open thread – November 17-18, 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.

{ 960 comments… read them below }

  1. WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot*

    I work for a US subsidiary of a UK company. There are only four of us in the US and we’ve had a lot of issues with benefits because of the differences between the countries. For example, they set us up as employees of our state of incorporation, not the state we work in. (Resulting in lots of issues with our employee taxes, failing to be properly registered in the state we work in, etc. Accordingly to my HR department, the very well known US payroll administrator told them to ignore the W-9 information and list us as employees in a different state. Not sure I buy that… but it’s important context.)

    We found out yesterday that our health insurance open enrolment was back in September. No notice was given to any of us although they did send a letter than premium were increasing. The HR department went ahead and enrolled everyone in accordance with their 2023 election. One of my employees was planning to switch to his wife’s plan come November… he says it’s ok, but I can tell he’s frustrated.

    Since we’re too small for ERISA, what regulations are place around this? Or is this governed by the plan? Are there penalties if the employer fails to offer open enrolment? We’re in Colorado, if that makes a difference.

    I’d like to go back to them with the request that we (a) notify employees before enrolling them; and (b) synch up with November open enrolment like everyone else. My guess is that they will want a regulation that requires it. I can advocate for best practice, in this case, but if anyone can point me to an applicable regulation, it would make my life 1000% easier.

    1. Cj*

      I hope you met a W-4 instead of a W-9. a
      a W9 is for independent contractors, if that’s the way they are classifying you, you have a whole different problem.

      I don’t think that’s the issue though, because you wouldn’t have health insurance through them if you weren’t an employee.

        1. Momma Bear*

          This. I think you’ll find a whole lot of things once you and your coworkers consult a US lawyer about it.

    2. Katie*

      They have a whole lot of issues that you all should present them as a united front. they are absolutely not meeting regulatory requirements around taxes which is a huge deal in of itself. It’s insanely crappy at them to not mention the open enrollment period regardless of it being a regulatory problem or not.
      AND Depending on the state who knows what other regulations they are missing.

      1. Mad Harry Crewe*

        Typically only with a qualifying event, such as marriage, divorce, loss of other insurance, I think childbirth might also?

    3. Florence Reese*

      This is really frustrating! Unfortunately, even for large employers, it looks like the requirement is just to *have* an open enrollment period…not necessarily to give employees notice of the open enrollment period in any timely manner. Rolling over the previous year’s benefits is a common and legal option, too.

      I think your two requests are extremely reasonable and should have, obviously, already been implemented. But from a health plan compliance standpoint, they seem to be reasonably in the clear from what’s stated here. I second the suggestion to get an attorney to make sure you’re being treated legally and to, maybe, help find some related case law or statutes.

    4. Ann O'Nemity*

      Open enrollment notice is required (ERISA), so they obviously dropped the ball there. For the employee who wants to add his wife, he is certainly within his rights to push back and have the employee allow him to make changes now. The benefits admin will need to own the mistake and the company may need to pay a fee for making the change now, but this is not that hard.

    5. NotAlwaysFixable*

      The previous time I was at a tiny company with no HR my boss (the CEO/owner) screwed up some of my benefits. There was no legal way to fix it. After some discussion he agreed to pay the money the mistake cost me but because of the way he did it I had to pay taxes on it (it supposedly couldn’t be processed as expense reimbursement, at least according to him when I found out how he processed it). So if they can’t fix it try to get some form of reimbursement and, if the next opportunity to sign up, also see if you can get them to pay the difference for an exchange plan in the interim. Good luck!

    6. Juneybug*

      Who is your registered agent* (the official point of contact in the state to receive legal and state documents and relay these communications to the business)?
      *Required per Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S.) Title 7 Corporations and Associations

      While they might not be the POC for your benefits, they are responsible for any legal actions that happen against your company while in US. They might be able to assist you in determining what benefits, rules, etc., cover you as an employee. And more importantly, what rules covers Human Resources’ responsibilities.

      Regarding your taxes, Colorado Business Source Book, states “All wages and income earned from work and operations conducted in the State of Colorado are subject to Colorado income tax regardless of the residency of the individual or the business. Employers must withhold Colorado income tax from employee wages and make the required estimated income tax payments for the business. “

      Soooo your Payroll/HR is probably doing something stupid, if not illegal, with the employees being registered to another state while residing in Colorado.

      I would give Colorado Small Business Navigator Hotline (303-592-5920) and Labor and Industries (303-318-8441) to see if they can assist you in determining what tax laws applies to you, employee benefits, etc.

      I am not a tax or legal advisor (just a friendly AAM reader). Good luck!!

  2. Combinatorialist*

    I work a job where I have a fair number of meetings and also work that requires varying degrees of concentration — from very little to very mentally taxing. Some days, most of what I need to do is on the mentally taxing end of the spectrum. I obviously can’t do this for 8 hours a day — my brain turns into a puddle well before that point.

    What is a typical split between breaks, challenging work, easy work, and meetings? I have a hard time judging whether I’m doing “enough” because most of the time, I have more than I can realistically do.

    1. Tio*

      This is incredibly dependent on what your actual job is – a warehouse worker may spend all day counting inventory one day and then moving it around on a forklift the next. which requires a lot more concentration and situational awareness to ensure they don’t run over people. Also, some people might be bad with numbers and consider counting inventory very taxing but driving the forklift very easy and engaging. That’s just one example though; if you’re in management, your split is going to depend on what the current focuses and goals are and what kind of work goes with them. There don’t seem to be enough details here, to me, to give a decent answer.

    2. HR Exec Popping In*

      I don’t think there is a “right answer” to this. We all have very different work styles that make us most effective. I can tell you what works for me. I book time on my calendar for concentrated work in blocks of 1-2 hours. No longer as I know that is generally the most I can do without a break. And when I find I’m fading I cut it and do something else until I’m back in the right headspace to concentrate again.

      1. debbietrash*

        Blocking off time in your calendar for “deep work” is a thing I see a lot of folks do, and I do myself. It can help to protect your time from getting eaten up by meetings, while also allowing you to earmark tasks to that assigned time, eg. “Task XYZ just popped up, I’ll add it to my deep work time”.
        It’s not a perfect solution, as we’re all human and things happen, but I find this a useful tool when managing different work types.

    3. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      Same. Although everyone’s capacity and what is easy and hard for them differs so much it’s hard to tell. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

    4. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      I’d look at how you feel after doing it x way compared to y and z ways! There’s no “right” way to do things and in my experience, pushing myself to do things based off external standards or pressure is demoralizing and exhausting and leads to dissociation and burnout.

      Instead, try it x way for a day/week/whatever works based on the type of work you do and are likely to encounter. Track how you feel emotionally, physically, are you sleeping well, stress eating or not, how’s your mood, do you have energy and desire to do your hobbies, etc. and actually write it down. Then try it a different way and repeat.

      I find if I get into a flow I can work for hours (computer work mostly). But meetings are mentally exhausting and I always need a walk or other break after I have one.

    5. Heather*

      One of the best things you can do is determine when you are most “fresh” for the more challenging and focused work. If you are a morning person, that might mean 2-4 hours of uninterrupted work time when you are at peak. Then take a break and switch to the less taxing items that don’t require that level of focus. The same is true if you are NOT a morning person and need to get into the flow of the day before you can focus well.
      Other people find that 2 hours “on” and 1 hour “off” works well for tasks. This means you front-load a lot of the more focused and challenging tasks and work on them for a set period of time and then break with less challenging tasks, then lunch, and then do it again with your meetings mixed in.
      Most of this relies on your personal focus times and when your company regularly schedules your meetings. I would also point out that unless something is urgent, you should keep your flow routine rather than jumping all over the place if you can. This is also an excellent question for your manager. What would they prefer you work on at which times and what breakdown would they suggest for your role?

    6. Combinatorialist*

      Thanks for the advice so far! To answer some of the questions:

      1. The work I’m doing is typically technical research. So sometimes reading papers, sometimes writing them, sometimes thinking of ideas (which I know you can’t schedule), sometimes implementing and testing them.
      2. I would say I’m very much a morning person and pretty useless by 2, fading by 12. I try to work in the mornings, but I have a 7 month baby and am in charge of daycare drop offs (husband’s job is inflexible and starts before daycare even opens). So I typically work at home an hour while keeping an eye on the baby, drop him off, and then commute into the office or return to work from home (hybrid schedule). This loses some of my best time, but I don’t see a way around it for the next few years.
      3. I am at the project lead level so I have my own technical work and also supervise the technical work of junior staff. I would like to be responsive to their questions but perhaps it is interrupting my own flow too much.
      4. I am a top performer and my manager never gives any sort of constructive feedback (he isn’t technical so I’m not sure he is able to). I don’t disagree with this assessment, but I find that sometimes I don’t feel super in control of when I’m working vs when I’m reading nonsense on the internet.
      5. I work very well under pressure and with strict deadlines but I often don’t have these. I have a hard time trying to simulate that crunch and so in the slower times do very little. This will then cause a crisis later when all my projects hit crunch time at the same time.

      1. Quinalla*

        1&2. For that type of work, I would block out some focus time for writing and implementing/testing. I’d also try to do that work whatever time you have in the mornings. Save reading/thinking/paperwork/emails/meetings for afternoon if you can. I try to make afternoons meeting heavy and mornings no meetings as much as possible as I am a morning person too.

        Regarding daycare dropoff – are you dropping off when daycare opens? I ask because I recommend it and some parents feel guilty about it. Don’t! Your best time is in the morning, so fully utilize it.

        3. Responsiveness – I would let people know to contact you anytime with urgent/time sensitive items, but for anything else keep it outside your scheduled focus time or if you have regular one on ones have them compile it for that. I have a similar setup and this works well for me.

        4. Ugh, I too struggle to get good feedback. No news is usually good news with these types, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. IF there is anything you can do to work ahead, see if you can, but otherwise some downtime/slow times SHOULD be normal for jobs with enough coverage to allow people PTO/sick time/etc.

        5. For me, I try to look at my schedule from further out or say “Well, I only have one project now, but if I get three projects new week (or whatever is likely) what will I have wished I had done on my one project this week?” That sort of reframing. Or just make your own deadline of get tasks A, B & C done by Friday. That may help!

      2. Product Person*

        Combinatorialist,

        Cal Newport has tons of good advice for people in your situation. One piece of advice he gives is to NOT let your staff interrupt you all the time.

        You can block periods in-between deep work sessions where you go over email/Slack/door open for them to come to you.

        It’s unlikely to be a problem for their performance to learn to wait a couple of hours in the morning or afternoon to bring their questions to you (in person) or for a reply to email or chat. For the in-person chats, you could put your ‘office hours’ in your calendar. By grouping together all the interruptions in chunks through the day, you’ll be amazed at how much productivity you can regain.

        He also has good advice for creating “mini-deadlines” to help you measure progress toward a goal that is too far in the future.

        Here you should find more detailed advice from him:
        https://www.thedeeplife.com/listen/

    7. Cedrus Libani*

      I’m a researcher too, and I’ve developed an intensity scale based on what I’m listening to. There’s the “podcast” level: doing hands-on tasks that require attention but little to no actual thought, basically doing the dishes but for science. My eyes are on task, my brain is listening to something semi-engaging to keep it busy. (I can’t do audiobooks, I’m not fully engaged so I’ll lose track of any coherent plot, but a podcast where people blather about stuff is exactly right.) I can do that all day long, literally. This is what the experimentalists are talking about when they claim they did 90-hour weeks during their PhDs, meanwhile the theoreticians think that’s not merely insane but literally impossible. You can do the dishes for 90 hours per week, so long as you don’t have a life outside of that.

      I spend most of my time at the “ambient focus music” level: routine knowledge work, like writing code or meetings where I’m expected to think about what’s presented and have an informed opinion. I can do a normal work week of that, maybe 5-ish hours of real work per day, without undue stress or burnout.

      There’s also the “earplugs” level: I’m doing something legit hard, I need 100% of my brain and then some, go away unless you’re on fire. That is incredibly draining. If I go past maybe 3 hours of that in any given day, I’m useless for the rest of that day and the next. It’s a very limited resource. I agree with the others who have mentioned setting aside regular time blocks for hardcore, head-down brain work – I’m a crunch person too, but you can’t crunch the “earplugs” work. Each night’s sleep buys you maybe 90 minutes, you can steal the next day’s time but you can’t store it up for Future You, it’s use or lose. I also find that regular hard-problem sessions help put the problem into my subconscious. I’m minding my own business, sleeping or showering or walking to work, when…oh THAT’s how to do it.

      1. debbietrash*

        +1 for all of this!

        Another tip I learned from my sister (a researcher) for when I was in grad school and trying to find motivation for hard or less enjoyable tasks is to set a timer for 30 or 60 minutes. Give yourself that amount of time to really dedicate your mind to the work, and if it’s not flowing after the timer goes off, then switch tasks, and return at a later time. More often than not, when using this strategy, I found that I’d end up working past the timer because I had pushed through whatever block I had.

        1. Kayem*

          I second this! Setting a timer for me really helps when I need to really concentrate. I don’t know if it’s because it tricks my brain into thinking it’s a highscore I need to beat or it sets specific task time in stone vs being undefined or something else, but it really helps. Especially setting it in shorter blocks, like half an hour. An hour feels too daunting, 15 minutes is too short to get my brain in gear.

          1. Reluctant Mezzo*

            Yes, and for truly ugly tasks, ’10 minutes in hell’ is often enough to get me started and realize ‘well, I’m here already, might as well finish it up’.

        2. Green Goose*

          I just started doing this about 4-5 months ago and I find it helpful. I’m enduring burnout at the moment and I was starting to feel paralyzed with dread for certain tasks but the timer has made in feel manageable and then sometimes I’m “in the zone” by the time the alarm goes off and I can even do it longer.

    8. Kayem*

      As others have said, it depends. As you’re in research, I would expect you need a lot more of time switched on with strong mental focus (than say, my OldJob, which was mostly repetitive tasks that I could spend zoning out). And since you say you’re a high performer, you’re probably doing easily enough (or more than enough).

      But it sounds like you’re losing a lot of peak productive time just based on your schedule. I know you said that’s not likely to change, but is there some room for flexibility in where you work during this time? If it’s closer to go home after dropping your baby off at daycare, maybe your boss would be willing to let you work from home in the mornings and go into the office in the afternoons?

      Since your mental energy ebbs in the afternoon, you’ve probably already adjusted to doing your most mental intensive tasks in the morning and the easier work in the afternoon. If in-person tasks and meetings are something you can do when your brain is on the downslope, saving those to the afternoon when in office will help take more advantage of productive time.

      My job is project based and we have alternating periods of activity and scheduling. My best productive time is the wee hours of the morning or in the later evening, which is also the time I have the fewest interruptions. Though for phases where I’m locked in to an 8-5 or 9-6 schedule, it gets difficult to make sure I’m doing enough when my brain is sliding off everything I look at. I cope with that by setting a timer to tell me to get up and run some laps around the house (or a brisk walk around the building when I worked onsite), scheduling alternating tasks in advanced so I don’t get too zoned out, listening to music at different times, and changing the time at which I take my prescriptions (since there’s no point in taking my anti-fatigue medication at 4am if I have to work from 8-5 that day).

      Our brains are hungry jerks, using more glucose than the rest of our body combined (brains are about 2% of our body weight but about 20% of glucose use). Which is why we can feel exhausted and drained after a full day of concentrating on a task. It’s always weird to end a day ready to crash into bed when I’ve been doing little physical activity. I’m like, why do I feel exhausted, I haven’t done anything? so I have to remind myself that my brain was greedily sucking up energy and I shouldn’t feel too bad if I decided to pick up takeout and veg on the sofa the rest of the night.

  3. New Grad*

    Help! I’m one year out of college and at my first job. I drew the big, head boss for secret santa. There is a $25 limit. What should I get him? Thank you!

    1. trust me I'm a PhD*

      I always think consumables are a good gift –– a fancy coffee, tea, or lil thing of honey / jam, esp. if there’s a farmers’ market around you and so it can be a handmade thing not easily found in stores. Obvs the big head boss can get themselves whatever they want; so it just needs to say “this is a thing I like and I want to share it with you.”

      1. Three Flowers*

        Yes! Go for interesting/tasty over trying to impress with something that pushes the budget. Local honey is a great idea unless big boss is vegan, with tea or a fun little wooden honey spoon/stick/I dunno what you call those honey-grabbers, but there are pretty and unique carved wooden ones that don’t cost an arm and a leg.

      2. Admin of Sys*

        This! If they like coffee, my go to work xmas gift for /years/ was a small bag of good coffee beans and a mini (375ml) bottle of torani syrup. If I felt like fancy-ing it up, I’d throw in a glass mug and tie cinnamon sticks to the toranni. (You can swap the torani for a hotel size mini of baileys if alcohol is okay, but I avoid that in work situations)
        This works with hot chocolate too – sampler packet of really good hot chocolate, mug, mini marshmallow packet, that sort of thing.

      3. Bettye*

        Definitely consumables!! Everyone has too many tsotchkes; no one needs more “stuff.” I love some of the ideas below — local honey or jam, fancy cocoa, chocoloate, or coffee, etc.

      4. LCH*

        agree. if he likes coffee, something from an independent roaster. or if you have a local farmer’s market, something a little different from there as long as you know what he eats. anything that is a basic food item, but also chi-chi.

      5. Delta Delta*

        Seconding consumables, especially if they’re local. Honey from local bees or something along those lines.

      6. sulky-anne*

        Fancy flavored salt often goes over well. Omoshiroi memo pads or calendars are also kind of fun while being fairly practical for an office. (As you take away the pieces of paper, it creates a 3D paper sculpture.)

      7. Buffy*

        LEGO set. I found that to be the hot item in the work White Elephant gift exchange. Everyone went nuts for whatever set. You can get a nice one for $25.

    2. LegoGirl*

      A popular white elephant gift in my office is all the ingredients for a cheese tray (a couple types of cheese, a thing of crackers, some fancy jam type stuff, maybe chocolate too). Easy to do, easy to eat, and VERY easy to regift/share/bring to another event.

      1. learnedthehardway*

        That can easily go over $25, but if you can get good cheese at a good price, it might be doable.

    3. Panicked*

      Ugh, that’s a tough one! Do you know anything about them or can you ask someone closer to them (assistant or something) what they would appreciate? If not, maybe you could do a nice pen or another practical gift?

    4. OtterB*

      If they have been at the organization for a while and are helpful, you might ask either your own boss or an upper-level admin what kinds of things have gone over well for secret santa in the past.

      Fancy chocolates are usually a good bet. Even if people don’t like them or can’t eat them, they can share them with others.

      1. Peppermint*

        I agree with hot chocolate. Pair it with a travel mug, individual pack of mini marshmallows, and a individual cookie/treat. Easy enough to pass on but it looks like it took effort.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Peppermint hot cocoa. Mmmmm…

          If anyone needs me, I’ll be daydreaming for the next 15 minutes about one of those. Seconded as a fantastic choice if you know the recipient likes those flavors.

          1. new old friend*

            You’ve had peppermint hot cocoa, but have you ever put cardamom in your hot cocoa? It is a truly transcendent experience.

    5. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Socks. Fun socks. Unless there’s something mean or rude on them, it’s hard to go wrong with socks. You could also do a nice, plain notebook or a mug.

      Find the store in your area that sells gifts and fun stuff, don’t get anything with curse words on it, and you’re good.

      1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Wonan*

        Or a pair of Bombas. They are great socks but expensive. For a $25 gift limit they are perfect.

        1. m2*

          I bought kid and adult bombas. They both broke or ripped or had a hole relatively quickly and before any of our cheaper socks. Will not buy again.

          I always get feetures socks. They are for running but I am not a runner and still love to wear them as they dont fall down.

          Think food is good, can you but lottery tickets or is that not allowed since it is gambling? At our family white elephant the lottery tickets are the hot item.

          Does big boss have an EA? Can you ask them what big boss likes? That is who I would go to. If they don’t have an EA ask their deputy.

    6. NameRequired*

      Ask somebody close to him who’s approachable what he’s into (does he have an assistant? is there someone who’s been around forever who probably knows something about him?).

      Then, get him a related tchotke (a small piece of memorabilia from his favorite baseball team, one of those mugs that you can freeze that keeps beer cold if he’s a beer guy, that sort of stuff).

      He won’t be expecting anything grand, obviously, but showing that you went slightly out of your way to figure out what his “thing” is will be nice.

    7. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

      Novelty coffee mug with a local mascot on it (sports teams are great for this) and has something spinning (ball, etc) on it or a funny saying inside it. If you want to add some hot chocolate to it to round out the $25, go for it. It’s a safe, neutral gift and if it’s a novelty, it has the added bonus of being distinctive.

      1. We Call Our Rival That School Down South*

        I’d be a bit wary about sports team stuff – rivalries are very real and very deep and unless you know the person’s allegiances it could go badly. Also there are those who are quite anti-sports for a lot of reasons and might not appreciate the assumption that they are fans.

        1. Not my coffee*

          “…rivalries are very real and very deep and unless you know the person’s allegiances it could go badly, Also there are those who are quite anti-sports for a lot of reasons and might not appreciate the assumption that they are fans.”

          This seems like an extreme take.

          1. Caramel & Cheddar*

            Really? I’m a sports fan amongst lots of non-sports fans at work, I can’t see that kind of gift going over well for any of us. The non-sports fans obviously won’t have much use for it, and unless you *know* the person cheers for a specific team, you could be getting something for a team or even an entire sport they don’t even care about. Rivalries are real, but even without rivalries this seems like a gift that has a high probability of not really pleasing anyone.

            It’s Secret Santa, so getting something generic that has nothing to do with you might very well be par for the course a lot of the time and people shouldn’t really get too upset about it because of that, but if you can avoid starting out with something a lot of people probably won’t want, you’ll be doing yourself a favour.

          2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            I probably would have believed you until I saw a gift shop in Ohio with miniature toilet bowls featuring the Michigan logo in the basin.

              1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                Columbus doesn’t have a monopoly on bad ideas; they just are tireless in their pursuit of excellence in implementing them.

                1. mayor of flavortown*

                  As a Columbus resident, I’m wheezing at this. This city is full of bad ideas that people go all-in on.

                  Also I definitely know an OSU fan who had their entire bathroom decorated in OSU gear….except the toilet. That had a Michigan lid on it, and they stocked UM branded toilet paper specifically for guests to use during the OSU UM football game. Make of that what you will.

                2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                  Make of that what you will.

                  That’s how I know you’re not exaggerating.

            1. Slartibartfast*

              That rivalry has its roots in the Toledo War. Ohio won, they got Toledo, but we got the Upper Peninsula.

          3. Not my coffee*

            I guess I’m just far more nonchalant about these things.

            A gift from work associate (this includes, a big boss, my reportee, my supervisor, anyone who works there) never rises to the level of (not) pleasing me.

            Regarding toilet. I’ve seen these gifts, given and received. It has never happened in an “angry ” context. in my presence, but I guess it could.

          4. Seeking Second Childhood*

            I would have said that before. I saw a story on Reddit recently from someone whose partner got angry that their toddler gave him a blue football plushy. Toddler likes the color and didn’t know that the rival team or blue. It was pretty petty of him.

            1. Reluctant Mezzo*

              In Oregon, you had best know which state religion they belong to (Ducks or Beavers, or those heretics from other, lesser colleges).

      2. Tio*

        I have to disagree here – I am so over mugs. Everyone over the age of 30 probably has at least a dozen mugs and gets more every holiday – something like that is likely immediately going to get donated. Which is fine, a good boss won’t make a big deal about it, but you probably want to aim for something a little different for a big boss.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          Yeah, I agree. I would skip the mug and stick with the consumable idea a lot of other people are saying.

    8. t-vex*

      I was in the same situation! Our CEO likes container gardening so I bought him one of those little mushroom grow kits that comes in a cardboard box. It’s probably the most successful gift I’ve ever given anyone, he was still giving me updates well into June on how well they were doing and which dishes he added them to.

      1. GythaOgden*

        Bonsai kits. Boxes of seeds that are supposed to attract a particular kind of wildlife to your garden (in our case over here in the UK, hedgehogs, but I’m sure they do a similar thing in the US). Do your bit for nature.

        Or an aloe vera plant. Low maintenance (mine lives off steam from the shower on my bathroom windowsill and I pepped it right up with a small cup of water after a dry spell in the summer) and if you’re not allergic to it, you can cut the leaves and use the sap as a salve for small burns, cuts etc. I have bad eczema and it helps soothe the itching rashes so I don’t scratch them to heck and make it worse.

    9. Era*

      1. don’t panic or overthink it too hard
      2. Figure out what a good standard gift is and get one of those. Maybe candles are all the rage? Food gifts? ask a colleague what tends to get given. You’re not looking to stand out from the crowd, you’re looking to make a solid contribution to the tradition.
      3. If there’s an assistant ish role that works with the big boss you can casually chat with, ask them for ideas. They’ll know if the big boss collects something that they can’t get enough of that fits into the budget, or be able to say “idk a candle is good, don’t sweat it kid”, or — if I’m totally off base and the culture of this office means you should be going all-out and getting the perfect gift, budget be damned — will be able to warn you that’s the case.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Not candles. Yes, there are candle people, but for non-candle people they are clutter. I would not not assume someone is a candle person absent affirmative information.

        Luxury food gifts are usually solid. They hit in the “Yes, I could afford to buy this for myself, but I don’t” zone. That is a good zone, and about the best there is for someone you don’t know well. Nothing is certain, of course. They guy might hate chocolate. But the percentages are about as good as they will get.

        1. Era*

          They can be clutter, but they are also a pretty standard gift item that spending $25 bucks on can get a reasonably nice one, not too personal, and it’s unlikely they’ll be absolutely unable to consume it.
          Food gifts are good if you can confirm dietary restrictions, and if it’s a standard in the office it’s a great way to go, but I know people with a lot of very restrictive diets that make food fraught.
          But my key point is absolutely not ‘get a candle’, it’s ask for advice from someone who knows more about the culture and the person. I think the thread proves that there’s no one-size-fits-all option and for someone you don’t really know, the goal is not to be the best gift all year, it’s to be generally inoffensive and hopefully pleasant.

        2. MissDisplaced*

          People always gift me candles (especially those Yankee Candles) and I immediately donate because both myself and the cats are horribly allergic to them. They make me wheeze and make the cat’s eyes water. Ugh!

    10. HR Exec Popping In*

      For these types of things my go to gifts are:
      – A book
      – A coffee mug with some local beans and maybe a little bottle of baileys
      – Phone chargers (nobody ever has too many of those)
      – Chocolates or fancy cookies
      – A nice candle

      1. ferrina*

        Anything from a local shop is usually good- seconding the chocolates from a local chocolatier, local coffee or tea, anything from a local bakery (double check with the secret Santa organizer to see if there are dietary restrictions). I’m also a fan of the “snowy day” package- a nice book + hot chocolate.

        1. Ashley*

          Or if you aren’t from the same area, you can get something local from where you are from. IE if you grew up in Vermont but work in PA get them some Vermont Maple Syrup.
          I would probably try and skip anything considered funny until you know the person better.
          But really be easy on yourself and ask a few folks who you trust that work closely with the person.

        2. Dobby is a Free Elf!*

          How do you pick a generic book for a stranger? Am I making this harder than it has to be because everyone in my family loves to read and *has* all the books by the people they like to read?

          1. Lexi Vipond*

            Non-fiction, I think. Unusual things to see in the local area, funny stories from e.g. a library, biography of the cat who lives in a local landmark, something that’s mostly an excuse for pretty pictures, that kind of thing.

        1. JSPA*

          Or search out his social media, if he has, for thematic hints.

          Or search his name (if it’s distinctive enough) and “donor” or “donation” to see what sorts of causes he supports (though this can get awkward fast if you’re on different sides of some issue).

    11. DannyG*

      I got money clip & tie clips with antique coins as groomsmen presents a few years back. Looking at Amazon similar items run $20-30. The nice part is that you can get one piece now and if you have occasion later get the matching ones to go with it (I think you can get cuff links, too).

    12. Janeric*

      – In your shoes my goal would be to give a gift that says “I understand office norms” and also, possibly, a gift that could be regifted in case someone’s secret santa doesn’t come through and your CEO decides to be gracious.
      – Local honey and decaffeinated tea is a lovely winter gift — because people tend to get the sniffles and then they already HAVE the stuff they need for a soothing drink right there.
      – About 40% of adults will be delighted to get a LEGO set
      – You can probably gently stalk this guy via company newsletters and LinkedIn and see if there’s a hobby in there
      – But this is also an excellent opportunity to get to know the admin staff by asking them for insight (and then thanking them for giving you such excellent advice)

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        The hobby one is tricky. You are likely to end up getting them something they already have, or something they already know they don’t want. This is why buying me a book about early baseball history is likely to be a dud.

        1. Caramel & Cheddar*

          Or the starter version of something you already have the fancier/advanced versions of. I almost never want someone to buy me hobby supplies/gear, even though I appreciate that they know me well enough to be in the general vicinity of something I might like to receive!

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            I wouldn’t dream of buying art supplies for my kid. Taking him to an art supply store and giving him a budget, on the other hand…

          2. Cyndi*

            Yeah my parents are an artist and a musician so I was taught very firmly, very young, that you Do Not buy people specialized equipment for their hobby or job unless they’ve told you exactly what they want.

            1. Dobby is a Free Elf!*

              I am very lucky that my husband has close friends who do his Big Expensive Hobby with him, and who I can hand cash to and tell to go wild and acquire his birthday/Christmas presents for precisely my budget.

              He plays Warhammer. I have *no idea* what those different figures are, no desire to learn, and a deep fear that I might accidentally start him collecting a different army.

    13. Anonymous 75*

      You could ask his EA ) assuming he has one) to see if he had any particular interests/allergies. I’ve had to answer there’s you’re of questions frequently in previous jobs.

    14. Heffalump*

      If you know that he likes to read and know what his taste in reading is, a good book. Or a gift card/certificate from a bookstore.

      Regardless of whom you drew, I hope participation in secret Santa is voluntary at your company. But that’s another discussion.

      1. Quandong*

        Unless I was told a specific book to buy, every single time I gifted a ‘good book’ it turned out to be a ‘not good book’ for the recipient. So I would avoid books as a work gift for a big boss unless their EA had a strong recommendation.

    15. Beth*

      If your company has a slogan, or your boss has a favourite saying, there’s a company called “Dumb Cuneiform” that will make you a custom cuneiform tablet with any (short) saying. I think it costs about $20, and it will definitely be unique.

      Another similar option is a mouse pad with a custom logo or saying on it. Or a mouse pad in the design of a fancy carpet.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Those are good. I would want the clay tablet, but I am a nerd. I would go with the mouse pad if I don’t know that about the recipient.

    16. Sutemi*

      If you are not from the local area, is there a food from your home region to share? For example, Vermont maple syrup or a specific candy.

    17. Suggestions*

      I like to give tchotchkes that aren’t personalized. Depending on the recipient, I inform them that they can be regifted guilt-free.

      YMMV – vases, serving dishes, picture frames, artwork, grooming kits, socks, scarves, tea sets, charging boxes and cords, keychain, cleaning materials for cellphones and tablets.

    18. Phony Genius*

      This brings up an interesting question: How does the “no gifting up” rule apply when there is a Secret Santa and everybody participates?

      1. Greta*

        Ooh, I like that idea. Will use this for our office gift exchange! We have a lot of foodies, someone will like it.

        1. Mad Harry Crewe*

          California Olive Ranch is excellent stuff (the 100% California, not the Global Blend). You can definitely get one of their larger bottles for under $25. There is, weirdly, a lot of olive oil fraud and fakery, and now that I know what good oil tastes like, I can never really go back.

      2. Dobby is a Free Elf!*

        Oh, now that’s a cool idea that may go on my “parent gifts” list. Our parents are notoriously difficult to buy for…

    19. Csethiro Ceredin*

      You could always check with his assistant or close colleague to see if he has allergies like milk, nuts, etc before getting food.

      I’ve had good success with a small bottle of high quality olive oil (a local place does various varieties and also flavoured oils – the butter flavoured one is amazing) or an oil and balsamic combo, or fancy salts. Or a nice cheese and a cheese knife.

      I also once got the CEO here a mousepad from a museum I visited and he is still using it more than 15 years later, but I also knew he didn’t use one with a wrist cushion and had a good sense that he was a museum-y person.

    20. CG*

      Agree with the other comments about getting consumables or things you use with consumables! Something like this dishwasher-safe travel mug https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07L6N2641/ref=twister_B097ZNJZM2?_encoding=UTF8&th=1 might be good if you know he’s a caffeine drinker, and I know people in my office are really excited about getting Hydroflasks in the gift exchange…

      In case you’re looking for inspiration, Wirecutter also put out a bunch of holiday gift guides: https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/gifts/.

      1. shannon*

        Seconding Penzys. If he’s into cooking there’s tons of dried herbs and mixes. If he’s into baking, their cake spice and their dutch chocolate is some of the best I’ve ever used.

      2. Prisca's Daughter*

        I’d be cautious about Penzey’s as a gift in this context because the company is VERY politically outspoken in their advertising and sales. They are vehemently anti-republican.
        Don’t misunderstand me, I love their spices, and I buy from them regularly. I am not a Republican, and in general I agree with their positions, although I don’t agree with some of the rhetoric they use. But I think in a work context, where you likely don’t know where your boss is on the political spectrum, a Penzey’s gift is risky.

    21. MacGillicuddy*

      Sports thing, if boss is sports fan. Beach towel or fleece blanket with team logo. Nothing wearable or edible.

      Or, car emergency kit. Board game.

    22. New Grad*

      Thank you to everyone! I posted before lunch. The response is greater than I hoped. Your ideas helped me move past the initial panic of drawing his name. I am going to hunt around for something local that he can eat. This community is awesome.

    23. GythaOgden*

      Similar experience here! I started a new role in the maintenance and facilities organisation I work for, and was finally invited to a work Secret Santa. They’ve usually been very easy among my friend group because we’re geeks so live and breathe plastic action figures etc, but it’s really hard when you barely know anyone except the person who hired you.

      I fell back on what I generally get my engineer dad and my handyman/artisanal carpenter (who made a hand-carved desk for Terry Pratchett :Do) best friend — mini toolsets and winter equipment like LED-encrusted gloves, hats etc. Little gadgets that come in useful in January and February, that sort of thing — my dad let me know the year I bought him the hat with the LED light on it that it had come in handy while he acted as car park attendant at the local vaccination clinic in the first rush of people right at the beginning of 2021. If it wasn’t actually dark, it was pretty foggy and gloomy. So I not only found something he’d actually want to get but did my bit in the war against COVID as well.

      This year, I did happen to catch the guy I drew refusing dessert when our line manager was getting menu orders for the Christmas party, so I refrained from anything sugary just in case that was a need rather than a preference. The Secret Santa website we used to draw the names had a lot of useful ideas, but I thought I’d start with the practical and work up from there once I get to know them a bit better.

    24. ReallyBadPerson*

      I suggest a gift that can be shared or regifted without shame. Fancy chocolates, some nice linen tea towels from a local craft shop, a bottle of respectable, but not fancy, wine (ask the shop owner for a rec), a fun gadget from an upscale kitchen shop.

      And do not feel that your career depends upon getting this right, because it doesn’t.

    25. Office Gumby*

      I got a C-suite name last year for Secret Santa. I bought the ingredients for a really good chocolate chip recipe and gave them to him (along with the recipe, of course).

      Turns out, he’d not been spending a lot of time with his family lately, so when he brought that home, his kids wanted to make chocolate chip cookies with him, so he did. Ended up being a delightful family evening at home for them, which they very much needed.

  4. Molly Grue*

    This is more of a rant than a question. I work for a company that creates teapots. I don’t make the teapots or work in the factory; I was hired for my expertise in QA and analysis. It’s a small company. While no one contributes to my role because it’s specialized, I’m expected to take on duties that are outside what they’d be in another company because I know how to use the software that’s needed to get the information needed (think things like printing out patterns for the teapot painters because they don’t know how to use the pattern software). It’s gotten to the point where performing these extra duties takes up a good chunk of my time and obviously takes away from the tasks that are the main part of my job, which is frustrating. Back when these tasks were first assigned I trained my colleagues on how to perform them, but it was decided that because I knew how to do them correctly already, I should just be the one who did them. This has of course led to a slippery slope of one colleague essentially not using the software at all and instead reaching out to me to ask questions about simple things, like the colors listed in the pattern, which is evident just by clicking on the pattern in the software. My supervisor is the one who decided I should be the one who completes the tasks because it’s easier than asking other people to do them, and my doing it is seen as “helping out” colleagues and is a more immediate need than the things that directly fall under my role. But I am so, so tired of it.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Argh, that’s frustrating. Can you circle back with your supervisor to say that you are doing way more of that task than what you were hired for and you really really want to get back to working in your area of expertise? If the boss really thinks that it’s easier to have a single person as the one who knows how to use the software and there’s no one at the company now who has time for it, can they hire someone new to do it all? (I agree with you that it sure makes a lot more sense for everyone to know how to do it, but since boss doesn’t agree maybe this would be the solution boss would accept.)

      1. Molly Grue*

        My supervisor definitely wants to hire someone who would, theoretically, take on some of the work that is being split between me and this other colleague, as well as other tasks currently taken on by others, but there aren’t any immediate plans to do so, unfortunately.

        We’ve talked a bit about me taking on these additional tasks and it basically comes down to a lack of desire on their part to push my colleagues to learn how to do them (which would in the long run be easiest anyway because it would eliminate them having to come to me with questions!) because of complicated considerations that come down to my experience/comfort with learning new technology versus theirs. And ultimately, I think my supervisor has (correctly) calculated that annoyance on my part is more manageable than possibly losing my colleague because they get overwhelmed or not having things done correctly and causing even more issues.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          I can see how having your colleague doing things wrong is a liability, but has your supervisor considered in their calculations that your annoyance could cause supervisor to lose YOU instead of that colleague? Also, from your comment it sure seems like that colleague is the one who should go anyway, if they really are getting overwhelmed and causing lots of issues. It sounds really frustrating for you.

        2. That wasn't me. . .*

          look this boss dead in the eye and say: “You’re afraid THEY’LL , but you’re not afraid I’LL quit?! Why is that? Because you think I’m more expendable, or because you think I’m a bigger patsy? Raise your eyebrows and grit your teeth just a tiny bit as you say it. (You didn’t threaten to quit; you just asked why they were less afraid.)

      2. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

        I might also point out that it is not a good idea to have only one person in the company that knows how to do this. What if something happens to you? They would be at a standstill.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            A long vacation is an excellent way to bring these problems to the surface and get some backup.

        1. Quinalla*

          Yes, I would go back to your supervisor and raise this. And then take is slow, pick the most annoying thing or maybe a handful of things and when they come with questions on that, show them how to do it, next time walk them through doing it and either have them take notes or provide basic instructions, third time tell them to try it on their own with the instructions and get back to you if they get stuck. Its not a good idea for one person to be the only one who can do it and people on the team having “comfort level” issues with using new technology should not trump that business necessity.

    2. HR Exec Popping In*

      Is the real problem that you are being asked to do things outside of your role or that others can’t help you with your role? I would want to be clear on what the underlying issue is. I think it is a more reasonable ask to have others get cross-trained to do some of your responsibilities. After all, when you take a day off, get sick unexpectedly etc. I assume your work still needs to get done. I would recommend approaching your boss from that angle vs. “it isn’t fair”. Be pragmatic about it and look at if from your boss’s perspective. They want to ensure the work gets done – they honestly probably don’t care who does it.

      1. Molly Grue*

        My role is the only one in the company that is more project oriented than task oriented and requires specific experience/education, so the only other person who could do my job is actually my supervisor. If I take off the things that are a part of my role would be fine because there’s much more flexibility (and if there was a hard deadline unless it was a true ongoing emergency it would be met even if I was out); ironically, it’s the tasks I’m taking on that are much more time sensitive.

    3. Busy Middle Manager*

      I feel like I’m working with a “you” now. Upper MGT thinks it’s fine, the problem is that the “yous” in this situation don’t actually do the other areas, they just do a few admin tasks. No vision, no direction, no troubleshooting. I’m so tired of it.

      I don’t know what the solution is. I did train someone on my team to not respond to requests right away that were in the other areas that got throw onto him without me knowing. You can’t be on top of 10 things at once when they should be separate jobs

    4. SoloKid*

      When training, did you create reusable materials like videos or templates that you can boringly pass back? When very easy questions come through, I would wait an hour or whatever makes sense to see if someone decides to learn for themselves.

      If you come up with a compromise like spending a couple of days creating SOPs (if there aren’t any already) for routine simple things, do you think that would sway your boss to reconsider assigning those tasks long term? Is your boss also the boss of the other teams that need help?

      Either way, this definitely warrants a supervisor chat. Don’t make it easy for your supervisor to lean on you. Make a paper trail during reviews or 1-1s by saying “I am dissatisfied due to not feeling challenged in my current set of tasks. I am spending less time on [current role stuff] due to [outside tasks] and would like to prioritize [learning new thing or something].” Good supervisors will care about how you feel in your role.

      You may have to follow through and job search if you are truly getting tired of it or ask for a pay raise if this software knowledge can net you some $$ in the market.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Either way, this definitely warrants a supervisor chat. Don’t make it easy for your supervisor to lean on you. Make a paper trail during reviews or 1-1s by saying “I am dissatisfied due to not feeling challenged in my current set of tasks. I am spending less time on [current role stuff] due to [outside tasks] and would like to prioritize [learning new thing or something].” Good supervisors will care about how you feel in your role.

        This! Esp the part about not making it easy for your supervisor to lean on you. If you tell them all of this they might realize that keeping you happy is also important. And if things don’t change, then I agree you might have to look elsewhere for more satisfying work.

        1. Molly Grue*

          I’m actually waiting on a job offer that I’m assured is coming (funding was just confirmed for the role) that will 100% focus on the work I’m trained to do.

    5. Choggy*

      I’m sure your job description includes “other duties as assigned” like mine, which is why I am in the same boat. I started out on the service desk, and was off on a year long project, came back with a completely different skillset with responsibilities no one else had and took/takes up a lot of time, but also have to do all the other service desk tasks. Yes, I got a 20% raise, which I’ve never seen the likes of again (3% is max), and have just been taking on more and more. At this point, I am planning my retirement in 2024, and will be pushing/ dialing back on the things that everyone on the team should be doing but generally falls to me. Unless you can prove that it’s a liability to have you taken away from your core role/tasks, you are stuck. We have systems of record where I can print out reports of what I’ve been handling which is disparate with the rest of the team (I do so much more). They are going to be in for a rude awakening.

    6. Malarkey01*

      Is there anything that would make this more palatable for you? Maybe there’s another task you don’t like that could be offloaded? A raise? Some flexibility or another perk? Sometimes if it’s a task that the company really thinks makes the most efficient sense to be with you it can be really difficult to get it moved but you can leverage that so that it’s a little more beneficial for you- especially if that means you can’t complete your other “regular” duties.

  5. Green Goose*

    I was referred to a job that I’d really like to work at, and they seem like they’d like to hire me but we’re too off on salary. Would it be out of touch to ask to keep the salary dollar amount but have the job be a 75% role? Meaning it would pay the amount approved by the board but I’d only be expected to work 30 hours a week. I think they are inflexible on the actual dollar amount but I’m trying to find ways to make it work.
    Is this an off-base thing to ask? Any other ideas?

    1. lavender latte*

      I’d go with 32 hours, for an even 4 days of work per week. It’s a tidier request, even though it may not round perfectly on the salary percentage.

    2. Decidedly Me*

      If they actually need someone for 40 hours, then I doubt they’ll be able to swing only having someone for only 30 hours. Hiring someone for the other 10 hours could cause a lot of complications. If you think the job only needs someone for 30 hours, it’s worth a shot, but I wouldn’t have high hopes of a yes.

    3. Sally Ann*

      I just think of Michelle Obama’s book where she talks about going back to work at 70% (for example) after her first baby. It was expected she would get 100% of the work done from before for 70% of the pay. It worked out great for the employer who suddenly schedules meeting you must attend on your days off or first hint in the mornings you don’t come in until noon. I can’t imagine that you will not benefit from this.

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        Accurate. My work duties didn’t decrease when I dropped to 0.7ish FTE. (I’d actually somehow negotiated my pay remaining the same…but it probably had more to do with legal review of job offers and saying “uh….doesn’t Scruff do the same thing? Danger Will Robinson, she’s underpaid by 30-40%….and she’s the only one and the only she….”

    4. OtterB*

      Will you be able to work the reduced number of hours, or will enough things come up that you’ll end up working a full 40 hours anyway?

      It might not work out but it doesn’t seem to me to be off base to suggest it as you’ve put it here – you understand they have a firm budget limit but you would really like to work for them and you’re wondering if it’s worth exploring an alternate like this.

    5. funkytown*

      I feel like Alison has given advice on something like this situation you might be able to search, but, if you are going turn it down anyway if they can’t meet your requirements, you have nothing to lose by asking! Might as well see what they say but be prepared they might not go for it. If you would take the job even if they can’t budge the salary, it’s riskier. Good luck!

      1. Green Goose*

        Thank you, this is good for my framing. Because I really can’t take it as is. I live in a VHCOLA and the salary is quite a bit less than what I’m currently making. I really do want to leave my current job, and I like the CEO of this place, and it has amazing flexibility. Really, if the salary were higher is would be an amazing offer with all the other benefits but at the end of the day I have two dependents and a lot of expenses due to where we live so it’s just not enough as is.
        I have a really specific skill set that could allow me to do occasional consulting and my thinking was if I were working at this place 75% of the time it would open me up to supplement my income with some occasional consulting work.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Because I really can’t take it as is. I live in a VHCOLA and the salary is quite a bit less than what I’m currently making.

          If they balk, I’d even say “I can only afford to take this role if I can supplement it with another role (elsewhere)” before calling it a day. Drive home that the salary isn’t sustainable for where they want the job to be.

        2. Aitch Arr*

          You’ll want to see their conflict of interest policy / moonlighting policy / NDA before you go that route.

    6. HR Exec Popping In*

      Another approach might be to ask for more time off than is normal. If the starting new hire amount of vacation time is 3 weeks, could you negotiate 5 weeks? That would be 10 extra days off per year which is close to what you are talking about with reduced hours but it keeps you full time and might be easier to negotiate.

      1. HR Exec Popping In*

        Also, try asking for a sign-on bonus to help make up the difference at least in year one. Sign-on bonuses are also an easier give for companies.

        1. Green Goose*

          Do nonprofits offer this? This place is a super small nonprofit which is why they can’t increase the salary at the moment. I’ve only ever heard of big corporations doing this, but I also have been at the same company for so long that I’m really out of the know.

          1. HR Exec Popping In*

            It depends on the non-profit and their funding. A sign-on bonus (if they can swing it in this year’s budget) is easier because it is a one time cost that doesn’t carry over and grow (like salary). It never hurts to ask.

    7. ferrina*

      Why would you be willing to take the lower salary, even at less hours? Is it that you don’t need the full amount you asked for and it’s about the principal of the thing, or are you planning to work a second job?

      If the former (don’t need the money and it’s about the amount of work), then I’d go ahead and ask. Have a plan for what happens if they are asking you to do 40 hours of work in 30 hours. This is about a mutually beneficial relationship- you get some salary with more free time, and they get a really great resource for most of the time.

      If the latter, I wouldn’t do it. Find a job that meets your needs. Working two jobs indefinitely is exhausting. It’s way better as a short-term thing than as a long-term thing. Especially since there’s a decently high chance the company will try to have you fit 40 hours of work into 30. Most companies design expectations to FTEs (full time employees), and it’s often not so clear cut as “create 25% less widgets” or “answer 25% less emails”. I’d expect some hours creep, and that’s going to be hard to juggle with two jobs.

      Either way, think about your fallback plan if they say yes and then ask you to do 40 hours of work.

    8. Antilles*

      It’s not an off-base thing to ask, but I’d really think through what makes this job so special that you’re willing to give up 25% of your salary just to work there. Maybe it is, but that’s a pretty huge gap to commit to. Especially since you’d likely be committing to this lower salary for as long as you’re there; they won’t suddenly drop a 25% raise to get you back to fair-market rate.

      1. Green Goose*

        This is the thing. My current job that pays much more is becoming a place I don’t want to stay. There was a leadership takeover and it is starting to feel like Game of Thrones behind the scenes and I don’t want to be here for the Red Wedding.
        I have two very young children so I really need something that is well-paying and flexible (two things my current job used to be, now it’s still well paying but becoming increasingly less flexible and just very stressful and draining), which sadly is hard to find. I’ve been finding one or the other, but so far not both.
        In my mind, having that extra ten hours to myself and for unexpected things that happen with my family, which is quite common. There is always a sickness, a doctors appointment, or something else. I also have been approached about occasional consulting work that would not be enough to live on, but has sounded interested but I don’t currently have the time to do.
        But I really don’t know what the right answer is, I need a crystal ball! The impending doom at my current job and my inability to find something that is both flexible and high paying is making me feel like this job would be a good option, but obviously draw backs to having a much lower salary.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          You know know that you are in demand. Are you actively looking beyond this one bit of possible serendipity?

          1. Green Goose*

            I am, I’ve actually been looking for almost a year. I’ve gotten to a few second round interviews but no offers yet. I also see a lot of jobs that look pretty good but always seem to have one huge hurdle like too many days in the office. And where we live, a job that is 15 miles away can literally mean two hours of commuting a day.

            This one is pretty great minus the salary. I’m also nervous going somewhere new as a mom of young kids and having to prove myself at the beginning by working late and “volunteering” to do extra to show myself as an asset.

            We get about 90 minutes in the morning and two hours in the evening with my kids if I’m working from home, so if I were to start commuting it would eat into that already paltry time. And that time is really, really important to me.

            1. Mztery*

              Obviously, you know your situation better than any of us, but I would think long and hard before taking a 25% salary cut, and assuming I could get consulting work to fill-in. Even if you can get the consulting work, it may not be on your schedule, and may have deadlines that would be impossible to meet given your other work. is there any possibility you could make it on 25% less? And even then, as others have said, taking a part-time job that is advertising full-time often creates an expectation you will do all the work needed in that time. Ask me how I know.

  6. portfolio dates*

    Those of you in creator roles (designers, writers, etc.), how old is too old for portfolio pieces? I’m struggling to decide partly because of ageism, and partly because I don’t want to seem stagnant.

    For example, one piece I’m extra proud of is a guest article in a respected industry blog, but they don’t use the same author twice, so it’s not something I can duplicate/update. That publication date ages me by a decade, so I’m not sure it’s worthwhile to include, even though the topic is still relevant. Do you have a general rule you go by, or play it by ear?

    1. debbietrash*

      Are you tidying up and refreshing your portfolio in general, or are you getting it ready as support for an application (job, grant, etc.)? If it’s the former, I think it’s okay to keep the piece in your portfolio, as long as it’s really strong and shows off your skills and talent. If it’s the latter, is the piece relevant to the application, and do you also have relevant more current work?
      In both instances, including older and newer work can show a theme or narrative throughout your work. This is feedback I have received over the course of my creative career, in courses as well as in application feedback.

      Best of luck!

    2. Morgan Proctor*

      I keep everything I’m proud of! As long as there’s something recent in there too, I don’t think this is a problem.

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

      Graphic designer here. I keep a few older pieces that demonstrate a key accomplishment or skill listed on my resume — “this piece resulted in a 30% increase in sales” or “this re-brand campaign won a Golden Llama award” Once the employer or accomplishment is no longer on my resume, the portfolio piece is out too. I think my philosophy on a professional portfolio has changed over my 25-year career from what pieces I personally love, to what pieces have achieved the client’s goals or resulted in a noteworthy achievement — even if I somewhat disliked the final outcome. If I succeeded as far as the client or target audience was concerned, that’s more important for my career than my personal creative expression.

      I have a separate personal portfolio that is more “fine art” for my creative expression.

    4. Joan Crawford's Jello Mold*

      I think it’s dependent on the industry/job you’re in.

      For my industry, I wouldn’t put anything more than ten years old in my portfolio because 1)ageism. 2) I want to show that I still have the relevant skillsets to do the job. But that’s a guideline I wouldn’t expect everyone in every type of creative job to adhere to.

    5. Copywriter Weighs In*

      I’m a copywriter, and a recruiter once told me “five years.” But I have a lot of good work from when I was with Well-Known Brand ten years ago, and I’m proud to show it.

      Also, very few of my samples are literally dated (have a date on them) so I don’t even consider that.

  7. Three Flowers*

    This is 90% vent, but has any one else dealt with a colleague shilling for an MLM at work? I’ve got one using the employee listserv, work spaces, inviting us to things using our work calendars, etc. It was just the emails, which I found annoying but not awful. But having skincare demos at work during work hours and inviting everyone in the building to them seems…excessive.

    This is also a person who had weird beef with my former boss and has apparently said weird and untrue things about me to our current mutual boss, so I 1) don’t want to overreact on the basis of already not trusting her and 2) can’t really do anything about it.

    Any advice other than “ignore politely”? Thanks for listening to my vent.

    1. Hypoglycemic rage*

      i don’t have any advice, but you’re not alone, which might help? the MLM stuff would annoy me too, especially at work!

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Have you spoken to your mutual boss about it? I would imagine most companies wouldn’t want anyone shilling MLM stuff on work time. Also, does boss know the weird and untrue things about you are untrue?

      1. Three Flowers*

        Yes. Boss is the one who told me. I didn’t bother to hide my astonishment. I don’t think I’m actually in any danger, but I am so done with drama.

    3. Panicked*

      I would be willing to bet you have a no solicitation clause in your handbook (if not, you should!). HR would be very interested in them using company time to shill their pyramid scheme.

        1. Just Want A Nap*

          I just saw this, unfortunately “Ignore and delete requests and keep your head down while you job search” is the advice now.

        2. Tio*

          Well, that sucks, but you don’t HAVE to have a policy for the bosses to say “No, we don’t like this, don’t do it.” If you can take it to either your boss or some kind of HR, that might work, and they may shut it down completely, but you have to do the math on whether they’d be likely to let it slip that you were the one who complained.

    4. Emmi*

      Using company tools, like emails and the employee listserv, to sell products is against my company’s policies. I recommend looking at your company’s policies if you are so inclined. I also recommend raising the sales to HR and, if there is no policy, perhaps inquiring about that too. It sounds quite annoying.

    5. Dragonfly7*

      Yes, and they eventually lost their job because their mind was too much on “their other job” while at work. I could personally ignore the listserv, but calendar invites are disruptive.

    6. Just Want A Nap*

      does your company have a conflict of interest policy?
      I know mine has a “no soliciting sales at the office” policy (which gets ignored during girl scout cookie season).
      You can quietly try to point it out to the manager that it interferes with the policy, since it doesn’t sound like your coworker will tone it down otherwise.

    7. Charlotte Lucas*

      Does your company have HR or a policy about this? I think just letting HR know might take care of things.

      I’ve never worked anywhere that allowed more than a catalog in the break room or inviting people to a “party” outside of work time.

      1. Three Flowers*

        HR doesn’t have policies. They view everything as case by case. I have Opinions Regarding This and it has been the cause of drama (that I was not personally involved in, but that affected everyone adjacent to it) in the past.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          It sounds pretty dysfunctional. If you had good HR, I would alert them. But it sounds like deleting and ignoring while also job searching is your best option.

    8. HR Exec Popping In*

      Many companies have non-solicitation policies. You may want to ask HR. But if it is allowed I would approach the person and ask them to remove you from their distribution. If they refuse then just ignore it.

    9. John Smith*

      “Oooh my aunty’s tried that cream/lotion and she and her friends came out in a terrible rash. Took weeks for it to go away”. Say it casually in full earshot of colleagues and hopefully enough of them will stay away that MLM colleague gets the message and bores off elsewhere. Best part is that it can’t be (dis)proved.

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

      You’ll probably not win a debate about MLM’s or selling at work without the owners, managers or other coworkers putting a stop to it. She keeps it up and escalates the behavior because it seems to be working for her business.

      I had a friendly acquaintance at work — not my department, but I would occasionally work with her directly — who sold both Avon and Tupperware. Luckily all I had to do was let her know (eventually) that I was the wrong audience for her and wasn’t in the market for those products — not just those specific companies. She was reasonable enough to know that she was wasting HER time inviting me or sending me catalogs. If your colleague is reasonable, you could try that route, or attempt to find like-minded folks at work to band together to stop it.

      1. Three Flowers*

        I’m very tempted to send an “I’m not the right audience, thanks, so please take me off your list” email…and “accidentally” do it as a reply-all. But passive-aggression will get me nowhere.

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

          You can still send her an email privately, “Hi X, May I ask you to remove me from the Skin Care list? This isn’t a product that I’ll ever be in the market to buy. Good luck in your business.”

          That last bit makes the message more friendly, and just think — if she is successful, maybe she’ll leave to do it full-time.

    11. Melissa*

      In addition to ignoring politely/saying no without giving a reason, could you also focus on feeling a little sympathy for her? I’d be super annoyed by MLM stuff at work too, but she’s the victim of a predatory company and probably annoying her friends and family too. Maybe feeling sorry for her will lessen the annoyance.

    12. sulky-anne*

      This is annoying, but also over the top to the point where I would probably try to find it amusing. Skin care demos at work?? I love petty drama so I would be keeping tabs to see if she escalates and I would also be informing my non work friends of any updates in MLM world.

    13. But Not the Hippopotamus*

      Depending on what you use for email, you might be able to send any meeting invites from her that involve certain words (like lotion or skin) into a separate folder or automatically decline (or make them a separate color so they are easily found and removed).

    14. Quinalla*

      It was easy for me because my company had a no MLM/selling policy. Only true fundraisers (for kids/non-profits/etc.) were allowed and folks got very vocal if you were being at all pushy for those.

      When someone at work approached me about an MLM, once I knew that is what it was (cause of course they used weird language, etc. to try to make it seem like it wasn’t per the MLM selling guidelines) I politely informed them I wasn’t interested and that also it was against company policy. I assured them that I figured they didn’t know that (not sure if they did or not honestly) so I wouldn’t make a big deal about it, but expected I wouldn’t hear about it again.

      That shut it down quite easily! If there hadn’t been a company policy, I probably would have gone with a polite “Not interested, thanks!” and if they kept pushing more forceful “I said I wasn’t interested, don’t ask me again.” then “I’m not interested, stop interrupting my work with this!” keep going from there. MLMs teach people to be rude and override boundaries, sometimes you have to do what feels rude to shut them down!

    15. Sara K*

      Depending on how much you need to interact with this person with work relevant stuff, would it be possible to set up an email/calendar/listserv rule that shoots all their communication into a sub folder. That way it isn’t in your face and you can check it for work relevant stuff every couple of days/once a day/however often makes sense and delete the rest as needed.

      To be honest, I’d be tempted to block this person and then feign ignorance of IT when it emerged that I wasn’t seeing their comms. “I dunno why I didn’t get your email. Maybe there’s a glitch somewhere…?” *shrug*

  8. Hypoglycemic rage*

    Hi y’all! I have a second round interview for a position in a university’s registrar’s office next week and I’m really excited. It’s a nice mix of my library skills without nights and weekends (aside from a few Saturdays a year). The environment also seems really supportive, which is the exact opposite of my last job, as y’all know.

    I just have some questions. They’re in relation to this role but also would be good to think of in general, because I might get asked in other interviews.

    1. the pay. If it’s what’s listed, there’s no way I can afford to take this job. The person I spoke with in the first round (not who I’ll be talking with in the second) said that this position has been vacant for awhile and I can’t help but wonder if it’s related to the pay. I looked up the salary on Glassdoor (from the specific university) and that range I could do. But it’s just me and my plants and those cuties can’t help make rent.
    2. Explaining more about why I left libraries without sounding bad (I do have my MLIS). When asked about it in round 1, I said it was because of the pay and I didn’t want to work nights and weekends. All of which is true, but I also felt like I was more of a social worker some days and I didn’t go to school to be a social worker. The pandemic changed a lot, and I also don’t think we should be “everything for everyone” and a lot of librarians (just in general) don’t share that view. Which is fine, but I like my boundaries.
    3. I also wanted to say it’s been about a month since I left my toxic job and while there have been a few interviews and a lot of rejection emails, I am so glad I left. I had taken some short vacations and time off, but it felt amazing to not have to go back to that environment (and still does tbh). I know my being able to leave is coming from a place of privilege – I have some savings. But that job also took a toll on my mental health that I’m honestly still recovering from.

    I’m just not sure how to address it in job interviews. Saying it wasn’t the right fit is true, especially if I say it was not the role I applied for. I just know it looks weird (maybe suspicious?) to have left a job without anything else lined up. Were I not on strike 2 of my PIP, I probably wouldn’t have left – at least until I had something else. I know I can’t say I left bc of management, even though I ultimately did, and I can’t talk about my PIP. I quit because I didn’t want to get fired and I thought that would be easier to explain, but now I am not so sure.

    (As a side note, I went kind of scorched earth in my written exit interview – which felt great. A few weeks after I left, my coworkers overheard my grand boss – who was one of the reasons I left – talking about it to someone else. He was not taking any accountability of course, said I was bad at my job, etc. which, I was bad at my job. But I also had no support. Honestly I’m just glad that the exit interview made it past HR. I know I am not the only person at my company who thought what I did.)

    1. Decidedly Me*

      For pay – I would believe the pay listed in the ad. This is what they’ve said they’re going to pay for the role.

      As for why to explain why you left, I would go with saying it’s not the right fit. Yes, it can appear odd for someone to leave without something else lined up, but I think that’s more because many people can’t afford to do that, so the idea can seem very drastic. However, that’s just not true. Everyone has their own circumstances.

      1. Hypoglycemic rage*

        thank you for this response!

        should i ask about the pay, like at all? i can’t imagine anyone can make it work unless they live with others.

        were i not in huge trouble professionally and crying at my desk a few times a week, i would have not made the choice i did. but alas….

        1. Dek*

          “i can’t imagine anyone can make it work unless they live with others.”

          I have unfortunate news for you…

        2. Tio*

          It sounds like you may already have the second interview scheduled? If that’s the case, I personally would go to it and ask about the pay, particularly since you don’t have a job right now, but for future reference – if the pay was listed and you didn’t think you could take it at that rate, you should have asked about that in the first interview (or even if it wasn’t listed – ask about it to confirm it makes sense to do another interview). Otherwise, if you have a recruiting contact you’re scheduling with, you can email them, ask about the pay and how hard line they are on it, and if they’re not budging and you can’t take that, maybe cancel the second interview.

          1. Hypoglycemic rage*

            genuine question, is the first interview the right time to bring up things like salary? i was under the impression that that convo came later on, but maybe i was wrong? maybe it’s different if i flat out couldn’t afford it vs. if i could make it work but would want more if i could get it, or something.

            we do have the second interview scheduled, but i’ll remember this going forward!

            1. Morgan Proctor*

              I would say that if their listed salary absolutely won’t work for you, then you have nothing to lose by asking about it in the first interview.

            2. Tio*

              First interview is a great time to bring up salaries. It generally avoids doing something like two interviews and spending everyone’s time on that when you’d never take the job even if offered it. It’s especially important if you have a specific salary in mind, or the salary is listed and you wouldn’t take it at that price, as in this situation. Salary levels are actually part of our company’s phone screening procedure, so this doesn’t generally happen.

            3. NaoNao*

              Typically the first interview is the ideal place to bring up the salary, but in reality it doesn’t always work like that. Sometimes the first interview is a screener where HR just makes sure you’re the minimal acceptable amount of X, and moves you to the “real” first interview.

              I would personally stay away from “I don’t want to work nights/weekends and I didn’t like the pay” as the reason for leaving the previous job–even though this job doesn’t require that, it’s a flag for managers that the applicant could be “difficult”. One must fake it a bit during the interview process-appear positive and flexible and unencumbered and then privately decide if the pay and hours are workable or not.

              I’d go with “it wasn’t a strong match for my career path, but I’m very excited about X aspect of the work at newjob” (not the hours, because that’s you-focused. During an interview, you don’t make it about what the job can do for YOU, it’s about how much of a great match you are for the job and how you’ll fix the problems the employer is having.)

              1. Hypoglycemic rage*

                i will say, i usually try and start out with something like what you mentioned, but sometimes that doesn’t always work and they ask for more details. in which case, i said what i did about nights and weekends….

                however!! that mindset is a good one to have, how i can help them. the “why did you leave libraries” happened pretty early on in our convo and i like to think i handled the rest of the talk pretty well with my transferable skills.

                1. Samwise*

                  Just because they ask for more details doesn’t mean you have to give them THOSE details. “Not a good match for career path” — have an answer that fits that.

                2. Hypoglycemic rage*

                  @samwise

                  yeahhhhh i kinda panicked…. :( plus side is that i think the rest of the interview went smoothly – it felt like it anyway.

                  i’ll def think of a better answer going forward, it’s just i thought most people would understand wanting to have a more regular schedule.

            4. Annony*

              If they have a posted salary and you know you wouldn’t take the job unless they paid more, first interview is definitely the place to bring that up. They already brought up salary by posting it and you don’t want to waste your time or theirs if salary is going to be a deal breaker.

    2. Hiring Mgr*

      If you know you wouldn’t take the job at the listed salary, personally I wouldn’t continue with the interview since it will likely be a waste of time.

      My advice then would be to first clarify what the actual pay or range is and take it from there

      1. Dek*

        Yeah, I feel like for university staff (don’t know about faculty), there’s not usually much of an opportunity to bargain for a higher wage.

        1. Hypoglycemic rage*

          so they are even more like libraries than i thought! ;) more things transfer to this role….

          (generally, especially in public libraries, they don’t always have a huge budget for staff salaries. i should have realized this going in, they might not have wiggle room. i feel really bad for not bringing it up in the first round.)

          1. Texan In Exile*

            I was on my town’s library board and yes – the budget is what the budget is, unfortunately. The library puts together a budget and the board reviews and approves it and then city council has to approve it. Even converting part time to full time jobs with benefits had to go through the board and then to city council.

        2. Attic Wife*

          I am a higher ed staff person and I agree. Salary is what it is especially in academic departments. At least in my experience.

    3. Hlao-roo*

      For 2. Explaining more about why I left libraries without sounding bad:

      From your explanation, it sounds like this is a great time for “I like to do XYZ (librarian tasks/tasks and skills that are transferrable to the position you’re applying to), but the role shifted and became too much of ABC (social-worker-esque tasks).”

      If you want, you can also add on a short explanation along the lines of “I left my job at [old company] so that I could focus on finding a job that is a good fit for me.”

      1. Hypoglycemic rage*

        thank you so much! i usually try and keep it brief, anything related to past jobs, but sometimes that doesn’t always work and they want more info.

    4. A Girl Named Fred*

      I like Hlao-roo’s wording suggestions, so I just wanted to add: I’ve left two jobs (in a row, funnily enough) with nothing lined up and I still managed to get my previous and now my current job. Figure out how you want to explain it, practice saying it until you can say it calmly and confidently, and be prepared to answer follow up questions. But leaving without another job ready isn’t a career death sentence, you can and will find something else! Good luck!

    5. The Meat Embezzler*

      I would get your pay question clarified during your next interview. Keep your tone light and matter of fact when asking about the pay range. If they come back and say the range listed is the correct one, feel free to ask if there is wiggle room, if they ask what you mean, give the range you need to hit to feel taken care of and see what happens. If the pay is a mismatch, then all everyone is out is some time and that’s the way the cookie crumbles during the interview process. No harm, no foul. It’s always good to get compensation ironed out early in my opinion.

      1. Hypoglycemic rage*

        i like this thinking, thank you. :):) my apartment lease isn’t up for another year, but i don’t plan on moving and would also plan on being at this job by then. i don’t want my property management see that i am not making 3x the rent – or whatever it is – and deny my renewal (i don’t actually know if that’s how this works but i don’t want to risk it).

        1. Elsewise*

          I’ve never had them check my income when renewing a lease, but I don’t think there’s anything stopping them. Once you’re in and have been regularly paying rent, they just kind of assume you can afford it and don’t bother with the extra work.

          1. Hypoglycemic rage*

            ha that makes sense! i have always paid my rent on time, even before i set up autopay (i love autopay).

    6. Heather*

      Allison would tell you to negotiate within reason for the role based on your skills. If the role is offering 35k and you need 60k, it is a lost cause. If you need 42k, it might be worthwhile to ask about it.
      As far as what to say, “The role I was in was moving in a direction that was different from my long-term goals so I thought it best to release the role to someone else that has goals more aligned with the new plan.”

    7. Justme, The OG*

      I’ve been in HIED for a while. If they’re a state school and have an amount rather than range listed in the ad, believe that it’s what the role pays. Even the range is tricky but you have some room for negotiation.

      1. AnotherLibrarian*

        If it’s a public school, there will be a pay scale posted somewhere, generally. This is not the hiring range for the job. This is the total range for all positions in that classified range. Mostly people have to be hired at the bottom of the range, unless there’s a case that can be made for hiring at a higher step within the range. At my Uni, we can not go 5 steps higher than base. So, that’s a possible raise of starting salary of about 5%. No matter how much I might want to pay someone more, my hands are tied at 5%.

        1. Justme, The OG*

          Yes, but there at least at my university there is a usually a stated range for a job. One position we had recently was posted at $40-45, and we hired someone in at the middle of that range. There’s no state-mandated range for that position though.

    8. Pam Adams*

      Universities and libraries are related but different. Maybe lean into those differences. Wanting to help students, maybe talking about how someone who worked at your university made a difference for you, these are positive reasons for changing.

    9. BRR*

      If you 100% would not take the job for the salary listed, I would actually email them about it before your next interview because otherwise you’re just wasting everyone’s time. I would trust the pay in the job posting over the pay on glassdoor. There might be a very small chance they could offer slightly over the listed pay (like if it states $40k-$45K and you’d need $47K), but definitely don’t count on that being possible.

    10. kbeers0su*

      I’ve worked at universities my whole career, and salaries are usually lower because “the benefits are so great” which is partly true and partly crap. State universities usually tie a lot of staff into the state teacher’s retirement system. With that, in my current role I pay in 4% and the university matches it with 10%. I’ve also had AMAZING health benefits at another state university (it cost me just one $20 copay for the birth of one of my kids). If you can find info on their benefits, and if benefits could balance the salary, consider that. Universities are usually pretty slow to move on hiring- my current university’s baseline is to have a job posted for minimum 30 days before even looking at candidates. So the fact that the position has been open for some time may be totally normal for their typical hiring timeline. All that said, I do know universities who moved on salary when they couldn’t find someone but it really depends on so many factors (departmental budget, what the other people in the department make, etc.).

      1. Hypoglycemic rage*

        sorry, you said a bunch of other really helpful things, but i am still processing the fact that you only had to pay a $20 copay for one of your kids……

    11. Hypoglycemic rage*

      ok, thanks everyone for all your comments! i didn’t realize the salary is probably pretty set and i should have asked about it initially, but i will remember this for next time! (i would love this job, i just kind of tell myself i am not getting it as a way to keep my nerves down.)

      thanks again for all your comments! :)

  9. Dovasary Balitang*

    My immediate manager refuses to take sick days, even when she is clearly in a bad way. She says she feels guilty when she doesn’t come in. Is it at all possible to course correct this mindset? I’m a) worried about her; and b) concerned that she expects me to have the same sort of fidelity to the job.

    1. Tio*

      You are almost always unable to change someone’s behavior in this way. You can work around it – is it possible for you to say something like “If you appear to be sick when you come in, I’d like to work from home to avoid catching it”? If not, you’re probably stuck.

    2. ferrina*

      You can’t make someone else change.

      If she is open to it, you can say something like “please stay home. I’m going to be distracted all day worrying about you, and I’ll feel better (and work better!) knowing that you are at home resting!” Some people are better at resting when they feel like it helps someone else. But you have to know your manager’s temperament for this. For Part B, it depends. Some people hold themselves to different expectations than others. I’d proceed cautiously- take your sick time and see what happens.
      But really, there’s not much you can do.

    3. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Would she feel guilty if she got other people sick? Some people with a “guilt” mindset can be influenced by pointing out that the thing they’re doing is actually worse than the other thing they think they don’t deserve.

      Another possibility is to directly ask her if she expects this of you – if she says “No, of course not!” then you could point out she is showing that she does expect that.

    4. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      “That’s capitalism for you! It makes us internalize those kinds of messages even when we know they’re bad for us”

      “When I hear you say that, it makes me feel worried about you and also wonder if you also have the same expectations for me. I know you tried to insulate us from these kinds of things / support work life balance / encourage us to take leave, but when I see you do the opposite it sticks out in my mind. Kind of like I would if you were sending emails late at night even if you told us you didn’t expect the same from us, it still sets the tone just because you’re our manager”

      or just:
      “What? Please go home. Don’t let capitalism win”.

    5. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      If you have a good relationship you can encourage her to go home if she’s sick stating you are worried about her wellbeing but you cannot make her.

    6. Qwerty*

      Focus on part 2 – does she expect you to also come in with sick.

      There’s a good chance that she doesn’t. Sometimes it can be hard to take time for yourself as a manager because of all the balls that drop while you’re unexpectedly out (and sickness always seems to strike on day you absolutely need to be in office). The solution is that she needs to set up a system so that she can be out and/or her boss needs to create an environment where she feels that she can take a sick day. Neither of these are something you can solve.

    7. Irish Teacher.*

      Just in case it is any reassurance, in my experience, people like that generally do not expect the same from others. They usually feel guilty because they don’t want to see others work too hard and are afraid that their being out could create extra work for other people. Equally, they usually, in my experience, would want others to take their sick leave.

      Weirdly, in my experience, it is the bosses who are most willing to take time off themselves who have been the most annoyed when other people did so. I’m now remembering the supervisor who yelled at me for being maybe 30 seconds late (definitely less than a minute) in a storm, who herself was regularly up to 15 minutes late.

      Obviously, my experience is not universal and I’m sure it can happen the other way around too, but…I don’t think the fact that somebody finds it hard to take time off without worrying they are putting their colleagues out means that they will expect those colleagues or their reports to also come in while ill.

      Unfortunately, I don’t think you are in a position to correct her mindset. If you were her manager, you might have some hope. You might be able to address it as being concerned about catching something if she is contagious, but otherwise, well, she is an adult and is allowed to make bad choices for herself.

    8. Goddess47*

      As a way to get her to stay home, encourage her to ‘work from home’ when she’s not feeling well… play up the benefits of being able to dress comfortably, being near her own bathroom, and able to take breaks when she needs them.

      Whether she works or not, at least she’s home…

    9. Always Tired*

      I had a coworker like that. Every time she came in sick, I would ask her why she wasn’t using her sick time, which neither rolls over nor gets paid out when you leave, so is a use it or lose it benefit, and why she wanted me to get sick. It was only after pointing out multiple times that she was getting other people sick that she started staying home. Just gotta redirect that guilt.

      Also, love the Tamora Pierce reference.

    10. Samwise*

      a) it’s not your place to say anything about this (you can feel it, but keep it to yourself). If she’s contagious, you have standing to say something, otherwise b-u-t-t out
      b)Legit topic for discussion.

      1. Dovasary Balitang*

        I would hope in our slightly-post-Covid era, “don’t ask don’t tell” wouldn’t still apply to being ill in the workplace.

    11. Some Dude*

      My attitude towards sick time changed a few years pre-covid when a colleague came in obviously sick with the flu because it was an important meeting day and she had to present in person. Everyone in our small office got the flu. In her defense she could not have called in sick at the time-the culture was everyone is all in on those days come hell or high water. But it made me realize that her not taking care of herself lost the company a lot of productivity because all of us ended up being out for multiple days.

    12. NotYourCall*

      No one has the right to tell someone else how to use their time off. If someone tried to tell me to use sick days I’d be upset – I use mine for appts and have no extra time to use them when I’m sick unless I’m truly non-functional. I’ll happily work at home and not go in, but if people started telling me or trying to coax me or trying to pressure me to take sick time I’d be really upset. If someone who worked for me did it they’d get shut off in a hurry.

  10. Back to the Grind*

    I finally got a new job after getting kicked out of my previous position by a horrible narcissistic and vindictive martinet. Hooray!

    I was pretty severely traumatized by the experience even though it was just a year, and I am sure I picked up some defensive and problematic work behaviors as a coping mechanism to handle the ambushes, constant negative feedback, and lack of clear communication.

    My question is – what, if anything, should I mention to the new manager? I get good vibes (otherwise I wouldn’t have taken the job). I assume I shouldn’t mention anything specific about my previous experiences. But should I lay out my hopes for communication style, collaboration, etc., early after I on board? Or is even that going to send red flags?

    1. Bruce*

      Maybe you could approach it as “Please tell me how you like to communicate tasks and expectations? What sort of regular updates would you like from me?”… if this has not already come up. This could start a discussion that lets you clarify expectations more without having to say “my former boss did this sort of thing that I’m still traumatized by,,,”

      1. Bruce*

        I’ve been working for 40+ years and in the last 3 years I’ve had to reformat my weekly updates for 3 different VP level people :-)

    2. ABC123*

      Your comment covers a lot. 1. Trauma from your old job. 2. Possible ineffective coping mechanisms that you feel might negatively impact your current job 3. Communication methods to establish positive work patterns at your new job.

      1. Trauma is usually best handled by the appropriate professionals. Workplace norms, especially for new employees, don’t usually grant space for such deep emotional backgrounds conversations. I am sory this happened.
      2. You mention defensive behaviors, which could land anywhere. Are you yelling at people if they criticize you? Did you start to find yourself being rude or sarcastic, petty or mean? Were you shutting down and not completing assignments on time? Those are all signs that it’s good you left, but unlearning them is going to be a slow process that you can’t really ask your new place to handle for you. At most, you might be able to delicately mention something pertaining to a specific issue that you are aware of and have concrete plans to resolve – ex. you are working on being able to be better at receiving constructive feedback.
      3. Bruce’s comments are spot on.

  11. Tradd*

    HR(outsourced to a local company) released this idiotic policy earlier in the week. If you WFH without prior written approval (and it must be an email, not a text), you will be docked 50% of your pay for the days you WFH. Mind you, we’re ALL salary, and only managers and 1-2 other people have the ability (software on personal laptops) to WFH. This is illegal as heck but they don’t seem to care. I have the ability to WFH for urgent weekend things for customers. Might go weeks without it. The only time I’ve WFH for a full day was with manager approval when I had car issues and was going to take a day off. She suggested I WFH instead. Company owner hates WFH with a passion and I’m told had to be forced into it during Covid lockdown. I’m still astonished they think this is legal. And no, I don’t get paid OT. I’m salaried exempt. I’m in the US.

    1. anywhere but here*

      Malicious compliance. Let the business feel the pain of no one working remotely (and thus not being available on the weekends). Or do it anyway and file a wage complaint against them when they dock pay

            1. Generic Name*

              When you say “has to be done”, what exactly do you mean? Does a task have to be done on the weekend because a person/people could die, or crucial public infrastructure could fail, or the company could be liable for civil or criminal penalties? Or is it “my workload is too high to do during the workweek”?

              1. Tradd*

                WTF not. I’m a customs broker (clear imported shipments through US Customs). If an air freight shipment comes in over the weekend, it has to be cleared right away. Airlines charge mega for storage charges and they now only give 24 hours for pickup. Then the charges start. Pre-plague, they gave 48 hours.

                1. Tio*

                  Omg fellow broker! I remember the weekend days. We used to rotate.

                  I’m super curious what company you’re at now lol

                2. Tradd*

                  Tio-
                  very small forwarder/broker. We don’t rotate weekend days. It’s me or import manager to transmit entries on weekends. I was here 2 years before the weekend stuff started over the summer. I live an hour from the office so I got owner to approve VPN/remote desktop software being installed on my personal laptop. (No work laptop) so I didn’t have to drive an hour to the office to transmit one entry that had already been keyed in. Most weekend stuff is very quick.

                3. Tio*

                  Ooooh, yeah, that’s rough. I worked for mid size forwarders then moved to the importer side a couple years ago – SIGNIFICANT improvement, let me tell you. Best of luck on finding a new job with a law abiding employer though, I think that’s really your best bet.

                  (Side note – how is a brokerage company, who has to follow so many laws, so unaware of following other laws?! I don’t doubt it at all, I’ve seen some stuff, but gd you’d think some common sense would have trickled in)

                4. Hillary*

                  You’re super in demand as a customs broker – it might be time to look for a new job. Things started opening up geographically with remote filing plus a lot of importers want to hire brokers, either to self file or for compliance.

                5. Tradd*

                  Tio – I’ve been looking for a job, no luck. They either want me to be a manager of a large number of people, when I have NO management experience OR they want me to take a $15K to $25K paycut to do what I’m currently doing (minus being permit qualifier). I make really nice $$. I’m trying to hang on as long as I can as I’m stashing cash.

                6. Tio*

                  Hilary – Things are opening up with the national permitting now, but there are still significant location constraints. Just because you can file from anywhere doesn’t mean they want someone in a state they don’t have a nexus in. You have a lot more options in a major port area like LA or Chicago than Detroit or Kansas. Plus, with the national permitting, a lot of companies are centralizing their brokerage departments in 1-2 locations, meaning they may actually need LESS LCBs than before, and looking for people with more management skills. If Tradd doesn’t want to step into management like they said, I can see how they might be really stuck.

                7. Tradd*

                  Tio – I don’t want to say where I am for obvious reasons, but I am in a major city with tons of brokers. I’ve had my license for 10 years, been doing entries for 11 years, and I’ve been in the industry as a whole for more than three decades. I was on the transportation side (mostly import) before I was asked to get my license. To this day, I do some transportation side. In my experience, brokers being able to do both sides is rare as hens teeth. I also have a degree, which a lot of women my age in the industry don’t seem to have. I would love a hybrid position. I’ve had a fully remote position several years ago for a really small brokerage and loved WFH. That didn’t work out as I got laid off after less than a year due to not enough business.

      1. pally*

        Yep!

        Clarification: is the WFH approval supposed to be procured for each specific instance, or do they allow one to procure a blanket approval of WFH as needed? I’d try for a blanket approval -problem solved. If they won’t go for that, pepper them with approval requests. Maybe even multiple requests: for 2 hours, then an additional hour, then another additional hour, etc.

        1. Tio*

          A possibility is also ask the manager for permission to WFH a day that week each week, but only use as necessary

          But the reality is, ideas like this might put your boss in direct conflict with the owner, which will probably roll down to you. And they may not be willing to do it at all, or it may cause strain on your relationship with your boss if you do. How much prior is prior approval, btw? Can you text the boss, get approval, then email them again five minutes later and still have “approval” or are they saying something like you need to have it x time beforehand?

            1. Tio*

              Well, yes and no. The docking of the pay is obviously the issue – but you don’t want to get to that point unless you enjoy labor boards, lawyers, and/or being unemployed, as the company has issued a blatantly illegal policy and is putting their fingers in their ears about it. So the more reasonable component to focus on is the prior approval component, as that is almost certainly going to be easier to finesse. So you try to strategize around that point, because “determine a timeline for WFH requests while I look for other work” is generally easier than “get my pay docked and start a legal battle”.

        2. Tradd*

          WFH approval is for each particular instance. Say I’m sick and want to WFH so the only other coworker in my dept is not overburdened and I don’t have a dumpster fire when I return to the office.

          1. Mad Harry Crewe*

            I mean, sounds like it’s time to not WFH when you’re sick. Make the dumpster fire your boss’s problem as much as possible. Remember that you are not responsible for the results of your employer’s bad policies.

    2. HR Exec Popping In*

      It is time to look for a new job. A company that is willing to break the law and penalize employees this way does not deserve loyalty.

  12. HugeTractsofLand*

    I work at a school that’s having budget woes. I also have taken on a lot of extra work this year, essentially covering duties for people who have left and not been replaced yet. The issue is that these extra duties I’m covering used to come with a stipend, but I haven’t been offered a stipend. This could be for contract reasons (the duties were formerly done by teachers, and I’m staff), or because my coverage is seen as temporary, or because the school would prefer to reabsorb the stipend given its budget issues. At my school there’s also a spirit of pitching in, since many teachers and staff go above and beyond their required duties.

    So far I’ve told my boss that I’m happy to help but given the 3 extra duties I’ve taken on, I might need a stipend to justify it long term. I realize that’s weak language, but I guess I’m still in the wait and see phase? Wait and see how many hours these duties actually take, wait and see if this gets passed back to someone else, etc.. If I were officially assigned these duties I’d have firmer ground to stand on, and I’ll feel more confident asking for a pay boost in a year when it’ll be clear that these are Mine now. What can and should I ask for in the short term? I don’t mind the duties and I’m good at them, but I don’t want to be taken advantage of.

    1. ferrina*

      Not a teacher, but this has red flags all over it. Set a time limit on how long you are able to help. This could be something just for you, or this could be something you communicate.
      Then set a new commitment and an end date. “Sorry, I’m not able to help as of January because I have a new commitment” is a lot stronger than “I don’t want to” or “I’m seriously burning out and this is harmful to me”. (that last one should be taken seriously, but the reality is that the people that care are already checking in on you and the people that don’t still won’t care when you say it’s hurting you). The new commitment could be a new project or a new thing outside of work- you’ll know better than me what will make the most sense for your scenario. If they protest, look at them blankly and say “my handling this was a stop-gap measure, not a permanent solution. Unfortunately, I’m not able to take this on permanently”. If they want to try to offer you more money to reconsider, they have that option. But it’s stronger when they ask you, not the other way around. Money is a good motivator, and they know that.

      They know there is a stipend. They could offer it to you, or if there’s contract reasons why they can’t, there’s other ways they can take care of you. You don’t need to point it out.

    2. Anonymous former educator*

      Having been a teacher in both public and private, I think you have a few viable options right now:
      1. Hey boss, I’m taking on x, y, and z. Do you have a timeline on if these will be permanently assigned to me? If so, when will I start seeing that stipend reflected on my pay stub?
      2. Hey boss, I’m taking on x, y, and z. I know these typically come with a stipend, which I’m happy to forego for (x amount of months, the rest of the 2023-2024 school year) while we figure out what that looks like for hours, etc. But I’d like to keep that stipend on the radar.
      3. Keep quiet for now and then circle back in January or February once you know how many hours its going to be. You deserve to be paid for your work, even though that’s not always the typical MO of education in the US right now.

      The last school year I was in the classroom, I pitched in way above my duties due to a confluence of extraordinary events – that no one could have truly been prepared for but also that my supervisors didn’t try to help mitigate much at all. I did what had to be done to keep our students from suffering unduly, but I ended up burning out, am still dealing with some health things as a result of that stress, and am now no longer in education.

    3. Mrs. D*

      School employee here (not teacher). We’ve actually dealt with team members being required to perform duties outside of our job description. These are duties held by other paid positions (yard duty, translation services, subbing for classes, etc.). We must be paid for any time that we perform these duties, regardless of how temporary it is. This is part of our union contract. I’m in CA, for reference.

      Before talking to your principal (or any other supervisor you have), reach out to your union if you have one to know what your rights are under your contract. They can offer advice without getting involved in the situation. Then you could go to your principal with “I just found out this is a contract violation. I don’t want the district to get in trouble with the union. Can we make sure I’m getting paid for this?” If your principal won’t give, then you can get the union involved if you feel comfortable doing so, or reach back out to them for more guidance on how to proceed forward.

  13. Salsa Your Face*

    Is there a not awkward way to attempt to strike up a friendship with a coworker when you both work remotely and your job functions don’t overlap? There’s someone I see at company events 3-4 times a year and we get along fantastically, and I’d like to get to know them better in a strictly platonic way, but I feel like a dumb awkward middle schooler when I try to think about ways to make that happen.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Does your company have Slack or some kind of messaging platform? It may feel awkward, but a “Hey, what’s new? Remember that thing we talked about at the conference last month? I finally got around to seeing it!” message is totally normal and usually well received. I sometimes get random “Hey friend!” messages from someone I only interact with occasionally and I love it.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Yep, I have a lot of coworkers I’ve picked up chatting relationships with that I haven’t seen onsite in years.

    2. Dell*

      virtual coffee! I do this all the time with co-workers. They all seem to appreciate it. Just a quick 30-minute mid-morning call.

      1. amoeba*

        Yes! Would go that route before suggesting activities outside of work. At least here, catch-up coffee meetings (virtual or not) are super common and nobody would find that weird.

    3. TheGirlInTheAfternoon*

      Send a message along these lines – “Hey, this might sound a little awkward, but I’ve always really enjoyed seeing you at company events and would love to spend some time together outside of work if you’re interested! Obviously, if you prefer to keep work separate from the rest of your life, I totally understand, but you’re always really fun to talk to so I wanted to ask.”

      That’s worked for me in the past! Either the person is into it, or they say something like “oh that’s so nice, super busy right now, etc.” and I take that to mean that we’re going to be work-event friends only.

    4. interplanet janet*

      I’ve struck up what has turned into a very close friendship with a coworker literally an ocean away. Honestly in my experience it happens slower than IRL friendships but it can be rewarding!

      I started out simple – they mentioned they have a dog, and I used the opportunity to IM them after the meeting and said something like ‘I knew there was a reason we worked well together! I’m a dog person too’ and attached a pic of my mutt. Replace “dog” with any shared interest (‘Did you see this article?’ ‘Check out the foliage where I live today’ etc.) and it works the same. Kind of just do that on repeat at a not weird frequency (which will vary based on people and vibes) and eventually it gets it’s own momentum and forms a friendship.

    5. MigraineMonth*

      Most people want more friends and want to spend time with people who like spending time with them! Yeah, it might be momentarily awkward, but they’re probably just as excited for new friends as you (or would be if they weren’t super busy right now).

    6. Lily Rowan*

      I just today got an email from a coworker I haven’t seen in forever asking if we could do coffee. Our work functions barely overlap anymore, which is why we don’t interact. I thought it was nice! (And we do a lot of virtual coffee at my job.)

    7. Snickers Bar*

      I usually just chat them with a “Hiii! How are you? I was thinking about [insert thing you might have talked about with them] and wondered if you had time to talk more over virtual coffee?” depending on how much I know them it might be a “Ok so I need a little break from work, wanna take a virtual coffee break at X?”

      I’ve made most of my remote friends this way along with regular chat/slacking. People are usually very open to chatting if they know they’ll likely vibe with you!

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

      I can’t tell if this is someone in your geographic area you want to see more of, or you just want more virtual time.

      If you want more in-person time, are there any non-work activities or events that you know the coworker will be interested in that you share in common? For example, are you both into plants, and there is a big annual plant sale at a botanical garden? If you can build a meetup around a shared hobby or interest, it helps to: meet there, plan it for a specific duration (1 hour-ish) but keep your schedule open to grabbing coffee/lunch after, and have the opportunity to be there together but not have to be totally engaged with each other 100% of the time — similar in scope to the work functions where you normally see them.

  14. AvonLady Barksdale*

    My pet peeve keeps coming up with one person: “Hey, the client can meet at 11am but you already have something on your calendar. Can you move it?”

    No. I cannot. It’s there for a reason. If you need me at this meeting, then you shouldn’t have told the client we’re available at 11am.

    I do not understand why people do this. To make matters somewhat more odd, this is a person who likes me a whole lot, relies on my expertise, and goes out of her way to tell me how much she appreciates me. Appreciate me enough to respect my calendar! Oh, and get my title and surname right, but we’re working on that.

    1. CTT*

      Have you clearly told this person that if something is on your calendar, it is a conflict that cannot be adjusted? I work with several people who have blocked our calendar time that’s either a placeholder or an internal meeting that could be moved if something more urgent comes up, so this person could be thinking it’s something like that.

        1. HR Exec Popping In*

          It is time for a follow up conversation. It should go, “I know we have discussed this before, but my calendar is not flexible. If a time is blocked off, I am not available for customer meetings. You have tried to schedule meetings for me with clients several times now when I already have a commitment. Going forward, please do not try to schedule a client meeting when I am already booked. I will not be available.”

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        Agree. I do a lot of scheduling and, when it’s a large group or with an external client, then I will ask people to move a recurring 1:1, internal meeting, etc.

        I think it’s overly rigid to say, “If it’s on my calendar, it’s unmovable.” If the request was coming from the head of your company, I think you would have a bit more flexibility. That said, if that’s a hard “no” for you, then I think it would be a good idea to let this person know that’s how you use your calendar.

        1. amoeba*

          Yup. I have quite a few meetings on my calendar that can, in fact, be easily moved or skipped – I think it’s not unreasonable to expect that might be the case for other people as well!

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Honestly, in this case they are probably deferring far too much to the client, instead of acting as a go-between.

    3. Decidedly Me*

      I definitely don’t think people should ever be offering up time to clients that they know someone has blocked off. However, personally, I do have a fair number of things on my cal I can shift around if needed and a certain level of flexibility is necessary in my role. Maybe your coworker came from an environment like that? It’s worth a chat with them if you haven’t done so already.

    4. Hiring Mgr*

      Without knowing your situation in more detail, there are lots of folks, myself included at times, who will tell people that if a customer meeting comes up, the calendar can be flexible.

      Could be she’s used to that dynamic

      1. ferrina*

        That was my first thought. My team’s calendar is a mix of internal and external meetings. Internal meetings are generally flexible; external, not so much. It’s generally worth an ask (at least at my organization).

    5. OtterB*

      This doesn’t seem too out of line to me, depending on how often it comes up and what’s causing the conflict. I mean, I have things on my calendar that are absolutely not movable (some work and some personal) but others that can be if needed, and I wouldn’t mind if someone asked as long as “No, sorry, can’t reschedule that one” is an acceptable answer. If it’s a regular meeting with the client, I wouldn’t expect it, but if it’s a one-off to resolve a problem of some kind then it doesn’t seem unreasonable.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        See, I’m more of a, “I’d like to find some time to discuss X but you’re all booked up– any chance you have 15 minutes in there somewhere?” type. I’m also amenable to being asked for a favor when someone is really stuck or it’s an emergency. In most of these situations, I have a couple of 30 minute blocks here and there, then a whole swath of open time, and instead of aiming for the open time, they want me to move my calendar around because it suits their schedule better. These particular situations are never emergencies.

        1. OtterB*

          That makes sense to me, that trying to schedule something in an open block should be the first resort and asking you to move a commitment only as a backup.

          It also depends on other scheduling constraints – thinking of time zone differences, for example.

        2. Cookie Monster*

          But if the client said they can only meet at, say, 11am, it doesn’t make sense to ask you “have 15 minutes somewhere in your day?” Clients have to be flexible too but it doesn’t seem egregious to me to ask you about your availability.

          Also, not knowing what industry you work in, is it true that literally NONE of the meetings on your calendar are ever movable/missable?

    6. Golden*

      That sounds really frustrating! Is your company culture one where a lot of people can move their meetings? Mine seems to have a lot of repeating 1-on-1 and check-in type meetings, so admins will frequently offer to move those around or abridge them to help schedule something like a client meeting. Maybe your person has gotten similar messaging or previously worked somewhere like that?

      Can’t help you on the title and surname though, I’ve never understood that issue either seeing as the info is likely right there in your email signature.

    7. Rage*

      if they are saying “the client can meet at 11am” – is that actually a confirmed thing, or is he just relaying the fact that they suggested that time and he’s just checking to see if whatever is on your calendar is moveable or non-critical?

      I get that a lot when I’m scheduling with my boss and external stakeholders. Depending on what her schedule says, I will ask if she can accommodate the time. Things like 1:1 meetings with other people are usually good to reschedule, but I don’t bother with Executive Team stuff. My boss is really good about “Oh, yeah, that can be moved, we need to talk to so-and-so” or “No, that one needs to stay”. (And then I go back to the client with an alternate time.)

      Have you tried to flat-out asking her why she keeps doing this, or just telling her to adjust her mindset? It might be for the same reason as I do it, and she doesn’t realize that your appointments are “carved in stone” so to speak. Maybe just a “Hey, I noticed you will often ask me if an appointment can be moved. The ones that are on my calendar are firm – they cannot be rescheduled. Going forward, assume that if my calendar shows me as having an appointment, that it cannot be moved.”

      And then just stick to it.

    8. Syfy Geek*

      I feel like I’m on the other side of this issue. My boss asks me to schedule a meeting with X and Y. I check their calendars, nothing on them. I check the teaching schedules to make sure I’m not overlooking a class, no conflicts. I send a meeting invitation from the Boss’ calendar, Y accepts, X tells me there is conflict, but they didn’t put it on their calendar, it’s on a sticky note on their desk.
      AvonLady Barksdale- I would absolutely respect your blocked time.

    9. mreasy*

      I think it’s okay to ask in the scheduling process, if it’s a meeting with a bunch of people who have tough schedules. But confirming and assuming someone can move an existing calendar item? Heck no.

    10. Spencer Hastings*

      With the clients I work with, I get into situations like this all the time. But my email to my colleague would be more like “Hi, Jane— I heard back from Alice at XYZ Inc. She asked if we could set up a call at 11 AM on Thursday. I know you have [Other Thing] that day — is that something that could be moved? If not, I can meet with her myself. Or if you think we should both be there, I can suggest another time to her, like Thursday afternoon or Friday morning.”

      In other words, starting from the assumption that other people’s calendar stuff is not totally flexible. But sometimes clients will ask you for a time you didn’t offer…

    11. Donn*

      In my firm, it’s ok to ask people if something on their calendar is flexible or fixed, or a reminder vs. a live appointment. If they’re definitely not available for whatever reason, they’ll tell us.

      For instance, Jamie has a recurring meeting that they can skip if they aren’t actually needed. Loren had a conflict that wasn’t on their calendar, but said to have the (internal) meeting without them. Dima’s conflict was something they could skip if a more urgent matter came up.

    12. Katie*

      Hmmm maybe it’s because I work with a company with a shared calendar and we are all insanely busy but this is a rather common question. Some meetings are moveable so if I am the only one blocked at that time it’s reasonable to ask. Now when people just block over my meeting that’s when I get grumpy.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yeah. I have some meetings that are moveable (e.g. my regular 1:1s with my team leaders) some which I usually attend but can delegate if needed and others which are not moveable (e.g. critical meetings with suppliers scheduled months in advance). It’s fine for people to ask in my company, especially if they see it’s internal, whether I can move something.

    13. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Are the things you’re being asked to move – internal meetings?

      The thing is, they aren’t really “your” meetings, they’re the company’s meetings. If the best outcome for the company (because it’s best for the client) is that the meeting happens at that time, then the other meetings should be moved.

    14. RagingADHD*

      People do this because they are trying to make the company money by deferring to the client’s schedule (revenue) over your schedule (cost).

      If you can’t move it, just say so, but there’s no reason to take it personally.

    15. DifferentExpectations*

      I put things on my calendar I’d like to go to if time/schedule allows. I put things on my calendar as reminders to do something but they usually don’t have to be done at that exact time. I don’t put personal things on my calendar so if I have a telehealth appt it won’t be on my work calendar. If you want to schedule something with me ask for my availability. This has been normal at every place I’ve ever worked – except for CEOs and maybe a few others people are responsible for managing their own calendars and get to say when they are or are not available. So anyone I’ve ever worked with would do exactly what the person you’re complaining about did and it would be considered rude and obnoxious to schedule them without asking them. You’d be considered a significant outlier in those environments.

  15. Dell*

    What’s the best way to put this on my resume? I run a business with three employees on payroll. Two work regularly, one only works occasionally. My husband and my mother also work at the business a significant number of hours – but they are actually minority owners of the LLC. There is definitely no question that it is my business, I have the expertise in the field am 100% in charge. On my resume, is it fair to say, “Manage a team of five”? Or is there something else I should say?

    1. Hlao-roo*

      From what you’ve written in the post, I think “manage two full-time employees and one part-time employee” or “manage a team of three” are more accurate than “manage a team of five.”

      It sounds like you direct/assign tasks to five people, but you don’t have hire/fire authority over your husband and mother because they are part-owners, not employees.

      1. HR Exec Popping In*

        How about, Majority business owner and directly manage a staff of three. I think this clearly designates that these individuals are on payroll and not the other owners.

        1. Dell*

          I normally list myself as the founder and owner. It is a line of work that usually has family ties, so the fact that I founded the business myself is very important to call out.

    2. Donkey Hotey*

      Maybe something along the lines of “majority business owner, managing 3-5 seasonal, part, and full time employees.”

  16. Dek*

    So I’m planning to start a new medication over the Thanksgiving break, and I let my supervisor know, because I wanted to schedule an extra two days off to give myself time to adjust. It *probably* shouldn’t be an issue, but the last time I tried a similar medication, I had a bad reaction (not, like, hospital-bad. Just a few days of feeling simultaneously wired/exhausted/freaked out before deciding I wasn’t adjusting and stopping. It took a couple more days to even out after that), so I just wanted to give myself that cushion. My supervisor approved the leave, but after that I got an email from HR to set up FMLA for this.

    Do I have to? I’d really rather not. I probably wouldn’t have even put in for the leave in advance, except that they’ve decided to seriously restrict our use of unscheduled sick leave (basically we can have three instances in a 12-month period before they start doing warnings, and I’ve already been sick twice), so I thought it would be prudent to just apply for it up front and have it scheduled.

    I can take the leave as annual, but I’d really rather not, since we’ll be losing ~50 hours of our annual leave to mandatory holidays in the next two months.

    Also, I don’t feel…great about my supervisor notifying HR that I might want FMLA before asking me if I did, but that could be me being too sensitive about these things. Is that normally how it works?

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I don’t think FMLA would apply if it’s just 2 days. Maybe your supervisor was just doing some pre-thinking regarding a longer term (even if intermittent) situation so they chatted with HR and one or both of them decided to get some other options in place.

      You may want to confirm with your supervisor that since you’ve already been cleared for the days off, whether the restrictions against unscheduled sick leave apply here.

    2. Annony*

      I doubt that your supervisor proactively went to HR and said you wanted FMLA. Most likely HR saw the sick time put into the system and asked why. I think one of two things is happening. Either they have a policy of applying FMLA to everything they possibly can (pretty crappy, but it happens) or they are looking extra closely at leave around holidays because they think people are abusing it.

      1. Dek*

        I haven’t put the time in yet though (that comes after approval). Folks taking off during holidays isn’t much of an issue because we’re not coverage based.

    3. ferrina*

      FMLA for just 2 days would be pretty unusual. There might be a miscommunication between your supervisor and HR, or someone doesn’t quite understand what FMLA is.

      I’d think about what you already know about your supervisor and HR. Is your supervisor usually knowledgeable about health stuff, or are they a bit awkward? Is HR generally competent, or are they questionable? If you aren’t sure, proceed as though you are seeking out more information so you can understand better (which you are). That will give you new information about your supervisor and/or HR which will let you know if you should restrict information to them in the future.

    4. HR Exec Popping In*

      I don’t think it is odd for your manager to let HR you might need FMLA. Taking FMLA is not a bad things. And by designating those days at FMLA they are protected and can’t count against you in any way. This is the type of thing FMLA can be used for. And yes, you can take FMLA for just a day or two.

      1. Slartibartfast*

        except OP will now have 11 weeks 5 days of FMLA for the next 12 months. Nickel and diming away FMLA time is a thing in some workplaces. Gets the chronically ill off the payroll and insurance premiums.

    5. BRR*

      I’d probably just reply and say you don’t need FMLA, you’re just taking two sicks days in advance according to company policy.

      (And you already know this but that unscheduled sick time policy is awful. How can you make a policy that punishes people for being sick? Three times in twelve months is far less than most people get sick. And then people will come into work sick and get others sick who then call out. wtf is wrong with people.)

    6. TX_Trucker*

      In most states, an employer can designate FMLA on your behalf (even if you don’t want it) for any medical condition that will incapacitate you for three or more consecutive days, and/or if you have ongoing medical treatment – this can include follow-up care such as prescription medication. Are you familiar with intermittent FMLA? If you need periodic time off for adjustments to medication, that’s probably what you should file for. That would give you more flexibility to use your sick leave with out penalty.

      1. Tio*

        It sounds to me like HR got some sort of automatic flag about this being the third unscheduled sick leave, since that seems to be the bar they’ve set on the above – I doubt the manager went to them directly. But if they’re thinking this is a pattern that may be why they’re pushing FMLA (presumably intermittent) over the sick time.

    7. Hillary*

      If I were in your shoes I would do it. Getting FMLA approved is actually to your benefit – it gives you protection. For instance it would probably mean the sick leave policy (which is a terrible policy regardless) doesn’t apply to you. It doesn’t mean you have to use it and it doesn’t mean you have to take time unpaid.

      The one time I did it all the paperwork was through a benefits manager – no one at my company knew any details, they just knew that it was approved.

    8. Red Flags Everywhere*

      Given the already-restrictive sick leave policy, I wouldn’t be surprised if they are automatically tagging most sick leave as FMLA moving forward. FMLA seems to be a double-edged sword and I’ve seen situations where it was used to justify terminating employees who had frequent absences once they went past their protected time within the year. Doesn’t sound like you have frequent absences, but if they are using a policy change to get rid of someone else, they have better legal cover if they apply it to all employees indiscriminately. You can check the policy to see how FMLA limits are calculated (e.g., rolling calendar, fiscal year, calendar year), but it’s unlikely to cause an actual problem for you for this instance. It’s fair to ask for some clarification, however, since this does seem like overkill for a 2-day ask.

    9. Snarky Librarian*

      Where I work, if an employee tells me anything about a possible illness/surgery/injury I have to let HR know so they can contact the employee about possible need for FMLA. It’s not meant to be punitive, FMLA is there to protect the person and so Payroll can properly classify their leave.

    10. Indolent Libertine*

      WTF other kind of sick leave is there besides “unscheduled?” OK, sure, scheduled surgery and the like, but as far as run of the mill illnesses, which I’d bet is what the majority of sick leave gets used for… I would dearly love to know how to schedule when I’ll be sick in advance! When I just leave it to chance it always seems to happen at the most awkward times.

      1. Mad Harry Crewe*

        Doctor and dentist visits, any kind of elective or non-emergent surgery, inpatient or outpatient intensive therapy programs, substance abuse treatment, cancer treatment, really any kind of treatment for a chronic ailment, ongoing physical therapy, pregnancy, family doctor appointments (babies, kids, old folks).

        Just because it’s called “sick” time doesn’t mean you only use it when you’re sick. It’s for any time you’re caring for your health. Lots of that stuff gets scheduled in advance.

      1. OtterB*

        I’m not the OP but my guess is something like the whole office will be closed for the week between Christmas and New Year’s and everybody has to use their PTO. There have been previous discussions here about this being a lousy way to treat people but it’s legal.

  17. Hamster*

    I’ve had a few phone calls this week and been on interviews with a few lined up for next week. One is directly with the company and the rest are through recruiters. I have been candid about why I was let go from my last job (performance) and what I’m looking for and where my skill levels lie. 

    So…questions: 

    The one interview I went on, I received the offer before I even got home. Awesome right? Ticks every box. No red flags. BUT….I feel neutral. Is it normal at some point to just not feel excited and giddy about nailing a job interview/getting a job offer? 

    Is it appropriate to ask exactly how many hours they expect? Every interview I’ve ever been on they clearly state how many hours they want during the busy season, but in the most recent ones, they’ve been stressing how much they value work life balance, family first etc. For one of them I followed up with the recruiter. The norm I’ve seen over the years is 55, so it didn’t really occur to me to ask until after.

    Finally – I’m going for a second in-person interview next week. I applied for this directly with the company, so no recruiter. The owner said to come dressed casually. Normally when meeting with someone, I’d wear my interview clothes (button down blouse + skirt + heels in neutral colors) so….I’m a little bit conflicted on what to wear. What if that instruction is a test? I am most likely overthinking this aren’t I? 

    1. Decidedly Me*

      I think neutral is fine. It’s a job – it’s good to have one, but most people work to live. I was actually apprehensive when I got my last (current) job and it’s been the best job I’ve ever had.

      I do think you’re overthinking the mention of dressing casually :) If it is a test, then the owner is probably someone you don’t want to work for honestly.

    2. WellRed*

      It’s not a test ( it’s pretty much never a test). What would you wear to work in a business casual environment? Wear that. No heels, work trousers and cardigan? Or whatever your style is.

      1. Hamster*

        So every job I’ve been in has been business casual. I wear pretty much everything. Most days I was wearing skirts & heels and blouses and makeup, because that’s what I feel good in. But I’ve also worn leggings with T shirts or jeans and blouses etc.
        I guess I can’t go wrong in trousers & a nice blouse or sweater.

        1. Ahnon4Thisss*

          I’d meet in the middle. Do your makeup to make yourself feel good, pick your favorite blouse, and pair it with matching pants and some flats, that way you still get the confidence from wearing something you love.

          I’m glad your job search is going well, and hope your new job works out for you. :)

    3. Hamster*

      Forgot to add – at what point is it appropriate (if it is!) to ask if I can meet the team I’d be working with, aka the ones I’d be “in the weeds” with? I wish I could have done that at my last job as while most people were nice, my direct team was very cliquish.

    4. Tio*

      Since you work in an industry with specific high-volume seasons, it would be fine to me to ask “Are the hours standard 40 for all seasons, or is there overtime for tax season? If so, what’s your general expectation of hours during that period?” Just mention it neutrally, you’re gathering information and anyone who’s in that industry probably understands that questions and gets it a lot.

      1. Hamster*

        My worry was that if they say 55 (which is doable for me) but then suddenly say 60/65/70 I couldn’t do that and it would be held against me. That’s one of the things from my last job – towards the end they said 65 mandatory. I said I was told 55 when I was hired so 65 wouldn’t be doable.

    5. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Asking about hours – this is a normal thing to ask, often phrased in terms of what a ‘typical’ work week looks like, how often people go over that, etc.
      Dress code for interview – I doubt it is a test, they probably meant “we don’t wear suits here”. Maybe the blouse and skirt with flats instead of fancy heels would work, or a less “dressy” top (but still professional) with the skirt and heels.

    6. kalli*

      You’ve just been through a period of major stress, to the point where you’re actively taking things personally (like your comment last week where you said that pointing out that a particular phrase has a fairly consistent meaning is personally blaming you for your situation). You are naturally not going to have space for every little thing to have a big emotional reaction because humans don’t just bounce back and start every day unaffected by the ones before. Sometimes not being excited is a sign that it’s not a good fit; sometimes it’s just that you’re wiped and everything’s muted while you’re still healing and processing.

      Are you truly ready to go somewhere else right now? There’s nothing wrong with taking even just a couple of weeks for yourself.

    7. Autumn*

      How does it work given your assessment that you are on the slow side of work? I.e. if they say it’s 55 hours, is that dependent on an average-speed worker, or is it 55 and clock out regardless of your volume? Or, would a slow worker need to work 65 because it’s more volume based?

  18. Rae*

    I’m just here to say that it makes me very, very HAPPY to google “cheap a$$ rolls” and see Ask-a-Manager pop up first! And then a bunch of people talking about AAM!

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I mean, how likely is it that people are googling that particular phrase if they didn’t already know it? And it comes up on every third post’s comment section here, I’d be surprised if it came up anywhere else more frequently.

      1. House On The Rock*

        Weirdly, I recently had a friend complaining to me about the quality of rolls at a family gathering and she did, indeed, use the phrase without being an AAM reader. I, of course, sent her the story and the amazing follow up from the OP’s coworker!

    2. Busy Middle Manager*

      TBH I’m so tired of that reference! Especially because to me the letter is 90% about feeling slighted in a new (somewhat disorganized job) and the line about rolls doesn’t make sense anyway. Still not sure if someone said the OP’s rolls were the cheap ass ones, or if someone else also bought rolls. But the brand they bought are the cheap ones, so for that to make sense, the other person would have had to find an even cheaper brand.

      1. YNWA*

        Agreed. It seems so mean spirited to continually pick on someone who was already feeling left out. And I’ve never bought that it was her coworker who wrote the follow-up. It felt like fan fiction.

        1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

          Yes. Now I wonder if that person continues to read AAM and how they’d feel about the C-A R references.

      2. sulky-anne*

        Personally I continue to enjoy the cheap ass rolls legacy, but I don’t say that to disparage the cheap ass rolls author in any way. They had a truly memorable communication style which I appreciate very much. My wish is that they could come around to enjoy their internet fame, although that might be unlikely.

      3. WellRed*

        Regardless of how authentic or nit the particulars of the letter are, I’m so sick if the reference. There are far more interesting letters.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Amen. It wasn’t even that funny the first time, let alone the six thousand and twelve times since then.

  19. Back to the Grind*

    I finally got a new job after getting kicked out of my previous position by a horrible narcissistic and vindictive martinet. Hooray!

    I was pretty severely traumatized by the experience even though it was just a year, and I am sure I picked up some defensive and problematic work behaviors as a coping mechanism to handle the ambushes, constant negative feedback, and lack of clear communication.

    My question is – what, if anything, should I mention to the new manager? I get good vibes (otherwise I wouldn’t have taken the job). I assume I shouldn’t mention anything specific about my previous experiences. But should I lay out my hopes for communication style, collaboration, etc., early after I on board? Or is even that going to send red flags?

    1. JustMyImagination*

      I always ask a new manager what their communication style, management style, etc are when kicking off our new relationship. It opens the door for you to discuss your work styles too. Hopefully they’ll align but if they don’t, you’ve at least opened the door to discussion and will have more understanding of each other.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        I wish more people asked this! (Although I also try to openly tell them what my expectations and approach are.) Something I’ve been wondering about lately is whether there’s more onus on the manager (than the direct report) to adapt their style as needed to some extent…

    2. Decidedly Me*

      I’ve had people come onto my team from pretty bad past work experiences and honestly, it showed in their behavior for awhile. They were honest about why they react certain ways and how I could help support.

      Instead of coming in and saying you hope for X, Y, Z – I might start with asking your manager how they handle these things as they likely have a style already. If that aligns, great! If it doesn’t, it’s a good opportunity to chat about things that would best support you.

      1. ferrina*

        This is good advice. It’s always a good idea to ask your new manager about their preferred communication style (rather than you telling them what you expect).

        I tried to come up with good phrasing for your new manager, but all of it made it sound as if you were problematic in some way. Which I guess technically you are concerned that your behavior will become kind of problem, but it’s mostly a problem for you and not for others. And honestly, lots of people come in with baggage. Calling it out may accidentally signal to your manager that your baggage is worse than most.

        I think you should just have a general “get to know you” conversation, no warning, then go forward from there. If you can afford it, short-term therapy can be a great option while you settle in (like a few months through a general provider or an online resource).

    3. Jenna Webster*

      I think it’s a great idea to ask about communication styles, but don’t necessarily expect to get a truthful answer. Both job candidates and job interviewers tend to know the “right” answer to questions, and I’ve heard an extreme micro-manager answer this question by saying she is highly collaborative and loves to hire great people and then let them do their jobs.

    4. Kesnit*

      I’m 2 months into my escape from a narcissistic boss. Know that you are going to have a trauma response for a period of time. Accept that and don’t beat yourself up when it happens. When it does, think about what caused the response and ask yourself if there is anything you can do to avoid that happening in the future. (Maybe there is. Maybe there isn’t.) Remind yourself that you are no longer in The Pit of Despair. Take care of yourself. Time will help you heal.

  20. Justin*

    My 20ish person team (that I am a middle manager in) will have lost probably our two fastest workers in the next few weeks. Usually this might be a sign they’re jumping ship, but actually, one went to grad school and the other got a bigger job – our team sets people up well.

    Unfortunately, we’re understaffed because we really take our time to hire, and this isn’t gonna help. I am however angling for a slight strategy shift that might help everyone (with the departing director’s agreement) and… now there’s room in the budget for it.

    Fingers-crossed my machinations work out well for all, otherwise we’re going to be underwater for a bit.

  21. RMNPgirl*

    How do you remain patient while job searching?
    I’m really not enjoying my work anymore and changes in management have made me decide it’s time to move on. However, I did just get a good raise and I like my direct manager. So I’m not in a rush to find a new job but I’m also the type of person that once I make a decision that’s it and the train is leaving the station. So I’ve decided it’s time to move on, but I need a new job to do so. I’ve applied for quite a few roles over the last couple months and I finally got an initial phone screen for one next week. I’m also waiting to hear from two others that I’m really interested in.
    So all that to say, how do I keep myself patient?

    1. ferrina*

      Make the decision to apply and look around, not the decision to leave. That helped me reframe it from “why arent’ I gone?!” to “I’m looking for the right opportunity, and I’m taking my time”

      I also set aside a certain amount of time for applying, and only applied from a certain room in my house. So I had a barrier between the applications and the rest of my life. That seemed to help in my mental compartmentalization. Make sure you have hobbies that are engaging you, not just escapist hobbies (nothing wrong in those, just can make the waiting sensation more acute for some folks)
      And when I get really antsy to be gone, I buy a lottery ticket. Maybe I’ll get lucky and retire early.

      Good luck in your search.

    2. Girasol*

      It helped me to imagine that I would get my dream job on the 50th (or however many seemed plausible) application. That way I didn’t hang all my hopes on the next one and feel horribly disappointed when it didn’t pan out. It also helped to keep me from acting desperate in interviews. When I hadn’t reached the target number yet, I’d imagine that this was just a practice interview and not OMG-I-must-get-this-job, so I was more relaxed and positive.

  22. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

    I have to terminate two folks for gross misconduct next week. I’ve never done this before. I have good support both within my org and outside, and I’ve read all the AAM articles. It still sucks.

    1. Decidedly Me*

      It definitely sucks! No matter how many times you’ve done it, it always sucks.

      My biggest tip: self care afterwards. Doesn’t need to be big thing, just a moment for yourself after a sucky thing. Take a short walk, treat yourself to a special drink/snack/lunch, etc.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I am actually off on vacation for thanksgiving weekend, so the follow-up self-care is definitely sorted! (Though there’s a bit of guilt there, like “you just fired two people, what are you doing? I’m going to disneyworld!”)

      2. Chauncy Gardener*

        Came here to say this. And if it helps at all, if it ever doesn’t suck, that’s not a good thing, you know?
        I just try to focus on the end goal, which is to end the person’s employment in the most respectful, kind, unemotional (my emotions) and efficient way possible.
        In this particular case, gross misconduct is a huge deal, so they for sure brought it on themselves. I hope they can find new jobs where they can succeed.
        Good luck and take care of yourself!

    2. pally*

      Yeah, this does suck.

      When I did this, after I ‘dropped the bomb’, so to speak, I wasn’t sure what to do next.

      Sure, they will be escorted out the door. But do you let them sit for a bit to absorb the news? Do you continue the meeting to let them ask all the questions they want? For how long? Until they start asking inane questions? What if they strike out -at you!- in anger? Will there be someone else at the termination meeting? If so, what is their role? Is there someone to hand them off to (like HR)?

      Good that you have support in doing this. But you are the one in the meeting doing this. My suggestion: have a plan for the meeting and what happens after the news is delivered. I didn’t and things got very awkward.

    3. Rick Tq*

      It is really hard to be the Bad Guy, but focus on the fact that both ex-employees chose the course that ended their employment.

      They fired themselves.

      Just be sure your IT department has forced them off the network, cut off their computer access including remote access, and preserved their home directories before you pull them into the termination meeting.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        And their OneDrives if possible. In some systems that’s deactivated along with userid and files get deleted.

    4. Hotdog not dog*

      Yes it absolutely does suck. You can tell yourself they really terminated themselves by their actions, but it always feels terrible to be the messenger. Internet hugs to you!

    5. HR Exec Popping In*

      I’m sorry. It does suck. I always lean into those feelings. It should never be easy to fire someone – whether they did it to themselves or not. Having compassion is what makes us human and good people. Just remember, while these are normal (and important) feelings this isn’t about you feeling bad. Do what you have to do. Wish them well, give yourself time feel badly after and then move on just like you want them to move on.

    6. Csethiro Ceredin*

      It does, and sending solidarity vibes. Even when firing a horrible bully I still was all jangled up afterwards.

      I have started making dinner plans with a friend beforehand on days I have to fire someone. I won’t feel like going but when I do have plans and go I feel better afterwards.

    7. cats sans hats*

      I’m sorry, it does indeed suck. I also had to fire someone right before Thanksgiving (& it was my first, hopefully last time being in that position) and I was dreading it the entire time.

      But then when it happened, it felt freeing. They were absolutely the wrong fit for the job & they also knew it. I wasn’t having to manage someone who hated being at work anymore.

      Good luck

    8. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Are the two of them part of the same ‘incident’ of misconduct? Is there any possibility that it goes deeper and any more people are involved?

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I am new-ish to managing this team and there were several people having similar issues (all individually, it’s not a thing they’re doing as a group) – I’ve actually been working with our HR and Legal teams to process the whole situation. (They’re the ones who decided termination, I didn’t actually get to vote on that one.) Aside from these two there are also a couple others who are going on corrective actions. Part of it is that their previous manager wasn’t really watching for the symptoms to address it sooner, but at the same time, the gross misconduct is definitely gross enough that they knew as it was happening that it was not acceptable, and both of them had also previously been counseled on the literal exact same behavior. (Which is part of why they are being termed and the others aren’t.) So it is wider spread, but I am dealing with the others as well – these two are just the part I feel a bit yucky about.

    9. TX_Trucker*

      I hate doing terminations. But if the employee was given the opportunity to improve and did not – it’s easier for me to deal with. It also helps me when I to think about my remaining good employees. What ever the “gross misconduct” was, it usually has a negative impact on all the staff, and it’s better when they are not there.

    10. Popcorn*

      Pleeeeeze have someone from HR or Legal or elsewhere in these meetings with you. Always good to have backup and a witness to what was said. Good luck.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Our HR requires that the manager and the manager’s manager both be present for a termination meeting, so I’m covered there.

    11. Gyne*

      Solidarity! We had to fire my last assistant for some really egregious poor behavior and I still feel bad about it even though she was downright dangerous.

    12. More Pumpkin Pie*

      It’s never easy. I hate doing this. What has helped me is focusing on being as respectful and professional as possible during the meeting. Getting fired can be one of the worst days of someone’s life and so I try not to contribute to an even more painful memory of the event for the employee. I also focus on how my team will have a more positive, productive work environment after the termination. I plan to do something to relax that night, like takeout from my favorite restaurant or a funny movie. The hard part is over in a few minutes, and then within a day or two everyone else moves on and things improve.

    13. allathian*

      I’m not a manager and I’ve thankfully never been fired for cause. I’ve been laid off twice, though. The first time was horrible because the manager made it all about them (I worked retail and the store closed). The second time was a lot easier because the manager was matter of fact about it.

      Firing and laying off employees *should* feel bad. If it doesn’t, I’d worry about your mental health. Just make sure that you can destress afterwards and don’t make your soon to be ex employee responsible for managing your emotions as well as their own.

  23. TX Lizard*

    Can we talk about looking polished/put together at work when you don’t wear makeup? I really try not to wear any makeup at work (for many reasons) but I am struggling with looking polished. I feel like I look fine and put together on the weekends sans makeup, but I can’t translate that to work. I see other women at work who aren’t wearing makeup and still look polished, so I know it’s possible. I just can’t make it click and I need help!
    I stick to a pretty basic and not too trendy wardrobe (usually black wide leg pants and dark colored sleeveless tops or closer fitting sweaters, sometimes dresses). Everything fits ok, but my weight fluctuates a bit and I feel like I haven’t quite found the clothes that work best for me. I think frizz is a problem but holy moly I cannot find anything that works. I live in a very humid area, and even when my hair is up I have a permanent halo of baby hairs and frizz. I have a good skincare routine and keep my nails bare but nice.
    I’m in my late 20s and am in an (internal) customer facing administrative role and want to look professional. If we can please avoid a debate about whether women should have to wear makeup/look a certain way at work that would be great. I’m really looking for practical advice and recommendations! Thanks all! <3

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I mean… you sound like you’re doing fine. No one needs makeup to look polished, as you’ve observed. Your clothes sound fine. Make sure your shoes are practical and nice as well– you don’t need anything fancy, just a good solid pair of flats or loafers. I might throw a cardigan over those sleeveless tops, but YMMV.

      I have frizzy hair myself but I’ve just experimented with a cut and styling products that work. A little frizz never hurt anyone. Maybe try fabric headbands, or bobby pins when you pull your hair back. But looking polished is usually a result of clean, well-fitting, unwrinkled clothes (a few wrinkles here and there are ok), decent shoes, and hair that’s styled in a way that works for your face and hair type.

    2. Constance Lloyd*

      How do you feel about accessories? I’m in my early 30s, dress similarly to you, and have hair that doesn’t play well with humidity. I add a few pieces of minimalist/understated jewelry in similar colors. Think: huggie hoop or simple post earrings, a simple chain that sits at my collar bone, and a slightly sparkly sterling silver band ring on my right hand. I sleep and shower in all of these and rarely notice their presence.

      1. BuildMeUp*

        Seconding this – thoughtfully chosen accessories can really make an outfit seem more complete and polished. Jewelry, a nice scarf, a headband, etc.

        1. Constance Lloyd*

          I also want to add, because jewelry can seem expensive, with the exception of my wedding rings, my jewelry costs about $60.00 all told for two sets of earrings, a necklace, sparkly band. It’s all from Target, and I am complimented on my jewelry specifically. I have tiny cubic zirconia and sterling silver studs in my second piercing right now and people always seem to assume they’re real.

          1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

            The earrings I get the most compliments on cost less than $10 at the drugstore. They’re kind of statement/boho chic and I often wear them with an all-black outfit.

      2. Quinalla*

        Yup, this is how I take my look from casual to polished – accessories! Usually just jewelry – necklace & earrings typically for me, sometimes a nice scarf.

        I do sometimes where a slightly nicer blouse when I want to look extra polished.

        This is all pre-COVID, I’ve never been a make-up wearer. Nowadays, I wear a bra and something that isn’t t-shirt & jeans/shorts to be polished :)

    3. ThatGirl*

      sometimes you just have to keep experimenting – play with clothing options, maybe look at various fashion websites for ideas (e.g. stores with clothing you like, or public figures who have similar body types to you). consider accessories – a bold bracelet, a statement necklace or fun earrings?

      ask your stylist for anti-frizz ideas if that’s bothering you.

      if you’re up for it, curl your lashes – even without mascara it can help you look more awake.

      it sounds like you’re on the right track, so it might just take one or two small adjustments to get there and feel confident.

    4. anywhere but here*

      It may be the case that you’re doing all you can – if you’re well groomed and appropriately dressed, I think that’s sufficiently polished.

      I don’t know if this would affect polish level exactly, but one possibility would be to bump up the level of your wardrobe, whether it’s by wearing more formal things or by wearing, for lack of a better word, fancier things (more expensive/””stylish””) or jewelry. But I don’t think that is in any way necessary and as aforementioned, you sound sufficiently polished. (I know you’re not looking for debate, but I would just flag as a comparison how often men have to think of this kind of thing – probably much less often! And never with respect to cosmetics or jewelry.)

    5. my cat is prettier than me*

      I’m the exact same way. I almost never wear makeup and I’m in a customer facing admin role. My weight also fluctuates, and I find dresses/skirts great for that. My standard “uniform” is black pants, a tank top, and a cardigan. Old Navy has a great selection of dress pants in a wide variety of sizes. My hair has a mind of its own, so I just try to touch it up throughout the day (i.e. brushing it, spritzing on some anti frizz stuff). I find that good posture can make you look more polished as well.

      I hope some of that helps!

      1. Ginger Baker*

        Oh great call on the posture! I have excellent posture from years of dance training and it goes a long way (and also makes me seem taller, ha).

    6. matcha123*

      I started wearing makeup somewhat consistently a few years ago in my mid-30s. And even then it was mostly eyebrows and some basic eyeshadow. None of the foundations in my area match my skin tone.

      Imo, looking “polished” doesn’t necessarily mean makeup.
      For hair, and I was living in a pretty humid area, depending on what you do with your hair, I would suggest some hair wax. It would mostly keep my hair down without looking too sticky.
      For face, I get really oily, so I carry oil blotting paper and use it when I go to the bathroom.
      I have think eyebrows, which I hate, so I started plucking them in college. If you like your brows, but they are like mine (thick, long, not cute at all), I’d suggest some eyebrow scissors to give them a trim and plucking a few strays to keep them looking “neat.”

      And if you get dry lips, keep some lip balm with you to keep your lips from cracking and bleeding.

      Always, always wear your sunscreen!

      When it comes to clothes, I also find it difficult to find things that look good on me. I do a lot of window shopping, trying on clothes, taking pics in the dressing rooms, and then thinking about how I could put together some simple work outfits.

      Trying on clothes is free, so even if a store is out of your price range, you can still see if you like the style or cut, and look for a more affordable version later.

    7. no makeup*

      Stopped wearing makeup during the pandemic. Tbh I think I look better w/o it (I was never great at applying it).

      What works for me:
      * Short pixie, keep it styled carefully
      * I’ve found a no-frizz product that holds my hair. I use a women’s product but have also had luck w/ men’s products, e.g. modeling clay. You might look at that.
      * I typically add a little jewelry (a necklace) and my glasses.
      * I wear a uniform — dark blue jeans, black top. I don’t have strong fashion preferences and emphasize clothes that I feel good in, vs. clothes that look good (figuring they’ll look good if I feel good in them).

      Good luck!

    8. Ginger Baker*

      You sound very much like me. I lately have gotten into earrings as a thing I like to play around with (I pretty much never wear other jewelry) but went years without it. I stick to black pants and patterned tops that fit decently. I used to do penny-loafer style black shoes and a blazer (the quick way to take the Professional up a notch) and would advise that if you’re worried about it. I kept both shoes and blazer at my desk and would just change into them at work.

      I have very long hair that I almost always wear in a bun or braid so no real advice on the hair – I sometimes use some pomade variant but that might not work well depending on your hair/hairstyle.

      I haven’t worn makeup at work aside from VERY ocasional lipstick in at least fifteen years and I fully support you in this! (And I am confident I would be described as looking professional and put-together, if not particularly stylish.)

    9. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      It might be the lighting at work. I always thought I looked good at home, then I’d go into the bathroom at work with those horrible overhead fluorescents bouncing off the tile and think I looked undead. But when you’re in a meeting with colleagues, the conference room or office probably has less harsh lighting, so you think everyone else has it nailed.

      You might also ask one of your coworkers if you have a good relationship. “Hey, I really like your style. I always struggle with frizz, what do you do to look so smooth?”

    10. E*

      My weight also fluctuates and I am short so clothes can be hard. I’ve found that wrap style dresses still fit if my size changes up or down and look flattering on many body types. I also wear a lot of structured looking skirts that have some stretch and top with a tank & cardigan. These types of clothes don’t tend to wrinkle as much and cardigans can present as more dressy than just a plain top. Making sure your shoes are clean and unscuffed go a long way too. I have always had oily skin and a quick press of tissue or blotting paper at midday can help me feel more put together without makeup. I also use tiny hair colored flat clips to keep some of my escaping hair in place, I like them better than bobby pins.

    11. peggy's mom*

      I don’t wear makeup either (not even at my wedding lol) and making sure my eyebrows are groomed is key for me. Sometimes I brush them up with Glossier boy brow (in clear) but I notice that I feel way sloppier if they’re growing out and look messy, even if I don’t change anything else. For your hair, do you have curly hair? Getting a curly cut/using products designed for curly hair can REALLY help with frizz!! But if not, make sure you’re conditioning enough.

    12. Kat*

      I work in a polished industry and never used to feel polished, so I’ve made a study of this! Full disclosure, I do wear light makeup most days, but for me eyebrows make the biggest difference to how polished my face feels – I get them professionally shaped and tinted a few times a year.

      At one point in my life I also put a lot of effort into finding work clothes and brands that I really liked, that fit well, and were comfortable, and now I mostly stick to that formula. I’ve had a couple of tailoring tweaks on every pair of work trousers I own so they fit really well. I wear a lot of dresses and if there’s something that makes them not quite right for me – hemline hits at the wrong part of the leg, neck too tight (I hate crew necks), shirt dress with gaping between buttons – I get them tailored too. I remember a long time ago reading some advice to add a ‘third piece’ to look put together – a necklace /blazer/cardi – and it does seem to make outfits feel more intentional. I also keep track of which combinations of clothes make me feel really good and which make me feel rubbish.

      Finally, I realised that the people I admired who looked polished put effort into it. I’d felt like it was just something they had that I didn’t, and everyone’s else’s faces remained remarkably unshiny all day while I slowly disintegrated into a puddle. Once I’d realised they were using blotting papers or brushing hair or that they had keratin blow dries or they were actually wearing makeup I felt much better about my perceived failures!

      1. Chidi has a stomach ache*

        I would emphasize this last paragraph — when I wanted to streamline my grooming and be more low-maintenance, I quickly figured out that a lot of women who seemed effortless actually put in a lot of effort, just in different ways. They were getting their brows laminated, their lashes tinted, they got chemical peels or laser treatments, they had multi-step hair washing routines, etc etc. From what you’ve described, you’re meeting professional expectations. I bet the people you’re interacting with are not noticing the things you cite as “unpolished” (like frizz) to the same degree you yourself do.

    13. Generic Name*

      Maybe add a scarf or jewelry? I too do not wear makeup, and I see more and more women going without. Both in the office and beyond. If your hair is curly, you could try the “curly girl method”. What kind of shoes are you wearing? I think your outfits sound great, but if you’re wearing sneakers or something else that reads casual, maybe upgrade to a dressier shoe?

    14. Girasol*

      When you’ve made your choices on clothes and grooming, imagine that your competence, confidence, and personality shine so much that the interviewers don’t even notice your physical presentation. You don’t want to any last minute misgivings about how you look to hold you back.

    15. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I won’t say I’m necessarily the most polished person, but for me it’s about balancing my efforts, i.e. if I don’t want to make an effort in one area, I’ll try more in another. For me, sometimes that includes makeup and sometimes doesn’t. I like statement accessories (earrings, glasses, necklaces) and those can be attention grabbers in a way that makes you look like you put in more effort than you did on days where you’re not feeling it; if my hair is being weird, I’ll put on a big necklace that makes me look fancier than usual and draws attention away from my hair. Other times I might put on a pair of glasses that make my eyes look smaller and more tired than usual, so I balance that out with just a bit of mascara so I don’t look like a cadaver. (That’s not advice for you to wear makeup, just something I do.)

      I think if you live in a humid area, you’re probably not alone in having humidity-related hair concerns so I think those types of problems don’t come across as unpolished as you might think because they’re so common.

      For clothes, I think polished people generally have unwrinkled clothing that’s in a state of good repair (e.g. no holes, fallen hems, stains, etc.). If you’ve got that covered, I find layering often helps people looked polished because your outfit then becomes about styling pieces together rather than just covering your body. I feel like every outfit is always improved by a cardigan or jacket, but that obviously depends on the temperature where you live.

    16. Delta Delta*

      One thing that helps me feel polished is if my eyebrows are in good shape. I get them waxed from time to time to help with the shape, and somehow it just makes me feel more put together, even when I’m not wearing makeup. This might be more than you want to do, but it’s a fairly low-stakes thing to try.

    17. Awkwardness*

      What about necklaces, thin scarfs, earrings or layers?
      I know that dark colours tend to read professional, but I feel no everybody can pull this off effortlessly. Sometimes additional colour/contrast through accessoires can help.

      1. Awkwardness*

        Think of a long silver necklace over a dark coloured top, a statement necklace in a contrast colour or in shiny metal, a dark shiny belt over a dark non-shiny tunic, a dark top and a dark tunic with a hint of sheerness, or the top matching the colour of your shoes. If a wider cut, than heavy-flowy fabics with less potential for crinkle.
        Most of the time it is this little extra effort that goes beyond the simple combination of trousers and top.
        And dressing according to your body shape!

        I did a lot of reading on this topic some years ago on colours/body shapes and this finally helped me identify why some things looked really good on me, even polished, and some not. I can only recommend this.

          1. Awkwardness*

            I started with this blog:
            https://insideoutstyleblog.com/

            I realise that she now covers more topics as menopause and ageing/graying, so those posts that I found highly educating might be a bit burried. So try the search mask! I will also include a few links from my bookmarks as a starting point:
            https://insideoutstyleblog.com/2012/06/e-is-for-elongation.html
            https://insideoutstyleblog.com/2010/01/how-to-wear-a-belt-when-you-dont-have-a-waist.html
            https://insideoutstyleblog.com/2011/08/8-top-tips-to-dressing-a-short-waist.html
            https://insideoutstyleblog.com/2014/10/the-undertones-of-colours.html
            https://insideoutstyleblog.com/2011/09/how-to-figure-out-your-contrast.html
            https://insideoutstyleblog.com/2013/04/how-to-choose-necklaces-to-work-with-your-neckline.html
            https://insideoutstyleblog.com/2010/05/more-on-how-to-figure-out-your-body-shape.html

            Hope this helps!

      2. feline outerwear catalog*

        I recently tried Olaplex and love it for frizzy hair. It’s expensive, but at least for me, I don’t need to use very much and I have shorter hair. It was recommended by a friend who uses the whole system. I started with just the conditioner which is enough for me most days. I add the bond smoother on really bad days, like if it’s raining heavily. I also like that it’s not overly scented or perfumey.

        My friend also recommended the living proof anti frizz spray, which is also expensive. It worked but was way, way, way too strongly scented for me. I even tried spraying just my brush than brushing it through and it was too much.

        Black Friday sales are coming up if you want to give either of those a shot, good luck, the frizz struggle is real!!

      3. AnonAnon*

        Yes agree about adding color! OP mentioned wearing dark tops with black pants, and I’m not sure all the dark colors necessarily add up to a polished look. Having too little contrast between the top and bottom can look unflattering. Wearing well-fitting colors that complements each person’s skin-tone may work better.

    18. Always Tired*

      Hear me out: jewelry and eyebrows.

      As simple as a pearl necklace or gold pendant with small earrings really pulls an outfit together. It looks more intentional, which is what makes people look polished. You don’t even need a lot of jewelry or expensive jewelry. Just one simple set that doesn’t look plasticky you wear every day would do it.

      Also eyebrows. Well groomed and shaped eyebrows go a long way to looking “put together.” I even have a friend who has very light eyebrows who dyes them a little darker (like, a shade or two, nothing drastic) so they are more noticeable without having to add makeup.

    19. And then there was one*

      1. jewelry
      2. other accessories like scarves, nice bag/briefcase
      3. invest in a good quality blazer and more formal work wear in general
      4. heeled shoe

    20. DistantAudacity*

      Lots of good suggestions! i’ll throw in – is there a way to jazz up your already good skin care a bit? That is often the foundation of a really polished no-make up look.

      For me, regular use of those masks that are brightening/contain vitamin C gives a great boost, especially if I remember to do them twice a month or so. What works for you will of course depend :)

      1. Constance Lloyd*

        The glycolic acid toner from The Ordinary has done wonders for my combination skin, which is prone to both oiliness and dryness, along with the occasional cystic acne

      2. TX Lizard*

        Yeah, I’m thinking that might be an area of need. I tend to have clear skin (thank you spironolactone) but I often get asked if I’m tired! You can really see it in my eyes. I’ve been considering trying some of those mini under eye masks.

    21. AnonAnon*

      Adding another vote for well shaped and groomed eyebrows. I’m in my late-40’s now, and my work requires a certain level of polish. I gotta tell you, it takes some effort. I don’t believe make-up is required at all. Most days the only make-up I wear is undereye concealer. But if I’m meeting with the CEO, I put on some lipstick.

      I do think hair could be a big factor. For me, the combo of three things works really well:
      – Moroccanoil Hair Oil Treatment has been most effective in managing frizz and defining my curls. A few drops go a long way. I was a bit wary at first, especially given the price point. But I went for it and got a travel sized bottle, and instantly fell in love with it.
      -Recently, I also started using a mulberry silk pillowcase, and noticed it made a difference. Subtle, but noticeable. Found them on Amazon.
      -Microfiber hair wraps to dry my hair after shower. They dry up my hair so well I don’t need to blow dry, which I avoid as it could add more frizz and damage.

      Maybe consider switching out your wide leg pants? I don’t know your body type, but for me, I’m only 5’1″, and wide leg pants that give my taller friends an amazing silhouette just make me look weighed down and frumpy. Boot cut pants fitted above the knees are my go-to.

      You didn’t mention what shoes shoes you typically wear, so I don’t know if they could be a factor affecting your self-perceived polish level. I found the toe-shape and heel shape/height of the shoes make a huge difference. Pointy-ish toes, 2-inch heels (paired with boot cut pants) are my go-to.

      1. TX Lizard*

        I’ve been wondering about the pants. I love the concept of the look, but I do worry it’s reading more frumpy on me. Thanks for the hair recs too!

    22. Red Flags Everywhere*

      What I’ve found works AMAZING for fluctuating weight is dresses without a defined waistline and more or less (usually a little less) around knee-length, paired with an open-front blazer or cadigan. I wear basic flats and bare legs in the summer, leggings and boots in the winter. I’m so sensitive (and often allergic) that I have a very basic set of tolerable accessories, but they are all simple sterling silver. Took me decades, but I pay for more expensive hair care products now (Curlsmith, YMMV) and use way more gunk than I would have ever considered when I was younger – (every 2-4 days – shampoo 2-3 rounds, conditioner, then hair serum followed by leave-in conditioner while I’m still in the shower), then squish-dry with a wet, wrung-out muslin towel, then scrunch and let air dry. Some days there’s no frizz at all – which younger me wouldn’t have believed possible.

    23. sulky-anne*

      I think more structured clothes tend to give a slightly more polished/put-together look by default, as long as they fit well. You might need to experiment to see what is comfortable enough and fits reliably enough to be worth the tradeoff, but even adding a blazer or jacket into the rotation could make a difference. I tend to like a button-down/sweater combination, but it usually takes some work to find shirts that fit well.

    24. reckless eyeballing*

      hair gel and a very dense toothbrush will handle flyaways and frizz. you need to choose a gel appropriate to the weather and your hair texture/shape. hairspray can work but it’s less effective than gel for hair that isn’t straight

    25. Indolent Libertine*

      For the frizz and baby hairs, I totally swear by Rusk “Str8.” Best frizz product I’ve ever used bar none.

    26. Teacher732*

      I am 40 years old and stopped wearing all makeup about two years ago (but I only ever wore minimal eye makeup anyway). Here is what has helped me:
      1. I brush my eyebrows to keep them in place before I leave the house.
      2. I have oily skin so I wear a face lotion that creates a matte effect on my skin to keep from being shiny (shiny works for some, not for me).
      3. I wear dresses that’s aren’t form fitting for comfort with weight change. Many styles can be polished without being tailored. Sweater dresses with a pashmina, midi length cotton dresses with a relaxed blazer…etc). Fiber content can make clothing look more polished. A cotton or wool midi dress will last longer and look more put together throughout the day than a synthetic midi dress. It will also not hold sweat and stains and odors are badly and will retain shape.
      4. I leaned into the colors that compliment my skin tone best. This honestly makes the most difference. I’m pale. Casper the ghost-pale. And I have copper red hair. So, although black works for everyone, I reserve black for formal occasions. It looks harsh on me. My neutrals are browns and blue Jean denim colors. Makes my whole look more cohesive and look polished just by changing the colors that make my skin look refreshed.
      4. I have a little capsule wardrobe for each season where everything mixes and matches and can be worn whether I gain or lose 20lb. So I never have to think too much to make sure I look presentable. Sometimes I even wear the same thing twice in a week-never had a soul notice. People think I’m very meticulous getting dressed everyday-but I don’t even have to think about it!

    27. Self Employed Employee*

      Maybe you need to upgrade your fabrics? Inexpensive fabrics like polyester jersey can really look unintentionally unpolished. I don’t know what you wear, but you can try upgrading your materials to wool, silk, etc.

  24. Platonic only please*

    I has a friendship with a coworker that went bad recently, and I need scripts for what to say when I’m inevitably asked about it.

    My workplace has a lot of break room chatting as we have hard jobs and sometimes need to get away from our desks. This ex-friend and I used to chat everyday during my lunch break and throughout the day if we ran into each other in the break room. This person crossed one of my boundaries in a big way and I now want nothing to do with them outside of polite chats about the weather or normal kvetching in group discussions.

    I’ve already ended the friendship and don’t believe there will be any other issues besides this, but I’m stressing about what to say if people ask. One colleague has already mentioned not seeing me in the break room as much and asked why, and I just said something about it being a busy week. But is there anything else I can say? Something that doesn’t indicate drama and seems like a boring but plausible?

    1. ferrina*

      People are very unlikely to ask why you aren’t hanging out with Ex-Friend. It sounds like Colleague that mentioned was more commenting on Colleague not seeing you, not you not hanging out with Ex-Friend.

      Practice a few scripts that bring it back to work. Use it as a moment to cultivate your professional relationship with other coworkers. “I’ve been really busy. Let me tell you about this project….” or “It’s been one of those weeks! How is your week going?”

      If someone asks directly about you and Ex-Friend (again, usually not likely), you can say “Oh, we haven’t been hanging out much. Honestly, I’ve been so busy with the TPS reports, I’ve seen the Accounting team more than my own cat! My cat has demanded tuna from me as remittance. Do you have any pets?”
      (Note the subject change from Ex-Friend to work things to pets. Folks generally can’t track more than one subject change, and most people would be distracted by pets anyways).
      Worse comes to worse… “Oh, you know. Wait, is it really 3:15?! Oh shoot, I lost track of time! Excuse me!” then rush off like you have something urgent to take care of.

    2. single woman in own for many many many years*

      I’m focused on getting my steps (point to Fitbit or other watch).
      I’m trying to up my healthy activity/ mindfullness / single-tasking game.
      I’ve started using my down time to meditate.

    3. RagingADHD*

      “Oh, really? I dunno,” and immediately ask them an innocuous question like “that smells good, did you make it?” or “got any plans this weekend?” or “love those shoes, where’d you find them?” or “hey, do we need to submit those TPS reports to Joe this week?”

  25. my cat is prettier than me*

    How do you cope when your company does business with a really unethical company? My company is small, but one of our customers is a large company that has done some really horrible things. We also sometimes will order food from unethical places. I’ve been looking to leave my job for other reasons, but I’m not sure what to do in the meantime.

    1. Jane Bingley*

      Oh man, I feel this. I used to work for an international development organization that bought the cheapest coffee they possibly could, and said fair trade coffee would be too expensive. Even though we worked directly with people who couldn’t feed their families because they worked at incredibly low-wage jobs!

      In our case, there was a small group in the office who bought their own fair-trade coffee and were happy to let others who wanted to use it in on the pool. It was an extra few bucks a month but there were several employees who preferred it – some for ethical reasons and some because it was just better coffee. We also made a point of raising each time budget season came around and asked if we could compare that choice to our company values to decide if we could be more ethical. By the time I left, it was still cheap coffee, but I know the campaign continued.

    2. Hiring Mgr*

      I’m not sure but step 1 is probably to see if other people have the same view of what’s an unethical company. For some, all oil companies are bad but we need to get gas, heat, etc. For others, it’s soda and sugary things, but if Coke wants to work with you, who will say no?

      For others it’s gambling, adult content, etc.. Point is not everyone will agree with what’s unethical so you dont want to spend your time/capital hitting your head against the wall

      1. my cat is prettier than me*

        Unfortunately the unethical nature is tied to a very contentious political issue, so I wouldn’t feel comfortable bringing it up with anyone.

    3. Katie Anderson*

      One option is to try to be more ethical in your personal choices, if you can. Buy the more ethical versions of things, skip buying things if you can’t afford the ethical version, etc.

      Another option is to give money to good causes. GiveWell is an org that does evaluations of organizations for how effective they are at achieving their goals, like how much the org has to spend to save a life. If you donate to their Top Charities Fund, it goes to the highest priority organizations. GiveDirectly gives money directly to some of the most desperately poor people in the world. Or find an organization that helps people, the animals, or the part of the environment that is harmed by the horrible large company your employer does business with.

    4. HR Exec Popping In*

      Are these things that are within your control? You can express your opinion on them to whomever has decision rights but then let it go. You have already decided to leave the company. And honestly I find that it is not helpful to waste energy on things completely outside of your control like this.

    5. UKDancer*

      I think if you have a good relationship with them, speak to whoever orders the food and suggest somewhere else. I’d probably avoid being too critical of the unethical place but maybe say “I had a great meal from Good Burger place last week. Could we try them instead of Bad Burger next time?”

      People are generally more willing to do what you want if you make it easy for them. So I’d find somewhere with same food but better ethics and suggest trying it for a change, that way it’s really easy for them to try the other place. The organiser may say no, but it may be worth a while if you think they’re a fairly reasonable person.

    6. WorkingRachel*

      Does it help to mentally place the unethical company on some kind of continuum in your head? The mention of unethical food outlets makes me wonder how you’re defining “unethical,” since many (all?) chain restaurants are unethical in some ways (labor practices, how they’re sourcing their food, what they do with leftover food), but only a tiny handful would I consider so bothersome I wouldn’t want to patronize them at a group lunch (Hooters comes to mind). That’s not because those other issues aren’t important–they are–but because living in our society requires us to pick and choose our compromises.

      I have a lot of ideals, and the missions of many, many companies are against what I believe in my heart of hearts, to the extent that I’m not working in the main field I’m trained before because I find the entire field unethical (and it’s a field most people consider positive). My current organization is involved with some initiatives I find sizeist and offensive. I don’t have the authority to change that, and I haven’t totally figured out how to deal with it. But it helps some to remember that there are lots and lots of organizations I would find MORE bothersome, and at least I’m not working for any of those places.

      Probably not helpful if the organization in question has been directly horrible to a group of people that you’re part of, in which case I guess you just compartmentalize until you can get the hell out.

  26. Cyndi*

    This morning’s post reminded me of an old problem I had! I know the general wisdom about discussing someone’s anatomy vs. gender is to specify by anatomy if it’s actually the relevant point, eg with people who menstruate. But I used to work in a retail job that involved, among other things, selling jock and jill straps for children, and while I would totally have loved to be the change I wanted to see in the world and not assume what protection someone needed based on their gender and/or presentation, in practice there just wasn’t an appropriate way to raise the question about someone’s child in a non-medical setting. The best I ever came up with was “And you said you’re looking for a cup, right?” under the pretense of just repeating back someone’s question for confirmation.

    Was this a situation where I just had to make the assumption, given the very small (but not zero) odds of it actually becoming an issue? Or was there a better way to handle it that I didn’t think of?

    1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      So I’m picturing you being in that section and someone approaching you. Wouldn’t they have asked, “Where are the jock straps?” I guess I’m not sure why they wouldn’t be leading. But you could say, “What kind of support did you want?” or “What type of protection were you looking for?” or just, “What product did you have in mind?”

    2. NaoNao*

      Was there a bland medical term for the various devices? I’d go with that like “and will Little Tootums be needing a Protective Adjustable Gusset Warmer? Great, and which one would be the best fit for Tootums?” but I’m having trouble figuring out what circumstances would come up often enough where you have to guess on the gender of the child in question! Typically parents ask for a [gender appropriate item] and therefore indicate the required gender/sex, right? If you’re trying to upsell Gusset Warmers, maybe?

    3. Tio*

      Could you have said something like “We also offer protection such as jock or jill straps; would you need either one of those?” Most people would say “oh yes one jock please” but if they didn’t specify you could say “Ok so which would be more suitable? The jock or the jill?”

    4. Generic Name*

      If it’s for kids, I feel like it’s most expedient to keep all that stuff in one area, so you can direct parents to one location for….let’s call it “really personal protective equipment” rather than having to ask what parts a kid has.

      1. Donkey Hotey*

        Yes, I like this. Even if they’re not exactly in the same spot. “protective equipment is on aisle 13 or 17.”

    5. sulky-anne*

      In this kind of setting you want to avoid having to ask anyone about their privates, in addition to not wanting to make assumptions. If possible, I would come up with a spiel describing the jock and jill straps and their functions and let the customer select one. From that point, they can choose whether to engage with you any more, or quietly take one so their kid doesn’t get put on the spot in public. Of course, not all parents are going to be understanding or discreet, but you can do your best to avoid embarrassing or upsetting the kid.

    6. Mad Harry Crewe*

      Is there a reason you couldn’t ask for clarification about the product, rather than about the anatomy?

      Parent: And we need gear for Sport.
      You: Sure thing! Typically Sport requires elbow and knee pads, helmet, and groin protection like a jock or jill strap. Boys’ gear is on aisle 6, girls’ gear is on aisle 7.

      or, All of this is in the Protective Gear department, follow me!

  27. J All Trades*

    I am about a month and half into my new job–and I really like it! And we will be moving into a new building in a few months that will allow us to really improve our offerings to the community. One of those things is a skills lab/maker space and the murmurings are that we might need to hire someone. However, this is something that I am totally equipped for and have a lot of provable skills in. How do I start to hint that this is a position that my bosses should consider me for?

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Don’t hint! Alison has all kinds of advice here about how to ask for a raise or a promotion and while this may not be either of those things, you might find that advice useful. But one thing I’ve learned from reading AAM (and Captain Awkward, too) is “Use your words.” I’m still working on that myself, but it is definitely better than beating around the bush.

      You could either come out and say to the bosses that you have the skills they are looking for or just ask them if it’d be a position they would consider you for.

    2. Jay (no, the other one)*

      May be too soon after you started, but if you want to go for it, don’t hint. Talk to your boss. “I’m really excited about the new maker space! I heard that we might be hiring someone to manage it. I’d love to be considered if that’s an option.”

    3. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Absolutely do not hint! Come straight out and say “if you’re ever looking to hire someone to be x, I have a lot of experience in it and would be very interested in filling that role!”

    4. Red Flags Everywhere*

      One of my staff didn’t tell me she had relevant background (and hadn’t included it on her resume because she didn’t think it mattered) when I was working on a new job description for a new staff member. The hire didn’t work out, and when I was discussing how to proceed with a senior staffer, she suggested I offer it to my existing person first. If I’d known up front we would have made different choices in the first place. Absolutely speak up.

  28. BRR*

    I’m about ten years into my professional career and have been at my job for four years. While I like the field I’m in and where I work, I’m not challenged intellectually in my role. I was laid off from my prior toxic job and took this position due to needing a paycheck but it was a step down. Unfortunately there is no chance at upward mobility here because another person is already doing the only type of work I’m interested in/qualified to do and I don’t see them leaving anytime soon.

    Additionally I’m in a relatively small field, not close to many employers in my field, and earn a somewhat decent salary so there aren’t a ton of jobs for me to apply for. I essentially need a well paying, fully remote job which end up having extremely competitive applicants pools. And combine that with taking a step down, my resume can only be so strong because I can’t rack up stand out accomplishments in my lower level roll.

    So not really a particular question but looking just for any general advice on my situation? I don’t want to have to take a pay cut to have more advanced responsibilities. But I feel like my career has stalled being in this lower level roll and because my last job being so toxic.

    1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      If I understand you, you haven’t applied for any jobs. So far you’ve given a laundry list of possible problems, but you have no idea if they are actually problems yet.

      Start looking now, with the mindset that it will likely take a while to find something, but you can’t get a new job without looking. Also, since you want fully remote, I don’t see how it matters if you’re close to employers? Maybe you need to cast a wider net and apply in other states?

      Also, you need to start networking if you’re in a small field. Maybe join a trade group or association? Attend conferences?

      1. PX*

        This. You just have to work on making your resume look as impressive as it possibly can (dont lie, but also dont downplay whatever achievements you have) and then just get on the grind of applying for jobs, learn how to interview well, network in whatever way you can, and chances are, at the very least you will get a modest pay rise and more importantly, be in a better job that allows you to grow and set yourself up for success in future.

      2. BRR*

        Ooh that would have been important to include lol. I have applied to jobs when something comes along, it’s just far and few between.

  29. Lunar Moth*

    It’s likely that I am about to achieve a significant career milestone. At least it’s significant to me, and I’ve worked hard to get here. (If I don’t, I’ll be back in a couple weeks looking for commiseration.)

    I’d like to celebrate, assuming it goes through, but I also want to be sensitive. Some people in my life are struggling in frustrating job searches, some are very unhappy in their careers, and a few want the same type of promotion I’m likely to get, but may never get there for reasons beyond their control.

    It seems more polite and conscientious just to quietly brush it under the rug and be privately content. But dang it, I also want to be allowed to share my success with people I care about.

    Is there a balance? Do I just suck it up and acknowledge that I’m already getting a good thing and don’t need further accolades? Am I being wildly overdramatic? (yes.) Really though, I am torn between wanting to share a happy personal achievement and not wanting to feel like a smug jerk if/when I do.

    1. This sounds familiar*

      Are you in academia and getting tenure? I had a very similar conversation with a friend in that situation today…
      Not celebrating good things that happen in your life won’t magically make good things happen for other people, and it won’t stop them from hurting if those things don’t happen to them. Please celebrate your accomplishment (even if that just means sharing about it)!

      1. Lunar Moth*

        LOL, yes. Apparently I did a poor job of being vague.
        I guess my concern is whether it’s in poor taste to talk about it on social media or something like that?

        1. Jay (no, the other one)*

          Not at all. Celebrating isn’t gloating. I’m sure you won’t go on for weeks and weeks!

          Fingers crossed for you.

        2. The Prettiest Curse*

          I follow quite a few academics on LinkedIn for work purposes, and celebrating a big milestone like this is definitely something they would post about – so feel free to brag on social media!

        3. Irish Teacher.*

          I don’t think so. I went through a number of years when I was subbing and couldn’t get a full-time job. I’d still have been happy to congratulate any of my friends who got CID (Contract of Indefinite Duration). I think most people like to see others succeeding. Now if you were constantly talking about nothing else or implying that getting it made you better than those who didn’t that would be different, but assuming it’s just something like “so excited to have tenure,” I think that is fine.

        4. Kimmy Schmidt*

          Almost all the academics I know have posted something about their tenure approval on social media! It’s a big deal, and people know how much work is involved. I’d say as long as you don’t harp on it for multiple posts or share something wildly out of touch, you’re golden.

        5. Bo Peep*

          There’s a big difference between celebrating on your own social media (“HEY LOOK WHAT I DID GUYS!”) vs like going to other people’s pages (“sorry bout your grandma but I DID A COOL THING”). You should be allowed to celebrate yourself in your own space!

    2. Morgan Proctor*

      Share your personal achievement! You’re not responsible for other people’s feelings about it. It’s nice that you’re concerned, but real friends will be happy for you.

    3. Generic Name*

      Throw a party! Invite your friends. Your friends will be happy for you, right? If a friend’s personal career struggles mean they can’t be happy for you and celebrate, presumably they’ll decline an invite. But more likely, they’ll be able to celebrate your success and be adult enough to realize it’s not all about them and your success doesn’t negate their struggles.

    4. DisneyChannelThis*

      Share your success! Posting on social media is fine. Inviting people out to dinner to celebrate it is fine. Hosting a party to celebrate is also fine! Tenure is a big deal! You worked hard for it!

      If you don’t acknowledge it happening, my assumption as a friend would be that maybe you didn’t get it and didn’t want to discuss it because you were upset. Don’t let that impression linger.

    5. Hillary*

      You should absolutely celebrate it – it’s a huge accomplishment. people don’t get tenure at someone else. and congratulations!!!

      You sound like a very polite and conscientious person so I’m sure you’ll do it in good taste. Bad taste would be a post that says nyah, nyah, I got tenure and so-and-so didn’t. ;-)

    6. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

      I threw a party after the end of the academic year when I got tenure. That was standard for my library.

      However – there was one year when 4 people were up for tenure and only 1 got it (one appealed and was awarded tenure after review and the other 2 had to leave at the end of the academic year). There were no celebratory parties that year. If I remember correctly, one talked about having a dinner with family and non-library friends to celebrate.

      1. Lunar Moth*

        Noooo, that is a nightmare! For better or worse, I’m the only one up in my department this semester. My case is strong, but uni politics are unpredictable, so you never know.

        Most of my non-academia friends & relatives are either far away geographically or semi-opposed to higher ed and think tenure is some great evil that will let me brainwash innocent children.
        (I mean, I kinda agree about the evil part after all this, but definitely not for the same reasons!)

  30. Reluctant Party Planner*

    I’m the assistant manager of a department at a nonprofit institution and my boss, the manager, is retiring soon. He has been a part of this organization for 30 years and is revered by everyone. As the assistant manager, will I be obligated to plan a retirement party for him when it’s the unofficial organizational norm?

    To be blunt, I don’t want to celebrate him. Since I arrived as assistant manager two years ago, he’s gone into coast mode and left it to me to do pretty much all of the department’s heavy lifting. After tomorrow, he’s going on leave for two months, only to give notice when he returns and then subsequently retire another month later. He’s admitted that he’ll barely be invested in work during that last month. And by that point (end of winter 2024), our organization will have absorbed a significant budget cut and a hiring freeze will mean that I’ll be stuck at the assistant manager level indefinitely while doing manager work.

    (To be perfectly clear, he hasn’t asked for a party–and won’t ask. But other people who retire from this organization with similar credentials and sentiment about them have had big parties thrown for them, usually involving catering, a farewell gift and donations from staff. I’m speculating that the expectation of a party will be there, not from him specifically, but from my colleagues in an organization of several hundred people overall.)

    With that being said… do you think I need to put my negative feelings aside (some of which are admittedly jealousy; I’m 15+ years away from retirement) and be the person to eventually arrange for a party for this guy? Thanks for any thoughts on this.

    1. WellRed*

      I think you’re at BEC stage with this guy and it’s clouding your thinking. Jealousy is never a good look (as we say here, he’s not retiring at you). And Of course he’s coasting. He’s got a foot out the door. And no, I don’t think you need to arrange a party. Is that how it usually works?

      1. Reluctant Party Planner*

        You’re 100% right. No contest to any of what you said.
        Oddly, at this org it generally has been on rank-and-file staff to organize or not organize parties, which is kind of strange.

        1. Alisaurus*

          Hmm… If you feel like you should just due to org norms and such, maybe a reframe of the whole thing might be helpful? You’re not celebrating /him/, per se, but more his tenure/the fact that he’s departing/that other people at the org might want the bigger sendoff. (Not to mention that, rightly or not, the optics of you not planning something if you’re kind of expected to might be weird.) But also, that’s a lot of work on you, so I wonder if you could bring it up with someone higher up and plead workload issues/etc and either get out of it entirely or get some help putting it on. (And this is quadruple-so if there’s no real budget because you shouldn’t be forced to foot that bill for any reason.)

    2. HR Exec Popping In*

      If it is normal for you position to throw the party, then yes you should do it. Reframe it in your brain from “celebrating his retirement” to “celebrating you will soon be rid of him”. That can seriously help.

    3. Hiring Mgr*

      Pretty normal for someoene working 30 years to wind down a little only months away from their retirement.

      If you’re expected to arrange the party and don’t, especially for someone well liked and revered, there’s a good chance you’ll come off poorly. Is it really worth it for something so minor

    4. linger*

      If it’s usual for rank-and-file staff to arrange these things, are there other employees who worked longer with this guy, and have better memories of him, who could be asked to arrange the party for him? You could legitimately phrase it as “you knew him better than I did”.

  31. sam_i_am*

    On Monday, I emailed the lead of another team at my workplace to see if a transfer is possible, and she hasn’t gotten back to me :/. I also found out from someone on her team that the last opening they had got 250 applications!

    My hope is that they’d be able to make a position for me, which I have reasons to think might be possible, though it’d be complicated to explain here.

    Now I’m just in the position where I have to figure out when/how to follow up. I’m realizing more and more that I need something new sooner rather than later, but the it’s not a great market for programmer jobs at the moment. The most interesting thing I’ve done all week is a bug fix that required changing two lines of code.

    1. sam_i_am*

      Update!!

      I got an email back from the other team lead just a moment ago. She asked for a resume and cover letter, so I have to choose which resume version to send and write a cover letter; I’ll probably send those over tomorrow.

    2. m2*

      Good luck! Do not be discouraged if you have to interview with others. Many organizations have a policy where you have to interview a certain # of people/ can’t create or transfer someone without posting the job for certain # of days.

      Asking for a cover letter and a resume is a great start especially when it goes straight to the team!

      1. sam_i_am*

        Thanks! I’m definitely expecting others to be interviewed, but I think I have a good shot at this position.

  32. Unwilling unvolunteer*

    I got voluntold to co-organise a weekly event early next year (not a part of my main work duties, but a rotating responsibility among members of a committee that I need to stay on because of internal politics). I was not able to attend the meeting where the theme was decided and they chose a theme that is completely uninteresting and trivial to me, and I’ve just heard that the weekly event has been scheduled on my busiest day of the week (“because it’s ALWAYS on Tuesdays”). And my co-organiser is super active so I feel like I’m not pulling my weight. I’m not willing to spend what capital I have on getting out of this responsibility (because again, internal politics), so how do I suck it up and contribute effectively when I hate everything about it?

    1. Busy Middle Manager*

      Is it just me or is the undertone of comments “my company is understaffed so is throwing random tasks at me” lately. Unfortunately, and I used to not be the person to recommend this, you need to do something similar to malicious compliance. Do the bare minimum, have an austere/boring event. Don’t play dumb/sabotage, but don’t go above and beyond.

      I’ve “bootstrapped” before but I’ve seen and heard ridiculous examples of companies being ridiculously cheap with staff and expecting big results, it’s time to push back.

      If you receive criticism, all you need to do is say the truth – event planning is a separate job, the theme didn’t give you anything to work with, you had other work, you were dragged into it last minute.

    2. HR Exec Popping In*

      While annoying I always put things like this into the category of all of the other random tasks all jobs have that people don’t like sometimes. Think of this no differently than completing that TPS report. The other person you are working with weirdly loves the TPS report. Good for them. You don’t have to love it. You just have to get it done and do it well. Sorry you are stuck doing this.

    3. Katie*

      Maybe focus on the things that can be fixed for a reason? Like Tuesdays thing. Ask if it can be moved to another day because Tuesdays would be an impossibly hard day.

    4. EMP*

      if your coworker is super active can you just…do less? quiet quit I guess? you can’t make the weekly event. let your coworker know they can delegate to you but you think they’re doing a great job and don’t spend a lot more thought on finding work to do.

  33. little e*

    My company announced they are laying off more than 50% of their people. My entire team is getting the axe. They say that I have a job if I want one and my manager may be staying on part-time or on a short-term contract. I don’t want to stay at this company without my team so I’ve been looking for other jobs. I’ve been at this company more than 10 years. It’s been a crazy week.

    I guess having a job is better than not having a job, but I wish I could get the severance instead. It’s a weird feeling to be counting down until Christmas, which is also counting down to the end of this job as I know it.

    Guess I just wanted to share and ask for some solidarity.

    1. Anon for this one*

      I feel this SO MUCH! A reorg was announced at our parent company that affects my company this time (past times haven’t) and I have A job, but not MY job. The people I work with most closely are all getting spread around, so I won’t be working with them any longer. The people in my department are all safe for now and I’m really happy for that, but I’m losing all the things that I love most about my job.

      Similar to you, I’ve been wishing I was just fired and given severance.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      I don’t want to stay at this company without my team

      This is why I hate it when people say stuff like “Those not affected by the layoffs.” Obviously, the people laid off are most directly affected, but everyone in the company is affected by layoffs, including those who remain. It can be demoralizing. You’ll probably have a higher workload. And, yeah, as you mentioned, you may actually want the severance.

      1. little e*

        I had this exact thought. The terminology people have been using is “impacted.” EVERYONE will be “impacted.” Some will be “losing their jobs.” I wish we could speak plainly about this stuff without all the softening business jargon.

    3. Donn*

      Sending solidarity. During one of my job searches, I almost wished I’d just been laid off instead. I was close to top salary for my job, and knew that was the roadblock at more than a few places.

  34. Dee Dee*

    We had a re-org this week! Oh boy. I’m still processing it. My manager, whom I liked, was moved to a different (new) team. Now I report to their former manager, and I have direct reports again. (I have been a senior individual contributor for the past year or so. The direct reports are from part of the team that used to report to me.)

    It was a bit weird. My manager told me at around 8:30 that she needed to meet with me later in the day. I thought it was odd but no big deal until a little while later, when a different former report of mine messaged me, distraught, because they’d been moved to a new manager with whom they (quite understandably) do not get along. So then I spent the rest of the day on tenterhooks about my meeting with my manager.

    Then about fifteen minutes after that meeting, new boss messaged me to ask if I’d met with my new reports yet. I wasn’t sure if they’d heard they were being moved yet. I did manage to get a few minutes with them and it turned out they’d known since early in the morning. Hrm.

    I guess I’m glad I still have a job, but I feel like this is re-orienting me away from the direction I want to go with my career. I had expected this re-org, but I thought it’d end up with me moving somewhere more interesting. I guess I am hoping I get a clearer mandate out of it, at least, because for the last year so I’ve felt like my role has not been well-defined. But I’ve been on the fence about sticking around anyway with a lack of other options where I live being the main barrier to looking for something new.

    I’m also annoyed/frustrated on behalf of my distraught former report: they moved that team under an individual in spite of successive leaders (including me, my predecessor, and my successors) warning them not to do that. They’ve wanted to consolidate those teams for years and I can see why that makes sense on paper, but not under that particular leader (who doesn’t especially understand or care for the craft of the team they have now absorbed).

    Anyway, it’s been a stressful week.

  35. cactus lady*

    I was contacted by a headhunter for a position as a CEO of a small nonprofit. It sounds really interesting, but I’m worried that if I take it I will have ZERO work-life balance. Does anyone have any experience as a nonprofit CEO, and if so can you chime in with what your take on work/life balance in that role is? Thanks!

    1. HR Exec Popping In*

      I don’t but I do know a few. And yes, the job can become all consuming. Especially if it is a cause you feel deeply about. But your work/life balance is really a choice. You need to define your own boundaries and give only up to that amount on any typical day (there will always be exceptions). While stressful, I would say the 3 CEOs/Managing Directors of non-profits I know love their work.

      1. Polyhymnia O’Keefe*

        This. One of my closest friends is a nonprofit CEO, and I know several others. They all have to be really careful about both their time and relationships. Cultivating both friendships and peer relationships with other nonprofit execs becomes a bit different, especially when the nonprofit is in a tight-knit community (in my case, the arts).

        Rex Libris’ comment below is definitely what I see. My friend has three teenagers, which is a different balance than having small kids or no kids, and I know it was also a family discussion when she took the job. The plus side is that while she has a lot of demands, she also has quite a lot of flexibility in her day-to-day schedule, so that helps make the balance work.

        But yes to community events, board meetings, fires to put out, networking, donor relations, and on and on. I know my friend said that she was talking to her therapist, who suggested that she completely unplug from work one day a week, which was really not realistic. Not be in the office, sure. Not think about work, not realistic. Especially not on a pre-determined schedule.

        (However, on that note, I think she would also say that a good therapist is also a really valuable tool as a CEO.)

        It’s a full life and a full job, but I know she’s passionate about it and she thinks it’s worth it, but also doesn’t think that it’s her “forever” job — maybe 10-15 years?

    2. Alisaurus*

      Could you ask some questions about that in an interview? If you’re interested, it might be worth exploring even if you end up opting not to take it.

    3. Rex Libris*

      I’m a manager who reports directly to the head of a nonprofit with about 100 staff. He has 40 hour weeks and 60 hour weeks, depending on what’s on fire. Probably two evenings a week he has board meetings, or community dinners, or something he’s expected to show up at outside usual business hours. YMMV.

    4. Generic Name*

      I’m on the board of a nonprofit. Staff is a mix of full and part time. I have no idea how many hours the executive director works, but she and all the staff have a fair amount of evening and weekend work obligations. Monthly board meetings are held early evening. Fundraisers on evenings and weekends. It’s not a TON of evening/weekend stuff, but more than plenty of jobs that never have evening/weekend stuff.

    5. MyExperience*

      it depends on the staffing levels in general, and also how much you want to protect the work/life balance of your staff. Also on exactly how you define work/life balance.

      I work as a director at a non-profit, reporting to the Executive Director (CEO). He generally logs off after an 8-9 hour day, but will check mail and periodically work on stuff (mostly reviewing things others have written) on nights and weekends.

      I often work 9-10 hour days, sometimes work 11-12 hour days, and every so often work even longer days (and even more rarely work on a weekend). But for the most part once I log off I’m off and not checking in about anything.

      We’re understaffed and stuff has to get done by set dates, especially some of the stuff I work on. I swapped Veteran’s Day (company holiday) for Nov 17 off, then on Thurs determined with prompting from my boss I needed to work that day (and put in just under 12 hours). Both of us were planning to take all week off next week but he’s going to work half days on M-W while I’m still taking Monday off, definitely working Tiesday, and may or may not work Wednesday depending on how things go. But even on those 12+ hour days unless I have a meeting scheduled I can decide exactly which hours I work.

      Are all non-profits like this? I have no idea. But what I’d do is figure out what you are and are not comfortable with and go in asking for it. But also know that things change and you may end up being asked to do more at a later point.

      Good luck!

  36. Alex*

    I guess this isn’t much of a question, but just more that I need to get this out here. I work in a customer-service facing position and there is this one customer who always greets me “Hey gorgeous.”

    I HATE THIS. I hate it I hate it I hate it. I do not want to think that you are assessing my attractiveness. I am not interested in what you think of my face or body. I’m 99% sure that he thinks this is a compliment (he’s a guy in his 60s, I’m in my 40s) and not a true come-on, but still. ew. Please just say hello. It makes me deeply uncomfortable.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Ooooooh, I would also HATE THIS. I actually do HATE THIS for you. Do you feel comfortable asking him to just call you by your name or something?

    2. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      I hate this so much!

      If you are at a front desko/bank teller kind of thing where you couldn’t have an actual talk, you’ll need to come up with something kind of breezy or even silly. “Oh, looks are so boring, I’d rather be called the Lego master, like good morning, if it isn’t the Lego master” while smiling. Or “thanks, it’s just Rebecca/thanks, just ‘Rebecca’ is fine, what can I do for you this morning?’

      I did this with an elderly volunteer who would do something similar to me, in public. I actually posted it on here a long time ago in one of the open threads.

      We had a good dynamic and trusting relationship already, and he had kind of a grandfatherly vibe. I also spent extended time with him (several hours a month) and could talk with him via phone or email whenever. That shaped my approach. It would have been different if it was not a trusting relationship.

      In my case, I co-opted him to help me fight sexism. He made a comment to me privately saying that his daughter tells him he “wasn’t very PC” and he said he “didn’t mean to be sexist” or something like that, but he was “old-fashioned”.

      I told him I totally get it and that I didn’t get any kind of inappropriate vibe from him, but then I explained to him the context around his comments. I’m getting a doctorate in social work so I used that as a lead in “what I’m learning in school right now is about how much women used to be – and really still often are, even though we’ve made a lot of progress – valued mainly for their looks. You see it in the media all the time – women actors or athletes or CEOs are featured in the news about their clothing choices or who they’re dating but when is the last time you heard someone ask Antonio Bandera “who he’s wearing” or a football player how he balances work and family, right? Haha. So when you give me compliments on my looks, you and I both know, because we have a good working relationship, that you just sincerely mean it as a kind compliment, and I take it that way. However, because of the historical and societal context, the comment is going to make others think of me as what I look like and not what I bring to the table in terms of competence. That goes double for a woman in the military because it’s 85% male, and any other male dominated industry. I’ve worked really hard to get where I am and I’m proud of what I’ve done. I know you’re proud of me too because you tell me. And it’s not just me – it’s people’s perception of any woman. Would you be willing to become a feminist and help keep the focus on what women do well? Or you could also help balance the scales and give [male counterpart] the same compliments in public at the same time as you give them to me, which would also help challenge some social norms”.

      He seemed to take it on, said I’d given him a lot to think about, and stopped with the compliments altogether.

      Good luck. It’s such an awkward position to be put in. You protest too much and there are consequences. You don’t protest and there are still consequences. Choose the consequences that bring you the most peace to your heart.

    3. nopetopus*

      When I was working a job that dealt with a lot of harassment, my boss told us to return the “compliment”. So if someone gave me a “hey cutie/gorgeous/etc” I’d say “Hi Baldy, how can I help you?” “Hey gramps, what do you need today?”

      The boss didn’t care if it lost us customers since they were shitty customers (her words) and we wanted to cultivate a respectful client base. But for the most part, those customers be taken aback but before they could even question it, their brains would catch up and know exactly why we greeted them that way. It worked well and those customers stopped calling us that.

      Not an option in all places, obviously! But I often dream about working for that boss again.

    4. Cyndi*

      I used to have a customer who called me “sweetheart” and the one time I said “hey, can you please not call me that?” totally casually with no elaboration at all, he said “Well I don’t MEAN anything by it! You don’t have to get upset! I call my daughter sweetheart!” Okay but I’m not your daughter either?

    5. RagingADHD*

      I have had good success by enthusiastically replying along the lines of “Hey back atcha, Shmoopie Pie!” or “Sweet Cheeks!” with a har-de-har-har kind of expression. Nobody likes that, but it is overtly friendly. I suppose there are people that it wouldn’t work on, but I haven’t ever encountered one who was willing to double down.

      1. kalli*

        I would deploy this carefully for the nonzero chance some rando considers it flirting and amps up instead.

    6. But Not the Hippopotamus*

      “Oh dang! Did I grab the wrong name tag AGAIN?!”

      Looks at name tag.

      “Sir, I think you need an eye exam.”

      (things I dream of doing)

  37. Slow Gin Lizz*

    I’m curious about wealth mining. I work for a nonprofit that works with patients who have a rare, progressive, disabling disease. We fund research for treatment/cure for the disease (as yet, there are no treatments but there are some clinical trials going on) but also provide information, support groups, and chapter events for patients and their families. We have a couple of staff members whose job it is to answer patients’ and family members’ questions about trying to find doctors and other clinicians or enter clinical trials. A large portion of our donations come from patients and their family members. Some of these donations are quite generous.

    We have a new development director who has decided that we should start doing wealth mining with the patients and families we already have contact with. (I do not believe the plan is to try to find outside people to wealth mine.) Somehow this feels a little icky to me; like, I get that of course we should be asking wealthy people for money rather than people who don’t have a lot of money, but I can’t put my finger on why this just sounds terrible. Maybe because it feels to me like instead of treating these patients and their families like human beings, we are only being “nice” to them so they can give us more money.

    Is this just a me problem and I should get over this? Do other nonprofits do this too? (I hate asking people for money and am not at all involved in that aspect of our org, but I do have to help out the development team with getting them the info they need to do the asking.)

    1. HR Exec Popping In*

      So this isn’t as icky as it probably feels. People with wealth are used to being solicitated and when it is an issue that touches them (as in their family, their background, etc.) they generally are happy to give and support those efforts. They are also comfortable saying no so I wouldn’t worry to much about approaching people who don’t want to give. They will tell you and move on.

      That said, I totally understand why it feels icky to you. It would to me as well.

    2. Elsewise*

      I haven’t worked in a healthcare nonprofit, so I can’t comment on if it’s regular to do this with patients, but nonprofits in general do wealth screenings and prospect research pretty frequently. If you’ve donated to a large nonprofit, chances are they’ve run your name through a database that’s looked up if you own any property, if you’ve been in the news for donating a lot of money, if you’re a CEO or something, and then told them how much money to expect to be able to ask you in the future. I do share your discomfort with doing that with patients, though, so I see where the idea is coming from.

    3. Snax*

      I work in development and this is normal. If it helps you feel better to reframe the practice, think of research like this as helping fundraisers do more thoughtful, meaningful work. Having data on wealth and previous giving helps fundraisers know who to approach, connect them with work they truly care about, and ask for an amount of money that is within their capacity to give.

    4. madge*

      I’m in fundraising for an academic medical center and this is exactly how Grateful Patient programs work (and Grateful Client for vet med patients). They should be focusing on outside potential donors, too, unless their patient population happens to be wealthy (we have a healthy mix but still solicit non-patients).

    5. DontDoIt*

      as a patient, I loathe being asked to donate to healthcare organizations that take my money for services. If I’m your patient, don’t ask me to donate. If I choose to give you money, great, but don’t bill me for services then ask me to give you more money. If I have another option to get the care I need I will take it because this is a nasty, evil practice.

  38. Jade*

    I started a new job 6 months ago reporting to the Llama Grooming Director, Alan. I liked him at first, but it became clear he was underqualified for his role and had no idea what he was doing. There was an incident where he dropped the ball and tried to throw me under the bus. However, I think his boss, Phil, saw what was going on and started to get more involved in what we do. After this, Alan withdrew from me more and was frankly acting like a brat. Then about a month ago on a Friday when the three of us were supposed to meet, Phil and I just met instead and he told me, “Alan’s not going to make it today, ” when in fact the three of us met earlier that morning for a separate meeting.

    That following Monday morning, Alan told me he put in his 2 weeks and his last day would be 2 weeks from that date, and that me (and another teammate) would be reporting to another director in a similar department, Phil, officially starting that next week. He didn’t have a job lined up, his reasoning was that he was going to take a step back and spend time with his family.

    So here’s the weird thing. After Alan told me he was leaving, I never met with him again. He canceled all our 1:1s, and declined all meetings we had. Even though I was officially reporting to Phil the following week (when Alan still had a week left), Phil joined all the meetings I had that first week and was basically acting like my boss. Yes, it’s been 100% better lol.

    There is an open rec to backfill Alan, but the title is Llama Grooming Manager, not Llama Grooming Director. Do you think this sounds like Alan was pushed out or asked to leave?

    1. Janeric*

      Like… either that or he has some significant difficulties happening in his personal life and the company is choosing to be very gracious about it. But if Phillip isn’t expressing sympathy for Alan, I’d assume the former.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        That’s what I’m thinking. The company is letting him save face by “quitting,” but he would be leaving either way.

    2. Era*

      Yeah, it definitely sounds like he was told to go — maybe it was a situation where they told him to set an end date, maybe Phil told him to go on a PIP or leave and Alan left, maybe something else, but if his performance wasn’t up to par, it definitely sounds like there was a meeting on Friday to give him notice it wasn’t working out and then Alan put in about 0 effort the rest of his time.

    3. Generic Name*

      Sounds like a “you can resign or we will fire you” discussion was had, and Alan chose to resign.

  39. Put your hands up in heart*

    When you use the hand emoji icons in slack, do you accurately put your skin tone? I’m white, and I just use the default bright yellow skin tones. Most of my other coworkers actually use skin tones similar to their own (both non-white and white). Should I be using the white skin tone emojis instead? Am I overthinking this?

    1. Decidedly Me*

      I use the default. I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer – use what makes sense for you.

      1. Alisaurus*

        Yeah agreed. My company has people who use both, and I never think twice about it when I see reactions.

      2. UKDancer*

        I use the default because it’s quicker and easier. I haven’t noticed what anyone else does. Do whatever works for you.

      3. fhqwhgads*

        The DEAI committee where I worked specifically asked us all to consider using our real skin tones, and not the default Simpsons Yellow – because that shade being the default pretty much assumes white people = default, and even though it’s not a realistic skin tone, it kinda sucks to just let that fly.
        Also most software that offers the realistic skin tones do have a way to select your own personal default. In other words, you don’t need to go find the one that matches yourself every time you use an emoji. You set it in preferences (or options, or profile, depending on which program you’re in) and then any time you click on the thumbs up/down or smiley emojis it shows up in the tone you picked. So other than the first time you set it, it’s not more/less effort to use one or the other.

    2. Not So Little My*

      There’s actually been a few articles about this going around; it’s a thought-provoking question and there’s no one good answer. The thing I read that stood out to me was the idea that in so many ways, our culture assumes the dominant group is the “default”, so in a way choosing to use the yellow emoji is a privilege that doesn’t mean the same thing for everyone. I do tend to use the pale toned emojis myself. Also it helps that my team already had a culture where some folks would use the medium brown or darker brown emojis, so it didn’t stand out to just use the one closer to my accurate skin tone.

      1. Put your hands up in heart*

        Yeah that’s what I was trying to articulate about privilege of using the default one. A bunch of folks use the pale, medium and dark emojis

    3. Generic Name*

      I keep the bright yellow, because it amuses me to think of the skintone as the same skintone on most Lego minifigs.

    4. Morgan Proctor*

      I’m brown and I use the default yellow hand. You’re overthinking this. I am absolutely, devastatingly exhausted by an argument that white people using the default yellow hand is “privilege.” Ugh. Just… that makes me want to move away from this planet.

      1. Rhiannon*

        omg I heard that. I select the default yellow because it’s the first one that appears, and I am only interested in showing a reaction/support as quickly as possible. If purple was the default I’d use that. Whether the selection reflects a “privilege” just is over-doing it.

    5. Another Janet*

      The yellow default emojis are usually a little easier on screen readers, so I’ve stuck with that.

    6. allathian*

      I use the yellow, but that’s because I work in a very white environment, 1,800 employees, and you can count the number of non-European looking employees on the fingers of one hand. The non-whites are Middle-Eastern or Asian.

      But some of my white coworkers use Black emojis and that feels weird.

  40. Solidarity*

    My union called a strike this week, and I’d like to hear about strike experience from people in unions that have gone on strike before.

    – Did all members of the union strike for the same amount of time, or was it planned that some members strike for a longer amount of time?
    – Was there an easy way for people to confirm union membership? Was there a specific person to contact with questions or did you have like, three zoom meetings with presubmitted questions? Were the FAQs updated for the strike?
    – Did the union resolve most questions about time/discipline/notification before the strike started?
    – Did the union have a “talking to the media” policy besides “Go for it!”?

    1. Sudsy Malone*

      Hi! My union went on strike last year. I suspect our unit is a lot smaller than yours, though, so I’m not sure how much I can speak to most of your questions.

      For us, as long as they strike was going, all members were striking. By that I mean all of us were withholding our labor/not going to work. Scheduling shifts on the picket line was more individual, but everyone picketed roughly the same amount of shifts. I know with the recent UAW strike, though, they had different workplaces go on strike sporadically to use the element of surprise. So there’s definitely room for variability in tactics.

      In terms of answering questions, again, we were quite small (less than 200 people total) so there was pretty direct contact with elected union officers throughout to share info and clarify things.

      I’m most surprised/confused by your description of the media policy. We had specific people prepped to talk to reporters. Any member was welcome to do personal social media posts, etc, but we generally had folks redirect press inquiries to specific members who had been media trained.

      A union is the membership, at the end of the day. Which means most unions are different from one another—there isn’t just one playbook. If there’s any steward or union officer you have contact info for, or even another member who seems to be well-informed about the strike, I would just start by asking if they have ten minutes to talk you through what’s going on and why. I assume there was a strike authorization vote of your whole membership at some point earlier on—if anyone contacted you about that, they’d be good to follow up with.

      For what it’s worth, our strike was successful in getting us lots of things our management said they would never cave on, and as stressful as going on strike was, it was also really engaging and helped a lot of people build connections with each other. I loved it. Good luck, and I hope you get the contract you deserve!

      1. Solidarity*

        Also lol the strike authorization was done through an SMS from a one time phone number with no outreach or notification from other venues so I absolutely thought it was spam

    2. Watry*

      My mother has been on strike three or four times, here’s what she says:

      –Same amount of time
      –Specific person, as well as town hall meetings. No FAQ at all for various reasons due to size of both the company being struck against and the union.
      –Unsure
      –Their media policy was “don’t”.

      1. Solidarity*

        Excellent information, thank you! I am cross about some things, but I have never been on strike before so I don’t know if I’m being reasonable about it.

    3. slashgirl*

      I’m in Canada, for reference. 33My union (educational support staff) was on strike for about 2.5 weeks this past fall. Everyone in our local was on strike at the same time and because they negotiations were for the entire local, no one would be on strike once a deal was reached/ratified. If you went to work, you were a scab. Substitutes (casuals) though not a part of our union were asked to not accept work–and there wouldn’t be enough to cover everyone, anyways.

      Who would be confirming membership and why? In our case it was done by the union and there were various people you could call/email with questions. Now, we were told they’d do accommodations for folks, but when I tried to enquire about it (I can’t stand or walk for long periods)–I was told to ask my picket captain, who then asked if I could sit in a chair. We were kept updated on the line by our picket captains on site and daily emails from the captains and updates from our negotiating team, also by emails. Our union did send out a FAQ via email. We had a couple telephone town halls but that was before the strike.

      I don’t think there was anything special wrt time/discipline/notification before the strike, it was business as usual until we gave our notice. We have to give 24-48 hours notification before we walked out. Once the strike started, I’m assuming nothing like that was dealt with cus we weren’t working our jobs.

      We were told to direct any questions from actual media outlets to our strike captains and union liason (they had someone from the union’s central office present at each picket line; our union covers more than educational workers–includes government workers as well). Now, the union did their own videos at the various picket lines and included some of those in news releases and/or their facebook.

      We also got strike pay–you had to work 20 hrs on the picket lines to earn $200–you had to sign in in the morning but they trusted you to work your time to collect your pay. Our picket location was at a busy corner, so we’d have visibility. After it was over, I told people I was really glad I didn’t have to go out and work my corner any more. And I hope I never have to go on strike again (or if I do, it’s in like late april/early may instead of november). I’ll wish you well with yours.

  41. Busy Middle Manager*

    I’m feeling so lost in corporate America lately (and in life). A few people left or were let go and we didn’t replace them. Random tasks were reassigned but there is no direction or vision in those areas. And now that is hitting core areas like QA and contract approval, so I’m finding things like customers not getting credit checks done or signing up with an address typo and no one noticed for years so they never got documents and forgot about us. When I raise issues, the person who was assigned those tasks get chastised but no larger vision or improvement is proposed. My team’s meetings have turned into them bitching about stuff.

    Now a person in an adjacent department who is famous for being lazy and not learnings how things work got promoted. My people are annoyed and laughing at it (and these are people who don’t usually criticize much). Now they’re asking if they should go to him for various things, and I keep saying “no” and they are asking “then why did get promoted to that role” type questions, and TBH, I don’t know. It’s just a title IMO.

    On top of it, service providers are also understaffed and some crucial services I rely on are not getting done. I feel like I only get upper management to listen when something goes wrong. The other day someone burst out crying, TBH though, she may have been right about the one discussion that wasn’t even that bad where someone else “made” her cry, but she has only been doing her job at 60% capacity for a few years and tensions were bound to come to a head at some point if she stayed in the role.

    This on top of the housing bubble and inflation and my high salary feeling like it doesn’t pay for much anymore, so like I’ve been working hard with not much to show for it.

    I found some mistakes in another departments’ work and their response was “we’ve been working on it” but since I didn’t even finish explaining the errors and because they’ve been going on for years, I know that’s not true.

    Please tell me someone relates and has made one small improvement to stay sane.

    I don’t know what to focus on. Getting better customers? New service providers? Firing the people who are bad that are here? Or pushing to get headcount? But I still need to have that “we lack a vision at the top” conversation. They manage by giving individual projects which don’t seem to sum up to anything, and they get testy when you ask questions.

    I feel like I’ve totally doxxed myself with this but sort of don’t care because when you tell the truth, you don’t need to have a good memory or have a defense

    1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Oof, that’s a lot. I hope you feel better after venting.

      I think you first need to separate out tangible problems from perception problems. “So many problems at work makes me feel like my high salary is worthless” is an expression of frustration. “Other team has a pattern of not catching errors” is factual.

      Maybe make yourself a list of issues at work. Then categorize which ones are in your control and which aren’t and fix the ones you can. Letting your team bitch and moan is in your control. You’ll all feel better if you rein that in.

      Things that you might be able to change, figure out how likely that is and whether it would be worth the effort. I bet most aren’t worth your effort.

      Things you can’t change, you have to accept that’s how they are. If things fail or fall apart because of C-Suite decisions, that’s on them. Sometimes only seeing the failure leads to change. Sometimes nothing will change.

      Finally, I think you should job search. It sounds really bad, but that you’re so deep in you haven’t looked at the big picture in a while. This doesn’t sound like it will get better, only that you can manage your chunk of the chaos.

      Good luck!

      1. Busy Middle Manager*

        yeah maybe I need to go back to basics for a few days and make a list of to-dos and forget all of the drama going on, at least for a week or two

    2. HR Exec Popping In*

      I’m so sorry. When organizations go through turmoil like this it is so hard, sad and frustrating. The good news is it often resettles and things get figured out and a new normal equilibrium is established. But sometimes it gets worse before it gets better and other times it just gets worse. I wish I had something more supportive to say. The one thing I have done to stay sane in these situations is to rely on a habit I developed early in my career. Once a year (I do it on or around my birthday every year) I establish my own personal and ethical work boundaries. Defining those lines helps me determine when it is ok to stay and when it is not. It is basically a proactive “what am I willing to put up with” definition. When my next birthday comes around I look back to see if I’ve had to cross any of those lines and if so I know it is time to go. Another thing I do to consciously determine if I am changing the organization for the positive or is the organization changing me for the negative. The later is a key element of one of my boundaries. Good luck!

    3. Generic Name*

      I hear you on how difficult it can be when no vision is clearly articulated. I left a company where I had a role that was supposed to be strategic, but there was zero direction from company leadership what the main focus areas were, and the direction I got amounted to, “Just bring in more work.” OKAY. That and many other reasons were why I left.

      I now work for a ginormous company, and honestly, I don’t really know what the company’s initiatives are. And I’m fine with that. I know what I’m supposed to be working on, but how it fits into the big picture at my 10,000 plus person company? No clue. I intentionally looked for bigger companies, because I was tired of overthinking about upper management stuff I had no control over but also had lots of exposure to due to the very small company size.

      I’m curious about your role in the company. Are you in upper management where you drive the direction things are going and have hiring and firing authority? If not, I’m not sure why firing the bad employees and hiring new ones is something you’re not sure if you should focus on. Can you be okay with keeping your head down and doing the individual projects you are given?

      At my last job, I listened to a group of managers complain about how the company was literally for years. At the time, the stuff they were upset by didn’t bother me, but I resolved to myself that if I ever felt that I disagreed with how the company was being run, that was my sign that it was time to leave. Some months ago, I hit my breaking point at my last job, and I realized that I had serious issues with how things were done. So I started applying for jobs and found a new one within a few months. If I were you, I would think if this is enough to make me start job searching, or if there was something you could do (either actions or just a shift in perspective) to feel okay with your job.

      1. Busy Middle Manager*

        hey I’m a middle manager. Don’t want to fire my people, I am wondering whether to let other managers know about the stuff I’m finding that their people are doing or not doing. It’s creating a lot of problems. So “fire them all” or whatever wrote is shorthand for “nudge other managers to do something.” My problem with that was in the past, I got response that ranges from:

        1) you’re being mean/you worded that insensitively (OK who cares, I’m saying it to you behind closed doors not to the actual person, and I wasn’t saying anything bad, just saying they were bad at some things)
        2) we already know. This one sounds believable until it happens repeatedly and you start to think “how do they magically always working on the old error or oversight I just found?”
        3) so and so thing doesn’t matter anymore because reasons (even though it should IMO be brought up so they can be trained how to think about future cases

    4. Donn*

      I feel for you, BMM. And I always enjoy your comments here. I’m not a manager, but you and I are of the same mind on a lot of things.

      If it’s an option, maybe your getting another job is the best thing. At my former firm, I eventually figured out how to live with their lackadaisical attitude without feeling like I was abandoning my own standards.

      I ended up leaving anyway for other reasons, which turned out to be the right move. If my former firm fired everyone in my department who deserved it, only about one-third or even one-quarter might be left.

  42. Typing All The Time*

    I work in media and I had this scenario happen to me this week involving an accepted pitch from this summer.

    How do you handle it when an editor approves the same pitch by you and another writer? The ed tried to give us a co-byline but in the end it wasn’t possible and the other writer’s name and copy made it but not mine. I was told my piece was fine but hers was, in a sense, better. I did get paid but I’m really sad about this.

    Should I not pitch to them again too?

    1. WellRed*

      That’s part if the job though. More than one person can make a pitch but the best one gets published. You still got paid. I’d pitch again and see what happens. Maybe this was a one off, maybe they are terribly disorganized, maybe your style just isn’t the best fit.

    2. Rick Tq*

      You were paid, even if your piece wasn’t published. You didn’t work for free.

      Why would you not try and work with a company that pays for your work even when they don’t use it?

    3. PayCounts*

      when this happened to me I didn’t even get paid. as long as you get paid I’d say they were being reasonable about it and work for them again.

  43. northern attitude*

    This is a half rant. I recently got a new supervisor after seven months of minimal supervision following my previous supervisor’s departure (there was trouble filling the position and the job search went on for ages). I have basically been running the team’s activities on my own without a ton of support. I feel like it has forced me to really grow into my role and I have been doing well and getting great reviews from clients, though I really need another person on the team to keep up with volume.

    The new boss is a man and he seems great but there are other male higher ups are acting like he is God’s gift to the Earth, including repeating things to me that he has said that I have suggested to them multiple times as new revelatory information. My grand boss keeps reminding me that some decisions or ways that I have being doing things may change now that my new supervisor is in place…which I fully know and expect, but the constant reminders are starting to feel like a denigration of my work. Meanwhile, I have been scheduling all my supervisor’s meetings for his various onboarding activities, helping him set up his email, etc. I don’t mind doing this but it was recently suggested to me by another higher up that I continue to manage my supervisor’s schedule for another several months until “he’s settled.”

    I am feeling so frustrated that all my hard work and contributions for the last two quarters are not being acknowledged. I know that I have a few major projects that I’ll be able to push forward now that we are more fully staffed but I just feel like he’s going to get the credit for making all these wonderful changes despite all the lead work that I have, for months (!!!) to make them possible.

    Basically, does anyone have advice for how to cope with the transition of being free floating and making my own calls to being much more closely supervised again? And any tips for how to cope with what I feel is latently sexist treatment? I’ve only had female supervisors before and I have never felt more condescended to in my work life by direct colleagues than the last few months.

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Oh wow that’s so frustrating! I had to unclench my jaw a bit.

      I would say “thanks, but with the additional demands I actually really need an assistant and so I’m not able to take on an exec-type task of managing his schedule. Perhaps we can hire an admin or delegate the calendar to Mark” (Mark being someone who is a relative peer to you and whose work is just as much not calendar-management as yours). If they protest ”but Mark is the teapot glazer/forklift driver” then say “yeah and I’m the construction gal/logistics person”.

      Or “I’m sure you don’t mean this how it’s coming across but companies tend to saddle women (instead of me ) with admin type work even if that isn’t part of their jobs, and I’d be concerned with going down that route since I was hired to lead llamas and have been leading both sheep and llamas as well as glazing teapots over the past 7 months”

      Give them a copy of that cartoon with people sitting around a desk that says “that’s an excellent suggestion, Ms Triggs. Perhaps one of the men here would like to make it” and laugh and say I’m not sure you realize but you guys are epitomizing this. Or “haha good one” and hand it to them. Or “are you messing with me? That’s what I suggested two months ago” I’m not sure how that would go over but I have the kind of personality where I believe I would get away with it.

      Or more professionally “thanks, I agree! This sounds very similar to what I had suggested last quarter, can you spin me up on the differences in our proposals/can you fill me in on the details?”

    2. Janeric*

      I am anticipating being in a similar situation in the near future and want to extend sympathy and support.

      – When your grandboss is like “Some things you did might change!” I might say “That’s a normal part of work. You’ve brought that up several times, is there anything I’m doing that indicates I’m having issues with that?”
      – Definitely say “I’m sure my boss would prefer to manage his own schedule!” if anyone brings it up again, that’s INFURIATING.
      – Try to find something about your new boss to like so you can be a team
      – And uh. Polish your resume.

    3. Honor Harrington*

      This doesn’t sound latently sexist – it sounds outright sexist. I’m so sorry. That is infuriating. Frist, this has nothing to do with the quality of your work, your intelligence, your skills or anything other than your gender role. Don’t let it affect how you see yourself. Don’t doubt yourself.

      Can you go to HR?

      If not, this may be time to start taking your fabulous self out and look for a new job.

    4. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Ugh. Gross sexism. I’m sorry. Personally, every time grandboss mentioned your idea as though it were New Guy’s, I’d be saying, “Yes, remember I suggested that in June? I’m glad New Guy agrees that’s a good idea.”

      1. Girasol*

        It is gross! But I’ve never noticed that any clever response to correct the situation works. Men who only listen to men don’t typically change when reminded of the fact. They may simply be irritated at you for saying something about it. You might consider moving on.

    5. Busy Middle Manager*

      I wouldn’t set up meetings for people, outlook is easier than ever to use, and a manager should know what meetings he needs.

      Speaking of sexism and feeling condescended to – don’t be condescended to. You have to push back in subtle ways. Either say “you should be able to do your own meetings, I’m busy” or just don’t do it. But better to discuss it and get the awkwardness out of the way. Or just be busy doing other things.

      As per his saying things and them being taken as new revelations, I am 100% on your side, however, I would pay attention to the how of how he says it. I’ve helped people with this because they didn’t realize they’d dive into speeches or descriptions of processes the higher ups have no clue about. I’ve had to help people switch to “MBA speak” to communicate with higher ups and get their desired results. I wonder if he’s just using some tried and true trigger words that pique board level type peoples’ hot points

      There is a possibility he has some great experience they needed so I wouldn’t discount him yet, I’d direct my ire at the rest of the company ignoring your contributions

  44. Old Mother Hubbard*

    I’m six months into a new job and I’m struggling with imposter syndrome and where I fit in on my team.
    For example, let’s say I work on a farm and my team deals with harvesting the crops. Before I started, each of my teammates had an area of expertise. One of our biggest volume areas is beans, where Jack is the expert harvester. I also have a background harvesting beans, just not the same variety, and that’s why I was hired. But Jack is very reluctant to let me help with the beans. He’ll take on any bean project before I have the chance to. Jack is also a bit of a know it all, and will occasionally explain things to me like I’ve never even seen a bean plant before. I am also a know it all, and we’ve gotten into disagreements about bean harvesting best practices.

    I’ve also been teaching myself how to harvest bananas for professional development. George is our primary banana harvester and that’s where my boss’ primary expertise is as well. We have fewer banana trees to harvest, but they’re harder and more time consuming. George is always happy to give me a banana tree to harvest and both he and my boss have also been great about giving me tips on banana harvesting best practices. I’ve gotten really good at it in a short amount of time.

    Other coworkers have expressed surprise when I mention my banana tree projects because they assumed I’d be working on the beans. Beans are our best crop and we really want to be focusing our attention on developing bean harvesting.

    I guess the problem is that my boss is trusting that Jack is the expert on beans and that I’ll take projects on as I feel comfortable. But Jack and (honestly some of my other coworkers too) make me second guess all of my bean knowledge so I haven’t taken any bean projects in over a month. I’m good with bean harvesting! I have the same credentials as Jack!

    How do I get Jack to back off? And how do I stop getting in my own way?

    1. ferrina*

      I’m a little confused about how work is assigned. Is it on a volunteer basis?

      Either way, talk to your boss. Explain that you haven’t had a chance to work on a bean project in over a month because Jack has been quick on sweeping them up, but you are planning on remedying that by [explain how you plan to get some bean projects].
      If Jack is actively boxing you out of bean projects, flag that for your boss too. Ask for some advice on getting a foot in the door.

      It sounds like your boss doesn’t realize how possessive Jack is being. If you were hired to help with beans, your boss would want to know that you haven’t been allowed to help with beans. They can either give you advice on how to get assigned to more bean fields, or they can intervene and tell Jack to back off.

      1. kbeers0su*

        I second this. If you were hired because they want more emphasis on beans, your boss needs to know why you’re not working on beans. For all you know, Jack is telling your boss that you aren’t willing to help or don’t know as much as you think you do, etc. You want to make sure the record is clear on this. You could also proactively think about the kinds of bean projects you’d like to be doing (assuming there is some variance) so you can pitch that as how the bean work could be split (assuming you can split them up).

        I also wonder why Jack is so reluctant to let you help. Not sure if you’ve ever tried talking to him straight about that? If not, and if you think you can do it, it might help salvage that relationship and get you two to a better place. For instance, maybe Jack had no idea the company was hiring someone to help with beans, and he was blind-sided when you showed up. Or maybe he had no input in whether a second position was needed or how the work would be divided, or something similar. Could be other things, too, but until you ask you won’t know.

  45. Salty Caramel*

    My org announced their changes to insurance plans ahead of year-end open enrollment period. I am the insurance carrier for myself, my spouse, my child, and step-children, so have been enrolled in the comprehensive family plan. Based on the changes announced this year, my specific plan will be going up by almost 60% and now my family needs to figure out how to absorb the extra $600/month for insurance.

    The company’s stance is that they’re trying to make things more ‘equitable’ by giving each employee a standard amount to be put towards their benefits. Those who are only insuring themselves are seeing a bump, but nowhere near what I am. I’m really upset about what feels like a $7k pay cut and am unsure how to approach my supervisor or HR with these concerns. Looking for any suggestions on what my options might be in this situation.

    1. HR Exec Popping In*

      This is happening all over and it is more and more common for insurance rates for dependents to be higher than for non-employees. One option is to see if your spouse has an insurance option. It might make sense to move the full family to their plan or to split the family depending on coverage options. Look at what employee + family, employee + children, and employee + one coverage looks like on both plans if possible.

      I know this is frustrating but health insurance costs continue to go up year over year for companies and it is not sustainable. The system is broken. The real solution is for a new health care system in our country.

      1. m2*

        This. A close friend is on her company insurance because for her it costs little $ but the premiums went up so her child and husband then switched to her husband’s insurance which wasn’t as comprehensive (high deductible while hers was a low co-pay) but the premiums were just too much and even if they go to the top of the deductible they will be paying less than they would with the premiums (which sounds crazy)!

        Does your company have different options? My sister (who doesn’t have dependents) is on a great plan, but if I were on her same plan with my entire family it would cost us a fortune. If there are other plans or options those may be worth a look too. I’m sorry!

      2. kbeers0su*

        I also did this before. My spouse, myself, and two kids were all on one plan (his). Premiums went up. We looked into it and the cheaper option was to split, so my spouse and I each enrolled in our own company’s benefits with one kid each. It made it a little more complicated with needing multiple copies of cards and remembering which kid was on which insurance, but it saved a lot. About two years later we ended up splitting up so my spouse and both kids were on his plan and I was on my own. Not really an answer, but maybe worth looking into.

    2. Always Tired*

      We ran into a similar issue at my workplace. We offer a flat amount towards premiums for all employees, which I keep saying doesn’t feel very equitable, since the 23yo is paying $4/mo for all the same plans the 50yo is paying $250/mo for, not even factoring in dependents. All our insurance plans went up about 10% this year. I’m hearing about the same from every other HR person I know.

      That said, I would approach this with your supervisor as part of a larger discussion about a pay increase. “since my benefits have been significantly reduced, my total compensation is down by about $7k annually. Is there anything the company can do to mitigate this?” And the answer might be you’re SOL, but it’s worth a shot.

      1. WellRed*

        Well it’s equitable in the sense that each employee gets X dollars toward their health insurance, right?

      2. Texan In Exile*

        Old Job contributed to EE premiums based on salary. The lower your salary, the more they contributed.

    3. Cranky-saurus Rex*

      I have a related question and hope it’s ok to thread together — has anyone else had any success getting upcoming premium information from their company? My spouse and I are both employed full time, but my company’s open enrollment ends each year prior to his company announcing what their premiums will look like for the next year. Both companies use calendar year for the coverage. I know things may still be in flux, but his HR has been reluctant to give even ballpark numbers (staying roughly the same, expecting an increase but likely below X%, expecting an increase of over X%, etc). We’d love to be able to know before the first open enrollment ends each year if it would make sense for both of us to be on one plan or the other or, split to both be on individual plans from our own company (no dependents to cover).

      1. Cranky-saurus Rex*

        Adding for context that I know things can still be in contracting with the insurance providers for a while, but my open enrollment this year ended just 2 days before his HR published premiums for next year (though there’s about 2 weeks between the end of my open enrollment and the start of his), and it’s frustrating not to have all the information to make an informed decision.

      2. WellRed*

        His HR sucks if they aren’t giving him more than a few days notice about premiums, honestly you are prob better off just getting yours from your company and his from his company at least based on what trends you’ve seen with plans over the past couple of years.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          Wait, really? I’ve never gotten premiums info for the next year more than 2-3 business days before open enrollment starts, in any job. And I’ve had anything from 5-10 business days to actually make the elections. That said, my spouse’s open enrollment is several months apart from mine. So I don’t know if I asked for guesstimates, say, a week earlier than when they planned to announce in order to not miss the window for spouse’s plan if they’d have anything to give me or not. Is it normal to get the numbers more than a few days prior to the start of the company’s open enrollment?

  46. Jules the First*

    I just got a message from my HR today informing me that I have to hold a “return to work” meeting with one of my team because they have breached the reporting threshold for our corporate sick leave policy, which I’ve just looked up and turns out to be three incidents in a rolling six month period, which to me seems both insane and potentially discriminatory. The employee in question has taken a grand total of 3.5 sick days in the last year, which strikes me a reasonable and proportionate, especially because I happen to know they have been dealing with the terminal illness of a close family member. I have zero concerns about this person’s work ethic and attendance (although they are a solid but not stellar employee), and they have always been open and honest with me about their time off.

    Any suggestions for pushing back (politely) on this batshit policy? (If it matters, we are not in the US)

    1. Rick Tq*

      Malicious Compliance is your friend here.

      Have the meeting so HR is happy but you can reassure your team member that *you* don’t think their use of sick time is unreasonable. It might only take 5 minutes over the phone, but “you met with the employee about their use of sick time”….

    2. ferrina*

      Is FMLA an option for your employee?

      HR sounds pretty rigid (seriously, 3 sick days in 6 months when it hasn’t impacted performance? what happens when you get the flu for a week?). I don’t think you’d get much luck pushing back. What you could do is say “Yes, I’ll do that, though I’d like to note that I have seen no impact on their performance and they continue to be a reliable resource for the team. But while I have you, I wanted to learn more about the FMLA policy. Who is eligible and what would they need to do to register for FMLA?”

      Then when you meet with your employee, be clear that HR flagged this for you. You disagree with this policy, and you don’t like that this has the employee on HR’s radar. Share with them the FMLA policy, if that’s something that’s a good option for them. That will protect them going forward.

    3. Hiring Mgr*

      I’m confused why taking 3.5 sick days off in an entire year is a problem in the first place… what policy or rule was broken? what does it mean to breach the reporting threshold?

      1. Jules the First*

        HR has designed an attendance policy that requires a form and a meeting when staff are sick three times in six months or five times in twelve months. Which is insane. I have a toddler and I’ve already been off more than that this year for legit serious illnesses.

        1. anon_s*

          Wow.

          I’d MAYBE get taking 3 WEEKS of sick leave in six months without any explanation but 3 days in six months??? That’s one day every other month…not even an issue…

        2. PK*

          This policy, ESPECIALLY in a Covid-world (yes, it’s still not over even if the gov no longer has a state of emergency), is absolutely bananas. How many sick days do you get a year? I don’t know what your political capital might be like, but I personally would be very tempted to say to HR that this policy is a very demoralizing given that many employees contracting Covid or any illness would easily breach the threshold, not to mention how problematic it is for any employees who may have disabilities, disclosed or undisclosed. You mentioned that you were off more than that also – did your manager have to talk to you? Is this policy applied equally to all employees?

    4. cubone*

      Oh god, I’d be very inclined to push back, but I guess it depends how far you’re willing to go. You could politely ask them: “Can you provide the rationale behind this policy?”, which I have learned is a fun way to make HR short-circuit. You could also say “I’m very concerned the policy in it’s current form will encourage people to attend work while sick, which is of course a huge risk to the wellbeing and productivity of our staff”…. basically play dumb, like you’re just confused and want to understand.

      Alternatively, if it seems right for your workplace, I once had zero f’s left to give and wrote my supervisor a very short, very polite email “Request to change the XYZ Policy” (it was something boring) and described in it that I think making this change to an existing policy would be more in line with the company values, etc. My supervisor just straight up forwarded it to her boss, who brought it to her boss (the CEO), who told HR to implement it. And then bragged at all-staff meetings that she chose to change this policy because of (all the reasons I said).

      Honestly it was pretty wild and hilarious, and I realized a lot of managers actually LOVE when someone hands them an easy win they can brag about without doing any work.

    5. Rubies*

      I got “noticed” by HR because I was off four one-day periods in 12 months (vomiting bug, vomiting bug, flu*, broken bone). My manager told HR it was ridiculous, that I have a toddler and my sickness was in no way abnormal, and she had no concerns. She then told me that this had happened. So yes, malicious compliance in that she could tell HR that she’d talked to me. Depending on the frankness of your typical working relationship, you can take a similar approach, pitching it somewhere between “we have to follow protocol but I have no concerns” and “this is a stupid policy, don’t worry” as appropriate. Non-US too.

      *The most annoying thing was that most of the ten days of flu was during my Christmas vacation, so it only cost the company one day of sick leave.

    6. Hrodvitnir*

      I think the laws of your country are very relevant – I just read this to my partner who is a manager in Aotearoa (NZ) with the throwaway that “it’s the US, they can do whatever they want re: leave”. Then I got to the end, haha.

      That would not be legal here. I mean, I wouldn’t put it past big corps to try it, but no. You’re allowed to ask for a doctor’s note after three *consecutive* days, but you may not reprimand people for using their leave entitlement.

  47. I'd Very Much Like to be Excluded from this Narrative*

    I am the GM of a small, local, family-owned media company. We’ve been around for decades and have a great reputation in our area. About five years ago, a new media company in the same medium as us came into town. They consider us to be competition. I do not consider them to be competition(or even close) and have paid little attention to them. Every now and then I would hear through the grapevine they were ragging us publicly or whatever, but who cares, right? All was well until about October when I was nominated for two coveted awards and appointed to our statewide trade association board of directors. The same week, the GM at the other company seemingly lost his shit. They are now using one of their five hourly breaks to focus on us, and how bad they perceive us to be, are airing commercials about us and how bad they perceive us to be, and today I found out they have a very well-known state-wide publication in town writing an article about how they are thriving in the midst of a media rivalry, with us pitted as the bad guy. I have not been contacted for comment yet.

    Until now, I have consistently taken the high road. We’ve not responded to nasty social media posts they make, haven’t mentioned them on our air, or anything else. I’m about at the end of my rope though. Our business is great, and there is room for them in the market. I have no desire to fight with this guy. How do I proceed from here? Continue to ignore? C&D? Scorched Earth social media posts?

    1. mreasy*

      High road all the way. I also work in media, and unless they are accusing you and your company of something illegal or extremely unethical (eg racist environment, allowing SA to go unreported, stealing money from nonprofits, etc) there will be no way for you to respond that they won’t try to spin against you.

      1. I'd Very Much Like to be Excluded from this Narrative**

        They aren’t. They are accusing of of not being at events we are a part of every year, but there is plenty of evidence that we were there (car in the parade, did a live broadcast, had a booth) It’s pretty wild. I feel like Harry Potter with his invisibility cloak.

    2. Alisaurus*

      FWIW, as someone not in media, if I saw a local station doing that, I’d think worse of the station slinging the insults than I would of the one being attacked.

      1. M2RB*

        Same here! The people slinging mud are the ones I judge (unless it’s something like corruption/SA/fraud, and then I do my own sleuthing & come to my own conclusion). Take the high road.

    3. WellRed*

      Stay classy. When contacted for the article use similar comments to what say here; “there’s room for them too.” If you aren’t ontacted for the article, that’s a problem that can be addressed both with the writer and publicly on social media or what have you.

      1. Rex Libris*

        I’d add… be obviously aware of and confused/bemused by their attacks, while emphasizing that’s now how your company does things, of course.

      2. linger*

        Responding to them and naming them just adds to their name brand recognition, among your existing audience. Hence I wouldn’t bother engaging.
        (Conversely, if they’re slagging you off by name without being actually libellous, they’re not harming your name recognition in your shared market. And they’re probably miffed you’re not responding in kind!)

  48. Curious question*

    What are the most important factors or benefits you look for in a job? How has that changed for you over time and experience?

    For example, I used to prioritize enjoyable work and a nice location. But the older I get, the more I value stability and regular, guaranteed raises to sustain my living.

    1. Decidedly Me*

      Factors: broad scope of influence and cross collaboration

      Benefits: vacation time, work from anywhere policy, remote, and 401k match

      My factors are the ones that have changed the most, but also not really. When I haven’t had those things, I’ve noticed I’m not as happy, so it’s more been solidified over time.

    2. pally*

      Same here. Would be sweet if there was a retirement pension plan as well. Better than a 401K.
      I can dream, can’t I?

    3. Jay (no, the other one)*

      Changed dramatically over my 30-year career. When I started out I wanted a steady paycheck, predictable schedule that included a variety of duties, and a large org in which I could build a professional community and network. Then I had a kid and suddenly what I wanted was flexibility and control over my schedule and took a pay cut to get it. By the time I’d been doing the same thing for 15 years I needed a change so I moved into a different area of my field and very much wanted the ability to advance. For the final five years of full-time work I wanted the ability to leave work at work, less evening and weekend work and was done with ladder-climbing.

      What stayed the same: I always want (and still want) to be part of a team, work with people who share my values and ethics, and have opportunities to grow.

      Benefits are pretty much the same across my field – there’s not all that much variation – so that wasn’t really a factor for me.

  49. Luculla*

    Here’s a low stakes etiquette question: Our office is in a location where options for lunch are sparse. On one set day per month, we are all asked to come in – team morale, our grandboss loves this day, etc. On this day, the company pays for lunch.

    Free food, so that’s good, right? Well, kind of – because each and every time, it’s exactly the same, highly specific dish. And I don’t mean „pizza every month“ or „tacos every month“ – think „ham and mushroom pizza every month“ or „tacos de carne asada every month“.

    Is there any way I can politely suggest they switch things up? I mean, it’s the classic „gift horse“, so it would be rude, right? And even if I could – who would I talk to? Would it be weird to bring my own lunch, as I do on other in-office days? In the past year, I’ve probably had (highly specific dish) more frequently than in the five years before that together

    1. Ashley*

      Depending on the size of the office would depend on if I would say something. If you do bring your own lunch you could claim you had tons of leftovers that were going to go bad or risk bringing up a change in your diet.

    2. Angstrom*

      It’s not rude to ask about options. Frame it positively: “Specificfood is good, and I appreciate that the company buys it for us. Does that caterer/resturant have other things we could try?”

      1. UKDancer*

        Yeah I mean unless the company is very unreasonable and known for being difficult I think it’s fine to ask for some variety in the menu as long as you do so politely.

    3. Goddess47*

      Bring your own lunch… if asked, you could do the polite “oh, (one part of specific dish) may be affecting my digestion and the doctor has recommended I stay away from it for a while”

      I’m surprised your various-intolerant folk (gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian, kosher, etc) haven’t spoken up, either…

      Good luck!

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        It would not surprise me if they had. Sometimes the person in charge of ordering just gets what they want.

        Sounds like lazy planning to me.

  50. ChristmasTraumaAnon*

    After being assaulted at a Christmas party, I have pretty severe PTSD surrounding the holiday. Like, Christmas decorations make me dissociate, unexpected mentions of the holiday make me dissociate, and this time of year generally causes a complete implosion of my mental health.

    For a lot of reasons, up to this point I’ve grinned and bared it when this time of year comes around and kept as much of this to myself as possible at work, but I fear that my symptoms are going to be significantly more visible this year. I’ve been healing a lot after many years of denial, it’s going to be the 10th anniversary of the attack, my assailant passed away this past year, stuff like that.

    I don’t really know how to begin to navigate all of this in a work context. What do I tell people? Do I say nothing and just hope nobody notices that I’m a zombie for two months out of the year? The trauma is sever enough that the season affecting me is likely to be a thing for the rest of my life, and my work relationships tend to be long-term over the course of years. At the same time, the assault itself is “not even my family knows” levels of private, so I don’t just want to go around telling coworkers.

    I’m self employed and WFH so I at least don’t need to worry about office decorations or holiday parties or anything and I have a lot of flexibility when it comes to giving myself space, and it also means I don’t really have much in the way of benefits or legal protections to help me out. I do continue to celebrate Christmas with my family and this is already known to everyone I work with, so I can’t just say I don’t celebrate it as an out.

    I guess, I’m not really sure what I need, but any advice or scripts that could help me navigate the mental health implosion, prolonged conversations about the holiday, etc would be appreciated if anyone has any ideas. Thank you.

    1. ferrina*

      First, hugs if you want them. It is so tough to navigate the holidays when everyone expects you to be Happy! and you just can’t. Captain Awkward has some great advice on her blog (she’s got great advice in general, but particularly around the “I can’t and everyone wants me to Happy! during the holidays”)

      I think you’re okay to say nothing. My industry is really busy for Q4 anyways (October-December), and we wouldn’t even notice if someone was out of it. Maybe if they had a super sunny disposition that suddenly soured, but even with that, most people would assume it was a heavy workload. As long as you don’t snap at people (sounds like you don’t), you might be fine.

      If you need to say something:
      “Work is so busy this year! It’s good, but I’m also looking forward to relaxing” (or “this year has been so busy! I’m looking forward to relaxing”)
      “I haven’t decided what I’m doing this year.”
      “I hate to run, but I’m expecting a phone call soon. It’s been lovely talking with you!”
      Prep some scripts to extricate yourself from conversations you don’t want to have. It can help to physically smile while you say it- it will slightly change you inflection and make you seem more chipper over the phone. If you do video calls, consider having “tech issues” that mysteriously make your camera break (this happens to us all the time anyways….it’s amazing how my tech issues always strike when I’m exhausted and just can’t do people)

      Good luck!

    2. ThatGirl*

      I hope that you are in therapy for this and getting some help, it sounds really tough, I’m sorry.

      I think you could say something like “this is a hard time of year for me for personal reasons” and leave it at that, if someone notices. (It’s a hard time of year for a lot of people! I love Christmas but it also brings up memories of my dad being seriously ill, my grandma dying, and my dog dying!) But that’s your call.

      1. M2RB*

        I have said “this is a hard time of year for me, thank you for understanding, let’s get back to XYZ” and been able to keep the conversation moving. I don’t have this level of trauma around the holiday so I’m not sure if that’s feasible, but wanted to throw my voice in support of this suggestion.

    3. Gracie*

      If you want to keep everything super vague and just address the “you seem a bit out of it/very stressed/not yourself” kind of comments, could you lean on SAD as the issue, if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere?

      “Oh, you know how it is in winter, I seem to have it worse than a lot of people but I prefer not to discuss it too much” type of thing? People would still get that you’re skimming over the subject and quickly moving on, but might put it down to not wanting to discuss dark+cold-induced seasonal depression, as opposed to you avoiding the topic of your actual mental health that you’re keeping completely private

    4. Generic Name*

      I am so sorry that happened to you. You didn’t deserve it. I have CPTSD, and I’ve been in therapy for a number of years. Therapy has really helped so that I’m not so easily triggered anymore, and my resultant anxiety is greatly reduced. The first therapist I had was nice, but she wasn’t equipped to handle people dealing with trauma. It wasn’t until I found a therapist who focused on my particular type of trauma that I started to get better. I’m not saying that finding and accessing therapy is cheap and easy, but I wanted to mention it in case it’s not something you’ve considered before. You sound resigned to feeling like this every Christmas, and you don’t have to.

  51. Alisaurus*

    I feel like this is just a problem when hiring humans, but I’m also wondering what else I might be able to do… I’m part of the hiring team for my small company, generally doing the general admin work that comes with sorting through applications, forwarding them to the hiring manager for review, etc. Our job listing is very specific that you need to reside within commuting distance of our office since we have a couple of non-negotiable in-person days. However, we’re getting applications from people on the other side of the country and even internationally. There’s a very clear line in the job requirements about location, but I’d say at least 75% of the people who have applied don’t live close and don’t include a cover letter or note on their resume to indicate they’re relocating/interested in relocating.

    Any suggestions on this or is it just people not reading and something that’s just part of the deal with hiring?

    1. ferrina*

      That’s part of hiring humans. Especially in today’s environment, where there are some companies that have truly non-negotiable location limitations (like you) and some that would be willing to bend that requirement for a great candidate.

      If you find a candidate that is really strong but isn’t local, you can reach back out and say “I want to be clear that the candidate for this role needs to be local. This is non-negotiable. Given this, does it make sense for us to continue talking?” I’d do this as part of the general screening call (pre-interview or while setting up interviews) rather than before handing it to the Hiring Manager. I would flag them for the Hiring Manager, though. “These few candidates aren’t local and haven’t said anything about relocating. If you’re interested in talking to them, I’ll reach out and see what their relocation plan is”

      1. Alisaurus*

        Thanks! Yes, that was what I was thinking, and I did actually do that with one strong candidate we had come through recently.

        Part of me has just been wondering if there was anything I might be missing to make this more clear… because although I understand everyone’s brain doesn’t work like mine, it somehow trips me up and makes me question my communication when they don’t. lol

    2. Two Fish*

      Alisaurus, can you share the reason for the non-negotiable in-person days?

      On the overall topic, I wonder if there’s any correlation between how much pushback gets generated, and whether the need for in-person presence is legally/officially required or simply the way an employer has chosen to handle something.

    3. Red Flags Everywhere*

      My most recent hire wasn’t yet local, but already had plans to relocate to our area and was job-hunting in advance. I would suggest you triage the applications and use that as a solid reason to cull out the candidates who are already a minimal match, but keep an open mind for the candidates that are a good or great fit. At that point it’s definitely worth a short phone conversation.

    4. David*

      Not everyone has gotten the message that you should explicitly mention being open to relocation in your resume and/or cover letter. For example, me: I come from an academic background, where it’s basically taken for granted that you have to relocate every time you take a new job, and even when I switched out of academia I thought an employer would assume that if they see a candidate whose current location is further than commuting distance from where the job is based, the candidate is open to relocation. It didn’t occur to me to question that until after I had been reading this site for a while. I don’t know if any of the candidates you’re looking at are coming from academia, but I’m sure there are other reasons someone might not think to say they’re open to relocation, and some of those reasons might apply to the applicants you’re seeing.

      Anyway, my point is, don’t assume that candidates aren’t willing to relocate just because they didn’t proactively say they are. Personally, I would try tentatively assuming that all candidates *are* willing to relocate, picking the ones you’d like to go forward with, and like ferrina said, confirming the need for relocation in your initial communication with them. (I guess if you find the majority of them are not actually willing to relocate, then that gives you a good data point and you can act accordingly in the future.)

      For future job postings, you could include a note in the posting saying that candidates should explicitly confirm in their application materials that they are willing and able to work in-person at the job location. (Whether that involves relocation or a potentially long commute is up to the candidate, I suppose.) Or if you can get that added as a checkbox on the application form, even better.

    5. MayExpectDiscussion*

      I don’t know if this is the case for any of yo uth r applicants, but I need to work at home as a disability accommodation (starting well before the pandemic). I assume all jobs are hybrid by default (because that’s been pretty standard for my type of work since the 90s) and that at some point I will need to have a discussion about working at home as an accommodation at some point during the process. I’ve not gone through this since just before the pandemic and I suspect this will actually be harder now than it used to be, but even a 100% onsite note would not stop me from applying and having that discussion with a potential employer.

  52. NewDx*

    Got a fun one (sigh):

    Tips for navigating work with a new cancer diagnosis? Need to keep working for the insurance (which is a post/rant by itself). I do have short term and long term disability and an apparently flexible employer. I’ve only told HR. Not sure of the plan or prognosis yet. But wondering how folks have navigated, things I should be aware of from a work perspective, communicating with boss and supervisees, etc. I’m not usually particularly private but this, so far, feels different.

    Advice appreciated, thanks!

    1. Jay (no, the other one)*

      Oh, I’m sorry.

      Have dealt with this from the colleague/manager side, and I’m a doc so I also have seen it from that angle. If you can take a little time to figure out exactly what you need or want from your company, that will help. Are you concerned that your performance or behavior will change in a way that requires explanation? Do you want to change your schedule or shift your workload? Do you want support?

      You can tell your boss or coworkers that you’re going through something medical without specifying what it is if you don’t want them to know. If you have a work bestie or someone you trust you might ask them to run interference for you, spread the word, and/or let it be known that you don’t want to talk about it.

      Thinking of you.

    2. Morgan Proctor*

      I’m in the same boat! Just got a diagnosis yesterday. Currently despairing because it seems like I’ll have to cancel my holiday PTO in favor of surgeries and recovery. I have no idea how or even if I’m going to tell my employer (or family).

    3. Miss Buttons*

      I’m in the same boat, diagnosed this past July. Suggestions: think carefully about who you want to tell at work. I told my boss for obvious logistical reasons, then over several months I told only a few more close co-workers, asking them not to tell anyone so I am in complete control of who knows. Biggest reason for this: I don’t want pity and want to be perceived as I was before, a dedicated worker. I was on FMLA, now on intermittent FMLA, and emails to my team when going for chemo or on a sick day just say “I will not be working tomorrow”. No need to mention sick. My boss is a cancer survivor and has my back solidly. Warning: Do not assume that everyone will have your back. Best of luck to you and virtual hugs. Be gentle with yourself.

      1. Miss Buttons*

        Also, if you can work from home, it’s so much easier. I still weep audibly many days, only my doggie can hear. I keep my camera off in virtual meetings so no one can see my chemo caps. I hope your boss is compassionate. Virtual hugs to you. I’m adding your name on my fridge and will send you healing thoughts. I’m firmly on the Hope Train. I hope you will jump aboard. Deep peace to you.

    4. WantonSeedStitch*

      I’m sorry you’re dealing with this, and I wish you the very best of outcomes.

      I have managed someone with a cancer diagnosis. My report told me about her diagnosis just after it happened, so I’d be aware she’d likely need some time off for treatment and recovery, and that both before and after the treatment she might need to have additional time off or reduced responsibilities due to the state of her health. But if she hadn’t said “cancer” and just said “a serious medical condition that will require me to take time off for treatment,” I would have handled it the same way. The best thing she did was keep me up to date about projects she was working on so that I could make arrangements to transfer her work over to someone else when she went out (something I also did myself when I went out on maternity leave). I was careful to ask her permission and guidance about who I could tell and what I could tell them, but if your manager doesn’t ask, make sure you spell it out (“you can tell my team about the diagnosis, but for anyone outside our team, just let them know I’ll be out on leave,” for example). Make sure your manager knows that even if your scheduled leave is from date1 to date2, you might need time after that during which you’ll ease back into the job, with a part time schedule or otherwise reduced workload. You don’t want to rush your recovery.

      Again, I really hope things go as smoothly as possible regarding your treatment and future health!

    5. 2 year survivor*

      I told my boss and HR when I was missing time for the diagnostic tests and to warn about possible surgery.

      I told everyone else once my surgery date was set. The surgery found more extensive disease so I had to have chemo and a second surgery. I mostly worked from home through chemo and radiation. I was able to handle all of my duties so there were no coverage issues.

      When I did come into the office ( wearing a chemo cap) everyone was incredibly supportive. HR offered intermittent FMLA.

      It’s now 2 years later and I’m still at the same job.

    6. sb51*

      Oof. I’ve been there, except since I couldn’t get through to my parents or spouse when I got the doctor’s call while at work, and had a [big in-person task] in a few hours that I was just Not Up For Doing, so I ended up having my manager be the first person I told. She was very good about keeping it between us, and stepping in to do the [big in-person task] immediately.

      I hope your outcome is as good as mine ended up being. One big reason I am glad I told my boss at least some of the basics is that the next few years of annual objective-setting were difficult for me; “what do you want to be doing in 5 years” can become a terribly loaded question, and asking up-front that we just talk about the next year and nothing else was understood and really helpful. (I’m now almost 8 years out and doing fine, although it did really put a permanent shift in my priorities.) But that can be after you know more. It was just a bit of a “whoa” moment the first time I tried to have that conversation and just…couldn’t, and I want to spare you that moment.

    7. Random Bystander*

      I was fortunate in that I was already permanently WFH when I was diagnosed. I had had to take a few extra days off (unusual for me) in the lead-up to diagnosis.

      My then-supervisor was a really big ‘cameras on for meetings’ person, and I told her and made the specific request to be ‘camera off’ (other people would have cameras off and she would call them out on it ‘Hey, [name], can you turn your camera on?’). “I have this diagnosis, I will be meeting with oncologist on [date] and will let you know when I have further info.” I told one co-worker who is also a friend, because I know that she is the sort of person who, if you ask her to pray for you she *does*, she doesn’t just give lip service to it–and that was really the only support I wanted. I didn’t want to talk about it in general. I just felt too brittle to discuss the situation with anyone who did not have a “need to know”.

      There’s one other person I told, but that was not intentional. I had gotten the diagnosis on a Monday. On Friday of that same week, I had to work on something with someone in another department who I didn’t know otherwise. So we were working on this through chat (IM), and there was no reason we couldn’t accomplish the goal through that method, except she really wanted to turn it into a phone call. I really did not–I was still at the stage of occasionally bursting into tears *without* a clear provocation. She kept insisting, and finally we did turn it into a phone call. The reason she wanted to go to voice? So she could “Yay, it’s Friday” with me. And me … I mean, I knew that my particular cancer has a very high survival rate … at least at stage 1. But I don’t know at that time what stage. I don’t know if surgery will be all I need, or if I’ll need to go the full chemo/radiation route. I don’t know anything about my future, except that I have cancer. So I responded with a pretty flat “Yay, Friday”. I think at that point, she realized she’d messed up. She asked what was wrong, I said “Earlier this week I was told I have cancer. Now, can we please get on with [work task]?” No one else pushed back when I said that I did not want to do voice calls.

      After I was back to work, I did mention it to a few other co-workers, but it is so much easier to talk about *after* cancer is past tense. I am now 2 years, 5 months cancer free.

  53. Allie*

    Okay so I have one direct report (first time having a direct report), I started this job about a year and a half ago, and I am wondering if I messed up. She had texted me that she was taking Thursday off earlier in the week because her new dog wasn’t feeling well and had to take her to the vet. I texted her on Thursday, even though she had the day off, to ask how the dog was and if she needed off for Friday as well. I mentioned this to my friend and she said that it is never appropriate to text someone on their day off, that they could get anxious seeing their boss’ name pop up on their phone screen and feel the need to work. I certainly would never ask about work on a day off, I thought that asking how their dog was doing was alright given the circumstances. Anyways, can someone please let me know if I need to apologize?

    1. Can't think of a funny name*

      I try to keep texts to coworkers to a minimum but I probably would have sent a text in this situation too. When the direct report is back working, you could say something like, “hope my text didn’t give you anxiety about the boss texting…was just worried about your dog” and see how she responds so you know for the future. My direct reports text me when they are on vacation sometimes so I know they would be ok with and appreciate me asking about their pet.

    2. Shoes*

      I would not be overly dramatic about it.

      “I texted you to see how you dog was doing and if you needed an additional day off. I wasn’t trying disrupt your day off. I would not contact you to make you work on your day off. This felt like an unusual situation.”

    3. Alisaurus*

      Did your report say/do anything to make you think she didn’t appreciate the text or is this just based off of what your friend said?

      For me, I’d appreciate my boss checking in on something like this. But that might differ with this particular person. If you get the sense that she might not have appreciated it, a quick little comment along the lines of what Can’t think of a funny name suggested might help. But if she responded positively, I don’t think you’d need to bring it up. However, if it would make you feel better about it all, a casual comment might also go a long way there too.

    4. anon_s*

      Did your report say anything? Your friend is your friend, so touch base with your report to see if this wasn’t appreciated to set boundaries going forward. It’s no big deal and you weren’t asking her to do work or check in on anything.

      I hate to go on a rant, but tbh, people choose to work on their day off if that message would make them feel obligated to work. Otherwise, people know exactly what their work environment is. There were some places I worked where my boss would email me on my days off and then ask why I don’t have it ready when I am back in office. However, most people are normal and understand the concept of a day off – just because they message or email you on that day doesn’t mean you need to do anything about it.

    5. WantonSeedStitch*

      I don’t think an apology is necessary, though I wouldn’t have done it. I would have trusted her to let me know if she needed Friday off too, and would have just asked after the dog when I next saw her. But it’s not like you approached her with a work question on her day off–that would have warranted an apology in my book!

    6. Rex Libris*

      I don’t think it’s an apology worthy situation. Normally I try to close the loop on the front end, like I’ll respond to the original request with “That’s fine, I hope your dog is okay. Let me know how it goes and if you need anything.” Then not contact when they’re off. It’s a minor faux paus in the scheme of things though.

    7. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      If I were the employee, I’d have thought that was kind of you. My manager would have put this message on Slack, not text, but if you use text that way it doesn’t seem out of bounds.

  54. Amber Rose*

    Everyone is very shocked that my office was moved down a floor into a corner, particularly since my old office is now just sitting empty. I have no idea what to say to them when they ask. No I didn’t request the move, no I didn’t have a choice, and the reason is because the EA hates my guts and I don’t fit the management “image” for the upper floor elite. I keep waffling about the reason but it’s exhausting and awkward and I think I’ve actually offended some people and I’m just hoping everyone stops caring soon.

    On a sillier note:

    Since we opted not to have a DJ this year for our Christmas party, I have been assembling a Spotify playlist with the help of the committee. Yes, I know this is ridiculous, but we couldn’t get a DJ to mesh with the other entertainment. On the plus side, I can now force everyone to endure both the Macarena AND the Cha Cha Slide. *evil laugh*

    We’re doing it early this year (next Friday) so look forward to the stories.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Ouch for the move. Sorry. In my experience, the way to get other people to stop caring is for you to seem not to care. Shrug, say “I spend all day staring at screens anyway, and I can do that anywhere”, and then change the topic.

    2. Girasol*

      How about a joke? “I heard there was a leak upstairs and they needed to get me out before the ceiling caved in,” or some such.

      1. Awkwardness*

        Or maybe some playful exaggeration? “Oh, the colour of the carpet never matched my cothes. It was so depressing. I think it is better on this floor!”

    3. Hiring Mgr*

      Office by yourself, far away from all management? Sounds like they’re jealous more than anything :)

    4. Tangerina Warbleworth*

      “BUT WHHYYYYY DID THEY MOOOOOVE YOOOUUUUU?????”

      “I have no idea. Best to ask EA.”

      For the Christmas party, please, please, please include at least one square dance, complete with “bow to your corner, bow to your own.”

  55. Just Want A Nap*

    I’m tired and burnt out, not from work, but from personal family stuff bleeding into my life. Part of me was literally hoping I get sick so that I don’t have to travel for Thanksgiving to be around family because of it. I was holding it together in the office but a “well meaning coworker” told my boss that I was crying in my car before going home.
    He asked, I said it was personal and asked if my performance has suffered (no). I assured him that it’d pass and not to worry about it.
    He has not dropped it, pointing out the company’s lovely EAP policy and asked if I needed FMLA. I assured him I’m making use of the EAP but FMLA isn’t applicable here.

    He’s now checking in daily and I just need him to back off. I regret crying in my car, and I wouldn’t do it again if I could’ve controlled it.

    Is there a good script for “Please stop inquiring, it’s extremely hurtful that you keep bringing this up?”

    1. Hlao-roo*

      He may be coming from a place of “I want to make sure Just Want A Nap is OK,” which I mention because you could have good results with an “assume good intentions/draft the problem-person as part of the solution” type script.

      Something along the lines of “[Boss], I know your daily check-ins come from a good place, and I appreciate how kind-hearted you are. What will help me most in this situation is if you treat me normally and don’t [bring up my personal situation/ask me how I’m doing every day/etc.]. Can you help me with this situation and keep our conversations to work topics?” Obviously adjust how think you need to lay on “kind-hearted” compliments to what you know of your boss.

      Sorry to hear about the tough personal/family stuff.

    2. nopetopus*

      “I’m trying to put it out of my mind and focus solely on work when I’m here. I know you’re trying to be supportive, but I’m good. When you bring it up daily, it actually makes it worse. If there is something I need from you, I promise I will bring it to you. Do you mind forgetting that any of this ever happened and treat me like normal going forward?”

    3. Ashley*

      I don’t have a good script, but you family doesn’t have to know what kind of ‘sick’ you are to skip the holidays. Give yourself grace to skip if it will help.

      1. Miss Lemon*

        I second that. If you’re this upset and the reason is family, take care of yourself and skip the holiday with them. Don’t feel guilty about it.

      2. Panicked*

        I was just about to say that! If you feel like you need permission, consider this your out.

        “I’m so sorry I won’t be able to make it this year. I’ve come down with a really nasty stomach bug and I wouldn’t wish these germs on anyone! I’m going to lay down with some saltines, but I’ll be thinking of you! Enjoy Aunt Mary’s famous giblet gravy for me!”

        Then go enjoy yourself!

        1. UKDancer*

          Yeah claiming stomach bugs is a wonderful excuse for not doing something. They’re short term unpleasant enough to get you out of the commitment (nobody wants their guests puking on them) but not usually lasting and most people avoid any long term consequences. 48 hours later, most people are fine so it’s fine to be up and about in the next day or so.

          Tell your family you have norovirus, do what you want over the holiday and just don’t post it on social media.

    4. OtterB*

      It sounds like you could be straightforward with him and say, honestly, if there’s anything that work can do that would help you will say so, and otherwise it makes things more stressful for you rather than less for him to keep asking.

    5. RagingADHD*

      Hey Boss, I know you mean well but these daily check-ins are not helpful. I didn’t bring it up to you in the first place because I don’t want to talk about it at work. I would really appreciate having my privacy back. Thank you for understanding.

    6. anon_s*

      Nothing bad will happen if you just skip the holidays, barring someone threatening you for not being there or someone else being harmed by you not being there. You don’t need to go. Big hugs – I don’t have the details, but I’ve felt this type of self-harm obligation before & my world opened up when I learned to say ‘no’ and realized their momentary anger & the temporary rejection was less painful than being around them and hurting myself in the process.

      However, for your boss, you might just ask for a single day off to make it feel like his support has “helped” and you could use that for a day to decompress? Or simply, “I sincerely appreciate the support that you and [reporting coworker] have shown me; it makes me happy to work here and it’s reassuring to know that I’m in this environment. The situation has cleared up for now, so I don’t want you to have to worry – now that it’s passed, I’d rather move on from it. I really appreciate the check ins and I want to say thank you again for the concern.”

    7. Generic Name*

      You know…..there’s been various colds going around, nevermind covid. There’s still time to “get sick” before you have to travel.

    8. WantonSeedStitch*

      I would say something like “I appreciate that you’re concerned, but to be honest, the most helpful thing you could do for me right now is to drop the subject. It’s a lot easier and more pleasant to focus on my work if I don’t have to be reminded of the personal stuff I’m dealing with while I’m in the office.”

    9. WorkingRachel*

      Ugh, that would really bother me. So you cried IN YOUR OWN CAR before going home, and a coworker saw you. That’s so not a big deal! I’ve cried privately at work, for both work-related and non-work-related things, countless times, and if a single incident of that that someone happened to notice or see was treated as a mental health crisis I would find it a huge overstep. I also don’t love that your coworker told your boss; again, it was one time, and not while on the clock, not, say, a pattern of breaking down in tears during meetings.

      “Please trust me that I am fine, and please stop bringing this up”? The fact that you are actually having a bit of a hard time is not relevant or any of his business, since it’s not impacting your performance and you don’t want to talk about it at work.

  56. FunnyMoney*

    Happy Friday! I have a treasurer question: a public two-year college has a foundation with a board; one member is the treasurer. However, all of the finances for the foundation are being handled by an employee of the college who is not a member of the board, (but is a volunteer) and the actual treasurer has nothing to do with the foundation’s finances. They don’t keep the records, sign checks, prepare reports, or file forms with the IRS. Nothing. Shouldn’t the finances of a foundation be handled or at least overseen by the actual treasurer? Or is this common practice?

    1. Ashley*

      Who is overseeing the employee and signing checks? And do you have an outside audit done?
      My only thought is in smaller orgs sometimes the President / Chair and Vice-President / Vice-Chair will do those roles and the Treasurer is a little more of a warm body.

    2. Goddess47*

      It may be regulatory, but the classic: I am not a lawyer. And what little I know from my state may or may not apply in your state.

      The college treasurer may not be on the foundation Board in their treasurer position but for other reasons. The treasurer may be able to advise the volunteer but a foundation is a legally separate entity from the college itself. It may be a legal conflict of interest for the college treasurer to be the official treasurer for the Foundation.

      If you’re truly curious, you should ask!

  57. Working From Home*

    I have a new remote job I’m starting next month (yay) that pays me well enough to have a nice home office setup. I also teach asynchronous online classes on top of the remote (also in education) job. I have a nice desktop setup, decent webcam, a headset, speakers, a decent chair, foot rest, and wrist rest. What other recommendations do people have for a work-from-home setup? Does anyone have a great chair pillow recommendation or a butt pillow they swear by?

    1. Jay (no, the other one)*

      I love love love my adjustable sit/stand desk. LOVE it.

      This year I bought a nice recliner for my office that I use for reading and non-desk tasks. Gives my back and neck a break and makes for a nice change in routine.

    2. sb51*

      A nice coffee machine if you drink coffee, or other equivalent (seltzer maker, electric kettle and nice mug, whatever). An electric blanket if you tend to keep your house a little cooler than an office and might occasionally freeze yourself when deep in thought and not moving much. A printer if it’s ever helpful to be able to do stuff dead-tree. Good lighting even if everything is monitor-based.

  58. The Dude Abides*

    Water cooler talk in my office today – a gov’t building elsewhere in town has been shut down twice recently over a bedbug infestation, and they’ve been able to track down the source.

    We were discussing who would have to have the difficult conversation with the employee, because it sounds like it should have happened a while ago, and now the employee’s co-workers likely have grounds for filing a grievance (the employee and most of their co-workers are likely unionized) for unsafe working conditions.

    1. cubone*

      I’m sure you can’t add too many details (or might not know them), but I’m curious how they would even know the “source”. Bedbugs are are resilient, so how would they know if someone “brought” them in, or they were just dormant for months (/years, apparently), unless that person posted online like, “I’m going to intentionally bring bedbugs to my office”? Also, even if one person is known to have a bedbug infestation at home, how does that mean it’s a sure thing they are likely to be the way they got to the office?

      (I know some property management companies that have a “No Blame” policy for pests for this reason – they don’t want people to hesitate bringing up that they have bugs if they’re afraid of being blamed or shamed for it)

      1. The Dude Abides*

        From what I heard through the grapevine, they were able to use blacklight to track the primary source, based on where they were most highly concentrated and that person’s usual walking paths within the office.

        1. 1LFTW*

          Public sector shop steward here! I don’t work in your town, or for this agency, and I’ve never dealt with bedbugs specifically, but I can share my perspective.

          Whatever branch of government this is, they likely has a specific person or agency who would deal with this – where I am, the “difficult conversation” would be an email notification by my agency’s OSHA compliance office. They would contact all of the workers affected by the bedbugs in a way that’s respectful and ensures everyone’s privacy.

          The union would only get involved if there was reason to believe that management had violated relevant OSHA regulations, or they’d violated the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the union, and it’s not clear that’s the case here; it’s possible they legitimately didn’t know. Now, if someone had brought this to management’s attention, and management blew them off? Then yes, the affected workers would likely have a grievance!

          The other place where I might get involved is if a worker was singled out, or blamed for, or faced retaliation because of the infestation. I’m honestly a little concerned that the rumor mill is assigning blame “based on their usual walking paths within the office”, because absolutely nobody who’s involved with this should be gossiping about it AT ALL. There’s a very good chance they’re opening somebody up to a grievance by doing so.

  59. Joie de Vivre*

    For the first time in my life, I am working with someone I would consider a drama addict. Not a drama king/queen- but actually craves the adrenaline rush of turmoil. A very good person to have when there is a crisis- but if there isn’t a crisis, they will create one.

    I don’t know how much longer I can work in this environment.

    My question is – when I interview going forward, how can I screen (out) employers/potential coworkers who create drama for drama’s sake?

    1. Cyndi*

      This won’t be a catchall, but one of my rules of thumb is to be wary of people who make a lot of noise during the hiring/onboarding process about how everyone else who’s had this job has been terrible, just the worst, but you’re obviously different and going to fix everything! Like yes, there are situations where that’s factually true and you’re going to have to clean up the last person’s mess, but I’ve had a few jobs working for bosses who did the professional equivalent of “all my ex-girlfriends are crazy but you’re gonna be different!” and it’s never turned out well.

      1. Joie de Vivre*

        The crazy ex analogy is a good one.

        If I could just figure out a good way to ask about this in an interview.

        1. pally*

          Yeah, that would be hard to find the perfect question to suss this out.

          In my experience, drama queens and the like, all insist they are the ‘calm and collected’ type. So asking how they handled an unexpected major problem will yield the steps they did. Not the bitching, whining and fomenting of the problem they may have done.

          That makes me think that one might ask the interviewer how other members of the team/department handled said unexpected problem. Again, hard to get that question phrased properly. Would they just cite the steps taken to remedy the situation or rat out someone who caused upset when it wasn’t needed?

          Maybe a question along the lines of how often crises occur, what kinds, and how they are handled might get at how things are handled. If there’s a set procedure they follow, and these crises seem to be easily remedied via this procedure might mean they aren’t blown out of proportion. An ‘on the fly’ approach for crises that all seem similar may mean there’s room for the drama queen(s) to flourish.

    2. Morgan Proctor*

      I’m not sure there’s a way to do that. You might be able to glean hints of this behavior from anyone who is interviewing you, but it would be next to impossible to vet everyone you’re going to be working with. I think your best strategy is to learn to deal with Drama Addicts.

      I work with a Drama Addict. Let’s call her Cheryl. I have found that I can simply ignore the drama that Cheryl is trying to start, because it’s usually about some trivial thing that’s not important. Deflecting and changing the subject work well.

      Cheryl: “I can’t stand Cyril on the Silk Blanket team.”
      Me: “Oh hey, did those silk blankets ever get shipped?”
      Cheryl: “Oh, yes they did.”

      Move on from there. You can also respond by laughing, as though you’re laughing in solidarity, and then change the subject, or just walk away.

  60. Banana Pyjamas*

    I was let go from a job this week. I did learn a valuable lesson: no matter how flexible your workplace claims to be, unofficial policies mean nothing, they will use the official policy to bolster your termination.

    My question pertains to contact information. Is it acceptable to provide the contact information for the HR department rather than the number to the office you worked in? In my exit interview HR said they only confirm employment dates and titles. My skip level level boss, previous supervisor, and coworker will all give me references, I just really don’t want future employers to speak with most recent grand boss. Skip level and coworker are still employed by the office.

    Additionally, I worked for county x and township y, which is technically a division of county x. They both are under County X Human Resources. If I can put the HR number, how should I note/flag this on applications and my resume?

    1. ferrina*

      Usually references and place of employement contacts are different things. For place of employment, but the HR number or general business line.

      For references, that’s where you will give out the personal contact info for your skip-level boss, previous supervisor and coworker. Check with them on whether the reference checkers should use their work contact info or personal contact info. Try to get both an email address and phone number if possible.

      I’m sorry you’re going through this, and I hope you land at a great place!

      1. Banana Pyjamas*

        Thank you. I provided additional info that muddied my question. I do have those people listed separately under references.

        My concern is that if I provide the same HR phone number for two different places of employment, it will look like a mistake. County and township have different addresses, but the same HR phone number. How do I flag that the duplicate phone number is in fact correct?

  61. Working From Home*

    I think some variation of the standard “Tell me about a time when you handled conflict at work and how you resolved it” might be helpful here. You can shift it to be interpersonal conflict or add a second question about working in a team with various and conflicting points of view and how they would handle that.

  62. Lizabeth*

    An interesting read in the Washington Post Work Advice column by Karla Miller yesterday – How much notice should you give before retiring? Most of it was pretty standard stuff blah, blah, blah until…reading the comments section. I was rolling on the floor laughing at the responses that were totally different from the article. My favorite: as much time as the company gives someone when they get rid of an employee.

    Me? I’m giving a month. I’m making a list of what I do for my immediate boss. The stuff I do isn’t rocket science by any stretch. If I didn’t take her into consideration – I’d quit because TPTB don’t deserve that consideration.

    1. Girasol*

      I was told two months “if you respect your manager at all.” In retrospect I wish I’d said two weeks. That would have been more than enough.

    2. Colette*

      I think it depends whether you have a pension with your employer. For those who do, more notice is probably required just because they have work to do to make sure you get your money. But most people don’t have pensions these days.

    3. m2*

      A relative tried to give a month, but he was an executive (for decades) at a Fortune 10 and was asked to give a year (!). They settled on 6 months. He didn’t really do much for those 6 months, but was there for a hand off and easy pay check.

      I know another executive at an organization who gave 2 weeks and left!

    4. WantonSeedStitch*

      Just like with quitting, there’s no obligation. As someone who really loves where I work and who has responsibility for a whole team, I would probably want to give a fair amount of notice before retiring in order to have time to help with a transition plan. I wouldn’t want my departure to negatively affect my team. I’d give more notice than I would if I were leaving for another job. Probably a few months at least. But it would be different if I were in an individual contributor role, I think, or at a place I cared less about.

    5. Anna Crusis*

      Someone I know just up and retired after working for their company over 30 years. I think they basically came to work one day and announced that was their last day. Some people had quit in the months before and were asked to leave before their notice periods were up (not the norm for their work), so my friend figured there was no difference and beat them to the punch. LOL! It was kind of a shocking thing to do considering their personality, even though they had been considering retiring for some time.

    6. linger*

      Heavily dependent on sector. At the extreme end, tenured university teaching staff are often expected to give at least six (and preferably 12) months’ notice of retirement because course curricula are published that far in advance, and there are limited possibilities for students juggling prerequisites and corequisites to complete degrees on schedule, and it is well-nigh impossible to recruit someone with equivalent knowledge of the subject in any shorter timeframe.

  63. Anonosaurus*

    I am looking for advice on how to improve one’s concentration and focus – in particular any good books, apps or websites etc?

    I have always been quite easily distracted, let’s say, but lately I am struggling at work because I can’t concentrate for more than a few minutes at a time unless I am interacting with someone one-to-one (such as a meeting with one of the client groups we serve). I struggle to focus in the office but when I am working at home I can spend hours flitting about from task to task and achieving nothing. I also don’t find my downtime very relaxing because I am doing the same but with household rather than work tasks, so I don’t think it’s specific to the nature of my work. when I’m working I feel frustrated because I’m getting nothing done and when I’m relaxing I feel frustrated because I’m not even focusing on relaxing if that makes sense.

    My work is a balance between deep focus and more routine tasks but I have to be able to sustain attention for reasonable periods to get things done. I am in a senior role and my boss does not monitor my work product in any kind of detailed way so as long as I hit my numbers (which somehow I do) nothing will be said. my boss is not interested in supporting or coaching me and I don’t want to discuss any of this with her.

    if you’re reading this and thinking ADHD then so am I – I am considering that but I’m not looking for advice on how to seek a diagnosis.

    thank you in advance, disciplined, centered and focused commenters!

    1. ferrina*

      If you’re thinking ADHD, check out the YouTube channel How To ADHD. She’s done a lot of research and has great information about ADHD and advice on how to manage ADHD. She might have some tips that can help.

      Exercise can help. Doing some exercises has been shown to increase focus for a couple hours afterwards. True for ADHD and non-ADHD.

      I also find sound cues to help. I put on a CD and say “for this CD, I’m working on X”. That helps me mentally go into the task, and once my brain hits its groove, I’m good to go.
      If that’s too long, you can do pomodoro technique. For that, I usually spend 20 minutes on [Task], then 10 minutes on [Whatever]. A physical kitchen timer is great for this.

      Good luck!

    2. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      ferrina’s suggestion is a good one! I have had success with virtual coworking like Focusmate and Flown. (ADHDers call it body doubling!) I also find it’s really important to pepper my day with tasks that are rewarding and enjoyable. It feels so counter intuitive and it’s really hard to get started when you’ve been in a guilt/shame spiral, but taking a break to do something fun honestly helps me to get back on track way better than trying to force it.

      Making things less visibly cluttered is also important. I find physically writing down tasks extracts them from my mind more effectively than typing them, and then if I choose just one thing and hide every other thing I need to work on, I do better. Putting on headphones and listening to lo-fi or what have you is also good. Getting lots of movement (notice I did not say exercise) is also critical to being able to focus. Honestly if I’m feeling internally chaotic going for a walk or bouncing up and down or boxing or genuinely any movement can physically exorcise some of that pent up energy.

      I hope some of that is helpful and good luck on your journey?

    3. Higher Ed Cube Farmer*

      Rather than describe a bunch of suggestions that work for me
      (me: no ADHD diagnosis and no interest in pursuing one, some intermittent focus/executive function issues but not quite the same pattern as most the dx’d ADHD people I know (and I know a Lot of people with ADHD, possibly half of my closer friends/family))

      I’m just going to take the easy road and suggest you do what I did, and search for and borrow heavily from tips, books, apps, websites etc. that target people with ADHD, and customize it to my individual needs.
      Jessica McCabe’s How To ADHD youtube channel is one good resource, but there’s far too many more to list.

      It often doesn’t take much adjustment to make ADHD-resources work for other uses. Most of the same techniques also work for distraction based on being over-stressed, under-slept, or bored/frustrated –for example, same techniques are used by hospital emergency surgeons, first responders, aircraft pilots. Most good resources include variations or suggestions about applying to a variety of circumstances.
      Even though most of the advice is framed as accommodating, mitigating or working around a tendency to distraction, rather than improving/expanding baseline ability to focus despite distractions, but it’s my experience that repeated practice of mitigation and workarounds ALSO builds baseline focus ability and habits that can be focus-enhancing across all circumstances (or can be broadly focus-undermining if they’re the wrong habits).

      A caveat: Some people say ADHD (or distractable/unfocused for any reason) brains do not form habits, as less-distractible brains do, because they had a hard time forming habits that they wanted to. My experience of alllll the ADHD and creative, free-spirited, or otherwise distractible people I know is that is incorrect: distractible people totally form habits, perhaps even more readily than less-distractible people. They’re just much more likely to be *unconscious* habits aligned with the person’s natural inclinations, and at odds with the habit or method the person consciously wanted to counter their natural inclinations. This is not a problem if a suggested technique happens to align with your nature and works for you “out of the box.” But if nothing you try seems to work, or it seems to work briefly but take a lot of effort that you struggle to sustain, it may need adjustment to fit rather than fight your natural inclinations.

      Distracted solidarity,

    4. RagingADHD*

      Timers and music.

      For staying on task with “busywork” like housework, put on a peppy playlist, set a timer for short increments (1o, 15 or 20 minutes), and work on a single area. It’s okay to go put things in another room as long as you come back.

      For deep focus, set a longer timer, like 45 – 75 minutes and use something like binaural beats, lofi, or adagio classical. Start shorter, maybe even with 30 minutes, and work your way up. IDK how well binaural beats hold up to scientific testing, but I swear by them. They make my brain do that thing like in The Incredibles, when the babysitter puts on Mozart and the baby’s eyes change focus.

    5. kiki*

      So this sounds counter-intuitive but when I work from home, I find a television show that takes minimal brain activity to understand (a show I’ve seen before, Bravo, etc.) and watch that while I work. I realized that instead of a shortage of concentration, I have too much brain energy going at one time that pulls me from task to task. Finding just the right something to keep the back of my mind at bay allows the front of my mind to stay focused on what I want it to.

    6. Frankie Bergstein*

      Have you listened to The Body Electric, the six part podcast on how our bodies and minds adjust to technology? They did an experiment where individuals were asked to walk (or move or wiggle) for five minutes out of every half hour, and the results were dramatic when it came to things like mood, blood sugar, blood pressure, etc. I wonder if experimenting with the ways tech is part of your life could be a worthwhile thing to consider.

  64. Vanilla latte breve*

    Just need to vent here. I just found out that i am getting reorged again to my fourth leader in two years. My new leader seems nice enough but they are brand new to the organization. With the new team structure, it is really unclear who is going to be doing what and the message from leadership is, “we will just figure it out.”

    My role is very specialized. They want me to take on more work (no extra pay or title bump of course). I said no. Ive been job hunting for several months and am ready to leave if need be.

    I guess the one silver lining is that i wont report to my (now) former manager, Bob. I could write a book on his poor management skills (threatening associates, ignoring them, etc), so i am thankful to be away from him.

  65. fine tipped pen aficionado*

    What have been some of your worst and best onboarding experiences?

    I haven’t managed anyone outside of retail but I have a new direct report starting in about a month. She’s fantastic and I want to make sure she has the best possible start here and gets everything she needs to succeed, not get overwhelmed, and feel valued and respected and invested in.

    Obviously I’m using other resources, but it would be great to hear things that have worked and not worked for others!

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Make a schedule in the first week or two where she has short meetings with each of the people she’ll be working with. This way she can ask questions, get the lay of the land, and learn everyone’s name.

      Have a training schedule/checklist drawn up, including all the paperwork from HR, time to figure out benefits, how to work the phone/voicemail and the computer network, where the store room is, how to work the printer, etc. as well as for training on the actual job. Go over the list regularly and make sure she’s on track.

    2. Ashley*

      Make sure the basics are set up – you are giving them a clean space but they can get basic supplies like pens and post it notes. Make sure they have the computer login set up, with printers, and access to common company programs. Also make sure they have a chair. (I have a lot of experience with not get first impressions for jobs.)
      If there is a stack of first day paperwork and you can have it emailed in advanced so you aren’t sitting there for 20 minutes doing W-4 math.
      Outside of the basics, have a rough schedule for the week. If they are sitting with other folks, make sure others know and know why this person is going to be sitting in with them. Make sure if you have a day of meetings there is someone else the new person can go to with questions while you are unavailable.
      Try and take them to lunch or bring in lunch for their first day.

    3. Goddess47*

      Since you’ll be managing the person, you’ll be seeing them regularly, but think of the onboarding as an ‘ongoing’ sort of thing for a period of time. So that for their first, oh, three months, do a deliberate ‘what did you learn new recently that I should have warned you about’ check in…

      Good luck!

    4. Elsewise*

      My best was at my current job! On my first day I came in to my email account set up and my calendar full of scheduled meetings with different people I would need to know, including a regular meeting with my manager. They set up a project for “onboarding Elsewise” in Asana, so I could see when my manager checked off things she had to do, and I also had a list of tasks, including the required trainings, reading on the history of the organization, shadowing someone currently in the role, etc. It was a really smooth process.

      My worst was my last job. The Wednesday before my Monday start date, I hadn’t gotten any information about my first day, so I emailed my boss. He emailed me back on Friday to tell me he’d be out of the office on a work trip Monday through Wednesday of my first week, but he’d send me an onboarding packet. Then he emailed me an employee handbook (which he would later claim didn’t exist), one news article about the work they did, and a half-written grant. He called me on Monday evening to suggest that I come to the work trip, but he couldn’t figure out what I would do. The plan was for me to go to his house at six am the next morning and he’d drive me to somewhere and we’d “get to know each other”. He also suggested that his wife, who worked in my field but not for our organization, should onboard me. She was very nice and super knowledgeable, and very frustrated that he hadn’t done any onboarding paperwork and didn’t seem to intend to.

      When I did finally manage to go into the office to meet him, he gave me a tour, which was cut short by a reporter calling to ask him about a negative story they were printing about him, so he stormed off, shouting and swearing at the phone, while I sat in the office for nearly an hour and twiddled my thumbs. He came back and spent the rest of my onboarding ranting about the reporter, while also farting very loudly. It took three weeks before I managed to get him to tell the rest of the company that I worked there. Somehow, despite all that, I managed to last five months at that job.

    5. ferrina*

      My company has a great onboarding. Here’s the general gist:

      Week 1: Administrative stuff. Prepare a list of software she’ll need and have her check off everything in that list (one of them is going to break; you want to find out which one so you can fix it asap). Fill out the paperwork. Show her where all the training documents are. Set up a full hour to talk to her about the company structure- who does what, why it matters.

      Week 2-3: Set up meetings with key people. This could be people she will work closely with, or team leads who can tell her about how their team operates. The goal is to break down that initial intimidation barrier of “I can’t interrupt this person!”

      Month 1: Create a list of tasks for her to learn. These are the things she will be doing day-to-day. First, she should read through SOPs and documentation (if you have them). Second, she should watch someone else do the task. Third, someone else watches her while she does the task (for questions, moral support, and as a tech safety net- we’ve actually discovered people missing buttons in their software). Finally, she gets to operate independently.

      Have regular check-ins with her during the first month. At least twice a week, if not more. This way she can let you know what she’s up to and can ask you any random questions that have come up.

    6. Colette*

      1) Figure out what the first week looks like, and make it varied. (Not just “read these books for 8 hours”.
      2) Do the paperwork on your end to make sure they have a desk and computer (assuming this is that kind of job).
      –> Before you do this, make sure you know how to spell her name and what she wants to be called
      3) Figure out the stuff she needs to know that’s not directly related to her work:
      – benefits
      – dress code
      – how to request vacation
      – policies re: sick time
      – parking
      – timecards
      – pay stubs
      – building access
      – security info
      – EAP
      – etc.
      4) Tell her where and when to show up, and what she needs to bring (e.g. when I started with my current organization, I needed to leave a piece of ID at security to get a temporary badge) Let her know what your environment is like (office or warehouse, casual or business dress, cafeteria on site or bring your own lunch, etc.)
      5) When she arrives, introduce her to people but don’t expect her to remember everyone’s name day 1.

    7. Ginger Cat Lady*

      Worst: Started working at a research study while in college, was given a 4 in binder of the full study protocol and told I had to read the whole thing before we could do anything else. The vast majority of the study protocol had nothing to do with what I did. It was a PT 10 hours a week job and it took me almost 2 weeks to plow my way through it.
      Best: Some eLearning, some in person instructor led, meeting the team, and a whole lot of side by side working with the person leaving the job.

  66. StruggleWithMotivation*

    I am struggling to stay motivated to study for the GRE. I have been studying almost every day for the past month, but my scores in the practice tests have been very poor and in general, I have not been improving at all. My poor results with practicing for the GRE is also discouraging me from attending grad school.

    Does anyone have any advice on staying motivated to study for the GRE? (Or for applying to grad school in general)

    1. Rick Tq*

      Do you have someone who can look over your results to see if there are any underlying patterns in your scores?

      Just going over the material again and again won’t help if your strategies for answering questions need to be improved.

    2. pally*

      Can you attend a GRE class or procure a coach keep up the motivation and provide tactics for successful test taking?

    3. Charlotte Lucas*

      Are you only doing the general or also a subject test?

      I focused most on my subject test and the related part of the general test.

      1. StruggleWithMotivation*

        It’s the general test – the programs I’m interested in don’t require the subject test.

    4. DisneyChannelThis*

      Don’t keep studying the same way if you’re not seeing improvement. They make a lot of good premade flash card sets, workbooks, online tutorials etc for GRE. Mix it up. Figure out what areas you just need to review and what areas you have concepts you need to learn new. For me, I had a strong math/sciences background in college so I was laughing at the math section for being easy but I had long forgotten everything I may have once known in the vocab section. I spent a lot of time with word roots, word flash cards, worksheets using the words in sentences etc. I think they no longer do the word comparisions towel:soap :: rag:polish those were hell.

      For grad school in general, make sure you have a good plan. Don’t just go because your not sure what you want to do next. I wasted at least 2 years and 20k that I could have avoided if I had been more focused with a specific plan (6 years total). It’s ok to have the plan change, its not set in stone, but don’t go without some plan. What do you want to get (masters, phd, etc), what career options exist for both, what subfield, what majors, what’s the game plan if you decide to exit with masters instead of phd as originally planned, whats those career paths look like. Go look at job ads now. What careers do you want, what do they need, what skills do they have. What things do you need to try out in grad school to decide if that’s a good career for you (teaching, grading, writing lectures, grants, papers, managing students/labs) ? Make sure you have ways to try out those opportunities. Give yourself an honest look at potential futures.

    5. m2*

      Keep practicing, but switch it up! Are there groups you can join? Online? Reddit or grad cafe may have some ideas?

      I don’t know what you are looking to study but the GRE is just part of your application. If you need quantitative or other skills and don’t have from undergrad look at online or community college courses if you want.

      Do you know what you want to study and do? Look at various universities and ones with funding, etc. Do you research and cast a wide net. There are a lot out there. I wouldn’t go into a lot of debt for graduate degree unless its a law degree from a top university or an MBA from a good university that shows career trajectories for graduates.

      You aren’t just your GRE score and admissions committees know that. Tell your story and your strengths and why you want that degree from that institution.

    6. Nesprin*

      What discipline? MS or PhD or something else?

      If the GRE is really going to be an obstacle, look for programs that offer GRE waivers.

      1. StruggleWithMotivation*

        I’ve been looking at an MBA program that requires GMAT or GRE scores. I went with the GRE because it’s not as heavy on quantitative skills but I still find the quantitative sections difficult (I was not good at Math in school so I’m struggling more than others).

        1. Pam Adams*

          FYI- My campus has a program that’s a Master’s in Public Administration (MBA without the math- very popular with people in Government) There are also Master’s programs with less math- example, a program in Management and Leadership or Organizational Communication.

          These might be useful to look at if you’re struggling with the quantitative side of things.

          1. anon33*

            Some MPA/ MPPs are actually VERY quantitatively heavy so if you do go this route do research on each particular program. BUT some of these programs have a GRE waiver or did during Covid (not all but some). Some of the top programs such as Princeton SPIA and Yale Jackson fully cover tuition costs and offer a living stipend while others have great scholarships.

            If you really want the MBA but are struggling with the test look at free or reduced online quantitative courses or courses at a local community college. You can usually add these transcripts to your application to show you are serious/ you can do the work.

            PLEASE be careful about taking out debt for graduate school. There are some free programs and some that offer full tuition or great scholarships, just look around, maybe attend virtual fairs, etc. Just google “graduate school debt” and read the articles.

            https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/03/upshot/student-debt-big-culprit-graduate-school.html#:~:text=graduates%20earn%20only%20about%20%2435%2C000,graduate%20nationally%20is%20around%20%2445%2C000.)

    7. AFac*

      Does the program(s) you want to apply to have a threshold GRE score? I ask this because in my field, there really isn’t a minimum score, and many things are weighed when it comes to graduate program acceptance, including GPA, research experience, availability of an appropriate advisor, and funding for stipends.

      If your field operates like mine, a low GRE may be ameliorated by other aspects of your record.

    8. tentative turtle*

      I had a similar problem when I was applying to grad school several years ago. I was exhausted from working all day on a project that was especially demanding at that time, and it was really difficult for me to have the energy to study for the GRE. Also, I had been out of school for a while so I was really rusty on standardized test-taking.

      I lived near a community college so there was a Starbucks down the street from me that was open late. If I was having a hard time concentrating at home, I would go there to study because there was so much energy with lots of students also studying.

      As others mentioned, the premade flash cards and workbooks did help. I used Manhattan Prep’s materials and I think they were really helpful. The GRE seems to want you to reason things out in a specific way and solve specific types of problems, so I think part of taking the GRE is cracking that code. Maybe go back and really analyze where you’re getting incorrect answers and figure out the strategies for tackling those types of problems/questions.

      The practice tests were disappointing for me too, but I ended up doing better on the actual test than I ever did on any of the practice tests. So I would say, try not to get too discouraged and try to stay focused and be strategic about your time and what you’re studying.

      Also, as someone else mentioned, the GRE is only part of your application, so it’s important to balance your time working on all those pieces. It was a big juggling act for me and I felt squeezed for time every day. I submitted my application with only an hour to spare- I would not recommend that!

      I was surprised how physically exhausted I was at the end of the test; it felt like I had run a race. So all those obvious things they say to do the night before/morning of will help: good night’s rest, good breakfast, pack up all your stuff the night before.

      Good luck and best wishes to you! Applying to grad school is no fun, but hopefully it will all be worth it.

  67. Snickers Bar*

    Happy Friday y’all! I’m SO glad the work week is over. Mostly because I feel like I’m not vibing with my team.

    Interestingly, I feel like I get along with them all individually (our jobs are fully remote), but once we have a group meeting (which is the majority of our meetings), I cannot get a word in. Someone commented on how quiet I was–but I don’t know how to say “It’s so hard to get a word in” without seeming rude.

    I’ve observed that most of my team has a similar personality style. Very assertive, talks over each other, and often times frame things as “I’m right, that’s wrong.” I can deal with this one on one, but in groups I get so overwhelmed. This has not been an issue for me in other workplaces, usually I’ve worked in places where people talk slower or will ask the room for questions, or I’ve felt more comfortable speaking up. I feel nervous saying something here.

    It’s so interesting to me because before I took this role, I knew most of the people on the team and liked them. We didn’t interact a bunch, they were colleagues and I admired them from afar as they all run their own businesses (it does feels like we’re a team of consultants, but we’re employees.) Working with them on a team is a whole other thing!

    I feel my confidence level dropping in every team meeting. Part of me feels like I should look for another work place (amongst other reasons) but other parts of me feels like I need to toughen up. I could speak to them individually, and I have with one person, but with them–they have such a similar style to the rest of the team that they couldn’t understand why I felt uncomfortable. They just replied with “Huh… well I don’t experience that… but I’m sorry that’s been happening to you.”

    Anyone have a similar team experience?

    1. Awkwardness*

      Who is responsible to organise the meetings? Do you have rules/structure in place as: not two persons talking parallely, before going to next point of the agenda asking if somebody wants to add something etc
      Ideally the host would care that all are heard and thus making sure the rules are followed.

      1. WantonSeedStitch*

        Seconding this. The meetings are not being well-facilitated. Is it your boss facilitating the meetings? If so, I would go to them and say, “hey, I want to talk to you about an issue I’ve been having in team meetings. I’m finding it difficult to contribute or ask questions because folks are talking over each other so much, and because a lot of times if someone disagrees with a person, they just shoot them down. Can we have a discussion about ground rules for the meetings, like making sure everyone has a chance to be heard, and about respectful disagreement?”

        If your manager is like “OK snowflake,” then you’re going to want to start looking for another job. If they’re like “oh, huh, I hadn’t realized it was a problem, but yeah, let’s do something about that,” then there’s hope.

    2. Hillary*

      I’ve only experienced it once at work, and honestly, I had to switch up my style. I didn’t want to interrupt (and I’d been coached in the past to not interrupt) but to the team it wasn’t rude. It was just how the group works. One of our first in-person group meetings my boss ended up yelling at them to be quiet because I had something to say. It dialed them back a little but I also had to be more assertive. It wasn’t toughness, it was a different set of norms. This is made even harder with virtual meetings because of lag.

      Stereotypes abound, I was being super midwestern. And although they’re not from New Jersey they were being very New Jersey.

    3. Frankie Bergstein*

      Yes! I tried jumping in for awhile, and I honestly think that’s the right thing to do. If this is the only major issue in your culture, then adapting to it is probably the way to go. You could talk to the meeting facilitator to see if they’re willing to change it — it can’t hurt. Worst they will say no, and you’ll be no worse off.

  68. Lost imposter*

    I’m a month and a half into my new role and we’re already standing up the team that will report to me (6 new hire roles in the early interview stages). I still don’t know what my role will look like and I’m struggling to answer what the team will be focusing on and our KPIs and all those standard interview questions.

    Part of the push is to get as much out of the remaining 2023 budget as possible. I also feel like they hired the wrong person. My background is program management and now I’m acting as a scrum master and going deep into project management territory that I am way less experienced in (this morning I bought the CAPM training from PMI and will start working towards that certification).

    How can I navigate this imposter syndrome, my knowledge gap, and standing up a team without showing all my cards and potentially jeopardizing my job?

    1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      This is…tricky.

      First, a few questions to ask yourself: What drew you to this job? Are those features still present? And are they still worth it given what you know about the realities of the package?

      Second, what outcome do you want? Do you want to keep this job or do you want to find something more aligned with your current skillset?

      Finally, and I say this trying to help, what you’ve described doesn’t sound like imposters syndrome. As you know, scrum and project management is a specific skillset which it doesn’t sound like you have. So your doubts about being able to be a scrum master is based in reality, not a skewed self-perception.

    2. peter b*

      As someone who fell into PMing because of having skills that were close enough to hire but often leave me feeling like a fish out of water, the PMI training will help but I’ve found that what reassures me most is that being able to contribute to what the company needs >> my feeling like I don’t have good PM knowledge. Especially because project management has its own standards – but if you don’t have clear direction/strategy from above, there’s only so much you can do. In the absence of bigger picture stuff, focusing on what goals you have that ARE immediate and quantifiable help. It’s a really tough position to be in and you have my sympathy.

  69. Pam*

    My company might be defining different jobs differently, and I don’t know how to tackle it. My company has a dozen teams that all do the same type of work, but for different clients. Each team has the same job titles, with vague job descriptions. Even though the job descriptions are the same, it’s vague enough that the actual day-to-day roles can be really different.

    Add to that, career growth is really important in my company’s culture. It’s assumed that each person should be constantly working for the next role. Driving this is that raises are only given with promotions (or with special dispensation). So if you are a Llama Groomer, you won’t get a COLA, but you’ll get a big raise when you become a Senior Llama Groomer. This has been going on for decades and is deeply entrenched in the company’s culture.

    This is causing a bunch of problems. 1) It’s really hard to transfer people between teams because each team has different responsibilities for the same role. 2) No one wants to cover lower-level work because it will impact their promotion potential, so we end up with people salty when we don’t have excess entry-level staff to do the lower level work. 3) There’s organization-wide confusion about the difference between a Llama Groomer and Senior Llama Groomer. 4) We end up with a weird mix of junior vs senior staff. Since promotions are done as a reward and not based on business needs, we end up with too many Team Leaders and not enough Groomers 5) Promotions are through an application system, so people have to apply for their own promotion. This could lead to DEIJ/discrimination issues (certain populations less likely to self-advocate due to societal microaggressions and not-so-micro aggressions) and leads to some people getting too many promotions while others don’t get any (see also Problem 3- some people are hesitant to apply because they don’t understand if they are qualified).

    I’m in a role where I could influence the future of this system. So…..what should we do? How do we even begin to untangle this? This is going to take both structural changes and get the people on board for this (and for some people, they’ve spent the majority for their career at this company, so this is all they’ve ever known).

    tldr; promotions are only way to get a raise, roles are same name but different responsibilities in different teams (even though teams all do same work), leads to lots of issues….how to fix?

    1. Busy Middle Manager*

      Most companies don’t do promotions then your job went overboard and is overdoing them.

      You need some incentive to keep people in place. What is the obsession with “growth.” Some people are just really good at mid-level individual contributor work. Pay them more to keep them there. Push for salary evaluations, not just COLA increases because inflation is always understated and not local (anyone in a coastal state who saw 10% rent increases 2 years in a row + 30% food inflation etc knows the official #s are irrelevant). Even if you think the official #s are good, you need to look at your local market and in-office requirements because a thing here has been that we can’t do hybrid because people can’t afford 20% rent increases, which isn’t reflected in official COLA figures.

      It also sounds like you need more job descriptions!

    2. Ashley*

      Within Llama Groomer can you have an internal 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 ranking? That way people are in the role, the title is the same, but they are making progress towards advancement but it is less publicly. But the always moving up thing isn’t great because some people want to (and skill wise) will plateau and then you will lose them for never being able to make more money which will just lead to more turnover instead of accepting the solid worker is what you need sometimes.

    3. Colette*

      This would be something the whole management team would need to get on board with. But.

      1) Introduce raises within a role. (Many organizations have bands, so a Llama Groomer could be paid anywhere between $X and $Y, and could expect to increase how much they make until they hit $Y.)
      2) While you’re introducing bands, come up with a description of what kind of work that band covers – e.g. Llama Groomers groom llamas; Senior Llama Groomers groom llamas, train new llama groomers, perform quality control checks, and provide input to grooming standards.
      3) Applying for new roles is fine and normal; however, moving from a role to the senior version of that role should be determined by management/business needs/interest.
      4) When you’re measuring success in a role, require a certain amount of low-level work. So if someone only wants to do the high-profile/senior stuff, they get a poorer rating.

  70. WhatIsSleepEven*

    My job involves tracking billable hours. When I started at this place, they had us writing our time in a form and sending it to a staff member to enter into the billing software. Then someone realized they could hand out logins to the billing software to anyone, and asked who wanted one.

    I didn’t feel like I could say I’d rather not, since I am technically competent and had been entering my own time for my entire career before this job. But: when I had to send my time to an actual human being, I was diligent about getting it to them within a day or two to avoid messing up their workflow. Once it’s in the software, no-one really cares or does anything with it until the end of the month. I know this, and prioritize accordingly.

    My work is newly enthusiastic about having time entered daily. And it turns out that some people are still sending their time to staff to enter. Would it be reasonable to ask for permission to send my time to someone to enter, if I am running late entering it myself? I am pretty sure that fear of inconveniencing someone will make me to get it in faster – and if not then at least it will get in.

    I should theoretically be able to make it happen without any accommodation, but practically I have been doing this job twenty years, and having a person in the workflow significantly affected how I prioritized that task. (And management enthusiasm alone has not.)

    1. ferrina*

      “Hey, I’ve found it hard to find time to enter my time tracking daily. I’d like tostart sending it to [Designated Person].”

      That should be it. Give it a try, see how it goes. Honestly, getting people to turn in their timesheets on time has been an issue since timesheets were invented. Timesheet adherence generally has no correlation with how competent or functional the person is.

    2. Rick Tq*

      Make entering your time your wrap-up/transition task at the end of the day, just before you turn of your computer and go home.

      Back in the dark ages I worked at an aerospace company and we had to keep our timecards current in pencil then completed in ink at the end of every day. Your timecard could be audited at night and a card that still had pencil entries was a Very Big Deal.

  71. EmKay*

    I am a senior administrative coordinator in a tiny university office. I’ve just received my mid-probationery period report, and both my supervisors wrote was that I am too deferential to everyone, and that I am acting as more of a meek administrative assistant.

    I have been in various assistant positions over my career, but this is the first coordinator position I’ve ever held. If y’all would happen to have any advice for me, I would really appreciate it!

    1. pally*

      Did they provide specific examples of when you were “too deferential”? “To everyone” is very vague. Are you taking on tasks that all hand you -without verifying that they are part of your actual job assignment?

      If not, your first task should be to ask for specifics- when were you too deferential? What task or issue was involved? What situation(s) do they want you to be “less deferential”? What should you have done instead? Get clear on what authority you have to carry out what they want you to do (or say).

      After you have these specifics, you can plan what you will do differently.

      Coordinator, to me, implies you are more in the business of finding the right person to carry out tasks- not do them all yourself. Your time is better spent handing things off. Could it be you are taking on too much, leaving little time to coordinate tasks to be carried out by others?

      Just my take on your description.

      1. EmKay*

        One specific example that happened recently, yes! I am in the process of booking travel arrangements for transatlantic visitors. Since this is my first time planning travel in this job, I called two people whom had been flagged as resources that I could reach out to, and followed their instructions. As it turns out, one of them gave me incorrect instructions, so that slowed me down considerably. My supervisor told me I should’ve pushed back on the incorrect instructions.

        I asked him how I was I expected to know they were incorrect, and he replied that I’ll know for next time.

        1. pally*

          So, you are expected to be psychic and know when someone gives you incorrect instructions?
          /sarcasm off

          Sure, now you know what not to do. But that shouldn’t be held against you.

          1. EmKay*

            Okay, so it’s not just me. I bit my tongue at that remark, but I’m sure my expressive face gave away what was going through my head.

              1. EmKay*

                To be completely fair, I did gently push back on this specific remark when I spoke to him today, and he did admit there was no way I could have known the instructions were incorrect. He then sheepishly apologised, so we’re good :)

    2. DisneyChannelThis*

      Google stop saying sorry, there’s a lot of good articles and advice about it. It’s the biggest change in manner and helps your career hugely. “Sorry this is late, heres XYZ” vs “Thanks for your patience, here’s XYZ” is one example of the shift.

      Don’t be afraid to take up space. Check your posture. Shoulders down and back, stand tall. Visually stronger, and remind yourself. Walk confidently.

      Take ownership of your stuff. “George, can you send me your paperwork please” vs “Hi George, I need you to send me your paperwork today, thanks”. Subtle but effective at being more assertive.

      Do some reflecting and check back in with your supervisors about what performance things could change to meet this feedback, do you need to be more on the ball about doing stuff before it gets asked for? (independence, take initiative). Do you need to be better about saying “No” to requests that are outside your job description? Do you need to practice holding boundaries when faculty make absurd requests?

    3. Goddess47*

      Say ‘no’ when you can. That’s about the least deferential thing you can do.

      That said, if you aren’t sure and if you’re in a position to do so, ask for examples. Where did you defer that you should not have?

      If you’re not in a position to ask, then take the time to go back to your job description and study it thoroughly. What are you doing that is not on it? You likely think you’re ‘being helpful’ when you’re doing tasks that you should not. So, another suggestion, don’t volunteer for anything that’s not in your job description for the next six months. “Sorry, I can’t take that on, I’m focusing on [task within your job description] and don’t have the resources to help!”

      And if one of the supervisors asks you to do something that’s not in that job description, call them on it (politely). “You said I defer too much and I’m working on that. Can you give me more context for this assignment so I understand how it fits into my position?”

      Good luck!

  72. GythaOgden*

    Just a small triumph — I’ve been working from home for two weeks and it’s amazing, but I am sat in front of the wall with the Dalek schematic poster we got as a housewarming present 8 years ago. Because we’re in maintenance and f