open thread – February 16-17, 2024

It’s the Friday open thread!

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

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

{ 1,202 comments… read them below }

  1. GirlWithPotatoEarring*

    Anyone have tips for keeping your head up during a grueling job search? I’m several months in with no bites and it’s awful.

    1. Job Applicant*

      I’m right there with you! I wish I had some great suggestions, but…. I’m thinking of starting a local job hunting group, thinking that having others to commiserate with regularly (and have help on the search, interview prep, etc.) would help. Good luck!

    2. Century Falcon*

      I’d say take breaks – REAL breaks where you’re completely allowing yourself not to be looking for jobs. The thing that got to me the most last time I was job searching was that it was like I had to always be “on”, always browsing sites and filling out applications and etc.

      Also if you can automate any part of it – like subscribing to email alerts or RSS feeds – it makes the whole thing easier on you.

      I’m with you in spirit and I hope you’ll find something soon.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        This is such a good idea. Setting aside particular hours when you’re job searching and not searching outside of those hours was really important for me.

    3. Ellen*

      One way to keep your head up is to work in parallel on things that will help your job search but aren’t directly related to it (if you have the bandwidth — if you’re already working a full-time job, I know this is easier said than done!). That way you’re both helping your job search AND doing something where you can make measurable progress, which will give you a mental boost.

      If you’re early in your career, reach out to people in your industry for informational interviews. Don’t use them as cover for asking for a job, but ask them what experience they think you lack, or if they have any advice. I’ll often offer to review resumes and cover letters for people I do informational interviews with. Plus, it helps you make a connection that may pay off down the line.

      If you’re unemployed, look for a volunteer role or part-time job that can boost your existing experience.

    4. LCH*

      I had a job search last over a year. It sucks. I attended a lot of zoom webinars related to my profession, joined a committee as part of my professional org, and also volunteered some place to get more skills. This last one won’t apply to all professions because of volunteer rules.

      I also volunteered at a cat shelter so I had something else to do and playing with cats makes me happy. It was a no-kill so very little depressing downside there.

    5. A manager, but not your manager*

      My husband and I are both on the job hunt in different stages. I’m still in early applications and he’s at the final stage at a great place, but if they choose another applicant, it will be demoralizing and we’re back to square one.

      Which is to say: I don’t have advice but I have a lot of sympathy.

    6. Collie*

      If you can, invest some time in volunteering or some other social activity. This can give you a genuine break from the hell of job searching *and* provide unexpected networking opportunities, some of which may happen without you realizing it or pursuing it consciously. It’s important to refill your cup where and when you can during these times. This two birds, one stone approach may help. Good luck!

      1. Jasmine*

        I agree with this suggestion to do a bit of volunteer work. It will help keep you calm. I did this once as a way of breaking into a new field. It gave me a chance to learn about the environment of a non profit. The place I volunteered at offered me a job after two months.

    7. M2*

      I have been there!

      Take breaks. My kid calls them “brain breaks” where you go outside for a walk, read a book, watch a movie, go hang with a friend, pet your cat, whatever.

      Do some work outside our own space. My local library used to have rooms you could go so I would go and apply for jobs there some days just to get out of the house and make it feel more like “work.”

      Network! Anyone in your industry you can speak with and have informational interviews? An acquaintance of my spouses was out of work for over a year and sent him an email asking for informational interview and to pick his brain. He was really busy at that time, so spoke with this person, but I also offered to help as I could spend more time brainstorming and asking my network. I got them in touch with a couple people I knew and came up with ideas they hadn’t even thought of. They finally found a role they liked and was chosen. I am not saying we are the ones who got them the role, but sometimes it is good to pick someones brain or ask for help, most people (especially the ones who have been there) will want to do what they can.

      Apply early. I have been places where I get sent the applications after a month of them online and even once after 2 weeks! Unless it specifically says they won’t be looked at until X date, apply if you can within the first 1-2 weeks. I applied at 8 weeks the job was up for a role and they told me I would have been perfect but at that point they already went through 2 stages of interviews and couldn’t put me forward as it would not be fair to the others. They told me if they fell through they would put me forward.

      Volunteer. If you aren’t working at all right now I would say get a PT job but also volunteer with an organization that you are passionate about/ give you skills you can add to your resume. Legal aid, food bank, shelter, after school activities, etc.

      Look at temping! I have a few close friends who work in higher ed and they have both mentioned they have had temps who come on full time.

      Diversify your applications. I had to take jobs that were “lower” than my previous roles. I was upset at first, once I applied for Director level (I had been director level) and they said after going through the process that that role had been given to someone else, but offered me a Senior Manager role. I was pretty ticked off (and it kind of showed me how they worked), but I used that role to then move somewhere else as a Director at an even larger organization. So, if you are looking for say Director roles, apply to Director, Manager, Team Lead. Don’t just flail when you apply, but I find some people refuse to apply because it is a “step down” but sometimes those roles let you shine and then you can grow OR it is in a larger organization or a bit different skill set and that is where you should be.

      What type of role are you looking for? Alison, if they answer may we come up with some ideas?

      Good luck!

    8. EverydayIRefreshMyEmailForWhat*

      My therapist offered me this advice which I found extremely helpful: give yourself a very hard time limit on how much time you think about it every day. Not even active job searching, polishing your resume, etc. Any mental effort given to it, from idly wondering to actively applying, counts toward that time limit. After you reach the limit, no more thinking about it for the day. You did your time, now you’re free! For me, 20 minutes was my sweet spot, but it might be different for you. It really helped keep me sane.

    9. UnemployedInGreenland*

      I’m in the same boat and yeah, it really sucks. I’m 65 and the longest I have ever been unemployed before is 6 months. Well, at the end of this month it will be 6 months since I lost my job, so yeah… slightly terrifying.

      You’ve gotten a lot of great suggestions here. Have people you can talk to, openly and honestly, about your fears, your hopes – everything. Give yourself time to move away from the computer and stop the search for a couple of hours everyday. You need to clear your head. Find something to spend some time on that interests you and help with your search. Get outside and take a walk, if you can. Review your past accomplishments to remind you that you have worth and that you WILL find the right job.

      And good luck – to all of us on the hunt.

    10. DannyG*

      If it doesn’t affect unemployment or insurance coverage consider taking a part time job. Evenings and weekends wouldn’t interfere with interviews and it would get you out of the house.

    11. hypoglycemic rage*

      sending all the good vibes your way!

      what helped me (basically, boundaries):
      – only job searching during “business hours” and not having any of the job search apps (ie: linkedin) on my phone
      – i also made a separate email address just for job searching
      – making sure to reward myself anytime i made any kind of progress (interview scheduled, made it to the second round of interviews, etc). it was something small like a cup of coffee or nail polish at cvs.
      – i definitely did not job hunt for 40 hours a week. i set a general goal of a couple applications a day, depending on if i needed to send in a cover letter or something (“easy apply” jobs are obviously a lot faster to do than jobs with an actual cover letter). i did most of my searching in the morning, and then took the afternoon to read or watch tv or scroll on my phone.

    12. Despairingly unemployed*

      I’m right there with you (a year in two months), and it SUCKS. So. Hard. Some good advice below but taking breaks is important (I try for the weekends, but my brain will brain), and once in a while facing all the feelings that come up from said grueling search (have a good cry) can help shift what I imagine is a “downer mood” (to say the least). Good luck to us both :’)

    13. Rory*

      One thing that might help, at least so you don’t feel so alone in the struggle, is to subscribe to Adam Karpiak’s newsletter, “Jobseeking is Hard.” I find his content helpful and also enjoyable to read. He’s also a great follow on LinkedIn.

    14. Attic Wife*

      One thing I found really helpful in my own tough job search last year was to give myself time away from my phone. I would put it in another room and go do something else, watch tv, read, sew etc. If this is feasible for you, I recommend it. It kept me from constantly checking emails or wondering why no one has called. I hope things get better for you.

    15. anecdata*

      For me in addition to the practical stuff, it’s leaning into the things that help me remember my “human value” outside of my “professional value”: volunteering, shoveling for my elderly neighbor’s, take your dog on a fantastic walk or your kids (niblings, friend’s kids, etc) to the “good” playground on the far side of town, call your grandma, time with friends/family/anyone else who thinks you’re wonderful, etc. And you are wonderful!

    16. NotSarah*

      I am gratefully at the end of search! You’ll get there, too. Here’s what worked for me:
      1. I did two big searches about two years apart, following through on applications for jobs that truly resonated with me. I took a long break for about two months and did no job searching for an awhile this fall. Push hard and take breaks when you need to.
      2. Celebrate each little step forward. Take nothing personally. I didn’t get a second interview with my “safety”…turned out they had a massive org because there wasn’t enough work.
      3. Plan a vacation. A nice one. If you don’t land your next job before hand, this will be a welcome change from your routine. I planned a “run tour” of two of my favorite places.
      4. …exercise regularly.
      5. Maintain positive self-talk. You are amazing and very worthy of a good and meaningful employment.
      6. I learned a few years ago that a lot of up and coming elite athletes train quietly behind the scenes for as long as two years before attempting their big goal. This resonated with me on a deeper level. Change takes time. ❤️

    17. TheBunny*

      Revise your resume, if you haven’t. When I was hunting and got discouraged I found going through my resume and finding even small things I could tweak made me feel like I was “doing” something. I think it helped because when I found a better word or way of phrasing something my resume felt stronger.

      Was it actually? Who knows. But it made me feel like I was doing something and sometimes that’s the boost you need.

    18. SoundsNormal*

      I don’t know how long it’s been since your last job search or what industry you’re in, but many months or longer has been a pretty normal job search length for pretty much everyone I know for pretty much every job search they’ve had since 9/11 with the exception of a few small time windows that didn’t last very long. This is true across multiple industries for people at different stages of their career and also at several times when folks claimed the job market was relatively good.

  2. Job Applicant*

    I’m wondering what the consensus is on how many different jobs it’s ok to apply for at the same institution and how far apart should the applications be? The place I’m thinking of is a very large university with lots of different schools and departments. None of the jobs are for the same part of the university. But I think at least some of the recruiting is centralized, so it’s possible the same HR people could be seeing my resume multiple times.

    I’ve applied for three in the last two weeks, but I know there are going to be more that I’m interested in in the next weeks or months. I’m not applying for more right away, but how long should I wait before applying for more?

    I asked this last week, but on Saturday when many people weren’t reading anymore, so I wanted to get some more feedback. But thank you to the person who did reply to me! I ended up applying for the third job based on their encouragement.

    1. LCH*

      It seems like if you are qualified for all, it shouldn’t matter. But if you aren’t qualified, it might look like scattershot applying. I worked somewhere that I could see all applications for someone when I was hiring, not just the applications for my position. And sometimes it looked weird, sometimes it made sense.

    2. Thinking*

      Often a large corporation will have limits as to how many applications you can make. If there aren’t any stated limits, I would just judiciously apply to jobs that seem like good fits. But if you can make contacts at the university, you can probably get a better idea what is going on. I find it’s so often the case with universities that the job postings aren’t real anyways, because they have someone internal in mind.

    3. Not a Real Giraffe*

      My experience with higher education is that the different departments really don’t talk to each other with regards to hiring and candidate pools. The HR team is centralized but often there’s a different point of contact within that HR team for different segments of the university, so in all likelihood, no one may connect that you’re applying for 3 different jobs at the same time. I honestly wouldn’t worry about it, but if you want to, you can add a line in your cover letter acknowledging that there are some other roles you’ve applied for and that your skillset is relevant to each of them.

      1. BecauseHigherEd*

        What I will add though is that two departments may SEEM to be separate but are actually more closely related than you think. My department works very closely with another department (and we share a building), but on paper we’re completely separate. If someone applies to work in both departments, we automatically know and share notes. So if you’re planning to apply to work in multiple departments, do some research about how closely connected they are beforehand.

        1. Internship Admin*

          Also they may have some overlap in people serving on the hiring committees even if it’s separate departments but related work. I’ve been on committees for different roles and departments but saw the same candidates on each over a few months to a year. The cover letter helps in these cases because a lot of people do just apply to everything.

          1. Leia Oregano*

            Was coming here to say this! We have different HR contacts for different departments/divisions, so unless you apply to multiple jobs in the same department it’s unlikely even HR would know, unless there’s overlap in hiring committees or you apply for multiple jobs in one dept (which we do have happen and is fine — our industry is niche and teachable, so we often get newcomers applying to the industry who could fit multiple roles). We often help other departments with their hiring because we’re required to have a certain number of people and a certain spread of people on the hiring committee. And when we would work closely with that person/dept, it makes sense to have some say in hiring. I was on a hiring committee for an outreach coordinator in another department a couple years ago because I coordinate university-wide events this person would be part of, but our two departments are totally separate and part of different divisions!

          2. CrabbyPatty*

            I work in HR at a large university. I agree to all the above–our system anticipates that you would be applying to multiple positions within the university that you may be qualified for. Creating a personalized cover letter for each position is key, in my opinion. There may be search committee overlap or the applications may all be seen by the same reviewers at the HR level. Make at least a couple of lines in each cover letter specific to the particular job description even if for the most part it is a “form” cover letter. And make sure you mention the job title/particular department specifically. A common mistake I’ve seen when applying to multiple positions at the same university is attaching a cover letter to one application that mentions the wrong department or position!

        2. Banana Pyjamas*

          A good way to research this could be to read articles schools are releasing. Often articles will discuss departments and individuals on interdisciplinary teams. For example, several articles I read recently from the University of Michigan the engineering and medical departments we’re working together to develop new diagnostic tools.

      2. Pretty as a Princess*

        Can attest this is 100% true. Apply away.

        The recruiter night be able to see your candidate record that you have applied for other positions, but they are responsible for the position/department they are hiring for. They are not going to put a strike against you for applying for a different position elsewhere on campus. Their job is to deliver good candidates to the hiring manager.

        There are also certain kinds of positions universities hire a LOT of and they are NOT centralized. Think: administrative support, comms, stuff in departmental ops.

      3. Syfy Geek*

        I can see who has applied to any positions where I’m on the recruiting team, but not for any other open positions on campus.

        There’s even different “HR Partners” for areas, so no one knows who’s applied for what.

      4. Friday night, I’m thinking that we just might*

        This is my experience as well across two larger universities, staff at individual colleges or units have direct access to the HRIS and don’t see or care about other applications. The HR site may have a “resources for managers” or similar section with info on hiring that tells them how to access it if you want to confirm (though it might be in an employee only section). I would say just make sure you have individualized cover letters.

        1. Pretty as a Princess*

          As a hiring manager, I can only see applications against my positions. I can’t actually see anything else in a candidate record.

      5. Kristin*

        Yeah, really depends on how the institution is structured and how admin responsibilities are shared (or not shared) between units

    4. Ellen*

      I wouldn’t apply to more than 3 at a time, and I’d be sure your cover letter is personalized to each. I work for a large company but our recruiting system allows us to see each applicant’s past and current applications. When I see that someone has 6 other open applications, it can make me think, “Do they really want THIS job?” A personalized cover letter will go a long way towards counteracting that, though. (And I definitely understand that people need to apply to multiple jobs, but there’s a difference between, say, 5 previous applications to similar roles over a couple of years vs. 6 open applications within a month.)

      1. JSPA*

        But not personalized to the point that if someone hiring for one can see another, that the second application gives the lie to the first. I’m assuming that this is more of a support role, but you’re also personalizing it by claiming some connection to the department in question.

        But..it can’t have been your childhood dream, that you’ve been steadily working towards, to be attached specifically to the anthropology department, ditto to the physics department, ditto to romance languages, ditto gender theory. (I mean, yeah, it actually could; but I’d want to word one as “a field I’ve taken classes in and learned a lot from” and another as, “a field where my background in X would be relevant” and a third as “personally important to me” etc etc. If they look at multiple applications, they should see a well-rounded person who’s good at spotting and leaning in to varied connections, not a glib pretender who’s good at mouthing words.

      2. Mzanony*

        I work for a large university, and I will say the rules and procedures are very different than an equivalently large company. HR handles incoming resumes, but they get funneled out to the departments pretty quickly. And many people because were a large university with great benefits, apply for every job they are qualified for in hopes of being higher.

    5. Trotwood*

      I think that’s *totally* fine as long as you’re applying for jobs that are relevant to your experience and you’re tailoring things appropriately. A cover letter could be helpful to explain how you’re a good fit for each posting. What’s going to make HR give the side-eye is if you’re applying for totally unrelated roles or roles at vastly different levels, i.e. applying to the CFO and to be a physics professor and to do data entry. But as long as the jobs all seem relevant to you, no HR person is going to say “how dare this person be interested in more than one role.”

      1. M2*

        This. Someone close to me is high up at a university and sees all applications for roles in their school/departments. They said sometimes they get people applying for Director roles who have 0 experience or had been Assistants before. I think it is fine to apply for roles at your current level and above and if you haven’t been in higher ed before use your cover letter to explain how your skills will move over to higher ed. I don’t think they will care if you apply to multiple, but it needs to make sense in a way. Write an excellent cover letter, this is a huge selling point. My person tells me so many people don’t do a cover letter or write a not great one and they don’t understand why.

        I also would not apply to say 10 all at once, but I think 3 at a time is fine.

        Realize hiring takes forever at universities. But I would apply early If a role has been up 3 months, I don’t know if it is worth it to apply. After 30 days my friend says they can see applications, so they look at it right at 31 days I think and start the process from then. I don’t think this is how it always works (they actually hired someone who applied very last minute for a role and they are great), but if you can apply within the first 1-3 weeks a post is up.

    6. Time for Tea*

      I’d apply for all suitable roles. In my city the 2 universities we have are 2 of the biggest employers anyway so lots of people work at them. There are lots of times when the same/similar roles come up in different departments when it makes sense to apply, especially when you’re looking for a way in to employment there. Less so as you go higher up or more specialised. My partner is employed at one of local universities and is occasionally involved in hiring. If he knows someone has been interviewed in an adjacent department and knows the hiring panel there he will chat to them pre interview to get a view on them, and there have been several times when a candidate has been good in an interview for one department but not top choice and has been enthusiastically talked about for whatever the next possible role is in the second department.

    7. WantonSeedStitch*

      Definitely depends on the kind of job and your qualifications. If someone applies for a number of positions that are all basically the same role, just in different places (think admin, HR, etc.), I think that’s fine, even if you’re applying for multiples at the same time. But if you’re applying for positions that are more nuanced and specific to the departments where they’re located, it could be a little odd, especially if they’re vastly different.

    8. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I live in a city with a major research university. Tens of thousands of students and staff.
      Knock yourself out applying for appropriate jobs.
      If the job is for different departments (much less different schools), no problem.
      In my early work days, I applied for admin positions in multiple departments in the School of Arts and Sciences. Got interviews in two or three each time. One time had two offerThere was no “Not Tom is playing us against ourselves.” The salary was posted. I would get the same for either. I picked one.
      And applying for different schools or areas? Like Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Health programs?
      They are independent units.
      You fill out separate applications. You submit specific resumes and cover letters which go to the department.
      Nobody is sitting in an office saying “That Agatha Warblesworth applied for account manager/tech support/admin in Engineering and Dental! She must just be desperate.”
      This is not that.
      Nor is it this; I applied for X job at Llama Co. and they called and said how about job Y? “Please understand you can’t interview for both.”

    9. The Rafters*

      The same HR people will be seeing your app, but if they are all for different jobs, then it won’t raise any eyebrows. We’re constantly posting here (large gov agency) for the same title or almost the same title but in different departments. HRI gives a quick look to make sure they at least appear to meet the very minimum qualifications for the jobs, but otherwise the screening is left largely to the individual hiring departments. The final decisions are also made by the departments, but do have to be approved by HR.

    10. Annony*

      Apply for as many as you want just so long as you can tell a consistent story for why each role would make sense. No one will wonder why you would be apply for both the admin for the English department and admin for the Biology department. Similar for lab tech in a lab studying colon cancer or a lab studying leukemia. But you probably don’t want to apply for the lab tech job and the admin job. If they see that (varies by university whether they would) it will look really weird and be clear that you don’t actually want one of those jobs and are just applying to everything.

    11. Blue Pen*

      I work at exactly one of these places (maybe you’re even apply to where I work!), and I can assure you that no one will blink an eye so long as you’re applying for positions that are generally well-suited to your skills/experience level. At my employer, it’s essentially a numbers game; because they get so many applications for so many different positions, it’s smarter for the candidate to throw their hat in multiple rings and keep those fires going.

      It’s also kind of funny—because it’s a numbers game, I’ll get rejected for “lower” or lateral-level internal positions but will be offered the job for more senior roles?

    12. MicroManagered*

      I work at a large university. I say apply for the jobs as they come up and don’t worry about how many or how often you’re applying. Nobody is paying attention that, from my experience.

      The centralized recruiting area isn’t really involved in the actual hiring decision where I work, so my guess would be they don’t care where you’re applying — if they even notice. They’re coordinating the job posting, scheduling interviews, pre-employment checks if needed, and the actual data entry associated with the hire. They’re not really there to raise red flags about how many jobs someone applied to, or making recommendations of any kind really. That’s all on the hiring manager.

      I’m also a hiring manager and have gone through the recruitment process from that side. The only thing that MIGHT be a red flag, in my experience, is if it’s obvious that you are applying to any and every job, including ones you are obviously not qualified for. We can kind of tell when that happens. (One that sticks out to me is when I was hiring for a specialized finance-related position, and got a very artsy resume from a professional photographer with ZERO relevant experience.) Also make sure you are updating your materials like cover letters, application questions, etc. to make sense for the job you’re applying for.

      I applied for AT LEAST a dozen jobs that I was very much qualified for, before I got an interview at the university where I currently work. It can be tough to get in, and at least some of the jobs you are applying for probably have been earmarked for an internal candidate but they’re required to post it publicly, etc. Also it’s ok to apply to the same job more than once if you didn’t get selected the last time it came up. I have someone on my team who applied & was interviewed for his job four times, including twice by me, before we hired him. It was because we had internals the other times he applied, so the timing wasn’t right.

    13. Carolyn*

      Definitely apply away! As others as said it’s rarely centralized in that way. In my case I work for a large public university with great benefits. We totally get people wanting any kind of staff position for the benefits and we welcome those folks. They tend to stick around longer because higher ed isn’t great on salaries. If I found out you applied to other roles at the same uni I’d think you really want to work here and would personally view it as a strength.

    14. Phryne*

      I think this is just something that may differ a lot between various institutions. I know at the place where I work there is always demand for good support staff in similar functions at different schools and institutes. If you came in second or third on a job, they would be delighted to consider you for other vacancies, sometimes HR will actively pursue you. For other functions it may not be quite that enthusiastic, but as long as you keep applying for jobs that you are qualified for (and not just as a crapshoot to see what sticks) and perform well when interviewed, it would not be a problem. But academia can be fickle, so this might not be the case everywhere.

    15. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

      It would be highly unusual that HR would screen the candidates at a large institution, most likely they do not get involved until the offer phase except for prestigious positions.

      I work at a university If I am the hiring manager I can see if someone who applied for my posting has other applications. The thing is, it doesn’t matter if they are spread out over years or over a short time, it will still say “John Smith, 27 applications”. To see more, would be extra work on my part that I am unlikely to do to figure out if it was excessive or not.

    16. Synaptically Unique*

      Already a lot of good feedback here. Just wanted to second (or fifth, as the case may be) that you need to double-check that your submitted materials are specific to the job you’re applying for. We had someone I already knew (PhD, so more than qualified technically for senior staff positions) apply to 3 roles at different levels within our work unit (distinct, but overlapping areas). He submitted a sloppy cover letter to the first position and reused it (without changing even the job title) for the other two. I got calls from the other two hiring managers asking whether his sloppiness was a mistake or characteristic (for jobs that require a high degree of accuracy). I said that was about what they could expect of everything. Needless to say, he got zero interviews.

      Don’t assume the various offices are communicating, but also don’t assume they aren’t. Proceed carefully, but apply to as many positions as make sense.

  3. Ruminating Rachel*

    Earlier this week I was in a meeting with 3 other coworkers (we’re all remote), including my boss’s boss (let’s call him “Edgar”). It was going over a presentation my boss and I are pitching to upper management next week, but it was a pretty routine meeting. By that I mean there was nothing horrible going on or a fire that needed to be fixed, but it was like the 3rd meeting for it. At worst the most senior person there (above Edgar) was talking a lot, but it was more an internal eye-roll at the most.

    I brought up that my boss and I are still waiting for feedback from a different team (“This is why we’re pushing for Project Poodles, so we can do X, Y, Z to report on A and B”). All of the sudden Edgar interrupted me quite loudly saying “no, no, no” (not raising his voice, but it felt snippy) and swatted the air very abruptly. I’m not sure how to articulate it well because it was hard to describe. But it took me by surprise. I’ve worked closely with Edgar in the past and we have a great working relationship and he’s always given me fantastic feedback, but wtf was that reaction? I don’t even remember what he said afterward because I was caught so off guard.

    I’ve been in meetings with other departments where Edgar should be annoyed, but he’s always been very patient and professional. That air swat made me feel uneasy and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. We had other meetings since and Edgar was back to normal, but I felt uncomfortable and icked out.

    I keep thinking –

    1. By swatting the air so angrily and impatiently while interrupting me, it felt like he was physically swotting at me almost?
    2. While I think he was probably frustrated over something else, why did he take it out on me?
    3. I’ve been there almost a year and have loved working with him, but was his reaction indicative of an anger issue? Do I need to worry about him blowing up again?

    I can’t get it out of my mind.

    1. CTT*

      If this is truly the first time he’s acted this way, there is likely something else going (sick family member, house-hunting woes, 4th flat tire in a month, etc.) that has him acting uncharacteristically dismissive and it’s nothing to do with you. You can take this as a yellow flag for other issues, but sometimes people have really bad days and unfortunately they take it out on others.

      1. Kiki Is The Most*

        That’s what I was thinking. Or someone came into the room and he was shooing them out?
        I think if you’ve had a great working relationship thus far, it wouldn’t hurt to message him to ask for clarification if he thought you had incorrect information, overstepped, etc.
        “Hey I noticed that you expressed concern when I mentioned XYZ. What part might be out of step with our projection?”

        1. OrdinaryJoe*

          That was my thought too … talking to someone or a pet off camera … No, no, (don’t come in), complete with hand motion.

          1. Friday night, I’m thinking that we just might*

            The one thing I have that kind of reaction with is my computer, like if it wants to restart (8 hrs sleep thx).

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

            I could see that but then why didn’t he say something to OP? Like “not you OP I’m trying to get my pet tortoise out of the room. Please continue”

        2. Cats and dogs*

          I agree 100% with Kiki Is The Most and would ask him for clarification – you don’t have to do it in a defensive way- just like I didn’t catch your concern could you please clarify.

    2. NaoNao*

      I would give him a single Mulligan on this one. I would be rattled too, especially as a woman (if you are) because women are not typically wrong when the spots signs of mistreatment specifically from a man in a position of power. However, having said that, the history is he’s treated you well, you work together well, etc.

      I’d be wary and keep my eyes open, but don’t stress about something that hasn’t happened yet, if that makes sense. I suspect that if he were truly dangerous, the signs would be showing long before now.

      Just keep your head on a swivel but don’t let it affect you if you can. Maybe go the “gee, how embarrassing for him to loose his temper like that” route. But man am I tired of men being able to vent scary, upsetting, out of control emotions that frighten and upset the women “below” them with no consequences. So tired.

      1. Ruminating Rachel*

        True. But I disagree on the signs showing long before now. At my last job I worked with and loved my boss, then 2 years he blew up at me for something. He did apologize later that day and said he over-reacted and got too defensive over something I had the right to ask about. Some men can hide it, especially in a remote environment.

        1. CTT*

          Was that blow-up also a one-time thing? I’m not excusing that behavior, but sometimes people do have the rare explosion – what makes it different is if they recognize it and apologize and it doesn’t repeat vs. the ones who do it regularly.

          1. Momma Bear*

            Agreed. Everyone has an off day. If he’s otherwise been back to his normal, professional self, I’d let it go.

            If it’s eating at you, touch base with your boss. They may have insight into something you do not and/or be able to reassure you that it was a weird one-off. Don’t internalize something that was probably not about you.

          2. Ruminating Rachel*

            It was also a one time thing, but I find it strange these men (both who are much taller and bigger than me) are able to hold their frustration with other men, unleashing it on me.

            It also brings up old feelings of being the one picked on because I’m an easy target.

            1. SoloKid*

              We don’t see private interactions with other people. If it is truly a one off, we cannot plan for those.

            2. Cordelia*

              Maybe. Although I am a v small woman manager, and the one time in recent memory that I blew up at an employee completely unreasonably for a very minor issue (due to stressors unrelated to him), that employee was a very tall, large man. I apologised, admitted I was in the wrong, and stated that I would never do it again. And I didn’t.
              It was nothing to do with him and everything to do with me. Maybe it’s the same in your case? Not actually anything to do with you, you were just there. Doesn’t make it ok at all, but doesn’t necessarily mean that you now have to always be wary around him. It’s what happens next that counts.

              1. dude, who moved my cheese?*

                I’m sorry, but I would continue to be wary around anyone who blew up at me for a very long time.

            3. juliebulie*

              Maybe not so much that they are “able” to hold their frustration with other men. Maybe more like they’d be afraid not to!

              1. Firefighter (Metaphorical)*

                Same thing! They are concerned about consequences if they blow up at men, but not with women. That’s patriarchy!

          3. dude, who moved my cheese?*

            > sometimes people do have the rare explosion

            Do they? I’ve been in the workforce for over a decade and no one I have worked with has had a ‘rare explosion’ if they’re otherwise reasonable and respectful coworkers. Sometimes people get overwhelmed or have bad days, but it’s absolutely not correct that sometimes people just ‘explode.’ That’s not a norm or okay.

            If this was about a fly or his pet, most people would have immediately said “I’m so sorry, Norah Jones was scratching my couch again – please continue.”

            1. Cj*

              I guess from the description I don’t really consider it a blow up. concerning yes, but not actually a blow up.

              1. dude, who moved my cheese?*

                OK – outburst, passionate unexplained interjection – I still have never seen this – everyone I’ve ever worked with who was otherwise reasonable has been able to manage their frustration and communicate respectfully even in tense and complicated situations. I am kind of flabbergasted that everyone is saying this is normal!

                1. Cordelia*

                  I’m flabbergasted that you have never worked anywhere where someone would go “no, no, no” and flap their hand!

                2. GFW*

                  I think the issue is that OP described him as snippy, which isn’t “blow-up” level for most people, so everyone here is reacting with “people get frustrated sometimes.”

              2. Malarkey01*

                I’m a little confused by this. He didn’t raise his voice and swatting the air doesn’t sound violent to me. Meeting on videos is a different environment and I’ve been known to wave my hand to interject because it can be hard to step in on video when you need to interject something quickly and the video/sound don’t allow for normal polite interjections like a meeting would.

                (I’m a woman if that matters)

                1. SMH CE*

                  Yeah based off the description it just really seems to me like he was a having a bad day or something, he was a little abrupt, and he might be a hand talker. I wave my hands all the time-especially when trying to interject online. Just not that big of a deal overall, unless he’s shown aggression in the past, which doesn’t seem to be the case

    3. Straight Laced Sue*

      Is it possible he was just irritated in the moment? Either swatting a bug and irritated, OR irritated in relation to something you’d said? And that it’s just a human moment and not a problem?
      In my head, there’s leeway for any coworker to be mildly huffy very occasionally. Maybe their baby kept them awake, or they’ve got chronic pain you don’t know about, or they’re just stressed. It doesn’t have to mean much.
      If it’s a pattern, or if someone says something inappropriate, that would be a different thing.

    4. Ellis Bell*

      I don’t think this is an anger issue, but I can see why you can’t get it out of your mind. Wiser people would probably just move on, but I would really be tempted to say: “I keep thinking about how strongly you reacted to X topic in the meeting earlier this week. I’ve never seen you that affected before and I was just wondering about it; if I’m being honest I didn’t take in what you said because of my surprise”. Like, I’d be phrasing it as ‘did I do something really wrong boss?’ but really I’d be fishing for more clues on WTF happened.

      1. dude, who moved my cheese?*

        This is a great way to bring it up – it would bother me too. You will get a lot of information from his reaction – if he apologizes and explains what was going on, or if he minimizes it and turns it into your problem.

        Regardless of why, you are not unreasonable to feel taken aback and put off. You can choose how to move forward in your interactions with him, but you don’t need to minimize your feelings just because other comments have come up with any number of harmless explanations.

    5. The Rafters*

      We have those tiny drain flies buzzing around despite our best efforts to rid the office of them (they’ve permeated the whole building). You might find any one of us swatting at seemingly imaginary things, but it’s those dang flies.

      1. HalJordan*

        Are they fungus gnats and are they coming out of overwatered potting soil from office plants? If you let the soil dry out it helps.

        1. The Rafters*

          Some of them yes, we’ve done that and we have those fly traps that you stick in planters. They’re mostly working, but we still have some problems. As I said though, it’s building wide, so IDK what others are doing.

    6. MicroManagered*

      With kindness, I think you ARE ruminating and overthinking a bit.

      1. By swatting the air so angrily and impatiently while interrupting me, it felt like he was physically swotting at me almost?

      Ok, but that’s not what happened. He didn’t swat “at you” at least, not from what you wrote. This sounds more like your way of expressing how it made you feel, more than a real safety concern. If you end up sharing this with anyone, I would not include this, as it makes you sound like you’re making more out of it than it was. It was rude, but he wasn’t swatting at you.

      2. While I think he was probably frustrated over something else, why did he take it out on me?

      Because he’s a human. I’m sure you’ve misdirected frustration or anger in your lifetime.

      3. I’ve been there almost a year and have loved working with him, but was his reaction indicative of an anger issue? Do I need to worry about him blowing up again?

      From what you described, it sounds like a one-off. I’d let it go unless it becomes a pattern.

      If you really can’t, you could always pull him aside and clear the air. One of my best work friends is someone I had a misunderstanding with when I was brand new. After it happened, I just pulled her aside and asked about it and we ended up laughing and still joke about it years later.

      You could always say “Hey Edgar can I ask you about something that’s been on my mind? Last week during the Project Poodles meeting, when I was talking about XYZ you interrupted me and said no no no and kind of swatted at the air. It really caught me off guard and I didn’t know what to do in the moment, but I want to clear the air. What happened?”

      You might find out there was a bee in the room and he has an epi-pen emergency-level allergy to them or something. Or maybe he found out his wife was leaving him that morning, who knows?

    7. JSPA*

      I would guess there was some problem with the topic being brought up right then, based on who else was present, and prior conversations that you were not part of. And that he saw how things could go massively off the rails, and headed that off a bit too emphatically.

      Or that you’ve otherwise touched on a nerve that’s mostly to do with some other person.

      Or there is some misunderstanding of who knows what, or who has received what, from whom.

      Any example is obviously fiction, but here are some.

      let’s say he’d just gone to bat for a raise for someone on the other team, only to find out that the team might instead by slated for the axe, and the whole thing could go either way. (Or vice versa.) And as soon as “we’re dependent on team 2 but waiting on them” enters the conversation, the situation is further destabilized.

      let’s say one of your coworkers had privately told him that your team could do more jobs that normally rest with team 2, rather than waiting on team 2, and lobbied hard for that, and been shut down decisively. Then you blunder in, innocently, as if you’d been primed to make the argument again, from a new direction. He assumes you know what’s been asked, and that it’s a “no,” and are pushing, regardless. He’s thus reasonably mildly irked, and also reasonably believes you have the context for his response.

      Let’s say a key person on Team 2 is about to go on parental leave, and claims to have sent over all the prep work. He believes this is common knowledge. He believes that you have received what you need. And thus, that you of course understand that there’s no point on waiting on additional work from someone who’s not there, and are merely signaling that you are not feeling like moving forward.

      1. dude, who moved my cheese?*

        No, I’m sorry, I just don’t think it is ever reasonable or respectful to communicate with a coworker in this way unless you immediately apologize and explain.

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

      If i understand right, Edgar is your grand boss. Is there anyway you can talk to your boss about the interaction. Explain that you were startled and caught off guard about it and that you were wondering if you did something wrong?

      I bet what the problem was is that Edgar doesn’t like something about the project. Maybe he doesn’t like “Project Poodles”, or was expecting you to go in a different way and is upset that the group didn’t go in his direction.

    9. June Bee*

      Instead of trying to read his mind after the fact, why don’t you think about what you wish you had done in the moment and have a plan for how to handle this if it happens again? if someone has a strong reaction to something you say in a meeting and you don’t understand, you can ask for clarification.

  4. Mbarr*

    My niece is applying for her first jobs as a licensed X-ray technologist. Other than the generic job hunting/interviewing advice, does anyone have specialized advice for job hunting as an X-ray tech? Or job hunting in clinical settings?

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I would encourage her to be prepared for questions about patients who may not be fully cooperative? “No, I can’t get undressed and put on a robe” or “No, I’m not going to turn my arm in that direction” or that sort of thing. Whatever the reasoning is — it may be perfectly reasonable (religious accommodation, it really hurts when I do that) or completely bonkers (I’m sure you have cameras in the changing rooms streaming people to the internet, your x-ray machine is going to ruin my tattoo) — how would she handle those types of situations.

    2. Cat*

      Clinical scenario and scope of practice questions. She can’t officially diagnose, but if she sees so.ething very wrong on X-ray what will she do?

      Working on a multidisciplinary health team questions.

      Prioritizing patient questions: ER wants patient A scanned, Ortho Surgeon wants B scanned, Radiologist on the phone, Code Blue called on Mental Health. Where does she go, who does she see first.

      Staff safety: lifting and patient repositioning techniques, proper protective equipment for illness and radiation, violent patients and families.

      Patient tries to die mid-xray and no other staff are present, what does she do.

      She sees something strange attheedge of a scan, does she do an

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        She can’t officially diagnose, but if she sees something very wrong on X-ray what will she do?

        YES geez. I had some x-rays of my lower spine done a couple months back and after the first one, the x-ray tech goes “Huh. That’s weird.” I said “What is?” He says “Do you still have your gallbladder?” I said “… yes? Why?” He says “Oh, nothing. I just take the pictures, I don’t interpret them.” THEN SHUT UP, MY DUDE. (I was subsequently not SUPER surprised when I did get the official report back and it mentioned laminated gallstones visible in RUQ, except that I have never had any sort of gallbladder/gallstone symptoms. But still an inappropriate conversation for him to have started.)

        1. hypoglycemic rage*

          this was an ultrasound, but still….
          me, getting scanned for possible pcos (had never gotten scanned): can you tell me if anything seems off?
          tech: i can’t diagnose.
          me: so you can’t tell me if you see anything?
          tech: well, i do see some little masses…

          i did not have pcos. i guess they weren’t big enough to cause a problem, but i was anxious for several days until i got the official results and talked with my dr.

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

            I’m so sorry they said that. They should have said “yes I do see something. Your insides. But your doctor will be able to tell you if anything is wrong”

        2. JSPA*

          Whereas I am pretty sure my life was changed for the better by one such “hunh,” that caused a follow-up. Because I was someplace where full interpretation was given only for the organ system that was supposed to be being imaged (or maybe the person doing the interpretation was only deeply familiar with that system), despite a “something else” that was visible.

          Not to mention that when gallbladder symptoms hit–which they can do years after the stones are visible–you get taken a lot more seriously and dealt with a lot faster if you can say, “there’s a known large stone in there” (rather than being sent home to wait for your liver enzyme levels to rise, and your eyes to turn yellow, which was my excruciating experience).

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            Well, yes, there’s ways you can address it and ways that you shouldn’t, which was kind of my point.

          2. GythaOgden*

            Thank you!

            My husband’s kidney cancer was diagnosed that way on a routine scan after a UTI (which in men is more unusual because of the way they’re built being more infection-proof, and thus almost immediately sent for investigation) As was King Charles’ own cancer. Your body is an organism and looking at someone’s X may well bring up their Y.

            My best friend thinks a £50 annual medical for everyone would virtually eliminate serious diseases and put money into the system, and I’m inclined to believe him (even if I work in healthcare myself, albeit on the facilities side, and know that people would immediately be up in arms about having to pay anything :-///). To be honest I’m one of those people who has certain anxieties around my health (caused by my mother, whose one vice is that she fat-shames me and has been motivated by her own anxieties about her own health) that I don’t get the check-ups I should do, and that is something I’m working on with my therapist.

            Additionally, everyone who goes into hospital here, whether for emergency surgery like me on my broken ankle or on a hernia like another friend gets a blood test to determine whether they are diabetic or not. (I am not, he is, my mother at 74 is losing her insulin supply and demanded I get tested, to which I explained that the hospital had taken my bloods and come back negative; it didn’t stop her harping on about things like that because she’s legit anxious about herself and her children and has not yet learned how to differentiate between Type 1 diabetes which involves insulin supply and Type 2 which is insulin resistance because she’s a rabbit in the proverbial headlights with this kind of thing). He was diagnosed with the condition when it was starting to affect his hands and feet with pins and needles, and he was able to get help. It might sound intrusive, but better that than the damage undiagnosed diabetes can do to you in the mean time.

            However, we caught hubby’s cancer early enough that he was able to have the kidney removed in time that we got at least a few more years (and a wedding) out of him before he passed away. Getting checked out is really important and if things come up during another investigation then you probably need to know.

        3. Dr. Prepper.*

          The only permissible response to a “what’s it show” query should be “ask your doctor.” Anything else could put the tech, the radiologist and even the hospital at risk. NEVER give an opinion on results, no matter how experienced you are, as it will eventually bite you in the ass.

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

          FYI you don’t have to have gallblader symptoms to have stones. As someone who had emergency surgery to have the gallbladder removed I did a bunch of research later. Many people will have gallstones. They just kind of swim around in there. Usually they are small and can pass through your system. It’s only a problem if their is an infection or if they get too large to pass through the opening and they get stuck (like mine).

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            Yep, my regular doc took a look at the x-rays, told me what symptoms to look for and said otherwise just be aware :)

          2. Rainy*

            Yup. I had extremely emergency surgery a couple of years ago and had never had a gallbladder symptom. I had no idea what was going on–at first I thought I was having a back spasm but the pain just kept going and Mr Rainy ended up driving me to the ER at almost midnight.

        1. *daha**

          It actually is common. I’ve seen news articles in my state regarding suits back and forth between one employer and another who wants to hire away away phlebotomists and orthopedists. I’ll post links separately.

        1. captain5xa*

          Nope. It would not be weird if the healthcare company you work for is not part of a hospital but is yet another national conglomerate. Ask me how I know.

          1. Database Developer Dude*

            Mrs. DDD used to work for a fairly large pain management practice that tried to get their back office staff to sign a non-compete. We live in Alexandria VA. The non-compete didn’t distinguish between whether the employee or employer terminated the employment relationship, and dictated nothing within 60 miles of one of the prac tice offices…which meant she would have had to go as far north as Pittsburgh, or as far south as Jacksonville. I had a buddy of mine who’s an employment attorney look at it. He speaks easily twice as many languages as I do, and there was not enough profanity in his vocabulary to properly register his displeasure. Mrs. DDD did not sign. Neither did anyone else working there.

        2. Yet another Heather*

          Maybe in your state. Hospital system noncompete clauses were a very big topic in a recent legislative session in my state.

        3. Cat Lover*

          Not at all. Healthcare non-competes are HUGE. I know several people that have had past employers go after them.

  5. Betty*

    Have you ever worked with someone in the past who everyone loved and was excellent at their job, and then you work with them at a new job and you’re not feeling the love?

    I first worked with George about 7 years ago. I was at that company for a short stint and didn’t directly work with him, but he was beloved as the Director of Llama Grooming. Fast forward to now and we’re both working at the same (but different) company where I’m at the IC level and he’s a VP-level in charge of the Farming department (several teams).

    He was so beloved by his team at the old company so I was excited to work with him, but I’m noticing how he’s kind of a lot to deal with. It took awhile to see this but now it’s all I see. It’s part Peter principle, and I think he has some abilities to be where he’s at, but he’s just so controlling over everything. He requires cameras on at all times for meetings and he has to interview everyone, even down to an entry-level IC role. Even with my team, where I’m 2 levels down from him, he wants to be involved in those meetings and pretty much takes over those meetings where my boss and grand-boss don’t get much input. It’s getting exhausting. And then there are certain “missing staircase” employees he directly oversees and everyone has to work around them because he won’t do anything about their incompetence. I have to go to a conference in a few months where he’s going (which he really doesn’t need to, my grand-boss should be the one who also attends) and I’m trying to prepare my energy because he always dominates the conversations.

    I’d love to hear others’ stories.

    1. 2nd Time Unlucky*

      I sympathise about that guy, but my own story is a bit different. I think I’ve *been* the person who was beloved in Place A and a bit disappointing in Place B. In my own case, I know why I wasn’t as good – I was very close to a break down, and struggling, but managing to look “normal”, so I might have seemed simply disengaged and less committed compared to what they’d known of me before.
      Not saying that’s what going on with your coworker though!

      1. juliebulie*

        That’s where I am right now. My previous group, where I did well, got disbanded last year, so I was absorbed by another group. I am definitely not doing as well in this group. Their procedures and standards are all very different from (and more annoying than) the ones I dealt with for ten years. I feel like I am learning unusually slowly, and bumbling my way through things all the time. And even though the people are great, I feel miserable. I don’t feel good as a bumbler.

    2. Cabbagepants*

      i have so many. The common theme is that that person has successfully built a cult of personality around themselves and is supported by management in doing so, but in real life aren’t that magical or maybe even are mediocre and just good at internal no politics.

      Sadly it’s been a sign of a culture that values appearances (Bob is our resident llama whisperer and he can solve any llama problem!) over reality (Bob doesn’t actually know much about llamas but he talks a bit game that satisfies the VP when he comes by twice a year).

      1. Seal*

        The common theme is that that person has successfully built a cult of personality around themselves and is supported by management in doing so, but in real life aren’t that magical or maybe even are mediocre and just good at internal no politics.

        In my experience, far too many people equate charisma with competence and will twist themselves in increasingly complex knots to justify their underperforming yet charming coworker’s behavior. And woe to the person who says the emperor has no clothes!

    3. Shiara*

      I have a friend who worked for “Sharon” when she was just starting out on a small team and Sharon was fantastic at getting her up and running and adjusting to the working world and helping her move on to bigger and better things. A decade+ and several companies later, friend is now managing a small team and excited when Sharon is hired to be her boss. And it’s a horrible fit. Sharon is probably good at managing new to the workforce individual contributers but can’t figure out how to manage mid career managers without micromanaging and trying to manage their reports for them.

    4. Elle Woods*

      In one of my previous positions, I had to work occasionally with “Mary” who was part of the county health department. She was really good at her job–great at sharing info and trusting that others could handle their duties. We’re both in new roles now, and I cringe every time her name pops up on my phone or email. My current role, a contract one, requires that I work with her on a project and it’s pure hell. She’s so overbearing about everything–agonizing over truly trivial details, insisting on holding meetings for things that definitely could be an email or Slack chat, calling people two seconds after she sends an email, trying to take over people’s duties that she has neither the knowledge or skills for, etc. My boss and grandboss are both sick and tired of her too but aren’t able to do anything about it as she’s on a different team. I am so looking forward to when my current contract is up (March 31 can’t come soon enough) and I’ll be out of this role and hopefully don’t have to work with again in the future.

    5. BethRA*

      Not an exact match, but I’ve worked with 2 people who seemed well-loved/respected, only to find out later that people were mostly “going along to get along” because they either assumed everyone else also loved the person, or feared the person’s wrath if they didn’t. One of them at least got exposed when some other key staff left, and suddenly it became clear that ShinyPerson was all for show, and had been getting credit for a lot of other people’s hard work and expertise.

    6. Cascadia*

      Yes! I’ve seen this happen before. I work at the first organization and the beloved coworker totally bombed at their second organization – I think it was because it was a step up in role, and also the second org was in a much different place than the first org. (First org long established, second org newer and younger, and therefore different problems.) Beloved coworker came in hot at second org and was NOT popular. Left after a few years and a lot of burned bridges and ended up coming back to 1st org in a new different role.

    7. anonymous anteater*

      I have, but I came to realize that the supportive, friendly (and most of the times, genuinely pleasant) culture of my unit occasionally veers into toxic positivity where issues can neither be named nor addressed, and that includes people or processes that don’t work as they should.

  6. Mimmy*

    I posted this a couple weeks ago but it was too late in the weekend to get responses so I’m re-posting.

    Backstory: I am very passionate about disability and accessibility and have been itching to use this knowledge to educate and advise others on ADA compliance and best accessibility practices. With jobs in these areas seemingly non-existent, I’ve been contemplating striking out on my own.

    I’m in the exploratory stages. Meanwhile, I still have my current job and am continuing to keep my eyes and ears open for traditional employment opportunities. For now, I have a couple of basic questions. I am definitely being realistic–I recognize that this may not work out.

    First, I want to understand the differences between the different terms so that I can better describe what I’m looking to do. Terms like “freelancer”, “consultant”, “contractor”… are those terms interchangeable?

    Second, I’m not looking to run a large, multi-employee company–I just want to offer basic services, at least to start, even if it’s just people within my current network. Is it necessary to actually have a business name, or can I just “put myself out there” and gain clients by word of mouth?

    I know some people consult/freelance and have a regular job. How doable is this? I don’t want to give up looking for regular employment yet!

    Any insights or resources you can share would be really helpf

    1. CL*

      As someone who is also passionate about accessibility, you might need to refocus your search. For example, not many smaller companies will have someone entirely dedicated to infrastructure accessibility but they may have a facilities person who is responsible for that. Similarly, website/digital accessibility is a growing area but it may not be your entire job except for at large companies. Even if you are going freelance, what types of projects are you able to tackle? Narrowing that focus may help you

      1. HonorBox*

        I would agree with this. I’ve sat through a variety of presentations about accessibility, and some of them are focused so widely that it is really hard to determine how to implement the ideas and recommendations being presented. If you have a particular area that you’re either very interested in or have more specific knowledge in, you could more easily approach businesses who might be interested in bringing you in as a consultant.

      2. B*

        Also, this may be subsumed within roles in a DEI or similar group (“DEIA” if they are especially interested in the accessibility piece).

    2. NaoNao*

      Freelancer: someone who takes on multiple projects from multiple clients on their own schedule, works 100% for themselves

      Contractor: someone who has a limited engagement with specific rules and boundaries agreed upon by the client and the provider. Gov’t is an exception to this–the US gov’t uses “contractors” in a very specific way that isn’t the typical usage. Typically contractor roles are like 3-6 months to work on X project for Y company, through a 3rd-party staffing firm. You technically work for a staffing firm, not company Y. Freelance would be if you approached Company Y by yourself and did projects one-off without staffing agency Y. Contracting is clearly the most complicated, because “Company Y” can also hire you directly into a contracting role, AFAIK.

      Consultant: you can be a freelance consultant, but you can also work for a consulting firm. This is someone with an expertise and background of proven success and/or education in a very specific area the company brings in to solve for a discrete issue or project.

    3. Caramel & Cheddar*

      For the first question, is the terminology for how you want to describe yourself to others or for the things you should be googling to find work? If I was searching for people looking to hire someone like you, I’d probably search on all three terms; if I was the one offering the services, I’d probably land on “consultant.”

      I think when people are hiring freelancers, it doesn’t especially matter if they operate under their own name or a business name. I know a lot of people will use a business name to sound more professional, but so many of the freelancers I’ve worked with across many types of work just work under their own name and it’s fine.

      But also: accessibility coordinator is definitely a job that exists out there! My workplace has hired people for this kind of work on a contract basis before, though to your point it’s not a full-time, year-round job (they get hired for a specific project). But if you’re more interested in the educating/advising part of it than the execution of those things, that may not be what you’re looking for anyway.

      1. Access Person*

        Yes, these jobs do exist, so keep researching and trying to understand where to find them in your area of the world… They might have different sorts of job titles and be in sectors that you’re not in at the moment. Is there anyone – ANYONE – you’re connected to who might be able to tell more about how it works in their sector? It could help you to build your knowledge of how other people are doing similar work. The knowledge will build up slowly.
        In my experience, if you have the passion, then that passion is going to be the nerdy fuel that drives you to learn more and more, and come to have a very valuable bank of knowledge in time. I’ve been slowly learning for many years, and I’m now at the stage where people really surprise me with lots of praise and gratefulness for the knowledge I’ve brought. I’ve amassed an apparently objectively valuable skill set, slowly, through sheer nerdery.
        I got some good advice here from folks. I’m very passionate about this area too. Some folks advised learning the business case for advocating for this work: For someone who will never really care about accessibility, what’s the business case for them to pay attention to it and make changes? It’s about money but also (in my neck of the woods) the law – complying with human rights legislation.

        And it’s the right thing to do :)

    4. Pretty as a Princess*

      Not helpful to the freelance aspect, but universities in particular have lots of jobs in this field. They serve the needs of both students and faculty and staff. Medical facilities do as well, and large disability-focused nonprofits partner with a variety of government and private sector firms to educate and advise.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        Governments will also have these jobs too. I was looking up jobs on my municipality’s website last week and there were a handful specific to accessibility for the city’s website, if that’s a niche people are interested in.

        1. Ashley*

          Housing Authorities also fall in this category. Depending on the direction you want to go looking at UFAS certification standards would be a place to consider.

      2. Mimmy*

        This is what I’m having trouble finding. My first choice is to work in a university, but I’m definitely open to the other types you mentioned. Also, we’re really not looking to move at this point. I know I’m severely limiting myself here, but my husband and I are very hesitant to go where we don’t know anyone–it’s more of an upheaval that we’re comfortable with. Plus, my parents, who live in our state, need a lot of help right now.

        1. lime*

          Universities are more open to fully remote workers now than they were in the past. I’ve heard that University of Illinois and UW Madison hire fully remote and are large systems, so might be good to look into.

          1. GythaOgden*

            The caveat here is that I’d be highly sceptical of someone with an interest in making our facilities more accessible who has never actually been there. The nature of accessibility and building design means even if the bulk of the work can be done remotely, it would probably need someone to be physically present in the space itself and thus determine what is needed and what is appropriate within the building itself. It would also feel like we’re being dictated to from on high by someone who doesn’t understand the local needs or layouts. For consultations to be worth paying for, we’d have to know that the person has actually seen our building fabric, plant etc in person and knows it intimately enough she can point out the pinch points.

            Source — work in facilities delivery and while I am full time work from home, it’s much more useful to actually see and walk round buildings when I’m having to raise work orders for them and know who is needing it and who is going to be on the ground doing the actual work. The last thing we want is someone who has never actually been in our buildings remoting in and telling us what to do.

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

        Agreed. I’m in higher ed and we have a university-level department for accessibility and accommodations as well as, typically, one liaison in each college. We have on occasion hired a consultant to review our policies and procedures and make a report or recommendations, however, the work-work is done in-house.

    5. lost academic*

      No, the terms are not exactly interchangeable. I can’t speak to too many specifics legally, but certainly different industries expect to see or use one or two of those terms over the others. In my field for instance (which is a multinational consulting firm) we usually say ‘consultant’ for what you’re describing and our own work but we are often referred to in contracts and other legal documentation as contractors.

      I think you are going to need to talk to someone who can tell you about how to set up your business, which I think you will need to do, and what form that needs to take and so on. A local tax professional kind of person who’s had some experience with this would be your first stop. You can of course also put yourself out there and get clients through your personal/professional network but I think you’ll need to have some sort of incorporation or whatever it’ll be for legal, tax and liability reasons.

      As to how doable this is – it’s going to depend on how much time and energy you have outside of your working hours and how well that dovetails with your prospective clients’ needs. If they need your availability/responses during working hours same day or to be able to call you, that’s going to be a little tricky depending on the flexibility of your current job to allow for you to basically be working in another role at the same time. If you end up offering things like in person training, even more so.

      If you don’t have a professional track record doing this kind of work, though – you might consider finding a role that includes it to help build your own experience and profile. I think that this would fit into companies with larger HR departments/people services. Also other entities with more responsibility under the ADA for accommodation – like local governments. You didn’t say but I took from the tone of your post that you don’t have formal training or education in this area, but a significant passion and likely a lot of background from your own personal research. That’s great, but if I were looking for someone to advise me on the things you’d like to do, I’d really want someone with a good resume/portfolio in this kind of work and I’d need to see proof that they and/or their company had a history navigating the legal issues and applicability.

    6. Lilo*

      So you say these jobs are non existent but I work for an organization that has multiple disability coordinators, but for our employees and the public we interact with. I’ve worked personally on getting the correct equipment with the ADA office. So jobs in this field do exist.

      But also, to be frank, what do you bring to the table here beyond passion. What specifically are you looking to do and what specialized expertise can you bring to the table? Is your background regulatory? Do you have experience with occupational therapy and physical accommodation?

      If nothing official, what are your options for getting something official? Classes, seminars, certifications, etc. What work can you point to in the relevant field?

      1. Someone Online*

        Yes, please bring something to the table other than passion. I know someone who has a job at an organization that is focused on improving access for people with disabilities. She will be passionate to the point of tears sometimes. But when we ask what we can do to be more accessible, it is all very vague and conceptual. Once we have bought in to the concept, we want to actually do something. Give me a tool or a process or a checklist or a building code. Even a font recommendation.

    7. Warrior Princess Xena*

      I’m not in the field of ADA compliance/accessibility but I have a few suggestions.

      First – that’s a really broad field that touches many areas. Are there any areas within it that you are particularly passionate about? Do you want to help with physical accessibility (making sure building are up to code and have ramps/elevators/doorways/proper signs)? Digital accessibility? Providing services to help clients (translators etc)? Working in HR to help employees?

      Second – what parts of it are you good at? What’s your experience? What part of educating and advising people strikes a spark in you? Have you had any successes in your existing workplace?

      Third – can you tie this into existing skills of yours? A lot of businesses may not be looking for an accessibility educator, but if you build a business around, say, helping small businesses expand their HR infrastructure in a way that will make it easier for them to support their disabled employees, or partnering with an architect to design wheelchair-friendly office spaces, or working with a local government to revamp an ancient DMV website into something much more streamlined (and screenreader friendly), you’re more likely to get bites. “Be Accessible” might be the end goal but it’s a lot harder to visualize than “rework the budgeting process so that people do not have to go through 5 layers of review if they make a reasonable request for an ergonomic chair”.

    8. Mylia*

      You may also want to consider whether you want to incorporate. It definitely takes time and money, but there are plenty of companies who are hesitant to work with individuals (with or without a business name) due to the tightening of the federal rules on employees vs independent contractors. Not strictly necessary at all but it may widen the number of potential clients willing to work with you.

    9. Niche Carver*

      Sidestepping your terminology question a bit – I have an architecture background and ended up working for a large landscape arch/planning/multidisciplinary firm for their accessibility department. I essentially do internal and external consulting as part of other projects – but I don’t have to worry about where my next paycheck comes from. It’s working great for me but positions like this are understandably rare – I essentially pitched them on my value to the company and wrote my own job description. Also we are hiring and it is SO HARD to find people with technical skills, soft skills, and an accessibility focus! If you are interested in built environment work (as opposed to websites etc.) please respond and we’ll figure out a way to connect off of AAM. We have offices all over the U.S. and most people work remotely.

      Other options as far as alternatives to individual practice: most building code consulting / engineering companies are very large and often have an accessibility division. Also, accessibility coordinators are required by ADA Title II but a lot of jurisdictions don’t have one. There are certifications you can get for that, which would make you an appealing candidate.

      These responses assume you’re in the U.S. which is a big assumption but that’s all I know about.

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

      I love your idea and I hope you have success. I can’t speak to any of the consultent/freelancer stuff. But I do have a suggestion for you if you are looking for traditional employment. Check out universities. Any college or university that gets federal funding (FAFSA) is required by law to have department that helps students with disabilities. There could be different names depending on the school. I’ve seen Disability services, Student Support Services, Accessibility Center. It could also be under the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion program too.

      So if you (or anyone) is interested check out higher ed.

    11. JR 17*

      Some of this might be a question of where you live. I was an independent consultant for about 5 years, ending about 5 years ago. I called myself a consultant based on the nature of my work. Sometimes I was a freelancer, working for companies directly; other times I was a subcontractor, working for consulting firms on project they had sold to companies. I was always a contractor, as in I had a contract with the company or with the consulting firm and received a 1099, not a W-2.

      I live in California. I operated under my own name and didn’t have an LLC – my tax accountant told me it was fine either way, for my particular situation. Maybe if I’d asked a lawyer I would have gotten a different question, but I’m in a field where there isn’t a lot of opportunity for liability, malpractice isn’t relevant, etc. – these might be factors in accessibility work.

      However, just as I stopped consulting, California passed AB5, which substantially restricts the use of 1099 independent contractors. If I had kept doing that kind of work, I almost certainly would have had to set up an LLC with a business name (even if the business name was my name, or My Name Consulting) in order to continue working as a 1099 contractor (instead of a short-term W2 employee, which would likely have been a challenge for my clients). I believe there’s a carve-out for management consulting, so I probably could have kept working for the consulting firms as an independent contractor as is, but I would have needed to set up that LLC to keep selling work to companies directly. But if your state doesn’t have similar laws (and I don’t know that any others do), this might not be necessary.

    12. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      I can’t speak to the freelancing experience/business model, but I can tell you some of the things the municipality I work for has been interested in hiring a vendor for in the past (it’s a lot):

      Digital accessibility audits, broad accessibility training (ie general overview for all employees on common areas where we fail at accessibility), developing or reviewing policies and procedures designed to increase accessibility, consulting on selecting which firm will receive a multi-million dollar contract for a city-wide infrastructure accessibility audit/inventory, consultant to develop a proposal in conjunction with said firm on how to address the failings identified in the audit, consultant to coordinate public engagement on the plan before it is voted on/funded by council, consultant to find and write grants to fund said plan, consultant to work with our website vendor on a more accessible redesign, freelance designer to develop accessibility-forward communications and branding toolkits, consultants to advise HR/Department Heads on how to advertise specifically to talented candidates who may need accommodations, consultants to recommend accessibility improvements beyond ADA compliance for transit stops, city buses, and city parks, consultants to run public engagement on a proposed tax increase to fund more accessible playground equipment city-wide.

      We didn’t have funding for all of these contracts, but I hope it helps you get an idea of the kind of work that may be out there!

    13. Brave Little Roaster*

      I’m in a similar spot (looking to freelance in addition to my current job at least to start) so I’m interested in the replies here. Hope you get some good info!

    14. Mimmy*

      WOW! Thank you for all of the replies so far! There is a lot of useful information, which really gives me a lot to think about. I’m really happy to see other people interested in accessibility in the AAM community :)

      I wish I could reply to each of you individually, but that would make this thread too long, so I’ll make a couple of broad comments:

      Several of you suggested narrowing my focus; I have been working on this, including self-assessing what I’m current good at and what I want to learn in the long-term. I’m particularly interested in accessibility and inclusion for people with sensory impairments, so I’m thinking of things like digital accessibility (checking documents and websites) or conducting a workshop on accommodating students or employees with visual or hearing impairments. I’ll keep this thread and refer back to the other ideas mentioned.

      Thank you to those who offered ideas of what to look for with regard to traditional employment, including university disability / accessibility offices. This is an area in which I’ve been looking for employment for about 1.5 years but no luck. I’ve had interviews, but I’m probably competing with many other applicants with more experience or are able to relocate.

      1. Drag0nfly*

        If you return to this thread, accessibility in the digital space is a big deal. Web accessibility specifically. Government sites, e-commerce sites, they all need accessible components. Haydon Pickering, Sara Soueidan, the A11y web community (note that it’s two ones not Ls) are resources to check out if you code. Video games have accessibility concerns, for instance accounting for types of colorblindness, offering captions and subtitles and so forth. Fixing closed captioning on YouTube videos and so on. If you’re not getting traction in other industries, look to digital.

  7. Ripley*

    Does anyone have any suggestions for language around “You really need to try to solve your own problems before asking me?”

    In my job, I both train others to do various tasks, and I support a bunch of providers (I’m a clerk in a healthcare setting). At least once a day I get stuff like this:

    Clerk I’m training: “I can’t find this patient in the system!” Me: “You spelled the patient’s name wrong.”
    Provider: “Can you help me find this patient, his name is Joe Thompson.” Me, after looking in the system: ” You couldn’t find him because it’s actually Joe Thomson.”

    I deal with stuff like this all day long, and it’s just because people seem to have decided it’s easier to ask me than to spend 2 extra minutes trying to figure it out themselves. I have a really busy job with a lot of moving pieces, and getting interrupted because someone can’t spell, for example, throws me off and wastes my time. But I find it hard to find the words to say, you need to figure this out yourself. Help?

    1. Decidedly Me*

      If these are the main issues, frst ask – have you confirmed you have the correct name and spelling?

      Do that everytime and eventually they’ll be doing that before asking you.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        This!

        Other wording for related questions:

        What have you tried so far?
        The instructions are at (BLANK).
        Show me what you did. (ONLY if you have time.)

        It can be helpful to give the bare minimum of suggestions/answers to the problem. Guide people to solve it themselves.

        1. Caramel & Cheddar*

          This is the way. “What have you tried so far?” is good because if they actually have tried something (rare!) it at least stops you from wasting time trying that exact thing. If instructions are available somewhere, I usually like to frame it as “What did the instructions/manual/wiki/whatever say?” because of how it implies they definitely, obviously would have checked somewhere else before coming to me.

        2. JR 17*

          All of this, plus it sounds like your office needs a standard checklist for things they should check/do before they ask for help.

          1. Marnie*

            I don’t know if this will work in every situation, but I used to be the kind to just quickly ask instead of looking deeper myself. For me what changed was a mental shift to “I’m supposed to be helping this person, not making more work for them”, and I’ve managed to help others in my organisation make that change by emphasising how helpful it is when they take initiative. It might look like someone saying “who do I email this bill to?”, and me saying “could you look back on the file and see if you can see the client contact? Tell me who that seems to be/if there is more than one option, let me know and I’ll tell you which”. Steadily over time this has led to people checking in at billing time with a list of clients they haven’t sent bills to before, already with the proposed person to send it to in more of a final ‘do you know anything I don’t suggesting that these aren’t the right people’ kind of way, which has been a helpful change.

    2. WellRed*

      For the first example, make that part of the training. Emphasize the importance of getting the correct spelling and trying alternative spellings if needed. For the second, can you say “are you sure that’s the correct spelling (or whatever)” and gently redirect? Otherwise you might have to accept that as part of your job. But in both of your examples, you made it easier by doing the work for them.

    3. Thinking*

      Make them do the work of looking up a new spelling. I’d ask, “Did you try the spelling Thomson without a “p”? Did you try …” Then it’s not so fun and easy anymore.

      1. BecauseHigherEd*

        This.

        Also…have you told this person that ability to problem-solve could be the rationale for a raise, promotion, better shift, etc.? That could help motivate them to start finding solutions on their own.

      2. HonorBox*

        Yep. Perfect.

        It puts them in a position to hopefully realize that they should be able to support themselves. And in some situations where the same question(s) come up regularly, it gives you some important insight into how to adjust training, if necessary.

    4. Not a Real Giraffe*

      Agree with Decidedly Me. Also, if there are repeat offenders, do you have the authority to address the patterns? “You often ask me to help you find patients in the database and the error usually lies in a misspelling of the name. Going forward, please triple-check you have the right spelling before asking me to jump in, as the interruption is disruptive to my workflow.”

    5. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

      Just state calmly and plainly, “You need to make sure you are troubleshooting this yourself before coming to me.” Post a list of troubleshooting tips (1. Try alternate spellings of name 2. check all files or whatever the possible issue is in your system). Remind them and point to the list when they ask.

      The important thing is to make sure your tone and facial expression are neutral, so no one has ammo to tone-police you to try and save face. Some people are inevitably going to be caught off guard and embarrassed by this, and that’s OK, but you want to make sure it doesn’t blow back on you. Be consistent and resist the urge to just do it for them, and after a bit of time, they will develop a new habit of “checking the list” before coming to you.

    6. Emma*

      You could try saying something like “I’m busy right now, but I may be able to help in a bit. In the meantime, please do xyz suggestions. That will likely fix it, but if it doesn’t, let me know”

      1. Emma*

        And if it makes sense for the relationship (like for the clerk you’re training), I would go with them to their desk, have them show you what they’re doing, and then you can make suggestions that they implement (vs you just looking up whatever it is). Basically walking them through solving the problem vs you just giving them the answers.

        If it’s a provider, you may just have to help them immediately, but you could also say something (like others have suggested) like “what other spellings have you tried?”

      2. Emma*

        I’ve also told people “hold on, let me get to a stopping point, and then I’ll come find you” because stuff like this really does interrupt my flow!

    7. Lasuna*

      I also work in healthcare and am responsible for training. I deal with similar issues and handle it by turning it into a (often slightly uncomfortable) training exercise. “I can’t find this patient in the system!” “I have confirmed the patient is in the system. Please go figure out what you are doing wrong and let me know what it is.” Even if they aren’t able to figure it out the first time, they quickly learn to stop making the same mistakes.

      As far as providers though, in most environments you are just going to have to deal with it due to the power differential. You might be able to put providers off by saying that you are in the middle of a task and can help when you are done, but I don’t think in most environments you can tell providers that they need to solve their own problems. As you say, your role is to support providers and sometimes that means supporting their poor spelling.

      1. Ripley*

        Yeah, the provide thing is tough because of exactly this. It’s generally the same provider, but one of the others constantly comes to me for help with a part of the system I don’t use (we use different functions depending on our roles). I have explained to her multiple times that she needs to ask another provider because I can’t help her, but she still comes and says things like “just come and take a look” and I have to be really firm that I can’t help. It’s incredibly frustrating.

        For peers, I like your language because the patient is in the system, so I can confirm to the person that they just need to look harder/better, etc. I’ve tried the “what have you tried” question with multiple trainees, most of the time I just get a blank stare. It’s an entry-level job, I find people don’t always have much in the way of problem solving skills and/or can’t articulate their thinking.

        I think I’m struggling because I don’t want to come across as unwilling to help, it is part of my job, but I also don’t want my time wasted either.

        1. Lasuna*

          It’s definitely challenging to find the balance of protecting your time without seeming unhelpful. I find it helps to set explicit expectations at the end of the shadowing/training period. Something like, “Today will be your first day working independently. If you get stuck or have questions please let me know. An essential part of this role is problem solving, so when you ask me a question, I may direct you to come up with a solution independently, that way we are making sure you are working toward succeeding in the role.” People still tend to have a moment of “Oh ****, she meant it,” the first time I ask them to try to figure something out, but I do think they take it better when I’ve previously framed it as part of helping them succeed long term.

        2. HalJordan*

          I commiserate with “what have you tried” not getting you anywhere (because they haven’t tried anything, because they can’t think of anything to try and are blanking). In general, I think you’re leading them to rely on you for the answers, though, so don’t give them–confirm that they’re not right, i.e. the patient is in the system, figure out why, and then just say “I looked, they’re there, please review what you’re inputting to figure out why you can’t find them”.

          If it’s a recurring specific tendency to misspell names and then freeze, name the pattern and then delay.

          For other errors, do the same thing–instead of correcting, just note the existence of the error (and that’s ONLY if training/reviewing’s part of your duties). e.g. If you’re reviewing an email trying to confirm an appointment date of April 39, 20223, don’t go through the records and say “the date should be April 9, 2024”, say “there’s a problem with the date” and let them fix it. If you’re not supposed to be training them on Thing but they’re still asking you for help with Thing, the various delaying tactics elsewhere in the thread are ideal.

          1. Ripley*

            This is helpful. I can point out the issue without giving the solution, I hadn’t thought of that. It’s just that usually the answer is so quick and easy (to me) that I just give it without thinking.

            1. Cascadia*

              I’d say to think of it like teaching. I actually work with students on longer excursions. Sometimes I get a student who has so. many. questions. I’ll sometimes impose a question limit on them – you get to ask me three questions each day. Then when they come to me with a question, I’ll respond back – “Is this one of your three questions?” They usually are like- oh no! I don’t want to waste it. And then they figure out the answer on their own. (Which is usually as simple as opening their eyes and looking.) I find that some people just default to asking questions without doing anything as they find it’s the fastest way to get a response. See also my husband “Where’s the ipad? Oh wait, I found it. Right here in front of me.”

    8. Amber*

      When training them in the first place, make the kind of mistake you see consistently- mistype a name or forget a letter to show what the error looks like, then walk through the steps to fix it. Or, make a guide with screenshots of common errors and how to fix them (I did that for one of the systems at my work and know people use it!)
      The next important step, while still training them, is to walk them through how to fix the error while still letting them do it.
      Example: “Oh, nothing came up but we know he is in the system. Try Spelling it Sarah, not Sara.”
      If you make them do the steps, it will stick better than you just doing it for them.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Teach them how to do wildcard searches: “THOM*” and “TOM*” to find the matching first name. And on behalf of those of us with common names, teach them to spot check that they have the RIGHT Tommy Thompson!

        (Feel free to tell them about my friend “Tommy” who was admitted after breaking his back in a car crash–and the hospital tried to bill his insurance for a different “Tommy’s” elective surgery. The 2 men had been admitted on the same calendar day, but nothing other than name & date was remotely similar.)

        1. Random Bystander*

          Oh, definitely–I’m health care adjacent in my work, and I know that there is a flag that comes up with patients that have common names.

          Worst thing is e-scan and sometimes the patient is covered by Medicaid and Medicaid denies the claim because they say that the patient has commercial coverage that should be billed first. Only to find out that the patient that has the commercial coverage in question is John D Jones, but the patient is John T Jones (date of birth may or may not match), and John D lives in a state 1000 miles away from the facility (not that that detail is an absolute guarantee, people can have medical issues while traveling, but it’s definitely something that should flag “hmm, this might not be the same person”).

    9. Quest. What Quest?*

      I’ve seen this issue a few times in AAM & have actually been on the other side. I would ask someone & the answer was often, “It’s in the training manual.” The problem was the training manual was 100 pages, disorganized & not intuitive at all. I remember thinking, “It’s going to take me forever to find it in the training manual when you could just tell me.” In this case (& perhaps not in your case) the training manual was part of the problem. But also, it really didn’t occur to me that I was interrupting the person’s work flow, and that answering multiple questions from multiple people was disruptive.
      tldr: During training, let them know that they’ll need to problem solve before they ask because it is disruptive for others to constantly answer questions.

      1. I Have RBF*

        I can still remember my fury when I would ask a fellow computer operations person if X was doable/supported by Y and they answered “read the code”. People, the code was thousands of lines of convoluted code, and I was using it to try to fix a problem with something else. I literally didn’t have time to go spelunking in the code. I needed a fast answer, even if it was just where to find the actual documentation. There was no documentation, he knew the answer, but thought it was better to give me a smug “read the code” non-answer. I ended up having to write documentation, so no one else would be stuck plowing through thousands of lines of Perl.

        1. Annie*

          One possible workaround for “It’s in the training manual” that doesn’t cost too much of your time is to ask the employee to search for one or more keywords using the relevant document viewer’s built-in search feature or check the document’s index and/or appendices for guidance on where to look in the training manual.

          Also, if the training materials are spread out over multiple files, show how to search the contents of all of them at once wherever they happen to be stored. I mention this because it’s not always obvious to the user that you CAN do that or that the feature exists but isn’t enabled by default in Windows File Explorer, for example.

    10. Slartibartfast*

      Des your software support partial names, like searching Joe Thom* or ability to search by telephone number or appointment provider? Sharing tricks like that could cut down on you having to be the human spell check. Walk them through solving the problem instead of solving it for them, so it’s no longer faster or easier to get you to do it for them. Short term pain for long term gain.

      1. Ripley*

        It does, which is how I figured out how to spell it, and people know that, it seems like they just hit one snag and give up. It’s frustrating.

      2. BigLawEx*

        This is what’s happened here in Los Angeles. It’s all phone number-based because names weren’t working. Not to mention clerks who input names incorrectly in the same medical record….

        I have a historically famous but somehow hard to spell/pronounce last name. I welcome the phone number lookup. For some reason I can’t figure out people who don’t have good spelling/problem solving skills choose these jobs?!?

    11. You want stories, I got stories*

      Working with people, I almost always start with.
      “Let me ask the stupid question first, are you logged in?” The number of times the answer has come back with, “oh, no I’m not, thanks.” Makes it my first question.

      So you might have the same.
      “Let me ask the stupid questions first, did you double check the name spelling? Did you try a blanket search with birthdate and first name? Etc.”

    12. Friday night, I’m thinking that we just might*

      This is my issue too. Could you move to a support ticketing system with suggestion prompts? I’m getting one next week, fingers crossed.

    13. Smaug*

      I dunno, as someone who worked as support staff in medical settings for most of my career… You are not going to be able to get providers to do more thinking, like 95% of the time. No one can really tell them anything, and just about all the other staff in the practice/hospital/whathaveyou are there to orbit around the providers and pick up after them and hold their hand through mind numbingly basic tasks. All of us are expected to clear our schedules to stand behind a provider and point at their screen and tell them to type their name into a name field at some point or another. Some of us more often than others.

      Your only real option is to make it so you do not seem available in such a way that they do not think of going straight to you all the time. That is super dangerous because “a provider wasn’t able to get your help because you happened to be in the bathroom when they walked past your desk and that’s unacceptable” is a thing I have gotten into and seen a lot of people get into big trouble for many times. So you still have to tread really carefully with that, whether you can pull it off strongly depends on 1) the physical structure of your work environment and 2) whether you have management that will flip out over this.

  8. Unfettered scientist*

    When is too early to get a promotion? I’m going to start managing a contractor (I’m in pharma/biotech if it matters) and I’ve only been at my company for a year. I wouldn’t be thinking about moving up but I also don’t know anyone at the senior scientist level who has a contractor here. Should I try to angle for a promotion? How would I know?

    1. amoeba*

      I’d say after a year it’s fine to ask! I did actually ask after one year and it still took awhile (didn’t get additional responsibilities though, it was more the “normal career progression” we have) – got the promotion after two years in the end, but certainly nobody took it against me that I asked. Who knows, it might have expediated the process or I would have gotten it at the same time, anyway – but it didn’t hurt, that much is clear.

    2. EMP*

      I think if it’s been a year and you’re getting more responsibility, and the responsibility is permanent and usually given to a higher title (sounds like this is the case), then you should definitely ask about promotion! There’s good scripts on the site but something like “I’ve noticed people managing contractors are usually at Staff Level and I’d like to discuss the possibility of a promotion to reflect my added responsibility”

    3. Arsloanico*

      I’d do a quick scan of the culture – does anyone else manage a contractor? How much time is this expected to take, and is it fairly significant? Is that deemed a senior-level responsibility or is it common for junior people to do so? If I was unsure, I might discretely ask a mentor or senior person before pitching it. But definitely don’t take on manager-level duties for no payraise / increase – this happens all the time and it’s really crappy.

    4. HappyMarketer*

      I think it’s fair to ask for a promotion or a raise given that you’ll be taking on significantly more responsibility. The caveat would be if you were hired under the assumption you’d be managing someone but it’s taken a year to hire them. As for how to ask I’d say something along the lines of – Given my achievements in [example] and now that I will be managing [role] and taking on these extra duties [example] I’d like to be considered for a promotion to [title] with a rise in salary to reflect these increased responsibilities.

    5. Trotwood*

      Does your company have a well-defined promotion process? I’m in big pharma and the promotion process at my company is extremely rigid–basically it all happens once a year, involves lots of reviews from management and considers all employees at once, etc. So the way I’ve handled it is typically discussing with my manager what I’d need to do to get to the next level and then check in about it over time to make sure I’m meeting the goals and expectations that my manager has for me. But it’s usually not as simple as “ask for a promotion and your manager clicks the button.” We trade off the potential for super-fast career progression for the pro of working at a very stable company with good benefits.

      1. Storm in a teacup*

        I’m in a medium Pharma company and we also have a very similar process to yours.
        if you’re getting a contractor in to manage will it be for a specific project or time or is it a permanent headcount?
        Also worth checking if other people at your current grade have management or supervisory responsibilities – I know you said you didn’t know, but worth checking as if not, it could strengthen your argument. Regardless I would definitely agree with your boss what you need to show for a promotion and how to work towards that.

    6. Pretty as a Princess*

      Your first step is to understand the promotion process at your organization and what constitutes a promotion. The term can be VERY nuanced. I would not generally expect that supervising a contractor warrants a promotion, but a clear understanding of the promotion process at your employer and your job description will help you figure out what is appropriate – or position you more effectively to speak with someone about how your promotion process works.

      Quite frankly, there are a lot of roles where adding responsibilities does not automatically mean that the scope of your role has changed to warrant a promotion or additional compensation. Your job description should probably give some clues. My expectation when I hire new technical staff is that we hire against a job description of what we expect someone to be capable of when they are fully onboarded, ramped up, and established in the position. That means they are not doing all those things at once right from the start. But as we get them acclimated to the job and team, we will add responsibilities. They might join a team as a contributor and then in a few months be asked to lead a particular task or set of tasks. They might then in 6 months be assigned to lead a larger project or team toward a certain technical goal and assume budget responsibility for it. But that’s all stuff that is in the PD as expectations for the role. Their performance in the execution of those responsibilities is all part of the story when ultimately considered for a promotion.

      We have technical promotions with clearly defined, distinct criteria, that happen on an annual cycle. We also have managerial promotions where you assume line management (& possibly portfolio management) responsibility for a team of some scope. In neither case would supervising a contractor be grounds for a promotion – but in both cases, this would be part of the history of performance you demonstrate when seeking a promotion either into an open role (managerial) or when you have met the criteria to assemble a package to be evaluated for the next grade (technical).

      There are wildly differing models for staff career progression and promotions across industries. My interpretation from your post is that you are being given a leadership opportunity, but likely not one that extends beyond the reasonable scope of your role to qualify for a promotion. But hey, I could be wrong. Your first step should be to look up your organization’s promotion process. If you can’t find that and haven’t been briefed on it, I would ask for a meeting with your manager to *understand the promotion process* – don’t raise the contractor situation until you understand how the organization works.

    7. crashtesthuman*

      I’d probably start by asking your boss what the structure for promotions is, and what the expectations are. Some companies look to promote favorites quickly, others have a standard review cadence.

      At my workplace, for example, managing a contractor would not in itself result in a promotion, but might indicate they’re putting you on a track to build the needed skills and perhaps see how you handle the added responsibility.

  9. Labor*

    I received a union organizing invite in my Girl Scout cookies from work. Should I go? My job isn’t permanent.

        1. Can't Sit Still*

          Go and ask any questions you have, perhaps “why a union?” or “what’s in it for me as a temporary worker?”

          Also ask, if they don’t explain, what the company’s union-busting response is likely to be. Union busting can be subtle psy ops sometimes, and it’s good to be prepared.

    1. Cubicles and Chimeras*

      Regardless if your job is permanent or not, you have the ability to affect the life of workers who come after you. And, you are an employee, you deserve a voice, and even short term employees deserve to be protected within a union, and you can make sure this union does that.

      1. vulturestalker*

        Absolutely this! I work at a university and some of our best union organizers have been master’s students, who will only be around for a couple years, but who have been instrumental in getting their coworkers fired up to make change for everyone else (including those still to come).

    2. Random Dice*

      I need more details. Did someone open a box of cookies and shove a pamphlet in? Did they open the sealed bag and put the paper on the cookies? Did they tape it to a box?

      1. Labor*

        :) I ordered cookies via a coworker’s child. They delivered the cookies to me in a bag once the cookies arrived (I opted for in-person instead of mail because she said her kid loved the delivery part and it’s more personal). In the bag was the invite from the coworker. It had her name and personal email so no mystery who it was from.

    3. February Seventeen*

      I just wanted to say I love this and kudos to your coworker for her clever and brave organizing!

  10. nopetopus*

    I’m so bummed. I got an email from my manager asking if I had time to do a performance review. My company doesn’t usually do performance reviews, so I thought it might be about a raise. I recently became nationally certified in my field, which should come with a pay raise.

    Nope! Turns out I had missed one of my KPIs months ago, so instead of a raise I got coached on my performance from literally last year. Sigh. I did follow up with my proof of certification and manager said they would work on it next week, but yeah. Got my hopes up for nothing!

      1. nopetopus*

        Definitely anxiety producing! I know my manager wasn’t trying to do it like that, just an unfortunate confluence of events.

      1. nopetopus*

        Oh yeah, I’m already halfway out the door. Getting certified means I can work in other settings, and I’m getting my ducks in a row. Love my manager and coworkers, hate my company. But I will be pushing to be paid appropriately for the remaining time!

    1. WellRed*

      That’s a bummer! I was supposed to have my review this week (it should be fine but still hate doing it). Got bumped back a few weeks cause there’s some corporate disorganization around raises which I find out during review what it is. So that was annoying!

      1. nopetopus*

        Ack, how anxiety inducing. No one wants to hear that there’s disorganization around raises. Hope it all turns out well for you!

    2. Momma Bear*

      Bummer.

      I would follow up about the cert and if you actually think you deserve a raise (there are many posts here about how to prove it), then give it a couple of months and make your case.

      1. nopetopus*

        Trust me, I won’t drop it! I’ve been underpaid for a long time and my company’s stance is that the only thing worthy of a raise is certification, so I’m going to go to bat for the highest raise possible. My manager is great, just hampered by corporate. I’m sure it’ll get sorted out, but it was definitely a bummer.

    3. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

      Do you think your boss did it deliberately so the value of your certification was overshadowed and you wouldn’t ask about a raise? Or an unfortunate coincidence? Either way, I’d ask about the possibility of a raise based on the certification.

      1. nopetopus*

        I think it’s just an unfortunate coincidence; I heard through the grapevine that almost the whole company didn’t hit their KPIs for that review period.

        But I do except some f#ckery, the company is known for trying to claim they already have you the raise when hired for having a different assessment. But I have my paperwork to back it up. So I’ll keep pushing!

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

      That suck, I’m sorry for you. Although its annoying my company has a process and we can see mangers notes before we meet. Its all online, so at least nothing is thrown at us. I hope you take your new certification and find a better job.

  11. EA*

    Question for entrepreneurs – how did you take the first step to starting your business? Can you point to a moment that was a “turning point” for you in getting started and moving beyond the idea phase? Either as a side gig or full-time. Thank you!

    1. Feral Humanist*

      I started working toward it about a year before I knew my current employment was up. I was grant-funded and knew there would be no money to continue, and I also wanted to move away from my high COL, urban area to somewhere quieter that I knew would offer fewer job opportunities. Those were the catalysts for me.

      A year out, I emailed folks in my network that I was going to be available for contract work at X time and set up meetings with a few of them. Then I got in touch with some folks who weren’t already in my network but who seemed to be likely clients and set up some meetings with them. Then I started getting my systems in place — email address, website, time trackin/invoice software, EIN and business bank account, etc.

      This was the period in which I was waking up in a cold sweat, wondering what the hell I was doing. I was also selling a house and moving across the country, at the same time, so my stress level was pretty high. But by the time my employment ended, I had two major clients on board (and several smaller ones), and I felt comfortable making the leap. It’s been about six months now — things are going well, though I wish I had a third major client, because if one of my two decides to drop me, things get tight.

    2. Hillary*

      My husband gave me the push – he said I needed to either start a company or stop talking about the idea. We’re coming up on ten months and have a working product with the second one in development.

    3. Ama*

      So with the caveat that I’m still in the transition phase (I’m still FT at my current job, but I will be leaving in June to do my business FT):
      I’ve been unhappy at my job for a long time but it took me a while to figure out why as this is a pretty good place to work, I’m a valued employee and compensated well for my field, etc. What I finally realized is I miss the editing/writing/graphic design work that used to be a portion of my job here; that was moved off my plate in 2019 and at the time I thought it would be fine and that I liked the other work I did well enough. During the pandemic shutdown, both out of boredom and to relieve my anxiety of what would I do if my employer laid me off, I started picking up creative work again on the side, including taking a training class in a very specialized type of editing that I had always been interested in. I started picking up small contract work I could do on the weekend, joined a professional group for the special type of editing and realized — THIS is what I’ve been missing and why I’ve been feeling such a lack of engagement in my day job.

      I decided to spend the last couple of years doing all the setup for my business while I was still FT at current job and could better absorb the start up costs and build a little bit of a client base and a professional network. I feel like I’m actually at the stage now where I can’t grow the business any further while working full time (full disclosure, I’m married, have a good amount of savings, and can be on my husband’s insurance so I have a little more financial flexibility to ramp things up), which is why I’m planning to leave my FT job in June.

    4. MindoverMoneyChick*

      I had contemplated helping people with their personal finances as a second career, what pushed me to actually do it was getting laid off from my corporate gig.

      To be more specific, a goodbye lunch with a colleague I told her I had this idea but had no clue how to move forward and would probably just get another job in our industry. She pointed me to a friend of here’s that was getting started as a business coach and I started working with her. She was very inspiration and gave me some solid ideas to get me started, but didn’t get me anywhere near as far as I needed to go to pay any bills.

      I’m thrilled with what I’m doing now, but it was not at all easy and I don’t mean it was a lot of hours or stress. It was really hard to figure out how to market my business despite reading many books and having a coach. When you really try to apply advice like “speak in front of group for free” it first involves finding a whole lot of groups who want to hear you speak. And that’s hard. . I often just didn’t have any idea what my next steps should be and spent a lot of time floundering and feeling bad about everything.

      I have I’ve been a saver all my life and have a husband with health insurance for us.
      Without that big safety net would have needed to get a “real job” before this turned into something that could truly pay the bills. (it took years) So side gig unless you have a big cushion is the way to go IMO.

  12. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

    Suppose someone was put on a PIP for performance issues. Then they improved enough that you decided to keep them on.

    Then they relapsed. In the absence of a strict company policy, in a situation where the manager has some discretion they’re allowed to exercise, what’s the range of normal practices for addressing the relapse of performance issues?

    Context: my low performer who’s being put on a PIP is asking what happens if they improve and are taken off the PIP. My boss is saying that if, after a month, they’re still here and they’re no longer on a PIP, then we would have to start the process again (and the process involves a several-week pre-PIP) if we saw the same behavior.

    I want to tell my boss, “No! We are not doing a 2-3-month pre-PIP and PIP every 4 months! Anybody who only performs under intense, unsustainable scrutiny and micromanagement is not succeeding.” I’m not saying terminate for one performance issue in six months, but there has to at least be at least some accelerated timeline/reduction in amount of paperwork needed if you relapse within a few months of a PIP. That actually happened to this person a few years ago: they were on a PIP, improved just enough to pass, then went back to their old ways after 3 months. Their boss at the time understandably refused to go through all the scrutiny, micromanagement, and paperwork again, so this low performer was left low performing for years. Now he’s mine and my boss’s problem (with my boss having the final say, but I have influence).

    So what’s normal here? How much can I push for without coming across as completely out-of-touch?

    (This may end up being a non-issue in practice, of course, but we still have to figure out how we’re answering the question of what happens in the event of succeeding at the PIP and then having issues again.)

    1. Alexiiiiiiiiii5*

      This sounds exhausting. It sounds like they do well when under the broad stroke of the PIP but not the whole level of the job. Are you able to have a big picture meeting?

      1. chickia*

        I would argue that in a relapse situation, they should immediately go back on the PIP without any arduous pre-PIP steps, meetings, etc. It should be part of the PIP documentation and finishout what happens if there’s a relapse within x # of months.

      2. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

        They don’t, actually, which is why I think my question is very hypothetical. The previous PIP was put together by a manager in whom I don’t have a lot of confidence, and from the indirect evidence I have, my impression is that it focused on superficial metrics that would be easy to improve on temporarily, without addressing the root causes of the person’s struggles. I’m making sure the current one captures those root causes of the person’s lack of success, and this person is not doing well on it (at least in the pre-PIP stage), nor showing signs that they have the capability of doing well on it.

    2. MigraineMonth*

      Alison has advised in the past that a PIP can be for “sustained performance”, to avoid exactly this type of cycling.

        1. Mad Harry Crewe*

          Also, when you have a meeting to wrap the pip up, make it very clear that this is the expectation going forward and they will need to maintain the changes they’ve made.

        2. Icantthinkofagoodname*

          Agreed. I’ve done one PIP and a condition was that if they successfully passed the performance metrics outlined in the PIP but then performance is not sustained they can be terminated without being out on a PIP.

          This gives some flexibility so that if the relapse is years later then the manager can do another PIP or, more predictably, if the relapse is soon after the PIP ends then no need to go all through it again.
          Good luck.

      1. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

        Good news, I saw the template today, and it includes “sustained performance”! I just have to convince my boss that that doesn’t mean “we have to start the process over again if more than a month passes successfully.”

        Again, in practice, I don’t expect this to be an issue this time, but my boss needs to have and set reasonable expectations. Especially if this does ever become an issue; cycling on and off of PIPs every few months is not a thing!

      1. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

        Thank you, that was what I wanted! I felt sure Alison had weighed in on this before, but I wasn’t finding it in searches.

    3. LCH*

      Can you build into the PIP the language about improving to x level and maintaining that level for x time after the PIP? Or something about needing to go on PIP x number of times in a year (or whatever) will probably result in termination?

    4. Gyne*

      Hmmm… my initial reaction is that if someone relapses and starts demonstrating the same deficiencies they were on the original PIP for, that should be an immediate escalation of some kind. While I don’t think it’s fair to enact what is basically a permanent PIP, it’s concerning to me that someone who was aware their performance was unacceptable to the point their job is ask risk would drop back into the same behavior. So if they start to backslide, I also don’t think it’s reasonable for their manager to have to periodically remind them that their job-critical tasks are in fact job-critical. In practice what I would probably do is a one-time verbal and written coaching that, “hey, I’ve noticed this again, it can’t continue” and then probably move towards termination if they slid a third time.

      1. Momma Bear*

        Follow on question – when does the person slide? Are there guardrails in the PIP that ease off after a while and if so, is this actually something where the person needs that direct feedback/coaching longterm to stay on track? Maybe remove the official PIP but keep day to day support where needed?

        Example, I wasn’t on a PIP but had a process that was NOT working for me. We had a particularly bumpy execution a couple of years ago. It was demoralizing, so I reached out to my boss. After some discussion, we looped in one of my peers as a checkpoint. It turned a marathon into a relay race and has vastly improved that process.

        If it’s something completely different and they’re back to yelling at coworkers or something, then ignore this. But if it’s work product, maybe what they need is a new process or checkpoint.

        1. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

          Without going into too much detail, we’ve definitely tried attacking this from lots of different angles. The most basic problem appears to be that the person is lacking fundamental job skills (like technical problem-solving), has never shown signs of having them, and isn’t showing signs of being able to acquire them now, under the pre-PIP.

          I suspect the previous PIP focused on metrics that it was possible to improve on while still lacking these skills (like speaking up in meetings), and I’m making sure the current PIP is capturing “Do you actually understand what you’re doing, or is your work getting done by a combination of guessing plus constantly getting bailed out by your coworkers whenever guessing fails, without you even showing signs that you learned from what your coworkers did when they bailed you out?”

    5. colorguard*

      When we had concerns about this possibility with an employee at a job several years ago, our department head did a longer PIP. I’m fuzzy on details after 15-ish years, but if it was something we thought could be fixed in 30 days and normal might be a 60-day PIP in that case, he said we should do 4-6 months because part of it was not just getting them up to par but also showing they could keep up that performance level over time. It was basically to avoid the possibility of what you’re talking about here with relapses.

    6. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I would push for, if the relapse was less than six months after completing the PIP, to skip the pre-PIP phase and reactivate the previous PIP rather than starting a new one, with a much shorter time frame. And be explicit about it – “If you can only do your job while under the terms of a PIP, you’re not doing your job successfully. You are expected to continue the successes that caused you to meet the terms of the PIP even after it’s completed, and continue to perform at the expected level. The scrutiny and intense management of a PIP are not meant to be a permanent and ongoing situation, it’s a last ditch fix to address these concerns before we conclude that you are not able to perform the job at at the level we need.”

    7. HonorBox*

      I think if they’re only performing under the direct guidelines and supervision within the PIP, it would make sense to include language in any future PIP that there must be sustained and ongoing levels of performance as outlined under the PIP. Starting over again doesn’t make any sense, given the amount of extra work someone has to do to manage someone on a PIP.

    8. Anoj*

      Same thing is occurring in my company, but this low performer has been with the organization for 9 years and developed a chronic illness 6 years ago so has been on FMLA or out sick numerous times which puts the company in an awkward position as far as firing them. Thiey should have been let go after their initial 90 days but the manager did not want to be the bad guy. Now that they are back to working again (initially 100% remote while the rest of the team is in the office 3 days a week) and actually coming into the office, their demeanor with customers (on the phones) is awful. Because they don’t like to answer the phones and there were numerous complaints made the entire team has to document calls on a daily basis. So, the team is being punished due to a low performer they can’t manage out of the organization. I put the blame squarely on management, and the statement “Anybody who only performs under intense, unsustainable scrutiny and micromanagement is not succeeding.” hit the nail on the head.

    9. HR Exec Popping In*

      In that situation, as soon as their performance is unacceptable again, it would be termination for my company.

    10. Anonamouse*

      We literally just went through this. Employee completed the PIP then felt that they no longer needed to meet the standards of the PIP. Reached out to HR and they said that maintaining the standards of the PIP was a condition of continued employment. We provided the data to show that they had massively declined in quality and quantity of work performed. They were gone in a week.

    11. BellaStella*

      I have a colleague who, over ten years, was on 3 PIPs and still sucks as he was not fired, so my advice is do not make being on a PIP ok enough to stay. Hurts moral for the others.

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

      I would say if you start to see issues again after being taken off the PIP to let the person know immediately. As someone who had been put on a PIP, thought I was improving based on what my boss said, and then fired (never really found out why) please don’t just fire them unless it is something outrageous like they screamed at a client.

    13. Academic glass half full*

      This is exactly what happened to me and there was an almost two year PIP process. It was an exhausting nightmare.

    14. anecdata*

      Tell me if I’m misreading the situation, but it sounds like this hasn’t happened yet: you’re putting someone on a PIP, and they asked you proactively what happens when they are off it.

      If that’s the case, do you think this person is asking because they want to plan to immediately slide back to their old ways, or are they asking a version of “is a PIP always a precursor to firing/can I ever repair my reputation after being on a PIP”

      Assuming the person improving and staying on successfully IS a real possibility, I’d make sure you emphasize that, you want to emphasize that:

      Something like : “This pip is meant to help you be successful – and I really want to see you succeed. XYZ standards are things I’d expect to see you keep doing indefinitely; and ABC actions are temporary, to help you get there. It’s very much my hope that you’ll be able to meet this standard, and go on to be successful here”

      1. Theon, Theon, it rhymes with neon*

        This person was on a PIP a few years ago, their performance never actually met standards (the first PIP was just badly designed and missed the real problem), and even by the standards of the PIP, they backslid to their same behaviors within a couple months. Then they were allowed to remain low performing until I came along and saw how bad it was. Is that why they’re asking? Probably not, they’re in pretty deep denial about their performance. They probably just want to know if they’ll be indefinitely under scrutiny if they succeed, as they expect to.

        In reality, the odds of them succeeding on this PIP are pretty low. It’s like, say you’re a physicist and all you can do is (slowly, with lots of guessing) number crunch when someone else tells you what formulas are applicable. You can regurgitate some percentage of an explanation if someone repeats it often enough, but you don’t show signs of understanding it, connecting it to anything else, or being able to apply it to a new problem. In fact, you argue that applying knowledge from one problem to a non-identical problem is logically impossible, so of *course* you have to be instructed on the solution to each new problem in detail.

        The odds of you becoming a successful physicist in the next few weeks are…slim.

        At this point, what I want is verbiage for that person that indicates that the level of difficulty they’re facing now will continue to be the same level of difficulty at this job, this isn’t some hazing ritual and if they can just survive these bizarre and incomprehensible requirements for a few weeks, they can go back to the equivalent of number crunching. (Like I said, the denial is deep.) And from my boss, I want assurance that if someone ever does survive a PIP, we’re not doing it every 3-4 months!

  13. NaoNao*

    I’m sure this is a very common issue with my fellow readers so I’m hoping for any tips here:

    I live within reasonable driving distance to an office “hub” and I occasionally pop in for all hands’ meetings, key meetings, the rare social event, and so on. The office isn’t set up for permanent desks, it’s in a rather run-down part of town, and there are always tech issues, but aside from that (which are really not *that* big of a deal) my biggest gripe is that every time I come in, it feels like a waste.

    To me, one of the big reasons I’m stopping in is to show my face and “get credit” for being in the office. When leadership isn’t there or heck, when no one is there, it feels like a huge waste of time–there’s NO benefit other than “face time” to being there. We have a sign-up sheet resource and I’ve pinged leadership with a hint “hey, in office if you want to connect” type thing but part of me feels like there is such a disconnect from this urge, urge, urge to go in and then there’s *no one* there and I’m the chump who actually followed the “strongly recommended” suggestion.

    Anyhow—any ideas on how I can make office face time work more effectively–or am I chasing pavements here?

    1. EA*

      I’d just stop dropping in at random times, but prioritize making sure I was present and engaged at the key meetings where you know other people will be there. Can you connect with the leadership by flipping it around and asking them when they plan to be in the office, and then going at those times?

      1. Redux*

        This is what I do. I make sure to be in the office 2 days/week when my boss is in, and I’m always in-office for the quarterly meetings with the big boss. Of course, this only works if leadership has a set in-office schedule or recurring in-person meetings.

    2. amoeba*

      Can you not set up in person meetings before coming in? I work hybrid, and while I’m personally mostly in office, I believe by coworkers who are more home-based actively set up meetings, lunch and coffee dates, etc. for the days they are coming in. Basically when they’re there, they hardly do any “normal desk work”, those days are for socialising – and while you can certainly leave some unstructured time in case you run into somebody by chance, if the office is mostly empty, I’d schedule as much as possible…

    3. Antilles*

      Where you getting the “urge urge urge to go in” from?
      It really sounds like your office is not set up for people to be primarily in-office, neither from a logistics standpoint nor a management standpoint. To me, that all points to management not actually caring about people being in person – even if they’re saying it, they clearly don’t believe it. So I’d make sure to go in if there’s a specific reason like the all-hands or social events, but short of that it doesn’t really seem like they care.

      1. NaoNao*

        Sorry, the urge is coming from leadership and C suite–it’s constant. There’s multiple reminders about “if you can go in….” and a focus on RTO.

          1. NaoNao*

            I will give them some credit–every time I see them on an all-hands or other major meeting, they appear to be calling in from *an* in person office. Just not mine. We’re a mega-corp with tons of smaller offices all over the country so it’s not 100% their fault but it’s annoying as all get out.

            1. GythaOgden*

              Yeah, IME, it’s more management that are present in-office and more junior staff that are WFH. Then again, we’re a facilities management company, so it would be fairly absurd (and also breed insane levels of resentment amongst both our in-person staff and the clinical providers we rent space to) if too many people were completely remote.

    4. But not the Hippopotamus*

      I see value in office face time. Try suggesting something regular, like first Wednesday of the month. A big problem I had was people popping in on different days missing each other. Then I was on a team that did a set day a week. While not everyone came every week due to client meetings and such, it was mich more valuable. also, food helps. Like if you have cookies for all the March birthdays or whatever. If there are team meetings, those are good days to do it as well.

      1. English Rose*

        Yes, our team is mostly remote but we are all in office on set days each month, which are deliberately formatted to include various meetings between ourselves and others.

    5. Damn it, Hardison!*

      Folks on my team/in my office send out a Teams message saying they are coming into the office x day the following week and asking if anyone wants to grab lunch. Doesn’t always mean that a lot of people show up, but it’s helped me gauge who will be in and saved me a trip or two when it would have been my, the front desk person, and IT support.

    6. Hillary*

      I agree on coordinating days and scheduling things in advance. It will feel much better if you know you’re going to get at least one interaction out of it. Also, be direct about it. Hinting doesn’t land the same with everyone.

      Look at what days people mostly go in. My team at my last job agreed on MWTh. At my husband’s office Wednesday is the day everyone tries to make it in. Maybe even talk with the folks you work with the most and see if the group wants to agree on a day & frequency.

    7. Generic Name*

      So leadership is banging the “return to office” drum but aren’t actually showing up to the office themselves? I’d stop coming in. Unless you have a team of folks you have supervisory authority over, (and can mandate a once a month or whenever in-office day for in person meetings and get-togethers), I don’t see how you can make your time in the office feel like less of a waste. I assume the RTO emails are all-staff emails? If you are getting emailed individually asking about your personal attendance in the office, you can note how often you are in and say you are sorry you missed them and when will they be in next so you can be sure to meet with them in person.

    8. HR Exec Popping In*

      Do you let people know in advance you when you will in the office? That helps as does scheduling “in person” meetings for those days.

    9. It's me, Margaret*

      Try and use it to find out the company gossip. And by gossip, I mean finding out what’s really going on in projects, where the political connections are, etc.

  14. Alexiiiiiiiiii5*

    I applied for accomodations two months ago and haven’t heard back from HR. In reader’s experiences, or in Hrs experiences, how long is reasonable to wait?

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Two months seems really long, like your request got missed or hung up somewhere. It’s more than reasonable to forward the original email with attachments, and say “I’m following up on my accommodations request from December 15. Can you please provide a status update and an estimated timeline for the way ahead?”

    2. BecauseHigherEd*

      How big is your company and how significant are the accommodations? I feel like the answer will vary based on those two things, but I think it never hurts to see if there’s a way to check in on what’s going on with the process.

    3. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

      You are definitely good to follow up with them. 2 months isn’t an egregiously long time, but it’s long enough that you’re not being pushy by pinging them and asking for the status of your request.

    4. TX_TRUCKER*

      In Texas, state statute says we have 14 days to respond, unless there is a “clear documented need for a lengthier process.” I don’t know if there is a federal statute. My company typically responds in a week for simple requests, such as a new chair. We have taken months for something complex such as the reconfiguration of some heavy equipment.

    5. Rosyglasses*

      In my experience, I would say a well functioning HR process should be:
      1 – You submit accommodation request. HR acknowledges receipt within 1 business day and outlines next steps of process.
      2 – Process should include: HR meeting with your manager to review your work systems and how your accommodation request could be supported, reaching back out to you to talk with you on options, potentially requesting medical certification if needed, back and forth until agreement is reached. I would say this process should be done within a 30 day period, with notice if that will be extended because manager is out on vacation or they are waiting for documentation or higher up approval on a larger budget purchase etc.

      As a side note, AskJan.org has some great free resources (and live chat!) and will also help you through the process of understanding your rights under the ADA.

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

      I think you should reach out to HR or whoever and follow up. 2 months is way to long to wait for accommodations without any communication.

  15. Far Far Far Away*

    I’m getting close to leaving my partner (there’s a lot I’m not interested in going into at this time), however, I’m at least 3,000 miles away from my support network and am a contractor. If/when I make this transition, how the hell do I keep myself together at work? I’ll be leaving my home already to find something new, I cannot have a job problem.

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

        I second a therapist or some sort of support network (Friends, church, support group). In my area there is something called depression anonymous which is a support group.

        Not sure if it applies but is there a women’s shelter or domestics violence shelter near you? Even if you are not leaving your partner because of DV they may be able to hook you up with resources.

        Good luck!

    1. Em from CT*

      I don’t have the link right now, but Captain Awkward has a great post about tips and tricks for surviving at work when you have depression. Obviously, not quite the same thing, but a lot of the advice applies in broad strokes – it’s basically how to survive at work when you’re dealing with something difficult in your personal life.

      Sounds like a stressful situation. I send you Internet hugs.

      1. Cabbagepants*

        I want to second this suggestion. CA has a list of all the external presentation stuff that sends the message that you have your shit together. having it spelled out makes it much easier to do. Google “#450: How to tighten up your game at work when you’re depressed.”

    2. Thinking*

      It’s really challenging. But put the focus on yourself and doing what needs to be done, so you are functional for work (eating, sleeping, and so on). If you can trust them, tell your friends and family that you might be too preoccupied to reach out for a while as you resolve this crisis. Simplify your life as much as possible. If you can afford to, take advantage of takeout, laundry, and cleaning services (and remember the key is to retain your job, so you might indulge if it helps you do that).

    3. H.Regalis*

      Figure out every non-work thing you can let slide for now, and then skip all that stuff, and focus all of the energy you have on work. What chores can you skip? Can you get groceries delivered instead of going to the store? Can you live off of tv dinners so you’re not having to cook? Bow out of volunteering for a new months? Whatever isn’t necessary, drop it for now.

      Also, be really rigorous about making sure you are sleeping enough, sleeping on a regular schedule, getting outside, eating some vegetables, brushing your teeth, bathing, and so on. Even if you don’t feel like it. Even if you hate it. Do it anyway.

      This has some good advice too: https://captainawkward.com/2013/02/16/450-how-to-tighten-up-your-game-at-work-when-youre-depressed/

    4. Not A Manager*

      Can you try to make your work into a refuge of sorts? I assume that you’re in-office. Can you try to silo your office time/space as a place where you get to revel in the normalcy and you’ll worry about other stuff in your off hours?

      You didn’t ask about this, but I also found the “refuge” concept very helpful in setting up my own living space during a divorce transition. I was in other people’s homes/extended stay hotels for part of the time, but I still managed to make at least the bed and the surrounding area feel like a private nest that I was safe in. Sometimes I’d just prop myself up in bed all evening because that felt like the safest place for me.

    5. Generic Name*

      I’m sorry you’re going through this. When I divorced my spouse, it happened to coincide with a huge project starting up that required a ton of fieldwork, so I absolutely threw myself into work. I’m very good at compartmentalizing, which helped. I told my boss, and one or two close coworkers what was going on, but otherwise I just put my head down and focused on delivering the project. Can you set up a standing call or video chat with a friend or relative you can confide in? I also second the recommendation of a therapist. I’ve found journaling to be extremely helpful as well.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I have had good experience telling my manager in advance about specific stressful situations in my life, and calmly telling them and co-workers that I will not be at my best.

      Admitted I had luxury of being a full time employee, but I found that people were incredibly supportive when they knew I was dealing with family hospitalizations or death. I have let them know that my patience might be shorter than I’d like, and that I’d appreciate extra reminders for specific project deliverables. Saying this out loud in a meeting took a little bit of strength–but nobody wants to be seen as a jerk, so the openness brought me a lot of support.

      1. Betty*

        I agree with this. I dealt with a traumatic loss while I was in a leadership role, and people were incredibly kind in extending grace and kindness.

    7. JustaTech*

      I’m so sorry. When my coworker’s marriage fell apart she didn’t tell anyone at first (another coworker only noticed because she came in to work in jeans, which was very out of character) but everyone one the team offered support and she just threw herself into work and we offered her as much of her favorite type of projects as we could.

      So if your coworkers are reasonable people and you’ve got a decent reputation they’ll likely be willing to give you some grace and space.

    8. BigLawEx*

      Set up a time to deal with ‘partner’ stuff. For me, that was Sunday afternoon/evening. That way I could compartmentalize the rest of the time.

    9. DJ*

      See if you leave your relationship when there’s nothing major face to face happening at work.
      When I rented an apartment to leave a relationship I didn’t leave or move in straight away as I was involved in delivering face to face training the following week.
      Can you take some leave? Time it for the Easter break?
      If there are any separation support groups join those.

  16. Damn it, Hardison!*

    My organizational systems have stopped working for me, so I need some help! At any one point I will have 3-4 large projects, 8-10 small projects, and a to-do list to balance. I’m a team of one, so no one to delegate to, and for the projects I’m the lead and project manager (there is no official project management here). I’m having a hard time keeping track of all of the tasks for each project, plus where we are/next steps/follow ups (read: nagging people to do stuff). Right now my to-do list is an undifferentiated running list that never gets any shorter, and I’m always late on follow up/forgetting to do something. Any suggestions for keeping track of it all better? By project, then by urgency, picking the most important to-dos every day? Bottom line is that there is too much on my plate but that’s not going to change any time soon. For now I need to keep all of the plates spinning, but I can’t even keep track of how many plates there are!

    1. Enescudoh*

      In broad terms, I have a digital list for big picture planning and lists, a notebook planner for daily planning and lists, and dedicate time and comms to keeping them in sync.
      In a bit more detail…
      -Utterly disregard the rule of “if it takes two minutes or less do it right now.” In fact, do the opposite. However long or short or major or minor it is, put it on a list.
      -I use todoist but other apps/websites exist: basically I can put in every teeny tiny step of “suggest interview/confirm interview/book room for interview/send calendar invite for interview” without running out of space, I break every major project down into steps like that as soon as it’s on the horizon and before then I put stuff in with date reminders the minute it might even become a thing
      -Take 15 mins at the end of every day to go through the digital to do list and put it into a physical list for the next day. I know I am not going to write 5 press releases in a day, but I can see that I can write one, research another, and also do a few bits of short admin. Then I know well in advance what isn’t going to get done that day and I can…
      -…be super communicative about which deadlines are going to slip, what I’m prioritising instead, and asking well ahead of time when I’m not sure (I can’t really do this last step at the moment because of absent management but lol)

    2. Amber*

      For the long term ones, an excel sheet could be useful. If you are willing to carve out time to set it up, you could set up “reminders” to do things even on excel (change color of font/background if a certain date passes kind of thing), though I don’t know if that much effort would make sense on short term projects.
      If you use Outlook, there’s a reminder/to do list built into that; you could digitalize the to do list that way.

    3. Camellia*

      No advice, but now I have to go watch Leverage again!! BTW, hated the new version of it, what did you think about it?

      1. My Useless 2 Cents*

        I was a little thrown off for a few episodes but grew to appreciate the new ones too. Not quite as good but still fun.

        Damn It, Hardison! I find time blocking to be my go-to when feeling overwhelmed with multiple competing to-do’s.
        Ex.
        Every Morning – to do list – anything urgent to less urgent regardless of project
        Monday Afternoon – Big Project A; Tues Afternoon – Small Project X & Y; Wed Afternoon – Big Project B, etc. So each afternoon I’m only working on those specific projects, organizing, adding deadlines and tasks to the to-do list etc. making sure that everything that needs to be done for that project for the week is accounted for. At the very least I feel like I can wrap my head around *that* project for a while without intrusive thoughts about the other projects ruining my concentration.
        **It doesn’t work if you get a lot of last minute or urgent tasks.

    4. k.*

      What is your current organizational system? It seems like you need a task management system at minimum. You need to write down all your tasks, but more critically you need to be sure you’re regularly reviewing them. I use logseq (which is probably too complex for the needs of most people, but something like Asana is easy to learn) and review my task list at a high level at the beginning of every day, and do a cursory review 1 hour before my workday ends to make sure I haven’t missed anything critical before I leave.

      I’m also obsessive about tagging every task for context so if I have a bunch of tasks or questions that need input from Adam, they’re all tagged ‘adam’ so I can pull them up next time I see him. This helps with preventing things from falling through the cracks.

    5. Syfy Geek*

      I am having great success using a Kanban-esque method.
      I use a sheet of 8.5 x 11 paper, landscape, and divide it into 3 columns- To Do, Doing, Done.
      Each column is about the size of 2 small sticky notes (2″ x 1.5″)
      Above the columns, I write the project/event/what ever I need to track.
      Write each step on a sticky note with a date. I use different colors to indicate what kind of step- to generate a PO to pay someone- green sticky, follow up- bright yellow. And I keep the same colors for each project.
      They all start in the To Do Column, then I move them over as things progress. If I’m waiting for someone to complete a portion, I add their name and a date to the sticky note.
      Since I lose things on my desk, mine are on the board next to my desk so I can stick my arm out and move the note to the next column.
      When all the sticky notes have moved into the Done column, I take a picture/scan it so I have a reference. Then pull off the sticky’s and re use the sheet.
      Bonus- since it’s a letter size piece of paper, each it’s to grab off the wall and take to meetings.

      1. juliebulie*

        I like that one!
        The core of my own system is a linear list of standalone tasks intermingled with “next steps” for projects. In the back of the same notebook is a an outline of each project’s tasks, so when I complete project one task and cross it off my list, I write the next step at the end of the list.

        It’s possible to get really caught up in organizing and re-organizing and meta-organizing stuff. If you’re a process oriented person in general, I highly recommend http://markforster.squarespace.com/ where people devise and test and rehash and compare notes on various time management strategies, all of them designed around some type of task list. There is an emphasis on reducing resistance. My main work-related system is called Do It Tomorrow, and my main personal list-processing system is Autofocus (1).

    6. Project Maniac-ger*

      It sounds like you need project management software. I’ve used several, but Microsoft Planner is free with most business Microsoft office subscriptions. (Your company should pay for the software anyway) I would organize by project and add deadlines to to-dos as a form of prioritization. No to-do is too small: if everything doesn’t go into the site, it’s not useful as a prioritization tool. Then every day log into your PM site and see what you need to accomplish today. It takes more time to set up in the beginning than a grocery list system, but holy smokes it will change your life if you commit to it.

    7. METia*

      What I do:
      – Block out some time to get myself on track. Usually a Friday afternoon or a Monday morning when things are slow.
      – Use One Note to make a list for each project. Put EVERYTHING you can think of in the lists. If the item has a due date I write it in the list.
      – I use the ! symbol in One Note to highlight the items that I need to be getting done in the next 24 hours or so.
      – At the end of each day (or sometimes first thing in the morning) I make a to-do list for the day. I try to keep it at 3-4 doable items, not necessarily a full days worth, so I have room to flex. Take this time to clean up lists, add things, remove things, and set your priorities.
      – If my calendar is getting too full, I’ll try to block out some time as busy to use just for this organizing.
      – Now its Friday afternoon of a very unproductive week…so let me go practice what I preach :)

    8. Tex*

      I’m in the same boat. And i often have to go back six months to a year later to reference previous notes. Project dates and deliverables often get moved around, so I can’t use a bullet journal method without it looking like a complete mess.

      1. I have a main notebook for meetings and research. Everything goes in it, in the order it happens with dates at the top. I mark the edge pages by project using this Japanese indexing method: https://www.highfivehq.com/. I think of this as my archive.

      2. I have a smaller notebook that has my running list of things to do. It’s also a place to jot small reminders, notes from a phone conversation, conference room numbers, etc. I redo the to-do list whenever I feel like it. Everything is really freeform here and once the notebook is full, it gets thrown out. If I need to save some of that info for the longer term, it goes into the main notebook.

      3. Outlook calendar for meetings and reminders set for recurring activities.

      4. Major deliverable dates and timeline reminders go on a sticky note in my cubicle.

      5. Outlook email has a ‘categorize’ feature that I use to tag important emails by project/topic. You can then sort your entire mailbox by relevant project.

      6. I am trying to keep an excel file for major items done.

    9. vombatus ursinus*

      Can you try sorting the items on your list into the quadrants of high importance, low importance, high urgency, low urgency? Then you work on the things that are high importance + high urgency first, then low importance + high urgency/high importance + low urgency (if feasible, you could try to mix these up so the high importance + low urgency don’t get completely stalled), and so on.

      Once you have your prioritisation, I agree with the recommendations to use a project/task management program (we use Monday.com in my team, and I’ve also used Trello previously) and calendar/diary reminders to track everything. In Monday.com you can create templates for recurring tasks, which might be handy, and it also has a good view for upcoming workload. Like another poster, I used the categorisation feature in Outlook to make it easy to find information in emails (and it makes my calendar look prettier too :)).

      Good luck!!

    10. ZugTheMegasaurus*

      I swear by OneNote! I make a new notebook for every fiscal quarter and include sections for every project that comes up. It’s a really easy way to keep notes, docs, templates, screenshots all in one place. Also, categories in Outlook are a lifesaver. I just tag emails and calendar invites as they come in, makes it really easy to find the right items without bothering to sort stuff into folders.

    11. Storm in a teacup*

      So I have a mix of strategies that together work for me.
      I have an excel workbook template that someone else created originally but I use for planning bigger projects. Smaller ones I’ll create a plan and Gantt chart in excel or ppt and colour code where I can but don’t bother with the more detailed workbook. It’s a shared document with other project members so everyone can update where they are at with projects.
      Also our team use Monday.com at work to keep track of where everyone is overall on their projects / work. Basically it’s top line list of everything I’m working on and status (not started, on track, off track, need input and complete). I talk through it with my boss in our regular catch ups – good way to stay on top of the big picture.
      Then on a day to day basis I used to use a bullet journal style written notebook for notes but have recently switched fully to OneNote. It’s brilliant. Different sections for each project and a to do list. Each project can then have different pages for each element / meeting notes etc…
      I also block out a short amount of focus time first thing every day before I check emails to review where I am & what needs to be done that day (and use old fashioned post it notes for my daily to do list). If I need to do something by a specific date or chase something I’ll diarise it in my Outlook as an appointment. This way I don’t forget and also have time to do the task.
      Finally at the end of each week if I can I block out 30-60 mins to prep for the next week.
      All of this has really helped me feel better organised, in control and thus more relaxed.

    12. Anastaziax*

      You probably have too much on your plate and may want to focus a bit on if and how it’s possible to change that. Finding a better system won’t fix it, but lots of good suggestions.

    13. MindoverMoneyChick*

      David Allen’s Getting things Done is the most useful book on task organization I’ve ever read. Too much to go into in a comments section, but i highly recommend checking it out. It covers a lot of the kid of issues you are dealing with.

    14. spiriferida*

      I’ve been having a project-heavy start to the year, so what helps me is having a brief outline of each project printed out and physically put up around my workspace, then physically checking off the steps I’ve completed. There are smaller pieces within each step on the master schedule, but you might be able to pencil those in or at least jog your memory by looking at the larger list. For a particularly finicky project I’ve got a day-by-day schedule printed out but not posted up.

      I also have time set aside each week to look over my projects as a whole and plan out my next steps – for me that’s Wednesday, usually. Depending on the timescale of your projects, that might be something you could do weekly or biweekly.

    15. Zee*

      I cannot recommend Asana enough. It’s an absolute life-changer. There is a free version if you’re just using it for yourself and not implementing it for a whole team.

  17. Long-term layoffs*

    The stress of my company constantly stealthily downsizing people in drips and drabs over multiple years is really taking its toll on my mental health. How do you keep yourself mentally well when you know that you won’t be “safe” in your role for 1-2 years? (This role is my breakthrough to my desired niche after 15+ years in my field, so that’s why I’m not leaving voluntarily.)

    1. NaoNao*

      Prep for a layoff. So keep the resume up to date, the network active, and the emergency fund high. Don’t focus on it every day, but just make sure ducks are very much in a row in the case of a layoff.
      I would also focus a bit more on short-term for now–like don’t focus on the “career” at this particular place, look at just doing the work day by day until it seems to stabilize. Don’t go above and beyond or work more than 40 hours, etc.

    2. M2*

      Prepare for a layoff and start applying for roles in case you get laid off. Only apply to ones that seem really interesting or that you would leave your current job to take. That way if you are laid off, you have things out there.

      Network with people who you may need to talk to down the line. Ask someone for coffee or catch up (like a reference) so that when time comes for you to need them for something, you have spoken to them outside of that need.

    3. HR Exec Popping In*

      I don’t think you can ever really be “safe”. I’m not trying to scare you, but the norm is often that it is always possible for a company to announce a restructure, layoff or RIF. Or just decide that your role is not needed. I find focusing on what is in your control vs. what is not is helpful. You can’t control when or if you job is subject to elimination. But you do control your performance, your engagement, your contribution and if you electe to stay at that employer.

  18. anon-today*

    Just venting! I’m moving forward in a job search. Just second rounds so far, but it’s exciting to be moving forward. I’ve been at my current job for over 5 years, and recently my manager keeps giving me more responsibility. I know this is just life in the workforce but part of me wants to scream NO!! I’M LEAVING!! I’M GOING TO LEAVE!!!
    I feel so bad about it but obviously I need to keep performing well until I have an actual offer! Arrrggghhh.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Embrace your inner Schadenfreude.
      When you leave, who the hell will be doing all the stuff you do?
      Dude, the Tom in me wants to tell you to take ALL THE THINGS and have them scrambling when you leave.
      Boss’ boss: Why are A B C D E and F not getting done?
      Anon today did that.
      Did which?
      Umm, all of them.
      (like when Lisa Simpson tries to explain to Homer that bacon, pork and ham all come from the same animal… “oh, so Anon Today was just a magic employee that did all the work?” )

      1. anon-today*

        If I didn’t like my coworkers I would consider that!
        These are the best coworkers I’ve had but I’ve been at this job for a while and am getting more and more underpaid the longer I don’t leave for greener $$ pastures.

      1. None The Wiser*

        Should you not also be seeking a promotion in your current role?

        I mean, maybe that’s not possible in your current organization (too small, too flat?), but it sounds like you’ve developed beyond your current title and pay, and that’s why your manager keeps adding to your responsibilities. Next time they do so, you can point out that you are doing higher-level work and your title and compensation need to reflect that.

        You may consider this a two-track job search, one where you are looking for a promotion both inside and outside your current company.

        Or, maybe you just want to get out of Dodge.

        1. anon-today*

          I work for a small start up and my manager is giving me completely appropriate amounts of responsibility, I just feel bad that he’s spending development points on me when I’m planning to move on soon. It’s a good place just too small to pay me comparably to other jobs in my field.

  19. T. Wanderer*

    Struggling with getting a coworker to back off well-intentioned but disruptive nitpicking!

    Background: my entire team recently went from being a co-contractor, with [Team] and [Company] both working on the same project for a client, to being part of [Company]. We’re doing something like QA on the product that most of [Company] works on; [Team] has weekly client meetings to present our projects.

    Coworker Max is a part of [Company], and since we’ve joined them has been constantly asking for changes in the way [Team] does things, down to precise phrasing changes. Some of these are reasonable, but some of them are not — Max seems to want preemptive knowledge of everything in our presentations, which aren’t always finalized until the day before the client calls. When we’ve pushed back, Max has essentially ignored it and keeps criticizing — and they’re high enough in the structure that I’m nervous about pushing back too far, but they’re also not the client.

    I even like Max and get where they’re coming from, but this is making them pretty annoying! Any advice on how to get them to back off?

    1. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

      “Thanks for the feedback. We’ll take it into consideration. Anyway, about that [subject change]…” and keep it moving. There’s a good chance that if you stop rising to his bait, he’ll stop getting whatever payoff he’s getting from doing this, and he won’t be motivated to keep doing it. At least not to you.

      The best thing you can do here is to change your own mindset. Max is Max and isn’t going to change, and it sounds like you don’t have the capital to push back too hard, so you may just need to choose not to internalize this so you can stay emotionally separated from it. Look at it as “oh, that’s just Max doing his annoying thing again,” internally roll your eyes, and move on with your day.

    2. ovenmitts*

      I like Pool Noodle’s suggestion! I also asked ChatGPT (it’s helpful for wording for things like this!) and this is what it came up with:

      Dealing with a well-intentioned but overly nitpicking coworker like Max can indeed be challenging, especially when they’re higher up in the hierarchy. Here are some strategies you might consider:

      Understand their perspective: Before addressing the issue, try to understand why Max is so invested in the details of your presentations. Perhaps they’re concerned about maintaining consistency, quality, or alignment with company standards. Understanding their perspective can help you tailor your approach.

      Schedule a one-on-one conversation: Request a private meeting with Max to discuss your concerns openly and constructively. Express appreciation for their input while explaining how the constant nitpicking is affecting the team’s productivity and morale. Emphasize the need for flexibility, especially given the time constraints on finalizing presentations.

      Set boundaries: Politely but firmly communicate boundaries regarding the level of involvement Max can have in your team’s processes. Explain that while you value their input, the team needs autonomy to execute their tasks efficiently. Offer to keep them informed about major decisions or changes but clarify that final decisions rest with the team.

      Provide context: Help Max understand the constraints and challenges your team faces, such as tight deadlines or evolving client requirements. Providing context can foster empathy and encourage them to approach their feedback more judiciously.

      Offer alternatives: If Max’s suggestions aren’t feasible or appropriate, propose alternative solutions that address their underlying concerns without disrupting the team’s workflow. For example, you could suggest regular check-ins or reviews at specific stages of the presentation process rather than last-minute revisions.

      Involve a mediator if necessary: If discussions with Max don’t yield results or if tensions escalate, consider involving a neutral mediator, such as a supervisor or HR representative. A mediator can help facilitate a productive dialogue and find a resolution that satisfies both parties.

      Document communication: Keep records of your interactions with Max, including any agreements or compromises reached. This documentation can serve as evidence of your efforts to address the issue if further escalation is necessary.

      Seek support from colleagues: If other team members share your concerns, consider discussing the issue collectively and presenting a unified front when addressing it with Max or higher-ups in the company.

      Remember to approach the situation with professionalism and diplomacy, focusing on finding a mutually beneficial resolution rather than escalating conflicts.

    3. Dana Lynne*

      Does your boss know about this? Do they have more power over Max than you do? If you can talk to them about it, I definitely would.

  20. Curiouser*

    I work in a public, nonprofit organization and was recently told I was being laid off due to my position was being eliminated. The reason given is that my position was supposed to be grant funded from the beginning and if the grant runs out, my position is gone.
    The problem is my position was never grant funded. The person I replaced was paid under general funds. The posting never said it was grant funded, which is required if it is. I have access to the payroll system and can see that I’ve been paid out of general funds the entire time that I have been here. I mentioned that to the head boss when they told me I was being laid off. (Horrible delivery by the way. No empathy, no “appreciate all the work”, just “your position is grant funded and will be eliminated on (date)”.)
    With that said, has anyone had experience with going after an employer for deceptive hiring practices or something similar? I’m not worried about future positions as I will be moving soon anyway. It will be hard for me to find work while here because I am due to give birth a few weeks after my last day and will be moving due to husband’s work approximately 11 months after my last day. Trying to decide what steps I want to take while I wait to speak with a lawyer.

      1. Curiouser*

        The person that I replaced was not paid out of grant funds. The posting was required to say it was grant funded. After 18 months, why are they just now saying it’s grant funded. And my former boss said it was never grant funded and never supposed to be grant funded.

        1. Redux*

          Employment lawyer here. When you say “The posting was required to say it was grant funded.” What do you mean by that? Required by law or by industry standard/custom or by the organization’s own rules?

          Gently, these cases are really hard to prove. Laws vary by state, but generally you have to show that they made an intentional misrepresentation to you in order to induce you to take the job. It stings, but assuming you are in the U.S., most of us are at-will employees, and can be terminated for any reason or no reason at all (except a discriminatory one, like beacuse you’re pregnant for example). They may be telling you the reason is grant funding to spare your feelings. It’s not a smart move, but one I have seen before.

          1. Curiouser*

            My understanding is required by law. I work in public schools and this is ESSER funding. In my previous district, we had to put in every posting that a position was ESSER funded. In my current district, same thing.
            The issue is that my position was never grant funded. I work in HR and have access to the payroll system. The person that I replaced worked for two years in the role and it was general funds. I have been in this position for 18 months and it has been general funds every paycheck. When I told them my position was general funds, they told me no, that it was never supposed to be general funds. If I had known that from the start, I may have made a different choice. As is, it doesn’t change that my position is not and never was grant funded.

            1. Educator*

              The moment I read your top comment I suspected ESSER!

              Every school budget is different, but I could easily see this happening in my district because we reshuffled a lot of things in the budget when the ESSER money started to make sure that we were following the absolute letter of the law and funding the right things with the federal money. But the truth was also that having more money generally allowed us to add positions and make investments that we could not otherwise with our local resources. So I wonder if your role was not directly grant funded, but added because that ESSER money was other places in the budget.

              I’m sorry this happened–it is a bad situation, and I think you are going to be hearing about a LOT of people in the same boat in the coming months. Post-ESSER layoffs are going to be a thing.

              1. Curiouser*

                Thank. My role was around before ESSER funds since I replaced someone else. It shouldn’t have been affected.

      2. lost academic*

        Seconded this question. I can imagine a situation where they fully expected to get the grant and they needed someone in the position before it landed so they initially set it up to be paid from the general funds. OP didn’t say how long they had been in the role, but I would suppose a review (annually or so) of the budget revealed this and they needed that money elsewhere and that’s what happened.

        If that’s really the case, the communication certainly could have been a lot better. To me this speaks to a level of disorganization and tracking that’s not at all good. A good team would try to find you another role within the organization.

        I wouldn’t say not to contact a lawyer, because it sounds like it’s a safe bet to say that they didn’t follow the rule given what you’ve said and you have damages (hopefully you’ve got the documentation from your application/hiring) but I’m not a lawyer and I have no real experience in this area either. Safe to say you probably would have taken another position if you’d known? (I imagine it would help if you had another contemporaneous offer.)

        1. Curiouser*

          I responded. I have been in this role 18 months. The person I replaced had been in the same role with same budget for 2 years prior to my hire.

      3. Expelliarmus*

        I assume it’s because no one tried to set any record straight after Curiouser asked about the general fund thing, and they’re still proceeding to lay her off.

    1. EMP*

      To me it sounds more like he misspoke when doing the layoff than deceptive hiring, since the job posting and how you were paid do actually line up. IANAL but I’d consider what outcome you would want if you did lawyer up. Severance?

      1. Curiouser*

        Not sure at the moment. However, they reiterated that my position was supposed to be grant funded, was supposed to be posted that way, and I was supposed to have been told that from the beginning when I told them that I knew it wasn’t. My former boss has confirmed that it never was nor was supposed to be grant funded.

    2. M2*

      Do they have money at all? Maybe they don’t have money to pay you whether grant funded or general funds. I used to work in non profits and knew of several people who had jobs eliminated or laid off because they didn’t have the funds to pay them. I also knew of my time that % for general funds/ offices were being cut by donors left and right because costs had ballooned over the years.

      Can you speak to a lawyer? Do you think it is about grant funds or because you are pregnant? Are you still being paid for parental leave?

      1. Curiouser*

        They still have funds because they don’t get them solely from grants. It’s not about being pregnant and it’s not about grant funds. I brought to light some employment practices that violate wage laws and some issues with a mandatory, unqualified hire who has created more headache than help. Can’t be paid for leave because my position is eliminated before I would go on leave.

        1. MissBliss*

          That’s what I think you should talk to an employment lawyer about, not whether they did something deceptive with hiring or whether or not the position was grant-funded.

          1. ecnaseener*

            Agreed, if this is potential retaliation for reporting illegal behavior then that’s where to focus. Tell it all to your lawyer of course, but lead with the retaliation part.

            1. Redux*

              I commented above but I agree with this. If grant funding is pretext for retaliation, that’s the bigger potential problem. I am not aware that ESSER funded jobs must be posted that way (you may be right, I’m just not aware) but even if they are, it would be easily defended as a mistake and not a fraudulent inducement — those cases are really hard to prove. Pretext for retaliation is more straight forward, especially since the reason they gave you– grant funding– is not apparently true.

    3. Emma*

      I’m glad you’re speaking with an attorney! I was wondering if your pregnancy may have played into it – like maybe they didn’t want to deal with maternity leave (either having you gone, or paying you for it).

      Because as I was initially reading your story, I was like oh, it sounds like may have been looking for a way to push this person out, and used grant funding as an excuse, and then I got to the part about you being pregnant and I was like uh oh.

      so, no personal experience, but stuff to talk with your attorney about. if you haven’t, I would start sending stuff to a personal email – screenshot of the payroll system showing you’re not paid with grant funds, any reference to the reason you’re being fired, any notice you gave them of your pregnancy, etc.

      And you might send them an email through your work email challenging the grant funds excuse, and ask for clarification, and both see what they say, and also forward that email to your personal email for documentation.

      Basically start collecting evidence and getting it into your personal accounts/computer.

      No idea if there’s anything to this, just stuff it may help to share with an attorney. And if you have a copy of the original job posting, forward that too.

    4. Ginger Cat Lady*

      1. Document that you were paid from general funds. Get this documentation on your own personal devices, not just work devices.
      2. Document any and all conversations about being laid off, your pregnancy, etc. Also on your own devices.
      3. Document the job listing, if possible.
      4. Meet with an employment attorney and follow their instructions.
      IMO it’s *very* suspicious that the position ends right as you have a baby. So convenient for them.

      1. I Have RBF*

        IMO it’s *very* suspicious that the position ends right as you have a baby. So convenient for them.

        Yes, IMO this doesn’t pass the smell test:
        1. You know the position has not been grant funded or grant paid. Document this.
        2. You blew the whistle on illegal wage practices. Document this.
        3. You informed them that you were pregnant, and said when your due date was. Subsequently they “eliminated your position due to ‘grant’ funding”. Document the timeline and communications.

        Any one of these probably wouldn’t have much of a case. All three? IDK, talk to an employment lawyer, with receipts.

  21. NebraskaRocks*

    Why is it so hard to leave a job with good people even if it’s for what you really want to do?
    Also tips for staying connected to former coworkers?

    1. Arsloanico*

      IMO, emotionally, we are pack animals, and even though we try to tell ourselves workplaces “shouldn’t count” they still feel like our pack to us. Leaving a pack is a big deal!

    2. Name*

      I don’t have current coworkers as friends on social media. Once I or they leave, I reach out to them and friend them or send them a link to my social media account if they’d like to stay in touch. Some do, some don’t.

      1. carcinization*

        Same, once in awhile it makes co-workers a little sad but I always say that if one of us leaves our workplace we can try connecting that way!

    3. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      I’m FB friends with several people I worked with over a decade ago. Some interact once in a blue moon, but there are others I’m in touch with almost daily.

    4. WantonSeedStitch*

      Because it’s satisfying to work with good people! I think social media is great for stuff like this because it’s a low-key way of keeping tabs on one another without obliging anyone to reach out and schedule stuff. If you continue to remain close through your social media contacts, the meeting up and spending time together come more naturally.

    5. Blue Pen*

      Next week is my last week in my current job, and this is definitely hitting me now. I’ve been there for almost a decade now, so it is a big change, and I don’t think that transition is talked about enough. I’m with you!

  22. Anon in Canada*

    I was recently told by someone that many workplaces that had stopped taking paper applications and switched to online are reverting back to paper, because “the switch to online was a failure”. The two reasons mentioned were that “the switch to online applications has resulted in employers receiving too many applications” and that “employers want to put a face to a name”. The person said that that’s not just service industry workplaces, but many professional (blue-collar or white-collar), and is not a rural thing (it allegedly applies to big cities too).

    Does anyone (especially, but not exclusively, Canadian readers) know whether there is any truth to this, or if this is just gumptioneer BS?

    I know that Canada was behind the US in this trend (no way did it start in the 2000s like it did in the US), but at some point in the mid- or late 2010s, most chains adopted policies in which no one was allowed to handle paper applications anymore, everything had to go through the ATS. Applying in person and on paper was limited to very small service industry or blue-collar mom-and-pop businesses, and even then not all of those.

    I find it extremely hard to believe that this change could be reversible in any way… but for context, there has been tons of discussion recently that the average service industry or entry-level position in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) gets 2000+ applicants… so could any companies have reverted to paper just to trim down the number of applicants?

    1. Thinking*

      Start by asking this person to name even one or two professional workplaces that are doing this, much less a massive trend of them.

    2. Yes And*

      My company sometimes gets overwhelmed with applications to positions, especially service positions. We’ve responded by getting more specific about how we write our job descriptions, so that the applications we get can be higher-quality, and by curating where we post. It has never occurred to anybody here to go back to paper. That would be silly.

    3. DisneyChannelThis*

      BS. No hiring manager is going to take the time to hand enter them into the system. Online systems replaced so much work. We hired 2 this week, all digital here in the Midwest US at least.

      1. Anon in Canada*

        The person who told me that said that applying in person would bypass the system and the thousands of applicants who applied online, including, but not limited to, service industry jobs.

        1. Rage*

          And will get your resume/application tossed in a pile (if you’re lucky) or the trash (since you didn’t follow their request for an online application).

          1. Anon in Canada*

            That’s what I thought… what the person said sounded ridiculous, but I just wanted to ask some other people if they had heard of such a “trend”.

            1. Rage*

              I don’t think it’s a “trend” in business, but it certainly is a “trend” in “people passing along BAD job search advice”.

    4. Panda (she/her)*

      I am not aware of ANY companies that will even accept paper applications anymore. Granted, I’m in the tech field so can’t speak to things like retail or service industry, but I would really question this.

      1. JustaTech*

        Biotech here, same thing. Not to mention, most offices aren’t open to the public, so how would you even get in to drop off the application?
        At least at my company all our recruiters are based in other sites, so even though we have an office here, you’d have to go two states over to get to our recruiters/HR.

    5. M2RB*

      In the US so not exactly the target audience you’re seeking.

      When my company was hiring for two positions recently, everything was digital. We worked with recruiting agencies for both positions. If someone had come in to one of our locations in person to drop off an application/resume, I would have been very startled.

      From the employee/job-hunter side, I don’t apply in person nor on paper. Everything is online/digital: submitting applications online with resume/cover letter attached or working with a recruiting agency to whom I’ve emailed my resume and filled out their application online.

      My work experience is in accounting across a variety of industries.

      1. Anon in Canada*

        They claimed it was happening in major urban areas.

        In rural Canada, there have always been some businesses (usually single-location, service industry or blue-collar) that never adopted online applications. I have an extremely hard time seeing in-person having remained a thing, or re-become a thing, in urban areas or in chain companies that have companywide policies.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I was involved in hiring in the early 90s in NYC, before online applications were a thing.

      I can assure you that even then we got too many applications to review all of them. A hiring manager will always need to institute a cut-off date or max number or some minimum qualification to quickly narrow the evaluation.

    7. Poppy*

      Have a quick look at a job board there and see what the postings say? Should be pretty obvious if there’s a deluge of paper applications being asked for.

      I very much doubt it.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        Yeah, I’m not in Canada, but that was my thought. Employers generally specify what they want, at least in my field. When I started out, way back in 2004, the vast majority asked for applications to be sent to their postal address, then they started giving both (and at that point, I was unsure which would be best or if it even mattered) and now most just say “applications can be submitted by e-mail.”

        And I’d honestly be suspicious of advice that, on the one hand, says employers are switching back to paper, which would imply asking for applications by post or handed in only and not giving the option of applying online and yet on the other hand, indicating that applying on paper is some kind of secret way to bypass the queue.

        If thousands of applicants are applying online, then clearly the employer has not turned away from accepting online applications.

        I really doubt employers have secret bypasses that, on the one hand, they don’t advertise but on the other, they would prefer if you do. I suspect any employer that prefers paper applications would make that pretty clear on the advertisement.

    8. k.*

      I’m in Canada. No, this is not true literally anywhere that I’m aware of. The person who told you this is completely divorced from reality and I’m surprised you’re even considering whether it could be true.

    9. Almost an MBA*

      It’s been 15 years now that online applications have been mainstream so I think we’re past walking back a bad decision. Could an isolated incident of this happened? Sure, but it’s not a trend. Current hiring trends include running resumes through software to look for keywords as a filter to qualified applicants, using AI to rate applicants, and applicants using AI-generated resumes. All those things can’t happen on paper. Reality just doesn’t support this person’s claim.

    10. RagingADHD*

      Well, who is the person who said so? Are they in a position to know? How involved are they in hiring practices across entire industries?

      A lot of the time, you don’t need to try to independently fact-check something that’s clearly coming from an unreliable or unverifiable source.

  23. Amber*

    So, I commented a couple weeks ago that I interviewed for the manager position at my current job. It’s been long enough, I’m assuming I didn’t get it. I’ve only worked at FedEx (my current work place) and I’ve been here 5 years. One of the questions asked in the interview was (paraphrased):
    “What’s one thing you don’t like about any job you’ve had?”
    I responded that I didn’t like loading trailers as a package handler, specifically because I would get overwhelmed with huge (100+lbs and/or over 5ft) and a past manager wouldn’t help, would just yell to get the light out.
    Is that answer potentially why they went with someone else? I haven’t asked for direct feedback yet (not really a strong point in my company) and am trying to think what to shore up for when I try again.

    1. WellRed*

      Using overwhelmed isn’t a good term to use when looking to move up Or describing a part of your job. Describing a supervisor (or coworker) negatively is a big yikes! and using a phrase like “yelled” sounds hyperbolic or immature even if true. You need to sound capable, confident and able to communicate and problem solve. You may very well be all of those things but your language here doesn’t show that for me.

      1. Amber*

        Thank you! I’ll keep that in mind for my next interview (I’m staying positive, Manager 2024 though I’ve only had the one (failed) interview lol)

    2. Kiki Is The Most*

      I’m sorry you haven’t hear back after your interview! Email closure is always appreciated. While I don’t know if that answer is why you didn’t get the position, I suggest possibly rephrasing it: “I really do well in a ‘everyone-jumps-in-to-help’ working atmosphere when we’re on deadline or a team member is overwhelmed, and I’d like to have that sort of company culture in my next position.” (or some similarly-worded response)

      Revamping that answer by leaving out the negative review of your manager, while still be specific enough lets future interviewers know what you didn’t like about previous position.

      1. pally*

        I like this response!

        Also might indicate that prior jobs lacked opportunity to use your management skills – which is why you are applying for this management position. Then touch on your management skills that match the job description.

        1. Amber*

          Well, at FedEx, either I’m missing it (will have to ask my manager who does support me trying to move up) or there isn’t a lot of opportunity for packages handlers to show management skills (that’s the level I was in that example. ) I’ll definitely think of examples from being an admin that better show taking initiative though.

    3. EMP*

      Next time try to focus on how you overcame or would overcome what you didn’t like, and try not to include specifics about other people. I think these sorts of questions (what’s your weakness, what’s your least favorite thing about your job) etc etc can be a type of workplace trick question where the interviewer really wants to see “how do you excel despite a weakness”, “how do you put in 100% despite your least favorite thing” etc

      1. Amber*

        I didn’t name names, I just said a past manager, but I get why that’s still a grey area. Definitely should have thought a little longer and chosen better phrases. Thank you!

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I think your answer was too much, to be honest. Not liking loading trailers is fine, and getting overwhelmed by the big packages makes sense. When you veered into “the manager wouldn’t help and just yelled,” you got into territory that sounded like you were blaming someone else. Next time you’re asked a question like that, focus on either what you did to fix it OR that you understand it was part of the job. Kind of like this: “I didn’t like loading trailers because sometimes the packages were just too much for me to handle. But it was part of the job and had to get done, so I figured out ways to manage and enlisted help from my team members when I could.”

      Everyone has parts of their job they dislike, but not all of the reasons they dislike them should be shared. For example, let’s say you’re moving away from front line customer service to inventory management because you dislike working with the public. You can pitch that as something like, “I find that working in the back leverages my organizational skills, and I enjoy that more than working on the floor.” You wouldn’t say, “Customers are annoying and they interrupt so I want to work in the back.” It’s about focusing on what you can do to make things better rather than what makes things terrible.

      1. Amber*

        That a great point, thank you! This is why I came here; I’m loving the different perspectives and minor confirmation that I didn’t chose the best phrasing at the time.

    5. Cordelia*

      I think it’s the “turning a negative into a positive” thing. They don’t really want to know what you don’t like, they want to know either what you do like and want to do more of, and/or how you cope with necessary aspects of a job that you don’t like. So maybe, “I struggled physically moving the big packages, but used to manage by asking for assistance from my team when needed, and making sure I helped them out with other things in return. I’m looking to move away from the heavy physical work and into the management role because … and then the reasons why you want the job and would be good at it.

    6. HR Exec Popping In*

      Your answer is probably fine. When answering questions, try to figure out what specifically they are trying to assess. Think of the company values/competencies that are important as they are likely trying to assess you against them.

      Typically a single answer unless it is flat out bizarre won’t disqualify you. Most often people don’t get the job not because of something they did, but because someone else is more qualified.

      1. Amber*

        Thank you! I thought I did pretty well, but you are right, someone might have done better. I’m not technically fully out of the running yet (4 open spots, only 3 rejection emails), but its easier mentally to say I’m out of the running.

        1. Irish Teacher.*

          Honestly, interviews aren’t really only about whether you do well at them or not. They aren’t something you succeed at or fail at. You could do a perfect interview and just not have some previous experience that another interviewee has and even if you give better answers than them, if that experience is more useful, they are probably going to go with them.

          To use an example from my field, I have a post-graduate qualification in special educational needs. This is rarely required for teaching jobs, but if I were being interviewed for an English teaching job (one of my actual subjects) and it just so happened that the school I was interviewing for had a high number of students with additional needs, then I might be chosen for the job even before somebody who did a slightly better interview (assuming neither of us sounded like we’d no idea what we were talking about and both of us had reasonable experience in teaching English, etc). There would be no way the other person would even know that that was a consideration, unless they happened to be talking to me while we were waiting to be interviewed and I happened to mention it and one of the questions during the interview was “have you much experience with additional needs as many of the students you would be working with would have additional needs?” Then they might put two and two together, but otherwise, they’d have no way of guessing why their brilliant interview and 10 years teaching English to all levels didn’t get them the job.

          And it could even be something smaller than that.

          I’m no expert but unless they were really struggling to decide between you and somebody else, I would think it probably isn’t a matter of them deciding to go with somebody else because of your answer to one question. It’s more likely to be related to somebody’s experience or qualifications or a recommendation somebody got that made them sound like a rock star. And that’s all assuming good interviewers.

          If they aren’t good, it could be something like one of those they interviewed was a friend of a friend or somebody reminded them of themself when they were young or somebody had been to the same college as them or heck, they were biased against you on some grounds or biased in favour of somebody else.

          1. Amber*

            Thank you for that perspective! I know I for sure wasn’t a first pick based off of the one follow up email I did send, but I’m still thankful for all the different perspectives I’ve received today!

    7. CrackerJaxonApple*

      What about describing this situation with more distance: “In times of difficulty, the thing that has been hard for me is having to manage on my own with tasks that may be outside my usual tasks. [Here’s what I did to deal with that hurdle.] In the end the result was [whatever].

  24. Political campaigns*

    I’m on the recruiting committee for my law firm and received a student resume that had a first for me. The student included her work on a presidential primary campaign in 2020. Two things stick out at me: she didn’t identify the candidate and she included the number of precincts the candidate won. Are either of those standard? I don’t really care about the candidate (based on her law school extracurriculars, I can guess who she primaried for) but the “oversaw victories in [x] precincts” is weird to me because I don’t really think of that as her accomplishment since people can do great work on campaigns that lose and vice versa. But I also don’t see a ton of resumes with politics experience so it could be normal? (I wouldn’t hold it against her, it’s just a “huh” moment.)

    1. Arsloanico*

      It’s a student? I wouldn’t worry too much about resume norms if it’s a student. She probably heard advice to show measurable accomplishments and is trying to really stretch to do that given her limited experience.

      1. Thinking*

        This advice to give measurable accomplishments on one’s resume so often results in unverifiable metrics. Even when it’s objectively true, as presumably the victory stats are here, the student’s involvement is unlikely to be the main driver. But people keep getting this advice and keep taking credit when usually it’s the work of a much larger team (e.g., support calls reduced by half due to some technical innovation, etc.).

      2. Political campaigns*

        She is, although I think it stood out to me in part because she has a bunch of non-school work experience on her resume. For whatever reason I have been on two interviews in a row with students who have an attitude of “I am so amazing that I don’t know why we’re even bothering going through this charade, you are obviously going to hire me” so I may also just be on high alert for gumption.

        1. Ugh*

          Honestly if they have that attitude I hope you send ‘em packing. And say why. I’m an atty who has interviewed, hired, and supervised loads of students (and attys), and it doesn’t bode well.

    2. Evil Queen of Dysfunction*

      I volunteered on a Presidential campaign in 2012. You are right, victories in certain precincts can mean very little. Particularly areas that are traditionally considered either “red” or “blue” and the victories are consistent with historical data.

      However, switching a district from one to another, or claiming victory in swing areas can be a big deal. So if those victories were in traditional blue areas and she over saw a red win, that is a big deal. Or if its an area then tends to “Swing” (purple!) it could also be important that it swung in “our” candidate’s direction.

      There are also monetary and manpower aspects.

      For example, in 2012, I was in a swing state, my candidate lost the swing state, however, won our area (which was also swing.) Because we were putting in so much effort, the opponents campaign was pulling resources from other swing states to bring to our swing state, in the process, those other states became more “vulnerable.”

      1. Texan In Exile*

        Yeah I would note something like “Led communications strategy, including designing messaging, website, and social media copy, for candidate who was the only person to flip a seat in the Wisconsin legislature.”

        I would not say “Knocked doors for incumbent who got most of the downballot votes and maintained a seat.”

      2. GythaOgden*

        I was introduced by one MP once as the lady who won him his seat. I wouldn’t go that far (I was pretty enthusiastic for the national leadership but even so he had dozens of other helpers), but as someone who was interested in national politics, I volunteered in seats we were more likely to win because those were the places we needed to switch.

    3. Lilo*

      That is strange. I worked on a campaign back in college (which I did not include on my legal resume but did in my earlier resume) and I identified the candidate and my duties but not any information about her success (she did win her seat). That had nothing to do with me personally.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        The phrasing “oversaw victory” really jumped out at me–the only person I could see doing that is the candidate’s campaign manager, not a random volunteer.

    4. B*

      Sounds to me like the result of an effort to follow two likely pieces of advice: (1) don’t get too “political” by identifying the candidate and (2) include specific and measurable accomplishments. In this case, it may have resulted in a somewhat stilted resume line. To be honest, I think if you are going to include the job at all you need to go all the way and own it by saying who you worked for. But I get the impulse not to let yourself be prejudged by the political biases of potential employers.

      1. HBJ*

        Number 1 was the first thing I thought of. She doesn’t want to get political in case the person looking at resumes happens to be opposed to the candidate she worked for. Or more generally, she worked for a conservative campaign in a liberal industry or vise versa so there’s a high likelihood a lot of people won’t like her politics/work in politics (not necessarily the same thing).

    5. Elle Woods*

      I see two things going on here. First, she’s taking widespread resume advice about quantifying achievements. In this case it’s especially hard to interpret because you could win more precincts but still lose the overall vote because of the margins within each precinct; it also doesn’t address how many precincts there are overall. Winning 87 precincts sounds impressive if there are 100; it isn’t very impressive if there are 500.

      Second, the bigger question is what was her role was in the primary campaigns, because there’s a really wide range of roles from canvassing to campaign director. If she’s saying she “oversaw victories” that indicates a higher level role than someone who is working the phone or knocking on doors. Maybe it’s just my BS detector going off but I wonder if she’s trying to claim accomplishments that aren’t hers to claim.

  25. Arsloanico*

    Can I do anything to bolster my own bosses’ confidence? My new boss started four months ago. This is an extremely flat organization. She is having some trouble with another employee, who was holding her role in an interim manner and was part of her hiring committee – she talks to me about this, and seems to need some emotional support dealing with this person … but I keep thinking, “you are that person’s boss now. You don’t need them to like you / agree with all your decisions here.” I want to keep this boss around for a while as our small organization has really gone through the wringer lately and we need stability. Is it weird for me to “manage up” here ?

    1. Redux*

      Ugh, I am the former interim in this case, though I work for a giant government agency. I am constantly walking the line of needing to manage my new boss (it’s a big job, there is a lot going on, and things move fast and with priorities established before she got here) and wanting to give her space to gain confidence in her own role. It’s really hard because she doesnt need to do things how I would have done them, but she does need my help to train and orient her, especially to sticky issues with long tails. It is not a position I’ve been in before and it’s not great.

      I personally think it would be helpful for a trusted colleague to say exactly what you are proposing– you are the boss now; you don’t need them to like you / agree with all your decisions here. It seems in line with the relationship you have since your boss is talking to you about these things. (And when you’re done, please come here and tell my boss the same!).

      1. Arsloanico*

        Yeah honestly I have a lot of sympathy for everyone in this situation; I’m sure it’s really hard for the former interim person also. They probably didn’t consider what it would feel like to go back to having a boss who wanted to, you know, tell them what to do, after several years of relative freedom / authority, and now they seem to be somewhat butting heads in ways that are accidental. I hear about it from both of them, but I like them both! I wish I could be less of a fixer but it’s hard for me when I can see how it could go smoother.

    2. Educator*

      I do think you should manage up, but in a slightly different way–

      It feels super boundary crossing to me that your boss is complaining about another member of her team to you. As a manager, if I need advice on a difficult situation, I might talk to my own boss or to HR, or maybe super discreetly with another manager I trust–but I would never vent down the org chart to someone who was the problem employee’s peer. Everyone I manage is entitled to a reasonable amount of discretion about their strengths and challenges so that they can be honest with me about how their work is going (and not worry that I will tell the whole office).

      So in your position, I might say something like “I’m sorry things are not going well with Jane, but I also want to respect her privacy and the relationship you are developing with her, so I’m not going to ask for details. But I have heard that [grandboss or respected manager] gives really good advice about this kind of thing.”

      Also, most managers love to hear from their team members when they do something well! A few genuine compliments, like “Thank you for explaining that so clearly–the diagram really helped me get it” or “Thanks for advocating for us to get the Michaels account; I am excited to start working on it” will be a boost to her! It’s true that bosses don’t need to be liked, but we do need buy-in to get stuff done. Let her know she has yours.

  26. My Boss is Dumber than Yours*

    Just venting, but a lady my age (mid-30s) in mid-level HR just bought a new house (her fifth in the last seven years, and she’s let us know about all of them), and sent an email telling us all how great the neighborhood is and listing the other properties for sale. They start at $900K, and more than half of the people on the thread make less than $65K/year (I’d guess HR-lady makes maybe $85K)… I snapped and emailed back, “looks great, if only I were cool with quintupling my mortgage.” She replied, again to the whole thread, that the problem with our generation was that we let money dictate our quality of living…

    1. Arsloanico*

      That was a really weird response from her. That said, you would have been better served to roll your eyes and delete the email rather than respond. People’s money situation is all over the place – maybe she has a huge inheritance, maybe her partner works in some fantastically paid field, someone’s actual salary can have surprisingly little to do with their financial picture and it doesn’t really help anyone else to fret about it.

      1. My Boss is Dumber than Yours*

        Yeah, I normally do delete this stuff. When I said I snapped, it’s because this is hardly the first time she’s mass emailed flaunting her wealth (family money, her partner doesn’t work). In addition to previous emails about buying houses (how I know it’s her fifth house in seven years), we were treated to an absolute gem where she talked about no bringing home stress to work…and her example was about buying her husband a new truck since it didn’t look good that he was driving a model three years old.

        1. The New Wanderer*

          Next time could you try replying with “Unsubscribe”?

          She sounds like those LinkedIn memes on how to get rich:

          Don’t buy a daily coffee
          Cut the cable cord
          Check out thrift stores
          Inherit millions from your parents
          Buy bulk groceries

        2. JustaTech*

          Oh my goodness, what an unpleasant person!
          I understand why we need to talk about money at work, but this person right here is why a lot of people don’t, because some people are incredibly obnoxious about it.

    2. WellRed*

      If she’s mid level HR, I’d consider kicking your complaint to upper level HR. It’s not a good look for HR and then the obnoxious response is oy!

      1. Csethiro Ceredin*

        For literally everyone, I’d think!

        I mean, my quality of life would vastly improve with a few months in Europe each year. Stupid limitations caused by the real world, hmmph.

      2. Girasol*

        Unless, of course, you value those qualities in life that money can’t buy. Those would not include fabulously expensive houses though.

    3. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

      She sounds delusional, quite frankly. I would ask for a meeting with her boss, where you express your concerns about her judgment of what is and is not appropriate to discuss in the workplace.

    4. M2*

      She shouldn’t be in HR…

      I would forward it to someone above her in HR. This is not appropriate at work, especially not for someone in HR.

    5. Alex*

      This person sounds a bit insufferable. Clearly she has some major insecurity problems if she is bragging about the cost of her house (and sending out neighboring listings is very much bragging and making sure people know how much her house is worth). I’d shrug it off as her own internal life must be difficult if that is what she cares about so much.

      Silly me, here I was letting my income dictate how much I could spend, too! Good to know I’ve been doing it all wrong! lol.

    6. saskia*

      Even if she bought five shacks for five dollars each… why on earth is HR sending emails to employees about their properties? So very weird.

    7. Cordelia*

      surely everyone’s income dictates their quality of living! I don’t understand her point. But I would report her to her manager or someone else high up in the organisation, this is completely out of order.

    8. goddessoftransitory*

      We let money dictate our quality of living? Okay, MK Fisher, this isn’t How to Cook A Wolf, you know.

      Money is pretty much our society’s entire basis for dictating our quality of living! I assume she’s a house flipper or some such and uses the equity in her current house to guarantee the loan on the next, or something? This seems like a pretty fragile house (ha) of cards to be betting her financial future on.

      1. Ama*

        Sounds to me like someone whose lifestyle is mostly due to their significant other’s income and/or family money, not their current salary.

    9. EMP*

      ???
      I have no idea what that response means unless it means, “I am in a s*** ton of debt to fund my outwardly lavish lifestyle”

      1. Some Words*

        That was my take. “I refuse to let this mountain of debt get me down. As long as I’m living the luxury lifestyle I’m sure it’ll all work out… somehow.”

        1. Irish Teacher.*

          I had a couple of distantish relatives who did just that. It…didn’t work out too well for them (think bankrupcy court cases, losing houses they’d spent decades fitting out to the point that they were showcased in magazines, etc).

    10. MikeM_inMD*

      Good grief! That’s not a generational thing. I am a tail-end boomer and my salary has *always* dictated my quality of living!

    11. Busy Middle Manager*

      We’re in a ridiculous housing bubble so she can keep on digging that hole if she wishes. My income is approaching 150K and I have 200K in a cash account and can barely afford half of that (not rich by any means, I just saved forever). Where the heck do these people get the money? Most people way overestimate housing affordability and live on loads of debt, hoping their income goes up by magic, even if their career has already peaked. It’s insane to watch. It’s insane when you see people earning less than you living like they are rich, when you 100% know they cannot afford it and just live on credit cards and don’t save for retirement, so will be poor once they turn 60.

    12. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Absurd, unpleasant and boastful HR person who speaks with the arrogant obliviousness that often comes with inherited wealth.
      Money/wealth has “dictated our standard of living” since the dawn of civilisation.

      I’d complain to higher HR management about her tone-deaf boasting and her contempt for the peons who didn’t inherit wealth.

    13. LCH*

      “we let money dictate our quality of living” yeah, duh, WTF. unless you are stealing things, money will dictate what you can afford to own.

    14. Past Lurker*

      “the problem with our generation was that we let money dictate our quality of living”
      The malevolent side of me wants you to improve your quality of living without spending any money, by moving into her house and refusing to pay rent.

  27. a Tiger*

    I have a work-related question I’d love some advice/opinions on:

    How do you (politely) tell clients that their particular issue simply isn’t a priority at this time? (Obviously I would never use that language!) I am one of two people at a small firm. We sometimes have to triage cases based on deadlines, severity, etc. When delays aren’t our fault (“we’re waiting for a response”) it’s easy to explain, but sometimes the answer is simply that I haven’t worked on the file because I’ve been busy with other projects. I long for a tactful way to communicate that it simply isn’t necessary to force movement on their files…

    1. Arsloanico*

      No, not really, IMO. If they’re your clients, and you want to keep them, I’d say you should always give them the impression their needs are very important to you. I can’t imagine hearing from someone I’m paying for services that they’re too busy helping other customers to get to my needs any time soon. If it’s important enough to me that I’m emailing to follow up on it, it’s worth acting like you also think it’s important.

      1. a Tiger*

        Thanks so much for your response!

        It’s not that the client’s needs aren’t not important, they’re just not important NOW… or to revisit my “triage” metaphor, some clients have a paper-cut, and other clients are having heart attacks–so they get prioritized!

        I work in law, so these are client issues where there are literal months (if not years)! in between deadlines and so I literally HAVE to those cases aside while I work on things that are due within the week.

        I do try to manage client expectations, but I will revisit ways to make those expectations more clear. Thanks again!

    2. FashionablyEvil*

      “Thanks so much for your patience. We should have an update for you by X.” (where X is at least several days longer than you think it will take.)

      1. a Tiger*

        I appreciate this response–it’s very short and sweet (as I am prone to getting bogged down in details sometimes). Thank you!

      2. BigLawEx*

        This. When I had this job it was all about managing expectations. I’m from an era before email, so I’d set aside a time to call them because while not every client’s matter is of the same level of importance – *to the client* it’s often one of the most important things in their life. The fact that we or the courts don’t treat it that way…is a different issue.

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      “The review of the whosywhatsis is on target to meet deadline and I anticipate a next-steps update by (date you expect to get back to them, possibly plus a couple of days).”

    4. Hillary*

      In software we’d say the ticket is in the backlog and prioritized. Do you have a service level agreement that manages customer expectations?

      extending the software metaphor:
      Severity 1 – an entire system is down, 100+ people can’t do any work
      Severity 2 – a system is partially down, 50+ people can’t do parts of their job
      Severity 3 – a feature isn’t working, 10+ people can’t do a part of of their job
      Severity 4 – one user has an issue

    5. Mad Harry Crewe*

      You may also be able to forestall some of this outreach by setting expectations up front – and even if not, that way you can point to those already-communicated timelines.

      So, suppose you’re emailing them to say you just did the most recent Important Thing – you might say “Quick email to let you know that Important Thing was submitted on Date1, so we are in good shape there. Our next step is Action, which I expect to start preparing for around Date2 and which is due on Date3. I’ll follow up around Date2 to let you know when this work starts.”

      And then if they email too much before Date2, you can say “Thanks for checking in. Our next step is Action, which is due on Date3 and I expect to start working on it Date2. I’ll let you know when I start preparing for Action.”

      Or if they get really obnoxious, “As outlined in my email from EmailSentDate, I expect to start working on Action around Date2. I’m unlikely to have any updates for you until that time” – but that’s a pretty harsh set-down and I’d save it for people who are being real pests.

      And then do actually update them when you said you would – “Hi Client, just a quick check-in that we’re all on schedule. I have started work on Action and I expect to have it Acted by Date3-minus-one-week. Let me know if you have any questions, Tiger.”

      Remember that you know the process, your client doesn’t. Silence is also scary – anything could be happening, or nothing (because you forgot about the client or their stuff). Setting expectations up front means there’s less need for your customer to reach out to you for updates – it gives them the sense that you know what you’re doing and have a handle on the situation, because you’re able to tell them what comes next.

  28. Yes And*

    I’m in charge of my company’s budget. One department head, co-equal with me on the org chart, comes in 5-10% under budget on every single project they manage. Everyone else in the company views this department head as an indispensable genius for always coming in under budget. But they’re the one making the project budgets that they always beat. To my way of thinking, this is evidence of budget padding – irresponsible at best, devious at worst. A budget should be what you think is likely to happen, not the absolute maximum you might conceivably spend. Otherwise, you’re hogging resources that the organization might put to more productive use elsewhere.

    In the past, I haven’t made a big deal about it – not a battle worth fighting, and I will confess that I am not immune to the siren song of “under-promise, over-deliver.” But planning for next year, I’m tasked with closing a substantial deficit. Removing this department head’s apparent padding would get me about 20% of the way there.

    I have some political capital at the company, but this person has a lot more, and they are notorious for defending their turf. How hard do I push on this, and what tactics are likely to be successful?

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Show their history of coming in 5-10% under budget? “In 2020, the Llama team budgeted X and came in at Y. In 2021, the Llama team budgeted X and came in at Y. In 2022 and 2023, the Llama team budgeted X and came in at Y. Why are we still budgeting them at X?”

    2. Anonny NonErson*

      How far apart is budget from his actual, each time?

      I’m asking because I myself build in padding, BUT my projects do tend to have some uncertainty. I usually have a 10% buffer for materials and a 10% buffer on other costs, and the vast majority of the time come in under by about 10% – my non-buffered number.

      Some stuff does need wiggle built in – I had one small project come in nearly to the penny because a piece of equipment broke down and we had to rent one last minute (for example).

      If his department has those types of projects, it could be that he needs to build in a buffer BUT is extremely good and navigating the risks and coming out ahead.

      It also lends me cache – I’ve had to go back for more money before, and my excellent budgeting and risk aversion means that when I went back hat-in-hand to get funding to overcome a situation that was unforseeable, I literally got it in less than 24 hours with zero pushback.

      The way to close a substantial deficit would be to cut the number of projects being done, not potentially underestimate the costs of projects themselves.

    3. Chriama*

      5% under budget seems pretty ideal, assuming projects are delivered to an acceptable standard. 10% might be a bit much but that would also depend on the size of the budget and how often it’s happening. Honestly this doesn’t sound like budget padding, just someone building in a realistic contingency fund. What happens to the excess budget funds? Do they go back to the department to be reallocated or does he get to keep them? In the second case I could see pushing to reduce his budget by 5% and expecting him to make up the shortfall out of funds saved over the years, but if it goes back to the larger organization then all you’re really telling him to do is risk going over budget and having to cut scope or pull emergency funds from somewhere else. That’s not responsible long-term planning.

      Also as a general rule, I think if you’re being asked to close a significant deficit you’re not going to make that all up with excess funds. If cutting this guy’s budget means avoiding some layoffs then go for it! But that will have to come with an acknowledgement of reduced output or scope, however that looks for this guy’s projects.

    4. Almost an MBA*

      You know your company, but 5-10% under budget is… not… spectacular? That’s just being a good steward of funds. 5% could be pulling a new person in to cover someone’s illness or ordering a tent when the weather is bad for an event. If it’s 30 million dollars with no reason, then yeah cut his budget but there seems to be a lot of emotion here for a dude that by external standards is doing fine. Is he 5-10% above contingency so it’s really 20-30%? Then maybe it’s budget padding. Just observing here, but it seems you’ve been tasked with fixing an unfixable budget and you’re going for this guy’s neck when you should be bitch slapping whomever told you to fix the budget with a spreadsheet. I’m in nonprofits, every cent counts, but this is intense.

  29. FashionablyEvil*

    Re: gifts flow down:

    We have someone who has been cleaning our house regularly for the last 5+ years—she’s lovely and does a great job. During Covid, we kept paying her (even when she wasn’t coming) and boosted her salary because I knew she was losing income from other jobs. We also give her a bonus at Christmas. As a result, I think she feels a little bit like she owes us (I do not feel this way!) and likes to get presents for my kids (toddler and elementary schooler.) This was okay with me when it was things like a chocolate bar or lip gloss or something pretty small. But this year, for my daughter’s birthday, she gave her chocolate, a pair of earrings, and $20. I feel like the $20 is too much? Should I give it back? Ask her to dial it back? Help/suggestions/scripts for how to address this? We really love her and want to maintain a good relationship.

    1. Kiki Is The Most*

      “Little Penelope loved the gifts, and you are so thoughtful and generous! Please know that this is not expected. The little trinkets you’ve given in the past are perfect and certainly no monetary gifts are needed.” And after that, I’d tip it back to her in her next paycheck (because she might continue to give your children money even though you asked her not to). She sounds just lovely.

  30. Albatross*

    I’ve asked this before, but hopefully asking earlier in the thread means more people will see: anyone have advice on how to reconcile “I work in a scent-free office” and “I commute on extremely non-scent-free public transit”? I spend an hour on the train on my way to work, and there’s a good chance of someone who smells strongly of weed or cigarettes being near me. Sometimes the scent rubs off. This is annoying and a headache trigger for me, but I’m aware that there are people who react much more strongly and coming to work smelling of weed is a problem. Any advice?

    1. Thistlespring*

      Has anyone at work asked you about this? I think if folks are aware you use public transit and no one has brought it up, everything may be fine.

      If not, what about packing a spare shirt and changing in the bathroom once you arrive?

    2. Alex*

      I would be surprised if the scent rubbed off on you enough for someone ELSE to smell it on you. That you smell it is one thing (and annoying for you!) but unless someone says something to you I wouldn’t worry about others being upset about it.

    3. Csethiro Ceredin*

      My guess is you’re okay. Weed is legal where I live and you can smell it in MANY public places, but the only people I’ve ever smelled it on are those who were recently smoking it themselves or around others who were actively smoking.

      I’m sensitive to the smell so I would notice it, I think.

      1. strawberry milk charlotte*

        It’s so perfect that I read this question while actively on the bus in a cloud of awful smells (one of which I’m allergic to, I’m realizing). I agree with Alex and Csethiro Ceredin; it’s very unlikely these smells are hanging on you in a way that’s noticeable to a coworker. (Even less likely that it’s enough for them to notice and need to mention it/even know what it is they’d be mentioning.)

        You’re being very conscientious and I think you’re in the clear here. If you haven’t personally applied perfume/cigarette smoke/eau de bus floor, you’re following the rules of your scent free office.

    4. My Useless 2 Cents*

      As someone who is very sensitive to scents, I’m guessing you are probably okay. It takes a long time for a scent to transfer enough to last. It may be noticeable when you get to work but it’s doubtful that it is lingering. Sometimes the smell gets stuck in your own nose and no one else can smell it.
      I have found for light smoke odor from passive interactions (smoke is big trigger for me too, especially weed) a spritzer bottle of distilled water, spritzed lightly on clothes and air dried** can really help a lot. Don’t know why though. Vinegar works too but I’ve had people tell me the vinegar smell can linger though I’ve never had anyone notice a vinegar smell who wasn’t right there when I actually used the vinegar.
      **dried isn’t really the right word because if sprayed enough to be wet, it’s too much, but open to the air for a few minutes afterward

      Side note: I went thru the drive thru the other day and the teen who handed me the food reeked of cologne/body spray. It was so bad my eyes started to water and I couldn’t even smell the food! Had to go home and take an allergy pill. Opened the bag of food and got another waft of cologne/body spray. Thought really hard about calling the restaurant up and recommending a no-scent work place.

      1. JustaTech*

        I read a book once about someone who was a server at Per Se (very fancy high end modern restaurant in New York) where the servers, runners and bussers were explicitly not allowed to wear scented anything (including most deodorants) because the chef didn’t want it to overpower/interfere with the smell of the food.

    5. Linda*

      Maybe a variation on the “smoking jacket” concept? Like a long, lightweight trench coat with a silk scarf or slouchy hat to cover your hair, that you could take off at work and banish to the closet of smelly things.

    6. RagingADHD*

      You can only do what you can do. A “scent-free” policy doesn’t mean that you are expected to magically not smell like anything, ever. People eat food. Some people smoke or have pets. Things have smells.

      The policy is about not wearing / using perfume or heavily fragranced products. That’s all you need to do.

  31. Doug Judy*

    I started doing therapy a couple months ago. I do it from my car via video during the work day once a week; my employer has been great and very no-questions-asked about giving me the time. In the last few sessions we’ve been dealing with some bigger things and there have been some tears. What’s the best way to manage this when I come back in to work if people can tell? I don’t really want to discuss anything but I also don’t want to be unprofessional or have people worry about me. Also if anyone has any tips for fixing cry-face fast I’d appreciate it.

    1. girlie_pop*

      I feel like unless you’re snot-running-down-your-nose, tears-running-down-your-cheeks, completely-red-faced crying, most people will probably ignore it! And you could easily blame it on allergies, a sneezing attack, getting something in your eyes, eating something spicy, etc. if anyone does say anything.

      When I used to work in an office where crying in the bathroom was a regular thing (yikes lol), I would splash some cold water on my face, take a few minutes to collect myself and take some deep breaths, and sometimes put a little bit of moisturizer or a hydrating serum under my eyes to help with the redness or irritation from wiping tears away.

      1. Totally Minnie*

        Yes to the eye cream suggestion. I went through a rough period where I was crying at work pretty regularly, so I started keeping a travel sized micellar water, travel sized moisturizer, and some eye cream in my work bag. If I needed to go cry in the bathroom, I’d wash my face afterward and it would help me get myself back on more even ground.

    2. DisneyChannelThis*

      Run cold water on the underside of your wrists that helps something (Increases? Decreases?) in the blood flow that usually makes my face less red after crying. Also just helps reset my nervous system.

      1. Rage*

        Yes, there are a number of ways to “reset” one’s nervous system. Running cold water over your hands/wrists is an easy way to help regulate yourself after a period of intense emotion. You might also try spending about 5-10 minutes after your sessions listening to a guided meditation or calming music.

        Also, do some research on the vagus nerve. It’s responsible for our fight/flight/flee response – and your emotions in session are likely triggering it in some way. There are a lot of good techniques that are quick and easy to do that will relax that nerve and the response.

        Kudos to you for keeping up with therapy! It can be hard, but it will be worth it in the end.

    3. spcepickle*

      Can you keep one of these cold eye mask things at work. If you keep it in the freezer and pull it out on your way to the car it should still be cool by the time your therapy is over. Sitting in your car a few moments after with it over your eyes should take down and redness / swelling.

    4. Csethiro Ceredin*

      I think most people won’t even notice.

      But looking at a bright light can stave off tears if they’re threatening to start, or help tail them off. It doesn’t seem to work for everyone but it does for me.

    5. frequentcrier*

      My best tip for cry-face is to just not touch your face while you’re crying – don’t literally wipe the tears away. Try to let them flow then clean up at the end with one tissue and a fresh swipe of foundation, if you wear it. Whitening eye drops too, and you’re good to go!

    6. Anonymous Koala*

      I did this for years. Some things that helped in the moment were strong mints, washing my face and reapplying moisturizer, grabbing coffee on my way back to the office, and drinking lots of water immediately after my session.

      But the thing that was most helpful was flexing my schedule to leave a little early 1 day a week. I found that I got more out of therapy and was more present at work that way because I wasn’t constantly on edge about the rest of my workday.

      1. Mad Harry Crewe*

        Yeah, I usually do therapy after work (leaving early) once every other week. Occasionally we need to reschedule and it winds up in the middle of the day, and I always schedule myself an extra half hour or more after the session to wind down before I have to go back to work.

    7. PB&J*

      I too have cried in my car partway through the workday on a pretty regular basis, though not due to therapy. That was a sign I needed to leave that job, and I did, but what you’re doing sounds healthy and in the long run, helpful to you! You go, Doug Judy! Still, I sympathize! I wonder if you could eat an early or late lunch immediately after these appointments. It would give you a natural transition time. Could you pack a little post-session cooler to leave in your car on therapy days that has: an ice pack, lunch/ snack/ chocolate, a refreshing drink, a freezeable eye pillow, and a packet of face cleansing wipes in a scent you like? I packed these things in a lunchbox that stayed in my car. It helped me get my head and face ready for work again, and no one was the wiser. Then again, if people at your work notice something so detailed about you as whether your eyes are puffier now than they were earlier the same day, isn’t that a rare and wonderful thing? Doesn’t that sort of mean you work somewhere that people aren’t so wrapped up in their own worlds/computers/phones, they pay attention to one another? If a coworker-acquiantance ever asks about how you look, can you say your subculture’s version of, “Aw, thanks for checking, I’m really good though!” (Or “dude, so cool of you to ask. I’m good, but I appreciate you, man.” Whatever sounds like you.) Because yes, you were upset, but it was in the process of doing something good for yourself. And then you got yourself back to work! You ARE good.

    8. EmF*

      At the risk of sounding glib – mention this to your therapist? Mine always used to end our sessions with a five-minute “calm down and put some balm on the rawness” exercise, and I found that very helpful.

      1. GythaOgden*

        Not glib at all. I ended up in tears at the end of our session last night and my therapist took the time, even five minutes over budget, to soothe me down. (King Charles having cancer is triggering me because it was a very similar scenario to what happened to my husband. She spent the extra minutes virtually hugging me and telling me to focus on celebrating a life well lived — his activism and achievements in sustainable farming have actually curtailed by his regal status — and helping refocus me on my own achievements rather than grieving for a stranger going through a situation similar to my own.) A good therapist would hopefully try to structure the session so you come out without immediate distress, so do mention this and ask her for help managing it.

        And take care of yourself as well while you’re at it. Even something as trivial as a nice cup of tea or coffee when you get back to the office can help in the here and now. I now go and have a hot bath afterwards, but that’s because I have my session at 6 in the evening, but something indulgent and good for superficially feeling better is a good strategy.

    9. WorkingRachel*

      I’ve certainly cried plenty at work or about personal stuff during work time…I think I’m blessed with a face that “bounces back” pretty quickly, but I’ve also found if I look sort of proactively professional and busy and don’t make too much eye contact for a few minutes after crying, people are very unlikely to ask about it. Not sure if they “normal” body language means they don’t notice, or they just figure if I’m going about my business I probably don’t want to talk about it.

  32. H.Regalis*

    A while ago I had to talk to my boss and HR about a coworker who was being a sex pest. My boss and HR were supportive and the guy stopped bothering me, but until now I haven’t had to work with him directly, and I was trepidatious about that because I was worried he’d ignore my messages or not do the things I need him to do.

    Recently I had the first project in a long time where I had to interact with him directly, and everything has gone fine! He’s done all the parts he needs to do and has actually been super cooperative and helpful. I’m honestly a little surprised. I wish he had never been a creepy sex pest in the first place, but I’m glad that he’s managed to pull it together and be professional.

    1. Kiki Is The Most*

      Yay! Glad your interactions are going better than expected. There are those people that when exposed for this actually do….try to be better. But it still leaves the anxieties for you (unfortunately). Hoping the situation stays positive.

    2. Hendry*

      Apologies if I’m misunderstanding as I’m not familiar with the phrase, but sex pest sounds like predatory behavior or assault… Should he even still be working there?

      1. H.Regalis*

        It’s a UK term and can mean a few things, but I’m using it in the sense of someone who is creepy/someone who sexually harasses people; not, like, “has a court-ordered ankle monitor.”

        This guy was being creepy to me but it never became physical, and what he was doing did not rise to the level of instant-firing.

      2. Office Skeptic*

        My thought exactly – what is a sex pest? It sounds like he was sexually harassing you, which is a really, really big deal and you shouldn’t ever have to work with him again. It’s horrible to force someone to work with the person who sexually harassed them. It’s likely he also should be fired.

        If he was sexually harassing you, it seems so odd to downplay it.

        1. H.Regalis*

          Not all sexual harassment, or harassment of any kind, is going to rise to the level of instant firing. Sometimes, like in this case, he got a talking to and was told never to do that again or his ass would be out the door. He stopped.

          My boss also asked me if I felt uncomfortable working with this guy. I said I don’t as long as he’s professional, which he has been. If I had said that I never want to be around him again, they would have figured out another solution.

          I don’t have a high opinion of this guy personally based on what he’s done, but I’m able to do my job without my shoulders being up around my ears. That’s what I wanted.

          1. Office Skeptic*

            Apologies, my response was to Hendry but somehow came under your comment. It looked like it hadn’t posted and then I posted it twice! Blame it on my slow internet. Glad you found a solution that works for you.

      3. Office Skeptic*

        My thoughts exactly. If this person sexually harassed you, then you should NOT be forced to work with him! That’s horrible! And he probably should be fired.

  33. Hot Dish*

    How do people handle or think about the interview questioning “what sets you apart from other candidates?” It throws me every time. I think I’m a pretty good candidate for the jobs I’m going for, but for all I know, they have better or equally good candidates, and I get muddled by this train of thought in my own head. I can say why I’d be good in the position, but I have a hard time explicitly stating that I’d be the best and why.

    How do others think about this line of questioning?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      That’s kind of a weird question. I’m glad no one’s ever asked me that. I mean, they should know. You’re not interviewing the other candidates—they are. I would probably just go with what you think your strengths are. You can’t know if the other candidates have those strengths, but I think that’s a fairly reasonable approach.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Not only is it a weird question, but unless you know all the other candidates, there’s no way to answer accurately.

        1. Dannie*

          Lean into this exact idea. “Self awareness! I can’t know the specifications of the rest of the talent pool, so I can’t honestly claim to stand above all of them. What I CAN offer is a realistic portrayal of my skill set, such as blah, blah, blah…”

    2. Irish Teacher.*

      Personally, I think it’s a poor question because I don’t know the other candidates, so how can I say what sets me apart from them?

      I assume they mean what particular skills or experience or qualifications do you bring to the role beyond what is required.

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I hate it. HATE it. (Though the last time I did an internal interview, the interviewer actually asked both me and the other internal candidate why we would be a better candidate than the other person, by name, which REALLY chapped my tail feathers, and the other candidate and I both actually ended up having a venting session about it afterwards because we both thought it was absolutely terrible.)

      In our case, we both basically said “Look, we don’t work here to tear each other down, either one of us would be an excellent choice.” At least for my part, I then continued with “In your shoes, these are the reasons that I would choose me for the position,” and described some skills and talents that I have that I thought would be particularly valuable. (I believe the other person did the same.) I did end up getting the job, so it seems to have worked.

      1. Hot Dish*

        Ugh, that’s awful, and I really like your response. Thinking about it in terms of here’s why I would hire me for this role helps a lot.

    4. FashionablyEvil*

      I think just focus on the things that you particularly excel at–for example, “I’m great at dealing with challenging customers” or “I’m the go-to person in my office for anyone who has questions about Excel; my Pivot tables are legendary.” (Maybe not quite like that second one, but you get the idea.)

      Or, you could be like the job candidate my friend interviewed who said (100% sincerely), “My personal belief in my lord and savior, Jesus Christ.”

    5. Roland*

      Just highlight whatever sounds good. Sure, like Alison has often said, you can’t know the rest of the pool, but they aren’t asking you why you’re the best, they just want to know what you bring to the table that maybe hasn’t come up yet and probably not everyone else has. You won’t be dinged if you say something that happens to be true for another candidate.

    6. Orange shoes*

      I just look at this as a way to highlight my strengths & experience. I’ve also said, “I’m good at this job, I’m reliable, I get the job done and on time, I get great reviews from clients and I think I’d be a real asset to your team.”

    7. goddessoftransitory*

      “The secret brain sucker attached to my neck that dictates my every move until the planet’s taken over, I guess. They’re pretty siloed so I don’t know how many others are trying to imbed in your company.”

    8. WantonSeedStitch*

      I would probably respond with something like, “not knowing the background of the other candidates, I can’t really say what makes me different from them, but what I feel I could bring to this role are my experience in personally creating a teapot painting program from the ground up and my expertise in ceramic glazing.”

    9. Hendry*

      I don’t think the question is meant to be taken literally as in how do you compare vs specific people, but more of a general “What makes you a great employee” or “what things do you do particularly well”. That kind of thing

      1. Hot Dish*

        I think you’re right about not being literal, but I can never get there in the moment. I need to just take comparisons out of it and focus on strengths, as many have pointed out. Thanks, folks.

      2. Anonymous Educator*

        You’re probably right, but there isn’t any reason for them not to ask the questions you suggested as translations instead.

    10. ecnaseener*

      Luckily I haven’t had this one myself, but I would mentally replace “the other candidates” with “a hypothetical person who meets the basic qualifications for this role but isn’t anything special.” The point is, what do you bring to the table that (you suspect) most people don’t?

    11. RagingADHD*

      This is one of those where you kind of brush past the literal words of the question and answer with what you want to say.

      “Well of course, I’m not in a position to know what your other candidates bring to the table, but I believe I could be very successful in this role because…”

      And then you’re back where you want to be.

  34. Spearmint*

    I struggle with motivation after I’ve been at a job for 6 month-1 year. When I’m new and learning a lot, I put in a lot of effort and have impressed managers with how quickly I get up to speed and start performing. But once I settle in I get bored and lose a lot of my motivation take initiative or do more than the bare minimum to keep my boss happy. The work starts to feel very tedious and burdensome. I spend *a lot* of time goofing off on the internet (I work from home).

    I’m one of those classic cases of “smart but lazy”, so I can get away with this while technically meeting expectations, but it’s also unsatisfying in the long run to feel like I’m half-assing things all the time, and probably hampering my career growth. I don’t like this about myself, but I’ve never been able to be different. But when I’ve tried to fight this tendency in myself it’s very stressful and unsustainable.

    Anyone else like this? How have you improved your work ethic?

    (I’ve tried medication for ADHD in the past and have not found it to be super helpful)

      1. Spearmint*

        I would enjoy freelance/consulting more! (assuming I could make a good living and still have work-life balance) But I’m not sure how viable it is for someone at my career level to do so in my field. I guess I could take a look.

    1. Hillary*

      It sounds like the problem is you’re equating success with keep boss happy. Can you gamify it? Focus on a particular kpi and keep moving the bar? Folks often mention the pomodoro method for this kind of challenge.

      And even though it’s super cliche, have you considered therapy? Working through my motivations with a good therapist was incredibly helpful for me.

    2. Hillary*

      also, are there roles in your field that are either faster paced or more project oriented? I loved working in operations because there was a new challenge to solve every day. Same thing on projects, a new big challenge every couple months was energizing.

    3. My Useless 2 Cents*

      Very much relate. Unfortunately it’s gotten worse in the last few years and I find it harder be motivated.
      In the past, little games with myself have worked. Like, it took me 4 hours to do that task when I first started that job. How quickly can I do now, without errors? Can I get it done in less than 2 hours? etc.
      More recently, if I know I need to knuckle down on a project, I’ll put a podcast on that I can only half listen to. The combination of podcast plus project and I can concentrate on the project. If I try to add goofing off on the internet, it’s too much for my brain to handle at once. (Doesn’t mean I haven’t found myself listening to a podcast while reading an article online instead of working :()

    4. Generic Name*

      I’d look for jobs that say they are fast paced. Even “work hard/play hard”, even though it’s a bit of a trope. I’m very much a work smarter not harder type person, and I joke it’s because I’m inherently lazy. I’m obsessed with efficiency. So I can do a high volume of work in a short time (but not all the time). Could you go to your boss and ask for more work? I eventually got bored with a couple of my jobs. The first job I ever had that I didn’t get bored at was at a fast-paced consulting firm that was small but growing. They valued people who could wear many hats and were willing to cross train folks. You might even enjoy a startup environment.

    5. RagingADHD*

      Can you move into an aspect of the field that’s more project based? Having a new project helps re-set the “Ooh shiny” feeling.

    6. Random Dice*

      I was just going to say, this is exactly how my ADHD works!

      I’d check out other meds to see if they are other options that help. The difference for me was so profound, once I found something that works.

      I found a job that has a lot of variety. I don’t get bored because it’s not the same thing over and over.

      But also, I adopted a sprint approach. I go all-out when I’m on, and then I take breaks. I’m insanely productive when on, and I don’t burn out from plodding nonstop. I need the start and stop.

  35. Oy to the Vey to the Oy*

    I’m an executive assistant, and we just hired a new chief of staff, who I’ll be reporting to. I was told she’s highly qualified and has extensive experience as an extremely successful executive assistant at a tech company, and that she only came over to our org because the place she was working for is relocating and she didn’t want to move.

    Shortly after Jan, the new chief of staff, started, she stopped by my desk to set up a recurring meeting.
    I said, “Oh, I’d be happy to – what’s the cadence?”
    She said, “Huh?” Oh – cadence is a dollar word, no worries.
    I said, “What’s the frequency?”
    She said, “What does that mean?” I’m sorry – this highly experience executive assistant doesn’t know what *frequency* means?
    I said, “How often should they meet?”
    She answered that question, so I moved to the next obvious topic for setting up a meeting that an executive is going to attend… “What’s the topic?” she didn’t know.

    It looks like this is going to be a trend. I’m not saying she falsified her experience, but her LinkedIn page says she’s only worked at a very creepy church in the last 20 years. She doesn’t seem to be aware of any typical office norms (she has worn jeans, a t-shirt, five-inch heels, heavy perfume, and a gigantic cross necklace to work every day at our explicitly liberal, explicitly nonreligious, explicitly scent-free, business professional office). She definitely doesn’t know anything about how to schedule a meeting, which is kind of the main thing we’ll interact on aside from her being my boss.

    And honestly, worst of all, she doesn’t seem to know any words above a 3rd grade reading level. I don’t think that’s a moral failing, but I was mocked ruthlessly as a child for having the wrong vocabulary and I’m terrified.

    I love my job. What do I do?

    1. WellRed*

      To be fair, I’ve never heard the word cadence used that way (though probably would have understood what you were trying to ask). Maybe she’s unqualified but you might want to give her a chance to settle in?

      1. Oy to the Vey to the Oy*

        Yeah – I wasn’t at all bothered that she didn’t understand when I said cadence.

        I was concerned when she didn’t know what frequency meant.

        1. WellRed*

          That IS concerning but if you work for a good company, if she’s incompetent, it should sort itself out?

          1. Oy to the Vey to the Oy*

            I work at an organization that’s very bureaucratic and moves extremely slowly for things like this “sorting themselves out,” (if they do) and in the mean time I’ll be in this situation.

            At best, the situation of having to modulate my word choice down twice in every conversation with my boss, when to be honest one of my favorite things about my jobs is that I haven’t had to constantly do that. And this person will be determining my raises, writing my annual reviews, and otherwise integral to my work experience until then.

            1. Hillary*

              This might be an exception to the bureaucratic nature – there’s nothing like wasting senior execs’ time for the process to speed up.

            2. JustaTech*

              Oh I feel you on the words thing! I once had a coworker not speak to me for the better part of a week because I said she was “audacious” and she decided it meant “rude” and then told me I was wrong for using “big words”.

              If you’ve got to use more common words, can you try to make a game out of it? I’m thinking of the book “Thing Explainer” by cartoonist Randall Munroe, where he explains big concepts (like the Saturn V rocket) only using the thousand most common words (or rather, ten hundred).
              And also find an outlet for all your ten dollar words (like here)?

              I’m sorry, this sounds super frustrating.

              1. Oy to the Vey to the Oy*

                I’m so sorry that happened to you but so relieved someone else can vouch that this happens!! I’ve worked so many places that people have assumed I thought I was better than them because I used a word they didn’t know. It actually happened because I don’t have the power to look at a person and magically become aware of the complete list of words they know, and because I really like words. I’ve never hesitated to define a word or given anyone any trouble for not knowing a word.

                One of my favorite things about my job to date has been that other people here are also word nerds – like, one time I put part of a Hamlet line on my desk around Halloween, and other people said the next part to me as they passed my desk, because they’re the kind of people who knew it offhand.

                The Thing Explainer idea is great. I love Randall Munroe but haven’t read that. Thank you so much, again.

        2. Xyz*

          I know what frequency means, but I might not have recognized it in this context either, *as a synonym of cadence.* Cadence puts me in mind of music; I’d expect it to refer to the content of the meeting (maybe in a silly way, like “vibe”), rather than the schedule. If someone then clarified with frequency, that would not necessarily lead me to the correct meaning of frequency.

          That’s exactly what happened when I read your comment, as a matter of fact.

          As opposed to “Let’s have meetings,” “What frequency?” which would not leave me in doubt about your meaning.

      2. SereneScientist*

        Using cadence to describe frequency of recurring meetings is pretty normal for a good chunk of the business world, FYI.

        1. DreamOfWinter*

          Agreed – in which case I would really expect an “extremely successful executive assistant at a tech company” to have heard it in that context before, even if it wasn’t in regular use in her own vocabulary.

      3. Clisby*

        I haven’t either. I worked in tech for 27 years, and “cadence” is a term I never heard used in relation to our work. Now, if you happen to work for an orchestra, I’d think it was alarming that a high-ranking employee had never heard of “cadence.”

    2. Hillary*

      If she’s not right for the role it’s going to show quickly – a chief of staff interacts with high level folks all the time. If you really trust your old boss you could have a quiet conversation (in person, not in writing) otherwise just sit back and watch it happen. Don’t do her job or fix her mistakes.

    3. librarianmom*

      I think that maybe your perception of her as a person is coloring your perception of her competence in doing her job. You don’t have to like her, you don’t have to evaluate her performance, all you have to do is interact with her in a respectful manner. Let her boss worry about her breath of vocabulary, her reading level, her dress, and most anything else. I may annoy you that someone you report to is not as sharp as you are, but stick that on a shelf somewhere and just do your job.

      1. Oy to the Vey to the Oy*

        Maybe. I think that when you’re a chief of staff, some of those things are part of your competence in doing your job. There are a million jobs those things don’t matter for where I would not care. I honestly don’t even think she’s not sharp. She seems intelligent to me, and dedicated, and like she would be great at a lot of things.

        But a successful chief of staff is familiar with the basic components of meetings, generally, like who should attend, and whether it is urgent.

    4. WantonSeedStitch*

      When the things she does or says or fails to say or do create problems for you, speak up to your boss. “Joanne is supposed to work with me on scheduling meetings, but she doesn’t know how to check for availability or make a meeting recurring. It’s making it hard to coordinate meetings and has caused some conflicts and confusion for the people who are supposed to be attending them. I don’t really have the time to train her on using our calendar software, and when I have taken the time to show her how to do something, she hasn’t retained it. Can you help me figure out a way to resolve this?”

          1. Oy to the Vey to the Oy*

            I don’t really think we’re at the point where I go to the CEO to tell him the chief of staff isn’t great, no. But I appreciate you looking at it with me.

    5. Hendry*

      You’ve got to give her some time to settle in, or somehow reframe your impressions of her. If you think she’s creepy, inappropriate and stupid, most likely it won’t go well for you considering she’s the boss.

      1. Oy to the Vey to the Oy*

        Those are not my opinions of her.

        I said her LinkedIn page says she previously worked at a place that’s creepy. I’ve also worked creepy places, and the concern there is that it’s not a fancy tech company (which is what the hiring team said). I don’t think that makes her creepy, but it might mean she’s not equipped to do well at this job, because it’s a high level, complex role that requires a lot of experience to do well.

        I don’t think she’s stupid, either. I never said that. I actually think she seems really intelligent. But I have a history of being ruthlessly mocked for my vocabulary, and she doesn’t seem to know any of the really basic terms from the necessary background experience she should have had in order to even be interviewed for this role. I am not saying I don’t like her as a person; I am concerned about reporting to her.

        As for inappropriate, I do think that when you’re in a new job, you should try to conform to at least a sampling of the norms there. She seems friendly. I would like to live in a world where all it takes to do well in a new context is be friendly. Is that where you live?

        1. Hendry*

          I hear what you’re saying, but if the role is so complex and needs the specific experience, how would she have gotten hired if she didn’t have it? If she was able to fake all that in multiple interviews, there might be other issues.. You said you love the job, so presumably the managers and leadership are solid overall?

          Also, sometimes people are a little slower to pick up the specifics of a new role. I don’t know why she didn’t know what frequency meant, yes that’s a little weird. All I’m saying is give it a little time.. You can still do a great job without being polished

        2. Coral Reefer*

          You seem to be bringing a lot of baggage to this situation. Do you have a therapist who could help you process some of this? You are assuming a lot of things, worrying about things (which have not happened, it appears) based on your childhood experiences, and making some concerning judgements. Your responses to comments here are also rather snippy and that tone may or may not come across in your in-person interactions, I don’t know, but if it is that will be detrimental to your professionalism. You might need some help in figuring out how to handle the irrational fears and the more rational concerns, distinguish between them, and tread a reasonable and effective path.

        3. EventPlannerGal*

          “Highly successful EA for a tech company” and “has only ever worked for a single church for the past 20 years” are very different backstories and it would be a pretty massive screw-up on your company’s part if she really only had the latter experience – especially if this is something that can be turned up with a casual LinkedIn search. Do you have much insight into how she’s performing in other areas of her role?

          1. Oy to the Vey to the Oy*

            She’s my boss, so I’m obviously not evaluating her performance at an advisory level.

            Her training schedule has been revised, which usually happens when people are overwhelmed and unprepared. But usually also because in addition to those factors, the org will be working very hard to keep them.

            As I’ve said in other comments, I think Jan is a fine person. My questions are about her ability to facilitate my success and the success of the organization where I have enjoyed my job to date.

            1. EventPlannerGal*

              Okay, I’m sorry if my comment was offensive in some way – I’m just trying to understand the situation a bit better because it sounds extremely odd.

              If your company is already responding to these issues by changing her training, then you can at least take that as confirmation that other people are also seeing the problems. You mentioned in another comment that you’re worried about her comprehension affecting your reviews and raises – if it continues is this something you could discuss with HR? Ultimately though, it sounds like a lot of this is out of your hands so you may just have to wait and see how it plays out.

              Also, I appreciate that you really enjoy working somewhere where you don’t have to ‘dumb down’ your speech, but your other colleagues aren’t going to stop being ‘word people’ who understand Hamlet references just because you have a new boss!

              1. Oy to the Vey to the Oy*

                I’m sorry – you weren’t offensive. Others here have told me I think Jan is stupid and I don’t like her because we don’t have the same vocabulary, and I came here asking for advice because I was worried about being accused of thinking Jan was stupid and that I don’t like her because we don’t have the same vocabulary. These things are not true about me, and have never been true about me with regard to anyone whose vocabulary was different than mine, even though I have been accused of them many times. But it’s not you; you’ve been very nice. I apologize.

                I really do think it’s extremely odd. I’m not sure what to tell you because it does really just… seem odd.

                Thank you for the encouragement, I genuinely appreciate it.

                1. EventPlannerGal*

                  That’s okay! I don’t know if you’re still reading but if you are, I do appreciate that it must be really frustrating to be in this position.

                  I think that all these issues sound so odd and so noticeable that either a) your management is already aware of them and for whatever reason is okay with them (maybe they’ve loosened up on the dress code, maybe they don’t consider meeting scheduling a big part of her role, maybe they’ve checked out her work history and verified it beyond LinkedIn), or b) they are going to very quickly become aware of them and take some kind of action (eg the amended training plan you’ve mentioned already). For a fairly senior role like chief of staff I’m not sure how someone could make it through the interview process without some of these issues becoming evident, so I’m leaning towards the former – it could be that she has some amazing skill-set in an area unrelated to your work that they find more valuable than familiarity with Agile terminology, for example. However, I get that may not be much comfort if these things are negatively affecting you!

                  It sounds like she started at your company really quite recently? So beyond what I and others have already said, I would just add to give it time. It may be that after getting to know her and understand her working/communication style a bit more, it will become less of an effort to adapt your speech because that’s just how you talk to her. (My boss is very scattershot and will often go off on unexplained tangents that I have to figure out – to begin with it was super confusing, but now I know her thought processes it doesn’t bother me because I can figure out how she got from A to Z.) I hope it works out!

    6. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Not understanding the word “frequency” is an astonishing lapse for any adult working in an office.
      If you are anywhere near right that she has about a grade 3 reading level/grasp of words …. your org has hired a real lemon.
      Do your job to your best ability but don’t cover up for her and hopefully she’ll soon be rumbled and let go.

      1. Oy to the Vey to the Oy*

        I’m a former English teacher. Yes, it’s about 3rd grade, and that is one of several examples. And again, as a former teacher. I don’t think that’s a measure of intelligence. But it’s still relevant to ability to do this job well.

        Thank you.

        1. EventPlannerGal*

          I’m just trying to get my head around this because it’s so remarkable. Is it possible that she’s asking what these things mean in a more general “what do you mean by that” sense, rather than literally not understanding the words? I just ask because in the example you gave, it sounds like she might have just been so thrown off by the initial ‘cadence’ thing that she wanted to be clear what you actually wanted to know.

    7. My Useless 2 Cents*

      To some extent it sounds like you have had a formal, very hierarchical business experience. It wouldn’t surprise me if Jan has worked someplace (church or tech company) that had a much flatter structure. Jan may just need a little time to adapt her verbiage and way of doing things to the more formal structure of the company. It is remarkable how different workplace verbiage can be, not just industry specific vocabulary, but “everyday” wording for the same tasks/reports/info.

    8. Linda*

      I’ve re-read your question a few times and I’m not sure if your cadence/frequency example was the only direct interaction you’ve had with her or if it’s meant to be illustrative of a theme. Others have been answering as if it’s the latter, so I’m going to aim my comments at the former: unless you have more evidence of a third-grade reading level, she may have simply misheard you. She might have impaired hearing, a language processing disorder, lack of familiarity with your accent, etc.
      Lots of people don’t keep their LinkedIn up to date, so I wouldn’t take what her page says as the whole truth. Does your workplace routinely check references or conduct background checks? If they do, it’s unlikely that New Boss has pulled a fast one on them.
      Back to the potential third-grade vocabulary thing, I’m concerned for you that someone else’s missteps cause you to be terrified. Or are you terrified that she’ll mock you for using words that she’s unfamiliar with? Either way, it’s such a strong reaction that it might be worth running this past a therapist and getting some coping techniques.
      Good luck! Remember, everyone else is already familiar with the quality of your work, if New Boss truly is terrible it won’t reflect on you.

      1. Oy to the Vey to the Oy*

        I’ve spent about 6 hours directly interacting and collaborating with Jan, plus emails and chats and group meetings, and the cadence/frequency thing is one example. I thought it would be better to give a specific example than to just benchmark her vocabulary in case people took that as me calling her stupid; unfortunately people did that anyway. I don’t think Jan is stupid. I just think Jan and I have different vocabularies, and that Jan may not be equipped for success in the role she was hired for, which happens to include being my boss but also includes other responsibilities that are frankly more important for the org to function.

        You are right about LinkedIn pages; hers does say she was promoted at the church about eight months ago. Still, I would give it no credence if it wasn’t combined with the other things (I actually wouldn’t have bothered to check if it weren’t for the other things – I wondered if anyone I knew had worked with her and could tell me if this was an off day or I should buckle in).

        My worry has a few parts:
        1. Using only really simple words is not how I normally communicate, and modifying my language a lot for my audience is significant work. I understand that it’s part of my job now. That doesn’t make it not a big new work responsibility.
        2. If my boss doesn’t understand the way I normally communicate, any time there is a problem, I will have the double burden of expressing the problem and translating it into verbiage that makes sense to her, while upset. That objectively sucks.
        2. If my boss doesn’t understand the normal business language that happens in all of the work communications I put out as part of my job, how do I submit those as part of, say, my annual review portfolio in a way that shows that they’re good, without making them actually worse for their main intended purpose? Some of us would like a raise.

        I have gone to so much therapy. It does turn out that therapy and coping skills are not a panacea for feelings. Terrified was a dramatic choice of word. Sorry about that.

        1. IT Manager*

          I don’t have great answers for you but wanted to say I TOTALLY get why this is a is problem for you and also a lot of work to change how you communicate. It’s not like you are deliberately choosing complicated words and can just stop doing that, they are words that seem normal to you.

          Sorry you are getting so much grief for this. It seems like a dreadful situation to me and I would also be quite worried!

          1. Oy to the Vey to the Oy*

            Thank you so much. I am finding this experience (in this comment section) SO weird – I don’t know why so many people here seem to think I hate Jan. I think Jan seems lovely. Jan seems kind and intelligent. I am confused about why other commenters seem to believe I cannot have those opinions about Jan and also be concerned about Jan having this job, which affects me both directly and indirectly. I also would not like my wonderful mailman to be my brain surgeon or for my lovely ENT doctor to be my plumber. I don’t hate those people either. There are also jobs I would be – and have been – terrible at, like dog walker and bathtub salesperson.

            And yes – big words are my default speech. When I’m at home with my spouse, we also pull in words from Latin and ancient Greek and German to make our point, because we’re silly words and that’s the way to make our point that is most natural and pleasant for us. And we’re constantly looking up words and defining them and learning new ones.

            Thank you again.

            1. Velociraptor Attack*

              People think you hate Jan because in your initial post you didn’t say a single positive thing about her. You said she has a 3rd grade reading level, may have falsified her experience, doesn’t know how to schedule a meeting, and has no understanding of professional norms.

              None of that reads as lovely, kind, or intelligent and I don’t understand why you’re confused that people think you feel negatively about a person that you wrote 4 paragraphs about without saying anything neutral about them, much less positive.

          2. k.*

            I think you need to adjust the way you’re thinking about this. How would you work with an intelligent and experienced colleague who speaks English as a second, third, or fourth language, and doesn’t have the same breadth of vocabulary as a native English speaker? How would you expect a technical employer to explain a technical concept to you that you’re unfamiliar with? Having to use multiple communication strategies in a business setting, including in spoken communication, is pretty normal.

            I think you may also need to zoom out a bit and do some self-reflection about the kinds of jargon you’ve absorbed without realizing that it’s specific to your context, and whether it’s impeding your ability to communicate with people outside (or new to) your context. I’ve never in my life heard the term “cadence” used in that way, but seeing above that it’s an Agile term cleared it up for me. It’s good to be aware that even in industries where Agile is common, not everyone uses that framework or is familiar with it.

        2. Victoria*

          I want to push back gently on your first two points here:

          Using only really simple words is not how I normally communicate, and modifying my language a lot for my audience is significant work.

          and

          If my boss doesn’t understand the way I normally communicate, any time there is a problem, I will have the double burden of expressing the problem and translating it into verbiage that makes sense to her…

          While these might be newly required of you, these are the most basic requirements of effective communication.

          Communication is about… well, communicating ones ideas to others. Being a strong communicator isn’t about being the most precise — absolutely nailing the word that perfectly captures the nuance of your idea — but about ensuring that whoever is on the receiving end of your communication accurately understands what you meant to say. That means adapting your speech to whomever you are with!

        3. Batter*

          Give her a chance to learn your office’s subset of business jargon. If she does, you won’t have to simplify your language. If she doesn’t, others will notice, too.

    9. Mad Harry Crewe*

      Remember that, despite your childhood experience, most people don’t mock others for using a complex vocabulary. I would try to set that fear aside until you see it actually happening. As far as that specific concern goes, your interaction is actually pretty comforting – she didn’t know what you meant, so she asked – twice. That’s good! That’s what normal people do!

      Now, the rest of it isn’t great and I think you’re right to be alert to other issues. But I think the more you can set fear and defensiveness aside, the better off you’ll be. It’s exhausting to be on edge all the time.

      In terms of the rest of it – one, I would focus pretty hard on what is within your control and responsibility, and what isn’t. You didn’t hire her and you are not responsible for her performance. Until it gets to the point where it makes sense to flag to the CEO or another high-level management person that you trust, your main responsibility is to do your job well. Be polite, welcoming, and helpful to your new boss. Try not to let your concerns color your interactions with her.

      Over the long run, and depending on how things go – unfortunately, this job may no longer be a great job that you love. Don’t let the great job of the past color your view of it going forward – if working for her sucks, it’s time to go. That’s a huge bummer because you didn’t do anything wrong, but you won’t win an argument with reality. Be ready to cut your losses.

      1. Oy to the Vey to the Oy*

        Thank you. This was really comforting to read. Also your comment made it clear that you read what I wrote, which I really appreciate.

    10. RagingADHD*

      I’ve been an EA, so I get where you’re coming from. Does your employer not do background / reference checks?

      What does your exec think of her? That’s really what matters.

      If your org has anything like a reasonable hiring process, then presumably she just hasn’t kept her LinkedIn up.

      You two just don’t communicate the same way. That’s jarring, but I think you’re reading too much into it. I doubt she literally doesn’t know what the word “frequency” means, but if you’re not expecting that sentence construction, “What’s the frequency?” could sound like a non sequitur. (For example, I now have an earworm of an REM song). Give her some time to settle in and the two of you to get used to talking to each other.

      If she’s violating dress code, let someone else deal with it. If the perfume aggravates your allergies or gives you a headache, tactfully bring it up.

      If she made up her work history and nobody in the entire hiring process bothered to check, then it will quickly become apparent and she won’t last long.

      Your assumptions about her religion and politics are very, very, much Not Your Beeswax. I’ve known a number of people who wore giant cross necklaces and had zero connection with religion, but even if she does it is still MYOB.

      Resist the urge to lump everything that bugs you into a big bucket labeled “Jan Sucks.” Just address any issues that affect you, one at a time, and let the ones that don’t directly affect you be dealt with by the appropriate people.

      1. Oy to the Vey to the Oy*

        I know they do background checks; I don’t remember whether my background check was just criminal or also employment history or what the reference checks were like.

        My exec hasn’t met her yet except in passing; I don’t interact much at length with her exec – he doesn’t spend much time in the office and most of his communications pass through the chief of staff, historically.

        Congrats/condolences on the earworm, as you prefer.

        Thanks for the advice.

        1. RagingADHD*

          You know, having read some of your follow up comments, I wonder if the vocabulary is the main issue in your communication problem at all. It sounds like you may have a really shorthanded verbal style. If you had a different boss for a long time that you had good rapport with, it’s pretty common to default to really brief sentences and expect the other person to fill in the gaps, because you have a routine.

          What’s the cadence?
          What’s the frequency?
          What’s the topic?

          It could come across as very brusque to someone who doesn’t know you or have that rapport built up yet.

          She may have been trying to get a read on you as a person/ direct report, and thinking about the process of working with you, moreso than primarily focusing on the task of setting the meeting. I think if I were in your shoes, I’d want to spend more time listening and asking questions rather than assuming I had to talk down to her.

      1. Oy to the Vey to the Oy*

        That’s fair, thanks.

        To be clear I do not now and have not ever had any plans to be in any way unprofessional or unkind to Jan. (Although there is a hurdle in that we obviously have very different definitions of professional, and I don’t know what hers is.)

    11. JubJubtheIguana*

      You’re mis-using cadence. The word cadence means the tone and modulations of a person’s voice, or a string of notes in a piece of music. Cadence is not a synonym for frequency and doesn’t mean how often some should happen. Like at all.

      Don’t feel bad that you don’t know what the word cadence means! She was probably confused by the fact you used a word wrong, and once you made the mistake that you made, she was trying to figure out how you got confused and what word you had intended to use.

      The fact you followed up “cadence” (which is a word all about sound and music) with “frequency” (which is also a word that can be related to music) probably just mentally sent her down the wrong track.

      If you’d said “what is the frequency of the meeting” I’m sure she would have understood.

      1. Coyote River*

        I have seen it used to mean timing/frequency as well. For example, in the military we used it to mean the number of steps per minute while marching or running.

      2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        “Cadence” is used often in business in the way OP used it – especially in tech where she claims to have come from! It’s very common to talk about getting project update meetings on to a more regular cadence; the release cadence of a piece of software, etc.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Yup. I’ve heard it in that way although it was in the context of pacing something rather than necessarily frequency. I’m still in agreement with the others who say OP may need to restrain the impulse to make it personal.

      3. RagingADHD*

        “Meeting cadence” is project management jargon that is fairly common in some industries but not universal. I haven’t actually encountered it as an EA as much as OP seems to.

    12. Gemstones*

      I don’t know that wearing a cross is all that big a deal even if the organization itself is “explicitly nonreligious” (not totally sure what that means, but OK). The organization may not have anything to do with religion, but that doesn’t mean employees can’t be religious…or does it, in your understanding? If she were wearing hijab or a Star of David, would you be upset?

      1. RagingADHD*

        Yeah, I’m curious about what “explicitly nonreligious” means, too. You can’t actually ban people from being religious the way you can ban perfume. Not in the US, anyway.

        1. Oy to the Vey to the Oy*

          I don’t have a desire to ban anyone’s religion.
          Instead, I work in a place where people of many religions work, and appreciate that about my workplace. I have atheist, Hindu, Jewish, and Christian colleagues in my immediate circle. The organization is not affiliated with any of these religions, or with any other religion. In this way, it is different from a church. That’s all I meant by that. There is no secret hidden meaning.

          1. Gemstones*

            But isn’t that true of most organizations? Most companies are different from churches. But often employees do wear religious symbols, like crosses or hjiab. You mention that the cross being big is what you object to…but then you also say it’s an “explicitly nonreligious” organization. If it’s just an organization that has nothing to do with religion…then…isn’t that most organizations/companies?

            1. Oy to the Vey to the Oy*

              I’m not upset that she’s wearing a cross necklace. The cross necklace was part of a larger outfit description (including jeans, a t-shirt, and five-inch heels), which is an interesting outfit choice for activities like escorting a critical investor to meet the CEO in a business professional office where other people are wearing suits and ties.

              And somehow what I said (that her outfit is out of place in this office, but I did not call it bad or wrong) has been extrapolated to asking if I want to ban her religion. I really, truly do not know how we got here from there. I described the statement pieces of an outfit. It’s a statement necklace. The cross is the size of my fist. It’s obviously fundamental to the outfit. Do I also want to ban all shoes because she’s wearing heels? I feel like that’s the kind of extrapolation happening right now.

              I expect I will next be told I have it out for Jan because she’s my boss and I want to destroy all authority figures.

                1. Oy to the Vey to the Oy*

                  Because in the conservative part of the country where I live, not being asked “where do you go to church” right after “what is your name” at work was a breath of fresh air.

      2. Oy to the Vey to the Oy*

        I’m not upset that she’s wearing a cross necklace. The cross necklace was part of a larger outfit description, which is an interesting outfit choice for activities like escorting a critical investor to meet the CEO in a business professional office where other people are wearing suits and ties.

      3. Oy to the Vey to the Oy*

        To answer your question, though, I would also not be upset if she were wearing a hijab or a star of David.

        I will note that I have never in my life seen a worn star of David as big as this cross necklace.

    13. Oy to the Vey to the Oy*

      If I could edit my original comment, I would. I would really appreciate it if additional advice assumed the following true things:

      I do not hate or even dislike Jan. I have a positive overall opinion of Jan. I think Jan is genial, and friendly, and intelligent, and dedicated.

      I am worried about reporting to Jan in a professional context. I would also be worried if my electrician was going to perform brain surgery.

      I also do not want to ban Jan’s religion, or anyone else’s.

      1. LB33*

        If your boss literally has the vocabulary of a third grader, i don’t think it matters whether you like her or not. How can she possibly function in the workplace, particularly as a leader?

        More importantly, how did she get hired? Are your bosses/grandbosses incompetent? If she’s this unqualified yet was able to fool everyone into hiring her, how confident are you that this is a good workplace?

        Something is definitely off here

        1. Rachel*

          If somebody truly is at a third grade level in a professional setting, this will solve itself.

          OP, is there any chance at all your opinion of Jan is influencing your analysis of her reading level?

      2. Tx_Trucker*

        English is my third language and I often miss communication nuances. But many readers (including me) took your original post as a dislike of Jane and a dislike of her religion. You may want to do some reflection on your own communication style, it may not be as clear as you think.

        Jane may not be adhering to professional norms for your office with her outfits and perfume. But does she have to? Is it possible that your norms are slowly becoming more casual like they are in many industries? Or is it possible that she is senior enough that she “can get away with it.” I work for a transportation company, where most people, including C-suite wear steel-toe boots on a regular basis. Our Finance manager wears 5-inch heels almost very day. I think it’s bizarre, but she is a rockstar at her job, so no one says anything.

    14. Isabel Archer*

      Disappointed in the commentariat: not one single “What’s the frequency, Kenneth?” joke.

      My current job is the first place I heard ‘cadence’ used for meeting frequency, but it’s also one of those places where Power Point presentations are called ‘decks,’ and it drives me BANANAS.

      1. Clisby*

        Yeah, if someone had talked to me about a “deck” in my IT position, I’m sure I would have looked at them blankly. Not because I have only a 3rd grade vocabulary. It’s because they’re using a weird term for “presentation.” (In all my 27 years of working in tech, I don’t recall anyone doing that, though.)

  36. Charlotte Lucas*

    I have an initial interview for a position today. It’s internal, and I know one of the hiring managers. Just asking for good vibes.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      Thanks, everyone! I survived! (That is all I ever can say until I hear back. I am superstitious about two things: tests and job interviews. Rating myself on them jinxes me.)

      Now to think about other things while waiting to see if I get a second interview.

  37. My Useless 2 Cents*

    Not sure how to explain this but I was hoping for some help on wording.

    The situation: A client who we have had a long relationship with has recently started coming back to us and requesting only a small portion of the work and mentioning they are getting the rest done by others. I regularly contact client but I never chit chat or have a true professional relationship, it is always just a “here is what you need” straight forward email.
    Ex. If the client was making nachos, in the past we would supply the sour cream, salsa, and jalapenos. My job would be figuring out how much sour cream, salsa, and jalapenos client needs and letting them know. Now they are coming back and telling us we just want the salsa and jalapenos, we are getting the sour cream from the cheese vendor.

    The problem: I need to bring this to my managers attention, as I think we should reach out to client for a conversation. My worry is they will want me to call and schmooze client (and I do mean a good salesman schmooze session, not just a professional chat). I *HATE* the phone and am the very last person they should want trying to schmooze as I don’t have a single salesman-esk cell in my body, my brain works very slowly when I only hear a conversation, and I’m just generally awkward (after more than 3 years working together you would think they would know this) Manager is a born salesman and can schmooze and bs with the best of them.

    How could I explain the situation to manager and heavily suggest a call to client *from manager* without sounding like I’m passing the buck or not wanting to do my job?

    1. WellRed*

      I’d find a way to frame it as the client will feel more important or valued if a higher up reaches out.

    2. Hillary*

      Just lay out what you’ve noticed and ask them to call the customer. If your manager asks you to call instead (and it should be their job if you’re not in sales/relationship management), just tell them you think it’ll go better if the manager calls. Depending on your relationship you can say (1) you’re a lot better at it than I am or (2) the customer will respond better to a manager / someone they don’t know / whatever.

    3. Mad Harry Crewe*

      I would frame it overall as “I wanted to flag this for you” (or a similar kind of hand-off language). Don’t pre-emp the ask – if they want you to call, let your boss say so. They may already be aware that this is outside the scope of your role. But if boss does ask, as long as they’re not completely unhinged I think it’s fine to say “to be honest, that kind of business relationship management isn’t really my forte. I’m worried that this is going to take a lot of finessing and I’m really not the right person for that.”

  38. quite quietly anon*

    There’s a nasty rumor going around my workplace. I know the source of the rumor, I don’t know and don’t care whether it’s true or not, but I think the people the rumor is about are entirely unaware they’re being gossiped about. My gut says to leave it alone — what are they supposed to do if they know, anyway? There’s not actionable information and the rumor isn’t work related (think along the lines of an affair). But I could use a gut check. Everyone involved is higher level than me, and because I’m municipal and union, it’s very unlikely to affect their jobs.

    1. Kiki Is The Most*

      Unless you are 100% sure that it’s a rumor AND very close to one of the people involved, I’d let it die out and/or ignore it. Something very similar happened last year at my job and while I worked with the two people that were being gossiped about, I would have felt incredibly ridiculous sharing this information with either of them as I didn’t have any solid information, proof, didn’t really care, etc.A friend of one of those being gossiped about did the alerting.

    2. RagingADHD*

      If someone repeats it to you, you can call them out for spreading meanspirited gossip and say that you don’t believe it anyway.

      Don’t bother the people it’s about. Address it with the people who are actually contributing to the problem.

  39. DJ Abbott*

    Is there a softer/more safe for work way to say my boss doesn’t care what I think?When our ma nager started she asked me questions about my work, and I tried to give her useful information. Then she gave me a bad review. In hindsight it seems she was not interested in what I had to say, and her questions were an indirect way of directing me. I didn’t know this at the time.
    I was working with a colleague and she said something should be brought to the manager. I said “she doesn’t care what I think, so it should be either both of us or you who brings it to her.”
    I trust this colleague not to use this against me. But going forward, is there a better way to convey the information that the manager isn’t interested in what I have to say? The best I can think of is “it will have more impact if you bring it to her.” Are there other/better ways to say this?
    Thanks for your help! :)

    1. Nonprofit Survivor*

      “Managers tend to be more receptive to feedback if multiple employees are having the same issue. Would you mind approaching Cindy with me about XYZ?” This is both true and doesn’t make you look like you have something against Cindy.

  40. disaster dominoes*

    I’m going through some hellish personal circumstances that include not having a stable place to live (my job is remote) and time consumably scrambling to resolve the situation. My managers are aware and are being very flexible, but busy season just started and nobody else is trained on my work. Any tips for navigating the next project when I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to sacrifice quality to get it done?

    1. Put the Blame on Edamame*

      I’m sorry that sounds rough! With work, prioritise constantly- check in with your supervisors on what is a must-do vs can-do. If you’re in an email based role, feel free to write short messages or use auto prompt responses. Do your best to leave work at work.

      1. Momma Bear*

        I agree. They know your circumstances are temporarily unstable. There’s only so much you can do, so keep them informed as best you can. You may be the only one trained on your work, but IMO this is a sign they need to cross train people. What if you were incapacitated? Someone else needs to know the fundamentals of your role. You said “next project” so bring this up now – not that you want to be replaced but this is a gap in company continuity.

    2. ferrina*

      That’s so tough! I’m so sorry you’re in this situation!

      I agree with Put the Blame on Edamame- constant communication with your supervisor. Talk to them about how you are prioritizing things and what you realistically can/can’t do. That will give them the info they need in case they have extra resources they can call in. If you have the option, delegate what you can. If you know you can delegate, keep a short list of tasks that anyone can do or that take 5 minutes or less of training- proofing for spelling, etc.

      And mentally, don’t be hard on yourself. My brain constantly berates me when I have to do anything less than my best, but sometimes, that’s what you need to do to survive. You are genuinely in a survival situation right now, and whatever you need to do to get through this is the right thing. Good luck!

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Until you resolve your stressful living situation, can you find some stable *daytime* space? Ideas off the top of my head not knowing the kind of work you do or budget–
      Rent a co-working space? (Would your company be able to cover it for a period of time?)
      Does the business have an office you could go into for a few weeks “until my move is over”?
      What about a friend with a quiet kitchen or basement you could use?
      If yours is not a role that requires being on the phone a lot, even a local library could be a reliable space.
      Would you consider signing up to be a house sitter or petsitter?

    4. Former Retail Manager*

      You mention busy season…I assume you are a tax professional of some sort. First of all, my sympathies. I cannot imagine the stress. I’d first try to determine how long it will take you to resolve the issue, even if only short term. Like do you need a week to find a place, two weeks, etc. Communicate that and see if they can be flexible with you starting a couple hours later in the day and maybe working later so you don’t lose any actual work hours, if your personal life allows for that. Use those early morning hours to make calls, put in rental applications, go see the location, etc.

      My own solution to this would be to kick the can down the road by not finding a permanent place right now. I’d do a short term room rental in someone’s house or an extended stay motel (like a Budget Suites type of thing), get through busy season and then revisit the issue when you can take more time off with less impact. I personally would struggle to deal with something that stressful and work at the same time. And if you are a tax professional, errors you make because you’re rushing or distracted could come back to bite you later and cost the client money.

  41. Parttimer*

    I have two coworkers who are driving me a little crazy. They both take forever to get responses from (days, weeks! even. We are fully remote). When I get work back, it’s often full of mistakes and errors I need to fix. One is above me on the ladder, the other is not. I’ve reached out to my supervisor about how our work gets super bogged down when it has to go through that team. She says things like “have you tried emailing AND slacking them to say look at the email?” I mean, yes, but I don’t think I need to hand hold someone who is above me. Multiple other coworkers feel the same. It’s hurting morale. We are small, so no HR.

    What really gets my goat is I work part time (.8FTE) due to health and family reasons. But it’s pretty obvious that I work more than they do.

    I waffle between asking to go full time and essentially keeping my part time hours, bc it’s not likely it’s unusual for our coworkers to ghost for several hours a day or a even a whole day or two. Or just keep sharing my frustrations with my supervisor and hope someone starts managing them.

    1. ferrina*

      You can’t police your coworkers, even when they are doing the absolute wrong thing. You’ve elevated this to your supervisor, but at this point the company is saying that they aren’t going to address this.

      The first thing to do is know that you’ll need to remind them regularly. If your job is to get the project done, then reminding people is part of stakeholder management. (I cannot tell you how very, very many people I’ve had to do this for. And how many people have had to do this for me when I was busy and had to deprioritize their project)

      For chronic offenders who simply *cannot*, one thing that I did was that when I was planning a project timeline, I’d add extra time to the timeline because I had to work with Slow Loris. I would put in the extra time for proofing and editing Slow Loris’s work. I’d show my boss the extended timeline. My boss’s first response was horror- why was the timeline so long? Then I pointed out that it’s a realistic timeline based on Slow Loris’s returns. Unless Boss was able to change Slow Loris’s turnaround, there was nothing I was able to do about the timeline. Sometimes this meant that Boss had to accept the situation (in one case, Slow Loris was a very senior VP who was unassailable), but sometimes it geared Boss to find a workaround or have some conversations to get this resolved. And sometimes it got resolved, sometimes it didn’t.

      Side note- unless you’re hourly, I wouldn’t judge if you decided to go FT and not always work FT hours. Don’t commit timecard fraud, but also if the company doesn’t care and you’re able to sometimes work the FT (and can continue doing that if the company suddenly does start caring), I think it’s morally fine to do this.

      1. parttimer*

        Thanks for the tips…I think I do just need to let it go…but it’s sucking up my time when I’m not their manager to make sure they’re getting the stuff back to me that I need, or doing it myself because they just won’t. And just frustrating because I’m hourly, so I don’t get paid if I just blow off work, but they’re salaried, so they do. But yeah…maybe it’s just part of working life and I have to accept that!

        1. JustaTech*

          Can you tell your manager “I need to budget X many extra hours for following up with Thing 1 and Thing 2, and then I need to budget another Y hours for review and correction of Thing 1 and Thing 2’s work.”
          Building it into the project plan 1) lets your manager know how much of your time these people are taking up, and 2) puts that time on the schedule so you don’t have to rush your part around them.
          And who knows, maybe it’ll get your manager to give these folks a nudge.

    2. IT Manager*

      Your manager is not feeling the pain from this. You need to start cc:ing her and including in slack notes on the 2nd, 3rd requests. And also include a “please let me know as soon as possible, I can’t do XYZ until I get this approval/information/whatever. “

      You can also add “@Manager – FYI on impacts to the XYZ timeline” just so it doesn’t seem sneaky that you put them on the CC line.

      1. Batter*

        I agree about making the manager feel the pain, but as a manger I’d find this approach petty and ask for it to stop ASAP. Ask how much you’re expected to accommodate the slowpokes. Say they’re requiring more. Show how it’s bad for the project timelines rather than how it’s bad for you.

  42. Overpaid, Underworked*

    Anyone every written a book at work? Way things are going I might as well give it a whirl (and yes, I’ve explored the archives extensively for advice on having nothing else to do at work…)

    1. ferrina*

      If you are writing it during work hours and/or on work resources, copywrite law may allow your employer to claim it as their own. Materials produced under work-for-hire (i.e., your employment) belong to the company, not the individual. Same way you can’t write a report for the company, then claim that it’s your personal property.

      That said…if the work is on a topic that the company doesn’t care about and it’s kept relatively discrete, the company usually won’t know and/or care. It’s one thing if you’re abandoning company priorities during working hours, but at the same time, I worked at a coffee shop in college and did my homework when the shop was quiet (after I’d restocked and wiped down everything). This sounds like it’s closer to the latter.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Do make sure to use your own device. Not even their wifi. Not even a USB stick on the side. Temp files and file edit history can be your words visible in the weirdest places. And you do NOT want to leave your copyright open to someone else’s claim.

        1. GythaOgden*

          I wrote longhand in some lovely notebooks my colleagues gave me (enough that I never needed to buy any other than the first one I brought in) while on reception for years before I gave up writing fiction. It looked more like work than drawing and I got several decent length books out of it (that are unpublishable because reasons, but are achievements that I’m proud of nonetheless).

          People knew at the level that was reasonable and people further up the food chain didn’t know or didn’t care. The reason the books are unpublishable is the same reason I kept them undigitised at work — they were full of graphic depictions of a lot of violence and got worse over the years I was there. On the plus side, there were at least some times I could ask the medical professionals I worked with how long such and such an injury would take to heal or how long someone would take to recover from a particular illness — just not how it happened. (The pandemic and Ukraine war kind of answered some questions as well as to how social cohesion coped with extreme adversity, but by then I’d given up writing fiction because it was too close to real life and suddenly both ‘magical zombie plague triggering witch hunts’ and ‘Russia has alien supersoldiers’ were both way too close to the bone.)

    2. Girasol*

      I did that on my company laptop saving only to a USB stick. It was the middle of a huge and extended reorganization. We were told to just stay out of our managers’ hair and don’t do anything at all until we were given new direction. I suppose if I were Ernest Hemingway they might have claimed my novel as company property or sold it from screen scrapes done by IT, but my first attempt at a novel wasn’t worth that. I might have been more cautious if I had been writing explicit sex scenes or anything I might have been embarrassed to have others see, but the story didn’t have anything like that.

    3. RagingADHD*

      Yes, a couple of times. On my work computer, at lunch or during slack periods.

      There are a lot more people out there who are paranoid about how your employer is going to “claim your copyright” than have ever published anything.

      Nobody wants the copyright to your unknown book. By the time it’s worth any money (if ever), your employer will not have any idea whether you used company resources or not, and it would be a ridiculous waste of time for them to search for deleted files, because, again — nobody cares! Just don’t go telling them, and clean up after yourself.

      1. GythaOgden*

        I did love the story of a guy who wrote a novel on the back of till roll when he was at a grocery shop. I once managed to fit a full 2000 word scene onto a single sheet of A4 while stewarding a war games fair by writing very small, but his achievement topped mine.

    4. BigLawEx*

      I did…at my boss’ suggestion. I was working as in-house counsel and the organization over-hired. There was a lot of ego in having a larger department than the next person. There was not enough work to go around…

      A friend did the same working at a very large corporation with a similar structure/vibe.

      It was said in the spirit of retention. Get your work done, then what else you do is your business, but we like butts in seats. I had high reviews and regular raises. As did my friend at her in-house role.

      It was years ago, so I just carried my book on a USB and plugged and unplugged. Nowadays, I’d suggest an iPad with a keyboard.

      Either way, I was able to make it balance out and it made the job better. I could intensely focus, and when my work was done, do something more fun.

      (TBH I had the job just to pay loans and quit once I paid off my loans – and started writing full time. My friend ended up going part-time when her books took off – to keep health insurance/retirement matching).

  43. peanut butter*

    I’m applying for a job I likely won’t get, but any ideas for how to highlight the experience I have… when it’s 20 years old? I did a PhD and postdoc in the field they’relooking for, but then switched fields. so, ideas on how to make old experience relevant are appreciated.

    1. Orange Line Avenger*

      Could you do have a separate section on your resume for “[Industry] Experience” or something similar?

      A while ago, I was applying for teacher jobs, which was a career change for me. I had relevant experience in undergrad and some volunteer experience, so I had an “Educational Experience” section on my resume with those roles, and an “Other Experience” section underneath with my other jobs. My experience was more recent than yours, though, so the same advice might not apply!

    2. Hlao-roo*

      If I were you, I would structure your resume something like this:

      name
      contact info

      [field] experience
      Postdoc position, XYZ University, 2002-2004
      *accomplishment
      *accomplishment

      other experience
      Unrelated position, ACME corp. 2015-present
      *accomplishment
      *accomplishment

      That way, your more relevant experience is at the top of your resume, even though it’s older.

    3. Combinatorialist*

      I would probably move your education back to the top of your resume since you want to highlight that PhD. And then do [related experience] and [other experience] in that order

      1. Combinatorialist*

        Oh, and in your cover letter you should highlight ways you have stayed/gotten back on top of the field. Why are you looking to come back? What have you done to facilitate that?

    4. Distractinator*

      I was only away from my post-doc topics for 6 years, but I totally relate. I was able to weave a nice story based around my previous academic identity with little nuggets of the interim corporate job that highlighted skills that bridged the gap. And then in my cover letter, explain who I am professionally that incorporates expertise, experiences, and how I’ve learned from all that what I really am interested in doing and built up cross-siloed skillsets that I can apply to their topics in ways that neither straight-up academics nor pure businessites would be able to.

      Assuming you get to format your resume yourself and not feed it into a plaintext form, put that education and specialty right at the top:
      Dr Edwina Charleston – Llama Geneticist
      and then get all the academic info, advisor and dissertation topic right up front
      If the corporate story is strong then put it chronological but abbreviated, focus on things you did that grew skills you want to keep using at new job
      If that story is less clear, sort by relevance and put the post-doc at the top.
      This is a resume not a CV so no bibliography but if you’ve got a good academic publication history and this is the kind of place that cares, consider calling it out in an “accomplishments” type section:
      * extensive publication history including 3 first-author articles in journals such as X and Y (call out only your favorite, and skip over the 10 where you’re one of a dozen coauthors)
      * conference speaker at American Llamalogical Society
      * employee of the month in corporateville

      It was hard for me to give up on recent corporate accomplishments that didn’t translate to the job I was applying for, but I had a much tighter resume when I only bragged about things in the context of the new job.

  44. Put the Blame on Edamame*

    I just got my first annual review in 3 years (technically 2, but the one before that was for a completely different role and done by a fairly useless manager), and at the risk of sounding like a smug hit, it was great! Glowing, consistent feedback from peers, dotted line reports, and managers. Plus follow up from my new, not-useless manager on getting a very big promotion: “in your case you are already doing the job before asking for the promotion, when I’m used to it the other way around” (we have had a lot of team members agitate for promotions/raises before she thinks they are ready and it’s a sore point with her, I don’t always agree but happy to bask in the glow of reflected glory).

    I never buy into this stuff 100%, as I try to keep my job from being my identity, due to workaholic tendencies, and it’s not like I’m getting any material benefits immediately. But after two years of working my backside off with perpetual imposter syndrome, this feels like a culmination of that work and finally getting stable in my role. I’ll bask for the weekend at least so I don’t go back on Monday with a swollen head!

    1. ferrina*

      Yes! Bask away! It sounds like you’ve worked hard and this is well-deserved acknowledgement of your accomplishments! Wear this with pride- you’re not a smug git, you’re proud of what you’ve done. That’s a good thing!

  45. Orange Line Avenger*

    What’s your thoughts about cube decoration, especially with toys and other “childish” things?

    I’m in a cube farm office environment. Most people do not have many personal affects at their desks — a couple pictures or small postcards, one or two small desk toys or novelty items, some plants. A new coworker (started in Nov. of last year) has brought in a lot of plush toys, action figures, and figurines. The smallest are about the size of a water bottle, the largest are 18-20 inches. Some are only visible within her cube, but others are set up on top of the cube wall and visible to everyone who walks by. She’s also got a lot of stickers, postcards, and other miscellaneous pieces of decor up inside her cube, including a few that are highly political in nature. (I happen to share her politics, but it’s definitely not messaging I’d feel comfortable displaying at work.)

    She’s not the only person who has toys at her desk — another coworker has a tidy display of fashion dolls (including a seriously cool retro office barbie) so New Coworker isn’t 100% out of step with our norms but she definitely has the most stuff of anyone in the office.

    Overall, I feel like it’s all a bit much for the workplace. I have a few other reservations about this coworker’s professionalism and her boundaries, so I think this is standing out more to me than it otherwise would. I’m not planning on saying anything to her, our supervisor, or my other coworkers about it — ultimately I think it’s harmless even if I find it to be a but much.

    I think I might just be on the slightly curmudgeonly end of the spectrum, here, but I’m curious where other people (or offices) draw the line when it comes to toys and other cube clutter.

    1. EMP*

      Personally I wouldn’t have any problem with toys like that although in most offices I’d steer clear of anything political. I suspect your feelings about her professionalism are coming in to how you feel about her desk decorations!

      1. Orange Line Avenger*

        Yeah, I think that’s 100% the case!

        I want to be clear that I’m not treating her any differently based on her desk set-up or the professionalism concerns. I’m aware that this is a person who’s done nothing wrong who happens to be very slightly irritating to me. Such is life.

    2. I want to see!*

      I’m pretty lax when it comes to clutter (I need it!) but things hanging over the tops of cubes is too far for my taste. I’m short so I can’t see over the tops of cubes so it’s not that, it’s just too much sharing for me.
      Otherwise as long as it’s not interfering in her work (causing her to misplace things, etc) and doesn’t violate any policies then I think it’s just one of the fun quirks of humans.

      1. HonorBox*

        I think there’s a way to meet in the middle on this type of thing. And there probably is space for some official guidance, which it appears to be lacking here.

        People can be encouraged to bring in personal items for their cube, so long as nothing is above / placed over the cube walls. And nothing political.

        Then let people decorate as they see fit.

        1. Orange Line Avenger*

          In this scenario, I think any official guidance would either be unenforceable or completely morale-killing. The management team here already has some weird bugbears about what footwear is allowed in the office, so I wouldn’t want to give them any additional ammunition to scrutinize and penalize with!

    3. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

      This is a really culture-dependent thing. I’ve worked in places where it would be totally unremarkable, and I’ve also worked in places where it would cast serious doubt on someone’s professional judgment. If I were this person’s boss, I’d probably find it a bit odd, but as long as their work quality was good and they met the professional standards of the job in other ways, I wouldn’t hold it against them. To me it falls somewhere close to “large collection of garish Hawaiian shirts” on the spectrum of Office People Quirks.

      1. Orange Line Avenger*

        Totally. She’s definitely a bit out-of-step with our office culture, but not egregiously so. The difference between her cube and other people’s is noticeable but not remarkable, if that makes sense!

        1. GythaOgden*

          Yeah, it got uncomfortable when someone I’d usually agree with started giving off about the university I went to not living up to the ideals of its founder (think University of London and Jeremy Bentham). You know, it really wasn’t my fault…

    4. Golden*

      Agree with the other commenters that a lot of this is dependent on the specific office culture. Although I think putting things on top of the cube wall is too much, since that feels “shared” or at least more public to me. I hope the figurines are at least work appropriate and not like the sexy kind!

      I think your ‘internal irritation but no change in treatment towards her’ is the right approach. Super anecdotally I feel like a lot of people I encounter who are outward about politics like that tend to be NIMBY types, so that’s where my mind would go, but not much you can really do with that.

    5. Evil Queen of Dysfunction*

      I spend way to much time at work to not have some personalization in my area. I recently switched jobs where I went from a cube to an office. I had some personal items on my cube desk but not enough that people could see them. A lot of what I had was swag or tchochkies I got from work , but I had a couple of pictures pinned to the wall.

      Now that I am in a good sized office, I have pictures on a bookshelf but coming in to my office you can’t see them. I also have a couple of snapshots on my bulletin board but they are at my eye level when I am working. So I have stuff but its not highly visible.

      Professionalism can be a spectrum. I have worked places where you don’t speak above a whisper and places where anything goes. Depending on where your workplace lies on the spectrum, the “stuff” may hurt her or not. Personally I think it all comes down to results.

    6. WantonSeedStitch*

      I honestly don’t care how anyone decorates their cube as long as it looks neat and doesn’t create a fire hazard, and as long as the decor is work-appropriate. If I were your coworker’s boss, I would likely have a word with her about the political stuff. I once asked one of my reports to please take down a sign urging people to vote a certain way on a ballot question regarding LGBTQ+ rights. I told her a sign supporting LGBTQ+ people was fine, and in fact was something commonly seen across our workplace as part of creating a welcoming environment for all kinds of people, but that a sign telling people how to vote wasn’t appropriate in the office.

      1. Orange Line Avenger*

        Y’know, the “looks neat” part of it might actually be my real issue with her set-up! She doesn’t have things displayed in a neat way, it’s mostly stuff jumbled in a heap (apart from the items on top of the cube wall). I mentioned that there’s someone else with some fashion dolls displayed in my office, and I’ve never thought twice about it!

        1. Girasol*

          Is her decoration odd enough that it would give coworkers the impression that she is less than professional? It was the norm in our office for the IT folks to put up orderly displays of action figures and gaming figurines. If the office you describe looks like a kid’s playroom before cleaning day, though, that would be another matter.

          1. Orange Line Avenger*

            It’s a real eclectic mix. She’s got quirky tastes, so it’s a mix of really oddball stuff that is so distinctive it’s hard to anonymize. It’s an eclectic mix of things like broken big mouth billys, giant plush ticks, little 3D printed goblin guys. Any one of them, I’d probably get a kick out of, but all together, it’s a lot.

            She’ll go to junk swaps and thrift stores on her work breaks and bring more of it and then (jokingly?) trying to regift it. I do not want an expired tin of dog biscuits at my desk. I do not think it is funny that she has brought me an expired tin of dog biscuits. I think it is weird that she has brought me an expired tin of dog biscuits.

            I recognize that I may have kind of buried the lede, here, haha. I didn’t want to lead off with this “MY COWORKER’S WEIRD QUIRKY BULLSHIT IS DRIVING ME INSANE!” because I know that it is harmless and an attempt to bond.

            I am slightly losing my mind, lol.

            1. Orange Line Avenger*

              Like I’m a big weirdo, too! I read academic texts about the Salem witch trials recreationally (recs: The Devil in Massachusetts and In the Devil’s Snare). I’m a respected public figure on Sims Tumblr. I have a high tolerance for weird interests and yet I want to tear my hair out.

              None of it reflects her interests, hobbies, anything about her as a person. It’s weird, ugly crap and it only takes up 3 minutes of my day but those are always the worst 3 minutes of my day.

            2. linger*

              Buying Expired Crackers mode, huh? Well, you know the usual advice for that: seek to embrace the weirdness in an internal nature documentary commentary. “The coworker returns from her hunt, with something not entirely suitable for her growing cubicle.”

    7. RagingADHD*

      I draw the line in my own space and mind my own business about other people’s spaces.

      Im not sure if you’re a “curmudgeon” in general, but is sure sounds like you are projecting negativity onto this coworker because you don’t like her and are hunting for reasons to justify it.

      1. Orange Line Avenger*

        Very correct. I had a long conversation about this with a friend and ended up realizing that there’s some other stuff I’m actually frustrated with about this coworker that is worthier/less petty, but I was fixating on the desk crap because it seems more “fixable.” One of those situations where you start off being likr “this is silly, but im annoyes about this one tiny thing!” and then you end up working backwards to get to the real issues underneath.

    8. GythaOgden*

      We’re all very mobile so basically zero. As facilities administration in charge of a whole region’s worth of clinics and community hospitals (not necessarily the big general hospitals but more of a centralised place for outpatient departments) we just have a laptop and a charger and a docking dongle and we can work from anywhere, including at home. So it would be very unusual to have anything specifically personal that we’d display on our desk.

      That said, a whole toy factory is probably not appropriate even without the political stuff. I have a plastic Pokeball on my dining room table — derived from Benjamin Sisko from Deep Space 9 who had a baseball on his desk, but mainly in homage to my husband, who had a cricket ball on his desk in honour of Sisko, so I chose a ball from my interest — gaming — to carry on the tradition — and sit in front of a picture of a Dalek schematic, but besides that I try and keep things clutter free because otherwise they do start to pile up. I choose my decor to fit my personality — I have a mouse mat with a picture of a Moldovan mural on it and put My Little Pony stickers on my monitor stand (because my boss is Princess Celestia in human form and the way I got my promotion was TOTALLY the way the first episode of Friendship is Magic played out) but…if I let anything else encroach on my space, then it will all just pile up and I’ll frustrated by it.

      So yeah, I do personalise my space. The Dalek schematics allowed a fellow geek to share my interests and we send Whovian memes to each other. He also gets Pokémon as well, albeit only Pokémon Go. So I think it can really help with bonding…but it’s important to know when to stop.

  46. I want to see!*

    Opinions on wearing a sun hat in an office?
    It’s a new building and while there are shades in many parts of the building there are none across the front of the south-facing windows I work next to. I should note that I sit at the front desk so I am the first person people see when they walk in. However on sunny days in the winter there is a good portion of the day where there is a glare on my screen or the sun is shining directly in my eyes.
    So I’ve started to wear a sun hat. It’s a basic tan straw sun hat with a big brim. It wouldn’t look out of place in a garden at all. But the hat is clean and does not have any stains or discoloration. Is it my favorite thing? No. But it’s the hat or I can’t see my computer 50% of the day. I don’t wear the hat when it’s not sunny or when I step away from my desk. My grandboss does not love the hat. But my grandboss is in charge of the sun shades and sun shade budget and while I had the hat last winter there still aren’t shades.
    So – just to make sure my judgement is in line with someone reasonable, the hat is currently my best option, right? Or is there something I’m not thinking of that could work better?

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I can’t tell from this if you’ve actually asked if shades can be installed and/or told someone how bad the glare is, or if you were hoping the hat would clue in grandboss on its own. I would definitely think there was some weird costume day going on if I showed up and the person at the front desk was in a hat like this, sorry.

      For solutions, I wonder if you can buy one of those monitor hoods that help block light from hitting the screen? Won’t help when the sun is directly in your eyes, but at least it will help when it’s the computer being affected. I’m guessing there’s no way to re-orient your desk/workspace so that it reduces the glare issue.

      I’m actually in a similar position where there are no blinds in my area and the sun shines directly on my computer screen at certain times of day, so you have my sympathies. We’re not getting blinds, sadly.

      1. I want to see!*

        Oh – yes, I should have included that. Grandboss is aware and they’ve looked into blinds. Based on the way the sun/my desk are oriented we need blinds across a decent chunk of the front of the building to completely block it. No way to re-orient my desk, it’s custom to the location. I’ll look into monitor hoods, thank you!

        1. GythaOgden*

          As a former receptionist, sorry, it’s unlikely to go down well. Our atrium was north facing so the sun only got round to us around 3.30-4pm, but we just had to live with it (until we started closing at 4 rather than 5, but that was only formalised 8 years into a ten year stint).

          One thing that is universal about being on reception is people saying ‘oh that wouldn’t bother me!’ when you tell them what people have asked you not to do, but that can’t trump what your managers want for their offices and what matters to them in the immediate here and now of a working day.

          (And as I’m also now in facilities delivery, things like blinds take longer to fit than you anticipate, particularly when the company has a mandate like ours does to put large expenses out to tender. We’re doing a renovation of reception space at one relatively small clinic and the cost is into five figures :-/.)

          So for the moment we can’t overrule your GB and we can’t speed up the process of getting the blinds. Monitor hoods sound good. Would dark/high contrast mode work at all? I’m sorry you’re going through this; it’s legit frustrating and the only reason I can’t think of anything that would help is because I just made do because of the relatively short duration I had to sit in too much glare.

    2. Polaris*

      Clarification, though I suspect you’ve done it: you’ve explained to your grandboss that though they dislike the hat, its currently the hat or you can’t see your computer screen for 50% of the day? I’ve had a mildly clueless grandboss before who thought someone was being “cute” and the answer was “no this is a work around for something you’ve been told about and won’t address but go on”.

      Honestly, it may be your best option. There’s no sunshades, I’m guessing a fit will be thrown about any light blocking/filtering paper or fabric that you hang, and I’m also guessing that relocating the workstation or reconfiguring things on the workstation are out of the question.

    3. WellRed*

      I’d think I was keeping you from dashing out the door to a leisure activity. However I love the idea of sunhat, sunglasses and the scent of copper tone as you and grandboss ratchet up the window coverings standoff. (Ok, kidding),

    4. DisneyChannelThis*

      A hat would look really out of place there. They make static cling stick on things as well as like frames that attach over your monitor that help with glare. Get one of those instead. Might be marketed as privacy film for computers, it will help glare.

    5. Llellayena*

      If you need it, I’d lean into it. Get a few fancy ones with flowers, feathers and ribbons and match them to your outfits. Bring back the “Easter bonnet”! Then you’re just old fashioned rather than looking like you’re casually gardening. Depending on where the shade is needed, different brim styles might emphasize the “fashion statement” of it. (This is coming from the person who basically started wearing a hat all day because she forgot to take it off and it’s become a signature look and prompted a humorous pun during the last bonus cycle)

      1. k.*

        This is not good advice! To the original question-asker: If you’re sitting at the front desk and therefore are in a position to be the first impression people have of your company when they walk in, I’m sorry to say that unless you work at a deeply quirky company (and it sounds like you don’t since your boss doesn’t like you wearing a hat) you really, really, really cannot be wearing an Easter bonnet or a floppy sun hat. This would have serious consequences for you in my workplace. Your workplace may be more lenient, but at minimum people will certainly question your judgement.

        I work in a semi-casual office environment, but I frankly would expect someone who showed up wearing fancy sun hats or Easter bonnets at the front desk of my workplace to get a warning the first time, and potentially to be fired for repeated offenses if they ignored the warning. There are better solutions.

      2. GythaOgden*

        Yeah, no, there’s a certain amount of professionalism required. I did do a ‘wear a hat’ day for brain tumour research once, but I brought my steampunk topper in and sat it on a glass panel above the front of my desk along with the pamphlets. That’s the sort of thing I’d expect on reception, but not anyone actually wearing one.

    6. TX_TRUCKER*

      A hat is weird if you are the first person that external customers or clients see. If the boss won’t invest in shades, what about desk umbrellas? They make desk clip-on umbrellas for the exact problem you are describing in the $50 range. They also sell movable suction cup shades that you can put on the window and move as necessary when the sun moves.

    7. Candy*

      Unless you’re working in a garden supply store, I don’t think wearing a straw sun hat is work-appropriate at all.

      Have you put in a request for maintenance to have blinds installed? Have you regularly reminded your boss that the lack of blinds is directly impacting your ability to do your work? Have you found installation vendors and created a quote that’s ready for them to approve for the work to go forward? Have you tried moving your monitor so that you’re facing the opposite direction? Or bringing in a plant that can be placed on your desk blocking the direct view of the sun? Are there any trade show banners in the office that can be positioned in front of the window? Frosted window film from the dollar store?

      I feel like there are a lot of options yet to explore before resorting to wearing gardening hats.

    8. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      I’ve a sun visor that is clearly only to keep sun out of my eyes and not a hat.

    9. JustaTech*

      Would one of those old-fashioned green visors work (like accountants and card dealers used to wear)? They’re a little bit more “office” than a full straw sunhat.

      The other thing you might look into is a monitor shade – I had one that was originally a kid’s bed canopy from IKEA (shaped like a leaf) that was very helpful.

      1. LWH*

        The reason you had to add “old timey” in your description there is because you absolutely won’t get away with wearing one in an office in 2024.

        I don’t think I’ve seen anyone wear one of those sun visors in the last few decades outside of old ladies in Japan.

    10. Girasol*

      A bunch of coworkers who couldn’t agree on the brightness of overhead lights put up patio shades shaped like big green fabric leaves over their cubes. I just looked for those in Amazon and see that now there’s such a thing as a “cubicle shade:” round, square, leaf shaped in black, leafy green, on long sticks or short with clips. Could one of those be more suitable for you than a hat?

    11. RagingADHD*

      No, an anti-glare screen shade is your best option. Unless you actually work in a garden center, this is not appropriate for the front desk and I’m rather surprised you haven’t been summarily told to get rid of it.

      Of course, it all depends on your attitude to your workplace. If your goal is to get by and not get fired, by all means do whatever you want. If you want to be taken seriously as a professional, don’t make passive-aggressive moves toward your grandboss or make yourself look bizarre at the front desk.

    12. Lucia Pacciola*

      “So – just to make sure my judgement is in line with someone reasonable, the hat is currently my best option, right? Or is there something I’m not thinking of that could work better?”

      No. Your judgement is not in line with someone reasonable. Your best option currently is to talk to your boss about your best options. Talking to your boss about what’s acceptable in your workplace is always going to work better than asking blog commenters what your best option is.

      Your best option is whatever your boss tells you your best option is. Or quitting. That’s it. A blog is never your best option, for this kind of thing.

  47. Dr. Doll*

    Controversial opinion here: I am so tired of video meetings that I’m about to start refusing to meet via video with people who work on my campus. It would probably cut down on my meeting burden A LOT.

    Yesterday I got a Teams call from someone who was literally 20 feet away and she was surprised that I would be willing to walk over to her office.

    Faculty complain constantly about low attendance in their classes, but they only want to meet via zoom and they fail to see any irony in this whatsoever. Why SHOULD students come to campus when 95% of all the doors in any given building are closed and silent?

    1. HonorBox*

      I don’t think you’re wrong at all. A virtual meeting works incredibly well when it allows a meeting to take place more efficiently, either by bringing people together from multiple locations or when there’s enough separation between two people and the need to meet face to face is important. A Teams meeting with someone 20 feet away is really stupid.

    2. DisneyChannelThis*

      I share an office and I hate when we have dueling zoom calls going. Or worse when we are on the same call and both un-mute at same time by mistake and end up in a weird feedback loop.

      But I do like zoom calls because of screen sharing documents. I’d rather meet in a conference room with a large screen or on zoom than have impromptu standup meetings at my desk.

    3. Emma*

      I prefer virtual meetings because I don’t want to get sick, or have you get sick from me. So I’d be one of those people who would prefer to meet virtually even if our offices are close!

  48. Garlic Microwaver*

    Any healthcare marketers (particularly content) drowning, overwhelmed, depressed and burnt out right now? All of the things to ponder, all of the AI technology to assess, the constant worry about becoming obsolete but also wondering how they’d do without you because you also do the job of 5 people while solving all of the world’s problems and being strategic and in the weeds and and and and and…. HELP. I am going to have a nervous breakdown.

    1. france*

      Garlic Microwaver I am so sorry :( I am not in this industry but my industry is a bit of the same. I have gotten through it by telling myself this is not all on me to fix, and I should just put my energy into one or two things. I also removed myself from all social media – if someone wants to talk to me then can text or email me. Once I got offline my depression anxiety and even OCD calmed way down.

      I hope you find relief soon.

  49. JustaTech*

    Has anyone had any success pushing back against senior management who is on a “butts in seats” kick?
    My VP is (once again) on a “butts in seats” kick, except that it’s worse than that, it’s a “cars in the garage” and “people online evenings/weekends” and he’s straight up said that if we aren’t “working” all the time then we don’t care.
    The thing is, he hasn’t been able to give a single concrete example of what’s not getting done by us “slacking” (where “slacking” means things like leaving after an 8 hour work day, or leaving in time to get your child from daycare and then signing in again in the evening).
    If I am *extremely* generous, this VP is under a lot of pressure from the C-suite, but us sitting at our desks doesn’t fix that pressure (not least because the C-suite is in another state).

    So, has anyone had any luck at pushing back at “butts in seats” with data and metrics and other ways of showing our actual productivity? Or is this a kind of fixed mentality that won’t be swayed by data?

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I feel like “butts in seats” people are unswayable because they feel like this is the way things are done because that’s how they came up in the workforce. If they didn’t see the last four years as an opportunity for re-evaluating how the office functions, they’re not going to start now.

      I’m concerned about the evenings/weekends and “if you aren’t working, you don’t care” thing because even if you were happy to be in the office five days / 40hrs a week, this is still a ridiculous ask.

      1. I Have RBF*

        Yeah, my reaction to the nights and weekends is “NO”, because they don’t pay me enough to give up my personal time on the regular. If it’s really needed? Fine, but not as a performative “Look, see, I’m working extra where you can see that I’m working in the office, where you can see that I’m always working!!1!!!”

        Work life balance does not mean that your work becomes your life.

    2. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

      You can try to reason with the unreasonable, but it’s probably not worth the time, energy and capital it would cost. Are there any *real* consequences for you if you just stick to your usual routine, aside from having to tune out his BS? Like has he threatened to start laying people off, or is it just noise?

      1. Ama*

        I agree with this. My workplace is not this bad, but we just had someone (in another department from mine) quit suddenly and then it was discovered she hadn’t been doing her job for two months, which means our senior leadership is now paranoid and starting to micromanage (we had a snow day this week and my boss sent a very passive agressive email about our Teams status needing to be accurate to her whole team — we’ll just ignore the fact that the employee that left was actively going out of her way to appear like she was doing her job so monitoring her Teams status wouldn’t have helped).

        My approach to this (I’ve had this happen at other jobs too), is always just ignore the pointed messages and keep doing what I’m doing. If my boss wants to come to me directly and say my hours are a problem, I will make them tell me why it is a problem and what I’m not getting done that they need (they have never done this because I always get everything on time).

    3. Girasol*

      These days people who know they can work effectively from home are quitting when ordered back to the office for no good reason, or when work life balance is all work and no life. Is there any evidence that your office has or will see turnover as a result of these policies? Your manager might not care what you want, but if you can show him that he’s hurting his own business you might get through to him.

  50. Junior Dev (no longer Junior)*

    Hello all, a question from a female software engineer about how to avoid the “I did all the work and a man took all the credit” situation. I don’t think at this point there is evidence of malice or bias on anyone’s part but I would like to be proactive before getting too far into this work.

    I am a front end developer on a team that has 2 frontend and 1 backend developer. I have about 7 years of total software engineering experience on both frontend and backend projects. I’m a woman and the other 2 devs are men. I’m good friends with the other frontend dev and he’s expressed support for my goal but isn’t sure how to concretely support it. I am looking for ideas mostly for me but for him as well.

    I am on a team that got handed a project that is much more technically complex than any of the non-programmer staff seem to understand. There are database and algorithm design questions that are pretty crucial in order for this to 1) work at all and 2) be at all performant, like I’m talking about users experiencing constant timeouts because the calculations are so complex, if we don’t really understand it and do it efficiently. The Complex Algorithm Project got tacked on as sort of an afterthought to a story that just assumed it already would exist. (For purposes of this question, please believe me about how complex this is and that I’m not just overcomplicating it for fun, thanks.)

    The backend engineer was tasked with designing it but clearly had no idea where to start. I have worked on one very similar project at an earlier job and another that had similar concerns in terms of performance. So I have spent the last couple days taking a break from frontend work (which we’re ahead on, and can’t get more things to do until some of these design questions are resolved) to write up pseudocode and SQL table schema for this project. The backend engineer is then working on translating them into our code base’s language and structure.

    So it’s not like I’m doing all the work by any means, but I’m doing a significant part of it. By analogy, imagine we had to write and illustrate a children’s picture book in Spanish. I’d be writing a rough draft of the text in English, and drawing sketches for the illustrations, and he’d be translating the text into Spanish and drawing final versions of the illustrations based on my sketches; something like that.

    The problem is that the way our system works and based on everyone’s assumptions so far, there is not a great way to track the work. I have been adding subtasks for code design to the stories (we use Azure DevOps, it’s like Microsoft store-brand Jira) and trying my best to post all my notes and pseudocode as attachments to the story. But it’s been an uphill battle to get non-devs to even understand that there is a non-trivial amount of code design that needs to happen, let alone that I’m making significant contributions to it. The backend dev (who is the one people are assuming would be doing all the work) is nice and I think generally would be on board with sharing credit, but again, it’s unclear what that looks like on a concrete level.

    We do not have anything standardized as far as career paths or performance reviews or anything like that here. I think both other engineers have “senior” in their title and I don’t, though I’ve been working here for less time so it hasn’t bothered me. I know the other frontend dev makes the same salary as me because we’ve talked about it.

    My direct supervisor is extremely passive, I don’t think he wanted to be promoted to management. I had to ask for regular one on ones with him and he leaves his camera off for every one (we are fully remote) and guide the discussion every time. His boss is sort of a nightmare to work with in a lot of ways so I’m hesitant to go to him, although Grandboss has expressed interest in making sure the devs are able to move in the direction they want in their careers, including the idea that we will be moving on to other companies at some point. So he’s sort of an unknown quantity but I’d rather do what I can without him if possible.

    What are some concrete strategies I can use, and my friend the other front end developer can use, to make sure I get appropriate credit for my work here? My personal goals for concrete outcomes I would like:

    * get a title change to have “senior” in my title, or something that will show similar progression on a resume
    * Ideally get paid more but that’s less important right now
    * Get to work on backend projects occasionally while still doing most of the work on the frontend
    * Have my role grow to include more code design/database design/architecture in the future (unfortunately I don’t think we have any sort of formal role for this, it’s all just considered software engineering)

    This company is something of a mess and I don’t want to stay here forever, but I’m about 1.5 years in and I’m hoping to make it to the 2 year mark and ideally have a clear story I can tell on my resume that I became more knowledgeable and responsible for things. And have my next role at the next company be a senior (or equivalent) one.

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I know you said you’d like to not do any of this through your supervisor because he’s passive, but I think you probably need to start with him for a lot of this, e.g. for the job title change or the eventual raise, you need to ask him what is required of you to eventually get those things, i.e. is it just longevity with the org, is it completing certain types of projects, is it getting certain kinds of feedback from clients, etc. Same thing with the types of projects you want to be working on: you need to be able to talk to him about this stuff.

      If he’s too passive and doesn’t action any of it, then it could be worth going to Grandboss about it since you’ll be able to say “I talked to Boss, and he agreed in general, but we haven’t really had any movement on me doing X, Y, or Z.” Also, even though you don’t have formal evaluations or whatever, it could be helpful to keep your own list of goals and accomplishments that you can share with others to help support the progress you’d like to see.

      WRT the other front end developer, I’m not sure he’s actually the one you need support from? If it’s the back-end person you’re expecting to share credit with, I’d talk to him about it, not the front end colleague. At best the front end colleague can re-iterate or confirm things he knew you did on the project in the presence of other people who might have heard otherwise (“Actually, Junior Dev did all the SQL prep work for Back End Dev”) in the same way you might want a male colleague to point out “Junior Dev just said that” when someone repeats a point you just made in a meeting, but since this is actual work product you should talk to the person you’re working with on how you’ll split credit.

    2. EMP*

      I agree with everything C&C said! All of the title, pay, and official assignment stuff is in your boss’s hands and if he won’t do anything about it, it’s appropriate to go to grandboss (although if grandboss doesn’t act, I wouldn’t push much).
      Unofficial assigments you can try to be proactive (like you were here) and work with Backend Dev to get more backend work.

      Mostly, document this for your own records and put it on your resume!! No one at your next job is going to call up Backend Dev and go, “did Junior *really* do all this even though her title is Frontend Dev?”. It’s up to you to sell your accomplishments and this is a great one to have!

    3. Kathenus*

      My suggestion is not about your big picture goals, but a suggestion for how to document things in the short term which also might be helpful for the future stuff too.

      Track your time and a basic overview of what you are doing on the backend for this project. At the end, send your supervisor a summary document, copying Backend and Frontend Developers.

      “Supervisor – as you know our team has been working on X project which has some very complex aspects (or however best to describe, of course). Since I had past experience with the backend work with a similar project, Backend Developer and I worked together on this. As an FYI since it was different than our usual workflow, over the past XX days/weeks I spent approximately YY hours (or YY% of time) on the backend work. It was great to work with Backend Developer directly on this. And big thanks to Frontend Developer for picking up a bigger share of that work as well. A real team effort.”

    4. Dreaming Koala*

      Agree with C&C regarding the title and raise.
      I understood you have a concern regarding owning what you created. Do you have any documentation apart from ADO? If so, I would document your system design there and send an email to your boss with other developers in cc “Hey boss, I created and documented this great system design”. If you have any engineering groups/lunch&learns – propose to talk about your solution/design and spread the word at least among other technical people about your achievements.
      Regarding people not understanding how complex certain technical questions and tasks are – if you learn to explain why they are complex, it will be one more advantage and point to add to your CV, because not that many software engineers can speak with business people the same language (although, senior and stuff engineers are often expected to do so). But of course sometimes business just does not want to understand…

    5. Distractinator*

      Since you say one of the things you want is more backend work and work like this task you’re taking on, that’s totally an email you can send to your boss (and cc anybody else who seems relevant)
      In preparation for our next (PA, monthly meeting, any excuse) here’s something I’m wanting to talk about. I’ve had the opportunity to do X for Project and I’ve made a big difference (brief 2-sentences). This really feeds into where I’d like to take my role in future – I could see myself doing A% this and B% that, and I’d like to talk about that growth path. OR This has been a great experience and I’m on the lookout for other projects that might need this kind of skill, do you have names of program leads I should talk to?
      And if you can get their buy-in, you can start looking around for places to do more of what you want. The more excuses you have to talk about what you’re doing on the current project with people outside of your 3-person team, the more obvious it will be what you own and impossible for others to claim that.

  51. Lurker*

    I saw something that I thought was a bit odd on social media the other day. Someone said “men are promoted for their potential, women are promoted for their past performance.” I’m not sure if this statement has any merit, or it it’s just a misunderstanding of an actual phenomenon (more men in higher leadership roles). What do others think?

    1. SereneScientist*

      Hmmm, I don’t know that there is necessarily data to back this up…or for that matter, how you could collect data in the first place to prove it because it requires understanding intent/motive of the managers/leadership in charge of making promotions.

      I think you’re probably on the mark that this is a misunderstanding or attempt to explain the higher ratio of men in leadership in a way that pretty much ignores the historical and ongoing inequities in gender parity at work. It also feels related to the notion that men are more likely to apply for stretch roles where they don’t meet all the requirements, whereas women are more likely to only apply for roles they are mostly/completely qualified for. Again, descriptive, but it doesn’t discuss much the underlying social/cultural mechanisms at work.

    2. Irish Teacher.*

      I assume it means that women have to prove they have a track record of success in order to be promoted, whereas men are more likely to be assumed to have the ability to be successful without having had to prove it.

      Like many things, I imagine there is some truth to it , but it seems like an oversimplification and not likely to be true in all companies.

      1. Qwerty*

        Yep.

        I attended a panel with founders talking about getting their early rounds of funding. The women were asked detailed questions about risk mitigation and finances. The men were just asked if they were ready to scale and experience hypergrowth.

        When women and men did practice pitches together, none of the men could handle the level of questions the women were getting and were shocked that the women were being asked them. Investors assumed the men would succeed and the women would fail.

    3. Emma*

      I read it as the idea that women seeking leadership roles are often scrutinized more closely than men.

      I know there have been studies that men will often feel comfortable applying to positions where they meet only 20% of the qualifications, whereas with women it’s like 80% (or more). So it wouldn’t surprise me that there’s a similar phenomenon in hiring.

      1. Spencer Hastings*

        Yes, in fact that could be the cause of it. If women get negative feedback when they apply for stretch roles (did you not realize that Qualification X was required?!), they may be less comfortable doing so in the future.

    4. Roland*

      It’s certainly been my experience and that of many friends who are also women in software engineering. Of course anecdotes aren’t data, but it rings incredibly true to me.

      1. ferrina*

        This was exactly my experience at a tech start up. Men were promoted and paid more because “he has so much potential! He just started this big project, and it’s off to a promising start!”
        Meanwhile, women with a strong track record would have to argue long and hard to get a well-earned promotion, just to be told that they were “presumptuous” to ask for more (men asking for a raise were praised for “knowing their value”).

        We also dealt with a predictable phenomenon where young men who were promoted because Potential! were given extra responsibilities, then they couldn’t handle the responsibilities (oops, guess that potential didn’t work out), so the responsibilities were off-loaded onto women (who were not given promotions but still expected to complete all the work). These women would have to handle the bulk of the work, then when there was a success, the man was once again praised for whatever meager role he had had.
        Once when I (woman) was the recipient of this work from a higher-level man (who had just been promoted explicitly for potential), the man actually tried to give credit where it was due. He had been promoted so he could take on Project X, but Project X was over his head. His VP told me to “help” on the project, then systematically took away the man’s time with simpler things until I was basically running Project X. I was lower title than the man. I did great with the project and had some big wins. At the next company meeting, the wins were celebrated and the man was credited with it (I was not mentioned). The man tried to say “Actually, ferrina did a lot of the work” and his VP cut him off, saying “don’t be modest! This was your project and you had a great win! Now onto the next thing…”

        1. Awkwardness*

          We also dealt with a predictable phenomenon where young men who were promoted because Potential! were given extra responsibilities, then they couldn’t handle the responsibilities (oops, guess that potential didn’t work out), so the responsibilities were off-loaded onto women (who were not given promotions but still expected to complete all the work). These women would have to handle the bulk of the work, then when there was a success, the man was once again praised for whatever meager role he had had.

          I am always torn when I read something like this. Should I be glad these are universal experiences of women, meaning it has nothing to do with me? Or should I just lay down and cry?

      2. anecdata*

        I have seen it in hiring : man who is “green but he’ll learn so fast!” hired when the women who were hired into the same role had more experience/past success in our area/portfolio projects/etc. I can’t /prove/ it’s gendered but it sure seems like an Occam’s razor explanation

        In terms of research, here’s a very interesting paper from Stanford’s business school evaluating trends in PAs by gender (link in next post). Two items related to this are: women who’s technical skills were deemed weak nearly always got lower overall ratings; but men with low rated technical skills sometimes still got high overall ratings. And that “items to improve” were more often explicitly framed as developmental for men (do X to get promoted) than for women

    5. Awkwardness*

      When I heard this for the first time, it was “men are hirey for their potential, women are hired for their past performance” and did precisely put into words what I had never been able to. I think it is correct.
      But work in a technical field, so it may be different in other branches.

    6. Hillary*

      There’s research showing it – I’ll reply with a link.

      Summary article from MIT Sloan
      Title: Women are less likely than men to be promoted. Here’s one reason why
      Author: Meredith Somers

      Published article:
      “Potential” and the Gender Promotion Gap∗
      Alan Benson Danielle Li Kelly Shue
      Univ. of Minnesota MIT & NBER Yale & NBER
      June 22, 2022

    7. Arsloanico*

      I certainly think there’s a grain of truth in it. Most decision-makers are drawn to candidates that remind them of a “younger them.” Since there are more men in leadership currently, they tend to see young men and think they could “have what it takes” based on potential. They don’t similarly see the potential in people with different backgrounds from them, meaning they are scrutinizing the resumes to see if they can demonstrate the skills required. Also when people picture “leadership potential” or “tech genius” or whatever, they are subconsciously picturing a white man in that spot. Anyone else has to work a bit harder to get cast there.

      1. vombatus ursinus*

        I think this is well explained! It kind of reminds me of the Michael Hobbes framing of bias as ‘what you don’t need evidence to believe’.

      2. Irish Teacher.*

        There was actually a letter here once from somebody asking, “how can I see the potential in people who aren’t like myself?” and admitting he assumed a young woman wasn’t up to a task she subsequently excelled at because she didn’t ask the kind of questions he associated with high-flyers.

  52. Justin*

    I got a small bonus last year (most of the employees who aren’t on like PIPs get one) but this year my boss told me I got one of the highest (percentage wise) bonuses in the whole org, 11% of my salary.

    Bonuses are heavily taxed – which is good, pay those government services so people can be supported, hopefully – so it’s not a huge cash influx, but since we’re also (fingers crossed) about the close on a house, every bit helps.

    Mostly though, being explicitly told in my yearly review I’ve “had a hell of a year” and that the organization is “ecstatic” about what I’ve been doing – and, it wasn’t said, but I’m doing well here BECAUSE of my neurodivergnt traits (hyperfocus, multitasking, novelty-seeking) – is the payment I treasure.

    And I still work for a nonprofit that is trying to do work I support.

    1. Arsloanico*

      If I understand taxes correctly, keep in mind that you will get that money back when you file. The bonus is not actually accruing a higher percentage of tax than other forms of income. I’m not an accountant but I raised this issue once and that’s how it was explained to me. I mean, if it pushes you over a salary, the tax will be incremental at that point, but that’s true of every form of income.

      1. Hillary*

        Exactly. They withhold at a higher rate for bonuses so employees don’t get a surprise tax bill. Under many circumstances the actual tax rate will end up being lower.

        1. Roland*

          I believe bonuses are generally withheld at a flat rate of 22%, but whether that flat rate is more or less than what you owe depends on your income and filing status.

          1. Hillary*

            like so many things, it depends. :-) 22% is the third bracket ($47k-$100k in 2024). If bonuses are a small part of a full-time employee’s compensation and they make under $80k 22% may be the right rate. (I’m saying $80k because you want to leave a lot of buffer, you don’t know about their other income or their spouse’s income).

            If bonuses are a large % of their comp and they’re higher income it’s not unreasonable to withhold at the highest rate of 37%. It’s a bit of a bummer to see that much of a bonus be withheld, but it’s a much, much worse experience to come up with cash at tax time, especially if you were so far off that now you have to do estimated taxes.

    2. Armchair Analyst*

      Ahem I also have extremely similar neurodivergent traits
      And find that I almost do work for organizations with a passion or a mission that I support or else my interest wanes

      I am so glad we can both find jobs and managers that suit us and reward us for being ourselves!

  53. Sprigatito*

    What are the norms around brushing your hair at your desk?

    The other day I’d been walking between buildings and it was windy out, so when I got back to my office I ran a comb through my hair to settle it – just three quick swipes (side, side, back). A coworker walking by in the hallway paused and chided me for it because he said “personal grooming at your desk is very unprofessional”.

    If I were doing extensive hair styling/brushing I would probably go to the restroom (for the mirror, if nothing else) but I’ve never thought twice about running a comb through my hair to settle A Weirdness. Have I been committing a social faux pas for years, or is that just my coworker’s thing?

    1. No Tribble At All*

      As long as you clean up any loose strands of hair, I think a few swipes with a comb is fine! Sounds like bro is jealous of your luxurious hair.

      1. No Tribble At All*

        Also, this was in your own personal office, not in the middle of a cube farm? This guy can mind his own business. I’d say in your own office you can do anything you want (eg cutting fingernails) as long as you close the door and clean up any debris so your office isn’t gross. The audacity!

    2. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

      This is just your coworker being an ass. Definitely an opportunity to use “thanks for your feedback, I’ll be sure to give it all the consideration it deserves.”

      I’d be tempted to keep an eye on him and next time he so much as picks a piece of lint off his sweater while at his desk, give him a disapproving look and a tsk tsk. But I’m very petty when it comes to showing people how ridiculous they’re being.

    3. Arsloanico*

      That’s … *really* weird of your coworker. I would have questions. Was this person very senior to you? Very old and crotchety? In any position of authority here? Is your position one that is unusually scrutinized in other ways (eg, you are the receptionist and everyone else is a tech coder in a start up – meaning they may not value your contributions or think they are superior to you (which is wrong) – or you are an intern so everyone thinks it’s appropriate to mentor you?). If this was someone at or close to your level with no reason to think they should be able to give you their opinion of what’s professional, that is very aggressively insulting of them. Unsolicited advice is criticism.

      1. Sprigatito*

        We’re at equal levels, but I’m early 40s and he’s close to retirement and has been at the company for decades and I’ve only been there for a few months. Also, I’m female and he’s male, so I strongly suspected that’s part of it.

    4. Snoozing not schmoozing*

      HE said? And it’s a co-worker, not a supervisor? I’d watch him like a hawk for other signs of BECAUSE THE MALE SAYS SO behavior.

    5. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      You did nothing wrong, even if you’d had a cubicle rather than your own office.
      He’s an annoying busybody who is ignorant of normal office etiquette.
      From now on, I’d be wary of misogynist behaviour from him, in case this was a warning shot.

      1. Sprigatito*

        I was already kind of wary of the guy because he’s the type to loudly rant about “reverse racism” and how he, as a white man, is being unfairly persecuted by diversity initiatives. But I’m glad to know I hadn’t been inadvertently pissing off coworkers at other places for years before someone finally brought it up, like I’d wondered. XD

        1. BigLawEx*

          You buried the lede here… Appears he has a list of grievances/issues that have NOTHING to do with you…

          That said, I’d keep an eye on him.

  54. Put the Blame on Edamame*

    My Petty Betty moment of the week: we have a senior leader who has been in the company a billion years and is a very specific type of yappy posh British man who talks over everyone and steamrolls perpetually on with whatever his latest flash of inspiration is (usually from whatever TED talk he just saw, I wish I were kidding). I’ve heard him dismiss a WOC’s comments on diversity because he had seen a “brilliant video” on the topic therefore knew more than her.

    I am way down the pecking order so don’t deal with him much, but I do sit near another Senior Person who took a call within my earshot, I usually tune out but I did listen as he reassured a client about something that had been said in a meeting – then immediately followed that with a call to someone else to bitch about how Yappy had steamrolled a client and how annoying it was.

    I’m sure no one will confront his behaviour but it was delicious to hear someone else who is part of the company establishment just drag this dude.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Oh god, we’re exporting our posh twits. I didn’t think anyone would take them. Sorry about that.

  55. should i apply?*

    Are there any advantages of working with an external recruiter vs applying directly? An external recruiter reached out to me recently about a job at a large corporation, where I know all of there jobs are posted online. While I don’t know the specific job the recruiter was contacting me about if I was interested I wouldn’t have any difficulty finding it. So I’m wondering, is there any reason to work with the external recruiter, when I could easily apply directly?

    1. EMP*

      I went through this recently – I think the only benefit is the recruiter can be more likely get your resume in front of the hiring manager at a very large corporation where the online system may mysteriously filter you out even if you’re qualified. The benefit of NOT going through a recruiter is you probably cost the company less money to hire if they don’t need to pay the recruiter for you, but I’m not sure how much large companies weigh stuff like that.

    2. Sneaky Squirrel*

      If you have not built a relationship/agreement with an external recruiter/agency, I would apply directly.

      Companies sometimes choose to work with external recruiters to speed up recruiting processes; so there is a possibility that by using an external recruiter that your resume gets fast tracked. Or alternatively, that the external recruiter would have several other leads with similar companies.

      However, the hiring company has to pay external recruiters a finders fees on top of your salary, so they may prefer to look at hiring a candidate internally first. There are also some super scummy agencies out there that will falsify resumes and edit the information to what they think the hiring company wants. It’s also possible that the external agency actually doesn’t have an in with the hiring company; some external recruiters fish for work like that.

      1. EMP*

        >> some external recruiters fish for work like that

        This is a good point! If you can find the listing on the company’s website, they’ll often say something like “we are not accepting submissions from third party recruiters” and in that case, obviously, apply directly.

    3. TX_Trucker*

      Are you sure ALL the jobs are posted on their website? My company rarely hires an external recruiter. But when we do, you can not apply for that job through the normal means – it has to go through the recruiter, and the job vacancy is not commonly known . We usually hire an external recruiter for three reasons: 1 – We are expanding “something” and don’t want our competitors to get a heads up. 2- Someone is about to get fired and they don’t know it yet. 3- It’s a super technical role requiring a specific background, that people will rarely be applying for.

      To be clear, we sign exclusive contracts with recruiters. We do not use random search firm that are just hoping to make placements and collect a finder’s firm. I suggest you ask the recruiter what his relationship is to the hiring firm.

    4. ecnaseener*

      One benefit is that the external recruiter may have some intel from candidates they previously sent through that interview process. I had one tell me what questions the interviewers would ask to test my knowledge. (Probably not entirely ethical lol, I’m sure the hiring manager didn’t know I had been prepped to that extent! Idk how common it is.)

  56. HiveMindHelp*

    Hello hivemind,
    I work with a relatively new hire “Emily” who started this job 6 months ago. Emily and I have sporadic contact throughout a regular workday and we are in the same meetings. Emily works in an office mostly by herself because her assigned office mate works from home 4 days a week. I share an office with another co-worker “Andrea.”

    About every other week, when exchanging pleasantries and greetings with Emily, she will say something like “forgot my ADHD meds this morning, you’ve been warned!” or “I need to start keeping spare Adderall at work!” So far, I’ve treated this the same as somebody who came into work on a Monday morning and said “I need that extra cup of coffee today” meaning, I don’t do anything different in my interactions with Emily and chalk it up to making conversation.

    A few weeks ago, Emily was absent from a meeting but I knew she was at work that day. I walked down to get her and she was flustered about it. It was on a morning she forgot her medication. She said “this is what happens when I forget my meds.” We just walked back to the meeting and continued. Since then, it has occurred to me that Emily might not have been making idle conversation with her meds comments, she might want or expect extra support on those days.

    Is it okay for me to ask Emily to clarify what she wants from us when she makes those comments? I know Andrea hears them, too, but I’ve avoided asking her how we should handle this because I don’t want Emily to think we are discussing a disability behind her back. I really want to handle this well and I just don’t know if I can ask somebody to clarify mental health when they bring it up or not.

    1. DisneyChannelThis*

      You’re overthinking it. It’s incredibly common to notice a difference between ability in a person on ADHD meds vs their forgotten medication days. Emily is just explaining that difference, and making sure you know she’s not this careless about her job normally. There’s also huge ADHD med shortages in the US right now, she may be unable to fill her prescription or having to try alternative prescription options that don’t work as well and “forgot to take” could be shorthand for that situation.

      Continue treating it like someone saying they forget to drink their coffee this morning in terms of remarks. It’s a lot more significant in terms of affect that coffee but its that type of casual remark. I wouldn’t ask for clarification from her. Just a cheerful “Oh that sucks!” type response is fine. Or reassure her that the mistake wasn’t a big deal.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I think you also might come across as concern trolling or even making fun of her, even though that’s not your intent — I would definitely be a little side-eye if I made a “oops, forgot my meds, my head is all over the place this morning” joke (though admittedly I wouldn’t) and got back concern about how people could help and support me, especially in a new place where I don’t know people for sure well enough to know if they mean it or if they’re looking for dirt to dish in the break room.

        1. Awkwardness*

          I find those two answers interesting.

          For me, mentioning any medication for whatever would be quite personal, so I would have never equated it to a “need my coffee” remark. I would have suggested to talk to the co-worker. But maybe I am off base here? I do not know (at least to my knowledge) somebody with ADHD.

          1. DisneyChannelThis*

            I think it’s pretty common to mention medication. I’ve been asked if I have advil or tylenol. Maybe this is a gender divide. I’ve asked my coworkers if they know if we have band aids anywhere. I’ve complained that the antibiotic I’m taking for my sinus infection is annoying to take and chalky (usually when I have to take it in front of people at lunch break so they know why I’m suddenly making faces). Oral birth control has to be taken at the same time each day to be effective, I have a coworker with an alarm that goes off at noon to remind her to take it, she has a neat lanyard pill case for 1 pill. If you work with people in person, it’s likely going to come up at some point.

            ADHD is a processing disorder. You can learn more about it here: https://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/managing-employee-with-adhd

            1. Awkwardness*

              In most offices I worked, people were somewhat discreet about this. Yes, an alarm might go on, and you would realise it was birth control due to the shape of the blister, or you would see people take something before lunch, but this was never commented on.
              Interesting how the experiences will vary.

    2. JustaTech*

      If Emily has brought this up herself then she’s clearly OK with you all knowing that she’s 1) got ADHD and 2) has forgotten her meds and therefore will be off, so I would think it would be reasonable to ask (preferably on a day when she hasn’t forgotten her meds) “hey, on days when you say you’ve forgotten your meds, do you want a heads up when I head to [shared meeting]?” (Since that’s a specific instance where you know it was an issue.)

      I don’t think she’s *expecting* support, I think she might be offering it more as a warning that she’s like to be off that day, but it is kind of you to ask if she would like some support.

      (I have ADHD and I do actually keep a spare dose of my meds at work because I hate the way I feel at work when I’ve forgotten them, but it’s hard to remember to bring them in, and it’s hard to have a spare to bring in with the restrictions and supply problems.)

      1. GythaOgden*

        Same here with mine. I have to order my Sertraline/Zoloft a week into the month I’m just starting in order to get them with reliability by the end of that month, given the paperwork involved between me, my GP and the postal pharmacy I use (and the postal system itself). As luck would have it I actually do now have a day or two of spare meds stemming from a mess-up in a different way, and if I lost a packet I could get an emergency supply very quickly to get me back on course, but I couldn’t really spare enough to have a supply at work.

        When I left my office in October, though, for a WFH position, I did have enough ordinary painkillers in my desk drawers to supply my colleagues with several full blister packs each. All three of us suffer from headaches of various kinds and one of them can’t take ibuprofen without seizing up, so while we could all just go and buy some more (despite paracetamol being restricted to one box per person at point of sale in the UK, that’s not to say you can’t just go to the next supermarket and buy more), it made a very nice and useful leaving present to people I’d worked so well with for nearly a decade.

        I kept the antacids, though.

    3. GythaOgden*

      I’m not ADHD but I take anti-anxiety meds that have really helped me focus on what’s in front of me rather than what’s behind me, both literally and metaphorically. I started taking them because my husband needed me to have his back when he was diagnosed with stage IV cancer and I could no longer afford to have my trivial anxieties about stuff distant from me riding roughshod over my mental landscape.

      I’ve certainly forgotten to take my meds, ironically on days when I’m most busy in person (and thus a disruption to my routine, like say having stayed overnight before an in-person away day and having to check out of a hotel), and it feels like being uncaffeinated or, in my case, like things are moving slightly faster, not quite on fast forward but certainly like a sped-up video.