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Wednesday, August 5th, 2015 12:30 am
We shared a few 'Triple Chocolate Meltdown' cakes. Mmmmmmmm.....

Yesterday was my friend Bev's birthday. Which meant that several of her friends including me took her out for a very enjoyable birthday luncheon. The wait staff at the restaurant were extremely tolerant of our lengthy visit which lasted about two hours. We yakked and laughed over lunch, dessert and a few adult beverages; the exception being Susan who graciously offered to be our designated driver.

So I've got to be honest here and say that although I periodically enjoy adult beverages, the margarita that was served to me was seriously potent.

Oh, my.

I came home from lunch, took a nap, woke up, and then went back to bed. I think my brain is still recuperating from that frosty drink.

And my tongue is furry. See y'all tomorrow..
Wednesday, August 5th, 2015 04:03 am

Posted by Ask a Manager

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

1. Should I stop baking for my husband’s coworkers?

I read your post from 2012 about why it could be a bad thing to bake for coworkers. Here is my situation: I bake for my husband’s coworkers. I am a stay-at-home mom/housewife, and I always thought it was a nice gesture for him to take home-baked goods to his coworkers. However, my husband told me last time it was awkward. No one ate any and never said anything about it.

Did I offend them or make his life more difficult? He is an electrician and works with three other guys and his female secretary. I want to know what is appropriate. I definitely don’t want them to think he is a joke or I am a kiss-ass. Would it be appropriate to bake goods around the holidays only? Your advice would be greatly appreciated!

Aw, that’s very nice of you.

As with so many workplace things, how this will go over depends on the office and the dynamics of the people involved, but you should pay attention to the signals you get.

What that means in practice: In many offices, this would be lovely and appreciated (although even there, I’d only do it on occasion so that he doesn’t become known for his wife’s baked goods rather than for his work). But in other offices, it might be out of sync with the culture. It sounds like your husband is telling you that that might be the case with his office; for whatever reason, it’s not something that goes over well there. Who knows why — it could be that the four people there are all watching what they eat, or just didn’t love the last thing you baked, or are in and out all day and didn’t even notice it there, or are unhappy with your husband for work-related reasons and thus will not be tempted into eating your cake, or all sorts of other things.

It’s hard to know from the outside. But it was nice of you to bake for them, I don’t think it was a major misstep, and I wouldn’t worry about whether you did something wrong. I do think, though, that you probably shouldn’t continue it now that you have this feedback. Direct your baking energies toward people who you know appreciate it — neighbors, friends, family, etc. There shouldn’t be a shortage of people who want to eat delicious baked goods, even if your husband’s coworkers aren’t among them!

2. My job wants me to take a laptop on vacation

I work part-time (18-30 hours/week depending on demand) in a small office and take care of all paperwork – A/P, A/R, HR, customer service, payroll, business filings, etc . I have been here over 5 years and last year was first time I took a week off for vacation. I am taking a week off this year – it is unpaid as I do not receive sick or vacation benefits. I notified my boss about 6 months before the wee . They are now asking me to bring a laptop and be available to them while I am away. Frankly, I feel it is my time, which they aren’t paying me for, and I should be able to take a week away. They can absolutely function for a week without me; it just requires them to be in the office a little more than usual. How should I handle this request?

By saying no. Say this: “I’m taking a real vacation and won’t be reachable or able to do any work while I’m there. Let’s go over what you might need from me while I’m away, and we can get everything set up before I go — but I am going to be totally disconnected while I’m gone.”

If it gives you mental permission to say this, you can try blaming it on a promise to whoever you’re traveling with (“I promised my husband the week would be totally work-free”) or that there won’t be reliable internet or phone access where you’re going.

3. Why don’t some employers send rejections?

Why don’t some employers call back to let candidates know they have not been selected? I find that so disrespectful. I have had that happen to me at least 3 times in the past months. On my last one, I spoke with another candidate who I knew also applied and she said they offered her the position a week ago. Yet they did not contact me to let me know the position has been filled.

During the interview, I always ask, “Will someone let me know one way or the other?” and they always say yes. Then they never do. Why is that, and is there a way to prevent it?

Because they are rude and inconsiderate.

But there’s not really any way to prevent it. You’re better off just assuming you didn’t get the job, putting it out of your mind, moving on mentally, and letting it be a pleasant surprise if they do contact you.

In fact, I’d probably even stop asking whether they’ll let you know one way or another. The polite ones will, and the rude ones will often tell you that they will but not end up doing it. So it’s not a useful question and just messes with your head.

4. My employee says I’m not his boss

I am a professional photographer and I have a studio in London with three employees: one photographer, one assistant photographer, and one salesperson.

The salesman hasn’t got a fixed salary; he is on commission only and so he’s been doing a great job. Last month he took home £4.500 for himself. But I had to remind him that I’m the boss for something I’ve asked him many times to be done and he decided by himself not just do as I said. His reply was: “I would like to remind you that you are NOT my boss because I work here on commission only.”

As the owner of the business that pays him 25% of commission on his sales, if I am not the boss, who am I in my own business?

You’re his boss. You’re the person who hired him, the person who oversees his work, and the person who decides whether or not to continue to employ him. Working on commission only doesn’t mean not having a manager; it’s just a different way of getting paid.

It sounds like you need to sit down with him and clarify each of your expectations.

5. Should I ask for a raise?

I have been at my current job for a year and a half. They started me off at entry-level wages, which I was fine with because I was entry-level. But now I have much more experience under my belt and I have gradually taken on a more responsibilities than I started with.

My original job was a very simple job that was quite easy (read: boring). However, my workload has been added to – most notably back in May when one of the three employees in my department got promoted to a different position in the company and I ended up taking on many of her responsibilities, as I am now the most senior member of the department and the other person had only been here for three months and was still learning the job. My manager is (slowly) looking to hire another person in our department who would basically take over my original responsibilities which I’m currently still doing on top of everything else. So my workload will eventually go down, but I will still have more responsibilities than I did when I was originally hired.

There were two reasons that I didn’t ask about a raise in May when I took on all the responsibilities: First, in the meeting where our manager told us that Miss Piggy was being promoted out of our department, Kermit (who had only been at the company for 3 months at the time) asked if that meant that we would get a raise since we were taking on her responsibilities. After a rather awkward pause, my manager replied that we would wait and see how it went. Second, in conversations with one of my coworkers, who has been at the company for 15+ years, I found out that they usually had done raises in July, so I decided to wait until July to give it a few months, as my manager had suggested anyway.

At this point, I am working overtime almost everyday in order to keep up with my work – which is fine because the extra money is nice, but starting in September it will become more difficult, as on top of working full-time I’m also a full time student. As of this writing, it’s the end of July and no one has mentioned a raise (they didn’t do raises last year either). Should I ask for a raise now? Should I have asked for a raise in May?

Ask for a raise now. Put together a case that shows how much more work you’ve taken on since starting over a year ago, and how your contributions have increased significantly since your salary was last set.

Should you have asked in May? Nah, this timing is better. It’s usually easier to make a case for a raise when you can point to increased responsibilities that you have been doing (and excelling at), rather than things that you will be doing.

should I stop baking for my husband’s coworkers, my job wants me to take a laptop on vacation, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015 10:23 pm
Yesterday I left home with 8 hours to make a 4 hour drive, hoping to explore the Heldserbergs and Poconos a bit. Instead I spent three hours in a garage getting the car's thermostat replaced. I did make two brief stops, and look forward to more exploring going home. But in the end, arrived at my hotel much later than planned, with no time for food before Vespers. So I decided to go to Vespers and then skip the rehearsal afterwards to eat. Turns out I would have left anyway, as Vespers just went all wrong for me in my tired state. It was mostly rambly preaching, and I didn't have music for the one participatory song and no one shared with me, and someone sang a song I detest. There was also much welcoming of folks who have been coming to the conference for many years, and not one single word of welcome for first-timers like me. Back to the hotel where the hot tub wasn't hot and the pool was infested with lots of very loud children. I was exhausted and miserable; emailed the conference director about the lack of welcome and went to bed.

This morning opened with a very clear and warm welcome to newcomers-- maybe my email nudged, though I didn't get a response. Then began the fun of singing. I estimate we sang through 75 anthems today, including working on several extensively. There are about 200 of us, all pretty experienced choral singers, so the sound is pretty incredible even though we're sight singing. Some of the clinicians simply guide us through the sight ringing, but two did some extensive teaching. One-- Rollo Dillworth-- was absolutely extraordinary. He not only got 200 white folk singing pretty decent gospel, he also gave us some tools for teaching it to our home groups. That alone was worth coming. I also had some nice friendly encounters and didn't feel so much alone in a crowd.

Tomorrow- five more reading sessions plus some rehearsals, and then two long sessions recording seven anthems, with a true professional recording setup. I look forward to learning how all that goes! Thursday we have two more reading sessions before dismissing at lunchtime; then I'll meander my way home.
Tuesday, August 4th, 2015 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
Tuesday, August 4th, 2015 03:42 pm
I got up about 7:45 this morning, about fifteen minutes before my alarm would have gone off. Generally, if I wake up within half an hour of when my alarm will go off, I just get up because I know that I'm not going to manage to sleep any more and because, sometimes, the extra time can be nice.

My mother sent me an email (she gets up around 5 a.m. most mornings because she's simply unable to sleep any later no matter how hard she tries. Her father was like that, too) to say that she's in Michigan now and that they're thinking of bringing their visitors over this way on Thursday to go to the Hands On Museum. She invited Cordelia to join them and suggested we all have dinner together later. Cordelia hasn't given me an answer as to whether or not she wants to go. Scott's of the opinion that we should make her go. She hasn't seen those grandparents in two or three years and likely won't again until next summer, and she's been complaining of being bored.

My doctor's appointment this morning went well. We're scaling back the Wellbutrin. Once we see how that goes, we'll talk more about other meds. She wants to try an SSRI. I'm reluctant because my experience with them has all been bad. Admittedly, there are some I never tried, but I remember that the last one I tried made my then primary care doctor declare that, in her opinion, I should avoid all SSRIs forever. I just don't remember which medication that was.

I did think I remembered seeing something about vitamin D supplements maybe not mixing well with SSRIs (I was looking up vitamin D for other reasons), but when I did a little digging, I found reputable sources saying that it wouldn't happen and sources that I wouldn't believe if they said the sky was blue saying that it might, maybe, be possible. So that's one worry gone.

I did some link finding yesterday, not nearly enough given that I haven't had time for any yet today. I'm unlikely to finish before Thursday this week given that there will be zero time tomorrow for it. I'm just finding it hard to care much.

I got a little frustrated with the book I took with me to my appointment this morning. I expected it to be biting essays, but it's all very dreary. I agree with everything said, and it's stuff people need to know about, but it oscillates between deathly dull and horribly depressing. I read it anyway because it was what I had and because I had a lot of time spent waiting. I wish I'd brought the brick of a history book in spite of it making my shoulders hurt. That, at least, was interesting.

Scott's on his way home. Once he gets here, we'll go and vote in the Democratic primary. It's a big deal in local politics because most Democrats run unopposed for local office in the fall election. That means there are a lot of folks running as Democrats in various primaries who have very Republican agendas. One of the big local issues is whether or not to sell the lot next to the downtown library to people who say they want to put in a huge hotel/convention center. Right now, it's a parking lot with an underground parking structure that actually does see a fair amount of use (parking downtown is nearly impossible), but apparently some people think that's wasteful or at least not actually useful. I get the impression that there's a great deal of money involved, too.

I do kind of regret not getting lunch downtown, but I'd have had to lie to Cordelia about it or have her get really mad at me. I also kind of regret taking a cab home. I'm pretty sure walking to the bus stop and then home from the stop near our house wouldn't have messed me up any more than standing for twenty minutes, waiting for the cab did. Of course, by the time I got out of the doctor's office, I'd have had to wait (standing) for half an hour for the next bus home because I couldn't possibly have gotten to the stop in time to catch the bus that was leaving right then.

I woke Cordelia about five minutes before I called the cab to go to my appointment. She hauled herself out of bed and sat on the loveseat, looking groggy. Her shorts arrived before my cab did, and she tore into the package. She tried on one pair before I left. It fit in the waist (because elastic) but was a bit loose lower down. Which is pretty much what I expected and she wanted. She's currently wearing one of the new pairs of shorts. From what she said, she hasn't tried on the pants yet. I've got to make her do that so that I know whether or not they need to be taken up. They shouldn't since I'm only half an inch taller than she is and I can wear Blair petite length pants without hemming, but... It's a style I've never bought for myself, so anything's possible.
Tuesday, August 4th, 2015 06:00 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

Is it always a terrible thing to initially accept a job offer and then change your mind and back out? I have done some reading on this, and a lot of articles suggest it is unethical, will ruin your reputation, and essentially is a nasty thing to do. Yet I have been both an employer and an employee, and it seems to me that no one claims it’s “unethical” if the employer does the same thing.

Anyway, my situation is that I have a job and had a bit of a falling out with another manager. The company really needs me, so they don’t want me going anywhere, but the confrontation was pretty ugly and unacceptable to me, and it isn’t the first time, and nothing is ever done about it. So I started to look around and interview and got an offer.

However, a few things happened since I accepted. First of all, I feel like the offer letter I got was a little pushy. It stated that I would have less than two weeks of notice to give and suggested that if I did not sign the offer and agree to the terms within a day, it would be rescinded. I am really bad at confrontation, so I just signed it, and I can help out with my current company on weekends so the lack of two weeks is fine. But it has come to bother me that they acted that way about it.

Also, they have been contacting me to send me some reports that they want me to review before I start. I don’t mind that, although I think it is a little cheeky to assign me 200 pages of reading before I have even begun working for them. But I strongly dislike how they end emails with “let me know by the end of the day that you received this,” and if I don’t reply within a couple of hours they begin calling my cell phone. I have another job at the moment and don’t work for them yet. This is during business hours. I think it is inappropriate.

On the whole, I just have a bad feeling about it, about their pushiness and the way they have handled this. I suppose they are just eager, but it does seem they are crossing boundaries in some ways, and it doesn’t bode well for what working there will be like.

I think I made this decision emotionally, which I really regret and feel guilty about. I would live with the consequences had they not behaved this way in the last week, though I am not happy about this change. The more I consider my current situation too, the more I realize I am throwing away something I value. Granted, the problem that drove me to this is not insignificant, but the benefits of my current position outweigh the downsides in some ways. Further, there is a very good chance the company I currently work for is going to seriously struggle when I leave, whenever I leave, and they will have a difficult time replacing me. I am one of the founders of the company, and the clients are largely my connections, so it is pretty serious that I am going.

Anyway, I will start this job and do my time there, if I really must. But it already feels like “doing time” and I don’t want to leave my current job. Can I change my mind? How do I tell them? I am supposed to start in less than a week.

Yes, you can change your mind.

It won’t be welcome news to them, obviously, but it’s better to back out now than to end up in a job you don’t want to be in and that you’re feeling queasy about.

But should you? Well, the stuff that’s setting off alarm bells for you might indeed be harbingers of worse to come once you’re working there. People shouldn’t be pushy with offer letters, they shouldn’t push currently employed candidates to leave their jobs with less than two weeks of notice (unless it’s for a rare good reason and they explain why), they shouldn’t give you 200 pages of reading before you start, and they definitely shouldn’t expect you to answer their emails within a few hours while you’re not yet working for them.

That said, it’s also possible that this stuff doesn’t indicate serious problems there. I’d want to know more about what you observed about them before the offer stage. Did you do due diligence, talk to multiple people there, talk to anyone in your network connected to them, ask good questions, and generally work to understand what they’re like and what you’d be signing up for? If you did and you felt comfortable, I wouldn’t necessarily throw all that out now.

I’d also want to know who it is who’s sending these “respond today” emails and calling your cell if they don’t get a fast answer. Is it your soon-to-be manager, or someone else? If it’s the person who will be managing you, that would worry me a lot — that’s the sign of an unreasonable manager who doesn’t respect boundaries. But if it’s people who will be coworkers? That would worry me less (and for all we know, they’re not clear on what arrangement you have with their company). But that’s something I’d ask the person who will be managing you about. You could call her up and say something like this: “Between now and when I start, I’m going to be really busy wrapping things up with my old position. I’m not going to have time to read the materials you sent, and I probably won’t be able to respond to emails quickly. Jane and Fergus have sent me emails asking for immediate responses a few times, and called my cell phone when I haven’t responded immediately.” Then stop and listen to the response. Is she surprised that this is happening, understand that you don’t want that, and say she’ll put a stop to it? Or does she sound put out or irked that you’re pushing back?

All in all, though, if you’ve changed your mind and no longer want to take the job, you shouldn’t take it as penance. It’s true that it’s not good to back out of job offers, but no sane employer wants a new hire who doesn’t want to be there. It’ll be a pain in the ass for them, yes, but that’s far better for them than you leaving after four months or being miserable for several years, and it’s far, far better for you than serving time in a job you don’t want, if you have other options. (I’m assuming that you know that it is an option to stay at your old job; if you’re a founder, it probably is, although that wouldn’t always be true for everyone.)

Tell them ASAP if indeed that’s your decision and apologize profusely. Assume you’ve burned that bridge. (But also know that there can be things worse than a burnt bridge.)

And then resolve that in the future you’ll pay attention to your doubts and not be pressured into accepting offers more quickly than you’re comfortable with — and forgive yourself for this one.

P.S. Also, for what it’s worth, it’s not true that no one claims it’s unethical for employers to pull job offers. People pretty much universally think that’s horrible, unless there’s the rare good reason for it.

can I change my mind after accepting a job offer? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015 05:00 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

Sooner or later in your career, you’re going to have a difficult team member – a person whose skills are great but who no one wants to work with because he or she is abrasive, unpleasant, and negative.

At Intuit QuickBase’s Fast Track blog today, I talk about how to manage the “brilliant jerk” to ensure that they don’t alienate and drive away other good people on your team. You can read it here.

how to manage a brilliant jerk was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015 03:30 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

Is it unprofessional to close your door when making a professional phone call?

Some background information:

I am 23. I do not know much about professional etiquette, other than dress and showing up on time. I have been working for the same small company for 4 years. Previously, I was part-time and just did data entry, with little contact with other employees and managers. A few months ago, I was promoted to full-time. My job involves close work with the vice president, inter-office paperwork, and lots of correspondence with other companies. Most of the correspondence is done through email, but there are quite a few phone calls as well.

My issue is that I am a bit self-conscious about making phone calls. I do not want someone to walk in and out of my office while I am on the phone. I find it distracting as they go around looking for files or wait on me to finish. I began to shut my door whenever I had to make a call, and then opened it when I was finished. No one else in the office does this. I did this on two separate, not consecutive, days.

On the first day, the office manager asked me if I was having personal issues or family problems. When I asked why, she mentioned that I had been closing my door. I then explained that I was making phone calls and that it was distracting when someone came in and out. She simply laughed and said okay.

However, on the second day (about a week later), the office manager spoke to me again. She told me “You’ve got to stop closing your door when you make phone calls. It’s unprofessional. If it bothers you when someone comes in, tell them ‘in a minute.’ Okay?” I thought about that for a second, but simply told her okay.

I would have understood if she had told me that it was office policy or something, but I have a hard time believing it is unprofessional. Believing that would mean that any company I work for would feel the same way, just like every business universally feels the same way about showing up on time, but like I said, I have limited knowledge about professional etiquette. What are your thoughts?

It very much depends on your office culture. There are offices where closing your door to take calls is the norm (either to keep from generating noise for others or to block out others’ noise) and there are offices where it’s not really done. Based on what your manager said, your office culture is one where people don’t generally close their doors, at least for routine phone calls and/or at least in your type of role.

In that specific context, I wouldn’t say that it’s unprofessional, exactly — it’s more like, well, not professionally mature to do it just because you don’t want people to overhear routine phone calls. Lots of people have to make phone calls in front of others as part of their work, and you just have to kind of suck it up and get used to it. The fact that you’re uncomfortable with it isn’t reason not to do it; it’s just a flag for you to work on getting more comfortable with it (which is probably as simple as just doing it and waiting for the discomfort to lessen over time, which it will).

And, when closing your door is out of sync with your office culture — which is what your manager seems to be saying — people are going to wonder why you’re walling yourself off, and if something’s going on, and why you’re having so many conversations that you don’t want overheard.

And that’s an appropriate thing for your manager to give you feedback on and ask you not to do.

Honestly, I’d probably do the same thing if I had a junior staffer who was closing the door every time she was on the phone so that no one would overhear her. If it was for a different reason, like that it was otherwise hard to hear the person on the other end of the call, I wouldn’t — but if it were about discomfort? I’d want her to get over that, if we were in an office where shut doors weren’t common.

All this said, there are ways to signal that you don’t want someone lingering in your office while you’re on the phone. For example, you can try putting your hand over the receiver and whispering, “I’m going to be a while” or “I’ll come let you know when I’m off.” All but the most clueless people will take the hint and leave.

my boss told me to stop closing my office door when I’m on the phone was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015 02:00 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

I get a lot of requests to give people feedback on their resumes, but because it’s time-consuming to do it well, I usually turn them down unless they’re friends or family. But for a short time, I’m re-opening the resume review offer that I’ve run a couple of times before.

When I’ve offered this in the past, the response has been so overwhelming that I’ve had to close the offer pretty quickly, so reserve this now if you’re interested.

The cost: $125

What you’ll get: As you can probably tell by the price, I’m not going to entirely rewrite your resume for you. People who do that charge a lot more. What you’ll get: I’ll read your resume, I’ll give you suggestions for improving it, I’ll tell you where I think it’s weak and where I think it’s strong. I’ll tell you if your design sucks. I’ll tell you if you’re coming across as generic and/or unimpressive and how to fix it if you are. I’ll tell you what you need to change to have a resume that will make a hiring manager excited to interview you.

To be clear, this isn’t multiple rounds of revisions, or a rewrite service, or anything like that. It’s really just a bunch of notes on what I’d like to see you doing differently — what a hiring manager might think when looking at your resume.

Limited time: This offer is only good for the next few days and maybe less, depending on how quickly slots get taken; it’s not something I offer regularly. So if you want it, lock it in now. (But once you sign up, you can send your resume in whenever you’d like; there’s no time limit on that.)


Here’s what one person who purchased a resume review  wrote to me afterwards: “Earlier this year, when you offered your annual résumé review service, I sent mine in. You sent back reams of useful suggestions, which I promptly acted upon. Well, it’s been four months, and I have good news. I immediately started getting interviews. There were no offers right away, but I didn’t give up and all of sudden, within the past few days, I have received 4 offers. I am so pleased and relieved–now I just need to sit down and weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each. But what a happy task—and I’m convinced I owe a lot of my good fortune to your advice.”

There are more reviews in the comments on this post.

(And because I know not everyone can afford this, I’m also offering a discount on my ebook, How to Get a Job: Secrets of a Hiring Manager, where you’ll find lots of resume advice — just not customized to your particular resume. You can get a 20% discount this week by using this code: summer2015)

The fine print: After purchasing, you can submit your resume whenever you’d like; there’s no time limit. I’ll get you feedback within three weeks of receiving it (or less if you ask me to expedite it).

Update: Whoa. This is filling up much faster than in previous years! I’m going to leave the offer open a little longer, but for any purchased after 11:45 a.m. EST Tuesday, you may not get your feedback until mid-September (or three weeks after submitting it, whichever is longer).

Update 2: This offer is now closed. That was fast!

want me to review your resume? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015 02:00 pm

Posted by PJ Jonas

John-Boy and Mary Ellen love coming into the milk room while the boys are milking, because they get to have their fill of fresh goat milk! (They steal it from the baby goats’ milk supply). How cute are they?
Tuesday, August 4th, 2015 12:30 am
With my cranky knee lately, I'm appreciating my big bathtub more than I ever have before. I love to soak with my kindle in hand until either 1) I become thoroughly wrinkled; or 2) I've finished my e-book; or 3) My bathwater goes cold and de-bubbled.

I'm also appreciating the Mother's day gift from one of my girls too - a whole selection of bathtub goodies from Lush. Yesterday I used this cute one. It's labeled as 'Mother Superior Bubble Bath'. Clever. And very, very bubbly. Love it.

Monday, August 3rd, 2015 12:25 am
and then I spent today feeling like I was going to throw up. Except I didn't throw up. I probably would've felt better if I had.

But with any luck, the disease is now out of everybody's system!

Lola was not there when I went to take out the garbage, but she ran up the stoop when she saw me. Not because she's fond of me, but because she knows I am a soft touch and always have food for her. And I did have food for her, on the condition that she actually approach me within 4.5 feet to get it, and on the same level rather than her on a porch and me on the ground.

It only took her five minutes to make the decision, and she didn't flee when I went inside to bring out more garbage either, so, you know, that's progress. I should've worked harder with her all this year, and I can't think why I didn't.


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Tuesday, August 4th, 2015 04:03 am

Posted by Ask a Manager

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

1. I thought my in-person interview was a phone interview

I scheduled a phone interview for today (I thought) and waited the recommended 15 minutes for the interviewer to call me. As I was calling her, I received an email asking where I was, since she had expected me at noon, or “did you think this was a phone interview?” I immediately called the number listed in her signature and apologized for the confusion, saying I believed it was a phone interview and would be happy to reschedule to come in. She followed with, “Well, my number is in my email so you could have called sooner.” I simply apologized again and we scheduled another interview for next week.

My question is, how do I make up for it? The only information I got for the interview was a time and date that she was “looking forward to speaking with me.” The wording of the email said, “My company is looking to fill an account coordinator position. If you’re interested, I’d like to set up a time to chat” and her email signature just included her email, office phone number, and cell phone number, no address for the company. Now that I’ve been through this, I know not to make assumptions, but I’m stuck in this situation.

How can I apologize for the confusion and show that I’m still interested in the position before I go in for the actual interview? I don’t want to come off as someone who can’t follow directions because I really want this position, but I’m already getting bad vibes and feel like my opportunity is basically gone. (And I have definitely learned my lesson…always confirm format/location in advance!).

You both made mistakes here; it’s weird that she didn’t offer an address for the location of the interview, and yes, you should have asked whether she wanted you to talk in-person or over the phone. However, once she realized the miscommunication, there wasn’t any reason for her snotty “Well, my number is in my email so you could have called sooner.”

As for what to do now, not a lot beyond showing up for your interview and being awesome. When you do show up, I’d say something at the start of the meeting like, “Again, I’m so sorry about the miscommunication over the format of the interview. I’ve learned to clarify in the future!” Or you might send a confirming email the day before that says something like, “I just wanted to confirm that I’ll be at your office at 10 a.m. tomorrow morning to meet with you about the account coordinator position. I’m so sorry about last week’s misunderstanding, and I’m really looking forward to talking with you.”

And don’t let this throw you off. Miscommunications happen. You weren’t the only person to blame for this one, and if she acts like you committed a heinous crime, she’ll be giving you good information about what she’d be like to work for.

2. Can I wear the same dress that a more senior colleague owns?

I have recently lost quite a bit of weight and have been buying new clothes. I bought a dress, intending to wear it to work but now realize I’ve seen a colleague wearing one the same (it’s from a chain-store which mass produces clothes, but their items are not cheap). We work on the same floor of about 100 people but don’t work directly together. She is more senior than me. Do I have to return the dress or can I wear it to work anyway? Would it make a difference if it was a really old dress that I was unable to return?

There’s no reason you can’t wear the same dress as a colleague; in fact, with the ubiquity of mass-produced clothing stores, it happens all the time. (Think about all the people buying their work clothes from places like Ann Taylor, Loft, J Crew, Banana Republic, etc.; there’s inevitably lots of overlap in what people end up purchasing.)

The only thing that would give me any pause if the dress is in a particularly noticeable and unusual pattern — if it’s bright yellow with green polka dots all over it, it’s distinctive enough that it might jump out to people. But even then, it’s not a big deal (unless she’s become known for wearing this highly distinctive dress in loud colors, in which case, yes, it would look weird if you showed up in it too).

3. Is it really okay to have a friend check your references?

I’ve seen a couple of times now people in comment threads suggesting that a job hunter should have a friend call a former employer, pretending to be a new employer looking for a reference, to make sure the former employer wouldn’t say something bad about their candidacy. This surprised me because to do something similar with a letter of recommendation in academia (i.e. get a copy of a letter under false pretenses and then read it yourself to see what your recommender is saying) would be considered hugely unethical. Is it really fine to have someone call former employers on your behalf like this? Or are there distinctions that I’m missing here?

Yes. It’s a very different thing. Reference letters in academia are governed by well-established rules and ethics. Professional references outside of academia are a whole different thing. There are even services devoted to checking your references for you; there’s no reason that you can’t do the same thing for free by having a professional-sounding friend call and inquire about you. (I mean, obviously an employer who found out you had done this wouldn’t be thrilled, but it’s not the same thing as violating convention around recommendations letters in academia.)

Doing this doesn’t require that the friend spin an elaborate story. It can be as simple as, “Hi, this is (real name) and I’m calling about a reference for (your name). Do you have a few minutes to talk with me about her?”

And you’d be surprised by how few references will ask for more information. When I was working in drug policy, I usually wouldn’t proactively offer up the name of the organization I was calling from, because that was back in the days when some people still reacted weirdly to the idea of not sending people to prison for using marijuana. I’d just say, “My name is Alison Green and Jane Smith gave me your name as a reference.” Very few people asked, “What organization are you calling from?” (When they did, I of course told them. But I was surprised by how infrequently it came up.)

4. My boss’s illnesses are inadvertently triggering me

I’m in a new position which I love. However, I have a bit of a problem. My boss is great, and I love them, but they are very often ill. As someone who went through a couple of traumatic medical experiences (a number of hospitalizations, invasive procedures, pain, etc), the idea of someone being physically ill shoots my anxiety through the roof. I suppose you could consider it post-hospitalization PTSD. It’s extremely scary for me, particularly when they announce they feel very sick/have been sick that day. I try to laugh it off, but it does give me vague feelings of flashbacks and some sense of paranoia. And clearly, it’ll affect my work performance that day as well. What is the best way I can deal with this?

Honestly, I think therapy. Even if your boss is sick more often than most people, this is going to come up as issue anywhere you work, when coworkers get ill. Since it’s not something you can easily control in your environment and you’re going to keep running into, I’d work on your reaction to it instead — and a good therapist (possibly a cognitive therapist, although commenters may know better than me) is probably your best bet for doing that.

5. Can I apply for an internship in my home town that wants local candidates only if I haven’t moved back yet?

I live in the Caribbean where my husband has attended medical school and I have been working on an MBA since last year—we’ll move back home to the west coast by Christmas, and spend about six months there before we move to the east coast for his clinical rotations. Six months is obviously too short a span for a full-time job, but there’s a great internship that just opened in my area for which I qualify nicely. The problem is that they’re only looking for people who live in *that* area, and I’m not technically living there right now (although I do have a permanent address I can use for the application). It’s such a good opportunity that my husband would be fine with my moving back home earlier for it.

So the question is, can I even apply? Would an employer find it problematic to hire an intern that needs to make such an effort to work in the region? Or, if I’m straightforward about my situation, would it be a good enough story to keep me in the running? I’m going to be back in town eventually anyway, I just don’t want to lie or completely drop the chance to apply.

Yes, apply! Just explain your situation: “Winterfell is my home town and I’ve been planning to move back by the end of the year. I’d be delighted to move back slightly earlier than I’d originally planned in order to take this internship.”

Also, under your address on your resume, include this:
“(In the process of moving back to Winterfell)”

I thought my in-person interview was a phone interview, wearing the same dress as a senior colleague, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Monday, August 3rd, 2015 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
Monday, August 3rd, 2015 07:00 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

Resume reviews are coming soon!

When I’ve offered limited-time resume reviews in the past, slots have filled up quickly and I’ve closed the offer pretty fast (once after only 10 hours).

Last time, people asked for a heads-up before the next offer so that they wouldn’t miss it. So in case you want to be ready, here’s an announcement that I’m going to be offering it again tomorrow morning.

Plan to sign up then if you want to be sure you get one!


resume reviews are coming tomorrow was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Monday, August 3rd, 2015 06:00 pm

Posted by Brett Jonas

Quote Post Fletcher: “Indigo, don’t massage your teeth! From my experience, it makes it hurt more.”
Indigo: “Fletcher, you haven’t had braces. You don’t HAVE experience.”
Monday, August 3rd, 2015 05:58 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

Remember last month’s letter from the person’s whose coworker couldn’t afford the gas to get to work? (Some back story that wasn’t in the original post but was added in the comment section:  His wife had died, leaving him with their two young kids. Then his mother-in-law, who had been providing childcare also died. He was having trouble staying afloat.)

Here’s the update.

Just a day or so after my letter ran, my manager cornered me and asked what was going on with my coworker. She was ready to fire him because she assumed he was interviewing–I absolutely panicked and blurted out the situation (I absolutely should not have, but I was surprised and scared he was going to lose his job and it just came out), and she was horrified.

She shared the situation with the CEO, who then called my coworker in and said “Clearly you’re distracted with things going on at home. Why don’t you work from home one or two days a week until life calms down” without mentioning he knew about the money situation. My coworker was surprised but relieved, and that helped take some of the pressure off.

After going through everyone’s comments, I did pull aside my coworker and shared some of the resources people had mentioned, like 2-1-1 and Catholic Charities. He was immensely skeptical, but he was desperate, so he did call and was set up with a case manager. She was able to get him a few months worth of gas gift cards and hooked him up with a discounted childcare agency so he’ll have long-term support.

I’ve been batch cooking and bringing him casseroles whenever I can, so he has some good help right now. He seems much less stressed and scared and things seem to be doing much better.

I just want to thank everyone for their help and kindness, and the tremendously generous offers of donations for him. This site is amazing!

update: my coworker can’t afford the gas to get to work was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Monday, August 3rd, 2015 04:30 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

featured-on-usnYour job interview went great, and the employer said you’d hear something soon. But it’s been a week, your phone hasn’t rung, and you’re getting antsy to hear something.

But as anxious as you are to hear something, make sure that your anxiety doesn’t drive you to actions that will actually harm your chances. At U.S. News & World Report today, I talk about five things that you might be tempted to do while waiting to hear about a job – but which you should never, ever do. You can read it here.


5 things you should never do while waiting to hear back about a job was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Monday, August 3rd, 2015 12:39 pm
I was going to go grocery shopping with Scott yesterday, but Cordelia was trying very hard to finish one of her library books that couldn't be renewed and didn't want to be left home alone. We suggested taking the book and sitting in the coffee shop in the store to read, but she didn't like that option either. Since I was mainly planning to go in order to keep Scott company and in order to pick out some mustard (Scott doesn't like or use mustard, so if I want it, I have to go pick it out), staying home for Cordelia seemed reasonable.

Of course, she's going to be left at home alone on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. At least, she says she doesn't want to come to tomorrow's appointment because it will be boring, and I don't want to take her to my Wednesday appointments because I'm not quite ready to explain to her what they're for. She's old enough to stay for a few hours alone; she just doesn't really like to. Of course, if I suggest that we might go out for lunch after tomorrow's appointment, that might change her mind.

I think I can't tolerate very much Zevia, unfortunately. Apparently, I have problems with the secondary sweetener in it, erythritol. If I drink Zevia regularly, I start to have, er, intestinal issues. I suspect that once or twice a week wouldn't be a big deal, but more than that seems to be. It's a pity. I was enjoying being able to occasionally have something other than water or seltzer water.

Because Cordelia was trying to finish that library book, we didn't go to the library until just before it closed. She finished the book right as I was putting on my shoes so that we could go. She's got three or four books due next week that can't be renewed. Unfortunately, two of them are sequels to a book she just got this week (the waitlist for that was several people long), so she's very unlikely to get to them.

Scott took down a few portals near the library and had me put my wimpy level 1 resonators on them and then hack them, just so I'd know what to do. My main take away from that was that it's almost impossible to see anything on the screen of my phone when the sun's shining. I actually had to turn so that my shadow fell on my phone in order to see anything at all, and even then, I couldn't see much. I have a suspicion that that, as well as my difficulties with walking very far, will be a big limiting factor on me playing Ingress.

The guy behind the counter at Bubble Island recognized us and pulled out three large cups immediately. He was a little thrown when I asked for a specialty drink, but really, that particular specialty drink is simply green tea with a flavor not on the main menu, so I don't know why he'd be so surprised.

I'm trying to decide whether to chance taking the bus to my appointment tomorrow. It would be further than I've walked since I injured myself-- No, there were those two grocery shopping expeditions. Those involved a fair amount of walking. But both of those left me hurting. I just don't know. If I overdo tomorrow, I won't be able to rest on Wednesday to recover, but, if I don't start challenging myself, I'm never going to reach the point of walking to the bus stop again. It's only three blocks and then standing to wait for five to fifteen minutes, and the bus is free for me because of my disability, so it's a heck of a lot cheaper than a cab.

I'm thinking to start unsubscribing from the vast number of political mailing lists I've ended up on. I just get so damned many messages from them every day. Half of them ask for money which I'm not going to give. The other half are petitions and requests to call my representatives. I can't handle phone calls, and I'm only willing to sign some petitions (I'm also am not sure how much good online petitions do). The thing is that most mailing lists send me all four types of messages. I haven't found a list yet that has a filter that would just get me the stuff I'm willing to deal with.

There seem to be a number of petitions that are geographically specific and for which I'm not convinced I have a right to a voice-- fracking in various states not my own comes up a lot. I also get a lot of things asking me to protest GMOs when I have nothing agains GMOs, generally. I'm very much against certain standard practices of big agribusiness, but that's far from the same thing even if certain PACs assume it is.

Time to shower and eat lunch. After that, I get to call Aetna. They've been refusing to pay my medical bills because they think they're not primary. Scott and I may have to prove we're married again or some such nonsense. Also, Medicare has sent me another form to ask questions about my insurance. I filled one of those out in April or May, and I went over the same information on the phone a couple of weeks ago. I shouldn't have to give them the same information a third time, not so soon.
Monday, August 3rd, 2015 12:32 pm
Mondays, every week, let's celebrate ourselves, to start the week right. Tell me what you're proud of. Tell me what you accomplished last week, something -- at least one thing -- that you can turn around and point at and say: I did this. Me. It was tough, but I did it, and I did it well, and I am proud of it, and it makes me feel good to see what I accomplished. Could be anything -- something you made, something you did, something you got through. Just take a minute and celebrate yourself. Either here, or in your journal, but somewhere.

(And if you feel uncomfortable doing this in public, I've set this entry to screen any anonymous comments, so if you want privacy, comment anonymously and I won't unscreen it. Also: yes, by all means, cheer each other on when you see something you want to give props to!)
Monday, August 3rd, 2015 03:00 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I have a bachelors and masters degree in counseling psychology. I thought I wanted to be a mental health counselor in undergrad, and a masters is required for licensure and certification, so I wasn’t just going willy-nilly to grad school. Unfortunately, I realized in my grad school internship that I didn’t enjoy counseling as much as I thought I would.

Long story short — I stuck out grad school since I had already finished over a year of the program, but I have never used my masters in a professional counseling capacity and have never bothered getting the most basic license (in my state, you can get the LPC right after grad school, but need two years of supervised counseling work to get the second tier license). I graduated with my masters approximately 10 years ago.

Since then, I’ve worked in a variety of jobs — I’ve done some editing and marketing work, I did a year in AmeriCorps, etc. I’m currently working in an admin and marketing capacity. I don’t make a ton of money, but I love my job, I love my boss, and my husband and I can afford this and have worked it out together.

My problem is that my parents (especially my mother) do not consider my job a “career” and are constantly harping on me to go back to school and get more degrees for a different career path. I have tried talking to my mom and have asked her to please drop this subject and not bring it up again as I have no desire to return to school right now, and as an adult in my 30s, I feel this is none of their business anymore. Recently, my husband and I hosted a large party where one of my best friends pulled me aside and told me she just had an entire conversation with my parents where they talked to her all about this and said they are okay with me not wanting kids (…I don’t, it’s not a secret), but then I really need to return to school to get a “real career.” (!!!)

I found this insulting, patronizing, and highly inappropriate. I truly don’t know what else to do at this point. I would love any words of wisdom you could offer.

Well, you can’t make your parents stop doing this. What they’re doing is rude and insulting, and you can ask them to stop, but if they choose not to, all you can really do is decide how you’re going to respond to that.

I’d have one final, clear conversation with them where you’re as explicit as possible that their comments on your career are unwelcome and you want them to stop. I’d say something like this: “I need you to respect that while this isn’t the career you would have chosen for me, I’m happy where I am, and I need you to stop suggesting that I return to school or change careers. When you continue to suggest that even though I’ve told you I’m happy with the decisions I’ve made, it comes across as patronizing and insulting to my choices. It’s making it hard for me to have the kind of close and mutually respectful relationship I want with you. Can you trust that I’ve heard and noted your concerns, and agree to stop raising this?”

From there, I’d simply decline to participate if they bring it up again. If it comes up on a phone call, say, “I’ve told you that I’m not interested in discussing that. I had better go now, but I’ll talk with you soon” — and then hang up. (The “I’ll talk with you soon” is to prevent it from coming across as a totally hostile F-you.)

If it comes up during an in-person visit, say, ““I’ve told you that I’m not interested in discussing that. Should I head out now, or can we talk about something else? I’ve been meaning to tell you about Cordelia’s baby / the trip I’m taking to Winterfell / this great restaurant I ate at.” If they still won’t drop it, say, “Okay, I guess I’ll see you some other time. Let’s talk soon.”

There might come a time when you want to drop the “let’s talk soon” language, if they push you far enough — but I’d start with it and see if modeling reasonable behavior and respectful boundaries works on them.

If it doesn’t, the sad fact is that it’ll probably end up affecting the type of relationship you have with them. It’s hard to be close to people who so blatantly disregard who you are versus who they want you to be — but hopefully it won’t come to that and you can reprogram them with the strategy above.

my parents won’t stop nagging me about my career choices was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Monday, August 3rd, 2015 02:00 pm

Posted by PJ Jonas

A few days ago, I helped Indigo and Jade to declutter their bedroom.  Usually we do this pretty regularly, but with the new building going up at the farm, I haven’t gotten to it in a while.  So it was a pretty painful experience for the girls.

decluttering girls bedroom indigo and jade

I gave them my “usual speech” about the evil of clutter and how it sucks up your personal energy and causes you extra work and stress.  (If you’re not familiar with my clutter speech, you can listen to my podcast series about clutter.  It starts out with me talking with my friend Lori who lost her home and almost all of her possessions in an F4 tornado that hit our area.  It’s one of my most popular podcast episodes).

After listening to my speech, Indigo and Jade still weren’t impressed. LOL

So then I broke out the big guns – a new concept that they’ve never heard me talk about before.  It’s called “loss aversion” and something I’ve been reading up about lately.  It was initially discovered by Daniel Kahneman, who received a 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.

The concept is pretty simple and means that people are about twice as unhappy with a loss of x as they are happy with a gain of x.  So  If I lose a $10 bill, I am twice as unhappy as I would be happy if I found a $10 bill.  Most of the articles that I found talking about it discussed loss aversion in terms of investing and finances.

But for me, loss aversion can easily be applied to the clutter we like to hold onto.

As I was researching loss aversion, I came across one definition that defined loss aversion as, “The tendency for people to value possessions far more than if the things were not yet possessed.” (

If you apply the concept and that definition to all the clothes in your closet that you haven’t worn for 2 years, loss aversion would mean that you are twice as unhappy with getting rid of a sweater that you paid money for or might need in the future as you are happy with the satisfaction of gaining a cleaner closet and less stuff that you have to manage – or even being given a new sweater that you would regularly wear.

Indigo and Jade have an incredibly hard time getting rid of clothes they’ve outgrown – “But that’s my FAVORITE dress” – is something I hear a lot from those two.  So in their case, losing the dress (even though they’ve outgrown it and can’t wear it anymore) is more unpleasant than the possibility of making room for a NEW favorite dress.

So they listened very patiently while I gave them this new speech about loss aversion and how it should help them to understand why it’s so painful to get rid of old stuff but that they still needed to do it anyway.

You know what?

They still weren’t impressed.  But about 4 full garbage bags (headed for donation) later… their room looks great!

And they’re learning lessons that will hopefully get easier to apply as they get older.

Because any time you can understand some of the reasoning behind why you’re having so much trouble doing something (such as decluttering), it will hopefully make it just a little bit easier to convince yourself you need to do it anyway.

What are you hanging onto that you are averse to losing?




Monday, August 3rd, 2015 12:30 am
A dear friend of mine from college and her husband were attending a conference in a resort area in Idaho; so John and I hopped into Goldie and met them there for the weekend. What fun. Beautiful surroundings and good friends.


Monday, August 3rd, 2015 01:50 am


so, still semi in progress, but it’s pretty much LEAPS AND BOUNDS above what it was before. the walls were some piss poor lilac/lavendar combo, and had duct tape stuck to it from years before. i know the walls hadn’t been painted since i’d been in the house, and i’ve been there for… .6  years? at least. 

at any rate. depression. and having your guest room be taken over by your sister and her kid. and having a guest come for a visit…. you can’t just leave a room like that right? 

somewhere between pic one and 2, i ended up petsitting some cats in that room, and that may have been the best/worst idea ever. at any rate, it led me to move a great deal out of the room, to sweep up all the mess they left behind (dust and hair and dust and dust and dust)….. and to try to bring it into some semblance of order.

still need to straighten out the chair rail line, and finish the upper level of the wall towards the ceiling. i kinda wanna paint an argyle pattern, and i need to touch up the baseboard. but finally. between this room and the guest room…. my house is starting to look like it belongs together. sort of. less of a hot mess. 

unfy app totally helped me break it into manageable sections before the painting so… huzzah.

Monday, August 3rd, 2015 04:03 am

Posted by Ask a Manager

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

1. I was given an IQ test at a job interview

I applied for a copywriting job about a week ago and was told to bring my portfolio along. I spent ages preparing work samples, competency questions, strengths and weaknesses, and so on. When I got to the interview, I was given a spacial-awareness-based IQ test. I have a learning difficulty similar to dyslexia, which makes those tests very difficult for me.

When I finished the test, I was told to wait in a room. After a while, the interviewer came up and said that he could not continue with the interview, as I had scored 6 in the IQ test and their minimum benchmark was 10. He showed me to the door without reviewing my portfolio and after putting a cross through my CV.

I find this a bit strange for a few reasons: I understand why a finance company would ask for an IQ test, but this was a copywriting job. I guess it was some arbitrary way of testing how smart candidates were? Also, it seems ridiculous to dismiss a mid-level candidate before the interview. It’s a small company in a regional area so they can’t have had that many applicants. I understand why such a test would be used for a more general graduate scheme or competitive position, but not even interviewing me as I didn’t pass it, although it was completely unrelated to the role and I hadn’t been informed of it?

Yeah, it’s ridiculous.

Some employers do a terrible job of thinking through how to screen for the qualities and skills they need in a role. Most commonly, that manifests in silly interview questions (“what kind of animal would you be?”) or lack of rigorous probing into the person’s abilities, but sometimes it manifests in a love of tests that don’t actually relate to the work of the position. It sounds like that’s what happened here.

(And while a spatial relations test is particularly odd for a copywriting position, employers shouldn’t be giving IQ tests for any position. They can be legally questionable when used in hiring — not fully prohibited, but with some serious grey area around disparate impact — as well as really not an effective way to screen.)

2. My manager doesn’t want me elevating my leg post-surgery

I am recovering from a minor knee procedure. It has taken a long time to be pain free. In fact, I may need more serious surgery sooner than later.

My orthopedic physician has directed me to elevate and ice the knee during those time of higher pain. My new manager is opposed to me raising or elevating it when meeting with clients (I work in government). I have done this only a few time with clients but very, very discreetly. I dress very modestly, wearing longer skirts, dresses, and pants. I sit on the corner of conference table with a chair to the right so I can place the leg/knee up with the table shielding the whole thing. I believe the clients don’t even know I am doing this. They are across from me and can’t see under the table.

I understood her objection to this but didn’t know it to be a absolute ban with my current medical situation. It is more of a reflex to raise it if it hurts. I have suggested that I could place a blanket over my leg to reduce her concern that I don’t look professional to the client.

A week ago, while she was on vacation, someone else on staff complained to her that I was doing this (and talking about my knee status with this client) during a client meeting in the lobby area of the building ( I have a pretty good idea who it was). My first thought was I probably did this as a reflex, but who could be monitoring me that closely? Is my medical issue being talked about with others of the organization? It feels like I am being picked on. What should I do to follow my doctor’s directions and still meet her expectations?

Your manager is being unreasonable. It’s not like you’re putting your feet up on the table in a show of how laid-back you are; you’re discreetly elevating a leg on your doctor’s orders.

Say this to your manager: “My doctor has given me specific instructions about keeping my leg elevated at specific times, and I need to follow those instructions in order to have a good surgical outcomes. For the next X weeks, I may need to elevate it in client meetings. Would it be helpful for me to talk to HR about accommodating this and/or get documentation from my doctor?”

If she continues to push back, go talk to HR. This is the kind of thing that’s appropriate to take to them, and they should intervene.

3. Putting off callers who my boss doesn’t want to meet with

I’ve been an executive assistant to the CEO for past 9 years. One particular issue that arises often is putting off someone the CEO doesn’t want meet or speak with. Usually it’s a representative from a company that wants to buy ours. By the CEO’s vague answers of “Tell them I’m fully booked this month,” I assume she doesn’t want to schedule anything at all, ever. I do not feel comfortable telling these callers that she is not interested unless she deliberately tells me to.

Sometimes, after several calls, the putting off tactic works. However, recently I haven’t been unable to shake one particular person for several months. Responses such as “her schedule is full” are followed up with “Can you give me some dates and we can see if they work?” I always respond by saying I need to speak to her about her schedule before committing to a time. Unfortunately, I get the same vague answer from CEO and the cycle begins again.

What is the best way to handle this? Is there a secret code to get the point across?

Well, you could try, “Right now we’re not booking anything additional in her schedule.” But I’d also talk to your boss and see how she wants this handled. Say this to her: “Sometimes when I tell callers that you’re fully booked this month, they want to try to schedule for the following month or whatever the next available date is, or they’ll call back month after month. For people you don’t want to schedule anything with, is there something more definitive I could say to them?”

You could suggest language like, “Her schedule is very full, but you’re welcome to send written information for her to look over” or “because we’re triaging her schedule, I’m not able to offer you an appointment” or “She’s asked me to rely that she won’t be able to meet with you but appreciates your interest.”

4. Employee keeps finding new ways to violate policies

I have a particularly poor employee who does decent actual work, but she is horrible for our office culture and never does anything so wrong that she gets fired. In fact, she seems to just pick a new policy to ignore each time she gets called out for ignoring another. For example, earlier this year, she was spending an outrageous amount of time on personal phone calls. I went through the process of addressing it with the team, addressing it to her personally, then taking her to the HR office to discuss it. Finally, the personal calls stopped. Now, she is leaving work early without telling anyone, let alone asking permission. I have addressed the team about it and talked with her personally.

I feel that this will never end. She will just find another policy to ignore, never causing enough trouble to get fired for repeated offenses. I work at a rural, post-secondary institution. I am a new manager. What can I do to make this vicious cycle stop?

Tell her that you’ve noticed a pattern where she violates various policies until she’s told to stop, and that going forward you need her complying with all office policies, without exception. Tell her that if she continues to violate policies, you’ll need to let her go, and that this is the final warning she’ll receive. Put this in writing, and coordinate with whoever needs to sign off on firing her, so that they’re in the loop on what’s happening.

(Also, if you’ve noticed other issues aside from the policy violations, address those at the same time, so that it’s not a constant trickle of discussions of problems.)

Also, stop addressing the whole team about problems that are really confined to one person; that’s annoying and frustrating for everyone who isn’t doing the thing you’re addressing.

5. Moving from non-exempt to exempt

I’ve been at a new position for just over a year. My manager is fantastic and treats me fairly. I’m given respect and responsibility in my position and my duties have been growing substantially over the last year. I started by assisting with the coordination of a project and I’m now managing two projects by myself. I tend to have a lot of overtime, but since I work for the government I am asked to take it all as comp time.

My manager has asked me to rewrite my job description so it more accurately reflects the changes in my duties. She said that it will likely move me to an exempt position (I’m currently non-exempt).

I know the definitions of exempt and non-exempt, but what are the pros and cons of the change? Is there anything I need to be prepared for or think through before the transition?

Well, I’d ask about whether you’ll still be getting comp time, or whether you’ll be giving that up entirely. That’s the biggest change. (Note: In general, it’s not legal to give non-exempt employees comp time in lieu of overtime pay, but the government has conveniently exempted themselves from that rule.)

If you’re going to be giving up the comp time when you work over 40 hours a week, that’s potentially a big change, and you’d want to do the math to see if you’ll ultimately be taking home less in salary and paid time off.

I was given an IQ test at a job interview, my manager won’t let me follow my doctor’s orders, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Sunday, August 2nd, 2015 08:23 pm

Bad week. Everything is falling apart at once.

The house has water damage in several places -- insurance will hopefully cover the immediate damage from the washer with the broken door seal, but the ancient drain pipes have also out, and the pre-existing damage *isn't* covered. And the upstairs washer is so full of wadded-up lint that it's not worth fixing; not clear whether a stuffy or something came apart in there, or it's just the same lint we've been gettig. Flawed design. The appliance guy didn't help, by not showing up TWICE, and not telling us about the problem on either of his two previous visits.

We brought Curio's ashes home yesterday. He's now sitting on the top shelf of the (appropriately enough) curio cabinet -- he can finally stay there as long as he wants. They also gave us a little clay tablet with his pawprints, and his name stamped into it. That's in the cabinet with his collar and the little packet of his fur, under the watchful eyes of the ceramic flying pig.

I'm secondary oncall at work this week (my first time; I somehow managed to avoid it so far), and feel like I've been falling farther behind every day despite working flat-out. I feel like I'm failing.

Not to mention the fact that I stupidly locked up my work laptop by typing my home machine's password at it, too many times, before I'd finished my coffee this morning. Because I stupidly set my screen background to the same picture of Curio as my home computer. I'm going to have to go in and get my account unlocked. (Added: the desktop worked -- apparently only the laptop was locked, because it wasn't on the VPN at the time -- so I was able to do the deployment I had scheduled, which went encouragingly smoothly; I'll get the lappy dealt with when I go in tomorrow morning.)

The fact that my psych meds were ineffective until we changed them a month ago didn't help, either. I was walking around in a fog of depression and apathy.

I'm burned out. I long to retire -- it would also help a lot to have somebody at home -- but don't see how I can afford to at this point. It will be next to impossible to get a new job at my age, no matter how much I need one, but I'm working on it, because $A is killing me.

The only good news is that my back seems to be pretty much back to normal, though I still have to be careful. And that, after I spoke with my TPM, I'm going to get some help with my late project. Things might not be as bleak as I feel. Might. Dinner and a talk with my Mom helped, too.

raw notes, with links )
Sunday, August 2nd, 2015 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