open thread – December 8-9, 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.

{ 831 comments… read them below }

  1. Kat*

    What is the best way to tell my boss I want to stay with the company but move to a different state? When should I bring this up?

    I work at a company that’s mostly remote employees. HR actually sent out an email earlier this week about the relocation policy. There are a handful of states (due to tax laws) we can relocate to and we have to give HR a 45-day notice. The state I want to move to is approved and we have other employees there. My current lease is up at the end of March, but I’m thinking of bringing this up to my boss next week or the week after. I’d wait on sending HR the email closer to the date, but I want to chat about it with my boss beforehand. I’m aiming to go to that state in late Jan/early Feb to find a new place to live come March. My current apartment is sending out a lease doc “within” the next week, so there is a small chance I could sign a few months and leave in April or May, but I’m really aiming for the end of March.

    How do I even start? These sound scary initially: “So I wanted to talk to you about relocating” or “I really like my job and I want to stay with the company, and I want to move….”. Both sound serious, and I think I would get nervous during the “I wanted to talk to you about” and “I want to stay with the company” and my voice would quiver. Is there a way to make it sound more casual?

    1. ThatGirl*

      Are you already remote? If so, I’m not sure I see a problem — but either way, why not start with “I saw the email from HR, and wanted to talk to you about it – I think I’d like to move to state X, obviously staying with the company…”

    2. Crazy Book Lady*

      I would actually start by referring to the email that HR sent out. “Concerning the email that HR sent around relocations, I wanted to let you know that I am planning to move to (insert state name that is on the list). My timeline looks to be I would relocate in the March to May timeframe. I’ll send HR the notification when I have details locked down, but is there any information you need prior to the notification to HR?”

      Just make it matter of fact – HR has already given you a policy, you’re going to follow the policy and you are giving your boss a heads-up and want to know if they would like any additional information.

      Good luck house hunting!

      1. JSPA*

        slight tweak:
        “The email about acceptable remote-work locations that HR just sent around was excellently timed, because I’ve been actively looking to move to [state], and luckily [state] is on the approved list. My change of location will be essentially invisible to you, except that I am considering taking one personal day for the move, instead of trying to cram it all into a weekend. I’ll let you and HR know immediately once I have the timing and details locked down.”

        It adds a bit of reassurance, and a bit of gratitude / happiness / excitement. Businesses and bosses tend to feel some gratitude when they hear that employees are considering of how their life affects business interactions ; people in general find it easier to be upbeat and happy when they’re talking to someone who’s being happy and thankful.

        1. another_scientist*

          this. You use the email from HR as your jumping off point.
          If you want to reassure your boss that you are not looking to jump ship, a small piece about how this move is a good step for your *personal* life would probably help. Being closer to a partner, family and friends/the place you grew up in/went to college in is the classic way to go, but other reasons could also work. You don’t need to go into detail, just a little remark to signal to your boss ‘this is a personal decision, but don’t worry about my professional commitment’.

      2. Momma Bear*

        Agreed. The HR notice gave you food for thought and you want to take the company up on a possible relocation. It all sounds very good and you’d still have the support of an office, even if not the same one your boss is in. It is increasingly common to be remote from your boss. If you are already remote, it might even be seemless. But, yes, start with the email. The timing seems right.

    3. StressedButOkay*

      How about reaching out to your boss and asking “Hey! Can we chat about the relocation policy?” It makes it sound less A Thing, you’re pointing out that it’s very much in the company mind set, and hopefully wouldn’t be as intimidating to you.

      1. The Coolest Clown Around*

        I think this is a helpful way to approach it – make sure to mention the general topic in the request to talk. That way you aren’t worried about making your boss worried, and they’ll have a chance to take a look at the HR policy before you meet so everybody’s on the same page.

    4. My Useless 2 Cents*

      I think HR gave you a perfect opening to start the conversation.
      “Boss, did you get that relocation policy email from HR? It solidified some plans I was thinking about. Did you have a minute to talk?”

      1. Margaret Cavendish*

        This, although I would do it by email. Forward the email from HR, and say “Hi Boss, this is something I’m interested in. Can you let me know when you have a minute to talk?”

        Either way, don’t overthink it! You’re not doing anything wrong, and your boss isn’t going to be surprised – she may not even be upset, as it sounds like this is very much part of the company culture. Good luck!

    5. T. Wanderer*

      I’ve done this when the state wasn’t pre-approved, and I think a lot is the same except you have more certainty you can stay. First, you have a decision to make: ideally you stay with this company. But if you had to choose between moving and keeping the job, which would you pick?
      It was easiest to me to present it as A Thing I’m Doing, and ask just for my boss’ help with logistics. You also have an “in”, given the recent email: “My lease renewal is coming up, and I am strongly considering moving to [x state]. This is on the HR-approved list, but I want to confirm with you in case there are any issues I don’t know about.”

      1. Ama*

        This. I did this last year and remote work is not unheard of but not as big a thing in my company (and as far as I know no role that was in office had ever been allowed to move remote before), but my spouse and I were more committed to moving than keeping my job. So I presented it to my boss as “Spouse and I are going to move to New State, I would like to keep working here but I know my role hasn’t been remote previously, I’d really appreciate it if it could be considered.”

        I think you’ll have fewer hurdles given your company is more accustomed to remote work, but it’s good to already have in your head what your plan will be if they say no for some reason.

        1. Bruce*

          This was kind of how I handled it, but this was after we were all working remote in 2020 and a peer had already broken the ice. It also helped that they were willing to change my role from team manager to individual contributor… It worked out for me, though I’m typing this from a visitor desk in our headquarters due to having to come back to deal with a fire drill :-)

    6. Yes And*

      I think you may be overthinking this. The company is mostly remote, they have a policy in place that allows you to do exactly what you want to do, and you’re not the first. In another context, I can see that you might want to reassure your employer that moving out of state doesn’t mean you want to quit or you’re withdrawing from your work. But in this context, this is just a straightforward notification that you’re acting within their established policy.

      Only thing is, I wouldn’t wait. Late March is closer than you think. 45 days out means early February. I would notify your boss and HR as soon as you’re reasonably certain that this is going to happen.

    7. WFH FTW*

      I think you can keep it pretty conversational, like “hey, I was thinking about relocating to X in about March. Nothing is finalized yet, and it’s already on the HR approved list. Do you have any concerns with me making that move?”

      Since it’s already approved by HR and you’re already remote, it shouldn’t be a huge deal unless you’re relocating to a different timezone that would make it more difficult to do you job. So just anticipate any concerns your boss may have, so that you can address them directly, and be open to other things that you may not have thought of.

    8. Job hunting before a big trip*

      Is there more context why you are concerned about telling your boss? Like your boss has expressed displeasure when they manage people in different states/time zones? If not, and the company allows and encourages people to relocate to states that they are operating in, it may be a non-issue.
      You could even forward the email that HR sent out about relocating to your boss and add “I’m interested in this, can we discuss it at our next check-in?”

      1. Ashley*

        If you are at all concerned I would wait until you end of year vacation / bonus / holiday pay is done and maybe bring is up the first week back and make it like something you came up with over New Year’s.

    9. Katrine Fonsmark*

      I don’t actually understand the issue (unless you’re not currently remote). If you’re already remote and there’s blanket approval to move to certain states, why would you even need to ask? Just let HR know you’ve moved so they have your updated info.

    10. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      As a manager of remote teams — if the state you’re wanting to move to is already on the thumbs up list, let me know your timeframe, give me your new address so I can update my birthday card list, put in for PTO if you need it, and godspeed. The rest of it is between you and HR, barring one brief “remember, our meetings and such are scheduled on here time, not there time, make sure you keep track of that” if you’re moving out of the time zone.

      1. OrdinaryJoe*

        Exactly how I was thinking of it. If the company already approves remote AND the location, unless your job can’t be done remote (which you’d clearly know), then have at it. Don’t look at it any differently then if you were moving to a new apartment or house IN state.

    11. LoMo*

      lot’s of good feedback and scripts already. The only other tip I would add from my own experience (having relocated across country earlier this year!) is to consider proactively addressing how you will handle any schedule/time zone changes if they apply. My boss was completely on board with the relocation but the only thing that we needed to iron out was what my schedule would look like in the new state and if I’d keep the same working hours or not.

      Good luck with your move! It sounds like this really should not be an issue for your company.

  2. Green Goose*

    I have a first round interview next week (yay!). I’ve been in the nonprofit world for a decade and I’m looking to leave my current organization. I have an interview for a job at a FinTech company that has a philanthropic foundation that is looking for someone with my exact skillset.

    I’ve never worked in tech/edtech/fintech so does anyone have any advice for this first round interview and any future rounds? Stuff to be aware of/ask/not ask? On glassdoor 95% of the interview reviews were for engineering/technical roles so don’t relate at all to what I’d be doing so it’s hard to gauge what to expect and since my whole professional network is in nonprofits I don’t know anyone I could ask.

    I copied down the glassdoor questions from the 2-3 nontechnical role interview reviews but they were all HR which is not what I’d be doing.

    1. Hypoglycemic rage*

      I do not apply for the same roles, but I’ve been asking the “magic question” in interviews: thinking of past employees in this position, what separates those from being good at the job from those who were great at it?

      I usually get pretty thoughtful answers that I can use (even internally) against myself and if I would be a good fit for it – except for the interviewer I had who said it was the employee themselves, if they had what it takes for the role. Which did not really help, but gave me an answer all the same.

      1. Green Goose*

        This specific role is brand new and the team itself only recently formed. But for established roles or teams I LOVE that question.

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

          Yeah, I usually do a variant of, “Can you give me three qualities you think a person in the job would need to succeed and three that would tank this job?” (IE: tell me what you’re looking for or what you’d watch out for.) 9 times out of 10, it’s show up consistently and on time, be willing to work hard and/or learn new things, and be positive. The question is general enough for any position and job and every person I ask seems shocked to get asked it. (I used to ask for five and learned really quickly that I’m lucky to get 2.)

        2. Industry Behemoth*

          Since the role and tram are both new, how about “What are the initial priorities for the person in this position?”

      2. Alice*

        Your mileage may vary, OP, but I used this question in an interview and it went over like a lead balloon. I think it came across like I was super competitive. They didn’t even circle back in the end to let me know when the job was filled, which made for an awkward situation the next time I saw the people on the hiring committee at a conference.

        1. Workerbee*

          Kinda sounds like they didn’t want to get that specific lest they’d be held accountable – perhaps you dodged a bullet there.

      1. linger*

        Not a bad question, but be aware it could be immediately flipped back to the candidate as “What do you think would be your biggest challenges in the first 90 days of the job?”

    2. Curious Interview Cat*

      Think about what you would value in a role – or what would seriously tick you of – and then come up with a question that asks for a concrete example how such a situation was handled in the past. Asking for a specific example has a better chance of providing actual insight than generalities.
      For example: How did you handle the situation when someone on the team missed a deadline/submitted incorrect numbers in a report?
      If this triggers a boiler-plate answer about learning from mistakes, I would speculate that they actually do not do that. You might get a more nuanced answer though.

    3. Llama Wrangler*

      It’s not clear to me whether you’re a content expert switching work (e.g a charity llama groomer looking for roles in companies that fund charity llama grooming programs) or just changing sectors (eg a llama groomer who has always groomed llamas for charity; and now you’re looking for places that groom llamas for profit) – I think that will make a difference in types of questions.

      For the former, having collaborated with foundations in a few finance/fintech companies, here are some of thing questions I’d be thinking about around the career switch (not necessarily first round questions though):
      -I’d be interested in learning more about whether the foundation culture is the same or different than the org culture broadly, and how decisions get made on a high level. Some corporate foundations are functionally independent of the firm they’re part of, and some are much more deeply enmeshed.
      -I’d also want to know how track performance/measure success (of their programs and their staff) – in particular I’ve found nonprofits are often much more loose in their outcomes reporting and relationship to data, where fintech and finance are much more quantitative in a way that can feel jarring to me.
      -what is the background of the people you’re working with? Did they come from the company and transition into the foundation, or were they also working in your analogous non-profit field and made the switch in? I think that would tell you about the culture of the team; and also how much you’ll be in a position of mediating different understandings/ approaches to the mission of the foundation.

      1. Green Goose*

        This is so, so helpful! Thank you. I’m a context expert doing a job that revolves around my expertise at a nonprofit, and I would essentially be doing the same job at this corporate foundation.
        Let’s say I work with low income high school students who want to major in STEM in “Los Angeles” so I am very well connected in STEM field in Los Angeles, know the professors at the local universities, know all the scholarships and internships for that city/major and professionally know most of the point of contacts. And now a tech company wants to launch their own high school STEM pipeline program also in Los Angeles. My background matches really well, and my specific background would mean that there would be less training and the networking piece would not start from scratch but besides that everything could be different.
        I’m used to working in environments that are 80-95%+ women, resources are limited, people are passionate about the work and kind, but internally a bit chaotic. We’re not held to our performance goals the way I (guess?) tech companies are.

        1. Llama Wrangler*

          Yeah, ok – that was kind of my hunch. I’m in a similar hypothetical field, but I’m on the non-profit side working with corporate foundations that want to fund us to develop and execute the STEM programs with their consultation – so I have some inside views to how they’re operating and asking for us to report to them, but also work for an established non-profit and ultimately report to the non-profit on my work on the program.

          I think the questions I suggested will be helpful for you to understand the culture, but if it were me I’d either use them as framing for my due diligence or save them for later round interviews, except for the ones about how they anticipate measuring success for you and for the program.

          In terms of what to expect in the interview, you might look to see if you can find any interview tips/questions from the large tech or finance companies in non-technical roles (or maybe consulting companies?) to get a sense of the norms, but I think it will vary a ton based on how they’re structured and who is in charge of the hiring. The one time I interviewed for a similar role (with an investment co that had a large, independent, well-established foundation), the first round questions were indistinguishable from any non-profits I’d worked for. But a colleague who interviewed for similar roles at Google and Amazon felt very much like he was just part of their standard interview machine.

    4. SelinaWeiner*

      I’m starting a new job on Monday after been made redundant last month. So I’ve done a few rounds of interviews lately. I always ask what attracted you to the company and what’s kept you. You get some interesting insight and I always get told it’s a good question. Good Luck

  3. Frustrated Fed*

    How have other people dealt with intense frustration with changing circumstances at work?

    I am super burnt out and overworked. My job (federal agency) is implementing IT and attendance requirements that are making it really difficult to do core parts of my job. I’ve requested some ADA accommodations, but I’m in a weird liminal area where management has technically agreed to the accommodations but put major barriers in place to actually get them. For example, they will buy me noise cancelling headphones, but not until we know what our new phones are. The phones are scheduled to deploy in August. Additionally, my normally positive relationship with my boss is under strain. (I’m being asked to just bang out work products for the sake of our metrics, but I’m concerned about the problems they will cause for our end users because they are not accurate.)

    At this point, I have done pretty much everything I can do as a peon with no decision-making power. I am looking for new jobs, but I’m in a sort of golden handcuffs situation with my current office, and so the best long term option may be to just ride this rough period out. How do you figure out what to push back on, and what to just go-with-the-flow on? Have you been able to come back from a loss of trust with your supervisor or skip-level management?

    1. MB30*

      Office holiday lunch was Wednesday, and it was meh as usual. The best part was my manager doing a series of ice breaker style games at the table as if we all haven’t all been working in the same department for the last 20+ years.

      Out of 20 people there, it’s all women except for me and my friend Steve. The game was a bunch of questions for the group like “Who has the most kids?” “Who is wearing the tallest heels?” “Who has the longest fingernails?” “Who has the longest hair?” “Who is wearing the longest earrings?” So yeah, Steve and I didn’t win any prizes. Oh well. I might just opt out next year.

    2. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      I’m in a similar position. It’s so difficult to be unable to do your work due to arbitrary things. For example I don’t know how to do some documentation because they made us sit in the same room to look at teams and of course people were talking, causing me to lose information.

      The funny thing is that I was able to manage my own accommodations this whole time, reducing HR’s workload as well! I never had trust in companies in the first place to lose.

      1. Frustrated Fed*

        Your last sentence hits hard- I think a lot of the emotion is this shift in feeling like I had finally found a supportive, flexible, and professional office in my agency, but instead ending up in a situation where decisions are increasingly arbitrary, counter-productive, and opaque.

    3. Dancing Otter*

      If you need the noise canceling headphones as an ADA accommodation, waiting eight months after requesting and being approved is NOT reasonable. Even if what they get you now does turn out not to work with the future phone equipment, that’s (a) only a possibility at this point; and (b) not an excuse for not providing what you need right now. Be the squeaky wheel on this point.

      You’re vague on “work product”, which is understandable, but makes harder to advise on that point. If these are financial reports, might you just happen to run into someone from Internal Audit and just happen to mention something….? After Enron and Sarbanes-Oxley, I’d be very hesitant to sign statements I knew were inaccurate. I know government is different, but even so. Otherwise, I don’t know what to suggest.

      I hope you’re not responsible for issuing recall notices for anything potentially life-threatening.

      1. Frustrated Fed*

        No, (hopefully) the stakes on this are relatively small- it’s hard to describe exactly what we do without IDing my agency, but I’ll try a metaphor:

        Hypothetically, we write policies related to disposing excess government property. Sometimes that’s old computers, sometimes it’s an old building, sometimes it’s a tank. So, that would involve getting an accurate description of what the property is, its monetary value, and what entities are allowed to buy the excess property. Most of the time it’s pretty low key, though there’s always a possibility for getting roped into a bigger scandal. (Ex- General Smith gets caught taking bribes, and further investigation shows that a Smith family member bought a surplus government property for way below its market value. The property was allowed to be sold for below market value because the gov peon (who had no contact with Smith) didn’t evaluate fair market value.) Or, you could have an issue where the policy authorizes the sale of Dell computers, but it turns out an agency only has Macs, so they can’t legally get rid of their computers.

        There have been a couple I’m-not-putting-my-signature moments like the first example, but what I’m really more concerned about is the second example. I’m a former end user of these policies, and am more aware than the rest of my colleagues about the headaches an inaccurate policy can cause.

    4. Cacofonix*

      I’ve never worked with Feds but my gut is to take a page from Alison’s book, not that I assume she would say this, but if your lack of accommodation (headphones) is limiting your ability to do your job in a safe way, give them options. Such as “I require accommodation to continue working in the office. Would you prefer to get me what we agreed on by Monday or would you like me to work from home until the new phones are in? If you give me funds, I can buy my own, etc.”

      As for the rest, document, verify and document, then keep banging out work product, but only what is reasonable in your hours of work. E.g email to boss: “For this task Option A will allow me to complete but risks being incorrect and require rework in these ways. Option B will require that we wait for more information from X, which I can push and monitor to the extent I can but it will be helpful if you escalated. Please verify how to proceed. I’ll work on other task in the meantime.” Stuff like that which undoubtedly you’ve already tried.

      1. Frustrated Fed*

        Yeah, that’s basically where we are with the accommodation- only schedule phone calls (which is 70% of my job) on the 2 days I’m be in the office, and theoretically I won’t be penalized in my performance review for not being sufficiently responsive to our external stakeholders or internal people who work at other facilities.

        1. Frustrated Fed*

          So, it is technically a “reasonable” accommodation within the confines of the law, I’m just feeling really frustrated that my normally reasonable and supportive management is making this so difficult, on top of refusing to do anything about my unreasonable workload. (Or rather, I can deal with my workload by putting off time-sensitive tasks until they become major emergencies.)

    5. JSPA*

      “Regarding my ADA request for noise cancellation: I understand that someone in authority is visualizing a complex fix that needs to be matched to a specific phone. But that’s an unnecessary complication. Legally, the employer is not required to single-handedly find the best fix. They are, however, required by law to work with me to find an acceptable fix, institute it in a reasonable amount of time. Waiting eight months for something perfect puts the company way on the wrong side of the law, for something as basic as noise reduction headphones. What can we do to get back on the right side of the law on this issue?”

      If they stall, I’d actually start wonder if they’re having major cash flow problems, as there are any number of relatively inexpensive fixes that would be adequate for the next 8 months.

      If they push back, I’d a) talk to a lawyer about basically saying the same thing to them again, but on legal letterhead, and b) if you have vacation time, or the ability to take unpaid time off, explain that you will be needing to do so until such time as you’re able to hear information clearly enough to do your job.

    6. The Dude Abides*

      Ever since I took my current role I’ve felt similarly re: changes.

      I don’t have a seat at the table, neither does my boss, and it has been made abundantly clear to outside parties and upper management that we are not considered stakeholders in the process, even though we’re the SMEs and have to implement the changes.

      I’m also looking to get out, and will be posting a separate thread about it.

    7. Jade*

      Just do your job to the letter of what they are asking of you until it blows over. Document everything.

    8. Happily Retired*

      As a Fed, are you eligible for union representation, even if you’re not in the union?

      When I was in the VA, I wound up joining the union just to get some idea of what on earth was going on with my wildly incompetent management. (This was earlier in my career.) It was really useful to have a knowledgeable person who would speak up for me. <- our shop steward was great. She'd always tell us, "There's not much I can do if you can't be bothered to try to follow the guidelines, but I'll be there for you 24/7 if you just get caught up in the idiocy."

  4. Hypoglycemic rage*

    Hi! Can we talk about how toxic jobs can really affect us as we’re applying for new ones?

    I left my job a couple months ago and have been applying for different positions ever since.

    But I thought all I needed was time away from said job and I’d be okay, maybe not totally moved on because the situation sucked, but generally okay. But I am realizing as I am interviewing, I am low-key terrified of this situation happening again. A big issue around the job was communication – or lack thereof. And inadequate training. And a lack of support. And being moved to a role that was totally different from the one I was hired for. So now I make sure to ask about how training is done in the interviews, and hopefully I’ll learn something about their communication style during the conversation too. Maybe I should ask how mistakes are handled, even as a general thing?

    Those of you who have left toxic jobs, how did you handle the anxiety around your next one?

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Honestly? Therapy. I left a horrible, anxiety-ridden job several years ago and really struggled with the one I eventually got. I needed regular therapy to properly recover. Sadly, I wasn’t able to start it until I started that new job. But if you can, I highly recommend it.

      You can ask about the onboarding process and how formalized it is. Ask about the expected learning curve. Tell them you value a collaborative environment where people are free to ask questions, and if they agree, ask them for examples of how people communicate. For example, do they use Slack, where anyone can search for an answer? Ask about the feedback process– is it generally a once-a-year thing, or are check-ins more regular?

    2. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      Its not uncommon, I worked at a job where the CEO would literally scream at us in every morning meeting. People were crying in their offices all the time. It takes some time for your system to recover from that, moving to a environment where this does not happen and being aware of negative self talk and counteracting it is important. (E.g. I am not a company A, I am not in a bad environment anymore)

    3. Gigi*

      I came here to say therapy too. We act like we shouldn’t be affected as much by what happens at work as what happens in our personal lives, but you’re with these people 8 hours a day! And abuse is abuse. Be kind to yourself. It might take some time. As far as trusting your instincts with a new employer, I suggest reading “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin deBecker. (TW, it does discuss a sexual assault.) His scientific breakdown of how intuition works changed how I think about my own instincts and helped me trust myself more and make better decisions.

    4. Bast*

      To commiserate:
      I sometimes am still shell shocked at how professional my job is. I originally left Really Old Job and went to Old Job. Really Old Job was super toxic and like working in the Hunger Games (so much that employees jokingly referred to it as such and placed bets on how long people would stay — average time was 6 months). When I went to Old Job, I was blinded because it wasn’t quite as toxic as Really Old Job, and they were less in your face about their dysfunction and more about lying, gaslighting, distracting you from real issues, etc. I actually thought I had it “good” for awhile. I stayed for years, and when I got to my Current Job, I kept trying to find problems that didn’t exist. I had become so used to having to “read the room” and figure out “what people really meant vs. what they said” that I didn’t realize this isn’t healthy or normal. I walked in TERRIFIED the first week of my Current Job, because the evil you know vs. the evil you don’t, etc. I had no idea what form of toxic I would be walking into… and there just isn’t any. For me, it has just taken time. People have proven themselves over and over by not once pulling a “gotcha” moment, not being passive aggressive or shouting, not gossiping, and just generally acting like professional people.

    5. anonny for this*

      Tried to ignore the deeper damage, did some time self-employed, and in the process displaced a lot of the burried stress into my personal relationships, thus nearly tanking some of them. I do not recommend that path, obviously.

      A heck of a lot of physical exercise (ideally to the point of physical exhaustion, if you can get there without injury), occasional long baths and a variety of breathing exercises are, however, a pretty decent short term coping mechanism, until such time as you can get more professional support, provided you’re not suddenly thrust into yet another unexpected high-stress scenario.

    6. A Girl Named Fred*

      So, I hope this is going to come across as encouraging and sympathetic rather than hopeless, but here goes – I left a toxic job a year ago (almost to the day, funnily enough) and my new job has been wonderful. But, my fantastic manager left at the end of last week, and the interim supervisor’s first move was to revoke several permissions my fantastic supervisor had given me and others which, when combined with some other stories I’ve heard of micromanager-y behavior from them, immediately brought up all the bad juju from the toxic job. Which I only share to say, please don’t feel like there’s something wrong with you that you haven’t been able to move on in only a couple months. Stuff like this takes time and effort, and I agree with those who’ve suggested therapy (I’m finding one for myself but haven’t quite got there yet).

      But basically, please don’t beat yourself up for not immediately bouncing back from a toxic situation. It takes time, and that doesn’t make you bad or weak or anything else negative, it just makes you human. Best of luck to you!

    7. Curious Interview Cat*

      “Maybe I should ask how mistakes are handled, even as a general thing?”

      If you do – see my comment earlier in the thread today – ask about a specific example. In my experience, even the most dysfunctional outfit would talk about appreciating mistakes, learning from them, growing, etc. – even if, in fact, such situations always turned into witch hunts and heavily punishing those perceived at fault (never management).
      So, ask how they addressed someone missing a deadline when it last happened. If you get the standard answer of “that can happen to anyone, we’re a big family”, you should pause and think if that is really an answer (or if it hints at their actual response being different). If they give more situation related detail, chances are, they have more reasonable approaches.

      1. 1,000 Snails in a Lady Skin*

        Also re: mistakes, I’d recommend asking a peer on the team you’re joining and not asking anyone in management, as a manager is more likely to think they deal with things reasonably even if they really really don’t.

    8. A Beautiful Mind (ironic)*

      Taking temporary (but long-ish term) jobs. I quit an awful permanent position to take a 10-month contract that turned into 13 months. I had been planning to find a permanent job after that but became unemployed in January 2023 – not the best time in terms of the market. I was actually relieved to get another 10-month contract rather than a permanent position just before summer.

      I’ve been there 6+ months now and just accepted a permanent position they created just for me! (quite different from my contract work, and a completely new role in the team) It’s not the perfect workplace for me but it’s leaps and bounds better than the awful one I left and the first contract. In particular the manager is easy to work with, which was my main issue at the job I left.

      I know very well that it’s a risky move to not have a permanent position. But I’m glad I went for it, even if the economy tanked right after I made the decision. And I don’t know how I’ll handle eventually looking for a new job–but hopefully that will be several years down the line.

    9. Kesnit*

      I want to thank everyone who is answering “therapy.”

      I left my last job 3 months ago and felt kind of silly talking to my therapist about how much better things are now, and journaling my thoughts, feelings, and reactions. (My “quest” for the current 3 month journal is “put the past behind me and move on.”)

      Seeing so many people say “therapy” helps me realize that reacting this way is normal and I’m not acting like a whiney baby.

    10. Donkey Hotey*

      Chiming in on the therapy angle. My wife pointed out that hangover from a bad job is like the hangover from a bad relationship. From the constant questioning of “is this normal or is this a red flag?” to the strange looks from new coworkers when you anticipate old coworker responses.

      Good luck!

      1. RW*

        The strange looks is real. I have to call my OldJob fairly regularly (small town, only so many people in this industry) and there’s one or two departments where whenever I get someone new/temporary I can FEEL the strange look from the other end of the phone, and I want to start explaining to them that yes if I got one of the former staff in that department I really WOULD have to overexplain myself and defend my decisions in exactly the way I am currently doing

    11. Red flags everywhere*

      I would be careful about asking how mistakes are handled. I mean, obviously everyone is going to make mistakes here and there. But you don’t want them thinking you make so many mistakes that it’s a whole extra thing. Focus more on communication – style, frequency – and onboarding/training. You can look for red flags, but you can’t completely weed out all undesirable work environments during interviews. There are too many variables. You ask reasonable questions, look for reasonable answers, and make the best decision you can with the circumstances and information at hand. Good luck.

    12. Hamster*

      Therapy. I didn’t follow all your posts in detail back when it was all happening but I was going through something similar. Therapy helped. Rereading my own posts and the advice given also helped.

    13. Hypoglycemic rage*

      thanks yall for the lovely, kind responses! i’ll look into therapy – i’m on medicaid (medicare?) until i find a job, and i have no idea what their therapy options are. but i’ll look into it, especially as someone who is already a huge advocate for therapy and appreciated it in the past.

      thanks, too, for sharing your stories and not telling me that this is something i’ll “get over” or whatever. i didn’t want to call what i went through traumatic, but looking back, it was.

  5. Bunny Watson*

    Can I get some advice on changing fields? My career up until now has involved a lot of physical labor and my body won’t let me do it much longer. It’s also a high stress, low-paying field that people go into as a passion, and frankly I need more money and stability at this point in my life.

    I don’t even know what to change to. I’m also limited by a lack of college degree (I tried for longer than I should have but college was terrible for my mental health). I’ve tried looking at a wide swath of entry level jobs just to get an idea of options, but most of the filters don’t work very well. I’ve had postings come up under entry level that say a PhD is required.

    In one job I was given some administrative tasks in addition to the main work and I enjoyed maintaining spreadsheets and databases, and I’ve been thinking that’s likely very transferable. But the systems I worked with were very barebones and I’ve seen enough Excel discussions on here about pivot tables and vlookup and such to know that there’s a lot I don’t know on this topic. I don’t know what jobs where those things are a bigger part of the work are really like and how my skill set really matches them at the moment or how I could get to the point where they do.

    1. My Useless 2 Cents*

      I won’t be of much help but I feel your pain! Although I currently work in an office situation I’m unhappy with the work and would love to switch up careers but don’t have a firm grasp of what I’d like to move into. If it helps ease your mind, I have a (generic) college degree and I find it isn’t much help with a mid-level career move.
      Good Luck!

    2. Percy Weasley*

      Do you live somewhere that a civil service position might be an option? Where I live, the state is a big employer. My civil service job allowed me an “in” back into office work after a good decade away mostly in retail positions. In 5 years I’ve added to my skill set, been promoted 3 times, and have almost doubled my salary. AND almost all of the people have been delightful. I wish you the best in your next adventure, whatever it may be!

      1. Linda*

        Oh, that’s a great idea. Several US states have eliminated or reduced degree requirements, and there’s often a bunch of required training regardless of your background, so you’re usually not thrown into the deep end of the pool like some private sector jobs

    3. Hlao-roo*

      There’s some general advice in these past “ask the readers” posts (links in reply to this comment):

      “let’s talk about mid-life career changes” from May 28, 2020

      “what cultural things do you need to know to succeed when you’re new to white collar work?” from April 25, 2019

      the systems I worked with were very barebones and I’ve seen enough Excel discussions on here about pivot tables and vlookup and such to know that there’s a lot I don’t know on this topic

      For this part of your question specifically: how comfortable are you Googling “how to do X in excel”? I find that a lot of things I know how to do in Excel I learned on the job, either from coworkers telling me “use this [keyboard shortcut/formula/button]” or from Googling things for myself. Sometimes I have to change up my wording in my search to find the [formula/button/etc.] that does what I want. Some “how to” and tutorial pages are easy to read, others can be more difficult (some will have screenshots from earlier versions of Excel, for example).

      You might also be interested in perusing these posts to learn more about Excel:

      “ask the readers: how can I get Excel skills?” from February 3, 2012

      “what’s the coolest Excel trick you know?” from December 5, 2013

      “what are your best Excel and Word tricks?” from November 9, 2017

      1. Banana Pyjamas*

        +1 for Google to learn excel. I have done a couple Excel classes. I found looking up what I need when I need it much more effective than trying to learn all the things. It’s also okay to go back to your references. You don’t necessarily need to be able to do the thing from memory, you just need to know what you’re trying to do. The more you do it the more you remember.

    4. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      On Excel and data skills (from someone who setup an org’s entire measurement and evaluation system from the ground-up):
      *For what it’s worth, just about all of us use just a fraction of what it can do.
      *Entry-level doesn’t include VLOOKUP or Pivot Tables.

      For basic skills, I am looking for someone who can:
      *Understand what a cell, row, and column are
      *Format in Excel
      *Setup arithmetic formulas with cells
      *Use functions like SUM() and AVERAGE()
      *Setup trackers (e.g., make me a list of guests with their RSVP status and contact info).

      On finding entry-level jobs:
      *It means really different things in different industries (i.e., a freshly graduated MD is entry-level).
      *From what I have heard, temp work agencies can be a good way to start learning more about different roles and they would let you build up some typical office skills, including Excel and database work.
      *To practice with Excel, start tracking the jobs you apply for and are working: Company, Title, Date applied, Interview dates, Rejection date, length of time between application and final decision, Start and End Date, length of time at that job.

      1. I Have RBF*

        I will second temp agencies for getting your foot in the door. Plus, some of them actually can test you on your Excel skills, and a few have self-paced, brush-up type courses available.

    5. BecauseHigherEd*

      If you’re in the US, you should see if your local WorkSource Center/Workforce Board has resources to help. It’s been a while since I’ve been in that space, but they are supposed to have a) classes on these types of topics, b) access to resources to help adults like yourself change careers, c) case workers who can talk to you about careers you can get into that are high-wage, high-demand, d) resources about going to community college in your area (if that makes sense for you). Getting an Associate’s doesn’t have to be expensive and it can be a good first step to move into office work or other specialized roles; plus, you can either decide to stop after you get the AA or decide to keep going to get a bachelor’s, Master’s, or whatever.

      1. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

        And for those in Canada, there are a bunch of grants available (mostly at the provincial level, from what I’ve seen). Local work centres (physical or online) would be helpful to learn about these!

      2. EmF*

        Speaking as someone who found that post-secondary education absolutely wrecked her mental health – the trick for me was doing one course at a time, and no more than one course at a time. Currently I’m working my way through a five course certificate in management at my local university’s continuing education school – no prerequisites required other than tuition, and taught by someone with practical experience in The Thing (in my case, someone who’s a VP at a company you’d know the name of). Entirely online, which helps in terms of time management (and lack of mental strain) because I didn’t have to commute. It might be worth looking at “Continuing Education” rather than a specific degree like an associate’s or bachelor’s, because they’re geared towards adults with other things going on. They’re also set up so that you can take a class, take a year off, take another class, and so on, rather than more traditional setups where you have to go straight through.

      3. Banana Pyjamas*

        If you’re in Michigan, over the age of 25, and don’t have a degree, you can apply for MI Reconnect. Reconnect allows you to go to your in district community college for free. The application takes 5 minutes. You apply for reconnect before enrolling in school. Full time for reconnect is 12 hours per year (so half time enrollment).

    6. Slartibartfast*

      Is there maybe a tangential field with more options? Something that would need office support staff? And don’t forget about your soft skills, have you had to deal with difficult or upset clients? Experience like that is marketable.

    7. JSPA*

      If you have the discipline to not go off into the weeds, there are a heck of a lot of beginning to advanced intermediate Excel tutorials free on youtube. (Do pay attention to the version and how old the videos are; some are a bit too vintage.)

      You won’t get a certificate, but you will get a tour through a range of Excel commands and tools, and the self-assurance with knowing that you know what you know, you know what you don’t know, and you know how you’d find tools that are currently just beyond your skill set.

      This will also let you guage your concentration level. While they’re both valuable to some degree, “I can do spreadsheets for 7 hours a day, every day, and not zone out and make mistakes” is a lot rarer than, “I can update a spreadsheet for an hour, and print out mailing labels from it.”

    8. I Have RBF*

      I did a career change due to becoming disabled. In my case, I was already computer literate, including being an Excel power user. I also don’t have a degree.

      It took two years. It involved me studying on my own time, and failing a bunch of interviews, and taking crappy interim jobs just for a paycheck.

      It looks to me like what you would be aiming for is a database administrator or data analyst. While you said college was terrible for your mental health (which I understand, since my experience wasn’t the best), I found it invaluable to take a course or two through a junior college or an adult education extension program. Also, there are some fairly good self-paced video courses out there.

      But if you want to go the DBA route, it helps to have a formal, graded course on the education section of your resume (you don’t have to give the grade.) EG: Oracle SQL, Oracle DBA Fundamentals. The reason to go with Oracle is that Oracle SQL is pretty much the same as the SQL used by MySQL and Postgres, so you get the most coverage.

      Hope this helps.

    9. gsa*

      I work as a project manager for a building supply company whose clients are homebuilders.

      My group manages/supervises the carpenters.

      Except for a few instances, all of my peers used to be carpenters and very few have a four year degree.

      Are there jobs for managing/supervising the role you used to fill?

      Good Luck!

    10. lemon*

      You might be interested in doing a data bootcamp. Some of my friends who hated college had a lot better success in a boot camp, because it’s a very different style of learning that’s more hands-on. I periodically see free bootcamps offered out there (usually aimed towards people from historically underrepresented groups – some including folks without college degrees).

      My friend did software development boot camp with Interapt and really liked it. They were able to find a great job completing. Their program places you in a paid internship after you finish some initial training, which is nice. I think they have a data bootcamp, too. I’m sure there’s other programs out there if you do some digging.

    11. osmoglossom*

      I googled “vocational services training near me” and the first result was careeronestop dot org. It’s sponsored by the U.S. Dept of Labor — I don’t have experience using it but it looks useful. I’m an older career changer so I’ll be exploring it further.

    12. Happily Retired*

      RE: your concern about Excel skills and so forth: consider checking out your local community college for non-degree/ adult ed/ continuing ed workskills training. Mine has both in-person (short-term! low-pressure!) courses and online roll-your-own. I took the second version for intermediate Excel, intermediate Word, and beginning and intermediate Access and found them really useful.

      If you’re like me and have trouble learning from YT videos, this might be an option.

      Good luck!

    13. They have this one shirt that costs $1000 cause the pattern’s so wild*

      I have a BA and an MS in a tech field but everything I know of Excel is from hands on and google. My job is in higher Ed admin (staff) which does unfortunately tend to have some educational barriers when it comes to getting jobs and promotions. Otherwise it has been a very flexible and supportive workplace for me (I know this is not many people’s experience as staff and not anyone’s experience as faculty), and allowed me to get the masters.

    14. Ashley*

      Please tell me you work in craft beer!? I just need this validation because you’ve described my industry to a T!

    15. GythaOgden*

      Udemy do regular sales. If you can manage it, their basic Excel course is amazing. I learnt a lot even from the basic modules and it’s really helpful now I’m working with large spreadsheets in a promotion to a role where I have to use it pretty much every day. I had to demonstrate some basic skills in the interview and having just done the course and with things fresh in my mind it was enormously helpful.

      The guy who teaches it (through pre-recorded videos) is a good presenter and walks people through everything very methodically. You don’t have to dedicate more than an hour a module and frequently they’re much shorter, although it does help to do the whole module in one go to get the best results. Certainly I find when learning that it’s more useful to do one module at a sitting in order that the knowledge sinks in before the next time.

      I got my copy a year or so ago for £10 ($12 or so, although it’s likely that numerical prices in £s are also the numerical $ price, because pfffff rip-off Britain I suppose) but it’s actually worth it for the stated price of £60-70. Most other Excel courses out there want a subscription fee, but even if you have to get it full price, it’s one and done and you have it to keep, a rare luxury in these days of SAAS.

      Good luck :)!

  6. DisneyChannelThis*

    Overthinking it, can someone suggest a more gentle phrasing for ‘stop touching me’ ? Person is not my team but adjacent team, subordinate title compared to my title. I don’t mind but I am worried about appearances. Holding my arm when talking, patting my shoulder, rubbing my arm to see how soft my sweater is. I’m 99% it is cultural (have previously noticed person stands very close to talk to everyone, less personal space in general), we are good friends, I don’t want to damage friendship.

      1. The Coolest Clown Around*

        I’d try this first, and if they still do it, a private conversation along the lines of, “Hey, I know you aren’t trying to make me uncomfortable but I really dislike being touched and I’d appreciate it if you’d stop doing that. I know it’s often absent-minded like (insert example here) but it’s stressing me out.” As Alison has mentioned before, framing an obvious social boundary that isn’t being respected as a personal quirk can help keep the conversation from feeling accusatory.

    1. Justme, The OG*

      If they’re really your friend then telling them to stop touching you will not damage the friendship.

      I will physically recoil if someone touches me and I don’t want to be touched. Friends, family, strangers. Not saying you should do this but you get to determine how you express your boundaries.

    2. New Mom (of 1 4/9)*

      For some of these I would very pointedly move away. If they hold your arm while talking, I would physically remove it. For brief things like trying to feel your sweater (?!), I would both step back and say “please don’t do that.”

      So sorry this is happening to you, that’s so uncomfortable!

    3. Unkempt Flatware*

      Since it has been happening a while by the sounds of it, perhaps you can start saying, “you are a toucher! Did you have touchy parents?” and maybe just sort of fake-naturally go there with her. I would bet she responds eventually with, “do you not like to be touched?”

      A good friend is from China and I could never get her off me. It is very cultural to bump into your walking mate, hold hands/arms, slap, etc. The above is the approach I took with her. She still has the instinct to hit me playfully but I can see her winning against her instincts more than losing.

    4. Alice*

      The longer you let it go, the harder it’s going to be to get it to stop without damaging the relationship. Just start off like you did here — I want us to keep having our warm relationship, but I don’t want people to touch me. I’m not upset about it happening in the past; I’m sure you will stop touching me now that I’ve asked you to, thank you!

    5. NaoNao*

      Would it be weird to do a “minions” voice and be funny “no touchy!” with a warm smile? You can always follow up with “sorry I just really like my personal bubble.”

    6. JSPA*

      The gentle, “it’s me” version: “My new year’s resolution is to tell people things directly, instead of trying to send non-verbal cues. And the thing I’ve been needing to tell you directly is that it is very uncomfortable to me when people randomly touch my skin or my clothing.”

      The helpful cultural interpreter:
      [Name], I know you don’t mean it in an invasive or harassing way, but touching at work isn’t culturally common. People don’t expect to have to deal with it in an office setting. As a result, people tend to just be silently uncomfortable when you do things like [describe what’s happening right now]. Because it’s awkward to say, ‘you stand too close and you put your hands on me without asking.” Look, I’m not saying that everyone hates it. But I absolutely am saying that this level of contact is enough to make people uncomfortable, and I’m also saying that anyone who’s uncomfortable could have a valid case for harassment. Please take this awkward feedback as a mark of my respect for you, that I do really want you to succeed, even though I really don’t want any shoulder squeezes, or arm grabs, or sleeve petting, or hugs.”

      The frankly it’s fine to be rude because this is skeevy:
      “[name], I don’t like how your hands keep ending up on my body, like it just magically happens. This is [country name.] Even in a social setting, you need to ask before touching people. There’s no workplace where it’s OK, this century, to come up and hold onto people, or pet their clothing. I personally don’t exactly feel harassed, but I do feel very put-upon, and I need it to stop.”

      1. different seudonym*

        I get what you’re after here, but I think the toucher doesn’t need to understand why they have to stop. They just need to stop. A well-intentioned person will figure out the whys and wherefores on their own, or maybe ask follow-up questions if the relationship is otherwise solid. An abusive person will start bargaining or “misunderstanding” the reasons why.

      2. RagingADHD*

        The cultural interpreter is going to come across super duper patronizing, and if the culture OP is referring to is a well-established regional or ethnic subculture, it’s just going to be offensive.

        And if the person is an immigrant, calling out “this is (country), so you have to…” is, for want of a better word, Karen-ish.

        The more simply and quickly OP just asks them to quit, the better. There’s no reason to blow up a friendship with condescendi-splaining.

      3. kalli*

        Here’s one: “don’t touch me.” That’s it. No hiding the request under some random justification or presumption or speech, just conveying the actual message one wants to convey in the clearest and simplest way possible. If someone doesn’t understand that, then it’s also easy to kick up the chain because if they genuinely didn’t understand then there isn’t much in the way of ‘it wasn’t clear’ for them to rely on.

    7. Elliot*

      Warm smile and upbeat tone can carry you over this sort of awkwardness. “Oh, actually, can we do this without linking arms? I’m not much of a touchy feely person!” Or, “I appreciate the friendliness of that shoulder pat; but I’m more into nodding and thumbs up and other non contact sports, iykwim”. On being touched to check the softness of your sweater, I would say something that just reiterates the former and makes a light joke: “Friend! We talked about this: this is my dance space, that is your dance space.”

    8. Moths*

      I know that folks get a lot of grief for apologizing for things they shouldn’t, but I find when I want to really soften my language and avoid any hurt feelings, an apology can help emphasize that it’s you not them (even if it’s definitely them).

      The next time that individual touched me, I would gently (not in a startled or aggressive way) pull away and would probably in an apologetic voice with a small smile use wording like, “I’m sorry, I’ve just never been a toucher.” Then see if they ask any more questions or if they just get it and stop. If they ask any other questions, I would explain that I’ve always had a big personal bubble and that friends often laugh about the fact that I’m definitely not a hugger, so that they know this is a quirk of yours. If they unconsciously do it again, I’d probably pull away gently again and with a slight apologetic smile just gently say, “Sorry!”

      I know that approach won’t work for everyone, since it’s very much taking on the burden of apologizing for what someone else is doing, but it’s probably what I would do if there was someone I really didn’t want to damage a friendship with and knew that being more direct might embarrass them.

  7. Samantha P*

    I got to meet my coworkers last month during an offsite event. There was one coworker I ended up chatting with the most. We ended up on one of the same flights, drove to the office from the airport and ended up near each other during the dinners and happy hours. We’re definitely not work friends or even acquaintances now, but I got to know her a little more on a personal level.

    Anyway, we actually hadn’t chatted since the off-site, but I messaged her to see how her Thanksgiving was, we briefly chatted back and forth, then she mentioned her niece had to be hospitalized for pneumonia.

    Should I reach back in a few weeks and ask how everything is? I don’t want to pry or overstep as a coworker but I also don’t want to say anything

    1. ThatGirl*

      “I was thinking about you and your niece, how are you doing?” is totally fine. Especially since she shared that with you first.

      1. The Coolest Clown Around*

        If this isn’t someone you’d interact with regularly, I’d leave it alone, since it will either be a non-issue or sufficiently sensitive that she probably doesn’t want to feel obligated to discuss it out of the blue. But I don’t think either way would be a major social misstep or anything.

        1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

          I agree, it’s not a social misstep either way. Contacting them could be a nice signal of interest from you in further building a work friendship, but without any obligation on either side to continue.

        2. ThatGirl*

          To me, the fact that they had a warm/somewhat personal conversation around Thanksgiving means she would at the very least not HATE another reach-out. But if Samantha P is interested in a warm/friendly relationship that’s up to her.

      2. violin squeaks*

        I agree. Any time someone follows up on something I’ve told them before, even in passing, I think to myself “I wish I were that thoughtful!” not “How dare they!” Some people are more private than others, but if she shared that with you, I think it will be viewed as thoughtful over intrusive.

    2. JSPA*

      I’m a bit leery of any phrasing that requires a response, because if things are still bad, or, uh…very bad, then circle theory comes into play…and it would be a distraction to have to dredge it up hard topics work. On the other hand, if she doesn’t even remember mentioning her niece, it would be confusing to not mention, I guess.

      So basically, if you are looking to make a friend or work-friend of her, I’d reach out as you would for that, in general.

      If not, a generic “end of year” (steaming mug of cocoa) holiday e-card, with wishes for “happiness and health in the new year, for you and yours,” would probably cover that base. She’s been thought of, health has been mentioned, and if she’s slammed, she can ignore it.

  8. Job hunting before a big trip*

    I’ve been actively job hunting for months and starting this weekend I’m going to be unreachable by phone for almost a month. I’m not even sure I’ll be able to access my voicemail. Any advice for this? I’m thinking of reaching out to the employers who have responded to me thus far and letting them know I’ll be unreachable by phone but reachable by email. But for the places I have not heard back from it feels weird to reach out with my plans.
    What should my message say? I don’t want to come across too presumptuous or like I’m not interested. I’d be able to set up zoom interviews during this month but not an on-site.

    1. Ginger Baker*

      Can you record a voicemail with the relevant message? Something like “I am currently in an area with very spotty cell service and may not receive voicemail messages in a timely manner. Email is the most reliable way to reach me at this time. Please email me at xyzemail and I will respond as soon as I am able. Thanks!”

    2. Hypoglycemic rage*

      i use a google voice number for job hunting, and you can get voicemail transcriptions sent to your email! but i also note in my voicemail that if this is employment related, to please email, and i say that email is my preferred method of contact on my resume/job applications.

      i still get voicemails, but people almost always follow that up with an email, too.

    3. Decidedly Me*

      Will people be able to reach your VM, even if they won’t reach you that way? If so, I’d change your VM message to direct people to email you

    4. Panicked*

      Can you just change your voicemail message to say that you’ll be unreachable by phone and to please reach out at your email?

    5. Geeyourhairsmellsterrific*

      Can you set up your outgoing voicemail message to state that you’re unreachable by phone and may not receive messages, but can be reached by email? That way anyone who calls you will get the information and you won’t have to reach out to each employer.

      1. Job hunting before a big trip*

        I can definitely do this and plan to do so. But there is one place where I’m having a first round interview next week and then on Saturday I’m leaving the country. Since it’s so early in the process it feels weird to tell them about the trip, but I’m really interested in the job so it also sort of could backfire without telling them?
        Should I email the recruiter after the interview and express my continued interest and then let her know that due to upcoming travel to please contact me via email after [x] date?

        1. Reba*

          I understand why this feels presumptuous to you, but it’s really just information. They can use it or not! Go on and tell them just as you drafted here!

        2. kt*

          Tell the recruiter now, not next week after the interview. I have been a hiring manager and if you are a very strong candidate, I might (with this info) talk with the recruiter to move the interview up so we could complete a 2nd interview quickly before you leave, or something like that. If I had someone have a Friday interview then leave the country on Saturday for a month, for instance, and I had a tighter timeline to get someone hired, I might move forward with someone else out of necessity. Or if you had a Monday interview I as the recruiter could be ready to move faster rather than assuming I could wait.

          It’s just factual information, it’s not presumptuous.

        3. JSPA*

          You don’t even have to specify a trip (work, personal or otherwise).

          “I expect to be incommunicado by phone from [date] to [date], though I reasonably would expect to be on email once or twice a day, barring unforseen circumstances.”

          1. Job hunting before a big trip*

            Would this seem weird though? I’m trying to think of how I would react if someone applying to work with me said that they wouldn’t have access to their phone for a month with no explanation. I’m concerned that no explanation will lead to random guesses?

            1. Happily Retired*

              I think you’re over thinking this a bit :), but maybe you could modify it with something along the lines of “I’ll be on the road for the next several weeks, and I can’t be certain that I’ll always have good cell service. But I will definitely be able to access my email!”

              You’re interviewing for a job. Obviously, you’re interested! Telling them your circumstances and how you can be reached is one way of showing that you are a potential co-worker who is considerate and is able to anticipate some challenges!”

              And I agree with the suggestion above, now that you have an interview scheduled (yes! they are interested in you!) – let them know about your situation ahead of time.

              Good luck, and happy travels!

    6. zaracat*

      I’m in more or less this position when I holiday overseas. I have a freelance healthcare job which requires being accessible by phone, but when I visit family overseas I use a local sim card. I manage this by letting all my main clients know ahead of time to use email to contact me for bookings etc while I’m away, set up a voice message to that effect, then divert calls to voicemail. I also personally remind those clients that tend to use sms for contact as they won’t get the voice message – the risk is that I may never even know they’ve tried to contact me on longer trips as sms only stays on the server for 7 days.

      1. Job hunting before a big trip*

        Yeah I’m worried about getting contacted about a potential job and then the message just going into the ether. I have traveled a bit and I’ve been steered wrong by my phone provider a couple times in the past and it makes me leery.
        One time I double/triple checked with my phone provider that my phone would work in a country that I was moving to (it seemed wrong but the multiple staff members insisted it would work) so I didn’t have anything else set up when I arrived since my phone was allegedly going to work for the first month there. And of course, it did not work and put me in a tough spot the first few days which also coincided with an uncharacteristic snowstorm.

        1. zaracat*

          Is there anyone who’d be willing to act as your “receptionist” for this? ie take calls from the recruiter and pass msg on to you by whatever means and whom you can also contact back to confirm you received msg. Big ask though.

  9. Self evals*

    Would anyone like to commiserate over end-of-year evaluations with me?

    This feels like I’m writing a workplace novel. Our process forces you to hype yourself and beg peers for compliments, which feels exaggerated and forced. I keep quiet about my ick and just do it anyway because I’m old enough to know that this is how the game is played, but I don’t think it’s ever going to come naturally to me.

    How is it for others? Anything especially odd or interesting about your process?

    1. Crazy Book Lady*

      This won’t help for this year, but for next year, create a “Brag Folder” in your inbox. Whenever you get praise, positive feedback, or recognition for a job well done by email, copy it to the Brag Folder. When you do your evaluation, you can then use the emails to quote direct statements from your colleagues, clients or managers. It also means that a project you excelled at in April doesn’t get forgotten in December due to all the other projects you’ve worked since then. Since you already have the emails in hand, less begging involved, and more organic since the compliments occurred in the course of routine business.

      Hope this helps.

      1. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

        I do that! I have a compliments notebook AND an email file, so I can catch verbal feedback as well as electronic. It’s the best.

    2. Cyndi*

      I’m my boss’s first and only full time employee so I have no clue what (if any) plan he has for annual evaluation or COL raises. I need to bring it up soon but we’re still in the middle of hashing out my transition to hybrid scheduling, which is also new to both of us. We’re all having a whole lot of learning experiences around here.

      I’m trying to write something out listing my achievements, which seems like a nice safe useful way to prepare, but writing extensive praise about myself is way more difficult than it has any right to be and I keep getting distracted when I look for examples online. “We have people on the team who aren’t native English speakers. I’ve taken the initiative of acting as a sort of interpreter to them–” This sounds like it’s super condescending and not your job, imaginary employee from a listicle!

    3. My Useless 2 Cents*

      Oh, that sounds nightmarish. I hate having to talk myself up but having to “beg peers for compliments” is 100X worse! I struggle asking for help and go out of my way to avoid asking for praise :(

      **Don’t get me wrong, I like getting praise and being seen as doing a good job. But asking for it just sends a wave of ick down my spine.

    4. Dulcinea47*

      YES, yes I would like to complain. I switched jobs in September, but I still have to write a review in January even tho I’ve only been here 3.5 months and haven’t done anything beyond try to get up to speed on everything. I wouldn’t care, except that it’s tied to potential future raises. So if I get an average rating b/c I haven’t had time to do anything that stands out, and they decide to give us raises this year (not guaranteed) I’m going to get like a 1% raise instead of a 3% raise. Tiny raises make me cry.

      The other factor is, oldjob we wrote open ended answers to the various evaluation sections. (workplace novel, indeed). Here, we have one page TOTAL, for three to four sections, not counting the header and footer formatting. It’ll probably be fine this year but IDK how I’m supposed to do that once I do have a full years’ worth of work to describe.

    5. Generic Name*

      I hated the review process at my last company, but I think it’s actually fairly standard, unfortunately. I haven’t gone through the process at my current company yet. We had to do a lengthy self-evaluation, and your manager would fill out a form with the same questions. I felt like it was a game where you didn’t want to rate yourself too low and shoot yourself in the foot, but if you rated yourself too highly, you risked looking delusional. I felt like it was an exercise in mind-reading what your boss things about you. It was a consulting company, where ultimately, the hours you charged to projects is what made the company money. If you were below your billable goal, it wasn’t a good look. I had taken on a huge non-chargeable task where I spent hundreds of hours over a 5 year period developing an entire program for the company. From scratch. But that program had one question on the evaluation forms. All the rest of the questions were project-related. So I got top ratings on one line item, and “meets expectations” on all of the other ratings, which affected my raises.

      1. skaeuqs*

        At OldJob, we had a similar self-eval/employer eval with the same questions, but the employee filled theirs out first and sent it to their boss. Then my boss hit copy/paste and maybe changed a few things. And that was that. Pretty pointless, if you ask me.

        I didn’t do that with my employees; I tried very hard to answer the questions from my perspective, using the employee’s self-reflection as a refresher. There was one time when I had to use the discrepancies as talking points in the meeting part of the review, because the employee did in fact appear delusional based on their list of accomplishments.

        Of course, none of this mattered, because all that ever got recorded in the system was “Meets or Exceeds Expectations” or “Does Not Meet Expectations.”

    6. BellyButton*

      I wrote mine out then used AI to rewrite them, and then tweaked it a bit. It took a lot less time.

    7. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      So, I like a well-executed performance evaluation, one where there were clear goals with metrics set at the beginning of the period and a boss who is open and skilled at helping me identify what went well, what didn’t, and what of that is my responsibility versus what was out of my control.

      Alas, that is not my current situation. My 2023 (yes, the current year) goals have not been approved. I have to answer the same questions, worded slightly differently, multiple times (so I have to find new ways to use the same answers and examples over and over).

      And I have to talk about how I’m advancing the company’s DEI goals, even though I’m low enough in the hierarchy and isolated from 99% of the company to have minimal impact. Our commitment to DEI is…not great, despite having some really great colleagues trying to get leadership to care, e.g.,

      Leadership: “Good news! We didn’t backslide on pay equity this year, we’re doing so great at this!”

      Rank-and-file (in collective public comments): “…seriously?”

      1. Dulcinea47*

        At oldjob, both boss and I copy-pasted some sections of evaluations b/c it *was* the same year after year.

    8. DG*

      Yup – Had to spend a significant chunk of time writing a detailed self review and soliciting feedback from others just to get a “Meets Expectations” in the HR portal from my department manager with no other comments or explanations. Cool.

      1. Generic Name*

        I would be furious. Well, that’s probably overstating it. Annoyed, probably. Will you get a chance to discuss anything with your manager, or is that the sum-total of the review?

    9. Workerbee*

      Fortunately, because everyone’s going through it (it sounds like), you will just be one of everyone getting/asking for/exchanging compliments. Perhaps if you reframe it as literally just part of a process like any other process, however boneheaded, it’ll make it seem less embarrassing and personal.

      After years of enduring various idiotic end of year performance reviews and evals, I am grateful to be in a place that just pushes a piece of paper over to you with friendly figures on it. I never thought such a place would exist, so – there is hope out there!

    10. Me*

      25 odd years ago, I was a retail manager. My boss was coming in TOMORROW on her day off to get our reviews from us – my and my buddy manager, as they were past due. My buddy manager and I were calling each other every ten minutes from home asking about progress. “Gee, my name is on it, and I spelled out the date.” Finally I told her I would call her back in an hour. I went to the fridge and poured my self a big glass of wine. And when I called my buddy manager back an hour later, my review was done.
      I turned it in the next day and 6 weeks later after my boss, and her boss had presented reviews to the VP, the VP told them mine was one of the best written he had seen. (!!!!)
      What I learned is, we over think it. I can now complete my reviews sober. I did my current one yesterday. It had sections for each of the competencies. I Started with the easiest one (in my mind) and skipped around till I realized they were all filled out. Ran it through spell check and sent it to my boss. I have only been at this job for 4 months. But I typically track stuff in my outlook calendar so I can go back and see what trainings I did, or projects I completed .

  10. New Mom (of 1 4/9)*

    I wrote in a week ago about anxiety over our new nanny. She really is wonderful and loves my kid so much.

    I have also been involved in family drama in the past week that has reminded me of just how dysfunctional my family of origin (my father, really) is, and how grateful I am for an extra positive caregiver influence. My kid also had a fever and was very attached to me instead of wanting to sleep, which was stressful but also reassuring in its own weird way. (He wanted his mom!)

    Thank you to the many reassuring replies.

      1. New Mom (of 1 4/9)*

        It appears to have just been a ~24 hour thing from getting his second COVID and flu shots. He is as good as new today. =)

  11. MM*

    Hey all — recent grad here at her first full-time job with a very minor question :)

    One of my “coworkers” (we work in different teams/departments) keeps messaging me to complain about her own colleagues, and she wants us to grab lunch sometime soon. I don’t mind hanging out with her occasionally, but I really don’t want to become the office gossip. Any suggestions for how I can politely shut this down?

    1. pally*

      One method I use is to act surprised when coworker is critical of someone. Then counter with a positive narrative about the criticized coworker.

      If she says Sansa is always late with the TPS reports, you counter with, “That surprises me. That’s so unlike her. She’s always early with the weekly llama count report. I’m sure there’s a valid reason for the delay with the TPS reports.”

    2. Panicked*

      “I’ve made a rule with myself to not talk about coworkers, I’m sure you understand!”

      If she presses, you could say “This just isn’t a topic I’m comfortable talking about. Tell me about that cookie recipe you were making!” or whatever

    3. Geeyourhairsmellsterrific*

      Just don’t respond, and tell her that you’re busy when she wants to schedule lunches. She’ll get the message.

    4. IKnowSomeThings*

      I would suggest giving very noncommittal/neutral replies or redirecting to some other topic.

      Ex: Your coworker: I think Fergus is an incompetent doofus! He should be fired!
      You: Mmm, that sounds frustrating. Anyways, how is your knitting going?

    5. Job hunting before a big trip*

      I think it’s great that you are noticing that and knowing you don’t want to be part of it, especially when you are so new to the workforce. I definitely fell into that trap a few times in my first few years at work.
      One way to get the office complainer/gossiper away from you is to just be really boring. I think Alison has a post about “acting like a grey rock/stone” something like that? But if you are a “dull” to the office gossiper then they are not going to come to you to join in on the complaining. Also, if you don’t know this person well be very careful of what you say or even agree with when they are complaining. I had a pretty disheartening experience at a job when I was new to an international city and one of the other younger women Emily* at the office invited me out for lunch and I was so excited, a new friend!
      Emily seemed really nice, and was telling me about the city and places to go and then randomly mentioned how another coworker, Sunny* always slammed their door really loudly. We all had these tiny private offices squished up together and I shared a wall with Sunny and she actually did open and close her door pretty loudly and I lightheartedly agreed with Emily’s comment with a chuckle and then we moved on.
      The next day Sunny came up to me in a very huffy manner and snippily told me she “wouldn’t slam her door anymore” and then stormed off. I was so shocked and so hurt. It turned out Emily was the office mean-girl and I had had no idea.

      1. GythaOgden*

        I tried that recently while still on reception with someone notorious for hanging around reception with my colleague, sometimes for a half or full hour. I don’t dislike her, but I do think she spends a lot of time distracting us and distracted herself, and there was also a tinge of envy because if she didn’t want to do her admin job, I’d happily do it for her because I was severely underemployed (for context, we get a half-hour lunch and this lady is often with us for the full limit then gassing with others for another hour or so. Unfortunately I didn’t have anything better to do — it wouldn’t have bothered me so much if I’d been properly engaged but it was one of those problems about being on reception — my job was to sit there and wait to be useful and that’s why I was frantically job searching to get out of there…)

        It took her about four or five goes at starting a conversation with me when my colleague was off before I convinced her I wasn’t up for a chat. We went through all the usual stuff — stamps and why she needed them, did I know where my colleague was, what I was doing at the weekend etc etc etc, but she eventually gave up.

        I’m normally happy to chat with people but I didn’t want to enable her to just hang out around reception for the entire middle of the day and then complain about having to stay late. Normally people come and go because they’re busy but make time to say a few words to acknowledge us — which is always nice — and I’m the one who carries the conversation on beyond it’s use-by date, because I’m terrible at answering the social grease question ‘How’s it going?’. But…grey rock works; just keep it polite so you don’t create active animosity.

    6. BellyButton*

      Yeah, steer clear. If she has latched on to you so quickly, it is for a reason. You don’t want to be associated with the gossip or the negativity. If you are comfortable you can say “all the negativity and complaining isn’t really my jam/vibe (whatever language you use)” Otherwise, just don’t respond to messages that are negative.

      1. RagingADHD*

        This!

        Whenever you join a new group, socially or at work, you will usually find 2 kinds of people who go out of their way to include and connect with newcomers early:

        1) Especially gracious people, who you can identify by the fact that they are gracious to everyone, and

        2) People who have already burnt up their goodwill in the group and need a new person to latch onto, because nobody else (or very few) will put up with them anymore.

        There are exceptions, like clique leaders who may “audition” you, but these are the main 2.

        This person is already showing signs that they are not gracious to the people around them. Proceed with caution, if at all.

    7. WellRed*

      Since you are so new and junior, I suspect this person has burned through quite a few coworkers and needs fresh blood. Proceed with caution.

    8. Fiona*

      I always felt paranoid that if I hung out with the known gossips that people would associate me with them, but people are VERY good at noticing who is professional and who isn’t. So I don’t think it’s a big deal to go out to lunch with her, but I would stick to your guns about being very boring and not chiming in with the gossip. I know people think of me as a little bit goody-two-shoes or boring because of this but I’m generally well-liked and higher-ups notice the professionalism. So just stay true to yourself and you’ll be okay! You can be a kind of noncommittal “that sounds frustrating” responder to her complaints – eventually she might just get tired of not getting the reaction she wants.

    9. Ama*

      If you do decide to go to lunch and she starts in on coworker complaints you can always try “oh I don’t like to talk about work when I’m on lunch break! Are you watching anything good on TV these days?” (or other non-work redirect).

    10. JSPA*

      “I’m glad to grab lunch some week if you want to get away for a moment, but I treasure my time away from the office hot-house, so for me, lunch is a no-work, no complaint, no-dishing zone. Let me know if you’re still up for it.”

      (“Some week” is intentionally vague and distant and not super-often.)

      If she accepts, shows up and tries to dish,

      “You know what they say! If you’re thinking of difficult people when they’re not even there, you’re letting them live in your head, rent-free. So hey, what would you rather be thinking about?” If she just can’t let go, “As emeshed as these folks seem to be in your head, I hope you’re coming up with alternate names and fictitious outcomes, because you’ve got a novel’s worth of stuff that’s just spilling out of you.”

      But just as likely, she’s trying to find an opening in your department. Very worth being prepared for that question, just in case…remembering that some people leave short-term drama, while others carry drama with them, wherever they go.

    11. Mgr*

      Your impulse not to gossip is 100% correct. You can be a very uninteresting person to gossip with: replies like, “Oh, I haven’t noticed that” or “I’m not so sure about that.” Then change the subject. I’ve found that most people quit when they don’t get anywhere.

      My rule: Never say anything (in person or in writing) that you don’t want overheard by the person you’re discussing. This has saved my bacon many, many times.

  12. Ginger Baker*

    Can you record a voicemail with the relevant message? Something like “I am currently in an area with very spotty cell service and may not receive voicemail messages in a timely manner. Email is the most reliable way to reach me at this time. Please email me at xyzemail and I will respond as soon as I am able. Thanks!”

    1. Kesnit*

      Yes.

      When I went on vacation out of the country last winter, my voice mail said I was out of the office until (return date) and would not be able to check messages until I returned. It went on to say if they needed help sooner, to call back and select the option for the secretary.

      1. GythaOgden*

        Just remember to update it. I got a screeching call from someone who was incensed that such and such in Whatever Department had a voicemail that said she was out of office until the end of November….in May. Somehow it was my fault, because we all know the receptionist has infinite power over everyone not only to make them answer the phone or emails but record their voicemail messages for them as well, but it was just one more thing that got to people and made them more frustrated. It didn’t bother me much, but I guess if someone is getting stressed trying to track someone down it’s just another aggravation standing in their way and it’s the first point of contact in the organisation that gets the aggro.

        (I just channel my dad who has a really withering way of saying ‘I’m sorry, but’ — in this case, I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to wait for a response. I’m not their PA and don’t have access to their calendar and can’t take messages that involve patient data’. All the words are in the right place and none are expletives, but the tone involves a dry ‘not today thank you’ coolness. Reception in the NHS is generally part of facilities rather than attached to any one team, and the nature of the work is that we’re serving multiple organisations at once, making it very difficult to get access to anyone else’s systems than our own. Before I left, there was an actual Berlin Firewall between us and the rest of the building, which only intensified the absurdity of it all, but even before that changeover in management two years ago we didn’t act as secretaries.)

        I had absolutely no reason to try and connect the two people, particularly after that kind of unnecessary rudeness (because it was highly doubtful that so and so could do anything for a patient) but yeah, if you’re going to do that, keep on top of it. The smoother the connection between people, the less frustrating it gets for others who have a genuine reason to contact you.

  13. AvonLady Barksdale*

    My co-worker was let go this week. It wasn’t entirely unexpected but it was still a surprise, and it means that our tiny team is even tinier and my workload increased substantially overnight. My boss is taking on the majority of the in-process work and I’ll be taking on new projects, but the slow-ish December I envisioned– my first at this company– is pretty much gone.

    One thing I struggle with is that I have absolutely no idea what to say. We’ve had layoffs recently, so it’s not completely strange to be asked if it was my co-worker’s choice to leave. I’ve answered with a vague, “I don’t know the details” but that just sounds weird since we’re such a small team. I don’t want to violate my co-worker’s privacy, I don’t want to say the wrong thing, and I also don’t want a lot of speculation to go around… it’s such a strange feeling.

    I’m also job-searching and have been, casually, for a few months. I’m struggling at this job and I dislike it intensely, so it just feels like strange irony that I’m the one who wants to leave yet I’m the one who’s staying– and getting more work to do.

        1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

          But does anyone else know that…?

          Regardless, I think “I don’t know the details” is an acceptable and appropriate polite fiction that signals you’re not willing to share anything you *do* know.

          1. Margaret Cavendish*

            Yep. Your answer doesn’t have to be literally true – it just has to politely convey that you’re not going to talk about it. “I don’t know the details” is perfectly fine.

            If they persist, you can change the subject to work or weather or sports. Or you can just walk away – you need to use the washroom, or you’ve been meaning to talk to Fergus before he leaves for the day, or whatever.

        2. Festively Dressed Earl*

          Then go with “I’m not sure of the details and I don’t want to speculate”, then change the subject.

          1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

            Ooo, the “…and I don’t want to speculate” (said in a friendly tone) is a great addition, as it closes off the conversational path.

    1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      Don’t tell others if they were laid off/fired. Stick with “I’m not sure” to respect their privacy. Focus on job hunting, taking control and looking for a way out is very empowering.

    2. HR Exec Popping In*

      People who are asking you this know that what they are asking is awkward. Let it be awkward and don’t take on that your response is the cause. You can (1) shrug, (2) say “I don’t know the details” or something like that, or (3) tell them they should ask the boss.

      1. another_scientist*

        +1. I’m in a similar boat. A lot of people also just ask upon first hearing because it’s a human reaction, not because they are trying to pry something out of you. When my colleague heard, he immediately went ‘wow, what happened?’ And I almost started talking, just because I had so much to say on the subject! But I stopped and just said ‘obviously, I can’t share details’ and he immediately agreed and said that’s totally right. So if you need to rebuff someone, their reaction will likely be understanding your position.

    3. JSPA*

      It’s normal not to know the details in this situation (even if you do), unless it was a planned move that coworker had been discussing. (Or something so serious that the cops came, and left with the computers.)

      To the point that “I don’t know the details” can be read as, “Nope, not a planned move by co-worker, and thus not something I can share without dishing.”

    4. Irish Teacher.*

      I think tone plays a large part here, perhaps even more than the actual words. Saying “oh, I don’t really know the details. She’s just moved on” in a breezy tone is far less likely to give rise to speculation than if you say the same thing evasively. Respond like it’s no big deal and people will probably assume something minor.

  14. Hedgehog in a ball*

    I’m wondering if my workplace’s holiday policy makes sense to you all. I am full time and salaried, but I work with another position that is part time and hourly. Over the years I’ve had four different people in this role, and it seems that everyone is told a different holiday policy (perhaps it keeps changing). The role is for 28 hours per week; most people do four 7-hour days or three 8-hour days plus a 4-hour half-day. The latest policy is that a holiday is paid for only 4 hours. Formerly it was 5.6 hours, which kind of made sense as it divided the 28 hours evenly across the five-day work week (we do not work weekend days). But 4 hours seems like a cheat to me, and almost penalizes the person for having a holiday.

    Have others encountered this?

    1. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

      I only ever encountered that sort of setup at a company that was pretty dysfunctional and didn’t have good benefits. It’s not normal. It’s miserly!

      1. in agreement*

        As someone whose company has this policy, you’re correct. It’s cheap and miserly in line with all their other cheap and miserly policies.

    2. violin squeaks*

      We pay out the holiday at the rate of the FTE, like in your 5.6 hrs example. So I have a half-time assistant who is paid 4 hours on a holiday, regardless of whether that’s a day she normally works. 4 hours is a cheat for sure!

    3. Admin of Sys*

      If a 40 hour person is paid for 8 hours for a holiday, then 4 hours would be appropriate if the role was 20 hours. Since it is not, basic match implies it should be for 5.6 hours. Is it possible for you to comment to HR about the obvious math mistake being made? In the tone of “surely they wouldn’t be docking the hourly people of their earned vacation time, that’d be unethical”?

  15. Don't Feed the Plants*

    Has anyone else just and an insane week? Trying to figure out if a Lovecraftian Entity has taken up residence at my work or if Audrey II is sweeping the nation.

    1. BellyButton*

      There was so much going on this week, that half way through Tuesday I thought it was Thursday for like 3 hours and thinking how much I couldn’t wait for tomorrow- Friday. It has been nuts.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      This week has legitimately been completely absurd, and I just got out of a meeting where all seven of us agreed on that.

    3. Margaret Cavendish*

      Same! It has to be Audrey II, that’s the only explanation for the week I’ve just had.

    4. Casey*

      Yes! One of those weeks that was somehow both very long hours and also completely unproductive? Just chaos

    5. Chauncy Gardener*

      It’s been horrible and I know a bunch other folks for whom it has been the same
      Awful!

    6. Kayem*

      It’s definitely been one of those weeks! Just when I thought I could breathe easy, I woke up to tornado sirens. Apparently someone at the city accidentally plugged the wrong thing into the wrong spot and someone else had the wrong settings for the “in the event someone plugs in the wrong thing to the wrong spot” which led to early morning tornado sirens giving half the city anxiety.

    7. goddessoftransitory*

      Ugh, yes. Atmospheric rivers of rain for days, a dog in the next apartment who barks at everything, and today we couldn’t get to the grocery because the bus never showed up and now will have to scrounge meals all weekend.

    8. Irish Teacher.*

      Yes, I had an insane week, but in my case, it was due to our staff party, a staff training day and a department inspection all taking part in the same week and both my mother and I both having medical appointments in that same week (neither anything serious but still, my own appointment took up maybe an hour and a half or two hours in an already busy week; my mother’s had no real impact beyond, “need to remember to ask her how it went”).

  16. MB30*

    Sorry, my original post ended up as a reply to someone else.

    Office holiday lunch was Wednesday, and it was meh as usual. The best part was my manager doing a series of ice breaker style games at the table as if we all haven’t all been working in the same department for the last 20+ years.

    Out of 20 people there, it’s all women except for me and my friend Steve. The game was a bunch of questions for the group like “Who has the most kids?” “Who is wearing the tallest heels?” “Who has the longest fingernails?” “Who has the longest hair?” “Who is wearing the longest earrings?” So yeah, Steve and I didn’t win any prizes. Oh well. I might just opt out next year.

    1. kt*

      as a shorthaired lady w/no pierced ears, a commitment to not wearing heels, short unvarnished fingernails…. sounds like a drag…. sorry to hear it….

      1. I Have RBF*

        As a short haired CF enby with unpainted nails, no piercings, and unable to even take a step safely in heels, I agree.

        If I ended up in that type of gender stereotyped “ice breaker” I would be very tempted to walk out, maybe with a “Sorry, I don’t do girly stuff. I need to go spend a long time in the restroom.” If I couldn’t do that I would be rude and play games on my phone, ignoring the sexist quiz stuff.

    2. Pocket Mouse*

      Wait, so it’s basically “who has the highest Stereotypical Womanly Achievement count?” And that person gets a prize?! That would make me SUPER uncomfortable. Ew ew ick.

      1. Ama*

        Yeah I would not enjoy this at all and I am a woman. IMO work activities should never be taking physical appearance into account even for “fun.” (The only exception I will make is like a bingo game where the squares are innocuous things like “find someone wearing glasses” or “find someone with red hair” and even that I find kind of borderline).

    3. okay*

      Even I (a woman) wouldn’t win this. Don’t wear heels (5′ 10″ and they hurt), nails are always short (don’t know how you work with long ones), let my pierced ears close up years ago (and never wore long ones anyway). Although with 3 kids I could beat some people (average for my family, sister has 6)

    4. JSPA*

      I’m missing something…men can also have kids (and know about other people’s kids) even if you and Steve don’t happen to. Or have long hair, or whatever. Even if you’re not in drag, you could be wearing cowboy boots with a heel.

      But mor essentially, I’m pretty sure they’re called icebreakers for a reason; they’re to socialize, not to compete for prizes (which tend to be pretty incidental). “It bothers me to do something that has some of the same cues as a real competition, but it isn’t actually one, because the main purpose is to chat with and about each other in a low-stakes way” isn’t a great reason to skip the holiday lunch (unless “antisocial” or “hypercompetitive” are essential aspects of your personal brand).

      1. JSPA*

        adding, I agree that the cues and topics are odd, and I would not win any of them either…and the people who did win might not be comfortable with the game, either. But I’d still make the effort to socialize and to learn about my coworkers, their lives, and how they see themselves. Bits of soft information, like soft skills, are valuable.

    5. Some Dude*

      I worked in a mostly-women office a while back and a lot of the informal networking things were explicitly gendered in a similar way. So they way to better get to know your manager was to do a Zumba class with them at lunch, etc. It was eye-opening to me because it made me realize that there could be an old girl’s club mentality that excluded some people — basically any group in power might favor people similar to them and exclude people different from them, either intentionally or unintentionally. It made me more sensitive to not replicate that behavior.

    6. Tangerina Warbleworth*

      I see that as an opportunity to Go Big. It doesn’t need to be permanent, or even expensive, e.g.: wig from the Halloween store, high heels and dangly earrings from Goodwill, Lee Press-ons from the drugstore. You wouldn’t even have to wear them all day; just put them on right before the lunch. If someone questions you, you can just be all, “I’M IN IT TO WIN IT!!”

      But I agree with you that it’s unnecessarily gendered BS.

  17. Anonymous for This*

    My excellent employer has, for years, provided an ‘Extended PTO’ bank for serious illnesses. I became seriously ill this year andhave ended up using all but a few hours of the 300+ hours I had banked. My manager has been great about it, nonjudgemental and flexible. I’m so lucky- alive! Didn’t lose my job!
    But the Extended PTO goes away January 1st, a company-wide decision. The replacement is also generous, but it only pays out 60% of one’s salary. I already live paycheck-to-paycheck and I wouldn’t be able to survive on even a week of a diminished salary.
    I’m recovering and getting stronger all the time. Actually, the side effects from my recent COVID vax reminded me just how sick I was as little as two months ago. So there’s hope that by next month I won’t need to take so much time off, and I won’t lose money.
    Still, I’m scared. I wish I could just MAKE MYSELF HEALTHY AGAIN.

    1. StressedButOkay*

      I know it’s an added expense, which might not be a thing you can add on, but if your company offers additional short term disability coverage you can purchase (such as AFLAC through them) that might be something to look into. Some of these plans will help cover the gap of the 60% coverage or pay out for medical appointments, etc.

      Also, look into if your employer has employee assistance funds (not EAPs) – i.e., grants that employees can apply for (they aren’t guaranteed, they’re federally regulated and employers will put their own restrictions on them).

      I’m sorry that they’re taking that away but look to see if they have any other benefits you can use to your advantage.

      1. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

        Thank you StressedButOkay that’s good advice. And Unicorn, I didn’t realize that might be how it works- I’ll check.

      2. Chauncy Gardener*

        This actually sounds like their employer switched to short term disability insurance, or are at least trying to replicate it.

    2. Unicorn by Day, Knitter by Night*

      Something to check…out long term disability pays 60% of your pretax salary and the benefit is not taxed, as the premiums are paid post tax. So it ends up working out about the same. YMMV

      1. DisabilityBenefits*

        this actually depends on your employer. short term disability is usually set up so you get your standard salary payments – including deductions for benefits and taxes – for a set number of weeks depending on your length of service (they also usually have a 5 day waiting period where you’re expected to use sick time or PTO). Long term disability can be set up so the benefits are taxed or untaxed depending on whether you pay a premium and whether it’s taxed. Most of my previous employers had it set up the most beneficial way for employees where there is a small premium that get taxed. In this case, benefits are tax free. My current employer pays 100% of the premium which sounds nice in theory but means there are no employee contributions to be taxed and thus the benefit gets taxed. I’ve tried to explain to them why this is bad but they don’t get it.

        1. Houndmom*

          It costs more to have a post tax benefit. Don’t may not be that they do not understand but rather do not want the higher cost.

    3. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      This is short term disability that your company is offering and is pretty status quo (even if it sucks). Like others said AFLAC is a good supplement to pay the rest.

    4. JSPA*

      Is it the sort of job with any chance of a couple-three weeks of WFH?
      That way you’d be facing the work, but not the commute and weather and viruses. If not, is there a cot or completely reclining chair that you could work from, for part of the day?

      After surgery or illness I’ve found it less daunting if I start to build up a tiny bit of the lost muscle ahead of time: lift a few cans of soup, take a careful stroll around the block, and more stretching than seems like it should be necessary. It won’t make you well, but it can make you a bit less (re)injury-prone.

      1. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

        @JSPA I’ve been using all of those when I’m able. It means that when I take PTO, I’m truly unable to do anything except lie in bed. And I’ve had to really prioritise light exercise specifically because I’ve been dealing with neuralgia that will keep me immobile if I don’t commit to moving around a little.

  18. Naomi*

    I am hoping to get an in-person job interview soon, and I’m pregnant and just starting my second trimester – so starting to show a bit but able to conceal the belly still! Any recommendations for interview outfits? I am planning on some kind of dress/jacket combo because dress pants/skirt seem too tight at this point, but would love to hear other suggestions.

    1. Jane Bingley*

      A dress that fits around the bust/natural waist and then flares out is probably your best bet! Combine with an open blazer to hide a bump from the side. That style of dress tends to look more casual but you can dress it up with a nicer fabric, delicate jewelry, or a thin belt under the bust/at your natural waist. If you can swing a nice dressy shoe or low heel, even better.

    2. Lila*

      A tent dress (or a loose untucked blouse and pants) with an open cardigan got me to 20 weeks at work without anyone noticing.

  19. Just a Manager*

    I’m trying to adjust my expectations. Are thank you’s out of the norm any longer?

    I manage a tech team and have always given out gifts during the holiday period. In the last couple years with Covid, I gave out Amazon gift cards. Out of the team of ten, I would maybe get one thank you or even an acknowledgment that they got it. I know they redeemed them. This year, I gave special coffee mugs, candy and a very personalized card. Crickets. This is my own money, and it’s not a trivial amount.

    I used to send gift cards for birthdays, but due to the lack of any acknowledgment, I just went to group cards.

    Is this an age thing? I’m an older Gen X and my team is either Millennials or Gen Zs. Another factor is that our company has buckets of money and our big boss gives Amazon cards paid for by the company.

    1. StressedButOkay*

      Elder millennial here – it’s not an age thing, it’s just the folks on your team. I also send out gifts for birthdays and holidays for my team and my very very millennial heavy team sends their thanks back.

      My previous boomer of a boss never said thank you to anything I sent, before I realized I should gift down, not up. It’s the person, not the generation.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      I’d assume that they think it’s being paid for by the company, not out of your pocket.
      In that circumstance, I wouldn’t expect a thank you.

      1. Girasol*

        This. You don’t give a personal thank you to your boss for distributing a holiday bonus. Do people understand that you’re giving a personal gift and not a company bonus?

      2. Kiki Is The Most*

        Regardless of age, in the past when I’ve received a ‘thank you’ gift from my boss, I didn’t feel the need to thank them for the thank you. Same with bonuses, holiday gifts, etc. However, if it was a birthday gift, I did. I think because someone is receiving a gift from their boss, then they more than likely assume it is coming from a company budget.

    3. The Coolest Clown Around*

      Are you sure your team knows these are coming from you and your own money? It might be that they assume you’ve been given some money to spend on your team or that these gifts are from the company, in which case this would feel less strange, even though it would still be more polite to thank you.

      1. Just a Manager*

        It’s probably the case that they think the company is paying for it. I just don’t want to be the person, that says “Hey, I paid for this, be grateful.” ;-)

        Any ideas? Do I drop a hint with one person?

        1. Anecdata*

          or just, stop doing it?
          tbh, I’d be kind of uncomfortable with my boss personally paying for a gift for me (unless it’s something I truly know is trivial for them, which is sounds like this is not for you)

        2. Dulcinea47*

          either do it out of the kindness of your heart b/c you want to, not b/c you’re expecting a certain reaction…. or stop doing it.

          1. ampersand*

            I agree. I was going to write a much wordier reply—but this gets to the heart of it.

            I would also like to say that as a human with human feelings, it’s very hard to detach from having a desired outcome with things like gift-giving; we want our efforts to be acknowledged, that’s normal. But! Once the negatives (frustration at not being thanked) outweigh the positives (giving gifts because you care about your team), it’s probably time to stop.

        3. The Coolest Clown Around*

          I think it would be reasonable to send an email around the time you send out the gifts saying something like, “You guys did a great job this year and I’m really glad to work with you. (Insert more specific praise here). I’ve purchased some gifts out of my own pocket, please let me know when you’ve received them bc mail is crazy this time of year!” I do also think it might feel easier if you realize probably at least some people aren’t going to realize basically no matter what, and the lack of a thank-you almost certainly isn’t personal. This is a busy time of year for people and I think this kind of thing can just slip through the cracks, especially if they’re on leave when they receive the gift. If it really bothers to not receive a thank you, you won’t be hurting anybody feelings to downgrade to a card next time.

          1. Fluffy Fish*

            I cannot begin to tell you how uncomfortable I would be if my boss sent an email stating they bought gifts out of their own pocket. Please don’t do this.

            1. Anon. Scientist*

              Amen. That would be super weird for the recipient. Either go with gifts that are clearly from you, like cookies (I put a lot of effort into finding and writing year end cards that are individual to all 15 of my staff) or cool it with the gifts.

        4. Elsewise*

          Try starting with just “I paid for this” and not “be grateful”, see how that goes first. They’re getting other gifts from the company, right? You mentioned that the big boss gives gift cards? So you could say something like “you’ll be getting your official [Company] gifts at another time, but I wanted to give you each something from me to say thank you for your hard work this year.” (Maybe adding the phrase “say thank you”, even as not a command, will prime them?)

          In general, though, I don’t think it’s an age thing, I think people in general are just not particularly good at thank yous.

        5. I should really pick a name*

          If it bothers you, I’d just suggest not giving the gifts.
          The hint-dropping would be inappropriate.

        6. Isben Takes Tea*

          Honestly, you may just consider dropping the gifts. It sounds like you’re trying to promote a certain kind of relationship that your team isn’t responding to. Neither party is wrong, they just want different things.

          Gifts really aren’t a necessary part of a healthy and productive employee/employer relationship: respect, fair pay, gratitude, and compassion go a long way. I’ve never received a birthday or holiday gift from some of my favorite managers, and it’s never damaged an otherwise great relationship. I did receive a nice holiday gift from a manager I didn’t respect at all, and it did not improve the relationship one bit.

    4. Freelancing volunteer*

      Do your colleagues know that you’re paying out of pocket for these gifts? They might be assuming that the gifts are part of the company package.

    5. Bast*

      I think it’s pretty odd to not at least say “Thank you” when someone gives a gift. Definitely it would be odd in person to just… accept a gift and say nothing, but this sounds like it is maybe remote? Even if it is remote, I still find it odd to not at least send a quick Slack/Teams/Email even simply stating — “Thanks for the gift card!” I wouldn’t expect a formal thank you card or anything like that, but FWIW I’m a Millennial and it wouldn’t cross my mind to not even acknowledge the gift.

      1. WellRed*

        I agree it’s odd not to say thanks! I doubt they have her gift confused with the company gift. It’s not hard to say thanks for the X gift but people are weird.

    6. Scott*

      I don’t think it’s just age based on my own experience. I’ve brought treats to share with my work group (~15) and will get thanks from one or two. One is always my boss who is about 7 year younger than me. When she brings in treats (often doughnuts) I’m usually the only one to thank her. While I’m the oldest in our group at 61, we do have a mix between 22 – 55. I just chalk it up to introverted engineers with different social skills than me.

    7. No Thanks*

      Are these gifts a Thank You in themselves? If you’re telling them thank you for all your hard work and I appreciate you, they may not feel that a thank you for the thank you is warranted. I usually give a gift to everyone on the team once a year as an appreciation. I only ever hear from one of them, but I don’t expect it as I am essentially thanking them for all that they do.

    8. WorkerDrone*

      What’s the context for distributing things to the team?

      If someone hands me something, I of course say thank you. Gifts, a file, snacks, whatever lol. If you’re handing these things to your team, and they’re taking them without a thank-you or acknowledgement, then yeah that’s kinda rude.

      But if you say, left them on your team’s desks for them to find when they got in the next morning, I don’t know that I would seek out my manager to thank them for a holiday gift that I assumed came from the company, as opposed to directly from the manager’s pocket.

      If you’d like more acknowledgement, it might help to be directly handing the gifts to the person and saying something like, “I got you this to show my appreciation for your hard work this year” or something like that. Or, even write that sentence on the gift tag when you leave the gift on their desk, if you can’t directly hand them out.

    9. lilsheba*

      I think people in general are just ruder than they used to be. To not thank you for these gifts is incredibly rude. No one has any manners anymore.

    10. Workerbee*

      Agree with the others saying your team thinks it’s part of the company gifting.

      I would also just not give gifts, especially using your own money. I’m Gen X and had not actually encountered bosses who did this. In last job, for example, I’d get a card from the boss with a nice message, and enclosed was the company-paid-for-gift card. It was very transparent where it came from, and everyone was happy.

      The most that would happen would be a team + boss White Elephant or Secret Santa exchange – completely optional! – and then a company-funded “let’s go paint pottery” or “let’s go to a sized-for-adults arcade” or something, again optional.

      1. Dulcinea47*

        I’m also GenX and have always had bosses who did this, but due to the fact that our non profit employer funds *nothing*, it’s always been clear that it’s coming from them personally and I’ve said thank you even when I don’t feel too thankful. (to be clear: I don’t hand write them a note, I say thank you in person when I see them… or might email if I’m not going to see them. it’s not a formal process.)

        It’s uncomfortable when it’s been a supervisor I don’t actually like, and even more uncomfortable b/c I don’t celebrate xmas.

    11. Elliot*

      I struggle to imagine being handed something gift-like, and not saying thank you… is it just being left on desks, or delivered to them? If so, this is a situation ripe for confusion because other people are expensing gifts to the company, but you could possibly include a handwritten card which says “I wanted to get you this because…. etc”. But even if you’re spelling out “I got this” there’s still a big chance it still will get lumped in with “company giving out free stuff”. Besides, if your company expenses gifts, why not let it come from the top? Your team would probably appreciate your feedback and professional support way more than a gift card anyway. If they do miss the gifts, and it gets raised, you can say “Oh good to know! I thought I missed the mark with that one, because I didn’t hear much about whether people liked it.”

    12. Rara Avis*

      I’ve never written a thank-you for the gift I get from my boss (which does come from the company, not him personally). If he’s giving it to me to thank me for my work for the year, it seems odd to thank him back. I do write notes for gifts from peers etc.

    13. Just a Manager*

      Thanks for all the answers. There’s a great variety of opinions and I appreciate your thoughts.

    14. Fluffy Fish*

      Gently – don’t give gifts if you have an expectation of anything in return including a thank you – goes doubly at work.

      A former boss I despised because he treated people terribly used to give Starbucks cards. Not only did I not thank him, I gave the card to someone else because the last thing I want is anything from him.

      I’m not saying you’re a horrible boss, but what I am saying is work relationships are not the same as personal relationships.

      It’s a business relationship, not personal. Even though you are sending them not the business – to your employees you as a manager are an agent of the business. The cards themselves are a thank you from you to your employees – don’t need to thank a thank you.

    15. Quinalla*

      Not an age thing, some people are just bad about saying thanks. And it isn’t like you are holding out for a handwritten card which are so rare now that when I do them occasionally people treasure them forever lol. Email or a quick verbal thanks sounds like it would be great. But yeah, lots of people just don’t really say thanks, I dunno, it is so ingrained in me it seems weird too, but definitely a thing.

      However, if they don’t know it is your own money, they may consider of it more of a holiday bonus, which can be a little weird to thank for. It’s not quite like thanking for a paycheck, but pretty close because in theory you earned a bonus.

  20. Freelancing volunteer*

    I just want to say thanks for the comments on my question from the week before last – both the validation of my feelings of frustration, and the clear-eyed advice that this is just What Freelancing Is Like, were very much appreciated. Sorry I didn’t get to reply to everyone before comments closed. I’ve taken the advice that how all this went down shows both that the org maybe isn’t one I want to work with given all the fuckery around communication, AND that I need to be clearer with my pitches and make sure I’m speaking to someone with the authority. I’ve been pitching to other places and have some promising leads. Thanks again everyone :)

  21. Hedgehug*

    My coworker cannot use white out tape to save his life and he ruined two of mine back to back the other day. It drives me insane. I even told him he’s pressing too hard but he kept going and ruined it. I’ll have to do his white-out-ing from now on because I love office supplies (school dork!) and I get so stressed out when he uses the white out.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I have not used White Out in so long that I don’t think I’d even remember how to use the tape!

      1. ThatGirl*

        The tape is actually very easy to use – you just kinda drag it along the strip you’re whiting out. I always liked it better than the liquid.

    2. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      It’s white out. Why is this stressing you out so much? Is it about something other than the white out?

      1. Hedgehug*

        Because he’s ruining the entire dispenser and it has to go in the garbage. It’s a waste of supplies.

        1. Margaret Cavendish*

          Are you concerned about the money, the plastic waste, the administrative time to replace them? Something else? I don’t want to diminish your feelings, but honestly when I think about organizations wasting money, those correction tape things are waaaaaay down the list. I’m 1000% with you on loving office supplies, but most organizations don’t share our excitement. :)

          So, two questions. One, is this actually your problem to solve? Obviously it bugs you, but other than that – are you his manager, or in charge of the budget? If neither of those things is true, there may not be much you can do about it. And two, could you each have your own correction tape? So you can each go through them at your own rate, without worrying about what the other is doing.

      2. Lexi Vipond*

        If the coworker is taking something that Hedgehog uses regularly and making it unusable in future, I think that’s reasonable to be annoyed about – it’s ‘I don’t want to watch you destroying my stuff’, not ‘I can’t watch you Doing This Wrong’.

        Although if we’re talking about one of the mice, I’m kind of impressed that he can break them – usually you just end up with a lot of unused white rolled up inside the mouse and none on the paper.

    3. LCH*

      he should have his own white-out. no need for you to assist him. if he can’t do this, sounds like an issue for his manager. you are too busy to help.

      1. Margaret Cavendish*

        Not the OP, but I’m guessing a privacy-related function of some sort – used for redacting documents.

      2. A Manager for Now*

        I kinda wanna know too – I’m in a pretty heavily regulated industry, so white-out is a big DO NOT USE for us.

    4. Viette*

      Seconding some of these solutions proposed here that would solve this. It’s not reasonable that the fix for your co-worker ruining white-out tape dispensers is “I’ll have to do his white-out-ing from now on”. You definitely do NOT have to do his white-out-ing from now on and I would argue strongly that you SHOULD NOT do it. That’s taking ownership of another person’s non-critical problem to a degree that is well beyond workplace norms.

      Orange banana’s idea of suggesting he gets a different product that he can use more easily is a great one.

      Otherwise the thing to work on is why you get so intensely stressed out about this — not why as in “because he is wasting white-out dispensers” but why as is “why does wasting white-out dispensers make you THIS stressed and compelled to attempt to control things?”

    5. Meep*

      Sounds like weaponized incompetence to me. Buy him the ink and let him make a mess on his own hands.

    6. Hedgehug*

      I did not expect this to generate such discussion! XD This has taken off the stress and made me laugh.

      Ok, it’s not a privacy issue or a money issue. No I don’t pay for the white out correction tape, but we’re nonprofit so I care about money being wasted, and the plastic of course.
      Is white out tape not used commonly anymore? It’s common here in my office so this has made me laugh too that’s it’s becoming obsolete.

      It is definitely not weaponized incompetence, he does try! But as I said, I work in a nonprofit office with volunteers, many of them are in their elder years.
      He is using correction tape instead of liquid because he needs to edit things manually to make photocopies, and doesn’t want to wait for the liquid to dry, otherwise it would get on the photocopier glass. And let me tell you, sometimes even the correction tape gets on the glass and it’s delicate work to get it off.

      Can he scan the paper and edit on his computer? Well, he frequently asks me to help him with his email, so…there’s your answer to that, lol.

      Phew, I’m glad I got that off my chest and had this fun discussion! Sometimes I forget what a unique environment it is that I work in and it’s quirks.

      1. Llama Llama*

        Yes and depending on the applications your work provides the easier it would be. Though since you are a ‘use white out’ type org I am not sure they will have those types of programs.

    7. Indolent Libertine*

      I feel your pain. My husband can’t use it correctly either. He destroyed two separate spools of it – one practically brand new – on either the first or second stroke. I don’t let him touch it any more or even know where it is, it’s mine and I want it in working order when I need it!

  22. Vanilla*

    In the coming months, I am taking FMLA for a mental health condition that, as a direct result of my job, has become unmanageable without a significant amount of time off. I’m on the books as “planning to return to work” but I don’t know if I will or not- I just needed to keep health insurance while I figure things out. I have a good support team of medical professionals and friends and family, but I don’t have good resources to figure out my career. I’m very highly qualified in a very niche field, where I have learned this type of dysfunction is the norm. I think I might like to change careers and maybe use this time for some training or certification classes but I don’t know what I’d want to do. I’ve looked into some things and nothing really appeals- but I’m also extremely burned out, among other conditions, so that isn’t surprising.
    Has anyone worked with a career coach in this type of scenario that was actually helpful? Or do you have any other tips for this type of life reset?

    1. Geeyourhairsmellsterrific*

      Sorry, I don’t have any advice or experience with this but wanted to say good for you for taking care of your health!

    2. Double A*

      I would say put those questions on the back burner and prioritize resting and recovering first!! You don’t have to have you next move figured out, unless it’s financially imperative. You could temp for a little while, possibly. Rest and recover first.

  23. Susan Calvin*

    Dear project managers of AAM – how do you thread the needle between pushing your team, and setting them up for failure?

    I’m decently competent in the field we work in, but couldn’t exactly do what my team does on my own (think, maybe, someone who used to be a general electrician PMing a team of people doing specialized solar array installations). Most of the time that works fine; I stick to admin stuff, let them do their thing, and the degree to which problems have to be dumbed down for me is limited.

    However, we’re now running into a problem where due to a combination of factors, we’re facing a fairly tight timeline for a certain project, which might be cancelled entirely (and damage a longstanding customer relationship) if we can’t commit to it. Mapping a work breakdown against an honest assessment of everyone’s capacity during that timeframe makes it look like it won’t be feasible. My gut feeling on some points is to call bull on some points, because they shouldn’t take that long, and my team are just being over-cautious, but I don’t actually know for sure. My manager, who is extremely proficient at this type of work, tends to agree – but also sometimes forgets that some people just work more slowly than himself.

    Any advice?

    1. The Coolest Clown Around*

      Can you have an individual conversation with those employees and ask them to walk through how they came up with the timeline? You could say something like, “My sense is that in the past/other times I’ve seen this done it hasn’t taken quite as long as you’ve projected. Is there a reason you think this will take this amount of time? There’s a pretty tight timeline for this and I don’t want to overcommit you but if there’s something we can do to help speed this up that would be helpful.” It might be that there’s a coverage/supplies/experience reason for this pace of work, or it could be that they’ve built in some hedge time in case something goes wrong – but you might be able to find out just by asking.

      1. Sleepiest Girl Out There*

        I think this is really great advice, and I wanted to also add if you had any previous estimates/plans to go from they can be great to reference in these conversations make it a little less personal. For example, “In a similar project X our velocity/timeline/resourcing makes me think that this is a pretty tight timeline. Is there a difference between that project and this one that changes your estimate?”

    2. violin squeaks*

      I would call everyone together and explain it like you explained it to us. “Based on the answers you gave, this project looks impossible. This will cause [undesirable outcome]. Before I go to the customer to let them know we can’t do this, I wanted to get your feedback and see if there is any way we can get this done.”

      It lets everyone together see how they contribute to the whole and they may be willing to give a little. If everyone scrapes off a fraction of an inch, you get a whole inch and the project can be completed.

    3. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      I’m a PM, but in a non-construction field, so different dynamics and practices. My approach is relationships first. So, I start with trusting my colleagues and being transparent.

      Building on Coolest Clown’s approach, would it make sense to have that conversation with the team about whether they have any flex, while sharing that you’re asking because the project and customer relationship are at risk?

    4. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      In my experience (software engineering, but I think it is more universal) overly cautious estimates are generally due to:

      – Uncertainty / too many assumptions and not enough facts
      – Unfamiliarity, too much new stuff or not enough experience
      – Previous experience with estimates having been cut after the fact to keep the customer or stakeholders happy resulting in the new estimates being unrealistic and then inevitably failing
      – Incorrect / incomplete understanding of the work required (scope, level of “completeness”/polish, etc)

      I wouldn’t “call bull” on the estimates as such but rather try to coax out what motivation (and it is probably one of the above) drove the overly padded estimate and then solve for that.

      1. Qwerty*

        Was coming to say a lot of this. I’ll also add
        – Factoring in unplanned time off / less focused time. Winter = cold, flu, and covid season. Snow = power outages or school closures. Every time a PM has pushed on a tight timeline over winter I include in my timeline updates that we are screwed if anyone sneezes.
        – Factoring in planned time off, especially if the project starts now. The holidays are coming up, people might intend to have a winter getaway, the kids have spring break, etc
        – External dependencies can have longer response times, even if by “external” they just mean another team at the same company.
        – Expectations to keep making progress on other tasks/projects and not being able to devote themselves 100% to this.

        I would be very cautious to “call bull” because that will errode trust with your team. Everytime I’ve found myself haggling to make a timeline work we end up missing the deadline and/or having some people work a lot of overtime.

        Also apply that same skepticism to why is there a sudden project with a tight timeline that will cause major damage to a customer relationship if you don’t do it. This kinda puts blame on the team – if you don’t make this imposed deadline work then the company will suffer (which implies problems for the team/employees if they “fail”). Try calling them in – “X hasn’t been going well for Customer and there’s a high risk for cancelling the contract. We think providing feature Y will convince them to stay – what do you need to help accomplish this?” Consider if you need to pull resources from other teams, delay other projects, etc.

      2. Quinalla*

        Agreed, is their information they are missing? Do they know something about the project type or client or other factors that you don’t that will make it necessary to have more time?

        But yeah, lay out for them what you told us and ask if there is anything that can be done to tighten up the timeline on your end. And does that mean overtime that will be compensated? That sort of thing! But start with assuming the times they gave are accurate based on their assumptions and suss out the assumptions.

    5. Ashley*

      To me this is part of knowing your team. One person I work with is very conservative in their estimates allowing for time for the sky to fall. Another is always short forgetting 50% of the scope. Really you need to get the whole group buy in to make this work and maybe spelling out the consequences of failure will help. If you can get the agreement of the more senior members that usually helps ime with the others.

    6. Casey*

      As the specialized engineer who works with several PMs on the scale from mediocre to awesome, here’s my advice:

      – why is the project in a crunch now? If people need to move heaven and earth, be very honest about why you’re asking them to do that, especially if it’s coming from above/outside your control.

      – instead of “how long will this take”, ask “how long have similar jobs to this taken in the past”. If there aren’t similar past jobs to reference, that may be part of your answer.

      – ask a couple senior folks on the team (individually, and in person if possible) for their best and worst case time estimate, and really listen to what they’re citing as the reason for the difference. Is it poorly scoped requirements? Resources that may not be available? Go-backs from the customer? Can you set them up for success by making the “green light to red light” range smaller?

    7. Rick Tq*

      I suggest pulling the whole team in to a meeting (online or in person) to go thru the project requirements together, then review the plan to determine resources.

      One big concern in my industry is how the project will be billed. Is this Fixed Price or Time And Materials? We only do fixed price work for very specific tasks with restrictions on what is included. Customers who require fixed price bids for nebulous projects get a large number back, if we are taking all the technical and schedule risk for scope creep we charge for it.

      You may have one or all of the individual contributors adding contingency time to their estimates that all combine to exceed the time available, but I would not simply assume everyone is padding their time and cut back, there may be issues at this customer or site that can delay a project your company cannot control.

    8. Honor Harrington*

      My favorite question in this sort of situation is “what would it take to get it done by x date instead?” Or “what would you need to make it more likely that we would finish on time?”

      Give them a chance to say what they need, take it seriously, and document you risk like your life depends on it. Make sure you document who makes the decision and when, and that they accept the consequences. Sometimes the most important thing you do is CYA.

    9. Girasol*

      Can you develop a contingency plan? You can assume your people will do their best, but someone will get sick, or make a critical mistake, or some requirement will have been misunderstood, or something you need won’t be there when you expected to have it. Can you develop a plan to add resources (like contract people) or time to the project, or reduce its scope? If you can make such a plan you can take it to your customer and rather than say, “This is impossible!” say, “The blue-sky plan isn’t realistic, but we can do this with this much more resources, more time, or reduced scope. Here’s why. Which approach would you prefer?” And (as Alison always says) say it not like you’re apologizing but with a tone of certainty that says that of course he agrees with your logical assessment and will make a reasonable choice.

  24. LCH*

    A former coworker is at the university of Las Vegas which just had a shooting. We never really talk now, but I liked her a lot when we worked together. Weird to randomly reach out to say I was thinking of her after these events and hope she’s ok?

    1. Sherm*

      I don’t think it’s weird at all! It’s not random — a tragedy happened that made you think of your coworker and made you hoping that she’s okay.

      1. hohumdrum*

        It might not be though, I know someone who went through something like that and said she found the avalanche of “thinking of you!” texts incredibly annoying.

        She pointed out that in that moment she was trying to focus on taking care of herself/being in contact with her actual friends/family, so getting a bunch of random messages from former acquaintances just because they saw her area on the news was more disruptive and distressing than anything helpful, and actually kind of impeded her ability to easily keep track of the messages she actually cared about.

        Just throwing this out there as a data point, not a universal feeling. But perhaps if you’re doing this consider contacting your coworker through like facebook or whatever, rather than text. Don’t clog up her main channels for communication.

        1. kalli*

          Seconding facebook – if she’s put up an ‘i’m okay’ post or checked in, that’s meant to short-circuit the ‘thinking of you’ messages. Sending a request or leaving a comment also puts the ball in her court to respond when she can and if she wants to, whereas direct communication outside social media can come across a lot more strongly since it’s not through the filter of social media with the fiction of ‘I don’t check it that often!’

    2. sagewhiz*

      Not at all weird! Did the same with a former colleague, we’d been out of touch for a few years, and she was grateful that I thought of her. (What was scary to learn was that she was in the building just moments before the attack started!)

    3. violin squeaks*

      Yes, definitely. I did this with a former colleague at Arizona when a professor there was shot by a former student.

      1. violin squeaks*

        I meant, yes, definitely do this. sorry, operating on some cold meds and my brain is not cooperating :)

    4. Elsewise*

      Not weird, but keep in mind she’s probably getting a bunch of these, so send something that could easily not be replied to if she’s overwhelmed or just doesn’t want to talk about it. “Hey, I heard the news about the shooting and was thinking of you. Hope you’re doing alright” rather than “oh my gosh how are you? Were you close to any of the victims?”

    5. Jessica*

      When my university had a shooting, an odd assortment of random people came out of the woodwork of my life to express sympathy and concern. I appreciated their thinking of us. But I second the suggestion to frame it in a way that doesn’t require a reply.

    6. Kesnit*

      My college was the site of one of the largest school shootings ever about a decade ago. I had graduated long before that and wasn’t in contact with anyone still there. But it was still a gut punch and I wish someone who knew I’d gone there had reached out, even to say “I was sorry to hear about what happened.”

      So yes, reach out to your former coworker. I have no doubt anyone with ties to UNLV is feeling now the way I did years ago.

    7. No name just shook*

      I used to work at the same university in the same college as the shooter. We were not in the same department but I knew the name as soon as I saw it. I read he also had faculty from his previous university on his “list” I still have friends there and that hit me hard.

      What is kind of crazy is we were both there when the university went into lockdown for an active shooter for about 3 hours. Turned out it was a false alarm. I don’t want to say its ironic but….

  25. Hamster pants*

    I’m starting a new job next month. I went in earlier this week and was able to meet the staff and see what would be my workspace. I’d be sharing an office with one other person although I’ll have my own desk so a few questions came up that I thought would be good to ask here –

    would it be Weird to bring wipes and clean on my first day? The surface space isn’t so bad as a few wipes would take care of it but the drawers I’d need to remove and shake out the debris and wipe down.

    At what point would it be ok to bring my keyboard and mouse? No issue with theirs but…mine is just super colorful lol.

    If someone asks what happened at my last job what do I say? I was honest with the recruiter and in the interview about what happened but what about with peers? I want to make a good impression but I don’t want to be cagey or vague either.

    Finally – This is the first time I would be in an office and not a cubicle/open space. Dos and don’ts? I wouldn’t be wearing perfume, eating food in there, and I’d keep my phone on silent. Anything else I’m not thinking of? Am I overthinking this?

    1. NaoNao*

      I think wipes are fine–just be discreet and maybe do it during lunch hour or another time when someone else isn’t trying to set up your computer, walk you through your onboarding, etc.

      Keyboard and mouse: perfectly fine, but many of those come with a USB stick–make sure IT is okay with you inserting a USB stick into the port.

      I’ve…never had a new job ask what happened at my old job but I’d go with a bland, vague “oh, didn’t work out / wasn’t a match / it was time to move on / office politics, you know how that goes” or something. It is better to be vague and bland then come out on “blast” talking negatively (even if it’s true!) about an old job. You never know who knows who or who’s related to who. The person you complain about “toxic boss” may be that person’s SIL or something. “Cagey” is when you’re doing something wrong and hiding it. Being general with someone you don’t know well enough to trust is normal and SOP and shouldn’t be considered “weird” or “cagey”.

      I think you can actually eat food, wear perfume and shut the door in your office–that’s the *benefit* of having an office! I would just get a vibe of how others handle various aspects–is the door shut during calls, or mostly shut? Do they tend to mingle and only use the office sparingly, etc.

      1. Hamster*

        If I was alone I wouldn’t worry as much haha but I’ll be sharing wtih someone. I did notice that her phone was going off A LOT (vibrations) but I would keep mine on silent/DND for the most part. I’ll be sure to pay attention to what otehrs do the first few weeks.

      2. Hamster*

        Also thank you for that clarification on being cagey. I was pretty careful at my previous job on what I shared about the job prior to that but I didn’t end up fitting in with them, so I’m just trying to avoid all that.

      3. Bluebird de happiness*

        Would agree if they were getting their own office. But they are sharing, so would not wear perfume. As to eating there, might wait and see what the other person does. Wasn’t clear if they are sharing at the same time or on diff schedules, but if at the same time I would just be aware the other person may have had the place to themself before and may need a little time to adjust.

        1. Hamster*

          Generally same schedule. I was able to chat with her for a bit while I was getting set up but I didn’t ask if she ever works remotely. I was surprised to be getting an office tbh. Every job I’ve been to only seniors + get offices.

        2. amoeba*

          I’d just ask! I mean, don’t wear perfume the first day, sure, but otherwise it feels unnecessary to go without if you don’t even know whether it is a problem. “Hey, would it be OK for you if I put on some light perfume? Don’t want to inconvenience you in case you’re sensitive or don’t like it, happy to go without in that case!”

    2. Dulcinea47*

      You can just ask them for cleaning supplies (or, where they are kept so you’ll know) when you get there instead of bringing your own. IMO it’s kind of like moving into a new home, the person before probably cleaned it but you want to clean it yourself. My cubicle was hella dusty when I arrived and I gave everything a good wipedown, no one was offended. I guess I did bring a microfiber cloth but everything else I got from work supplies.

      I’ve never had an office, so no advice on that.

    3. Bast*

      I don’t think it’s weird to bring wipes and wipe down your desk. A lot of people “set up” during the first few days and bring things like their own mouse, mousepad, pictures, etc., so I would find this all completely normal.

      re: why you left your last job… It depends? I am careful until I know I can trust my team, and might not tell the full story right away, but it truly depends WHY you left. If you left because you relocated across the country, that’s completely reasonable to just be honest. If you hated being an X and switched fields to become a Y, that’s completely fine. If it’s because you came from a toxic environment and needed a change, it’s fine to say the latter half and omit the escaping a toxic dumpster fire part — “Company Name has a great reputation, and I was ready for a change/it was an amazing opportunity I couldn’t say no to.”

      1. Hamster*

        I was let go from my last job. There’s still a lot of shame and embarrassment that I don’t want to share it.

    4. lost academic*

      This is going to depend on the visibility and the level of cleaning you do or feel you need to do. I would say typically yes… it’s weird and it’s not typically a good look to plan and immediately scrub down your workspace on day 1, hour 1. I think you should assume that it will be cleaned for you but if it gets overlooked, a quick surreptitious wipe down when you’re alone would be OK. But in general – setting a first impression of thinking your space needs to be decontaminated would not be good. (Shaking the drawers would be something I’d wait to do till after hours)

      Wait to see the culture of your office about the keyboard and mouse. Maybe it’s a second day or week thing but it might be a never thing. Pay attention to how much personalization others (particularly at your level) have. Particularly for a “super colorful” mouse and keyboard. Get the lay of the land. Make some connections. Maybe even ask someone you come to trust with opinions on that kind of thing there.

      Asking “what happened” at someone’s last job seems very unusual. Maybe someone will ask why you left/came there and it’s easiest to say, particularly when still making a first impression, that this was a great opportunity. Save (if you ever discuss it) any details for further down the road.

      Sharing an office takes clear communication with an officemate. Talk to the person you’re sharing with about your pet peeves, and theirs, and about office culture!

      1. I Have RBF*

        IME desks are seldom properly cleaned before a new person arrives. I’ve often started on day 1 with a desk full of yuck from the previous person – both dirt and leftover used stuff. Sometimes it’s been outright gross. Even if it was “cleaned”, it also depends on how long it stood vacant, collecting dust and schmutz.

        It is not a big thing to clean your new desk on the first day. Maybe not the first hour, but definitely as a routine part of setting up. Most offices don’t have people who clean up desks after someone leaves.

        1. lost academic*

          The OP definitely gave me the impression that this would be more than a “toss out any leftover things that don’t need to be there and give a quick wipe to something that might need it” process – but I am reading into the overall tone of the question so it’s possible it doesn’t mean to be that much. An extensive decontamination routine of a desk might be fine but depending on the company, office, office mate, role and culture – it might be leaving a first impression of not being focused on the job, getting up to speed, reading the room, etc – and OP does mention that they are very edgy and cagey thanks to not fitting in and being let go from a previous job. My suggestion overall is to focus less on herself right off and more on the overall dynamic. First impressions some places are so weird and tehre’s no way to get a do over.

          1. Hamster*

            Re the cleaning actually it is wha you said plus shaking out the drawers. Just a few wipes nothing much I think?

            BUT – more so! I get your overall advice and where you’re coming from so I appreciate it!! The priority is definitely getting up to speed and learning the role so I didn’t connect that so thank you for spelling it out, it’s so helpful. Thanks!

      2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        > Asking “what happened” at someone’s last job seems very unusual.

        Yes, I’ve never been asked this or heard anyone ask anyone else (or asked it myself, other than when I was the interviewer). People sometimes ask ‘what brings you to company x’ which sounds like it could be a variant of the same question, but can be answered in any way that’s more comfortable e.g. “it was time for me to move on”, “this company had more opportunities to work on x compared to my old one and that’s really where my interest is” etc.

        Btw “it was time for me to move on” is general enough but doesn’t invite any further questioning (even if the reason it was time for you to move on is because they let you go so you had to!).

    5. WellRed*

      They probably have cleaning supplies. Use those. It’s totally normal to clean your new space, but Fair or not, You don’t want to be the alleged germophobe who showed up with cleaning supplies on Day One. If you must bring them, be discreet as others have suggested.

      1. Hamster*

        Ha. Ha ha ha. I’m laughing at myself at the idea of me being a germaphobe. Sadly I wish my standards for cleanliness were higher. I didn’t do any initial cleaning at last job but I would eventually accumulate so much stuff that I’d do a deep clean (outside of work Hours) every 3-4 months. And of course there was one time when everyone in the cube farm was cleaning so I took that opportunity too. But yes good advice.

    6. Bog Witch*

      Yes, you are overthinking this. Just be polite, conscientious, and use common sense — the things you listed all fall under those categories (although it’s probably fine to eat at your desk). Observe your office mate and other coworkers and adapt how they operate.

      People outside your hiring manager rarely care why you left your last job, but if they do ask, just say you were ready for a change.

      Bring in your own mouse/keyboard whenever. Truly, no one cares.

      Congrats on the new job!

    7. kalli*

      No

      First day, as long as it’s allowed (it may not be!)

      They’re not likely to. If someone wants to make small talk there are thousands of better and more asinine topics before someone gets to your last job. Nobody really cares.

      There are many many articles here and they do not all have the same answers because all offices are different. You need to use such things as common sense, observation and asking your office-mate to figure this out for that specific office. There is no point keeping your phone on silent if you’re meant to have it off; similarly there is no point keeping your phone on silent if everyone is responding to 3-5 SMS messages a day and ringtones are going off everywhere.

    8. FoodYesMouseNo*

      you absolutely can eat at your desk if you want, even in a shared space. however, I’ve never worked anywhere it would be okay to use any of your own computer equipment so I wouldn’t bring in mouse or keyboard unless you need them for accessibility reasons.

  26. HopefullySoonToBeFormerHRLady*

    People who used to work in HR- what do you do now? Why did you pick your new profession and what did you find you needed to go relearn?

    I am burned out and wondering what else I might do after 25 years in HR.

    1. Geeyourhairsmellsterrific*

      I moved into EHS (environmental, health and safety). The HR background helps a lot.

    2. former recruiter*

      What parts of your work in HR did you enjoy the most that could be transferrable to other roles? Project management, compliance, communications, HRIS, M&A work, compensation, benefits, recruiting, talent management? (Things I can think of off the top of my head!)

      I’ve been in HR for over a decade and sometimes find myself feeling the same way but am still in HR, lol. Think about what aspects you enjoyed, what you felt strongest in, and then who would you want your audience/client to be (HR, employees, managers, executive leadership, etc.).

  27. Dataqueen*

    We’ve gotten plenty stories of BAD team building type activities here, but does anyone have any examples of good ones that they’ve enjoyed? My entirely remote team is planning an in-person retreat and this will be the first time that many of them are meeting each other in person. I’d like to use this time to help develop a sense of team and give them a chance to get to know each other, but I definitely don’t want to do anything that comes off as prying into people’s personal lives or makes anyone uncomfortable.

    1. Gigi*

      I’m doing this next week! I’m asking everyone to bring their favorite leadership quote. I haven’t figured out the tech yet, but I’m hoping to collect them into something sharable. I figure it’s a way that genuinely allows us to connect/get to know each other better without requiring touching, performing, or invading anyone’s privacy.

    2. Warrior Princess Xena*

      One I enjoyed was when our workplace had a party at an activities center with a wide variety of options. They included board games, pinball minigolf (I have no better description), VR games, axe throwing, and laser tag, along with a wide variety of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and a lot of food. I’d say the only downside of it was that the building was concrete & wood so it was on the noisier side inside, but not dreadful.

    3. Dancing Otter*

      My then-employer once did a “what did you want to be when you grew up?” mixer. They put everyone’s advance answers on a list, and we had to go around trying to match people to the list. Nobody had listed what they actually did in real life. (Consulting firms don’t employ a lot of cowboys, ballerinas, astronauts or firemen.)

      BTW, even if you’ve been doing Zoom with cameras on, recognizing people in person may be more difficult than you expect. Please make sure the name tags have REALLY BIG print, so nobody has to peer too closely at anyone’s chest.

      1. Lilith*

        Supporting DancingOtter’s second point! First time I met many of my remote colleagues in person it started really awkward as none of us recognised each other in that different context (and people’s height can really throw you off! I was subconsciously expecting everyone to be my height but they very much were not)

    4. Hlao-roo*

      There was a question on this in 2019, and AAM laid out some good principles to follow when choosing a team-building activity”

      – talk to the people on your team to find out what they’d enjoy
      – to make it truly voluntary and not to penalize people who opt out
      – to watch for activities that seem to be segregating along problematic lines (such as gender or disability)
      – to be thoughtful about the burden you might be placing on people (particularly with activities outside of normal work hours) and the fact that many people won’t comfortable being honest about their interest level or pushing back
      – to notice if someone is regularly opting out and talk with them about whether there’s anything you can do to make it easier for them to participate, if they want to

      If you want to read the full question/answer I pulled those from, it’s the 3rd question on the “my boss wants me to be her assistant, what to wear in a casual office, and more” short answers post from May 20, 2019

    5. Break the ice*

      My team did a “bingo” activity that we found really fun. Basically you have a grid with ~25 boxes that each say something different, and you walk around the room getting people who have done the thing to sign their name in the box.
      The boxes had a wide range of items, both work related and (generically) personal, e.g. “has met [company CEO]”, “saw both Barbie and Oppenheimer this summer”, “has lived in another country”, “has been with company for more than 10 years”, “has eaten at [popular restaurant near HQ]” etc. Since there was a wide range of options, people had at least 5-6 things they could easily sign their name by.
      Worked great as conversations starters, and just getting to know our colleagues too.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        I like that kind of bingo when it’s an optional part of casual hang-out time (meals, etc.), because it gives people who feel awkward a mission, no one is forced to do it, but even people who aren’t actively seeking out “squares” get approached and have those conversations.

    6. Sorcyress*

      One of my favourite icebreakers is “question swap” (works best in groups of about 10-40 people). Print out a bunch of slips of paper with questions, people pair up, ask each other their questions, and then swap papers. Repeat with new partners for as many rounds or minutes as makes sense. It’s worked best for me in spaces where I can put some extra questions on a table near the front of the room, so if anyone really hates the question they get, they can switch it out.

      I find the smaller conversations to be a lot less intimidating than having to say something in front of a huge group of people.

      I also really appreciate when the icebreakers can actually be work focused. Like, at the start of a session about teaching literacy, questions might be based around “what’s a strategy you used this week” or “do you prefer to teach through speech or writing” or even “what’s a book that got you really excited to see what happens next”. It gives me a chance to sort of “pre-plan” what I can contribute to the meeting later.

      1. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

        I like this one, but would recommend you pick fairly non-personal questions. I once freaked out a new coworker when I honestly answered the question about what I’m afraid of with “going blind” because that is a real possibility for me. My early retirement was partially driven by the fact my night blindness was already affecting my ability to work a full day in the winter months.

    7. FashionablyEvil*

      I’ve had good luck with doing pair/small groups where people share a) their favorite holiday celebration; b) a professional accomplishment that they’re particularly proud of; c) how they like to spend their time when they’re not at work; and then, d) one thing they think our team should focus on in the year ahead. People do one or two of these with different people and then folks report out on what their “what our team should focus on in the year ahead” answers.

      I like this series because people get to share a couple of things that are cheerful but not overly personal, they get to share something positive about their work, and then they get to give an idea of where we should focus, but they’re coming at that question with a positive mindset because they’ve been thinking of things they like to do/are proud of.

    8. Katrine Fonsmark*

      My team just did an in-person teambuilding afternoon where we split into 2 groups (and mixed them up halfway thru) and played games – it was a blast! The games were Taco, Cat, Goat, Cheese, Pizza and Taco vs. Burrito. Card games. Everyone had a good time!

      1. Panicked*

        If anyone is looking for a Secret Santa/White Elephant/teen/tween/kid/family gift, I *highly* recommend Taco, Cat, Goat, Cheese, Pizza! It’s one of the most fun games my family has ever played. Very easy to learn, requires no counting/spelling, and is just a ton of fun. 10/10!

    9. ThursdaysGeek*

      We just had one that I thought went well. A couple of days before our team meeting, we got an email that asked for photos of what WE see when we’re on a meeting. In meetings with cameras on, we can see backgrounds, but we don’t see what is behind the computer screens. It was voluntary, but we were told that the person who could guess the most would get a gift card.

      At the beginning of the meeting, we were shown each photo (about half the people had sent them in), and told to keep track of our guesses. Then we went through again and gave our answers, were told who’s each one was. I got 3 out of 13 right (including my own). The winner correctly guessed 9.

      So we saw a bit of the personality of our co-workers’ work spaces, some at home, some in an office. The people sending in photos could show as much or as little as they wanted (one was a blank wall with just a tiny bit of monitors showing near the bottom), and could join in as they wanted.

    10. Margaret Cavendish*

      Yes! My favourite team-building day was outdoors in a park, and very loosely scheduled. It went like this:

      10:00 – 10:30 – Arrive, set up potluck.
      10:30 – 12:00 – Free time. Board games and volleyball were available, some people went for a walk, others just sat around and chatted.
      12:00 – 12:45 – Lunch & cleanup.
      12:45 – 1:00 – Speech from the Director, thanking everybody for their hard work this year and so on.
      1:00 – 3:00 – Group event. Baseball for those who wanted to play, cheering from the sidelines for those who didn’t. Some people still chose to sit apart, and that was totally fine.
      3:00 – Leave.

      It was all very easy and relaxed, with different kinds of activities and no pressure to participate in any of them. There were lots of things I didn’t like about that job, but that team building day was honestly the best I’ve ever seen.

    11. Qwerty*

      My company has had good responses to doing volunteer work as team building. If you are at a retreat and need to stay in one place, there are some craft based ones like no-sew blankets. The shared activity gives a default conversation so some groups talked mostly about what was in front of them and other tangential things while other groups dived into getting to know each other, depending on what was natural/comfortable. If you go to a volunteer site, have a simple activity like a happy hour afterwords to bond with the recent activity as their default conversation.

    12. Luva*

      Had a great one recently! We broke up into groups of 3 and had to find 5 things all 3 of us had in common (that aren’t related to religion, family, our current job, or politics). Then those groups merged into groups of 9 and had to find 3 things we all had in common. Then the whole group joined up and we had to find 1 thing we all had in common. It was surprisingly difficult and got people talking about hobbies and jobs we’ve had and sports we’ve played without being intrusive.

      And my old team used to do speed bingo at big org meetings (~100-200 people), with squares like “has read a book over 300 years old”, “favorite movie is from the last 10 years”, “has a Wikipedia page”, “has made something for a hobby in the last week”, stuff like that. Enough innocuous things to pick from that people could avoid anything that felt intrusive.

  28. Aggretsuko*

    My quest to postpone losing my job is going mixed. I had a great evaluation for disability yesterday and I feel fairly confident that’ll go well? I was told it would take till January to compile and I said, “I’m going to be fired around then, could you please move it up?” and she said she’d try to have it done by the 21st. So that part is great. The bad part is that I’ve been told my HMO won’t let me go on FMLA leave again if I have another drug reaction like I did last time (and yes, I’m forced to go on meds again…I still don’t want to but feel like I have no choice), the doctor I saw is quitting in a week so I have to go back on the find-a-doctor roller coaster again, and I was also told the HMO won’t let me request ANY accommodations like work is asking for. “They will only do 2 weeks of part time and then you have to go back to work, that’s it” is what I was told by the departing doctor. So I’m fucked. Even if I get a disability on my record, I won’t be able to get a doctor to sign off on it as required.

    Everyone I’ve talked to this week has been all, “Why don’t you get another job?” Because I’ve been looking for years, I don’t qualify for much since I can’t do math or customer service, and nobody has wanted to hire me all of this time. Once I lose this job, I truly don’t think I can ever find another one again. Would you hire someone who’s obviously crazy, hates helping customers, apparently pisses everyone off just by being herself, and can’t do math? I wouldn’t. I don’t deserve to be hired. Once I lose this job, it’s over for me.

    1. Nesta*

      I just want to say that you do deserve to be hired. I’m not an expert enough to know what jobs would be a good fit, but it sounds like you are dealing with quite a lot and the world wants to make this about you being somehow defective… like it is a personal problem. But in a just world, a person dealing with so many health concerns (mental or physical) would not have to be navigating work at the same time. I know this doesn’t change your situation, but it sounds like your insurance company or medical team while blaming the insurance company is causing you a lot of issues.

      Could an organization like NAHMI help connect you with doctors or services that could help?

      1. Aggretsuko*

        People have been telling me I’m defective since I was a small child. But especially these days.

        Basically I have to have insurance/medical cooperate with the job and I gather that’s where there’s issues. Not sure if I’m eligible for other agencies to get help at this point, that may have to wait until official diagnosis?

    2. LCH*

      :(

      Does anyone know if the American Job Centers via the DOL actually help? Would you be able to get unemployment? (putting link in separate comment)

      1. Aggretsuko*

        I probably can’t get unemployment since I will be getting fired for cause or resigning to avoid being fired. Like technically I can *apply,* but it’ll be up to my employer to permit it, is what I’ve been told. I’m trying to plan ahead assuming that I won’t be getting it. I haven’t been on unemployment for a long time, but from what I recall it was very little money and you had to be out of work through no fault of your own.

        I’m saving this link and tracked down the office for my county, thank you :)

        1. Orange Cats are the Best!*

          It’s not up to your employer to permit you to get unemployment. They can protest if they want, but the unemployment agency takes all the evidence that they and you give and make a determination from that whether you receive unemployment or not.

    3. nopetopus*

      As someone who has felt the exact same way in the past, I want to send some love your way. Stay strong.

      Not sure where in the world you are but if in the US, please look into Vocational Rehabilitation services once you have your diagnosis stuff settled. They can help with going to school to train for a job that you can succeed at as well as helping with searching for jobs and getting accommodations in place. There’s more help out there than we think. It’s not always easy to get, and I wish it were easier, but once you’re in a better place please don’t give up.

    4. Fives*

      I don’t have any advice, but I’m sorry this is happening to you. You deserve to have a good, stable job. This internet stranger will be thinking good thoughts for you.

    5. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      I know it’s hard, but there are a lot of jobs out there that require little or no math.

      It seems odd that the HMO won’t even let you ask for accommodations. That should be between you and your employer, and it doesn’t sound like you work for the HMO. (If you explained this in a previous thread, obviously I’m not entitled to a repeat of that explanation.)

      1. Aggretsuko*

        I was told it was a policy of the HMO, and also this is a psychiatric issue and not “I can’t lift ten pounds” level of physical accommodation, and the whole “accommodations” thing is really supposed to be physical more than mental.

        I will probably have at least three more doctor’s appointments with people who still work for the HMO, so I’ll ask them, but so far people telling me what the HMO will and won’t do has been accurate so far.

        1. Octhex*

          Accommodations absolutely are supposed to include mental things not just physical. Whoever gave that advice was wrong.

          The Jobs Accommodation Network includes things that are mental-related https://askjan.org/index.cfm

          It sounds like your HMO is being very stingy with what they want to allow, possibly to the point of being illegal (????) — is it at all possible for you to get an appointment with a disability-employment lawyer or some other expert? (From what I’ve read, many will do a first 1hr appointment for free.)

    6. kalli*

      Good thing that doctor’s going – HMOs don’t usually work like that but some doctors will use them as an excuse to not suggest accommodations if they don’t understand the process or feel strongly that accommodations aren’t a thing. You are not fucked, you just need to connect with a doctor who is willing to work with you, like everyone eventually has to in order to get appropriate and useful care.

      You absolutely need to get past this doomsday pessimism thing you have going – that’s the biggest barrier you have, and there are free online mental health resources you can access to help you out with that. You just need to get in touch with them – I understand you’re not ready to do that yet, but please at least include them in your list of options before you jump straight to ‘this is the end’.

  29. Slartibartfast*

    Considering moving up the career ladder in the medical field but not sure what options are out there for someone not interested in a nursing degree? Currently I’m a medical assistant with 5 years in practice, this isn’t my first career while I would be open to pursuing additional certifications, a full degree program at my age doesn’t seem to have a reasonable return on investment for the cost of tuition. An eventual transition to at home work in the next 7-10 years would be ideal, as I have physical limitations.

    1. Geeyourhairsmellsterrific*

      What about something like a surgical tech or ultrasound tech? Those are usually less than a year of training. Although there are no options for working from home with that type of work, part-time is probably available.

    2. Sled Dog Mama*

      Have you considered some of the office jobs in the medical field? Things like billing and coding or otherwise dealing with insurance don’t necessarily require a degree and many can be done from home. Your knowledge as a medical assistant would be really valuable there.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Coding doesn’t require a degree, but does require a certification, which generally requires either formal training and/or experience.

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Cred: I am a manager of medical coders for the largest hospital system in my state and have been a medical coder for (oof) almost 2o years. (And my teams are fully remote, and I haven’t worked on site in almost ten years. :) )

      Both AAPC and AHIMA (the two primary credentialing bodies for medical coding certifications) offer training courses through their websites.

      For AAPC, the base certification is a CPC (Certified Professional Coder), and if you don’t have work experience or prior education as a coder your credential starts as a CPC-A (apprentice) until you have two years of work experience/education combined. They also offer more specialized credentials – COC/CIC (outpatient/inpatient for hospitals), as well as specialties. But the CPC is a good place to start.

      For AHIMA, the base is a CCS, but if you do have time and interest in throwing yourself at an associate’s degree, look for an accredited HIM (Health Information Management) program at your local community colleges – that two year degree will qualify you to sit for a RHIT credential, which is sort of runner-up to the top tier (RHIA, requires a bachelor degree in HIM). That will credential you for coding, but also give you some broad level information and knowledge about a lot of topics and areas in HIM, including risk management, compliance, auditing, and even some basic healthcare IT. The other advantage is that an associate’s degree program will generally include an externship, which is KEY for the “getting your foot in the door” type networking. The way my system runs our externships is, we don’t plop our students down into one area, we send them around to do two weeks here, two weeks there, and give them a good rounded view of the bazillion different things that HIM actually does.

      I know in my state, our workforce/employment group has some programs that will offer free tuition to folks who have never gone to college or who are changing careers and otherwise meet qualifications (I don’t know what they are) and one of the programs that is included in that free tuition option is the local community college’s HIM associate’s degree.

      1. Slartibartfast*

        Thank you for this, I will be looking into coding. I think I have just been bored lately, I moved to medical assistant from being a licensed veterinary technician, and while it pays the bills and my office is lovely, I have been crabby lately and I think it’s because my brain wants more to do.

  30. Semi-retired admin*

    My question is about job sharing. How do you make a shared job, and shared space, feel like your own while still not stepping on the toes of the other person?

    A bit of back story, I recently started a part time job that is shared by 3 people. Two of us work 2 1/2 days a week (which is ideal for me), and the 3rd works 2 days. The job is relatively easy, and fun, the people are nice for the most part.

    The down side is that I just don’t feel 100% comfortable in the space, and yet I can’t make any significant changes because others use it. I also can’t really personalize it for the same reason.

    I’d love to hear thoughts from others in a similar situation!

    1. Workerbee*

      I’d start with getting a group chat or similar started with your shared folks about this exact topic. State up front that “No” is completely okay, and then ask if anyone would mind if you brought in & left This or That. Something like that.

      1. Semi-retired admin*

        That’s a great idea, I’m not sure why I didn’t think of it :). We already use a chat to communicate need-to-know info for the “changing of the guard” process.

  31. OfficeWitch*

    I have a co-worker who comes to chat with me in my office pretty much every day. She recently came down with what she described as “a cold” that had her out for a couple of days. When she came back she was occasionally complaining about continuing to have body aches and fatigue. At one point I jokingly said “at least you know it’s not Covid!” Her response was, “Oh, I’m sure it’s not.” which struck me as a questionable way of phrasing it IF she had tested for Covid. Turns out, she has NOT tested for Covid. She keeps saying she doesn’t have time to go to urgent care for a test, although I know she has (as pretty much everyone does at this point) at-home tests. I ask her every time she tried to come into my office “have you tested yet?” and she backs up and says she hasn’t. Can I forbid her to enter my office until she can show me a photo on her phone of a negative test? (She is not wearing a mask.)

    1. Gigi*

      Sweet baby Elvis on a ritz cracker, what the hell is wrong with people. Yes. I hereby give you permission to set this boundary. “A stranger on the internet says you are dumb and possibly dangerous and you can’t come in my office until you test.”

      1. OfficeWitch*

        Thank you, I am practicing that line right now so I can deliver it appropriately when I see her in my doorway! Brilliant!

    2. Alice*

      What a nightmare….
      On the other hand, a single negative rapid test wouldn’t give me confidence that she doesn’t have COVID. And someone who refrains from testing when they have access to tests, and doesn’t bother with a mask while having body aches and fatigue, is probably perfectly willing to steal a photo of a negative test from the internet, anyway.
      Sorry, no advice, just commiseration.

      1. Anecdata*

        honestly, I think you have to let go of asking for a test result — but it is reasonable to set boundaries around what you do when other people are sick (whether it’s covid or not!). This is likely to go over better if you frame it as: “I need to be really careful about germs, so I’m going to (put on a mask, or ‘can we have this conversation on a call’ or ‘let’s move to a conference room’)

        1. OfficeWitch*

          My office has pretty much dispensed with masks, although I did wear a mask myself recently when I was recovering from a cold but wanted to be sure that I wasn’t spreading any germs when I had to come back to the office. I’m wondering if it would just be easier to put on a mask when she comes in to chat, although that strikes me as almost more insulting than asking her for a negative test – “Unclean! Unclean!” She’s a friend, and I do enjoy chatting with her, I just can’t get over her seeming unwillingness to do the simplest testing in care of her co-workers.

          1. I Have RBF*

            Mask up. Your health trumps her friendship. If she takes it as saying “unclean, unclean”, well… she is. She’s exhibiting symptoms of a viral infection. Even if it’s not Covid, you don’t want to share it.

    3. Nesta*

      I would just tell her to please communicate with me by phone or email as long as she is having symptoms. One negative test doesn’t mean she doesn’t have COVID, unfortunately.

      But yes… this is what we are facing now. Magical thinking from people about what their illness is or is not, and zero care about spreading it to anyone else.

    4. JelloStapler*

      Ugh- say “I cannot get sick right now so I am going to ask to put a pause on chatting in person for a while.”

    5. Kate B.*

      What about something like “hey, let’s stick to messaging/phone chats until you’re feeling better?” That focuses on your boundary rather than pushing her to test.

      Even if her illness, body ache, and fatigue are caused by something other than covid, or evade a covid test (since she’s had it for a little while now), I imagine you want to avoid catching it if possible!

    6. NotMeRightNow*

      i had a coworker recently tell me she tested positive (she’s staying home like a sane person!!), but AFAIK she hasn’t notified our office space at large.

      i feel weird not saying anything to others who may have had more recent contact with her than i have. but… it’s also personal health info. but she also told another coworker of mine at the same time who has been here longer. i guess i’m relying on that person to know what to do with the info.

          1. WellRed*

            Sorry this was supposed to be a reply to a different Covid coworker question. Yeah, just ask her to steer clear of you for the time being. I do this all the time. It’s fine!

    7. Antilles*

      I think you should set that boundary as long as she’s sick period. Forget about the test and whether or not it’s really Covid; doesn’t matter what it is, you don’t want influenza or whatever either.

    8. Jane Bingley*

      I don’t think you can reasonably force her to test, but I do think it’s very reasonable to set a boundary of “if you’re not feeling well, please wear a well-fitting mask when visiting my office, or message/call me instead of coming in person.”

    9. This Daydreamer*

      It’s only 2023. Maybe she hasn’t learned protocols for dealing with a possible case of an illness that freaking killed more than a million people in the United States alone I’ve the past few years–

      *ahem*

      Sorry about that. Maybe you can keep your door locked? Put your desk behind a Plexiglas wall? Ring a bell and yell “PLAGUE RAT” every time you see her?

      Okay. Right. Something reasonable. Yes, you can tell her to stay out of your office until she is symptom free. I wouldn’t trust her to test and I’m sure a mask is not going to be used effectively.

      1. OfficeWitch*

        LOL, my desk is LITERALLY behind a plexiglass barrier! The company put them up on the desks of anyone who asked for them during the height of the pandemic, and I’ve just never had mine taken down because it’s handy to have somewhere to post signs for the group to read. (Not because I really think this particular piece of pandemic hygiene theatre was actually effective.)

        1. This Daydreamer*

          Well, at least it keeps people at a distance and cuts down a bit on the pathogens that get to you. I’d take any protection you can get from this person.

    10. lost academic*

      “Oh I don’t have time to go to urgent care for a test”

      “I don’t have time to get sick with COVID or whatever else you have, so please send me a message until you’re better”

    11. Bog Witch*

      I think you’re unnecessarily focused on the is-it-or-isn’t-it-COVID aspect of this. If your coworker is sick and having symptoms, just tell her you would prefer to communicate via Slack/Teams/whatever in-office IM system you use until she’s well. It’s not like you’d prefer to get sick at all, right?

      1. Dulcinea47*

        People *should* be more scared of covid, though. the more times you have covid, the more likely you are to have “long covid” systems where your body & immune system are just messed up long term or perhaps permanently. I do NOT want to get covid a second time. I don’t want to get a cold either, but I’m not scared it will permanently disable me.

        1. I Have RBF*

          This. Even vaccinated people get cumulative effects from Covid, even though their cases are (relatively) mild.

          I have not stopped wearing a mask in public. I have housemates who are immune compromised or at-risk due to comorbidities. The social convention of denial and saying it’s “over” does not trump their need to live.

        2. Magpie*

          Any viral infection, including colds and flus, can lead to long term “long Covid”-like symptoms. It’s typically called “post viral syndrome” when caused by something other than Covid. Long Covid has grabbed so much attention because it’s the first time a lot of people have heard of this type of thing, but it’s been happening to people for as long as there have been viral infections and it’s impossible to tell when you might be affected. Case in point, I’ve had Covid twice now and didn’t have any long term effects. I’ve had post viral syndrome twice in my life from run-of-the-mill colds that led to months of fatigue and breathing trouble long after the virus was out of my system. Thankfully it wasn’t a lifetime problem like some people experience but it highlighted for me that I can never be too cautious about viral infections because I have no way of knowing how it will affect my body long term.

          1. Dancing Otter*

            Yes, you’re right. I have been fortunate enough to have avoided COVID thus far (knock wood), but I have had pneumonia so many times that my lung capacity is permanently reduced and I have to carry an inhaler. Some of those times started with influenza, but most began as “just a cold.”
            I wear a mask even to take out the garbage. You never know who might be trying to “tough it out” with something contagious. Three winters without hacking my lungs out is a personal best, and I’d really like to keep that streak going.

        3. kalli*

          The point here is that the resolution is the same whether it’s COVID or not, not whether it’s important to be sufficiently afraid of COVID.

    12. Nancy*

      Just tell coworkers if they have symptoms of anything to communicate by phone/email. I assume you don’t want flu, strep, pneumonia, etc either.

    13. I Have RBF*

      I would demand that she mask until she is no longer symptomatic, period. I would be willing to bet she has Covid.

      What is it with people caring so little about infecting people with whatever viral crud they have? They come to work sick, spread their germs with wild abandon, and give you attitude when you ask them not to.

      Even if she doesn’t mask, you should mask with an N95 around her. Also, test yourself for Covid.

    14. Awkwardness*

      “I am price top picking up any germs that cross my way. But holidays are coming and I cannot afford to be sick. I know I might be overly cautious here, but could we stick with email or telephone as long as you are not feeling well?”

      I think it does not matter if it is COVID or not. She is sick, you do not want to her sick.

    15. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      It would be reasonable to ask her to stay out of your office and communicate by email, text, etc. until she’s not having symptoms. Your coworker might be right that it’s not covid, but you don’t want a cold or the flu either, and “a cold” with body aches and fatigue could be influenza. I realize that everyone decided a century ago that they were tired of the flu pandemic and would just ignore it, but wishful thinking make that virus barmless either.

      I don’t think a negative test would be worth much here: the at-home tests can produce false negatives even in people with symptoms, and someone who is sure they don’t have covid may not follow the test instructions carefully. (The BinaxNOW test instructions have “do not skip this step” in at least two places, and that sort of instruction suggests that people were skipping those steps.)

    16. Qwerty*

      Let go of the covid drama – it makes no sense that you are fine with the catching the flu and other severe viruses. She is sick and it is fine to have the boundary that sick people wear masks in your cube (I provide a box of masks on my desk to help with this). I have nearly died from the flu and the common cold (not immunocompromised) – if covid scares you then also take precautions to stop the spread of other illnesses

    17. RagingADHD*

      Just tell her not to bring her symptoms into your office! Either wear a mask or keep her distance.

      I mean, do you want to catch a cold, flu, or RSV? It doesn’t really matter whether it’s covid or not. The test is irrelevant – she is sick, and she needs to keep her germs to herself.

    18. Chauncy Gardener*

      No matter what it is, why the heck is she coming into your office? I don’t want to catch any kind of virus, thankyouverymuch. I would just hold up my hand and say that I don’t want to catch whatever it is you’ve got, you incredibly inconsiderate person!

  32. Glazed Donut*

    What’s a good way to express gratitude and thanks to a former manager who has been really helpful in networking for me?

    A few years ago, I started working at a company and changed roles about a year in (a large promotion), causing me to leave my former manager, who I loved. We both knew I needed more of a challenge, so no hard feelings.
    Earlier this year, I sought my former manager’s advice about a tricky situation in my new role. It was never a perfect fit role, but it was quickly getting worse by the week. My manager gave me advice, and upon hearing that I wanted to leave, began name dropping me with people in adjacent organizations whose values/interests aligned with my own. I quit my job last month, and even this week received an email from another org about a soon-to-open position. I know this wouldn’t have happened without my former manager advocating for me.

    Is a nice handwritten note too soft? In a perfect world, I’d send a flower arrangement WITH. a handwritten note but we don’t live in the same town and I’m nervous about the logistics of getting those to sync long-distance.

    1. This Daydreamer*

      I’m sure a handwritten note will be more than appreciated. And, of course, make sure he knows you would be happy to have a name passed along to you.

    2. Semi-retired admin*

      I’m a little extra, but here’s what I would do…I’d contact a florist local to her, speak to the manager. Ask if you can mail them a handwritten note that they can then deliver with a lovely floral arrangement.

      When we moved away from our home state, I asked a florist to get a family member’s favorite pastry (the bakery was across the street and this was pre-door dash, etc.) and deliver them with a poinsettia. They were happy to do it!

  33. new field suggestions*

    Best fields for ND folks who struggle with social give-and-take?

    I’m working in higher ed but my current job is financially and personally unstable, so I’m looking to leave. I actually like academic work, but my being ND means that interviewing is really hard for me and I may not be able to secure a better position before current job collapses altogether.

    1. new field suggestions*

      (I got asked for skillset so –– I’m a PhD, teacher/writer/researcher/institutional organization and leadership person. I’ve been in higher ed for my entire career, more than a decade, though the PhD part is new. Right now the research and institutional organization/leadership is what I find most rewarding. I do okay with social interactions once I get into a place but interview terribly. And yes, I’ve practiced interviews repeatedly; the practices go fine.)

      1. Justin*

        Sounds like me to some extent. I have ADHD and social anxiety (like you depends on context, once comfortable it’s not bad).

        Curriculum development is something you’ve done if you’ve taught classes. I’d look into that space and evaluate orgs for supportiveness. Mine is very very clear to let them know if you need accomodations for interviews, and I told them I struggle to make eye contact when excited (a positive way to spin it) so the interviews shouldn’t hold it against me. And it worked, and I felt way more comfortable.

    2. Generic Name*

      Engineering companies tend to have a high number of ND folks, and they hire for all kinds of roles, not just engineers. There’s also an organization called “Neurodiversity in the Workplace” that has a jobs database. Caveat, I don’t know anything about this organization other than that my company has partnered with them to hire neurodiverse candidates

    3. Whomst*

      One of the reasons I got into computers was because the standards for “socially competent” are much lower than in other fields, and being blunt about things is normalized (which I love).

      Looking at the skillset you note, it doesn’t look like you have any particular hard technical skills (depending on what the PhD is in), but you could probably transition into technical writing. You’d need some good writing samples, and you’d probably need to explain the PhD somehow, as that could read as “overqualified” to a lot of hiring people.

      Something else to consider as a side-gig: tutoring.

    4. Justin*

      I work on a small team for a large nonprofit, mostly creating curriculum, and have ADHD/social anxiety (depending on context). But a lot is because I have a good and supportive boss who just cares if I get my job done.

  34. BenoitBlanc*

    I don’t need advice, but figured you all would enjoy this —

    My husband had to terminate someone at his workplace last week. Never a fun or easy thing to do and obviously he had a hard time with it but it sounds like the guy was genuinely goofing off and not actually working while “remote working.” This was all documented, etc. The employee, “Eric,” started this year and enjoyed a signing bonus over 12k which he now has to return.

    This morning, my husband got a text from Eric saying his wife was upset and he needed a place to crash — and could he stay with us?

    My husband has trouble saying no to people and for a little while today, I was planning my potential backup in the event he got pushed into saying yes as he discussed with other colleagues who sort of made the case for saying yes, as far as I can tell. Fortunately it looks like he’ll be saying no despite feeling bad (“he doesn’t know anyone around here” “he might be going off the deep end” “we don’t know what else he’s going through”) but dear lord, what an exciting morning. I told my boss who I’m friendly with, jokingly, that if my husband did say yes, I planned on sleeping at work since we’re so short staffed anyway. *insert laughing crying emoji*

    What a day and it’s only 11:35am.

    1. Nesta*

      Oh my god, what a stressful thing to deal with! I can’t believe your husband even considered saying yes. In your shoes, I would absolutely tell him both of us need to agree on anyone coming to stay with us because that would just be a recipe for disaster.

      1. Tio*

        Yeah, this is the sort of thing to me that one’s spouse should absolutely have veto power on! No one is coming to stay with us without both agreeing!

    2. Fiona*

      The fact that he would ask that of his boss who fired him is so wildly inappropriate that it only serves to further illustrate why he was let go in the first place…

      1. Workerbee*

        I’m looking at it the other way – Eric must have had reason to think that OP’s husband was someone who would easily say yes to something like that.

    3. This Daydreamer*

      So, I’m getting the impression that it’s good I didn’t ask to crash for a bit at the house of the manager that fired me. Good to know for the future.

      Seriously, though, WHAT?!

    4. Industry Behemoth*

      Wow. This tops the guy (on another site) who waffled on accepting a job offer bc he was trying to play the offer-to-get-a-counteroffer game.

      He got fired instead, and his wife threatened to leave him if he were unemployed for even one day. So he frantically called the recruiter and said I accept the job, but I must start today!

      I wonder what kind of employee he turned out to be.

      1. Ama*

        This is so wild that it feels like the premise for a not very good 90’s era comedy (you know, the ones that throw two people together through circumstances no person in real life would ever agree to).

        1. Pam Adams*

          But since the former boss is already married to the LW, how do we get the meet-cute going in this rom-com?

          1. kalli*

            The former boss and the just-fired coworker discover they actually like each other, and the LW becomes an ex-partner who gets their own live-in new-partner in the spin off.

    5. Hamster*

      LOL wait so I could have asked if I can stay with my boss after he fired me?

      And I thought sending a Happy holiday text was inappropriate.

    6. Red flags everywhere*

      He fired someone for being dishonest, promptly leading to a marital blowup, and he would even consider letting this person in his house? While his family SLEEPS? Dangerous as hell and absolutely not. Please point out the potential danger inherent to this situation and put your foot down. This is not an appropriate decision for your husband to make unilaterally.

    7. Rainy*

      …”he might be going off the deep end” is such a great reason NOT to let the person you just fired to stay in your home.

    8. BenoitBlanc*

      Returning to add that I misunderstood texts from husband! The quoted pieces with the exception of “he doesn’t know anyone” were actually posed as reasons from his colleagues not to say yes — the way it was phrased in text sounded the opposite! Husband later told me he’d been talking to multiple people at the time so he was just shooting off quick messages, hence the lack of clarity there.

      And no worries — while I thought I might have to do a little bit of a reality check, I didn’t think he would for real say yes without my consent.

  35. LaFramboise, academic librarian*

    Hi everyone, I just wanted to thank you for all of your comments from gosh about 2 months ago about my adjunct who was unable to meet all the duties of work. I ended up telling her that I wouldn’t be giving her any hours for the winter term in person and then emailed that to her and I’m afraid that her memory is failing so badly that she did not remember either of those conversations. while I can’t bear responsibility for an adult and the things that she has decided to do, I do think that it is incumbent on me to call adult public services in part because she is driving on the freeway at night. it seems to me from an arm chair diagnosis point, that she has some cognitive issues as well as possibly some dementia, or at least some troubling memory loss, and she has some physical ailments as well. this is been a very graphic example of how not to be a workaholic and how to live the latter part of your life for maximum enjoyment. I really took everybody’s advice into consideration and I’m so thankful that this community exists to provide some feedback from an objective perspective and also from a perspective different than the one that I may have.

    1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      APS is not likely to do anything if it is called in, your best bet is to call in a wellness check and have the police check on her to ensure that she is able to meet her own physical needs.

    2. Ama*

      I remember your previous comment and I am so sorry it’s come to this, but I think you’ve done the right thing.

  36. what does this word mean to you?*

    If you describe a job as “toxic,” what do you mean by that?

    (This question brought to you by me not wanting to describe my current position as “toxic,” which I think of as back-biting and personal animus among employees within the same division, then learning through interactions w/ mentors and friends over the last few weeks that a lot of people probably WOULD call it “toxic”.)

    1. Gigi*

      The official definition of toxic is poisonous, damaging, or insidious.

      Do you feel worse about yourself and life in general when you’re at work? Do you find yourself questioning your sanity and life choices? Are the norms you’ve internalized from this workplace raising the eyebrows of people who love you or whom you respect? Then it might be toxic.

      1. Vanilla*

        I wholeheartedly agree with this, and these are great questions to ask yourself.
        Work doesn’t have to be fun and games all the time, but it shouldn’t fundamentally change your outlook on life for the worse. It should not change who you are for the worse. Your workplace and your actions there should not violate or change your values in negative ways.

        I was hesitant to frame my current job as toxic for reasons similar to those listed above- I like my colleagues. We get along well and are able to work together effectively. But I came to realize that the larger workplace is harmful in ways that interpersonal interactions can’t overcome.

    2. Nea*

      Toxic = that job’s base line behavior and expectations are completely out of alignment with normal business practices or even normal human behavior.

      From the letters here:
      – treating employees as children who have to ask permission to take leave or provide a doctor’s note to prove they were sick enough
      – blatant favoritism within the office and/or leaving a drama-prone or misbehaving employee in place (a “missing stair” that everyone knows to go around instead of fixing)
      – treating employees like things who are not allowed needs, wants, feelings, or personal boundaries

      It’s far more than back-biting. It’s institutionalized abuse.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        A great illustration of this is the “I bit my coworker” letter (and update!). That office was so toxic, not only did the letter-writer bite a coworker but, in the update, “no one in the office cared that I bit the office manager.” Very, very outside normal business practices and normal human behavior.

        1. what does this word mean to you?*

          See, but this is why I’m asking –– w/ one hand we set the bar for toxicity at “biting coworkers” and w/ the other there are already five people in the comments today describing a current or former job as toxic, and I doubt every single one of them includes biting people, or even includes behavior that extreme.

          So I’m curious what people think of when they use that word.

          1. Hlao-roo*

            Ah, I wouldn’t say I “set the bar” for toxicity at biting coworkers, I just meant that was a clear example of “out of alignment with normal business practices” (like Nea mentioned). I also wanted to use the “I bit my coworker” example to show that toxic workplaces don’t just affect one person (in this case, the letter-writer) but everyone/most people in the office (in this case, the coworkers who didn’t care that the letter-writer bit the office manager).

            I personally don’t know where I “set the bar” for toxic vs. non-toxic workplaces. I’m glad you asked the question; I’m also reading all the responses to learn more.

          2. Isben Takes Tea*

            Hard agree with Gigi above: a toxic space or relationship is one that erodes your sense of well-being and normalcy to the point where you start exhibiting those negative behaviors yourself. So while the biting coworker situation is obvious and extreme, it could be a much subtler form of toxicity, such as gossiping, complaining, or self-doubting when you previously didn’t or wouldn’t.

            1. kalli*

              This place can be toxic but a lot of people are fine here and enjoy chatting. Toxicity isn’t always a simple yes/no all-or-nothing; it can also be the presentation of a bad fit or a localised issue (one team is toxic because of a single person but the rest of the org is unaffected, or one person is so bored their coping mechanism is outsized and affects the team) or evolve from a badly managed situation.

              It’s definitely a call-it-when-you-realise it adjective, and while I wouldn’t go so far as to qualify it by when your behaviour changes, it does depend on someone being affected to a degree where they take the workplace mindset, stressors or culture with them when they leave for the day, whether they are aware they are doing that or not.

          3. Nea*

            There is, unfortunately, a LARGE number of companies/offices/departments that suit the “treat people as things” category of toxic.

            Nobody bit anyone in the office I came from, but I was ordered to cancel plans for leave because I ABSOLUTELY HAD to be in the office that day for Very Important Thing that did not happen that day. Or that week. And when I asked when it was going to finally be scheduled (because the person who ordered me to stay had not talked to me at all) discover it was never going to happen at all.

            Extreme? No. Toxic? In my opinion, yes. They treated me like a thing that had no right to a personal life AND also no right to know what was happening.

            And then they were just shocked – SHOCKED! – that I stopped trying to get an internal transfer and found work elsewhere.

    3. Sherm*

      I’d say that a toxic workplace means that it is damaging to one’s mental and/or physical health because of the actions and/or attitudes of the people there. It can be because people are showing animosity, but I’d also say that a toxic workplace, for example, is one where employees are expected to overwork themselves to the point of exhaustion and burnout, even if people are generally friendly.

      A workplace can also be lousy without being toxic. If, say, all the files are on the 20th floor, but the elevator is broken and there are no funds to fix it, so you have to climb 20 flights of stairs every day, that situation may make the workplace worth leaving, but I wouldn’t call it “toxic.”

      If you’re considering leaving your job, I wouldn’t take the position that it must be toxic in order to leave. Being dissatisfied, even in a workplace that is overall lovely, may be reason enough to look elsewhere.

      1. Ama*

        Yes, I would not call my current job toxic — there are things I don’t love about the culture and certain policies here but in general we all interact with each other and our clients in very normal, professional ways. But I’m still ready to leave because the job itself is no longer a good fit with how I want to spend my workday.

        As an example, at my current job when my workload got to be more than I could handle, I was able to have a conversation with my boss about it and come up with a plan to move things off my plate.

        At my previous job (which I would describe as somewhat toxic), when I was asked to help revise my own job description to reflect the growth of the department and I noted an increase in a certain responsibility from 10% to 30% (and that was probably a low estimate), another employee said “oh there’s no way that’s accurate” and HER assessment (15%) was what got put in the final revised description because it’s what the senior bosses were more comfortable with.

    4. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      In my opinion, a better descriptor for a lot of workplaces that have problem, but aren’t toxic:

      *Dysfunctional
      *Poorly managed
      *Problematic
      *Out-of-step (with modern norms)

    5. Lily Rowan*

      Regardless of all of the above, I would probably lean away from the word “toxic,” just because it is so mushy and (I would argue) overused. I think it can backfire and be a yellow flag on the person using it. (Like “no drama” in dating profiles. Sure, I also do not want drama, but your saying that in that way makes me think you might be the problem.)

      1. Gyne*

        Agree hard. It’s such a “pop psychology” term and is also kind of a red flag for me because the people I know personally who describe places as “toxic” are often the ones I see poisoning the well.

    6. Rainy*

      Honestly, I wouldn’t describe a job as toxic if it were just a matter of my coworkers being assholes. I don’t think I’ve ever worked at a job where there wasn’t at least one person who was a jerk at least some of the time, and for me that’s just part of having to interact with other humans. Humans gonna hume.

      For me, if I am going to describe a job as toxic it’s because the work is done within a sick system. Now, this will either make some people jerks or amplify existing jerkiness, but for me it’s the sick system that really makes it toxic. So a place where the workplace culture fosters mistrust and fear, where management is dominated by micromanagers or hands-off absentee leadership or both, where your manager ignores your work-related needs in favour of managing how your face looks while you’re working, where loyalty to the company or the manager must be demonstrated at every turn, but there’s no reciprocation. Also of course, constant emergencies that don’t need to happen but won’t be planned for and no strategy for preventing them will be allowed because the constant emergencies keep people too exhausted to job hunt. That sort of thing.

    7. Irish Teacher.*

      To me, toxic when describing a person or environment means emotionally harmful to people, so a toxic environment is one where either people are at risk of having their mental health damaged by the way they are treated (workplace PTSD) or where people’s behaviour is deteriorating due to working there (the obvious example from AAM is the person who ended up biting a coworker but it can be less than that; it can just be that backbiting and undermining others becomes so normalised that people who wouldn’t do that in a healthy environment end up participating). I guess also place where bad behaviour is encouraged and excused, which I would consider harmful to people as they are likely to either be victims of the poor behaviour or to end up engaging in it in order to succeed in that environment.

      If a place either damages your mental health (or you feel your mental health is at risk) or you feel that you are becoming a person you don’t want to be due to working in a place, I’d say it’s toxic.

    8. Wordybird*

      I wouldn’t call my most recent previous job toxic though there were some aspects of it that were dysfunctional and/or not healthy. They were still accomplishing company goals, making money, treating everyone pretty well, etc. Most of the places I’ve worked have been this way.

      However, I would call a very old previous job/workplace of mine toxic. We worked on a quota system that everyone accomplished in the first 4 hours of our shift… and then we were told to “look busy” for the rest of the day. We could read occasionally but mostly we had to sit at our desks on our computers and play on the Internet for the entire afternoon. No matter what reasons we pointed out — meeting quota, being salaried, being able to accomplish this work at home, how much money the business could save on utility and building costs if we weren’t there — there was no budging on this rule. I worked there for about 18 months, and I saw the business owner twice. One of those times, he came by just after 4 to see the other business he owned on the same floor, saw that we had left (as our hours were 8-4), said it would make the employees of the other business “feel bad” that we were able to leave at 4 when they weren’t, and changed our hours to 8-4:30. The business continued to bleed money for months on end and laid off most of our workforce without any warning or severance; instead of keeping on the most skilled or tenured workers, they kept the two that were most malleable to our supervisor. Although it had been forbidden to work from home all the time I was there, suddenly it was fine to do so the last two weeks so that our supervisor didn’t have to look at us or feel badly that we were laid off. How convenient that he managed to find himself, and only himself, a job with the other company the business owner owned & works there to this day. THAT’S what I would consider a toxic workplace.

  37. Challenging Christmas Décor*

    Hello! I really appreciated listening and learning from the conversation yesterday in the comments about Christmas celebrations and decorations in the workplace – as someone raised Catholic and very much not practicing Catholicism currently, it was a great reminder of the Christian privilege I still and always will benefit from.
    I had a question that I wanted some insight on – I work in a smaller office in the educational field. One of my colleagues is Muslim but leads the charge on our holiday decorating without consulting anyone else in the office. All the decorations are Christmas focused. She has explicitly shared she doesn’t mind, and that she loves Christmas decorations and views Christmas as a secular holiday – we don’t have angels/nativity scenes, but all Christmas trees, gingerbread men, and Santa. She does decorate year round, but none of the current decorations are winter focused – she puts those up in January. We are at the same level organizationally (I’m not her supervisor) and she purchases all of the decorations out of her own pocket. I’m not willing to purchase office décor out of my own personal budget, I think our institution needs to purchase year round school-spirit focused things for our office, like they do for other areas.
    We’re a student-facing office, and I am really concerned we’re alienating students with our décor. Complicating the matters, our Christmas décor is not out of the norm for various departments, even though I’m at a public institution. Any suggestions on how I address this with my colleague?

    1. Sorcyress*

      I think it’s totally fair to bring it up with that wording you had — “I worry we’re alienating students who may not celebrate or feel comfortable around public displays of Christian holidays.”

      If she pushes back, could you suggest that you know for a fact it’s making at least some people uncomfortable –because it sounds like it’s making you uncomfortable (even if it’s just a generalized discomfort where you are empathizing with how students may feel!)

      1. Challenging Christmas Décor*

        I think this is a great suggestion – I was focusing too much on the power/privilege dynamics of myself holding privilege in the conversation, but I think this is a great direction keeping it and not about me!

      2. fhqwhgads*

        Yeah, this. The thing she doesn’t seem to comprehend but needs to is just because she’s Muslim and “doesn’t mind” and loves Christmas decorations, doesn’t mean everyone else “doesn’t mind”. It’s not a good look to alienate those other people.

      3. kalli*

        Not really – the discomfort is from essentially projecting on students, and their decor is in line with the org as a whole. Any changes, therefore, should come down from above based on real actual people complaining about their real actual discomfort or othering, because it has to be implemented across the org, not just in this one department, and therefore needs to be informed by people across the org’s sphere of influence.

        This isn’t an advocate-for-the-silent-minorities situation. This is a ‘does the org need to change its approach to serve a multicultural community’ situation where the solution will likely look very similar to the current situation anyway.

    2. Reba*

      Do you want to become more involved in decorating, or do you just want to see this colleague do it differently? I think if the former, you can open a conversation with her. If the latter, I would say an authority figure should say it and they may not think it worthwhile unless there has been a student issue.

      “Hey Colleague, I appreciate what you do to make our office festive. I was thinking that since religious holidays can be sensitive, and many folks do not view Christmas imagery as secular, what would you think about including some more “winter” or downplaying the Santas? I know we want to make the office welcoming to all students and there are so many different views on this. ”

      Is there actually any chance of your unit budgeting for these things? If yes, this is the way to go. You can involve her in planning the purchase, since this seems to be something that brings her joy, maybe some of her things can stay and some can go.

      1. Challenging Christmas Décor*

        I don’t want to be more involved in the decorating – I really don’t have time and don’t see it as part of my role. My unit has a significantly smaller budget than hers (and might be relocating) so we couldn’t do anything with covering the cost of any decorations. I was also thinking in terms of more permanent décor than seasonal – our front area is so bland, and needs pictures of students, the institution logo, or even an accent wall to be more welcoming. All of those options are shockingly expensive because they have to go through official channels (although my office did put up a wall of photos of former student teams on our own which has enhanced our staff area a lot – we get compliments all the time!).

        I think she is well intentioned in doing seasonal projects to make the space more welcoming, but I worry it’s alienating students and delaying higher-ups from actually investing in our space. We also cannot purchase seasonal items out of our office budgets, she is fully funding all these purchases with her own money – and I feel no need to do that with my own money.

        1. Reba*

          To be clear, I would feel exactly as you do! I would also not be buying my own tinsel and I hope I didn’t come across that I think you should. More tinsel is not the answer :) It all probably depends the most on personalities and open-mindedness. Good luck however you decide to proceed!

    3. Siobahn*

      She is paying out of pocket, something you say you don’t want to do.

      I see you’re looking for suggestions, but short of spending her money for her, or your own, there doesn’t seem to be anything you can do, unless you can find something free and add it to the decor. Also, keep in mind, students are preoccupied with finals, going home, graduation, etc. I wonder if they even notice, let alone care.

      1. Challenging Christmas Décor*

        To clarify – I also don’t think she should be spending her own money on this, but that’s truly not my business. I also don’t think it’s as big of an issue if it’s her personal office – that’s fine, I’m gay and have pride things up in my office year round. As the commenter below mentioned, it’s the shared lobby space with an excessive amount of Christmas décor.

        If you didn’t, I highly recommend you take an open-minded look at the conversation from yesterday on the “navigating workplace Christmas overload as a non-Christian” post. It opened my eyes a lot, and yes, students are busy with finals but we don’t just serve current students, and for our current students, this could also be perceived as one more stressor during an extra stressful time.

        1. Siobahn*

          Yes, I did read that conversation. It was a good one, and I did read it with an open mind, as I’m sure most people here did.

          But as to the point of this thread, my years of experience in higher ed. is that students and non-students alike typically have priorities and stressors that extend well beyond holiday decorations, if those decorations are even thought of at all.

          Not aiming this at you, but honestly, I think this is overblown, especially where students are concerned. There are so many issues students are facing, like DEI, LGBTQ scapegoating, food insecurity, the cost of an education, that it seems to me a luxury to feel “alienated” by something like holiday decorations. I personally extend students way more credit, pardon the pun.

          1. annonie*

            Wow that’s dismissive–“I don’t really care about this so people who do are making too big a deal out of it.” I assure you that I am perfectly capable of caring about a wide range of issues, including the dominant religion erasing my own.

          2. GythaOgden*

            Yeah. In real life the dynamics are often a bit different and fuzzier than they are in orthodox social justice situations.

  38. Sorcyress*

    I started to write a thing, realized it was WAY too trauma-dumpy for my first open thread contribution, so I bring y’all a question I’ve been wondering about:

    Is there a phrase that represents the same feeling as “b****-eating-crackers” without using a misogynistic slur? I really like having a connotation of “everything that person does annoys me, no matter how trivial and inoffensive”, especially as an acknowledgement that some coworkers just…aren’t gonna mesh, and that’s fine.

    But I don’t wanna use a slur to get the point across! So any recommendations would be lovely.

    ~Sor

    1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      I recently came across this and immediately thought of BEC:

      Can you think of someone who really irritates you? That person is known in German as a Nervensäge.

      What does Nervensäge mean?
      A Nervensäge is a really annoying, irritating person.

      What does Nervensäge literally translate to?
      Broken down, it means ‘nerve saw’. Nerven = nerves, and Säge = saw. Imagine a saw cutting at your nerves… isn’t that what it feels like when somebody annoys the hell out of you? It’s quite an appropriate word!

        1. Tired*

          A nice concise version of “found my last nerve & is now jumping up and down on it” which is what I’d say (northern England)! Definitely adding it to the list of options!

    2. nopetopus*

      For some reason mine are teeth related. I’ll say that someone “makes my teeth itch” when I just can’t stand anything they do or I’m at the point where everything they do rubs me the wrong way. And when I’m completely over it I say “I’m full to the back teeth of [insert name or behavior]”.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        Really like Jerk eating crackers. It makes the same point and the usual one is one I’m a little uncomfortable with.

  39. Elle Woods*

    I want to thank the AAM commentariat for giving advice on my post last week about dealing with a candidate who had significant red flags in her background (left her last three jobs by “mutual agreement” with her municipal employers).

    The advice I got was very helpful. After confirming that the candidate was, in fact, the same Wilhelmina Warblesworth that I uncovered in my online search, I reached out to the other members of the interview panel. One of them had uncovered the same things and had leveraged their backchannels to find out more about why this candidate was let go by their employer. Because it was a matter of public record, but also protected by confidentiality laws and signed NDAs, they didn’t get the whole picture but enough of it to get a sense of what happened.

    We interviewed the candidate early this week and asked the standard interview questions, including how you handle conflicts within your team (including giving an example) and why are you leaving your last employer. Her response to these questions, along with those to other questions, revealed that she was very much a “my way or the highway” kind of person and was not someone we wanted to hire. We sent a rejection email yesterday and received a gracious “thanks for letting me know” response from her.

    1. pally*

      I’m pleased that you conducted the interview. And you gave her the room to explain things as you did.

      Clearly this candidate is not a fit for your place. You learned this for yourself and didn’t rely on speculation. You gave the candidate a fair shot with the interview. No one can ask for better!

      Interesting that another member of the interview panel also delved into the candidate’s background.

  40. NaoNao*

    Am I over-reacting because I’m defensive?

    In 2022-3 I had two really bad-match jobs in a row where I wound up leaving involuntarily for both. The tenure on those was 8 months each. Prior to that I had 2+ years at my other roles except for a “blip” in 2019 in another poor-match role that I call “consulting” because that was my actual title so that lines up okay for the resume.

    So the issue: I have recruiters from staffing agencies calling me and asking for updated resumes and they all ask/insist I put “month and year” for roles (sometimes in a really condescending manner). I’d prefer not to for obvious reasons as it immediately calls out the short-tenure roles, but at the same time I’m not obfuscating the reality, it’s pretty clear that if I have 2 jobs in 2022 and 2 in 2023 those jobs were relatively short tenure. I just don’t need to advertise that on my resume! If asked I’ll be transparent and forthcoming. I wind up bristling mentally but complying…and then I typically never hear back from the agency or role. Sigh.

    Noting short-tenure roles brings up questions during interviews and I find myself having to either dance around the issue or answer uncomfortable questions about why I left—when I’d rather focus on my duties or accomplishments.

    The only reason I even entertain these recruiters is the job market is tough right now and I’m passively/casually looking and some of the roles they approach me with are very appealing.

    Anyway….am I getting prickly for no reason or can I push back on this in some way without seeming like I’m trying to “get away with” something?

    1. Hiring Mgr*

      Can you leave one of them off the resume entirely? Eight months wouldn’t be that long of a gap and could be better than multiple very short stints

      1. Fluffy Fish*

        2 back to back 8 months so more like a year and a half.

        which also shouldn’t be a big deal, but it is likely to get asked what the gap is. which then gets into having to say you had two short stints that you were fired from.

        I think I’d rather have them on the resume and have an answer of “unfortunately, I had a run of positions that ended up not being a good fit but i learned/the experince helped me to…….”

        instead of it coming up anyway and being perceived as if i was trying to hide that i was let go twice.

    2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      Ooof, that sounds like a rough patch. It’s tough out there.

      To your question: Including month and year is standard, so I think your response is both understandable and from being defensive. The defensiveness may be something to practice/work out, as that will come across in interviews in a negative way. We all have bad matches, so focus on what you learned from the experiences that you’re applying in future jobs.

    3. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      I don’t think it’s unreasonable for them to ask you to document the start/stop months. It’s pretty standard. I get why you don’t want to but when you get a direct request for it then your choices are to do it, or don’t but understand that means these recruiters may pass on you and that’s an okay choice to make.

    4. Tio*

      Trying to push back on this would be a red flag to me. It means you’re trying to hide something – which you are, you’re trying to hide your short stays. Month-year dates are very standard for resumes. And yes, it brings up questions, and yes I’m sure you would prefer to avoid them – but employers would prefer to know what happened there. The interviews do go both ways.

    5. Qwerty*

      Including month and year is very standard practice. You are intentionally leaving the month off to hide the short term stints and are getting annoyed at being called out about it.

      Hiring managers use recruiters to source candidates meeting their needs. Those recruiters do basic screening and describe the candidate in the best light but in an *honest and transparent* way. I’ve had recruiters pre-emptively explain short stints (“John joined StartupX right before their layoff and is excited to join another startup like yours!” or “Bob is looking to go back to a more corporate environment for long term projects after trying out a couple chaotic startups”)

      If the short stints bother the hiring manager, better to be screened out at the beginning then waste anyone’s time with an interview. When I have a candidate get to the interview then find out something on the resume was fudged to avoid getting screened out, I’m not really inclined to keep working with them – even if I don’t care about the specific item that was fudged, they deliberately misrepresented themselves so there is no trust.

    6. Annony*

      I would argue that without the month, it is not clear how short the roles were, especially if any went from December to January. A role like “consulting” could easily be a second job and without dates they don’t know if you had a role for two years with multiple side jobs/contract jobs or if you had multiple short stints. It is going to come across as intentionally misleading. I being upfront with the dates and addressing it in your cover letter is your best bet.

  41. the cat ears*

    fellow WFH folks who live alone: what are your best practices/habits/tricks for maintaining mental health?

    I was about to post my situation in particular but I realized I don’t want advice since I know what I specifically could be doing better in a lot of ways. But I’m curious what others do.

    One of mine is to go outside (for a walk or run) at some point during daylight hours. It’s winter here and we don’t get a lot of daylight.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Yes, absolutely yes to the sunshine point.

      I work from home, and I make sure that the work laptop stays in the work space. I don’t work on the living room couch, and I don’t do personal stuff on the work desk.

      I’m also an introvert, so I go out of my way to get a little extra human interaction every day or two. I’ll go through the regular checkout line instead of self-checkout so I can talk to the cashier for a few minutes, etc.

    2. BellyButton*

      I have been WFH for about 7 yrs now. I get up every morning and getting dressed in real clothes with hair and makeup done, and earrings. I do try to have most meetings with cameras on, which is the culture at my entirely remote company.
      I take the dogs for a walk every afternoon, even in the winter. Weather permitting I will take some meetings outside. Again, at my fully remote company this is normal.
      I also get up and leave my desk to do a cleaning activity, cook, laundry, etc. I do it when I am stuck on something, or just need to walk away.
      I also have full conversations with my dogs. LOL

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        For what it’s worth, I DON’T live alone and I still have full conversations with my dogs. :)

    3. HomebodyTess*

      Regularly scheduled interaction with other human beings that don’t live in your house. For me, I go to church and usually work out a time to go rock climbing with a friend every week. Sometimes I invite a friend over for dinner or a paint night or something, but that’s not a regular occurrence.

      I also make sure to have plenty of downtime activities that aren’t screen time (since remote work is almost always staring at a screen for hours and hours). So instead of watching tv or youtube or browsing social media after work to unwind, I’ll read a book or take a walk or try a new recipe or work on a knitting project – literally anything that isn’t screen-based.

    4. Workerbee*

      I WFH alone a substantial amount of time and it can get lonely! Even though I feel like I talk to people all day inside my head (I’m an online community manager. Still. It’s work).

      What I do/have done:
      -Walking – even if it’s not sunny, even if it’s cold. I bought one of those NorSari wool blanket-wraps because my legs can get stupidly cold, and it’s marvelous.
      -Joining/arranging/finding a Discord or Tumblr fanbase for media I like, getting friends together on a group chat, building in time to basically “listen” (using my eyes or my ears) to what other people are doing/need help with.
      -Getting the heck out of my house to a show/club/restaurant, or parks, or libraries, with friends if I can, by myself if I can’t, just to change up what I see outside of my head.

      What I try not to do:
      -Use retail workers as my surrogate talking buddies. I will always think of my dear departed father, self-professed anti-social person, who would gab and gab at the poor bank tellers, grocery store checkout people, etc. – because they couldn’t just run away. I try to be mindful that these people are not here for my entertainment or mental needs, they are here to do a job, get me & my stuff arranged & out, and then move on to the next person. Also see the post by Unsociable Mantis below about this.
      -Fall into the comfortable yet devastating habit that I am fine doing the exact same thing all day every day. Brains can be lazy! But they do like to learn. I am not going to look back with fondness on all the hours I spent in front of the TV.

    5. DisneyChannelThis*

      I make sure I have scheduled friend time. I don’t rely on spontaneous nearly as much. Like every 2nd Monday night is movie night with one friend, every first saturday is coffee shop time with a different friend (once a month). It’s too easy to get isolated and lose social skills if fully remote working, to where leaving the house or making plans feels hard, which then becomes a bad mental health spiral. Making it routine is really helpful.

    6. funkytown*

      I need to improve my own habits/create more healthy routines around this so I’m interested in the responses as well!

      I mostly try to make sure I have at least 1 or 2 activities per week to get out of the house and socialize with humans irl.

      I would like to make some kind of routine to exercise regularly, and have much less screen time in my off-work hours (and have firmer boundaries around what those hours are…) but so far, I have not made either of those habits stick.

  42. Vanilla latte breve*

    ‘My company went through a reorg a few weeks ago. My new manager is very new to the company, which is complicating things. My role is different than the rest of my new teams’ roles, so I am an island of sorts. My new manager also has no background in my work.

    I am being asked to take a new responsibilities (which I dont want to do because I have a full plate). I am also incredibly burnt out from being in this role for the past several years. I am trying to hand on until I find a new role (external or internal) but as you all know, the job market is really hard right now. I get plenty of interviews but no offers yet.

    Im trying to figure out what work to prioritize. I also dont feel like I have someone who will advocate for me and my work. It just sucks, y’all.

    1. Workerbee*

      What I’d do is:

      -Create a high-level list of tasks you currently do. (Be prepared to go into detail if asked, but on this document, keep it line-item & brief.)
      -Then think about the new tasks you’re being asked to absorb. Would you potentially like any of them if you weren’t already full up? If so, are there tasks you are currently doing that could actually be moved to someone else? Or upgraded to new processes that lighten your load? Or even…disappeared altogether? (Some things get obsolete and we don’t even notice!)
      -Schedule a meeting with your manager. Your list will help show them quite clearly how you have a full-time load already.
      -Then, if you do want to take on new stuff, here’s where you discuss how that can happen and what absolutely must be gone from your plate to do so.
      -Whereas if you don’t want any of the new stuff, make it clear how your role currently supports All These Things and in order to serve the company/clients/etc. to the excellent standard your company is known for/clients expect/etc., you are full up.

      And good luck getting a new role entirely! I commend you for recognizing you are burnt out. I didn’t at LastJob until well after I’d moved on. Explained a lot of things in retrospect.

  43. kalli*

    I had a panic attack and forgot about email for a week while I processed and things settled. Now it looks like I’m ignoring emails from work, and starting replies with ‘I’m sorry for the delay getting back to you; I had a medical situation I had to deal with but I’m okay now.’ feels dangerous when those emails are like ‘so can we agree to these hours in 2024’ kind of important.

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      I think, “Sorry for the delay in replying! I was unexpectedly out sick last week” is fine. You can even just leave it as “Sorry for the delay in replying! Yes, we can confirm those hours for 2024.” Emails get lost, people get sick, stuff happens.

      (I would say that 90% of the time that someone apologizes for the delay in their response, I haven’t even noticed.)

    2. Lily Rowan*

      Can you just go with “I’m sorry for the delay getting back to you”? and not explain anything? Sometimes I just miss emails for no reason, myself.

        1. M2*

          This. And if it is people on your team you can say you were unexpectedly sick. It is that time of year and people get sick for a variety of reasons and can’t get out of bed. People understand.

          1. kalli*

            It’s my boss and it’s an offer for a new role and increase in hours and not responding to that email for a week due to illness may look like I can’t do those hours or they should find someone who doesn’t get sick for 1-2 weeks every 6 months or so. It just feels like it’s been too long to not give an explanation, but the explanation itself carries risk it shouldn’t, and I don’t know them well enough to know the right way to say it that it is just ‘oh that’s fine’.

  44. Manders*

    Does anyone have tips for keeping good boundaries with clients while also keeping them happy?

    I’m used to working as the only or one of the only marketers at small companies and saying yes to whatever I’m asked to do. Now I’m in something closer to an agency setting with different client accounts. I’m used to having one boss and enthusiastically doing whatever they tell me to do, but that’s a recipe for overcommitment with four different “bosses” to keep happy, especially when one of them can be pushy about asking for projects that are outside the scope of what I’m supposed to be doing.

    Keeping these clients happy is very important, so I’m struggling to find out where the line is beyond providing great service and committing to impossible amounts of work or work they really shouldn’t be leaning on me for. We’re given a lot of control over our own schedules, which is really nice, but it also means I can dig myself into a very deep hole if I don’t watch out.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Contracts and terms of service are your friends here. Know what’s in those documents. If they aren’t well-written, then press your boss, the sales people, legal, et al to do better.

      Also, check out the line-of-business/customer quadrant diagram that’s been floating around the business world for ages (Boston Consulting Group came up with it first, I think?). Separate your clients into the 4 quadrants: Dog, Star, Question Mark, and Cash Cow. Only give the level of service that’s appropriate for the quadrant they are in.

    2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      This is purely theoretical for me, so take it with a grain of salt:

      Since you set your own schedule, can you:

      1) Decide how many hours per week you want to work.
      2) When an ask comes in, assign it a number of hours it will take and to a given week (based on the deadline).
      3) When your quota for the week fills up, then any other ask that comes in that would overflow that week, ask yourself if you really need to say yes *or* whether there’s flex in to move any of the asks (both currently allocated and the new ones) to stay within your limits.

    3. zaracat*

      I’m a freelance healthcare provider doing both scheduled and on-call work across multiple sites (my services are requested by other providers but paid for directly by patients or their insurers), and I’ve had to deal with this. Sometimes the problem was that I’d overcommit, but often the issue was urgent add-on work that I’d be subtly (or not so subtly) guilt tripped into doing. Result – episodic burn out where I’d go home in pain, exhausted and crying and wanting to quit my job. But I also had to admit to myself that I enjoyed being the “helpful” one, even though it often got me into situations where I’d feel resentful that my efforts weren’t acknowledged or reciprocated.

      I had to sit down and take a hard look at what workload I could physically and mentally manage, and how that was currently distributed. Once I’d worked out a comfortable workload I allocated a set amount to scheduled work/admin with an allowance for add-ons, put a limit on my on call work, and carefully tracked time spent on unexpected admin follow up eg payment problems.

      I had to face the reality that the health providers booking my services might be friendly but were not actually my friends, this was a business relationship; in any given situation they were going to do what worked best for them and I should not feel guilty about doing the same. One thing that became clear once I started looking more closely was that certain clients/providers took up more than their fair share of my admin time, often because of their own poor admin practices. I addressed this by giving priority to providers who from experience were better organised and less likely to cause me extra unpaid admin work, and stopped taking on work at all for ones who were particularly bad. Admittedly it is a luxury to be able to pick and choose.

      There was a bit of pushback when I first revised my schedule and started to set firmer boundaries, but they gradually accepted it and life is much happier now.

  45. Invisible fish*

    Re: Yesterday’s discussion involving folks who are dealing with having Christmas forced on them – I’m so sorry. Your comments helped me think about ways I can keep pushing for my school to do better by our faculty, staff and students. I’m grateful I have a chance to learn from so many great people that are part of this community.

    In other news, a lady in my neighborhood installed a giant menorah on the top of her minivan, and she drives around with that day’s candles “lit” (it is huge and electric). I hope she’s got a kid in elementary school and that it’s blazing at every drop off and pick up.

    1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      I’m grateful for the conversations here for opening up my perspective. A few years ago I would have been the atheist who defends a secular low-key version of xmas. It’s an overwhelming holiday that I mostly dislike and don’t participate in other than a tree, but I wasn’t seeing how oppressive it was for others because I was raised culturally christian. (My house growing up had no church or god talk, but Santa and the easter bunny brought me gifts and my grandparents went to church.) It’s annoying enough for me, I can’t even imagine how othering and crappy it feels to walk through these months if you come from a different faith or culture.

      1. I Have RBF*

        I’m still salty about the amount of gall it takes for other people to tell me what my culture is and that it never can change.

        I did enjoy the ways people had for avoiding the Xmas junk, because it’s a problem I have too. I personally tend to stay home during this time of year just to avoid the commercial glurge, the religious stuff, and the forced cheer expectations.

        1. annonie*

          As was explained to you repeatedly on the other thread, no one said that. They just asked you to stay out of the conversation because it was for a different group of people. It’s weird that you keep bringing this up when it’s been explained ad nauseam.

        2. Cyndi*

          I’ve been chewing on this since yesterday and I’m still not sure how to put it, but maybe I can frame this in a different way for you?

          I got the impression, from the couple of people in yesterday’s post who objected to being called “culturally Christian,” that it was being taken in an accusatory way, or as discounting the harms of an intensely Christian upbringing.

          But it’s not a moral judgment or an accusation, it’s a neutral statement of fact about where you started and the cultural assumptions you’ve had to work your way out of. It’s an acknowledgement of the work you’ve done, not a denial of it. Nobody is calling you the problem because of where you started out! The problem is that we were specifically having a conversation about a totally different way Christian cultural hegemony harms people, and a few people got stuck on the term “culturally Christian” and kept acting like they were being somehow blamed.

          1. I Have RBF*

            … a few people got stuck on the term “culturally Christian” and kept acting like they were being somehow blamed.

            It feels like blame, when people tell you that since you once upon a time celebrated a holiday that you are always associated with that holiday.

            Let’s take it out of religion. Say your family growing up was strict about modesty. So as a kid you always wore modest dress and were taught to be very reserved about your body. But when you went to college you decided that was ridiculous, and in fact became a nudist, and have now been a nudist for 2/3 of your life. Would you still say that person was “culturally modest”, and wonder why they got offended?

            When a person rejects a cultural part of their upbringing, telling them, years after the fact, that they still are of that culture, stings and feels like blame. It’s like you can never escape.

            Maybe I’m oversensitive because of the omnipresence of it at this time of year.

            To me it feels like the grasping claws of the culturally dominant religion are trying to drag me back into it, and people who have never been part of that religion are somehow happy to throw me back.

            I really just wanted to support people who were having to deal with the damned holiday that they never wanted to deal with. Being told that somehow I was part of that problem was like a slap in the face.

            1. annonie*

              Again, no one told you you were part of a problem. They just told you that you weren’t part of the group asked to weigh in. Why can’t you respect that?

            2. kalli*

              > I really just wanted to support people who were having to deal with the damned holiday that they never wanted to deal with. Being told that somehow I was part of that problem was like a slap in the face.

              You support people by not making yourself the victim by centering your reaction to their discussion instead of, you know, their perspective and what you’re learning from it.

              It’s a slap in the face? Many people would say “Good, you needed it.” But that’s not the point.

          2. Insert Pun Here*

            But saying someone is culturally Christian (present tense) is very different from saying they were raised culturally Christian. Someone who has taken many affirmative steps to become not-Christian can’t really be said to be (present tense) culturally Christian.

            It is absolutely possible to become part of a culture or subculture as an adult, even if one wasn’t raised that way. Gay culture and Deaf culture are the two most common examples, but religious converts (in some cases) are a third example.

            1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

              Sure, but this doesn’t erase the earlier influence — it’s more like intersectionality. If I were raised in Argentina but moved to France as an adult, I may feel closely aligned with French culture and food and traditions today but my Argentinian upbringing will always inform my POV. My worldview and beliefs were shaped by living in both of those cultures.

        3. ThursdaysGeek*

          Yeah, ‘culturally Christian’ is usually used for people who
          1) went to a Christian church as a child but have left the religion, but still are reasonably comfortable with the trappings such as celebrating Christmas and Easter (if only in a secular way), and understanding the basics of the religion.
          2) call themselves Christian but don’t actually attend a church, or follow Christian teachings, or know or even care to know that much about its teachings.

          Both Christian and culturally Christian don’t always see the privilege that US society gives them (Christmas is a day off, for instance), just as white people don’t always see their privilege (not being pulled over when driving).

          And, as a Christian, the commercial glurge and forced cheer expectations bother me too. But since I follow the religion, I like the religious part of it. We are both privileged, however, although you may see that better than I do.

          1. I Have RBF*

            This is true. People who celebrate Christmas and/or Christianity in American society do not see just how much privilege they have, and how those who do not and/or are not are othered.

            In my job, if someone has to be on-call for Christmas, I will volunteer, because I don’t celebrate it. Heck, the same thing goes for Easter. I would trade on-call with a devout Catholic coworker so he could attend the religious services important to him.

            It is exhausting to be not Christian in a country that is so very loaded with Christianity, especially around major Christian holidays.

      2. Roland*

        Thank you for sharing this! It can be easy to focus on the annoying/exhausting comments and for me at least it’s nice to be reminded about the chill people who want the best for everyone and are learning as they go, like we all do.

  46. JJ*

    I might have asked this before, but I’m eager to have as much feedback as possible, so thank you.

    In order to cover my basic survival expenses, I might have to start a GoFundMe (I’ve been out of work because of an aggressive cancer + aggressive treatment, and my vile landlord has price-gouged me — raised the rent 4x as much as she’d said she would when I asked about increases, before signing the lease). But I’m also going to be looking for work soon, and I already have two big strikes against me (I’ve been out of work for years because I took care of my elderly parent; and, I’m over 50).

    If I close out and delete the GoFundMe before I start applying, will it still show up on searches if a prospective employer googles me? And, how much do you think a GFM would count against me? (My field is semi-creative — media. And, my last FT gig was with a highly respected entity.) Thanks.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      A reasonable human being will not even have a thought in their head that having a gofundme in your circumstances is in anyway a mark against you for a job. I can’t think of a single reason why that would even enter into my consideration of a person for a job.

      I guess maybe if it was for something outlandish like a trip to mars.

      I dont see any reason why you need to delete it.

    2. econobiker*

      “I’ve been out of work for years because I took care of my elderly parent.”

      This is not a specific strike against you. This a talking point that you were a non-professional caregiver who managed a vulnerable person’s home healthcare, coordinated doctor and hospital appointments, managed day to day household needs, and maintained their living situation while also maintaining your own.
      In many job markets, showing up on time and at the correct place is not a given anymore for employees so someone who is reliable and conscientious is very hire-able even with a significant gap in employment.

      1. I Have RBF*

        This. You were an unpaid caregiver. This is not a trivial thing, and any company that would see that as a negative is not a place you want to work anyway, IMO.

        Having a GFM due to the financial consequences of cancer treatment is not a red flag, at least in the US these days.

  47. Unsociable Mantis*

    Say I’m in a job like a receptionist, bank teller, or person waiting at the customer service desk. I’m up in the front of the business, people come in. Every now and again, you’ll get a chatty customer who comes in and is apparently using this business transaction as a substitute for proper socializing. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to gently encourage people to leave or to otherwise end the conversation? I’m guessing most of them are lonely and I am not unsympathetic…but also I’m a captive audience here. If I’m stuck dealing with someone who wants to spend 30 minutes to an hour chatting, I’m going to end up neglecting other duties. I am being paid to do a specific job and I’m not being paid to hold a long conversation on how you hate cellphones/enjoy spaghetti/can’t decide if you like your husband’s new wife/have had some minor issue that you clearly just want to vent about even though said issue doesn’t involve this business in any way. Please, I have other stuff I need to do and while I don’t mind a little chitchat and understand that’s how customer service goes sometimes, I’m talking about people who want to spend 30+ minutes in here when I’ve got other stuff to attend to.

    What’s really sparked this question is that a dirty old man who had gotten banned from my last workplace for being a dirty old man came into my current job, and while I (a woman) handled him by going to get a male coworker (who understood the situation), the old man was still in here for 45 minutes rambling on and on (but hey, my poor coworker missed out on all the creepy innuendo by virtue of being a guy so he’s got that going for him), and without giving too much detail, the old guy is probably going to come back in next week. My boss has assured me that I don’t have to deal with him and I can straight up leave the building if I want when he comes in (we can’t really ban him based on “well he was nasty elsewhere several years ago” since he didn’t say anything untoward this time even if it’s looking like he’s going to be difficult in other aspects), so I’m good on that front, but I feel so bad for my other coworkers stuck dealing with him.

    1. violin squeaks*

      I find the only answer is steamrolling the Chatty McChatster.

      If you have another place you can go, “Well it’s been nice chatting with you, but I need to [do other task, run away] now, have a great day!” and then run away.

      If there is another customer behind them, “It’s been nice chatting with you, but we need to keep the line moving.” [beckon other customer forward] “Have a great day!” then turn all your attention to the next customer.

      1. Unsociable Mantis*

        Oh, it’s so much easier when there are other customers around to shift your attention to! The last time it happened, there were no other customers nearby, and I discreetly texted a friend to not ask questions and just call so I could pretend to handle a customer service issue for her. It was enough to make the chatty person go away but still felt like I was complicating things. Physically running away is probably easier in the long run, lol, thank you.

        1. This Daydreamer*

          I’ve called my work phone from my cell phone to shut down a nightmare of a call. “Oh, sorry, that’s another hotline call and I have to get it! So sorry hope things go better for you!”

          The caller was using our hotline as a way to jack off while talking to nice ladies who are sympathetic to his past of being sexually abused. The whole shtick is a lie. He had me on the phone for more than 99 minutes once (which was how I learned that the call timer only lasted that long). Now, I just hang up as soon as I know it’s him. He’s not a part of our client base and none of us are paid for that. My bosses know and are happier if I hang up because I’m usually really sweet, but I’m beyond done with the creep and might say something that’s jjjuuuussst a bit unprofessional if I stay on the line.

          Luckily we don’t get walk-ins. For them, sometimes it helps to tag team. When I work with young political volunteers, I watch for the creeps and I’m always ready to tell a fellow volunteer that “I need that call sheet tally now and, hi walk in, is there anything I can help you with (as a fat, unattractive, middle-aged woman)? No, sorry, our volunteers are here to work.”

          If you’re on your own, make up the impatient boss. “I’m really sorry, but we’re not supposed to talk to clients about things that aren’t a part of what we do and I have a mountain of paperwork due by end of business!”

          1. Unsociable Mantis*

            UGH, why are some callers like this? I’m so sorry y’all have to deal with that. With the way the office is laid out I am mostly on my own 99% of the time but I can step away into “the back” (which is not really to the back and more to the right and is not the smoothest exit in the world) to get someone else if need be.

            I like the impatient boss angle! My boss is actually extremely chill and would probably just laugh about being made out to be some kind of bogeyman in that scenario.

    2. Antilles*

      At some point, you basically just need to cut them off.

      If there are other customers waiting, that’s the easiest out, because you can apologize and say something like “that gentleman has been patiently waiting, have a nice day” then wave him over.

      But when that’s not the case, you just need to politely assert yourself. It was great chatting with you, but I need to let you go because I have to (insert other job duty here, e.g., preparing for a meeting or answering emails).

      It is definitely going to feel a bit awkward the first time you do it, but after a couple times, you’ll get better at cutting the conversation off and getting them to move along.

      1. Unsociable Mantis*

        The curse of the customer service job…you want to be nice but not *too* nice lest they go a-boundry-stompin’ and keep verbally unloading. I think I was just looking for a not-awkward way to cut them off, but you’re right, I think I’m just going to have to power through the awkward.

        1. violin squeaks*

          I can totally empathize with you! I will say, working in retail with these kinds of people did prepare me well for my later career which often calls me to moderate/facilitate a discussion or panel. Cutting someone off swiftly but respectfully is a very valuable skill. Think of this as a low stakes practice field.

    3. Alex*

      This is so difficult and I totally relate. I work in a similar job and there is this one guy who routinely comes in and wants to tell me the details of his wife’s journey through menopause. Which, great, I’m happy you are so comfortable talking about such a thing! It’s not shameful! Kudos for trying to normalize it! But…I honestly don’t need to know and definitely don’t want to discuss it with you!

      Personally, i try to walk that fine line between polite and boring, and make comments like “Oh wow, well, enjoy your evening!” and other goodbye-sounding statements.

      1. Unsociable Mantis*

        While I haven’t had anyone get quite that level of wanting to share with me, that’s wild. I have to wonder how many other people he does that to! Like does he just go through his day regaling everyone he deals with with tales of menopause?

        Sometimes they don’t always pick up on the boring “ok, goodbye” elements and keep on going and that just makes it difficult.

    4. Ellis Bell*

      If there’s any way you can put some sort of piled up busy-work behind you, or to the side, that can be an option. Like paperwork or a stack of things that need sorting. So the chatty customer goes: “Blah blah blah..” and without waiting for a pause (because they don’t pause, but if you want to be super nice you can give them the amount of time it would take for an average person to reach a pause), you respond with “I know, right! Have a good day!” and physically turn away to face your tasks. I really liked to have my busy work behind me, because turning my back would encourage all but the most diehard customer. If the layout means it has to be to the side, choose the side that will face you away from the customer, or takes you an awkward distance from the customer further down the desk. If you’ve got a diehard, that follows you down the length of the desk, or keeps on talking at your back, you give one last smile and nod and behave like you forgot something out back.

      1. Unsociable Mantis*

        Sadly the office layout and placement of my desk does not lend itself well to putting anything behind me unless I want to just turn around and stare at the wall (which honestly sounds like a better time than some of these conversations, sad to say), but I do have two large monitors I can kind of hide behind–I’ve been thinking about keeping a blank Word document open that I can just go type nonsense into if I need to look busy. I type fast, and I can just unload a bunch of Pokemon stats or something similar if I have to.

  48. This Daydreamer*

    Anyone else feeling like you work at the local communicable disease distribution site? I’m currently in bed, having lost my voice completely and gotten very little sleep thanks to a stubborn cough. I’m pretty sure my next COVID test will come up positive. Someone else has a stomach bug. A third person had to take her sick kid home from school. There are a few people who got RSV last week. My workplace just isn’t that big! I’m supposed to take in my Secret Snowflake gift in the next couple of days. I hope it’s okay if if take them in still in the Amazon boxes because I’d rather not spread the plague.

    Yeah, mainly just whining. And waiting for the next text asking for coverage. No one’s had the flu yet…

    1. M2*

      I am sorry, feel better. Yeah, I now wear masks if I go indoors or if I fly. Although I have kids so I will probably catch something from them. It is that time of year for sure! We had to miss Thanksgiving because our out of state family who were were visiting got Covid.

    2. Rara Avis*

      I’m a teacher. I do work in a communicable disease distribution site! It is really bad this year. I was sick for my entire Thanksgiving break. My kid just spent most of the week at home. I have students coughing and hacking in the classroom and swearing they’re okay and it’s not covid. (3 people in my family/3 different schools — so many germs coming home.)

    3. ampersand*

      I work remotely and have a kid in school, and in the last two weeks my household has had the flu, some cold-like but not covid illness, and a sinus infection (that last one was just me). We’re primarily staying home and *still* getting sick, so I can only imagine what it’s like to work around other people right now. Feel free to whine–being sick and wondering if you’re about to catch the next thing going around is terrible! I hope you feel better soon!!

  49. NotMeRightNow*

    sorry. another comment made me think of this and i didn’t get the comment box in the right place the first time.

    i had a coworker recently tell me she tested positive (she’s staying home like a sane person!!), but AFAIK she hasn’t notified our office space at large.

    i feel weird not saying anything to others who may have had more recent contact with her than i have. but… it’s also personal health info. but she also told another coworker of mine at the same time who has been here longer. i guess i’m relying on that person to know what to do with the info.

    1. This Daydreamer*

      I just had to notify my boss that I live with someone who tested positive, and now I have symptoms. I’ve got a comment stuck in moderation, but the short version is that I’m surrounded by sick people. I distance. I mask. I got flu and plague shots. And I still got some kind of crud.

      Honestly, I’m assuming everyone I meet from now until May is sick with something. I’ll probably be right half the time.

    2. BellyButton*

      Can you speak to the person “Just wanted to see how you’re feeling. Did you share let others know you have covid so they can test and prevent from spreading it around?”

    3. kalli*

      If she let you know, and your coworker know, you can generally assume she’s told people who need to know and monitor themselves more closely for symptoms.

  50. Anon for this*

    I’m quitting on Monday. There’s a good chance I’ll be perp walked out by security without going back to my desk. so I’m going to hit the office early to pick up my coffee mug and spare Nikes but is there anything else I should be thinking about (I’m thinking of stuff like printing copies of performance reviews and stuff)?

    1. LCH*

      yes, make sure you have all the personal documents you want. make sure you clean up your computer files. make sure you wipe your browser history/cached passwords. make sure you sign out of anything that isn’t work related. if not unallowed at your work for some reason, forward any emails to yourself you need (benefits, retirement, annual reviews).

    2. Rick Tq*

      I’d verify any and all personal web accounts use a personal email address including verification emails. I’d also cancel/close any work-related accounts if you have them.

      Do you use your personal cell for any thing for your current job? Those entries need to be removed too.

    3. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Email addresses and phone numbers:
      * colleagues you want to stay in touch with
      * external and internal contacts you’ll need for networking
      * internal resources that aren’t easily accesible from the outside – like the website only lists an email for HR, but you know that Wakeen is really the person who makes it all run smoothly.

      Financial stuff – 401(k) login, payroll & tax login, make sure any expense accounts are up to date, get your latest vacation balance to make sure you get paid out for it if applicable.

    4. Texan In Exile*

      Forward your compliment emails to your personal email.

      Get your accomplishment metrics: What did you do that had a good outcome? How do you know it was a good outcome?

      Make a portfolio: If it’s legal, make copies of your good projects. I still have the ppt of a project I did 20 years ago. No, I don’t need it now, but it was good to be able to look at it for resume and cover letter fodder. I also have samples of the newsletter I designed, edited, and produced. And of social campaigns that I did. And of internal comms projects. Any metrics you can attach to these could be useful later.

      Good luck!

      1. Csethiro Ceredin*

        Yes! And also any appraisals if you have positive ones you may want to refer to in applying for other jobs.

    5. Ashley*

      If you are leaving on ok terms with your co-workers start a few extra documents of where things stand so it is easier for them to pick up where you left off.

    6. Jo*

      A couple things I missed when I left my organization:

      A few accounts/websites where I logged in using my work email address. So work-related but not necessarily “owned” by the company. Nothing where they had payment link. But things like newsletters, free training site, LinkedIn, membership in professional organization. Get those changed to your personal email address. If you know the password, you may still be able to get in and change from home. But so many sites require extra verification, especially if accessed from a new computer. So if they send the verification to your work email, then you are stuck.

      Some tips and tricks I documented in the past and kept handy for work tasks. For example there’s a complex formula using “time math” in Excel that I can’t reconstruct myself but I’ve saved a copy and used as a cheat sheet for years.

  51. WellRed*

    I was finally motivated to post a company review on GlassDoor after learning from a coworker with a different manager (Ive had my own issues with this manager) pressured her into revealing what she said on an “ anonymous” survey and wouldn’t take no for an answer. If she’d done that to me, I like to think I would have said something to HR, so this was my own little eff you. I’m also a little nervous waiting for review to post.

    1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      That manager was way out of line. Good on you for trying to get that info out there. Hopefully your leadership will shut that down, but until then, it’s good to let prospective employees know upfront.

  52. The Dude Abides*

    As I alluded to in Frustrated Fed’s thread, I’m fed up with the changes taking place that I have no say in, and am looking to GTFO before even more changes (that I know are coming) throw everything into chaos again.

    On a lark, I applied to a CxO position within a different agency (I’m in state gov) and this week was invited to interview, but like Jessie, I’m both excited and scared.

    Excited – it would likely be another 10-15% pay rise, I would get to WFH two days per week, and I’d be escaping a dumpster fire of an organization.

    Scared – I’m still trying to hone my managerial skills, and I’d be jumping from managing a tight-knit group of 7-8 to overseeing directors and staff in every county within the state. The agency is also one that is likely to come under a ton of pressure within the next year, for political reasons. It is also a position that I can get booted from at the governor’s discretion.

    After the interview next week, I’m likely going to take Alison’s advice and assume I didn’t get it, but until then I can’t help but feel nervous as heck – it’s also my first in-person interview in five years, as my previous two were remote.

  53. Hawk*

    How do you create structure for yourself when you have little structure in your job?

    I have ADHD (and other neurodivergences) and I thrive in a space where there is a structure to scaffold off of. For example, if I know something needs to be sent in once a week, I use a recurring reminder on my to-do list (Habitica) to complete it on X day.

    I work in a public library. In theory we need to have programs and a display done each month. In practice, it’s an unwritten expectation with no deadlines. There is a programming timeline, but the nebulous “three weeks from program start” doesn’t help when I have to propose a date and wait for management to approve it first (I’m not a librarian, so it has to be done this way). How do I figure out my own deadlines?

    Any other similar advice for these kinds of things is much appreciated, especially from fellow neurodivergent folk.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      Ugh I would hate this. Is there a way to work it into a daily routine? Like if there’s a slow section of your day, you work on the no-deadline tasks, and even if its only ten minutes a day on the task you have to do some of it at the end/start of every day? That might not work if you fall into hyper focus though. Or you could use hindsight to revisit how much time you usually end up spending on this a month, divide it into weeks and then block our that amount of time for, say, every Friday afternoon. It will also clarify whether people are trying to snow you into believing it doesn’t really take any time, because “there’s no deadline”. That’s actually not all that helpful because “every month” is a deadline. Maybe make a deadline for you to begin on the first day of the last week of each month, so that there’s a week to get it ready for the following month?

    2. DisneyChannelThis*

      I give myself deadlines. “Can you get this proposal written up and back to me sometime in the next 3 weeks” I translate into proposal due 12/22 (~2 weeks), and put it on my calendar. I work better with deadlines.

    3. Mockingjay*

      Select the recurrence periods that work for you: “Hey, manager, I’ve drafted a schedule for the program displays to keep them fresh. Program plan is submitted on third Monday of each month for your approval. I’ll procure or obtain display supplies during the fourth week. Install/changeout display on first Tuesday of the month.”

      I love to present “solutions” that work for everyone, but are tailored for me. Managers usually sign off on the plan with minimal changes, then I’ve got the routine mapped out going forward.

    4. Parakeet*

      I pretend that there are deadlines to do specific parts of the project (based on my experience with how long certain tasks take, and trying to plan my days out to have workloads that are productive but not overwhelming) and write my task list accordingly.

      My task list is split into “projects” and “tasks.” The projects section lists every project on my plate that hasn’t been started or is in progress. For each project that’s in progress, there’s an associated next thing that needs to happen. Sometimes it’s something I need to do (“Incorporate [coworker]’s feedback into report”) or am currently doing (“Drafting slides for [presentation]”). Sometimes it’s waiting for someone else to do something (“Waiting for [boss] to review [written resource] draft”). The tasks section lists each day of the week, and then the things I intend to get done that day (“Draft at least 3 slides for [presentation],” “Follow up with Fergus from Metropolis Petting Zoo about setting llama hair styling training date,” “Record at least one video clip for e-learning module,” “All-staff meeting”). If a task is in progress I put a | next to it, and if it’s done I put an X next to it. The tasks section is subject to change based on emergent tasks, unexpected obstacles, etc, but I try to stick fairly closely to it.

  54. Charizard*

    Anyone have tips for managing someone with traits consistent with ADHD? (I’m not aware of a diagnosis, but I see many of these traits in them.) I’ve never had to work closely with someone with these traits before, and I would love any guidance on giving them instructions, feedback, organizing work, and anything else!

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      I know you mean well but you are trying to solve a problem before it exists. Making assumptions about employees gets you in trouble.

      You manage them with the same good management principles you would manage anyone – clear direction, clear feedback, reasonable deadlines etc.

      If they are not performing to standards, then you address what the performance issues are.

    2. Unkempt Flatware*

      I’ll answer as if this person was diagnosed and told you about it. I have pretty serious ADHD and I manage it w/o meds. It might seem counterintuitive but if I don’t have enough work to do, I find it almost impossible to do the work I do have. I need to be very busy. I also need to “watch” tv all day in order to stay productive. I cannot take traditional lunch breaks or I won’t be able to get back into the groove. If my boss or employer insisted on a lunch break, I’d have to look for a new job.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      The traits associated with ADHD are so wide and vary so much from person to person, that you really need to specify what kinds of issues you’ve had. Even then it’s probably a matter of dealing with the situation, rather than the person or their potential diagnosis. So, what kinds of situations are we talking about?

    4. ferrina*

      Is there a problem that you are trying to solve, or are you trying to troubleshoot?

      I’m ADHD, and a lot of the things that help me are the same things that help my neurotypical colleagues:

      Explicit expectations. This is helps everyone- anyone who has trouble reading social cues, anyone with different social/cultural expectations, anyone who is sleep-deprived, etc. Say what you want, when you want it, and if there are parts that you want special attention or where I should get creative?

      Midpoint check-ins. Again, this is something I use any time I work with a new person. It helps both of us- they get feedback that helps them tailor their work, and I get to make sure that the work is progressing as I want. It’s an awful experience for both of us if they spend hours on something and I hate it. Bonus: helps me assess if staying on deadline might be an issue. The first time I work with someone, I schedule check-ins for: 10% through the project, 50% through the project and a quick “are we still good?” at 85% through. The 10% check in is after they are able to do a little bit of the work but haven’t invested hours. It lets me see if we are on the same page, or if I miscommunicated my expectations . Same with 50%- they’ve had more of a chance to go through, really start working, and I get to do a quick check to say “Yes, I like this part” or “we need to change this part”. Make sure you say both what you like and dislike- the likes can be more important than dislikes, because it tells them what you envision as the end goal. You should also tailor the check-ins. If someone needs more assistance, do it more. If they are doing well, you can do less.

      Have dedicated time to chat. Again, true for any time someone joins your team. Set aside meetings that are times to just check in about general well-being. Really dedicate yourself to listening. This is a time for them to ask those weird questions, or share ideas, or just to get to know each other. Often new joiners can feel shy or “troublesome” by “interrupting” you with questions, even if you tell them you want the questions! Assuage their guilt and hesitation by proactively having a time set aside for those random questions.

      Give flexibility where you can, and transparency when you can’t. When you can, give people the flexibility they need to thrive. This might look like flexible dress or flexible hours or flexible location or sometimes flexible processes. Let people utilize the systems that work for them (especially important for ADHD folks, but really important for everyone). If you can’t give flexibility, explain why (“it’s important we log our data this way because it feeds into back end data that is used by another team” or even “I’m not a fan, but the CEO is and CEO will check this, so we really need it up to date”) A key part with giving people flexibility is that the flexibility is to help them work better, not just flexibility for flexibility’s sake. Which brings us to our next point…

      Communicate concerns clearly. Again, helps everyone, but so few managers are good at this. Be direct and kind- address the behavior, not the person, as the issue. “Hey, you haven’t been logging X. We really need to log X- what’s going on there?” Listen to them. Maybe there’s a process thing they need to solve. Maybe you need to solve it. Maybe they just need to buckle down. It’s okay to say “Okay, I need you to block 30 minutes on your calendar each day to log this. I want to try this for the next couple weeks, then we’ll touch base and see how it’s going.” Set a time to check in. Make it collaborative- if they want to try to solve it on their own, it’s usually a good idea to try their idea before going to your idea, because they likely have a better sense of what will work for them. Sometimes you can’t, and that’s fine too. I’ve pulled rank in these convos before (“I hear you, but I really want to start with X first. Let’s do that.”). The important thing is to follow up to make sure that the system is working, and change it if it’s not. And keep conversations short. Think of the amount of time you spend talking as a guage of how important it is- not important things should be a “Hey, need you to take care of this, thanks”.

      Recognize what goes right. This is so, so important for any manager, but especially a manager for someone who has been criticized a lot in the past. You will have no idea who has had a hypercritical former boss or parent, which is why this is important to do for everyone, but ADHD folks often experience more criticism than their neurotypical peers from the time that they are small kids. So tell your teammates (ALL OF THEM) what they are doing right. “I love how you designed this slide!” “Great job on that presentation- I’d love to see you do more of them! You’re a great speaker!” or even just “Oh, I like your idea- let’s talk more about that!” Don’t think just because something goes well, it doesn’t deserve time. “This project went really well- I’d love to hear about what steps you took that made this go so smoothly!”

      These are general suggestions that help with managing ADHD folks in particular (but really, help with managing almost anyone). If there’s a specific problem you’re running into, let us know.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        Ooh this reminds me of something that is very me-specific but I’m putting it out here for OP simply because it drives me nuts. I hate being given important or lengthy information verbally – not always but we have a whole-staff meeting that is a half hour to an hour of just listening, with no participation (so you might as well as turn my brain off). They used to put the headline stuff in a follow up written bulletin that was very helpful. When reading it, I was always amazed at the key stuff I had totally missed. Note-taking didn’t work, because it was a lot of feel-good non-task fluff that you just wouldn’t write down, but with the odd key directive slid into the middle here and there unexpectedly. I also had a senior person recently set up a meeting with me verbally while we were walking, and there was loads of distractions around us. By the time I got back to my desk I couldn’t remember what time we’d said at all.

        1. ferrina*

          Great point! Always give important information through multiple mediums- verbally and written (bullet points are best). Again, this is important for everyone.
          I initially started using this strategy as a response for my own ADHD, but my coworkers loved it so much that when I got my current role, they wrote one of the responsibilities to be an information curation and dissemination expert.

        2. I Have RBF*

          Yes! My neurological deficits from ADHD and brain injury are such that if it isn’t written down, it might as well not exist. If they have problems remembering verbal instructions (which can happen due to a lot of different neurological conditions or traits), follow up with a written note.

    5. anonadhd*

      If the employee says something is difficult/confusing/etc that is perfectly clear to you and you can’t even see how it could be hard for someone: believe them. That doesn’t mean they don’t have to do the hard thing if it’s an important job function, but being told “just do it, it’s trivially easy” over and over again is wrenching.

      Are there ways they can work around the hard thing? Is it actually necessary or is it just the way you’d get the end results that are the really important thing? And if not, just acknowledging that you’re asking them to do a difficult thing and praising when they’ve done it successfully in proportion to how hard it is for them, not for you, can go a long way.

      Obviously, if the person isn’t meeting standards, there’s more to do, but if you have someone that’s good at their core work and you’re trying to encourage them and help them improve the small bits they do struggle with, listen, believe them and explicitly say that. Most of us have a level of hurt from years of being told that things we don’t understand are so trivial that they’re not worth explaining and anyone who “doesn’t understand” is just lying because they don’t want to do it. So we’re a little sensitive about it and that’s not your job to fix but a bit of acknowledgment that they’re struggling and you want to help them figure out a solution that works for them will go a long way in building trust.

      And there’s enough of us ND folks here that if you get a specific request for help from the employee we can make suggestions if you’re stuck on “how to help someone do something I think of as like breathing—automatic and I don’t know how I do it “.

      1. ferrina*

        If the employee says something is difficult/confusing/etc that is perfectly clear to you and you can’t even see how it could be hard for someone: believe them.

        *Applause*
        I can do ridiculously hard things, but struggle with really basic things. Sometimes I know exactly what to do, but getting myself to do the thing is ridiculously hard. I need to build in time to psych myself up and to wind down. My mom never believed me that something easy for her was hard for me, especially since I had a really high IQ. It was awful.

      2. Charizard*

        Thanks so much you all! This is really helpful to me! I think I’ve figured out ways to work through some of the issues that were new for me, but one thing I’m still struggling with is the person’s tendency to move a discussion into other directions before we finish talking about a specific task. Thus far, I listen and wait to find out how it fits into what we are discussing, but then I realize that it doesn’t. Then I get distracted trying to make sure I communicate what I intended with the initial discussion and respond to the other (unrelated) comments that were brought up. I’m not one to interrupt and I want to hear their input, so maybe I need to talk to them about sticking to the agenda items and save other questions for after?

        I have found bullet points to be effective, too! I think it’s too early to say if they are meeting standards, but they take feedback well. I’ll remember the points about praise and flexibility too.

        1. ferrina*

          Oh, this is such a common ADHD thing! I laughed because this is definitely me- my conversations can go everywhere if I’m not careful.

          First thing I’d do is start the meeting by defining what you want to get out of it. Is this a meeting where you need to stick to the agenda, or where it’s fine to meander?
          If you clarify at the beginning that you want to get through the agenda before opening the floor to other topics, you’ve 1) helped everyone know what the conversation rules are, and 2) set yourself up to be able to interrupt to enforce that. When someone (anyone) gets off topic, you can say “Sorry to interrupt you, but I’m a bit confused. Is this relating to [agenda item]? If not, can we pause on this so we can finish the agenda first?”
          If you never have time for the extra items, just spend a minute at the end to say “I know we couldn’t get to X today. Person, how about we add that to our regular 1:1 check in?” Just make sure you get back to it so they know you still are interested and appreciate it. It signals to others that you want to hear those thoughts, you just prefer that they take place in the 1:1 check-ins (or whatever meeting makes sense for you)

          1. Charizard*

            Thank you so much for taking the time to reply, ferrina. I’m keeping your advice in my notes and I’m going to use this approach next week! It makes a ton of sense. Also important to remember that there are times when it’s okay to meander.

        2. anonadhd*

          I totally do this for at least three different reasons and there’s some varying strategies:
          1. New topic is related in the weird ways adhd brains form connections and employee thinks they’re on the same topic. Ask if it’s related.
          2. Rambling together as adhd version of small talk/friendly bonding. Okay to cut off but if there is time, treat it like normal small talk occasionally, even if the flow feels really weird to you. Check if there’s an actual urgent topic before cutting it off.
          3. Employee was reminded somehow of something they really do need to discuss with you and is afraid (consciously or unconsciously) that they’ll forget it if they don’t address it Right Now. (Which is a very valid fear for adhd brains.) Visibly add it to the agenda and make sure it does get addressed in the appropriate timeframe (might not be this meeting).

          Ideally for #3 they’d have a coping mechanism (carry a notebook or whatever) and that’s something to suggest if they’re derailing large meetings but one-on-one just do the bookkeeping yourself.

        3. Loredena*

          Definitely agree to an agenda with time for other questions at the end. Maybe jot a quick tickler when they go off on a tangent. This is something i tend towards myself and while I can tell you how the convo went from a to z i know it is frustrating!

      3. I Have RBF*

        And there’s enough of us ND folks here that if you get a specific request for help from the employee we can make suggestions if you’re stuck on “how to help someone do something I think of as like breathing—automatic and I don’t know how I do it “

        This is so important. It’s like trying to teach someone how to walk when you don’t even remember learning. Yet physical therapists do it a lot.

        Some people are natural at certain things that others have to learn by practice and instruction. It doesn’t mean that one is better than the other. But someone who is a natural at X may not be able to teach it, because they “just do it.” Someone else who learned by trial, error and lots of practice may be better at teaching it.

    6. RagingADHD*

      Nevermind “traits.”

      What are they having problems with? In what ways are they failing to meet expectations? In what ways are they causing problems for other people?

      That’s what you manage.

      If they are not following instructions, address that directly and ask whether it would help them to have a checklist or get the instructions in a different format.

      If they are disorganized, address the impact of it (losing files, missing deadlines, etc) and ask them to work with you in creating solutions.

      In other words, manage them like any other intelligent human being with strengths and weaknesses – encourage their strengths and follow up on their weaknesses.

    7. kalli*

      People with ADHD are still just people. They are not zoo animals in need of specific care to replicate their natural habitat so that they can function, they are not in remedial education or supported working, so you don’t need to armchair diagnose them based on “traits” and internet stereotypes, you don’t need to give them any different treatment that they haven’t identified, requested, or negotiated based on their actual medical needs and voiced preferences, and you certainly shouldn’t be doing so based on an armchair diagnosis because that is discrimination, it is not likely to actually help the person since it’s not actually about their needs but what you think their needs are, and it puts you in the situation of managing a person based on assumptions and stereotypes instead of them as an actual real life employee.

      If you are communicating clearly and have the authority to manage effectively, you should be fine; that goes for everyone on your team. If you do that and an employee needs something more specific from you they will then know they can discuss that with you and a solution will be respected; again, that goes for everyone on your team whether they have one of the many presentations and combinations of factors that gets diagnosed as ADHD when people have the money and time to get such a diagnosis, whether they have CFS or ABI or long covid or a long torso or whatever departure from society’s default person leads them to ask for an accommodation whether it’s a different chair or different hours.

  55. Lily Rowan*

    Argh, I am feeling like a dumbass. I had an interview with a recruiter earlier this week, which I was thinking would be a basic phone screen, but she asked me literally every question you might expect to be asked in a hiring process (many many “tell me about a time” qs) and I was not prepared! I know better! Argh.

    Oh well — I’m not sure I would want the position anyway.

    1. econobiker*

      If the recruiter was internal to the company that is a learning experience for you in that she was prequalifying you prior to forwarding you to the hiring manager or committee. If the recruiter was a 3rd party recruiter, she should have informed you beforehand that it would be an indepth interview pretty much dress rehearsal for the real interview.

    2. skaeuqs*

      econobiker’s response reminded me that I had a very similar experience with an in-house recruiter. I had reached out the the recruiter to ask some questions about the role before applying, they got their wires crossed and somehow though THEY scheduled an interview with ME. So I too had to come up with answers to behavior-based questions for what I thought was an informational interview (for me, not them).

      Turns out this was indicative of the entire search, which was failed before any candidates reached the interview stage. They postponed the search a whole year (this was an executive director position). I consider it a bullet dodged.

  56. Unfettered scientist*

    I’m going to have co-op students (grad level) for the first time next year! I’m in pharma. Any tips? I’m trying to calibrate how much structure to give them and balance this with the other needs of my job.

    1. Jane Bingley*

      Congrats!

      My number one tip is to over, over, over-communicate. Don’t be afraid to say things 3 or 5 times. Don’t hesitate to give clear and direct instructions. When you’ve been in the workplace for a while it can feel weird to sort of order someone around – not how you’d treat a colleague! – but this is different on two counts. First, they’re not yet colleagues and still learning; second, they’re in school and still very used to communication that’s direct/instructive with immediate feedback if they make mistakes. So you’re unlikely offend them by being clear and correcting them.

      That applies to both the work they do and social/professional norms. It’s okay to be clear about everything from dress code to how your team prefers to communicate to soft skills with both colleagues and patients. Don’t be afraid to politely correct them on cell phone use or email tone – it’s just as much part of work as pharma work!

    2. BellyButton*

      I like to have a very specific project and tasks to transfer to them, planned out with time lines for deliverables, training, feedback, and meetings. For my last intern I had them coordinating an upcoming function- booking the rooms, ordering food, coordinating the tech needed for the facility, communication schedule, etc. I also had them working on a comp analysis with one of my other employees.

    3. Nesprin*

      Start with lots of structure and titrate down as competence is demonstrated. I ascribe to the see one done by me, do one while observed, do one alone model for new protocols.

      Do require your students to talk to your coworkers (we require 0.5-1 hr get to know me sessions)

      And make the last week report writing & reagent organizing + data curating. We have a formal “where are all the things you worked with during your internship” form that’s been a lifesaver in more than 1 case.

    4. Velociraptor Attack*

      I used to oversee co-op students and the biggest tip I had for their placement sites is that they WILL have some gaps in soft-skills and you’re doing them a service to help with that.

    5. Violet Newstead*

      I’ve had many co-ops over the years also in pharma, but mostly undergrads. I generally find it best to have a specific project that the co-op is supposed to work on and accomplish during their time. Often it’s some incredibly tedious but necessary study like running the same reaction in a bunch of different conditions or temperatures, etc. My co-ops usually had other duties as well related to working with the whole group – making basic reagents or data support. Helping them learn to balance more routine work with the project planning is a good skill.
      I usually met with my co-ops a lot. At the start there is lots of training and setting of expectations. Then a combination of informal check-ins and more structured meetings with an agenda where they need to come prepared with results, plans, and problems. With the undergrads, I always found any report writing or presentation creating took twice as long as I thought it should because they weren’t great about professional report writing. Grad level co-op might require less structure from you, but probably better to start off with more and pull back as necessary.
      And if they are doing lab work, make sure you know your company’s rules about co-ops working alone and be extremely clear about all the safety standards.

  57. TheKittensAreInTheServerRoomAgain*

    Hello. I would appreciate advice on how to handle a situation with my former employer. They recently emailed me documents with very sensitive information of the kind leading to things like possible identity theft. The email was not encrypted. I’m an IT professional, so I understand why email is not secure and all the ways this was a poor decision, but I know many people in other departments don’t. How can I professionally, and in nontechnical terms, explain their mistake without screaming they owe me identity theft monitoring? And I’d love to suggest a policy to not email this kind of data without coming across as sour grapes. Thanks!

    1. ferrina*

      Ooh, this is delicate. Especially because most HR folks aren’t connected with the IT/InfoSec folks.

      I might say something like:
      “Thank you for sending these documents! I really appreciate your time, especially the quick turn around! [Start with appreciation for what they did].

      I know this isn’t in your wheelhouse, but you may want to consider shifting to a secure ftp, like [example- give them a name of something they can immediately adopt with minimum effort] for documents like this. Most people think of email as secure, but unencrypted emails can actually be hacked pretty easily. When I send docs like this for personal use, I always use X instead of email. Just thought you might want to look into it- I’d hate for the worst to happen! I loved working for [Company], and I hope you continue to grow! [or something to show that you have only fond memories, implying that you wish them well.”

      Then let them do with it what they will. If they won’t listen to a quick solution, they won’t listen to a longer one.
      Of course, if they are likely to be testy or nasty, I’d leave it alone.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        That’s a compliment sandwich right there…

        I think instead, if you know the current IT folks still there, bring it to their attention rather than the offender’s.

    2. Chamomile T Shirt*

      This happened to me. Because there’s a chance they might need to send you other confidential documents in the future, it’s important to tell them right away – and quite firmly – not to do it again! If they have access to and responsibility for sending sensitive documents, they definitely should know better. No need to sugarcoat the message. When this happened to me, I emailed my former employer and said, “While I appreciate your efforts to get these documents to me promptly, sending personal, sensitive information by email puts me at risk for identity theft. Please be advised that my confidential information is not to be sent to me by email. There are a number of secure methods for transmitting confidential information, such as (X, Y, Z). Please use one of these options for any future communications involving sensitive information.” I like your idea of suggesting a policy. It’s not “sour grapes” to expect them to safeguard your confidential information. It sounds like you’re worried about coming off in a negative way, but what you need to focus on here is that your former employer is in the wrong.

  58. Support human*

    Asking so I can support a friend:
    Friend works in a federal department that has traditionally told them they cannot work more than 40 hours per week. If overtime is approved, they receive compensation in the form of hourly pay and/or extra leave. They are now being told by their boss that they are being overlooked for a promotion because they are not open to working voluntary overtime, which is still, according to their understanding, outside policy. Does anyone have experience with overtime within federal agencies? Or are they all different?

    1. The New Wanderer*

      Anytime I have to work OT in my federal position (which is rare), I need to put in a formal request and have it approved and it has to be coded properly. It’s true that managers can request that employees perform OT as needed, but never that it’s unpaid. I have never heard of voluntary overtime as a thing, and I believe it is against policy (just checked, all OT has to be paid or granted as credit hours in lieu of pay). I’m sure it happens on occasion, but there would be no way of management tracking it because the timecards have to reflect actual hours worked, so how does the boss even know if your friend doesn’t do extra unpaid hours unless they’ve asked and friend has said no?

      In other words, using the excuse “not open to working voluntary overtime” sounds sketchy, and a manager who expects unpaid overtime to the extent that they know who does it and who doesn’t is breaking policy by appearing to require it.

      1. not me but*

        I read “voluntary” as meaning could be worked by whoever volunteers, as opposed to mandated or required overtime, not as unpaid.

      2. Support human*

        What you’re describing sounds like my understanding of their understanding of their job. Overtime has always been paid/comp time. But grandboss “thinks we should be working more than 40 hrs per week without compensation.” “I think I can also work overtime without being paid, but it’s voluntary.” “won’t approve me to be a supervisor unless I voluntarily work overtime.”

    2. not me but*

      my SO works in a federal department and works overtime almost every week (almost never able to take PTO even it’s awful), so I assume they are all different.
      Could it be that in your friend’s position, their role is not approved for overtime but others could be? Maybe “open to working overtime” is a box checked on a form somewhere that could be changed if your friend truly is open to it, even if not allowed to work overtime now?

      1. Support human*

        They’re not actually open to it, is the thing. The strict 40 hours (unless compensated), is something that they’ve enjoyed about their job and is possibly enough to make them move to a different one if this unpaid overtime thing is real.

  59. Really whiny post about academia*

    I’ve posted about my tenure process a couple times over the last several months, and gotten helpful, supportive answers.
    The vote happened this week, it went really well, and all my coworkers said very nice things about me. It’s not official yet, but as far as my department is concerned, it’s a done deal.

    First, I felt massive relief. I still do! I get to keep my job, which I enjoy, and I don’t have to move or job hunt. Also, my coworkers like me well enough to keep me around.

    Then I had a meltdown because I feel like a fundamentally stupid person who only managed to trick my coworkers by being good at an extremely narrow and useless skill set. Imposter syndrome on paper, maybe, but I regularly make foolish, ignorant choices in life. I don’t understand finances or mechanics or insurance, or anything that’s actually useful and required in the modern world. Serving on committees and writing research articles aren’t good life skills.

    Today, I ugly cried because my dog died last year. I got her in college, she lived happily well into her teens, and this is the first major event in my adult life that she wasn’t around for. That was unpleasant and unexpected.

    I thought I’d be happy, and instead, I’m all over the place. wtf? Why are brains so *weird*? Why am I telling all this to strangers on the internet? And how do I untangle my emotional state from my job?

    1. Alex*

      I think this is so so normal. I have experienced something similar where logically I would be happy and relieved, and it wasn’t like I wasn’t, but my brain went into panic/crying/goo mode, and I had that reaction every time I talked about it for like a month. I had a less severe version of it the day I graduated from high school, which was extremely emotional in a lot of ways due to going to boarding school and I had to graduate/say goodbye to my friends and roommates/move out of my home all in like 5 hours.

      Tenure is an insane process with a lot of emotional ups and downs. Be gentle with yourself and just acknowledge what you are feeling without trying to judge it too much. And yeah, your doubts about yourself are 100% imposter syndrome, where you think everyone knows how to Life better than you do. Trust me, they don’t. We’re all out here faking it till we make it.

    2. This Daydreamer*

      I think you were pushing back a lot of anxiety and imposter syndrome to get through the tenure process, and now it’s safer to let some of that out!

    3. Kate B.*

      Tenure is not a reflection on whether you have good life skills or understand insurance (unless that’s what you’re teaching); it is EXACTLY about whether you’re good at a narrow skill set, plus serving on committees and writing research articles. These are the things you’re employed to do! You’re not tricking anyone (unless you’re committing research fraud or something). I would guess you have many tenured colleagues who also make ignorant choices in their daily life. The academy likes to treat tenure as if it is a referendum on your entire personhood/existence, but that’s the lie.

      Brains are weird. It’s pretty typical to have an emotional crash after a stressful process liek this, even one that has gone well and is satisfying.

      I’m very sorry about your dog and it’s sad that she can’t be there for you.

      1. Really whiny post about academia*

        “The academy likes to treat tenure as if it is a referendum on your entire personhood/existence”

        Very true. I know in my head that approach is not accurate or helpful, and it’s just a job at the end of the day, but it seems the whole process affected me more than I thought.
        Thanks for your kind words

    4. Dulcinea47*

      You know what, I was just at a meeting yesterday where someone mentioned how depressed people get immediately after getting tenure or getting a PhD! (I just started a tenure track job three months ago, myself.) So I think this sounds all very normal, it’s emotional when you work so very hard on something super esoteric for a very long time and then BOOM no more. I think you just let yourself feel the emotions and eventually they’ll settle down.

      1. iced coffee in winter*

        I think it’s really normal in general to have a mood crash after hitting major goals, because your whole life baseline has shifted under you! At least, I recently hit one of my major life goals and I thought I’d be thrilled, but instead it dropped me into a months-long “oh god how is this big life change going to impact everything else that matters to me, why try to achieve anything if I can’t even be happy afterwards, etc.” mood crash that I’m just digging out of.

        1. I Have RBF*

          Yeah, I had the same kind of reaction after I closed on my first house.

          Change, even good change, is hard, plus brains and emotional responses are weird.

          I call it the “stress letdown reaction”, where after a period of stress, that you’ve been concentrating on coping with and finally resolved, suddenly goes away. Your brain goes “Where did the rock I was pushing against go? Waaaah, fall over!”

          It’s perfectly normal.

    5. ferrina*

      I am giving you all the hugs right now.
      I’m having a really hard time this year too, and I have no idea why. There’s a ton of things it could be attributed to, but really, I don’t know why I’m all over the place right now. I am also doing really well at work (and wow! congrats on your tenure!) but I feel like an imposter.

      One thing that helps me is to think about what I would tell me if I were a friend. If my best friend got tenure, how would I feel? Would I be proud of them and delighted, knowing they had earned this through hard work and brilliant research? Would I think, yeah, the department is lucky to have them, and I’m glad the department recognizes that! Or would I think “pff, this person who isn’t a mechanic should know about mechanics. Tenure is a joke anyways- this person is a fraud”? If your BFF would say that last thing, they are a terrible friend.

      So why are we so terrible to ourselves? Good news- there’s specialists who study that. Because having specialists is important. Having people that are weirdly obsessed over something is how we discover amazing things. Not everything interesting or important is in the open- we need specialists like you to see things, understand the implications, and help bring it to a broader audience. We need you to inform and inspire the geniuses of the future.

      I hope you can be kind to yourself. When you catch your inner monologue tearing you down, turn it into a dialogue. “Wow, that’s really harsh! I don’t deserve to have that said.” Name what you are feeling- “I’m feeling really critical right now. I’m also feeling really sad” If you know why, say why. Feelings are like symptoms- denying them won’t help and usually makes things work, but recognizing them and understanding where they are coming from helps you address the root cause. And sometimes that cause is “I just experienced something big and life changing that I’ve been working toward for a long time. My brain is reacting to that in a weird way, so let’s just give myself some time to be where I am. It will adjust in a little bit if I’m gentle with myself. If not, I’ll take the next step, but first let’s get some rest and do whatever care I need for myself.”

    6. Tio*

      ” I don’t understand finances or mechanics or insurance, or anything that’s actually useful and required in the modern world. Serving on committees and writing research articles aren’t good life skills.”

      More people don’t understand these things than you think. I’m an executive with a six figure job and I will never, ever understand how car goes vroom. Both myself and my boss can’t make a pretty powerpoint presentation to save our lives – we have a guy for that. I promise you’re probably doing way better than you think at life!

      Also, your job is not paying you for any of those things. They’re paying you for those committee and article skills and they think you’re doing great at it! But, as you said, brains are weird. You’re probably just going to have to try and talk yourself out of it

      1. Really whiny post about academia*

        My finances would be in better shape if I could repair my own car and navigate the hellscape of American health insurance. My pretty powerpoints just seem so impractical in comparison!
        Ah well, that’s life.

        1. Tio*

          Don’t underestimate a good powerpoint! If my boss and I were left to our own devices, our ppts would be walls of text and everyone would be asleep by the time we go to the point where we go “Here’s where we save you a million dollars”. You can actually hear our excitement when we mention sending out our work to get freshened up!

  60. YetAnotherAnalyst*

    How do you handle promotions/raises at places where there really is no room for negotiation? For example, our company does promotions and raises at the beginning of the year, with occasional emergency off-cycle promotions at the beginning of the quarter. I pointed out to my boss back in July that it had been a few years since my last promotion and maybe we should talk about that. He agreed that I was due a promotion and said he’d get the ball rolling. Most likely, I’ve got a promotion coming up in January, but I don’t know what my title will be, or what the job description is (if it’s at all different from my current one), or what my new salary will be. If this goes at all like my last promotion, I’ll find out when it’s announced to the team on January 2, and I’ll find out the salary when I get my first paycheck at the new rate a few weeks later. It’s a silly system, but apparently it’s what we do.

    1. ferrina*

      It sounds like they only give you one way to handle it- take it or leave it.
      There’s generally not much you can do about a system-wide problem, unless you are someone who is in charge of the system. You can talk to your boss about how this is a silly way to do it- Boss probably can’t change anything, but flagging that This Is An Issue means it’s slightly more likely to get solved. And if you have any way to do feedback (internal satisfaction survey?) you can share this there too.
      But someone at the top needs to care and do something to get this solved.

    2. Never Knew I Was a Dancer*

      I acknowledge that companies have their own cultures and bureaucracy can be a thing, but—please, never assume that once you are informed about the raise, you can’t go back to a person or people to talk about it. They might not make the path to do that intuitive, but you will not get fired for trying that. (Unless you’re working at BananaPants Corp., anyway.)

      Some thoughts:
      – You can still treat this as a conversation of sorts, even if they aren’t presenting it as one—in other words, you have the space to speak up.
      – You can ask your boss if they’ve heard any part of the conversation, or if they know how raises, promotions, and titles are decided, or if your tasks and responsibilities will change based on a promotion or new title.
      – If your boss hasn’t, you can ask them who the people are who are involved with the decision (HR folks maybe?)
      – You could ask one of the HR people how raises and promotions are decided and calculated
      – If/When you find out what your raise, promotion, and title are (fingers crossed for you!), you can go back to whoever does the announcement/HR/people involved in that decision to ask for clarification. If you’re not satisfied with the title or the raise, it’s not illegal to go back to them and say, with better wording than this, that you believe your output and impact and responsibilities are proportionate to [Title/Salary] B instead of [Title/Salary] A.
      – If you don’t get any of these at all, you can absolutely go to both boss and HR people to try and ask if they can share the reasons why, and what changes to your performance would result in getting those things you want.

      Sure, if you go back and ask for a different title or raise, they might say no. In which case, it’s the same outcome as if you didn’t ask, but you may gain more insight into what the heck is going on, and you’re still taking back some of your agency in this situation (which is still worth something even if you don’t get the outcome you want). But it might also result in getting something closer to what you actually want.

      Like negotiating a salary after a job offer—it doesn’t hurt to try, and you may gain something simply by asking.

      I hope you end up getting the news you want!

    3. NoNegotiation*

      I’ve never been given the option to negotiate any raise I’ve ever gotten, whether a normal raise or associated with a promotion.

      I have had conversations about it when told there would be no raises and I pushed back once when I was told no one was getting a raise because someone got a promotion and that took all of the available money, but I didn’t get anywhere. They’ve always been set by the company with no space to negotiate.

  61. Lynn*

    I just began a new internal position. I have worked somewhat closely with my new manager in different capacities for a long time — we started as counterparts for the same process on different teams and became friends (largely from commiserating over how that particular process was run), and I moved teams and she became the manager of that team about a year later. There was a management shuffle and she was assigned to a different team but we kept in touch and she was a mentor to me for a while.

    Now that I am officially working for her again, I want to make sure that I don’t take advantage of that friendship or otherwise put us in an awkward position. I already know I will need to cut back slightly on personal chit-chat. Any guidance or watch outs?

    1. Workerbee*

      Talk to her! I had a buddy-to-boss once upon a time, and we sat down and hammered out how we’d interact. In our case, we agreed to be mindful about not using our friendship unfairly, about not sharing the same things (work gossip, commiserating over people, and other stuff), and basically to keep our personal friendship offline, as it were. Sure, it takes some extra paying of attention at first, but things will realign.

  62. November Juliet*

    I have a variation of the yesterday’s question about avoiding everything Christmasy at work as a non-Christian. I do not want to participate in any festivities and I hate to pretend that I enjoy them. But I have been at my company for a little over 2 years and have attended the past two Christmas parties, because I felt that it is important to attend in order to build up my reputation in the company and get to know the coworkers better. I have never told anyone at work that I am not a Christian and do not celebrate. And now I feel weird backing out of all the Christmas festivities in the office (decorating, coworkers gifting santa-shaped chocolates to me, attending Christmas party), because I am afraid coworkers will notice this change compared to previous year. Am I overthinking if? What should I say if some pushy coworker asks why I am refusing to participate this year, but was fine doing it last year? I really, really want to back out, because this year Christmas activities in the office are way more intense than they used to be before, and because my mental health is not as great as it used to be, and it is harder for me to put up with all this.

    1. BellyButton*

      You can say “I don’t have the time/bandwidth to participate this year. I hope you are enjoying all the festivities!”

    2. Hlao-roo*

      December tends to be a busy month for many people (year-end deadlines at work, Christmas shopping and parties for Christmas-celebrating people, more people getting sick more often with winter illnesses, etc.). Most people won’t press for details if you give a bland “not this year, I’m busy” answer. That should work for most things, like decorating and attending the Christmas party.

      For something like people giving you Santa-shaped chocolates, follow whatever is the path of least resistance for you. For some people, that might be accepting the chocolates with a polite “thanks” and quietly tossing them later. For others, it might be a white-lie refusal (like “oh, I [have enough chocolate at this time of year/am allergic to chocolate/etc.]. Thanks for thinking of me, but I can’t accept”). If you feel comfortable being “out” as non-Christian, you could try to push back on religious grounds, but unfortunately some people will try to argue “Santa is secular,” and you might not feel up for that particular rigmarole this year (or ever).

    3. Dulcinea47*

      get a time machine, go back in time, and don’t participate to begin with, b/c it’s more likely to draw attention now than if you’d said xmas wasn’t your think from the beginning.

      but truly, anyone who pushes you on this is being kind of a jerk, it’s okay to just say “I don’t have as much time/energy this year” or something equally non specific.

      I just tell people I don’t celebrate xmas. I’ll go to the “holiday” party but I’m not doing secret santa and whatnot. Because it has to do with religion, no one ever pushes back out, of fear of crossing some kind of discriminatory line.

    4. Fluffy Fish*

      Depends on how comfortable you are being honest and the vibe of your workplace.

      I’ll kind of try to give you the spectrum from upfront to more vague but there’s lots of room in between.

      I am pretty direct about not participating in things personally would say, “I wanted to participate when I first started as a way of getting to know my colleagues, but as I don’t celebrate Christmas I don’t plan to partake in the festivities moving forward.”

      “I’m not able to participate this year for personal reasons, but thanks for thinking of me.”

      Both should be said in a cheery matter of fact tone and its a good idea to follow up “I hope you all have fun!”

    5. But Not the Hippopotamus*

      “Oh, yeah, I don’t really do Xmas, but I figured when I was new it was a good way to meet people. Have fun!”

    6. Ellis Bell*

      If it’s outing yourself as non-Christian that you’re worried about, I don’t think the change is as obvious as you think it is. It’s pretty human for people to be invested in getting to know people when they are still new! It will be chalked up to that without your saying anything, and that’s if people even notice. There will be plenty of culturally Christian people who went to the Christmas party their first year, who don’t want to go a third time. It’s also pretty common for Christmas celebrants to have a hard year with the holiday here and there, where they aren’t as into it as other years. It’s such a behemoth of a holiday were effort is concerned: hugely draining and overwhelming. The in-work hour stuff can be avoided with “I’m really busy this year” or “I’m just all Christmassed out already.” If it feels good at your company to do so, and you’re okay with being open about being non Christian I wouldn’t worry about (reasonable) people trying to gotcha you about the fact that you joined in the celebrations before. Saying: “It wasn’t to celebrate Christmas, I just wanted to get to know people when I was new” is the most reasonable thing in the world to say, and if they pursue it further than that, you can’t make unreasonable people reasonable.

  63. kg*

    first time poster here: I had an awkward meeting this morning, which started with me discussing with my boss how to get other people on our team more involved, which eventually led to a rant from my coworker that broke down to everyone not at our meeting sucks at their jobs. From talking to my boss in the past and seeing his reaction today, he already understood what’s going on but hasn’t really intervened, and I don’t know if he knows HOW to intervene.

    just here half to bitch, half to ask is there anything I even CAN do right now if my boss isn’t making the moves? (I am currently a very junior employee but am in talks to move up in a few months)

    1. ferrina*

      Ugh, this sucks.
      It really depends on what is going on and how much political and social capital you have. Oh, and how sane your coworkers are.

      Sometimes the best move is to stay out of it. Sometimes these are problems you can’t solve, or that you don’t have the ear of the right person to solve.

      Sometimes you can bring ideas to the boss. “Hey Boss, I was thinking about what coworker said, and I was wondering if X might help. Obviously you’d know better than I would if that’s feasible, but just thought I’d mention it.” The trick here is to say your idea but not invest in it until Boss gives you the go-ahead. Be careful on this- sometimes the person that suggests it is the person that has to do it, so make sure that whatever you suggest is something you are willing and able to do (and if you are thinking, “surely the boss won’t ask me to do their job!”, I have had several bosses who have 100% expected me to do their job)

      Sometimes it’s just an issue of human connection. If your coworker is generally sane but stressed, sometimes just coming to them and brainstorming ideas together can help. It turns it from Every-Man-For-Himself to Team Challenge: Us vs This Issue. Note that this only works if you have a lot of social capital and charisma. And some people will always be unhappy no matter what, or are only happy if everyone only listens to and praises them. These are unreasonable people, and we do not try to reason with unreasonable people. It is a waste of breath and sanity.

      Good luck!

      1. kg*

        thank you :)

        I’ve actually been bringing up some issues with my boss as I see them, gently, as I’ve learned more about my organization, and to also just sit and listen to his perspective on it. I actually tried to go through *actionable* things we could do, but nothing has started, and it’s things I realistically can’t start on my own (primarily dealing with interlinked projects I am not formally a part of).

        I’ve only been at this job for a little over a year, but as far as I can tell people like me and believe and trust in my abilities. I do have a sizeable amount of capital, as far as I can tell, but based on my seniority (babiest employee of the bunch) I have to be careful using it.

        I wish it was possible to reach out to my coworker more, but I don’t think my coworker who went on the rant is the right person to work together with on this: he’s technically part time and has been in and out of the organization. (I think it’s a love/hate relationship for him: he’s done good, interesting work the times he’s been here and definitely knows his stuff.) And while I think he can put up the appearance of being polite and supportive of everyone, I think he’s become more honest with me in terms of how he actually sees our team, which is… not good.

        and he 1000% has a point, which sucks! for now, I help people out with their work and try to *model* good work but I don’t really have the ability to say “this is where your focus should be and you need to learn a, b and c to succeed” with any authority. (I am in a tech field and people aren’t keeping up with recent developments; their underlying skills are also debatable.)

        fun thing is a lot of this WILL become more of my problem in the coming months where I will at least have more power to do something about it: I’m being promoted to explicitly be my boss’s deputy in the early spring. I’m definitely inheriting a hard situation :/

      2. kg*

        Nooooo I had a long reply to this all written out and my phone ate it

        anyways, brief summary: thanks for the reply! have been floating ideas to my boss already but nothing has come of it. my coworker is outwardly polite, but in reality is actually cranky and opinionated, and not a good choice of ally for many, many reasons. also, I’m getting promoted to a place where this WILL become MY problem in the spring :’) terrifying because it’s a rough situation, exciting cos I’ll be in a place to actually start changing things for the better

  64. Ellis Bell*

    This is a literary question, but also a work one: can anyone suggest good short stories, or poems, or articles for my students who are aged 11-14? We are trying to put together a list of short reads to encourage students to read more widely and gain some cultural capital.. so it can be anything and doesn’t have to be linked to our curriculum at all so long as it’s school-appropriate. It would be a bonus if it touches upon two of our school values which are “achieve” and “believe”. We are also hoping for some more diversity in our characters perspectives than what is on our curriculum. Any ideas?

    1. ferrina*

      When I was that age, I loved The Rainbow People by Laurence Yep. I wasn’t a big short story reader, but really loved that collection. I might even still have that book somewhere….

      I also loved any collection curated by Bruce Colville. He tended to put together really good stories.

    2. violin squeaks*

      My fourth grader and I just read a fantastic book called Rez Dogs by Joseph Bruchac about a girl who sheltered in place with her grandparents during COVID on the reservation where they live. It’s told in verse inspired by oral storytelling. It’s 192 pages but goes quickly since it only has 80-100 words a page.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        Is there a particular chapter you would recommend as an extract? It sounds too amazing to leave out but would definitely bust the word count! They need to fit into one hour small group sessions so whole books are out.

        1. violin squeaks*

          If I had to pick one chapter, it would be chapter 5, but best if you could do chapters 5 – 7. I think they should be able to read through the three chapters in under 25 minutes so a lot of time for discussion still.

    3. Forrest Rhodes*

      Don’t know how uplifting it would be, Ellis, but for pure silliness and the joy of playing with words whose meanings I’m not sure if anyone actually knows, how about reading Jabberwock, by Lewis Carroll, out loud together?

      I did this with my niece and nephew when each was about 12-13, and in both cases it took us almost an hour because our laughing kept getting in the way of our reading. It was sheer fun and also brought them into the world of poetry (and my next “Let’s read this!” was, of course, Ogden Nash).

      The kids are 19 and 23 now, respectively, and they still throw some of those words at me.

    4. AnonyOne*

      Probably for some of the older students, but this article tells the story of the remarkable Vivien Thomas: https://www.washingtonian.com/2020/06/19/the-remarkable-story-of-vivien-thomas-the-black-man-who-helped-invent-heart-surgery/
      Thomas was a Black man in Tennessee in the 1930s. He had hoped to study medicine but during the Depression, at 19 applied for a job in a lab, and continued to work with the doctor who ran that lab for decades. While he had no official medical training, Thomas played a key role in the development of the heart operation that would save blue babies and helped to train generations of doctors who passed through that laboratory as students.
      It is a long article and it is a few years since I last read it in full, but it is the story of someone who made a huge contribution to science and medicine despite facing enormous obstacles. Thomas faced significant discrimination as a Black man (while it may not surprise you that that is part of the story, I am flagging given it is for students).

    5. Tessera Member 42*

      Harlem by Walter Dean Myers and illustrated in collage by his son Christopher Myers would be great for this age group – you can have them look up the references to people/places/cultural aspects of the Harlem Renaissance and connect it to discussions about race and/or city life today.

      Link to the text on the Internet Archive:
      https://archive.org/details/myrhrlm

      1. English teacher*

        source: I’m an 8th grade English teacher!

        Excerpts from The House on Mango Street, science fiction short stories by Asimov (The Veldt, The Fun They Had) and Bradbury (All Summer in a Day), short story Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut and The Lady or the Tiger by Frank Stockton, short story The Gift of the Magi, short stories by Neil Gaiman available online, poems by Langston Hughes (Harlem) and Emily Dickinson (Hope is the Thing with Feathers), The Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll, poem Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers by Adrienne Rich.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          We’ve got a few of these stories on other schemes already as much loved hits, so I’m definitely looking up the others!

    6. Diatryma*

      That’s such a tough age to pick for!

      Marissa Lingen’s work is always good. She has quite a lot of short fiction out, and a good chunk of it is in Futures from Nature, which means it’s very short.

      I like what I’ve read of Mary Oliver’s poetry. I can’t think of anyone who does freely available structured poetry, which is a shame.

  65. Sled Dog Mama*

    I have my annual review coming up and during it I will have the chance to request changes to my compensation. I know that the increase I’d like isn’t likely (at least not all of it) so I’m trying to brainstorm what else I could ask for. I already have a senior title and it wouldn’t make sense to change that without taking on additional responsibilities (like research or a management role) that I’m not interested in.
    The best ideas I have are asking for additional PTO (everything is one bucket), or asking for an increase in my education allowance (for travel to conference or continuing ed courses).
    Does anyone have other suggestions or any good scripts for requesting?

    1. Awkwardness*

      Additional mobile work days?
      Support with commuting costs, if applicable? For example, if you use public transport and have a monthly/yearly ticket, this might be paid by the employer.

    2. Never Knew I Was a Dancer*

      I’ll post some links to posts here that I’ve bookmarked. These are focused on salary specifically, but the scripts for negotiating still apply!

      As far as what to ask for—honestly I’d go with PTO myself in that kind of situation, and the education allowance sounds good too. Could you ask for an increased employee contribution to your retirement? I don’t think bonuses are typically up for discussion, but if they are at your company, might be worth a shot? Are there any other set amounts of money for employee perks that you might be able to ask about? (Example: If the company buys/reimburses you $100 a year for, idk, books related to your field or special equipment, could you ask for more?)

  66. Sunny SoCal*

    I know this has come up before, but I can’t find the post. What does one wear to interview somewhere very cold and snowy? I am a woman and I prefer wearing dresses. Also, any suggestions for footwear? Is it appropriate to wear snow boots and change inside?

    1. Hlao-roo*

      I found a few older posts that said yes, it’s OK to wear snow boots and change inside.

      Question #3 of “when your interviewer criticizes your clothes, interviewing in bad weather, and more clothing questions” from January 9, 2013

      Question #3 of “how can I ask my coworkers to stop talking about politics, interview shoes when it’s snowy, and more” from January 20, 2016

      Links in reply to this comment.

    2. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      I think it’s fine to change inside — I have done that and it feels awkward but if the weather is super crappy it is what it is. But depending how much walking you are doing if you can get away with wearing leather boots to get from car to door that’s the easiest path. Transit is harder.

      Dresses + tights + boots + heavy wool overcoat would be fine everywhere I have ever interviewed. I realize some places or industries might have different standards. (And I think dresses actually do better in rain/snow than pants, because then you don’t end up with a wet hem.)

    3. kiki*

      If you’re interviewing somewhere cold and snowy, changing into snow boots inside is likely going to be common and nothing of note to anyone working in that office.

      If you like wearing dresses, I recommend pairing them with fleece-lined tights. Sometimes those are even warmer than pants! One thing to be cautious of is if you tend to run hot. Getting the warmest possible tights might seem smart in the moment, but consider you’ll have to wear them inside too. If you are somebody who tends to overheat, choose a lower-grade lined tight.

      1. Sunny SoCal*

        Thank you! I discovered fleece lined tights on a work trip to Chicago last January and they were a lifesaver :) appreciate the help!

  67. JewishAndVibing*

    I’m nervous because I might have to request accomodation for the first time in my very short work career.

    Our new branch manager was very upset people weren’t there 8-5 one of the couple days he’s ever come in. As a result, my boss is pushing it and it’s… just not possible with my ADHD and sleep problems.

    I think I am mostly just nervous. My boss will probably take it well – after all, he was fine with the flexible start and end times before – but I’m unsure about my branch manager.

    Ironically, there’s a neurodivergence month happening on the front page of our employee website that talks about the way you can accommodate… including by having flexible start times.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I understand your nerves, but remember that getting an accommodation put in place is better than the alternative, which is getting negative feedback about your schedule and having to defend yourself under pressure. Start by talking to your boss about making a flexible start time official.

  68. Teapot Translator*

    I may have a phone screening interview next week. How do I prepare? Read and take notes on the job description, read my resume to refresh my mind… Something else?

    1. BellyButton*

      Make sure you have examples for the standard questions-
      Tell me about a time you were unable to meet a deadline?
      Tell me about a time when you and a coworker disagreed about the approach
      Tell me about a project you are particularly proud of.

    2. ferrina*

      Most phone screens are just a quick step to see if you can keep a meeting, make sure that you meet the basic qualifications and are somewhat coherent. Sometimes they’ll ask about your salary requirements to make sure that you are aligned. It’s better if they can provide their range, but sometimes they’ll want yours. On my last job search, I gave a range of 30k “depending on the exact requirements of the role”. No one pushed back against that wide of a range, and it gave me room later on to say “Based on what I now understand about the role, I’m thinking $XX”

      Every so often someone will turn a phone screen into a real interview. See a comment earlier from Lily Rowan that had that happen this week. So if you want to practice a few interview questions to get you in the head space, you could do that as a Just In Case (but really, I wouldn’t spend much time on that)

      1. pally*

        This!

        Also, read their website. Know what they do or sell (as best you can). A softball question is to ask you what you think about their website, products, customers or mission statement. You can be ignorant of the specifics, but not the general stuff (i.e., do they make hair products or provide financial advice?). They might ask what you found interesting about the website.

        If the recruiter is not local, they may ask if you are within commuting distance to the job. This is because they are unfamiliar with the area.

        Some like to give you a rundown of the benefits package and perks.

        Have a few questions ready as well. Maybe not general to the job duties, but more along the lines of company culture, why the position is open, outline of the department and who you’ll be working for, next steps in the hiring process, etc.

    3. Lily Rowan*

      Learn from my mistake, and be prepared for it to be a full-on interview. Have all of your examples and questions ready!

    4. econobiker*

      Prior to the phone call voice only interview:
      Have your resume in front of you, have a note pad and two pens to take notes and names /positions down if multiple people on the call, take down the inbound number if you get disconnected to call back or ask interviewer their direct number you get disconnected during the interview; do interview sitting up straight like in a desk chair or dining room chair ot on a sofa or easy chair because this affects your projection /voice tone, having a phone kick stand or stand can be advantageous for you to sit up straight in your chair when you are on speaker phone or if on corded earbuds, if using wireless ear buds make sure they are 100% charged, obviously locate in a quiet location without distractions (no pets, family members, noise, etc) even if it means sitting in a car outside.
      Source: multiple phone interviews prior to the video interview revolution.

    5. RagingADHD*

      Think through the “story” of your resume, in terms of your progression or growth, and specific points of connection to the job description.

  69. another_scientist*

    Are there any AAM posts for recovering your confidence after you made a bad hire? I am a first time manager, and the candidate who looked great on paper, interviewed well and had strong references, turned out to be a bad fit and didn’t have the skills to learn the job. My bosses and colleagues are very supportive and assure me the next time will be better. I just feel like I allowed myself to be completely misled during the hiring process. I am thinking about asking better questions in the interview or following up more, but is there another way I can figure out how to trust my instincts?

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      The reality is there is zero guarantee the person you hire is the person you get.

      It’s a lot like dating – everyone is on their best behavior, talking themselves up, presenting their best self. But as you get to know them there’s a lot more to than the best behavior and sometimes that means its a bad fit.

      So let go of the idea that you ever know more about a candidate then what is presented to you.

      I think since you said they didn’t have the skills, that you focus on what exactly the skills needed for the position are and how you can get the candidate to provide examples of how they have those skills. Also for their references – ask them to offer examples of how a candidate has demonstrated those skills.

    2. ferrina*

      I’m an analytical person, and one thing that helps me is thinking of the numbers. This is a sample size of 1. There is no statistical significance at all. Our brains like to fixate on a problem, thinking we can control all the variable next time to protect ourselves, but that’s not how it works. We operate within a margin of error. Mistakes are inevitable. And your boss and colleagues are saying this mistake was inevitable.

      It’s okay when things don’t work out. It’s what you do next that makes the difference. I had a candidate that exaggerated his skills on his resume. He had a little unusual work history, but honestly, most of my hires are not super conventional. It makes my team stronger, because we have a wide array of skills and experiences. We had no way of knowing that he couldn’t operate MS Office. Because it was past 2010! What professional candidate doesn’t have a basic understanding of MS Office?! Or at least knows how to do a Google search to learn! But nope, he thought he should have a 10+ hour training on how to do basic functions that he should have known before starting the job (and honestly, most people can figure out by clicking around and/or internet searches). He was gone by Week 3.
      It was frustrating at the time, but now it’s just an amusing story.

    3. kiki*

      One thing about hiring is that even with the best, most-skilled hiring manager, there are still going to be poor hires. It seems demoralizing that you’re 0/1 for successful hires, but over time Double check that there aren’t red flags that you missed or questions you retrospectively should have asked, but I think this is probably just the luck of the draw. I am guessing that your success rate at hiring will even out over time. Is it possible to think about this as, “Alright, I got my first bad hire out of the way, chances are the next one will be successful!

    4. Generic Name*

      Oof, that sucks. In my experience, some people are charismatic and very good at telling people what they want to hear. So if they have a reasonable job history, and because they interview so well, they get hired.

  70. BellyButton*

    Figuring out why they were a bad hire is step 1. If it was skills or knowledge reasons then determine what questions or a practice task that could be given to find out if they do have the right skills. If it was personality, then again figure out what specifically didn’t fit and ask more situational questions- how do you handle conflict/disagreements. What are your preferences for communication? How do you get to know the team? What is important to you in a manager?

  71. Ann O'Nemity*

    I thought that Christmas was both a religious and a secular holiday in the United States. I understand that the holiday has roots in Christian and pagan traditions. But I also see Christmas as being widely celebrated as a secular and cultural holiday in the United States. Many people, regardless of religious beliefs, participate in festive activities such as gift-giving, decorating trees, festive meals, and spending time with family and friends. Commercial and cultural aspects, including Santa Claus, gift exchanges, and holiday decorations, contribute to the widespread observance of Christmas in a non-religious or secular context.

    This view of Christmas as a secular holiday is backed up in court cases and HR trainings. But this site seems to think that Christmas is automatically Christian, and even the non-religious aspects of Christmas are therefore Christian. Further, observers are automatically Christians or “cultural Christians.” As a non-Christian, I don’t understand this.

    From a workplace context regarding Christmas, I thought the best policy was to be inclusive and not require participation. But in yesterday’s thread it sounds like any part of Christmas at work is exclusionary and possibly offensive because it’s “Christian.” I’m having trouble wrapping my head around this, and would appreciate some additional context or guidance.

    1. ThatGirl*

      I was raised in a Christian household, so I’m going to try to answer this but may not be the best possible answer.

      Though much of modern Christmas has secular trappings and does not explicitly reference God/Jesus/Mary/angels, it’s still deeply intertwined with the dominant cultural religion in this country. You don’t have to identify as Christian to take part in the cultural aspects of it, but that doesn’t change the roots. It’s like whiteness or heteronormativity – these things are just assumed to be “normal” and it’s not until someone blatantly challenges that idea that you start to see the cracks.

      Now, that doesn’t mean that any part of Christmas in a workplace is automatically a terrible thing, but I think it’s important to know your audience.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I think this is a very good answer. Know your audience. And try to take an objective look at your office celebrations and understand where they may go overboard.

        I’m Jewish. I do not celebrate Christmas. What other people do on their time is fine by me. I don’t even mind a few Christmas decorations around an office or in other public spaces, it’s just the way it is. But when my lack of participation is questioned or challenged, when I decorate for my own holiday and get pushback, when it’s simply assumed that everyone celebrates Christmas no matter what– that’s when it crosses my personal line.

        Also, I am so, SO tired of re-hashing this every single freaking year. I’m happy for people who celebrate Christmas and find joy in it. I don’t celebrate it. Christmas, no matter what you may think of its current state, has Christian origins and Christian trappings, “Silent Night” is a beautiful song and/but it’s about Jesus, I understand your Jewish neighbor growing up had a tree but I don’t, Santa’s very name is derived from “saint” (which is a Christian thing, dude), and all of the arguing about it just makes many of us feel un-heard, unseen, and unwelcome.

        1. Chirpy*

          That’s still not a great argument, because much of Christian tradition is based (however loosely) on Judaism as well. Christianity just is the sort of religion that collects other holiday practices and gives them its own significance. Sure, trees and such were originally pagan, but until there’s a huge majority of people celebrating Pagan Yule/Solstice instead of Christmas, everyone is going to associate trees with Christmas.

          1. FriYay!*

            It’s not an argument that offices should celebrate :) The belief and idea that so many things have always been Christian leads to a lot of problems in general. Recognizing that things society as a whole (and Christians specifically) believe have always been Christian in fact are not, is important.

            1. Chirpy*

              It is important to acknowledge the non-Christian origins of modern Christian holiday practices, but it just also gets used to say, “see, pagans do trees too, so they’re secular and not just Christian”.

        2. ThatGirl*

          Well, yes, that’s worth noting but it’s not really as relevant here and feels like you’re telling Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, etc people shouldn’t mind the overwhelming Christian influence because it has pagan roots?

          1. Chirpy*

            Exactly, you said it much better than I did. Pagan origins of Christian practices are really only relevant to people who are pagans or Christians (or interested in studying either).

            For everyone else, it’s still just a religious practice they don’t do.

    2. Ginger Cat Lady*

      The only people saying “Christmas is secular” is people who celebrate it.
      Please go read yesterday’s post and the comments again, this time being open to how it feels to not be someone who celebrates Christmas, because it sounds like you need to work on having empathy.

      1. Akn*

        This is needlessly harsh. It may be due to living somewhere else than the US, but I’m with Ann O’Nemity in being confused. And it’s not for lack of empathy, I don’t think. I am trying my best, but I don’t think foregoing all references to Christmas is necessarily the way to go. Having a Christmas tree in my backyard (or a Christmas decoration in my cubicle) isn’t exactly shoving my religion down your throat.

        1. Chirpy*

          Having personal Christmas decorations in your cubicle is different than a mandatory all-staff Christmas decorating party at work, is the point.

          It’s fine for you to celebrate, but people who don’t celebrate don’t want to be dragged into it (and probably want to be welcome to celebrate their own holidays instead)

          1. Akn*

            That was the core of Ann’s question, for me:
            “But in yesterday’s thread it sounds like any part of Christmas at work is exclusionary and possibly offensive because it’s “Christian.” I’m having trouble wrapping my head around this.”
            I got the same reading from yesterday’s thread. Thanks for confirming that’s not the case (and without accusing anyone of lacking empathy).

    3. Chirpy*

      “Secular Christmas” is only celebrated because of religious Christmas. It’s just removing some of the more obviously religious practices, such as going to church, but it still retains things the gift giving (which comes from the Magi bringing gifts), for example. Santa was originally St. Nicholas, just filtered through modern capitalism and Coca-Cola ads. So it’s still a religious holiday with watered down religious aspects.

      Some people are more ok with this than others. All of the non-Christian people I know who celebrate Christmas are, in some form, culturally linked to Christianity – atheists with Christian family members, or people with mixed-religion families. I have heard of people from other religions/no religion who have chosen to celebrate Christmas because they liked the traditions, but I think the important part is that those people *chose* to participate.

      It’s the forced participation (even if it’s just having to listen to incessant Christmas music) that bothers a lot of people, often combined with a complete disregard for their own holidays and beliefs. If someone has different holidays , that they never get off without a struggle, or has to sit through yet another clueless explanation of why a blue Christmas decoration must actually be a Hanukkah decoration, or “totally secular” etc, when their own holidays never get acknowledged, that’s the real problem.

      1. Ann O’Nemity*

        More and more kids are being raised without religion, but Christmas celebration remains high. A lot of us don’t even recognize the religious connotations until they are pointed out to us because we aren’t Christians.

        1. Chirpy*

          That, right there, is what people mean by “culturally Christian”. There may be no religious beliefs, or even knowledge of where the traditions come from, but by growing up in a majority Christian culture, Christmas just becomes a thing that is done, but it doesn’t erase the origin.

          I’m sure in other cultures there’s people who celebrate secular Eid, or something similar to this.

    4. Hlao-roo*

      The commenter Goose in the thread yesterday pointed to the “culture is not modular” tumblr post. I hadn’t read that before, and I found it very informative. I think it has a lot of good background on Christianity/culture/religion and can help explain some of the “cultural Christian.”

      Many people, regardless of religious beliefs, participate in festive activities such as gift-giving, decorating trees, festive meals, and spending time with family and friends.

      It is true that some people of non-Christian religious beliefs (or of no religious beliefs at all) celebrate some aspects of Christmas. If people freely choose to put a pine tree in their living room in December (or participate in any other Christmas activities), that’s fine. No problems there. The problem is when people who celebrate Christmas assume that because some non-Christians celebrate Christmas, everyone celebrates (or should celebrate) Christmas. And this happens a lot in the US (can’t speak for other countries, as I’m a USian).

      If I remember correctly, you’re not in the US (somewhere in Europe?). I don’t know how much (if any) US TV shows you watch, but most of them have a Christmas special episode where the plot revolves around celebrating Christmas. If the show includes a non-Christian character, usually part of the plot is that the non-Christian character decides to celebrate Christmas with everyone else and this is played for heartwarming, “aww” moments. Again, not that non-Christians aren’t allowed to celebrate Christmas, but it shows how the over-arching cultural narrative in the US tends towards “everyone should celebrate Christmas,” which is bad for people who have no interest in celebrating Christmas.

      From a workplace context regarding Christmas, I thought the best policy was to be inclusive and not require participation.

      Do you remember the “our traditionally male company has an annual golf trip — but our new female employees don’t play” letter from 2019? (I’ll link in a follow-up comment.) Inviting the (new, female) employees to the golf trip is “inclusive” because yes, they got an invite. But it’s not really inclusive of anyone who doesn’t play golf. Company Christmas parties are similar. “Hey, we invited all of our employees! It’s inclusive!” Eh, it won’t feel inclusive to people who have no interest in celebrating Christmas. Also, it puts them in the bad position of “attend party I won’t enjoy so I can build professional relationships with higher-up vs. don’t attend and lose that chance,” just like women who don’t play golf being invited to the (otherwise all-male) golf outing.

      1. Akn*

        Thank you for this comment, it is helpful. I still believe that inclusion should look like “let’s decorate for all the holidays that are celebrated in this office” and “let’s allow employees to get days off for their holidays, no matter which”, and not “let’s downsize the celebration of this holiday because we are not doing as much for the others”. But I understand there’s a long way to go to get there.

    5. Hrodvitnir*

      I find people not getting this kind of fascinating. I was raised atheist in a casually Christian country (Aotearoa – it feels to be that Christianity is less aggressive here than the US but even more insidiously unavoidable), and it was finding USAmerican Jews talking about cultural Christianity that explained the weird discomfort I have always felt.

      It’s less acute for me as someone without a religion, let alone one that has been actively under attack by Christianity, but I have always felt slightly on edge by how unavoidable Christmas/Easter/Christian morality as default/the idea you should know bible facts(??) is. But I do have nostalgia for pine trees and I love gift giving (though I try and associate it with NY to little success) so I’m not 0% culturally Christian.

      The practical element of it is complex, and it’s individual how smothered non-Christians will feel.

      I ultimately think keeping decorations low-key and not forcing people to be part of celebrations, and being open to feedback, is about the best you can do.

      You’ll note the LW was *reprimanded* for sharing a Jewish book, is given the cold shoulder for not wanting to participate in Christmas celebrations, and is being aggressively told they *must* participate in a Christmas (literally exists because it’s Christmas) cookie swap. Plus their students are being Christian activities all month when they’re not/barely majority even culturally Christian!

      Surely you can see how that’s a bad thing.

      1. Ann O’Nemity*

        Come on. I’m not arguing against the OP or arguing for forced participation.

        I’m curious if folks really think all traces of Christmas should be taken out of the workplace because it’s offensive to those who don’t celebrate.

    6. Nightengale*

      I think there’s a real difference between “courts [largely influenced by the Christian majority] have ruled that Christmas has secular aspects and these can legally be displayed in the workplace”

      and

      “pervasive aspects of Christmas at work, even the ‘secular parts’ are a poor idea from a DEI standpoint and make many non-Christians uncomfortable and feeling othered.”

      I am Jewish and feel really uncomfortable about what I have called “obligatory Christmas,” the idea that Christmas is for everyone and the ubiquitous decorations and music and etc in public spaces including workplaces. I work for hospitals that take federal funding and walking in on a giant tree and instrumental music with “Bethlehem” in the lyrics does not make me feel welcomed. Even though there is supposedly also a giant menorah somewhere. I think individual people should have all the Christmas they want and enjoy participating in certain activities sometimes with people I care about. For example, I hung up and filled stockings for my Christian colleagues who were working in the hospital over Christmas. (and said elves did it.) But it would have been inappropriate for stockings to have been an official work activity.

  72. Chirpy*

    I feel like, because I have never had a really good job (all of them have been underpaid and/or no benefits, most have been stressful, several have had a high percentage of awful coworkers), maybe I don’t know what to look for in a “good” job. Aside from I’ve figured out what my minimum pay needs to be to live comfortably (I doubt I can get more, as despite being 40 I’d likely be entry level in a good job at this point, which starting wages for things I’m qualified for seem to be around my ideal minimum at least – still a significant raise over retail either way), I’m really not sure what to look for in a good job.

    Frankly, I’m just really anxious about job searching, because every time I just seem to end up in a worse job with a worse fit than the previous one. (I’d love therapy, but it’s not currently an option, and none of my friends work in similar fields to what I’m looking for, so I don’t know anyone to ask about good places to work.)

    1. ferrina*

      Have you ever said no to a job? If you haven’t, this might be the problem. I was raised to believe that I should say yes to any job offered and appreciate the experience (“Everything has something to offer!” my mom said. She neglected to mention that sometimes all that was offered was stress and mental anguish).
      The first time I said no, it was so empowering! Everything felt off about that place and I knew I had to withdraw from candidacy before they offered me the job. I did it a couple hours after the interview, before I could lose my nerve. It was amazing- I suddenly realized that I could walk away from any job interview for any reason. Or no reason at all. As long as I was respectful, just “nah, something in me says no” is good enough. That gave me mental permission to be more picky in my future job search.

      The next thing is to list out what you want and what you don’t want. Know what is negotiable and what is non-negotiable. If you find yourself trying to negotiate your non-negotiables, walk away. (this is good advice for dating, too.)

      Be aware that healthy might feel strange or even wrong. There is comfort in familiarity, and when you are only familiar with bad situations, this can be dangerous. It sucks because you are simultaneously trying to trust your gut and not trust when something feels “normal”. This is why it’s important to make that list of non-negotiables in advance. It gets really, really confusing in the moment, so having some guidance from when you were in a clearer headspace is really helpful.

      All of this takes time. I’m currently at a really good job with a wonderful boss in a company that I’m proud to work at, and I am having a really tough month because I’m no longer in a chaos situation. I’ve been in chaos situations for most of my life (including family of origin) and that’s what I’m familiar with. I simply don’t know how to function in stable situations because I have no experience with it. Be gentle with yourself, give yourself time, and trust that you will get there, one step at time. You’ve got this!

      1. Chirpy*

        Thanks. And no, I’ve never said no to a job, because I’ve never been in a position where I could afford it- or where more than one job actually got back to me. (Job searching in 2009-2012 was *rough*, took a few part-time jobs just to have something, took my current job because I was completely broke and it was the only place that interviewed me, and then just as I was getting to a place where I was thinking about leaving my current job, the pandemic happened and decimated the jobs I’d be applying for…so, still stuck.)

        I’m kind of both afraid of taking a job because it’s the first decently paid thing that comes along, and having it turn out awful again, but also not taking a job and staying in the hole. Because I’m tired of being broke and stressed out and then sick because I can’t fix those other things.

  73. glouby*

    The OP whose Friday update was shared today mentioned the field of knowledge management, and I’m curious to learn more about it — does anyone have insights or observations (direct or indirect) they’re willing to share?

    1. a little anony*

      I’m 5 months into a knowledge capture job for a technical organization (my previous jobs have been conservation or education). Things that are helpful in my job:
      – Very strong organizational skills, or with creating organizational systems.
      – Excel/ database/ archives/ LMS experience
      – Event planning experience, comfort with public speaking/facilitating events or training.
      – Applicable technical literacy (I don’t have a technical background like the organization I’m in, but I know enough to figure out what’s important to capture, what needs updating, what concepts relate to each other, etc. If someone asks me for information about thagomizers, I can’t tell them how it works but I know which subsystem it’s a part of and where to find them training, if that makes sense).
      – Development or customer success/relationships experience. This one surprised me, but so much of KM (in my org) is getting yourself embedded in the technical team so that knowledge capture is seamless. There’s a lot of convincing checked out experts to take the time to sit down with us, getting people to volunteer to do peer cross training, etc. We have to work along side the technical folks without getting in their way or making their jobs harder (and still get what we need). People skills are important.
      – Writing/editing (especially technical writing/editing).
      – OK with some tedium.
      I’m sure there’s more, but that’s at top of my head. I’m really loving the job and wish I’d known about the field sooner.

      1. glouby*

        Thank you so much for sharing! I really appreciate the detailed breakdown of what’s been helpful. I’m happy you are feeling at home in this area!

    2. ferrina*

      I accidentally worked in knowledge management. My role was custom built for my particular company. It was a mixture of talent development, knowledge management and sort-of HR.

      I work on the softer side of knowledge management. Some knowledge management roles are on the technical side- building out databases and dashboards. That’s not me. I’m someone who hears about something happening and chases down the experts so I can chat with them and document institutional knowledge. I am a trained interviewer, and that has been extremely useful. I’m able to coax information out of people. I then organize that information so it can be easily accessed and understood by stakeholder audiences. I studied psychology, sociology and education in school, and that has been so helpful. I understand who will need the knowledge and under what circumstances they will need that, so I’m able to create resources accordingly (for example, should it be a documented SOP or an interactive video? Maybe a live training?) I also have very strong relationships with my coworkers- they know I respect their expertise and do what I can to showcase their knowledge, I don’t showboat and I try to accommodate their working style and schedule (rather than asking them to accommodate mine). People have started coming to me with their random questions, which is good. I can usually find the information faster than they can, and it also means that they are spending their time on their role (rather than chasing down information).

      A good knowledge management specialist needs to know how to create solutions that fit the organization, which for me, is a combination of logistics, administrative support and building buy-in (strong relationships and some understanding of politics is very important to my role)

      1. glouby*

        Thank you for this! It is helpful to learn about the soft side vs the more technical side. The practice of featuring the knowledge of subject matter experts and making it accessible to different audiences resonates a lot with my day-to-day.

        Learning so much from this thread!

  74. Anax*

    How long is ‘too long’ for HR to get back to me about my reasonable accommodation request?

    I posted about this a couple of months ago in the Friday thread, but… I got a new job after being laid off, and it’s going fantastically. With one exception. Just after I’d accepted the job, the whole workplace announced a shift from fully remote work to a hybrid schedule (2 days per week in office) starting in January.

    This is actually a huge problem for me – briefly, I don’t thermoregulate properly, so a ‘normal’ office temperature means I’m literally running a fever all day, with all the physical stress and mental fog that implies.

    (Yes, this sucks. I can manage just fine at home, where I have lighter clothing any time I’m not on video call, fans, ice packs, and A/C cranked up, but I’m basically housebound.)

    I sent reasonable accommodation paperwork and doctor’s note to HR within two days of the announcement, nearly two months ago. I’ve also been in touch with my union to have them try to nudge things along, and following up regularly with my manager.

    Unsurprisingly, there are a LOT of reasonable accommodation requests and a lot of turnover, so I understand a certain amount of delay… but we’re now less than a month out from return-to-office, and I still haven’t heard a thing. This is supposed to be a dialog – how am I supposed to have an interactive process if they won’t return my calls???

    I’m looking into a lawyer if needed, and my boss is going to bat for me. I just wanted to get other folks’ opinions – how far outside the norm is this delay?

    (Sidenote, no blame to my boss or anyone I work with on this; the demand for RTO came from over all our heads and they told me the minute they found out – I’m in the public sector, and the scuttlebutt is that this was a demand from the governor.)

    1. ferrina*

      They haven’t reached out at all? Not even for a “received, we’ll get back to you?”

      Yeah, 2 months is too long. Even if they don’t have an update for you, they should tell you that they don’t have an update. Honestly, if you’re getting radio silence, I think you are justified in escalating after a month. I can’t imagine what would happen if I just didn’t reply to an internal client.

      1. Anax*

        I did make sure it was received, but nothing else. Ugh. Appreciate it, I probably will have to escalate further.

        I was hoping that taking this to the union and the bosses 3-4 levels up from me would help, but it’s been a month since THAT escalation and still no word.

        (Plus side, I have gotten tacit agreement that the department will cover for me as much as possible, which I really appreciate, but that’s still more uncertain than I’m comfortable with.)

        1. ferrina*

          This would be making me nervous too.

          Talk to your boss/boss’s boss/whoever and see about making that tacit approval explicit. You obviously can’t go into the office- beyond being terrible for you, it also would be bad for the company (loss of efficiency since Obvious Health Reasons)

          Ideally, the highest person possible (whoever your best ally-boss is) would email HR (CCing you) and say: “Since we haven’t heard from you, I’ve given Anax permission to continue working from home until this is sorted out. This is clearly the safest course of action for both Anax and the company until proper time is able to be devoted to solving this.”
          Or if they can’t email HR that, they can email you that. Anything so you have proof that you did what your boss said until HR did what they were supposed to. You said your boss is going to bat for you- hopefully they can get you what you need!

          Good luck!

          1. Anax*

            I’ll do my best; the political element makes everything tricky, but I’ve been making some solid connections that I’m hoping I can lean on.

            (I’ve been on a really high-profile project, so I know the CIO is quite impressed with me personally. So fingers crossed, I’ll have enough sway to really push on this.)

            Boss and I are going to escalate with HR on Tuesday again, and if we don’t get any further results from there, we’ll try to keep the status quo until they can make a decision. Everyone agrees I have a good case… as soon as HR gets around to considering it.

    2. Stephivist*

      2 months is too long. I’d expect a public agency to be open about timelines, etc. when dealing with any backlog that might have popped up. If you aren’t getting that, I think escalation is in order. You mention a union – they might have better luck pushing for a better process for everyone’s outstanding requests (you can’t be the only one!).

      Also, check if your office already has a policy on how things work while RAs are being processed. When my office dealt with the return and the bulk of requests pouring in, HR was swamped, but policy called for maintaining the status quo until the processing was completed for anyone who submitted by a deadline – even if this meant they stayed home past the return to office day of reckoning.

      1. Anax*

        Yep, I’ve already spoken to the union about doing that. The local representative has followed up with HR for me and has said they can be present at and assist with any negotiations and EEO complaints – that’s a big part of what they do – but they’re just as overloaded as HR right now.

        The gossip is that this is straight from the governor and happening simultaneously in most state agencies – and with nearly 100,000 dues-paying union members, that’s… a lot. (Yes, I live in California.)

        I’ll follow up again with my local representatives. And HR. And my ally-bosses. And the other team members with RA requests who I’m keeping in the loop, because I’ve kind of appointed myself our team’s advocate on this, since my case is pretty clear-cut and I have the bandwidth to deal with bureaucracy.

        No word yet on the status quo policy, but hopefully we can clarify that with HR. I’ve brought it up with managers already, but I’m just … going to have to keep following up obnoxiously until this is settled. (Darn it, Jim, I’m an analyst, not a PM!)

    3. The New Wanderer*

      I don’t disagree that two months is too long, but … I sent in similar reasonable accommodation paperwork to my federal agency over 18 months ago when our first return to office push happened. My paperwork was just one of many, many similar applications made in the days immediately following that announcement. It still has not been processed as far as I know, since I’ve never heard one way or another. My manager told me that, per policy, I can act as though the accommodation has been approved until it has been adjudicated. It is a relief because I’m not chasing them down for a decision, I’m already in the situation I need.

      I’d recommend checking with your manager on the policy regarding accommodations and see if there’s language that will let you do the same while the approval process is still happening. If the HR office is overwhelmed with requests, the least they can do is allow the status quo until they have time to get to each request.

      1. Anax*

        Yeah, sometimes bureaucracy is just… like that. I’m glad your agency has been relatively accommodating; that’s great.

        My manager hasn’t been able to find out what the policy is, and I haven’t been able to find policy in the publicly accessible HR policy information or the union contract to that effect. So… we need HR to return our calls to find out. Time to pester them some more, I guess.

        Thanks, folks; much appreciate the sanity-check.

  75. Qwerty*

    Tangent question – anyone know of good places to get nerdy style clothing for work/volunteering?

    I’ve been building a bit of a Miss Frizzle style wardrobe because it makes me happy and adds a bounce to my step. Think patterned skirts, dresses, shirts that I pair with brightly covered tights and shoes (non-copyrighted images – think planets not Star Trek). So far all I’ve been able to find is space themed stuff – planets, galaxy. I would love to expand my collection. I really really want to find robot styles since my background is robotics and I volunteer with robot orgs. I usually get my silly stuff from Amazon because it is easy to return if fit is an issue (most women’s clothes is too big for me) With all the librarians and academics here I’m hoping others know where I should be shopping?

    **The robot orgs like FIRST don’t really have apparel surprisingly. I guess because schools design their team t-shirts each year

    1. Lily Rowan*

      Svaha doesn’t seem to have robot-patterned stuff for adults, but they have lots of STEM-themed dresses!

    2. A Girl Named Fred*

      I’m not sure if this is exactly what you’re going for because it’s less Miss Frizzle and more general-but-subtleish-nerdery, but Elhoffer Design is one of my favorite clothing places ever. It’s pretty expensive stuff, because they’re a small woman-owned company in California who sources almost all their stuff from other local factories, but it’s high quality and super comfy and, if you happen to be somewhere in the plus-size category, they’re fantastic for that. (One of the dresses I bought from them several years ago is an XL. I can still wear it with no problems even though I’m now a 2XL, bordering on 3XL in the hip region.)

      Paola’s Pixels may also be an option? They focus mostly on things that fit the D&D and TTRPG aesthetic, but you might still find a pattern or two you like in their stuff!

    3. OurHouse*

      I was going to recommend Svaha too. also, Princess Awesome, which is largely a kid clothing company does adult dresses too – chemistry, dragons, etc.

    4. Anax*

      Maya Kern does skirts in a wide range of sizes (as well as buttondowns and a few other things), and some of them seem very Frizzle – the ocean, snails, a lot of cute plants, etc.

      Coey&Shy have some robot leggings my partner loves and says have held up quite well – they’re meant to look like you have robot legs. A few of their other designs might also appeal, though they’re a little more on the gothy than bright side.

      (WeejaPeeja, with which they’re associated, also might be worth a look, though they are also on the gothier side of the nerd spectrum.)

    5. Hatchet*

      You may want to check out TeePublic and RedBubble. I’ve bought t-shirts from both places recently & have been happy with them. They have a lot of creative options. (My two cents would be to order one size larger than what you normally wear.)

  76. anon toady*

    For discussion: Project management and/or scheduling for a team that does a lot of small, unrelated projects.

    I’m not a PM (maybe someday), but I’m trying to help my team get organized and show some planning/scheduling/metrics so we don’t over commit (or get our budget cut) . The tricky thing is that we don’t work on one or two big projects start-to-finish. We do a huge variety of work, a lot of which is ad hoc requests. Most projects are small (a couple weeks to a month or two), overlap, and have no connection to each other. For example: We do teapot painting demos, bring in ceramic artists for workshops (which has a somewhat standard process but relies on said artists to do us the favor and turn things in on time), maintain a historical teapot archive, create chocolate sculptures for events, are building a llama barn, process a lot of paperwork, are writing a book, and support activities for other departments.
    I’m struggling to represent this in a schedule or project format without it getting into the weeds or getting overwhelming. Many of our activities don’t have deadlines. Some are “as we have time”. We don’t know aboute verything at the beginning of the year.
    How do other “patchwork” teams manage this?

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      This sounds like the Agile Scrum methodology might work. It’s mostly used to manage software-related teams, but the pacing and variety you described would match up to Agile stuff pretty well. There are plenty of resources for explaining it small bites – pretty sure there’s Dummies book out there. And there are a lot of project planning tools for Agile that have a free tier.