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Friday, September 22nd, 2017 04:00 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I have a coworker who started a few months ago. He and I are responsible for similar types of projects, but we rarely collaborate because the projects don’t readily lend themselves to teamwork. Occasionally, we may consult each other if we hit a technical snag with the software.

For some reason, my boss has started pushing me to work more closely with him on my projects. However, I find his finished products to be subpar, and I wouldn’t want my name associated with his work. Other coworkers seek me out specifically to assist them, even when I’m slammed and he isn’t.

Do you have any thoughts on how I can 1) get my boss to stop pushing the point and 2) let her know that I prefer to stick to my way of doing things without disrespecting my coworker?

Also, why might a manager start insisting on collaboration out of the blue?

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

my boss wants me to collaborate with my awful coworker was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Friday, September 22nd, 2017 03:37 pm
The last time I saw my nephew's mother was maybe 30 years ago. Donna. She was my brother's first wife. We were all so so so young.

He has this new (to us) software that makes video communications easier than I've ever seen it. He sends a link in a text, I click on it and bam, he's there with me in the corner faster than anything with no lag. It also has record capabilities so he thinks he's going to try and record the wedding with it. (I can watch and he can record all at the same time.) So he just did a test.

He started out in the front yard and showed me the yard and the house and then took me into the back yard where all of a sudden there were people - my nephews. Cool. But then he flashed on this really old woman who was waving and saying hi to me and it was Donna! I had no clue until she smiled. Wow. She was tall and big - not fat but filled out. Now she's sinewy and wrinkled.

Of course, she wasn't surprised by me. After all, it was her ex-husband holding my me up on his phone and telling everyone to say hi but I'll bet she was thinking... holy crap, she's really put on a pound or two hundred. And when did she get so old???? ha.

It's 90 degrees there. But, I did get a glimpse of the really nice covered deck where they are going to do the wedding. The bride was sweeping leaves while my two nephews watched. She needs to deed that broom over to one or both of them.
Friday, September 22nd, 2017 11:41 am

Friday has been having trouble keeping up on the blogging lately…

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Friday, September 22nd, 2017 03:11 pm
This morning's swim was divided into two sections... 1 was planning upcoming sewing projects and the second one was evaluating the wedding day schedule that my brother's new daughter in law handed out.

  • I love that she wrote it all down.

  • I love her writing/her tone/her total lack of grammatical errors and typos.

  • I love that she handed it out days early. My brother got his upon arrival Wednesday for the Saturday wedding.

  • I love that my nephew is marrying someone who owns a house!

  • I love that she's so anti-bridezilla and this is her first wedding (she's mid-30's).

  • I love what this says about her sense of self.

  • I love what this says about her relationships with family and new in-laws.

  • I love that she's having the wedding at her own house.

  • I really love that she's smart enough to invite the neighbors.

  • I love her tolerance for and kindness towards smokers.

  • I love that she was so detailed.

  • I love that she has a plan!

I'm fascinated/intrigued and slightly obsessed with this new family member. I'll likely never get to meet her but that's ok. I know she's there and has everything under control.

My whacko next door neighbor - the one who steals the masking tape and offers up goodies baked with and without cannabis - left, in the door this morning, an invitation to his wedding next Thursday. It did not not include an RSVP. It did include both of their names which I had not known before.

I think there may be a Costco run today. Maybe.
Friday, September 22nd, 2017 03:00 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

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

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

open thread – September 22-23, 2017 was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Friday, September 22nd, 2017 02:00 pm

Posted by PJ Jonas

Grandma and Poppy have been with us for several weeks.  They arrived to escape Hurricane Irma and decided to stay until Brett and Mason’s engagement party since it didn’t make sense to drive back to Florida just to turn right around again a few days later.

Poppy took the whole family out to China Garden Buffet last night because he tries to make my life easier and taking care of dinner is a great way to do that! (Thanks, Poppy!)

We always go to the same Chinese Buffet place near our old home in Charlestown.  It’s our favorite Chinese place and the owner knows us and takes good care of us.   When she sees us coming, the first thing she does is head back to the kitchen and tell them to bring out more chicken and brocolli and General Tso’s chicken.

General Tso's Chicken

The children, of course, empty both of those trays of whatever they have and make a sizable dent in many of the other offerings including the ice cream.  I don’t let my children (as a general rule) drink soda, but years ago Jim started the tradition where we all make vanilla ice cream and root beer floats.

As I was sitting with my root beer float (Hewitt accidentally put strawberry ice cream in and it tasted very strange!) and chatting with Poppy, I started to think about how life is like an all-you-can-eat buffet.  It can be very satisfying or it can leave you feeling overwhelmed and stuffed to the point of being uncomfortable.

So I decided to share some lessons taken from the Chinese buffet and applied to life.

Limit your choices.  On any given day, we have a seemingly unlimited amount of choices to make because we have access to opportunities that were unheard of a generation ago.  While choices are good, they can be overwhelming because they require us to make decisions.  One mistake I see a lot of people (including myself at times) making is to say “yes” to too many opportunities.  It is so important to learn to say “No” and limiting your choices is a great way to start.

Set expectations.  At the Chinese buffet, my children know they have to eat a certain amount of broccoli (or other vegetables) and protein before they can choose some of the fried foods and desserts.  That’s why we always empty the chicken and broccoli dish – because that is the children’s favorite vegetable dish.   They also know how much “real food” they have to eat before they can finish with their root beer float.  By having some boundaries, it makes the experience truly enjoyable.

Try something new.  I always encourage the children to try something new – whether it’s a new dish at the buffet or a new way of doing something or a new event.  We should never stop learning and part of that is always being willing to try something new.  Experimentation often proves that what we’ve always eaten or the way we’ve always done something is the best.  But every once in a while you’ll find something new that improves your life.  Never be so set in your routine that you aren’t open to new experiences.

Choose wisely.  How often do you go out to eat and say you are going to choose something healthy only to end up with something that tastes super good but you know is not a healthy choice.  While I believe that’s ok to do once in a while, it’s not a great life time habit.  Everything you choose to eat at the buffet leaves less room for something else. (Remember opportunity cost?) Choose wisely when you consider what to put on your plate in your life.

Don’t take too much.  If you ask people today how they are doing, many people will respond, “I’m busy.”  Just as we’re tempted to eat too much food at an all-you-can-eat buffet (because we paid for it), we’re tempted to do too much in our lives.  There is value in just doing nothing.  By not filling your plate with tasks you have to accomplish or places you have to be, you are leaving room for the spontaneous moments of life with your loved ones that are often the most precious and memorable.

Know when to stop.  Jim will often laugh at me because I literally leave the last one or two bites of food on my plate.  He thinks it’s silly that I don’t finish it since I’m so close, but I know that last literal bite will push me from feeling “pleasantly satisfied” to “uncomfortably full”.  So I stop.  We also need to do this on our lives.  We need to know when that one more little thing is too much.  For example, I like to clean up the kitchen before bed.  Usually this is pretty easy and quick, but often sometimes there is a big mess.  I’ve learned that if I do too much at night, I don’t get enough sleep and it throws off my next day.  So instead of cleaning it up the way I want, I just tidy it up so it is ready to be cleaned the next day.


Like everything else I talk about, it’s all about finding what works for you.  There are times you need to learn to say no and there are times you need to learn to say yes.  It’s not always easy to understand the difference.  A lot of it comes from wisdom that you gain over time.  That’s one of the reasons I take my parenting so seriously.  My children don’t have any wisdom when they are young.  I not only need to teach them to listen to my wisdom, but I also need to teach them to want to listen to my wisdom. (But that’s a topic for another post!)

What about you?  Got any other ideas how life is like a buffet??






Friday, September 22nd, 2017 08:24 am
Sentences I honestly had not expected to see at any point during my day when I got up this morning:

"In more than 30 years of cymbal cleaning I have used everything from ketchup to gasoline."

(I was trying to find out whether Noxon, a metal cleaner I remember using as early as Montessori preschool, would remove green discoloration from Artistic Wire, which is copper with a colored or clear coating. Turns out the process of cutting the wire into little bits and bending/looping/etc. the bits to make figure-of-eight chain exposes a lot of copper to the air and provides the opportunity for verdigris to form.)
Friday, September 22nd, 2017 10:16 pm
We have been working on the tag set for 144 hours, and the number of individual fandom nominations has gone down from 5058 to 618. There are 2779 approved fandoms now in the tag set. We’re in the home stretch! (The not very fast home stretch.)

Please help us with the following issues:

2017 Oscars RPF / Academy Awards RPF - These were each submitted with the same character nominations: Andrew Garfield and Dev Patel. Nominators, do you have a strong preference as to what fandom label is used?

Chronicles of the Raven - James Barclay - Ry Darrick only seems to appear in the sequel trilogy; is that incorrect, or does this fandom label cover both trilogies? We’d also appreciate a little more information on the Unknown Warrior.

Dallas Stars (Hockey RPF) - Justin Courtnall does not appear to belong in this category; please comment, or we will either move him to another category (if an appropriate one exists) or reject him. It is not clear to us that Katie Hoaldridge is a celebrity in her own right; could the nominator please give their reasoning?

動物戦隊ジュウオウジャー | Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger - the character Insarn does not seem to belong here. Did you mean Naria?

Element of Fire - Martha Wells - this is nominated with the characters Giliead (Ile-Rien), Ilias (Ile-Rien), and Tremaine Valiarde. The characters don’t seem to match the fandom. Nominator, would you prefer to change the fandom or the characters?

Forgotten Realms - for Khelben Arunsun, is Khelben "Blackstaff" Arunsun or Khelben Arunsun the Younger meant, please?

Giant Robo - This is nominated with the characters Alberto (Giant Robo), Ginrei (Giant Robo), Hanzui (Giant Robo), Ivan (Giant Robo), Kenji Murasame (Giant Robo), Shokatsuryou Koumei, Sunny the Magician, Taisou (Giant Robo), Tetsugyu (Giant Robo), and Youshi (Giant Robo). As far as we can tell, this is a mix of 1960 and 1990s anime. Nominators, could you please confirm which media you want and if they should be separated out or sent through together?

合法ドラッグ | Gouhou Drug | Legal Drug - the character Watanuki Kimihiro doesn’t seem to belong here. Nominator, could you please clarify?

No Game No Life - Kamiya Yuu - we're a little confused by the character 『 』| Kuuhaku | Blank. Could the nominator please give their reasoning for nominating this character separately?

Numbers (Anthropomorphic) - There are multiple sets of nominations for this fandom. Going by fandom spelling, respectively, the characters nominated are:
  • -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, 7, Golden Ratio, Pi

  • -128, -i, 0.5, 12, 16, 256, i, sqrt(2)

  • 666, e, j, k

The last set in particular is confusing us. Do j and k together (without i?) refer to components of a unit vector? Or, if j and k refer to unrelated concepts, is j being used as notation for the square root of negative one, or something else, and what is k? Is this meant to denote 1000? Nominators, please elaborate on your thinking.

Smosh - the characters nominated are Keith Leak Jr., Noah Grossman, Olivia Sui, and Shayne Topp. Could the nominator please clarify if this is a nomination for RPF, or for fictionalized characters that share the names of the real people?

Trial and Error (TV 2017) - We can't find the character Anne Cox. Could the nominator please confirm and give us pointers to when she appeared?

You Could Make a Life Series - Taylor Fitzpatrick - we can’t find the characters Mason Draper and Nate Wozniak. Could the nominator(s) give us pointers, please?

All Media Types fandoms
We need clarification from the person (or people) who nominated the following fandoms. Please specify a single version of the canon and provide a link to your nominations page so we can confirm the nomination. If these aren't answered, the fandoms will be rejected:
  • Kino no Tabi | Kino's Journey - All Media Types, characters: Kino (Kino no Tabi)

  • Kurosagi - All Media Types, characters: Kashina Masaru, Katsuragi Toshio, Kurosaki (Kurosagi), Yoshikawa Tsurara

  • The Martian - All Media Types, characters: Beth Johanssen, Chris Beck, Mark Watney (The Martian - All Media Types)

  • Paint Your Wagon, characters: Ben Rumson, Elizabeth (Paint Your Wagon), Schermerhorn (Paint Your Wagon), Sylvester Newel. Did you want the movie or the musical, please?

  • Rookies - Morita Masanori & Related Fandoms , characters: Aniya Keiichi, Kawatou Kouichi, Mikoshiba Tooru, Shinjou Kei

  • A Room With a View - All Media Types, characters: Charlotte Bartlett, Eleanor Lavish

  • 屍者の帝国 | Shisha no Teikoku | Empire of Corpses - All Media Types, characters: Alexei Karamazov, Friday, John Watson (Shisha no Teikoku), Nikolai Krasotkin

  • XCOM (Video Games) & Related Fandoms, characters: Firebrand, Lily Shen (XCOM), The Commander (XCOM)

Ensemble characters
We will accept labels like “the Council” or “the hunters” for characters in cases where the ensemble does not have different distinct characters in it. For the following fandom, please either confirm that there are no distinct characters in the group, or pick a single character out of the group you’ve nominated:
  • Compendium of World Knowledge - John Hodgman - Hobos, possibly also Cryptozoologists (?)

If you are commenting about your own nomination to say what you would like done with characters or fandoms, please link your nominations page! It is the page you get by clicking ‘My Nominations’ from the tag set.

If you notice any problems with your nominations - mis-spellings, etc - feel free to comment on this post.
Thursday, September 21st, 2017 08:50 pm

Yes, we’re updating it right now. We hit every possible roadblock and complication, so it is taking far, far longer than we anticipated, but there will be an iOS 11-compatible update at some point in the nearish future.

Friday, September 22nd, 2017 04:03 am

Posted by Ask a Manager

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

1. There’s a rumor my boss might lose his job

I am in a predicament where a coworker has told me he overheard a rumor that my boss is being ousted by the president. Allegedly, they are bringing in an even more senior head of our group (new role) to be his boss, with the ultimate goal of eliminating my boss’s role. This coworker is an office gossip, and I have seen many of the rumors he has spread to be credible.

Here is where things get sticky. I was brought into my own job by my boss, having worked together at a prior company. We have a really good relationship. On the other hand, this gossipy coworker has admitted to undermining the boss to other leaders in the business because he does not like his leadership style. I believe that this is a ploy for my coworker to try to oust not only my boss, but also eventually me, based on conversations we’ve had where he has tried to take over things under my purview. He throws all of his coworkers under the bus in order to get ahead while feigning loyalty or friendship.

He told me not to tell anyone this piece of information and said that I am the only one he told (which I am not sure I believe given how gossipy he is). I feel I need to tell my boss this information and come clean with how my coworker has been sabotaging him. How do I know if this is a wise thing to do? The only reason I came into this role is because of my boss, and without him, I would not be very happy working here and frankly would be concerned about my own job security.

It sounds like you have reason to be far more loyal to your boss than to this coworker, and the coworker sounds like an ass anyway. If your boss is a reasonable person with good judgment, I’d tell him. Obviously you should include the caveat that you have no idea if it’s true or not, but you can say that you didn’t feel right hearing something like that and not sharing it with him.

2. Advocating for my staff to management above me

I’m a regional leader in an organization. Members pay to join and it was started by a company, so obviously it’s not exactly the same as a workplace, but in a lot of ways it’s like being a regional manager in a larger company.

My region has some concerns that are specific to our group. I know that regional managers who’ve been around longer than me have been raising them with head office for a while now, but head office isn’t receptive and it’s not only affecting morale, but it’s also led some people to leave. I’m not sure how relevant it is, but from what I can tell, head office is actually in the wrong on this (and for once, the issue is actually pretty black and white), but for some reason they refuse to even entertain discussion, let alone reconsider their position.

I’m finding myself stuck. On the one hand, as a regional leader, I want to advocate for my “staff.” I also feel some responsibility for making sure that head office understands just how negatively its position is viewed among the people in my region. On the other hand, given that I’m a regional leader, I don’t want to come out and blame head office or tell them they’re wrong. But I also want to make sure that members in my region feel heard and know that we regional leaders are continuing to work to address their concerns.

As (essentially) a middle manager, how do you advocate for your members without seeming like a troublemaker to head office? When head office doesn’t want to entertain a discussion on something, is there a way I can raise it that might get them to engage? And how do I tell my members that I hear their concerns and I’m working on it, without seeming like I’m contradicting or criticizing head office?

In general, the way to raise issues as a manager to management above you is to frame it around the interests of the organization. So it’s not just that you and your staff think their position is wrong — you want to put it in terms of how it’s impacting morale, harming the leadership’s credibility, and causing good people to leave. Keep it less about your personal opinion and more about the impact you’re seeing as a manager. That way, your input is about you doing your job — because part of managing well is making sure that you loop in people above you when you see problems brewing on the ground.

However, with a head office that isn’t receptive and refuses to even allow discussion, you’re unlikely to get through to them. Frankly, at this point, it might make sense to make that the issue — their stonewalling and lack of transparency should be a pretty big deal themselves, even aside from the specifics of this issue.

3. Can I ask my boss if I’m about to be laid off?

I currently work as an IT contractor. I am essential to the operation here, but budgets are being cut and my boss is being very secretive and short with me. He is spending most of his time behind closed doors and our relationship has gone from being very friendly and open to short and minimal. Is it appropriate for me to to straight up ask him if I am about to be fired?

You could*, but if the answer is yes, it’s very likely that he won’t tell you that until the company decides it’s time to tell you that. It’s possible that there’s still some value in asking, because he might give you an answer that’s compelling enough to be convincing (like “your project is the major money maker for the company right now, and I wanted to talk to you about we can make sure we keep you”) or that he’ll give you enough of a hint that you’ll have your answer (“it’s a tough time for the company right now, and I’d understand if people felt they needed to look around”).

But really, if budgets are being cut and your boss is being secretive and short, I’d start looking. That doesn’t mean you’re definitely being let go, and it doesn’t mean that you need to take any job that’s offered to you, but in this kind of climate it’s always smart to start looking so that you’re not starting from scratch if you do lose your job.

* If you do talk to him about it, don’t use the word “fired” — that means you’re being let go because of your performance or behavior. Use the words “laid off,” which means your position is being eliminated.

4. People keep thinking my last name is my first name

I’m recently married, and I took my husband’s last name. I knew a new name would be an adjustment, but I didn’t anticipate a bigger problem: my first name could also be a last name and my last name could also be a first name. Clients and opposing counsel frequently call me by my last name, thinking it’s my first (I assume part of the problem is that an email will show up last name, first name). I know how to handle this in person or over the phone (“it’s Lindsey, actually”) but I don’t know how to politely but firmly correct people over email.

I know some people would advise me to let it go, but I don’t think that is the solution, especially with opposing counsel: I am a young, pretty woman in a male-dominated industry, and I don’t want to be seen as a pushover. What’s a polite but clear and confident way to correct people? Should my response differ in any way if it they repeatedly use the wrong name? What if the email only necessitates a short reply (“Got it, thanks!”) – should I still correct them then?

I think it’s worth correcting them even if you’re just sending a short reply. Think of it as a kindness to them: You’re preventing them from continuing to call you by the wrong name, which will be embarrassing to them at whatever point they figure it out.

In an email, you can just add it as a short, matter-of-fact note at the end of your message like this:

Got it, thanks! (By the way, it’s actually Lindsey — Taylor is my last name.)

If you want to warm it up a little more, you could add “The way the email is programmed to display doesn’t make that obvious!”

telling my boss about a rumor he might lose his job, advocating for my staff, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Thursday, September 21st, 2017 10:20 pm
This morning I put a top on that I had not worn before. It's one I kind of invented. I tried it on after it was finished and the npt it in the closet. This morning I got it out to wear and there turns out to be issues. The sleeves are too short and the cuffs are too tight.  I dug through my scrap box and found some scraps from the sleeves and I just cut those cuffs right off and replaced them with a nice, wide edge that makes the top perfect.

I love making/fixing stuff. So much.

I put together a new shirt today. It's a pattern I never tried before. I made a test version out of old sheets.  Yep, the sleeves need more room - maybe an inch added to the circumference and 2 inches added to the length.  And while it fits, I like more room, if you don't mind so let's add some.  So then I made all the changes to the actual pattern and then put the test into the Goodwill bin. The neck and shoulders needed zero mods.  Cool.

I also finished up a fine pair of boot socks.  The last thing on my started-but-didn't-finish list is transferring two new patterns from tissue paper to nice stock. I've got the tissue all cut out and ironed. I'll transfer the pieces on to heavier stock for actual use (and reuse).

And then I'll be all caught up. Whew. I did take all the stuffed toys to the donation place.

Across the street is a fish place that I've been wanting to try. They have tako (octopus) for poke. So I got poke rice, seaweed and tako which would have been amazingly delicious if they hadn't cover it in chili flakes.

I do not like spicy hot in anything. Nothing. I like a rich flavor and I don't mind a VERY LIGHT sprinkling of spicy but I refuse to participate in The Hotter The Better Spice Race. If I scrape the flakes off the tako, it's not bad but that's pretty labor intensive. There's plenty left. I may or may not have it for dinner, I haven't decided.
Thursday, September 21st, 2017 07:03 pm
I don't believe in an after life and I honestly think when you die, you just end. BUT I have been wrong from time to time about all manner of things and could be wrong about this. And maybe my Mom, who died a dozen years ago, is somehow reading this. I hope so.

She and I shared a total lack of patience with weddings. The fuss, the bother, the totally unnecessary drama, all the drama... and the requirement that everyone get all in a frenzy about it all. Wedding planners, Save the Date, wedding this, wedding that. Ugh.

The bartender at Mom's retirement place got married and everyone was in on the drama. At one point, when Mom's BFF at 'the home' died, Mom remarked that it was a cheeky way for her to avoid all that wedding crap.

Cut to my brother's 35ish year old son who is getting married for the first time this weekend in Des Moines, Iowa where he lives. My brother and his other son as well as others are all gathered for the 'do' on Saturday.

Just now, my brother sent me the day of wedding schedule written by his soon to be new daughter in law. (He scanned it with his phone,)

I know nothing about this woman. But after reading this, I know my nephew is one lucky guy. She's a keeper and I hate like the dickens that my Mom missed meeting her.
Thursday, September 21st, 2017 05:59 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I am currently in the middle of the hiring process for a job I very much want. There are an extremely limited number of positions available in this area and I am fortunate enough to have moved past the first round of interviews with the top company in this niche. I received an email two weeks ago letting me know I would be informed of next steps within two weeks. I was unsure what that meant — whether there would be a second interview, I would be contacted for references, or I would be called with an offer (I know I should have asked but was unsure how to respond to what was clearly an automated message; hindsight is 20:20).

Last night at a professional event, one of my former managers (who had offered to be a reference in the past and is on my reference list that I have not yet provided to the company) informed me she had been called for a reference by the company and that she said I was “the best.” I wanted to ask for more details, but everyone had been drinking and we were surrounded by others, including colleagues who wanted to interview for this position but were not given consideration. Would it be unprofessional to email that manager today and ask her who called (hiring manager, HR, etc.) and what was asked and what she said?

If it makes a difference, we are on very good terms, and I am encouraged by the fact that she already revealed she spoke highly of my performance. I would also like to ask her if she knows if another manager I worked under in the same company was also contacted, as I fear this other manager would not be able to give me as glowing of a reference (although I suspect you will recommend I contact this manager directly). Is any of this okay? Or should I just let it go and be grateful to have gotten some intel on what’s going on behind the scenes in this hiring process?

I totally understand the impulse to ask what she said about you, but you should resist it. References are supposed to be confidential, and you’re potentially putting her in an awkward position by asking her for details about the conversation. Even if she spoke glowingly you of you, a good reference-checker will try to get her to talk about weaker spots, and you shouldn’t put her in a position where it feels like you’re asking her to share that with you. (And if she chooses not to share everything, she may feel uncomfortable that she’s not being fully transparent with you, and that’s not fair to do to her.) And really, even if she said nothing but fantastic things, it’s still awkward to be asked to share the conversation.

Not everyone feels this way, of course. Some people would be fine with it, especially if you have a closer relationship. But enough would feel awkward, or even a little unethical, that you shouldn’t do it. Really, if she’s willing to share, let her volunteer it.

I also wouldn’t ask her about whether she knows if the other manager was contacted. You’re not really going to get anything actionable from her answer; it sounds like it’s more about you being curious about what’s happening behind the scenes. And while curiosity is understandable, it doesn’t really warrant asking her questions about the process.

She gave you a good reference! Let that be all you ask of her for now.

can you ask a reference what they said about you? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Thursday, September 21st, 2017 04:30 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

Remember the letter last month from the person whose company accountant was nitpicking his travel expenses in the most ridiculous way? If you didn’t read the comments, you missed this insane detail from the letter writer: “Actual comment at the last checkin with Bob, regarding a ~$12 tab at Chipotle: ‘Ordering extra guacamole is wasteful of member dues.'”

Here’s the update.

Thanks for writing a reply to my question! Funny thing is, the week you posted it things were already on their way to a mostly happy resolution. I’ll explain:

That week I was asked to staff our CEO at a conference at the last minute. Our CEO is a very prominent woman in her field who travels constantly and is usually staffed when she has major speaking engagements. My colleague who handles this particular topic area had a family emergency so I was asked to go. The CEO’s very formidable executive assistant sent me the flight/hotel info since I was expected to be on the same flight as the CEO.

“This will be interesting,” I thought. So I sent my proposed travel expenses to Bob as he has demanded, and of course he came back and said the flight was way too expensive, take this other one, and he also nixed the conference hotel and advised a Days Inn a 30 minute walk away! I replied that I had important business purposes for this itinerary and he gave me his now-usual spiel about “responsibly using member dues.”

I finally saw an out that didn’t involve my boss going to the CFO and forwarded his response to the EA, explaining that “accounting is refusing to authorize the itinerary you’ve given me.” She was horrified by what she read and wanted the full story. I had lots of emails from Bob with his ridiculous travel decrees, so at her request I forwarded them along. She said she would take care of it and that I should book the original itinerary on orders from the CEO.

It was a great trip; the CEO did a great job speaking and it was nice to get face time with her. A week or so goes by. Then we get an all-staff email announcing that the travel audit function was moving under the authority of the general counsel. I had a call that day from a new audit team member apologizing for the hassle under Bob and that he was never authorized to (a) veto/approve individual expenses in advance or (b) subject auditees to ongoing monitoring — according to the new audit person, he had been freelancing in an effort to go “above and beyond.” The new audit person also said I am no longer under audit and said that my past expense reports were all responsible and that I have been an excellent steward of our funds. I found out a few days later from the EA that the audit team lead had been fired. The CFO is still in place, but has had the audit function removed from his oversight due to his lack of supervision and is on notice. Bob was not fired but was demoted and moved to a pretty menial role in accounting where he has no significant contact with non-accounting employees…or with travel expenses.

Unfortunately, I found out today that my own boss was reprimanded for failing to escalate the situation when I requested it. Good in the sense that she shouldn’t have allowed her issues with the CFO to get in the way of advocating for her employee, but bad because she knows I was the one who took the issue to the executive office. Hopefully I won’t be held back down the road because of this.

I really appreciated the encouraging comments. To answer a few of the questions, no I don’t think it was a conspiracy by the CFO to get to my boss by pushing me out. Maybe, but I really do buy that Bob was just way out of his lane and completely unsupervised. There were apparently five other employees getting the same Bob audit special, all relatively lower in the organization and in other departments. And I’m not concerned about my org’s financial condition, as some suggested I should be; there’s no question that we are financially strong. Just one rogue accountant.

The guacamole story was very funny to my coworkers; it’s become a running joke and people now order extra guac for me when we go out to group lunches, which is fun 😊

update: my company’s accountant is nitpicking my pretty frugal travel expenses was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Thursday, September 21st, 2017 02:59 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

Workplace thefts are usually a lot pettier than Monday’s letter about the person who stole an intern’s jacket.

Like this from a commenter recently: “I have a Bath and Body eucalyptus (mini) hand sanitizer next to my computer. Turns out someone has used it up, then refilled it with water so it wouldn’t look like it was used. It costs a buck.”

Or this: “I had someone steal my pyrex dish once. They dumped my lunch out into a little baggy, put that back in the fridge, and stole my dang dish. WHO DOES THAT!?”

Or this: “Someone in the office even stole a coworker’s mug! He had left it on the counter while he went to the bathroom before he got his coffee and it was gone when he came back. TWO YEARS LATER he found it soaking in the sink after the thief had used it and promptly ‘stole’ it back. He was very excited.”

Of course there also was the letter about the coworker who stole someone’s spicy food and got sick (and the epic update), the manager who stole someone’s family heirloom, the boss who stole an employee’s iPad, and the boss who kept stealing lunches.

So let’s talk office thefts — petty and not-so-petty. What have you found stolen at work? Even better, if you’ve been the perpetrator, now is the time to confess anonymously here and seek salvation. Share in the comments.

stolen lunches, missing mugs, and other petty office thefts: share your stories was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Thursday, September 21st, 2017 03:02 pm
I use this service ( to track price drops. It's a browser extension. If I'm willing to wait until the price drops, I tell it my desired price and it tells me when Amazon has it listed for that. (WARNING!! If you use this pay close attention to the seller. Cheap prices attract fraudulent sellers on Amazon. I've been caught twice so be careful.)

Anyway, a while back I set up price tracking on a dress form. I don't really even have room for a dress form. I don't really need one. But, when in the world did that ever stop me? So, yeah, the price went down and I bought one. It will be here tomorrow. I'm half hoping it won't work (won't have enough controls to size it the way it needs to be to match me) and I have to send it back. It's way more money than I need to spend on stuff I don't need. Especially staring down the nose of a big tech spend next week.

On the up side, my cash back bonuses will be handsome come holiday season!

This year, for the first time I can remember, the new TV season and the baseball season will be dovetailing nicely. Next week the new shows start and baseball ends. Usually there is more of an overlap. Like last year, while I'm looking forward to my favorites returning, there don't seem to be too many new shows I'm interested in. But between Acorn and HBO and Netflix and MeTV, I've got more watching than I can handle anyway.

I'll miss baseball but I think I have enough entertainment to carry me through to Spring training.

I have too many projects half started. I need to finish before I start more. That's today's agenda. Finish.
Thursday, September 21st, 2017 08:37 am
We only ended up with one guest last night. Cordelia stayed in her room, and Scott, [ profile] cherydactyl, and I watched Wonder Woman which they'd both seen but I hadn't. I enjoyed it overall, but I failed to connect with it emotionally. This is a common problem for me with action focused movies, especially superhero movies. I get distracted and just don't see what other people see.

Scott is showering right now. When he's done and dressed, we'll head for Cordelia's school to meet with a counselor. Hopefully, that will go well and not take too long. I just hope they've fixed the elevator. I don't want to climb to the fourth floor.

I slept badly last night because of anxiety. I was sufficiently wound up that the amount of Halcion that would normally let me fall asleep and stay asleep simply didn't. I didn't feel even vaguely sleepy. It was that I wasn't tired as much as it was that I had enough in the way of adrenaline and such going on to be quite awake. I'm not sure that Ativan would have done better for me, but maybe it would have.

Cordelia's dental appointment went okay. The dentist left us sitting for longish stretches off and on because they'd fit us in when they were already full up. She did an x-ray and didn't see hidden decay. She said that Cordelia's wisdom teeth aren't pushing on anything or positioned in a way that she'd expect to cause pain. The joint of the jaw seems to be fine. So we don't know the underlying cause of the problem. She suggested a cheap night time mouth guard in order to see if a guard would help at all (and in order to avoid paying $500 for something that, at her age, might not fit next year).

From the dentist, we went and got bubble tea for me and Cordelia. They've changed their menu display and options, so I had to spend a little while figuring out if they still had what I wanted.

After that, we went to Target and got Wonder Woman and the mouth guard. We stopped at Plum Market to pick up dinner at their buffet (you pay by weight). I gambled on a couple of things that looked (and were) tasty but that I probably shouldn't have touched because of spice levels.

My Captive Audience recipient has gotten back to me. I was right in suspecting that things had gotten lost.
Thursday, September 21st, 2017 01:31 am
Having spent half of the days this month, hundreds of miles south of where I've lived for the past decade, I am celebrating the fact that tomorrow's perambulations will be taking place only in the 980xx group of zip codes.

Simple pleasures, for the win!
Monday, September 25th, 2017 08:02 pm
and then some!


German Shepherd Mom Tires Out Her Pups In The Most Adorable Way Possible (It is adorable! She alternates between bouts where they can't possibly catch up to her and bouts where they can, clever doggie!)

Scientists Invent a Pen That Can Detect Cancer in Seconds

For Centuries, People Celebrated a Little Boy’s First Pair of Trousers

“Do Sign Languages Have Accents?” (Video, or you can read the transcription)

Is there a single food that you can survive on forever?

The island people with a climate change escape plan

Here’s why you should pay attention to this weekend’s German election

There is meddling in Germany's election — not by Russia, but by U.S. right wing

What A Doctor Calls A Condition Can Affect How We Decide To Treat It

When the Idea of Home Was Key to American Identity

Parents Who Pay to Be Watched (OMG.)

Colombia partners with locals in order to stop cocaine production, US warns it may not be enough

Behind the scenes, Zimbabwe politicians plot post-Mugabe reforms

Iraqi Kurds set to vote on independence, panicking neighbors and Washington

What is behind clashes in Ethiopia's Oromia and Somali regions?

Facebook’s war on free will

Facebook Enabled Advertisers to Reach ‘Jew Haters’

The basic physics of climate change have been known for more than a century, but it is in recent decades that the fundamental science of global warming has solidified

The Minuscule Importance of Manufacturing in Far-Right Politics

Stop acting surprised, America: Donald Trump is a white supremacist

In Month After Charlottesville, Papers Spent as Much Time Condemning Anti-Nazis as Nazis

The Republicans Aren't Even Pretending This Is About Healthcare Anymore

Christians in U.S. Military ‘Serve Satan’ If They Tolerate Other Religions, Air Force Chaplain Says

Making war illegal changed the world. But it’s becoming too easy to break the law

Anatomy of terror: What makes normal people become extremists?
Wednesday, September 20th, 2017 08:34 pm


I unfucked my car tonight!

Top row: everything that was in my trunk, plus all the leaves it had collected.

Bottom row: my trunk post-shop-vac, then reorganized. (Reusable shopping bags, jumper cables, blanket, emergency supplies, windshield scraper, etc.)

Not pictured: the rest of my car, which I also vacuumed.

Feels good! 🚗💪🏻

Thursday, September 21st, 2017 04:03 am

Posted by Ask a Manager

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

1. Will my mental health get in the way of a promotion?

I am a college student working part-time at a retail job that I absolutely love. I have goals and plans to move up in the company that my direct supervisors and my district manager are aware of and are very supportive of. Recently, a manager has been guiding me towards a small promotion as a lead cashier. It may not seem like much, but would bring me more responsibilities and would make me more likely to be moved into a management role later on. I am extremely eager for this job.

The thing is, I suffer from depression and anxiety. I go to counseling and take medication, and I am able to function well and exceed expectations most of the time and often more than double sales goals, but recently my mental health has taken a turn. I’m doing my best to still perform well at my job, but today was unbearable and I asked a coworker to take my shift.

My boyfriend is worried that I have jeopardized my chances at this promotion and that they will not give me the lead cashier position because my mental health makes me “unstable and unreliable, and unable to do work.” His thinking is that they will be more likely to promote people who never have people take their shifts, call in, or request off. I don’t agree with him but now I am worried. Do you think it is likely for them to give someone else the position because they do not have mental health issues? Is it even legal for them to not give me a promotion based on my mental health? And how should I address my issues to my employers so I don’t come across flaky and make it clear that my job still is extremely important to me? (I told the person who took my shift that personal things had come up, but when I called my manager to let her know she would be showing up instead of me, I did let her know that I was just having a bad mental health day and couldn’t see myself performing my best. She is open about her own mental health problems, but she is leaving our store soon and I now wonder if whoever replaces her will understand as well, or if the manager who is doing the hiring for the promotion won’t understand.)

Your boyfriend thinks that you’ll look unstable and unreliable based on getting someone else to cover your shift once? It’s really, really normal to switch shifts with people at part-time retail jobs, as is needing to call in sick or ask for specific days off. So do not listen to your boyfriend on that front.

But in general, when you call in sick or let a manager know you’ve switched shifts, I’d keep it vague — you’re “under the weather” or “feeling ill.” Don’t specify that it’s for mental health reasons. Not because there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s more info that you don’t need to provide (just like you don’t need to specify “diarrhea” or “sharp shooting pain in my side”) … and because the reality is that yes, there can still be stigma around mental health issues, even among people who seem to get it, and there’s no reason to introduce worries in their head that it cause issues in the future. That’s of course unfair; if you call in with a headache, you wouldn’t normally worry that your boss will fear you might have headaches in the future — but this is still a thing when it comes to mental health.

As for the legalities … if your condition is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, it’s illegal for them to consider it in promotion decisions (as long as you can do the job with reasonable accommodations and without undue hardship to them). But the reality is that there’s a ton of bias — both conscious and unconscious — around this stuff, so you’re better off keeping the info you share minimal.

2. Is it okay to hire people from my full-time job to work at my part-time job?

I work full-time for a public organization, overseeing about 50 staff members in a large department. There is a fair amount of movement between positions and there’s no guarantee that I will supervise the same people from year to year. I also work part-time for another public organization and regularly advertise for new positions on a professional listserv. Recently, people who work for my full-time organization have started to apply for positions in the part-time organization that I hire for and would supervise.

My initial feeling is that it would be a conflict of interest to hire a person who also works for my full-time organization, as I’d potentially be in the position of supervising them for two different companies. I can imagine all sorts of issues with that. Even for those staff members who I do not directly supervise at my full-time job, there is a real possibility that I would have to give them feedback on their full-time work as it often directly affects the work of the staff members that I support. I’ve reached out to my supervisor at the full-time job to confirm that she would also see this as a conflict of interest, also I haven’t heard back yet. So, I’d like to keep it as separate as possible and not hire anyone for the part-time job who also works in my department at my full-time job.

However, is this okay and ethical? It seems unfair to take someone out of consideration for a position simply because I may have a conflict of interest in hiring them. Do I need to convey this to potential candidates somehow? What if they are the best candidate and the only disqualifying factor is that they work for my department at the full-time job?

Ugh, yeah, I’d be wary of conflicts of interest too. For example, if you become aware of problematic behavior from someone at one job, you’ll have the question of whether and how it’ll impact your assessment of them at the other job. Or if they don’t like how you handle something at the part-time job, is it going to impact things at the full-time job? (And how will your full-time job feel about that?) You also risk politics from the one job coming into the other. It could go perfectly smoothly, of course, but you’d be introducing the potential for problems and messiness that you wouldn’t otherwise have.

That said, I don’t think this is such an absolute no that you can’t evaluate the whole situation and decide to proceed with hiring one of them anyway; it’s not like hiring your boyfriend or your daughter or other definite no’s. If you know someone to do good work and they have a track record of professional maturity, it’s not crazy to decide the risk of problems is low enough that you’ll move forward with them.

But I can also see being pretty uncomfortable about doing that with people who you work with closely at your full-time job. So one middle-ground option would be to decide that you don’t want to hire people from your department there, but that you won’t do a blanket ban on the whole organization. If you went that route, you’d simply explain to anyone in your department who’s interested that you don’t feel you can hire from your current department because of the potential for conflicts of interest.

If you decide to do that, that’s not unethical; people aren’t entitled to any particular job, and it’s very normal to remove otherwise good candidates from consideration because of connections that could cause problems (for example, that they’re dating or related to someone in the same department or who would have authority over them). I’d just make sure that the part-time employer is aware that that’s what you’ve decided to do, so that they’re not surprised by it later on (especially since these are public organizations).

3. Is this good resume advice?

I have been reading advice about resumes lately that goes against what has seemed “standard” until now, and instead suggests people start using complete sentences, include explanations for job changes or gaps within the resume, write a friendly “summary” at the top. Is this really a Thing now, or is this from the land of “video resumes are the future!”? My brain is honestly so fried now from all of the different tweaks I see suggested, I’m having trouble even bothering to revise my resume anymore … (which may be why I’m still not working!)

Do not use complete sentences on your resume. Resumes should be easy to skim, space is at a premium (so you want to be concise), and they should use bullet points, not prose. More on that here and here.

Nor should you include reasons for leaving or for gaps, unless there’s a very specific situation that where it makes sense — but not as a general rule. That’s not the convention for resumes, and it looks a little out of touch when people include that info for all their jobs. Not like “I won’t hire you” out of touch, but it doesn’t strengthen your resume.

But summaries are indeed a real thing now. They’re by no means a requirement, but they’re pretty common these days. The majority of them aren’t useful because they tend to be so generic that you could imagine every other candidate with similar qualifications having the same summary … but the good ones talk about what differentiates you and makes you awesome (meaning concrete achievements, not “good communication skills”).

4. My company adjusts salaries for cost of living downward but never upward

I have been an employee with my company for five years, and in my current role for four of those years. We are allowed to work remotely, and I recently relocated from the D.C. area to California. When I originally moved, I let them know that I would temporarily be in San Diego, and they ran numbers and reduced my salary based on OPM’s pay tables. This was annoying, but I knew the move was temporary and assumed that we would recalculate once I landed somewhere more permanent. After three months, I relocated again to Los Angeles, a considerably more expensive metro area (more expensive than even D.C.!). When I inquired about the COLA adjustment to reflect my new location, I was informed they never raise salaries for COLA, just decrease them. So I could move from LA, to a less expensive metro area, take another pay cut, then move to San Francisco and have to suffer at the lower salary.

This doesn’t seem fair to me — if you are going to allow employees to go remote, and make adjustments to salary, shouldn’t they be prepared to make those adjustments regardless of how that shakes out for them?

Yes. This isn’t how this is supposed to work. You work for jerks.

5. My ex-roommate left documents in violation of HIPAA

My roommate moved out a month ago. She was in the medical profession and, well, she left a lot of stuff behind. Today, I started looking through a folder that she left, and it’s bad. There are dozens — literally dozens — of patient charts with full names, medical histories, and medication lists. She also left documents with her full Social Security number, date of birth, everything needed to steal her identity. I figured shredding the latter would be sufficient, but I don’t know what to do about the former. It seems like a massive HIPAA violation, and she’s still practicing. I have two major questions. 1) What do I do with these documents? I don’t want them in my home, I don’t want to be responsible for them, but I have no idea what the procedure is for disposing of them. 2) Do I report her to the licensing board? This seems really, really bad, and I feel like the hospital should know, as well as the board. I’ve tried contacting her to no avail.

Do you have a way to contact her old employer? If so, I’d do that, explain what you found, and ask what they want you to do with the materials. I don’t know that you need to report her to the licensing board — you certainly could if you wanted to, but I think that’s really up to you, based on whether you feel strongly enough to put in the time to do that.

I don’t think you’re being negligent if you decide not to; she’s the negligent one, and anything you do to clean up her mess is more than you’re obligated to do. (Although I do think you at least need to shred those materials unless her former employer directs you to do something differently.)

will my mental health get in the way of a promotion, bad resume advice, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017 05:08 pm


Cleaned and reorganized the linen closet because I could not find a certain fitted sheet. The sheet is still MIA 😭

Sunday, September 24th, 2017 07:58 pm
Today I was combing Callie in the bathroom, and Finn came in and didn't bark or growl or jump at her AT ALL - and this despite the fact that she hissed at him and then growled the whole time he was there! (And I don't blame her.)

He's gotten a lot better at being in the same room as the cats without freaking out, and even a little better at not barking and lunging at the familiar cats we see on our walks. (Not as good as with his own roommate cats, but you can't have everything.)

This is great because, with winter coming, Callie wants to go back to being an indoor-outdoor cat, emphasis on indoor - she doesn't like cold weather!
Wednesday, September 20th, 2017 10:14 pm
I went out for a walk and to the fabric/yarn shop up the street get something to mark on dark fleece with. Spoiler alert, what I'm using is the best thing, what I thought I wanted isn't. But, I bought fabric and a pattern.

On the way home, I crossed the street a couple of blocks from here just behind a mail truck. The really nice mail carrier who delivers to our building was getting out of the truck. I hollered 'good afternoon!' with a big smile. She turned to look at me and blinked and then smiled and said "I think I have a package for you on the truck!"

Wild because 1. We'd already had the mail delivered today and 2. I wasn't expecting anything and 3. How in the heck did she know my name?

"Susan... right?" Right! And not only that but the package was from New Zealand. My friends from Cromwell. Last year when they were here, they brought me a basket of goodies that included this amazing hand cream - Ecoya Coconut & Elderflower. I can get the hand cream on Amazon but not this particular flavor which is just delightful.

Actually, now that I remember it, the woman at the fabric shop remembered my name, too! How very flattering.
Wednesday, September 20th, 2017 04:15 pm

A video of a Nazi in Seattle getting punched and knocked out has been making the rounds. Responses range from satisfaction and celebration to the predictable cries of “So much for the tolerant left” and the related “Violence makes us as bad as them and plays right into their hands.”

A few things to consider…

1. According to one witness, the punch happened after the Nazi called a man an “ape” and threw a banana at him. With the disclaimer that I’m not a lawyer, that sounds like assault to me. I’m guessing Assault in the Fourth Degree. In other words, the punching was a response to an assault by the Nazi.

The witness who talks about the banana-throwing also says he was high on THC. I haven’t seen anyone disputing his account, but I haven’t seen corroboration, either.

2.Remember when George Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Martin, and people like Geraldo Rivera said it was because Martin was wearing a hoodie, and that made Martin a potentially dangerous “suspicious character”? Utter bullshit, I know. But if our legal system let Zimmerman plead self-defense, saying he was afraid because Martin was wearing a hoodie, doesn’t that same argument apply against someone wearing a fucking swastika?

We’re talking about a symbol that announces, “I support genocide of those who aren’t white, aren’t straight, aren’t able-bodied…”

3. Buzzfeed presents this as anti-fascists tracking a Neo-Nazi to beat him up. While antifa Twitter appears to have been talking about this guy, there’s no evidence that the punch was thrown by someone who’s part of that movement. And even if he was, the guy didn’t throw a punch until after the Nazi committed assault (see point #1).

Those Tweets quoted on Buzzfeed also suggest the Nazi was armed, which could add to the self-defense argument in point #2.

Is Nazi-punching right? Is it legal? As any role-player will tell you, there’s a difference between whether something is lawful and whether it’s good.

The “victim” has every right to press charges. But for some reason, he didn’t want to talk to police about the incident.

Was punching this guy a good thing? I mean, there’s a difference between comic books and real life. The Nazi was standing in front of some sort of tile wall. He could have struck his head on the corner after being punched, or when he fell to the ground. In other words, there’s a chance–albeit probably a slim one–that this could have killed him.

My country and culture glorify violence. I’d much rather avoid violence when possible. I think most rational people would. But there are times it’s necessary to fight, to choose to defend yourself and others. I think it’s important to understand the potential consequences of that choice.

Multiple accounts agree this man was harassing people on the bus, and later on the street. He was a self-proclaimed Nazi. Police say they received calls that he was instigating fights, and it sounds like he escalated from verbal harassment to physical assault … at which point another man put him down, halting any further escalation.

I don’t know exactly what I would have done in that situation, but I see nothing to make me condemn or second-guess this man’s choice in the face of a dangerous Nazi.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017 07:00 pm
Wednesday, September 20th, 2017 05:46 pm
I get up at 4:30 on weekdays. It's not hard. 9 times out of 10, I'm up and brushing my teeth when the alarm goes off. I've always been a morning person but getting up to go do what I love to do - swim - is easy.

I get home from the pool about 6:30 and have coffee and some kind of breakfast. Sometimes eggs and toast and sometimes a breakfast burrito an sometimes, like today, a corn muffin and coffee. Then I do stuff.

A lot of times I get hungry before lunch. Sometimes I snack. Sometimes I don't. I usually eat lunch around 11:30/noon. And I eat dinner early, too - 5/6.

Today, at 10, I got to a stopping place in my stuff doing and I was hungry so I had lunch. At 10. Why not?? Who says I can't? I listened but I didn't hear anybody so I had a sandwich of leftover pork and cheese and some bbq chips. It was delicious. Thanks. I may do this more often. Have lunch wheneverthefuckIwant.

I'm ready now for toy delivery. I have the traditional group shots but I also made movies!

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017 05:59 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I may — and may is the operative word — be about to hit a lucky break in my job search. I have a strong contact with a longtime associate of a hiring manager in a small office, which recently posted a position with requirements I technically meet. I’ve applied to the position and gotten the promise that my contact will recommend me personally in glowing, specific terms. It’s possible that they have someone else in mind already and won’t interview me … but if not, it’s a promising coincidence.

The problem is that I’m well aware the position is well out of the realm of my previous experience. I have education in the field and some transferrable skills from a previous position, but this posting is not entry-level and I’ve never done the specific tasks named in the job description. I believe I can stretch myself into the role, but how do I come across as someone who has that capacity in the interview stage? I am more questioning the emotional side of this than the skills side. When you see a junior candidate and say “this person would take a lot of managing, but it’d be a worthwhile pleasure to bring them up to speed,” what are you looking at?

Well … to be totally blunt, it’s not something experienced managers say a lot of. I did sometimes think that kind of thing when I was a newer manager, but then you learn pretty quickly that “this person would take a lot of managing” means “this person would take a lot of time that I won’t be able to spend on other important things.”

That’s not to say that there isn’t real pleasure in coaching a junior employee and helping them grow. There is! It can be incredibly satisfying, particularly when the person is eager to learn and genuinely interested in the work, takes feedback well, and appreciates the investment you’re making in them. But when other candidates are better matched with the role, “it will be fulfilling to watch this junior candidate grow” doesn’t usually justify the significant additional time it would take to manage them.

That said … it’s more of an option with some types of positions. If the role is relatively junior and doesn’t require specific hard skills, it can sometimes make sense to hire for potential. That’s especially true in fields where soft skills really matter, and where training will be more a matter of weeks than months. And it’s even more true when the other qualified candidates are just okay, rather than excellent. There are a lot of junior-ish roles where hiring a smart, driven, enthusiastic person without a ton of relevant experience but who can learn quickly is better than hiring someone with relevant experience but less of the other stuff. (But there are also a lot roles where you really need both.)

If it’s the kind of role where that’s in play, the types of things that could tilt it toward a less experienced candidate are: smarts, humility (so you know you have a lot to learn and want to do it), an ability to learn from feedback (and a strong interest in getting it), work ethic and drive, natural interest in the work, personal warmth (this doesn’t mean being bubbly; it just means forming warm connections with people), courtesy and consideration for others (this matters more than you’d think in this context, particularly at junior levels), and a track record of getting things done (even in totally different contexts like extracurriculars or another field). Depending on the position, specific talents can really matter too, like writing or relationship-building.

Also! The fact that you’ve never done the specific tasks listed in the job description isn’t necessarily a sign that you’re wildly under-qualified. I’d pay more attention to the qualifications they’re looking for — if they’re not listing “experience doing X” there, they may not care as much about that as you think.

Good luck.

how can I increase my chances when I’m under-qualified for a job? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017 05:33 pm
Hi all!

The internet here has decided to take a snooze so I'm just going to write really quickly while it is letting me!  I think the rain inspired me to make a bit of a fall share for this week, cozy town!

SALAD MIX: 1/2# beautiful salad mix!

ARUGULA: 1/2# fresh, first cut arugula. Some are spicy, some aren't!  Yum!

JALAPENO: Two spicy guys!  

SWEET ROASTER PEPPERS:  A bunch of sweet peppers.  

ACORN SQUASH:  First of the winter squash!  Woohoo.  Acorn squash is the least storeage-able of the squashes so enjoy it now!  Nutty, golden and one of the best.  Here is a great write-up of acorn from the Kitchn.

NAPA CABBAGE or PINK BEAUTY RADISHES: Everything on rotation this year because of such insane gopher/vole pressure!!  Napa cabbage can be used for slaw,kraut, braised and more! So yummy in stir-fry and/or spring rolls.

CARROTS:  Everybody on the farm has been like WAIT, WHAT!? we have carrots here?  Yes, we do, and I've been safe-guarding them for CSA as they mature (read, gophers ate all of our early plantings, those jerks).

PURPLE MAJESTY POTATOES:  I know ya'll probably want a different type of potato but because of the rain we couldn't get an alternate variety out and these ones are just so pretty once cut open.  Definitely not so pretty on the outside :P

THYME:  Your monthly thyme restocking.  Great for winter squash and potatoes!

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017 02:00 pm

Posted by PJ Jonas

Have you ever heard (or said yourself) the words, “I want my child’s future to be full of possibilities.”  I understand the intent behind those words, but I’m not so sure I agree with them.

As a homeschooling Mom, I kinda think it’s my job to limit my child’s future possibilities.  For example, Brett is barely 5 feet tall.  I’m sorry to tell her, but she’s never going to be a woman’s basketball professional athlete.  That possibility really isn’t open to her.   And while she’s good at math, she doesn’t really enjoy it.  Working as a NASA scientist is probably not a good career choice either.

The more I learn about my children and study them, the more I see possible career paths that are good choices and ones that are bad choices.  The more I can narrow down the possibilities for them, the less overwhelming the “what do I want to be when I grow up” question becomes.

Another example – Hewitt for the past few years has said he wants to be a fighter pilot.  My brother was a pilot in the air force and I know just a little bit about what that requires.  While Hewitt doesn’t have asthma, he was hospitalized with double pneumonia when he was three, and when he gets sick, it tends to settle in his chest.  I will also catch him wheezing once or twice during cross-country season.  In talking with some people, this would probably wipe out his chances of being accepted as a fighter pilot since they need to be perfectly healthy.

F-16 at Scott AFB Air Show

So do I encourage Hewitt in his desire to fly fighter jets?  Nope.  Do I discourage it?  Not actively.  Do I encourage him in other directions?  Yes, definitely.

I personally believe that no parent or adult should determine what a child should do as a job/career for the rest of their lives.  But I believe children and teenagers need a lot more active direction than they are currently receiving.  That means that I am purposely limiting the possibilities that my children consider open to them.

Years ago, I spoke with an older teenager who wanted to be a police office.  I asked him about his reasons.  He gave me some very good reasons and a few unimportant ones. Then I asked him about what he envisioned his family life looking like.  He went into great detail about having a wife and a bunch of children and how they would spend their days.  The differences in his answers were astounding.  He was very logical in talking about being a police officer.  He was very animated and emotional when talking about his possible family.  I then asked him this question, “How do you think your future family will feel about you being a police officer and how will it affect their lives?”  He just stopped, looked at me, and said, “Nobody has ever asked me that before.”

We talked a few more minutes before he had to leave.  I never found out what he ended up doing with his life (he was a stranger I met at an event).  But I’d like to think that whatever he chose to do as a job/career, that he made that choice with his future family in mind and not just his teenage self.

My children probably don’t realize it, but I am always working in the background trying to help them figure out at a relatively early age what they should do with the rest of their lives.  To me, how it impacts family life is a priority and how much potential income it makes is not.

If you ask Emery what he wants to do with his life, he says he would like to deliver baby goats year-round.  Since that’s probably not going to happen, I’m trying to find out what else he’s passionate about. Right now, at Goat Milk Stuff, Emery is making all of our candy (fudge, toffee, caramels, etc.), all of our breads (baguettes, rolls, bagels), and our baked goods (cookies and muffins).

Emery is the Muffin Man

A few months ago I signed us both up for Bread Camp.  I did this for several reasons:

  • I’ve always wanted to cook on a wood burning oven and I wanted to see if this was something I actually enjoyed.
  • I love learning and improving my skills.
  • I wanted Emery to see if he was passionate about breadmaking.

Right now, he’s just following my bread recipes.  I wanted him to find out for himself whether he was as passionate about creating new breads as he is about creating new chocolates.

We had an incredible time at Bread Camp.  It was very special for the two of us to do something together.  I really enjoy Emery’s company (and he acts like he enjoys mine!)  We had great teachers and our fellow classmates were a lot of fun to be with.  We learned several new recipes and lots of techniques.  And we got to make pizzas in the wood burning oven.

PJ & Emery at Bread Camp

I am definitely going to get a wood burning oven* some day.  The chief takeaway for me with it is that my plan to put it by my firepit would have been a huge mistake.  I need it closer to my kitchen.  So when we build our deck (don’t ask me when that will ever happen), I will incorporate the woodburning oven there.  I’m also planning at some point to somehow incorporate a wood burning oven into Goat Milk Stuff so we can offer artisan pizzas with goat cheese.

As for Emery, I think he’s excited about becoming a better baker and exploring what he wants to do with it.  He was very competent at camp and I think that made him feel very good.  Right now, he’s hoping to launch a CSB (Community Supported Bread) program.  He’s thinking of starting with a 6 week program.  He will make 6 different breads and every member of the program will get 1 loaf a week.  Knowing ahead of time how many he has sold will help him to know exactly how much he has to bake.  This will minimize waste which is helpful because wasted bread is discouraging.

Whether or not Emery decides to do something with bread, we had a wonderful experience together and he will either be able to add bread baking as a possibility as a future career or rule it out. But the main point is that Emery had the opportunity to learn and experience what a professional bread baker’s life looked like.

Emery Preps Pizza Dough

This hands-on experience is so important for teens to help them know whether or not they want to make something a career.  I have a lot of friends who went to college to study a subject, only to graduate and find out they hated working in their field.  Was their education a complete waste?  No, learning is never a complete waste.  But it had a huge opportunity cost for them.  I’d much rather guide the children into narrowing down the possibilities and give them some real world experience before they commit to a college degree in that field.

What about you?  Were you given good advice when you were a teen about job possibilities?  If you’re a parent, do you think everything should be a possibility for your child?  Or are you trying to help your child narrow it down?





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