are managers “deeply concerned” if you ask for feedback, I got in trouble for saying I didn’t want to be “a dick,” and more

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

1. Are managers “deeply concerned” if you ask for feedback?

A while back, I took an advanced class in a topic I’d never studied, but still within my department. I mentioned this to the professor before committing. This was a small class (~10 students) and as typical for such small advanced-level classes in my department, we’d received no feedback or grades a month and a half in. (The general assumption is if you show up and are engaged in the material, you’re getting an A, since you’re there because you’re genuinely interested.) A couple of days before the drop deadline, I emailed the professor with what I assumed was a routine clarification on how I was doing in her class (since this was a new topic to me) because if I wasn’t doing well, I’d rather drop the class.

Well. That was a mistake. I got a blistering email back about how she had thought I was doing well, but clearly she had been mistaken and if she was wrong about that, what else was she wrong about? This professor had always been blunt, but the email was vicious and I was left nearly in tears. I talked to her after the next class to clear up whatever miscommunication had happened, trying to say that I was just looking for some feedback because I’d never taken this subject before, but she talked over me the whole time, saying things like: “all this haggling about grades is why so many professors quit” and “you have to be able to judge your own work” and “if I were your manager and I got that email from you, I would’ve been deeply concerned about your performance.” (In my head, I was thinking: “if you were my manager, I would’ve run the other way.”)

This tale has an unsatisfactory conclusion. She emailed all the students with feedback the next week in the vein of “I need a record of this in case somebody complains” and the rest of the semester went downhill. I never did stop flinching at new emails from her in my inbox. Was there something better I could have done to resolve this situation? Was this just a crazy scenario that I would never encounter in the professional world? Is there a way of asking for feedback from these kinds of people without causing them to erupt? Or was this a red flag and my instincts to run were right? (I and my GPA sorely regret not dropping that class when I could.)

What on earth. Whatever your professor was reacting to, I don’t think it was about you. You asked a very reasonable and mild question! She’s also dead wrong about work: It’s very, very normal to ask your manager for feedback about how you’re doing if you’re not getting much. In fact, it’s something I recommend! The idea that a manager should be “deeply concerned” about someone’s performance because they asked for feedback is astoundingly backwards; asking for feedback tends to be the mark of someone who’s conscientious and wants to do a good job! Certainly if someone is asking multiple times a day and if, after repeated guidance, can’t assess whether routine work is hitting the mark or not, that could be a problem — but that’s the only point where “you have to be able to judge your own work” would come into it.

Asking once about how you’re doing overall? Your professor was a nut. If I were her manager and she reacted this way to an employee requesting feedback, I’d be deeply concerned about her (and that’s an understatement).

2. How do I recharge with physical touch at work?

I’m currently working to get my master’s degree, and I’m about halfway through my final internship at a care facility. I enjoy the work and the team. Regardless, it’s still a lot! Especially with my university homework taking up a lot of my free time, I’m starting some weeks feeling a lot more stressed/tired than others.

In my personal time I recharge by connecting with my loved ones, and I’m huge on physical touch — I’ve always been a hugger and a hand-holder. Having (non-work-related) chats with my coworkers over lunch definitely helps fill my bucket back up halfway through the day, but recently, it’s not been enough. I feel fully empty before the workday is over and find myself craving some kind of physical touch or pressure.

Hugging my coworkers doesn’t exactly seem like an option! I own some large plushies that I sometimes chill on the couch with, but I don’t think that’s an acceptable substitute for in office either. Maybe a neutral pillow of the same size to have on my lap could work, but that still feels a bit too unusual (especially for an intern). Is there another option? Am I gonna have to find a different way to recharge my battery? Or am I overthinking and would a pillow be fine actually?

A pillow might be fine (definitely not a bed pillow, but something more like a throw pillow) but it would still be pretty unusual in some offices, and, particularly if you’re new to the work world, it risks looking … odd. Can you look for other ways to recharge? Since physical touch is an important piece of it, would something like squeezing a stress ball help?

3. I got in trouble for saying I didn’t want to be “a dick”

During an audit I conducted last week, I referenced that I didn’t want to be “a dick” about a finding. (This was not in a report and was just part of conversation regarding some of the findings we had during the audit.) The auditees reported me to my company and I got disciplined. Is this even a legit disciplinary?

Were the auditees from an external client or were they internal colleagues? Either way, it’s legitimate for your company to say that they don’t want you using “dick” in professional conversations — but it’s extra understandable for them to think it was bad judgment to say to an external client.

That said, if it was to internal colleagues, formal discipline seems excessive; they could simply tell you not to say it again and consider the message delivered.

4. My coworker wants to know if I’m applying for a job she really, really wants

Over the past several months, a coworker has shared with me and others that she wants a position many people suspected would open up soon. She had originally applied and interviewed for the position a couple of years ago but did not get it. I (and other team members) were on the interview committee. So she has wanted this job for a long time.

The role opened up last week. My coworker immediately stated her intent to apply to some of us on the team. She highlighted her experience doing the work associated with the role and her deep interest in many parts of the work. Over the last few months when she has talked about this, I’ve tried to mostly stay quiet. I’m all for people going after what they want. And I can see a number of strengths she has that would be well suited for the open position. However, in the event that I’m asked to be on the interview committee, I want to evaluate all candidates as fairly as possible.

My coworker messaged me asking if I plan to apply for the role. I immediately felt uncomfortable. I had no intention of applying for it. But if I had, I don’t know that I would want to share that information with someone who has been saying for months how qualified they are and how badly they want the position. Well, after receiving her message I was strongly encouraged to apply. I haven’t decided what I’ll do, but I did promise to give it some thought.

What should I say to my coworker? I haven’t made up my mind. It doesn’t feel right to ignore her. But it also feels intimidating to be asked such a question in this scenario. Oh and to make matters more complicated, my coworker would be a direct report of whoever steps into the role.

Yeah, against that backdrop your coworker’s message feels very much like, “Are you going to compete with me for this thing you know I badly want?”

She’s put you in an awkward position and, because of that, I would consider not replying. She’s not entitled to the information, after all! But if you don’t want to do that or assume she’ll just confront you in person if you do, stay as bland as possible: “I’m not sure. I think we all owe to ourselves to consider opportunities that come along, but I don’t know yet.”

If she flips out on you in response, consider having a discreet word with your manager about it — because she can/should explain to your coworker that she can’t call dibs on a job, and trying to intimidate other people out of applying isn’t a move that will strengthen her candidacy.

5. My employer got rid of salary bands

I work at a private university. The university as a whole has 11 “grades” with salary ranges. But the library — which has about 500 staff — has decided that, from now on, we aren’t using the grades. Instead, we have one giant band for all the non-unionized individual contributors, and one giant band for all the managers. Both bands are the same, and quite broad: $65k-$170k. Unionized library staff, and the rest of the university, still have narrower grades. The announcement said, “A single band will allow for more accurate salary reviews and monitoring of pay equity going forward.”

But — how will collapsing the grades into one new band that covers everyone make salary reviews and monitoring more accurate? Not being an HR expert, I would have thought that you’d monitor pay equity by comparing the people in band A to each other, and comparing the people in band B to each other, etc., and also considering whether people with marginalized characteristics are “stuck” in lower bands. Or you could do it by years of experience — but even in that case, I don’t see how the existence of multiple bands would somehow make that approach harder or less accurate.

Does the stated explanation make sense? Is this a good practice? I can’t imagine that it will make it easier to recruit new hires, now that the salary range is so large as to be meaningless. And I’m certainly upset that the raises I thought I could expect, based on my progress through the grades, are now apparently in question. But I don’t have a lot of trust or confidence in the organization — maybe that is poisoning my reaction to a reasonable change?

No, by having everyone in one massive band, they’ve essentially opted out of using pay bands at all. The claim that this will make it easy to monitor pay equity is nonsensical; they’re removed a tool to do it. They’ve also decreased salary transparency; you now have no idea what any given job should pay or what the pay potential is for a particular job. They’ve given themselves maximum flexibility while giving employees minimum info.

{ 573 comments… read them below }

  1. Daria Grace*

    #2, I’m not super big on touch so I’m not sure, but is there something you can do with clothing and blankets? Would a warm tighter under-layer feel a little like a hug? Would a lap size weighted blanket help? Would holding warm heat packs be sorta like holding hands?

    1. office hobbit*

      I was going to suggest something like this. Maybe a loose cardigan or a stole (like a blanket scarf) that you can wrap around yourself in a hug? (From the description I’m not sure if OP will have a desk, which would make this sort of temporary overlayer easier, because you can leave it there and pretend you only put it on when you’re cold.) Or, holding a warm mug can sometimes mimic the touch of handholding.

      1. Writer Claire*

        Someone gave me a lovely alpaca blanket for Christmas–it’s my favorite color and it’s like a warm and soft hug when I wrap it around me. A blanket would be too much for the office, but a shawl might work just as well.

    2. ThatOtherClare*

      If it’s more the feeling of love and connection, do you have something work appropriate from a close person that you can hold? A necklace from a Grandparent that you can hold tight and feel like you’re hugging them, or a teeny-tiny octopus crocheted for you by your best friend that you can keep in your pocket?

      1. Loredena*

        That’s a good thought! During a stressful time I wore a ring that had belonged to my great grandmother. It was comforting

      2. Left Turn at Albuquerque*

        I now have a stupendous craving for a crocheted pocket octopus, something that I never knew was a thing until 30 seconds ago.

        1. emmelemm*

          I know, right? I have a few little crocheted animals but none are really quite pocket sized. Imagine a tiny octopus friend!

    3. Skippy*

      Really cozy shawl; rich (fragrance free) hand cream that you use to massage into your hands and stretch–good for overuse with a keyboard! I also know people who like to hold a cup of hot tea or even just hot water.

      1. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

        Love the hand cream and hot drink suggestions. I do both of these and they really help improve my mood.

    4. allathian*

      Depending on how often the LW feels the need for touch, one simple option that doesn’t require any extra stuff at all is hugging themself in the bathroom (stall). Obviously this doesn’t help if the LW wants something unobtrusive to give that sensation of touch in a meeting. A mug of hot coffee or tea to cradle in your hands might help there.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I used to kind of hug myself while rubbing my arms even in the open office. I was doing it because it was too dang cold in the office, but no one ever commented on it.

    5. Still*

      I came here to suggest a weighted blanket, on the lap or maybe even the shoulders if the LW could do it under the guise of just being cold, and if it doesn’t seem too out of step with the office norms. The weight is really comforting!

      Alternatively, could the LW schedule a short regular phone call with a loved one during lunch or later in the afternoon? Ten minutes on the phone with someone they’re truly close to might help more than friendly chats with coworkers.

      1. LW2*

        A call does really help, I’ll often call someone as I’m stepping out of the building! Over lunch it’s a bit harder, given that I don’t take lunch at the same time everyday, but I’m definitely gonna take stock of what people might be available on different days. (Also mildly related but our office doesn’t have a breakroom inside so everyone just takes lunch at their desks and it drives me WILD, it’s so hard to disconnect from work that way!! Can’t wait for the weather to get better so I can at least sit on the terrace)

        1. amoeba*

          Honestly, for me that would probably be a big factor in (lack of) recharging! I know it’s not related to the touch, but as you mentioned that it does help to chat with coworkers during lunch – any chance to set up a bit more of an actual “social” lunch thing? Maybe at least in the warmer seasons (or if not at all possible, at least something to look out for for future jobs)?
          I mean, I’m not in the US so I get that it’s way more common there to work through your lunch – but as somebody who’s always had a 30-60 min lunch hour with colleagues outside the office, generally with friendly people, not talking about work, losing that would probably make me quite miserable. It really does recharge me, and I missed it so much during WFH/lockdown!
          If that’s not possible, I’d at least bring a really good book/chat to some friends (maybe just by text if a call would be too much) – maybe you could even find somebody who’d be happy with longer e-mails or voice messages that take some time to record/write and consume, so you could spend your lunch break with that? Or even join an online community, basically anything that would give you chatting/social interaction during lunch? (Although anything virtual certainly doesn’t work the same for me as engaging with actual live human beings…)

        2. JustaTech*

          We have a break room at my office but no one uses it anymore (post-COVID culture change) so I also eat at my desk, but I don’t work while I eat! I fire up a work-appropriate YouTube show and watch that. (Highly recommend Tasting History!) I’d rather chat with my coworkers away from our desks, but that’s not a thing anymore, so this is my best compromise.

    6. Kiki Is The Most*

      I, too, am huggy. Thankfully I have a couple coworkers that are the same and it is helpful. However, when this is not an option in my day, I also try to focus on other ‘comfort’ activities such as deep breaths or a break outside to get some air, fruity/comfort smells such as vanilla, and basic stretches. (For those colleagues that are scent-sensitive, I have a scented lip balms and a small fruity sachet in my desk drawer–with no complaints).

      1. LW2*

        I have a nice hand cream but I find that a bit too fragrant for a shared office, so I love the lip balm idea as an alternative!

    7. JSPA*

      I find that doing some standing stretch that requires me to lean and flatten my back against a wall is useful in this way, and mindful awareness of the texture and temperature and material of the wall is part of what’s physically grounding. Tight neck, wall angels, whatever (and stretching for 30 seconds in a quiet spot is relatively unremarkable).

    8. SpiderLadyCEO*

      I’m seconding tighter underlayers if OP is seeking pressure, specifically. Shape ware can be really good for this, because it’s designed to suck you in. I can’t wear it for a long time but it helps me a lot. I also do bike shorts under dresses, tank tops under all shirts. Stiff, high waisted jeans also work for me – anything that makes me feel supported.

      The caveat here is that I have all-day sensory issues, and these are what work for me, but I don’t know how they would work to recharge. But maybe if OP feels a little more secure and comfortable all day they won’t feel so drained by the end?

    9. Constance Lloyd*

      Or maybe one of those tubes of rice/seeds you can heat in the microwave and drape over your neck? It would provide heat and pressure and also appear to serve a function easily associated with desk work (neck pain).

    10. thatoneoverthere*

      I was going to say a lap sized weighted blanket too. Maybe in your office you could drape it over your chest or shoulders.

      1. Reluctant Mezzo*

        I have a rice-filled lap pad I can heat up in the microwave and it feels really nice (also good for bad hips).

    11. DJ Abbott*

      I don’t get a lot of touch in my life, so I can’t speak to that. However, I’ve always found it best to make the effort to get clothes I’m comfortable with. I run cold, so I make sure I have enough layers to stay warm. I like tighter clothes for the same reason, and because I’ve always liked fitted clothes aesthetically. I also make sure I’m ok with the way they look, so I can feel good about myself.
      Some of this might help OP.

      1. Sloanicota*

        I agree that the right “soft” fabric makes a big difference to me. I suspect it varies to everyone what the right kind of softness is – could be faux fur, or fleece, or cashmere, or cool bamboo material – but perhaps it would help to have a cardigan/blanket in whatever material gives you that sense of comfort.

    12. LW2*

      There’s a lot of comments under this one so just wanted to jump in and thank people for their ideas! In reading all of them I realised the pressure thing for me isn’t so much a “being squeezed” as a “squeezing (tensing my muscles)” need, and I do know that just pressing my palms together really hard can sometimes help with that. So simple but I had forgotten about it until this whole discussion got my gears turning!

      1. Nep*

        If it’s the squeezing of the muscles that helps, look into progressive muscle relaxation! I learned about it in therapy, it’s useful for chilling your body out if it’s super stressed, but it sounds like it could be helpful for you too.

        Basically, tensing your muscles and releasing in sequence. There’s guided versions on youtube, but you can come up with your own routine. Example: tense your lower arms, hold for five seconds, release; then entire arm, hold, release; etc.

        It’s super subtle so you could do it at your desk if you know you’re going to be undisturbed for a few minutes.

        Another thing a therapist taught me when I was feeling in need of comfort was to ball one fist together, then cover it with the other, then press them both into the center of my chest. I have breasts, so I aim basically right in between them. I tend to really tense the arms to put a lot of (comforting) pressure on my chest. It’s very similar to a self-hug in effect.

        Hope you find lots of helpful things in the thread!

      2. Gozer (she/her)*

        Not a ‘need to be touched’ thing but a sensory stimulus thing of mine – I really get a great feeling from stroking my cat. Obviously can’t bring him into the office because he’d wreck the joint but I’ve got these gloves with a lovely patch of fake fur on them that feels just like kitty. So tactile!

      3. Thrillian*

        Is there any chance you could claim you’ve joined a fitness challenge and incorporate wall sits in a discreet location? That’s a hell of a muscle tenser on the quads! Heck, START an office fitness challenge where people team up and try to rack up the most time wall-sitting LOL

          1. BlueSwimmer*

            I recently took a somatic movement class where we used mid-sized bouncy balls (like the size of a soccer ball) to gently bounce against the wall up and down our backs. It felt so relaxing and calming that I ordered one to do it at home and have been bouncing to destress every since. Basically, you just put the ball behind your back on the wall and lean into it and gently bounce. It’s like a cheap, gentle massage.

            You could say you have back problems and need to do this to help release muscle tension. I find no one ever questions back pain (I have a friend who used to escape boring meetings by saying her back was hurting and she needed to go stretch).

      4. Nonanon*

        If it’s the “squeezing”/muscle engagement that helps, there are also several desk yoga stretches you can do; minor enough that it can be “explained away” as “ah yes I have tight muscles” BUT also if it’s enough to help get that engagement you like more power to you :)

      5. DrSalty*

        Oh I bet a stress ball would be great! And it’s a classic office knick knack that wouldn’t draw any attention.

      6. Becca*

        I realize there’s any number of reasons why this might not be feasible, but sometimes local animal shelters let people walk or play with dogs (and maybe cats? I’ve mostly seen it with dogs though) to help keep them socialized while they’re waiting for homes. It would be a way to get in some physical touch (and be with a creature who is just happy to be with you) without needing to worry about feeding/caring for it.

      7. Anon (and on and on)*

        LW2, I came here to offer the advice of hugging yourself, which has been shown to create similar reactions to others hugging you. Then I tried pressing my palms together and that worked SO WELL for me! I felt my anxiety dip right away. So, thank you for your question and this suggestion as well!

        1. netclari*

          Yes yes! Came here to say this. I find it helps a lot to put a hand on my chest when I’m feeling stressed, or just hold one hand in the other. There’s something called a “butterfly hug” that is used in therapy and has been making the rounds on mental health social media as a form of self soothing. It is basically advanced putting a hand on your chest, and could easily be done in a quiet cubicle or the bathroom!

      8. Betsy S.*

        Thought of this before you mentioned squeezing, so not sure if it would help, but I have neck heating pad that has a bit of weight to it, vaguely similar to this:

        I see there are hundreds of different kinds out there, and some of them are quite inconspicuous

        Other types of things may help , also. A snack with protein in mid-late afternoon, or a 10-minute break with a brisk walk – maybe even with a colleague – might help. Also if you have control over your day, thinking about how to pace yourself to match your daily rhythm may also help.

        Sometimes when you have a challenging job, a certain amount of feeling drained by the end of the day can be part of the deal, especially when it’s new to you. This can change over time as you get acclimated.

    13. Jackalope*

      As an alternative, would you be down for a hobby that involves a lot of physical touch? This would be trickier to do during the workday (although maybe during lunch?), but if you have enough touch outside of work that might help. The two that come to mind for me are ballroom dance and martial arts, although I’m guessing there might be more. Horseback riding or working with animals could also work if it doesn’t have to be human touch. I know this wasn’t quite what you were asking for, but as another person who is touch-oriented I’ve found that if my hobbies involve touch then it makes it easier to get by in the work day without it if I need to.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        This was my thought–you might need to see if you can charge up some backup batteries.

        Outside of the weighted blanket, huggy clothes, and pillow suggestions, I’m at a loss to think of many work-appropriate ways to handle this.

      2. amoeba*

        Hah, yeah, martial arts are great for that! And as a bonus, the people you meet there tend to be quite huggy as well (probably comes with the amount of physical contact you have during class.

        When I moved for work, I left behind a very close work friend who would definitely hug me if I needed it (also, academia, PhD students, so… not weird in the office environment, haha), my best friend whom I shared a flat with, and stopped training aikido for a while. Also, people in my new social group were friendly, but much less physical – they didn’t even hug goodbye. After a few weeks I really realised how much the complete lack of physical touch impacted me, had never considered it before!

        Luckily, I’m now both back to training and also have a romantic partner – but I still miss my more huggy old friends sometimes. (We’re still friends, but remote hugs aren’t the same…)

      3. UKDancer*

        Yes that would be my suggestion. I do ballroom and latin dance and it’s a good way of getting physical contact (dancing cheek to cheek or chest to chest). It’s nice to hug someone and dance with them and I usually feel good and buzzing afterwards. It’s a great natural high. Also dance people tend to be quite touchy feely and so there’s a lot of kissing and hugging when you start.

        I’m not someone who likes physical contact at work (because that doesn’t feel right to me) but I really enjoy the embraces with my dance partners and that works for the person I am outside work.

    14. Cozy brigade*

      Came to recommend exactly that! I use a hot water bottle in a cozy cover at work because it’s freezing, but it does have a side benefit of being a comforting warm weight. Or I’ve had shawls before that felt more like blankets; something like that could add a cozy feeling that I imagine being very soothing in stressful times.

    15. Come On Eileen*

      We have a lot of assisted stretching companies in my town – the one I go to is called StretchLab – and they have short 25 minute appointments as well as 50 minute appointments. You meet with a flexologist and they help you stretch during your appointment. Something for OP to consider! I often pop out for a quick stretch appointment on my lunch break and it’s a lovely session of touch with another human.

    16. Anonymoose*

      LW2 also mentioned working at a care facility. I’m really not a fan of touch, but I always remembered to hug my grandmother when she went into Long Term Care, and when I volunteered at dementia wards I made a point to give them a bit of touch despite my own tendency to avoid shaking hands or more. It was always fleeting because I didn’t know them well, so a quick hand on the shoulder or upper arm when I approached, or sometimes I’d put my hand on theirs if they reached over. I didn’t do it to everyone, only those who were engaged with me and if they’d shown any negative reaction then I would have stopped, but I’d heard years ago that touch can be important when caring for the elderly and it makes me wonder if LW2 is in the type of care home where the sharing of touch can benefit other people too.

      1. BikeWalkBarb*

        Great thought! A simple shoulder squeeze could be appropriate and would give the residents something they need. My mom spent years in a dementia care facility and I could only visit occasionally due to distance (older sister lived in the same town and visited often). I remember arriving one day and giving her a hug and feeling her relax utterly into the sensation of being held. By then my dad had been dead a while and I realized she was probably starving for loving touch.

        1. BlueSwimmer*

          When my mom was in a care facility, so many of the residents liked to be greeted by having me gently hold both of their hands for a moment or two. I would put my hands out palm up so they could lay their hands on mine. I didn’t squeeze in case they had joint pain (I have RA so I do to). My mom and her roommate also loved one of the staffers who would come and paint their nails for them or help them fix their hair.

        2. Lauren*

          I wiped my grandmother’s face with a washcloth every time I saw her. It was a nice comforting thing that she seemed to like made her feel good to have a freshly clean face and many residents might like that but unless your job is patient care, probably shouldn’t touch the patients

    17. J.s.s*

      I’m super confused by this idea of needing to recharge a physical touch battery. In the middle of the work day no less.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          This is how I understand the situation:

          LW2 is working on a masters degree (has coursework) and is doing an internship at a care facility (care work can be physically and emotionally draining). LW2 usually “recharges” with physical touch with friends and family members outside of work. LW2 is feeling fully emotionally drained before the end of the workday, and wants to know what good ways to “recharge” during the workday are (they already identified lunchtime conversations with coworkers are good but not enough, hugs are out, a pillow might be too weird).

          1. Hlao-roo*

            Adding that LW2 replied in the comments section to explain a bit more:

            Possibly the question title is not really helping me; I’m definitely not looking for physical touch at work. I don’t want to touch my coworkers at all and I don’t want them to touch me either! I did jokingly title my email to Alison “I need a hug at work” because that’s the thought that’s going through my head when I’m at work and feeling depleted but still have a couple hours to go. I’m mostly trying to figure out a way to copy the effects of the most effective recharging tactic I have.

    18. Lauren*

      What about the warm blankets they give at care centers? Would it be weird to get one for feeling a little cold? I would be doing this all day long if I could and sat at a desk.

    19. Tammy 2*

      In addition to all the good suggestions here, what about a hot water bottle (with a fuzzy cover) or something else that provides warmth?

    20. Kay*

      Also – I don’t know if the LW has a car or large tote bag where a larger stuffed animal might be able to hang out, and thus a welcome friend during break time?

    21. Lizziana*

      It may not be exactly what you are looking for, but doing a quick meditation or body scan does a good job of bringing me back into my body the same way some physical touch does. I also sometimes do chair yoga (although I have a private office, this would potentially look out of place in some offices).

  2. Fierce Jindo*

    Professor here. The prof in letter #1 is extremely weird and possibly abusive to students. She shouldn’t be teaching and I bet most people in her department can’t stand her.

    1. AJ*

      Any professor who says, “You have to be able to judge your own work,” is ridiculously out of touch. I was really good at academia and still would get frustratingly different results with the same quality work submitted to different professors.

        1. KateM*

          Would there be need for professors? You can just read this book and judge your understanding afterwards…

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            ^This. If I can tell where my work is strong and where it’s weak, I can just address those using my in-depth knowledge of the field, which I have because I’m able to judge my own work.

          2. constant_craving*

            Professors aren’t just there to evaluate though. A good professor is going to teach information in a way that gives you a better understanding than you can learn just by reading.

        2. LW #1*

          Fun fact! She did make us grade our own work near the end, i.e., she asked us what we thought was a reasonable grade for the assignment, and then spent the follow-up email excoriating us for our poor judgment!

          1. HonorBox*

            Knowing this additional fact, I’d go right to requesting a meeting with department chair, Deans and all. Bring all of the emails, including your initial email requesting feedback. This person should not be teaching.

            1. Prof*

              department chair, yes, deans no- that’s a step up and you’re basically bringing in department chair’s boss before giving them a chance to resolve. Go to the chair though- if other students agree with this, go as a group and bring evidence. This is insane behavior by this professor. This is not how you teach or how you treat students.

              1. Prof*

                and I just saw that the chair is the partner of the problem professor. oof….yeah, you may have to go to the dean. Do you have an academic advisor you can talk to about this situation, including this little fact about the chair’s relationship to the professor? A good academic advisor will at least be able to advise you of how to get help.

                1. Banana Pyjamas*

                  Depending on how siloed the departments are, an advisor may not be able to help you. That was my experience anyways. I ended up missing the drop period, but choosing to withdraw. The professor was refusing to grade the online portion of my work or call on me in class, and a withdrawal was just barely better than the failing grade I would have received.

          2. Elle Woods*

            Yikes. This person should not be teaching. Her responses to your honest questions are completely unprofessional.

          3. Dr. Doll*

            Oh, woe. That is NOT how “ungrading” is supposed to work. (I doubt she thought she was using ungrading, just trying to offload a responsibility in a way that looks marginally acceptable to colleagues.)

            Your professor definitely needs some PD. Also, her reaction was NOT about you or the other students, it about her and her unhealthy reactions to the stresses of being a professor. On behalf of wigged-out professors everywhere, I’m really sorry she’s treated you all like that.

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

            Please tell us this class was in like, logic or ethics or a psychological discipline. Because irony.

          5. Phony Genius*

            I had a math professor ask us to put the grade we thought we deserved on the final. Needless to say, a lot of the class took advantage of that. He did not repeat this in the next semester.

          6. Ell*

            Oh my god. She’s completely checked out, she wants to do zero work, and she needs to change jobs. Please do take this to the department chair. It’s likely they are collecting incidents with her already and direct student feedback like this could really help in taking some kind of action. At the very least, this kind of info can prevent unearned promotions and raises.

          7. Bunny Lake Is Found*

            I had a few profs like this–but they were classes I was taking in the theatre/film school. The grading in there was basically you got a B or a D (the larger university wouldn’t just let them do pass/fail because of something to do with an English requirement and a curve) because no one cares what your grades were in art school. So unless you were doing totally terrible work (or not showing up), you were getting a B. The profs did this mostly so they COULD give challenging feedback and not have students freaked out they were going to fail out of Pantomime.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Literally the point of having professors and advisors is to have someone else judge your work.

        I mean, sure–you need to learn to judge it up to a point, but they’re supposed to do the higher-level judging.

        1. Rose*

          Seriously, I would love to hear what this nightmare of a woman thinks her value add is in 2024 when there are excellent open courses online on basically anyone topic you can think of and she doesn’t think it’s her job to assess or provide feedback to students.

          Professors who got angry when I asked for feedback on my work, which often came back graded with 0 comments, and accused me of grade grubbing will always be something that makes me furious. Like do you really think I’m that invested in your personal option of me that I’m paying $40k for you to tell me how smart I am? I’m here to learn something and I can’t do that without feedback.

      2. Two Fish*

        Exactly, people learning something could by definition not judge their own work, because they’re not the expert on it!

    2. AGD*

      This. I work in higher ed. The very reason I started reading AAM is that a lot of academics and career centers alike are wildly out of touch with the norms of the work world, and I advise undergrads and need to be able to give them decent guidance.

      Unfortunately, academics (especially at R1 institutions) are often selected on the strength of their research, and many haven’t been directly instructed on how to teach. This is why you might get absolutely anything from them, including sometimes behavior that is obviously unprofessional or worse. I had a professor myself in undergrad who once lambasted me for nearly ten minutes for supposedly getting a C+ in an intro course, and wouldn’t listen when I kept saying she was looking at a transcript belonging to someone other than me. Also, none of this was supposed to have been what she was doing anyway.

      1. Teaching prof*

        Your point a out R1 is spot on. I’m an academic at a teaching- focused college. Teaching is 80% of how we are evaluated for tenure, and it’s what we want to do. We do professional development in it, and no one would respond like this. LW’s comment is straight out of my grad school experience at an R1, though!

          1. Former academic*

            It may not make a difference, but I’d encourage you to share the emails and summary here with the department chair, especially if this was an assistant professor or associate professor who may still be untenured or getting reviewed for promotion. The fact that it was a smaller, advanced class makes me wonder if they already were trying not to inflict her on a larger group, but this kind of objective information about bad teaching is really valuable in establishing that someone has gone beyond the boundaries of good teaching practice. (I was an associate chair at an R2)

            1. Fierce Jindo*

              Agreed—a *good* chair can do something, but won’t without students making a bit of a ruckus. But a bad chair won’t do anything and LW is entitled to protect themselves, too.

              (In my department, the prof would be worked with and the student would be protected from any retaliation, fwiw.)

              1. Former academic*

                I posted before I saw the clarification about the chair being the prof’s partner. In that case I’d actually go to the Dean of the college (Dean of the College of Engineering, Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, etc.) because this is definitely a Department of Bees situation.

                1. InHigherEd*

                  This. It’s absolutely appropriate to go to the Dean and mention that usually you’d go to the chair of the department but given their relationship you wanted bring it to the Dean’s attention instead.
                  And this is exactly the kind of thing a chair/Dean should hear about.

            2. Nonanon*

              I forget if students have access to an ombudsman (I hadn’t heard the term until I was a graduate TA who was “officially” treated differently than an undergrad), but something like that may also be helpful. Dean MIGHT be too much, but Chair has a conflict of interest, and there needs to be a third party involved.

              1. Academic Social Worker*

                At my university, students do have access to the ombudsperson but often don’t know about it as a resource. That said, given the comment about GPA, I wouldn’t be surprised if the letter writer doesn’t want to deal with this person at all anymore and would rather just move on.

          2. Student*

            Came from a research-focused grad school.

            Some of the researcher professors were intentionally awful teachers because then the department would minimize their teaching load, and/or look the other way if they offloaded teaching responsibilities to a post-doc when they weren’t supposed to.

            The professor here is probably simply as awful as she seems. But the bizarre outsized response very much reminds me of the professors in my program who decided they needed to cultivate a reputation for being awful to avoid or minimize their teaching time. Some of them would freak out at their class, then behind closed doors very much chuckle to themselves and each other about it.

            Some of the grad students did the same thing with their classes.

            I remain baffled that the department I was in rewarded such transparently bad behavior so much. Academia will optimize solutions for anything, so you really need to be careful about how they’re incentivized.

            1. Butterfly Counter*

              I’m a lecturer at an R1. I’ve seen this in action. Along with being intentionally awful teachers, they were just terrible to any student who asked a simple question to ward them away from their classes. One person managed to have a max of 12 students in his classes that were required for students to graduate. Most would rather spend the money on an extra semester than take a class with him.

          3. Kristin*

            Give her a 1-star review on Rate My Professor and your uni’s internal professor rating system (presuming that you have one). She may be a superstar expert in her field but she is also a complete loon who cannot interact with others. Give future students a heads-up about what she’s like so they can decide if it’s worth putting up with her!

      2. Irish Teacher.*

        My little college actually boasted about how we would probably get a better education there than at the large prestigious universities because our lecturers were there to teach rather than to “research and be important people”. I don’t know how valid the self-praise was, but I had some of the best teachers I’ve ever had there. And even the worst were just low-to-average compared with what you’d get in primary or secondary.

        Ironically, I did my teaching qualification in a different university and while those people were supposed to be experts ON TEACHING, a lot of them were, in my opinion, pretty useless. There were only two I considered good (and one of those apparently started his career in the college I did my undergrad).

        And those lecturers used to go out to schools to evaluate the teaching of student teachers. When…well, one of them was big into groupwork but her interpretation of groupwork was to just give students a topic to discuss and then let us work by ourselves with no guidance. That and use constant examples from America that weren’t even applicable to the Irish school system, most notably, “teachers tell me it’s not possible to do X with the Leaving Cert, but they are wrong because I’ve seen it done effectively in America.”

        1. Cascadia*

          Also got an advanced degree in education from a major research based institution that is supposed to have one of the best schools of education in the US. They were some of the worst teachers I’ve ever had. Sure a few good ones here and there, but on the whole: terrible. Picture reading word for word power point slides, which were just lifted straight from the textbook. Yikes.

          1. Academic peer review*

            I came from an excellent small College of Education. Taught there for 15 years. Got this swell tenure track position in an R1 institution. My peer in the Education College is one of the worst teachers I have ever witnessed and is supposed to be mentoring the PhD candidates. It is a misery working with them.

    3. Ariaflame*

      I’m in Academia and I would never consider writing such an email. If they’d been asking weekly or daily I might be concerned, or to be honest, annoyed, but this sounds like an extreme overreaction. Whether it is because the professor is burned out or has had to deal with one student trying to haggle for their grade too many is not an excuse for that level of unprofessionalism in their work.

      1. NotBatman*

        Yes, I’m trying to think about what even went on from the professor’s point of view, and I’m coming up blank.

        I’ve gotten student emails telling me that “A C is unacceptable. I’ve never earned a C before.” Or just “What the hell is wrong with you????” or “You can’t do this [record a 0 for a missing assignment] to me!!!” But in each case I responded with professionalism, and through pointing to the documentation in the syllabus and on the LMS that I was following my own course policies. A simple request to know how one is doing in a class is the kind of thing a professor should be able to answer quickly and professionally.

        1. DrSalty*

          Imagine you had an incredibly inflated sense of your own importance and an axe to grind with the world in general that you take out on the people you have power over that can’t retaliate, aka your students. That’s the professor’s point of view.

          I bet her grad students are truly miserable.

          1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

            Eh, at least at a college level, you’ve got FERPA to give you an out in regards to parents.

      2. ItsAllFunAndGamesUntil*

        Baised on LW feedback of how they mostly are in research and teach very few classes they probably are in that pile of “think teaching is beneath them or at the least loathes is”.

        I had a professor in Bio in undergrad who full out told us that his priorities in life are:
        Flying his plane
        Playing the banjo in his band
        Building his cabin
        Several other things
        Doing his Taxes
        Teaching undergrads.

        1. LingNerd*

          Meanwhile I had a teacher in high school who had a PhD in biology and left industry because he wanted to teach. And he was phenomenal! I know high school is very different in that the main job is teaching and there isn’t research, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that was actually why he chose to teach high school (that, and stable jobs are much easier to come by). He died a year or two after I graduated actually, which feels deeply unfair because of how wonderful he was. Not that cancer is ever really fair.

          1. Bitte Meddler*

            When I went back to school to finish my Bachelor’s, I misread the degree requirements and I accidentally took a Biology class I didn’t need from a local community college.

            The professor was AMAZING. His was my first class of the day on M/W/F, and I enjoyed it so much that I wasn’t ever late even once.

            At the end of the semester, I told him he should be teaching at a Big University, especially since he had his PhD. He told me that he was where he wanted to be because he could make a bigger impact on people’s lives.

            Which was true. About 1/3 of the class hadn’t been taught evolution in their high school science classes *at publicly-funded high schools*!

            One of our lessons was him showing how the hand bones evolved differently in different animals. A full third of the class was shocked when he put up a slide of a bat wing next to a human hand, with the bones labeled. (“Their wings are HANDS??”)

            He for sure could have made a ton of extra money in between semesters by leading private tours at our local aquarium, zoo, and botanical gardens.

    4. Santiago*

      She’s out of her gourd, and I’d be curious to see her dean’s response but honestly in academia everything is so decentralized anyways, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse.

      1. samwise*

        The dean will never hear about it. OP no doubt feels they can’t complain, because they need to continue taking courses in that department. I wish I could say, take your evidence to the department chair and then, if they won’t act on it, go to the dean.

        OP could see if there’s a student ombuds — that’s the person best situated to know campus politics and procedures.

        1. LW #1*

          The head of the department at the time was her partner, so that didn’t leave too many options. Also, one of my close friends worked in her research lab, and I didn’t want to make things difficult for her.

          1. anywhere but here*

            Big yikes at the university allowing partners to be within the chain of command.

            (Big yikes at the initial behavior from the professor as well.)

            1. Rock Prof*

              It’s still a bad look, but for what it’s worth, being chair of department doesn’t necessarily have a lot of actual authority with it. Mainly you just get to be the person who makes the schedules for upcoming years and passes on information from higher level meetings. It’s often a position that is rotated around every few years.

            2. Fierce Jindo*

              No, it’s normal to have spouses in a department (but with an alternative chain of command, probably involving the dean or maybe the associate chair, when the spouse is involved). Think about how often a college is the only one in its area; there’s no alternative.

              OP should’ve been able to go to a clearly identified other person, such as a DGS, though.

            3. cloudy*

              Unfortunately totally normal in academia. Our dean’s spouse teaches in the program. The program director is married to one of the other professors. There are a lot of professors married to each other. Typically they just find a work-around chain to make it less awkward but it kind of is what it is (eg. a third party like a provost or associate dean of some sort fills in the role when relevant, tenure and executive committee members recuse themselves from reviews of their partners, etc.).

              People who are married to someone with a PhD in the same field often have their hands tied where there’s only the one department in the field they’re qualified for. It’s why search committees often end up negotiating joint hires (common both within a department and across departments at the same institution), so a spouse can come with (otherwise people aren’t likely to accept the job).

              1. Orv*

                I’ve seen that called a “two-body problem,” although “partner hire” is more formal. ;) It always feels slightly icky and nepotistic, but there’s also no real alternative so it’s pretty common. You can’t expect one partner to basically abandon their career just so the other can take a job at a new institution.

            4. Nonanon*

              Academia still has HR departments who SHOULD have a “damage control” plan for instances like this. Conflict of interest’s still gotta be managed, y’all.
              (How WELL the theoretical damage control plan obviously varies based on several circumstances, including tenure, how much research funding parties receive, and who’s related to whom, but THEORETICALLY there should be SOME institutional paperwork in place)

            5. Pescadero*

              The chair is not the other professors boss.

              The chair cannot fire faculty. The faculty as a group CAN fire the chair.

          2. Eff Walsingham*

            Argh! The same at my uni department! We had a… problematic prof (booze) who was married to the Dean! “Well, there goes the prospect of appeal” was a thing that was commonly said.

            I liked the Dean and had a mutually respectful rapport with him during my time there. Plus I was a returning student, so slightly older than the rest of my cohort. But I couldn’t get my mind around saying anything like, “Your wife? Is a whole different educator in the afternoon than she is in the morning, and there’s no consistency in grading between the two sections.” Which was the truth.

      2. el l*

        Yeah, this letter reminds me of one incident I saw where – during a test – a professor kept talking, saying vague things that could be hints on particular questions. Finally, one student asked something to the effect of, “Professor, with the greatest respect, could you let us focus?” To which professor replied, “I am teaching you of the importance of focus! Sometimes in life you must learn to block out distractions and focus on the problems at hand!”

        Point: While business world has a few of these, academia has so many people who treat people below them badly. And that’s how they justify it to themselves and the world: “I’m preparing students to be tough for Life.” When, in reality, they’re just abusing power. Sorry you ran across one of these.

        1. Emily Byrd Starr*

          As a person with ADHD and other neurodivergencies, that would frustrate me to no end. I simply CAN”T block out distractions, because that’s the way my brain is wired. It isn’t something that I can “learn” to do, any more than a person with celiac disease can “learn” to tolerate gluten. If I had been in that class, I would have reported that professor to the academic dean, especially if I had already disclosed that I have ADHD.

        2. My Boss is Dumber than Yours*

          99 time out of 100, teachers/administrators who don’t stop bad behavior in schools by saying they’re “preparing you for life” are just using it as at best an excuse for inaction and more likely a power trip. I remember at my first job having a bully coworker who would shout numbers in my ear or mess up my piles when I was hand counting inventory, then said if I wanted him to stop I would have to get management involved. He was clearly counting on getting away with it just like in school, expecting some kind of “work it out amongst yourselves” nonsense. I went straight to my boss, told her that he was being intentionally distracting and then physically interfering with our inventory, and she smacked him right down. It was so nice to see that actually happen.

          (Dude got fired a few months later for smoking weed in the bathroom while on the clock.?

        3. MigraineMonth*

          If they really wanted to prepare us for “real life”, they’d make classes way longer but eliminate homework. Also, any group projects would have clear roles and responsibilities assigned (none of this “work it out amongst yourselves” nonsense).

          1. Filosofickle*

            TBF, I used to think that until my current company — our work is all project-based (for clients) and we are guessing at our roles and responsibilities at least half the time

          2. Ace in the Hole*

            I had a professor make attendance graded and mandatory for a 200+ student lecture class. His excuse: “You need to learn good time management skills.”

            He was not happy when I pointed out that going to his lectures was BAD time management. Since I was acing every exam and assignment without coming to lectures, then skipping to study for other classes was obviously a more effective use of time, right?

          3. Bitte Meddler*

            And there would be disciplinary procedures for the group members who knew what their responsibility was but refused to do it.

            Unlike in college, where all of my professors gave everybody in the group the same grade. Which meant that if I got shackled with them, they still got an A, even if they never once showed up for any group meetings nor contributed so much as a single word to the group paper / Power Point slide deck.

        4. Hannah Lee*

          I had a Dean? Associate Dean? really high up dude interview me when I applied to Optometry school. He was one of those – was incredibly combative, belittling and abusive during the entire meeting, I barely held it together and wound up shaking and crying for an hour plus afterwards, it was SO unprofessional. I figured my chances of getting in were zero since he obviously consider my application as worthless and me as a stupid girl not worthy of walking the halls of the program, going by what he said and how he acted.

          I was Shocked! when I received an acceptance package … I heard later that he does that a lot – it’s one of his Go-To’s – under the guise of “making certain students can deal with the stress of the program and hold their ground when challenged” but really he was just an abusive jerk. Didn’t wind up going because my finances fell apart (father who’d said he’d sign the application for my loans if I got accepted (I would have been 100% responsible for payback, he wouldn’t be obligated for anything, he just had to certify that he wasn’t giving me any money towards the program) flaked out and wouldn’t return them or even meet with me to talk about why until after the deadline for other financing options had gone by) And given the AWFUL experience the with Mucky Muck who interviewed me, I didn’t think contacting his office or finance (for payment plan options, or a deferred enrollment while I figured out how to pay for it) was going to end well, so I just … declined to go.

          I would have been really good at it too, but just didn’t have the resources (financial or self-confidence or guidance) to make it work. Ah, well, I wound up okay.

          I do wonder now how many women or other candidates that interviewer steered out of the program by being SUCH an AH and obstacle to people engaging with the program for the first time.

    5. Frieda*

      Yep yep yep. My guess on reading the letter is that at some point the prof has been instructed to provide more feedback, or clearer feedback, to students and has failed to do this, so LW inadvertently hit a sore spot by asking for a very reasonable thing.

      1. CoffeeIsMyFriend*

        that was my thought as well. feedback is a critical part of teaching and she’s probably been told to give more and gotten student complaints in the past (not that the OP was even complaining)

    6. Gray Lady*

      It smells to me like someone who got the advanced degree because she liked the academic field, and found out she hates teaching and hates dealing with students even more.

      Telling someone “you have to be able to judge your own work” when that person is paying vast sums of money to study in an environment structured around external evaluation in the form of grades is bonkers in any case.

      1. ThatOtherClare*

        This disgusts me. Students deserve better. If you don’t respect students and you’re not good enough to start a fully grant funded research lab with zero teaching load (yes they exist), then get out of the way and leave the teaching to the people who are good at both. There’s plenty of them out there. You think you’re so smart? You’re wrong. Get good or get out.

    7. Pretty as a Princess*

      I feel so horribly for the LW here but also it’s weird that I feel slightly validated that I am not the only person to ever have had a similar experience.

      I had a professor like this when I was in grad school – it was a program for working professionals, distance ed, 2 classes a term. This was back in like 04-06, before Zoom etc. I was in a project group assigned for the whole semester, and we were concerned that we’d all been turning in work for something like 6 weeks and he had never so much as opened the files, according to the class management tool. He hadn’t met any of his self-promised deadlines for providing feedback. I was elected to be the representative to reach out to him to ask for feedback on a major assignment since there was ANOTHER major assignment coming due that built on the first one. I was polite and said that we understood that there was a lot of work to grade in the class, but that said that we really were hoping for at least some feedback our work and style, so that if our work was in any way not meeting his expectations, we could be sure to improve on those weaknesses in the following assignment. I said that I would be happy to be the point of contact for my group and relay anything he was in a position to provide to us before the next project was due.

      You’d have thought I’d questioned his sainted mother’s fidelity to his father, and the status of her relationship with the mailman.

      He started screaming at me that I was an entitled b!tch, how dare I tell him how to do his job, who the hell was I to ask for grades, that everyone in my group project hated me so maybe I should go think about how much of an a$$hole I was. How dare I CALL HIM ON THE PHONE , even though the syllabus said “I prefer calls to email.” His screaming was so loud that my husband who was IN ANOTHER ROOM came to check on me. Then, the jackwad hung up on me. So I called him back and asked him who the hell he was that he thought it was appropriate to treat a student that way, and may have asked if he abused all his students or just the women. That may not have been my finest moment but I would be absolutely damned if I let that jerk have the last word.

      THEN I called the director of the graduate program. Quoted every aspect of the conversation (I am a copious taker of contemporaneous notes), and told the director that I wasn’t paying tuition to be abused and he needed to let me transfer into another section. I learned from him that apparently there had been “prior complaints” and that there was “a personnel investigation underway” and he was unable to say more. (But because of contract rules, he was still in a class teaching, and there was somehow no monitoring of the situation.) So armed with THAT information I burned and salted the earth behind me.

      I called everyone in my project group and told them what happened, and reported my call with the program director. THEN I emailed everyone in the rest of the class about my experience – just the facts, but they spoke for themselves. Turns out a lot of my fellow students were earlier career, many had really bad interactions, and had thought they had to just roll over and take it. TEVERYONE called the department and made the same complaints about the lack of grades/feedback/responsiveness and other abusive interactions – and emptied out his entire section. They guy literally had zero out of 20+ original students within 48 hours. I understood next term from another student who was taking some of his classes in person, that the professor in question had been removed from classroom teaching, at least for the time being.

      The professor who picked us all up was pretty gracious about the whole thing, really. I admired their ability to go with the flow and tend to some pretty wounded birds.

      1. FanciestCat*

        Same, I also had something like this happen. A professor who was team teaching a course didn’t read the syllabus and didn’t know what the final assignment was. He thought he knew tho, so he gave us really rude, condescending and harsh feedback on our final assignment that we had been recieving feedback on all semester (so it was supposed to be pretty polished by that point). A lot of other stuff had happened in that course too. I emailed the dean, and cc’d everyone relevant. I let them know that this was the most unprofessional organization I’d ever been a part of and I was deeply disappointed with the quality of the program. Then I dropped out at the end of the semester and went back to my previous career. If I’m going to deal with bs and entitled men I’m gonna get paid to do it. I don’t want to pay for that. I’d name and shame but the program is ending this year.

      2. Filosofickle*

        I had a graduate school instructor who would not give feedback on our projects or assignments because anything that had been turned in was already in the past and we should always be looking forward. So except for the 5 times a semester we met and presented in person, we were flying blind. And even then it was like 60 seconds of vague direction. Then we got mystery grades. Total black box. He wasn’t abrasive or mean about it, but his hand-waviness was incredibly frustrating.

      3. JustaTech*

        Oooh, nice!
        I had a professor who behaved similarly in undergrad (small school with a very clear teaching focus) – he wouldn’t get exams back until after the next exam, so it was really hard to study, and often the grades would be “vague -5”.
        Then one time he told my friend that he didn’t have time to meet with her before our next exam – and then sauntered down to the library where I worked to read the newspaper for 45 minutes. That was the last straw so a large group of us from the class collected our evidence and went to the dean. Nothing happened that year but over the summer that professor was asked to leave (even though he was tenured!) – because he wasn’t really teaching, wasn’t taking research students (required) and wasn’t publishing.
        The next year the dean made a point of meeting with me to insist that Prof Nothing’s leaving had nothing to do with me or my classmates’ complaint (which I took to mean that yes, actually, we were a forcing function).

        It’s one thing to get away with abusing undergrad who are easily intimidated. But when you’re teaching *working professionals* who are both more experienced and paying their own money (and therefore more invested in the whole experience), you have to expect the students to be more assertive.

      4. Mianaai*

        I’ve got a story along these lines as well – I was in the honors program for my school, which basically meant that you front-loaded the undergraduate courses and packed them in so that the last year’s courses were all first-year masters classes. The idea was that you could do the honors program, then segue directly into a 3-semester masters and double-dip on all those classes. In the second semester of my senior year, I ended up taking the second class in the 500-level advanced probability series from a prof who was *notoriously* lazy. I figured this would probably be fine, and I was pretty willing to put the work in etc. especially as I already had my PhD program acceptance from the same school in hand.

        It… was not fine, and I was not prepared for the depths of this dude’s laziness and vindictiveness. To start with, instead of teaching himself, as there were ~6 of us in the class he divided the weeks and class content evenly into 6 segments and assigned us each one segment in alphabetical order. Each of us was to read the material in that section, present that material while teaching all classes during those weeks, set an assignment for our fellow students, and grade it ourselves. All under the auspices of “learning teaching skills”. The prof’s entire plan for the semester was “have the students teach each other while I nap in the back of the room.” We all kinda just put our heads down and accepted this, since we didn’t have any other options for the class if we wanted to graduate on time and we all got along pretty well. Buuuut… the department had a brand new chair who knew of this dude’s shenanigans. So, new!chair privately interviewed us, compiled information, and there was some disciplinary action for the prof after the semester was over, to the degree that such things are possible for tenured profs.

        But new!chair, while he was cautious to protect us from retaliation *during the semester* forgot that per department rules this guy still would set the questions for the PhD qualifying exam, which most of us were slated to take at the end of the following summer. He blamed us for “ratting him out” to the chair, and that exam was a *bloodbath*. He pulled incredibly difficult (and I think one actually impossible, in hindsight!) questions exclusively from the sections that he had informed us were not eligible for inclusion on the quals. Nobody passed that section, and we all ended up with a conditional pass on the exam as a whole and had to audit both semesters of probability theory during the subsequent year, including doing all the assignments.

        All this to say: LW, your situation was super shitty and I’m really sorry that you had to go through it. It’s horrible to have a prof leave you to flail without feedback, and worse when they blow up when you ask for that feedback. I totally get why you didn’t report him and I think you made a good call from a pragmatic point of view. The prof’s partner being department chair gives this an additional level of discomfort, and IME even well-intentioned school admin officials often don’t foresee the subtler forms of retaliation that profs can engage in. I think you were right to be worried for your friend in the prof’s lab. If you still have the emails, etc, I do think it would be a good idea to send them to the current department chair, the Dean, etc – you likely won’t get any direct benefit, but there’s at least minimal risk and it may help improve the lives of current students.

        1. Mianaai*

          Realized I misgendered the prof in my final para, sorry! It should read “I totally get why you didn’t report her and I think you made a good call from a pragmatic point of view.”

    8. Annony*

      Yep. I used to be a professor. She was bad at her job. Students should be able to ask for feedback without fear. In fact, they should never be in a position to ask for feedback because it should be given promptly and often. I made it a point to reach out to students who were doing badly before the end of drop/add so that they could make an informed decision about whether to continue. Students are there to learn. You often can’t accurately assess your own work when you are learning something new because you don’t know what you don’t know. She didn’t want to do her job and punished her students for expecting her to.

      1. EngineeringFun*

        Former professor. In my class you could calculate your final grade at anytime. I had weekly small assignments and larger projects. Full grade transparency. I bet this is a professor without a timeline on their 1 page syllabus. Mine were 4 pages long.

        1. Heidi*

          This is so important. The fact that no one was getting feedback means that students who were struggling were not identified or given the opportunity to seek help and improve before their graded assessments. It’s also kind of disturbing that there had been a precedent of everyone getting an A if they show up and participate, but then the professor gave the OP a lower grade after the feedback debacle. It seems retaliatory.

      2. Hannah Lee*

        A friend of mine worked somewhere where online grading was required and students could check their status at any time.

        Friend absolutely hated the set up, because he had his own way of providing ongoing feedback as part of how he ran his lesson plan and his students knew where they stood throughout the course. But he worked within that system because he had to. Each term he had a handful of students who would start hounding him for term project grades or feedback within hours of turning in their work, or would somehow set up notices for when he was active in the system, so if he happened to log in figuring he’d entered some grades at 2 am because he was up anyway with insomnia, he’d start getting pings from students with questions about their grades.

        He may have rolled his eyes at the unrealistic students expecting 60 term projects to have been reviewed and graded overnight, and complained about the system to his friends over drinks, but he didn’t take it out on his students, writing them angry emails or ranting at them for asking.

        That instructor has no business teaching.

    9. PhD survivor*

      Agree. I also formerly worked as a teaching professor and I would never have treated a student that way. In fact, at my university, student evaluations were taken very seriously in terms of our teaching performance. OP- I’m not sure what the politics in your department is like or your role there but you may have some options to speak to the department chair or file a grievance about your grade especially if you are in a degree program that you are paying for, like a masters or bachelors degree. It may be more difficult if you are a doctoral student or fellow and might have this professor on your committees. You know your department best but in many universities, what happened to you would not be acceptable. Sorry for your experience

      1. LW #1*

        I was a grad student, and the politics were especially messy, because one of my friends worked in her research lab, and the prof was married to the head of our department. I decided to leave it, take the lower grade, and do my best to never interact with that professor again (and then the pandemic happened, which made that easier).

        1. HonorBox*

          It might still be reasonable to go back to Deans (of students and faculty) and provide some feedback. No doubt countless other students have had bad experiences with her, and the chain of command in this department is set up in a way that makes it impossible to report bad behavior. Even with the time that has passed, getting something on the record would be worthwhile.

        2. don'tbeadork*

          If you are now safely out of the department, please pass on what happened and such to the appropriate Dean. Even if you don’t see any results they now have some better information that could be useful when considering promotion (or termination).

    10. Meg*

      It would have taken *less* time to write, “you’re doing good, no worries” than what that prof wrote!

      1. Ann O'Nemity*


        Though if the LW wasn’t actually doing that well, their email may have caused the professor to go into a spin. Imagine it – Prof gets the email, realizes “oh shoot, I have provided zero feedback and I’m about to surprise this grad student with a low grade,” and then starts getting weirdly defensive.

        Note I’m not defending the professor *at all.* They sound like a terrible teacher start to finish.

    11. Dasein9 (he/him)*

      Another former professor chiming in to say your professor was wrong and out of line. Yes, grad courses generally get fewer feedback opportunities and sometimes just the final paper, but that’s what office hours and conversations are for. A student feeling unsure of where they stand is a clear sign that some feedback is needed. A student being brave enough to ask is a good sign that the feedback’s going to do some good.

      Professors can be clueless about professional norms outside the university. I owe an apology to the students I told, “You won’t have flexible deadlines in the workplace.” In some fields, apparently, deadlines are very flexible indeed.

      1. LCH*

        i’m so happy i attended a grad program where the majority of the instructors also held jobs “in the real world.” like they had a regular position and were contracted to teach just one class in their field.

      2. Ann O'Nemity*

        My experience in grad school was more feedback. Our classes were small, so much smaller than undergrad. Our professors knew our names and wanted us all to succeed, so we absolutely knew if we were falling off track. As you point out, there may be fewer quantitative evaluations (quizzes, little assignments), but way more opportunity for the professor to pull you to the side to talk.

    12. OrigCassandra*

      Whoof. I’m sorry, LW1, that prof sounds like my (retired) dad and he was an awful, awful teacher. When I started teaching in higher ed, I swore to myself I wouldn’t be like him.

      Anyway. Strategies. If there’s another instructor in the department you DO get on with, they can be a resource. I know I have gone to our chair with concerns about a class because I was tipped off by someone I advise. Caveat: ideally, this instructor is of equal or higher rank than the bad one; it’s not easy for an assistant prof to call BS on a full prof.

      (I can get away with it — as a non-faculty professor of practice — if I have to, because I’ve been here for yonks and taken a lot of flak for the team, but I would be spending a lot of political capital. Not that I wouldn’t! I’m just saying.)

      As with almost any less-than-ideal situation, keep those emails as evidence, so it’s not just your unsupported word.

    13. Prof*

      Another professor here: seconded. And it’s frankly unusual to be over a month into a class and have no feedback/grades. OP should be aware that if this reaches a point where they need outside help, they should talk to their academic advisor, and the department chair is usually a next step. Save these emails as they are evidence of what is going on. Good luck!

    14. Tiny Clay Insects*

      This makes me furious. I worked for a professor at an R1, briefly, who I can see pulling something just like this. She was hired for her physics research and was randomly cruel and awful to students (or, in my case, employees). She made me cry once, and one of her grad students was sympathetic like, ah, yeah, it happens to all of us, she makes a lot of people cry. On the off chance it was the same woman, this happened to me at a Midwest R1 well-known for their animal mascot who wears a nice turtleneck.

    15. noncommittal anonymous*

      Academic Department Chair here. If one of the faculty in my department was treating students like this, I’d want to know about it, and would be having very serious conversations with said faculty member. I wonder if she has tenure?

    16. sofar*

      LW’s letter was so eerily similar to an experience I had with a professor. The issue was, her department LOVED her because, although she was abusive to students, she was a fantastic colleague to those she knew she needed to have a good working relationship with.

      Long after this professor screamed at me after I inquired about whether her office hours had changed (she wasn’t at her posted office hours twice in a row), I was still having other professors sing her praises and recommend her classes. I mentioned off-hand to my advisor I’d taken this prof’s class, and she was like, “Oh isn’t Sue just the best? I just had coffee with her, and I wish I could be a student again and take her class.”

    17. Butterfly Counter*

      Also a teaching professor here.

      The only thing I could think of that would explain (not excuse) this type of response is if the professor HAD been providing grades, but the student didn’t want to do the math to figure out what those scores actually meant. This has happened to me more than once in my teaching life: Student comes up to me and says, “I got a 76 on the first exam, a 68 on the second, and my class grades are 92, 88, and 44. How am I doing in this class?” With that, though, I let them know that the grade breakdown is in the syllabus and they can use a calculator to figure it out on their own time. It can get annoying.

      I’ve also had students who very blatantly try to lock me into an “Am I going to pass this class? Y/N?” type of answer at a point when I haven’t done grading on any major assignments or exams. They are angling for me to put a specific grade or promise of passing in print so that they have it later to say that I misled them on my expectations from them. “Dr. Counter said I would pass this class 8 weeks ago when I asked, so I didn’t think I had to write the term paper!” Or, “Dr. Counter told me I had an A at five weeks! It’s not fair that I’m now failing! I didn’t know my grade could drop this much!!!”

      It can get tricky with grad classes because of the expectation for more mature students to be self-guided. Personally, I set up weekly grades that add up to less than 10% of the final grade, but signal to me if a student is going off course, two important assignments, and one major assignment. For some students, the important and major assignments can all come in the last 4 weeks of class (students pick their grading schedule), so I may not really know how a student will do even at the drop period, despite being up-to-date on grading and general feedback.

      Even with these annoyances from the expectations of students, I still wouldn’t have replied in any way, shape, or form to the student and the class as the professor in the letter. (I might vent for a minute to a colleague, but that would be it.)

    18. lilybeth*

      Was coming here to say exactly this! As a prof, when a student asks for feedback, then I am happy to chat with them; unless they’re combative/rude about feedback, they’re never going to put my back up like this.

  3. ThatOtherClare*

    LW#1, I noticed a theme during my degree where the professors who had worked in industry were far more helpful, patient, realistic with timelines, sane, and just generally better teachers than those who had gone straight from study to teaching. It seems as though your professor was one of the ones whose teaching suffered from a lack of real-world experience.

    Academia’s overly narrow focus with little chance to gain perspective can have the unfortunate side effect of turning the susceptible into gibbering loons (and my more strongly grounded academic friends would back me up in this, I’m sure).

    You accidentally startled a metaphorical horned lizard and it squirted you with blood from its eye socket. Extremely alarming and unpleasant, but you did nothing wrong and its unlikely to happen twice!

    1. Panhandlerann*

      It could be that the prof in letter 1 is approached a lot by students wanting grade changes and reacted in anger, thinking LW was one of those cases. That’s no excuse for their deplorable behavior, of course.

      1. Chanel No. Pi*

        It’s also something that wouldn’t have been an issue if she’d listened to the LW telling her that wasn’t what they wanted.

      2. Emmy Noether*

        The “haggling about grades” comment kind of points that way.

        Some people get it in their heads that you’re talking/asking about one thing, and absolutely refuse to actually listen to anything you say that could correct their assumption. It’s extremely annoying, and I haven’t found a way to make them listen yet. Best approach I’ve found is to start over as if it’s a totally new interaction, and be very careful about phrasing (not that that would have helped with this professor, but in general). It’s an especially bad trait in managers and professors.

        1. Audrey Puffins*

          Some people swear by throwing a completely nonsensical non-sequitur into the conversation, like “lemons fly through the woods at night” when the other person gets completely stuck on their erroneous point. It’s weird enough that it short-circuits their brain so you can start again with a higher chance of them actually listening to what you’re saying. I’ve never tried it myself though, and it’s probably not an appropriate technique for all ears, so proceed with caution I guess

          1. RVA Cat*

            Hmm I’ll have to try that.
            You example sounds so much like a spy code phase, all of Gen X just flashed back to Duran Duran’s “New Moon in Monday.” Ah the glory days of MTV…

        2. ThatOtherClare*

          My grandboss does this a lot, and it makes me want to throw a horned lizard at him. There aren’t even any horned lizards in my country. I would have to go to all of the effort of sourcing one, filling out all the import paperwork, flying it here, and getting them in the same place and I still want to do it. The only thing stopping me is that I wouldn’t want the lizard to get hurt bouncing off his rock-hard skull.

          Being willing and able to change one’s mind upon receiving new information is a virtue that will take one far in life.

          1. Enai*

            Buy one of those rubber ones from Schleich? It has the advantages if being reusable (bounces,but can’t run away), not needing food, water, or an enclosure to live in, throwing it isn’t animal abuse _and_ you needn’t fill in a lot of paperwork.

            Or use any of their dinosaurs. Who can truthfully say “I pelted my boss with dinosaurs”? when asked “Why were you fired”? Nobody else, I’ll bet.

            1. ThatOtherClare*

              Don’t give me such great ideas, are you trying to get me fired‽‽

              (FTR I’m joking, of course)

      3. Snow Globe*

        The weird thing is that the professor had apparently not given out any grades at this point (which is why the LW was asking). Why would the professor think this was about changing a grade that hadn’t yet been provided?

        1. WellRed*

          Frankly the whole premise of “if you are here you are obviously interested so will get an A” seems impractical.

          1. Cabbagepants*

            This is actually pretty normal for advanced courses, at least in certain departments. Think 6000-level. They’re for advanced/graduate students who can be expected to self manage and work hard with just the “carrot” of learning (as opposed to the “stick” of a bad grade). You still expect feedback, though!

      4. LW #1*

        There was no existing grade to change, so I don’t think it was that. I didn’t mention that I was going to drop the class if I was doing poorly, but I did ask right before the drop deadline, and she might’ve reacted badly to that. Though if you’re going to react badly to the idea that someone might drop your class, then they should definitely drop your class.

        1. OrigCassandra*

          Right on. Can’t stay in teaching if you’re going to take anything that happens during drop/add week personally.

        2. CRM*

          Yeah, I think you hit the nail on the head. During my undergraduate studies, many professors loved bragging about the difficulty of their classes but hated when students dropped a class based on performance. They wanted students to be in their class for “love of learning” and “a good challenge” and thought it was a moral scourge to drop a class due to GPA impacts. This extremely privileged viewpoint ignores the fact that A) GPA does matter for students that are seeking graduate education (and some that aren’t), and B) students will not take much away from the class if they are struggling to grasp the material because it’s so challenging for them.

        3. In My Underdark Era*

          bro I’ve been in multiple classes where students asked in front of everyone some variant of, “are our exam grades gonna be posted before the drop deadline? cause I’m worried I have too many classes this semester.” prof usually just said “yes/no but we can discuss your grade in private” and moved on with the class. this is an extremely normal ask!

        4. Butterfly Counter*

          I’m curious how you thought your professor would know if you were doing well if they hadn’t had any assignments to grade?

          I mention above that it can work out that most of some students grading can come at the end of the semester (students decided when they want to turn in their assignments), so I don’t actually know if a student is going to do well or not.

          Was it just that the professor wasn’t doing their grading? Or do you think they had some other way of deciding whether or not a student was doing well?

          Personally, I might be annoyed if a student who hasn’t done any assignments wanted me to tell them if they were going to do okay if I had just as much information as they did about how well they were doing.

          (Doesn’t forgive the attitude and venom with which they responded to you, but sometimes we’re professors, not psychics.)

          1. Observer*

            Personally, I might be annoyed if a student who hasn’t done any assignments wanted me to tell them if they were going to do okay if I had just as much information as they did about how well they were doing.

            Then the answer is “I don’t really have enough information to gauge that.”

            But the professor’s reaction was entirely off the wall and made no sense, even in this context.

      5. Observer*

        It could be that the prof in letter 1 is approached a lot by students wanting grade changes and reacted in anger, thinking LW was one of those cases.

        Given the whole chain of events, I think that this is unlikely. The *original* email? Maaaaybe. But the rest of it? Including the ridiculous “put it on the record in case someone complains”, which also makes it clear that she understood *exactly* what the LW was asking for. And which also indicates that this is not the first time this had been an issue.

    2. kiki*

      Yeah, academia can be really cool but it also can be a very insular working environment which means more likeliness for really specific oddities and unusual working expectations crop up. My sophomore year of college, I had a really intense organic chemistry professor who would not offer any exceptions to students encountering personal issues or losses. She bragged that she missed her own mother’s funeral so she could be present to proctor an organic chemistry 201 exam. That’s wild! I am now an adult working in DC with people who have jobs that impact national security… they wouldn’t miss their mother’s funeral for work unless there was a really extreme situation. The norms in that section of academia at my school were just so warped! It really impacted people’s mental health, tbh

      1. kiki*

        All this to say, I always take advice from professors about “the working world” with a hefty dose of salt, especially since I don’t work in academia. I wouldn’t carry the idea that asking for feedback is bad with you. In most work scenarios, the opposite is really true!

        1. JustaTech*

          To their credit, my undergrad department realized that none of them actually knew anything about working in industry and tried to have some alumni come back and give a talk about what the “real world” is like – it never ended up working out, but maybe I should suggest it again now that we could do it over Zoom.

          In grad school (for working professionals) I had my professors ask my project group if we wanted to dock our teammate’s grade because she got sick and had to take some leave. We were all like “no?” because it’s not like we would have docked someone’s pay if they got sick and missed a week of work on a project (in a salaried, sick-leave-having situation).

      2. Observer*

        She bragged that she missed her own mother’s funeral so she could be present to proctor an organic chemistry 201 exam.

        That’s waaaay more than “odd” or “unusual working expectations”. That’s full on horribleness. That’s true regardless of what her relationship with her mother was like, or the reason for that.

      3. Yikes*

        I once worked with a professor who bragged about one of his grad students having a meeting with him the same day he got married, and that it showed his (the student’s) commitment to the field. I didn’t know how to respond in the moment.

    3. Rock Prof*

      If I were also a horned lizard, there are plenty of situations where I’d want to squirt blood out my eyes (predictable budget issues that become emergencies for no reason, rules against teaching ‘controversial’ topics like climate change or racism, etc), but a student asking about their progress (even if they were being annoying about it) would barely warrant a blink.

    4. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      I also had this experience with my graduate program! (And, come to think of it, in undergrad as well, though that was a different field.)

      Which isn’t to say I didn’t have wonderful professors that were not that – I did – but I do think those who are full time academics are more prone to rigidity in pedagogy in ways that someone who only teaches a class or two (or is retired from their non-academic job, etc.) is just … not.

    5. Spearmint*

      God yes. I had professors justify extremely punitive punishments for late work, think only getting half credit on a major assignment for something turned in less than 24 hours late, by saying that you would never ask your boss to change a deadline. Meanwhile in the real world I’ve found that deadlines are generally flexible, and when they aren’t you can delay other work.

      In hindsight, it’s clear to me these professors had never worked professional job outside of academia.

      1. Orv*

        Also professors miss deadlines CONSTANTLY, with no real consequences, so even not having worked outside of academia is no excuse. Where I work there are professors that we just know we’ll have to hound for days to get them to submit grades at the end of the term, for example.

      2. Butterfly Counter*

        In professors’ defense, if it’s a major assignment, that’s very much like having a hard, fast, and true deadline in the working world. My assignments in general can be late or flexible like general deadlines in the working world. A major assignment when I’ve told students that for this assignment I cannot accept anything after 11:59 on XX date that 1) has been there the entire semester, 2) warned about for weeks on end, 3) given ample opportunity to work on in and outside of class, and 4) allow for early unlimited submission (where I only grade the last version submitted)? If nothing is there when I open the file, sorry. No dice. (I do make exceptions for major illness or unexpected terrible things that can happen, but my deadline for these major assignments is usually based on my own deadlines to get grades in, which are also hard, fast, and true deadlines.)

      3. lilybeth*

        Oof, yes, I’ve had students who have had serious life stuff happen and needed to adjust deadlines and it’s then a conversation about what I can move (paper deadlines) and what’s more challenging to move (final exams), and we sort things out from there. Anyone with sense understands there’s hard deadlines, and then deadlines with wiggle room, because that’s actually what the real world is like.

    6. Smithy*

      I have to say….I’m in fundraising, and depending on the professor – I do wonder if some of the more extremely bad “work world” advice comes from professors either relying on their niche academic experience and/or experience with funders.

      I don’t work in academic fundraising, but in my organization – I often do end up coaching technical experts to say this/not that when engaging with donors. And after the being nice/polite stuff, some of it can really cultivate a very specific kind of bragging. For instance, if you want grant funding to try something new – you’re still going to hype how much experience and expertise you have which this new thing will build on. Essentially, you lead with all your strengths and burry all of your weaknesses or frame them in the guise of “my greatest weakness at work, is that I’m an over achiever”.

      People who do this well, don’t make it that obtuse and know which areas that need improvement are good and helpful to highlight. But people who rely on fundraisers heavily or are considered weaker by the fundraising team and given stronger directives will basically be told things like “don’t say any of this bad stuff.” Not that its entirely hidden from the donor, but those would be tasks assigned to someone else.

      So if a major part of your professional experience outside of academia is with donors (individuals or institutions), that could give you a wildly skewed set of expectations around how to talk to other professionals.

  4. Pink Sprite*

    OP # 2: What if you brought in some foam rollers like people use for physical/occupational therapy or pain relief, etc.?
    You could roll them with your hands, feet, behind your back and neck.

    1. LW2*

      Not exactly foam rollers but this made me think of those spiky trigger point massage balls, that’s actually a great option, thanks for taking the time to comment!

      1. SailAway*

        I don’t know if this will be your speed but the spiky comment made me think of it — google “PranaMat”! My husband has a pillow like this and loves it. They also make spiky mats and other products. (Not for lying down at work, but maybe putting your feet on it under a desk.)

    2. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

      I was going to suggest OP2 could say the pillow provides orthopedic support if anyone asks. Occupational therapy stuff is usually less stigmatized than anything mental/spiritual.

    3. MugOfTea*

      I wonder if LW#3 is Australian talking to non-Aussies? I’m Australian and so long as the person was referring to themselves (which they were) I wouldn’t bat an eyelid, aside from being slightly amused. I mean, I’d definitely avoid using that term with external stakeholders unless I knew them very well, but I’m definitely getting an Australian vibe off LW#3.

  5. nnn*

    For #2, if weighted blankets are something that help you meet this need, there are also weighted shawls and weighted vests (for the vests, google weighted vest for anxiety or pressure vest to screen out weighted vests for fitness). The aesthetic is hit and miss, but that’s something you can decide about yourself.

    Microwaveable heating pads also tend to have some weight to them, so the combination of pressure and warmth can feel nice over your shoulders and neck or in your lap. An example is the brand “Magic Bag”, and there are many others which you can google. They also often sell them in drugstores, so you could look at one in person and see if it would meet your needs. This is sort of a more “normal” thing to do at your desk – it would look like you’re treating an everyday pain issue (injury, cramps, sore back).

    1. Sarah*

      The other thing that works really well is a wide shawl/pashmina which you can wrap around your shoulders/upper body and then hold/pull on both ends to give that hugging, deep pressure that you’re craving. If you practice at home you should be able to figure out a way to wrap the shawl so that it doesn’t stand out that you are doing this, if you think it will help you regulate this to do during meetings for example.

    2. Lyudie*

      The microwaveable heading pads was my thought as well. I have some made from rice and flax seed that I got from Etsy in nice fabrics. They do have some weight, come in different sizes, and stay warm for a while.

    3. Gudrid the Well Traveled*

      OP2, Just be careful your solution doesn’t become your new normal. Limit how long you use your compression/weight each day. Especially with compression garments: there is a recommended time limit for safety.

      Another idea would be a Velcro wrapped waist support belt. You could easily slip it on under your top.

    4. SQLWitch*

      > there are also weighted shawls and weighted vests

      Thanks, as a dog person I was wondering “Are there thundershirts for humans?” :)

  6. Nat20*

    OP #1, I teach at the university level and have for years. Your professor is a jaded jerk and her reaction was truly bananapants.

    You ask, “Was this just a crazy scenario that I would never encounter in the professional world?” — I’d say this is a scenario you shouldn’t have to encounter in the academic world, either. (And hopefully you won’t again.) Alison’s right that the only thing you should take from this is that this ONE professor is nuts. Her reaction says nothing about you, and a LOT about her.

    I really hope this doesn’t discourage you from seeking feedback in the future (from other instructors, ha). Those of us who actually like teaching will give it willingly, and tend to be thrilled when students actually ask for it.

    1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

      +1 million. This is along the lines of behaviour I’ve seen from profs over the years, but it was never okay and this isn’t okay either.

    2. higher ed teaching*

      I’ve been teaching for 20 hrs at various levels, from adjunct and worked my way up. I would never do this. Nat20 and others in agreement are right.

      this I’d so mean and out of line it should go to the department chair. If she’s tenured the discipline is more complicated but the chair needs a record no matter what they do. and they can override professors’ grades when warranted. I bet that’s what she is upset about actually so she’s taking the request for feedback as an attack on her. personalities in academia can be….a lot.

      1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

        If they were that close to drop/add, I would bet the prof was reacting more to their own inadequacy than anything else–profs are usually expected to have given *some kind* of feedback to students before the drop/add date, and it’s usually a bad look if they haven’t. She probably felt like the student was calling her out for not doing her job. And while LW wasn’t trying to do that, LW frankly would’ve been justified in doing it.

        I wish the profs who hate teaching could give up their teaching to the profs who hate research, and vice versa.

    3. Scholarly Publisher*

      Agreed. LW1, you had the bad luck to get the Guano Chair in the Department of Musaceous Fashion. The majority of professors are happy to give a student information about how they’re doing in class, especially when the feedback requested is in the form of “am I showing understanding of the concepts you’re teaching?” vs. “do I have a high enough arbitrary number in the grade field?”

    4. MigraineMonth*

      Also, if you ever have a manager react this way to an occasional request for feedback, take it to HR or find another position/job. Feedback is one of the primary duties of a manager, and a refusal to do that makes it unlikely that the manager is capable of helping you develop professionally.

  7. BigLawEx*

    LW#2 is there somewhere to get a 1/2
    hour or shorter massage. I always wonder why places have super short sessions. But maybe the time and price could be right if there’s something close by?

    I split my time between US and Europe, and in both places they’re everywhere.

    1. RedinSC*

      I like this idea… maybe even finding a place that you can go on your lunch break for a 15 minute chair massage?

      But that’s probably not an every day possibility because of cost and time, huh?

        1. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

          I used to live in China, where an hour-long massage costs less than $10, and it’s been SO. HARD. for me to reacclimate to spending about a dollar per minute on massages. But they make such a huge difference in my physical and spiritual comfort (I get touch-starved easily too) that I rearranged something pretty major in my finances to be able to afford twice-weekly short massges.

      1. Qwerty*

        Since LW2 is getting their masters… maybe there’s some extra perks for students at the health center on campus where quick massages would be easier to cover than otherwise???
        If not, look up tapping – v interesting therapy approach that uses physical touch of tapping. Or self massage tools like myofascial ball

        1. Dinwar*

          My wife did massage therapy for five years. Part of her training was to do clinics–basically practice massages, given to the general public, but significantly cheaper than normal massages. She did chair, Swedish, hot rock, and a few others. I forget the price, but it was half the cost or less, because the goal was to get these students trained, rather than to make money.

          One of the project managers I used to work with would go once a week during his lunch break. I’m in the Deep South–it was only a few years ago that schools were allowed to teach yoga, because apparently it’s a heathen practice–and no one batted an eye when he went.

        2. Leia Oregano*

          My institution’s counseling center has a relaxation/self-care room with massage chairs and other relaxation tools! Might be worth doing some research into options like this — it’s included in the student fees and there’s no additional cost. Our school recreation center also partners with a local massage company to offer steeply discounted massages, but I don’t think it’s everyday so the timing isn’t as accessible as the self-care room, which is open any time the counseling center is open.

    2. morethantired*

      I was going to suggest finding a nail salon nearby and going in for a simple manicure once a week (or whatever their most inexpensive service is.) I work remotely and it can feel isolating to not see anyone in person other than my husband for a whole week, so going to get a manicure is a nice time to just sit and be with another person, and feel pampered.

  8. Sleve*

    Alternative phrases for #3:

    – A scoundrel
    – A pain
    – A Richard
    – A bollard
    – I didn’t want to go over to the dark side
    – A wet blanket
    – A party pooper
    – A snake
    – A damp squib
    – A stewed prune
    – A total cankle
    – A dry biscuit
    – I didn’t want to bring the storms

    1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

      Thank you, my colleagues will enjoy the sudden appearance of the word “scoundrel” in their lives!

    2. John Smith*

      As much as I love these* and as someone who has used the phrase OP used (and other things worse) many a time in the past, I prefer something like “I’m not going to get precious / upset / cry about this but” or “The pedant in me just wishes to point out X”.
      If someone had said ” I don’t want to be a dick about this” I wouldn’t have reported it and I think the auditor went overboard here. To me it’s just a phrase and even if it shouldn’t have been said, a polite comment such as “can we please be mindful of language” would be appropriate with no need for follow up action.

      *I wouldn’t use “Richard” btw, as every time I have heard someone say it, someone else has had to ask what is meant, and it doesn’t exactly make a conversation flow.

      1. Frieda*

        “Jerk” has some of the same linguistic feel as “dick” without being offensive to the delicate of ear.

        1. Felicia*

          That’s exactly the issue here. A reasonable person can understand that “dick” in this context is a synonym for “jerk”, and not an anatomical reference. It’s like calling someone an “ass”. If network TV can get away with it after 8:00 PM, adults should be able to hear it without clutching the pearls.

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            I have no problem with cursing, but I also don’t think it’s “pearl clutching” to expect someone to adhere to certain professional standards, especially within a field like auditing.

      2. samwise*

        It’s just a phrase– come on, words have meanings, and this one is crude and sexual.

        We have very little context from the OP: what’s the gender of the OP and the auditee? age difference? size difference? was this the OP’s first offense, or have people been complaining about OP’s language and this was the last straw?

        Don’t use crude, sexual language at work. I think that’s a pretty easy rule to remember.

        1. Lis TF*

          I think there’s a big regional difference in terms of whether that would be seen as crude language or just a regular word. I worked in office settings, academia, community mental health and healthcare settings in the northeastern US. Casual profanity was common and profanity adjacent wouldn’t even register. And we’re talking professors, doctors, CEOs, etc. then I moved to a region in Texas, where, even exclaiming, oh shoot would’ve been looked at with raised eyebrows. It was very common if you didn’t hear someone instead of saying “what did you say?” which was looked at as a little bit rude, instead you would say “ma’am?” to get them to repeat themselves. I’m guessing (given the poster’s surprise) that some of this may have contributed to the disconnect, especially if the client was located in a different region than the poster’s company.

      3. Morning Reading*

        My first reaction: was the auditor named Richard? If so it would explain the outsized response to “being a dick.” Source: my father’s name was Dick. But he was not a dick.

      4. Mockingjay*

        Please don’t use Richard or Dick at all. My 90+ lovely father-in-law is Richard, and has gone by the nickname Dick his entire life, long before it became pejorative. My late uncle Richard was also called Dick.

        1. Pescadero*

          Your father in law was about 50 years to late for it to not be pejorative.

          Dick has been a pejorative since military men started using it as slang for penis in the 1880’s.

      5. Roo*

        I wouldn’t have reported it either, but it’s not a word I’d use, anymore than outright saying “Look, I don’t want to be a p-nis about this, but…”

        I don’t think I’d use “Richard” either – but that’s because I’m from London and in Cockney rhyming slang, “a Richard” can mean a poo: “Richard the Third” = turd.

        1. ferrina*

          I would think it’s hilarious if someone in my office started using Cockney rhyming slang!

          Then I’d tell them to knock if off, because we are a high-end consultancy with an image to maintain. Save that for social gatherings.

      6. LCH*

        i agree that someone saying in the moment “can we please be mindful of language” would have been enough unless OP’s language was rife with inappropriate language. one phrase seems like a lot to report unless it was accompanied by other bad behavior.

    3. SheLooksFamiliar*

      How about:

      THAT guy
      A pill
      A stickler
      A martinet
      A hardliner
      The villain
      The heavy
      A black hat
      A meanie

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I always thought so:

          Teammate: Hey, I don’t mean to be THAT guy, but did you notice this error?
          Team: (Collectively nods in understanding) We did not, but thank you for pointing it out.

    4. Bronze Betty*

      “Scoundrel” always makes me think of The Empire Strikes Back.

      “Scoundrel? Scoundrel. . . I like the sound of that. . . You like me because I’m a scoundrel. There aren’t enough scoundrels in your life.”

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        It makes me think of de Valera writing that while he wanted to believe all of his opponents (those on the opposite side of a literal civil war) to him were acting from the best of motives, he had to say there was a “touch of the scoundrel about O’Higgins.” It was just…such a mild way to describe somebody you were at war with and who had ordered the execution of one of de Valera’s close friends.

        So yeah, it makes me think of a polite way of criticising somebody.

      1. Broken Lawn Chair*

        That is the word I would have used if I were saying that sentence. Though I’d be more likely to say something like “hey, I know this is annoying but it’s something we’re required to report” or whatever is accurate to the LW’s situation.

        (But agree that formal discipline seems like overkill.)

      2. ThatOtherClare*

        Umm, isn’t jerk also an anatomical reference too, though? Or rather, a reference to something done with one’s anatomy? If dick was considered so objectionable I fail to see how jerk would have been given a pass.

        Which is a pity, because somehow the single syllable curse words ending in ‘k’ seem to be the most satisfying.

        1. enma*

          I see “jerk” as more mild than “dick.” Both are informal and crude, but to different degrees. At this point, if you call someone a “jerk,” nobody is going to think “crass sexual reference,” they’re going to think “obnoxious person.” Something similar happens with “dork.” “Dork” is a playground-level insult, but the literal meaning is the anatomical dick. But like “jerk,” “dork” has been used as a personal insult for so long that it primarily reads as a personal insult, sexual reference is secondary.

          1. enma*

            *calling someone a “jerk-off” is distinct from and a lot stronger and ruder than just “jerk,” and in my opinion it’s also ruder than “dick,” but ymmv

      1. penny dreadful analyzer*

        Although be aware that many of these are also dick jokes! Shakespeare was a big dick jokes guy!

    5. Festively Dressed Earl*

      Step 1: “Absolute” or “utter” or “complete”
      Step 2: Pick a noun. Any noun. Maybe something on your desk.

      Thus you’d have an “absolute click eraser” or an “utter envelope” or a “complete gummy worm”. Ta-da!

  9. Nd*

    Lw#2, I’d recommend a small unobtrusive weighted lap pad or something like that, particularly if you have somewhere it can be stored when not in use. It sounds like you need some sensory input and this would be an easy way to do it that is likely to not be obvious.

  10. NeedsMoreCookies*

    #1, is there a student ombuds office at this institution? Because that reaction was ludicrously over-the-top, and I’d say you have fair reason to be concerned that she didn’t grade you fairly. Especially with her more-or-less admitting in email that she was going to retroactively reassess and lower your grade for merely daring to ask for feedback. Maybe she’d been blackmailed or harassed for better grades by a prior student, but you weren’t deserving of that reaction.

    1. Artemesia*

      I’d share the emails with the department chair (if s/he seems sane) and probably the Dean of students.

      1. Lynne*

        This! Gather up all of the evidence and send it to both the chair and dean of students. They probably know what’s up with this professor, but additional “evidence” might be what they need to get her out the door.

      2. Festively Dressed Earl*

        Sane and/or willing to act. I took a class where we’d be ineligible to take the final (our entire grade) if we were absent 3 times over the semester for any reason. I missed 2 (1 illness and 1 car wreck on the way to class), but I attended all other class sessions. I was always prepared and actively participating in each class. Well, the professor disqualified me from the final; I’d used a different color ink to sign the roll sheet and therefore she said I’d missed class but had someone else sign my name. When I took it to the dean of students, I could prove that I’d been present in class because I remembered what case I’d volunteered to recap and a question I asked that we’d discussed. Yes, he got me permission to sit the final, but I mysteriously got a C on it despite knowing the material cold and explaining it as well as others in my study group who got As and Bs. Petty professors are going to find a way to petty.

    2. Genevieve en Francais*

      Ditto. You could even consider taking this to the academic affairs/dean of students for your department/college. While university admins can unfortunately be a bit inured to students “complaining” about faculty, that email is bonkers enough that I’d bet they’d take it fairly seriously. If it’s a tenured faculty member it likely won’t result in any real discipline, but it could get the prof a little chat with a dean.

    3. RIP Pillowfort*

      I was going to come to suggest this. We had a new professor hire in our department when I was getting my undergrad degree that did this.

      He targeted people and his perception of them influenced his grading. I had one unfortunate incident where I dared ask for help because my mom was in the hospital in critical condition and I had literal walking pneumonia. I needed to rest per my doctor and was going to each prof to explain (everyone else was 100% fine and told me to take time to recover). He ridiculed me and told me if I missed labs he’d give me zeros and I /had/ to come to lectures. I had the good sense to go to the Department head about it and so did everyone else he targeted.

      He didn’t make it two semesters and they revamped their hiring process based on this experience.

    4. LW #1*

      Well, unfortunately she was tenured and married to the head of our department, and I was a grad student who knew everyone in her research lab (we were a small department), so I decided against kicking the hornets’ nest.

      1. Observer*

        so I decided against kicking the hornets’ nest.

        Now that you are out of there, it might be a good idea to kick the hornets nest, though. But you’re going to have to send your package to someone higher up, if they are still married.

  11. Lbg*

    I bet that professor was stressed over being so behind and decided on the nuclear option so you’d stop asking rather than deal with their workload or being transparent. AND I bet they’re consistently behind and have gotten bad evaluation feedback before. They were trying to scare you. Forward that email to the chair as soon as you finish the class!!

    1. Mariko*

      Yeah, I think the professor knew they were supposed to give out grades earlier and maybe had already been told off about it from somebody higher up. So they assumed OP’s message was to tell them they were behind with grading so they blew up. What a childish loser of a professor.

      1. Liane*

        This was the first thing I went to. Prof. Jerk-Bananapants had just gotten called out for not entering any midterm grades 2 minutes before receiving LW1’s email.
        But then I read their several posts about Prof. Jerk-Bananapants being married to the Dept. chair, as well as a researcher at an R1, and tenured to boot.

    2. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

      As (the equivalent of) a chair (in another university system), strongly seconding this advice. Huge part of my job is dealing with complaints about this kind of thing.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      Yeah, this was never about OP. The decision to excoriate someone for asking for feedback, and then to give everyone feedback “in case someone complains” is someone who knows they should have provided feedback sooner, and has decided the best form of defence is attack.

  12. Sarah*

    The other thing that works really well is a wide shawl/pashmina which you can wrap around your shoulders/upper body and then hold/pull on both ends to give that hugging, deep pressure that you’re craving. If you practice at home you should be able to figure out a way to wrap the shawl so that it doesn’t stand out that you are doing this, if you think it will help you regulate this to do during meetings for example.

    1. Sarah*

      You might also find that something like having a really heavy textbook on your lap is a good weighted option, or pressing your legs hard against your chair legs/table legs/up against the underside of the table, will give some of the deep pressure you get from hugging.

  13. ThatOtherClare*

    LW#3, if you think your colleague would read “I’m not sure” as “Yes, but I’m not telling you”, a possible alternative might be a casual: “I wasn’t planning to unless they asked me to”

    Honest, true and accurate – she’s not somehow entitled to the most up-to-date workings of your inner mind. You really weren’t planning to apply.

    1. ferrina*

      I wouldn’t respond to this colleague. This is a trap- if LW says any form of “no” or “maybe” then gets the job, the colleague will be furious because LW “tricked her” or “lied to her” (or she felt lied to?).

      This colleague clearly doesn’t get how promotion work. Nothing is predicated on how badly you want the job. Publicly discouraging others from applying to a job or claiming it’s “your” job is not good professional judgment.

      If the colleague is naive or misses other social cues and she has a track record of taking feedback well, you might be able to pull her aside and explain how her actions are not great. But otherwise, I’d just disengage. This is going to be drama.

      1. Never Knew I Was a Dancer*

        Right, but if your colleague is directly asking you this question, don’t you still need to be able to say *something* that’s a non-response before changing the topic or walking away?

        If they said to me “Hey Dancer, are you applying for that job I really want?” and I simply walked out of the room or talked about how I need to finish those rice sculptures, I’m pretty sure they’d take that as a Yes with a side dish of clumsily trying to avoid the topic.

        1. SailAway*

          You can still say “I’m not sure yet” and leave it at that. How the other person interprets it is up to them. A semantic riddle isn’t going to stop the coworker from eventually finding out that LW applied.

  14. Fikly*

    LW4: Yikes. Given the role is a manager role, I would flag this behavior to the hiring manager regardless of whether or not you apply for the role, and regardless of whether or not you communicate with her further on this topic (and her response).

    It’s a massive red flag that indicates she does not have the skills to be managing people. She may very well have the skills from an individual contributor standpoint, but she needs people management skills as well, and this behavior is a clear indication that she is lacking in such basic ones that she would be terrible in the role, and have a bad impact on those under her management. The thought you put into your letter alone shows why you have better people management skills and are being encouraged to apply, and my guess is that she isn’t.

    1. Artemesia*

      This. A person trying to bully others out of applying because she ‘really really wants it.’ is the last person they should be hiring for this sort of position.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        I don’t think she is bullying people out of applying — yet.
        She’s just sussing out the competition for a job she has clearly marked out as hers.
        If OP responds, her reaction to finding out that OP is considering it will tell you a lot. If she reacts calmly okay. But if she does not handle the news well, its a problem. That shows she is not ready for management.

        1. Observer*

          She’s just sussing out the competition for a job she has clearly marked out as hers.

          You could be right. But even that is still a major problem. It does not exactly show great judgement and discretion.

        2. ferrina*

          It’s a pretty fine line whether she’s bullying or not. “Sussing out the competition” isn’t really a thing in job applications. What would she do with that knowledge if she had it? How would it strengthen her candidacy? I’d be worried about her talking smack or spreading rumors.

          Either way, her actions are inappropriate. Whether she’s intentionally sending a message of intimidation or doesn’t realize that that’s how her email could be interpreted, both are big problems.
          Agree that she is definitely not ready for management.

        3. MCMonkeyBean*

          I agree, I don’t think people need to jump to the assumption that she is trying to intimidate or bully–it seems just as if not more likely to me that she is just super anxious about something she’s wanted for a long time and trying to adjust her expectations based on who else might be up for the job.

          OP knows her better and can judge whether her message was actively aggressive or just thoughtless as to the effect a message like that would have. Neither quality is *great* in a manager, but the later can be worked on more easily than the former.

    2. The Other Fish*

      I’m with Fikly…
      This is a manager role, and managers don’t run around peeing on every light post and guarding their territory.
      When I reading your email I thought “Wow, this woman is making sure EVERYONE KNOWS IT’S HERS, talk about territory pee-ing!”

      I think management should know she is doing this. Where it gets tricky is if you plan to apply, because then it puts a spot light on your motives for sharing her behaviour.

      Decide if you want to apply. If you do… do so. You don’t have to tell her, even if she corners you and outright in front of others demands to know. Shrug and say “Everyone who wants to apply should be able to, and trying to run around and intimidate others looks REALLY BAD, please stop bothering ME about this, I am finding it unprofessional” And then wander over to the supervisor’s office and say “Look, I applied for this, but Jess keeps asking and asking me whether I have. I am uncomfortable because she’s being very vocal about her intention to get this role, and I am hoping both that I might have a chance, and that I will still have a good relationship with my peers if someone else is chosen” and then leave it in their hands.

      If you don’t want to apply, just tell her “Hey, that’s not something I’m going to answer, it’s really unprofessional to keep tabs on this stuff, people should be able to apply or not without others being involved.” And then…. Supervisor, “Jess keeps asking me, I don’t plan to apply but I thought you’d like to know what is happening on the shop floor because it feels really like she’s trying to intimidate people out of applying.”

      1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        Well, good managers don’t mark their territory. I’m sure we’ve all had, or worked with, ones that do.

  15. Lisa*

    LW3, that does seem like a heavy response if this was an isolated incident, but without the full context I can’t judge that. If language has been an issue for you previously or if this was a client where that phrase is especially inappropriate it would be understandable.

    1. Blue*

      Honestly the lack of detail makes me wonder if the issue was less language and more that the LW was….being a bit of a dick.

      1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

        I’m also very curious about the circumstances. I’m a corporate accountant, so my mind of course went to “external auditor talking to someone in the client’s finance department.” There’s already a bit of an uncomfortable “us vs. them” dynamic in any kind of audit situation, especially when the auditors are probing deeply into something you’ve been doing for years/have explained to prior years’ audit staff before.

        If one of the audit associates was asking me about one of my tasks and said “I don’t want to be a dick about this…” [implied: “but I will be if I have to”?] I would be pretty put out. If I thought they were a first or second year associate, I very well could see myself tracking down their Senior and mentioning that, because they could use some coaching on professionalism.

        1. Kay*

          I thought something like this too. More of a “was the client being audited not happy about this thing you found and is acting out about it” vs a “mom he said a bad word” situation, but still, we need more of the details.

      2. Jennifer Strange*

        The fact that they specifically asked if being disciplined was even legit makes them seem combative to me, so I do wonder if their overall demeanor was part of the issue (though I do think saying “dick” in front of a client, especially in a field like auditing, just isn’t the best choice overall).

    2. Synaptically Unique*

      For whatever reason, your response made me flashback to a scene in America’s Sweethearts where John Cusack talks to an interviewer about having a – hm, liaison? with his estranged wife and her current lover. Then the movie publicist gently ends the interview and leads the shocked woman away while mentioning her home base of Salt Lake City. LOL

  16. StarTrek Nutcase*

    LW5, call me cynical but when an employer makes a big change for employees and gives questionable reasons, it seldom benefits the employees but does the employer. At my large research university, it was decided all staff would be converted to contracts and get 2 extra leave days. Why? For our good of course. Forget that we would sacrifice most of our sturdy job protections (that compensated for mediocre pay) and we would now be forced to take up to 6 leave days (+ 2 new ones) as university with shut down for 2 wks at Christmas. This meant over 1/2 of staff would only have 1 week of vacation to use during rest of the year. Yeah, they really pushed the party line, and some fell for it. Those of us with great skills & experience mostly left for greener pastures. It may have benefitted the university but not majority of staff, but that’s business.

    1. Dorothy Zpornak*

      I think you’re probably right, but I will say that at one institution where I worked it was very easy to get stuck in a salary band. You couldn’t get a step increase based on performance only on years of service. And some of your work was coded so that it didn’t count towards your service. And even once you qualified there was a protracted and labor intensive process to get moved into a different band. I worked there half-time for 10 years and was never able to get an increase despite strong performance. So it’s possible this is about getting around some institutional process to give them more flexibility in awarding raises, though of course it could also be the opposite

    2. 653-CXK*

      This is true.

      When I worked medical claims processing at ExJob, we were ranked as examiner, reviewer, specialist, and analyst, and each rank had its own pay band (if you were an examiner, you were level A, reviewer level B, specialist level C, and analyst level D). A move up would change your salary band and give you a roughly 5-10% salary increase. The only problem – if you reached the end of your level, you did not receive a pay increase – only bonuses.

      In 2012, a new director came in and blew that rank structure up. We now had two levels – level I for basic and level II for advanced. By then I was an analyst (level D) but was shifted to new level I for basic, as the advanced work I did wasn’t frequent enough. I stayed there until 2018 when I was let go.

      The way this benefitted upper management was that if a person went from Level I to Level II, they were treated as lateral moves instead of promotions, saving them a lot of money. You got a token 5% salary increase, but in order to make more money, you had to either be in upper managements good books or leave the company. People were willing to stay and because the benefits more than made up for the low pay (front door buses, reduced transit passes, free parking, on-site gym and ATM, cheap health insurance).

      Last year, everyone who I worked with lost their jobs because claims processing was outsourced. By then, the company merged with another and moved away from a nice neighborhood to a barren, remote area right next to a highway (with very little public transportation or amenities, save gas stations).

      The kicker? The director who blew up the rank structure was later fired and escorted out of the building – upper management had enough of her attitude and antics, and sent her packing.

      1. 653-CXK*

        To satisfy the follow-up question, “Ooh, how bananapants was the director?” I’ll be brief…she was a bigot towards Blacks and Asians, went on a rant about China and Walmart in one of our all-staff meetings, mailed-in an insincere Christmas speech during our Christmas lunch, caused a mass exodus in retirements, and was just a generally unpleasant person to be around. Her fall came when she bad-mouthed a really high member of the upper management echelon, and that sortie escalated all the way to her boss, who promptly fired her and escorted her out of the building.

    3. JS*

      Ditto, especially when at a private university. Higher education does weird things to avoid paying people their due.

    4. ferrina*

      Yep. Most employers will never say “This sucks for you but benefits the company.” They will try to spin it as “This is good for you!”

      It’s a really short-sighted communication tactic. Most employees will see through it, particularly those savvy in business practices. Those employees will leave (as StarTrek Nutcase did). You’ll lose good people, and your new, worser practices will make it hard to recruit in people of the same caliber. This works best on young and/or inexperienced and/or uninformed workers (still morally wrong). But not a way attract and retain experienced, knowledgeable employees.

      I have seen a company that told workers “we aren’t bringing in enough business, so we need to do layoffs, and here’s how we’re restructuring to stay in our budget.” It was still bad news, and there was a little bit of spin, but they were open that it was a budget issue. They ended up not having almost no one leaving aside from the folks that were laid off, and everyone doubled down their efforts to bring in more business. It actually turned the company into more of a team, since everyone knew what goal they were working for and what the stakes were.

      1. Green beans*

        yup. our HR team went from two promotion cycles a year to one because it was “easier and better for everyone!”

    5. Random Dice*

      You’re not remotely being cynical. This is a blatantly gouging tactic and they’re gaslighting like hell.

      Oh you’re seeing flickering in the gaslight? Maybe you’re crazy, I’m definitely not turning it up and down.

      They are knowingly lying, because they want to screw employees over. They are lying and untrustworthy.

  17. Brain the Brian*

    I really hate to say it, LW2, but you may just need to get used to the idea that work is not going to be a place you can recharge. I have always finished work most days exhausted and miserable, and that’s just that. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way.

    1. Still*

      I think that’s a terribly bleak idea to just accept out of the gate; it might turn out that there really isn’t much the LW can do about their situation but it makes perfect sense to put some time into finding solutions that might make them feel better at the end of the day.

      It for sure is a privilege to like and thrive at one’s job, but just because it’s not realistic for everyone, doesn’t mean that it’s not worth trying before concluding that any job has to be miserable by nature.

    2. The Other Fish*

      Removed because this is unfair. The LW doesn’t say she plans to touch her coworkers! She’s asking for alternatives. – Alison

    3. Emmy Noether*

      That may sometimes be the case, but I think it’s worth it to really make an effort to find a solution. It’s really in everyone’s interest, as “exhausted and miserable” isn’t conducive to doing our finest work.

      Touch is a tricky one that I don’t have much advice for, but I’ve been able to work other small resourcing moments into my workday. Physical movement is a good one for me (and for many people in desk jobs), so sometimes I’d get up and walk the long way to the coffee machine and then not even drink it, just to walk for a bit. One workplace I’d take actual walks around the block, that was nice. Creativity is another one, so I’d find a way marginally connected to work to draw something, or just doodle.

      Some days are exhausting anyway, but it’s worth it to find small things to ward off becoming a complete zombie.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        I was coming here to suggest physical movement as well. I listened to a podcast that said that a lot of the benefits of touch are from moving the skin, so people can go for a walk, do some yoga, etc. and that stimulates the pressure receptors under the skin the same way touch does.

        The podcast is the “Living in Skin” episode of To The Best of Our Knowledge. The section on touch starts at 17:45. Link to follow.

    4. DawnShadow*

      This reply left me a little bit concerned for you. I am also someone who has had a lot of difficulty working 40 hour weeks at some jobs without feeling like I have nothing left to give. It doesn’t have to be that way though. I had to spend a lot of time figuring out what helped and what didn’t, but I finally have something that works for me. I encourage you to try to find something that suits you better. I realize this is easy for me to say. But I hope it helps.

    5. Aniima*

      I feel with you, Brain. I have a cushy remote job, but I still feel exhausted and miserable most days after work – and that’s the best job I ever had, other jobs had me crying as soon as I was home. I can’t try every industry out there to find the *one* job that suits me. It do be like that sometimes.

    6. LW2*

      I’m never gonna fully fill my battery on any given work day that I’m staying in the office, no, but I can get from my methaphorical 10% to 30% to at least finish the day! I switched fields to my current one, so being exhausted and miserable is not exactly new, but it’s way more manageable now and I’m still trying to expand my toolkit.

      1. ferrina*

        I was with Brian the Brain until the “finishing most days exhausted and miserable”. I’m either exhausted or miserable, with a few smatterings of days that are both and a few where I am neither.

        But yeah, work isn’t a place where I can count on recharging. It’s really nice when I can get energy from work, and I do try to structure my day so I can do the fun things as often as possible. But when you are doing both school and work, yeah, that’s going to be exhausting. If your form of recharging is physical touch, yeah, that’s not going to be a need you can get met at work. Other commentors have had great suggestions on things to try, but at the end of the day, work isn’t there to recharge you. They are paying you to do a job, and it’s up to you to get your needs met on your own time. (which is really hard when your own time includes a lot of school time! but that’s the cost of doing both work and school and I guarantee LW isn’t the only one that struggles with it)

        1. Hills to Die on*

          That’s what I am thinking – I am genuinely confused by the need to recharge at work. Is it for the purpose of being able to work the full day? If you have such a high need for touch that you can’t work, is there something else going on?
          Or if you are able to get through the day without it, why can’t it wait until you get home? Most people are a little tired after a full day of work – are you talking about something else?
          I just don’t understand what’s going on.

            1. Hills to Die on*

              I guess if you are that miserable – or any degree of miserable – there is something inherently wrong. Just my take.

  18. Irish Teacher.*

    LW1, that professor sounds like they are really insecure and/or stressed and I definitely wouldn’t be judging any kind of norms by them. For one thing, asking for feedback is completely different than haggling about grades and heck, when I was at college, we were told we should always go to our lectures for feedback after we got our grades, that it showed you wanted to improve. Asking “how did I do and what should I work harder on?” is not at all like asking a lecturer to change your grade.

    And you hadn’t even gotten the grade yet, so you could hardly be objecting to it.

    My guess would be that the lecturer was feeling guilty about taking so long over the grades and perhaps there was some reason for this, like she was preoccupied with something in her personal life, and felt called put by your e-mail and became defensive. But it was still a bizarre reaction.

    1. Observer*

      My guess would be that the lecturer was feeling guilty about taking so long over the grades

      I don’t think that she was feeling guilty. More like she’d been called out about this before. Her ridiculous later email saying that she had to “put it on the record” is very telling.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        Yeah, that’s probably more likely. I guess “feeling defensive” would have said it better than “feeling guilty.”

  19. rudster*

    Re. LW1, I see that college professors haven’t changed much in – checks date on diploma – 35 years. Even in my day, at [large state university in the Midwest] they took a very dim view of students using dropping courses purely as a grade management device. If you were not doing well in the course, you were expected to study harder and/or ask for help, not drop the course. However, why did OP even need feedback from the professor to know how they were doing? Were there no grades from quizzes/assignments/papers/exams or response to their class participation up to that point?

      1. rudster*

        Quite possibly, if it’s early enough to drop. However, in that case, what would the OP expect the professor to base their assessment on?

        1. bamcheeks*

          It’s a class with fewer than 10 people. If you’re teaching 9 people and you don’t know whether they understand the material without quizzes, what on earth are you doing with your time?

          1. As a professor*

            As a professor, I can answer that question! We might be…

            Preparing lectures (for this class and our other 2-3 classes)
            Writing 3-4 classes worth of quizzes, assignments, and exams
            Grading (so. much. grading.)
            Going to meetings of the eleven billion university committees we’re expected to serve on
            Completing required community service activities
            Participating in student recruitment and retention efforts
            Serving as an advisor to student organizations
            Applying for research grants
            Doing research
            Writing up research for publication
            Reading industry publications to ensure we are giving students timely, complete and accurate instruction
            Taking CE classes to improve our teaching

            I’m a good professor. I get excellent peer and student evaluation scores and have a reputation as someone who goes above and beyond for my students. I spend well over 40 hours per week on work for a salary that’s around half of what I could be earning in industry. I would never ever talk to a student the way OP 1’s professor did. But I am not a mind reader. Without assessments, I don’t know how well students understand the material unless they tell me. That’s true in classes of 9 or 90.

            1. Genevieve en Francais*

              Maybe, if this is a lecture! But presumably this is a seminar with lots of discussion if it’s upper level and there are fewer than ten students! Unless the prof is completely checked out during the whole class, I’d imagine they’d have at least an idea of how OP is doing.

            2. bamcheeks*

              I meant specifically “what are you doing with your time in the classroom”, not the broader academic workload. I also teach at a university and have third-level teaching qualifications, and I genuinely don’t know how you would structure small-group classes and not know whether people in the class understand the material six weeks in. I would expect any class of that size to be a facilitated discussion, with plenty of opportunities for the facilitator to gauge understanding and respond to the students’ knowledge base.

              At around 15 people, sure, you’re moving into a different kind of classroom structure and it gets easier for people to fly under the radar, and I wouldn’t expect anyone to track every participant without some kind of formative assessment. But nine people or fewer? If there was anyone who hadn’t participated by the end of second week, I’d be checking in with them one-on-one to find out how they were getting on. Six weeks in and I would absolutely be able to answer that question.

            3. Ellis Bell*

              I’m a high school teacher, so a completely different milieu, but I think Bamcheeks simply meant that even if you aren’t assessing them in a formal, structured way, you would still do informal assessment based on questioning etc, to see how the material is going over.

        2. Emmy Noether*

          I was thinking about this – a lot of my classes were large lecture-style ones, and I doubt the profs could have reliably picked us out of a lineup, nevermind give individualized feedback. They would have pointed us to their teaching assistants that did the workgroups and to our graded homework average.

          HOWEVER, this is a very small class, which usually means participation rather than pure lecture. The prof should have an idea who is saying pertinent things and who is lost.

    1. Varthema*

      Grade management is a cynical way to look at it – is there anything wrong with realizing that a class is beyond your skillset and that your energies would be better spent not banging your head against a wall? University schedules are a zero-sum game, so taking one class that you’ll do poorly in is taking time away from a class that you’d probably enjoy more and do better in. When I think back to my college days, the classes that I retain the most from and where I learned the most were NOT the ones I struggled in, they were the ones that were aligned with what I was good at. Still challenging, but a challenge I was eager to take on. Learning science backs this up – activated amygdala/fear response is no good for learning or retention.

      1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

        Wouldn’t the student be able to tell at six weeks if the class is beyond his/her/their skill set? Like they weren’t following what was going on? From the viewpoint of the professor, it’s hard to distinguish between a student who doesn’t get it and a student who’s shy. Also, participating (or not) in a discussion doesn’t always translate to doing well on an essay or a problem set.

        1. Silver Robin*

          But there are also students who are overly harsh on themselves and may actually be doing better than they think they are. Getting reassurance from the professor that they are on track with the class can mean they stick it out. If the student has participated so little that the professor does not have a grasp of where they stand, then that is what a quick office hours chat is for, where the two of them can talk about the subject and the professor can get a read.

          But, in a small class of 9, all students should be participating, shy or not, and the professor should be facilitating the discussion to make that possible. If that means specifically calling on the quiet student, then they do that, if that means giving folks five minutes to think about something before sharing so everyone has time to collect their thoughts, they do that. Whatever needs to happen. There are ways to help the quiet folks out if the class is discussion based.

        2. Anonynon*

          Particularly in grad school, where classes are often more discussion based and grading subjective, you really don’t know how each professor will grade. I almost did the same thing as the LW (drop a class because I didn’t know what my grade was; I had to achieve a certain letter grade for the class to be reimbursed by my employer), only to have grades come in right before drop deadline and I was getting 100%. I understood the material, but I didn’t know if the instructor wanted more or less writing, citations, etc. in assignments.

          1. JustaTech*

            Yes to knowing not just the material but what the professor wants.
            In undergrad I had an econ professor who tended to grade exams by looking for specific key words in each answer, so your best bet was to write as much as you possibly could to be sure to get in *all* the words he wanted.

            In grad school I had one class that I should have loved – I really liked the subject and the assignments were interesting, but the professor and TAs were *terrible* about communicating what they wanted from us in terms of writing style and contents in our assignments, so I would write something really professional and get points knocked off for “inauthentic voice”. I knew it was an ongoing problem because I have the same (unusual) first name as one of the TAs and periodically would get mis-directed emails from my classmates trying to get clarity on assignments.

        3. Enai*

          The LW specifically mentioned she’d never taken the subject before. It seems prudent to ask for external feedback in that case.

    2. Boof*

      That view of professors on grades is like an employer wanting their employee to care about the work/mission instead of the salary – I mean yeah I care about the education but if you’re premed or something a pristine GPA might make the difference of getting into med school or not.
      I was terrible about hacking GPA when I was in college and I eventually got where I wanted to go anyway, but it made things harder, and now I’d tell myself to just drop and audit a class if I was worried about the grade but really wanted the content.

    3. Hlao-roo*

      However, why did OP even need feedback from the professor to know how they were doing? Were there no grades from quizzes/assignments/papers/exams or response to their class participation up to that point?

      Per the letter, there weren’t any grades at that point:

      This was a small class (~10 students) and as typical for such small advanced-level classes in my department, we’d received no feedback or grades a month and a half in.

      Sounds to me like a seminar class that was mostly readings and discussions, so no quizzes/assignments/papers/exams before the end of the “drop” period (or some assignments/papers/exams that the students had done/written/taken but had not been graded and returned before the end of the “drop” period).

    4. Chicago Anon*

      It sounds to me like an advanced math class, in which the prof lectures and may assign problem sets but does not grade or check them. Things can make sense when presented by someone who understands them, and then not make sense any more when you’re thinking on your own.

    5. LW #1*

      I was a grad student, so this wasn’t a required or even a suggested class. I was purely taking this class for interest (I had asked the prof about auditing it instead, and she said she “strongly discouraged” auditing classes) so it was time taken away from my research and work. If I wasn’t going to do well in it, I didn’t want to waste that time.

      There were literally no grades up till this point, unofficially or officially. And our drop deadline was 6-8 weeks in, so we’d had plenty of assignments and discussions up till then, but no feedback.

      1. Silver Robin*

        wait you had assignments but the prof had not given you grades on them yet?? That is wild. I thought the class had just been purely discussion with a big final paper or something.

        I had a grad class with weekly assignments on a really tight turn around and the Prof was four weeks behind on grading them for us. He was new to the institution and it was his first time teaching this class to us (previously done at his old school and very successful there). He got so far behind he basically gave us all As and we ripped him apart in the evals for the lack of feedback (and other stuff). He was not allowed to teach that class again.

        1. Texan In Exile*

          I didn’t get my first calculus homeworks back until after the first test, so I didn’t know until I got the grade on that test – an F? a D? – that I was doing it all wrong.

      2. Boof*

        Your professor was out of line in many ways. Sorry they did that to you :/ Not sure why they had such a warped agenda but it wasn’t you and they did you a disservice.

    6. Observer*

      Even in my day, at [large state university in the Midwest] they took a very dim view of students using dropping courses purely as a grade management device.

      Good for them. They don’t have to live with the impact of poor grades.

      f you were not doing well in the course, you were expected to study harder and/or ask for help, not drop the course

      Talk about clueless. That is not always reasonable, practical or even possible.

      And that’s assuming that the professor is a reasonable person, which this one was not.

    7. fhqwhgads*

      The letter said they’d not had any graded assignments yet. But also, when I was in college (less than 35 but more than 15 years ago), it would be odd to have more than one assignment to go off before the add/drop deadline.

  20. Filicophyta*

    OP2: There are jackets and vests which provide the kind of touch you describe. If you check “hug simulator jacket” or “hug shirt” you will get some ideas.
    Some are weighted, others have inflatable strips. Different ones are more visible or discreet.
    My family did a lot of boating 40-50 years ago, and I remember the stiff lifejackets gave a huggy feeling, but you probably don’t want to wear an ancient orange lifejacket around the office!

  21. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

    Maybe it’s different here in Britain, but using the word “dick” in that kind of context is extremely common in most workplaces.

    I wouldn’t use it with an external audience (unless I knew them very very well and they had used similar language), though. I’d avoid it in a workplace unless I explicitly heard other colleagues (people who were well-regarded) use equivalent words.

    LW, maybe it’s worth a check in with yourself about paying attention to the language around you before deploying any sweary or body-parts language.

    All that said, I’m pretty astonished at this resulting in a disciplinary. (Although I suppose it depends what “discliplined” means in this context.)

    1. londonedit*

      Yep, this is what I was coming here to say. The phrase ‘don’t be a dick’ is fairly light-hearted here and while I wouldn’t say ‘I don’t want to be a dick’ in a formal meeting setting, there’d be absolutely no raised eyebrows if I said it as part of a general chat or a more informal meeting. But that’s my workplace, and part of being professional is knowing which audiences don’t mind a bit of swearing and which require a bit more decorum. Personally, where I work the odd bit of swearing is absolutely fine when I’m working alongside my boss and colleagues, but if I was in a meeting with an author or with higher-up bosses I wouldn’t swear unless it became clear that it was the sort of meeting where general swearing was happening. And I also wouldn’t swear *at* people in any circumstance – I’m talking more about ‘FFS, this agent is so demanding’ or ‘Effing printer’s broken again’ or ‘I don’t want to be a dick about this, but…’.

      There’s certainly absolutely no way it would rise to the level of disciplinary procedures in any workplace I’ve been in, though. If it was a particularly formal setting and it was inappropriate in that setting, the most I’d expect to happen would be the person’s manager having a quiet word with them afterwards along the lines of ‘Really appreciated your feedback in there, but just FYI I wouldn’t use the word “dick” when the CEO’s in the meeting’.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      Another UK person who is shocked at this being a disciplinary matter. Although it is pretty important to only refer to oneself, and only as potentially, being a dick.

    3. Haven’t picked a name*

      I think the job and context matters here, even in the UK. It sounds like this is an external auditor and this would be way out of the norm for an external auditor working with a client.

      It isn’t the language that is at issue but the professional judgement. There are so many ways our profession should talk about potential issues and risk, and making it sound like that decision making is personal and “dickish” is out of line.

      And I say that as a professional who uses “bad” language daily, worked in public accounting, and trained internal auditors at a large bank.

      So the issue probably isn’t just the word, but the manner with which it was presented in the discussion.

      1. Snow Globe*

        Thanks for this. I’ve also working in auditing and had the same thought, but you explained it better than I could. This can be a high-stress situation, similar to a performance review, and I’d think most people wouldn’t want their manager delivering criticism this way.

      2. JustaTech*

        The few times I’ve been involved in a mock audit were *intense* and I can’t imagine speaking that way around an auditor (even one who is my colleague, certainly not around a real auditor from a regulatory agency)!

    4. I should really pick a name*

      This isn’t a regional thing, this is a specific company thing.

      Some places would be cool with it.
      Some would say “don’t do it again” but wouldn’t formally discipline someone.
      This company’s reaction feels like an outlier.

  22. Filicophyta*

    OP1: I have been in teaching, academia, and training for many years. The email you received was out of line. Since you used the word ‘professor’ I am assuming you are in a university setting.
    First, check the syllabus to see what it says about grading and evaluation. You should know how these are being done.
    Then, as some other commenters have said, report this person.
    Other commenters have given some good reasons for the behaviour (assuming you were grade begging, pressure from above, previous complaints) but it’s still too much.
    Good luck in your course.

  23. Kella*

    OP 2: I’d experiment with a few different types of sensory stimulation to see what affects you the most closely to physical touch:

    1. Pressure. Others have suggested specific tools for doing this in a work setting.
    2. Warmth (heating pads, warm drinks, etc)
    3. Tactile stimulation. Find some different fabrics and textures and touch them, focusing on being really present with the physical sensation and see how they make you feel!
    4. Nervous system regulation. There are lots of folks on TikTok and Instagram offering easy, low-profile ways to help regulate your nervous system (pressure points, self massage, etc) and some of them can bring on a similar feeling to physical touch.

    1. Engineer*

      Do not trust people on TikTok; they can post anything they want, it doesn’t have to be supported by any kind of credentials, and several of the most popular “self-massages” can cause actual harm (when the video isn’t about masturbation). Look for actual reputable sources online and then follow their links to videos.

    2. Paperclips Please*

      Exactly! I was going to suggest tactile stimulation as well. I have several stress toys and fidget toys I keep in my desk drawer. Pretty discreet and easy for me to use with one hand while I’m reading documents, or just take a brain break and enjoy the textures for a few minutes. It’s not ideal when you really want a hug, but it helps me to have some small outlet until I can get home to my wife.

    3. Vagus Not Vegas*

      #4 Vagus nerve stimulation. Making circles with a finger on the inner curve of the ear above the hole or running your hand or using a smooth implement in the area just behind your ear down to the bottom of your neck.

      These moves are very soothing for me personally. It feels like you’re doing nothing sometimes, particularly with the ears, but it kicks in within 5 minutes or so for me. Good before bedtime or when facing periods of anxiety as well.

      There are other options like yawning, humming, and other touch points to stimulate/sooth this whole system within your body.

  24. bamcheeks*

    LW5, this sounds like something an employer would do if they Really Really want everyone to unionise.

    How come the university’s HR isn’t objecting to this? Are library employees not direct university employees or something?

    1. sleepy librarian*

      As an academic library person who was underpaid compared to my peers and their contributions for many years until the university implemented fairer pay bands, your library sounds a bit loopy. It really does sound like they want less transparency–particularly unethical for information professionals, I’d think! That move would push me to join the union.

  25. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    #1 Professor is a dick.
    She is completely outside professional norms of any sane workplace

    #3 Your employer can reasonably require you to use professional language when representing your organisation to external people, but a quiet undocumented warning from your manager should suffice. Formal discipline is very harsh – unless you have ignored previous warnings about this.

    If this was a completely internal meeting then whoever reported you is a dick, as is whoever disciplined you instead of telling complainer not to nitpick behaviour of coworkers they don’t manage.

    #4 Coworker is …. yup. She is 100% wrong to warn you off this new post she wants for herself. She likely considers you a serious rival and now someone else has encouraged you to apply, I say go for it!

    Next time she asks you, I’d be tempted to reply that her harping on about this new job keeps reminding everyone that this new job is so desirable.

    1. JustaTech*

      For #3 I’d generally agree, but if the LW said it to an auditor from a regulatory agency, then yes, I 100% can see a formal reprimand because yo! the regulatory agencies can shut down the business if you’ve messed up. The last thing you want them to think is that the company is unprofessional, because then they’ll start digging.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        I think the LW was the auditor, from a private company, speaking to the people he was auditing. As in, “I don’t want to be a dick about this, and it seems nitpicky, but this bit is actually black-letter law.”

  26. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    #5 Sounds like they want to abolish pay equity without anyone noticing. Maybe they found they need to offer higher pay to attract new people, but don’t want existing employees to realise they are being paid less for the same work.
    Maybe they want the freedom for more nepotism, or favouring the group they belong to.
    No good explanation I can think of.

    1. Avis*

      I can think of a single good reason, which is that university pay structures like that incentivise job hopping. If you’re in your job for more than a few years, you stop receiving proper pay increases regardless of how well you perform. This can result in a lot of turnover and a loss of institutional knowledge. I need to start looking for a new job soon because the cost of living has increased massively but I won’t receive a pay increase. If there were an option for my pay to be increased above the top of my salary band, then I wouldn’t look for a new job which would be a better result for my department.

      1. doreen*

        But does getting rid of the bands altogether (rather than adjusting them) really eliminate this incentive? Are they really ever going to pay $170K for the job that used to be in the $65K band or vice versa? It’s just sort of a fact of life that at some point you are going to reach the maximum that anyone is willing to pay for the work you do – that maximum should change with inflation but it’s never going to be the case that one Teapot Painter earns $65K while another doing the same job earns $170K. It doesn’t really matter if the top of the band is $170K in theory if no one actually ever earns more than $70K.

        1. Daisy-dog*

          Yeah, it would take someone about 30 years of getting a 3% raise to get from the bottom of the salary band to the top. I would guess that the salary band would increase at some point in 30 years.

        2. Annie*

          I sort of agree, but I know that in a former place of employment, the salary bands were limiting because if you got on the “top” side of a salary band, you had less chance of getting a higher raise because you were technically at the point where you should be moving into a new position. Anytime you were over that mid-point in the salary band, the raises decreased.
          With no salary band, then it should just be a consistent up-ward salary if you are there longer.

  27. Ami Abroad*

    #2 (needs touch),
    I was upset at work for a while. I got myself a novelty pillow with Snoopy on it and sometimes would be clutching it at work, especially when typing. It helped, and people smiled at Snoopy, which distracted them from me.
    Just a thought!

    1. GythaOgden*

      #2 — fidget toys helped me. It sounds like you could get any number of squishy stress balls and have the sensory need in an otherwise professional environment where a body pillow or soft toy might not be totally appropriate.

      #3 — yeah, there are certain words you don’t really want to use in front of clients (and as someone who started her career as a trainee auditor, chances are you’re dealing with a separate company here). For me, people say the darnedest things in meetings, but I wouldn’t be putting those in the actual minutes.

    2. LizW*

      For the similar reasons and purpose I keep a stuffed German Shepherd puppy in my car that has the same texture fur as my real GSD. I don’t think anyone would think twice if I kept it at my desk to cuddle with over the day! (Much better than stress eating.)

    3. Fellow Intern*

      I love Snoopy! I am an intern at an inpatient facility right now. I have a private desk and I currently have a smallish axolotl plushie. It is kind of squarish like a throw pillow or squishmallow. I will give it a hug and tuck it under my chin while I read records on my computer. No one has had a problem with it and my supervisor said they thought it was cute. We read a lot of records with heavy themes and it is understood that it can be a lot.

      1. LW2*

        This feels ideal haha!! This is exactly what i wish i could do but feels a bit too outside the norm for the office I’m currently in :’)

        1. anecdata*

          I work in a big bureaucratic “old boys club” y company, and I keep a golf ball at my desk, and roll it between my hands when I’m thinking. I like the pressure more than something soft; and it reads as “yes my dudes, I am a golfy dude like you all” in a way something that was perceived as a “fidget toy” might not

  28. Hot Water Bottle*

    #5 – I’m not sure I’m a fan of salary bands. When I was job hunting, narrow bands were a big pain in the neck because they allowed zero room to negotiate salary based on experience, etc. Some industries (hospitals, academia,…) would tend to offer WAY below market rate and piously use salary bands as an excuse… meanwhile, certain executives at the same organizations would have highly publicized golden parachutes.

    1. bamcheeks*

      zero room to negotiate salary based on experience, etc.

      I think people’s perspective on this tends to depend on whether they believe that salary negotiation is dependent on things like experience, qualifications and knowledge, or whether they believe it depends on things like perceived gender, race, class, etc. There’s pretty strong evidence that it’s the latter, and that people coming from groups which are traditionally marginalised in the workplace tend to do better under fixed salary bands compared to individual negotiation. The fact that executive pay is often exempt from the same controls is a problem with the executive pay, not the salary banding, IMO.

    2. Academic glass half full*

      Yeah, my first academic job wouldn’t put me on the band for 5 years experience that I had in public school teaching and of course there was no skipping over bands over the years of service. I became the union negotiating rep and got a $10,000 equity raise my 7th year.

    3. Emmy Noether*

      Huh, my understanding of salary bands was that you are put in a band mostly according to experience and education! It’s supposed to lessen the influence of things like negotiating skill, gender bias, etc., and make it more dependent on objective criteria (master’s degree + 5 years experience = band C, etc.).

      Plus, I’ve seen people successfully negotiate what is counted as years of experience. It’s just harder to monetize pure swagger if there’s nothing in the C.V. to back it up.

      1. bamcheeks*

        That’s interesting, because it’s absolutely not how they are used in the UK. Here, it’s the job that’s put in a band– a Teapot Assistant is Grade 4, based on the job description; a Teapot Designer is Grade 6 and has higher-level tasks and a broader range of responsibilities, and a Senior Teapot Designer is a Grade 7. There might be an expectation or even an automatic process to move from Teapot Designer to Senior Teapot Designer at a certain point, but the job description will still change because the grade is attached to the job description, not the person.

        1. Gozer (she/her)*

          That’s how it works in our UK firm too – and ours are very dictated by the unions too. So as an IT manager I’m a level 3, my senior techs are level 4, junior techs level 5 and the salary bands are quite wide, overlap, and still allow for some negiotation. When I went up from junior to senior tech I managed to land in the middle of the new band due to how I’d performed in the lower one.

        2. Hot Water Bottle*

          Yes, that is what I am used to as well (in the U.S.) When a job is advertised at certain orgs, the job itself is assigned a salary band – which is a fixed range for all applicants who may apply. Obviously this can be a turn-off for experienced applicants who would feel boxed into a lower range than they expected.

        3. Emmy Noether*

          So, upon reflection, in my experience it’s kind of a mix? Especially since your experience will influence which job you are hired for. Each position will have a starting band, and then higher bands attainable through experience.

          For example, I was hired as a [teapot designer] and, since I had a PhD and three years experience, I was put in band F. My colleague, who was hired also as a teapot designer with the same job description, but fresh from his masters, was band E. Upon getting my design certification, I could have moved up to band G, still with the same job description (but working more independently). If I had been hired with my same qualifications, but as a spout painter, I may have only started in band D. If I had moved into management, that would also have come with a higher band. It’s like a grid of job and qualification.

          Other systems I am familiar with also slot you into a band at the beginning according to experience (for example EU staff grades, which have hard minimum experience requirements), though you have to then change jobs to change bands later.

    4. Friendo*

      I’d argue that’s kind of a good thing. You know early on if the job is going to be for you or not and it’s not based on if you’re able to negotiate something better or not.

  29. Enescudoh*

    LW1 – I 99.9% agree with Alison and all the commenters saying this Prof is bananapants, take nothing from it – the only part I don’t, is where you said if you weren’t doing as well as you thought you’d drop the class. That may be totally reasonable and normal in your college setting, I don’t know, but that’s the only possible thing I can see in this that could translate badly into the world of work. If you’re not doing as well as you think you’d be expected to work on it, not drop it. But unless that half-sentence came across particularly stroppily in your email then yes, you are reasonable and she is unhinged.

  30. Grith*

    #3 – As someone who’s job involves being regularly audited, an auditor telling me they’re not going to be a dick about a borderline non-conformance is great news and also, a sign to move on and pretend that conversation never happened. I certainly wouldn’t highlight it to their boss, out of a fear that someone might query what exactly they were “not being a dick” about!

    1. Snarky McSnarkson*

      Yes, that’s where I would have gone too. You’re telling them YOU won’t be a jerk, but the next auditor may not see it the same way, so better fix it!

    2. Just another auditor*

      I just made a post about this from the auditor’s point of view. As I said there, you really need to know the client. Some would take it for what it was – this isn’t something that will be formally written up, but I wanted to bring it up to you because it could be an issue in the future – and some would simply be offended by the word. As to bringing it up to their boss, the boss is going to know it was a finding anyway. We have to go over all our findings with the partner of the job. Doesn’t mean it gets formally written up though. But I’d be in huge trouble if I didn’t at least tell my boss about it, along with my decision about why it wasn’t a big enough deal to write up. In fact those decisions are made with my boss, before it’s mentioned to the client. He has the ultimate responsibility. (If it’s a small enough thing that I don’t need to bring it up to the boss, it would never even be considered a finding.)

    3. Antilles*

      Absolutely agree.
      It also 100% guarantees that the next time OP does an audit of this company, you’re getting zero grace whatsoever, OP will be calling out every single minor issue no matter how trivial, holding exactly to policy no exceptions, and very much “being a dick” about the process next time.
      I do think OP should have used a slightly more professional framing (even using the exact same phrase except with “stickler” or “nitpicky” would have been fine), but OP was trying to do you a favor and you basically spit in their face. Not a smart play.

      1. Observer*

        It also 100% guarantees that the next time OP does an audit of this company, you’re getting zero grace whatsoever

        Well, maybe there won’t be a “next time” at this company.

        There is a lot of context here that we don’t have but I suspect that whether the OP was trying to do anyone a favor or not, he was not being seen that way.

        I’ve dealt with many auditors over the years. None ever used that kind of language, at least around me. And I can tell you that the ones who were reasonable and tried to help us out would say things like “This is the kind of thing that is often written up, so you should change it” or “You are really close to the edge of ~Whatever problem~~. I’m not going to write you up, but you need to pull back”. etc. They never framed it as “I don’t want to be nit-picky” or anything like that.

        Now, we DID have auditors who were major league jerks about stuff, and more often than not, they were actually wrong about stuff, although in a few cases it could be seen as a legitimate difference of opinion.

        And I recall with NO fondness the only 2 auditors who ever told me that they didn’t want to be picky. One eventually got fired by his agency for harassment after both his colleagues and staff at the majority of agencies he audited complained. The other guy was on the straight and narrow, but talk about nit-picky! He literally gave us issues with the font of our forms (different from the sample ones the funder used), or other minor issues.

    4. JustMyImagination*

      I used to host a lot of audits and my experience was the opposite! The auditor saying “I don’t want to be a dick about this” was absolutely harping on something minor and/or outside of my company’s control. And chances are, they were abrasive in other ways. I wouldn’t have gone and complained to their manager unless it was way more egregious than this. But I was audited by auditors managed by trusted people in my network and those managers would sometimes reach out to me asking about the auditor’s performance and soft skills. Likely there were other concerns about the auditor’s performance beyond just my one experience.

      For actionable advice to the LW. Try to really think about all of your previous audits. Do you have a habit of being abrasive? A clue would be an audit that starts out open and friendly and ends with the auditees giving you one-word answers.

      1. Observer*

        Likely there were other concerns about the auditor’s performance beyond just my one experience.

        I think that this is highly likely.

        ry to really think about all of your previous audits. Do you have a habit of being abrasive?

        Not just abrasive. There are a lot of different ways to sour a relationship unnecessarily.

    5. Jennifer Strange*

      I think you misread it. The LW didn’t say they weren’t going to be a dick, they said they “didn’t want to be a dick”. So it could have been “I don’t want to be a dick, but I’m going to have to report this issue.”

    6. Synaptically Unique*

      Right? You don’t even want to know some of the absurd crap I put up with from a federal auditor who would “point out” (minor, paperwork that made no difference to the end product) errors that needed to be fixed instead of citing us for them. I was willing to take one for the team for a decade instead of reporting her to her superiors.

    7. Velociraptor Attack*

      I read this more as them saying “I don’t want to be a dick about this BUT…”, not them saying they weren’t going to be a dick about something.

  31. Harper the Other One*

    OP2: people above have given you lots of great ideas to consider! If none of them jumps out at you immediately though, you may be able to save some time and money experimenting by booking an assessment with an occupational therapist. People think of OT as being a pretty specialized need but having worked with own for both my kiddos I would highly recommend it to anyone! An OT can help you do a sensory survey and let you try some work-suitable sensory tools to help you pin down EXACTLY what sensation gives you that recharge feeling.

  32. Just another auditor*

    #3 – I have been an auditor for many years. Assuming this was an external client, and they took this back to your firm, I am not surprised you got disciplined. Auditors are supposed to have an air of professionalism. Clearly the auditee found you saying the word “dick” pretty unprofessional (and offensive) since they reported it. You really have to know your audience well. I have audited clients where I could say this – and much worse – without worry. I have other clients where even saying “crap” wouldn’t go over well at all. Always remember that you are representing your firm, and what you say reflects on the entire firm. Always err on the side of caution.
    I am a manager, and I always tell new auditors exactly this before they start meeting with clients. We tend to be very informal with each other from partners on down. The “F bomb” is dropped freely and frequently in our office. But it’s a different world when we step in front of a client. You have to put a filter in place then.

  33. linger*

    OK, full disclosure, I once came close to being That Professor in #1.
    Because of some pandemic or other, and a resulting shortage of native-English-speaking instructors, I was, at short notice, assigned to teach a writing skills course (not something I’m really trained for). Also because of some pandemic or other, all courses went online-only, with no paper submissions. This left me struggling to reformat all 12 courses I was teaching. Then I had two computers die in quick succession. (Which would not be replaced, since I was not far from retirement. And did I mention the campus computer labs were closed for some pandemic or other?). All of which left me struggling to recover or complete most of the course grading in the last few weeks.
    And then a student emailed me concerned about their grade.
    But unlike That Professor, I’m not a complete dickhead.
    So I double-checked the student had submitted good-faith attempts at all relevant assignments and taken part in the peer evaluation steps (and so had met all requirements for passing), and replied by (i) apologising for the delay, (ii) explaining the situation, and (iii) giving my own feedback on their most recent submission as an indicator of how they were doing (and as reassurance that I actually was working on the backlog).
    OP1 should have expected nothing less from a halfway competent instructor.

  34. English Teacher*

    #4: I wonder if you could address the issue head-on, but in a polite way. Something like, “I’m undecided, but in case I do decide to apply, or especially if I’m asked to be on the interview committee, I think it’s better that we don’t discuss the job further. Wouldn’t want it getting between us.”

  35. Haven’t picked a name*

    #3 – I started my career 20 years ago in public accounting and then have spent a long time doing other things, including professional practice and training auditors for a large bank, and now run a control function for said bank. So this is in my wheelhouse.

    A reprimand sounds okay here. I use language like this, and sometimes worse (we are a team where we sometimes swear) but never to a client. There are usually different standards for internal auditors and external auditors as it appears you are.

    You can have a discussion about minor observations and findings without making it seem like it is a personal choice – well I don’t want to be a dick, vs – I think the risk here is minor, but we will need to discuss further.

    So in my mind it is not just about the language- though at an external firm that is also a big deal – but rather about your skills in conducting meetings and using your professional judgement.

    That being said I totally agree that in the end this was probably a positive discussion for the client, but you should have been talking about risk and impact and not just handing out findings and being a dick.

    1. I don’t post often*

      I work for a large financial institution and my department is frequently audited by regulators, external, and internal auditors. Essentially, I am the other side of the coin to you.
      I would find this phrase highly offensive, because I assume the conversation was contentious (otherwise, why would you say this?). I have also been audited by people who were clearly trying to prove they deserves their jobs. So, an auditor said this to me, I would assume you are making a personal choice to act this way and grade harshly.
      My guess: the problem probably wasn’t the word itself, but the attitude with which this statement was delivered.

    2. Onyx*

      Yeah, I was wondering if the OP was sure this was purely about the word “dick,” because while I understand the sentiment, IMO that phrasing strongly implies that whether or not your auditor is “a dick” that day might significantly skew the results–not an impression the company would want to give.

      Saying, e.g., “This is technically a violation, but I’m not concerned because XYZ [e.g., you clearly followed the spirit of the rule but messed up this technicality; you proactively caught, corrected, and reported the error, etc.]” sounds more professional, still flags that it’s a violation to be avoided in the future, *and* that there are clear and impersonal reasons for not counting it against them now rather than implying the auditor is letting a violation slide just because they’re feeling nice today. It also doesn’t open up a later auditor to pushback because “last time the auditor said this wasn’t a big deal and only a dick would make trouble over it!!!” (not precisely what the LW said, but also not a totally unreasonable interpretation of it).

  36. DinoGirl*

    #1, I work in HR in higher Ed .. please send that email and a brief synopsis to their Dean or the Provost’s office. People rarely know where to lodge a complaint about faculty members and it’s important to bring that to someone’s attention.

  37. Testerbert*

    LW5: By doing away with a clear pay structure, they are going to make matters worse, not better. It becomes so much easier to underpay someone for the work they do if that person can’t point to a document which says that responsibilities X, Y, Z = Pay Band A. It also makes identifying discriminatory pay issues much harder for both HR and the workforce.

    It does make it far, far, far easier for management to play favourites however, or generally obfuscate what is happening with pay in general as part of a broader effort to cut back on employment conditions. First it’ll be no pay structure, then it’ll be ‘adjustments’ to annual leave policies (which just so happen to save the business money) etc.

  38. Kelly*

    OP #1 I had something similar happen several times in undergrad and vet school. Several professors who thought they were gods and just losing their minds when a student made a reasonable request or even once when an entire class scored better on an exam than expected.

    One example is a professor of a sophomore to junior class who thought we should all be graded on our grammar and punctuation in a science class. Whatever, I didn’t care, I got A’s in all my English classes. Except he had his TA who spoke English as a second or third language grade our papers. On average she took 5 points off per essay for “mistakes” that were actually correct or for not using the Oxford comma. A bunch of us went to the professor to ask that either he do the grammatical grading or it be stopped because it was dropping us a letter grade and we really did need a high GPA for grad school. We were grade grubbing, we just didn’t want to be unfairly scored.

    That professor had a meltdown and screamed at the class that nothing would change and we all couldn’t handle getting a B once in a while. We ended up having to go to the department chair to have it addressed with proof (she was horrified and angry) and it stopped, but he was a miserable SOB the rest of the semester.

    I wish I could say it didn’t happen with others, but I had someone on a power trip multiple times after that as well as into my career.

  39. TX_Trucker*

    #3 I may hear co-workers use profanity all day and not even notice. But I would absoultely complain to an external auditing firm if any of their staff used less than professional language. I am curious what type of discipline the OP received.

  40. frances*

    #1 I am in no way condoning the professor’s reaction. That reaction was NOT about you. You did a very normal and good thing.
    Most every professor I know complains that they no longer enjoy teaching because they are barraged by students and their parents (and administrators hoping for alumni donations) to give out As even if unwarranted. The students are so focused on the A so they can get that job in IB or get into the law program or med program, that the idea of learning the material is lost. Higher ed has become all about the metrics rather than the learning. I’d bet money that her reaction was due to the reduced ability of faculty to hold students to account and to teach their area of specialty. It wasn’t you.

    1. OrigCassandra*

      This is possible, but from what LW1 has said I wouldn’t call it the likeliest answer. This was a grad-level course, the prof appears to be research-intensive, and the prof also has built-in armor due to being married to the chair. (Not that this is always bad. We have two married couples in the department I teach in. They’re all lovely people and excellent colleagues, and I argued fiercely in favor of hiring one of the couples. The other couple has had each partner become chair at different times, and it was clear each of them knew when to recuse themself from a decision affecting the other partner.)

      One unfortunate possibility is that this prof is getting handed small-headcount seminars to limit the damage — everybody knows they’re an awful teacher, so let’s ruin ten student experiences instead of forty. Another is that the prof is enough of a Name In The Field (plus, married to the chair) that they get whatever they want and what they want is less teaching work. I wish I could say this doesn’t happen, but we had a candidate in a few years ago who clearly expected that (and we absolutely can’t do it, so that was that for his candidacy).

      A remote possibility: this prof has bought into the myth of Socrates in the Agora — students who hang off the prof’s every word, are there purely because they want to be, and so on. I rejoice when I can reach a student — and I get to rejoice pretty often, all told — but I know better to think this is the typical situation, much less go on a tear when it isn’t.

  41. Academic glass half full*

    okay. the professor was 99% in the wrong. But I actually see where they are coming from.
    I am sure there will be a blistering from the commentariot for my comment.
    A small class like this means it is probably a graduate class.
    It seems that LW 1 knew already that the professor did not provide feedback when asked the very vague question, “how am I doing?”
    Please correct me if I am wrong.
    The add/ drop period is not for your GPA.
    It is to see if the class aligns with your interests/research/degree focus.
    There should be a rubric and a syllabus.
    Did you sit through the first few classes and not comprehend the content?
    Did you do the first few readings and have no idea what was going on?
    Are the papers/content as all what you thought it would be?

    Is the teacher’s style of teaching not aligned with your learning style? Chalk and talk doesn’t work for me ever. If I walked into a class that consisted of a 2 hour lecture every week, I would drop unless it was a requirement for my degree.

    Did you take your peer’s phone numbers and discuss the class at all and see where you stood in in comprehension and deliverables?

    That said- yes the teacher was an AH and the lesson learned here is not asking for vague feedback but being specific about the positive and negatives of the situation demonstrating that you gave some analysis and thought.

    1. Academic glass half full*

      Read the OP #1 notes. I take it all back. The prof. is 100 percent wrong. And I am sorry this happened to you.

  42. Hendry*

    Even if using “D*ck” wasn’t the most professional thing, I can’t fathom someone would actually go through the trouble of reporting over that.

    Unless they thought OP was trying to bribe them or something?

    1. Pretty as a Princess*

      I can believe it in a heartbeat. We don’t know anything about the group of auditees or what they have experienced, but they certainly have the right to expect nothing but professionalism from their auditor. This auditor behaved unprofessionally for the setting they were in, while they were clearly in a role that was representing their home organization.

  43. Blarg*

    #2: I assume that since you didn’t mention it, this isn’t an option. But you said you were interning at a care facility. If the facility cares for people, would holding the hand of a client/patient help?

    1. not like a regular teacher*

      When your job is caring for someone, it’s very VERY important to ensure that your interactions with them are about their needs, not yours. Imagine if the person you’re caring for is vulnerable and can’t say no when you want to hold their hand to meet your own emotional needs. Yikes!

  44. Peter*

    LW4 called them auditees rather than auditors so (if he used the word correctly) he used the word in conversation with his clients and the clients complained. It feels like the kind of low-level mistake any junior person could make – thinking that because in his own office that kind of language gets thrown around then every client will see it as a non-issue. Disciplining him seems harsh unless it happened again.

  45. thatoneoverthere*

    2 – I am someone that uses alot of different techniques to manage my anxiety. Its been pretty bad over the last few years. Although I am not a big physical touch person these things really help me.

    1. I try and get out and walk around my building 3 times a day if my schedule allows. It only takes me 5 min. But seeing the sun and the trees help me a ton. I try and do some deep breathing.
    2. I listen to ASMR or brown/white noise
    3. There is a secluded area of my building where I go do 15 min of stretching/yoga. Virtually no one goes there and its a nice recharge to my day.
    4. I try and leave everyday for lunch, even if its just 5 min.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      Honestly think you may have missed the part where the Intern is the letter writer? That the letter writer said they are only a hugger in their personal life? Also think you may have missed that they are asking for advice about how to ensure they meet this sensory need professionally, so…….. how would HR come into it? It might also be worth checking out the rules about being kind to letter writers.

    2. bamcheeks*

      Did you read the letter? They’ve already ruled out asking co-workers for hugs. I’m not sure what HR issue you are foreseeing.

      If LW is doing graduate level work in a care setting( they’re on a social work or healthcare career track, and those all have a high rate of burnout and a major problem with qualified and experienced people leaving the profession. If they can find a way to meet their sensory/social needs met at work in a way that doesn’t transgress anyone else’s boundaries, they’re going to stay in the profession longer AND be a person who understands sensory and social needs in a field where that’s often critical to positive outcomes for patients/patrons. It’s a win-win.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Yes, it sounds to me like OP has already concluded that asking coworkers for hugs (or any kind of touch, really) is not appropriate, so they’re looking for other ideas. Makes sense to me. If OP had asked how to approach coworkers to get more touches during the day, I’d have a very different answer, but this is on the right track.

      2. Not my coffee*

        The HR issue being foreseen is LW in trying meet their sensory/social needs met at work makes another coworker uncomfortable for HR to be contacted by that coworker.

        If you’re looking for specific examples that make sense to you to be posted here, that may or may not happen.

        1. bamcheeks*

          I think the entire question is, “how to do this without making coworkers uncomfortable” though. LW is quite clearly distinguishing between the way they get that need met in personal and social spaces, and the ways they are considering meeting it at work where the range of options are more tightly circumscribed, so What?’s comment comes across much more as an attempt to shame them for acknowledging that need.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Agreed. The lack of good-faith reading on this one is bizarre; I’m removing a few replies that seem to assume the LW is looking for exactly what she said she’s not looking for (physical contact with coworkers).

    3. WellRed*

      This is a harsh assessment but I agree with the underlying sentiment. Hugs and handholding are not practical in the workplace. Not sure they are a practical ask on a daily basis in life in general. OP is getting lots of advice for sharks and weighted blankets and maybe something will work but if they need human touch, that’s different.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I think it’s an illustration of how it can be good that an OP asks, because apparently it is more widespread, and with more work-arounds, than I would have guessed just sitting in my own little feedback loop of one.

        In Deathless Divide one of the characters likes to wear a corset, because the constricted feeling around her torso is soothing. She gets into several arguments with the other main character about how they are about to do something very physical (it’s the zombie apocalypse) and so she needs to have skipped or at least loosened the corset. The various recommendations on how to give yourself the feeling of being wrapped up remind me of her.

      2. Jennifer Strange*

        The LW has no intention of asking for hugs or handholding in the workplace, they’re specifically asking if pillows would be weird as a substitute.

          1. Eff Walsingham*

            I was somewhat confused, but I used to have a body pillow in the form of a shark, purchased from a large chain store. So I just went ahead and assumed that my shark was mainstream enough that everyone knew someone who had one! ;)

    4. LGP*

      “Sure have a pillow or a squish ball”

      Um yeah, that’s what LW was asking about and what Alison suggested. This has nothing to do with a “constant need for hugs.” Nobody is saying LW should hug their coworkers.

    5. LW2*

      Intern is pretty young, I’ll give you that! A bit older than the other interns tho, given I’ve already switched fields once. Not sure how “Really like hugs in my personal life, trying to find ways to comfort myself in work-appropriate ways (which I already know ‘hugs’ is not one of)” is gonna become an HR issue

      1. Admin Lackey*

        Some commenters just delight in being contrary, especially on questions about managing social needs in the work place. You seem like a totally reasonable person and no one who actually read your letter attentively would think you’re going to get hauled into HR lol

        We spend so much of our lives at the office, I think it’s a good idea to look for ways to make it less exhausting for you

      2. Kel*

        LW2, ignore this person. Your question was legit, and you asked for meaningful advice that would improve your day to day worklife.

    6. ThatOtherClare*

      What what?
      Did you read the letter? How on Earth is needing to recharge going to become an HR issue?

      Some people need to move to recharge. They know it’s not acceptable to practice their ballroom routine, so they go for a walk or a run. Some people need coffee to recharge. Not every workplace supplies it, so some people bring their own. Some people can’t deal with noisy environments because they find them draining, so they bring their own headphones. Finding solutions to mental and/or bodily needs is a very normal part of being a human with a body and a brain at work. The letter writer’s not threatening to wander around touching people. Quite the opposite. No need for any pre-emptive nipping.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        Thank you. I feel like sometimes folks read two sentences of a letter and then a comment without seeing what the actual question is.

    7. Czhorat*

      Some opinions are unpopular because they are wrong.

      Squeezing a pillow needn’t be an “HR disaster”; if anything, it would be better for the workforce to move towards more acceptance of neurodivergent employees who have needs which might not match what we expect in an office.

    8. anywhere but here*

      I disagree that it’s likely to become a major HR issue later but I do agree with the sentiment behind this. It does come across as both young and needy to have enough difficulty getting through the work day without a hug or similar physical affection that one needs to develop a workaround. I would recommend trying to resolve whatever underlies that in addition to finding a workaround for the time being.

      1. K8T*

        I think this is the correct answer. If not having someone hug/touch you for 8 hours is debilitating enough to write in about – I’d hope they’re working on this with therapy/reflection/etc. A pillow certainly wouldn’t be the weirdest thing I’ve seen someone bring into an office but it would be capital “N” Noticed.

      2. bamcheeks*

        I don’t know, to me it’s less about being “young and needy” and more that the expectations placed on people in a work day are actually bad and unreasonable, and only a small number of people can work and thrive under those conditions. With health and social care, I think it’s *very* well established that it’s the latter: I’m tangentially involved in labour force planning in those areas are we are *constantly* talking about high rates of burnout and people leaving the profession, and the sheer economic impact that has — never mind the human cost to both staff and service users. If we’ve got a new generation of professionals who are able to recognise the symptoms of burnout and exhaustion at an early stage and are able to put in practical workarounds and coping strategies, I think that’s fantastic.

        1. Czhorat*

          I think we need to normalize being “odd”, as Alison put it. If squeezing a pillow for five minutes makes it easier and more pleasant for you to get through your day then squeeze the damn pillow. This is ESPECIALLY true if you’re not in a public-facing space where you’d have to manage the perception of external clients.

          There’s not a good reason that the LW shouldn’t be able to squeeze a pillow, or even a plushie. We’ve just decided that some ways of showing personality in the office are “normal” and some aren’t.

          1. Wonder Woman's Tiara*

            Hell yes to all of this. I’ve embraced being a weirdo in the workplace (within reason!) and so far it’s the only thing that’s got me through 15ish years of ‘having a career’.

        2. anywhere but here*

          Do you think it is normal to need physical affection so frequently that 8 hours without it is a struggle that requires workarounds?

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            People recharge their battery in different ways. If someone said, “I recharge by listening to music, but my work has a no music policy” or “I recharge with warm drinks, but I work around fragile materials and we can only have water in the office” would you think that person also came across as young and needy?

            1. anywhere but here*

              If someone needed emotional support music or beverage to the point of being unable to get through a work day without it, I would consider that person excessively particular / high maintenance. I think there is a difference between “I need to find a general way to relieve stress/self-soothe” and “I need to find a substitute for being touched because I cannot stand a work day without it.”

              1. amoeba*

                I mean, I guess it also depends on how draining your workday is? Healthcare sounds like a field that’s notorious for draining people’s batteries much more quickly than, say, preparing the TPS reports. Good on LW to figure out ways to keep recharging so they don’t end up with burnout like so many others in that field!

              2. Jennifer Strange*

                The LW didn’t say they are “unable to get through a work day without it”, just that they end up feeling spent before the end of the day. That is no different than someone deciding they need to go for a ten minute walk outside to recharge or someone else needing to go sit somewhere quite for a little bit to recharge.

              3. Hexiva*

                I mean, I think you’re unreasonably assuming that every unusual difficulty a person faces should be “fixed” rather than accommodated. If I have depression, but I feel fine if I take a pill at lunch every day, would you demand that I drop my medication in favor of “resolving whatever underlies that”? If I have a mild allergy that’s triggered by the food in the company’s cafeteria, should I be expected to pursue allergy shots rather than just bringing my own food? If I have ADHD but I can focus fine in an open office as long as I have my headphones on, should I be expected to undergo therapy or medication just so that I’ll be able to leave my headphones off – even if it doesn’t affect my work in any way?

          2. LW2*

            Hmmm, out of all the comments here this is the only one that kind of got to me, because I actually also don’t think that’s normal! In my previous workplaces it hasn’t been a problem, because I’ve had plenty of opportunity to recharge at home. Currently that’s not really possible because I basically get home and have to make dinner, eat, do homework and sleep (also insert various house chores somewhere). So I recharge where I can, but I’m not really getting to 100% as often right now.

            Possibly the question title is not really helping me; I’m definitely not looking for physical touch at work. I don’t want to touch my coworkers at all and I don’t want them to touch me either! I did jokingly title my email to Alison “I need a hug at work” because that’s the thought that’s going through my head when I’m at work and feeling depleted but still have a couple hours to go. I’m mostly trying to figure out a way to copy the effects of the most effective recharging tactic I have (and this isn’t a response to you, but since I’ve seen a comment or two thinking this would be a weird ask regardless of setting, I do normally get physical affection in daily life? I understand this is strongly person- and culture-tied but I do have a romantic partner, and even when I didn’t, plenty of my friends and family enjoy hugging and holding hands).

            1. Czhorat*

              My advice, as someone older and way more advanced in my career:

              WHO CARES if it’s “normal”? Workplaces have all kinds of people. I find that if you’re pleasant, if you work reliably, and help your co-workers as appropriate they’ll all accept harmless quirks.

              My recharge is fidgeting rather than touch. For days when I don’t have time to go outside and juggle I keep an itty-bitty dragonstaff on my desk. I don’t think anyone notices, but if they do it’s just Czhorat being Czhorat; for you it’ll likely be the same. IF you’re a smart, reliable, pleasant co-worker who keeps a giant pillow on your desk then people would focus on the former.

          3. bamcheeks*

            I think if the definition of “normal” change with time and culture, and if you’re talking about a field which loses thousands of expensively-trained professionals every year due to burnout, that’s an excellent time to consciously consider whether your current definition of “normal” is really working.

            Also, c’mon, reading comprehension! LW did not say they need “physical affection”– they didn’t use the word “affection” anywhere. They said that physical TOUCH is one of the ways they recharge, and that hugging and handholding are one of the ways they do that in personal and social spaces. They are specifically asking for work-appropriate alternatives.

            Like I said, I think it’s genuinely great that there’s a generation coming up who are comfortable talking about sensory needs and self-regulation: I think that’s a positive thing that will lead to better and healthier workplaces with more diversity, and that that in turn will lead to better and more responsive services. I get that that change is in itself a source of discomfort for people who prefer narrower definitions of acceptable behaviour. But if I’m weighing up the needs of people who are actively talking about managing sensory needs and self-regulation in the workplace, and people who are uncomfortable hearing that discussion, I think it’s the latter group who need to figure out how to adjust and get over it, because I think the positive impacts of the former are so much broader.

          4. Irish Teacher.*

            It could be more of a sensory thing than about physical affection. Given the talk about pillows, etc, the sensory interpretation seems more likely to me.

        3. nopetopus*

          Thank you for sticking up for this LW and explaining it in such an eloquent way. But I’m seriously about to stop reading this site due to the bad faith shitty commenters who seem to live for keeping the workplace as soul-sucking, horrid, and inaccessible for everyone else as it has been for them.

          1. anywhere but here*

            Do you think it is a good faith interpretation to assume that someone who disagrees about what is normal “live[s] for keeping the workplace as soul-sucking, horrid, and inaccessible for everyone else as it has been for them”?

            1. Jackalope*

              It’s not just this letter; nopetopus clearly indicated that they were referring to an ongoing trend. Having been a reader for some time, I know what they mean. In just the last couple of weeks we’ve had people complaining that someone wanted a notice sent out to coworkers (the common practice at their workplace) when they had a baby, and calling them attention-seeking for that; people complaining that a new parent would bring a baby in once shortly after birth for a quick meet and greet; people complaining that someone kept a candy dish out that most of her coworkers enjoyed because one person had complained; a great deal of food policing over someone wanting to bring in junk food snacks because her coworkers had asked that the snacks provided by the company include some junk food; frustration that someone who had written a book would talk about that with their coworkers (and yes the original author was OTT but this was in response to even mentioning it); shaming people who wanted coworkers to wish them a happy birthday as “childish”; and people saying that any sort of questions asking for any information about them, including minor small talk questions such as how their weekend went or how their pets were was overly invasive and work should be just about work only and ever. There’s been a trend of anything that is related to someone’s personality or home life being considered bad or rude to bring up at work at all ever for any reason, and it does get old.

              On the other hand, I appreciate this LW writing in and asking this question. It’s difficult working in health care and finding ways to make it easier to cope with that (especially while doing school at the same time) sounds very healthy. I’ve been reading the ideas here with interest because there are so many simple things people have recommended that would be easy to implement and not noticeable (or barely noticeable) to coworkers and patients.

          2. Pippa K*

            So either people treat as normal the idea that it’s a serious struggle to go 8 hours without comforting human touch in a workplace setting or else they’re bad faith shitty people who want workplaces to be soul-sucking, horrid, and inaccessible. This is quite the false dichotomy you’re setting up here. Me, I think it’s highly unusual that someone needs human touch to this degree and with this frequency that it presents an actual work problem, and noticing that it’s unusual and addressing that obvious element of the problem is perfectly reasonable. Doesn’t meant people are hostile to the OP and want her workplace – nay, all workplaces, mwahaha – to be soul-sucking and inaccessible. For Pete’s sake.

            1. bamcheeks*

              the idea that it’s a serious struggle to go 8 hours without comforting human touch

              No, this is a really bad faith reading of the letter. LW did not say that. They said they find work exhausting, they know that physical touch is one of the ways they recharge, they described human touch as one of the ways they get that need met outside work, and asks for other ways to use touch and physical sensation to recharge and reground themselves at work/.

              Honestly, my conclusion here is that some people ARE deeply uncomfortable with anyone talking about sensory needs and self-regulation — which are critical conversations if you want to make a workplace diverse and accessible! — because there’s just no other reason to read LW’s letter to mean “I can’t go eight hours without comforting human touch”.

              1. Pippa K*

                I was talking about the human touch element because that’s the part of the letter the discussion was focusing on. The LW is looking for alternatives, yes, but gives several examples of human touch being the thing she really needs and finds missing in the workday. And because that is unusual, and because interpersonal physical contact itself is a highly charged workplace subject, it’s not surprising that conversation went there in relation to thinking about the problem. People having takes you disagree with, or focusing on something you don’t think is the correct focus, is not the same as a bad-faith reading.

              2. Myrin*

                Bamcheeks, you are really doing god’s work in this thread!
                (And I say that as someone who basically doesn’t need any touch at all which some might say is weird, too, just in the opposite direction! I’m not touch-averse or anything, it’s just that I almost never feel the need to actively approach someone for touch. So it’s actually not hard for me at all to imagine someone who is diametrically opposite of that.)

            2. Ellis Bell*

              Normal person talking, eh? Look, it’s fine if people don’t know anything about neurodivergency, (or that neurodivergent traits sometimes affect those who are mostly neurotypical). It’s okay if you don’t realise that some conditions and needs do make work “exhausting” until you find the right tools for you. Think of it like an injured colleague being fine on crutches, or a shortsighted colleague needing glasses (something that historically was also not “normal” and so people only used them in private. I still remember people being called four eyes and I’m not that old). If OP needs a sensory aid, they have every right to ask which types of aid would look professional, or unprofessional. It’s common for sensory needs people to have easily discovered an aid in their private life, but they also know how that first, easily found solution doesn’t translate to a professional setting. Nowhere has OP they said they expect human touch to be their aid in the workplace. They specifically asked for alternatives.

            3. ThatOtherClare*

              In all respect, please go and re-read the letter Pippa K.

              And then if you’re still feeling triggered by the idea of Alison and the commenters generously workshopping acceptable alternatives to touch so that someone feels a bit less drained when they get home after a long and stressful day, you might find it beneficial to go away and think about why that might be.

              Are your own needs for recharging your batteries being met in your life? Are your own needs for human touch being met, or are you perhaps receiving too much, not enough, or the wrong sort? Do you have enough supportive people in your life who would jump in and offer lots of helpful and un-judgemental suggestions if you were to admit to having a problem and ask for help?

              If other people being happy and fulfilled, without impacting you or anyone else in any way, makes you so distressed that you lash out the way you did in the comment above, you might need some professional help to identify the source and reduce the intensity of those bad feelings.

              Or, you might know perfectly well that you have a migraine and your cat threw up on the carpet this morning so you’re just way more cranky than normal. I don’t know your life! But whatever it is, please don’t take it out on others.

              I hope any and all of your stresses are of the temporary, cat-vomit kind.

      3. Ellis Bell*

        Where are you getting physical affection from? A squishy isn’t physical affection. It’s a sensory need.

    9. kiki*

      The intern isn’t running around the office saying they need a hug, though? They’ve recognized that physical touch is how they recharge and they know they cannot get that at the office. They’re looking for work-appropriate alternatives to help make sure they stay charged throughout the day. That’s actually super professional? More professional, in my opinion, than the type of person who denies that they have physical and emotional needs and ends up taking out their bad mood/lack of energy on their coworkers or clients.

      If I get really hangry and it impacts my work performance when I don’t eat for a few hours, the solution to that wouldn’t be to just “buck up” and need less food. It would be to find ways to get my need for frequent snacks taken care of during the day in a professionally appropriate way. What LW is expressing is similar!

      1. ThatOtherClare*

        Great point. Self-awareness leads to professionalism, in my experience. Not the other way around.

        1. ThatOtherClare*

          That was unclear.

          I meant my statement to be interpreted as either: that a lack of self-awareness doesn’t somehow lead to professionalism; or that self-awareness doesn’t lead to a lack of professionalism.

          I didn’t mean to imply that professionalism can’t lead to self-awareness.

  46. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

    I get more of the read that OP4’s coworker is just anxious about the position and not trying to bully OP out of not applying. Obviously, they really want the position, thus they’re trying to figure out who the ‘competition’ is for the role. They could have also overheard someone encouraging OP to apply, and are curious if they are, especially if it was a senior member that gave them the recommendation. Unless coworker has a history of issues with coworkers (should be known since coworker applied last time and didn’t get it) I don’t think its nefarious it’s more anxiety. Either way OP doesnt have to respond, but again, I think it’s just the coworker trying to get a picture of the field to make them feel more in control of their destiny.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      Regardless of what’s driving it, it’s not a good look for someone applying for a managerial role.

    2. Typing All The Time*

      I feel it puts the OP and other applicants in an uncomfortable position. How will she react if she doesn’t get the job and one of the others does?

    3. Observer*

      I don’t think its nefarious it’s more anxiety

      Still very bad judgement.

      That’s not a good way to handle anxiety, especially in a management role.

  47. HonorBox*

    OP1 – Given the email that went out to the entire class, which I would call quite odd, in which the professor mentions putting something out there in case someone complains, I’d wager this is something the professor has received feedback about before, likely from someone above them. If you’re not giving feedback to students/employees on a regular basis, how on earth would they know if their work or understanding of material is correct? Your question was pretty straightforward and based only on your own understanding of the material. It wasn’t passing judgement on how the professor is teaching or the material in general. It was seeking information about how well you’re doing. A simple “you’re doing great” or “I think you might need some additional attention on _____” would have been the best way to handle that, and I think the professor failed you.

    While there are a number of factors to consider in this next step, if you’re comfortable going to someone else within the department/university, it might be worth bringing this to the attention of someone above the professor. It is really unfair to not provide regular feedback and then to bristle when feedback is solicited, and that’s not being a good instructor.

  48. Evil Queen of Dysfunction*

    #1. If by the drop add date you have not received any sort of feedback from your professor, drop the class. I used to be a college instructor as well as went back to school for additional graduate level courses.

    I took a course where the professor assigned a project. It was very vague so I emailed to see if he had a rubric I could use to make sure I was headed in the right direction. His response was to do it, send it to him and he would let me know! I dropped the class.

    Two of my kids are currently in undergrad and we actually discuss this , it feels like, every semester. You should never not know what your teacher expects.

    College course work should be much like your annual review with your manager. There should be no surprises. You should be receiving feedback so you can adjust, improve and grow.

    Your professor’s approach is also terrible if the college is up to have their accreditation renewed. Colleges have to prove they have clear learning goals, clear paths on achieving those goals and clear ways of measuring achievement. My caveat is if your school is unaccredited, (typically for-profit colleges) they don’t have that expectation.

    Run, do not walk, from this professor and send an email to the college dear as well as the dean of students.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      You should never not know what your teacher expects.

      This! Very much this!

      Also, not just teachers, but managers/bosses of any kind. They need to tell the people who report to them what they expect to see. You are absolutely right that there should be no surprises.

  49. Seashell*

    The professor in #1 seems quite over the top in her response, but maybe the thing that rubbed her the wrong way was that you planned to drop the class if you weren’t doing well. She probably wants students to be there because they want to learn something, rather than just to get a good grade.

    1. Myrin*

      The professor didn’t know that (or at least, the OP didn’t tell her – she might’ve guessed from the timing but she couldn’t know for sure).

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      There are universities (Reed in Oregon, for example) where everything is pass-fail, and while grades exist students are expected not to look at them. But even within that system, failure is an option–it’s reasonable to want to know whether you are failing, at a point where you can still drop the class. There are usually consequences on the student for failing a class.

      1. Enai*

        Yes, expecting a student to keep going to a class even if they’re failing or just not getting a good enough grade is… not really reasonable, even if the only consequence for the student is the added frustration and the time investment. The time especially can usually be spent better doing things that are actually productive. Like studying for a subject one is better suited for.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      There are all sorts of classes offered through extension schools, retirement centers, etc, where there is not an evaluation part, and the reason to take the class is that you would like to learn more about Early Medieval chant, with either more interaction or more rigor than you would get watching a series on YouTube.

      Universities have an evaluation part. Once you put that in, and it matters for the students, it’s reasonable for them to want some information as to whether things are on track. We’ve had examples here where someone was putting a lot of effort into something that was not going to work, and they needed to hear that it was not working before they put even more time and money down that hole.

    4. kiki*

      I get that sentiment, but as much as we can get into the mindset of where the teacher might be coming from, I also think the teacher should be trying to put themselves into the mindset of the students more. It’s not that students are just grade grubbing! They’re often spending money and time on the course. LW was trying to see if it made sense for them to continue with the course right now – they’re a working adult and presumably have limited bandwidth for taking on new things. They want to know if the level of effort they’ve been putting in so far is sufficient to do well and get everything out of the class. If not, they know they can’t do more right now and wouldn’t continue.

      This always frustrated me as a student! Teachers would act like students “only care about the grades” but students are paying money for this class and are trying to balance several of them at once. If I know early that I don’t have the bandwidth for one of these courses to get everything out of it at this time, I can’t create more time and energy for myself out of nothing.

      1. Gemstones*

        It’s probably a good lesson in not putting your cards on the table. You wouldn’t email your boss, “Can you let me know if I’m doing well, because if not, I’ve got a few other opportunities, and I’d like to explore those options.” I mean, that might be true, but you’d want to couch it a lot more carefully.

        Similarly, you might want to ask the professor for feedback in a way that’s respectful of their time/work; something like, “I’ve been enjoying the course, and I’d so appreciate meeting with you to hear if you have feedback on my progress” rather than “I’d like to know how I’m doing because if I’m not performing well, I’m considering dropping the course.”

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          There’s a difference between a boss and a professor, though. With a boss your relationship has a mutual benefit (they receive your work and you receive a paycheck). With a professor, though, you are paying them for their services. You’re basically a client. And it’s okay to decide that what they are offering is no longer a priority for you.

    5. i like hound dogs*

      Seashell, I agree. When I taught at a university, it was frustrating when students only engaged with me re: their grades. I get it — I wanted to get good grades as a student, too! — but it did hurt my feelings when I put my heart and soul into trying to teach them about literature and the response was BLAH BORING AM I GETTING AN A (not saying this is what OP did!)

      (This is why I no longer work in academia, lol)

    6. Gemstones*

      That was my thought, too. I think the professor went about it all the wrong way, but LW’s attitude seems a little entitled. Especially with the assumption that this small advanced class is going to be an easy A…

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        The LW didn’t say they assumed it was going to be an easy A, they said the general assumption (meaning from everyone, not just them) around the class was that as long as you showed up and were engaged you got an A. I don’t know what’s entitled about wanting clarification about how they were doing in the class. That’s a pretty standard request.

        1. Gemstones*

          Asking for clarification about how you’re doing is fine; I just think that the mistake LW made was in letting professor know they’d drop the course if they weren’t doing well, rather than, say, working harder to master the material.

          1. Myrin*

            She didn’t let the professor know; the professor might’ve guessed from the timing, but OP didn’t openly say it.

            1. Gemstones*

              I guess it depends on whether the “if I wasn’t doing well, I’d rather drop the course” was just an explanation to us, the reader, or if she put it into the email. It’s not really clear whether she did or didn’t say it. But if it was that clear to the professor, it might be a heads up to rethink how she words things.

              1. Hlao-roo*

                The letter writer clarified in a comment (username “LW #1” at 8:29 am):

                I didn’t mention that I was going to drop the class if I was doing poorly, but I did ask right before the drop deadline, and she might’ve reacted badly to that.

                I take it the “if I wasn’t doing well, I’d rather drop the course” was just an explanation to us, the readers.

          2. Jennifer Strange*

            First, we don’t know that the LW actually said they were going to drop the class pending how they were doing. Even if they did, while I wouldn’t suggest they do that, I don’t think it makes them entitled, it just means they know what their priorities are. There is nothing wrong with that.

      2. Observer*

        but LW’s attitude seems a little entitled

        Wait, the OP was entitled for *wanting some feedback* on how they are doing? In a class that they are paying for, whose grade could have significant consequences for them, and for which they *had submitted work to the professor*?!

        No, wanting feedback is normal and reasonable. The idea that people should put that kind of effort in just because and should not even think about the ripple effects is what is entitled!

    7. Parakeet*

      You can be taking a class because you want to learn something and still realize part of the way through that you’re not doing well enough for it to be worth sticking it out the rest of the term. A full-time student might wisely want to focus on doing as well as possible in their other classes rather than struggling to reach mediocre in this one. And if society doesn’t want full-time students to care about grades, it should make fewer things contingent on them. It’s unrealistic to expect someone to risk losing a scholarship, being put on probation, forced out of their major, or losing their prospects in entire career fields that require very high GPAs for professional school, because a prof thinks a student should want to be in their specific class, succeed or fail, out of pure desire to learn the subject.

      And LW1 has a day job – if they’re struggling with what is essentially an extracurricular and they don’t have the resources to spend more time and energy on it, why should they?

      I TAed my way through most of grad school and I think having actually been a struggling student in undergrad was pretty helpful for understanding how off a lot of TA and instructor assumptions about students who aren’t little up-and-coming copies of them are. Also I design and run trainings as part of my job now and I know perfectly well that no matter how much love I put in, plenty of people are not attending for the sheer joy of my subject matter lol

  50. KnitterWho*

    For 3 – I don’t think folks should reference genitalia in the work place. Also, one gender’s plumbing is no better or worse then other genders’ and shouldn’t be used as an insult.

    1. Eff Walsingham*

      Yeah, that’s kind of where I land as well. At work, don’t say dick, and don’t say pussy.

      I worked at a place with a lot of machinery and heavy objects, which occasioned a LOT of swearing. But that’s on the floor, not in meetings. Time and place is important. When you’re speaking in a meeting, presumably you’ve had some time to prepare and consider what you’re going to say, and how it’s going to land.

      In my experience, people who used words like “dick” and “pussy” at work were the type to disparage women for “wanting equal treatment, but they’re so SENSITIVE” and trying to put us in our place, which apparently involves feeling uncomfortable. Not saying that this is the OP’s background; but it’s important, if you’re meeting with clients, to be aware of the baggage behind colloquial expressions so you can avoid this sort of situation, in which someone felt it was important enough to them to complain about it.

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      1000% !!!!!

      I think a lot of this goes back to religious training that sex is dirty and anything associated with it is also dirty. We really need to do a lot of work to move away from that kind of thinking. Genitalia is just specialized body parts, like eyes or noses.

      For me, the idea of saying “someone is a dick” is like saying “that’s so gay”. It’s wrong, it’s inappropriate, and if we can’t get rid of it in the society at large, at least we can get rid of it at work.

      Things like this are why the good aliens don’t visit us.

  51. CheesePlease*

    OP#1 – in my experience, some professors are VERY out of touch with business norms. I will never forget my professor for my senior design thesis while I was getting my engineering degree. He was asking about some technical equation to describe a phenomenon, and expected me to have it memorized. I did not have it memorized but told him I knew which section of which book to reference containing that equation in order to continue my work. He proceeded to lecture me that “in industry” where I planned to work after college (as opposed to academia) it was not acceptable to have to reference textbooks, and that if I told that to my future boss it would be unacceptable. I definitely cried.

    He clearly does not know how often engineers look things up – either in reference manuals, standard industry procedures, textbooks or the internet! It’s widely accepted in the field.

    I’m sorry your professor was harsh.

  52. Icanteven*

    #1 I can’t tell if this was a class offered by an accrediated University or not. But if so, please forward this information to the Chair or Dean of the department. At most Universities you are REQUIRED to have current grading posted for the class by the drop date so you know where you stand. and then asking for an idea of your standing in a class and getting that response was absolutely…I don’t even have a word, but I assure you their boss would want to have a serious conversation. Also, students normally get the opportunity to review the class at the end. If your University has that policy and the teacher did not give you the opportunity then that’s another thing their boss needs to know. Of course, if this was a private company and not a regular University you might not have these options but I’d still try and find this person’s boss and send a copy the correspondence to them. It should be unacceptable to anyone, private or public institution, but as we all know from reading this blog, sometimes unacceptable things happen with no consequences.

  53. I should really pick a name*

    I would have thought that you’d monitor pay equity by comparing the people in band A to each other

    You can compare people with similar jobs regardless of if there’s a pay band or not.
    If your male employees in a specific role consistently make more than comparable female employees, the presence or lack of a pay band shouldn’t make a difference.

  54. Heck no*

    Former prof, currently in the corporate life. OP1, your professor is so off her gourd she can’t even see the garden. (Also, no feedback that far into the semester is terrible, even if it is standard in your department.)

  55. kiki*

    So this isn’t the same as physical touch from a person, but I’ve found that feeling something warm can be a good-enough in a pinch substitute for physical touch. So holding and sipping a warm cup of tea at the end of the day, wrapping myself in a cozy cardigan, going outside and feeling the warm sun on my face, etc.

  56. Lilo*

    I train new people as part of my job and I give TONS of feedback. The idea that feedback isn’t normal in the workplace is definitely not true.

  57. Czhorat*

    RE: “Don’t be a dick”, this is not only injury dependent but job dependent. I’ve worked places – in the same industry – in which “dick” would be shockingly crude, ant others in which it would be shocking to not say “a-hole” instead.

    The only lesson is to read the room, and try to use the same level of language as others around you are using.

  58. Palliser*

    OP2: I was going to suggest you get a pet but I think you mentioned above that you have one. This may be a little harsh (I’m Gen-X) but it’s normal to be depleted by a work day. It’s tiring! I really think that your choices are become something that requires touch (nanny? nursery school teacher?) or to double-down on filling up your tanks outside of work. The latter is what I think most people in the corporate world do. There are lots of needs that won’t be filled at work.

    1. Synaptically Unique*

      When I was subbing, I had to decline working with the younger kids because I couldn’t handle their need for hugs and physical contact in general. Good suggestion for OP to consider!

  59. Observer*

    #3 – Language at work.

    Yes, it’s a legit disciplinary. The fact that you had to ask tells me that there is a chance that you may not be as careful and appropriate as you should be with your language. Because even with internal people, this was an over-step. Yes, Alison is right that with internal people it could also have been left to a verbal warning that doesn’t have to go in your file (ie it would not necessarily have been necessary to make a formal thing about it.) But still inappropriate and bad judgement. For external audits? Definitely out of line.

    I wonder about the rest of the context. The fact that you are an auditor matters a bit here and so does the fact that you are talking about how you handle a finding. So I wonder if there was not more going on than just your inappropriate language.

  60. Hendry*

    For #2, since the OP herself mentioned a pillow, presumably that would work, so AAM’s suggestion of a smaller pillow seems to make sense.

    I’m sure there are times when you’re not at work and there’s no one around to hug or touch.. whatever you do then could also be an option

  61. Prof. Jojo*

    LW1, I’ve worked in industry/office jobs for most of my career, but I recently spent four years as an adjunct college instructor, and this is what I want you to know:

    Your professor was gaslighting you. For one thing, the professor-student relationship is NOT analogous to the manager-employee relationship. Your professors report to their own supervisors, but in a sense, they also work for you, the student. It’s not just best practice for them to give you feedback, they OWE it to you. You’re paying them for it! This doesn’t mean students get to boss their instructors around, and some students *are* overly demanding; they often don’t understand (because they have no way of knowing) what a tremendous workload their professors are juggling. But it IS nonetheless the instructor’s job to provide feedback to students on their mastery of the course material. Look, grading sucks. It’s the least enjoyable part of teaching, it sucks up a lot of time and energy, nobody really knows how to do it “right,” and many of us can never get it done fast enough to satisfy all our students. I was always behind on grading, and a lot of my students resented that, and hoo boy did I get sick of those emails asking “when will this paper be graded” or “how am I doing in your class and should I just drop it.” But my students had every right to ask me those questions, and it was 100% my responsibility to answer them respectfully and to manage their expectations with kindness and candor. If I was feeling overwhelmed and anxious about my responsibilities, that was my problem to cope with, not theirs.

    TL;DR: Your professor doesn’t like a particular aspect of their job (grading/feedback), they wrongly held it against you, and their behavior was completely out of line and (I think/hope) out of the ordinary. You can and should expect better from other instructors. You definitely should expect better of your managers in the future.

    1. Emily Byrd Starr*

      That’s absolutely correct. After I graduated from college and started work, one of the hardest things for me was transitioning from an environment where I was the client, to one where I was the employee. The expectations are totally different. For one thing, if your boss thinks that you are doing something wrong and need to be corrected, they will go out of their way to tell you so.

      1. Prof. Jojo*

        Yes, totally different responsibilities and expectations! We as a society have not done college students any favors by promoting the fiction that college classes, and the student-professor relationship, are somehow supposed to help students understand the employee-manager relationship and professional norms.

    2. Pescadero*

      “Your professors report to their own supervisors, but in a sense, they also work for you, the student.”

      This is a distinct difference at an R1 institution… they work for their grant sponsors.

      Being a bad teacher who brings in a lot of money gets you promoted. Being a good teacher who doesn’t bring in money or publish gets you fired.

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

    LW 2, maybe compression clothing can be helpful? I sometimes like feeling squeezed, compression leggings/socks/etc can do a medium job of filling the need! Even compression sleeves can be breezily explained with “Eh, carpal tunnel!” and a shrug. I doubt it would give you everything you want but it might be enough tactile input to take the edge off.

    Logistically, it’s a long shot, but if there’s an animal shelter or something nearby where you can swing by for half an hour at lunch and just pet the animals, that would probably help a lot.

  63. Kel*

    #2 makes me so happy I immediately established myself as the office weirdo. I think I could bring in a squishmallow and no one would bat an eye.

    I hope you find something! Maybe a sweater filled with other sweaters or something, so it looks innocuous (you like layers!!!) but you can actually secretly have a hug buddy?

  64. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    OP4 – When I was still in graduate school, an opportunity for a role that I was somewhat interested in came up – it was one that was related to my degree, but a 1-2 year job, at least the way it was currently structured, but it would have been good experience, a good atmosphere, and allowed me to have full time salary + benefits while still completing my degree (among some other perks, without giving away too many specifics). My friend made a point of telling me how much she wanted the job, she was perfect for it, etc. And I thought, well, she is and there’s no chance I’ll get it over her for [reasons].

    After the application deadline, I told our shared advisor something to the effect that I declined to apply and why, and he was pretty upset with me! Which made me second guess whether I might not have been seriously considered over my friend!

    It all worked out in the end, in my mind – She got that role, it was, in fact, so perfect for her that they expanded the role post-graduation to keep her on and keep her engaged, and she parlayed it into bigger and better things. Then me, in turn, ended up scoring an internship that hired me full time as soon as was feasible (and before I graduated!) which was the right move for me as well. But I do regret not putting in for it just because my friend said she wanted it. I am glad I learned that lesson in an ultimately low-stakes situation.

  65. Ell*

    #1 My partner is a professor, and OP did nothing wrong — in fact, the opposite, you were proactive and engaged. What happened has nothing to do with you.

    I have a guess what happened, and it’s not okay, but maybe will help give some context.

    Over the past decade, but especially since 2020, the number of students my partner gets demanding “bumps” or extra credit claiming bad grades are unfair when they absolutely didn’t put in the work has gone way up. Finals week has become miserable because students who had poor attendance all semester, never came to talk to the professor, never did the readings, and generally didn’t put in any effort show up in his inbox, often angry, with demands at the eleventh hour.

    He’s seen so so many of his colleagues experience the same thing, and some (certainly not all) have gotten really bitter and inflexible as a result. Some of his colleagues have tried to get out of teaching general ed classes in favor of these smaller lectures because it straight up requires less work and less engagement. They are defensive with any demand under the assumption it’s one of these students demanding an unearned bump, which is of course horrible. That is how this professor sounds.

    OP asked her to do her job, and likely because various things outside OPs control are happening to her profession, this professor did the exact wrong thing.

    All a good professor wants is someone who is engaged, cares, tries, and ideally comes to office hours and asks for feedback! Those students are why most professors got into teaching in the first place. Please be assured that this entire problem is HER problem, not yours. She has lost the plot on her career and that’s sad.

    It’s extra sad for students like you who could benefit from a good prof, and don’t because they’ve become detached from reality and probably need to change jobs. I’m so sorry it happened to you.

    Also, as an employee in non-academia, what is she even talking about that good employees don’t ask for feedback? She’s not only a sad version of what her profession should be, she’s flat out wrong about how “the real world” works.

  66. Emily Byrd Starr*

    1. Unless there’s something huge that you left out of the letter, your professor is banana crackers. I would report her to the dean if I were you.

    2. Would it be helpful/possible for you to get a massage? Obviously, it would have to be after work, which wouldn’t help you during the day, but would it make you feel better at the end of the day?

    3. “Dick” is considered to be a swear word and therefore inappropriate for the office. In the future, say, “I don’t want to be a pain.” If you feel that the word “pain” isn’t forceful enough, say, “I don’t want to be a jerkwad.” Or “I don’t want to be a ratfink.” Or “I don’t want to be a bozo.” Those words all have the same connotation as “dick” but aren’t considered obscene.

    1. Red Wheel Barrow*

      All of these options sound great to me except for “jerkwad,” which is about masturbation/ejaculation (as in “jerk off” and “blow your wad”).

    2. Eff Walsingham*

      Whatever happened to, “I don’t want to nitpick”? or “I don’t want to be unnecessarily harsh”?

      In one of my former admin roles, I dealt with both internal and external auditors – one memorable month, at the same time! Amongst themselves, they seemed to have a sort of high-achieving dudebro culture, but I would be astonished if they sounded that way when addressing company boards or regulatory bodies.

      Like, no matter what your lawyer sounds like in the office or in the rest of life, they’d best not be addressing the judge as “Fam” or “Mate” or “Buddy”. It’s not the “badness” of the language so much as the inappropriateness. Makes it look like the speaker has forgotten where they are.

  67. i like hound dogs*

    OP1, your prof sounds like a jerk and was wildly out of line. I’m sorry!

    That said … as an ex-academic, I’m not sure I would have been thrilled to receive your email, depending how it was phrased. Most instructors get a LOT of students who aren’t engaged at all with the material but still want to make sure they’re getting an A. Not saying this was your case at all, but it is a common one.

    I once had a student come by my office hours. I asked what she’d like to discuss/work on and she said “Nothing, I just want to make sure I’m getting an A.” It’s a little off-putting when you’ve put a lot into your class.

    Another time I told my class that they were welcome to come to my office hours to get feedback on their papers before they were due, but that I wanted them to show up with specific questions/areas to focus on, etc. Otherwise they just show up, hand me a printed paper, expect me to read it in front of them and tell them whether or not it’s good enough to earn an A. I get that everyone needs feedback, but it seemed like it was putting all the onus on me instead of on them to think critically about their own work.

    Again, I’m not on her side, but just wanted to point out how the “I want to make sure I’m getting the right grade or I’m gonna drop” may have felt like an insult to her.

  68. Nautical by Nature*

    Hi OP1- Instructional designer here, who works in professional development in teaching for faculty. Your professor is out to lunch. The absolute, number 1 thing I work with faculty on is the importance of giving frequent and low-stakes feedback to students. It’s not just about knowing where you stand and making decisions about your grade, it’s fundamentally how learning works. To learn isn’t to collect facts in your mind bucket, it’s growing into a understanding and developing new ways of thinking. And you can’t know if you’re growing without a ruler. Keep being the student faculty should (and do!) want most- the kind that’s just as invested in learning as they are

  69. TheBunny*

    Ugh on the feedback one. Sometimes feedback just isn’t about the person receiving it.

    I had a manager give me feedback. I thought about it and decided I agreed with most of it (she wanted me to step up more in some instances) so I told her I thought about it, considered how I felt about what she was asking of me, and agreed she was right that I had been taking less ownership of things (mostly because she’s such a micromanager if it’s not done EXACTLY how she would do it, it’s wrong even if it gets the correct result) but that’s not the point here…She then told me she wanted more dialogue on the feedback.

    Ok. So my feedback conversation is about making you feel good about it because you are so insecure you need me to validate,
    with a long conversation, any feedback you give me. Noted.

  70. I'm A Little Teapot*

    #3 – I’m an auditor. I understand that if you’re auditing a very rough and tumble organization where that kind of wording makes sense with them then you might speak that way. I have some of those clients too, and its nice because they generally say what they mean. However, as an auditor, we are supposed to be professionals and trustworthy. Saying you don’t want to be a dick about a finding doesn’t sound professional.

    Here’s the thing though: it wasn’t your coworker who reported you. It was the auditee. This isn’t a minor issue, this was your calibration of what is acceptable and appropriate is off. You need to do a broad examination of your professionalism – demeanor, clothing choice, language, all of it. Since you got a formal write up, my guess is you’re unprofessional on a regular basis and either no one has talked to you or they have and you’ve not listened. Pay attention before you get fired.

  71. DenimChicken*

    OP2, do you like dogs? Any dog parks or folks walking dogs near your job? Dogs are generally very receptive to affection from strangers (if you ask their owners first) and tend to be cuddlier than humans.

  72. Leenie*

    I interviewed someone who had been working for one of the big accounting firms as an auditor. When I asked him the “tell me about a time you made a mistake” question, his response was an example where he’d forgotten an email attachment. I thought he was really reaching for an example at first, but the story was harrowing. Instead of responding with, “I think you forgot the attachment.” like a normal person, the client called his boss and screamed about the low level of service he was receiving and how untrustworthy the auditor was. His boss called him into the office to be screamed at by the client, as well. I guess my point is that, if you work as an auditor, it seems that being beyond reproach has a higher bar than in the rest of the world. I can’t imagine the reaction if that person had used a swear word.

    And yes, I ask that question. I saw some discussion on here recently about that being a gotcha question. It really isn’t. I’m hiring for positions handling complicated transactions, where mistakes can be incredibly costly, but can usually be fixed if they’re caught early enough. So it’s important that I hire people who know that they’re fallible and that they’re safe telling me when they make a mistake. I hired the auditor BTW.

  73. namey name name name*

    Oh geez, I’ve been in a similar position to LW #4, with the added baggage of the coworker being a sexist dude.

    He actually went so far as to follow me out to my car one afternoon, questioned me heavily about my intentions, wouldn’t take “I prefer not to discuss this” as an answer, and eventually told me that the hiring manager was “looking forward” to his application and that the whole department was sure he was going to get the role.

    I brought this to my manager, who then talked to his manager…who is a useless enabler and zero happened to him. I didn’t press to escalate to HR because I was afraid it’d look like I was trying to knock him out of the running. Biggest professional regret as he ended up becoming a department missing stair of sexism and creepy behavior towards single mothers in particular, and no one’s ever reported him.

    (He did end up getting one of the 3 openings for the role. :-/ I ended up in an anxiety loop leading up to the interview and while it wasn’t a total bomb, I didn’t do very well. It was for the best for me in the end as I got another internal role that was much better suited to my strengths and career goals.)

  74. OMG It's 2024*

    LW1 should definitely talk to the Department Head of that professor, forward any incendiary emails, etc… Also, this belongs on Rate My Professor, as well. That woman is unstable and students should be forewarned! She definitely has more baggage than will comfortably fit in the overhead compartment, and that reaction was 100% about her and not you!

    1. Hyaline*

      I agree–AFTER the LW has graduated. Unfortunately, plenty of academic departments are dysfunctional, and I would absolutely not encourage the LW to invite a situation where they’re jeopardizing their success in further coursework because they rocked the boat. Should it matter? Nope. Might it matter in some departments? Yes. Save everything for now, wait until after commencement, and then send a well-documented email!

  75. Forrest Rhodes*

    #3 Another vote for “jerk” here. I sometimes use “toad,” too. It gets the message across and often generates a smile, too.

  76. H.Regalis*

    Other people who have the same thing as LW2: What do you all do?

    I don’t want to be like, “Suck it up, buttercup” but simultaneously, hugging/touching your coworkers is right out, and I don’t think hugging a stuffy or a pillow is going to go over well with a lot of in-person jobs, especially for someone who’s starting out. Most likely I think you’re not going to be able to do a lot of recharging by touch while you’re on the clock.

    On the other hand, I don’t think work needs to be soul-sucking and draining. Sure, everyone has bad days, and depending on your job—thinking EMTs, social workers, ER workers, police, etc.—you might be dealing with some very serious stuff that will require more de-stressing at the end of the day than if you were a plumber or a software developer; but if you’re in a job that is so awful that the stress of it ruins all your personal time, that’s not good in the long-term.

  77. STEMprof*

    LW1 – I am a professor at a graduate school. This is very Not Normal and not something I have ever seen as a student or faculty (although there is a lot of weirdness in academia, and a lot of poor management, so I also unfortunately very much believe that there are profs who react bizarrely). We do get a LOT of complaining about grades, but even when the complaints are rude or presumptuous (“If you take another look at my assignment, you’ll see that I deserve more points”), that doesn’t give us license to be rude back. And it doesn’t sound like you were rude! This is just an unhinged person.

  78. Some People’s Children*

    I am fond of the f word. So all purpose! Not on a work meeting, MAYBE in my office with the door closed. I did once say to someone what the f were you thinking but he’d already heard worse and we weren’t with clients and had been working together for about 20 years. Context matters sometimes!

  79. OnyxChimney*

    #1 If I had a dollar for every time a professor told me “You need to deal with [My unreasonably strict policy] for real life and the working world!” Only for the real working world to be much more flexible and realistic I’d be able to treat myself to a steak dinner.

    1. GreatestBlueHeron*

      They will also claim to be treating children “like adults” by sticking inflexibly to infantilizing rules.

  80. WriteUnread*

    #2, I wonder if having more texture around, for tactile input that’s less obvious than hugging/pressure, would help? Like, having fuzzy/textured decorations on your desk, or wearing textured sweaters or fidget jewelry. You could also maybe experiment with what body parts you’re focusing on, like putting something warm or heavy over your shoulders/around the back of your neck instead of defaulting to your hands – I feel like touch to your back/shoulders/the outsides of your arms might come closer to simulating someone else’s touch.

  81. Hyaline*

    Just to further reassure #1, it’s ranged from common practice to almost mandatory in every academic department I’ve worked in or adjacent to to provide adequate feedback to students BEFORE the drop deadline for any given semester. If your professor didn’t do this, it’s out of sync with what is considered best practice in my experience. Sure, none of us like “grade grubbing,” but open communication and transparency, including about grades, is important, and asking for (frankly, expecting!) timely feedback is not out of line at all. (Letter writer, if this course is truly one you want out of, there may be options to drop post drop “deadline” depending on your institution. If you really want out, I’d pop in for a chat with your academic advisor or the Registrar.)

  82. NotMyCircusNotMyMonkeys*

    I spent ten years in the consulting space, and saw more than one consultant fired because they used language like “dick” with a client. You can’t do that. Period. Even if you think the client uses such language themselves.

    A big part of being a consultant is maintaining a HIGHLY professional image with the client at all times. As a consultant, you have to be very aware of all interactions….jokes, comments, the way you phrase observations in consulting and audit reports, the way you express your responses to client comments. When a client is paying you $300 an hour, they can be EXTREMELY picky about the smallest things.

    It is a different world than working within that company. The OP is lucky, and this is a good lesson to learn early in one’s career. If you are a consultant? I STRONGLY recommend reading the book “Managing the Professional Service Firm” by Dr. David Maister. I required everyone on my teams to read it. The lessons it contains are based on decades of research and observation, and it will help you become a much better consultant.

  83. SWD*

    OP2, if your physical touch includes recharging w/pleasurable textures, maybe you could bring in small swatches of those things—silk or velvet, feathers, worry stones, etc. A little pouch could hold them and be unobtrusive.

  84. not the nutty professor*

    i volunteer as an academic advisor for my sorority and have for years. one of the things I tell everyone to do is to meet with their professors 1:1 at least once and ask “is there anything you think I could be doing better?” when I was in college and then graduate school, this tactic not only helped me improve in ways I couldn’t see myself, but build relationships with my professors, several of whom became my long term mentors. the professor from question number one is seriously nutty. what the heck.

  85. Jaina Solo*

    #4, you have my support on this. I was fortunate to work with some great people who were all going for the same role. And as much as I (and they) wanted it, I valued my coworkers too much to make it an office Hunger Games scenario. We ended up saying things like “you’d be great at it” to each other when it came up and I think that worked for us. We all really wanted it, but acknowledging that any of us was qualified was for the best. Ironically, the company ended up doing away with the role before they could select one of us.
    I’m wishing you peace with this and that you are blessed with enough other colleagues who will support you no matter what.

  86. GreatestBlueHeron*

    OP1, that professor is completely off-base. Not even remotely close. Like others have said, the professor is also probably not all that unique within academia where professional culture/norms are…unique. I’m doing a master’s right now and that difference is one of the reasons I wouldn’t consider a PhD. I have two profs who will mark down students for missing any class for any reason. They claim that this is because we are “adults who should be able to manage their own time properly.” One of them marked down a student who was hospitalized. They are teaching graduation requirement classes to boot. One of them teaches the seminar accompanying required internships and has never worked outside of academia. That prof’s advice is…not good. We have an adjunct who has worked in our niche field for 20 years, but cannot lead the seminar (despite wanting to) because she lacks a PhD.

  87. Karma is my boyfriend*

    As someone who once got written up for allegedly calling someone a dick, I feel LW’s pain.

    In my case, supposedly I said that about a senior coworker while talking to someone below my level, who then reported it up their chain and it came back down my chain of command.

    When I got formally reprimanded—I never was even questioned about the remark!!—my boss wouldn’t even say the word. I forget how he referred to it, but he absolutely REFUSED to tell me the word! He said it started with a D and I was then even more confused as to what I might have said. He FINALLY said I called this other guy a dick, and my mouth dropped because I 100% haven’t used that word since like high school (20+ years).

    Nevertheless, I still got written up. I am 2 jobs removed from that one and the trauma still remains :’(

  88. NotMyCircusNotMyMonkeys*

    Poster 1, this has nothing to do with you. The professor was a putz – the classical example of “those who can’t do, teach”. She’s in academia because she couldn’t cut it in the private sector. I’ve run across a few of these losers (I did a master’s and started a doctorate). I’m betting she’s stuck at “Associate professor” because she’s alienated everyone and she knows she isn’t good enough to ever make full prof, and she takes it out on those she has power over her.

    In the real world, none of what she says makes any sense. It’s gibberish from somebody who couldn’t function as a manager of *anyone*. I’m sorry you had to deal with one of those brittle and socially inept putzes who can only function in the protected cocoon of academia. Like I said, I have dealt with this particular subspecies….just comfort yourself with the sure knowledge that she knows she’s hated, and that nobody will show up to her retirement lunch (as an Associate Professor) other than to grab some free food and head back to their offices, thanking their stars they won’t have to see her again.

  89. OP 4*

    LW 4 here! Thanks to Alison and everyone in the comments. My coworker did corner me today in a one-on-one Zoom meeting about a project. She asked again if I plan to apply and I told her that it hadn’t been on my radar but that I planned to review the job description and do with most of the open roles in the organization. Her response was essentially that she didn’t want to give me a play-by-play of her experience applying/interviewing if I also want the job. She closed it out by saying “if it isn’t me I hope it’s you.” So perhaps it was more anxiety than intentional bullying.

    I have found myself pretty hesitant to even review the position knowing how badly and for how long she has wanted it. But the hiring manager is the one who encouraged me to apply. The hiring manager also said that my name had been thrown out by a couple of senior leaders. So I’ve really gotta take a look.

    Oddly enough, another coworker was telling me how he is afraid for how things might go if the coworker who really wants the job doesn’t get it. This made me realize that the whole situation isn’t great. I’m looking forward to moving past all of this and having a fully staffed, well-operating team.

    1. Koala Tea*

      Thank you for the update! I am glad the interaction went as calmly as it did. Best of luck with however you continue to approach this situation.

    2. Synaptically Unique*

      There was a job posted that I wasn’t planning to pursue and had actually encouraged someone else to consider. Ultimately, several key people urged me to apply. I got the job and nailed it. Changed the entire trajectory of my life. The person I’d encouraged to apply also applied, but withdrew his application. I felt a little bad about that until one of the interviewers (the one I was unsure how he felt about my candidacy) told me he would have never hired the other internal applicant anyway.

      You are assuming it’s you or her, but it could well end up being someone less qualified than you just because someone is NOT hiring her for whatever reason. Good luck!

    3. Jaina Solo*

      Thanks for the update OP4! If you’re open to advice, I’d say apply if you’re interested. It doesn’t matter whether someone thinks you should (or shouldn’t), but do what you want to do. And if you do, and end up getting the role, however your coworker reacts is a reflection of her. You can only control your actions and you deserve to look into things you’re interested in. Don’t let these people muck it up for you.
      Also, though, it sounds like you have a wise plan of moving on. Given your description of the workplace, it doesn’t sound like a great place to grow. But either way, I’m cheering for you over here :)

  90. Tiger Snake*

    #3 made me sit up and say “What – wait – what do you think your job is though?”

    Because I have two-fold concerns. Firstly, yes, it’s bad language and shouldn’t be used in the work place. But secondly, the intent behind the words makes it sound like LW3 could be saying that she doesn’t intend to report or address a finding.

    And that would be completely negligent! A complete failure on the process and intent in doing an audit in a process.
    If it’s not reported, it can never be fixed. If they don’t intend to fix and they’re accepting being non-compliant – well lots of standards allow for risk-based decisions, but that means it needs to be fully documented and have its risks in order to then be regarded as acceptably non-compliant.

    Now, I’m guessing the LW3 actually meant was that she personally believes this particular non-compliance isn’t a big deal, or something they should be able to correct really quickly and that she’d rather them do than have to include in the report. But not what they actually said, and with how it’s said even if this is what LW3 means it still suggests that we might be introducing biases to the approach or randomly deviating from the agreed-upon process used for the rest of the audit process. And that is bad.

    Or to summarise: the audit process is important. But LW3’s phrasing is is concerning and problematic not just because of the wording used, but also because of the way it can be interpreted.

  91. Koala Tea*

    LW#3: As someone who works with internal and external auditing on a regular basis, I would be uncomfortable with the choice of wording for multiple reasons.
    One, your job is to apply the regulations down to the details to ensure efficacy and compliance. I would be uncomfortable with a paid professional apologizing for doing their job thoroughly & properly.
    Two, your focus is to provide the audit team information as to where their procedures stand in regard to regulations. You are responsible for a polite delivery, NOT their feelings. Figure out good delivery phrase, not an apology. “I want to point out XYZ in an effort to ensure I’m supporting your accurate compliance with Regulation ABC.” If they have a problem with your interpretation of the regulation, that can be discussed through the applicable channels.
    Three, there are sooo many better (professional) word choices that fit a wide audience and add a soft comedic twist to it. Folks have provided a few great options. But, see my first point.

  92. DivergentStitches*

    I never realized until recently that I too love touch. I’ve found the easiest way for me to get it is from pets – I have a dog and 2 cats.

    I also volunteer at a horse barn because big snuggly goofy breakable critters are amazing to hug and put your face into their warm necks while they just go “ok .. and my hay?”

    I know the letter writer is in school and working and doesn’t have a lot of free time so volunteering might be out of the question, but maybe an hour a week at an animal shelter? If the OP doesn’t care for animals, maybe volunteering at a retirement home reading or playing bingo with residents? Older folks often love to touch too.

  93. TinyDancer*

    OP 2 – You’re not alone! I went from a very huggy, high touch industry (retail) to grad school, and the lack of human contact in academia made me crazy! A couple of ideas: a) you say making personal connections with coworkers helps, so keep doing that! b) if you can, pick up a high touch hobby – I’m a partner dancer, but there’s also acro yoga, rock climbing, circus, etc. c) When you’re looking for a new workplace, learn as much as you can about the culture. I’ve had jobs where everyone is very quiet and introverted and all business, and also jobs where we hug every time we see each other and know a lot about each other’s lives. Context matters! d) Recognize that it’s about creating balance and getting what you need holistically, across all of the parts of your life. Maybe you work somewhere that’s highly social and emotive and you spend a lot of your free time at happy hours! Or maybe you work in a low-touch culture that feeds your brain and spend the rest of your time in a high-touch social community. There are a lot of ways to make it work!

  94. Arielle*

    I agree that the professor is way off base and her response was batty, but this situation is in no way analogous to asking a manager for feedback. It’s a bit more akin to saying to your manager, “Is my current work enough to merit a raise and promotion next year? Because if not, I plan to quit.”

    Professors put a lot of work into building a classroom culture in a small seminar of 10 students, and suggesting you’d drop the class if she didn’t give you an A pretty strongly implies you don’t value the actual learning. In addition, professors are assessed based on their course numbers, so suggesting you’d drop the class could come across as a threat, depending on whether the prof has tenure.

    1. Observer*

      Professors put a lot of work into building a classroom culture in a small seminar of 10 students, and suggesting you’d drop the class if she didn’t give you an A

      Except that that’s not what happened.

      In addition, professors are assessed based on their course numbers, so suggesting you’d drop the class could come across as a threat, depending on whether the prof has tenure.

      The OP did not say anywhere that they said that they might drop the class, and in later comments actually clarify that they did not say that. And even if they did, that still does not justify the teacher. You don’t get to make up stuff (that the very idea of asking for feedback is terrible) or be a jerk to someone just because someone might do something that’s not to your benefit. Not if you are worth your salary and have any shred of integrity – which it does not seem this teacher had.

      but this situation is in no way analogous to asking a manager for feedback

      This is true, though. But it was not the *LW* who made that analogy. It was this ridiculous instructor who made the comparison.

    2. Jennifer Strange*

      As I said above, you can’t compare a relationship with one’s boss with a relationship with one’s professor. A professor is someone who is being paid to provide you with a service. You are fully in your right to decide it’s a service that no longer makes sense for you to receive.

  95. Ryleigh*

    #2 I’m also someone who’s big on touch (and just a very tactile person in general), and weighted blankets have been a great help for me! I find them very soothing in a way similar to being cuddled. Depending on your office setup and norms, a lap blanket could pretty easily fly under the radar as a completely normal thing to have (thanks, cold af offices!).

  96. Hedgehug*


    -a weighted blanket for your lap. Blankets are common in an office.
    -maybe a squeeze ball or a quiet fidget thing for your hands
    -or playdoh to hold in your hand
    -an office chair that you can make the back loose so you can rock back and forth

    Make a trip to the dollar store and see what they have in the toy section. Find something you can play with in your hands that bring you joy. It can be a fun quirk to your work space.

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