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Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016 01:27 pm
Scott and I went to the library last night so that he could pick up a couple of things that he’d put holds on (some equipment for testing the air in our attic himself). I hacked portals and captured a few and made it to level 6 in Ingress. Cordelia was with us, and she was extremely irritated with us about the pauses for Ingess stuff. She finds it very boring.

There’s no school today because of the millage election. Basically, the school system has decided that they can’t have kids in the buildings during any election because a bunch of open carry assholes insisted on bringing guns to the polls in elementary schools during the primary election. I hate giving ground to those folks, but I don’t see what else the district could do. Small children and guns are unmixy things.

Scott’s expecting to be home on time today, so we’ll go vote then. This is a school millage to pay for mandated special education services. If it doesn’t pass, the money for the services will be pulled from the budget for everything else. I plan to vote for it, and I’m hoping that other people will, too. Millages seem to do better, locally, if they’re the only thing on the ballot, so I’m more hopeful than I might be.

I tried to watch something on Hulu last night. It hung up and stayed frozen for about forty five minutes, until I turned everything off. I don’t know if restarting would have helped. I was distracted and didn’t think to try it until it was time to go to bed. If it does that a lot, though, it’s not going to be worthwhile.

We have two books in for Cordelia at Book Bound right now. She’s desperate to get one of them (the one by Kerstin Geir) but not quite desperate to try to walk that far. She knows that her knee won’t carry her through a really long walk yet, not even with a brace on. I’m not sure that we’ll keep buying Rick Riordan books. Cordelia still hasn’t finished last fall’s Magnus Chase book. Scott listens to them on CD from the library, and I’m about six books behind, so getting things from the library wouldn’t be a great burden.

I still think it’s really weird that the library has no catalog entry for the Riordan book that came out today. They make the record when they order the book as opposed to when it arrives, and this is really something that I’d have expected them to order far in advance. I find it really difficult to believe that the acquisitions people don’t know the book is coming out. I can’t imagine that the trade publications have been silent about it or that the publisher hasn’t been pushing it.

I’m hoping to do some writing today. If I can manage it, I want to work on the Narnia darkfic. I know what’s happening with Peter. I think I know what’s happening with Susan and Lucy. Edmund, however, I’m not at all sure about. I think he might actually get the least attention from Jadis, at least at first, and then work at keeping it that way. I’m just not sure what would be going on inside his head. I’m writing from Jadis’ POV, so I could ignore Edmund if she’s going to, but I think I need to know what’s going on.
Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016 04:30 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

Employees who lack confidence are less likely to take initiative, generate new ideas, or act decisively when it’s needed. So as a manager, it’s important to build up team members’ confidence. You don’t want to give people false bravado, of course, but you do want to give them confidence in the skills and instincts they have.

At QuickBase’s Fast Track blog today, I talk about four ways to do it. You can read it here.

how to help a staff member be more confident was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016 02:59 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

I often get asked for examples of good cover letters, and a reader recently sent me a great one that I want to share. One thing I like about this one is that it’s shorter than others I’ve previously shared and so is a good demonstration of how you can go shorter and still be compelling.

I’m presenting it here with the caveats I’ve learned to give when sharing these:

• The writer has kindly allowed me to share this here as a favor. Please remember she’s a real person when you’re commenting.
• This writer’s voice is her voice. It will not be your voice, and that’s part of the point.
• There is no single cover letter in the world that all hiring managers will love or that would be the right fit for every employer and every industry. But I receive letters every week from people telling me that moving in this sort of direction worked for them.
• Do not steal this letter or even parts of it. It works because it’s so customized to the writer. It’s intended for inspiration only — to provide an example of what all the advice here can look like in practice. (Every time I print a cover letter here, it ends up plagiarized all over the internet.) Be warned: stealing it will give you seven years of bad job search luck.

Here’s some background from the writer before we get to the letter itself:

You gave me a resume critique last year, which was very helpful. But I, like many others, originally started following AAM due to your posts on cover letters. Well, I’m sure you get these emails a lot, but I wanted to let you know that your advice helped me land a job!

I’ve been searching for about two years, and I got a call last Tuesday. The manager pretty much started with, “We were very intrigued by your cover letter…” and repeated this about two or three times between our phone conversation and the interview that followed the next day! On Friday, I got the offer! (It’s a very busy time for the company, thus the whirlwind hiring timeline.)

After I got back from work the day I accepted the job, I found an email from another company asking for a phone interview. When I politely declined, they wished me luck, but said I had been at the top of their list!

Here’s the letter, with identifying details changed.

Dear Hiring Manager,

I came upon your listing for a Customer Service Coordinator while browsing Indeed, and it really jumped out at me. It doesn’t seem like a normal customer service job, but one that presents new challenges that even I, a 10-year veteran of customer relations, would find new and interesting. Using my head to solve problems and going the extra mile to satisfy customers come naturally to me, and I’m sure I would be able to continue your company’s tradition of excellence in customer service.

When I work retail, I’m not just a cashier; I am a teacher, a problem solver, and a friend to all my coworkers and customers. Working at Storm’s End especially, I often coached my customers on how to use the new camera they had just bought, or show them all the features of the iPod Touch their child wanted, and helped determine which model was right for them. Even at the Iron Bank, there were times where I would be sitting in the café with a customer who just couldn’t get their Kobo e-reader to boot up. Outside of work, I took it upon myself to become familiar with the products we carried so I could answer any questions that came my way. I’ve prided myself in being the employee managers can rely on, and I would love to bring this dedication to the City Watch.

My initial role at the Iron Bank was to follow up with our clients for executed documents. With very little to go on and no one to instruct me, I was able to devise a process which streamlined my follow ups, allowing me to take on additional responsibilities. My greatest achievement was the document execution escalation procedure I created, which was used by our department. One of my supervisors gave me the moniker of “escalation guru” due to my tenacity in getting affidavits back on time.

I was thrilled to read about this opportunity and am eager to learn more about it. I would love to meet with you and discuss the contributions I can make to the City Watch as your new Customer Service Coordinator.


Brienne of Tarth

here’s another example of a great cover letter was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016 09:14 am


I cleaned up the kitchen, dining, and living room. Mopped the floors and everything. Took me all day! Tomorrow I just need to clean my bedroom, bathroom, and the laundry room. Plus, I finally took down the 5-month old Christmas decorations ._.

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016 04:03 am

Posted by Ask a Manager

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

1. Mediocre employee wants me to accommodate her school schedule

One of my direct reports, Jane, told me that she recently made the decision to go back to school and get a business degree. I was really excited for her. Then she told me that based on the classes that she signed up for and the campus that she decided on (45 minutes away), she needed me to change her schedule to an hour and half earlier. My heart sank. Being a call center, we have pretty set schedules to maintain coverage and the shifts are based on seniority. Not only do we not have a slot on an earlier schedule, but she doesn’t have the seniority to be moved to an earlier slot if one were to open.

I mentioned this to Jane, and she got upset, stating that we’ve made accommodations for others, so why not for her. This isn’t entirely true. It’s true that other departments have made accommodations for school schedules, but these are for non-phone based employees outside of the call center. Also, the one employee who works closely with our department (but is not a call center employee) who they’ve made serious accommodations for is an outstanding performer. Jane is mediocre at best.

I feel a little bit conflicted. There is the side of me that understands the importance of a degree and how frustrating it is to try to overcome the obstacles in the way of a degree. This part of me wants to give her a high five for her initiative and do whatever I can to help. Then there is the manager side of me that thinks that there’s no way that I can make these accommodations while being fair to the rest of the department. I’d have to create a spot on the earlier shift and move her schedule ahead of three people with more seniority (and who are all better performers). This part of me wants to ask why anyone would sign up for classes without checking to see if their work schedule could be moved, or why someone would decide to take classes 45 minutes away when there is literally a college across the street from our building (don’t worry – I won’t actually ask her this, as I realize it’s none of my business).

You can support Jane in going back to school, while also holding firm that you can’t disadvantage other, better coworkers to accommodate her. Just be straightforward about the situation. For example: “I think it’s great that you’re going back to school, but I’m not able to change your schedule. I don’t have a spot on the earlier shift, and if one opened up, we have three people with more seniority who would be in line for it first. I can’t change the promises we’ve made to them. You’re right that other teams have made accommodations for school schedules, but those are employees outside the call center. Our schedules are more rigid here, and we can’t do that. I understand that that means that you may not be able to stay on here.”

And then hold firm. You absolutely shouldn’t be breaking your own rules and disadvantage others in order to keep on someone you describe as “mediocre at best.”

2. My boss is intense BFFs with my coworker

I work for a very large Fortune 500 company. There is an HR policy in place regarding conflicts of interest for family members and opposite-sex relationships. However, there is not a policy regarding same-sex friendships.

In my department, my manager and coworker have a very intense personal relationship (non-sexual). They work out together during the week and on weekends, they attend all sorts of sporting events, they dine together, they take expensive vacations together (spas/vacations out of the country – one of which was financed by my manager), they text, they are in each other’s offices all day, they take selfies and post them on Facebook, and they share clothing. It is a very close friendship.

As a result, the coworker has a LOT of power in our group. She has unlimited access to our boss, and she is able to direct her own narrative. Our boss maintains that she can be objective. I disagree. There have been a number of instances where this coworker’s behavior was excused instead of addressed. She can act, essentially, with impunity. My bosses’ boss knows about this friendship, and either hasn’t or won’t address it. It could be that I have been existing in this dysfunctional environment for too long, but I’m starting to think that maybe I am wrong. Is this a conflict or am I off base?

No, it’s a huge conflict! You don’t have to be having sex with someone to have inappropriate biased in their favor or to be perceived as having inappropriate bias in their favor.

Occasionally working out together or dining together? Not a big deal on its own. But hanging out on weekends, vacationing together (!), sharing clothing (!), and all the rest? A huge deal. A huge, massive, ridiculous, complete abdication of your manager’s job. She’s far, far over the line of what’s appropriate. No one looking at that would believe that she can be unbiased or objective about your coworker, which means that she’s not able to do her job.

As for what to do … if her boss knows and won’t address it (huge failure on her part too), there might not be much you can do. You could talk to your boss or her boss and explain how the dynamic is impacting your department, but I’m skeptical that the friendship would actually get dialed back to an appropriate level (i.e., about 5% of where it is currently) without a serious mandate from someone above her who truly sees why this is completely not okay.

3. When a good employee resigns

I’m a new manager, and one of my strongest employees has decided to resign. It wasn’t an easy decision for her to make, so I’ve tried to be respectful and supportive while she makes her exit. Having never gone through this process before, it made me wonder if there’s something I can be doing to help give closure? Besides having her walk me through her job list and files, is it weird to have a one-on-one exit interview with her? I know that’s something HR will be doing, but is it normal practice for managers to give one as well? I meet with all my employees regularly, so I have a good sense of how she feels about this position and job, but I wonder if she would like the opportunity to give feedback, which could help determine how I train/direct the new employee filling her old position?

It would be weird to ask her to do a second formal exit interview with you, but not weird at all to talk informally with her and ask if there’s anything you could have done differently to keep her, what feedback she might want to share that would help you manage better or the department run better; and what advice she has on acclimating her replacement.

4. Is it inappropriate for men to initiate handshakes with women at work?

I was recently in a meeting with someone who claimed that it’s inappropriate for men to initiate handshakes with women in the workplace because “it could be seen as sexual harassment.” For the full effect, please imagine the speaker leaning forward and saying it an extremely serious tone, wide-eyed, followed by “I bet you didn’t know that, did you?” I tried to gently disagree, but she was very, VERY sure that This Is A Thing.

My first instinct is that this is total hogwash, perhaps even a boogeyman made up by people who don’t like the fact that it’s no longer okay to sexually harass your coworkers? However, I’m in academia, so I’m fairly disconnected from the corporate environment, and really, anything is possible. This is definitely Not A Thing, right?

P.S. She teaches this to students. It was all I could do to not yell THIS IS NOT A THING in the middle of the meeting!

What?! No, this is not a thing. In fact, it’s horribly sexist and old-fashioned and doesn’t belong in the workplace. No one in the workplace should be treating colleagues differently based on their sex, and it’s gross that she’s teaching students that they’re supposed to. Please intervene, for the principle of it and for the good of her students.

5. Interviewing with a prominent scar

I broke my wrist pretty badly a few months ago, and wound up needing surgery to get some plates put in. Everything internally is healing up fine, but the scar that was left behind is pretty prominent. Hopefully this will get better with time, but at the moment, the location and size of my scar make it look like I tried to kill myself. It’s red and angry looking enough that unless I try very hard to hide it, it’s pretty visible (even in long sleeves). In my day-to-day life, when I meet new people, I show off my “badass scar from playing sports” and that seems to ease people’s discomfort.

The problem is, I am also searching for a new job. I know first impressions count, and this scar could count against me for being a “mental health risk.” How do I bring this up with people? It feels a bit overly defensive to say “my scar looks like I tried to kill myself but really I was just playing sports,” and flashing my scar to show off how badass I am is obviously also out of the question.

I think you’re over-thinking it! Assuming it’s going to be visible when you’re shaking hands, just say, “Excuse the scar — I’m healing from a soccer injury” (or whatever). People aren’t likely to think anything of it.

boss and coworker are intense BFFs, mediocre employee wants me to accommodate her school schedule was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Monday, May 2nd, 2016 09:01 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, May 2nd, 2016 04:37 pm


Did a serious habitat unfucking this weekend. This under stairs closet was full of 15 years of rotating door roommates, all of which accumulated before I moved in 4 years ago. None of it is my mess, but I’m tired of waiting on other people to clean it(it’s a long story…) and it’s actually a health hazard at this point.

14 lawn sized trash bags and 12 hours later(spread over three days)…it’s finally a usable space again.

Monday, May 2nd, 2016 02:46 pm


I’ve been doing laundry all week but haven’t had the energy to fold it and put it away. Why is that last step so hard for me? Anyway, I was tired of sleeping with it so one 20/10 and it was unfucked! You can see that Hannah is not impressed lol

Monday, May 2nd, 2016 12:55 pm


So the first 6 are before… And the last 2 are after 3 40/20s…
So I pretty successfully unfucked my bed (even flipped the mattress) and part of my bedside table, the floor, and a couple shelves. The floor still needs work tho, as do my dressers, the rest of my bookshelves, etc. So pretty much the 80% of my room I haven’t seen in over 6 years.

Mental illness has seriously screwed my ability to finish up the job over the years. It’s so overwhelming and I have so little energy. But I’m getting there.

My hoarding issues really fuck me over tho… Idk how I even fit this much stuff in my room (oh right, that’s why the floor is barely walkable). But I’m terrified at the prospect of needing to give up some of my stuff. Like I know logically it’s just stuff. But I attach so much sentiment to EVERYTHING and throwing stuff away or giving it up feels like giving up good friends and family and all the memories and thought and effort that people put in to give me things…

The Brave Little Toaster and Toy Story added to my preexisting environmental/nurture/nature elements in place for hoarding REALLY fucked me over lmao

Monday, May 2nd, 2016 11:04 am


It took me all day with multiple breaks (about 3 45/15s and 2 20/10s) to get every little nook and cranny looked at and organized.
Decluttering is my favorite thing to do. It gives me a sense of peace and control.
I found a bunch of stuff that wasn’t even mine that I definitely need to return.
All in all, a super productive Sunday.

Monday, May 2nd, 2016 06:00 pm

Posted by Brett Jonas

Quote Post Brett: “I forgot how much sunburns hurt.”
Jade: “Don’t you get sunburned all the time?”
Brett: “No, I’m the person who NEVER gets sunburned because I’m always putting sun tan lotion on. I can’t even think of the last time I got sunburned.”
Jade: “Oh, wait, I’m the one who gets sunburned all the time. It doesn’t hurt that badly – why are you whining about it?”
Monday, May 2nd, 2016 05:59 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I work for a company with a very small number of permanent employees (10) that employs a large number of entry-level seasonal workers (~25) at a couple points in the year. The company is so small that we don’t have landlines; we just have company cell phones, and we have no HR department. The phone number that goes on our website, brochures, etc. is my number (since my role involves dealing with the public) so although I do not hire anyone myself, I am the one who job seekers call. I can’t give them the number of the actual hiring manager, who is higher up in the organization and doesn’t want to be bothered with dozens of calls any more than I do.

Of course, a quick “did you receive my application materials?” is fine and easy to handle. But oftentimes, job seekers call asking for more details about compensation, the qualifications needed for the position, job duties, etc. BEFORE they have been contacted for an interview.

On the one hand, I don’t want to be one of those snooty HR people, and I know this would be the first job for a lot of these folks. But I’m not in HR, many of these details are on the website/job posting, and honestly, it’s just annoying. The system is pretty automated – within three weeks, they are either contacted for an interview or sent a rejection – so there isn’t even anything I can do.

Neither my manager nor I know how to handle this, so we’re leaving it to you. How much can we tell people when they call? And is there some way we can gently educate young and eager job seekers about what is and isn’t appropriate?

You can tell them as much as you’d like, but most organizations don’t, simply because it can end up taking a huge amount of time.

It’s perfectly reasonable and a very, very normal practice for you to say to callers, “I’m not the hiring manager for this position. The person who is isn’t taking calls about it at this stage. I know she’d be happy to talk in detail about these questions if we move you forward in our process, but for now we’re hoping the information in the job posting on our website will give you a pretty good sense of the job and what we’re looking for.”

That said, though, I would reexamine your ad to make sure that it truly does have enough information in it. Would a reasonable person looking at the ad walk away with a thorough enough understanding of what the job entails, what qualifications you’re seeking, and other key details? If not, that might be part of the reason you’re getting these calls, and being clearer in the ad would be one fix. It won’t fix all of it though; you’ll always get some of these calls.

For what it’s worth, I’ve always noticed a fascinating correlation: The people who call with questions before applying are almost never people you’re going to end up wanting to interview. Strong candidates just don’t do it. Plus, annoyingly often these callers aren’t truly seeking information; they’re seeking contact with a human so they can pitch themselves for the job or try to make a positive impression, which is not something you’re obligated to accommodate.

It’s reasonable to funnel people through the process you’ve established for each side to learn more about the other.

* An exception to this would be if you were hiring for a very senior or hard-to-fill job — in which case it makes sense to invest more time in cultivating people. But that doesn’t sound like it’s the case here.

job candidates who call for more information before we’ve invited them to interview was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Monday, May 2nd, 2016 04:30 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

usnewsAnyone who’s ever had a job knows the special hell of annoying coworkers who get on your last nerve at work and from whom you can’t escape because you’re both required to work together. But have you ever considered that you yourself might be that annoying coworker for some of your colleagues?

At U.S. News & World Report today, I talk about seven things that would make the chances pretty high that you are the one your coworkers are venting about when they go home each day — including regularly cc’ing people’s managers when you don’t need to, playing the martyr, and more. You can read it here.



7 ways you’re driving your coworkers batty was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Monday, May 2nd, 2016 02:59 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I work for a small law firm as an attorney and left a higher paying job with a firm in another state to work there. I’ve been employed there for five months, but I’ve only been working for three months because I was severely ill and had surgery unexpectedly two months into my tenure, and was on medical leave for two months. I’ve been back to work for about a month.

I actually expected them to let me go while I was out, but all of the partners were very accommodating and said everyone wanted me back and that they would do their best to accommodate me. Of note is that I don’t think my leave was protected, as I haven’t worked there long enough and the firm isn’t big enough to be subject to leave laws. So, if they wanted me gone, I’m not sure why they didn’t just let me go while I was on leave.

Without any explanation, approximately one month after I returned from medical leave, one of the four partners took me out to lunch and told me “it’s not working out” and “they [the other partners] want [me] gone but will give [me] three months to find something else.” Of note is that I have not had ANY bad reviews, feedback, or personality conflicts with anyone, and I like my job and the people I work with very much. I expressed as much to this partner and asked for the reason behind this gut-punch. Nonetheless, despite a three-hour lunch conversation with this partner, I was never given any substantive reason other than that the firm has a “revolving door” and he’s had this conversation “many times before.”

After wallowing in feelings of inadequacy, self-loathing, and doubt for over a week and informing my friends and family of my impending termination, however, said partner invites me out to coffee the following week. He then says the other partners feel like they “haven’t given [me] a chance” and they’re not firing me after all!

To say I’m confused, hurt, disgusted, etc. would be the understatement of the year. I don’t have any other job options at the moment, and lawyers don’t find new jobs easily in general right now, let alone after a few months’ tenure in this particular practice area. Having said that, however, the idea of continuing to work for this firm makes me feel ill. What do I do, and what on earth was this about? There really are no other details that I’m leaving out–I’m as confused by this as I’m sure you will be reading it.

Well, it’s possible that it was related to the medical leave, but most employers would be reasonable about that, and an employer ready to fire you over that would usually do it during the leave itself (“unfortunately we can’t let the position go unfilled this long”) rather than a month after you came back. I suppose it’s possible that they’re nervous about whether a health condition will pull you away for a long stretch again, and that would explain their vagueness since even if they’re too small to be subject to laws around leave, few people want to say “we’re firing you because of your health.”

But the partner’s remark that the firm has a revolving door and that he’s had a similar conversation many times before makes me think that’s not the reason, or at least that it’s not the full reason.

My best guess is that these people are terrible at one or more of the following:
* hiring people who are right for what they need
* setting clear expectations with new people about what they’re looking for and how to succeed (and so people inevitably don’t meet those expectations)
* understanding what’s realistic to expect from a new hire a few months in
* working with people who differ in some way from themselves

And no guessing is needed for this one: We know for sure that they’re terrible at communicating. We know that because otherwise they would have given you feedback all along about whatever concerns they had, or at least at a minimum would have explained those concerns when they decided to fire you. “It’s not working out” is rarely a sufficient explanation to give someone you’re firing; they owed you an attempt to put their concerns into words, even if it was difficult or awkward to do.

They especially owed you that because you left a job in another state to move there for this one. I mean, they’d owe it to anyone, no matter how soft of a landing that person was going to have, but reasonable employers know that there are extra burdens when someone moves to take the job. That doesn’t mean that they have to keep someone who’s not working out, but it means that they owe them a clear explanation (as well as some serious severance, which we’ll get to in a minute).

As for what to do now … that’s hard to say without knowing things like your finances, your other options, and how easily you’ll find a new job. Ideally, you wouldn’t return to this one, since it’s very unlikely that it could be a long-term home for you; in addition to what they’ve exposed themselves as, you’d always be wondering if you’d be fired out of the blue again.

However, if your financial situation doesn’t allow for you to say no, then it could make sense to return so that you have a paycheck coming in, while conducting the most aggressive job search of your life.

Either way, this could be an interesting opportunity to try to extract information out of them. You could say something like, “I appreciate the offer of my job back, but can you help me understand what happened? I’m still in the dark about why I was let go in the first place and if I came back, I’d want to make sure I understand what happened.”

Also, if you choose not to return, I hope you’ll think about trying to negotiate a severance package. This may be complicated by the fact that they’re now offering to let you return, but in general, “I left a higher paying job and moved here for this job, and you fired me without good reason” makes a pretty compelling argument for severance.

I was fired and then offered my job back a week later was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Monday, May 2nd, 2016 08:44 am
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, May 2nd, 2016 08:16 am
I’ve been watching Steven Universe. I’m twenty some episodes in, and I’m not… It’s by no means terrible, but I’m not in love with it. I will watch more because it’s low time investment.

We have two books coming in at Book Bound tomorrow, both for Cordelia. One is the new Rick Riordan book, the start of a new series. (Oddly, the library has no record of this book in their catalog which means they haven’t ordered it yet. I find that really, really strange. I mean, it’s Rick Riordan. There’s going to be lot of demand.) The other is the second book in a series by Kerstin Gier. I’m torn. I ought to save the second book for her birthday, but my impulse is to give it to her right away because I know she desperately wants to read it.

I got up with Cordelia today. She was surprised to see me and demanded to know why I was awake. She didn’t tell me to go back to bed, though, so I really don’t know what she wants me to do. I’ll have to get up with her on Wednesday because my appointment is pretty early. I’ll need to call a cab a little after 9:00.

I slept badly last night. I was too warm under the sheet and blanket and too cold under just the sheet. I was in one of those half awake states where I was both aware of my body and the blankets and all of that and dreaming that there were things I had to to in a very specific way. When I’m like that, the most nonsensical things seem logical, and I can move a bit, so I worry that, some day, I’ll actually get up when I’m like that. Who knows what I’d do then?

I’ve been sleeping without the compression pad and wearing it during the day. That seems to be working out okay. I get more swelling during the day, whether I wear the pad or not, but it seems to be less if I wear the pad. Generally, the swelling goes away when I spend time lying down, whether on my back or on my side, so I think the pad isn’t useful then. My breast still hurts a lot when I get up from lying down, though. I’m fine once I’ve been upright for a minute, but that first minute is pretty awful.

Right now, I’m debating whether to drink more water or to lie down for a while. I think sleep will win, but I’m not absolutely sure yet.
Monday, May 2nd, 2016 04:03 am

Posted by Ask a Manager

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

1. My manager leaves to get her hair done during the workday

I work for a small firm with a fairly laid-back environment. One of my bosses regularly schedules her multi-hour hair appointments for workday afternoons. Every other month or so, she leaves work at 3 and comes to work the next day with freshly styled hair. She will leave meetings and reschedule work activities (conference calls, etc.) around her appointments, and it seems unlikely that she’s using her vacation/personal time for the time she’s taking off.

I understand that hair appointments are important and do take a significant amount of time. I have also scheduled hair cuts and coloring appointments during the week, but always after work hours. I don’t really want to confront her about this or even try to get her in trouble for it, but I do wonder if this is more acceptable than I’m thinking it is. To me, it seems unprofessional to run out to a grooming appointment during work time. Is this appropriate?

Yes, in lots of offices, this would be perfectly fine, especially for someone senior enough to make decisions about how to manage her own time (and your manager probably falls in that category). Particularly in jobs where you end up doing work in the evenings and on the weekends, reasonable employers are fine with people stepping out mid-day to take care of something personal. Hell, even in jobs where you’re not typically working outside of regular hours, reasonable employers will be fine with people occasionally stepping out for personal reasons. (You also don’t know if she’s using PTO for that time or not. She very well may be.)

For what it’s worth, if I were your manager I’d be pretty annoyed that you thought this was an issue. Assuming she’s generally competent at her job and the department is not falling apart because she leaving work a couple of hours early now and then, you should stop thinking of this as a problem.

2. Should I sing a song at my interview?

I have an interview in a week at a well-established clothing company for a job doing phone and email customer support. If there’s a chance to sell something along the way, the support agents are expected to do a good job with that too.

They asked the candidates to bring an object and have a presentation about the object. It can be presented as we wish.

Straight away, I knew I had to bring my guitar and I have a whole thing prepared already. But then suddenly I got the idea that I could write a song about my guitar and present it that way? Do you think they will appreciate that? I don’t know if it’s too risky. I know they will remember me for it, but will they think it’s not serious? It just seems kind of boring to bring a guitar without playing anything on it.

Don’t do it. Exercises like this are generally supposed to give a window into your work skills. You’re not going to be singing to customers (I’m assuming/hoping), so doing your presentation in song isn’t going to give them information about how you’d perform on the job, which is what they’re looking for.

That said, I’m 100% sure that there are some hiring managers out there who would like this and think that it demonstrated personality and energy … but there are more who would feel like you missed the point of the exercise.

3. Am I being too persnickety about candidates’ cover letter formatting?

I work in an office at my university, and we are reviewing applications for a graduate assistant position. How important is proper cover letter formatting (such as including the name of the recipient and including a greeting)? A coworker and I disagree about how important it is.

My position is that using a correct business format shows that you are willing to put in a solid amount of effort to complete a task. While I’m not generally a stickler for professional formatting—I’ll often leave out greetings in emails—I do think that if one cannot make the effort to do a task as important as applying for a job properly, then how much effort will you put into task everyday tasks? The way I see it, people who don’t use proper formatting either (1) did not know how to and yet did not take the, arguably, simple step of googling “cover letter format” or (2) were too lazy/didn’t take the application seriously enough to submit a formatted letter. Both of these factors stick out as red flags to me. Am I being too persnickety here?

Are you talking about cover letters that are in the body of the email or attached as a separate document? If it’s in the body of an email, I wouldn’t hold it against someone for not including a formal greeting and a name; ideally they should have those things, but email is an inherently more casual medium than old-school business letters are and I don’t think you should reject anyone over that.

But if you’re talking about a separate document that’s been attached, it does look unpolished when it’s a document with no “dear hiring manager” or “dear Alison” and/or no appropriate closing (“sincerely, Cressida Warbleworth”). I wouldn’t penalize someone for not including the other aspects of a formal business letter though, like the date and the address block; email has really changed the conventions in that regard. (And that stuff definitely doesn’t belong in a cover letter that’s in the body of an email, since email makes that info redundant. In fact, when it appears there, it usually signals lack of savvy since that’s not how email works.)

Definitely don’t penalize people for not tracking down the name of the recipient (I’m not sure if that’s part of what you meant or not); “dear hiring manager” is fine.

So, yes, I might be coming down on the side of “too persnickety” here, depending on which aspects of this are in play.

4. I keep almost falling asleep in meetings

I’m having an issue that’s embarrassing me. I just started a new job a few months back. My small team in a big company is full of reasonably nice, smart people. No team is perfect, though, and one of the few pet peeves I have with them is the excess of long, talky meetings we have. That’s not exactly what this question is about, though.

I keep almost falling asleep in meetings where I’m not directly involved. I’ve tried several things to mitigate this–going to bed earlier (doesn’t work), drinking extra coffee (just gives me a headache and makes it harder to fall asleep that night), taking notes (I end up zoning out anyway), etc. None of it works. Half an hour into that day’s lunch meeting, I’ll be physically struggling to keep my eyelids open.

I’ve had issues sleeping since I was a kid. Nothing serious enough to see a doctor about, I think, but I usually wake up one to three times in an average night and am fairly yawny and groggy the day after that happens. I don’t think my managers have noticed yet, and I’m working very hard outside these meetings. It doesn’t help that I also have ADHD. But I want to find some way to fix this before it starts affecting my reputation at work. Any advice?

See a doctor! It’s negatively impacting your life, despite you trying all the obvious remedies. That moves it into the “yes, talking to a medical professional is now warranted” category. That doesn’t mean that it has to be something serious, but when something impacts your life in a way you don’t like and can’t fix on your own, it’s appropriate to seek professional help.

5. Can employer move your hours to the next week to avoid paying overtime?

My nephew works for a fast food chain. I looked at his check and feel that he is not being paid correctly. He is paid biweekly.

If he works 50 hours on week 1 and 30 hours on week 2, does he get overtime for week 1? Or does the employer have the right to move those 10 hours into week 2? Also, can an employer take hours you worked in a pay period and move it to the next pay period?

No, an employer can’t move hours around like that. If you worked more than 40 hours in a week, then you need to be paid overtime for that week, and the employer can’t use a two-week period instead of a one-week period.

That said, be aware that the employer gets to decide how they want to define the seven-day work week; they can choose to start it on Sunday or Wednesday or Friday or whatever they want. (But it does need to be the same seven-day period each time; they can’t keep mixing it up to get out of paying overtime.) So one thing to look at it is which seven-day period they’re using, and whether that changes the overtime calculation.

manager leaves to get her hair done during the workday, should I sing a song at my interview, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Sunday, May 1st, 2016 11:31 pm
So, a week or so ago, there was massive confusion over our stuff that was put on the shelf to be glaze fired at Clayworks -- I won't recap it here, but it basically involved us being taught wrong in the winter class without being told that we shouldn't do it that way in the future and as a result we put our pieces on the shelf for cone 6 firing instead of ^10 firing -- but thankfully, the kiln tech caught it and moved things to the right shelf. We collected the results tonight, and it all looks great! (Except for one of my mugs, but that was not firing error, it was glazer error. Heh.)

The whole shebang:

Closeup of each of the pots + glazing notes )
Sunday, May 1st, 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
Sunday, May 1st, 2016 09:03 pm
We didn’t move very fast this morning. I don’t think any of us wanted to be up and about.

Scott’s sister expected us at the church at 9:30. That was when I had set my alarm for, so her text woke me. I explained that I still wasn’t feeling very well but that we’d come to the brunch later. We ended up late for that by about an hour. I think Scott’s sister held the meal, waiting for us. She cooked four different types of egg casserole and then made chicken nuggets for me (eggs are a migraine trigger for me). I was torn— I was hungry but not exactly, and a lot of the food was stuff I worried would give me trouble.

I was kind of headachy by the time we left to come home. I really very much wanted to lie down, but we still needed to do the weekly trip to the library. Scott and I left Cordelia at home and went and did that. I have four DVDs to watch this week which is more than I really want. More things came in all at once than I expected. I’ll go first with the one that can’t be renewed; that’s a two DVD set that’ll take me about five hours.

I need to go out three times this week. Tomorrow evening, there’s a meeting at the school for the parents of middle school students. It will involve us getting some necessary paperwork, and they’re holding that hostage to make people show up. Of course, if they really wanted people to show up, they wouldn’t have scheduled the meeting for 5:30. I see a gynecologist on Wednesday, and Cordelia has PT on Thursday.

Scott looked at our expenses for March and April and concluded that we can— just barely— manage the insulation payments. Of course, that was expenses without the bills from Cordelia’s injury which haven’t hit yet. We’ll probably turn to Cordelia’s Social Security money to deal with that. There’s only $5000 left of that (the high point of that account was about $25000, so we’ve hit it pretty hard over the last three years), but that will definitely cover the medical stuff. I will regret that we won’t have that money when it comes time to send Cordelia to college, but I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

May has four birthdays, however, so it will be a bit more expensive than March or April. I asked Scott about the budget for buying gifts for Cordelia, but we got interrupted before he could answer. We’ve got two weeks to buy whatever we’re going to give her. If we want to get books from Book Bound, we need to order them this week. Amazon needs less time and is cheaper, but Book Bound is a local business, and they’re never really busy when we go in there. I worry that they won’t last.

I’m still not feeling 100%. I’m hungry, but pretty much everything I look at is repulsive. Scott made crab legs for dinner, and I usually love those, but the smell made me feel sick. I didn’t do too badly when I made myself start eating, but I had to make myself. I’m still kind of hungry. I should probably figure out where Scott stashed the crackers.
Sunday, May 1st, 2016 04:33 pm
Inspired by getting to eat at Smokey Bones for the first time in years, I have this bubbling in my crockpot:

*Boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs or both.
*One bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce.
*Approximately one cup chicken stock/broth
*Chopped onion to taste
*One diced tomato
*Frozen corn (as much or as little as you want)

(Note the First: you could of course do this with pork shoulder or brisket.)

(Note the Second: some recipes call for lima beans, but they are my nemesis. However, if you like lima beans, by all means, add them!)

Put diced onion, chicken, sauce, and stock in your crockpot (or in an oven-safe pot in your oven, probably on 325ish). Cook until chicken is shredable, then remove and shred. Add back to the crockpot and cook for...a while, to infuse flavor and/or kill time. Add corn at the last minute: nuking it later will warm the corn.

Divide, and eat at lunch with a hunk of tasty bread.
Sunday, May 1st, 2016 04:01 am

Posted by Brett Jonas

This month we’re giving away 25 of our caramel candies! The winner will be able to choose between our Sea Salt and our Chocolate caramels. They’re both delicious, so good luck choosing!

Use the Rafflecopter below to enter to win. If for some reason the Rafflecopter is not showing up, you can find it at this link.

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Saturday, April 30th, 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
Saturday, April 30th, 2016 05:30 pm
Cordelia and two of her friends did a movie night last night at one of the friends’ houses. I was not clear on whether or not there would be dinner. Given that the thing was scheduled for 5:30 to 9:00, them ordering pizza or something seemed like a reasonable assumption, but I found out at the last minute that there would only be munchies, so I had to scramble to get dinner for Cordelia and her best friend who was over at the time— chicken patties and green beans. They apparently tried several movies, including about ten minutes of Sharknado 3 which they found too ridiculous to go on with.

Scott did the grocery shopping while the girls were out because we weren’t sure there’d be time today. He picked Cordelia and her best friend up around 9:00 and drove the best friend home before coming home and heading pretty much straight for bed. He was scheduled to work 3:00 to 7:00 this morning, and he fully expected to have to, but they called around 10:30 to say that they wouldn’t need him after all.

Mom didn’t arrive until nearly noon. She’d had a check tire pressure light come on just as she was setting out, and it took a lot longer to deal with than she expected. She was pretty unhappy about traffic on 94 because the slow lane was going along at 80 mph with cars in the fast lane still passing them.

We talked for a while then went to Saica for lunch. I’m still not 100% digestively speaking, so eating was a gamble. So far, I’m okay, but who knows? Cordelia tried a tempura California roll and concluded that she much prefers regular California rolls. Mom had some sort of soup that she enjoyed. It was both spicy hot and temperature hot. The latter gave her a good bit of trouble.

From there, we went to Book Bound. Mom bought Cordelia some books as an early birthday present. I think that might be the first birthday present my mother has ever given Cordelia which is kind of sad.

When we got back here, Mom almost fell asleep, and she decided that, given that, she’d better start back to Lawton two hours earlier than she’d planned. She wanted to get some coffee for the road, so we all went to the Espresso Royale near the Kroger. She took her own car because that was on her way out of town. Scott and I both got ginger tea, and Cordelia got a frozen mocha thing.

I’m trying to decide now if I can manage some writing of fic or reading of library books. I’m not altogether sure I can, but I would like to. I’m just more tired than I expected. I think maybe I should have gotten something caffeinated at Espresso Royale. But who knows? Maybe what I really need is to lie down for a while. I’m not certain that I’m not sick, after all, and we have to be up earlyish tomorrow.

We’ve decided not to try to get to the church for our niece’s confirmation, but we do need to go to the brunch after at Scott’s sister’s house. It’s the closest Scott’s family is going to get to a Mother’s Day thing this year given the timing of my colonoscopy. I’m a little worried that my body’s reaction to lunch today may mean that I can’t go. That would be the sort of thing that’s happened with those family gatherings consistently for many months.

Okay. Tylenol and then lying down for a little bit. I’ll see what happens.
Saturday, April 30th, 2016 01:58 pm

This blog isn’t really for that, though if you ever write a poem based one of the prompts you’re welcome to put your poem in a reblog of the prompt.

I do caution people often that if you ever want poetry published, most places won’t consider previously published work and unfortunately many places consider even a poem’s being on a blog as it being published.


Saturday, April 30th, 2016 06:00 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand. (This one is truly no work and no school. If you have a work question, you can email it to me or post it in the work-related open thread on Fridays.)

Book recommendation of the week: Liars’ Club, by Mary Karr. You’ve probably figured out by now that I like dark and funny books about family dysfunction, and this memoir sits at the top of the heap of all of them.

weekend free-for-all – April 30-May 1, 2016 was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Saturday, April 30th, 2016 09:12 am

Is there a small-ish task you’ve been putting off for a while? Emptying the dishwasher, putting that load of clean clothes away, throwing out those sketchy jars of stuff slowly gaining sentience in your fridge? Set a timer for 20 minutes and go deal with whatever it is. Use any time left over to pick up a few things that don’t belong wherever they are.

Saturday, April 30th, 2016 04:03 am

Posted by Ask a Manager

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

1. My job changed to something I never signed up for

About eight months ago I was hired as a marketing coordinator for a fairly small office. About four months into my position, our office manager was fired and has not been replaced. Since then, everyone has picked up the slack to some degree. I was given one of her tasks – handling accounts receivable – which is something I NEVER wanted anything to do with, and was never presented to me as something I might be responsible for. If I had known this would be something that now takes up about half of my time, I would not have taken the position. In addition, there are regularly inaccuracies (not on my account, our managing partner apparently has a long history of not keeping accurate accounting information on her end) and this causes me a great deal of anxiety, as I do not want the ax to fall on me as it conceivably could, if there is a big enough goof-up.

That sucks. You’re absolutely right to be frustrated and unhappy about this.

You could try talking to your manager and saying something like: “Could we talk about the long-term plan for handling accounts receivable? I was happy to help out while we were in a pinch, but I’m spending about half my time on it, and I’d really like to focus on the marketing work I was hired for. Is there a plan to replace Jane, or is this something you see me doing long-term?” If she says that this is the long-term plan, you could say, “Would you be open to talking about handling it differently? I hadn’t envisioned the job evolving like this when I took it, and it’s not something I’d like to make a permanent part of my role.”

It’s possible that if she hears that you feel strongly about it, that could nudge her to come up with a different plan. But it’s also possible that this is just the way it’s going to be, and that you’ll have to decide if you still want the job under these terms. It’s unfair, but in small organizations, sometimes things like this do happen (which is a reason to be wary of small organizations — on the other hand, the flip side of that is that sometimes it works to your advantage, if you get to take on new stuff that you like and wouldn’t otherwise have had a chance at).

If you do decide to leave over it, you can explain to future interviewers that after a colleague left, your job ended up being 50% accounts receivable, which wasn’t what you’d come on board to do.

2. Should junior staff have to train others?

To what extent should junior/entry-level-ish workers be expected to train other staff members? I ask because I’ve done a fair amount of this – on technical tasks, not just procedural “here’s how to fill out this spreadsheet” kind of stuff. My friends say that this is unusual considering my level of job. What do you think?

It’s pretty normal. If you know how to do something that’s reasonably within your job purview, and someone else needs to be trained in doing that thing, it makes sense to have you train them.

It sounds like your friends are thinking that training is some highly senior task, but it’s reasonable and normal for the lowest-level person who can train someone effectively to do so, so that more senior people (whose time costs your employer more) spend their time on the work that only they can do.

3. Employer expected me to travel seven hours for an interview with three days notice

Is it unreasonable for an employer to expect me to travel over seven hours for an interview?

I recently applied for a teaching position in my home town, which is about a seven-hour drive from where I currently live. I got an email saying that I was scheduled to interview at 2:30 on Friday (less than three days notice). I wrote the interviewer back and asked about Skype or phone options, since this is the first interview in a longer interview process and I am currently a full-time employee at a high school. The interviewer responded by saying that they didn’t hire people over Skype and asking me when I could come up. When I moved to central California from where I grew up, all of the jobs offered a long distance interview option and assumed I wouldn’t be able to drive down.

It’s not unreasonable for them to expect you to travel to them for the interview at some point, although ideally they’d be open to doing a phone call or Skype interview for the first step since it’s a multi-step process. However, this is a teaching position, which means that it’s likely that their interview process is highly regimented and that they have internal rules that prohibit them from deviating from that (because they wrongly think they need to treat all candidates exactly the same).

It’s also pretty silly to just send candidates an announcement of when they will interview, without asking them if the day and time works. (Again, see heavily regimented interview processes with little thought about how candidates experience it.)

In general, though, if you’re applying to places long-distance, and if employers have plenty of strong local candidates, you’ll often need to deal with the inconvenience of making yourself as accessible to them as a local candidate would be. Otherwise, unless you’re head and shoulders above their local candidates, there’s not really incentive for them to change what they’re doing. (In fact, this is why some employers refuse to consider non-local candidates at all.)

4. How do I manage an overwhelming number of passwords at work?

I am wondering if you have any advice for password management at work. I am an executive assistant and I have a large number of passwords to keep track of:
– accounts for various services that I use for the office (ordering supplies, ordering food, website management, project coordination software etc)
– accounts that I use on my supervisors’ behalf (airline accounts, customer accounts like opentable, etc)
– personal accounts at work (email, HR portal)

It gets to be a bit much and I need to balance functionality with security. Do you have any recommendations?

Are you allowed to install third-party tools? If so: LastPass. It’s changed my life.

It’s a secure password manager where you only need to remember your one master password, and it fills in and remembers unique passwords for all your sites. I now have highly secure passwords for every site I use (like “g6vjXg4Ep7Wm” type passwords, as opposed to “apple17” or whatever) and I don’t have to remember any of them. I love it.

5. Should I list my blog on my resume?

Is it a good idea to list my blog on my CV/Linkedin? (Note: I understand that in North America, there are both CVs and resumes, but we just have the one document). My blog is tangentially related to my field … for example, let’s say that I work in higher education and my blog is about 19th century literature. I’ve been posting consistently for a few years and it’s generally good quality content (among other things, I present original research, and things that aren’t well-represented in English-language writing). As a data point, does mentioning this kind of thing show passion and commitment, or does it just seem a bit trivial?

You should absolutely include it. It demonstrates extreme interest in a subject, which is always a good thing, and it demonstrates your writing and thinking and communication abilities.

It doesn’t seem trivial. I get excited by candidates who are excited about their fields.

my job changed to something I never signed up for, should junior staff have to train others, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Friday, April 29th, 2016 09:00 pm
  • Wash the dishes in your sink
  • Get your outfit for tomorrow together, including accessories
  • Set up coffee/tea/breakfast
  • Make your lunch
  • Put your keys somewhere obvious
  • Wash your face and brush your teeth
  • Take your medication/set out your meds for the morning
  • Charge your electronics
  • Pour a little cleaner in the toilet bowl (if you don’t have pets or children or sleepwalking adults)
  • Set your alarm
  • Go to bed at a reasonable hour
Friday, April 29th, 2016 08:25 pm
The last couple of days, when I’ve been at home alone (so that it’s quiet), I’ve been hearing something that sounds like a sink with a very heavy drip or a rapidly moving fan with a little catch in it. Nobody else has noticed it, probably because Scott and Cordelia have music or the TV on all the time. At any rate, all of the fans are off. None of the faucets upstairs are dripping (and I wouldn’t expect to hear something like that from the basement). I’m not sure Scott believes me that it even exists.

I’ve eaten toast, crackers, and mashed potatoes* today. I really, really want something else, but I don’t dare. This is definitely going to make taking my mother out for lunch a lot more complicated.

*I wasn’t sure the mashed potatoes would come out. The instructions on the package called for some milk. Almond milk is generally fine, but Scott never, ever checks when he grabs that to be sure he’s getting the plain kind, so what’s in the fridge is a nearly fully, very large container of vanilla almond milk. That would be just plain nasty with garlic mashed potatoes, so I used extra water. I think it would have been better with milk, but it’s not inedible. But why on earth does Scott keep buying the vanilla flavored almond milk? I’ve asked him repeatedly not to.