managing an interruptor during urban foraging, offering to consult for my old job, and more

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

1. Managing an interruptor during an urban foraging class

A dear friend of mine teaches classes on urban foraging for edible weeds, such as dandelions, creeping wood sorrel, and stinging nettles. She’s written a book on how to identify, ethically forage, and cook common urban weeds. Before teaching the classes, she does a neighborhood walk-through to see what plants are growing in the various public right-a-ways, so she gets an idea of which plants she will feature and how to time and plan the walk/class. I’ve taken her class, and her style is fascinating and engaging. Plus, I know where to find the best sweet pea tendrils in the neighborhood.

Recently, she told me about a class where a know-it-all was in attendance. My friend would be in the middle of discussing a plant, when this person would divert the discussion to another plant nearby, and start talking about it. It happened repeatedly and was frustrating for my friend and probably for the other students who came to learn from my friend. My friend never experienced what felt like a hijacking of her class, and tried to handle it as graciously as she knew how, but ended up wishing she knew a better way of handling the situation. What might she do if she encounters such a weedy situation again?

Once, you let it go. Maybe even twice. But the next time it happens, you say, “Let’s hold that discussion for now so I can finish explaining about this spotted bee balm.” Or another option: “Let me ask you to hold that for now since I don’t want us to run out of time.”

If it happens after that: “There are a lot of plants out here that we could talk about, but with our limited time, I try to focus on the ones I think will be most of interest to the whole group. We can talk after the walk ends about others you’re curious about if you’d like.” Depending on her read of the room (street? field?), she could say that to him privately or to the group.

She probably should build in some time for extemporaneous discussions when people have thoughts or questions about something they’re seeing (and your friend probably already does that because she sounds great at this). But that’s different than continually accommodating off-topic interruptions when she’s in the middle of talking.

2. How can I offer to consult for my old job when I quit?

I have worked at my small nonprofit for almost four years. Due to poor leadership, negligence on the part of the board, and a difficult working environment, I am job searching and think/hope I will have a job offer very soon. I believe strongly in the mission of the nonprofit and I like everyone here, but it’s just such an oddly toxic workplace with very little support that I have to go.

I oversee almost everything operational here, though. I plan on giving a couple weeks notice and do my best to get everything prepared to hand-off to others, but I am sure I will get regular calls, texts, and emails with questions. I would like to set the boundary that I am willing to assist within reason and as a paid contractor/consultant. Would you suggest that be part of the resignation letter or how would you suggest going about that and what would the wording look like?

It shouldn’t be part of the resignation letter; that should be very short, just one or two sentences, as it’s simply to document a decision that you’ll hopefully have already relayed via a conversation. If you want to make that offer, it can be part of the resignation conversation, or one later as you’re discussing the transition. For example: “If it would be helpful, I’d be happy to set up a short-term consulting arrangement for the first few months after I’ve left. If that might be helpful, I can propose rates and other details.”

If they say they don’t think they’ll need it, you could say, “My sense is that I’m likely to get a lot of calls and emails with questions, so I want to make sure have a plan for handling that. But if you don’t think it’s needed, I’ll just flag it for you if it does indeed happen.” (And then if that happens and they’re not paying you, email your former boss about what’s happening and make the offer a second time. If they decline, then so be it — but also don’t answer more than one or two questions if so.)

All that said … I urge you to reconsider offering it. It’s going to keep you tethered to your old job right when you need to pour your energy into the new one, and it will deny you the joy of a clean break (a particular joy, and mental health relief, when you’re escaping a dysfunctional environment). It really is okay to just leave and be fully gone; they will figure things out. I know nonprofit work often makes you feel an extra obligation (and I have been there myself) but, truly, it’s okay to just be gone when you go. Leave behind reasonable documentation (95% of which no one will ever read, but it will make you feel better) and just go. They’ll survive. (And if they won’t survive because of that, they weren’t going to anyway and you’re just prolonging the inevitable.)

3. I want to return to the office — but I’d need a salary increase to move

I’ve been working at my company for a little over two years as a salaried employee. Previously I had freelanced for them for another two years before that.

I am remote, and have been since the beginning, and for the most part I really like it. All of our work is via Slack internally or involves working with freelancers internationally, so it’s not like I’m needed in the office … but I am so lonely!

Freelancing and then remote work has been a very isolating, quiet experience for me. I’m grateful for the freedom, but I would really like to be in the same city, at least, as the rest of my team, who are all young, creative types who I really respect and admire. They have events, hangouts, team dinners, and meetings, and I feel like I’m missing out on networking and relationships. People come into the office when they like and the company is not asking for anything more than one company-wide day a month, so I could still pick and choose the days I came in and worked in person.

I’m in a low-cost-of-living area, literally across the country from everyone else (and so my salary reflects this), compared to the coworkers who are located in a very high-cost-of-living area where the office is. (I’m not 100% sure of the pay difference in terms of having hard numbers from coworkers, but when I was hired they did mention that they do a lower salary range for different areas.)

I would love to move — and coworkers have said that they would love to have me in the office if I did — but I have no idea how to ask for a potential raise or pay bump when they’re not asking me to come back to office. I’m pretty young, with no kids, and a long-term partner (who is seeking work in the same industry), so I’m in a decent position to uproot my life if I need to. Am I just taking my remote freedom for granted here? Am I crazy?

Talk to your manager! Say it this way: “I’m really interested in moving to (city) so that I can be on-site in the office more often. When I was hired, you mentioned that the company pegs salaries based on the cost-of-living in the area where an employee is located, and that I’d have a lower range while I was in (current city). How would that work if I moved to (new city)? I’m interested in being there in-person but couldn’t do it on a salary that isn’t pegged to the area.”

4. Banning smoking on breaks

I’m not a smoker, but my company has strict rules banning smoking. I understand they can ban it from the premises, but they go so far as to say that you can’t smoke on your unpaid meal breaks, at all. Can they do this? Do they have the right to enforce that policy and say my coworkers can’t leave the property and go down the street to smoke?

It depends on your state and your industry. In many states, employers are free to refuse to hire smokers at all (although some states have passed laws making that illegal) and in those states they could indeed mandate no smoking during work hours. Even in states that protect smokers, employers can generally enforce anti-smoking rules if not smoking is an important part of the job (for example, a health care job might ban smoking during breaks so that you don’t come back smelling like smoke around patients).

5. Should I tell this employer why I’m withdrawing from their hiring process?

I am a military spouse job-hunting from across the country as we prepare to move from one coast to another. I recently had a bizarre interaction with a prospective employer and wanted to know what you think.

I had my first interview on a Monday via Zoom and was contacted the next day to request a second interview … that same Friday, in person. I was concerned that they were not willing to do a Zoom interview a second time given the distance, but I understand some information is easier to gather face-to-face. That said, this was not a situation where they needed me to fly in because I was a finalist; the first round interview was basically a screener so I know I was one of several candidates for the second round. I should also note that this was not for a senior-level position; it pays about $45K and is an administrative role.

I was also concerned when they declined to reimburse me for my flight costs. It’s standard in my industry (higher education) to do so, but I sort of waved it off because it is a smaller school that probably does not interview non-local candidates very often, if ever.

Finally, they called me again on Wednesday that week canceling the interview citing unforeseen circumstances; this was about 18 hours before my flight was set to leave. Thankfully, I was able to get everything refunded.

Despite all these issues, I did end up taking a second interview when they called to reschedule (side note: the people in the second interview were the same people from the first interview) because I had some moving tasks that could be done while I was in town. However, from this process I inferred that this team was not going to be a great fit. I felt like they were asking for a lot of flexibility on my part while being very inflexible on their part. I have small children so a workplace that is understanding of the demands that go along with school calendars and constant sickness is very important to me, and I just can’t reconcile that with “please pay out of pocket for a flight on a holiday weekend in 48 hours.” My question is whether there is a way to offer this feedback or just leave it at a “I don’t think this is a good fit” if they contact me again. Or if I’m totally off-base and this is a normal amount of commitment to expect from a candidate!

You’re not off-base. If you ask someone to pay their own travel costs for an interview and then cancel that interview at the last minute, you at a minimum should inquire about whether their ticket will be refundable and cover it if it’s not.

That’s leaving aside the question of whether they should have been paying for it in the first place and there are a bunch of factors that go into that. Ultimately, if they have plenty of strong local candidates, I don’t have a problem with them declining to cover travel for long-distance ones, but it’s inconsiderate to ask you to fly out before you’re a finalist.

But I don’t think there’s much to be gained by telling them this unsolicited. The interview process worked as it’s supposed to: you learned enough to determine that the job wouldn’t be a good fit for you. If they contact you again, it’s enough to just say you’re withdrawing from consideration. (Although if they ask why, at that point you can certainly say that you’re looking for a workplace where flexibility goes both ways and your sense is that it’s not a good fit in that regard.)

{ 249 comments… read them below }

  1. MoonlightingProject*

    OP2, I have done this successfully, but only for projects I really enjoyed with clear expectations that I’d only be working off hours and that the needs of my new job would come first so there might be weeks where I couldn’t given them any time.

    I worked 3-8 hours/week most weeks (primarily on weekends) for about 3 months when they decided they really did need someone who could put in a little more time during regular business hours.

    We parted ways with no hard feelings.

    If you don’t have a well defined project you can work on mostly independently I wouldn’t do it. The key for me was being almost entirely off hours, it being my favorite type of project, and my being confident enough in my ability to do that type of work that I could work with almost no input from others based on previous knowledge of the project goals + my expertise in the topic area. It would not have worked without all of these compinents.

    Good luck!

    1. Sloanicota*

      I have heard many, many high achievers confidently state that there’s no way the company will even be able to limp by without them, and they’ll certainly need to be at least contractors for the first X months … but honestly the company usually can somehow limp by. In my experience, a lot of things get dropped, which is painful for the person who left, or aren’t done as well, but that may be … okay.

      1. Generic Name*

        Yup. I was doing about 4 different jobs when I left my last company. One of those jobs was running the quality program. They haven’t found anyone to take over that role (it was non-billable in a place with billable hours), and I’ve since heard that people in the industry are talking amongst themselves that the quality of their product has recently gone down. Not my problem, though.

      2. Daisy-dog*

        A friend recently left her VP job at a company where she had worked for 10 years. She’s gotten sporadic updates from her past direct report and they are making a lot of poor choices that will difficult to enforce/maintain. But also, they aren’t calling her.

      3. Cafe au Lait*

        In my observation many high performers have pet projects they work on in addition to (or sometimes, in lieu of) their core work. When they leave the pet projects go with them and the core work remains. The pet projects might make the company/department look shiny and new but they’re not always what the business needs.

        A former coworker single handedly ran our little library of three until she was put on a promotional track. Suddenly all the jobs that had to be done RIGHT NOW, and SHE WAS THE ONLY PERSON were farmed out to my second coworker and I. And we ran the library just fine. Sure I wasn’t checking the hold shelf every day for expired holds. But the expired ones were still cleared regularly. Books still got checked it, books were shelved. They were just done in larger batches than what my coworker would’ve done.

        Sometimes I’m resent of my coworker’s promotion. It felt like she got promoted on metrics that really didn’t exist, and made my life more difficult in the meantime.

    2. Orv*

      I’ve done this too, but the situation was such that my old company approached ME with a specific need they had. It was one well defined project I contracted for, not an open-ended situation.

  2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP2 (consulting for old job after you leave) – Are you sure your new employer would be OK with this? I think if I recruited someone and then they said (or I came to find out as they didn’t say anything) “oh btw I haven’t really left my old job as I’m still doing consulting for them” I’d be concerned about things like whether they’d be taking those phone calls and emails, or doing actual hands-on work, during what was meant to be their hours at my place (their current employer!).

    Quite a few companies have policies about paid outside employment or other business interests in any case – I would check that out.

    1. MsM*

      And even if your new employer is okay with it, it really complicates the orientation period to have some portion of your brain still focused on the old place. I had to do it with my last job because I would have been leaving them without anyone in my department at the busiest time of the year, but it definitely impeded me getting settled in at the new place.

  3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    OP 2. Please update us in a year when you’ve made a clean break from this place that has convinced you ever will fall apart when you leave and when it dies, it’s your fault, not theirs I’m betting you will look around at your great new job and wonder how your head got so turned around by a place that wanted you to do more than they were willing to do.

    1. Awkwardness*

      OP, I am surprised too. How come you have not even thought about cutting ties or want to wait how it plays out and if the calls and emails you are expecting really come in? Do you really want to leave?

      I think all your energy should go to the new employer to get to know people and processes, and learn about your new task instead of constantly keeping the wellbeing of your old employer on your mind.

      1. Cat Tree*

        I get more of a server that LW2 doesn’t really want to help but also doesn’t like to say no. They’re anticipating these questions and are hoping that by offering to help but with a fee, the old company will just stop asking. Or at least, that’s the gist of many questions like this.

        LW2, it really is Ok to just say no or to ignore phone calls and emails from them!

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I, a stranger on the internet, give you permission to give your two weeks’ notice, try to document all you can in that time, and then put your energy into your new job.

          As we often observe ’round here, it doesn’t help to care more than the person whose job it is to care.

          1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

            I second this. OP. You are thinking more about them than they are of you. People leave. Enjoy your freedom.

        2. Sloanicota*

          Yeah my sense is that OP is concerned about being dragged, unpaid, into a bunch of drama and questions. But you can just … decline to do that! It doesn’t seem like you can, but I promise, you can.

        3. PurlsOfWisdom*

          This. And this post reminds me so much of an old employee of mine from a previous job. I often had to step in the middle to avoid letting them get taken advantage of since they were too nice to say no.

          LW2. Document everything. Train those you are leaving behind. Close the door and never walk back through it.

          Being kind is good. Letting people weaponize your kindness against you is not. It’s a hard habit to break, but it is possible.

          Former People Pleaser

      2. Peach Parfaits Pls*

        Yeah, you might indeed get calls and emails. Don’t answer (more than two of) them. An email is not a jury summons.

  4. boo bear*

    OP1, could you set an expectation at the beginning with everyone? Announce something like Alison’s script, which might make it more natural to follow through in the moment.

      1. Managing While Female*

        Yeah, most people understand this so it’s a non-issue for them. Setting an expectation that they will limit their questions or whatever will seem needlessly harsh to folks who are there just to have fun learning and otherwise know to let the tour guide lead.

        Those who DON’T get that are less likely to listen to/heed the warning and will do what they’re going to do anyway unless someone stops them in the moment/specifically corrects them.

        1. AMT*

          I agree, it’s a bit like putting up a sign that says “don’t pee on the toilet seat.” People who pee on toilet seats don’t care about signs, and non-seat-pee-ers don’t need signs.

          That said, maybe it could help her feel more confident cutting his interruption off in the moment if she said something at the beginning of the walk like, “There are some really interesting plants on this trail and people usually have a lot of questions, but it’s so easy for us to get sidetracked that I’d like everyone to hold onto their questions until [specific cue].” Then the expectation is set that there’s a designated window for questions that she will signal (e.g. a couple of minutes after she is finished introducing each plant), so it doesn’t seem so much like she’s arbitrarily shutting someone down vs. just enforcing the rule she set.

          I actually love it when group leaders do this. It makes me feel simultaneously like I’m not in danger of being That Guy (because I know when questions are welcome) and like That Guy will get redirected instead of being allowed to take over and derail.

    1. N C Kiddle*

      Yeah, just something in the opening spiel like “if you have any questions, feel free to ask them, but we’ve got so much to cover that I’d appreciate if you kept them brief” sets an expectation so she isn’t starting from absolutely nothing.

      1. Rebecca*

        Or even controlling when the questions come. I often have to tell students that I need to get through the next section and then I’ll take questions before moving on. Half the time the question got answered when they let me finish anyway, and it means that I don’t get completely derailed and lose the plot.

        1. Butterfly Counter*

          This was my thought.

          I’m with Alison that you can allow for a side discussion once, but after the second time, that’s indicating a pattern of a student who wants to steer the class. And that is never a good idea.

          When I see that happening, I cut it off immediately, but diffuse the issue by addressing the whole class. “Thank you, Student, for showing your great interest in this topic. However, since time is limited today and I want to get through the material, as well as make sure other students are understanding what we’re discussing, we have to move on now. Are there any questions about X Topic from someone else before I move on to Y?”

          It makes the conversation less about “You need to stop trying to control my classroom” and more about “I’m SO in control and aware of the time and other students here and want to make sure everyone gets something out of this.” It can even be framed later as the student being qualified for an advanced class, but the teacher needing to make sure everyone at least is getting through the basics.

    2. Audrey Puffins*

      It sounds like this kind of hijacking is thankfully a rare occurrence, so hopefully just having some scripts in her back pocket to shut it down in the moment will be enough without having to add anything to the standard format. :)

      1. Sloanicota*

        A good instructor can usually spot who is likely to have this issue, and then there’s a bunch of strategies tailored to your sense of the person. They might go from engaging the person who’s eager to share their expertise (TM) in the actual presentation (particularly if they do actually have something to offer, which many eager beavers in such a group would have), or moving them away from the person they’ve been chatting at, or calling them out directly.

    3. Hyaline*

      This can be smart, especially as a reassurance that “we’ll be moving fairly quickly through the tour I have planned, but I will be reserving time for questions and discussion at the end” which can set a reasonable expectation that interruption isn’t really helpful but you will have a chance to share. (It won’t thwart a total know it all but it will establish that their mode of sharing isn’t really welcome and prevent others joining the bandwagon.)

  5. Allonge*

    LW3 – to answer your last question, you are not crazy. You get to have enjoyed remote work but you also get to want a change. Loneliness adds up – it’s very normal that you want to try the office, especially if it’s a good team. Some things may get easier work-wise.

    That said, beyond the salary, clarify what moving to this city would mean for your remote options – it’s not necessarily the case that you would be giving up all the remote advantages.

    1. MK*

      The real issue, though, is presenting a case for the employer to take on the added cost of having OP be in the same city. The whole “work-from-home works amazingly well” concept may well be against OP in this case; if her being completely remote has worked fine for her company for years, they may not see much benefit in raising her salary for having her still be remote in their city and coming to the office occasionally.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        I think that most employers would still prefer employees be able to come to the office occasionally even if remote has been working just fine. I myself prefer 100% remote work but even I have to admit that there are things that can be easier to do in person. I think most employers realize this and wouldn’t say no to an employee who volunteers to come to the office sometimes instead of doing their work entirely remotely. OP says that their team has a lot of meetings and other events in-person and I bet that if OP tells their manager that they want to be able to take part in these gatherings, the manager (if they’re a good manager) would be all for that. Now, whether the company would be willing to take on the expense is a different matter, but if OP’s manager is willing to go to bat for OP, the two of them could probably come up with some good reasons why paying OP for the higher COL area would be worthwhile for the company.

      2. Hyaline*

        I mean, there are kind of two interconnected issues, right? Moving to a hybrid or in-person schedule AND moving to a higher COL area. If OP moved to a higher COL area that was NOT where her employer was, would they raise her salary? It sounds like yes (from her parenthetical–that they seem to have pay bands based on COL)–so the bonus of her coming into work sounds like it’s not necessarily part of the equation of getting paid more? I think OP should start there–clarifying the salary vis a vis COL bands and how it works if someone moves.

      3. Hannah Lee*

        There may be benefits to the employer, not just flexibility of having LW in office more frequently, but possibly related to shutting down a remote “outpost” of their company at that location such as removing any time differences when coordinating work/scheduling and possibly eliminating tax, state filing requirements if LW is the only employee in that LCOL state, simplifying benefit administration if LW is the only “out of base network” employee in that area.

        Those aren’t a given, and may not be a big deal, but there could be some benefits.

        One suggestion though, is that the LW think through whether this new place is somewhere they really want to live, beyond the impact a move would have on their work life and opening up socialization possibilities with cool co-workers. Because anytime you’re moving for one particular reason, it’s worth considering what you would do if that one thing went *poof*. Sometimes the one thing can be a great trigger/excuse to make a move that makes for other reasons, or to a place you’ve always wanted to live even if it’s only for a while. So, if LW was able to relocate, and company folded 6 months later, would they still be glad to be in new city, even if they had to find a new job? Or would it be a ‘what was I thinking moving to Topeka?’ situation?

        All that said, if LW would want to be in that new city anyway, absolutely talk to boss (with a framing that includes at least something in the vein of ‘it would make such and such work process go more smoothly if I was local) but also, keep an eye out for new openings at the company that might be a good fit. Sometimes, from a HR/personnel standpoint, it’s easier to say “we’re going to fill this role with Jane, relocating from Nashville’ – when the pay, benefits, etc for that role are already budgeted at HQ rates, than it is to say “we’re going to bring in Jane from Nashville, her role will stay the same” while having to increase staffing budget mid-financial period.

    2. Dog momma*

      LW is looking to move for increased salary & lives in a low COL area. does she/ he realize that’s the higher wages mean it’s a higher cost of living there…and might not be affordable after all

      1. Audrey Puffins*

        Given that the letter is about seeking a pay increase to cover the increased costs of living in the higher COL city, yes, I think it’s fair to assume that the letter writer does indeed realise this

      2. MK*

        I don’t think she is looking to move for an increased salary, she wants to move so that she could have more contact with her coworkers and more networking opportunities. She needs the increased salary to make the move financially possible.

      3. Catty daddy*

        I think the LW was pretty clear that that is exactly why they would need the higher wages. It’s interesting that you assume otherwise.

      4. al*

        Do you need a cup of coffee? You’re responding to a different situation than is described in the letter.

    3. CommanderBanana*

      Also, get it in writing. Do not make a plan to move on anything other than something in writing, with a start date, that HR knows about.

  6. Elsa*

    OP1, I’ve done a lot of adult education over the years, and there are always some students whose main objective is to hear themselves speak. It’s annoying for the teacher and even more frustrating for the other students, who aren’t getting what they paid for.
    A super important skill that adult educators need to learn is to interrupt people like that. They won’t like it but for everyone else’s sake you need to just cut them off. I had to learn it when I was a pretty quiet teacher in my twenties, and it was tough since the people I was interrupting were usually much older than me, but over the years I’ve gotten really good at interrupting ramblers.
    Alison’s scripts are perfect, and the key with them is the timing – your friend will need to swoop in there and use them quickly, loudly, and effectively.

    1. Rebecca*

      Oof yes. I spent the bulk of my career teaching children – primary up to high school – where it’s a lot easier to take control and be the boss in the room, and then I took a gig teaching in a Masters program to young adults. Being able to control the conversation is harder, because somehow it feels – meaner, and more draconian, because the power balance is very different. I had to practice being willing to do it, and then I had to practice being able to do it gracefully but without giving an inch, and I still had to develop a bit of a thick skin for the few (outlying) comments on student evaluation forms that complained about it.

    2. Justin*

      Yeah it’s one of my strengths as an adult educator, keeping a firm handle on the conversation flow.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      Agree with all this.

      Don’t stew in “This person is making it awkward. Can’t they pick up on that? I don’t want to be rude, but I wish they would take a hint.” Demonstrably, they do not pick up social cues about needing to stop talking now. When you are the person with the authority to derail the attempted sidebar, but don’t, the other students will have a much worse experience of the class.

      1. MsM*

        Yeah, I was in a class that erupted into open warfare between the group who were convinced they could do a better job of teaching the material than the instructor (they could not), the ones who were tired of never getting their questions answered because all the focus went to the loud group, and those who just wanted the power struggle to stop. It did get better once the instructor realized the loud group was outnumbered by people who wanted them to quit running the show, but I can’t say I remember much of the actual subject matter covered.

      2. sparkle emoji*

        Yes, I’ve been the bystander on similar tours with know-it-alls. I promise the other attendees will enjoy the tour so much more if the guide keeps a firm control of “not really a question but a comment” remarks.

        1. Helen Waite*

          Some conventions I’ve attended included panel discussions. Most panels go smoothly, but certain subject matter tends to bring out the hijackers. Those panels often have moderators who lead off by letting the audience know that there will be specific times for questions, and that questions need to be brief and end in question marks.

          1. Hyaline*

            LOL bringing out the “This is more of a comment than a question–”
            “NOPE. Next!”

        2. 40 Years In the Hole*

          While posted to a EU/NATO country, we organized a military history tour, and invited one of the pre-eminent military historians from our home country – PhDs up the hoop, adjunct professor at the Military College, 30+ years of strategic, operational and HQ experience. Excellent presenter.
          The group was a mix of military and civilian, senior/junior ranks and experiences. Col/Dr X was a master at regaling us on the history, with a personal touch. And as is typical of any military/professor-adjacent presentation he established his ROE in advance re: questions and comments.
          And…there’s that ONE GUY who had to make running commentary through it all. The looks/sshh’s from the group went unheeded. Then the Col/Dr made it clear – in the polite but direct way that only Cols can – that he was not in need of a Teaching Assistant thankyouverymuch.

      3. Hannah Lee*

        “When you are the person with the authority to derail the attempted sidebar, but don’t, the other students will have a much worse experience of the class.”

        This was the thing that finally helped me when I was leading training programs.

        Yes, the interrupter is being rude and annoying. Yes, it feels personal to me when they are talking over me, and that’s something that I struggle with shutting down in my real life because I was conditioned to be a non-confrontational ‘nice girl’. But in a situation where I was the class leader, my job was to make sure the majority of the students get the experience they showed up for. Even though it was tough, personally, for me to step up and shut down the interrupter and even though the interrupter might not like it, neither of those things mattered. It was up to me to manage the time and agenda, for ALL the students, and THAT was more important to me than my discomfort or the interrupter’s need to suck up all the air in the room.

        Over time it got easier. For one thing, it became easier to recognize what kind of interrupter I was dealing with, so I could choose which approach to use.
        (there’s a difference between Likes to Hear the Sound of Their Own Voice vs Is the Smartest Person in Every Room vs Spent a Year in Alaska and Must Bring it into Every Conversation vs My Boss/Wife Dragged Me Here and I’m Going to Make Everyone Pay)

    4. BethDH*

      With events like this and other adult education that ties strongly to hobby interests, you also get people who are looking to meet and share and will talk more out of a desire to make connections. They shouldn’t hijack a class, of course, but I find that I can divert a lot of unwanted interruptions if I build in time for people to share — maybe asking if people have recipe ideas, or if knowing the habitat for a plant they can suggest other places they might look.

    5. Nonanon*

      Yeahhhh honestly this can start as a child and then just… never stop (enough that it’s a joke to be “blessed” with a “more of a comment than a question” person at a conference). Learning how to shut it down is an artform, and just because LW’s friend is not dealing with this particular person anymore doesn’t mean there isn’t going to be another similar one down the road, and the script is a longer term solution. “I will happily speak with you after, but I have this structured/don’t know enough about this/this is outside the scope of whatever/let’s hear from other people/this is the FIFTH TIME one more and YOU WILL BE ASKED TO LEAVE” is usually a good one to use.

      1. Six for the truth over solace in lies*

        You know that fairy tale where a mean girl pisses off the wrong fairy, who makes frogs and toads fall from her mouth thereafter? I want that fairy to take up a new line in applying the frogs and toads curse to people who say “not a question, more of a comment.” Maybe not forever but at least through the end of the conference.

        1. CommanderBanana*

          All my love to those speakers or moderators who at the outset tell people that the Q&A section is for Q&A, and if they have a comment, not a question, they can stuff it. I attended a talk where someone tried that and the speaker cut them off and said they’d be happy to take a question from someone else.

          99% of the time it’s an old white guy who has decided that the people who came to see a speaker really came to hear him monologue during the Q&A.

          1. AMT*

            I attended a talk where someone gave one of those long non-question comments and seemed to be really eager to have the speaker expound on the genius of their comment. The speaker just brushed it off with something like “I tend to agree” (the statement wasn’t particularly controversial or insightful) and moved onto the next person. It just made the commenter look foolish. Now that I think about it, the speaker probably got that a lot and had plenty of practice with these answers.

      2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        Most of those are good but “I don’t know enough about this” is basically an invitation for That Guy to take over even more than he already is.

    6. Christine*

      I also teach adult ed, and there is no gentle way to stop an interrupter. If they were that self-aware, they wouldn’t be interrupters!

    7. DameB*

      Bless you for doing that. I love adult classes but when an inexperienced instructor allows That Guy(TM) hijacks the class to monologue, it can spoil the experience for everyone.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        I’ve dropped out of adult ed classes where that was happening (wasn’t very good at advocating for myself back in the day)

    8. Daisy-dog*

      It’s appreciated as well. My husband and I splurged on a champagne-tasting class for our anniversary one year. And the class was completely derailed by someone asking extraneous questions that the instructor didn’t get to give his full presentation. (The $$$ was for the actual champagne which we did get to drink, but I wanted to full experience.)

  7. Samwise*

    OP 1: strong disagree with the advice to let it go once or twice. Many decades teaching /training/ leading discussion groups. Nip that right off. If you let it go on for more than a minute or two, you have given permission to the interruptor and it will be harder to get it under control.

    You can be kind and even apparently appreciative of the interruptor while still firmly keeping control of the class (workshop, tour…) and moving it where you need it to go. The wording Alison offers is good. Maybe first say something like, Oh pine needles are wonderful! Unfortunately we aren’t focusing on those, but we can chat about it after the tour. Now right over here is our next plant…

    Your friend, OP, can also start the tour with an overview, and then use it as she goes along (“so now let’s move to the second of the five plants we’ll be focusing on…)

    1. Despachito*

      I agree that it needs to be nipped in the bud, and also agree that if you do it in a way that satisfies the interruptor by flattering him a bit it can go a long way.

      From the interruptor’s point of view (yes, I have been there): it is very tempting to show off if you too know something interesting, and sometimes I find it interesting if another student adds something short and to the point, but it is difficult to find the right balance when it starts to be annoying. I certainly have learned better with the years but if I am the interruptor (or there are other interruptors in a class) I am actually grateful if the teacher can shortly and gracefully redirect the flow to his/her own thing.

      1. Butterfly Counter*


        I just said this above, but I usually frame subtly it as, “Oh, you would do so well in the advanced class! But let’s let these newbies catch up.”

    2. AMT*

      Yes, trust that the rest of the group isn’t thinking “Why is the instructor being so mean?” when you cut someone off. They’re thinking, “Thank God, I thought that would go on forever!”

    3. Hyaline*

      Yep. If it’s a brief question, it’s one thing, but I think that “let it go once” is really more useful as a “suss out the situation” mindset. As soon as you sense that “oh this person is going to take over and start lecturing” you have to nip it in the bud. No one else appreciates this person. “I’m so glad you’ve explored this area before! If we have time at the end we’ll have to discuss what you found. But to keep us on schedule, we need to…”

    4. Ms. Murchison*

      +1 for taking care of it early, and that an overview at the start can help manage expectations about what you’ll have time to cover.

      If it’s a student who is just overly enthusiastic, they may be super excited to finally get to discuss their favorite topic and it just might not click that you’ve got a set curriculum fit to the space of time. Saying something about having selected items that will appeal to the whole group and not having time to cover everything you’ll encounter could prompt their brain to jump tracks into listening mode.

    5. Hannah Lee*

      OP’s friend has an advantage that it sounds like it’s a walking tour.

      They can use their physical location, including what direction they are facing, to redirect people’s attention. eg briefly (like, < 6 words) acknowledge whatever the person is pointing out and then physically move away from them, calling attention to the next plant on the agenda. The rest of the class will follow the instructor's lead.

  8. coffee*

    LW1, sometimes people interrupt so that they can show off their knowledge. If that is the case, which this sounds like it is, then one trick is to satisfy that desire and then redirect.

    “Thanks for sharing that! It sounds like you know a lot about the plants around here. And
    there are so many cool plants out here to talk about, but since we don’t have time to talk about them all, I’ve chosen a few to focus on in this session. Please save those other plants for now, and after we get to [place where the session ends], anyone who has some spare time can stick around to chat about any we didn’t cover on this walk.”

    If they wanted to be seen as an expert, you just gave them what they wanted, so they will stop acting out to get it.

    Also just because you offered to chat afterwards doesn’t mean you have to stick around for the whole plant guy monologue. You can have a bit of a chat and then leave. Or not stick around at all.

    1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      It sounds like this has worked for you, but validating That Guy as an expert can backfire badly.

      There’s also the possibility that it’s not That Guy but instead someone who just wants to signal “I am not a total beginner at this hobby” in which case a reminder that this particular walk is for all levels and you’ll be focused on XYZ today can acknowledge that without letting them take over.

      1. coffee*

        For the first, can you give an example of it backfiring badly? If the expert takes that as a cue to keep going you can move onto firmer boundaries; you’re not locked into one course of action.
        If it’s concern about them giving out advice about poisonous plants then you have dealt with it by getting them to stop talking, and can deal with “I don’t certify this advice” at the end of the walk.

        For the second, that’s kind of the point of this approach. They’re signalling they aren’t a beginner, and you validate that to them, so they no longer feel the need to keep signalling since that need has been met.

      1. coffee*

        Kind! Yes, a good description. When I first heard this I was like “why would you reward this type of behaviour” but it’s really all about keeping the walk/workshop/etc. on track and enjoyable for everyone. And it’s nicer for other participants to keep things upbeat.

  9. KeinName*

    OP1: foraging interrupters: in my experience as a facilitator, Alison‘s sentences are great because firm and very polite. It’s important to moderate interruptions because people have paid to hear her (of course in an interactive manner, but still she is the expert).
    Since these kinds of settings are a place for people to socialise, there will be some who like to hear themselves talk (in front of HER audience). That’s okay to some extent, but using Alison‘s scripts she can encourage more chatting after her class is officially over.
    I‘ve recently had to facilitate an event on prevention of sexualised harassment with only people in leadership or expert roles, who wouldn’t stop asking questions and giving long-winding non-answers between talks even though there were to be only short informational questions. Questions in the vein of ‚does this really happen that often’. First I was polite, then I briefly screamed, and then I invoked the time constraints given to me by the highest level person in the room. That last one worked then. I was complimented after on my great facilitation technique :) That is to say, audience members are grateful if you take care of the time, and pointing to something exterior when explaining why the interruption isn’t wanted is good, and just insist on it.

  10. BadMitten*

    #4–I was at my doctor’s office which is a big, federal government funded facility. I was in the waiting room which is the same for the pediatric center and browsed through pamphlets about the dangers of “third-hand smoke” for babies. That means the smoke that clings to your clothes after you smoke or are in a smoky area.

    It can seem a little extreme, but especially if your job deals with children I can see where they’re coming from. That being said, if someone snuck in some vaping in their car or something I doubt anyone would notice. Not to encourage it or anything but based solely on my sensitive nose I don’t think third hand vapor is a thing.

    1. Banana Pyjamas*

      I live with a smoker, and he smokes outside only. Third-hand smoke is absolutely a thing and it’s worse when it’s rainy it humid.

      1. BubbleTea*

        Someone living three houses away from mine smokes in the back yard, with the delightful consequence that he fills everyone else’s houses with the smell of smoke (unless we keep the windows shut at all times, which in 25°c weather is unbearable – if the windows aren’t open at night the house never cools down).

        1. 40 Years In the Hole*

          A bit OT. When my MIL died, we cleaned and repainted her apartment. After years of living there and smoking in her bedroom, I honestly thought the walls and ceiling were a cafe-au-lait/caramel colour. Nope. Even with multiple scrubbings with TSP: off white.
          Repainted with cream white, but left a small untouched patch behind the headboard; we still refer to the tainted colour as “Tillsonburg Twilight” – after the tobacco growing industry in the area.

          1. Spicy Tuna*

            The guy in the office across the hall from me was a body builder and only ate hard boiled eggs and canned tuna. He ate massive quantities of these two items frequently in his office. After he left, the new person who moved in had to request to have the office professionally cleaned and painted to get the smell out!

          2. Orv*

            I used to have an elderly Mercedes with paint that had faded into a very odd yellowish off-white color. I told people the paint color was “smoker’s tooth.”

          3. Filosofickle*

            Briefly i sublet an apartment that must have had a longtime smoking resident — the bathroom walls weeped brown rivulets of nicotine after every shower. It was disgusting.

      2. Pharmgirl*

        This explains a lot! I bought a house from a smoker, and while she didn’t smoke too much in the house she definitely smoked most in the bedroom. It’s been almost a year and thought I finally got rid of the smell, but now that’s it’s humid I’ve been noticing an odor again.

        1. Christine*

          I bought a dining room set from the estate of a smoker. It took months for the smell to dissipate.

        2. mlem*

          At my university, back in the early 90s, there was a guy who smoked in his dorm room. When the next guy to move in had to wash the walls to try to control the smell, the wash water turned a nasty yellow. Cigarette smoke and byproducts definitely seep into the paint/wallpaper/drywall and then seep back out over time.

      3. Jennifer Strange*

        My brother and his wife are smokers, but they adamantly don’t smoke in their house. Despite that, when I stayed over once and slept on their couch it absolutely reeked of cigarette smoke. It clings to you.

    2. MK*

      Also, in my experience, people who leave their employer’s premises to smoke usually barely do so, as in, they stay as close as possible, so as not to lose time. The result is basically a smoking area just outside the employer’s entrance, with the bad smell and the associated bad “look” of people standing around smoking in a street corner.

        1. Managing While Female*

          I remember being pregnant and needing to deal with this too. I went out for a walk each day, and had to hold my breath to get past the unofficial “smoking area” right next to the entrance.

          1. DJ Abbott*

            I hold my breath frequently. And still walk in the street occasionally to avoid smokers on the sidewalk.

            1. Reebee*

              I was in a SprawltMart recently and walked a wide circle around two people who were vaping in one of the the frozen foods aisle. Vaping! They started shouting and pointing at me that I was a “…hater!! Hater right here!!” really loudly.

              They got kicked out, thankfully.

              1. Rainy*

                Despite the claims that vape exhalations and uninhaled vapor is “just water vapor”, the active ingredients and carriers are present, and one of the carrier substances is an asthma trigger for a lot of people, including me.

                Don’t vape in public places, especially indoors.

                1. DJ Abbott*

                  It sounds like they knew they weren’t supposed to and were trying to start trouble or stage a protest or something.
                  Such people are infuriating. Glad they got kicked out! Wish their fumes were as easy to get rid of.

        2. Cat Tree*

          Yeah, I’m allergic and it’s bad. I’m so glad my workplace has been smoke-free for years. I can walk into a doorway without a cloud of smoke drifting over from the smoking shelter.

        3. Beth*

          Yep. I get instant migraines at the slightest whiff of smoke, and am very tired of having to hold my breath and run a gauntlet to get in and out of some buildings. If the cloud is thick enough, I still get sick from the smell of what has stuck to my own clothes.

          1. Missa Brevis*

            Same – it’s my worst and most consistent migraine trigger.

            My employer strongly discourages tobacco use but doesn’t outright ban it for employees, so I have one coworker who still smokes – he’s usually at a different building but I recently had to have a very awkward conversation explaining that I can’t be in in-person meetings with him because it’s actively hazardous to my health to be in the same room because of the smoke lingering on his clothes.
            (Still, less awkward than having to tell my essentially homebound grandma a few years ago that I can’t come inside because the smoke permeates literally everything, so the most I can do is hang out on the porch)

            1. DJ Abbott*

              I’m glad you’re taking care of yourself by setting these boundaries! Too many people suffer in silence. It would be better for everyone if more people spoke up. Then smokers would realize how they’re affecting others and be able to avoid making people sick.

      1. NeedsMoreCookies*

        The no-smoking laws where I live actually mandate that smoking not take place within 6 metres of doors and air intakes. It’s not uncommon to see a covered picnic bench or gazebo around the back side of a commercial building specifically for smokers.

        1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

          Same where I live – a state law was passed a while back mandating how far away someone has to be from an entrance to light up. I don’t know what the exact distance is, but as soon as that law went into effect, *poof* the crowds of smokers around doorways disappeared like magic!

          I’m so used to it now that I rarely think about it anymore, but reading some of these replies reminded me of the “bad old days,” and brought back the feeling of gratitude that washed through me when the change happened. I’m sorry to hear that this is still a problem some places. :-(

      2. Hannah Lee*

        We share a building with another company and I repeatedly have to contact their operations manager to remind them that their employees can’t take their smoking breaks by stepping 10 feet away from THEIR back, employee entrance so they wind up loitering directly outside OUR main (visitor, customer) entrance.

        Bonus points for the ones who do so while also watching obnoxious You Tube videos and/or having combative telephone conversations on speakerphone.

    3. Nonsense*

      Oh, I absolutely can tell when someone has vaped in their car. Vaping still produces a foul odor and it’s worse when they’ve vaped in a small enclosed space. Plus, it’s still a smoke, which means there’s still particulate matter, which is what third hand smoke is.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        Yes- third-hand smoking has always been harmful but there was no awareness until what, 20 years ago? I first heard of it while working in the OB/Gyne in Department of a hospital maybe 10 years ago.
        It’s going to take a few decades for the medical establishment to determine if vaping particles are harmful. They probably are. That you say you can smell them is interesting, I haven’t had any experience with that.
        There needs to be some common sense around this, which is not at all common when it comes to smoking. Of course the smoke is harmful. Everyone knows it’s poisonous. Of course, there’s smoke residue – you can see it’s ugly, smelly, yellow stuff. People being in denial and pretending it wasn’t there didn’t help anyone.
        Signed, a person who becomes severely ill from tobacco smoke and probably had lifelong damage to my health from being around smoke as a child.

        1. Rainy*

          I said this above, but vaping effluvia can be an asthma trigger, and is in fact my most serious and immediate trigger.

          1. DJ Abbott*

            I’m sorry to hear that. Maybe wear a mask on transit, people sometimes sneak vaping on trains.

        2. Petty Betty*

          There are many vape “scents” and flavors. It’s not uncommon to be able to smell the vape smoke. I live with a vaper. A couple of my adult kids vape. I don’t like it, but it’s better than the alternatives.

      2. Cake or Death*

        “Plus, it’s still a smoke, which means there’s still particulate matter, which is what third hand smoke is.”

        Vaping (like actual vaping) is NOT smoke. It’s vapor…hence why it’s called “vaping”. Nothing is being burned, just heated.

        Vapes can still smell really bad though, especially those sickeningly sweet ones that people puff HUGE clouds of. In my experience, small disposable e-cigs give off way less vapor clouds and usually are not as strongly scented, so I don’t mind when people use those as much as the oil cartridge vapes that produce the big clouds.

    4. Boof*

      It isn’t a thing /yet/ – also i’m sure it depends what is vaped. As others have said vaping often still stinks

    5. CityMouse*

      I knew a guy whose third hand smoke was so bad, the smell of smoke would linger in elevators or rooms he had been in.

      1. Learn ALL the things?*

        I used to work retail and there were times when I’d walk into an empty aisle in the store and smell that a smoker had been there.

      2. starsaphire*

        Oh yes. At ToxicExJob, you could tell when a certain VP had come in before you because the elevator would REEK of smoke.

        I’m not anti-smoking, but man, that guy. I’d swear he sweated it. Whoof.

    6. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

      LW4 OP4, my employer has a health-focused mission and asks that employees not use any tobacco products. Part of it is so that we don’t smell bad around our patients, part of it relates to the perception of hygiene and clean hands, and a big part of it is modeling good health to one another and to our clients. In our case, it’s presented not just in interviews but even in job postings, and reiterated through interviews and onboarding, so that people can self-select out.

    7. Laura*

      My grandfather was a lifelong chain smoker and I never went to his apartment because the smoke triggered my asthma. When I was in high school my mom stopped to drop something off while I waited in the car. Just from her brief visit, the smoke clinging to her clothing was enough to set off a severe asthma attack. Not something I will ever forget, and I bring it up it up when my dad (also a chain smoker, sigh) complains about me making him change into clean clothes before seeing me/my kids.
      I don’t know about 3rd hand vapor triggering asthma or other respiratory issues but I worked briefly with someone who liked the scented/flavored vapes and we could all tell when he was vaping in his car (we worked on a tobacco-free campus so even this was technically against the rules though nobody enforced it) because he came back to work smelling like an unholy combination of BO, sweat, and gummy bears.

    8. Choggy*

      We had smokers stand right outside the entrance door to our department, so people would have to not only walk right through the smoke to go in or out, but when the door opened, the smoke/odor would come right in. A few years ago they created a policy that no one is allowed to smoke on premises. Now they stand right at the entrance of the parking lot smoking. The number of smokers has been reduced, I’ve only ever seen three smokers (out of at least 60 employees) use that area, so that’s a nice change.

    9. Butterfly Counter*

      I took in two foster shi tzus last October who had come from a smoking household. Even with a bath, they stunk for weeks. It took a full grooming to get rid of the odor.

      1. Rainy*

        We got my younger cat from a Craigslist ad as a tiny kitten and she came from a smoking household. As bad as she smelled dry, the second she was wet it was SO INTENSE. I had to shampoo her a couple of times, and I still didn’t get all the stench out that first time, but I didn’t want to strip her coat or irritate her skin. The bath knocked it down to a manageable level but it took another couple of weeks for it to dissipate completely for her as well.

  11. Dagmar*

    Ha! I’ve worked in healthcare most of my life and there are always people who take as many smoke breaks as they can get away with, whether they’re allowed to or not. And usually, it’s only the smokers who actually get their 15-minute breaks! Are other industries like this?

    1. Banana Pyjamas*

      Yes. My mom works in a factory, and at least one of her co-workers admitted to starting to smoke so he could get extra breaks. The company tried to crack down on non-smokers breaking with smokers, so he started smoking.

      1. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

        Years ago I became expert in handling a lit cigarette without actually smoking it. Non-smokers got their regular breaks. Smokers got at least 3 extra breaks because they smoked, It was very unfair.

        1. Two-Faced Big-Haired Food Critic*

          My mom started smoking as a twenty-something, at the turn of the 1950s, because that was the *only* permissible reason to take a break. Apparently that was legal back then.

    2. bamcheeks*

      there are always people who take as many smoke breaks as they can get away with, whether they’re allowed to or not. And usually, it’s only the smokers who actually get their 15-minute breaks

      I think there’s probably a connection here.

    3. Gullible Vengeance Umpires*

      My first professional job out of college I inhaled a LOT of secondhand smoke because the only way to take a break without getting a sideeye from my boss was to go outside with the smokers.

      1. Turquoisecow*

        Yeah I did this in my first corporate job.

        “I’m going to take a walk outside” would get some funny looks but “I’m going outside with Jane while she smokes so we can chat (and walk)” was fine.

        I stopped doing it after a bit because I got the impression Jane was perceived as less focused on work and maybe took too many smoke breaks and I didn’t want to be brought down in reputation by association.

    4. Pikachu*

      Former server checking in. In foodservice, people start smoking just for the extra breaks.

    5. HailRobonia*

      My brother used to take “hovercraft” breaks. He had a small remote-controlled hovercraft and when his coworkers would go out to smoke, he would go out to the parking lot and drive the hovercraft around. He even “combined” the activities: he noticed the wind from the hovercraft would blow cigarette butts around so became proficient at “herding” piles of cigarette butts up against the cigarette-waste-receptacle which was RIGHT THERE for the smokers but… smokers gotta smoker and most of them just tossed the butts wherever.

    6. Laura*

      My sister started smoking because she worked at a grocery store deli and the smokers got extra breaks. Definitely a thing!

    7. Turquoisecow*

      My old office job nobody bothered the smokers going outside fairly frequently throughout the day. It was kind of a joke that sometimes the department would have a meeting to discuss a new project, we’d divide up the work, come up with a game plan, go back to our desks…and the smokers would immediately head outside before getting down to business, which effectively stopped the project or at least slowed it down because in the first few minutes everyone else would be discovering and discussing things (“oh, I just realized if you change this field to llama then these values fill in.” “Oh do you know what to put for number of times per week to trim alpaca nails?” “Bob knows. Oh but he went outside, have to wait for him to get back.”)

    8. Toledo Mudhen*

      When I worked as a unit clerk, one of the ways to negotiate with non-compliant patients was to allow them the occasional smoke break. As the only smoker on the unit, I was elected to take the patient to the smoking section to keep an eye on them.

    9. Polly Hedron*

      Worse still, I know several people who got promoted by taking smoke breaks with their grandbosses.

    10. Petty Betty*

      Oh yes.
      Every industry I’ve worked in:
      Retail – smokers got their 15’s AND extra breaks to smoke
      Food service – smokers got their 15’s AND extra breaks to smoke
      Prison – extra breaks to smoke
      Construction – outside? Smoke ’em if you got ’em! Take those extra breaks!
      Oil field – get your butt outside (in -40F temps) and get that extra smoke break
      Medical and drug rehab – uh no, smoking on site is prohibited. Here’s the Tobacco Quit Line. You get your lunch and your two 15’s only.
      Military/gov’t – as long as your work gets done, take as many smoke breaks as you want
      Entertainment – don’t be late to your rehearsal or show, and don’t let the public see you smoking in character!

      1. Orv*

        When my mom worked as a nurse in a managed care home, part of her job was to wheel residents outside to smoke after the smoking ban came into affect. If someone has made it to age 80 while smoking they’re not going to quit at that point.

        1. Petty Betty*

          Absolutely. Patients weren’t told not to smoke, except in drug rehab, but even then, it was more of a “look, we’d prefer you quit, but honestly, in the grand scheme of things, cigarettes are the least of your issues right now, so if you can afford them and they don’t get in the way of treatment, fine; but if you want to quit, here’s resources.” Staff, however, it was very much a “Tobacco Free Campus” kind of thing. One hospital even tried to roll out a rule where tobacco products couldn’t even be STORED in employee vehicles on site, but that quickly (and quietly) got removed from their list of rules.

    11. Orv*

      I used to joke that I was going to take up smoking so I’d have a valid excuse to take a break from any social situation.

  12. PX*

    OP3: if you can, I would break the taboo and ask the coworkers roughly what they make if you’re comfortable with that. I’d frame it as “I’m considering moving to city X, I know that company has different salary ranges by location, if you’re comfortable – could you give me a rough idea of what you’re on so I can make sure I’m compensated correctly?”

    Obviously do your own research as well, but for the conversation with your boss, I would also bring it up as an obvious”of course my salary will also need adjusting to reflect the new location” rather than making it a question.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Yeah, you’ll definitely want to do your own research as sometimes those COLAs sound better than they are – they may slightly offset but not actually accommodate the higher price of the area, particularly if the role can actually be done perfectly well from the lower-cost area.

  13. N C Kiddle*

    I volunteer with a health care charity so they have pretty strict rules about smoking. Seems like their biggest concern is optics: you’re not allowed to smoke or vape anywhere on site or while wearing your lanyard or anything with the charity’s branding like a hi-viz. But no rule against smoking far away during your lunch break provided you remove everything identifiable. (Not a smoker myself, but get a lot of slack time to read all the rules thoroughly.)

    1. TPS Reporter*

      I bet optics and also health insurance. I wonder if they save (or think they do) by saying they have a smoke free work force.

      1. N C Kiddle*

        Health insurance isn’t really a factor as this is a UK charity and most of us are volunteers anyway. The poster laying out the rules all but states it’s about optics, and I have no idea how strictly it’s enforced in practice.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        How is it ridiculous to say you don’t want someone representing your healthcare charity to be engaging in an unhealthy activity while on site or wearing the charity’s branding?

      2. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        llsheba, you sound like a smoker who has no concept of how even being around someone who smokes can affect other people. If you have no intention of trying to quit, it would behoove you greatly to develop a greater awareness of this and make an effort to be as considerate and understanding as possible.

        You have chosen to smoke, with all of the health risks (to yourself AND others) and aesthetic/personal hygiene issues that entails. You’re allowed to make that choice for yourself, but you do NOT have the right to inflict those risks and issues on others who have not chosen to be smokers, any more than you can possibly help. I realize that may be a bitter pill, but the sooner you swallow it, the better off you will be.

        You need to realize that nonsmokers are NOT going to “get over” not wanting to breathe noxious fumes, walk through clouds of smelly smoke, or suffer migraines, asthma attacks, or allergic reactions due to the particulate matter that continues to waft from the bodies and clothing of smokers even when they’re not actively smoking.

        In case you’re wondering, yes, I am a militant nonsmoker, and I make no apologies for it. I grew up in a house with parents who were heavy smokers and never even noticed the smell until after I left home for a while and got used to living in a smoke free environment.

        P,S. Both my parents died prematurely from smoking related illnesses, and my favorite cousin died from lung cancer caused by his own smoking – and I am salty about all of that. I hate smoking and everything connected with it, and I have no plans to “get over” it.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          I’d like to add- I can be very sick in bed for three days from the smoke of half a cigarette. Being in an enclosed room with cigarette smoke will do that.
          It appears to be a non-IgE allergy – a delayed, full body, systemic reaction. It includes a pounding headache, stomach on fire, extreme fatigue, pain in the limbs, and irritability.
          There is no cure for an allergy. This type of allergy has not even been studied. The only recourse is avoidance. I do whatever is necessary to avoid having this happen. If I see someone about to light a cigarette at a place where they’re not supposed to, I asked them nicely not to. If they already have lit up, I report them. I have no intention of getting over doing this, because my health and life depend on it.

    2. Hannah Lee*

      This was years ago, but it was so strange it stuck with me:

      When I was visiting a friend who was a patient at a major teaching hospital, when I walked up to the entrance there was a whole group of people standing outside smoking … with their Pulmonary Therapist ID’s in full display.

  14. Cheesesteak in Paradise*


    No advice I’m just appalled that some job would ask you to fly out with 4 days notice across country then cancel a day and a half beforehand. So tone deaf of people’s time, lives and finances.

    1. CityMouse*

      Especially given they only pay 45k/year (althought frankly, ANY situation should address this), the fact that they haven’t explicitly discussed payment for the flight unsolicited is a huge red flag.

    2. Jackalope*

      That’s such a huge red flag here. Flights are expensive when you book them last-minute, and many of them are nonrefumdable. To ignore that and not offer to cover the cost is a sign that they will not treat you well after getting hired either.

      1. Gullible Vengeance Umpires*

        It’s honestly so baffling it makes me wonder if they didn’t even consider LW’s candidacy seriously and were only interviewing because they met criteria and hoped that LW would drop out of their own volition.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      Agreed – it was incredibly inconsiderate and demanding to expect a candidate to fly out, then cancel the interview – esp. when expecting the candidate to pay for their own flights.

      I wouldn’t continue with this company – even if everything else lined up.

    4. Pizza Rat*

      This is why I disagree with Allison’s advice. There are a lot of shady interview practices out there right now and the only way to make them stop is to not play those games. I think LW should explain why they are withdrawing their candidacy. People need to be called out on unprofessional and inconsiderate behavior.

  15. Dog momma*

    Smokers..if they aren’t allowed to smoke on site, go off site to smoke, is the company liable if say, they get hit by a bus? Some places don’t allow leaving your work place, even for lunch..I’m thinking health care, 15 min break, and there’s a fire alarm, or another emergency where they need all hands, & know who’s at work that day for safety reasons.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Huh, I’ve never heard of a place that doesn’t allow you to leave the premises on your breaks – sounds like a terrible environment.

      IANAL but no, I’m quite certain that a “no smoking on the premises rule” would not make the company liable for anyone getting hit by a bus leaving the premises!

      1. Former Retail Supervisor*

        It’s more common in coverage jobs like retail, patient care, etc. You can leave on your unpaid breaks, but if you’re on the clock, you’re supposed to stay onsite. I assume there is a risk management aspect to it, but also a logistical one – where can you feasibly go offsite that allows you to get back to work and on duty in 15 minutes?

        1. ecnaseener*

          Yeah, thinking back to my coverage-based jobs, I don’t remember whether the coffee shop on a busy road allowed us to leave the premises on breaks but I wouldn’t have had anywhere to go. The cashier job in a bustling part of the city allowed/encouraged us to leave.

      2. Mx*

        My work has a 10 minute paid and 30 minute unpaid lunch break. We’re not allowed to leave the campus on our ten minute break. I work in manufacturing so it might be partially industry dependant?

      3. lilsheba*

        Yeah I’m sorry if I still smoked I would definitely go smoke on my lunch break if nothing else, that is NOT their business.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          Reframe the rule in your mind as not a “you can’t smoke even on your own time off site during breaks” instead into a “you cannot smell like smoke while on the premises” rule. And no, you as a (former) smoker don’t get to conclude you don’t smell like smoke after. Your ability to smell is almost certainly broken.
          It becomes their business when it affects their business and if they can smell it when you walk back in, it affects their business.

        2. JustaTech*

          If you come back covered in particulates that set off the air alarms, then yes it is their business and they can tell you not too, just like they can tell you not to wear makeup because the particulates that flake off also set off the air alarms.
          This is an example from clean room manufacturing.

      4. Milo*

        I work in industries where once you are at work, you cannot leave the premises — they are not going to decon you more than once a day. No smoking. But, lunch is provided!

      5. Hannah Lee*

        There’s a rehab hospital next to where I work that has a tobacco free campus.

        At least once a week when I’m driving to work, there is one hospital employee guy on his break, sitting smoking on the curb across from the hospital with his legs outstretched into the road … a curb that’s on the inside of a bend in the road, so he’s not visible until he is nearly right in front of me or any other approaching driver.

        And I can’t just assume he’s there and stay towards the middle of the road when approaching the curve because a) with the bend in the road, you can’t see the oncoming traffic until it’s right in front of you and b) there are often delivery trucks, tractor trailers coming towards me that are themselves hanging near the middle of the road.

        Some days I’m like “I should stop and give him the stool/backpack I’ve got in my trunk and tell him sit somewhere else” Other days I’m like “is he *trying* to get hit?”

      6. katydid*

        it’s common in education, especially public schools. They usually cite optics– that if parents see the teachers out somewhere during the school day, they’ll complain (which I find absurd, but not surprising).

      7. Rake*

        I used to work at a cultural/entertainment type place in my city where the campus was huge, the parking was far away (for employees and guests) and there were multiple food options for the public with employee discounts available. Technically there was no actual rule about not being allowed to leave on your breaks but we had to physically swipe our badges at time clocks to clock in and out, our lunch breaks were only 30 minutes, and the parking lot was a minimum 10 minute walk away. It just didn’t make sense to try to leave. I imagine most theme parks/zoos/convention centers/huge museums are similar.

    2. Managing While Female*

      No. They’re not engaged in a work activity and they have left the work site of their own volition on a personal errand. You would have a hard time showing that a company is liable for an employee’s safety in that situation.

      1. CityMouse*

        Also, you’d have to find a state or local specific law protecting smoking rights. Smoker is not a federally protected class.

    3. Person from the Resume*

      I don’t think it’s this.

      They are either being (1) over-controlling about smoking because they oppose smoking (2) do not want employees smelling like smoke when they return from breaks (which can be a legitimate problem). People just coming back from smoking will very much likely smell of smoke. It does get into their clothes and hair and on their skin

  16. Justin*

    OP3, you’re just going to have to ask (and ask your colleagues about their salary range, if you don’t want to ask about the number itself).

    It’s good to see this here, as I think some of the audience truly doesn’t believe anyone would ever want to go to the office (and this is not the same as forced RTO). My company is like this and I choose to go in both to get out of my house and to see people twice a week because I like them (and going into Manhattan).

  17. Clear choice*

    I was not surprised to hear this was a higher ed setting. Unfortunately, hiring in this environment often involves multiple levels, a search committee, lots of people who want/need to meet the candidates, plus an HR that is often ineffective and/inefficient. That often leads to messy searches and really, it’s a reflection of that university’s systemic issues. Any feedback you give is unlikely to be actionable.

    I’d consider the experience a warning as to that organization’s culture- disorganized and dismissive of employees’ lives outside of work.

    1. Gullible Vengeance Umpires*

      This is my take, too. Even if you tell the hiring manager you’re withdrawing because they’re a disaster, it is unlikely anything will change. My friend was recently in charge of coordinating a dean search and it was just as bad as this, except they *were* paying for flights.

      Thankfully the university made some changes a couple of years ago and best practice now is NOT to use a committee for a certain pay grade and below, so I was able to use that to push back on my boss who wanted me to invite high level so-and-so to be on the interview panel for an entry level admin job. (All that ever did was make scheduling harder and confuse the candidates as to the level of the position they were interviewing for. Never resulted in a better hire.)

    2. Bumblebee*

      Another factor that may be in play here is that, in my public university experience, there is an expectation that all searches be consistent – it has led us to ban, for our division, in-person interviews up through the coordinator level at least, and mandate that every first-round interview be virtual, whether candidates are local or not. This is to avoid the following situation: if we were to have 3 final candidates and one was far away and 2 were local, and we wanted to interview in person, we’d be mandated to fly in the far-away candidate, because doing that one virtually while the other 2 got to come in person would be perceived as an unfair advantage for the local candidates. It’s also a cost-saving measure, TBH.

      Nevertheless, it’s totally unprofessional to cancel at the last minute.

      1. Hyaline*

        Yep–when I interviewed for my current job, all interviews were Zoom (even though I might have been two offices away from interviewers!) for consistency.

  18. FashionablyEvil*

    OP3–just be aware that they might not be able to make the salary jump all at once. I had a staff member voluntarily relocate to San Francisco (which has a craaaazy high COL multiplier in our company) and while we did work to get him up to a higher salary, we had to do it over three years.

    1. AngryOctopus*

      This. Your position is currently budgeted to your remote work area. They may not be able to budget it up to the in-person area in one chunk. You can absolutely ask, but just be aware of how their budget works.

    2. lilsheba*

      I will never understand why anyone would even want to move from a low cost of living area 100 remote, and move to someplace much more expensive, just to be in the office sometimes. It wouldn’t be worthwhile to me. The freedom and the lower cost of living would be much more important.

        1. Peach Parfaits Pls*

          Well, if they don’t find a workable solution when they inquire about moving closer to the office, it’s worth considering if there aren’t a bunch of other ways to assuage OP’s loneliness that don’t involve giving up an advantageous position or a drastic life change.

          I would imagine if they had a robust friend group where they are, they wouldn’t feel so left out of their coworkers seeing each other. Even just taking walks in the middle of a day and listening to audiobooks while you work, and then making social plans after work, might be a less drastic, but more effective solution.

          1. SnackAttack*

            They may already have a robust friend group, and they may not see their current position as an advantageous one. Some people legitimately thrive better in an in-office environment and value connections they make with their coworkers. Plus, depending on your industry, there may be more opportunities in a different area (LW says they work with creatives – there are likely more opportunities for connection and learning in a HCOL place like, say, New York City, as opposed to somewhere like suburban Ohio).

          2. Bella Ridley*

            That doesn’t solve the problem that OP is looking to create work-related connections. Having friends is not the same as having a strong group of work relationships, regardless of how many lunchtime walks you take.

            Mostly I don’t see the point for comments that say things like “I would never do something like that.” Good for you?

      1. SnackAttack*

        That’s you, though. Different folks, different strokes. Personally, I’ve always lived in HCOL cities, and I would 100% rather pay more for rent than move somewhere smaller and with fewer recreational opportunities. There are plenty of people who value the connections and lifestyle an in-office position in a higher cost of living place can afford them.

      2. I Have RBF*

        Me neither. But some people don’t have the busy household that I have, or don’t have a robust social life outside of work. For some people, particularly extroverts, lacking the socialization part of onsite work is extremely hard to cope with.

        Now, the question can be asked: Is the workplace required to fix a person’s loneliness? Should they change how they do things because an employee is lonely? Do they need to provide for an employee’s social life?

        In the past, people took for granted that work was part of their daily requirement of people exposure, and extremely so in the case of open plan offices, which fed the needs of extroverts extremely well, and were often hell for introverts.

        Some companies are 100% remote. People who need their workplace to provide their socialization needs should probably not work remote jobs. Fortunately, their are all kinds of workplaces to meet people’s different levels of social needs.

      3. Broadway Duchess*

        This is definitely a YMMV situation. I’ve lived in the suburbs my whole life but close to a major city and the COL is really high. Short of an obscene salary hike, I wouldn’t want to love in a lower COL area because I like the accessibility to shopping and dining, the robust and varied public transit system, and the diversity of people. For me, the lower COL wouldn’t be worth the cost of getting yo an area where I can enjoy the things that are within 15 minutes of my front door.

  19. el l*

    I get it. You’ve built relationships, you like who you’re serving and why. And you feel needed.

    But you’re bargaining. You’re going to trade in these things when you take a new job, that’s just how this goes. Same wherever you go.

    Concerned that the consulting discussion is poorly motivated, and will be a distraction from the next step. Because if you choose a new employer well soon you’ll have all this in new job – and a functional working environment.

    PS: Don’t offer to consult. If they prompt that discussion, go for it – but set firm boundaries, especially on availability. Because most employers will adapt when losing a key employee – and for the ones who can’t, you don’t want to be part of that drama.

    1. Angstrom*

      “…and for the ones who can’t, you don’t want to be part of that drama.” So true!

      OP2: Any organization that does no transition planning deserves what they get when someone leaves. If there’s chaos, it’s on them.

      Leave your tasks organized and documented and walk away.

    2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      The last part of your last sentence is the key here. OP, the drama and toxicity will be there even if you consult. They will not suddenly go – oh OP left because we are a hot mess, we better get our act together.

      Its sink or swim time for the organization — not you. You will save yourself with a new job. Get out and stay out of the toxic waste dump.

  20. Friday Hopeful*

    #4 reminded me of something that happened recently. I was at the eye doctor sitting in the waiting room, and I was looking down at my phone. Someone walked by me and I smelled the unmistakable odor of pot. I looked up and it was a woman in scrubs, who had come in from the street. I don’t really care what people do on their own time, but that particular smell makes me very nauseous. I got called next and it was the employee who smelled doing my eye exam. I had to pretty much hold my breath as much as I could. I can’t imagine that no one else in their office noticed. If it were cigarette smoke it would have been just as noticeable and although would not have othered me so much, I imagine it may have bothered someone else just the same.
    I am a former smoker so I get it, you should be able to smoke. However, I am hesitant to go back to this office now. So I can completely understand some types of places banning smoking during work.

      1. Managing While Female*

        Yeah, I certainly wouldn’t go back after that. Completely support pot being legalized, but like with everything there is a time and a place. While you’re at work at your healthcare job is not one of them.

        1. Cat Tree*

          Yes. Even if it’s legal, I’m wary of someone making medical decisions for me while actively high, just as I wouldn’t want a doctor who was drinking alcohol on the clock. Yes, there are other risky things doctors do (such as sleep deprivation). That doesn’t make active drug use on the clock somehow Ok just because they do other non-ideal things.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      This is why in Ye Olden Times the snazzy way to smoke was in a smoking jacket, aka a garment you wore only for smoking and then removed.

    2. lilsheba*

      ok there is a difference between smoking and getting high, I would not want to deal with a stoner doing an exam at all.

      1. Anon4This*

        And I don’t want to deal with someone who reeks of cigarettes (or pot!) doing an exam.

        1. Observer*

          And I don’t want to deal with someone who reeks of cigarettes (or pot!) doing an exam.

          You are right. But for people who don’t get actively sick from the smell, it’s an annoyance – a legitimate annoyance! An annoyance that should be avoided, but still. Being high (on anything – pot, alcohol or any medication that has similar effects) is more than an annoyance. It’s an actual danger.

          1. Anon4This*

            I don’t disagree? I’m just pushing back on the idea that not wanting your healthcare provider to smell of cigarette smoke is any less important than not wanting them to smell of pot.

      2. Broadway Duchess*

        Just want to point out that the chances are not zero that someone who is under the influence of cannabis has done your first-line healthcare. In my experience, there are usually drug screens involved at the time of hire, but random screenings are rare, at least for employees other than nurses. I was a medical assistant at the start of my career and other than unloading and my promotions, I never had a drug screen.

        1. Broadway Duchess*

          Ugh, that should be “other than onboarding…” My kingdom for an edit button.

    3. Hyaline*

      You would have been well within your rights to request that someone else do the exam! Yikes, the smell makes me ill, too; migraine trigger. I wouldn’t go back–plus I know I may be a fuddy duddy but I don’t think coming to work after smoking pot is any different from coming to work buzzed from a martini lunch. I don’t want either making decisions about my care!

    4. Pretty as a Princess*

      I wouldn’t go back and would let this practice know specifically why. If someone reeks of pot at work, then they are working under the influence. An eye doctor is a medical practice and there’s liability associated with this.

    5. Observer*

      However, I am hesitant to go back to this office now.

      With good reason!

      If you can, you should complain about it. Because it’s not just the smell. It’s possible that the stink is there from some smoking she did in the morning. But it’s also possible that it’s from the break she was just on. Which means that she was doing an eye exam while under the influence of pot. Not ok!

  21. Pedantic Panda*


    this happens to me a lot as I give a lot of classes, and I always do what Allison suggested. it can feel rude at first to cut off an interrupter but you get used to it after a while and after you realize how grateful the other students are

  22. H.Regalis*

    OP1’s friend and all other teachers: Please terminate these people’s monologues with prejudice.

    I signed up for the class so I could be taught by YOU, the instructor: Your knowledge, your expertise, your skills, your instructional ability. I don’t want to hear Rambles O’FullOfHimself hold forth about anything. You are who I’m there to see! It makes class worse when you don’t shut these jerks down, and if I have to do it, I’m probably going to say something like, “Please shut the fuck up and let the teacher talk or else I’ll throw rocks at you until you leave.”

    1. Forrest Rhodes*

      +1 to all you said, H.Regalis, and I’ll happily stand behind you with a handful of rocks just for emphasis.

      I’m also wondering why no one else in the group speaks up on Leader’s behalf. I’ve been in similar groups where another attendee (not unkindly) shut down the pedantic one.

    2. Observer*

      This is pretty much what I was coming to say.

      LW, please pass this on to your friend.

      *PLEASE* cut this off. Don’t worry about being “gracious”. The rudeness here is to all of the polite students who did not sign up for this.

      Be willing to kick this guy out, and give him back his money if you need to. Because this kind of thing can absolutely cost you clients.

  23. Justme, The OG*

    OP #4, I worked retail a number of years ago where employees weren’t allowed to smoke on premises. You also weren’t allowed to leave the premises on your paid break, only your unpaid lunch. So effectively you couldn’t smoke on your breaks.

    1. HollyH*

      I actually quit a retail job as a teen because my three coworkers, department manager, and store manager were all out behind the store smoking and left just me on the registers while a line formed all the way to the back of the store. The store manager came back in and lost it on me for not helping customers. I just walked out.

  24. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    LW#1 – as a presenter in adult learning classes, my biggest issues have been the folks who do a slippery slope — a question, they get an answer, then they have another question, then suddenly it’s the Reassure Our Needy Friend Show. And many times they’re getting ahead of the lesson so it’s just stuttering at this point.

    Once it starts sliding, I will just look that person in the eye, smile hard, and say “OK, I’m going to keep going and if you have more questions, just hang on to them for later.” And there have also been times where I’ve just blazed ahead with my lesson and build in some phrasing like “let’s get through this all the way before we stop” as if it’s part of my script and blatantly ignore the raised hand (or do a gesture of “nope, not gonna”).

    But my strategy might not work for another presenter, or with a different sort of audience. So the real trick is to run the lesson in your head in advance, think through where there could be sticky points, and build up a little list of ideas about how to get out of the weeds (as it were) so that you’ve got some mini preplanned scripts or strategies.

  25. HailRobonia*

    “Hey, Mr. Know-it-all, why don’t you eat a sample of this plant and give me your feedback?”

    (hands over plant that causes explosive diarrhea and vomiting)

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      “Ah, here’s a mushroom whose scientific name is Russula emetica. Anyone want to try it? How about you, Mr. Know-it-all? Wow, the whole thing in one bite. Does anyone know the common name for Russula emetica? Sickener? Right you are! Sickener causes vomiting and diarrhea shortly after consumption!”

      He’d almost deserve it for ignoring rules 1 through 598 of mushroom hunting – never eat a wild mushroom without being 101% sure what it is. But seriously, kids, don’t poison people.

  26. WantonSeedStitch*

    The urban foraging class sounds awesome! It’s a hobby of mine, and I’d be one of the people who’d want to chat with the instructor above and beyond what’s discussed in a beginner class because I’d be excited and would want to have a conversation about a topic that really interests me. That said, I hope I wouldn’t be a derailer. I know that in a class, people are there to learn from the instructor. Maybe if there’s someone who’s super eager and wants to chat a lot, the instructor could open up discussion a bit while keeping it on topic, after sharing the knowledge they want to impart: “So yeah, that’s how you can identify purslane. Have any of you tasted that plant before? Oh, you did, Fred? I usually saute it with garlic. How did you prepare it?”

    1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      See, though, if you’re in a beginner class as a non-beginner, you sort of need to accept that the level of the class isn’t what you want, rather than either try to derail it over to being a different class or try to insert yourself as a co-instructor. If I’m in a birdwatching group that’s all-levels I might say one thing to signal myself as a non-beginner and then I will SHUT UP rather than trying to make it all about me.

      1. WantonSeedStitch*

        Yeah, that’s what I’m saying. People are there to learn from the instructor, not from me, so I wouldn’t derail.

      2. lemon*

        I agree with the point you’re making in theory. In reality, some classes are about subjects that are so specialized that beginner-level classes may be the only classes that are offered, especially when you’re talking about adult-education courses. There may not be an advanced urban-foraging class where someone can go asked about other kinds of plants.

        I’m taking an adult-education course right now even though I’ve already read the author we’re discussing, only because… there’s nowhere else I can go take a course on this author at *any* level outside of a PhD program. That said, I am mindful about not derailing the class with lots of questions because I do think it’s important to give everyone a chance to learn. However, I do sometimes feel a little disappointed that there aren’t more opportunities to have a different level of conversation.

        I have tons of respect for teachers/instructors because it must be so hard to respond to many different learning needs and styles.

      3. Hannah Lee*

        In all-levels bird watching walk I’ll do the same. Maybe one comment about something I’m seeing/hearing to bring it to the instructor’s attention if she hasn’t picked up on it yet, in case she wants to point it out to others. And then I just enjoy the day, with everyone else … might learn some new things, see some interesting birds, enjoy helping a beginner who is struggling to get “on” a bird if the instructor is busy, and enjoy seeing other people get excited about birding.

        But I’ve been the beginner who was standing there as some self-proclaimed expert kept derailing things by monologuing, bringing up minutia or pointing out distant or fast moving birds that there was no way I’d ever see … I’m determined not to be that person.

    2. Observer*

      It’s a hobby of mine, and I’d be one of the people who’d want to chat with the instructor above and beyond what’s discussed in a beginner class because I’d be excited and would want to have a conversation about a topic that really interests me.

      I hear you. But the solution there is to ask the instructor if you can chat a bit at the end of the class, and hope that she has the bandwidth. I don’t mean that someone should not ask ANY questions beyond the official scope of the tour, but a non-beginner conversation, while not as obnoxious as a know-it-all show off, is still not really fair to everyone.

      So, thanks for trying to keep that in mind.

  27. Hyaline*

    OP2: Maybe I’m reading the question a little differently, but I feel like part of the reason you want to set up a consulting arrangement is that you feel the boundary would be easier to enforce than a full-stop “no” on requests for help. You’re anticipating questions and you probably know better if that’s an accurate expectation (I have left jobs where I know they probably bumbled around quite a bit not knowing what to do when I would have, but they never emailed or called me). That aside–why is it that just saying “no” isn’t an option? “No” is a complete sentence, and you do not owe anyone your assistance after you leave. Do you think you’ll have a hard time holding to “no,” but an easier time saying “this falls under my consulting agreement”? Why is that an easier boundary? I’d push back on that assumption–it might be easier at first, but I think it muddies the waters and could make ending that arrangement more difficult, or even cause more issues in untangling what, exactly, you are charging for and how and when. I think it’s great that you’re considering how to establish your boundaries with a former job that might press them, but I’m not sure that this is the best solution.

  28. SpaceySteph*

    If my grandfather had the ability to go on a walking tour anymore, I’d think Letter 1 was about him. There’s honestly not much you can do to stop him from seeking the sound of his own voice and he’s somehow become the master of every possible subject he might encounter, so he’s always the know it all.
    Over the years we’ve tried many tactics to get him to STFU but… nothing really helps. If its the kind of thing where people come back multiple times, I’d recommend blacklisting them from the class. But if its just one-offs, the best thing you can do is sternly tell them to hold questions until the end and then ignore them, talking over them if necessary (and it WILL be necessary).

  29. Bumbletub*

    As a millennial non-smoker who entered the work force with generations who were heavy smokers, I’m very pro banning smoke breaks. A company where I temped after college looked at our badges in an out of the facility because the workload was heavily skewed and some of us were burning out. The data specific to this company showed smokers were taking on average up to an additional 45 minutes a day, over 7 hours a week in smoke breaks (some more, some less) not counting our three company approved 30 minute breaks. All combined with company breaks and nonscheduled smoke breaks came to an estimated 2 hours and 45 minutes per workday per smoker. So speaking in those terms from the company’s internal study, my work day was 7 hours with my three scheduled breaks. My coworkers who took frequent smoke breaks on top of their 90 minutes worth of daily breaks averaged anywhere from 6 to sometimes 4.5 hours of work. As a lot of our work was customer-facing, someone had to pick up that slack and it was usually me and two other nonsmoking staff members who would get slammed. Also not to mention the smokers would douse themselves in cologne or perfume to “cover” the smoke, which just made it all worse.

    1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

      “Also not to mention the smokers would douse themselves in cologne or perfume to ‘coverx the smoke, which just made it all worse.”


  30. Nancy*

    LW2: Don’t consult for your old job, just move on. Spend the last few weeks at your old job writing documentation to help with the transition. You are not the first person to leave a job, they will figure it out.

  31. chellie*

    L1 Lots of people have already weighed in, but it’s easy to pass on by the written comments if they are unhelpful, unlike That Person who is holding everyone hostage at in person events. Last fall I went to a Death Cafe at a library. There were maybe 15 people there. It was the first time I’d been in small group of strangers like that since 2019! I realized about 10 minutes in that I was never coming back. The person running the group seemed to have a wealth of knowledge. She had snacks and great materials. There were people in their 20s through their 70s who initially seemed interested and interesting. Until they revealed themselves. There was Lionel Lonely, who likes to talk. And talk. And talk. There was Ari Artschool (who reminded me of a friend in their 50s who says to everyone within minutes of meeting them that they attended Prestigious University and then keeps bringing the subject back to you guessed it, them!). And then Nancy Newcomer, who had identified that what that group most needed was to deeply understand her.
    Lord, I had forgotten this about adult special interest groups. They can be great, and they have recurring characters: the know it all, the special precious, and the one who thought it was group therapy. I’m currently not volunteering for a committee at my town because of one of the members (who embodies all 3). So many blessings upon those who establish and maintain group norms.

  32. Dandylions*

    #3 As someone who was facing unemployment for changing my mind after accepting a LCOL -> HCOL move that seemed amazing on paper. Easily over $120K in benefits including $50k I got to spend how I want. I urge you to consider organizing quarterly or semi-annual visits instead.

    IME, the salary increase was nowhere near the current COL. It seems companies are having trouble adjusting to the new housing costs. My company is generally good about paying above market, but even they were clueless about the housing reality.

    After 2 years of searching with a budget of $450K I could not find a place to live with a decent elementary school in a safe neighborhood.

    1. Box of Kittens*

      I live in a LCOL area and the starter homes being built across the street are going for 400K and up. It’s truly insane to me that you need almost HALF A MILLION DOLLARS to buy a regular 2B2BR home. My husband and I bought our first home in 2019 and we will probably never move if we can help it because it’s just insane.

      1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

        It is truly bonkers how expensive homes have gotten. And yet rent is even more expensive in a lot of cases! And again, I’m in a LCOL area, too.

        The house next to me just went up for sale and they want 490K for it. We bought our house (similar footprint and yard size, though they have a pool and we don’t) for significantly less than half of that pre-Covid. We are not in a fancy neighborhood or anything. If they actually get 490k, I’ll be shocked, but they probably will get 400+K, which still seems insane. I’m familiar with the industry, too, as I have a parent who literally builds homes for a living, and I’ve been inside my neighbor’s house. The materials it’s built with are not 490k quality. They’re fine, but we’re not talking top notch appliances and imported marble and genuine hardwood or anything like that.

  33. Rainy*

    I actually had something similar to LW1’s situation happen just yesterday in a seminar I lead. I suspect what happened is that a few people joined the last meeting of the seminar without actually paying attention to the seminar topic, and two of them attempted to hijack the Q&A period to talk about something that isn’t the topic of that seminar. Each time, I redirected kindly but firmly, and pointed out that I am holding a seminar in a few months that deals with that topic and they are welcome to join that one and ask their questions then, but this one is for something else and I will only cover that topic. After the third off-topic question, I said “As I said previously, this seminar is about X, not Y. I won’t be answering questions about Y. If you are curious about Y, please join my seminar in September!”

  34. Jo*

    OP3 I’m confused how salary based on COL works. If someone living in a high paying area chose to move to a less expensive area they wouldn’t expect to then have their salary cut. Shouldn’t pay be based on the job, not where it’s performed?

    1. Make it bold and make it red*

      At my org, our salaries are calculated with an algorithm (factors like job level, years at the org, cost of living) so yes, if someone moved from one COL area to a different COL area, their salary would change to reflect that. I don’t know how it’s handled in practice though, like the first day of you working in the new location, or first pay period, or quarter, etc.

    2. Rosyglasses*

      Actually it does work that way — if you move to a LCOL you can expect to have your salary reduced.

      1. starsaphire*

        Yep, my job has made it super clear that if I want to transfer to one of our other offices in a lower COL area, my salary will drop commensurately.

      2. fhqwhgads*

        At the company where I work it wouldn’t be reduced, but you’d also probably be looking at no raises for a while, since you’d theoretically already be above where you should be for that locale. But we’re talking someone moving from San Francisco to Little Rock, not, say, Tulsa to Little Rock.

    3. SnackAttack*

      It definitely does happen that way, though. My friend took a salary cut when she moved from the DMV (DC/Maryland/Virginia) to rural Massachusetts.

      Also, pay being based on the job vs where it’s performed majorly contributes to COL crises in cities. We’re seeing this in big ways where I live (Sacramento). Sacramento has always been considerably cheaper than the Bay, but with the rise in remote work, Bay Area workers are moving to Sac but keeping their Bay salaries. As a result, Sacramento’s homelessness rate has skyrocketed (as has the COL), and housing prices are through the roof. Same thing is happening in Idaho as Bay Area people are moving there.

  35. Spicy Tuna*

    I was the defendant in a (frivolous) law suit. I wasn’t home when the suit was served at my home. My husband said the process server absolutely reeked of cigarette smoke, “It was as if an actual lit cigarette was serving the papers”. The paperwork smelled so horribly of cigarette smoke, I had to sequester it in a ziplock baggie so my entire home office didn’t smell like an ashtray.

    Separately, I went to grad school with a woman who worked for the American Cancer Society. Their employees were not allowed to smoke. She shared this tidbit with me while smoking during a break in class one evening

  36. SusieQQ*

    I used to share an office with a co-worker who would go off premises to smoke, and they would come back smelling like an ashtray. The office we shared was so small that it made it difficult to breath — and I have asthma. I would have LOVED for my employer to ban smoking on breaks.

  37. Exhausted Trope*

    Been in a similar situation with a non-profit where I worked for several years. When I resigned, I left a detailed manual on all our HRIS processes that I compiled over the years and yes, no one ever read it.

  38. PurlsOfWisdom*

    OP2. You sound like you’re in the position at your non profit that one of my old employees was in at my previous role at my last company. I’ll give you the same advice I would give him if he asked this question.

    Don’t do it. If the company is toxic as you say just cut the cord and let them figure it out. Leave thorough documentation and train the team. And then? Leave and never look back. If you can’t stomach that charge them A LOT to consult and set very strong boundaries on the amount of time and scope of the work.

    Since you wrote non profit, I suspect this isn’t my ex employee. But on the off chance you obfuscated details for this post… Q, if that’s you. Reach out! I’d love to set some time aside to catch up.

  39. Original Poster 2*

    I am OP2.
    Thanks for all of the feedback in the comments. You do have me leaning towards just cutting it off more or less. I was thinking of ways of being able to help if “needed” (and I do serve crucial functions) but not being taken advantage of and also make money from it (as I am underpaid as it is here).

    1. PurlsOfWisdom*

      Glad to see you are reflecting on this. The desire to help is good, but I’d be wary of a toxic environment taking advantage of that. Boundaries are important.

      Document everything to the best of your ability and train as much as you can before you leave. Maybe gently suggest they build redundancy into their systems. That is what you owe before you leave. Everything else is on them.

      Not to be macabre, but if you were in an accident that left you unable to work for a prolonged period of time what would they do then? They’d have to figure it out, just like they will now.

      Best of luck to you in whatever comes next!

    2. Caterpillar*

      OP2, I could have written your letter. Exact same scenario, 4 years at a poorly run non-profit, difficult working environment, I loved the mission and my coworkers, but I had to move on. I left in the middle of a big project. They asked me to consult, not the the other way around. I agreed.

      I regret it now. I should have made a clean break. The money was not worth the time I gave them, nor the headache, nor the stress. If I had it to do over, I’d have said no.

  40. Lindsay*

    I saw “urban foraging” and thought it said “urban fervor” at first. You know, like from the Rural Juror.

  41. Hugely Anon For This*

    Re OP # 5, ten bucks says the university in question was a religious-based one. Yes, they really are clueless and disorganized enough to request, then cancel, an interview requiring a cross-country flight during a holiday weekend on less than 48 hours notice, for an admin position that only pays 45K.

    In fact, I’m willing to bet even more money that they think 45K is a GREAT salary for an admin position, and would be shocked — SHOCKED — for a prospective to ask for reimbursement of flight costs, because that person clearly doesn’t understand what a massive privilege it would be for them to work at said religious-based university. Ask me how I know.

    1. OP5*

      It’s not a religious school! I’m glad people largely agree that it’s not great behavior on their part though.

  42. oaktree*

    OP5, sorry, but no, it is NOT standard in higher ed to pay travel costs for $45k admin positions. Maybe some senior positions, but not lower level.

    1. OP5*

      Maybe it depends on the area of higher ed. In student affairs roles, everyone I went to grad school with flew for interviews and were reimbursed, all for fresh-out-of-school roles paying under 50k. I was flown in for a very small school position with a posted salary of $28k several years ago as well. That said, I am surprised they were that adamant about the interview being in person given the position.

  43. Exile*

    WRT offering to consult after leaving. I wouldn’t offer that at all unless you it’s as a temporary thing and you know you won’t have any other position during that time.

    If you are being paid to consult the former employer will at least look for contact availability if not direct response during normal business hours and any new employer surely won’t be happy with you getting calls from other business whilst they are paying you to be working on projects for them. Even if you only respond during breaks/ out of hours the optics at a new job don’t seem great.

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