open thread – February 23-24, 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.

{ 1,228 comments… read them below }

  1. Job Applicant*

    Did I go overboard for a part time temporary position? I had an interview with three people (who were not from the temp agency the job is through, but with the people who I’d be working for) and sent each one a thank you email after. Was that overkill?

    More context: the job is a long term temp position for about 20 hours per week. I found the listing on the organizations website, not a temp agency site. I’ve never talked to anyone from the temp agency. I submitted the application through the organization website and was contacted by one of the people I’d be working for.

    1. DrSalty*

      No that’s nice, normal behavior. It would leave me with a good impression as an interviewer. Good luck!

    2. NameRequired*

      Not overkill, but it’s also fine to send one Thank You and put them all as recipients on the email, and basically say, “It was a pleasure meeting with you all today…blah blah.”

    3. anon_sighing*

      I usually cc them all on one email (easier and I usually send it on the email for the interview planning anyway), but I think you’re ok.

  2. Einstein was the true star of the series*

    My boss Marty joined our company a few months ago. I like him – since he’s started he’s lifted a lot off my shoulders and we mesh well. Anyway, we have a co-worker, Biff, who is senior to us both and head of his department. Biff’s department serves several other teams. Biff is also one of the biggest “missing stairs” I’ve ever seen at such a high level. Think bringing up new problems and pushing things back onto everyone to deflect accountability off him. Yes, his boss lets him get away with it. Everyone lets him get away with it.

    There was a large project I offhanded to Marty that I was trying to work with Biff on, literally for months on. I learned quickly that even when I looped in other people, Biff would try to communicate with me alone, likely to cause more confusion and to put everything back on me instead of him doing his job. And now that Marty has taken the project over, he is doing the exact same thing with him! Marty has been relaying to me all the crap Biff is trying to pull with him, however I’m not sure how much of this Marty is communicating up to his boss, Doc. This week Marty was telling me the latest on it, and I suggested bringing it up in our team meeting with Doc, which Marty didn’t do. Part of me wants to exclaim, “Biff pulls this with everyone! You need to loop Doc in on all communication! Don’t allow Biff to speak with you alone! Tell Doc everything Biff is telling you!”. I know it’s not my circus anymore, but I can see Biff trying to take advantage of Marty, and Biff’s procrastination impacts our team’s work.

    I’m not sure if there is really advice here, since Biff’s boss isn’t going to do anything and Doc is a peer to Biff so he can’t tell him what to do. Can anyone else commiserate with this stuff?

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      Definitely tell him that! Otherwise, he’s fumbling around in the dark. Just be straightforward: “Yes, I have had similar challenges working with Biff. What’s worked to mitigate some of that is A, B, and C.”

      1. JSPA*

        exactly. the practical tone is essential, as is a focus on the process, rather than the naming and shaming of the missing stair.

      2. Momma Bear*

        I’d tell him just so he’s aware that Biff has a tendency to withhold information. Marty needs to know this behavior.

      3. Einstein was the true star of the series*

        I hinted at that with him but I haven’t said that directly, I’ll try that!

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            This. Hints and sidling around the topic only empower Biff, since they tend to give the impression that this is a problem “none dare speak of.” Obfuscation is where Biff thrives.

            The more matter of fact and open you are (without editorializing on Biff) the easier it may become to work around his constant blocks.

    2. Jaydee*

      Since Marty is your boss and is also so new to the company, I think it’s appropriate to tell him that this is a recurring problem with Biff and that it’s probably a good idea loop Doc in about things. It’s a kindness to Marty since he doesn’t have the history with the company and with Biff that you do. Will he figure it out eventually? Probably. But you can save him the headache of worrying that this might be a him problem and not a Biff problem in the meantime.

      Also, Doc may not have any direct authority over Biff if they are peers, but he can potentially 1) give Marty guidance on how best to deal with Biff, 2) talk to Biff as a peer about how Biff’s behavior is impacting his (Doc’s) team, 3) escalate things to Biff’s boss or grand boss, 4) have access to information that other peers or upper managers have and collaborate with them to demonstrate this is a widespread pattern on Biff’s part, or 5) something else that I haven’t even thought of (but hopefully not involving plutonium he swindled from Libyan terrorists).

    3. HonorBox*

      Yep. Give Marty context and gently suggest bringing this to Doc’s attention. It may not lead to any changes, but gives Doc context that it is continuing to happen and is having a negative impact on his team. Ideally, Doc says something to Biff or Biff’s boss, but at the very least you’re giving Marty some history so he knows this is how Biff works.

      1. Einstein was the true star of the series*

        I’ve given him several hints, but I haven’t said it directly. I think I’ll probably just use this script for 1 more time. Before Marty joined, I worked with Doc closely and he was fully aware of Biff’s shenanigans.

        1. Observer*

          Was Doc fully familiar, or were you softening the message, being indirect, etc?

          In any case, that’s all the more reason why Marty needs to keep Doc in the loop – seeing that it’s not just you is likely to be useful. And in general the more people push the issue the better chance there is of some movement.

        2. Kay*

          As someone new to the position it is possible that Marty is doing what many new people do – get the lay of the land, figure out the politics, try to work things out between co-workers, not rock the boat, etc. By not really spelling it out you are keeping valuable information from Marty that he can use to inform his decisions.

          To be honest, if under a few months in I had an employee giving a vague “perhaps you should take it to the boss”, even IF I thought my employee was trustworthy – I might take longer than I otherwise would to escalate this.

          Tell Marty ALL the details, and let him take it from there, but don’t be the person withholding the relevant information.

    4. saskia*

      I’ve been in Marty’s position, and god, do I wish someone, anyone would have just TOLD ME what everybody else was thinking (“X person is difficult to work with; here are our strategies”) instead of letting me flail around in the dark indefinitely.

      1. Einstein was the true star of the series*

        I’m also a tad nervous because Biff is much more superior to Marty and I, and I don’t want to make it seem like I’m talking smack about him. I don’t want something to get back to Biff that I was complaining about him.

        1. saskia*

          Totally understand. But if you trust your boss and emphasize that you’re just trying to help him deal with different styles at the company, and that none of it is meant in a bad way, and you know his discretion is reasonable, you might as well tell him. I do think it’s annoying that he’s bringing these issues to you, so of course use your judgment…

          1. Einstein was the true star of the series*

            You know what, yeah! It is annoying he’s bringing these issues to me. I’ll need to be more direct that he needs to go to Doc.

        2. Roscoe da Cat*

          Word it as “I have found that Biff works best with people who do these things” that way, you aren’t complaining about Biff per se

        3. goddessoftransitory*

          That’s where the “matter of fact” tone comes in. As long as you’re simply discussing how to get the project done, there’s a lot less Biff can grab hold of for ammunition without shooting himself in the foot, as it were.

      1. Einstein was the true star of the series*

        Biff’s boss won’t do anything. He knows the project isn’t getting done and is aware of all the delays, but he puts his head in the sand.

    5. TechWorker*

      In terms of the team meeting with doc, if I had a problem with a coworker (senior to me or otherwise) that needed to go up the chain, absolutely no way I would raise that in a group team meeting vs a 1-1 with my boss. Like, probably your new boss hasn’t said anything yet but I really wouldn’t assume you will be in the conversation when it happens :)

  3. LinkedIn broke*

    LinkedIn users, has anyone else noticed the platform has gone nuts over the last couple of weeks? All the people I previously unfollowed are back in my feed, and I can’t get rid of them (unless I disconnect). Did LI fire their whole UX/UI group at once? Any tips or tricks for getting things to work properly?

    1. cellbio_dweeb*

      I’ve been having the same issues! I just keep mashing the X/Don’t Follow/Don’t Show Me This over and over again. So many suggested posts that are garbage.

    2. Generic Name*

      I just assume the algorithm sucks. I left consulting 6 months ago, and I keep getting suggested content of people answering questions like, “How do I get into consulting?”. Ok, whatever, but I keep hitting “x- don’t show me content like this” and I keep getting these unwanted Q&As on the consulting industry. I get annoyed when I look at LinkedIn, so I look at it less and less.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        I keep getting questions for Administrative Assistants. I haven’t been one in fifteen years.

    3. Other Alice*

      Yes! I keep getting shown posts with some coworkers’ personal/political opinions, which I don’t agree with and I’d rather not see. The only trick I found is to stop looking at my LinkedIn feed… which is pretty effective.

    4. Filosofickle*

      Not to mention all the new AI and “expert answer” prompts are both worthless and harming readability. They seem to have made a LOT of changes and so far none are good.

      1. Mighty K*

        Especially the ones where they suddenly think I’m an expert and want me to “contribute to the article on xxxx”

        There are enough people churning out pointless content already, leave me alone!

      2. Loreli*

        I’ll bet you a quarter that the “expert answer” prompts are trolling for content that can be used for AI-generated answers. Don’t feed them. These AI programs are already going through the internet collecting – the NYTimes is already suing over it (link in next reply).

        1. Filosofickle*

          Oh I wouldn’t take the other side of that bet! I don’t care what the goal of the free content is (likely AI but also inflating group activity and filling feeds), I’m not playing.

    5. Yeah...*

      I always like validation. My LinkedIn feed seems off too.

      I know that there is an overall plan to get LinkedIn back to how it “used” to be, so they must be tinkering with the algorithm(s).

    6. Dasein9 (he/him)*

      Oooooh, that’s what’s going on? I was wondering why I was getting “great matches” for jobs that are terrible matches.

      1. Siege*

        I keep getting emails about people I don’t follow and have never heard of posting. It’s enough to make me consider deactivating it entirely; since I’m currently working for a union I somehow don’t think LinkedIn will be helpful in my next job search. :)

    7. amoeba*

      The job search has been much worse than usual lately, for sure. I used to get, like, at least 50% relevant positions. Now I just see all kinds of jobs from car mechanic to veterinarian, none of which have anything to do with my actual search terms. I hope they figure it out, this sucks.

  4. Emily in Texas*

    I’m a senior level clock-maker who’s been at my company for almost a year. My supervisor [Caleb] is on the newer side, and we just hired a junior level clock-maker [Brad]. I’m senior to him but he reports to our supervisor. I interviewed the candidates for the role although I was not part of the final stages or discussions. When I interviewed Brad, I mentioned to Caleb that my concerns with Brad were that he had substantially less experience and technical skills than the other candidates. I didn’t actually say I didn’t think he should move forward, but I was not impressed by him and thought he was a weak candidate based on how he answered (or didn’t answer) some of my questions. Then a few weeks later Caleb tells me they offered the role to Brad. I honestly think he wanted Brad because they are from and live in the same state. I’m completely serious about that…

    Now I’m worried that both of them are going to try and push Brad’s training on me. I’ve already had to walk Caleb through how to create a pivot table, I’m nervous he’s going to be like, “you’re so amazing with excel, why don’t you show Brad how to pull it!”. I don’t have time to hold his hand and based on some other things, he appears to not have a great attention to detail, which is mandatory for this role. This is why I wanted some of the other candidates who had more experience and were able to articulate a detail oriented mindset. I’m not sure how resourceful Brad is with figuring out information on his own and I don’t want him to think he can just depend on me to tell him the answer. I want to prevent this behavior before it starts.

    Besides, “what have you tried so far?”, what other scripts can I use?

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      I would wait and see what happens. I think some degree of training him is likely to be reasonable/expected, but don’t be shy about setting boundaries and re-directing him to Caleb when you’ve tried several times to coach him and been unsuccessful.

      1. anon_sighing*

        I agree with this.

        I think you’re (comment OP) a little peeved about them hiring Brad at all, and I think perhaps Caleb isn’t the best person to work with sometimes so a personality hire decided by him maybe is the worst of both worlds? I would play this by ear. The first time you’re asked to do Brad’s training, you can mention that you’d be happy to do this but would like to know who’s responsible for Brad’s training as a whole. I wouldn’t be shy about mentioning how some things were assumed the candidate knew for the role, too, and that you are busy yourself. Give resources rather than an answers – it’s better he get trained up, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of two people’s FTE.

    2. Just Here for the Cake*

      Another helpful question might be “Have you tried looking how to do it online/in our internal documents/where they are expected to find the info?”

    3. Awkwardness*

      As you will be a colleague and no supervisor, it is reasonable to do some training. You can report back if this takes too much of your time or you feel you have to repeat yourself to often on the same tasks. But if your supervisor wants you to spend your time on training Brad, then this is what you are going to do. It’s his call and he has to figure out how his team will do all the work if he hired somebody with insufficient experience.

      1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

        Unfortunately, I think Awkwardness is right. You may wind up sinking a whole bunch of time into this. What you CAN do is make it clear to your boss that if you’re spending 15 hours a week helping Brad figure out how to do his job, that’s 15 hours a week you aren’t spending on the rest of your job, and what would he like you to do with the 15 hours of work you don’t have time to do?

        1. Momma Bear*

          I agree. If you’re looped into training Brad, what is being shuffled off your plate so you can dedicate this time and how much time are you expected to spend on training? Is there a specific charge number you should be using? Are there specific tasks you should focus on with Brad? That kind of thing.

        2. House On The Rock*

          Yes, this is key. While you will likely end up having to train/hand hold Brad, it’s entirely reasonable to keep Caleb looped about how long it’s take and the other work you are not able to cover while you are working with Brad.

          Frame it to Caleb as “I spent 2-3 hours each day this week showing Brad X, Y, and Z. He still needs to be shown A, B, and C as well as spend some more time on Y since that’s taking longer to click. Because of that I didn’t finish updating the Silver Horolog. Going forward, what would you like me to prioritize and how should we message the delays?”.

          Go into the conversation with the attitude that of course you can’t do both things and it’s up to Caleb to help you manage your own work and the training.

    4. Distractable Golem*

      I might formalize the training plan for/with him:
      “We’re going to do six sessions over the next couple weeks. Here’s the agenda of what we will cover in each one. How about you take good notes, so at the end you’ll have your own custom binder of resources that you can use going forward.”

      1. JustaTech*

        Yes! And before you start clearly tell Caleb (in an email if possible) 1) what you are going to train Brad on 2) when you will be doing the training 3) the order of the training and 4) that Brad will have a full resource guide when you’re done.

        And then say “given this training program I will be pushing off project X by Y weeks, or I will need an additional Z weeks to complete projects Z, B and F, or whatever makes sense,” so that Caleb doesn’t expect the same productivity from you while you’re training, and also is told in advance that the training period will end.

        It won’t guarantee that Brad won’t ask for a ton of hand-holding, or that Caleb won’t expect the same productivity from you, but it does put it all out there in advance.

        1. Greta*

          And this would be a great idea even if you were excited about the hire or they were a more senior higher. You probably should track how much time you think each session will take versus how long it will take in case it’s way more than it should be (worse case?) and to have something for comparison with future hires or interns. Maybe include examples of what successfully applying the training would look like for the different modules.

          I did something similar with my last three hires and it helped when coaching the third as I had benchmarks from the other two on what being more independent looked like, what I expected them to be able to apply to similar situations (as well as what not to apply), how they were way behind where we were supposed to be, and what details are important when (a lot of nuance was required).

          I also set boundaries, especially on how much time we have to cover topic so questions should be partially related to the task and how much I would answer questions on topics we have gone over multiple times or things I expected them to know (like ANY method of copying files for a USB to the server). I didn’t punt topics set for later sessions before creating a training angenda and it became a time black hole. Once I had a training agenda, I got better at not spending too much time when they asked questions on topics clearly reserved for a later session by reassuring them that we’ll go over a topic in detail in a specific session. And that topics build upon each other. They still didn’t get to where we needed and expected them to be, but it helped me feel like I did all that I could for them to succeed when we let them go after a couple months.

    5. Qwerty*

      Start with an open mind. You have already decided that Brad sucks and that tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

      Create some documentation, especially if you have a wiki available. Start with the things like the pivot table where you’ve already taught one person and think that it will become a recurring thing. Encourage anyone you teach (not just Brad) to add extra details to the documentation or keep it up to date as it gets stale.

      Juniors can be taught to become self-sufficient. Often the big difference with juniors between who starts out looking for “how do I learn” vs “give me the answer” tends to be more based on what resources their school or previous job had rather than an innate unchangable item.

      When they ask “where is the X file”, tell them “we usually store reports in Y folder organized by Z” or “you can usually find that in “. When he gets stuck, ask which step of the documentation he got stuck on and work together not just to unblock him but figure out where more detail was needed, and tell him to add that extra info to the wiki. Bring him into the documentation process.

      If you teach Brad how to do a pivot table, then the next time someone has a pivot table question, have them start with Brad (warn him he’ll become the go-to). Practice the see-one, do one, teach one philosophy so that the info sticks in his brain

    6. Pretty as a Princess*

      It sounds to me like you are overthinking this and borrowing trouble, but also seem to be shying away from direct communication.

      First, it is typical for someone more senior to be asked to help show a more junior person some of the ropes. Or even, yes, to train them to some extent. So if your manager asks for that at a level where it’s a time commitment that conflicts with other priorities, just have a reasonable conversation with your boss about how to prioritize your time. And if it becomes your job to train him, well, then it’s your job as the senior person to train the junior person. This is normal and not weird and not an assault.

      Second, you have put a lot of language into worrying about how this guy is going to be asking you to hold his hand… but he hasn’t. You said you were asked to walk him through something, and that’s it. You said you’re “nervous” that the boss is going to ask you for things and the guy is going to ask you to hold his hand… but none of that has happened. You talked about attention to detail, but a more junior person will have less experience with that. Presumably you are in a situation to discuss with your boss how and in what situations you should provide feedback, and understand who is responsible for reviewing or verifying Brad’s work.

      It reads to me as though you are taking this guy’s presence pretty personally. There are lots of reasons to hire a more junior candidate with less experience and *grow* them into someone with more experience. They didn’t hire Brad *at* you or *to* you – try to remember that you yourself were once a more junior clockmaker and someone had to set examples for you, show you the ropes, etc.

    7. Ellis Bell*

      My first consideration would be to what extent is this concern really about Brad? You have a lot more experience with what to expect from Caleb, and if you think he hired someone just because they are from the same place, what you know is not good. If Brad is still more of an unknown quantity, it’s definitely worth deciding in advance what kinds of independent resources are reasonable for a junior to explore when stuck, and assuming he’ll be okay with being redirected to those. So first step would be “what have you tried?” and second step would be “x resource is great for helping with that”. If that ends up being inadequate for his training needs, and Caleb is keen for you to put the time into training him, I’d make it clear what major tasks would end up taking a back seat while you do this.

    8. osmoglossom*

      If pivot tables are something that his job requires and he doesn’t know how to do them then i disagree with everyone saying that you need to train him.

      For any Excel needs, you can recommend the following, excellent resources —
      (a) Leila Gharani on youtube; and
      (b) exceljet dot net

    9. Lucia Pacciola*

      Scripts are a myth. Talk to your boss about your concerns. Listen to what they have to say. Then either do the assigned tasks, including training the new hire, or give notice. There’s no magic spell you can recite, no True Name you can utter, to make this play out the way you want.

    10. delaware baby*

      Genuinely curious– are you guys actually clockmakers, or is that a cover industry, like how a lot of people describe themselves as teapot painters or llama groomers when they write in? (I’d throw in my 2 cents but I think other people have got the conversation covered.)

  5. If people don't use my pronouns I'm going to start biting*

    I’ve used they/them pronouns for 10 years. About 8 months ago, I came out to my coworkers at my long-time employer (a library), having decided to do so in solidarity with another newer employee who also uses they/them pronouns.

    In the time since I came out, two of my four direct peers have never once used my correct pronouns, either verbally or in writing. I have a pronoun pin that I wear to meetings, as well as multiple labels on my desk with my pronouns. Other allies in my workplace have also confirmed the lack of pronoun usage from these as well as from supervisors. I don’t care if patrons use my pronouns but I’m getting seriously aggravated at the lack of respect from these women, as well as from our management team.

    Half venting, half looking for suggestions. For reference, I work for a city in Texas and I sincerely doubt our HR department is going to be sympathetic or helpful.

    1. Scott*

      I’m old enough and cranky enough that I would start calling these people by the wrong pronouns or even the wrong name.

    2. Not A Manager*

      Correct them every.time. In a flat tone.

      “Biting said that she would -” “They.”
      “Please give the reports to her.” “Them.”

      If they don’t even make an effort after you do that a few times, try re-stating it. I’d use a slightly quizzical, what’s-going-on tone. Make eye contact. “Petunia, it’s they/them.”

      At some point they are either going to flat-out tell you that the grammar gods don’t allow them to use your pronouns, or they are going to start trying. Or not. Maybe you’ll correct them forever, but at least other people will understand that this matters to you, and that they are being asses.

      1. biting*

        This is a good idea — would be easier if it I got third person’d regularly in conversations with them, but I’ve already tried to gently encourage allies that I’d appreciate the help. I have taken to correcting my own pronouns down-thread in email chains, but maybe it would help to do this kind of correction in written format.

        1. EverydayIRefreshMyEmailForWhat*

          Seconding that consistency is the key here. If someone doesn’t correct them every single time, they consider that a win. I have a traditionally male name that’s a shortened version of a female name but present as she/her (think “Sam” versus “Samantha”) and would get the same 3-4 people who would insist I’m Samantha. Don’t wait, don’t let them finish their sentence. “I’m they/them.” If you feel like you’re being rude or off-railing the conversation, remember that they’re being way more rude, disrespectful and are actively taking your mind off task by constantly misgendering you.

            1. Pizza Rat*

              My eyebrows just rose to the top of my head.

              I don’t know who made that choice, but they’re an idiot.

              1. Potoooooooo*

                Given that biting said they work in a library, I’m going to guess it’s likely some sort of government official making that choice.

                1. librariesss*

                  Def the texas gov’t official(s). My library system (in MA) encourages us to add our pronouns to all email signatures.

    3. Jane Bingley*

      Given the Texas setting, if you feel like you can’t be direct, this could be a great time to play passive-aggressive. Get as many of your allied colleagues as you can on board. The game is to act confused and pretend not to understand what they mean whenever they use the wrong pronouns. The goal is to add extra steps to their work every time they misgender you, until they hopefully figure out it’s easier to use the right pronouns than to correct themselves. Works better the more consistent you and your supportive colleagues are.

      “Who should take on the new youth project? Maybe Max?”
      “She’s great with kids.”
      “Sorry, who’s she? You have someone else besides Max in mind?”

      “Is someone helping that patron?”
      “All good, he’s got it.”
      “Huh? John’s not working today, you must be confused. Are you sure someone’s helping her?”

      1. Public Sector Trans Employee*

        I’m going to second this. It can be passive aggressive, but these coworkers are creating real confusion when they use the wrong pronouns for you. You mention that your direct supervisor is sympathetic but unlikely to take action. Would framing their misgendering as a communication problem that is creating confusion and interrupting work push him towards action? I got some traction with my managers when I pointed out that I wasn’t clear if I’d been assigned work during emails or meetings that misgendered me. “She’ll handle it” is unclear! Which “she” in this email chain are you talking about?
        You have my sympathy. I’ve used they/them pronouns for 7 years now. I came out at my last job (not a library, but customer service in a local government office) once I was out of the probation period. I spent a bit over a year correcting my pronouns in conversations every day. Some people were great, but it wasn’t enough to be worth staying. I’ve got a much better job in the same field now. The rare times I’m misgendered, one of my coworkers usually corrects it and moved on. I hope your current workplace starts to support you that same way.

      2. linger*

        That’s a good strategy for other misgenderings, but works a little less reliably with they/them specifically because the correct pronoun also has an indefinite generic usage. In this case it’s more efficient to keep explicitly correcting each and every misgendering, preferably as a group chorus.

      3. StarTrek Nutcase*

        I refuse to use preferred pronouns and simply always use the person’s name even if 4 times in a sentence, or refer to position (manager, doctor). I believe every adult has the right to believe whatever, but I have not right to not pretend I believe it or put feelings over reality.

        1. Flor*

          You understand that by refusing to use people’s pronouns you *are* putting feelings over reality, right? Your own feelings still count as feelings.

          The reality is that pronouns are a part of language, which is shaped by society and ever changing. We no longer use thee and thou to address close friends or social inferiors in English, nor do we accept the use of “he” to refer to an individual of unknown gender. The singular they is older than either of those linguistic evolutions.

        2. EverydayIRefreshMyEmailForWhat*

          You’re meeting Sue at a restaurant, and Sue goes by she/her pronouns and looks like the most drop-dead gorgeous woman you’ve ever seen. For some reason, you know Sue has “male” written on the birth certificate. Sue is already at a table, and you’re trying to tell the waiter that you see Sue. Are you really going to say, “I am meeting Sue. Sue is the person with the blue cardigan approximately three tables left of the poinsettias,” “Oh, that woman in a blue cardigan?” “Yes, Sue is wearing a blue cardigan,” instead of “I’m meeting that woman over there, she’s wearing a blue cardigan?” You think you’re putting realities over feelings, but you’re making your own life and everyone else’s lives harder because you’re being stubborn.

        3. Genevieve en Francais*

          So… is it more important to you to be rude (at best) in order to assert a sense of control over *your* reality than it is to be polite and kind? Because the people you’re doing this to absolutely know what you’re doing and that, in your mind, you do not believe that their identity is valid.

          Also, the feelings and identity of non-binary people *are* real. Just because you can’t understand someone else’s identity doesn’t mean that it’s fake. It means you lack empathy and imagination.

        4. biting*

          In a way I admire your boldness; it seems like fewer and fewer of your ilk are willing to speak up. It makes it easier for me, too — that way I know that your worldview is not compatible with mine and I can avoid the displeasure of interacting with you.

          What do you do when you meet someone whose gender you can’t determine based on a glance? Just a perfectly androgynous person, or someone who is gender-nonconforming (either by choice or by genetic lottery). Do you just kind of mentally pick what gender you think they are? Seems like an awful lot of investment in other people’s business.

        5. Boldly*

          On top of everything else wrong with this attitude, how can you have it as a Trek fan? No one you admire on the show would behave this way.

    4. mango chiffon*

      I’m in the same place. I have my they/them pronouns in my Slack display name, and in my email invite, and yet I still get “hey ladies”‘-d or she/her-d. It’s gotten better over time, but I think finding supportive coworkers who are willing to help course correct can be helpful.

    5. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

      Ugh, that is just mean of them.

      I’m curious to know if they’re screwing up the newer employee’s pronouns, too. Not that it would make it better one way or the other, but if they’re getting new employee’s pronouns right while continuing to get yours wrong, that makes it more personally insulting to you.

      Correct them every time. Maybe throw in a “did you forget I told everyone my pronouns are they/them? I hope you’re not forgetting anything else important.” Make it uncomfortable for them.

      I’m really sorry this is happening to you.

      1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

        Also–see if you can get one of your allies at work to speak with them and to back you up/make corrections when they’re present. That’s what allies are for!

      2. some guy*

        I agree that seeing how they address the new employee could give you some insight into whether these coworkers are doing it on purpose or not. If they are using the correct pronouns with the newer employee I think it’s a good sign that they will get on board if you just keep matter of factly correcting them. If not and it seems intentional then that sucks and there may not be a way to get them to change without higher-ups getting involved.

        I also agree that allies are hugely important in correcting them since it takes some burden off of you and signals “we notice what you’re doing and it’s not cool”. But not just when you’re present- I think that an ally could very bluntly call it out/name the pattern/ ask what the issue is if one of these coworkers misgenders you when you aren’t present. (Whereas if you’re also standing there it might be too awkward/uncomfortable for you or feel like too much of A Thing).

    6. Colette*

      I have complicated thoughts on this one.

      First thought – I struggle with using they/them – the part of my brain that is talking is a little faster than the one that remembers the pronouns. But I recognize it’s important, and I try to get it right.

      Second thought – what is your relationship with those peers otherwise? If your relationship is generally good, you could say something like “my pronouns are they/them, and I’ve noticed you always use she. I’m a little hurt that you’re not making an effort to use my correct pronouns”.

      If your relationship is not generally good, you have fewer options. Would your management be supportive?

      1. biting*

        It’s like I tell people — for me, 90% of it is the effort. I get pronouns wrong too sometimes. It’s more about the overall data points.

        I would say my relationship with them is not generally good. Both of them are borderline rude and condescending to me and don’t seem to want to work as a team. Management has been hit or miss about using my pronouns; I think my direct supervisor would be supportive but I don’t know that he would actually take any action beyond a sympathetic ear.

        1. Colette*

          In that case, I think the failing to use the correct pronouns is part of the ongoing rudeness. They know what they’re doing, and they are intending to be rude.

          I would talk to your supervisor about the general rudeness and mention the pronouns as a symptom – because the real problem here is that you have coworkers who are rude and condescending to you, and who will do so in any way they can find.

        2. Ellis Bell*

          “borderline rude and condescending” Ah, gotcha. I feel like when you’re dealing with a lemon lips type of person, you’ve got to really drawn deep down on your own sense of humour, kindness and joy. I don’t know if that means being extra ‘helpful’ or leaning into your own sense of quirkiness unapologetically: “Who’s ‘she’? Oh! if you’re struggling to remember to say ‘them’ instead of ‘she’ just imagine that Colleague is a swarm of bees in a trenchcoat! It helps the people who know me, and is also just fun to think about”. That’s memorable enough that whenever it comes up in the future, you can correct them just by saying “Beeeees. Bees, remember”. I don’t know how much support you’ve got from above, but if it really just comes down to you and you using interpersonal corrections, then just do whatever is most comfortable and safe for you: If that’s not correcting them at all? Ok, how about when colleague says “Hey, can you tell him?” just quickdraw reply with “Yes, I can tell them” each and every time. Or just repeat what they’ve said, only correctly; when a Lemon Lip says: “I really need her to work on this”, just very simply repeat back: “You really need them to work on this”. If you feel it really would be okay with just flat out saying “that’s not how you refer to Colleague, you remember that they go by ‘them’ by now right?”… say it! Sometimes it helps to realise we can’t correct other people’s souls, all we can sometimes do is give them a hiccup, a “that’s not right, actually” and interrupt the flow of their foolishness.

      2. Hlao-roo*

        For anyone who wants to get better at using they/them pronouns, there was an AAM post with a lot of good advice:

        “how to get better at using a coworker’s nonbinary pronouns” from October 28, 2019

        Link in a follow-up comment.

      3. strawberry milk charlotte*

        I’d definitely try to ask your allied coworkers to correct in your absence. “When you hear Coworker 1 and 2 misgender me when I’m not there could you remind them to use they/them?”

        Colette’s script is thoughtful and really good. The suggestion about highlighting that it’s hurtful is useful, especially if you can pair it with something like “I know you don’t want to make me uncomfortable/upset me/hurt my feelings”, (option; I know you’re conscientous/some other quality that means kind/thoughtful and don’t want to–) This goes with Jane Bingley’s suggestion, and some advice I’ve seen from Alison about using complimentary assessments of someone’s character to prompt them to go along with what you’re saying. The social contract might not allow them to directly go for “Actually I’m not conscientous/I do want to hurt your feelings” without looking like a loon. At least not super easily.

        I’m sorry your management team and coworkers are doing this. They suck, that sucks, I wouldn’t blame you if you started biting like your username says. I hope you and your allied coworkers can get them to change their behaviour. Or become your library’s school of pronoun sharks. (“sh-” CHOMP)

        (Also @Colette, or anyone who wants my 2 cents. (if you want to imagine a tone of voice; friendly, nonjudgemental, a little nerdy, trying to be warm/empathetic and helpful)

        I have seen a lot of people talk about practicing pronouns when someone’s not there by telling yourself a little story about them in your head/out loud to yourself if you’re alone, I found that really helpful when a friend switched pronouns. And being careful when you think about someone; sometimes it’s easy to default to what’s familiar in your own head and not realize you’re practicing thinking about them in the wrong pronoun.

        I also spent some time intentionally adding nonbinary as a default category people go into in my brain? Feel free to read all of this or none of it, I’m struggling to articulate myself in a helpful way;

        In concrete terms I’d describe it like assembly line boxes; if you have two boxes and are used to sorting everything into those, when you start sorting 3-4-5 different kinds of things, it’s a lot easier if you have the right number of boxes lined up. I think in fast conversation it’s way harder to remember to use they/them if you first have to remember to go get another box, or if you’re sorting into the she/her or he/him box by muscle memory and then having to intentionally go back and re-sort.

        Except instead of boxes it’s friends/people I love and care about/cool humans being themselves. I used to practice imagining the people I know in their categories (for he/him and she/her as well as they/them). I’m a very visual person so for me it helps to have it concretely attached to the face/faces of a person/people I know instead of a floating word bank of pronouns.)

        1. Colette*

          Part of my problem is that I volunteer with 12-15 year olds, and there’s a fair amount of pronoun fluctuation as they discover who they are. So it’s not just “I know Chris is non-binary”, it’s 1/4 of the group. In some ways, that makes it easier, in others it’s more about simply remembering who uses what pronouns. But I’m working on it, and I’m getting better at getting it right.

        2. Mostly Managing*

          This is more or less what I did to begin with.
          Only, my brain first decided to re-label the “SHE” box as “THEY”.
          I wasn’t just changing the pronoun for the one person who had asked me to. I was changing it for absolutely everyone I knew who used she.
          I’ve more or less got it now.
          And it definitely gets easier the more people there are in the “they” box.

      4. Not actually older than dirt*

        Off topic, but on the first point: Nothing makes me feel older than the micro-pause I hear myself making before I use “they/them” as a person’s pronouns. And the fact that I exclusively hear this micro-pause coming out of the mouths of other people who are my age or older.

    7. JSPA*

      Are they correctly gendering the new person?

      If not, then it’s basic disrespect for both of you. But if so…

      Is it possible that, not seeing new presentation, and it being in response to a new coworker, they think your updated statement of pronouns was

      a) “just” a solidarity gesture?
      b) a joke in bad taste?
      c) something that’s a shifting preference, rather than a complete shift?

      If so, can you adopt some item of clothing that de-genders, re-genders or simply changes up your presentation enough to serve as a visual reminder for a couple of weeks, and have a conversation about breaking old habits immediately?

      “I need you to break your old habits on this right now. To help you cue the right reaction after 10 years, I’ll be wearing this [fisherman cap / jade necklace / suit waistcoat / cravat and earrings / large pronoun badge / T shirt with “they” across the chest / whatever] for the next two weeks. After that, I expect that you will continue to use my correct pronouns, without external cues, without further reminders.”

      As someone who sometimes mistakenly dials friends who have died, walks to where the entrance door used to be, parks in the lot that’s no longer a visitor lot (despite being ticketed and towed) I’m very aware that some people have a much much harder time reconfiguring their internal landscapes than others.

      Setting people up to succeed shouldn’t be necessary…in the abstract. But people are not all operating on the same operating systems. In reality, a lot of us benefit from cues.

      As much effort as we put into punishing people or feeling anger when they don’t do right by us, it’s not silly to put a brief effort into steering them correctly, before they screw up (again).

      1. biting*

        While most of this isn’t applicable to my situation (I already wear gender-neutral / masculine clothes much of the time, wear a pronoun pin, etc) I can see how this might be useful advice for others with different circumstances.

        I did want to clarify, though — I’ve known these folks for much less than 10 years (in the case of these two particular people, two years and less than 6 months at the time that I came out).

        1. JSPA*

          Ah, sorry, read too fast. But if they’ve connected one presentation (neutral-to-masc as it may be) with “this is how biting does she/her,” then it’s still relevant to give them something visual to hang “they/them” on.

          Inside your head, it’s an identity. But the world doesn’t see identity, they see presentation. And they see that presentation in the context of their past experience with you.

          I’m sorry that they’re probably kind of jerks; but it’s worth clearing them a path towards not behaving like jerks, unless they’re determined to double down on that.

          (“This matters, so I’ll make it easy,” in the most matter-of-fact, drama-free mode possible, is also something you can take to your boss, if / when the boss wants to know what you’ve tried.)

      2. BubbleTea*

        The mischievous imp part of me wants to suggest “this enormous foam hand with the word THEY emblazoned across it, with which I will bop you every time you misgender me” but that may not be workplace-appropriate.

    8. Jen*

      If you have an ally at work who can help run interference, enlist them to help “remind” them when they misgender you. I’m sorry this is happening to you – it really suckw.

      People having trouble with remembering what pronouns to use: Practice! When you think about a person using they/them or other pronouns, say a few things in your head about the person using the correct pronouns. (They like to read Jane Austen. They have a pet cat named Steve. They are wearing a blue shirt today.) Practice out loud at home. And when you realize you misgendered them, think a few sentences in your head again. My sister-in-law’s roommate uses they/them and I STILL don’t always get it right but this has helped a ton.

      1. biting*

        I sometimes suggest people think of me as a swarm of bees, if the singular ‘they’ is what’s tripping them up. That way ‘they’ are several bees in a trenchcoat, which is also just fun to think about.

        1. Ally McBeal*

          In college, we played a drinking game (Kings or Circle of Death, the name tends to vary by region) with playing cards wherein drawing a certain card (Jack maybe?) meant you got to make a rule that everyone had to abide by for the rest of the game, or until it was repealed by another Jack. One of our favorite rules was “Little Green Man” – we had to imagine a LGM was sitting on the rim of our drink and we had to pick him up before taking a sip and replace him when we were done. So when I started encountering nonbinary people, it helped to imagine they had a LGM on their shoulder and therefore should be addressed with they/them pronouns.

          Another fun mental trick is Schrodinger’s Pronouns: imagining that every NPC you encounter – from grocery store cashier to neighbors you don’t know – could very well be gender-expansive, and mentally think of them as having they/them pronouns. “That bank teller was really easy to work with, I hope they have a nice day.”

          1. Jen*

            I love all of these suggestions – bees, little green man, and the NPCs! I will definitely be recommending those to people and using them myself.

          2. Jill Swinburne*

            Circle of Death! That’s not something I’ve thought of in a long time! I love the LGM rule, that wasn’t one of ours.

        2. House On The Rock*

          First I’m sorry you are dealing with this and think you’ve gotten some good advice already, but I wanted to thank you for this framing (which also recognizing it’s not your job to frame things for people!). It is fun to think about and once one hears it, such an easy shift to make!

    9. AnotherLibrarian*

      Is there an ally you could ask to help correct them when you are not there? That might help as well. I am assuming you don’t have the sort of relationship where you can pull them aside and say, “Hey, this is really bugging me and it’s important to me…” or else I assume you’d have done that.

      1. strawberry milk charlotte*

        I’d definitely try to ask your allied coworkers to correct in your absence. “When you hear Coworker 1 and 2 misgender me when I’m not there could you remind them to use they/them?”

        Colette’s script is thoughtful and really good. The suggestion about highlighting that it’s hurtful is useful, especially if you can pair it with something like “I know you don’t want to make me uncomfortable/upset me/hurt my feelings”, (option; I know you’re conscientous/some other quality that means kind/thoughtful and don’t want to–) This goes with Jane Bingley’s suggestion, and some advice I’ve seen from Alison about using complimentary assessments of someone’s character to prompt them to go along with what you’re saying (even if it’s not strictly, true). The social contract might not allow them to directly go for “Actually I’m not conscientous/I do want to hurt your feelings” without looking like a loon. At least not super easily.

        I’m sorry your management team and coworkers are doing this. They suck, that sucks, I wouldn’t blame you if you started biting like your username says. I hope you and your allied coworkers can get them to change their behaviour. Or become your library’s school of pronoun sharks. (“sh-” CHOMP)

        (Also @anyone who wants my 2 cents. (if you want to imagine a tone of voice; friendly, nonjudgemental, a little nerdy, trying to be warm/empathetic and helpful) The pronouns thread mentioned above is probably better than what I can add, I forgot about that one!

        I have seen a lot of people talk about practicing pronouns when someone’s not there by telling yourself a little story about them in your head/out loud to yourself if you’re alone, I found that really helpful when a friend switched pronouns. And being careful when you think about someone; sometimes it’s easy to default to what’s familiar in your own head and not realize you’re practicing thinking about them in the wrong pronoun. (This was from the 2019 thread, I realize now)

        I also spent some time intentionally adding nonbinary as a default category people go into in my brain? Feel free to read all of this or none of it, I’m struggling to articulate myself in a helpful way;

        In concrete terms I’d describe it like assembly line boxes; if you have two boxes and are used to sorting everything into those, when you start sorting 3-4-5 different kinds of things, it’s a lot easier if you have the right number of boxes lined up. I think in fast conversation it’s way harder to remember to use they/them if you first have to remember to go get another box, or if you’re sorting into the she/her or he/him box by muscle memory and then having to intentionally go back and re-sort.

        Except instead of boxes it’s friends/people I love and care about/cool humans being themselves. I used to practice imagining the people I know in their categories (for he/him and she/her as well as they/them). I’m a very visual person so for me it helps to have it concretely attached to the face/faces of a person/people I know instead of a floating word bank of pronouns.)

        **wrote this and I think internet ate it, apologies if I end up double-posting

    10. Heather*

      Have they worked with you for all ten years? Have these women been using a standard pronoun for your the whole time? Certainly, 8 months is plenty of time to make the correction but you may also need to speak to these people individually and explain that you have used neutral pronouns for a decade but only recently felt comfortable at work using them. Then ask that they use those pronouns for you.
      Some people might say this isn’t your job but as coworkers for a long time, I don’t think it is out of line to make a direct request and not rely on a pin to speak for you.

      1. Kel*

        8 months isn’t necessarily a place where they need to be perfect at using the right pronouns; but it’s long enough for them to have made an effort and apologize when it’s wrong.

      2. biting*

        Quoting above
        “I did want to clarify, though — I’ve known these folks for much less than 10 years (in the case of these two particular people, two years and less than 6 months at the time that I came out).”

    11. anon_sighing*

      I simply don’t care about this being in Texas – I know context is key, but I find “polite society” only benefits those who are acting poorly. I wouldn’t go passive aggressive with them, it gives them TOO much wiggle room to act out to your frustration.

      I would be direct if you have a staff meeting. Give them SOME wiggle room to “look good” – “I know you may be used to using my old pronouns, but it’s been almost a year and my choice to come out meant that I want they/them to be used in the workplace as well. I understand this transition might be tough since a habit may have been formed, but I wanted to carve out some space on what can be done to make sure everyone feels respected.”

      The reason why I would give them wiggle room is…have they been historically disrespectful? Do you think they’re doing this on purpose or do they really just not get it? Have you been actively correcting them (a pin and desk labels are not a form of correction)? No one gets things on the first shot, but if they are actively being disrespectful (they KNOW-KNOW and still do it deliberately) then I would flat out be direct without the meeting.

      I think too many people here make the assumption every is being purposely malicious. When the world has been historically cruel to you, I get why, but sometimes you do need to play the came to keep the real goal in mind: you feeling safe and getting what you ultimately want. If you need to fan an ego in the process to make them think they’re doing you a kindness, then so be it.

  6. My Neighbours Are Loud*

    SUBJECT: Locally famous, vindictive job applicant

    I’m a senior manager for the organization overseeing the transit system in my city.

    We recently interviewed candidates for a community engagement/PR type role.One of these applicants is Pete. Pete was very strong but another candidate with greater experience was chosen. The hiring process was reviewed and I would consider it to have been perfectly fair.

    Where we run into issues is that Pete is a borderline local celebrity, who regularly appears on radio and TV to give commentary on community issues, and also is published in the city’s biggest newspaper. He has many social media followers as well, and he was known to everyone doing the hiring prior to seeing his application.

    Since Pete was declined for the position, he is making attacks almost daily on my organization, mostly on social media, but also in the paper and other forms of media. It is all focused on pre-existing issues we had, and these issues were part of the reason we hired for the position to smooth over community perception.

    Pete hardly touched on these issues before, so the timing makes me confident this is him being spiteful for not being hired. But unfortunately, his profile is much bigger than that of your average disgruntled applicant/employee.

    How can we deal with this situation? Should we reach out to Pete? Just try to let it pass? Part of me wants to call him out on applying at an organization he thinks is so bad, but that is too much of a privacy issue.

    Thank you

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      I think this is a rope-in-the-lawyer situation. Is everything Pete saying true? Is it germane to your organization’s operations or is it gossip?

      If it’s true and germane, then I don’t think there is anything you could do. Because Pete could, quite rightly, have said all of this publicly before he applied to work there.

      And I would absolutely not reach out to him on your own, as he’d most likely construe that as an admission that you were wrong in your hiring practices.

    2. MsM*

      Try to let it pass. Or have whoever you did hire start working on a positive publicity campaign that in no way acknowledges Pete or directly responds to his accusations except in the natural course of talking about the good work you’re doing. I know the attention seems inescapable, but treating it like anything more than some rando standing on a streetcorner venting will just draw more attention and lend it legitimacy.

      1. Artemesia*

        Get legal advice, but any chance you could say to his employer ‘I know Pete is disappointed about not being hired here, but do you think it is appropriate for him to be using your platform to express that disappointment?’

        1. learnedthehardway*

          I don’t think that is a good idea – it violates Pete’s privacy to disclose to his current employer that he was a candidate for the job. I know that in Canada, at least, that would get the organization in VERY hot water with the privacy ombudsman, if Pete made a complaint.

          I think the OP’s employer would be better served to respond to point out that the organization is cognizant of the issues, is investing in this area, and has a highly qualified team addressing the situation.

          While it is tempting to say, “We’ve recently hired a highly qualified Manager of X”, I wouldn’t do that – it would be nice to outline how highly qualified this person is and how they are going to address the issues Pete has raised publicly. But it would also be painting a target on their back for Pete to launch further attacks at. That wouldn’t be a good thing to do to your new hire.

        2. WestsideStory*

          Don’t go legal. Pete wants attention, don’t give it to him.
          I’m willing to bet Pete will be running for local office soon. Your agency’s failings (in his eyes) are going to be part of his platform.
          (I’m from New York, we see this ALL the time)
          Your best tactic is to press on the person who got the job to burnish your agency in public as much as possible. Responsible media tend to want to at least fake they are “showing both sides” so work with your hired community relations person to build up an arsenal of good publicity talking points on any pain point likely to be focused on by this character. Don’t be reactive. Be proactive instead.

        3. Observer*

          but any chance you could say to his employer ‘I know Pete is disappointed about not being hired here, but do you think it is appropriate for him to be using your platform to express that disappointment?’

          That is almost certainly going to backfire in a big way.

          Pete is being vindictive. The last thing the organization needs is to make him look good, and make themselves look even more vindictive.

          Even if they leave out the part about his having applied and not gotten the position, going to his employer is really, really asking for trouble and making community engagement a non-starter.

          And that’s before you get into the legal issues. Keep in mind that this is a quasi- governmental organization trying to mess with the employment of a person who is exercising his right to free speech on issues that are *genuinely* relevant to the public, and is not even saying anything that is untrue. But even if they won a law suit, the financial and reputational cost will be enormous.

    3. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Get a nice Southern lady who has mastered The Art of Throwing Shade to respond to him. “Oh bless your heart, Pete, you must not have realized that this post was public. You must be so embarrassed!”

      (I don’t have any real advice beyond this thing that’s nice to imagine)

      1. Ally McBeal*

        I don’t think that works when he’s publishing things in the local paper. If it were confined to social media, sure, but this is a step beyond that.

    4. JSPA*

      Thank your lucky stars you didn’t hire him, and wait for it to pass? Suing someone like that asks for a Streisand effect.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        Yes, this. He’s making it clear what kind of person he is, and that’s someone you don’t want on your team. While the timing of what he’s doing is obviously hilariously suspect, the criticisms are apparently known issues that non-vindictive non-applicants also complain about, so it feels much more like he’s loudly joining in with an existing chorus, not suddenly shining a spotlight on the issues.

        I’d ignore him unless directly asked, and if asked about his comments, say something bland.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Eventually he may actually hoist himself on his own petard–too much focus on your organization and he will probably come off as obsessive or unhinged. His editor at the paper may also say look, fifteen rants about X Org is a little much, our readers want to hear about this, that and the other as well.

          I’ve found that hyperfocused spite kicks its own chair out from under itself sooner or later.

    5. WellRed*

      I’d try to wait it out but if the newspaper is doing its job, they should be reaching out to the contact for the transit system as well as. Even repeated blandness “yes, we are aware of M Pete’s criticisms of the trains running on time but we are working diligently to resolve the issue,” is better than silence. Cranks eventually move on to another target.

    6. Yes And*

      Respond to Pete’s social media posts with an image of his application cover letter.

      I’m almost entirely joking. ALMOST.

    7. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

      I’m on team “talk to legal.” If any of the content of his posts or broadcasts could be considered defamatory, you can send him an official request to cease and desist. If not, you’re just going to have to wait until his big hurt fee-fees get better and he stops doing this.

      1. Observer*

        If not, you’re just going to have to wait until his big hurt fee-fees get better and he stops doing this.

        You know, I don’t agree with or admire the way Pete is handling things. But I think that “hurt fee-fees” goes just as much to the OP’s org as to Pete.

        Think about it. The OP’s org has genuine problems. They have hired someone to publicly paper them over (“hired for the position to smooth over community perception.” – the position being HR, not something to fix the actual problems.) One of the declined candidates has responded by bad mouthing the organization. And now, the OP’s inclination is to neg him back.

        OP, I’m glad that you realized that it would be a bad idea. But please realize that it would be a bad idea not JUST because of the privacy issue, although you are right about that.

    8. Observer*

      Part of me wants to call him out on applying at an organization he thinks is so bad, but that is too much of a privacy issue.

      Not only that. It will give him all the ammunition he wants, and then some. You think he sounds spiteful? He’s going to make you look MUCH worse – and you won’t be able to defend yourself. Because you’re going to look like those employers who say “You can’t quit! You’re FIRED!”

      That would be true even if he were lying. Given that he’s actually accurate about a lot of his complaints, you simply can’t win by trying to make him look bad for calling your organization out.

      and these issues were part of the reason we hired for the position to smooth over community perception.

      So, did you hire someone to try to fix some issues, or just to do some PR around them? If the latter, I doubt there is much you can do.

      If the former, probably the best thing you can do, is to go public with the changes you are making and planning to make, with no reference to Pete.

    9. Ellis Bell*

      I think it’s important that your organisation don’t seem spooked or overly bothered by public criticism, even though it’s persistent. The person you hired was someone you thought would get a better message across than Pete, so let them do that? You also don’t want to let Pete know that he succeeded in winding you up. Apart from that, it needs to be checked for a legal position.

    10. sb51*

      What would you do if Pete was going on this public attack campaign without having applied? Like he just decided it was his crusade du jour, and started attacking out of nowhere?

      1. Margaret Cavendish*

        This is what I was thinking as well. This week it’s Pete, next week it’s going to be somebody else. (Or if public transit in your city is as bad as it is in mine, possibly a lot of somebody elses!) It’s all part of working in the public sector – there’s a lot of public opinion about it.

        But you can definitely use this in your favour. If Pete’s voice is just one among many, then you can respond to him the same way you do all the other voices. Even if his is the loudest, or the most negative – presumably your organization has a communications strategy for responding to the Petes of the world. And if you don’t have a comms strategy – you just hired someone for that exact role! So my best advice is to step back and let them do their job. This too shall pass.

  7. Scott*

    A question on the topic of dietary restrictions among coworkers.

    The manager of my division (about 16 people) provides a birthday cake each month someone in the group has a birthday. The first time November (her birthday month) came around after I started working in this division, I brought a cake and continued to do that most years (2020 and 2021 excepted). This past November, we had a new colleague join our division who maintains a vegan diet. He started less than a week before our scheduled birthday cake day. I was buying a cake to bring in for the next day and remembered his vegan diet so thought I would find something for him. I spent a significant amount of time searching, both in local stores and online, for a vegan option to replace birthday cake but was unsuccessful. (I considered fruit or something but that seemed like it would be condescending.) I did search for vegan cake recipes and found several but they all had some pretty unique ingredients that I did not have and could not get on short notice. Obviously, if I had had more time, I probably could have found something as we work in DC so I’m sure there are some specialty places around. I apologized to him for not being able to find anything. He seemed totally fine with it and expressed his appreciation for my effort but I wonder if there was something else I should have done.

    For added perspective, we have a tradition of holding a group lunch to welcome new people and to send off those moving on. When planning the lunch for this new colleague, I printed menus from several local places that offered vegan options and let him choose the place.

    1. Colette*

      I don’t think you have to accommodate dietary restrictions for things like cake – unless, of course, it is a cake for that person. For group lunches, you should make sure the restaurant has vegan options.

    2. ThatGirl*

      Since it was fairly short notice, it sounds like you did the best you could, but I would definitely plan ahead a bit for next year. It’s not really that difficult to make vegan cake or to find one – most boxed cake mixes are vegan already, you just need to find an egg replacement – and there are plenty of options out there. Vegan buttercream is also easy – there are plenty of plant-based butters. (I am a baker with two vegan friends; I promise it’s not hard to make vegan cake.)

      1. the tumpet*

        I’m told you can use just a boxed mix and a can of soda (cola in chocolate, usually) to make a vegan cake that’s fluffy, if smaller than intended.

        1. ThatGirl*

          yep, that’s one method! flax eggs are another; commercial egg replacers exist (Bob’s Red Mill, Just Egg, etc)… it takes a wee bit of googling but isn’t hard to do.

        1. Mad Harry Crewe*

          This is my standby vegan cake solution also – not your specific recipe, but it’s an old technique and works well.

    3. ItsaMe*

      Could you ask him if there’s something he’d suggest, or prefer instead of cake? People with dietary restrictions are the best experts on what they can eat and what they like. It might not be cake, but I bet he could come up with some other nice treat.

      1. Scott*

        Yeah, I asked him about it the day of and he didn’t really offer any suggestions. FWIW, I’m a much older (by 35+ years) and more senior person so he may have been unwilling to say anything.

        1. HonorBox*

          I think I’d go back and ask him farther in advance this year. You’ll have had more time to get to know one another and you can let him know that you’d like to provide something he can eat for sure. He may still tell you not to worry, and at that point you can just keep doing what you’ve always been doing.

        2. Ms. Murchison*

          He also might prefer not to be tempted with sweets or have additional dietary complications that he would prefer not to explain. Asking him what he’d prefer and accepting his answer really is the best path forward here.

          1. Ms. Murchison*

            And keep in mind that if you do ask him and he says not to worry about it, and you bring something anyway, he may feel pressured to eat it even if he doesn’t want to because of your more senior position.

            Also, not everyone likes Oreos.

      2. Hlao-roo*

        Yes to this. I’m sure there are bakeries in DC that sell vegan muffins, vegan cookies, etc. It doesn’t have to be a direct one-to-one replacement of “everyone else is eating vanilla cake with chocolate frosting, so I need to find a single slice of vegan vanilla cake with vegan chocolate frosting for my vegan coworker.”

        1. Betty*

          I live in a small midwestern exurb of ~30k, and there’s a vegan cupcakery on our main street. There are absolutely vegan bakeries in DC, and likely vegan options at many other cake shops.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            Here in Seattle we’ve got Mighty O Doughnuts. Their slogan is “The Cleanest Hole In Town!”

    4. T. Wanderer*

      Ask him! You’ve been clearly attentive to his vegan diet (apologizing, checking menus for the lunch), and it’s not like the birthday cake days are secret. Ask him what he’d prefer — maybe he doesn’t like cake anyway and doesn’t care, maybe he’d appreciate fruit being around or one of those single-serving desserts, or maybe he knows a good vegan bakery in your area.

      1. Clisby*

        Yes. I’m not vegan, and I also don’t like cake, or most sweets. So if I were vegan, it would be a waste of time for someone to go looking for a vegan cake or cupcakes or donuts, because I wouldn’t eat them anyway.

    5. Cordelia*

      I think you’re fine. I’m vegan, it’s an ethical choice I am making, and part of that is knowing that I won’t always get to eat the treats that other people have. I’ve chosen that – I could eat the cake if I wanted to, but I don’t.
      However when it’s my birthday I would be upset if the cake provided was not one I could eat! So when it’s the vegan coworkers birthday cake time, then definitely get a vegan cake. I’m sure with time and notice you will be able to find one.

      1. MaryLoo*

        But don’t use balsamic vinegar! Apple cider vinegar or white vinegar both work. (Never tried red wine vinegar).

        This is a go-to recipe for potlucks.

    6. Lyra Belacqua*

      As a vegan, I can promise that you went way further than most people! We’re used to not being able to eat the birthday cake. I’m not always a sweets person, so I might actually feel a little uncomfortable if someone brought in a special dessert for me, because it would make me feel obligated to eat it. So you might ask Pete if that’s something he’d want before doing it.

      But I’m mostly responding to let you know that for future reference, Sticky Fingers makes fantastic vegan desserts that omnivores also enjoy! They were in Columbia Heights but I believe they just moved to Takoma.

      1. Miss Lemon*

        I agree with this! It’s a good idea to ask. I can’t have gluten, so sometimes when people know this they will make something gluten free for me –but I also eat keto for mental health. I feel obligated to eat the sweet treat because they’ve been so thoughtful to get it for me ( and I want to avoid conversations about my choice to eat keto).

    7. Lynn*

      Sounds like all is well and your coworker was not offended. For next time: Oreos! Easy to purchase Vegan treat.

      1. Scott*

        I did not know those are vegan. Now I feel bad because I actually have some and certainly would have brought them for him. Thanks for the tip.

        1. Zephy*

          I’m in a lot of health-and-fitness focused interest groups online and Oreos are my go-to example of why “just because it’s vegan doesn’t mean it’s nutritious.”

          caveats because this is the internet:
          – food has no moral value
          – what constitutes “adequate nutrition” can vary wildly from one individual to the next, for a lot of reasons, none of which are the concern of anyone but the individual in question and maybe their doctor
          – cookies are a sometimes food, which can be part of a balanced and nutritious way of eating

          1. Too Many Tabs Open*

            I will now have Hoots the Owl singing “A Cookie Is a Sometimes Food” going through my head all afternoon, which is vastly improving my day.

      2. Betty*

        Oreos are apparently free of almost all the major allergens (I assume not wheat?) and are thus the suggested “bring a treat for the class” option at our daycare.

      3. A Librarian*

        The gluten free version of Oreos are my go to treat for work! Everyone here can eat at least one.

    8. Winstonian*

      I think you’re good. That’s a pretty short period of time to try to get an a substitute/additional food. I think your apology and currently giving him vegan options for the future event is perfect.

    9. FricketyFrack*

      I’m with the other commenters who said to ask him what he likes because it won’t do any good to track down vegan options if it ends up being something he hates, but I’m also vegan and Whole Foods has quite a few vegan options, both larger and single serve. I’m partial to Daiya cheesecakes and pretty much everything Abe’s makes (my whole office loves their coffee cake), but they usually have cupcakes from Rubicon Bakery that are decent, and cookies and brownies. You don’t really have to go crazy finding specialty bakeries these days.

    10. pally*

      Yes-ask him!

      FYI: a friend of mine is vegan. And we make sure to dine at restaurants with vegan options available. However, she draws the line at desserts. Not gonna pass up cake or ice cream or any sweet confection.

      (her goal with the vegan diet is to avoid protein as, over time, too much protein causes health issues for her.)

        1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

          There are non-animal sources of protein, but animal products tend to be a better source of protein than plants. Most of the vegans I know pay some attention to make sure they’re getting enough protein.

        2. RagingADHD*

          Not nearly as dense, though. The goal is to avoid excess protein, not to have zero protein.

          A zero-protein diet would kill you in about 2 months, since we cannot synthesize or store it.

        3. pally*

          She consumes a small amount of foods like tofu, legumes and other protein-rich veggies. But does not go out of her way to consume extra of these foods.
          For example: if the vegan entree includes tofu, she will request the tofu not be included on her plate. Or she will only consume a portion of the lentils she is served.

          Yes, she does consume some plant protein. As RagingADHD correctly points out, the no protein diet is not viable for humans.

          I think she finds it easier to explain to folks what her diet is if she just says she is vegan. I’m certainly not gonna hold her to anything here. Just noting that some people may be a little fluid in what they consume.

      1. FricketyFrack*

        So…she’s not vegan then? I’m not trying to be gatekeepy and I’m happy when anyone reduces their consumption of animal products for any reason, but it sounds like she’s a vegetarian.

        1. Higher Ed Cube Farmer*

          No, it sounds like Pally’s friend is vegan who chose veganism as part of an overall move toward protein reduction: first cut out all animal products, which eliminates a bunch of the most common high protein foods with one simple choice. Then if that’s not enough reduction, maybe cut some of the higher-protein non-animal sources in addition.

          It’d be akin to needing to reduce sugar and cutting processed foods, or needing to reduce fiber and cutting seeds and legumes. Or needing to reduce carbs and cutting grains. Yes, there’s [unwanted component] in [foods still eaten], but cutting one category where [unwanted component] is overwhelmingly common can be less effort than making a bunch of individual decisions about each ingredient or meal.

          Especially when that makes it simple to give a basic idea what you can eat without having to go into litigious detail about your personal health considerations, tradeoffs, and decisionmaking process.

        2. RagingADHD*

          Looks like you are being gatekeepy without even trying.

          If someone can be vegan with occasional exceptions for anything else, like oysters for the B12 or eating what they are served in someone’s home, then this person’s friend can be vegan with occasional exceptions for dessert.

          1. FricketyFrack*

            Words have meaning. Vegan is “no animal products ever.” I’m not saying that people shouldn’t eat what they want or that there’s no value in a reduction in animal product consumption or that I’d like…disown somebody about it, but saying, “I’m vegan, I just eat animal products” is kind of a weird choice when the words vegetarian/flexitarian exist.

            1. Astor*

              But words also have multiple meanings. I always need to know my audience of “does vegan mean they don’t eat any animal product, or don’t use it”. Not every vegan needs to confirm that their vaccines are fully vegan, and not everyone who describes their diet as vegan avoids wool or even leather.

              If you won’t eat any vegetarian meal that contains eggs, cheese, or any other dairy, then calling yourself a vegetarian and especially a flexitarian is going to confuse way more people than describing your diet as vegan but occasionally non-vegan dessert.

              Lots of folks use umbrella terms to describe their diet because the meaning it gets across to the people choosing their food is more important than the most strict definition of the term.

              I get it, it sucks when you use a word to describe yourself and other people assume you must not really mean it because not everyone who uses that term does it perfectly every time. But.. that’s just the world we live in, whether you’re vegan, or keep kosher, or are trans. You shouldn’t have to be perfect to use a word that fits you best.

        3. AcademiaNut*

          I do know someone who has a genetic inability to process protein, so she’s pretty much vegan, but she also needs to avoid things like beans and gluten. So it’s unusual, but does happen (and requires supervision by a doctor for the diet).

    11. Artemesia*

      buy him a vegan cupcake — no way an entire office should have to eat that crap because one person doesn’t — but of course he should be included just as someone who is gluten free should receive a gluten free cupcake.

      1. ThatGirl*

        If you haven’t had good vegan cake, someone isn’t trying very hard; it’s not difficult to make tasty vegan desserts.

        1. JustaTech*

          Yeah, I’ve had vegan coworkers (or one who couldn’t eat eggs and dairy) in the past so I’ve had plenty of vegan cakes and they can be delicious. Heck, there are a lot of cake recipes that are sort of “incidentally” vegan because they’re oil cakes with applesauce or pumpkin instead of eggs.

      2. Scott*

        If I could have found one that evening I would have bought one. I searched all three grocery stores in my little village and even the larger grocery store that’s a 5-minute walk from the office. I had no luck at any of them.

      3. Observer*

        no way an entire office should have to eat that crap because one person doesn’t

        Spoken by someone who apparently has no idea what makes baked goods tasty.

        My most popular cake is vegan. I did not choose it because of that, but because it’s tasty, easy to make, chocolate (which people tend to like!) and very versatile so I can dress it up in many ways.

      4. Irish Teacher.*

        I would hope they don’t expect the entire office to eat the cake for anybody’s birthday, since people have different preferences and there are many reasons why people wouldn’t want to eat cake at all or wouldn’t want to eat a particular cake. If she could get a vegan cake, I don’t see any reason not to have it available for anybody in the office who wants it. Just buying him a cupcake when everybody else gets a full cake would seem a bit othering.

      5. Clisby*

        How do you know he even wants something sweet? I wouldn’t. I’d have loved it if my workplace had provided something like jalapeno poppers for birthdays, but no luck.

    12. Admin of Sys*

      I think you’re fine for not being able to find something for the first run. For future birthday breaks, you should definitely see if you can get something for them though – check with specialty grocery stores, almost all of them carry vegan cupcakes and the like.

    13. Tio*

      Brownies are one of the easiest things I’ve found to make vegan, but I would also check Amazon for vegan box cake mix. This is assuming you’re willing to bake personally for him, of course. Otherwise, you may have to talk to a bakery or two about special order vegan cake or a small order of vegan cupcakes to go with a regular cake.

      1. ThatGirl*

        most boxed cake mixes do not have animal products in them (obviously check the label), it’s just a matter of what you mix it with – there are a variety of decent egg substitutes.

    14. Emily*

      options in DC:
      – sticky fingers (takoma park) (all vegan)
      -donut run (takoma park) (all vegan)
      -DC Vegan (dupont circle) (diner but might have deserts, all vegan)
      -whole foods bakery (will have vegan cookies ready immediately)
      -Daiya freezer cheesecakes (most groceries)
      -georgetown cupcake (boring but there)
      -baked and wired (has an epic oreo cupcake last I checked)

      other resource: https://www.happycow.net/

      1. Three Cats in a Trenchcoat*

        I love Donut Run! The donuts are excellent, and this is from a non-vegan who just worked nearby for a while and had serious difficulties limiting my fritter intake for a while

    15. Midwest Manager*

      As a person who frequently is required to do similar work for dietary accommodations, I’ve often found the simplest thing is to ask the person who you’re accommodating if there is a particular brand or company that meets their needs. The way you handled the lunch was perfect, as it allowed him to have some say and ensured he could eat.

    16. Sparkle llama*

      As a long time vegan I agree that we are used to not being able to partake in shared work food. My coworkers often bring fruit trays when we have something like cake (not when someone happens to grab a dozen donuts). I think the fruit is great because it not only gives me something to enjoy but it is nice for people who are trying to avoid sugar too. I have had several coworkers opt for fruit instead of cake because they are trying to lose weight, are diabetic, just cutting down on sugar or whatever.

    17. Irish Teacher.*

      As somebody who has dietery restrictions for other reasons (probably some kind of sensory issue), what you did sounds fine to me.

      And I love getting menus in advance.

    18. Ally McBeal*

      For the future, you do not need a whole vegan cake. I used to live in NYC, which like DC has a ton of options – I frequently picked up one or two cupcakes that met individual dietary preferences to complement the for-everyone cake/dessert.

    19. suzyk*

      What I’ve done in the past when I’ve gotten cake for a large group of people where I used to work, is also get a large fruit bowl (Costco). Everyone likes the fruit bowl & also diabetics can be included in the party without denying themselves too much.

    20. Maggie*

      Whole Foods has vegan cupcakes, as does Sprinkles which is a national chain. I don’t think you HAD to bring something vegan when it wasn’t his bday and it was short notice but vegan cupcakes are pretty easy to find … I see varieties every time I’m at Whole Foods and even just regular Kroger

    21. RagingADHD*

      If you have a freezer onsite, a pint of dairy free ice cream is usually vegan and is kind of in the birthday-treat wheelhouse.

    22. Nonprofit Survivor*

      For future reference, Whole Foods has an amazing vegan brownie! I used to get one for my vegan coworker every year and they were so good I started getting one for myself too haha.

    23. Observer*

      I spent a significant amount of time searching, both in local stores and online, for a vegan option to replace birthday cake but was unsuccessful.

      I’m honestly kind of stunned by this. It’s so easy to make vegan baked good – and I say this as someone who is most definitely NOT vegan!

      If you keep kosher, you get used to baked goods being dairy free – that tends to be the default. (So much so, that with the exception of stuff like cheese cake, if cake or bread is dairy it has to be marked on the item, not just the wrapping. Generally you can do that by how you shape of decorate the food, but it needs to be identifiable and something that people are likely to notice.)

      And I didn’t think that eggs are that ubiquitous in baking.

      For anyone who is looking for vegan recipes, one thing I noticed is that recipes that are labeled “Depression” tend to be vegan. It’s also generally fairly easy to replace milk with nut milks in many case. Although, OP, I don’t think you need to bake for this kind of situation.

        1. Observer*

          In my experience not SO ubiquitous that you’re only finding eggless recipes that are “exotic” or need uncommon ingredients.

          Obviously the OP’s experience was different from mine. But it’s worth noting that it really is not that hard to bake without eggs. (Although I don’t think that the OP is obligated to bake for their coworker, regardless.)

    24. Anonariffic*

      You’ve gotten a bunch of good suggestions for DC locations but I want to add Bakeshop in Georgetown, they’re tucked away on a sidestreet but they’re very good.

    25. goddessoftransitory*

      I think you did due diligence and then some! I’m sure he was sincere in his appreciation for your efforts; it would mean a lot to me if my supervisor/superior went to that much trouble!

  8. Agent Chaos*

    I have 2 “ask the reader” questions!

    Who is the most skilled workplace politician you have personally witnessed, someone adept at creating situations where they couldn’t fall or be held accountable, connecting with whichever group was in charge or rising, avoiding layoffs or cuts, and always testing an argument to their favor? (stolen from Reddit LOL)

    What weird things have you noticed about company culture after you’ve started? Here are a few of mine. Several years ago everyone on my team (directors included) would burst out with forceful laughs after everything one of my teammates said. It was so fake and a bit creepy lol. At another job where most folks were remote with a few cities as hubs, the company favored people (cough men…) from 1 city. It was so strange. They would try to hire men from this city and favored the department that was based out of that city. That was definitely a lesson because none of that was clear in the interview process.

    1. Mazey's Mom*

      Tenured faculty. Every time. Except in extremely dire situations, like when the university is facing federal sanctions and heavy fines, they get off (at best) with a slap on the wrist.

      1. Chidi has a stomach ache*

        I would say that tenured faculty actually tend *not* to be skilled workplace politicians, it’s purely the institution of tenure that protects them. If anything, tenure makes it obvious how little they are able to work with other people in the system. At least, those were my observations from my time in academia.

        1. Cedrus Libani*

          This. It’s not that they’re good at dodging accountability, it’s that there was never any accountability to dodge. So long as the grants keep rolling in and the papers keep rolling out, nothing else matters. I’ve got stories…and I am ever so grateful to be out in the magical land of industry, where my boss has a boss, and a grand-boss, and…okay I don’t know how many layers, it’s bosses all the way up, but the point is that any one of those bigger bosses could and 100% WOULD fire one of their direct reports for being awful to the next layer of grand-reports, because that’s turnover and liability and otherwise puts their own metrics at risk.

    2. Banana Pyjamas*

      Take notes on everything, then put them in an alphabetized reference binder. This has served me well in every job I’ve held. In fact, my early career binders were used to train new employees.

      White boards. I have used the in a couple of different ways.

      1) To-do, Doing, Done where to do was an urgency/importance matrix. Caveat that if you always put filing in unmiportant/not urgent you may need to change that category to weekly tasks or something. I actually use the matrix at home too, and that category is Shopping list, otherwise I tend to put chores in there.

      2) My last job was in office and in field. We received data that had to be input to our system, then went into the field to verify data. We had predetermined geographic areas.

      The white board had a list by month which we marked when we received the data, then again when entry was complete.

      We had charts for each geographic area where we would put the date we were there, the date we were due back, and the initials of the person assigned to the work.

      Could you do these things in a notebook or planner, YES. If like me, you tend to put them in a drawer and out of sight is out of mind then you may find white boards to be a better option. Added bonus that your boss can see exactly what you have going on. For me this led to the boss telling people not to bother me because I had a full work load.

    3. Anonymous sales drone*

      The skilled politician – goes by a nickname so I will use one here – “Snake.” Snake came in from an outside company to be the new director of sales, negotiated keeping a title that did not relate to our hierarchy, and so was presumed to be a principal of the company. Snake low key exploited that confusion constantly.

      Snake then proceeded to gut the sales organization, replacing all the experience, and might I add successful, reps with his cronies, including one who was the most spectacularly bad actor I have ever had the pleasure to work with. Within three or four years all of Snake’s buddies scrubbed out or were fired, but not before tanking the company’s sales results. Snake was then “demoted” to a lateral position, where he kept the title, pay and perks, but it was someone else’s problem to rebuild the sales org.

      There has been enough turn over/acquisition in the company that I am one of the few that remember when Snake was in charge of sales. He might still be here, but I know he has blood on his guilty, snakey little hands.

    4. econobiker*

      Agent Chaos,

      We had a guy named Terrance who we nicknamed “Teflon Terrance” because actual work would not stick to him. He was great at delivering a new machine for a new product launch and going on vacation immediately afterwards to leave us peons to to launch/troubleshoot the actual process, and great at deflecting away the extensive data collection for the validation of the new products and machines to someone else. But he was great at schmoozing the higher ups, great with talking about his accomplishments, and great at showing you pictures of his family, sportscars, and vacations to exotic places…

      I had even seen Teflon Terrance’s boss perform all of those work functions without complaint so the actual work was not actually difficult, just time consuming. But if Terrance could deflect the responsibilities to someone else while claiming the accomplishments, he definitely would…

      1. econobiker*

        Oh, i just remembered that Teflon Terrance ABHORRED the use of email because it would actually create a trail of responsibility back to him.

        He was the text book case of having to send CYA (Cover My Assets) emails back to him of the ilk like “Per our phone conversation of February 23, you requested -X- and related to me about -Y-. Is my understanding and interpretation correct about our conversation?”

        Several times I was able to better pin him down via my CYA emails versus phone conversations alone.

    5. The New Wanderer*

      Skilled workplace politician? There’s a person in my field who has risen to several senior, highly visible positions based on their ability to talk a good game and lean on some work they did and connections they made early in their career. It’s truly astonishing – over the years that I’ve known them, they have failed to deliver on multiple large-scale projects, they flat refused to produce work required by their bosses, and they were known for credit-hogging any good work coming from teams they managed. And yet, they have consistently failed upwards quite successfully their whole career because their work persona is somehow “valuable contributor/leader” even though the evidence clearly shows otherwise.

    6. Thunder Kitten*

      The most skilled workplace politician I knew was actually pretty amazing. Intelligent, diplomatic, a good person at heart. He didn’t talk much but when he did, everyone listened.

  9. QuincePreserves*

    Newly diagnosed ADHD adult woman here- have been noticing some issues at new job as it is not quite as “same actions, different day” as old job. Does anyone have suggestions for resources?

    1. Enescudoh*

      People disagree on this but it worked for me: talk to your manager. Even if you don’t want to say ADHD, you can say something along the lines of you process things/hold things in your head differently sometimes. This worked for me because my manager offered to catch up every morning for 10 minutes to help me prioritise for the day, check that I was being realistic about what I needed to achieve, all the things ADHD made really hard. After about 6 months we downgraded this to twice a week. It was really helpful!

      1. I sneeze in threes*

        I think that’s a good idea as well! I have also had luck in the past in naming the specific struggles I was having and some easy supports I would benefit from without Naming the potentially-loaded diagnosis. It’s also not unreasonable to ask for some support transitioning to a new kind of role than you’re used to or than you’ve had before.

        1. Higher Ed Cube Farmer*

          Yes, upvote for naming specific struggles and asking help you need for them, without giving your potentially-loaded diagnosis.

          1. suzyk*

            I’ve actually asked for help… just asked if someone could sit with me to help me organize an overdue set of reports I keep putting off. “Oh, you can do that yourself, just do this or that or ….”
            If that was the solution, it wouldn’t be overdue!!
            I’ve got a day coming up that I should be able to work without interruption, let’s see if that works.

    2. The Pyrex Queen*

      checklists, checklists, checklists!
      I have survived by keeping reference documents for processes around proposals, project setup, etc. that I don’t do on a regular basis. As well as tracking report statuses when there are multiple reports within a single project portfolio that are at various states of completion by several different people.

    3. I sneeze in threes*

      Is the issue that the job duties are different enough from day to day that you have trouble falling into a rhythm, or that you have trouble remembering the different duties for each different day? I have ADHD and a job that is pretty different from day to day, and I’ve had to get myself a large calendar planner so that I can physically see the layout of my days/week. It’s where I write everything like my duties for the day and checklists of what needs to get done, and I force myself to review it the day before or else I come in totally lost in the morning and I’m on stress overload the whole day worrying that some large ball will drop. I find having visual reminders of what needs to get done on any given day to be the most helpful tool personally, as my particular brand of ADHD means my working memory is a sieve.
      I’ve also had good experiences with “The Anti-Planner” by Dani Donovan, and I just picked up “Self-Care for People with ADHD” by Sasha Hamdani which contains a whole section on ADHD and work, which I’m liking so far.
      I hope some of this helps! I completely empathize with the ADHD work struggle!

    4. Justin*

      Lots of calendars and reminders and self-created tools. Diagnosed at 35 myself.

      I did disclose when I got a new job (a risk, but I have excelled here, so it worked out) but won’t tell anyone to do that.

    5. Jen*

      I swear by my Panda Planner. It really helps me get organized. It was created to help with people ADHD, TBI, and cognitive issues.

    6. Distractable Golem*

      I belong to a membership-based ADHD coaching studio (based out of Vancouver, but it’s all online) and adult-diagnosed women are their main demographic. ADHDstudiodotca

      1. Silmaril*

        If you don’t mind me asking, how do you find the online-only format? Is it easy to engage with? Can’t quite tell from the non-paywalled sections of the website if it would work asynchronously (based in Europe, so different time zone).

        I have been looking into ADHD coaching and not finding heaps of local options.

        Thanks in advance!

        1. Distractable Golem*

          There are some self-paced courses, but most of the things I use are live—indiv coaching, boot camps, monthly plan jams, and body doubling sessions. They are at various times, but mainly morning/early afternoon in Vancouver so it would be night in Western Europe.

    7. Banana Pyjamas*

      I accidentally posted this upthread. Here’s what worked for me:

      Take notes on everything, then put them in an alphabetized reference binder. This has served me well in every job I’ve held. In fact, my early career binders were used to train new employees.

      White boards. I have used the in a couple of different ways.

      1) To-do, Doing, Done where to do was an urgency/importance matrix. Caveat that if you always put filing in unmiportant/not urgent you may need to change that category to weekly tasks or something. I actually use the matrix at home too, and that category is Shopping list, otherwise I tend to put chores in there.

      2) My last job was in office and in field. We received data that had to be input to our system, then went into the field to verify data. We had predetermined geographic areas.

      The white board had a list by month which we marked when we received the data, then again when entry was complete.

      We had charts for each geographic area where we would put the date we were there, the date we were due back, and the initials of the person assigned to the work.

      Could you do these things in a notebook or planner, YES. If like me, you tend to put them in a drawer and out of sight is out of mind then you may find white boards to be a better option. Added bonus that your boss can see exactly what you have going on. For me this led to the boss telling people not to bother me because I had a full work load.

    8. ADHDanon*

      For me, being ADHD in an industry where things change very rapidly from day to day can be a blessing and a curse!
      With the scope of my work and the specific way my brain operates, using software or other tools is simply not feasible and doesn’t give me enough flexibility to respond to a changing environment. I’ve tried various formal systems, planners, tools, etc. but honestly the thing that’s worked best is having a simple text document (not even Word, literally creating a bare-bones file in SublimeText with no filename extension) for each day with my running to-do list.
      I have it in two sections: DUE TODAY!! and IF TIME, and I try to keep it very loosely ordered by priority. The DUE TODAY!! section activates the part of my brain that refuses to work on stuff unless it’s urgent, and the IF TIME section helps keep non-urgent tasks visible so they don’t get completely lost. On days I’m especially unfocused, I’ll sometimes break tasks down into very small steps to make them feel more manageable; on days I have a little more focus available, sometimes I’ll just write “finish & send report” or whatever. Creating a new file for each day is also helpful because I can run a check through the entire folder in SublimeText to see when things were added/completed.

    9. Jorge*

      For me, tasks seem to lack object permanence, so I have a few workarounds I use to offload information from my mind:

      -I force myself to use the inbox zero method. If an email is pending, it stays in my inbox as a to-do item. If it’s resolved, I can file it into a subfolder or delete it. I set aside time each week to clear out anything that is done and take stock of the status of pending items. If the task may recur/show up seasonally, I add the email to my calendar so that I don’t have to remember it later.
      -I try to regularly brain dump. I take a colorful piece of paper (so I can find it fast in a pile) in landscape orientation, and I start writing down every single to-do or question or task on my mind, and then group them into categories (usually by content, but sometimes by function). The rule is that if it’s on my mind, it must go on the list. This usually frees up my processing power mentally and will often reveal some easier tasks that I can knock out fairly quickly. I often will migrate tasks over to a new list when it gets messy with crossed-out items, because clutter is the enemy.
      -Similarly, if I have a series of tasks I have to do that change by season or project, I make myself a daily checklist that I can physically (or in a spreadsheet with color coding) check off. Then I don’t panic at 11:30 am when I realize that a Slack message or email derailed my morning routine. My boss thinks I’m strange for needing them for recurring tasks but they’ve also never failed so he can’t deny their effectiveness.
      -I tend to try a lot of different tools to get work done, but committing to a central place for notes or documentation and just sticking with it is huge. For me, OneNote for meeting notes and Word for documentation have been the ones I come back to regularly. I set OneNote to open automatically when I load up my computer.
      -Let tech remind you of requests you can’t get to right away (especially if they come in outside of your usual communication methods). Slack, calendar, a to-do app, your phone, whatever – just set it to remind you with an annoying pop up and don’t let yourself dismiss it until it’s done.
      -My team went through a year of a lot of changes, and so I set a weekly reminder to have all my employees add a brief list of the tasks they handled that week to a document. After awhile, we could identify patterns and created with a seasonal calendar that really helped us to anticipate problems and gave me the freedom from having to remember when tasks are coming up.

  10. Cold Eyes*

    Ok folks, I’m a public servant of Canada, and I just need to vent.

    I got a promotion more than 2 years ago, and have yet to receive my new salary. I’m so sick of government excuses. My request has been received and has yet to be assigned to a pay advisor. After 2 years. Anywhere but the government this would be illegal. I’m so sick of this. At this point they owe me tons of money, taxes, pension, all messed up.

    1. Kowalski! Options!*

      I fired up my home computer to add my $0.o2 as someone who still has three pages of outstanding case files in CWA: It is f***ing CRIMINAL. No more, no less. And the fact that no one has been fired over this speaks volumes to how cavalierly the GoC treats its employees.

      The only leverage I’ve found that gets things moving is that, a couple of years ago, I wrote my director and director-general (and cc’d the compensation team) and said that, until ***every single last one*** of my outstanding cases was resolved, every single e-mail, invitation, announcement related to the Workplace Campaign would go straight into the Delete folder in my Outlook. No ifs, and or buts. How dare they hit us up for money when they can’t even sort out our pay issues!

      And I’m dreading whatever “solution” they come up with to replace it.

      1. Cold Eyes*

        Exactly! Oh timelines are really important here… only when I need to do something? When my employer needs to pay me correctly, well everyone’s busy, we’ll get to it.

        I have an outstanding case from 2016, the status is “your request has been received.”

      1. Csethiro Ceredin*

        Yes, I’d try your MP. Mine is very responsive and does have staff who follow up on things like this and help with government red tape/snafus. They have told me constituents get extra attention compared to random letters to do with her portfolio (she is in cabinet).

        And I’m so sorry – this is infuriating!

          1. Csethiro Ceredin*

            Oh no! Maybe I just have a more-than-usually-decent MP.
            I assume you have also tried the ombudsperson if you tried the MP so I am out of ideas.

            This is RIDICULOUS and you shouldn’t have to experience it.

      2. Cold Eyes*

        My Member of Parliament was no help, and the federal government ignores the dept of labour (because it is beyond provincial jurisdiction)

        1. Kowalski! Options!*

          Honestly, at that point, I’d be tempted to launch a one-person picket (complete with friends who can record it and put it up on social media) in front of your MP’s constituency office, or put your phasars on “obliterate” when the next Public Service Employment Survey comes out. A person can only be nice for so long.

          (But that’s my level of pettiness. YMMV.)

      3. Laser99*

        Cold Eyes, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but they have no intention of raising your pay. If you don’t escalate, you will never receive it.

    2. FanciestCat*

      For people who aren’t familiar with this, Google Phoenix Pay system. The Canadian government massively screwed up their payroll with a terrible botched roll out of a new system, and people like Cold Eyes are still affected years later. Just for context.

      1. Industry Behemoth*

        Good grief! I read about this mess in the New York Times in 2016. Unbelievable that it’s still going on!

        1. Rekha3.14*

          I presume it’s sunk cost fallacy at work. unfortunately. As a Canadian taxpayer, it’s also pretty annoying (though not as frustrating as for Cold Eyes).

          And I hear you on the government and money thing (only experience is taxes). You owe? pay now. Govt owes you? one day, just be patient…

          I hope it’s resolved soon for you. You deserve better.

    3. The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon*

      Cold Eyes, I have no advice, just tons of sympathy. It sounds like you have diligently explored all avenues to resolve this and it hasn’t helped at all. How enraging! This stranger on the internet hopes you are able to get your backpay, taxes, pension, etc. someday soon.

  11. Anonymask*

    Back in October, I asked for (and got!) a raise. I did a ton of market research and provided the data to my managers. I asked for a number that was reasonable based on experience and the high COL area we’re in. They agreed and said it was doable. The caveat was that the company would do a “half now, half at annual review” thing. We’ve now passed the annual review and the new amount is official.

    Except what they gave me was almost $1k short of what I asked for.

    I understand that requests for raises are not guarantees of that amount, and that the company could very well decide that I don’t deserve what I asked for. But it feels insulting that they fell just short of the mark, in a way I’m struggling to put into words. $1k over a year is not a huge dent in a multibillion dollar corporation. I’m lucky to be in a position where $1k isn’t a make or break amount, but I’m still grappling with the frustration of getting almost but not quite what I asked for.

    And to make matters worse, my manager came over to my desk while everyone else is around and asked loudly if I’d gotten his email about it and if there were “no surprises” and if I was “happy with the amount.” Of course there’s a surprise! Of course I’m not happy! But I can’t just say that with everyone around! This is a private discussion, and he’d put me on the spot to answer.

    So my question is this: how do I bring this up with my managers in a way that doesn’t say I’m ungrateful for the raise, but mentions that it seems odd to fall just shy of the requested amount? I’m having a lot of feelings about it (and the third day of migraines is not helping).

    1. Collie*

      In email, assuming there is written documentation of the original agreement — “I was reviewing the updates to my compensation and our discussions over the past year and realized there was an error. On (date of original agreement), my new compensation was to be $Z, with an understanding that I would see $Y by (first date) and the remaining amount, $X, at my annual review. Now that we’ve reached my review, I can confirm I am seeing $Y in my pay but am short $A, which would equal $1000 over a year. I’d like to have the discrepancy corrected to reflect the original agreement. Thanks!”

    2. ThatGirl*

      Definitely ask about it! You do need to try to not be too aggressive – but saying “I just wanted to check back in; I thought we had agreed on X, but this is X-$1000 – can you tell me what happened?”

    3. Colette*

      I think the issue is not that you didn’t get what you asked for – it’s normal for this kind of thing to be a negotiation – but that you didn’t get what they agreed to.

      Go back to your manager and say “actually, when I look at my paycheck it looks like the total raise is $1k less than we’d discussed.”

    4. Not an expert*

      Treat it’s like an oversight and not overt manipulation when you ask about it! It’ll be fine, or the will own up to trying to underpay you. At which point, you can decide how you want to proceed.

    5. It's Brutal Out Here*

      I’m considering bowing out of the interview process at a job and I’m not sure how honest I should be if they ask why.

      Some common themes in Glassdoor were what I was worried about going in (and the interviews didn’t remove those concerns), but the final nail in the coffin was one of my interviewers who would be a close peer. If they ask, what are the possible negative reprocussions of telling them? I know I was a strong candidate for the role, so I might have a little sway if I decide it’s worth it.

      Context rant below:
      The interview itself was his baby (he saw they were missing an interview about that particular aspect of the role and created it), and the topic was good, but we barely got into it.

      More than a third of the interview was him talking about random stuff, when I told stories to answer questions, he repeated it back, point by point, for no clear reason (possibly checking for understanding, but he took almost as long to summarize as I did to tell it). We had to go over time to get to my questions, but he had time to brag about how, although most people are bad interviewer, he’s a good interviewer (maybe in other interviews, but he wasn’t good in mine).

      He was a self described wiseass and made a teasing response to one of my answers (which I’m usually fine with, but I just met him and had no idea how to respond in an interview context). When I told a story about a process I implemented that matches both industry best practices and current research, he argued with me about why he thought it was bad and I let it go because, once again, interview. This is the first time that more of my notes were about the interviewer than the interview itself.

      His team seems happy with him (he cited his pulse reviews as an off the cuff brag at some point and I’m still not sure what it had to do with anything) and I’m sure his willingness to speak up has been useful to him and his peers, but he also came off as rude, opinionated, and lacking in self awareness.

      I wouldn’t report to him, but I’d work with him and…I don’t want to. I’m also concerned that his loudness seems to get rewarded with influence. This particular interview was all his idea and it’s a crucial hiring step, and he gave the impression he’s been able to reshape other things in the company to the way he likes them.

      So to go back to the original question: if I’m polite about how I say this, would it be useful to the company and would it bite me in the butt?

      1. Midwest Manager*

        As a candidate, your word holds little weight when giving this type of feedback. What you saw at the interview is very likely to be what you would get day-to-day. If you have to work closely with this person in the new role, I’d be wary.

        As for withdrawing from the process due to this interview, if you choose to back out you don’t need to give a reason. You can easily say something like “after careful consideration, I’ve decided this position isn’t the right move for me right now”. You don’t gain anything by giving feedback about a bad interviewer.

  12. JP*

    The company I work for has been growing and we’ve been hiring more people, which is great, but one or two of those people are very fragrance happy, which is not great. I think one person in particular is responsible for a lot of air fresheners and sprays and perfume scents that have been popping up in the office over the last week, but I’m not sure. It’s absolutely nauseating. Why are people this presumptuous?

    1. Anna*

      I can’t speak to the air fresheners or sprays, but it’s pretty normal for people to wear perfume scents?

      1. Drowning in Spreadsheets*

        It depends on a lot of factors. I live in a big city where the majority uses mass transit and many work in skyscrapers. When you spend that much time enclosed in small spaces shared with other people, you learn how obnoxious some scents can be and then don’t want to be that person stinking up the train car or elevator.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      Why are people this presumptuous?

      People can go nose-blind to scents they use often, so what smells like “a dash of perfume” to them is overpowering to others.

      You might want to check out these past letters that may have good scripts for how to approach your scent-happy coworker(s):

      “asking your office to ban fragrances in the workplace” from November 6, 2012

      “asking job candidates to go scent-free, baggy clothes at work, and more” from May 23, 2019

      “can we ask job candidates to follow our scent-free policy at interviews?” from July 20, 2023

      Links to follow.

    3. LCH*

      i’d at least ask about not using air freshener sprays and plug-ins or any other scent not on a person since that affects everyone. (i wouldn’t be physically able to work there.)

      but i feel your pain. i moved to a new area where use of perfume is much higher than where i used to live. if i pass someone outdoors and can still smell them 20 ft later, it’s too much scent.

      1. JustaTech*

        I was car shopping during mid-late COVID and there was a sales guy who was wearing so much cologne that I could smell him through my mask, standing outside in a brisk wind, and I was up-wind of him!

        There were many reasons why we did not buy that car, but the cologne was part of it!

    4. mreasy*

      Many people have never experienced anyone expressing discomfort about fragrance use, so they’re not being presumptuous, just unknowing. If you bring it up with them with this in mind, it’s more likely to have the outcome you want.

    5. Synaptically Unique*

      IME it’s often people who smoke. 1) they are trying to cover up the odor (despite the fact that it doesn’t work) and 2) their own sense of smell is so damaged that they don’t understand how offensive it is. I address this in interviews as a standing issue. There are many reasons, not least of which is that several people in my office have asthma and the heavy scents can trigger asthma attacks.

    6. Observer*

      Why are people this presumptuous?

      On the assumption that you want actionable advice rather than just to vent (if you’re just venting, ignore me.)

      People are not being presumptuous. I get that the scents are too much. The fact that someone doesn’t realize that it’s a problem for you does not make them presumptuous, though, and you will do much better if you discard that notion.

      Unless you have a good idea of who is providing all this scent, you can do two things. One is to talk to whoever is in charge of facilities and ask to have the air fresheners, etc. gotten rid of because they make you feel unwell. The other is to send an email noting that you are a bit scent sensitive, and asking the people go easy on the scent. @Hlao-roo provided some links to good language.

      If you know who is wearing that much scent, talk to the privately. But, again, don’t go in with the attitude that they are presumptuous. People don’t react well to that – and it’s highly likely to get turned back on you. But telling people that you have a hard time and could they please use less scent will often work.

    7. AirFreshenerToMaskScent*

      As a counterpoint, I have medical conditions that require the use of medications that have a strong smell. I have often been told by employers to keep air fresheners at my desk to mask these scents. I will almost always do so without being asked at this point if I have a job requiring onsite time.

  13. R*

    We just had a company off site, and curious what the hive mind thinks of this. I was in the gym early morning day 2, as were ~5 male coworkers and 1 female coworker. The female coworker is only a couple of years into her career, whereas I’m more like ~15+ years in. In these situations, I tend to dress more conservatively than I typically would for the gym at home, just because I don’t think any coworker needs to see acres of abs or yards of leg or whatever. My female coworker wore super short shorts. She looked great! Truly! And I think she should be able to wear whatever the hell she wants to the gym. But is that appropriate in this specific situation? None of the guys did or would say anything to her, but I wonder if it changes how they view her generally?

    I generally hate the awkwardness of going to the gym with coworkers. My strong preference is to nod upon entry and then totally ignore their existence.

    1. CTT*

      The real answer is that she can wear whatever she is comfortable in to work out and that shouldn’t change anyone’s opinion of her. But also, she had no idea if she would see any coworkers at all while exercising and shouldn’t have to specially pack in the event she did. I only work out in shorts because leggings tend to bunch at my knees and drive me bonkers – I’m not going to buy special longer shorts solely for business trips.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      To me, what you do is far more important than what you wear. And there are social compacts we have about different kinds of clothing for different kinds of activities. Swimsuits can also be skimpy, skiwear and scuba gear can be exceedingly form-fitting.

      She wasn’t flirting, the guys weren’t leering or hitting on her. So there’s nothing to see here.

    3. Dinwar*

      I fall fairly hard on the side of being against policing what other people do in their down time, including on business travel. This is particularly true of clothing. It’s unreasonable to expect someone to purchase an entirely new set of cloths merely because they happen to be traveling once. For my part, I think you have the right attitude: Nod to coworkers, then do your own thing and forget they exist.

      Could it be weird? Sure. But the thing to remember is that the woman in question did a perfectly normal and reasonable thing: Wore her gym cloths to a gym. If someone makes it weird, THEY are the problem, not her.

      1. londonedit*

        Yeah, absolutely. She was at the gym, wearing the clothes one wears to the gym. She was minding her own business, co-workers were minding theirs, no problem.

    4. Nona*

      A woman really can’t do anything without someone turning it into a problem. There is nothing inappropriate about wearing shorts to the gym and if anyone made an issue of it they are the ones who are out of line and need to be corrected

    5. H.Regalis*

      If it changes their view of her, that’s on them.

      There is literally nothing your coworker can do as a woman that will be “right.” One way or another, somebody is gonna have some shit to say because our society hates women. Policing her outfit is going to come across as concern trolling, because it is. Leave it be.

      1. Yay! I’m a llama again!*

        I’ve just come back from being away with work, and the place we were had a gym and swimming pool. I think everyone has collective amnesia/disinterest in a work gym! But I did have a colleague who made sure she timed her visit to the pool differently to her managers visit to the pool… it’s so weird! I honestly don’t think I looked at anyone!

    6. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      “is that appropriate in this specific situation?” Yes !
      Keep your nose out of her clothes.

      Men who are not her colleagues could also have views about her clothing. No woman should be expected to plan her clothing every day to suit the men who might see her, in work and out.

      1. linger*

        Additionally: putting your nose in someone else’s short shorts should, at minimum, get you a conversation with HR.

    7. Quinalla*

      It is definitely something I would think about for myself personally – what would I be comfortable being seen in by a coworker – so I understand where you are coming from. But I also think what she wore is completely appropriate. Were the guys wearing short shorts or muscle shirts? I’m just curious that you are focused on the one woman here, maybe they all had on long shorts/pants and t-shirts so she stood out a bit, but something to consider if that wasn’t the case!

    8. Kesnit*

      I do endurance sports and am training to start triathlons this year. This means I have to train swimming. I belong to a gym with a pool and swim 1-2 times a week. Although no one in my office belongs to the gym, I have seen people I interact with at work at the gym – including in the locker room. (About a month ago, I saw a substitute judge I have appeared in front of in the pool lane next to me.)

      It’s a workout. People work out. People wear comfortable clothes to work out because we get sweaty. Was it a little awkward walking past a judge in the locker room while wearing swim trunks and a towel around my neck? Well, yes. But no one is expected to look “professional” when working out.

      1. Jaydee*

        I remember one of my friends talking about running into judges and opposing counsel at the gym, and I was so glad I lived far enough from the office that would be an unlikely occurrence at my gym.

    9. Maggie*

      She wore gym shorts to the gym and nothing happened? Someone alert the church elders! In all seriousness this is a non issue. It wasn’t an official work event, those are gym clothes, and no one did or said anything inappropriate.

    10. JustaTech*

      You’ve got the right idea to do your best to ignore your coworkers, and chances are good that they are doing their best to ignore you too (and your new coworker).

      I used to work at a university where staff had access to the large (huge!) undergrad gym, so chances were good that you would see a coworker there among all the undergrads (especially during the semester breaks). The *only* time it was awkward was when the head of the lab next to mine came over to chat. Fine, sure, except that I was on the floor doing crunches and he was standing pretty much directly above me in running shorts, so I was basically staring up his pant leg. I’ve never stood up from a crunch so fast in my life.

      But it didn’t change the way I thought about this professor – I already knew he was a nice, lightly oblivious guy who liked to exercise.

    11. Double A*

      If there was a pool at the hotel/gym she’d be wearing a swim suit and it would be fine. Was her workout clothing more revealing than that?

    12. Observer*

      But is that appropriate in this specific situation?

      Why not? Nothing you said provides any reason to say it was inappropriate. This wasn’t a work visit to the gym.

      but I wonder if it changes how they view her generally?

      Well, you know your coworkers better than anyone here, but are they really that juvenile? If so, that’s still on them. Of course, she might want to factor that into her decision making, but that would be pure pragmatics, and it would have zero to do wit appropriateness (at least on HER part.)

    13. Angstrom*

      Change how they view her? They may think “Wow, I didn’t realize she was so ripped”. They’re not going to think “She looks good in gym clothes, so I shouldn’t trust her with the sales reports” unless they are idiots.
      I’ve seen colleagues in workout gear and it’s had zero impact on how I think about their work.

    14. RagingADHD*

      Yes. It is appropriate for your coworker, whether junior or senior to you, to have a different comfort level for gym clothes on a work trip.

      It would also be appropriate if she wanted to dress more conservatively than you.

      Because you are different people.

  14. Enescudoh*

    My small team has a “missing stair” in our midst – not in an abuser predatory sense, but as in, is a nightmare to work with, frequently derails internal and external meetings, people have to be warned when they join the organization about her, we put off raising certain topics at team meetings until she’s away. My manager has privately acknowledged this to me but says in the same sentence that she’s good to keep because “she does the jobs no one else wants to” like spreadsheets and budgets, managing our subscriptions to software and media, etc. She’s been in this job for twelve years (!)
    I don’t intend to sit back while this person actively impedes me from doing my job. So far that has involved:
    -Detailing to our boss exactly how she derailed a meeting to take us through new finance systems, how she was rude to that team and risked jeopardising our whole team’s reputation with finance and the wider organisation
    -Forwarding an email where she exploded at me how much harder her job is than mine and tried to undermine my professional decision making, asking how I should continue to do my job when faced with this
    -Telling our boss that the job duty she did one Sunday, which she has known how to do for twelve years, caused her to blow up my phone, when the ten people that I trained to perform that duty for the first time managed to do so without a hitch, and clarifying I am not expected to be “on call” in those situations
    -Flagging to our boss that the junior officer she line manages is scared to take their annual leave because she complains so much about having to take over their one daily duty in that time

    So far I’ve been met with agreement and told that “it is being dealt with” but absolutely nothing seems to change. And I can’t imagine that after twelve years no one has ever identified these problems before now. At what point do I risk looking like I have a personal vendetta against this person?

    1. Arsloan*

      I wouldn’t raise it again, to be honest, but I would be clear on the boundaries I intend to enact personally (not answering phone calls from this person outside of hours, not responding to rude emails, not having this person featured in *my* external meetings. But if your boss wants her to be featured in internal client meetings, honestly, you can’t care about it more than your boss does, and you’ve already raised it once.

      1. EverydayIRefreshMyEmailForWhat*

        Similarly, using “I will” statements when setting boundaries makes it clear that there will be consequences to her actions while keeping things professional. “Don’t be rude to me in emails” rarely gets acknowledged and can come across as personal, but “I will not respond to rude emails” and then sticking to that boundary keeps things factual and actionable.

    2. Scott*

      I think it becomes a personal vendetta at the point you make it personal. As long as you are bringing factual issues to your boss without emotion (key here) as to how her behavior is negatively impacting your work, then I think you’re fine to keep looping in your boss.

    3. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I’d keep the “everyone else can do it” part of the story to a minimum. “Hey boss, on Sunday I got multiple calls from X about the regular duty. I’m hoping that’s a fluke, but just letting you know in case it happens again. There’s a documented process that the team uses and I am available for occasional problems when I’m off duty, but I wouldn’t be available at that intensity in the future. What you like me to do in that case?”

    4. Anoj*

      You have to know what you can do to mitigate this for yourself, only when it affects you directly. Calling you on a Sunday? Turn off your phone or ignore the calls. If you are the facilitator of a meeting, redirect her back to the topic, and keep doing that every time she derails it. Ignore any emails where she explodes at you or simply reply “Sorry you feel that way.” Nothing you can do about someone who is managed by her except to tell them they are entitled to their annual leave, regardless of how their manager behaves.

    5. everyone is a bad coworker to someone*

      You sound like you have a personal vendetta against her, so it is possible you that to your boss that you look like you have a personal vendetta against her. Do you have a personal vendetta against her? Can you set boundaries for yourself–things you yourself can control the enforcement of, not “she shouldn’t be doing x or should be doing y”–to minimize the impact on you, like block her number on the weekend? It just sounds like you have taken getting her out of the company as a personal mission. It’s something to think about whether that is actually your goal because a lot of what you say you raised with the boss in fact sound like your disgruntled-ness that the person works there and annoys you.

      1. Banana Pyjamas*

        I mostly disagree. Everything the coworker is doing is pretty egregious, except the meeting. Exploding at coworkers, failing at normally assigned tasks, and pressuring subordinates not to take time off are all major performance issues.

    6. Ally McBeal*

      My initial reaction to your actions so far is that none of your concerns have indicated the degree of impact her shittiness has had on your WORK. She derailed a meeting, so maybe an hour was wasted, but people understand the new finance system and your team was only at RISK of a damanged reputation. She exploded at you and called you after hours, but that just pissed you off – it’s not like the work didn’t get done. Yeah, morale is suffering, but that’s intangible and the job market is chaotic enough that plenty of people are staying put despite less than ideal circumstances. If you want action, you need to give management sufficient reason and motivation. Think of it like a resume – it’s better to show results than a list of job responsibilities.

    7. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      Does your company carry over unused vacation time? If not, Missing Stair is doing actual harm to her direct report, and that’s worth bringing up to someone who can address it.

  15. Arsloan*

    You guys. I was in the strangest meeting this week. I guess the whole point of it was Team Building, and I get that we work in a large bureaucracy and maybe people feel isolated but … it was a whole week. Of team building. Sharing. Caring. And our leadership is really … emotionally woo woo (to me, in my opinion) so it was like, thirty minutes of gratitude time every day, and the language was very emotional. And I’m *exhausted.* I appreciate that relationships are so important in getting work done, but to me, like, a team dinner or team lunch every once in a while is really all that’s required! Isn’t a whole week every year a little bit much??? Am I crazy?

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      You’re not crazy. I would be pulling my hair out thinking about all the concrete actual-work-related stuff that the group could be doing instead of holding a love-in.

      But there are people who think this is both good and important, and apparently some of them work in your management.

    2. Lady_Lessa*

      No a whole week of touchy-feely things would be horrible to me.

      I like being able to share things openly, BUT only to folks who have proven trustworthy over time. I have gotten out of a short story (Zoom) group at work because it was a (bad) hybrid of book discussion and support group. I did not work with the other women, I was also the only one who came into the office, etc. I need time to build up that kind of relationship.

    3. Dulcinea47*

      A whole week *at once* is ridiculous. All you build is a team that hates teambuilding. You also can’t isolate people all the other weeks of the year and expect them to be fulfilled by that one week. One day a quarter or something along those lines would be more reasonable/tolerable/useful, any way you could suggest spreading it out?

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          So, how did any actual work get done?

          One advantage of working for the government: There’s no way to justify something like this. Because I would not be able to do this.

    4. ferrina*

      That’s bonkers.

      I once worked in an organization that did restorative justice and conflict resolution. Emotionally woo-woo was in the mission statement.

      We only did 2.5 day trainings. And it was a mixture of team building and developing skills we needed for our jobs (there was a lot of overlap)

    5. Csethiro Ceredin*

      I would hate this! I’m not demonstrative at work and honestly just don’t have that much going on anyway. I’d be awkward and feel the opposite of warm and fuzzy in such circumstances.

      The all at once factor makes it way worse, to me. If it were one day every few months that would still be too much for ME, but far less arduous. Not to mention not getting work done for a whole week would mean I came back to a backlog.

    6. Quinalla*

      A whole week?! 5 days in a row?! I think an entire day of team building is excessive, but is the limit of reasonable, I’m with you that a dinner/lunch sometimes and maybe a couple hour outing is great every once in a while, but that is A LOT! We do a usually ~2 hour with dinner & drink provided All company meeting once a year and then folks can leave after dinner or stick around for a bit or even hours hanging out – cool either way. That’s a great gathering as folks who want extra time to hang out get it, folks who don’t want to or don’t have time/energy can jet and there is free food/drinks! Also, the presentation/updates given are at least 90% interesting, so it’s pretty darn good.

    7. goddessoftransitory*

      A whole week?? Unless you’re decompressing from some really high level stuff, that’s about four days seven and a half hours too long (assuming a five day week.)

      It’s one thing to express sincere appreciation for your team members after a stressful project or trip or similar, quite another to expect everybody to dance in this Appreciation Pageant for the benefit of your bosses.

  16. Chocoglow*

    Anyone else in the service industry this last week been seeing an increase in especially bad customers, or is it just our city? Been in for a good long time, and this is among the worst I’ve ever dealt with. Everything up to and including demands to change the prices on stock because it’s pricier than (discount hardware store), returns on ammo and guns (illegal here) with a huge White Boomer Man tantrum, and of course, so many generalized a$$holes.
    I know it’s a full moon and all, but damn.

    1. Artemesia*

      May not apply to you at all, but I have noticed a HUGE decrease in customer service in almost every sector and a huge decrease in quality of almost all products, particularly those that are mechanical or electronic.

      I had to buy an Iphone 5 after my very expensive Iphone14 failed twice in the same way (hardware defective for phone calls — sort of one important purpose of having a phone). The first time they replaced it in warranty, the second time it was one month out of warranty and the repair cost was greater than buying a new phone with trade in. We have had macs since the SE — at least 20 computers and 4 or 5 phones — and have been loyal customers due to the exceptional reliability and quality. Guess not anymore.

      We have had 3 GE room Hvac systems in the last 3 years that failed — like no heat in winter and no cool in summer and months to get parts under warranty. Our recent heat pump is 14 mos old i.e. just barely out of warranty and failed due to the control board failing. I have older units that are 15 year old that still work fine.

      So lots of customers are frustrated by the exploding costs and lack of customer service and decline in product quality. It may spill over in how they react to any issue with a vendor.

      1. ferrina*

        Still not a reason to be rude to a good customer service rep.

        I’m not in service, but yeah, people been really tetchy lately.

      2. Dovasary Balitang*

        Fine, but the person behind the counter at Canadian Tire isn’t responsible for any of that and can’t do anything about most of those things. It isn’t difficult to display a bit of emotional regulation.

        1. Csethiro Ceredin*

          Exactly. I am sick of hearing that “they are experiencing a higher than usual call volume” every single time I call – seems like this IS usual, hmmm?

          But that’s hardly the fault of the person I get eventually answering my call, and if anything it makes their life worse too.

          Also, I love your username. I need to reread those two books! Dove was my favourite.

          1. Bitte Meddler*

            Hands-free Bluetooth ear buds are a game-changer when it comes to long wait times on hold. I just turn the volume down on the music / repeat message and go about whatever I was going to do anyway.

            Also? When I have to call customer service for something, I realize that I am one in a long line of dissatisfied people they will be talking to that day, so I try to make my call a high spot in their day. No mean tone, no name-calling, no raised voice. Just, “Hi, I’m hoping you can help me…”

            I don’t care if my brand-new water heater sprung a leak, or I’m on my 3rd smartphone in two years, or the grinder on my fridge’s ice maker broke and I can no longer dispense ice from the door, I will *always* be unfailingly polite and respectful to the person on the other end of the phone.

            It gets better results, so even the most Machiavellian person who thinks they are the center of the universe would get a satisfying resolution faster and with less stress than yelling at the person who can help them.

            Heck, I’ve even had customer service straight-up *give* me a $1500 product for free, because it arrived too late to give to myself for my own birthday.

      3. Chocoglow*

        Yeeeeeah, kinda not what I was trying to ask about. Frankly, I get it, I do, but I should not be constantly on edge trying to sort out truck and our Lawn&Garden area because people can’t control their emotions.

        It’s a basic locally owned hardware store, not some big company; we struggle enough as it is with competitors and theft. And I’m sick to death of managing other people’s emotions. I’m still dealing with the pain and problems from a wreck in January, money’s tight, and we haven’t seen my boyfriend’s kids in four months; yet, I greet every customer with a perky joy that I do not feel and loathe to perform.

        Be frustrated at home. Be kind in public.

    2. Bird Lady*

      Not in the service industry, but will readily agree. While at a routine medical appointment as a patient, I intervened with another patient who tried to punch a receptionist. Which almost got me into a physical altercation!

      At a hardware store, and saw two customers almost come to blows over the fact neither was paying attention and they walked squarely into each other.

      And that doesn’t even factor in the woman who forcibly toppled a cash wrap display because a store wouldn’t accept a return from another store that wasn’t owned by the same company. (Think returning a Khol’s dress to Macy’s.)

      As a customer, I did not feel safe, at all. And of course, the anger wasn’t even being directed at em.

    3. econobiker*

      People anymore are not used to waiting and being patient nor being considerate of their fellow human beings because of serving up everything in schools and online.

      Then corporations have used algorithms to cut employee labor/numbers to near nothing so no longer experienced/extra employees to flex into situations.

      People want everything now and see people getting “special attention” so there is an entitlement feeling now…

    4. Car park*

      I’ve been blaming the impending full moon. So many crazy drivers the last couple of days. Just being completely unsafe.

    5. goddessoftransitory*

      Yup. A LOT of bitching about prices, which have not changed in three years, and fit throwing about tipping. I blame this on Tile and similar software that auto-prompt for a tip no matter what industry is using them.

      We are delivery food service. Tip or don’t tip, it’s up to you. But don’t order 150.00 worth of food, interrogate me over who’s going to get the tip like you work for Mother Jones, then grandly tell me to put three bucks on there for the driver. Oh, Daddy Warbucks, such largess, it dazzles us peons!

    6. Laser99*

      My opinion is that the pandemic peeled back ugly behaviors. You would think that with camera phones—there are literally thousands of misbehaving customers on YouTube—people would behave better, at least in public. Nope.

  17. DistractedDino*

    Is it appropriate for someone covering the reception desk to be singing, reading out loud, and laughing loudly? Another coworker and I take turns covering the reception desk when our receptionist is out, and she frequently has her headphones on, laughs loudly, reads out loud, and sings/raps along to her music. My desk is in an open area, so I can hear everything. It doesn’t seem to distract from her duties while she’s up there, but it is distracting to me. However, no one else has said anything (though I’m the only one who has her desk in an open area adjacent to the reception), and I worry that I’ll come off as nitpicky if I bring it up with our office manager. Thoughts on how to handle?

    1. Colette*

      Bring it up to her. “Hey Coworker, can you keep it down? I’m finding it difficult to concentrate.”

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Bring it up. Very few things make me crazier than people singing at their desks (maybe whistling) and I am hardly alone in this. Talking, eh. But singing? No. Bring it up to the office manager.

    3. Person from the Resume*

      It’s not appropriate for someone to distract you because they are loudly entertaining themselves. Ask her to please stop singing or reading aloud because it distracts you. It would even be appropriate ask her to speak more softly even if she was loudly taking work phone calls but especially for these non-work things that distract you.

      It is rather odd for anyone to sing or read aloud to themselves at work especially entertaining herself versus actual work.

    4. Moths*

      Agree with others. I would address it with her (and then higher up if that doesn’t work) as simply asking her to not sing/read out loud while at the desk because it’s distracting and makes it difficult to focus on work. I would leave out about whether it’s appropriate for her to be doing those things while covering the reception desk and would instead just focus on the impact on your ability to do your work.

  18. Nosy Rosy*

    Hi, all – Do you have any feedback on how to do an internal move?

    I work for a fairly large organization. My team has gone through a recent restructure and I’m not sure what I’m doing now aligns with my long term goals. I understand the basic steps of doing an internal move and have access to our internal job board and process, but do you have feedback on how it played out with your team? How transparent were you? Any other successes or pitfalls to watch for. I’ve never done it before, so looking for guidance.

    1. Scott*

      Talk to the people who are in the positions you are considering for a move. Get an understanding of their day-t0-day work and what the job really entails. This does two things; first it will tell you if you really want that job, and second, it gives you an opportunity to do well if you get invited to interview for it because you can show that you understand what the job requires. (No, it’s not cheating.)
      I also suggest letting your manager know if you do apply for any positions. She will find out anyway and it’s better to hear it from you.

    2. I hope I didn't take someone's username*

      From the subordinate/employee-who-might-be-getting-transferred perspective: You don’t have to be totally transparent about what’s happening, but do keep your employees in the loop, especially those who are being transferred (regardless of whether they’re being transferred to your team or from your team). It’s really hard to be excited when you’re offered an internal move but then nothing happens for six months till one day you come to work and there’s a ‘congratulations you work for Nosy Rosy now!’ email…and then panic sets in because you’re not in the mindset to get a new workload yet. So just check in from time to time about what’s happening.

      For the rest of your team, particularly the employees who aren’t transferring or being offered a move, the communication depends on how big the reorg/moves are. If it’s just one or two people moving, the whole team doesn’t need updates and you can probably just give everyone the head’s up before the new people arrive or your people move out. But if it’s a larger move – eg half your team is moving or your team is doubling in size – the team does need to be looped in. You don’t have to go down to the nitty gritty detail, just keep it surface level and big picture. What the team wants to know is “how will these changes affect my work and my schedule” so keep any comments or communications focused to those topics.

      1. I hope I didn't take someone's username*

        Welp, I misread the question. I thought you were asking about internal moves from a manager’s perspective! My apologies – feel free to disregard any of this.

        But if you are the one who’s planning to move, definitely ask for as much communication as possible from the person whose team you’re moving to. I would also advise treating an internal move like you’re getting a new job. You just don’t know how people are going to react, especially your current supervisor/team. (I had a supervisor tank an internal lateral move for me years ago because of her ‘if I can’t have you no one can’ mindset.)

    3. ferrina*

      It wildly depends on the company and team.

      I’ve had bosses who were angry I was moving and blocked it as much as they could. Those people I hid it from for as long as possible, and tried to set it up as neutrally as possible.

      On the flip side, I had a boss that actually recommended me for an internal move and told me about the job before the opening was announced. She was rooting for me to get the move (I was struggling in my role, and the new role was a great fit for my skills). She helped me offload and transfer really quickly.

    4. colorguard*

      Definitely check to find out what the policies are around internal moves. One company I worked at, you had to tell your manager before you applied (and managers who wanted to poach you had to tell your manager before approaching you), and not doing so would get you knocked out of the running.

      1. Susan Calvin*

        YEP
        You had to actually check a box confirming “yes, my current manager knows I’m doing this” when applying on our internal platform, And Yet

  19. Gordie124*

    I’m looking for some outside takes on this situation. I work multiple part time jobs doing llama grooming for various local entities. At one of them, a large American university, I’m semi-frequently asked by faculty to take on llama husbandry projects — something I’m happy to do, but definitely a more advanced skill set than llama grooming. However, according to the department admin, HR has a policy where any work I do is paid at my llama grooming rate.

    I don’t think there is any chance of changing this, since the bureaucracy is so huge and the stakes are quite small, but to me it seems like such a weirdly unfair policy I can’t help wondering if it’s normal at other similar sized institutions.

    1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

      Is there someone you can ask about this? The department admin? The person you report to, if not her? I’d take an angle like, “You’ve told me that all work I do is paid at the llama grooming rate of $xx, but I’m increasingly being asked to take on llama husbandry tasks, which at my other positions is paid more like $XX. Is there really only the lower pay band for this work?”

      If you’re getting a firm answer of “this is how it is, no exceptions”… you could maybe pursue it elsewhere, but I really doubt you’ll get results for a reasonable amount of effort.

      1. Gordie124*

        Yep! This post comes after I had a friendly meeting with the admin and got a “this is truly how it is, no exceptions” response. I’m not necessarily looking for results or change, more trying to get a sense of if this is especially usual or unusual, or if there might be reasons for the policy I’m not seeing.

        1. JustaTech*

          I’m thinking the likely reason for the policy is to make sure that nothing hinky is going on with how people are paid (ie, you can’t hire your boyfriend as a llama groomer 1 and then pay him as a llama husbandry 3), but maybe also to be sure that the people who are doing llama husbandry are fully qualified for that work (?).

          And because it’s a giant bureaucracy it’s just one fixed rule for everyone.

          So, solutions would be to either see if you can get the higher title (so you can get the appropriate pay) *or* tell the people who are asking you for husbandry that your contract doesn’t allow you to do that. (Using either would depend on what you want from it.)

    2. Generic Name*

      Are you an employee or a freelancer? If you’re an employee, they can set your rate of pay, and it’s pretty typical to be asked to occasionally do work that is a step above your level. It’s a great way to make a case for a raise/promotion, though. If you’re a freelancer, then you set your rate of pay, and you can say that you’ll do the husbandry work, but it needs to be at your husbandry rate of pay. Of course, they may choose to use someone else cheaper in the second scenario, and in the first scenario, you can choose to get a different job that pays better (I’m not saying that it’s simple or easy to just get another job, of course).

    3. Ama*

      I’ve worked in and around US academia for 20 years — unfortunately a lot of institutions have very weird and restrictive payroll policies. A lot of them exist because something went wrong in the past — I could almost bet this institution had issues in the past with someone who was getting paid two different rates (maybe their paycheck kept getting messed up or their auditors noted they couldn’t prove how many hours they were doing one task over the other) and so they just put in a blanket policy that you can only get paid one rate if you’re hourly.

      It sucks but I think you’re right that they are unlikely to change it, although maybe if you keep saying “sorry I would only be willing to do llama husbandry if you pay me the market rate for it” someone could figure something out.

    4. BigLawEx*

      Well this one makes me want to do research because I have to ask what’s limiting an institution from hiring someone for llama grooming because they want to pay X rate, but really that person spends more than 50% doing the llama husbandry which is banded at Y rate… which feels like it could spill into some statutory/legal issue.

      You mentioned talking to an admin. Have you explored it with HR (like an informal phone call, not anything formal)? I’d hate for it to be a situation that somehow tips into discrimination. All women take on extra tasks for little pay, but men don’t…or something akin to that.

    5. TotallyNormal*

      This has been normal at every job I’ve ever had unless I got a formal promotion to the higher paying role. I’ve never had a job that was just X, where X was my title, but I was paid as an employee doing X is paid 100% of the time.

    6. Kiki Is The Most*

      My interpretation of your dilemma is similar to what I’ve experienced at my last position. I worked in llama grooming but have been asked about llama husbandry by a co-worker or client for off-site, private hire. My job attempted to have a set hourly fee that we could not charge above for this, and myself and the other llama groomers pushed back as the work does not impact, nor is taxed, by the llama grooming company. They also kept it the same amount for years, despite the nuances in various llama husbandry gigs. I ended up quitting (for various other reasons), and continued to freelance grooming and husbandry at my own rates that are more aligned with the going rates. Apologies if I misinterpreted your situation with an unrelated analogy. (But if you are freelance then I tend to buck the system).

  20. Mark Greene*

    I am 29 years old. I am not comfortable talking to mad people on the phone, which is 90% of my job. Does anyone have any tips for staying calm with really upset people.

    1. Nynaeve*

      Start by reminding yourself that almost every time they are not mad at YOU, they are mad at the system. And then position yourself to be the person who is GOING to fix thier problem.

      Start by just letting them vent for awhile. Most people can’t keep that level of vitriol going for very long, so just mentally prepare yourself to wait them out. While you are letting them vent, take notes on anything actionable they bring up. What is their actual problem and how are you going to fix it. When you can get a word in, say something like “I hear you are frustrated because X, Y, and Z. I can resolve those issues for you today if you can A, B, C (help me understand, provide more information, give me a moment to do X, etc). Am I correct that your main issue today is X?” And let them respond. If you maintain a calm demeanor, they will come down to your level. Use your mute button liberally if you need to to vent a little yourself, just make sure you are doing it right!!!

      If they don’t calm down, make sure you are clear on your employer’s policy on shutting them down. I worked in a call center where we were allowed to give 2 warnings and if they didn’t stop yelling or swearing or whatever, we could just dosconnect the call.

      Good luck, it’s tough out there!

    2. skylight*

      1) Come up with a backstory for them that would make you more sympathetic. When my dad died, I made lots of calls to settle his affairs. I was definitely irritated over minor bureaucratic snafus that normally don’t bother me and I’m sure it came out in my voice. When they’re mad, imagine that they just got fired at work, are going through a messy divorce—or some other difficult situation.

      2) Acknowledge their feelings/point of view in a was that doesn’t escalate it. For example, “I can see how this so so frustrating for you and I’m sorry about that.” NOT, “I know you’re angry.” The key is to sympathize not assume you know where they’re coming from and what they’re feeling.

      3) Also find out from your manager where you can draw the line between being patient and ending the call. There’s a difference between mad and abusive. You shouldn’t have to put up with someone screaming curse words at you. At that point, the caller needs a breather and call back when they’re calm.

      Remember, they’re not mad at you, just the situation. Hope this helps!

    3. ferrina*

      First, this isn’t your forever job, right? You’re only planning on being here a little bit then getting out? Having a core component of your job be something that you really, really don’t like is a recipe for misery. There are much better fits out there.

      For de-escalating angry people:
      1. Validate their feelings. “Oh, that is a problem!” or “That sounds really frustrating! I’m so sorry that’s happening!”

      2. When it makes sense, give them a brief description of what to expect. This should be short “I’m going to ask you a few questions to try to help me figure out what is wrong. Some of these might be things that you’ve already tried- we’re going to need to try this again so I can just check off the box.” Telling people what is going on and what to expect gives them a sense of control of the situation- sometimes people are angry because they are scared and don’t know what comes next. When you can tell them “X and Y are next”, they know what to expect.

      3. Be aware of what your own voice is doing. You want to sound empathetic and calm. Talk at a slightly slower pace than normal (not super slow, which is just annoying). Let some emotion in- you can be concerned for the person, or gently aggravated, or even curious. It depends on the person you are talking to and what you’re feeling. If you are a monotone person, adjust that. It can help to move your hands and face to express emotion- even though the other person can’t see it, it comes through in your voice.

      4. Let it roll off of you. Some people are just going to be angry. There is nothing you can do about it. You can be the absolute best person ever- you could be the human incarnation of a kitten and a puppy snuggling in a warm blanket- and they will still be angry. Don’t let their happiness be a measure of your success. Set your own success metrics.

      Honestly, this sounds like a tough job and a terrible fit. Good luck, and I hope you’re able to move on to better things soon!

      1. Csethiro Ceredin*

        This is excellent – that used to be a big chunk of my job too and this is exactly what worked for me.

        I got better as I learned where my own veneer was thin – for instance someone being patronizing bothers me far more than yelling. And sexualized or gendered threats/insults bothered me more than more general ones. (We did immediately end the call people who actually threatened us, but by then they had already done it and it was still upsetting.)

        First, hear them out until they trail off, making little listening “uh huh” noises but nto saying anything over them.
        Reflect/validate their emotions.
        And speaking more quietly also worked for me, as well as slower as Ferrina said. They tend to work harder to hear you and it stops an instinctive escalation of tone.

        We had a “go debrief with someone after or go for a short walk” policy if someone happened to push your buttons, but I know that isn’t possible in all workplaces.

        Good luck! I feel like people being horrible to workers has been so much worse since 2020.

    4. Distractable Golem*

      These are great suggestions. Another idea is to pretend. Put on a character who isn’t you (character from a book or movie, or just made up) and send them to answer your phone for you. Create some mental/emotional distance.

    5. t-vex*

      This sounds weird but distance yourself a little bit. Hold the phone slightly away from year ear and focus your eyes on something nearby. It’s sort of like looking away when you’re watching a scary movie. You’re expanding your concentration to include something other than the distressing thing.

    6. Banana Pyjamas*

      Go on walks during breaks/lunch. I used to do this, I can’t cope with that type of work otherwise. Greenspace is best if it’s available to you.

    7. NaoNao*

      Set the tone–meaning, usually if you lower your voice, they will too.

      Don’t sound robotic or “grade school teacher”-ish

      Focus on what you CAN do–give options

      Validate emotions “I can hear that you’re very upset about this”

      Don’t argue about facts, at first. Let them vent out and then ask them “okay, I’m ready to solution if that’s okay with you?”

      This is my magic solution: **ask them what they would suggest to fix it**. “Okay, so I’m hearing that you’re very upset and I’m sorry about that. May I ask, is there a specific solution you have in mind that we might be able to look at?” 50% of the time, it’s a reasonable solution and since they suggested it they’re more likely to agree. Other times it makes them realize ‘oh, there is no reasonable solution’.

      Keep redirecting “okay, so what can we do about this/for you”

      Have boundaries in mind. “Sir, I’m sorry but I can’t listen to swear words. So we need to keep it professional or we’ll need to end the call.”

      1. t-vex*

        Oh yes, and don’t be afraid to call them on it too. Someone did that for me when I was a young a-hole yelling about my cable bill. The lady calmy said “Please don’t talk to me like that.” I’ve never done it again.

    8. Hermione Danger*

      I used to be known as the vendor whisperer at a previous job. If we had an angry vendor, I was the person who talked them down. Here’s what worked for me:
      1) Listen to what they have to say, restate what you’re hearing to be sure you really understand why they’re upset. A majority of the time, people are angry because they feel like they aren’t being heard, and making a point of listening to them and showing them that you’re listening by asking for clarification can calm them fast.
      2) Make sympathetic noises while you’re listening. “Mmhmm,” “Oh no,” “Wow, that must have been hard to hear,” letting them know while they’re talking that you get why they’re upset also helps them feel heard.
      3) Ask what they want the result of the conversation to be. You may not be able to give them what they ask for, but hearing what they want can help you come up with a game plan for making things right.
      4) I never needed to do this, but there are employers out there who train phone employees to find ways to answer questions with yes, even when the answer is not yes. You might look into that approach.
      5) None of the above applies if the caller gets abusive or threatening. You should not have to experience that, so check with your manager about how they want you to end phone calls where the caller is behaving badly.
      6) Breathe, stretch and take a moment away from the phone/your desk/the area after working with an angry person. Help your body to let go of the tension and stress of the encounter.

      Bonus: It always helped me to hold the other person in compassion and remember they were a hurt, scared, stressed human being, and that I might be able to help them be less of that. We’re all doing the best we can; if we could do better, we would. That goes for you and the person on the other end of the phone.

    9. Another Friday*

      One thing you might consider is what exactly about talking to mad people makes you feel uncomfortable? It’s possible this kind of job might just not be a good fit for you but a professional could also provide expert tips on how to deal with situations like this. A lot of front-line healthcare workers also interact with big emotions from others and it can be draining but there can also be ways to manage it. You could try adopting a calm persona/character where Work Mark always speaks in spa like tones. Speaking calmly might help you feel calmer; it will help the other person feel calmer even if you don’t notice a difference in their outward behavior toward you. You can try watching your breath during the call. Notice your body breathing in, notice your body breathing out, notice what your body is feeling, stay with that feeling like just being with a good friend, just sit with it like you’re putting your arm around it. No need to resist the feeling, just be with it. It will pass. Then when you have a minute to yourself, get curious about that feeling. What was that about? No need to judge it. It’s totally normal to feel that way. What comes up when you look at that feeling more closely? Because there’s their upset-ness, which is their own dynamic, and then there’s your internal reaction to it. Understanding what drives your internal reaction will help provide useful insight. I think people that are mad/upset generally are not feeling or being seen or heard. Validating what they are feeling and what they are saying will go a long way to de-escalating their ire – “I’m hearing that you are angry that there is no way to close this account online so you had to wait on hold for over an hour to speak to someone in-person. I’m so sorry for the inconvenience and I’d be happy to help you with that.”

  21. parttimer*

    I recently got diagnosed with OCD. It’s an awful disorder – contrary to popular misconceptions, it’s not primarily about cleanliness or organization. It’s characterized by disturbing, repetitive, intrusive thoughts and compulsions to get rid of the thoughts.

    Sometimes I have coworkers say “OMG I’m so OCD about this.” Which I understand is a pretty normal colloquialism. And I’m not super offended, though a little sad when it happens.

    My work places a high priority on our language and treatment of individuals. Normally I would think, just let it go, but given our work culture about respecting individuals…would you appreciate being told it’s offensive? Or be embarrassed about being called out? I think it would be good for people to generally be more aware about OCD so they don’t go decades without a diagnosis like me. But don’t really want to share all that with my coworkers either.

    1. londonedit*

      I’d point it out. Unfortunately it’s a very common turn of phrase, and people don’t tend to realise that it’s problematic. You don’t need to go into your own personal situation – it’s fine to just say ‘Hey, I know you don’t mean anything by it, but OCD is a serious and debilitating condition and I don’t think we should be trivialising it. I’d prefer we didn’t use phrases like “I’m so OCD” – could you find another way of saying the same thing?’.

      1. Not So Little My*

        My team lead, who I otherwise love, uses this term colloquially and I haven’t figured out how to correct him yet, since it’s usually said in a team meeting instead of 1:1.

    2. Marta*

      I think it’s fine to say something, but if you don’t want to share your diagnosis at work I wouldn’t say anything at all – most people will assume you have it if you speak up like that.

    3. Justin*

      You could say “there are people close to me who have OCD so it hurts a bit to hear it used colloquially”

    4. Elsewise*

      Ugh, I feel you on this. I was also recently diagnosed, it’s been really eye-opening. I think it’s fair to say something, especially given the emphasis your employer places on language.

    5. cityMouse*

      I’m one of those people who notice everything, and get really twitchy if things aren’t
      “being done the way they’re supposed to,” or put back where they are supposed to be, or if someone was supposed to do something and didn’t do it.

      From what I can tell, that’s not OCD, but anxiety. I am fortunate that in my workplace (theatre) SO FAR, no one has minded if I finally speak up and explain “I’m sorry to say anything, but my OCD is twitching, could you please do whateveritisthatneedsdoing?”

      While noticing everything can be beneficial if I am a supervisor, if I am a crewmate, it’s actually a problem, in that of course my peers do not want to be told what to do by their peer. Often, if it’s really bugging me, I just quietly deal with it, but that can backfire too – people are territorial animals, and they get mad if you touch their stuff, and, things have to be in a certain place at a certain time, or cues can get messed up, “but it’s not my job to say anything but it is, but it’s not supposed to be there but if I say anything, people get mad, but if I don’t” runs in an endless loop in my head. It drives me nuts, as I try to just take a deep breath and mind my own beeswax but golly…. it is difficult! It really is!

      Now I try to wait this feeling out, and if after 15 minutes or so, I think it still needs to be dealt with, I just go to my sympathetic crew chief or stage manager, and say something quietly. Also, this 15 min wait often haves the benefit of someone else noticing and dealing with whatever it is.

      This tendency has not made me popular with coworkers. However, I still don’t think that’s OCD, so I will avoid the use of that phrase from now on. I think the accurate term is hypervigilance, since I have C-PTSD. Ah well. Meditation has been my friend.

    6. JustaTech*

      I think that *most* people don’t actually understand what OCD really is vs the common phrasing. For me, when I learned what OCD really is (from someone online asking people to not use it to mean “organized” because of a family member’s experience) I was very surprised and I did immediately stop using it to mean “organized”. The advantage to having that conversation online is that you can include a link to an explanation, rather than trying to explain the whole thing in the moment.

      Was I embarrassed? Maybe? But I took it as “I have learned this thing, now I know better.”

    7. Can't think of a funny name*

      I have lived with OCD for over 30 years…I knew I had it since a young teen but it took until my 20s before I got the nerve to ask for help (ok, it got so bad, I had no choice). I just internally roll my eyes and move on (at least I think the eye roll is internal only, lol). I don’t like talking about or thinking about OCD any more than I have to…I take my medicine daily, see a therapist annually and try to avoid thinking about it any more than that! If someone said it a lot, I might decide to gently point out they aren’t really using the term correctly but that would be my limit.

    8. Bella Goth is in another castle*

      Gah this is so late but I did want to say you can and should talk about how using OCD that way is callous and unkind. A good way to avoid coworkers catching on that it’s personally offensive to you would be to make it about additional ableist idioms like “He was being crazy/psychotic/a maniac.” “She’s so bipolar.” “Fell on deaf ears.” “The blind leading the blind”, “wheelchair bound” (rather than wheelchair user) etc. If your coworkers ask how you got into talking about this, just say you were introduced to disability studies or disability activism through a friend who pointed out how tricky this language can be. If you’re raising awareness in a broad sense not only can you talk about OCD without rousing suspicion but you can help other disabled coworkers who can’t or don’t want to disclose too.

    9. Hillary*

      I’m super late here, but if your work culture includes respect, there’s a “not sure if you knew – can you help” route.

      Script: I (noticed, learned, realized, heard on a podcast, whatever) that our society uses a lot of mental health conditions as shorthand for and folks have started talking about how othered that can make them feel. It’s like when we stopped using the R word. I’d working on shifting my vocabulary and I’d really appreciate your help spreading that out in our org. /script

      Personally I’ve been trying to check myself on this for the last couple years. It’s been a lot of work to find good substitutes. My schedule is absurd or ridiculous, that kind of thing. I need a gut check.

  22. Fake Cheese*

    Anyone here gone from actively (and occasionally frantically) searching for a new job to casually looking instead?

    I still want to leave my current role eventually, but recently my managers have stepped up and also have finally gotten us some more team members (borrowed from another department). I finally feel like I have the brain space to appreciate the good parts of my position – permanent wfh, pleasant team, well intended (if sometimes ineffective) team leadership.

    I’m no longer feeling like I want to leave without anything lined up, nor am I wanting to tear out my hair on a near daily basis.

    This is good, right? And I won’t be stuck here forever if I slow down the applications, right? I guess I’m just looking for a little validation and stories of similar experiences

    1. ThatGirl*

      I was a contractor for 5 years, and that whole time I had bursts of looking for a new/FTE job. The nice part was that I could be a bit picky about it, because it wasn’t urgent, but I never did find anything that was really what I wanted. Eventually I got hired on FTE at that company, so I mostly stopped looking. It was fine! And while I did get laid off four years later, that had nothing to do with my slowing down/stopping my job search.

    2. MsM*

      This is good! It gives you the space to only apply to the stuff that would be impossible to pass up under any circumstances. And no, you won’t be stuck if things regress and you decide you need to start casting a wider net again.

    3. Ama*

      I did much the same as you– three years ago I was covering a workload meant for three people all by myself and applying anywhere that looked like it might get me out. But finally I was allowed to hire replacements and also got some responsibilities permanently moved off my plate, and my workload became more manageable again, which gave me time to actually think about what I wanted my next step to be instead of just trying to get out.

      I ended up deciding I’m going to try my hand at freelancing, but because things got better I’ve had the past year to find some initial clients and do small contracts on the weekends and set myself up for a better transition this summer.

    4. EMP*

      This is good!
      I’d keep an eye out for stuff you think is a really good fit but let yourself take a vacation from the constant job search (which is exhausting) and enjoy the better job!

    5. Alianora*

      Yes, me too. There are still problems at work, but one of my coworkers who is full of drama just quit, which makes dealing with the problems much less stressful.

    6. DJ*

      I think this is great. You’ll be able to only apply for the jobs you want and thus put more effort into applications!

  23. Very Zonked*

    I’m awaiting a final offer pending clearance. It’s an exciting opportunity. However, I’m still paranoid from an experience years ago in which I got what I thought was my dream job but the manager didn’t check in with me at all, I had no idea what was normal (just out of school), and was let go due to fit (in retrospect, I wasn’t made for writing 200 page teapot papers, but I’m really good at evaluating teakettles and predictive analyses, for instance). How do I deal with the anxiety from that experience, and ensure it doesn’t affect/taint my future role?

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      You have learned a lot from that previous experience – what to look out for, what you don’t want, and from your extensive reading of AAM, how to problem solve!

      So, walk right in with your eyes open and your hopes high. Trust yourself to notice and act on anything negative you might find. It might be great, it might be awful, it is likely to be somewhere in between.

      If you don’t like it, you aren’t stuck there. If you don’t like it, you can use all you’ve learned to address the situation – up to and including leaving. You have done it before and you have the knowledge, skills, and resilience to do it again.

      In other words, worst case? you don’t have to avoid the worst case. You can handle this and you’ll be fine.

    2. Ama*

      One thing I’ve found useful is naming where my anxiety is probably coming from. At a previous job I used to get harrassed by a coworker any time I was out sick (she didn’t like that she had to cover the department’s phones for me), which meant that the first few years at my current job I would get really nervous about calling out sick, check my email a couple times during the day to make sure I didn’t miss something important, etc. And it would get even worse if I was sick for more than one day because at old job coworker would start texting me demanding to know when I would be well. But I would just remind myself “this is you worrying about Jane texting you. Jane isn’t at this job, no one at this job has ever said anything when you called in sick except to feel better soon.” It did take some time, but I did eventually get to a point where I could call in sick and not promptly have an anxiety attack.

  24. Taura*

    Similar to yesterday’s ask the readers about adjusting to early hours for a night owl, does anyone have any advice for adapting to a rotating shift schedule from day? I’m about to take a grid controller job which will be 10hr rotating shifts. My current job is a plain old office 8-5, so it’ll be a big change for me.

    1. Cheeruson*

      From my experience working a job that rotated shifts weekly, eat meals based on the time of day, not your work schedule. I started out eating based on the work schedule, breakfast before work, lunch at work, dinner after work, and I truly did not always know what day of the week it was. So confusing! Changing what I ate when really seemed to help.

    2. Banana Pyjamas*

      My mom finds she needs to eat more and wear more layers for night shift. She work 2 days 6a-6p, 2days 6p-6a then four days off.

      1. Taura*

        Thank you! Any chance of advice on going from night to day like that as well? I’m not totally sure how much adjustment time I’ll yet.

        1. Banana Pyjamas*

          She does her best not to schedule anything on her 24 hour reset (the time between day shift 2 and night shift 1) or her first day off after night shift. She provides a copy of her schedule for the year to the whole family. Word of caution that she developed shift work sleep disorder. Even though your schedule will have longer rotations, it may still be something to watch for.

  25. Interviewing for filled position?*

    I applied for a job and received an email back the next day to schedule the initial phone screen. After scheduling, I looked at their Glassdoor reviews, and someone had just posted an interview for this exact position, and detailed how they started their interviewing in early January, talked with the team about how the position would be open for two people, then was rejected because they found one person to fill the role. I understand that someone could have mentioned the two roles out of turn before it was approved, or even as wishful thinking. I feel like I need to address this review in the interview and figure out what happened, but I’m not sure how to ask. This company has other Glassdoor reviews that suggests morale is bad after multiple layoffs and, having been in an environment similar to that, I feel like I should tread lightly.

    1. ferrina*

      This isn’t a red flag, and I wouldn’t ask about it on the phone screening unless it comes up naturally. The position isn’t likely filled, it’s more likely a miscommunication with the candidate or some other behind the scenes thing. Unless a phone screen is a big imposition on your time, just go with it.

      A phone screening is a chance for HR to weed out candidates that obviously won’t work. It’s amazing how many people fail a basic phone screen for not keeping their interview time, being wildly unprepared, saying off the wall things in the phone screen, not actually having experience they implied they had on their resume….usually HR is just trying to weed out the obvious “No”s before the hiring manager spends real time with them.

      I am much more worried about the other reviews saying morale is bad. When/If you talk to the hiring manager, that is the time to bring it up:
      “When I read reviews on Glassdoor, it said that X and Y are an issue. Can you tell me more about that?”
      The hiring manager can speak more to how the issues impact their team specifically, and how they react will tell you a lot about who you will be working for. If the hiring manager gets mad at you for doing basic due diligence, that’s a big red flag. fwiw, the last time I ended up asking, the hiring manager was candid about the issues and what steps the company was taking to address the issues. She was also impressed that I had done my homework and asked about it in a calm way. I’ve now been at this company for several years.

    2. TG*

      I wouldn’t bring it up at all. Research is totally fine and smart of you but you don’t really know what the hiring looks like for this position. You can always withdraw if it’s taking longer than you’d like.

    3. WellRed*

      That reviewer has no insight into what went on behind the scenes (though fair for them to post review about their experience). I wouldn’t mention it specifically.

    4. anon_sighing*

      I wouldn’t bring it up.

      1) They really could be hiring for two people and just told this candidate that to let them off easy. Kind of crap communication, but I can see how it’s easier.
      2) It was wishful thinking, budgets went back and forth, and now it is again forth.
      3) They only have one position and prematurely rejected them. The one position person fell through. They’re back on the hunt and the poster wasn’t a great candidate so they decided to keep looking.

      There are other options, but I think you should make your choice based on whether or not you wanna work at this place & not this review. I don’t think they’re interviewing people to jerk people around, but it all may point to other dysfunction.

    5. linger*

      By definition, the reviewer was not an employee of this org, and their comments have no bearing on whether the org or the position could be a good fit for you, which is where your focus should be in your interview.

  26. Department Head*

    University folks, any of you in senior roles have experience negotiating a start date a long ways out? I am a finalist for running a department at a university and while I REALLY want the job, the process has taken… a while (universities lol)… and I’m now in the middle of a project I’d like to finish out before leaving. I also have a two-week vacation planned after the project wraps up. For context, I am the head of a department in my current position, and the new position is to found a similar department at another university (which would also involve a cross country move). I am hoping to be able to negotiate to start at the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1, but if the offer comes it would likely be sometime in March. I have not negotiated a start date this far out, has anyone else? Tips?

    1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

      I’d say that’s probably a pretty normal time frame for a senior role at a university, just from my casual observation working at universities for 15+ years. Especially when there’s a cross country move involved.

    2. Goosie*

      I feel like it’s SUPER normal in academia to expect to start positions around the beginnings/ends of semesters; I doubt anyone would bat an eye at the ask.

      1. Mazey's Mom*

        Agreed. Most new faculty I’ve worked with start in July/August officially, but we start working with them before they get here to introduce ourselves and work on anything that will need to be up and running as soon as they get here.

    3. Warrant Officer Georgiana Breakspear-Goldfinch*

      I got an offer in March/April and negotiated a start date in August (so I could get my full 401b vesting at my previous employer), no one batted an eye, and I’m not particularly senior. Framing it as you want to fulfill your commitment to a project will probably help.

    4. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      Super, super normal. I was able to negotiate a 2 month delay for a relatively midlevel IC role at a university. I think starting on the FY also makes sense and might be helpful to their budget.

    5. PrincessFlyingHedgehog*

      Yes, this is pretty normal to have senior roles start a while out. No tips, per se, other that keep reminding yourself this is a normal thing and your rationale for wanting the July 1 start is very, very reasonable.

    6. MikeM_inMD*

      Since the new position is found a new department, you might get push-back if they might want you to be involved in the interviews for staffing the department.

    7. Blue Pen*

      Like everyone’s saying, it’s probably a lot more normalized than you think. I work at a university, but not in an academic role, and even my internal move to another unit on campus was a month-long notice period (per the university’s policy).

  27. Chanel No. π*

    If you were a manager, how would you react to a phone call like this?

    “Good morning; I’m Elsa A. Do you have an employee named Hans B?…Look, please don’t discuss this with him, but he’s been stalking my sister, Anna C. No, she doesn’t work with you, but I was wondering if you could keep an ear out, and if you hear him talking about how he’s going to ‘teach that bitch a lesson’ or along those lines, please call Anna or me at these numbers. Again, please don’t tell him or ask him anything. Just so you know to let us know if he looks like he’s planning to ‘settle a score’.”

    This is something that came up in another forum, but the discussion was mostly focused on “Well, what *can* you do about a stalker?” and less talk about how the manager might react. Except for one person who is certain what their reaction would be, but I don’t want to influence anyone’s responses. So how is a manager likely to react? Which may or may not coincide with how one thinks they *should* react. Also, for the record, Hans works at a restaurant, not in an office.

    1. ruthling*

      Does your workplace have a workplace violence procedure, including anything about stalking in particular? Start by referring to that. Then take it up with HR and your legal department. From a random phone call, you have no way to know if it’s legit, but if so it’s a serious issue and should be treated as such.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          If it’s a chain restaurant, they should have HR. I would definitely reach out to higher ups to coordinate a response.

    2. Hiring Mgr*

      As a manager I would have no idea who this was or if it was real, but I’d guess I’d advise them to call the police if this person was stalking and making threats. I’m not sure what I would be able to do otherwise

      Years ago I received a call like this from a woman who claimed one of my employees was doing illegal stuff and just general jerky things. Called him in and he was mortified – a relationship gone bad. He was profusely apologetic that she had called, I told him no worries, never heard anything about it again

      1. Artemesia*

        I would be worried that this is his ex trying to ruin his job. I would not bring it up with HR and would council the caller to call the police if they are concerned.

        We had a deeply mentally disturbed grad student who when her relationship ended with a law student, contacted virtually every law firm in town with a very reasonable sound letter about this guy as a violent stalker. Ruined his chances in this town. She was very smart and could sound very plausible. She also developed a thing about a colleague who officed net to me and I was actually afraid she would come in one day and shoot me because he was out that day. She tried to get him fired by writing letters about sexual harassment and assault and it was all very plausible until the end of these letters until she detailed how his incubus flew into her window at night and r#p@d her.

        The first thing I would think getting that call about a stalker was that she was trying to destroy his career.

      2. Chanel No. π*

        Yeah, that’s what the one poster is sure will happen. The manager will think it’s “some crazy broad” trying to make trouble. He, because of course managers are men, will immediately tell Hans that some crazy woman called and made a wild accusation, and does he need help getting a restraining order? Or, okay, some bosses are women, in which case *she* will call Hans in and say, “I’m told you’re stalking a woman; you’re fired.” And Elsa will have dropped Anna right in it.

        Except that Elsa specifically asked the manager *not* to confront Hans, or in any way let on that they had heard this. The thing is, Hans was already fired from one job for threatening a co-worker, so it’s not unthinkable that he might start behaving erratically enough that a boss might notice. The idea is *not* to get Hans in trouble, like in your example. It’s to give a heads-up that this guy is not just odd, he’s dangerous, so don’t brush off any disturbing behavior *if* it happens.

        1. ferrina*

          To HR/upper management: “I just got a weird call and I’m not sure what to make of it. [Describe call]. I’m not planning on doing anything about it, but wanted to give you a head’s up”

          To Hans: say nothing

          To the caller: Reach out if and only if Hans is making threats. These would need to be the kind of thing that you’d be alarmed about even if you hadn’t gotten the call. “I’m gonna get that b***” about an ex-girlfriend, for example (and certainly if it gets more graphic than that). The kind of thing that just shouldn’t be said by a reasonable person. Not frustrations or annoyances, but genuine “this dude is scary” stuff. Hopefully it’s a non-issue and never happens, but if it does, I’d probably make the call. Of course, I’d try to call from a number that isn’t mine and not identify myself.

          1. Chanel No. π*

            “These would need to be the kind of thing that you’d be alarmed about even if you hadn’t gotten the call.”

            Exactly. What Elsa said, paraphrased, “No, I don’t expect them to do anything *now*. But there are so many people who say, after a horrific crime, ‘I was worried about that person they were muttering about, but how was I going to contact them?’ If it comes to that, his boss now has a way to contact Anna.”

            1. Pocket Mouse*

              If the manager hears anything menacing/frightening, the manager can call the police to report the threat and facilitate them checking in on Anna (now locatable via the phone number). I would say that satisfies due diligence required in this situation.

            2. Greta*

              Unless Hans is for sure talking about Anna, I wouldn’t even tell the police explicitly to check on Anna. Instead, I’d mention that it seems like he is referring to someone formerly close to him and that Elsa reached out to you on a certain date. If he says a ex, state that. More so because Hans might have multiple women he is stalking or moves on to someone else, some of which may not be an ex. And he might have moved to someone else if Hans makes threatening comments months later.

              Leading them toward Anna encourages them to drop it if he’s targeting someone rather than exhausting other possibilities. Anna would still be on their to check list to contact. Be factual and don’t imply it must have definitely been levied against Anna. Let the police decide how to proceed on their investigation.

    3. WorkerDrone*

      Wow, it depends SO MUCH on what prior experiences I’d had with Hans and how long I’d worked with/known Hans. Has Hans been problematic? Do I barely know him? Have I known him for years?

      That having been said, though, at no point would I ever call up a stranger (Anna or Elsa) and report on someone’s behavior. If I heard an employee saying something like that, I’d call the cops, sure. But I have no possible way of knowing or verifying that Elsa and/or Anna are who they say they are.

      1. ferrina*

        Yeah, this is really tough and depends a lot on what I know of Hans (great choice of names).

        Honestly, this is severe enough that I’d consider tipping off the stranger if and only if I ever heard Hans say anything. Frankly, the kinds of things that would need to be said would be alarming even if I hadn’t gotten that call, so I’m not sure how long Hans would work for me.

        I’d also (hopefully have presence of mind to) ask if they had reported anything to the police, and if so, who was the person assigned to the case so I could update them as needed.

        A manager should report this kind of thing to HR, but honestly, I may or may not depending on what I thought HR would tell me. However, I have dealt with more than my fair share of Scary Men, so I would be more willing than most to believe the caller and alert her.

        1. Chanel No. π*

          “Honestly, this is severe enough that I’d consider tipping off the stranger if and only if I ever heard Hans say anything. Frankly, the kinds of things that would need to be said would be alarming even if I hadn’t gotten that call, so I’m not sure how long Hans would work for me.”

          That’s really all Elsa was asking about. Like if Hans is talking to co-workers and Anna’s name is mentioned in an ominous way. *Not* to monitor him, or in any way make him feel like *he’s* being watched.

          1. ferrina*

            Yeah, I’d hold onto that number and use it if I heard anything that was really worrying. Hopefully it becomes a precaution you never need and you never call the number, but I’d hate myself forever if I though someone had gotten hurt because I hadn’t made a call.

            For the people saying “let the police deal with it”….police don’t have a great track record of protecting against stalkers. They just aren’t equipped to prevent this kind of DV (assuming they even take it seriously, which some don’t)

            1. Kay*

              I second all of this – especially the police don’t do well with this stuff part – furthermore it is not that easy to get a restraining order or have police do anything even if/when this guy does something.

    4. learnedthehardway*

      The manager receiving the call has no way to verify whether or not it was a legitimate call. My first thought would be that the person calling is the stalker, given the situation – I mean, if you are genuinely concerned for someone’s safety, would you really call a complete stranger at their workplace to ask if the person was making threats? It sounds more to me that someone is trying to mess with Hans’ employment.

      As the manager, I would have told the caller that their call was inappropriate and that if their sister had a genuine concern, she should be speaking with the police. I would have told them that I would do them the courtesy of not informing Hans, in case they were legitimately concerned, but that since I could not verify that they were a legitimate caller vs a stalker themselves, that I would not be acting on their call, and that any further attempts to disrupt Hans’ employment would be acted on by the company’s legal counsel.

      Could it be true? Absolutely, yes. But it’s entirely possible that Hans has a stalker or vindictive ex-girlfriend who wants to get him in trouble at work. And no matter what, the sister of the alleged victim has no business contacting Hans’ employer.

      1. Chanel No. π*

        Okay, but you *wouldn’t* get Hans in trouble just on someone’s say-so, right? And you wouldn’t tell him anything about this. Really, I’m only asking to have a counter to this poster who was adamant that the manager would default to immediately telling Hans everything they’d heard.

        It’s not a question of “Will this help?” because I can’t see how it could. Will it make things *worse* for Anna/Elsa, is what I’m asking. Because I can’t see that happening either.

        (Some helpful things have been done. Anna’s boss, co-workers and building security, along with her landlord and neighbors, have been shown Hans’s photo and given a description of his car, and warned not to let him in. This is after she changed apartments, only to have him follow her, so now he knows the building. I mean, this *is* serious, even if it doesn’t sound like it to a stranger on the phone.)

        1. ?*

          I wouldn’t say anything to Hans but I can absolutely see some people doing so, especially a restaurant manager who might be pretty young, maybe be friendly with Hans, etc. If I were Elsa or Anna I would be very worried that ck

    5. PrincessFlyingHedgehog*

      Elsa and Anna need to involve the police, not someone’s coworkers – which is what I would tell Elsa.

      I would then loop in my HR (since our HR person is solid) to report this and let them know that something is going on here – either Hans is stalking Anna, or Elsa/Anna are harassing Hans. But I recognize that going to a trusted and reliable HR person is not an option for everyone.

      1. Chanel No. π*

        They have involved the police. Who can’t help much because reasons. Elsa told us she was already on edge, and she only thought of looping in the boss when she heard about Hans having threatened a former co-worker. Honestly, it may not have been the wisest decision, but it’s not the only precaution that’s been taken. And it was not done out of malice towards Hans.

    6. Irish Teacher.*

      Yikes, that’s a tricky one because there are at least three possibilities. A) Hans is doing exactly what Elsa says and she is really worried about her sister and acting out of desperation. B) Anna is actually the abusive one and is trying to isolate Hans or retaliate against him for breaking up with her and has convinced Elsa that he is the one who was abusive. C) Elsa has her own reasons for making the whole thing up, whether it be because she has some grudge against Hans or because she is trying to cause trouble between him and Anna to get at her sister or…who knows?

      I think as a manager, I would tell Elsa that she really needs to call the police if she fears a threat from Hans and I certainly wouldn’t say anything to him, but…I do think it would affect my opinion of Hans at some level. I’d try not to come to any conclusions, but knowing that there is a…maybe 50% chance that somebody is a stalker (while there are at least three options, it being true is probably more likely at least than the third) would make me look at them differently and I would probably be paying attention to what he said, not with the intention of reporting back, not even really intentionally but just because I would be wondering “is this guy a danger to others or a victim of a smear campaign?”

    7. Alex*

      I think I would say to that person that if they think they or someone is in danger, they should call the police and let them know. I would also say that if I heard threats of violence from an employee, I would call the police myself. I would not try to backchannel through strangers whose motives I have no idea about.

  28. Justme, The OG*

    I would like opinions on this. In a social media group I’m in, someone is revamping their resume. They were told to put their employment gap on their resume and explain why they were not working (it was family related). I think this is absolutely bonkers. Opinions?

    1. londonedit*

      I think it depends how long the gap is. If it’s really short, up to a couple of months or so, then I probably wouldn’t put it on there. But if it’s a long gap, interviewers are going to be able to see it from the employment dates anyway, and you’re going to be asked about it. I wouldn’t put it on there as a literal entry (as in, September 2019-November 2021 – Career break to care for a family member’) but in the entry for the job they held after the gap, I’d start with ‘After a career break of two years, during which I cared for a family member, I took up the position of Senior Llama Groomer at We Groom Llamas. Job duties included booking in llamas for grooming, managing junior groomers and presenting at yearly conferences’.

          1. Justme, The OG*

            No, I didn’t think so either. As I said, I think it’s bonkers in general to put it in your resume.

        1. anecdata*

          This short I wouldn’t worry about, but I have also seen a couple resumes that include this, so the advice is definitely going around. I think the reasoning is that lots of hiring screeners don’t read the cover letter

    2. Warrant Officer Georgiana Breakspear-Goldfinch*

      That does not go on the résumé, that goes in the cover letter, and even then it would depend on the gap. How long is it, and how recent?

    3. learnedthehardway*

      There are two schools of thought on this – one is that the reason they were off is nobody’s business (true). The other is that an unexplained gap in employment looks bad (possibly true).

      If the family situation is the reason they left their last job and they are now re-entering the workforce, it makes sense to point out in a cover letter that the candidate left their past role to fulfill family obligations (since resolved) and is now eager to resume their full time career.

      If the break happened 5 years ago or more, I wouldn’t even address it.

      If the break happened in the last 5 years and was over 1 year in length, then I would probably put something to the effect of “career break due to family obligations 201X – 201Y).

      If the break was under a year, I would probably default to putting years of employment on the resumes (rather than month and year dates), and explain in an interview that you left in March 2021 due to family obligations, and started your next role in November 2021, when your family obligations were completed. There’s no real need to explain the break on the resume, this way.

    4. I hope I didn't take someone's username*

      I agree – bonkers to me. If it’s that important to an employer to know why there’s an employment gap, they can just ask in an interview. I think there’s a general understanding in today’s *waves hand at the world* that sometimes there will be short unemployment gaps.

      I’d also be careful about putting anything “family related” in the resume. That’s a sticky area, especially for women.

      1. Justme, The OG*

        I brought that up too, that you NEVER EVER EVER want to talk about your children or family in your resume. And I got so much pushback, mostly from people who said “Well, I wouldn’t want to work for a company that wasn’t supportive of family” and while that is true, there is so much implicit and unconscious bias from hiring managers that I would never want to chance it.

        1. Kay*

          Agree!! The flip side to that is that I would question a person’s judgement who felt that family obligations or whatever had any business being on a resume!! It has nothing to do with being supportive of people with families – it has to do with wanting someone who understands what business means.

    5. Generic Name*

      I have a 2-year gap in my resume (I took time off to have a baby). When I was returning to work, I mentioned the gap in my cover letter, but did not note it explicitly in my resume. For my next job hunt, I didn’t call it out in any way on my resume/cover letter. Now, the gap was 17 years ago, so it’s dropped off my resume completely.

    6. The Prettiest Curse*

      I did have to explain specific gaps on my resume due to moving between countries and not being allowed to work for over a year due to visa restrictions. I just listed the approximate dates and a 2-sentence explanation. Nobody has ever asked me about it and I’ve been interviewed multiple times (and been hired) since it’s been on my resume. If it’s just a few months or if it’s something that doesn’t need to be explained, I think it’s fine to leave it out.

    7. Distractable Golem*

      It isn’t bonkers, it’s just mistaken/outdated, or was maybe the right choice for one idiosyncratic situation and now is being handed out as advice. Short -and- long gaps in employment are super common now, even among successful, in-demand professionals. Leave it off.

    8. Hiring Mgr*

      There’s no reason to do it, but I wouldn’t say it’s bonkers – if their qualifications are good otherwise a resume format shouldn’t matter.

    9. Irish Teacher.*

      I did apply for one or two jobs in my time that had application forms that specifically asked for everything since you started work to be included, including any periods of unemployment. I don’t think they asked for reasons, just “June-August: between jobs.”

      I wonder if the person giving the advice worked for a company that had a similar requirement and they thought it was a common one when it’s just…really not.

  29. Cabbagepants*

    I wonder if anyone has any success stories about getting a boss to intervene on a mansplainer or otherwise shutting it down broadly.

    I’m a woman in a male dominated industry with 7 years of experience. At this point it’s easy for me to handle mansplainers when they come after me. My problem is I’m training/mentoring a new female employee and this one guy has targeted her for rude, loud, and incorrect directions. The project manager is enamored with Mansplainers so sadly I can’t just exclude him from our group meetings. I can coach the new employee on shutting down Mansplainer (and she knows he’s full of shit) but she’s just so discouraged having her ideas talked over and ridiculed. She’s already thinking about quitting, which she doesn’t want to do but I don’t blame her for considering, either.

    Has anyone successfully protected someone else from mansplaining or gotten a manager to shut it down?

    1. Awkwardness*

      I think this one is really difficult, because most people would assume that the targeted person needs to epress their frustration. If somebody else is doing it, it often comes across as if this person takes more offense than the targeted person and “needs to relax”.

      1. Cabbagepants*

        in this case the targeted person has been complaining to our boss, too, but she has drama with a lot of people and so I’m concerned that that could be obscuring the real issue in this circumstance.

        1. Awkwardness*

          So the mansplainer works with you primarily in a project, and does not report to your manager? And the project manager, also not reporting to your manager, does not see need to shut mansplaining down? Is that correct?

          1. Cabbagepants*

            Mansplainer, New Female Employee, and I all report to the same boss “Boss”. Project Manager and Boss both report to Grandboss.

            Charitably, I think that Boss (being a tall white male with a deep voice and beard) has never been on the recieving end of mansplaining from anyone and so doesn’t notice the difference between benign bickering and actual harmful mansplaining.

            1. Awkwardness*

              Maybe you could talk to your boss and ask him for advice as:
              Mansplainer is talking new colleagues ideas down in a rude and hostile way; she is discouraged and stopped coming up with new ideas. You think this is harmful to your projects.
              If he tries to argue that she just needs to defend her ideas, you can confirm that mansplainer is targeting women in a special kind of way, which makes it harder to defend yourself. But you do not want to make a gender discussion out of it, just raise an additional layer of the problem, but the main problem is rude behaviour and new colleagues not feeling welcome.

              1. Awkwardness*

                Came back to add that it is of course a gendered topic. But not every boss will understand it, no matter how supportive they are. So I would try to focus on hostility and only add the gender layer on top to make them not immediately dismiss the topic.
                But you know your workplace and awareness in your workplace best!

    2. Cyborg Llama Horde*

      Where’s the manager here? Is there someone to whom you can say, “Bob, Joe, and Adam are being obnoxious to New Employee, and she’s finding it incredibly dispiriting. I’m worried that she’s going to quit because this environment is so hostile to her.” ?

      I wouldn’t say that she’s talking about quitting, just that you perceive her as being very demoralized.

      This could also be something to go to HR with, if your HR is good — if New Female Employee is being treated like this, and New Male Employee isn’t/wasn’t treated like this, that’s clearly gender discrimination and they should intervene.

    3. Sevenninetwo*

      I’m a woman in a very male dominated part of the music industry. I have a male assistant who is ten years my junior and a male boss who is my age. Many many many times, I have gotten mansplained by men when out at events. And often, the assumption that I am the assistant. Both my assistant and my boss have little lines and retorts that vary from humorous and good natured to biting sarcasm to dead pan to aid in deterring the mansplaining or embarrass the person doing so. I feel having them help call it out has been the most helpful way of making someone check themselves.

      But, I will say, I never asked either of them to shut a mansplainer down. They just do it naturally because they see it as a jerk behavior and would likely do it anywhere for anyone. They are both great people.

    4. K*

      My female colleague and I complained about a mansplainy stakeholder to our manager and he actually talked to him. I was so surprised he did and that he took us seriously at all.

    5. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Do you have the type or relationship plus attitude where you could pull off taking him aside to say something like “I’m not sure if you have noticed but you recently said several things to Female Employee that are not only loud and rude but also incorrect. I want to keep her around because she’s pretty talented. but you’re making my job harder when you represent the company in this way. Also, if I were in your shoes, I’d want someone to tell me if I was making such a fool of myself, so, here’s me telling you. Cut it out”

    6. Anon for This*

      She should ask him what part it is he doesn’t understand, and she’d be glad to help him with it…

    7. Tea Chime*

      A side note: Perhaps the word “manplainer” could be taken out of the explanation of what’s happening, if talking to management.
      I am neutral on the word but I know from experience that some people just really dislike the word / concept, and it gets their back up from the start. Also, the word might trivialise what’s going on – it’s not just “arrogantly explaining what she might already know” that’s happening, but incorrect information belligerently given again and again in a loud and rude way.

  30. Feeling guilty*

    I recently left the board of a non profit organization. Things got political. During the year, I signed up for some extra projects for this organization but when I had a family emergency no one returned my calls for help. I wasn’t able to get my regular tasks done due to not getting information needed. Everyone started blaming me for everything. I gave up one day and said I can’t do it anymore. People I thought were friends turned out not to be. While I joined this board since I am effected by the cause in a minor way, I lost my peer support. Add the above mentioned emergency, some stressful work situations, a medical health issue, life – I literally was at a mental breakdown (yes I immediately went to the doctor and got help…. I’m fine now). To the board I abandon all my work, am a traitor, how could I. It’s been a few months now and I feel tremendously guilty. How do I get over this? Add on top of all this, the board is now realizing all the little things I’ve done and are asking for advice, a few emails with follow up questions…..the thing is I’m done. I just can’t do if. For the first time in years my life feels like every aspect and goal in life I worked hard for has finally come together. I don’t know how to get over this last piece of guilt and saying no to a cause I adore.

    1. MsM*

      “I’m sorry; I’m really not available to assist.” You could cite health issues or family stuff if you feel you need a reason, and refuse to answer requests for further details, but you genuinely do not owe them anything further. If they’re belatedly realizing they should have been more cognizant of all the important responsibilities that were falling on your shoulders, that’s on them. Especially if none of these requests are coming with any kind of apology.

    2. Water Everywhere*

      Block the effing heck out of them. They refused to help you when you needed their support; you owe them NOTHING.

    3. ferrina*

      Therapy if you can. It’s really helpful to have someone to talk these things out with. If you are part of a religion, you can also turn to your spiritual guide for help working through this.

      It might help to reframe it. You say “I don’t know how to get over this last piece of guilt and saying no to a cause I adore.”. But it’s not the cause- it’s the organization. You are saying no to an organization that overloaded you with work and refused to provide you with necessary support and information. That’s a healthy thing to say no to. You set a normal healthy boundary, and that made them mad. When people get mad because you run out of hours in the day or because you aren’t psychic (and didn’t magically get the information they didn’t give you), the issue is not you. You cannot reason with unreasonable people, and you cannot help people who refuse to be helped. You can’t help your cause through this organization. Once you are healed and refreshed, I’m sure there are other ways you can help this cause or adjacent causes.

      You aren’t a bad person for not beating your head against a brick wall when you already have a brain bleed. Feel free to come back here every Friday, and I will happily give you a weekly pep talk. Because I’ve been there when unreasonable people try to guilt trip me by claiming “if you were really a good person, you’d care about [thing I obviously care about]”. But what they are really saying is “I want you to do the impossible and I want to blame you/overload you/generally deny and ignore your humanity. I don’t want a relationship with mutual benefits, I want something where I get everything I want, even if what I want is impossible. And I will blame you if you can’t give me the impossible”.
      It messes with your head in a big way. It takes time and energy to reset yourself and reclaim reasonability. It’s a journey, and it’s hard, but it gets easier over time. Know that you are right to leave. It’s okay if you need a clean break. You need to put on your own oxygen mask before you help others, and these people were trying to pinch your oxygen line to inflate their balloons (okay, that metaphor might need some work, but I’ll roll with it)

      I hope you are doing well, healing well, and have new ways to fulfill your life! You deserve it

      1. Annie Edison*

        I’m not the person who originally asked the question, but I just wanted to say this advice resonated really deeply with me on an issue I’m facing in my personal life. Thank you for sharing it

    4. different seudonym*

      It is not your fault. Stuff got personal because people found it easier to scapegoat you than to problem-solve imaginatively and/or work harder themselves. And that one organization is not the only way to help the cause! This sucks a lot, but I recommend that you stop responding and try to let it go. take a break and then find some other way to live your values.

    5. goddessoftransitory*

      You may adore the cause, but not this organization.

      They are two separate things. The guilt you feel is from these former colleagues insisting you betrayed The Cause, where the real story is that they drove you out and now are left in the lurch.

      There was betrayal here, but not by you. There are always other ways to assist or support a cause; you don’t have to invest one more angstrom of energy into the one that refused to assist or support you.

  31. Minimal Pear*

    A couple of people–looking back, it was “BellyButton” and “goddessoftransitory”–asked for an update on my story from the workplace romance thread on the 8th. (The story about meeting a really cool cashier at a hobby store, trying not to be overly friendly or–horrors!–flirtatious, and completely missing the fact that she was flirting with me.) So update: we’re girlfriends now!
    On a related topic, I would love advice on how to pay attention at work when all you want to do it spin around on your desk chair giggling, with occasional breaks to look up train tickets.
    I’m also concerned that I might be freaking my coworkers out with how chipper I am, since I’m usually a bit of a Benign Grump.

    1. Generic Name*

      Ha ha, love it! I’m not sure I have great advice for focusing in those conditions. When I was dating my now husband, I apparently gushed so much about him, that coworkers started rolling their eyes saying, “I know, I know, he’s really great.” lol Five years later, I’m still head over heels for him. Enjoy!

    2. Geeyourhairsmellsterrific*

      Wow – great update – how did it happen? Did you take any of the advice from the post and it worked? An internet stranger is happy for you and your girlfriend!

      1. Minimal Pear*

        Nah, it was just an ask the readers post about workplace romance, and the “conclusion” of my story at the time was that she was visiting soon and I had Nefarious Plans. I have no idea how people link to comments, otherwise I would like to mine from that comment section.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          Your original comment is here:
          https://www.askamanager.org/2024/02/ask-the-readers-when-workplace-romance-goes-horribly-wrong.html#comment-4595451

          If you click on the date and timestamp under your username (ex. February 23, 2023 at 1:45pm for the comment I’m replying to), that will put the url to that specific comment in the browser address bar. Then you can copy/paste that url to direct people to specific comments (note: for anyone who has the comments set to “collapse all” as default, links to comments won’t work).

        2. Helpful Hint*

          right-click the date under your name in the comment you want to link to and click “copy link”; then paste it in a new post here (it may go to moderation because it contains a hyperlink)

    3. Dinwar*

      “On a related topic, I would love advice on how to pay attention at work when all you want to do it spin around on your desk chair giggling, with occasional breaks to look up train tickets.”

      Schedule time to look up train tickets and the like. Like, on a planner, put a time block in. Then, whenever you catch yourself looking at train tickets, you remind yourself “Wait until it’s time to do this.” Then, when it’s time to have fun, go all-in. This is your time to think about this, so focus only on it and enjoy every moment of it.

      I’ve used this with negative emotion and positive ones, and it works for me. I can focus on work because it’s not an open loop, it’s something that I’ve scheduled to deal with, like any other task. I’m not putting it off or ignoring it or procrastinating, I’m planning and managing my time. Like, I play DnD with the kids, and sometimes I’m really excited about a session. I’ll put an hour on the schedule (after work), and whenever I think about it during work I’ll remind myself “Wrong time, gotta wait until it’s time to think about this.” (I’ll also jot down whatever I was thinking about so I don’t lose it!) When it’s time to work on it I put on a DnD playlist, get out the dice, get a fancy pen and my campaign notebook and my reference books, and go full nerd mode.

      Also: Congrats!!

    4. BellyButton*

      Awww! I am so happy for you both! No advice- spin and giggle, and enjoy this period of the relationship. You’ll manage your work.

  32. Long Time, First Time*

    TLDR: How can I navigate self-care after a rejection but not burn bridges?

    I’ve been a volunteer with an organization for a handful of years now. I work closely with a small team of people who are full-time employees (I will also note that, on occasion, the hiring manager and others on the team have given me much-appreciated paid freelance work).

    Last month, one of the team members let me know that their job was going to become available and strongly encouraged me to apply. I got through the screening call and made it to the final stage. This was a panel interview composed entirely of people I either see every week during my volunteer work or that I have done paid work for before, including the person who encouraged me to apply.

    I received a rejection email yesterday from HR. I’m still processing my feelings and scouring the AAM archives for words of wisdom. However, what I’m really struggling with is that in a few days’ time, I will be spending time with my interviewers again (including the hiring manager) as part of my weekly volunteer duties.

    Any advice for how to keep things from getting awkward? I really like these people and understand that these things happen. But I am also afraid that my attempt to be stoic will come off as sour grapes (or I’ll swing the other way and get verklempt).

    Also, the new hire will likely soon join in on the work I help with as a volunteer. I 100% know I can be friendly/professional with them, help orient them to the work, etc. Optimistically, I would get to learn from them and see how I could be a stronger candidate in the future, too. But even looking at the job without rose-colored glasses on, it would have immediately and significantly made a difference in my QOL. Working alongside the new hire (and doing so for free) will be a difficult pill to swallow. Is quitting my volunteer position (not now but soon) a ledge I should be talked off of? The line between doing something that might burn bridges and looking after my own mental health looks blurry at the moment.

    1. MsM*

      I don’t think you need to be entirely stoic about this. You could just invent a 24 hour stomach bug, but if they don’t understand “I’m looking forward to meeting the new hire, but obviously I’m a bit disappointed and could use the week off to process,” maybe not getting the job is for the best. Ditto if you feel the need to set limits on how much of the orientation process you’re willing to handle without being appropriately compensated for it.

      1. Long Time, First Time*

        Thanks for the response! It’s reassuring to know I don’t need to be a complete robot. And I appreciate your point about evaluating their reactions. I think they have enough tact to understand my POV, but it will help to think about the dynamic holistically, not just my own emotions.

    2. Katie*

      I think you need to ask the hiring committee for feedback on what would have made you a stronger candidate in the first place. Did you receive feedback on your interview from the hiring panel at all? I guarantee this will be just as awkward for them at your next encounter, but maybe consider that they knew they might lose you after this decision was made and were okay with it. Do you still want to volunteer? I would be honest and professional in my interactions but lay out your timeline and they will live.

      1. Long Time, First Time*

        I didn’t receive feedback after the interview. For context, my interview was last Friday, they made their recommendation to HR that day, and I met with everyone again earlier this week to volunteer as normal. I do know that a couple of my qualifications fell short. We had a frank discussion during the interview about that, as well as how some of my other skills could be relevant. But the interview ended with the hiring manager telling me when to expect to hear from HR and how they would want to get me on the payroll ASAP, so I took that as a somewhat good sign. Maybe now that the rejection has come through, they will volunteer actual feedback, but maybe not? I guess I will need to buck up and ask.

        >I guarantee this will be just as awkward for them at your next encounter, but maybe consider that they knew they might lose you after this decision was made and were okay with it.

        Oh, that is a great point I hadn’t considered. I would like to keep volunteering, but I’ll survive if this is the end of the road.

        I have a lot to think about now – thank you!

    3. Hiring Mgr*

      It might be awkward for the new person too – I’m sure at some point if not already she’ll know that you were the other candidate. As professionals I’m sure you would both get past this but since this a volunteer role, it would seem totally normal to step back a little too

    4. ranunculus*

      Something very similar happened to me last fall, and I ended up taking a hiatus from the organization that has yet to end. I was able to stick it out as a volunteer for long enough after the hiring period that I could spin it as needing time to focus on other areas of my life, rather than being disappointed with the hiring results, and I don’t think anyone questioned my reasons for stepping back.

      It stings, and there is no shame in deciding you need time away to process your emotions.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        And frankly, if you can’t stick it out that long, so what? You were disappointed and the current setup simply isn’t working for you anymore.

        As long as you don’t burst into tears, pull a Milton in Office Space or similar, you don’t have to invest too much into “making sure it looks okay” if you want to leave. Obviously you want to stay on good terms, if only for references in future job searches, but you don’t “owe” them a term of teeth-gritting if you don’t feel it’s good for your emotional/mental health.

    5. Miss Lemon*

      What about a really chipper message begging off for this meeting, something like “I’m so sorry! I’m really looking forward to meeting __ but I just can’t make it this time bc….”? That would allow you more time to process things before seeing all these people again. Later you can evaluate how much time you want to continue to give and whether to pull back.

    6. Kay*

      I think straight up naming it and asking for feedback on what would make you a better candidate in the future is the way to go. Something like “I really enjoyed interviewing and appreciate the opportunity – I completely understand the choice was a business decision but I’m wondering if I could get some feedback on what would make me a stronger candidate in the future.”

      As for continuing to volunteer – do they have openings often? Do you think they would stop giving you freelance work if you quit, and if so how does that impact your financial situation? I think handling this with grace, no matter how you choose to move forward, is the way forward if you want to keep a positive relationship.

    7. Straight Laced Sue*

      I think the fact that you got to an interview is positive, and that you are very much entitled to reframe this as a story about relationship building. You’re building a relationship with an organisation that clearly respects you. They’ve given you paid work after experiencing you as a volunteer, and then they took you seriously as a candidate for paid work. That is a good trajectory. Most volunteers or interns do not get paid work.

      Also, how you react NOW could help you further grow the respect they have for you. I remember getting negative feedback on an assignment during professional training, and I genuinely reacted in a humble, hopeful way – I took the feedback on the chin and wanted to act on it – and my instructor was so impressed – I could see that his opinion of me shot up and that he now really rated me because of it. This is the kind of professional status that you can genuinely earn by being curious and open with a rejection – it’s surprisingly valuable stuff!
      To build on that further, hopefully the new hire will actually be someone you can learn from. I mean, I dunno, they might be useless, but if they’re not, can you ask “what do they have in their arsenal that I don’t, and how can I acquire some of those skills/experiences/characteristics?” They could end up being a useful model of where you need to go.

      I am not Pollyanna, I swear. I’m sorry for being all “Look on the bright side”, ha. Rejection flipping sucks, I hate it, and I hate the feeling when you’ve invested in a vision of the future and then you just don’t get the job…ugh. But I think you can see this as a hopeful story and yourself as an impressive candidate for work.

    8. Scarlet ribbons in her hair*

      I wouldn’t be surprised if they never intended to hire you. Look at it this way – by hiring someone else, they got that person (for X amount of money) and you. If they had hired you for X amount of money, they would have gotten only you. So they wound up with two people for X amount of money. And even though they indicated that you weren’t good enough for the job (I’m sure they never said that it was a money thing), they still expect you to help the new employee. Because even though you’re not good enough for the job, you’re still good enough to help someone who is (unlike you) getting paid.

      It’s up to you as to whether you stay there or not.

  33. I hope I didn't steal someone's username*

    Well, the boss told me they want to have a “what’s your future/how can I help you get there” career planning discussion as part of performance review time.

    Except my problem is that I don’t know what my career plan is. I don’t think about my career plan when I like my work (which I do) so I don’t really know what to bring up in this discussion and I’m not so sure that the future I had planned/wanted for myself before COVID is what I want now. (the pre-COVID is important because it was the last time I did a career planning introspection, which led me to changing jobs/companies to get the position I have now.)

    Any advice?

    1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      Often (usually?) the boss wants to have these conversations to learn what they can do to keep you satisfied with your job.

      So maybe start with, “I’m happy to keep doing what I am doing and want to learn ways to get better at my job. Some ideas I would like to see if we can explore along those lines are…” Then try answering the question in terms of:

      *What do I enjoy about my role?
      *What areas/tasks would you want to do more of or less of and how realistic are those (i.e., don’t say you want to stop managing the budget if you’re an accountant, but it might be possible to shift the petty cash management to the office manager).
      *What are skills you want to learn/develop?

      1. ferrina*

        Exactly this.

        You can say “I’m really happy where I am right now. If that changes, I’ll let you know!” or if there’s a type of project you like, you can say, “I’m happy with my role as it is, but if there’s an opportunity to do X I’d love to be a part of it!” or even ask for an opportunity to explore a topic you are interested in: “I’m really interested in learning more about X. I don’t know enough to know if that’s where I want to take my career, but I’d love a bit of training and/or time to explore it.”

        You can also think about what your boss and team will be working on for the next year, and think which aspects of that sound the most interesting to you.

    2. Honor Harrington*

      It’s perfectly ok to say something like “what do you see are the strongest skills I have that the next level of the organization most needs?” Or even “what career paths do you see as most fitting my skills?” Use their lens to help you see what opportunities there may be and how you might fit them. Ask them the pros and cons of the career paths, and ask what you need to do to get to that level.

      If they want to have this conversation with you, it’s probably because they see your potential. You need to find out what the potential is that they see, how they think it could be used, and what you need to do to develop it.

    3. Viette*

      Agree with the other commenters that just figuring out your career plan is a reasonable use of this conversation with your boss. Some people have a structured 5-year plan, and some people don’t know what the options are.

      My advice is: spend time pre-performance review to decide what you want, generally, out of your work life. Not what job you want, but what your priorities and values are. What do you think are great features of your job? Not too many meetings/good travel opportunities/getting to be a self-directed SMO/getting to be told what your priorities are each day/etc.

      Your boss can help you discover what career trajectories exist. You have to discover what you want out of your work life, so you can pick which way to go. I think that’s how people make a career plan, honestly!

  34. Jessica Ganschen*

    So, I got laid off last Friday. I didn’t exactly have any warning, but also there’s been a lot of discussion in the past six months about the not-so-great financial standing of the company, and there have been other layoffs that didn’t affect our team. (In fact, we were assured that the layoffs wouldn’t affect our team at all, but I chose not to believe them and have been keeping my resume updated.) Currently, I’m trying to strike a balance between relaxing and shaking off the burnout that had been building up, and trying as quickly as possible to get a new job. It’s not quite as urgent as it could be, because thankfully I get a severance package and I have some emergency savings.

    At the moment, the most frustrating thing I’m encountering is a feeling of being overwhelmed and worried that I’m not qualified for any of the jobs that I’m interested in and that pay the salary I need. I have at least 7-8 years of work experience no matter how you count it, but I don’t have a Bachelor’s degree or even an Associates. My ex-job started out as an entry-level, hourly data entry job, and then shifted to a higher-level, salaried project coordination job with twice the pay. I’m just anxious that nobody will be able to look past my lack of a degree. What else can I do?

    1. Colette*

      That’s a pretty normal feeling. Have you kept in touch with former colleagues who have moved on to other jobs? It might be good to check in with them to get their input on jobs (and whether you really need a degree).

    2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      If the job “requires” a bachelors, it probably doesn’t really, unless there’s some sort of funding source requirement or civil service issues about the job.

      If you believe that if there would be no functional difference between someone with your number of years of experience in the Big Job who has a degree, and you with your experience, you can add to your summary of qualifications a line like “Bachelor’s level experience in Project Coordination.” The word “bachelor’s” will get your resume past a computer screen looking for that credential (if they cared so much that they set it that way), and then the human reader can decide if they like your experience/qualifications or not.

      But make SUPER SURE that your resume shines like a lighthouse. Use concrete examples of the work you’ve done and the value you provided to your employer/customers. Make sure they can see you doing the job they want to have done.

      It’s worth a try.

  35. Thankfully Not There Anymore*

    Can people let me know if I’m crazy about something?

    At my old job at an itty-bitty, less than 15 employee nonprofit, I was expected to travel usually between 2-3 hours in the company vehicle to run programs. My boss’s rule was that for everyone who was NOT driving, the ride back to the office would be unpaid. (I also was sometimes expected to take my personal vehicle to these and back with NO mileage plan– this included tolls which just went to MY EZPass?) Sometimes this would mean I’d be “on” for twelve hours and only being paid for nine of those and that’s even before lunch is factored in.

    I also learned about eight months into my time there that I’d been hired at a full dollar less than someone who’d been brought on as summer support, and when I asked my boss about it she told me she believed I’d been hired at the other person’s rate. This was after I’d had to negotiate up to the underpaid rate in the first place! Which was barely above minimum wage in our state! She gave me the dollar plus a fifty cent raise, but am I crazy to still be upset about the eight months I went at the lower rate?

    I was working four days a week for her and two days a week elsewhere but I was still the main person she’d call to work what she knew was my single day off, which would at times result in me going a month without a break. (And, honestly, she’d pressured me into working four days a week for her instead of the three we’d initially discussed.) I was the default tech support, default planner, default everything but couldn’t get PTO when the kids we worked with got me sick. Once she broke down crying in our (shared by five people, not sensory friendly, constantly-chatting-about-Christianity) office about how bad our finances were and the NEXT DAY offered me a full time position so I’d leave my other job, which I liked a whole lot more. (This also made her mad– I worked Fridays and Sundays at the other job, and it drove her crazy I wouldn’t give up shifts there to work less hours with a worse commute for one of her events.) But what benefits did full time have? None. Not one. It was just working more hours.

    That’s not even getting into the “playspace” separated by our office by one curtain. I like kids, and I’m glad they have spaces to play, but it was frustrating when little ones from a visiting daycare center would come stand directly by my desk while I was on a deadline with a grant application and ask me to play with them and everybody would just say how cute it was and how good with kids I am.

    Sorry this has turned into a crazy ramble, but I think I might just need some reassurance that I’m not being dramatic or overly sensitive here, because sometimes I’d talk to people about it and get kind of a “welcome to being an adult” response. (I actually work more hours at my current job than I did at this one, but it’s significantly less taxing– who knew?) Am I nuts?

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      Simple answer NO.

      If you want to throw some sand into the discussion about Christianity. (Making a guess about what branch), then add some facts etc. about Catholicism. That may blow their minds.

    2. ferrina*

      Nope, this place sounds bonkers. As someone who has worked in a daycare, having kids wander into an office is a bad set up for everyone. And possibly in violation of state codes, if the kid could wander out of the teacher’s supervision.
      Calling you on your day off and generally expecting you to be on call is ridiculous. Sounds like your boss didn’t think of you as a human being in any sense, and just assumed you were a magic fairy there to solve all of her problem.

      The only thing that might make sense would be commuting to job site. That could make sense as an unpaid time. But it’s beyond weird that the driver got paid and no one else did. Unless driving was part of the driver’s job? But having it sometimes be paid and sometimes not is just wonky.

      1. Ama*

        Yeah given what else OP describes I would not be surprised at all if that daycare was unlicensed because there’s NO WAY any state regulatory agency would be happy with a daycare where children were just wandering around and talking to non day care employee adults willy nilly.

      2. Thankfully Not There Anymore*

        So it wasn’t that there was a childcare center in the building, but there was a space children and their caretakers could visit, although it did have a fee per child. Usually they *would* stay in that space, but sometimes they would wander back to our office space. I don’t know why nobody would redirect immediately? Sorry for explaining that poorly!

    3. Geeyourhairsmellsterrific*

      Glad you are out of there now – it sounds nutty! And I think it’s illegal for them to not pay an hourly employee for travel time and expenses.

    4. NotRealAnonForThis*

      At minimum, what you’ve described is a bananapants bulk retail shop.

      There may be wage and labor violations in there, but IANAL so I don’t know.

      Wait, there’s space for a childcare that the kids can access you? I’m sorry wot? How did this even fly?

    5. Cyborg Llama Horde*

      I don’t know if this is a federal law or a state law, but where I am, the rule is something like “the difference between the time to commute to your usual jobsite and the time to commute to your unusual jobsite is paid time.” I also suspect it’s not legal to not reimburse mileage and tolls for that travel if you’re using your own vehicle.

    6. JustaTech*

      That’s not “being and adult” that’s working in a chaotic workplace that was very much trying to cheap out on you in every possible way.
      Also, kids shouldn’t be wandering into offices, period.

    7. goddessoftransitory*

      Unless you left out “and no one could see my former boss was a giant talking capybara who promised me mind control powers but never came through,” no, you are not the crazy one.

      One thing I’ve notice about emotional mess-generators like this person is the one thing they are always expert, ninja-level skilled at is making the people they are tormenting feel like the nutcases. “Am I really wrong to be upset about being underpaid, overworked, and constantly guilt-tripped?” is the kind of question you ask yourself when one of these brainsuckers has attached itself to you and is skewing your perceptions.

  36. Working N95*

    Anyone have advice for how to deal with toxic elders in work communities? I work on an product that has only gained traction a few years ago, but a handful of people have worked on since the 90’s. Let’s say… induction stoves? A bunch of these people are ridiculous and annoying, bordering on abusive to staff. Emails responses like “Don’t you read these before you send them out?” after a broken link. Bad mistakes in meetings that no one would ever let happen if they were junior. Strategic missteps with partners, etc.

    The challenge with this work is that the toxic folks are often the only people with the depth of experience that is necessary to move the work forward. AND, even if we cut them out of the work, it’s still a small community and they’d keep doing the work on their own (and sending us emails and being jackasses on industry phone calls and tweeting constantly about how they’ve been maligned), just without any kind of benefit to the people who are getting the job done today.

    So threatening to fire them as consultants or stop working with them altogether won’t help us in the long run. But lack of consequences for inappropriate behavior is not working either.

    1. ferrina*

      Have only one person communicate with them. Limit Toxic People’s access to regular staff. Make them go through the Designated Person. The Designated Person should be fairly compensated for this- they shouldn’t be a junior staff, but someone seasoned and skilled at dealing with difficult personalities. Essentially, if they are going to act like toddlers, they have to have a babysitter.

      I’m a little confused about Toxic People’s role at your company. It sounds like they are consultants? If that’s the case, you can definitely set limits to their role. If they misstep with partners, don’t let them be the main person to work with partners. If they misbehave in meetings, have separate meetings or have a designated meeting leader and only call them in for their part. Don’t fully cut them out, but limit them. Frame it as “we value your time and want to make sure we are using you efficiently”

      Also- Is there someone who can quietly learn more about this area of expertise and work with them for small problems? What will you do when they retire? Set aside time for training and experimentation so you can create your own experts to this.
      Good luck!

      1. Zona the Great*

        I totally agree with this. I worked for a long time in state government where we were the designated recipient of federal funds. This meant we had the direct access to the federal staffers on behalf of the local agencies we funded. If anyone in our agency stepped out of line in regards to policy or procedures with our federal partners, we were immediately put on a sort of probation and could no longer enjoy direct access to the feds. Instead, we had to formally request meetings and phone calls with them and it could only be from one designated person in the agency. These interactions were strictly monitored until we could prove we were capable again.

  37. Amber Rose*

    I need a reality check on how upset I am. Yes, I know I need a new job regardless but just… outside perspective please. I’m torn up.

    I do 4 completely disparate roles at my job. Let’s say for the sake of argument I do sales, IT, payroll and legal. I don’t get promotions but I’ve been making bonuses at manager level to compensate.

    For the last year I’ve been busting tail learning new things, providing support, achieving goals, etc. Went into my employee review yesterday thinking it would be a good faith negotiation of raise and benefits.

    They gave me a pay cut. Because I’m not a manager so it’s not right to pay me like one apparently, and they rolled back those manager bonuses I get. With a small raise and the cut in my bonuses I’d have actually taken a 1-2% loss.

    I was so offended I lost my temper. I threatened to quit. I was so ANGRY. All my carefully prepared arguments from AAM articles disappeared in a red haze of fury. I didn’t yell or swear but I was far from articulate.

    Less than an hour later I was told I got everything I asked for. A bigger raise and no change in my bonuses.

    Under an HOUR. In other words the budget and the ability to recognize my efforts and treat me in good faith were always there and they just chose not to. Chose to try screw me over instead.

    I got everything I asked for and feel like I lost some self respect because I had to beg for it and I forgot myself and threw a tantrum. I’m just so angry and hurt and disgusted and disappointed.

    My husband says this tactic is terrible but common. Really?

    1. MsM*

      I hope it’s not common to give people pay cuts on a technicality. I also hope you’re able to find a place that recognizes your value without you having to resort to threats soon.

    2. Antilles*

      The actual pay cut, absolutely not. Cutting someone’s pay is taken as such a slap in the face that it really angers people and usually causes them to leave. Honestly, this would be even in a different scenario where their budget limitations *were* real or where you were wildly overpaid; no employee ever reacts well to being told their pay is getting cut.

      I would also just note that any company which tries to pull this garbage is almost certainly actively screwing you in other ways. Keep that job search going.

    3. Geeyourhairsmellsterrific*

      It may be common for an employer to give a raise and then negotiate for a larger raise, but it’s not common for them to roll back bonuses when the job itself didn’t change. Don’t lose your self respect – lose the job!

    4. A Simple Narwhal*

      Wow it sucks that they tried to dock your pay after all your hard work, but I am glad you were able to get your proper raise and keep your bonuses intact, even if you perhaps weren’t as articulate as you aspired to be.

      But I will say getting angry worked for a reason – there’s a good chance that a beautifully worded, calm presentation of facts would have gotten you nowhere in a place that sees all your hard work and willing decides to see if they can screw you out of money. It’s not right, but some places/people unfortunately won’t take you seriously until/unless you get upset (“eh they say they’re unhappy but I don’t think they’ll actually quit so no need to do anything” vs “oh geez they really mean it I better do something about it now”), which is super crappy management, and it seems like you work for one of them.

      So let this be a good signal for you to ramp up your job search – they’ve shown you what type of place they are, and I don’t think you like the person you have to be to get what you deserve.

      Oh and I agree with Antilles, any place that tries to screw you this way is almost definitely trying to screw you in another way too.

      I’m sorry this happened, you have every right to be upset.

    5. ferrina*

      Not common. Who the everliving f gives an employee a paycut, then turns it around in under an hour? If you are cutting someone’s pay, that’s not a decision a company makes lightly. And anyone who is making that decision knows the employee will be upset and may choose to leave over it. They don’t just undo it because the employee has a big reaction.
      That they did just quickly undo it says that they counted on you not having a big reaction. That’s just stupid management who can’t see two feet in front of them. Not to mention having you working on four disparate business segments. That’s just not good practice. I would put money on them not having a contingency plan when you leave.

      This is not a common tactic, it’s a new special kind of terrible. Good luck on your job search.

    6. H.Regalis*

      You don’t owe the world perfect calmness 24/7. They did something shitty to you, and you got justifiably angry about it.

    7. Generic Name*

      That’s egregious, and yeah, you have every right to be incandescent with rage. From personal experience, rage-applying for jobs and then getting one (with a huge huge raise) feels incredible, by the way.

      I have no idea where your husband has worked, but what is he saying is common? Cutting someone’s pay as a “tactic”? I’ve never heard that in my 20 years of working. Maybe he means that it’s common for companies to set rates of pay lower than they are willing to actually pay on the assumption that people will negotiate, which is common. Or maybe he means that it’s common for companies to take people for granted, which is sadly true.

      Channel that anger that got your raise and bonuses back and get yourself another job. I guarantee they will be shocked when you turn in your resignation. You can do 4 people’s jobs. Any functional company would be delighted to have you.

    8. MikeM_inMD*

      I would say they have shown their true colors and lack of respect for your contribution. I would advise using the pay raise as a negotiation point for job somewhere else.

    9. Synaptically Unique*

      After begging for help for almost 2 years, I snapped one day when my grandboss stuck his head in my office and asked if everything was going well (clearly meant in the, “hello, how are you today” way that is not intended as more than a passing pleasantry). I lost it. I ended up ranting for about 10 minutes and slamming documents on the desk for emphasis.

      I got approval for a new position, so I have to say that in the correct circumstances that approach can be effective. But it’s not at all how I want to behave at work. Thankfully, I have much better leadership now – they actually listen and actively brainstorm ways to address concerns instead of pushing me to the limit of my sanity.

    10. Never Knew I Was a Dancer*

      Please don’t be too hard on yourself for not reacting as “perfectly” as you wish you would have, or as if you were an IRL AAM script. Busting your ass to learn how to do 4 very different jobs without a promotion, only to be told you’re getting a pay cut—the absolute opposite of recognition—would put most any living human in a “red haze of fury.”

      I’d also wager that some of your AAM reading stuck if you made it through that conversation without swearing or name-calling lol. You stood up for yourself and made it clear what you were and weren’t willing to accept, without apparently insulting anyone. Maybe showing strong anger in a work situation is uncomfortable, but I wouldn’t necessarily equate that with throwing a tantrum.

      I’m glad you got what you asked for, and I also wish you good luck on your job search!

    11. Ama*

      I have been given some complete BS from bosses in my time, but nothing as egregious as this! I also have a reputation for being pretty even-keeled but you better believe if I’d been kicking ass the way you’ve been (I mostly lurk but I’ve been reading your posts pretty regularly) and my bosses proposed a pay CUT only to rescind all of it only because I threw a fit, I’d honestly probably not have been able to stop myself from saying “You know what? F*** you” and walking out when they offered me the raise. So in that respect you controlled yourself way better than I would have.

    12. Honor Harrington*

      If I read this right, you may be female. In which case, getting angry was exactly the right thing to do. Women are often taught that getting angry is bad and shameful, but in this case, it was exactly the right thing.

      What you learned is that they will treat you disrespectfully and in a way that is tangibly harmful to you if they let you. You pushed back. Go, you! And yes, get out as soon as you can. They suck.

    13. Alex*

      You could look at it this way: You rightly expressed anger when they tried to cut your pay, and they saw that anger, knew it meant they might lose you, and backtracked. If you were not valuable to them, they wouldn’t have bothered to do that.

      Sure, they are shitty employers. Good employers don’t think about losing their valuable employees only AFTER they make horrible moves like this. There’s really nothing wrong with getting angry when someone has been shitty to you.

      Now, you don’t owe them your continued employment if you would rather work elsewhere (and it sounds like you would rather work elsewhere). But I don’t think you have any reason to think yourself as losing self respect for expressing anger.

    14. Workerbee*

      You did fantastic. You did exactly as you should have.

      Look: There is no way these people accidentally gave you a pay cut like that. They CHOSE to do this. They CHOSE to hide behind trumped-up reasoning after happily letting you do the work of at least four people and what sounds like more.

      We’re taught (espec. women, I will dare say) to Be Nice and Not Rock the Boat and Be Respectful. And you know what? People who CHOOSE to do you dirty are counting that you will continue to behave as such. Because then they can keep being a**holes to you.

      Whenever you think about your reaction in the future, please recall immediately how (in your own words!) they CHOSE to screw you over.

      There is no loss of self respect. We’re small bugs in a world of big bugs, and you do what you need to do to get what’s due you. Anyone – including your husband, including yourself – trying to tell you that you should have been all docile and mild and sh*t can go **** themselves. Because that’s why the jackholes keep winning.

      Incidentally, for your husband: You did not employ a “tactic” because you did not do it deliberately.

    15. goddessoftransitory*

      The only people without self respect here are your terrible higher ups who tried to screw you over.

      It never feels good to feel backed into a corner and lash out, but honestly, this type of tactic is essentially poking a badger–at some point it’s going to lunge.

  38. ImAManager*

    Longtime manager here. I have an employee who was recently on a PIP for some performance deficiencies. She improved in the areas we’ve asked her to and has continued to maintain that performance. I am, naturally, continuing to scrutinize her somewhat closely, more so than other employees. Part of the conversation following her PIP was her talking about how busy she’s been with some of the projects I’ve asked her to take on. I felt like her workload should have been manageable, but being respectful of her feedback, I reassigned some of the tasks and projects to lessen her workload. But now, for the past month, I’ve noticed that she’s more often than not “Away” on Teams, until you message her…a minute or two later, her status goes to “Available,” and she responds. After a while she reverts back to “Away.” I ask her every week in our 1:1 how her workload is, and she always says it’s “just right.” I’m the type of manager who doesn’t care if you don’t log in right at 8:00 a.m. or if you need to step away for half an hour every once in a while to run to the store to fill a prescription. But also expect my employees to carry their fair share of the load. I’ve moved stuff off her plate to other employees..even to my plate…based on her feedback. And now I get the sense that she’s not really doing a whole lot. I’ve asked her about it, and she says she doesn’t think Teams statuses are reliable. My IT department says otherwise. So my question is, at this point, would it be unreasonable for me to ask IT to pull activity logs off her computer and see if she’s been actually spending time working and not just sitting watching TV with her phone in hand, responding to messages on the Teams app?

    1. Colette*

      I also don’t think Teams statuses are reliable. But I think that’s a red herring.

      Is she carrying a full load? Would you be OK with her doing the same amount of work she’s currently doing for another month? Year? 2 years?

      The issue isn’t about whether she’s working or not, it’s that she’s not performing at the level you need her to.

      1. DrSalty*

        I agree, Teams statuses are unreliable and a red herring. It’s about the actual work she’s doing or not doing.

    2. CTT*

      Seconding Colette – instead of trying to read the tea leaves of Teams, talk to her about her workload. When she says she has enough, ask follow up questions: does she think she’ll have more time soon, can she take on X, etc. I’ve learned from being on both ends of that conversation that you need to be super specific about how much the employee is doing and what the expectation is because “I’m busy” does not have one set meaning.

    3. AwayThinking*

      Can you just get more details from her about what she’s working on? Set benchmarks on all her projects, get detailed info on what she’s doing, rather than just ‘work’? I’m in IT and I’ll say teams status isn’t a reliable metric, at all – I see folks show as away even when they’re actively typing. But I also tend to mistrust ‘activity logs’ unless you’re actively keylogging everything and watching through the computer, which I generally think is heavy handed. If you want more granular results from her, ask for those, don’t install nanny-ware on her machine.

    4. YetAnotherManager*

      I would consider that unreasonable, yes. I absolutely get the impulse—you’re looking for “proof” to back up your sense that she’s making bad choices with her time…but really, that’s not the key issue. If she sat there watching TV 90% of the day but managed to get the work done anyway, it would be fine, right?
      So maybe the more relevant question is: if she HAS been spending time working and still isn’t hitting targets, what’s the next step? Personally, I would proceed as if that’s the case, and maybe make it clear to her that you need someone in that role who can deliver.
      If the basic workload is genuinely too much for her, then you need to have a conversation about whether or not she’s right for the role. But if she is in fact deliberately prioritizing other things during the workday, that should be a wake-up call for her to make some changes.
      Yeah, ideally the PIP would have woken her up already, but pulling logs isn’t going to change anything. Plus…there are a lot of ways to fool activity logs. You’ll be burning a hell of a lot of trust and good will—not just with the problem employee, but with anyone who hears about it—for minimal and dubious benefit at best.

      1. ImAManager*

        Yes, the core concern is that she’s saying she doesn’t have time to take on more work, but that just doesn’t jive with my own observations and past experience. HR wants concrete and quantifiable proof that she’s intentionally lightening her load when she can take on more, and I’m just not sure how to obtain that. Your last point is something I’m cognizant of and concerned about as well. I don’t want anyone else – especially good hardworking, honest employees – to get it in their head that I or my company make it a point to spy on our employees. Thanks for the response.

        1. YetAnotherManager*

          That’s so annoying that HR is requiring quantifiable metrics! To me, it sounds like they’d like some kind of external numbers to point to so any disciplinary action isn’t their “fault,” which is seriously hampering you as a manager.

          On rereading your comments, it sounds to me like you’ve been letting her lead the solution-finding. With good employees, that makes sense and is a very commendable approach! The issue here is that her “solution” (doing less work) is not solving your business problem (having less work done/overburdening other team members). I was also a little surprised to see that you’re waiting for her to volunteer for more work, because from the outside it seems pretty clear that she’s unlikely to take that initiative, especially when you frame new projects as a capacity ask. From her perspective, it must seem like the status quo is working great; she’s not experiencing any consequences, so why should she change the way she does things?

          You mention in another comment that she said she had to work way harder than usual to meet the PIP expectations. Honestly, I probably would have responded with, “Well, I’m afraid that’s how hard we need you to work in order to stay in this role.” Because it is! Although reducing her workload in response was a kind gesture, it also sent her a strong message that she’s not expected to work that hard.

          Take this with a massive grain of salt because I’m sure my industry and company norms are very different from yours, but if I were in a similar situation, I’d drop the capability question altogether. In the past, when direct reports have told me they’re struggling with their workload, I’ve gotten good results by stating the desired endpoint and having them work backwards with me to find a solution.

          For example, I might open that conversation with: “I’m sorry you’ve felt so overwhelmed in the past, and I’m glad we’ve managed to get you a temporary reprieve by having others take on your projects for now. However, in this role, I do eventually need you to handle XYZ. Let’s put together a plan to get you back up to speed.” If my report responded with “I can’t, it’s just too much work,” I’d say something like: “Frankly, I’m surprised to hear you say that, since that hasn’t been my experience/Coworker A and Coworker B have been handling a very similar workload/whatever makes sense here. We really need someone in this role who can handle XYZ, so let’s talk about whether it makes sense for you to stay.” If she hadn’t already had performance issues, I might say “Let’s talk about what it would take to get you there” instead.

          It sounds like you’re right that the Teams issue is probably emblematic. It’s just not *important*, and you can’t really focus on it without coming across as petty. If you’re getting a hard push to track her computer by your boss/HR, I would suggest letting her know up front and framing it as “Because you’ve struggled with what I would consider a normal workload, I’m going to be tracking your computer activity for the next two weeks to see if we can find any opportunities for improvement.” It’s still a bit too heavy-handed for my taste/style, but it’s likely to play much better than retroactively grabbing logs as a “gotcha” move. And if she changes her behavior during that time so that suddenly she’s getting all her work done with time to spare…then wow, you’re so glad things have mysteriously improved, let’s make sure to keep it up, right?

          (Sorry for the long comment, turns out I had a lot to say!)

    5. ecnaseener*

      For what it’s worth, many many people have noticed teams status being unreliable. So I wouldn’t take IT’s word as gospel there.

    6. PrincessFlyingHedgehog*

      My Team status would not be a good measurement of how busy I am, either. But as others have said, that’s a red herring.

      Sounds like you really need to dig into her workload – how much time are tasks taking her? Have her walk through what she’s working on and accomplishing in a week. Problem solve with her about how to handle her work more efficiently. Let her know that you have higher expectations for someone in this role, and you want to to work with her to get her performing at a higher level – and that eventually you will move stuff back her.

    7. ImAManager*

      Thanks everyone for the responses. I’ll try to address everything at once. In the interest of brevity, I didn’t get into the nitty-gritty of our 1:1’s, but essentially, yes, she’s meeting deliverables on time, but my expectation is that she should be able to take on a lot more. From my viewpoint, she by far has the lightest workload on the team, and she should have plenty of available time once those deliverables are met. I think people are interpreting that I’m using Teams status as the catalyst for wanting to investigate further, but the opposite is the case. That interpretation is perhaps due to my hasty post not being organized in the best way. I’ve been waiting for her to step up each week and say “I can take on more,” and indeed, I’ve asked point blank “I need someone to take on X, but you’ve shared concerns about your workload. Do you think this is something you can take on?” Her response has been that if she takes on X she’ll be overloaded and she doesn’t think she would be able to deliver on other commitments and deliverables. The narrative she’s providing to me is that she’s right at 100% workload, and if I add anything else it will cause her to be overworked. I certainly don’t advocate using nannyware on anyone’s system; that’s not the kind of manager I am or want to be. It just seems emblematic to me that out of the 40-50 people in my Teams chat list, she is the only one who is consistently “Away” and I’m looking at a person who has what to me is the equivalent of a 40-50% workload for most people. She’s not meeting my expectations in terms of what she should be able to handle for workload, but I’ve been told we have to have some quantifiable evidence to terminate (not carrying workload was not an issue covered in her PIP because it wasn’t an issue before). She’s hitting project milestones, meeting deadlines, etc., I just feel like I’m getting half of what I’m paying for because she protests if I try to add more to her load. So, I’m not really sure how else to quantify “Jane isn’t pulling her weight” in an objective way, backed by metrics, which is what HR is asking me for. My boss thinks she’s freelancing during our work hours.

      1. ecnaseener*

        It seems like you’re at the point where you need to start assigning her more work. Setting aside the question of how much active work time she’s actually putting in: you need her to produce more output than she’s producing. She appears to be keeping up with her workload because it’s artificially light, so you will not have evidence about whether she can handle a full workload until you give it to her.

        Ramp up slowly, offer as much help with prioritizing as you can, but I don’t think you can entirely avoid the whole “I hear you that your plate is full, but I do need you to get more done” conversation entirely.

      2. DrSalty*

        Tbh, “a person who has what to me is the equivalent of a 40-50% workload for most people” sounds like a pretty objective metric to me. Have you talked to her that the expectation is she should be able to carry more projects?

        What would happen if you just assigned her more work? Obviously you’d need to check in frequently to ensure deadlines were still met, but it seems to me if she’s really at 100% it would become clear vs she’s telling you she’s at 100% and could actually do more.

      3. anecdata*

        I think that’s the core of the problem : even if she’s actually working and focused, she’s doing less than your other to team members

    8. M2*

      Is she carrying a full load? I think it is fine to add more to her plate especially if it is causing other employees or you to do more work/ work longer hours. I would tell her this in the next 1:1. You listened to her feedback, but you believe people should be able to get all the work done in that time and others have had to take on HER work.

      I once was a deputy and then when the head left and I became head and hired a deputy so I knew what the workload looked like. I also knew I worked a bit faster than many people, so when my new deputy said it was too much work I could say, well I did that and I did it in 1 day instead of 5. I tried to give them a bit more time to do things, but I knew how things were doable.

      This person couldn’t do the work and their work wasn’t actually good quality. On paper they looked great and they had excellent references, but they worked at a less stressful job that was less senior. The person also said they had done things they hadn’t done. That was the final straw for me, don’t lie about your work or say something and then not do it. They also started basically copying verbatim what I said and did in other meetings and then starting with “As I always say…”. I know it came out of insecurity and the inability to do the job, but it really rubbed me the wrong way. They ended up moving departments and I wish I had got a call from the department as I was about to put this person on a PIP, but didn’t have the chance.

      It sounds like this person’s work is not up to par. I think it is fine to say in your 1:1 that you were fine taking things off their plate for a bit, but that part of their role is to do all of these projects and it isn’t fair or right to make others do their work especially if it causes them to work longer hours. Then tell them they will start getting one new project or whatever at a time so they can start better managing their time. Could you also mandate they come in the office more so you can see what they are actually doing? Can IT see what they are actually doing on the work computer and whether they are actually working? Use metrics and data to show what this person is doing.

      I am also a manager who isn’t a micromanager and as long as the work gets done on time and doesn’t hold anyone up, I don’t care when you do it. BUT not for people on PIPs or who had just been on PIPs. At my organization if you are on a PIP you need to be full time (or at least 4 days a week) in the office. You can’t WFH or leave early, etc.

      I would give this person more work with timelines, maybe give them a bit more leeway, if something should be done in 3 days maybe give them 4 to do it or if it normally can be done in the morning ask for it by 3PM.

      Good luck!

      1. ImAManager*

        GREAT response, thank you. She’s not carrying a full load, no way. But HR wants something objective and quantifiable to back that up. To me, the fact that I believe she’s not carrying a full load (and I would imagine her peers hold the same sentiment) should be enough, but HR wants measurables.

        1. Generic Name*

          Okay, than quantify what a “full load” for other employees is versus what your employee is doing. Something like, “On average, analysts handle 10 projects a week. Lucinda is handling 4 a week.” or whatever.

        2. Colette*

          The issue with checking activity on the computer is that … it only measures things done on the computer. So thinking, making phone calls, etc. won’t show up there.

          I’d work on quantifying the workload – maybe do a grid of projects that are easy/medium/hard and assign point values to them (e.g. easy projects are 2 points, medium are 5, hard are 8). If you do that and everyone else has 30 points of work and she has 10, that’s quantifiable.

          1. anecdata*

            An option is to put some of the work on her – when you assign a project, can you ask her to break it into sub steps, estimate how long each will take, then update with how long it actually took (I find this a very useful exercise for anyone who struggles with estimating time or planning out tasks anyways). Then you get some concrete info on where she’s spending time and how it maps to your other team members (Jane spends five hours writing the TPS report; other analysts do it in one)

            I do think you also owe her a very clear statement of what you expect her to be able to do/where the bar is — if I told my boss “my workload is overwhelming; I can’t do all this” and my boss responded “OK, let’s move project A to Josh and B to Janet”, I would assume my boss agreed my workload was too high!

    9. Anoj*

      I don’t think monitoring Teams or her log on/off activity is an effective way to manage anyone. Since you have reduced her workload, have you seen positive change? What are you using to measure the work she’s actually doing (or not)? Do you use any clear metrics (deadlines met, deliverables, quality of work, time to completion of tasks) or KPIs which measure her productivity? What are the objectives and key results of those objectives you expect? I would think the PIP should have contained a clear expectation of what she needs to do to ensure continued employment.

      1. ImAManager*

        She did fine during her PIP eval period, and that was before I reduced her workload. After the PIP was over, she mentioned that she had to work way harder than usual to meet the performance demands during the PIP and that she thought maybe that’s why she had been deficient in the first place. So I reduced her workload. The performance didn’t deteriorate. She’s met all benchmarks, project milestones, deadlines, etc. and there’s no positive or negative change to the quality of her work (which improved significantly during the PIP). But to me, she’s got half of a full time load now, her peers are working a full load and killing it. So she’s not meeting expectations in that regard. But any time I try to add more to her load, she panics and says she can’t take it on and that she’ll start missing other deadlines.

        1. Synaptically Unique*

          Once you compare her workload in a manner like the score/table format someone else suggested, then let her start missing deadlines. There’s your documentation that she can’t do her job (which includes a comparable workload to her peers). It’s pretty straightforward from there.

        2. Anoj*

          That is weaponized incompetence, my coworker does the exact same thing. The team as even been in the same room, doing the same thing, and he is the only one who can’t get the job done. He will do *anything* else, complain, take a break, etc., anything but focus on the work to completion. Our jobs aren’t rocket science, he just doesn’t want to do it, I don’t think he even likes any part of the job. Baffles my mind. Now that my boss is micromanaging him, he will complain in our meetings and joke (not in a funny way) about how he can’t do anything right, or have a pity party. Should have managed him out years ago, he just brings the whole team down. Thankfully I’m retiring this year!

        3. Greta*

          Sounds like she is only partially meeting her benchmarks as she is only meeting expectations for 50% of her workload. You are going to hold more firm when assigning more to her load. Indicate are you are trying to get her to z, but it will be a staged process to assess how things are going. Y might be 75% of the workload and ease her back in. Support her and coach her, but don’t let her panicking and saying she can’t take it be the end of the discussion.

    10. Ama*

      I would suggest giving her what you feel are reasonable deadlines for finishing the work she’s assigned (if they are long-term projects and you can break it down into benchmarks she should be meeting at certain phases of the project that could work to). Tell her you are concerned that she’s not completing work at the pace expected of people in her role and you’re going to check in more about the status of her projects to make sure she gets up to the expected speed. Because that’s really the issue here, right? That she’s not getting her work done as quickly as you need/expect.

      It’s possible she’s intentionally goofing off, it’s also possible she’s really bad at time management and not good at self-directing (I’ve managed someone like this, meeting with her weekly to talk through progress and set weekly deadlines for her projects was the only thing that worked) or maybe she’s just bad at communicating what progress she is making. The only way to check is to put more of an emphasis on status updates.

      1. ferrina*

        +1

        Tell her how long each task should take. Tell her what you want her to be able to take on, and when you want her to be up to speed enough to take on that level of work.

        It’s really common among some employees (especially those new to professional life) to not raise their hand when they have room for more. They find a comfortable pace and move at that pace. Unless you tell them that you expect a faster pace, they genuinely don’t know.

        So tell her what you expect. If she can’t do it, talk with her about why. Think about strategies. Or it might be a scenario like commentor M2 talked about above. But you won’t give her a chance to prove (or disprove) herself until you tell her what you want.

      2. ImAManager*

        She hits all benchmarks and deadlines that are assigned to her. The issue is she says she can’t take on any more projects or tasks than what she has; otherwise, she says, she’ll start missing deadlines and benchmarks. Anyone who understands her job and what it entails knows that’s not true, but our HR department says they want quantifiable data to back that assertion up.

        1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

          Quantify – number of tasks, duration, difficulty level etc – what all your reports are doing, including her, in an Excel sheet. Maybe even add a graph or block chart for the numerically challenged in HR
          If she is only doing 40-50% of the average, that Excel should be the evidence HR need. Ask them why the org has to retain someone who achieves so little work when you could hire someone else more suitable.

          If they are still reluctant to fire her, you might need to do say a 4-week PIP, with the aim to bring her up to a reasonable minimum of work- and stay at that level after the PIP, or she’s canned without further PIPs.

          1. anecdata*

            Another way to reframe it with HR — what documentation would they want if you were both in person, 5 days a week, and you could see she was actually putting in 40 hours and at least at her desk, with Excel and a llama file open? But she was still only able to take on 50% of the projects compared to her peers. Would they say there’s nothing you can do, you just have to keep her on indefinitely?

            Measure whatever you’d measure under that circumstance

      3. Quinalla*

        Yup, give her more work, maybe not jump to 100% overnight (though you can), but tell her you will be increasing her workload over the next 2-4 weeks to what is expected from someone in her role. They she will either step up and do it or she will fail and you’ll have your metrics for HR. Whether she is goofing off or is just not cut out for the role doesn’t really matter, if she can’t perform to what you need, you need to cut ties and sounds like those are the only metrics HR will accept.

    11. The Pyrex Queen*

      Does the type of work she does require continuous typing or is there an element of desktop analysis or long client phone calls, where she might need to spend time not actually typing or mousing though a screen? In my role, there is a lot of desktop reading and measurements, so my screens will also go inactive after a time, but I am certainly working.

    12. Anonamouse*

      Totally reasonable. You’re just going to alienate your good employees who are covering her tasking and they can see her Teams status too. Who would you rather lose- them or her? (Ask me how I know.)

      1. ImAManager*

        You address something I’m very much concerned about. Out of the all the people I can see in my Teams chat (like 50-60?), hers is the only one that 90% of the time I open up Teams, her status is Yellow. People drift in and out, sure, but hers stays Yellow until you send her a message. And that’s what seems out of place and what IT says is definitely not normal application behavior for Teams. So, if I’m seeing that, so is everyone else on my team. And whether it’s Teams being glitchy or not, the perception is there, I guarantee it.

    13. Once too Often*

      So she met the terms of her PIP but can’t maintain those terms? Sounds like you have been very generous in giving her a reduced workload to build her capacity. Does she know that you are not satisfied with her productivity? Does she know others are carrying her load? It sounds as if she might understand your checking on her as allowing her to set those parameters, rather than seeing that you want her to take on more.

      You could walk her thru the terms of the PIP, remind her that she met those terms, & let her know that that job requires more productivity than she is now providing. You will be increasing her workload in stages to be in keeping with her role. She has had x amount of time to build confidence & reliability, & you are now drawing on that to return her to the expected workload. If there is space for her in the office, maybe it’s time to bring her in if she’s wfh or closer to you if she’s in office so you can help her return to the expected productivity by closer coaching & making sure she gets any remedial training.

      Meanwhile, could you define her performance not in what benchmarks she is meeting but what work isn’t getting done for that role? If you play that out for HR might you be able to get their help in setting up the workload tracking & comparison to job description in ways that would let you move forward for another PIP or termination? HR should, in theory, have criteria beyond meeting benchmarks to use for discipline or development. They can also help you find ways to recognize those on your team who have been helping carry the load she’s declining.

    14. Llama Llama*

      Is she doing like work compared to other people? I think it’s very fair to measure her performance against that if so. A few years ago, I knew one of my people were away from his computer all the time but I focused on the fact that he only produced 2 llama reports a day with only $10 compared to his teammates were able to produce 5 llama reports a day worth $10,000.

    15. Pocket Mouse*

      Just chiming in to say Teams statuses are absolutely unreliable. Every so often, including for a multi-day period a little bit ago, Teams will show me as ‘away’ even as I’m busy-bee-ing away at my computer, including when I am actively in and looking at things in Teams. Forget the status part altogether, and focus on the work she’s producing.

  39. Panic at the interview - 3*

    Hello again! Just an update, so I have turned down that job (due to the hybrid part not being known when it would start) and I did let them know that I’d be happy to pick it back up with the policy was solidified. They said sure thing, but I do hope they find a candidate who is happy with the current set up if not. I feel sadness that I didn’t take it (it probably was going to be a better $$ offer than what I would get in a while, but I’m not sure about that.) I think it’s just the part of me that feels anxious about money. And another part of me is still relieved I’m not there, waiting for the policy to be enacted.

    I did interview for that fully remote job and it went good. However, there’s like 2 more rounds of interviews!! Including a skills based test, which I’ve never had. The range of pay offered is alright, but I think I’d only accept if it was in the middle or high range. I wonder if it’d be rude to ask if they’d offer that because if not, whew, 4 rounds of interviews is quite a bit. I don’t understand having more than 2 interviews for positions that aren’t in leadership.

    That’s my only update so far. Thank you all!

  40. Hunger Games Team Member*

    I have been really unhappy in my current role since I started at this company two years ago. I realized pretty quickly this place was not a good long-term fit for me. I have stayed because well, life happened and I like having a roof over my head and food to eat. I have been actively job hunting since the fall, both internally and externally.

    I should mention that in my role, I have been bullied, screamed at, and been intimidated on a regular basis. I have tried to utilize our EAP services but alas – I cant get a therapist to even return my call. My health has greatly suffered over the past few years.

    I applied for an internal role on a team that I love. The manager is great and the team members are amazing. Our policy states that you must notify your manager if you are asked to interview, which I did.

    I interviewed and waited to hear back. During this time, I kept getting messages of congratulations from various folks across the company. Very strange because I had not been offered the job. I started having some really awkward conversations as a result.

    Earlier this week, HR reached out to formally offer me the job. The job is a lateral move and has a very similar title. However, the salary difference is huge – a 20 to 25 percent paycut. No room for negotiations or a title change. I ended up declining the role.

    I am trying to hang on until I find a new role, but y’all – it is really hard. I cry almost daily from the pressure and stress and harassment. My partner is begging me to quit.

    I am also really agree that my entire team knows my personal business and that I am actively interviewing. I feel like my privacy was violated.

    It’s been a rough week, y’all.

    1. Generic Name*

      Hugs if you want them. Is there a reason why you don’t quit without something lined up? If your partner is begging you to quit, does that mean you can live on just their income?

      1. Hunger Games Team Member*

        Thank you! I gladly accept hugs.

        The big reason I dont quit without something lined up is that I am the breadwinner. We are frugal, but my partner just doesnt make enough to cover our basic needs, plus health insurance (which i currently carry). We have money saved up, and I can take on part-time work, but it would be tough. I am very risk adverse when it comes to financial stability.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Is there any way your partner could take on full time work until you get another job? If they are begging you to quit, it means this situation is (rightly) unsustainable for both of you, and having them take on a greater money generating role could be a way out.

          Now, if they cannot for any reason, they can’t; there’s all sorts of situations where full time work is simply not an option. But COBRA and other short term solutions do exist if you can’t bear this anymore; don’t let this place convince you that you’re trapped.

        2. BigLawEx*

          I get that. Is there a way your partner can take some stuff off your plate in your household so you can put that stuff out of your mind and dedicate an additional hour or whatever to job searching?

          Also, do you have PTO you can take to get you over the hump? Like doing a half day Friday or something…

          I’m sorry about the offer with a pay cut as well as not being able to reach out to a therapist.

        3. Laser99*

          It’s generally very smart to be risk-averse in regards to finances, but in this case, please just get out. I’m afraid what will happen to you is what happened to me—I had a mental breakdown and couldn’t work for months.

  41. Kat Maps*

    Would becoming more involved with my union put me on bad terms with my managers?
    I’ve been wanting to become more invoved with my union recently, so I attended a meeting last night. There was a call for folks to volunteer to become stewards, and I’ve been thinking about it…
    I don’t think there are any stewards in our department currently, and management would be notified of my involvement if I go forward with it.
    I actually feel like I’ve got a really good relationship with my managers in my department, and my concern is that they might become hostile towards me if I become involved with the union. I realize this may come down to just individual managers and their own perceptions. Has anyone experienced either good, bad, or totally neutral outcomes with management after becoming more involved with their unions?

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Unless the union is terribly hostile to management, I see this as a good thing. And if the managers came up through the ranks, they probably were (or are) union members themselves. If you’re concerned, have a casual chat with someone you trust to say, “gee, I was looking to take on some different roles around here and union steward seems like something that would fit in well.”

      In my workplace, there’s a good collaboration with union and management.

    2. Irish Teacher.*

      It shouldn’t but it probably depends on your workplace and whether it is pro or anti-union.

    3. Yes And*

      I feel obligated to point out that in the U.S. it’s illegal to retaliate against an employee for their union activity. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen, but it is SUPER illegal.

      1. Kat Maps*

        I live in Canada and we have a similar law here. I know it hypothetically shouldn’t happen, but I’m concerned things might turn subconsciously ~frosty~

    4. Sudsy Malone*

      Like everyone said, depends on the workplace and managers in question. That said, I was super involved in organizing a new union and eventually even going on strike (something way more inherently combative than just general steward duties) and still got promotions during that period and had great working relationships up and down the org chart. I think if you project the same energy at work/in meetings, people will usually follow your lead. I’ll also echo the reminder that in the US, retaliation for union activity is SUPER illegal. It still happens, but if you’re at all worried about it, your best bet is to document document document. If you can show a clear pattern of treatment changing once supervisors knew you were union-involved, they will have a big problem on their hands. Whatever you end up doing, good luck!

    5. L*

      With the caveat that my employer is a union, so management where I work is generally pro-labour even when they disagree with our staff union, when I was a union steward, I found having an existing good relationship with my manager really beneficial, because I was able to approach union issues with her as “we both want a good outcome to this, how do we make it happen?” Obviously, some people are hostile to unions no matter what, but you probably have a sense of whether the labour-management relationship at your workplace is articularly strained. Hopefully, if they are good managers they understand that of course workers need to protect their rights and it isn’t a comment on them as people.

  42. Anonymous cat*

    I have a question for librarians or academics or anyone who’s seen this!

    In fiction I’ve occasionally seen jokes where an author hides money or notes saying “Contact me at X and I’ll send you…” in order to see if anyone reads their books.

    Does this really happen?

    An example: I saw a comic strip where a guy visited his alma mater and while there asked to see the library copy of his dissertation. He opened it and was disappointed the $20 bill was still in there.

    1. Goosie*

      I hide prompts for actions for extra credit in my syllabi, but I haven’t seen or done it in anything published!

      1. Anonymous cat*

        Do the students find them? Though I suspect you might be part of the lore about that class!

        “Always check Dr Goosie’s paperwork! “

    2. Dulcinea47*

      I’m a librarian and I’m unaware of this happening, but also, if someone found $20 in a book and kept it, they almost certainly wouldn’t tell us.

      1. Anonymous cat*

        I can see the finder might just keep it but maybe the author would be happy enough to tell people?

        “Look, someone read my book!!!”

    3. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I once found a note in a book and answered it, and even got a response. But no cash, just friendly-ness to a like-minded person.

    4. Sloanicota*

      I know on Twitter I saw bigger name authors sign books and hide them on the shelves at airports etc, and at least once I’m pretty sure I saw the person who got the book tweet back. But that’s a bit different, as it was a big enough name that their book was in the airport bookstore and the reader was actually probably excited.

    5. AnotherLibrarian*

      Hmmm… Not that I’m aware of. I did work at a library that was featured in a popular mystery novel which referred to a specific painting (which did not exist) in the archives. For years we had people showing up asking to see this mythical painting, but that’s about as close as I ever got to that sort of thing.

    6. Princess Peach*

      We’ve had people put religious pamphlets in books they disagree with. (That doesn’t go over well with the people who find them – not an effective conversion tactic!)

      Occasionally students will leave advice or personal commentary written on a syllabus or old notes. I find those kind of endearing.

      I know of one case where an author came in and signed his book, but nothing like what you’re describing. If I ever ran across something like that, I probably would contact the person just to see what happened.

    7. Synaptically Unique*

      A friend of mine used to regularly put her brochures in certain bookstore books that catered to her target demographic (this was in the early years of the internet and it was often tough to find niche information). One bookstore actually called her to complain, but she got quite a few clients out of the practice.

    8. MaryMary*

      I did something similar with volunteer manuals at work. My boss kept insisting we (I) do them, I said it was a waste of time and money to send hard copies and not just .pdfs of the info, no one read it, etc. He didn’t believe me until I ‘hid’ a note on like page 5 and something like 2 out of 200 people contacted us. Last year I had to do that nightmare project!

  43. Uh Oh Complaining-O's*

    I work as a contractor for a small company. I met another contractor here and became work friends with them. The person who is paying us is very unhappy with the work of the other contractor and complained about them to me. I was SUPER uncomfortable. I expressed some of the discomfort and the person paying us said “Well, I just trust you and you know both perspectives since you know us both, so you won’t be biased. I just needed to vent.” While he’s not my boss… there is still a power dynamic here. He’s dropped it since.

    But now I’m like… do I say something to the contractor? We are both women of color working here and I want to support them. While I don’t think they’re at the risk of being dropped from the contract, some of the things said were…not great. I’d want them to know the full story so they can decide if they want to continue this contract. However, I know there’s a risk of a few things. 1) It getting back to me that I said something (but goodness, if I know both of them, wouldn’t I tell them both about this??) 2) The contractor and contractee could be on the path of repairing/talking it out, and this could throw that off. 3) I don’t know–something I’m not foreseeing here…

    What would you do? In the workplace when I was an employee, not a freelancer, my philosophy is we workers try our best to look out for each other (within reason.) There were things that were definitely not my business so I didn’t share or get involved, but there are things that having group knowledge was power. I’m meeting with the other contractor today, so any help is appreciated!

    1. ferrina*

      Ugh. This is a no-win situation.

      How well do you know the other contractor? How well do they take feedback? Are they diplomatic? If they got really upset with the client, would the contractor have presence of mind to be able to keep you out of it?

      The thing is, if the contractor does something rash- or even if they accidentally imply that you shared this information- that could hurt you professionally. And you need to look out for your own livelihood.

      Without other information, I think I’d go for the hint. Usually I hate hinting at stuff, but I don’t think it’s safe for you to say anything outright. “Hey, I was talking to the client, and he sounded concerned about the doohickey quality testing process.”
      See how the other contractor responds. Do they shrug it off? Talk badly about the client? Or are they genuinely interested to hear the feedback?
      Proceed with caution.

  44. Anon for This*

    I posted last week about my job being outsourced in a few months. As I have been offered a “comparable job” at the outsource vendor (presumably to train my replacement), I am not eligible for severance even though they are eliminating my position.

    I’m still trying to get past my righteous anger, but it is a blessing to have time to job hunt. I will have a lawyer review the vendor’s offer letter, but my guess is it’s legal. Supposedly I have to accept the offer when I receive it in a week or two or else will be considered to have resigned.

    My goal is to accept the vendor’s offer under duress but give notice as soon as I have a better offer. What’s the best way to address this situation in interviews?

    My manager and supervisors will be staying with my employer. I want to keep a good reference with them and handle things gracefully. But how?

    1. EMP*

      I don’t think you’ll have an issue with interviews. “My job at Foo was eliminated, I accepted the position they offered me at the contracted vendor but decided to look for something [more permanent/a better fit/with more management/whatever]

    2. saskia*

      If this was me, in interviews, I’d say my job was outsourced and I’m sticking around for a while to oversee the transition with the vendor. If the interviewer pressed for a timeline, I would say I expected transition to wrap up soon and will be ready to start a position by X date (whatever date works for you).

  45. Tradd*

    I’m the customs broker that’s posted a number of times recently. I have some good news. Import manager resigned this week. I was offered her job. I didn’t take it for a number of reasons – I don’t have the patience, too many accounting issues and I’m not a numbers person. I also want to stay on the brokerage side, not transportation, even though I have the experience to do it. I was still given a $10K raise! They said they wanted to make sure I stayed. I’m now making $30K more than I did when I was laid off due to Covid four years ago. Never dreamed I’d make this much. I’m amazed. This makes up for the weekend stuff I occasionally have to do. I also have permission from owners to WFH when I’m sick or roads are bad from weather. They were not happy about the pushback HR gave when I was out sick with Covid last month and worked from home (with manager approval). Owners have been much nicer and it’s been good for a number of weeks now. Yay!

    1. ClosingTime*

      Good to see some good sense prevailed! I’d seen your posts over the past few months…. Specifically about the wfh bs. So glad your value has been recognized.

  46. Sprigatito*

    I’m looking to escape my current job and am looking at an opening that lists a starting pay range “depending on experience” where the high end would be a very significant pay cut for me, but still acceptable, and the low end would be not even worth leaving for. How bad would it be if asked upfront how likely it would be for a candidate to be offered the high end pay, or is the expectation that they’d be at the lower end?

    1. EMP*

      Depends on your industry but I’ve recently asked during phone screens if there’s flexibility on the level they’re hiring for as I’m more senior than the job listing, and so far they’ve said yes. It’s pretty typical in my field to put out one job req at one salary level but consider people higher or lower than that if they come along and your budget is flexible. I think it’s equally reasonable to say “I’m think I’d be a great fit for X but with my experience and seniority I would be expecting a salary in the range of “high end” to “high end plus 10″ (or whatever). Do you think the hiring team would be open to that?”

    2. Cordelia*

      I don’t think it would be bad at all. But I wouldn’t ask about hypothetical probabilities, I think you need to know whether your level of experience would put you at the highest end. Do you believe that you are exceptionally experienced for this role, or is it just that you need that level of pay to make it worth moving? If you have significant experience, I’d suggest having that conversation, at least in principle, quite early in the hiring process so you know whether it’s worth continuing.

      1. Sprigatito*

        I have a good amount of experience in a related role but not this role exactly, so I’m a little uncertain if they’d be willing to translate it over 1:1 – but since I’d already be taking a pay cut to move into it, I want to make sure I would still be making enough to be worthwhile. And I would hate to go through interviews and waste everyone’s time when they were never planning to offer more than the lowest point on the range.

  47. Opal*

    If you were the runner up for a promotion would you want to know? We just had a promotion available and lots of people applied. It came down to two finalists. I think we should be honest with the person who didnt get it, including the issue that held them back, but my counterpart disagrees and wants us to just tell everyone it was a tough call and we chose who we thought would be best.

    I am about to move to a new team (hence the promotion opening) so I will not be the one dealing with any fallout. This means I need to defer to my counterpart right, even if I disagree?

    1. Sloanicota*

      Yes I think it’s important to know. You don’t have to tell them they were literally in the top two but you should tell them they were extremely competitive and were “among the top choices” because they deserve to know that, IMO.

    2. Ashley*

      I think there is a huge difference between wanting to know, and if the company should share that info. I think if there was a true internal second candidate and it was close, and if there is a clearly definable reason person A got then you might share it. This also assumes that the runner-up could do something for next time to get it. But generally if you are moving on this because much more not your circus.

    3. girlie_pop*

      I agree that you should tell them the issue that held them back. I don’t know if I’d really want to know that I came so close, but hearing, “You were a really competitive candidate, but the candidate we chose ultimately had XYZ; if you’re interested in a promotion like this in the future, that’s something you should focus on building/learning/improving on/etc.”

    4. Synaptically Unique*

      Proceed cautiously. In a parallel office (same reporting line, so we often sat in manager meetings where we learned a lot about each other’s work issues), they had internal competition for every promotion opportunity. Several times they told the unsuccessful employees about a specific qualification or topic that the selected employee nailed. But that was not necessarily the only (or primary) reason they weren’t selected. Put them in a bad spot the next time around when they’d find the person with the crappy attitude or personality had actually worked on that topic and now met the objective criteria for the position. They ended up promoting several people that should have been managed out instead.

    5. Annony*

      Since you are leaving, I do think you need to defer to the person staying. I would want to know but I can see how that feedback could go badly, especially if the person doesn’t agree with your assessment. If this is someone you are particularly close with, you could give them some informal feedback that working on X could increase their chances of getting the promotion next time, but I still wouldn’t tell them they were the second choice.

  48. Bella Goth is in another castle*

    Hi everyone! Thank you in advance for your help. I’m in the fun limbo between the second and last steps of a three step interview process and have hit a bit of a weird situation. When I originally applied for this job, my current position at a different company was listed as an individual contributor even though I’d been doing Project Lead work since last October. My company has been undergoing layoffs (me included, hence the search), and my manager recently told me that the company had considered me to officially be in the Project Lead role as of Q3 last year, but I wasn’t told since compensation isn’t based on those title changes. For salary/HR purposes it’s basically Associate (x) –> (x) with no extra words –> Senior (x) and Project Lead titles are internal. I know this already more than a little strange but my manager urged me to list the lead title as a promotion on my resume since I would have been told during my yearly review this month if my company hadn’t laid off more than 50% of its workforce.

    My manager’s my reference so I’m pretty sure I could explain the situation in the case of a background check. (I hope.) But my main question is for this current in medias res interview process. I’m due for my first and only check in with the in house recruiter (following the double/triple rules of course) next week, and I’m wondering if I should mention this change. I know they’ve looked at my LinkedIn in the past, and the change would be reflected there the next time they looked at it (if the hiring committee would, etc), but is it going to be weird slash a knock against me to tell another company about the internal title change and acknowledgment of increased responsibilities? What’s worse, LinkedIn not matching the resume they have and not telling them or telling them how funky things are at my current company? The current company is generally very respected in our industry so it’s not like the hiring team wouldn’t have heard of them or their products.

    1. ferrina*

      What does HR have you listed as?
      When a company checks your employment history, they are going to call HR, not your references. HR will say “Yes, Bella Goth worked here from 2015-2024, and their last title was Individual Contributor”. If you put anything different than “Individual Contributor”, it will look like you were lying.

      What you can do is list the title and list “served as Project Lead for X and Y” under your accomplishments for that job. It’s really common to see someone serve in higher/different roles without actually getting a promotion.

      1. Bella Goth is in another castle*

        I guess the weird thing is we’re owned by a larger company who doesn’t address the internal titles at all so if someone went to my main company’s HR they might get a different answer than the high level HR for the company that owns us. It’s probably worth it to see who would handle these checks in terms of little company or big company maybe.

    2. Bitte Meddler*

      I think it’s OK to list both.

      Layoff Company date1-date3
      Associate Teapot Maker, date1-date2
      Teapot Project Lead (internal title), date2-date3

      I think any company above a certain size is going to understand that sometimes local titles are different than the corporate ones.

      At my current company, for instance, our head of Tax is listed internally as a Team Lead but it’s the equivalent of a Director role (above Sr Manager but below VP) at any non-banking Fortune 500 company. The Tax person lists both titles on his LinkedIn.

      And you’ve got your manager to back you, and to speak to your actual job duties when they call her.

  49. balanceofthemis*

    Hello, I am struggling with how to explain why I left my last job of only 6 months with nothing lined up during interviews. It was a very toxic work environment, I actually posted about it a couple months ago. I was one of three people who put in their notice around the same time because of the person at the top.

    How do I explain this without “badmouthing” my former employer? I can’t think of anything that sounds reasonable.

    1. Ama*

      How about — “the job turned out to be very different from how it was described during the interview stage and it wasn’t a good fit.” All of that is true — you weren’t expecting a toxic work environment when you accepted the job and it was a horrible fit for your mental health.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        To add to the advice everyone else has already given, if you tack on “and I was excited to see your job posting because [reasons],” that will usually pivot the conversation to why you want the job you are applying for.

    2. Csethiro Ceredin*

      Would it be at all accurate to say the work or setup were not what you expected, or what there had been a change in the work you did, and you found that while you liked xyz, that workplace wasn’t a fit overall?

      As an interviewer I’d read between the lines if someone said a few other people ended up leaving around the same time, but it depends on the circumstances whether that works to say.

    3. ferrina*

      Diplomatically explain why you left. Say it neutrally and casually, like “yep, it turned out they ate ghost peppers for breakfast, which worked for them but not for me.” Just the facts.

      “The company strategies pivoted quickly, sometimes on a monthly basis, and I preferred a company with a bit more stability.”

      When interviewers ask why you left, they are just checking that 1) you didn’t do something amazingly stupid and get forced out and 2) that the reason you left isn’t something that will happen here. For example, I once interviewed someone that was leaving because she had had 3 bosses in 3 years and wanted more stability. Well, I had had 4 bosses in 3 years and the current role was unfilled- so she’d walk directly into the situation that she’d just walked out of.
      At one point I left because “I haven’t had a pay adjustment in 3 years, and I’ve been taking on a lot of higher level work. I would love to do more of this higher level work, and of course, be compensated accordingly!” No one blinked an eye, because that was exactly what they were hiring for. A 20-second answer, and we were on to the next question.

  50. FridayFriday*

    Question for people who work in recruiting. My husband has applied for a position at a company where I know the senior recruiter. In fact, she was the recruiter when I got my job at the company where I have been for the past decade. I wouldn’t say we’re friends, but we’ve kept in touch. She provided me some vacation recommendations when I saw pics she’d posted on Facebook; that sort of thing. My husband’s really excited about the position and would like me to reach out and mention that he’s applied. I know he’s not going to get an interview based on that nebulous connection, but I wonder if it would make her take a closer look, if she has a stack of CVs from 50 qualified candidates on her desk (and then he and his credentials can take it from there). On the other hand, she doesn’t know him well and I think it risks looking like I’m asking for special treatment. I’m inclined to think it would do more harm than good and I shouldn’t reach out, but I thought I’d ask what everyone here thinks.

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      “Hi, was just thinking about you because my husband X just applied for a position at your company. From what you’ve said about working there, I think he could be happy there. Hope all is well with you.”

      And then nothing else. It’s just a flag so she can peek at the application. You should not follow up whether he gets an interview or not. And if he does get a job, maybe it’s ok to say “Hi again, X has said some great things about his onboarding. I’m so glad he’ll be working there.”

  51. Minerva*

    I’ve been having a lot of difficulty with an increasingly toxic supervisor and this week finally ended up reporting them to HR when they demanded that I do something definitely unprofessional and borderline unethical ‘because they said so’. I was aware when I did it that I was basically going to make it impossible to work with the supervisor anymore (the report was technically anonymous but it would have been extremely obvious it was me) so I’m prepared to leave, but does anyone have advice on what to tell prospective new employers when they ask my reason for leaving?

    1. MsM*

      There’s always “it wasn’t a good fit,” but I feel like if “I’m looking for a place that shares my commitment to high professional standards and integrity” strikes your interviewer as a bad thing, you probably don’t want to work there.

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        I used almost exactly that line about “high professional standards and integrity, as well as respect of licensing requirements” in my interview at CurrentJob. Suffice it to say that it stood on its own merits since.

        Once I was beyond new employee, someone did ask me. I laid out the unethical thing I’d been asked to do by my supervisor that might have cost a third party (who wasn’t even in the room) their license for llama grooming. Aghast (at the fact I was asked to do that) and impressed (at what I’d stated in the interview instead of blowing them up) was the reaction.

    2. ferrina*

      “I was asked to do something unethical, and I realized that I was ready to move on”

      This can be a bit gossipy and distract from your skills, but depending on what it was, it could strengthen your candidacy. But make sure your audience understands why the instance is unethical (i.e., they have the right professional background to understand the context). I’ve definitely had a couple moments of “the business did what?!” in interviews I’ve been in. It’s nice both as a candidate and interviewer to see that we’re on the same page.

      For a more neutral take (like if you are talking to HR), “the department goals and strategies were shifting, and I realized I wanted to work somewhere that I could focus on [thing that attracted you to the job/really normal thing in your industry]”
      Example: “As you know, I worked in the Accounting Dept, and the goals and strategies were shifting to client satisfaction to the detriment of financial accuracy. I realized that I wanted to work somewhere where accounting accuracy was a priority.”

  52. LlamaDrama*

    Just wanted to thank everyone who gave me advice about dealing with a difficult coworker during her notice period. There’s been a lot of ridiculousness over the last two weeks but she’s finally left.

  53. Sloanicota*

    Lately my boss has a bad habit of complaining to me about the (only) other employee in our organization, and I’m realizing I need to head it off; I have to work with this person, and I do actually respect what she’s done, although I can appreciate that she’s making my bosses’ life difficult right now. She (the other employee) also used to be my boss, and is senior to me, so in general I’m inclined to do things if she asks me to, and I don’t need my new bosses’ negativity in my head every time. Finally, I think it would be counter productive to have the other person think boss + I are a team against her. So, what is the best response when my boss starts in during our one on one sessions? Just emotionally neutral, mm hmm and then redirect type stuff? I don’t want my boss to decide I’m the problem next.

    1. ferrina*

      How reasonable is your boss?

      If your boss is reasonable, you may be able to say “Boss, I’ve realized that I’m sort of in a weird position when we talk about Lucinda. I have to work with her every day, and it’s distracting when I’m replaying our conversation.”

      If not reasonable, redirect. “Oh! Sorry, this just popped into my head, I need input on X…” or “That reminds me, I had a question about Y….”
      Or shorten your meetings- be late (if that’s okay) or say “any chance we could make this a short meeting? I need to get back to XYZ”. Less time=less time to complain.
      If you don’t have an agenda, start bringing one. “Hey boss, I’ve got a list of things for us to cover….”
      Good luck!

  54. Once a Student*

    The reactions and comments to that one letter this week about the person with the unreasonable professor made me realize I perhaps should have done something in my situation. I was a senior in college and everyone in my major had to take a class offered by this one professor who was (of course) head of the department at the time.

    This professor:
    -ignored the fact that a software he was instructing us how to use was not working on anyone’s laptop for some reason (I forget why we had tech issues but it was sadly very real and I never was able to learn that software)
    – Would only answer emails from one student in our class
    -Was deeply condescending
    -On the midterm exam, got mad at the class for answering a problem the way it was asked (we were apparently supposed to have read his mind and NOT followed the prompt????)
    -Never graded or gave feedback on a single assignment, so it is anyone’s guess as to what our final grades (late of course) were based on.

    At the time, all of us in the class just griped about him together but I suppose we could have gone to the head of the school to complain? It is a rough call because he was a longtime tenured professor and we were all just trying to make it through senior year.

    1. EMP*

      I think it’s unreasonable to expect college students (i.e. yourself) to have the kind of experience and organizational power to push back collectively against a senior tenured professor. The balance of power is SO unbalanced there and the school isn’t necessarily on your side (even though you pay them!). This is what reviews are supposed to be for and a good school would take reams of negative reviews into account, but if the professor is tenured they may feel their hands are tied anyway.

    2. PrincessFlyingHedgehog*

      Most universities have an ombuds office that can help students navigate these tricky situations. Usually, the ombuds knows the local politics better than the students. Another option would have been to go directly to the professor’s manager (if there was a level between the professor and school head), usually some kind of program director, or division or department head.

    3. Might Be Spam*

      I was in a similar situation and nobody in my class knew how to handle it and didn’t even know about ombudsman resources. I asked a friendly professor in another department for advice and she arranged a meeting for 6 of us to talk to the department head. We explained the situation and they took care of it.
      My point is that we didn’t even know there was help available. You did the best you could with the experience and knowledge that you had at the time.

  55. Karate Saw*

    Starting a month ago, I now have a standing meeting from 2PM-3:30PM every Friday. The call is extremely essential training re: a new initiative, and is built around the availability of the most impactful (think, the dev being to join customer support meetings) person on the project. They are also the most defensive, disorganized, and siloed member of the project. My general stress and dissatisfaction with my job have taken such a sharp rise since these calls started it’s really quite something; I dread them all Thursday and Friday, I no longer have time to piddle with the non-urgent but neccesary things I used to save for Friday afternoon, and it takes such a long time to come down and relax after.
    We all knew that most of this year was going to be all hands on deck getting up to speed on the new thing, but the way it has been scheduled, and the tenor of the meetings which is a lot of “I wasn’t aware of this need” and “We don’t have a timeline on XX feature” and “Nobody told me you didn’t like [thing we have repeatedly said we didn’t like]” is killing my desire to be a strong contributor. I have had other training calls I find challenging, but I don’t experience them as being absolutely crushing.
    Not for nothing, our CEO issued a memo last year asking us not to schedule meetings after 1PM on Fridays as a matter of policy, for worker satisfaction, so this really does feel punishing. I feel like if people could open up their calendars a little more it would not just help ME have a better time, but be genuinely more productive. I don’t know how to bring it up without sounding like a monster of privilege, “why won’t you let me go into weekend mode earlier???” I also feel like it will be non-starter, since one person MUST be there and they are not much of a team player.
    Any suggestions on how not to let this meeting infect the week before and the weekend after?

    1. EMP*

      Would you be this stressed about it if it were on Thursday? Just guessing, it seems like part of the stress is the person (people?) the call is with and not necessarily when the call takes place. I hear you on the timing, but ultimately it’s only a few hours later than the previous friday afternoon meeting free time, which to many people wouldn’t be a big deal (so pushing back, as you say, may not go over easily).

      I do think you can reference the CEO memo to try to move this meeting. “I think the no-meetings-on-friday-afternoons policy the CEO suggested last year was working really well. I know this is an important meeting but could we find another time?” but how much you can push on that depends on a lot of things – like was that memo taken as actual policy or just a suggestion, what’s your standing with the team, etc.

      If you can’t get it moved, can you do some kind of closing ceremony for yourself after the meeting (write down your notes and close the notebook, document whatever happened that you needed to learn) so you can let go of that tension and move into weekend mode?

      1. Karate Saw*

        This is helpful, thank you. Mainly because when I tried it today I realized I had nothing to write down, which helped isolate the issue. I’m going to see about joining monthly rather than weekly if it continues to be items that are either still being built or are welll outside my purview.

    2. Viette*

      It sounds like this PERSON is the problem, not the meeting time. Yes, you had held that time for other things, but if this was a pleasant and productive meeting with people you respected, it would probably be a nice goodbye to the week.

      The two things I see here to focus on are “I dread them all Thursday and Friday” and “it takes such a long time to come down and relax after”.

      These are the only things you have clear control over, and these are the things that are actually making you suffer. Feelings about how awful this meeting is are consuming 2-4 days of your life. The meeting is only an hour and a half long.

      So: consider what you are so afraid of happening at/around this meeting that you’re getting this wound up, and why? Childhood conditioning; prior workplaces; current relationships? Try techniques for general management of over-rumination and of come-down from stress, like: setting a timer on how long you get to think about this meeting in advance; meditation; deliberate emotional ‘letting go’ of the anxiety; breathing exercises; whatever works for you.

      The bad meeting is a work problem but interrogating and management your spiraling emotions about the bad meeting can do a lot to help.

      1. Karate Saw*

        I am for SURE not, but it’s irrelevant. And you’re all quite correct, when i re-read my post I was struck by it too. I truly did think that it was the scheduling that was disconcerting, but it’s the content of the meeting (and not even really that specific person, even, just that the product we’re discussing is not up to par and it’s a series of frustrating workarounds while we wait for new solutions.) I am grateful for the legit suggestions on how to put it behind me when it’s over.

        1. JustaTech*

          There’s nothing like asking a question to help you see possible answers! (I had professors in undergrad who made you ask a teddy bear your question first because so many people would get 2/3s of the way through asking the question to suddenly understand the answer.)

          So I’ll offer a non-specific suggestion: plan yourself a little treat for after these sessions. A cup of the good tea, a piece of your favorite candy, 10 minutes of your favorite silly phone game, whatever. An opportunity to say “well *that* sucked” and take a little break before wrapping up for the weekend.

  56. Nina from Corporate Accounts Payable*

    Anyone able to share the outcome / fallout from draconian return to office policies. This is almost more of a rant, but my employer is taking away WFH for anyone within a 50 mile radius of an office. My division was remote even before COVID. The company was acquired by a larger firm pre-COVID but remote work remained in-tact. Now the parent company is coming down hard on return to office – probably because (1) They just opened a shiny new building in a major, high-priced city (2) It’s a way to reduce headcount without paying severance and unemployment (3) Increase off-shoring which my employer is addicted to.

    I am in the clear, but one of my direct reports will have to commute 50 miles. He has no intention of staying if we cannot make an exception – I would do the same if I were in his shoes. It’s extremely unfair – the majority of people in our group get to remain remote so the optics really stink. My manager and I are doing what we can to build a case for him, but I am not overly optimistic.

    1. Filosofickle*

      I have a friend facing this, she’s just barely inside the 50-mile radius so she should have to go in 3 days a week. It’s been maybe 9 months or so since they policy was set in place, and she hasn’t had to comply yet — a combination of overall lax enforcement, a boss that does not want to enforce it, and medical reasons why commuting would be bad for her health. But some day that could change and I believe she will quit if that happens.

    2. Bitte Meddler*

      When my company did that, probably 20% of the corporate finance/accounting departments quit (me included).

      In my department of 10 people, 3 of us left, and a 4th is interviewing elsewhere. Two other people in the department moved to new positions in the company when those seats were vacated by people who saw the RTO dictate as the controlling / infantilizing move it very much is.

      It has been really hard to backfill those positions because it’s a high-demand skillset and Old Company not only has draconian return to office policies, but pays below-market salaries. In the past, the lower salaries were OK because of the amount of flexibility in where (and when) we could work. But once that was taken away, the low pay was completely untenable for a whole bunch of us.

      I heard that the CEO (who is relatively new to the company) has bad-mouthed those of us who left for being “disloyal”. Pfffffft. As the lady in the commercial says, “That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works!” :-)

    3. Nina from Corporate Accounts Payable*

      Thanks all. The direct report impacted does have caregiving responsibilities beyond the norm (special needs family member) so my manager and I are going to build an exception case around that. My boss is more optimistic than I am, but fingers crossed!!!

      I am not going to give the direct report an issue if he doesn’t go into the office. Hopefully enforcement will be lax and I can look the other way, but at this point we don’t know – there’s been minimal transparency for months. Nobody in senior management should have the nerve to mention “loyalty” (giant eye roll). This almost makes me want to look for opportunities outside, but I have personal circumstances that will keep me with the company at least through 2024.

      RTO will supposedly start being enforced in July, which gives my direct report plenty of time to look for a new position. We’re in a niche field with abundant independent consulting opportunities – I think the guy impacted by this stupidity might go that route. If he does and it goes well, he’ll double his pay. There’s risk, but knowing his personal situation, he can probably take that risk. No matter what his next move is, I will graciously wish him the best of luck.

      The really dumb thing is that if I kiss the ring and the corporate overlords give me a backfill, there’s a decent chance that backfill will be remote if they aren’t located near an office. So we lose a solid employee we’ve invested in and does his job well for a revenue-generating group. Then there’s the possibly of going through the expense of recruiting with a backfill that will have a 1+ year learning curve until they are effective in the role. Because of the steep learning curve, attrition is very disruptive to our group and so frustrating that it might occur for a nonsensical reason. End rant/

  57. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

    I’ve been getting calls on my work phone from a collections agency- I haven’t answered any of their calls and they leave a recorded message to call a number. I know it’s not for me and I seriously doubt it’s for any current employee- if I break down and pick up, do you think they’ll stop calling? Or should I wait them out and hope they stop their daily calls?

    1. PrincessFlyingHedgehog*

      I’ve had this happened, where they were looking for my predecessor. After a couple of times of telling a person that they were looking for someone who hadn’t been there for 5-10 years, all calls stopped. But, it did take a couple of tries for it to sink in.

    2. I said never to call me here*

      It’s possibly a scam. I’ve also had episodes of collections calls like this. I think the people who owed the money gave fake phone #s. The same person kept asking for “Carol.” I’d say nobody here by that name, they’d say thanks and then just call back a few days later. Finally I told them I recognized their voice, Carol has never worked here, we are not “hiding Carol,” and we’re keeping records of these calls for a harassment suit (not really true). I asked for their complete name, phone #, company name and all contact info. They never called back. BUT, with most scam calls, once you engage, they get worse. So your mileage may vary

    3. Pam Adams*

      collection agencies have auto-dialing, so there’s no cost to them in continuing to call someone who doesn’t answer.
      I would answer and explain that there’s no such person here, subject to the caveats others have posted.

    4. goddessoftransitory*

      I had this happen years ago: I have an unusual last name, so bill collectors were chasing a person who had that last name and same first initial. After a couple of calls they quit–most collection agencies don’t want to waste endless time chasing ghosts.

  58. Sled dog mama*

    I have a small baking business making cookies cakes, cupcakes and horse and dog treats. Recently a local cafe/ice cream parlor has started carrying my dog “cookies” in their store. They are selling really well. I’ve been offering 2 shapes each month, an ice cream cone and a seasonal (a snowflake in January, a heart in February).
    I realized that some of the seasonal ones are very Christian and I’d like to offer designs that are more inclusive to those who are not Christian. I have some ideas but being Christian myself I don’t really know what symbols are out there and what would be appropriate to turn into a dog cookie. From my perspective I would be ok giving my dog an Easter egg shaped cookie but not a cross shaped cookie, similarly I imagine some people would be offended by a Star of David dog cookie.
    What symbols are out there that would be ok to make dog cookies out of? What non-religious symbols would you like to see as a dog cookie?
    (These cookies are about palm sized and look like a frosted sugar cookie but are made with dog friendly ingredients and no sugar)

    I’m also working on cat treats but that’s been a lot harder.

    1. Iheartmydog*

      Dog bones, flower, leaves, snowman, snowflake, pumpkin, bat, bumblebee, sun, star, vegetables (like a carrot or something silly), apple…maybe go with seasonal images? Like things that grow or live or are out more during certain times of the year?

    2. anon24*

      Could you do weather related ones? Like generic flower/tree shapes in the spring/summer, maybe clouds/lighting bolts, maple leaves in the fall/pumpkins (I hope that would be considered generic fall and not too Thanksgiving-ey), snowmen in the winter? Maybe fun people/character shapes? I’d suggest commonly recognized shapes like the Star Wars Death Star, but I imagine you’d be opening yourself up to copyright claims.

    3. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

      Dog cookies that look like people foods are probably a good idea–cupcakes, pizza, steak, chicken/turkey legs, etc. Or cookies that look like other animals–squirrels, birds, etc.
      Really, anything people would decorate a people-cookie to look like is probably going to be fine, assuming you avoid the overt religious stuff.

      1. linger*

        Religion-adjacent but probably inoffensive seasonal shapes:
        Christmas: reindeer, snowman, sleigh, pine-tree.
        Easter: rabbit, chick.

        1. Nightengale*

          I’m pretty alert to religion/religion adjacent things and I don’t see snowmen as anywhere near religion at all.

    4. CIsForCookies*

      FWIW, as a non-Christian, easter eggs read as Christian/religious because they are associated with a Christian holiday.

      I like the weather- related suggestion someone made, or also seasonal activities. An umbrella with raindrops on the edges for spring, a sandcastle or wave for summer, a snowflake or snowboard for winter, etc.

        1. CIsForCookies*

          Okay – FWIW, your framing seemed to indicate you were looking for non-religious symbols/shapes. Personally, I see no difference between a cross and an easter egg, but it’s your business and your decision to make. Good luck!

    5. Lbd*

      Little birds or animals with a winter scarf or hat. Ice skates or other winter sports gear. Red tartan seems to read as wintery. Penguins. Polar bears.

    6. Sled dog mama*

      Thank you all for the excellent suggestions! Great ideas that I was just not coming up with! I’m now off to expand my cookie cutter collection.

    7. Diatryma*

      The above comments about weather/seasons, animals, and people food are great. My guidelines for Christmas things are, quippily, that you have to be able to use them well outside the Christmas season to say that they’re not Christmas. If your Happy Holidays display is gauche after New Year’s Day, it’s probably a Christmas display and shouldn’t be at my publicly-funded job. If you can leave it up until mid-February, it’s fine.

      But! You are not my publicly-funded job. You are allowed to do religious things with your dog treats. I wouldn’t do a full Nativity, not least because ‘who fed Baby Jesus to the dog’ is not ideal, but eggs are mild enough that most people won’t object.

      Jan: snowflake, fireworks/New Year, calendar if you really want to get into decorating
      Feb: heart (St Valentine’s Day is religious in origin, but pretty far removed), groundhog for the first week, snowflake again
      March: shamrock, spring flowers (tulip/crocus), green beer bottle (St Patrick’s Day is another reeeally distant one)
      April: spring flowers, clouds/rain/umbrella, rabbits (this is a balance one: would you put rabbits in ‘the same month as Easter’, thus making them Easter rabbits, or the same month every year regardless?)
      May: brighter flowers, sun, green leaves
      June: leaves, flowers, beach stuff
      July: fireworks, beach stuff
      Aug: beach stuff, how do we differentiate summer months, I have no idea, possibly a backpack for the end of the month
      Sept: non-green leaves, school stuff (a cookie labeled HOMEWORK would probably go over well)
      Oct: spooky Halloween stuff, more leaves, pumpkins
      Nov: pumpkins, harvest themes, leaves
      Dec: snow themes again, mostly; the pine tree hits the rabbit question again, as do candy canes

  59. Unstable marshmallow*

    I’m worried my current job is burning me out and am having trouble thinking of where to go next. Hoping the commentariat can help me brainstorm! Some background:

    I’m currently a social worker licensed at the masters level – thought about getting my clinical license but I’ve realized that whole process would be miserable for me, which would be unfair to the clients. I work at a small medical clinic whose mission I LOVE, but my particular job is just terrible for how my brain works. I have ADHD and don’t do well with interruptions, but the culture at the clinic is very much “pop in and ask questions.” Attempts to carve out time to keep my door closed/phone on DND were met with complaints. Even when there is a patient visibly in my office, I see coworkers standing outside my door looking annoyed that I won’t interrupt the appointment to talk with them.

    I also have a lot of trouble prioritizing the many aspects of my job, since literally every part of what I do is vitally important to the vulnerable people I work with – think benefits applications, helping to erase medical debt, referring to area resources for housing/food insecurity. I spend a lot of time in task paralysis, because doing one thing for one person means that someone else has to wait.

    I’m also the only social worker at my workplace, so aside from the occasional short-term volunteer or intern I almost never have anyone to share the load with or delegate to. I’m pretty sure my workload is too high, but since my ADHD makes it so hard to get anything done I can’t tell if it’s actually reasonable and I’m just particularly inefficient – and again, I have no one to compare notes with. My predecessor was a “rockstar,” but a huge part of that stemmed from her flexible boundaries.

    I’ve been pretty rigid with my work hours and boundaries: I avoid bringing work home whenever possible, I don’t have my work email on my phone, and the few coworkers who have my cell number understand that I don’t use it for work. I experimented with doing some smaller tasks at home but pretty quickly realized that it made my mental health worse.

    I know for sure that I couldn’t handle being reachable at home for this particular job, especially because my supervisor is known for demanding constant availability once someone makes themselves reachable in their off-hours. She actually tried to pressure one of my coworkers into “suggesting” that I be more open to accepting calls/emails from home, but has never said anything to me directly – possibly because my position is pretty hard to hire for (candidates must be bilingual) and she doesn’t want me to leave.

    If my job could be done 100% at home I think it would be different. I kinda have the worst of both worlds right now: using up my executive function on waking up early/commuting/performing productivity, with the additional pressure to *also* be available remotely. In the 3 months I could WFH at my last job, my mental health was much better (but the pay and upper management were awful).

    I honestly think it might be better to transition out of social work entirely, since the low pay is also a big part of my dissatisfaction. I just have no idea how my skills can help me get a job that’s actually better than this one. It feels like there are tons of jobs that offer lower pay, longer hours, and/or worse work-life balance; nothing I qualify for seems like it would be that much of an improvement.

    Here’s my “wish list” for my next job, though I know pretty much no job will have all of these:

    -relatively low-stakes – the worst that happens is that I get fired; my mistakes don’t cost vulnerable people their housing, food, access to medicines, etc
    -A few projects with distinct timelines, rather than a bunch of new tasks coming in every hour
    -the ability to just do my job and go home – no expectation of constant availability
    -full WFH would be nice as long as I could still disconnect at the end of the day/work week
    -for in-office work, the ability to continue wearing a mask (non-negotiable – the one advantage of being in a medical setting)
    -this is super subjective, but morally neutral or net-positive impact to ordinary people (no helping insurance companies deny claims, weapons manufacturing, etc)
    -at least 60k/yr

    I would love to hear any ideas the commentariat may have! Thank you for reading this far if you did.

    1. ferrina*

      Honestly, sounds like your current employer has unreasonable expectation and a working environment that wouldn’t work for most people and definitely doesn’t work for you! (also- who gets annoyed that someone is in a meeting? that’s a normal fact for a lot of jobs! weird office culture there!) Looking at your list of things you want, almost all of them are about working environment rather than the work itself. That’s something you usually need to figure out during an interview (even the lowest stakes job can have a boss that wants you on call 24/7….I had a boss like that when my job was just to make corporate documents that were largely ignored

      That said, social work is a high burnout industry. You might start with the alumni group from your MA program, or even look at the LinkedIn bio for your former classmates. See if any of them are doing things you’d be interested.

      Next, I’d look for industries tangentially related to your current employer. For example, patient advocacy non-profits or other healthcare non-profits (not necessarily doing healthcare, but you can also look for teaching, tech or other healthcare support industries). Local government for healthcare related something. Something where you can leverage some of the expertise you already have.
      Figure out which of your skills are the most marketable, then which industries are looking for those skills. Apply, apply, apply, and as you learn more you’ll be able to refine what your job search looks like. Try to conduct informational interviews as often as you can- reach out to friends and family: “I’m thinking about making a career move, and would love to pick your brain!”

      Good luck!

      1. Unstable marshmallow*

        Thank you for the advice and the validation! To be fair, a lot of the time it’s volunteer providers getting huffy that I can’t just drop the patient in front of me and go help them with their (non)urgent issue. Staff are somewhat better; it’s mostly a few problem coworkers. But it’s not just me: our staff counselor has had this happen to her in the middle of literal therapy sessions! It’s bizarre.

        I’ve been spending a lot of time looking at our local government’s and partner agencies’ career pages, but most of what I’m finding pays even less than my current job or explicitly states that boundaries must be flexible (points for transparency, though!). I’ve started applying to fully-remote jobs on Idealist so I’m not restricted geographically, but obviously those are a lot more competitive.

        I’ve done some LinkedIn stalking of my grad school classmates but most of them ended up becoming therapists, which is definitely not for me. But your reply was a good reminder keep an eye on that network! I’m sure I’m not the only one looking to pivot.

        You’re definitely right about informational interviews – I’ll try and reach out to my undergrad network, which is a bit more active. I think I’ve been dragging my feet on that because I’m convinced that what I want is impossible. I’m afraid I’ll come across as completely out of touch with reality when I tell people what I’m looking for. But I guess I won’t know that for sure until I suck it up and do it!

        1. ferrina*

          Impossible jobs are out there, but they can be tough to get to. I think the key is one step at a time, and when you realize that you’ve made a mis-step, try again. Know what you want and find where the opportunities are.

          My current job is an impossible job- it was custom designed for me and I pretty much have free rein. It’s a bizarre niche role that combines 2 different careers I’ve worked in. Part of it was pure luck- I was in the right place at the right time to fill the right gap with the right skills and had the right reputation. And a lot of us end up in careers that we didn’t mean to or that we didn’t originally know about. It’s a strange journey! But yes- you never know until you start!

    2. Ama*

      My cousin who is a social worker is currently working as a school counselor at a public high school and loves it — she started her career handling emergency foster care placements and likes working with kids but this is obviously much lower stakes, plus it has set hours and since her kids are in the same school district she’s always off work when they are out of school. It isn’t WFH and doesn’t pay 60K a year though (at least not in the town she lives in, maybe in a higher COL area it could).

    3. Geeyourhairsmellsterrific*

      I’m not too familiar with the social work field but know two people who are school social workers and they both like it because they feel that they can make an impact but it’s not very high stress and they don’t take their work home with them.
      My other thought, although I don’t really know much about it, is looking into working for an EAP (Employee Assistance Plan). I would think that the short-term nature of the work might be good for you and would mostly involve people who need help but are not in crisis.

    4. Nightengale*

      Obviously if you want to leave social work completely that’s a different thing

      but I’m a medical provider who works with social workers and I want to say your workplace is completely unreasonable about your availability. The idea that you can’t close your door and be unavailable – and especially be unavailable for one patient/client while dealing with another is just absurd and unrealistic. Right now, the social workers in our department work out of different sites and so I either send them an e-mail or a message through our secure health record system and. . . they respond when they can. Just like they sometimes message me about a patient and I respond when I can. Not when one of us is actively with another patient. We make sure we have the right contact info for the family and tell the family the other person will get back to them, or that we will get back to them when we hear from the other person.

      The only exception I could see in my field – pediatrics – would be the “I am calling child services right now about a child currently in my office and don’t feel this child is safe to go home” emergency situation which has happened to me. . . .once ever in my career?

    5. BigLawEx*

      Would you consider a university job managing intern placements? Social work graduate schools are often looking for that kind of thing. Or would you consider nonprofit work (but for a well funded nonprofit – not client-facing, but managing those who are – or coordinating something people need – parenting classes – drug rehab – etc). My mother was a licensed SW and had all manner of jobs that weren’t client-facing after the first couple of years when she realized it was untenable. There are tons of opportunities out there. Gov’t (program administration) and nonprofits with money also pay well relative to client-facing roles.

  60. t-vex*

    Help me word my OOO message?

    I’ll be on sabbatical starting in April, hiking the Appalachian Trail. I will be completely away from work – no email, no phone calls, no quick questions, nothing at all until I get back in November.

    I’m leaning toward setting a responder that tells people their email has not been received and they will need to contact the person taking over my role while I’m gone. (I suppose I could have all my mail forwarded to her but that seems kind of unfair.) I also don’t want to lose people who reach out to my program when they could go elsewhere, either while I’m gone or once I get back.

    Here’s what I’m leaning toward. Is this too mushy to get the message across? Too direct to be friendly? I’m having a hard time finding the right balance.

    Subject: Out of Office until November – Please re-direct your message
    Body: Hi, thanks for your message. I’m currently on a sabbatical, hiking the Appalachian trail with my dog! While I’m away, {Project} is in the capable hands of {Coworker}. Please re-send your email to her at {address}, as I won’t see it until I return in November. I look forward to connecting when I get back. In the meantime, follow our journey @{Insta handle}

    1. EMP*

      I would talk to your boss and your coworker and see if they would prefer fowarded emails! From the sound of it, if you don’t automatically forward emails the project your coworker is responsible for may miss some critical communication because you definitely can’t rely on other people to (a) read an OOO response (b) act on it appropriately.

      I would also leave off your IG handle in a work email.

      1. t-vex*

        Yeah I was concerned about putting the initiative back on people. I think you’re right not to rely on them to take action themselves.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Yes, talk to your boss.

      But also, is this the first time anybody in your organization has done this? If not, what did previous sabbatical-takers do? What worked best?

    3. Distractable Golem*

      The first stuff is good, then:

      “I will not see any messages received during my sabbatical; I will be starting fresh upon my return in November.

      “If your question is timely, please redirect it to (capable person). [Or “my inbox is being monitored and your email will be forwarded to (competent person)”]. Otherwise, please re-send it when I’m back in November. I’m looking forward to reconnecting!”

    4. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I think having a message that says that you’re not available, but you’ve got a monitor who will be directing emails to the people covering is the way to go. And give the direct contact info for the folks covering and explain what they can do. (“For teapot glaze questions, please call Fergus.)

    5. My Brain is Exploding*

      I don’t really want a bunch of strangers knowing I will be out of town, so I’d just say I was on a sabbatical, and for them to contact Person A about Project B.

      1. t-vex*

        Oh I should have specified, I’m in kind of a B2B role so most of the people who email me are people I already have something of a relationship with, they’re usually not complete strangers.

    6. Cordelia*

      I think the message needs to be as brief as possible, for people to take it in. Leave out the explanation of what you are doing on your sabbatical, and definitely leave out your Instagram. You can give that separately to people you know are interested. Also, yours looks a little like you will be reading all your emails in Nov, which is hopefully not the case! Instead
      “I am on sabbatical until Nov, in my absence please contact {coworker}. Alternatively, please contact me again in November.

      1. Workerbee*

        Yes, this. People barely read past the first eight words and then they’ll still not get it. (I broadly generalize without scientific backing.)

        1. linger*

          There have been studies on understanding of news stories (e.g. by Allan Bell) that do suggest most people don’t understand much beyond the headline and lead paragraph. Which often contain statements heavily qualified, or even negated, by details further down the story. So misunderstandings result from a combination of
          (a) some readers don’t continue past the lead, partly because
          (b) most readers assume the headline and lead are reliable summaries,
          and (c) news story structure doesn’t place any priority on nuance.

    7. Kay*

      One of my clients had a “WE ARE MOVING” notice that went out. It was in all caps, red lettering, and highlighted in yellow. All employees had this in their signature for months prior to the relocation. They ended up having to move to a temporary location (yay construction delays) so this process was actually done twice! I can’t tell you how much complaining I heard from this client about the amount of mail, sensitive documents, clients showing up for appointments, etc. at the FIRST old location even over a year after they had moved!!

      People don’t read and they sure don’t follow directions. Have your email forwarded.

    8. EA*

      Definitely have all your mail forwarded to your coworker and shorten the message (and no Insta handle). She can filter it into a folder so it doesn’t mix with her inbox. Also, the volume of messages will go down after the first month or so – that was my experience with maternity leave anyway.

  61. Procedure Publisher*

    How does most people handle software that they are familiar with on their resumes?

    I’m asking because I had come across job postings that want someone who is familiar to a particular piece of software. I am familiar with an older version of the software but have not kept up with the current version. My thoughts is that I should check out some videos showing the newest version of the software to see how different the newest version is. Then I should be able to reasonable assume that I can use that software still.

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      I list it under other skills: “Experience with” and then list all the software I have experience with that is specialized to my field. If your experience is with an older version, I would indicate that version So, for my work mine might read:

      Experience with SirsiDynix Workflows (2015 edition), Archivera, Springshare, Omeka Classic and ContentDM.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      Similar to AnotherLibrarian, I have an “experience with” line that lists out software I have used. I also try to incorporate the software into my job duties/accomplishments bullet points. For example:

      Experience with: Microsoft Excel

      [Job Title], ACME Corp., 2017-2020
      * created pivot tables in Microsoft Excel to analyze XYZ data

      I like AnotherLibrarians suggestion of adding the version/edition/year if a lot has changed in between different versions.

    3. Zee*

      If you’re someone who is generally good at catching on to technology quickly, I wouldn’t worry too much about listing experience with an older version. Unless it’s been over a decade and there have been multiple releases with significant changes in that time, I really don’t think you need to specify. I just list the software in the skills area on my résumé without version details.

      My thoughts is that I should check out some videos showing the newest version of the software to see how different the newest version is.

      This is a good idea in general, but don’t feel like you can’t list the software on your résumé until you do this.

    4. Cedrus Libani*

      If it makes sense to do so, I put the software with the job. That also helps with the honesty factor – for example, I “prepared figures with Illustrator” in that job I left in 2016, I was never pro-level and haven’t touched it since but I could shake the rust off that skill set fairly quickly if I had to.

      I also have two lines of generic keywords that didn’t find a home elsewhere. This is largely a hangover from an interview early in my career, where the hiring manager went on this whole speech about how he’d been persuaded to give me a chance, but he had serious reservations; the position would require me to use a Windows computer and edit documents with Microsoft Word, and since I had never done either of these things (!!!) the position might be too difficult for me. Dude, I’m a Millennial…in my world even the aliens know how to use Windows, just ask Will Smith! But I did take the guy’s advice; Windows and Office is on my resume, even after 15 more years of doing computer stuff for a living.

      1. Greta*

        Sounds like it was one guy’s quirk and his coworkers thought it was ridiculous as they persuaded him to give you a chance anyway.

        I still incorporate Excel and PowerPoint (and other groups of software) into my resume, but not Word. I’ll list it if there is a field in the application, but not otherwise. If the hiring manager is hyper focused on Word, that says more about him and his evaluation of skills.

  62. Just another content creator*

    TLDR: I had an awkward conversation with my boss yesterday and am not sure whether to let it go or readdress with a more thoughtful response.

    I was out sick on Monday, and came back Tuesday (work from home) and dove right into a high priority project despite feeling like hot garbage. In a meeting yesterday, my coworker “Alex” mentioned their appreciation for my efforts because they knew I was out sick and asked if I felt better. I said something along the lines of “Yeah, I feel like crap and would’ve taken the whole week off, but I didn’t want to let the team down and I don’t have the time.” I DON’T KNOW WHY I SAID THIS, because none of it is exactly true.

    After we completed the call, Alex called my boss and caught her up on the changes we made and mentioned my comment. Then my boss called me and was super concerned, trying to figure out if I needed more time off, asking if she could take anything off my plate, etc. I told her my comment was an exaggeration and Alex probably took it more seriously than I meant it, I was just venting that the stress of this last minute stuff is harder to manage when I’m not feeling well, etc. I was floundering, not wanting her to worry, and feeling embarrassed that I made the comment and that Alex repeated it out of concern. Then my manager insisted I take the rest of the day off w/o using PTO/sick time. (She’s amazing.)

    I feel terrible, because I came to this job from super toxic OldJob, and really appreciate how flexible and understanding my manager/team is whenever I need it. I think my old “martyr” coworker habits came out in that comment (oh poor me, look how hard I’m working for the sake of the team even though I’m sick and having a not-so-secret affair with my toilet, but look how much work I got done!), and I don’t need to do that here to get recognition for my efforts. I have PTO/sick time if I need it, I’ve just been frustrated that I’ve now taken 3 of my 5 sick days for the year, and it’s only March.

    So… I want to revisit the conversation with my boss, but don’t know if that’ll just make an awkward situation worse. It would make me feel better to say, “I really appreciate how supportive you and the team are (reasons x, y, z), and giving me the afternoon off really helped me relax and feel better. I thought about our conversation and wanted to acknowledge my comment to Alex was inappropriate and sounded an unnecessary alarm. It comes from bad habits I picked up at OldJob, where I often felt unrecognized for my hard work in stressful situations. I don’t feel that way here, and I’m so grateful for your kindness and support as my manager. If I’m every overwhelmed or need time off, I know you’ll help me figure it out.”

    Is it better to readdress it with a clearer mind, or just let sleeping dogs lie?

    1. Zee*

      I wouldn’t bring it up again.

      But holy cow, 5 sick days for the whole year??? If you are ever in a position to bring that up, you should do so. Maybe at the time of year when you discuss raises.

      1. Just another content creator*

        Thanks for your feedback!

        We get 5 official sick days with additional PTO that can be used as sick days if needed. Most employees within the company work a 24/7 call center type of job, so general time off policies are more rigid to maintain coverage. Within my team, it’s obviously more flexible.

        However, it’s still totally bogus. I used one day to take my kiddo to the ER, one to take my husband to multiple eye appointments, and then this random bug I had. I can’t imagine what parents with multiple kids/people with chronic illnesses do!

    2. ecnaseener*

      I think let it go. In your boss’s mind, she’s done her best to disabuse you of the notion that you need to work while sick. She’s not blaming you for thinking it or for saying it. (If she’s as great as you say, I’m sure she knows people sometimes retain ideas like that from former toxic jobs!) I get the impulse to clarify that you didn’t really think so, but there’s no need, certainly nothing to feel terrible about. Let her have this “win” of thinking she did a good thing for you here :)

      1. Just another content creator*

        Letting her have the win is a solid perspective! She provided support, I showed gratitude, nothing more needs to be said out loud just because I’m embarrassed. I’ll just find ways to show her I appreciate her w/o tying it to this weirdness.

  63. ConstantlyComic*

    Does it look bad when multiple internal applicants list the same reference?
    I am applying for a newly opened position at my job (would be a promotion for me). Through casual conversations with my coworkers, I know that some of them are applying too. I was planning to list my most recent supervisor as a reference–he recently left on good terms for a better opportunity, so he would not be involved in the hiring process, and I’m confident he would provide a good reference–but my coworkers who are applying would likely list him as well. Would it look bad for my application if I’ve got the same reference as several other applicants, or would people recognize it as a natural outcome of opening up a position for internal hires?

    1. Zee*

      I don’t think it would look bad, but it would put your old boss in sort of a tough position and might not end up being very useful to the interviewers if they get the same good reference from the same person for all the candidates. But that’s really their issue to sort out! As long as you have two other good references listed as well, I say still include him.

    2. Momma Bear*

      Personally, I wouldn’t hold it against anyone if they had the same reference as someone else as long as it’s a legitimate reference for them. A pack of interns could have the same mentor, manager, or professor. It matters what that person knows about your skills and says about you. If he was your supervisor and would be a good reference, don’t avoid using him in case someone else does. Pick the people who can best represent *you*.

    3. Person from the Resume*

      It doesn’t look bad that it is happening; you’re looking to name your best reference.

      Where it could hurt you is IF the reference ranks you as applicants, and you don’t end up on the top of his list. But on the other hand the hiring people know he’s a recent supervisor of you and if they are talking to him anyway, they may ask about you anyway.

    4. ConstantlyComic*

      Very quick update: I did go ahead and text the potential reference after the first couple of comments here, and he not only agreed but offered me advice on what to emphasize in my resume, so I feel like that was the right choice.

  64. Zee*

    I posted this last week late in the day, and got a few comments but was too late to respond to them. Finally making it here in time to hopefully get a few suggestions!

    The tl;dr is that I have an unmanageable workload. I was already doing more than an employee really should be, and then I was out unexpectedly for 2.5 weeks and cannot catch up.

    When I talked to my boss about it, she asked if I needed help prioritizing what needs to be done now and what can wait until later… but the issue is that there is no “later”. Later, I have other tasks work on. Things need to be cut completely. I think she needs to be the one to make those decisions, as the supervisor who assigns work to her employees, but she is resisting that. She is generally hands-off and lets us manage our own workloads, which I generally like, but I think she needs to be the one to handle this… plus, me trying to analyze what can be dropped is just another project to add to my plate!

    Shifting things off my plate to a coworker is not possible for two reasons: a) they all have completely full plates as well, and b) we all have very different areas of expertise so there’s not much they could help with anyway because they don’t have the skills.

    Important context that I left out before: I work for local government. My boss would love to hire more staff. She has pushed for it multiple times, but it always gets denied. Nobody ever gets more staff. In fact, every time a staff member quits their boss has to fight to be allowed to fill the position and not have it cut. Meanwhile, the powers-that-be keep taking on new projects and starting new programs that just add to the workload of existing employees. So the suggestions from last week of just not doing all the work and letting my boss “feel the pain” wouldn’t help, because there are so many layers between her and the people who get to approve new positions.

    1. ecnaseener*

      I mean, I think you should take her up on the help prioritizing regardless. With the lowest priority items that she wants you to do “later,” up to you how up-front you want to be about saying “later might not be for a really long time, possibly never, given how long the higher priority work is going to take.”

    2. M2*

      I am sorry. I would prioritize what needs to get done and do that first. If you don’t know, ask her what she wants done first and in what order.

      Can you ask your boss to take on one or two things for you temporarily? I would also as long as you are exempt work an extra hour here and there to get stuff done. I don’t work for government, but when stuff needs getting done I just do it to get it done, especially if its an emergency. Sometimes that means I work really late or do work after kids are asleep. It isn’t all the time, but there is a 3ish month period I work crazy hours.

      I also had a team member go on paid leave for 7 months and my organization wouldn’t let us get someone to cover it, so I had to cover that work when that person was away. I did 100% of it on top of my own work and helping others. Did everything get done? No, but I did the majority of it and left what could wait until they came back, but did enough so that when they come back they wouldn’t feel swamped. But this meant sometimes I worked crazy hours.

      I am not saying you should work 12+ hour days, but I think prioritizing and then working extra for a few weeks (and if you get OT make sure it is approved) to catch up might be a good idea. If there is anything your boss could finish for you I would ask them to do it so you have less on your plate.

      If it doesn’t work apply for new roles or to be transferred.

    3. WellRed*

      Don’t shoot yourself in the foot constantly telling us all the reasons why this can’t be fixed. Yes, you should take her up on help prioritizing and yes, some things aren’t going to get done. You can’t care more than work does.

    4. Zee*

      Okay maybe I am not explaining this as well as I thought I was… which is the problem! I just can’t get her to understand –

      What she is offering:
      “A needs to be done by Friday, but B and C can wait until next week.”

      What is needed:
      “A and C absolutely have to be done, but B can be cut permanently.”

      Any tips on how to make this clearer to her, and get her to accept that as the director it is her responsibility to make the decisions on which projects to cut?

      Or should I just make those decisions myself, and if there’s fallout tell her that she refused to do it so I had no other option?

      1. ecnaseener*

        I just don’t think you can tell her she has to pick something to cut permanently. You can tell her B will be on the back-burner for the foreseeable future, but it’s up to her what to do with that.

      2. My Brain is Exploding*

        Hmm, I think if she is saying things like that, I would make a weekly task list with her. So this week A gets done, and B and C can wait. Then at the end of the week, she might say B and C and D have to get done this week and then you can say, nope, can’t do it. Or she might say that C has to get done and B can still wait… Maybe the shorter-term decisions will be easier for her than the long-term ask.

      3. Saturday*

        I agree with ecnaseener that it’s probably best not to focus on trying to get her to cut anything permanently. I would focus on A, then C. Then next week, other stuff will probably get in the way of getting B done, so have another conversation about priorities. My guess is that B will just keep getting put off.

  65. Mystic*

    I don’t remember if I told y’all, but I got approved for a temporary promotion in a different unit, and I am being told I’m doing amazing and they want to keep me. I’ve applied for the permanent position, but I’m a little worried, I’ve been turned down twice in my original unit for the position. but I also think I was lied to about why I was turned down originally, so I’m both worried and excited and nervous, but my current bosses say “oh, we’re keeping you”

    1. Saturday*

      Good luck – I hope it works out!
      The message you’re getting from your bosses about wanting to keep you seems like a very, very good sign to me!

  66. Em*

    I am sure I missed an announcement so I will caveat that I did search the site before posting this, but what happened to the Friday Good News? It’s been bugging me that I don’t know what happened so thought I’d ask.

    Thanks Allison and everyone for the great stories and advice!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s been on hiatus since the end of the year, which will probably be permanent. I had started it a couple of months into Covid when it felt like we really needed some good news on a regular basis but hadn’t intended to continue it as long as I did!

    2. Hlao-roo*

      I don’t think there was a formal announcement (if so, I missed it too) but there was some discussion of this on the weekend open thread for January 20-21 of this year. If you search for “*daha*” you’ll find the thread. I will also link to that comment in a reply.

  67. The Woes*

    I turn 32 this year (yay?) and I KNOW that comparison is the thief of joy, but here I am.

    I’m in a field that required an advanced degree, yet pay is low for the entire field. I sort of knew this going in, but I was a naive 20 year old thinking it would all make sense if I eventually could move into management. (Reader, I found out years later I never want to be a manager.)

    I’ve job hopped a few times for various reasons–moving, one toxic job, a pay jump. But in my almost 10 years since grad school, I haven’t made more than $60ishk. And this is primarily for working for universities or local government. But I haven’t even had the “leadership” job I “should” have had by this point of my career.

    My old mentor told me I’m officially mid-career and I better chop-chop with getting into a management role. (I have paused getting advice from her, but she is a lovely person.)

    While I see some peers thriving and making 6 figures, or switching out of the field and maybe not making 6 figures, but becoming directors at 28, I can’t help but feel behind. I’ve done things I could be proud of–I started my own business, but realized entrepreneurship is not for me. I tried a different part of my field and got an award from our governor–but burned out after that and left that role. I’m certainly feeling like “Yeah, I tried, but all I’ve got to show for it is the same salary and this t-shirt.”

    I can make ends meet but I’d like to make more. Though it might not be true, it feels like if I haven’t become a manager by now, there won’t be a way for me to break this salary ceiling. And more pressing, I have no clue what I want to do from here other than make more money and work on my hobbies.

    There isn’t really a question here other than can anyone relate? How did you move through? Actually… maybe my question is more about separating your worth/identity from your career?

    1. TG*

      You need to sit and think about what you want. I’ve been a manager but mostly senior level IC in my career and that’s okay. I don’t want to manage people but am excellent with being say a Program Manager or Project Manager or a Lead…plays to my strengths. And listen it’s not wrong to want good pay and benefits and that’s what I look for (and good culture and work life balance).
      When I crystallized what was important for me, I’ve been able to work in environments where I’m happy and have those things.

    2. Dinwar*

      I hate hate HATE the mentality that everyone needs to move into management. If everyone moves into management you don’t have anyone to train the “lower ranks”–and since management can only exist if there’s something to manage, this eventually undermines the entire company.

      A company that doesn’t see value in retaining highly-skilled staff in key roles isn’t a very good company.

    3. Unstable marshmallow*

      Also turning 32 this year (in a month, actually) and could have written parts of this myself. Got an MSW 5 years ago and have been regretting it, and am now desperately trying to find something with better pay and work/life balance without selling out my values completely (wrote a whole novel-length comment about it in this thread!)

      I wish I had answers for us, but I wanted to at least let you know you’re not alone in this. I hope we both find our way out.

    4. A Girl Named Fred*

      Mark me down as another almost-32-year-old who hasn’t accomplished what she hoped she would accomplish and has no idea where she wants her career to go from here (other than, as you so aptly put it, “make more money and work on (her) hobbies”!) I promise it’s not just you!

      As far as separating your worth/identity from your career, I don’t have any advice other than to say that I recently started therapy and I think that’s going to be the best thing I can do for it. I’m also hoping it might eventually provide me more clarity on what career(s) I am interested in pursuing after all, but it’s still early days. If it’s something accessible to you, it may be worth it to give it a shot!

    5. Irish Teacher.*

      Not sure if this will help or not, but when I was 32, I was still subbing, which meant periods of unemployment (and not being paid for summers, thought I did correct in July, but was unemployed in Junes and Augusts), no career stability, etc. I was 37 (well, a week before my 37th birthday) before I got the job that led to permanency.

    6. M2*

      Your worth does not equal your salary or career.

      If you want to make more money then look for jobs that pay more, use your network. I have a friend who was in fundraising but it was crazy hours so she moved over to be an EA and is making 6 figures and really happy. Look around and see what your skills can bring to a job, but realize if you go in it for the money you may not be happy or fulfilled (maybe you will), but I think finding happiness outside of work is key.

      32 is young! So many people start careers and win awards way later than that. Don’t focus on your age, focus on your goals and where you see yourself in 3,5,10 years. Maybe you need to switch careers if you aren’t happy. What are you good at and what do you like to do? Coordinating? Bringing people together? Communication? Writing? Fundraising? Coding? Whatever, figure that out and go from there.

      If you work at a university many offer to help pay for development or other degrees, if you want to pivot and need something else may be good to look for a role at a university and use their paying for a degree or certificate to help you pivot.

      Job hopping is not my favorite. Someone close to me works in higher ed and wouldn’t hire people who job hopped because they were worried they would do it again. So whatever you do next or if you are somewhere now I would stick it out for a minimum 2-3 years before looking elsewhere. I would also ask your boss what growth potential is in that role and what you need to do to get there. I like to see that someone was somewhere for at least 4-5 years. If you stay 3 years that is fine, but if I see a bunch of 2 years or less on a resume I usually pass unless it is a type of work that moves around a lot or says in the cover letter they are a trailing spouse of some sort.

      My friend works with people who are Assistant/Associate Deans and Directors who started as Assistants in higher ed, they just stuck with it for years and years. I like to see people who have been promoted or got new responsibilities, so can you be promoted where you are now ro change departments with a higher job responsibilities?

      Also see what benefits are. I have friends who work for government but once they hit mid 50s and have been there a certain # of years they get a pension. That is a big deal and worth a lot of money.

      1. The Woes*

        I appreciate this! I definitely feel self-conscious about the job hopping, I don’t think I’ve stayed somewhere longer than 2-3 years. Thankfully, I have good relationships/references from all my supervisors and “good” reasons for leaving, but I’m sure that’s been a partial contributor for my career path and avoidance of leadership positions. None of the positions I’ve worked in had upward mobility, so I’ll need to keep an eye on that going forward. My current position does not either–but that is just the specific nature of my job. It’s either take your boss’s position or move to another company as my type of job is a bit niche. I’ll have to think on my skills and what I can bring and maybe it is time for a pivot!

    7. Kesnit*

      Take a step back and think what YOU want in your career.

      I’m also in a field that requires a graduate degree. The area I work in is one of the lower paid areas. I had a coworker at my last job with more experience in the field than the office deputy (and almost as much as the head of the office). He could have stepped into management, but he didn’t want to. He was happy being a front-l