open thread – October 13-14, 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.

{ 1,053 comments… read them below }

  1. LaFramboise*

    Hey all, I have a question that deals with an issue in academia, but please feel free to weigh in from other types of work too.
    Here’s the backstory: I have an adjunct faculty member who fell last winter and broke some bones; this is problematic because she’s 80—just turned 81 this summer—and I think the fall affected both her physicality and some of her cognition. A sampling: she drives about 30 minutes to work on the highways around our city, and there’s been construction. About a month ago she got lost getting off the highway and wouldn’t use her cell to navigate. Instead she called me about 4 times and was 45 minutes late trying to go about 6 miles of surface streets (our streets are laid out on a grid) but she couldn’t follow my directions that she had written down. Later that week, staff told me that she has frequently been exhausted by the drive and needs to sit in the back and recover emotionally.
    She has also exhibited a lot of frailty in walking that seems to have rapidly worsened after her fall as well. Also, her cognitive abilities have declined, and I think she knows this. She’s ferociously smart, and arrogant in her smartness, but has always been personally charming. However, she’s not as charming and now she sounds scattered and goes off on tangents.
    She has worked for us for ~16 years and doesn’t need the money, thankfully. Her identity is wrapped up in her profession though, and she is a workaholic—she works 7 days a week and doesn’t take vacations.
    Our worries: that she’ll kill herself or someone else driving; that she can’t cope with changes to technology or the student population; that she doesn’t help students to the best of her abilities.
    So my question is: at what point do we ask her to step away with her work from us?
    Any advice is appreciated. Thanks!

    1. cindylouwho*

      Can you anonymously involve Adult Protective Services? It seems that there are many issues here far beyond the workplace that may make her unsafe

      1. LaFramboise*

        Yes, someone in the legal world mentioned this too! Maybe that would be the way to go. In her fulltime job (yes, fulltime) she’s unionized, so she doesn’t face this issue there. I would imagine an APS checkin might affect that, but it would be outside my purview and really a violation of her agency to coordinate with another institution. But still, you may be right about APS as an option for her own safety.

        1. JSPA*

          it would be a huge overreach, especially if done primarily to get out of an awkward conversation.

          A lot of things can manifest as a seeming loss of mental sharpness. Not sleeping as well because of pain; eyes that (even with bifocals) can’t switch quickly enough from looking at a piece of paper to looking at the road; ears that miss one word in six or eight ; task-loading from having to pay attention to weak body parts, And the way one uses them.

          A lot of people, ideally before they get old, but if not, when they are already old could really benefit from some PT or OT guidance on “coping skills for when our bodies change.”

          Highlighting such a program saves you from having to single her out, and protects you from possible age discrimination (which this could easily become, in that you’re currently more worried about hypotheticals than you are worried about her actual inability to do her current job).

          1. Rachel*

            Forgive me, but “ears that miss one word in six” is still doing a disservice to the students.

            People are paying money for this class and they deserve to have a professor who can hear them or has accommodations in place to be fully in communication.

            This is true regardless of the cause of hearing loss.

          2. cindylouwho*

            I think doing what you’re suggesting would be an overreach though in a different way – OP is not equipped to determine whether this person needs OT/PT and as someone in a position of power over them at work I think it would be an inappropriate recommendation of medical advice. Someone who is versed in elder care needs to evaluate and make suggestions. And OP can’t do things like take their license away if needed for safety; even if they let them go, they’ll likely still be driving lots of places.

      2. WellRed*

        This really varies. You can’t make a grown adult do anything and the likelihood of getting some sort of adult services involved (and anonymously to boot) is rather small.

      3. RagingADHD*

        Is there any indication she is struggling with activities of daily living at home? APS is for people who are not eating, bathing, taking their meds, etc. They aren’t for work related issues or having trouble navigating construction traffic.

        1. cindylouwho*

          If she is struggling to follow directions with driving to the level suggested in this comment, it is very possible she’s also missing needed medications, appointments, driving hazardously, etc. These are all things that OP should not and can not address in a work environment but may need to be addressed for this person’s wellbeing (especially since other comments indicate they live alone and don’t have excessive family support).

          1. RagingADHD*

            I don’t have cognitive decline, and I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself. But trying to read written directions while driving through chaotic road construction traffic would be an absolute disaster. And IME, GPS instructions are pretty useless or flatly wrong if the road is in the middle of being altered.

            So from the description in the OP it doesn’t sound to me like the adjunct is as gravely compromised as you seem to be interpreting it.

      4. goddessoftransitory*

        Agreed.

        One of the hardest parts of my dad’s decline was panicking over his driving. His wife wouldn’t take the keys from him for far too long (due to her own serious health issues I think she feared being stranded) and I spent a year in a state of low-grade dread that he was going to cause an accident or worse. If I’d known there was something like APS around we could have contacted them.

        1. Katie*

          APS isn’t used how most people here are stating. It’s like CPS for children and mostly deals with abuse cases/adults in danger. You don’t want them involved unless absolutely necessary

    2. PrincessFlyingHedgehog*

      It sounds like now is that point. If she “can’t cope with changes to technology or the student population; that she doesn’t help students to the best of her abilities,” then she cannot do the work you need her to do. I appreciate that you want to help & support someone who has worked for you a long time, but you need to think of how this is affecting the students she teaches.
      Is there other service she could do? Any committee work where she could provide valuable input?

      1. LaFramboise*

        Nope, adjuncts don’t sit on committees and her work is with the public, not back of house stuff. I agree that now is the point; luckily the dean is the one who has to take care of this, not me, but I will be the one who gets the questions.
        Thanks for your advice, and I think you’re right, it’s just been hard to think about putting into action.
        I guess the moral of the story is, don’t wait to retire? Find something you like to do and don’t make work your life?

        1. PrincessFlyingHedgehog*

          It is tough, and this will be really difficult news for her to receive! But none of this serves the students well. And I can guarantee for every student who speaks up about their issues with this adjunct, there are a lot more who don’t speak up. And keeping that in the forefront of your mind may be helpful as you navigate this emotional situation.

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          I call this Senator Syndrome–there’s been lots of focus lately on the aging population of our lawmakers, with Diane Feinstein and Ruth Bader Ginsberg being examples of “dying in the saddle,” and Mitch McConnell’s very apparent issues getting worse.

          With hardcore lifetime careerists it’s almost impossible to convince them that they need to retire for everyone’s good, because their entire self-concept is wrapped up in their work identity. They really fear that if they retire, they will die, because they don’t have any other way of seeing themselves. As long as they hold onto “I go to work every day,” the knowledge of their medical and cognitive problems can be muted. Until it can’t.

      2. Trawna*

        It depends on which state you are in, but it might be possible to report safe driving concerns to the relevant DMV, MOT, etc.

    3. Anecdata*

      Are you worried about the performance issues – not able to keep up with technology needed for the job, not able to help students, because of currently occuring work impacts, or are you worried about it becoming a problem in the future?

      1. LaFramboise*

        All three but I don’t want to get to a point in the future where bad things happen because we didn’t act now.

        I didn’t see her over July and August (our work days didn’t coincide since I have a reduced campus schedule) and staff didn’t tell me they were worried about her until I saw the issues myself. Then they let me know. And now that I know, I don’t feel that we can go on because I don’t see her getting better.

        I also, selfishly and cowardly, don’t want to have to deal with any issues when she’s on campus. I absolutely feel like a coward saying that, but I know myself and know it’s beyond my emotional capacity to deal with yet another person’s catastrophe.

        1. Anecdata*

          So yeah, I do think you have to separate those 2 parts of your thinking : if there’s a real inability to do core parts of her job (ie. not stuff that can be solved with a reasonable accommodation), that’s a work problem [the dean/her manager] can address, including ending her employment (obviously they’ll want to be as tactful and sensitive as possible).

          But the part about worrying about her driving, or worrying about whether she collapses on campus or even an underlying feeling that it isn’t good for her to identify with work so much, isn’t really something you can take into account; and something you need to work to make sure it doesn’t influence you on the work-related questions. Which is hard for humans to separate out, so I’m glad you’re thinking about how to approach this all!

        2. FromCanada*

          I work in academia (managerial staff) – but not in the US… As an adjunct she probably has a contract – yes? The path of least resistance is to wait until it’s done and not renew but since it’s October, I’m guessing that would be this semester and the winter so maybe that’s not feasible. It sounds like she needs to be done but how quickly you can do this is really going to depend on the contract / protections in place for adjunct and potentially how fast you can find a replacement. As much as it should be easy to find a replacement – sometimes it isn’t because it’s midway through a year or because it’s a niche but that will be something to consider.

          Any communication on this should definitely come from the chair, director or dean not from staff or even regular faculty and sometimes if you have someone really good in that position, it’s easier than you expect. It sounds like she knows that she’s struggling. The dean may be able to help her see she’s harming students and also offer up some way to help the transition.

          Good luck – it’s hard when this kind of thing happens.

    4. DrD*

      I’m also an academic. It’s clear that you have everyone’s best interests at heart and may decide on other interventions based on those concerns. Regardless, though, the point at which you tell her you can’t bring her back next semester is now, and the reason is that she is not serving the needs of the department or of students. She cannot do the job, and that is the key relevant point. You could soften it in various ways (student population shifts, technology-related pedagogical needs, if feasible, an adjunct is not needed for the courses she teaches).

      1. Meg*

        Yeah, I think I have to agree with this. Because she’s adjunct, there’s way less red tape. We recently had a tenured professor stay on until he was 91. Not emeritus, still full prof. But, most students, when they found out they were in his class dropped it. He couldn’t do email, or anything really technological. He only stopped when he had a bad fall at home and his children (who are in their 60s) told him he had to finally retire. Dont let it get that far. The student needs are important too.

      2. ursula*

        Agreed, regretfully. From your description, I don’t think there’s anything you will be able to do or say to convince her that it’s time to walk away. It’s sad, but it’s going to have to be your decision.

        1. LaFramboise*

          Oof, I think you are all right, and thanks for being compassionate and clear-sighted about this.

          1. Panneni*

            If at all possible though, try to find a (volunteer based) way for her to still be able to share her vast knowledge, her smarts and her experience with anyone who want to listen. Maybe have her start an evening lecture series where she and other speakers can still share their expertise, for example. If you can still find a way for her to make use of her intelligence, it might help her stay active and motivated. (But don’t feel bad if there just is no such option. This isn’t your responsibility, just something you could maybe do to help her out).

            Don’t drop the idea in the conversation where you tell her it’s time for her to retire though. Wait until she’s had time to digest the bad news first.

            P.S.: my favorite lectures of all time were by a retired professor who was standing in for the sick leave of our regular one. We didn’t learn what was on the syllabus, but his stories about memorizing Homer in Greek while in hiding from the German soldiers were fascinating. Plus, he had the best quotes and could give them in Ancient Greek as well as translated.

      3. umami*

        Yes, I was thinking the last item – tell her you just don’t need an adjunct in the spring to teach those courses.

    5. gigi*

      Does your university have an emeritus policy? In my department, that’s an option for a faculty member that wants to retain association and office space, but frees the department from having to pay out a salary and they can bring in a new faculty member to take on that course load. Our emeritus don’t attend things like staff meetings, but do go to department events like lecture series (if they want). This may be a good option for her to continue her research and involvement with the department, but be able to do it at home and scale back from department work as needed.

      1. Formerly Ella Vader*

        In the universities I worked at, emeritus/emerita would only be granted for someone who was at the full professor rank.

        I do think it would be worth exploring whether there are ways in which this department member can still contribute – for example, if there are community members involved in an oversight committee or industry liaison group, she might be interested in that.

        Or if any students are doing a project where they need to interview someone about history of the field, or something.

      2. linger*

        At my former org, it worked something like this:
        (i) only full professors of a certain longevity at the org could become emerit(i/ae) upon retirement (which was forced at a certain age, 70 I think). This status did not necessarily include any teaching duties, except that
        (ii) (other) tenured instructors could be kept on for a few years after retirement as adjuncts (including postgraduate supervision), which was quite important for continuity in access to topic expertise for existing (especially postgrad) students, and more generally for curriculum planners.
        (iii) Meanwhile, adjunct instructors were on a contract which was renewed annually by default, but did not have to be, and there was a fixed age cut-off of 75. Regardless of expertise, adjuncts could not supervise thesis students, though could be approved to teach non-supervisory postgrad subjects.

        In OP’s case, it is unclear what the adjunct is currently contributing. Being arrogant about your own intelligence doesn’t make for a long-term career as an adjunct unless backed up with some serious subject-matter expertise; and/or possibly she also has a tenured position at a more prestigious university, so that OP’s org looks better for keeping her on the adjunct roster. Maybe she’d be better suited to postgrad courses (smaller numbers, so easier focus, and closer fit to her specialization)?
        Even so, her contribution would be increasingly limited by a lack of flexibility around “changes to technology or student population”. (N.B. it’s unclear exactly what is covered by the latter. Are there documented issues for this adjunct around e.g. attitudes to diversity or disability accommodations?)

    6. quetzal*

      My dad was an academic & he died of early onset alzheimers. He was also someone whose profession was his life. My mom worked with his chair to give him a gentle transition out. He transitioned out over a couple semesters, wrapped up things with students, had a festschrift, etc. They also let him keep his office for a while, which was helpful. He was basically in denial the whole time, so we needed to intervene. I am forever grateful to his chair for reaching out to my mom. In this case, I would suggest reaching out to the family if you have any contact with them. They may know there is a problem but not know how bad it is at work — my dad was not a reliable narrator.

      1. LaFramboise*

        She’s a very private person but she doesn’t have any direct family–just nieces and nephews, or niblings, if you will–and her partner died 8 years ago, so she is on her own.

        I’m sorry about your dad.

        1. CorporateDrone*

          I’d still reach out; as a niece of a very private person with no children we would absolutely act if my aunt needed extra help.

          Especially if you feel this person is no longer able to work but her identity is wrapped up in her work she will need support. It would be a kindness to try and get her some.

          However, like many of the comments I find the way that you presented your concerns deeply problematic and potentially rooted in ableism. A person with worsening mobility issues isn’t necessarily incapable of performing her job. If she needs to rest after driving, so what? My thirty something sister sometimes has to rest after driving; it’s none of your business why and no one takes this as evidence that she’s getting too old to function. If it’s causing a work issue (Eg she’s frequently late) Address that! You mentioned concerns about use of tech. If she’s not doing something that is a job requirement, talk about it. If there are performance issues, how would you handle this with a younger staff member? Do that!

          You could implement a program for helping transition staff to retirement for anyone over 70; academia is notorious for having people stay too long and maybe it would help to have an explicit transition path and support, but even if you are right about this woman no longer being able to perform her job you need to approach it from a work performance point of view and be very careful to not let her age colour the incidents.

    7. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      If she’s adjunct, I guess there’s not really a way to give her emeritus status, is there?

    8. MB*

      A professor who has cognitive decline is not able to perform the duties of her job. Dementia does not get better, it only worsens. It does no one any favors to continue to let her wreck havoc, some of which will be done without faculty knowledge due to the nature of the disease ( misgrading tests, not showing for class, etc) You can’t rely on your tuition paying students who are young to report what is going on. Are there reasonable accommodations under ADA that could help her do her job? Probably not, since it sounds like the dementia is fairly advanced and not just the minimal cognitive impairment that first presents (so the likelihood that she has not been performing her job duties well beforehand exists). Adult Protective Service only becomes involved when there is imminent risk due to pretty terrible conditions (think obviously skeletal, dirty with no food and electricity in the house). I had a professor who was well into dementia and Alzheimer’s who was still teaching, and messed up anatomy teaching so badly that lots of students failed the pre-req for major course. Lattisimus dorsi and the trapezius were totally different muscles he routinely confused during anatomy. I sometimes wonder if failing that class led to my major change.

    9. Sparkles McFadden*

      I was not in academia but we had the same thing happen at my longtime employer. There were quite a few people who worked all of the time, and a large part of their identity was tied up in their job title. What happened most often was that the person’s manager would have a frank discussion with the person in question, and work out a transition schedule to wind down the person’s responsibilities. They’d often be given small vanity projects where it didn’t matter how long it took to finish, as opposed to our tight deadline work. The long-time employees really had contributed to the business as a whole for a long time, so upper management was OK with a potentially long road to the eventual retirement. It was mostly about giving the person a graceful exit. The person usually left sooner rather than later because it was just too hard to feel so diminished, but it gave the person time to find other things in life besides work.

      The immediate concern is about the driving because that’s the sort of thing where you want to stop a tragedy before it happens. For that, I have to say that someone needs to be very upfront about this, as in “We are concerned about you driving” because it is that serious a problem. There are oblique way to do this, such as reporting the person to the DMV, or contacting senior services, but I think it’s far kinder to be direct and involve the person in the solution. That could entail cutting back on days coming in and maybe carpooling with someone, or taking an Uber or public transportation. If the Dean gets push back on this, or denial that there’s a problem, it becomes another situation entirely. I think it’s best to start from a place where the person is still involved in making the decisions, if that’s at all possible.

    10. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

      My experience is being a caregiver for several elderly folk through my life. It’s really hard for them to actually admit something it wrong— they will say they’re old, they can’t do it like they used to, and acknowledge on the outside they need a little help sometimes but it’s very hard to get them to accept that they need more than a *little* help *sometimes.*

      Can you 1) suggest public transit – trying to mold it into an attractive options and 2) can she navigate working remotely some days instead (reducing time in car)? and 3) can she do things that a little less mentally and physically strenuous on the job (serve on committees)? Or, can you bring up her performance issues (for instance student feedback for her courses) and try to come up with solutions? It’s best to always frame this as a work issue. You are not the department of licensing, unfortunately. You can’t tell her not to drive, but you can say you can’t spend 45 minutes on the phone with you giving directions (suggest public transit). You also aren’t her doctor, so it’s hard to bring up her physical and mental decline. You are someone who can speak to her in a professional capacity though! Good luck, this is a sad and tough situation. It’s hard to see brilliant people becoming shadows of their former selves.

    11. Me...Just Me*

      I’m not in academia. But, the way you present this kind of creeps me out a little. Here’s why: age discrimination is a huge problem. It’s also against the law. The majority (90%) of your observations and complaints have nothing to do with her actual work. You definitely need to separate out explicitly what she is lacking in her job performance from the things that you personally don’t like or find troublesome. Does she get more student complaints than the other professors and are her survey scores lower? Is she performing in her job below the standards set for the job (not just her previous high standard)? Let’s leave her age out of it. Let’s even leave her driving out of it (unless she’s a driving instructor).

      I personally work with a colleague who is 83 years old. He’s pretty dang sharp. He also uses a walker. He is, by all accounts, pretty rich and doesn’t need the money. Some people think he shouldn’t be working. Fortunately, he gets to decide when he is retiring. He’s a physician.

      My husband works with someone who is 92 years old. She’s literally going to die at work, probably. And, she has that right. She’s an engineer.

      As I look ahead to my later years, I know I will ferociously guard my personhood and autonomy.

      1. LaFramboise*

        Thanks for this point of view. She’s actually one of 2 adjuncts who are 80; we have others in their 70s. Perhaps my desire to not die in the saddle, knock wood, are coming through, which is a valid point that you make.

        However she really isn’t performing up to the standards of the job–and to be honest, the newbie adjuncts aren’t performing up to the level that they should be, but they aren’t losing their skills. Is it a concern? Yes, but also a concern is the people who work with her who are concerned about her ability to function. How much do we take into account how uncomfortable other staff are when they have to support that lower functioning person? It’s a lot, and I appreciate your points.

        1. Me...Just Me*

          As someone with a disability (though minor), I think virtually no weight should be given to coworkers’ discomfort with a person’s perceived disability (whether it be age related or not). That, too, is protected territory.

          Honestly, if the other adjuncts, as a majority, aren’t performing up to snuff, then you likely have a management or training issue rather than an “elderly” issue.

      2. Age*

        Exactly what I was thinking. Not academia, but we had an employee that was having serious age-related ailments. He actually soiled himself at work one day. He was really limited in areas of his job, but our attorney said we couldn’t fire him, because it was all age related, and age discrimination. He left one afternoon, went home, sat down on the couch and died.

      3. Uranus Wars*

        I agree with this, wholeheartedly. I think it’s hard to draw that hard line but in this case I think it is necessary.

        From additional comments it sounds like the driving and having to rest when she gets to class are the main issues…if she is actually late for class the majority of the time due to this that can be addressed. The driving piece, while worriesome, should not affect management’s decision about her ability to do her job, unless her job requires driving as a core function.

        It also sounds like you are speculating that as she ages that she won’t learn the technology or change with student needs but that is not currently happening…so addressing unknown future behavior also can’t really be a deciding factor here.

        I do not mean to be callous at all…I would likely find this line really hard not to blur as well. But as an outsider that does not have an emotional connection I agree and advise to completely take the emotion out of the decision making process on continued employment.

        And please don’t call Adult Protective Services if she lives at home and you are not aware of her behavior at home. 1) these agencies are often overworked and what you’ve described COULD fall into their scope if correct or could not at all if everything else is basically fine 2) At times these agencies just get it wrong and while she is an adult that can make her own decisions, that kind of stress brought on by a co-worker projecting things that aren’t necessarily are can cause another level of complications.

      4. Jessica*

        I’m in academia, and I think the fact that this workplace issue is taking place in academia is really relevant to the question. It’s really hard to *get* a job in academia, but surprisingly easy to keep it. Student evaluations are typically only done once a semester and are notoriously unreliable. Plus, by the time this semester’s evals are in, the spring semester contract probably would have been offered to adjuncts.
        So the types of evidence that LaFramboise is gathering is actually pretty actionable; a classroom observation session is the only thing I could think of that might help.
        When I was a grad student, I TA’d for a professor who eventually needed to take FMLA for a crisis in his personal life, but it took about 2-3 semesters for him to accept this. In the meantime, it was really unfair to students — things like people being unable to accept jobs bc he turned in the grades late and made the students ineligible for spring graduation. It’s unfair to students to use them as test rabbits to see if this professor’s teaching ability is still solid.
        Also, the professor has been at the university for about 16 years, which means she was hired at age 64 or 65. Hardly age discrimination!

        1. Bomm*

          Adjuncts are usually a different case. They get paid about a tenth of what tenure-track faculty earn (even less compared to tenured faculty), do not receive health insurance or other benefits, and are hired on short-term contracts. The whole point of adjuncts, at least at universities where I have worked, is that they are cheap and disposable. Procedurally, it should be very easy to bring this person’s employment to an end. I think it is the human pain this will cause that troubles the OP. I am not sure that is solvable — old age entails loss— but I hope someone at the university is willing and able to have a conversation with this teacher that grants her some respect and dignity. Presumably, there is a loss to the university as well, if one that should have occurred earlier.

    12. Single Parent Barbie*

      Ok this is kind of odd,but my grandmother was a private duty nurse in the 40s and 50s. My mom was a little girl and thought her mother was the angel of death because my grandmother would get hired to take care of someone with a broken hip and then they would die.

      Turns out a lot of these falls are caused by mini strokes which leads to the cognitive decline. So the fall might not have caused the decline. The decline and the fall might be due to something else.

      I was in workplace safety, and at one point, we had a team member who had frequent fainting spells. They were due to a medication change and fortunately no additional injuries occurred due to the falls but I reached a point where I worked with HR and decided she could not come back to work until she was cleared by a doctor. Could you have a conversation similar to her regarding these concerns?

      AS an adjunct isn’t she just contract and a decision can be made to just not renew?

      1. LaFramboise*

        Yes, as an adjunct, she’s contracted from semester to semester. We could choose not to offer her a spot, but after 16 years (maybe longer), it would be callous to tell her that without any reasoning.

        1. Just Me*

          I would be wary of an age discrimination complaint since while your reasoning is well-intentioned, a lot of your concerns sound like they are based on age and concerns of what might happen. Focus on what her work performance is and address it the same as you would anyone else performing at that level.

      2. L'étrangère*

        My stepmother fell in the street and was injured, and started to have cognitive problems. But it turned out after a while that the fall was likely caused by the Parkinson that eventually killed her, the fall was a symptom rather than a cause of disability. I think in retrospect that it’s rather common. Apart from the work-related advice you’re getting, Framboise, you might strongly suggest a purely medical evaluation of the cause or consequences of this fall..

    13. thelettermegan*

      Are there any examples on the campus of faculty getting to more of an ‘honorary’ stage? I’m thinking about situations at universities where they hire big names to teach, but given the age and status of the new faculty member, it’s hard to imagine this person doing much more an giving 3 or 4 lectures per semester/quarter.

      If you can reset the expectations that she comes in significantly less often to do One Big Task per Session (like a master class or a critical lecture) maybe the college could organize a ride for her as well. She can spend 7 days a week preparing for the Thing in the comfort of her home.

      I’m not sure if this is a thing in academia, but maybe she could recieve some sort of research opportunity that will let her focus on writing a book? That could also be done from the comfort of her home. If the book is a sort of anthology of previous publications or lectures, she’ll have the opportunity to review her acheivements with friends and editors, and hopefully get loads of praise. Ideally, she’ll get to feel a big sense of pride in her life’s work during the writing process.

    14. Observer*

      Our worries: that she’ll kill herself or someone else driving; that she can’t cope with changes to technology or the student population; that she doesn’t help students to the best of her abilities.
      So my question is: at what point do we ask her to step away with her work from us?

      So, I’m largely repeating what others have said but in short:

      There are two parts to the question.

      1. When do you let your concern for her health trigger you to ask her to step away from your workplace. The answer to that is “never”. It’s not your place, and you simply cannot have enough information to know what’s the best for her health, anyway.

      2. At what point do you let your concern for her doing her job lead you to ask her to step away. The answer to that is that the process starts today. Is she doing the job she is supposed to be doing adequately (not necessarily to the absolute best she has ever been able to do.) ? If the answer is no, are there any reasonable supports that can be put into place to help her? In that case, those supports need to be put in place. If there are no supports you can offer or she won’t accept them, that’s your cue to move her out.

    15. Dasein9 (he/him)*

      You’re going to have to let her go. If you are so inclined, you could also create a departmental award for her so she ends her time with your school on a high note and a sense of accomplishment. You do not have to do this, by any means, but it would be kind and being seen to be kind by the rest of your faculty, adjunct and tt, would be to your benefit and the department’s benefit.

    16. Rachel*

      I would definitely try to separate what is concerning from a safety/driving perspective and what is concerning about her as a professor. To help I would do two things:

      (1) if possible, have or suggest an unplanned observation of her class and see how she manages in real time

      (2) stop giving her directions or walking her through basic tasks.

    17. LaFramboise*

      A big thanks to all who replied, you’ve really clarified the issue for me. I am so grateful to all of you, thanks so much!

      1. Morning Reading*

        This doesn’t address your direct question, of workplace issues, but for the driving piece I came here to recommend the aarp defensive driving course. It covers technological vehicle changes, physical effects of aging, how to talk to someone who should stop driving or recognize if it’s you, and especially modern alternatives to driving oneself. So many options! If this person can otherwise do her job, perhaps fixing the driving problem would give her more time.
        If you are a friend or have a collegial relationship, you could suggest it, perhaps next time she complains about the traffic. Like, “ I know someone who took this class and it really helped! Plus you can get a discount on your auto insurance.” If she’s as intelligent as you say, she might welcome a learning opportunity.
        Frankly, I’m 15 years younger than her and if I took a wrong turn in construction on a 30 minute commute, I’d be shaking with tension and need space to get it together after, too. And i can’t use my phone or read directions while driving and there is nowhere to pull over in construction. What a nightmare.
        Why does she need to drive to do her job?

    18. Lizzie (with the deaf cat)*

      I don’t think it has been covered in the replies above, but all general anaesthetics carry a risk of affecting cognition. Presumably she had a general anaesthetic in relation to her injuries. The effect is more significant as you age. The decline can be permanent, and may push someone over the threshold of ‘slowing down but coping ok’ into ‘not coping anymore’.
      It’s a side effect that has been researched more in the last ten years, but is very underrated in terms of the impact on an elderly person.

    19. Dr. Doll*

      how are her student evaluations and other responses? if her actual job performance is compromised for goodness sake tell her the truth.

      signed, someone who sees this frequently and it never ends well

    20. Lizzie (with the deaf cat)*

      Pain relief medication can also affect concentration etc. I have attached a few references about general anaesthesia and possible side effects, particularly in the elderly. Having had a general anaesthetic myself in the last month, I am trying to keep an eye on potential new deficits! Could I multiply by 15 accurately before the anaesthetic? No I could not! Is it harder to to the wordle puzzle? Can’t tell!

      https://www.anzca.edu.au/resources/professional-documents/statements/anaesthesia-and-cognitive-decline-in-adults

      https://www.asahq.org/about-asa/newsroom/news-releases/2018/10/new-way-to-describe-cognitive-change

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6919225/

      https://bmcanesthesiol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12871-019-0903-7

    21. ReallyBadPerson*

      My mother had a fall and broke her wrist, but also began having issues associated with cognitive decline. Turns out that her fall also caused a concussion. As she healed, these cognitive lapses went away. Is it possible a concussion is the cause of your colleague’s sudden decline? I have no idea how you’d bring this up, other than gently pointing out your concern and asking her to get checked out.

      1. Rachel*

        I’m sorry, but this is a workplace. There is no gently saying anything, there is specifically calling attention to the demonstrative negative effects of this professor teaching while suffering mental decline.

        I don’t get why people soft pedal this so much.

      2. Doc McCracken*

        As a healthcare professional who frequently treats patients with complications from concussions and as a caregiver looking after an aging parent with dimentia (who also fell and ended up with a concussion) I was coming here to suggest she be looked at for a concussion as well. Memory issues, depression, tiredness, balance issues, and cognitive “muddiness” are classic post concussion symptoms. Since this is impacting her work, your superiors could insist on a medical evaluation and clearance to continue work. And concussions can happen to anyone, and the news may be a little easier for her to digest as there would be a clear path forward for her to potentially return. (PT, medication OT ect). Let the doctor make the call and let the concussion be the bad guy.

    22. Dorothy Zpornak*

      It sounds like some of these issues may pre-existed the fall (not keeping up with tech, not adapting pedagogy, etc.) and I would imagine these concerns would be reflected in teaching evals from previous semesters, if your institution does SETs. If you haven’t already done so, I would use that as an instigation to let her know you need to observe her teaching this semester, which will give you a more concrete sense of how these issues are impacting her teaching — that way you can tie your concerns to specific observations from two independent sources. I think that will make it a lot easier to demonstrate to her (or any institutional allies she may have) what your concerns are.
      Her driving really isn’t your business, except insofar as she takes up your or your staff’s time to help her navigate, but you can always tell her that’s not appropriate; in that case, the work issue is her inappropriate use of department resources for personal errands, not whether she’s a safe driver. Are you looking into the driving records of all your other adjuncts? If not, then it starts to seem like ageism.

  2. Stuckinacrazyjob*

    At work this week, I was explaining to a kid about resumes, when you use them, how they are made and how to interview, etc. I covered the basics but what would you see as the most important piece of advice for teens who would like to obtain jobs?

    1. English Rose*

      Lock down their personal social media so employers don’t come across all kinds of stuff teens wouldn’t want employers to see.
      It’s never to early to set up a professional LinkedIn profile, although I’m sure that would seem fuddy-duddy to most teens.

    2. pally*

      Mind your on-line presence.

      Check your security settings regularly for accounts you don’t want potential employers to view.
      Do the homework regarding research about the company one will be interviewing with. Know what they make or sell.

      Be comfortable with asking questions. It IS okay to ask questions. But don’t ask questions ‘just because’. Know ways to find information yourself and THEN ask if these don’t get you what you need.

      Is it too early to create a LinkedIn profile (and update it regularly)? Might be useful for finding information on industries, careers and such.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      Agreeing with the locking down social media – and also, don’t post or say anything online that you wouldn’t want an employer to read.

      Also, it’s important to know that every job is an opportunity to build a reference. No job is useless or unimportant. My kids started with paper routes and volunteering, then working in retail.

      If you don’t have any work experience, volunteer for an organization. In Ontario, that’s mandatory for graduation from high school, anyway, but for a kid who can’t find a job, dedicating a few hours a week to volunteering will build their skills, a real reference (as opposed to a “showed up for mandated high school volunteer hours”, and a bit of a network.

      1. MissElizaTudor*

        I don’t think it’s a good idea to tell people not to post anything online they wouldn’t want an employer to read. But telling them not to do that under their real name or any name that can be easily linked back to their real name is definitely a good idea. And teach them how to have accounts that are difficult to link back to their real life identity, which is a good skill to have regardless of concerns about employment.

        1. Observer*

          I don’t think it’s a good idea to tell people not to post anything online they wouldn’t want an employer to read.

          Why? I’m serious.

          It is a good idea to learn to obfuscate your on line presence. But the reality is that it takes a long time to learn how to do that well, and in the interim people who don’t have that skill are likely to do themselves a lot of harm. And beyond that, sometimes that is just not enough. “Difficult to link back to them” is NOT the same as “impossible”. And most young people don’t have the judgement to figure out what the actual level of risk to them is and to make a sound judgement call about what risks they take.

          Starting with a default of “Don’t post anything you don’t want your immediate family, immediate social circle or your employer to see” is a really helpful way to start your on-line life.

          1. I Have RBF*

            Starting with a default of “Don’t post anything you don’t want your immediate family, immediate social circle or your employer to see” is a really helpful way to start your on-line life.

            This. I’ve been online since 1994. Most of my activity has been under my long running pseudonym, keeping my wallet name just for professional level stuff. While I had some missteps in the late 90s (an email list that was supposed to stay private, but some people violated it), in general it has been a good thing for me.

            Things on the net seldom go away completely. That’s why reputation management companies try to get any negative stuff off of the first page of search results by bombarding all kind of links with positive puff pieces – they are trying to bury the bad stuff.

          2. Beth*

            This is what I was taught as a teen, and it was good advice at that time. But that was over a decade ago. My youngest cousins are in their late teens now–and realistically, if they followed the standards I had followed at their age, they would be pushing themselves out of the main social sphere of their generation.

            Social media has been a huge part of their world since middle school. They’ve had their ‘official’ instagram account that their parents monitored, and their ‘fake’ instagram that they shared with their close friends but kept hidden from parents at all costs–they know how to hide their presence. And they’ve experienced how a badly worded comment or thoughtless post can lead to nightmare conflicts in their social groups. They know what they put online can backfire and have real consequences.

            As a result, they’re way better at curating their social media presence than I am. They’ve grown up with it as a crucial life skill. They haven’t necessarily thought about it in terms of work…but if someone tells them that employers will search for their social media, I fully believe they’re capable of both creating a palatable public image and hiding their private, ‘real self’ stuff on social media. They’ve been doing that for a solid third of their lives already.

          3. amoeba*

            There are many things even I post online that I wouldn’t necessarily want my employer to see! Nothing I’d be ashamed of or that I’d be fired for, but that blanket statement would limit most people severely. As an obvious example, imagine people who are part of online LGBTQ, BDSM or whatever communities. Those can be super valuable and important to people, although I’d definitely want to make sure it’s not the first thing that pops up on Google. (Disclaimer: this can of course range from “I don’t mind if anybody sees this” – like, I don’t know, attending Pride as an openly out person – to “potentially career- or even life-threatening”.)

            But even more everyday stuff – I wouldn’t *want* my boss to see bikini holiday or party with friends-pics, even though there wouldn’t be any trouble if they did. But this is why I’m not friends with them on social media. I’m sure they could find them if they really set their detective skills to it, but that would just be… weird?
            More private stuff, I definitely make more of an effort to stay anonymous (old-fashioned message boards, for instance).

            There’s nuance and I’m pretty sure, as has already been said, today’s teens understand that quite well already. Unlike us when we first discovered Facebook, for sure!

        2. I Have RBF*

          This is the way.

          IMO, being pseudononymous online is a personal safety practicve that far too many social media platforms try to deny people (*cough*Facebook*cough*).

          Establishing a log running pseud was the best thing I ever did, way back in the UseNet days. I had people try to stalk me, but they couldn’t get the address of a pseudonym. *phew* (I heard about this via a friend who they tried to get my address from, but they didn’t know it either.)

      2. RegBarclay*

        I’d add that every job is also an opportunity to learn skills including soft skills like how to deal with customers/coworkers/bad boss. Only some of which will be resume-worthy but all of which are valuable.

      3. TootsNYC*

        >> Also, it’s important to know that every job is an opportunity to build a reference. No job is useless or unimportant.

        This is really important; I want to elevate this point a bit.

    4. Sage*

      – Trust you gut feeling. If something feels odd while interviewing, and you can’t point what it is, you have probably unconsciously noticed something.
      – You are also interviewing them.
      – Being rejected feels bad, but you can and will get over it :)

    5. Just another content creator*

      My teenage daughter has social anxiety, so we often practice answering sample interview questions. (We started this after she panicked in her first interview and didn’t know what to say when they asked “Why should we hire you?”, bless her heart.)

      I also helped her create a document to log information typically required in applications, so she can copy/paste rather than type out everything into online applications over and over again. It includes her contact info, school information, places/dates/duties from volunteer work and babysitting experience, reference names and contact info, etc.

      1. helper_monkey*

        This is extremely good advice. My 21 y.0. son has some anxiety and coming up with answers to things like these as well. Creating that document with common responses and practice interviews helped so much.

    6. Anax*

      I think the most important things have already been said, but also – save the job listing, it may disappear and you don’t want to forget what job you’re interviewing for.

      Once I got my first job, I also found it really helpful to keep notes – this applies more to office jobs, not something like retail or fast food, but it really helps to be able to answer exactly what you did this week, what happened at that meeting, and how to use this system. You might not know much yet, but if you remember what you’ve been taught and what you’ve done, that will really help your reputation and the amount people are willing to spend time teaching you.

    7. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      Be honest. Don’t lie. Be deeply wary of any advice that involves deception, regardless of the source.

      Practice interviewing.

      Job searching is a numbers game, but it’s not *just* a numbers game.

    8. Ama*

      This is a bit more nuanced, but letting a kid know that if they are interviewing with a small business or with someone who says they are going to pay them in cash or in a way that taxes will not be taken out of their pay check (i.e. classifying them as an independent contractor), they should talk to someone outside the company first before agreeing to take the job.

      My very first job out of college I was incorrectly classified as an independent contractor — it was a small business and their accountant didn’t understand the nuances of that classification (the accountant was correctly classified as an independent contractor, but I think believed that the employer got to decide classification, and didn’t realize the IRS has a strict set of guidelines). I later had a job where I managed independent contractors at a larger employer that had a checklist to make sure we met the IRS guidelines and that was how I learned how it worked. My dad is a CPA and even he didn’t realize I was classified incorrectly (he isn’t a tax accountant) — he did know enough to make sure I paid my estimated taxes so I didn’t get in trouble on that front but I really wish I’d known to be more wary if an employer says “we won’t be taking taxes out of your paycheck, you’ll have to handle that yourself.”

    9. English Rose*

      I just remembered something else that helped me hugely. When I was a teen looking for work (a very long time ago!!) my mum unexpectedly asked me to shake her hand. She explained interviewers would want to shake my hand, that I would need to do it confidently. We practiced until my then limp fish handshake was fit for the task.

      1. Observer*

        Make sure they have a reasonably neutral email address

        Yes. Also, one that is reasonably adult and independent. MommysPet@domain.com is not going to do you any good. AndrewsKids@domain.com is absolutely going to be a problem.

        For a young person, something like a @yahoo.com account is going to be a red flag, because that looks like the kid is actually using a parent’s (old) account, which I would absolutely not want. Similar for an ISP linked domain.

        1. I Have RBF*

          Yeah, no. Yahoo.com is free, and is no different from gmail, IMO. So what if your email is rbf1287567@hotmail.com? You might be using that address solely for job hunting.

          I have my own domains. Several. I can give people email addresses from them. It’s no different that a hotmail, gmail, or yahoo address.

          1. Observer*

            Yahoo.com is free, and is no different from gmail, IMO.

            So it’s free. There are plenty of other free alternatives.

            It is absolutely different to gmail or outlook. Anyone who is current is not setting up a yahoo email account. Which means that if a young person who is just getting into job applications is using a Yahoo account, they are almost certainly not using their own account. No reasonable employer is going to want that.

            You might be using that address solely for job hunting.

            Which doesn’t make it any better. Reasonable employers don’t give a flip what you do with your personal email. You want to share your personal email with your parents? That’s none of my business, as an employer. But as an employer, it does matter to me that you apparently don’t have an email address where I can correspond with *you* and you *only*, not automatically shared with someone else. The idea that you would specifically do so with your work related emails does not make me feel any better about it as a potential employer.

        2. CorporateDrone*

          Many ISPs offer multiple email addresses so I would no assume that it’s a shared address unless the first part is using someone else’s name – and that’s a different issue unrelated to the domain. I absolutely agree with you about having a professional address, but whether you have a gmail domain or an ISP domain or a yahoo domain is pretty irrelevant imo. Making assumptions about the person based on domain is highly likely to be wildly off base. Personally if someone applied using a yahoo address I would assume they got the address early enough that they were asking a parent where to sign up instead of their friends. Who cares if they are using Yahoo over Gmail? Both of them deliver and send messages. Honestly Gmail is probably more problematic from a privacy point of view. It’s also possible that having had gmail shoved at them through school they wanted something other than gmail; many of the young people in my life seem to be trying to move away from gmail for “things that matter”.

          All that to say, careful about making unjustified assumptions.

          1. Observer*

            Personally if someone applied using a yahoo address I would assume they got the address early enough that they were asking a parent where to sign up instead of their friends.

            I’m not sure what you are trying to say here. But a young person doesn’t have their own email account that’s a *that* old. So either they are using someone else’s old account or taking some pretty bad advice from their parents.

            <i.Who cares if they are using Yahoo over Gmail? Both of them deliver and send messages. Honestly Gmail is probably more problematic from a privacy point of view.

            Not so simple. For a parent to recommend it would be especially bad, because you honestly want something that does basic spam filtering reasonably well, and whose advertising is not totally problematic. Yahoo fits neither qualification. As for security, there is no reason whatsoever to trust Yahoo’s security. It was irretrievably broken at the time they sold themselves and there is zero reason to believe that it’s was close to being fixed when Verizon sold them off.

            It’s also possible that having had gmail shoved at them through school they wanted something other than gmail

            There are plenty of other free alternatives. This just is not a likely scenario. Which is just as well, because best case it doesn’t really show anything good about the kid’s judgement. I mean they know enough to find an alternative email provider but not enough to know that it’s a service with broken security and is probably the most likely service to close down? So not impressive.

    10. constant_craving*

      Having been on the receiving end of teen applications, I would suggest making sure your review of the basics included that the resume/application/contact should come from them, not their parent.

    11. lost academic*

      Understanding the process and its goals. As a teen especially, and for most people job searching really, it’s about what the individual is trying to do, but the reality is that it’s about the needs the company/organization has. This is true for resumes, cover letters, interviewing, and a ton of what we do professionally. Your resume is the written opening document that says “here’s what I have done written in such a way that you can see clearly why it’s good for this role”. Practicing putting yourself in the shoes of the employer and writing to them is extremely useful.

      Resumes as teens and into college are different beasts then everything that happens after college because of course at this stage most people don’t have as relevant experience as workers or volunteers, and there’s going to be some more information that DOES showcase things as an individual that are relevant in other ways – grades, sports, school and community club/volunteer work – again, emphasizing the point is to show what kind of employee you will be – someone who can manage time, show up, learn new things in particular.

    12. Rox*

      Encourage them to look at job listings (and suggest sources – places like Indeed, Glassdoor, ect) and learn what kind of jobs actually exist. There is a world of difference between the vague concepts of jobs that you learn about in school and the actual reality of what you will find when you start looking. This will be especially helpful for kids whose parents don’t work in the corporate world.

  3. EmF*

    Was there a Business Meeting of Business People about three weeks ago where everyone agreed to use the word “cadence” for “frequency” when talking about how often to have a meeting?

    1. Anecdata*

      oh no, we had that meeting in the mid 80’s. Our stealth influence campaign must finally be paying off!

    2. OP Glowing Symphony*

      They should use ‘rhythm’ as is ‘the rhythm is gonna get you’ and then we can all start dancing.

      When I hear cadence, I literally hear cadence (in my head) from Air Force boot camp. It’s a misuse.

    3. Antilles*

      There was such a meeting, however, it was decided by the Committee For Professional Jargon Management to restrict it only to certain people with appropriate expertise in the subject. Please feel free to direct any further questions to your local CFPJM Representative. We appreciate your interest in the CFPJM!

      Non-joke answer: I’ve suddenly started seeing “cadence” used everywhere too and it’s weird to me, too.

      1. Professional Straphanger*

        At my work the new term is “foot-stomp,” used when someone wants to emphasize something. Foot stomping makes me think of toddlers having tantrums.

        1. OP Glowing Symphony*

          We’ve used foot stomp in the military for decades, mostly to emphasize things that you need to know for a test.

        2. RagingADHD*

          It makes me think of Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny saying “My biological clock is Ticking! Like! This!”

    4. Local Garbage Committee*

      I think of cadence as the pattern – e.g. “we meet every two weeks” vs. frequency being the amount “we meet twice a month” but maybe just me and the Business People?

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        That’s how it’s used by my management.

        I am stodgy and use the all-purpose “schedule.”

        And it also makes me think of rhythm terminology.

      2. amoeba*

        I mean, from a purely physical point of view, frequency would actually be the latter! Standard unit is Hertz, which is 1/s. (And now I’m out with my unhelpful nerd comments…)

    5. SpinFaster!*

      When I hear ‘cadence’, I think bicycling. It is how fast you are spinning the pedals. I’m now picturing the bosses as if they are spin class instructors telling their minions to pedal faster! … Also, I know some so into cycling they named their daughter Cadence.

      1. londonedit*

        I think of running – similarly, cadence means how frequently your feet hit the ground as you run. A fast cadence is usually indicative of a fast runner and a good running style. Wouldn’t have a clue what it was supposed to mean in a work context!

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

      Hmm, the word hasn’t hit my office yet, thank goodness. Are there a bunch of runners in your office by any chance? That, more than military, is what I would associate the word with. I wonder if a Bezos-type person recently used it in an interview and it’s now a trending thing on social media.

    7. Why is it so hard to think of a name*

      Oh no, at my old job, our CEO was using that term for about the last year. But she came from our parent office out of NYC (we’re about 12 hours south of there) so maybe she was ahead of the curve?

    8. Shoes*

      I missed the meeting for referring to “being laid off” as “being impacted.”

      For example,

      “I am sorry you are being impacted by the recent activities of your company.”

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        Or as one company I used to work for would say when they fired someone “xyz has graduated and are going to use their superpowers on a new adventure!”

        1. Dasein9 (he/him)*

          Oh, like the zoo that put up a sign saying a much-loved animal had successfully completed its lifecycle.

      2. Hotdog not dog*

        Oh, I was impacted by a displacement event about 3 years ago. Fortunately it came with a package. (translated to English, I was laid off and got severance pay.)

      3. Can't Sit Still*

        It’s rolling euphemisms! I remember when being “laid off” meant basically what furloughed means now. That is, if you were laid off, your job still existed, but there was no work or no money to pay you, and you were expected to return to work when the lay off ended. Meanwhile, you collected unemployment without being expected to look for another job because you were considered employed. Do employers even do that anymore? Lay people off with a return to work date?

        1. I Have RBF*

          Not in the US, generally. They will use furloughed if it’s a temporary thing that expects to bring you back.

        2. SnappinTerrapin*

          Well, when the textile and garment industry still existed in the US, it was pretty common to have layoffs with a predicted return date.

          When my cousin’s son started school, his mother worked in a garment plant. When school closed for the holidays, he came home and announced he had been “laid off” for three weeks.

          I don’t know if the practice is still common in other industries, though.

        3. DJ Abbott*

          Many years ago, someone in the trades told me unionized trades do temporary layoffs. I don’t know if they still do.

      4. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        My company generally speaks and behaves pretty humanly, but they’ve been AWFUL about this with layoffs. The way that official communications has gotten tied in knots refusing to call it what it is is maddening.

      5. nws2002*

        The airline I work for says that people who were fired were “prompted to customer.” It has always felt icky.

    9. Csethiro Ceredin*

      No but I’m glad for the heads up – the government offices I work with seem to embrace new jargon often and then they ALL use if for a few months and then it vanishes.

      (Last time it was my least favourite, ‘socialize’, which still makes no sense to me in the context and drove me batty.)

      1. Margaret Cavendish*

        We socialize EVERYTHING in my office. But at least we don’t use “parking lot” as a verb (let’s parking lot that) as we did in a previous job. So I’m pretty happy with this as a tradeoff!

      2. Anecdata*

        eeech, I think we got all your leftover Socialize and… can I send it back?

        for us particularly it also means – we have no clue who’s responsible for what and who the decision maker is for this, so let’s send a deck all over and see if anyone picks it up

      3. Girasol*

        A group of volunteers I work with were talking about office euphemisms and I mentioned “socialize” as a pet peeve. One of the other volunteers responded, “When you said that I was thinking of dogs and imagined managers teaching employees that they can’t just pee anywhere.”

    10. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      I know this is snark, but we use cadence a lot and they mean something a little different in my company. Frequency is a specific interval — every day, every week, every quarter. Cadence is more comprehensive of a larger pattern — in this project, we’ll have internal standups twice a week, client presentations once a week, feedback from client is due two days after that, rinse and repeat. And loop through that series for every piece of the project.

    11. lost academic*

      A lot of times things like this crack me up but I’ve had reason recently to contemplate why we use ‘cadence’ and it’s because it isn’t the same meaning as frequency and it does matter! Cadence is tied into workflow and work progress – we talk about having cadence meetings/cadence calls because it’s specific to updating on and controlling work progress. It’s less about the time that has passed and entirely about the work that has been completed – the two being obviously related but promoting one over the other.

    12. fhqwhgads*

      Using cadence is business-speak is not a new or recent thing I’ve noticed. It’s been around a while. Using it instead of frequency might be a new thing, not one I’ve encountered. Generally, I’d expect frequency to refer to the occurrence of a thing. Whereas cadence refers to a sequence of things. There’s likely to be some overlap. If they’re talking about a cyclical sequence of work, cadence makes sense (such as Monday the committee reviews Xs, the Xs that are approved go to Department A on Tuesday, Department A works on Xs til Thursday, Department B reviews Xs on Friday, repeat). If they’re talking about how often one single thing occurs (such as “the committee meets weekly on Mondays”) that’s frequency.

    13. Cj*

      this reminds me of something that happened in the early 90s, and I definitely wondered if there had been a “meeting of business people” recently.

      I got flowers from three different clients in one week. one was for sitting in on interviews when they were hiring a new in-house accountant. one was for getting something done on a tight deadline when they had gotten me the information really late. I don’t recall what the other one was for.

      yes, I am a woman. I don’t know what they were told to give the men, but I bet it wasn’t flowers.

      1. Cj*

        I meant to include in my comment that if I had gotten flowers from one client, I would have thought well that’s nice. but three times in one week did really make it seemed like something else was going on, and it read more like manipulation.

    14. House On The Rock*

      I loathe the use of the word “cadence” in this way, but also find myself having to pull back from saying it because it is so prevalent. It’s like how “architecting” became the buzzword 20 years ago, instead of the perfectly fine and actual word “designing”.

    15. Tammy 2*

      Yes, it is the same meeting where we decided to use “Candidly,” to precede something we probably shouldn’t say at all.

    16. Lily Dale*

      We’ve reduced the cadence of this meeting to allow for a test and learn now that Rachel’s team has finished using an AI to automate the target market spreadsheets. If you need advise on implementing those reach out to myself.

    17. DJ Abbott*

      Oh no, another one. I’m still cringing from “ask” instead of “request” and “cognizant” instead of “aware”.
      I wish they would make an attempt to actually be cool instead of pretending they are by changing words.

  4. Rodney*

    Can anyone offer advice on how to work with a new employee who hasn’t had a manager/supervisor for quite some time? I have a worker who was in a solo role for a long time and is now in a better position but it does have multiple supervisors. There seems to be some reluctance to discuss anything that could be even remotely construed to mean the person might need support for the new role and new processes, even for informal check-ins. This person was qualified and capable which is why we hired them for the new role. I could just use some advice on how to approach a new personality type.

    1. Clefairy*

      Do you have regular one on ones scheduled? That could help add some structure and give you a specific time to offer feedback and advice.

      Also, in the moment if they make a mistake or need course correction, I would just jump in cheerfully and matter of factly and give it to them. I love the book Radical Candor and really breaks down how to effectively give feedback, highly recommend!

      1. English Rose*

        I tell you, I’m spending a fortune on book recommendations from the AAM site! Radical Candor just went on the list.

        1. Kardemumma*

          That’s what public libraries are for! I just checked and mine has Radical Condor in multiple formats including downloadable e-book.

      2. Awkwardness*

        At old job, I had a boss that was very much not involved in my daily business. When I changed jobs, there was suddenly management and I struggeled for quite some time. I could not accept boundaries, because was used to deciding everything on my own, I thought my boss did not trust me because he would not let me make the decisions, and I think my boss micromanged me more than necessary because I was questioning all the time why I was not allowed to do things.

        So, set clear boundaries, but explain your reasoning! Maybe more than you would do with other employees. He needs to understand that it has nothing to do with trust or work quality, but that you have access to other information than him and therefore need to control him. He will very likely feel micro-managed, one way or the other.

      3. Quinalla*

        Great advice, this book is really good for reframing hard conversation and honest feedback as a way to help and care for the person.

    2. Angstrom*

      Multiple supervisors for one role? That sets off alarm bells.
      Is there one person who sets priorities for this employee? Are responsibilities and authorities clearly defined?
      Agree with regular one-on-ones so that talking to the boss is a normal, low stress thing. They may open up once they realize they are not being micromanaged.

      1. I Have RBF*

        Yeah, having multiple managers is a horrible thing.

        I answer to one person for all my HR, responsibilities, timekeeping, reviews. Yes, I take assignments, usually in the form of tickets, from all over the company. But there is only one chain of command I look to for priorities, etc. Anything else leads to madness.

  5. Zephtree*

    I’ve been laid off twice this year, and my husband got laid off this week as well. We (were) high-earning professionals so we’re lucky to be fine right now for expenses, but if anyone’s been in the situation before: any resources or advice for navigating the uncertainty of finding new positions? We’re US so we’re figuring out health insurance, when/if to pull the kid from daycare, is this the time to relocate back to the (more expensive) coast, grabbing a part time job for income?

    1. DrD*

      Some thing I would consider: Are the layoffs indicative of systemic problems in the field, typical fluctuations, tied to the region you’re in currently?
      Are you in different industries or is one of you likelier to get a new job faster than the other?
      If you pull the kids from daycare, someone’s FT job is now childcare. Does that sound good or bad? You might not be able to get them back in easily if / when you’re both working FT again.

    2. Tio*

      For healthcare, check your COBRA offerings against the govt offerings and what you need out of them (do you have a lot of rx drugs you need coverage for? frequent but minor visits to the clinic for small things like young children who are sick a lot? Specialists?)

      Have you sat down and made a solid budget? How long can you afford to be out of work? What are the associated costs of moving and living in another city vs. the likelihood of getting another job there? What kind of part time job would you be looking at and how much would the income help?

    3. Lady_Lessa*

      After you spend some time mourning your situation, I’d consider a part time job, not only for the income, but for the possibility of getting out of the house, being around people and satisfaction for accomplishing something.

    4. Anon for This*

      Look to the ACA Exchange in your state for health insurance. I just helped someone else with this and was surprised at how many options there were in my state.

      RE: day care, how difficult is it to find care where you live? In a similar situation years ago, I did not pull my kid out because I was never going to find a new slot when I found a new job. If day care is as hard to find where you live as my employees tell me it is here, and if you can afford it, I’d recommend you keep the kid in care. It preserves your spot and can also provide stability for the child in a difficult time – even very little ones can pick up on tension in the home.

      Good luck with all the challenges you are facing.

      1. Jay (no, the other one)*

        Agree with all of this. We bought insurance on the exchange for 2022 and I was surprised at how straightforward the process was and also pleasantly shocked at how much less it cost than I feared.

        Also agree about daycare. Job hunting takes time and kids benefit from stability and routine. I’d give up a lot of other things before I gave up daycare.

      2. L. Ron Jeremy*

        I believe you need to have a job to get insurance on the exchange. That was my experience in California.

        1. I Have RBF*

          No, you don’t. Last time I was out of work I could chose COBRA or the exchange. There was no stipulation that I had to be employed. I’m in California. COBRA was cheaper, though.

        2. epizeugma*

          The exchange is specifically designed for people who don’t have employer-based coverage (although people with employer-based coverage can also purchase coverage thru the exchange if they want to for some reason).

          Your income level (too high or, in Medicaid expansion states, too low [below the poverty line]) may disqualify you from receiving premium subsidies that lower the cost of your monthly premium, but anyone can *buy* a plan from the exchange.

      3. DJ Abbott*

        Where I live, the ACA plans cost almost as much as COBRA. Both are unaffordable.
        The times I’ve been unemployed, my agent put me on short-term high-deductible health plans. These are mainly to protect against bankruptcy, but they also have some benefits like co-pays for certain prescriptions and urgent care.

    5. Sparkles McFadden*

      Check to see if you are eligible for unemployment.

      Check about health coverage through COBRA and on your state health insurance marketplace. COBRA is good for the sake of continuity but it may cost a lot more than another policy. You can get a decent idea through your state’s marketplace website. My state’s website is fairly awful, so, though I would rather do everything online than talk to any human, I ended up calling to talk to a representative, and she was was fabulous. Research premiums, deductables, out-of-pocket maximums, co-payments and such and have an idea of what you can afford…and, of course, read all of the fine print before a final choice. (One plan seemed great, and then it said I’d be responsible for half the cost if I needed some kind of organ transplant. Is it likely I’d need an organ transplant? I don’t know, but it seemed like a “money or your life” gamble I didn’t necessarily want to take.) Check with your doctors and see if they take the plans you are considering, but be prepared to hear “It changes every month so we can’t guarantee anything.” The most solid answer I got was “If it’s anything more than the bare minimum plan, we’ll probably take it. If it’s silver-level or more, we’ll almost surely take it.”

      Some plans don’t include dental, so you can look at private dental insurance or eye care coverage and see if it’s worth it for you.

      Yes, to the part-time work (unless it somehow messes up unemployment or makes it harder for you to go on interviews) as it will keep you in a work mindset and bring in some cash. It’s also OK to take some time off and knock a few things off your at home to do list. (That made me feel like I was in control of some aspect of my life post-layoff.) I used one layoff interval to take a bunch of civil service tests. I got called back to work right after that, but the first civil service job letter regarding an opening didn’t come until four years later…and I had just gotten laid off again, so that worked out.

      I can’t speak about daycare personally, but you might want to keep your family routine as is if you can and not risk losing a day care spot.

      1. Health policy wonk*

        Be careful about COBRA. Losing employer sponsored coverage is a qualifying life event for starting ACA coverage. Deciding COBRA is too expensive after a few months is not.

    6. Rex Libris*

      My spouse and I have actually found that staying in a “less desirable” but low cost of living area really paid off (think small random midwestern city). Literally everything is cheaper; rent/housing, food, gas, insurance etc. It isn’t our ideal spot lifestyle-wise, but additional disposable income insulates one from a lot of downsides. It also means a less competitive professional/academic job market, and you can get more mileage out of any specialized skill sets.

    7. lost academic*

      It’s a great job market so definitely make finding a new one and honing your search your day job. Reach out to LinkedIn recruiters you don’t think are sketchy. Run the financial numbers to know when you might or must drop from daycare and also call them and let them know your situation – they’ll probably work with you a lot on that especially if you’re early and up front about it. For my two cents there I’d avoid pulling the kid because it’s pretty disruptive but if the financial situation devolves obviously that comes first.

      Talk to your financial planner!

      And have some faith and keep routine going in your lives. It can be easy to get really depressed in these situations.

        1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

          Yeah I agree, it’s super right for nearly everyone around me — senior folks in tech, marketing, consulting. My linkedin feed is half layoff announcements.

          1. amoeba*

            Yeah, I’m sure it depends on field and region, but it’s horrible for me right now. (My job is hopefully secure, but I’ve been looking for something new for ages and there literally hasn’t been a single even remotely interesting posting since March. Plus layoffs.)

    8. somehow*

      If you still have employer-based insurance, get checkups for everyone: health, dental, vision (and new glasses if you and fam. need them), etc. Your situation is a shining example of why we need to de-couple health insurance and health care from employment. Medicare for all!!

      Anyway, same happened to me nearly 10 years ago, and I took a 30-hour/week retail job to keep the bills paid, and bought an affordable ACA plan. That arrangement left me free to travel to interviews for professional work in my field (took 3-4 months). My kids are four-legged, so I can’t speak to daycare, but I’d squeeze out everything you still have as you transition to moving on. Best of luck to you!

    9. SurvivalJobsMayNotBeAnOption*

      Be aware that interim/filler/survival jobs may be impossible to get depending on your primary field and/or education. That was the most shocking thing for me in my early layoffs.

      Everyone will have the one best way to job hunt but there’s no one right way to do it or mechanism to use – network and apply for posted jobs and go to industry events and [pick your poison]. They all work some of the time for some of the potential jobs.

      Know it may take a while to find work, and that work might come in different shapes and sizes if you’re willing to be flexible (short term contracting, longer term contracting, temp to hire, part time, full time, leave replacement, etc.).

  6. Tina*

    I’m a newly-hired federal attorney who’s been in my position for six months. Before this I worked in-house and at a law firm for a couple of years. Both of those positions required anywhere from 50-70 hours per week, so I was bracing myself for something similar in the federal government because of everyone saying how busy they were and how overworked my group in particular is.

    To my surprise, it seems like almost everyone works exactly 40 hours per week, and tons of people have time to stand around and have 15-20 minute conversations about nothing in particular. I got handed a massive case after my predecessor left and was warned that it was incredibly time-consuming and that she was “absolutely swamped” with it, and I’m just…not. I do my 40 hours (sometimes 37, given the exercise program that allows us to be paid for 3 hours of exercise) and go home.

    I’m not complaining *at all* about the workload, but there seems to be a culture of people saying how busy we all are, even from people who come from places like the military and BigLaw firms, so it’s throwing me off a little. I’ve been told I’ve been doing great, complimented on being very responsive, and have the same number of cases as everyone else, so I’m wondering if there’s a factor I’m not seeing here, if part of it is just a product of me being a better/faster/more competent lawyer now that I’ve been practicing for awhile, or if this is just how things are in federal government.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      You sound like a friend of mine who just left Big Law for a federal agency. She’s experiencing major culture shock. It’s a tough thing to get used to, getting everything done in 40 hours.

      I will say that I think “busyness” is relative. I’m on a small team and my co-workers seem swamped and overworked, and I’m just… not. I don’t think I’m amazingly efficient or a rockstar or lazy, I just think I have a different perception of “busy”. So it sounds like your co-workers are busy relative to what other groups are doing and relative to what they’ve done in the past, but your experience was so ramped up and dependent on hours that your perception is just different.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I do not work in law or for the government, but I agree that people have different perceptions of busy. I also tend to work quickly/efficiently, and some people are slower or more methodical, so I think that affects it too.

      2. Ama*

        Yeah I tend to be a person who thinks of “busy” as meaning I have a lot of scheduled things on my calendar — either meetings or work I need to block out time to do — not necessarily that I have to work more than 40 hours a week.

        That said, I have learned at my current workplace that you need to be vocal about when you have those busy times because if people think you aren’t busy you’ll get pulled into a lot of unnecessary meetings-that-could-have-been-an-email because “everyone’s free, so let’s just chat instead.”

      3. I Have RBF*

        I will say that I think “busyness” is relative. I’m on a small team and my co-workers seem swamped and overworked, and I’m just… not.

        This.

        Most people on my team act like they’re swamped. I’m not. If anything, I’m underutilized. Yes, if there is something that goes wrong, I have to drop my project work to handle it. But that seldom lasts me more than a day, maybe two if it has a lot of fallout. I spend more time with the office politics around my work that the actual work.

        I have literally won a workplace award because of my ability to handle working with difficult groups. My time in academia is paying off here.

        But my actual job? I have 25 years of experience in it, and it is paying off.

      4. Quinalla*

        Agree 100% with this. My definition of busy is extremely different from new employees especially. I am very efficient and I tend to be juggling a lot and getting a lot done at work and at home. We just discussed this with our team the other day as we are trying to better communicate and spread workload around the team. /At work, some folks feel very busy with a comfortably full 40-45 hours, I feel busy when I have an extremely overfull 45-50 hours, where I am getting everything done just-in-time, fitting in a several more things than I planned each day, etc. For those other folks, they would call that overwhelmed. I don’t actually think my definition of busy is particularly good as it is difficult to sustain, it’s just what I’ve gotten used to.

        Weekends are typically the only time I don’t feel busy when I have time to relax and chill. I’ve been making small spaces for time like that during my weekdays too, but we are talking 5-10 minutes at a time, I need to do better there.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Also consider that what a Fed lawyer considers to be important is not what a BigLaw lawyer thinks is important.

      The Fed lawyer thinks that revising the details of regulations for contaminants in groundwater is very important and crucial (even if it’s just boring boilerplate fine print) because the environment is very important and crucial.

      The BigLaw lawyer thinks that churning out the 12th draft of the IP licensing agreement between Acme Comics and LlamaFilm Productions – on Sunday night no less – is very important and crucial because LlamaFilm has lots of money and the fees will be awesome, and making money for the firm is very important and crucial.

    3. ursula*

      I think the “so busy” posturing is self-protective; it gives cover for not stretching their hours any further in order to meet any new, inconvenient deadlines or tasks. If they get the sense that someone needs something, and they pre-empt any asks with “I’m so swamped right now,” no one is going to expect much and they can keep leaving right at 5pm. Also, if they forget to send that email or finish that thing, people will be sympathetic because, jeez, everyone’s so busy. Creating a culture of lenience by pretending you aren’t! (I don’t mean this judgmentally; I’m in favour of more leniency and IME lawyers seem to need these kinds of tricks in order to relax into it.)

      Second, I really think there’s a toxic work culture/identity thing for lawyers around how hard and demanding our jobs are. I think it’s a point of pride for people, even if they have moved onto jobs that are much more reasonable (as I have). Old habits die hard, etc.

      All of this to say – I made a professional transition that was not totally unlike yours and noticed the same thing. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re not missing anything, just taking people too literally with the way they’re representing the work to themselves and to each other. Congrats on finding a better work-life balance! These things are hard won.

    4. Anonymous*

      Some people might have more cases since they’ve been there longer? But it also seems like having work to fill 40 hours can mean being busy. Does being busy have to mean having more work than you can do in a normal workweek? I know federal lawyers who are non-exempt so can’t work more than their regular week anyway.

      1. Tina*

        They don’t; I’ve been handed all the new cases and some legacy items to balance it out, and I can see in our case management software what everyone has.

      2. Cj*

        I was thinking the same thing about the 40 hours. that they are busy during those 40 hours (although it does sound like they have time to chat), not that they are so busy they can’t keep up.

        1. Pajamas on Bananas*

          Over a decade in government, and they can be a VERY busy 40 hours if you aren’t allowed to work overtime, which is pretty common. I have not allowed to work OT because the pay’s not in the budget, and they don’t want me to earn comp time. Comp time has to be paid in a certain amount of time of if you leave, which again is not in the budget.

    5. Jenny*

      A couple of things. First, this is sort of the payoff for a Federal job. You aren’t going to make as much money. Bonuses, if they exist, are small. But the workload often isn’t as crazy.

      I’m a Fed (not an attorney) and I find that there ARE times when I work extra hours. But it is not the norm. I’m guessing it is really not the norm when going from Big Law to the government. And as far as your coworkers who came from Big Law, I’m guessing they’ve made the adjustment.

    6. Heather*

      I have a more simple answer. You were likely. incredibly overworked at your last role and you have no idea what a real 40 hour busy week feels like. All of your pressing and time sensitive work now has a different pace and the weight of that work feels lighter to you because you are probably giving 100% instead of 140% all of the time.
      Story: My friend moved to Spain for work. She works 32 hours a week, has lots of vacation, sick days, and the entire system and pace of life has changed. Looking back, she has no idea why she was working 55-60 hours a week in the US because she can do the same work in Spain in half the time because the entire system is structured differently.

      1. ItsAllRelative*

        This. It was incredibly freeing to me to have only 90 hour weeks at my first real job after working ~130 hour weeks most of the time in grad school (~7am-3am, usually 7 days a week with a few longish break windows built in – for example, I had a break in my class schedule from noon to 4pm on Thursdays my first year that was the one consistent time each week I tried to get off campus and go to a movie or shopping or the park or a museum, etc). Everyone else probably thought the 90 hour weeks were horrible (as I would now) but it was so much better than what I was used to dealing with.

      2. Alternative Person*

        Same. I used to have 25 client contact hours a week plus the admin that goes with it. Sometimes over 30. I moved to a company that caps at 18 contact hours a week (with occasional OT). It was such a difference. I suddenly had much more energy and wasn’t emotionally drained all the time. It was an effort not to eyeroll at co-workers complaining that 18 hours of client contact was too much.

        (for the record, research says for my industry somewhere between 15-20 client contact hours is reasonable but a lot of companies are not)

    7. The Person from the Resume*

      Perception! I think they’re busy in their 40 hour work week with some down time for chat and exercise. You think just working 40 hours is clearly “not busy.”

      Their bar for busy is set lower than yours. Which is good honestly because “I put in a full 40 hours and kept busy, earned my pay, felt accomplished” is way better than feeling that way only after working a 60 hour week.

      1. lost academic*

        Yeah, plus the billables. Working 40 hours a week is not billing 40 by a long shot – I used to look at every single requirement that wasn’t billable in my week as that much more time I had to work billably to meet expectations. Unexpected half day meetings or calls or trainings? Really ticked me off. In the government, your work is your work. (Unless you’re at the patent office, for sure…)

    8. Donkey Hotey*

      I am not a lawyer but I completely empathize with moving from an actually busy and stressful workload to a place that says it is busy and stressful. For me, it’s doubley weird in that I’m more getting paid more than ever before in my life while doing less work (He writes during his regular work hours.)

      Personal opinion, but I agree with you in that it’s a huge cultural shift moving to government work coupled with your different work experience. Just be careful they don’t try to lump more work on you because you’re too efficient.

    9. Cheeruson*

      I had a volunteer gig like this in the past. At the initial “interview” about the position it was emphasized over and over how fast-paced it was, and how I needed to be sure not to over reach so I didn’t burn out. It turned out to be the most laid-back place I have ever seen and I reached rock-star status quite quickly because I got everything done in the allotted time. I still think of that place whenever anyone mentions being busy or a job that is fast-paced. All relative.

    10. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I’m not in government or in law, but I have a generally similar experience — I work 40-45 hours a week, and my counterpart (who manages one team of 12 ICs to my two and a half teams, to boot) is constantly complaining about how she works 70 hours a week and doesn’t have time to get everything done, and I just cannot for the life of me figure out HOW. (I think in her case it’s partly that she tries not to delegate to her team lead and instead just grabby-hands most of the work herself, which is both overworking her and also really frustrating her lead. But that’s just a guess. I know I delegate stuff to my leads all the dang time.)

    11. Anonymous Koala*

      Not a lawyer, but I experienced a similar culture shock when I moved from academia to federal government. IME individual contributor roles in fed are often like this – 40hrs max, especially if you’re used to working in an environment that required a lot of efficiency and quick decision making.

    12. Rex Libris*

      I think it’s a universal work culture thing almost everywhere, law firm or not. Everyone goes on about how busy they are, regardless of reality. I think it’s simply a subconscious way of asserting the importance of one’s work and position.

    13. Sparkles McFadden*

      Everything depends on the point of reference. I moved from private sector to civil service and people kept asking me how I stayed so calm when were were “swamped with work.” I was busy all day (which I liked) but I never felt swamped with anything. My coworkers weren’t slacking off, but what made them feel stressed seemed like an easy day to me.

      Also, you do get more efficient with experience. I went to grad school (while at OldJob full time) and school was much less stressful in my 40s. It was like, after years of working, my brain knew how to identify what was important in the lectures much more efficiently.

      1. I Have RBF*

        Also, you do get more efficient with experience.

        So much this.

        I’ve worked places where the minimum hours was 60 – 6 x 10. I was more junior then, but man, I got experience in spades. Other jobs only wanted 45 to 50 hours a week, and were a neverending fountain of work, and I learned to prioritize and be efficient.

        Now I am senior, and working 40 hours, and I am underutilized. I know I would be less efficient if it were even ten years ago. So having my efficiency and knowledge be rewarded by only having to do 40 hours a week? Priceless.

    14. Generic Name*

      Oh yeah, I left consulting for an in-house position at a major construction company, and yeah, the pace of work is so much slower. I think what you’re seeing is the difference in culture. The federal government moves very slowly. Everyone understands that. As long as you’re not missing any statutory deadlines, enjoy the easier pace of work!

    15. anxiousGrad*

      I agree that it’s probably a culture thing. Last year I did research in a country which generally has much better work/life balance than the US (the average work week is 37.5 hours) and weeks that people described as super busy there were what I would consider normal to light in a research lab in the US. In my second week there my advisor was going to show me how to do an experiment and she warned me ahead of time that it would be a very long day, so I was expecting 10-12 hours and little time for food breaks. Turns out it was an 8 hour day with time for a half hour lunch break.

    16. Policy Wonk*

      Fellow Fed here, and I agree with some of the commenters that busy is relative. But I can also tell you that over the years I have discovered that I, quite simply, work a lot faster than many of my peers and it will take me an hour to do something that can take them an entire afternoon. I am no smarter, more focused, or anything like that, I am just quick. I also have a good memory for where to find information, and keep relevant laws, regs, and policies that I use a lot at hand in hard copy, so can find things more quickly than many of my peers. Also a time saver. None of this discounts the number of slackers or people whose whole identity is caught up in making sure everyone knows just how busy they are, but there are no more of them in government than there are in the private sector.

      I am a little surprised at the exactly 40 hours comment, as my week is often more like 45-50, with the occasional crisis 10-hours a day week, but in general yes, Feds have pretty decent work-life balance.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        Also a Fed and despite having what I’d consider a relatively light workload (in terms of measurable things like generating papers or reports), I realized that there’s a huge mental component to my type of work that was causing low-grade burnout. I would have a really tough time working extra hours beyond the 40/week because I just don’t have the capacity for all the extra critical thinking that would entail. So I’m having to recalibrate what I think of as objectively light workload vs actual subjectively heavy workload. I don’t look busy, but there’s a lot going on.

        1. anon for this*

          Yes, same. We try not to work over 40 hrs but those 40 are filled with a constant churn of detailed critical thinking work with little room for error. Feels busy and feels exhausting when you get home, which contributes to the busy feeling.

          1. I Have RBF*

            Yeah, my way of handling that kind of thing is to remind myself that “skull work” is still work. Some days I take a long lunch/nap just to give my forebrain a break. The stuff still processes in the background.

    17. Some Dude*

      I had a boss who worked maaaaaybe 30 hours a week – he’d come in late, spend two hours talking to family on the phone, then leave early. And he was always complaining about how busy he was.

      Sometimes if you have nothing to do normally, having something to do feels like a lot. Some people are just slower.

      Also, I came from a job where I worked 35 hours a week and it was super chill, and we’d complain about having a lot to do, and now I’m in a role where I do more in a day than I used to do in a week sometimes, so yeah. Busyness is all in the mind.

    18. girlie_pop*

      I’m in the marketing agency world and have a very similar experience. When I was considering this job (which is my first one in an agency) SO many people I know told me how I would have no life outside of work, I’d be working nights and weekends, and that’s just how it is in marketing agencies. But based on the hiring manager’s reassurance that my company wasn’t like that, I accepted the job, and she was telling the truth.

      Not working long hours or overtime is part of the culture here very intentionally, so it’s factored in when we’re assigning teams, deciding which new clients/projects to take on, etc. Very few people here work overtime regularly, and the ones that do are the kinds of people we’ve all worked with who are obsessed with being busy and telling people how busy they are (i.e., it doesn’t matter where they worked or what the company culture was, they would always be drowning in work and so so busy).

      I can’t speak to law or the federal government specifically, but I can say that I think busyness and overworking employees is definitely a cultural decision for a lot of companies and even individual teams and employees sometimes. A lot of research shows that tasks expand to fit the time that’s allotted to them, so when you have an organizational culture of working long hours and being SO busy they just can’t log off, it sends the message to employees that their projects should be keeping them super busy and taking a long time. I’m sure there are some industries where long hours are genuinely part of the work, but I think for a lot of us, it’s just the typical western belief that busy = important = inherently virtuous.

    19. Ellis Bell*

      One of my friends went from print journalism to in-house PR; she was constantly stunning people by turning out good quality press releases about an hour after being assigned them. That was the rate we worked at in newspapers! Without having the people we needed to speak to under the same roof and willing to talk to us! I also work in a slower pace environment than I used to, but it definitely *is* busy, even if it didn’t feel that way to begin with. Once you’ve had more time in this new paced environment, I’d revisit the notion of it not being busy, but this time from the standpoint of efficiency rather than speed. You seem to suggest standing around chatting isn’t very efficient, but it can be surprisingly good for your output levels, as well as burnout prevention. You also solve a ton of unanticipated problems in those types of conversations.

      1. I Have RBF*

        You seem to suggest standing around chatting isn’t very efficient, but it can be surprisingly good for your output levels, as well as burnout prevention. You also solve a ton of unanticipated problems in those types of conversations.

        Yes, because a second opinion can help, plus it is a break that lets your mind process it in the background.

    20. Frankie Bergstein*

      I was in a job where everyone constantly complained about being busy, but they didn’t actually do much! They showed up to meetings completely unprepared, did not have a lot of projects that they were assigned to, didn’t pull their weight on projects that I worked with them on. It was just something they said (and said and said and said) rather than something I could detect any evidence of. I could get my work done in 4-5 hours per day including meetings, and my workload was much much larger than theirs (not including doing their work). The other high performers who actually did their work agreed with me.

      I’m saying that it’s a work shirking technique in dysfunctional environments — this may or may not be the your reality!

    21. Beth*

      Not a lawyer, but I recently started a new job where I’m feeling a similar confusion. I’m doing everything I’m assigned. I’m doing more than that, actually; I’m getting praise for how proactive and on top of things I am. And some days that genuinely is enough to keep me busy. But I also have a lot of days where I feel more like I’m “on call”–here if a client emails or a colleague has a question, but otherwise not doing much.

      I think this is just how things are here, and I’m trying to trust the positive feedback I’m getting and not stress about how un-busy I feel. But it’s surprisingly hard to go from an environment like my last role (where there was absolutely always more to do, the only limit on my workday was when I refused to do more and went home) to this more relaxed pace! It’s nice but hard to feel secure in.

    22. It Might Be Me*

      I have a friend who jokes she’s going to have an intervention because I find ways to fill my Fed job time. She has 20+ years in the same agency. She keeps saying I don’t need to create the latest, greatest project.

      Yes, there are times of the year when I’m putting in 50 hours a week. But, (crazy, but true) I’m expected to log my comp time. Also encouraged to take time off.

    23. Granite*

      Fed atty here. Welcome!! At my agency we are often super busy. It’s cyclical, though. If we’ve got litigation going on, everyone is working til 11 or midnight every night and on most weekends, sometimes for a couple years, and if really unlucky they end up on another one right after. Lots of people lose their vacation time because they don’t have time to use it. If not in litigation, then yeah, some folks manage to do a 40 hour week, while some are doing 50. It also really really depends on which part of the agency you’re in and the type of work.

      1. Granite*

        I work with very smart, able people, but there aren’t enough of us. Hence small litigation teams and lonnnng hours. The idea that the big bad gov’t has unlmited resources is a myth, at least where I work. The other side usually has more lawyers on their litigation teams than we do, and a whole lot more paralegals, who are really critical to this sort of work. Not complaining, btw; I am burned out sometimes but I also feel lucky to be doing public service law.

  7. Arbitration Agreement?*

    Has anyone successfully pushed back on signing a new arbitration agreement after years of employment? My company sprung one on us (and made some claims that turned out to be false to try to downplay exactly what we’re asked to sign). There was a class action for labor law violations, and now they want everyone to sign it. I’m having a lawyer look over it, but I’d love to hear other people’s experiences with arbitration agreements.

    1. RegBarclay*

      My employer asked us to sign them after I’d been there 10+ years. But it wasn’t mandatory thank goodness. I just didn’t sign, and they didn’t let me go.

      1. Arbitration Agreement?*

        Glad it worked out for you! That’s also my plan. The company is so disorganized that I doubt anyone will actually follow up with me. Fingers crossed!

  8. Leap Day*

    Not a question but an addendum to that person who didn’t think people qualified for a day off if their birthday was on February 29 in a non leap year.

    My giant company, who uses another giant company’s software can’t recognize people hired on Feb 29 for PTO. The system just doesn’t recognize the date.

    My company has to go in and manually fix it (and they do!). But I LOLed when I heard this ridiculousness. (They also are wanting to ask that people not hire anyone on that date in 2024 but it’s a big company so it’s surely going to happen).

    1. English Rose*

      Oh I remember that person – and AAM’s magnificent reply.
      But how ridiculous of giant company’s software.

    2. pally*

      Ouch! That seems like the type of error folks would know to program in.

      A friend of mine worked in payroll. They instituted a new payroll program after extensive testing. Worked perfectly for every employee’s paycheck-except for the company lawyer. It omitted their check. Some still claimed it worked perfectly!

      1. New Mom (of 1 2/9)*

        Sometimes we’re very bad at it. Look up “Falsehoods programmers believe about time” (and another blog’s similar “Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Names”).

        1. Admin of Sys*

          Thank you for these, they are golden. (And I’ve had to troubleshoot 99% of these in production environments)

        2. Warrior Princess Xena*

          I’ve read the names one and now I’m off to find the time one. The names one is perfection and every time someone says “well how hard could it be to program X” I refer them to it.

        3. Texan In Exile*

          I volunteer registering voters. In Wisconsin, the online voter registration program goes to the WI DMV to match the voter name to a driver’s license or a state ID.

          Except.

          The number of fields for name don’t match between the two systems. And you can spend a long, long time trying to figure out how to enter a legal name that consists of four separate words. As in, one Friday afternoon at a mosque here, potential voters and I wasted a lot of time trying to figure out just how to enter their name as it showed on their DL to get the voter registration system to accept it.

          I finally realized that I just needed to ask people to complete the paper voter registration form, which the LWV then sent to the county clerk. Let the clerk’s office figure it out.

          But – nobody wants to pay to upgrade state computer systems.

          1. AngelicGamer*

            Oof you have brought back the dark memories of being an election judge in 2020 and having to look up people in our systems. There was a guy who swore, up and down, that he never requested a mail-in ballot, let alone complete it and mail it back in. How we were infringing on his rights. How dare I (and then others) tell him that he can’t vote. And so on. I legit thought we were going to have to call the cops.

            Before I looked to his wife, standing meekly and quietly to the side with her eyes down, and not doing anything. It turns out that, after we made all the various calls about this as I had also messed up with getting him inputted due to being YELLED at for a good forty minutes, that the wife had also asked for, gotten, and turned in a mail-in ballots. I was like “…she said ballots? Plural?” It turns out that the wife took away her husband’s vote but, because he was making The Fuss, that part of the entire thing was swept under the rug.

            Let’s just say that I needed a long break outside on the swings (we were at a school) realizing how much I love and loathe our political systems in the same breath.

            1. Texan In Exile*

              The wife committed voter fraud?

              What happened next?

              (And I am cringing in horror, thinking about how I would react if someone showed up to vote but the book said he had submitted an absentee ballot and he argued.)

          2. OtherIDs*

            What do you do for people with a state issued ID from another agency? I’m not in Wisconsin but my ID is issued by a different agency but legally has to be accepted in lieu of a driver’s license for identification purposes. It carries some additional functionality as well but this way people who qualify for my ID don’t need to carry two.

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              It’s the same agency. But WI also has 12 Tribal Nations, and surnames can be multiple words among the members, which can add to frustration with recalcitrant systems.

            2. Texan In Exile*

              There is a list of IDs, including tribal IDs, school IDs, and military IDs, that are acceptable for voting purposes in Wisconsin. (WI Rs, a few years ago, decided we had a huge problem with voter fraud and passed a law requiring voters to show photo ID to vote.)

              To register to vote, you need to prove only that you live in the place you want to vote. In addition to a current DL, you may use a bank statement or a utility bill (among other things) to prove residency.

              But the online voter registration form will accept only a DL or a DMV-issued ID as proof of residence, as that’s how the system automatically validates you.

              For all other proofs of residence, you can use the paper form. If you are completing the form in front of someone who is permitted to register you, you show the proof to that person, who notes the information on the bottom of the paper form. If you are mailing your form to the clerk, you include a photocopy of the proof of residence.

              So nobody is disenfranchised – it’s just different processes.

      2. Warrior Princess Xena*

        Getting calendars right in software is something that people can and have based their whole careers around. I have a family member who’s an actuary and works in insurance, and he specializes in handling the complexity of how the pay periods interact with the calendar year. I have seen his spreadsheets and they make the original NASA space program look like a My First Block Code project in comparison.

        1. Little Sushi Roll*

          I work in photo finish in track and field. The professional camera-timing-results system gig they use at all big national and international meets. It is unbelievable how easily and stupidly our results systems will refuse to talk to each other if the date settings are different on either computer.

    3. lost academic*

      Setting the system up to prevent that really is the simplest solution! Really you could extend it to not let people start February 28 either and then it’s more consistent.

    4. sara*

      I work as a software dev at a company that does a lot of date-based work (not at all HR related). We do a lot of year-to-year comparisons and things like leap years and daylight savings make that super hard… But we’ve got someone already checking for bugs/issues in any features since the last leap year in anticipation of the upcoming Feb 29.

      And we have a team reminder a few weeks before daylight savings events to check those also. It’s a tricky problem though – like how do you compare hourly data from today vs a year ago when one of the days has 25 hours and the other has 24?

      1. I Have RBF*

        It’s a tricky problem though – like how do you compare hourly data from today vs a year ago when one of the days has 25 hours and the other has 24?

        IME, the easiest solution is to have prod systems use UTC as their time zone, but sooo many people want it to match their local time. So now you have to fart with clock math to compare your eastern region logs with central and western region logs. Drives me batty, even before you add in the daylight savings time malarkey.

  9. Hugeux*

    Question about pay:

    My workplace pays a flat wage on services delivered, and then an additional amount, which is almost the same as the original wage, when insurance reimburses for services rendered, which can take… god knows how long. (i.e. I work four billable hours, I get paid $5 an hour, which will show up on my next paycheck, and then after insurance is billed and reimburses, I get an additional $4, for a total of $36.)

    My PTO I took last month was paid at the flat rate, despite me signing a contract that specifies the total amount after reimbursement as my “hourly rate”.
    This is like eight kinds of wonky, so I’ve got three questions:
    – This clearly isn’t “hourly” because while it IS paid per billable hour, it’s not paid within our state’s legally-required time limit (30 days). Is there another term for this?
    – I’m legally listed as an employee (filled out W-4 + I-9, work provides health insurance, PTO), but I’m fairly sure that’s… not actually what this is.
    – Advice for putting gentle pressure on the practice owner, who is technically my boss, without involving a lawyer, would be much appreciated. I sent an email already that said “Hi, I noticed my PTO was paid at this rate, which I’m sure was a mistake, when can I expect the rest?” so any thoughts on navigating this with a conflict-averse authority figure would be much appreciated.

    1. Qwerty*

      For your last question, approach it as if it was a system error because its likely an unintentional side effect of how the rest of payroll works there. (see the post above you about Feb 29)

      “Hi Jane, looks like there was glitch with my last my paycheck. My PTO hours were paid at X rather than my hourly rate of Y. Who can help with resolving this?”

    2. MJ*

      It might be helpful for you to chat with a local employment lawyer. Not to get them involved, but to educate yourself on whether what your employer is doing is legal, and give you points to discuss if you do need to resolve things.

      You don’t need to even tell your employer you’ve spoken to a lawyer, but at least you will know what they should be doing if they don’t fix this immediately.

  10. gigi*

    anybody ever dealt with an office mate that lives in the office? I’m a PhD student and my new office mate this year doesn’t just pull long hours- he lives here 4/5 days a week. I know academia can be laid back but this seems extreme, or am I overthinking it? We have a futon next to my desk and every morning, my key in the lock is what wakes him up. It’s weird and I feel like his alarm clock. Also he often takes naps in the middle of the day (next to my desk while I’m working!). I don’t want to get him in trouble, but it’s so odd. He’s not working all that time either- I came in for a late class once and he was sitting on the futon watching a soccer game like its his living room. He also often takes personal phone calls (1+ hour long), but they are in a different language so I can kind of tune them out. He seems to be struggling in the program (often responds that he’s “terrible” when I ask how things are, told me yesterday he hasn’t been in the lab in three weeks, so I guess he’s just spending all his time on classes?), but he lives on the same block as one of my cohort members, so I do know that he a) has an apartment and b) lives within walking distance. I know this is mean, but it makes me kind of resentful that he does have somewhere to be at the end of the day, but is still using our office like his second home and blurs the boundary of this being a workplace. I’m hoping maybe this is an unusual semester and this won’t be a years long issue but OMG this is so weird

    1. Hlao-roo*

      There was a letter from a few years ago that you might find helpful. Search “my coworker is secretly living at the office” from October 25, 2021. There’s also advice in the comments about bringing it up and framing it as a safety/liability issue (because it is). Link in a follow-up comment.

    2. PrincessFlyingHedgehog*

      Is this a vent or are you looking for guidance on how to talk to your office mate about this? (If it’s a vent, that’s totally cool — I didn’t want to start sharing advice if that’s not what you’re really looking for.)

      1. gigi*

        a bit of both honestly- I don’t know at what point it would be my business to say something, or what I would say. If you have thoughts, I’m all ears!

        1. PrincessFlyingHedgehog*

          It’s your point to say something to the office mate if they are doing something that is interfering with your work. If the lengthy personal phone call are disruptive, you’re in the right to talk to the office mate to ask (before they make or get their next call), to take these calls somewhere else, because they interfere with your ability to work. If him watching a soccer game is disruptive, you would also be within your right to ask that he not do that (or do it in a way where you can’t hear or see the broadcast).
          If you haven’t said anything before, they may assume that you’re not bothered by any of this.

          1. pally*

            Also, if you keep snacks or meals at work and suddenly discover they are disappearing, you may need to point him to resources. Food insecurity may be at play. You shouldn’t have to feed him. But helping to find resources to alleviate this is a very kind thing.

    3. English Rose*

      Weird indeed – actually especially the bit about taking naps next to you while you’re working! Does he snore??
      Anyway, I think you need to bring this to the attention of a supervisor, because I would bet there are likely to be insurance issues around someone living in the office. What about cover if there was a fire, a burglary, that sort of thing.

      1. connie*

        Yes, you should talk to you Director of Graduate Studies about this. It isn’t appropriate and it’s possible that there are solutions to help him with whatever is behind this. It might not even be that serious but it’s still just not a good thing. You need to be able to use your office without feeling like you’re intruding. Do you ever have to talk to undergrads in your office for courses for which you are a TA? Imagine how weird that would feel to them!

        I once napped in my shared grad student office overnight while working on a paper. Once. Never again. We had a theft problem in that building where people were staying in the building until after janitors went through and were going door by door getting into unlocked offices. It wasn’t a safe choice and I should have planned better. It’s not something to make a habit.

        1. Lord of the Files*

          Strong agree with this. I am the Graduate Director of an academic program and I absolutely would want to know about this situation. Especially if this person may already be struggling with other aspects of the program, this may be one piece of a bigger issue that the Grad Director is (a) already dealing with, and this is useful additional info or (b) needs be aware of so they can intervene before it escalates to a crisis.

          Someone with institutional authority needs to step in to explore what’s going on with this student and connect him to housing, counselling, financial or other supports if needed; they need to address the potentially serious liability issues of someone living in a non-residence area of the campus; and they need to ensure that shared work spaces can be used by other students for the purpose for which they’re intended, so that other students’ progress through the degree isn’t impacted.

          tl;dr, talk to your Grad Director now.

        2. SoftFundedAcademic*

          Also seconding this. I work in academia and have a PhD. And periodically the university has to send out a “you can’t live in your office” email because it does happen and it is a potential liability for the university.

    4. Anecdata*

      So academia is weird and grad school is a weird overlap of “school + job” but I would think of this in three buckets:

      – Hanging out in the desk area (personal phone calls, watching soccer) – in my experience this is actually pretty much the norm in academia. It /is/ kind of like a living room; it’s much more ok to be doing stuff that doesn’t “look like work” than in a regular office job. You probably don’t have standing to say anything about overall whether the activities are work or not work, but you do have standing to ask him to eg. use earbuds for calls (and you’d have that standing even if the calls were about lab stuff)

      – The sleeping in the lab: ehh… I can see how it makes you a little awkward, and you know he has an apartment nearby. Only time I or other students were /regularly/ sleeping at the lab, it was because we didn’t have housing, so it’s sounds like it’s not that. And even then, tried to be more discreet and get up very early, but it was exhausting because you’re also discreetly waiting for everyone else to clear out (one evening a classmate and I both realized in exhaustion that we were both waiting on the other to leave to roll out our mats). Maybe you could try the “let your natural surprise show” strategy : “Woah, have you been here all night? Everything okay?”

      – Generally worried about his well-being : in a regular office job, I’d set a higher bar for intervening in a coworker’s personal life, but the stuff you’re describing (says he’s doing terrible, etc) would be worth calling whatever student support line for grad students your school has (Dean of Grad Students often). They can reach out to the student with resources

    5. Trotwood*

      It’s totally reasonable to talk to your PI or a program advisor or someone about this. He shouldn’t be turning your shared office into his apartment–it’s not good for you and it’s not good for him either. I don’t think you need to think about this as “getting him in trouble.” You shouldn’t have to work in that environment just because he’s decided he doesn’t want to go home in the evenings, whatever his reasons are.

    6. learnedthehardway*

      That’s really odd – I mean, he has an apartment, right? I would probably verify that before saying anything to administration.

      I’m going to assume that your office mate is an international student – because that’s what it sounds like. A problem where I live (so I hear) is that a sizable proportion of international students are actually homeless. They are literally living on the streets while going to university / college.

      Or possibly – your office mate may technically have a place to say, but in actuality, it’s a bunk in an over-crowded house with 20-30 other people. That’s another problem where I am – the cost of housing is really high and some landlords are unscrupulous. Some landlords will do this deliberately (which is against the fire code and allowed occupancy levels), and some groups of kids will have extra roommates unofficially (to cut the cost per person). If your office mate is avoiding his apartment, I would guess that the former is the case (ie. unscrupulous landlord) – esp. if he didn’t realize it was going to be this situation when he moved for school.

    7. Orora*

      I work in a grad school. We once had a student pitch a tent next to his cubicle to sleep there overnight. We found out when someone came in early one morning. Faculty just laughed but it’s a legal and liability issue. We’re not zoned for housing so they can’t legally use it as a home (and sleeping in the building on multiple nights is really starting to treat it as a home). It’s also a liability if something were to happen to the student — if there was a fire, or other catastrophe.

      Bring it to the attention of your Dean or other administrator.

      1. Ama*

        Yes –when I was last working in academia (at a grad school with its own building), we had a faculty member who tried to get us to pay for a sleeper sofa in their office, when that was nixed (the building was old, didn’t have a proper freight elevator, and it was against policy for facilities to help move furniture that was not standard office furniture), she bought a fancy reclining desk chair and was sleeping in that. (She had a house — in fact she had negotiated a housing allowance when she was hired — but sometimes she said she just “didn’t feel like” commuting home when she’d been working late.)

        This went unnoticed for a bit because when she started doing this we had an exhibit downstairs in our building’s museum area and had to have 24/ 7 security as a condition of displaying some of the items. But when the exhibit closed and security started going home at 9 pm the Dean had to tell her we couldn’t have her staying overnight because of the liability issue.

    8. The Person from the Resume*

      Tell someone so they can make him stop.

      It’s making you uncomfortable understandably so. When you are there, you are trying to work. He’s disrupting your work. I wouldn’t count on him changing next semester unless he leaves the program so say something now.

      Especially with you knowing that he doesn have somewhere to go.

    9. Linda*

      I’m comfortable with being direct, so I’d just ask him why he’s sleeping in the office so much. My guess is that there’s something wrong with his living situation, either an incompatible roommate or a physically dangerous space. If that’s the case than you can encourage him to seek help from the program or university, or help him find resources.
      If he’s just odd or you have other reasons for not wanting to engage, talk to your advisor or one of the many offices on campus that are there to help you. Pick a likely-sounding place off the university website, call them, and say that you’re having a conflict with a fellow student you need help resolving, can they point you to the right person to talk to.

      1. Sparkles McFadden*

        Yep…start with “Dude, what’s going on?” If there’s a problem, maybe you could help find a solution. If it’s just a weird person who finds it convenient to sleep in the office, you then get to say “This is weirding me out so you’ve got to stop doing this.”

    10. Anonymous Koala*

      We had a postdoc do this when I was a postdoc. The first thing I would do is talk to your office mate and explain that they’re making you uncomfortable and see if they can modify their behaviour. It may be that they don’t have an apartment – plenty of people take extreme measures to make their stipends go a little further. He still shouldn’t be living in your shared office.

      If that doesn’t work talk to your professor. PIs really vary in their managerial competency, but if yours is even halfway decent I would say something about how it’s making you uncomfortable. At minimum, they should move you to another office without fuss. If that doesn’t work, you can go to the office of graduate studies, and they should be able to help you.

      But grad programs and labs can be so weird that you may want to think about the political capital pursuing this could cost you. Is the guy living in the office a particular favourite of the professor or dean? Does everyone know he lives in the office and just turns a blind eye? If either is true, I would still say something but maybe proceed with caution. Labs and research groups can sometimes bear an unfortunate resemblance to kindergarten.

    11. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

      Back when I was still in lab science, I had a colleague who’d occasionally sleep in the lab. They ran experiments with late time points sometimes and they commuted on a long distance bus where serviced ended at 6pm (before their last time point). They were upfront about it, but it’s awkward to walk in at 7am and you are the thing that wakes them up. Overtly, this is a major safety issue but tacitly, people don’t say anything.

      This guys sounds like he has terrible work-life blindsided, probably stemming from the terrible time he’s having. If he does go home, he likely feels he’s not going to work or isn’t working. It doesn’t sound like you’ve talked to him though — it’s technically both your offices and this is one of the pitfalls of shared spaces. What do you need to feel comfortable here? I don’t think it’s your place to say whether or not his life is within bounds, but you can ask him to wrangle it in when it begins to intersect with yours.

      1. somehow*

        “…it’s technically both your offices and this is one of the pitfalls of shared spaces.”

        I disagree. Overt fragrances, loud music, fish in the microwave – those are “pitfalls.” But treating a shared office space as though it’s one home – sleeping, watching tv, talking in one’s sleep, talking on the phone, *right next to* another person’s desk, 4-5 nights a week? Whole other thing, astonishingly clueless, and needs to stop.

    12. lost academic*

      This would have been a Huge Problem at my university. You can’t live in your office for Many Reasons.

      If he’s struggling that much the problem may solve itself soon enough, but you could find a way to mention it to someone in your department’s admin and let them deal with it. You might also be able to request a difference office space.

    13. Tracy*

      This is absolutely what I did when working on my undergraduate thesis in cell biology. I had experiments that took time and needed to be adjusted at odd hours (gels, chromatographs, thermal cycles). I slept on the couch in the common office or the chair in my office.

      But the fact that he hasn’t been in the lab for 3 weeks while he’s living in the lab? Poor time management? Bad roommates? If anything he’s doing is disrupting your ability to work, ask him if he can stop. Otherwise I’d say this is not too weird.

    14. shrambo*

      What I would do is…MYOB. If he’s actively disrupting your work environment by talking too loud or watching TV on speakers, or causing a real safety hazard by blocking fire exits or attracting tests, then I would ask him to address those specific behaviors. Otherwise, if the only thing that bothers you is that he’s “so weird,” then MYOB! Who knows what his home situation is like – he could have terrible roommates and just be biding his time until his lease is up and he can move. Or, maybe he’s just a weirdo who likes spending most of his hours in the office! Academia is a magnet for eccentrics, and doing PhD is especially demanding – I’ve heard that sleeping in the lab is not unusual. Leave him be.

      1. somehow*

        “…if the only thing that bothers you is that he’s ‘so weird,’ then MYOB!”

        The LW outlined far more than the student just being ‘weird.’ Also, his home situation, regardless of whether there’s a problem, isn’t hers to solve; neither are the challenges of obtaining a Ph.D. The office is not a home, and if someone is treating it as such, it needs to be reported for the safety and security of everyone else.

    15. Fiestaware*

      That sounds very normal, but I was in a Physics program. There were always a couple students like this.

    16. SeemsNormalToMe*

      This was normal when I was in grad school – it’s not anymore? Everyone had other housing but only used it some of the time.

      We had a huge grad student lounge with about 15-16 sofas and a bunch of comfy chairs that we were explicitly told were available to us 24/7. People often slept there if they didn’t finish up early enough to get home (campus shuttle services stopped at 3am) or if the weather was bad or if they were still working late at night or just if they felt like it. There was a separate small locked women’s lounge for grad students, faculty, and staff that also had 2-3 sofas (it was a physics department so not overflowing with women, and some preferred the mixed group anyway). It was rarely used by faculty or staff or for anything other than sleeping or the restroom. If I missed the last shuttle at 3am or hadn’t finished everything I needed to finish I’d sleep there for a few hours before starting my next day.

  11. EJane*

    In light of the “therapists give bad work advice” reality lately, I’d love to hear what kind of advice you think therapists SHOULD give when trying to set expectations for client’s about what a healthy work environment/healthy employee behavior looks like!

    1. saskia*

      Well, the advice should fit the norms of the industry the client is in. I think therapists can help clients learn to advocate for themselves, set reasonable boundaries, and set their own expectations based on the type of work they’re doing. Therapists can help the client ground themselves in reality.

    2. trust me I'm a PhD*

      Quite frankly, I don’t think therapists SHOULD be giving advice about what a healthy work environment looks like. A good therapeutic relationship might help clients think about what their own goals for work/work environments look like; but as we’ve all established on here, people often have really different goals for work –– some people want 40hrs and a check, to get fulfillment outside of work, some people are ambitious and happy to work longer hours, some people prefer to work atypical hours, e.g. at night. Therapists are not in the business of giving advice, and I’d be worried their advice would override clients’ self-understanding of their own goals.

    3. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      I think…I don’t want a therapist offering advice about work. Rather, I would want therapist to focus on helping me ask questions like, “Is this the right career/job/employer for me?”, “What impacts is the situation having on me, what can I do to cope, and when does it stop being worthwhile?”

      So, focusing on me and my health, rather than suggesting it’s my responsibility to change the workplace, since they’re my therapist, not my workplace/career mentor.

    4. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      I’m not sure. I have noticed a lot of bad assumptions ( such as how long job searches go and the quality of the jobs on the other end)

    5. aubrey*

      I think a therapist should stay away from trying to specifically give work advice or set expectations about work, and instead focus on the client’s feelings, thoughts and actions. E.g. “this seems to be really affecting your mental health to deal with so many mean people all day” and help the client to set boundaries, advocate for themselves, make coping plans, and/or make safe exit plans, as the situation requires. They can of course agree with you if you state that your work is bananapants, but their role is not to fix your job, it’s to help you to handle your life and take care of yourself and handle your thoughts and emotions in a more healthy way.

    6. Your Social Work Friend*

      I was a therapist for a number of years before I moved to a less stressful environment and what I found is people who work in mental health often give bad job advice because our own work-life relationships are so skewed. It’s a “we’re in it for the outcome” (barf) profession where working insane hours for low pay, having poor management, and zero boundaries with coworkers is normal. It’s not abnormal depending on the population you work with/people you work for to become desensitized to threats, violence, poor working conditions, verbal abuse, etc. A bunch of mental health worker in a staff meeting will sometimes unthinkingly share all their deepest traumas with the group at random because, well, that’s not that weird in our line of work, unfortunately. (That doesn’t mean it’s normal or people should–it’s just common enough.)

      On the rare occasion I was asked for work advice, I focused on what the client could realistically control. For example, we’d identify what about a situation they could control (and I took them at their word for it!) and we’d come up with ideas. Scripts of how to respond to a situation, resources to look for in their work place, (EAP, human resources, unions, etc), and some advice on what basic things were normal/abnormal for a work environment. Such as, you should not have to buy your own printer paper, or yes you should ask facilities before hanging curtains. Or environmental factors that I was specifically familiar with–for example, I worked in food services for a long while and I always recommended that my clients who were new in substance recovery look for retail jobs over food service because drug use/abuse can be so common in food service jobs.

    7. Manders*

      Maybe I just prefer therapists who ask questions instead of giving advice, but I’ve had good experiences with therapists who really dig in with questions that make me think beyond my immediate frustration. I think even a therapist who’s not familiar with my industry can help me work through questions like: What power do I have in this situation? What can I control? If things stay the way they are, am I willing to leave?
      The therapist I most struggled with was someone who really wanted to give me advice, but she had an exceptionally rosy view of my industry and I think she’d come straight out of school into self-employment. There’s no background that makes someone inherently good at giving advice, but she really was not grasping the power structures of an office, especially an office full of people who were overly territorial about work and not being managed well from above.

    8. SBT*

      I think therapists should stick to helping people sort through their feelings about work or people at work, giving coping strategies to deal with work-related stress and emotions, and support folks struggling to sort through how their job/career affects their identity and satisfaction. I also think they can help identify larger patterns of behavior that are showing up across a person’s life; for instance, my therapist has helped me see how a scarcity mindset is affecting my dating life and how I run my business, but she’s not giving me business/work advice. Just helping me adjust my mindset around it.

    9. Blinded By the Gaslight*

      Years ago when I was struggling with some things that were happening to me at work, and I described to my therapist some new developments that had me panicking, she advised to me contact my organization’s ombudsperson or equity officer to file a report for discrimination – and not to wait, to do it THAT DAY, as soon as I left her office.

      I did that, and it saved my ass because my employer unceremoniously and surprisingly fired me three days later. But because I had previously submitted a request for an investigation, the best they could do was put me on paid administrative leave until there was a final determination. That meant instead of being fired on the spot, I was able to be paid for a few more months while they investigated, which gave me time to job search in case the findings didn’t go my way.

      Forever grateful to that therapist for that life-saving advice. If she hadn’t told me that and I had just been straight fired, I’m not sure I’d be here today. (The same week I was fired, a long-time friend took his own life. It was a very bleak period.) Knowing I was still going to be receiving a paycheck and not become instantly homeless was my only thread.

  12. Hamster pants*

    Last week one of our senior HR reps reached out to me and told me that I have the option of borrowing up to 40 hours of paid leave since I had exhausted all my PTO for my recent health issues. I declined but did not specify why – I opted to take the unpaid leave. The biggest reason I declined is that I did not want to “owe” anything. The idea of borrowing anything from my employer, like PTO, just didn’t sit well with me.

    Is this a very common thing that most companies offer? I’m not sure if it’s a legal thing or a company thing here. Are there any drawbacks to “borrowing” PTO?

    1. Anecdata*

      It’s pretty common for companies to offer (also called allowing a negative PTO balance)

      Some states do not allow companies to require payback if you leave before earning it back; and many companies simply choose not to require payback when you leave. HR can clarify the policy for you (as well as any impact on your ability to take PTO for optional stuff on the future while you have a negative balance)

    2. Magpie*

      This has been an option every place I’ve worked. I was grateful for this option the year my oldest was born because I used all of my PTO to extend my maternity leave and then had a few unexpected absences come up towards the end of the year. The drawbacks are that you’ll have less PTO available to use during the next calendar year, and if you leave the company before you’ve earned that PTO back they’ll likely subtract it from your final paycheck. Unless you’re planning on needing all of your PTO next year, I would suggest at least considering borrowing the PTO. Why take unpaid time when they’re offering you the option of being paid for those days?

    3. Engineer*

      My company offers up to 24 hours of “borrowed” PTO and is offered for situations similar to yours. A negative balance does need to be paid back if you leave the company, usually by docking your final paycheck.

      I can see the good and the bad of it, especially for those with kids bringing home germs from all over. Good, because sometimes a year just sucks and you end up taking all your PTO on sick days and then the holiday rush happens, so at least you can get a paid day off. Bad, because, well, US PTO *sucks.*

    4. Aitch Arr*

      Very common.

      Unpaid leave is a PITA. Then HR/Payroll has to recoup any premiums missed during the unpaid period.

    5. Donkey Hotey*

      It was common in the Navy. At that time, it was traditional to send folks home on leave after boot camp and before their first duty station. Seems nice at the time, but then it locks you into a solid year at the new job no time off.

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

      If you can afford to go unpaid for time off, you are probably right not to borrow, but for many people they need the regular paycheck, and the company is nice to allow people to borrow paid time. It’s a risk for the company too; what if you borrow the 40 hours and then quit just after getting your paycheck so they can’t withhold the money. They could demand the money or sue, I suppose, but that’s maybe more costly than just writing it off.

    7. No PTO*

      My company also does this and touts it as a benefit. To me, it’s only a benefit if you only need to borrow a small amount and/or are otherwise healthy.

      This past November I developed a serious chronic illness (maybe more than one) and have been on mixed partial or full disability since. While in the waiting period for disability, I was forced to go almost 40 hours in the hole (couldn’t go unpaid without borrowing per their policy). I understand the company is viewing it as a positive because I still got paid after running out of PTO, but unless some miracle cure is discovered for my condition, the chances that I can return to work FT with no breaks for the months it would take to just earn back O hours PTO are miniscule. What do I do when I need time off in the future? I assume I’ll be carrying a negative balance until I leave, retire, or die. My fault for getting sick in America I guess!

    8. El*

      In one of my previous workplaces, we had a maximum amount of PTO that could accumulate. If yours was going to run over, you could donate those extra PTO days to a shared pool that could be used by anyone in the office that had run out of leave and needed it for sick time/family issues/etc. I’m assuming it’s something similar at your office, and if so, I would encourage you to take it! We don’t “owe” anything to employers.

      1. Texan In Exile*

        I worked at a place that did that. But when a co-worker’s son was murdered and she needed to take time off, the organization would not let my other co-worker, who had just resigned, donate her PTO (which she lost when she quit anyhow, as the org did not pay out unused leave) to the grieving mom.

    9. lost academic*

      Very common. Though I’ve now been at two companies that for balance sheet reasons change it to “you can NEVER go negative and we only do accural per pay period even though you are highly paid senior salaried staff” (had to do with ownership changes in both cases) and that’s much crappier.

      Sometimes borrowing the PTO can make sense. Some companies won’t allow unpaid time off at all.

    10. Warrior Princess Xena*

      It’s a thing. It’s happened to me once or twice, usually when I scheduled a block of PTO that I knew would be fully covered in the next week or two afterwards but wouldn’t quite be there. However, we earn PTO on a rolling basis throughout the year rather than starting the year with a big bank that decreases and cannot increase. I’d feel a lot less comfortable if that’s how the year did work for me.

    11. UnpaidMeansNoInsurance*

      I’d much rather borrow than ho unpaid and have to worry about breaks in health insurance, etc.

      Having said that, most companies I’ve worked for don’t allow unpaid leave. You have to use unused vacation, personal, PTO, floating holiday or whatever types of paid time off they offer once you run out of sick days. You’re encouraged to make up time rather than use sick time for appointments if you’re likely to need sick time for actual illness. It’s also been common to work at home unless you’re too sick to do so, further preserving actual paid time off. It’s always a fun process to manage for folks with a lot of medical issues.

    12. somehow*

      Where I work, we have a sick leave pool, by which employees can donate 8 hours of their own sick leave (after 90 days of employment), and then if anyone runs out of personal sick leave, they can borrow sick hours from the pool. I’m not sure if the hours have to be paid back, but it’s not an uncommon perk that I know of.

    13. Fives*

      This happened to me a few years ago when I had a couple of unrelated surgeries in a short amount of time. I too opted to take a bit of unpaid leave because I didn’t want to be in the hole for a couple of months.

  13. Hamster pants*

    General advice I’ve seen here and elsewhere is that you should disclose something heavy (such as a divorce, death, legal issues?) like a divorce, death, legal issue to your employer. But I’m blanking on why is that, aside from needing extra leave. Is it also due to if your performance wanes, this is the reason why?

    What kind of support is expected from a decent company for someone going through a tough situation?

    This is more of a general question, rather than specific to my own situation. I’m just curious as to how it generally works. 

    1. Sloanicota*

      I would only disclose something like that if I felt my work was likely to slip or I needed more flexibility for stuff like court dates or medical appointments. Without the context, is my employer likely to start getting irked at me? In that case, I would flag for my supervisor that something unusual is going on and that the interruption should be relatively short-term, if that’s true. Otherwise I’d rather keep my private life private.

      1. New Mom (of 1 2/9)*

        Yes, exactly. I was taking a lot of PTO in short amount of time–it wasn’t more than I was allowed to, but it was an unusual number of days in one month, so I felt the need to disclose my pregnancy to my boss. (Before my own mother, even; though actually my boss reacted better than I expect my mother to.)

      2. Ann*

        I feel like I’ve messed up on that one recently. My boss brought my performance up in August and asked if I need any accommodations. I said that I don’t, I’m just dealing with some temporary family stuff and it will be sorted out by September. Which was completely true, except that as soon as that thing resolved, more family stuff happened (which I did not see coming) plus a lot of other stuff that’s not about me but is doing a number on my ability to focus (also did not see this coming). So now my boss is even more mad at me and probably thinks I was lying that I would soon have the situation under control. IDK what I should have done differently there.
        Probably not going to revisit that conversation and ask for accommodations though, supposed to go on maternity leave in a month so it’s a moot point.

        1. Hamster pants*

          I’m sorry that happened to you. Sometimes it just feels like a storm right? I’ve had generally stressful family life but things came to a head a few months ago and have been escalating for some time now. Getting sick didn’t help either.

    2. londonedit*

      I think it’s basically so you don’t feel like you have to keep up appearances at work on top of everything else. If you have a decent employer then they should be understanding of the fact that you might not be at the top of your game for a while, and they should be able to offer any help they can, whether that’s an EAP or rearranging some of the workload or adjusting your hours or whatever.

    3. Sometimes hiring*

      I think part of it is people do often have performance issues during a major life crisis. They be more scatterbrained or on their phone more dealing with the personal stuff. Disclosing it can be a way to say “hey I know I’m off my game right now but I’m working through it”. Additionally, these things often take time during the work week. If you’re someone who rarely takes time off for appointments and now all of sudden you’re meeting with an attorney multiple time for divorce proceedings, it may look like you’re interviewing. So again disclosing is just a way to acknowledge that a big, time-disrupting thing is happening.

      As for support, grace with performance during the worst of it and flexibility is all I would want from a company.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, this. It usually also helps stop idle speculation among coworkers when they know that something’s up, even if they don’t know all the details (and decent coworkers you have a friendly professional relationship with shouldn’t expect to know all the details).

    4. PrincessFlyingHedgehog*

      I did disclose I was going through a divorce – and some of it was exactly anticipating needing to take more time off than usual, and perhaps needing to take time off with very little notice. And yes, it was also thinking through the performance/workload concern issue, too – getting a little grace if I’m not 100%, and setting the stage to ask for some temporary help, if I need it.
      I was already well aware of what my company’s EAP offers, so I didn’t need any guidance on that.

    5. AvonLady Barksdale*

      When I had a direct report and her mother was diagnosed with cancer, I was able to adjust her workload so she could be with her mom during treatment. I already knew at that point how close she and her mother were, so I knew she would be “off her game”, but being open with me allowed me to accommodate her beyond what she might have needed from HR. She ended up not needing any kind of formal accommodation because we worked together on solutions. And I was there to triage needs from our internal clients; I was prepared to take on her work if I had to. I kept my boss in the loop for her and addressed any concerns proactively.

      I had another direct report (different company, closer to a startup) who experienced a very upsetting loss and it affected her deeply. She didn’t want to discuss it with our bosses– she didn’t trust them (and she was correct not to). I ran interference for her, re-prioritized her workload, and just generally made sure she had space to grieve in peace.

      That’s all kind of “informal”, I guess. But in both cases it was helpful to be kept in the loop so I was prepared to get more formal accommodations put in place if they had been necessary.

    6. Irish Teacher*

      Well, I think this might be different in the US but in Ireland, you often need to give some information to get the correct leave. Bereavement leave is separate from sick leave which is separate from maternity leave which is separate from carer’s leave, etc. You don’t have to give details in most cases, but you do need to say for example that you have a family member who needs care. And bereavement leave entitlements depend on your relationship to the deceased, so you probably would need to say if a relative died and how you were related to them.

      I also think in some cases it can help them to plan, for example somebody with a serious illness may be taking multiple leaves. When I had my thyroid removed, I told my principal it was cancer because there was the possibility of needing further treatment down the line if it returned (I just told most people it was being removed).

      I think the support really depends on the situation and what the person’s needs are.

    7. Rosyglasses*

      It’s helpful for HR to know so that if there are issues (e.g. taking your spouse off your insurance – you only have 30 days typically and then if you miss the window you have to keep them on your plan until next open enrollment) or if you need to update beneficiaries for life insurance or 401k. Things you might not think of that can come back to bite you legally if you miss them.

    8. WomEngineer*

      If it’s not immediately affecting your performance and/or availability, it depends on how private you want to be at work, similar to how detailed you’d be about PTO or sick days.

      That said, I went through something like that in college, so if your job is being a student, I’d probably tell a close professor, advisor, mentor who (at the very least) can connect you to campus resources.

    9. aubrey*

      Most people seem off when going through something heavy, even if they don’t have direct obvious performance problems. Disclosing (in a good company!) means people will mostly give you a little extra grace for small things like missing typos, being late, taking last min calls or appts, being not quite your usual positive self, looking like you’ve been crying and so on. Also should cut down on speculation about what’s up with you, even if all people know is you’re having some “family issues”, at least they won’t be thinking you’re mad at them or are just a slacker or are leaving the company. And then if you do need to use things like extra leave, it has some context and isn’t a surprise.

      1. RagingADHD*

        I agree that this is a pretty important reason to at least give context to your team. Most people are not as good as they think they are about concealing or compensating for their true emotional state. And trying to keep strong, unpredictable emotions totally under wraps at work can actually increase your feelings of distress. Making it “okay to not be okay” can help de-escalate your stress and make it easier to get through a rough patch.

        Besides, having people constantly asking you what’s wrong and trying to deny that anything is wrong, is just awful. You don’t fool anybody, and it undermines your relationships because people usually resort to getting cold or snippy to make it stop. Better to let them know that you have something family related going on.

        And “death in the family” is of course a universal experience. Anyone who hasn’t been through it yet is just waiting their turn to join the club that nobody wants to be in, but that we all wind up in anyway.

      2. Hamster pants*

        That’s a good point. Thankfully I’ve gotten better at controlling my emotions over the last few months. and generally people mind their own business, no one really asks me. There’s 1-2 people I can confide in but they’re not relevant to my work. I’m contemplating mentioning it to my boss but it just doesn’t seem appropriate in my situation.

    10. I should really pick a name*

      You disclose information when it would benefit you.

      Divorce: This is relevant for your health insurance
      Death: This is relevant for bereavement leave
      Legal issues: This really depends on the situation. There are definitely situations where you would NOT want to disclose this.

      Sometimes, you disclose because they’re going to find out anyway, so it’s better that they get the information from you.

    11. manager*

      I knew an employee who was a poor performer who was going through a life crisis. It made it harder and slower to fire them, but we had documented their poor performance and let them go regardless.

    12. Punk*

      It’s done to provide context for atypical performance issues that are expected to be temporary. It wouldn’t accomplish the sane thing if someone were to say, “You know how I’ve been struggling ever since I started? Uhhhhh it’s because of lifelong chronic health issues and my generally lackluster marriage.” In fact, something like that would confirm to your employer that things won’t improve, because the life decisions described aren’t going away.

    13. Generic Name*

      When I divorced, I let my last company know, mainly because I knew I wasn’t myself during that time. Over six years later…..I’m still dealing with my ex in court (whoopee!! D: ). I actually used the court stuff as cover for why I was not myself at work the second time when the real reason was I was blisteringly angry at something at work and was job hunting. Now that I have another job, I haven’t mentioned anything about my PITA ex and my legal woes. At this point it’s just a background annoyance, and I’m counting down the days until my child turns 18, but if I have to go to court (yet again), I might mention something to my boss.

      I wouldn’t say there is a universal “how it generally works”. My last company was small and very family oriented, and showed a lot of outward support, which I guess was nice (but didn’t outweigh why I left). We’ll see how things are at my current company, which is ginormous.

      1. Potatoes*

        Ooof 6 years I’m so sorry!

        A Custody battle (not assuming this is your situation, just generally speaking from mh POV-is not something I’d wish on my worst enemy.

    14. kiki*

      It can be useful for your boss to know so they can offer accommodations you may not be aware could be on the table. I had a coworker who was having an ongoing family crisis. After a couple weeks it became apparent he would not be able to work full time while working through his family situation. His manager was able to quickly notice that the current situation wasn’t working and offer him a 60% schedule.

      A manager can also work with you to take things off your plate/ make clearer what the top priorities are for you. I had a coworker who was quietly struggling with divorce on top of a busy time at work. They were normally great at juggling multiple priorities and changes, but all the stress of their divorce made that too challenging. While it wouldn’t be sustainable forever, my boss was able to meet with that coworker weekly to establish priorities and help them break down all their work into achievable tasks.

  14. help with counting?*

    I’m staff in higher ed, and am travelling next week to a conference across the globe – this type of travel is rare for staff in my org. I’m curious how people who travel often count work days/time during travel?

    In my case, in the 12 days I’m gone I’ll have one day off and will be in transit for ~48 hours. I’m extending my stay with a few vacation days – but how many of those do I need to book off? I’m stymied.

    I’m the senior staff in our office, and my boss is a senior faculty leader and not particularly operationally minded, so I’d like to get a sense of how others do this so I can go into that conversation with a better idea of what makes sense. If anything my boss is overly generous, so I’m wanting to come in with an idea of what would be fair to us and the uni. The travel is an opportunity that we selected folks for, not a requirement our jobs, and we are all presenting on work, not academics.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I guess my question is, would you say the advantage of going is mostly for the employee – free exciting travel and the chance to get their name out there – or is it at least equally for the employer, like it looks good for the university to have people there / adds to your prestige or network knowledge in some way? If the trip is mostly a privilege and reward for the employee, I’d say any extra time is personal leave but not the travel days (might also remind folks to check email on the travel days, as they are working). If you actually want/need people to go, letting them take some comp time for the travel days might be an incentive, particularly if the travel happens on weekend days as it always seems to when I do this.

      1. lost academic*

        Disagree with this. This is a work trip and it doesn’t matter if it’s more for the employee’s benefit or the organization. The travel time and conference time are work time unless you have been given specific guidance to this (some places only acknowledge a certain number of travel hours in a day from a pay perspective). How you handle the additional time taken for personal reasons outside of those blocks is related to how your manager/department would otherwise handle that time around this trip – and that’s probably a conversation to be had. In general, if you’re sucking up a weekend, or two, on a business trip (due to travel or the conference, doesn’t matter), you need to find a way to get that time back unless expressly disallowed – but you want to make sure your manager is clear about how you’re planning to handle it. If you need extra PTO on top of that time, then I’d put that down, but you should not typically be expected to use PTO to get your weekend back. (Do make sure you’re planning if you might need it to have a day after you get home for jet lag, etc.)

        I also strongly recommend that you go into this with your manager with your plan, telling them what you want to do and expecting them to sign off, as opposed to asking. Lots of otherwise great people are much more comfortable with not giving normal time allowances for fear of looking bad up the chain and because they’re unsure of the situation/their authority/etc. Try and get it out of your head that you need to be “fair” to your employer!

    2. I'm worried that the baby thinks that people can't change*

      Also in higher ed and in my case I would probably comp time that was spent in excess of 40 hours per week. So, with 11 days working including 2 that are travel time, assuming there are 3 other days I wouldn’t use any time off. You’re working 11 days out of 14 which is normal. That said, if I got any pushback I’d probably just use one day as a compromise.

    3. Mostly Managing*

      My sister is in higher ed, and sometimes has to/gets to travel out of country to a place where we have extended family.
      Obviously she wants to see aunts/uncles/etc while she’s only a half hour train ride away!

      Her deal is, the travel time and the conference days are “work time”. Any extra days are “vacation time” and come out of her yearly PTO allowance.

      Sometimes that means the trip goes
      paid travel day (or two)
      two vacation days
      three day conference
      paid travel day(s)

      Sometimes the vacation comes after the conference – in fact that’s more common for her, but it does depend on timing of other deadlines, when the weekend falls in it all, etc.

    4. Feral Humanist*

      I’m… not sure what the confusion is? The travel days and all the conference days are work time. The extra days are vacation days. You request PTO for the vacation days but not the rest.

      I’ve always been salaried when I traveled and there was no comp time (officially — sometimes I worked things out with my boss unofficially, if I was feeling burned out). If you have hourly folks going, you’ll need to figure that out with HR.

      1. I'm worried that the baby thinks that people can't change*

        I am imagining it as something like :

        Day 1 – travel
        Day 2 – off
        Days 3-8 – conference
        Days 9-11 – off
        Day 12 – travel

        I initially thought the few days off would be in addition to the 12 days, but re-reading it sounds like it would be part of the 12 days. Based on the above times I would think it depends on how many weekend days there are during the trip. If there are 4, I would think no vacation days; if 3, 1 vacation day; and if 2, 2 vacation days. This is all idealized though and assuming the organization doesn’t have guidelines on this.

        1. Policy Wonk*

          “Across the globe” is key here. How much time is spent in travel (counting flight time plus any layovers)? For us, if travel is in excess of 8 hours, we get a “rest day” to recover.
          If that is the case, in your scenario day two would be considered work time rather than a day off. So day 1-8 would be work time (which would include being given comp time for travel/work on the weekend). Days 9-11 would be vacation days. Day 12 is work time. And of course the possibility of the official “rest day” on day 13 counted as work if it was over 8 hours.

          1. I'm worried that the baby thinks that people can't change*

            This is a good point, and one I suspect I’m going to see in action soon as I accompany my wife on an overseas trip for her conference. I really fell like help with counting shouldn’t have to take vacation time based on their description. People need breaks!

    5. The Person from the Resume*

      For me if I am vacationing on a work day, I take leave. If I am vacationing on a day-off (weekend, holiday), I do not take leave.

      Once I am back home, I figure out how much comp time I am owed for travel and request that. We have clear policy.* I don’t try to use that comp time for that particular leave/vacation time. Before you start your trip, you do not know what will happen to your travel plans that you may end up taking longer than expected or go sideways. Figure it out after.

      * Policy is basically if you’re travelling when you’d normally be working, you’re working. If you’re travelling when you would not be working, you will compensated for that.

    6. Educator*

      A few thoughts:

      If you are US-based and non-exempt, HR may have a policy on this because it has significant pay ramifications. Check your staff handbook or ask. At my org, non-exempt folks who don’t take comp time within the week have to be paid overtime for travel if they are working, traveling during their standard work day, or operating the vehicle. Comp days are a lot cheaper for the org than the amount of overtime pay trips like this require, so taking comp time is actually doing them a favor. Exempt folks are encouraged to take comp time too to the same degree, but they have more flexibility about when and don’t get overtime if they don’t.

      We count “lived hours” not time on the clock. So if my flight is 24 hours long but it crosses the date line and jumps me back time zone-wise, I still get to count the hours I spent working on the plane.

      I cannot figure out all of this in my head, so I do a quick Excel sheet for my boss with anticipated on the clock and off the clock time before I go, add up the on the clock time, and figure out my comp time from there. I think she likes that I have thought it through in such a transparent way.

      Also, unsolicited advice—take at least one comp day between when you arrive and when conference activities start, and another at home when you return before you go back to work. If you don’t take these kinds of trips often, and even if you do, the jet lag is real, and it can be hard to human immediately.

    7. thelettermegan*

      usually travel time is counted as work time, but your job at that time will be to travel to your destination.

      This way, you’re not taking time off, but you can feel free to do whatever you’d like to do as you travel. (ie, sleep on the plane, read novels on the trains, watch movies during layovers, or even do some work tasks if you’d like.) You are not required to do work every minute that you’re able to do so: your only mandated task is to get to your destination.

    8. Texan In Exile*

      The work days that you take off. Period. Not your travel days (and if they are over the weekend, you should get comp time) and not any weekend days spent there.

    9. Quinalla*

      You should take days off for the vacation days you are extending your trip. Don’t count travel time for that. So its sounds like you have ~2 days travel time – that’s work time – as is any other time your work requires you to be there because of the way they would have booked travel, even if you have some down time.

      And they should be giving you per diem for meals (if there isn’t a policy, ask your boss what is reasonable and how you will be reimbursed) and paying for all travel and lodging (uber/rental car/parking/hotel/etc.) while you are there for work. You of course pay for all that for your extended vacation days.

      Companies often don’t cover alcohol FYI, if you partake, get that clarified prior so you can get separate receipts.

      1. amoeba*

        Yup. Although at all places I’ve worked, it’s been usually fine to do things like travel early the day before, even though the conference starts late afternoon with just a welcome registration type thing, so you could arrive the day off without any trouble. Same thing for the trip back if the event ended before lunch. This did give me quite a bit of extra time off at the location.
        If I actually added on vacation days, I’d still count days on which any part of the event occurs as “work days”, even if it’s only two hours of welcome reception or whatever. Travel days would be work days, although my company is weird about that and might actually refuse to cover (cost or time of) the trip back in that case, because for whatever reason they really don’t like people doing that. Sigh.

  15. Sunny October*

    A new question for y’all: I’m kind of nonplussed about what to do and whether I’m just letting a personality issue influence my judgement.
    I have a coworker who falls slightly below me on the business flow chart – think there’s a llama managing director (my boss, Clydette), an assistant llama managing director (me), a staff of about eight llama tamers and a hybrid llama manager and llama tamer (Haroldine). When Clydette is off, I’m in charge, which mostly means I represent our office on group calls, start meetings and direct staff.
    When Haroldine first came to work with us, she was so freaked about her promotion that she refused to do anything without express permission, including the work she was hired for – stuff like, “is it OK if I open the door to the llama cage and clean it out?” “Is it OK if I open a new bag of llama mix because the llamas have no food?” Haroldine also put every comment, request or summation in an email which I thought was odd but maybe she just wanted physical confirmation that what she was doing was OK.
    It’s been nine months, and Haroldine is still asking permission to do her job via email even though we all work in the same space. Think “hey, still OK if I feed the llamas?”
    However, Haroldine’s communications with me have changed from when she first started. While Clydette can do no wrong, I’m suddenly becoming the focus of some pretty patronizing language. We put together a llama newsletter and need approval for the different headings; when Clydette suggests a change, Haroldine is good with it. If Clydette is away and I make a suggestion, I get an argument; if I make a first stab at a heading, Haroldine immediately has a problem with it. If I type in an article, Haroldine immediately asks why I wrote this or that, or wants to see where the information is coming from. She makes all her requests for corrections/comments/input in our local group llama management Teams channel instead of using a private Teams chat, so Clydette sees every statement she makes. She’s also taken to shouting at me in Teams when she has a question for me, as in “Hey, WHERE IS THE ORIGINAL INFORMATION in this thing you wrote?”
    This also occurs when it’s just the two of us and I’m in charge.
    Is this just a me thing? And if it’s not, is there a script I can use with Haroldine to remind her I’m not her subordinate whether I’m the boss or all three of us are on task?
    For what it’s worth, I’m fairly easy going and don’t take public offense; I’m also at least 20 years older than Clydette with whom I get along perfectly well, and at least 15 years older than Haroldine, and have been in the llama business as a tamer for decades and as assistant director for eight years.

    1. Tina*

      I would raise it with Clydette in a non-alarmist way and then address it with Haroldine yourself. “Hi Clydette, I wanted to let you know that I’ve been receiving some unwarranted pushback from Haroldine when making suggestions for the newsletter, and when I’m the acting director. I plan to address it with her directly but I wanted you to be aware, because she generally doesn’t take any feedback or suggestions from me very well and may want to discuss with you directly. Some examples are [a couple of egregious examples]. But again, I’ll discuss it with her myself unless you have any concerns.”

      That would be the script I would use with Clydette if you plan to say something to Haroldine, but I’m a little unclear about the types of tasks you’re doing, your relative authority levels, and whether the changes are stylistic or substantive. One issue I see is that your group inputs seem to be that of a peer rather than an Assistant Director. So if you’re all working on Llamas Quarterly, do you really need to be making changes to the header at the same time everyone else is in the document? In my group, we all might work on a document but the most senior person gets the final pass before sending it up to our boss. My concern is that you’re muddying the waters by wading in and essentially setting yourself to be questioned as a peer rather than someone who’s higher up in the food chain. Is there any way you can start positioning yourself to do more final reviews, or to leave the comments yourself, rather than taking them from her? Regardless, I would literally just start turning her inquisitions and comments around on her. “I’m comfortable leaving in what I wrote without citing to the original source,” or “I prefer this header before it gets sent up to the Director,” or “Thank you, Haroldine, but that’s fine the way it is.” And if she pushes back, you can say “Part of my responsibility is to make judgment calls like these and answering to the Director if she has any questions. I’m totally comfortable justifying this to our Director if needed, so please leave it as-is.”

    2. learnedthehardway*

      This seems very weird, and I would suggest bringing it up with your manager. Is your own manager someone who would set Haroldine straight? Haroldine needs to be “level set” about what the pecking order is, and that a) she is supposed to do her job and supposed to know what to do without asking every time, and b) that when Clydette is away, YOU are in charge and Haroldine should assume that your decisions carry the same weight as Clydette’s.

      And really, the only person who can adequately do that is Clydette. This is a performance and communication/team-membership issue.

      I’m assuming there are no timing issues that Haroldine has to worry about when she’s asking if she can do her tasks – eg. I just sent an email off just now to find out whether someone has done something, because I can’t do my thing until theirs is approved.

    3. Friday Person*

      This sounds truly annoying.

      If Haroldine’s suggestions are clearly useless/passive aggressive, ignore this, but if they’re more in the lines of reasonable suggestions delivered in an irritating way: I wonder if the excessive checking in about the status of her own work and the excessive input into others’ work are two sides of the same coin, with the commonality being that’s she’s expecting a lot more deliberation around everything than is typically the case for your group, and it’s stressing her out. If that sounds like it could be part of the issue, a general chat about which tasks need a lot of review/consensus and which are fine for someone to just use their best judgement on might be helpful?

    4. Cj*

      I guess my first thought is, well, where is the source information? it’s imperative to have source documents in the client file in my line of work. if someone notices its not there, I expect them to ask me nicely the first couple times, and to get increasingly testy if I don’t include it in the future, and that includes people blow me on the org chart. although all caps is taking it a little too far.

  16. Crumbs*

    Does anyone have tips on how to follow up on requests without having to be aggro? I work in state government, and I feel like I have to follow up on everything multiple times, like room requests and including dumb stuff like getting the facilities folks to change out fire alarm batteries, and things take months or don’t happen at all that should literally take less than a day.

    I feel like nothing gets done unless I make a stink and get aggro about it – is there a way to be assertive about these things without coming off like a witch? (Brought to you by half a wall literally falling down that I reported in MAY that is still in the way of everyone trying to use that room – including residents that come in for meetings).

    1. Paperclips Please*

      I work in a state university, so similar bureaucracy shenanigans. In my experience I have to be kind of aggro, but politely. Like, “Hey, just following up on this – we have a lot of meetings scheduled in this room and I want to make sure the issue is taken care of for everyone’s safety.” Framing it like that generally helps me. But I do have to do this sooo many times. It also helps that I’m on good terms with our maintenance director, so if I copy him on the email I know it’ll get done.

    2. Tio*

      Can you start listing out consequences in our email? Like, if we don’t replace the fire alarm by Wednesday, we can be subject to $5000 fines per day, please advise schedule. Also, being very specific about what you want (fill out x form, confirm schedule, whatever) makes you more likely to get a response.

      I also generally allow two reminders and then move to escalating to the next level, are you doing that? Or is it the whole hierarchy that’s ignoring requests?

    3. Anonymous*

      I follow up with phone calls (after say three emails for someone I am newly working with, after two for folks I know need a nudge, after one for folks I KNOW just Will Not Do Things without major chasing) and will escalate as needed above them. Is it aggro? Maybe from some perspectives, but I aim to always be polite and it is NOT my fault if I need to chase you becaue you *continue failing to do the work*. I am not the one making it a problem and [the fallen down wall] needs fixing, period, it’s nothing personal. So I say…accept that you will need to be aggressive and lean into it with no apologies!

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

      I don’t think of following up as being “aggro” unless you’re dropping f-bombs. I also follow up on requests, and get prodded by others for their requests to me. All of our departments are short-staffed and underfunded; everyone needs their request completed, but some are low level and others are high priority; and we almost never know what other things are on the list that are preventing our requests from being completed. I have a dozen low level requests on my plate to complete, but one high level request has them all on hold. I have a high level request submitted to IT, but they are well into the process of another project that will impact the scope of my request, so I’m on hold.

      Some scripts:
      “I’m following up on request XYZ. Can you give me an update on a start or completion date?”
      “Where are we in the queue to have this issue resolved?”
      “I’m trying to get Y completed by X date because of important business reason. Is there anything I can do to bump up the priority of this ticket?”
      “Am I missing any information in my request that is delaying this?”

    5. Ann*

      I am in private consulting and I really feel that. It’s become super common for people to just not respond. Coworkers, clients, contractors, agencies, you name it. I have to try to be more aggressive about this, and follow up with a call within a day or two, because polite waiting and multiple emails are both getting nowhere. It’s frustrating how much extra bandwidth it takes to get simple basic things done these days, but this is just how it is…

    6. umami*

      I find that building relationships with the facilities folks is the best way to get things done in a timely manner. I inherited a direct report who was very aggressive with following up on requests, and nobody in facilities could stand working with her. When I got a new events person, I advised her to be sure to get to know the facilities folks and work on those relationships, because there will always be things you need from them, and often last-minute, and she would need to be able to rely on them to help out. It’s worked out really well, and we also make sure to invite them to have food any time it’s left over from an event.

    7. Old hat*

      I have similar issues, though some things have helped.

      First, you are not a witch for being firm and expecting things to meet minimum expectations. Some people might say you are a b if you are holding them accountable. That’s a them problem and they likely would be dragging their feet regardless of your approach.

      Frame this as a of course this is to be done and that it was missed. This usually gets those that are swapped. Also ask if there is something to can be streamlined to help with getting it done.

      Don’t be afraid to escalate repeat offenders. Some people need that extra push or visibility. It’s annoying for those of us take responsibility more quickly, but that’s sometimes what needs to happen.

    8. RagingADHD*

      Cheerful, unwavering persistence with increasingly urgent reasons as to why it needs doing. You can also try changing up the medium of the requests – email, chat, phone call, walking over there in person, etc.

      Don’t get mad, just don’t go away. Ever, until it’s done.

      1. amoeba*

        Hah, yup, that’s what I do. Just keep annoying them. In a very friendly way.

        And for really urgent things (like, walls falling down, wtf?), I’d definitely go in person or at least call.

    9. Corelle*

      Genuine question – do you actually need to avoid being aggro about these things? For example, have you learned that it’s better for your own mental health, or are there delicate relationships you need to keep positive? If you just feel like you need to be a nice person, consider going the aggro route…doesn’t have to be every time, but I’ve learned that being pleasant and easy to work with most of the time but having a known witch switch works for me.

      Aside from that, here are some nicer strategies I use:
      -Be very nice.
      -Be very persistent.
      -Figure how they don’t like their follow-up, and use that method to follow up with them (I have people who hate drop-bys and people who hate check-in meetings…I cheerfully drop by and schedule check-ins when they’re not getting their stuff done.)
      -Make sure you are asking specific people to do specific things by specific dates, don’t let them use uncertainty as an excuse.
      -If you can discuss with them verbally, use the power of awkward silence. “Jim, I asked you to get that light bulb changed by Tuesday, and it looks like you didn’t get to it, when can you get it done?” and stop talking.

      Also, not sure you have the authority to do this alone, but push for Service Level Agreements (SLAs) for the teams that support you. An SLA is an agreement to perform a task within a certain time window, a certain percentage of the time.

      My company uses them a lot… the conversation usually includes how often the action is expected to be needed, when it’s due after being assigned, some discussion of common exceptions that might cause the deadline to be missed, and the percentage of time those might happen. For example, I will complete maintenance work orders within 2 business days of the request in most cases, exceptions might need to be made for work orders over $1500 that require extra approvals, or work orders requiring parts we don’t keep in stock.

      1. Random Academic Cog*

        “-Figure how they don’t like their follow-up, and use that method to follow up with them (I have people who hate drop-bys and people who hate check-in meetings…I cheerfully drop by and schedule check-ins when they’re not getting their stuff done.)”

        OMG – Never thought of that!

        1. Cazaril*

          I used to do the drop by reminder thing with certain folks when I needed a piece of information that I knew they could produce relatively quickly. They would have a chance to respond to my email first, but if not they would get a visit and I’d stay until they produced it.

    10. not a witch*

      I think there is a way to be assertive and even kind of “aggro” without being a witch. You could say something like this: a crumbling wall has been blocking a doorway since May. It is a signficant safety concern and it opens up our agency to liability. Someone could get hurt! It’s totally unacceptable to wait this long for a fix and I will have no choice but to file a complaint with OSHA. Or just skip that step and file a complaint with OSHA. That will get their attention.

    11. Wordybird*

      My entire job (unfortunately sometimes) is making sure everyone else does their job. Every project I manage involves at least five departments signing off on it (at two separate times in the process) + at least one outside vendor + an independent contractor.

      I’ve found the most helpful thing is to learn how each person/department works: whether they respond better to Slack or email reminders, what hours they typically keep, when they’re traveling for work (I work with several sales and marketing reps), how hands-on (or hands-off) they are with the project as it progresses, etc.

      Every email I send with a project update or specific ask has a stated deadline. Specific asks state the department or person that I need an answer from in case it’s a question or information that multiple people or departments might be able to respond to.

      I try to allow 48 hours before sending a follow-up email (or Slack). My follow-ups generally include a pleasant greeting, the reminder/ask, a “Thanks!” or “Thanks so much!”, and my name with every part on its own line so the reminder is as succinct and skimmable as possible. Depending on the deadline, I continue to follow up via Slack and/or email every 48-72 hours until the final week when they will be sent out every business day. I don’t like to loop in supervisors to “tell” on the person who is slacking but I will do that if we’re less than a week out and cannot move on without the slacker person’s input.

      We all work remotely without corporate phone numbers so I cannot drop by or call.

      Everyone I work with is aware of my position, that everything is deadline-based, and that their sign-off & input is required so I don’t consider it aggro to persisently follow up. I do find it annoying (and I imagine they do, too!) but that’s my job so… *shrug*

  17. Grants Aren't Everything*

    How do you encourage grant independence in the nonprofit sector? I’m working for a small nonprofit and they act like, if they don’t have a grant, they can’t do anything. I understand not *prioritizing* work without a funding stream, but I know from my past life that there are plenty of things you can do for free-ish and they do have general operating funds that cover their existing staff. They could absolutely be holding meetings on the issue, doing a social media campaign, or sending emails – and in fact this is how you get things started so you look good for a grant or any other form of fundraising (you send emails about an issue and then people might be moved to donate, for example). Is this learned helplessness common in the sector, and have you ever been successful at combating it?

    1. OP Glowing Symphony*

      I’ve been in non-profit for 23 years. You’d do well to find them to find a visual or best practice that grants cannot sustain as your bread and butter. they need multiple revenue streams like direct mail, social media, monthly giving, mid.major.and major donors.

      It’s not learned helplessness because I’ve been with eight non-profits and they all had this diverse funding concept down. pat. I think sometimes in a non-profit when they get good at something they kind of stick with it. It’s hard to start new revenue streams because it costs money to start it, then they get freaked out about their administrative costs until the effort start profiting.

      they’re not wanting to break out into different revenue. streams is hindering the growth of the non-profit. Interestingly enough, most non-profits don’t even start writing grants until they have successful online and direct mail campaigns so they diversify into grants because grants take so much time.

    2. Observer*

      How do you encourage grant independence in the nonprofit sector? I’m working for a small nonprofit and they act like, if they don’t have a grant, they can’t do anything. I understand not *prioritizing* work without a funding stream, but I know from my past life that there are plenty of things you can do for free-ish

      I think that part of your problem here is that you are conflating several different things.

      Most organizations can do very little for free or even “free-ish”, and suggesting that is not going to go over well in many places. However, that is very different from needing to have a grant for everything. As others have noted multiple funding streams are pretty normal in the non-profit space. And at least some of those funds should be unencumbered (ie not specifically tied to a specific activity or programs.)

      To combat over-reliance on specific grant funding, I would focus on two things, if you can. One is to just generally diversify funding streams. And secondly, when talking about new activities tie the specifically to existing stuff and the current mission statement, and start identifying potential revenue stream(s) for the this new project. So you could start activity X, that would support Program Z, using general operating funds to get off the ground while you plan do a mailing, fundraiser a set of grant applications for support that work going forward.

  18. MidwesternEnnui*

    A bit of a low-stakes question–I was e-introduced by a friend to her colleague who is hiring for a role I’d be perfect for. I responded on the thread (moving my friend to bcc so she didn’t get caught up in any back and forth), and haven’t heard back from the colleague. Knowing my friend, she would have cleared this with the colleague before emailing her, so I don’t think the colleague is ignoring me on purpose. Is there a way to follow up on my original email without using the dreaded “just checking in” or similar? I’m trying to get out of that passive voice, but I also don’t want to come in guns blazing…

    1. Feral Humanist*

      I usually say something like, “I’m circling back about this to make sure it hadn’t fallen off your radar/gotten lost in your inbox.” But what was the ask? Was it just a referral or did you want to speak with them? Some places have rules in place about talking to candidates outside a normal hiring process.

      1. MidwesternEnnui*

        The ask (from my friend) was, “I know you are hiring for this role, MidwesternEnnui is also an alum of our institution and has experience in this area, I’m connecting you two to talk about it.” It’s a professional school, and everyone on the email chain (me, my friend, the colleague) is an alumnus of it, so I know there’s no rule against talking to candidates outside of a process. I think it probably just got lost in her inbox, but since we’re all in the same network I don’t want to be too formal/business-y but that might just have to be how it goes.

    2. Hiring Mgr*

      I’d just reply again to the original email with something like “Hi X, following up on the email friend sent last week – I’d love to learn more about the Llama exhuming role you’re hiring for”

      Something light like that should be fine.

    3. RagingADHD*

      In addition to Hiring Mgr’s wording, I’d throw in something really concrete for them to say yes or no to: “I was wondering if you might have 10 or 15 minutes this week to talk? Tuesday and Thursday afternoons are usually best for me, but I can make time whenever works for you.”

      I find that the more of an “easy button” you can give people, the more likely they are to respond. If they have to go “Geeze, I’m supposed to talk to this person, I have to look at my schedule, and how long will it take, ugh,” then they will put it off. But it’s easy to say yes to ten minutes on Tuesday.

  19. Stormfly*

    I don’t know people in the US deal with having 10 days of leave or less per year.

    My country has a statutory minimum of twice that, but I haven’t taken any yet this year, as I’m finally getting work done on my place and I want to wait until that’s done before I take a couple of weeks to just stare and appreciate the new paint on the walls.

    But I’m struggling much harder than I thought I would. I would normally take a week or so during the summer, and I didn’t realise how much I relied on that.

    It hasn’t been a particularly stressful year, I’ve been working smart rather than hard most of the time. However, I had a couple of quite busy periods in the last couple of months and I got overwhelmed so much faster than normal. A week or so of overtime, and I was already getting tension headaches, and I got to the point twice where I was getting (not perceptibly I don’t think) choked up in a meeting at the idea of doing extra work when I wasn’t expecting it.

    The last few weeks have crawled and I actually have a new countdown app installed on my phone because I was checking my calendar so often for how soon my leave was. (14 days now.)

    So, just wanted to say that it should be criminal for people to get less than 20 days (excluding public holidays).

    1. New Mom (of 1 2/9)*

      We know! Unfortunately, we know! Sorry to hear you’ve been struggling, and hope you enjoy your leave.

    2. nm*

      We’re unionized so we have 20 days “vacation” and 3 days “sick time” (not that all US unions have this, but we didnt have this until we unionized).

      But in reality I’m usually sick for 20 days and vacationing for 3 days.

    3. Engineer*

      Yeah, we’re very, very aware our leave policies suck. Europeans take every opportunity to point that out to us like it’s our fault at least once a day on here.

      1. C.*

        Seriously! Not that this commenter is doing that, but it’s like… we know. We’re held hostage to it.

    4. MissElizaTudor*

      Thank you for the sympathy! I’m sorry you’re having such a stressful time and haven’t been able to take the time away you need. I hope you’re able to recover in your time off!

      I’m in the US, and my company gives decent PTO (start with 15 days, get another day each year you’re there). A lot of people do get more than 10 days, but, of course, a lot of people get fewer than 10. It creates a difficult situation to push for regulation around it, even leaving aside problems with the US approach to work. Many people want more, but the people with the most money, time, and power don’t have as much of a direct material interest in it*, even if they want it for ideological or compassion reasons.

      *Of course the societal benefits are good for everyone, but humans aren’t always good at that sort of thing.

    5. Sparkles McFadden*

      Yeah, it’s ridiculous and, ultimately, counterproductive.

      I actually got a decent amount of vacation, but my bosses almost never let me take a full week off. It was always “Could you just come in on Friday to get a jump on next week?” or “Could you only take three days that week?” or “I just need you to call in for these two meetings.” I worked in that place for 30 years and I never once took a two-week vacation eventhough I had enough time.

    6. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

      Not super sure why you had to frame it as “I don’t know people in the US deal with having 10 days of leave or less per year” — you have to deal with it because it’s the reality. What do you suggest? It’s not a choice.

      I’m sorry it’s been a stressful year for you. You should take some leave when you get a chance.

    7. Philosophia*

      It’s all relative. I’m working for a large institution in the public sector now, and have generous leave—which I appreciate—but I spent years working for tiny low-profit professional businesses in the private sector, and I appreciated the ten-day annual leave allowances I was given then. No one got paid holidays, but I could choose to work on a legal holiday (and also not to work on my own holidays): they were excellent for catching up on those administrative tasks that always fall to the bottom of the list.

    8. Stephanie*

      It’s not just the leave, it’s also being an environment where it’s okay to take it sigh. Some of my more tenured coworkers have 4 – 5 weeks paid (and we have use or lose) and they don’t take it or work through it.

  20. Pocket Mouse*

    How does one step back from a work project, gracefully and without losing (too much) capital? I’m particularly thinking of projects that could be within your job’s purview, but could also be someone else’s and/or is a giant mess you don’t really want your name, time, or effort tied to. Would love a script or approach based on capacity and, separately, a script for “this is not at all what I want to be doing (and maybe worth reconsidering if it should be done at all)”. At least two of my colleagues have gotten completely out of projects they were involved in (one was supporting and another was a key team member, and the key role was handed off to me). If you’ve attempted this yourself, I would love to know how it went!

    1. Trotwood*

      Is the project actually bringing value to the organization? Is it a nice-to-do but not a must-do? Make a business case for whether or not you should be working on this project and bring that to your manager. You don’t want to say “I hate this stupid project” but if you’re finding major obstacles to the work or that it’s not going to have a significant benefit to the business/organization, those are totally reasonable concerns to raise.

      1. Pocket Mouse*

        That might work somewhat when our projects are in the planning phases, but for funding reasons once they’re planned, they Must Happen. So it’s a matter of stepping aside (so a portion of the work moved to someone else’s plate), or pushing to either scale back or not renew the project in the future (but still mostly complete the current version). Since I’ve seen stepping aside twice now, I’m really curious how that happens!

        1. Awkwardness*

          When I’ve been doing this, it was most of the time result of priorities. There were other things on my plate with higher priority/ more desired outcome, so my involvement in the other projects was scaled down or, if the project still needed to be done, transferred to somebody else.

  21. I'm worried that the baby thinks that people can't change*

    I am wondering if I am off base here – I recently interviewed for a job and was followed up with to ask for 5 references, 3 of which should be current/former managers. The references are emailed a 34 question survey with two open ended questions. Is this normal now? I don’t even have an offer yet! I’m just worried that I asked my references to fill this out and then they end up with an offer that’s barely above what I’m making currently.

    I am scheduled to meet with senior leadership so I think the job is probably mine. Everything about this process has been awkward timing, not just on the company’s side, that I wonder if I’m just judging this based on that weirdness.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Wow, no that is not normal. I did references for two of my interns who were applying to PhD programs and there were fewer questions than that.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      References as a survey/questionnaire: There was a question here about that from 2014 (“Being asked to fill out a reference questionnaire instead of giving a reference over the phone”). I don’t think it’s a “new normal” so much as some portion of companies have run their reference checks this way for a number of years, and you ran across one of those companies for the first time.

      “I don’t even have an offer yet!”: Best practice is to conduct reference checks before giving an offer (because the reference check may turn up something that causes the company to no longer want to offer the job to the candidate). It sounds to me like the company fell down on good interviewing best practice by not making sure you’re at least in the same ballpark on pay/salary by this stage of the process.

      1. I'm worried that the baby thinks that people can't change*

        Thanks, my main gripe is the number of references (for a position that’s not entry level but not a management position) and the length of the survey rather than modality. As for the reference checks versus offer, the benefit for me doing it after an offer is that I would feel more free to include my current manager. I don’t want to throw that on the current situation as I may get a counter offer that I’d consider seriously (I like the job, not the pay).

        Also, I forgot to mention but another part of my annoyance is they asked me to give the references within 24 hours as of late yesterday afternoon. I ended up giving 6 references because I hadn’t heard back from one person but knew my strongest reference would be unavailable next week.

      2. Thunder Kitten*

        I was asked for something very similar. I had been out of the professional workforce for almost 8 years at that point, so I told them that I could barely track down 1 previous manager, but I could track down former peers and professors. I think one of them never actually even responded and I still got the offer. My former professor told me one of the survey questions was “how does the candidate react to being yelled at” which he found surprising/amusing.

    3. Aitch Arr*

      We use those surveys and they literally take 10 minutes to fill out by a reference.
      They aren’t as onerous as they may seem.

      Our requirement is 4 references, at least 2 should be former/current managers.

      1. I'm worried that the baby thinks that people can't change*

        While I did initially panic at seeing 5 references I did manage to get 5 texts and 4 replies within the hour. I ended up needing 6 because I’m not sure if the one can do it, while another needs to do it today. I think I still have anxiety over scrambling for references from my early jobs, even though my post-college career is old enough to drive.

    4. HonorBox*

      While the timing and quantity don’t necessarily give me heartburn, I think if I agreed to be a reference for someone and received a 34 question survey, I’d be more than a little upset. That’s an awful lot to ask.

    5. HE Admin*

      Absolutely not usual, either on number of references (I’ve never been asked for more than 3) or that bananapants survey!

    6. Anon For This*

      It’s not something I’ve ever done and I’ve hired a lot of people. So, not normal in my field, at least. Reference checks before an offer- totally normal, but 34 questions… excessive.

    7. I Have RBF*

      The references are emailed a 34 question survey with two open ended questions.

      Holy overload, Batman! IMO, this is NOT normal.

      References are doing you and the hiring company a favor, they are not signing up for an hour’s worth of work!

      I would be embarrassed if they did that to my references and I found out about it. It’s waaaaaay out of bounds.

    8. Cj*

      when I was looking for a new job last year, I had a couple of places through this. the only one three references, which seems to be a lot more normal than five. I was able to look at the survey ahead of time. I think this one was a total of 25 questions, like five questions in five different categories. I had to write you on a scale of one to five, and I can’t imagine that it took any longer than actually having to put it into your own words rather than just rate somebody on a survey. I actually think it would be quicker and more efficient.

    9. JM in LA*

      I did this exactly *once* for a person who dearly needed the job (divorce). But I wouldn’t do it again. It took a lot of time. Plus, it was so generic – I had to think of the best response for questions that did not apply but I couldn’t leave blank. It’s onerous. I hope people fill it out and it’s not a requirement. But I give kind of a side eye to companies that do this.

    10. linger*

      Short timeframe + long task for referees should serve as a warning that this org certainly does not value the time of people they don’t pay, and may not value the time of workers either. Have you seen any other signs as to whether or not workers are permitted a healthy work-life balance?

  22. M*

    I work remotely for a very small organization (under 10 people all together) where I love what I do and the owners/managers are great about promoting work life balance. I feel really lucky to have found this job! The only problem is that my managers at times aren’t the best communicators, especially with scheduling. Client facing meetings go off without a hitch, but my annual review was three months late and prompted by me finally emailing to schedule it. At that review they mentioned wanting to institute twice monthly check-ins with all staff…. that was three months ago and I haven’t heard a peep since. I’m never sure what my responsibility here is – I don’t want to be annoying by constantly asking about things mentioned in the past, but I’m not sure if that’s expected? Advice??

    1. Csethiro Ceredin*

      My guess is they had good intentions about all those things but then had no system to make them happen, and since there were no real consequences it just keeps slipping. The manager in question probably uneasily remembers it occasionally.

      I doubt anyone would fault you for not following up, but if you wanted to you could tie it to the next time you have to ask for guidance and say would you prefer you ask questions like this all at once? You remembered they’d wanted to set up regular one on ones, and offer to send an email invite or otherwise schedule them if that’s easier.

    2. LuckySophia*

      You wrote:”Client meetings go off without a hitch, but…” …and that’s the issue in a nutshell. Basically, the owners/managers are on the front lines meeting client demands/building client loyalty & business revenue in order to pay staff salaries, among other things. If client service uses up all the time and energy in a given week, then administrative stuff like staff meetings /performance reviews get pushed off. It’s not right, it’s not fair, and it’s not “good management” — but it’s been the reality in every small business I’ve been involved in.

      You (or another senior staffer who is trusted/valued by the owners/managers) might be able to offer to set up the scheduling for the managers…book time on their calendars for performance reviews and monthly staff check-ins. Think about how you can structure this in manageable bits for the owners/managers: maybe one staff meeting per month, to start, instead of two. Ask whether it’s better to clump all performance reviews together in one week….or spread them out so it’s one performance review per month? Find out what they think will work, set up a calendar, and be diligent in following up to keep them on schedule.
      Yes, it’s a ton of work you *shouldn’t have to do*… but that maight be the only way you’re going to get timely performance reviews and regular staff meetings, if you want them.

  23. Justin*

    Has anyone else set up a system, with lots of steps and plans, and then watched as implementation was… imperfect but can’t do much about it besides cringe?

    It’s going well for a couple of my colleagues but I feel like I need to step in for another of them despite not being their supervisor. Do you think I should go to our mutual supervisor or would it be presumptuous to assume he doesn’t already know?

    1. Looking for a Work Dress*

      Are you the project manager here? I had a similar issue on a large scale project that I was managing but had no direct authority over anyone. If you have made clear deadlines, check-ins, and had made inquiries and this person I think it’s okay to talk to their manager.

      1. Justin*

        I’m in charge of creating the system for a lot of projects to use but not in charge of each project. But yes I think I can talk to their manager since it’s also my manager.

    2. Not Your Trauma Bucket*

      ooh! I have direct experience on this! If you have a good relationship with the colleague, there are a few paths that can work.
      1. Enlist their help – The best way to implement a new process is to be painful consistent for the first six months or so while everyone gets used to it, and you need their help doing that. This is especially useful if the process touches others outside your group.
      2. Ask for feedback – is there something that’s causing a hiccup? Is there some piece that doesn’t make sense to them? Not that there are flaws in your process, but getting them to talk it through and feel like it’s helpful input can help win them over.
      3. Check your docs – have you given them good instructions they can follow? Do they need information another way? Again, this can make them see that they’ve been given everything they need and they need to get in line.

      Definitely loop in your manager though. Getting their endorsement goes a long way.

  24. Anonymath*

    I work as faculty in a public university, and as part of my role I set up science graduate students with faculty mentors. I recently had meetings with a new group of students, and during our one-on-one meetings worked students to find a suitable mentor who shared research interests. One particular student is anxious and tends to take things personally, so I mentioned in passing that one of the mentors I was suggesting was a little busy, but would be an excellent fit for him, and strongly encouraged him to ask them. This way, if the faculty member said no, hopefully the student would not take it badly.

    The faculty member I recommended is widely known to be busy setting up a new research area, something that has been discussed in multiple department meetings. The faculty member walks around looking obviously stressed. Other faculty and students describe this faculty member as busy in regular conversation.

    The student asked the faculty member to be his mentor, and he agreed. Sometime after my second meeting with the student, in which I congratulated the student on getting that mentor, the student apparently changed his mind about working with them and sent the faculty member an email saying how he had heard from me the mentor was entirely too busy and overwhelmed to support a student, and the student was going to find a different mentor.

    The would-be mentor was understandably upset at receiving the email and filed a formal complaint, stating I was telling students not to work with them.
    My supervisor, rather than investigating the situation, formally admonished me for calling the faculty member “busy” and instructed me I am no longer allowed to use that word to describe any person in our department, or there would be further consequences.

    I am both annoyed at being held accountable for the student’s choices and actions, and discomfited at being told I’m not allowed to use a perfectly normal word. I’m now walking on eggshells at work wondering what else I’ll be blamed for and what other words I’ll get in trouble for using.

    What Would AAM do? Is my supervisor overreacting here or should I really be policing my language that closely?

    1. anywhere but here*

      Supervisor is overreacting, and the student was also not being reasonable. I think in the future, framing that might work (now that the word “busy” is banned???) would be something along the lines of, “I’m not sure what this person’s time commitments are, so if they decline, don’t assume it’s about you personally, but if they say yes, then trust that it is okay and that they are an adult capable of managing their own time.” I’m surprised that this is something a grad student would do, though! Assuming that a prof who has accepted mentorship is actually too busy to do it, despite accepting it, and attempting to manage the prof’s workload for them is not something that I would expect from a mature adult.

      1. PrincessFlyingHedgehog*

        If the student is straight out of undergrad – this is not surprising. New grad students still need a lot of help and guidance in articulating what they need out of a mentoring relationship and navigating the very difficult and nuanced political situations in academia.

        1. Anonymous Koala*

          I disagree, the grad student sounds really out of step with professional norms. Generally professors understand what it takes to manage a new grad student and are unlikely to say they can commit the time if they can’t. I’m not sure what advice to offer you Anonymath except to maybe write up what happened in an email (attaching any written documentation, like emails, you happen to have) and send it to your supervisor to get your perspective on the record. This was a very strange thing for the student to do, and I’m kind of surprised that the professor filed a formal complaint – although depending on how it was presented, if they felt like you were standing in the way of them hiring students, I guess I can see why they did it. Still seems very strange and I’m sorry.

          1. PrincessFlyingHedgehog*

            I work in higher ed. Graduate students come into programs with a varying amount of maturity and understanding of professional norms. Not all grad students have a clear understanding of professional norms, especially professional norms as it relates to academia.

            But I do agree that writing a statement to send to the supervisor via email would be very helpful.

      2. constant_craving*

        Huh. I don’t see it as the student was trying to manage the professor’s workload. It reads to me like the student didn’t think that they were going to get what they needed out of a mentor. That doesn’t seem unreasonable to me at all. In fact, given how vulnerable grad students and how inconsistent mentors are in their approach to students, this seems like a potentially great decision by the student.

      3. Anonymath*

        I really like that framing as a nicer alternative to “busy” and will try to use that in the future. Thanks!

    2. PrincessFlyingHedgehog*

      Wait, we can’t call faculty members busy? That’s one of the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard. I could see objecting to call a faculty member “overwhelmed” – but “busy”??? Your supervisor is a jerk here.
      That being said, I think you made a minor error in judgement here in matching – I would not have put an “anxious” student with a “busy” faculty member, unless I had had a lengthy conversation with the student to make sure the faculty member could meet their expectations – especially around frequency of meeting and communication, and the type of support a student can expect from the mentor (esp. if the student is envisioning someone who could provide some emotional support/take on a “cheerleader” role).

      1. Anonymath*

        Yes, I agree with the absurdity, and it makes me feel better to see so many others see that too. In the case of the busy faculty member, he’s actually a very strong student advocate and very supportive of his students. I don’t always agree with him on his methods, but if there’s a good topic fit I’d always recommend him just because he’s so good with them.

        1. linger*

          The strong reaction by the faculty member suggests they’re not happy about having their overall workload management second-guessed (by the student and/or yourself). Maybe the mentoring work is something this instructor particularly enjoys, or at the very least, sees as a welcome break from the tedious admin of setting up a program.
          So it’s really not just about finding an appropriate synonym for “busy”. Don’t know if it’s better communicating directly, or going through your supervisor, but this instructor probably does need some reassurance that it won’t happen again.

    3. Anonymous*

      It’s ridiculous if you are not allowed to use the descriptor “busy” in any context. However, I can see the point of not telling students that a particular faculty member is busy — the faculty can decide whether they are too busy or not to assume a certain role. (I totally understand that your motivation was to soften a potential blow for a student. That was kind.)

      Could you possibly gently correct the record with the faculty member, explaining that you never said he was overwhelmed and that your intended message was that the student shouldn’t take it personally if he was declined?

      1. Anonymath*

        Oh, yes. One of the first things I did after getting out of the meeting with my supervisor was to send the faculty member an email clearing up what I said, why I said it, and apologizing for my part in the miscommunication.

        Both the faculty member and supervisor are new to their roles, and I’m sure some of this overreaction is a learning curve on their parts. I just don’t want to be officially reprimanded over their overreactions.

    4. Hiring Mgr*

      It sounds like both your supervisor and faculty member had EXTREME overreactions.

      I don’t fault the student – it doesn’t seem unreasonable to switch mentors before they’ve really started working with each other.

    5. Anon For This*

      Yeah, this is bananapants. I would however be really really careful how you speak about other folks time commitments. Students have a way of taking phrasing to the most logical extreme all the time, which is an issue.

    6. CoffeeIsMyFriend*

      oh my goodness. the mentor and the supervisor both work with students and should know to not just take situations at face value. they both overreacted. this should be a lesson for the student not you getting reprimanded

    7. connie*

      I assume that for you, “busy” is a factual word. He’s busy for legitimate reasons.

      However, to grad students who may sometimes expect that they can get a meeting or feedback on something immediately, they may put that word in the frame “too busy for you.” Especially given your point that you said the prof was “a little busy” so the student wouldn’t get upset if they had to choose another mentor, you inadvertently fed into that frame. He took it to another level. That’s not completely unexpected, especially if he had little or no experience by which to judge how much time he needs of contact with a mentor.

      I think your supervisor is overreacting, but I would change your own frame that this is language policing and reassess how you talk about matches between students and professors. For instance, what if you had said, “this professor tends to work best with graduate students are self-motivated and who are happy to check in periodically but don’t need a lot of close mentoring?” or “A good idea if you work with this person is to try to get on his calendar a few weeks out and send papers for review ahead of time.” That way the student knows more about the concrete experience of working with the mentor is like. Whether the professor is busy or not isn’t the real issue. Helping the student learn to navigate the schedule of any professor who is advising graduate students is.

      I also think you need to try to distance yourself from the idea you need to walk on eggshells absent other feedback that suggests there are changes you need to make. Your language around this is a little over the top and it’s not going to help you.

      1. Anonymath*

        After the meeting with my supervisor, I received a two page formal written reprimand about my unprofessional behavior and a warning to not do it again or there would be consequences. Aside from the well-intentioned passing mention of a potential mentor’s busyness, I have not behaved unprofessionally in any way previously nor have I received any prior complaints regarding my behavior. I believe getting this level of formal reprimand as a result of one well-intentioned comment is overkill and a suitable reason to be concerned about what sort of response I might get to other innocuous language. You are certainly allowed to hold different beliefs about how you would react in similar situations.

        1. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

          This is bullsh*t! Are the faculty at your institution unionized? If so, I would take the reprimand to the union.

    8. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Student changed their mind for whatever reason and pinned it on what you said. Supervisor is at fault for not exercising critical thinking (and in a university!!).

  25. zelavie*

    Any tips on handling a coworker who is both a very frequent snacker AND the loudest eater I’ve ever encountered? Our desks are right next to each other with no option to move, and I otherwise really like her. But she snacks 3-5 times a day at her desk. And she has some strange acoustics in her head that make everything sound WAY louder than it should (think Lily from How I Met Your Mother eating gravel). I use headphones sometimes, but I also answer phones so I can’t just have them on all day – and only putting them on when she opens the snack drawer would feel very directed. Any ideas?

    1. Sloanicota*

      I think you’re going to have to own this as a “you problem” and then just ask her as a personal kindness to you, to please either wait till you go on break to eat her chips or apple or whatever, or switch to something less crunchy if she’s willing to do so, or whatever you think might help. You’ll want a script that something like, “I’m so sorry to bring this up, but I have some kind of strange misophonia and the sound of chewing is really driving me crazy right now. It’s my own weird thing and I try to manage it with headphones and meditation. It would help me so much if you would X or Y.” Don’t make this about how loudly you think she chews or how often she snacks. She’s not really doing anything wrong here.

      1. RagingADHD*

        I do not think this would go over well in the real world. It’s not a reasonable ask on a permanent basis, and any reasonable response is going to create tension.

        If the coworker is the meek, self conscious type, they will likely interrupt OP 5 times a day to review the type of snack they have and get permission to eat it.

        If they have issues around food, feeling like they are being monitored and judged for eating is just cruel.

        And if they are the self-confident, self-sufficient type, they are going to just tell the OP to mind their own business, either politely or not so politely.

        No matter how you slice it, it’s not going to be good for their working relationship, and may entirely backfire.

    2. nopetopus*

      I don’t see a problem with putting on headphones only when she’s snacking! You aren’t putting your headphones on *at* her, and you aren’t dictating what she does. You are responding to stimuli in your environment to make yourself comfortable.

      If she were to notice and ask about it, no biggie. “Some snacking sounds just get to me, but don’t mind me! Just part of office life.” and move on.

      1. Tio*

        Yeah, I think the headphones thing is being construed as it would be some big insult, but… it’s not. Just put the headphones on, and if she asks, just be cheerful about it and use the script above. I sincerely doubt the coworker is going to be offended, like “how DARE Zelavie not listen to the symphony of my teeth!”

    3. No Tribble At All*

      Unless you two are literally facing each other and she can 100% see when you put headphones on…. No, you’re not putting on headphones “at” her. I mean you are, lol, but it’s unlikely she’s going to see or notice the trend.

    4. zelavie*

      Thanks!! I know this is a “me” problem, and I’ve been really intentional about not indicating that it bothers me. I’d hate for her to suddenly feel self-conscious about something like the sound of her own chewing, which she has no control over (and she’s a very self-conscious person). But she knows I have sound sensitivities, so I’m sure she’d just write off the headphones as that.

    5. EA*

      Oof so rough. I feel you here. A little different, but one of my college BFFs is a noisy eater and would snack while we studied, and I would get so bothered by it, but didn’t want to be mean!

      My advice is – don’t say anything to her about it. It’s really not her fault. DO put the headphones on when she snacks or go get coffee while she snacks, find a reason to get up. It’s really fine, and will help you not get to a point of true frustration with her. If she does ask you though, I think you could be honest and say you have misophonia (makes it sound more official) and prefer to avoid hearing chewing sounds.

  26. Frickityfrack*

    I posted last week about interviewing for a promotion and not feeling good about my chances, but they offered me the job yesterday! I really didn’t think it would be me, and I was getting serious no vibes from my boss, but her second in command (who will be my supervisor for this job) sat down with me to discuss the reservations my boss had, and it gave me a chance to address them. I wasn’t even aware some of the things she was worried about were a thing until that conversation, which sucked, but I’m glad they allowed me to respond before making a decision.

    Anyway, it came with a 36% raise, which always sounded insane when people talked about that kind of change here, but apparently it really does happen sometimes. I didn’t make baller money before, so it’s not as much as it sounds, but it’s still going to make a huge improvement in my life, and it’ll be nice to learn something new. I’ve pretty much maxed out what I can learn in my current position after several years. All in all, a way better week than I expected.

    1. pally*

      Happy Friday the 13th!

      I so love it when things work out lots better than one had expected.
      Congrats on the promotion!

    2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Congratulations!
      You obviously aced that meeting with the No.2
      36% usually makes more of a difference to your life if you are not highly paid, so enjoy the fruits of your labour.

  27. hypoglycemic rage*

    Last day at my job, yay!

    Gonna be unemployed for the first time in my life, not yay! (I welcome tips, a large part of my social interaction comes from going into the office five days a week, and it is Very Hard to make friends an an adult.) I am not as currently as concerned about he financial aspect, but I am kinda worried about my eventual mental health, especially heading into the cold Chicago winter.

    Also – I know I’ve asked for advice on how to address my leaving this job in future interviews, and I think I have a handle on what to say (basically that I was moved to a role that was not a good fit), but does anyone have any advice on how to not sound too angry? Cause I am still pretty mad about all of this and how it went down, and I don’t know that I’d be able to fully hide that when asked.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      A few tips for the social side of things:

      – Look for clubs that meet at regular times. Book clubs, running clubs, etc. You can get social interaction without being friends with all of the other club members. And you can usually skip on days when you have other plans with no/minimal repercussions.

      – Schedule some phone/video calls with friends and family members who live far away. Social interaction doesn’t have to be local.

      – Small interactions can count for a lot. Go through the lane with a checker/cashier instead of the self-checkout at stores, go into the coffee shop instead of the drive-thru, etc.

      1. Tio*

        Check out your local library – often they do meetups or other events that you can join in on. Or temporarily take up knitting or crafting and join a craft group.

      2. Ria*

        I think I got stuck in moderation because I typed out links in my comment – it might show up later, but in case it doesn’t:

        Meetup (website and app) for open social events, clubs, and meetups
        Timeout (website, go to the Chicago page) for up-to-date roundups of upcoming events by day, week, and weekend
        The Nudge (I think it’s an online signup, then they text you) for routine texts with ideas for new things to do in your city (it’s genuinely interesting/off-the-beaten-path stuff, not things like “spend the day at Navy Pier”)

        Good luck with unemployment and your job search!

    2. Cheeruson*

      I have found that if I start a sentence with “Sadly….” it sets the stage for hearing what I say next as I’m sad about it, even if I’m angry or confused or whatever. “Sadly, roles were re-aligned for some related business reasons and I landed in a position that did not fit my training or skill set.”

    3. Elsewise*

      For not sounding angry, practice! I had to rehearse my “reasons I left my last job” speech so many times, and the first few times I said it (fortunately to friends and family, not interviewers), I definitely sounded furious. By now, though, I can very casually say “yeah, my boss took my first three days off and left me with no supervisor, I was told with less than two weeks’ notice that I was going on a five day overnight camping and kayaking trip, and that was all in my first month and it got worse from there” without sounding too dramatic.

    4. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

      For finding friends as an adult, I’ve had good luck with finding group hobby or volunteering activities and making friends through that (since there’s already at least one shared interest).

    5. Ria*

      Meetup.com (there’s also an app) for clubs/meetups/social events
      Timeout.com/Chicago for a roundup of upcoming events in the city each day, week, and weekend
      The Nudge – texts you weekly ideas for new things to do in your city

      I’ve used all of these to get myself out and about in new places, including when I lived in Chicago. Good luck, I hope you’re able to get at least some enjoyment out of your time unemployed and that you’re quickly able to find a new job that’s right for you!

      1. Another ambituous person*

        Thanks for recommending The Nudge! We have it in our city and I just signed up.

    6. Turnipnator*

      A lot of school districts run community education programs with a huge variety of low cost classes you can take, from photography to pottery to dance or martial arts. If you’re interested in outdoor activities they might have broomball or a hiking group or something: I’ve found that getting outdoors regularly helps me feel less trapped during the winter – when the barrier to go outside is so much higher I need intentional practice to keep it up.

      1. Turnipnator*

        It looks like the sort of thing I’m thinking of is run by Chicago’s Park district, but some of the suburban school districts might have community ed also. Chicago Public Schools’ community schools initiative might also be worth looking into but I had trouble finding too much info, seems to be largely an analog registration system still. In the Twin Cities area I’ve gotten a physical catalogue of class offerings in the mail every year, I’m sure this is not just a Minnesota thing; but sometimes the cultural differences between geographically similar places are hard to account for.

    7. Kiki Is The Most*

      Yay! Congrats on taking the time for YOU! I did this exact same thing a year ago and had to figure out interviewing tactics that worked as well regarding taking such a significant time away from working. (Except I do not live in America)

      I was worried that I would spend too much time on the sofa and that is the last thing that happened. I’ve read the suggestions from the others and I’ve used those as well, so here are a few others.

      *Since I am awkwardly athletic, I did low-level walks/hiking in my region through Meet-Up.
      *There is an app in my city to join random groups for various activities (dinners, bowling, seeing a movie)
      *I started my own ‘dinner’ group and invited a few friends to join about every 4-6 weeks at a different spot around town. It keeps me in contact with work and non-work friends and we actually spend most of our time talking about the food/drinks.
      *Board game meet ups.
      *I love pub quizzes so I found a couple groups that meet a couple times a week with flexibility on if/when I want to participate.
      *I signed up for a paid language course for the country I live in 3x a week. It wasn’t as expensive as I thought it would be and the class had an sms group for get-togethers and language practice.
      *Since I haven’t been much of a reader, I also joined the local library then jumped in with a couple books and podcast recommendations.
      *Set up time to meal prep and cook some new dishes that you can freeze for Chicago weather!

      I was so excited to gain my mental strength back that I looked for all sorts of activities to join in, and actually made a couple new friends and definitely some nice, friendly acquaintenances.

      For the interviews, I waited until I had a bit of time away from the job and could sanely construct my thoughts so that I could still focus on the ‘good’ from the last position and to legitimately state that taking time away from work for myself is truly the key to maintaining my positive energy, focus and drive in my next job (which, btw, starts early next year!) There was little if any pushback for that reasoning. Hope any of this helps and that you enjoy your newfound free time!

    8. Tall Glass of Water*

      Honest expressive writing to get out the rage so it’s not suppressed and bubbling inside you like a volcano. (Ask me how I know.) People like eg, Nicole Sachs advise writing VERY honestly for 20 minutes and then deleting or destroying what you’ve written. No one reads it, there’s no chance of anyone ever finding it. You can spew out every rageful, egotistical, unprofessional, terrified (etc) thought or feeling you’re harbouring. I feel washed clean afterwards. N.S. advises doing a 10-minute self-compassion meditation afterwards (you can find meditations on YouTube).

    9. Always Tired*

      For the social side, picking up a hobby with local meet up groups works well, and two that worked exceedingly well for me was going to a trivia night, and a karaoke bar. At my trivia night, it’s teams of 3-6, so if you show up solo or in a pair, the host would put you on a franken team or have you “adopted” by one of the regular groups that had 3-5 people.

      For the dreaded interview question, I also had a… more acrimonious split from a recent employer. I look at it and reflect on it the same way I do when a small child does something incredibly mean/insulting: some humor and bemusement and the lashing out of the foolish or incompetent. changing my view on it made it easier to explain in polite terms without getting angry. Additionally I workshopped answers to common interview questions with friends and family so I was confident I could strike the right tone on more difficult topics.

    10. Jelly*

      When you are invited to interview, take a 30-minute walk prior to on that day (or the equivalent in movement). Doing so will kick in endorphins that will calm you and therefore keep anger at bay during the interview. Good luck!

    11. Hypoglycemic rage*

      Sorry y’all! I posted this and then my last day was busy so I didn’t get a chance to check in.

      Thank you all for your comments! I’ve already joined the nudge and meetup and look forward to exploring them more in the coming days and weeks. The book club I was in has kind of disbanded so I’m gonna be looking for other clubs to join.

      As it turns out, leaving this job was more emotional than anticipated – I love my coworkers and having a steady income. But I also value my mental health and while I’m not glad things played out how they did, I know I wouldn’t have left otherwise.

      1. too late*

        probably really late to the party here but I just wanted to say congratulations to you for leaving, I wish I had the financial situation to be able to do that with my toxic job! and I wanted to say about when you talk about it not sounding angry – for me I had to reframe it in my mind, stop doing the blame thing (“they never promoted me or offered me development opportunities, they treat everyone like children, they dumbed down my job, etc.”) and try to firstly, think of the positives about the job (“my co-workers are fantastic and we all support each other against the ‘establishment’, I get to meet people and use my brain and my skills and have learnt so much about my industry”) and then turn it around to why I’m leaving (“I am looking for a new challenge because I’ve got to a point in this role where I am not learning new things”). Like to really assess, if I removed all the horrible stuff would I stay, no, and why not, because I’m bored. And then turn that around to the new job. So in your case where you have actually left, well I got to a point that i realised that I was not going to be learning or growing in the areas I wanted to be and that we were not a great fit so I decided to leave so that I could pursue a career in an area of interest…or something like that. Or of course if you want to mention the bad things about the workplace just do so in a respectful way. For me I could never do that because my workplace is a very respected leader in the industry and by essentially badmouthing my workplace I would really be putting myself down. So I have to try to think of the positives and bring that into my interviews, if questioned.

  28. Are we not doing phrasing anymore?*

    Need a sanity check.

    I got an auto-reply from a colleague that said she was “on short-term medical leave” and to escalate urgent issues to her boss, which I did. No reply from anyone. Two days later, she responded that she was back and would handle my issue, and there was no need for me to have gone to her boss.

    WTF? In my mind, short-term medical leave is very different from being out sick for a day or two. Her phrasing, to me, implied that she would be out for a significant length of time (like for surgery or a car accident), not that she had the sniffles. Am I interpreting things wrongly?

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Do you know how long into the medical leave she already was when you sent the email? Maybe her leave was 15 days and you emailed on day 13? Maybe her leave was 13 days, you emailed on day 13, she forgot to change her out-of-office message, etc.

      Still a pretty non-sensical answer from her, but maybe she and her boss were assuming that you knew a bunch of context.

      Seems like the whole thing is a lot of miscommunication, and I’d assume that was the case rather than taking it personally.

      1. Are we not doing phrasing anymore?*

        She was in a meeting on Monday, I got the auto-reply on Tuesday, and she responded to me on Thursday.

        Also context I (stupidly) forgot to include is that her department and mine are fully remote, so taking a sick day is usually pretty dire. If you’re nursing a cold and nap a bit throughout the day, nobody minds, so setting an OOO usually means you’re in a bad way.

        I’m not upset or offended or anything like that, just wanted to make sure I’m following context clues properly.

        1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

          Wow. I honestly don’t know if there **are** any context clues to follow. Beats me.

    2. londonedit*

      I probably would have assumed it meant the same as you did. Usually people who are just off sick will say ‘I’m off sick today’ or ‘I’m unwell and won’t be checking email today’ or whatever. ‘Short-term medical leave’ makes me think of at least a couple of weeks off, not a couple of days.

    3. Fluffy Fish*

      You did nothing wrong. Not to mention when you will be out you generally mention until when or until further notice.

      Out of curiosity of her response, the only thing I can think of is perhaps she didn’t consider your request to be urgent and that’s why she was being cranky?

      I wouldn’t waste another second of thought on her though – she was being weird you handled it exactly right.

    4. Rick Tq*

      Not from what you’ve posted. You had an urgent issue and her out of office message didn’t provide any way to estimate when she would be back.

    5. Looking for a Work Dress*

      Your response could be.

      Hi Coworker,
      Glad to have you back! I sent it to [your boss] per the request of your away message “[enter in quote where she directs people to speak with her boss]”

      1. Ama*

        I’d probably add in — your message didn’t say when you would be back, and I needed an answer before next week.

        I am irked on your behalf that you are just supposed to know that “short-term medical leave” means two days. At my work if you put medical leave and no return date it means you are out for at least two weeks if not longer.

      2. RagingADHD*

        Yes, the phrase “per the prior email” gets flak for being passive aggressive, but it’s entirely warranted here.

    6. Oysters and Gender Freedoms*

      It may have been planned, for example outpatient surgery where you don’t know how long the recovery will be, or it may be she recovered a lot faster than she thought. She may also have other responsibilities that are building-on-fire urgent, and her message was meant for those, in which case even one day off would need coverage.

    7. umami*

      I’m wondering if it had more to do with your issue not actually being urgent than with the leave? If no one got back to you in two days and that wasn’t actually problematic for you, then I think her take (and apparently the boss’s) is that your issue wasn’t urgent and didn’t have to escalate to the boss.

    8. HonorBox*

      I don’t think you’re in the wrong. You did as you were instructed to do per her out of office reply. The fact that she replied the way she did is her being weird, not anything on you.

    9. Hiring Mgr*

      I wonder if she went on short term medical leave some other time, and somehow that OOO message was still in Outlook or whatever system and she didn’t change it this time.

      Because otherwise why would you specifically say to contact the boss in the OOO msg, and then say differently later.

    10. constant_craving*

      In terms of the wording, I wonder if the planned leave was going to be longer and something changed. Planned surgery got cancelled or something?

      In terms of the push-back, how urgent was the thing you escalated?

      1. Are we not doing phrasing anymore?*

        It was a compliance issue that has to be finalized by end of month, and still has several steps through which to be escalated (including formal submission to a regulatory body). Based on how I interpreted her OOO message we would have missed that deadline, which would have resulted in freezing sales in a particular region and possibly some fines/penalties. Her being out sick a day or two was only a minor setback, which I will be able to make up the time for by responding to my e-mail in the wee hours (dealing with international colleagues). So, I would not have escalated if I had correctly interpreted her OOO message.

        1. The New Wanderer*

          I would modify your last sentence, since it is not on you at all – “I would not have escalated if she had put her approximate leave timeframe in her OOO message.” There’s no way to correctly interpret from the information given. I think many people would assume a medical leave warranting an OOO message would be more, potentially much more, than 2 days.

    11. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

      You’re fine and I would go so far as to point out how confusing & inappropriate that OOO message is. You should tell her in the future to put a return date to mitigate the escalation.

      It gets on my nerves when someone does something, people react accordingly, and then they come back at you as if you’re the one in the wrong.

    12. Jay (no, the other one)*

      I would have done exactly what you did and my guess is that her boss gave her a hard time and [stuff] rolls downhill. If you generally have a decent working relationship with her I’d shrug this off as a one-time thing.

    13. kalli*

      sounds more like her team didn’t consider your matter urgent enough to be escalated, regardless of how you parse short-term.

    14. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I almost wondered, especially if she went off suddenly, whether someone else (IT or someone with access to her mailbox) put that message there so she didn’t know people were being told to send things to the boss in her absence.

    15. amoeba*

      I know I’m late to the party, but just wondering whether she’s actually a native speaker? In my company (international, most of my direct coworkers aren’t native speakers) I would absolutely think that’s just an awkward wording for “on sick leave”. And if somebody wrote “I didn’t know when you’d be back”, they’d probably go “but I *specifically* wrote short-term??”

      Also, I guess it’s a matter of field and company culture – here, most people don’t even specify an alternative contact because things can typically wait, but the ones that do, it’s really for urgent-urgent things. Like, deadline tomorrow, away message states they’ll be out for the next two weeks.

      So, due to the combination of factor above – in your case, I’d at least have given it a few days and if she was still on leave, contacted the boss. Still a weird over-reaction from her, though – if it happened to me, I’d have internally rolled my eyes if the request wasn’t actually that urgent, but certainly not complained or been upset about it.

  29. Amber Rose*

    Small update from last week: we are hiring the appropriate people to put up fencing around our inventory. I was pretty insistent and got some backup from a senior manager. Crisis averted.

    Other problem: I am at full BEC with my coworker. My manager clearly has no intention of doing anything about her despite multiple complaints from multiple people, so I need some personal coping strategies now so I don’t bite her head off (and the heads of everyone who mentions her name) for reasonable requests because I’m fed up with her irrational ones.

    The biggest problem I have is that if I tell her no to a request, she’ll go elsewhere, and she’ll keep asking other people to do the thing instead. Those people then come to me because this is my job and responsibility, and then mass chaos ensues because I have to explain the same issue over and over and over and over…

    The current functionality isn’t ideal. I understand that. But I can’t change functionality overnight, we can’t shut down the whole company’s operations while I try to find a solution, and also this has been the way of things for three years so it’s super not a crisis. I’m about to rip my hair out from frustration.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Have you tried to get to the root cause of her requests? This is both a practical thing and an empathy thing.

      Maybe she’s always asking for (way to get around the process) because she was able to do it before, somebody taught her that That Was The Way, etc. Maybe the answer is to change something else in what she’s doing so the process exception isn’t needed anymore.

      And by asking that practical question, you’ll be demonstrating empathy to her. Which is a way not only of defeating your BEC feelings, but also of engendering good will with her. Right now she might be feeling that you’re deliberately trying to screw up her work; show her that she’s not and maybe she won’t try so hard to defeat the process.

    2. Rick Tq*

      Can you enlist that senior manager’s support in getting Management to require Sansa change her behavior?

      Or, is it simply time for Sansa to go?

      1. Tio*

        Yeah, can you gather a list of times she’s gone around you and display a pattern?

        For the people that come to you, a bland “Oh, she asked me about that already and was denied/rejected/whatever. In the future, you can send her back to me if she asks you something like this.” (She won’t come back to you because she already knows the answer)

    3. linger*

      To avoid the multiple-renegotiation problem after denying impossible requests:
      Case-by-case, could you BCC her favourite targets with the reason her current request can’t be met?
      Or more broadly and proactively, are there common elements/conditions to the impossible requests that can be documented in a FAQ for all colleagues?

  30. Lemon*

    Happy Friday! A resume question: A few years ago I left Company Big for Company Small. Sometime back Company Small was acquired by Company Big, so now I am back at Company Big :) what is the right (or best) way to show this on my resume?

    Option 1, all combined under one header:
    Company Big, 2018-present
    Current job title 2022-present
    Job title at Company Small, 2019-2022
    Older job title, 2018-2019

    Option 2, separate headers:
    Company Big, 2018-19
    Company Small (now Company Big), 2019-2022
    Company Big, 2022- present

    Or any other option I’m missing?

    1. Geeyourhairsmellsterrific*

      I’d use the second option because if they try to verify your employment, Big Company probably won’t have the dates that you worked for Small Company in their records, and it could look like you misrepresented your employment dates.

    2. Leap Day*

      Right or wrong, I would just put big company and when discussing in interviews I would give the details.
      I worked for company A for seven years when that work was outsourced to company B. I started working for company B doing the same work. My resume reflects I have been with company B since my start of company A. (it helps that company B acknowledges this time too).

  31. New Mom (of 1 2/9)*

    I guess I’m just here to brag. My manager handled the news of my near-Irish-twins pregnancy like a CHAMP. And says that she’s still going to fight to transfer me to another team like we’ve been talking about. What a relief!!!

    (She’s childless by choice but *really* walks the walk when it comes to supporting other women. Just the best.)

    1. Looking for a Work Dress*

      I’m glad that your manager reacted that way, and I’m sorry that you even had to worry about it ahead of time. I have a three year old and an eleven months old. Congrats on your baby! My company isn’t always happy for expectant mothers so I remember I braced myself for that conversation as well.

    2. Frankie Bergstein*

      You might just be a good employee she wants to go to bat for? Either way, lots of awesome all around!

  32. Looking for a Work Dress*

    Does anyone have a recommendation for a work dress brand that meets the following criteria?

    I am looking for something that is stretchy and form fitting that has a higher neckline (no scoop-necks or v-necks) that is long sleeve either to wrist, 3/4s or elbow and length is at/above/near the knee. I have one dress like this from a discontinued brand that I love and feel so confident in. It’s my go-to interview dress, and I wore it one day at a conference but felt shabby on the other days.
    I am 5’10 and have an hourglass figure and after having two kids in two years I am struggling to find stuff that works with the new me. Let me know if you know of any dresses that match my above criteria. Thank you!

    1. nopetopus*

      I used eShakti years ago and still love the dress I got. You can customize the neckline, sleeve length, length of the dress, just about everything. You can also add your measurements to make sure it will fit in all places.

      I haven’t used them for years so some things may have changed, but I had a great experience when I ordered from them! I got something similar to this: https://www.eshakti.com/shop/Dresses/Poplin-fit-and-flare-dress-CL0064045?view_source=regular&index=25

      1. Katie*

        I second eshaki! I have bought many dresses from them over the past few years and there was only one that I have been unhappy with (if I would have tried it on I would have known it wasn’t right).

    2. It's a Bev-olution and I'm all in*

      If you need several dresses, have you thought about going to a seamstress? sometimes it’s worth the effort to get a higher quality product made without having to try on 10 brands. The seamstress will help you go through patterns or even make you your own pattern that you can go back to later on if you need more dresses.

      Once they have the pattern, they can help you pick out fabrics at the store and you can make your own wardrobe that will last far longer the way you’ll find in the store.

      My mom was a seamstress and people used to come to the house all the time to get things made. I recently thought I should start doing that myself because I’m tired of shopping at stores for things that are just not quite right.

      1. Just Here for the Llama Grooming*

        +1 on Wool&. Well-made clothing, great colors, comfy, washable. Great stuff

    3. saskia*

      There was a viral dress a few years back that all these female meteorologists were wearing because it hit all the criteria you described. That specific dress isn’t available anymore, but it was from the HOMEYEE store on Amazon, and looking at their storefront now, they have other options that fit the same schema. Good luck & happy shopping!

    4. Panicked*

      Land’s End has a lot of dresses that would fit the bill. I know many of my orthodox friends purchase from them. I know they’ve also shopped Maven Mall and Kosher Casual, although I have no personal experience with modest clothing.

    5. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

      Eshakti online has lots of great dresses and you can order them custom-tailored to your measurements. I have several dresses from them, and all have been great quality and worth every penny–they can seem a little expensive at first glance, but they regularly have sales/deals, and I think you can get a decent percentage off of your first order.

    6. Anonymous Koala*

      Quince has some dresses made of tencel that might be what you’re looking for – I really like the quality of their fabrics. And eShakti is also good, although in my experience the custom tailoring isn’t worth paying for – my tailored items from eShakti fit like off the rack, while the items I bought from department stores and took to an actual tailor fit beautifully. If you have the time, that’s another great option – my favourite dresses are ones I bought on sale 1-2 sizes big and had tailored. It is a bit expensive (mine were about $100 to get tailored) but the results are amazing and have lasted me years.

    7. Anon For This*

      I’ve bought dresses from eShakti and it’s been a really good experience. Some of their 100% cotton poplin does wrinkle A LOT, so I would keep an eye on their fabric types, but I’ve needed modest dresses for a few things and they’ve been handy. Some of my friends who love Kosher Casual.

    8. Not A Manager*

      I bought two dresses recently from Effie’s Heart that are stretchy and form fitting on top, but flare on the bottom. I really like them. The line is mostly short-sleeves but has some long- and 3/4 length as well.

    9. Stephanie*

      I bought a dress from Boden called the Ellen Ottoman dress that I think would satisfy a lot of these criteria. And it has pockets!

    10. Quincy413*

      Karina Dresses is a small company out of NY – a lot of their stuff has V-necks but the few that don’t would your criteria.

  33. Dog Child*

    Life comes at you fast!

    For those who’ve seen my last 3 weeks of posts, I had the chat with senior management and I’ve accepted a full staff job. Salary is the same as my hourly but there’s a clear plan laid out for raises & progression. It’s technically a promotion & comes with more responsibility.

    I think I know this is not the work I want to do forever but I’m good at it, it’s for a good cause and it’s tied to a 2 year project. And the financial stability is something I do need (I’m perpetually restless so I’ve never really built much up in terms of finances).

    My Masters is on hold and I’ll revisit that idea in around 8 months I thin.

    1. GythaOgden*

      Awesome, well done. And I feel you on the Masters. I took my current reception job in order to tide me over until I got funding for a PhD place I’d won at Kings in London. Alas, that was 10 years ago and my field of study — Russia and Ukraine — has gone full circle in relevancy. Alas, when I applied for funding back in 2013, it was in the irrelevant stage of things and thus no-one could bankroll it for me. (Also, in my field it looked like a lot of PhD students were employed to do specific projects rather than came up with the idea themselves, and the funding sites actually looked more like job boards in that regard.)

      I’m in a similar situation — to rėmain with my continuity of service in the UK public sector I opted to stay on that contract rather than jump to separate rates of pay for the org promoting me (long story but in UK law people have to keep their existing working conditions when their org or company gets taken over, it seems regardless of what’s more beneficial to them. We were transferred to a national org from a local one and consequently got very familiar with the importance of those laws). I have 8 years — coming up to 9 — continuous service with the NHS, so I get 29 days holiday and will get 33 at the beginning of 2025. AL is important to me because I have autism and one of the ways it disables me is spoon conservation. The analogy is great — I use so many spoons up and then when I go the spoon drawer there aren’t any left because they’re all in the dishwasher. So I need to learn both IRL and metaphorically how to pace myself better!

      In return I give up about £1700 but I’m quite well off financially since hubby left me a decent legacy and two life insurance policies and I’ve stuck a lot of money in a UK government savings scheme which is finally paying a decent rate of interest. The house is a tax-avoidance scheme by my parents and thus paid off. So the holiday is worth more than the money. I’ve been living a bit off the hump so to speak but it will stop me eroding my savings.

      My reasoning also is that the move also means I move from part time to full time and get the ability for WFH most of the time (barring in-person meetings which I’m going to be minuting, which is fun because I like going elsewhere for work — makes me feel important). I’ll get an effective pay rise of about 30% plus save money on my exhausting public transport commute and this is a stepping stone crafted to get me more hands-on experience than I currently have in administration and basic analysis. I may well stay a while but my mentor had to get funding for the role and it was the last chance I felt I was going to get, so it was a no-brainer.

      I’ve made the same calculations in the past because getting my foot in the door was more important than lots of cash. I don’t have any dependents and I’m independent, and after the crapshow of the last six years this is a great opportunity. Sometimes — if you can afford it, and I’m grateful that I can — it isn’t just all about the money. I’m also waiting to see how much energy I have not having to commute but working a full 7.5 hour day so I know how many spoons I can spend on thinking seriously about academia again.

      Best of luck with it all, and I hope you can get back to studying quickly.

  34. Why is it so hard to think of a name*

    Does anyone have suggestions on how to consistently supplement income without having to resort to a part-time retail job? My full-time job just doesn’t pay quite enough (and no, I can’t ask for a raise, pay is set by the state- I tried to push for a higher starting salary but no luck). I’ve also only been here about 6 weeks and am enjoying it – the commute and work/life balance are much improved from the job I left. The salary is basically the same as my old job, but my net take home is less because of a mandatory retirement contribution. I know I’ll be happy about that 20 years from now but right now I am just so tired of figuring out how to hustle up several hundred dollars each month. Somehow I always manage, but it’s exhausting. Any advice?

      1. Tio*

        transcription is sometimes hard to find but can be picked up and put down pretty easily if you can find work.

    1. ferrina*

      Wait– you’ve only been there 6 weeks and the work to get the salary you need is already exhausting you? This is not a good long-term solution.

      Some options:
      -are there ways you can cut back on your expenses? It sounds like you have a shortfall of several hundred dollars each month. That’s a lot. Can you take that number down somehow? Cheaper food? Less subscription services?
      -is there a part-time retail job at a place you love? My local yarn shop exclusively hires people that love fiber arts. I have never seen happier retail workers (the owner is also AMAZING). A happier job may help you feel less exhausted than a generic one.
      -gig work. I don’t know much about this, but maybe TaskRabbit?
      -Plan to work hard for a few months, get that money, then have a few months off. Does cyclical extra work sound better than constant extra work? Holidays are coming- what if you took a seasonal job, worked a ton of hours for a couple months, then saved that money to see you through the next couple months so you can have a break from the second job.
      -Get a FT job that pays better. This is my favorite option. Seriously, this isn’t paying you enough for you to get by. That’s a big problem. Yes, money isn’t everything, but it’s also not nothing.

      1. Why is it so hard to think of a name*

        Oh it’s not just the new job, this is the reality I’ve been living for about 10 years now. It was a problem at the old job as well. (Underpaid and under appreciated at a non profit.) The new job is a huge improvement in so many ways.

        I am working on ways to cut expenses as well. I completely own that in addition to being underpaid, I have made poor choices over the years. There also should be a pay increase coming soon once our state budget gets resolved, so it’s also totally possible that I’m just having a stress-induced panic attack of sorts today since I don’t know exactly what the increase will be and where that will leave me

        1. ferrina*

          Ooh. That makes more sense. That’s a tough way to live for 10 years!

          Have you done a look at long-term plans? Like, is it feasible to get to a break-even point with just one job? Is it something that you want to achieve in X years? Is there a point where you’d be willing to leave this field so that you can only work 40 hr/wk, and if so, what is that point?
          That would help me (but I’m also a very numbers-driven person)

    2. Hlao-roo*

      Can you sell your plasma? I’ve never done this, but I’ve seen advertisements for it. I think it takes a few hours and pays a few hundred dollars, which seems like a great way to make some money in a short period of time (though I think you need to wait a certain number of weeks between sessions).

    3. Rosyglasses*

      I recently started gigging on Instacart – it brings in a few hundred dollars for the few hours I do and it has been helpful to know I can turn it on when I want to.

    4. Hiring Mgr*

      Driving an Uber/Lyft, Local taxi, Instacart/Doordash, Onlyfans, sperm donation, buy/sell stuff on ebay/similar, pet sitting, house sitting, TaskRabbit/odd jobs..

      1. GythaOgden*

        Thrifting to sell on Etsy is good, but only if you have the time, energy and money to put into it. OP doesn’t sound like she does, but there are always others out there reading these threads so just to throw out one way I made a bit of pizza money for a while at various points in my life.

    5. Kiki Is The Most*

      What about temping? It’s often low-mental work that might pay off for half a Saturday?

    6. Silence*

      I just applied for parcel sorting positions as a seasonal job until Xmas, delivery driver is probably less than ride share but less interaction with the public.

  35. Katara's side braids*

    I work at a nonprofit and frequently have to collaborate with outside agencies to get certain services for our clients. One such agency has 2 (used to be 3) case workers, Tahani and Janet, with case loads split by last name.

    Tahani is very difficult to get in touch with via phone and responds unreliably to emails. Janet is very responsive and a pleasure to work with. Both of them are overworked and probably underpaid, so I’m not judging Tahani as a person for her reaction to overwhelm. But her lack of responsiveness has on a few occasions had actual negative consequences for our mutual clients.

    As a complete outsider to their agency, what ways are there to address this without overstepping? There have been a few occasions where I got Tahani’s out-of-office reply directing me to Janet, which solved the problem – but I’m not about to punish Janet for her responsiveness by regularly asking her for updates on Tahani’s cases when both of them are working. Unfortunately, I also don’t know what other option exists, so I’ve just been following up repeatedly with Tahani and getting nowhere.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      I’ve had success in similar cases by approaching the Tahani’s of the world and saying something along the lines of “Hey, I know you have a crazy workload and it seems like how I’m reaching out to you on urgent/emergent/time-sensitive/whathaveyou issues by phone or email isn’t working for you. Is there a better way to reach out to you on those? If I haven’t heard from you by a certain time, is there someone else I should reach out to?”

      Approaching it from a I have a problem and need your help to solve it can really help either fix the issue by coming up with a different workflow or sometimes just nicely saying hey you’re the hold up here can prod people to be more responsive.

      1. Katara's side braids*

        This makes a lot of sense! I tried something similar in my first few months at this job (almost 3 years ago) but she didn’t really offer anything helpful. Maybe it’s time to revisit.

        1. Fluffy Fish*

          Def worth revisiting and even pointing out that you want to revisit this issue because it’s still on-going.

          Otherwise your options are limited – things just will fall through cracks, going to Janet or going to Tahani’s boss.

          I sympathize – I work in a field where we need other people to do the things but dont have much in the way of authority to make others do the things. It’s challenging for sure.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Is there a formal agreement between your organization and Tahani’s/Janet’s? Or does there organization just do stuff for anyone, and you are just facilitating or acting as an agent for your clients?

      If there’s some sort of agreement, I think this is the time to buck things up the management chain. But have some data. “In the last month, we needed 87 support interventions, and here’s the graph of how long it took for them to get taken care of, and the number of reminder messages we had to send. You can see that a bunch of them got taken care of within 48 hours, but a number of others took anywhere from 3 to 10 business days. Is there some way that we can provided more consistent support to our clients?”

      1. Katara's side braids*

        Unfortunately we don’t have a formal agreement, but we’ve had this informal arrangement since long before I had this job.

        When it works, it’s mutually beneficial – I make their jobs easier by facilitating document collection and sometimes even getting half of their process out of the way for them. They, by the nature of their agency, have more streamlined (occasionally exclusive) access to the services we’re applying for, meaning a higher success rate for clients who need those services.

        This is conjecture, but I think Tahani may have been relying on a certain number of clients being unresponsive or dropping the ball on document submission to manage her workload. My keeping those balls from hitting the ground may be making her workload unmanageable. I’ve tried something similar to Fluffy Fish’s suggestion above (approaching her and presenting it as a mutual problem solving opportunity) but didn’t get very far.

  36. CFS*

    I recently left my job of about 10 years because I started to feel like I was being pushed out. New management had come in and started making me feel like they didn’t believe my position was worth to have around. My new boss would constantly butt into my work and try to answer questions himself and in some cases just do whatever he wanted often making my job a lot harder.

    I’m sad to have to leave I job I loved, but the place I’m at now is a much better fit and I don’t feel stressed about coming into work.

    My question/thought is, they didn’t want to give me an exit interview. My position was an administrator (pretty high up and I had very important info to the running of the business). Instead they sent me a list of things I should give them – most of which they already had and/or was not relevant to what I did. When I asked if they wanted to do the official exit interview my boss just shrugged and said he saw no reason to.

    I’ve done exit interviews when staff have left and our questionnaire had a lot of relevant info! I honestly wouldn’t let a positions like mine go without it! I’m half wonderings if this really indicates that they were getting rid of me/didn’t think I did anything of importance.

    Former coworkers have messaged me saying they seem to not want to replace me and it’s causing a lot of problems for everyone. My boss had told people to direct the questions I’d get to him and he’s not good at answering them or providing what’s needed.

    So I guess, what do y’all think the lack of an exit interview might suggest? In the long run it doesn’t matter, but it just had me thinking that I was right about being pushed out.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Oh, I would never think of an exit interview as a way to make sure the company got all the stuff it needed from the outgoing employee – that’s all stuff that happens during the 2-week notice. At most you might have an offboarding checklist with things like returned keys, returned company credit card, filled out 401k rollover paperwork, etc. that might just have an item for “gave supervisor X all needed transition info on project Y”.

      1. Sparkles McFadden*

        Yup…the work turnover should happen during the two week notice period. The exit interview would be something entirely different. That would be bigger picture info HR might want from a departing employee about why the person chose to leave.

    2. Elsewise*

      In my opinion, it suggests that they really aren’t as organized without you and/or they just don’t realize how important exit interviews are. Reminds me of a former boss of mine; his second in command left, she did all of the fundraising, payroll, HR, administration, and management in the organization. He outsourced payroll, hired someone to do the fundraising, and was constantly baffled that employees weren’t being managed, supplies weren’t being ordered, and bills weren’t getting paid because that always seemed to happen before! Sounds like your boss is heading in the same direction.

    3. Magpie*

      In my experience, exit interviews are conducted by an HR rep, not by the exiting employee’s supervisor. The main goal is to go over logistics like last paycheck, returning equipment, etc. and to ask questions about the employee’s time at the company so they can understand why people leave the company in case there’s anything they might want to adjust. Handing over information relevant to the job should happen well before the last day on the job.

    4. ferrina*

      It sounds like they didn’t value your role or feedback. That’s probably going to end up biting them, but that’s officially Somebody Else’s Problem.

      When you say “exit interview”, I assume you mean a discussion about why you are leaving and your feedback on the company. This is usually done by HR, but sometimes supervisors do them (which is stupid, because what if you had negative feedback on your supervisor?). An exit interview is only useful if the company is willing to seriously consider the information given. If they don’t want honest feedback, an exit interview is a waste of everyone’s time.

      Put this job out of your mind and know that you were very smart to leave. Here’s to brighter and better things!

    5. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      “Not needing” an exit interview is actually another symptom of the same behaviour that led to you leaving: they are fixed in their ideas, make assumptions and ‘know’ they are right, won’t be told otherwise. For some reason they have this belief that your position isn’t needed or valuable. And that the holder of that “non-valuable” position, by extension, won’t have anything to contribute in an exit interview. And you couldn’t possibly (in their mind) say anything new, because they already know it all.

  37. Pumpkin Spice*

    Hi y’all…long-time reader, first-time commenter, etc. I’m in a unique position where I may be getting an offer to return to a workplace I just left a year ago. I left on really good terms and am close with some of my old coworkers. I’m trying to go back because, well, my current workplace is beyond toxic (dealing with bullying this week!).
    I wanted some advice on how to respond to the possible request for a reference from my current boss. Honestly, I know if she finds out I’m job-searching, I will face her wrath. I have a very good relationship with old workplace’s HR team, but don’t know the hiring supervisor well. Any suggestions on how to handle this?

    1. Katara's side braids*

      I think it’s fairly normal to have your current job reference be someone other than your supervisor, for exactly the reason you stated. Is there anyone else at current job who can attest to the quality of your work?

      1. Pumpkin Spice*

        Probably, but the rumor mill moves FAST here, and there have been several huge blow-ups where someone has let something told in confidence “slip.” I may check with one of my coworkers who I completed a short project with and trained on another task.

    2. ferrina*

      Most reasonable companies won’t ask for a reference from your supervisor, for the reasons you and Katara’s side braids list.

      Honestly, they may not need any references at all. Your old team is the best possible reference HR could hope for. I would be shocked if they wanted to contact your current supervisor.

      If they do ask, you can say “My current supervisor isn’t aware that I’m looking, and I’d rather not say anything until things are more final. I’m happy to give you the names of other people who can speak to my experience, including [Old Boss from Old Workplace]”

      1. ferrina*

        Oh, and if you haven’t already, reach out to your old boss. If you were a strong performer who worked well with Old Boss, I’ve seen Bosses go to battle to get their best people back.

        1. Pumpkin Spice*

          My old boss transitioned to a new role within the same department (it’s academics, so it’s kind of a department, kind of not ha) but I know for a fact she will give me a glowing reference. I’ve actually been called back to consult for a coworker who’s on the hiring committee, so I also know they have my back. I should definitely give old boss a head’s up though, thank you!

    3. Hlao-roo*

      Most places understand that people can’t/won’t give their current manager as a reference. Hopefully your former (and potentially future) company is one of those.

      If they want a reference from your current company, is there a coworker you trust to provide a reference and keep your job search secret? If so, when asked you can say “I don’t want my current manager to know I’m job searching, but I can provide a reference from [name], one of my coworkers at [company].”

    4. Educator*

      I would be surprised if they ask for a reference from your current boss because 1) most people want to keep their job searches private, so any confirmation of current employment usually happens at the background check stage and 2) they have so many people internally who can speak to your work! If they are weird enough to ask, I would say that you are keeping your job search discrete and refer them to your previous manager at their company.

      1. Pumpkin Spice*

        Thank you! I am hoping it goes that way, but I’m just not familiar enough with the new supervisor (she started literally the week after I left) to know she for sure will be sensitive to my request to NOT request my current supervisor, ha. I know in the past when we hired internally, HR was fine just asking supervisors and coworkers.

    5. sara*

      Is there any way your references could be from your former/possible-returning-to workplace instead of your current one? Since you’ve only been gone for a year, I don’t know that they’d need any more recent references than that.

    6. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

      If you’re coming back to a place, why not use your old coworkers as a reference? The best possible ones, tbh.

  38. Qwerty*

    I’m trying to figure out a good system or app for keeping track of all of my To-Do items for professional societies. It is for things like being on committees for local tech orgs and being asked to mentor / network a lot. I also would love to keep better track of who I know and from where because the networking I do is not generally for me, but helping to connect other people.

    At work I’m pretty good at just keeping it all in my head, but that only works at my job. Usually I remember all the things I have to do or come up with good ideas when I’m out and about, so I think something that includes a phone app is necessary. I feel like people who are in more people/relationship focused jobs like sales or fundraising would have already solved this problem? Are any of their tools something that would be low cost for personal use? I’m going to start fundraising for one of my orgs next month which I expect will make this doubly hard to manage.

    *Reducing those commitments are not an option for at least a year, they do bring me joy and are really really needed.

    1. ferrina*

      Trello, Asana and Monday.com are good options. They are project management softwares that have free options for individuals. I think they each have apps, but double check on that.

    2. Ama*

      I really enjoy the One Note notebook in Microsoft — you can have a checkbox checklist for to do items, but you can also keep pages of random notes. Plus it is searchable if you forget where you wrote something down, and it is really easy to link within the notebook.

      You might also look at Milanote — I use that for a more creative business, it doesn’t have the greatest search function but you can have different “cards” for your projects and put notes pertaining to those projects in there, it does have a mobile app and a free version.

  39. I am the one who eats crackers*

    I have a “new” manager who has actually been with the company just under a year. He seems like a reasonably smart guy, but even after all that time, doesn’t fully understand our business or the details of our team’s part of it. He asks a lot of questions, which is good, but frequently misunderstands the answers and/or asks multiple clarifying questions (which he then misunderstands the answers to). I don’t think it’s just me. One of my teammates quit and part (not all) of the reason was that our manager asked her so many questions and clarifying follow-on questions that her performance suffered and then he dinged her for the performance on her next review. Do I have any options besides waiting for him to catch on to what we’re all saying, or just finding a new position?

    1. ferrina*

      Upwards management.

      Figure out what he actually needs and give it to him before he asks. Assume he’s not going to improve (it’s a pretty safe assumption at this point). Figure out his favorite way of getting information- does he like emails, conversations or documents best? Don’t wait for him to make decisions- present him with recommendation and share why. Have the data ready- again, don’t assume that he’ll remember anything or that he accessed data he should have already accessed.

      I once had a manager similar to this. My favorite trick was going in with “I had an idea about X. I mocked up a prototype really quickly- here’s what I’m thinking…” The “quick prototype” was actually a fully fleshed out document that Boss could immediately take and use as her own (she was also lazy and would happily reuse my work as hers, which I then utilized to get my ideas made into policy). I’d have the data with me, but would usually say “oh, and here’s the supporting data in case you wanted it”. She didn’t want it- it was too much for her. What she ACTUALLY wanted was someone to tell her what to do, do the hard parts for it, then give her credit for doing it all herself.

      How long you want to do this is up to you. I could handle it for a couple years, but had my eye on an exit strategy the whole time. I spent 1.5 years effectively doing Boss’s job for her, racking up a ton of accomplishments, then got a new job that was at her level but paid 15k more than she made.

  40. Trixie*

    Any suggestions around general prep for skills testing? I completed some for interview recently and it wasn’t great. Partly nerves, partly limited time. The tracking changes in Word file didn’t help me see a clean finished product. The PPT had pretty much two master slides and I blanked on process to streamline changes around making slides consistent with selected style. I’m good with general changes/updates but didn’t feel like it was conveyed in the testing. (Which may be what everyone feels after testing.)

    1. ferrina*

      I’m naturally good at tests, and one thing that helps me is that I don’t take them seriously. I consistently got great test scores and bad grades in school. My kid just got a “Needs Improvement” on his math report card, and he easily does maths two grade levels above his current grade- when I asked the teacher, she admitted that it had been pulled from a standardized test but in class he has flawless math work. A test is just a single data point on how you did on that test on that day- there is no way a single test can actually measure your capabilities

      Tests aren’t actually about showing your true knowledge- it’s just about beating the test. Similar to how beating a certain level on a video game doesn’t mean that you’re actually a wizard- you’re just good at that video game. Solve for the test, not your actual capabilities

    2. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

      If at least part of the problem was nerves, that’s something you can maybe work on–practice taking similar kinds of tests. Dealing with the nerves will probably also help with the limited time.

      I’ve always been good at tests and generally got good grades. I think one thing I do with tests I’ve been given is try not to get caught up in what things should be, and just accept what they are–like yes, ideally a test would be similar to the real-world thing, but if it’s not, then I just roll with it and give what it wants as best I can. And if I blank on something, if possible I move on to the next thing that I *can* do, and when I have time, I come back to the think I blanked on. Sometimes doing the other stuff helps remind me about the thing I blanked on, sometimes it doesn’t, but either way, moving on to the other bits removes some of the pressure to figure it out, and means that at least I got other parts finished even if I’m still blank on the one part I skipped over.

    3. There You Are*

      Practice, practice, practice.

      Create and edit documents in Word with Track Changes on to get used to viewing / reading them that way.

      Create PPT decks and make a ton of changes to them until you can do it in your sleep.

      Take some free YouTube classes on MS Office products, or go pay Udemy $10-$15 for one of their online courses.

  41. Anax*

    Just venting because I’m having a week.

    I’ve found a new job that I’m really excited about – state government, union, and pretty much my dream job. Except… I just found out yesterday that while it WAS fully remote, it’s going to be hybrid in 2024. These are orders from on high and the team didn’t know until yesterday; they’re doing everything they can to make this work for me – reasonable accommodation paperwork is already being filed – but hybrid work would be a dealbreaker for me. I’m starting the Monday after next and already made plans based on this job. ARGH.

    Meanwhile, currentJob is having major layoffs – hence, my job hunt – but apparently, they don’t have any written policy on what happens to severance if you accept another job. I had planned to just go on vacation until my termination date – I have plenty saved up and my manager approves, we have literally no work since our team is being laid off. But now I’m being told that’s not allowed. Citing a code of conduct that explicitly says it IS allowed. And HR won’t answer my followup questions. I’m not sure if I have any recourse since severance isn’t legally guaranteed, but it’s a sizeable amount of money, and I’m pretty upset that I can’t get a straight answer.

    Just… ARGH. What a week.

    1. ferrina*

      Oh no! This is all so stressful! I have no advice- I have no idea what I would do in your situation but be overwhelmed and cry. It sounds like you are navigating an impossible situation as well as possible.

      Good luck with everything!

      1. Anax*

        Thank you, I hope it all works out before too long! I’ll be okay, I have a cushion, but I’m pretty stressed out!

      1. Anax*

        About what? If any of this is legally actionable, I don’t know it.

        newJob can change remote work rules, per their union contract and policies. I hope I’ll be able to get an ADA accommodation, and I’ll try to push that further if they deny it because I have a real medical need to work from home, but that process has just started. It’s not a bait-and-switch job offer – they weren’t lying to me, they didn’t know that there would be a departmental policy change five months after the job was posted.

        currentJob are being jerks, but like I said, I don’t know if there’s any recourse because there’s no legal right to severance. I won’t be given any paperwork to sign until my termination date, so I don’t have an existing written agreement that they’re breaking; just draft agreements so I know the probable terms.

        1. Tio*

          I kind of agree with you. You could still hit up an employment lawyer if they have a free consultation option, but there’s nothing really to do about NewJob and OldJob may have a code of conduct, but that’s generally not legally binding (exceptions if they’re applying it unevenly to harm protected classes, but that doesn’t sound like this would be relevant)

          1. Anax*

            Yeah, they do threaten disciplinary action for breaches of the code of conduct, but ‘you can’t have two jobs at once (even if you’re on vacation from this one and it’s only for a couple weeks)’ isn’t IN the code of conduct. I just need to shake down HR until they give me an actual answer.

        2. Polly Hedron*

          About what? If any of this is legally actionable, I don’t know it.

          To find out if any of it is legally actionable.

          1. Lizzie (with the deaf cat)*

            And even if it isn’t, the “I am currently in consultation with an employment lawyer regarding this matter” statement can sort a few things out and make them take things more seriously!
            Years ago I had an ethical disagreement with my employer over the organisation’s treatment of a client, and they decided to make an example of me for questioning them. They listed all of my many faults etc and set up a time for two of the directors to fly in from interstate and sort me out. I said I was happy to meet and clarify things, and would ensure my union representative attended also, and I asked for specific details substantiating my many faults. Somehow the mention of a union rep clarified their thoughts quite a lot and their revised list of faults was reduced to one – that I had told a client that their worker was off sick for the rest of the week, when they had arrived for an appointment to find the worker was not there. Apparently this was a breach of confidentiality in regard to the worker’s privacy. It was an entertaining meeting and the union rep was excellent and when it came to the clincher of me breaching confidentiality, I had the pleasure of saying that in fact the worker’s manager had specifically told me to let clients know their worker was off sick for the rest of the week.
            But clearly I was persona non grata by then, and left within a few months. I have always been grateful for the union’s support re just how the organisation could actually legally behave towards me.
            So, yes do have a chat with an employment lawyer or at least tell HR you are doing so, and they may get their act together once they appreciate that you plan to get this sorted. Best of luck!

            1. GythaOgden*

              Talking to a lawyer is considered a nuclear option though. It may push things too far and jeopardise both jobs.

            2. nnn*

              Except when nothing is remotely illegal which does sound like the case here and then you just make things worse.

  42. BRR - It's cold in here!*

    I’m a West Coast gal heading to a conference in Michigan this winter. Could some northern readers give me advice on what to wear? I’m especially curious about shoes and coats – I expect it will be a bit snowy or rainy. The sector is primarily public administration & utilities if that helps. Most events will be occurring at the hotel where the conference is based, but I expect to have a couple meetings and dinners offsite and will be walking.

    1. Constance Lloyd*

      Layers are definitely your friend. It may be impractical to purchase a new winter coat just for this, so bring your warmest jacket and a good scarf and layer over a long sleeve shirt and cozy sweater. If you’re not walking far, you may be able to make do without a hat or gloves, but this also depends on the time of year. Growing up in MN, it can drop to -20 in January. Acrylic or polyester yarn will not help you, it might be soft but it isn’t warm. Look for wool or alpaca; merino wool and baby alpaca are the softest.

      Quince has an alpaca sweater for about $50.00 that would be good for layering, and you can get merino wool base layer shirts and k add warmth. These are often marketed for hiking, but they’re lightweight and cozy.

      If you purchase wool socks, make sure they’re no more than 30% acrylic/polyester. Sock wool is usually blended for durability, but too many “wool” socks out there are 10% wool or less, at which point they’re just bulky but not especially warm.

      My favorite boots are leather, water resistant hiking boots by Kodiak. They’re thinsulate lined so they’re warm, they keep the damp out, and they’re not explicitly Winter Snow Boots, so you can still wear them throughout cooler weather at home if you don’t typically get snow.

      1. Anax*

        Just to explain that a little further – animal fibers like wool keep you warm even when they’re wet, and they’re really good at wicking moisture, because they’re full of little pockets of air. That’s what makes wool so fluffy, and it works even when it’s turned into clothing! Which is great when you might be in the snow or might step in a puddle.

      2. Scrabster*

        Definitely layers, hats and mittens! I’ve found that a sleeveless fleece or thermal can be a useful layer – it helps keep your core warm and you have less bulk in the sleeves. Another thing to consider is how dry the air can be in a Midwest winter – make sure to bring some good moisturizers!

        1. Constance Lloyd*

          I don’t fangirl often, but I got a pair of their original hiking boots in red and I absolutely love them. The staff at Trader Joe’s compliment them every time.

      3. WoolIsntTheOnlyAnswer*

        There are plenty of non-wool fabrics/yarns out there that are warm and less likely to cause allergy problems for people around you.

        Just saying…

        1. Cj*

          yes to this. I am allergic to wool. I didn’t buy in Minnesota just fine wearing acrylic sweaters that is indoors. you definitely need to layer a cardigan and then a jacket if you don’t have an actual winter jacket for when you go outside.

          and you definitely need some kind of boots. it’s really unusual to have rain in the midwest during the winter. if there is precipitation it’s going to be snow.

        2. Constance Lloyd*

          Do you have recommendations? I know silk for example is very warm, but not necessarily a practical suggestion for someone looking to travel for just a conference. Indoors will be climate controlled so Brr can probably work with their existing wardrobe, but for going outside a warm sweater is my best idea to upgrade the warmth of a lighter jacket they may already own. I also don’t know how well they can plan for and accommodate the hypothetical allergies of other conference attendees, but you’re absolutely right that wool is a common sensitivity and this thread can only benefit from more fiber options.

    2. PrincessFlyingHedgehog*

      Where in Michigan? It’s a big state, and the weather can vary widely. My advice for south-east MI would be very different from my advice for north-west MI.

    3. samecoin*

      scarf/scarves- my first chicago winter I was “too tough” for scarves and it was a horrible decision. i was too proud to buy a scarf half way through

    4. NB*

      Chicagoan here.

      I second the layering approach. One thing I like to do in the winter is wear flocked tights under my clothes. They aren’t as bulky as long johns, but they do add a layer of warmth. I got mine at Target.

      I also think a scarf is essential. It doesn’t have to be a knitted scarf–just any scarf that keeps the wind from invading your jacket through the collar. It’s nice if it’s big enough to wrap around your head, too.

      Regarding shoes, around here, you can probably get away without snow boots if you’re in busy areas. The snow gets cleared away in municipal areas. But you’ll want something that can handle getting a little wet and something that won’t be damaged by salt. Do they use salt on their sidewalks in Michigan? We do here in Illinois. I wouldn’t recommend heels or any shoes with slippery soles. I would hate for you to slip on ice.

      I hope you enjoy your visit to the Great Lakes region! Come back in the fall!

    5. Anax*

      Expect that you might be stuck outside for at least half an hour at a time – especially if you take any public transit like buses, but even if you’re walking or driving. Things happen, and you always want to be prepared to be out longer than you expected.

      If you can swing it, I would look specifically for snowboarding jackets – it’s fine if they’re used or thrifted, but they’re a good pick because they’re typically windproof and waterproof. You can layer up on sweaters if you have to, under the jacket, but regular sweaters won’t keep the wind and snow/rain off you. Wind and water are what will really give you hypothermia, and it’s hard to dry out when you’re already cold.

      (If you have a friend or family member who skis or snowboards, I would see if you can borrow their jacket. They aren’t cheap new, but they’re a great option for wind, snow, and rain.)

      I would also get a decent pair of gloves or mittens – consider whether you’ll need to use your phone with gloves on, and whether you’ll need fine dexterity. Mittens are warmer than gloves, but clumsier, so not ideal if you need to fumble with keys. Some gloves are sold which are electroconductive, which will let you use your phone while wearing them. Thick wool or water/windproof gloves are your best bet – thin or cotton material won’t help much.

      Socks and waterproof or water-resistant shoes are also a definite plus. You can probably get away with tennis shoes, but you’ll be cold, and if you step in a puddle or get slush inside your shoe, it really won’t be fun. Snow will also have sand, salt, and car exhaust in it; don’t wear any shoes that can’t handle some abrasion and moisture. You’ll need to give them a good wash before they’re clean again when you go home. (Your pants will also get very visible salt stains on the bottom cuffs if they touch the slush, so be prepared with a change of clothes when you get back to the hotel – when I lived in the Midwest, I normally had a set of ‘outside’ pants and changed at home into ‘indoor’ pants.)

      Everyone will be carrying bulky jackets around, so don’t feel self-conscious; there will either be coat racks or people will be awkwardly bundling them under their chairs or wherever they fit. A handbag to tuck gloves/hats/scarves into isn’t a bad thing, though your coat may have pockets that will work.

      You might also want to grab a package of disposable handwarmers, just in case you’re still freezing. Restaurants in particular might be chilly for a West Coast resident – the door opens and closes, letting the chilly air in, so they can run a little cold in winter. I’ve been in meetings where I couldn’t focus because I was shivering, and it’s never great!

      Good luck, I hope it’s a good conference!

      1. Cj*

        seconding the gloves or mittens. even the stretchy kind so you can get for about $3 are better than nothing. they’re not going to be warm enough if you’re actually stuck outside for any length of time, but for a shorter walk, getting into a cold car, etc they work well. and don’t really cause an issue with fnumbing with keys and that sort of thing.

    6. Ria*

      Waterproof shoes and thick wool socks. Your feet will get cold way more easily than you think they will, and if your feet somehow get wet on top of that you will be absolutely miserable.

      Good waterproof boots (like Constance suggested) would be the best idea, but if you can’t buy some, you can get waterproofing spray from any shoe store (read the bottle to make sure it will play well with the material of your shoes) and a treatment with that should last you the length of the conference for sure. But if you’re not going with warm boots then you definitely want to make sure you’re wearing a good, thick, warm pair of socks.

      Also seconding what NB said about shoes that can stand up to salt – they do indeed salt the roads/sidewalks in Michigan if it’s been snowing.

    7. Ama*

      Seconding all the recommendations here — lived in NYC for 20 years and now live in Chicago. Good waterproof shoes are key — if you wind up with shoes you aren’t sure are waterproof, pack extra socks in your bag for the day so you can at least change if there’s a puddle disaster.

      If you are looking for a solid but inexpensive coat you might check Uniqlo — they often have down puffer coats that can be shoved into a small bag, they also have nicer wool blend coats that run a bit less expensive. But it is true that a really good wool sweater or fleece jacket under a moderate weight coat is often just as good as a truly heavy down coat. I personally only buy coats that are at least mid-thigh length — even a lighter coat that comes to mid-thigh it will keep you warmer and drier than the heaviest coat that only comes to your waist.

      Accessories are also your friend — quite frequently when I travel to a colder area for work, I bring a mid weight jacket but a really warm scarf, hat, and gloves, which saves me from having to lug my giant winter coat around and gives me more options with temperature regulation. (Uniqlo is another good place to look for these — get the HeatTech options)

    8. Lisa Simpson*

      Don’t worry about hat hair being unprofessional! Everyone in cold climates wears hats and thus sometimes ends up with hat hair in professional situations, they just deal with it and move on.

      What is typically viewed as unprofessional in cold climates is being the person who’s too vain to dress appropriately for the weather.

    9. Just Here for the Llama Grooming*

      Wisconsin/ex-Chicagoan here. Waterproof shoes. SmartWool socks. Try LL Bean or Lands End mail-order if your feet run pretty true to size. Second all the comments about layers, ESPECIALLY the scarf parts. A couple of scarves in colors that play nicely with all your travel clothes can save you. Gloves help too but scarves are versatile (can go over your head, around your neck, inside your jacket) and easily set aside but are big enough that you won’t forget them.

      1. Doc McCracken*

        Everything everyone else said. I own a pair of Columbia Ice Maiden 2 boots that I love and look super cute with leggings, skinny jeans, and are easily covered by a more normal dress pant leg (the top of the boot is camouflaged) Sine they’re black, they go with almost everything and I wear them all winter long and they’re super comfortable to walk in. (I normally wear high quality running shoes 80% of the time because of foot issues and can walk all day in these boots!)

    10. Once too Often*

      Now is the time to look for a warm, wind proof coat or jacket at secondhand/thrift or discount stores. Here in the Northeast, the stores are full of them. Shop soon, so you have time to clean it before you go. I have purchased name brand winter coats new with tags or in like-new condition for $10 & $15 this way within the last year. You can always donate it when you get home.

      Agreeing with others that hats, scarves, gloves, & boots are winter essentials outdoors. Remember that once you are cold, it’s harder to warm up.

  43. Hopefully low stakes question!*

    I am participating in a staff mentorship program and am having in-person coffee with my mentor today! I’m wondering if there’s a convention for if I should offer to pay for hers to thank her for her time? Would it be awkward to offer? She’s also traveling to meet me since we’re both remote in different locations, so it’s more of a hassle for her. If it’s relevant, I think we are probably in a similar salary band.

    1. Bluebell*

      I think you can offer to pay for her coffee, but don’t be surprised if she insists on paying for her own, or even wants to treat you. But I think it’s a nice gesture to offer.

  44. Krobus*

    I’m currently job-searching in a new city. I’m not currently employed since I fled my last city due to an abusive relationship. Moving and everything has just been exhausting.

    I’ve gotten a lot of interest and I might get an offer soon.

    How do I say I want to start in two weeks? Two weeks is standard when you are employed elsewhere, but I don’t know how places will take it if I’m not currently employed.

    1. Constance Lloyd*

      “Due to a previous commitment, I’m available to start on XX date.” The previous commitment is you taking the time you need before starting your new role. If they press for details, you can say it is a vacation you’ve had booked for a while. Because it is! It may be more of a staycation than a travel vacation, but it’s yours and it’s planned. Best of luck!

    2. ThatGirl*

      Totally normal! Often paperwork can take a little time anyway, or they may have specific dates they want new hires to start for HR purposes – plus you may need time to figure out personal things. Do not worry about asking for two weeks or even three from offer to start date.

    3. Fluffy Fish*

      Usually start date is a conversation anyway. They may start with we’d like you to start on x date, but just as often they will ask you when you can start. Two weeks is so incredibly normal – no one is going to bat an eye. Doesn’t matter that you aren’t currently employed.

      You don’t need even need to justify it – simply give them the date you can start.

    4. A Simple Narwhal*

      Outside of retail, most places won’t expect you to start immediately, so I don’t think setting a start date for two weeks out will come across as strange! Heck most places won’t be equipped for someone to start so soon anyway.

      If you do feel the need to justify it (which you probably won’t) you could just mention that you’re new to the area and have a few things to take care of before starting.

      1. A Simple Narwhal*

        Actually I prefer Constance Lloyd’s suggestion of saying you have a previous commitment!

        But overall I don’t think it’s going to be a big deal, and I’m sorry you had to flee your last city. I hope you have a lot of good things coming your way!

    5. Controlling Controller*

      I agree with others that I don’t think this will be an issue, but if you are someone who needs to give a reason (same), could you say that you are still in the process of moving (even if that just means you have some boxes still to unpack), and will be ready to start on X date?

  45. Employee of the Bearimy*

    I have a direct report who provides support to our team (but not an admin assistant – trying to keep this anonymous). She’s SO NICE but I think that’s contributing to the impression that she’s not as competent. She’s very relationship-oriented and tends to work a lot of chitchat about family and personal goings-on into her conversations, even work-related ones. It doesn’t keep her from accomplishing her work but I think it gives off the impression that her mind isn’t at work during the day. I know I need to bring it up because it’s affecting my boss’s opinion of her, but I think she’ll be very hurt by it. Any ideas about messaging here?

    1. PrincessFlyingHedgehog*

      Instead of telling her what not to do, do you have any advice on what she can start doing instead (assuming she does indeed want to advance/take on higher-level work)?

    2. Goddess47*

      Try the praise – bad news – praise process.

      “You’re doing a great job, especially on X [if you have a handy example]” and “it’s great how well you get along with everyone” … and I can’t do an Allison with the right phrasing that “but I’m worried that all grand-boss hears is your personal stories and not your work accomplishments and that will affect how they think of you” …

      But couching it as an “I’m concerned for you” and “I know you’re doing a good job” and “This isn’t you, it’s someone else’s perception of you that neither you nor I can control” might help?

      Not going to be easy. Good luck!

    3. umami*

      I usually frame those kinds of conversations as tips on how to set them up for success. It’s definitely OK to talk about how there’s nothing wrong with her chit-chat but to be thoughtful about the optics around certain people (like grand-boss) so they don’t form the wrong opinion. You’re really doing her a favor by letting her know!

      1. Employee of the Bearimy*

        I like the “set them up for success” approach. She knows that my boss is difficult to work with and prone to superficial judgments, so I can sort of make him the bad guy here.

    4. EA*

      Could you frame this as a preference of the higher ups? That the bosses prefer to keep conversations short and work oriented, that they value efficiency and direct messaging? I agree with the previous poster in focusing on what you want her to do vs. telling what not to do.

  46. Staja*

    How have people’s companies been responding to (or not) the terrorist attack in Israel by Hamas and loss of civilian life on both sides? I know this is a very thorny subject, but I’ve seen a whole lot of silence.

    1. Exhausted Electricity*

      mine did a generic “The loss of life is a terrible tragedy, please try to be respectful of others you work with and utilize the EAP for counseling if it is hitting you especially hard”

    2. PrincessFlyingHedgehog*

      Higher ed, R1 institution. Due to having a lot of international students and international faculty, our president issued a statement that was as politically neutral as possible – the focus on the statement was making sure people were caring for their mental health and highlighting resources the university has to offer to support people, and an encouragement to offer grace and compassion to anyone struggling during these times.

      1. Ali + Nino*

        I feel like that’s almost worse than nothing. Did they even condemn the terrorist attacks?

        For my part I’ve been embarrassed by my alma mater’s response.

    3. back to school*

      Also higher ed with international faculty and students with many personal connections to the events — they included a joint statement written by Palestinian and Israeli professors and highlighted some of the official university tenets related to freedom of expression and respecting differences. They also included support resources, and there have been multiple statements (I think in response to campus events where students got into disagreements, but I don’t have the context)

    4. nopetopus*

      I work as an interpreter, and my company released a professional development unit on how to interpret vocabulary related to the conflict from English to the target language I work with. I thought it was a good move; terminology in the target language changes over time and it’s been a while since most of us first learned the language.

    5. Ann*

      No response, which is a bit surprising. I had people randomly check how I’m doing when it was Ukraine (have roots there) but no one has said a word about Israel (which probably more people in the office have connections to). Then again maybe it’s just that there are fewer people in the office now, many have moved to smaller offices.

      Also, what can I say, it’s extremely crushing when in the space of two years, both countries you have close ties to end up getting bombed. It’s been my nightmare for years and now it’s all coming true.

    6. Geeyourhairsmellsterrific*

      A few people have asked me if I have family and/or friends in Israel but that’s it.
      From the company as a whole, crickets.

    7. Antilles*

      I don’t think I’ve heard anybody discuss it at all, outside of overhearing a few very brief informal conversations which can basically be summarized as “did you see the news? yeah sounds awful, pretty worrying”.

    8. Katie A*

      Mine did a general email essentially saying that the things happening in both places might affect people who work there, saying it’s important to be compassionate to each other, and reminding people about company resources.

      That’s probably the best choice for most organizations because anything specific is runs a sizable risk of hurting someone, even when the statement is nuanced. It seems like a very different situation to Ukraine because of that.

    9. But Not the Hippopotamus*

      Mine was slow to act at first, but they are matching donations through their charity portal (large global company, US based) to humanitarian groups (think Red Cross) supporting live saving efforts in both Israel and Gaza. There was a virtual meeting with C-suite members and… honestly it was spectacular. The CEO shared their feelings. People of all backgrounds spoke (non mainstream Christians, Israelis, secular Jews, Palestinians, Muslims…). Everyone was respectful and just shared their feelings. It was very supportive. I also know that people shared the deafening silence from those who… didn’t get it and the C-suite folks are looking at including something about dealing with News Events as a leader in their management trainings going forward. Among other things coming out of this.

      I honestly couldn’t have asked for anything better other than a faster engagement.

      1. EA*

        I kind of appreciate a slower but more thoughtful process, rather than just trying to be the first to react!

    10. Not the usual name*

      My company has employees in Israel some of whom were directly impacted, and HR is looking at options to relocate them. We received a company-wide communique “condemning all acts of terror and violence” and directing anyone needing support to specific internal resources. My company is also likely to provide additional financial assistance directly to employees and to contribute to humanitarian aid like it did at the beginning of the war on Ukraine.

    11. RussianInTexas*

      Small family owned company, nothing at all. Nor I expected anything, they never respond to anything non-business related.

    12. Wordybird*

      Several members of the leadership team are Jewish so my company issued an official statement internally and externally as well as offered any employees who wanted to process and/or discuss time to do so with other employees on the clock as well as time off.

    13. GythaOgden*

      The NHS is non-political so it doesn’t make those kinds of statements. (Like so non-political that we can’t even advertise local hustings — UK version of stumps — for candidates during an election. We can obviously attend in a personal capacity but during any kind of election we have to keep quiet about policy to avoid appearing partisan.) We’ve certainly had collections and done humanitarian outreach but we can’t make statements and I think many members of the leadership team cover their asses on this one because you never know what gets out where and to whom. Better just not to say something. (Although it’s obviously been a huge pleasure to actually serve Ukrainian refugees at our clinic and I know that I donate quite a bit to most disaster relief funds out there.)

      But damn, in my volunteer work at church it’s always me who has to do the hard intercessions. I got the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the Sunday after the invasion of Ukraine and now this Sunday. I did the Sunday after the fall of Stepanakert/Khankendi a few weeks ago as well :-/. So I’ve been back and forth with the priest and his secretary over what to say, and settled on a piece written by Christians in Jerusalem. And it’s also harvest festival and the children are going to be in the service throughout, so it needs to be family-friendly as well. Not as tall an order as it sounds, but I’m not always terribly concise as a writer.

      Needless to say my heart is with everyone involved and those worried here. I’m not sure it’s really a done thing over here to mention these things officially at work, but people I know individually will be doing what they can. I was moved to tears at the British response to Ukraine (because I studied Soviet/Russian politics on both my degree programmes, and it was strange to be the one who actually knew what was going on and why) and the Syria/Turkey earthquake earlier this year and we’re good at breaking out the Dunkirk spirit to encourage individuals to act together with whatever they can scrape together, so I hope this is another time when we can share material and spiritual aid to everyone involved.

    14. Another ambituous person*

      Ours has, and is double matching donations to the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders.

  47. Exhausted Electricity*

    how do y’all differentiate between people with the same name on the same team?
    i’m on a team with 3 men with what is essentially the same name and same physical description (think 3 men all named John Smith with the same level and job titles)
    so far I’ve been differentiating by specific project name but now they’re all on the same project and it is causing communication issues.
    They are the same height, same weight, same hair color, same eye color, same age, same number of kids… I can tell them apart since I’m working with them, but their pictures haven’t loaded in the contact information yet so the wrong ones keeps getting added to emails.

      1. Exhausted Electricity*

        they do not! their email addresses are JASmith.1@company as an example, and calling them number 1-3 in a teams message to a new employee was “offensive” to John Smith #3 because it made him “less important than the other two”. He is not less important, he just joined the company last.
        He did not have a suggestion for differentiation when I pointed out that the three of them also have the same hobbies.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          Do they have different middle names? Can they be “John Alex” and “John Aiden” and “John Ash”?

          Do they live in different towns/cities, or did they grow up in different towns/cities? Can they be “Smallville John” and “Metropolis John” and “John from Star City”?

        2. Roland*

          It is honestly on them to each come up with a way to be distinguished in that case and until they do, email it is because ehat can you do?

    1. Rick Tq*

      Do they have different skills/jobs or different tasks? Groomer John/ Bather John/ etc?

      Or, just refer to them the same way their emails are unique.

    2. Qwerty*

      I was on a team like this. We gave them the corner office to share and called it the John office.

      Eventually the nicknames came from personality stuff and inside jokes. At one point it was “Classic John”, “Vintage John”, “New John”, and “New New John” based on when they joined the team. Eventually it became stuff like Hipster John, Snowboarding John, etc.

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

      Do they have the same hobbies too? I’ve never had coworkers that are so alike beyond their first names — we have 3 Steven/Stephen/Steve but at least we can use a last name or initial. Obviously get their suggestions/approval on this too, but…

      Maybe there is a Runner John, or Football John, or Baker John
      Maybe assign them colors on an org chart or color code their emails? Blue John, Red John and Green John

      1. Exhausted Electricity*

        they look different enough in person but legitimately on paper they seem identical. I’m super close to doing “which company did each one work at prior to coming here”

    4. Hotdog not dog*

      I used to be on a team of 4…3 of them were Mike, and the other one was me. Mikes just accepted that nobody could really tell them apart, and they would just redirect people to each other as needed. People who didn’t want to try to guess which Mike they needed would just come to me and I’d direct them to the correct Mike. (They were all 30 something white men with brown hair, so that added to the confusion!)

    5. Donkey Hotey*

      Same first and last names? In the past, we’ve usually gone by last names. Only once did I work at a place with Tyler Prime, Tyler Junior, and Tyler the Third.

      1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

        I worked in an office in Russia with 4 Sergeis and 1 Vladimir. I swear 50% of male children in Russia born in the 50s and 60s were named Sergei. Fortunately, for collegial interaction you use first name + middle name (patronymic). So it was Sergei Evgenich, Sergei Sergeiovich, Sergei Petrovich, and Sergei Vladimirovitch. But if I forgot and just said “Hey Sergei!”, all 4 of them would turn around and say “What?”

    6. Still Monty and Millie's Mom*

      you might want to just ask them all how they would like to be referred to. presumably they know they have the same name, so it shouldn’t be a big deal to ask them to help sort it out.

      1. Bluebell*

        This is what I was thinking, put them all into a room and have them be ready to announce their new monikers/identifying adjectives or nouns at the next team meeting.

      2. Awkwardness*

        I thought this too. Let them choose nicknames for themselves and add those nicknames to your email program as middle name or in the description, e.g. John “Johnny” Smith.

    7. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      On a team of 11, I’m one of 2 people with the same, quite common, first name. In group meetings, if somebody refers to one of us by first name and it’s not clear which one it is, we’ll both give quizzical looks until the speaker corrects themselves. In slack, email, etc we have to redirect the conversation to the other guy about once a month.

      Nobody gets bent out of shape about it. If your name has been John Smith for your entire life, by the time you’re in the work world you know that people are going to get confused and you just take it in stride.

    8. Staja*

      In my company, they’re designated most commonly by a number, but they also do by state, which is useful for dispersed teams. The email addresses are Steve.Smith@company and Steve.SmithUT@company – also can be problematic if Utah Steve moves.

    9. Maybe I Need Coffee*

      Work nicknames. One of our adult kids has three friends named Annie. The first was Annie. (So use John, or FJ (First John), or Uno). The second was Sannie (letter of last name + Annie). The third was just…Trey. Or just tell them it’s causing communication problems and they have to figure something out in the next 3 days or you’re doing it for them.

    10. But Not the Hippopotamus*

      I had three people in a small class in high school (Latin in a public high school). We had 3 Jennifer Kims in our class of maybe 12-14 people. To this day I know them (phonetically) as “Jennie-with-an-i-e,” “Jenny-with-a-y,” and “Jennifer.” I don’t know what we would have done if they’d spelled them the same or all gone by Jennifer.

      For your situation, maybe just default to CCing the other two in case. Verbally, you could use something like their hometown or whatever. Maybe one becomes “John from Dallas” and the other is “fishing John” because that’s his hobby or whatever. Or maybe use their middle name/initials.

      Just, ask them if they have preferences or things they want you to avoid in case John Jacob Smith hates using his middle name because of the kids’ song or something.

  48. Ali + Nino*

    I’m struggling to concentrate after the terrorist attacks on Israel. How are others holding up? How have your bosses/companies/colleagues responded?

    1. Ann*

      Same. Bosses etc. have not responded. One coworker who has family there called out sick on Monday. Chatted with her when she got back, but what could we really say to each other except “I’m glad your family is alive, hang in there”?

      1. Observer*

        Chatted with her when she got back, but what could we really say to each other except “I’m glad your family is alive, hang in there”

        Assuming that the family is all alive, and that no one got taken hostage…. Given that context, it’s still pretty pro forma, but it does mean something. And it’s ok to use standards sometimes, because coming up with something original can be even more fraught.

    2. But Not the Hippopotamus*

      I replied to a similar thread slightly above. The company has been great overall. Some colleagues have been oblivious, but typically figure it out once I said something mildly indicative. Bosses have been pretty good. Honestly, them just saying “I have no idea what to say, but I hope you are ok and please let me know if you need anything,” meant a lot.

      The silence was deafening in places for about 24 hours. My company’s Jewish chat has had 300% growth this week and it’s been hard to focus in a positive way too.

    3. Anon Jew*

      No one at work has said anything even though it’s small and they know I’m Jewish. That’s bothered me more than I’d have expected.

      I find myself getting rageful about some of the bothsidesism going on.

      I’ve dealt with a lot of anti-semitism, especially when I was younger, and I know I have some (undiagnosed) PTSD around it, and I’ve sometimes had a harder time dealing with fellow Jews who all of a sudden notice anti-semitism is a thing as if it’s new than the anti-semitism itself so if there’s any sort of bright spot it’s that this is a sufficiently horrendous situation that I haven’t run into that (it was bad after Tree of Life – I had to go offline for 3-4 days so I didn’t say stuff I’d regret about stupid stuff friends were pisting/saying).

    4. Roland*

      Remote workplace and I’m fairly new to my team – idk if most of them even remember that I’m Israeli. One coworker checked in which was kind, my manager did not and I wish I knew how to bring it up because it’s taking a lot of my mental energy.

  49. Day Job and Freelance Struggles*

    I have two jobs, freelance art and a “day job” where I work for a staffing agency connected to a large employer in my state working short-term temp contracts. I liked the staffing agency for the schedule flexibility, but work seems to have dried up in my area over the last year so I’m looking for alternative employment.

    This spring/summer, I did a temp job through the staffing agency that at first went really well. It was a great fit on multiple levels, the permanent employees praised my work, and hyped me up about getting an employment offer. But then it ends up someone else was already being hired into the role I was filling…but then management acknowledged I was an incredible candidate and tried to create a job for me…then the budget committee shot it down. This dragged on for months, was very stressful, and took a negative toll on my mental health. At the end of the assignment, I made a choice to step back from anything associated with the staffing agency for two months to work on my mental health and catch up and meet my upcoming art freelance deadlines.

    Now that I’ve met my freelance deadlines, I need to get back into “day job” hunting. Before I left my previous temp assignment, one of the managers “Kelly” requested I send her my updated resume so she could shop it around to her colleagues in other departments and try to find me at least another temp job (and keep it handy for her future openings). “Kelly” fought to create a job for me and was very sympathetic to me throughout the whole experience.

    It’s two months late, but I want to touch base with “Kelly” and send her my updated resume. Do I need to acknowledge the delay? I am ABSOLUTELY NOT going to mention the stress or mental health struggles, I know that is inappropriate! But should I say I was really busy with my freelance work (which she’s aware of) or something else or just breeze past it?

    1. Goddess47*

      I’d be casual about it. “I’m finally in a position to be searching for a new day job…” You likely don’t have to do more than that…

      Good luck!

  50. AnxiousWanderLlama*

    Happy Friday the 13th! Advice for helping an anxious, nervous brain at work? I’m still very early in my career, I fight imposter syndrome pretty much all the time, and it’s my first time at my current company going through the annual review process. It’s also a 360 review which I’ve never done before and which is terrifying to me! (And to be clear, at this point everyone’s already written feedback for each other…I’m just trying to brace myself for actually receiving it)
    On top of that, my boss is in charge of multiple teams and is going to be on leave for a couple of weeks, so in the next week or so he’s trying to fit in as many reviews as he can but mentioned he might not get through them all before he heads out. That’s fine, I wouldn’t really care if he gets to me before or after except there’s also a perk at my company I need to ask him about before claiming…and the deadline to claim this perk will pass while he’s gone. I realized throughout my life I also just have a really hard time asking for things for myself, but knowing how busy he is trying to get through everything before his time off makes me even more nervous about possibly adding one more thing to his plate! (To be clear he is a fantastic boss, he just has a lot on his plate and I’m just an anxious mess). How do I calm down and straighten out this stupid brain of mine?

    1. PrincessFlyingHedgehog*

      The answer for me was therapy. Does your company offer any free sessions via the EAP? If so, I would recommend giving it a try.

    2. Dovasary Balitang*

      I view feedback as an opportunity to level up so I can eventually defeat my superiors in ritual combat and usurp their positions. It’s incredibly silly, but it adds confidence and power in a situation where there’s naturally a power imbalance.

    3. ferrina*

      I have designed and run Annual Reviews for my entire company, and I can confirm-

      You are totally normal. A lot of people are nervous around review time. It’s actually more normal for high or mid-high level performers to be nervous, because of the Dunning-Krueger Effect. Heck, I designed the reviews, gotten stellar feedback throughout the year, and I still get nervous going into those conversations!
      Maybe think about the nerves as a test of the fire drill- it’s annoying and distracting, but it shows that all things are working as they should. Test complete; we can now go back to our daily activities.

      Bonus- 360 reviews are my favorites. It means that your boss gets to see your work from a lot of different viewpoints. Bosses are humans, and can only be in one place at once. This lets your Boss see things that they would have otherwise missed, like how you helped Wakeen on that huge project, or how Betsy finds you one of the most helpful and professional people she’s worked with. Some bosses will not use this feedback effectively, but since your boss is normally fantastic, there’s a high likelihood he’s fantastic on this as well.

    4. Ria*

      Do you have to talk to him in person/specifically during your review about the perk? Or can you ask over email? If so, send him an email about it!

      If not – email him this:

      “Hi [boss], is it possible to move me up in line for the review process? I was hoping for the chance to discuss X perk with you before you go on leave. (Or if for some reason you don’t want to name the perk, “I’d really appreciate the chance to discuss my review before you go on leave.”) Please let me know!”

      You’re not putting anything extra on his plate, because 1) he can tell you no, and 2) he’s trying to get through reviews anyway – if he has time to do 10 before he leaves, he’ll be doing 10 before he leaves anyway, and you’re just asking to be part of those 10. If for some reason there are 10 people with better reasons to be reviewed before you, then see #1 – he can simply tell you no. Sure, you’re asking for a small favor, but it really is small, and it sounds like it’s important enough to you – you’re just getting anxious about his schedule, which is not your thing to get anxious about, so don’t stress.

    5. There You Are*

      For the perk, think of it from his perspective: As a manager, you have the ability to grant / approve something for one of your employees that they want but they missed out on it because they assumed they knew that you were too busy to answer a quick email about something positive.

      You’d be upset-ish, right? At least a little exasperated.

      Email him about the perk.

    6. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Is the perk actually connected in any way to the review process, or are you just waiting for that because that’s when your time with the boss is scheduled.

      As others have said – ask boss now rather than wait for the review. Most busy managers (including me!) will then make a decision quickly to get it off their plate rather than leave it hanging around.

  51. Bluebell*

    Wondering if anyone else has thoughts to share on this weeks’s article in the New York Times that did a wider look at remote work. The part that really annoyed me was the fact that they acknowledged that yes, remote or hybrid work’s flexibility was easier for working mothers, but then sort of brushed it off, describing different studies that said that for women in general, remote work wasn’t as beneficial in a variety of situations. At least at the end, they did acknowledge that better management could make remote work better.

    1. Qwerty*

      I feel like the article tried to cover too much so it couldn’t really explore the subtopics well other than to toss out a bunch of facts. The example you gave wasn’t the only instance of stating something then immediately moving on. Ending with a statement that better management is needed felt like a cop out because the article hadn’t really explored the management angle.

      I did like the bit about the downsides with respect to training juniors, because that’s a big problem for both genders in my industry. So I do like that they called out women being less likely to ask follow up questions because its something to keep an eye on but is manageable if people are generally aware of it. I’ve learned when onboarding remote women that I have to explicitly assign their tasks as pair programming with a senior team member after having multiple just flounder and do poorly vs remote dudes who just ask questions (not a problem with in-person of any gender – the conversations happen organically) I think it is partly because reaching out when remote can feel like you are bothering someone, and we’re socialized to not want to be a bother.

      I was surprised that it said women are more likely to be perceived as not working when remote because I only see men getting accused of that. I’m not sure how much the study actually correlates to work experience since it was showing some people video footage rather than meansuring how they feel about actual coworkers. My anec-data is that women tend to communicate more, so people know they are working on stuff and that the only time I hear someone question if a remote person actually does anything is a dude who is being radio-silent.

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      My experience, after a dozen years remote, is that it’s Management that makes it a bad arrangement.

      Bad Management is amplified by remote work. It’s easier to slack off when one’s not in the office–or try to work two jobs concurrently–so Management has to have an effective and objective way of measuring output/productivity. Butt-in-seat time ceases to be a “useful” proxy. Also, there’s the effort of dialing an employee’s phone or composing an email, which is higher than just yelling from your desk for them to come over for a conversation. It’s a lot harder for a controlling person who pines for ages past when a supervisor could run their own tiny fiefdom 9-5 to pull it off in a remote environment.

    3. There You Are*

      I haven’t read the article but, two months after my [ex] company’s CEO announced that everyone would be required to be in the office Mon-Thur, for a minimum of 9 hours a day (forcing people to take a lunch break instead of choosing to work through it to leave early occasionally), I am one of 12 women that I know of who quit and left for greener pastures.

      And I know that management has been having a LOT of trouble filling those vacated positions because of the butts-in-seats rule, with women candidates removing themselves from consideration at a higher rate than men (at least for my old department’s openings).

      I don’t have children but at least 9 of the others do. I am, however, the caretaker for an elderly family member.

      And I’m someone who has trouble doing stupid, pointless, inefficient, and/or punitive things just to massage the ego of a person in power.

      I start a 95% remote job in a week for $32,000 more than what I was making at the commute-two-hours-a-day job. So I guess I should thank the glassbowl of CEO who thinks people aren’t capable of working from home (despite every single company metric proving otherwise) nor are they able to work through most of a lunch hour. If it weren’t for his mandate, I would still be commuting 2-3 days a week for a lot less money. :-)

  52. Lalalala*

    My birthday is in 1 month, and of course during that very same week, I’ve been invited to go our headquarters Monday – Thursday, since lots of teams are coming. I’m less than 6 months into this job, and previously declined because it was during my birthday. My old boss left and I now report to another director in the company. I chatted with him, and he gets why I don’t want to come on my birthday but wanted to throw it back out there.

    Reasons not to go
    + I truly don’t want to go lol. I don’t want to spend my birthday away from my elderly dog and with a bunch of coworkers
    + My new director, and one of the C-levels attending, are really the only people I work with. The other teams going aren’t people I work with day-to-day
    + I actually saw that C-level person yesterday. We’re both remote, but my town has a handful of people based out of here, so we have spots in a WeWork. I’ve met everyone based out my location, including the CEO and someone else from another department that I work with regularly. That C-level person lives in another state but he was in town so I worked from there and got to chat with him
    + I’m at an individual contributor level. Most of the stuff at these meetings would be more high-level that my director would attend
    + They are paying for the flight and airport parking, food, hotel, etc. But I’d have to pay on my own to board my dog 4 days

    Reasons to go
    + My new director is great and I would love to meet him
    + Face time with coworkers (hiking trip, dinners, happy hour)

    AITA if I don’t go? What can I say if I decline? Originally I told him I did want to go, but my birthday made it tricky

      1. Lalalala*

        Technically 2024 planning, but some “team building” and stuff for other teams. For me, I don’t think I’d be in those planning meetings.

    1. anywhere but here*

      Honestly, I think the dog alone is grounds to stay home (unless this is the kind of role you accepted knowing that multi-day travel would be mandatory at times). The birthday and other considerations certainly strengthen your case, but it’s perfectly normal to not want to travel when care obligations (including of a pet) make it difficult/impose a cost burden.

      1. Lalalala*

        It seems like this type of meeting where everyone comes seems to be 1x/year. Honestly I don’t want to have to travel at all for a job, but I could deal with a few times a year.

    2. Educator*

      Honestly, I would be a little annoyed if I was your manager and you told me that you did not want to participate in what sounds like a valuable learning and networking opportunity because of your birthday. There is really no need to celebrate your existence on the exact day you were born, especially as an adult. When my birthday conflicts with other obligations, I just…celebrate it the next weekend. Your dog will not be any the wiser, and the humans in your life have probably all done the same thing.

    3. Qwerty*

      Story time: My company brought all the remote workers on site for what will be an annual event. Lots of grumbling from the less social people who felt it would be a waste of time.

      End result: They all changed their tune. Even the most aggressively anti-social person said that they learned more than they expected by mingling with people from other teams. Our department starting running a lot better, even though no tangible differences had been made. The value of face-time is really hard to measure.

      For your situation: I feel like it is a weird look for a new hire to not want to meet their colleagues. This sounds like part of the reason for bringing everyone together is to foster relationships.

      If you are going to skip, I’d recommend focusing on the dog issue since planning care for an elderly dog is not something easy to pull off last minute. BUT also talking about how to make a future event like this work out, such as only coming for 2 instead of 4 days or building up a relationship with a neighbor who could pet sit or even just having some time to build boarding costs for a once-a-year (or however often) into your annual personal budget. I’d leave the birthday out of it.

    4. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      It sounds a very valuable trip, especially as you are pretty new there and would only cost you 4 days dog board. I’d choose to go.

      Why not plan your birthday celebration for say the Saturday after you return?

      1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        Skipping even the 1-2 x yearly in-person meetings is how a remote worker can get disconnected from the team and the org, risking being overlooked for the more exciting projects.

    5. Anonymous Koala*

      I totally get why you don’t want to go (I wouldn’t want to either in your place) but I still kind of think you should go. Here’s why:
      – FaceTime with colleagues and higher ups can be important for professional advancement. If everyone else is getting to know each other and you’re not, it puts you at a disadvantage by comparison.
      – your manager has told you that they want you to go. Whether they phrased it that way or not, the implication is that your manager is asking you attend a networking session and you’re declining. Sometimes that’s okay (a medical procedure, an important religious holiday that conflicts, an approved prebooked vacation) but most people aren’t going to put a birthday in the same category as, say, a pre scheduled medical procedure. Do you want to spend the capital that declining this networking event is going to cost you?
      – unofficial work discussions are going to happen at this event, especially if there are a lot of sessions where you and some others are going to be at loose ends while the higher ups are higher up-ing. you never know what projects, opportunities, etc you’ll find out about that you might want to participate in.

    6. Lalalala*

      UPDATE: Okay… lol you all convinced me. I was able to schedule boarding for my dog and told my boss I can go

      1. Little Sushi Roll*

        Now make sure you eat something truly delicious on your birthday, and have the company pay for it!

    7. PollyQ*

      Honestly, I don’t put much weight on adult birthdays, and I’d think less of an employee who wanted to miss a work event for that reason. Do something nice to celebrate your birthday either before or after the trip, and go on the trip.

    8. WellRed*

      I have always remembered the writer who turned down an assignment because “ it’s my birthday!” And not in a good way. You’ve only been there six months and already declined something else? You need to go. Birthday cake tastes just as good any other day.

      1. GythaOgden*

        You can’t just drop in a reference like that without a link!

        Or maybe you can but I’m now rather intrigued.

    9. RagingADHD*

      I get that boarding a pet is expensive, but never in a million years would I tell a manager that my birthday was a conflict for a work function.

      Even if you didn’t go, please don’t say that out loud if you ever want to be taken seriously. Make something up.

    10. Yoli*

      My birthday is also next month and I’m not attending an important meeting on that day, but in my case I requested PTO awhile back and the culture of my org is no day is too sacred for people to be out.

      I saw that you’ve already made arrangements to go to the event, but in the future if having your birthday off is that important to you I’d recommend planning for PTO in advance–you could always be vague about your plans or cite an “early holiday get-together” if you didn’t want to get into the details.

  53. Just another content creator*

    I’m struggling with motivation to do what I know needs done, both at work and in my personal life. The best way to describe my mental state is “overwhelmed,” but it could be early signs of depression creeping up. I’ve got therapy/doctor visits scheduled to sort through everything outside of work, but I’m wondering if anyone has tips to get through the fog of “I need to do this, but I just don’t want to.” I’m permanently remote, love the company/team I work with, and don’t want to find another job.

    So far I’ve been able to keep up, but my deliverables are a bit lower quality of work than my usual high standards. I’m procrastinating a lot and have little creativity, but no missed deadlines. Fortunately, I have a great supervisor and team lead who are understanding and flexible, great about work/life balance, and generally cool humans to work with. If I needed specific accommodations or a lighter workload for awhile, they’d help in a heartbeat. I just don’t know what would help me get past this hurdle and back to my normal mindset.

    1. anywhere but here*

      When is the last time you took a real vacation and fully disconnected from work? Even if that doesn’t fix the problem, I think it could give you clarity on what would help.

      1. Just another content creator*

        This is a good point! I’ve been hoarding days off just in case my MIL/FIL/beloved 17-year old kitty pass (all in poor health), but at this point it might make more sense to take that time to recharge my batteries.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      Check out the Captain Awkard post #450: How to tighten up your game at work when you’re depressed. There may be some tips you can use (in your work life, if not your personal life).

    3. ferrina*

      ADHD person here! You are speaking my language. I am currently on AAM successfully avoiding a report I don’t feel like doing (but is important, I’ll do well at it, I’m the best person to do it, and I even volunteered for it. then lost interest).

      If this is a new thing for you, depression or burnout sound like likely culprits. It’s great that you are going to your doctor- a dopamine re-uptake inhibitor can help with motivation. Motivation is a chemical process in our brain- Google how dopamine impacts motivation. I found it really helpful to understand how my brain’s chemistry was causing my lack of motivation, not that it was some kind of character defect. Motivation is physically harder for me.

      For as how to manage it, here’s a few strategies I’ve tried:
      – Pomodero. It’s a time management device where you spend X time doing The Thing, then Y time resting. I like to do 20 minutes working, then 10 minutes resting.
      – Exercise. A short walk can increase focus, and it can also be a good time to mentally go through what you want to do, which can help make the task less daunting.
      – Go for Good Enough. Let your standards drop for a little bit while you address the underlying cause. If you are someone whose usual standard is Amazing, look at your work and see which projects can accept Quite Good.
      – Set aside 20 minutes for “work I probably won’t use”. Sometimes just starting the task is the hardest part. Give yourself a positive talk- “Hi Self. I know that this is tough right now, so we’re going to do just a gentle warm up to start. I’m really proud of you for being here and showing up to do this today. Let’s start with writing notes.”
      – Use AI for the initial draft. I don’t know if this is an option with your work, but it’s often easier to edit existing content than create it from scratch. I like to put in a vague prompt like “article about llama grooming tools”, then pull the results into a Word doc. I then scoff at how foolish the AI is for writing such a bad article, and I ruthlessly edit and rewrite until I have something that looks nothing like the original.

      Go for the strategies that work for you. Everyone’s brain is different, and brains change over time. Don’t stick with a strategy just because it “should” work- embrace what does work, even if it feels silly. Linkin Park helps me work on spreadsheets- I don’t know why, but it works. Don’t berate yourself if you can’t do what you want- that will only make things much worse. (I know, easier said than done). Celebrate the stuff you accomplish, and always make time for just doing the things you love.
      Good luck!

      1. Just another content creator*

        Thanks for your thoughtful suggestions and empathy! I like the idea of editing the crap out of AI-created content and will definitely try that.

    4. RagingADHD*

      For creativity, make time to nourish your soul. Go see some art, listen to music (preferably live), get out in nature, attend worship if that’s your thing.

      Fill your cup.

  54. samecoin*

    scarf/scarves- my first chicago winter I was “too tough” for scarves and it was a horrible decision. i was too proud to buy a scarf half way through

  55. Liz Lemon*

    My company has an extremely lax WFH policy and basically you can WFH or come into the office as you please. I prefer in-office so I’m here everyday, but most people WFH a majority of the time. And still, we have people coming into work while they are clearly sick! Like coughing every minute, sniffling, sneezing, all while unmasked. If you are allowed to WFH, do you stay home when you have a cold?

    1. ferrina*

      You definitely should. No one needs to deal with that crap.

      I will forever hate the person that came into work with a fever because she had a networking meeting. I was working a conference and doing 12-14 hour days; I fell sick with a 102 fever in a different city and had to desperately guzzle meds so I could be well enough to fly back to my own city. Within a week our entire office was out sick due to this one person.

    2. HowDoYouKnowTheyreSick*

      Do you know they’re sick? People have have asthma, allergies, etc that are generally indistinguishable. I joined a Zoom call this morning and was almost immediately asked if I had Covid. I had allergies.

      If people like me never came into the office with “symptoms” we’d never come in to the office – which may or may not be fine (it totally works for me), but if other non-sick people get to choose so should we.

    3. 653-CXK*

      I haven’t gone to the office in months (last June I had to come in for training) but over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had bronchitis, which means plenty of coughing. Our clientele are the elderly, and I don’t want them getting the fall sludge.

      Incidentally, my boss asked me on Friday which days I normally come into the office, and I said Mondays and Fridays. I’m wondering if (a) they’re going to give my desk to someone else or (b) they just want to be sure I keep mine.

  56. Geeyourhairsmellsterrific*

    I’m a department manager with one direct report and a second direct reporting starting soon. My HR department just let me know that my first direct report, whose performance is excellent, told the second direct report (an internal candidate) a number of lies regarding the position and hiring decisions.
    I need to address these directly but don’t want to have it backfire on the new hire. Do any of you have suggestions for how I can address this without stating that the new hire went to HR with concerns about the conversation?
    Thank you.

    1. Goddess47*

      As Allison would say: WTF?

      I’m not sure you can avoid involving HR. And do you want to? While your current person may be a good worker, it looks like they’re not a good person… do you want to deal with the (at best awkward and possibly hostile) dynamic that’s going to happen when your new person starts?

      Not simple. Sorry. Good luck…

      1. Geeyourhairsmellsterrific*

        Sorry for being vague, and thanks for your response. I’m not trying to avoid involving HR. The new person went to HR and HR came to me. I’m trying to avoid telling my 1st employee that the 2nd employee went to HR.

    2. ferrina*

      Where is all this coming from?

      I have so many questions:
      -How does HR know that Direct Report 1 (DR1) did this? Did the candidate tell them?
      -When did DR1 do this? If they reached out on their own, that’s a very different story than if they were having a get-to-know you as part of the interview process.
      -What kind of lie? Was it things designed to poison the well, or things that were weird but wrong?
      -Could it have been a misunderstanding? Are these things that DR1 could have been reasonably not informed on or misunderstood, then when the interviewee asked about it, DR1 passed on their own misunderstanding?
      -What is consistent with DR1’s character? Is DR1 a little over eager and might have passed on bad info while trying to help? Or does it seem malicious? If it seems malicious, is this a side of DR1 that you haven’t seen but others might have? Do you need to have conversations with others who work with DR1 to see if there’s something you might have missed?

      There’s a lot of things that might have happened, and it’s impossible to know without more info.

      1. Geeyourhairsmellsterrific*

        Thanks for your reply and sorry for being vague but you never know who reads AAM! The candidate (who is already an employee here) went to HR and HR came to me.
        One of the lies was that DR1 supported the hiring of DR2 and fought for it, and that I was against it but gave in. This is the opposite of what happened. . DR1 also told DR2 that DR2 would be reporting to DR1 and not to me.
        Basically, I think DR1 is trying to make himself look good and make me look bad to DR2.
        I have heard about this side of DR1 before but haven’t seen it myself.

        1. ferrina*

          Ooh, that’s bad. This is a very serious issue.

          DR1 is actively undermining you- that’s generally unsalvageable. It sounds like DR2 didn’t fall for it, which is good. Move forward with DR2, and make sure DR1 has no part in the onboarding. Keep lines of communication open with DR2 and regularly check in.

          Have a good long think about DR1. Is their work worth this kind of integrity issue? Taken with all the other things you know about DR1, is this someone you want working with you? I might even go back to the people that told me other things about him and ask for more. I’d position it as “since we have a new person starting, I’m taking this as an opportunity to review how my department interacts with other teams. I’d love to hear about your experiences with me and DR1, and how we can make it better for you!” This is very nice messaging, and opens the door for them to let it all come out. I’ve gotten some very interesting information this way.
          Personally, this would be a fireable offense for me (and I don’t say this lightly). I’d talk with HR to see if we could position it as a layoff, which would be a kindness to DR1. Work with HR thoughout this, and document everything. If this has been a regular pattern, DR1 will do this again.

          Good luck! Please keep us posted!

          1. Geeyourhairsmellsterrific*

            Thank you so much for your thoughtful response. I wasn’t sure if I was overthinking it or being too sensitive. I am working with HR.

          2. The New Wanderer*

            Yikes! Agree with everything ferrina said – this wasn’t just a misunderstanding, this was someone trying to damage relationships.

            TBH, this is extreme enough that I really don’t think it matters that DR1 is going to know how you came to know. I’m curious about the comment on “this side of DR1” because that suggests this person has been a problem of some kind for a while. I understand that you’d want to give them the benefit of the doubt if you hadn’t observed bad behavior first hand, but if there’s a pattern then it’s definitely not just about DR2 going to HR, it’s about this being the latest in a series of issues.

          3. kalli*

            It would be extremely odd for a department to take on a second employee and then lay off the first one unless the second employee was doing a totally different job or there was a sudden role-sized downturn in work. It would be kind, but that’s because it gives DR1 the opportunity to claim it wasn’t a genuine layoff and take advantage of any statutory protections they can draw a connection to.

            I’d be looking more at final warning territory if one felt that kindness was warranted based on service or performance, but only because it gives time for a more thorough and discreet investigation.

        2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

          Wait, wait…besides DR2’s statements what evidence do you have that DR1 said these things?

          I’m not trying to both sides this, but I do caution against going in assuming one person’s word over the other’s. Do some questioning of each of them. And @ferrina’s questions are good and worth considering again:

          “When did DR1 do this? If they reached out on their own, that’s a very different story than if they were having a get-to-know you as part of the interview process.

          “What is consistent with DR1’s character?”

          I feel like right now, we jumped to believing DR2. I’m not sure that’s the correct assumption from what we have so far, but you likely (and rightly, given privacy concerns) have facts we don’t.

          1. Geeyourhairsmellsterrific*

            So interesting- my spouse said the same thing! But I can’t see any reason for the new hire to make it up. Thanks for making me think about it some more. I appreciate it.

      2. Sparkles McFadden*

        I was trying to figure out how to say all of that, and now I don’t have to, so thanks.

        This. All of this.

    3. HonorBox*

      I think I’d address this with some simple, matter of fact conversations with both when the new person starts. Address them in a way that conveys, “of course this is obviously something you both know.” And mix in some other things that are expectations, policies so it doesn’t look like you’re just going through a checklist of everything first report said incorrectly.

      1. Doc McCracken*

        This! Set boundaries clearly and in black and white and be prepared to die on those hills. Best case scenario there was a big miscommunication between your two direct reports who are just starting to work together. Worst case EE1 is marking territory and laying the groundwork for abusive behavior and overall dickish behavior. Then do a little investigating EE1’s behavior with other groups and the cases where you’ve heard about this side of them before. Be really curious in a genuine way, not accusatory. Let others tell you what they experienced. That should give you a really good idea if this was intentional or not. But nip this now!

    4. Observer*

      Do any of you have suggestions for how I can address this without stating that the new hire went to HR with concerns about the conversation?

      Why is it necessary to hide this information? I get that you don’t want Existing Employee (EE) to let it out on New Employee (NE). But the way to deal with that is to figure out what happened and why and then manage accordingly – including making is VERY clear to EE that they absolutely cannot retaliate in any way to NE. And that includes the social niceties. I don’t mean that EE needs to try to be best buds with NE, but that they treat NE with the same type of social courtesy they treat others. And of course that they are cooperative and collegial with NE, and cooperate on work as necessary.

      Lying to new staff is not something separate from performance. In fact, I would say the reverse. At this point I think I would be looking at everything this person self-reported, and anything they did that requires trusting their integrity and judgement. Even if that all squares, it’s still a performance issue and if they try to push back on NE in any way because NE went to HR, you need tr treat it as a performance issue.

      I’m not saying that you should specifically say “NE went to HR”, but if you are going to be clear about the problem it’s hard to find a way to avoid EE realizing what happened.

  57. Blueberry Grumpmuffin*

    One of the comments for the “work doesn’t interest me anymore” post talked about answering the question “where do you see yourself in X years”. Which has me thinking: if you were asked this, and you only care about your job because you gotta have food on the table, how would you answer it?

    I’ve been asked this question in interviews and performance reviews. It just feels like a trap question, like I’m supposed to paint a rosy aspirational portrait of myself being a Very Important Employee 5 years from now, doing Very Important Work or even Very Important Leadership. But honestly I’m just trying to save up for a house, get married, pay the bills. I don’t hate my job, but I also don’t really care about getting a coveted title.

    My honest answer to the question would be akin to the “sipping cocktails on the beach” responses in the aforementioned comment lol. But uh, I don’t think my manager would want to hear that.

    1. Ann*

      I would be working, but in a very different job that comes with way fewer hours and a fraction of the salary. Might or might not move. Would consider homeschooling – public school is going downhill, we have good private options, but they’re hard enough to afford if you’re working and have more than one child.

      A few of years ago I’d say I would keep the same job but cut down my hours. But the regulatory landscape keeps changing, and now the ratio of frustration to accomplishment is just too high for me. I feel like I’m wasting my clients’ time and money on totally pointless things, and the idea of doing that for the rest of my career… I’d rather not.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      I have a similar mindset to you. I’m an engineer, so I answer the “where do you see yourself in X years?” question with a more-professional version of “in this same job, with better engineering skills.”

      I know I don’t have interest in becoming a manager, so I don’t try to fake a “Very Important Leadership” answer. My answer is a little bit “doing Very Important Work” fakery but also some pragmatism: if I do better engineering work (develop my professional competence, take on bigger/more complex projects) I will (1) continue to have a job, (2) get raises, and/or (3) have an easier time job-searching in the future. Those three things all directly support my life goals of paying my bills and saving some money.

    3. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Definitely don’t give your honest answer.
      I’d count it as a totally permissable white lie to pretend I regarded work as more than the means to pay my bills, just like any other white lie to enable smooth interaction with the rest of society.

      Before the interview plan out the sort of career plan they’d like to hear, which usually involves developing existing skills, learning new ones, stretch targets etc and tune your answer to the specific employer, job & field you’re applying to. Show enthusiasm and ask how this role could develop for you.

    4. ferrina*

      It’s totally normal not to have a 5-year plan, even for folks that really like their work! I love my job, and I barely have a 1 year plan. There’s a practical reason for that- a lot can change in 5 years, and I plan to identify and seize opportunities as they come. I could continue doing same ol’, but realistically, I’ll be iterating and evolving based on changing needs, information and resources.

      Pick a vaguely interesting direction for your career. If there’s a clear career trajectory for your role that sounds reasonably okay for you, you can lean into that and say “I’d like to eventually pursue certification as a Senior Llama Groomer, but that would be several years off. For the short term, I want to focus on learning more about hoof maintenance”
      If there’s not a clear career trajectory, pick part of your job that you’d like to do more. “I’m interested in learning more about X and maybe even developing Y, but I’d need to explore it more before I’m sure.”
      I’ve even said something like “I’m not sure. I’d love to develop a process around Thingummy, but of course, that’s totally subject to change as the department grows and the company continues to grow. Right now I’m really happy in my current role, and I love that I have opportunities to grow via [List things].”

      The main point of this question is to ensure that the company is meeting the long-term needs of the individual. Retention is important- if employees aren’t able to see themselves meeting those needs at the company long-term, they are going to go somewhere else. All you need to do is reassure them that they are meeting your long term goals and you are satisfied with the opportunities you have.

    5. Angstrom*

      I think your version of “Doing more of the stuff I’m good at and enjoy, less of the other stuff.” is a reasonable answer.

    6. Anon for this*

      Haha, that was my comment. I actually work in an executive leadership role (my boss and I ended up have a good laugh about my response, even though I wasn’t kidding) and I am seeing a cultural shift around this, at least in my industry, where people at my level and above understand that some people are just… good. Not everyone likes it, but it’s becoming more common for midlevel staff to not be interested in moving up.

    7. Girasol*

      In IT I got away with, “This field is changing so fast that at any point in my career I was working with technology I hadn’t imagined five years before. So in five years I’ll be doing something I can’t even imagine yet.” Is your field one where a version of this could work?

  58. Taria*

    Does anyone here have enough experience with unemployment to tell me my odds of being allowed to decline a job that involves multiple weeks of 20-hour days?

    And no, this isn’t one of those jobs where it’s easy most of the year and then you have the two weeks of… that. It wouldn’t be pleasant and I wouldn’t stay any longer than I had to, but I could handle that. I was outright told in the interview that vacation time would be difficult to get approved for the entire year, even outside of the crunch weeks. They were at least upfront about this, and I’m hoping that I don’t get offered it at all (I was visibly caught off guard by the mention of the hours), but if I do… can anyone give me a guess about my odds of being able to declare that “unsuitable”?

    1. Goddess47*

      I’m not familiar enough with unemployment to give an absolute answer, but until someone knows more than me comes along, I would start with “I’m looking for a consistent 40 hours of work and this job was upfront that there would be extended times where they could only offer 20 hours of work.”

      Good luck!

      1. Pointly*

        I think you misread. The issue is weeks involving 20 hours DAYS. Not 20 hours of work in the week.

    2. Csethiro Ceredin*

      TWENTY HOUR DAYS? Really? That seems insane.

      I don’t know about (US?) unemployment but is there room to say the schedule was completely untenable for you for health an family reasons?

    3. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      I gather rules among the US states can vary about maximum hours and whether a job had to offer any vacation at all. So, I’d check online for your own US state if they give specifics about what you can turn down.
      If this is insufficient, is there a phone or EM contact where you can ask specifically about refusing a job with 20-hour days.

      Here (Europe) it is explicitly spelled out online by the Employment Office what we can refuse, such as pay, commuting time>x. Also, the legal maximum for any job, regardless of previous employment status, is 48 hours per week. So check if your state has a maximum.

    4. Controlling Controller*

      I am also not an unemployment expert, if it were me, I might try to make myself less desirable now so that they would decide not to pick me for the job. Maybe follow up with some questions after the interview about the hours, like “I wanted to ask about what happens if someone has child/pet care issues during the 20-hour/day timeperiod?”, and “I generally need a full 8 hours sleep to feel my best… do others on the team have similar challenges during busy season?”. One of my friends used to mention her grandson when she was in an interview and realized she didn’t want the job… Although age/health discrimination isn’t legal, it is definitely still a thing! I’m sorry you’re in this position and I hope things turn around quickly for you.

    5. Observer*

      experience with unemployment to tell me my odds of being allowed to decline a job that involves multiple weeks of 20-hour days

      It could depend on the state, but in NY, if they are actually putting the hours in writing you would almost certainly be able to decline the job.

      The issue is not that they don’t offer paid vacation. But offering paid vacation which they also tell you that you would not be allowed to use does tend to be a red flag. More importantly, most unemployment offices don’t consider it unreasonable to refuse a job with regular 90-100 work weeks.

    6. There You Are*

      In my state, the 20-hour days would be so far from what my current job is that I could easily say it was unsuitable.

      As in, when I was on unemployment, I wasn’t required to take the retail jobs that were offered to me because I was a white collar professional who normally worked in an office in front of a computer for 8 hours a day, M-F. Retail work — with varied hours, the requirement to be on one’s feet all day, and waaaaay less pay than what I was used to — made it unsuitable for someone with my skill set and background.

    7. ItCanBeHairy*

      You’d be better off not getting to the offer stage. Specific rules are different in different states but in general you are not allowed to turn down paid work if it’s offered. Even if they eventually decide it’s okay under the circumstances your claim will almost certainly get suspended while they review your case – which can take months. If they decide in your favor you’ll get the back payments but if you’re counting on having the money ongoing to pay expenses that doesn’t help.

    8. Cj*

      can you withdraw from the job before you get an offer? or does unemployment office know you are interviewing there?

    9. SnappinTerrapin*

      Withdraw from consideration before they make an offer. If there is no offer, you didn’t turn down the job.

      Even if you get an offer, I can’t imagine the UI office considering that a “suitable job” for most workers.

      The same would apply to my initial misreading of 20 hour weeks instead of 20 hour days.

  59. To do*

    How to stay organized when dealing with brain fog at a new job— remembering processes, names/faces, etc. Help!

    1. Goddess47*

      Do whatever you need to.

      Write it down, put it on a calendar, find written documentation, take pictures (only with permission), use the employee directory (if there is one), post-it notes, a white board…

      But also, don’t make it a jumble of notes/pictures so that you’re flipping through a mass of information. Take the time to organize/re-write the information so you can find it the next time you need it. If it’s electronic, build an index or have a document you can search…

      Good luck!

      1. Awkwardness*

        OneNote! Literally my professional-life saver.
        Dump all information in and take time to rewrite from time to time.

    2. ferrina*

      Document the processes, and make sure you have your notes on hand. Assume you won’t remember processes, so make sure your notes are thorough and easy to find (bonus: if your company doesn’t have written SOPs, they may want to use your notes as the standard.)

      For remembering names/faces, you can get usually get some grace by owning it. “Sally! It’s great to meet you! I’m going to warn you, I’m pretty terrible with names, so I will almost certainly need to ask you again.”
      When I use this line, it’s usually met with “No problem” or a relieved “Me too! I will absolutely ask you your name again!” (I have ADHD, not brain fog)

  60. Bananas Foster*

    I’ve worked in a high burnout field (human services nonprofit) for the last 15 years. I have been struggling with a boss who is a poor fit as well as some issues in my personal life for the last couple years (personal health issues, family health issues, and a traumatic loss). I. Am. Tired. I am planning to quit my job at the end of the year and move into a similar role that is part time. I plan to build back up to full time hours/full time income over the course of the next year or so. I currently have a solid savings and a supportive partner so logically I think I will be OK. But as stressful as my current job is, it is relatively well-paying for the type of work and I have good health insurance and benefits. Part of me thinks it is very foolish for me to quit my job and take a big hit to my income. I come from a working class background and had quite a few lean years money-wise so I’m struggling with this. Any advice?

    1. Goddess47*

      You have a plan. Believe in it.

      This is a variation on ‘the imposter syndrome’ and you’re too tired to have the energy to believe in yourself. So believe in your supportive partner, get some rest and when you’re ready, you’ll move on.

      Good luck and take care of yourself.

    2. OP Glowing Symphony*

      I inadvertently took a sabbatical (think of this as such) in 2020 after I left a horrible nonprofit job. I’ve been in non-profit for 23 years/8 organizations, and I feel I’ve seen a lot and done a lot.

      All through 2020, I pro bono’d my expertise with 25 non-profits in projects I LIKED, not the ‘everything included because we’re live scarcity life’ tasks.

      It’s ok to take care of yourself. Do it now, otherwise you’ll never do it. Working class background just means we like to self-flagellate with unnecessary work to say we work when we’re really killing ourselves. Don’t let a made-up class concept frame your need for self-help.

      Now is the time to learn, explore, free yourself, take up hobbies and be you.

      1. Hermione Danger*

        Thank you for this response.

        I’m in a similar situation to Bananas Foster, minus the partner. I knew my organization was somewhat toxic when I said yes to full-time employment with them during the pandemic. But it was the pandemic and nobody had any idea what was going to happen and a steady job seemed like the smart decision. Three years and the rest of the pandemic later, the toxicity is increasing and I no longer have the energy to deal with it. I’m burned out and exhausted. I’ve already started to plan to leave early next year with nothing else lined up.

        Lately, I’ve been worrying about “but what if nobody ever hires me again?” I almost lost my house a few years ago because of a prolonged period of unemployment, and now I’m over 50. And then I have to remind myself that my circumstances, skill set and employment goals are now very different from what they were then. Your response showed me that my plans for my own personal sabbatical are reasonable and smart, and reminded me that staying is really not a good choice.

  61. anon events manager*

    CW: rape

    My work is dealing with this situation as best as they know how but I’m curious to hear if anyone has another take on it.

    I manage the commercial hires at my job – we’re a mid-size non-profit cultural institution in the UK, think something like a museum or gallery.

    We’ve discovered that the client for one of our upcoming hires was released from jail in 2021 after raping a woman in 2014. He was only convicted for one count of rape but had several others lodged against him at the time and the evidence was damning enough that he got a sentence for it (which is pretty rare here ime).

    Now, I’m normally pretty pro-rehabilitation and strongly believe that the criminal justice system is harsh enough without the stigma that follows ex-offenders around. It’s unfair and people should be able to reclaim their lives after a sentence. On this occasion, however, I’m finding it hard to stick to that conviction knowing what I know now, and that according to many of the articles I’ve read the client doesn’t seem to be particularly remorseful of what he did.

    Myself and all our event staff scheduled for the evening are all young women. One has already pulled out of staffing the event as she was extremely uncomfortable, and I’ve given the option to the other to pull out as well if she wants. My work has been at a bit of a loss as to how to deal with this and have suggested they can have a male member of staff on site just in case, but that they’re not sure what else to do.

    My line manager (an older man) offered to mange the event in my stead but while I’m uncomfortable, I’ve been the main contact for the client so far and think it’s unlikely to be a dangerous situation so have just decided to proceed as normal. I will be polite and professional as is expected of me, though I suspect I may struggle to give my usual ‘above and beyond’ level of warm and friendly service.

    I’m mostly curious to hear what other commenters think about it all and whether or not anyone had encountered something like this.

    1. Qwerty*

      The company needs to come up with a concrete plan to protect employees. Right now their plan is for the women to have to lose out on a work opportunity if they are concerned for their safety, which means events with the client result in professional opportunities for men that the women don’t have.

      I’d recommend your company check with their legal team. What will they do if this client harasses a woman, given that they already knew his history? If the client tries to get a phone number from one of the women or starts reaching out to her through other means after the event, is there a process for her to report this and get help? If there is any concern about an employees safety, why risk it at all?

      This isn’t about stigma – its a big enough issue that we have an government registry for these types of crimes. I’m sure if the client had previously been art thief the museum/gallery would have had extra precautions before letting him have an event or refused him entirely. The release into society is still pretty recent and its an underreported crime.

      1. ferrina*

        Seconding all of this. The company needs to take proactive steps to protect their staff, and the burden needs to be on the client, not the staff. If the company needs to get a minder for the client for the event, they need to do that. Extra security and trainings for how the staff can utilize security if the feel uncomfortable? Definitely, and make sure there are practice sessions so the staff can have some experience alerting security (it helps it stick in the brain better and makes people more confident). Take measures.

        Might the client get huffy? Yes. But it’s far better for him to get huffy than for something to happen on the company’s watch. And if he doesn’t work with your company again, I’d call that a win.

      2. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

        > This isn’t about stigma – its a big enough issue that we have an government registry for these types of crimes.

        Exactly (and I’ll leave the rest of my opinion at the door, but sex crimes are a special type of bad to me). And the guy isn’t remorseful so you can still be pro-rehabilitation, but this guy clearly isn’t rehabbed. He doesn’t think he did anything wrong. In addition, part of the thing about committing a crime and steps to full rehab is acknowledging and accepting you’ve broken trust and you need to actively work to rebuild it.

        Not even gonna broach how US prison system is not designed for rehabilitation.

    2. Observer*

      My work is dealing with this situation as best as they know how but I’m curious to hear if anyone has another take on it.

      This may be the best they know how, but it’s not good. Has anyone even bothered to talk to a lawyer about your legal obligations here? And about the possible issue of essentially denying women professional opportunities as the price of their safety? It’s good, I suppose, that they are suggesting having a male staff at the event in addition to the women, but what exactly are they expecting the male staff person to do? If they are thinking of something that will improve safety, perhaps they should invest in hiring security instead, making sure that security understands that the client is part of the problem.

      Has anyone been monitoring how he interacts with staff so far?

      Also, has anyone thought about the potential risk to the attendees of the event? Aside from the moral quandary here, what are the organization’s legal / PR exposures here?

    3. kalli*

      It sounds like all the information you have is from contemporaneous reporting, which is often biased and usually that bias is against the accused/offender in these kinds of cases. I think you can give yourself room to stick to your principles and assess the situation based on your read of the client now (accounting for five or so years of rehabilitation) and the kind of event – if there’s lots of people around and you can deal with the client by email for the preparation, then you don’t have as much risk as if the event was a series of small groups and requiring a lot of 1:1 in-person prep.

      That said, this is an opportunity to review your general event security, and how you keep your staff safe at all events. Your staff should not feel more unsafe just because a client has a criminal record – there is nothing to say that people with similar or far more alarming records haven’t attended your events! So you might want to look at that, and if you don’t have policies and plans in place for your staff to rely on in the event they are not comfortable with a client or feel unsafe in the workplace due to harassment or sexual advances, make them, and let staff know that if they speak up or want to report, you (personally and the company) will have their back, as much as you can in your position. That way you’re not singling out this client based on his record (in defiance of your pro-rehab principle) but you’re keeping your staff safe whether you know someone is attending who has a record or not. Just having a man on staff doesn’t actually make women safer – having your event staff work in pairs, giving event staff communication tools (walkie talkies) and regularly checking in, having security monitor access to staff areas so nobody can get in without a staff ID, those kinds of things make staff safe. If you’re not sure and a private security assessment is financially unfeasible, talk to the police and ask for security tips – that’s part of their job!

      Allowing staff to opt out of events if they have a personal objection to the client is fine as a policy, but again, so long as it is applied equally across all clients and not quietly offered sometimes based on the client, as long as there is cover (eventually someone’s going to have to work with the client or you have to let them go), and as long as the opt out doesn’t require a reason related to the client (i.e. it’s the exact same process as ‘sorry I can’t work Saturday because my kid is sick’ and not ‘I’m opting out of this event because the client is religious and I’m not’ and therefore passively allowing your staff to discriminate). Your job here is to run the event and ensure your staff’s safety, and that’s no different to any other event with any other client.

  62. Anon For This*

    I’m seeking advice on how people have successfully probed into interpersonal dynamics in interviews. What sorts of questions did you ask? What did you listen for? Were your questions successful?

    We have a very strong applicant for a position in my academic unit for a staff role, but they are, outside of work, best friends with a current employee. There’s no supervisor/supervisee relationship in the two positions, but I am concerned about cliques forming and general professionalism. The applicant worked here briefly in a student position a year ago and they did tend to socialize too much with the staff person. They only worked here briefly and the incidents did not rise to the level of serious issue, but I’m not sure how to scope out how this might play out if they were hired. Needless to say, I have concerns, but also want to give them a fair chance at the interview.

    1. Janeric*

      Hmmm. If this person did socialize too much, it could be a straightforward thing to address as a manager — you could communicate how much time you expected them to spend socializing, or how it’s distracting for others/is preventing work from getting done. So the real question there is how they respond to their manager directing them to do something that they don’t agree with/previous issues with behavior/professionalism and how they’d responded.

      Cliques are a harder issue to address, unfortunately. You might get valuable data from asking them about working with someone that they disliked? Or how they handle group projects? Just keep an eye out for an “us vs. them” mentality.

    2. Awkwardness*

      Maybe frame the question in an innocent way, as: “You know Sokrates. How do you think this will influence your experience with us?”
      I know that “experience” is not a good wording. But in my mind the question could reveal if they already talked about it and made plans to dwell on the relationship (“I know I will have a known point ofcontact. He said he will explain everything to me, so everything is going to be easier. “) or if they discussed to keep it separate (“We will be in different departments, so I doubt I will see him this often. “). But you really need to avoid any judgement in your question.
      Maybe also: “You know Sokrates. Did this influence your decision to apply here? In what way?”

    3. Fluffy Fish*

      I feel like this is getting into addressing problems that haven’t occurred like the recent letter about what if these married employees do inappropriate things at work.

      You could probably ask something along the lines of how do they define professionalism.

      But honestly two people enjoying a friendship at work isn’t automatically a clique. Example at my work: Two colleagues like to go on walk breaks together. They don’t invite others. That’s totally fine. People are allowed to be friends with people as long as they aren’t being outright cruel or exclusionary towards others. It’s a bit different if you’re talking management and subordinate friends but that’s not an issue here.

      Even your example of socializing too much – that’s more an issue of less talking more working.

      If you hire this person and there’s an issue then you deal with it.

  63. 2023 is Meh*

    Trying to find a second job in some kind of remote work, like data entry. Does anyone have a direction they can point me in?

  64. Standard Human*

    I had a 1:1 with the head of my branch earlier this week — she’s been my de facto supervisor for about a year because my boss left and she hasn’t filled the position yet. We hadn’t met in over a month due to scheduling conflicts, and it’s been a busy month for me, so I had a long list of projects that are complete and items that have moved forward.

    I feel extremely disheartened after this meeting, and I don’t know if it’s because I’m being too sensitive or misreading things! I completed several major projects (it’s that time of year) and her response to each update was literally “OK” and then a pause, and I’d go on to update her on the next item. We were done in about twenty minutes — she had no input on any of my questions or plans for next steps. Her one update was that the applications for the position of my supervisor — in a classification I’m not eligible for — are moving forward.

    While I don’t have a supervisor, I’m running a section that covers, I’d estimate, about a quarter of our branch’s authority. My section has been hitting all our deadlines and targets in the last year, while other programs have encountered some level of chaos. Also, since this branch head took over about two years ago, our branch has had an almost complete turnover of senior staff.

    I had been feeling unusually great about my accomplishments and job, which I thought was due to the aforementioned project completion and some very kind comments from our partners in these projects — but now I wonder if it was partly because I hadn’t had one of these 1:1 for a while. I don’t know if I’m putting too much weight on getting positive feedback from my supervisor, and I’m wondering if it’s healthy to assume these meetings will be a 15 minute neutral reading of my “To-do” and “done” lists.