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Friday, May 27th, 2016 03:49 pm
On the plus side, my body has finally settled down in terms of the migraine. On the minus side, I’ve gotten nothing done beyond posting and reading here and emptying the dishwasher. Well, I fed myself, too— Hamburger for breakfast and collard greens with salt and mustard for lunch. I’ve been eating lunch very, very slowly over the last two hours or so, and I still haven’t finished. I suspect I won’t. I think that drinking a lot of water is what finally killed the nausea.

I got myself together to email my doctor about the food/fatigue/brain fog thing. I didn’t explicitly ask about seeing an endocrinologist, though. I couldn’t quite get myself to. I poked around online a bit. I found not a single website, in pages of results, that talks about fatigue/brain fog that is resolved by eating. Almost every single thing talked about having issues after eating particular foods which is not my issue in the slightest. The closest I got to my issue was stuff talking about eating disorders causing brain fog and fatigue in teenage girls.
Friday, May 27th, 2016 06:00 pm

Posted by Brett Jonas

Quote Post Jade: “I think we should have a pizza party every day.”
PJ: “I think you’d get tired of pizza.”
Jade: “But when I got tired of it, I’d just feed it to the chickens and eat eggs for awhile, and then I’d go back to pizza when I was tired of eggs.”
Friday, May 27th, 2016 05:30 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

How can I make getting to the final round of interviews – and not getting the job – count for something?

Yesterday I received the news that I did not get the job at a great charity. It was a role that I have not come across before, and it would have been an exciting career change into a new sector. I was told I was a “fantastic” candidate and I had gotten to the final two out of 200 candidates. The successful candidate “had more experience.” I completed two phone interviews and one face-to-face with two interviewers. I sent the requisite follow-ups and gracious thank-you email.

I joked to a friend that I wish you could make getting this far in an interview process count for something, and say in your next application “I got to the third round with this employer so let’s skip all the stages and cut to the chase.” Of course, that is madness, but is there any way you can make getting so far in an interview process count for something? What would your next steps be?

I have a very low success rate in terms of the volume of CVs sent out to the number of interviews I get. My work history can appear hard to grasp to some, but then I have had companies and recruitment agencies praise my CV and think it sounds interesting. I also seem to do relatively well once I am in an interview room, prep hard, and can control my nerves. I think my downfall in the recent job I lost out on was that I was too comfortable and didn’t push some of my work history that I would have had if the interviewers had been less friendly/harder to convince. I also got to the final round of a job at Christmas but I think I failed in a written test. I was interviewed for the exact same type of role at another company and knew by the end of the first interview I had not been successful. I never even heard from them again.

My current job is awful, pretty soul-destroying, and is not good for mental health (I have a history of depression). My career is stagnant. My job search is now reaching 18 months! I either seem to not get off the starting blocks, or I am runner-up. My CV and cover letter either crashes and burns, or I’m told “it sings.”

Having got so close to securing a new job, but losing out, what would you do next? I am back at square one after an interview process that lasted three months from first application to rejection, and the thought of time slipping away while I pursue that elusive job horrifies me.

Yeah, you definitely can’t use “got to third interview round with another employer” as a selling point for other jobs.

You can learn what you can from the experience, though. Sometimes that’s nothing — sometimes you did everything right and someone else was just a better fit. And other times, there are lessons that you can take away for next time. In this case, it sounds like you did draw some useful lessons about how to better frame some of your work history, and about the need to do that even if the interviewers are friendly — that you shouldn’t be lulled into thinking that you don’t need to.

The other thing you can do is to not let your focus get too taken up by a single job prospect. The fact that you’re left feeling like you’re back at square one after this rejection and that time has slipped away tells me that you might not have been searching for other positions too actively while you were in talks for this job. You don’t want to fall into that trap — no matter how interesting a job opening or how promising your chances seem, you should always keep searching as actively as you would if that opening didn’t exist. In fact, the smartest thing to do is to assume that you’re not getting any job you apply or interview for — proceed as if you’ve already been rejected, because otherwise hope has a way of convincing you that you don’t really need to keep putting effort into other prospects.

A few other things that could be worth doing —

* Check up on your references. It’s possible that something’s happening with a reference post-interview that’s keeping you from getting offers. Even if you think your references are glowing, it could be worth having a professional-sounding friend call your references to make sure that nothing is being said that could hold you back.

* Look at who was ultimately hired for the jobs you interviewed for. (You can often find out on the company’s website or LinkedIn.) If they have significantly more or different experience than you, that’s useful to know. If they don’t, that’s useful too, since it might signal that you need to work on your interviewing skills and/or that you’re not communicating your achievements well.

* If you had particular rapport with an interviewer, try reaching out and asking if they’d be willing to give you feedback on how you can make yourself a stronger candidate. Say something like this: “I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me about the X job last month. I want to ask you a favor: I’m extremely interested in moving into a position like X, and I would be grateful for your feedback about how I can better position myself to do that. Is there anything in the way that I interview that you think might be holding me back? Are there weaknesses that I can tackle, or anything else that you think might help me pursue a similar position in the future? If you can spare five minutes for a call or even just an email, I’d really appreciate any advice you can share with me (and I have a thick skin, so I can take it!).” Some employers won’t give feedback no matter how politely you ask for it, but  framing it like this increases your chances of getting it.

can I make getting to the final round of interviews – and not getting the job – count for something? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Friday, May 27th, 2016 01:25 pm
Yesterday was quite a good day. Scott and I dropped a box and bag of books at Cordelia’s school and two bags of books at the downtown library. We mailed three packages (I managed to misplace the receipt for that, so I haven’t emailed tracking numbers to the recipients yet. I will). We bought more bus tokens for Cordelia. Then we parked in the library structure and walked to State St to go to Totoro. It was unpleasantly warm, but I really needed the walk.

I had a salmon teriyaki bento. Scott had a chicken teriyaki bowl with vegetables and rice. My sister (the one who just had surgery) called right after we sat down. She and I arranged for me to call her back when we got home.

My sister seems to be recovering really well from her surgery. She sounded happy and energetic. From what she said, the main problem has been the gas left in her abdominal cavity. Oh, and the hospital transitioned her from I.V. painkillers to ibuprofen at OTC concentrations even though the doctor had given her a prescription for percocet. She couldn’t get pain relief until she got home which is pretty stupid.

Scott and I watched part of Deadpool. We wanted to evaluate whether or not Cordelia would be interested in watching it with us. My verdict is that she might want to watch it but would absolutely be mortified to watch it with us. I’ll probably talk to her about that. I don’t think the level of violence is more traumatic than, say, The Hunger Games, and I’m a lot more concerned about that than about sex/innuendo and swearing.

I lay down to nap, and then my mother called. We talked for most of the time that I had for napping. She thinks I need to see an endocrinologist. I was surprised to hear from her. This is only the second or third time in my life that she’s called me on my birthday.

We ended up going to Bob Evans for dinner because I wanted pancakes. I also got a hamburger, carry out, that I ate for breakfast this morning. I felt okay doing that because Bob Evans costs about half as much as the places we generally go for birthdays and other special occasions.

Scott gave me Langston Hughes’ Collected Poems, the Rurouni Kenshin New Kyoto Arc DVD, and the Weiss Kreuz DVD thinpack (some of my old DVDs don’t play reliably any longer, and this was under $20, so I thought it was worth doing given that I’m not going to stop writing in the fandom). He told me that he’s still expecting one more item, and two packages arrived today, one addressed to me and one to him. I don’t remember any pending orders, except some shirts from Blair that only shipped today, so I’m not opening the package addressed to me until Scott gets home.

I discovered last night that Cordelia’s English teacher had marked four of her five PT absences as unexcused. She told me that it’s because I didn’t call the office about them and that I’d better do that now. I’m fairly pissed off about that because I walked into the office every single time and told them that Cordelia had physical therapy. I signed her out each time and then back in after the appointments. The office, when I called them, confirmed that they knew she was going to PT and that those absences should be labeled as medical and thus excused. The lady I talked to fixed those in the computer records immediately. I just shouldn’t have had to do that.

There are also, from the same teacher, some unexcused absences when Cordelia was doing mandatory standardized tests that she had missed due to PT. The teacher claims that she is utterly helpless to address that problem and that the absences will remain unexcused. Every other teacher in the school has correctly marked all of those absences, both PT and testing related.

I woke with a migraine this morning that hasn’t quite dissipated. At this point, it’s more nausea than headache, but I really don’t feel well at all. The only reason I haven’t gone back to bed is that I’m not convinced it would help. If I’m going to feel rotten, I might as well do it while watching TV or listening to music. Plus, there’s no way to charge my cell phone in the bedroom, and I would like it to be at at least 50% charge when I take it in there with me.

I am thinking that my mother is right that I need to see an endocrinologist. It will be a PITA because of where that clinic is located and because I suspect my primary care doctor won’t want to refer me. She thinks my thyroid issues are simple. I’m just wondering if there are other issues we should be digging at. I have pretty constant fatigue issues. If I don’t eat regularly and sufficiently, I stop being able to think even enough to watch TV. My diet skews to the foods that experience, going back to high school in the early 1980s, tells me will help the most.

The first time I ever tried to diet (under a nutritionist's supervision), I failed an exam in a college physics class because my brain wouldn't function. I had the option to retest because it was an independentish course where one could take tests at any time and retest as often as one needed to. I went and bought a bottle of pop and drank it. I passed the retest less than an hour after failing the first test. The nutritionist didn’t believe a word I said about it.

I tried Provigil at one point (my psychiatrist considers the fatigue a big deal. No other doctor has ever paid any attention to the matter), but I couldn’t tolerate the smallest dose made— 100 mg— and half tablets weren’t helpful at all (my psychiatrist wanted to get me to 3/4 of a tablet, but the tablets were oblong and not scored for cutting. They also tended to crumble when cut. Quartering was not a viable option). There was a period, a few years back, when I was taking Provigil and drinking coffee right on getting up and still ending up back in bed for a two to four hour nap about an hour later (right after getting Cordelia to school) at least four days a week. I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that the creamer I add to my coffee each morning is more effective at waking me up than the caffeine. I suppose I could test that by skipping the coffee and just drinking the creamer one day and just black coffee another day, but the creamer is kind of unappealing on its own, and black coffee makes me feel sick.
Friday, May 27th, 2016 04:00 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

Remember the letter-writer in March who was running a student organization but getting stuck with all the work because no one else would follow through on their commitments? Here’s the update.

As most people mentioned, this was a problem with a clear end date. Graduation has passed. I finished my thesis and internship, and I got to walk the stage summa cum laude (though technically my final grades put me at magna). I’ve been accepted to the graduate program of my choice and honestly, I feel fantastic!

I did not leave my organization, as some people recommended. When I emailed you originally, I was losing my mind over one specific officer who was failing HARD at his role and giving me a lot of trouble and pushback when I tried to get him back on track. There was a lot of bristling at taking criticism and orders from a peer, but as time went on it became a lot clearer that he didn’t have the skills needed for his job even if he were putting in all the effort. I had a talk with him about respecting my experience and taking orders/corrections in good faith, pushed through our big project, and restricted him from taking on any more for the rest of the semester. I also cut back on certain nonessential things that no one else was putting the time in for.

It stayed really, really hard for a long time, but there’s a happy end! I got an email from a respected local member of my industry who I had met through school and my organization, asking me if I was looking for a job! I had to turn her down due to grad school (down payment was in and it’s what will work best for me right now), but I saw her again at a professional banquet later the same week. After explaining my situation and the complications I’m looking at this summer, she offered me a remote freelancing gig! This is exactly the type of work I need right now, and I honestly couldn’t be happier. I also got lots of recommendations and connections at the banquet for my new city (~2 hours away from my undergrad town).

Sticking with all of my commitments instead of cutting some off sucked. I felt awful for my last month and barely ever slept, but this was one of those situations where it seemed more worth it to push through. I want to especially thank the people here who encouraged me to stick it out and made me feel less crazy for doing so. This time, it was worth it!

Thanks again for your feedback!

update: managing a student organization when no one else does any work and you’re stuck doing it all yourself was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Friday, May 27th, 2016 03:00 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 – May 27-28, 2016 was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Friday, May 27th, 2016 02:00 pm

Posted by PJ Jonas

I’ve been getting asked a lot lately the question, “Are your soaps gluten free?”

The simple answer is, “Yes, they are.”

We do not use any ingredients in our soaps that are known to have gluten in them or are derived from items that contain gluten. We have two soaps (purity scrub and OMH scrub) that have chopped-up rolled oats in them.

Rolled oats (which do not contain gluten) are sometimes rolled in wheat flour to keep them from sticking together. Because of this, several years ago we switched to using certified gluten free oats in our facility so there is no need to worry about cross-contamination.

Many people question whether or not it is silly to worry about gluten in your body care products.  For most people, it is not an issue.  But for those who have been diagnosed with celiac disease, it is a matter of playing it “better safe than sorry”.

Most doctors will tell you that it is only an issue if you ingest the wheat and that it can’t be absorbed through your skin. But there is a lot of anecdotal evidence out there that when those with celiac use gluten-containing products on their skin, it still causes them to have a reaction.

Most of the gluten containing ingredients in body care products like soap and shampoo do not sound like they contain gluten.  Chemicals that we would never use (such as stearyldimoniumhydroxypropyl) can be tricky because they are actually made from wheat proteins or other items that do contain gluten.

I have a good friend whose daughter was diagnosed as a toddler with celiac’s disease. She has been able to use our soaps without ever having an issue. So if you or a loved one have celiac disease and wish to completely avoid gluten, our goat milk soaps, shampoo bars, and deodorants are a safe alternative.

If gluten is a problem for you, do you avoid it in your bath and body items?



Friday, May 27th, 2016 04:03 am

Posted by Ask a Manager

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

1. I have a crush on a manager at work

I’m a happily married woman, but I have a crush on a male supervisor at work. The nature of my work requires that I advise management staff on various issues, so I often meet with several managers multiple times during the week. There’s a younger (close to my age) but established high-level male supervisor who I find myself attracted to. I wasn’t sure what my feelings meant at first, but I find myself getting nervous around him, I tend to care more about my appearance when I know we’re going to meet, and I think he’s attractive.

I get a vibe from him too. I may be making assumptions and his behavior can be explained otherwise, but he’s called me personally to ask questions, emailed me personally to congratulate me on a job well done, left his water bottle in my work area and his manager teased him for “accidentally” leaving it there, his manager teased him for seeming giddy and laughing more than usual during one of our meetings together.

I have no intentions of having an affair and even if I were single, dating someone at work comes with too many risks. Do you have any advice on how to quell this crush? How to conduct myself professionally around him? I feel like my feelings are obvious. I saw him at lunch the other day and walked away just to avoid him. I had a crush on a high-level supervisor at my last job too, but left the workplace for unrelated reasons so it never became an issue.

Noooo! It’s normal to occasionally find yourself attracted to people who are Not Your Spouse, but don’t let yourself start speculating on whether there’s a vibe there or not. The behaviors you described from him — calling you to ask questions, congratulating you on a job well done, leaving a water bottle behind, and being more laughy on some days than others — are normal work behaviors. He is just being a normal person, doing his job.

As for how to conduct yourself professionally around him — pretend he’s your uncle? Pretend he’s Ramsay Bolton? Imagine your husband dropping by to surprise you and walking in on a libidinous scene? Or, turn it around and imagine the genders were reversed — if you were a married dude crushing on a female colleague and reading things into her perfectly normal, non-flirtatious behavior that weren’t actually there, that would feel pretty skeevy, right? (I don’t mean to imply you’re skeevy — just to hopefully help you reframe it in your head.)

2. My boss is dragging his feet on hiring a temp for my maternity leave

I disclosed I was pregnant in December and noted my due date of July 12 at that time. It is now the end of May and my boss still has not posted the position for a temp fill-in. We are an office of three people, and so having a temp is crucial. My boss has even said on multiple occasions that he will not post the position and will only fill it by direct referral. What do I do? He expects me to train this person, yet refuses to take any steps to hire anyone that isnt referred to him personally. What can I do to protect myself from being expected to come in during maternity leave and/or train someone while I’m supposed to be on leave?

You can let him know right now that you won’t be able to do that. Say this to him: “I want to make sure you know that I could go out on leave as early as (date) and that I’m going to be 100% unavailable once I do — I won’t be able to come in to train someone or help out once that happens. So if you want me to train the temp, that person should start no later than (date).”

He’s now warned, and then you just stick to that. Remind him again right before your leave that you’re not going to be available, and if you do get contacted, either ignore it or take a week to respond and then say “nope, that won’t be possible.” (And know that if you’re taking FMLA, there’s something called “FMLA interference” that makes it illegal for them to keep contacting you or to try to get you to come in.)

Beyond that, this isn’t your problem — don’t make it yours.

3. My coworker keeps encroaching on my desk

My employer recently replaced our desks and lockers with smaller versions in order to make room for new colleagues in our open plan office. The desks are in banks of four, adjoining each other. There is a small partition with the desk facing me but no partition with the desk beside me. The lack of space is challenging but we have adapted.

I sit next to a more junior colleague. She is great at her job and we have always had a good relationship. Unfortunately, since the new desks arrived, she has been encroaching on my space. She likes to use big hard-backed files and she uses some of my desk space to accommodate them while she’s working with them. I tried moving my in-tray and other items over to the side of my desk, where it adjoins her desk, in an attempt to create a physical barrier. It doesn’t work. She uses them to prop up her own papers and folders. If that side of my desk is clear (as we are required to lock our in trays away at night) she will just use the space. As I start work after her, I either have to slide her stuff back to her own desk or ask her to move it. I find this a stressful way to start the day.

Today I decided to address the pattern of behavior as a whole. I explained that it might seem weird but I am someone who likes to have their space clearly defined. She seemed to acknowledge that and immediately moved her things. However, 10 minutes later she reverted to form. I had to lift the cover of her folder away from my area and balance it on my arm to fish in my own in tray for what I needed. Ridiculous. I then moved her folder, making sure she noticed – she was on a conference call so I couldn’t address her directly. 10 minutes later the same happened again, and this time I got completely exasperated and made a bigger show of closing her folder and shoving it back to her desk. I gave her an imploring look – she was still on the phone.

I am sure she is not deliberately trying to wind me up. She just genuinely doesn’t care much that I am bothered by this, and has no interest in changing her behavior. I love where I sit. Window seats are much coveted and generally given to people with long service, which is why I have one. I don’t want to give up this perk by moving to another desk. How should I handle this?

Repetition. Every time it happens, slide her stuff back over or tell her too. And be direct: “Jane, your stuff is in my space again. Please move it.” … “We have tiny desks here, and you’re making mine one-third smaller.” … “Your files are back.” … etc. If she’s anything approaching a reasonable person, a few days of doing this will get her to permanently stop.

Also, she’s being rude. You might feel rude by continuing reminding her about this, but you’re not the one being rude — don’t let let that get shifted to you along with the folders.

4. Weight loss surgery and work

I am currently in the process of getting insurance approval for weight loss surgery. This process takes months, but once the insurance approval is given — the surgery date can come pretty quickly thereafter (2-3 weeks). I don’t really want to alert my coworkers or my boss to the fact that I’m contemplating such a surgery in case I decide not to go through with it or insurance doesn’t cover it for some reason. I work in a small office where someone’s absence is very noticeable, and we do a lot of shuffling to cover tasks when someone is out. Is 2-3 weeks enough notice that I will be out of the office for 10-15 days for surgery? Do you think a reasonable employer would be upset if they found out that I had been planning this procedure for months without alerting him to the fact earlier?

Also, I’m not keen on letting my coworkers know why I will be getting surgery (they’re typically pretty nosy) – could you give me some guidance on how to explain my absence and my subsequent weight loss?

You have justifiable reasons for not wanting to announce the surgery before it’s a definite thing, and two to three weeks isn’t unreasonable when it’s for a medical reason. Plus, it’s not like you know the date and just aren’t telling them yet; there’s no date to share yet. I think your plan is fine. Also, when you tell your boss, you don’t need to specify what the surgery is or that you’ve been contemplating it for months. It’s fine to just say “I’ll be out for surgery on (dates). It’s nothing life-threatening, but it’s something I need to get taken care.”

You can use that same answer with nosy coworkers. If you don’t want to discuss it and anyone pries for more details, say, “I’d rather not get into it” or “nothing I want to discuss at the office” and then change the subject. As for the subsequent weight loss, that’s your call too. Share if you want to, but if you don’t, you can say, “Oh, I’m trying to avoid weight loss talk — it’s so easy to obsess” or any of the suggestions here.

5. If I’m told to leave after I resigned, was I fired?

If you go to your supervisor to turn in your letter of resignation and he/she tells you to just leave, is that considered being fired?

Nope. You resigned. They gave you a different last day than you were intended, but that doesn’t make your resignation a firing.

Some employers do have people leave immediately when they resign (in fact, there are whole industries that do it as a matter of course). Sometimes that’s a legitimate approach, but more often than not it’s punitive and silly.

I have a crush on a manager at work, my coworker keeps encroaching on my desk, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Thursday, May 26th, 2016 09:46 pm
Neanderthals Built Mystery Cave Rings 175,000 Years Ago

The Invention that Tamed America, and the Town Obsessed with It

Internet not much help finding Chechen leader's missing cat

Vegetarianism on the rise in Germany, but schools draw the line at veganism

Why baby turtles work together to dig themselves out of a nest

The simple labeling update that could prevent millions of tons of food from going in the trash

Why the First Cremation in the U.S. Was So Controversial

In changing oceans, cephalopods are booming

There’s no such thing as free will, but we’re better off believing in it anyway.

Reboot: Adidas to make shoes in Germany again – but using robots

Federal prison errors caused at least 150 delayed releases, report says

There’s software used across the country to predict future criminals. And it’s biased against blacks.

A World of Walls

Antibiotics that kill gut bacteria also stop growth of new brain cells

Venezuela leader says U.S. 'dreams' of dividing loyal military

A Severed Head, Two Cops, and the Radical Future of Interrogation

Oil Battles Wind on the Great Plains

Oil company records from 1960s reveal patents to reduce CO2 emissions in cars

Trump accepts climate change when it hits his golf course

The superbug that doctors have been dreading just reached the U.S.

Microplastics in the sea a growing threat to human health, United Nations warns

How Kosovo Was Turned Into Fertile Ground for ISIS

Al-Qaeda affiliates are threatening West Africa’s most peaceful cities

Tony Blair: Britain and US ‘profoundly’ underestimated chaos brought about by toppling of Saddam Hussein. (LOL, ya think?)
Thursday, May 26th, 2016 09:59 pm
I think I have finally managed to get 98% of my fic uploaded to my AO3 account ([ profile] synecdochic.) This includes most of the pre-popslash stuff that I can still stand to look at 15 years later...

Next step is going to be plumbing my old docs folders and posting the scraps of a few things I should just give up and admit I'm never going to finish. (I'm still holding out hope for some of them, but it's time to admit others are a lost cause.)

Meanwhile, I don't want to jinx it, but I've actually been (sort of) writing lately, alternating between an original novel and book 3 of Lullabye for the New World Order. I'm about 3/4ths of the way through chapter 14 of Lullabye, and this book brings us through to chapter 15. I don't want to get ahead of myself, especially since every time I do that my writing disappears again in a puff of smoke, but I'm starting to actually think the end might be in sight. (God do I miss being able to write.)

Also, for those who do not Twitter: I went on a Twitter rant about the new Captain America book and the stupid fucking things they're doing with it. (Being vague to avoid spoilers, but you probably couldn't miss the entire internet being fucking livid about it yesterday.) I put it together in a Storify if you want to read! (Subtitle: "On the heroic epic, the nature of story, the implied contract with the reader, the dumpster fire that is Marvel Comics' choice to pursue this storyline, and why indefinite copyright is harmful to contemporary myth: a cranky Twitter rant.")
Thursday, May 26th, 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, May 26th, 2016 07:36 pm
It's abundantly obvious that I have been neglecting my blog since Christmas.

Sorry about that.

I've been spending some time in thought trying to understand what the heck is going on. Finally, I believe I have discovered the cause of my reluctance to just write a few words and hit the publish button, for cryin' out loud.

Yes. I'm pretending that I don't have a chronic illness.

See? It's hard for me to even type the words Sjogren's syndrome. Denial is a powerful thing.

Even though I've finally realized WHAT I'm doing -- or not -- I have no desire whatsoever to spend the emotional energy discovering WHY. BICJ has put her imaginary foot down in refusal to poke or prod my psyche. She has thrown herself protectively in front of the emotional center of my brain and has declared, "ENOUGH."

For once, I agree completely with my bratty alter ego. It's time for an emotional time out from the feelings of loss or frustration or angst that have prevailed since the beginning of the year, including my ongoing battle with autoimmune disease. So I find myself focusing on pleasant things, and fun projects which require extensive online research and purchasing. Shopping! Woo hoo!

Blog about Sjogren's syndrome? What blog? What's a blog?

So I am going to indulge myself this summer to just write about people, places, and events that make my heart smile. The biggest grin inducing event lately has been my ongoing and tantalizingly close to finishing obsession with grey paint. And it has been just a hoot.

Well, it's been a hoot for me. I'm so lucky that I have such an amazing team of forcibly threatened slave workers volunteer painters. Specifically John and Terese. What a great job they did.

I just love the color that I chose. It's called "Aluminum Foil", which I think describes it perfectly.  It's so much fun to work with one of those strange chameleon type colors -- grey, blue, white.....the ambient light changes this color into one of a million different hues. Because who wants just ONE boring color on your walls?

Love this charcoal shag beauty. It's so great to have a cushy spot to just splat myself flat when I need to.

Y'all know the feeling.

See how the color of these flowers just pop against that soft grey?

Next up: Hanging the curtains.

One of the most fun things about this project is that each and every element of it was a screaming bargain. Paint? The best Sherwin Williams has at 40% off, including brushes, tray liners, painters tape and everything else that I could think of. Brushed nickel replacement cabinet hardware? A fraction of Lowe's prices. Curtains? An absolute steal at $24/pair of panels. Rug? Online bargain find at 70% off and free shipping. The fact that it was the second one that I bought because the first one I bought was bright blue instead of grey as advertised and I had to wrap up and send the first one back? Only meant more shopping. Bonus.

Ahhh. What fun. I wonder what's next............
Thursday, May 26th, 2016 05:59 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I was recently nominated by a senior work colleague and selected by a local organization’s committee to receive an award for making a positive impact in my community along with approximately 15 other community leaders. While I’m touched to have been nominated and selected, in order to receive this award, I have to pay $100 for my ticket to their annual fundraiser. The organization is also asking that I ask 10 friends to support the organization by purchasing tickets and making a $100 contribution.

While I feel touched to be nominated, I can’t afford to pay for my ticket and can’t commit to getting 10 people to attend and make a $200 contribution because of my circle’s own personal circumstances. This particular organization works in a limited geographic area and most of my friends and family are from out of town and wouldn’t be impacted by this org’s work anyway. In fact, I don’t even live in this org’s area.

I work for a nonprofit so I understand how fundraisers with honorees work, but this feels more like using me to get money than actually “honoring” me for my work, especially considering that that there are 15 other honorees. My colleague is thrilled they chose me and is going to the event, but I explained to her over text that I can’t commit to what they’re asking. She didn’t respond.

The event is next week. I got the notice earlier this week and I haven’t yet responded, but they are already billing me on their program. Can I or how do I get out of this graciously and without insulting the person who nominated me or creating bad blood in the workplace? I highly respect this person and I know she did it to try and help me in my career, but frankly, I feel insulted and think this “honor” is ridiculous. I’d really appreciate your insight.

It sounds like the event version of the old “Who’s Who” scam, where you get a letter or email telling you that you’re being included in the new edition of Who’s Who in American Teapot Making (or whatever your industry is) and you can order your own copy now for $100 … in other words, they gin up cash by “honoring” people and then charging them for it.

Whether or not this is really a scam (and it’s possible that it isn’t one, but the fact that they’re already billing you in their program before you’ve even said you’ll attend is pretty scammy), you can absolutely decline to attend. At a minimum, you could just say that you’re not able to attend and imply a conflict with the date. But it would also be perfectly reasonable to say, “I’m not able to buy a ticket or sell tickets for the event — how should we proceed?”

As for the colleague who nominated you, you’ve already told her that you can’t do what they’re asking. I’d just stick with that — and maybe add, “I’m flattered that you thought of me.”

Any chance she was a target of this same event herself previously, and now is being prompted by them to ensnare others? It wouldn’t surprise me if that’s how this went down.

I have to pay to be “honored” at an event was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Thursday, May 26th, 2016 06:00 pm

Posted by Brett Jonas

Quote Post Brett: “A kid on the tour the other day said we weren’t a farm because we don’t have pigs.”
Jade: “That’s okay. Someone asked me why we had so many sheep.”
Thursday, May 26th, 2016 04:30 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

Remember the letter-writer who got blackout drunk at her company holiday party and her coworkers wouldn’t stop joking about it? She was mortified because she’d realized that she had a drinking problem and needed to get help, but people at work were treating it like a hilarious joke, not realizing that it was a painful episode for her. Here’s the update.

In February, you gave me advice on how to stop my coworkers from teasing me after I got embarrassingly drunk at my holiday party. I wanted to send you an update about how it all went down.

I decided to talk directly to my coworkers instead of my manager. (I just thought my manager would either be unsympathetic or feel really bad since he had exacerbated the teasing by sending around that video of me.) After someone would bring it up, I’d privately speak to them. With two people I was honest about the alcoholism stuff, because I knew them well enough to think they’d understand. With most people, I said something along the lines of, “Gosh I was such a mess that that night! I can see why it’s so funny, although you can imagine I’m quite embarrassed. Actually, I was hoping we could put it to rest at this point. Could you help me out by changing the conversation when it comes up?”

Almost everyone responded well to this, and the teasing dropped off very quickly once I had asked 4 or 5 people to stop. It has come up occasionally since then, but it’s at a level I can deal with. Beyond that, my professional reputation doesn’t appear to have sustained any long-term damage, as I’ve been taking on more responsibility with great success.

So, my situation is resolved! Thank you for your excellent advice and for the compassion from all the commenters. I had intended to come back and reply to each comment individually but I became overwhelmed and, frankly, was not ready to accept so much understanding when I was feeling so much self-loathing. But I did read every single one, multiple times, and I really appreciate the support.

On that note… I’m up to four months sober. Learning to live without alcohol has been really hard and my life is pretty crappy right now, to be honest. But I don’t ever want to be in that situation again, so I’m sticking with it. Hopefully some day I will look back on this and be grateful it happened, since it prompted me to change.

Anyway, thank you for all the advice.

update: my coworkers mercilessly tease me about my drunken holiday party behavior was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Thursday, May 26th, 2016 02:59 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I have a colleague on another team who I rely on for information, etc. to complete projects, and who is often very slow getting back to me.

When I chase him up, he implies I am overreacting and says (in what I perceive to be a condescending tone), “Don’t worry, it will all get done” or “it’s okay, it’s okay, I will help you get it sorted” or “Don’t get upset, I’ll do it.”

I’m not upset. I am just trying to do my job, and I want him to do his! He often comes to my desk to say this, and I’m worried that it appears to other colleagues like I’m overly worried and in need of this reassurance/ support.

I have considered whether I am seeming overly stressed in my communications with him, but I haven’t had that feedback from others. I can’t help but feel that he is acting like this because he wants to deflect attention from how many deadlines he is missing (and maybe because he doesn’t like to be chased for deadlines by a much younger woman).

What can I say to him to convince him that I’m not stressed, and stop him talking about my feelings all the time? It’s very hard to say “I’m not worried” in a way which doesn’t suggest the opposite!

Ick, that would irk me too. It’s possible it’s a sort of verbal tic, but you’re absolutely right that it’s condescending whether he means it that way or not. And yes, it’s deflecting attention from the fact that you’re having to chase him down in the first place.

I’d say this: “Fergus, I don’t need to be reassured and I’m not upset. But I frequently have to follow up with you to get items, and that’s time I’d rather be spending on other things. Is there a better way for me to get this information from you?”

I like that language because it puts the focus back on him and forces him to answer a question about his work habits.

If you try this a couple of times and it still continues, then I’d say this: “Is there something I’m doing that make you think I need to be reassured like this?”

Making him fumble for an explanation is likely to discourage him from continuing it in the future. But if he still keeps it up, at that point your choices are to ignore or to keep calling him out on it. If you choose the latter:
– “I don’t need to be soothed. I just need X.”
– “There’s no need for all this emotional support. I just need X.”
– Or if you’re comfortable with it and your dynamic with him allows for this: “I’m sure you don’t mean it this way, but it comes across as awfully condescending to to say things like that.”

Of course, with all of this, make sure you’re speaking in a flat, calm tone or you’ll undermine the message.

my coworker keeps telling me not to worry when he’s slow in getting back to me was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Thursday, May 26th, 2016 02:00 pm

Posted by PJ Jonas

I walked out the front door this morning on my way to the soaproom.  I was immediately struck with what a beautiful morning it was.  It was nice and cool with a beautiful blue sky with white puffy clouds.  The sun was just coming up over the trees.  The goats were all at the back of the barn waiting for the boys to call their names so they could be milked.  The baby goats were running around.  And I thought to myself…

I love my life.

Jonas Family 2015_05-002

I do.  I love it.  Is it perfect?  Of course not.  Like everyone else, I have lots of problems.  But problems are a part of life – once one problem is solved, another will quickly rise up to take its place.

It’s not the fact that my life is “perfect” that makes me love it.  It’s the fact that I am finally living the life I’ve always wanted.

It hasn’t always been like this.  There was a time when I was living in Trenton, New Jersey.  Those of you who are familiar with Trenton know that it is about as polar opposite from Indiana as you could possibly be.

We had a big house, but it was on a tiny lot with a small fenced-in back yard.  We had an incredible security system because it wasn’t a safe neighborhood.  In fact, Jim had gone into our basement one day and discovered two homeless people sleeping there.  There was also prostitution further down our street.  And Trenton had a known gang problem.

So why were we living there?  Jim was teaching in inner-city Trenton at a charter school for children who weren’t succeeding.  We lived there for three years and they were great years.  I learned a lot while living there and reaching out to Jim’s students and our neighbors.

But it wasn’t my dream life.

We left New Jersey in 2004 and moved to Charlestown, Indiana.  And I was so much closer to my dream.  We had 3 acres for the children to run around and play on.  I was able to homestead and that’s where I got my first dairy goats and where Goat Milk Stuff was born.  We now had a family business where we could all work together and teach the children about running a business.

But moving to our current farm in Scottsburg, Indiana in 2012 really filled some desires that I had.  I always wanted the children to have woods.  Our Charlestown house only had a couple of pine trees on it.  I wanted them to be able to climb trees and build forts and explore and conquer.

I always wanted the children to have a creek.  I wanted them to watch the water movement and wade in it when it was hot out.

The Scottsburg farm has both woods and a creek.  And that makes me very happy for some silly reason.

What about you?  Where are you in your life?  Are you pleased with where you are?  Or do you have a bigger dream you’re working toward?

It’s important to know that I loved the previous versions of my life as well.  I wasn’t wishing away that present toward a hoped-for future.  But I kept working toward my dream.  I kept moving in the right direction (despite there being some backward steps at times).

I just want to encourage you that if you find yourself not loving your current life, figure out what it is you do want.  And figure out some steps you can take to get there.  It may not happen quickly (in fact, it rarely does).  It took me til my forties to reach where I am right now.

Some people may get to their dreams sooner and some people may get there later.  But if you keep the goal in mind and make small sacrifices along the way to help you get there, it is possible.

Don’t let anyone (including yourself) tell you that it isn’t possible to achieve your dreams.

Simply keep working, keep saving, and keep sacrificing.  And most of all, be patient.  We rarely get out dreams fulfilled as quickly as we would hope.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

My life is so much sweeter because I didn’t get here quickly or easily.  I appreciate it so much more because I know all the blood, sweat, tears, and sacrifice that went into it.

What are you working toward?




Thursday, May 26th, 2016 09:40 am
I’ve got to figure out a better way to do this whole sleeping thing. Cordelia wants me getting up with her because she’s afraid of oversleeping. It’s a real risk because she’s very tired most mornings and tends to close her eyes 'just for a minute.' We all know how that one ends.

The difficulty is that Cordelia gets up at 6:30. Scott gets up at 5:00 with a second alarm at 6:00. No matter what I do, I can’t get Scott to bed before 11:30. Every night, I end up getting up some time between midnight and 1:00 to use the bathroom. This means I really don’t get enough sleep. Last night, because Scott knew he had an extra hour and a half to sleep, he stayed up later than usual. I spent a lot of time dreaming that I’d slept through my alarm or forgotten to set it or something.

I’m trying to figure out what to do with today. Scott wants me to come up with things I want to do. I really don’t have ideas except for a handful of errands that shouldn’t take too long. Well, and some more sleep would be nice, but Thursday is a rotten time for that. The morning is the best time to run the errands in terms of me being comfortable, temperature wise, but I can’t nap in the afternoon because that’s when the cleaning lady comes.

I also have to pick a place for dinner which involves deciding how adventurous my digestive system is up to me being. If I’m being conservative then I ought to go for something like pancakes or a very meat and potatoes sort of meal. If I’m being adventurous, there’s Blue Nile or Totoro or any number of Chinese restaurants or maybe Palm Palace or Red Lobster. I don’t think that Cardamom (local Indian place) is a viable option for me for dinner even if I’m being adventurous because the level of spice varies wildly and I can’t eat anything particularly spicy after about 2:00.

Scott and I signed the contract last night for getting more insulation put in. I’m not particularly keen on the process, the jumping through hoops part, and I expect that the part where they pull off part of our aluminum siding will be very noisy. The guy said everything would take about six weeks, but I wasn’t clear if that was six weeks including scheduling or six weeks once they actually start putting stuff in. I can’t imagine how it would take six weeks for putting in the insulation. Our house is not particularly large or complicated.
Thursday, May 26th, 2016 04:03 am

Posted by Ask a Manager

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

1. How should I handle my employee complaints about her coworker?

I’m a budding supervisor and there is one employee who has brought forward many complaints against another employee. She claims that our clients have felt written off or discouraged by this other person but the clients do not want to come forward. The employee who’s being accused doesn’t seem to be doing these things but I am not fully sure now that these complaints have been brought forward. How should I move forward with this employee bringing up issues that are not her own?

You can ask the employee for more details about exactly how she knows this and weigh it against what you know of all parties (including her credibility), you can talk with clients yourself (saying that you’re checking in to see how things are going and in order to get feedback that will help your team do their jobs better), and/or you can observe things more closely yourself for a while — or some combination of these things.

You asked about how you should handle the employee “bringing up issues that are not her own.” I don’t think you should tackle it from that angle. If there’s a problem with her routinely raising issues without much merit, then yes, that’s something you’d need to address. But you want an environment where people feel safe talking to you when they have legitimate (to them) concerns, including worries about how clients are being treated. There’s certainly a point where that can become disruptive (such as when it’s constant or they keep bringing it up after you’ve told them you’ll handle it or the complaints are about things that don’t impact anyone). But imagine if it turned out that an employee was being rude to clients, and no one mentioned it to you because they thought they didn’t have standing to?

Of course, if you don’t think she’s operating in good faith, that’s a very different issue.

2. Is my coworker on shaky ground talking about our kickball league in interviews?

My office hosts a kickball team. The organizer of the team, who is very passionate about it (he sends weekly all-staff emails detailing the results of every game) is also in charge of hiring our entry-level employees. I found out that he may be discussing the league in interviews – maybe as an example of office culture? – and there’s a joke going around that he hires people who will help the team win. (This is a joke. I do think he would like new employees to join the
league, but I doubt he actually makes hiring decisions based on that.)

I worry about the perception applicants might be getting, that their desire and ability to play on the team could affect their hiring. The job has no relation to physical fitness – it’s an office setting. Could this be a liability for our organization, in terms of something like the Americans with Disabilities Act? Or am I way overthinking this?

It depends on what he’s actually saying. If he’s just mentioning the league as an example of office culture, which is what it sounds like you think it is, that’s fine to do. If he’s actually making hiring decisions based on athletic ability, or leading people to believe that he is, then yeah, you could have some ADA issues.

Even if that’s not happening, though, if he’s talking about it too much, he could be inadvertently alienating job candidates who aren’t athletic or aren’t interested in an office culture that is.

But it doesn’t sound like there’s actually reason to think any of that is happening. You say he “may” be discussing the league in interviews, which isn’t really enough to go on. If you’re worried, though, why not just ask him and tell him what you’re concerned about? He probably hasn’t even considered that angle.

3. How many vacation days can I take at once?

What is the maximum number of vacation days that should be taken at once?

I recently requested a two-week vacation, which my manager approved without hesitation. My company allows three weeks of vacation time per year, and it appears that most of my coworkers use their full allotment. I gave several months of advance notice and ensured that my trip would not coincide with any major deadlines. However, when I told my parents about my plans, they thought that two weeks was too long, and I should only take vacation in installments of one week or less.

Flights are already booked, but I’m wondering for future reference – is two weeks too long for a vacation?

There’s some variation on this, but nope, in most offices that’s not too long. There are some offices that prefer people to limit it to one week, but if you work in one of those, they’ll tell you if you’re asking for too much at once (and even then you can usually get exceptions made — some trips really can’t be done in one week).

But the most relevant question is what’s okay in your office, and it sounds like this is just fine with them. Tell your parents that it’s fine with your boss, who approved it without hesitation.

4. Before taking time off, we’re supposed to email our whole team to see if anyone objects

I recently started with a new company as a manager, and I work directly for the director, who is also a good friend of mine. He requires that if anyone in our department of nine wants to take time off, they have to email the rest of the team to see if any of them have any issues with the time off request and they need to reply if they do or not (of course nobody ever replies with “yes, I have an issue”). What is your opinion on this?

It’s pretty odd and feels like it’s giving other people more power than they should have. I mean, if Cecil has an issue with you going to the doctor on Friday, does that mean he gets to veto it?

I assume he thinks that this will help prevent scheduling snafus — like if Cecil was counting on you to help with a project that absolutely must happen on Friday, now he’ll be able to speak up and tell you that. But a better system — and the more typical system — would be for your manager to expect you to manage your own workload and alert people who might be impacted by your absence. After you’ve been there longer, I’d suggest that.

5. Letting employer pay for future expenses when I think I might be gone by then

I have what I think is an ethical question. I’m interviewing for a position outside of my company. I’ve had two interviews with different companies, and I think they went well. My professional association membership fee is due that my company pays, but I feel a little weird about having the company pay if if I’m leaving. Also, we have some training scheduled in a few months and now is the time I’d usually buy my plane ticket. I’m wondering if I should wait and not buy the plane ticket until I know what happens with these interviews.

What’s the right thing to do when you might be leaving your job but have expenses that are customarily paid by your employer?

Act as if you’re not leaving until you know for sure that you are (meaning that you have a job offer that you’ve accepted). It’s just not practical to put things like this on hold while you wait to see how your job search plays out. You could get an offer tomorrow, or you could still be at your old job in six months. (You could also get a job offer and turn it down, if you can’t come to terms on salary and other details.) The only reasonable course of action is to proceed as if you’ll still be there until you know otherwise with certainty.

Your employer is very used to having people leave after they’ve already paid for plane tickets, conference registrations, membership dues, training classes, and all sorts of other things. That’s just how this stuff goes. It’s a slightly inconvenient but very normal part of doing business, and no reasonable employer will hold it against you.

talking to job candidates about our kickball league, handling complaints about an employee, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Wednesday, May 25th, 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
Wednesday, May 25th, 2016 06:00 pm

Posted by Brett Jonas

Quote Post Jade: “Baby bunnies look weird.”
Indigo: “They do not! They look adorable.”
Jade: “Not when they’re first born!”
Indigo: “…okay, you’re right.”
Wednesday, May 25th, 2016 02:50 pm
Anyone interested in a set of the Baum Oz books? I’m pretty sure I’ve got all of them. They’re mass market paperbacks. Most of them are the Del Rey edition, but the copy of The Land of Oz isn’t. It’s got a green cover and so doesn’t match the rest. Taken.

I’ve also got a handful of Great Brain books. I don’t think I can donate them to the school library because they’ve been weeding those out of the collection for the last four or five years (that’s how I ended up with so many duplicates. I forgot what I already had).

Also, anybody local want a paraffin bath? I haven’t touched it since before Cordelia was born, so I can’t be certain that it still works, but it worked then, and I only used it about three times. It’s the right size for a foot or a hand up to the wrist. I’m pretty sure we have some clean paraffin to go with it, but until I open the bin where it’s stored, I can’t be certain, and that bin is shoved to the farthest point under the stairs. If someone’s actually interested, I’ll brave the cobwebs to pull it out.
Wednesday, May 25th, 2016 02:17 pm
It’s very warm in here. The air conditioner is actually running which means it must be at least 80F. I’m very tempted to move into the basement even though it would mean either sitting on the floor or doing a lot of work to set up a place to sit. It would also mean giving up on watching DVDs for today. Most of them are due Sunday, and I’d prefer to return them rather than renew them. I’ve got one new library DVD that I’ll get out on Sunday, and I was thinking of trying some documentaries to see if I can find any that aren’t stressful.

Cake baking is not happening today. It’s too warm in here for me to run the oven for an hour.

I’ve started a list of things I want to do while Scott’s at home tomorrow. Having someone to lift boxes and drive the car during the day on a weekday is a big thing. Ideally, we’ll take books to the school and books to the downtown library for the Friends of the Library and go to the post office to ship two packages (one is ready; one still needs padding and addressing).

Finally, I want to go to the bus company’s office on S. Industrial to buy some half price bus tokens. We’ve got about twenty left at this point which would get me and Cordelia through a year pretty easily if all we use them for is trips to the dentist and the orthopedist. I don’t pay anything to ride the bus, so she’s the one who would use the tokens. I’m just hoping that she’ll start riding the bus for other things. The hitch is that the bus company only sells the half price tokens in multiples of 100, so getting them is expensive, and, well, I’m not sure we’ll use 100 before she graduates high school and has to pay full price. I suppose it would depend on where she ends up going for high school. With certain schools, we’d use a lot more than 100 tokens. (Sixteen years ago, when I was still working, a bus pass was only better than tokens if one was riding more than ten times a week. At ten times a week, a bus pass cost the same per ride as the tokens. I have no idea if that’s still true.)
Wednesday, May 25th, 2016 05:59 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I’m wondering how to handle a situation as a relatively new manager. I currently have just one direct report, Charles.

About a year ago, we got a new president at our mid-size nonprofit. The new president, Sam, was apparently hired for his expertise in the field and definitely not in managing an organization. This isn’t just my opinion; it’s a widespread and not-well-hidden sentiment across the company that people are unhappy with his style and often odd ideas.

My question is how to convey to Charles that I realize Sam is often not making good decisions or even acting professionally, without undermining the organization’s leadership. For instance, Sam will want us to roll out a poorly thought-out communications plan (not his area of expertise and not expected to be) that doesn’t make sense to Charles and me, even after we’ve explained to Sam why it probably won’t work.

I’ve said things to Charles things in the past such as “this is what the president wants so we just have to do it.” But should I pretend I think it might work, even though I know and Charles knows it won’t, and then be seen as naive by my employee?

My previous boss actually retired rather than continue working with Sam, and my new boss is very hands-off, so I doubt she’d be much help. I also know that Charles hears others in the company express derision and disbelief toward Sam, so it’s not as if he won’t hear it if he doesn’t hear it from me.

Yeah, this is a very fine line to walk.

You shouldn’t pretend you think Sam’s ideas are great if they’re not, but you also shouldn’t trash-talk him to Charles or otherwise express contempt or derision. Part of that is because it’s just not professional or good for your own reputation to trash the head of your organization (even when others are doing it, unless it’s part of a constructive discussion to bring about change). And part of it is that particularly as a manager, you have an obligation to talk about management decisions with respect because (a) the managers above you are trusting you to do that, and it will destroy their trust in you if they find out that you’re not, and (b) it will create some pretty severe cynicism among the people you manage if you don’t, and that will harm your own effectiveness in the long run.

So where does that leave you? Ideally you’d stay matter-of-fact and focus on the pieces that you can control. For example, that might end up sounding like this:
* “It’s not what I would have recommended, but Sam likes it because of X. So let’s talk about how to make that work.”
* “I recommended we do Y, and he heard me out but he’s committed to X because of ____. So let’s talk about what kind of plan we can put together for X.”
* “I think your concerns are well taken and this wouldn’t be the decision that I would have made, but I wasn’t privy to all the considerations that have gone into it.”

Tone really, really matters here — “It’s not the path I would have chosen but let’s give it shot” can sound very different depending on whether it’s delivered in a calm, neutral tone (which is what you should be going for) or an annoyed, frustrated tone followed by a sign and an eye roll. Avoid the sighs and the eye rolls. You can disagree while still being respectful.

Also, depending on how things play out, at some point it might make sense to have a big-picture conversation with Charles about what’s going on. You could say something like, “You know, I think it’s probably clear to you that Sam and I don’t see eye-to-eye on communications strategy. To some extent, that’s okay — I don’t expect to always agree with the person in his role on everything. I want you to know, though, that I do push back on things that I feel are particularly important. I don’t always convince him, but I do try it when I think it matters.” You could even add, “It can be challenging to work with someone with a different perspective, and if you ever have questions about why we’re handling something a certain way or what the other options were, I hope you’ll come talk to me.”

And make sure that’s really true. If you’re high enough up on the organization, you should be pushing back with Sam. This will depend heavily on your role but if you’re, say, the head of communications, you actually have a professional obligation to speak up and advocate for more effective communications strategies. There’s certainly a point where you just need to take no for an answer, but don’t skip this step if you’re in a position to do it.

Also, don’t skip talking to your own manager. You say she’s hands-off and you doubt she’d be of much help, but “doubt” isn’t the same as “know.” Talk to her. Tell her your concerns, and ask if there’s a way to push back on some of the most egregious stuff coming from Sam. And while you’re at it, ask for her advice in navigating this with Charles, because if she hasn’t thought about how this is playing out with the people below her, she should.

And really, at some point (possibly right now) you’ll need to think about how this will affect you professionally. If this kind of thing is only happening occasionally, it may not matter at all. But if it’s regular, it’s going to impact the projects that you do and the successes you have (or don’t have) and in time will impact the reputation of your organization. That can affect your future job prospects, so there’s a limit to how long you should stay if this doesn’t improve.

One litmus test: If you get to the point where you can’t avoid talking about Sam in a frustrated tone or find yourself furious or disgusted more than occasionally, it’s time to move on. When you get to that point, you’re doing professional damage to yourself by staying.

can I signal to my employee that I realize our boss sucks? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016 04:30 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I don’t start my new job for another month. My new boss is already sending me emails detailing meetings I will have to attend after I start — sort of setting up a calendar for me with names, locations, things I am unfamiliar with.

At the moment, I am dealing with relocating and finding a place to live, which he is aware of. Can I ask him to stop? I am not even on the payroll yet; it seems not nice to bombard me with this stuff when I am already spending all my time setting up my life to just get my life situated to start the job. I don’t know if I can diplomatically say something now-and set some boundaries-or if I should just let it go.

I answer this question — and four others — 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.

my future boss won’t stop emailing me was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016 02:00 pm

Posted by PJ Jonas

Because my family does not eat a lot of processed food, we don’t consume many foods that are “iron enriched”. I was recently asked by a customer if I was concerned about my family becoming anemic. I haven’t seen any signs of anemia in the children or Jim, but I do have the tendency to become anemic if I’m not being careful about my diet.

Anemia, or iron deficiency, is a common problem. According to WebMd,

Anemia is a condition that develops when your blood lacks enough healthy red blood cells or hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a main part of red blood cells and binds oxygen. If you have too few or abnormal red blood cells, or your hemoglobin is abnormal or low, the cells in your body will not get enough oxygen. Symptoms of anemia — like fatigue — occur because organs aren’t getting what they need to function properly. Anemia is the most common blood condition in the U.S. It affects about 3.5 million Americans. Women, young children, and people with chronic diseases are at increased risk of anemia.

I do not take iron supplements because I do not find them to be very effective. I’d rather get my iron from whole foods. So every morning, I make sure to drink a big glass of raw goat milk with lots of molasses and cocoa. I drink the raw goat milk because I believe it is good for everything, the molasses because it is a good source of bio-available iron, and the cocoa because I like it.

But my personal feelings about the goodness of raw goat milk aside, I recently discovered some research showing that goat milk actually does improve anemia – and it improves it better than cow milk does!

A research study was performed in 2011 by Javier Díaz Castro, a professor at the University of Granada in Spain’s Department of Physiology. The reseach was performed on rats and showed that not only does goat milk increase the body’s ability to absorb and use both calcium and iron, but it also does this better and faster than cow milk.

I found the study in the Journal of Dairy Science, and printed it out for myself to read.  I had to really concentrate and do a lot of googling to understand parts of it.  I’m listing the important parts below and then I’ve added my translations of the science.  So if you don’t have a chance to concentrate, you may just want to read my translations.

Study: In anemic rats, goat milk with normal Fe content increased levels of the biomarker of bone formation N-terminal propeptides of type I procollagen and diminished parathyroid hormone levels after only 10 d of supplying this diet, indicating the beginning of restoration of the bone demineralization induced by the anemia, which was not observed with cow milk.

My translation: Rats were forced to become anemic.  This raised their parathyroid hormone levels.  When those hormones are high, calcium is removed from the bones, which is demineralization of the bones, which is bad.  After this point, some rats were fed goat milk (that had not been fortified with extra iron) and some rats were fed cow milk.  The rats that were fed the goat milk had their bones start to repair themselves within 10 days.  The rats that were fed the cow milk did not see improvement within 10 days.

Study: In addition, a higher Ca deposit was observed in femur, which positively affects bone mineralization, as well as an increase of Fe in sternum, which indicates that the hematopoietic process essentially recovered earlier on the goat milk diet compared with the cow milk diet.

My translation: The researchers took both the femurs (leg bones) and sternums (chest bones) from the rats to compare them.  The rats fed goat milk, had more calcium in the femurs and more iron in the sternum than those fed cow milk.  This implies that the production of the blood cells in the bone marrow (the hematopoietic process) was improved faster by the goat milk than the cow milk.

Study: Previous studies (Campos et al., 19982007) reported that Fe-deficient rats had decreased femur mineralization that was accompanied by higher levels of cortisol and parathyroid hormone (PTH), increasing bone fragility.

My translation: In rats, anemia is correlated not only with less mineralization in their femurs, but these anemic rats also had higher levels of cortisol – the stress hormone.  I found that very important because keeping my cortisol levels low is a goal of mine and knowing that anemia can make this worse was something I had never before been aware of.

This next section of the study is a long one that took me a while to unravel, so you may want to skip to my translation.

Study: The interaction existing between Ca and Fe is well known. Divalent metal transporter-1, the principal mechanism by which nonheme Fe is taken up at the intestinal brush border, is shared also by Ca. Therefore, Ca acts as a low-affinity noncompetitive inhibitor (but not a transported substrate) of divalent metal transporter-1, explaining the inhibitory effect of dietary Ca on Fe bioavailability (Shawki and Mackenzie, 2010).

Milk has a high Ca bioavailability and therefore can affect in a positive way the process of bone mineralization (Campos et al., 2007). Goat milk improves Fe bioavailability in anemic rats, increasing Fe deposits in target organs and favoring the recovery of hematological parameters. Goat milk fat is richer in medium-chain triglycerides, which are rapidly absorbed and metabolized to obtain energy increasing the synthesis of carrier proteins and thus the absorption of Fe. Goat milk has higher contents of vitamin A and C, which would favor once again Fe absorption (Alférez et al., 2006). In addition, goat milk consumption improves the digestive and metabolic utilization of Ca and P and their deposits in the corresponding target organs, minimizing the interactions between Ca and Fe (Campos et al., 2007).

These precedents led us to study the influence of goat or cow milk-based diets, with either a normal Fe content or Fe overload, and supplied for 10, 30, or 50 d, on the bone remodeling process impaired because of Fe-deficiency anemia, to determine if goat milk consumption could have a positive effect on this process.

My translation: Bioavailability is how easy it is for the targeted nutrient to be absorbed and used by the body.  When we consume calcium, it inhibits the bioavailabilty of iron, or the ability of our bodies to be able to make use of that iron we consumed.  That means that even if you are consuming enough iron, if you’re consuming too much calcium (or the wrong kind of dietary calcium), your body can’t make use of the iron it consumes.

The researchers wanted to compare goat milk to cow milk to find out if goat milk was better.  They thought it might be because

  • Goat milk in particular has been shown to improve the iron bioavailability in anemaic rats
  • Goat milk is richer in medium-chain triglycerides which makes iron more bioavailable
  • Goat milk has higher contents of vitamin A and vitamin C, which both also help iron be absorbed
  • Goat milk improves use of Calcium and Phosphorus which leaves less calcium to interfere with iron absorption.

The researchers knew (as I do), that goat milk is awesome stuff and they wanted to find out if it was more helpful for anemia than cow milk.

Study: The beneficial effect of goat milk on mineral metabolism has been well documented: it improves Fe bioavailability (Alférez et al., 2006; Nestares et al., 2008), and the Fe is available for hydroxylation processes and then in the biosynthesis of vitamin D.

My translation: Goat milk is good for allowing your body to absorb and use iron and can help your body more effectively produce vitamin D (another important vitamin that is added to processed foods to fortify them).

Study: feeding diets with normal Fe content resulted in a decrease of PTH in the anemic animals that consumed goat milk (P < 0.001) and an increase in those that consumed cow milk (P < 0.001). Iron overload produced a marked decrease of PTH levels in control animals that consumed goat milk-based diet (P < 0.001), whereas an increase was observed (P < 0.05) in those fed a cow milk-based diet. These results are in agreement with the increase in nutritive utilization of Ca, because of the greater absorption of this mineral, as previously reported Campos et al. (2007)).

My translation: When parathyroid hormone (PTH) levels are high, calcium is removed from the bones.  So, high PTH is bad; low PTH is good (in very simplistic terms).

If you feed anemic rats with goat milk, their PTH levels go down.
If you feed anemic rats with cow milk, their PTH levels go up.

This most likely has to do with the fact that goat milk calcium bioavailability is greater than cow milk calcium bioavailability.

Study: Goat milk has a high content of vitamin D (Alférez et al., 2006), which favors Ca energy-dependent transcellular saturable transport. Moreover, the lactose in this type of milk is more digestible compared with cow milk and easy to absorb. According to Heaney (1996)), these factors favor Ca absorption via paracellular pathway, which explains the greater Ca deposits in the femurs of rats fed goat milk diets with normal Fe or Fe overload. This could be because nutritive utilization of Fe from goat milk is better than from cow milk, thereby replenishing more efficiently the depleted body stores and, under these conditions, the quantity of available oxygen and ATP increases, recovering the carriers of Ca most efficiently, which favors Ca absorption via active transport (Conrad and Umbreit, 1993). Something similar happens with P, because the absorption of this element is performed, in part, via active transport (López-Aliaga et al., 1994). In addition, goat milk reduces the interactions between Ca and Fe, thus increasing the digestive utilization of both minerals (Barrionuevo et al., 2002; Campos et al., 2003). The lower interaction between Ca and Fe in animals fed goat milk diet can improve Ca nutritive utilization (Barrionuevo et al., 2002; Campos et al., 2003; Alférez et al., 2006).

My Translation: Goat milk is high in Vitamin D (good).  The lactose in goat milk is also more easily digested and absorbed than cow milk.  In goat milk (as compared to cow milk), there is less interaction between calcium and iron. These factors may explain why calcium is more bioavailable when it comes from goat milk than when it comes from cow milk.

Study: Therefore, it is evident that the repletion of Fe in sternum had begun earlier in rats fed the goat milk diet and it is noteworthy that this bone has an important hematopoietic function.

My Translation: Not only is there more calcium in the bones with the goat milk, but there is more iron in the bones (in this study the sternum was tested).  This is important because iron in the sternum is very important to how your bone marrow creates healthy blood cells.

Now that we have all of the basics out of the way, let’s look at the conclusion.

Study: In only 10 d of supplying goat milk, bone demineralization induced by Fe deficiency began to recover, as evidenced by the increase of the bone formation biomarker PINP and diminishing PTH levels. If the consumption of milk-based diets was prolonged (for 30 or 50 d), the parameters of bone remodeling recovered with both milk-based diets, although bone remodeling was restored earlier in animals fed the goat milk-based diets, and feeding a goat milk-based diet favors the mineralization of femur and sternum, improving bone metabolism and hematopoietic process. Therefore, inclusion of goat milk is recommended in diets of humans who suffer nutritional Fe-deficiency anemia, because this type of milk helps to relieve the adverse effects produced in bone turnover due to the Fe deficiency.

Why is all of this important?  Because of how it relates to humans.  The researchers concluded that goat milk is recommended for people who suffer from iron deficiency (caused by problems with their diet) because it can relieve or even possibly reverse the negative effects of iron deficiency on the human body.

Now that is important.

I get so excited when I see studies like this.  Goat milk, in my opinion, is very under-appreciated in this country.  And the more it is studied, the more benefits are discovered.   I would also like to point out that this study used powdered milk.  It didn’t even use raw milk fresh from the farm.

I know that was a lot more science than I usually write about, but what did you think?   Are you a new goat milk believer?




Wednesday, May 25th, 2016 02:59 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

My manager, “Trish,” believes face-time = productivity. Last year, she started allowing people to work from home one day a week based on pressure from upper management because our group was not working remotely during weather-related closings. Most of us did not have the VPN required to do so and because she generally did not work from home at all.

Trish’s solution was to allow everyone to work from home one day a week and she would control the schedule. If you have off another day during the week for a scheduled day off or a holiday, your work-from-home day is cancelled. Also, we are allowed to start at 7 a.m. if we work in the office, but on work-from-home days, we must start no earlier than 7:30. I can’t see any reason for this.

You cannot work from home if you are just under the weather and don’t want to infect anyone else.

Recently, she cancelled all work-from-home for June (and was somewhat gleeful about it), stating that we had too many meetings that month.

I and another colleague have a weekly meeting with Trish. She told us that her plan for July and August was to allow everyone to choose their own work-from-home day, but if people chose Friday, they would have to work later than the 2:00 closing we get on Fridays in the summer. Also, in this meeting, she told us that she considers work-from-home days as days off for us.

There is nothing in our job that cannot be done from home, so that’s not an issue. I understand that my manager has every right to regulate work-from-home privileges. However, telling us that she considers working from home days as days off and making arbitrary changes in start times on those days frustrates me and throws off the benefits of being able to do it in the first place. Other groups in our company are allowed to work from home whenever they need to or in the event of minor illnesses, and we have many people who work from home permanently.

My other issue is that Trish nickels and dimes our PTO. I am salaried, and she made me charge a half hour of PTO one day when I had to leave a little early to go to the doctor I offered to come in early or make it up the day before or afterwards, but she was not having it. This causes me a lot of personal stress because I have a very large family and even though my husband helps with illnesses, doctor appointments, etc., I always run out of time by October. Again, other departments are allowed to make up time in these circumstances.

These two issues have made me start looking for other positions in the company, even though for the most part I am happy in my job and know that my director is trying to carve out a career path for me in our division.

I have a very good relationship with my boss and I have been told I am the top performer in my group. I know she really depends on me and gives me the hardest and trickiest work to complete because she knows I’ll do it well. My director has also tapped me for special projects to complete with other groups. I don’t let my disagreements with her decisions affect how I do my work. I always strive for excellence.

I have a quarterly performance review next month, and she always gives me a chance to discuss any of my concerns. Should I bring up my dissatisfaction with her work-from-home and PTO policies? If so, can you give me some wording to approach it tactfully?

Yes, bring it up!

It sounds like she was forced into allowing work-from-home from above, but she so dislikes it that she’s openly penalizing people for using it. And telling you that she considers telecommuting to be days off? That’s ridiculous, and I highly doubt that it was what your employer intended when they pressured her to change on this issue.

On the nickeling and diming you on PTO: It’s not uncommon for companies to handle PTO the way she is, but it’s terrible policy. Where’s the incentive for you to put in extra hours if she’s not giving you the same flexibility in return? And since other managers in your company handle it differently, it’s clearly not a company policy, just her own overly rigid preference.

Anyway, she clearly likes and values you, so you’ve got some capital to expend and some standing to speak up.

I’d say this to her: “For the most part, I’m very happy here, but there are two areas that are impacting my thinking about the role long-term. The first is that while the company has pushed the ability to work from home, you’ve been pretty clear that you don’t see it as really working and have sometimes penalized people who choose to do it, such as X and Y. One of the things that keeps me with the company is its embrace of telecommuting, and so it’s frustrating to feel like we’re out of sync with the rest of the company on this. My other concern is that I’m regularly generous with my availability — I work extra hours in the evening or over the weekend when the work requires it, and I’d like to have the same flexibility in return, meaning that I’d like to be able to leave a little early or come in a little late for doctor’s appointments and so forth without having my PTO docked in half-hour increments. As a salaried employee, I’m expected to put in the time it takes to get the job done, and it’s demoralizing to feel that’s not recognized when I need to duck out half an hour early on occasion. I know that other departments don’t handle PTO that way, and I’d like us to move more in that direction.”

You might also say, “With both of these issues, the common theme is that I want to be trusted to be responsible in managing my work and my time. I think I’ve proven my work ethic and my dependability, but both these policies make me feel that I’m not trusted to make responsible decisions.”

Frankly, you might also consider talking to someone above her if you have good rapport with them — or possibly HR, if they were involved in the nudge to get her to allow telecommuting. In fact, if you know who was responsible for that nudge, that person would probably be pretty interested in hearing about how she’s still resisting doing it. “Let your people telecommute” doesn’t mean “allow it begrudgingly and find ways to punish people for using it,” and I’d bet that someone above her would be pretty cranky if they heard this.

my manager believes that working from home is a day off work was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016 09:41 am
“Should we forgive ourselves for not forgiving those who harmed us?”


This is your prompt.

Be sure to tag with #isfpprompts so that we may track and reblog your work.

(via isfpprompts)

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016 09:14 am


QUERY: How long will it take to dispel the mess inhabiting my kitchen?

HYPOTHESIS: How long is eternity? What infinite matter can be found a grain of sand? Abandon any foolish belief that you can bring forth change, craven mortal: The universe is vast, and you are so very small.

REALITY: Nineteen minutes.