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Saturday, December 10th, 2016 08:00 am

Posted by Ask a Manager

Continuing our annual December “where are they now” series, here are five more updates from people who had their questions answered here this year.

1. How can I completely disconnect from a difficult former boss?

I wanted to give you an update on the situation with my former boss, “Marsha,” who had an injury that affected her work and her relationship with me, and her attempts to reconnect after being let go. After you published my letter, I didn’t have any contact from Marsha and thus, no reason to practice the excellent suggestions from you and your commenters. And unfortunately, now, I won’t need to. Barely a month after you published my letter, my now-boss quietly told me and his other direct report, who had also worked with Marsha, that she had already been let go from her new job at the institution related to ours.

I feel terribly for Marsha, and I genuinely hope that she gets the help I think she needs to help her with the issues that have led to her burning so many bridges. Some of your commenters picked up on things I didn’t go into in great depth, like some narcissistic traits and other potential mental health concerns, which I think are fairly accurate assessments (though obviously, this is some armchair psychiatry here and I’m not remotely qualified to pin any diagnosis on her).

I’m sorry I wasn’t interacting in the comments as much as I would have liked to be – some other stuff blew up for me at about the same time – but I want to thank everyone for their thoughts, especially on how chronic and/or unmanaged pain can affect a person. This was clearly part of the equation here, but I do think that it exacerbated some of Marsha’s existing issues. I am relieved that I no longer have to worry how I handle any interactions with Marsha from now on, but more than that, I really hope that Marsha is able to find a way to be happy and generally okay.

2. Are you obligated to support your friends’ businesses?

I wrote in asking people’s opinions on my friend posting about her MLM business on Facebook. I was somewhat comforted by the fact that the commenters here also found it off-putting. I have since caught up with the friend in person and I’m happy to say she didn’t push the topic. She does continue to post about her products fairly often though. Unfortunately I have another friend who does the same, and in fact is now creating nightly live Facebook videos to showcase her MLM business (hers is food related, like spices and dip mixes. She posts a live feed every night of herself cooking dinner!)

So while these posts can be quite annoying, I tend to just scroll past them or when necessary unfollow! I only hope that someone who posts similar updates stumbles across the original comments section and realised how people really feel about constant MLM status updates!

3. I haven’t told my employer I don’t have a car

That entire situation turned out to be a big mess. I was going to approach my boss about it, but just before I was going to do it, the coworker I carpool with offhandedly mentioned my lack of a car in front of them, not realizing the full situation. The next few days were uncomfortable because my boss and his wife (who runs the company with him) were particularly standoffish. I had access to his emails as part of my job and I was responsible for reading them all and organizing them for him; one day I stumbled upon some emails that basically indicated they were seeking to replace me. Later that evening, I tried to sign into my work email and found that my password had even been changed on me. It became clear that they were trying to pull a fast one on me.

The next morning, they told me that “It wasn’t a good fit.” They said that as the executive assistant, I was expected to run errands and my lack of a car was a deal-breaker; I told them that it was not in the job description they had provided, and therefore it wasn’t reasonable to expect that, nor was it adequate grounds to dismiss me. They even said if I had to pick up my boss’ dry cleaning at 2am, I would have to do it.

I tried to negotiate a parting salary with them because I was aware of labor laws in my state and wanted to also just make things difficult for them. (Not nice, but if they were firing me, it didn’t really matter to me.) They tried to skirt around labor laws and tell me my final check would be mailed to me, but that is illegal in my state unless they obtained written consent from me (of course, they didn’t). I confronted them with this and they just didn’t believe me. My boss didn’t do any of this discussion; he let his wife do all the talking. She said she was trained in HR and knew the laws (clearly not; I had researched them that evening just to be 100% sure).

Needless to say, that job was a disaster. I later found out that they fired my replacement, too. They just don’t seem to understand what they’re doing and how to realistically lay out expectations. Thankfully the end of that job led me to another one with a supportive boss, collaborative co-workers, better pay and benefits, and a great company culture. Joke’s on them too because with the extra money I earned from the new job, I bought a car and now don’t have to worry about that scenario again. It all seemed to work out in the end.

TLDR: I was going to take your advice but got thwarted; eventually I was let go but it turned out to be one of the best things to happen to me professionally.

4. Am I being frozen out by the company I used to intern at? (#2 at the link)

It turned out that I was overthinking the situation, but I now have the impression that the company’s HR department is slightly dysfunctional. After I didn’t get the job, they asked me to come back for an interview for another position–this time to replace one of my former coworkers who was leaving. I was thrilled, and the interview went really well, but weeks went by and the position was taken off the website and seemingly no one was hired.

After the fact, I learned that they had decided to promote the employee who was leaving rather than hire someone new. The salaries in this industry can be a bit stagnant so it is likely my former coworker was frustrated after working for years without an increase/promotion. I understand wanting to keep an experienced employee, but I wish they had offered to promote her before interviewing candidates. The entire situation left me feeling strung along, and I haven’t been applying to any open positions since. I am up for a position at a competitor so here’s to hoping that works out. Thanks for the advice!

5. We all have to reapply for our jobs, and I’m worried about stealing a job from a coworker (#4 at the link)

I ended up applying for both jobs. The interviews for each of them went extremely well, and because our interviews are conducted using a scoring system (I know, it’s terrible), I was offered both of the positions I applied for!

I accepted the offer for the job I had been acting in for the past few months, and my old job ended up going to a different internal candidate. It all worked out for my coworker though, who accepted a position at an organization we work very closely with. I couldn’t be happier in my new position, but unfortunately it is still a contract and I will have to interview for my own job again in 6 months. I’ll have another full year of experience by then though, and I’m hoping that next year my job is made permanent.

Thanks again for encouraging me to apply for both positions! It certainly saved me a lot of stress during the hiring process.

5 more updates from letter-writers on how things turned out was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Saturday, December 10th, 2016 12:08 am
In Amsterdam, Dutch Youth and Refugees Run a Housing Project Together

One of the First Hollywood Heartthrobs Was a Smoldering Japanese Actor. What Happened?

Forget About the Road. Why Are Chickens So Bad at Flying?

Searching for Lost Knowledge in the Age of Intelligent Machines

The Sweethome Guide to Menstrual Cups (tl;dr, they really like the MeLuna brand)

255-Million-Year-Old Tumor Is Oldest of its Kind

Visualizing a Full Day on the New York City Subway

How to Predict a Baby's First Word

The Greatest Civilisation Ever Forgotten?

The creative and forgotten fire escape designs of the 1800s. Some were more logical than others.

Up in the Air: Meet the Man Who Flies Around the World for Free

Trump Hasn't Said Much About Homelessness—and That's Making a Lot of People Nervous

How Adult Job Training Can Help Kids Learn

Cow gene study shows why most clones fail

Half of Americans are “shut off from economic growth”

The Struggle and Triumph of America's First Black Doctors

How (Almost) Everyone Failed to Prepare for Pearl Harbor

Journeying to Rikers Island by Bus (Tangent! Actual overheard conversation: "My wife called and asked me to pick up a copy of the [Staten Island] Advance. I told her I was up at Rikers. She said I could buy one there. Where, at the kiosk?")

Their Tube

Nearly a third of Republicans don’t know that Trump lost the popular vote

Unprepared: The Difficulty of Getting a Prescription for a Drug That Effectively Prevents HIV Infection

Amid government ignorance and equivocal science, Flint residents mold their lives around perpetual crisis and endless unanswerable questions.

Life and death in East Jerusalem's Palestinian Refugee Camp

The Strange Career of American Exceptionalism

We Talked to Experts About What Terms to Use for Which Group of Racists

Lock them in. Bill their insurer. Kick them out. How scores of employees and patients say America’s largest psychiatric chain turns patients into profits.

It’s not just painkillers and heroin. Americans have a growing alcohol problem too.

Russia and the Threat to Liberal Democracy

Russia Seen Moving New Missiles To Eastern Europe

Welcome to the age of anger

ISIS in the Caribbean

‘They Are Slaughtering Us Like Animals’: Inside President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal antidrug campaign in the Philippines, our photojournalist documented 57 homicide victims over 35 days.
Friday, December 9th, 2016 09:47 pm
and Ana is going to end up doing second round admissions after all. They make us hand in those things December 1st, why don't they give us the results before March!?


Recent discoveries have led some researchers to argue that the modern evolutionary synthesis needs to be amended.

The Lost Art of Painting on Cobweb Canvases

A Complex Portrait of Rural America

How Humans Lost Their Tail, Twice

First Dinosaur Tail Found Preserved in Amber

The secret history of black Santas

Mysterious Ocean Blob Found for First Time in a Century

Why Are People Seeing Red Over Spaghetti Bolognese?

Encounters with 'familiar strangers' play overlooked role in human interactions

There Are No More Secrets in Sperm Donation

All the World's a Prison

US returning land to Japan it's controlled since World War II

Doctors as taxi drivers: Untapped immigrant talent costs U.S. billions: research

The Persistent Inequality of Neighborhoods

Obama orders 'deep dive' of election-related hacking

The Hui - China's preferred Muslims?

Churches vow to offer sanctuary to people in US illegally

Under Trump, Sanctuary Cities May Not Be So Safe

The average US student takes more than 113 standardized tests before graduation. More and more are now saying: Enough.

Friday Night Lights Out: The Case for Abolishing High School Football

Inside the NFL's relentless, existential, Big Tobacco-style pursuit of your children.

When neo-Nazis have doubts, there's a number to call

Veterans Eye Flint Water Crisis as Next Target Following the Standing Rock Protests

New York Charters Enroll Fewer Homeless Pupils Than City Schools

Sexual harassment common among middle school children, study finds

Plastic island: How our trash is destroying paradise

Hoo Boy, Democrats Sure Do Hate Trump's Cabinet

After Texas Tech researchers discovered that windstorms may be spreading antibiotic-resistant bacteria from local feedlots, public health experts stood up and took notice. So did the Texas Cattle Feeders Association.

U.S. allies caution Trump on Syria strategy

As discussions on overhauling the nation’s criminal justice system have gained some traction in recent years, one of the main issues is what to do about prison sentencing. A new study looks at possibilities. More

Counting Transgender Lives: A comprehensive look at transgender murders since 2010. The number is rising — and likely far higher than we know.

Heroin deaths surpass gun homicides for the first time, CDC data shows

New CDC data understate accidental shooting deaths of kids

The massive amount of CO2 locked in our soil appears to be leaking

'Rhetoric of fascism' on rise in US, Europe, warns UN
Friday, December 9th, 2016 09:00 pm
  • Wash the dishes in your sink
  • Get your outfit for tomorrow together, including accessories
  • Set up coffee/tea/breakfast
  • Make your lunch
  • Put your keys somewhere obvious
  • Wash your face and brush your teeth
  • Take your medication/set out your meds for the morning
  • Charge your electronics
  • Pour a little cleaner in the toilet bowl (if you don’t have pets or children or sleepwalking adults)
  • Set your alarm
  • Go to bed at a reasonable hour
Friday, December 9th, 2016 01:08 pm
It's that glorious time of the year when parties abound; so I've decided that now would be the perfect time to join in the fun. So let's have a Reasonably Well Holiday party. Ready? You are? Brilliant!  Don your prettiest or most handsome party clothes, and we'll celebrate Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza, New Year's, and whatever holiday you feel deserves to be marked by a raised glass of bubbly and a witty toast.

Cheers! Here's to you, my wonderful friends who have been so supportive and generous and well.....just excellent people. I'm sipping my favorite decaf coffee here at the party, so it's raised high in your honor and in best wishes for a fabulous holiday season and beyond.

Slurp. Delicious. I'd better be careful not to spill coffee on my stunning peacock feather and sequined full length gown. I had to lose 40 pounds overnight to get the zipper zipped. What are y'all wearing?

Like my cup and saucer set? My buddy Karen has a matching one. 

I hope y'all said Merry Christmas to Pinky as you came in. He's all toasty in his Santa coat and hat. Notice how I had to wrap it around the porch spindle to keep him from blowing away in this cold blustery weather. But don't comment about that to him. He's a little touchy about his clothing.

Did you notice that your invitation requested that you bring your favorite party food? I've made my mom's yummy brandy drenched fruitcake. Mmmmmmmm. Alcohol-y......*hic* Let me know which delicacy you've decided to bring. You can put it down on the buffet table spread with my newest Christmas tablecloth. Check out the goat pulling Santa's sleigh and the elf riding a pig. Aren't they awesome?

I got it online on an Etsy shop after learning that actually the goat and pig depicted on this terrific vintage cloth are very traditional Scandinavian Christmas characters. Delightful. You can buy your very own here. (It is an eBay link so after this is sold, who knows where you can find others. Sorry.)

I've always loved goats. But y'all know that.

Once you have your plate heaped with treats and are balancing your drink in your other hand join me over by the Christmas tree. (Psssst - Terese? Um. It's not good party etiquette to wade in the chocolate fountain, dear.....WELL. I NEVER. It's also not good etiquette to dribble chocolate over your hostess' head! Indignant sniff.)

Pardon me as I lick the chocolate off my sequins. Oh golly. Now it's dripping from my ears......say. Quite delicious chocolate fondue.

But enough about me. Tell me EVERYTHING. It seems like forever since we've talked.

What a great party. Wait. What's happening way over by the buffet table? Oh my.

People? People?! PEOPLE!! Do NOT join Terese in the fountain! At least have the courtesy to remove your socks first!! Golly. I'll never get all that chocolate off the ceiling..... What do you mean "it's all my fault"? Because I got a fountain the size of a wading pool? How ridiculous.

Guess if you can't beat 'em, you should join 'em........MOVE OVER, GUYS. I should have put a stack of beach towels under the table. And I'm not paying for anybody's after-the-chocolate dry cleaning. Just sayin'.

Happy Holidays everyone!
Friday, December 9th, 2016 07:59 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

Remember the letter-writer who had dropped out of school, got bored with all her jobs, and didn’t know what to do with herself? Here’s the update.

Well, I’m 23 now as of August, and it took me seven months but I just got employed at Starbucks last week! My orientation was just last Friday. I got along with my coworkers very quickly, and the benefits are great. My supervisor at the library was very taken aback by my resignation. I even cried after getting off the phone with her because she asked me to stay, and because I liked my coworkers there.

Your advice helped me see work less as something that I absolutely have to have passion for. I started to focus less on my tasks as reasons why I should stay or leave, and more on the environment: most of my coworkers were great, the library can be nice and quiet at times and in certain areas, whereas most of the time it’s busy with school children (who are loud). I enrolled in an amazing youth job agency, and was assigned a job counselor who helped me tremendously with my job search. Throughout the months, I got a lot of interviews, attended job fairs, and got a lot of practice and feedback on interviewing. It was hard to get by financially, but I did it, and I’m so happy that things are finally changing for me. So right now, I’m focusing on building myself back up financially and becoming stable, so I can get an apartment of my own and pay my way through school. Yes, I’m going back to school!

I thought every single day about how to get myself into a career where my skills and/or knowledge would be useful, as opposed to chasing a rags-to-riches American Dream, like I was doing before. Your advice helped me with that. I was so lost for quite a couple of years, but pulling myself out of school allows me time to think and explore my options. I have to admit that a career choice was stressing me out a lot. It’s just recently that I’ve given myself permission to relax my mind, be patient with myself and focus on the present moment. I did have help from my mental health counselor to figure all of this out. I’ve been seeing them since spring, as soon as I had dropped out of school. Actually, I’ve had issues concerning my mental well-being since childhood, and in my family (and ethnic culture) it’s a big taboo. But as an adult, I’m finally able to help myself get the therapies I need. I’ve decided that it would be a shame not to help others get better too. Mental health is just such a huge problem. I’m either going to finish my undergrad at my old school or transfer my credits to an online university, and then do a master’s in counseling psychology or art therapy. I’ve done extensive research into all of my options, so I’m going to make a decision very soon.

As for my writing, I still write everyday but I’m in no rush to publish anything. I used to think that I had to accomplish most of my goals in my 20’s, but honestly I think the craft of writing gets better with time and practise. I still want to write novels, and I will, but I’m taking my time.

update: I get bored with all my jobs and don’t know what to do with myself was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Friday, December 9th, 2016 06:41 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

Remember the letter-writer last year who had racked up $20,000 in personal charges on his company credit card and was in a horrible cycle of using the card to take Paypal cash advances to pay it off each month, thus moving it to the next month, along with interest charges? He updated once a few months later, and here’s the latest update.

Hi all, just thought I’d give you an update a year later…

I have repaid Amex in full and with the habit of saving firmly established, I have a little bit of a saftey net in place so things will not likley get that bad EVER again..

I got a promotion in my job later on in the year and that came with a pay raise, so I was actually able to get it taken care of in nine months instead of 12. Life’s all good and I am very thankful for all the opinions here. Some of the info was very valuable in my approach. Things could have taken a VERY different path.

update: I racked up $20,000 in personal charges on my company credit card was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Friday, December 9th, 2016 05:45 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I’ve recently gotten a job at a nice company and everything’s great, except this upcoming Christmas there’s a holiday party and, well, truthfully I don’t want to attend. It’s not because I dislike any of the people there. I’m just not really a social animal and I don’t really enjoy those sorts of events.

How much of a risk do I run if I decline? And how do I say that in a way that doesn’t insult anybody? My boss hasn’t yet approached me about this, but I get the feeling he soon might.

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.

do you really have to attend your office holiday party? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Friday, December 9th, 2016 05:00 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

A housekeeping note: The comment section on this site has worked really well for a long time, but as the readership has grown, the light-touch moderation approach I’ve used in the past isn’t working as well now.

The rules are still what they’ve always been — assume good will even when people’s opinions differ from yours, don’t nitpick other people’s wording, don’t take threads way off-topic in ways that aren’t constructive for the letter-writer, and the rest of the rules you can find here.

But as I try to keep the comment section an enjoyable place to be, I’m going to make a point of enforcing those rules more actively. In particular, that means I may delete comments or whole threads that break those rules (whereas in the past, I usually just asked people to move on but left the thread up). I don’t expect this to occur daily or anything like that, but since it’s a change from how I’ve traditionally done things, I want to give a heads-up about it. I also want to be transparent that this might not be applied 100% evenly because I don’t always see everything.

Thanks for reading!

a note on commenting policy was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Friday, December 9th, 2016 04:00 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

It’s the Friday open thread! The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything work-related that you want to talk about. If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet*, but this is a chance to talk to other readers.

* If you submitted a question to me recently, please don’t repost it here, as it may be in the to-be-answered queue :)

open thread – December 9-10, 2016 was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Thursday, December 8th, 2016 01:30 am
The Famous Actress Who Loved Playing A Rooster

Scientists develop robotic hand for people with quadriplegia

Chap Records Were Basically Yelp for 1900s Eligible Bachelorettes

A Brief History of Children Sent Through the Mail

Watch Hermit Crabs Crawl Into Glistening Mini New Yorks and Bangkoks

The Imperial March Played on a Coffee Stick

Queen Elizabeth I’s Vast Spy Network Was The First Surveillance State

Brains of people with autism spectrum disorder share similar molecular abnormalities (Well, duh.)

How true this is....

Remembrance of tastes past: Syria’s disappearing food culture

Adults shamed from speaking indigenous languages hold key to revival, survival

Honey bee teenagers speed up the aging process of their elders

A trend story about millennials, by The New York Times (LMAO.)

“BRAAAM!”: The Sound that Invaded the Hollywood Soundtrack

Stay or go? Tribe gives conflicting messages to protest camp

Dorothea Lange’s Censored Photographs of FDR’s Japanese Concentration Camps

As Fake News Spreads Lies, More Readers Shrug at the Truth

The Remedy for the Spread of Fake News? History Teachers

Ties between Russia and the Taliban worry Afghan, U.S. officials

Resurgent Japan military 'can stand toe to toe with anybody'

Venus Flytraps Need Protection From Poachers in North Carolina

How Iran closed the Mosul 'horseshoe' and changed Iraq war

US life expectancy falls, as many kinds of death increase

Scientists and environmentalists are bracing for a clash with Trump

Major survey of transgender Americans finds pervasive bias More links at MetaFilter

The true story of America’s sky-high prescription drug prices

NYC runner's killing puts a DNA technique under a microscope

Risking Beijing's ire, Vietnam begins dredging on South China Sea reef

Torture in secret prisons: The dark side of China's anti-corruption crackdown

The Soccer-Star Refugees of Eritrea

Crackdown in Turkey Threatens a Haven of Gender Equality Built by Kurds

Yazidi leader seeks protection for community after genocide

UN criticises Israel settlement law that would legalise 4,000 West Bank homes

Climate change is already causing widespread local extinction in plant and animal species

Giraffes suffer 'silent extinction' in Africa: Red List report

Undertaker misery on frontlines of Philippine drug war
Friday, December 9th, 2016 06:52 pm
Current assignment status

Thanks to a lot of work, mainly from AO3 staff, your assignments have been restored. You may notice some anomalies.
  • Please check that your assignment is the same as it was before. If it is not, please email the mods immediately, and when you do, please see if you can forward your initial assignment email to help us fix this as soon as possible.

  • In particular, defaults and pinch hits were fixed manually, so if one of your claimed pinch hits is missing, or if you still have an assignment that you had defaulted on, please email right away.

  • If you had already posted your assignment, it may not show as Fulfilled. It’s in the collection - you don’t need to re-post the whole fic. We do ask you to edit your story (look for it in Works then Works in Collections, or on your Stats page). In the editing mode, tick the box that says it fulfils your challenge assignment, then save. Please contact the mods if you are not sure how to do this. Please check it over after saving and check that it shows as Fulfilled on your assignment page after you have done this.

You should now be able to post or default as if the purge had not happened.

How this happened
When assigning a pinch hit, I misclicked on the Purge All Assignments button.

AO3 Support, ADT, and Systems staff, especially james, CJ, and astolat, worked hard to retrieve the assignments for us from a back-up and set them up. We then tweaked them in according to our own records of pinch hits and defaults.

Thank you from me to Jenn_Calaelen and hhertzof, and thank you from all of us to those who have helped to fix this problem, and to those who have posted comments in support of the mod team’s and AO3 staff’s ongoing work.

Here’s hoping that further Yuletide 2016 excitement is only of the “yay, I got a fantastic gift” kind. Also the “omg, is that a deadline?” kind, but preferably before the deadline occurs...

The default deadline (deadline for defaulting on your assignment with no, or only minor, penalties) is still 9am UTC, December 11 - that’s in just two days, so please take note of it if you are thinking of defaulting.

In the Yuletide IRC chat, we have the following outstanding beta requests: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (TV), 27k; Trails of Cold Steel, 13k; Dangan Ronpa 3, 10k. Please either sign in and talk to a hippo, or email the mods, if you can help look over any of these!

The beta readers post also has some outstanding beta requests posted in the comments: Silicon Valley, Tomb Raider, Matthew Swift, and Akatsuki no Yona.
Friday, December 9th, 2016 05:03 am

Posted by Ask a Manager

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

1. I moved for my husband but can’t find work in my field — and now I have a job offer in my home state

I grew up in the midwest, and I moved down to the middle of nowhere in New Mexico to be with my husband after I graduated college. The first year I was here was interesting. I got a job in the loan industry. It paid okay for the area, not great but it paid the bills and put food on the table. After the year, I quit due to the stress and horrible management causing me major health issues. After I resigned, I received a job offer from my home state working with children. I discussed it with my husband and he told me to take it; that way I could visit family and recharge (since I was not in the best of health). I spent the summer getting better, visiting family, and enjoying my job.

After the summer was up, I traveled back home. As soon as I got back, I filled out many applications and had interviews. This is where the sad part starts. The interviews went really well and the managers liked me, but many did not want to hire me due to my education. (I have a four-year degree in history and social science) They thought I was overqualified due to that. This frustrates me to no end. One manager only interviewed me as a back-up plan; if one of his people quit, he would call me and ask me to fill in. Another one eent in all my paperwork to the area manager but can’t hire me because they didn’t have a store manager.

I have been out of a job for three months and money is getting tight. Yesterday I received a email from a company in my home state wanting me to work for them. This is where I need advice/help. My husband has an awesome job that pays pretty well. He also loves working there. He has been applying to jobs all over the country to be closer to a bigger city so I can start my career. However, he hasn’t gotten a job yet and it’s been close to a year and a half. This job that was offered to me is my dream job and it’s in my career field. Do I go for my dream job and have my husband move to my home state with me or should I stay here in the middle of nowhere with no job while he remains at his? Please help. I am at a standstill and don’t know what to do.

Oh, I’m sorry — this is really hard. Ultimately, this is a question for your marriage. It sounds like you and your husband need to figure out where it makes sense for the two of you to live. If you won’t be able to find a job in your field where you currently are (which sounds like may be the case), do the two of you want to move somewhere that you can? Or is it okay for you to resign yourself to not getting work in your field long-term? Is he willing to move for now since you moved for him before and gave his city a shot? What are your husband’s job prospects in the new city? And how do the two of you want to balance all these factors out? Ultimately it’s about the trade-offs the two of you decide to make as a couple.

The job-related piece of this that I can advise on is that the longer you don’t work in your field, the harder it will be to find work in your field. So you probably have a relatively limited window of time to really pursue it, if that’s what you want to do.

2. Recruiting by text message

I have a Google Voice number that I use for job hunting. I am not currently job hunting — I love my job — but I also believe in always taking the meeting/interview/convo if possible, because you never know what will happen next.

Earlier this week, I got a text message from a recruiting company asking me if I was interested in a job that I was actually completely unqualified for — the recruiter had clearly done a keyword scan for, say, “teapot usability” and since both words showed up, he assumed I was now a teapot usability expert. I replied that I was not qualified for the position.

Today he texted back and asked what I was looking for. I replied that at this time I was not looking to make a move, which is 100% true. But, again, normally I’m happy to have a quick convo — except that 1) he hadn’t read my resume and 2) the TEXT MESSAGES.

I would think it completely appropriate to have a text conversation with a recruiter with whom I already had a relationship, especially things like confirming I’d finished an interview, or other quick transactional notes. But I can’t see doing this as the regular course of business as part of job hunting. I am An Old, but I work in technology and have plenty of text conversations on a daily basis. Am I just being old-fashioned or is this the new direction of recruiting and I’m going to have to get used to it in order to be competitive?

I hope not. I think you just ran into a weird and overly cavalier recruiter, of which there are plenty. He was sloppy about reading your resume, and he’s sloppy about how he communicates.

Also, some people are way more reliant on texting in all situations than others, and I think some of those people over time lose sight of the fact that not everyone likes to have lengthy business-related text conversations.

3. Being laid off right after relocating for work

This summer my husband was told that the company he had worked for for 10 years was closing his plant and relocating it to Houston. He was among the few employees that were offered to keep their jobs and move with the plant. The company would provide a substantial relocation package including all closing costs, moving costs, and a one month extra salary for expenses. No raises would be given and as a matter of fact, at the time the entire US operations had been forced to take a temporary ten percent pay cut that had started in February.

We didn’t want to move. We had a teenager going into his junior year of high school and had a great life and house. But my husband is over 50 years old and we realized finding a new job would be difficult so we accepted the offer. So mid-August I quit my job and we moved.

Fast forward three and a half months and he gets laid off. We were thoroughly shocked. He had to sign an agreement saying that if he resigned in the next two years, we had to pay back all if the relocation fees but what about if they lay him off? Now we are in a new town that is not our home away from our friends and family. Even with the relocation package this has not been a cheap move for us. Is there any way of getting them to move us back? It just seems so unfair! I know the old saying about how life isn’t fair but you’ve got to be kidding me!

That’s horrible. He can definitely try to negotiate for some moving costs, but whether or not they agree is likely to depend on (a) how guilty they feel, so he should try to appeal to their human decency when he points out what happened, and (b) whether they’re worried he has potential grounds to sue for anything (like discrimination or harassment). Severance packages are often quite negotiable when one of those things is the case, especially the second one.

I’m not sure if you were also worried that you might be on the hook for the relocation expenses, but you won’t be. That’s only for if your husband left voluntarily.

4. Prospective employer told me that I no longer seem interested in the job

I interviewed for a job position before Thanksgiving, and sent a follow up email a couple days ago asking about the status of the job. I got an email back stating “that it seemed I was no longer interested in the job”. Panicked that I may have missed a job offer letter I scourged my email to find…nothing. I’m not sure what I could have done in this scenario? Or even how to respond back.

It sounds like a miscommunication. Maybe they sent you an email or left you a voicemail that somehow got lost in the ether. (Or maybe they think they did but they didn’t actually do it.) I’d send this back: “I’m still very interested! Your email makes me wonder if you’d tried to contact me, but I don’t have any missed calls or emails from you so I’m not sure what happened that made you think I’d lost interest. I’d still love to be considered for the job and to talk with you further.”

5. Is this company brushing me off?

Several years ago I applied for a position at a company located right down the street from my house. I received an in person interview that seemed to go incredibly well. Several days later however, I received a rejection email telling me “thanks for applying, but we will be moving forward with other candidates at this time.” And to “feel free to reapply in the future.”

I have reapplied, but have never been invited back for another in-person interview. The first time I reapplied, I was invited to an out of state job fair (in spite of the position I applied for being right down the street.) There was no way to RSVP to this job fair. I’m not sure there was any connection between not attending the job fair and not being selected for an interview, but needless to say I didn’t get the job. The second time I reapplied, once again their actions baffled me, I was invited to a phone screening interview with someone from out of state. I’m kind of getting a message that “we don’t really want you to work here, and even though you feel you’d be perfect for the position please take the hint and move on.” Am I right to perceive this are they in fact giving me the brush off or am I reading too much into what’s becoming standard practices even though they don’t always make sense to the local job seeker?

The out-of-state job fair thing is weird, but I wouldn’t read anything into the phone interview being with someone from another state. If that’s the person who’s doing the phone interviews for the position, it makes sense that that’s what would happen — and they’re not going to invite you to skip the phone screen and interview in-person at that stage instead, so the fact that you’re right down the street wouldn’t really factor in.

In general, employers are very comfortable rejecting people because they have to do it all the time. They don’t offer phone interviews to people as a way to brush them off. If they want to brush you off, they’d just reject you!

I moved for my husband but can’t find work in my field, recruiting by text message, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Thursday, December 8th, 2016 09:00 pm
  • Wash the dishes in your sink
  • Get your outfit for tomorrow together, including accessories
  • Set up coffee/tea/breakfast
  • Make your lunch
  • Put your keys somewhere obvious
  • Wash your face and brush your teeth
  • Take your medication/set out your meds for the morning
  • Charge your electronics
  • Pour a little cleaner in the toilet bowl (if you don’t have pets or children or sleepwalking adults)
  • Set your alarm
  • Go to bed at a reasonable hour
Thursday, December 8th, 2016 04:00 pm

In The Lord of the Rings, when Frodo becomes very discouraged about his quest to destroy the One Ring, he says, “I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened!”

Gandalf tells him, “So do all who live to see such times.But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

Imagine your life as a preordained “quest” of large or small proportions. What good do you think you can decide to do with it? Write a poem focused on this.

Thursday, December 8th, 2016 06:59 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

Remember the letter-writer in March whose company wanted everyone to sign a statement saying they could be fired if their family and friends didn’t follow the company’s religious values? Here’s the update.

I really appreciated hearing from you, Donna the lawyer, and your readers. I really felt like I was crazy for wanting to push back on this and feeling like it was an overreach of boundaries. Everyone was so supportive and I don’t feel like the crazy one anymore. Trust me when I say that some days when I leave work I go through the comments again to remind myself of how awesome this community is. Thank you, everyone!

I’ve been waiting to send you an update since I wanted to give you more happy news than not. Here’s where I’m at right now –

First, the good news. Enough of us pushed back on the new policy that they took back the document they wanted us to sign. I think I mentioned in the comments that I emailed my concerns to some of the higher ups. I never did get a response, but I later found out several other staff and faculty members did the same thing. The new, revised document came out a few week ago and it’s basically a reworded version of the one we’ve already signed. After going through it with a fine-toothed comb, I don’t see any wording in there about our friends and family accountable to the new lifestyle document. Any rewording done seems to be merely updating the vocabulary of the document. We’ll still lose our jobs if we don’t sign it, but since it’s so close to the original document there hasn’t been as much angst as before. That doesn’t mean we haven’t lost faculty and staff members over this. More are either looking at other universities or decided to go ahead and retire, but more on that in a minute.

Now the bad news. I did try to use your advice. I started looking for a job right after the letter was published. Not long after, a large chunk of funding was cut from the education sector in the area that I live in. Many schools had layoffs and my own institution is suffering (benefits are starting to be cut and there are rumors of layoffs here too). When applying for jobs, I know I’m competing against people with graduate degrees, more experience, and who can start immediately. I’ve received very few invitations for interviews and haven’t received an offer yet. (I will say that those who have interviewed have given me feedback and they all say that I should be encouraged that my resume and cover letter got me the interview. I give you and your archives a lot of credit for those comments.)

My department has had a 65% turnover rate since I started and most of those people have left for non-academic jobs. I’m now a “senior” member a year and a half in. We’re also in a hiring freeze, so we really have to push to replace those who’ve left. Since I worked so hard to get a job in academia and am still passionate about higher education, I am hesitant to leave a position in an academic setting. I don’t know how/when I’ll be able to get back in again if I do leave. I also want to go to graduate school (both as a personal goal and I need it to advance in my career). I’m beginning to think that I’ll need to do that first if I don’t find another job soon. It’s been hard coming to that realization, since my hope was to pay off my undergraduate debt before I go back.

I know I’ve made a positive difference in a lot of different departments (I think helping people realize that unpaid overtime is illegal and helping build a good rapport between my department and others are good things, right?), but I’m starting to burn out. Every morning I wake up and wonder what battle is going to be fought that day. I’ve lost a lot of political capital I had with my supervisors and really do wonder how many more people we’re going to lose before something changes. I honestly don’t know what we’re going to do when the new salary regulations go into place and most of the staff become hourly. We already have too much to do, not enough people, and our morale is incredibly low.

I’m sorry that I can’t give you better news and completely understand if you don’t want to share it with your readers (I’m a bit of an Eeyore right now). I know it’s probably not the update anyone wanted to hear, but I hope to give you another, more positive, update soon.

update: we can be fired if our friends and family don’t follow the company’s religious values was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Thursday, December 8th, 2016 05:00 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

I get lots of holiday-related questions at this time of year and thought I’d field a bunch of them all at once.

1. We’re supposed to contribute to send our boss on a Christmas trip

The company I work at has 200 employees. We get a Christmas bonus. Because it is the president who gives the bonus, the executive assistant asks each employee to contribute $10 toward a gift for the president, which is usually toward a trip. I don’t believe this is right. Your thoughts?

Y’all are supposed to send your company president on a trip? Nooooo. That’s totally inappropriate and, frankly, a little bit obscene.

That bonus isn’t coming out of the president’s own wallet; it’s a business expense. And in return, you’re supposed to send him on a trip? No.

Ideally, you’d let the assistant know that etiquette says that gifts in a workplace should flow downward, not upward. Show her this.

But if you’re not comfortable doing that (although I really hope people will get a lot more comfortable with this — it’s in everyone’s interests), then just say, “I’m sorry, it’s not in my budget this year.”

2. Being fair about time off around the holidays

We are a small office with 11 employees; the calendar time between Christmas & New Year’s is time that all would like to have off. How can we be fair about everyone having an opportunity to take this time? I don’t think first come, first serve will work. Draw straws?

I’ve had this question sitting in my inbox for a while, so the letter-writer has probably solved this problem by now (which I wanted to note so that people aren’t wondering why she’s waited so long to think about this). That said…

Explain to people ASAP that you’ll need at least X people in the office that week, and ask people to tell you right away if (a) they want that time off or (b) they’re willing to work it. Explain that if you’re not able to get enough coverage, you might need to deny some requests, but that you’ll do your best to avoid that happening. And then — this is key — offer incentives for the people who volunteer to work that week. If you can swing it, the best incentives are bonuses, holiday pay, or an extra vacation day. If you can’t swing those those, think about providing free lunch and other food that week and, if possible, let people leave early and dress casually. If you make it appealing enough to people, some people will volunteer to work those days.

If you don’t get enough voluntary coverage and you need to deny some time-off requests, it’s reasonable to go by seniority (as long as you’re not in a low turnover situation that would mean that some people never get the time off that want, year after year) or first come, first served (as long as you don’t let people fill up the prime December vacation slots in January).

3. Gifts for my employees

As a newer manager, I always appreciated when my bosses gave me gifts, and I’d like to do something for my team of 4-5 people. Last year, I gave each individual a small gift card and a bottle of wine. Is that reasonable? Any protocol you’d suggest managers follow? Unfortunately the big stuff (PTO and pay raises) is out of my hands!

Sure — as long as you know they all drink alcohol.

But if you really want to make an impression, write them each a note about what you appreciate working about them and their contributions this year. That’s likely to create warmer, fuzzier feelings. If you think about it, that makes sense. The gifts that leave people feeling the best are usually personal ones that the recipients can tell were picked out with real thought just for them. It’s hard to do that with colleagues sometimes, but a personal note hits those same buttons, and will carry a ton of weight because you’re their boss. It’s the kind of thing people will often keep for a long time.

4. How can we make sure people don’t feel pressured by our competitive food drive?

I’m currently one of the people in charge of organizing office fun activities. These mostly consist of optional activities like happy hours, potlucks, baking competitions, and general low-stakes opportunities for people to get to know upper management and people outside of those they work with most closely. There is, however, one “mandatory fun” event that we are charged with organizing: an “Office Olympics” competition (yes, like the one on The Office) which occurs during business hours and is our low-budget version of a holiday party. This is a many-year tradition that many people get really into, and actually is a lot of fun, despite being a huge productivity suck (though it’s on a mid-December Friday where not a lot of productive work is happening anyways…). All staff members, from the executive director down to the interns, are assigned to a team, and the only way to get out of participating is to be out of the office.

The competition consists of one day of silly games in the office, a lunch potluck, and an early dismissal to head to a bar, as well as a few “Olympic events” that last throughout the week. One of these is a food pantry donation drive where each team has historically gotten points for contributing the most money over the week, having the highest total donations on a given day, and having an average contribution of over $X amount per person. Donations are made online, and the only info anyone knows is the total $/team and average per person donation amount. People are very competitive about all events, this one included, to the point where teams are sometimes engaged in late-night donation wars and top executives throw in large sums of money to make sure their team comes out on top. Obviously this is for a good cause, but those of us in charge of planning this year are really trying to make sure no one feels pressured to give money they don’t have. One change we’re already making is offering points for actually volunteering at the food pantry. Do you (or readers) have ideas on ways to structure donation drives so that they encourage people to be generous without making people feel pressured? If it makes a difference, none of us organizing this are in a management position.

I know I’m constantly being a curmudgeon about stuff like this, but honestly, I’d dial the pressure for all of it waaaaayyy down.

I realize you may not have that within your control, but it’s really not an employer’s role to encourage employees to be generous with their outside-of-work time or with their money. If your workplace wants to encourage people to volunteer, the way to signal that is to let them use work time to do it. If that’s not an option, then your workplace is trying to be generous with time (and money) that it doesn’t have any legitimate claims to.

It’s of course fine to give people the opportunity to donate their money or time if they’d like to. Just don’t inadvertently make them feel obligated.

Instead, I’d recommend doing this:

1. State very clearly that donations are 100% optional and that no one should feel pressured to give.
2. Talk to managers about why that matters and how awful it can feel for someone with a tight budget to feel their work reputation may be impacted by how much/whether they give, and point out that they don’t know who on their team might be in that situation.
3. Intervene if you see inappropriate pressure tactics.

To be clear, charity is good and volunteering is good. It’s just not good to make people feel pressured by their workplace to do either one. (I know that you know that, letter-writer; I’m stating more as a general principle.)

5. Giving a gift to our board of directors

I work at a very small, independent school that’s incorporated as a not-for-profit educational organization. We have three co-directors who run the school day-to-day, and a board of directors (most of whom are very involved and hands-on).

I recently got an email from one of the directors asking for contributions for a small gift for the board. Is this appropriate? On the one hand, they aren’t really direct supervisors in the way the three co-directors are, and they do work hard on behalf of the school. On the other, they’re definitely up the chain of command from me, regardless of whether they have personal influence over my job. Any thoughts?

For the record, the email was not phrased in such a way that made me think that giving was mandatory. I’ve been unable to contribute to coworker gifts in the past and received zero judgement/backlash. I’m also in agreement with you about upward gift-giving and do not plan to give my supervisors presents, although I’ll probably bring in some cookies or something to share with everyone.

Nope, not appropriate because of the power dynamics, and board members worth their salt would feel uncomfortable getting a gift from the staff. Politely decline.

sending our boss on a Christmas trip, being fair about time off around the holidays, and other holiday questions was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Thursday, December 8th, 2016 03:59 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

The following is an excerpt from Sarah Cooper’s new book, 100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings, which I read and thought was so hilarious that I sought permission to share some of it here.

Seriously, it is really funny, and it would be an excellent gift for your office holiday gift swap.

screen-shot-2016-12-08-at-10-47-57-am how-to-appear-smart-in-meetings-1 how-to-appear-smart-in-meetings-2 how-to-appear-smart-in-meetings-3 how-to-appear-smart-in-meetings-4 how-to-appear-smart-in-meetings-5 how-to-appear-smart-in-meetings-6 how-to-appear-smart-in-meetings-7 how-to-appear-smart-in-meetings-8 how-to-appear-smart-in-meetings-9 how-to-appear-smart-in-meetings-10


Order your own copy of 100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings! You will not regret it.

how to appear smart in meetings was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Thursday, December 8th, 2016 08:40 am
The courts have now said that the state can stop the recount, so the process is unlikely to be finished. It simplifies things for me which is good because Cordelia is so stressed out that she’s actually sick. This means we can both stay home.

From what I gather, the recount got through half of the process. I’m not sure if that’s half of all ballots cast or half of all precincts. Nothing turned up to show any inaccuracies, errors, or fraud. Based on what I saw yesterday, recounting was generally resulting in one or two votes being counted that hadn’t been before because of the limitations of scantron technology (though I’m kind of boggled that someone of voting age doesn’t realize that putting an x or a check mark in the bubble won’t work. The instructions are written clearly on the ballot).

I’m not pleased with the court decision because the bits I’ve seen quoted pretty much seem to say that a recount should only happen if there’s already evidence of fraud or other problems. I view that as rather like saying, "Well, that bridge hasn’t actually collapsed, and we don’t need to inspect it until it does." That is, I don’t think that this recount was necessary because I was sure there was something wrong. I just think that it’s a good idea to check things over from time to time to make sure that all the parts are working. I also think that it would be a good thing if our state had laws mandating recounts when the margin in an election is under a certain threshold and requiring some sort of random auditing of the process by picking, say, a dozen precincts, different ones each time, throughout the state to recount every election.

I got cranky with the Republican observer who was at my table most of the time yesterday. He was firmly of the opinion that even something as basic as making sure that all kids have food is bad because it creates a culture of dependency by making those kids think that the world will take care of them. That was so very, very alien to me, and he wouldn’t budge on it or shut up about it. I finally told him that I consider it our Christian duty to make sure that everyone’s fed, and he had nothing more to say. (Scott thinks that saying that hit the guy where he lives. I think that may be making an assumption about the guy’s religion, but he was a 70 something white guy with a very Anglo name.)

He was polite and friendly to everyone, but I found myself wondering how he’d have interacted with any of us if we were not white and not obviously middle class or if we had signs of not being straight, cis, Christian, etc. The only person at the table who wasn’t white was there for about an hour and a half and was a twenty something Asian American woman acting as a Republican observer. He was very nice to her, but I wonder how much of that was his assumption that she agreed with him.

The volunteer who was organizing the Democratic observers was very conscientious about checking in and following up, but goodness, he looked young. If he was twenty five, I’d be astonished.

Each political party had a different form for their people to use to track information. The ones I had from the Democrats were longer than the forms the Greens and the Republicans had, but a largish chunk of that was information about what the recount ought to look like, procedurally, which was something I really only needed once. Mainly what we needed to record was the precinct and our names and contact information and the finally vote tallies. My sheet had a big section where I could note any information I considered important. The Greens and the Republicans were very concerned with recording seal numbers. I considered it enough to record whether or not the initial seals were intact and matched the paper records.

There were six candidates officially on the ballot for President, and we saw votes for all of them. We laughed about the one precinct that had at least one vote for all of them having given us a bingo. We didn’t see any valid write ins, and over the course of the day, we saw about twenty ballots where people hadn’t voted for President at all (that doesn’t count the 'anybody else, please' write in sort of thing).

I’m low on sleep because I got the hiccups about half an hour after Scott got up. They lasted over an hour which meant I still had them when Cordelia got up. At least I no longer have the stress migraine. I count that as a win. I’m still going to go back to bed in a little bit; I’m just not in migraine pain. Given that, I’m going to stay up long enough to do a few things that I normally get done early in the morning or that I would normally have done yesterday and didn’t get to.
Thursday, December 8th, 2016 02:40 am
I keep forgetting to mention -- we will not be holding New Year's Eve at chez Faultless Pajama this year, because we will be out of the country! (It's a birthday year that ends in 0 for me, so we're taking a big trip: 3 days in Hong Kong, 14 days cruising through southeast Asia, 2 days in Singapore.) The best prices were over Christmas/New Year's and not over my birthday week, weirdly enough, so we're leaving next week. (OMG I am so excite.)

We plan on bidding 2016 good riddance somewhere far away from here, but will be back hosting again next year. :)
Thursday, December 8th, 2016 05:03 am

Posted by Ask a Manager

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

1. Going into business with my boyfriend’s family

I have been with my boyfriend for six years now, and lived with him for five. I’m extremely close with his family, especially because my own family lives across the country, to the point that I’ve been invited to holiday events even when my boyfriend was unable to attend, and generally feel treated the same as him and his siblings.

Recently, his sister has come up with a business idea that springboards off the current brick-and-mortar store that she and her mom (same as boyfriend’s mom) run together. The plan is for it to be much less of a small-business thing, but it will still be a family-run thing as it’s a website and my boyfriend and his brother are web developers, I have some particularly helpful experience, and their father has run a larger business.

They are super enthusiastic about the skills I can bring to the business and naturally have already slotted out a place for me. I’m really enthusiastic about helping them and being part of the business (however inadvisable that might seem) but I want to raise the subject of the fact that I’m just attached by girlfriend status, but in a much nicer way.

My boyfriend is not likely going to scoff at my mentioning this sort of thing. We talk about “would one of us be able to handle the rent on our own?” every time we move into a new apartment, and I’m not at all worried that his family would suddenly try to edge me out if my boyfriend and I were to break up. But I’d like to discuss how we’d handle it if we wanted our space from each other after a possible break-up and if we no longer wanted to work together. I’m not sure if I ought to stress that we’re doing well as a couple and I’ve no plans on breaking up, or how to word this properly or even if it’s something I should just leave it alone and think “we’ll deal with it when we get there” due to how long we’ve been together happily.

You should absolutely talk about this and, depending on what’s decided, you might need to get something in writing about it.

When things are good, it’s very easy to think, “Even if we broke up, we’d handle things amicably. We love each other and we’re good people, so we’ll be able to figure it out.” But life can throw curveballs that you can’t predict, and plenty of people who thought they’d have kind, healthy break-ups instead have hostile ones. So it’s pretty important that before you get entwined with this family business, you lay out plans for what you’d do in a worst-case scenario — because as much as you feel like family right now, if things do go south, that can change pretty quickly.

You could say it this way: “I love that y’all make me feel like family, but to protect everyone, I want to recognize that I don’t have the same family ties that you do, legally or otherwise, and figure out how we’d handle things if Percival and I ever weren’t together. Obviously I hope that won’t happen and there’s no reason to fear that it will, but if we’re going to go into business together, I want to make sure we’ve thought through how we’d handle things if that ever changed.”

One potentially clean way to do it would be for you not to be a partner in the business, but instead to provide your services as a contractor. That’s an easier relationship to break off if you ever need to.

2. Offering to take an interviewer on a tour of my current company

I work in a highly technical field — design and installation off large IT infrastructures, like server rooms. I have had an interview with several SVP’s at a new company two weeks ago, but nothing seems to be moving forward.

As the job is all about systems engineering, what about inviting one of the interviewers to my current company for a tour and to show examples of my work? It may sound awkward, but the new company actually is an on-site customer of my current company, so seeing new company people in the our building is completely normal. And there would be absolutely no suspicion from my current management. My goal here is to further impress the new company by showing physical examples of my work. What do you think of this out-of-the-box approach?

No, don’t do it. That’s a misuse of your current company’s trust in you — and the prospective employer is likely to see it that same way.

Two weeks ago seems like a long time when you’re waiting to hear back about a job, but on the employer side, it’s not that long. Give them time to do whatever they’re doing. If they want more information from you, they’ll come back and ask.

3. My boss won’t let me work more hours to catch up on my backlog

I’m in a role where I am effectively acting as an entire department. This arrangement generally works okay, but I recently fell ill and had to take a couple of days off to recover. When I got back to work, I had a lengthy backlog of work to complete and have been struggling to catch up. The problem is that I’m now involved in so many (inescapable) meetings that it is now a month later and I’ve accrued over 60 unfinished tasks.

As a number of staff at my workplace have remote access, I requested this as well so that I could do some work from home, but this request was rejected due to my boss wanting me to have a good work/life balance (when I leave work, I should leave work at work). I’m grateful for the thought, but I’m getting increasingly more stressed out by having such a large backlog of work and no way to alleviate it. I’ve addressed this directly with my boss on a couple of occasions and they insist that some things just won’t get done, but I’m having a hard time adjusting to that mindset (I’m usually relentlessly on top of everything).

I love my job and my boss. I genuinely appreciate their intentions, but it appears that their efforts to not stress me out are failing miserably. I need to get this work done in order to keep sane, I just don’t know how to convince my boss that I need the flexibility of remote work. What do I do?

Well, your boss is telling you very clearly that she doesn’t want you working those kind of hours. And it sounds like she’s also told you that it’s fine for some things not to get done. The next step here is to sit down with her and figure out exactly what those things should be, so that you can officially move them off your list and cut down the number of things still on it.

You should tell her what you can get done in a regular 40-hour week and what will still be left over, and ask her how to prioritize things, and what things to jettison entirely. More here on how to do that. The solution is for the two of you to get aligned on how you’re going to get your workload down to a manageable level, not for you to work unreasonable hours just because you took time off.

4. We’re short staffed and they won’t hire anyone for at least another month

I work in reception at a small company (under 30 people). My department normally has three people, but we had someone leave before Thanksgiving and we have not hired anyone else. The employee who left gave almost a month’s notice. The department can run with two people (though not as smoothly as with three), but if either of us has to be out for any reason the department is really hard to run with just one person.

The biggest issue for me is that I’m a single mom and it is not uncommon for me to have to miss work when the school is closed or my child gets sick. Having two people in the department instead of three creates so much more pressure to not take a day off for any reason.

I just found out today that they may not hire anyone until after the first of the year. The position takes a long time to train people on, so reasonably, my coworker and I are the whole department until probably February (and that is IF they hire someone early in January). I don’t mind doing an extra person’s work for the time being, but I feel like they are being unfair expecting neither me or my coworker to need a day off for the next two months. Is there any way to impress on them how uncomfortable it is to be short-staffed like this near the holidays when people might want a day off to see family? Or when schools might be closed for snow?

I did speak to the HR lady (she’s the one who told me we won’t be hiring until the first) and she said basically to take care of my family if I needed to and not worry about the department being short staffed. But a few years ago when work was taking their time to hire a second person for the dept (I was the only one in the dept at the time) and my son got strep throat and was ordered by a doctor to stay home, I had work calling me all day every day asking where stuff was, asking when I would be back, asking how to do stuff, etc. The HR person was not here when this happened, so I don’t think she realizes what the culture at work is like when the department is short. When we have three people, it’s no problem if someone needs a day off. What can I do?

Take off the time you need to take off, and don’t answer calls from work while you’re out.

The HR person is giving you permission to do it, and that’s what you should do.

It’s not outrageous that your company doesn’t want to deal with hiring around the holidays; a lot of employers don’t. It would be problematic if they were telling you that you couldn’t take any days off during this period, but they’re not. It sounds like you’re the one who feels like you can’t take any days off, but they’ve clearly told you that you can. Take them at their word. And if you and your coworker both end up sick on the same day, then you both call out. This is what happens when a department is short-staffed, and they’ll muddle through.

5. Declining a job offer because of a drug test

What is the best way to decline a job because of a drug test? I recently applied for a position and made it all the way to the offer stage, when I was informed that I’d be required to pass a drug test post-offer to accept the position. I live in a state where recreational marijuana use is legal, and I use it nightly to help me fall asleep. However, even though recreational marijuana is legal in the state, because it is banned at the federal level, the courts have ruled that employers can consider it an “illegal drug” for the purposes of drug testing, and even someone with a medical marijuana card would not be protected. Drug tests aren’t common for my field, so I was really caught off guard when this employer brought it up. I am not comfortable on an ethical level with drug testing as a general practice (there are professions where they make sense), and would likely decline to take one even if I could pass the test.

I declined the position on the basis of “general fit,” but I am wondering if there is a better way to do that? Is there a way to ask about drug testing earlier in the process?

Nope, you can’t really ask about drug testing, unfortunately. It just comes across way too much like “I use illegal drugs,” to the point that the idea of a candidate asking the question is an old standby in (bad) jokes about hiring. This is ridiculous, of course; you should be able to inquire about what kinds of invasions of privacy you might be subjected to as part of a job, but like so many things with hiring, convention isn’t aligned with what’s logical.

In the future, if you find yourself in a similar spot, I urge you to be up-front about the reason you’re turning down the offer; it’s important that employers hear that they’re losing good candidates over their commitment to meddling in what you do in the privacy of your home on evenings and weekends. Say it this way: “I object to drug testing on privacy grounds, so I’ll need to decline the offer.”

going into business with my boyfriend’s family, taking an interviewer on a tour of my current company, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016 10:46 pm
This is probably a holdover from adolescence or something - I don't want to feel I'm getting laughed at by people who think what I like is stupid. (And this comes up more often than you think! "Has anybody ever liked book/movie/tv show that you're supposed to like?" Um, me? "Hahaha, nope, nobody because it sucks!" Um....)

So I've been thinking about this for a while, and I don't think I've posted it because of what I said above, but I really like Megamind, and I like Megamind fanfiction, and this is one of the cutest fanfics you will read. (Content note: Teacher-sanctioned bullying ahoy! This is probably canon anyway.)

But that's not what's been percolating in my head. Megamind is a seriously small fandom (rules: watch the movie. agree it got screwed by Dreamworks. there, now you're a card carrying member of the fandom - and step one isn't strictly necessary anyway), but it certainly has accrued an awful lot of widely-accepted fanon. Megamind and Metroman's "real names". Megamind eating an tons of sugar. Megamind and Roxanne playing card games if Metroman doesn't show up quickly. But maybe this is how it works? Maybe the smaller the fandom, the more rapidly little bits of lore perpetuate themselves throughout the entire cloud?

I clearly need to insinuate myself into more fandoms of varying sizes and then evaluate them carefully for widely-accepted fanon. But who has the time? Honestly, I already have so much to catch up on. I need more hours in the day, and also a reset button.

This post was more coherent in my head. I apologize.
Wednesday, December 7th, 2016 08:38 pm
Observing a recount is one of the most tedious things I’ve ever done. It requires close, prolonged attention without offering anything at all for me to do. I’m an observer. I’m just there to watch and make sure that everything’s done the way it ought to be.

I took a full price cab this morning because I was running late. It was a tiny bit cheaper than I expected— $21 for the fare and $4 for the tip.

When I got there, they were telling people to sign in by party affiliation. What they didn’t mention was that only Republicans, Libertarians, and Greens are allowed to challenge ballots. Anybody at all can observe and take notes. A lot of people signed in as Democrats and then went back out and signed in as Greens so that they could challenge if they saw something that merited it. I stayed a Democrat because I was the only one at the table where I ended up. I didn’t see any Libertarians present, but there could have been.

The Republicans challenged every single precinct counted. Before a given sealed container of ballots was opened, the Republicans would challenge it on the grounds that they consider the recount illegal until the courts have made a final ruling and demand that the container and ballots be sequestered and considered invalid. The lawyers working for the Republicans had the speech down so thoroughly that they could recite it without any actual pauses. It making sense to people hearing it didn’t matter as long as they said the magic words. They also put in a similar challenge at the point when the election staff started tallying votes.

Everybody else in the room kind of got peeved with them because each challenge took time and because none of us, including the Republicans, expected the results to change. Well, it’s possible that the people who were so eager to be Greens so that they could challenge ballots thought it would be a thing to happen. But I was there for eight hours and watched three precincts get recounted. There wasn’t a single ballot that any of us disagreed with the officials over. They had to explain a few things about how the votes tally.

I hadn’t realized that it’s a valid thing to both vote straight party and fill in the bubbles next to candidates in some or all of the races, but I’d say that about 75% of voters did that. Maybe one in ten of those folks actually voted both straight party and split ticket. Michigan law says that specific choices in specific races override anything in the straight ticket section. Which led to things like people voting straight ticket Green Party *and* for Gary Johnson for President. A couple of Bernie Sanders write in votes ended up being votes for Hillary Clinton because Sanders was not on the (very short) list of legal write in candidates but those voters also marked their ballots as straight ticket Democrats.

There were some silly write ins, such as Bruce Wayne, and one person wrote in 'Anyone else, please.' One person wrote in 'J.C.' in every single race on the ballot.

We only had one out and out impossible ballot. That voter had filled in the circles to vote for four different parties, straight ticket, and at least three different Presidential candidates. All of us at the table looked at that one and kind of went, 'WTF?'

The ladies at the table had already gotten started when I got there at about 8:45. They’d had one box with a broken seal that they couldn’t count because of that. It was documented that the seal broke during transit. I didn’t get a clear idea of what the procedure is in cases like that. The second box turned out to contain only unmarked ballots and ballot sleeves and so wasn’t countable at all. The third box arrived shortly after I did and was countable. That precinct had about 650 ballots. The counters assured us that that was a large precinct, but the second we got had almost 900 ballots, and the third had 1409 (and took all afternoon).

When I left a little after 5:00, the Greens were turning people away because they had too many observers for the number of tables active. Also, the local recount isn’t running past 6:00, so folks aren’t really needed for the 5:00 to 9:00 that the Greens recruited for.

Scott and Cordelia ended up coming to get me because dropping Cordelia’s friend off got them about halfway there anyway. They had some trouble finding the building but managed eventually. Cordelia has asked me not to go again. I’m debating. I’m really pretty thoroughly wrecked at this point.

I could tell when my anti-anxiety medication wore off because suddenly I *needed* my email and my web browser and anything at all to keep my brain from remembering where I was. I thought about leaving then as I’m not supposed to take more than one dose of the stuff in a single day, but I thought I could manage. And I did. I just feel really terrible now. The medication really isn’t meant to get me through 9-10 hours at a go.

The thing with Cordelia is that she needs help with her homework right now. She’s got two big projects due early next week. Scott’s helping with one, and I’m helping with the other. It’s frustrating because the terminology doesn’t make sense to me. Cordelia needs to write an essay arguing either that a mandatory service year would be a good thing or that it wouldn’t. She has to have a certain number of 'claims,' each backed up with evidence. As far as I can tell, claims are assertions. They’re supposed to find sources of information on their own, without library access or guidance on how to tell good online sources from bad ones or what to do when multiple sites/authors use the exact same text and it’s not clear which site originated it.

The teacher in this class has apparently told her classes that their previous work in this direction was 'garbage.'
Wednesday, December 7th, 2016 08:10 pm
This strikes me as even less likely than anything to do with the Electoral College, but if you have a Senator who is carrying over from last term, go ahead and call them about this. What's the worst that can happen? (In the comments, people are saying that the worst that can happen is it sets a bad precedent, but seriously, the GOP has been setting awful precedents left and right, so I don't care.)
Wednesday, December 7th, 2016 04:08 pm


I’ve been thinking how I enjoy any kind of art (and writing is one kind of art) as long as it makes me feel something. I may not know how to put it into words right away, but if art makes me feel something, and if feeling that helps me in some way, that’s important and that’s valuable. I wonder about the quality of the inner life of anyone who experiences a work of art and feels something but needs some “expert” to tell them what that means, or to tell them it doesn’t matter because only “true art” matters and “true art” just happens to be whatever art they like best. Don’t bother with any kind of “expert” who thinks they know you better than you know yourself. Sometimes we don’t even know ourselves, but if we’re working on it, that’s what matters. Art helps us get there, so art matters. Books. Movies. Graphic novels. Poetry. Video games (YES video games are ART.). All genres and all kinds. You don’t have to experience or enjoy them all, but anything that helps you make sense of your life is valuable. Don’t let anyone tell you any different.

A little more positivity from my official blog!

I don’t want to push my official blog too much so I hope I haven’t been. I don’t know if I’ve tagged the reblogs from it consistently but I think I’ve tagged a few not poetry prompt related things “not poetry” if anyone ever wants to block posts tagged that.



Wednesday, December 7th, 2016 03:51 pm

In A Wrinkle in Time, Meg Murry manages to defeat the villain when she realizes, “Like and equal are entirely different things!” “IT” had promised a planet complete “security” because it took away all of their decisions from them. They didn’t have to decide anything. All people on the planet had everything decided for them and done for them. I think we all would like at times to not need to decide anything. It would be easy, but it wouldn’t be right. It wouldn’t be freedom.

To get a bit Existential, Existential philosophers have said a reason people become depressed is we realize we do have complete freedom but this terrifies us. Letting someone else decide everything in our lives is safer and easier. Sometimes we are held back in many ways by our environments, too, so often that terrifying freedom is not entirely complete. But we always have choices. Sometimes the choices seem of little consequence and we wish we could do something much bigger, but we can still make choices. Above all, we can realize no one else can tell us how to think or feel. Even if we have nothing else, that is ours to decide.

Write a poem about anything the above discussion makes you think about.

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016 06:59 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

Remember the boyfriend who contacted his girlfriend’s manager to privately ask her to give the girlfriend time off? Here’s the update from the manager:

I was so grateful to have my question answered, and enjoyed the commenters so much. I did take your advice to have a conversation with her pretty quickly after she got back. Having a couple days to process what you and the commenters said before she returned was very helpful, just to feel prepared. I became convinced that what I’d seen of him, alongside what your readers noticed, added up to something worth a serious conversation.

I realized that one thing I underplayed in my letter was the personal connection we have: our families have been friends for 30 years, I have known her since she was a kid…there’s a lot of (good) history there. I was nervous this was making me mis-read the situation, but in the end it was a huge asset to the follow up conversation.

I ended up inviting her to grab lunch, so we could get off campus and have a bit of space. My biggest hope was to appropriately ask if the relationship was healthy, so I felt like being offsite could help. On the drive we talked about the reunion (which she ended being glad to have attended) and why she had been so hesitant leading up to it (her family culture says ‘You do not take trips with S.O.’s unless it’s VERY SERIOUS. She also doesn’t love to fly.) She chose to share that she wasn’t feeling sure there was enough of the VERY SERIOUS to warrant the trip, which was interesting, given that she’d often shared her thoughts that he’s The One.

At lunch I shared a few of the professional pieces of feedback with her. I framed it as, “I’m glad you had a good trip and that you feel good about choosing to go. Now, if we had a do-over on how that came together…” She completely tracked with how the communication could have been better, including talking through it further when I first asked because there was more time, writing a better email once she decided to go, etc. (Some commenters very fairly wondered if I had been clear enough in the first conversation after the boyfriend’s email. I don’t know that I described it as clearly for you all, but that first chat was me saying, ‘Despite our ‘no-time-off’ policy, I would be open to approving an exception, but you (and not boyfriend) need to come to me so we can talk through whether that would work out without being too hard on the team.’ I think she heard it that way too.) But you were right, a lot of her choices happened because of pressure from him and his family for her to go, and her not knowing how to respond to everyone.

Then we shifted to boyfriend’s original note, which naturally opened up a window to use your wording (I respect your privacy; don’t feel the need to talk more about this, but I find the language of boyfriend’s note raising flags to me. If you ever do want to talk about/need help with that side of things, I would be willing.) That’s where the trust from our personal lives became very helpful, and she went on to share that she was feeling more conflicted about boyfriend, that boyfriend has some personal pain that shapes how he acts/talks, that she feels nervous about the differences in their families-of-origin for their long-term expectations (like the idea from his side that she won’t work), and that boyfriend had cheated on her and they were trying to rebuild trust.

My response focused on how there is no rush to commit to someone, that we can’t fix or change people we love, but can encourage and support them while they do their own growing, and to share some of my own story (“I was SO SURE I’d marry This Boy, but alas..”). We talked a bit about how you can truly love someone and have them not be The One. We also talked about pre-engagement counseling (which brings couples together who are looking to get married, but would like some space to think about who they are/what dynamics are/aren’t working in the relationship, etc.) Someone had suggested it to her and so she asked what I thought of it, so we talked about how to maximize that route if she wanted to do that. I tried really hard not to yell, ‘Dump the jerk!’ despite feeling that way, but did try to offer a few helpful questions for her to answer for herself.

She expressed a lot of gratitude for the conversation, popped in a couple more times over the summer to talk about the relationship more, generally upped her game at work, and then wrapped up and headed back to school. She is at school now and he is at home; it’s the first time they’ve not being college students on the same campus together. I hope things have either improved or maybe that the extra space can help her reflect on what she wants, but I don’t know. And I think he might propose over Christmas break.

Thank you to you and all the readers for the helpful input!

Update to the update: I can now add that they did indeed just get engaged.  I really hope they have a wonderful, healthy, and happy relationship, but I can’t say I’m not a bit nervous for them.

update: an employee’s boyfriend privately asked me to give her time off … and then things got even weirder was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016 10:53 pm
It is cold! And it has been snowing on us!  This is when you remember all your awesome cold weather gear combos and how to move around and harvest with so many layers on you feel like the michelin man.  Let me tell you -- there is definite skill involved.  We are down to the dream team here on the farm -- it is just your full-time crew: Jen (moi), Louis, Karen, Elise, Nick and Eric (Ricky) who's last day is Friday. It is crazy to be down to just the 6 (almost 5) of us but there is also something amazing about it.  We might have more work to do with fewer people, but there is also a beautiful, I might even say graceful, way that we all work together. We've put the seasons in, helped develop systems, and when it is just us we don't even have to explain to each other what we are thinking, it just happens.  When you put that together with the quite calm of early winter there seems to be nothing more beautiful. 

Lot's of other things going on at the farm besides farming too!   We still have a few spots open for our Winter CSA that starts Jan 11.  We also have some great gift basket options (custom and curated) that are available at the farm or can be shipped anywhere until December 17 as well as we are just now creating the menu for our farm fresh holiday sides (including pies) that can be picked up December 23 or 24.  What else...oh!  Kerri from the kitchen is teaching an edible gifts class this Saturday where she will lead hands-on demos for making bitters, flavored salts and more–this is a great class to get into making gifts for your loved ones.   As usual we have Friday Happy Hour (and this Friday is going to be especially happy as the whole farm is going to be there for our holiday party!)  

YUKON GOLD POTATOES:  It is winter–so you get potatoes!  But who doesn't need their supply of locally grown potatoes replenshed weekly? 

MISATO ROSE WATERMELON RADISHES:  These radishes look unassuming from the outside but cut them open and you'll get the most gorgeous winter surprise.  They are super tasty and can be served raw or cooked.  They can be sliced super thin for a gratin or thrown on a salad, and can be roasted or pickled also (bonus: these radishes don't need to be peeled)!  I like them raw because they do lose a bit of their beauty when cooked.  

FENNEL:  Baby fennel!  It is so sweet, tender and just plain adorable.  Shave into a salad or slice up and roast. Use the fronds as a garnish.  Add to celeriac or parsnip dish.

CELERIAC (Mini Only):  Mini gets celeriac this week!  So I'll say much of the same that I said last week.  I love celeriac.  I call it the pineapple of the north.  It may not be that popular, but it should be–in my opinion it is one of the most underrated vegetables.  It's gorgeous and can be used in so many different ways.  It is also known as turnip-rooted celery–if you try the stalks it most definitely tastes like celery with a hint of parsley.  Apparently it was referred to as selinon in Homer's Odyssey.  Karen is really obsessed with this Root Vegetable Gratin recipe from Smitten Kitchen right now (her recipes are always great because she includes how to deal with said vegetable also!)

PARSNIPS (Large Only):  Parsnips!! Hurray!  Parsnips are one of the hardest things to harvest (read: get out of the ground) but they are SOOOO worth it.  Up there in my top two roots, parsnips are very versatile and can be used much like all the other winter roots.  My absolute favorite thing to do with them is make a parsnip puree (much like mashed potatoes) but becasue they don't have as much starch as a potato the texture is more silky.  Here is a recipe on Bon Apetit from Portland's own Naomi Pomeroy. 

LUTZ BEET (Large Only):  A big gorgeous red winter beet.  Lutz is our winterkeeper and boy–what a beat!  As you know you can use the greens as well!  You can store this guy in your cooler for quite a while, and they get sweeter in storage also (just make sure you remove the greens).

BABY DELICATA (Large Only):  Two cutie-pie baby delicatas.  Great to just pop in the oven for a side-dish, or make some delicata boats.