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Monday, September 15th, 2014 12:30 am
Do you ever feel a bit powerless when thinking about our disease? As if there's very little that can be done to change the progression of Sjogren's Syndrome?

I do. Especially since it appears that there are so many unknowns about the causes and treatment for autoimmune diseases.

I find this infographic tweeted by rheumatologist Dr. Paul Sufka somewhat reassuring. Empowering. Why? Because the biggest risks contributing to mortality according to the NHS are things over which I definitely have some control:

  • Smoking? Never started, so that's an easy one. 
  • High blood pressure and... 
  • ....High cholesterol can be controlled especially if the next risk -- obesity -- is also addressed. 
  • Ah. Obesity. That's an issue for me. 
  • Fruits and veggies? Consumed in abundance. Check.
  • I find physical inactivity also to be problematic. Granted, Sjogren's and it's fatigue contributes a great deal towards inactivity but for me, there's definitely room for improvement here. 
  • I just don't tolerate alcohol any more; so my consumption is zip. Nada. 

It's important for me to see information like this. It makes me realize that while there's no doubt that my autoimmune diseases have had an enormous impact on my life, there's other extremely important factors that contribute to my health over which I DO have some control.

Hm. (Diet) food for thought.

image found here 
Monday, September 15th, 2014 04:04 am
Mondays, every week, let's celebrate ourselves, to start the week right. Tell me what you're proud of. Tell me what you accomplished last week, something -- at least one thing -- that you can turn around and point at and say: I did this. Me. It was tough, but I did it, and I did it well, and I am proud of it, and it makes me feel good to see what I accomplished. Could be anything -- something you made, something you did, something you got through. Just take a minute and celebrate yourself. Either here, or in your journal, but somewhere.

(And if you feel uncomfortable doing this in public, I've set this entry to screen any anonymous comments, so if you want privacy, comment anonymously and I won't unscreen it. Also: yes, by all means, cheer each other on when you see something you want to give props to!)
Sunday, September 14th, 2014 09:58 pm

Not really a terrifically good week, though Colleen's friend Bun-Bun has moved up from central CA, which brightened things considerably. And Colleen spontaneously told me how much she loves the house -- it helped a lot.

The main stressor is the fact that I'm basically broke. The San Jose house (I'm starting to not think of it as the Starport anymore -- that's a good thing) is a drain on our resources, my credit cards are mostly maxed out, and my checking account is in the red. (The bank kindly pays up to about $1500 in overdrafts, but still charge me a $33 fee for each item. It helps, but not quite enough.)

It's depressing to think about, especially knowing that it's all because of a long series of stupid financial decisions on my part. Plus a lot of letting things ride instead of making a decision. As I remarked on Facebook, this probably wasn't the best week to start trying to cut back on my SSRI in hopes of reversing the weight gain.

I got a lot of good, and encouraging, feedback from that post. Thanks, folks! It helps.

I've basically spent all weekend puttering, which at least accomplishes something. Still a lot to do, mostly paperwork-like things that I hate. Grumph.

Links, as usual, in the notes. Including Radio3, which I might be able to use to simplify logging links.

raw notes, with links )
Monday, September 15th, 2014 04:03 am

Posted by Ask a Manager

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

1. How to answer “Why are you the best person for this job?”

I was once asked in an interview, “Why are you the best person for this job?” I can prepare for some questions, but this was unexpected. Logical me says, how am I supposed to know whether I’m the best person if I don’t know who else is applying? What’s the best response to this?

This is a terribly phrased interview question, since of course you can’t know whether you’re the best candidate for the job or what the rest of their applicant pool looks like. But they’re not really asking that; they’re asking why you’d be great at the job. So mentally rephrase it to that in your head, and talk about why you think you’d excel at it.

2. We don’t get per diem when we travel on business to our home office, although we get it on other trips

I work remotely on a team that is made up of about 30% remote workers. Twice a year, our entire team gets together for a week long on-site meeting to regroup, plan, etc.

Normally, we travel about a week a month and have a per diem of $40 for food. However, when we travel to the home office, we are only allowed to use the per diem on the two travel days (Monday and Friday), and the other days we are supposed to pay for meals out of pocket.

One of my coworkers asked our department head why this was the case and was told that no one was paying for his meals (the department head’s) during the on-site, so why should we be different? The coworker replied that we should as we aren’t going home to a refrigerator full of food every night. The coworker was told to drop it. Does this seem unreasonable to you? If so, can you think of another way to approach this?

Yes, it’s unreasonable. If you’re traveling away from home, it doesn’t matter that you’re traveling to another office of your company. It’s travel. The fact that there are employees who live there doesn’t change the fact that you don’t, and that you’re on travel that whole week, with the accompanying expenses.

If you want to pursue it, I’d approach HR, not your department head, since he’s shown that he’s not open to thinking about it. In approaching HR, I’d say, “Given that we’re incurring the same expenses that we’d be occurring on any other business trip that kept us away from home, would you consider allowing us the same per diem that we’d receive if we were traveling to, say, a client’s site? We’re still without a refrigerator of food to go home to at night.”

3. I was fired because of a false customer complaint

I was terminated today from my position as a store manager at a storage facility. Here’s why: While off the clock and visiting my father in the hospital, I received a call from a rep at the company’s 24-hour customer service hotline. The rep asked me to resolve a customer issue. The customer wasn’t able to access the gate. His PIN code wasn’t working. In speaking with the customer, I realized he was routed to me in error. He should have been routed to the manager of a close-by sister site. He wasn’t my customer so there was little I could do to assist him. I hung up with the customer and informed the appropriate store manager of his need and asked her to follow up and assist him.

Today I learned the customer complained about my inability to help him and lied, saying I advised him to climb the fence to get in, something I would never ever do! I was fired for violating the company safety policy. I was told that my suggestion risked the safety of the customer and the facility. I was given no opportunity to give my side of the story. I was told specifics aren’t important and the decision had been made.

Can an employer terminate me for an incident that happened while I was off the clock and not being paid? And should I have been given the opportunity to explain and prove the customer’s accusations were false? My employer took the customer’s word and based my termination on it.

Yes, you can be fired for work-related incidents that happen while you’re off the clock. (However, if you’re non-exempt, they need to pay you for any work you do, even if it’s outside of your hours. As a manager, you’re probably exempt, but it’s worth mentioning.)

They absolutely should have given you an opportunity to explain what happened, and it’s ridiculous that they didn’t. Legally, they’re not obligated to, so you don’t have much recourse here, although you could certainly try reaching out to your manager and explaining the situation, even if only to negotiate the reference that you get in the future. Sorry this happened to you; it’s BS.

4. Can I put being the executor of a will on my resume?

My father passed away earlier this year, and he named me executor. He left behind a house, multiple accounts, cars, etc. and I (with the help of my wife) have been cleaning out the house, paying his bills, closing/transferring his accounts as necessary, and selling the contents of the house. This estate is still ongoing and I will need to pay taxes on it before the end of the year. I’ve already had to fire one lawyer and retain a second one to help out with this part at least. Is this something that’s worth putting on my resume?

Nope. It’s certainly a lot of work, and you could even argue there might be transferable skills involved, but it doesn’t belong on your resume. In general, attending to family personal matters is inappropriate to include on a resume, regardless of the work involved. (To use another example, if you’d coordinated a massive and complicated trip as part of your job, that might be a highlight worth mentioning, but if you did it for your family reunion, it’s not.)

Part of the reason for this is simply convention, part of it is that you’re not really accountable to anyone (clients, employer, etc.) in doing this type of thing and so theoretically could have done a mediocre job at it and prospective employers have no way to know, and part of it is that it’s the type of thing that so many people will do in the course of their family life that it’s not quite considered resume-worthy.

I’m sorry about your dad.

5. Letting a company I interviewed with know that I’ve accepted another position

You’ve had several posts regarding the reality of how rarely applicants hear back from an employer when they are not offered a position. My question concerns the flip side – the applicant’s responsibility or courteousness to let a potential employer know she is moving on and is no longer interested in the position she applied for. Obviously it doesn’t make sense to follow up like this for every application, but what about those for which you’ve interviewed?

My particular situation is that I received an offer for a position which was my first choice, but the paperwork/offer letter/contract was still in the works. During that interim, I interviewed for another position, which was my second choice. At the end of the interview, we discussed their timeline and when I might expect to hear from them. I followed up with a thank-you email and received a personal and typical response from them. It has now been more than seven weeks since they expected to make a decision and I haven’t heard anything more, yet through my network I have heard they are just “slow to fill the position.” I would potentially like to work with this employer in three to five years from now. The paperwork has gone through for my first choice and I will be taking that position. It seems courteous to close the hiring process with the other employer by taking myself out of consideration, but I would like to do that in a way which keeps the bridge open for the future and without sounding snooty. Any suggestions on appropriate wording?

“Thanks so much for talking with me about the ___ position in August. I wanted to let you know that I’ve accepted another position so need to withdraw from your process. I enjoyed the opportunity to talk with you and think the work you’re doing is (fascinating/exciting/something I’d love to be a part of down the road). Best of luck in filling the role, and I hope our paths might cross again in the future!”

That said, since they’ve let seven weeks go by without being in contact, you’re really not obligated to do this. That’s enough time that it would be reasonable to assume that they’d moved on without other candidates without bothering to tell you (and if you hadn’t heard otherwise through your network, it would be a decent bet, given how common it is for employers to do that), and in that case you wouldn’t owe them an update. But particularly since this is a company that you might be interested in working with in the future, a quick email like this could be a nice closing of the loop.

fired because of a false complaint, how to answer “Why are you the best person for this job?” was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Sunday, September 14th, 2014 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

  • 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, September 14th, 2014 11:35 am
Last night around 7:30, we went out looking for soccer shoes for Cordelia. We hoped that would be late enough to avoid the post-game traffic, but we still ran into a backup getting to 14. Fortunately, once we were past the stop sign, traffic cleared up.

The sporting goods store we went to had two pairs of soccer cleats in Cordelia's size (7 women's) at a price we could afford. They were the same style just one was black and the other was gray. I was disappointed. I like Cordelia have wild colored cleats; it helps me identify her on the softball field (all the girls tend to look alike, white girls with their hair hidden by their caps) when I don't remember which shorts she's wearing. Scott wanted to go somewhere else where there was better selection, but Cordelia thought the pair she'd tried on was perfectly good apart from maybe needing longer laces. (Laces are fairly easy.) Scott did say that we won't go back to that store next time Cordelia needs cleats.

After buying the cleats, we went to Plum Market. We wanted to buy some sort of dessert and some sambucol. We also wanted to kill enough time for traffic at the 14 entrance/exit ramp to clear. (That ramp is difficult. It's two lanes, one off, one on, and short because of the river and the houses around it, and for the on ramp, there's a stop sign right before one gets on the highway. When traffic's heavy, both the on and off ramp get backed up.) We got grapes, sambucol, deodorant for Cordelia, some raspberry ginger ale, a couple of single serving chocolate cheesecakes, some gum, and a ginger lemonade for Scott. There were probably one or two other things I'm forgetting.

Traffic had pretty well cleared by the time we got off of 14. We barely had to wait at the stop sign at the bottom of the ramp.

I shouldn't have had the cheesecake so close to bedtime. Reflux kept me up late even though I was tired enough to want to go to bed early. I also woke up in the middle of the night feeling horribly overheated. I had to throw off the sheet (the only covers I was using) and wait for it to pass. I wonder if that's something like a hot flash? I was so hot that I couldn't get back to sleep. I almost got up and turned on the fan, but I was afraid that would make Scott freeze. I was really surprised to wake for the day a bit after nine. I expected that I'd have difficulty waking and would sleep until at least ten, but Scott had turned on Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me quite loud.

We suggested orange juice to Cordelia this morning. She poured some and then abandoned it on the counter. My guess is that it just didn't taste good to her. I'll have to see about making her some tea later on.

Scott wants to go to gathering for playing board and card games this afternoon. He's hoping to take Fortune and Glory and get a chance to play a game all the way through. He discovered that we made a mistake with the rules that, had we corrected it, would have made the game go faster and more easily. We assumed that we got one roll of the dice to try to meet the success conditions, but, under certain circumstances, we should have continued rolling. Apparently, as long as one gets a single success on a roll, one can reroll all of one's dice in hopes of getting additional successes. The successes add up.

Cordelia wants to go to the gathering, too, not because she wants to play games. She says that isn't really her thing. She's hoping there will be other kids around who will want to socialize. I'm worried that she'll be disappointed and spend a miserable several hours with nothing to do.

I don't much want to go. I don't know why I'm feeling so anti-social. Usually, I like being around people, at least when I have someone I trust with me (and I'd have Scott). I can play Fortune and Glory as long as we play cooperatively, so I wouldn't be completely left out. I can also play Sentinels of the Multiverse, and from what I gather, there's usually somebody wanting to play that. Instead, I want to nap and catch up on the sleep I lost last night and the night before. I'd also like to write something and maybe bake something. There's also the laundry to consider. We have three loads that need to get done by the end of the day. If I go, only one and a half will actually get done. I suppose one load of adult clothes can wait until tomorrow if absolutely necessary. I just need to be sure to wash Cordelia's stuff and some of our stuff.
Sunday, September 14th, 2014 10:00 am

This week, we’re going to be chipping away at the projects/areas we’ve been avoiding. Whatever it is that first comes to mind that you really don’t want to do around the house (crafting supplies! the garage! that box of junk mail you never got around to shredding!), that’s what you’re working on this week. Just 20 minutes every day, and then stop and get on with your life. You might not be able to finish it all this week, but any progress will be a huge improvement.

My project is my spare bedroom. I seem to think that if I can close the door, it doesn’t exist. My 20 minutes starts now. What’s your “I don’t wanna” area?

Sunday, September 14th, 2014 12:30 am
Image found on OregonLive here. 

So, did ya'll stay up last night waiting for the aurora borealis -- aka Northern Lights -- from the recent solar flare?

We did. Well, kind of. Terese, Greg, my college buddy Karen, and some other friends bundled up in sweatshirts, fortified ourselves with adult beverages (except for me) and pointed our eyeballs upwards. It was a beautiful clear night. We saw the moon rise over the Cascade Mountain foothills. We all downloaded and experimented with constellation apps for our smartphones. We yakked away for hours.

But, alas. The promised lights didn't materialize. It could be that there was simply too much light pollution in our neighborhood.

Did you see them?
Sunday, September 14th, 2014 04:03 am

Posted by Ask a Manager

Lucy emergesIt’s the weekend free-for-all.

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 non-work only; if you have a work question, you can email it to me or post it in the work-related open thread on Fridays.)

Have at it.

Sunday free-for-all – September 14, 2014 was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Saturday, September 13th, 2014 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

  • 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, September 13th, 2014 02:46 pm


Moving house before and after. I moved all the boxes in to the spare room and unpacked them into the other rooms. I took me about 8 20/10s spread out over a week and a half. It really helped to concentrate the house moving chaos in one room and to have pleasant other rooms to live in whilst I was doing it.

Saturday, September 13th, 2014 02:08 pm
That thought won't fill anybody with glee, but it simply has to be done. TOO MANY APPOINTMENTS.


UNICEF: Nearly half of girls in South Asia marry before age 18

Ant-sized radio runs on radio waves

Mysterious Men Dropping From Helicopters To Chop Down NorCal Marijuana Grows

Should Oil Barons Like David Koch Be Funding Our Museums?

Fluid mechanics suggests alternative to quantum orthodoxy

These Wasps Built Their Colony On A Window – And The View Is Incredible

Soldiers defeat Islamic fighters in north Nigeria

Who’s Paying the Pro-War Pundits?

'Islamic State' is a slur on our faith, say leading Muslims

Israel tells US it will act if IS reaches Jordan

ISIS Strikes Deal With Moderate Syrian Rebels

Syrian Kurds Ally With Rebel Groups To Fight The Islamic State

Syria refugees attacked in Lebanon

After Iraqi battles, residents choose displacement

Pope Francis warns on 'piecemeal World War III'

Ukraine: Peace Disrupted By Barrage; Russia Sends New Aid Convoy

Russian Soldiers Reveal the Truth Behind Putin's Secret War

U.S. military exercise with Russia canceled because of Ukraine attacks

U.S. warns its citizens in Uganda to stay home, await more guidance

Real-life Mexican superheroes give el Chapulin Colorado a run for his money

'Solid' light could compute previously unsolvable problems

Yahoo's NSA challenge documents shed light on secret process

American blue-collar workers disappear — from Congress

Scientists are perfecting a prototype of the exoskeleton equivalent of skinny jeans.

Ceramics don't have to be brittle: Materials scientists are creating materials by design

Wildfires char more than 100,000 acres in Northern California

Yemen Troops Clash With Shiite Rebels in Capital

Ebola hospital workers walk out over pay

The Afghan Girls Who Live as Boys

Want Your Crops To Survive Extreme Heat and Drought? Add Fungus
Saturday, September 13th, 2014 02:59 pm
Scott was scheduled to work 3 a.m. to 7 a.m. this morning but has the rest of the weekend off. He made a mistake setting his alarm, so it didn't go off at 2 the way that he expected. Fortunately, he woke up at 2:30 and was able to make it to work by 3. His alarm did go off at 5:10, waking me. I never really got back to sleep after that. Scott came home about 6; they'd had a couple of lines go down and so didn't need him any longer. When he pulled into the driveway, he had his book on CD playing so loudly that I could hear it. I couldn't quite make out the words, so I was really puzzled as to what it was until it stopped and I heard the car door and realized that Scott was home.

We had Cordelia's first soccer game this morning. I think this new team is definitely a better fit for her. She was reluctant to go to the game because she has a cold (Scott does, too. I haven't caught it yet, but I expect to). She tried to talk us out of it, but we gave her ibuprofen for her sore throat and a decongestant for her nose and took her to the game.

The game was a ways out of town, off of Dixboro Road, next to a private elementary school called Go Like the Wind. There are only a couple of places around town where they have fields big enough for the upper grades to play. Starting in fifth grade, they use bigger fields and bigger goals. I'm hoping Scott's available for all the games at that field because getting a cab there would be really expensive. We'd try to get a ride with another family, of course, and that might work because we wouldn't be too far out of the way for a lot of people going to that field because we're on that side of town.

It was pretty cold. I think it was 52 or 53 F when the game started, and the wind was blowing, so it felt colder. I wore my winter coat because I knew I'd want it, sitting there for more than an hour. Scott wore a jean jacket, and I think he regretted going so light.

Both teams played well. Cordelia's team ended up winning by a couple of goals. Each team got one goal that shouldn't have happened. The other team got a goal on a corner kick when the ball bounced off a girl on Cordelia's team. Cordelia's team got a goal when the goalie seemed to have blocked the ball, but it kind of hopped over her leg and very, very gently rolled into the goal. Cordelia seems to have settled in playing defense all the time. I'm glad there's space for her to do that.

Before the game, we stopped at the bank and transferred more money out of Cordelia's savings and into our checking account. We decided that it was better to borrow money from Cordelia than from a bank we knew nothing at all about except that it worked with this particular roofing company. I did a Google search on the bank and found some complaints that made me wary, not a vast number of them but several.

After the game, we went to the other side of town to rent a thirteen inch viola for Cordelia. We'll be paying $17 a month for the viola and its accoutrements. The guy who helped us said he'd tune the viola before giving it to us, but he apparently didn't because Cordelia says it's out of tune. There are two things I'd like to see her get out of instrumental music this year. One is the ability to tune her own viola. The other is the ability to sight read music. (Right now, she painstakingly goes through and pencils in the letters for the notes.)

We were afraid we'd run into a lot of traffic since it was only three hours before the football game and the rental place is near the stadium, but there really wasn't much traffic. There were a lot of people out with signs advertising parking for $20-$25 a car. We saw one sign advertising a bathroom for $20 a visit. We didn't run into heavy traffic until we got to Plymouth Road, and then, it was all going the other way, so it didn't much bother us.

Scott's waiting to do the grocery shopping after the game starts, when the stores are likely to be nearly empty. Later on, probably after dinner, we'll go out and find new soccer shoes for Cordelia. She's been complaining that her current ones are too small. I hope she chooses to play soccer in the spring, too, so that we get more use out of the new pair. Usually, we can get three seasons, fall soccer, spring soccer, and softball, out of a pair of cleats, but I think we might have bought this pair last spring rather than last fall.

Scott made chicken noodle soup for lunch, hoping that it would help with the colds. Unfortunately, Cordelia decided it tasted bad and didn't eat much. I think the cold is affecting her taste buds because apparently nothing really tastes good to her right now. We're encouraging her to drink lots of water and herbal tea, but she complains that it's not helping. She seems to expect instant results.
Saturday, September 13th, 2014 05:32 am


My craft room needed some serious attention, so I decided to unfuck it. It was an assortment of garbage, craft supplies, finished projects, and other items that made it into the room but have a home in my apartment elsewhere (derby stuff like awards, gifts, jerseys, etc). Yay, so happy about my results!

Saturday, September 13th, 2014 12:30 am
Man. I feel kind of ashamed of my self absorption over the past few weeks. My puny issues like dairy intolerance and a rash pale in comparison to the health crisis that my friend and her family are facing.

My friend's mother is entering a very difficult phase in her struggle with Alzheimer's Disease, and the  distress and anguish that it is causing her mother is equally as devastating to her family.

If you pray; please say a prayer for this family,  or send some positive thoughts their way.

And thanks.
Saturday, September 13th, 2014 04:03 am

Posted by Ask a Manager

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

1. My coworker told me I’m too loud

I work in a cubicle farm in sales. Today as I was on the phone with a client and closing a sale, a coworker comes up to me, waits for me to finish on the phone, and then in a rather back handed fashion says, “You are very good but you are also very loud. I’ll appreciate it if you would quiet down.”

I was incensed. I make my bread through closing deals and am a gregarious, enthusiastic person. This is a large part of what makes me successful. I’m not quiet as a mouse, but I am not brutishallly loud.

I only started at this new company 6 workdays ago and have had two interactions with this woman, who I think works in HR. Is what she did okay? Should I take her comment as a put-down? It sure felt that way in the moment. The icing on the cake is that I have received nothing but friendly and positive feedback from my boss and co-salesmen.

Without knowing exactly how loud you are or how much your voice might carry, it’s hard to say. But asking a coworker to try to keep their volume down isn’t an inherently rude request; in fact, I often advise people here to be direct with coworkers when they’re particularly loud and making it hard for others to focus. That said, I can see why her wording rubbed you the wrong way; I suspect you would have taken if differently if she’d said, “I’m so sorry about this, but I wonder if you could lower your voice just a little on the phone? I can hear how gregarious you are with clients and I bet it makes you great at your job — but unfortunately sound really carries in this office, and the volume is making it tough for me to focus.”

In any case, I wouldn’t take it as a put-down. I’d take it at face value — as a direct request for you to lower your volume if you can. If you can’t feasibly do that, you can tell her nicely that you’re sorry but you don’t have a way to do your job any more quietly than what you’re already doing.

2. Can my company require me to share what I’ve heard about them from others?

I am a manager in a very small company, with less than 10 employees. Can my employer require me to divulge information I have heard said about our company from other companies in the same industry, vendors in the industry, or acquaintances in the industry?

Sure, they can make that a requirement of your job — although I’m not sure how they’d know if you’re filling them in fully or not.

3. Why did this interviewer ask why I’m leaving my current job?

I had a surprise phone screen today (my first ever, actually) and am really shaken. I’m wondering if it was reasonable. To give some context, I’m a pharmacist. This phone screen was for a job in a pharmaceutical manufacturing sort of company. I’m not familiar with the hiring processes of corporations like this–I’ve only ever worked (and applied for) jobs in local chemist shops and hospitals, and neither have ever had any phone screens. I maybe should have suspected it when the caller identity showed up in a different state to the job I’m applying for, but I thought it was simply HR calling to offer an interview rather than a phone screen as such! They asked the following questions:
– Why are you applying for this job when you’re from another state?
– What do you do at your current job?
– Why are you leaving your current job?
– What’s your expected salary?
– When would you be available to start?

The “why are you leaving your current job?” really threw me for a loop, as I’ve never been asked this question before by anyone. Yes I’ve only been in the workforce for 3 years but have held 7 contract positions plus this current perm fulltime job and never been asked that. Plus I would’ve interviewed for a few more, so I’d say maybe about 15 interviews at least.

I did seem to pass it however, as they asked me when I was free to do an actual interview with the site managers, but yeah I’m really shaken and wondering if this is a typical phone screen?

I ask “why are you thinking about leaving your job?” or (if the person isn’t currently employed) “why did you leave your last job” on every phone interview I conduct. It’s a very normal question and not one you should be rattled by. Interviewers ask it not in a judgy way (like “what’s wrong with you that you’re thinking about changing jobs?”) but rather because sometimes it produces really interesting answers. Sometimes it produces really mundane answers too, and that’s fine. But it’s a reasonable and normal question to ask.

4. Do I have a right to keep my salary in a demotion?

Do I have a legal right to keep my salary if I get demoted to a less responsible position? I work in California.

Nope. Your employer can change your salary any time (as long as it’s not retroactive and as long as you don’t have a contract that says otherwise, which most people don’t). If you were demoted to a less responsible position, it makes sense that your salary would change as well.

5. Update from the reader thinking about writing a grant to fund the job she wanted

Here’s an update from a letter-writer in December who proposed to a nonprofit that she’d help the write grant applications, on the condition that they hire her if the grant came through. She was wondering if she should ask for a signed guarantee that they’d hire her for the grant was approved, which I advised her against for the reasons you can see here (#3 at the link). Here’s the update:

It turned out to be better for me that we didn’t make any future employment commitments. As a couple of commenters deduced, the organization was, in fact, young, disorganized, and helmed by a woefully inexperienced director. And that manifested in unclear vision, unrealistic goals, frequent staff turnover, and leadership too out-of-touch to properly serve the “community leadership” aspect of its mission statement. (“Honest, we tried to recruit [members of the minority group we primarily serve] to the board, but they are way too busy scraping by to contribute in any useful way!”)

I did get some valuable experience helping my organization and a partner org negotiate and outline a project agreement for a collaborative program they were proposing. The collaboration fell through due to – drumroll, please – lack of funding. However, the partner org recently told me that a month or two after I left, my home org finally wound up hiring a program manager to do pretty much what I had been doing – and is paying her with actual money! It’s best I got to walk away from this mess unscathed not long after my original letter. Since then, I’ve been contracted to work on some curriculum development projects, and I have an interview for a new educational outreach position soon – a paid position.

my coworker told me I’m too loud, salary and demotions, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Friday, September 12th, 2014 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

  • 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, September 12th, 2014 08:18 pm


There is no cleaning product in the world i can recommend as highly as bar keeper’s friend, seriously. This is probably about 8 months of coffee, diet Pepsi, tea, crystal light, and various sauce stains along with scratches from pots and pans eliminated in about 2 minutes. I usually just sprinkle it on a wet sink and then wipe it off with a sponge. Also you can put it on your faucets and they’ll g l e a m

BKF is pretty great. Plus, super cheap. (Get the powder, not the cream stuff.)

Friday, September 12th, 2014 01:21 pm
Scott bought me another box of chai to try. This is Bigelow's vanilla chai. It's not great, but it's not terrible either if I limit the steeping time to three minutes (the package calls for four). I'm not sure if I should be relieved that I find something so cheap palatable or if I should take it as a sign that I'd like better quality chais that much better.

I do wish it was required for caffeinated things to list on the package just how much caffeine is in a normal serving. I've seen the websites that list average values, but I want to know specifically about each tea I try and about my instant coffee (those websites give a ridiculously broad range for instant coffees without any more information. I have no idea where on the scale my coffee falls. I suspect it's at the lower end, but I have no way to know. The company that makes it doesn't provide that information anywhere I can find it). Tazo does label its teas with the amount of caffeine one can expect, and I like that.

Speaking of Tazo, Scott picked up one of their green teas for me. It's a ginger pear if I'm remembering correctly. It's nice enough, but I have so many boxes of tea to get through. I'm going to have to start drinking tea daily to get through it all. I have approximately thirty servings worth of various chais. I've got that vanilla coconut white tea and the peach blossom oolong. And that's just the caffeinated stuff.

In spite of that, I'm looking with covetous eyes at some of Adagio's samples and samplers. I'd like to try the various different things they sell, at least those within my price range. I'm just not sure I can justify the expense when I've got so much other tea and when I find much less expensive stuff passable.
Friday, September 12th, 2014 12:43 pm
I'm tempted to bake. We have a brownie mix and a cake mix. I could do either. Of course, the frosting we have is something that Scott and Cordelia like but that I find vile, and there are all these cookies that Scott and Cordelia bought last night. I'm not sure I should bake something else today, however much time I have and however cool it is in here (It's in the low 70s F in here. The oven wouldn't overheat the house). I also can't manage to open one of the packages of cookies (cranberry oatmeal cookies that Scott bought because he knew I'd like them. I wanted one with lunch). It's got a pull tab to remove a strip of plastic so that the plastic tub can open. It doesn't yield when I pull. I even tried using my teeth, in case it was that I didn't have leverage, and using a knife. Neither made the slightest difference. I hope Scott can open the dratted thing.
Friday, September 12th, 2014 04:00 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

We talk a lot here about hiring deal-breakers — things that will on their own ruin your chances with an employer.

There’s another category of things that aren’t deal-breakers in and of themselves but which are never done by anyone who ends up being a top candidate. As a result, for managers who have done enough hiring, they end up being sort of markers that a candidate is likely to be mediocre (or worse). They might not be the thing you reject someone over — but they’re a flag that the candidate is going to end up not being good for other reasons.

Here are some of the things that fall in that category:

* Having a four-page resume.  Strong candidates just don’t write overly long resumes. They know how to edit and they know what matters and what doesn’t. (There’s a small handful of fields where long resumes are normal, where this of course wouldn’t apply.) It’s not a deal-breaker in and of itself, but top candidates never do it — so when an experienced hiring manager sees a long resume, they’re instantly primed to expect a weaker candidate.

* Showing up for an interview really early.  I’m not talking about 10 minutes; I’m talking about 30 minutes or more. Candidates with good judgement and a sense of how offices work don’t do this; they might arrive early, but they wait in the parking lot or in a coffee shop rather than showing up and expecting to be dealt with that early. Again, it’s not a deal-breaker, but I never see it done by the best candidates.

* Dropping off your resume in-person for a professional, office job.  Candidates who do this tend not to have a good sense of how most offices work and why and the fact that a hiring manager isn’t likely to have time or the inclination to meet with them on the spot. And again, no one is going to reject you for this (probably), but it’ll associate you with a weaker group of candidates right off the bat.

* FedExing your resume or sending a hard copy when the instructions call for electronic submissions, or any other gimmick done in the service of “standing out.”  I’ve ranted plenty in other posts about why doing this is a bad idea — but it’s on this particular list because I’ve literally never seen strong candidates do it.

* Using high-pressure, salesy tactics, like calling to follow up to “schedule an interview” or making unsupported statements like “I’m the best person for the job.”  This is another one where it’s annoying on its own merits, but on top of that it immediately associates you with a weaker group of candidates, because they’re the ones who typically do this.

things top job candidates never do — which aren’t deal-breakers but which don’t reflect well on you was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Friday, September 12th, 2014 03:00 pm

Posted by Ask a Manager

Lucy on computerIt’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.

open thread – September 12, 2014 was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Friday, September 12th, 2014 10:16 am
I need to find a pattern for a small, lightweight beanie. My hair is long enough these days that even with the earphone headband holding it down, if I take a lesson in the R22 that usually gets flown with its doors off, I get my hair blown back in my face. Sunday I tried wearing a baseball cap, and the wind decided to try and push my hat off my head, headphones and all. The instructor (who shaves his head) suggested a hijab as a joke, but I gotta say, after twenty minutes of having to try to see around my own hair, the idea of a headscarf's lookin' mighty appealing. I'm gonna need to see about knitting a cap that'll hold things in place, at least until winter, when I can start wearing the furry earflap hat instead.
Friday, September 12th, 2014 02:00 pm

Posted by Brett Jonas

We get asked lots of questions when we’re doing farm tours, selling soap at craft fairs, or simply running errands.  Since most of those answers are heard only by the person who asked, we decided to share some of the common questions here on the blog.  And of course you can ask a question of your own! Colter, what’s […]
Friday, September 12th, 2014 09:53 am
Drat. I thought this might happen-- Scott does all the financial stuff, so I don't have ready access to the information the loan company needs in order to process our loan application. I don't know our monthly mortgage payment. I don't know the total of my monthly disability (Social Security and a payment from my former employer). I probably could find that information if I dig through the paperwork Scott has saved or if I can find our financial records on Scott's laptop. If something happens to Scott, I'd really be screwed on the financial front. I don't know where anything is or how much we can afford to spend on what.

Scott wants to do a twenty-four month loan. He says the payment is at the extreme edge of what we can afford, but he's reluctant to commit to a longer term loan. I'd be tempted to take the thirty-six month loan (about $60 less a month) and just try to pay it off early. That we could do on a month by month basis, depending on how much wiggle room we had in the budget.

The way the loan is structured, they call it a zero interest loan, but they tack on a chunk of money as a 'financing fee.' The longer the term, the higher the fee. I'm not sure what interest rate the fee actually adds up to over the term of the loan. The fee is calculated as a percentage of the principal, but it's not compounded. It's just a flat fee.

The loan company wants to talk to Scott anyway. It makes sense that they wouldn't want to put his name on the loan without confirming that he's willing (I'm a little bit startled that we can do this over the phone. Not that we could do it any other way-- They're somewhere in the mountain time zone). I thought about trying to qualify on my own, but I suspect that my income is insufficient to qualify on my own.
Friday, September 12th, 2014 08:20 am
Cordelia had her first practice with the new team last night. She gave the experience a thumbs up. There are two girls from her school on the team, so she knows somebody. Scott stayed and helped out with practice, partly to keep an eye on things and partly because he enjoys helping the kids learn soccer.

They were quite late in getting home. I was actually starting to worry a little. Not much because it had only been forty-five minutes since practice ended (I don't know how long it takes to get home from where the practices are. It shouldn't be more than half an hour). As it turned out, they stopped at Whole Foods and bought some fruit and some cookies. I think Scott felt the need to celebrate the practice having gone well.

Neighborhood Roofing finally got back to me with the amended figures for the loan. The woman doing it pinned down the guy who did the estimate and found out how much the worst case scenario for replacing wood would cost us and added that to the initial estimate so that we'd know how much to get approved for. The way it works, we'll borrow exactly what we need even if we're approved for a higher amount. We just don't want to be surprised and be $1500 out of pocket. I'll call the loan company at 9:00.

As to the name of the LARP, I suspect I called it something generic like 'Pyramid Plot.' I might have been more creative; I just don't remember. Scott favors 'The Sands of Plot,' but I don't like how that sounds. Wait, something's occurring to me-- The game centers on who's going to become pharaoh after Snefru (who's dying). I might have named it something having to do with inheritance or succession or something similar instead of relating the name to Egypt. Inheritance Plot? Royal Plot? It wouldn't be Funeral Plot; that's a different game. Why on earth didn't I record the name of the game somewhere?
Friday, September 12th, 2014 06:55 am
Sarah and I, aka Two Of The Last Ten People In America Who Don't Have Smartphones, caved and ordered our iPhones today.

(We were on Verizon, and their data plans were gouging you in the eyeballs and we just didn't care that much. But It Was Time, and thankfully T-Mobile has much cheaper options now.)
Friday, September 12th, 2014 12:30 am
Guys. I've been really feeling sorry for myself.

Me. The original dairy gal. An ice cream fanatic. A milk guzzler. A cheese chomper. And now, all that dairy consumption is a thing of the past, and I really, really miss it since I discovered dairy really, really doesn't like me.

But all the whining and pouting is over. Because I have found THIS:

Hear the choirs of angels singing? It's good. It's THAT good. I was grumping around Whole Foods longingly staring into the ice cream freezer, when an employee asked if he could help me with anything.

So I unloaded all my angst about dairy withdrawal, and the poor guy listened patiently. Then grabbed a container (which was ridiculously expensive, btw) and told me that he guaranteed that this was the answer to my ice cream cravings.

He was right. Even though it was SEVEN DOLLARS for a dinky little two cup container.

Who knew cashew milk frozen dessert tasted that good?


I'm thinking that it's probably good thing that it's crazy expensive. I don't see myself forking out all that cash except for the occasional splurge. But just knowing it's out there is a good thing.
Friday, September 12th, 2014 04:03 am

Posted by Ask a Manager

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

1. Am I obligated to share my work with my coworker?

At the job I started several months ago, it’s important to take notes because there are very few sources to look up needed procedures/information and there’s way too much to rely on memory. All the people who had been working there before me have notebooks full of notes, and when I (and a few other new people) started, we were supplied with large notebooks. So I’ve been taking very detailed notes, and I even typed all my notes up this past weekend to put in a binder to make them neater and more organized.

The coworker who sits next to me rarely takes notes, so he’s constantly asking me questions. And he makes comments like, “Gee, I wish I had great notes like yours,” or “Hey, where did you get all this information?” (I just tell him that I take notes whenever I see or learn something new.) I’m worried that now that my notes are neat and typed, he might start asking me to print them out or make copies for him. Which I don’t want to do. I’ve poured a lot of time into taking great notes—why should I share them with someone who hasn’t put any effort into taking notes? I’m not sure how to respond if he asks me. Is it okay to refuse, or am I obligated to give him my notes to be a “team player”? If I can refuse, what’s a good way to do it?

It’s not likely to reflect well on you if other people, particularly your manager, learned that you refused — it will come across as saying that you’re protecting your own turf at your employer’s expense.

But you could actually turn this into something that’s both useful and reflects well on you: Show your manager your awesomely organized binder of notes and say something like, “Cecil sounds like he’d really like to have something like this for himself, and I know it would have been really helpful to me to have something like this when I started too. Now that I’ve created it, would it be useful to set up some version of this for the whole team to use as a reference, or even just supply to new people?”

(Also, it’s crazy that your company hasn’t already done something like this. This isn’t school, where you’re expected to learn the whole thing on your own. In the workplace, shortcuts and finding ways to minimize people’s learning curve and set them up for success are good things.)

2. How can I reward an exceptional employee?

I have an employee who is exceptional — anticipates problems, has great attention to detail, works well with others, and goes above and beyond the call of duty daily. She came on board eight months ago. Within a month of her hiring, not only was this apparent but because of a reorganization, she received a $10,000 raise. I have encouraged her to apply for professional development grants (and if I can swing it, even if she doesn’t get the grant, will send her to the annual national conference in our field.) I spoken to my supervisor about providing further professional development. I give her feedback on how well she is doing verbally and in writing (she had an outstanding six-month review) and to our supervisors. She has flextime, generous vacation etc. I have given her a Target gift card (a thank-you for work on a special event), supplied her with cartons of her favorite power bar, bought lunch for her and her cohort, and gotten her a team jacket.

I can’t give her any more money as she is at the top of her classification. I can’t give her more vacation. I can’t give her a higher title as I made up the one she has to get her classified. Is there anything else that I can do to reward her outstanding work?

P.S. I do not fear that I will lose her to another organization, as her position is a much coveted one, the work is miraculously exactly what she wants to do, and her pay is above the industry norm.

I don’t know that you need to continue searching out rewards for her; you’ve done a nice job of that already. Now I’d just focus on being a great manager to her — give her useful feedback, flexibility, and recognition, be a buffer for her from annoying people/processes to the extent that it’s feasible, check in with her periodically about how things are going, and make sure that she’s taken care of at raise time.

3. Should I ask the hiring manager who rejected me to put in a good word for me with another department?

I was rejected for a position last week, and upon learning of the rejection I sent the hiring manger an email requesting feedback. She replied and stated that I interviewed well but was overqualified for the position and went on to say that she was not sure that I would be growing or learning anything new in the position if hired. This was what I believed was the reason for my rejection, so I am plenty relieved – but I have another issue.

I recently applied for another position at the same company (in a different department). This position aligns with my skills a bit more. Would it be inappropriate to ask the hiring manager to put in a good word for me? She seems friendly and was kind enough to give me feedback, but I am wondering if it would be ok since she knows my qualifications and has interviewed me.

I wouldn’t ask her to put in a good word for you, exactly — that’s a little too much for someone who doesn’t know you well. But you should absolutely mention to her that you’ve applied for the other job, because she might decide to do that on her own. You could say something like, “Thanks again for talking with me and for taking the time to give me feedback, as well. I actually just applied for the X position with your Y team and am hoping that might turn out to be the right fit — I’d really love to join the team there.”

4. When should I tell a prospective employer about a name change?

I have an interesting situation. I’m a guy. I’m changing my last name. I won’t bore you with details, but it has nothing to do with trying to hide anything. I was abandoned, adopted, abandoned, have had so many people in my life I wanted something of my own.

While waiting for the legal system to approve the change, I applied for a position at a company that I’ve been wanting to work for. I nailed the phone interview and now I have a in-person interview. However, my name change will either be approved or denied before this interview. If the change is denied, no worries. If it’s approved, how do I let my new potential employer know? Do I wait until I’m actually offered the position? Do I tell the recruiting manager right away after it’s approved? I really want this job but am worried that this might somehow tarnish my image but I legally need to let them know. I’m very confused on how to proceed.

I’d wait until you’ve accepted an offer. At that point, you can say, “By the way, I want to let you know that my last name has recently changed to Lannister. Is there anything I need to do on my end to get that reflected in my paperwork?” You’re likely to field questions about whether you recently got married (because people will be being friendly and assume that you did, and will want to express congratulations), but you could respond cheerfully, “No, it’s a long story, but it’s settled now.”

5. My boss wants access to my tools when I’m not there

I’m a dog groomer and our tools are very expensive. All together, I’ve spent thousands of dollars on all my equipment. I work with another groomer and we bought a five-foot tall lockbox with drawers to keep all our stuff safe at work; we’ve had things stolen before, and it’s too much work to bring everything home and back every day. There are only two keys, and we can’t get another one made because the key is unique.

Our boss wanted us to leave a key there so she can get into our stuff even though there is no real reason to do that. She hired a bather recently and wants him to start grooming. We feel that until he has his own stuff and because we’re training him to be a groomer, he can use our stuff but only if we’re there to supervise. I’ve already lost very expensive shears to groomers in training dropping them.

Yesterday, on my day off, one of my coworkers called demanding that I come open the lock box for the bather who was going to do some grooms completely alone. I was an hour away visiting with in-laws and the other groomer was busy with her kids. Now the boss is demanding that we leave a key. I feel that she should buy her own tools for the shop and not rely on our tools to train new groomers. We bought the tool box and all the tools in it so she shouldn’t be allowed to go into it whenever she wants, right?

Yes. That’s a 100% reasonable position. There are jobs (like yours, apparently) where you’re expected to provide your own tools, but that shouldn’t mean that you’re expected to provide them for others to use. I’d say this to your boss: “Since we purchase and are responsible for our own tools, I’m not comfortable having people access them when I’m not there. I can’t afford to replace lost or broken tools, which has already happened. Could you get a store set to keep on hand for this sort of need?”

am I obligated to share my work with my coworker, how to reward an exceptional employee, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.