I work with Leslie Knope, stressed out in first post-college job, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. New hire is treating me like I’m brand new

I am a college professor. I teach a variety of courses, but there’s one that I have every semester. I get great evaluations from students every semester and I have a proven track record of success in this class.

This semester we have a new colleague who is teaching a section of this same course for the first time. I received an invite to meet with her and assumed she wanted some help or advice about the class, so I accepted. The next day, I got an email from her saying that she has the whole course planned out for me, “but we don’t have do it exactly the same.” Basically, she has taken ownership of the class and for some reason it seems like she’s decided that she is in charge of me and how I teach it. She also advised me that I should keep track of the students’ assignments, and that it’s a good idea to try and learn the students’ names, among several other pieces of absurdly obvious advice. I have taught this class six times in the last two years, so I’m not sure where she’s coming from.

So I wonder, how can I address this in a collegial manner, rather than saying the first words that came into my head, which are not at all professional? My boss is notoriously flaky and unsupportive, so I don’t intend to escalate this, my main thought is to just shut her down as politely as possible.

The subject line of your email to me was “I work with Leslie Knope” and … yes, you do.

The easiest way to shut this down is, “I’ve been teaching this class every semester so I have my own course plans that I’ve spent a lot of time developing over the last few years. Let me know if you want advice on anything; I’m happy to offer guidance if you want it.” That doesn’t touch on how ridiculous she’s being (reminding you to learn students’ names?!) but it pretty definitively lays out that you’ve got it covered and you’re not the one coming in new.

If she keeps it up after that, you might need a more explicit conversation along the lines of “Some of the advice you’re giving me is really remedial; has there been a miscommunication somewhere about my experience or the job we’re each doing?” But wait and see if the first conversation fixes it; she might have just gotten carried away with the Leslie Knope of it all and will pick up the hint.

2. Overwhelmed by stress in my first post-college job

I’m a recent college grad in my first full-time position. I’ve worked a variety of jobs throughout college to earn income, but they’ve all been either part-time or temporary in whatever field would pay the bills.

I’ve had this job for six months, and while it is a pretty low-level admin position (which is not completely my preference), it’s finally in the field I want to work in and that I studied for! I’ve never minded doing admin work and the company I’m working for is a huge stepping stone to all sorts of other positions in the field.

What I’m finding, though, is that I have been completely overwhelmed by stress from the job — whether it’s minor mistakes I’ve made in the process of learning, things that need to be done, or just if I’m doing enough. It’s gotten to the point where I’ll have nightmares about it and then promptly wake up and worry until my alarm goes off. Again, this is an admin position with low-level responsibilities where I work 40 hours a week, no one is expecting me to be on call or solve major issues, and even in the field as a whole, it’s pretty low-stress.

I am seeing a counselor for this, since I recognize it isn’t normal to be waking up in the middle of the night from this, but I’m also concerned about its relation to my career. I’ve had trouble like this with previous jobs, but since they were either part-time or temporary, the stress was lesser and I was usually able to write it off. I know your readers have made suggestions in the past for avoiding taking work stress home with them. These are great and I’ve been utilizing them, but I think what I’m hung up on is that I can’t imagine ever advancing in my career if such a low-stress administrative position gives me such overwhelming anxiety even when I’m not there. Is this something that new grads just have to get through (to a point — again, I know a level of this is above and beyond) or is this an indication that I won’t ever be ready to advance in my career?

Neither! What you describe isn’t typical, but it’s also not an indication you’ll never be able to advance. It’s an indication that you need some help sorting through what’s going on, which you’re getting. Especially if you have anxiety symptoms in other areas of your life, this could be clinical-level anxiety that’s latched on to work as an outlet (which is something a good therapist should be able to help with), but there are other therapy-relevant things that could be causing it too (like growing up in a hypercritical family, or one where small mistakes were punished disproportionately, or where you carried too much responsibility at a young age, making you feel like the stakes for messing up were very high, and on and on). Therapy is exactly the place to figure out what’s going on and to solve it, so you’re already where you need to be! (But if you don’t feel like you’re making progress after a reasonable amount of time, talk to your therapist about that too, since you might need something different from those sessions or a different treatment modality altogether.)

3. Management rejects my ideas, then proposes the same thing

I am the lead on a project at work. When I present ideas in regards to the project to three specific managers, they often reject my ideas. But then they provide a “solution” which is exactly what I had just suggested. It’s driving me wild. It’s really gnawing at me and I’m feeling stupid. I even intentionally ask “anything I can clarify?” before the rejection. I’ve never had this happen and for these three people to keep doing this is just blowing my mind. Is there anything I can do?

Some additional background: I’m a woman. The three people are the VP of our department (female), my manager (male), and a manager (male) I dotted-line report to.

Approaches I’ve taken: I used to explain things verbally. But perhaps I talked fast? So I slowed it down and presented things in simple terms. That didn’t help. I now present things with some sort of printed out aid, such as a slide or a graphic, to help drive my point across. I have only a few times replied, “Yes, just like I was saying…” and then elaborate. But that hasn’t much of a difference. I feel stupid, and honestly, it’s been a hit to my self-esteem.

It’s a known thing that sometimes happens to women, but it’s also a known thing that sometimes happens when dealing with people who don’t listen fully or aren’t great communicators themselves. To be thorough, I should note that it’s possible you’re not being as clear in presenting your ideas as you think, so if anyone else is in those meetings you could ask them for feedback about that. But otherwise, can you ask others if anything similar happens to them with this group? Maybe you’ll find out they do it to a lot of people and then you’ll know it’s about them, not you.

But also, do you have the kind of rapport with your boss where you could ask him about it directly? For example: “I wanted to get your feedback on something. I’ve noticed that I’ll sometimes present an idea to you, Fred, and Jane and the three of you say no to it, but then suggest a solution that’s the same as what I’d initially proposed. For example, it happened recently with X and Y. I’m wondering if I’m not being clear enough when I make the initial suggestion, or what you think might be going on.” If he’s stumped or says he doesn’t see it, ask if you can check back with him again right after the next time it happens so that you both have a clear and immediate example to look at.

One other thought: The next time it happens, try saying, “Yes! That’s exactly what I was proposing!” and see what happens. (Say that in a way that sounds enthusiastic, not irritated.)

my coworker rejects any ideas that aren’t her own, then suggests them herself

4. Should I tell a former employee that I got called as a reference?

Last year was my first time as a manager. It was on a grant-funded project that had limited-term appointments for several employees that terminated when the funding ran out. My whole staff was fantastic and I’ve been doing my best to support all of them on their job searches, and I’ve offered to serve as a reference.

One of my former employees has contacted me several times to let me know she’s applied to certain positions and put me down as a reference. I just got my first ever reference call for this employee and gave what I believe was a glowing reference. (I did also talk honestly about areas where she needed extra support, but I got to say how receptive this employee was to feedback and how much she grew, so I feel good about it!)

My instinct after I got off the phone was to email her to tell her she made it to the reference stage and I gave her a glowing recommendation, but I wasn’t sure if I should. The hiring manager told me that they’re between this former employee and one other candidate. So while I want to tell my employee that she’s advanced in the process and I’m hoping my reference will support her candidacy, I’d also feel like I’d need to temper her expectations and tell her they’re still considering other candidates.

This candidate is someone who I know has anxiety. As someone who also has anxiety, I know that I would love hearing I got to the reference phase and it would be soothing to hear my former manager tell me they gave a positive reference. But I’m afraid I’ll just set her up for disappointment if she doesn’t get it. Since I haven’t been called before now, I assume she hasn’t made it past the intial interview for the other positions she’s applied for. So I really don’t want to get her hopes up. That said, I also want her to know she’s advanced so she can celebrate that accomplishment, and I want her to tell me whether or not she gets the job! I’m afraid she won’t follow up if she doesn’t get it unless she knows she’s made it past the initial stage. So, is it cruel to tell her she’s made it to the reference stage? Or would it be encouraging? Am I overthinking this?

You are overthinking it! I always send a quick email to people I’ve just given a reference for, to let them know that I talked to the employer (and will add that I gave them a glowing reference, assuming that I did) — but that’s just about keeping in the loop about something that’s about them. I think you’re overstepping because you’re getting too invested in managing her emotions for her. Just give her the information, and trust her to handle it like the adult she is.

I would also mention that the person you spoke with said they are choosing between her and one other person — because that’s also relevant to her and it wasn’t said in confidence.

But don’t have any expectations about her updating you about whether she gets the job or not. She probably will tell you if she does, but she shouldn’t need to follow up with you if she doesn’t. She might choose to, but a lot of people hate giving those updates, so it’s better to train yourself not to expect it.

5. Can I put a job I haven’t started yet on my resume?

I am a senior in college, but I haven’t gotten much experience in my field yet and am applying to jobs for after I graduate. In two weeks, I am starting an internship that will run for one semester, so it will be completed prior to when I start the job. It is very relevant to the role I am applying to, but the semester starts two days after applications are due. I have a meeting to discuss what I will be working on before the semester starts, but I don’t know if I’ll do any actual work. Can I put that internship on my resume, even though it hasn’t started?

Yes, as long as the dates make that clear. For example:

Oats Incorporated, Porridge Intern (January 22, 2024 – May 15, 2024)

Ideally you’d add one bullet point about what you expect to do in the internship, but if you really have no idea, it’s fine to skip that and just list the company/title/dates.

(Also, normally just listing months/years is fine. In this case I listed specific dates to make it super clear you haven’t started yet, but really you’d be fine just listing January – May 2024, especially since by the time they’re interviewing you, you will have started.)

Read an update to this letter

{ 306 comments… read them below }

  1. Bee Eye*

    # 3, I think you are on the right track with the printouts and graphics. You definitely need to document your ideas thoroughly so you can prove you had them before mgmt tried to claim them. It could also just mean you work for bad bosses. I’ve been there and it sucks.

    1. Random Dice*

      Use the White House “amplification” technique – enlist coworkers to reflect back to the managers that it was your idea in the first place. “I agree, that’s a great idea! Jeanine can you share a bit about what you were thinking when you first proposed this?” Even people who want not to be acting from internalized bias do so unconsciously, so this helps.

      Link to follow…

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Was going to suggest the same thing. Its crappy that we have to strategize around being treated like the parents in Peanuts when we speak in the workplace.

      2. Throwaway Account*

        I was also going to suggest this. But if there are no others in the space, Alison’s last idea might be as close as you can get:
        “Yes! That’s exactly what I was proposing!” and see what happens. (Say that in a way that sounds enthusiastic, not irritated.)

        I also like, “Thank you for expressing my idea so clearly!” Also said enthusiastically and not irritated.

    2. Alanna*

      This happens to me continually. I’ll say something in a meeting (when I can get a word in which is rare) and everyone will look at me like I’m insane. Then male colleague will repeat literally the exact same words I said and everyone’s faces light up and they commend him on the bright idea. Same thing via email. Now I just tell my ideas to male colleague in advance so he can bring them up and save everyone the trouble.

      1. OMG It's 2024*

        This happened to me, the only woman in a meeting with high level Federal employees. The meeting lead looked at me, said nothing and moved on. The man sitting across from me at the conference table, then said what I had said word for word. Meeting lead, “That’s a great thought, Gene!” “Yes, it was a great thought when OMG said it 2 minutes ago, as well.” Silence….then “Oh I must’ve missed that.” I was so happy my colleague stood up for me, but so infuriated that apparently the frequency level of my voice is out of the range that some men can hear.

        1. Momma Bear*

          I have a PM that does that – calls it out when he sees it and makes sure that every person in the room gets a voice. More men need to do that. It very quickly shuts down people being dismissive of women or lower ranking employees. If you’re in the meeting, there’s a reason.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        I’m watching Good Trouble right now (undecided on how I feel about it tbh because it jumps back and forth through time in confusing ways) but I just saw an episode about this and they referred to guys who do it as “himposters” which I thought was hilarious and definitely intend to add to my vocabulary.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Now that I’ve typed that out I feel the need to clarify it was pronounced like him+imposters not him+posters lol

      3. Ellis Chumsfanleigh*

        My mom was a commercial real estate appraiser in the 70’s and 80’s. She said that most of the time when she was in a meeting with her boss and the client, the clients would only talk to her [male] boss. When they asked Male Boss a question that only my mom could answer (which was why she was in the meeting in the first place), Male Boss would close his mouth and turn to her.

        And then, the whole time she was speaking, the male clients would look directly at Male Boss. After she was done, they asked Male Boss any follow up questions. Scrub, rinse, repeat.

        Misogyny is all kinds of bonkers.

    3. Sloanicota*

      Some people just always start with a No, and small groups can pick up the quirks/personalities of one member sometimes. I know people like this in my real life, whether it’s weekend plans or house projects or spending money. I don’t know if it’s a power thing or just a decision making heuristic. It’s annoying but I guess you can work through it once you know it’s going to happen; just wait a little as they work through their automatic No and get to the Yes (and then yes document your role so you get credit later).

    4. ferrina*

      OP should also experiment with having witnesses. For example, do these people do it when there are others around? What if the other person preps the process by saying “OP3 had a great idea for that! OP, tell them your idea!”? How does the amplification technique work?

      IME there’s a difference between bad listeners and credit hogs. The bad listeners will eventually hear if there’s multiple people around; the credit hogs will retaliate against you for enlisting help. The bad listeners can sometimes be worked around (if you want to spend the mental energy); the credit hogs will actively sabotage you.
      But both of these will hurt your career, because you aren’t getting credit for your accomplishments. These people will not advocate for you (whether because they aren’t thinking about you or because they are trying to undermine you, the result is the same). There is a concrete ceiling in how far you can get with these people.

    5. sofar*

      My boss behaves similarly, and it doesn’t seem malicious (she’s very forgetful, has a lot on her plate and multitasks during meetings, meaning she’s only half listening, and is easily distracted and mutes/turns off video and I suspect she’s doing something else). So she’ll often say, “I need to you to provide XYZ before I’m comfortable with this,” and I’ll say, “Yes, XYZ is in the section of the doc in the section called XYZ” or she’ll say, “I’d rather we do this instead,” and I’ll say, “That’s exactly what I was thinking — is there anything in the document that was unclear? I might not have presented it correctly.”

      And then I’ll tag her in comments in the doc (which is visible to everyone else) asking her to “confirm” all the follow-ups. For example: “Hey @boss, you’d asked for additional data on XYZ, here’s where that is, let me know if it’s unclear.” “Hey @boss, you’d suggested we do something that’s identical to what is documented/proposed here. Do you have additional feedback?”

      As you say, document e-ver-y-thing. Overcommunicate. It’s the only way.

      1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

        I would be strongly tempted to lean into questioning — “Okay, how is this plan different from what I just suggested?” “But you said you didn’t want a social media campaign — what makes this one different?” The trick is to keep your tone open and helpful and just trying to understand while this idea is good while your idea was bad. It’ll work really well with some people, and not at all with others, though.

    6. Massive Dynamic*

      There’s a word for this now: HEPEATING. As in, when a man repeats a woman’s idea at work and gets the credit/praise.

    7. M2*

      My husband has bad this issue. My husband is in senior leadership at a large organization and he heads up two departments. He went into a meeting with his boss and gave some ideas and had write up plans, spreadsheets, etc. a week later they were in a meeting with the President, his boss and other senior leadership and my husband’s boss the work as his own. This isn’t the first time it has happened but it wasn’t so blatant.

      My husband didn’t but called out his boss respectfully and asked why he took someone else’s work and said it was their own! Boss apologized then sent an email to everyone after the fact, but now my husband doesn’t share as much with his boss. Boss is also on thin ice I guess and not doing great in some areas. This happens a lot to him so he doesn’t share as much anymore. Other departments weren’t coordinating and he was sharing and coordinating then those same departments took the ideas as their own or implemented them not giving my spouse credit. My spouse is big on giving credit. At a conference someone asked him in the audience about something and he gave credit to the person who did the work and named them etc etc etc. it doesn’t do anybody any good to not amplify their work.

      I had an issue with this where someone basically parroted what I said to other groups. Someone on my team used my exact words in other meetings and then when they moved departments did it again. It’s basically about a lack of critical thinking. Anyway after while it became pretty known this person does this and can’t think for themselves (they were meant to go on a PiP with me but moved departments right before it was to start).

      I find it always comes back around and people eventually figure out people can’t critically think it they take other ideas.

    8. Nesprin*

      If it’s not the patriarchy, some people need to get used to ideas- so if they’re repeated a few times they sound better/more convincing, or when a few different people say them they seem better, or when consensus builds they sound better.

      That being said, “idea becomes better when someone who isn’t female me says it” sounds an awful lot like the patriarchy.

  2. MistOrMister*

    OP1 is it possible this colleague is brand new to teaching? I ask because I have 15+ years in my field but recently started at a new company. I did some training on one aspect of the job with someone who is brand new to the field but had been at the company for a few months and was given that aspect as a big part of their job. They gave me a lot of remedial advice and I was just laughing helplessly in my head over the absurdity of being walked through this super basic stuff. That being said, my coworker was very kind and clearly just trying to make sure I knew evrything necessary to do the task, so I did not take offense. I wonder if your coworker could be giving this absurd advice in a fit of nerves at being brand new. I think Alison’s suggestions on possible responses are spot on and hopefully your colleague just had a lapse of judgment and will back off.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Yeah sometimes people rope others into their *own* lesson planning process; particularly in the teaching field where “the best way to make sure you learn it is to teach someone else!!!! (glitter sparkles).” If the colleague is relatively new I’m guessing they are really reminding themselves to learn student’s names and just be annoying by “teaching” OP this. You can still shut it down as described in the advice given, but it may help to understand if that’s the root of it.

    1. But what to call me?*

      A lot of what she said makes me wonder if new colleague somehow thinks OP1 is her teaching assistant, rather than a colleague who has been teaching the class for quite a while. It sounds a lot like what a professor might do when trying to orient an inexperienced graduate student to teaching some sections of the professor’s course.

      1. John Smith*

        It could just be that the colleague is clueless. I remember starting my current role and was assigned to a colleague who saw fit to tell me to look both ways whenever crossing a road. I was in my 30s at the time.

        1. Random Dice*

          I’m wheezing with laughter at the idea of a colleague warning an adult to look before crossing a road.

          1. Dinwar*

            You’ve never worked construction, I see….That’s one of the topics we cover in our onboarding safety meeting.

        2. I'm just here for the cats!*

          In some places that is actually good advice. Apparently, one of the faculty got hit crossing the street near campus. They now have pedestrian walkways with flashing lights.

          1. John Smith*

            Just to be clear, this was about crossing roads in general and not a specific road with a specific hazard that may reasonably warrant such a warning on the basis that New Starter may also be new to the area and unfamiliar with said road/hazard.

      2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        I thought something like that too; my field is software so I don’t know if the dynamic is similar, but in software this would be like a new developer joining your team at a similar level to you and then saying “it’s beneficial to test your work as you go, here’s how you set up your development environment to highlight keywords in the code”, etc due to thinking for some reason that the peer developer is actually an intern / entry level / student etc.

        1. Nitpicker*

          During my (female) coding (COBOL) days, I once had a (male) business analyst tell me to initialize the variables in my program.

          1. Alan*

            LOL. And no doubt he thought this was brilliant info he was passing on, when really it just makes him look incompetent, that that’s the level he’s thinking at.

          2. Starbuck*

            “oh wow Bob, that’s so great that you’re just getting started learning about the basics of coding, but the rest of us are further along than that.”

      3. Oolie*

        That’s exactly what I thought. Or perhaps it was a typo in the email address. I once wrote an email to a colleague but mis-typed one letter (think smithb@school.edu vs. smithc@school.edu). It was perfectly appropriate for the intended recipient, but quite demanding and obnoxious when directed at a senior colleague in a completely different department! Fortunately, I wasn’t the first to make that mistake and the recipient graciously forwarded it to the proper person and let me know. So I would reply to the sender along the lines of “I don’t think this was intended for me” to let them save face, if needed.

        1. MyNameIII or is it 3?*

          At one of my former employers, another person with my name but different number (I use III after name so they gave me NameIII and he had Name3) after the name would routinely get each other’s emails. We’d just forward them back and forth. Never met the guy, he was stationed (this was military) on the other side of the world, and luckily it was never about something the other person shouldn’t have seen. That could have been a problem.

      4. MCMonkeyBean*

        I am hoping it’s a mix of her being brand new and bubbling with enthusiasm and also mistakenly believing OP is new too and would therefore potentially appreciate having someone hand her all this prep work already completed–though it seems like at the point that they were having this conversation any teacher new or not would have already had to have done their own prep work so it’s pretty presumptuous either way.

      5. Sandi*

        It’s more likely that the new colleague is new to teaching, because anyone with experience knows that someone who has taught in previous years would rely on that work again, whether they are a professor or teaching assistant. If they have fully planned out the course without checking first with OP1 then they are pretty clueless!

        1. But what to call me?*

          It seems likely the new colleague didn’t realize that OP had taught the course before. I agree that the new colleague probably is also new to teaching, and therefore hasn’t realized how course assignments work (e.g. that two professors can be assigned to teach sections of the same course) but the advice about keeping track of student assignments and learning student names is exactly the kind of thing you would tell a TA but makes no sense whatsoever to tell a colleague. Although there would still be a special level of obliviousness in just assuming someone is your TA and proceeding accordingly without checking whether they actually were.

          1. Indigo a la mode*

            Yeah, I’m guessing that New Hire assumed that they must both be new hires or that this is a new class, and was trying to relate and be nice. It’s kind of like how I assume everyone is around my age until told otherwise (and sometimes I’m really off in my snap estimate). New Hire may have just projected their situation onto OP without thinking through it.

        1. In the provinces*

          A plausible possibility is that the new person is a tenure-track assistant professor hire, and the OP is an adjunct or NTT.

    2. Mo*

      Was just reading an older mystery novel and learned that one response to a situation like LW1 experienced was “Go teach your grandmother to suck an egg,”

      Apparently egg sucking as an insult comes from untrained dogs that would break into henhouses and break open the eggs to eat them.

      1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

        Can you please take this the rest of the way for me? Something isn’t clicking for me.

        Dogs used to do this, so by teaching your grandmother to do this as well, you’re … comparing her to a dog? who isn’t smart enough to figure out something a dog knows how to do? but she should be because she’s older and supposed to be wiser? and that’s why it’s an insult?

        There’s some connection here that I’m not seeing … thanks in advance!

        1. Irish Teacher*

          I didn’t know that about dogs, but that does make sense, that you are treating a person with a lot of experience as if they don’t know something that is simple to figure out. But I wouldn’t overthink it; it’s just one of these phrases like “raining cats and dogs” that doesn’t necessarily make obvious sense but is just used to mean “telling somebody with far more knowledge and experience than you something really basic that is bound to be obvious to them”.

          Given the context Mo has given about the background to the phrase, I guess it means “telling somebody who knows far more than you something so basic that even a dog would know it.”

          1. ceiswyn*

            Mo’s wrong about the background, though; although the origin of the phrase is unclear, there’s no suggestion that it has anything to do with dogs breaking eggs.

            (And I have now learned far more about sucking and blowing eggs than I ever expected to learn. Remember that you need to pierce BOTH ends, any would-be grannies out there ;) )

        2. owen*

          i have never heard the dog thing, especially not in relation to this saying. the insult is not about the egg sucking at all, but is rather an insult to the person teaching their grandma something that grandma knows very well how to do and has possibly been doing since before the grandchild was born (at least, where i grew up).

          not sure if it’s apocryphal or real, but the egg sucking specifically for us was always said/assumed to be an activity engaged in due to a lack of teeth – so in order to get protein the toothless elder would suck the innards out of raw eggs, essentially. And, would be an expert at doing. But that’s peripheral to the insult part.

          the dogs, idk, that’s an entirely new twist to me but hopefully Mo (or someone) can add more detail!

        3. Pennyworth*

          There is an explanation on Wikipedia, saying it came from Spanish, and was about toothless old ladies getting nourishment from sucking the contents out of eggs, at which they were experienced, so teaching your grandmother to suck eggs was telling her something she already knew. My problem with that, is who eats raw eggs sucked from the shell?

          1. Jackalope*

            Yeah, it’s so much more work than just cracking the egg open and then going from there. All I can think of is maybe they were going to paint the egg afterwards so they didn’t want to crack the shell?

            1. Gray Lady*

              It’s less work if hot water for washing dishes is a lot of work to create, and only happens once or twice a day. If you suck the egg, there are no dishes — no bowl and no utensil to eat the egg with. Pre-industrial life was all about not creating more housework if you could help it.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            *clears throat*
            I think it might be a euphemism suggesting that your grandmother has experience with the verb.

            1. Silver Robin*

              agreed, especially knowing that “eggs” are euphemistic in at least some Spanish dialects.

              honestly surprised the vulgar connotations did not come up earlier. When I read this phrase as a suggested response, my first reaction was that it was a rather escalatory option

        4. Erin*

          According to wikipedia, pre-modern dentistry, elderly people who’d lost their teeth would get quick hits of protein by pin-pricking a raw egg and sucking up the contents.

          The point being that person x’s grandmother can reliably be assumed to have waay more experience doing it than person x.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        “You can lump that hat if you don’t like it. I dare you to knock it off—and anybody that’ll take a dare will suck eggs.” –The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

    3. Melissa*

      I also wondered if there was some really basic miscommunication somewhere. Like, does she think you’re both starting new? Because the “We don’t have to do it the same way!” sounds like someone who thinks you’re both in this together as new teachers figuring it out.

      If that’s definitely not the case, then I have no idea and your colleague is a weirdo.

      1. Tuckerman*

        It’s possible the new person was hired as a course lead and had a role in standardizing the curriculum and establishing best practices for all the faculty. The “we don’t have to do everything the same” remark makes me think the new person is clumsily trying to acknowledge the OP’s experience/seniority while changing the course and establishing the expectations.

        I have academic freedom in teaching to an extent but there are some things in the course that I’m not allowed to change.

        1. Observer*

          It’s possible the new person was hired as a course lead and had a role in standardizing the curriculum and establishing best practices for all the faculty.

          That could be possible, but I think it’s highly unlikely. For one thing, this kind of role and change to the curriculum is something the OP would normally have been made aware of. For another, there is a difference between standardizing aspects of a course, and what this colleague did, which is planning out the whole course – and all without reference to new standards! And that’s the most telling piece, to me. If you are creating standards, you *tell* people that what you are presenting is the new standard, which you developed on the authority of Whatever Official.

          Also, someone with enough broad experience to create standards should know enough about teaching to realize that an instructor with years of experience doesn’t need really, really basic advice. So it would really surprise me if that were her role.

    4. samwise*

      Entirely possible, but OP’s colleague better knock it off asap, because they are going to offend people who are not as understanding as the OP and it will kill their reputation. OP would be doing this newbie a kindness by taking them out for coffee and explaining clearly why they need to pay attention to their colleagues’ experience (and position). That would be true in any workplace, but in academia…oh boy! I think Alison’s advice is going in the right direction, but the OP needs to be explicit about this, not hinting around.

    5. I'm just here for the cats!*

      I was thinking the same thing. And I wonder if the new professor thinks that the OP is also new?

    6. Why is this my life*

      Hi, I’m OP #1! This person actually has quite a bit more experience than me (just newer to this workplace) and really seems to mean well, but just went way off the rails. I asked my boss for some clarity just to make sure this person is not somehow in charge of me. I also knew it wasn’t possible for my question to be answered before I met with them, but I was so bothered I had to reach out to somebody! I ended up just saying, “to be clear, I have been teaching this for a while. If you need any help or have real suggestions for improvement, I’m happy to work with you.”

      1. Ama*

        I think you handled this well, but if she keeps pushing you to do things her way you could always say something like “not sure how this was handled at your previous institution, but here faculty instructors teaching the same course don’t coordinate to the degree you are proposing.”

        She may either be more used to teaching courses with grad assistants or maybe she had a colleague at her previous institution who was really disorganized and appreciated her stepping in (although also possible she overstepped with previous colleagues as well and people just let her do her thing and then ignored her, would not be unheard of in academia).

      2. Lily Rowan*

        That sounds right.

        I had a boss who used to tell me the most basic stuff, just because she was a talker and got caught up talking through whatever the thing was. But she was definitely my boss, so I let it go.

      3. Butterfly Counter*

        I was also thinking it was an enthusiastic newcomer. It seems more that she’s done something similar and thinks this particular sharing is helpful to you.

        I am also teaching faculty at a university in a department that is very collegial. I’d recommend flipping this on her in a friendly way.

        “I appreciate suggestions on new and different assignments, reading materials, videos, and class activities! Thank you! Let me also share some of the things I’ve been doing in the past six times I’ve taught this class…”

        Basically, I’d run roughshod over the implied assumption you don’t know how to run a class and move into the more “advanced” discussions of teaching university students.

        Further, I’m at a point in my career that I sincerely do try to learn names in my class, but it’s getting harder and harder to retain them all. I’ve found that learning the names isn’t particularly important for 90% of my students and I CAN actually retain the names of those students who want and need me to based on them reaching out to me and coming to office hours and showing their incredible potential.

      4. former academic*

        If there are differences between you in rank or traditional academic power differentials (tenure stream vs. teaching faculty; faculty vs. staff or librarians; people with PhDs vs. people with non-terminal degrees), the question may still provide a useful piece of information for your boss to be on the lookout if, e.g., this is a faculty member who thinks the librarians are inherently subordinate to faculty or a tenure stream faculty member who thinks the same of teaching faculty. (I also wondered if this person might have come from a model where there’s a single course coordinator who ‘runs’ the course and pushes materials to other instructors, and failed to properly update their approach sufficiently. Which is still not ok! But amaybe a more understandable mistake…)

    7. Ama*

      Yeah this sounded to me like the kind of person who has maybe only taught as a grad assistant and is used to coordinating other grad assistants to teach the same sections of a big class. Alison’s responses are good but you could also add “since we’re both faculty, at [college] faculty teachers of the same course don’t coordinate their syllabi quite as closely as you may have done in the past.”

    8. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I get so annoyed when people do this to me so whenever I’m training a colleague or even just conversing with friends or family on a subject I find interesting, I try to get a baseline for what they already know. Then I don’t waste either of our time by going over concepts they already know and I can tailor what I say to their level of knowledge. I also apologize in advance if I go over some things they already know.

      As I get older I realize that I have to temper my annoyance about this, though, because not everyone has the time to do this and also a lot of people have a tendency to think that New Thing that They Just Learned is new to everyone and no one knows it so they must tell everyone (I’m sure I was guilty of that in the past too). And also I definitely cannot be rude to every kid who tells me excitedly about whatever new thing they just learned. “Oh, you just learned that squares are a type of rectangle? Good for you, I’ve known that for years,” is a terrible thing to say to an excited geometry student, right? :-)

    9. Lucia Pacciola*

      I was thinking maybe the opposite! Maybe the colleague is new to this school, but not new to teaching or this material. Maybe she’s got a wealth of experience, and is being just a little too enthusiastic about sharing with colleagues who have some experience of their own.

      Either way, it really seems like possibly the most important piece of information was omitted from this letter.

  3. Somewhere in Texas*

    LW #1- Something to bear in mind re: admin tasks. They may seem simple on their face, but a lot of them take institutional knowledge to do them and to do them quickly. There are also both A LOT of them and super repetitive for some. It’s not easy work, but they are great building blocks for the rest of your career. Outside of what you are working through in therapy, look at which tasks you excel at and which ones you see yourself getting incrementally better at. This might guide which roles you try to grow into.

    I know I’ve seen admins that are superstars and they made it look easier, but that’s because they had done it so long.

    1. tg33*

      I’m wondering how op1 is being treated. It’s possible that the work tasks are fine, but that a difficult environment is making the job very difficult.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Truth! Admin work can be brutal when you have multiple people assigning tasks and no one single person setting priorities.

        1. honeygrim*

          Yeah, and since lots of people have seen those experienced admins who make things look easy, they often assume the tasks ARE easy, not realizing that experience is what makes them look that way. So they figure the brand new admin will know how to do it all since it’s so simple. That can be very stressful.

          1. Somewhere in Texas*

            Exactly! And even if they are easy, when you have a million competing priorities without clear directions on which should go first–that is anxiety producing.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            This is true at new jobs, since you don’t know who to ask for what and who gets handled with kid gloves, what is priority, etc. So yeah, it’s no wonder.

            My strategy is to say “I’m new, so bear with me,” until I feel more confident in whatever the task is. Also, I keep a list of things on which I feel shaky and then go over them with my trainer or supervisor.

      2. ferrina*

        Always worth looking at, but since OP says they’ve experienced similar anxiety (though not as severe) at other jobs, I suspect this isn’t the root cause. If this was the first time this happened to OP, I’d definitely suggest that it was the environment.

        1. BlueSwimmer*

          When I switched from teaching to an office job in education, I started experiencing anxiety, which I normally do not feel, even in tense or emergency situations. Turns out that I thrive on managing a classroom full of hyper 9th graders, but sitting at a desk with a list of administrative tasks to do makes me feel like I am spinning out- I don’t know where to start, I feel like I’m doing everything wrong, and that I will never finish or do a good job. I’m back in the classroom now, feeling confident that I’m good at what I do, and loving life again.

          Could it be the type of job is just a mismatch for the way OP’s brain likes to work? As a hard-working person who is used to doing well at work, I was amazed by how the mismatch in job and my work/brain style made me feel like a complete failure.

        2. Observer*

          but since OP says they’ve experienced similar anxiety (though not as severe) at other jobs, I suspect this isn’t the root cause. If this was the first time this happened to OP, I’d definitely suggest that it was the environment

          Exactly this. I don’t want to say to no look at the environment, but the fact that this is not a new issue is important. Even more important, in this context, is that the fact that this is a “career track” job vs the old ones has made the anxiety worse – something that the OP explicitly calls out as contributing to their stress – tells me that there is probably a lot of anxiety about being overall successful.

          OP, I’m really glad you are getting therapy.

          1. An Anonymous Worker Bee with Anxiety*

            I agree with what others are saying upthread. OP, I’m about 18 years older than you, but I have struggled with crippling, clinical anxiety since I was a child (no one will be surprised I am the survivor of two decades of physical and emotional abuse from my family of origin). The anxiety has negatively impacted my professional life, but the biggest things that have helped me are 1) weekly therapy, 2) psychiatric prescription medications (which took years to get just right), and 3) changing jobs about every two years until I found the right combo of acceptable salary and calm, predictable work environment. For me personally, the right work environment means a *very* quiet one with a door I can close and lock, working remotely most days, reporting to just one (reasonable and personable) supervisor, access to a robust HR department with a large employer (because they tend to have way more going in terms of formal policies), and, most importantly, formalized accommodations through the Americans with Disabilities Act for everything from noise-canceling headphones to doctor’s appointments, etcetera. Honestly, it’s an ongoing process, but I have now gotten to a place where I’m pretty confident and get great performance reviews at work. Don’t be ashamed of whatever has led to your anxiety, just work diligently to address it like you would any other disability. I’m wishing you lots of courage over the next decade;

      3. MigraineMonth*

        Also, there are a lot of adjustments to make when you first go into full-time work. For me, the differences from school included:
        – Spending 40 hrs/week at a desk is HARD to adjust to
        – So much to learn, but much of it is boring
        – Much less positive feedback (no A’s on assignments, just “when you’re done with that, do this other thing”)
        – It’s no one’s job to help you succeed/grow

        On the other hand, no homework. If your job already takes 40 hrs of your week (or more), you should do your best to leave work at work!

    2. Random Dice*

      I’d add… admin tasks can be how managers assess if one can do more complex tasks. Do simpler tasks on time, properly. Take notes when given an assignment and double-check against the notes.

    3. Sloanicota*

      Yes I’m now solidly mid-career and I am so, so thankful I got over the hump where my jobs were mostly administrative (very common for young women starting out in white collar fields, I find) – because I was not great at that, it wasn’t the best fit for my skills and experience, but there was no way up without getting through that and doing well enough to show my potential. Even if you hate/are not good at admin you could end up having a lot to offer in your field.

  4. Ashley Armbruster*

    Reads #3
    Throws laptop out the window and bangs head against wall

    Honestly OP, I think your only real option is to leave.

    1. "It was hell," says former child.*

      Amen. Even though one member of the clueless triumvirate is a woman, I was immediately reminded of the Punch cartoon with the caption, “That’s an excellent suggestion, Miss Triggs. Perhaps one of the men here would like to make it.”

      (If only I could paste an image here. But find it!)

    2. Hot Flash Gordon*

      Honestly, this has happened to me quite a bit in the past to the point where I rarely bring up ideas in meetings anymore. I run them by my boss and a trusted co-worker and implement them outside of group meetings.

      1. ferrina*

        At one place I worked, there was essentially a shadow leadership under the titled leadership. The titled leadership (C-Suite) was all men; they mainly brainstormed ideas and talked about how good their ideas were. The shadow leadership was predominantly women; they talked about the ‘ideas’ would fit into the company’s long-term strategy and ongoing initiatives, decided whether the latest ‘idea’ should be incorporated as a mainline activity or shunted to a small team with no resources so it could quietly fade away, decided who should work on which projects (carefully considering expertise and leadership skills), communicated across departments and ensured that experts were consulted. The shadow leadership kept the lights on and built the company while the titled leadership talked up the accomplishments (interestingly, the few times that shadow leadership got to publicly speak, they got great accolades. But they weren’t given the opportunity much).

        The shadow leadership eventually got sick of this, and several of the key leaders left within a month of each other. Last I heard, the company is now limping along desperately trying to sell itself, but no one is buying.

  5. Fikly*


    Have you considered that because this is your first job in your chosen field, even though it’s low level, you are stressed and anxious about it because you are thinking at some level that if you “fail” at it, whatever that means, in your head that means you will fail at or be unable to pursue your chosen field, and that’s why you are so stressed out and anxious? It’s not the actual job, but all the significance you’ve given it?

    Which is in part a false significance. It is possible that for whatever reason, what you want to do isn’t the right field for you. But very likely, if this job doesn’t work out, it’s the employer, and not the field. You need more than one job for proof of concept, unless it’s extremely clear it’s the field and not the company (or even the position, since it’s entry level and admin, rather than what is likely the higher level work you are interested in).

    1. Your Second Cousins may actually be gossiping about you, but I promise it doesn't matter*

      It could also be financial and social. When I got my first job I really felt like I had put all my eggs in one basket. When I was in college if I got fired from McDonald’s or whatever, it didn’t matter I’d walk down the street and find a new gig within a week. But when I graduated I had to fully move cities, away from a support network of peers and or my family, and I used up the last of my savings/loans to do so. If I lost that job I was screwed.

      I also didn’t want to disappoint my family (who were so excited for me and wouldn’t stop bragging to their friends. Which I understand, because they love me, but in the back of my head I’d imagine them having to issue retractions to second cousins. “Oh I heard she got a new job!” *Awkward pause* “Well actually that didn’t work out and she moved back in with us”. )

      Anyway I think that sometimes we imagine the consequences to much more dire than they actually are (I promise it doesn’t matter if your second cousin finds out you’ve lost your job.) And sometimes the consequences of failure are actually dire. I had no savings and if I was fired over a rookie mistake then I really would be risking homelessness. (Or at least moving back in with my parents).

      Anyway there’s something to be said for the relief that comes with a full savings account and new friends in a strange city. The job stops feeling so high stakes. I became a better employee when I felt like I had a life outside of work, someone to focus that energy I was giving my second cousins on too. And when my savings account was adequate I felt even better, so what if I was fired? I’d have enough to hold me over for a bit.

      1. Observer*

        Anyway there’s something to be said for the relief that comes with a full savings account and new friends in a strange city. The job stops feeling so high stakes.

        Yes, there is a LOT to be said for that freedom. At work and in relationships, too.

    2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      I think this might be a lot of it. Going from school to your first time job is a shock. All your life — get good grades or you won’t get into a good college and your life will be over. Then you graduate, now what? If you aren’t a rockstar on day one, your career is over.

      Also school is a lot different than a job. In class, even in college, you have a few assignments over the course of the semester that count towards your grade. In work, you have every day stuff and cumulatively it all matters. In school one blown assignment and your grade might be toast. At work, especially when starting out, minor mistakes don’t have a long term effect. Unless you keep making the same mistakes over and over.

      OP you’ve been there 6 months. In the working world, that’s just getting acclimated. Minor mistakes in your first six months are kinda expected. Just own the mistakes, figure out how to not make them on, and move on (I know easier said than done, but that is what your therapy is for).

      OP — please write back for update season next December (summer is too soon while you are still adjusting) let us know if you still feel the same way. I think I can safely say we are rooting for you, no matter the outcome.

      1. fallingleavesofnovember*

        I agree a lot with everything you’ve said here – working full time really is so different from student life! I noted the LW mentioned feeling anxious about ‘doing enough’ and that something I struggled a lot with when I first started working (and still do a bit, to be honest!) Work can have a lot more downtime and ebbs and flows than you expect it to, and it’s easy to feel guilty because you’re on the clock and can’t officially step away to do other things, but you might feel like you don’t have anything to do. Over time you can learn the types of little things you can do during slow periods to get ahead for or catch up from the more busy times, but other times it really is OK to not be actively at your 100% most productive every day/week.

      2. Ama*

        This is all really great advice. I’ve worked with a couple of direct reports fresh out of college, and I try to reassure them that it takes a full year to complete the cycle of our project calendar and we have a really steep learning curve in general so it’s completely normal if they feel like they’re overwhelmed trying to keep track of everything, no one is going to think poorly of them if they need to ask the same question a few times before it sinks in.

        I can’t tell from the OP’s letter if this is part of the issue, but I have had a new to the working world direct report who had a hard time adjusting to the difference in time management between a 9 to 5 and school — she was so used to “teacher gives me a task with a due date, I turn it in at the due date and then move on” that when I would give her multiple tasks and say “here’s what I want you to work on this week,” she would think “all of these are due at 5 on Friday” and she’d not give them back until that moment. This often resulted in her feeling like Thursday and Friday she had an overwhelming amount of work to do; we had to really talk through how “this week” was just a general “I want you to be spending your time on these tasks this week and give me a status update in our Monday meeting” not a due date unless I specifically said “we have to have this done by X.”

      3. Angela Zeigler*

        Don’t forget all the soft skills and office politics in the working world- In school you have set assignments and grades, and the result is based on the work a student puts in.

        In the office? The work quality is part of it, but there’s all the socializing, how you treat bosses and coworkers, small talk, and a host of other soft skills (which change from place to place, seemingly with no rules) that can affect one’s career success. It’s daunting even to experienced workers!

      4. Elsewise*

        The other thing about going from school to work is the shifting of priorities! When I was in college, I worked two jobs but there was always the understanding that school took priority. My work and social lives were scheduled around school- not just my classes, but studying, writing papers, working on projects, doing homework, getting to office hours. There’s so much that goes into being in college full-time.

        When I started my first full-time job, I always felt like I wasn’t doing enough. It’s 5pm, I go home, and… then what? Do I study for work? Do I have an essay due to my manager? During this time, my mom gave me the advice “always have bigger fish to fry”. Try to have a life outside of work, even if it’s just a once a week knitting circle or going to the gym. (I did not take that advice, I got way too invested in my job, my mental health tanked, and my performance didn’t improve. It turns out worrying about something during your off-hours doesn’t actually make you better at it. I still argue with my therapist about this on the regular.)

        As I adjusted more to the realities of the working world, I saw that a lot in new grads, especially ones who were high-achievers or went to very rigorous schools or in difficult programs. School has been so central to your life, and then you go to work and it’s really weird to not have stuff to do when you get home. Any chance that adjustment could be contributing to the anxiety?

    3. Random Dice*

      I know that for me, anxiety over performance ties back to my anxiety disorder. I’m a high performer… but my brain’s neurotransmitters are a bit wonky.

      LW2, you mentioned therapy, but have you talked with your doctor? I recommend that, if you haven’t already.

      My personal experience: when I start to do things like wake up worried about work or perseverate on my faults, I’ve learned that I need to:

      1) check my anxiety meds with my doctor

      2) stop reading the news or things that dial up my activity

      3) get out into the sunshine

      4) lay off of sugar and flour

      5) meditate to get back into my body

      You can figure this out with time, the right experts, and a scientific approach.

      1. Smithy*

        As someone who also just has an anxiety disorder, I do think that learning to think of it as a medical reality where there are times I need accommodations that are different from my peers has been helpful.

        Sometimes those are accommodations my employer is a little aware of in part (i.e. when I need to leave early for a doctor’s appointment or regular therapy appointments), and other times they’re accommodations I’ve had to afford myself. Essentially, while some people might be seeking a promotion after 2-3 years in a position, I’m more likely to need 3-4 years because I often benefit from a longer period of time to get acclimated in a new job. It’s not that I announce this to a hiring manager and say that my first year I’m operating at closer to 75-80%. But I am aware that this does put me behind the rapid promotion pace, and that is ok.

        I’m in a field I really like, I’ve learned a lot more about myself, and I also know that I’m ok leaving for a new job if that’s what I need to do to get a promotion/pay raise. However, by being aware that this is how I operate clinically, it’s become far more pragmatic in how to manage.

        1. Whoomp There It Is*

          This is what I came to say. LW’s feelings sound so familiar to me. I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder in my mid-30s and I wish I had sought help years earlier! SSRIs have changed my life. Therapy is amazing, as is exercise, meditation, knitting, skydiving, or whatever else helps, but there’s no shame in using meds to even out your brain chemistry and improve your quality of life. (In fact, my therapist is the one who referred me to a psychiatrist.)

          1. Whoomp There It Is*

            ETA: Not trying to armchair diagnose the LW, just flagging that you don’t have to spend years struggling or waiting for therapy to “work” before consulting a healthcare provider to see if medication (in tandem with other modalities) is appropriate for you.

      2. ferrina*

        Agree. I’m an extremely high performer, but my history with ADHD and trauma means that I can read into situations way too much, and I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Things going well? Something terrible is about to happen.

        In my case, my personal history created this maladaptive tendency to expect the worst and get really scared when it doesn’t happen (because it’s such an unfamiliar feeling to be okay for a long stretch of time). Weirdly, I feel better when things are going wrong because then I can pinpoint what needs to be fixed.
        This can also be a chemical imbalance with no root in your personal history.

        There’s a lot of good treatment options out there, but it can take time to find the one(s) that work for you. Here’s a few that I’m familiar with:

        – medication. Your regular doctor can generally prescribe anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds, or a psychiatrist can help you pinpoint the exact condition. These meds often take a few weeks to take affect, and it can take several tries before you find the right solution for you. Some folks take medication long-term, and some take it as a short-term (6 months+, but not indefinitely) while they pursue other treatment options.

        -cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This is essentially teaching your brain new habits. This can be done through the guidance of a therapist (often as part of talk therapy), or can be self-guided. For example, I noticed that I was constantly focused on what I didn’t do and was ignoring my actual accomplishments. I started journalling every night listing out the things that I did that day (nothing negative allowed). That helped my brain practice seeing what I had accomplished until it became a habit (habits of thought are real!).

        -physical caretaking. Eating healthy foods and exercising can help with mental health! Physical exercise changes our brain chemistry to promote good feelings. It doesn’t even need to be a lot of exercise- even a short walk can have an impact. Certain exercises can be better, but the best exercises is the one that you will actually do. Find that thing that is fun for you. What you eat can make a difference too. Some of this is basic nutrition- eat foods that provide the nutrients your body needs- but I also know some people that swear that certain foods directly impact their mental health. If that resonates with you, try removing one food at a time to see what kind of impact it has on you. Make sure your body gets the sunlight it needs and gets fresh air.
        Sleep is also a big part of this. Sleep can dramatically impact how we feel and think. Unfortunately, sleep can also be one of the first things impacted by changes in our mental health. There’s a ton of tips on how to sleep better- get the right lighting, comfortable sleeping space, even the right scents. I also recommend doing a relaxing meditation before sleeping. Focus on relaxing your mind, then think about a few happy things that you want to dream about. Practice clearing your mind of work. Sometimes I like to imagine my mind as a storage room. When the intrusive thoughts come, it’s like someone spilled a box in the middle of the room. I imagine myself packing up the thoughts back into their box, then putting the box back on the shelf and saying “I’ll get you back out at 9am”. Then I go to my Happy Dreams box and start unpacking that. It’s toughest the first few times, but after a while your brain begins to learn how to do it.

        Good luck OP!

      3. Slow Gin Lizz*

        I second OP checking in with their doctor. I only recently received a diagnosis of ADHD, which definitely accounted for my years (over a decade) of insomnia. There could be a number of physical reasons causing the anxiety and insomnia; worth checking to see if any of them are treatable. Therapists are great too, glad you have one, OP.

        Also, OP, when reading your letter I was having flashbacks to when my insomnia started and was at its worst, when I was teaching music lessons and waking up in the middle of the night worrying about whatever students I had to teach the next day and having nightmares about trying to teach my cats how to play the violin (more impossible even than herding them!). Only after I quit teaching and did office jobs for a few years did I realize how teaching was a huge mismatch for me and my personality. So perhaps you are good at whatever field your new job is in but admin work is not the best fit for you; could you apply for jobs that are entry level in your field but not admin? Could you get a transfer within your company to something not administrative? It could also, as others suggested here, be that your company and/or supervisors are much more stressful than other companies/managers in your field so moving companies could also help.

        Good luck, OP! I’m sure you will be able to figure this out, and from one insomniac to another, I hope you can get a full night’s sleep soon!

    4. B*

      Piggybacking on this: it sounds like much of what is making the job stressful is *your anxiety over finding the job stressful.* You’re losing sleep over, essentially, second-order problems.
      That doesn’t make them less real but it means they don’t reflect on your fitness for the work!

    5. Lucia Pacciola*

      LW2 says in their letter that they’ve had similar reactions at their other jobs, so I think your hypothesis is probably incorrect.

      My take is that maybe LW is reversing cause and effect. Dreams are symbols. When I’m having nightmares about my job, it’s usually because I’m stressed about something else in my life, and my subconscious is using the job as a symbol for whatever the other thing is. It might even be a work-related stress, but not specific to this job.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        I think we need to be careful with equating dreams with symbols. Sometimes dreams are just weird things our brains do when we’re asleep and don’t actually mean anything. Or sometimes they can actually be caused by something physical in our environment. I used to dream that my teeth were falling out and I’ve read that that can be a symbol for a lot of bad things happening but then I got a mouth guard and stopped having that dream; turns out I was just dreaming that I was grinding my teeth, because I actually was grinding my teeth.

    6. LW2*

      Honestly, I think this is playing a much huger part than I realized. Reading your comment and Your Second Cousins comment really made me realize how much I’ve internalized this sort of logic (especially since my husband is in school (for this field!) and I’m the only income – so losing this financial support or the support of this field would be pretty bad for us). Definitely not the only factor and I think other commenters in this thread are absolutely correct regarding the larger problem of my mental health, but there’s no doubt this is exacerbating the situation here.

  6. nnn*

    One specific, actionable question in #1: is there anything about how she plans to teach the course that’s incompatible with how you plan to teach the course and would need to be coordinated or made consistent? Either having that conversation, or confirming that you don’t need to have that conversation, could be a way to assert your own ownership over the course without it coming across as a power struggle.

    Example: “Thanks for sharing your course plan! Here’s the plan I’ve been using for the last six sessions so you can see how I’m handling things. We seem to be on the same page about most thing – and, as you mentioned, we don’t have to do it exactly the same – but we should probably coordinate on the timing of the midterm assignment.”

    (Also, I’ve found when someone gives you obvious advice like “Try to learn your students’ names”, a useful way to respond is sometimes a bright and enthusiastic “I’m so glad we’re on the same page about that!”)

    1. Short*

      I don’t think any of your suggestions would assert ownership. The simple response provided by Alison does that perfectly. Your suggestions would just further open unhelpful dialogue with a clueless person.

    2. Jezebella*

      I would not even go so far as to compare course plans. Academic freedom is under fire everywhere, but the freedom to write your own syllabus is very much in effect. (unless the Powers That Be have deemed conformity essential for specific courses and specific reasons – which LW1 would know far better than Baby Prof). There’s not any need to coordinate on assignment or test timing. Baby Prof needs to be told she needs to stay in her lane, kindly and collegially of course, because this kind of know-it-all behavior will really do damage to her standing in the department if she keeps it up.

      1. BlueSwimmer*

        I wondered if the new prof is coming from secondary education, where “Professional Learning Communities” have been the trend in many school districts for the past 10+ years and some schools expect everyone teaching the same course to teach it exactly the same way, with a team leader “guiding” the curriculum team.

      2. Ali*

        I teach in a place where core classes all have the same syllabi (I appreciate not having to write it!) but in that case syllabi are shared by the department head.

  7. Mister_L*

    #1: Maybe find out if she has (or at least thinks she has) some form of connection to higher ups.
    At my first job we had two rather lazy employees who thought they could decide on procedures, shift plans, etc…
    I later found out they were the manager’s in-laws.

    Never seen Parks and Recreation, so when I read the headline I thought of Leslie Winkle from The Big Bang Theory and was somewhat confused when I read the letter. Good thing I googled the name before answering.

  8. nodramalama*

    Bit rough on Leslie. She was just enthusiastic! I don’t think she ever treated her colleagues as morons.

    1. Helvetica*

      I was going to say! This does not seem like Leslie Knope at all, so curious that LW and Alison both referred to the colleague as such.

    2. Leslie Hell Knope*

      Absolutely agree! As you can see by my screen name, I’m *something* of a fan, and I’m a little defensive of the Master Debater.

    3. House On The Rock*

      Thank you – this struck me as a mis-reading of the character. When I first read the headline I thought they meant their coworker was overly enthusiastic and earnest, or perhaps setting the bar too high. Leslie would, I think, absolutely appreciate and acknowledge a colleague’s experience and expertise (while also calling them a beautiful tropical fish).

    4. Why is this my life*

      I’m the LW— I immediately regretted this choice of subject line because I love Leslie. I neglected to mention the binder’s worth of info that was included with the weird email! This person is very nice and trying to be helpful, it was just misplaced effort and I wanted to handle it nicely. Also, I just loathe meetings in general as my organization tends to have tons of them, and they usually take an hour or more to cover maybe 10 minutes worth of substantial information. So I wasn’t looking forward to a meeting in which someone planned to give me a detailed plan to do something that I already know 100% how to do.

      1. House On The Rock*

        This warmed my heart! Maybe you can distract your over eager new coworker with some waffles!

    5. ThatGirl*

      Not as morons, but she did often steamroll people by being aggressively enthusiastic – Ann even calls her out on it, and as the show goes on she has to learn to let her coworkers do their jobs in their own ways.

    6. fhqwhgads*

      I think it’s the “show up on day 1 with a fully formulated plan” aspect that read as Knope-ish. Not the stating the obvious part.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        That was my thought too – the five inch binders! And steamrolling. And thinking she knows what’s best for people without even attempting to ask them first.

      1. Magdalena*

        Thank you! I would almost say it’s the opposite of what Leslie does – she lifts people up, she doesn’t explain the obvious and she’s ready to learn from anyone and everyone.

    7. the Viking Diva*

      Seems like the Leslie Knope reference needs some unpacking. I recognize the character but never watched the show, so I’m not sure what ‘carried away by the Leslie Knope of it all’ actually means. To me responding in the vein of, ‘No, *I* am the one who can give *you* advice’ seems like it’s just one-upping.

    8. Katherine*

      that’s what I came here to say! She was overly enthusiastic but she didn’t tell people how to do their jobs. Your coworker sounds like a nightmare but keep our Leslie out of it!

  9. Clare*

    LW#1, if your boss is so flaky, could there be a possibility that your new colleague wasn’t told that you’re not new as well? It’s not a good idea to just assume things like that because of the possibility of this exact scenario, but people assume dumb stuff all the time. A mix-up where she thinks you’re both new could go a long way towards explaining this bizarre behaviour. If you’ve spoken to her about how long you’ve been teaching this course, then, well… I’ve got nothing.

    1. WS*

      This happened to my mother who was a professor of nursing! She had been teaching for about 8 years when the program expanded and she got a new colleague who had just started teaching nursing (after a career in nursing and then grad school), and the new colleague had a very “we’re all in this together, let me share my tips with you!” attitude. The new colleague had assumed that they were both new teachers, not just new to this expanded program, and was very embarrassed when she found out, but they got past that and have stayed friends in retirement.

    2. kiki*

      That was my first thought as well– it sounds like LW’s new colleague wasn’t given enough information about the course and who they’d be working with. On the one hand, Leslie shouldn’t have assumed LW was a newer teacher and doesn’t have experience with this class, but I can also see a situation in which flaky boss presented the information in a way that was so devoid of proper context that I wouldn’t blame her for not double checking every single assumption

      1. samwise*

        The new instructor needs to understand that in academia, you make sure you know your colleagues’ position and experience, you shouldn’t just assume.

        Academia is like an 18th century royal court….

        1. kiki*

          It is a valuable lesson and if Leslie were writing in, I would advise her to take it to heart and learn from this faux pas. But LW wrote in and I think it would be kindest to react like, “hey, this person is new and somebody didn’t give them the info they need about me and this course,” instead of, “this person thinks I didn’t seem experienced and/or doesn’t respect my years of experience with this course.”

  10. John Smith*

    Re #3, I’d look at how these managers behave generally. Management in my place do not like ideas that do not come from themselves simply because they are incompetent, egotistical control freaks. They cannot accept that they may be in the wrong in some way, or that someone other than them can think of what they should have thought of. One comment on Alisons suggestion of pointing out you agree with the ideas as it was yours – I’ve tried this line and the response is usually “It’s not about who’s idea it is” or “Its not a competition”. But my managers are in a class of their own and could keep Alison in material for this site for years . Anyway….

    Do your managers accept ideas from other people? If you really wanted to, you could ask a trusted colleague to put an idea of yours to them as though it was your colleague’s idea? Try with a female and a male colleague, and managers response will give you an indication as to what is really going on in their heads.

    1. KGD*

      The CEO at my company definitely prefers ideas that he thinks he came up with, so as middle management we often meet and figure how to present a problem in a way that will let him “discover” the solution we’re hoping for and mansplain it to us. It’s a bit ridiculous, but it works pretty well.

      In my case, it’s a good option because my actual boss, who does my reviews etc, is very clear on who actually came up with the idea and did the work, so ots really just about working around one irritating man’s ego. This situation sounds harder because it sounds like it could impact how the LW is perceived at work.

      1. Sandi*

        I used to do this too with a coworker, where I found ways to present a solution so that he thought it was his idea. A lot of responders here have decided not to suggest things, whereas I took the approach that credit for a good idea didn’t matter at the time provided the good work was done and I got credit later.

        I would document my good idea in at least a few words and send it to my boss ahead of time, so that later I could show that my good ideas had been implemented.

        Similar to KGD, in my case it helped that my boss understood what was happening and knew that this person was known for preferring ideas that were ‘their own’. I suspect that LW’s boss has a lot more problems and is making the situation unbearable.

    2. hbc*

      Yeah, I’ve definitely had management who would be able to hear this and adapt (or explain how their idea and mine aren’t actually the same), and others whose whole ego is wrapped in being The Idea Generator.

      Though with the latter, I’ve definitely deployed a few quizzical “Sorry, I must be missing something. What’s the difference between [my/Jane’s] idea that we rejected earlier and this new plan?” It works for me because I’m genuinely open to the possibility there’s a difference, even if it’s highly unlikely.

  11. Yoli*

    #1: After the initial level-setting conversation, I’d just respond with, “I’m good/I’ve got it, thanks!” if she continues to make “helpful” suggestions. The second script could come off as adversarial/snarky in my context, where a collaborative and collegial relationship between people teaching the same course is pretty necessary. A short canned response avoids any back-and-forth as well as judgment or evaluation of what she’s offering —it’s the difference between “I guess OP does her own thing” and “I guess OP is too good/stuck in her ways/standoffish to connect with me.”

  12. Jordan W*

    Hi LW2! Are you me from the past? I don’t usually comment but wanted to pop in to reassure you from the future, you are doing the right thing getting medical help and you will be okay. In addition to Alison’s great advice, while you’re still going to work each day and the anxiety is ever present, I recommend: give yourself time before you react or respond. For me at least, my anxiety blew a lot of very normal work things out of proportion and caused me both to react inappropriately to mistakes I made as well as things that happened outside my control that caused me additional stress.
    It’s always okay to take a breath. Better to delay a reaction or response to make sure you’re in the right headspace than to act in the heat of the moment and say or send something you regret.
    Again, you will be okay. You’re doing everything right to take care of yourself and that’s what matters most.

    1. Qwerty*

      I too built up circumstances in my head early in my career. Two things in particular helped me at the time: 1) like this other commenter says, remember that the fast answer isn’t always the best answer, and it’s ok to slow down and breathe, and 2) for anything that you’re ruminating on, ask yourself – will this matter in a year? 5 years? Most of the time the answer is no, which helps put things in perspective. I also write things down that I’m ruminating on so I can get them out of my head.

      Overall, it sounds like you have the feeling of stress but then also have bad feelings about those feelings, which compounds the stress. I really feel for you and can remember times of feeling like that, too. The Nagoski sisters talk about this in their book Burnout, which goes into detail on the stress cycle and how to move through it. Like Alison says, therapy for your unique situation is still best, but maybe that book would offer you some additional frameworks to get better perspective on your anxiety so you can work through it. Good luck!!

      1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        My husband has anxiety. One thing that has helped him (similar to writing things down) is what he calls “checking in” with himself before bed. He takes 5-10 minutes to see if there is anything still circling his brain from earlier in the day. He either reminds his brain it’s already been handled and nothing more needs to be done, so it can go away. Or he makes a plan for what he’s going to do about the thing still bugging him and tells his brain “I can’t do anything now, but here’s the plan for tomorrow”. That might be writing a note to send an email the next day or it might be to say, “Hey, it bugged me when you said X.”

        He actually does this 2-3 times a day (lunchtime, home from work, before bed) and has been able to stop taking anxiety meds, which always gave him terrible headaches. He practices CBT, so most of this is mental imagery. Imagine placing the persistent thought in a box, closing it tight and putting it in the back of the basement, coming upstairs, closing the door and turning off the light. That kind of thing.

        1. LW2*

          LW2 (in the present) here: you all are beyond kind. So sorry you’ve experienced this too – I don’t wish it on anyone – but your reassurance that I’m doing the right thing and this will be okay is beyond comforting.

    2. Ihmmy*

      I also felt like LW2 was me from the past. For me, a low dose SSRI really helped kick my anxiety’s butt along with some very good therapy. Also just… getting experience makes you feel more confident. LW2, if you have a good relationship with your manager it might be worth checking in on how to best proceed when you do make some of those errors – all jobs have a learning curve and most (decent) places build in some expectations around that.

  13. an academic*

    As a side note, I’m shocked about the assumption that professors would “of course” learn all the student’s names. My courses range from 150-650 students. I don’t even try to learn everyone’s name.

    At my undergraduate university, I’m pretty sure that my professors didn’t know my name unless the class was a 20 person seminar or unless it was a class where I was one of those annoying people who raised their hands a lot. I had a 20 person class once where I fell asleep a lot- I sure hope he didn’t know who I was. (Sorry, biophysical chemistry prof.)

    1. Ellis Bell*

      I’m a high school teacher, so the idea that you can teach someone without knowing their name is fascinating to me. I mean having someone fall asleep and being in the position of saying uselessly “Hey, you” is kind of a great example of the potential problems! From what you say about the 20 person seminars there are situations were it can logistically be done? So people in those situations will have discovered a pretty easy way to teach in those situations and avoid avoidable problems? When I went to university, the person delivering to a large lecture hall didn’t necessarily know my name, but I had teachers in my tutorial groups who did, who knew what kind of questions challenged me, or how much my work was improving. Is it possible OP has a situation more like that?

      1. Holly*

        I’m an assistant teacher at high school level. I teach over 1400 students. It happens. You do your best. I had one student be really upset I didn’t remember his name (although I do now!) but most of them understand. I don’t even know half of my colleague’s names.

        1. Observer*

          I’m an assistant teacher at high school level. I teach over 1400 students. It happens

          And every shred of evidence we have says that this has terrible effects on the quality of education. At least in the case of primary teachers.

          I’m not blaming the staff subjected to this, because you can only do the best you can with your circumstances. But if you are actually teaching and dealing with students work, etc. rather than just being a lecturer, not even being able to know your students’ names is a problem, with a real effect on your students.

      2. Rebecca*

        I’ve taught in middle/high school and at university level, and the teaching is just so, so different. There are a lot of things that are my job in high school teaching children that are absolutely not my job teaching adults. I also do not have the same authority over adults in my class that I do over children, nor do I see them nearly often enough to form the same kind of relationships that I do with high school students. They have support networks that don’t include me in the way that high school students’ support networks do. In fact, if I tried to teach them the way I teach 16 year olds, it would be an overstep and infantalizing. Some of my students I’ll only see 6 times, and one of those times is for them to write an exam, and I teach hundreds every semester.

        If someone falls asleep in my university class, I don’t wake them up. That is entirely their problem. I have a lot of content to get through and not a lot of time to get through it, and 47 other students who got there on time, didn’t fall asleep, and didn’t pay to watch me spend class time waking up their irresponsible class mates. By university, they should have been taught the skill knowing when they need help and how to come ask for it – I taught my high school students that.

        1. Rebecca*

          Sorry hit enter too early.

          All of which is to say, you can’t compare to the high school experience, and the kind of teaching that is necesssary is often possible to do without knowing every name in the classroom.

          When I have a one on one conversation with someone, of course I get their name at the beginning of the conversation and of course I treat them with respect, using their name and treating them like an individual. But I also have to get my students to give me their names at the beginning of say, a group presentation that I am grading – I am not going to rely on my memory to make sure that I give the right grade to the right person.

          1. Irish Teacher*

            That’s what I was thinking too. I am a secondary school teacher and the college I attended was a bit different from the large universities as it only had 1,200 students so relationships between staff and students were closer, but it was still a very different environment and when we had a lecturer who tried to tell us stuff like to be quiet in the corridors or when to turn over our handouts, we were rolling our eyes.

            Our relationship with our lecturers was in some ways more like the relationship you’d have with colleagues a level or two above you than it was like the relationship a teenager would have with their teachers. And people I know who attended the large universities…they talk about their lecturers more like you would speak of the speaker at a presentation you attended. They often seem to have no relationship with them at all.

      3. I should really pick a name*

        I think that’s very much a difference between high school and university.

        In university, students are there of their own volition and paying to be there. If a student chooses to sleep, that’s their problem. Most professors I know wouldn’t bother to wake them up unless they were snoring and causing a disruption.

        1. Butterfly Counter*

          Exactly. Even if I know a student’s name in class, I don’t know their life. Maybe they’re coming to class after an overnight shift and need the sleep to drive home safely? I just try not to take the snoozer’s inattention personally and provide for the rest of the class who can keep their eyes open through our material.

          Also, I’ve perfected the, “remind me your name,” when handing back assignments and exams. A lot of students have me for multiple classes, too, so they know just how many students I have and what a huge task it would be to learn over 100 names a semester only for me to have to learn over 100 4 months later.

      4. Adultier Adult*

        I teach at both levels and have for 12 years. I know every high schoolers’ name- I only know the super high performing and the super obnoxious college students’ names… There are just TOO many of them and our interactions are different at that level.

      5. I'm just here for the cats!*

        You have to remember as a high school teacher you are probably teaching the same students every day for at least an hour a day, for an entire school year. Possibly even multiple years in a row.

        a college professor will see the student for maybe an hour to an hour and a half for only a few days a week. If you teach a large lecture you might have 60 students or even hundreds of students for just one class. If you have 3 larger classes you probably are seeing 300+ students every day. There is no way you could remember those names.

        Now in my experience in smaller classrooms and if you have the same professor for multiple courses then the professors start to remember your name.

    2. deesse877*

      This is actually a best practice based in established fact, not an “assumption”; it’s been well-known in higher education scholarship for some time that forming personal relationships with faculty, including at the entry level, improves student outcomes. It is certainly possible for a class to be too large for such to be practical, but even in that case demonstrations of basic respect, such as learning names when someone comes to office hours, can contribute to learning.

      1. aqua*

        yeaaah… learning names would be nice but if you’re teaching multiple courses with 200 students in each course it’s just not going to happen. I’m a graduate teaching assistant and last semester there was probably 400 students in total in the modules I was supporting.

      2. Emmy Noether*

        In my experience, professors giving lectures to 200+ students at a time in a lecture hall cannot realistically learn all names (when would they even be told the names?). Professors teaching smaller groups of more advanced students, or the teaching assistants doing weekly tutorials with the same group of 10-20 students and grading their work can and often do.

      3. Rebecca*

        This is true – it does improve outcomes. The difference is whose responsibility it is to form those relationships. In high school, the responsibility is largely on the teacher to do the outreach and build relationships. By university, the responsibility is largely on the student to do that, and they are going to pick and choose which relationships are worth the effort to cultivate and which ones are not.

      4. Ellis Bell*

        When I was doing teacher training, at a masters level, almost all of the lecturers would tell us not to talk ‘at’ an anonymous wall of students, but to ensure that we knew them; not just their names but their educational profile so as to tailor learning to them. They also said to avoid lecturing over interacting with students, because lecturing doesn’t really aid learning. At this point in the lecture they would pause and ask us to consider why they were lecturing us, and not taking their own advice. We all replied with the predictable things: we were adults, we had more independence and we don’t need the help etc. They all said no, and that they were just doing it because an alternative wasn’t cost effective! They said that lecturing is actually bad for adults’ learning too, but that the old system of lecturing at people hadn’t been revolutionised in keeping with the evidence of studies. They did do smaller sessions too – at which they absolutely knew our names, so I think they were trying a bunch of approaches. I’m not sure I entirely agree that lecturing has no benefit; I think increasing independence and letting students be a face in the crowd on occasion is helpful on the path to being an adult. But I think some universities overdo it.

        1. hbc*

          It’s a really weird claim that lecturing doesn’t aid learning at all. Some of us learn better by reading, sure, but who amongst us hasn’t learned something meaningful from a really good, compelling presentation? My favorite classes were ones where the professor was enthusiastic about the material and talked about it in a way that brought life to the subject, even if it was linear algebra.

          1. Jezebella*

            Right? I am admittedly a nerd with too many degrees, but I LOVE a well-presented lecture, and I learn easily from those. I realize not everybody does, but lots of us DO! There’s no need to kill the lecture; it just needs to be supplemented with other kinds of delivery.

          2. Ellis Bell*

            No they weren’t suggesting reading as an alternative, more socratic learning like questioning and discussion or interactive activities. These have better outcomes than simply presenting the information (which I agree can certainly be effective when done right)

            1. Observer*

              To an extent that’s true. But the actual evidence is not that lecture doesn’t work, but that *exclusive* lecture or *too much* lecture is ineffective.

              In most cases, the other methods mentioned absolutely work at their best when couple with some lecture and even *gasp* frontal teaching.

    3. Dr. Doll*

      it always amuses me that students don’t know MY name! they have only 4 or 5 professors and our names are on the syllabus, in Canvas, and on every communication we send. but nope, they don’t learn our names.

      1. cardigarden*

        Spouse teaches high school and a student’s explanation last year for not turning in work was “I didn’t know your name”.

    4. amoeba*

      I think there’s really a big difference between a lecture and a seminar/smaller course. At least here in Europe it’s not just the amount of people involved but also the whole format. A lecture is, well, a lecture, so very little interaction. You can of course ask questions but that’s usually not an integral part of it. You sit and absorb what the professor tells you. Occasionally, they’ll ask a question or two to the group, but yes, then it’ll be “you in the front left with the red shirt!”

      Seminars are not only smaller but also interactive. There, yes, the professor/TA usually did learn the names (we actually often put signs in front of us at the beginning of the year). Sometimes if it’s the same person, they will then also remember your name in the 300 people lecture the day after – but that’s not a given (often those aren’t actually done by the professors themselves, anyway).

      1. Llama Llama*

        I agree with this. I certainly didn’t expect my professors in a 200 person class to know my name, but would have been miffed if they didn’t in my 20 person class. My memory says that for the most part that rang true

    5. Prof*

      This is institution dependent- I’m at a small liberal arts college and the most student I’ve ever had in a class is 25. We limit labs to 16. I think we may rarely have as many as 50 in some larger courses. Though a full timer may have 5 or so different classes, you can definitely learn names (and it’s absolutely expected).

  14. The Prettiest Curse*

    #2 – as mentioned above, the significance you’ve placed on this job may be a factor. Another factor to bear in mind is that you are new to this field and still learning, so that may make it harder to work out what is genuinely A Big Deal and what isn’t.

    When I first started planning events, I would get incredibly worried about things which wouldn’t make me bat an eyelid now, because I have the experience to know what might happen in the worst-case scenario and the confidence (born of years of working events) that I’d know how to handle that scenario. The more experience you have, the more you have the ability to think through how you’ve handled mistakes or problems in the past, so you freak out a lot less. And when you’ve been in this job for a while, you will have a much better sense of what you should and shouldn’t make you super-concerned.

    Definitely discuss your levels of anxiety about work with your therapist, and try to discuss strategies to re-frame things mentally as much as you can – some strategies will work for others and not for you, and vice versa. Even though I don’t have anxiety as such, if something work-related is making me concerned, my go-to strategy is to sarcastically talk myself out of it. So, if I get nervous about being called into into a sudden meeting with my boss (which, like a lot of people, tends to make me think “maybe I’m about to get fired!”), I’ll say to myself “yes, you’re totally going to get fired, the same way you’ve been fired during every single meeting like this you’ve ever had during a 25-year career in which you’ve never been fired.” This is just my personal way of talking myself out of negative thought patterns and something totally different may work for you, so please talk to your therapist and try to out a few strategies.

    Best of luck, and I hope you get to a place where work isn’t a constant source of worry to you, and you can enjoy your current field.

    1. ecnaseener*

      I think you’re absolutely right about experience helping. Part of this is the adjustment from school, you’re not being graded anymore so you don’t have that (relatively) straightforward system of all your work translating into measurable outcomes. You have to learn through experience what outcomes to expect, and if you’re conscientious and/or anxious, you probably err on the side of expecting more serious consequences.

    2. Sloanicota*

      Yes, this is OP’s first “real” job. There’s a ton of stress and anxiety about that; I don’t think OP should catastrophize that it will only get worse from here as her career takes off and the job gets more demanding. It’s stressful to start things – sometimes that’s the most stressful stage of all. I remember a lot of anxiety about being new, not knowing what I was doing, worrying I was going to fail right off the bat etc etc.

    3. LW2*

      This is such a good reminder! I know in my head that experience will help, but it’s hard to internalize that when I’m the most inexperienced person at my company by a lot. Really, though, I can see that even with tasks that used to panic me but I’m much more comfortable with now and don’t stress over anymore – I have to keep reminding myself of this.

  15. Viette*

    “Is this something that new grads just have to get through?” No, but it is something that *you* have to get through, and getting through it will make your current work and your long-term career so, so much better for you.

    OP#2, it’s great that you’re asking and it’s great that you’re in therapy. I fully agree with the answer given to you. Additionally, I’d encourage you not to be either disheartened by or distracted from addressing this; in some ways it’s the most important thing you can do for your career.

    Honestly, some of your worry that (colloquially speaking) worrying too much is going to ruin your career is probably the same anxiety finding a new thing to latch onto. Not only are you anxious, your brain suggests you should be anxious about how anxious you are.

    Whatever you end up doing, whether it’s this goal field of yours or not, the first and best thing you can do for yourself is to investigate and manage this anxiety to the extent that you’re able to exist as yourself at your job without being stuck in an anxiety bog.

    1. Harper the Other One*

      +1 to this! OP, my husband dealt with worries like this after college but didn’t get into therapy (and in his case, medication) until many years later, and he’s still kicking himself about how long he lived with it. The fact that you’ve identified the problem and taken definitive steps to address it is awesome! In fact, consider it an indicator that you are good at understanding your own personal development needs, something that will stand you in good stead both in your career and your life.

    2. amoeba*

      Honestly, I think it’s actually for the best that this is already coming out now, in what sounds like a quite supportive, low-stress environment! If you’d somehow managed to ignore it and then found yourself in a less supportive place in a few years, it’s be so much harder to address it. Good on you for noticing it early and deciding to do something about it – sounds like you’re in a good place for that, and will be able to grow and lay the foundation for your career!

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Yes, it’s really good that the OP is working though this now. And OP, just so you know how long it can take to build confidence, it took me at least 10 years of planning events before I started thinking “hey, I’m actually pretty good at this, maybe I should have more confidence in my skills!”

      2. LW2*

        This is such a good point! I know I am in such a good place to work on this right now. I’m reminding myself everyday that none of this (the career, the anxiety) is going to get better overnight but it doesn’t mean it’s going to last forever.

    3. Random Dice*

      Oh yes, anxiety and depression are massive liars. Making us anxious about our anxiety is a favorite trick.

  16. AFox*

    OP2: It might be worth exploring in therapy whether there are functional issues (sensory processing, reading, executive functioning) underlying your overwhelm? Often underlying challenge can go unnoticed because school/college provide built-in supports, but “levelling up” can expose those issues.

    1. Stay-at-homesteader*

      Yes! OP, this may not be the case at all for you, but it took me over a decade to realize that my issue was two-fold: one was good ol’ fashioned anxiety, the other was undiagnosed ADHD. That sort of thing can make admin work uniquely painful (and I actually love admin work for a lot of reasons, but it takes a huge toll because I have to compensate so hard).

      1. Neurospicy*

        This is an excellent point.

        I masked for my own ADHD through raging anxiety and catastrophizing. That’s how female ADHDers do.

        Now I have ADHD meds and anxiety meds.

        1. Stay-at-homesteader*

          So. Much. Catastrophizing. I laugh about it now, but it wasn’t funny when I was up all night dry heaving because I hadn’t gotten a piece of paperwork in earlier (even though it was out of my control).

          Okay, the time I was up all night because I was dry heaving about clogging our friends’ toilet at three am and worried about waking up their baby while unclogging it *was* hilarious the next day. Also I got meds after that.

        2. Not to complicate things...*

          After a few months on ADHD meds (which help IMMENSELY), I’m realizing I probably need to add some anti-anxiety into the mix. The new ADHD diagnosis definitely explains why the anxiety meds alone didn’t fix anything in the past…

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Absolutely this! I mentioned my ADHD in another thread but I was only diagnosed a few months ago at the age of 45. Just started meds a couple of months ago and it’s been really great to calm down my racing mind. I forgot to take them one day and I was amazed at how I noticed that even my eyes work differently when I’m on them…they dart around all over my screen when I’m unmedicated but actually stay in one place for awhile when I’m on the meds. It’s so weird.

    2. Alpaca Bag*

      Yes! If I had known this about myself 30 years earlier than I did, my whole career could have been different. Meanwhile, that path led me to my current job, which is just right for who I am now with my enhanced self-awareness.

  17. Avuncular funicular*

    I’ve had this job for six months, and while it is a pretty low-level admin position (which is not completely my preference), it’s finally in the field I want to work in and that I studied for!

    While this advice may only be tangentially related to the question of LW2’s anxiety, I would still like to say: LW2 would do well to continue searching for substantive entry-level positions in her chosen field, not admin position. It is, of course, not unheard for admin positions to grow into other roles, but it is more common that they will be pigeonholded as admins.

    1. bamcheeks*

      This may differ in the US, but in the UK in loads of fields one or two years in a lower-level admin role is a pretty normal preparation before you apply for a specialised professional role. It gives you a chance to learn the lingo, understand the priorities of the field and see the professional roles up close and decide whether you really want to do them. For most of our graduates it s exactly how you get over the “they all say they want experience but how do I get experience without experience” wall.

      1. londonedit*

        Yep, it’s traditionally been a standard route into my industry (publishing). You start off working on reception or in the post room or in a general admin sort of role, and that gives you a chance to learn about what the various other departments are doing, the sort of books the company is publishing, etc, and if you’re keen to advance then you can take the opportunity to chat to people and find out about their jobs. It’s how I started – a job on reception led to a chat with a senior editor who was looking to hire an editorial assistant, and I ended up getting the job. It’s less easy now there are fewer small independent publishers (working on the main reception desk of the Penguin Random House building isn’t going to get you access to the Penguin imprints, for example) but it can still be done and in my opinion it’s far more useful than spending money on a publishing MA.

        1. bamcheeks*

          I find it really interesting, because a lot of the discourse around higher education and “success” will treat those roles as non-graduate, and therefore not “a positive destination” for the purposes of university league tables and funding, but I personally think they’re often GREAT for both the individual and as a broader phenomenon. I think it’s great if clinical psychologists have experience as a low-level, frontline mental health support worker, not just a degree + a research assistant post + clinical psych PhD! I think that’s probably good for psychology and for patients! I think it’s good if people don’t train to be social workers until they’ve spent time on the front desk reception dealing with everyone who walks through the door and figuring out what they need! I think it’s great if we have managers who have spent time on the shop floor, or cleaning the machinery, or stuffing envelopes, or taking minutes in higher level meetings, or solving basic technical problems, or whatever else! But we’ve got a policy landscape that says everyone’s *supposed* to go directly into the grad-level professional role at 21, and it’s really annoying to me!

        2. LW2*

          Yeah – it’s not identical, but this is very similar to the situation I’m in. I do recognize this is definitely NOT the case in a lot of places, but here it’s pretty common (and a lot of people in my company currently worked their way up the same way I am).

      2. Engineer*

        In the AEC industries, starting as an admin only works if you didn’t know this was the field you wanted to join. Once you’re working on your degree, it’d be expected for you to move into an internship and not keep doing admin work. And then once you’re a college grad, you need a certain number of years of relevant working experience to qualify for a license, so getting a job doing something else can delay you pretty significantly.

        1. bamcheeks*

          Yes, there’s a divide here too between sectors with solidly defined career pathways, entry points and training, and those where the entry requirements are either much softer, or where entry is sufficiently over-subscribed that the entry requirements and training are softening. Paralegal and solicitor used to be separate career paths, but now significant numbers of law graduates will work as paralegals whilst applying for professional training, and they’ve just changed the qualification requirements so that paralegal work will count towards qualification. It’s an interesting one!

          1. Avery*

            Oh, that’s fascinating! I think the division between paralegal and attorney is softening a bit here, too, especially given the glut of law school graduates versus actual positions available leading some to become paralegals. Here in the states there’s been some talk of special paralegal certifications that actually allow paralegals to do some of the lawyerly court work, too. And I think “paralegal” and “legal assistant” used to be very distinct roles, but that line’s been blurring recently too…

  18. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    LW3 – I wonder whether there’s a way to ask, “how does that differ from my suggestion?” Obviously this needs to be said in tones of curiosity, collaboration, etc rather than frustration or insubordination.

    Because in some cases there will be some factor that you hadn’t explicitly mentioned that they think is crucial. For example, in an interview I was asked how I would deal with a common problem, so I outlined the necessary steps based on my qualifications and experience, but they kept saying “and? and?” It turned out that they wanted me to detail the steps of keeping my manager in the loop, which I thought so obvious it went without saying.

    You’ll know how receptive they are likely to be – and if one is a better prospect than others – but if they are decent then you might get “It’s crucial this be added to the TPS reports and not just emailed separately” or even “uh, I guess it isn’t, well done.”

    1. Marcella*

      I do this and it’s really effective. I’ve just been in too many workplaces where the cool kids get all the credit and buy-in, which then accelerates their career track and income while other people with great ideas stay stagnant.

      So I say “to make sure I’m understanding this fully, what are the components that are different from what I proposed?” and then I briefly summarize my idea. It keeps people honest and helps me understand where I might not be selling my ideas as well as I could.

  19. bamcheeks*

    I am fully imagine LW3 as Bungle reporting to Rod, Jane and Freddie. [/niche British xennial joke]

    LW4, how about asking your former employees if they want to hear back when you get asked for a reference? “Hi LW, I’ve just put your name down as a reference for a llama jockey post. Hope that’s ok!” “Sounds exciting, good luck! Do you want me to let you know if I get a call?” Could save you some stress on the future!

  20. Audrey Puffins*

    #2, I’m a professional administrator with no ambitions of management. My previous job felt to me how you describe in your letter; although I was a low-level administrator, I felt the stresses all the time and was constantly thinking about the work and the issues and the everything, no matter what time of day or night, and it was not great! I’m now in a different job, still administrating, but able to leave it behind when I leave the office at the end of the night, and even though the commute and the days are longer than I’m used to, I don’t have that perpetual state of dread hanging over me anymore. So yes, it can be normal to be stressed all the time in a lower level job, it doesn’t mean you’re going to be inherently stressed in every job you ever have from now until retirement.

    1. Ashley*

      I have wondered LW2 if you have anxiety on top of this maybe not being the correct business environment for you. How are your colleagues handling things if you make a mistake or don’t know something? Are they understanding that you are new and haven’t been doing this for 10 years and we are all human and prone to mistakes? Or are they expecting perfection? Because when I have a manager that demands perfection the anxiety goes up several notches for me and work becomes more stressful and increase my anxiety. You always try to do good work, but accept mistakes will happen … just try to keep them to minor mistakes and take extra time on the super important stuff. And when you manager expects nothing but perfection in all areas all the time, find a new job.

      1. Not to complicate things...*

        Bingo bingo bingo! I commented below with my experience and it’s exactly what you’re describing. Trying to talk yourself out of anxiety can make you ignore the signs that this job isn’t a good fit for you.

  21. M*

    OP3, another tool for your basket:

    I’ve had a certain amount of success with just… responding with genuine concern that we might not be communicating. As in “oh, that sounds a lot like what I’m proposing – what’s the difference you’ve got in mind?” Obviously, don’t push it to the point of passive-aggressiveness, but just… reacting as if *obviously* they must mean something different, and maybe you’re just missing it, and you wouldn’t want to go and do what *you’re* suggesting, if they mean something *different*.

    Usually, after a couple of cycles of it, the person picks up the pattern on their own, and no-one likes to come across like they weren’t listening. It doesn’t work so well if you work with someone who tends to double-down and justify their own mistakes – that kind of person will just *make up* a “difference”, and you end up either waving it off or going in circles about whether that’s actually a difference in the plans. But if what you’ve got is a manager who’s not paying full attention, hears the problem, and jumps to suggesting a solution you’ve already mapped out, it tends to train them out of it.

  22. Irish Teacher*

    LW1, yikes. When I read the first part about her planning out the whole course, I thought, “oh, she’s trying to impress you/thinks she’s being helpful and it will make her look good to you, a senior colleague,” but then I got to the part about her advising you on basic things as if you are the new teacher and…yeah. That’s odd.

    1. Rebecca*

      I think there is something specifically in teacher training and teacher culture here. I remember doing my teaching degree – I came to it late, I had been teaching ESL abroad for a several years before I came home to get qualified, so I was older and more experienced than my classmates – and we were literally taught in class to criticise our mentor teachers because they were ‘old fashioned’ and ‘hadn’t been taught the new methods’. I also talk to a lot of new or prospective teachers who have drunk the kool aid about what they think teaching is and have no idea of the reality (they’ve watch the movies where teachers throw out the curriculum and change everyone’s lives over night) and think that those of us with a more measured, realistic view of how it’s really going to go down are just jaded and don’t caaaare as much as them.

      I’ve been teaching for 17 years, in a variety of contexts and countries, and recently started my own school. I had a student teacher come in to observe me and she told me I would be pleased to know that my methods were up to date according to her professor, but also refused to listen to any of my practical advice because she was sure she loved her students enough to be able to do it all intuitively. When she described one appallingly bad lesson she taught and I gently suggested a better way to do it, she brushed it off as “we all do things our own way, I teach with my heart.”

      The LW’s experience doesn’t surprise me at all, unfortunately.

      1. Holly*

        I always want to ask people like this what they are going to do on days where they DON’T love their students. Or what happens to the one or two students in each year they don’t love.

        I mean, I know what the answer is because I’ve been that student and seen it happen with colleagues, but I’d love to know what they THINK is going to happen.

        Also, intuition is using your imagination to build on your experience and the wisdom of others.

        Just this week I’ve seen an assistant teacher complain that they’ve been relegated to one lesson a week which is absolutely the fault of the school and nothing at all due to the fact they appear to be as rude to their students and colleagues as they are to us in the group chat. /s The mind boggles.

        1. Rebecca*

          Right? Whether or not I personally like my students is, frankly, irrelevant.

          I need to be professional enough to treat each student with respect and as a valued member of my classroom, and to cultivate a good working relationship with them that often tends to be more personal and casual than other working relationships. It is my job to do that for every student.

          It is not my job to be a second mother.

      2. bamcheeks*

        she was sure she loved her students enough to be able to do it all intuitively

        I think this is a CLASSIC way of starting out in so many different roles, though. “Am I enjoying it”, “do people look happy” and “does this measure up to my personal definitely of Good Work” are really common metrics for people brand new to professional level work to draw on, and there’s a lot of cultural imperative behind the idea that this is the Real Stuff and things like formal, robust metrics and evaluation is pointless box-ticking. And sometimes they’re not wrong because metrics measure something, but not the whole of what you’re trying to achieve! Getting the point where you can accurately balance “this feels right, and as an experienced practitioner I know it’s important and valuable even if it can’t be measured” and “these metrics are important and something I need to pay attention to, even though they aren’t the be-all and end-all of my achievement” is a real levelling-up moment, I think.

        1. Rebecca*

          That is true!

          But we tend to have an unrealistic cultural idea of what teaching is in a way that we don’t for say, marketing, or accounting, so that unrealistic image gets added into the mix.

      3. Ellis Bell*

        Oh, yeah the misconception that teaching is all innate love and instinct is definitely out there, and it makes feedback way more fraught than it ought to be; you’re not just suggesting a different method or approach, you’re suggesting someone needs to change their soul, or that they can’t interact with people. A very wise piece of advice I got in teacher training is to treat every piece of experienced advice like gold. Especially if it wasn’t my style, or might not feel like the kind of thing I’d do as a matter of course. No one knows at the beginning how hard it’s going to get. How many curve balls, how many different tools and approaches you need to use. You don’t know that your practice is going to continually change, and it’s never really expected that the “old fashioned” teachers would have been constantly revamping or keeping up with new ideas. This is definitely true sometimes, but I struggle to think of all that many examples.

      4. Observer*

        When she described one appallingly bad lesson she taught and I gently suggested a better way to do it, she brushed it off as “we all do things our own way, I teach with my heart.”


        And what’s she going to do when she meets a kid who does not engage her heart?! She’s a human being and it *is* going to happen, because that’s what happens to humans.

        I still remember with crystal clarity one of the most important lesson I learned when I was in a religious teacher’s seminary (it was only later that I realized that I was not cut out for classroom teaching.) The teacher started talking about how to handle kids you just don’t like. And of course a bunch ot 19yo idealists started yelling that OF COURSE they will absolutely *LOVE* all of their students. Because that’s what good teachers do! etc. And she calmly responded (which was very striking because her usual MO was high drama) “Girls, what you say is very good. But in real life, that *are* going to encounter students you don’t like. And always remember: You have as much responsibility to the kids you don’t like as to the kids you love!” Of course there was more to it, but that was the core.

        Of course good teachers teach with heart – it’s not a profession you can really stay, at least not without doing a lot of harm, if you don’t care. But by the same token, sticking to heart only is flat out dangerous.

  23. Also-ADHD*

    LW1 doesn’t give me Leslie Knope vibes at all—she’s bossy but the point is she’s mostly bossy with people who don’t care about their jobs OR tries to convince them if they do. People WANT Leslie to do everything, and she actively tried to excite them etc. She’s not oblivious to what people care about and how they feel about their jobs. LW1 could just be someone with a phenomenal ego and control issue, but it could also be the person was instructed to take charge (I’ve been in that position, actually in a teaching setting, where leadership wanted things to change and tried to undermine folks—-I didn’t fall for it personally, but I think it happens to people in academia all the time).

    1. Holly*

      Yep. Happened to me – I was to take charge and change things in a department, despite never being given the tools, experience, training or indeed the promotion required to do so.

      It pissed so many people off – a net zero for everyone, really.

  24. Frustrating Mess*

    We had a Parks and Rec club at my last company and we would call her Leslie Kyep (silent K) because she was positive, not negative

    I don’t get what she has to do with this question though – the new colleague is either completely misinformed, just plain clueless, or it could be that the bosses asked her to act as a mentor

  25. Catwhisperer*

    OP3, I’ve also found it helpful to express enthusiasm about alignment in addition to noting that their idea is the same as your proposal. A sample script could be, “Yes, that’s exactly what I’m proposing! I’m glad we’re aligned on how to proceed. For next steps I think we’ll need to do x, y, z, what are your thoughts?”

    That sends the message that you’re open to their input and working collaboratively while clarifying that the idea was originally yours.

  26. Pastor Petty Labelle*

    #4 I think your own anxiety is causing you to spiral into but if I do this, that might happen, but if I don’t do this, that might happen. I’m glad you wrote in to Alison so she could cut through that and give you a short simple approach, with the underlying reasons why.

  27. Llama Llama*

    #2 — FWIW I used to stress an insane amount about my work. I would worry about all the stuff I didn’t do right or what I was going to do about this PROBLEM. What made me feel better is realizing that the world wasn’t going to end because of this problem. No one was going to loose their job. Maybe a billion dollar company was going to not figure out a few hundred dollar problem but they would be fine.

    Hell most of the time, the issue was even resolved the next day but my brain would not stop worrying. I still worry from time to time but it’s for far less and not for a few hundred dollars….

  28. DameB*

    OP#3 — I remember the first time something like that happened to me. I was in a meeting, proposed an idea, everyone just ignored me or said “no that won’t work” and then five minutes later Kevin proposed the same idea, word for word, and everyone thought it was great. I remember walking out and thinking “Did I … say it wrong? Was I not excited enough?” It took several more iterations for me to finally give up and leave.

    1. Random Dice*

      A lot of trans people note that their ideas suddenly get a lot MORE public validation (if transitioning to male) or suddenly get a lot LESS public validation (if transitioning to female).

      Same person, the only difference in general respect is perceived gender.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        If anyone is interested in reading more on this topic, two good AAM posts to start with are:

        “how work changes when you’re a woman: an interview with a transgender woman” from September 10, 2019

        “update: my boss from before my gender transition is now my colleague” from August 14, 2023

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        There were a bunch of comments on this week’s scheduling bot question about how some women would create fake emails with men’s names to use when dealing with some things like tech support or scheduling and how they did it when they realized their male colleagues got better responses or treatment. So disheartening that we have to resort to this.

    2. cardigarden*

      I was on a project team years ago and flagged a problem in January. I brought it up weekly and was brushed off every single time. Some time in late March, one of my male colleagues (whom I already hated so this grated even more) had a real-time epiphany: “Hey, guys, I just realized… [thing I had been bringing up weekly] is going to be a problem and I think we need to discuss it.” And the reaction from the project lead was “omg yes we need to address this, you’ve saved the day”.

      I almost walked out.

      1. JustaTech*

        I’ve been having this issue on a project team where I am the SME and the only person who knows anything about the history of the project. I keep brining things up and having them brushed off, or people complain that they don’t know about X, Y or Z when I posted all of that to the shared drive months ago.
        I brought it up to my grand-boss and he was surprised and confused that people don’t seem to hear me and when I mentioned it might be a gendered thing he just brushed it off.

        1. lazuli*

          I brought it up to my grand-boss and he was surprised and confused that people don’t seem to hear me and when I mentioned it might be a gendered thing he just brushed it off.

          That is hilarious and infuriating all at once!

    3. pally*

      Been there as well.

      In fact, at one meeting, after my suggestion was shot down, a man made the very same suggestion that I did. It was met with great enthusiasm. The young guy sitting next to me gave me a confused look and muttered something like, “Didn’t you just suggest that?”.

      Other times, after my idea is rejected, folks will seek me out later and indicate that my idea is what they want to do. They usually preface this turnabout as not having comprehended either my idea or the problem at the time. Fair enough. But why be so quick to reject an idea? How about, “let’s think this through a bit first” ?

      It’s an uphill battle. Oftentimes not one I wish to fight.

  29. Ann Onymous*

    OP 2, Towards the end of college, I developed really crippling anxiety. I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to finish college, get a job, or move out of my parents’ house. But with therapy things did eventually get better. I finished college and have been working in my chosen field for nearly a decade with steady career advancement along the way. I also don’t even live in the same city as my parents. When I was in the midst of my anxiety, I couldn’t have remotely imagined getting to where I am now, so I hope hearing that it got better for me is helpful for you.

  30. anonymous 5*

    LW1: fellow prof here. I’ve been in similar situations and have mostly smiled and nodded and then just ignored the “advice.” If your new colleague presses further (e.g. tries to “check in” with you after the term has started) then it’s worth pushing back. But I generally don’t think it’s worth expending the energy.

    If new colleague actually has good ideas, they’ll come out over time. If she is actually tasked with revamping the course, that will come out as well. But in my experience, there are all sorts of good ways to set up a college course; and there is no such thing as the perfect way. So I’d personally save my mental space for the things I can do to ensure I’m providing my students with the best course I can.

    1. Pippa K*

      But it’s just so…weird that a new hire would hand a syllabus and lesson plans to an established colleague! I’m curious about the details that might explain it – is OP an adjunct and this a new tenure-track hire who has the impression they’re now the main faculty member teaching, say, Intro to Whatever so they have some reason to be designing a more unified approach? Because that’s about the only reasonable misunderstanding I can come up with.

      But in OP’s place, I’d just ask the new person directly and calmly – “well, I’ve been teaching this for years so of course I already have a syllabus and materials. Why did you think I needed a new one?” Not as a challenge, but because I’d genuinely want to know the answer to avoid further misunderstanding.

      1. anonymous 5*

        If OP is adjunct and the new hire is tenure-track, that is such a huge detail that I can’t imagine OP would leave it out. But if new hire is, indeed, tenure-track and charged with supervising/aligning the various sections of a course, they’re going about it wrong for different reasons (e.g. not being clear from the initial request to meet that they are in this position).

        Your suggested phrasing would definitely give new hire some room to clarify, which would, at the very least, be a kindness to the new hire!

  31. FashionablyEvil*

    #3–is there anyone else in these meetings? The other thing I have found to be successful is to have someone say, “Oh, Kevin, that sounds just like what Jessica was suggesting! Jessica, did you have other considerations you wanted to mention?”

    Basically, make it clear that someone else has noticed the pattern and kick it back to the person who originally described it for credit and expansion.

    1. Abogado Avocado*

      I agree with Fashionably Evil’s proposal (and love the handle!). Now, if you don’t have an ally (or if management’s behavior has beaten everyone else down, too), then you may find it helpful to add, “Here’s my diagram again of the solution. We can use this as a starting point to implement it. . .” That tends to drive home that the solution is your idea. (And, btw, I think it’s brilliant that you’re bringing a visual aid along to make your proposal. In my world, we call that evidence!)

  32. Delta Delta*

    #2 – It could be that part of the anxiety is the fact OP isn’t in school anymore. That’s a big life change for recent college grads; if someone went straight through school, they’ve been in school since they were 5 or younger, and now all of a sudden that piece is missing. I’m glad OP is in therapy, because there may be several things going on, not the least of which is the simple act of growing up.

    1. LW2*

      This is a fair point. I definitely didn’t have any love for school – but it’s a huge adjustment for the brain to deal with.

  33. HonorBox*

    LW1, I think it is definitely worth meeting with your colleague and at the earliest point possible in that meeting, let her know that you’ve taught the course six times. It may well be that she’s under the impression that you’re both in the same situation. But let her know that you have your course plan established. Coordinating aspects of the course (projects, test dates, etc) makes sense, so there may be some adjustments that you both can make to ensure timing is right, but I think there is some misunderstanding on your colleague’s part that each person teaching the course will follow the exact same plan, whether you’re both new to the course or not. So let her know that you’ve taught the course, have a plan that you’ve refined over the course of two years, and prefer to stick to that … while also being open to some adjustments to align schedules.

  34. Jay*

    #3, is this more on the “Oh, we don’t listen to people like YOU around here” general garbage person side, or the “Nice idea #3! I’m glad I had it!” idea thief side?
    Two different problems, although with both, the best solution is to get out and find non-evil people to work for.

  35. OMG It's 2024*

    If I had to theorize, I’d guess that LW 1’s new colleague when hired was told something like, “You and Prof. Dumbledore will both be teaching “The History of Wizadry 101 this semester. I suggest you get together to ensure you’re providing consistency in your approach and syllabuses,” or some such thing and “Leslie” took that to mean that she should provide the approach to you to follow along. I think with Alison’s great script, you’ll quickly disabuse her of the notion.

    1. Monty*

      Or wires got crossed somewhere and Leslie got the impression that Albus Dumbledore is a TA or junior co-instructor or someone who needs a lot of support from co-instructors. Reminding a colleague to remember students’ names is so weird. Reminding a TA that students appreciate instructors knowing their names is… also pretty weird, but at least defensible from a job training perspective?

      1. OMG It's 2024*

        True. I could see “Leslie” thinking “Oh they’ve brought ME in to teach this course that some lower level flunkie has been teaching, I better get us on the same page.” It’s SUCH a departure from norms, I feel like there HAS to have been a miscommunication somewhere during the hiring/orientation/whatever process that led Leslie to believe she needed to take some action. Otherwise, the alternative ie Leslie is a kook :)

      2. ferrina*

        Or Leslie’s watched a few too many feel good movies about the new teacher that comes in and has to teach the stodgy colleagues how to truly teach, while New Teacher inspires students and saves the world.

        There’s definitely a Rah-Rah New Teachers Will Save the World philosophy in a few places. Or maybe the Knope colleague was hyped up to herself as someone who Knows Best.

  36. AvonLady Barksdale*

    LW2, I’ve been there, and I’ve seen it a lot in other people. In addition to therapy, one of the things that helped me enormously was building my life outside of work. Just out of school, in a new city (in my case), living in a new place, I had this JOB that I wanted to make a CAREER… it all seemed so overwhelmingly important. Every single mistake was a disaster and felt like a reflection on me as a person. Once I got involved in some outside of work hobbies and started really building my personal life, things improved immensely. They took the pressure off of work. Sounds counterintuitive, but caring less made me a much better worker– I had a much healthier perspective on work. Even today, 20-some years on, when work starts to give me anxiety, I shift my focus and do things that engage me outside of work.

    1. Menace to Sobriety*

      Off topic, but I had to say when I saw your user name it *whooosh* took me back to being 6 years old living at Barksdale AFB. Back then an Avon Lady would actually come to the house loaded up with her samples and supplies every week to see (and sell to) my Mom. They’d try out various make ups, etc.. and she’d always give me a couple of those tiny sample lipsticks or Sweet Honesty perfume. Mom’s gone now, but you evoked such a sweet, clear memory!

  37. Punk*

    LW1: Is it possible that she just wants to make sure that different sections of the same course are covering the same material and are similar in how demanding they are? Is she teaching more sections of it than you are? It’s actually a good idea to get together and make sure that you’re giving students similar experiences.

    Honestly I had so many professors in bigger courses that never learned anyone’s name. In context, it’s not weird to look at the size of the roster and determine that some professors wouldn’t bother. It sounds like the newbie had some lousy experiences as a student in the bad section of a course and with professors who didn’t get to know anyone, and she’s trying to give her students a better experience. I’m kinda surprised that the LW didn’t clock these motivations because they’re known problems in academia.

    1. Irish Teacher*

      Honestly, it’s still weird for a new professor to start telling a colleague that it would be good to learn the students’ names (the LW does clarify above that the new colleague does have previous experience but she is still new and establishing herself in this job). There are definitely professors who can’t or won’t learn all the students’ names. My advisor for my final year project replied to my asking him to sign off on my project with, “firstly, what’s you name?” Not only had he been lecturing me for 2 years at that point, but I also had him for tutorials in 2nd year, when it was a group of maybe 15 students, so learning our names shouldn’t be too onerous, but he just…wasn’t bothered.

      But I really doubt he would have had an epiphany because some new lecturer was hired and started off by telling him to remember the dates assignments were due and try to learn our names. He’d been doing things his way for probably 30 years at that point and he really wasn’t going to change.

      I also think there’s a big difference between assuming some professors wouldn’t be able to learn the names of all their students and assuming that the LW specifically didn’t realise it was a good idea to learn them if possible. Even if she had bad experiences as a student, it isn’t great to decide on first meeting that one particular profession is the sort of professor one had bad experiences with.

      Trying to give students a better experience than you had is great in teaching, but that primarily means taking care not to make the same mistakes as your poor teachers yourself and perhaps pushing back when a colleague is making such mistakes, not randomly deciding a professor you’ve just met must be the type to give students a bad experience and telling them not to.

  38. Monty*

    LW 1: is it possible Leslie has gotten her wires crossed and thinks you’re a TA or a grad student co-instructor? I ask because I also work in higher ed and this tone is absolutely bizarre to take with a colleague (especially someone who has been there longer).

    I’ve certainly had people make wild mistakes about my role on campus– mostly assuming that I’m an admin because I’m a helpful woman with marginally better executive function than most academics– and I find it pays to clarify your role in a kind way and let awkward things be awkward.

  39. Honoria Lucasta*

    LW1: if your new colleague is used to teaching at the primary or secondary levels, she may be assuming a uniformity between different sections of the course that doesn’t exist at the college level. I’ve had several friends teaching at charter schools who either were the “lead teacher” for a grade, developing lesson plans and assessments for all the teachers to use, or who received the lesson plans from a lead teacher. This person sounds like she’s treating her job this way, and maybe she doesn’t understand how teaching different sections of a college course works. I’ve taught at the college level in English, Philosophy, and Politics departments and I know how much flexibility a professor has even with a standard departmental syllabus.

  40. Dinwar*

    I had to deal with someone like the colleague in #1. They brought someone in to be the team lead on a jobsite, and had me working as the sample grunt despite being a team lead for years. Fair enough, it happens, and I went in thinking “We’ve got a good team and great experience levels, and I’ll enjoy not having the headaches the team lead deals with.” I reviewed the documentation and had some questions about the work process ready for the kickoff meeting. The person they brought in to be team lead cut me short and said “I think we need to discuss calibrating equipment first.” To put this into perspective, that’s literally what we teach people their first day on the job (it’s a critical thing to do, but annoying, so the newbies get it). And to make matters worse, she was wrong about how she wanted us to calibrate it.

    What I did was warn the project manager that this was going to be a disaster, made sure it was crystal clear what my roll was and WASN’T, and did my job to the best of my ability. I documented the crap out of things, too, which was important–the team lead tried to throw me under the bus a few times, and my notes and photos kept me safe. I also ended up having to put out a few fires she created, so be on the lookout for that.

    1. Menace to Sobriety*

      Similar situation. I was HIRED to BE a Team Lead, after the death of the previous one. My first day in the program office, the 2 men I was to work with told me, “WE’VE decided that “Chip” will be Team Lead, and I (Dale) will be Deputy and YOU will take on my former INTERN duties.” I was dumbfounded. The job required a certain certification that neither had, and if you didn’t have it, you had to work under someone who did. The only person on that team qualified to BE Lead….was me. But I figured, whatever. I’m being paid a stupid amount of money to shovel crap? Fine. But anytime I’d call them out on something they were doing wrong, they’d go ballistic because “that’s how it’s always been done.” I lasted exactly 1 year and quit. I tried to tell the Program Office and our corporate boss what was going on (some of it unethical) and … they’re still there. Still doing it. So glad to be out of that mess of toxic masculinity and willful ignorance.

      1. Dinwar*

        Yeah…that’s bad.

        One thing I like about where I work is that there’s a policy in our company specifically stating “That’s how we’ve always done it” is not an acceptable reason for anything. In fact, we’re supposed to flag it as a potential problem, as it’s an indicator of complacency.

  41. Lauren19*

    LW3: when they reject your ideas, do they tell you *why* the idea won’t work? If not, ask for clarificaiton. If you’re worried about pushing back, frame it for your own development – you need to understand their line of thinking to better solution in the future. Then, when they come back with the idea on their own, you can bring up their own words on why it won’t work. Frame it as ‘I think I’m missing something, earlier we talked about X as a limiting factor in being able to deploy that solution, can we talk through that?’

  42. I'm just here for the cats!*

    #1 as someone who has worked in a university department that helped professors with syllabi I would look into all of the changes she has made. Or at least flag it for someone higher. In my university changes to the syllabi and the curriculum would have to be approved by the chair. I think even a change to the reading material would need approval if the book was not already approved.

    1. Dasein9 (he/him)*

      That is extremely atypical for university courses. Professors are recognized in most institutions to be subject matter experts in their field and are in charge of designing their own courses and materials.

        1. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

          At the major U.S. state university at which I taught, I was handed a class and given free rein to do whatever I wanted, without any oversight at all. And I wasn’t even a professor, just a lecturer!

          1. Bread Crimes*

            Heck, I had that freedom teaching as an adjunct for a single semester (sabbatical cover), and that was before I officially had my PhD! Some places are a lot more relaxed about that than others.

            I asked the department chair if there were any rules about what had to be on the syllabus, and she cheerfully told me that I could design it however I wanted, but there was a website with some suggested wording for various types of information if I wanted to use any of those, no pressure either way.

  43. Sloanicota*

    #5 is interesting because I think the advice is correct (list the internship) but I think there’s a bit of risk – you could in theory be dismissed from the internship or it might not happen and then you’d have a resume out there listing it that wasn’t accurate. You will likely be a stronger candidate after you finish the internship and can list what you learned and accomplished; however, you’ve obviously got to proceed now with what you’ve got.

  44. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    LW2, I hope your stress levels drop significantly soon! Anxiety is an @sshole.

    One important thing to know is that it’s OK to change therapists if you’re not getting what you need from yours. There’s nothing in your letter that implies that you’re not, but this is something a lot of people don’t know. The relationship between therapist and client is a key predictor of success in therapy. A bunch of my friends are therapists and they understand that sometimes it’s not the right fit, and they don’t take it personally when their clients discontinue therapy with them.

    All that is to say, I hope your therapist is awesome and you’re getting what you need. But if that’s not the case, there’s no need to worry about moving on to someone else.

  45. Dasein9 (he/him)*

    LW #1, sounds like a new hire for a tt position? Fresh out of grad school? Grad school can really mess up someone’s understanding of what they’re responsible for. This can be especially true for the superstars, who may very well have been in charge of other students with teaching fellowships by the time they were finished.

    A little grace will probably go a long way in cultivating a long, productive professional relationship here. By all means, let the new hire know she isn’t responsible for your courses and help her re-calibrate her expectations regarding her responsibilities. New hires really can think the weight of the world is on their shoulders.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I agree, I’m sympathetic if this person is new to the work world or new to the field. You don’t think to check what you don’t know sometimes and she may not have the experience to recognize the context here (even though she’s new, you’ve been doing this course for years). Don’t quash all her enthusiasm or write her off as a loon yet. That said, if she’s *not* new and should know better by now, go ahead and quash it.

  46. Potato*

    LW2—I have been there! I used to have regular dreams where I got fired from my first post-graduation job.

    And in addition to Alison’s excellent advice, I would just add that for me at least, this has greatly lessened with time. Do I still have moments where I stress inordinately about minor things? Yes, but they’re far less frequent as I’ve settled into my role and become comfortable and familiar with my environment.

    So, be patient with yourself. The transition from school to full time employment is a weird one, especially if you’re the type of person who’s always been good at school.

  47. BecauseHigherEd*

    Lol, in defense of the clueless new employee Leslie Knope, some professors really DO need to be reminded why it’s good to learn their students’ names.

  48. Jaybeetee*

    LW2: I’m glad to read that you’re getting help, because as you acknowledge, the level of anxiety and symptoms you’re dealing with are not what everyone deals with.

    That said, I do think it’s normal for people in their first jobs/early in their careers to generally be on the nervous side and maybe a bit more anxious than those who are more established or experienced. You’re still learning the job itself, you’re learning industry norms, you might be learning about “grown-up” work and professional norms. You don’t want to say no to things, you don’t want to cause trouble, you feel like you have to be sort of always eager and “on”, and that if you screw up or, horror of horrors, lose your job, you’re screwed for ever working in your industry again.

    As you become more established in this job and in your field in general (and as you get help with your anxiety), you’ll have an easier time navigating these things. You’ll start doing better at your work, you might get promoted, you’ll develop relationships, you’ll settle into the norms. It does get easier and better. That said, the help you’re getting right now (and possibly medication, if that seems right for you) will also go a long way – it’s hard for any of us to be at our best, mentally or intellectually, when we can’t sleep and are constantly stressed. As your physical symptoms ease, you’ll start having an easier time coping with the rest.

    Good luck!

  49. Percy Pingleton*

    LW1: This is a red flag, so keep your eyes open and don’t let this go on. I’ve been a professor for 25 years and the last 5 years of incoming tenure-track people is something else. Gigantic sense of over-entitlement, assumptions that the World Began when they arrived on the scene, total lack of curiosity about how we’ve encountered, dealt with, and revisited all these very same problems in the past, and a very strange perception that we hired them to “fix” all of the things that they assume we don’t know, but are actually structural and bureaucratic barriers that come with life in a large institution. It’s destroyed our department, made my life a living hell, and I really wish my department members had the backbones to shut this down on day one—literally day one when our new hire said to the whole department of tenured professors that our curriculum looked like a “scattershot” and asked what we wanted in a redesign, AS IF we hired them as some kind of consultant. We all sat there speechless and that was enough for this individual to walk away (I guess?) thinking “I nailed that.” UGH. Anyway, hopefully this is not the case for you, but BEWARE.

    1. Minerva*

      The total lack of curiosity appears to be going around! I was hired more than 5 and less than 25 years ago, and I relate to everyone in your comment. Institutional knowledge matters, and also times change. I wonder what it would take to make everyone at the table curious about everyone else’s insights?

      1. Percy Pingleton*

        All it would take is some professionalism and an understanding that not everything is personal. It’s a very big ask for some folks.

  50. Insert Pun Here*

    I work in academia but am not an academic. I do have specific professional expertise and yet (some, not all!) professors often try to explain my job/industry to me. I suppose on some level it’s comforting to know that they also do this to other professors?

  51. RagingADHD*

    #1, there is a scene in the lovely movie Enchanted April where Miranda Richardson and Joan Plowright have an exceedingly genteel wrangle over who is the hostess of the villa they are all sharing for the month.
    “Was your room all right?”
    “Yes, thank you, was yours?”
    “Have you had all you want?”
    “Yes, thank you, have you?”

    This is how I’m envisioning the two professors trying to establish who is mentoring the other, without anyone acknowledging it out loud.

  52. morethantired*

    LW2, I just want to say congratulations on recognizing unhealthy work anxiety and pursuing therapy right away. I was like this for 10 years in my career, but because my anxiety resulted in me going above and beyond at work and an unhealthy work/life balance, I was constantly being rewarded and confused my mental health issues for “Being Type A.” I burnt out in a spectacular fashion and have been working really hard over the past 5 years in therapy to recognize that my worth is not tied to my job, my productivity or being too emotionally invested in my work. I wasted way too much time at toxic workplaces and definitely had some toxic work behaviors that probably hurt my career at points. But my only regret is that I didn’t start therapy until after I was burnt out instead of when I first knew my work anxiety was likely a problem. Asking for help is always the hardest part.

    You are way ahead of the game and you’re going to do great. Much love to you.

  53. Melicious*

    Lol, #1 is a reminder that different people respond to uncertainty in different ways. I am 100% a prey animal when I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing (deer in headlights, dive back into my hole to hide, etc). It’s baffling to me when people PRETEND to know more than they do so the attention is ON THEM and their inexperience.

    1. Dinwar*

      I think there’s a few reasons for the “Pretend to know what you’re doing” response.

      We’re told pretty often to “Fake it ’til you make it”. If you act like you know what you’re doing quite often you’ll figure it out. And quite often simply having someone firmly grasp responsibility frees up the mental space for the rest of the team to start functioning again. It breaks option paralysis, and puts people into “How can I make this work?” mode.

      Then there’s “A good decision executed vigorously now is infinitely better than a perfect solution executed too late.” Sometimes you’ve just got to pick a path and move the project down it, and figure out how to fix it later. You just have to get used to people criticizing you.

      A surprising number of people don’t know what they don’t know. They think they’re doing the right thing. Some learn, but an astonishing number never seem to figure out why bad things always seem to happen.

      There are probably more reasons, but those are the ones I’ve seen most often.

    1. Annabelle*

      Why? They seem a bit over-eager and naive/misguided with the whole “remember to learn your students names” thing but again: I’m not getting Leslie Knope vibes from them or any real Super Crazy vibes from them.

  54. JaneDough(not)*

    LW2, please make sure that
    —- you’re seeing a licensed, experienced therapist (anyone can call themselves a counselpr), and
    —- you’re seeing someone who combines a psychodynamic approach (where you examine the family patterns that shaped you and work on releasing the pain / anger you have about your family of origin — and everyone has some pain / anger about their FOO) with a cognitive-behavioral approach (where you learn new, healthful ways of interacting with others and with yourself).

    One thing struck me: Near the end of your letter, you offered a black-or-white choice (Is this something that new grads just have to get through … or is this an indication that I won’t ever be ready to advance in my career?), with only two options, both of which are limiting. But life is full of grays, and learning that / accepting that will help you relax and move through life with greater ease.

    You can do this! Good luck.

    1. LW2*

      To your first point, definitely true! I didn’t get into the specifics (and poor choice of words), but I am seeing a therapist who does all of this! She’s great and definitely been helping.

      Regarding my black-and-white question, I definitely recognize I struggle with the grays when I’m anxious about something…but I think I’m struggling more so than most with these (to the point where I find it really difficult to see them at all). Thanks for the thoughts and well wishes!

  55. JaneDough(not)*

    LW4, thanks for caring so much about the well-being of your former employees. You stand in sharp contrast to the myriad bosses who prompt letters to this column.

  56. anon today*

    Oooh, I’m feeling LW#1 hard right now. I’m leading a new project at my office and thinking of bringing a junior colleague from another part of the office on board. So far, colleague seems well-meaning but with a slight overestimation of their own abilities. Earlier this week, colleague offered a suggestion for an issue I’m dealing with that wouldn’t address what the issue is (even after I explained it), which they then followed up with some frankly weird and basic advice for negotiating with the other stakeholders within the office (“Figure out in advance what your bottom line worst-case scenario you can live with is, but when you negotiate, don’t start with that”) (Like…I know, babe. I’ve been negotiating work-related issues since before you graduated from high school.).

    Unfortunately, due to resources, the project will be significantly less likely to be effective (or even approved) if I don’t bring colleague on board, but am I setting myself up for misery? I’m sure I could work with them, but is managing them going to make me deeply insane?

    1. HonorBox*

      I would say you probably need to bring them on, but perhaps a clear and concise (but very friendly) conversation about what you are going to need from them, setting up expectations that you’re in charge and will need them to follow direction is the way to go. It may be difficult to manage them, but if you can lay the groundwork early and then lean back on that conversation should things go sideways, that might help. And then also if you can find a venting buddy, that might help too. They’re probably going to do things that will drive you nuts, but being able to vent/laugh about it with someone removed from the actual work, that will help too.

  57. Academia, go figure.*

    I had exactly this situation with a newly arrived colleague (white male,) I had 15 years teaching experience at the graduate level at that time.
    I just responded with I’ll let you know if I need any help and attached a copy of my 20 page CV.

  58. Slow Gin Lizz*

    LW4, FWIW, I have a former boss who I worked closely with for seven years and only left when he decided he wanted to sell the company and retire. Now whenever I apply for new jobs he will email me if he gets a reference call and tell me some nice details about what he told them. It’s a really lovely thing to do for your reference if you want to do it. It’s also kind of nice to know that the job has gotten to the reference stage too.

    And actually, at that job I had a friend who was my part-time admin asst and whenever she applies for a new job she asks me for a reference, which is hilarious because we’ve been friends for much longer than she actually worked for me. But anyway, I do text her to tell her when I’ve given a reference for her. I’m sure she appreciates it too.

  59. willowandgingko*

    LW #2: I have been there, and it sucks. I have the Simple Habit meditation app and used the “Leave Work at Work” meditation from Matt Young on a near daily basis when I was struggling with this the most. I hope you find therapy to be supportive and helpful in finding a solution. Don’t add undue stress for yourself by thinking that it could affect your ability to advance — it won’t. This is just part of growing and learning how to function in work vs school. It’s a hard transition, and make sure you give yourself plenty of grace for learning something you’ve never done before.

  60. Bruce*

    LW#2: I’m glad you are getting counselling, if they suggest seeing a psychiatrist too I hope you’ll consider it. I hope you get to a better, calmer place!

  61. C.*

    Hi LW #2, I see *so* much of myself in you—believe me, you are not alone. I’m only speaking about myself, so I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but maybe there’s something here you relate to, too. I’ve always been generally prone to worrying and anxiety, but it wasn’t until I landed in my current company when that anxiety skyrocketed. Why? I think it’s because I wanted to get into this company for the longest time, and so when I finally landed the position, I was terrified that it could all be taken away from me. That + buying a house and taking on more financial responsibility in the last couple of years made it seem even more a precious thing to safeguard as best I could.

    I now see a therapist for this exact reason; similar to what Alison said, for some reason, I’ve always been a perfectionist and those tendencies latched on to my position at work—I (unhealthily) learned that my worth was dependent on what I do for a living, how well I do it, and where it is that I do that job. I’m not sure where you’re writing from, but if you’re from the US, you know that, unfortunately, our social safety net is nearly nil, so the stakes can feel extremely high here.

    Others have already given you great advice, but I would add that talking about it with others you trust has made a big difference for me. You’re already doing that with a counselor, but even just opening up to my husband and my closest friends has done wonders for my psyche. It reminds me that I’m not alone, that I’m not up against this all by myself, and that—most importantly—there are people in my court who love me and will catch me if I ever fall. People in your life love you, and they believe in you, no matter what.

    Aside from your closest circles, find your tribe at work! I guarantee you there are other people in your company who can relate to feeling stressed on the job. Or know how to handle the kind of stress specific to your position/industry/organization. Finding likeminded others—especially those with the same job title and responsibilities—only compounds the fact that you’re not alone there. As Mr. Rogers said, “look for the helpers.” They are in your organization, I promise.

    1. LW2*

      This is…so incredibly kind. I’ll admit, I’ve screenshotted a couple of comments from here to remind myself I’m not alone and yours is definitely one. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  62. Awkwardness*

    #3: Maybe you are to fast in your thinking?
    I realized that quite often, when I was arguing something, the other people were defensive because they did not see the problem as soon as I did. And only after – from my perspective – longwinded discussions, they came to the same results. It takes some patience to let others come to their own conclusions if everything seems so obvious to you and if you are deep in the matter.
    (Unfortunately, I did not master this one yet.)

    1. Awkwardness*

      And another thing to add: know your audience.
      Some people prefer to be lead to a solution step by step, others like the solution first, and explanation afterwards. If you do it the wrong way, you risk losing your audience. And this has nothing to do with how clear your explanations are.
      I personally cannot have the long approach. My mind will be distracted as I am wondering where this is going to. A colleague is different, because it helps her see one considered all options.

  63. PB Bunny Watson*

    LW #2, Is the anxiety all the time, or have you noticed that you tend to get it more around the end of a semester or during what would have been midterms for you previously? Something I found interesting (and annoying) after graduating was that my body seemed to have developed a clock of its own. I had spent so many years in school, getting anxious around the same times of the year so regularly (midterms, finals, etc) that I was still feeling anxious during those time even though school was over. Therapy (and recognizing what was happening) helped a lot. Maybe this isn’t your case, but… if you notice it fits that trend, you’re not alone.

  64. Civil-Servant*

    LW #3 – Can you try summarizing your suggestions in email format after you meet with the group? That way you could have a written record that you came up with the idea.

  65. Daisy-dog*

    #4 – Now, this may vary by your industry/role type, but not every company will call references even when they ask for them. Sometimes the references are just if they didn’t get a good enough feeling from the interview, but didn’t have any other candidates who met the requirements. So just because that was the only reference call doesn’t mean that she’s not in the running anywhere else.

  66. Not to complicate things...*

    LW2 – I think everyone is giving great advice and I’m so glad you’re seeing a therapist and getting care. Anxiety is so tricky – it’s like weeding a giant garden by hand – the job is never done!

    I will give one word of caution, as someone who struggles with acquired anxiety due to ADHD, plus a natural baseline of general anxiety – when you are talking yourself out of the lies that anxiety tells you, do not gaslight yourself out of your natural self-preservation instincts.

    I wasted too much time at a crappy job where I thrown under the bus, given poor support, chastised for mistakes that were either not my fault or understandable given the poor structure/processes on the team. The whole time, I was in therapy and trying different meds to get my anxiety and depression under control, but nothing quite scratched the itch.

    I left that job voluntarily because my husband and I relocated for his new role. Once I started a new job, I realized how much of my baseline suffering was just from being treated like crap. I still have anxiety and ADHD – I take meds and I do a ton of EMDR therapy to get at the roots of the negative stories I tell myself. But on a day-to-day basis, I am so much happier and more stable because work isn’t undermining my mental heath.

  67. rightokaysure*

    “I’ve got it taken care of. Calling the students ‘hey you’ or ‘dummy’ has worked well for me. I usually throw their assignments in the trash and assign grades based on a mix of a random number generator and the results of the middle 30th percentile of the NASDAQ. All my students come out totally capable of doing whatever it is I teach, but I’ve forgotten what it is.”

  68. phira*

    LW1, I wonder if your colleague is under the incorrect assumptions that 1) she is the lead instructor for the course and 2) you are a new TA and not a full instructor. That would make way more sense than her actually thinking that an experienced instructor would not realize things like the importance of learning names.

    But then again, I’ve seen all manner of things in academia so I wouldn’t be shocked if she was really just that oblivious!

  69. Roja*

    #1 that reminds me of the time I got hired to overhaul a program at a school, so I wrote a tentative curriculum and emailed it to the director, making sure to emphasize I wanted her feedback and that it was only a draft. She did not respond to the email. I walked into the staff meeting at the beginning of the year and was surprised to find her handing out copies of the “finished curriculum.” I was even more surprised to have a new coworker introduce herself to me and condescendingly offer to explain any terms in the document that I didn’t understand. She was not particularly impressed when I responded that I had written it.

    Unsurprisingly, I didn’t last long at that school. It was a hive of bees. So many bees! Did I mention our timecards were printed in fancy fonts with pink lettering and small animal graphics?

    Anyways, OP #1, I’m laughing and cringing with you.

  70. BPL*


    Based on your description, I have a sense that your new collogue feels very nervous about teaching this course and is trying to alleviate is trying to deal with it by a little over the top. They seem like “you are never overprepared” person who has gone a little too much in the prep department. “I have no idea what to expect, so I am going to do it all and it will not be enough!”

    I think that the suggestion of offering guidance will actually alleviate this a little bit.

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