thought. He said I was overreacting and my outrageous outburst is so uncharacteristic of me. (He was implying I was maybe already violating the non-compete somehow and/or I was being emotional and/or I suspect he thought my “problematic” coworker was influencing me. We were talking secretly about how to respond to the non-compete.)

    I did not tell him I spoke to a lawyer who explicitly told me what I was concerned about was real. But I pointed out that I can’t sign a contract that says A on the verbal assurance (but not promise) that it really means B. He explicitly told me that nothing in the text will change or be clarified. He gave me a warning for my email’s tone.

    I ended up writing a statement with my record of events and why I am not signing and submitting that in place.

    It has been quiet. The CEO has never addressed the issue with me directly.

    I am planning on finishing out a public-facing program I run, going on a long vacation I had already planned, then quitting once I come back regardless of if I have another job lined up then.

    1. Double A*

      Wow! That escalated quickly (from the CEO, not you). I think the buzzing you’d been hearing is confirmed to be bees and your plan sounds very reasonable. Good luck!

      1. riverofmolecules*

        Thanks! I am only fighting the urge to just quit and leave them in the lurch.

        Right now, the CEO is sending us urgent emails about getting more of our friends/family to donate to our current donation campaign.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          The only reason I’d say don’t, is so that you get paid for your vacation. Otherwise they deserve to be left in the lurch, IMHO

          1. riverofmolecules*

            Yeah, that would alleviate the danger of them not paying out my PTO if I spend it down before I quit.

        2. Ama*

          I have to say, that second thing (pushing donations from friends/family) is a BAD sign. IMHO as a long-tenured nonprofit employee it’s fine to ask employees to solicit donations ONCE especially if it’s a really big or special campaign but it should be done with the tone that it is very optional (i.e. “Please feel free to share this with friends and family if they may be interested.”) If they are pushing it urgently it likely means they are well short of their goal and don’t have enough other prospective donors to approach — that combined with the non-compete nonsense (which I have *never* heard of a nonprofit doing) sounds like this org is run by people who don’t know what a functional nonprofit looks like.

          1. riverofmolecules*

            Oh yeah, definitely. At best, it’s crass. I can definitely tell they are really behind on their fundraising goals and the board is not pulling their weight.

            But we are also a staff of less than ten, Even from a functional perspective, outside of the power imbalance of leaning on your staff like this, you are doing to wring that network dry so quickly.

            In general, I can say a lot more about the new CEO beyond the non-compete. I think she’s a better event manager than a strategic leader of an organization, but you know, hopefully not my problem in a month.

      2. SofiaDeo*

        Any chance they will just ignore it if you do? So you can job search and have some income instead of just quitting? I had a landlord that sent me a substantially different lease than the one I originally signed, containing a numbernof illegal clauses, and I just told him I wasn’t going to sign. He did argue with me about it a few times. But he did nothing, and I left a few years later, still no signed lease/technically on the old lease month -to-month.

    2. ferrina*

      “I wrote A, but you should pretend it says B so that you’ll sign it.”

      Um….that’s not how contracts work at all.

      1. riverofmolecules*

        I literally repeated what he was saying back to him multiple times. “So, if the agreement means XYZ…why doesn’t it say that? If it isn’t meant to restrict where I work after ABC…why does it have language about that? I can’t sign something that doesn’t say what it means, if that’s true.”

        I could not tell if he was genuinely not getting it (so he’s either deluded or stupid and I don’t think he’s either) or if he was just trying to keep his job and stick to what the CEO told him, but at that point, that is a distinction without a difference for me. We left it at the impasse.

    3. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Wow, that’s a lot of gaslighting from your boss. And accusations of being emotional. Sounds like he’s worried that the fallout will come down on him, so he’s trying to bully you into just signing. Glad you talked to a lawyer.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        Also glad you called your boss out (“If it shouldn’t restrict ABC, then why does this language indicate that it will restrict ABC?”).
        I’d say that if you get paid out for your vacation time regardless of employment status (check your state laws), you should quit on D1 of vacation. Otherwise your plan is solid :)

      2. riverofmolecules*

        Yeah my “problematic” coworker left the org the same day in their own meeting with our manager. They also believe there’s a dynamic of him trying to protect his job and it’s drawing attention to him that his two reports (the only non-director-level staff) who are the ones rejecting the non-compete. They are speculating that it will occur to the CEO that our manager doesn’t have more program management skill than his reports AND he can’t manage his staff (AKA keep them in line).

        Additional irony: Our org is meant to be focused on equity issues. My now-gone coworker and I are/were the programs team and were hired for our expertise on equity issues. The idea that the two staff persons with equity-related experience being the ones to push back on the non-compete apparently has not registered as a signal to them.

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

      Thank you for the update and good on you! I once refused to sign a job contract with similar bananapants assurances that what’s WRITTEN in the contract would never be enforce. One paragraph had me locked into a 1 year contract where they could terminate my contract with 30 days notice but I couldn’t terminate for any reason before 1 year! I said what if I broke my leg & couldn’t travel? They assured me they’d let me out of the contract if that happened. I said it needs to allow flexibility for ME in the contract. I found out later many contractors quit due to clients that were impossible to work for & the company was trying to lock us in. I refused to sign. They acted shocked. Shocked, I say. And I happily didn’t take the job. Bananapants documents come from a dysfunctional place. Enjoy your vacation and perhaps some quiet quitting.

      1. riverofmolecules*

        In my statement, I said I would never sign a lease that said I couldn’t use the kitchen just because the landlord said they wouldn’t actually enforce it. It frankly feels insulting to my intelligence to ask that of me.

        I pointed out that there already existed language under the previous CEO that we can’t compete for the same grants or clients as the company. Why not use that same language? How can you intentionally use different, broader language, and expect me to believe the different, broader intent didn’t exist?

        1. Rick Tq*

          Then be sure to read EVERY word of EVERY line on EVERY page they want you to sign when you are exiting, put your initials on every page and force them to give you a copy of every document that has your wet signature.

          I wouldn’t put it past the CEO to try and slide the Non-Compete in as part of your separation paperwork.

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

            This is great advice. I had someone “slip in” a new page. Initialing (and I would add a date to each initialed page) and getting a copy of THAT document (or if you think they’ll be very shady, take photos with your phone before they can even react) will help protect you & provide documentation.

  26. fine tipped pen aficionado*

    Hey all! How do you go about recommending someone for a job? We don’t have any kind of formal referral process, but someone I know who would be great is applying for a role in my team, but I don’t know the hiring manager all that well. Any tips?

    1. WantonSeedStitch*

      Even if you don’t know the person, I would send them an email and say something like, “My friend Esmerelda Weatherwax let me know she’s applying for the Senior Llama Groomer position. I’ve worked with her before at Alpacas R Us, and she was always great with the animals, making them feel very comfortable. I think she’d be a really good candidate for the role, and I’m happy to chat more about my work with her if you’re interested.”

    2. ferrina*

      First, check with the person you’re referring to make sure that they are interested.

      Then, just reach out! Send a quick email to the hiring manager:
      “Hey, I saw the posting for the opening on your team and I think my former coworker X would be a great fit. X is amazing because…… Here is their resume. If you are interested, they would love to connect with you. Here’s their contact info. Thanks!”

      The goals is to:
      1. Say why this person is amazing. Having context is what referrals are all about.
      2. Confirm that X is interested
      3. Walk away on a friendly note. Don’t follow up- either the manager will or won’t follow up, and either way, you don’t want it to impact your relationships at work.

      1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

        Thanks!! They have already applied and we’ve talked about it extensively, but I’m still gonna run what I plan to say by them at margs tonight to confirm. I only want to speak up if I can say something beneficial to them!

  27. Constance Lloyd*

    Federal friends, with a potential shutdown looming, any tips? My husband and I just moved to DC, we have plenty of savings, but if this budget bill doesn’t pass he will definitely be furloughed (with backpay) and because I am a contractor, I will either be working and paid, or furloughed and not paid.

    1. Grogu's Mom*

      Ugh, I have a lot of friends and family (including my husband) who will be affected if this one happens, so fingers crossed for all of us! Your new co-workers and bosses might be a good source of tips specific to your agency. If you have a kid at an agency daycare, find out if there’s a backup plan if they have to close.

      1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

        No tips but sending you well wishes! I’ve heard so much coverage of the shutdown but so little coverage on just how many people it will impact (federal gov is such a huge source of employment, even where it isn’t the employer itself) and no one every talks about how much productivity is lost just approaching the brink of a shutdown because folks have to stop doing the work and instead working out the logistics of NOT working. And then when (if) you eventually come back, it takes so much time to clean up the mess a shutdown accumulates. It’s just wild that folks complain about inefficiency and bloat in government all the time but give no thought to stuff like this.

        Anyway, I’m municipal and not fed, but still sending you all the good vibes and virtual support. Solidarity!

    2. Your Social Work Friend*

      If you qualify to join, look into credit unions that target DOJ/DOD employees like NFCU, for example. They often give no-interest loans to members who are effected by government shut downs, for the duration of the shut down. At the very least it keeps the mortgage/rent paid and food on the table.

    3. CG*

      First, a few of the “fed news” focused sites often put out handy shutdown guides and information that are worth checking out (eg, https://www.govexec.com/pay-benefits/2023/09/your-guide-pay-and-benefits-during-shutdown/390423/, https://federalnewsnetwork.com/government-shutdown/2023/09/a-government-shutdown-qa-for-federal-employees/, https://federalnewsnetwork.com/government-shutdown/2023/09/what-happens-to-furloughed-employees-during-a-government-shutdown/, not a news site but Reddit’s r/fednews is sometimes helpful and sometimes a mess). I’d check these out and keep a very general eye on “is the government reopening yet?” news, but not spend too much time trying to read the tea leaves on Congressional moves each day: for previous shutdowns, there have been a lot of almost-nope-nevermind-almost moments, and it’s a lot of unnecessary stress to try to divine what may or may not be happening with continuing resolutions/budgets before they happen.

      Second, assume that certain things operating with federal funding may be out of commission for a bit – passport services, Smithsonian museums, national parks, etc. (Even though positions like air traffic controllers and airport TSA inspectors are usually exempt in a shutdown, if a shutdown lasts long enough, we may see issues like in the past with air travel being affected by widespread staff callouts.) Note that a lot of small parks in DC are managed by NPS and not by DC, so you may see a bit more chaos than normal around town.

      Third, of course, consider your financial plans for if the shutdown lasts for weeks vs. days and you both aren’t working. Do you have any doctor’s appointments coming up in the event that a shutdown lasts for over a month? Do you have several months’ rent/food/gas money in savings? (Sounds like you are all set on this one.) Are you close to anyone who might need help, like other contractors who might not be getting paid? (People interviewing for fed contractor positions: ask in your interviews about what happens to your role during a shutdown!) If you do need financial help, talk to your landlord/bank/etc., because finance people in DC understand shutdown circumstances and may be able to give you leeway.

      Fourth, shutdowns can be a stressful time in DC. I try to keep a bit of structure to my days so that I’m getting out of the house, exercising, seeing people, catching up on books, etc. See if any orgs near you need volunteers, think about donating blood, or consider any day trips out of town you might want to take if you have time. Take care of yourself, try to filter out the inevitable awful rhetoric, and just like people who worked from home during the pandemic, don’t be hard on yourself if you’re home and “not productive”.

      Fifth, a lot of government websites will be trimmed or out of commission during a shutdown. If there’s any info you need, it’s always worth a shot to try the Wayback Machine (https://archive.org/web). (People who are applying for fed jobs, USAJobs may be out of commission during a shutdown, so download before Oct 1 any resumes you’re still working on…)

      Last, a shutdown – while terrible – could be a good time to get to know DC. If there is a shutdown, check places (not museums and parks) that you’ve been meaning to visit off your list, explore your neighborhood, google “DC shutdown specials” and try some new restaurants, etc.

      Sending good thoughts to all the feds and contractors in DC. Hopefully there won’t be a shutdown, but it’s always good to think ahead about this.

      1. Constance Lloyd*

        Mostly that, yes! But knowing others reading may be affected and interested in all elements of a shutdown I kept it general. Right now my closest frame of reference for structuring my day is early pandemic lockdowns, but this is a different type of stress and boredom.

    4. Grits McGee*

      Hope this isn’t too late for you to see- you may qualify for unemployment benefits if you are no longer getting paid, but if you receive back pay (which your husband definitely will as a fed), you probably will have to pay those unemployment benefits back. That was a nasty surprise for several people at my agency after the 2018/2019 shut down.

      1. Grits McGee*

        Also, it sounds like you’re in the District proper, so this may not be relevant, but during the last shut down there were a lot of shutdown specials and benefits for federal employees in the District of Columbia, but not much in Maryland or Virginia.

  28. GythaOgden*

    I finally got a job — someone took a chance on me and took me on the basis of my potential rather than my actual experience. There have been a lot of struggles over the past few years and a lot of having to stick it out even when I really didn’t want to and steeling my nerves. In a way, the storytelling I practiced here really helped — Alison’s advice can be useful and this site has helped me work out the answers to a lot of questions, but just practising telling people about the experiences I’ve had over the last twenty years has helped recalling things

    I did join this forum to look for advice and was rewarded by a really cool community. There are a lot of people here who’ve been supportive and it’s nice for me to meet other neurodivergent people in a setting that isn’t necessarily focused on ND. I know that I can trust my organisation to be considerate of mental and neurological health, and I’ve learned a lot of

    The interviewers have been in the building over a few days making plans to convert part of our underused office space (they called the building the Marie Celeste…) to clinical space. We’re in a good part of town — we’ve had a lot of people coming in thinking because we have the NHS brand on the sign outside we’re a surgery or a hospital, and what started as a six week temporary physiotherapy clinic at the end of May became permanent last week as their old building was chock full of asbestos and condemned. (The shell is listed, i.e. a heritage site, so they can’t knock it all down, but they’ve been working on a lot of Victorian buildings in the neighbourhood and renovating the inside to keep the period facades. Our own offices are two mansions — proper solid brick ones — connected by a glass atrium, which is awesome because I’ve seen some terrible places to work So the priority is helping the building serve the community and providing more direct care now we don’t need as much office space as before.

    Most of all I’ve made my husband proud. As you all know he passed away just over four years ago from cancer, and that wrecked a lot of things, including my career. I had to step up just to keep myself going, struggled with depression during the pandemic which led to hoarding and breaking my ankle so severely that my foot ended up at right angles to where it should have been — like on one of those gross slapstick comedy horror shows. I clawed my way back up and joined AAM looking for advice on how to turn straw into gold, and it’s paid off.

    I know he’d have been pushing me to apply for things I could do, and giving me all the moral support I needed. He was one in a million and his faith in me when I needed help about 10-15 years ago was something that I carried forward when he got ill and needed my care. Getting on medication and giving him the love he needed really propelled me forward and I just know he’s up there looking down on me. My dad was also right behind my mum — when she was about my age, my dad had to argue with her to get her to apply. It was the most absurd argument I’ve ever heard…but she applied for the job, got it, and kick-started her career as a headmistress.

    Today she came in to practice my ‘lines’ with me. It was really quite humbling that the offer came about an hour after I left the interview room. Nothing is ever guaranteed and I was cringing a bit when I left the room.

    So in that spirit of my dad ending up berating my mum for not applying for something…what’s the most absurd work-related argument you’ve heard? It can be job-search related or work related but I’m just looking for silly stuff that didn’t need to go nuclear and did.

    1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Congratulations! Your beautiful story has driven any negative argument stories from my head. Thank you for sharing your success and your mom’s as well.

      1. GythaOgden*

        Aw thanks. I love my mum. She can be a bit much at times — she’s one of those really driven people who actually gains energy from being busy — but she helped so much yesterday it was amazing.

    2. Straight Laced Sue*

      Yes, congratulations. I can’t think of any arguments either, but I just really enjoyed reading your words.

      1. anonymous IT drone*

        I once worked somewhere where we had a terrible enterprise platform. The person who managed the platform left. I was temporarily assigned to manage it until we could find their replacement.

        Because the platform was terrible, there was an ongoing issue we had open with the vendor for several months, maybe even a year? It felt like over a year but it was so long ago I don’t recall the exact details.

        I logged into the vendor’s ticketing system to get the status. The ticket was closed. I called our rep to find out why the ticket was closed since the problem wasn’t solved.

        “Oh, we got an email that (former admin) was no longer at the company and closed the ticket.,”

        Ugh, seriously. I had to make them reopen the ticket and assign it to me as the requestor.

    3. goddessoftransitory*

      You rock and are the queen! Congratulations on working so hard and earning such good fortune!

      1. GythaOgden*

        Thank you so much. It still doesn’t feel real because I only had the verbal offer, but it’s such a relief.

  29. This or That*

    I’m at a crossroads (hello 30) with where to go with my career. I could stay in my role/side of my field that feels very fulfilling, I feel passionate about, am around people who I feel get me work philosophy wise, but the pay and stability is low. I also have convinced myself that the longer I stay in this side of the field, the harder it will be to get a federal government role.

    The other side is trying my path again at federal government. The pay was stable, had the potential to be a lot higher than I currently am at, but the work was…eh. The folks who work on that side of the field and in govt tend to be more traditional and risk averse (understandably), I feel like I have to hide more of my queer identity there compared to my current niche, etc. but it’s stable! And I don’t have to worry about working two jobs.

    It really feels like either or, when I know it shouldn’t be. It’s still really hard to separate career from my identity and having the work be fulfilling and motivating in that way. The thought of doing a job and clocking out, then trying to find something after to volunteer feels equally exhausting. I do have the privilege on not having kids or family to support, but I will likely have to take care of my parents eventually.

    Are there any folks that have chosen a path?

    1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Well, neither of these choices are forever, so I think the first step is to stop telling yourself that one excludes the other. You could do government for a few years and go back to private and back again to government.

      Why do you think staying where you are excludes government in the future? Where is that data coming from? Do you know people who have tried and failed? Or are you just making assumptions? Because when you say “I’ve convinced myself” it sounds like you don’t actually have a reason to think that.

      I do think it’s interesting that you think “having to volunteer” after work will be exhausting, but working 2 jobs to pay the bills is somehow not? The most tired I have ever been is when I was working 2 jobs.

      I also would encourage you not to make work your identity. In a sense, getting a stable federal job could be healthier for you because it wouldn’t be your identity. And then you could find out who are are when you’re not at work.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      Do you have any contacts (friends, former coworkers, etc.) who works in the federal government in the office you might want to work for? If so, can you reach out to them to get a gut check on your assumptions that (1) the longer you stay working in the private sector, the harder it will be to get a government job and (2) that you’ll need to keep your queer identity more under wraps in the government job. Both assumptions may very well be true, but it’s worth seeking confirmation if you can.

      I think it may be worthwhile to apply to one or a few government positions. I know the federal application process can be more arduous than applying at a private company, but it’s good to remember that job interviews are a two-way street; you should be evaluating if the job is a good fit for you (in terms of tasks and pay, and also in terms of culture).

      I also think a bigger-picture values exercise might be helpful to you sort out the relative importance of pay and fulfilling work, and possibilities to have a fulfilling life even if your day-to-day job is a bit meh. One exercise that I have found helpful in the past is in the book Work Optional by Tanja Hester but I’m sure you can find one that works for you with a few Google searches. (Work Optional is a book about retiring early but as part of that there are many helpful questions about how to live a fulfilling life. I think the questions are flexible enough to be helpful even if you aren’t planning to retire early but YMMV.)

  30. LuckyClover*

    What is your thought process when weighing between staying in a relatively secure but lower paying role to an opportunity to make more but in a far more tumultuous environment.

    I like my current job, it can be a bit boring at times, but it’s low stress and does not follow me home. However, while there are decent benefits the pay is 12% below market. My boss recently spoke to me about opportunities to advance in responsibilities (and pay) in the next year, but there’s no way that would surpass 5% in one go

    I spontaneously applied for a similar role at a newer institution, and very quickly advanced to final stages. They were very transparent about how their newness creates a more “startup business” type working environment. Which both excites and terrifies me. I thought I wouldn’t have any doubts to leave for higher pay (7-10k more), but now I am also thinking about how much I love that my current job leaves me alone when I am home and thinking about the worth of a lower stress environment.

    1. ferrina*

      I’d first read up on start-up businesses, if you’ve never worked at one before. It’s a very particular environment- some people love it, some people hate it. You tend to wear a lot of hats and do things outside your expertise. You are asked to problem solve often and figure out how to implement creative solutions that you may or may not have a budget for. Priorities shift quickly. You are often “building the plane while you are flying it”.

      Personally, I love it. I get to flex my creativity. But you also need to make sure it’s a healthy start-up – if there’s toxic people or unrealistic expectations, there aren’t enough layers of management or bureaucracy to protect you.

      If you are getting any kind of bad vibes/toxic vibes, don’t do it. There are times when it makes sense to tolerate toxicity for a couple years, and an extra 7-10k isn’t it (that will only cover your therapy bills and extra take-out for when you don’t have time/energy to cook).
      If it feels like a healthy place, think about what you value. Make sure it aligns with what you like in life. There’s more to life in money, and money is easier to replace than time or sanity. Think about how much longer you’re okay with job searching- are you looking to get out Right Now, or is it okay to stick around for another year while you find a new job that you really, really like?

    2. Totally Minnie*

      I spent many years in an unpredictable and high-stress setting, so for me, the calculus is a little different than it might be for other people. The high stress and lack of ability to predict how my day was going to go took an enormous toll on my mental health, so my current boring and predictable job is a breath of fresh air. There’s not really any amount of money that can induce me to go back to what I had before. I’m fully on team play it safe, but I know other people feel very differently about this.

      1. LuckyClover*

        I’ve had a similar experience. I was so stressed and burnt out by my previous employer that I likely would have quit with nothing else lined up if the job I had now didn’t materialize, so I absolutely understand where you are coming from

    3. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      I think it’s worth considering what actually causes you stress. I find work that bores me to be much, much more stressful than demanding work that interests me. I still won’t want to work a bunch of overtime, but a lot of the variety and creativity and trailblazing you get in startup like environments is really rewarding. I end up feeling less stressed despite there being more pressure.

      I’m not saying this is true of you and startup environments can be stressful for more reasons than just long hours and lack of guidance. People can behave really badly and you should consider that too.

      TL;DR no one can actually answer this for you, but check in with yourself about what causes YOU stress and what YOU find rewarding before you do that calculation. :)

    4. Ann*

      It depends. Do you have the bandwidth for a higher-stress role? For myself, I know I’m pushing the limit of how much stress I can handle at work. My personal life takes enough of my energy, I have no more to give. If I could, I would actually take a pay cut to step a rung or two down – I just don’t know how to do that without it looking really weird. People don’t usually ask for anti-promotions…

    5. Glazed Donut*

      Here to co-sign ferrina. The area I work in could be described as a start up (we’re a little over a year in). Some things that have thrown new hires for a loop in my experience:
      + Roles/titles/responsibilities change somewhat frequently. For people who enjoy doing one thing and mastering it, this can be really frustrating.
      + Similarly, the structure and expertise can be really bizarre. Who knows how to do X? (sometimes no one!) Finding models to follow can be just as exhausting as building yourself.
      + Mistakes happen! Change is inevitable! If you struggle with making mistakes/have been a perfectionist, this may be really hard. Because protocols or work streams shift so frequently, I’ve seen some people take it personally when it definitely is not which leads to dissatisfaction.

      I think the leadership is very important in this type of environment. How do they handle conflict? How do they approach brainstorming and new ideas? What experience do they bring to the table (regulatory, industry-specific, tech, whatever is needed)? Do they typically operate in chaos or try to instill some organization/structure? Who else will be on the team and what is their tolerance for changes?

    6. C.*

      Speaking solely for myself, job security ranks high on the list. It might be higher on the list than salary, to be honest. I put a big premium on job security, so if you’re in a position where you’re not really wanting for anything or pinching pennies, I think I would stick with the current (low stressful) job and find other ways (or future opportunities) to engage your interests.

    7. allathian*

      I value security very highly and I’m probably more tolerant of boredom than some. I’ve certainly never switched jobs because the old one bored me.

      I enjoy working for the government because it makes me feel that I can contribute to the greater good.

  31. ResuMAYDAY*

    Anyone in the travel industry, help! I am a Career Coach, working with a client who eagerly wants to work in the travel industry. She has traveled to 33 countries – handling all her own planning, scheduling, and logistics. She has a masters in hospitality (her thesis was on Gen Y travel trends and solo travel, including hostels). She was an elementary schoo teacher for a few years, and has worked as a restaurant server and English language instructor to Chinese students. She’s certified in Sabre software. Her resume comes in strong with keywords and a great story that presents all her expertise in global travel.
    She cannot get an interview! And of course, no one will give her feedback on why. Some people have guessed that no one wants to hire her because her master’s degree makes her too expensive, but she knows she’d be coming in at entry level – and the experience she gained (traveled throughout Europle by herself) would be so valuable to any booking agent.
    Any ideas or advice? Is anyone here hiring?

    1. K8T*

      Would she work at a hotel in Sales if she doesn’t already have that experience? Some positions are remote but Hospitality tends to be 100% on-site. There are area positions which tend to be more remote and/or hybrid. A lot of the travel booking companies look for people with hotel experience as well since you know both sides of the same coin.
      If not, CWT & HelmsBriscoe are usually always hiring. HB is typically 100% commission based so that may not be the best fit if she’s looking for a salaried position. CWT can be tricky to get an interview at but people tend to stay there a while and is usually remote.

      1. ResuMAYDAY*

        This is helpful, thanks! She is resistant to hotel work, but hearing this from someone in the industry may sway her. I’ll do research on the two companies you mentioned and present that info to her in our next call. Thank you!

    2. WellRed*

      But does she have any sales experience? Booking your own travel and traveling yo me, is akin to planning your own wedding and then fry to be an event planner. I mean, yes the client’s personal experience will be invaluable background on the job and studied travel so she’s ahead in that sense but if she wants to be a travel agent (not clear)?

    3. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      If you think the masters is keeping her from getting interviews, take it off! Like Alison says, try A/B and see which one gets results.

      I’m interested in how she got Sabre training without already working in travel. Has she tried applying to an airline? You don’t say what her history is, but if she’s always been an accountant or something, maybe they don’t think that’s the right experience. Likely nobody wants to be a CSR for Delta, but it’s a job that could get her a foot in the industry. (Also, Delta has better customer service than American or United, so it might suck less.)

      You also don’t say where she’s applying. Are we talking boutiques or like Amex travel agency? What about concierge work for one of the credit card companies?

      I don’t want to sound like a snob, but I’m not sure her travel experience is all that unique. I have also traveled to many countries and done all my own planning. There’s a lot of travel blogs based on exactly that. Her Chinese experience is unique, the Sabre is unique, but the travel itself, not so much. Speaking of blogs, some of the big ones actually hire staff to travel and write for them about “how you can do this too”. Has she looked into those?

      Good luck to you and her.

      1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        Another thing I thought of – she has only booked solo travel for herself. Most agencies are going to be booking families and larger groups. That’s probably another weak spot. Maybe she could highlight times she had to deal with travel snafus – those are going to be where the service is worth the money to travelers.

      2. ResuMAYDAY*

        Great feedback, and this didn’t come off as snobby. I appreciate the dose of realism. (But it’s difficult to think that 33 countries is not unique!)
        She took a certification class in Sabre so she knows it, but hasn’t used it professionally.
        The problem with removing the masters is that it’s not just the resume, it’s also the LI profile. And then she’d have to decide whether or not to include it on an application, which gets even more complicated.
        Yes to Amex – multiple times. She’s such a smart, nice and thoughtful person. I just know that if she oculd get in anywhere, they’d love her. In over 20 years, I’ve never had a client run into so many brick walls, for no apparent reason.

        1. itchyfeet*

          Also not wanting to sound snobby, but I just counted up, out of interest – I have also been to 33 countries (if I am allowed to include where I grew up!) But I could never be a travel agent as I have no sales experience or aptitude. Yes I can get myself around, but that’s mostly been budget solo travel, and not something people use travel agents for. You say she has expertise in global travel, but she doesn’t have any experience in the travel industry, and I’m afraid I’m not convinced her skills are as transferable as you think they are. I’m not really surprised she is not getting interviews

          1. Texan In Exile*

            Same. I have been to 31 countries, I think?

            I grew up abroad and was a Peace Corps volunteer in Chile. When I left Chile, I came back to the US over land. I made all my own travel arrangements – and this was before the internet. (Thank you, South and Central American Handbook, F and G hotels!) And I don’t think any of this qualifies me to be a travel agent. (But I am great to travel with – I am game for anything! Except tripe. I know how to say tripe seven different ways in Spanish.)

          2. Scarlet Ribbons in her Hair*

            I’ve been to 33 countries, too – unless there’s one or two that I can’t remember right now. It’s not so unusual nowadays. No way could I be a travel agent.

    4. Lauren*

      I work in travel and do hiring, and am always hesitant when people want to get in because they love to travel. Booking for yourself is not the same.

      If she can handle call center work, that’s how I and a lot of my coworkers got our foot in the door.

    5. P*

      I work with travel agencies and every one of them say they are still desperate to hire staff. I’d recommend having someone in the industry review her materials against the jobs she’s applied to. Her experience sounds great, she should be getting interviews based on all you’ve written here!

      Lastly and for what it’s worth all the big agencies have created their own overlays so using Sabre may not be that important.

    6. RM*

      In my experience (front line hotel worker and hotel accounting) travel agents were some of the most disorganized, miserably unprofessional people we worked with, generally speaking. They were probably great on the guest side but hard to deal with on the B2B side. So in the bar is low in that part of the business.

      Her degree makes it sound like she could be working in revenue management or sales/marketing at a hospitality management group (highly analytical and local knowledge or skills with research are helpful) Is she good with data/numbers at all?

      Finally, agreeing that working on the front line of group/event sales is what she needs. Knowing the format of BEOs and the typical concerns with group booking contracts will be a good foundation. Businesses (hotel side or TA side) are more willing to pay salary + commission for group sales because it’s just so much more total revenue than individuals

    7. Grits McGee*

      I have a friend with a similar background to your client, and she eventually found a job as a student advisor in a college study abroad office. Academia may be less prejudicial about a master’s degree than the private sector.

      Additionally, I’ll echo what the other commenters have said about experience with personal travel not necessarily translating to relevant experience for travel-related jobs. It sounds like it would be helpful to have someone currently working in the field review the resume to make sure it’s not giving “I want to work in a library because I love reading books” vibes.

  32. ENFP in Texas*

    There are some good websites on how to help eliminate “verbal pauses” or “filler words”, since it’s pretty common! The main things seem to be “be aware that you’re doing it”, and then “don’t be afraid to be quiet instead of trying to fill the pause with sound”.

    I don’t know if I can post links, but an internet search on “how to stop using verbal pauses” may be helpful. Good luck!

  33. CommanderBanana*

    Is anyone dealing with your office scaling back on work from home flexibility? I was hired in January and the office was 3 days in / 2 days WFH. I just found out they’re going to 4 days in / 1 day WFH. I understand that its their prerogative to make changes to the telework policy, but it’s not based on performance, and the majority of the programs I work on are virtual and are with partners that are not local. So, I’m going to work to sit in a windowless interior office to spend all day on Zoom anyway.

    I came from an office that was much more flexible in terms of, as long as you got your work done, it didn’t matter where or when you did it, and as a very high performer who outlasted three bosses, I had a lot of autonomy. The work was also a lot more collaborative.

    I’m salaried, but my current director has unfortunately turned out to be a micromanager and to have some aggression issues, and for that various other reasons I’m most likely going to leave once I hit a year here.

    How have others dealt with WFH policies changing?

    1. Anonymask*

      As someone who also does remote work, so I come into the office to… be on Zoom all day, I feel your pain. Honestly, my way of dealing with WFH policies changing has been job searching for fully remote positions. No luck so far because I’m coming across many postings that list “Remote” but when asked in the interview stage, they say they expect people to come un 4-5 days.

      But with your current boss, I have no advice, only commiseration. It sucks so bad to go from having autonomy and getting all your work done to suddenly being micromanaged (and then to have behavioral issues on top of that!).

    2. RagingADHD*

      It’s not an internal change, but I am seeing a lot more jobs emphasizing in-office time as I’m applying. One actually great opportunity opened up precisely because they found that it did not work to have the role be fully remote, and the incumbent wasn’t willing to move here and work in person.

      However, when I ask about temporary / occasional WFH for special circumstances (my go-to example is “what if I broke my foot and can’t drive but can work just fine?”) they are all okay with it. So it’s not that they can’t. They just don’t appear to be getting the value out of primarily remote work that they used to see when everyone was primarily in person.

      The office I’m currently on contract for has an official “your role is in person” policy, but everyone works from home sometimes, either on fixed days or at their own discretion. It’s up to the individual managers to set up a schedule or call people out if they think it’s being overdone, but I haven’t heard of that happening ever.

    3. The New Wanderer*

      I feel like the opposite of malicious compliance should be beneficial non-compliance. As in, what the employees are doing who just flat out ignore return-to-office mandates and continue to WFH because they are much more productive.

      I’m basically doing that myself, but with my manager’s approval. Right now the requirement is 1 out of 10 days in-office and all of my meetings are virtual, no local team members, so it’s just not noticeable if I’m not there that one day. If and when they go to the proposed 3 days in-office per week next year… well, we’ll see. I’m not sure I would have considered this job at all if it didn’t offer 90% telework at the time, due to the office location. I really like the job but a regular hard commute to sit in an open office on Zoom calls all day would significantly impact my productivity and work-life balance.

      1. linger*

        With the important caveat that — even when the outcome demonstrably benefits productivity and/or client satisfaction — any deliberate routine “non-compliance” with official stated policy absolutely requires (i) explicit advance approval from management, and (ii) sufficient discretion at that managerial level to offer protection against interference from other management levels.

  34. Anonymask*

    This is a general frustration/vent, but I wonder if anyone has ideas or can commiserate.

    IT came by last night after I left and replaced my desk monitors (I didn’t request this, so I’m not sure why, especially as they aren’t better than what I had?). When they replaced them, they put them almost touching the desk they’re so low, which means I’m hunching over to see them and that’s hurting my neck and back. I am one of the Long Torso gang, so having proper posture means I need my monitors up higher, which is where I had my previous monitors set.

    Why didn’t the person replacing them put them back at the same height? Why does my IT department use proprietary/VERY uncommon tools to lock the monitor arms in place? I’d just fix it myself if they used a basic allen wrench. I don’t understand the logic of not putting something back the way you found it…
    Anyway. I had to put in a help ticket to ask them to come back and fix it, and I made sure to include that it is not ergonomic/causing me pain to (hopefully) escalate their response time. But I’m not holding my breath, and I’m expecting to be in a great deal more pain before they come over (genetically, my family has bad backs and necks, I was not spared I found out when I turned 30+). It’s hard to work, so I guess I’ll be taking my breaks today…

    Any ideas on how to make today (and honestly, probably through next week) tolerable and as pain-free as possible? Anyone else with IT misery today?

    1. Rick Tq*

      Hardware stores (Home Depot, Lowes, Harbor Freight) have tool kits with all the uncommon bits including the security bits with holes in the middle. It won’t help today but having a kit may let you adjust your heights without a long wait. A call to whoever coordinates ergonomic accommodations may help get IT there sooner.

      Good luck.

      1. Anonymask*

        Hah, yeah, my partner has a multi kit at home. But that’s not a bad idea, having a second one in my desk. I’ll borrow theirs if this isn’t fixed today and they have the right bit. I’ll try contacting our HR team to see if they can push on them. Thanks!

      1. Anonymask*

        The monitor arm is bolted to the desk, and they overtightened the adjustment areas/”screws” (for lack of a better word) so they can’t be adjusted. I think that’s a little bit overkill and they should trust their employees more, but I’m not in charge.

        So I’ll try using my partner’s kit (or buying my own if necessary) this weekend, and contacting HR to see if they can push on IT as Rick Tq suggested.

    2. Rainy*

      You can almost certainly find an uncommon tool set on Amazon so you can fix them yourself–if you don’t know what they’re called, google image search various options for description until you find something that looks right, then search for the name on Amazon.

      As to why IT did it: because they don’t care, they’re just checking boxes. Somebody said replace your monitors, they replaced your monitors, trying to use them is your problem. (I am a little cynical about in-house IT because ours is so awful–I’m sure some people’s IT is great, and that’s nice for you, but our divisional IT people are all assholes.) I also sort of wonder–do you have a nameplate on your office door and is your name feminine, because as an almost 5’10” woman I find that anyone who has anything to do with installation of anything assumes that I’m 5’2″. I have a whiteboard in my office that is only usable because I marked exactly where they should put it and how high. My old office had a whiteboard that I might have been able to use as a 10yo.

      1. Anonymask*

        Yes, my given name is feminine, and as I’m looking over the rows in the open office, it appears the feminine-named people have short monitors… So, mystery solved about those issues. (And yes, our IT team is… suboptimal.)

        I’m glad that your installation team listened to you about your whiteboard! I can feel the sympathetic back pain from here.

        But I just don’t understand why it wouldn’t be the first thought to TRY to put the monitors back at the same height you found them! That’s what I would do, why aren’t more people thinking like me? Lol

        1. Rainy*

          Because you have common sense which is so, so rare? :P I’m sorry, that really sucks. I hope you can get them adjusted soon!

    3. LMC*

      It’s odd that it’s not adjustable at all without special tools. Hope you get it fixed soon. I don’t have IT misery per se, more like IT frustration. I had my ancient computer replaced (which is a good thing! It no longer takes 15 minutes to restart and my whole screen doesn’t freeze for a few minutes whenever I get a Teams message) but I lost access to some important things that I need. My IT contact is very nice but it seems like he’s swamped right now so it’s taking a while to get my access back.

      1. Anonymask*

        Oh man, that happened to my partner recently too! That’s so frustrating! I hope they get back to you soon because there are programs that are definite needs.

    4. Anon for this one*

      One idea of how to potentially escalate is to get HR involved. This is something they have an interest in as well because of accommodations and potential workers comp claims.

    5. Anonymask*

      I have an update!

      The IT guy came out with his little toolkit and tried to help. But couldn’t get the arms to move because “they’re as high up as allowed.” I tried to politely gesture to the two other monitor stands I can see from my desk that are much higher than mine and indicated that maybe the center bar is the issue.

      (The monitors are on a t-bar type connecter, with a metal cylindrical center where the connector raises up and down the center to add additional height if the bendable arms are locked in place and “not allowed to be moved”. The center bar is bolted to the desktop.)

      The IT guy looked at it and couldn’t move it, so he went to get a second person. I assumed that they had talked to each other on the way over because there was about 10 minutes between. But the second guy asked me what the issue was? I explained it again and he told me “you just need to wiggle it.” The t-bar is also locked in place, otherwise I would have tried that, too. Anyway.

      They unlocked it, wiggled it, and let me adjust them as needed before locking it back into place. So I have good posture again! Yay! HR escalation started, but not wholly required this time.

      And yes, I will be buying a small kit for my desk because they’ve been playing musical chairs throughout the building lately and I don’t trust I won’t be moved. Again.

  35. I should really pick a name*

    Computer programmers:

    Know of any good resources in methodical ways to troubleshoot bugs?
    I find I’ll bang my head against a problem for a while, then discover something that can be fixed in a couple lines of code, but looking back, can’t figure out how I could have identified that specific thing as the problem earlier.

    1. Rick Tq*

      Describe your code to a rubber duck aloud… When you read your code silently you are as much seeing what you assume is there as is actually there.

      Verbally describing your code to a non-programmer makes you mentally process things much more completely.

      1. Decidedly Me*

        This ^. My partner is a programmer and told me to do this when I started doing solo learning on the topic. It’s a huge help!

    2. Qwerty*

      – Change your viewpoint and find different ways of looking at the problem

      – Talk it through. A lot of times this is brought up as the rubber duck method, but often doing it with a friend works best because they’ll ask something small or just repeat something back to you that suddenly triggers a chain reaction in your head.

      – Draw it out

      – Get up and take a walk or a break and focus on something else for a bit

      For your sanity – most times the fixes to bugs are small, simple, and seem blindingly obvious once you know what it is even if it took half the team a week to diagnose.

      1. Mill Miker*

        Seconding the last point. I find normally the amount of effort required to find a bug is inverse to the amount of code required to fix it.

        A whole class has bad logic: Usually sticks out like a sore thumb
        One of several dozen “+ 1″s that should have been one of the dozens of “- 1″s instead? Good luck finding which single character to change.

      2. Dreaming Koala*

        Great list. Sometimes it helps to postpone it to the next day (if possible), similar to taking a walk / a break.

    3. Bob Howard*

      When you code, you have a mental model of what is happening in the computer. Bugs occur when that model diverges from what the computer does, or an edge case occurs that you had not fully considered. My long and painful experience is that you have to find the earliest point at which your mental model diverges from what the computer is doing. So put in breakpoints, or debug_printf (or the equivalent in your dev. envionment) at strategic points until you can find that first point at which the observed behaviour diverges from your model.

      Everything else depends on the specifics of your application, library and development tools, so I do not think it is easy to generalise any further than that. I have found myself going through multi-MBs of text file to identify the circumstances under which my code failed. Very often it comes down to the fact that I am an idiot.

    4. Bob Howard*

      When you code, you are making the computer follow the mental model you have of how it should behave. Bugs occur when the computer and your model diverge, often at an edge case you had not fully considered.

      My long and painful experience is that the only way to resolve the bug is to find where that divergence first occurs. While most systems have pretty good debugging tools these days, I still find myself putting in lots of debug_printf statements and wading through the many MB of resulting text file, to find where behavior diverges from expectation. I normally wind up realizing the bug has occurred because I am an idiot.

      I do not think it is possible to be more specific than this because so much depends on your exact application and development environment.

    5. Mill Miker*

      If the language you work with has a debugger available, and you’re not already using it, it’s well worth the time to set it up and learn how to use it.

      At least one of the languages I work with regularly has a debugger available, but it’s a pain to get everything all configured to actually work, and you have to tune it a bit, and it slows everything down to have it running, and I only regret not getting it working sooner.

    6. fhqwhgads*

      -Add Print (or console.log, whatever applies) statements at various points in the code so it can spit out something resembling “should be X here” etc, then when you run it, you may be able to see from those statements where it goes wrong.
      -comment out pieces of it. If you have no idea where the problem is then comment out the last half and running the beginning. If that’s good, then uncomment the next half of what’s commented. Repeat until you find the thing.

  36. Rachel*

    My manager lied on my performance review and I feel blindsided.

    Over the last year, despite having a divorce and dealing with loads in my personal life, I put immense effort at work. I was given more and more responsibilities too, which made me think they trust my abilities. Never received any negative feedback during my weekly 1:1s with my manager.

    Last week I had my year end review. My manager scored me ‘moderate contribution’, stating that that’s what most of the company got. I’d scored myself at the ‘good contribution’ level. I’d be fine with his rating, if his reasons weren’t blatant lies.

    For instance, he claims that I said ‘I don’t give a s*it about what my grandboss thinks’. He is unable to produce evidence of this or even tell me when this incident happened. I gasped when I heard him claiming that and told him in absolutely no circumstance did I say anything along those lines to him or anyone. His attitude was ‘pfff Rachel, of course you’d say you did’t say such thing.’ And that was that. I’m worried he told this lie to my grandboss too. I always felt like he was trying to make me seem bad in his eyes.

    There were other blatant lies, as well as twisted truths in his review. Also, the goal post seemed to have moved. For instance, I went above and beyond for one of my objectives and launched something at one of our sites. He goes ‘Why wasn’t this program launched on all other sites?’

    Since the review he told me that he understands how I might’ve felt as if he was trying to trip me up but that he wasn’t and wanted to move on to a better year… We’re now working on this development plan, following a job description of a promoted title but he says even if I ticked everything off my promotion wouldn’t be imminent and I’d need to wait to see in an opportunity would come up within the company. Time for job search?

    1. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

      YES! I would file a formal complaint just for the false accusation alone. It’s cartoonishly awful, it’s defamatory, and he has no proof. Any development plan he’s involved in will be either worthless or actively harmful to your growth there. I would be spending all my time and energy job searching if I were you. Good luck.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Agreed. I’d divide my time between finding a new job and filing formal complaints–even if the LW leaves there will at least be documentation about this guy once he tries this on the rest of his team (and you know he will.)

    2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      Given your manager’s response to your attempts to ask for specific examples, I don’t think you’re going to get him to be a better manager.

      Job searching is often a “yes and…” solution for me, since it doesn’t *have* to take much time or energy. So yes to job searching.

      As for your current situation, does the company have HR and how are they? It might be worth asking if you can add a response to items that you can concretely show his…flexible relationship with the truth, e.g., My goal as documented was to achieve X and Y, but I pushed and accomplished X, Y, and Z, so I am not sure why Manager’s review doesn’t acknowledge that and implies that I underperformed but not accomplishing X, Y, Z, and ABC.

    3. Another Librarian (and proud of it!)*

      Many evaluation forms have a space for the individual being reviewed to make comments. I think saying what you experienced is the perfect comment in this space. Also, signing these forms often means you acknowledge being shown and reading the evaluation, but not that you agree with it. If you don’t agree with it, be sure to say that in writing.

    4. ferrina*

      This guy is nasty! Lies, moving goal posts, and gaslighting (“I understand that you feel like I was doing exactly what I did, but I didn’t do what I did and now let’s all forget that I did that thing”). I’m glad you asked about a job search, because that’s a smart and reasonable response to a boss like this.

      Keep your head down and work on an exit plan. If you’ve got a reasonable HR, you can try talking to them about “I think my manager misremembered something. He wrote that I said …. but I very much did not! I’m worried about this going into my annual review. What is the way to handle this?” But if you don’t think that will help, you can keep you head down and move on. Almost no one cares about annual reviews after you leave the company.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        When someone gaslights you, they know exactly what they’re doing. Keep that in mind at all times!

    5. ragazza*

      This guy sounds bad. I would document every meeting and everything he says. And yeah I’d be looking for a new job.

    6. Capt. Liam Shaw*

      When a manager lies to you. You job search. You can’t trust them anymore. Sorry you are dealing with this on top of what sounds like a bruising year.

    7. goddessoftransitory*

      Yes to the job search, especially since his ass-covering weaksauce “I understand how you might have felt…” crap shows he knows exactly what he did and is worried you’re going to go over his head (as you are absolutely entitled to do.) What a douchecanoe.

  37. CuriousCat*

    We’re preparing for a remodel. Our office situation will be somewhat fluid during this time, and our “stuff” will be on rolling carts in case we have to relocate. Does anybody have any tips? Any must haves for mobile living? I’m used to sharing my space; my coworkers not so much. :)

    1. Anon for This*

      Take everything personal home. If you have reference materials you rely on you may need to take them home/bring back with you every day (or as needed.) It is not clear to me why, but when it was on your desk people left it alone or returned if borrowed. With the rolling carts it seems like some thought items were fair game.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        If you can get away with it in your office culture and you work in a job where you have a lot of physical office supplies, decorate your small “borrowable” stuff (pens, stapler, scissors) with matching stickers or something else to make it stand out from everyone else’s. A little time spent with a roll of patterned duct tape or a Transformers sticker sheet will make it quite obvious that the stapler someone grabbed for “just a second” off of your cart should go back to live with its matching friends afterward. (If possible, decorate the cart in the theme too.)

    2. Rainy*

      I hope these are the ones that have a space inside for stuff with a lock. LOCK YOUR CART EVERY NIGHT. Carry the key with you. Don’t ever leave anything on it in the open in the mistaken belief that no one will take it because it’s on top of your cart. If you have a special chair that is adjusted to your needs, label it in 3 visible and at least one hard to spot places and put a big sign on it that says “DO NOT ADJUST”.

  38. Coffee Time*

    I have a question about open office etiquette! I work in an office with assigned desks and half-height cubical walls, so even when you’re sitting down, you can see and hear anyone else in the office. My desk is right next to another department’s section of the office. I can hear all of their conversations. I’m pretty friendly with most of the people- we’ll leave the office to get lunch together, etc. So my question- how much should I pretend that I can’t hear/see them? I feel like it’s probably okay for me to jump in if they’re talking about a tv show. What if one of them is asking their colleague a grammar question? Can I give my input? If someone mentions that they can’t figure out a feature of their email and i know the answer, can I chime in? If two of them are talking about a specific work thing and one makes a joke, can I laugh (revealing that I can hear their conversation)? Or should I be more careful about pretending there’s a divider between us?

    1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      Tricky one! It depends some on the culture of your office (i.e., some offices welcome spontaneous interjections, others pretend there are invisible walls everywhere).

      I’m fairly conservative, so would tend towards pretending there are invisible walls. On the “I may be able to help with that” examples, if they are already working it out with someone, I’d stay out of it unless they’re getting it wrong *and* it’s high impact.

      For jokes, I wouldn’t worry about policing your reactions unless they’re noticeable. So, a smile or quiet chuckle/giggle at an overheard joke are A-okay, but a big belly laugh might be odd.

    2. CuriousCat*

      I share an office, and there is no way to not hear what is said. I’ll usually let the askee answer questions about grammar or email features because they know just as much as I do. I might interject if neither seems to know or if I have some special knowledge.

      1. Coffee Time*

        Good point about not needing to interject if the other members of the conversation have the same knowledge I do- I’ll keep that in mind!

    3. ThatGirl*

      This is similar to my office. I know my coworkers pretty well so I do sometimes chime in if I know the answer or if it involves me. But if folks are trying to have a semi-private conversation (low voices for instance), I stay out of it.

  39. Analytical Tree Hugger*

    Suggested responses to my manager and/or senior colleagues asking variations of, “Do you like your job?” when the honest answer is “No, but I like paying my bills”?

    This is during regular check-ins and performance reviews, when we’re looking at the big picture, so I can’t casually brush off the question.

    The job itself is fine and low on dysfunction. My work is 30-40% “deal with the bureaucratic nonsense so the subject matter experts don’t have to” (clearly stated in the interview, no bait-and-switch), so the core of what I don’t like can’t change. And the rest of the job is neutral for me. As the culture here is to put a thin positive veneer on everything, I don’t feel safe being honest.

    Suggested scripts welcome!

    1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      Following for more ideas. I am struggling with this! I do not like my job and it’s hard to be constructive in convos like that. I’ve been using a half-truth approach — pick just a couple of things to talk about, set aside things that are a trap/trigger for my grumpiness or that will never change (like your bureaucracy), and focus more on what I like versus what I don’t like. Something like: I really like this aspect — is there any way to get more of that? I’m having difficulty with this aspect — can you help me understand / structure this differently? Stuff like that. I try to ask questions and keep my tone light so it sounds like I’m curious, a “how might we” vibe.

    2. RagingADHD*

      Do you feel like you do your job well? Do you feel like you are paid fairly?

      I often use the line, “I get a lot of satisfaction out of doing something I’m good at, and being valued for it.”

    3. TX_Trucker*

      I would try to craft some variation of. ” I like paying my bills,” by focusing on the benefits of steady employment.

      I enjoy the stability that this job provides. Although there is lots of bureaucracy, it makes me feel needed. I know my role is important to the organization. I derive satisfaction from helping the SMEs.

    4. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

      Is the question a passive aggressive way of asking if you’re happy there, since you are not giving off pleasant vibes? If you are being repeatedly asked that, you might be grouchier at work than you realize and it’s worth thinking about if you can dial up the pleasant a notch or two if it would make the question go away.

    5. Whomst*

      I think a “I like being helpful” is a bland white lie that can be applied to virtually any position. The positive spin you can give on dealing with bureaucratic nonsense for other people – you can talk about how it gives you warm fuzzies to shield other people from the nonsense. Bonus points if you can bring up how you know those people appreciate the service.

      Is it an easily seen through lie? Sure. But it sounds like they’re not really that interested in digging in to your answer, so they’ll likely just take the bait.

    6. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      I think you’re being too literal when you think, “No.” It isn’t dishonest to acknowledge what you appreciate instead of focusing on what you don’t like. Why are you still here instead of somewhere else? How is this job better than previous ones? There must be things you like or you would leave, right? So think of this as, “What makes you stay here rather than looking elsewhere?”

      “Do you like your job?” “I do. It’s been so great to be somewhere that lets me X”. Or “Yes, I really appreciate Y, I didn’t get to do that/have that in previous jobs.” Or even, “Yes. I don’t think anyone loves *bureaucratic thing*, but I’m happy to do it so the SMEs can do their high level work.”

      BTW, framing it as low on dysfunction is negative. Try to reverse that and it might help you answer. A different way to say “low on dysfunction” is something like, “people get along well, are approachable/supportive, easy to give feedback” etc. This is not dishonest either, it’s looking at the positives instead of the negatives.

      Also, there is a possibility that this could be a poorly worded “are you interested in moving up/over into another position here”. I would suggest you come up with your truthful positive answer and give it once to see if that takes care of it. If you get asked again after that, I’d give a different version of the truthful positive and then add, “You’ve asked me that several times. Are you just checking in or is there another reason you’re asking?”

    7. Double A*

      Can you mentally add “having” into the question? “Do you like having your job?”

      And it sounds like the answer is yes! It meets what you are currently looking for in a job.

    8. Janeric*

      I’d compliment the things you like that they put effort into. You like that it’s low dysfunction: you like your team, you like that your manager makes sure issues are addressed and hard work is rewarded, you like that they’re frank about things that are hard to say, you like that your contributions are valued.

    9. EA*

      This isn’t really a time to be brutally honest… and I don’t think they really want to know if you’re passionate about doing bureaucratic tasks, but rather if you’re satisfied and comfortable with how things are going. I’d say, “Yes, everything has been going well lately. Our team works well together. I’m happy about how (example project) went”… etc etc

  40. NotBatman*

    What can companies do to prevent harassment and discrimination that’s more effective than having HR assign those crappy videos?

    I’m wondering this as I’m a) coming from a discussion of a blatantly discriminatory incident between colleagues, and b) going through the mandatory annual rewatch of the “Your Company or Institution Considers [Discrimination] on the Basis of [Race] a Serious Topic”, which ain’t exactly persuading me it’s true.

    1. Rick Tq*

      If there aren’t any consequences imposed close to the event nothing is going to change. Managers need to be willing (and able) to impose sanctions beyond watching a video. Sanctions like a PIP or unpaid time off for especially egregious incidents.

    2. The New Wanderer*

      Require *everyone* to take the training? At my last company, execs were not required to take training like this, just the rank and file and first, maybe second, level managers. It will shock no one to learn that diversity in the upper ranks did not meaningfully change when the lower ranks were forced to attend this training. But, it *did* have the side effect of making us far more aware of just how un-diverse the upper ranks continue to be.

    3. Busy Middle Manager*

      One idea I’ve always thought was, give specific to-dos that don’t involve “fixing a problem after it has happened.” For example, I’ve wondered how to hide applicant names/addresses but no software has a feature for that, that I see. That would be an example of something they could train on

      1. NotBatman*

        I love this idea of being proactive rather than reactive. None of our trainings cover that, but it’s certainly better than what we’ve got in my (95% white) workplace right now.

  41. Mrs. Min Yoongi*

    I’m currently in a temp-to-hire position with an agency that offers healthcare through The American Worker, a company I had never heard of prior to taking on this gig. Can anyone give me an idea of what I’m in for in terms of quality? I did some googling on my own earlier this week and found A LOT of complaints against them, which is (understandably) making me nervous.

    1. Constance Lloyd*

      My work is full and slow. I doubt it generates enough actual work for 40 hours a week, and there are two of us. I like to say I really appreciate being able to give each assignment the attention it deserves. If you can identify something about your job that feels neutral and describe it with a positive spin, would that work?

    2. Mztery1*

      I don’t know anything about them cannoli the reviews are uniformly terrible! With a lot of people saying that they either didn’t pay claims or you weren’t able to find a practitioner who took the insurance. If you have any other options, it sounds like you should take them.

  42. Dog Child*

    I’m looking at going to do a masters 10 years after my undergrad and I’m looking for a sanity check on my ‘ideal’ plan from anyone who’s gone back to education.

    Weekly it would look like 4 days (30 hours) doing my normal job, and 2 days for lectures (upto 10 hours), with 16-25 hours of study expected. It’s a part-time law conversion (for non-law grads).

    Does this sound doable? Doable but difficult? Not doable at all?

    1. Justin*

      Entirely depends on how long it takes you to do work/assignments. Big difference between 16 and 25.

      If you tend to work fast, you can get through school while working. I did. But I don’t recommend to all as I don’t know your speed and style.

    2. PrincessFlyingHedgehog*

      Doable but difficult. How doable depending on personal/family commitment. The first semester may be the most difficult, as it may take you awhile to get back into the swing of academic life. Don’t hesitate to use campus resources/services! And don’t hesitate to reach out to those resource/service units to ask for what you need – many staff are happy to redirect you if another unit could help you better, and many staff want to know if the resources/services they offer are inaccessible (due to confusing websites, limited office hours, etc.) and they’ll try to help you as best as they can.

    3. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Doable but difficult. I did something similar, but I did 40 hours and evening classes. It sounds like you’re planning on taking maybe 4 classes if my math is up to date? I’d be open to reducing your course load and doing less over a slightly longer period, if that’s an option. You might be just fine with this workload! But knowing you have a little flexibility can make it easier, even if you don’t necessarily go that route.

      1. Dog Child*

        It’s two modules per semester (30 credits total); it’s a 1-year course done part-time in 2 years. There isn’t an option beyond that but I’m hoping that would be sufficient.

    4. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      Really depends on the person. In my 30s I went back to a full time / low residency graduate program that was geared for students to keep working. In my cohort, our experiences ranged from managing with while holding a full time job and having kids to people who ended up quitting quit their jobs halfway through. I worked 20 hours a week and I was still pretty overwhelmed — I love sleep and tend to overdo assignments. The ones who did it all were extremely efficient, great prioritizers (skipped a lot of the reading lol), and didn’t sleep as much.

    5. Rage*

      Doable but difficult. I’m just now getting my masters over 20 years post-bachelors. Of course, all of my classes are in the evenings, it’s designed that way, so I’m not taking off full days for classes (though I am in my internship semester so I do leave at 3 PM on Mondays and Wednesdays to see clients).

  43. LMC*

    I made it to a final round interview with the organization I applied to. It’s on Monday, and I was surprised to see its only scheduled for 30 minutes. I was kind of expecting the final interview to be more of an in-depth, technical interview (it’s for an accounting position) since the first interview was pretty standard interview questions. Do you think there’s still a chance of it being a technical interview, or is it a more culture/fit type interview? I’m preparing for both just in case, but has anyone else had a final stage interview be a short amount of time?

    1. PrincessFlyingHedgehog*

      For only 30 minutes, that sounds like a culture/fit type interview, maybe getting a few of the higher-ups in the room for a meet and greet with you.

  44. How Seriously Does Your Nonprofit Take Gender Imbalance in DEIJ?*

    I have always noted more white women than any other demographic in my nonprofit field. The salaries aren’t great, wich could be a factor. We are doing a DEIJ plan, which is excellent – we need more diversity for sure, and we should incentivize people from the communities we serve to join our organization. However, how seriously should I take the recommendation to hire more men? Our board is majority male so I think we’re getting the masculine perspective. I would not choose to preferentially recruit white male candidates, although I would certainly welcome men from other racial demographics. I would also argue that white men aren’t underrepresented in the field overall, particularly at the more senior level, and in larger / more established organizations than ours. But there’s no denying we currently have a lot of white women on staff. I’m just more interested in the former issue versus the latter. Does this seem okay or am I thinking about this all wrong?

    1. mreasy*

      There is no good reason to try to add more white men specifically. Now, if you raise salaries to being good for your industry – including raises for all your current employees – you will inevitably find more applicants who aren’t from those groups who historically undersell themselves. But gosh. White men have so many options already. Does your company have to try to offer them more?

      1. OP*

        The DEIJ plan right now says “increase the gender diversity of the staff and board” which my ED is taking as “we need more women on the board and more men on staff.” However, I’m not sure how seriously she is taking the latter suggestion or how I would consider implementing that.

    2. Elsewise*

      No, I think you’re right. There are a lot of fields (nonprofit, education, etc.) where lower levels are largely female and senior or executive levels are largely male. That’s not an issue to be resolved by recruiting more men, it’s an issue to be resolved by identifying the barriers to women advancing!

    3. Educator*

      In the nonprofit world, I think that a lot of this comes back to mission. Are there times when your mission would be better served by having a better balance of genders on staff?

      For example, at my education-adjacent nonprofit, we are trying to get more men in entry-level roles because we’ve seen the research that it helps students to work with adults who share different aspects of their identity. (It’s the same reason we are trying to hire for diversity in a lot of other ways!) And it is genuinely helpful to have male voices at the table when we are, say, talking about helping students develop emotional regulation skills, which are often tied to socialization around gender in our culture.

      No one is saying “oh, poor men, they need more opportunities in our field,” of course. We are just saying “let’s get the most talented and diverse staff we can so that we can better advance our mission.” We want to be the kind of place where everyone feels comfortable, and that just won’t be true if it is all (or mostly) cis women in the room.

      Also, I really hope your DEIJ plan does not define gender in strictly binary terms.

    4. J*

      My experience with this comes from working at a legal aid nonprofit and law in general but I’ve only ever had one token male support staff/paralegal support team member at each job. Because of that, it seems like the female attorneys often got some of the trickle up effect of being seen as helper staff or less than the male attorneys in the same field. Sure, pay was about equitable because it was regulated but when getting approval for things like solo press interviews or new projects (i.e. things that could help them get to the next level), the men almost always got instant approval while a female attorney had to go pull data or stats like they were a junior staffer.

      I don’t know the right way to build in more male staffing. Outside of maybe pay. I know our staff referral arms were law firms with the same issues and a community college program that was overly women. The clients we served were largely women and we didn’t actually want to change that either, especially knowing who our community partners were. But because our attorney ratios (55:45 women:men) were so different than our staff ratios (20:1) and client ratios (88:1), I know the female attorneys/leaders suffered for it with those unconscious biases.

  45. Justin*

    How do you balance owning your expertise with keeping your ego in check, particularly if you’re not a cishet white guy (+ability, class, etc)?

    I am having to put my foot down fairly often in my role where my training from my doctorate and my experience really come to fore, and it tends to go very well. And I’ve honestly gotten a lot done because of it. Being Black, it’s important to me (and my family) that I not downplay this and other accomplishments.

    But, aside from not dismissing people who are of lower rank, what are some ways you ensure you stay level-headed? I’m not truly losing my groundedness or anything, and I make concerted efforts to be kind and inclusive, but I still do find myself thinking, “if you would just have listened to my advice” on occasion and I don’t want to be an “I told you so” type even internally.

    Thoughts?

    (This is obviously a good problem to have.)

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Excellent problem to have!

      The biggest thing, in my opinion, is staying open to new information and perspectives. You say that a bit when you say not dismissing people who are of a lower rank – but it can also mean not dismissing new or changing information in general, always keeping a learning mindset, and always engaging in collaboration in good faith even if you deep down don’t fully respect something about the person you’re collaborating with.

      Tolerance and acceptance of things and people that annoy you gets much harder as you gain your own expertise.

      1. Justin*

        Yeah, one thing I’m doing is seeking out individual members of departments whose…. speed is not my favorite, so I can still collaborate with these teams effectively and in ways that their processes don’t affect me as much.

    2. NotBatman*

      One piece of advice my doctoral mentor gave me: talk about yourself, not about anyone else.

      If someone asks how you know about llamas, say “I’ve groomed 400 llamas, and my thesis work is actually about combs, so it’s my experience that…” If someone challenges you, say “I’ve worked for 5 years in this field” or “I’m a doctoral candidate in this field, and therefore…” [repeat your argument]. Don’t assume anything about the person listening — they might be more experienced or less — but give an accurate summary of your expertise.

      That way you’re focusing on facts. Actually do the math about how many classes you’ve taken, books you’ve read, projects you’ve presented, etc. on this subject, and keep that math in your back pocket to refer to as needed.

    3. Eng Girl*

      Do your best to either explain your reasoning or be available to others to explain your reasoning. Depending on what your work is and who you’re talking to work on putting anything more technical into simpler terms without being condescending.

      Own when you make a mistake/when you may not be right. Always ask questions, it’s way too easy to become an island when you’re the resident expert and you may miss important things.

      Remember that sometime it’s ok to professionally say “I told you so”. This can take a lot of different forms. I personally like “Well, if we look back on what went wrong with X account I think we can see that we need to make provisions for Y this time” for times when I see a repeated error coming up.

    4. Busy Middle Manager*

      I think you should come back next week with a specific example or two. Because the feelings you have are sort of common for all people, so it’s hard to give advice tailored to you without knowing, well, you.

      The “if only they had listened” is extremely common. Most people don’t work on something until the problem happens, even if it were predictable

    5. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Radical empathy – putting myself in their shoes, truly in their shoes. Then connecting to a time I’ve demonstrated any quality that I’m judging them for.

      Then, giving compassion to myself for that time (which is where I usually find a lot of internalized judgment/criticism) and then expending that compassion to them.

    6. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

      If you have ownership over the project or it has consequences for your reputation or promotional prospects, then put your foot down. If you’re giving advice unsolicited or someone casually asked or you’re a team member in a meeting, then just say your thing and let them rock.

      Ultimately, it’s not worth butting heads (or exerting that much effort) to be right because there are people who care less about the right answer than they do being the one who has it. Not worth the headache. It’s not downplaying your achievement to pick your battles. If you really want to, keep a note and record of when you’ve been correct (preferably in written format) in your suggestion and they didn’t listen. You can pull that up, particularity if they’re gonna do something that increases your workload.

    7. Yoli*

      I’m a Black woman in a similar position, and what’s most helpful for me is to check in with my boss (also a Black woman, thankfully) and ask, “How far do you want me to push this?” Usually her guidance comes down to historical and current patterns in the data, as well as the impact on my time. I work with folks in different departments that ideally should produce similar results, so going back-and-forth with Team A is a no if it impacts my time spent with Team B.

      You’re probably already doing this, but cultivating your Black professional network is also key for calibrating your reactions. (I say this as someone in an org and field that is overwhelmingly white women, so ymmv.)

  46. Staff Makeup in Small Orgs*

    Something I’ve noticed: I work for a really small nonprofit (four people, plus some contractors) and two of them are “Directors.” So literally half our staff is senior. I’m conflicted about this as a structure – does it seem weird to you? On one hand, it makes sense that you need high capacity people when a staff is this small, and of course these people want good titles and deserve the best money we can pay. That said, we don’t have any administrative staff or lower-level people to take direction – just me and another program manager (my title also). I’m mid-career myself, and no matter how good I am or how long I’m here, I’ll always be the person being told to make phone calls, make copies, order supplies etc. (I do think that “Directors” of tiny staffs should be expecting to do a lot of their own admin work and stuff that would be delegated at other, bigger organizations). The “junior” staff also end up leaving a lot … and it’s not like I’m hoping to be a third Director out of four, which just seems kind of silly. Should I suggest we replace one or two of these roles (maybe one director one manager) with more junior people the next time they come vacant?

    1. NotBatman*

      Have you asked anyone directly about the rationale? Depending on the population served by your nonprofit, is it possible that a more-impressive title helps with communication? I ask because our team’s administrative assistant became “Department X Office Representative” on the letterhead because it helped her have authority for dealing with occasional rude clients.

      1. Decidedly Me*

        This! At a past job, my boss’ title didn’t accurately reflect his role due to corporate politics reasons. However, when talking with vendors, he would inflate his title (to what it accurate should have been) as he wouldn’t get replies back otherwise. This was totally fine within the office politics, go figure.

    2. MsM*

      I really wouldn’t get too wrapped up in the title thing. In one of my previous roles, I wasn’t allowed to call myself a director because I technically didn’t manage anyone, even though I was doing everything else a director in that position would do: set the departmental budget, determine strategy, take meetings with important stakeholders either by myself or as the ED’s primary support, etc. It isn’t why I left, but I don’t think it was the right call, and it definitely wouldn’t have helped the organization to have someone more junior in my place for the sake of some kind of artificial appearance of “balance.” The bigger issue here is whether you’re okay with the lack of opportunity for advancement, especially if there is any room to push back on all the administrative duties falling to you, or if this place just isn’t big enough for what you need.

    3. Eldritch Office Worker*

      It’s not super uncommon for an org of your size, but I get why it’s frustrating. I was in that position for three years, and I look back on it as my worst job.

      I think your idea is a good one. People will stay longer if there’s some upward mobility, and some of this admin work could be done by a dedicated admin – which from an operational perspective would be smart. It’s not efficient to pay a mid-career manager salary and have that person not doing mid-career manager work. Not that admin work isn’t important or that everyone shouldn’t do some of their own admin, but a dedicated person would free you all up to do more mission-focused strategy and programming.

    4. Rick Tq*

      It depends on the industry. I sell computers to banks and it seems like everyone not a teller has a VP title…

    5. Itsa Me, Mario*

      If these “Directors” don’t have admins, and it’s not being made clear that they are to hand off their own administrative tasks to you, they should be doing many to most of these tasks themselves. Teamwide or company-wide admin is potentially within the purview of lower level colleagues (ordering supplies for the group, making the copies for the weekly staff meeting), but just because you’re a manager and they’re a director doesn’t mean you should be doing their expenses or printing out their spreadsheets.

      If there’s a lot of admin work that is beyond the scope of the program managers’ roles, maybe the next hire should be an admin?

    6. Mr. Shark*

      I’m not in that industry at all, so I don’t know how things work. But wouldn’t the title “Director” just be indicative of the type of work they’re doing? So if one of them left and you brought in a new person who is a manager, would they not being doing the work of a director?
      I assume that your work is decidedly different from the two directors, and thus the different title and different pay.

  47. matcha123*

    Do any of you have tips or tricks for overcoming the stress, anxiety, depression, etc. that comes from being in a work harassment situation?
    I’m a little over a year out of a job where I spent 5 years as the target of harassment by a person who was slightly above my level. I’m talking making mean remarks out loud about me without mentioning my name (but it was obvious it was me); blatantly lying to our supervisor about my work; trying to turn the whole team against me; and trying to make me feel bad in a weird small town middle school kind of way.

    Because she’s been at that place for about 20 years and is the oldest member at 66, people listen to what she says. She is tasked with checking everyone’s work (translation), but she’s not regular staff.

    My new place is great, but I kind of crashed mentally after I started working there. Having my colleagues actually listen to and respect my ideas and care about my growth in the company was something I’d not experienced at all. While I feel like I should be happy, and I am, my mind keeps pulling me back to the previous situation.

    I’ve endured similar harassment at other places, but this started from day one.
    I am slowly feeling better about myself. But I am having a hard time understanding why my other old coworkers couldn’t see such obvious harassment and I struggle to understand why they continue to think so highly of her. I had dinner with an old coworker the other day and that person described this bully as being on “another level” as if the woman was a god. If someone has been in the same position, doing the same tasks for 20 years, shouldn’t they have accumulated some knowledge? How does that put someone on “another level?”

    Those of you that have been targets and moved on to better jobs, what did you do to unchain the harasser from you mentally? How did you rebuild your confidence and faith in others?

    1. Rainy*

      Therapy would probably help a lot if you can access it. Also, you are allowed to stop being friends with people who admire your bully. People who never grew out of that junior high Mean Girl mentality are tedious and annoying to deal with, and a lot of people who might otherwise be okay humans will revert to junior high bandwagon-riding enablement around them either just because that’s how they got through actual junior high or out of self-interest when they see what happens to the person who won’t roll over and lick the mean girl’s boots. Unfortunately it’s not personal and has nothing to do with their feelings about you, they’re just reverting to bootlicking under stress.

    2. MsM*

      How important is it for you to remain in contact or on good terms with people from the old job? Because honestly, the more moving on you can do, the better. At the very least, I think it’s okay to say you’d rather not talk about Jane, or that your experience with her was quite different.

      Also, therapy if/when you can. Don’t convince yourself it’s not that big a deal or you should be able to handle it on your own. You went through a stressful, damaging experience. It’s okay to need help processing that.

    3. Hlao-roo*

      I second Rainy and MsM’s advice.

      To deal with the “my mind keeps pulling me back to the previous situation” part, can you schedule something for yourself outside of work that helps you process your feelings about the previous situation. The “something outside of work” could be journaling, therapy, going for a long walk and ruminating, working out, etc. The main things are (1) it will help you process your feelings and (2) it will take place at a certain time. Then, when you are at work and you feel your mind start to go back to the harassment at your previous workplace, interrupt your thoughts with “now’s not the time. I’ll think about that situation/feel those feelings [after work today when I journal/on my run Saturday morning/etc.]. Right now, I’m going to focus on these TPS reports.”

    4. Rage*

      Therapy definitely, to help process the trauma from your previous workplace and rein in that negative self-talk. And remember that the coping skills you used at Old Place are pretty much useless at New Place, which is why you are floundering.

    5. matcha123*

      Thank you all for the replies. Therapy isn’t an option for where I am. I work overseas and the culture is very much “If you were bullied, it’s because you were wrong” even though it’s a major social issue.

      I did a bit of journaling a few weeks ago and I think I need to schedule more. Exercise has always helped me, but I’ve been busy and I can see that I need to get back to it.

      The people from the old office are mostly people who I would like to maintain contact with, but after the past two times meeting people, I think I need to be explicit and say that I don’t want to hear about that woman at all.
      In one case, a former coworker said she looked at him and said, “Don’t you feel ashamed to work here?” I remarked that that was a rude comment and he replied that she was correct and I only said something because I didn’t like her.

      I’m not the type to try to chase after recognition in the form of awards or fancy job titles, so from their point of view, I have no standing to call her out because she’s older and chases awards and so on.

  48. My Plate Overflows*

    I’m losing a few key people next month and I’m stressed. Two of them will be on leave (one for extended medical leave and one maternity) and another that has given notice. I’m a Director and these are managers/supervisor for the different teams in my department. For one team, I will be both team supervisor and team manager. For another, I’ll be team manager overseeing a team of supervisors that are mostly new. So, overall, the timing could not be worse. I’m trying to fill the role for the person who has given notice immediately, but that takes time of course. My bosses are aware and understanding. They’ve been helping to temporarily remove things from my plate, which I appreciate, but those are things I want to be working on, not doing these fill ins. Any advice for getting through the next few months? Kind words or commiseration also welcome :)

    1. Call Sign: Shenanigans*

      We were a team of 5.5 and we lost 3.5 in a span of two months. That left me (2yrs) and another coworker (4 yrs) left behind. What saved us was an interim Director and an interim staff member.

      First, “but those are things I want to be working on, not doing these fill ins.” Sorry, but your role in leadership is to be a fill-in. I know you’re grateful for the temp re-assignments, and that should sustain you.

      I commiserate because we’re almost ending this situation by hiring a new Director. My kind words are know that you’re doing the best you can for your staff. Listen to them because they’re going through this, too. The loss of my team, and then our workplace, was so beyond what I needed after returning from a hard bout of COVID. Our leadership was there up to a point and then dropped off. Moderate your expectations of achievement and capacity, be there, but also keep leadership informed of what your teams have been able to do, not do with your new staff structure. Don’t ask for anything back until you’re sure your team can lose you to those tasks.

      Can you hire interim staff, with specific skills, to fill in for the two on leave, if not the person who left?

      1. My Plate Overflows*

        Oh – it’s 100% my job and I’m not saying it’s not (or even upset at that fact) to be clear. The other things are also my job, though, and it’s a pain to drop them, even temporarily. The three at once is intense lol!

        Really appreciate hearing your experience! I’m already meeting one to one with team members next week to check on how they are feeling about the changes and see how I can best support them. My bosses are honestly great, so I have no concerns with sharing feedback with them (from the team and myself).

        Unfortunately, temporary fills in aren’t possible. The time to train would be longer than the time gaps to fill. The supervisors in the one team are being cross trained to cover some of their manager’s duties while out, but again, they are new, so they’ll need extra support in that.

    2. ferrina*

      This sucks! I’m sorry.

      Mentally clear your plate for the next few months. Decline any social thing that you aren’t wildly excited about (i.e., if you aren’t saying “YESS!”, it’s a no). Give yourself permission to eat more take-out. If you have a partner, negotiate with them to see if they can lift some of the house stuff off your shoulders- you will be exhausted.

      Know that you can get through anything for a few months. I used to mentally tell myself that it was good training for when the Avengers needed me to activate my hitherto unknown superpower and suddenly save the world (or whatever story amuses you). Invest in training and hiring- these are things that will provide the long-term relief you need. Keep your eye on the future, not on the fires you put out today. If you are only putting out fires, you are being reactive and reactivity never shapes a situation. Look for opportunities to delegate.

      One trick I used was to ask someone who had extra time was to prepare me a brief on Topic I Needed To Know But Didn’t Have Time For. I’d warn them that this was only for my info, so I didn’t need it pretty but I needed it thorough, and I’d want them to sit down and talk me through it (that was how I best absorb information). This is especially good for early career professionals- they get to become the expert, and you can ask them questions for them to follow-up on, which helps them learn how to think like a leader and anticipate what you need. It also buys you time- rather than spending 40 minutes researching, you spent 20 minutes chatting with someone and getting the info that was (hopefully) tailored to you.

      Good luck!

  49. Inbox Zero Alternatives*

    People who have a good handle on your inbox – please teach me your ways! I’m one of those people who has thousands of emails, many marked unread. In one of the comment threads this week we were talking about inbox zero, but I’ve never found a way to make that work for me. Some people were saying they keep the emails they need to deal with in their inbox, and color code? Maybe that would be easier. I have two issues with inbox zero: once I filter something into a folder, I never go back to check that folder unless I’m deliberately searching for it already – and I am cc-d on a lot of emails for reference, which may or may not be relevant later – I don’t want to sort each one of these emails and reply alls into a complicated system of folders. I was thinking of doing one folder for “old emails” that I might need to look up but don’t need to see?

    1. Rick Tq*

      Filters and folders. CCs go to a folder, specific people go to their folders, partners go to their folders. I have a Pending folder for work in progress. My unread messages in my inbox and InfoOnly box stay at zero, but the folders are NOT empty…

    2. kalli*

      So you put the stuff you only need to refer to if you’re searching for it in a folder. You put the stuff you’ve dealt with in another folder. Everything else you manage with categories/flags and colour code them.

    3. ferrina*

      The only way I’ve ever been on top of my inbox was when I scheduled time each day to clear it out. I would literally block 40 minutes twice a day and respond to every single email. Anything that needed follow ups would get a flag and/or written on a to-do list. Anything that was completed would get filed into a folder.

      But the inbox is a constant struggle, and I haven’t been winning it for the past few years.

    4. anonymous IT drone*

      All of the above, plus unsubscribe from any newsletters, vendor marketing things etc you really don’t want or read.

      I’ve accepted that inbox zero will never happen but do sort and filter as best as I can. I’m still using my inbox as a to do list, which I know is bad but a terrible habit to break.

      A couple other things I do to cope: use categories (in outlook, color coded, and they work on calendar, too), use the “show unread only” option (most e-mails have this) if you use unread as ones to deal with, use outlook flags to follow up on a date if I’m waiting for something or have a specific date, like check in with so-and-so when they are back from vacation, etc.

    5. J*

      I have a workplace project management software (actually two, Asana and a Legal Project Management software). Email is read, reviewed, added to project software and then archived with a label/folder. If I’ve sent an email and I’m waiting for a response or someone else sent the initial email and I need someone else’s response so I can update the project management software, it stays in the inbox (this would be where others do a “waiting for” folder but I keep mine in an inbox with a “waiting for response” tag since we use Gmail). I also don’t go back to folders/archived tags unless I need to search because by putting them in my project software, I know the action needed has been addressed.

      This also means I have to set aside document management time each day since many of the emails I get are ones with attachments I may need for later but my inbox isn’t necessarily the best place to find them since it might be a 50-state survey or something. I have a 15 minute end-of-day calendar spot that I use just for email management, whether it’s to add to the project management software or to add attachments to the document system we use. I usually start my day organizing the overnight emails too so my day is bookended by inbox management and the beginning of the day check in is for those ones waiting for others to give them a bump as needed. Today tragically I have 50 emails in my inbox but we have 50 projects going this week and people I need to bump next week when they’re mentally ready. I’d bet by Tuesday I’m down to about 12 and only half that will be from today’s check in.

    6. Too Many Tabs Open*

      I wouldn’t say I have a good handle on my inbox — there are 7K messages in there right now. I get 50-100 emails a day, many of which are simple notifications, and it’s really easy for me to get behind on clearing it out.

      That said, a few things that help me:

      * While my inbox runneth over, I have read everything in it. If there’s unread messages that I can’t see, I use Outlook’s filter to find them.=
      * I have a “delete after X months” folder for things that I might need to reference again but definitely won’t need after X months. At the beginning of the month (or when I think about it) I go to that folder and delete anything that’s over X months old.
      * For emails that I know I’ll need for longer than X months, I move them to a “reference” folder.
      * When purging my inbox, I use different sorts and searches. Sometimes I’ll start with the oldest message; sometimes I’ll work back from the present; sometimes I’ll sort by subject or sender and work on messages in that order. A lot of my emails are notifications with similar subjects, so when I’m cleaning up I’ll search for those subject phrases and usually zap a bunch of messages at once.
      * It’s been a few years since I’ve done it, but I used to regularly move the entire contents of my inbox to a “needs processing” folder. That way, my inbox was clear, I still had all the email and could search for things that came up, and when I had downtime I could deal with those older emails.

      1. OP*

        Oh my gosh, you are so right, “delete after X months” is exactly the folder I’m lacking and I really need. Thank you!!

  50. Loredena Frisealach*

    I’m struggling with how to handle an upcoming absence at work. For context, I’m a consultant, and just 2 years in at a major firm, and I’ve already taken leave this calendar year. In April, I had surgery on my left knee, for which I only took 4 weeks off (a mistake, I came back too soon!). I finished out my assignment and then took vacation, so I didn’t hit the bench until July.

    I was given what was supposed to be a half-time for 4 weeks assignment, that stretched over almost 8 weeks but the same hours. On the plus side that’s still not considered bench time, but it’s horrible utilization. Now I’ve been on the bench for 30 days with no end in sight – and in 2 weeks I’ll start the paperwork to go on leave for my other knee Nov 7. This time I’ll take the maximum permitted leave, which should take me close to year end.

    Officially I’m supposed to file the paperwork and notify management 30 days before surgery – but that means they could potentially find me a new assignment in the next two weeks, and then I’ll announce my leave. I am concerned about notifying them early, because this isn’t a great look and my utilization is already dreadful, but mostly it’s just that I don’t want to risk them deciding to cut their losses and RIF me before my leave.

    I’m tentatively planning to retire next year so while I definitely want to leave on my own schedule it’s not a total tragedy if I don’t, but of course the more I save now and the longer before said retirement the better odds of the economy improving before I start draw downs.

    I’d love some advice on timing, how to address it with management, etc!

  51. Off Plumb*

    We’ve seen a lot of letters from people who’ve experienced unequal treatment with things like birthdays and major non-work milestones, where e.g. one gets a party and one gets ignored. Is there any role for coworkers in that situation? Do I have any standing to go to my boss and say “hey, I noticed that coworker A got flowers in this situation, but coworker B got flowers and a meal delivery gift card in the exact same situation, could we maybe have a standardized process?” Or is that overstepping?

    1. Eng Girl*

      I think there’s definitely room! I also think it comes off better if you’re in the group that hets something and then you suggest like a monthly birthday celebration because some people truly don’t want to be singled out.

      It’s also worth confirming what’s coming from the company or your manager vs what’s coming from other coworkers. I worked at a place where the company did nothing but one woman would go all out for her friends and teammates birthdays. It was great but we weren’t super close and it kinda sucked that on my birthday no one really did anything when literally two days before there was essentially a party for someone else. I couldn’t/wouldn’t do anything about it though because it had nothing to do with my actual job.

    2. Itsa Me, Mario*

      One thing you could do is go to your boss’ EA, or the team admin if there is one. Usually when flowers, parties, cakes, etc. there is someone arranging for that. There are a million potential pitfalls said person could be falling into that could result in a lack of parity here, from not knowing when all team members’ birthdays or other special events are, to only being authorized to do something when the boss requests it, and the boss is accidentally playing favorites, to getting swept up in changing attitudes about this sort of thing over time. All of these can be solved by a strong EA who is empowered to be proactive about the job vs. only doing tasks as assigned by their exec.

      For my current team, we went through like a year of officially Not Doing Birthdays, and then 2 weeks ago we got asked to start celebrating them again. Now there are people with September birthdays who are getting something, while people with August birthdays did not. Which could definitely seem unequal, when it’s really just a changing policy.

    3. ferrina*

      Definitely speak up! I think the script that you wrote is great.
      If you need a subtle threat, I might add “I’d hate for anyone to feel like there is unequal treatment, and this would completely nullify that concern”. I’ve worked with bosses that are oblivious enough that I would regularly need to say things like that, but if your boss is generally smart and caring, this is probably just something that slipped through the cracks.

      If there isn’t anyone whose role this is, think about how to make it easier on everyone. Are you volunteering to be that person? If so, make sure you have a back-up in case you are out and something happens. Draft the policy yourself and send to your manager to review and approve.

      I love where your mind is at on this! Every workplace needs someone who is thinking like you!

    4. Rick Tq*

      Overstepping IMO. You don’t know the whole story, A may have refused a meal gift card or flatly declined a party.

      This (to me) isn’t much different than tracking people’s lunch behavior or when they leave work at the end of their day.

    5. Off Plumb*

      For context, because based on the answers so far it might be relevant:

      I work in a very small unit in a very large government agency. The unit has a llama team and an alpaca team, less than a dozen people total. We don’t directly work together on much, but we’re still very close (personnel movement between teams, providing advice and technical assistance, lunches and happy hours together.)

      Someone on the alpaca team had a pet die, and the alpaca director asked the combined unit for voluntary donations for flowers and a gift card. Then the llama director said that someone on the llama team had also recently lost a pet, and the director had sent flowers, no need for anyone to contribute. I didn’t feel right giving money to one and not the other, so I didn’t chip in (I otherwise would have.) Maybe the llama team member said they didn’t want a fuss. Or maybe when they saw the email about the alpaca team member, it was hurtful. No way for me to know.

      While the team members don’t work together a lot, the two directors do work together very closely and have a really good relationship. I’m pretty sure this was just each of them responding in the moment the way they thought best. But I think it would be preferable to have a standardized approach to this sort of thing, especially if both teams are being asked for money.

      I do really love working in an environment where pet death is acknowledged as legitimate bereavement. Both employees took time off and no one batted an eye.

      (There’s a whole separate issue with gifting upwards and the way this potentially violates agency policy, but I shared that policy with my team members when the subject of Boss’s Day came up and what they choose to do about it is on them.)

  52. Tired*

    Venting

    I have my supervisor’s back when he makes a mistake but he rarely has my back. For example, I set up a virtual interview for a part time student worker position but forgot to show up (this is the first time I have ever made this mistake). Instead of doing the interview without me, my supervisor just reached out to me to reschedule it.

    However, if he misses a student worker interview (which has happened several times), I have always done them on my own. I am SO SICK of having to cover for him, yet he rarely if ever covers for me. I am aggressively looking for other jobs and hops something opens up soon. I am SO burned out!!!!

  53. Aye Nonny Nonny*

    So my employer (top-10 bank mostly in the South) announced mass layoffs last week. On top of that, we just had a credit card conversion snafu with old cards being declined before the new cards can be activated. This on top of losing customers due to a particularly botched merger integration a few years ago.

    I’ve realized it’s time to GET OUT but the stress is sapping my energy to job hunt. My department hasn’t impacted as many customers, but I wonder if hiring managers who had bad experiences with the bank might hold it against me? I guess that’s a certain kind of crummy boss self-selecting out, but still. Is this just another way my anxiety is erecting barriers?

    1. Hlao-roo*

      I would assume more on the “another way my anxiety is erecting barriers” side. There was a post from someone who had applied to work at Theranos (posted after the scandal broke) and there was some discussion in the comments section about people who worked at Theranos (or other places with scandals) job-searching and the news was mostly good. I think that also applies to places with bad customer service/poor product roll-outs/botched mergers/etc.

      I’ll link to the conversation in a follow-up comment, it may take a bit to be approved. The post is titled “when the red flags are even more ominous than you know” from October 2021, and the comment thread was started by “The Tin Man”

    2. Constance Lloyd*

      Hello! My first professional job was at Wells Fargo at the height of the shenanigans that got them into big trouble. It has not hampered my job search. I have focused on talking about regulatory compliance and my impressive customer experience ratings. As their shenanigans became more widely known, I also mentioned (briefly!) that my sales scores were never where management wanted them to be. I wouldn’t mention this at all, but I have exclusively applied to jobs where customer service and regulatory compliance are HUGE and sales are nonexistent.

      It doesn’t sound like your snafus are caused by bad faith behavior, so I believe you have much less to overcome than you fear. Best of luck!

    3. Decidedly Me*

      I do think that’s anxiety related. Even if I hated the company someone previously worked at, I would not hold it against them for working there.

    4. Elsewise*

      I was an hiring manager once and remember when my bank was doing some obnoxious stuff and I interviewed someone who had worked customer service there. I asked him why he was leaving his current job and he said basically that the company was going downhill. (Slightly more diplomatic phrasing.) I didn’t hold it against him and wound up offering him the job. (IIRC, he didn’t take it because he’d gotten a better offer. Probably for the best, the place I worked also wasn’t great.)

      Unless you tell the hiring manager that you love canceling credit cards because causing financial problems for people is really the only thing that gives you job satisfaction anymore, you’re probably fine.

  54. Water Lily*

    What’s your best advice for managing someone who is brand new to both your organization and fresh out of college? I just inherited a direct report who graduated in May, and I’m finding that I’m having to coach him in some very basic skills. This includes things like how to have a weekly 1:1, deadlines are real, your job description is your job, be mindful of a chain of command.

    I’m a patient manager so I’m happy to guide and coach; I’ve just never been someone’s very first boss before and lemme tell you, it is wild.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      It is very wild! I have found this article super helpful (link in followup comment). The infographic in particular may be helpful to share with the employee to help them shape their own thinking.

      But I find the most important thing is not to assume anything is obvious. Give very detailed instructions, especially if it’s the first time you’re doing something with him. This may end up feeling a little hand-holdy or overbearing but keep in mind things vary from company to company as well as from school to career, so it’s not a terrible practice even with more experienced trainees.

    2. YNWA*

      I don’t have any advice, but I have some insight in that age group. During the pandemic we college faculty were told to be more lenient and forgiving with our students which resulted in two classes of graduates who didn’t learn about deadlines, getting along with others, and the chain of command. We did them a huge disservice.

      1. Camelid coordinator*

        I don’t have any additional advice for the OP, but your comment was interesting to me. I was talking to a pal about my kid’s application for Eagle Scout, and he mentioned that an executive he knows says he can always pick out an Eagle Scout. I’ve been mulling over why ever since, and your comment makes me wonder if it is the practice with roles, deadlines, and planning that are involved, especially on the project.

        1. Rick Tq*

          An Eagle Scout is a mentor and leader for the younger boys in the troop, has been willing to learn many new skills to get the required merit badges, and has created a public service project, raised funds, and completed the project all before turning 18. The Scout also passed an Honor Board by a unanimous vote of all members to be approved.

          That experience gives a level of maturity that cannot be faked.

        2. Water Lily*

          I think you are exactly right. As an example, just yesterday, it seemed to be a shock to my employee that HE was responsible for a deadline being met. As the coordinator, it’s his job to _coordinate_. I think he was under the impression that people would just naturally/magically email him exactly what he wanted and exactly when he needed it, no reminders or nudges required.

          He also seems to skip up levels to get things done. He wants to skip right over some gatekeeper roles or service staff to get right to people at the top without the proper decorum and respect to junior roles.

    3. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

      Re: the weekly 1:1. That should be on you to direct and set the stage for — not sure why you feel they should come in knowing how to have this meeting.

      The deadlines thing is an issue and not running things through the proper channels to get sign off sounds highly aggravating though. Does he not understand his job or something, re: the your job description is your job? I know in my first job, I got topsy-turvey because I was a busy little bee and got things done early. Downtime freaked me out even though I had done my available work for the day…so I’d start looking for other things to do, which was actually more projects and more work for others.

    4. RM*

      Eh, how is having knowing what to do in a weekly 1×1 basic? I’m nearly 40 and in any job I’ve had, a weekly meeting with your boss meant you were 100% on the shit list. People who have only worked as front line staff are typically used to being either micromanaged or ignored.

  55. Mbarr*

    My team wants to go through various DEI scenarios to practice/make sure we’re doing things properly, identifying biases, etc.

    I volunteered to bring some scenarios to discuss. Of course, this means I combed through the AAM archives! I have my own list so far, but are there some specific DEI-related questions you think would make for a good group discussion? I’m looking for subtler ones – not the obvious, “Wow, this person is obviously racist,” situations.

    1. BellyButton*

      One that I have used in the past that had the women nodding and the men surprised– during a meeting, that includes a Male- VP, Female VP, Male Director to decide on a course of action for Project X– there was a break. The two men walked to the restroom together and while in the restroom and walking back they made a decision. When returning to the meeting they announced their decision. Why is this problematic?

    2. Eng Girl*

      I recently had a coworker (same level, different job) make some comments about how I spent more time with our manager because we’re both women, and he’s a man. It wasn’t aggressive or particularly mean spirited, but we work in a very male dominated industry and it left a bad taste in my mouth. I set him straight myself, but it was still yucky.

      I’d also go over how to respond to any negative comments about DEI groups. My company has a few different networks (LGBTQ, women’s, Latinx, etc). These groups meet about once a month for an hour. I’ve heard comments about how they’re exclusionary, and how it’s unfair that some people get an hour “off”. I always tell those people that they’re welcome to come to the ones I participate in, but weirdly no one’s taken me up on it.

      1. Itsa Me, Mario*

        Re the last paragraph – the thing to do there, which is exactly what you did, is to remind people that these groups are typically open to allies who want to take part in initiatives to support the group in question. They also often involve work on behalf of the company, so they are typically not “time off” in any meaningful sense. I lead an employee group of this kind, and the vast majority of what we do falls into the categories of helping the company be more inclusive towards people with our identity and increasing the positive visibility of our company to the broader community. And then sometimes we throw parties. Parties that are open to the whole company, and which we encourage allies to attend.

      2. Eng Girl*

        I thought of another one! Casual ageism! Whenever anyone makes a comment about how “no one wants to work these days” in reference to millennials/gen Z it drives me nuts. Same goes for promoting/fast tracking younger employees because the older ones can’t keep up

    3. Pocket Mouse*

      What are some potential (more) equitable holiday systems, given your coverage and scheduling needs?

      What would it look like to incorporate considerations of equity in X process/workflow/project?

      Looking at pay disparities is always fun.

    4. ferrina*

      I did something similar at my work, and I did the same thing of combing through AAM!
      Beyond that, here’s some situations I’ve run into in my life:

      -A male director learns that his female direct report is pregnant. He immediately takes her off of the high stress account that she had just started working on, because stress is bad for pregnant women. Additional info: she had been put on the account as part of her growth plan to get her a promotion. She later threatened to sue for sex discrimination if the company didn’t consider her promotion (which she very much deserved).

      – Two people are interviewing for a similar position within a few months of each other. Both are early career, but clearly bright and have a lot of potential. Both receive offers that are of a similar amount, and both candidates give a counter offer. The first candidate is a white man. The CEO says “This man clearly knows his worth! He’s very savvy to counter-offer. Give him the amount he asked for!” The second candidate is a Black woman. The CEO says “This woman is so entitled! We offered her a fair amount- it’s ungrateful and greedy to counter-offer! Pull her job offer and find someone else!” (the CEO was a white male. Luckily the hiring manager pointed out that the sex/race discrimination and got the second candidate an offer similar to the first candidate)

      -A coworker is chatting to the person at the next desk about politics. They both share similar viewpoints and are talking quite loudly. Not “at” anyone, just animated in the conversation that they are both enjoying. It is an open-office, and the people around them are trying to ignore the conversation. This organization has no political affiliation and there is nothing in the mission or general culture that leans toward one political persuasion. Is there anything wrong with this?
      (What Ended Up Happening: Another coworker leaned over and said “Friend, you know I share your views and would love to chat more on this over coffee, but maybe in the work space we can limit the political talk? I want to make sure that everyone around us feels comfortable, no matter what their political preference.” The coworker said they hadn’t thought about it that way, and thanked the person for speaking up)

    5. The New Wanderer*

      How about the concept or technique of centering the DEI discussion around the marginalized group(s), and how to avoid centering on an unaffected person’s perspective?

      How can a non-marginalized person be a good ally to marginalized individuals or group(s)?

      What does microaggression mean, and how to learn to see it when you’re not on the receiving end?

    6. J*

      I’ve seen very little in DEI programs about disability so my mind jumped to that. I always like the scenarios where you have coworkers who have to go off-site and encounter things. While coworkers might be accommodating (I’ll go grab the car with John and we’ll come back to pick Suzie