open thread – October 27-28, 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.

{ 995 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Repeating my question from last week now that we’ve done more work on this: People who have experienced the page jumping in the past when you’re trying to read this site (meaning that you’re reading along and suddenly the page jumps you to a different spot), have you had it happen in the last 2 days? I’m hoping the latest changes will have at least cut way down on it, if not stopped it completely.

    To be clear: If you have “collapse comments site-wide” checked at the top of the comment section, the page will always return you to the top after you post a reply (because your comments are collapsed, so it can’t take you back to where you were). So this isn’t about that — this is about you just reading along and the page jumps you somewhere else.

    1. Key Lime Pie*

      Hi there! Yes, the page still jumps for me on my mobile device, but not my computer. However, the page now is super buggy on my computer with unresponsive links and delayed loading. This didn’t happen before, but only as of late.

      I tried clearing the cache and cookies, but still the problem persists : (

      Any solutions to this would be appreciated! Long time reader and lover of your blog.

    2. beezus*

      I had that issue yesterday! I’ve been also having issues where the page keeps trying to reload/there’s a borked ad but I can’t pinpoint which one to report it so swapped to Edge (ew) vs my usual Chrome.

    3. Key Lime Pie*

      Yes sadly : (

      The page is super buggy and the links take forever to load.
      On my mobile, the page jumps every few seconds.

    4. sallyshock*

      I commented last week that it was happening to me. Didn’t realize until now that it stopped happening. I couldn’t tell you if it was the last two days specifically, but I don’t _think_ it’s happened since last Friday. On iOS!

      1. DominicDecoco*

        Same here, iOS + Safari

        Just sat here thinking “Huh, I guess it has stopped and I didn’t even realize it.” Grazie Alison!

    5. wfh247*

      only when replying in a thread. i can’t speak for anyone else, but the page zipping me to the very top has, indeed, stopped

    6. LigaLiga*

      After reading suggestions in the thread last Friday I updated my browser finally and that resolved. Could also be your fix though and lucky timing. Either or, thank you from Mexico!!!

      1. gagaragaga*

        did the exact same and had the exact same thought process. either way i haven’t had it happen lately thanks

      2. SMolina*


        Are you, me? (-:

        Also updated browser; Also from Mexico, also I have no more problem with the site being excitable.

    7. NeedAVacation*

      Can confirm it appears fixed for me. I did get an ad for the new Speaker of The House though yesterday, quoting the bible, which was disappointing. Thought you would want to know!

        1. NeedAVacation*

          My mistake!!! I just had it again- it’s actually an advertisement for an anti-MAGA group showcasing the mix of state & religion from the new Speaker. If you still want the link it is But looks like they are doing good work!

    8. SimplerTimes*

      I have been recording my screen every time I pull the website up this week so I could email in a screen-recording of what it looks like. But it has stopped! Now about those Christmas ads already rolling in… ;)

    9. Observer*

      What about when you comment but do NOT have set collapse? That’s been happening to me a lot. I hadn’t thought to flag it as a problem, but if you’re working on that as well, I would be very happy.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        To make sure I understand, you submit a comment and then when the page reloads it takes you to the wrong spot? But otherwise you’re not having any page jumping?

        Is it taking you to the top of the comment section or some random spot on the page?

        1. Observer*

          Correct. I don’t have any jumping around, except when I submit a comment.

          Most of the time it seems to take me back to the middle of the letter or you response. But I can’t say if it’s consistent.

        2. Observer*

          Just an FYI – when I submitted the first comment, it went to the top of the page. Not the top of the comments, but the top of the page.

    10. SatansPrettyCool*

      The body of the page will sometimes shift for me if an ad renders but it’s **extremely** minor. I don’t know if this is what you’re looking for, so if not: ignore! I haven’t ever suddenly jumped to a different spot…

    11. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      I have collapse all and mine has always jumped to the bottom after I post, and now I know why!

      (Mine doesn’t jump around thankfully – sorry for those for whom it does!)

    12. Carolyn1955*

      +1 for it being fixed on my browser (Google Chrome). Haven’t had any ‘jumps’ since last week :)

    13. Lynn*

      Much less, but yes, still happening. It jumped me out of writing this comment one time. And it jumped one other time earlier this morning while reading. (iPhone 11)

    14. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      Device: Pixel 6a
      Browser: Mozilla Firefox

      In the past two days, I was NOT bounced around when reading, but would be bounced back to my draft comment (so I couldn’t scroll up to check the original letter/reply until I submitted my comment).

    15. Forgiveme*

      I have had this issue for a long time. Someone posted a tongue in cheek comment last week about having a million tabs open so I closed about half of mine and low and behold LOL! The comments section has been smooth sailing since! Whoops.

    16. KISS*

      I’ll keep this simple:

      Has been problematic in the past for me, haven’t seen in the last 2 days. Hope this helps.

    17. Peace Frog*

      Yes. The site doesn’t work for me on Firefox at all. Every time an ad reloads, the entire page goes blank and takes me to the top (if I’m not there already).

      It seems to work okay, although clunkily, on Chrome. But the ads don’t seem to reload as much there.

      1. Sky_Pilot*

        How long does the entire page stay blank on Firefox? And does this happen 100% of the time any of the ads reload? Just curious, thanks!

    18. Easy Going*

      for me whatever you did fixed it. like, entirely. it never bothered me FYI.
      but i will say that reading comments is much smoother now. it is appreciated!

    19. TexasProgressive*

      Happy to report this is no longer happening on my iPhone or my MacBook. Just went through about 40 “Surprise Me” pages and scrolled to the comments and there was no page bouncing.

      By the way, in my estimation this is the BEST online community I have ever been a small part of. I just wanted to say that and thank you :)

      1. Preach*

        Couldn’t agree more!

        [I wasn’t part of the group having site problems, but I just have to agree about this being the best online community!]

    20. CharliesA*

      It’s stopped completely for me, FWIW. The first day I didn’t have it happen at least once was 10/22.

    21. em*

      Just happened as I read this page – Firefox on iOS, nothing collapsed, leapt back to the top of the comments.

    22. Seeking Second Childhood*

      For me the ongoing issue is if I try to scroll left-handed, I’m constantly having replies open. Thought it worth a mention in case it’s at all related.

    23. Wilde*

      I’m experiencing the page randomly refreshing today. Chrome on iPhone.

      Thanks for trying to fix it!

    24. Throwaway Account*

      I’ve been trying to “break” the page all day. I’m not having any of the issues I typically have. I’m on a PC in Chrome.

    25. TraceyRoberts*

      I clicked on an ad and it sent me to an entirely different page. Not sure if this is what you’re looking out for or not.

    26. But Not the Hippopotamus*

      I’m having an issue where if I post a comment, after I submit it, the site expands-all (I read in collapse all). Not sure if it’s related.

    27. MarioLuigi*

      Have not experienced it in 30 or so posts viewed today or yesterday (yes I need more to do at my job.)

    28. Malarkey01*

      Just happened while trying to read the comments to this question. On an iPad, scrolling down and the whole page reloaded and jumped.

    29. TGIF*

      I used to have this happen about once per week. Can confirm I have not seen it in 1-2 weeks. Happy Weekend!!

    30. Lady Wendlebury*

      It’s worse than ever. Page keeps jumping, and there is an big delay between my typing and the words appearing. It’s taken me two attempts to post a comment.
      I’m on an iPad in chrome.

    31. Rach*

      I’ve had the jumping issue over the past couple days, but only on my ipad- the site works much better on my laptop. I’ve also had issues where I reply and I don’t see it posted, but if I copy/paste my comment, it tells me it’s a duplicate comment (it seems to take a few hours for my reply to become visible). Most frustrating though is when I’m writing a response and go to another tab in my browser to fact check or look something up, if I come back to the AAM tab the page has jumped and what I’ve written has been erased, so I have to start over.

  2. DisneyChannelThis*

    Workplace decor thread – Do you have Halloween decorations up ? Will you put up any Thanksgiving or winter holiday ones?

    Most people here don’t decorate but our Admin always decorates her desk for all sorts of holidays. I’ve currently got a couple friendly ghosts that say spooky on my desk.

    1. HailRobonia*

      My mom used to take Halloween off from work and then joke the next day that she should be paid because she came to work but was dressed as The Invisible Woman.

    2. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      Not in the office. I’m not important enough to have a desk, but I do have a pumpkin on my dining room table

    3. Generic Name*

      I don’t have any decorations up at my desk, but several groups/departments on my floor have decorations up in the common areas/”cube hallways”. I think it’s super fun, and I enjoy looking at it, but I honestly don’t want to devote the energy to doing decorations at work. I also don’t have any plants or anything in the office. I do all my caregiving (children, pets, plants) at home, so when I come to work, I like to just worry about me/my job. :) I will “dress up” for Halloween, in that I will be wearing black with some spooky earrings.

    4. Sleepy in the stacks*

      As a library, we try to avoid putting up specific holiday displays, but all of our fall decor is up.

      The children’s room will do some Halloween decor for the day of because, well, kids love Halloween. And a lot of our staff dress up. At my desk, I do have a bat garland, and some cute ghosties up since Halloween is my favorite holiday :)

      1. not nice, don't care*

        It’s always interesting to see how many cultural differences there are between libraries. “As a library…” can have so many meanings.

      2. ConstantlyComic*

        My library also technically doesn’t have Halloween decor up, but we do have a glass case with a little display about our haunted house escape room program this month, which features a lot of Halloween decorations, as well as one for a Santa’s Workshop escape room we’ll be doing in December. We’ve also got a monthly scavenger hunt where kids try to find little animal cutouts around the library, and this month is bats, so we’ve got those :)

        I and several of my coworkers are going to be dressing up on Halloween proper (our library is a stop on the annual downtown candy crawl), but I haven’t done anything to my desk because quite honestly it’s such a mess that it’s already terrifying.

      3. Dark Macadamia*

        My local library has a Dia de Muertos display right now where people can add photos. There are a lot of personal ones but also Black Panther, Golden Girls, and Tina Turner.

      4. Autumn*

        My library has some Halloween stuff centered around the children’s ref desk, and a super fun I Spy set up in a fishtank – spooky house, ghosts and cats and pumpkins etc. to spot and count. I was listening to a very excited little boy and his mother find all the things yesterday and it was soul-restoring.

    5. londonedit*

      You’ll see Halloween decorations in shops and cafes here, but not really in offices. It’s only a fairly recent import (the last 25-30 years, maybe) and it’s seen as more of a children’s thing. You only put a pumpkin in your window at home if you’re happy for the local kids to come trick-or-treating (generally that’s small groups of young kids who go around with their parents). So no, I’ve never seen any Halloween decorations in any office I’ve worked in. We don’t have Thanksgiving, but people definitely do decorate for Christmas – we’ll have a big Christmas tree in the main reception area at work, and each department will put up its own Christmas decorations like tinsel and lights. Not until at least the start of December, though.

      1. DannyG*

        My department at one hospital had an anteroom at the entrance. Besides a fish tank and a few chairs we kept a small, artificial Christmas tree, rotating the decorations for each holiday. Halloween was orange and purple lights, pumpkin ornaments, etc. The favorite was the decor for Valentines Day. Let’s just say that it had an infectious Disease theme.

      2. ForcedToCelebrate*

        You might consider pointing out to the powers that be in your office that there are likely people in the office who don’t celebrate Christmas and don’t find that level of inundation particularly welcoming.

        1. Beth**

          I’m fairly sure that poster lives in the UK like me. There is a massive resistance here to the idea that not everyone celebrates Christmas. Many people will swear up and down that it is not a religious thing.

          My employer has an official carol service *in a church* and I have had colleagues try to convince me that even that is somehow “not religious”.

          On the upside, we also have work sanctioned celebrations of Diwali, Sukkot (complete with a sukkah), etc.

          We are having some games on Tuesday to celebrate Halloween. Unfortunately (?) I am working from home that day so have an ironclad excuse to skip that one.

    6. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      Yes! I don’t decorate for any other holidays, but my cube has some open shelving which I don’t need, so I put a little Halloween display there. My decor is all cheerful and cartoony, nothing with snakes or spiders or bones or anything that might be upsetting. Unless you find a fake pumpkin with a goofy smile or a cat silhouette upsetting.

    7. debbietrash*

      My office is hosting a pumpkin carving/decorating contest for the larger department that we support (made up of a number of labs). There isn’t a lot of decorations in my office, but other offices do like to decorate for holidays, or just in general. We also hold/host a winter holiday event, which is usually a tree decorating contest (not the most PC in terms of holiday diversity/neutrality).

      These are mostly social events to have all the offices gather, comingle, and have a little boost to their day and morale.

      1. Not my real name*

        We are too. It’s become cutthroat, with (food type)bribes involved for votes, which is hilarious because the prize is, well nothing. Just bragging rights, not even a trophy.

    8. ThatGirl*

      I have a painted ceramic Jack o lantern on my desk right now holding candy. I will put a few Christmas decorations up – I have a small tree with fairy lights. There’s a moderate amount of Halloween stuff up now around the building.

    9. Donkey Hotey*

      The only person in our office who decorates regularly is the one poor soul whose cube also includes this huge floor to ceiling beam in the middle. She decorates it in all sorts of ways.

    10. 2023 is Meh*

      I have a few decorations up, nothing major. I love Hween. Won’t decorate for the other two holidays though.

    11. Performative gumption*

      We don’t decorate for hallowe’en (UK office so not as big here).
      However office is always decorated for Christmas and we have competitions for best decorated department and our leadership team will do a mulled wine trolley one day, usual Christmas jumper day etc…
      Great fun

    12. EmKay*

      Halloween is My Thing, so I’ve decorated my personal office and the shared areas (with my manager’s permission). I exercised a LOT of restraint because I’m only in my 4th week at this job, but next year I will go all out :)

      We’ve already had our Thanksgiving (eh), but I didn’t put any decorations up for that.

    13. Irish Teacher.*

      Our school is very much decorated for Halloween and today, being our last day before the mid-term break, we had a dress up day. Most of the students did not dress up, by the way. About half the staff or slightly less did.

      Monday is also a Bank Holiday here.

    14. LCH*

      in a university library. some people have individual decor, but mainly various depts are having a halloween event where we invite other depts to come visit us (similar to trick or treat, but with work-related games).

    15. Csethiro Ceredin*

      I have one of those desks with the big curved front and lots of empty space, so I have a tray of shells and sea glass I pick up on lunchtime walks on it. I add a few glittery spiders and a little stuffed pumpkin man and stuffed ghost for Halloween.

      At home I have a Halloween wreath on my door and put out some decorative gourds and things. I live in a condo and sadly don’t get trick-or-treaters.

    16. Leia Oregano*

      I usually put up a couple small decorations in my office for Halloween because it’s my favorite holiday, but haven’t had time this year because an event I oversee is the weekend after Halloween and I’ve been too busy at work to care. I don’t decorate for any other holidays other than putting a stocking on my doorknob for Christmas (an office tradition.) I’d say at least half of my coworkers decorate for seasons/holidays in at least some small way.

      I AM coming to work in costume on Halloween — I always do, and we’re having a costume contest this year! I’m going to be a fairy :)

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Husband’s gone all out with a Creature From the Black Lagoon rig–mask, hands and feet claws/fins, tropical shirt and shorts, sunglasses, and a CFTBL tee shirt with SPRING BREAK 57 on it.

        He’ll look great, but there’s no way he’s lasting more than ten minutes in that rig before he melts from the heat.

    17. Can't Sit Still*

      I decorated for Halloween this year! I rarely do, but the office is holding a cube decorating contest this year and I thought it would be fun. I used lots of LED candles and draped “spooky” fabric all over. (A paperclip holder will work as a candleholder for an LED taper!) I also used it as an excuse to buy the cat and bat skeletons I’ve been coveting.

      I won’t put up any fall or winter decor, though. I prefer to ignore the federal holidays between Halloween and New Year’s Eve for a variety of reasons.

    18. Hotdog not dog*

      yes, I have a pumpkin decorated with dried flowers on my desk. It lives there from mid-September through Thanksgiving. After Thanksgiving it will be replaced by a small “holiday greenery” arrangement. (It’s a very conservative office.)

    19. HigherEd Expat*

      I’ve got some pumpkins in the office on the windowsill and on my table. I have some nice windows, but unfortunately window clings are not smiled upon in my setting.

      I’ll do a nativity set after Thanksgiving – but given my town’s context, that’s not inappropriate, and I’m not obnoxious about it. I’ll probably also do a small, prelit Winter(TM) tree but that’s mostly for my SAD.

    20. epizeugma*

      I’m remote, but we have virtual costume/decorating contests with people sharing photos and small prizes for whoever gets voted the winner by their peers.

      I’m not a big seasonal decorator and lean toward the goth/spooky side decor-wise, so I have some Halloween stuff in my home all year long :)

    21. JustaTech*

      We decorated our lunch room early for our Halloween party – it used to be a huge deal, all day party, now it’s a pretty sad lunch with a few spiders and cobwebs and ghosts and lights.

      We (the company) will put up a Christmas tree (it’s an excuse to have a snack break) in the lobby, but I don’t think anyone will decorate their personal spaces.
      About 5 years ago one department tried to do a “you’ve been elf-ed” thing, but that didn’t even make it through that December. Open offices with few walls and no shelves makes it pretty hard to decorate.

    22. Dark Macadamia*

      I do seasonal faux florals in my classroom throughout the year – mid September I switched from the summer poppy garland to a fall leaves one (my favorite), winter will be fir branches, spring is cherry blossoms, then back to the poppies for the last month of school.

      A lot of teachers here dress up on Halloween and a few actually do a full week of costumes leading up to the actual day! I usually give out candy or Halloween themed treats (spider rings, bubbles, etc) to students.

    23. TX_TRUCKER*

      We have a cubicle decorating contest for Halloween and Christmas. Winner gets a paid day off. So yes, there are a gazillion decorations. We have some creative staff and tend to have decorations year round, even without a contest.

    24. Lucy P*

      We don’t do Halloween or fall, or spring or summer. I’ll usually do something for Christmas/Winter, but am really trying to get out of doing it because I’m a decorating committee of 1.

    25. Sharkie*

      I have a ghost rubber duck on my monitor. I usually put up a small string of christmas lights around my cube for christmas.

    26. Speak*

      I don’t typically decorate for anything but winter holidays. Where I work we deal with aluminum parts, so I have a 1ft Festivus pole that was scrap from a job a few years ago. I also have a stuffed Dilbert with a holiday tie on that I wrapped up in Christmas lights and he sits next to my Festivus pole on my desk. Right now we are only working in the office 1 day a week, so there isn’t much done anymore for any season. In the before times, when we worked in the office all the time, there were several people decorating including managers who decorated the doors to their offices for multiple seasons.

    27. M2RB*

      I will not decorate my office for Halloween/other winter holidays, mostly because I’m lazy AND we have a very small office. For Halloween, I’m likely to wear a headband that has bats and feathers on it, and I’ll probably wear all black with bright red lipstick. One year at my last job, during the WFH time, for the Christmas video call I stuck a bunch of gift bows onto a headband and wore that for a fun headband. My spouse still has that photo set as my contact photo!

    28. Momma Bear*

      We don’t really, but I will often put out a decorative bowl and candy in October. And maybe a spider or two. My old office went all out.

    29. goddessoftransitory*

      Husband decorates every year! For a couple years there he built a Blasted Oak out of construction paper and wire hangers but he’s dialed it back a bit. Still lots of orange lights and cobwebs everywhere, though.

      At work it’s tons of bat cutouts that I put up around the room, some black netting over the lights, a cut out tree (that I actually scissored free of its paper confines) with all our names in pumpkins hanging in the branches, and the room’s teeny tiny ghost wearing his seasonal hat!

    30. Louise Sacco*

      A municipal office in my town had Halloween decorations up including a sign on the door with pictures of candy and the slogan “death by candy.” I asked the administrator if she thought dead children was an amusing or appropriate Halloween greeting. The sign was down by the end of the day.

  3. Goose*

    Being vague, but ifykyk.
    Everyone in my field is dealing with collective trauma that’s affecting their work and personal lives. What I’m looking for is advice from those who were on the frontlines of COVID or similar situations on “sharing the not-okay baton”. How do you support your coworkers and professional community while managing your own mental and physical health?

    1. Keylime*

      Most recently we had a reflective practice facilitator over a 12 month period that was helpful. This was organised by our employer as they recognised what we had been through. Although its intention was to review specific cases and opportunities for learning etc. it was actually a great – and safe – space for colleagues to share what they were going through/had been through and work through everything that went with that. It was almost like group therapy but centered on processing current/past work-related traumas and building coping systems and mechanisms for the future.

      1. Goose*

        I love that–it seems like most meetings devolve into group therapy sessions recently, and a facilitator might be helpful for all of this.

      2. Raisineye*

        We have Tea for the Soul at my hospital. It is usually run by the spiritual group (not sure what to call them, they all are chaplains I think, but well versed in multiple religions to help all families/patients). They come to a unit that has been particularly hard hit.
        The other program that is pretty new is code Lilac team. It’s a silent code that anyone who is feeling overwhelmed can call on themselves or ask manager to call. The team will respond within 15 min or so and help the caregiver process and hook them up with further care as needed.

      3. epizeugma*

        Is it your sense that it was helpful due to the long period of engagement, the skill of the facilitator, the perception that your employer was willing to make genuine permanent changes to support employees, or something else? Was it mandatory for employees or optional?

        Asking because I was a frontline health care worker for most of the height of the pandemic and my employer tried a few times to have semi-mandatory “resiliency workshops” and talk about self-care etc, but I had a really negative reaction to these efforts and felt they rang hollow. I wonder if a longer-term program would have felt more helpful, or if the main barrier to helpfulness was the lack of material support (eg workshops were offered on unpaid lunch breaks, taking PTO for mental health days was unofficially frowned upon, etc).

        1. Keylime*

          Probably all of the above to be honest. We highlighted we needed somewhere to put our stuff, and the facilitator is a super senior external in our field, so they know exactly what we’ve been through and where we would be trying to work things out. Attendance isn’t mandatory as such – but no one has ever declined to engage.

    2. Juneybug*

      Anytime my co-workers were going through tough times, I would randomly leave a gift on their desk – small plant, chocolate bar, herbal tea, etc.
      It made me feel better to bring joy to another person, even if it was a small gesture.
      Hang in there!

    3. Me...Just Me*

      It’s terrible and I sympathize (healthcare worker here). I was just thinking about this, this morning (as I lay in bed trying to motivate myself to get up for work). We’re (ifykyk group) all feeling it and I don’t know what to do. I had thought it was just that I’m getting older — but, I honestly just feel like COVID pushed us over the edge. Too much death. Not just patients and their families, but our own, too. So, there was no escaping it. And, then to be confronted with those who seemed to be enjoying the pandemic (taking up hobbies with all their newly acquired at home free time and expanded unemployment benefits) while we trooped out every day to deal with death — I don’t know. Surreal. (and there’s no judgement stated or implied with people making the most of their own situation – just that it was so, so different than the daily death I and my coworkers were encountering). Everyone else seems to have moved on and almost benefited, (what with the WFH opportunities) and we’re all still going in, having not had a moment off from that experience.

      1. Socks*

        I’m no stranger either to that sense of dissonance caused by a) the difference between people’s experience of the pandemic, and b) the fact that for some reason I hear more often from the “took up new hobbies” people. (Or the “lockdown was the hardest thing about the pandemic” people.) Am I imaging that those voices are most showcased in the media?
        It’s demoralising, isolating. You think, “how can you be so insensitive as to forget you got off so easy in this?”

        1. Me... Just Me (as always)*

          You’re not wrong. People have largely forgotten about the death part. You know, people literally dying in front of you at work and at home for some of us, not to mention the real fear of death through the constant exposure to covid. All the while delivering care to your regular “could die” patients with other healthcare issues. Insensitive doesn’t begin to describe it. Oblivious is a better descriptor, probably.

    4. A Little Bit Alexis*

      Not a healthcare worker, but humanitarian intervention and aid/geopolitics-related field so certain world events deeply impact us in acutely personal and professional ways for a long time. (The US withdrawal of AFG being one example.) Because of the nature of the industry, you’re almost always operating in war-zones or post-conflict zones and circumstances that induce shared, collective trauma are common.

      I found a mixture of a couple different things tended to help:

      1) create a local support group. Sounds obvious, but in my subfield (which also tends to be male-dominated), one does not necessarily want to be perceived as vulnerable so I hesitated to find colleagues to share my feelings with for far longer than I should have. But eventually, with a few very close, trusted colleagues who were also friends, I was able to build a bit a group/pod that we could be more vulnerable with and share more of the gnarly emotions/reactions. By having 2-4 other folks in an ‘inner circle’ like this, we could take turns on having especially bad days to bolster one another up. In practical terms, sometimes this meant taking on more of the workload that day for whichever person of the group was struggling more that day, or shielding that same person from day-to-day work tasks that were particularly odious (i.e. communicating with a challenging stakeholder,), etc etc. In emotional terms, this granted some leeway to let us just be more ‘not okay’ some days than others in ways that still let us accomplish our jobs.
      2) I had/have a fantastic, trustworthy supervisor who cared about us as people, not just professionals. One of my ‘inner circle’ friends advised me to talk to my supervisor about just needing to take a personal day once in awhile– because no amount of support can replace the benefit of just stepping away from it all for a little. I was honest with my supervisor about where I was at, and that while I did not need them to do anything/change anything necessarily, that I was struggling and may just need to ad hoc, take a personal day every now and then with little notice. The flexibility and freedom to be able to do that, and go home and garden or whatever to give me a mental break when things just became too much some days was/is invaluable. I think it contributes significantly to my longer-term endurance, which in turn helps me to support my colleagues.
      3) I also found a therapist that specialized with people working high stress, high trauma jobs, where the inherent factors of the job causing the stress are/will be unchanged due to the nature of the field. That therapist was a true game changer to how I approach stress management, helping me find and practice different techniques in a blend that works for me to help keep me functioning and effective in this field (as much as I can).

      I realize not everyone has situations or circumstances that allow for these, but ultimately finding the things to help take care of the self can also in turn help your colleagues and community by making you a more resilient coworker/friend.

    5. Frontline-adjacent worker*

      We tried a few things internally but realised we were just passing trauma back and forth to each other. We found supporting people to access external supports/bringing in external facilitators was the only way to avoid this, and even then it didn’t help everyone – sometimes people just needed to move on and surround themselves with new people that they hadn’t trauma-bonded with.

  4. beezus*

    I ended up leaving my job I only had May-Sept last year because it impacted my mental health so bad despite (valid) feedback from the commentariat to stick it out at least 6 months or more. It was a newly created role and just developed into something I didn’t want to do but also the culture was so dysfunctional and toxic. I took time off and then started applying again in May of this year and the hiring/job posting for my niche HR/Payroll role just was so odd (recruiters, hiring managers, and people I know in the industry agreed), but I recently landed a great temp job that they’ve asked me to apply for the permanent role after only two weeks (!) and even if they don’t pick me for it, the apperceive feedback I’ve gotten from the staff has made me feel very validated that I am good at my job still!

    1. Cookie Monster*

      That’s great! Good for you for prioritizing your mental health. I hope everything turns out well!

    2. Generic Name*

      That’s awesome! I recently left a job, that in retrospect, was pretty toxic. I’m getting all kinds of praise, where at my last job, I was given all kinds of critical feedback (in the guise of “helping me grow”), and the culture was very bro-y and heavy on “joking around”. The validation of doing well at a normal workplace after the mindwarp of a messed up workplace is almost indescribable. Congrats on escaping!

    3. Anonymous was already taken*

      That is so great! I have been in a toxic work environment trying to leave for about 3 years now, I can’t leave without a job due to financial commitments, I have a couple of jobs I had interviews for recently and a couple more I’ve recently applied for that don’t close until next week, but a few things have happened at work recently that have just hit the switch for me, where I was on the fence and thinking maybe it’s me (this is what happens, you start to turn on yourself), these latest things have really strengthened my resolve to leave. It’s like my workplace’s entire values have changed and I can no longer support it.
      So hearing your story gives me hope! I recently read on LinkedIn the long term effects of working in a toxic environment that you can carry to the next job and one of those is the lack of belief in yourself, the feeling that everything you do is not good enough and someone will find fault with it, and I definitely have to work through those feelings for myself.

  5. Echo*

    I’m 95% sure I did the right thing here and there’s nothing else I can appropriately do, but I am curious to hear other AAM readers’ take on a situation I have now encountered a couple times. I have a direct report who is currently not feeling well and seems to have cold-like symptoms. I had talked to her in person the day before she started experiencing symptoms.

    It would be a huge overreach to ask her if she took a covid test and what the result was, right?

    1. WantonSeedStitch*

      Yes it would, but you can be very firm about the fact that you do not want her to come into the office if she has cold-like symptoms, and make it easy for her to work from home instead or take sick time without negative consequences. And set a positive example by following the same guidelines.

      1. Echo*

        Oh yeah, we’re a hybrid workplace and this is very much the norm. She didn’t come in to the office with symptoms.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          It seems to me that it would be an overreach given that there is no need for her to come into the office and that she is sensibly staying home. Were it a job that has to be done in person, or that the C-suite had persuaded itself has to be done in person, then whether or not this person has a potentially fatal communicable disease is not the private matter it would otherwise be.

          1. Echo*

            She was in the office with me the day BEFORE she experienced symptoms and we had a face-to-face conversation.

            1. Calamity Jack-O-Lantern*

              Did she interact with anyone else? Unless it was just the two of you alone in the office, seems to me like you have standing to ask her to test.

      2. Fungible token*

        At my office, we ask folks to take a test. I don’t think it’s an overreach at all- it’s the world. I also do not work in HR.

    2. DottedZebra*

      Yes, overreach. But you can just act as if she does have Covid and test yourself, stay home and mask when you have to go out.

    3. Squish*

      No. Considering what the world went through, it would not be an overreach. You’re not asking her to do book a pap smear and share the results on a company wide zoom meeting. There is reasonable risk to your health and that of others. I would ask if it was covid because she may have exposed me and others to a disease that is known to be infectious.

    4. WantonSeedStitch*

      Yes, it would. But you can be very firm about the fact that you don’t want her to come into the office if she has cold-like symptoms, and make it easy for her to either work from home or take sick time. And then follow the same example. You can also mask while in the office to minimize your own exposure to germs.

    5. TCO*

      You know, I think you have standing to ask not because she’s your employee, but because you had in-person contact the day before. It might depend on your company culture, but I think in many settings now we just expect that people will share this specific medical information with those who might have been exposed.

      A gentle way to phrase it could be, “I wouldn’t normally ask for more information about your illness, but since we were together in person this week, if you discover that you have covid I’d appreciate hearing that so I can monitor my own health.” That’s not directly asking her if she’s tested, but I bet most folks would respond to this by telling you if they’ve tested or if they’re confident it’s something else (allergies, etc.).

      1. kalli*

        Then again, people who are testing unprompted are generally also aware of how close contacts work and will share if necessary because of that expectation.

        All other things being reasonable, you can assume if it’s COVID someone will say, and if it’s not coming up on a test, they’ll say it’s a cold or generic not-well-ness. You don’t need to remind people that cold symptoms could be COVID or ask everyone with a cough or runny nose to let you know if they test positive – especially while the number of minor or non-symptomatic presentations increased with vaccination, limiting the effectiveness of tests which require symptoms in order for the virus to be present in high enough levels in discharge to register. Additionally, there are more pathways, resources and treatment avenues now than there were early on, there are people vaccinated, there is an awareness of ventilation and hygiene… in many places you can expect to manage your own symptoms and access help if you need it without needing to find out ASAP and get registered and contact traced and wait in line.

        1. kt*

          But many people are not testing unprompted. I got COVID recently and had no idea — it was sinus problems first — and I tested only because I was asked to participate in an activity in a small enclosed space. I wouldn’t have tested otherwise.

          Because the poster had contact in person, I think it’s fair to ask, not as a manager but as a person who shared air.

    6. Sally Rhubarb*

      Do you have an HR to help you navigate this? My HR keeps COVID tests on hand & I know people have used them but I don’t know if the people who have gotten tested opted in or were told they had to test.

    7. Anecdata*

      Yes, sorry but you can’t ask. She could share proactively if she wanted to, but you really can’t ask.

    8. peanut butter*

      yes, it’s inappropriate. also it’s not relevant. she could be coming down with the flu, which can be deadly. in either case transmission is not 100% guaranteed. if you are particularly worried about covid then you have to act as if anyone, even symptomless people, may have it at any given moment.

      1. kt*

        Disagree. My spouse is a healthcare worker who needs to stay out a different amount of time for covid than the flu, so when I started experiencing symptoms very recently, it was important for our home management for me to know how to manage myself.

        It feels like you’re making a probabilities mistake (I am in math/stats so I’m of course coming from a certain point of view). The priors for talking with a person with visible symptoms the day before they start those symptoms are still different from the priors for talking with a person who shows no symptoms days after the conversation.

    9. ?*

      Don’t ask. Even if she did test and was negative, I’ve known many people who had to test 3 or 4 times before it was finally positive. If you’re concerned you were exposed to covid, you should test periodically over the next few days regardless of what your employee tells you.

    10. amoeba*

      Eh, I’d say it depends a lot on your office culture and your rapport with your employee. If you’re friendly and don’t have any open disagreement about COVID, I honestly don’t see a lot of harm in asking, although I wouldn’t phrase it as a request. But we generally talk quite openly about things like that, anyway, so ymmv.

    11. RagingADHD*

      There just isn’t any point. She can WFH, so she wouldn’t bother going to get a PCR unless she had cause for special concern. In which case she’d likely disclose it to you anyway.

      And the reliability of home tests really depends on when you take them and user error. She could have tested too soon and not bothered to retest since she was staying home anyway. All kinds of things. And everything that used to go around before Covid is still going around this time of year.

      Just manage your own risk yourself.

    12. cabbagepants*

      It would be an overreach and also pointless because 1) she could just lie; 2) the tests aren’t completely accurate; 3) there are many serious communicable diseases out there and obsessing about one while ignoring the others would be misguided.

      Furthermore, it shows distrust. You don’t trust her to evaluate whether she’s too sick to work. Trust me, she knows COVID tests exist.

      Better would be implement clear policies for your whole team about when to stay home sick and make it consequence free for them to do so.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        I didn’t take it as a lack of trust at all. I assumed it would be meant as a case of “do you know if you have covid as I was speaking to you before you started experiencing symptoms so I was wondering if I ought to test?”

        From what Echo said, it sounds like the coworker did stay home once they started experiencing symptoms so there is no suggestion they did anything wrong here.

        I’m not sure how much use asking her would be, because honestly, we’re all probably exposed fairly regularly anyway. Certainly working in a school, I have to assume that I am regularly in contact with people who test positive in the days after I’ve been working with them or teaching them. Plus, even if she doesn’t have covid, she could still have something else contagious.

        But I didn’t think Echo was suggesting she might have come into the office after she began feeling ill or that she didn’t know to test. I took it more as a “can I ask if it’s covid so I know what symptoms I should be keeping an eye out for?”

    13. JSPA*

      You can ask if she’d like you to send her a covid test as a gift, in case she’d like to check, and is feeling too crappy to deal with finding one and getting it delivered. And you can order one for yourself, and act as if you’d been exposed.

      Two reasons:

      1. because other respiratory things can also be a misery, and you don’t want to spread those, either…

      2. because viral load often isn’t high enough until 4 or 5 days after exposure to pop a positive on a Covid test.

    14. But Not the Hippopotamus*

      I think it’s an overreach, but not a huge one if it’s like: hey, if you decide to test for COVID and it comes back positive, I’d appreciate a heads up. I.e with very soft language around it.

      I don’t have any COVID tests left and I’m not going to go out to get any if I get sick, so anything that would make someone feel like they HAVE to would be a problem at this point.

    15. Rex Libris*


      If an employee calls in sick, an employer may ask whether the employee has COVID-19 or common symptoms of COVID-19 as identified by CDC.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Not really relevant, since Echo already knows the employee has symptoms. And there are myriad reasons why the employee might not actually be able to give an accurate answer to “do you have covid?”

        1. Rex Libris*

          The excerpt says you may ask whether the employee has Covid, as well as asking about symptoms. The EEOC FAQ on Covid goes on to say:

          “Employers also may ask if these employees have been tested for COVID-19 (and if so, ask about the result). An employer may exclude those with COVID-19, or symptoms associated with COVID-19, from the workplace if consistent with CDC-recommended isolation protocols.”

          All of which adds up (to me, at least) that it’s not an overreach to ask whether they took a test, and whether they have Covid.

          1. RagingADHD*

            OP appeared to be asking a social / managerial relationship question, not a legal one. There is nuance in relationships beyond what is legally permitted, and for a manager to cross examine an employee with the sniffles (who, by the way, is working from home and not bringing sniffles into the office) is going to make that relationship more tense because it carries implications of guilt and blame. (See the commenter upthread who still associates cold symptoms with “stupid choices”). There’s baggage here.

            And since you can be contagious *two or three days* before showing symptoms, it would be ridiculous for OP to track every single person they speak to in case they sneeze three days later. Here’s a real mind-blower for you. In some cases, an average head cold can make you contagious for two weeks before you show symptoms! So this one-day timeframe has no real connection.

            This particular time, OP noticed the proximity and it pinged their anxiety (understandably). But this employee presents no more risk than all the others that they didn’t notice because the symptoms didn’t appear for a couple more days. There is no business related reason why OP needs to know, and they can manage their personal risk perfectly well without knowing.

    16. Temperance*

      Nope. I am going against everyone else here. I would want to know about potential exposure, and pre-symptom exposure is still exposure.

      1. I Have RBF*


        It’s perfectly reasonable for anyone, manager or not, to ask a sick person who they were talking to the previous day, without a mask, if they have tested for Covid. You have a right to find out if you were exposed to a contagious, potentially deadly, disease.

        Medical privacy is valid for stuff that literally does NOT involve you being potentially infected. But strep, pinkeye, and Covid are contagious. People don’t get to go around playing Typhoid Mary then hiding behind medical privacy.

        1. Cat Lover*

          Genuine question- why just ask for a Covid test then? Why not ask everyone you come in contact with that sneezes for a full panel of flu, strep, Covid, etc tests?

          1. Rex Libris*

            Because Covid is far more contagious. It’s also highly unlikely that someone coming to work with strep is going to have half a department out on sick leave within a day or two, which can happen with Covid. It’s a productivity issue, as much as a health one, from a management viewpoint, IMO.

            1. Annabelle*

              Flu, norovirus, common cold, rotavirus, tuberculosis, pneumonia, MRSA, bubonic plague, lice, etc are also all very contagious. And can be just as dangerous to the right person (god help any immunocompromised person who catches norovirus).

          2. kt*

            Well, honestly, you can ask!

            But strep has a fairly specific set of symptoms and no home test. Flu doesn’t have a home test. Covid has an at-home test that takes 15 min and that you can still get for free in some areas, which many people have on hand at home.

            The coworker can say no.

            The parameters for managing covid are still a little different than the parameters for strep and flu. Sometimes it’s worth knowing!

        2. RagingADHD*

          So when employee says, “Nope, I didn’t test. I’m just going to stay home till I”m well.”

          What’s step 2? Get the company to enact a policy requiring Covid tests for people who WFH? By the time that happens, OP will already know whether they have it or not.

          1. I Have RBF*

            That would be acceptable.

            BTW, it is perfectly reasonable to require that people stay home if they are contagious. The fact that, in the US, this is not standard across all industries has infuriated me for years. I lost count of how often I got sick because a coworker came to work contagious. I now work remotely, and my health has never been better. Funny that.

    17. Managing Upwards*

      My manager had symptoms the day after our team in-office day, so he tested and tested positive. I came down with symptoms 2 days later. I passive-aggressively asked him to remind everyone not come in if they are ill.

    18. linger*

      You could reasonably ask her if, given her symptoms, she thinks YOU may need to take a Covid test. That should avoid the potential overreach of making assumptions about/for her.

    19. Have to ask*

      As someone who is very high risk, I have protocols that change if I’ve been exposed to someone who has symptoms and different protocols if I’ve been exposed to someone who is positive. Those protocols depend on knowing not just whether someone tested positive but when they test negative. If people aren’t allowed to ask then you’re consigning some people to permanent isolation.

      I am incredibly disturbed by the number of people who’ve said you can’t ask. If i can’t ask I can’t be near people.

  6. Squish*

    I had to fire someone who was on a company sponsored work visa (I am not in the US). Due to crappy immigration policies it’s difficult to find another employer who will hire her and transfer the visa. I have job applicants in a similar situation who have been contacting me for months pleading for work.

    I tried hard to keep her employed but she was one of the worst performers we’ve ever hired. She was not even meeting half her sales target and was frequently on her phone during work hours. Despite constant warnings and coaching sessions and being told she would be fired if she did not improve – she did not improve.

    I know firing her is the right call but I still feel horrible about it, especially given her visa issues. Any advice or perspective would be appreciated.

    1. Tio*

      You can’t be more invested in her job than she was. Sounds like you gave her chances and were very clear about the consequences. Sometimes people are just going to fail

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        This is the flip side to the advice that you can’t be more invested in the job than your boss is.

      2. Quinalla*

        Yup, I understand feeling bad and I think it is actually a good sign you have human feelings that you feel a little bad even in a very justified and warned about firing, but yeah you can’t be more invested in someone’s job than they are. I have also had to find this out the hard way when I was explaining to my boss how I was disappointed in myself when someone was let go, but he told me I did everything I could and actually probably went beyond what I should have (ie caring more than he did).

      3. goddessoftransitory*

        And you especially can’t be more invested in her visa issues than she is. As crappy as the consequences are, she is an adult and presumably aware of them.

    2. WantonSeedStitch*

      Honestly, it sounds like part of the performance problem wasn’t just a case of “she’s in the wrong role/wrong field,” but “she’s distracted or ignoring work by using her phone during work hours.” So on the plus side, maybe this will be the wakeup call she needs to start taking work more seriously and will help her to have a successful career in the future.

    3. Trotwood*

      It sounds like you took seriously the effect that losing this job would have on her life, you did your best to coach her and let her know the kind of improvement you needed to see, and yet she still wasn’t putting in the level of effort needed to get her performance up to standard. You can’t be more invested in her career success than she was.

    4. StressedButOkay*

      I don’t think there was anything else you could have done. She had warnings and coaching – the circumstances of the visa issues are, ultimately, outside of her performance. She was the one who really should have been keeping that in mind regarding her performance (“I’ve been warned I could be fired because of X, Y, Z and if I get fired, it’ll impact my work visa, therefore…”)

      It’s very human to feel bad but it sounds like you did everything you could as a manager.

    5. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      You didn’t loser her job, she lost her job. Place the ownership of behavior on the person exhibiting the behavior.

      1. Momma Bear*

        Agreed. You did what you could but in the end she didn’t care enough to maintain her job and visa and there are others clamoring for that opportunity.

    6. Observer*

      I know firing her is the right call but I still feel horrible about it, especially given her visa issues.

      It’s good you feel bad, because no one should enjoy firing people. Not so good that you feel horrible, because it’s not healthy to beat yourself up over stuff that you did not do wrong – and that you in fact did right..

      This is not just a good employee who was a bad fit. This is a bad employee*. You acted in good faith, and tried to help her as much as you can. But she made some choices and you simply cannot do anything about it. Do yourself, your other employees, and your prospective employees a favor and look towards a replacement who will hopefully be better at the job.

      *No judgement on her as a person.

    7. Ama*

      It sounds like you did everything you could, but it is also very normal to feel bad about firing someone! I think that’s something we don’t prepare managers for, that even when you do the right thing it can sometimes feel really crappy.

    8. JSPA*

      If she were trying hard, and just improving very slowly, you’d want to cut her some extra slack. If the only reason she was on the phone was that she didn’t understand directions, and was trying to muster help in understanding the directions to do her job…or if it was all remote medical or psych support stuff…you might also try to divert her into some sort of medical status (or at least let her know what support and options exist).

      But if she was talking on her phone because she was unclear on the concept of working while at work…uh…that’s an unforced error.

      Even if she’s from a different time zone, and (say) she only has one hour when she can call her kid, or her sick mom, or her siblings–that should be the hour when she takes her break.

      “You need to pay me to talk with my friends all day” just isn’t a reasonable expectation, regardless of where she’s from.

    9. Pht*

      I’m kinda going through something similar. Their phone usage isn’t abnormal for our office, but I do wonder what they do all day based upon their work product. Maybe “professional development” readings?

      Their improvement is going from 5% to 35% of their peers in three months. Sure there were improvements, but nothing to suggest they would ever get close to even 50% as they don’t seem to have the communication and problem solving skills needed to turn in a good enough product without a lot of kick back. I feel like they are still performing worse than their peers did on their first days. It’s been a struggle as they need a lot of hand holding and can’t do a lot of tasks that are expected. At least they no longer think they are a superstar.

      Never mind the slow speed. They have a lot going on in their life, but holding a job means being accountable at some level. I think my person is not use to being held accountable for their numbers and is use to someone coming in to save or covering for them.

      They are moving in January and that’s when the project ends. That’s the only reason they haven’t been fired. They won’t be extended, so I trying to survive these two months. It has been difficult in finding tasks that they wouldn’t muck up.

        1. Pht*

          Not really, even though I wanted to as early as their first month because of the amount of time I spent on coaching on basic office tasks like how to open file explorer or rename a file.

          The gist of it is that the work got extended for a couple months, so 35% from this person is considered a bonus in the eyes of upper management. The last two pools have been very weak and it would be likely that we wouldn’t have anyone at all.

          This is an ongoing project, but the temp positions were created to reduce the backlog that grew because the department was understaffed for decades. I’m their supervisor and others haven’t directly been affected yet. Except in that my capacity has been limited because of their demands on my time due to the additional hand holding and review.

          There’s more to it, though a couple months have an end in sight and is seen as a temporary situation to weather rather than something long-term. They are making improvements and trying; they just don’t have the skills and would need a lot more effort and coaching that should be expected for their level.

          1. Polly Hedron*

            But it’s not really 35%: if you subtract the time you are spending on supervision, this employee’s net contribution is negative.
            If upper management doesn’t see this, I recommend that you
            – assign make-work projects that need little supervision
            – let the clock run out

    10. SB*

      I used to hire nurses on 482 Visas & most were sensational nurses. There were of course a VERY small number who were not good clinicians & did not improve on multiple PIPs. My predecessor would not do anything about them because she felt sorry for them & they absolutely knew that. They would use emotional blackmail to continue to underperform & in two separate cases, verbally abuse residents without consequences. I gave them one opportunity to improve their performance & they failed to do so which resulted in termination. I refuse to feel bad about it. They were given more chances than someone who was not in their position simply because they were able to manipulate a kind, soft hearted manager with a sob story while actively shirking their responsibilities. Had they been good clinicians & it been a case of having to fire them due to budget cuts I would have done everything I could to find them a new placement, but they did this to themselves.

  7. Stuckinacrazyjob*

    I’m recovering from an employee conference. How long does the hang over last for y’all? ( I don’t drink but I was around loud situations and talking to people, and speakers talking about things that they’d have to torture me to tell an auditorium of people. )

    1. WantonSeedStitch*

      Heh–I’m an extrovert and really dig conferences! I find they make me feel energized. But I totally recognize that the same stuff that jazzes me up can be really exhausting for other people. I would guess that if you are able to get more alone-time and quiet, non-sensory-overload time, you’ll recover faster.

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        I saw a lady seeming to just suck in the energy of the party but the unhinged energy of our employees is way too much!

    2. I don’t post often*

      Interestingly enough, I am now in a position where I’m expected to travel every month. No conferences- just airports, Ubers, lots of interaction, in office, dinners to connect, long days, etc.
      I am EXHAUSTED by the end of the second day. If I’m traveling for three days, it takes two days for my brain to “right” itself. :(

      I’ve noticed, in an effort to not just eat crap all the time, that I actually have gone whole trips a not eaten meat. Or very little meat. Sounds strange and it’s truly accidental on my part. But I’m wondering if I’m not getting enough food? Or nutrient dense food? Just throwing this out there. It’s something I’m watching the next time I travel.

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        Building on this: Make sure to hydrate well. Airplanes circulate and filter the air (yay), but that dries the air significantly (boo).

        No specific volume, as each body has different needs, just do a gut check if you are urinating less than usual.

      2. non-meat-eater*

        If you usually eat meat, and on these trips you are eating similar to the way you usually would (or less) just minus meat, then it is highly likely you’re not getting enough fuel for your brain and body. I’d see if you can slide some serving-size packets of nut butter into your liquids/gels bag and also keep an eye out for hummus cups in airports and convenience stores or drug stores. Increase the volume of salads/vegetables/fruit you get. Snack on nuts or roasted beans (in the expensive/organic snack section of the store).

        *I’m not a medical professional or nutritionist, but I have been a non-meat-eater for more than 10 years and have a lot of experience with what people think will sustain non-meat-eaters, and it is not enough.

    3. Boba Feta*

      this whole past week. Did three days of being “SUPER-ON” last Thurs-Fri-Sat (chaired one panel and attended several others) and I only feel like I’m back to somewhat “normal” … today. On Friday. And then just barely.

      The introverts-at-conferences struggle is real, yo.

      1. Ama*

        Yeah I am a couple weeks away from my third trip to a two day in person conference in the span of a month and each one takes more and more out of me. It’s actually why I’m looking to leave this job — for specific logistic reasons all my travel bunches up into 4-6 week periods twice a year and then I spend the next 2 weeks feeling mentally and physically crappy. I generally try to take a long weekend right afterwards but it doesn’t help that much.

        1. Boba Feta*

          Ugh – one long weekend after all of that would be…. not NEARLY enough for me to feel like I could tackle a full work week at *regular* (home office) levels, even if just once a year. I feel you on this. Best wishes on saving up some energy and on the job hunt!

      1. Is it Friday yet?*

        After any week-ish long work event that requires a ton of interaction, I have to spend at least the entire weekend alone decompressing and lots of self- care. I’ve also had to get better during the week to leave events by a certain time and try to clear my mind before bed, otherwise I’m also in a sleep deficit on top of the social overload.

    4. C.*

      If it’s a local conference, I’m usually fine once it wraps up. If there’s a lot of travel involved or if it goes later or something that would disrupt my normal routine, it probably takes me about a day or so to get back into the swing of things.

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

      Recovery time depends on how disconnected I can get after the conference. If I can be a hermit at home in my pajamas doing something completely unsocial, like gardening, for the next 24-48 hours (includes in-person interactions and virtual interactions), that usually helps me reset immediately; but if I have to go right back to normal life — work, errands, media, etc. — it could take a week to get back to normal.

    6. Attic Wife*

      It takes me about three days of serious introverting to recover. If staying home and not speaking to anyone but my dog and my partner is not an option, it will take a little longer. I wish you well!

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        If I’m working a big event, same! At least a week of trying to recover from people constantly wanting stuff from me and having a million questions.

    7. Girasol*

      It depends, for me, whether the conference required schmoozing over dinner and/or evening events. I’d like to scream whenever a manager says, “…and team building over drinks and dinner!” If I can eat alone and relax in the evening, I get more out of each day and recover faster afterward.

    8. Maggie*

      I’m usually good the next day after I get home from a conference. And I usually drink most nights! Whoopsie!

    9. Unkempt Flatware*

      I’m convinced I am still recovering from every single conference I’ve ever attended. I believe they have all compounded and has made the thought of a conference a visceral reaction where I must lie down for a week solid.

    10. Quinalla*

      For me, if it was a good conference, it’s usually a day or two to recover from the too muchness of it. If it was a bad conference on top of the too muchness, it can take even longer as then I am extra drained.

      Either way, my immediate way to start righting myself is if I drove, to just drive back in silence. Usually I’m listening to podcasts or a book, but after something like that I need the quiet to process and to reset equilibrium! If I have to fly back, I’ll try and find a quite place in the airport (sometimes doable, sometimes not) and put headphones in but usually not listen to anything. After that, I will try and keep the next day or two with more planned alone time than usual and plenty of sleep and nourishing food. I do well staying hydrated, but you often don’t have much choice on food.

    11. Cat Lady Esq.*

      Every year I have to go to a gigantic national conference in my field that often lasts Sunday night to Thursday mid-day. I am usually given Friday as a comp day to make up for Sunday and then I count on losing the entire next week to exhaustion/just catching up on email.

    12. allathian*

      After a Thursday-Friday conference I need the weekend to recover with no social engagements and lots of alone time with my husband and son out of the house as much as possible.

  8. keep calm and...*

    I need help making mental adjustments before I lose my job for poor performance.

    My husband had a terrifying car accident 4 months ago, requiring multiple surgeries and extensive rehab. My job has been more than accommodating in tolerating my spotty attendance so I can tend to his needs, but they don’t have unlimited patience. It has been made clear that I need to buckle down and get back to normal.

    My responsibilities are ramping up for the end of the year, and my role involves intense focus and attention to detail. I cannot shake this brain fog; I am emotionally exhausted from what I’ve gone through. I keep slipping up and making careless mistakes because the detail work is completely overwhelming, which means that I have to work late into the night to catch up, which makes me even more exhausted and sloppy. I just found out that I need to redo four days’ worth of work, and all I could do was lie my head on the desk and sob.

    I’m the sole breadwinner/insurance provider and I’ve exhausted my available time off, so I need tips on how to clear my head and focus. The usual “eat right, drink more water, avoid alcohol, exercise” advice is a band-aid on a bullet wound.

    1. FeelYa*

      First of all, I’m intensely sorry that you’re in this situation. I ended up losing a job a while back after not being able to get my mind back on straight, so I sympathize hard. I wish I had great advice, but the only thing that has worked for me is getting my diagnosis for ADHD and buckling down with a Psychiatrist. Beyond that, it’s all bandaids to keep me together throughout the day and the biggest one is just keeping a detailed list of everything I do throughout the day. Every request, every task, everything until I feel like I can take the training wheels off.

      I know this wasn’t helpful, but I just want you to know someone else gets it and I’m sorry.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Checklists! Pilots use them, surgeons use them, you should probably be using them too. Particularly when you’re having trouble keeping track of things, checklists are (literal) lifesavers.

    2. Keylime*

      I don’t know that’s something I can help with (or that you can force yourself to do when you’re in the trenches) so are there coping mechanisms and supports your employer could help with? An assistant, additional support from a colleague, someone double checking key parts of your work etc?

    3. Tio*

      You didn’t mention it specifically, so I’m taking a leap, but I bet you’re not sleeping well. You have to try to sleep, even if it’s chemically induced. Lack of sleep will destroy you. Forget the water and exercise.

      Do you have a coworker you’re close with or trust that you can run some things by? Any formulas you can set up to check data? Any common patterns you can see with your errors you can check for?

      1. Anax*

        Totally agreed! And sleep more than eight hours if you need it, if it’s possible. Have someone take over for a day so you can just sleep. Sleep for twelve hours. Sleep is, in no small part, how your brain processes trauma; it will help you get better faster, even if it feels ‘lazy’ to be sleeping when there’s so much to do.

        (The ‘trauma processing’ part may mean you feel MORE exhausted after one or two nights of good sleep, until you start feeling a little better. This is normal and the sleep is still good for you; it just sucks. You’re out of the short-term emergency, which means your brain and body need to start paying off the energy debt you incurred.)

        I’m not a doctor, but I was told by my psychiatrist that melatonin is particularly effective for insomnia caused by trauma/hypervigilance, and that’s been true for me; it was a lifesaver during those initial covid lockdowns. That might be worth exploring if you’re so inclined.

        When I’m in that state, I also find it helpful to write EVERYTHING down. Procedures, errors to check for, to-do lists – I find that my short-term memory goes to hell when I’m exhausted and overloaded, so rather than holding say, seven things in my head at once, I can only juggle five and have to offload the rest onto paper. It’s always jarring because I know I could normally do the whole thing in my head – but not when I’m exhausted.

        And sorry you’re dealing with this, keep calm. :( I’ve done the ‘exhausted weeping into my desk’, it’s a hell of a time.

    4. MigraineMonth*

      Are there any non-work responsibilities you can offload for a little while?

      For example, can you afford a cleaner or to have meals delivered for a few weeks? Can you accept that the house will be messy for the next X months and put your focus elsewhere? Maybe there’s a friend who would love to help who could pick up your groceries?

      Also, if I were experiencing persistent brain fog, I would make an appointment with a doctor to rule out something medical. Which might mean long COVID, or just persistent allergies.

      1. NotBatman*

        Or even work responsibilities, for that matter. Would it be possible to set your email to an autoreply that says “Due to personal circumstances, I am delayed in seeing emails at this time; for urgent requests, please call 123-456-7890” or the like?

        If not the email thing, then maybe you could ask a coworker to pick up part of a day-to-day task for you for a few weeks in exchange for doing it for them in the future. E.g. “if you’re amenable, would you be able to clean my llama combs this month while I focus on the redesign? I’ll do the same for you in January.” Same could even go for your boss, if you feel your relationship is good enough to ask to allow low priority items to slide in favor of focusing on just a few urgent tasks.

      1. Goose*

        This. A friend dealt with a similar situation where their partner was having an acute medical problem, and FMLA was a lifesaver.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        Yeah, it’s so hard to take unpaid time off when you’re the the sole breadwinner. Still, if the choice is between “take some unpaid time off with health insurance and a job to return to in the end” and “get fired and don’t get paid with no insurance and no job to return to”, I know which I’d choose.

      3. Sparkles McFadden*

        I just want to add that FMLA leave can be intermittent so you can take a day or two when needed. This is ideal when caring for a family member when you need time here and there for doctor’s appointments, or if the person you’re caring for is having a particularly bad day.

        If you have an Employee Assistance Program check in with them. I was surprised at what a great resource they were. I wasn’t even sure of what I was asking for when I called. I was essentially calling to say “I am no longer thinking straight and I’m out of ideas.” They were the ones who explained how I could use FMLA most effectively and they did the initial paperwork. I just had to provide specific medical information.

    5. an IVF mom*

      Maybe you can have a chat with your doctor and see if there are any focus meds that would be helpful for you for this time through the end of the year? Also, of course the basics like as much quality sleep as you can and then I would try to do your detail/focus work at your absolute best time of day and use your caffeine/meds strategically for this block of time. (For me, this is always morning, and I am at my best if i can get a little movement in beforehand, even if just a walk around the block. Then I hit the caffeine and get going). then I would check my work again at my next productive block (or next day). Is there anyone else you can lean on to help you proofread?

      I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. Just a tip from a chronically sleep deprived person trying to get by at work with a toddler and growing fetus :)

    6. WantonSeedStitch*

      I wonder if the Pomodoro technique might be helpful for you. It allows you to break those focus periods into shorter intervals, and gives you time to rest your brain in between those intervals. FWIW, I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this, and I wish your husband a good recovery. I hope you can get a real break soon.

    7. Sloanicota*

      I agree about checking on FMLA and similar disability coverage options just as an FYI. If your husband is well enough that you can leave him, I’ve had good experiences checking into a local hotel either for a night or a weekend (so no time off) to do a hard reset mentally. I also offer this to my friends who are burned out on caregiving. Even one night of great sleep and no responsibilities can sometimes really help get your head straight – doesn’t cure burnout with your life overall, of course, just those “I really can’t think clearly” moments.

    8. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      Are you carrying the full labor burden at home also? If so what are some tasks you can get rid of (not do, or pay someone else to do). Do you qualify for home health to help take care of your husband so you are not a full time caregiver as well as a wife and employee? There is only so much you can do in a day it is okay to get rid of some of the things when you can.

    9. Turnipnator*

      I’m so sorry you’re going through this. For what it’s worth this _is_ normal. People get tired! That’s normal! You deserve rest and care too.

      Have you had any time off during which you have not had caregiving responsibilities? I know you’re out of PTO, but maybe you can get a weekend without any responsibilities with help from some friends or family; ideally not at home, but I’ve found just sleeping in the guest bed for a couple of nights can be a mini-reset.
      This may not apply to you, but as a person who otherwise always has some kind of sound or music on I’ve found when I get my brain-foggiest I’ve had luck with making sure I turn off all inputs for a period of time. Like: leaving my phone in another room, no music, TV, podcasts or books. settling in to doing literally nothing and feeling bored for twenty minutes, an hour, whatever. It’s not exactly comfortable (I get lots of feelings, ymmv), but it can also be a huge relief to not require anything of my brain, and makes focusing later easier.

      Please take care!

      1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

        Jo van Every calls this an “emergency nap” – even if you don’t sleep, removing all stimuli (or as many as possible) for 10-20 minutes when you get foggy. She says this can help break the cycle where you push through till adrenaline/cortisol kick in (and leave you more exhausted and foggy that before). I may be garbling this but it sounded convincing & she is a proper expert!

        Good luck. This is an awful situation & I wish you & your husband all the best.

    10. Elsewise*

      Sleep is absolutely crucial, as others have said. If you’re having trouble, look into sleep hygiene practices, and if that doesn’t work, talk to your doctor about medical approaches.

      I also wonder, have you seen a therapist since your husband’s accident? Many still do virtual appointments and schedule outside of work hours. You’ve been through a big trauma, and it’s no wonder it’s affecting your ability to focus! Talking to someone can help, and a professional might have more focus tips. If the idea of looking into this is too overwhelming, does your work offer an EAP?

      Is it possible to break tasks into smaller segments? Do spot-checks to see if you’ve missed anything? Do you have any coworkers who might be willing to either check your work for you or be a sounding board for strategies?

      I think it’s also important to be transparent with your boss. You don’t have to go into details, but just saying that you recognize that you’re making more mistakes than usual and you’re working on strategies to fix this, and you’re open to any suggestions they might have can go a long way.

      Good luck! I’m so sorry to hear about everything you’re going through, and I do really hope that it improves.

      1. Ama*

        I second the EAP and seeing if you can find a short-term therapist — I went through a year where a lot of traumatic life stuff happened one right after the other and when everything was technically “over” that’s when I struggled the most mentally. I did see a therapist on my work EAP for a few visits and she helped me with some coping strategies, but mostly it just helped to talk to someone who wasn’t going to judge me for not being fine yet (and in fact told me on our first visit “I’m amazed you can function as well as you are given everything you’ve been through.”)

    11. Perfectly Cromulent Name*

      When everything is chaos, I do two things.
      1. What is truly, TRULY essential in your job? Like, if you do not do it, things will literally, for real fall apart? What are you actually being measured on in your performance reviews? What has to be perfect, and what can be phoned in?

      Make a list of these things, and start doing just these things. If you can outsource the other things, that’s great. If you can’t, oh well. The most important things will get done. This will not be forever. This is during this temporary emergency.

      2. I know it seems counterproductive, but stop staying late/working late into the night to catch up, even for just a week or two. For at least a full week, leave at the normal time, go to bed early, etc. Lack of sleep RUINS me, and when I’m exhausted and trying to panic work, I must make more mistakes, which snowballs the already bad situation. Do they want this work done and done well? Then you have to sleep.

      Others have great advice- but that is mine! Stop trying to catch up while you are super exhausted. It’s not going to help you if all the work you turn in is nonsense/filled with errors.

    12. Donkey Hotey*

      First up, I’m sorry that’s what you’re living with right now. Best to your husband and you to get through it.

      I’m beginning to learn that, for me, stressors add up. I can handle A, B, and C just fine, but add in Q and I’m thrown.
      In a similar vein, I used to find that things like “take a walk, drink more water” were overly simplistic -band aids on bullet wounds, as you said. But those also add up. No one “weird trick” is going to solve it, but several small things can.

    13. JSPA*

      You simply can’t work late. I’ve done it; it’s a one way trip to an increasing number of mistakes.

      Your brain will tell you that there’s something more moral about fixing the problem the moment that you notice it. Or that (like the 5 second rule) the mistake does not fully count, if you don’t let it sit, before diving after it.

      But you need to find the will to back off, and go home, and sleep. Hydrate in the morning, not at night; then sleep. Exercise in the morning, not at night; then sleep. If your husband needs help for bathroom needs, get him Depends, use them, and sleep.

      Sleep is non-negotiable, and you’re almost certainly way overdrawn on your sleep budget.

    14. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

      This is an unbelievable amount of pressure for one person to be under. You are in an emotional feedback loop of burnout/under more stress/exacerbates the burnout/compounds the stress. Trying to get back to normal on your own power under these conditions is a Herculean effort when you’re emotionally and energetically tapped out anyway.

      Right off the bat: knowing your FMLA options is good but I’d also check to see whether your job offers an EAP. Even a few sessions to work with a therapist to get support and develop a plan for how to care for yourself may be beneficial. A loved one in a serious car crash is a genuine, ongoing trauma.

      Re the bandaid-on-a-bullet-wound self-care advice, I’d actually toss it entirely. It’s all great advice generally, but you are in triage mode. Worrying about eating “right” and carving out time to exercise is more on your to-do list. Table all that. Just make sure you’re eating *something,* drinking enough water and getting enough sleep. You need to meet your basic functions in whatever way is right for your budget and schedule. That’s #1.

      Re approaching your large and detailed workload: set aside some time to sit down and draw up a plan. I know time feels in short supply, but consider it an investment for better returns on your future time. Chunk out your workload. Break it into sprints, factor in time for short breaks and specific time to proof your work.

      That’s the easy part; actually doing it is the hard part because your brain is screaming that you need to get everything done and also begging for a rest at the same time. When you take your breaks, really disengage and don’t think of it as “slacking.” It’s recharge time and a necessary part of getting your work done to the standards you need to meet. When you’re in focus mode, understand that it takes practice to push through your brain going “oh god there is so much to do and I can’t possibly.” Be kind to yourself as you get used to the new rhythm.

      Finally, consider sitting down with your manager to explain your plan to get back on track. Showing what you’re doing can go a long way towards building good will as you work towards a new normal, and your boss may be able to support you in ways you aren’t aware of and that they wouldn’t think to offer if you didn’t approach them to discuss a plan.

      Take care of yourself and wishing you the best of luck.

      1. Momma Bear*

        I had a breaking point earlier this year. I know that long-term I can’t hire more people to spread the load, but I went to my boss and we determined a few tasks I could offload to people already on staff on a temporary basis. It got us through the crunch. I hope you go to your boss and ask for not just the FMLA but some kind of support, even if it’s just “busywork” to you.

    15. NaoNao*

      Captain Awkward (advice column) has a GREAT column called “How to tighten up your game at work when you’re depressed” (or something very similar) I highly recommend that. She goes into specific, discrete, concrete steps you can take that aren’t just “get enough sleep”.

    16. girlie_pop*

      I’m sorry you’re going through this. It’s so hard to focus on work when it feels like the rest of your life is just falling apart.

      My advice would be to read up on strategies for people with ADHD. I have it, and while I’m medicated, I also use lots of different strategies for helping me focus and do good work. Our brains don’t work the same way neurotypical brains do, and for some of us, our symptoms are very similar to what you’re experiencing! Strategies that work for us might help you.

      Some that come to mind are things like Pomodoro timers, taking frequent short breaks, making sure you have a quiet place to work/setting time aside for “focus time” (e.g., on Wednesdays, I don’t schedule any meetings, turn my notifications off on Slack, and dig in to some of my more complex work – that might not work for you, but you can find something similar that does), finding music or ambient sounds that helps you focus in, using checklists for things that need detailed work with multiple steps, etc.

      Basically, I find when I just beat myself up and think, “I HAVE to focus, I can’t make mistakes,” it just puts more pressure on me and makes me more anxious/less productive. I look at these strategies as a way of setting myself up for success and going a little easier on myself. Sometimes it’s so much easier to focus when you know it’s only for a short period of time and then you’ll get a break.

      Best of luck to you and I hope your husband is doing better.

    17. Upasaka*

      Very sorry you’re going through this. A couple small things I’ve found helpful personally are:

      Mindfulness and meditation… I get less overwhelmed if I’m focused on the present moment and the work of that moment rather than trying to think about *all* the things at once. It’s the best antidote for brain fog and overwhelm that I’ve personally found. Jon Kabat-Zinn is a good author in that area.

      Remind yourself that your thoughts are not reality, and try to spend as little energy reacting to them as possible. (“What if I lose my job, what if we can’t pay the bills, what if the insurance lapses, what if, what if, etc.”) None of that is actually happening at the moment. At the moment, you simply need to focus on clearing your head and doing your job.

      Breathing… Your breath becomes more shallow and rapid when you’re anxious and panicking. Conversely, focusing on and slowing your breathing can calm anxiety and panic. Take 3-5 minutes and just focus on being calm, quiet, and breathing in slow, deep breaths.

      Schedule time for worrying. There is some evidence that your brain processes any action taken on a problem as “handling” the problem, and calms down. I’ll actually pick a time in my day planner and write “Worry about X”. It helps me put it out of mind until time to deal with it.

      Like everyone else said, sleep. Problems are magnified when you’re sleep deprived, and it’s harder to have the energy to pursue solutions.

      Good luck, and take care of yourself.

    18. Anon for this*

      I say this with deepest empathy. Please seek counseling. This is not something to push through on your own. I faced something similarly draining (but less frightening) years ago and antidepressants helped me. Not saying that’s what you should do, but honestly, just having somebody to talk to could help. If you have an EAP, that’s a good place to start.

    19. Doc McCracken*

      We went through a season like this over a year ago. It was hell. I’ll help you triage a little here.
      First, go find somewhere quiet where you can be alone. Take a notebook, pen, and tissues. Set a timer for 30 minutes or an hour. Write down every thought going through your brain. Let yourself have a good cry. Don’t try to stifle it. There will likely be snot and wailing. Let it all out. You need to let some of the emotional pressure out of your body.
      After that good cry, write down everything at home you can ask for help with. Your support network can drop off dinner, sit with your husband, do dishes, and run loads of laundry. Everything else can wait.
      Next, make a list of all your work stuff and put it in order of most critical. Note anything that would be nice to do but not critical and things that are absolutely low priority. When at work, if you can wear headphones, listen to binaural beats for concentration. For a short season and with extreme caution, things like coffee and energy drinks can help. (Energy drinks are really rough in your body but for a day here and there they can be an ok tool.) Eat regularly, even if it is prepackaged whatevers. I make myself grown up lunchables with crackers, cut up cheese and fruit thrown in a container because I frequently forget to eat lunch and then am crashing. Expect to get about 2-3 high priority things done each day at work. No more. Good luck friend!

    20. Put the Human Back in HR*

      I am so sorry you are going through this. I lost my daughter to a horrific car accident four years ago. The brain fog was terrible. There were whole conversations that I didn’t remember. I made dumb mistakes like formulas in worksheets. I went to a neurologist thinking I had dementia. I went through batteries of tests and a brain scan. It was grief.

      Things I did that were helpful: I started taking notes of every conversation and every meeting in a word document (so I could search it – can’t search a written day planner). Right when they come up I put to do tasks on my weekly grid list with dates and all updates. I prioritize like putting urgent issues in red font. I carry over stuff not done to the next week. The far left column is blank so I put a big, friendly green checkmark in it when the task is complete. I started seeing a psychiatric nurse practitioner and a counselor. I’ve been on the maximum dose of wellbutrin for years and it helps me focus. Working a hybrid schedule has also helped me focus on my days at home. I needed something to engage my brain on the weekends so I started scanning decades’ worth of photographs and storing them on a google drive and gave access to family members.

      You’ve exhausted your time off and you’re the breadwinner. If you haven’t exhausted FML or don’t need to save FML time for future medical issues, then you might want to take a few days unpaid to just try to recharge your batteries. Your paycheck will take a hit but it might be worth it.

      If you have friends and family who can help, lean on them. Cleaning, laundry, meals, transporting your husband to appointments, giving you respite can help.

      Your insurance might pay for in-home care giving. It sounds like you’ve been in crisis mode for four months. You need time to catch your breath.

      There may be support groups that could be helpful. For example, there’s a local Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) group that meets weekly at the local rehab hospital. Sometimes being around others going through what you are can help.

      Some people might find the water, exercise, etc., helpful but for me an umbrella in a tsunami is not freaking helpful.

    21. Ann*

      Is taking some work things off your plate an option? Can you work through the busy season and then take at least a few days’ leave? It sounds like you’re out of resources to draw on. You need a break.

    22. C*

      Ylang ylang essential oil on top of everything everyone else has mentioned.

      “Essential Oils with emotionally grounding qualities are ideal for setting a positive tone in the morning to gear up for a productive and stress-free workday. Examples include: Turmeric, Clary Sage, Sandalwood, Melissa Leaf, Ylang Ylang, Frankincense, Cedarwood, and Patchouli Essential Oils.”

  9. MigraineMonth*

    How many hours do people on this site really work? For example, I work full-time in tech, but my heads-down, focused time (when I’m not browsing AAM) is probably 20 hours a week (50%). When I worked at a take-out pizza place, in contrast, I really worked 18 hours out of my 20 hours/week.

    1. Sloanicota*

      This varies so much day to day and field by field. I do have days where I’m chugging away all eight hours or more, but they’re the minority. I have a white collar management job so sometimes I’m just around in case of a problem. I don’t consider it disingenuous of me to be sort of browsing and staying on top of emails during those times. I have often contemplated I could probably do my job with just one focused hour of work a day, and the rest of it is meetings that are sort of FYI. I don’t necessarily feel great about that.

      1. Baby Yoda*

        Agree, it’s always different. A lite day can be followed by intense days and it usually all balances out.

        1. Sloanicota*

          I would agree but would also admit that for me personally, it doesn’t ever balance out to 40 hours of “real” work. More like 20 probably. But, they don’t want to hire me part time, they want a full time person in the role so they don’t have to schedule around gaps and so they know someone’s available whenever something comes up, so I think this is pretty normal.

      2. TiffanyAching*

        Variable here as well. Counting time in meetings, focus work, email, etc. I do 3-4 combined hours of actual work per day *on average*. There are days where it’s more like 5-6 hours, but mostly not. A lot of my job is just being available when others have questions or issues. If it weren’t for needing to be available during the standard business hours, I could easily accomplish all my actual tasks in 15-20 hours a week.

        1. Sloanicota*

          Ironically, when I was freelancing and then part time, this was actually more stressful because employers were generally expecting 20 hours of concentrated work or hourly billing of work done. While logical, you kind of end up going broke that way freelancing and part time ends up being less of a good deal than you pictured. It was really nice not to be expected to “hang around” but it was basically the same amount of work for half the pay and no benefits …

          1. JR 17*

            I think this is one of the reasons freelancers/consultants usually charge 2-3x the comparable hourly wage for an employee doing similar work – it takes a lot more than 20 hours to bill 20 hours.

    2. Ex Radio*

      I was thinking recently about how in my first few jobs, working in a cafe or restaurant, I would often pretend to wipe counters or restock take out cups just to appear busy. Fast forward to today, my day is 2 hours in and I’ve only done about 10 minutes of actual work. Not everyday is like this but it makes me feel a little guilty even though I am 100% taking advantage of it.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I have this cycle where I feel guilty, try to really buckle down and focus for the whole 8 hours, and then the next day is a hot mess when I get zero work done. (Or worse, I work at partial focus and have to redo it all.)

        I seem to be capable of an average of 4 hrs/day of productive work.

        1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

          I read somewhere that most “brain workers” have about 4-6 productive hours a day, and this is what I see in writer & academic friends. The rest is processing, filing, deleting emails, staring into space. Chatting. Reading.

      2. Kayem*

        Same, I get panicky on the slow weeks because I’m still claiming my 40 hours when I’m lucky to get an hour of work in each day. I try to remember that in the weeks when everything is on fire, I can put in a solid 60 hours of work and I’m still only getting paid for 40, so it probably balances out.

    3. an IVF mom*

      I’m also probably at 20 really productive hours per week at my 40h a week job. This is the lightest workload I have ever had, and I am really good at concentrating and banging out work fairly fast. I probably have 3-4 days a month where I work 7-8 hours straight.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Do you count meetings in those 20 hours? I feel like I’m asked to attend a lot of meetings and that bumps up my number of working hours – and that’s their choice as my employer – but it’s not productive time generally.

          1. Not Santa*

            This doesn’t make sense to me. Meetings are…work? When I attend meetings, I exert myself for the sake of my employer. I’m not browsing online or sleeping or switching off. I’m listening, noting information, demonstrating polite attention, and so on. Work, right?

    4. old curmudgeon*

      Full-time governmental accountant here, and for me, it varies a lot depending on where we are in the accounting cycle.

      For about the first three weeks of most months, I’d say my head-down 100% focused worktime is maybe 25 to 30 hours a week, with the balance spent on training, documentation and file maintenance.

      Close to month-end, my head-down, focused-on-work time goes up to probably 32 to 38 hours a week.

      At quarter-end, that head-down time increases to 35 to 42 hours a week.

      At fiscal-year-end, head-down time is consistently 40 to 48 hours a week.

      And under certain very unusual circumstances (e.g., a global pandemic and/or an audit investigating how my agency expended its pandemic-related funding), my head-down intensely focused time can be up to 60 hours a week.

      I am FLSA exempt so I get paid for 40 hours each week regardless of how much head-down effort I invest. It’s just that the cyclical nature of accounting work means that there’s a lot of variation over the course of a year.

    5. ThatGirl*

      I work in marketing. It really varies. Meetings can take up a lot of time, and I do need some “creative downtime” to let the juices flow. I also have to wait for others frequently. I’m available 40 hrs a week, but dedicated work time is probably 20-30 most weeks.

    6. numptea*

      Now that I work remotely I often end up “reverse working” because I can’t get anything accomplished from 8-5 when people are constantly up my a** on Teams. On bad days I just respond to pings while doing housework, then once it’s officially quitting time, I log off Outlook/Teams and sit down to finally power through my focus work without interruptions. So while I’m often working nights and weekends, the total is still about 45-50 hours a week.

      1. Kayem*

        Same here. I get a lot more actual done in the evening after everyone is gone, especially during busy weeks, because it’s a lot easier to concentrate when I’m not also keeping an eye on notifications.

        My employer this year revoked Teams access for everyone in a specific entry-level position and moved them all to a proprietary platform. At first, I was annoyed at having to wrangle yet another app (and it meant adding a third monitor) but I am now beyond thrilled with it.

        I lost so many freaking hours responding to questions because those employees almost completely ignored the many, many, many, many times I said they need to ask procedural questions in group chat and email their supervisor (my direct report) for scheduling. Instead, they all sent private chats directly to me and it didn’t matter how many times I would instruct them to not do that in the future. The new platform doesn’t let them DM at all and lo and behold! They now ask procedural questions in the group chat and email their supervisor about scheduling. I get so much more done during business hours now.

    7. E*

      Either 20 or 50, it depends on what’s due that week and we generally know the heavy weeks 3-4 weeks advance. I’m an estimator for a heavy civil contractor, most of our work is government stuff and they tend to cluster bid dates at the end of a quarter or fiscal year. Between bids we do background research and meet with vendors resulting in little actual work produced but is useful for later.

    8. Throwaway Account*

      I have a coworker who has my exact same job description but I have a little more work than she does. I probably work half as much as she does and get more done; sometimes even some of her tasks. It is just our personalities and how we work. But I also work about 65% of the time I’m at work and feel like I have a lot of downtime.

    9. Watry*

      My predecessor recently told me “They hired us for what we know, not what we do”, which I think is pretty accurate for knowledge workers. Also, again for knowledge work, I don’t think you can work or focus consistently for that long, that’s not how brains work.

      I’m in a weird limbo spot so I’m not going to answer the actual question for CurrentJob, but for LastJob it was probably 25-30 for an average week, and the job before that was probably less than 4 hours. That was a job that mostly needed a warm body there in case something did come in, which didn’t happen often and usually took less than 10 minutes to deal with.

    10. Magc*

      Also full-time in tech, and my productivity varies highly, depending on my physical / psychological state, what’s going on in my non-work life, the specifics of what I’m working on, and deadlines. This seems to be pretty common based on various articles / blog posts I’ve read by other tech workers.

      When I worked a side gig doing the same work but was being paid hourly, the guy I worked for said he never wanted to see me reporting more than 5-6 hours on a single day because he felt that was the max reasonable productivity per day. None of that work was under tight deadlines or for system down situations, though, which does make a difference.

      What I have noticed over the years is that the longer I try to work in a single day, the worse my productivity gets — the same task will take longer and I’m more likely to make mistakes. There are some things I enjoy so much that the productivity loss is minimized, and if I can I try to match what I’m working on to my energy level.

    11. Performative gumption*

      Would you be in a position to do a 10 in 9 work pattern? Do 10 days of hours in 9 (80 hours in 9 days instead of 10). It sounds like workload wise that would be manageable and you would get an extra day. Of course depends on if you’d want to / be allowed

    12. Anax*

      I’m also in tech, as a coder and now as an analyst. 5 hours (10 pomodoros) of head-down, focused work is a great day, 4 hours is a B+ (perfectly acceptable but a hair off my ideal). Anything more, and I probably will get less done the next day because I wore myself out.

      (Meetings count as head-down, focused work for me, too; they take at least as much energy as coding if I need to pay attention. That might affect the numbers compared to other folks!)

    13. Irish Teacher.*

      I can never really figure this out. As a teacher, my “offical” working week is 21/22 hours, but…that doesn’t include 40 minutes yard duty each week nor does it cover my time covering for colleagues, which is usually an hour a week. (There is also a total of four hours I have to be available to cover, but usually only asked to do one and I wouldn’t say they count this year as I’ve arranged them that they are mostly last class and I can go home if not needed but last year, I had two that were first class in the morning, so I had to be in, in case anybody called in sick unexpectedly or got caught in traffic on the way to work.)

      Then there’s lesson planning, dealing with discipline issues and like the day before yesterday, I spent two-three hours watching various videos to see if they might be useful for one of my classes (I finally found one that was brilliant and exactly what I needed but before that, I checked a number, including one where the content was excellent but some of the language used was not appropriate for 14 and 15 year old boys, so…that had to be discarded) but I was reading this site and browsing facebook at the same time, while listening out for any inappropriate language/too much irrelevant content and so on. And time discussing stuff with colleagues, especially since our conversations will often go back and forth between personal and work topics.

      And then of course, there are weeks when there are staff meetings or school open nights or parent-teacher meetings. Oh, and we have to do ten hours a year of stuff like professional development or contributing to school events.

      I tried adding it up one time and got about 33 hours, something like that. I think that was a week when we didn’t have anything offical after school (which we have maybe once a month).

      1. Rara Avis*

        Teacher here, and I’d say my numbers are similar — 35-36 hours a week actively teaching, prepping, grading, meeting, supervising, etc.

    14. Girasol*

      2-8 hours a day out of 8-10 in the office. At best I haven’t been able to work all-out every single minute of the day but maybe 80% of the time, which sometimes required staying 10 hours or more to get everything done. At worst I’ve had several bad managers who overloaded a favorite employee and ignored the rest of the team who were begging for a chance to do some work. I ended up among 4-12 fellow employees trying to stretch 2 hours of work to look busy for 8 hours of butt-in-seat time in the office.

    15. Hotdog not dog*

      Nose to the grindstone time right now is about 8 to 10 a day m-f, and about 6 hours on weekends. That’s because I’m currently carrying a work load formerly held by 6 people. If I were only doing my own work, probably 5 to 6 hours of “real work” including calls and meetings, 2 to 3 excluding them. A lot of my days are taken up by interruptions from people who want to know when I’m going to finish the report they’re waiting for. (that I’m not working on because I’m fielding questions instead. )

    16. Can't Sit Still*

      It depends. A significant part of my job is making sure things DON’T happen – which is difficult to quantify. Ideally, I always have availability for other people’s emergencies, which can take a few hours, a few days or a few weeks. Mostly, I do a lot of long range planning so that I, myself, don’t cause any emergencies or last minute rushes.

    17. PhysicsTeacher*

      Well, I am a teacher. I am actively supervising students for 28.75 hours of my week, so my absolute bottom floor is 28.75 hours of “on” time. Another 2 hours is probably meetings. I’m pretty efficient at this point in my career and probably only spend 3 hours of out of class time planning/grading/setting stuff up on a typical week. We have an 8 hour contract day with a 30 minute duty free lunch, so a 37.5 hour contractual workweek. (28.75+2+5)/37.5 = 0.9, so 90% of my time is working. It was more when I was a first, second, or third year teacher. And it’s more if I am teaching a new to me class that year.

      I also coach a non-athletic but competitive activity (and get a small-ish stipend for it). That probably adds 12 hours on average per week (sometimes less, sometimes WAY more), some of which is practice (very on), some of which is usually driving kids (very on), and some of which is tournaments (about 50% on, 50% me just hanging around waiting for when I have to be on).

    18. Spearmint*

      I have a full time technical analyst job. I think I only *really* work 20-25 hours a week as well (rather than merely monitoring email and Slack). I definitely have days where I’m working closer to 6-7 hours out of 8, but those are the exception. I also have occasional days, maybe once or twice a month, where I only complete maybe an hour of work. I think this is pretty typical; it’s really hard to focus on mental work for more than 4-5 hours a day.

      By contrast, I think it’s easier to work the entire shift at more physical jobs like working at a pizza place, since the work is often rote and you can turn your brain off or day dream. That’s what I found when I did food delivery and dishwashing in college.

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

      I probably produce “work” 6 hours per day on average and 2 hours of getting interrupted and knocked off my train of thought, or taking intentional mental breaks here and there when I can; but that varies because sometimes I have all my work “done” on my end and I’m being, in essence, paid to wait for others to complete their end — final delivery from a vendor, proof/changes/approval, missing info, etc. My job is also pretty cyclical with busy times of year and quiet times of year. And of course, I’m also expected to do career development like live webinars or skills tutorial — which doesn’t feel like working, but is.

    20. Cat*

      I’m in a coverage based nursing position. Rural labour/delivery/post-partum and newborn care. Somedays, no one is in labour and we just have to be there for 12 hours in case someone shows up. Other days, the whole world is having their babies, and they all have major complications and it ends up being a 16 hour shift with no breaks.

    21. Some Dude*

      Former job is was maybe 30 hours a week. Current job at least 7 hours a day, sometimes 9, of work work.

    22. I Have RBF*

      My job is very intermittent. I can be browsing AAM for an entire day, then the next day be head-down in my job for the entire day. I just had a one on one, and my boss is happy with my work!

      The key is, I am available to troubleshoot or even just answer questions about my area of expertise at just about any time, except nights and when I have appointments. I am one of maybe two or three people in my company with my type of expertise, so it’s literally feast or famine with my workload.

      I make less than I would in a more normal hybrid job, but I’m fully remote and my workload is, by my prior standards, light. I do some nights and weekends, because machine downtime has to be out of business hours, but I get comp time for that.

      I worked my ass off earlier in my career, 60+ hour weeks, grueling on-calls, etc. IMO, this job is the payoff for all that work.

    23. The OG Sleepless*

      Veterinarian-I have a bit of downtime here and there, but generally I’m drowning in work from the moment I walk in the door until I leave 10-11 hours later. I’m just lucky I usually leave on time from this particular job. I spend about 2/3 of my time doing direct patient/client care and 1/3 writing charts, with constant interruptions while doing both. I work 30-35 hours a week.

    24. Kayem*

      This varies so much for me in my job. It’s project-based, so the progression goes:
      super chill –> productivity yay! –> OHMYGODEVERYTHINGISONFIRE –> soggy pile of ashes –> super chill –> utter boredom; lather, rinse, repeat

      I’m currently in the super chill phase and I’ve put in maybe three hours of solid work this week. Next week starts the productivity yay! phase, so I’ll probably get about 25-30 hours of solid work in. In a couple weeks, everything will be on fire and I’ll be wrung out working overtime trying to get everything ready on time.

      We have specific deadline phases and we can’t just do a bunch ahead of time on a slow week because each deliverable requires a new data dump (my team is all remote). On the plus side, I got a LOT of winter garden prep done this week.

    25. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’m on the clock with project focus tracked–we get questions if we exceed 5 hours of admin.

      they’re getting a lot more focused hours out of me than when I was at the office distracted by everything including free food days.

      1. Mal Voyage*

        Yeah, I’ve had lots of jobs where I was required to produce documentation showing that every 15 minute chunk of a 40 hour week was equally as productive as every other 15 minute chunk, tracked to specific tasks (with accurate estimates) on specific projects, no bucket for “admin”.

        This was for salaried position that resulted in creative work that was billed to customers on an hourly basis. And if we didn’t know exactly how many 15 minute chunks a task would take, then how were the PMs supposed to be able to schedule us properly so that task A was ready for the 10:15am tuesday meeting with client A, and task B was 50% done for the start of the 10:30am meeting with client B?

        I managed to keep it up for a bit, but as I tend to naturally drift between “nothing’s getting done this afternoon” and “I just got a weeks worth of work done in a 2-hour blur”, I burned out pretty hard.

        Now I still work 40 hours, but my number of actually productive hours is best described as “some”, luckily I’ve also found a job that works okay in.

    26. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      It depends on what you consider work. Sometimes I’m posting and writing boring reports at the same time, sometimes I’m driving to a work thing, sometimes I’m focused in a meeting. Actual work time for me is maybe 7 hours of a ten hour day – excluding driving and lunch )

    27. Wordybird*

      I’m a PM, of sorts, and probably work 10-15 hours a week at my FT job. My boss and my grandboss have had nothing but positive feedback for me so I guess I just work quickly?

    28. Quinalla*

      I work most of my time honestly, it’s 35-45 hours generally that I am heads down working. 35 is a light week for me. I have a job where there is ALWAYS more to do and we are desperately trying to hire. In the past for this same job, it was more like 30-40 with occasionally more on really busy weeks, but his job we just rarely have much breathing room.

    29. Greatest Of All Tree*

      I am reeling a bit from these answers. I wonder if I’m missing something. I work in the arts and for a non-profit, and it’s like 7 and a quarter hours work for every 8 hour work day. The other 3/4s of an hour is making coffee, chatting to co-workers, putting away my jacket, etc.
      This has been every job I’ve had for the last 20 years.
      I find it so hard to believe in so many jobs with so much downtime. Whaaaaaat…?

      1. Grrrrrrr*

        Seriously! I’m an accountant in hospitality and there is such an amount incredible amount of backlog to be processed and process improvements / changes that need to be executed that my only real breaks are accidental – just my brain wandering off occasionally or reading something fun for the 15 minutes it actually takes to eat lunch

      2. Charlotte Lucas*

        I work in state government communications. I pretty much always have something to do, but when it’s busy, it’s busy! There is an ebb and flow, which is common to communications jobs.

        I do have downtime when I can take it a bit easier, but it isn’t always predictable. I am also very fast, because in my last job I had really tight weekly deadlines, so the amount of work I produce can be impressive.

        I have had jobs where the amount of work was more predictable, and more similar to what you’re describing.

      3. Bart*

        Agreed, Greatest of all Tree! I often feel like I have been thrown in the deep end of the pool and spend every minute working. The day flies by and I rarely stop working to eat. Bathroom breaks are the restful minutes. Maybe I need to rethink my career path!

    30. ecnaseener*

      Yeah, I don’t have a good estimate because it’s a lot of little breaks throughout the day, but rarely 40 hours of focused work. (I won’t say ‘never’ because my hours are 8:30-5, so 42.5 in total.) Often much less, I’m sure.

      My workload is not predictable, and pacing myself isn’t really my style – I work in focused bursts, and if nothing big comes into my inbox on a given day then I might clear it out and find myself without much to do. Maybe I’m in a good headspace to work on a non-time-sensitive project when that happens, maybe I’m not. I don’t sweat it, it feels like a natural consequence of being so efficient during those bursts.

      I do sort of wish I had the type of job where I could say “ok I’m done for the day so I’m taking off early!” But I’m expected to be available during business hours, so sometimes I’m just sitting around being available.

    31. I heart Paul Buchman*

      These comments are really interesting. Great question!

      I’m a social worker in the crisis space and I’d say I’m ‘working’ 8.5 of my 9 hours. I often have trouble fitting in time to pee or make a cup of tea. I’m counting travel time between clients as work, which might be 2-3 hours a day.
      Chat with colleagues tends to be about work and debriefing
      is a stated part of my role. We aren’t allowed personal phone or internet use because of our client base.

      Yesterday I had 3 hours of meetings (1 partner orgs, 2 clients), 3 hours of travel, 1 hour case review, 1 hour approx of phone calls, 1 hour supervision, and the rest was case notes, emails, and case prep. I was rostered a 9hr, worked 9.5.

      I can’t imagine a job where I had to make busy. I think I’d struggle but I acknowledge not everyone would want to trade with me. If anyone does like the sound of this though, I invite you to come over to the dark side haha.

    32. New Mom*

      I’m interested to read everyone’s responses to this. I’m a program director and we have a busy season during the summer and I working-working 7-10 hours a day. During our off months it can be anywhere from 2-5 hours a day of ON work.

    33. Monkey's Paw Manicure*

      When I was young and had labor jobs, like unloading trucks, aside from breaks it was constant work. As I moved into office jobs, there was a bit more chat, and if I automated things I had more time to goof off. Now that I’m a manager/director, I officially work 35/hours a week, but usually put in about 3 or 4 solid hours of work a day. However, unlike when I was young and didn’t think about unloading trucks when I wasn’t at work, I’m thinking about job things when I’m not at work, such as discussing how to handle political matters or ideas for new systems with the spouse while we’re talking a walk, solving problems in the shower, etc.

    34. Camelid coordinator*

      I am so glad you asked this! I work half time now and, especially at first, felt like I was almost working as hard as I did when I worked full time. I am landing somewhere around 21-25 hours each week. One way I keep it around 20 is that I only track/count those productive hours so not lunch or any break over 15 minutes. Something that helps my productivity is that I work when I am ‘on,’ if I am not getting much done I just shut the computer and figure I’ll make it up later in the week. (Unless I have a deadline.)

    35. Anon. Scientist*

      As a department head with 6 direct reports (I have all the junior staff and they need a lot of care) with my own projects and a ridiculous billability target (70%), which my boss doesn’t ride me too hard on (I’m 10% short right now) there is Always something and it’s all work. Because we’re project based it’s really the other project managers working with technical staff, so I get all the interpersonal angst, overall check ins, and bigger picture attempt to allocate resources in a way that’s fair in all directions. I take a 30-45 min lunch break on average but I am ON 8-9 hours a day. If I have a light week, I’ll go take a nap or read at the end of day when remote and just take it as PTO. I get like 3 light weeks a year. As a member of leadership I’m acutely aware that I’m always watched so on remote meetings I’m not leading, I’m in there looking engaged with my camera on.

      Early career folks are in the field long days and they bill for every minute they’re out there and there’s a lot more breaks. 8 hours peopling/putting out fires is way more tiring than 12 hours of physical work, which my staff get – they get itchy after 2 days in the office. But I’ve selected for that.

    36. Work intensity*

      I’ve never had a tech job that wasn’t full blast gogogo. When contracting and limited to 40 hours it’s been 38-39 hours of concentrated work on jobs that really needed more. When full time, I tend to have 2-3 10-12 hour days a week with most days going at least 9 hours but sometimes having a 6 hour Friday if I’m not too overloaded.

      In the past when working hybrid I tended to work 11-12 hours on WAh days and 6ish most office days mostly because of transportation needs but they were all full bore. Sometimes I would go from meeting to meeting (many 1-1 to get stuff I need from people) on office days and never even open my laptop because I was so busy with other stuff.

      How do people find companies that aren’t perpetually understaffed? I’ve never seen one…

  10. Misty*

    Is it weird that the HR department for a city is sending out all staff emails with AITA posts in them for people to “discuss as a thought experiment” ?

    1. Ahnonnymoose*

      My HR has been doing this too and neither of the two emails even were about work related AITA posts. One was about parents, and the other was about a husband being sick.

    2. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      It’s weird that it’s HR and that it’s an all staff email. It could be a useful workshop for supervisors or policy-makers, but I’m not sure what they hope to gain by scattershotting like that. I guess it depends on the size of the city.

      I have definitely shared AITA posts in Teams before when the topic was relevant to something that Team was working on or had recently discussed. I don’t think it’s an odd practice, I just think the execution was kind of ineffective.

      1. fine tipped pen aficionado*


        I know I literally wrote AITA in my reply, yet my brain was telling me we were talking about AAM. In my defense, they’re both acronyms that start with A.

        Anyway, if they linked directly to the AITA subreddit that would be EXTREMELY weird. HR of all people should not be inviting employees to read a lot of the hateful crap that gets posted there. (There are lots of wonderful, thoughtful responses too, but it’s inappropriate for a workplace to suggest you should wade through the other stuff.)

        If they’re just sharing the content of the post… still ineffective in its method and source but, depending on the post, not the weirdest thing to do in other groups at work.

    3. FashionablyEvil*

      I would raise an eyebrow at HR sending out anything that includes the word “asshole” in it (even if just implied in an acronym.) It would be very much Not Done in the context of my organization’s corporate culture.

      Also, I don’t see this as being terribly effective. Is there going to be a massive reply all thread? An in-person discussion? A Teams or Slack chat? Who’s going to moderate that? Who’s going to handle the “I’m just playing devil’s advocate!” jerk?

      1. NotBatman*

        Right!?!?! I can’t imagine how this would lead to productive discussion. An AAM thread, maybe (there are some tricky workplace dilemmas on there), but an AITA thread? It’s inappropriate, it’s likely to be over-personal, and no meaningful discussion has ever occurred in a replyallpalooza.

      2. Ahnonnymoose*

        So, I’m someone this is happening to, too (see my above comment) and they did encourage us to reply all to share our thoughts. Only a few people did. It was linked to some professional development they were doing on how to be emotionally intelligent.

        I believe they were aiming for the angle of “you don’t know what others are going through at home” but dropped the ball. It definitely felt inappropriate and unprofessional, but my city’s HR is young leaning and must have thought it was a really good idea or did not see potential problems.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        “This is why we shouldn’t have to pay our public employees! Unions bad!” –angry citizen

    4. Donkey Hotey*

      Weird in that it’s a group email, yes.
      Not weird in that the AITA/AAM/NAR Venn diagram is rapidly becoming a circle.

    5. BuildMeUp*

      It is very weird! And it’s probably not a very good thought experiment, considering about 60-70% of AITA posts are pure fiction.

    6. Moths*

      Agree with the others — this is weird and I would question their judgement. As others have noted, it could lead to conversations that quickly devolve. Remember the letter a few months ago about the “thought experiment” exercise about all of the works of Shakespeare being destroyed and how the team was ostracizing a person for their answer. I see a definite possibility of something similar happening here. Beyond the fact that most people probably just won’t feel comfortable responding to an all staff email with their opinion on the article. Very odd.

  11. Angry&Disappointed*

    I’m in a tough spot at work. The role I was hired to fill in the last year has effectively been replaced, but every time I try to have a real conversation with my manager about why this concerns me both in my new job and just in general for my career, I get the same response, “There’s going to be work, don’t worry!” I know I should leave, and I’m searching actively, but my field is very narrow and I’m pigeonholed in a particular branch of it right now. It will take a lot of time to be able to figure something out.

    How can I make my manager understand that my career keeps taking giant steps backwards and his blasé attitude about that is a problem for me? The entire reason I came here was for this role, but now that role is with someone else who is effectively my new boss and any chance for growth or even slight flexing in my role is entirely gone. What can I do at this point when my manager keeps gaslighting me about replacing me in plain sight?

    1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      You may not be able to, he may not have any answers and may only realize that the situation is dire when you leave.

    2. Juneybug*

      That sounds rough! I would assume your boss is not going to change so maybe you could –
      Be loaned out to another office to gain experience?
      Volunteer to take one of your boss’ projects?
      Take online classes to build up your knowledge?

      Or just use the the time to job hunt without guilt.

      1. Angry&Disappointed**

        That’s what I’m hoping for! I have a meeting early next year to try and nail down what my new job there is, but I plan to ask to be removed from this project entirely. My role is gone and I’m not willing to take an effective demotion.

    3. WestsideStory*

      I believe this is what is known as “quiet firing” these days. Your boss is not helping because they want you to leave; if they fire you they’d have to pay severance, unemployment or live with the uncomfortable thought that you might complain to Labor Board or sue.
      Your job is over but the paychecks keep coming. Relax into this new reality and bump up the job search.

      1. Angry&Disappointed*

        Quiet firing is what I was worried about, to be honest. I’m still getting other projects in other areas, but the main job that I came here to do is effectively gone to someone else. I feel so worthless and disrespected, I don’t know what to do with my emotions about it half the time.

    4. Observer*

      What can I do at this point when my manager keeps gaslighting me about replacing me in plain sight?

      Change your expectations. You have learned something very important about your boss. Make use of that information.

      In this case, what you have learned is that your boss is not someone you can trust – not just not to have your back, but not even to be straightforward with you.

      So, firstly, start documenting anything he says to you that is consequential or affects what you do. You don’t want to be in a position where someone decides that you “should” have been doing something else and your boss claims that you “should” have known because he told you, when he actually told you something else.

      Secondly, stop wasting your energy trying to get him to understand anything. Either he gets it and does not care, or he’s not capable of understanding your issues.

      Take all that energy and start figuring out how to get out of there, and start working on your exit plan. And make sure that your plan is not contingent on your boss doing the right thing.

      1. Angry&Disappointed*

        I really appreciate this mindset. I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t trust him or my teammates either and that’s been a really painful one for me. My last job I was stuck without a way to move up, but at least I was treated with basic respect. I’m really disappointed and regret taking this shot.

    5. kalli*

      Maybe there’s a project coming in the New Year but they can’t say yet or maybe they’re genuinely trying to convince you that your emotions aren’t real because there’s really work you just can’t see.

      Either way, what does Effectively Your New Boss say?

      1. Angry&Disappointed*

        Effectively my New Boss is already taking over and making me miserable—-i don’t want anything to do with them.

        1. Polly Hedron*

          Ugh, then that’s all the more reason to go with what WestsideStory and Observer said above. You can’t salvage this job.

          1. Angry&Disappointed**

            That’s what I think too. It’s going to be really hard to find another job any time soon, so my last hope was to have another serious chat with my boss to try and make my problems clear. So far, he’s just been gaslighting me about how “Oh, I know you don’t do flexibility.” I actually enjoy making sense out of chaos, what I don’t love is no information about what my job even is.

            Really need advice for how to handle that conversation.

            1. Polly Hedron*

              I’m sorry to say that I think you’ll make the situation worse if you try to have a serious chat now. You said above

              I have a meeting early next year to try and nail down what my new job there is, but I plan to ask to be removed from this project entirely

              Will this meeting be with your boss? In any case, I recommend waiting until then for your chat, and, in the meantime, don’t pin your hopes on this company. Keep on job hunting!

  12. PolarBear*

    We hired “Jane” for an entry-level position about a year ago. Jane has a PhD in an unrelated field, but disliked working in that field and wanted to make a change. We usually look for an undergrad degree in our field and related experience, and while Jane didn’t have that, she had earned some certifications that were relevant. I was on the hiring committee, and it was made very clear that she was being hired in at the same level as a new grad with a bachelor’s and no experience.

    Now a year in, Jane is really frustrated about taking direction from “less experienced people”, like me, who has a bachelors degree and 10 years experience. She is constantly pushing back and insisting she knows better. She hasn’t brought up her degree directly, although she added it to her email signature and I feel like there’s an undertone of “I’m smarter than you” anytime there’s a disagreement. I try as much as possible to explain why we need to do X instead of Y, but sometimes I don’t have time to explain, or the answer is “that’s just how we do it in our field”.

    Has anyone dealt with this? She doesn’t seem to understand that her PhD doesn’t “count” for anything in our field.

    1. Squish*

      In my experience there is little, if anything, you can do to cure buttheadedness. The best thing to do is enforce your own boundaries (“We have spoken about this before, and I need you to accept this is my final call”) instead of searching for a way to change her attitude.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        If you’re her manager, you may not be able to change the attitude but you can absolutely require that she change her behavior to be less disrespectful.

    2. Beans*

      I was literally coming here to ask the same sort of question, I’m managing someone who has several more years of experience than I do but took a lower level job on my team to be closer to her family with the insistence that “I want to be part of a team, not leading the team.” There is constant pushback, refusal to accept valid (and gentle) feedback, and giving excuses every time she does something wrong. I’m a new manager; she knew this when she interviewed. Of course I’m not going to get everything right the first time! I’m autistic and this role is a stretch for me! But I’m trying so damn hard, and according to my own manager, other coworkers, and my other direct report, I’m doing as well as could be expected at this stage in managing people.

      I wish I had advice, but all I can offer is communal ranting and commiseration. I’m trying to just be very clear with her that “this is an expectation of your job that you do things this way, not something optional.” So far, I’ve been having limited success.

      1. Watry*

        I’m interested to hear about your general experience–if we can get the lines on two new positions I’ll be up for a management spot this time next year, and I’m also autistic.

        1. Beans*

          I got you! There’s so little info out there to find about being autistic and being a manager, so I’m always willing to share.

          How I ended up here: I wasn’t interested in management, but I’ve been working in the same place for 7 years. We had a reorganization about a year ago, and I was offered a management job, and…after seeing other new colleagues try and fail, I was all “I’m literally the only one with the institutional knowledge left, and if we try to hire someone new, I’ll end up doing half their work anyway because they won’t have the knowledge, so I may as well take the leap.”

          I have a lot of support, both inside and outside of work; my family and friends are great about talking me down when I get on a thought spiral or am having executive functioning issues, I have a good therapist who specializes in neurodivergent patients and also used to be an occupational therapist, my boss has been the same for 7 years and knows me and my work (and I’ve disclosed to her), and HR is actually currently looking to find a job coach for me who specializes in working with neurodivergent people. So I REALLY have a lot of people in my corner. I don’t think I could do it without them, and I probably would not have taken the position if I didn’t have such a strong support system.

          That being said, being the one that everyone turns to when they have questions is hard. I’ve historically been very focused on making sure everyone likes me, and I can’t do that with my direct reports. Sure, I’d like them to like me, but I also need them to do their job and meet expectations, and sometimes that means being firmer than I’m used to being. I get interrupted about 50 times a day, which is rough because I’m so easily distracted. And I’m honestly not loving having to interpret my problem employee’s behavior; there’s constantly the assessment of “am I somehow not communicating clearly with her, is it me, is it her, what is the cause of this disconnect” which is exhausting.

          TLDR: rewarding, but hard. Good support system VERY necessary, and knowing what you’re walking in to is key as well. Definitely not for all autistic (or alltistic!) people, but at this stage in my life, moving to management was a good decision for me. If you have any more specific questions let me know, I’ll check in later. :)

          1. Observer*

            And I’m honestly not loving having to interpret my problem employee’s behavior; there’s constantly the assessment of “am I somehow not communicating clearly with her, is it me, is it her, what is the cause of this disconnect” which is exhausting.

            That sounds exhausting, even without the neurodivergence in the mix!

            From what you say, I think you can take a step back from needing to interpret her reactions, though. Because it sounds to me like this is primarily a *her* problem. She wants the best of both worlds – the standing and authority of management, but not the responsibility – all wrapped up in a tidy package of being nearer to her family.

      2. Donkey Hotey*

        I’m guessing “Dude, this is literally what you asked for” and “topping from the bottom” are both wildly inappropriate at work, but really, that’s what’s going on.
        Speaking for myself, I have specifically and emphatically stepped away from positions of authority and it’s a constant struggle to not step in and try to lead. I empathize with them and still want to lovingly boot them upside the head.

      3. Observer*

        There is constant pushback, refusal to accept valid (and gentle) feedback, and giving excuses every time she does something wrong.

        Talk to your boss about this. But maybe the feedback needs to be less gentle. And allow less discussion. I don’t mean that you should be rude. But, as @Squish answered the OP, maybe you could start telling her “This is how we need to do it here.” And when she pushes back it’s ok to sometimes say “this is not up for discussion” and if she pushes back after having made her point and not convincing you “I hear you, but we’re going to do it X way.”

    3. WantonSeedStitch*

      Do you manage Jane, or does someone else manage her? If you manage her, I would recommend being very direct: “Jane, you frequently express frustration about taking direction from me and others, referring to us as ‘less experienced’ than you. I will remind you that I have ten years of experience in our field, while you are just starting out. In our line of work, that experience is more relevant than unrelated academic experience. Additionally, I expect that you will speak to your colleagues and management in a polite and professional manner, and accept direction from people who are in a position to give you assignments and feedback.”

      If you don’t manage Jane, have a word with Jane’s manager. Tell them about Jane’s behavior and the effect it’s having. It’s the manager’s job to then have the above conversation with Jane.

      1. PolarBear*

        I do not manage her, but I’m the lead on her main project, so I assign and review most of her work. Her manager is aware, but to my knowledge hasn’t done anything, so talking to the manager will be my next step. Appreciate the advice!

    4. Cee S*

      Oh my! As someone who has worked an industrial liaison for the academic institution and the industrial partner (a software company), I got Jane’s attitude a lot. I eventually quit because I always needed to clean up their work after them. The culture in academia indeed promotes an hierarchy according to tenure and academic degree. Note that I don’t have a PhD.

      My team tried to provide the research team some tools, but the team wrote their own tool. They even derived their own standard and process on how we should work! We emailed them, called them, even visited them on campus in person. They always defended their work and their actions for the sake of academic freedom. They talked back to us after they got the funding, but “kissed our behind” shortly before the government funding applications were due.

      There was also a PhD student who insisted on female students doing paperwork for him. For example, he asked a fellow female colleague to bring a form to the office downstairs. She refused and he blew up. She spoke to this student’s thesis advisor but there was no change and no apologies.

      Jane needs to be reprimanded in plain, strong language or a very hard lesson on working with other people. The PhD who delegated work to female students never found a reputable job or position even after his advisor helped him to land at least 2 postdoc position.

    5. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      “Jane, when you say ‘less experienced people like me’, what experience are you referring to?”

      Let her say something about the phd and reply “I’m confused, we talked about this during your hiring. Your PhD is in an unrelated field and therefore doesn’t count as experience for the purposes of this job. We look for a bachelor’s in x and years of experience doing related work, of which I have 10 years. Despite you not having a bachelor’s in x, we hired you because you did get x and y certifications, and as of now you have one year of experience.
      However, I’m concerned about your continued focus on a degree in an unrelated field as a reason not to take direction from your manager. That isn’t going to change. Do you want to take some time to think about whether you’re going to be comfortable working here knowing this is the arrangement?”

      1. Foxglove*

        This is a great response! As someone with a PhD this was (one of many) big anxieties in leaving adjuncting for a non-teaching/ non-tenure track career (I’m at a university but in administration and I love it)-people assuming I was like Jane or thought I was better than others because of my doctorate when I know I’m not. I had discussions with my supervisor when I joined about whether I should put my PhD in my signature and we decided on yes, because I do work with faculty, and that sometimes helps. She’s being very annoying and I’m sorry (but not surprised) she’s representing doctorates going into non-doctorate necessary careers so poorly.

        1. Snax*

          Yeah, I’m annoyed that Jane is representing us PhDs poorly! I’m still in higher ed and even though I work with deans and faculty, I don’t bring up my degree much or use it in my signature because I’m afraid of coming off like her.

    6. Irish Teacher.*

      She’s referring to you as “less experienced” when you have ten years in the field and she is completely new to it? Well, that’s…confidence, I guess.

    7. Oreo lover*

      Her attitude isn’t great, absolutely agreed. She is being annoying in her behaviour, and it would be appropriate to have a discussion about that and her performance.

      That said, I’m not sure why having your PhD on your email signature is objectionable. It takes a lot of work to get a doctorate, and whilst it doesn’t ‘count’ in your field, it does ‘count’ for something, and probably does very much to her. I mean, I guess I would be happy to have people who have extra credentials. She isn’t mentioning it or insisting people call her Dr Jane.

      I’ll also offer this….there are a lot of folks who wanted an academic career, went to time and trouble to get the PhD, and then had to get other credentials to find a job outside academe. Each position in my field (history) attracts 400-500 applicants, and the competition is ridiculous. I know this isn’t your problem, but it might explain her attitude. If she can’t even mention she at least got the degree, it might feel to hear what she did was completely for nothing. And academe has a tendency to make people feel pretty worthless anyhow.

      Is there any way she can do something more solo in an area of strength that she has? You might find she has something that might be valuable to your field, and you both could benefit. Good luck!

      1. PolarBear*

        I appreciate your perspective! In our organization, people don’t put degrees (we have a few people with doctoral degrees) in their signature, so it’s out of sync with the company culture but it’s not wrong.

        A problem I didn’t mention is she is struggling with some basic tasks that are part of her job. I’m not her manager, but I’m the project lead and have had to assign her tasks to others because she’s not doing them correctly or on time. At the same time she’s asking for special projects claiming she has experience (also not related to her PhD, I’m not sure where that experience is from). Most of those special tasks go to higher level people. I understand she’s frustrated but she was hired to do X work that we desperately need done, and we were very clear about the type of work during the hiring process, so if she doesn’t want to do it, this probably isn’t the right role for her. (Which is something her manager would decide- not me!)

        1. Username required*

          I’d soften the language but would basically tell her the company doesn’t reward incompetence. Until she can do basic tasks to the appropriate standard she doesn’t get to work on the fun stuff.

      2. Snoozing not schmoozing*

        I worked in a history field, and most of our PhD staff did not use it in their signatures. They’d use it for publications or when presenting at conferences and other speaking engagements, but not usually otherwise. There were a few staff with PhDs who kept their advanced degrees so quiet that some of us didn’t know that about them for years.

      3. Mantis Tobaggan*

        I work in a field unrelated to my PhD and I don’t list it in my signature/try not to draw attention to it in general. It seems irrelevant and I don’t want people to assume I have a PhD in the field I now work in (think English versus Economics).

        1. Mantis Tobaggan*

          I also don’t like being asked to talk about my dissertation, which I wrote 7 years ago and barely remember

      4. Observer*

        it does ‘count’ for something, and probably does very much to her.

        For her, sure. But professionally in this context? No.

        s there any way she can do something more solo in an area of strength that she has?

        Given her attitude towards doing the job she was hired for, towards the people who actually do have the *relevant* credentials (ie degree in the related field + experience), and towards taking necessary direction, I would be very hesitant to try to put her on additional projects.

    8. Not Jane*

      I trust you that Jane is acting out in the way you’ve described, but as a PhD working outside of academia and not in my specialty, I also have “Firstname Lastname, Ph.D.” in my e-mail signature. She’s not necessarily doing that as an attack at you/your team, she’s merely including the credentials she worked hard to earn.

    9. I Have RBF*

      I hate working with people who think having an “advanced” degree makes them smarter or more knowledgeable than people who have been doing the job for ten years.

      IMO, someone, like her manager, needs to have a talk with her about her arrogance and lack of real world experience. Otherwise they need to start managing her out so she can find someplace that wants a snotty PhD.

  13. Keylime*

    How to explain a burnout-related gap in a resumé? I’ve just quit the role that caused the burnout and will be taking a couple of months off to decompress and hopefully start to feel better before looking for a new position. My resumé is already a touch ‘gappy’ although these are attributable to college and time off to care for an ill relative. Thoughts and suggestions most welcome!

    1. EA*

      I don’t think a couple months needs that much explanation! It’s pretty reasonable for a job search to take a while, so I’d just say you’ve been looking for new opportunities in your field and not mention the burnout.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Can you point to a material change in the company, the customers, or the job from pre-Covid to Covid to post-Covid?
      I think most people are understanding of the kind of irrevocable changes that happened in that compressed 3-year period.

    3. Katrine Fonsmark*

      My go-to for resume gaps is “a family health issue that’s now resolved”. It’s no one’s business who the family is (you) or what the issue was. I hate that people even ask about gaps – who made the rule that once you start working you just have to work continuously for 40 years without ever taking a break??? Get outta here. It’s a bullshit line of questioning and deserves a bullshit answer.

      1. TC*

        Love this response! And hey a family health issue can just be yourself. Not working for your own mental health. The expectations capitalism puts on us are indeed bullshit.

    4. Goddess47*

      A reference to ‘a health issue that has now been resolved’ covers a multitude of reasons.

      Good luck!

  14. Jess R.*

    I have a direct report with serious performance quality issues, and today, I am giving him a written warning and explicitly saying for the first time that if he doesn’t improve, we’ll have to let him go.

    I. Am. Terrified.

    Not of his reaction or anything, just. I’m a new manager and I’ve never had to do this before. I’ve had many conversations with him about his performance with increasing seriousness, but this is new for me. Ugh. I’d appreciate any tips you have on how to get through this without losing my nerve.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Don’t look for his acceptance or agreement, which may not happen; just aim for clarity. Be more direct than feels comfortable. Hold silences longer than feels comfortable if necessary; don’t rush in and add a bunch more words and reassurance to fill the space. This is one of those times you have to dwell in the discomfort a little. Say your piece.

      1. pally*

        Yes, this is good. Issue your message. Then keep still. Let the message sink in. Don’t try to talk more. It will feel awkward.

        Be aware there might be legit questions, answer those but don’t drag things out.

        1. Jess R.*

          Thank you both for this reminder. It’s my tendency to both a) talk too fast and b) talk to fill the silence when I’m uncomfortable, so now my notes have STOP TALKING written at the top as a reminder to myself.

    2. FeelYa*

      The best I can say is that you’re doing a great job and keep your chin up. These are hard conversations, but they’re important. I wish my managers when I was a young person were honest and direct with me about any issues or had taken the time to help me the way you are now. That’s what you’re doing to be honest–you’re telling someone what they need to know to make the best decisions for themself. Proud of ya, manager.

      1. Jess R.*

        Thank you. I am trying very hard to keep in mind that I am doing the best thing for this employee (by being honest) and for the rest of my team (by not standing idly by), and that my discomfort is an okay price to pay.

      2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        This! It’s much kinder to be honest and and candid. It benefits the employee and any of their coworkers (at all levels) who are impacted by the low performance.

    3. Tio*

      Keep your voice and expression calm and even, even if he doesn’t. Some people get upset and teary, some people get upset and shouty, some people get resigned. Staying calm and even tends to force them to come back to that level (usually. if they escalate instead, call in backup, but that’s uncommon in my experience.)

      Be prepared for an argument, and be prepared to shut it down calmly. “These are the circumstances and this is what we expect, there will not be any changes, we will check in on (date) to go over your progress.”

      1. Sloanicota*

        Some people also shut down – I know I do. So you may not get the feedback you’re hoping for, or agreement, nodding, engaging etc – at least right in that moment. That’s okay too as long as you’re being clear and direct and available for follow up questions.

        1. Tio*

          Yeah, I’ve seen that as well, but I tend to find that easier to deal with so I didn’t mention it. it is a good point though.

          Won’t work for something today, but in general, practicing hard conversations – to a mirror or with a partner – can help build almost a “muscle memory” to be able to get things out even if it’s a rough time.

    4. Squish*

      This is terrifying for most new managers so you’re not alone. The first time I had to have The Conversation I was shaking so badly I had to make up an excuse to step out of the room. After doing this for years I’ve become much less nervous, although it still sucks telling someone they are bad at their job and will be fired if they don’t improve. I’ve become comfortable with holding a silence and calmly sticking to the agenda.

      I often just start the meeting by stating, “Unfortunately, this is not going to be a pleasant conversation” and get to the point. I state the problems in a matter of fact tone. Have some scripts ready and practice in your head eg “My ideal outcome would be to continue to work with you, but this is only possible if you [insert job requirements].” It definitely gets better with practice.

      1. Jess R.*

        Thank you so much for this opening line. “Unfortunately, this is not going to be a pleasant conversation.” Just knowing how to start has actually calmed my nerves a Lot.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Also look for Alison’s scripts and write down a couple of key phrases. She’s mentioned in the past that many managers unconsciously soften the message and with employees who aren’t getting it you really have to use the words “fired” or “let go”.

          1. Anonymous was already taken*

            Yes! There’s nothing more frustrating than managers not being direct. I got told just recently I made something complicated but all I was trying to do was clarify all the wishy washy points my manager had made! Me: so are you saying that I need to do this? Manager: you’re making things complicated.

    5. WantonSeedStitch*

      Make it as clear and factual as you can. You need to see him doing X, Y, and Z by [date] or his employment will be terminated. Write it all down so you don’t forget anything. And if he tries to redirect you and derail the conversation, nip it in the bud. “We’re not here to talk about that, we’re here to talk about your performance, what we need to see improve, and what the consequences will be if those improvements are not made.” And don’t feel like you need to reassure him or massage his ego. Just keep calm.

    6. ONFM*

      Be clear, be quick, be as kind as you can, but do not speak any more than you have to. It’s normal to try to fill the space with excuses or reassurance, but that’s not the point of this conversation. And whatever you do, don’t end with “this will all be fine!” This may not be fine. The last thing you should say, substantively, is “Do you understand everything we have talked about? Do you understand that if your performance does not improve, you will be fired?” Then send him on his way.

      If there’s another manager you can pull in for the convo, do it. It’s always good to have a witness/backup with you for something like this.

      1. EllenD*

        Agree with advice above, poss run it past your manager or HR contact to ensure you’re doing it right. I’d also say then follow up discussion with an e-mail to confirm what you said and the expectations and deadlines that need to be met and keep a copy. It you can get him/her to reply saying they acknowledge receipt and understand what you’ve said even better. It may be a*-covering, but it means HR can’t claim you weren’t clear.

        1. Jess R.*

          Fortunately, I’ve already run it past my manager, plus I have a written copy that I’m having him sign in the meeting just to indicate he’s received it and we went over it. I’m glad this is in line with what you’re suggesting!

    7. NotBatman*

      I’ve gotten through similar conversations by having a physical piece of paper in my hand with evidence of poor performance on it. That way, I can stick strictly to the facts: “Bob, you have sold fewer widgets than anyone else on the team this quarter.” [point to the number] “Between that and this chat transcript where you told Jim that his mother was a hamster,” [point to the transcript] “I will need you to make a dramatic change in your behavior or else we won’t be able to keep employing you.”

    8. Snow Globe*

      As uncomfortable as it is to deliver, it’s much better for the employee to know how things stand than to not know. It can help you get through it if you keep that in mind. Softening the message may be easier for you, but not for him in the long run.

    9. Girasol*

      I’m not good at confrontation. What helps me is to imagine that I’m someone else, a really great and experienced manager who can deal calmly and firmly with the person even if they’re furious or crying. I suppose that’s like making believe I’m a Real Adult. Sounds silly but it helps.

      1. M2RB*

        I did this recently – pretended I was A Competent, Confident Manager. I was able to stay calm, ask relevant questions to gather more information, leave empty air for responses, and reach a satisfactory result for everyone involved. (I think. I hope.)

    10. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I had a similar sort of discussion this morning that I was stressing myself out about, and when the DR was completely nonchalant “Yep, I did the thing, I knew I wasn’t supposed to do the thing, I don’t have an explanation for why I did the thing, I know I’ve been talked to about doing the thing in the past so I knew it wasn’t allowed, I knew I was going to be in trouble if I got caught, no further explanations available, sorry” I now have all this stress built up and I don’t know what to do with it, I expected him to argue or something, but … nope. I wish you a similarly non-dramatic discussion!

    11. A Simple Narwhal*

      An important thing to keep in mind is that the goal of this conversation cannot be that he does not get upset. Clarity is the kindest thing you can give him, even if it is upsetting.

    12. Jess R.*

      Well. That went. Very badly. I mean, I did well, I think. I was calm, even, had my counterpart in there with me, explained things clearly. He was angry, argumentative, defensive, refused to sign even to acknowledge receipt, and was all “I’ve been here longer than you” and then left for the day. So. That’s fun.

      I know what to do next. I’ve emailed my boss. I’ve spoken with my coworker who was in the meeting with me. I’m just shaken because, well, I knew it wouldn’t go great, but I didn’t expect that.

      1. Observer*

        I’m just shaken because, well, I knew it wouldn’t go great, but I didn’t expect that.

        Uch! That’s hard. But it does validate that this guy is a problem.

      2. HonorBox*

        I’m really sorry it didn’t go well. It sounds like you did everything correctly. Even in a case like this when you’re getting the brunt of their reaction, it is important to remember that they’re reacting to the situation and not reacting AT you. Someone’s reaction is theirs and we don’t need to “own” their reaction. Having that in mind should help as you go into the weekend and plan your next steps.

      3. Red Flags Everywhere*

        I had to deal with that situation and the HR rep who sat in asked if I wanted to escalate to security. I was a little taken aback because I’d expected him to be angry and aggressive, so didn’t think about how that might look to someone who didn’t know him. After 2 months of regular meetings to discuss how he needed to improve his performance, what I didn’t expect was his shock that he was being placed on a formal PIP. I didn’t escalate to security. He didn’t meet the terms of the PIP and resigned rather than wait to be fired, but it was still fairly traumatic all the way around.

      4. I Have RBF*

        If he refused to sign, does that mean that you can fire him for insubordination? Because refusing to sign a PIP or write-up is insubordination. That along with the “I’ve been here longer than you” means he has no intention of complying with the PIP/write-up.

        When he comes back on Monday, you need to meet with him again, with HR, read out the write-up/PIP to him again, and tell him straight up that if he does not agree that a) he received it, and b) to make the improvements require, you will take that as his resignation, effective immediately!

        I’ve had PIPs where I was knowingly set up to fail. I’ve had write-ups for the stupidest of reasons. I would have never dreamed of refusing to sign that I received it. That is a recipe for immediate termination.

        1. Lynn*

          THIS. Refusing to sign is a fireable offense. He can’t just be allowed to do that and keep working under you. That is straight up insubordination.

      5. SnappinTerrapin*

        Sometimes, you do everything you should, the way you should, and the other party in the transaction decides to do everything wrong. A bad result does not mean you did it wrong. He is also a free agent, with choices of his own to make, and the consequences are his responsibility.

      6. Anon. Scientist*

        If it’s any help, I think it may be easier that he clearly reacted poorly with a witness present. you have outside proof and now more evidence that they are unsuitable.

        I had a similar conversation recently, and in this case I had HR as the witness. I felt horrible because he was radiating “kicked puppy” and he was yes ma’am-ing everything. HR thought that I didn’t give him enough time to respond, which I probably didn’t but we both wanted it just over with. Mine signed right away. First official PIP checkup is coming up and that will be not fun either. I would like to just cut things now but here we are, documenting up the wazoo with HR enforcing.

      7. Polly Hedron*

        I disagree, Jess R. Your meeting went well! You ran it perfectly, and now you have the likelihood of unloading this problem employee sooner.
        I agree with I Have RFB above: talk to HR, and if HR agrees, get HR to come to another meeting on Monday where you tell him that if he doesn’t sign the form then, he will be fired for insubordination.
        If he does sign, then he will either improve enough to pass the PIP, or he will be gone.
        It’s to your credit that you hate this process –that’s because you are a decent person–but you are doing it right, and it will be easier if you have to do it again.

        1. Polly Hedron*

          Actually HR wouldn’t have to be in the second meeting, if that’s not how your company works, but it would be wise to confirm ahead of time with HR or with your boss that you could fire him immediately if he doesn’t sign, and for that meeting to include a third party such as your boss or HR.
          Good luck! Please update next Friday!

    13. SB*

      No tips, just encouragement…It is honestly the crappiest part of a management role but you can do it. It will never feel GOOD warning or terminating someone, even when the employee is terrible & the warning deserved, but you will develop your own strategies for dealing with the meetings & the fall out.

  15. Cee S*

    How to deal with random, pushy job seekers? I am not the hiring manager or the hiring team. I just know about an opening and posted the link to the job description to LinkedIn and a local Slack group.

    Then I got people asking me to refer them. Since I and those people have not worked with me, I don’t have anything to say. One even asked me to send their resume to the hiring manager. They even put my name down as the referrer on the application! I ignored those messages and requests.

    I have been more than happy to find out the hiring manager for people I worked with.

    1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      No advice but that’s wild behavior. I mean, one rando makes sense but it’s so striking that it was multiple people.

      1. Cee S*

        Yes, wild! If the people team asked me if I know that rando who put my name in their application, I’d tell the people team that I didn’t gave them permission.

        I did offer them via DM that I could talk more about the company.

    2. ecnaseener*

      Sounds like you’re dealing with them just fine by ignoring them. Feel free to block if needed, feel free also to respond once with “I’m not on the hiring team and can’t refer you, I just shared the link so you people apply directly. Best of luck with your application!”

      1. Cee S*

        Over time, we normalize silence is ok when we don’t want to explain why something is not ok. I was tempted to send the following message: “Hey. I did not give you permission to put my name down as the referrer. Let me message People Team to ignore your application because you failed to follow directions. All the best.”

        1. Mill Miker*

          My question is, is it clear on the application that “Referrer” means “someone who can vouch for me” and not “Someone who should get a referral bonus if I’m hired”?

          If I were applying I would probably err towards the latter if it was unclear and I couldn’t confirm with you. I think it’s way more likely for a company to say “sorry, you’re not on the application, we can’t pay you that bonus” than it is for them to say “sorry, you’re name’s on the application, so we have to hold you accountable for this person’s performance”

          1. Cee S*

            The answer is both: The people team pays the employees a bonus if the candidates that the employees vouched end up accepting the job offer. The weirdo missed the point that I had nothing to vouch.

        2. I Have RBF*

          So, if someone posts a job req to a community Slack, I assume that they get a bonus if I am hired. Now, I ask if they want me to put them down as a referrer so that they can get the bonus, but some folks just assume. You need to clarify if they should put you in as referrer to get a bonus or not.

    3. NotBatman*

      I agree that ‘ignore’ is the right answer. It’ll depend on your field, your career, etc., but could you delete your LinkedIn entirely? My dad became a public-facing HR officer for a big company and deleted his LinkedIn a week later — in that one week, he’d gotten literally 100s of requests for jobs, mostly from strangers.

    4. E.*

      I just ghost those people, as you’re doing. I think that’s the best way to diffuse it.

      A lot of advice for jobseekers, especially people straight out of school/training programs/whatever, is basically just “be very, very proactive.” It makes more sense than being totally passive, but it’s easy to go really overkill with it. Like what you’re seeing.

      Personally, I’ve seen enough unprofessional LinkedIn posts crowing about how X got a job in spite of the haters and naysayers, to not want to trigger someone else’s Main Character Syndrome. Way less likely for you to be remembered as a hater or naysayer if you just go silent than “hey, this is too much.” Let someone else teach them that lesson and risk that conflict, TBH IMO.

  16. Nicosloanica*

    I’m caught in a power struggle between my new boss and the old outgoing boss (who isn’t leaving although she plans to retire eventually; she was interim director and is now deputy). When old boss was my supervisor, I didn’t always agree with her but I viewed it as my role to be helpful to her in the ways she requested; I might raise an objection or suggest a different action but only to a point. I actually agree more with New Boss about the changes etc that need to happen. But, I find myself sort of triangulating between them like a child of divorced parents looking for permission to stay out after curfew, and sometimes I think signifying my agreement to New Boss, however privately, may just be stirring up more drama. Should I just keep my head down and do whatever one of them says in the order received until they work it out between them? I get an order now and I think “ooh, Old Boss / New Boss isn’t going to like that …”

    1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      Their relationship isn’t your problem to solve, so I would say just do whatever is easiest/best for you.

    2. Goddess47*

      In the day-to-day hierarchy, who really is in charge. That is, who does your grand-boss really talk/listen to?

      I would think this would be a conversation with New Boss? They should be sympathetic to the “you and Old Boss give me conflicting directions and I don’t want to be between you” dilemma you have.

      Not simple. Good luck!

    3. Performative gumption*

      If new boss is your current boss then that’s who you follow and that’s the relationship that sounds more important, especially if you agree with them!
      Ex-boss may not like it but you could just grey rock your way through.

      1. Melody Powers*

        This is how I dealt with a similar situation at an old job. It was the new boss whose opinions of the company and my work mattered so she was the one whose directives I followed.

  17. OrderItAllOnline*

    I have an employee who is a general office assistant – sits at the front desk and answers the phone (we don’t get many visitors post-covid or even phone calls as most people use direct lines). They also order supplies, stock the fridge, order lunches, set up for meetings. We are in a large urban area and they door dash or instacart EVERYTHING, even when I directly ask them to “walk to X and pick up Y. I’ll cover the phones.” They say “okay” and then a driver shows up. They don’t tell me they prefer to order it online because they know it isn’t my expectation.

    I don’t want to be petty but it costs about 10-20% more to order online. For heavy things or items outside of a 4 block radius, or if the weather is awful, no problem to me to order it. But something across the street? Employee has never disclosed any need for accommodation and frequently says things like “I should really walk more.”

    So just a temperature check here – it would be reasonable for me to name the issue with them and discuss it? I don’t want this to become an issue where I write down 20 rules for procurement – “must walk if X; order if Y” but maybe that is what they need? Trying not to make this a “I think you are lazy” conversation.

    They do see me run errands as well – for time sensitive things, I do the walking to pick things up. Just typing this out, I can see I have been too passive in allowing this to go on.

    1. londonedit*

      Out of curiosity, how are they ordering this stuff – with a company credit card? At any rate I think you definitely have reason to speak to them and say that you’re not willing to have the company spend 10-20% more on having things delivered, and from now on the policy has to be that unless it’s a bulky item or the weather is terrible (in which case you’ll authorise them to order online), they need to be taking the cheaper option and collecting these things themselves. If it’s the company’s money that’s being spent, the company can absolutely reasonably dictate how that money is spent. The employee probably isn’t thinking of it as ‘real money’, as it’s not theirs, and they probably don’t appreciate the impact to the company of all those little delivery charges. They might think ‘oh, it’s only £3 more’ or whatever, but at the end of the day it isn’t their budget.

    2. Sally Rhubarb*

      If it’s a budget thing, I think you’re perfectly within your right to say “we can’t afford the delivery fees so I’m going to need to you to go to the store to pick up X, Y, Z.”

    3. an IVF mom*

      It’s totally reasonable to have this convo based on cost alone and create a policy or some guidelines around it. No need to wait.

    4. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

      Yes, I think it’s reasonable to call out that they’re overspending on delivery fees for things that could easily be picked up in person from a short distance away. It doesn’t have to be about laziness. It’s really a cost issue, which is in your purview as a manager (maybe owner? Idk, it doesn’t specify in your post) of the business. 10-20% cost increase is significant, and adds up quickly even for small orders.

    5. DottedZebra*

      This is a big deal! They are defying direct orders AND lying to you. You’d be completely right to name it immediately and tell them it has to stop. I’d even require them to get permission before having things delivered because they can’t be trusted right now. They’ve lost the right/privilege to have that kind of autonomy.

    6. EA*

      I think you need to name the issue which to me is pretty clear – you’re paying 10-20% extra on these orders. Do you have a budget for these purchases? I’d refer to the budget and tell the employee it won’t allow for an online order of every item and then involve them in brainstorming the solution or guidelines going forward. This also gives them a chance to raise any issues with walking or carrying things.

    7. Snubble*

      I think it’s reasonable to expect that work purchases that can be fetched without hardship should be, to avoid the delivery fees for the company. But I think you should be very particular about not asking this employee to fetch your personal lunch, and to keep this errand-running closely confined to work tasks.

    8. Katrine Fonsmark*

      You are not being petty! 10-20% adds up over time and this is your employee, she should be doing things the way you ask, especially when you have a good reason. I agree that you have been too passive. She may not understand that when you say “please go get X” you actually mean “please GO GET X” not “get X to the premises the best way you see fit”. People are so used to ordering everything now, and when she’s not paying for it herself she may not be thinking so much about the money part. You just need to tell her very explicitly that things should usually be picked up in person, with whatever caveats you want, and see how things go.

    9. Sloanicota*

      I think I’d ask. “Hey, it costs us extra to order with a delivery, which is why I asked you to walk over. What’s up with that?” They may say something interesting. If not, say “in future, please walk over if it’s X or Y situation.” And then make sure it happens.

      1. Tio*

        This. Tell them to walk to pick up orders and delivery can only be an option if approved by you beforehand. Then if they do it again, you probably want to give them a clear line: “This is not in our budget, and we talked about this and the delivery here was not approved. If this happens again, there will be disciplinary action, as this is a recurring problem.”

    10. And thanks for the coffee*

      It’s happened to me as well. When I explain it out loud to someone else or write it down-I more clearly see what is going on and what I might or should do to make things better. Good luck.

    11. Construction Safety*

      Dunno, maybe they are concerned about the risk of being off site, or the physicality of carrying things (walking & chewing gum), or something else.

      1. Maggie*

        What’s the increased risk of being offsite? Presumably they don’t teleport to the office so they’re out on the street at some point.

        1. Tio*

          When you’re on the clock for a business, if you get sent across the street and hit by a car the business can have liability for that. When you log out and leave, and before you log in, they do not have that liability.

    12. The Person from the Resume*

      I think you need to name the problem and tell her to stop. Immediately for budget/cost reasons. It could be a “culture” fit in that this employee thinks nothing of instacart and door dash, and that’s how she exlusively runs her own life. Also could be something more like anxiety, but whatever your company can and should choose the reasonable cost saving options of picking up within a reasonable distance.

      I started dating someone who does both instacart and door dash for food deliveries for everything and is trying to encourage me to do the same. When I did ask about cost, she told be that she doesn’t **think** it’s much but also she has a instacart membership and pays a flat rate rather than a percent. On the other hand, I practically always pick up my own takeout instead of getting delivery to save money. It’s just the way I was raised (in a rural area where delivery wasn’t an option 40 years ago), and I don’t mind that drive or browsing in the store shopping for best options instead of online ordering exactly what I think I need without seeing it in person.

      1. MaryLoo*

        Also, if you’re ordering food from local establishments, the establishment isn’t making as much money in the order, because instacart takes a cut.

    13. Juneybug*

      Maybe it’s a time management thing? For example, she might think her time is more more valuable to keep working while waiting for delivery than walk to the resturant.

    14. Not A Manager*

      Before you “name the issue and discuss it,” have you tried being more explicit? Say, “walk to X and pick up Y. Please don’t place this as a delivery order, that costs more and is inefficient for short trips.”

      If they still don’t comply, then the issue isn’t the cost savings, it’s that they are deliberately disobeying a direct instruction.

    15. HonorBox*

      I don’t think you need 20 rules for procurement. You can just state that ordering online costs 10-20% more, and unless there are exceptions a, b, or c, purchases need to be made in person. Any of those exceptions could also require your authorization because “bad weather” could be read subjectively, too. This is about the budget, not laziness.

      1. Hybrid Employee (Part Human, Part Wolf)*

        I agree with everyone saying you can shut this down without worry, but I’d throw in that it would be good to lead with curiosity, in case there’s an invisible disability at play. I’ve got an old injury that nobody would guess is there, but it can be really painful to do simple stuff sometimes. I wouldn’t say you should assume that’s the case and accommodate proactively. Just give her the chance to say “I actually doordash everything because of an ankle injury from my Olympic luge career” or whatever.

    16. Anonymous was already taken*

      Totally get where you’re coming from. She absolutely should not be defying a direct order. But I do ask you this: does she do other work while waiting for the delivery? How long would it reasonably take of her time if she was sent to pick up the item? Does the half hour or whatever it may be equate to the delivery fee? It just seems to me that it’s actually probably more productive to pay her to be doing her job rather than running errands/collecting things. BUT if she too thinks this way, this should have been discussed with you at the time of requesting rather than saying ‘okay’ and not doing it. She should have said, “OK I can do that but did you know it will take half an hour of my time which is $X, and take me away from doing Y which will actually cost us $X for extra time taken to do that, and we can actually have it delivered for less than the cost of my half hour and then I can still be working on Y.” And then you would have an opportunity to consider the costs and make a decision. But by just going behind your back all she does is infuriate me I mean you.

  18. bassclefchick*

    I’ve been watching the new The Fall of the House of Usher on Netflix and oh BOY is that family terrible. Every episode I’ve been seeing all the ways Alison would advise the family’s staff to get out. Camille is especially horrible. I don’t think she even knows what the word “boundary” means!

    Are there other newer shows (besides Succession, the Office, and the other usual suspects) that are entertaining, but absolutely no way is the office situation normal?

      1. Bossypants*

        I’m rewatching Moonlighting and just kept thinking about why they have too many people on staff who do nothing but limbo! and their boss does not know how to manage!

    1. Dovasary Balitang*

      At least Verna saved the bartenders/security staff/misc at Prospero’s club! Although I would love to see what Alison would say if a letter written by one of Camille’s assistants about her expectations and the “consent waiver” was sent in.

      1. bassclefchick*

        Yes! Glad the staff at Prospero’s club was saved. We’ve only gotten through episode 3. I was also wondering about Alison’s response to Camille’s interpretation of “other duties as assigned”.

    2. Dovasary Balitang*

      I’m curious about the Newsroom – it’s full up on Sorkinisms, speechifying, and sexist portrayals of women. And a lot of yelling. Do newsrooms have that much of staff yelling at one another?

    3. Just another content creator*

      If you like dark/dystopian-type shows, Severance on AppleTV is a great example of a horrifying workplace

  19. C.*

    I work on a team where everyone but me is focused on one particular area of our work. This area is our bread-and-butter, so it’s seen as valuable and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. I’m in a position where I get to focus on what the next phase of this work could—and should—look like in the future. But I’m on an island by myself.

    I know that my director likes me quite a bit and sees me as a valuable colleague on this team. But because so much of my work is still in the buildout, trial-and-error phase, I’m not sure if my efforts receive the recognition I think it deserves.

    I’m going to be speaking with my director early next year about a promotion and what the future will look like for me here. What’s weighing on me is that I have a counterpart on my team (who I don’t report to) who has the exact same title as me focusing exclusively on that bread-and-butter work we do. This person does it well, and they deserve recognition, too, which—from what I and others have seen—is routinely given to them.

    This isn’t at all about diminishing the work of my counterpart. Far from it. I respect the hell out of what they do. But I’m finding it hard to prove my value on a team where my colleague is in the position where, by its very nature, they’re going to get all the glory. And since my company is stingy on promotions, I’m losing faith that I’m going to stand out as the one to move up a rung.

    Is it better to be on a team where you’re a known entity (in a good way)? Or is it better to be the one pioneering the work ahead?

    1. Performative gumption*

      I think I’ve been struggling with a similar issue of how does one define what good looks like in a role without clear KPIs or measurables.
      My boss and I have discussed for next year defining these more clearly eg for me to achieve and ‘exceed expectations’ I would need to do x,y and z versus just a,b and c to meet the ‘achieved’ criteria.
      I also was quite honest with them last year regarding how important positive feedback is for me as a motivator and they’ve been better at giving me this.

    2. Turnipnator*

      Is there any way you could present your work to the team on a regular basis? If you’re proud of your work that will come across, and giving people exposure to what you do can go a long way to getting that recognition. It might also help you feel less on an island.

    3. Bobina*

      Not quite the same, but I’m in a role that is also a bit outside the norm from many others and I think sometimes you need to just accept that you’re going to need to do a lot of self promotion and self validation. You need to become your own best cheerleader to help other people a) understand what you do and b) why its valuable.

      You may also need to look outside your company for peers to help you gauge how well your doing, brainstorm/commiserate with or just benchmark yourself against.

    4. Nonny*

      Would your role be similar to R&D?

      If so, does your company see value and prioritize that kind of work?

      Would it help with visibility if you had a more accurate title and didn’t share with the coworker doing the more visible work?

  20. engagementhelp*

    Does anyone have any good tips (or AAM post referrals) for staying motivated/engaged/positive at work when you’re really not feeling that way?

    The reasons are various, relating to past issues, a few recent unsuccessful interviews for other roles, and having a small and unstable team at the moment. However, I’ve just had a really positive annual review, so I’d like to build on that by tricking myself into feeling more engaged and basically fake it until I make it.

    Have a good weekend, folks!

    1. Generic Name*

      When I was job hunting, it was unfortunately obvious that I was Not Happy. My boss actually met with me to ask about it. I used something stressful going on in my personal life as an excuse for my apparent unhappiness. So, I didn’t do a great job at even faking engagement, but I came up with a reasonable excuse.

      1. engagementhelp*

        I respect that move. Unfortunately, my bosses will not cotton onto the fact I feel unsettled, and I don’t feel safe enough to bring it up to them at the moment! (I could be an actor.)

    2. Also Me*

      Oh, I want people’s answers to this too!

      I don’t care and I want to care. I have to drum up some care.

    3. Distractable Golem*

      Sometimes I pretend that I’m being interviewed for a documentary or podcast, either inspirational or cautionary. “Over the years I developed an algorithm for how much pizza to order.” “All administrative work is relational”

  21. Pumpkin Spice*

    Back back back again. :) I am a finalist for a role and it’s about 99% sure I’ll be 1) offered a position and if so it’s 2) 100% sure I will take this role.
    I mentioned to a former colleague that I hold a lot of knowledge and processes that most folks in my office are totally clueless about. The transition is going to be really challenging (on their part, I’m doing my due diligence as best I can). He suggested I offer to stay on part-time while I move out of the role to train others, hand over major systems, etc. I’m in higher ed, so I don’t know the precedent for this, but has anyone successfully negotiated a part-time position as a transition? Any tips, particularly for this field?

    1. Trotwood*

      Are you moving internally or externally? If you’re moving internally, you could offer to go 50-50 for a month or whatever seems reasonable before moving on completely. If you’re leaving the university entirely, don’t offer more than a standard notice period! You are not obligated to stay and hold their hands forever so that no balls get dropped.

    2. Just here for the scripts*

      Not in higher ed but I strongly recommend not doing this. You need to 1. Let your current job handle (or not) the transition—many won’t learn how to do/what to do if you are there and 2. Focus on your new job.

      1. Throwaway Account*

        Came here to second this; don’t do it!
        Unless it is internal and you can do 50/50 for a couple of weeks, don’t do it!

        Higher Ed is already dysfunctional; we can continue on with the added dysfunction of losing you! Ask me how I know!

        Plus, old job will suck you dry just because they can. Write up what you can and let old job go.

      2. WestsideStory*

        Agree. If you are feeling really guilty about leaving, write up a few manuals while you are waiting for the other offer. Or notes on some institutional knowledge that may be helpful. Don’t offer part time! You will need to focus on your new role. How they cope after you leave is not going to be “your” problem. It’s a “them” problem.

      3. Ashley*

        I agree (and I am not in higher ed either). Make your manuals and leave your notes. If you are on good terms with co-workers take the occasional call for a few weeks. I would try to have a meeting during week one of your notice where you can start covering what you think they may need and see what they want to you document and then do a wrap up the day before your last day to hit anything else that might get missed.

    3. DisneyChannelThis*

      Absolutely do not. That just trains them that they don’t have to learn this, they can just bug you about it forever. Write down as many procedures as you can to leave behind for them to train your eventual replacement and that’s it.

    4. Oranges and Lemons*

      I would strongly urge you not to attempt this. Document to the best of your ability during your remaining time there, maybe be willing to answer a few questions once you leave, but you really want to be able to give your new role your best and make a good impression which is hard to do if you’re splitting your focus like this. It’s not your responsibility to manage the transition for them once you’ve moved on.

      I’m pretty sure there have been a few letters here on this theme, so maybe check the archives too.

    5. Sparkles McFadden*

      Do NOT do this. It will not help. If you left because you hit the lottery or had to move to another country, everyone would just have to deal with that so let them deal with it now. Write up as much as you can about procedures and processes and have that ready before you go. It won’t cover everything because that’s impossible. At most, you can say someone can call you if there are questions.

      If you suggest a transition period you will end up doing two jobs, and the person who fills your spot will not feel like she owns the job until you’re out of there.

    6. Usernames are overrated*

      Don’t do it. You need to be focused on your new job and getting up to speed there. First impressions count and if your focus is scattered because you’re trying to help old job it’s not going to help you.

      If you do have time then create a guide for the processes so your former colleagues can refer to that. Though you can bet, even if they have the guide, they may just ring you for the answers. Ask me how I know this!

      I’m not diminishing your company knowledge but at the end of the day people leave jobs and the companies carry out – might be more difficult in the short term while they learn how to do stuff on their own but they will manage.

    7. RM*

      No tips specifically for this field, but, in mine it’s common for people to quit, work their 2 weeks notice, and then stay PT for a month+ as well paid independent contractors to hand over their work. This is common and accepted due to the rampant understaffing in our field. Someone staying on as part time salary or hourly would be looked upon as a fantastic deal.

  22. Rubies*

    Can anyone share experiences of not really getting over being laid off, years later?

    My role was made redundant (UK) in 2018. It was a non-profit in a role that I loved and got a lot of satisfaction from. I have been employed since then, but my new job is “fine”, not “great”, and I’m currently stuck at earning the same as I was in my old company – so a real-terms pay cut given inflation over the last 5 years.

    I know the solution is to find another job that I love, and I will do that as soon as family commitments allow. In the meantime, can anyone identify with…just not doing great after being laid off, years later? I still feel sad when I remember it, or when my old company comes up in my newsfeed (I’m still in the same industry). I’m also now very cynical about employment and basically expect to be laid off again eventually. Everything I need about lay offs/redundancy seems to finish with the person getting a wonderful new job with a 30% raise a couple of months later and agreeing it was for the best. Anyone want to offload a less positive story?

    1. Baby Yoda*

      I’m still a bit sad over a company I loved that closed all its branches over 30 years ago. I love my current job but still always feel a ping about that one, and just file the feeling away like my feelings over a lost pet. There are many different types of grief. Good luck to you!

    2. Donkey Hotey*

      In a sense, something like this is a like a breakup. You can move on and find someone new and be blissfully happy and yet still feel a twinge when you think about it.

      I got laid off from a job I’d had for 14 years – one I was firmly convinced I would retire from. It’s six years later. I’m in a better career path, doing stuff more in line with my vision, hybrid, and making double what I was making at the old place. And I’m still bitter about it. I tell myself I’m bitter because it was because a fourth generation family owned business who sold out to a corporate competitor. But it still frustrates me. So no advice but plenty of empathy. Cheers, friend.

    3. sending this anon*

      I had a job that was eliminated in 2020, partly because of Covid. After that, I moved across the country, did some house-spousing and freelancing, and it took me until this year to land another real job in my industry. I like my new job a lot, but I earn about 33% less now than in my old job (not even considering inflation), and overall I still mourn my old life in a lot of ways.

      I just started therapy in the hopes of moving past the grief enough to embrace my current circumstances. It’s helping, but it’s not an easy or linear journey.

    4. Melody Powers*

      I’m in my second job after losing one that I really didn’t want to leave and it’s definitely still affecting me. I’m earning less, I like my schedule less, I don’t have the camaraderie that I valued there, and every difficulty I face at these more recent jobs is harder to deal with because there’s an added element of knowing I wouldn’t be dealing with it at all if I’d been able to stay where I wanted to stay. That’s not to say that there aren’t things I like about where I am now, but it’s still hard. And I know exactly what you mean about hearing all those stories where people end up somewhere where they’re much happier.

    5. Rubies*

      Thank you everyone, it really is helpful to hear from you. I think it will be especially useful to reframe this as grief, that makes a lot more sense of the situation.

    6. Nearly Time*

      I’m still mourning a job that ended 7 years ago. I was fulfilled there – badly paid but compensated with flexibility and the autonomy to do meaningful work that challenged and excited me.
      No job since then has been a good one. I feel cynical and scared now about the jobs that are out there, because the last few roles have been: 1. Majorly toxic, 2. Deeply toxic, and 3. Quite toxic. And I’m paid no more than before. It gets me down.

    7. LayoffsHappen*

      You likely will get laid off again. That’s part of life. I don’t know anyone under the age of 60 who hasn’t been laid off multiple times.

      I’ve been laid off from all but one full time job I’ve had in the past (I’m hoping it doesn’t happen with my current job, knock on wood). I’ve been laid off from contracts in the sense that funding dried up and things were ended early. I’ve been laid off while out sick and laid off over the phone and laid off the week after a company assured everyone no one was getting laid off as part of a merger.

      I guess I’m trying to say it’s part of life. Thinking about the old companies sometimes or playing what if is normal. Some bit of trauma is normal, although the folks I know who have it have been through multiple layoffs.

      Try not to stress about it too much and if you really think you are, perhaps some counseling might help to assist with coping tips.

  23. ILoveCoffee*

    Thank goodness this is up – I need commiseration! I managed to look like a total idiot who can’t do math in front of my supervisor!

    I am a college professor as a community college, so no tenure, but we do have a promotion process to go through the ranks. I’m going up for associate, so as part of my promotion packet I need to include a course observation report from my supervisor.

    I’m 6 years in so I’ve had plenty of observations and have no reason to be nervous but I still couldn’t sleep the night before and I was horribly anxious at the start of class.

    I stupidly decided to start with an example I hadn’t worked out before (I know!) and it involved so very basic math (this specific class isn’t math heavy at all but I also teach physics…so math is a big part of my job) and I made a BIG AND DUMB math mistake. I stared at it knowing I had made a mistake but my brain would not work. Eventually a student pointed it out and I tried to recover but I feel so embarrassed.

    Actually after that the rest of class went great because I realized I couldn’t do anything worse and I relaxed.

    I am going to chat with her today – she was in her own classes the rest of the day so I didn’t see her yesterday. Instead of hiding under my bed like I want to do, I am going to explain where my brain was, own the mistake (which I did yesterday with my students), and then ask if we can redo the observation.

    1. howdostartup*

      Oh nooooo so many commiserations I would sink though the floor in mortification. If it helps, though, as a student I always had much more respect for professors who were matter of fact in owning their mistakes, which it sounds like you were. These things happen, it’s good for students to see that they do, and if your supervisor is reasonable she’ll see it like that!

    2. Goddess47*

      Yeah. As long as you were accepting when the student pointed out the mistake, and — as you say — the rest of the class went well, then you should be fine. No one is perfect and you rolled with it.

      Breathe! You should be fine. Good luck with that promotion!

    3. Trotwood*

      I totally understand why it was embarrassing but surely your supervisor knows you can add/subtract/multiply/divide. Her evaluation should be focused on much bigger picture things than “OP got briefly tripped up by a calculation error.” You don’t need to go into your meeting trying to convince her that you know that 2+2 doesn’t equal 5. It was a one-off and it doesn’t sound like it impacted the quality of your lecture, so you could say “I can’t believe I got so thrown off in my example by an addition error! I knew something was wrong but until Jane spoke up I just wasn’t seeing it!” But don’t make this a bigger deal than it really is.

    4. amoeba*

      Maybe to cheer you up – the math professors at my university made “embarrassing” mistakes with simple calculations all. the. time. Like, the most complex mathematical proofs and derivations, no problem. But then an example with actual numbers in it? Forget it. The students helped them out not once, but regularly, and I distinctly remember one of them just kind of giving up in the middle of it.

      It’s fine, those things happen and I’m sure your supervisor knows that as well!

      1. anon24*

        Yes! I’m a student at a community college and my calculus 1 professor makes arithmetic errors sometimes. We just point them out matter of factor like, hey, I think that should be -1, not 1.

        I don’t think any student in the class thinks of him as anything less than absolutely brilliant, because he is. He understands the concepts so well. No one thinks that he doesn’t know what he’s doing, it’s just a lot of math.

      2. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

        This! When I was a teacher and made a mistake, I tried to use it as a way to show students not to let one mistake throw them–that even after you’ve been doing something for decades, you might still mess up, but it’s okay as long as you learn from it/fix it.

      3. Red Flags Everywhere*

        My ex-husband was an amazing chef. Could spell multi-syllable French cooking terms perfectly (he wasn’t French). I always proofed his menus because he would misspell words like “beans” and “bread” ALL THE TIME. It happens.

    5. Another Academic Librarian*

      Just try to remember that your course observation report isn’t about your math skills — it’s about your teaching and classroom management skills! Sure, acknowledge your error (and your nerves) and note that you’re taking this as a reminder to prepare your examples more thoroughly in advance. But you’re also a human being who had a chance to model problem-solving and graceful acceptance of being wrong for your students. Hopefully your supervisor will have noticed that you have created an open environment in which students feel comfortable correcting you and you feel comfortable taking correction.

      1. David*

        I would absolutely agree with this.

        A situation that is not the same but I think is kind of analogous: at my last job I would often interview people applying to work at my company, and this was for software development so they were technical interviews where the candidate would have to write code. I always found that it was a much more useful interview when I got a chance to see how the candidate responds to discovering that they’ve done something wrong. The way that someone deals with a minor mistake is a really important factor determining how good they’re going to be at the job, where little mistakes are commonplace.

        So in a way, it can actually be a benefit to mess up in an interview, as long as you can show the ability to handle it well. I don’t know if that applies quite so much to your situation, ILoveCoffee, but I bet there is some parallel. Hopefully that helps take some of the sting off the residual embarrassment (which I know from experience can continue long after you logically know things turned out okay).

    6. Turnipnator*

      I just went to a retirement party for a math professor of mine, and many people (many had become professors themselves, or had known him first as a colleague) talked about the advice he gave that they found meaningful as teachers. The two aphorisms that came up most were: “tell the truth” and “don’t sweat the small stuff”. Specifically this was applied to making mistakes.

      It can be a very powerful, positive thing to make a public mistake, acknowledge and correct it, and move on. It models that your classroom is a safe place to be wrong, which is really important for creating a learning environment where students can be curious, ask questions, and take risks.

      I know you’re mortified now: but if it helps at all I think it is better for your students that they see you make mistakes. You don’t learn new things by being right all the time!

    7. Goosey*

      All I’m hearing is that your demonstrated your ability to curate a classroom environment where students are empowered to actively participate in collaborative learning ;)

    8. JustaTech*

      I had a (tenured) engineering professor in college who was forever losing a minus sign when he worked giant equations on the board.
      Honestly after a while I wondered if he did it on purpose to keep us paying attention while he derived this or that equation (Fourier transforms, I think).

      For myself, just last week I told a coworker (in front of my boss) that I was more than happy to do the reagent dilutions, but she needed to at least check my math because I can not be trusted to calculate any dilution correctly. I’ve been in this industry for more than 15 years.

    9. Miss Dove*

      You are fine. There is no need to repeat the observation. Mistakes happen, and it doesn’t matter. You didn’t yell at your student for correcting you; you didn’t deny you had made a mistake; you went, “oh, thanks” and moved on. That’s all that matters. I make simple math mistakes all the time. It can even be a good lesson, because then I can say, “see, I knew that was wrong because I had an idea in my head of what the right answer should be. You should also notice when the answer doesn’t come out as expected and look for your mistake.” It’s a good teaching moment.

    10. Deuceofgears*

      I realize college is different from HS – I used to teach HS math, and I made a *point* of not “hiding” math mistakes from the students, showing them how I caught the mistake (e.g. error correction or estimation or dimensional analysis), and how to fix it. Or even talk through “hmm, something’s wrong, does anyone see a path forward” and discussing different approaches to problem-solving because different students would usually click more with one than another and modeling that. So maybe an approach you could take is talking about how to model “Hmm, I’ve made a goof, how do I fix it/figure it out?” because that IS an important math skill.

      I also realize I only have a B.A. in math but my experience is that most mathematicians SUCK at arithmetic. The joke is you never ask a mathematician to calculate the tip! (I’m in the US.) Most mathematicians are not Ramanujan number theory geniuses. :) I had this prof for linear algebra during undergrad who could not do arithmetic for beans (or was faking it real good), so we watched him LIKE A HAWK to call out corrections anytime he was demonstrating row reductions, determinants, etc. at the board because otherwise we would be stuuuuuck for ages. To this day I still wonder if he did that on purpose to make us pay attention. :)

      Also, my husband is a physicist working for Caltech. I cannot tell you HOW MANY of his physicist coworkers I have talked to and they ALL talk about how many of them get felled by SIGN ERRORS. You can’t be perfect, but you can discuss how to catch errors and what to do about them!

    11. CoffeeIsMyFriend*

      thanks everyone! I talked to my supervisor and she totally understood that it was nerves. she also said I handled it well during class.

      it also came in handy when I was talking to a student in a different class today who had also made a silly mistake and was feeling embarrassed. I told her about what I had done and how I was handling it and how it sucks but we will both survive in the end!

    12. But Not the Hippopotamus*

      I have a degree in math, my husband has a PhD. It is well known that people with math degrees (physics is pretty close) cannot add and subtract. Seriously, I’ve messed up addition of numbers that you could add with your fingers. In public. At work.

      I say that so you know you aren’t alone, any reasonable person won’t think this one thing is typical (esp after years!), and you should be just fine.

    13. Jessica*

      I wouldn’t suggest redoing the observation. These observations are service work for the observer too, and they don’t want to do it twice. Maybe say something, but don’t denounce yourself–this was a simple kind of error anyone can make, and you showed your students that (a) you’re not too egotistical to take correction and you can admit when you’re wrong, and (b) everyone makes mistakes and a little error doesn’t mean you’re dumb or not good enough to be in STEM. These are strengths, not weaknesses!

    14. Jelly*

      “Eventually a student pointed it out…”

      …which is a real-time demonstration and measure of the success of your teaching.

      What a wonderful thing for your observer to see for herself.

  24. The Prettiest Curse*

    What is your top piece of advice for people who are new to your type of work?
    For event planning/coordination, my top advice is to start small and simple when you’re launching a new event. Concentrate on delivering a good small-scale event before you go for a multi-day, multi-venue extravaganza. I’ve helped out at 2 new and mildly disastrous events this year that tried to do way too much (our team had to partially rescue one of these events because it was run by a partner organisation) and there’s another similar event coming up which is likely to crash and burn for similar reasons. Just get the basics right before you try anything complicated.

    So, please share your top advice below!

    1. TiffanyAching*

      For folks new to HR: unless you are absolutely, 100% sure of the answer, it’s completely fine (and recommended!) to tell someone you’ll look into it and get back to them. We deal with so many laws and regulations, in addition to people’s pay and benefits, that it’s just better outcomes for everyone if we double-check our information.

      For folks new to higher ed: Faculty are different. They will expect and demand special treatment, and in some cases that’s warranted — faculty policies can be different than staff policies. It’s not always fair, but that’s how it works.

      1. Sneaky Squirrel*

        Also in HR: Agree with the previous advice. But also, spend the time learning how to understand excel enough to do pivot tables and vlookups, other basic formulas. There are so many helpful tutorials on youtube and google and those skills will help you in a lot of other industries besides HR! So much of my day is spent trying to figure out changes in benefits calculations, mandatory reportings, occasionally fixing a salary/pto error, figuring out how to fairly dispense money across staff, pulling reports together for non-HR staff to make decisions.

    2. M2RB*

      CPA with six years of tax prep experience in public accounting firms followed by twelve years of corporate/internal accounting; pre-accounting work was about 2.5 years in banking.

      Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, especially small ones, but make sure you don’t make the same mistake over and over again.
      Ask questions – ask for clarification if instructions aren’t clear.
      Ask how long a project should take, and if you’ve spent 1/3 of the expected time and don’t have something to show for it, go ask for help right away.
      Get a good understanding of what your company does: the way I view accounting is we are making sure the GL illustrates what is happening out in the “real world” (whether that’s the production floor of a manufacturer or the services provided to customers).
      Don’t take a promotion just because you’ve accomplished a lot technically: do you have the people/management/soft skills required to manage a team? That’s a whole lot different than being an expert in like-kind exchanges or in ASC 842.

    3. ?*

      I teach elementary school—all grades but primarily kindergarten through second. I would tell new teachers that almost nothing is instinctive or obvious to a very young person, and you should pre-plan lessons looking for any possible snag that, say, an alien who landed on earth yesterday might find confusing and plan accordingly. Obviously this varies based on age. But I’ve been teaching 15 years and just this month I realized I had to explicitly teach a lesson on where to put your reading folder and materials, because even though I’d gotten special folders and baggies for just this purpose, the kids kept knocking them on the floor while they were working. So we learned how to put everything in a neat pile and then put that pile in the center of the table so you don’t knock it on the floor with your elbow when you’re working. Lining up, not yelling the answers out in the middle of a test, turning work in when it’s done, telling an adult when you’re bleeding but not shouting out in the middle of a lesson that you lost a tooth three days ago—what’s common sense to an adult is not necessarily common sense to someone who’s been alive less than a decade.

  25. Anonymask*

    An update:

    I asked for a raise last Wednesday (scary!), and have a meeting next Friday with boss and grandboss to discuss it. I’m not sure why I need ANOTHER meeting about it, but it seems to be a positive step!

    I asked for a 11.5% raise to catch me up to industry standard. I am unlikely to get that amount (my company caps raises at 4.99% unless a manager really goes to bat for their employee), but my boss thinks at least I can get the 4.99% now and MAYBE the rest next year.

    (My fiance pointed out that they waited until payday to have a meeting to avoid two weeks of paying a higher salary, and with the nonsense management is up to over here, I’d believe it.)

    1. Raises*

      Good luck. Re: waiting, FWIW, every raise I’ve ever gotten came with a future effective date so don’t be surprised if any raise you get is not effective immediately.

  26. howdostartup*

    Wondering whether anyone else has experienced this. I have a role in a large company that involves maintaining/improving a long-running, evolving product. Recently a company reorg has placed my team within a new team that shares approximately the same target customers (and would like to sell to the established customers of my team’s product) but has a very different ethos. Lots of talk of creating a startup culture, spending budget on innovation/experimentation, and not being afraid to take risks. Feels odd to me – has anyone else experienced (parts of) large established companies reinventing themselves as startups, and how did it work out?

    1. WestsideStory*

      Yes! I worked in book publishing for years and getting established firms to embrace digital books was a nightmare.
      The successful ones did indeed start by creating an internal team that acted like a startup- look up “Skunkworks” for inspiration.
      In successful cases the new teams were given a finite budget and reasonable deliverables in terms of time frames and ROI. This is the key, really. Not every idea is going to work, and the loser companies were the ones that got cold feet or pushback from management simply because they had not budgeted what costs they could afford comfortably.
      Please don’t be the dinosaur holding back innovations. Companies must innovate or die.
      If the new team will interface with your group, lend them talent on an adhoc basis for specific projects. Or volunteer your help as a knowledgeable expert. Where I worked, the old managers who got involved with the new. Projects got promotions- most are still there at those companies.

      1. WestsideStory*

        Sorry I think this might post twice…I feel very strongly about innovation teams and your particular circumstance (established product/customer base being re-tooled for new product/different customers) reads very much like what the disruption of digital books did to print. Good luck!

    2. WestsideStory*

      Yes! I worked for years in book publishing and getting established companies into digital books was like turning an aircraft carrier.
      The most successful companies were those that created internal teams given entrepreneurial license to innovate. Look up “skunkworks” to get an idea.
      The successful companies also gave those teams finite budgets and reasonable deliverables and time frames. Not every idea is going to work. The companies that failed (and I mean closed down or got bought) got cold feet or pushback from brass when expectations weren’t met on the first pass. It is key that a company budget innovation only to the point of what they can comfortably afford to lose or spend.
      All businesses must innovate or die. If you’ve been given a role with the new team, be as helpful as you can. I often “borrowed” talent for ad hoc teams to solve specific issues, and years later see those same staffers still at those companies but now in higher roles.

    3. Just another content creator*

      I worked for a medium-ish marketing company that hired a start-up investor to be our new CEO. At first, everything was chaos and turmoil – many people who’d been there 20+ years left because they couldn’t handle the massive changes. I almost left when two awesome women in leadership were let go because they dared to question our new leader. It was BAD.

      After sticking it out, I saw more positive outcomes manifesting:
      – Lazy/incompetent colleagues were weeded out, creating space for fresh, talented people who wanted to help the company grow
      – We modernized many processes and offerings making us more competitive in the market
      – Everyone cross-trained, growing abilities/understanding of other roles and removing silos

      However, we had major problems with:
      – CEO constantly changing his mind about how to pitch new products and services, leading to super inconsistent messaging
      – No real research or testing behind anything new, other than CEO’s googling/opinions (“Sure we don’t have this figured out yet, but if someone buys it, we’ll build the plane while it flies!”)
      – New team structures/process changes every few months for no real reason
      – Brown nosers/buzzword users getting all promotions/praise – very good ol’ boys club mixed with all of CEO’s new hires treated as golden children
      – High burnout from the unrealistic expectation that we all deliver higher-quality work faster, when workloads were already ridiculous (one account manager had a mental breakdown and took a leave of absence/never returned, and CEO’s lackeys made fun of her for not being cut out for the job?!?)
      – Total lack of transparency about EVERYTHING

      Overall, the changes to the company saved it from becoming obsolete, but people were treated way worse. I was let go a year after my work/ideas directly resulted in closing the biggest client the company had ever had. Now I’m at a more conservative company being paid way more to do way less work (no OT, ever! no documenting productivity every minute of every day! no more “oh, you need 6 hours to complete this task? do it in 3 or less, because Golden Sales Rep needs this thing yesterday, but couldn’t be bothered to tell anyone”) and don’t have to deal with continuous changes based on one start-up guy’s toxicity.

  27. Betty Spaghetti*

    Alright. I am on the board of directors for a very small non-profit in an animal care-related sector that is notorious for exceptionally passionate and opinionated volunteers. We have one newer volunteer, who after being screened and assigned tasks, has turned out to be batshit banana pants. Her assessments swing wildly from one end to the other, which can have very serious effects (like life threatening) to her charges. She has completely burned a bridge with one of our medical resources- I wasn’t directly involved but it ended with her threatening their reputation and something about insurance fraud? She needs to be fired. I know it. The rest of the board knows it. I’m stuck on how to approach this and get her to return the important resources which belong to the non-profit. Looking for ideas on how to approach this conversation- keeping in mind that she’s very good at deflecting and you know being bananapants.

    1. Goddess47*

      Don’t do it alone would be my first instinct. You need to be able to document your discussion and to make sure you get to the message.

      Follow up in writing, as documentation of ‘you must return these things to us by X date or [consequences]’ — not sure what consequences you can bring to bear…

      Consult a lawyer. Sounds like a worth-while investment…

      Good luck!

      1. Betty Spaghetti*

        Physical only. After a recent incident, we’re concerned that she will refuse and then the resources will “disappear”.

        1. WorkerDrone*

          I hate to say this, but, can you lie? Tell her the resources need to be updated in person or something if they’re files, or if it’s equipment like a camera or laptop, tell her that they’re being upgraded to the newest, shiny thing and she needs to turn in the old equipment first?

          I sure wouldn’t want a paper trail of that, but, you’re stuck in a tough spot. Otherwise, you might need to look into how you could legally recover the resources with police help.

        2. Rick Tq*

          I assume she signed an inventory sheet when she received the gear so you have the details of what needs to be returned. If she doesn’t return the equipment, or returns them damaged and unusable plan on making a police report on her theft.

    2. Rick Tq*

      Stop scheduling her at your operations, lock out her account(s) in your systems, and see if she stays away. I’d direct her to return your resources immediately, and if she doesn’t be willing to go to her house with police presence to retrieve everything when she ignores you.

      Expect to need to Trespass her from your sites if she refuses to stop coming by.

      Hopefully you won’t need a restraining order to keep her from electronically harassing the org after she is gone.

      1. Betty Spaghetti*

        We may need to include some warning language regarding defamation, etc. when we let her go. Any suggestions on how to include that?

        1. HonorBox*

          I think you can have her sign some sort of separation agreement. In that, outline what the physical items are that she has and when they need to be returned. And also include that should any negative statements be made about the organization, she may be contacted by a lawyer. An attorney could give you specific language to use, but the document should not only help her think about the ramifications of saying anything, but also provide a reminder to her that you know exactly what property of yours she possesses.

        2. Red Flags Everywhere*

          That type of thing is notoriously difficult to enforce. I mean, go ahead and write something up, tie it to some severance pay, maybe, but then let it go. Doubt you’ll get any value out of pursuing her for breaking the agreement and it will cost you money to do so. Usually doesn’t take long for the audience to realize the source is bananapants.

    3. Rick Tq*

      Tell her to bring in the equipment, and on that date sit her down and give her a Trespass order and a warning about the consequences of libel and slander if she defames the organization.

      Hopefully your org has a lawyer on the board or donating her services, they should be able to help with the process and documentation.

      When you have the meeting ignore her deflections and denials. No questions, no discussion, and no diversions into banana-land from her.

  28. Busy Middle Manager*

    Anyone else work in an industry where the word “AI” gets thrown around, but you’re not sure how it’s actually going to get used. Working in an office setting coding, I keep reading AI articles, and thinking to myself, we already automated away many jobs! Is there really that much more to get rid of? Remember when you used to have guy/gal Fridays, and loads of people in Accounting departments processing paperwork, someone to do the mail, etc? I’m not sure we can automate the automator but that seems to be what Microsoft and competitors are promising.

    Sitting here, I don’t think it’s financially worth it because the people who will know how to “speak AI” will be very expensive, and you’re automating tasks lesser-paid people are doing, with no guarantee you can make their jobs redundant, because the actual coding part is only a fraction of their time.

    I read an article on late stage capitalism and saw the term “innovation for innovation’s sake” as a hallmark where a society starts stalling, and it struck with me this week, and I’m not the type to usually feed off of those sentiments.

    This has a dark side to me. Most of the people in these types of jobs are highly intelligent, some obscenely so. They’re getting paid obscene amounts to automate office work that more average people do. So what happens to these people? Was it really a huge issue that someone did some bookkeeping or something by hand? Did society or even the company really benefit from getting rid of that work? It feels like Microsoft and companies like that will kill future earnings by swallowing up their own consumers.

    I’m wondering how to approach it if my job starts with the “let’s AI stuff!” On a personal level, I’m wondering if I should continue learning to code (you never finish learning) or switch to learning how to “AI whisper” if that’s the route we’re going. I am not sure people at the board level realize how silly it is when you still need to waste so much time learning “AI speak” instead of just using the existing coding languages. It feels like a solution without a problem to me

    1. Rubies*

      Yes! Our seniors are demanding that we start using AI, but most of the tools available seem to create more work than they resolve right now, for example allowing quality checks that aren’t economic to do right now…but then someone has to act on the quality checks.

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      This has a dark side to me. Most of the people in these types of jobs are highly intelligent, some obscenely so. They’re getting paid obscene amounts to automate office work that more average people do. So what happens to these people? Was it really a huge issue that someone did some bookkeeping or something by hand? Did society or even the company really benefit from getting rid of that work? It feels like Microsoft and companies like that will kill future earnings by swallowing up their own consumers.

      The draw of automation to me was always removing the chance for human error. So in the sense than the automated is more often more right than the manual, I’m comfortable with it.

      The more discretion a process involves, the more resistant it is to automation. Those judgment calls are going to be the spanners in the works, and they already pop up.

      In a perfect world, the problems you raise are problems that UBI (Universal Basic Income) aspires to address–but we still have to conquer about half of the laws of Economics to make it all work right.

    3. Nonny*

      This sounds depressingly familiar. Plus, in my field (and I suspect in many) we all know that AI won’t be producing results as good/reliable as human workers any time soon. (And that’s without mentioning the ethical issues.) But it can produce stuff that’s just about good enough if you squint, so bang goes our field.

    4. Generic Name*

      I work for an engineering company, and we are apparently developing our own AI tool. I’m not quite sure how it will work. Maybe it will be used to do more “rote” engineering? At this point, my area of expertise is complicated enough that I’m reasonably confident that AI won’t be sophisticated enough to take over my job before I retire. I just hope we don’t create robots that destroy us…

      1. Busy Middle Manager*

        I agree. There are so many little things, like, one huge set of laws governing our industry tends to repeat itself and say something in full in one place, then say it vague in other, and there will be a paragraph between the nuts and bolts of the law and the “this applies to companies who do X” comment. It makes me wonder, will AI be able to pick up all of that if it needs to work a law into a process? If not, and I still need to read the entire law and tell AI what to do – I just did 90% of the work

    5. Anax*

      I’m in IT, so… yes.

      Honestly? This feels like a big buzzword, just like ‘blockchain’ was five years ago. I agree that it feels like a solution without a problem.

      It seems like people get excited about AI every few years, and fundamentally, the practical uses are typically *very boring*, and the fancy-sounding chatbots will largely go the way of Clippy (who was also fancy-sounding AI in its day).

      The places I’m seeing jobs automated are the same ones I’ve seen for a decade – things that were done by several people with Excel are now being done by one person with a program to do the calculations. Those jobs could have been automated for years; it’s the human factor, resistance and not wanting to put people out of a job, which has slowed adoption.

      The tech innovation I’m seeing is largely in things like ‘better organization of large amounts of data’ and ‘making it easier to customize websites’ – if anything, adding jobs and not removing them.

      (Also, all of the big-name AI tools on the market like ChatGPT are operating in an EXTREMELY grey area with copyright and privacy, and there’s a definite chance that a major court decision – likely out of Europe – will do catastrophic damage to them. As it should. The amount of intellectual property theft for training models is astounding.)

      1. Busy Middle Manager*

        good insight, never thought of copyright stuff as overlapping with this! I forgot about clippy as well!

        1. Cyndi*

          It’s funny to me how different people’s frames of reference are with this kind of thing! Copyright issues with gen AI recycling creative work (writing, illustration, photography, music, etc.) are the objection I hear about most often by far, more so than how AI affects my own actual job.

          1. Anax*

            Definitely. There was a huge kerfuffle about Zoom using AI that way a few months ago – it caused such an uproar that they’ve backtracked hard, but they clearly intended to use people’s calls for AI training.

    6. Rick Tq*

      For a nice overview/sanity check search youtube for dr goh Ai. He is a senior scientist at HPE and does a great job of talking about what Large Language Models (like ChatGPT) can do vs. what they cannot. Also note that many companies are banning use of these tools because the information in the requests become part of the data set, so sensitive company information can be exposed.

      Finally, the programs have no concept of truth or correctness, just what word(s) are most likely to come next in their training set. Read the news articles about the law firm that got sanctioned and two lawyers that were nearly dis-barred when the submitted a legal pleading that included entirely fictitious case references because the junior lawyer used ChatGPT and nobody actually reviewed the output.

      1. Cyndi*

        I also recommend reading the court transcripts about this, and the AI-generated fake cases if they’re still floating around online, just because they’re HILARIOUS. You could tell just from looking at the first page of any of those cases that they were nonsense, and these guys didn’t even bother to do that. And the junior attorney wasn’t new to this at all; if I remember right he’d been practicing for twenty-odd years.

    7. Lucy P*

      We tried using AI to translate some almost obsolete code to something more modern. Total failure because the programmer didn’t understand the old code any more than AI did and there were flaws in the original code.

  29. Mx*

    Anyone else get migraines triggered by high pitched noises? I want to see if I can get some special earplugs for work but I’m not sure work will work with me. I’ve looked at JAN for suggestions but I don’t know what will work and also allow me to hear my coworkers.

    I don’t often hear the high pitched noises, but they’re a near instant trigger. I’m one of the few to be able to hear the noises, and there’s nothing that can be done to stop them.

    If anyone has gotten specialty earplugs for work, did you have to work with an audiologist?

    1. Roland*

      No advice but lots of sympathy! I’m very sensitive to high pitched noises that others don’t seem to hear at all. Such a horrible feeling while people around us literally have no idea what we’re even reacting to…

    2. captain5xa*

      YES! See an Audiologist. The name of your problem is hyperacusis – loud sounds seem super loud (and migraine inducing) to you.

      This is very common in hard-of-hearing people. My audiologist has to filter my hearing aids for this. I don’t get the migraines but I feel like someone is stabbing me in the ears with an ice pick with certain pitched sounds. It’s not the volume, it’s the pitch / frequency of the sound.

      If you need noise-suppressing aids / ear plugs, an audiologist can custom fit them so they are very comfortable.

    3. Silence*

      Do see a specialist but in the meantime maybe look into the loop earplugs which seem to meet your description

  30. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    I’d say stop reading those articles, other than actual scientific papers and other serious, sober writing. So many of what I’ve seen in popular press, or even Wired or business magazines, is prone to hyperbole.

  31. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    Everyone who commented on my question last week: thank you. Getting so far into the weeds that the voices of reason struggle to reach me is an occupational hazard for me. I appreciate those who talked some sense into me anyway.

    1. Donkey Hotey*

      I’m sorry I missed your question last week. I’ve always enjoyed your commentary here and wish I could’ve returned the favor. Good luck in getting through.

  32. SylvieM*

    I am in a position to now start leading meetings which is great news, however I am naturally introverted, shy and find it difficult sometimes to do the necessary small talk.

    I’m not awful, because I prepare a lot of data so I can focus on the results/data, but I do want to be better. I am informative, but a bit lacklustre.

    any suggestions/tips/resources I should look out for? I’m in the UK. Thank you

    1. a raging ball of distinction*

      Leading meetings is especially great news since you are introverted and shy!! YOU set the agenda. YOU decide what gets talked about. YOU pick the icebreaker (or not). You can plan meetings so they play to your strengths.

      One thing I would suggest to be aware of is make sure you’re speaking loudly enough if you are naturally soft-spoken, especially if you are in person in a conference room rather than virtual online.

      1. SylvieM*

        Thank you! This will help and to have a script. I think where I struggle is I have a lot of meetings with external clients, and I want to build relationships at the same time, and it throws me a little if they don’t stick to the agenda

    2. Daisy-dog*

      Agree with above, this helps you so much to be leading the meeting. I’m also not great a small talk, so I’d recommend having a mental list (or even an actual list) of some reactions to when someone makes a comment that you don’t have a response to:
      – Great, thank you for sharing. Now, moving on to [agenda item]
      – That’s really interesting. We can put that in the notes for next week/Should we put that in the notes for next week?
      – Thank you for your input. Anyone else?
      – I can look into that and get back to you.

      Also, depending on the type of meeting, a short ice-breaker can be useful to help you relax as the leader. Getting people chatting and maybe laughing a little can ease everyone into the meeting. My team usually uses things that are happening around that time: Halloween, sports (or lack of interest in sports), upcoming travel, how end-of-year is sneaking up on us, company benefits we’re underutilizing, etc.

    3. Jay (no, the other one)*

      Keys to running a good meeting: meetings need to start, stop, and follow an agenda.

      1) Be clear about when the meeting starts (and ideally do this on time or within a few minutes of the scheduled time). This means a very direct stop to chit-chat and something along the lines of “OK! Let’s get down to business.”

      2) Circulate an agenda ahead of time and stick to it. Set up times for each item on the agenda – you can do this explicitly on the agenda you circulate or privately for yourself. I do it explicitly and also announce how much time (“We have about five minutes to discuss this”).

      3) Be direct and clear about what you need from the group. Is the agenda item an FYI? So no discussion. Do you want to hear opinions or thoughts so you can consider and make a decision later? Do you expect a decision in that meeting? Those are very different goals. Your colleagues can be more helpful and less frustrated when they know what you need.

      4) If you’re presenting a lot of data, consider giving people their own copies – not everyone can follow dense data from slides and/or listening to someone.

      5) Please, please, please for the love of all that’s holy bring the meeting to an explicit and clear end. I can’t tell you the number of meetings I’ve been to that just sort of dissolve around the edges and break up into private conversations. “OK! That’s all we have time for/all we need to do today.” A brief summary of what was accomplished and of the action items can help if you have time and can get your thoughts organized.

      Also: designate someone who is not you to take minutes. If you don’t have someone whose job it is to do that then rotate it among everyone – don’t wait for volunteers and don’t let it become the job of the women in the group. Circulate the minutes to the group after the meeting.

      Good luck!

      1. linger*

        Entirely endorsing this list.
        N.B. if you can delegate someone else to watch the clock and announce when you’re running short of time for each agenda item, that can relieve some stress on the chair.
        I’d also add to (5) that it’s very useful (when / as a signal of) closing the meeting to (i) very briefly recap organizational matters such as when/how minutes will be circulated, and/or when the next meeting in the series will be; and (ii) thank the participants for their attendance.

    4. Glasses Case*

      I lead training and meetings, and here are my greatest tips (relevant to me, and maybe to you):

      1. Listen. Tune in to what people are actually saying when they talk to you. Tune in to facial expressions. Facilitators often think it’s all about talking, but great facilitators forget their “next bit” sometimes and just take in the information coming at them. It gives you energy and a much better rapport with the others.

      2. Conscious, mindful breathing can be useful. If I remember to be mindful of my breath just once in a session, I count that as a major success. It helps take me down from a flighty high of thinking I have to talk all the time.

      3. You don’t have to super entertain people with your charm and personality. People don’t like having to support a facilitator as they attempt a major charm offensive. You can be simply nice, and if the content is interesting (maybe with a bit of interaction), folks will engage.

      4. You don’t have to smile all the time. You are allowed to have a neutral face.

      5. It’s actually okay if people pick up that you’re nervous. Because you’re probably an insightful person with some interesting information to get across, and they will appreciate that. Nerves are relatable. Cool info is…cool!

    5. But Not the Hippopotamus*

      Do you NEED to have small talk? I prefer work meetings to be work related. Sure sometimes small talk happens while people gather, but I actually dislike (strongly) when they are part of the meetings. Ice breakers make me grind my teeth. And I’m considered very social and outgoing and funny at work (yet, I am an introvert and anything remotely forced makes me clam up and want to stab people with eye-daggers).

      If it’s not your style, you probably have zero reason to have to do it. Might be worth thinking about the personalities and whether it would add anything or detract, at the very least.

  33. a raging ball of distinction*

    This week I realized I can “bribe” myself to get to the office earlier if I don’t make coffee at home but rather wait and drink the office coffee. I’m curious how many other people do this? And what other bribes/tricks NON-MORNING PEOPLE use?

    1. trust me I'm a PhD*

      I typically drink the office coffee, or at least coffee I make at the office. I also eat breakfast at the office

    2. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      I am a morning person so I will not share advice but I will share solidarity and wish you luck!!! Non-morning people are unfairly maligned and it’s hard to work a day that doesn’t align with your body’s natural rhythm!!

    3. amoeba*

      Ha, I pretty much do the opposite! I make myself get up instead of snoozing by making coffee and then going back to bed to drink it and read a bit (book or internet). After that, getting up is not a struggle anymore. It’s honestly been a huge improvement before, I really used to struggle with multiple snoozes, then being on my phone, and never making it out of bed in a reasonable time…

    4. Cyndi*

      I got into this mindset in college and it definitely helped, but the totally nonsense idea that coffee is a Going Outside food wormed its way into my head for good. I just will not ever buy a coffee maker or make coffee at home, because it feels like “cheating” for no good reason whatsoever.

      I have finally hit on a bulletproof trick to get me up in the morning but it’s “getting a dog who has to pee first thing,” which obviously isn’t great advice for everyone. Before that the best I had was an alarm clock app that 1) hard limited how much time I could snooze my alarm for and then 2) required me to go into the bathroom and scan the barcode on my deodorant to shut it off. Getting my clothes + lunch together the night before is an annoyingly cliche tip but it also really helped–not just from the time save, but because mornings are easier to face if I don’t have to make any decisions.

        1. Cyndi*

          Sleep As Android. I can’t explain why it’s called that, but it’s a real goldmine if you need ways to bully yourself out of bed every morning. Other options for turning off the alarm include having to smile at your front-facing camera, swearing or laughing aggressively at your phone, solving a math problem…

      1. Mill Miker*

        I learned the hard way once when my alarm app glitched and would not stop that I am perfectly capable of doing a hard power off of a phone in my sleep. I’ve avoided the more complicated alarm apps every since.

    5. Performative gumption*

      I promise myself if I get up I can have Pret Bircher muesli and it gets me out and on my way to work!
      And caffeine. Lots of caffeine.
      I don’t snooze but have the radio come on which helps my brain engage and wake up

    6. kiki*

      I take the bus to work. I tell myself I can’t get on social media in bed or at home, but I can go as wild on the internet as I want while commuting. I had a big problem where I’d be awake but just lie in bed procrastinating for a long time. It’s great to still indulge the part of myself that wants to muck around online but have a nice, organic-feeling timebox for it.

    7. Not a morning person*

      I get up (after three alarms and 30 minutes planned snoozes) with just enough time to get ready, walk out the door, and commute. I don’t make breakfast at home, check my email, read the news, etc. Nothing that could distract me.

      I’ve never been a breakfast eater, but maybe once a week I will treat myself to a muffin from the coffee shop on my way to work. I don’t drink coffee – I start my day with a diet Coke for caffeine; and I wait until I’m at the office to drink it.

    8. Put the Blame on Edamame*

      I get an early go at the office free breakfast spread, which gets picked to bits pretty quickly, so that helps; I listen to a voice mail from a friend as I get up and get dressed (we leave each other WhatsApp voice notes from our different time zones so I often have something to listen to from her in the morning; it’s a motivator to get up); I relish being in ahead of other people because I get peace and quiet first thing.

    9. Vv*

      I buy breakfast at the office (a really good egg sandwich I can’t replicate at home), which is justifiable for the 2-3 days/week I go in but would probably feel excessive if I went in 5 days a week. I used to buy coffee back when I did. Also, I read on the train – no matter how much I say I’ll wake up early to read some or walk on WFH days I never do, so it’s nice to have that extra “event” in my days when I do have to go in.

    10. ENFP in Texas*

      I work from home and getting online at a regular time is a challenge – I am NOT a morning person. So now I have my Roomba come in and vacuum my bedroom in the morning so it’s too noisy to sleep.

    11. Mill Miker*

      I’ve had entire years where the only thing that got me to work on time in the morning was stopping on the way to get an egg sandwich from a coffee shop or McDonalds or whatever was there.

      1. the cat's pajamas*

        Before the pandemic, I used to get audiobooks on CD in the library so I could only listen to them on the CD player in my car. I had to be in the car to find out what happens next.

        A smaller thing, but I also used to keep a humorous but work safe page a day calendar on my desk so I had something to smile at when I came in. These don’t work as well for hybrid or WFH.

    12. WellRed*

      I used to make coffee at office. When I went WFH I actually started getting up a bit earlier and having a relaxing cup at home reading. If I have to go to the office, I do treat myself to Dunkin or lunch at the local to work sandwich place.

    13. Maggie*

      That’s funny I’m a very NON morning person and the only thing that even gets me out of bed is knowing I can have coffee in my mouth within 2 minutes.

    14. Anonymask*

      “If I get in earlier, I can leave earlier.”

      This helps two-fold.

      1. I’m up anyway (pets have ROUTINES and there is NO REASON for us humans to not adhere to them, okay?) and I’d rather just get on with it to be done.

      2. There’s less traffic.

    15. RagingADHD*

      My incentive to leave early is that there is a 7-minute window when traffic goes from barely-there to a total chaotic clusterkludge. If I leave at 7:25, I will be at my desk, hands washed, coffee made, computer booted up and my serenity intact at 8:00.

      If I leave at 7:32, I will be flying in with my hair on fire and every nerve frazzled, barely able to make any kind of early meeting.

      1. Is it Friday yet?*

        I’ve done this, not necessarily to get in earlier, but as my incentive to go at all. On my office days, I’m not allowed to make coffee at home, to force me to go in and have my cup!

    16. Hatchet*

      I don’t get to start on my coffee until I’m out of the neighborhood and driving to work. (Coffee is made right before I have to leave.) Coffee for me is a ‘getting up early and going to work’ treat – I rarely have it on weekends or days I’m home. My other mental trick is just knowing that the longer I take to get ready and get out the door, the worse traffic will be – and I so hate the traffic.

  34. Daisy-dog*

    Curious for other thoughts: What do you do when people around you are having a conversation that you cannot contribute to?

    Example 1: I am a white woman with exceedingly low-maintenance hair. I was sitting with 3 co-workers who are all Black women. One was telling a story of how our boss was calling her when she was getting her hair braided and how she managed it. Then this devolved into the other women talking about their hair-care routines. I was certainly not going to contribute and also couldn’t think of any questions, so I just sat there nodding along.

    Example 2: I met 2 women – both older than me – at a conference when we sat together at the lunch table. We were chatting about places that we have lived. This got the other women talking about their adult children who are probably ~5-10 years younger than me (though I look younger than my age, so they probably thought I was that age). Their conversation devolved into talking about “young people” (which was a bit bizarre with me sitting between them). I wasn’t really sure what to do, so I finished my food and said a pleasant good-bye.

    1. Throwaway Account*

      I think just listening is fine! I’m almost retirement age but I know when “young people” is the topic of conversation, I usually have something to say about how older people like me are too judgy about young people. Harder to do when you are the age being commented on.

      But DON’T DO what I did a few years ago when a group of women younger than I am were talking about their skincare routines and one was talking at length about this new microderm abrasion procedure, the health concerns surrounding it, and whether anyone had tried it. I listened quietly for a while and could not quite figure it out, so I finally asked, “What condition is this procedure for, sorry to ask about your health, but I don’t understand, why do you need it?” Shocked faces and the laughs and she told me it was because she looked old!! She did not look old. But the moral of the story, sometimes just listening is best!!

      1. Daisy-dog*

        Haha, that’s a great story. Thanks for confirming that my instinct seems to be best (at least in those types of moments).

      2. Generic Name*

        Oh my goodness. I was having drinks with a couple of colleagues, and one woman had taken some time off work and had gotten a chemical peel or something? She said it was to help with dark spots or something and was really glad she did it. I thought she looked fine before, and I actually could not discern a difference, but I just kept my mouth shut. :)

    2. Whomst*

      I think you need to read the room a little to determine whether you really “can’t contribute”. Listening and showing interest in things that you have no personal experience in is an important social skill. Asking questions about them can make someone feel like their differing life experiences are valued. Then again, you could be interrupting a conversation with your ignorance. Hence, reading the room.

      For the first example (as another white woman with exceedingly low-maintenance hair), I probably would have responded the same way. For the second, I would have put in commentary about perceived generational differences, since I have a passing interest in the sociology of age brackets and hitting life milestones and all that.

    3. Sherm*

      It sounds to me like you handled both situations perfectly well. For #1, it doesn’t seem like there were any awkward silences; the conversation was humming along, so might as well just listen. (And there’s a lot of value in listening when you’re with people with different backgrounds.) For #2, this happens to everyone a lot, where conversations take a turn that you don’t feel part of. Excusing yourself is fine, but (depending on your sense of how they’d react) you could also gently change the subject, or you could even add your perspective as a “young person.”

    4. anywhere but here*

      Look pleasantly interested and space out. Or listen without contributing. Or peace out (leave)

    5. simple hair*

      If I was comfortable/friendly with the coworkers I might, at some point, just say, “Wow! I’m learning so much today!”

    6. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

      Just listening is participating! A totally valid option, especially in the first example. For the second, it depends on whether you felt pushed away by the conversation. I might use the subject of young people to introduce a tangent topic – maybe how a younger person could relate to one of the topics of the conference, bring the subject to something you could all discuss.

  35. the.kat*

    This afternoon I am interviewing for a 6 month contract position that sounds pretty incredible. I’ve never worked a contract position before. Can you anyone whose done this tell me what sort of pitfalls I should be looking for?

    1. ruthling*

      you have to pay your own health insurance and taxes, and you may need to manage your time off to have the correct number of paid hours. you may also not get paid for holidays, etc.

    2. WestsideStory*

      1. Get a written contract that nails down when you get paid and hoe much you get paid, and offers a remedy for disputes, such as arbitration and mutual indemnification. If this is very new to you, ask a lawyer for help.
      2. If you are in US, religiously put aside 30% of your income which you will need to pay estimated taxes. Yeah it will hurt, but it will hurt more if you don’t do it.

    3. SoreThroat*

      Ditto what ruthling said.

      I’m on a contract position at the moment. Find out if they are paying you on a W-2 (they will withhold the correct taxes) or a W-9 (you get the full amount but you have to set aside some to account for the taxes the IRS will assess next year). Make sure they give you the proper IRS forms to fill out.

      Ask about holidays – I did a contract a couple of years ago where the company had a lot of holidays. However, I did not get holidays as a contractor and their rule was that if my supervisor was not working that day, I could NOT work. So every time they had another holiday (SO many!) I lost a day’s pay.

      Some contract positions go through a service bureau and they might provide some benefits like health insurance, etc. If you are going through a company like that to get to the actual contract gig, find out exactly what they provide and how much it costs.

      Ask about pay frequency (every week, every 2 weeks, twice a month, once a month) and how you will get paid. For the contract I am on now, we have to submit invoices for the time we work and then they will pay us in 2 weeks. Nail that down. Make sure they can pay you via automatic deposit so you aren’t chasing paper checks.

      What kind of screening do they require? If they want a background check: who is paying for that?

      Do you have to supply your own equipment or will they provide it? What about maintenance on it if something goes wrong?

      Good luck!

    4. Not All Contracting Is the Same*

      It varies a lot depending on the type of contract and whether it’s direct or through an agency. A lot of advice you’re going to get may not apply or may be completely wrong depending on the answer to that. So: agency or direct? W-2 or 1099?

  36. Hamster pants*

    I’m in the process of revamping my resume after a few years and I’m probably overthinking some things. 

    The background is that I started my first full time job in 2015 and was there until 2020 due to that thing we don’t talk about. I started my current full time job in 2022. From 2011-2015, and 2020-2022 I was seasonal and working freelance respectively. 

    1. Is it necessary to include the non-full time experience? Seasonal and freelance is extremely common in my field so I would say the nature of the work is relevant and it would explain the gaps between graduation and first job, and end of first job to new job.  

    2. At the last job, I was promoted a few times over the years. Each promotion had the same duties as before but new as well. I.e., I was still responsible for tasks A B and C, but now I also had to do D E and F.  

    Right now my resume is 2 pages long, but it’s very repetitive. Does it make sense to say something along the lines of “same job duties as level 1” and then add the new responsibilities in a separate line(s)? 

    If it matters, I wouldn’t be targeting senior positions at this time, only mid-level/associate positions. 

    1. Tio*

      I would probably leave out the seasonal work, unless it was something that gave you a really good specific skill/accomplishment. 2011-2015 work is not something I would consider necessary on there. No one is really concerned about that far back, but if they ask you can mention those jobs. Your recent experience is way more relevant.

      For the promotions, I would list the titles (llama groomer 2010-2013, Head llama groomer 2013-2015) but the skill and duties do not need to go specifically. And two pages I definitely too long, especially for essentially 3 jobs.

      I suspect you’re going into way too much detail on the resume – skills should be quick bullet points, so see if you can cut that info down a bit.

      1. Hamster pants*

        Yes, I did feel like it was too much. I used the same resume for my current job, so it hasn’t been updated since 2021.

    2. Sneaky Squirrel*

      1. Perhaps leave 2020-2022 as one job titled freelance consulting or whatever you did with a brief description of the tasks. It’s recent enough that you would want to get counted for the experience if the recruiter were using your resume but I dont think you need to expound too far on everything you did.

      2. I would remove the repetitive tasks and focus on what was new as part of the promotion. You want to demonstrate growth in your time at the company. I think it’s implied a little bit that if you went from Llama Groomer to Head Llama Groomer, that you still were exposed to grooming llamas but I’m curious about what you’re now doing as a Head Llama Groomer.

    3. Lady Jean Gray*

      In 2020-2022 you were not just freelance. You had an actual job but you didn’t tell them you just had a baby, and didn’t end up staying there because you had the same issues you are having at your current job.

      At least be honest if you are going to ask for advice.

      1. Hamster pants*

        Good god yes I had a baby and I had a job that didn’t work out. That’s not something I’m putting on my resume so I don’t understand your need to bring it up and how it’s helpful at all.

        1. RagingADHD*

          As someone who just went back full time after freelancing, prospective employers are going to want to hear about your clients, agencies, etc that you worked with. I think the commenter above is saying that you’ll get better advice if you’re more realistic in your description here of what you’re trying to “sell” on the resume. Not that you necessarily need to include jobs on your resume that ended after a short stint and that you can’t use as a reference.

          But you probably will need some kind of reference for that general timeframe. If it’s all handwaved as “freelance” with no backup when they ask questions, it’s going to look worse than if you just left a gap.

        2. kalli*

          IT’s relevant because it gives context as to why you weren’t in a single stable job at that time and can go a way towards mitigating any performance issues a reference from that time may raise. You have to be able to speak about your resume in an interview, and that includes giving a wider and more complete picture than a title and 2-3 bullet points conveys. The information you may therefore be asked to give in an interview is relevant – it may influence how you describe a role, or it might influence what you emphasise as your duties and achievements in that role.

          Like I left a paralegal job due to an abusive boss. I don’t put ‘left in 2013 because my boss started claiming I was too emotional to work with and then kept begging me to cover her work at the last minute because nobody else was as calm and capable as me’, I put ‘paralegal – 2009-2013: – performed junior associate duties assisting department head
          – maintained 200+ client files and billed 65 hours per week
          – was department point of contact for internal advice
          – coordinated and delegated referrals firm-wide’
          and I put that I performed duties above my paygrade because I can back that up and describe the situation and how I coped with the demands to answer things like ‘tell us about a time when shit hit the fan’ or ‘how do you manage multiple competing urgent matters?’.

          For you it might be as simple as ‘I was dealing with a newborn and looking for work at the same time, so I took what I could get, and it turns out some of that wasn’t really compatible with recovering from a pregnancy and returning to work. However, after that I was successful in getting [next job] and it was a lot better fit.’ If you don’t acknowledge the context while framing your resume, however, that becomes a lot less simple and more difficult to prepare for.

      2. sarah the third*

        It seems like there’s a small contingent of commenters (or maybe you’re all the same person using different names, I notice it’s always from a user name that’s never popped up before) criticizing this person whenever they post, often bringing in unrelated stuff from their past posts, seemingly to make them feel bad. Why? It seems really shitty. I haven’t always found her posts particularly sympathetic before to be honest but what a crap thing to do to someone.

        1. Grace*

          I’m glad you said this, I was about to say something similar. People who are here to be mean to other people, please go away.

          1. Ahnon4Thisss*

            I don’t think people are trying to be mean, I think they are frustrated. I feel for her and want her to succeed, but Hamster Pants has a pattern of asking for advice and not giving important information that she’s talked about in past posts that would influence any advice she is given. I do truly wish the best for her, but we can’t give good advice if we don’t have the relative context, which I think some of the snarkier sounding comments were trying to get across.

            1. Grace*

              I don’t see how that was the case with this one. But if that’s their objection then they could just skip her posts, not be a jerk?

              1. Tio*

                Yeah I’m kinda falling here myself. Like these people have a full on 3-4 year timeline worked out for this commentator, almost like they’re making their own copy of her resume. It’s wild. If they annoy you just skip their posts.

                1. Bandwidth*

                  She’s been doing this same song and dance since at least 2015 and people are tired of trying to help her when she doesn’t want help. You’ll see, she’ll be back here in two weeks asking the same questions about her resume as she’s asking now.

                2. Grace*

                  Bandwidth and others: why do you care? Just ignore their posts. You don’t get to gate keep who can ask for advice.

                3. kalli*

                  Grace – answering someone’s question with relevant information isn’t gatekeeping who can ask for advice. Someone not liking the answer they get doesn’t mean that answer was mean or unkind.

                  If someone wanted to gatekeep who gets to post here and their name wasn’t Alison, they’d have a few barriers to contend with before they could get to gatekeeping.

              2. Not a Jerk*

                She mentions that her work was “seasonal” without specifying her field. Any suggestions about how to address resume gaps around seasonal work will vary as to the field. Could be managing a hotel in a tourist town, could be warehouse work as Christmas approaches, could be arts administration limited to the performance months, could be accountancy during tax season. And it’s really, super relevant to mention that she had a challenge with one job as she had a newborn at the time.

                I don’t know why she leaves this information out, but it seems to me that she does it very frequently, and long-time commenters tell her just as frequently that she risks getting poor advice when she doesn’t give a full story. It feels like every week she swings in with a question that omits crucial information, and she gets some answers that are off the mark for an accountant who’s discussed struggling at her work and had a baby somewhat recently. The old-timers can sit by and watch, they can add more information, they can correct the answers — or they can express their frustration (or maybe a little bit of each).

                1. Grace*

                  Again, who cares? Loads of posts here ask for advice without specifying field or including every detail that could affect the advice. If they get poor advice because of it, that’s not your problem.

                  If you don’t like this poster or the things she posts or the way she does it, why wouldn’t you just ignore her? There are people in every group who irritate me. Unlike in real life the internet it’s easy to just not engage. The people who respond the way some have done end up looking a lot worse than she does. They look like bullies.

                2. Anon for this*

                  Yeah it looks like bullying to me too. I’d like to hear some of the people posting in this thread explain how this affects them and why they care so much.

                3. Tio*

                  Ok… but the fact that it’s tax prep work actually doesn’t change my advice, because it’s old, and they have further tax experience that the seasonal tax prep probably doesn’t add much to. So I would say leave it off as it’s old and seasonal… and nothing added by knowing what it was changed that. She said she didn’t mention the struggling job because she left it off the resume… so that makes sense not to bring it in

                  Idk it just seems like at least one person in here is way overinvested, possibly more. They’re asking for free advice and we’re giving it; maybe she gets less good advice, but like that’s it… that’s worst case scenario. I don’t know why people are so annoyed by this.

    4. Punk*

      Unless the “seasonal” jobs were squarely within tax season and you worked for H&R Block, a hiring manager in accounting is going to know what a series of three-month stints means. There’s no such thing as seasonal work in full-time staff accountant work.

    5. Red Flags Everywhere*

      2 pages for less than 10 years of experience is not appropriate. You are putting way too much info in there. Nobody needs every single task listed. Highlight your strongest or most relevant skills and skip the minor stuff.

      1. Hamster pants*

        Yes I got that sense too after sitting down and working on it. It has been 2 years since I updated it

        1. Tio*

          Stick to very specific, notable skills. Quick bullet points for names of tax software you’re familiar with, specific types of taxes or things you know (like payroll taxes, big experience with types of exemptions, etc.) and any certifications. Don’t worry about basic stuff; if you worked for an accountant, they’ll probably assume you’re familiar with a certain baseline of work and doesn’t need to be called out.

  37. (Health, Safety) Environmental Compliance*

    Bit of a convoluted question, but here we go:

    Context: A coworker was demoted and I was promoted into the position (we were peers, but this is a management role and I was support across multiple teams). This was following a *lot* of performance complaints from across the board for Coworker. Coworker also used to be my boss. Coworker was having a lot of personal issues as well recently, which gives background for what probably spurred some of the recent performance issues, but not the ones from years ago. Coworker was put into a completely different department in the new role that they have. It has been about a month now. So far I have closed out multiple ongoing issues and gotten good feedback from the teams.

    Issue: Coworker spent a weirdly high amount of time telling people that if they were in that chair still, they definitely wouldn’t have done what I did (this was handling a safety concern that they would have chosen to ignore). They’ve also stepped in to handle an issue they should not have – this is part of my role, and they decided to handle it and then call me to tell me about the situation (and I would not have handled it the way they did). Somehow an expense report from one of my team accidentally routed to them, and Coworker approved it without rejected & routing it back to me. Basically, I’m making some big changes that need to happen – performance of the dept. and compliance relevant – and Coworker is coming across as offended (tone of phone calls) and spends a weird amount of time trying to give me advice in a tone that is pretty condescending – like “well I know you have basically no experience in this” when actually, I have years of it, which I know they know, but you do you.

    What I am doing right now is to continue doing what I’m doing, asked my team to let me know if they are continuing to make odd comments ESPECIALLY if they are making the team feel uncomfortable, and reminded Coworker that these issues need to stay with the appropriate team and while I appreciate the intent we need to follow the right process. I’m also trying to not be obviously frustrated with the ridiculous amount of items I keep finding that should have been handled in a timely manner but here we are months/years later.

    Is there anything else I should be doing or be watching for? And how much time should I be giving them to clear out their office space – which I am moving into, they are moving to a different location entirely? I’m trying to be as empathetic as possible but I also do not have a lot of trust (based on background that is both too long and too identifying to include here) that Coworker will not be in the background being a pest and trying to throw me under a bus (which they have attempted previously).

    1. Goddess47*

      Get your boss involved. This is also their issue and you should not be dealing with it alone.

      Boss should be issuing the “you need to be moved out of this office by [date] or we will simply box everything up and have it shipped to your new location.” OTOH, the passive-aggressive option could be “we will box things up for you to ensure that nothing important that Compliance should be dealing with is missed” and do that. You will have a better instinct to know which is a better option.

      I’m assuming there’s some automated systems for things like expense report approval? Get your security team to make the necessary changes so Co-worker can no longer do that. Changing access permissions when someone changes jobs is, in my experience, one of the things often overlooked.

      And… document, document, document. Coworker was moved for reasons and they will be on someone’s radar. When they do things that are not part of their new position, document it so you have that evidence.

      Good luck!

      1. (Health, Safety) Environmental Compliance*

        Ope – I did miss – Boss is aware (and was CW’s previous boss). Good point on the getting the “move out and here’s boxes” from them too!! Boss is offsite (and was my boss at previous position) so sometimes I forget they have the teeth.

        I did talk to IT to remove shared folder access + review that all my team have been fully moved to me through the multitude of systems.

        Yeah, CW is on some thin ice right now and I think is sulking that 1) they lost the position, 2) that I got the position, and 3) they are now being *much* more closely monitored with expectations of good performance. They were kind of allowed to skate by for a long time. Now they’ve been pulled out of some initiatives that I think they were more excited about – but that aren’t their role anymore. Plus, it’s HSE. You need a compliant base program before you go off and add extra stuff in. You should have your PPE assessments done before you start looking at completely not required side programs.

    2. Mill Miker*

      I would have such a hard time not say “Yes, I know you would have handled this differently if you still had this job. That’s why you don’t still have this job!”

      The issue with the expense report, aside from being an overstep from your coworker, seems like it might be something worth looking into from a process perspective. Were they actually able to approve it, or is it just annoying that they tried? If you can’t trust someone to not approve things they shouldn’t approve, then they probably shouldn’t be able to actually approve anything.

      1. (Health, Safety) Environmental Compliance*

        I’ve had a really hard time not saying that as well.

        They were! So I requested updates to the access string. But like – why tf would you just approve it?

  38. Awkward Person*

      I’m attending an offsite event at my new job, feeling socially awkward and unsure how to connect with coworkers, help? Does anyone have tips on conversation starters for coworkers?
    I’m new-ish at my company (5 months next month) and work fully remote. Our department has an offsite next month and I’m nervous about the socialization piece (there will be dinners and happy hours) because (1) I’ve been remote since March 2020 and my social skills are RUSTY (2) My role is pretty siloed so I don’t work closely (besides with my director) with anyone going (3) As a single 36 y/o, I don’t have much in common with everyone either. My director and some of the other directors going are all 2 – 4 years older than me (including my boss), and all married with kids. The rest are 3+ years younger than me, and all married with kids. Thankfully there is another woman who started around the same time as me, who is a few years younger and is also single. I wouldn’t call her a “work friend” quite yet, but we’ve chatted about a few personal things and get along.

    Another aspect of this job is that the director who hired me ended up being awful, and quit (or was pushed out…) at the end of last month. My current director that I’m reporting to has been with the company long-term. It’s been great reporting to him these past few weeks and he seems happy with my work so far, but I still feel awkward because (1) at currently 4 months in, I feel like I don’t have the history or capital to establish a positive rapport with my boss yet. He didn’t hire me, he doesn’t know my background or my past accomplishments. These past few weeks I’ve felt like I need to prove myself, which is an expectation I put on myself. He’s been a really great manager so far. (2) I don’t know the relationships my former boss had with everyone, are they mad he’s gone? Do they think I had something to do with it? I don’t know what he said to them about me.I don’t know what to talk about with my coworkers since I don’t have much in common with most. I’m worried I’ll say the wrong thing. I don’t drink so I don’t plan on drinking at the social events. I recently read “Small Talk” by Diane Weston, which gave some helpful follow up questions for conversations, but I wish I remembered the coworker conversations better.
    I am looking forward to going though!

    1. TCO*

      I wouldn’t assume that you can’t find something pleasant to chat about with coworkers just because they’re a few years older/younger than you (a few years is truly nothing!) and have spouses and kids. There could still be plenty of common ground. Here are some questions that you could use as conversation starters (people love talking about themselves):
      – Did you take any vacations this summer? Any upcoming travel plans?
      – Are you originally from [wherever they live]? If not, what brought you to that area? Do you like living there? What do you like about it?
      – How did you end up working at our company? Any advice for someone who still feels pretty new here?
      – Tell me more about your kids.
      – Talk about food; it’s an easy topic to get into during a meal. Ask if they’ve had any other great meals lately, or what their family meals/traditions are for upcoming holidays (if you know whether they celebrate any).
      – What do you do for fun outside of work?
      – Ask about books, TV, or movies they have enjoyed lately.

      1. amoeba*

        Yup – I’m 35, boyfriend, no kids, and I have both friends who are single and friends who are married with kids, as well as both a bit older and a bit younger. And my “work friends” are in even more different places – like, 15 years older with a house in the countryside and school-age kids. Or that age, but single and happy with their pets. We sometimes also do social things together in our free time. I’ve met my coworker’s family.

        It’s really not an issue – people’s relationships/families are not their whole life, there’s so many other things you might have in common!

      2. Donkey Hotey*

        These are good, and I’ll add: pets. Anyone who has a pet will talk about it for as long as you’ll listen. And you’re more likely to see cute pictures of pets than kids.

      3. Lily Rowan*

        And honestly, it’s work! You can talk about work. Especially with people you don’t work closely with, you can ask them what they do, see how it relates (or doesn’t) to what you do, how do they like it, how long have they been there, etc.

    2. Goddess47*

      Depending on your tolerance for such things, there is always the classic “Tell me about your kids” gambit. You might be able to swing that from “Oh, little Bobby plays baseball, do you have a favorite team?” sort of thing.

      There is always the “have you been to this [location] before? Can you tell me more about it?”

      You’re fallback is the truth. “I haven’t been anywhere and I’m rusty at this conversation thing. Tell me what you do and do you like it?”

      Relax and have fun!

    3. Generic Name*

      So “small talk” is really just talking about bland, noncontroversial, topics of conversation with people you don’t know super well. Another way to think of it is asking questions to slowly get to know another person. Don’t worry if you don’t have anything in common with them. You actually don’t know that you don’t have anything in common, because you’re still getting to know them. You might discover that you and an older with kids coworker are both knitting enthusiasts or whatever. As for topics of conversation, there’s a reason why everyone talks about the weather or the local sports team. They’re light, noncontroversial topics that aren’t too personal. If you have pets, you might ask if your coworkers have pets. Or maybe ask them if they have any fun plans for the weekend. And it’s fine to ask them about their kids, even if you don’t have any of your own. Do you have niblings or young cousins that you could briefly mention? Plus, asking them about their kids takes the focus on you. Parents love talking about their kids (I say this as a parent). :)

    4. This Old House*

      I am also awkward at small talk and specifically at starting conversations (do I just walk up to someone I barely know and say, “Hi! Did you go on vacation this summer?” I don’t know WHEN to use all the useful conversation starters I’ve read so much about!) This is not always super successful, but I like trying to give other people openings to talk to me, because they’re better at it! Carry a book (physical) with the cover facing outward. Maybe someone will ask about it! Microwave something that smells really good. Carry a bag/water bottle/whatever that’s branded with the name of an org or event that’s meaningful to you. Get a fresh haircut right before you go. Look for things to comment on to create openings with other people, too (I don’t know how to start a conversation if I don’t have an opening of some sort), but try to be something of an open book, too.

      1. Gradual Graduate*

        I like that book example.

        Industry dependent, but striking clothes/shoes/spectacles can help in the same way.

    5. Loreli*

      The overall impression of your post is that you’re “borrowing trouble” about almost every aspect of your job. Being 3-4 years older/younger than your coworkers means you’re basically the same age. I think you are focusing way too much on things that are actually minor stuff.
      You say your director has been happy with your work so far, but then you say you don’t have the history or capital to establish a positive rapport with your boss. And the bit about your coworkers thinking you are responsible for the former boss being gone? This is such a stretch of logic it suggests to me that you are catastrophizing about everything.

      What you have in common with your coworkers is -you are all working at the same company. TCO made some great suggestions about what to talk about. And remember, most people like to talk about themselves.

      Nobody cares if you don’t drink. If you feel like you need to fake it, get a ginger ale or coke with a stir stick in it.

      Relax and stop the doom and gloom thinking. This is work, not junior high, and having coworkers with a wide variety of experiences and ages is a good thing.

  39. Renee Remains the Same*

    My staffer who was on a PIP recently quit. It was an openly hostile and frustrating experience. During our meeting to offboard some administrative stuff, they said that despite the animosity of the situation, “I like you as a person.” I can’t help but keep shaking my head at the arrogance of this person who thinks after months of lashing out at me while I was trying to help them (and taking vague jabs at me in front of others on their way out the door), they think they can sweep it under the rug with a platitude. I can’t think of a single reason I should care whether they like me as a person. I’m guessing they’re trying to salvage the end of the situation. But it is not salvageable. The only thing I’m grateful for is that they quit, because we still had another month left and I was beginning to become concerned it was going to turn volatile.

    1. Busy Middle Manager*

      Bullet dodged. I wonder if the (IMO incorrect) notion that all PIPs = you are getting fired that’s been all over the internet recently made them think that you had zero intention of helping them and that the PIP was just a formal way to fire them. That’s what alot of places seem to think

      1. Renee Remains the Same*

        For some a PIP could be the beginning of the end. I said to my staffer it was up to them to determine if they were able to make the adjustments needed to be successful in the job. Gave them an outline of the critical tasks and responsibilities that were basic tenets of the job. But, it became apparent about 2 weeks in that they were not open to the feedback and the work that would be needed to improve. And then became increasingly angry to the point where any action I took was an insult to them, rather than an opportunity to have a productive conversation.

        Bullet definitely dodged though. I was beginning to think that it might not be safe for me to meet with them without someone else in the room. (But in the end, they liked me as a person!……..)

        1. Another academic librarian*

          just catching up on my AAM reading. I was in the same situation. I was being helpful. I was providing all the tools and metrics for this report to succeed. It was a part time job documenting, coaching meetings, and they acted like I was “out to get them” After month 3 of this behavior, I was exhausted and yes praying for them to quit. (no such luck)

  40. Elevator Elevator*

    I’ve posted in a few open threads recently and thought I’d give an update.

    -My first post was about a senior employee in my small company (two owners, three staff) giving her notice, setting up a situation where I would have to take on new high level responsibilities when I’d already been dealing with an increased workload after our fourth staff member quit over a year ago. It was also extremely inconvenient timing for the owners since the owner with all the operational knowledge was about to go on maternity leave. As part of a planned discussion between me and the owners about my new role/title/salary, I was planning to ask for a salary that was 40% higher than what I was making.

    -My second post, after that employee left, was about the disparity in treatment between me and the other remaining staff member. She’s a rockstar admin and the owners tend to overlook how much she contributes while being very enthusiastic about me.

    Anyway, the update is that I was on vacation last week and came back Tuesday of this week to the news that a) the pregnant owner was in labor and b) our admin’s resigning. I got nearly the entire raise I was planning to ask for without even having to ask plus some hefty bonuses (spaced out over the next six months to keep me from quitting as well), I have to learn how to do literally everything, and for the next three months it’s just going to be me and the owner that has zero operational knowledge. They’re also hiring aggressively, having seen how badly their previous strategy of “running lean” can go for them. It should be…interesting?

  41. sam_i_am*

    I finally actually started applying to jobs. I should still do a bit more work on my master resume, but I’m not in a rush to find something new, so a few imperfect applications aren’t the end of the world.

    It’s funny, applying to the first one made me really realize that I need a new job. I’ve been managing fine, then applied and realized how much I hope to get it and get out of my current position. There’s a lot of unprofessional behavior and interpersonal conflict that bubbles under the surface at my work, I don’t have enough to do, and what I do have to do isn’t at all interesting to me.

    1. sam_i_am*

      I did get rejected from my first job within days of applying, unfortunately, but that one was a bit of a reach anyway.

    2. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      Congratulations!!!! I had a similar experience with my last position. I thought it was fine until the possibility of leaving became real and I was suddenly DESPERATE to get out.

      Sending you all the luck!

      1. sam_i_am*

        Thank you! I’m still being very selective in what I apply to because, well, I have a stable job and I can let the process take a while. I’d forgotten how hard job hunting is though!

    3. Generic Name*

      During my recent job search, the first job or two I applied to were definitely spur of the moment “rage applies”. One, that I interviewed for, but was ultimately rejected from, was actually well below my experience level, but the salary range was WAY HIGHER than I had been making. That’s when I realized how underpaid I was at my last job, so it was a good exercise to just start applying and not worry about having “perfect” applications. Some jobs I applied to with no cover letter (and I got interviews)!! Don’t tell Alison. ;)

      1. sam_i_am*

        I haven’t written a cover letter, even a template one, yet. Several of the applications I’ve looked at didn’t even appear to have a place for one (that I noticed), which was interesting

  42. To FML or Not FML*

    I have an employee who has long discussed her intention to take terminal leave (FML) for the last twelve weeks of her career – which will be in spring 2024. She has a parent with a chronic illness, so she wouldn’t have a problem getting the paperwork through. My opinion has always been if she has the leave, she can take the time. However, we’ve recently had a shift in Human Resources policies and they’re cracking down on things like this (e.g. you must be in the office for your last week of work in order to complete the out-processing, all sick absences over three days get automatically flagged to the FML coordinator).

    Last week one of her siblings was in a terrible car crash and she immediately left the state to deal with that, which I completely support. HR has put her in a FML status. She called me last night, very angry, because she was being penalized and now she won’t be able to take her FML in the spring as she planned (she found out because HR sent the FML paperwork to her email). I mainly just listened – obviously she’s in a rough place right now – but I don’t know what to tell her. She has no return date right now (sibling just released to a rehab facility) and will be out for at least another two weeks. She said I shouldn’t have told anyone she was on leave. I told her I put her sick leave into the timekeeping software and that triggered HR. She said I shouldn’t have put in sick leave. I asked her if she wanted to use her vacation instead. She hung up on me.

    What am I supposed to do here? HR’s position is that she is currently on FML. Yes, this will affect her ability to use the full 12 weeks in the spring. But…isn’t THIS what FML is for, not taking your retirement three months early?

    1. sam_i_am*

      I don’t know that I have advice, other than to consider keeping HR in the loop about this, but she’s absolutely off-base thinking that you should have kept it quiet that she’s on leave! This is exactly what FMLA is for, and it sounds like you’re abiding by company policy.

    2. TiffanyAching*

      So under FMLA regulations, an employer is actually *required* to treat the leave as FML if they have knowledge that the leave is for a FMLA-qualifying reason. If she’s off work for a FMLA-qualifying reason, she essentially doesn’t have a choice about if it counts toward her FML entitlement. Since you were aware of the reason for the leave, your company was “aware” of the reason for the leave and you acted in accordance with law and possibly company policy.

      It’s also super common to require that employees actually work their last day; it’s very possible that if she went to HR later for the leave she wants, they’d say she’s not eligible if she doesn’t plan to return after.

      1. Pete*

        No, per the Department of Labor web site, employers are only required to provide notice of the availability of FLMA, the employee must request it and provide documentation. Company policies may differ.

        1. nnn*

          No, that’s not correct. Employers are allowed to designate leave as FMLA, even if the employee does not wish to take FMLA leave.

    3. Local Garbage Committee*

      This is totally what FMLA is for, my employer asks people to complete FMLA paperwork once they are out sick for more than 3 days in a row, which is a thing employers can do.

      Also, isn’t the main benefit of FMLA job protection which you don’t need if you are retiring? It isn’t paid leave, so I’m super confused about the benefit of using it before retirement – running down sick leave balances??

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Ohhhh, that actually makes sense — I was just noticing myself that I have 10 weeks of sick time banked that (god willing) I will never use and won’t get paid out for if/when I leave this job.

        1. ONFM*

          This was a popular practice at my city gov’t job until about ten years ago (when someone figured it out). Our employees get paid out – to a cap – for sick leave if they retire, but vacation is paid out in full. We have a lot of medical procedures get scheduled for the last few months before retirement.

      2. Three days*

        three days in a row? that’s insane. I’ve had to take 3 days for all sorts of non-serious things, many of which didn’t require a dr appointment.

    4. Nesta*

      It sounds like she wanted you to commit fraud so that her retirement leave could be protected, so you were absolutely right not to do that.

      It’s great to have a plan of being able to start her retirement early by using banked leave, but this is what the leave is for. The best laid plans… etc. It is unfortunate, but she had to change plans to be there for her sibling. She will survive working out that period.

      Hopefully she is just under a lot of stress and will see the error of her ways and apologize. If not, I would be very clear with her that her behavior of hanging up on you because you wouldn’t commit fraud wasn’t acceptable, and that HR is cracking down on plans like hers anyway and its very unlikely they would have allowed it.

    5. sdog*

      I think you did the right thing. If she had said she wants to use her vacation time, that’s one thing. She has the right to decide what kind of leave she wants to take if she has both available to her. But it sounds like she doesn’t want to do either. Was she hoping to take the time as unpaid? In my experience, unpaid leave (that’s not protected like FMLA) is really at the discretion of the employer, so it doesn’t have to be approved. I do find it odd that HR automatically put her on FML. I think better practice would be to ask her what leave she wants, if she says sick, then make her aware of her FML options and request documentation to support. Straight sick for that long of a period, without documentation, honestly probably wouldn’t fly at my organization either – does she have that many hours to use?

    6. Red Flags Everywhere*

      1) Our FMLA allowance restarts with the calendar year, so I could put in for Nov and Dec and restart the clock in Jan (all paid if I had enough leave saved up).
      2) FMLA protects the employee at smaller companies, and the company at larger companies. By automatically starting the clock for qualifying situations, they don’t have to hold a job empty for half a year if they don’t want to. If they wait for the employee to put in for FMLA, they could take half of every month off for different or recurring issues over multiple months, and then the employer would still have to hold it for another 3 months when the employee “officially” files FMLA once they’re put on notice for lack of attendance. Ask me how I know.

      And we can talk about compassion and providing grace for people with difficult conditions or circumstances, but at the end of the day the work has to get done by someone. If circumstances make it impossible to work more than part-time or intermittently, it’s really on the individual to look for a realistic job where that’s feasible. Not screw over all their coworkers by offloading the job they’re getting paid but not doing. And most types of jobs with that amount of paid leave available are not things one can just jump into and do a day’s work when you happen to be available. There’s likely a high degree of effort involved in handover coming and going, so it’s even more work for everyone else. I wish my company would start doing automatic FMLA.

  43. Tiny clay insects*

    My husband and I own a travel business that has grown fast over the last year. This is on top of our regular jobs as professors. A goal of mine for 2024 is to analyze how much time we are spending on the travel business, and one what specific tasks within it, to help me figure out the feasibility of hiring an additional person.

    Does anyone have recommendations of good apps for tracking how you spend your time, in real time?

    1. sam_i_am*

      We used Harvest App at my old company for billable hours tracking. I’m not sure what the pricing is (there at least used to be a free tier iirc) or how it’s changed in the last few years, though!

      1. Turnipnator*

        I have also used Harvest! It’s got a desktop app that can set timers, which I found really helpful because “remembering what time I started something” is often beyond me.
        It does looks like the free tier only includes one seat, which might be difficult for your use case though. It’s a decent starting point for comparable software though, if you look for things that compare themselves to Harvest.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      Clockify is a web app that has a free component, and it seems to be very robust with real-time tracking.

      1. Wheezy Weasel*

        Clockify is quite nice, low cost (or maybe even free) and there is a browser plugin so you can use it in desktop mode.

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I used an app called, I believe, ATracker – you can set up different categories and just tap the app to switch from one category to another. It is available on both iOS and Android, I’m not sure about non-cell-phone options.

    4. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      I’ve used a lot of these types of apps, including Clockify and Harvest suggested above. I think Harvest is the most robust of the apps, but I would say Toggl Track is the simplest to pick up and use if that’s a concern of yours. I don’t know how you manage your work, but a lot of holistic management tools (like Asana) also have native time tracking built in.

    5. Anonymous Koala*

      I like Trello for tracking billable hours on different projects – it has a free time tracking power up on the desktop version that allows you to just click “start” and “stop” on each project and it’ll automatically track time.

    6. Tiny clay insects*

      Thank you all! I’m so excited to check these out! I’m gonna give the free version of ATracker a try first, next week. Let’s find out how much I actually work! (Cuz I have no idea, really.)

  44. Chidi has a stomach ache*

    Question for folks in NGO/Nonprofit work, especially anything around advocacy and volunteer engagement. A lot of my job is desk research on best practices, and I want to put together a list of good open-access resources that I can track for trends and new data. What orgs, journals, or websites do you use?

  45. 2023 is Meh*

    In reference to yesterday’s post about what to be when we grow up….. I really want to start my own part time nonprofit helping people get their cat’s vet bills paid. My vision is very simple. Get grants, easy application process for pet parents, pay the vets directly. This would be my part time job, so I would get a small salary as part of the overhead. Rinse and repeat. I know how painful it is to not be able to get medical care for our furry loved ones.

    Except I haven’t the foggiest notion of how to start any of this. Any ideas? Is this at all feasible as I have outlined here, or just another nice thought but can’t happen?

    1. TCO*

      You have a beautiful vision for filling this need! But… there are so many small nonprofits out there that often duplicate what a larger nonprofit could do more effectively and efficiently. Getting grants is not easy; it takes many many hours of work to write successful applications and many grantors are looking to fund organizations with established track records. Lots of people who decide to start their own small nonprofits end up folding them without having made a big impact.

      In addition, to be a 501(c)3 eligible to receive grants you’ll need a board of directors, legal paperwork, financial recordkeeping, etc. You might have a local board or council of nonprofits that could outline the requirements in your state and help you start the work.

      Have you looked around yet to see if there are existing animal welfare organizations whose work you could get involved in? You might discover that they’re already doing this work as well as anyone can, or you’ll learn what you do/don’t want to do if you start your own organization. That on-the-“job” learning will be really important if you don’t have that yet.

      1. 2023 is Meh*

        That is what I was afraid of. No, the only way I can help is to be very hands off. Emotionally and mentally I have to be very distanced, because I get overwhelmed easily.

        1. Tio*

          That’s probably not a good place to start a non-profit from, honestly. And if you could run a non-profit such as you’ve outlined above, you could probably find a space in a non-profit you could work for that had a similar level of distance, such as paperwork filing or other admin work.

          When you think about starting this non-profit, what role/duties did you see yourself having?

        2. nnn*

          If the only way you can help is to be very hands off, starting and running a nonprofit is the exact wrong thing for you! It’s all consuming and you won’t be able to be hands off. The best way to help while being hands-off is to donate money if you can. If you can’t, volunteering is good but that’s not usually hands off either unless you find the exact right job.

        3. The Prettiest Curse*

          I’m a former nonprofit employee.
          Unfortunately, if you have a hard time staying emotionally distanced, you are not the right person to start a nonprofit dealing with such an emotive subject, unless you have a lot of money to hire a founding director, provide an endowment and then be totally hands-off.

          Founders/executive directors are often the people who are most emotionally (over)-invested in a nonprofit’s mission, because they have to be out there selling it every day to raise funds. In order to raise money to pay people’s vet bills, you will have to constantly think, speak about and write about people’s heart-breaking stories of not having enough money to pay their vet bills. That’s an incredibly tough thing to do, and most people would have a hard job staying emotionally distanced enough to do it (I know I would!)

          However, if you’d like to do work in this area, there are other options. As others have mentioned, research organisations in your area to see if anyone is working on this already. Local humane societies often have low-cost vet clinics – do you have the capacity to donate, raise funds for or volunteer in some way for one of those programs? Or if you have the money already, could you give a local vet clinic you trust some “money behind the counter” for feline vet bills? If you do have a significant amount of money you can donate, look into setting up a donor-advised (restricted) fund at a nonprofit specifically for vet bills. (For these last two options, make sure you get a written agreement so they are clear on how to spend the money, and request regular reports on how they are spending it.)

          And also – if you do set up a nonprofit which gives out funds, be prepared to get inundated with way more people with way more needs than you could ever meet. (And be prepared for people to ask you to fund things that are way outside your criteria – for example, vet bills for iguanas two states over instead of cats in your state.)

          People will write you long, desperate, heartfelt emails. People will cry over the phone. You have to bear in mind that all nonprofits are a drop in the endless ocean of need, and you have to approach it with the mentality that you can only help the people you can help – otherwise, you will end up helping nobody.

      2. Ginger Cat Lady*

        Yeah, this is a very common thing, people want to start their own non-profit, think that there are grants for their pet project (there often are not!) and that it’ll be som easy and simple and they can be in charge….
        When really, it’s not simple, and they may well be spending lots of energy on the “running a non-profit” side that could be better used volunteering for someone else doing the same work.
        But then they can’t say they started/ran their own non-profit, and they don’t get paid, so they just don’t do anything.

    2. Minnesota*

      Check out Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. They have a video about how to start your own nonprofit. The first few steps involve a lot of research and groundwork, and you might find that it makes more sense to join forces with an existing org! But that’s what the research stage is for.

      On a smaller scale, if you would like to personally contribute to people’s vet bills, I often see people asking for help in Facebook groups.

    3. EA*

      I would research other nonprofit organizations that are doing this work and see if you can get involved. A quick Google pulled up The Pet Fund and FACE Foundation for Animals, but I think there are more out there. Even if you don’t want to volunteer/work for this type of organization, having a conversation with them about how they fund their work and logistics would be helpful if you do pursue the idea of starting your own organization.

    4. Mouse*

      One thing I haven’t seen mentioned is that it can be difficult to get grants to pay for staff time (e.g. your salary). It’s possible, of course, but a lot of grants have provisions against using the funds for salaries because they want the money to go directly towards the mission.

  46. NewbornMom*

    What would it take to add some type of paid parental leave policy to my work’s benefits? I just had a baby and used my bank of PTO and a STD policy to get paid during the 12 weeks off (FMLA). I know of at least 4 other babies born this year within the 250 person organization.
    I am senior level leadership for a local government organization, reporting to the town manager. The Board of Commissioners sets the budget and votes on changes to personnel policy. Should it come from the BOC or an appeal to the manager, or both?

    1. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      if you are working for a local government entity, it would have to be set up in their budget ahead of time. And knowing how most government agencies are already underfunded, I wouldn’t expect a favorable outcome.

      1. sdog*

        If it’s like my organization, it would have to be voted on by the Commissioners, but it wouldn’t get on the agenda without support from the manager, so I’d start there or with HR if you have one.

  47. kiki*

    A coworker was let go recently for performance issues. I do think she had some performance issues, but a lot of them were at least partially caused by a lack of training, having too much on her plate, and being given responsibility for some really borked situations. I’m concerned that I will also be subject to these unreasonable expectations, even though I’m seemingly not currently.

    Let’s say that her name was Melanie and she was a product manager. Most product managers at our company are given 2 products to manage at a given time. She was given 6, but told they were all small so should be manageable. They are smaller products in terms of expected revenue, but they are still complex projects to manage. Two of those six projects have known capacity issues– when the project was given to her, the team working on it had lost three out of 7 team members and there were no replacements on the horizon. As project manager, she advocated for new hires, but was told it was not longer in budget.

    Understandably, things weren’t going well for Melanie or any of her 6 projects. She was let go for failure to perform. But how could she have realistically made this work?

    I’m in a similar role to her and worried. I have a different manager, but I can’t help but feel that I’ll be held accountable for issues outside of my control on projects. Does anyone have experience in a situation like this? Or have a recommend script to start a conversation with my manager about this?

    Thank you!

    1. DisneyChannelThis*

      From what you’ve written here that sounds like Melanie was setup to fail. If it starts happening to you CYA, document all steps, document what’s the hold up, find ways to make progress on other aspects if there’s hold ups, keep your boss and company looped in (don’t wait for progress meeting to go theres all these issues, proactively raise them as they happen).

    2. Chauncy Gardener*

      I think Melanie was totally set up to fail and you can safely assume that at some point you will be too.
      Personally, I would start a low key job search because this does not sound like a good environment.

    3. Momma Bear*

      1. You can look for a new job. 2. You can cover your butt on all things. Keep track, loop in the managers, make clear what’s out of your control and what you can mitigate. AAM sometimes suggests to present the work to the manager and say you can do ABC but not D, what do they want you to prioritize? And get that in writing.

    4. Hybrid Employee (Part Human, Part Wolf)*

      Echoing others on CYA, and noting that math is hard to argue with. If you’re told “your 6 projects are equivalent to 2,” lay out the working hours each one needs. If your managers tell you you should be able to do it all in less time, devote the time they estimate to each one. Report more frequently than necessary on how much you were able to accomplish and what remains undone on each one. Approaching it matter-of-factly with numbers to back you up will make this undramatic and tough to argue with. The worst outcome is that they blame it all on you and fire you anyway, but you’ll have made them work harder to do it.

  48. sleepy snek*

    I was told last week that I’d be taking on a LOT more work that involves reporting directly to the CEO.

    My question is: I just had my review and got a small raise so is it too early to ask for more $$ if I’m meant to take on even more work?

    1. WestsideStory*

      No it’s not. They just changed your job description. Speak with them immediately about aligning both title and salary to accommodate the additional workload.
      Look up all the “ask for a raise” stuff on this site to find good scripts. Sometimes negotiating can mean you won’t get a new title but they give you more pay. But why not ask for both?
      They are assuming you are so pleased with the crumbs they gave you that you won’t dare to ask. Well, surprise them. If the work is valuable to the company they can be convinced to give you more.

    2. Csethiro Ceredin*

      You got a presumably performance/seniority raise for your performance at the job you’ve been doing. If your job description changes and your workload increases in volume or complexity, it should be fine to ask whether that will be reflected in your wages.

  49. LuckyClover*

    Work- book club recs? I’ve been supporting a book club on my higher ed campus, and am currently looking for suggestions for our next book. I’ve been trying to get away from the ‘self-help’ genre because we have done that quite a bit and our last two books have been memoirs. The intention of the club is professional development and community, and we’ve read books on the topics of belonging, connection, identity… The club is primarily attended by staff rather than faculty, so it doesn’t seem to make sense for the book to get too heavy into teaching topics.

    1. Minnesota*

      “How to win friends and influence people” was really good, I thought! It’s very old but, in my opinion, still relevant to workplace communication.

    2. EA*

      I haven’t read the full book, just articles by the author, but “The Privileged Poor” by Dr. Anthony Jack would be very relevant for higher ed.

    3. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

      My (non-work) book club did “The Address Book: What Street Addresses Reveal About Identity, Race, Wealth and Power” by Deirdre Mask. It generated a good discussion of a number of topics that would be relevant for community and work.

      In the past, a work book club did “The Civility Solution: What to Do When People Are Rude” by P. M. Forni. Had some useful tips for dealing with rude people, which academic staff tend to unfortunately have experience with.

      Books I’ve read that I would have enjoyed discussing with a book club:

      “Thick: And Other Essays” by Tressie McMillan Cottom. To quote the description, “Smart, humorous, and strikingly original thoughts on race, beauty, money, and more.”

      “Presumed Incompetent” edited by Gabriella Gutiérrez y Muhs. The essayists are faculty rather than staff, but it is a fascinating and infuriating look at academia life for BIPOC women.

  50. Yellow one*

    Ok here’s a weird one. My work now requires me to go back into the office part-time (for no reason), and to make it more appealing, they’re encouraging people to bring in candy, baked good, etc to share.

    I find it EXTREMELY triggering of my eating disorder to be around unlimited and available supplies of sugary foods all day, and just thinking about it makes me start to spiral.

    Are there any ideas out there for me?

    1. Busy Middle Manager*

      You gotta speak up and shut down the sugary unhealthy food thing. Even without an eating disorder, this is a sort of ridiculous thing to do. When we were in the office there was a thing of chocolate but they also ordered bananas, popcorn, almonds, a nut mix, and usually one other healthy snack to switch it up. That came in once per week.

      1. Fluffy Fish*

        You really should not be policing other adults food nor decide what is “healthy”.

        You can bring in snacks you deem healthy yourself but that’s about it.

        Now, trying to make in office work appealing by having employees bring snacks at their own expense is absolute BS but there’s probably not a lot OP can do about that.

        OP – I really think this is something you need to talk to with your mental health specialist because you really might be in ADA territory. They’re also going to be the best person to talk to about coping strategies. I’m sorry this has happened – not ed but I do know how tough it is when things trigger your mental illness.

        1. Busy Middle Manager*

          Where are we talking about policing, this thread is about a manager who is actively encouraging people to bring in this food. Meaning it pertains directly to the person. I hope people have agency to “police” choices that pertain directly to them?

          1. Jessica Clubber Lang*

            When you said in your previous comment that they should shut it down – that’s not about them only that’s everyone.

          2. OpalescentTreeShark*

            It doesn’t though. It pertains to everyone. They’re not bringing in this food AT this person. This is a situation where OP would be best served working to manage their own mental health, not trying to eliminate all the triggers by managing everyone else’s behavior.

        2. linger*

          “Shutting it down” doesn’t mean policing food choices, exactly (the examples given do not seem intended as an exhaustive list), but any expectation of forced participation in shared food HAS to be shut down immediately (through ADA if necessary). Also, quite apart from expecting the employees to bear all the cost and inconvenience, in making food-sharing such a key symbol of back-to-office, management seems to have conveniently forgotten why WFH was needed in the first place.

    2. Ginger Cat Lady*

      They want to encourage you to come back to the office by making you all provide your own perks for being back in the office? That aspect is weird, too!

    3. Massive Dynamic*

      Bring your own lunch in a cooler with ice packs and make them cold lunches so that you never have to use the break room to heat/prepare anything. Sorry this is happening in your workplace; best of luck to you!

  51. Cyndi*

    Two questions this week!

    1) I think I asked something about this before, but my job wants me to seek out some Extremely Basic Sales 101 For Babies level training–it’s not mainly a sales job but I’m supposed to be taking over more of the intake process. I don’t want to get too into the weeds of mental health stuff but in general I’m not great at asserting needs or asking for things because I’m deeply afraid of being too pushy or demanding, so I can’t gauge whether my discomfort with sales training is reasonable or if it might actually do me some good. Has anyone found that working on sales skills has impacted your life more generally? Can I ask how?

    2) I’m transitioning to a hybrid schedule soon! Hooray! We haven’t firmly hashed out the specifics yet, but my boss has suggested Monday/Friday remote, and I would strongly prefer Wednesday/Friday because I badly need to get out more and my neighborhood library has a knitting club on Wednesday evenings that I could actually make it to if I was remote those days. Obviously my boss has the final say on this, but that’s a totally cromulent reason to push for remote Wednesdays if I can, right?

    1. The Person from the Resume*

      Yes! Unless your boss has a good reason for you to be in the office on Wednesday (in person meetings, etc), feel free to make a request for what works for you.

      For a long time, I was on hybrid schedule where I went into the office on Friday. Most people took that as a WFH day but I had a personal acitvity on Friday nights nearer the office than home so that worked well for me.

    2. Put the Blame on Edamame*

      I did sales training in my early 20s and it was invaluable for general communication skills needed in the workplace. A lot of it wasn’t miles away from the customer service training I did at a supermarket job, which was also very helpful! Anyway, it had things like asking closed vs open questions, avoiding hard sell tactics, overcoming objections, clarifying answers to questions, different communication styles etc. It was also good for understanding how a business worked from the sales end, and being able to talk with people who work in sales.

      In my brief time as a sales rep, a lot of people poured scorn on my job when I mentioned it, but the job itself was mostly fine and not the “lying car salesperson scumbag” stereotype at all. No one likes the idea of being “sold to” but being in sales isn’t necessarily this weird fake hard-selling hustle, it’s often just understanding what people want and seeing if you can fulfill it in a business context.

  52. JanetM*

    Passive-aggressive sign I want to put up all over my current building:

    “I know the new paper towels are super fragile and fall apart easily. Nevertheless, please pick up the shards that fall to the floor.”

    1. Juneybug*

      Could you see if the janitorial staff will add an extra trash can under the paper towels dispenser to catch the falling pieces?

    2. Roland*

      Sounds annoying but FWIW I will never ever pick up small pieces of paper from a bathroom floor. Way too gross. Hopefully your work can start stocking higher quality paper or get a better dispenser because this doesn’t sound like a common problem.

    3. MaryLoo*

      False economy. They buy cheap paper towels, then everybody has to use multiple towels to dry their hands. Doesn’t reduce costs and annoys everybody.

  53. Elsewise*

    For about a year, there was only one person in my role. I was hired on last year along with another new hire, bringing us up to three. The senior employee, let’s call her Gladys, handles all the new task intakes and assigns them out among the three of us based on a rotation. The work we do is highly visible to each other.

    Gladys and I are friendly and have hung out outside of work. She has been telling me that she’s super stressed lately, and I’ve noticed that she has a lot of overdue tasks. I asked her if she wanted me to take over assigning intakes, or if she wanted the three of us to do it on a rotation, which I would coordinate. She said that she doesn’t mind doing it, and that it’s super easy.

    The problem is, I can see the intakes waiting for assignment, and they’re piling up. Gladys’s tasks are also continuing to be pretty overdue. I am super not busy, so it really does make sense for me to take over. But I’m worried if I jump in now after she’s turned down my help, she’ll be offended. We don’t really have a boss I can go to- our supervisor position is open, as is the newly-created position above her, and our great-grandboss, who is technically supervising us, is extremely overloaded and has told us to just handle this task ourselves. Any ideas?

    1. ruthling*

      Can you frame it to Gladys as a benefit to you as well (e.g. keeping busy, getting experience, etc.) I’m guessing she’s embarrassed. But if that doesn’t work, I would start doing it.

    2. Juneybug*

      Could you suggest a process where you all grab intakes as they come in? Of course, you will need a tracking system so no-one grabs the same intake.

    3. Mill Miker*

      You might have better luck coming at this less from an angle of “let me help you” and more “you’re becoming a bottleneck”. (but not stated so bluntly).

      Because practically, the problem for you is that you’re not busy, and the things you could be doing are piling up in a todo list that is currently only Gladys can assign from. It’s great for her that she doesn’t mind doing the task, but that’s not actually relevant if she’s not doing it.

      So don’t go to her and ask how to take assigning tasks off of her plate, ask her to figure out a way to make sure you and your coworker are still getting assigned tasks, even when she’s swamped, and don’t accept “no thank you” or “I don’t mind” as an answer.

      I know you’re also concerned about how stressed she is, but she sounds like maybe a bit of a martyr, so you might have better luck if you can make lighting her load seem like a favour she’s doing you, instead of the other way around.

      1. Elsewise*

        That’s a good point. I’ve noticed that I work much faster than Gladys and our other coworker, probably because I have a background in a field that really emphasized task turnover (get it done, get on to the next sort of thing), so it’s pretty ingrained in me to finish one intake and immediately start the next. My instinct is just to drop it, but unfortunately I should probably try to be responsible.

        1. linger*

          If the tasks are being assigned in strict rotation, does that mean they are only going out at the speed of the slowest worker in the rotation, and so building up for that reason? If so, and unless there is training to get your coworkers up to your speed, task allocation needs to be driven by available capacity rather than numerical equality.

  54. River*

    Our store manager (Alice) recently shared privy information to other people that have no reason to know that information.

    So I am one of the assistant managers and I reported to her recently that another employee (Victoria) made an inappropriate comment to me about someone else. Victoria used some disrespectful words and I felt like I should report this to Alice. When I reported it to Alice, she had me document the incident because Victoria is already on thin ice with the company. About an hour later, I walk into Alice’s office to ask her a question and one of the cashier’s (Samantha) is sitting in her office. (They are friends outside of work and chat often). Alice told me that she told that Samantha what happened with Victoria. Her words were “Samantha knows what happened as well now.” Samantha then shakes her head in disappointment.

    After I left Alice’s office, I am thinking to myself…why is Alice telling Samantha this information? I feel like this is the sort of info you keep confidential and private amongst management and HR. Also not to start another conversation but I’ve noticed Samantha is getting treated with favoritism, but that’s a whole other topic for another day.

    As an assistant manager, should I do something about this? Should I talk to Alice about her sharing private information? Should I reach out to our HR department? Or is this something I need to let go? I know this isn’t the first time this has happened with her and Samantha and the mention of private incidents. It makes me concerned as well because they get together outside of work relatively often and Alice might be sharing confidential information with Samantha. I am also concerned I may face backlash from my store manager if I report this to HR or even corporate for that matter.

    I really am unsure what to do in this situation. Any constructive feedback is welcome. Thank you.

    1. kalli*

      Combine it with Samantha’s favoritism you can’t not being it up to someone. If store manager isn’t an option then it does need to go to HR, both in regards to favoritism (but you need to quantify it and establish negative effects on everyone else) and to the potential leak of confidential information. Alice disclosed information pertaining to a misconduct investigation to someone who was not involved, so confidential information has already been mishandled.

      HR should protect you from blowback from Alice, but they need to know in order to do that.

      Since this sounds like retail, you should be prepared for a less than perfect outcome since retail aren’t always great at handling things as often the turnover takes care of issues before they can see it through. If you can look as well, that might be reassuring or give you another way out.

    2. Red Flags Everywhere*

      I’m in a much more formal, “professional” environment and HR did NOTHING after I reported the office HR liaison for gossiping about people’s medical leave/FMLA paperwork, disciplinary actions, raises, etc. While it’s very aggravating to watch that type of behavior under your nose, you aren’t in a position to do much about it and you are probably better off leaving it alone and looking for another job. I burned a lot of political capital to no avail and became her primary target for a couple of years.

  55. Paul S*

    I have a low stakes questions. My name is a two first name name – say Paul Simon. My email is, my name is in my email signature, my zoom name is Paul S, I sign off emails as Paul. I work remotely for a mostly hybrid-working administrative department at a university so I get most of my coworkers in other departments have never met me face to face. But this has resulted in a lot of email chains where I am repeatedly addressed as Simon (with lots of other people cc’d in). I reply, sign off as Paul, and get a response to Simon, and on again. Is what I’m currently doing passive aggressive and it would be better to directly say “By the way, my name is Paul?”

    1. DisneyChannelThis*

      Following with interest. I work with a guy who consistently spells my name wrong (leaves out a letter which changes pronunciation). Formal presentations to external people he misspells it. Emails with lots of cc he mispells it. Slack where the typing direct message box literally has the name in it, he misspells it. I’m much younger than him, and I’m female so I feel like there’s some weird dynamics. Someone closer to my age I’d start just misspelling their name back at them. Maybe you should start just last naming them back

      1. Donkey Hotey*

        Speaking for myself, I’ve never had any luck with intentionally misspelling the offender’s name. But then again, I live in Seattle – the home of the “barrista spelled my name wrong” meme.

      2. Minimal Pear*

        I was thinking about writing in or posting this question! I’m used to people messing up my name but recently my coworkers are doing it more and it’s with external people, so they’re very obviously misspelling my name in front of clients, etc.

      3. Lexi Vipond*

        It’s possible that they’ve just stopped ‘seeing’ the word, and the difference isn’t jumping out at them.

        There must be better examples, because I don’t look at maps of the west coast *that* often, but there’s a place called Barcaldine that I’d been reading as ‘Balcardine’ for about 30 years (Bal- is a more common start for Scottish place names), and I’m usually pretty good at noticing misspellings and so on!

        1. Lexi Vipond*

          Sorry, advice – if he doesn’t obviously seem to be trying to wind you up otherwise, start with spelling out (sorry) that your name is JeAn with an A, and see if it helps?

    2. Hello*

      Maybe they don’t realize it especially if your email is a combination you first and last name. I think you are doing everything right. Next time I would tell the email sender my name is Paul. If it happens again maybe cc everyone on the email so all are on notice.

    3. Donkey Hotey*

      I know it’s not much, but this is a refrain on a common theme at AAM – being called your name and correcting people who get it wrong. You are absolutely right to assert they get it right.

      I’m in a similar boat. For me, I get the best response by an immediate, informal but direct reply (“It’s Paul.” or “Simon is my last name.”)

    4. Hlao-roo*

      I think it would help to put a “by the way, my name is Paul” in the body of the email. A lot of people skim or skip email sign-offs and signatures, so people will be more likely to see it if your emails are:

      Hello everyone,

      I just want to clarify, my first name is Paul. [response to work question/project input/etc.]


      Paul Simon
      [rest of signature block]

      Depending on the culture of your university, you might also be able to skip the signature block or change your signature to Paul S just so there’s one fewer place where people can see the name “Simon.”

    5. Jamie Starr*

      My last name is a male first name, and my first name is an uncommon female name so there are many times when people email me using my last name (and assume I’m a man). I always just correct them: By the way, my name is [First Name] not [Last Name] and add “and I’m not a Mr.” if necessary.

    6. Fluffy Fish*

      I have similar and when someone emails me and addresses me by the wrong name, I simply start the emails response with “My name is Fluffy.”

    7. Sneaky Squirrel*

      If it happened once in an email thread, I would dismiss it. Most people will see the signature, genuinely feel awkward about it and fix it themselves. If they are consistently doing it after the first thread, I think a simple “by the way, my name is Paul” is welcome.

    8. The Meat Embezzler*

      I also have two first names and when I get called by my last name I’ve had the best luck with I respond to the email with the information requested and then I also include something like, “Just a heads up, my first name is ‘Paul’ not ‘Simon’. I’d appreciate it if you called me by my first name going forward.”



      In 99% of instances the person that got your name wrong will apologize and it’s nipped in the bud. On the phone when it happens I’ll also correct in a friendly tone but with a direct message. The only people that I let slide calling me by my last name are my closest oldest friends.

    9. kalli*

      It is a bit passive aggressive, but not as much as if you bolded your name or made it bigger each time – but people who are doing it over and over are just conditioned to call you Simon the way people see Robert Downey Jr. and say Tony Stark, so you need to change something significant at the top where people have to see it – I can’t tell you how many people in my org don’t ‘see’ email signoffs or signatures because they aren’t content (if that’s all on the page when we print preview to enter page count in our system, we don’t even count that page).

      If you can, I’d set your email name to Paul S. so in inboxes it comes up as Paul S (paulsimon -at- university), as the ‘Simon’ may be in people’s peripheral vision and sticking, especially if your uni does the Givennname SURNAME thing as default and/or there are a lot of people who are SURNAME Givenname around. That should look different enough that people will have a moment of ‘who is this’. If it keeps happening you just start introducing yourself every time, and continue along the spectrum towards a firm ‘My name is Paul. I will only respond to Paul from now on.’ There are times when being subtly passive aggressive allows people to save face, but they have to be able to take the hint, and there doesn’t seem to be much hint-taking here.

    10. RagingADHD*

      What you’re doing isn’t particularly passive aggressive, because nobody is even noticing it. It’s passive passive.

      Just say something.

    11. InTheClub*

      I’m honestly shocked you notice. I have a first name as a last name and I am so used to people using whichever one sticks in their head that I almost never notice which one they use – both just register as my name. In fact, I find it more distracting when they notice and apologize for calling me by my last name.

    12. Oof*

      I’m a task-oriented person. My action/fixes depends on the situation. If I were in your exact situation, I will send a blare-out with my correct name.

      Occasional collaborators usually spell my unusual name incorrectly, and I don’t bother correcting them as I don’t interact with them often enough care about them getting my name correct. This policy changes if they get wrong twice sequentially in a text discussion. (I find it amusing when they spell it wrong in different ways, but I have quirky sense of humor. Also, I tyop my own name incorrectly too.)

      When I interact with frequent collaborators, I do provide corrections in order to help them out. They don’t intend to be rude.

      Recently I am working with a colleague whose preferred email/social name (e.g. Louise) is slightly different from her official signature (e.g. Marie Louise Smith).

      When I introduced her to the internal customers, I was sure to let them know her preferred name (Louise). However some read her official signature name (Marie Louise Smith) and greet her as “Marie”.

      Being known as two different names in a single discussion has added confusion to her frequent collaborators which is no fun for them (especially as we are trying to establish good internal customer relations during a high-stress period).

  56. Hello*

    My confidence is shot and I don’t know what to do. 2 years ago I left a job I loved. Our offices moved and my commute / workday travel would have had me traveling 3 hours a day.

    I started t a new job that just didn’t click. I honestly thought it was me but later found out that a majority of the department was miserable. HR conducted a year long investigation and found out the cause was three managers and their management style. While the managers were NOT doing things maliciously their methods made it hard for everyone. The ringleader was let go and the boss the two managers were transferred, however by that time the staff had it. Within 9 weeks our department of 15 lost 7 people (myself included). Again I thought this was all me and didn’t find out an overall picture till after i left.

    I then joined a family own company. I had never experienced nepotism before. However two family members needed jobs/ graduated early. There were 3 of us newbies and we were let go due to not being perfect during our training and probation period. (This was a direct quote, and no there is nothing I can do legally)

    I’m a hard worker and know I will find a job. Luckily where I live there are plenty of opportunities. I’m just mentally shot. It’s been a rough few years. Anyone have suggestions on how to keep my spirits up?

    1. MissGirl*

      I wish I had better advice for you. I just went through two layoffs in the last year. I have a great offer now but I still feel so beat up. Knowing you’ll find another job isn’t a huge comfort in the moment. If it helps, what you’re going through sucks. It’s one of the most mentally exhausting things you’ll go through in this life. Be kind to yourself whatever that means for you. Find a safe place to vent even if it’s here.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      A few unconnected thoughts:

      – The place of work in our lives: it is great to work for a great place (like you job, like your coworkers, like your commute, etc.) but sometimes a job is just a way to earn money to fund the rest of your life. Sounds like you had a great job, then two “I’m just here for the money” jobs. There’s no moral failing in working an “I’m just here for the paycheck” job.

      – It can be hard to see the extent of how bad a job is from the inside (and even harder to see during the interview process). It is easy to feel like any failings are personal (“if I worked harder, I’d be able to finish this project/my manager would like me/etc.). I think you should give yourself a lot of grace for the second job in your comment. It’s pretty clear that the environment was bad for most/all people there if half of the department left.

      – Are there any lessons learned from the job with bad management and the job with the family-owned company? I’ve seen a few commenters here say they will not work for family-owned companies after experiences similar to yours, and that is a valid take-away. Was there anything during the interview process for the bad management job that in retrospect was a red flag? Maybe yes, maybe no. If there was something, it’s worth keeping in mind while you look for other jobs so you can avoid similar places in the future.

      – Are there good parts of your life you can lean into a little bit? Relationships with family and friends, meaningful volunteer commitments, a craft project? We live in a culture that places a lot of value on work and professional lives so when things aren’t going well in that area, it impacts our self-esteem. It’s helpful to remember that you have value to yourself, people who care about you, and even society as a whole even without a satisfying job (or any job at all).

    3. ferrina*

      Ugh, this sucks. On the bright side, you have clear evidence it’s not you, so you know you are not the problem. On the not-bright side, you know it’s not you, so there’s not much you can do to fix the issue.

      Weirdly, situations like this can come back as great points of reference. I spent a decade bouncing from dysfunctional workplace to dysfunctional workplace, and I now I can troubleshoot organizational systems like nobody’s business. I’ve seen it go badly so many times (and in such weird ways!) that I can immediately flag potential issues and share evidence for why its an issue. I now get called to consult on a lot of things that are technically outside my purview, but I’m known for just understanding people and systems. It’s also funny when people try to tell me how bad they have it and they are complaining about normal things. People wonder why it’s so hard to faze me- it’s because I’ve been through worse, and I know we’ll make it through this thing.

      It sounds like you’re doing incredibly well. It’s a really hard situation, and anyone would be down when they’ve been through what you’ve been through. Take good care of yourself- it sounds like you’re doing the right things.

  57. MissGirl*

    I recently had a former manager be a reference for me for a new position. Due to the California records law, I was sent a copy of the reference. Under what needs improvement, she listed, “Sometimes she doesn’t have the emotional intelligence to fully understand all customer
    interactions, so she doesn’t always read between the lines.”

    This wasn’t feedback that was ever given to me. Honestly, I wish she had told me as this is something I’m always concerned about. I would’ve loved a concrete example since sometimes I really can’t read between the lines. We had a particularly challenging client that I could never tell if she was happy with my work or not. My manager, however, told me that client is like that with everyone and is just difficult.

    I at least have the emotional intelligence to not call her and demand examples :) How can I work on this in the meantime? I will be working with a lot of internal stakeholders and want to improve where I can.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      Can you flag it with your new manager? Share what you shared here – you were never given this feedback but reading it you can agree where that would be an area of improvement for you and you’d like to work on it.

      Maybe the ask can be working with your manager to strategize how to identify those situations first and then as a next step strategize how to address the subtext.

    2. ferrina*

      Ugh, that’s really crappy of that manager. Not just that she never gave you this feedback in person when you had a chance to work on it, but the wording. That’s usually what I’d call a communication skill, not “emotional intelligence”.

      As for next step….I’d take this feedback with a grain of salt, both since she never actually said anything to you (which speaks to her “emotional intelligence”) and because the phrasing is so weird. I might ask friends or trusted colleagues about your customer relations skills. I wouldn’t use the term “emotional” intelligence, I’d say something like “I got some feedback that I need to work on my customer relations and communications. Unfortunately, the person was very broad and I’m not sure what I need to work on. Can you think of specific examples or areas I could work on? I’d really appreciate it!”

      1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        That wording is awful. The basic idea could have been conveyed as a fact — “doesn’t always read between the lines” — but going to “lacks emotional intelligence” is a layer of judgment that’s plain mean.

    3. I heart Paul Buchman*

      It sounds like you agree with the assessment that you sometimes have trouble reading between the lines (and I agree that this is an emotional intelligence skill).

      Can you pinpoint your specific area of difficulty? eg difficultly reading body language, have trouble understanding idioms and slang, tends to switch off when people give feedback.

      Try thinking honestly about a situation where things have seemed off and reflect on when it went wrong and what was happening. once you have an area you can look at specific advice to strengthen that skill.

      Looking at resources for ‘reflective practice’ might be helpful for you.

  58. Lady Lia*

    Having been recently downsized from an office job, I’ve been picking up convention/event gigs to make ends meet. Generally, these are low-impact except for one area – a near fanatical insistence that workers be standing at all times. It might have been doable in my twenties, but having just turned 50, my back and knees are not up to hours of standing on concrete. Being an independent contractor, I doubt there’s any sort of ADA protections, and supervisors aren’t receptive to disability concerns. None of the tasks (such as scanning tickets or handing out brochures) REQUIRE standing. I feel it’s more of a power play, a way of keeping the serfs in line (and hobbled by needless injury). What sort of pushback do I have? Please advise.

    1. RRR tiger*

      Visible injury + being positive+ being one of the most hardworking and “with it” employees worked for me. I got hurt and was wearing a brace. Would just say on sort of a perky way, where can I grab a bar stool to perch while I take tickets (etc). People would enjoy being helpful and also be pleased I was working since I was not zoning out/being passively unhelpful like a lot of folks in my position.
      Also I found people were very responsive to the (factual) statement that I needed to move around a bit and change positions. “It hurts if I stand all day and hurts if I sit all day” /shrug

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      I organise events for a living and would never ask or expect my event staff to stand all day. Unfortunately, since you’re a casual worker at an exhibit booth, there’s not much you can do to push back, except making sure that they give you breaks (and that you take those breaks somewhere you can sit down.)

      I also have a couple of suggestions, though unfortnately both of these cost money. You can get work shoes which are designed to make standing easier – usually these are marketed to (for example) nurses. Skechers has this type of shoe, or search for “nursing shoes” (though be aware that you’ll come up with a lot of clogs and Crocs.)
      There are also rubber floor mats (standing mats) that are designed for retail use. If you ask to bring and use a small standing mat, they may be okay with it, as they are usually made of black rubber so aren’t very noticeable.

  59. Anita Brake*

    Are there any teachers besides me here? If so, would you say that evaluation as a teacher is more often, more thorough, and more ongoing than in other fields (if you have experience in other fields)? I’m feeling just completely over-evaluated lately. I believe all the teachers at my school are evaluated the same, hence my question if this is normal for teachers (I’m a new teacher at 51, and don’t remember experiencing this much evaluation, re-evaluation, self-evaluation, and on and on in other fields I’ve worked in).

    1. Irish Teacher.*

      I am a teacher, but in Ireland, so the situation is very different. Once qualified, we can be evaluated only by the inspectorate and even then, I’m not sure it’s really “evaluation.” They just talk in general terms in their reports, generally something like “English teaching in the school was generally very good with some examples of excellent practice. Advice for the future would be…”

      They have no power over our jobs and in my many years in the job, I have never had an inspection (this is partly because my role is learning support which we haven’t had recent inspections in and partly just sheer luck. If there is…say an English inspection, they will choose a couple of English teachers at random). But it’s not something a teacher would experience every year or even every couple of years.

      We don’t have performance evaluations or anything along that line.

      1. Anita Brake*

        Wow…that sounds…amazing! I mean, I expect to have more evaluations at the beginning of my career, but we have at least 4 observations in just one year! Are schools in Ireland by chance hiring? Lol (only half-lol-ing)

    2. Mojo021*

      I worked for a K-12 school district managing the evaluation software and assigning plans etc. The process is insanely overdone. I don’t know what the state requirements are where you are located, but in Massachusetts the teachers need to submit 2 goals, plans on how they will accomplish those goals, and a self assessment at the beginning of the year, then they have a mid-year review, and they should have at 4 observations for teachers in their first 3 years, and then a final review. Then the “grading” on the reviews and what is entailed in the rubrics the teachers need to meet is just a lot! It has taken me a year and half to train my replacement and I still get calls…. It’s definitely not you.

    3. Flower necklace*

      I am a teacher. I have no experience in other fields or other counties, but the first three years are the worst for evaluations. You have to do one informal and two formal observations each year, and the formal observations require at least three meetings. That’s in addition to the usual PGP meetings (beginning, middle, and end of the year) to set and review goals.

      However, after those first three years, it reduces to something like two informal observations per year and then a formal observation once every three years. It was a lot the first few years, but it got better once I was past that stage.

    4. Rara Avis*

      Private school teacher. I’m observed once a year by my department chair. New teachers are observed several times by a variety of administrators.

    5. ?*

      I’m a teacher—it’s hard to say if your school is overdoing it, but evaluation and observations are definitely a pretty big part of teaching. You’re alone in a room with other people’s kids all day, it makes sense that people are keeping an eye on what happens in there! My school has actually let evaluations slip a lot since the pandemic, which has good and bad aspects to it, but we used to have a formal observation twice a year with an evaluation after each, and one or two informal observations as well. Now, are the evaluations done well/helpful/productive? That depends a lot on the person doing them and there’s always some trendy educational jargon or new focus that gets too much attention one year and is ignored the next. Once you make it through those first newbie years hopefully you will have the standing and confidence to just quietly ignore the dumb parts.

    6. Dark Macadamia*

      I’ve only ever been a teacher and it’s varied a lot. First school – I was observed once in 3 years and got minimal, inaccurate feedback. Second school – no evaluation (but I was only there part time and for one year). Current school – there’s an actual rubric and process which is spelled out in advance, we’re observed once by schedule and once by surprise with meetings before and after to discuss the observations, and we have a data collection “assignment” each year as well. The first two schools were lacking in other ways and I would’ve appreciated more feedback, the current one feels like too much but I appreciate the transparency/clarity.

    7. Glazed Donut*

      It depends on the school! In my state, new teachers are required to have more frequent observations (announced and unannounced) & teachers who have lower evaluation scores are also required to have more. After 4-5 years and with proficient evals, the number is essentially cut in half.
      In the private schools where I’ve worked, I have had 0 observations and maybe 3 total feedback meetings (in 10 years of teaching). I’d say maybe 1 meeting was useful.
      In my education nonprofit job, I have regular quarterly reviews with SMART goals and clear, measurable progress toward my goals.

  60. Applesauced*

    What’s the best way to share positive feedback with someone you work with, but at a different company?

    I’m an architect, and the site superintendent at a constriction site has been great.

    The project itself is complex and the scope keeps changing, and he is on it. He’s keeping things running through changes and delays, is incredibly knowledgeable about what’s happening when and where over the whole site, and he comes to us with solutions rather than just presenting problems.

    I’m thinking of sending a note to his bosses – is that appropriate? and if so, should I CC him?

    1. Jay (no, the other one)*

      Yes to both. Send a note to his direct boss, CC him, and give some very concrete (sorry, pun not intended) examples. “When we changed the specs for the llama feeding enclosure, Percival kept everyone informed and made sure we had the resources needed to keep the project moving so the llamas were able to move in on schedule.” I’ve both written and received comments like this and it means so much. It can also help Percival if he’s up for a raise or promotion.

      1. retired3*

        I did this once and the person ended up saving me during an unexpected RIF. The universe is a funny place and it never hurts to be kind.

    2. Billy Preston*

      This is very well timed, because there’s a contractor I’m working with right now who is awesome and I want to tell that to his higher ups before the end of the contract.

    3. lizard*

      As someone who used to work in this type of situation (on the construction side): yes, that’s completely appropriate! It would be kind to CC him but not necessary if you don’t want to for some reason.

      I know we would do this in the opposite direction, about engineers and architects who were especially helpful, if we knew their boss. Generally that was verbally but the email is a nice touch so they can have that record for performance evaluations, etc.

  61. Dragonfly7*

    Do you find it useful when folks share certifications, badges, etc they earn through things like Coursera, Linked in Learning, etc on their resumes or LinkedIn profiles? I am doing a Coursera professional certificate as a review of some tech support subjects I took formal classes in several years ago but never used (especially hardware and networking). Not sure if I will be fully prepared to take the A+ when I’m finished, but it’s a start.

    1. Sneaky Squirrel*

      I personally don’t put much stock in them when I see them on a resume, but I’m sure some people value it more than I do. I’d say you’re better off putting them in for the hiring managers that do and the ones that don’t wont think of you any less.

    2. Put the Blame on Edamame*

      As a hiring manager, it can be a “nice to have” extra factor for a candidate showing some familarity with a subject, but not the same as actual experience. So if I’m hiring for someone who I’m looking to train up on something, seeing they’ve done some courses in that helps, but if I’m after someone who has worked using that tool/discipline, that’s more of an advantage. But I’d def keep it on LinkedIn, resumes where it’s applicable, etc.

    3. fhqwhgads*

      It’s not generally considered worth sharing. Heck, I took and passed A+ ages ago and even that wasn’t really viewed with much import, mostly because you don’t (didn’t at the time) have to ever re-certify. So you take it once and you get to list it for life. Do I remember much from that test 15 years ago? Probably not. Did I end up using almost any of it in my actual work at the time? Also no. And I know you’re not asking about A+ but basically the courses you took to prep for it, but I guess my point is if people don’t put much weight in the cert itself, then the stuff leading up to the cert is even less. If you’re sure you have tangible skills gained from the stuff, list the skills. If you get an interview and they ask how you got the skills, tell them then. But it probably won’t boost your resume.

  62. Invisible fish*

    Teachers who managed to get their workloads under control and have balance: what resources have you utilized? Websites or books? (Won’t listen to podcasts – might watch a video.). Any help is awesome. (High school English + college freshmen in dual enrollment is my current situation.)

    1. YellowDeer*

      The 40 Hour Teacher Workweek by Angela Watson. It costs money, but has tons of practical resources as well as a Facebook community. I highly recommend it!

    2. Yoli*

      The Together Teacher is a classic. A suggestion I have is to plan what you’re going to get done during each prep, even if it’s just a list on a post-it. That helped me identify my optimal times for different tasks (e.g., writing plans vs. making copies), and then I didn’t have to spend any prep minutes figuring out what needed to be done.

  63. I have worked with a lot of glassbowls, but never ones with such nice packaging - and I’m still trying to get over it.*

    I left a workplace with a lot of highly educated, superficially nice women. I did a lot of adapting to the culture — I learned how to do indirect (vs. clear, direct) communication. I mention this so you can picture the ‘type’ of person I mean — very fearful of conflict, doesn’t say what they mean so you don’t know where they stand, etc.

    Ultimately, I burnt out badly after five years there. I was a high performer with perfect performance reviews throughout, three promotions, and an acting deputy director role of a large and high budget organization.

    There were so many things I couldn’t cope with, but I truly believed it was just me because the people around me seemed happy (except for a few confidantes). It was lonely thinking I was the only person who didn’t agree with the regular groupthink or for whom the environment just didn’t work. I thought I’d leave, then realize how much I was being over critical of the very nice women around me.

    Now that I’m six months out, I realize — Gosh it was so much worse than i knew. The boss was and is checked out. The values were status quo, don’t rock the boat, don’t point out problems because if you do then you become the problem. What things actually are doesn’t matter as long as they look and seem okay. For example, it’s more important to seem busy than be busy. This was a scientific research organization, y’all! (Of course our science sucked eggs!).

    Now that I can see things more clearly, I see that whenever I brought an issue to leadership or to a colleague, what I got back was silencing through invalidation, like, “well, that hasn’t been my experience” or just excuses. This happened many times, but I couldn’t see it while it was happening. (This happened to others too.)

    I also saw that there were some other recurring patterns: scheduling a meeting to “get your thoughts” on something then totally forgetting about any input I’d shared; endless conversations about improvements but none happening; extremely unproductive staff saying they were “sooooooooo busy” but really I was doing their work for them; more than five meetings to make a small inconsequential decision; a lot of quiet racism and exclusion within meaningless DEIAB work; a lot of self promotion with nothing behind it, etc. This was a mission-driven organization with very high job security, which is why I was surprised to see these behaviors. I’d expect them in the private sector where people are more competitive or ambitious?

    In other words, my workplace was like a very dysfunctional family — no accountability, a lot of unfairly distributed work, issues NOT being handled, fighting hard to preserve the status quo, a lot of privileged people being protected for no clear reason (I think passivity / spinelessness by leadership, maybe?). In a word, my colleagues were the most coddled people I’d ever been near!

    I’ve never seen this kind of intentional effort at knowingly being terrible (but trying to look good!) at your job when the working conditions (pay, stability, mission-driven, work life balance, flexibility) are second-to-none. I spent a long time wracking my brain wondering why and how people could be so self-serving. I have worked with a lot of glassbowls, but never ones with such nice packaging — they were much more upfront about who they were. I respected that a lot more. I felt like I understood what was happening around me.

    I left, knowing my work ethic and style would fade the longer I stuck around (e.g., I’m still working on making my communication style more clear and direct). My current workplace has high engagement, an excellent supervisor, and extremely high quality work output. I am on Cloud 9! I had to adjust a lot to be here, and it’s not perfect, but I like who I am here. I have a lot more energy. I don’t experience so much cognitive dissonance during the day.

    Has anyone experienced this flavor of dysfunction, where things look good on the surface? How did you process and make sense of your experience? Did you take any worthwhile lessons from it? How did you integrate it into your experience so you could move forward rather than constantly being reminded of it or comparing things to it?

    1. Spearmint*

      It wasn’t as extreme as this, and I’m a white man so I didn’t deal with the racism/sexism side, but I have worked in places with some of these dynamics. Especially the stagnation, appearing busy without being busy, rampant inefficiency, etc.

      I don’t think most people were taking advantage intentionally, but instead I think it was a natural reaction to the culture and management. In my division, the management was disengaged and there was a lot of cultural resistance to change or new initiatives (partly this was due to being limited by statute as a government entity, but still…). So there really wasn’t much reward for taking on more work: you wouldn’t be paid more, promoted, or given a chance to spearhead a new project or develop a new skill. And similarly, there wasn’t much punishment for mediocre work as long as you did the bare minimum since management was disengaged and lacked a clear vision.

      I left because I realized those incentives were leading me to be lazy, bored, and stagnant at work. While I’m mostly a work-to-live kind of person, I realized it was bad for me to spend so much time sitting around doing nothing and only working on the same exact projects I had been for years with minimal changes.

      I ultimately think this was a management problem and I don’t really blame my coworkers for settling into it the way they did. Then again, they were very nice people, unlike some of the folks you worked with it sounds like.

      1. getting over it*

        This is a really helpful message — it does start at the top; management could hold people accountable for doing their jobs. Cultural resistance is very real. I think a lot of what you described about your workplace — no reward for taking on more work — was true of my workplace as well. Same for the little punishment for mediocre work as long as you did the bare minimum. Good point about disengaged management who lacks a clear vision; it’s amazing how of the four jobs I have had to date, clear vision was only present in two of the jobs. My opinion is becoming that most people don’t have the time/space or courage to have a vision.

        I completely relate to your becoming “lazy, bored, and stagnant at work” and despite being a work-to-live kind of person, it wasn’t healthy for you to stay in that situation.

        I wonder if your coworkers were nicer, or maybe you weren’t as much of a sucker as I am :) Maybe you’re smart and don’t do people’s work for them!!

    2. ferrina*

      Ah, yes. I can picture this vividly, because I have experienced that. It is absolutely horrid. The people that constantly are looking good and Being Good ™, yet keep doing bad things usually “on accident” or claiming it didn’t happen or if it did happen, it wasn’t that bad, why are you so dramatic and why are you picking on them?

      It’s a toxic cesspool of gaslighting, future-faking and minimizing. The surface is always the most important part, and the behind the scenes doesn’t matter as long as nobody talks about it (and if you did talk about it, you monster, how could you?!)

      It can be traumatic. Don’t undervalue that. The constant cognitive dissonance is exhausting, and it’s designed to wear you down to compliance. In my case, the toxic system was a family system that was driven by covert narcissists. I did a ton of research into it (Dr. Ramani is a good place to start). That really helped me identify what was going on and reassure me that it wasn’t just me.

      The main thing I learned is that no one is owed a second chance. If you treat me badly, I’m not required to trust you again. No one is owed redemption. Yes, we love a good redemption story, and yes, people can change, but that doesn’t mean that they will change and it certainly doesn’t mean that I’m required to put myself at risk to test and see if they changed. If a tiger bites me, I am not required to walk back in the cage to see if the tiger has decided to change its ways. Someone else gets to be bitten, and if the tiger can’t find anyone to bite, that’s their problem.

      Anyways, it sounds like you are having a very normal reaction to a very awful and abnormal social dynamic. Hope you are able to move past (it can be hard!), and so glad you got out!

      1. getting over it*

        ferrina – your experience sounds a LOT like mine! Yes, the surface is all that matters!

        Interesting you bring up trauma — you’re not the first to say that as I describe my experience — but you are exactly right about the cognitive dissonance. I did get worn down into feeling, “I just can’t” more workdays than not (but since no one was doing any work anyway…). This is such a good point. Also interestingly, there is a lot of narcissism/manipulation in my FOO that I am just starting to work through.

        I had to look up “future faking” — oof! This is a good one!

        I absolutely love this point: “no one is owed a second chance. If you treat me badly, I’m not required to trust you again. No one is owed redemption.”

        We DO love a good redemption story… but they’re rare, right? That’s why they’re compelling stories? I love the tiger metaphor.

        Thanks for naming trauma — it is making me think that I can give myself a whole lot longer than 6 months to get through it.

    3. Generic Name*

      Oh yeah, my last company was what I would call a “sick system”. Company leadership are the founder’s personal favorites, and nobody running the company has any experience or training in running a company. The (very young) new CEO has only worked for the company, and has a “general studies” typos of background. The culture is proudly touted as “unique” and “clan”. My husband described it as “a frat house atmosphere” and it’s very cliquish. I was subjected to years of sexual harassment and bullying by leadership (excuse me, they were just joking/teasing me, and it just means I’m liked). I’ve been out and I’m still processing my experience there. I had a couple of sessions with my therapist, and I’ve been journaling. It’s also been helpful to talk to former coworkers who left. And former coworkers who are looking to leave.

      While my new job isn’t perfect, I’m treated much more humanely. I don’t have to pretend to laugh at jokes at my expense. I know if someone says or does anything that makes me feel uncomfortable, my manager has my back. Meetings aren’t used as a platform by company leadership to show how clever and funny they are. I’m not treated like a remedial case; I’m treated like an expert and a professional with sound judgement. It’s a huge change, and I’m still getting used to it, a few months in.

    4. Slight Panda*

      Yes, been there, and unfortunately don’t have answers or valuable lessons yet. Still processing it. It’s a frightening environment, where everything you’ve learnt about being “good” is turned on its head. It’s DON’T be clever, DON’T be hardworking, DON’T be honest, DON’T look for solutions, don’t, don’t, don’t, or you’ll be punished. Mixed with a lot of virtue signalling. Messed with my mind and sense of safety.

    5. Things to See*

      Oh wow, yes I have experienced this flavor of dysfunction. I have not only been here, I had to check I hadn’t written your comment myself because the experience is so similar. I was going to post today to ask a related question about making sense of things and how to remind oneself that the getting away to a new organization was good. My comments below are mostly relating, but I hope they’re helpful to you anyway.

      I’m also 6 months out of that daily cognitive dissonance in a mission-driven organization and team of “superficially nice”/cool women steeped in toxic, self-promoting, virtue signalling (exclusionary, meaningless DEIA) patterns. I was really burnt out and suffering from the cognitive dissonance of what was proclaimed vs what was actually happening around me. I’m sending you solidarity and kudos for finding your way out of that kind of organization.

      To your questions:
      1) I’ve tried to make meaning from it all by thinking about a) the values mismatch between the people I worked with and what/how I’d like to see work collaboration and communication happen and b) the people I connected and paths I created with my work.

      2) I’m still working on moving forward. I have a good role now with autonomy and creativity built in, alongside responsibilities that I’m told I’m exceeding. Even so, I can still get caught in questioning myself on the decision to leave that previous organization and sector for my new role. Sometimes comparing, sometimes fretting… but ending in the observation that those things I experienced were features of that system, not bugs.

      So I’ve tried to focus on what has changed:
      – acknowledging what I value and how my role & organization allows me live them authentically now, and where and how I can integrate them into my new body of work.
      – no longer have migraines, back spasms, and stress I had before (and when I was losing my sense of self with the cognitive dissonance).
      – how I’ve seen success by setting clear boundaries, advocate for myself and others, and being engaged with people while just being myself.

      I also have been working with a therapist, and try to be patient with myself if I encounter news about the old organization or colleagues and starting getting spun up again. I know that it takes time to recover and to break down those previous experiences into manageable, coherent thinking. I am slowly feeling more like my best self again after thinking that side of me was lost.

      Good luck to you as you continue to make sense of it all and find ways to productively move forward!

  64. lincva*

    I’m in graduate school and applying for opportunities has been… an experience, to say the least. I keep getting passed over for internships that I believe I’m qualified for based on the job description, and family members have said that maybe these employers think I’m overqualified (some have suggested just applying fo