open thread – January 26-27, 2024

It’s the Friday open thread!

The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on any work-related questions that you want to talk about (that includes school). If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet*, but this is a chance to take your questions to other readers.

* If you submitted a question to me recently, please do not repost it here, as it may be in my queue to answer.

{ 1,240 comments… read them below }

  1. Wondermint*

    I occasionally take on freelance work on top my full-time job. Moonlighting isn’t something I need to do, but it keeps my work portfolio diversified and brings in extra cash. Throughout the past five years, the owners of a small-business have hired me for short-term projects.

    The business recently brought on Owen as a replacement hire. Owen, like his predecessor, has been my main point of contact for a recent project. Owen has been awful to work with. Some lowlights:

    – Challenged my estimated hours for the project
    – Quietly put in a contract clause that if the project exceeded the estimated hours, I wouldn’t charge beyond the estimate – I refused to sign until that was removed. I almost didn’t catch it!
    – Asked for work way earlier than agreed upon deadlines for vague “wiggle room” – I’m happy to accommodate turning in work early if there’s a decent reason.
    – Calls me repeatably on Sunday nights (usually just before 10pm) to “goal set” for the upcoming week – I’ve stopped answering and will email him the next morning instead.
    – Sends truly last minute meeting invites that I can’t always make, calls me when I don’t show up, and won’t check my calendar availability.
    – Challenged my submitted timesheet, saying I should not be paid for meetings with the company. – I looped in the owners on this once, and they said that I should count correspondence as paid time.
    – Doesn’t have a grasp on the software that’s essential to the project. He’ll ask me to rework crucial aspects that go against industry best practices, and against historical work I’ve done for the business. – I’ve explained the processes to Owen, which has lead to longish going-in-circles meetings, and maybe that’s why he doesn’t want me to be paid for them.

    I will not work with Owen again, which is equivalent to saying I will not work for this client again. My question is, if the client asks to hire me in the future, should I tell the owners that I’m refusing their business because of Owen? It may read dramatic to say, “If you want my seasonal part-time help, get rid of your year-round full-time guy.” I highly doubt the possibility of working here without working with Owen directly.

    1. londonedit*

      You’re absolutely within your rights to stop working for this client, and I think also absolutely within your rights to tell them that it’s because of the way Owen has behaved. He’s completely unreasonable and no decent freelancer would put up with him! I think the owners should know that he’s driving good freelancers away.

      1. Wondermint*

        That was what my gut was saying, too; That no freelancer will want to put up with this, and that their jeopardizing our five-year long relationship.

        Do you think I should tell them when the project elapses? I’ve never done a post mortem with this business, but I’ve never had these sorts of problems either.

        1. londonedit*

          Assuming you’re happy to work to the end of this project, I’d do that, and then ask for a debrief – you could say that you’re aware you don’t usually do a post-mortem on a project, but Owen’s behaviour has made you realise that a) you can’t carry on working with him/the client in general and b) you needed to make them aware of the reasons behind you stepping away.

        2. Asloan*

          I freelance on the side. If it were me, I’d finish the job I’m on, then decline to take another job and explain why. “It’s become too time consuming to navigate your current processes” and then find a way to toss Owen under the bus without seeming to do so. The reason I say this is that you’re never more desirable than when someone has decided they want to hire you but you haven’t started yet. I agree with you that they probably won’t dump Owen for a freelancer, but there’s a chance they could reassign your project or something.

          1. Observer*

            “It’s become too time consuming to navigate your current processes” and then find a way to toss Owen under the bus without seeming to do so.

            No, be straightforward and honest. They have no reason to protect Owen, but they also should not be looking for a way to “throw him under the bus.” That’s rude and petty and will make the OP look bad once the owners figure out what’s up.

            A clear statement of the problems, however, may not be pleasant for the owners but there is no sense of game playing or just trying to get someone in trouble.

          2. Green Goose*

            Something like:
            “I really enjoyed working with Heather, and with her she never challenged my timesheets, she never called me on the weekends or after 8pm, and she did not set up last minute meetings regularly. Now that those things are different, I’m not able to support future projects with the current set up.”

            1. Asloan*

              Yeah thanks you put this better than I did. Because of the power imbalance I don’t think coming directly at Owen is going to be as effective as letting the consequences of his actions play out. But others may certainly disagree!

            2. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

              I would actually recommend telling the owners exactly what OP wrote here, anything else kind of waters down the impact.

        3. Pink Candyfloss*

          I think you should give that feedback to the owners NOW and not wait until the bridge is already burned. Unless you want to quit them permanently anyway!

      2. Heffalump*

        The client can experience the natural consequences of Owen’s unreasonableness, and Owen can experience the natural consequences, if any, of whatever actions his employer takes. I suppose there’s no one else they can designate to be your contact?

        1. Wondermint*

          Highly unlikely that someone else would be the point of contact. The business is so small, that even if I did work with someone else, Owen would be involved in some way *shudders* lol

          1. fhqwhgads*

            It is possible when they hear this they’ll be all “Owen did whaaa?” and then give him a talking to that he’s gone overboard in an inappropriate way. Doesn’t need to be a you or him sitch. It could become a “no Owen, this is not how we treat freelancers” sitch, and if they don’t suck, they hold him to it.
            That’s the best case scenario. Worst case scenario they’re like “yeah we told him to” and then you have a very clear answer.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yes! Just be direct about it, basically as direct as you were here. I’d sure as hell want to know if my new hire was doing this stuff and driving away a freelancer I’d liked working with.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      It seems to me that if you’re willing to lose the client over it, then it can’t hurt to explain to them the business reasons you’re not willing to work with him anymore. What are they gonna do, stop calling you? I would think that if he’s doing this to you, he’s probably doing similar things to other freelancers or even internal staff, and there’s a chance they’d appreciate the feedback, since they’ve already backed you when he went off-piste once.

      1. Elle Woods*

        Having freelanced, this is a good suggestion. It’s likely not going to be the easiest of conversations but definitely one worth having.

      2. learnedthehardway*

        Agreed – it would be in the client’s best interest to know that Owen is impossible to work with (and an idiot, since he’s asking you to do things that go against industry best practices, doesn’t know the software, etc. etc.)

        If the OP can point to specific issues where Owen is making serious errors, that might give the client the heads up to really consider whether Owen over-sold his experience. It might not be something the client fires Owen over, but it would prevent a lot of wasted time, if he’s as incompetent as it seems.

    3. FashionablyEvil*

      Since you already have a contact with the owners, I’d be inclined to share the list above and say, “This isn’t tenable for me moving ahead,” and see what they say. This is specific and actionable feedback for them.

    4. Cyborg Llama Horde*

      I would probably send a note to the owners (assuming you’ve had contact with them, which it sounds like you have) saying something to the effect of, “It’s been a pleasure to work with you over the years, but working with Owen has been more hassle than this job is worth to me. Please let me know if you would like to work together at some point in the future, with a different point person.”

      That may still have the same outcome, but I think it’s worth sending a clear and proactive message that from your point of view, Owen is a capital-P problem.

      (And if the owners follow up in confusion, give them the list you put here. I assume they don’t want their employees saying that the company won’t pay for hours worked, or repeatedly calling contractors at 9:45pm(!) on a Sunday(!) for planning meetings.)

      1. Wondermint*

        That’s an excellent script to start with. Thank you so much.

        I wonder who else within the company’s orbit is having problems with Owen.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          I have a suspicion that Owen thinks he’s being a good employee and saving the company money with these tactics–basically trying to score your work and time without compensation. If I were his employer I would either be aghast and immediately move to make corrections, or I would be “he’s such a clever guy!” and you would know to not move forward with this business partnership. Either way, let them know.

      2. Fierce Jindo*

        Yeah, this is the way to go. You’re not dumping the whole list of problems unless they ask, but you’re being straightforward that those problems exist.

    5. Artemesia*

      Of course. ‘I have enjoyed working on your projects in the past and feel that the work has been important for your company, but I cannot work with Owen, so I will have to decline this project.’

    6. JSPA*

      “You can’t afford the surcharge I’d have to add for working with Mr. Glendower again, especially considering how much extra time it requires when he’s the point of contact. But if you have someone else who can serve as a point of contact, I would happily work with your company again.”

      (I mean…would you work with him for double your normal fee? triple?)

      So long as it’s on the up-and-up, I see nothing wrong with adding a massive frustration surcharge.

      And, y’know, they work with him; it has probably not escaped them that he’s difficult, in some ways?

      They may still elect to keep him, for value that he brings in some other ways, yet be willing to pay a sizeable “working with Owen” surcharge.

      Or…given that we know he’s sneaky, incompetent, loudly sure of his own (actually sub-par) skills, careless about best practices, and given to making his lack of scheduling ability and personal skills into other people’s problems, he may be on his way out, in any case.

      And, eh, you’d be doing his co-workers a huge favor if your feedback were the final straw; plus it’d be a favor to him, to force him to learn how to be a better colleague and collaborator. He’s not going to learn, if everyone who can’t stand him does a slow fade.

    7. KeinName*

      I would indeed share the list above with them (as matter-of factly as possible). Emphasise that previously it was a productive relationship but it’s not possible for you to deliver what they need under the current conditions. So if they were to request your services again you would have to decline.
      You have a long history with them and they know you do good work.
      And most importantly do not work with Owen again. He seems sadistic. Calling someone on Sunday night – I don’t know where that would be normal? And even if it would be common for this company you can still make the choice to work for another company that will not call you Sunday night.

    8. Lammie*

      Please let the owners know. I had an purchasing employee that was great at his job; but what I didn’t know was that he was a complete horror to work with on the vendor side. After several months, one of my suppliers bravely approached me to tell me that we were being “fired” because of the abuse by the employee. I was mortified. Luckily, they gave me an opportunity to fix the problem, and I did.

        1. Jay (no, the other one)*

          Yup. I’m a doc and when I was managing my own practice, a friend of mine who was also a patient called and said “I think you probably want to know that the person who answers your phones in the morning is refusing to take messages except about cancelled appointments.” It was the answering service, not one of my employees. I very much needed to know that and there’s no other way I would have.

          Turned out that they were using the instructions for another account – which means another doc in the community told their answering service not to take messages, which boggles my mind.

      1. GythaOgden*

        My predecessor at the side gig I did a while back wasn’t Owen levels of aggressive, but she did get a reputation amongst our clients (I sold advertising for a small community magazine) for hassling them too much over payment. She wasn’t fired — she just moved away and wanted to focus on her own business a bit more — but some people just have that natural tendency towards zealousness that makes it a bit like trying to herd sheep with a hangry wolf.

        I, on the other hand, was a bit too passive when chasing people for money and I got some additional training to help with the job at hand and formulate plans to relieve some of the anxiety I had at pushing people too hard that meant I wasn’t pushing hard enough. I’m now in a role where I do have to nag people for stuff to get remembered and done, so the experience of being trained to be assertive but not aggressive was very beneficial. I even had to nag my boss for some signatures yesterday to get a project completed before her own deadline, and we got everything done thanks to me being her sheepdog.

    9. Observer*

      It may read dramatic to say, “If you want my seasonal part-time help, get rid of your year-round full-time guy.”

      Of course that would read as dramatic. But that’s not what you are going to say, right?

      Saying “I have found Owen difficult to work with, so I will not be taking any more projects that require me to work with him. Best of luck!” is perfectly professional and non-dramatic.

      It is also a lot more accurate. If he’s treating you this way, he may be treating other people this way, so it’s worth their while to be aware of the problem.

      Also, you’re not telling the owners to get rid of someone. Rather you are giving them the information they need to make decisions for their business. Depending on your service, it could be that they decide that a good contractor who does X is valuable enough that it’s worth switching things up with their contact person. Or they they may look at how Owen treats other contractors and decide that he’s harming their ability to get good work at a reasonable price across the board. Or they may sigh sadly and let you go.

      Fortunately, you are in a position where any of these outcomes is fine.

      1. Wondermint*

        That’s true. There’s definitely a way to be direct without giving ultimatums. I am probably overthinking this somewhat, working with Owen has frankly put me on edge.

    10. RagingADHD*

      Yes, tell them it’s because of Owen. I’d just try to be careful of wording so it can’t he mistaken for (or brushed off as) personal dislike.

      He’s creating an unnecessary amount of friction, he’s undermining best practices, and he’s making bad-faith changes to your contract. (Straightforward negotiation is transparent).

      Honestly, I’m surprised you worked with him at all after the contract shenanigans. I would not have.

      1. Nea*

        Owen is acting as the negotiator for the other business, so it’s easy to frame the conversation along the lines of “your new business practices x, y, z make it impossible for me to do my business.”

      2. Wondermint*

        I know, the contract gave me major pause. If this was a new client, I would have ended it there. But given my positive history with this client, I proceeded.

        Unfortunately, Owen has jeopardized our relationship!

        1. Anne of Green Gables*

          I also think it’s ok to say that! “Owen made some changes to my contract without notifying me, and I was lucky to have caught them before signing. Frankly, with a new client, that would have been problematic enough for me to walk away, but since I have a good history with your company, I stuck with it. Unfortunately, Owen has since been difficult to work with in XYZ ways…”

    11. Dust Bunny*

      Oh, yeah–I’d stop working with them and tell them why. This is ridiculous. Also, if they use other freelancers he’s probably doing this to them, too, and nobody will want to work with them.

    12. goofBall*

      Sounds like you have you answer, tell the client!

      I just wanted to chime in and say that sneakingly trying to get you to work for free (why not make a project 100 hours if the contract says you’ll only be paid for 50?) and trying to discount meeting time (at a normal job, one wouldn’t be expected to work 8 hours on top of a meeting heavy day) are egregious reasons to stop working with this person.

      All other points continues to show his bad character.

    13. Nea*

      If I’m reading this right, you have already been in direct contact with the owners, so whether you decide on a post-mortem meeting to discuss the issue or wait to see if they try to hire you again, you already have the foundation to add this to your script:

      “I have been happy working with you for the last five years, but as you are already aware, this project included multiple attempts to challenge or deny my fees, such as (quote contract clause) and the timecard rejection over meetings on (date). You might not be aware that these were in addition to demands to rework (cite and cite) against industry best practices and the work I’ve done for you on (project and project). Furthermore, I was not given adequate notice of meetings: some were far too short notice for me to put them on my calendar (cite a few “truly last moment”) and called into repeated late Sunday night telephone meetings on (date, date, date, date, date, date). I hope you understand that all of this deeply impacted my work on this project and it cannot happen again in future.”

      The point here is to repeat everything you’ve told us, but not as “Owen is a jerk” but as “these are not conditions under which my business thrives.”

      1. Fierce Jindo*

        Yeah, but OP wants to not ever work with Owen again, not to have the company tell Owen to shape up while they continue to work together.

        1. Wondermint*

          OP here :) That’s true, but I think Nea wrote a reasonable script on how to inform the owners of Owen’s behavior.

          With a few additional sentences, I can tell the owners I won’t work with Owen again. And with Nea’s script, here’s why.

        2. Nea*

          I read it as “How can I complain about Owen without saying ‘I have a personal problem with Owen’.” Focusing on business impact instead of personality does that.

          Certainly OP doesn’t have to work with Owen under any circumstances in the future, including “But we told him to behave this time” or even “he still works here, but he won’t have anything to do with your contract.”

          1. Trotwood*

            Exactly–OP wouldn’t say to the owners “I can’t work with you anymore because Owen is ugly and he smells bad,” but it’s entirely reasonable to tell them that Owen is subjecting OP to a wide variety of unprofessional behavior. It sounds like the owners are reasonable people and trust OP, so they might be receptive to this feedback. It would be reasonable to lay out these issues now and ask if the project can be moved to be overseen by a different employee, and if not, say you won’t be taking on additional projects with them. You’ve got all the leverage you could want here.

      2. Wondermint*

        Yes, you are reading it right. The owners certainly know of one issue regarding cutting my meeting-time hours. Owners also had to sign the contract, so its possible they saw what changes were made between document versions.

        Oh my god, thank you so much. This is truly a perfect way to word the issue without getting emotional. The fill in the blank format really validates how bonkers this entire situation is.

        1. Cj*

          I think pointing out specific issues is important, as well as citing how often and the Sunday night calls were, when and how often the last minute meeting invites were, etc.

          I would drop the last sentence though. other than not following industry standards, I don’t see how these behaviors “deeply” impacted the project, and the script says “all of this”.

          saying “it cannot happen again” sounds way too confrontational. if they say it cannot happen again, then they need to spell out how they think that should be accomplished. have a come to Jesus discussion with the guy that he can’t continue to do these things? have somebody else as their contact person? fire the guy? tell the owners they won’t do any more jobs for them? the last item is the only thing the OP has control over.

          since it sounds like somebody else was your contact, and not the owners, maybe you don’t know the owners all that well. but if you do, the language sounds a little formal to me.

      3. a butterfly flaps her wings*

        I love this. Owen is a risk to the business for various reasons. Chances are you are seeing but a sliver of the havoc. Unless he is fabulous but for some reason directing his bizarre behavior exclusively at you in an effort to get you to leave. In which case, I as an owner would very much want to know that. You are a known commodity with a great long-term relationship with the client. You’ve built trust. I would see you bringing these business issues to my attention as an extension of that trust and partnership. You’ve essentially identified a threat to their ongoing operations, and professionally sharing the details would be a solid ethical response given your history with them. It would keep your relationship with the client on solid ground – you are adding additional value. Being generic in my mind could look odd and like more of a personality, etc. issue.

    14. Cacophonix*

      Came to say because I haven’t seen this answer. Caveat being you’ve already made your decision, and that’s totally fair. That said, some of these items you find untenable are reasonable IMO. Some are more difficult client stuff but not odd. Just stuff you need to manage when you had the luxury of not needing to before.

      — Clients have the right to question their bill and verify tasks you did under contract/ scope of work.
      — it’s your responsibility to read contracts you sign, and while Owen was sly here, of course you need to catch it.
      — clients routinely ask for more. More scope, less time, higher quality than asked. Be clear in writing up front reduces this.
      — critical software knowledge- I would have recommended to owners that this is a pre-requisite and/or time required to address it would be additional cost, and may add to timelines, whatever you’re comfy with.
      — next time you have a challenging client, have a way to add it time for client management, meetings etc in your contact.

      That said, all okay to just stick with the east clients given this is a side gig for you. But you haven’t listed anything that seems difficult to me, especially as you have a way to escalate as others have said well here.

      Maybe you also can’t stand Owen on top of it, which fair enough, that would be the straw breaking for me if there were better people in other jobs waiting in the wings.

      1. Cj*

        you are Apparently one of the few Freelancers in the world that doesn’t mind getting calls at 10:00 on a Sunday night, getting last minute meeting invites that is so last minute that they don’t even see them, having the client call them when they don’t show up at the last minute meeting, not checking their calendar before sending a meeting invite, and are fine with being as asked for things way before the agreed upon deadline.

  2. Sanibel Island*

    I realized this year is a leap year, and I hope Leap Year birthday girl has an amazing birthday.

    And a better job.

    1. Antilles*

      I would love to know if Leap Year Boss somehow still believes that they were right, that clearly she only has a birthday once every four years.

      1. Betty*

        If so, she seems to have a serious child labor problem on her hands. (Or maybe she plans to wait and contest pension payments– “The policy clearly states you have to be 65, and since you were born on a leap day you have only had 16 birthdays and are not eligible.”)

      2. Observer*

        I would love to know if Leap Year Boss somehow still believes that they were right,

        Well, based on their follow up, I would be shocked if they learned anything. Even if they wound up in a company that’s not so crazy, I think it’s a good bet that they would not have been able to wrap their head around it, unless moving on helped them reset their norms overall.

      3. Database Developer Dude*

        If the other boss can’t see the error of their ways, I doubt Leap Year Boss would. By the other boss, I mean the one that wouldn’t let their employee start their workday two hours late in order to attend their own graduation from college, then got upset when she had the “audacity” to quit.

    2. Evil Queen of Dysfunction*

      I hope she feels the love we send her on her birthday every 4 years, as well as on the day in February closest to it on the non leap years.

    3. CatMintCat*

      I have been thinking of Leap Year Girl and Leap Year Boss. I have two (what are the odds?) children in my class this year with 29th Feb birthdays. They are turning eight. That is not under discussion, except by one boy, a known bully, who is insisting loudly that they are only two and should not be at school because they’re babies. Is this where Leap Year Boss got his start?

      (He has received a number of consequences but is the type of child who is never wrong about anything and never stops once he has started. He’s going to the Principal at every whisper of it now, but it still isn’t stopping him. He’s challenging.)

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        If I were an evil parent, I’d put the bug of the real explanation as to why those kids are NOT two years old in all the other kids ears, and make it simple. Then point out that the bully is too stupid to understand. Let the nature of kids take its course. Kids are cruel, and the bully will quickly become the bullied.

    4. And thanks for the coffee*

      The leap year birthday issue was one of the most weird boss problem I’ve ever read about in AAM. I was hoping we’d have an update this leap year. I hope they are doing well.

    5. anywhere but here*

      I think she would be Leap Year birthday woman, unless we are thinking like the boss and only counting Leap Year birthdays.

      1. Reluctant Mezzo*

        I do feel sorry for the woman who gets her Hogwarts letter on her 44th birthday, though…

  3. anecdata*

    I am the senior IC on my team. We have a junior team member who often asks me to look at his work and give feedback and – it is not good. Our work is such that it’s very normal to ask for a peer’s fresh set of eyes – and maybe you take their suggestions and maybe you don’t (there’s often not one right way to do a thing); but this person is making mistakes that are definitely the wrong way.

    I am looking for some help in asking my boss for clarification on what he wants my role to be in this – is it “be the fresh set of eyes and a different opinion but it’s ultimately up to the NewTeamMember” (which would be the typical modus operandi); or is it more “work with NewTeamMember and make sure the work done on our project is up to standards”. Our boss is pretty non hierarchical and basically will just use the word “help out on X” project for all scenarios.

    I don’t want to throw NewGuy under the bus; and I don’t want to look like I’m overstepping – but I also want to make sure our boss doesn’t think I’m signing off on some work that’s not up to my standards — help with phrasing this professionally please?

    1. londonedit*

      I don’t think you’d be overstepping – or throwing NewGuy under the bus as long as you stick to the facts of the matter and don’t get into anything personal. ‘I’d like a bit of clarification on how you see me working with NewGuy. I’m happy to be a second pair of eyes for any colleague, and usually I’m happy to make suggestions and leave it at that, but with NewGuy I’m seeing a lot of mistakes that are more serious and that I believe will have a negative impact on our projects. How do you want me to handle those? Should I be working with NewGuy to correct those errors, or just pointing them out to him and assuming he’ll handle it?’

    2. My Useless 2 Cents*

      What about something along the lines of:
      “NewGuy has asked me to give feedback on a couple of their projects, and I’m happy to help. But I think NewGuy may need a little extra training on our particular processes/standards. Do you want me to jump in an help in that way or would you prefer I send him to you for that kind of thing?”

    3. JSPA*

      Ah yes. Turd-polishing. And how to refuse to do it. Always an interesting dynamic.

      “I’m happy to be a ‘new set of eyes’ when it comes to polishing a solid project, but my feeling is that New Guy needs more in-depth direction, or intervention, or guardrails, in terms of minimum standards.

      If you want me to be that person, I can try to take on that role.

      However, when someone asks for polishing, but receives correction, that can sour a work-relationship. I wonder if coworker 2 or coworker 3 might be more on his wavelength?”

      I suspect he may have been blown off by other coworkers who are not willing to fix his steaming piles, which is why he’s coming to you. If the boss won’t get involved, you’ll all have to refuse to fix things. He can either figure out how to do his own work, or else his nasty crap will end up on display, and the boss will have to take notice.

      1. anecdata*

        To add details, we’re actually a little overstaffed and underworked right now – so I do have time and would be happy to spend it on this. NewTeamMember hasn’t seemed offended, and I don’t think he’s trying to not do work – he’s just genuinely very early career. Some of the gaps are in our field; and some of them are soft skill/ attention to detail stuff (like forgetting to fix a typo when it’s been pointed out)

        Additional context is that our boss’ background isn’t in our technical field (this isn’t our industry, but think something like a team of graphic designers reporting to the web development lead)

        1. JSPA*

          If he’s that new to work in general, then it’s much simpler all around. Tell him he needs some tutoring so he can be his own set of eyes. Offer to be that person, or help him find that person.

    4. WantonSeedStitch*

      “When NewGuy has asked me to be a fresh set of eyes on his work, it’s been clear to me that what he really needs is some more in-depth coaching. He’s really receptive when I point out errors. If you like, I’d be happy to coach him on X, Y, and Z since I have the time available right now. I’m also happy to step aside and let someone else take on that role if you prefer, but if that happens, I think it would make sense for me to stop reviewing NewGuy’s work so his mentor can work with hi m on it instead.”

    5. DreamOfWinter*

      As someone managing a team where this could potentially be happening, I would prefer candid feedback. Intervention – in the form of training, more oversight, or something else – could make a huge difference for the junior’s development, and is definitely not throwing them under the bus. Of course, YMMV and some workplaces would rather punish than develop, so trust your gut on this one!

    6. Professional Editor*

      Do you have a sense of why NewGuy’s work is substandard? Is he fundamentally misunderstanding the work? If that’s the case, then it’s worth flagging with the boss as a training issue.

      Is he not following standards, processes, and style guidance? If that’s the case, are all these things written down and available to NewGuy or is a lot of it institutional knowledge? It might be worth identifying where your “standards” are unwritten and ask your boss about that aspect of it. Like “I’m seeing a lot of X issue with NewGuy, and I think it’s partially because the standard for X isn’t written anywhere. It might be worth documenting and also NewGuy might need coaching and further training.”

  4. Russer did it*

    I recently received an email from my current employer (Fortune 500) about a dispute resolution agreement. My understanding is that they are notifying me that this agreement will apply an arbitration process to resolve all disputes with the company that would otherwise be resolved in court or jury trial. There is a method for opting out of this agreement and the arbitration process.

    After reading the details further, I see lines like: “By entering into this Agreement, the parties are waiving a trial by jury”, “To the maximum extent permitted by law, you hereby waive any right to bring, or to otherwise participate with other persons in any multi-plaintiff, class, or collective action” and “If you do not opt out of this Agreement within 45 days… you will be deemed to have agreed to the terms of the Agreement.”

    I’ve never seen an agreement like this before and wasn’t sure if:
    -this default to arbitration is common?
    -should I be prepared to see this with other large companies? (context: my company was acquired by this F500 company, so the agreement wasn’t part of the company I originally applied to)
    -there any benefits to arbitration?

    The information provided so far didn’t make a strong case for agreeing to arbitration; it seems rather beneficial to the company only.

    1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

      I don’t know if I would say that it’s common, but I’ve been hearing about more of these things recently, and no one has ever given me a good reason why it’s not in the employee’s interest to opt out.

    2. Meara*

      Hahah I think we work the same place! And I see no reason to agree to arbitration, even if I also have no expectation of needing either arbitration or anything else.

    3. Alianora*

      Yes, arbitration agreements are fairly common in my experience (and I believe an increasing number of companies are using them these days.)

      I’m not sure how enforceable this would be, particularly the opt-out nature of the agreement.

    4. Glomarization, Esq.*

      1. Mandatory arbitration clauses are common.

      2. Many other large companies have them, yes.

      3. Benefits of arbitration generally favor the company, not the person.

      I’ve often counseled people in situations like yours to take the steps to opt out of the arbitration clause if and when at all possible. You can always agree to arbitration later on, but you won’t be able to take backsies on waiving your right to a jury trial, class action, etc.

      1. I Have RBF*

        3. Benefits of arbitration generally favor the company, not the person

        This matches my (limited) experience.

      2. Russer did it*

        Thanks! That’s where I was leaning, just wanted to understand any larger contexts or implications.

    5. nopetopus*

      Common after companies get sued, yes. It is not in your best interest to sign. It’s basically a “We may choose to not follow the law, and we don’t want you to be able to sue us for it” CYA move.

      My company is trying to force one on us now and did not give us the option to opt out. Since yours did, please opt out.

    6. Observer*

      They are common enough that there are now some explicit carve outs in Federal law and in some states.

      I also think that for any part of this to be enforceable they need to be offering you “consideration”, and some courts have ruled that when the agreement is offered after you are already in a job, “keeping your job” is not good enough.

      If you have access to a lawyer, I would have them give a look at it and see if there is anything that would make this worth your while. (Keep in mind that arbitration does not always go in the company’s favor.) If you don’t have a lawyer or they say “Nah, nothing that you would really benefit from”, then opt out.

      1. I Have RBF*

        I have never seen any advantage to me to agree to arbitration and giving up the right to sue or be involved in a class action suit. So they are demanding that I agree to something that has not benefit to me, and all benefit to them.

    7. JSPA*

      In some places, you have a set period in which you can opt out of the arbitration clause, even if you’ve signed it. That can sometimes be the quieter, less confrontational way to opt out.

    8. allx*

      The agreement not only waives the right to a jury trial, but also waives your right to sue the company at all in any court. All disputes with the employer under this agreement would have to be brought before an arbitration panel. Arbitrators do not have to be judges, but are often lawyers, but not exclusively. Look at the provisions for what kind of arbitration: is it a panel of arbitrators (usually 3), how are they selected (do you get to pick one?), where does the arbitration have to take place (the city where you are employed? the city of company HQ?-this matters to you if you would have to bear the financial hardship of travel to assert your claim), who bears the cost of arbitration (often split between the parties, which is essentially unfair when the dispute is between big company and single employee), are your legal fees reimbursed if you win or conversely, are you required to cover the company’s legal fees if you lose, how do you even invoke the arbitration clause to settle/bring a dispute. This is a significant ask of the company.

      More specific questions to ask yourself:
      1. What is the company giving in exchange for my agreement to waive legal rights that I have right now? All agreements have to be supported by adequate consideration-what have they offered and is it worth it to you?
      2. Since I can opt out, does it hurt to do so? If you waive rights now, you cannot get them back. If you opt out, and then are ever involved in a dispute with the company, you could subsequently agree (at that later time) to submit to arbitration if you wanted to. Since they desire arbitration (hence, the agreement) it lets you kick the decision down the road without waving your right to bring suit/jury trial.
      3. What kind of disputes am I likely to have with the company? Obvious answer is employment disputes: age/gender/race discrimination, wage disputes, harassment, retaliation, workers comp, collective bargaining, termination, severance and the like. In many of those kinds of actions, a jury can be perceived to be in favor of the “little guy/employee” as against the company. This is an advantage for the employee that can be used as a bargaining chip later, i.e., you can waive right to jury/bring suit later.

      Obviously, we don’t know the circumstances of this, but unless you are being offered something of value to you to give up a valuable legal rights, I would opt out. And I would try to get as many people as I knew in the workforce to opt out also. You are correct that this is a clause that benefits the company exclusively.

      To answer your specific question though, arbitration agreements are common in many kinds of business agreements, but that doesn’t make them acceptable.

    9. Fierce Jindo*

      Always opt out. You can always choose arbitration later if you want to. But always preserve all your rights.

    10. I Have RBF*

      I dislike arbitration. It is usually slanted in the company’s favor. If I have an option to decline arbitration, especially if they want me to give up my right to participate in a class action, I will decline arbitration.

      IMO, companies use arbitration clauses to same themselves money, not to get a fairer resolution to disputes.

      There has never been any advantage to me to agree to arbitration, especially when they demand that I give up my right to sue and/or participate in class action lawsuits.

    11. AG*

      “If you do not opt out of this Agreement within 45 days… you will be deemed to have agreed to the terms of the Agreement.”

      To me, this is the most dubious part. As I understand, entering an agreement with someone is a strictly opt-in affair (I’m sure there are exceptions). Sovereign citizens like to give a piece of paper to a judge with all sorts of crazy, and seal the deal by “if you don’t respond, you agree to this $1 billion fee”

    12. RedinSC*

      This type of language has been around for at least 10 years. My previous job had that language, but there wasn’t really a way to opt out of the arbitration.

  5. Mediocre*

    I am not a rockstar at my job. I am just mediocre. Although I want to be great at my job, I fear mistakes made before will always paint me as mediocre and superiors won’t trust me with more responsibility. It’s not that I want more responsibility but I don’t want to be seen as incompetent and can’t be trusted with more when I want to grow. Do I just need to move on my from this company as I’ve shot my chances?

    Mistakes I’ve made look minor but had consequences and make me look disorganized. Things like missing one email when sending out hundreds of emails regularly to clients, but the missing email of course happened to be to a big client so they were not pleased they weren’t notified and given enough time. Or when I thought this client bought X because they bought a package but that package was just one time. Sometimes, they’re not my mistakes but happen with the projects I manage, like when projects don’t launch on the day of and the tech team has to figure it out (the settings weren’t right) or another team didn’t finish it the day before launch, so I got up early the morning of the launch to do last minute QA and miss stuff which then looks like bad for the product and clients ask why isn’t it up.

    My performance reviews have all been great. But I think my situation is a bit unsual as although I’m on my team because we do Y, I work with cross-functional teams more than I do my own. So I don’t impress the managers of the other teams I work with. My team thinks I’m fine. Of course, my supervisor gets feedback that I’m doing fine from the other managers but it’s because I haven’t done anything wrong even though my work hasn’t been super.

    1. Aquamarine*

      Are you sure your supervisors think you’re only mediocre? You say that your performance reviews have been great. I just want to float the idea that everyone else isn’t as focused on these mistakes as you are. I’m sure the people around you are making their own mistakes, whether or not you’re seeing them.

      1. FashionablyEvil*

        Yeah, I had the same reaction. People make mistakes! As long as you’re fixing them and preventing them from happening again, that’s just life.

      2. Mediocre*

        My supervisors are very hands off, so if I just manage my projects, it’ll seem like I’m doing great because the projects are happening. It’s the other managers that see what I’m doing and are CC’d in emails. So of course my supervisors and team think I’m fine, but the other teams managers just think I’m “okay” because I didn’t do anything bad but they wouldn’t rely on me, but they’re not going to bring up little things to my supervisors/teams because then it’ll seem like they’re nitpicky.

        1. JSPA*

          I think that “OK” in this case means “OK,” and you should not round “OK” down to “untrustworthy.

          People bring different things to the table. You’re allowed to be excellent at some aspects of the job, and OK at other aspects, and still be overall solidly impressive.

          Basically, you are allowed to be human, not superhuman; but likewise, people are allowed to notice where you’re incredible, and where you’re merely proficient. Unless they’re trash-talking you, it’s fine if their attitude is that they will totally trust you to be excellent where you’re excellent, and they’ll also check in with you, if you’re pushing too hard, to the point where things fall through the cracks.

          On that topic, pushing to be excellent when you’re exhausted is not a way to achieve excellence.

          If you declare that the launch will be either two days late, or a bit ragged? That’s more trustworthy than pushing yourself to the breaking point, to make the (arbitrary!) deadline.

          Stop punishing yourself and running yourself ragged, and chances are, people will be a lot more comfortable with you and your work (and less will fall by the wayside).

        2. Tio*

          What has given you the impression they think you’re just okay or would not rely on you? Have they said that, or something similar?

        3. Irish Teacher.*

          Honestly, if your managers and team think you are doing great and the other team managers think you’re doing fine but not brilliant and that all their concerns are fairly nitpicky, that sounds like you are doing pretty well,

          If they felt they couldn’t rely on you, that wouldn’t be nitpicky; that would be something they would almost certainly have brought up with your supervisors. It sounds like they just think you average, which there is nothing wrong with. By definition, half of people are below average.

          1. Eloise Feather*

            This is such an interesting reply and it leads me to thinking. I have had issues with one of my employees for a long time now. Everyone else thinks they are fine. Perhaps they are just that, fine or average, as you put it. The problem is me in that I seek more than “just fine” or “average.” I think I just had an AHA moment. Don’t get me wrong, they are intellectually lazy and nothing I do seems to change that. I guess I need to be as OK with that as everyone else is and instead direct my frustrations into preparing for the opportunity to free myself from this dead weight. Thanks.

    2. Cyborg Llama Horde*

      I think it really depends. It could be that your mistakes loom larger for you than they do for your colleagues. It could also be that you’re right, and you’ll never be able to advance here or get more responsibility. Is there anyone you trust for a candid (and accurate) assessment? Ideally not your boss and not on your team, although some bosses and some teammates could provide it.

      Do YOU feel like you’re learning and establishing good experience here? If so, maybe it’s worth staying and seeing if you can get more responsibility when you’re ready for it. If not, why not send out some applications and see what else is out there?

      1. KR*

        I agree with finding someone you trust for a candid assessment. I did that recently because I was feeling insecure and it really helped. Op- Everyone makes mistakes but it sounds like much of this wasn’t your fault, and in fact in some cases like the QA thing you did some serious damage control! It could have been much worse!

    3. Asloan*

      Honestly I get a loooot of mileage out of “appearing” more on the ball than I really am. I wonder if that would help you feel better? It’s really the smallest things like making a point to be early to meetings, coming to meetings with a notepad / list of ideas / having read the agenda or set up your own agenda, and seeming to be more excited about spreadsheets than I am. Also, slightly overdressing for my role. These things seem to make my mistakes appear uncharacteristic when in fact I probably make the average number of errors.

    4. T. Wanderer*

      Do you have any reason to think others DON’T trust you with responsibility? You have this list of mistakes you’ve made, but you also say you get great performance reviews, your team thinks you’re fine, and the feedback from other managers is that you’re fine.

    5. Irish Teacher.*

      If your performance reviews are great, I doubt you are at risk of being seen as incompetent or that you have shot any chances. It sounds like you are seen as at least competent at your job, possibly even above average at it, but that you are judging yourself against a higher standard than anybody else is.

      Most people aren’t rock stars at their jobs and it’s not like only rock stars ever get trusted with responsibility. Most people are just reasonably competent. And most people make minor mistakes. That’s normal. Especially as it seems like some of the mistakes aren’t even yours.

      It sounds like you are getting good feedback from everybody and yet you feel they all see you as so incompetent that you might be better off moving on. That doesn’t make sense. If the managers of other teams saw you as incompetent, they wouldn’t give your manager feedback that you are doing fine.

      If your mistakes are minor and the other teams are giving good feedback on you, then the odds are you are making no more mistakes than anybody else. The examples you have given are of the sorts of things that happen to everybody.

      This honestly sounds a bit like imposter syndrome. Everybody says your work is fine, but you remain convinced otherwise.

    6. Betty*

      If you generally work with the same set of teams on similar kinds of things, you might try scheduling a big picture debrief/pre-mortem meeting with the lead when you’re kicking off a project– “I know the last few times we’ve launched together, there have been some hiccups, and I want to talk through the process and see what I need to do differently to make sure things go smoothly. Here’s what I’m noticing on my end: if the launch date gets pushed, we wind up scrambling to handle X and Y and things have fallen through the cracks. I’d like to try to: set up a checklist so that we make sure that everything is handled before the launch goes live, so that nothing gets overlooked at the last minute”. This obviously requires you to think about what’s going on/what might go wrong next time, but I think acknowledging the issue and talking through a plan to do better goes a long way in showing that you have higher standards for yourself, you want to be reliable, and that you’re someone they can trust to do good work.

      1. BikeWalkBarb*

        I like this approach a lot. It normalizes learning and improving as a thing we allow people to see, not furious paddling below the surface of the water. You’re inviting/empowering others to acknowledge things they would have done differently in the future.

    7. Just Here for the Cake*

      I feel you on this! I am also the type of person who ruminates on my mistakes, even if others have moved on and probably don’t think about it any more.

      If your performance reviews have been great and the other managers say you are doing well, then that is a really important sign that you are doing well at your job! Don’t let these mistakes (that are helping you learn) cloud the things you are doing well. I know that’s hard and takes time, but try focusing on the things you have succeeded at instead. It may also help to switch your mindset from “mistakes mean I am bad at my job” to “mistakes mean I am learning and show me what I can do differently next time.”

      Do you have a good relationship with your manager or a coworker? You may also want to bring the concerns you outlined here to them and ask if they have any advice on how to improve going forward. I know that seems scary and like you are drawing attention to them, but it shows you are taking these mistakes seriously and want to use them as a way to improve. You may also hear feedback about how its not as big of a deal as you are making it in your own head or some good advice on what to do going forward.

    8. learnedthehardway*

      Sounds to me like you are being overly critical about yourself. Your performance reviews have been great. Your team thinks you’re doing fine. Your supervisor is getting feedback from other managers that you’re doing fine.

      Consider that there is ALWAYS room for improvement. Rather than beating yourself up about a few mistakes, why not look at where you typically make mistakes, and see if there are patterns. Perhaps you can do something to mitigate the pattern.

      Also, with the QA stuff – maybe you need to build in a buffer so that the team you’re depending on gets their stuff done so you have enough time to do proper QA and catch all the issues. That might be something you have to loop your manager in about – this isn’t so much an area of mistakes you are making, but rather a business process issue where you aren’t being given enough time to do your job properly. In this case, what needs to be done is for someone to either set an earlier deadline for the development team, or hold them to the existing deadlines, or give you an extended deadline (and manage the client relationship while this is happening). ie. this isn’t your mistakes that are causing the problem – it’s a faulty process or a process that is not adhered to by others that is setting you up for issues.

    9. Law Bird*

      I think you’re being too hard on yourself. What are the things that the stellar employee you aspire to be does that you do not already do? How can you go about a) learning what those things are and b) doing them in a way that your supervisors notice?

      It was hard to swallow that in some situations good work doesn’t get fanfare, but mistakes are punished. You might work in an organization like that.

      That last minute QA- seems like it was your responsibility to get it done, but it was another team that was driving the bus. It seems like you have ownership over the mistakes but not preventing them. That might be something holding you back.

    10. Quantum Possum*

      First of all, have an invisible hug! It sucks to feel that way.

      As a manager, I do NOT expect all of my employees to be “rock stars.” Everyone brings something important to the team and organization. I love my quiet, dependable employees who may never go out of their way to “innovate” but will always pitch in to help out however they can. I love my goofy, flaky employees who are great at big-picture thinking but rotten on details.

      And since I make at least one new, interesting mistake every day (some of which have been not-so-minor), I would never hold anyone else to the expectation of “no mistakes.” If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying!

      It sounds like you actually are a high-performing, trustworthy employee. I know this is much easier said than done, but – try giving yourself more credit, and treating yourself with more kindness and grace.

      This may sound silly, but imagine your Self as a different person, sitting across the table from you. Would you tell them they’re incompetent because they made a couple of minor mistakes? Would you think they were stupid – or would you think they were just human? You deserve your own compassion.

      I feel like perhaps there’s something deeper going on here? A bit of imposter syndrome but also something else? It sounds like you’re happy with the workload and type of work you have, and you don’t necessarily want more responsibility. Are you feeling some sort of external (or internal) pressure to climb the corporate ladder?

      One of my favorite coworkers was getting pressured to apply for a supervisory position, despite not really wanting the job. (There was no pay difference.) She was getting very stressed out and asked for my advice. I told her, “No one else has to live your life. You make the choices that are best for YOU, not other people.” She was so relieved that someone was finally telling her it was OK not to be Super Ambitious Person. A lot of times we think we’re being supportive (“you could do so much more with your career!”), when in fact we’re pushing unwelcome expectations onto others.

    11. Rex Libris*

      The only person you actually mention thinking you’re mediocre, is you. Maybe think on that a bit?

    12. LMB27*

      I’ve been at my company for 20 years, rising through the ranks, and the number of mistakes I’ve made through the years would shock you. Like it would be at least a three volume book. Some of them significant. Mistakes are not indicative of a good worker or good employee. Reactions to mistakes are. Things happen, you learn and move on. Sometimes you have to learn a few times. You’ll eventually see that perfect employee who seems infallible has also made these mistakes and is just not as vocal about it.
      Best of luck!

    13. Academic Librarian Too*

      all of the above AND.
      Have a protein bar in your bag or nuts and a water bottle.
      PRACTICE
      your job talk should be as if you are teaching a class not as if you are at a conference presenting a paper.
      Know your slides and when to advance if the presenter view isn’t showing on the the laptop (ask me how I know)
      Refer at least once to some leading work of the institution where you are applying.
      Find at least one example of a library academic program you admire.
      Ask the hiring committee about what challenges they foresee in the coming years.
      Is the job tenure track? What is the timeline/expectations to achieve full appointment.
      Remember- every minute is the interview.

        1. Quantum Possum*

          I do love it as a reply to this OP, though. “Have a protein bar in your bag” is just all-around solid advice.

    14. Momma Bear*

      Consider asking for a one-on-one with your boss for guidance and reassurance. If you have a generally good boss, they’ll be happy to talk with you. Everyone makes mistakes. It often matters how you handle them more than the mistakes that were made. Software that doesn’t launch exactly on time is common. Bug fixes are what minor releases are for. Don’t let Imposter Syndrome tell you that your great performance reviews are fake. Sounds like you’re doing a lot and you’re overall doing well. Take on the Lessons Learned as they come and remember your successes, too.

    15. crashtesthuman*

      It sounds like you’re not as mediocre as you think, and your own standards are harsher than your supervisor’s. That’s not always a bad thing, and it’s good to keep focused on ways you can improve, but it looks like existential dread about your career is unwarranted.

      On the practical side of things, moving jobs won’t change how you work, so if part of your performance is bothering you, work on that at your current job. After you feel you’ve had some improvement, then ask the question of whether previous performance is holding you back.

      One last note: Sometimes, it’s just as much about learning to work with your weaknesses as directly solving them. I am excellent at big-picture things and sometimes struggle with fine details and performing repetitive tasks. I try to improve on this and have built myself “crutches”: lists, schedules, spreadsheets, etc. that keep me on track. But I also know that this will never be my strength, so I make sure to delegate some of those things to employees who are more detail-oriented.

  6. Lost in Translation*

    I had a successful phone interview and was invited for a full-day, in-person interview for an academic library position. I know about the presentation part of the day (I already have the prompt), but… what else can I expect? Regular interview questions? Different stuff? TIA :)

    1. GigglyPuff*

      Oooo I’ve done a lot of academic library interviews. They are all pretty similar with a couple different details. Some places do breakfast beforehand, dinner the night before or after, and lunch. There’s usually multiple interview meetings with different people.
      The interview committee
      Dean and/or associate dean
      various stakeholders meeting(s)
      library/campus tour
      department/unit
      supervisees (if there are any)
      HR for benefit ques (varies, sometimes there is, sometimes not)

      For questions:
      A lot of places now are even giving the main/second interview questions ahead of time, which is awesome. Varies on whether they have a copy for you or not during the interview, so probably helpful to print out if you do get it ahead of time. Sometimes they can be long/multi point questions and easier to follow along on paper. The actual questions are pretty standard IMO, usually depends on where they want to take the job/dept/library, which can make answering tricky. For some digital jobs, I’ve gotten a ton of outreach because they wanted to focus on community relations. Expect a lot of STAR questions, probably some DEIA. Variety of general job questions vs. job/task specific.

      For me the tricky meetings are the stakeholder ones, because you never know what someone else’s priority is or what they might ask. And I’ve never gotten a set list of questions for these. Otherwise it’s pretty decent. It’s a lot and most libraries recognize that and build in tons of breaks and extra time to breathe. Also you can repeat yourself! Especially with different groups, and ask the same questions.

    2. Sometimes hiring*

      As someone who coordinates academic librarian searches ours consist of the following:
      Meeting with HR person for benefit review 15 min
      Meeting with team/department (Q&A conversational) 30min
      Open forum (presentation, Q&A with entire staff) 1 hour
      Meeting with the supervisor (conversational) 30 min
      Meeting with the entire academic staff (we offer tenure so this is a chance to review that process) 45 min – 1 hour
      Tour of relevant departments/campus 1-2 hours
      Meeting with search committee (interview) 1 hour
      Meeting with the Dean (conversational) 30 min

      We also offer multiple breaks and provide a meal and snacks.

    3. Dulcinea47*

      One million questions! The same questions from multiple different groups of people! People asking you at the end of the day if you have developed any more ideas about your research plan (if this is a tenure track position) than you had when they asked you that six hours ago, I’m not even kidding!

      If I remember right they didn’t send me the full schedule until a couple days beforehand but it was something like:
      -meet with head of department, tour of department
      -actual job interview part, with hiring committee
      -meet with the dean
      -meet with some associate deans
      -presentation time!
      -lunch with assigned group of employees who volunteered to have lunch with candidates
      -meet with HR person for preliminary discussion about benefits, insurance, etc.
      -broader tour of library

      Nobody asked anything that was terribly unusual or difficult, it’s just a LOT and you have to be “on” the whole time.

    4. a librarian*

      CONGRATULATIONS on your interview!
      Best advice I ever got was to go into the day with an attitude of “we are colleagues and we’re all talking about work we care about doing and exploring how we might do that work together.” That helped me feel more relaxed and even have fun (wild, I know).

      Also check out the Hiring Librarians blog- they have a database (spreadsheet) of interview questions submitted by folks.

      Will reiterate that you can (and probably should) repeat yourself in different meetings. Everyone knows that you’re getting repeatedly getting asked versions of the same questions and someone may very well verbally acknowledge that :) everyone you meet with has been in your shoes at one point or another.

      my institution has streamlined its interview day post-covid, so there are fewer meetings than final interviews in the before times. This does mean that the meetings tend to have more people in them, but there are fewer meetings.

      1. one more librarian*

        I’m interviewing this week for the first time in almost 20 years. The Hiring Librarians spreadsheet is absolute gold, thanks so much for recommending it!

    5. Tammy 2*

      Caveat: I last interviewed for an academic library position in 2005.

      You’ll probably have meetings with the hiring committee, your department, and administrators, probably a campus tour (wear shoes you can walk around in a bit).

      In my experience it’s a long, taxing day but the people who are interviewing you know that. A very nice thing a future coworker did for me was leave me alone in a conference room for 10 minutes during my library tour, to have a breather.

    6. AnotherLibrarian*

      Congrats and good luck!

      Like GigglyPuff*I’ve done a lot of these (both sides of the table), she covered a lot of the things I would have mentioned in terms of who you’ll speak with. Come prepared with questions to ask- I always have mine written down, otherwise I’ll forget them- take lots of notes.

      I would strongly recommend noticing how they treat you. Do you give you breaks? Do they offer you water more than once during the day? Do they seem to realize that this is a very long day for you?

      And remember that there will be people at the presentation who might know very little about libraries. It is not at all uncommon for people to be there who might be from different departments or students, etc. So, avoid too much “library speak” and be prepared to define things. We once interviewed someone who did an entire talk about a “Flipped Classroom Style Assignment” set up, but failed to ever explain what a “flipped classroom” was and therefore confused half the staff.

      If they are willing to fly you in and do this, than they genuinely believe you can do the job. Someone already recommended Hire Librarians and I second it. It’s a great resource.

      (Last thing- wear comfortable shoes.)

    7. dear liza dear liza*

      Congratulations and good luck!

      Academic interviews are a bit of an endurance challenge, as they often go all day with a dinner the night before or at the end. Make sure you take advantage of your bio breaks, drink water, etc. If you have a hotel room, bring earplugs and anything else that will help you get a good night’s sleep.

      There’s usually a lot of interaction over meals and coffee breaks. Build up a bank of ‘small talk’ questions for these events. When I’m part of a search, it’s a relief when the candidate doesn’t make me do all the emotional labor of keeping conversations going.

    8. Academic Librarian*

      all of the above AND.
      Have a protein bar in your bag or nuts and a water bottle.
      PRACTICE
      your job talk should be as if you are teaching a class not as if you are at a conference presenting a paper.
      Know your slides and when to advance if the presenter view isn’t showing on the the laptop (ask me how I know)
      Refer at least once to some leading work of the institution where you are applying.
      Find at least one example of a library academic program you admire.
      Ask the hiring committee about what challenges they foresee in the coming years.
      Is the job tenure track? What is the timeline/expectations to achieve full appointment.
      Remember- every minute is the interview.

      1. Cicely*

        Yes to all these, and particularly the very last:”…every minute is the interview.”

        I am an academic librarian, and a few years ago, I interviewed at a public university. The interview schedule was particularly excruciating, i.e. dinner the night before, breakfast the next morning, interview, lunch, more interview, dinner that evening. (The job elsewhere that I wound up taking was just lunch on interview day, which I really appreciated).

        Anyway, what complicated things was that the person who picked me up at my hotel to go to dinner the evening before the interview was already waiting for me in the lobby – except, I’d gotten to the lobby about 15 minutes ahead of pickup time just to take a deep breath etc. For her to already be there was pretty annoying, but of course I was all smiles. And, not making this up: I knew she’d be picking me up the morning of my interview, so, the next morning, I got to the lobby twenty minutes or so before pickup time – and there she was! I mean, geez, but again, I was all “How ARE you? Oh, yes, the hotel is wonderful etc.” What also didn’t help is that I was obese at the time, as was she, but she’d pro-actively mentioned being on an exercise program (!), and decided that we’d be taking the stairs instead of the elevator. The whole day. In a five-floor library. She was just profoundly naive. Fortunately, everyone else was really cool and easy going.

        By the way, you’ll likely meet some really ill-mannered people, and it is a sick power play, because they know you’re at their mercy, and they couldn’t care less. Indeed, I think they enjoy making interviewees feel small and insignificant. There were times when I had to ignore that, because I was unemployed, thus, pretty desperate. But there were other times when I knew I wouldn’t be taking the job and so I pushed back. I was subtle, because I was on the interview circuit, but I learned how to recognize when I needed to put my self-respect front and center no matter what. In another interview, I and others were in line for break beverages, and I politely motioned for one of the search committee members to step ahead of me (like we do in any situation in public, ya know?) and she rolled her eyes and sneered, “Sheesh – it’s just tea.” I’ll never know how I offended her, but my response? Paraphrase: “Whoa whoa whoa…are you serious? I would never have known that without your telling me,” smiling the whole time, no one else around (which is where she got her “courage” to scorn me for no valid reason). Yeah, you’re always “on,” but let your self-respect be your guide for what you will accept, and what you won’t.

        No matter what, rudeness and all, I never left interviews early, else, I risked losing my travel reimbursement.

        Everyone else’s advice in this thread is spot on, too, from my own experience. I’d love to write a book about how NOT to act in academic librarianship interviewing, especially with all the the field’s claims about being open-minded and inclusive. I mean, most are, at least in my circles, but it’s still maddening to see how those claims are purely performative for some.

        1. Fierce Jindo*

          If you knew she tended to get there early, why did you show up so early the second time?! There is an important lesson here: on these grueling marathon interviews, PROTECT your down time. You will need it!

    9. Lost in Translation*

      Thank you to all the replies! Thankfully, this one does not include dinners or traveling (I live down the road from the school).

  7. Sunflower*

    Book recommendations to help overcome imposter syndrome and generally boost your confidence at work?

    I recently noticed a pattern that in all my jobs, I often feel like they made a mistake hiring me and I tend to second guess everything I say and overthink people’s responses to me. I’ve also noticed I never feel like I’m doing enough, working quick enough or the work isn’t good enough. Even if I receive validation and good feedback from my manager, it doesn’t feel genuine or feels like someone is trying to spare my feelings. I tend to receive critical feedback better but it can be difficult for me to hold my ground on things I feel strongly about. This is across jobs and happens with mangers I have great relationships with so it’s definitely a me thing. It tends to happen a bit more with people with more seniority and authority figures but its consistent enough with everyone that I know it’s a deeper problem. I am working with someone on this but would love recs for any books you found helpful to get through this.

    1. Asloan*

      Hmm, I’m not sure this sounds like a book thing, to be honest. What about an activity that boosts confidence instead?

    2. KeinName*

      Stop telling women they have impostor syndrome in the Harvard Business Review from 2021. It’s an article that might help you see if there are structural issues at play that you are not aware of, and have nothing to do with your personality, inferiority complex, confidence etc.
      Ex: I know so many women who like me didn’t feel they are good and productive enough, but that turned out to be just a feature of the field we were in. Upon leaving this field, I never again felt like that. However, I get strange waves of feeling embarrassed, not confident, don’t know if I am professional enough if I get sent to very prestigious contexts, and I put that down to my working class upbringing, which is very much different to these not very inclusive environments, where historically white men from the upper classes have been amongst themselves.
      It also got better for me with age and experience. And only doing jobs that were mainly enjoyable and stopping anything that was just hard and detrimental to me health.

      1. Asloan*

        Whew, this hit me right in the feels today … “The same systems that reward confidence in male leaders, even if they’re incompetent, punish white women for lacking confidence, women of color for showing too much of it, and all women for demonstrating it in a way that’s deemed unacceptable.”

        1. KeinName*

          It is such a great article!! It enrages me that we are training female professionals not to feel like impostors, where actually you have to fix the f… system. I had a coach actually tell me that I should seek therapy for my confidence. It was purely systemic in my case, no one who knows me would attribute a low self-esteem to me. However, if you put me in an environment solely populated by 10th generation academics, where critiquing and putting someone on the spot as well as competition and constant assessment are the normal way of working, everyone tells you you can’t have a life outside work, and contracts are always fixed-term, then… well…

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            It’s like everyone who isn’t a White Male is stuck in that story “Doctor Rappicini’s Daughter” and being regularly poisoned in order to ensure our “safety” as seen through the eyes of a jealous older guardian. Nobody is allowed to say “Maybe less with the poison and more with replanting this damn garden, you sick weirdo?”

      2. LA Girl*

        Yes. This.

        I am a professor teaching young creatives and prepping them to enter one of the most competitive, high-barrier-to-entry job markets in the world. It’s also a job market that, though vocal about DEI, has traditionally prioritized and prized white men and continues to do so.

        I have literally been told by someone in a hiring capacity, “You don’t look like a [job title].” That was because I’m a woman, and that job title was 86% male.

        The young women I teach and my POC students come to me all the time to talk about imposter syndrome. I have never had a white male student bring up the subject.

        I am increasingly convinced that their imposter syndrome is a result of internalizing the endless stream of white male success stories held up as examples and exemplars and role models, and saying, “Because I don’t look like that, I am an imposter.”

        When I gently suggest that to my students, it’s eye-opening. In the right circumstances, I will ask, “What would you do if you were a mediocre white man?” Invariably, they make a bold, non-imposter choice as a result.

        Try thinking about imposter syndrome as a structural consequence of “the way it’s always been done,” and see if it clarifies things.

      3. Quinalla*

        Yes, I had the realization in my own life before I read this article that hey if everyone has always doubted my competence for my entire life & career, no fucking wonder I doubt myself?! This article really brought home what I’d been experiencing for years. It actually is better for me now because (1) I have 20+ years of experience in my field and (2) I know there are structural things that affect me less now that I am older, experienced and known well by my colleagues and clients.

        Another thing that helped me with this before my realization was that I would write down all my accomplishments for the year and review them once a month, then once a quarter, then once a year. I don’t write them down anymore, but I still reflect on all I got done and weight that vs. the small amount of mistakes (cause those never go away FYI) and know that I am rocking it.

    3. Busy Middle Manager*

      This comes up alot here and my stance is it’s usually not a psychology thing; I overcame this by getting hard skills in one area (for me it was SQL). So no matter how low I feel, how tired, or if I’m getting sick, once someone needs someone tricky done in SQL, it’s my time to shine, and I feel good about myself. Put another way, find at least one thing to be really good at use that as your “confidence crutch.”

      My hunch is that many people who say “imposter syndrome” have generalist jobs so are generally average at a bunch of things, so it’s almost structural that they don’t feel confident

      1. Quantum Possum*

        My hunch is that many people who say “imposter syndrome” have generalist jobs so are generally average at a bunch of things, so it’s almost structural that they don’t feel confident

        I’m not sure I understand this statement. Would you mind clarifying what you mean?

        I agree with the “confidence crutch” recommendation. That can go a long way towards helping.

        But with imposter syndrome, it genuinely doesn’t matter how much of an expert you are. I’m a recognized [Redacted U.S. Military Branch]-level expert in a couple of fields. I’ve written the [Branch]’s standard training curriculum for one of those fields. I still have times when I think, “Why are these people calling me for help/advice? Don’t they realize I’m stupid?”

        1. Busy Middle Manager*

          You’re talking about real imposter syndrome in your last paragraph. I am talking about how it gets thrown around all over the internet nowadays, as a sort of catch-all for anyone not feeling good about themselves. From various other peoples’ comments here and elsewhere, the usual formula is either 1) the person has a common job with common skills, so it may make sense that they are not super confident because they have a lot of competition in the workforce, or 2) they took a step up so it’s legitimate to feel not ready since they have things to learn and experience, in which case it’s not a “symptom,” which implies the feeling isn’t valid.

    4. danmei kid*

      This doesn’t sound like something a general one size fits all book can solve for you. A qualified therapist or coach will be more able to help you get to the root of why this happens for you and then help you find a coping strategy around it that meets your needs and you can be successful at.

    5. Quantum Possum*

      Therapy, my friend! :)

      The most difficult part is finding a therapist with whom you have a good rapport. But once you do, it’s awesome.

      I made so much progress on myself through therapy. My self-esteem and ability to accept compliments are tons better now than 10 years ago.

      Good luck. :)

    6. Nosmo King*

      I agree with all the other comments, but if you’re looking for something quick, I recommend Mel Robbins anything (her podcast, the book the High 5 Habit), the podcast Unf*ck Your Brain, and You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero. All of these have help me with positive self-coaching over the years (and I still have days where I wonder “do I suck at this?”).

    7. Some dude*

      This is more a therapy than book thing, although I found Kristen Neff’s book “self compassion” incredibly helpful for me.

      Here’s the thing. No one is perfect. Everyone has strengths and not-so-strengths.

      most of us don’t totally know what we are doing and are kinda making it up as we go along. Those of us who think we totally know what we are doing are mostly choosing to believe that fiction so we can feel like we have some control over our lives.

      You got your job because you are qualified for it. And if you aren’t qualified for it (which you are, but let’s pretend you totally aren’t) you’ll figure it out.

    8. Bluebell*

      This may not be as self-help as you would like, but I found Unreliable Narrator by Aparna Nancherla to be really interesting. There are a few essays that dive into imposter syndrome; she cites the Harvard business review study that is also mentioned in the comments. she also writes about other aspects of her life, such as dealing with depression and diversity issues, and there are a lot of sneaky jokes packed in as well. Definitely not as light as Tina Fey’s or Amy Poehler’s memoirs, but an interesting read.

    9. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      It’s so hard. even praise goes right through me. My work nemesis once announced to the higher ups that she was the best worker there and I said I was regular.

  8. Negotiator*

    I wanted to share a success story as encouragement for others. I got an offer for an internal transfer, and I negotiated! Successfully! The amount isn’t life-changing and still not as much as I initially wanted. But I’m proud of myself for actually doing it. And both the recruiter and hiring manager were so chill and matter-of-fact about it. Hopefully that positive experience will help my brain feel less stressed about it next time.

    1. Mazey's Mom*

      Congratulations! It’s such a boost when things like this work out well. Pat yourself on the back!

    2. cross country cover letter*

      Need advice on if I should mention something like “I’ll be relocating to **City** in May for my spouse’s job” on my cover letter. I’ll be moving across the country so I want employers to know it’s a sure deal.

      Some of the wrinkles to my situation:

      – It’s maybe a hair misleading. We are mostly moving because we want to, and spouse doesn’t actually have a job lined up (but is far in the process with two companies). But my current job probably won’t take it well, so “moving for spouse” will be an easier excuse and more positive than “we hate it here.”
      – I always feel a bit weird referencing familial status on job application materials since it’s the sort of thing that shouldn’t taken into account when hiring
      – I’m gay so talking about my husband requires either outing myself or being really awkward with pronouns.
      – We can’t move *until* May because my spouse had their tuition reimbursed and we’d have to repay it if he leaves his job before then, so that might come up regardless.

      1. Seven times*

        In this case, you might want to be more vague about all of this. Saying “my family is relocating to **City** in May” is enough. The new employer probably doesn’t really care why you’re moving, but this gives the important information of when you’re moving. It also puts you in control of what information you choose to share about the move and your family.

        This letter isn’t going to your current job, so ignore them (for purposes of your cover letter).

      2. Tammy 2*

        Could you just say you are planning to relocate in May and leave the other details out? I think your cover letter should still focus mostly on your professional fit for the role, you just need a little nudge about the geography so they don’t wonder if you think you’ll work remote from your current address.

      3. Banana Pyjamas*

        In 2016 I relocated because the job market in Chicago was too ridiculous (entry level jobs paying $10/hr required 5 year’s experience and a 4 year degree). I opened my cover letter with “As I seek to relocate” which worked fine. I had a gap, when asked I attributed it to the relocation process. I moved in with a cousin so when asked why I relocated I attributed that to family because I didn’t want to come across as unemployable by explaining how unqualified I was in the job market I left behind.

        Don’t overthink it. Keep it brief, professional, and polite. The things you’re worried about feel bigger than they are. Future employers really won’t care that much.

    3. Never Knew I Was a Dancer*

      High five! Even if it’s not the amount you were aiming for, it’s still more than if you hadn’t asked, so it’s still a win. (Even more so if your company does percentage-based raises or bonuses in the future, too!)

      1. Avatar Mouse*

        C suite executives who have horrible behavior or manners. Like eating a bite of pizza in the break room & then putting it back.

      1. WorkNowPaintLater*

        (raises hand for this one) Yes, please.

        And I could feed my response right into ‘badly handled layoffs’.

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        If Alison does this, she should open it up to military stories as well….trust me on this one, you’ll thank me later.

    1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

      I love the stuff that brings out the absolutely wild stories. People living at the office. Weirdest stuff brought into a clean room/climate controlled room/place where expensive equipment or supplies are stored. Most bizarre perks you ever got from your job.

      1. Leira*

        This seems entertaining and potentially helpful for easing new job anxiety since people can say how it turned out fine!

        1. Perfectly normal-size space bird*

          Seconding this because I could have used that when I started my first professional job!

      1. Nea*

        About work or about anything? Because I once idly mentioned to a coworker that my weekend’s tasks included washing the sheets and she went off on a very long tangent about “Why don’t you have other sheets?” and continued in a long, long monologue until she wrapped up with a muttered “Well, I guess you want *those* sheets to be clean.”

        I never answered because my jaw was on the floor. Glad she resolved my laundry to her satisfaction, though!

        1. Tio*

          I vote any argument as long as it’s with a coworker, because some of the weirdest things I have seen have been about completely non-work topics. Some people think everything is their business!

    2. Bluebonnet*

      I could see the following ideas being interesting:

      – People in education sharing stories about student shenanigans (I could especially see this being entertaining in a higher ed. context
      – Oddest disciplinary (or PIP measure) at work
      – Stories about disappearing co-workers (this happened at one of my former jobs. If someone upset the CEO enough they would just “disappear” and we would get an email at work about the job being open)
      – Stories about the most ridiculous cases of bureaucracy at work
      – Stories about arranging family/maternity/paternity leave at work (good and bad)
      – Stories about switching careers, why and results
      – Stories about setting boundaries at work

      1. Tio*

        – Oddest disciplinary (or PIP measure) at work
        Oh, I like this one.
        – Stories about the most ridiculous cases of bureaucracy at work
        As someone who’s had to work with the government for almost my entire career, this one calls to me

      2. Perfectly normal-size space bird*

        Former higher ed worker now in K-12. So many stories of student shenanigans, so so many.

      3. A Vote for Boundaries Stories*

        I vote for Bluebonnet’s topic on setting boundaries at work, especially because it seems a continual challenge—there are always tricky situations on the horizon. I would prefer stories of very tricky situations and how someone extricated themselves cleverly, and am less interested in stories of trivial/petty behavior. I expect others would be interested, too.

    3. Rainy*

      Just for some no-stakes fun, I think “best and worst office/workspace decor” would get some amazing stories, and ideas for how to decorate–or not–people’s offices and cubes!

      1. Admin of Sys*

        oh, do I have a story about that from years ago, which includes the company deciding to save money by having all the employees come in and help paint

      2. Jaydee*

        Oh yes please! I’ve got a great story for this. Not necessarily actionable advice, but a great story.

      3. Perfectly normal-size space bird*

        Related to that, office mascots. Like Philippe I the fruitcake (RIP) or the office plant from previous posts. Or something weirder like a life-sized cardboard cutout of Hulk Hogan or a wren that flew in one day and nested in the one light fixture no one can reach.

      4. Slartibartfast*

        There’s a pathologist at the local hospital whose office looks like Davy Jones’s locker. It’s pretty Epic

    4. Victoria*

      What is the purpose of these posts? (Suggestions may differ depending on your goals! E.g., driving site traffic, obviously; generating content for paid articles; etc.)

    5. Bluebonnet*

      Also someone once suggested doing a thread where people share colorful stories related to college residential life (as residence hall directors, RA’s, personal stories of their own college mischief, etc.).

      1. a reader*

        Or more generally, things that happen when your job is where you live–I’m sure there’s some wacky stories from boarding school teachers, cruise ship workers, onsite apartment managers, etc.

        1. Perfectly normal-size space bird*

          Oh my bob yes. I used to work in a dorm and then had to live onsite. I would love to hear stories from others!

        2. Irish Teacher.*

          Yes, I’d love to read that. I’ve never been in that situation, though I narrowly missed out on a live-in boarding school job once. And it sounds really interesting.

    6. Mazey's Mom*

      Things that took you a while to recover from after leaving a toxic job/workplace/boss.

      Took me about 4 years before I stopped expecting the worst to happen whenever I heard high heels clacking on linoleum floors.

      1. I Have RBF*

        I get paranoid about:
        A. Closed doors for lots of managers
        B. Sudden meetings

        Both of those signify probable layoffs, which are often handled… poorly

      2. Agnes G*

        Oh, this is a good one. If someone mentions where they went to college I shudder because of a former workplace where that was a massive pissing contest every time.

      1. Busy Middle Manager*

        oh one on “layoffs that backfired” would be good! All I hear are stories of companies getting rid of people, not backfilling positions, and then stuff hits the fan. Seems to be common nowadays. That would be a thread I’d read all of it, if simply for commiseration

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

      OH MY I have so many ideas!
      1. How about Holiday wars or something similar. At 2 different jobs we had decorating contests that were odd. Job 1 each team had their own cubical row and decorated for Halloween. Some hung bats from the ceiling, spiderwebs, stuff like that. But one team went way overboard. They covered their row with a black tarp to make a cave. keep in mind that desks were very small and had no lamps. They didn’t have any other source of light exept the overhead lights, which this black tarp blocked. This meant only computer screens were the only light. it was creepy and I’m sure some how illegal and violated safety (what would happen if the thing fell?
      2. Weird safety issues that you’ve seen or rules at workplaces. Like the LW yesterday who people underage smokers who couldn’t leave the building by themselves. That seems really odd. Especially if they were just going to be right outside by the garbage or in the parking lot. I’ve also seen things where people just ignored safety. Call center, the same job as above. There was a tornado that touched down just a few miles away and they refused to let people off the phones to seek shelter. another time someone pulled the fire alarm and no one moved. They just kept on taking calls because they would get in trouble or face getting fired if they did not take phone calls. A third time people were getting sick. There was an odd smell throughout the center. People were allowed to leave but they did get docked a half point. Someone called the fire department because it could have been a gas leak. Instead of evacuating, they kept everyone working and the fire department walked around with some sort of meter thing. We never found out what it was.

      1. Sheepherder*

        Yes – safety issues. Your post reminded me of when I worked on the top floor of a 7 story building and looked out one day to see fire engines everywhere. I asked the office manager if he knew what was going on. Apparently, there was a bomb threat but our office did not want to evacuate!

      2. Quantum Possum*

        Yeah, I once couldn’t get an employee to take shelter on his own during an active shooter situation. He just wanted to stay at his desk and play on his computer. (!!!) I had to get help from a male coworker to physically drag him into shelter.

      3. Love me, love my cat*

        Posting this because a few comments have been made lately about it being silly to require supervision for employees outside on smoke breaks. Woman who worked at well-known donut shop had an about-to-be ex set her on fire during her break near the dumpster. Extreme example, yes, but you only need one sicko.
        Break areas tend to be a little secluded, but still visible to customers. Wouldn’t take much for someone to grab a young employee, especially in areas where it’s dark outside by 5:00.

    8. ZSD*

      Worst thing management decided to keep secret (vs. worst thing management decided to disclose)
      Difficulties learning about the difference between the office environment vs. college
      Business travel mayhem

    9. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      weird interview experiences, best ways you’ve been recognized at work, unique office decorations and/or desk toys.

      1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

        Ooh I like “best recognition”, can see that being both wholesome and useful!

      1. Rondeaux*

        That reminded me of the letter with the person who was traveling overseas with a colleague, and was overweight so they needed two seats, and somehow took the colleagues ticket and left them stranded with no ticket home and no money.

        Would love an update to that one

    10. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

      Office pets (good and bad)
      Wardrobe/clothing snafus
      Best/Worst office pranks
      People sleeping/living in offices
      Office bathroom wars
      Strange/unexpected interning experiences
      Office parking wars
      Most oblivious boss

    11. Annie*

      AI gone awry?

      My C-level department head, who is smart and competent, answered a question I posted to our department-wide “slack”. The question was specific to our processes, and his response didn’t answer my question. When I asked a follow-up question trying to tie his response back to our processes, he kind of just shrugged and openly said he used ChatGPT to answer cause he couldn’t be bothered to write a real answer. Sigh.

      1. Ally with a Y*

        Seconding this. I’ve been fascinated by how AI has started showing up in recent posts and putting a new ‘spin’ on more traditional workplace themes. I’d also be interested to hear from readers who are using AI in their current roles and what does that look like. Are companies providing tools for folks to use, if so how? Who has personal experience using it successfully to make their work easier, and what did that look like?

        1. AMA Comment*

          +1 Voting for tales of AI to make work easier! Especially for boring/routine tasks/paperwork.

    12. Former academic*

      Weirdest written policy you’ve encountered, with bonus points if you know the backstory. (For instance, I rewrote my syllabus language around “please try to be on time” to clarify that you should not prioritize this over your health and safety, for instance if you need to drink juice and take anti-seizure medicine before class, you should **absolutely** do that even if it makes you 10 minutes late, rather than be on time and have a seizure during class as a result.)

        1. Former academic*

          Yeah, literally what you think from reading that. I taught an early (8 or 9 am) section of an intro class on a very large campus, and we were doing an activity where students were moving around the room. A student fell down and we quickly realized he was having a seizure and called 911. They came, he was fine, and when he came to the next class a few days later he explained that he had overslept, his dorm was far away from the classroom, and he didn’t want to be late so he skipped eating/drinking/taking meds and ran across campus (which exacerbated the not eating/drinking). I thanked him for caring so much about arriving on time but said, next time, BE LATE.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        I was going to say, bonus points if you don’t know there’s a backstory but it’s clear there definitely *is* a backstory, e.g. “Ferrets cannot be stored in the 4th floor storage closet” when you don’t work anywhere that encountering animals should be a natural part of your day.

        1. Former academic*

          I love this. I also had kind of the inverse at my new job when my boss announced “Thanks to FA we now have a data integrity policy in our employee handbook” and I jumped in to clarify that it was thanks to me *winning a contract from a sponsor who requires that we have a written data integrity policy* not thanks to me doing something that required us to have a new policy forbidding malfeasance!

    13. The Prettiest Curse*

      Well, I’d naturally have to propose wildest stories from conferences and other events. ;)
      Plus:
      – Best and worst bosses from film, TV, and books.
      – How did you get out of your own way at work (overcoming imposter syndrome, learning to dial back perfectionism etc.)?
      – What are realistic and unrealistic expectations to have for your job?
      – Academics gonna academe: weirdest tales from higher education.
      – Working with family members (from both the perspective of other employees and the family members)
      – Onboarding and relationship-building best practices for remote and hybrid employees.
      – How to make large in-person events inclusive and welcoming for neurodiverse people. (Note: people can view all the talks at my big annual event online, both live and on-demand, but sometimes people still have to attend this type of event in person and I want to make sure that they have the best experience possible if they do.)

        1. Mad Harry Crewe*

          There are some older posts where Allison talked about TV managers – I think Office Space got one.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        Oh, your last one made me think of one or two:
        – Experiences of being neurodiverse at work.
        – Good and bad experiences of requesting accommodation at work.
        – How to make the workplace more inclusive for those with disabilities.

    14. NameRequired*

      Weirdest thing that you only learned about your organization once you’d been there for a while?

    15. Irish Teacher.*

      – What your office parties are like? It seems like people are often describing pretty different things when they talk about work parties, from happy hour type events to what sound more like a corporate event.
      – What odd quirks does your field have that would trip up those moving from other fields.
      – How did you get your job? In the sense of how did your career progress to this point?
      – Best things about your job.
      – Do your college studies directly relate to your job?
      – Worst job you ever had.
      – Weirdest boss/coworker.
      – Workplace advice you would give a college/high school grad.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        It’s always fascinating to find out how people got into their fields. It’s especially interesting for me to read about fields with very defined entry routes, because about 90% of the people who work in the events industry just fell into it and found out they liked it – which is definitely the case with me.

        1. Tio*

          Oooooh, almost no one in my position (licensed customs broker) went out expecting to or intending to be a customs broker, lol

        2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Or that didn’t have a defined entry route and do now — my mom and I have been in the same general career field and her way in (40 years ago), and my way in (20 years ago), and the current way in (about the last ten years) are all very very different.

        3. Irish Teacher.*

          I find it interesting the other way around. Teaching has a very definited entry route and is something everybody is aware of from childhood and I was planning to be a teacher from the age of 7 or 8 (seriously, I remember at 9, our teacher asking us what we would wish for if we had three wishes and my only thought was “to get a teaching job when I grow up.” I had to think to even come up with another two), so I find it really interesting how people ended up in careers where you don’t just decide as a teen, “I’m applying for such a degree which leads to this career and that is likely what I will be doing until I retire.”

    16. Nekussa*

      I love the Halloween “haunted workplace experiences” stories that you’ve done before. Weirdest office decor decisions? Good/bad business implementations of AI?

    17. Visual Impaired Guy*

      I don’t know how to ask a good question for this because I want it to be light and not full of upsetting stories, but someone in the visually impaired community shared a funny story about a coworker who insisted that he’d been very supportive to her by providing video with closed captioning and years later I still giggle. Maybe the audience for disability-related laughs is limited? That’s not a bad category name though – disability-related work humour?

        1. I Have RBF*

          This.

          Something like “Misplaced accommodations” or “Misapplied disability assistance”.

      1. Legally Blind Lady*

        “But I put my comments in bright red on a yellow background so you could see them. You should be thrilled I made the effort”

        “It’s not possible to increase the size of text in a browser, sorry”

        “But you can’t be blind. You’re too smart for that”

        “You’re faking it! I saw you carefully looking down so you don’t fall”

        “what do you mean you can’t drive. my cousin Morty (or Aunt Jane, or friend Kate, etc) has terrible vision but he drives”

        “LegallyBlindLady is legally blind. It just means she can’t drive”

        “why are you so clumsy. you need to pay more attention to your surroundings”

        As with yours, more dumb things people say than jokes.

    18. Mynona*

      The recent NYT Daily podcast on hybrid work culture was really interesting. It seems like enough time has passed for people to have developed thoughtful insight on the pros and cons. So many AAM readers work hybrid or remote that it might be a good topic to ask about.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        I feel that remote vs in-person work is a topic that has been covered a lot here, but it would be great to have a thread specifically on the challenges and rewards of hybrid work! Hybrid workers and our needs can get somewhat overlooked in the remote vs in-person discussion.

        1. Jaydee*

          There are so many variations on hybrid work ranging from more structured to more flexible, so I think this would be really useful.

    19. Sitting Pretty*

      Sacred office supplies. What equipment at your office is as untouchable as a holy relic, despite having no discernible function in the 21st century? What supplies do people inexplicably hoard, or somehow lead to epic battles for control?

      1. Perfectly normal-size space bird*

        A post with these kinds of stories would make my whole week for sure. I mean, we had the highlighter wars, but nothing like some of the absolute gems I’ve read on this site over the years.

    20. RogueTrainer*

      The myth of common knowledge! Like, weirdly industry-specific things that offices expect people to just know, so they are rarely explained. I’ve been spending a lot of time and effort demystifying some of these for my office since I moved to a training position, but it’s astonishing how many of these there are.

      1. JSPA*

        With a special subset for misleading, obscene, or otherwise problematic acronyms that are said as words, and get sprung on customers / the general public.

    21. Anon for this*

      How about work thinks that get named after a colleague? I remember way back, a coworker called Vera caught a bug in a software – so in her honor, we named it the Verror.

      At my current job, we use a fairly niche piece of software that our in-house development team came up with. The developer in charge got to name it and gave it an abbreviated version of their daughter’s name – something like Liz, Flo, Vic etc. So now every week at the office you hear people talking about “Liz acting up today” or “Flo having a cool new feature”.

      I’m sure other workplaces have similar traditions.

      1. Sandi*

        We work with a database from Lloyd’s. After a couple of months working with us, a new admin asked us who Lloyd was, and what did he do that was so important?

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          I worked somewhere that named two inanimate objects (Oscar and Roberto – both robotic) and the Adobe screen reader voice (Alejandro).

    22. Green Goose*

      For career pivot-ers, what we the things that stuck out at their new job. They could also include what they were doing and what they switched to.
      I had been a teacher and then moved to an office worker and I didn’t realize 1) I didn’t know how to write a professional email and 2) so much jargon. People kept saying “buckets of work” and that made no sense to me.

      1. anecdata*

        – What’s worked/hasn’t worked for people who’ve worked abroad or in their second language

        – Most useful thing you learned in school and use at work; or something like “how does how your field is taught correlate to the real world”. Related – if you could add a required class for students in your field, what would it be?

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          Moving countries/finding a job after moving countries would be a useful topic. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing when I was job hunting after moving to the US!

      2. Awkwardness*

        How were you greeted on your first day at the new job?

        Somebody who was not involved in the hiring but had to supervise me, said to me within the very first five sentences: “I have told Boss several times that we do not need anybody new here.”
        Umm, nice to meet you too, I guess?!

        1. Irish Teacher.*

          Not to me, but one of my colleagues welcomed a new person with “Welcome to hell.” She was joking, to be fair.

          1. Mimmy*

            When a new supervisor started at our job a couple years ago, one of my coworkers said something like, “welcome to the circus” (in a zoom chat). It was funny and true but my coworker was reprimanded.

        2. CrabbyPatty*

          At one food service management job I left after two months, the first *four* days of work at least two people cried. Two each day. Yes, different people. I must add that I was not one of the criers, nor did I make anyone cry!

    23. Elsewise*

      This might need some specific wording to make sure it’s not super meanspirited, but bad answers to interview questions? Or just wildest interviews (from either side)? I dunno, nothing made me feel more confident in my own interviewing skills than the woman who responded to a softball about a time she’d gotten positive feedback with “never, my boss is a b-. But I know I’m right.”

    24. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      Wildest missing stair tales! I’m dying to hear about the weirdest policies and most inane, time-wasting processes everyone’s workplaces have come up with to avoid dealing with a missing stair.

    25. Sparkle llama*

      I would love to hear stories from workplace safety training. Maybe just me but everywhere I have worked safety training has been wild!

      1. Cedrus Libani*

        I have stories. Lab science will do that sometimes.

        My favorite: in a high level biocontainment facility, we were shown a literal syringe full of antivirals hanging from the wall. That was for the researchers working on Simian B, which you couldn’t pay me enough to do, even though I had consented to do the full-body PPE tango with something else that also needed to be handled in such a facility. If they messed up, they could inject themselves immediately, and then they’d have a good chance of survival; that said, survival covers a wide range of outcomes, particularly when you’re talking about something that targets the nervous system. “They come back, but…not as themselves. They’re not in there anymore.” (Insert thousand-yard stare; she meant it.) That’s a very firm NO THANK YOU from me.

    26. Cabbagepants*

      Funniest rule. my old workplace (Fortune 500 company) had a rule that you could only play music at your workstation if everyone else working there agreed. It’s a sensible rule but I found it hilarious that they felt they needed to document this officially.

      Success story of pushing back again sexism, racism, or other bias

        1. Slartibartfast*

          How about stupidest requirements for promotion? Like being told I needed to be meek to be considered for a leadership position.

    27. just here for the scripts*

      When going to HR has helped
      How did you do it—what did you do to get a good outcome?

      When going to HR didn’t help
      Why?

      What to do BEFORE going to HR?

      All are inspired by your comments like (paraphrased) :“if you go to HR first, they’re most likely going to ask if you’ve first done…” And “it’s not your role to go to HR about other people’s accommodations “ that makes me think people don’t know what they should—and should not—go to HR about…

    28. Awkwardness*

      Something as zoom/videoconferencing fails/embarrassment. (Like… wasn’t there a post once about global meeting, a main screen and somebody having sex on a table? Spectacular like this!)

      Maybe (upper) management embarrassment/cluelessness/quirks. (I am a bit torn about this one, as it might be funny to see upper management is human and approachable too, or frustrating that highly clueless people get into upper management.)

    29. Procedure Publisher*

      Unassigned desk/hot desk horror stories – I’ve seen one shortly before I was laid off.
      Bananapants interview questions
      Job search horror stories

    30. Busy Middle Manager*

      I vote for “useful” ones – IMO in 2024, it would be good to have a “how did you get a job when there were layoffs in your industry” or “how did you pivot to a new industry after a layoff” type thread.

      1. anecdata*

        I have been wanting an advice/success stories/what worked when you were at a company with high uncertainty – could be around layoffs, or after a merger, or when there’s a lot of leadership turnover

    31. HR Exec Popping In*

      Worst feedback given
      Oddest development opportunity
      Unusual skill that helps you do your job but isn’t a job requirement
      Success stories of how you transformed/changed your job into something better/different

    32. Kuleta*

      Employers who dealt effectively with individual remote work slackers, instead of just ordering everyone back to the office in-person.

    33. Bunny Lake Is Found*

      – The Broken/Outdated/Dysfunctional Object or System: Be it an object, software, or a process, that thing that for some reason you can never change at the office (“This printer? Sure, it catches on fire sometimes, but Sparky is the only one that prints the checks the right way!”)…and what happened when they GASP had to change it?

      – Messy Desk/Office Tales of Horror–the 15 mugs half filled with coffee, the stacks of paper that are a tripping hazard. Recount the harrowing moment you encountered–the messiest desk/office ever.

      – “I Guess That’s Just Us”: Expressions, traditions, methods that you THOUGHT were universal but which you learned were actually just a weird thing your old workplace did. Bonus points if you learned this in a manner you are still embarrassed about to this day.

      – The Lengths You Have Gone to Try and Remember/Figure Out Whatshername’s Name (or, The Lengths You Have Gone to To Avoid Making It Obvious You Don’t Remember Whatshername’s Name)

    34. Spearmint*

      How is generative AI impacting (or not) your work? Do you use it all? Are you required to use it, or banned from doing so? If you use it, is it making you more or less productive? Is it threatening replace any jobs in your company/field?

      There’s a lot of noise around generative AI, both obnoxious hype and also complaints about its limitations, so sometimes it’s hard to get a sense of its actual impact (or lack thereof) on the ground.

    35. Quantum Possum*

      – work functions gone wild (extra points if alcohol was involved)

      – weirdest thing you’ve seen/heard coworkers do in the restroom (e.g., I have several coworkers who love to sing gospel songs while using the toilet)

      – great stories behind office rules

      – office supplies and the people who become irrationally obsessed with them

    36. Tammy 2*

      Oh! Most disconcerting frequently used figure of speech/jargon.

      (For which I will submit “move the pig down the snake”)

      And: weirdest things observed in Zoom/Teams backgrounds.

    37. Throwaway Account*

      This is pretty basic but bad or weird interview stories.

      At my last job, the interview team always put their heads down and took copious notes so the interviewee literally could only see the tops of everyone’s heads! No one ever made eye contact with the person we were interviewing. Even the head of the whole org did this when I interviewed for an internal role.

      1. Quantum Possum*

        Biggest/Most Complex Process Meant to Save a Few Bucks or Minutes

        I love this idea. I’d been thinking “most inefficient approach to ‘fixing’ a process/system,” which I think would be very similar.

    38. Scott*

      A couple ideas.
      1. The lengths your manager went to in helping you through a situation and how that affected your relationship with them.
      2. Any time someone’s name (first or last) became a verb. Personal story – when I was stationed on a submarine one of our guys decided he was going to quit smoking during the deployment so he didn’t bring any cigs underway. (Yes, we could still smoke on board submarines back then.) You can imagine how that played out. His last name became the verb for bumming a smoke from a shipmate, as in, “Hey, can I Smith* a cigarette from you?”.
      *Name changed from the actual one as it’s pretty unique.

      1. Quantum Possum*

        “Hey, can I Smith* a cigarette from you?”

        *snickers*

        I love the ocean but I would straight-up die of anxiety within 10 minutes on a submarine. I’m always in awe of people who can do that. So cool!

    39. OtterB*

      I like positive things. So maybe, most minor work-related compliment you still remember? Career decision you angsted over that turned out really well?

    40. the Viking Diva*

      Weirdest stuff found when cleaning out a workspace or storage area… packrat colleagues and items saved “just in case” …

        1. Not my usual name*

          Yeahhhh…I win that one, I think.

          With no PPE, grabbed an Eppendorf tube marked “b. anthracis,” in a legacy -80 freezer, on a site that had done biowarfare (prevention/”prevention”) research before being transitioned primarily to disease research.

          (It was just the DNA, not the bacterium.)

    41. Can't Sit Still*

      Office legends, just-so stories, and other office-related tall tales, that may or may not be apocryphal. These often start off “Remember the time…” or “Where you here when…” or “That time Fergus did the thing.”

      These could be organization based or building based. For example, a haunted building where the haunting is unrelated to the current occupants.

    42. Other Duties as Assigned*

      I’d like to see one asking for the oddest/most infuriating comment received from a supervisor in an annual performance evaluation. It could be paired with the flip side as well…strange comments supervisors hear from their direct reports during evals.

    43. I Have RBF*

      Related to one from today, how about “What’s the weirdest teleconference background you’ve seen?”

    44. Accidental Itinerant Teacher*

      I always thought “things that are perfectly normal in your office/industry but would seem weird or crazy to some outside it” would be an interesting topic

    45. Pay Card Purgatory*

      Weird office-specific vocabulary and the backstory behind it.
      One of my previous jobs, my boss would tell people “I need you to just Julie it so it actually happens”
      Found out later that to “Julie it” meant walk around the office with paper copies and stand next to people while they did their part or signed off, rather than email. Never met Julie but she sure left a impression on the office.

      1. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

        That’s awesome! I’m told my name was also a verb at one of my jobs, only it meant to be super focused on what you’re doing and ignoring all the talk around you, like the ND software engineer I am. For example, it once got used in a car when the driver was concentrating on the road and not participating in the passengers’ discussion.

    46. anecdata*

      – How does your company do meetings/norms/what works or doesn’t work (also room for stories of truly spectacular meeting fails)

      – Retirement stories: I don’t know how many retired readers you have; but I’d love to hear people’s stories of: how they planned for the transition; do they volunteer or work part time (and how did they find the right role for them); did they make those plans before retirement or after or have they otherwise changed

    47. RavCS*

      In my business (clergy) we share stories about life cycle events (funerals, marriages, baby naming, confirmations, etc.) that have gone awry.

    48. KTM*

      Maybe something about the worst or most embarrassing ‘lost in translation’ moment? Could be a literal translation (like misunderstanding between different language speakers), a jargon translation between departments or cultures, or a joke that went awry.

    49. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      Odd assumptions of expertise, your own or other people’s.

      I had coworkers at one job trust me about earthquake safety because I edited science books. In reality, I’ve never taken a geology course, and only a few college-level science classes.

    50. JustaRando*

      1) Wild ways that bosses apologize for their bad behavior (I have 2 stories)
      2) Office pranks gone wrong

    51. Nosmo King*

      Measures that management took to boost morale or inspire the staff. The misfires are very entertaining, but good ones would be interesting too!

    52. Morgan Proctor*

      Unusual or unexpected career pivots. Literally every week there are multiple people in this comment section asking how to shift from one industry to an unrelated industry, or how to figure out how to apply their experience to a totally different career path. Some examples from people who have done it would benefit a lot of readers!

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        The award in this category (unless you’re in the medical field) goes to medical stress toys. Do not look this up on a work computer!

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I got one shaped like a doctor at a conference once. I took him back to my desk and for the next year, wrote with a fine-point sharpie the names of all the doctors who gave me stand-out terrible documentation so that I could squash them all in effigy. :P

    53. FunOptions*

      Most unusual work outings

      weirdest assumption coworkers make about you

      strangest work policies

      office/school pranks gone wrong

    54. other duties as assigned*

      Weirdest “other duties as assigned” that you have been assigned, whether or not you actually did them, how it went, and what your actual job was supposed to be

    55. Crazy Plant Lady*

      Best/worst office pranks
      Most clueless things interns have done
      Best company-provided benefits/perks
      Worst team building activities

  9. Hamster*

    Has anyone gone from being in an open office to having their own office either within the same company or switching jobs? or vice versa? Did it feel weird? How was the adjustment period, if there was?

    I’ve always worked in an open office; at every job I’ve had, offices were meant for the senior or C-level staff. But at my current job I was assigned an office that I share with another person. I was pleasantly surprised as I thought I’d be “in the pit” (their term for the open cube). But I’ve had a largely positive experience.

    I’m just curious to know others’ experiences.

    1. Panicked*

      I did! My office (finally) moved to a larger space and I got my own office. It’s been great! I am far more comfortable now. I will say that I do have to be more purposeful in leaving my space and going to talk to others though. So many helpful conversations at the old office came from people walking by and stopping for a chat.

      1. Hamster*

        I was worried about being isolated and lonely but my office is located right across the kitchen where there’s a lot of foot traffic so everyone stops and says hi and sometimes we chat. It’s nice!

    2. RagingADHD*

      I just started a new job last week and was surprised to find that I have an honest to goodness office with windows and a door!

      I’m very excited and scheming on how to decorate without breaking the bank. So far, I have 4 plants, a succulent garden, and a big cozy shawl. I have lots of bare surfaces and blank wall space, so the next step is lamps and artwork.

        1. Hamster*

          I have lots of wall and some floor space, although I’m not planning on decorating yet. Maybe when I hit my 1 year mark!

    3. FricketyFrack*

      I’m just commenting so it’s easier to come back and read responses. I’ve always worked in a cubicle or similar, and right now, my desk is just kind of in the middle of the room because it’s the only place it fits and is close enough to one of our extremely limited outlets. It sucks. But later this year, we’re moving to a new building and I’ll have an “office” of sorts (I asked them to make the wall into the hallway into a counter because I wouldn’t get any natural light otherwise, and the extra space will be helpful for some of my tasks) that’s definitely more private, and everyone else on my team will also be in offices, which is a big change. I’m excited, but it’ll be weird not to be able to easily chat/ask questions.

    4. Clisby*

      For the first 14 years of my working life, I worked in open offices – I was a newspaper reporter/editor, and this was par for the course. Only upper management had offices.

      I went back to school for a computer science degree – and wound up working for the company where I retired after 27 years. I had my own office for the first 8-9 years, when I worked onsite; the rest of the time I worked remotely (My husband and I shared a home office – we got along quite well). I still remember how blissful it felt to have that first private office. Of course, I got used to the luxury pretty quickly, but it was *such* a step up from an open office. Years later, before I retired, a couple of departments heard the siren song of open office spaces and moved their teams into them. Yes, they made the insane decision to *get rid of offices* to create a hellscape. I never had to work in them, but I felt sorry for the programmers every time I visited the office.

      1. Hamster*

        You are right, it IS a luxury! My office mate is on vacation this week and while she’s lovely and great to have around, I’ve gotten quite used to just being alone.

        I’ve always preferred working in an open office just because I liked being around people.
        But now? I don’t think I could go back to that.

        1. anecdata*

          My dad, a software engineer, had his own office and I somehow did not realize until I entered the workforce myself that that was unusual. His company actually used it as a pretty effective recruiting tool!

    5. PunnyCoffeeMug*

      I went from an open office, all our desks in one big room, to all of us having private offices during a remodel. It was really great to have an office to have small/one-on-one meetings and not everyone involved in–or overhearing– everyone else’s business. It mostly had positives as our team worked in an open office together for three years before switching, but then when we hired new people, we had to work a little more at making those casual connections and getting out of our offices. Then, when the remodel ended, they moved us into individual clear glass offices, which was its own kind of terrible.

    6. Alianora*

      Yes, I have my own office and this is the first job where I’ve had one. Previous owner was a smoker and left a whole mess of papers and other stuff to clean out. I love having the space now, though. It’s also important in my current job because I deal with confidential personnel information.

    7. I Have RBF*

      I have gone from an office, down to cube, down to open plan desk. It sucks. If feels like a demotion and that the company is saying that you are worth less and less. Yes, it has been a factor in my departure from a couple jobs, especially when I get gaslit by managers saying “You’re the only one who has complained”, when the whole office has been griping about it.

      1. Late Bloomer*

        Love personal offices. But what I love most is personal space, and that doesn’t necessarily mean my own office. In previous job (before remote current job), I had the option of sharing an enclosed with door office or having my own cube that was in a corner and, with a divider, only exposed to office traffic on one side. I chose the cube because I could ignore the traffic of random people but could not ignore another person.

    8. BigBrother*

      My first half dozen or do jobs all had either offices (sometimes shared, sometimes solo) or cubes. My first job in an open office was hell. Every time someone walked near me I instinctively thought they were looking for me. It felt like everyone was constantly watching and judging me. I loathed it.

      I eventually got used to it, but I still tried to do work that required concentration at home (most of my companies have been hybrid since the mid90s – yay, tech!).

  10. Ashley Armbruster*

    Several years ago someone wrote in asking about how to avoid cooing over coworkers’ kids without looking like a jerk. There was excellent advice and scripts, however, this was back when most people were in offices. How can you do this when everyone is remote?

    Within the past 4 years I’ve worked remotely at 2 separate companies and have experienced this at both. Either a child or dog will make an appearance and this time it’s everyone in the meeting who is expected to coo, and you can’t go anywhere! Or the person will talk excessively about personal matters of their children, like with details about #2s (this has seriously happened 3 times) of their young children, and you’re still expected to coo or laugh and you’re stuck in the meeting.

    I don’t mind when it’s more organic, like kids or pets in the background, or quickly interacting offscreen with the coworkers, or the pet or kid quietly showing up and the coworker doesn’t draw attention to themselves. But to me, it’s blindly obvious when certain coworkers (and it’s always the same ones who do it repeatedly), make a big show of aggressively petting their dog, putting their kid on their lap or oversharing TMI details about their kids. Unfortunately it appears my new boss who just joined is like this…

    To me, the meeting owner or most senior person should try to bring it back to the meeting, but frankly that doesn’t happen.

    1. CTT*

      Ugh, that’s annoying. Can you just zone out when this happens? Like, “Lucinda is making everyone look at her cat, time to pull up today’s crossword puzzle in another window” and keep a neutral-to-warm look on your face?

    2. Cat Tree*

      How long do these tangents typically last? If it’s just a couple of minutes you should probably try to let it go. Maybe throw in an “aww, cute” if you feel it’s expected of you. It’s not really much different than a side conversation about other things that don’t interest you. My workplace often has conversations about a TV show I’ve never watched and a sport that I don’t follow. I just chalk it up to some folks having different interests than me and I’ll either say nothing or make a short polite comment. Your colleagues almost certainly don’t expect you to gush about it and probably don’t even notice that you’re quiet.

      If it’s eating up too much time, you can try to change the conversation by asking a work-related question. But you really should do that because you need that info and that’s what the meeting is for. If you’re trying to change the topic only because you’re bored of the sidebar, just be very deliberate about not letting that show in your tone of voice.

      The bodily functions talk is somewhat inappropriate for any group setting though, and you can politely interrupt and ask them to move on.

      1. Ashley Armbruster*

        It’s usually just a few minutes, but usually we’re crunched for time during meetings

    3. Excel Jedi*

      NGL, I love the pet intrusions, but hate the kid ones.

      For the most part, I’ve just silently waited out any kid interruptions, and that’s been fine. With everyone else cooing, it’s fine for one or two people to just not engage.

      As for the TMI conversations? In my office it’s appropriate to say something like, “Can we table this conversation for after the meeting? I would rather not hear about that stuff.” Usually the people in the meeting will realize they crossed a line as soon as you say that. If you can’t say that, maybe: “Can we finish the agenda before talking about kids? I’m on a tight timeline and I have to hop off right after.”

      1. Ashley Armbruster*

        I’m a huge pet person and used love the pets, but I’ve noticed that with certain people, they know I’m a doctor person and it feels like they are using their dog as a shield to protect them because they aren’t doing their jobs. Which is another discussion lol. It’s always the people who procrastinate or are lazy/entitled.

        1. Sarak*

          It sounds to me like this is more about the particular people themselves and not so much about kids/pets on zoom. If you have work related issues with these people then focus on addressing the actual issues with them or with your manager. Getting annoyed with them because of a few minutes spent on kids/pets in a meeting sounds like a symptom of your more general annoyance at their work.

      1. I Have RBF*

        This.

        They bring out their kids, and I figure that’s their way of signaling time for a break. Gossip, coo, or bio break.

    4. Katie A*

      If it’s a large video meeting than it should be even easier then in person, and if it’s a small meeting or one-on-one, then it’s about the same if not easier.

      For the large meeting, you can just smile and not say anything if people are saying things out loud, or react (with a like or a heart or something else positive) to someone else’s typed comment if that’s how people are commenting.

      If it’s a small meeting or a one-on-one, just smile and say “awww” or “how adorable!” or give a small laugh. You don’t have to make a big show of things and, unlike in person, you don’t have to worry about being handed a baby.

      If the child- or pet-related digressions are genuinely taking up a lot of time in meetings or are regularly derailing things, mention it to your manager or, if you’re in charge of the meeting/the most senior person, smile and say a nice thing, then say something meeting-related to encourage people to move on.

      But if these things aren’t taking much time or the derailing is very occasional, then just chalk it up to working with people and accept it. If it’s actually grossing you out, sure, you could say something to the person later or talk to someone higher up, but it’s probably easier to take a deep breath in the moment and complain to a non-work friend later.

      Sometimes you have to smile at a kid and sometimes people at work are annoying. That’s life.

    5. Hamster*

      As a parent of a little one who gushes over the kid only when I know it’s appropriate to do so…..discussing, at length, bodily functions is just….no.

      There’s literally no reason to talk about it. I can understand if the conversation comes up where someone needs advice or saying if something happened…but details about these things.. I just don’t understand how and why parents do that.

    6. Double A*

      It’s the same thing you’d do if the meeting went off topic for any other reason. So what do you do in this cases?

      Personally I have no problem speaking up after a couple minutes (and it’s really normal/expected to have some social chatter for some amount of time, and remotely it’s especially nice to have a few minutes to connect), “It’s been great hearing about X topic, I know we’ve got about 20 minutes left so let’s bring it back to Y topic.”

    7. Hiring Mgr*

      I’d say you’re overthinking it – you can just ignore or give a perfunctory “cute”. If you’re not running the meeting or senior, you can’t really do much about it anyway so it’s much less stressful just to go with the flow.

    8. Caramel & Cheddar*

      If it’s a one-on-one meeting, I’ll ask them if they want to reschedule to a later time when they can give their full attention (I don’t say this last part). Usually it’s the dog doing something distracting in the background or the kids needing something from their parent. I’m fine if you need to go deal with it, truly, but I don’t want to waste my time waiting for your kid or pet to settle, etc.

      If it’s a group meeting and I’m not in charge, then I just wait for whatever happens next. It’s not my meeting and no one is likely to be looking at my reaction individually, so ultimately if the meeting leader doesn’t care then I try not to either.

    9. JSPA*

      It can be highly intentional without being done at you. (Getting the kid used to meeting people online, or understanding what it means that a parent is “on a call”; socializing an easily-scared pet by normalizing other faces and voices; knowing that there’s less chance of wailing or barking or jumping on the keyboard if you grab an settle the interloper on your lap).

      Reminding yourself that even a very intentional act likely has nothing to do with you may go a long way to stiffle excess resentment.

      Short of having a phobia that requires accommodation, strong negative responses or expressions of resentment are going to come across as disproportionate, overly personally invested, or both.

      Nobody is expecting everyone to enthuse. Silence is fine.

      1. Cj*

        other than showing the kid what it means that their parent is on a call (and that should be one time for like 30 seconds), nothing else you listed are appropriate reasons to have your kid or pet on a work call. there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to accomplish those same things on a video call with friends or family members.

        the fact that you would have them intentionally appear during a work call is so, so much worse then if it makes a pet or kid makes a random appearance, or the kid needs something from their parent.

    10. Anonymouse*

      This is the reason I stopped having lunch with the group, my former manager, who still works in my dept, would completely take over the conversation and it would always be about her kids. I have had to listen to her stories at least multiple times because she always makes sure the new people hear them. I am not sure how I manage not to give myself a concussion with the eye rolls. So happy to be retiring this year, no more of this crap!!!!!!!!!

  11. Amber*

    Hello all! Just started reading this site due to my mom recommending it. Don’t really have a question to add this week, just some potential good news. I interviewed for a manager position yesterday at my current job and feel really confident about it; I should be hearing back by the end of next week and will provide an update once I hear back!
    Just want to add that I’ve learned so much about phrasing and even a little about tone just by skimming this site, I’m looking forward to being able to apply it when I am a manager!

    1. Observer*

      Just started reading this site due to my mom recommending it.

      Nice!

      Just a reminder that sometimes parents DO have good work advice! ;)

      1. Green Goose*

        True :)
        I did have also funny image in my head of :
        A momTM saying “Now search the internet for Alison’s number to tell her how much you love the blog and that she should hire you, it shows initiative!”

      2. Clisby*

        Hah! I’m a parent, and like to think I do. However, my 27-year-old daughter got me hooked on AAM.

      3. Amber*

        My parents have great work advise! I go to both of them (Mom a little more just because I’m a Momma’s girl) to help get perspective or just to vent. I actually just found the “how has your parents level of achievement” thread and my parents fall under the “have always worked, sometimes for themselves, usually for someone else” category.

  12. Jess R.*

    This is a pretty broad question, but I’m open to answers and ideas from all directions: How do you improve your own work ethic?

    Context: I am in a position where I can do the necessary things for my job in a couple of hours total per day, and the rest of the time, I could/should be working on more long-term projects, but I spend a lot of it goofing off instead. One of the big factors is that my manager is hugely hands-off, so I have nobody looking at or caring about my long-term work, and I know that’s always going to be hard for me, but I know I can also improve my own personal work ethic and spend more of the time actually working on those long-term projects.

    Complicating all this is that I have ADHD, but I am medicated, and the meds work pretty well; I just struggle to find enough motivation/purpose/point of it all to do the lower-priority background projects. I know that there are lots of outside factors, and I’m not dismissing those, but I do seek ideas on what I can do personally to improve my side of things. Thoughts? Is this something you struggle with?

    1. Asloan*

      Ugh no advice just solidarity. I work fully remote in a very disorganized org and it’s hard to force myself to be productive when it seems like nobody cares and it doesn’t really matter. But I feel like if I had a better work ethic I’d be doing it for myself.

    2. Artemesia*

      The only way I can do things like write a book or complete a long term project is to analyze it and break it into steps and then commit to doing a few steps each day. And if possible you pick the easy steps first so you begin to pile up a list of progress accomplishments. When I wrote my major book, I wrote a couple of chapters in the middle first because they were the topics I loved (It was a book on research I had done). Having done those chapters, suddenly 15% of the book was done.

      The old trick of making a to do list that includes a couple of things you have already done today so you can reward yourself by crossing them off can be oddly motivating. So identify a piece you know you can do of the big project and do that. Baby steps.

      1. My Useless 2 Cents*

        Agree, breaking things down and creating to-do lists really help me with the bigger projects.

        The other thing that helps me is setting aside specific times to work on it. So if Wed morning is traditionally slow, I’ll set aside Wed 8-10AM for working on long term project X and won’t look at or touch my normal work until 10AM. (Helps that I don’t get a lot of emergency requests in my job that need to be handled right away.) Truthfully, it is really hard to do this at the beginning of a project but once I can see light at the end of a long project tunnel appear it becomes easier. And once I finish one big project, I get a kind of “big project high” and can’t stop myself from searching for the next big project I can tackle and get off my desk.

      2. DrSalty*

        This. Break large projects up and set internal deadlines for each part. Reward yourself for meeting the deadline with a little treat.

    3. Cyborg Llama Horde*

      Switching from things that need to get done to things that should get done can definitely be difficult. (Especially when there have been a lot of High! Priority! Projects! and I first have some chiller time, although that sounds like it’s not the case here?)

      That said, what DO you find motivating? Deadlines? Can you make them for yourself? Checking things off a list? Make a list with the tasks broken down into the smallest pieces possible and start checking things off. (Related: Are you procrastinating on the big, long-term stuff because it feels vague and hard to know how to start? Can you make getting started more approachable or concrete in some way?) Does having another person also working help you buckle down and focus? Is there someone you could buddy up with on a video call/in a conference room for two hours while you both do project work?

      1. honeygrim*

        “Switching from things that need to get done to things that should get done can definitely be difficult.” Yes! I can relate to that.

        I don’t know if you’ve had previous jobs that were largely putting out fires or dealing with emergencies, Jess R., but my last job involved a lot of firefighting and I find that it’s hard to pace/motivate myself in a role where a lot of my work doesn’t have immediate impact. I don’t have any suggestions, but also offer solidarity.

    4. Katie A*

      I have ADHD and struggle with this sort of thing, too, so I get it!

      You say your manager is hands-off, but you can still ask them to work with you on this. See if they’d be okay with you sending them an email at the beginning of the week (or the end of the week before) saying what you plan to accomplish that week. Then, you can email them once in the middle of the week with your progress on those plans and again at the end of the week saying what you did and didn’t accomplish. Additionally, at the beginning of the week you should make a plan for what you hope to accomplish each day, but that you just keep for yourself.

      That will force you to make a plan, give you daily deadlines (your personal plan), a midpoint deadline where you’re at least someone accountable to someone else (the middle of the week email to your manager), and a final deadline where you’re semi-accountable to someone else (the end of week email). What I find especially helpful about things like this is that it gives lots of deadlines, so if you miss one, you still have a chance, but you also get the ADHD-motivating pressure of a deadline.

      Frame it as wanting to make sure you’re prioritizing correctly or, if you’re comfortable saying it, you can just let your manager know that it would help you with your productivity and help you get these long-term projects done. That’s not weird, and even many people without any diagnosed executive functioning issue would find that helpful.

      1. Katie A*

        Oh, I forgot to mention, you tell your manager they don’t actually need to respond to these emails or take any other action, so you’re not actually adding much to their plate. Heck, they don’t even need to read them if they don’t want to.

      2. Rory*

        Lots of good advice here already, I just wanted to add a resource that I have found helpful in tackling larger projects: The Goblin Tools App (available for both iPhone and android). You just enter the name of a project you want to complete, and then it breaks it down into all the different smaller steps. You can even drill down further and break down the small steps into even smaller steps. Sometimes the obstacle to working on long term projects is feeling overwhelmed and not sure where to start, but this app can give you a tangible assignment to work on that likely won’t take very long to do.

    5. FricketyFrack*

      I have a hard time with that too – I’ve found that saying, “I’m going to spend 10 minutes working on ____,” or whatever small chunk of time makes sense, has helped me to feel like ok, this isn’t that bad, it’s just a few minutes and then I can go back to messing around. Sometimes I really only do the 10 minutes, sometimes I get sucked in and get a lot more done, but either way, I’m making progress. I also do that with chores at home or basically anything else I know I need to do, but isn’t urgent and I just kind of don’t wanna.

    6. Justin*

      Fellow ADHDer, I break everything into small manageable pieces and am sure to celebrate (within reason) each accomplishment. So that celebration gives me the dopamine hit I need to do the next thing.

    7. Jenna Webster*

      Are there some long-term projects that would be more fun for you? When I start drifting into the same situation, I try to figure out what is on the list that I would actually enjoy doing, and I go with that. It’s easier to spend the time, and I’ve even won an award for a couple of the things I did to just keep me moving.

    8. Admin of Sys*

      Absolutely happens to me too. The best way I’ve been able to manage it is to break up the longer term projects into small specific ones. When I get a new project, I break it down into a ton of small manageable bits, and then put them into a sort of ‘pre ticket’ state. When I get to the empty spots in the day, I convert a collection of them into actual tickets with due dates and such. Then they become part of the ‘get done now’ list. Basically, I play project manager with my own work. Is it perfect? Nope, as evidenced by being here instead of converting some things for Friday’s work load. But it definitely helps to have stuff in the form of “test deployment to windu and shaak servers” rather than the general “automate scripts”

    9. striped socks*

      Have you ever done yoga? One of the things I took from my yoga classes is that when you’re supposed to be focusing on breathing, and you notice you’re not, you just refocus your mind on breathing. I do the same thing with work: when I notice I’m not working, i stop the “not-working”, and just start working again. Also, I set timers for breaks – so I’ll set a timer for 5 minutes to surf, for example. I’m not sure what goofing off looks like to you.

      1. Starbuck*

        “when I notice I’m not working, i stop the “not-working”, and just start working again.”

        As someone else with ADHD, this is hilarious. Thanks for the laugh.

        1. amoeba*

          Eh, I mean, I absolutely get that it’s not that simple (for me either, I struggle with that a lot!) but I do still think there’s value in the idea. The main thing in yoga/meditation is that you *don’t beat yourself up* about failing to focus on the breathing or try to force yourself. You just accept that your mind has wandered and gently steer it back. Every single time, without any judgement.
          So I do feel like that could help with the work thing as well – instead of feeling shitty about surfing the internet or internal monologue about how badly you’re doing, just let go of what happened and go back to what you wanted to do in the first place. And if that happens every 10 minutes, that’s fine as well, no reason to beat yourself up.

          Will try it out!

    10. constant_craving*

      As someone with ADHD, I have to say things only started working better when I stopped trying to motivate myself to do things. It never worked. I only started (going to the gym, making progress on task x, etc.) when I stopped tying to motivate myself. Instead:

      Just put stuff on a calendar. The calendar now says I have to do x now, so motivation or no, I have to do x.
      Pomodoro method has been extremely helpful to me for tasks that aren’t done in a short amount of time and then over with. You can even start with a timed break instead of the timed work time. I actually found when using this that I’d sometimes be antsy for the break to end so I could get back to what I was doing, because for me often the getting started is the biggest hurdle.
      Todoist. I really like being able to check off everything I needed to do in a day- it can give a sense of satisfaction to otherwise unsatisfying tasks. Similar to advice I often see about trying to “gamify” tasks, just a pretty low-key version.

    11. samwise*

      Intermediate deadlines and an accountability partner.

      I don’t have ADHD, but used to fart around a lot instead of working on longer term projects. It finally caught up with me and I had to have a very serious meeting with my boss about it.

    12. JustaRando*

      Use your calendar to help with this! Schedule time with yourself, start with 60 minutes, once or twice a week to work on one part of the long-term project. Or if you have multiple long-term projects, schedule 60 minutes for Project A on Monday, do Project B on Wednesday, and Project C on Friday. Tackle large, long-term projects in small chunks so you can show forward progress to any colleagues or supervisors, but spread it out so you can still enjoy any downtime. It may also help to assign yourself deadlines for your internal milestones and put those on your calendar, too, using the pop-up reminders. I have some that pop up and I snooze the reminder for 2+ days if I know I will not realistically be able to get to it. But those reminders act as a nag so I do not forget to do the thing.

    13. 2e*

      I also have ADHD, and I wonder if you’re being too hard on yourself. Saying “I need to improve my work ethic” feels like a very slight variation on “I need to be less lazy.”

      Which is, of course, exactly what we’re primed to think about ourselves, perhaps especially with a late diagnosis.

      For me, framing things in terms of work ethic or laziness is almost guaranteed to trigger a shame spiral; I’ll get overwhelmed, get stuck, and get very little done. Practical strategies for time/task management will *just not work*, because I’m so overloaded.

      When I’m gentler with myself? I am still far from perfect (and far from normal in some ways!), but I have a much, much better chance of meeting my own goals. It’s not easy, but it’s easier.

    14. Professional Editor*

      I invite you to avoid framing this issue as related to work ethic. That framing has moral-implications that frankly are unhelpful. Instead, I invite you to look at it as a practical problem – how do you spend time on long-term work.

      A couple of things that have worked for me:
      – Asking my boss to set priorities for long term work so I have a sense of the order that I should be working on long-term things.
      – Blocking out time in my calendar for working on longer term projects.
      – Breaking long term projects into a series of smaller pieces of work.
      – Keeping a To Do list for the week that’s a meeting appointment in my calendar and moving that appointment to the beginning of each day. On most days, I include one of these smaller pieces of work onto that To Do list.
      – Documenting at the bottom of that To Do list what I accomplish each day. At the end of the week, I start a new To Do list for the next week and I keep the “old” To Do list as a record of everything I accomplished in the week. Seeing progress toward completing things is important for me.
      – Finding a collaborator or two to work on some of the longer term projects. It helps to have someone to bounce ideas off of, and it helps when I can find a collaborator who is good at doing part of the project that I am less good at.

      Also, it’s worth asking yourself why you’re not working on these projects. Because it might not be time management issues. You might not enjoy or feel competent at parts of the project, and that makes you avoid it. (I had a coach who would ask me if I thought my reluctance to do a task was a “lack of will or a lack of skill” and it’s a question I often ask myself. Because if you can figure out why you’re not doing something, you have a clue for what to address.)

    15. JSPA*

      write “work 45 minutes on [specific aspect of specific task]” at a specific time on your private calendar, twice a day, three times a week, allowing an additional half hour between that block of time, and anything else in your schedule. Don’t stop yourself from working longer than 45 minutes, if it’s going well.

      The first session (and then again, every couple of weeks) is to populate the calendar with 2 weeks of these bite-sized tasks.

      And as with any task, you can do it early, if you wish, and get the small satisfaction of marking it complete.

      If you find yourself way ahead, you can slowly add a few more slots. But ideally, the calendar will be setting you up to eventually feel more awareness and ownership of some of the tasks, so you’ll find yourself working on bits spontaneously.

      The goal isn’t nonstop work, BTW. It’s feeling good about nudging everything forward, regularly.

  13. Stuckinacrazyjob*

    I’m having a time off dilemma. I want my marriage license signed on a certain date… but I thought you had to submit time off only a single month in advance instead of 6 months so I cant get time off. ( even a month in advance is hard for me despite my use of a planner. )

    My bf is like ” just call off sick” ( he has the whole week off because his time off works differently) . I’m thinking of perhaps ” flexing time” but I also have no idea how that works either… I need a way to ask my boss about it that doesn’t sound lazy .. I know for doctors visits I just take off and totally promise I’ll make it up, but would that work for that?

    Sorry for asking too many questions

    1. ThatGirl*

      Flexing time is exactly what you do with your doctor visits – you take the time you need and make it up later. I would probably say something like “I need to attend to a personal matter on X date from y-z time, I’ll make up that time” and specify when if you want (like that day, that week).

    2. Alex*

      Wait, back up, you have to submit a request for one day off SIX MONTHS IN ADVANCE?? That’s freaking bananas.

      Yeah, just say you have an “appointment”. They will assume it is a medical appointment.

    3. londonedit*

      Well, I’m not sure your job is normal, but in a normal job ‘flexing time’ means that you say to your boss that you’ll need to start at 10am on Thursday morning because you have an appointment at 9am to sign your marriage licence, so you plan to work until 6pm to make up the time. Would that work?

    4. Zephy*

      You need to request PTO six months in advance? Furthermore, you need to request a single day of paid time off six months in advance?

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        We’re in a time off war. Because only one person can be out at a time,people have been grabbing it way in advance to the detriment of people with bad planning and people who remember only needing a months heads up. We used to be able to have two people out too.

          1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

            I sure hope it doesn’t! It would probably be hard to get everything done on such short notice.

        1. Slartibartfast*

          I’m with your SO. Say nothing and call in sick. That’s the consequences of a system like this.

          1. Quantum Possum*

            I agree. This whole policy makes my blood boil.

            Stuckinacrazyjob, if you feel icky about calling in sick when you’re not actually ill, remind yourself that mental health is part of healthcare, too. Consider it a “mental health day.” :)

        2. Quantum Possum*

          That is ridiculous and completely unsustainable.

          I’m sorry you and your coworkers are dealing with this.

          On a positive note, congratulations on your upcoming marriage! :)

          1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

            Thanks! They’re trying to make things less bad through various means but it’s just too much lol.

            1. Quantum Possum*

              Well, it’s good that they recognize it’s a big problem and are working on it. It would be much worse if they didn’t care. It doesn’t make things any easier on you and your coworkers right now, but at least there’s a glimmer of hope.

    5. Just Here for the Cake*

      First of all, no need to apologize! You’re here for advice, so questions are needed and expected!

      Would you have to take off the whole day, or just part of the day? If its just part of the day, I would recommend saying you have an appointment (which isn’t a lie because you have something you need to get done that day) and treating it like you did your doctor visit. If its a whole day, could you talk to your boss and see if you can take it off? They might be flexible if you present it as something that has come up that you need to take care of.

    6. Hlao-roo*

      Can you ask your boss about flexing time for an appointment (without specifying that the appointment is “signing my marriage license” instead of “going to the doctors” or “receiving the delivery of my new refrigerator”)? A potential script is “hey, [boss], I have an appointment on [date]. Is it ok for me to [arrive late/leave early/leave for part of the day] and make up the hours [later in the day/earlier in the day/on other days that week]?”

    7. ThursdaysGeek*

      Why can’t you ask for time off 6 months out? If you were going on a vacation, you wouldn’t wait until that month to buy airline tickets and make plans, so of course you’d ask for the time off further out.

      1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

        The ONLY time I asked for vacation six months in advance is when making plans with my family around my cousin’s school schedules. Possibly the time I took an international trip, but even that I’m not sure that was six months in advance. The rest of the time? I don’t know what my schedule is that far in advance. I’m not flying anywhere, and I’m not tied to a school schedule. I make plans a few weeks to a few months in advance.

      2. Spencer Hastings*

        I think they mean that they thought the deadline for requesting PTO was 1 month before, but they’ve recently learned it’s actually 6 months. If that’s the case, then I guess their username checks out…

        1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

          Yea I didn’t expect everyone to have taken all the PTO days up so far in advance because my brain would not have even been thinking about 2024 in 2023. I did get some days off in June though

      3. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        Because my brain doesn’t work ” right ” Even planning a schedule out or making a meal plan gives me fits and blues. I often lose vacation time because more than maybe a week into the future is very blurry.

        1. anywhere but here*

          It may be worth having a conversation about the bigger picture with your manager as well, if she is at all reasonable. It sounds like you’re just blaming yourself for not being on top of things, but I have never planned for vacation time more than 6 months out and it’s been completely fine for me (because my workplace isn’t crazy). Yes it would be great to be “more on top of things” to plan 6+ months ahead of time but not doing so is very normal.

        2. Double A*

          It is absolutely insane to have to ask for time off 6 months in advance. I can see, AT MOST, requiring two weeks notice for a single day off. I can see requiring, say, 6 weeks notice for a week off.

          This is not you not being able to schedule. This is a complete bananas policy.

        3. Sandi*

          Your workplace is strange for expecting that much notice. I know that different industries have different expectations, but in tech I’m typically able to take time off on the day itself provided I don’t have any imminent deadlines or meetings. I can understand with teaching or medicine that this wouldn’t work, but even still 6 months would be unmanageable for me.

    8. DisneyChannelThis*

      You’re overthinking it. “Hey Boss, I’d like to take 4/4/24 off, do you want me to use PTO or just make up the hours later?”

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        That’s probably the best thing or the have an appointment thing. I usually do most of the important work from 4 to 7 and the rest of the day is paperwork.

    9. Dulcinea47*

      These are policy questions you need to ask someone at your job. HR would be good to consult on this. No one here can tell you whether you actually need to submit anything six months ahead of time.

    10. anywhere but here*

      I think any reasonable boss wouldn’t quibble about a single day a month in advance even if the policy is 6 months out. If your boss is really that upset, I might look towards a different job unless the specifics of your role/industry make time off a REALLY BIG DEAL.

      The only qualm I have about playing hooky is if that day is in any way meaningful, it would be uncomfortable to have to lie/be misleading at work if/when the marriage comes up. So saying you’ll be out for a personal appointment seems reasonable (signing legal paperwork/going to the courthouse/etc has to happen sometimes and often during the workday) but calling in to say you’re sick would be a bit messier I think. And you could probably even say (if detail is necessary, although less detail is better) there is some important, time-sensitive legal paperwork that has to be done in person.

    11. Person from the Resume*

      Request leave 6 months off in advance is indeed crazy. But regardless of that, as long a your appointment to sign the marriage license is requires only few hours you should be able to use flex time. Unless there’s a rule about flex time being only for medical things, flex time would apply to this personal appointment too. If you’re planning to use the whole day that’s different because you’re trying to make up the 8 hours (??) in the four remaining days of week.

    12. goddessoftransitory*

      Okay, so, you just need the license signed on this date, right? Not to actually get married?

      Yeah, I would simply do the flex-time and say you have to do a time-sensitive thing on that day–or, depending on the hours for the courthouse or where the signing happens, you might be able to do it at the beginning/end of your day, or on a lunch break?

      But seriously, SIX MONTHS to request a day off? That’s ridiculously unworkable from my point of view.

  14. Watry*

    Last week I posted asking for success stories, and a commenter called Quantum Possum kindly tried to offer advice–but it was after I had stopped checking the thread. If you’re around, QP:

    I have over a decade of customer service experience, but frankly I’d almost rather be unemployed than go back to that. There’s been some overlap with records work as well, for about five years. But all the job postings are either for customer service work at a 10$/hr paycut, it’s specialized (accountants, programmers, etc), or it’s way, way above my experience level (high-level managers). My experience isn’t nothing but it’s also pretty common.

    In the meantime I’ve had reason to push it from casually looking to actively looking.

    1. Quantum Possum*

      Hi there! :)

      I don’t blame you for not wanting to go back to customer service. Sometimes the most important thing we learn from a job is that we never want to do it again.

      I think that once you actively start looking and checking every day, you’ll be able to find some jobs worth applying to. Sometimes jobs are only posted for a few days, so when you’re casually searching, you can miss a lot.

      I recommend checking out your local public library. They have lots of resources for job-seekers, including free classes at many branches.

      In the meantime, you might want to try some volunteer work to pad out your resume with experience. The library is a great place to start for that, as well.

      Good luck!

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

    I would love to get Alison’s perspective on the Kyte Baby firing.

    If you haven’t heard, the CEO Fired a mom who just adopted her baby, who was in the NICU 9 hours away. She was originally going to work remotely, part time, after her (2 weeks!) maternity leave was up. The CEO said she either had to come back to the office or they would accept her termination.

    https://nypost.com/2024/01/18/news/kyte-baby-brand-under-fire-for-letting-go-employee-who-adopted-22-week-old-nicu-baby/

    1. Betty*

      I saw some interesting advice from The Mama Attorney on Instagram saying that because there’s no requirement for employers to offer accommodations for a child’s health issues, the mom should have asked for accommodations for *her own* stress/anxiety and mental health, which would be potentially protected by ADA.

      1. Zona the Great*

        But it wouldn’t have exposed the company and CEO for being the absolute asshats they were. What a terrible situation.

        1. Betty*

          Oh AGREE for sure. It was just one of the few things I’ve seen that have gone beyond “wow, that’s terrible” (which it absolutely is.)

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

        I’m not entirely sure of the whole situation but the company would still have to abide by FMLA. I doubt they are less than 50 employees and unless the mom hadn’t worked their long enough she should have been covered under FMLA.

        I kind of feel like she was punished because she adopted and not birthed the baby. Like they felt like she chose a defective baby or something.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I mean, are you expecting anybody here to have a take on it other than “what an absolutely terrible thing to do”?

      1. WantonSeedStitch*

        It IS terrible. And unfortunately, it’s entirely legal. And other companies do it all the time. I think Kyte’s being held to a higher standard than those other companies–getting more negative attention for it–because they make baby products. Now, I’ll be the first person to agree that a company focused on babies and their caregivers absolutely ought to do more than is legally required to help their employees balance caring for children with their work! But I also think it would be more beneficial in the long run to use this situation to shine a light on the crappy parental leave laws in the U.S. instead of just focusing all the attention on the one company.

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

        I’m just wondering if it really is that legal. I haven’t been able to find anything that says why she didn’t qualify for FMLA.

        1. Shirley You’re Joking*

          She was a relatively new employee you need 12 months of service (and certain number of hours as well) to be eligible for FMLA.

    3. Jane Bingley*

      Oh my goodness. This is incredibly cruel and bad for business in the sense that it’s the kind of decision that’s indefensible if it gets out (which is exactly what happened). As an EA, this is the kind of convo I’ve had before with my CEO – when someone needs to be let go, what are the optics? How would we explain it if it hit the news? They clearly didn’t think it through at all.

      Aside from that, it’s also (yet another) red flag that the American system is broken. I can only speak to my local context, but here an adoptive parent gets 35 weeks of leave, paid by the government. It’s long enough that it makes sense to hire a replacement, and it comes at a relatively low cost to the company (no necessary expenses beyond the hassle of hiring for a temp position). I can imagine the frustration of a small business owner, knowing she can’t hire someone for a few weeks but also (rightly!) guessing that a new mom with a kid in NICU is gonna be pretty distracted, even if working remotely, which will have a real impact on the business. The right call is still to take that hit, especially since they make baby products, but it’s a painful one as the owner, I’m sure.

    4. The Prettiest Curse*

      I’ve always thought anyone who is a parent of a baby in the NICU (or any child in hospital) should: 1. Be protected from firing and layoffs and 2. Have as much paid leave as they need for as long as they need it.

      Considering the company in this case is a baby-focused brand, I cannot believe they didn’t foresee that this situation would have a hugely negative impact if it made its way into the news, but then, they probably weren’t expecting this employee to speak out. What an example of “penny wise, pound foolish” – and what a great way to totally destroy your brand with your target customer.

    5. Person from the Resume*

      The only thing shocking to me here is that a company who’s product targets parents and mothers was this blind to the optics of firing the new mother for a more than reasonable request (ie continue working only be remote and part time).

      OK I’m a bit shocked that a company who’s product targets parents and mothers has only 2 weeks maternity leave because its terrible optics when your customers are new parents who are extremely likely to appreciate reasonable.

      So I’m not at all surprised a CEO did this, but I am surprised it’s a baby brand. Not even that their CEO would be more parent friendly, but they didn’t see the sales/marketing impact coming from a mile away.

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

        Also, I read that she wasn’t sure she qualified for leave because she didn’t birth the baby, she adopted. That’s my thing. I think they were treating her differently because she adopted a baby that was in the NICU.

    6. Morgan Proctor*

      My thoughts about this are that, in my experience, the people in the working world who are cruelest toward women are other women.

      (I want to add that it’s really not just my experience. I’m part of a professional group for women in a traditionally male-dominated field, and this is a very common sentiment.)

      There are a lot of women out there who, once they climb to a certain point on the career ladder, feel that they should be the only women at that level, that all other women need to sacrifice the same things they did, that they are more like men than women, and see other women as threats and competition for the attention of the men who control them and their careers.

      The worst bosses I’ve ever had have been women, because of the above reasons. Both of them also showed obvious favoritism toward the men on my team. This is a phenomenon that is very real, and that many women are reluctant to talk about.

      1. allathian*

        It’s the Margaret Thatcher effect. She was notoriously unsupportive of other women in politics.

        1. Quantum Possum*

          It’s also a scarcity mindset. In male-dominated fields, there are fewer spaces for women leaders. Scarcity breeds in-fighting and paranoia when competing for resources.

          There’s also a bit of self-fulfilling prophecy involved. Men still make most of the decisions as to who’s in power – and if they must have female leaders, they prefer women who please and enable men, not those who support women. Therefore, space is created only for a certain type of woman, but all women are forced to compete for it.

      2. Quantum Possum*

        I’m incredibly lucky, because I’ve worked with and for amazingly empowering women. At my current job, my boss, my grandboss, my great-grandboss, and one of my two great-great-grandbosses are all women. We have an organizational culture of women helping women. Mentoring younger career women is one of my favorite parts of my job.

  16. Seeking gravitas*

    How to have more gravitas at work or get people to take me more seriously? To be fair, people aren’t NOT taking me seriously or being disrespectful. And it is not just at work. But people tend to think I am friendly and agreeable because I am basically a young-looking (30s but look 20s), single millennial woman. (I don’t dress like I am young, by the way, no crop tops or short skirts/shorts, casual style (boho, hippie leather bracelets, etc.).)

    Work examples include a director who uses his “Dad” voice to tell me how he wants it done, like I am his teenage son that he has to be carefully firm and patient when explaining exactly why things should be done a certain way, a team that I work with a lot always asking me for small favours (like missing deadlines, which to be fair I’m flexible and willing to work with them to make profit) but which extend to favours, though not illegal or unethical, that are more the wink, wink, nudge, nudge kind or take the beg forgiveness after instead of permission now approach, or clients milking our customer service to have us do everything they ask for, including basic admin tasks outside of what we do.

    I don’t want to be difficult or stubborn, but I don’t want to be taken advantage of. I am not shy or quiet, I can speak up. But when I do assert myself, it feels like I have to advocate for myself as people are taken aback that I didn’t just agree or give it up. Like they’re asking for a small, reasonable issue that I should agree to it (like a flight attendant who wants me to switch seats). It’s not like I jump at the chance to help out or solve the problem to be helpful.

    I fear that it’s too late for me now at work. I pushed back at something for clients (clients milking tasks above), and directors were taken aback, even saying we have to be “kind” and “compassionate” and asking how these tasks should be accommodated. I pushed back at the client request (as I increasingly feel taken advantage of by clients and teams with the wink, wink, nudge, nudge requests) but when I assert myself, although I’m not shy or quiet, it seems like I’m making a big deal out of something that’s not a big deal.

    1. Zephy*

      Yeah, unfortunately step one is to be not a young woman. It also sounds like you don’t have support from management to not acquiesce to all of these extra and quasi-problematic requests, so double-unfortunately step two is to work for a boss that gives even half a shit about rules and processes.

      1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

        It doesn’t automatically happen. I don’t know HOW you establish the reputation as someone who doesn’t put up with weird BS, but it’s definitely possible to ~28 and have a “nice, but doesn’t put up with havey-cavey nonsense” reputation.

      2. Busy Middle Manager*

        I know you’re joking but TBH many of these issues solve themselves soon enough. Now that I am middle aged, I look back on this differently. I remember getting offended when I was 28 and people thought I was entry level. Now I realize they literally couldn’t tell the difference between 22 and 28, and TBH, it’s still pretty early career, so I don’t get why I was even mad.

        In this case it’s hard to give specifics without knowing the job.

    2. Rainy*

      I have found that if I explain the reason for my refusal, people take it as an excuse to push. “No, that won’t work for me” is better than “Oh, I can’t because XYZ”, for example. The other thing is to stop caring if someone who’s taking advantage of you is taken aback or upset by your calm assertiveness.

      (For the record, I don’t move when a flight attendant wants me to switch seats unless I get an upgrade. Someone else’s failure to make provision for wanting to sit together/window/whatever is not my problem, and I will not provide a solution unless incentivized. When I fly with my husband, we make provisions to sit together that don’t rely on forcing someone else to make a concession they may not want to.)

      1. Dulcinea47*

        wow.. airlines manipulate seat availablity. I’d hate to be around someone who thinks that’s a personal failure.

        1. Rainy*

          Good thing you’re not around me, I guess? Sorry you feel like not being a pushover is a personal failure.

        2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I’m with Rainy here. It’s not your personal failure if you don’t plan for your party to be seated together, but it’s also not my problem to resolve it for you by undoing the plans that I DID go out of my way to make ahead.

          If your party includes folks that legitimately can’t be separated, like a parent and small child, then you should probably plan for that. Otherwise, the whole plane gets to the destination at the same time. (Or else you’ve got bigger problems. Boeing.)

            1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

              I first heard the joke in the movie Snakes on a Plane, of all weird things. Snotty rich white dude is all “I paid for first class, how am I going to get to LA in COACH?” and the flight attendant goes “Well, sir, the first class and coach sections do arrive in LA at the same time.” And that pops to mind every time I see people pitching a fit about where they’re seated on airplanes. The whole thing gets there a the same time, and if it doesn’t, you have bigger issues.

          1. constant_craving*

            This just ignores reality though.

            Personal example: I bought tickets last summer for my two year old and I to fly to see family. I did not book last minute and I paid extra for the option to reserve specific seats so I could ensure we were seated together. It was only after purchasing the tickets that I was able to see the seating chart. No set of two seats together was available (only single middle seats- not to mention that regulations don’t allow a child in a car seat in a middle seat).

            I called the airline immediately after booking the tickets to discuss the problem and the airline’s suggested solution was that on the day of the flight, someone seeing me traveling with a toddler would “do the right thing.”

            1. Rainy*

              I’ve been reticketed apart from a traveling companion after specifically purchasing adjacent seats, and I’ve always just approached the ticketing agent and asked if there’s any way to shuffle things. Sometimes there is and sometimes there isn’t. I also find that speaking to a booking agent doesn’t do anything. The gate agent is the person who can do something, but you have to get there early so that not everyone has had a ticket issued with a confirmed seat.

            2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

              I get it, but the problem in your scenario isn’t me not wanting to give up my seat, the problem is the airline screwing you over. If I also paid extra for specific seats, so that my traveling partner and I could sit together, then why is it my responsibility to give up what I paid for (without getting my money back) so that the airline can make you whole? I mean, yes, that’s what everyone else wants me to do, you so that you can sit with your traveling partner and the airline so they can keep all our extra money and not have you pitch a fit at them, but why am I somehow responsible for fixing the fact that the airline isn’t giving you the service you paid for, at my own expense?

              1. constant_craving*

                I don’t think it’s your responsibility either. But I see a lot of assumptions out there that anyone in that situation failed to plan poorly (or worse, is entitled, etc.) and that’s not necessarily the case. People can plan adequately and still end up in a situation where things aren’t going as they should. And when parents of young children end up in that situation, there tends to be a lot of assumption-making and vitriol directed there way.

                1. Rainy*

                  I can only speak from my own experience, but on the occasions I have been asked to move on a plane, I was being asked by other passengers, not a flight attendant, and it was either couples who wanted to sit together or people who didn’t want to sit in the middle seat and wanted the window seat I had paid and been ticketed for.

                  And once–just the once, mind you–a woman with a small child whose tickets were for the exit row and obviously could not sit there, so the flight attendant put her and her child in the row behind the exit and the two of us in the corresponding seats in that row were moved to the exit row. Of course, now that you pay extra for the exit row, that never happens.

        3. Starbuck*

          It’s still on the airline to solve it though, I’m a passenger, it’s not my job to provide service to their customers. If they want me to move to solve their problem, they need to incentivize it.

      2. Kara*

        I am constantly asked to change seats on flights to accommodate a family/couple that wants to sit together. I can only conclude it’s because I’m a petite woman traveling alone so it’s easy to put me in a middle seat. I now feign sleep as soon as I get into my window seat, which seems to have stopped the constant “Miss… would you mind…?”

        The one time I spoke up on a Southwest flight and said, “Sorry, but I paid for Early Bird precisely so I could get a window seat” people looked at me like I was the worst person ever.

          1. Clisby*

            Back when I still went to movies a lot, I ran into this kind of thing with movie theater seating. I would go out of my way to be one of the first people in the theater so I could get an aisle seat. Then here comes the line of people stopping, staring at me expectantly, and saying, “Could you move over?”

            Me: (While standing up to give them room to pass) “No. I got here early so I could have the aisle seat.”

            1. allathian*

              Thank goodness for numbered seating. It’s a different culture, but I’ve never been to the movies without assigned seating.

                1. Clisby*

                  Adding: How does it work? Is it just luck of the draw, based on something about the ticket? Or do you get to pick your preferred seat based on first-come, first-served? Something else?

                2. Rainy*

                  It’s becoming more common–several of the screens at my local theatre have it now, but it was pretty standard at the theatre I mostly went to when I lived in Vancouver. You select your seats when you buy your tickets. If you buy early, you get more selection.

                3. Orv*

                  It became more common right after the pandemic, when they were trying to seat parties together with gaps between them and other customers.

      3. Charlotte Lucas*

        Are you also short? I am now in my 50s, but have always looked younger than my age. Being short makes it worse. Wedge heels are your friend, if you can wear them. It also can help to dress just a little bit nicer than your role requires (but be careful of not looking like you’re playing dress-up).

        And demeanor plays a role. Sometimes you need to pull out your “serious voice” that’s less high-pitched. I can also be very sarcastic, which surprises some people. Confidence is key, as is not putting up with crap.

        I will admit that I have an advantage in seeing the older generation of my family break down barriers in male-dominated areas and model their behavior.

        1. Rainy*

          I’m tall (5’9″ and a bit) but I have always looked much younger than my age and I have curly strawberry blonde hair. :/ It’s not such an issue now, as I finally look like I’m in my thirties (I’m in my late 40s), but I had to put up with people trying to intimidate me for so many years that I both have a lot of strategies to combat it and am so completely and totally over it.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            I also have reddish blonde hair (not a typical strawberry blonde) and I’m short. There’s something about being around a little blonde that makes some people lose their minds.

            I think my manager now doesn’t realize I’m actually older than him. He keeps trying to give me what he calls *words of wisdom.” He has yet to notice how much I roll my eyes about this. (But he doesn’t really pay attention to other people and is kind of an idiot. I mean, he once didn’t even notice someone having a medical emergency and being escorted past him. By his own grand boss.)

      4. Cheshire Cat*

        I have some sympathy for people who want to sit together, at least sometimes. The last time I flew anywhere, I was supposed to fly to one city and make a connecting flight to my destination. I paid for window seats on both flights. But my initial flight was cancelled after I’d checked in at the gate.

        The airline put me on a later flight to a different city. I was stuck with a middle seat on the second flight. :( Luckily the first flight (the longer of the two) wasn’t crowded so I was able to get an aisle seat.

        Since then, every time I read about someone asking others to trade seats I wonder if they were disorganized or whether they had acsimilar experience to mine.

    3. Artemesia*

      the only way this stops is if you sit down with your supervisor and point out that the men you worked with are not being asked to be admins for clients and that you feel this is happening to you because they feel they can turn every woman professional into their personal assistant. Ask for their advice on pushing back on this. You have to judge whether this is possible with your boss.

      1. Agree*

        In the recent post, it sounded as if everyone working with clients was being told to run the reports clients asked for, not just OP.

    4. Tio*

      Some of this just kind of comes with the territory? Like, clients are ALWAYS going to milk customer service, and it’s not weird for the higher ups to say just do it. If you want to push back on that specifically, you would want to make a business case – this is taking x amount of time and costing us $Y in resources, if we continue to allow these requests we could end up costing ourselves $Z over this time period. A lot of higher ups just… don’t understand what operations look like and their default tends to be “make client happy” until you can show them actual costs.

      For the wink wink nudge request, probably what I would do is call them out in a friendly way. The more requests they get granted, the more they’re going to ask – and that’s in terms of both regular asks and wink asks.

      I am also a young looking millenial woman and I am also in management reporting to a director, and the one thing that stood out to me as unusual was the Dad-director. Do you know if he’s like that with others, or just you? Very high chance he’s just being sexist, but also small chance he’s just… like that. Although tbh not sure what you can do about him either way.

    5. Ama*

      So 15-20 years ago I was you — I was a soft-spoken young woman (who also read younger than I was until I was in my late 30s) and yeah, unfortunately until you start reading as a little older you just have to be comfortable standing your ground. People are going to assume you will do whatever they want and whether it’s a truly ridiculous, boundary pushing request (shout out to the boss that thought she could just tell me I was going to move into her home for a week and babysit her teenage children while she went to Europe) or just something you don’t want to do (making an exception for a deadline when not having that document delays your own work) you just have to remain steadfast.

      There will be some initial resistance from people who thought you would agree to anything and they will try to emotionally manipulate you. But if you hold firm, they will eventually get that there are certain boundaries you will not budge on.

    6. Generic Name*

      Here are some things I’ve noticed that add to/subtract from a woman’s gravitas:

      -clothing style: more formal gets more respect. I hate to say it, as I love jeans and casualwear. You don’t HAVE to dress more professionally, but if you don’t acknowledge to yourself it’s a conscious choice. I’ve made a conscious choice to mainly wear jeans, but I bust out my suit jacket/or slacks when needed.

      -demeanor: being really cheerful or giggly all the time reads young. I was surprised to learn a coworker was over 40 because she is a very giggly and cheerful person. I honestly thought she was in her early 30s. Again, you don’t have to develop a RBF or tone down cheeriness if you don’t want to, but it helps to be taken seriously if you act serious.

      -talk less: I don’t mean don’t share opinions or ask questions when warranted. I mean get comfortable with silence. Don’t strive to fill it, especially if you are filling silence to make someone else more comfortable.

      Those are my main items. Honestly though, it’s an uphill battle to fight ingrained and unconscious bias. I have gladly stopped dying my hair and letting my gray show in the hopes that it will lend me some more gravitas. We’ll see.

      1. Dreaming Koala*

        The point about being cheerful and giggling – do you have any specific suggestions how to bring yourself to keep a serious face? I like laughing and enjoy joking around. But sometimes it is quite awkward – someone in a meeting makes a joke, I laugh but other people keep sitting with serious faces (it happened several times in meetings where I was the only woman and also much younger than others).

        1. Quantum Possum*

          I’m also a cheerful, giggly person. I am clinically incapable of taking myself seriously. And I can’t do a poker face to save my life.

          If I’m in a meeting and I need to be serious, but I’m not feeling particularly serious, I’ll usually start writing notes about the meeting. Who’s there, what’s being said, etc. – it forces me to focus without emotion.

          But honestly, I’m mostly just myself. People see from my results and working relationships that I’m very serious about my job, employees, and coworkers. They also see me walking around the office in a tiara sometimes. It balances out, I’d say, lol.

        2. Sorrischian*

          Two suggestions, one mental and one physical.

          Mental: I had to figure out the same thing and I turned it into a little challenge with myself, like the summer camp game where you lose if someone makes you crack a smile. It kept it from feeling like I was turning myself into an emotionless robot.

          Physical: feel the laugh in your belly/abs, then keep your lips closed and let the breath out slowly through your nose. Way less attention-grabbing than laughing out loud, but more achievable than trying to have no reaction at all.

        3. Generic Name*

          Yeah, this is something I’ve had to consciously monitor, unfortunately. In meetings, I make a mental note of how the upper level folks react to jokes, make them, etc. if I laugh, I try to not openly guffaw but simply smile or laugh quietly. When I’m joining a new crowd or workplace, I really try to keep jokes at a minimum or none at all. I love being seen as clever and funny, but the workplace is not my personal comedy stage, so I hold back. I was in a board meeting yesterday where I made one joke and then said to myself, okay, that’s your joke for this meeting. This might sound depressing to read, but I’ve worked in an environment where there was too much joking, starting at the very top (one of the principals loved poop jokes. Yuck), and it fostered a hostile work environment rife with sexual harassment.

    7. Dreaming Koala*

      I share your frustration and would also like to have a solution for this. I am now trying to stop being “nice” and be more “kind” instead, and assertive as well.

    8. Quantum Possum*

      I don’t want to be difficult or stubborn, but I don’t want to be taken advantage of. I am not shy or quiet, I can speak up. But when I do assert myself, it feels like I have to advocate for myself as people are taken aback that I didn’t just agree or give it up.

      It sounds like you’re handling this very well. It’s natural for people to have certain expectations or impressions (however misguided) and then push back when those expectations aren’t met. On your side, it’s frustrating to feel like you’re constantly having to “prove” your position. It might help to think of it as just correcting a mistaken assumption and resetting expectations.

      I’m in my 40s, so it’s a little different now. But I’ve always been goofy, friendly, and a bit of a ham. I love people and have a lot of patience with them, and I love to make them laugh. This leads to being treated similarly to what you’re describing. It can surprise people when they come up against my boundaries and find out that there’s an ornery tigress inside the cute fluffy kitten. My boss gets a huge kick whenever unwitting strangers try to steamroll me because I have zero problems standing my ground.

    9. Agree*

      I saw your post about the client requests in a recent open thread. Though I would not have been taken aback by you pushing back, given the nature of the requests as you explained in that post, as a (42 years old, female) General Manager, I’d have agreed with your directors and managers that you just have to do the tasks for the clients. It would have nothing to do with you being young or a woman, and everything to do with satisfying/retaining the client. The Dad voice is a separate issue and not okay, and the favors from other teams I think you have the power to shut down. But the clients, you’re probably just going to have to do those reports.

      1. Cj*

        maybe the director sounds like they talking to their teenage son and giving explicit instructions on how he wants things to be done, because that’s not what the OP is doing now, like handling the extra requests from the clients.

        and another team asking for forgiveness rather than permission, maybe it’s because they know the managers and directors will want it to be done, and that the OP isn’t going to give permission. and I have no idea what the OP has to give permission for. the only thing they mention that has anything to do with their team is providing extra service to their clients, which we know the directors do want them to do.

        I also don’t understand why missing a deadline would be considered a favor, since by their own admission though OP says it increased their profits.

        and if something is not illegal or unethical, what the heck is a wink, wink, nudge, nudge, favor? either something is okay to do, or it’s not okay and you say no. and if they don’t accept that no, then you go to the directors. it’s unclear from the post, but it sounds to me like they’re doing those favors.

        I don’t think most of this is anything to do with the OPs age or looking younger than they are. I think that they are being asked these favors, for forgiveness instead of permission, etc, for the reason I gave above. which is that their coworkers know they need to be done, and that directors want them done. same reason they push back if she says no.

        I totally made this comment through the lens of the comment the same OP made last week. I agree with everything anonnie posted in this thread at 2:14 p.m. on Friday January 26th.

    10. annonie*

      Is there any chance the reason people are taken aback when you assert yourself because you’re asking for unreasonable things? I saw your post last week about clients “milking” you for extra things and I have to say I thought you were 100% in the wrong on that, and you kept arguing with people who tried to tell you that. If there are other things like that it could explain the response you’re getting.

    11. Never Knew I Was a Dancer*

      There’s a podcast I’ve listened to a bit of called Career Contessa that has at least a few episodes about this topic/these topics—that may have some helpful advice too!

    12. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

      I think “being taken aback that you didn’t just agree” is a common manipulative tactic that you will continue to encounter throughout your career. Other than that, as a small young-looking lesbian, I got nothing, sorry. I did stop dying my hair & start wearing scarves, and that stopped people mistaking my 40yo self for an undergrad, but I don’t think it gave me gravitas.

  17. Calico Cat*

    Has anyone here transitioned out of social media/communications, and, if so, what do you do now?

    Background: I graduated this past spring and am about eight months into a position with the PR department of a small nonprofit. ~50-60% of my workload is managing our social media and writing posts. Before graduating, I worked or interned in the communications department of two other nonprofits. Combined, I have about 2.5 years of experience in social media.

    I like a lot of things about my current job, but I’m starting to get really burned out with social, and I really can’t see myself doing this for the next 40 years. I’m planning to stay at in my current role until at least this fall for a few reasons, but I’m starting to think of what my next move might be.

    1. Asloan*

      Would you be interested in comms/PR but not social media? That is a big field, at least in nonprofit (comms specifically) and involves stuff like writing newsletters, annual reports, summary docs etc.

    2. KitKaliCat*

      Yes, I’ve done this, without meaning to :-)

      After spending several years running comms at a few different places, the PTA at my daughter’s school asked me if I could build a comms strategy for them and run their website/weekly emails/etc. As a result, I got involved in fundraising for the PTA. I took that experience and got a back-office fundraising job at a local private school, which was an amazing gig since my kids were little. I then leveraged my fundraising and comms experience to get a job as a grant writer at a nonprofit, and was promoted after a couple of years to run its fundraising team. I left that job last summer and am now the executive director at a small nonprofit.

      Had you asked me what I wanted to do back when I left school, fundraising would’ve been at the absolute bottom of the list (introvert ahoy!), and running a nonprofit never entered my mind. However, by fundraising in my community, I get to interact with lots of people I know in support of causes that they and I care about, and my ED gig feeds my deep and abiding love of keeping things tidy. I’m really happy where I’ve landed, and it’s been a solid career move in terms of my family life, too.

    3. Sudsy Malone*

      +1 to development/fundraising. after 5 years in comms/social media work for a non-profit, I moved into a “Development Writer” job and have never looked back. I like doing donor communications/development writing because I feel so clear about how my work contributes to the organization. I don’t have to do any in-person schmoozing (bless those who do) and I’m not in the always-on mindset I felt like I needed for comms/social. And I write every day!

      Development comes with its own forma of stress and burnout, so don’t leap for just any role if you see red flags. But especially since you already have nonprofit experience, I think you likely have tons of relevant skills.

    4. i put something here because the name field is required*

      Moved from social media to data analysis/insights/voice of the consumer type roles. We had a gap where our org was taking a new approach to social media engagement, but results weren’t really being measured. So I kind of forcibly made that my project, used it to learn how to use Power BI, and now I spend my days making graphs.

  18. Asloan*

    Sooo… our senior manager may not be picturing retirement the same way as I do. She’s not in the budget after June (I’m director of development). She certainly has a wealth of experience but her main role currently is to block us from doing anything new, and she’s driving the current ED crazy. But I fear she has a vision of semi-retirement that’s sort of cherry picking the “fun” parts of her job (and continuing to make sure we don’t try new things). I think this would be really hard on morale, if she’s sort of popping in and out, not working set hours, and just working on the fun thing. She may not even require a salary honestly. Has anyone dealt with this? Should we work to prevent this, or maybe it’s okay? We are a very flat org so while I’m not her boss, I have input on what happens.

    1. Zephy*

      Someone needs to talk to her and find out what her expectations actually are about what the back half of this year will look like, and then tell her that she won’t be welcome on the premises anymore come July (or will be considered a member of the public at that time, if you do public-facing work).

    2. T. Wanderer*

      If you aren’t paying her, she can’t work for you. I’m not a lawyer but it’s entirely possible it’s a legal issue. It does sound like you might be in a nonprofit, which I don’t have experience with, but in any case it’s a reasonable thing to tell her that she can’t do this same job as a volunteer? Not least because you’ll need to focus on transitioning.

      1. Asloan*

        Yes, alas we are a nonprofit so she’s probably thinking she can volunteer. The ED and I have already pitched a few project-specific ideas she could focus on (and keep out of everything else) but she doesn’t seem interested in that yet. I have told the ED to keep her off the board under all circumstances and I think we are clear and aligned on that.

        1. My Useless 2 Cents*

          Aren’t there rules for what jobs a volunteer can do, even in a non-profit? Something about not doing work that a paid employee would be doing. Could that steer any “helping” after retirement into the project-specific ideas you are proposing? Or help create some boundaries for after she leaves?

    3. Antilles*

      It sounds like your ED and management is on your side, which helps tremendously. The simplest solution is to just tell her that you’ve got everything covered, thanks for the offer to stay involved, but we’re all good, enjoy your retirement. Then just stick with that and back it up firmly with action – if she calls, you reiterate that you’re good and get off the phone ASAP; if she shows up, you tell her you’re too busy to meet; etc.

      1. Asloan*

        This is how I would choose to proceed, for sure; however, our ED probably feels that this person deserves better after being so loyal to the org for so long (and this person certainly has gone above and beyond over many years). I would have a biiig splashy goodbye, give her an award at our reception, tearful speeches etc and then *not let her back in.* But the ED’s seeming inability to nail down her departure date and be direct about it is not giving me confidence. The manager predated the ED by many years and was part of her hiring committee (the ED is relatively new – as I say, we are very flat) so I am wary here.

        1. Asloan*

          I think part of her issue is that she believes we will need to hire two staff people to replace her, and the ED (who took over some of her duties) is “only one.” She is probably planning to stay on and mentor this new second person she imagines. However, we really don’t have the budget to hire another senior person so soon, and definitely not to have them overlap, and honestly even if we did I would want to give that person a fresh start … and I’m pretty sure the ED would too.

          1. Antilles*

            Would it help to meet with the ED, sketch out the duties she has, and then come up a plan to handle them? That way, it’s not a vague “you need two people to help me so I should stick around”, you can confidently go “nope, we’re good, already figured it out”. This might also help give the ED more confidence in cutting that cord since she’ll already know that it’s not necessary.

    4. Non-profit drone*

      I am absolutely baffled by these stories of people who retired but still keep showing up at the office. Why?!?! I would retire tomorrow if I could, and never set foot in my former office again. I like my coworkers, but holy moly, I am SO tired of working after forty years.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        I think many people are really, REALLY invested in their working identity. An extreme example is Charles Shultz, who announced the end of the Peanuts comic strip and died the next day.

        Obviously most people aren’t THAT wrapped up in their work life, but it can be really hard to realize you’ve invested an huge chunk of your actual life into a job and that it’s going to just carry on without you, like you were never there.

        1. Asloan*

          Yes, I know this is what’s going on for our staff person. She has worked here for so long and is the last stalwart from a different period of the organization, and probably thinks she is the ONLY ONE who knows where the skeletons are buried and that we’ll be lost without her. There’s certainly a grain of truth there, but the newer staff are eager to move the org forward, and we’ll figure it out, which I’m sure isn’t what she wants to hear.

    5. Diatryma*

      You may not be able to do this, but you could make a policy about it. When one of my supervisors ‘retired’, she planned to come back and do part-time work, just the part she really liked and others often didn’t. Our department’s policy was that she had to be gone for a certain amount of time between the two. That ensures a better transition for everyone. It was not a short amount of time, either, maybe three months.

  19. The Goose*

    I’m trying to move from the non-profit back to either state agencies or the private sector and am getting so disheartened. I’m wondering if there’s some secret code I don’t know about at this point, as I started my career in the private sector prior to spending the last 10 or so years in government-funded non-profits. For context my area of expertise is governance/compliance and the skillset is largely transferrable with some getting up to speed with the relevant requirements of a new company. I have two relevant graduate degrees and extensive experience. I am getting invited to interviews based on my career history and education outlined in my applications, but find at interview that the interviewers don’t seem to take my experience or examples seriously if that makes sense. These are competency-based interviews where you have to draw from real experience, so of course my examples are going to be based on non-profit environments unless I go back 10+ years, and at that stage of my career I didn’t have the seniority and responsibility required to generate useful examples at the level I’m interviewing. I am aiming for reasonably senior roles for which I am suitably qualified and experienced, but find repeatedly at interview there’s this almost ‘oh bless your heart’ mentality when I give an example to illustrate my leadership skills or technical expertise. I am an accomplished and well-respected leader in the non-profit field I’m in, and the level I operate at is similar to the level I interview at, so I’m not overreaching in those terms. I don’t want to stay in non-profits (for the reasons most people don’t!) and wasn’t anticipating this would be the issue I would face when trying to exit. Am I just unlucky and doomed forever to remain in the non-profit field or is there something more I could be doing here to help myself out?

    1. Katrine Fonsmark*

      Try associations! We always need people with governance experience. Yes, associations are technically non-profits, but not 501c3 non-profits like I worked in for many years. I targeted associations when trying to make the move out of traditional non-profits and have found that they operate much more like regular for-profit companies in many ways.

    2. Admin of Sys*

      Is there a difference in scope for the levels of projects? I’m wondering if the issue isn’t so much nonprofit vs corporate as it is quantity of money / people involved? But if it is the non-profit thing getting pshaw’d as ‘not like /real/ companies’ possibly try rewording the examples to sound more corporate focused? For example – it’s not that you’re updating the best practices for the parks non-profit, it’s that you worked with multiple groups to verify the government and iso compliance of the construction efforts for the last 2 years, including permitting.’ Or whatever. Similarly, if the monetary scope is equivalent, refer to places by their budgets / size rather than their focus.

    3. M2*

      The thing I learned is sometimes you need to take a step back/down. I have moved from private to humanitarian to non-profit and back sectors all at different times. Sometimes you need to apply to a role less senior so you can get your foot in the door and prove yourself. Someone applying from another private sector role with similar title, but more relevant experience might seem like a better fit to the company/ If you are a Director at a non-profit (unless it is very large with hundreds of millions or billions of dollars) maybe you should not just be applying for Director jobs, but also Manager, Contributor and other roles. What do you bring to the table from working at a non-profit that a private sector person doesn’t have for that role?

      I was the director of an entire region years ago and switched careers. I interviewed but didn’t get a Director level position, but they offered me a Manager role and it was an entirely new sector. I took it, worked my butt off and within a year was at the Director level. This isn’t to say this usually happens, but I took a chance and it paid off. I have met people who refuse to apply or take a job they think is “beneath” them. Some people apply for roles too senior. I am all for it, apply, get interviewed, but diversify what you apply for. If you really want X or Y company, don’t flail around and apply to everything, but maybe apply for not just your current title and more senior, apply for some lower level ones as well.

      I just hired someone and she was a Director where she previously worked (a smaller organization and not as well-known) and we were hiring for Associate Director, couldn’t change the title. She wanted the change and wanted our organization and she is a total rockstar. She is getting paid more and says she find the role stimulating. Per policy you can’t be promoted for a year, but if she keeps on track I want to make her a Director at her year mark (if she wants it).

      So I would say apply for different roles, not all at your current title and more senior.

    4. BikeWalkBarb*

      I work in a government agency, having been a nonprofit executive director in the last position before that (lots of public-sector generally over the course of my career). In the division I now lead I’ve worked at writing position descriptions that are quite clear about considering paid, unpaid, and lived experience in screening. This means getting away from descriptions that are very tightly scripted, listing only experience at very specific title levels you’d find in our organization. The old boilerplate in the examples HR gives me seems to be written for internal promotion, not for open recruitment that brings in fresh ideas. This also means conversations with HR to help them understand why lived experience is relevant in our field and in these roles; their hearts are in the right place but it’s not as simple as a traditional screening.

      It’s 100% working to bring in rock star external candidates and that’s what I’m hoping for (not opposed to internal candidates at all, but I’m seeking to lower barriers to entry). You’d be able to tell reading our PDs that we’re doing this deliberately; a position in another division for the exact same level won’t have everything ours do.

      I say all of this to say *read the position description very closely* for those kinds of cues. If all of the minimum/preferred qualifications and tasks sound like they’re assuming people already work there and will step up a level, that likely tells you they’re not open to considering how experience from another context is transferable. If the agencies are like ours, the online recruitment listing is only part of the full PD and you have to request the full description from HR; *always do that* if you haven’t been doing so because you’ll find more you can speak to.

      It’s old advice but still relevant: Can you identify someone in a role equivalent to what you want (or a level below, given the good advice from M2 in this thread) and ask to talk with them about how your nonprofit experience is transferable? You may get some of the secret handshake info you need to clarify how what you’ve been doing prepares you well. When you describe your work and they ask follow-up questions, that tells you what you’d want to say in an interview that was missing from your description.

      I’d also say if I asked someone for an example and they had something from a while back, if I’m hiring for a senior level I’d expect them to bridge from that to say “and since then, I’ve learned XYZ or added DEF abilities and today I’d want to consider QRS in a similar situation” to show you’ve grown.

  20. Dry Erase Aficionado*

    I am interviewing with an organization whose Leadership page on their website has pictures of the upper leadership of their multiple divisions. Only 15% of the pictured individuals appear to be women (and for what it’s worth, the industry staff skews towards (kind of a lot) more women than men). I think this is a problem, but how do I ask if they think it’s a problem and about their commitment to diversifying their leadership?

    1. Reba*

      I would ask if there is a chance for you to talk with someone who would be a peer for the role, and explore the topic with that person as you ask about the workplace culture. I would not expect that the interviewer would engage you on this subject candidly (though of course you could be pleasantly surprised).
      OTOH you could just ask straight out “tell me about the company’s diversity and inclusion stance” and see if they are prepared to answer. That is, the question of whether they are prepared to receive such a question from candidates could be revealing.

    2. constant_craving*

      How about a more general question about DEI? That may allow you a bit more genuine insight into whether they see it as a problem than a pointed question.

      “Can you tell me about some of the challenges your company experiences with DEI and how you’re working to solve them?”- do they even mention the leadership?

      Vs. “”Do you see it as a problem your leadership skews so heavily male?” can easily get a “oh, of course we do” type resonse since that’s what they figure you want them to say.

    3. K8T*

      I’m not sure it would do you any favors during the interview portion. It very well may not hurt but a comment from a non-employee is unlikely to inspire change. If you do ask – I’d keep it vague and not “call-out” the company specifically by mentioning their specific percentage.

    4. Awkwardness*

      Do your interview for a leadership position/ one that would focus on this? Then you might expect a somewhat honest answer. If interviewing for a position on lower levels, you might not do yourself a favor with this question because you are indirectly criticising their leadership. Ask about diversity at staff level instead.

    5. Quantum Possum*

      1. If this is what their organizational leadership looks like, and you feel uncomfortable with it, then I recommend doing some deep thinking about whether it’s a place you’d want to work or not.

      2. I would not bring up perceived “problems” with an organization in an interview. That approach won’t yield useful results. However, you could ask if they have workplace mentoring and leadership programs for women. This shows that you value a culture that empowers women and allows the organization to answer without feeling defensive.

  21. Strawberry Fields*

    I was late to work because I had to take my car to be repaired. I let my boss and manager know a couple days beforehand. We’re allowed to flex up to 2 hrs a week.

    When I came in, one manager, April (she’s not my manager but manager in my department) cleared her throat loudly in my direction and gave me a nasty look. My manager sent me text messages about completing something and sent someone to give me some documents. My boss asked me if I saw my manager’s text message. It wasn’t an emergency- they just seemed miffed that I came in late.

    Later on I overheard April whispering about me to my boss. (It’s a small office.) My boss read my timesheet and I heard her say, “I’ll keep an eye on it.”

    At the end of the day, I walked by my boss and April and they were talking about taking days off and how we can save them for retirement or something. They stopped talking as I passed them.

    What is the big deal? Other people come in late and take off weeks for vacation. I don’t do that- I take a day here or there if I’m sick- that’s it. Other people don’t give notice that they’ll be off for a week- I would never do that.

    My boss has said as long as I have time, it’s fine. So what’s the deal then? Are the managers just trying to create drama out of nothing? Should I say anything? Burst through the door when they’re talking about me?

    1. londonedit*

      I’d maybe say something like ‘Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I sensed when I arrived on Tuesday after having my car repaired that you and April were disappointed that I’d come in late. I’m a bit confused as I’d let you and Manager know that I’d be flexing my time that day, and I got straight to work as soon as I arrived. Should I have handled this differently?’

    2. Quantum Possum*

      Did you remind your boss and/or manager that you’d be late that morning? They may have forgotten, and then (wrongly) assumed that you just came in late without notice. That’s a “them” problem – they should make note of these things – but it could explain the weirdly passive-aggressive reaction.

      I would say something to your boss. I really like londonedit’s script, but I’d leave April’s name out of it. It sounds like she’s just being a busybody and your time/attendance is none of her concern.

  22. Lady Lia*

    I have a somewhat existential question. If you didn’t have to work for a living, would you continue to work? I ask because I’m at the point where I have no debt (house and car are paid for) and my VERY part time freelance gig covers my monthly bills, albeit just barely. While I’d like to have more money (who wouldn’t?) I’m not certain it’s reason enough to endure having a job. I’m blessed to work from home only a few hours a week and I find the idea of returning to an office a form of particularly cruel torture. But at the same time, I’m bored stiff. I’m at a loss for how to fill my waking hours. What d0 retired people do all day? It seems like such a waste for someone with my talents to sit idle month after month. Please advise.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      It really depends on what your skills and interests are, but I worked retail and really enjoyed it (specific types of retail– think books and cookware) and I did that once when I was out of work and getting severance. It didn’t pay well at all but I got structure to my days and new people to get to know, plus a discount. I didn’t find it taxing and I could leave work behind when I went home.

      Some people volunteer, either physically (like in a food bank) or administratively. Some people take classes and meet friends for lunch. If I never had to work again, I might docent in a museum or work in a gift shop, because I like being around people and I like having a schedule. There is plenty of work out there that isn’t office-based and can keep your mind active.

    2. Asloan*

      I would definitely not work a job if I didn’t have to (although I have to think of not only covering my current month-to-month costs, but also long term savings like retirement / future medical expenses) but I am passionate about my side hustle, which is fiction writing. For a while I was freelancing and writing, with the freelancing pretty limited, which was a good fit as I can’t actually sit at a desk typing stories for eight hours a day (some people can). I also thought about doing something physical like dog walking or landscaping while writing on the side. People teach yoga or whatever. Are there jobs you think are great and worthy but don’t pay enough? Like I’d love to be a part time EMT for example – in my city I think these are actually volunteer roles, which seems brutal to me.

      1. Linda*

        I was thinking along the same lines. I’m in a public service field that has a lot of salary variance, and if I didn’t have to worry about making rent I’d quit my relatively high-paying job for one that serves disadvantaged, underfunded populations.

    3. Alex*

      Well this is a tricky question, because the things I enjoy doing cost money! I’m not sure I’d enjoy a life where my bills are barely covered by not working, but I don’t have extra money to do things that are fun. If I had endless money, of course, I believe I could find tons of things to fill my day! Travel, indulge in expensive hobbies, belong to one of those fancy spa-like gyms with a beautiful swimming pool, etc.

      Is there a happy medium where you can increase your freelance work? Some middle where you have a comfortable amount of spending money, but also don’t have to go into the office/report to a boss/spend your whole life working?

    4. Colette*

      Can you expand your freelance gig so it covers your bills & some savings? If so, I’d do that. Take up a hobby, volunteer, take classes (academic, fitness, art, …).

    5. Antilles*

      Have you considered volunteering for something that interests you? Pretty much every organization that accepts volunteers would be thrilled to have volunteers with free time during the day because it’s hard to find.

    6. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      There are a zillion kinds of formal & informal volunteering & community involvement things.

      Library (including library board or friends-of-the-library nonprofit)
      Volunteer community/government boards – parks, etc.
      There are people who just drive around to grocery stores & bakeries to pick up donations for food banks on a daily basis, just takes a couple of hours a day.

    7. nopetopus*

      I would. I’d work a hell of a lot less, but I genuinely like my profession and get enjoyment from the work. I’m also someone who gets bored and antsy without something to do.

    8. ThursdaysGeek*

      I chose a long time ago that I would take a job because I knew I was a lazy slug that would spend my days eating bonbons and reading books otherwise. My spouse always made enough that I didn’t need to work. I’m now a year away from retirement and looking forward to it. I’m not a lazy slug after all – I’ve learned how to do so many things. The extra money means we’ve been able to help others who are struggling.

    9. Dulcinea47*

      No, I wouldn’t work at any kind of salaried job that required butts in seats. However…. I also wouldn’t quit my day job if I were barely making enough to cover my bills otherwise. I would look for something part time/flexible in addition to your current freelancing. I need savings, retirement plan, etc. But I also have a ton of hobbies I’d be happy to do instead of a job, I wouldn’t be bored at all.

    10. Magpie*

      I would take a good look at your finances not just now, but in the future. Your house and car are paid off now, but presumably you’ll need to replace your car someday. Are there any major house repairs or renovations needed in the next few years? Those can come up with no warning. We’re currently in the midst of an unexpected $10K plumbing repair. Longer term, do you have enough money to sustain you when things are more expensive or if you have higher medical bills? If you’re just barely getting by now and are having trouble filling the day, seems like you’d benefit from doing something to supplement your income. It doesn’t have to be a full time office job if that idea sounds awful and if you truly don’t need a full time income. Adding a little more freelance work or working part time in a shop or something along those lines might be something to think about.

      1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        Yeah, “just barely” is not a great spot to be in. Besides the problems Magpie mentioned, what about when you want to/have to quit the freelance job and fully retire? Where will you get replacement income?

    11. T. Wanderer*

      I suspect that when I retire I’ll want to find a volunteer position somewhere, but even now I think my ideal would be to work maybe 20 hrs/wk. I like my job! I feel like I’m good at it, I add value, and it’s intellectually stimulating — and gives me some structure when I need it. The things I struggle with are *how much* time it takes, and feeling like I wouldn’t do less work if I had a 4-day week or 6-hour days.

    12. WorkerDrone*

      Are there any non-office jobs that interest you?

      I know my local Parks department is hiring part-time and full-time for some cool looking outdoor jobs, park and trail maintenance, guides, that kind of thing.

      Some retail work can be interesting or fun, depending on who/where is hiring – I’m thinking local shops more than a big retailer. Do you love to read? Is there a small bookstore hiring, for example? A comics shop? That kind of thing.

      The big university near my town always is hiring seasonal admissions readers – they basically read applications and help with the admissions process. This is a kind of cool job, totally remote, where you get to read the college letters and learn a lot about the students coming to the area.

    13. Justin*

      I wouldn’t necessarily do my current job (which I love, but I mean if I didn’t have to).

      I would keep teaching college/grad classes, which I do on the side, and writing books/articles.

    14. M2RB*

      The first place my mind goes is volunteer work! What organizations in your community could benefit from your time and skills?

    15. Pam Adams*

      I enjoy my work, so yes, would keep on. I might go to lunch or travel more often, and definitely do more charitable donations. (I dream of being the person who could wake up and pay off all the charitable requests in one swoop)

    16. Rara Avis*

      I would. My work brings me more joy than frustration. And I’d be bored at home. My retired parents both have volunteer gigs several days a week, so I will have to find something similar when my retirement time comes.

    17. Jenna Webster*

      I wouldn’t work if I didn’t have to, but I think my version of having enough is very different from yours of just covering your monthly bills. I’d quit my job in a heartbeat if I had enough money to pay my bills, take an occasional vacation, buy things I want, replace appliances and cars when need arises, pay for healthcare, including long term care if needed… I can’t imagine being bored under those circumstances – I’d hang out with family and friends, read, travel, take on house projects, get out and explore the city I live in. If I only had enough money to pay my bills and nothing else, I would definitely rather work!

    18. Liz W.*

      Yes, I would stay home and run my farm like it should be* and pick up my custom sewing business again.

      *the animals are well cared for, I just need to work on infrastructure and sales.

      or I’ll open a quilt shop.

    19. Zona the Great*

      Yes, I’d keep earning money even if I had all the money I think I’d need to live until death. Basically, retiring early is the worst thing you can do for your financial well-being according to most financial experts. My father stopped working at 45 because he was very very very well off. He now lives in absolute squalor because he fell asleep at the wheel without a seatbelt, almost died, had no car or health insurance, and is facing criminal charges on top of all of it because falling asleep at the wheel without a seatbelt and almost dying is a crime.

    20. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      No. I’d be out there volunteering and chilling out. There’s a lot of classes and fun things here that are done only during work hours. I miss a lot because I can mostly get to things held at 7 pm but everything starts at 5

    21. TX_TRUCKER*

      I love my industry. I would still “work” if I was independently wealthy. But I would work less hours, and definitely leave the C-Suite. I would probably work or volunteer for a trade organization or non-profit related to my industry. But your situation seems different. If you think it’s “cruel torture” then you need a different job, or perhaps increase your freelance gig.

    22. yellowfintuna*

      I’ve found the sweet spot is to work part of the year, and not work the other part. I inherited a lot of money when my parents passed and my house and car are long paid off, with a chunk of money in the bank. I’m relatively young (early 40s) and thought long and hard about what my life would look like…I don’t have a whole lot of hobbies, and honestly just enjoy hanging out at home doing my own thing. I tried volunteering in an adjacent field to my profession and it wasn’t really for me, and also tried part-time work but found employers often expected full-time outputs on part-time hours meaning I was frequently stressed and under pressure. Where the balance is perfect for me is in taking short-term contracts (covering maternity absences, illness absences or just temporary spikes in worker demand) that last maybe 3/6/9 months, and then happily exiting at the end for a few months off. It keeps my technical skills fresh and I get to feel like a ‘normal’ 40something with work colleagues and professional development. There isn’t a shortage of these kinds of contracts in my field and I can take as long or as short a break as I want between them. They also help me enjoy the downtime so much more. I’m single and don’t have any children so your circumstances might be different.

      1. Lady Lia*

        I too am single and childfree so the constant responsibility of domesticity isn’t an issue. And like you, I don’t have much in the way of hobbies, except for reading and travel. Nearly everyone suggests volunteering, but I’m happiest living as a hermit and the idea of unnecessary human interaction is like nails on a chalkboard. I like your suggestion of periodic short-term contracts. Especially as it would give me time to travel, one of the few things I enjoy. I’m not intrinsically opposed to work, just all of the bullshit that goes with working in person. Can I ask how you go about finding such contracts?

        1. New Mom (of 1 5/9)*

          Just an idea, but not all volunteering involves human interaction. You could get really into e.g. data entry. Sorting donations while listening to audiobooks. Stuff is definitely out there!

          1. Hlao-roo*

            Just throwing some examples of data entry volunteering opportunities:

            There are some projects to transcribe old ships logs (because they recorded a lot of weather data). There’s also volunteer opportunities to identify/classify galaxies. I’m sure there are lots of other volunteer projects in that vein that take place on your own computer, in your own home, with minimal interaction with other people.

    23. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      I kept working until I was 63, so that I would have plenty of money to have a decent standard of living and do what I enjoy, not just enough to cover essential bills. imo it’s important to keep going for that, if your health allows.

      Work was always a necessary evil to pay bills and set up my retirement as a 100% Lady of Leisure. I never regarded work as a virtue or laziness as a vice. (If I’d been a trust fund kid, I wouldn’t have worked a day in my life)

      Now these retirement years are the happiest of my life – total freedom to do what I enjoy: gymratting 5-6 days per week, seeing friends, daily walks along the Rhine, bookworming, streaming movies and TV series.
      No problem filling my hours with enjoyment. I certainly never want to work even one hour ever again.

    24. Zephy*

      Volunteer! There’s almost certainly some kind of community organization near you that can use your help.

    25. Non-profit drone*

      God, no. There are so many fun things to do, why would I want to chain myself to a desk if I didn’t have to?

    26. striped socks*

      I’m not sure how old you are, but I will say that as someone who is 60, growing old is surprising expensive, in terms of health costs. I’ve had to level up my food costs, my glasses are now 5x more expensive than they were until I was 50, not to mention the surprise medication I had to be on that is $100/month. Oh, and surprise dental expenses. So, if you can expand your freelance business to cover new expenses you’re fine, otherwise I don’t think you’re financially ready to not work yet.
      But, if you’re covering bills at the moment, and you hate the “regular” job, now is the time to find a job you like more. Be it part-time teaching, or working in a fancy wine shop or whatever, I think you need to have a cushion that is bigger than “pay my monthly bills”, because those can increase a lot.

    27. Irish Teacher.*

      Yes, I probably would because I love teaching, but I would probably jobshare or go on reduced hours and try to work a four day week.

    28. New Mom (of 1 5/9)*

      Husband and I have talked about this if it ever becomes financially feasible for me to be a SAHM. I think ideally I’d like to work, like, 2 days a week.

      From what I’ve heard, hobbies are key. Exercise and volunteering can both be great ways to fill the time.

    29. My Useless 2 Cents*

      I would work, but I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now. If I didn’t work, I’d be crazy bored in a couple of months. And I would probably start bleeding money as I searched for ways to fill my time (hobbies are expensive!).

      What I’d do would definitely be dependent on what my financial situation looked like.
      *I’ve always envisioned opening a business or two, if money was no option and I could hire people to do a lot of the day to day :)
      *I can see myself volunteering if I didn’t have to worry about money but couldn’t risk losing a lot.
      *And a low-stress, “fun” job if I just needed to get out of the house and could use a little extra $$ each month. (Many jobs become a lot more enjoyable if you know you have the option of walking out at any time)

    30. Lady Lia*

      Thanks for all the thoughtful comments. Nearly everyone mentions volunteering, but it doesn’t interest me. I’m basically a hermit and find human interaction to be downright painful. I’d welcome any suggestions that don’t involve spending time with other people.

      1. Diatryma*

        I was going to say that ‘volunteering’ isn’t really any narrower a category than ‘working’. When I worked a school schedule, I realized I needed more structure in my summers and started volunteering at a local thrift store. I knew them through work and basically said, “Can I come in three days a week to hang shirts? Awesome, see you Monday.” I needed something structured, concrete/tangible, and without a lot of decisions to be made, and that worked well. There were people around me, but I didn’t have to interact if I didn’t want to.

        Maybe it’s data entry at the food bank, maybe it’s transcribing fanzines for a university archive, maybe it’s shoveling out the barn at the hippotherapy center, maybe it’s getting really into citizen science and testing every creek you know.

      2. It's me, Margaret*

        Art. There’s a lot of art tutorials on YouTube so you can be solitary doing that. And it doesn’t matter if you think you’re crap at it now, tutorials and practice work absolute wonders

    31. Girasol*

      When I retired everyone asked “but what do you DO??” like they imagined that all I did was stand in the middle of the living room and stare at walls. I enjoy some volunteer work on public lands getting sunshine and fresh air with good folks, hanging out with friends, doing some hobbies, exercising, cooking healthy meals, gardening, enjoying a home that’s properly clean and repaired, traveling and camping, learning a language, reading, taking classes, trying new things, and above all, getting enough sleep at last! It’s all the things I always meant to do when I was working in a job where just 8 hours a day 5 days a week was for slackers, where the commute was 2 hours a day and “we don’t do WFH,” and where vacation was encouraged “when we’re not busy” which was never. It turns out that living like a real human being is remarkably time consuming and totally wonderful.

    32. JustaRando*

      Are you interested in volunteering? So many places need volunteers and you could pick an organization close to your heart (museum docent, local theater usher) or a cause that speaks to you (food bank, political campaigns).

    33. melissa*

      I would and I do. Mg husband earns around 500k; our mortgage is paid off; we have no debt and our expenses are extremely low. I was a SAHM when my kids were little but I work now! I work in healthcare, part time, and love it. Honestly, I feel like I’m a much more interesting person when I work. When I don’t, I feel like I have very little to contribute to conversation. And yes, some people are diligent about volunteering or taking lessons or whatever, but I found it hard to fill more than a few hours a week.

    34. Random Bystander*

      The job I’m doing now? Not on your tintype. If I had the money to make necessary bills through any other means, I would not go in for one day more. I was forced into changing to the current job by prior supervisor, and despite my best efforts wasn’t able to change jobs during the brief period we were employees of other (much larger) company, and now we’re back to the original company and I don’t know if there will ever be an opportunity to get away from this soul-sucking job.

      Reading books, writing fiction, drinking coffee, caring for my cats … I wouldn’t be bored, for sure.

    35. goddessoftransitory*

      The thing is: what is “not having” to work, finances wise? If I inherited a gazillion dollars or won the lottery, then my yeah, I’d retire tomorrow without a backward glance.

      But what you’re describing, for me, is simply too close to disaster, finance-wise, in case of medical emergency or other money expenditures, to be comfortable. Obviously we can’t plan for every contingency, but that margin is way too narrow. When something did happen, I’d be in a financial bind and most likely having to find work in really stressful circumstances, or worse, in a position where I couldn’t work at all.

    36. Keeping Busy*

      So often I hear from people who are working, “but what do you DO all day?” The short answer is “everything you’d do that you don’t have time to do now.” Volunteer, exercise, book club, Foster dogs, travel, cook nice meals, sort bins of old pics, bring meals to shut ins, read books, help my in laws…. and it’s NOTHING to do with my (considerable) education or profession. I have also at times thought that was “a waste,” (as well as an embarrassment that I’m not doing this big thing any more and others are really “achieving” in ways I am not. I need to own my choices. And you do you! figuring this stuff out isn’t easy.

    37. Starbuck*

      I can’t imagine wanting to work full time if I didn’t have to in order to pay my bills. There’s so much to do – make art, volunteer, see friends, go to the movies, go on a hike, read a book in a cafe, write a letter to my relatives, walk around town and window shop, etc etc. It boggles my mind that this is a problem people have!

    38. anecdata*

      I think there are two things that I currently get from work, that I’d want to find a non-work way to get:

      – A sense of contribution : tbh, I think I would enjoy just doing whatever was fun, but at some point I think it would start to feel empty, like there was a disconnect between “I rely on the rest of human society (even if I’m independently wealthy, /someone/ is working to make all that stuff I’m going to buy” and my not putting any effort back into the system.

      – The sense of accomplishment that comes from doing something hard, or something like “type two fun”

      I think volunteering often gives people /both/ of those, but I think as long as I fill both needs someway, I could be pretty happy not working!

    39. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

      I’m intrigued by this: “It seems like such a waste for someone with my talents to sit idle month after month”

      … because it sounds like your talents are not for office work, so… can you use your talents instead of sitting idle? Like, the answer seems to be in the question to such an extent that I can’t work out what you’re asking. What are you talented at? Do that!

  23. Excel Frustrated*

    Posted last Friday about a client always asking us to do basic things for her like email her docs which are already in her mailbox and now wanted us to give her another spreadsheet (which contains sensitive info that other clients haven’t received yet) because she can’t filter the one sent to her (which is given to all clients). Instead of doing it for her so she’ll ask us to do more tasks for her, I was thinking of giving her a tutorial, but people on here advised me that would be very rude. Anyway, a manager suggested I offer to show her how she can handle the spreadsheet in a call, so I offered to set up a call with her. And voila. She responded with thanks for getting back to her but she can filter it.

    1. WestsideStory*

      Congratulations. Clearly her button issue is time – as she’d rather do the filtering herself instead of having to endure a web tutorial with you.
      This may help in future. As long as you are “nice” to the client and don’t outright refuse to help her (which seems to be considered a “value add” for using your company) you may be able to retrain her.
      I’d still take a look with your boss to see if these extra services can be offered to clients as paid items.

  24. AnonAdmin*

    I’ve been working at the same company for 10 years. At the end of last year, they let me know that my job title would be changing – and it’s a downgrade, in my eyes. Said it was nothing personal, blahblahblah, my old job title was “confusing” (it’s not, it’s a standard title, across multiple industries). I put my notice in and will be leaving in a week and a half.

    My question is – do I have to acknowledge the job title change in my resume when searching for jobs? I’d love to leave my old (better fitting, more senior) title on there, since that’s the kind of work I’ve been doing for a decade.

    1. Alex*

      No, you don’t have to put the new title on. My friend was in almost this exact same position and left for pretty much the same reason–the new title was nonsensical in terms of her career trajectory and she didn’t want it to hold her back. And she didn’t even leave right away! She just started looking as soon as they told her it would be happening, and it took her about 3 months to find a new job.

    2. Asloan*

      It sounds to me like you didn’t actually accept and start working under that title so you can leave it off your resume.

    3. Generic Name*

      I agree, leave the downgraded title off your resume. And good for you for leaving! I think some employers think that once an employee has been at the company for a certain length of time, they’ll be there for life, and they can treat them poorly/make zero effort to retain them.

  25. Stay or go?*

    I’ve been with my company for several years and really appreciated the corporate culture as it aligned with my personal values. Over the last 4 years we’ve had changes in overall senior leadership and divisional leadership that is moving in a very different direction and staff are unhappy. What signs have others seen telling them it’s time to cut their losses and leave?

    1. Cookies for Breakfast*

      For me, it was when I started to see a pattern about the people hired to lead my department. After a long-time head of department left (a very competent and well-liked woman whom the leadership team never listened to for one second), it was a string of white men in their 30s who all turned out to be far less competent at their jobs than they were at talking themselves up and passing all good ideas as their own.

      The ones I knew all went through a honeymoon period, followed by months of rising pressure and burnout within their teams, followed by the skeletons they tried to hide in a closet all coming out with much rattling of bones (followed by swift firings). The leaders that hired them were in the same demographic, and it started to feel a lot like a boys’ club: as long as you’re an “entrepreneurial” guy who can fake it while he tries to make it, you’re in. This at a company that put a lot of emphasis on diversity, work-life balance and employee wellbeing. While they stayed true to that (and it was true while I worked in a different department), working there was nice.

      The last department head I worked under started a couple of months before I resigned, and outstayed me by less than a year. The difference is I left on my own terms.

      1. Stay or go?*

        So much of this resonates with my situation. It’s really sad to see that it’s not just an issue at my company.

    2. Decidedly Me*

      In my situation (a reorg that means I’m reporting to a new boss) – I’m watching to see what my old bosses do. If either leave, that’s my canary in the coal mine.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        Or if they’re close to retirement and make it clear that they’re just planning to coast for the next couple of years, that’s a big sign too.

    3. Glazed Donut*

      A few signs:
      1. The entire HR department left with the exception of one person who handled a veryyy small area. I later saw that the company was being sued for ADA violations & discrimination around the time everyone quit…
      2. Someone was hired into a position equal to mine, with the same pay and title, but with drastically different qualifications. If we worked for Major Health Organization, and I had three degrees in Health and a decade of experience, this person had a degree in Art and about half the experience. I realized that perhaps one reason I wasn’t feeling respected is because in leadership’s eyes, we were the same. I didn’t want to work for a company that didn’t think my education & experience had a bearing on my work.
      3. Lots of turnover, very little replacement. People were taking on the work of multiple roles and after a while it became clear that most vacated roles wouldn’t be re-posted. This led to stress, gossip, etc – which contributed to a bad working environment all around.

    4. Busy Middle Manager*

      When you’ve had the same conversations and presented the same issues a thousand times and no one cares or reacts anymore. In that case, there is logistically little reason to still be there.

    5. Generic Name*

      I was at my last job for 12 years. At year 7, I looked around and wondered if I should move on. At the time, I told myself I’d stay as long I was enjoying my work and liked my coworkers. A couple years after that, I witnessed some coworkers complain and complain about how management was handling certain things, and I told myself that as soon as I disagreed with how the company was managed/things were handled, I’d find another job. That happened in year 12. Something happened that was a “straw that broke the camel’s back” incident and I realized that I wasn’t willing to just ignore the anger I felt and the company (I felt) had handled some things really badly. I got a new job for significantly higher pay and benefits a few months later.

        1. Generic Name*

          I’ll be honest, I was incandescent with rage over the situation. Everyone could tell I was PISSED. Interviewing for jobs and then accepting a great offer felt incredible.

    6. Lily Rowan*

      I’ll just say, it’s never the wrong time to start reading job postings. It’s good to have a sense of what’s out there, assuming you couldn’t leave without another job to go to. Even interviewing doesn’t mean you have to leave your current job!

    7. KCD*

      I have always gone up great lengths to make things work, and as a result have often stayed longer than I should have at a job (with negative consequences for my mental health). I am also seeing warning signs at my current job. The biggest issues: lack of communication from management, some alarming patterns based on gender, resignation of 2/3 of HR, and general poor morale. My knee jerk reaction is to throw myself 110% into trying to right the ship. As a middle manager I don’t have that kind of influence (particularly as the less-preferred gender). Under previous leadership this was a great place to be, but I can’t control who leads, only whether I stay or go. So I am looking to go.

    8. Bitte Meddler*

      We got a new CEO. Here are the things that were the writing on the wall for me:

      * Beloved business unit leaders started finding greener pastures or retiring a wee bit early.
      * Things that used to be handled between an employee and their manager (or all the way up to the business unit VP) suddenly required HR intervention.
      * Flexibility was taken away. Or, rather, flexibility that benefitted the employees (like flex hours) was taken away, but flexing hours in the other direction (tons of overtime for salaried employees) ramped up.
      * The culture went from “great group of professionals who, of course, want to do a good job” to “the employees are a bunch of lazy, time-stealers and we need to implement a lot of technology to monitor what they’re doing”.

    9. Hot Dish*

      For me, it’s been when I can no longer do the work that I’m supposed to be doing because of too many obstacles from people above me and nobody that matters seems to care about the obstacles. Also, when it could potentially bite me professionally to stay because the way that they’re doing things puts me and my professional credentials at risk.

  26. Despairingly unemployed*

    I can’t believe I got my Friday good news after so long of a drought (or, acid rain of rejections?). Not 20mn after getting yet another rejection email, someone wants a call!!

    I know this is the pre-interview HR check, but do I need to prepare beyond the basics, potential salary, and whether I’d be willing to relocate?

    1. Colette*

      Make sure you research the company, think about why you want that job, etc. What would you do if this were going to be the only interview? Do that.

      Good luck!

    2. Pretty as a Princess*

      Be prepared to discuss
      – why are you interested in the position offered
      – what are you looking for in your next position/why are you looking for a change (I think this is how my favorite of our recruiters phrases it)
      – most recent position roles/responsibilities

      Our recruiter screens are typically a half hour call that include the above, plus the items you referenced, plus a few things highly specific to our industry (think like certification).

      Good luck at your interview!

      1. Despairingly unemployed*

        Thanks! The call was specifically mentioned as 10-15mn (and calendly was the same) but I suppose I’ve read enough on here to know Things Happen ;)

    3. Lily Rowan*

      I said this in an open thread a few weeks ago, but I got on what I thought was a brief phone screen that turned out to be a full interview, so I would do a little more prep than that.

      Good luck!!

  27. Wondermint*

    IT was uncommunicative and gave bad customer service on a ticket. Should I use the “tell us how we did” follow up ratings email to give honest feedback about my experience or will this turn IT staff into my enemies if I do so? How best to give honest feedback but avoid unnecessary conflict or escalation?

    1. Colette*

      Assuming your feedback is realistic, be honest and specific. (E.g. “uncommunicative” could mean “I waited three weeks before anyone got in touch with me”, or it could mean “no one contacted me for 45 minutes after I opened the ticket”; one of those is more reasonable than the other.

    2. DisneyChannelThis*

      I wouldn’t. IT tickets feedback usually directly tied into pay/raises/etc and will affect them, meaning they will care who said it. If you have a small department it’s too easy to figure out who said it.

      1. Susan Calvin*

        counterpoint: if they’re stretched way too thin, but get consistently great ratings, it’ll be hard to justify budget for extra headcount

      2. Tio*

        Not always. Our tickets do not tie into pay at all, from what IT has told me (this is in part because we have set wage scales for positions). It could theoretically affect someone’s potential for promotion, but your performance probably should imo.

    3. Goddess47*

      Maybe focus on just the bad customer service part, as factually as possible.

      You could try the ‘Maybe I didn’t give the correct information but what Fergus told me to do was not correct. I said X, Fergus said to do Y and it did not solve my problem. It turned out the correct answer was Z. As a result, I lost W hours of working time.”

      But you have to know your own environment. If it will tick off IT, you may just want to speak to your supervisor, so they have a head’s up.

      Good luck!

    4. CL*

      I work in IT and I know our support manager wants to hear this feedback to know where to support and train the team. You know your company but facts like “I didn’t get a response for 3 days” or “the initial solution didn’t work and I needed to follow up 3 times” are hard for them to get mad about.

  28. UnemployedInGreenland*

    Greetings and Happy Friday! I am looking for some advice/tips on handling a professional conference as an unemployed attendee. The biggest expo in my field is happening next week and I was extremely fortunate to receive a free ticket from a friend. So I can go and I want to use this as a chance to network, look at the new tech/ideas, and possibly spread the word that I am looking for my next opportunity.

    I don’t plan on bringing copies of my resume with me – that seems a bit much? – but I will have contact cards with me.

    Anyone been in this position before? Anything you’d care to pass on? I don’t want to be overbearing or too forward, but my bank account is shrinking rapidly and unemployment in NY is really not cutting it. Thanks!

    1. Asloan*

      Ideally it would be great to have already set up some informational interviews / take-people-out-to-coffee chats before the conference, using the fact that everybody’s already gathered in one place to save yourself some of the logistic challenges? If there’s a jobs board (perhaps you can suggest a jobs board to the organizers, if there’s not? It could just be a white board where people write the titles they’re looking for if they don’t have things prepared!) you could also arrange to chat with people while they’re there?

      1. UnemployedInGreenland*

        I am going to try and set up some meetings with people, but that can get difficult as it is a very large and very busy conference. Sometimes you just can’t hook up with people and it’s no one’s fault. But then there are the lovely serendipitous meetings where you run into people when you find a place to sit down for a moment.

    2. Colette*

      I’d bring some resumes so that you have them if someone asks. (I would not hand them out proactively).

    3. Roland*

      Bring copies of your resume! You don’t have to give it to anyone unless it makes sense in the context of your conversations. You lose nothing except the ability to bring a bag that’s smaller than 8×11.

    4. Magpie*

      I’m not sure what industry you’re in, but I’m a software engineer and at the conferences I go to there’s a large recruiter presence. Recruitment firms set up tables and host happy hours in order to meet new potential candidates. If I were you, I’d bring a few resumes just in case you encounter something similar.

      1. UnemployedInGreenland*

        I think I will see if I can bring a few with me. But my conferences do not have a recruitment firm presence. I wish! But they would be mobbed so I think they are smart to be targets.

    5. Former Geologist*

      I got a job at the mining expo when I attended as an unemployed new grad. Bring copies of your resume AND contact cards.

    6. Busy Middle Manager*

      So apparently there will be disagreement here. TBH it’s hard to have an honest conversation about if someone will be a good fit when they come across as desperate for work. They will yes you to death. That’s why I think going too heavy with resumes and “I want an interview” stuff may not come across well.

      Be way more subtle. Just meet a few people, you’ll say you’re unemployed. A few people will volunteer to hook you up with a manager. One of them will flake. The other may actually do it. TBH the end result may be the same as if you handed out your resume to everyone. If someone isn’t receptive to you, it’s most likely because they can’t help

      1. UnemployedInGreenland*

        I don’t plan on going around with a cup in my hand and begging like Oliver Twist.

        This is an expo I have been attending for over 30 years and I am fairly well known in my industry. I want to check out the new stuff – there is always new stuff – and see old friends and former co-workers (and avoid a few). One of the first questions everyone always asks at these things is “Where are you working now?” which will give me a good opening to mention that I am looking for a new job. If the topic does not come up organically, I won’t bring it up.

        1. Busy Middle Manager*

          Not trying to argue but I didn’t say you were begging for employment. You wrote “extremely fortunate to receive a free ticket ” which strongly implies it’s a stretch you’re going there and not something you go to regularly and have friends at. That would change the story/advice here. You’re a seasoned professional with connections and not someone running around waving their resume at people

          1. UnemployedInGreenland*

            I said that because without a company affiliation I would need to pay out of pocket to attend this conference. This is $175 I would really rather not spend right now. (A full conference pass is $2000 – definitely out of reach right now.) Getting a free pass from a friend who works at a vendor company in my industry is very much appreciated. I was planning on going anyway – it’s too good an opportunity to pass up – but spending the money would have been painful.

        2. Hot Dish*

          I love that this is something you’ve been going to and know people and they’re aware of your work alread. I hope it’s a really great event for you and brings some good leads! I also vote for have a couple resumes with you in case they’re requested because why not.

          1. UnemployedInGreenland*

            Thanks! I do have it on my iPhone, so I can always transmit it quickly if someone is interested. And I will have my very nice cards to hand out, if the opportunity arises.

      2. Artemesia*

        Passing out resumes would be gross — having them if someone ASKS for one, is being prepared.

    7. Peter*

      Love your name, “UnemployedInGreenland”… from The Princess Bride!

      Do you have target companies? If so you could focus on them in terms of meeting people, etc. Also, somewhere I saw the idea of having a marketing sheet for people… not done as a resume, but a kind of professional summary. You could also prepare and practice a series of elevator introductions — one geared toward former colleagues you might meet, one (or more) for target companies, etc. Good Luck!

    8. The Prettiest Curse*

      If the conference has an attendee list that’s available in advance, try to get hold of it to find out if any potentially useful contacts will be there. (The list will likely be opt-in and there are always last-minute changes, but it should give you a good overview.) If there isn’t an attendee list, there may be a list of companies that will be attending.
      And make sure you visit and talk to as
      many exhibitors as you can – you never know when you might be able to make a useful connection.
      Finally, if there are any local business or professional organisations or associations for your field exhibiting, ask them if they’re hosting job fairs or if they have job listings on their website. Good luck!

  29. Rue*

    Those who WFH, how do you set dividers and boundaries around work and home? I have ADHD and working from home 3 days per week makes it tough for me to separate the two.

    I have a specific office area in my living room but no ability to set up a separate office room, which doesn’t help. I feel like I’m both working longer and somehow getting less done because it’s too easy to complete chores during the day.

    1. Asloan*

      I do a “commute” by taking a walk around my neighborhood to block out work from nonwork time. I also have a ritual of waking up, making coffee, hanging out in my PJs – and then going upstairs to get dressed and “start work” when it’s worth time. Something that also helps me is playing music when I’m working that’s different than what I play at home.

      1. Donkey Hotey*

        Agreed. My wife teases me and calls me Mr Rogers, but I have a work sweater and different shoes that I only wear while I’m working.

        1. Asloan*

          I do this too! Oh – and take a real lunch! Go in another room or ideally leave the house for like 20 minutes or more. I just can’t sit in my living room all day and stay “on.”

      2. Admin of Sys*

        I’ve got work clothes and home clothes and am pretty determined to switch between them. Breakfast is in pjs / house clothes, or at least with the blazer off, or something similar. When I ‘go to work’ the work clothes go on. When I take lunch, if I’m eating at home and not over the keyboard, I take off the blazer, kick off shoes, that sort of thing. After work, I immediately change out of work clothes into something more casual / different.

    2. Colette*

      I don’t do chores during the day, except at lunch. My work time is for work, so even though it would be convenient to do chores on occasion, I don’t do that because I don’t want to extend my work day.

    3. FashionablyEvil*

      I have a shut down routine–tidy up all the loose ends, make my to-do list for the next day, and then shut down my computer and say something like, “I am leaving work now.” A bit silly, but it helps.

    4. AnonAnon*

      One thing I did when I worked in an office full time, that I still do when I WFH is keep a post-it note next to me and when I have a thought about something I need to do at home, I write it down. That way, I can clear the thought from my mind and keep working and at the end of the day or during lunch, I can work on my home to-do list.

    5. Betty Spaghetti*

      What really helps me is to set a timer on my phone. I’ll work for one hour, then take a quick break, before setting the timer for another hour. Then if I get distracted, I can remind myself to get back to work tasks and save it for my upcoming “break”.

    6. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I have a LED strip at the entry into my office that is only on during work hours. I also change the colors as an indicator to my husband whether I’m in a meeting or have my camera on, but either way, if I’m working, the light is on, and if I’m not working, the light is off. In my case, on and off are set to a timer as well, so it turns on at 7am automatically when I start, and though my normal stop time is 3:30, the light strip turns itself off with an audible CLICK at 4:30, as a reminder to me to stop working if I haven’t already, unless something is exploding. :P

    7. Irish Teacher.*

      I don’t regularly work from home but I correct the state exams every summer from home and I work very strict hours. I do 1:30pm to 4pm, 5:30pm to 7pm and 9pm-10pm. For those hours, I am now at the computer (before this year, it was the kitchen table but we’ve switched from physical scripts to digital) and working.

    8. A Manager for Now*

      I have a little candle on my desk that I light when I start my day and blow out at lunch, light again for the afternoon. It kind of reminds me, “Hey, it’s work time” if I look around for some distraction, while also being cozy.

      I, like others, try to limit my chores to lunch breaks or the laundry (which is minimal interruption – I leave the folding and putting away for the end of the day). I clean all my work stuff up at the end of the day and pulling it out is another way I have “work mode” and I try really hard to make sure I clean up my non-work stuff (put away dishes, etc.) before working. I do better without visual distraction in my workspace.

      I do have a rather hard stop at the end of the day, since I have a kid who can’t be left on their own, but setting up routines to remind me that “Now it is work time, not reading time, not picking up the kitchen time” is really helpful.

    9. Rue*

      Thank you all for your helpful comments! These are all such wonderful ideas I wouldn’t have thought up myself.

  30. Updating Resume, WFH*

    How does everyone list their current location in their resume when they work from home? I work for a company in California, but live in Michigan. I typically put the city/state for the company, and then where my role is located. However, this is the first time I’m updating my resume where I work from home, and not at a site. I’m looking at applying for a job in my city, but it’s not obvious from my resume that I live 25 minutes from their site.

    1. T. Wanderer*

      I haven’t been in the habit of putting location on my resume for companies! I do have my location in my resume header along with phone/email, but that’s it. Interested to hear if location is standard!

      1. Updating Resume, WFH*

        That makes sense! Previous companies, I moved for work, so I was showing that the roles were in different states.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      I don’t work from home, but I list my current city of residence (not my full address) in the “name/contact” section of my resume. I think you can have something like

      Updating Resume, WFH
      Detroit, MI
      [email address]
      [phone number]

      Experience
      Company Name, Los Angeles, CA (remote)
      Position Name
      *accomplishment
      *accomplishment

      (adopt for your preferred resume format, just an example of your Michigan location vs the company’s California location)

      1. Updating Resume, WFH*

        This is probably the cleanest. The role I’m thinking about applying for is hybrid, so I’m trying to show I wouldn’t need to relocate.

    3. Lurker*

      I haven’t put my current location on my resume for years, I just list the city/state where the job was. I think you could address (no pun intended) that you live locally in your cover letter. Or if you’re really set on including it on your resume you could maybe list it like this:

      – Llama & Teapots, Los Angeles CA (remote position)

      but that might be a little unclear.

      1. Updating Resume, WFH*

        I definitely think cover letter would be clear too. I’m updating my resume now, so I haven’t looked at the application requirements yet.

    4. Tio*

      Most of the resumes I see have the person personal address (or general location) under their name with their contact details. If you want to make it clear, I would do what was suggested below and list the company as Lllamas Inc, Los Angeles CA (remote). I don’t think that’s at all weird given how much remote work has jumped lately, but any company worth their salt will check this – our recruiters always check in the phone screen if someone is applying from a different state as there is in person work here and they would need to relocate.

      1. Pretty as a Princess*

        I am seeing less and less of this from people who are hoping for something remote, or who are open to a move but don’t want to seem like they would be a more complicated candidate for needing a relo. I have gotten plenty of resumes with no location information on them at all -just a name and number and email and LinkedIn profile.

        But I see it a LOT for people who want to emphasize that they are already in the location I am hiring for, and want us to see it as a strength.

        Absolutely agree that a recruiter is going to have to ask if you’re going to get beyond a first screening – even if a job is remote, they need to know if you are in a location (or willing to relocate to a location) where they are able to do business.

    5. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

      Use the address that is most informative to where you’re applying. So for sites near where you live, definitely use your home address.

    6. Hot Dish*

      Also, check the application process. I don’t list my address on my resume, but I’m finding that a lot of the interfaces companies have for their job applications require it so it’s in there anyway.

  31. Big Old Yikes*

    Anyone have advice for when the thing you’re working on is just…bad? My job is making training materials and the approach my boss is taking is, to me, fundamentally incorrect and counterproductive. In our particular slice of the field we can get away with it, but if this work breaches containment, it’s going to make us look bad. Think along the lines that we make training materials to teach urban planners about diversity, equity, and inclusion issues and one of our trainings is on the Flint water crisis, and we’re not talking about historical factors like redlining, segregation, etc, that made the crisis possible.

    To be clear, I’m getting out of this job ASAP, but how do I make it through until I can get out?

    1. Hot Dish*

      I’m in a sort of similar scenario. I cared until I realized caring and putting action towards that is evidently not important in my place of business. If the work reflects directly on you, I say push for it to be better. If it doesn’t reflect directly on you (like won’t have your name on it or no overt professional consequences) and no one else seems to care, I say let it go–as painful as that is. It sucks to care and realize no one else does. It sucks to be in a job that has a ton of potential to be great work, and the powers that be just let it die.

      Best of luck in your job search, for sure.

      1. Not Your Trauma Bucket*

        This is the answer. You have to teach yourself not to care more than the powers that be.

        1. Bitte Meddler*

          I literally just said this in a group chat of people who all have the same job role I do. Several were pulling their hair out because management won’t fix / doesn’t care about an Issue, and I was like, “Why on earth would you care more than they do??”*

          *(typical disclaimer that if the thing management doesn’t care about is illegal or unethical to the point that you could lose any certifications / licensures if your name was associated with, then you should care. And probably find another job.)

      2. Hermione Danger*

        Yes. This. If your name isn’t going on the training, you can let it go with a clear conscience. Definitely push back once and state your reasoning, but if that doesn’t sell them, they get to have the training they’ve asked for. Even if it’s not ideal.

      3. GythaOgden*

        This is where I am. We had a training module that lumped in seismic activity with climate change and blatantly linked the two in a way that was hilarious to this daughter and sister of two geography teachers who both specialised in physical geography and geology.

        But the outcome was the same — preparedness for disaster and/or changing landscapes — so I let it go.

        What I did not let go was the poor quality video lecture on spillage cleanup that didn’t have subtitles, didn’t have a transcript and, on our computers that didn’t have speakers since we didn’t need them on reception (the phone was connected to a different system and there wasn’t even a working headphone jack on the very basic crappy machines we were given) was mute.

        I complained about that not just because of the poor technology, but because it was inaccessible to people with hearing impairments etc. The silly stuff on climate change/a supposed increase in seismic activity in Britain was not worth the aggro and not worth getting my mum in to give them lessons on what causes earthquakes and volcanoes and how they are a separate threat to climate change (although volcanic eruptions do have an impact on emissions, their cause is not man-made). The inaccessibility of the spillage training video WAS an important thing to mention because it had a direct impact on company employees and other stakeholders.

  32. Just a lowly mid-career individual contributor*

    Question for the directors/C-levels/upper-management folks – what do you talk about during 1:1’s with your bosses? I ask because I notice a trend where the boss of this high level person isn’t in the loop on important things. Not even into the weeds details but important things like enterprise level data integration or things that could impact revenue reporting. For reference I work in marketing so this might not be true across different departments.

    An example is that we have a BI Sr. Director who has a ton of open tickets for fixing or creating reports, but his boss always seems surprised when my team talks about the status not being done or that we’re waiting on the director. I’m wondering why the boss of the BI Sr. Director doesn’t know what he’s working on or what his priorities are. These tickets are a big deal, they impact several departments, including finance, which is probably the most important one. I find it odd that I have to be the one updating BI Sr. Director’s boss on this, when I’m about 2 levels removed from him. Why isn’t any higher up keeping him on the loop on these items?

    Or maybe it’s just my company. I wonder if the upper-management people at my job just smooze during their 1:1s and don’t talk about work at all. LOL

    1. BellyButton*

      That is a big problem! I am upper management and report directly to the CEO. We chit-chat, but we also get down to business. We very much discuss the status of things, the future plans, what’s next, and issues/roadblocks either of us foresee or are encountering.

      1. Just a lowly mid-career individual contributor*

        Yes this! I’m thinking why this stuff isn’t being brought up or asked about as blockers.

    2. Tio*

      Hm. When I have a 1:1 with my director, we mostly talk about upcoming projects/initiatives, their statuses, looping him in on requests I’ve received from other departments (including ones that should have come through him so he knows who’s trying to end run) and any personnel issues (If I’m going to discipline someone, hiring statuses, etc)

      But if this guy is behind, then I can see why he’s trying to hide some of these issues from his boss! Because if it doesn’t come from him, who else has the ability to notify him, other than your team which surprises him? So it smells like “hiding incompetence” to me.

    3. Quantum Possum*

      We do monthly staff calls where we provide slides and brief Those on High on what we’re doing. We discuss status, schedule, potential roadblocks, resource requirements, etc. If one of the Higher Powers has further questions or concerns, we address them then or within 1-2 days of the staff call, so issues aren’t just floating around in the aether.

      Just my 2 cents, but it sounds like your guy might be 1.) not doing his job right and 2.) desperately covering for it so HIS boss doesn’t find out.

    4. BikeWalkBarb*

      No way to know for an individual organization/person what the culture and dynamics might be. I’m a director. I talk with my boss about things they should know about, whether it’s something they can address directly to help take down a barrier, something I’m working through with a colleague at the same level who’s also their direct report (sharing for transparency and context, not to ask them to step in unless it’s dire and that hasn’t happened), something great my team did so they can brag about it when the opportunity comes up, how we’re situated for meeting both our division’s goals and advancing agency goals and initiatives.

      My agency uses the phrase “no surprises” a lot because we have a lot of public attention to our work and I’d never want to hide something that’s a problem. That will just bite us in the butt later. I’m wondering if you can introduce that phrase in a conversation, whether it’s with your immediate supervisor or the next time you ARE surprising the higher-ups: “Seems like a ‘no surprises’ approach would serve us well over the long run. What kinds of metrics or indicators are we watching to be sure we’re on track and how do we make sure higher-ups know so they know we’re on top of the situation?” If you have a specific example of a time when that lack of awareness created blowback, even better.

  33. DefinitelyNotAI*

    Is there anything I can do/say, or do I have to watch as a co-worker in her IDGAF phase of life doesn’t care about policies and through that, potentially takes our WFH privileges away from the rest of us?
    Whether I agree with my office’s policies on WFH and inclement weather isn’t the point; I do what my office says because I like getting a paycheck, not being homeless and also eating at least 2 meals a day.
    For context, we’re to be in our office 4 days a week with one WFH day depending on office needs. If the office is open during bad weather, we get a 2 hour grace period to arrive with no penalties, but of course, exercise your judgement on this – if it is too bad to commute and you have already used your scheduled WFH day for that week, then you have to take PTO.
    This coworker has worked at our office a lot longer than I have and has seemingly decided the rules don’t apply to them. They decided to switch their WFH day last week because of weather (that is allowed). Told the staff via email on a different day they were going to work from home due to weather (that is not allowed but I also feel like it’s possible for a bit of wiggle room there)
    HR was not informed – they found out midway through the day. They do other things too that are eyebrow raising but this really upset the rest of us last week.
    We are very concerned that we’re going to get our WFH privileges revoked completely because of their antics. Is there anything we can do?

    1. Hot Dish*

      Do you feel like you can mention your concerns to your manager? Like, we like the current scenario and are concerned about bad actors ruining it for the rest of us and seeing what they say?

      Alternatively, if multiple coworkers have the same concern, can you together mention it to the person who is abusing it?

    2. Colette*

      Find a better company? Seriously, if you’ve already taken your WFH day that week you have to come in when the weather is too bad to travel? Get out.

      1. BellyButton*

        Things like that are so stupid. If people already have the ability to WFH, why would they need to take PTO?? It just doesn’t make sense. “You should risk your life to come into the office or lose a PTO day!” Sigh.

    3. BellyButton*

      The company sucks. Being that rigid is ridiculous. As for your coworker, unless it is affecting you or your work productivity leave it alone. If her behavior is jeopardizing everyone’s ability to WFH, then you can say to your manager “it seems unfair that one person abusing the policies means we all lose out on WFH privileges. ”

      If one person means the policies change for everyone, that is horrible leadership and horrible HR. They need to deal with the one person.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Agreed. The idea that one person can change the policy for every person in the office regardless of individual track records? Means this company has bad policies.
        You aren’t in grade school. This is the equivalent of making the class stay in at recess because one kid is acting up.

    4. WorkerDrone*

      I don’t think your problem is with this one employee, to be honest, even though it really looks like it. The real problem is if your management team/manager/HR will take away a privilege for everyone rather than directly addressing the one person who isn’t following policy. To me, this is a manager problem, not a coworker problem, as frustrating as it may be to see your coworker violate policy.

      1. Bitte Meddler*

        Yep. I left a company because the CEO took away WFH and WFH flexibility because, supposedly, one employee in the 30,000+ company-wide employees had a dog barking in the background when they were on the phone with a [small potatoes] customer. It’d be like if we manufactured cars and a single-location mom-and-pop repair shop called the tech line to get help on fixing something.

        So it wasn’t a lot of employees. (Hell, it wasn’t even a sensibly measurable amount). And it wasn’t a huge customer that could cost us millions of dollars in revenue.

        One technician on one single call and the CEO punished the whole company.

        Also? The phone call was late on a Saturday night, which means that now the CEO expects 3rd shift employees to come into the office just to answer the 1 or 2 phone calls that might come in overnight.

        Utterly asinine and a hallmark of terrible management.

    5. BikeWalkBarb*

      Are you doing what my mom called “borrowing trouble”? That is, do you have a basis for this concern because you’ve heard indicators that this would be the outcome, or are you jumping ahead to anticipate something that might not ever happen?

      Not to disbelieve you, just asking because I’ve been around who do this. They’re adding rocks to their own backpacks that no one else would hand them.

      Also seems like the concern energy would be better put toward asking if they’d consider changing the policy so as not to endanger people by forcing them to come to work in extreme weather conditions. The fix then isn’t “make this person stop abusing the policy”, it’s “change the bad policy”.

  34. Hot Dish*

    Looking for outside perspective on the optics of being someone who pumps breastmilk at a conference that I will also be trying to network at.

    I’m planning to go to a one day conference related to my field in my town. I’m employed but job searching so I’m hoping to potentially get some ideas, leads, network, etc. I will also need to pump breastmilk during the day. My pumps fit under my shirt*, so while it’ll look strange when I have them in (someone told me it looked like I had a boob job), I can still be a part of what’s going on. I plan to just stand in the back of whatever’s happening at the time. When I asked, the coworker in the cube next to mine said they don’t hear the pumps. So hopefully it should not be a big deal.

    From an outside perspective, any thoughts on the optics of potential new job related people seeing me in the 30 minutes (2 times during the conference) of awkwardness with the pumps? I have no idea if anyone will even know what’s going on. (Though, depending on the TBD fridge scenario, I may be sitting somewhere out of the way cleaning pump parts as well.)

    My general policy outside of this is to mention NOTHING related to children in job searching/interviewing, so it may out me there. For what it’s worth, in theory, the conference should draw in some more progressive folks than not (based on the topic/field), and I work in a female-dominated field.

    I’m probably overthinking this, but I’m just wondering what people who aren’t waist deep (or over their head?) in life with small children would think of this and how it might look “professionally.”

    * For anyone who’s ever pumped, this is amazing and abundantly helpful! Such a huge change from even a couple years ago with my first kid.

    1. M2RB*

      For context, I am a (oh lord) middle aged woman with no kids.

      I would not care AT ALL in a professional aspect. I would be SUPER curious personally because I have seen a couple of references to what I think are the pumps you have, and I think it is an amazing development for pumping – but I would never ever bring it up in a situation like you describe. I am very MYOB in this area, especially because I recognize you are not likely to be pumping forever, and it may not be relevant at all by the time I wanted to hire you for something.

    2. Am*

      Have you reached out to the conference organizers (and/or the location) to ask about what accommodations they have for pumping? They may have a private space that you could use during breaks, ideally with a fridge and running water (and may even be legally required to do so, depending on your location and other details). I don’t think it’s unprofessional to be discreetly pumping during a conference session, but I do think that you could end up finding it awkward or distracting for yourself (especially if you’re also planning on networking). If it were me, I’d rather plan out a couple breaks somewhere more private, try to coordinate with organizers to make sure that location is appropriately located and available, and then I’d feel more confident and comfortable during the rest of the day. I pumped for a long time(occasionally in semi-public spaces) and definitely found it awkward to fumble around with pumps, putting away milk, preparing for letdown, etc and I wouldn’t want to be stressing about that in an environment where I’m also trying to listen to a session and be ready to network and chat at any moment! Your mileage may vary, of course!

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Yes, I second the idea of reaching out to conference organisers so you can access a private space if you decide you need one. I organise conferences and have handled this type of request multiple times. Having a private space will be more difficult to arrange in some venues than in others (just due to the amount of space they are using, venue configuration and any potential venues guidelines or restrictions), so reach out to the conference organisers well on advance if you can.

        Whatever you choose to do, I hope everything goes smoothly and you enjoy the conference!

        1. Hot Dish*

          Thank you both. I am currently waiting to hear back from organizers about fridge space. We’ll see what else they say. I am definitely not planning on talking to people while pumping, and it’s only one day, so I’m not too worried about getting distracted, etc.

          We’ll see what comes back from the organizers. It’s going to be held at a university event center (not a hotel), so we’ll see.

    3. Rara Avis*

      Are you sure it can’t be heard? A coworker of mine was pumping in a meeting, and the noise was definitely audible. There was a lot of turning to see what that was, realizing, and quickly looking away. It was awkward. Is there any way to contact the people running the conference to ask about pumping space?

      1. Hot Dish*

        Fair enough. I’m assuming that ipeople very close by me may hear them but between my pumps and someone on a microphone, the miked speaker will definitely win. I’m sorry you had to deal with that during a meeting. My threshold is generally going to heat up food in the microwave or a virtual meeting on mute. I have had to wear them in a few other emergency/less weird scenarios outside of work, and people didn’t notice that they were in. In this case, I just plan to be in the back listening at the points when I’m pumping, but I’ll see what conference organizers say.

    4. Maggie*

      I would reach out to the conference and the facility it’s being hosted at to ask about pumping space. I think I would want to just focus on networking vs trying to network and literally be pumping. Plus if there was some kind of malfunction etc you wouldn’t want milk running down your shirt or getting on someone. Take a pump break!

      1. Hot Dish*

        I definitely don’t plan to be networking at the same time as trying to pump. It was more about someone noticing that I’m that pumping woman on one side or the other of networking.

        Fair point about an accident!

        1. linger*

          Things to check that might make the experience more convenient for you: Will a pumping room be available onsite? And, if you would have to miss being physically present for something important, will any presentations be recorded or otherwise made available online for attendees (as is increasingly the case)?
          Last resort: If no pumping room is made available, and if you care about the “weird boob job” appearance (N.B. nobody else gets to care!) maybe a shawl might help?

    5. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      I recommend you check with the organisers that they’ll have a pumping room – at least they damn well should if you request one.
      Then use it for all your pumping, so you can then concentrate 100% on networking and those around you will remember you only for business networking, not for anything moving under your blouse.

      You suggested standing at the back of the room while you pump, but I don’t know what useful networking that would bring and people might wonder why you were lurking.

      1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        fwiw I’m a childfree woman and I would find it distracting if someone pumped in public but would never notice if someone took a few 30-minute breaks.

    6. Double A*

      I’m someone who fairly (in the last 2 years) recently finished breastfeeding and I feel like I would not want to be pumping around anyone, even with the pumps you’re talking about. I feel like they give you the freedom not to not stop what you’re doing and sit attached to a machine, but when I contemplated if the expense of said pumps was worth it, it was still with the intention of only using them privately.

      I hate to say this, but I do think it’s inappropriate to be pumping in the middle of a meeting. It involves your private parts, and the perfectly normal and natural things we do with our private parts during the work day, we do in specific settings. I even think you can think of it as akin to eating: if it’s not a setting where it would be appropriate to eat, it’s not a setting where it would appropriate to pump.

      I would ask the conference about the accommodations for nursing mothers and plan to use them. I’ve done this before; it actually meant I was sometimes pumping around coworkers since the room was a hotel room, but we were all pumping so it was the appropriate setting for this.

      1. Hot Dish*

        I totally agree with not pumping during a meeting. I guess I’m thinking of this as something that I’m more listening to from the back and not being an active participant, especially during pumping. I’ve already used them not privately–at work, I use them at my cubicle in a room with other people because frankly, that’s most convenient, and it’s not disturbing anyone or work business at those times; and then I’ve had to use them in other non-work emergency scenarios where they went unnoticed. I guess that’s why I feel more comfortable with them, but I’ll certainly see what conference organizers say. Thanks.

        1. GythaOgden*

          A conference like the one you’re proposing is a meeting on a large scale, though. Even if it’s not distracting you, it’s gonna distract others.

      2. EA*

        I agree with this. I recently stopped pumping. The Elvie type pumps are quieter than most but definitely aren’t silent, and you can hear the milk dripping (for lack of a better term). When I’ve been at conferences, even when I get up to stand in the back and stretch, I’ve been approached by other people to chat. I don’t think you’re really socially removed if you’re in the conference room. I think it’s different than pumping when you’re working alone in a cube. I feel for you, pumping at work events is never fun to figure out!

        1. Hot Dish*

          Thanks. Yeah, this is certainly new to me as first kid was born at the beginning of covid so nothing was happening that first year.

      3. not my usual self*

        I’m finding this confusing because people eat at meetings and conferences all the time, so if pumping is “akin to eating” then it would be perfectly fine. I’ve been going to conferences (in my field and otherwise) for decades and I’ve never been to one that people didn’t eat during. I’m not sure if pumping is “akin to eating” (maybe it’s more like… cooking? I’m not a parent!) but that’s the rubric you put forth.

    7. New Mom (of 1 5/9)*

      As someone who has pumped and has tried out the Willow, Elvie Stride, and Freemie, I really would not try to pump and network at the same time. I’d run to your hotel room or car or whatever and then come back. It looks odd, it’s almost certainly louder than you think, and if you accidentally drop a pen and spill all over yourself while picking it up, it’s all over. =P

      I second the echos to ask the conference organizers for pumping space.

      (Weirdly, the Freemie with SlimFit cups [which I could also plug in to my Spectra!] worked the best for me, despite being by far the cheapest of the 3. You never know!)

      1. Serenity by Jan*

        Agreed as a new mom. I’m clumsy by nature and not smooth enough to pump around others, even with a discreet wearable which I do own (Momcozy which I’m meh about for reasons I won’t go into here and so far only used it once in a pinch). If I have to pump while away from home, I go into the car and have a cooler bag handy for storing. I would prefer to step away for 30 minutes for a peaceful pumping session or two, but that’s just me. Bonus if the conference has a pumping room, particularly if OP takes public transit to the conference.

        1. Hot Dish*

          Maybe the difference is that this is my second rodeo and I have fewer cares to give (generally speaking). Again, I’ve done it in public places (medically oriented), but not work-related. I’ll see if they have any options for private space. It’s a university event space so I’m not sure what to expect from that.

    8. WantonSeedStitch*

      I would strongly recommend instead trying to find time and a private space to pump. Not because I think it’s bad to use a wearable pump while attending a conference session, but because I personally found it so much easier to relax and get a good pump when I wasn’t trying to focus on work stuff at the same time! As far as cleaning pump parts goes, don’t worry about doing that in a more public area. Are there people who would be like “EWWW?” Yes. There always are. The heck with them. There’s nothing wrong with doing it. As far as fridges go, you could also bring a cooler bag with an ice pack if you can’t access a fridge.

      1. Hot Dish*

        A cooler is my plan as a backup. Currently the biggest obstacle to any of this is getting a working email address for the conference people!!

    9. Delta Blues*

      I know others have suggested it but yes to reaching out to the conference folks but also don’t overlook the venue staff! I was surprised when I was last pumping at the number of folks who will recognize a pumping bag and just discretely get me big bags of ice to add to the cooler. The venue website may even mention a pumping room or you could ask them when you arrive before/after you check in.

      If you’re worried about the pumps under your jacket, maybe lean into the fact that a lot of venues run cold. You can bring a shawl or something to drape around your upper body to help throw off any outline of the pumps.

      1. Hot Dish*

        If I end up wearing them in public, I’m not going to care if people notice. I appreciate your point about venue staff. At this point, I have tried two apparently non-working email addresses for the conference, but I’m sure I can find contact info for the venue. I’ll see what options there are for privacy since that seems to be the general consensus. (I think I just hate the idea of potentially missing out on a good speaker/panel.) Thanks all.

        1. Hot Dish*

          Venue staff for the win! Still can’t get in touch with conference people, but venue staff said they have private rooms and fridges (though not together, but it’s good enough for me).

    10. RagingADHD*

      From the opposite end of this equation, I don’t think I would have been able to get a letdown under these circumstances. Not only would I be nervous about appearances, I would have to be paying attention to my surroundings and be mentally “on” for the networking aspect.

      For me, I just didn’t get much if I couldn’t really relax.

  35. WarblerB*

    I’m hoping the comment section can give me some advice. I have a third round job interview with a local company next Friday. Currently, I work as a staff member at a university and our university has “employer in residence days” for undergraduate and graduate students to learn more about potential job opportunities. The potential new employer I’m interviewing with will be on my campus on Monday. I’m sure it isn’t anyone on my interview committee, but do you think I should go over and introduce myself? Is that weird? Is it weird not to go over?

    1. BellyButton*

      I think it would be weird. It is likely to be someone from HR who works in recruiting and specifically an intern or new grad program.

    2. PrincessFlyingHedgehog*

      I would not recommend going over there. They’re not on your interview committee, and any questions you have would probably be best answered by someone on that committee.

  36. Rara Avis*

    Looking for advice from teachers with serious health issues.

    I was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. I had one surgery that didn’t result in clear margins so I have to go back for a redo. So I’ll be out for a second two-week absence. I read through an old post from October 2019 regarding telling or not telling people at work about cancer. There were several teacher commentators who talked about telling their students because they would be losing hair and they wanted the students to understand what was going on and not be scared.

    I won’t be having chemo or losing hair. My students (middle school) were remarkably incurious about my first absence. (There have a been a lot of long Covid absences in the past few years.) However, a second absence a few weeks later will certainly result in questions. I’m planning on saying that I have to have a surgery. However, I teach a niche subject, there is no one else at the school the students can go to for help with it, and there are no subs who can teach the subject. They’ll have someone cover, but it will be mostly babysitting.

    A colleague of mine was out for knee surgery a few years back and a few parents were very abrasive about her absence and blamed her for their child’s struggles in the class. And that was with a sub who knew the subject teaching in her absence. I know my administration will have my back if that were to happen, but “cancer” is kind of magic word that would give me more of a pass.

    My question is whether I should tell students and/or parents, if any issues come up. Lots of my coworkers know already. I haven’t been telling students because that’s a lot of reactions to handle.

    1. Glazed Donut*

      I don’t think you need to tell students or parents. “I’m going to be out for a surgery, and I may be a bit tired/off/(your word here) when I come back. I’d appreciate any good thoughts!” should be enough.
      I would, however, voice your concerns to your admin to share what you’re nervous about and why. They should be able to be more proactive and defend you to parents. You can also share the language you’d like them to use “If parents are concerned, please let them know I am dealing with a recurring serious health issue but hope that this surgery will provide positive results” or something.
      I’ve seen parents get worked up about one teacher’s absence and not another’s. It varies. At the end of the day, it is your health to take care of.
      Wishing you success with this surgery!!

    2. Irish Teacher.*

      When I had thyroid cancer, all my students knew was that I was out for surgery (or possibly surgery on my thyroid, depending on how it came up). I was out for just under 5 weeks (like you, I didn’t have to have chemo or any ongoing treatments) and I didn’t have any complaints beyond one 1st year student (12/13 years old, so similar in age to yours) respond to my return with “thank God you’re back. The sub teacher was making us write essays and stuff!”

      I also had a class who wanted to see my scar.

      Two weeks is a pretty short absence. We regularly have teachers out without a qualified sub for periods close to that. Heck, a couple of years ago, anybody who was a close contact for covid had to stay out for two weeks and those classes were definitely just “babysat” due to the high rate of absenteeism that led to.

      Sorry to hear you are going through this and I hope your recovery is swift.

    3. HugeTractsofLand*

      School staff here: definitely talk it through with your school admin. Looping them in will help them field complaints if any rise to their level, and you can agree on the language you want them to use (you don’t want them unintentionally oversharing). Also it’s on them to come up with a gameplan for the students during your absence, since you teach a niche subject that’s not easily covered by subs.

      Whether it comes from admin or you, all of your parents (+students, depending on grade level) should get an email before your absence to give them an update like “Due to surgery, I will be out from X-X. During that time, students can expect Y. I will not be available during my absence, but look forward to seeing you on my return.” I’ve sent an email like that at the high school level, and it seemed to help a lot. Also…any parents who complain about your medical leave are not people worth accommodating.

      I hope you have a successful surgery and recover quickly.

    4. Quandong*

      From my experience – working in schools, treated for BC – I wouldn’t tell students or parents, they don’t need to know, and it means more work for you to manage other people’s reactions.

      Get your school admin to support you as much as possible, especially so you feel confident they have a clear process to handle complaints from parents if they arise following your leave. I’m sorry about what happened to your colleague, that wasn’t okay!

      Best wishes for your treatment and surgery.

    5. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      I had a re-excision a few weeks after my lumpectomy. It was done under twilight anesthesia and I was done in under an hour. Except for wearing a firm sports bra for another few weeks (to prevent swelling – and I highly recomment a rolled-up child’s sock on the incision for extra compression), I had no change in my regular activity. So you might not need more than a few days off. Will you be having radiation? Some people sail through it and just arrange the time for before or after work (it takes about 15 minutes most days), but some patients develop problems with their skin, or experience major fatigue. You’ll have no way of knowing ahead of time how your body will react, so it’s difficult to plan ahead.

      1. Rara Avis*

        Yup, that’s the plan. Except it’s general anesthesia. After lumpectomy #1, I felt better very quickly but didn’t return until day 12. The nurse says that #2 might involve less pain but more swelling and tiredness. I’m planning to return on day 13. (Two weeks is their standard recommendation for a lumpectomy.) They also want me to avoid motion that would pull on the surgery site, which means trying to avoid using my arm, and I’ve found that’s harder at work. I do feel some pain when I forget and use the arm injudiciously. Radiation is also probably on the agenda, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

  37. Anon for this*

    I don’t think there’s anything I can do about this, but I need a reality check that the company handled this badly.

    I work for a large nonprofit that has many, many programs. Each program operates largely independently, and the large nonprofit largely provides centralized administration (payroll, accounting, HR). Each program pays fringe (calculated as a percentage of employee wages) to the large nonprofit that goes into a central pool that is then used to pay for all benefits (sick and vacation time, health insurance, etc.) for all large nonprofit employees. There is a separate fringe rate for benefited and non-benefited employees.

    Last Friday afternoon, the large nonprofit sent out an update to all programs that the fringe rate is increasing retroactive to January 1. The messaging is all about how they know this is unexpected and they couldn’t let us know earlier. The three reasons they give for the increase are: 1. Health insurance costs increased dramatically this year. 2. A state law went into effect on January 1 increasing the amount of legally mandated sick time, which affects non-benefited employees (benefited employees already get more than the legal minimum). 3. There’s been a huge increase in the number of employees, which means they are paying more into retirement savings.

    The idea that this is unexpected and they couldn’t let us know earlier is nonsense, right? Open enrollment was in November, so they knew about the health care costs at least that early. The law increasing sick leave was signed months ago. I also don’t understand how having more people (which by definition increases the amount the large nonprofit gets in fringe) would make the retirement contributions go up more than the existing fringe rate.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      I think you might be more irked than is warranted.

      Retroactive fringe adjustments sometimes happen. And it could be forced from the outside and therefore not very predictable – legal changes, umbrella grants, different rate of return on endowment/reserves.

    2. Ama*

      I do think it’s possible that they thought they would be able to just absorb the health insurance costs but the addition of the other two things increased their overhead to the point that they had to make it back somewhere.

      I don’t think they handled this great but the fact that they acknowledged that they know this was a last minute change indicates to me that this was probably something they weren’t originally planning to do but were forced into it either by the financial realities or by someone in their leadership changing their mind about how to handle it.

    3. Dancing Otter*

      Re reason #1, depending on the number of employees signing up for health insurance, and for which plans if the company has more than one, there might be significant number-crunching required to calculate an overall rate for the insurance portion of the fringe rate. They may also have been trying to negotiate lower rates with the insurance companies up until the last moment.

      Re reason #2, law change, do you have different fringe rates for benefited and non-benefited employees? If so, I agree this should have been foreseen. If not, an overall rate would depend on the proportion of benefited/non-benefited employees, and that might have been hard to forecast, especially if some of the program managers were dilatory in submitting their personnel plans or changed things last minute.

      Re #3, has there been a change in the mix of employees, such that more would be participating (I’m assuming 401K matching or similar) or at different rates? If the company matches up to 6%, say, and historically the employee contributions averaged out lower, but now you have more people who can afford to contribute at least 6%, then the old fringe rate would need to be increased. Or if it’s a defined benefit plan, there are actuarial calculations in play as well as the pension fund investment performance. The sheer *number* of employees seems at best an oversimplified justification.

      Finally, if some of the programs receive grants or contracts that specify overhead calculation methods or maximum rates, that complicates the calculations for an overall rate even further. The funding sources may have been late communicating, or program managers may not have passed the information along promptly.

      Or who knows, maybe the person who really knows how to calculate the rate may have quit or been on leave, and everything just got delayed in their absence.

  38. BellyButton*

    UGGG no advice needed but it been a week! Someone was let go for performance, someone else is on a PIP, and someone reported an upsetting thing that happened while they were on a business trip. I am OVER it. I hope everyone here had a better week!

    1. Anax*

      It has really, really been a week. Mine was not better, but I can commiserate. I’m kind of exhaustedly weeping at my desk right now, lol.

      1. BellyButton*

        I was overly happy when one of my meetings got canceled last minute. I have a busy afternoon and I just want to sit here reading AAM and helping people who can’t annoy me. HAHA

        1. carcinization*

          I was just happy that I got out of being castigated for advocating for what I have to advocate for as a part of my job, because I had so many meetings that I didn’t have time for that! I think everyone else at my work was also having their own personal hell week, not sure how that’s even possible but that’s what I observed!

    2. GythaOgden*

      Thursday was a full moon. I’m not superstitious, but everything went berserk and then quietened down again. I do hope we didn’t have a werewolf in the system — the insurance costs would be astronomical.

      But yeah, I had two different calls with people trying to get information out of them, and they were constantly interrupted by things happening at their sites, and all the audits and maintenance work was scheduled for that particular day. I blanked for a few minutes in the middle of one meeting and had to take a break.

      Luckily my colleague has two kittens and was able to show them off. Everything is better when kittens are involved.

  39. LZ*

    How much do you think you can learn about a company from the logistics of the hiring process? I don’t mean the people involved, but the process itself – how short/long, how smoothly it goes, what they do if issues crop up, etc.

    I’m currently interviewing with a company and there’s been some hiccups – for example, one of their coordinators scheduled an interview with me for this AM and the interviewer is actually out of the office today, not great. BUT when I texted the recruiter he followed up with the main coordinator, they fixed it right away and they double-confirmed all of the other upcoming interviews I have scheduled. So really great from a problem-solving perspective.

    And for context, my current company had a really smooth and well-run hiring process when I joined and they ended up being a chaotic, siloed mess and my manager is a toxic nightmare.

    1. Glazed Donut*

      I think you can tell a lot! I went through 2 rounds of interviews with a national org. In scheduling both, there were all kinds of logistical errors on their part (getting dates and MONTHS wrong, etc). The first interview started 20 minutes late because everyone was coming from another online meeting. After the second interview, I was told that hiring takes a long time and to be very patient – I sent a thank you email that day and then waited 6 weeks before another follow up only to be told they’re going with someone else. To be honest I was a bit relieved!

    2. Ama*

      I think Glazed Donut is correct here that sometimes it can be useful if there’s multiple errors and they just seem incapable of fixing them. I think in your case the fact that they easily fixed the error actually seems like a good sign– it’s possible the interviewer didn’t properly log something on their calendar or the coordinator just misread it, that kind of stuff happens all the time even at functional companies.

      If it happens multiple times and you get a sense that they are mad you even identified it as a problem that’s more of a red flag.

      1. Brevity*

        It’s also possible that the interviewer had a serious emergency (e.g., a parent just died) and while they contacted their employer to say they weren’t coming in, completely forgot about the interview. So I agree with Ama above: the employer’s reaction (which was great) reveals far more about them than the mistake.

    3. Double A*

      I honestly think how people deal with mistakes and hiccups is hugely telling. The initial mix up is not a red flag, scheduling errors happen to the best of us, but the prompt addressing of it to me is a green flag.

      I’ve found that what will make me like a person/company and feel loyal to them is not really how they run their day to day operations, but how they treat me when there’s been a mistake.

    4. Wordybird*

      I think it’s generally indicative of how healthy or toxic the company is unless it’s for a huge F500 company or something.

      The hiring process for my current role took a whirlwind 8 days, and the company moves pretty fast in many ways which sometimes means that things get overlooked or steps are taken out of the process altogether to make deadlines. Deadlines tend to be weighted more heavily than following the standard procedure for things even if that opens the door for more or larger mistakes.

      The hiring process for my most recent former role involved interviewing with my supervisor and my supervisor only and then a weird 3 weeks of radio silence before I received an offer via email. That company was really small with my supervisor running most things and a CEO who was pretty hands-off with most of the company. Since my supervisor was stretched so thin most of the time, I did most of my work on my own with very little input or feedback from her, and there were some times when I would have to wait days on a response before I could continue with my work. Payroll, HR, etc. was outsourced to external vendors which sometimes meant that my supervisor didn’t know or understand what our benefits were or how our pay worked, and she tended to make on-the-fly decisions about most things and then wait to see if they needed to be amended later.

      The worst job I ever had was recommended by a friend, and the interview process was meeting with my supervisor and then being immediately offered the job. Although he had a supervisor and there was a CEO/owner of the company, they were not even mentioned during the interview and they were absent from the office, too. I worked there 18 months and I believe I met my grandboss once and the CEO twice. When I had questions about the job or suggestions for improvement, I was “not allowed” to contact either my grandboss or the CEO and was told that my supervisor would pass those comments along. We worked on a quota system which everyone would finish by lunchtime but were not allowed to leave the office until 4 so we were told to “look busy.” When the CEO happened to come by one day after 4, he proclaimed (but not directly to us, of course) it was a “bad look” for us to be gone that early so we were then required to stay until 4:30. No one was shocked when the company was so badly mismanaged that they closed up shop within 5 years of opening.

  40. Spaceballs The Flamethrower*

    I worked in a union shop for a long time, where even though I was full-time and had set hours in an office environment, we were hourly in the sense that if we went beyond 40 hours we got OT, if we worked a weekend we got OT or double-time, etc. So the hours were very carefully monitored and parsed.

    Now I am in a salaried role. I work from home and while there are core hours and there are meetings and deadlines, there is also a lot of time when no one is actively looking for me. I generally stay put at the desk the whole day, perhaps stopping for a 30 minute lunch or 30 minutes to bring a kid home from school or something like that. But I am still in that nickel-and-diming mentality where my hours are concerned. If I take an hour long lunch, I work an extra 30 minutes; if I am gone 30 minutes to pick up a kid, I work an extra 30 minutes. This has mostly been fine until recently.

    My parents have had a slew of medical problems and a handful of totally unexpected emergencies recently. For example, on Monday I expected to be needed by them for a couple of hours, so I made arrangements with my coworkers that I’d be away for a couple of hours. Upon getting to where they were, Parent 1’s planned medical procedure was off to a delayed start and Parent 2 was visibly ill and I could not in good conscience leave them. I ended up missing the entire rest of the day, 6 hours (thank God I had gotten 2 hours in early in the morning before leaving). I’ve been struggling all week to make up this time because I also had other appointments of my own, trying to use up all my 2023 FSA money before it vanishes.

    So I emailed my boss, whom I’ve known for a long time, to tell her the plan I have devised to make up all this lost time and that I may have to work some on the weekend, etc. And she basically said, okay, whatever works for you, but remember you are salary and this is not an exact science. Which I take to mean, relax a little bit and stop nickel-and-diming yourself to death! So I guess what I am wondering is, if you are a salaried worker in a job where you need to get your work done but you don’t have to have your butt in a seat for X consecutive hours, how do you handle that flexibility? I would love to not drive myself insane over making up every minute I am yoinked away from my job, but I don’t want to be unethical. Thoughts?

    1. Rainy*

      What if instead of thinking about your work in terms of time, you thought of it in terms of tasks? If you finished everything that needed to happen that day, or could make provision to finish it over your week, that’s probably fine since you are salaried. You’re being paid to do the thing, not to have your bum in a seat. :)

    2. Decidedly Me*

      For me, there are many times where I’ve worked extra (being available late or on weekends, taking on a projects that required more time, major tech issues to oversee after hours, etc) and I mostly assume it evens out. I don’t track this, so I don’t know for sure, but that makes me feel better when my 1 hour appointment over lunch suddenly turns into 2 hours due to traffic and delays. If it’s a small amount of time, I may work it elsewhere (got started a bit late, so will work a bit late), but overall, I assume it’s evened out.

      1. Antilles*

        That’s how I’ve usually viewed it too. The flexibility of being salaried as something which goes both ways in the big picture and should more or less even out over time.
        The boss doesn’t hassle me over taking a longer lunch to meet with a friend or get mad that I’m 15 minutes late in the morning because of traffic. Nor does he expect me to make up that time. But in return, when there’s a deadline, I’m working extra as needed to meet that deadline, rather than sprinting out the door at 5:00 sharp.

    3. Maggie*

      Well honestly I would have just done all that without telling anyone or even thinking about telling work unless I had specific meetings scheduled or I was responsible for something like picking up the customer service phone line.

      1. Spaceballs The Flamethrower*

        Good question. My boss may have wondered this too. At that old job I had, there were always multiple people closely inspecting timesheets. I got in the habit of sending a note to the boss to explain why my hours are unusual etc. in an effort to stave off the inevitable cascade of emails asking why I worked something other than 5 days at 8 hours each. We also have a person now who is not my boss but who watches our timesheets and often sends me questions and corrections. Usually my boss follows up to tell me what I did is fine and no correction is needed, but it’s enough to make me feel sort of jumpy and “watched.”

    4. A Girl Named Fred*

      I may or may not be an outlier in this opinion, but I don’t think it’s unethical AT ALL to be a salaried employee who doesn’t worry about making up some flexed time in a week as long as your tasks are getting done. (And even then, with the week you had? I probably wouldn’t even worry that much about it if the tasks weren’t done as long as none of them were urgent, emergency, and/or particularly time-sensitive.)

      Please start taking lunches or picking up your kid without worrying about the thirty minutes you were gone. The world will keep turning while your butt is out of the seat, and hopefully you’ll breathe easier too. Best of luck, I’m rooting for you!

    5. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Does your employer want you to work around 40 hours, or keep your comp account within a certain range of hours, or are they only interested in your performance?
      Ask your manager about her expectations if you are unsure.

      At FinalJob we badged in and out and every minute above or below went into our comp account. So long as work was done and that account stayed within about the range -40 to +80, flexibility was almost unlimited as to how many hours or start/end times on any day. I loved it because that meant I never did overtime for free.

      1. Spaceballs The Flamethrower*

        We don’t have a comp account. I would say the attitude is mostly the latter (focused on performance) and working around 40 hours. I know if someone works more hours than normal during the week, they prefer we knock off a little early or come in a bit late on the Friday to equalize it. Our timesheets need to come out to 40 hours, and I guess I am just being super super literal about how it gets to 40. Apparently more literal than my boss thinks is really necessary, ha.

        1. Pretty as a Princess*

          So if you are salaried and have timesheets, my guess is there is time being billed to client accounts or some other cost center, right? That’s just something to think about. Is it hours or is it tracked on a basis like % of day or % of week?

          In the situation you described, I’d have just taken the whole day as a PTO day and not worried about it, once it got to the more than a half day point. THen you don’t need to worry about “did I get all the work done for that day”.

          I would think that in general if you were able to meet your weekly workload, then I wouldn’t sweat how you peanut butter 6 hours. But if you are not able to meet the workload, log the day as PTO and talk with your boss about plans for any *tasks* that had to get pushed back as a result.

    6. Morgan Proctor*

      I simply take the time I need and don’t worry about it. This is obviously going to vary from employer to employer, but my employer is cool about us taking time during the day for things like this as long as we’re getting our work done. I don’t even inform anyone about it, I just put “busy” on the calendar during the times I won’t be at my desk. I also don’t make up hours. If I’m getting my work done, there’s literally no point. Again, this will vary according to your workload and your work culture, but that’s how this works for me.

    7. 1,000 Snails in a Lady Skin*

      At my company, salaried hours is definitely flexible (we also have “unlimited PTO” which may or may not be related to how we treat this) — and it’s been explained to me by HR that it’s “an average of 40 hrs / week over the course of a year.”

      So some weeks it’s ok if you have a lot of appointments or take a lot of breaks and might be closer to 30 or 35 hours — but when your project comes due, you shouldn’t complain about working 45 hours those weeks.

      We definitely do not track within a given week. I do try to kinda pay attention to my own hours so that I am getting all my work done and then some (ie finding those ‘above and beyond’ projects for myself that wouldn’t happen if I was only ever getting the bare minimum done)… but I only care about my direct reports’ hours if their work isn’t getting done.

    8. Bitte Meddler*

      My work is project – and deliverable-based. As long as I get things done when they are expected and the quality is good, no one cares if I do the work in exact 8-hour chunks or if I fit it in around a bunch of other stuff in my life.

      So I stay focused on my output. Some days I’m in a flow and can crank through a ton of brain-intensive stuff in half the time it would normally take me. But then I’m mentally spent and go do some non-brain things (like laundry, or reading AAM, or whatever). Other days I get handed a bunch of stuff with tight deadlines and I’ll put in a few 10-11 hours days to get it all wrapped up.

      In the end, it all kinds of evens out.

    9. Starbuck*

      It’s not unethical if you’re meeting their expectations for productivity goals. The point is to get enough done, not fill a rigid 40 hours. Set yourself a daily or weekly to-do list if you don’t already have that, and check stuff off so you can see what you’re getting done, rather than numbers on a time sheet. And so you can comfort yourself with data that you’re not falling off.

      Your bosses comment is a great sign. Stop watching the clock so much! Chill out!

  41. Anonny NonErson*

    On my team is an employee that struggles with what I think of as “the last 10%” of a task.

    This person used to be a coworker (I was promoted) and this was a problem for the previous manager as well.

    I’ve been trying to coach him through this, given him examples as they occurred and said what I expected to go differently, etc.

    What mostly falls through the cracks or he needs reminders to finish are either administrative tasks (scheduling a meeting, asking for more information, closing an internal ticket loop) OR the “polish” on something – not just pulling requested data, but spending time to make the spreadsheet a finished product: column headers, bolding, making sure it’s readable/printable, etc.

    I’m dangerously close to deciding that it’s not a matter of not understanding what I am saying, but rather choosing not to do those things.

    An example of this: today I followed up on an email another department had sent him (and copied me on). What this email asked for is solidly in his wheelhouse, and requires no intervention from me to complete. He replied to me that he needed more information from the requestor….but he hasn’t asked the requestor for that at any point since the original email. I had to tell him to do that today.

    I guess I’m asking for validation that this is something to be really annoyed by, but I’m also asking for advice from anyone who might have successfully gotten a direct report to understand the problem with this behavior and corrected it?

    1. Glazed Donut*

      It doesn’t hurt to be very clear with expectations. When he told you he needs more info, you can say “Email Jane to ask directly for what you need.” or “I trust if you need something from Jane, you will reach out in order to continue the work on this project within our timeline” Sometimes it can help to color it as org specific “I know it can seem tiresome, but it’s good to reply back that you received the document in order to close the loop. I do it too, so the person won’t have to worry…”
      I’ll also say that if there’s something a checklist can solve, it may be worth asking him to make a checklist and share it with you: bolded columns, adjusted widths, appropriate file name, etc.

    2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Describe clearly in your next 1-1 that this is an esswential part of his job which he is not doing properly.
      Tell him this will affect promotions and merit rises (if your org does these).
      Ask how he proposes to correct this in future, e.g. checklists you could help him with

    3. beep beep*

      This sounds super annoying, and also like something I’ve definitely done in the past. I second the idea of checklists, and if possible, asking what the barrier tends to be for him to doing these things. Did something happen that stopped him from sending the email to the requestor? Did he just forget? There may not be a good answer to this question, but it may be worth asking.

    4. Hiring Mgr*

      With the part about polish, can you show him an example of what a good version of the spreadsheet would look like, compared to what he currently does? I know that sounds basic, but some people truly don’t get this kind of thing unless it’s visual.

    5. Cat Sofa*

      You’ve told him about examples as they arose – but have you named the pattern you’re seeing, told him why it’s a problem, and made it explicitly clear to him that he needs to change how he approaches these tasks if he wants to keep his job? And done so clearly, directly and without softening your language? If not, I’d start there.

    6. ThursdaysGeek*

      I worked with a guy like that. He liked to do the fun part of coding, but testing, talking to users – he put all that off. He was seen as fast, but that’s because he only did 70% of the job. I ended up cleaning up after him, which got no credit. I wish my boss had seen that and held him to standards that included finishing the jobs.

    7. Casey*

      I have this guy on my team too. Also used to be my teammate and is now my direct report. In my case I’ve found that some people need “process” instructions and others need “outcome” instructions. eg “Can you go to the grocery store for breakfast stuff?” vs “I need a dozen eggs and one pack of chicken sausage, can you get me that?”

      For this specific employee, it clicked for me once I realized that he found process-based instructions to be too patronizing (“I know the grocery store is where one buys food”) and too vague (“you’re making me go back? I bought orange juice! That’s a breakfast thing!”), which combined with resentment that he didn’t get promoted to mean that he would often turn in the bare minimum. Some of my other people just need to understand the process and then they’ll check the fridge themselves, which is honestly what I prefer, but with this guy, I’ve had a lot of success by being very clear and calm about the final product and giving him autonomy in how to get there.

  42. Human Embodiment of the 100 Emoji*

    How frank should I be with an intern who is applying to grad school if I don’t think they’re prepared for grad school? This intern is applying to graduate programs in the same field in which I got my Master’s degree. They’re a recent undergrad, and because I’m not their direct supervisor (I’m interim supervising while their supervisor is out), I haven’t seen a lot of their writing or research work before. However, they turned in a draft of their final report recently and… honestly, I would describe the writing as early high-school level. Their regular supervisor has also shared with me that she is concerned about their research skills, and this is a research-heavy degree program.

    I’m not even sure if they’ll get into the grad schools they’re applying to this year, but should I tell them that I think they need to improve their writing and research skills before they go to grad school? Or should I just stay out of it?

    1. Rara Avis*

      It might depend on how long the interim is. It seems like a kindness to give them feedback on what they need to improve. Has their regular supervisor given them any of that sort of feedback?

      1. Antilles*

        Yeah, this seems like the kind of feedback that should really come from Intern’s regular supervisor, not someone who’s only reviewed a single report.
        Now if you’re asked? You can definitely have that honest conversation and say that based on experience and your review of their report, they need to polish up their writing/research skills.

    2. Rainy*

      Nobody’s ever prepared for grad school, no matter how prepared for grad school they are. If they aren’t prepared for grad school and they’re applying for traditional grad programs (not professional master’s programs), they won’t get in if their application doesn’t demonstrate that they’re ready or have the potential to level up in an appropriate amount of time.

      If they asked me for a recommendation or advice, I’d have a frank conversation, but otherwise I’d probably butt out.

      It’s also worth remembering that the writing and research skills you have when you complete grad school are significantly better than what you came in with, because that’s what grad school is for. :)

    3. Teacher372*

      Unless they ask for a recommendation from you, or ask you directly for what they can do to be better prepared for grad school, don’t give unsolicited advice.

      You don’t know what can change or how school will help or improve them and making someone who wants to learn feel badly without being prompted is bad mentorship/being a bad teacher.

      I am a teacher (not in college, but secondary school) and have my masters and went to a very well regarded and specialized undergrad and grad school programs.

      Two of my students wanted to attend a program I attended. The first I was sure would succeed in a rigorous college environment. He ended up struggling and dropped out. The second really struggled to graduate. He became a superstar student. I never would’ve thought, based on my interactions, those two kids would have such different outcomes. But I’m glad, when they wanted to discuss the schools and programs, I could answer questions about the programs and pros and cons; but didn’t go beyond what they wanted to discuss.

    4. nopetopus*

      I would stay out of it. They haven’t asked, you aren’t their regular supervisor, and to be honest I don’t think it’s in your workplace’s purview. If their writing and researching isn’t satisfactory for their work now with your company, definitely tell them that! But otherwise, I’d leave it to the grad school to reject them.

  43. KT*

    I am making my peace with the fact that if I leave my current job I will take a pretty steep pay cut, so I’m resigned to staying for the near future. A key retirement in the next couple of months is going to result in a change in leadership for my organization, and I’m interested in seeing what new blood could bring. So…how do I cope until then?

    I’m pretty high up in the management structure, which makes things worse in some ways. I think the dysfunction is affecting everyone but the weight of it hits right around my level. People look to us to fix the problems…but we can’t.

    What are your best tips for letting work related ridiculousness roll off of you?

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      As you are being paid much more than you would be elsewhere, tell yourself this extra is your bonus for putting up with disfunction.

    2. Ama*

      If you know there’s nothing you can do about the problems, can you think of the key function of your job as maintenance? You aren’t going to spend any energy trying to fix the things that won’t change but you’ll try to keep things that you can do moving in a timely manner.

      I’m leaving my job at the end of June (they don’t know yet) and I was struggling a bit with getting through six more months because there’s just so many things not functioning the way they should (and I know this sounds silly but as an employee who has been here for ten years it kind of felt like I could say or do something on my way out that would magically get this place back to what it was when I was hired). But just yesterday our most dysfunctional department blew up yet again, causing more work for my own, and I suddenly had an epiphany that the ridiculousness of this place is never going to end and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. All I can do is keep my own department moving forward and hand things off when I’m ready to go.

    3. BellyButton*

      Uggg. I am sorry you are in that position. My last job I was in a similar place. I am not one that can easily let things go. I am a high performer, love what I do, and like to have a positive impact. And when I can’t it really takes a toll on my mental health. I had to really take care of myself, taking lunch out of the office- when I am a eat at my desk kind of person, leave on time, turn off notifications on my phone for email and Slack. I had to physically and mentally disengage.

      Hope this helps! Good luck!

  44. Hawk*

    I think I’ve reached a time for transition in my work journey. When I was in college, I realized that museum work, particularly history museum work, was my “ideal” field. I was open to adjacent work, and did end up in a museum. I left after realizing that a graduate degree I could never pay back wasn’t in the picture for me. After three years in the museum, I ended up in a public library system and doubled my pay. My position is “entry level” but is a librarian-equivalent paraprofessional position, where in the grand scheme of things I’m closer to middle of the general tier of staff. After preexisting physical and mental health issues resulted in a move to part time, I’m finding my stride in my work. Except I know I’m going to burn out if I stay with public libraries over the next few years, especially depending on both local and national elections.
    In an ideal world, I would have my own business as a private tour guide specifically for fellow neurodivergent and otherwise disabled folks. I know my area well and the DC museums in particular. Or I would work in a living history type museum, or create museum style programs for public libraries and groups that may not be able to afford being able to visit a museum. My husband’s job ties us here, and I’m not upset about that — it’s a good job with great pay for the region.
    Given the above, what types of jobs should I look for to apply to? Any career paths I’m missing?

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      Archives might be an option, if you enjoy complicated filing and are detail oriented. You didn’t mention if you have the MLIS or not, that would open other doors, specifically moving into academic or special libraries.

        1. AnotherLibrarian*

          Not having an MLIS, will limit academic work in general, because the MLIS is considered a terminal degree and universities are judged on how many people have terminal degrees in their fields when accreditation review happens. That’s one of the reasons, I don’t recommend Masters in Public History (because it’s not terminal, the PhD is) to people who want to work in archives and want to work in academic environments. This, of course, may very well not apply to you.

          Archives will absolutely hire folks for staff positions without a terminal degree (or a masters), but faculty positions and higher level positions maybe limi