if you want new clothes for spring, do it this way

 

Here’s a stat that has made me think differently about clothes shopping: We trash 26 billion pounds of clothes a year, and textile waste is expected to increase 60% by 2030.

There are enough awesome clothes on this planet – let’s wear them! That’s one reason why I like thredUP. The other reason it that it saves me ridiculous amounts of money on clothes.

thredUP is the largest online thrift store and sells brands like Anthropologie, Ann Taylor, J.Crew, Banana Republic, DKNY, Cole Haan, Theory, and more, for up to 90% off estimated retail.

Instead of having to dig through racks of stuff you may or may not end up liking, thredUP makes it super easy to shop! You can save your sizes, search by brand, style, price and more to find exactly what you’re looking for – all from your couch. They add thousands of new items everyday so, there’s always something new to find. And everything I’ve received from them has been in excellent condition – they triple-check every item for quality, and lots of items are still new with tags.

In my most recent order, I got dresses from Theory, Brooks Brothers, and Shoshanna, a BCBG Max Azria skirt, Cole Hann shoes, and much more. In total, I got nine items for $177.53, saving over $1,665 off estimated retail price.

When I shop thredUP, I buy stuff that I’d never buy if it were full price. Sorry, Nanette Lepore dress, I like you but I am not going to pay $398 for you. I will pay $35.99 for you, though. That’s the kind of savings I’m talking about.

If you want to check out thredUP yourself, they’re offering an extra 30% off your first order to the first 100 readers to use my code MANAGER. (Terms apply.) Click here to shop.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by thredUP. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

difficult ex is my new coworker, taking video calls in a coffeeshop, and more

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

1. My contentious ex is now my coworker

Today, my ex (mom of our two kids) showed up for orientation at the hospital were I work (without any heads-up). She’s contentious (especially lately since my new wife and I just had a baby) and she loves starting public screaming matches at inappropriate times (daycare, pediatrician’s, etc). I’m a private person and non-confrontational so I just walk away. I prefer not to work the same shifts in order to avoid conflict and embarrassment, especially since she will resent that she must defer to my directives (doctor vs nurse). I want to go to HR, but don’t know if she disclosed our former relationship and I’m afraid they’ll think I am creating trouble since no conflict has happened, yet. I’m also nervous that if I request not being on the same shift, they’ll send me to back to nights (I transferred to days a month ago after finishing a PhD and with a new baby, I’m enjoying the regular hours). Should I go to HR? How should I approach this and how much should I share?

Whoa, yes, you should disclose it, if only for your own protection in case she causes problems. Say this: “I just learned that my ex-wife, Jane Warbleworth, has been hired here as a nurse. We share two children and the relationship since our divorce has been a contentious one, despite my efforts to minimize that. I wanted to make you aware of the relationship and ask if it’s possible not to have her assigned to my shifts given the difficult dynamic. I’m particularly concerned about her ability to take direction from me.”

You could add, “My strong preference is to keep my current schedule. Is there a way to do both of those things?” There might not be — but my guess is that if you’re the doctor and the longer-term employee, it’s likely that you’ll be given at least some priority.

2. Taking video calls in a coffeeshop

I recently started a new, fully remote job. I love it. Now that I’m back home, I want to meet up with old colleagues for lunch on occasion. However, my house is a good 20-30 minutes away from where I’d meet them. Also, this job is more demanding than any I’ve had in a while, and I have a lot of back-to-back meetings. We’re a cameras-on meeting culture. I know how you feel about it, but I actually really appreciate it as we’re all remote.

So, in order to get out of my house from time to time, I would like to drive to a coffee place with wifi in the morning before my meetings, work, then meet my colleague for lunch, and then drive home or back to said coffeeshop to finish my meetings.

Besides the obvious — make sure I order something (or multiple items), don’t take up a ton of space, don’t talk about confidential information, use headphones — what else do I need to know? I’m especially concerned I’ll be looked at as rude for having conversations while there. I would try to get a spot against a wall, so there aren’t random cameos on camera. Anything else I should be considering/aware of?

Well … I’m writing this from a quiet coffeeshop where just a few minutes ago I was feeling mildly annoyed by someone having a cell phone conversation next to me. They’re not in the wrong — this isn’t the quiet car of a train — but there is something about hearing only one side of a conversation that’s more jarring/distracting than two people talking in person, particularly in an otherwise fairly quiet room. So I don’t love the idea. (It does depend on how quiet the space is though — if it’s a loud, bustling restaurant, it’s going to be far less distracting. Although the background noise may make it unworkable on your end.)

What do others think?

3. When people say their boss yelled at them, how do I know if they mean it literally?

How would you you suggest reacting when someone says their boss yelled at them? Of course, the literal interpretation leans toward an abusive boss, but it feels like just about everyone I’ve interpreted it that way with was using hyperbole to refer to being corrected or the like. My standard approach so far has been to assume an abusive boss unless I witnessed the exchange in question (which I’d normally only be able to do with coworkers rather than friends), but that seems to be coming across as naivete and overreaction rather than kindness in the face of a potentially abusive situation. Any thoughts on how to navigate this more adeptly?

Yeah, a lot of people use “I got yelled at” when they really mean their boss expressed a concern or told them to do something differently. While it can be just a colloquialism, it can also be a problem (one that people who aren’t managers don’t always understand) because yelling is abusive, and it’s not cool to give the impression your boss is out of control and abusive.

If it’s not clear from the context which version someone means — and if it’s a situation where it really matters (as opposed to just a friend venting about work) — you could try saying, “Just to make sure I’m understanding, she actually yelled at you? As in raised her voice?” Or you could say, “Did she literally yell or do you mean that figuratively?” If the person says no, it was just a correction, you could say, “Okay, good. Yelling is awful, and I’d be really concerned to hear Jane had done that.”

4. Is this employer being too persistent with their job offer?

I was hoping to get your take on a job offer I recently got from a start-up. My first offer from them was below my salary expectations. I countered with a salary figure that was quite a bit (10-12%) higher than what they originally proposed. They ended up raising the salary offer by about 1%. I declined the offer. Days later, I got a call from the recruiter, asking me to reconsider. She met my salary expectations. I still wasn’t totally sold on the job from the start, and PTO was really low. I tried to look them up on Glassdoor/Indeed, and it became clear pretty quickly that upper management had made some fake reviews to inflate their scores. However, almost all former employees left negative reviews. Ultimately I couldn’t bring myself to accept the new offer. I went with my gut and declined again. Hours after I declined, the recruiter emailed asking me to reconsider again! This time, she offered an increase in some other benefits that I had asked her about after my final round of interviews.

I’m exhausted by this process, and I can’t help but think that the company seems a little desperate. I’m pretty young and recently graduated, so this definitely isn’t a managerial or executive role. However, I’ve been searching for jobs for two months, and there aren’t a lot of options right now in my field. I’m not in dire need of a paycheck just yet, and I’m hoping to find another job that is more exciting to me. My friends and peers have said that it’s generally easier to explain a gap in employment than to leave a nightmare job after a month (hopefully that’s good advice!). (Note from Alison: Yes, although typically you’d just leave the one-month stint off your resume.) But overall, do you think that this amount of persistence on a job offer (on the part of the company/recruiter) is a red flag, or is this situation more typical than I realize? At this point, would it be wiser to walk away, or to hear them out one last time?

There’s no harm in hearing them out, but maintain high levels of skepticism when you do, for the following reasons:

* They do seem desperate, and I’d want to understand what’s behind that. Do you have very hard-to-find skills? Or are they underpaying or having trouble attracting candidates for another reason?
* A 1% increase to their offer when you countered with something much higher is pretty ridiculous (especially when they then met your salary request a few days later).
* Low PTO is a bad sign. Especially if they’re desperate, since why hasn’t it occurred to them that might be something to fix?
* The fake online reviews are a very bad sign and the mark of a company with serious culture issues (and little real interest in fixing them).
* You already weren’t sold on the job itself.

Persistence from an employer isn’t always a bad sign, but this kind of persistence is. It would be different if it came across more as, “We respect your decision, but we also genuinely believe you’d love it here because of (reasons tailored to what you’ve told them you’re looking for) and would love a second chance to talk through your concerns if you’re open to that.”

In any case, two months isn’t an excessively long job search, and you don’t sound like you’re in a spot where you need to accept anything that’s offered to you. Proceed with deep caution.

5. Asking my employer to pay for a standing desk when I work from home

I started a 100% remote job with a small company several months ago and I love it! I have a home office but my set-up isn’t ideal. My desk is really short and my old office chair isn’t very comfortable so by the end of the day I’m feeling sore.

Would it be appropriate to ask the company to subsidize or pay for the cost of a standing desk? I don’t have a medical condition that would require it, I’d just like to stop sitting all day. My company subsidized the cost of my phone plan and sent me a state-of-the-art laptop when I began so I think they have pretty generous policies, but I don’t want to sound entitled or like I’m demanding equipment I should just go buy myself. Should I ask my boss? HR? Any tips on wording? I’m new to working from home and I’m still learning to navigate it.

Some companies would cover this and some wouldn’t, but it’s not unreasonable to ask about it. I’d word it this way, probably to your boss: “I’m not sure what our policies are on equipment for remote workers’ home offices. I’m interested in getting a standing desk — is that something I could talk to the company about covering?”

should I avoid wearing pricey status items at work?

A reader writes:

I inherited a watch recently from my late grandfather, and it happens to be a Swiss model which is frightfully expensive — as in over $2,500 new. He purchased it upon his retirement 20 years ago, and its been in the family ever since.

Due to its high cost and recognizable brand, I’m hesitant to wear it to the office. The last time a team member bought a status symbol, it was an Audi sedan which caused some resentment from the senior employees who thought it was an irresponsible waste of money. I didn’t share this viewpoint, but I’m in the cultural minority.

That said I’d hate to lock up my grandfathers legacy in a dark safe, seldom to be used. Knowing his personality, he’d want me to wear it every day and I’d prefer to honor that legacy. Any advice?

Wear the watch.

Watches are usually more discreet than expensive cars, and unless it’s a particularly flashy design, fewer people are able to judge their cost from a quick glance anyway. If anyone asks you about it, “It was my grandfather’s” is a great answer and should put any weirdness or judgment to rest.

You shouldn’t even need to worry about that — your belongings and your spending decisions (if there was a spending decision here, which there wasn’t) are no one’s business. But your office has demonstrated that it thinks otherwise, so it’s understandable that you’re wondering about it.

And it is true that even in reasonable, non-judgy office cultures, there are some luxury goods that can cause weirdness. If you were showing up every day in pricey designer labels and carrying four-figure handbags with flashy logos … well, unless you worked in a very well-paying industry, some people would just assume you were great at bargain shopping. But if you combined it with a status car and open discussion of your frequent trips to the islands and so forth, then yeah, at some point some people would wonder what was up with your finances (were you heavily and irresponsibly in debt, being bankrolled by a wealthy partner, working a second job as a drug runner, etc.) and at some point you’d risk it being a thing that people thought about more than your work.

But one nice watch shouldn’t do that.

Wear the watch and enjoy your grandfather’s legacy.

how can I stop being so nervous in job interviews?

A reader writes:

Do you have advice for someone who self-sabotages during interviews?

I look very good on paper, and I always get called to interview nearly everywhere I apply. Unfortunately, I have diagnosed PTSD, and my fight or flight instinct kicks in on the morning of my interviews, every time, without fail.

Employed-me is polished, organized, and confident. Interview-me is sweaty, shaky, and rambles through her answers.

I have five interviews next month, three of which are for “dream jobs.” My friends and family keep saying how exciting this is, but I simply feel dread about having to go through the interview process that many times over.

How do other anxious humans get through this?

You can read my answer to this letter at New York Magazine today. Head over there to read it.

I had a secret relationship with a coworker and now I’m pregnant

A reader writes:

A colleague and I have been in a secret relationship for a couple of months. We work in the same team. He is not my manager but is slightly senior to me in terms of the work we do. He doesn’t have influence over my work, but we do occasionally have to work together. He is also quite a bit older than me (I am in my late 20’s and he is in his mid 40s) but it wasn’t an affair, we were both very single.

We have not told anybody at work about our relationship, mostly because at the beginning we were not sure if it was going to be long-term. Fast forward to now and we are very much in love and I’m pregnant.

It was a shock to us both, but we are both very happy. However, I am wondering how I bring this up with my manager and colleagues.

I am quite friendly with my colleagues and we do often talk about our home lives, etc. So far everyone knows that I have a new boyfriend, but that’s about it. He is less chatty at work and a bit more private, so it’s not unusual that he’s not mentioned his new girlfriend to anyone.

He is planning on finding a new job. He was looking long before we got together anyway, but we’re not sure how long it will be until that happens.

It will soon get to the point that I will have to tell my manager about my pregancy, but I do not know how to handle the questions that will follow about who the father is! Our original plan was to tell everyone we were together once he’d moved to a new job, but it is looking unlikely that will happen anytime soon.

How do I bring this up with my manager? There is no policy on not being able to date coworkers, but I don’t think it will go down well. We have quite a good relationship and I am concerned she is going to be disappointed I didn’t come to her at the start. Can I just tell her I’m pregnant and remain vague about who the father is for now?

Also, how do I deal with telling the rest of my colleagues, plus the wider office? I feel like I can already hear the gossip.

Well, you’re allowed to date coworkers as long as they’re not in your chain of command. (In most offices, at least. Occasionally a company does forbid it across the board, but you noted yours doesn’t.)

And you’re not really obligated to disclose that you’re dating a coworker unless there’s a potential conflict of interest. Even aside from the formal chain of command, if one of you has input into how the other’s work is evaluated or assigned or otherwise has an opportunity to give the other unfair advantages, your employer would rightly expect you to disclose that so they can take steps to avoid favoritism or the appearance of favoritism.

But if that’s not in play and you’ve just been discreetly dating for a few months … well, that’s your business. And really, the fact that it’s only been a few months is a reason not to have announced it anyway. A few months is still very early, and it’s understandable not to want to do a big “We’re dating!” announcement before you’re sure it’s going to be long-term.

Once there’s a pregnancy though … yeah, it gets a lot weirder to keep it a secret.

But you’re not obligated to share who the father is if you don’t want to. Of course, that will get a lot harder to pull off — probably impossible — if he’s still working there when the baby is born. Probably even before that point, once you’re very pregnant.

If you want to go that route, though, then when you share the news of your pregnancy, you can simply explain the father is the man you’ve been dating (which will likely be people’s expectation anyway). But the problem with that is if you eventually do reveal that it’s your coworker while he’s still working there, it’s going to seem very weird and a lot more scandalous that you didn’t mention that earlier. It’s practically inviting extra drama.

So unless you’re very confident that he’s going to find another job and be gone in the next few months, you’re probably better off just dealing with the reaction now, rather than prolonging it and having the added weirdness of having obviously hid it for so long.

The best way to do that is to just be straightforward. Just rip the band-aid off: “I have two pieces of news I need to share with you. The first is that Xavier and I are dating. The second is that I am pregnant and due in (month).” Say it positively or at least matter-of-factly — you don’t want your tone to convey that you’re divulging a shameful secret.

If your boss is disappointed that you didn’t tell her about the relationship earlier … well, you didn’t. If her disappointment is around potential conflict of interest issues, that’s a legitimate concern and you can explain you didn’t realize the potential conflict and made a point of keeping the relationship separate from work, and ask how to best manage it now.

But if she’s just disappointed that you didn’t confide in her or that you’re involved with an older man or so forth, it’s okay to just let her be disappointed about that. Sometimes people are disappointed! If there’s not a work reason for it, you don’t have to manage those emotions for her. That said, if you feel it’s in your best interests to try anyway, you can explain you were waiting to see if the relationship was going to go anywhere, which is true, and you wanted to keep a firewall between work and the relationship, which sounds well-intentioned and responsible.

As for telling the rest of your office, I’d do it in the same way. Yes, there’s going to be gossip, but there’s no way around that. This is big news, and you’re going to be the scandal for a while! So be it. You didn’t embezzle or punch a client or cheat on your respective spouses. You fell in love with a coworker and are having a baby together. The age difference will add to the gossip, but you can’t do anything about that. Conduct yourself professionally and people will eventually adjust and move on.

becoming a receptionist against my will, baking for one employee but not the other, and more

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

1. I think I’m about to become a receptionist against my will

A few months ago, I started a new job in an administrative but non-reception role. Part of my offer letter included that I’d provide “assistance” with reception, which I’ve been more than happy to do, such as covering the front desk when our office admin is out or answering phones when she’s slammed. I have extensive reception experience, our admin team is short a member, and I’m all for teamwork.

My current desk is separate from the front entrance and reception area. We’re a growing office, and since I started three months ago we’ve been running out of room for people to work in. There’s been talk of converting the (admittedly very large and underused) reception area into two desks, keeping the client-facing front desk and adding a workspace set back from the lobby.

I understand needing me to move up front, which I’m not happy about but would be willing to do, but the office admin told me that she’d have the back workspace and I’d be at the front desk. Allegedly, “my role won’t change” but I don’t see how that’s possible when I’ll be the one at the switchboard, next to the phone, operating the door buzzer, accepting deliveries, fielding questions from staff and visitors, etc. etc.

There is overlap between her job and mine, but her official title/role is office administrator, whereas mine is teapot coordinator. I’m afraid I’ve given the impression that I’d be okay with the switch, which I very much am not. She was hired less than two months before I was, so she doesn’t necessarily have any particular seniority.

How can I gently push back on this without rocking the boat? I’m pretty new and I do like it here, but if I’m forced into a reception job I’ll start looking elsewhere and I know no one wants that, especially since they had trouble filling my role to begin with.

Talk to your boss! It’s possible the office admin made this decision all on her own and your boss will overrule her when she hears about it. It’s also possible it just hasn’t been thought through, and you flagging the problems will be all you need to do.

So talk to your boss and say something like this: “Jane has said that when our space changes, she will take the back workspace and I’ll be at the front desk. I’m concerned about this because while I’ve been happy to provide occasional assistance with reception, this will mean I’m the primary receptionist — the person at the switchboard, next to the phone, operating the door buzzer, accepting deliveries, fielding questions from staff and visitors, and so forth. Again, I’m happy to help out when it’s needed, but being the default person for all that would be a big change to the job I came on board for. Is it possible to swap that seating plan?”

If your boss says no, it needs to be that way, it’s okay to say, “Can you tell me more about the reasons for the change?” and — if you’re ready to be forthright about what a big deal this is to you — “I want to be up-front that this feels like a significant change in my role, and gives me a lot of pause. I wouldn’t have accepted the job originally if it had been that way from the start, since I was specifically looking to avoid reception jobs.”

2. Can I bake for one employee’s birthday but not the other’s?

In the middle of last year, I was promoted to manager of a small department. At the time it was just me and one other person, Fergus, but we’ve since added one more, Bob, to the team. Fergus has been at the company longer than I have, and we’ve become fairly friendly over my time here. For every birthday of his that I’ve been with the company, I’ve baked a treat (think cupcakes, nothing crazy extravagant) to share with everyone. It’s also good to know that I’m a hobby baker, and at various other times I’ve brought in treats to celebrate other coworkers’ birthdays or just because I wanted to try a new recipe.

Fergus’s birthday is coming up soon, and it will be his first since I’ve been promoted to managing him. Bob’s birthday is a few months away. Bob and I have a good professional relationship, but our personal one is not at a level where I would feel moved to make the effort to make something for his birthday. Would it be inappropriate to make something for Fergus’ day but not for Bob’s, since they are both my direct reports? My desire to make something for Fergus has always stemmed from our personal relationship, not our professional one.

Soooo inappropriate! Don’t do it. Your primary relationship with both of them now is as their manager. You can’t do anything that would make a reasonable person think you favor Fergus — and baking cupcakes for him but not Bob would definitely do that. That’s the kind of thing that can make the person who’s left out feel really stung — and even start interpreting everything else through a lens of presumed favoritism. Do it for both or neither. (I’d suggest neither, because of the weird gender stuff around baking at work and because once you start everyone expects you to continue and then will read things into it the year you don’t feel like doing it.)

3. Our executive director is taking a paid sabbatical — what about paid leave for others?

I work at a small nonprofit (30 staff) and our executive director just left for a three-month sabbatical leave. This is not something that has ever happened before in our history, and she is planning on creating a formal policy when she returns. She has been at the organization for 13 years, eight in the ED role, and while planning for her sabbatical, she convinced the board to pay her at 40% of her salary while she is gone (and accrue vacation!). Keep in mind that she is completely disconnected from work while away, simply relaxing and traveling.

I understand that a company should be able to cover for a fellow staff member for three months, but the fact that she is getting paid seems unfair given that people going on FMLA (think new moms) currently don’t receive any pay while away. Does her tenure allow for this special treatment? Should I try and fight for pay when I go on maternity leave, or will my 2.5 year tenure not hold any water?

Executive directors do often get special compensation packages to recognize the special burdens and responsibilities of their jobs. If she’s good at her work, it can be a near 24/7 job, with high stress and high expectations and which few people can perform really well. Is she good at her job? If she’s responsible for the organization raising a lot of money and meeting ambitious program goals, it’s possible this makes sound business sense for the organization (and it’s possible the board preferred this to losing her altogether, which might have been the alternative). On the other hand, if she’s not great at her job, I’d be far more concerned about paying her at 40% while she’s gone when no one else gets that.

In any case, if she has said she’s creating a formal sabbatical policy for others when she returns, that’s a good sign (if it actually happens). And you can use this as an opening to ask to revisit how parental leave works. It might turn out the organization can’t feasibly pay people who are on long-term leave, both financially and in terms of what donors expect; the reality is that top execs are compensated differently, and there really can be good reasons for that (if and only if she’s great at her job). But it’s reasonable to raise it.

4. Is saying “my staff” demeaning?

Somebody I know consistently refers to the people who work for him as “my staff”! He does not own the company but is a manager in a public service. I find this referral to “my team” or “my colleagues” demeaning. It is as though he wants to ensure that others know he is the manager and they are subordinate to him. Have you any suggestions how to get him to stop this? He doesn’t do it in front of his colleagues. It is getting on everybody’s nerves as it is very arrogant and unnecessary.

It’s very normal to refer to “my team” and “my colleagues”! It’s the same as saying “my company,” “my boss,” or “my friend.” It’s describing the relationship, not announcing ownership. The alternative would be what — “the person I manage”? “The people I work with”? Those are longer and more convoluted.

I suspect you have other reasons for finding him arrogant. This is the kind of thing that can feel off if there’s more to the picture — like if his tone tells you that he loves having authority (and maybe lords it over people) or if he’s just an arrogant dude in general.

5. If you switch from contractor to employee, should your pay go down?

My husband and I are in a deep debate. He currently works as 1099 employee for a company and makes $110,000/year. There are no benefits or retirement matching (we pay for retirement out of pocket and use my insurance). He has been applying for other jobs but says he would take a lower salary because the benefits would “make up” for it. So his example is if he’s offered $80,000, that would include benefits and retirement matching and it would be “okay” to lose that cash since we wouldn’t be paying out of pocket for insurance, etc. I however think that the $110,000 is essentially a base salary and we would take a huge lifestyle hit by him taking a job under that.

It’s actually really common for people to charge more when they’re independent contractors. As a 1099 contractor, he’s responsible paying his own payroll taxes (which are significant), plus the cost of his health insurance (usually significant) and retirement benefits (if the employer would match his contributions). Plus he’s not getting any paid days off. How much all of that is worth depends on your specific situation, but it’s pretty common for contractors to charge twice what they were being paid as an employee to make up for it all.

So yeah, I wouldn’t look at his current pay as a base salary. His earning potential varies based on his particular situation, but it would be very normal for him to command more as a contractor than he would as an employee, and for you to still come out even or ahead if he takes an employee position for less money than he’s getting now. (You can find out for sure by running all these numbers yourself — the payroll taxes he currently covers, the cost of X weeks paid time off, etc.)

how much stuff can I “move in with” on my first day at a new job?

A reader writes:

I’m starting a new job in a week and a bit, my first after finishing my PhD. I’m wondering how much stuff it’s acceptable to “move in with” on the first day.

I’ve seen the space, it’s a large-ish desk in a three-person office. I don’t want to just show up with a suitcase! (Which is … kind of what I left the PhD office with. Oops?) On the other hand, continually adding stuff over the first week also seems odd. When I’m at work, I’ll definitely want to have tea leaves, teapot, mug, coasters, pen caddy (and pens), a notebook, some tchotchkes with particular sentimental value, and maybe a small whiteboard for time planning and notes. Too much? Is bringing a plant on the first day weird? Help!

Definitely don’t show up with a suitcase.

Or a plant on your first day, for that matter. You don’t know what your first day will be like and you might not be taken straight to your desk. Sometimes you’ll be in orientations and other meetings first, and you don’t want to be carting a plant around through that. (I mean, if that happened, they would probably take you by your desk to drop it off first, but still — it’s easier not to have to deal with it.)

On your first day, just stick to bringing a notebook and a pen. They’ll probably supply you with both of those, but it’s good to be prepared in case you need them before someone shows you where supplies are stored.

Other than that, though, I’d wait — at least until your second day. You just never know with first days. They might have changed the space you’ll be in, or they could have you temporarily working from another spot, or they could have you in non-stop meetings and you won’t even get to your office until the end of the day. Who knows!

None of this stuff is so urgent that it must be there on day one. Check out the lay of the land on the first day, and plan to bring in what you need later that first week. (Although be aware your company will probably provide some of that stuff, like the pens, pen caddy, notebook, and whiteboard.)

The other stuff sounds fine for later in the week, though. At least, assuming “some” tchotchkes means like three and not thirty. If you do eventually become one of those people whose office space is home to an army of figurines, four pairs of shoes, two spare cardigans, a candy dispenser, and an entire wall of framed family photos, it’s better if that happens gradually and not overnight on week one. Everyone wants you to feel at home but something about that is too at home.

my coworker makes mistakes that affect my work

A reader writes:

I have a colleague who I depend on for data for a recurring project. Every time the update is due, I schedule check-in meetings weeks in advance and make it explicitly clear that I need X by [date] and Y by [date].

And every. single. time. my colleague slips the deadline, running us down to the wire, so I am scrambling to pull everything together last minute – and sometimes the data are wrong and we haven’t had the chance to QA it and only discover the mistakes months later.

My colleague is always apologetic. He’s a really nice guy, and I like him personally.

It seems like a no-brainer that I need to surface this to my boss or to my colleague’s boss, and it’s stupid that I haven’t done it yet. I’m just at war with myself over how to do this, even though I know that it’s the right thing to do.

Should I have a conversation with him first and let him know that this is unacceptable and that I have to alert my manager or his manager the next time he misses a deadline? Should I just send an email to his manager, CC mine, and not tell him first? Or I could bring it up in my next 1:1 with my manager — but my manager is very, very senior, and I worry that I’m coming to her with a problem and not a solution.

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

employee quit over a coworker’s email, wiping down my keyboard as soon as someone else uses it, and more

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

1. My employee misdirected an email criticizing her problem coworker — who saw it and quit

I have two direct reports who can’t stand each other but they’ve managed to be civil and professional. Sansa is a mid-top performer with a consistently good work product. She’s not a superstar but she is dependable. Dany is tempermental, doesn’t always listen to peers, and has created problems for her teammates when her part of projects either missed the mark or missed the deadline. Dany’s on a PIP for performance issues but has been making an effort to improve.

Last week, Sansa had apparently had enough and fired off an email to a friend at work listing all of Dany’s shortcomings. She intended to vent to a friend but she sent the email to Dany. Dany, understandably hurt, came in the next day and quit. While there’s a part of me that’s glad Dany’s gone (she was difficult to manage and struggled to get along with anyone), she was leading a critical project with a tight deadline. And now the project will be delayed. And I’m asking myself if there should be consequences for Sansa. On one hand, she was just venting and didn’t intend for Dany to see the email. But on the other, her actions have created a serious business issue. She seems to alternate between being upset that this happened and celebrating that Dany’s gone.

How long did the problems with Dany go on, and how severe were they? If the problems were serious and had been allowed to drag on, there’s a point where it’s not reasonable to expect endless patience from her coworkers (particularly if “temperamental” means rude or difficult to deal with) and where you can’t in good conscience hold it against Sansa that she got fed up. If that was the case, you can have a conversation with her where you say you understand her frustration and acknowledge the situation was allowed to drag on for too long, but she also cannot send inflammatory emails like that to colleagues, nor can she “celebrate” that Dany is gone. But if management inaction is responsible for Sansa being pushed to this point, I wouldn’t do more than that, unless there’s a larger pattern with Sansa’s judgment.

On the other hand, if you addressed the problems quickly and were successfully minimizing the impact on Sansa and others, then it’s a more serious conversation about how to handle frustrations at work, why trash-talking a colleague in a work email isn’t okay, and your concerns about her discretion and judgment.

You asked about consequences for Sansa so I’m not sure if you had something more severe in mind, but in many (even most) cases, just having a direct conversation with appropriate seriousness is what creates accountability and reinforces how you want people to operate, while still treating them like adults. (That said, if she displays similarly bad judgment a second time, you’d escalate the seriousness of your response — you don’t just have the same conversation over and over.)

2. Is it rude to wipe down my keyboard as soon as someone else uses it?

I work in a standard cube-based open office environment. To stay as healthy as possible during the winter, I wash my hands, am careful about touching my face, all the standard stuff. When I have a tech issue with my computer (which is, sadly, a couple times a month), the help desk rep comes over to my desk to fix it. When s/he leaves, I do a quick disinfectant wipe of my keyboard and mouse, just because that’s a primary way germs are spread.

Could it be perceived as rude to see me wiping my keyboard down as soon as someone had used it and walked away? Or is this pretty standard / accepted office behavior?

I don’t think most people will see it as rude — they’ll just think you’re more obsessed with germs than most people — but it’s possible someone one day could think you’re specifically grossed out by them. So if you want to play it safe, an easy way is to make a point of owning the behavior — like saying, “I’m a freak about wiping down my keyboard after anyone touches it in flu season.”

3. Former employee is lying about her work time with my company to cover up her time in jail

A couple years ago, I managed an employee who was arrested at work for stealing from a former employer, among other charges. She was put in jail for a considerable amount of time.

She is apparently now out, because I received her resume. I’m no longer at the previous company. I did not consider her, but I noticed that the start date she listed with the company where I managed her precedes the date the company even opened (I imagine to cover her employment when she was working for the company she stole from) and extends a few months from the time she, um, left to fulfill her other obligations.

Her resume lists no employer contacts and she does not list references. I have a friend who noticed my former company on the resume and called me to find out what I knew. The field I work in is fairly small and I anticipate more calls like this. What is the appropriate response? Do I say simply she would not be eligible for rehire? Do I mention that I have seen her resume and it is not entirely accurate? Do I mention that I saw her arrested for theft from her employer or even tell them to make sure they do background checks?

If you don’t want to get into all the details, it’s fine to say, “She would not be eligible for re-hire, she falsified her dates of employment with us on her resume, and I strongly suggest you do a complete background check if you consider her.” That’s going to get the point across.

But it’s also okay to explain the whole story, as long as you stick to facts that you know for sure. (For example, if you just heard through the rumor mill that she was arrested but don’t know that for sure, you’d want to be careful not to state it as certain fact.) You’re allowed to give truthful information in response to this kind of query, even when it’s extremely negative.

What I wouldn’t do is just say, “Her resume isn’t entirely accurate.” That’s such a downplaying of the real situation that people are likely to wonder later why you weren’t more forthcoming, especially given the small field.

4. Can I refuse to participate in a work investigation?

A coworker shared with me that she complained to management about our shared supervisor. To make a long story short, she is saying that our supervisor creates a toxic work environment. My coworker told me that they will be doing an investigation, and she thinks I will be asked to participate in some way. I would rather not do so because while there are definitely challenges, I have a decent working relationship with our supervisor. Can I decline to participate?

If your workplace is doing an investigation and asks you for input, declining to participate at all risks coming across as sort of obstructionist. But if you don’t believe there are serious problems, you can say that! It’s also okay to say, “I see what Jane is talking about, but it’s not something I’ve experienced personally” or “I don’t feel comfortable commenting because (reason).” And if the reason you don’t want to comment is that you fear retaliation in some way, you can say that! “I’m concerned my relationship with my manager would be impacted if I comment, and I’m not comfortable risking that” can be an important thing for investigators to hear, because it tells them they have work to do in ensuring that doesn’t happen, and that the manager might have given people reason to feel that way.

5. How should I thank my references?

I have been on the job hunt for the past six months. At the beginning of my search I contacted old bosses, asked for references, and clarified that the search might take a few months due to me changing fields. They all said yes and were happy to give me references.

There have been one or two jobs that I’ve almost gotten and my references have been contacted a handful of times. I’ve now been recruited for an awesome job that I start in two weeks, which will double my salary. When talking to my recruiter and HR reps, my references were stellar and distinguished me from other candidates. I have no reason to believe they embellished their opinions of me.

I’m wondering now, how do I thank my references? Handwritten card, email, flowers, sky writing? I’m genuinely so thankful for the amazing ladies who have helped me and I want them to know, but I also don’t want to overwhelm them with gratitude. Also, when should I send them the thank-you note? After I start or right now?

Not flowers — that’s too close to “you did me a special favor,” when really, giving references is part of the job when you’re a manager, and most managers are delighted to do it for a truly good employee. Send a thoughtful, personal note letting them know you got the job and how excited you are about it, and perhaps something about how much you appreciated working with them (even better if you can mention something specific you learned from them that you’re carrying forward in your career). Those are often treasured long after flowers wilt.

It can be email or it can be handwritten, and no need to wait until you start the job — you can send it now!

weekend free-for-all – February 15-16, 2020

Foster cat Humphrey (on couch) is tolerating resident cats taking over his room.

This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand. (This one is truly no work and no school.)

Book recommendation of the week: Followers, by Megan Angelo. In 2016, two friends seek fame, and find it with unanticipated consequences. 35 years later, the government runs a strictly controlled, 24/7 reality show with stars who can’t leave. This is a dark, utterly engrossing story about technology, fame, and lack of privacy.

* I make a commission if you use that Amazon link.