M E S S Y
“Just a by the by: “private” messages sent to individual people during a Zoom meeting show up in the end-of-meeting transcript along with all other public messages. Tell your friends, save a life.“
Honestly my partner has a lot of friends in the infosec community and they’ve all been lamenting the rise of Zoom because this is only ONE of very, very many reasons Zoom is an absolute security/privacy nightmare.
Zoom has a for bosses option to see if you aren’t paying attention called the “Attendee Attention Tracking” option
Zoom has sold people’s personal information to facebook even if you don’t have an account. A quick look though their terms of service shows this was never mentioned. They are being sued over it now.
Zoom does not have End To End Encryption even though they advertise it as such, Zoom has personal access to every meeting and it’s servers are not at all secure in China (which Zoom admitted they should not be rooted to)
Also just a personal thing I’ve noticed. IT IS TOO EASY TO HIJACK A ZOOM MEETING. GUESSING A ZOOM ID IS WAY TOO EASY
oh WOW this is good to know!
Ooooh this is gonna be good.
We’re all learning way too much about our coworkers and their homes on video calls — from the person who got a message saying her robe was too open, to the person who fell asleep on a call, to the person whose nude husband appeared in the background …IT’S ALL TOO MUCH INTIMACY AND WEIRDNESS.
Let’s hear in the comments about the most awkward/weird/amusing things you’ve seen on video calls.
You may also like:
let’s hear about awkward things you’ve seen on video calls was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.
Stevie Mitts is in this batch!!! (There is ANOTHER cat named for Stevie Nicks in here but only one Stevie Mitts)
With so many people working from home with animal coworkers, it’s obviously crucial that we see photos of your new colleagues. When I put out a call for pictures last week, I received more than 450 of them … so I posted half earlier this week and here’s part two.
Click photos to enlarge. And if you’re reading this from the home page, you have to click through to see the photos.
I’ve been trapped inside my house with my adolescent sons for 20 days now, and things are starting to get... strange. Pants became optional by day five. By day ten the “hilarious” practical jokes began, like running into the bathroom while your brother is showering and pelting him with handfuls of spare change. On day…
I really, really needed to read this.
Men on the forefront of scientific discovery do not fear risking life and limb, be it drinking the vomit of a sick man or dosing themselves with LSD. One astrophysicist followed in their footsteps in the name of covid-19 health research and ended up with magnets up his nose, at risk of a horrifying and violent death.…
I love this cat puddle photo - and also I can co-endorse Amor Towles Rules of Civility. I also enjoyed A Gentleman in Moscow!
This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand. (This one is truly no work and no school.)
Book recommendation of the week: Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles. In 1930s New York, a typist gets drawn into the city’s social elite. An enjoyable distraction.
* I make a commission if you use that Amazon link.
You may also like:
it was IMMERSION
The coronavirus has turned millions of office workers into remote employees overnight. Companies are sending workers home with laptops and a prayer that business will be able to continue as usual, but things can’t be business as usual. Employers will need to adjust their expectations of how much can truly get done in these circumstances.
I wrote a piece for Slate about how companies need to allow maximum flexibility right now. You can read it here.
Also … some readers have said they hope there won’t be a lot of virus-related content here and last week I was thinking it could be fairly limited. (I know many people want a place they can go to escape from it.) But at this point, it’s affecting everything work-related, I’m getting flooded with questions about how it’s changing everything from job searching to resigning, and I’ve got to tackle it. It’s not going to take over the whole site; there will still be plenty of non-virus stuff like coworkers who get sick after stealing your spicy food and colleagues who want you to call their boyfriend “master,” but I want to do what I can to help people navigate this crappy situation. So there will be virus stuff, but it’ll be a mix.
Stay safe and wash your hands! (I mangled mine in a blender last night and ended up in the ER after eight days of perfect social distancing. Watch out for immersion blenders.)
You may also like:
employers can’t expect business as usual right now was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.
Oh this was a GOOD TIP
You're going to want to go to Lucy Liu's instagram RIGHT now.
Ah a classic. Insanity.
It’s Leap Day on Saturday, and that means we must revisit this letter (and its update) about an employee born on Leap Day who isn’t allowed to have her birthday off except every four years.
Telling an employee born on Leap Day she can’t have her birthday off (the original)
One of the perks provided by my workplace is a paid day off on your birthday (or the day after if it falls on a weekend or holiday) provided by the firm and not taken from your own vacation days, and a gift card which works at several restaurants in our city. Once a month, a cake is also provided at lunch for everyone as an acknowledgement of everyone who has a birthday that month.
There is an employee on my team who was born in a leap year on February 29. Since she only has a birthday every four years, she does not get a day off or a gift card and is not one of the people the cake acknowledges. She has complained about this and is trying to push back so she is included.
The firm doesn’t single out or publicly name anyone that has a birthday. People take the day off and that is it, nothing is said. The gift card is quietly enclosed with their pay stub. The cake is put in the lunchroom without fanfare for anyone that wants some. There is no email or card that goes around and no celebrating at work. If there was I could see her point, but since everything is done quietly/privately, she is not losing out on anything. My manager feels her complaints are petty and she needs to be more professional. I agree with him.
She has only worked here for two years and was hired straight out of university. I want to tell her that she should be focusing on work issues and not something as small as a birthday. If she had a complaint about a work issue it would be different. How do I frame my discussion with her without making her feel bad or like she is trouble? Her work is good and I am sure the complaint is just borne of inexperience and I don’t want to penalize her for it.
What?! She doesn’t only have a birthday every four years — she has one every year like everyone else. (Surely you don’t believe that she only advances in age every four years, right?) She might need to celebrate her birthday on February 28 or March 1 in non-leap years, but it’s not true that she doesn’t have a birthday and it’s absolutely unfair and wrong for your office to give her fewer days off than other people because of this. She should get the day off, she should get the gift card, and she should be acknowledged with the other birthdays at the same time.
It makes no sense to demoralize someone over something so easily fixed, and it’s very odd that you and your manager are digging in your heels on this. It’s not about her being inexperienced or petty, and it’s alarming that you and your manager think that! This is about you and your manager not looking logically at what you’re doing (and, frankly, being petty yourselves). You two are wrong, she is right, and you should remedy this and apologize to her for mishandling it.
And the update (originally here):
I just wanted to give an update and to clarify a few things. I am the employee’s manager. For some reason some people in the comments thought I was a “coworker” or “team lead.”
One person guessed I was not American. I don’t know why they were jumped all over but they were correct. I am Canadian. I live and work outside of North America.
Some people mentioned Jehovah’s Witnesses and not being allowed to celebrate birthdays and the legality of this in the comments. This is not relevant to the situation with my employee. Also, it is considered a cult here and is banned. No one who works here is a Jehovah’s Witness.
People seemed to be unclear on the policy even though I stated it. Employees must take their birthday off. This is mandatory and not voluntary. They are paid and don’t have use their own time off. If their birthday falls on a weekend or holiday, they get the first working day off. There is no changing the date. They must take their actual birthday or the first working day back (in case of a weekend or holiday). People love the policy and no one complains about the mandatory day off or the gift card.
She had worked here for 2 years. She did get her birthday off in 2016 as it was a leap year. She did not get a day off in 2017 as it is not a leap year and didn’t get this year either. If she is still employed here in 2020 she will get a Monday off as the 29th of February is on a Saturday. This is in line with the policy. Some of the comments were confused about whether she ever had a birthday off.
The firm is not doing anything illegal by the laws here. She would have no legal case at all and if she quit she will not be able to get unemployment. She is not job hunting. She has known about the birthday policy since February of 2016 and has been bringing it up ever since. She has complained but has not looked for another job (the market is niche and specialized). Morale is high at the firm. Turnover among employees is low. Many people want to work here. Aside from this one issue she is a good worker and would be given an excellent reference if she decides to look elsewhere in the future.
Alison here. I don’t usually add anything of my own on to updates, but I want to state for the record that this is insane.
You may also like:
the Leap Day employee finally gets her birthday off this year was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.
This was great, and I also love the illustrator's instagram and want prints of all her work now.
COVID-19 Update & Questions #1258 (How do I help my friends?) and #1259: (Social-distancing for extroverts)
Some COVID19-related care. Stay happy and (relatively) sane, TOR friends.
Hello, readers, thanks for your emails, your support, and your questions in this time of global pandemic. How’s everybody doing? (Yes, I know the first iteration misspelled COVID as Corvid, I ravens and crows and have been doing it all week, what can I say).
Image: Meme stating that I have gone zero seconds without touching my face.
Personal update: Mr. Awkward and I are both virus-free as far as we can tell (which is no guarantee), but we’re both high-risk people and we are keeping our asthmatic, seasonal-allergy-prone asses home except for one or two essential medical errands. We’re very lucky to be able to do so, and I’m sending so much solidarity and appreciation to people who do the essential jobs to keep everyone fed, housed, not drowning in piles of our own garbage, and receiving necessary medical treatment.
The pharmacy has been out of my ADHD med for almost a month and doesn’t know when they’ll get resupplied. I run out Friday, so, I do not anticipate regular intervals of focused productivity, but who knows what inspiration may come in the hyper-focus zone. Last week, I did what I could to help former colleagues make the sudden switch to online teaching (release the tutorial-kraken!) and I’m working on a piece for Vox (who are doing some very good explainers) about scripts for getting relatives to take this seriously that will go up within the next day or so. I’ll share a link here when it does.
My general plans are to keep writing my morning pages with the #ArtBuddies, pet cats, wash my hands, keep my writing schedule as much as I can, wash my hands, read a ton of books, wash my hands, check in with friends (especially my extroverts) regularly, wash my hands, bug my electeds a ton about getting our collective shit together and getting relief to *people* (not just *workers/employers*), wash my hands, and play many games of “I didn’t know we had this in our pantry, let’s put it on some rice!” in between hand-washings.
And, you know, try not to freak out entirely.
Would you like to look at cats? They almost never share the lap peacefully, so this was a rare pleasure.
Image: Henrietta Kim Wexler Pussycat (closer, darker swirls) and Daniel Jason Mendoza Striped Tiger (further from camera, lighter stripes) share a rare moment of peace on my blanketed lap.
Now for some questions! We’ll call them #1258 and #1259.
#1258: How can I help friends and family whose livelihood is being affected by the pandemic?
I was hoping for advice on how to offer my aid (financial or emotional) in a kind and non-condescending way to friends or family who are not working right now because of COVID-19. These would be people who might need financial assistance to live because they typically live paycheck to paycheck but now they do not have a regular source of income. My husband and I are lucky to have remote jobs but I don’t want to come across like a patronizing privileged asshole. Thanks!
Hello! You are nice!
Financially-speaking, I want you and your husband to think about your budget for helping and think about concrete offers you could make, like, “Would a $100 gift card for groceries help out right now, or do you want to text me a list and I’ll drop whatever on your porch when I go to the store? Would [store] or [store] work better for you?” or “Do you need help making rent, we could cover up to $X this month.” These aren’t necessarily the exact scripts for making offers, but I want you to be specific and realistic with yourselves about what you can and want to do, and think in terms of concrete offers you could make within your limits.
A stressful thing about being offered (even highly welcome!) financial help is not knowing how much or what you are allowed to ask for – Is this the situation where all the theater and film kids and activists in Chicago have been passing the same $20-50 around since 2003, or are you somebody who can keep somebody’s lights on for a bit? Being able to gently reach out and say “We’re lucky to be able to work from home, we’ve set some money aside to help friends & family cover financial emergencies right now, anything from grocery gift cards or help with bills, please don’t hesitate” and also make clear “This is a gift, pay it forward when you’re on your feet, not back” will take the stress off everybody. It’s the same principle behind taking a friend who is struggling financially out for a meal and saying from the start, “I’d love to buy you lunch” or “Remember, this is all on me.” Knowing where your budget and boundaries and intentions are before you offer help removes the guesswork that leads to worry that leads to the person you’re trying to feed up ordering The Water and The Bread just in case you didn’t really mean it.
Emotionally-speaking, if you’re offering help, that’s also a good place to ask what people need (before helping) and also specify what kind of help you can offer and when. “Let me know if you need any help” puts the onus on the person who needs help to brainstorm stuff at the intersection of what they actually need vs. what you can actually do. If you say “I can do x and y, could you use help with any of that?” a person who needs different help they can always tell you, “No, but could you do ______?” and you can figure it out together. Some things I’ve seen:
- “Need me to do Skype story-time with the kids so you can take a shower and hear yourself think for an hour?”
- “Are there some bureaucratic phone calls I could make for you? Do you need help filing for temporary unemployment or filling out forms for rental assistance?”
- “Want to text me before and after your doctor appointment? You can tell me how it went and I can distract you.”
- “I can do some free tech support for your grandparents if you want someone to teach them about webcams and Face-Time.”
People are stretched thin and sensitive so this is a good time to refresh sympathy vs. advice vs. distraction best practices:
- “Do you want advice or are you venting?”
- “Do you want to talk about it or do you want to Studiously Not Talk About It?” (Do you want commiseration or distraction?)
- “I’m happy to listen, but before I forget, is there something specific you’d like me to do?”
People asking for emotional support can help remove guesswork by saying what they need even if the listening friend doesn’t ask: “If I want advice, I’ll ask, but right now I just need to think out loud.” “I’ve had a terrible day and I don’t want to talk about it, but I could use some distraction. Are you caught up on Better Call Saul yet?” Give us an idea of the threat level, if possible. “I am spiraling and I urgently need someone to talk me down *right now.*” Ok! Let me drop everything, or find you somebody who can. “I’d really love to hear your voice and see your face in the next couple of days, can we make a Skype date?” We can work with that! We’re in an emergency, and emergencies call for directness. If you ask somebody how they are, expect to hear the real answer. If you need something from somebody, help them give it to you.
One thing I’m personally noticing about long-distance emotional support: This is obviously a “my diamond shoes pinch” situation because I do have many kind people who want to check on me, and that is a lucky thing, but seeing a bunch of messages and texts and emails all at once that just say some version of “How are you?” is stressing me out, especially when it comes from people I don’t talk with very much under better/normal circumstances. Are we connecting or am I reporting back? Thanks for checking on me, I don’t have this number in my phone, can you remind me who it belongs to? It’s making me feel a little like when Mr. Awkward was in the hospital and I suddenly ran a 24-7 medical update and general chitchat line, fielding prayer offers from everybody he’d ever met who wanted to know how he was doing.
People love him a lot and this was mostly very good, and I do not regret sending 150+ “Thank you, I’ll tell him you were thinking about him” texts or generally handling this for him. (It’s how I could help.) Checking on friends & neighbors & relatives is a kind & good & necessary thing that I definitely don’t want to add a “you must get the wording right” pressure to (Please, 100% risk doing it imperfectly vs. not doing it!), but what might help me right now is people who want to get in touch out of the blue and/or people I don’t talk to very often sharing something about how they are doing as they check how I am, so we have an obvious thing to chat about and can work in the “how are you” exchange organically, like so:
- “We built a soap dispenser out of Lego today (photo). How are things with you?”
- “Please enjoy these costumes I put on the dog/the houseplants/the children (photo). How are things (d)evolving in Fort Awkward this week?”
- “Found this old photo of us getting ready to go to prom (photo). Can you still make your hair that big?”
- “I’m feeling strangely calm (or is it dead inside?). Howabout you?”
- “I used to be jealous of people who worked from home. Never again. How do you do this all the time?”
- Like I said, even “Hey, I’m really freaking out right now, can we chat on the phone for a little while?” helps me get in the right frame of mind, whereas if you start with “How are you?” and make us do the polite back and forth it just makes more anxiety for everyone.
Again, this is personal to me, about a thing that is stressing me, specifically out, not a guide for what everyone should do in every case, but I offer it up in case it would help anybody else. Definitely feel free to adapt it for your online dating/flirting purposes by replacing boring “Hey”/”What’s up?” texts and IMs with sharing a thing [NOT AN UNSOLICITED IMAGE OF UR NAKED GENITALS, COME ON, KEEP IT CLASSY] and then asking a thing.
Now for the next question:
#1259: “I’m an extrovert. Social Distancing is my nightmare.”
Hi Captain Awkward & Co!
I’ve been avidly following your column for years, and it’s been very helpful to me, especially since I’m a serious extrovert who mostly swims in introverted waters (I work in tech, and my hobbies include gaming, crafting, etc – basically my entire social circle is introverted. It’s a balance, to keep friends without being obnoxious or annoying.)
The pandemic sweeping into the US is throwing me for a loop, though. For background, what I mean by “serious extrovert” is, my way of staying mentally stable and healthy is literally other people’s idea of hell: I go out in crowds by myself and talk to strangers. If I don’t do this regularly, like once or twice a month, I dive pretty badly. I get anxious, and withdrawn, and tired. I can’t focus. I sleep too much. Everything makes me irritable. My household has a code-phrase to gently throw me out of the house to go socialize until I’m myself again; it’s a little bit of a joke, at this point.
Clearly, that’s not going to work for the next few months. I worked from home this past week for ONE day; after 5 hours I felt like I was crawling out of my skin. I fully expect within the next week, my office is going to mandate remote work for everyone indefinitely. Which is the right thing to do! In theory, I approve of all these measures, they’re very important!
I have a two-fold question, though. For me, and other extroverts like me, do you have any ideas on how to stay sane? How can I fill that social need at least enough to get by for indeterminate amount of time? I have depression and generalized anxiety disorder*, enough that I have several minor anxiety attacks a week when things are going well. When they’re going badly, it’s a few a day and several panic attacks a week. I don’t want to backslide (I do have medication and a therapist) more than I have to to keep my community safe.
And on the other side, naturally all my social media feeds are filled with “Introverts! You’ve been waiting for this!!” ‘joke’ memes. I get the need to make fun of the scary time we’re in. I don’t resent any particular one. But the deluge of them is killing me; I feel completely othered, and like I can’t talk to a large portion of my circle about why I’m so anxious about this. (My partners are great, it’s everyone else that’s making me twitch.) Normally, I’d just shut off social media for a few days or a week, but I’m not seeing anybody either! Doing both feels impossible. Is there a solution I can’t see?
*If I get any “bUt EXtRovErTs DoN’t hAVe AnXiETy” comments, I’m going to cry. I have to fight that battle too much as it is. That’s not how GAD works.
Social Butterfly (they/them)
Dear Social Butterfly:
Hello, thank you for your timely question.
- Social distancing is an incredible act of solidarity. Those of us who can stay home are saving lives by “flattening the curve,” i.e. slowing the spread of the virus to hopefully allow overwhelmed medical facilities and researchers time and resources to handle urgent cases and work on vaccines/treatments, respectively. If you think or know you are sick, stay home, and call your doctor/urgent care on the phone for instructions before you show up at a clinic. If you are not sick and you can stay home, then stay home except for absolutely necessary trips out. When you must go out, keep your distance from people and avoid crowds.
- Not everyone can stay home right now. Some people are saving lives in doctor’s offices and hospitals, keeping us fed, preventing us from being buried in piles of garbage, delivering our necessities, keeping the lights on and the toilets flushing. That’s before we even get to people who are going to work because they need to earn a living. We need to be really kind, thoughtful, and supportive of these folks, always.
- Staying home (for those of us who can) for the next few weeks helps the people who cannot. The people who cannot do all the necessary work that helps us stay home. The more we can help people stay home (by canceling social events we’re hosting, with mutual aid, and by say, pressuring governments and employers to make it possible for people to afford food, rent, medicine, etc. and access necessary testing and care instead of going to work sick or at risk of infecting people because they need to pay bills), the more lives we’ll save.
- The challenges many of us are suddenly dealing with are not new – Disabled people have been fighting to work at home, to have meds and other necessities delivered, to have telemedicine covered, and to have 1,000 other accommodations that go from “special treatment” to “the norm” as soon as “everyone” needs them. People with suppressed immune systems and other conditions that need isolation and effort and expense around keeping a sterile, clean home environment have had to make whole social and professional lives work from a safe distance. We can learn from them now, we must fight for and with them – and against ableist eugenics and fascism forever. When things go “back to normal” for able-bodied people, we can’t leave anyone behind.
I’m leaving comments on this post because I think our community could use the discussion and connection right now, but I need to be absolutely clear: This is not debate time. Nor is this “every possible detail of pandemic exploring time.” I’m not an epidemiologist or public health expert, and I’m translating what I’ve gleaned: Stay home, save lives. Get our vulnerable neighbors who cannot stay home fed, housed, and safe, save lives. Help the people who keep the world running save lives (by staying home if you can). If you can’t stay home, I believe you! Do what you need to do, you don’t have to explain. But optional socializing – even if it feels really important for an extroverted person like our lovely letter writer – is dangerous. If you can handle it, watch Italians make videos talking to the person they were 10 days ago. (If you don’t think you can handle it, practice good self-care and don’t. Maybe enjoy this Grandma instead?)
Good talk, everyone!
Now for the letter’s specifics.
A thing I tell myself/every fellow diagnosable anxiety sufferer who writes me: Treat the anxiety to the extent you can. You have medication and a therapist, that’s awesome. Do your providers do telemedicine and is it covered by your insurance? Find out. Do you have therapy homework/workbooks/exercises/strategies/daily practices that have worked to manage anxiety in the past? Dig them out. The Headspace daily meditation app (mentioned in a past resource here) is offering a lot of their content for free, and I mention it because I have personally found it really enjoyable and useful. Obviously again, YMMV but if “reviews from a hater who was sure she would never be able to do any kind of meditating or mindfulness” are interesting to you, there you go.
I say this because, even experienced anxiety-havers tend to skip this part as we start imagining dire scenarios and looking around for tips and tools, but often we already have some basic things in place. Use them, use everything you already know and have.
The second thing I remind myself/every fellow diagnosable anxiety sufferer who writes in is: Where possible, translate the anxious energy into *action.*
Scanning all the details of everything related to the pandemic is technically an action, but that’s not the action I’m talking about. You’re feeling anxious, so what are you going to do? What can you do? Make lists of things you can do. Don’t judge, you can put ridiculous, impossible things on there. But make lists. Who can you call? What do you need? And what can you do?
Some ideas for your lists:
You need a daytime routine where you figure out how to work from home, get some of your social needs met, take care of yourself and your physical plan as well as your space/environment, and ride this out.
- Make a set schedule and try to stick to it. Doing the same things at the same time every day will give you a sense of normalcy. Take a shower. Put on clean clothes. (They can be really comfortable clothes, just, try not to wear the same ones 4 days in a row). I am the worst at this but I grudgingly concede that it works.
- As you design a new daily routine for yourself, one of your tasks is probably “treat/pamper/baby the anxiety.” Set aside at least 30 minutes every weekday for necessary research, bureaucracy, phone calls, and actually doing the exercises/meditating/what have you. Invest in a weighted blanket, it will help when you are missing hugs. You may find yourself taking your “as needed” meds more often than usual, but if you need to, you need to.
- Use timers and work in bursts and take breaks to get up and move your body.
- Plan your meals and definitely eat lunch, away from your desk if possible.
- If you live with partners/roommates, schedule ahead of time and make lunch a social thing that you eat together at a table. If you live alone, maybe make lunch a social thing with your favorite coworker or coworkers.
- If nobody’s available for lunch, do what introverts do when we work in busy/social offices: Read! Or find a friendly podcast if the vibe of conversation is what you need but you don’t want to spend the time scrolling your phone: I am loving You’re Wrong About.
- If you have a laptop and the ability to move where your desk *is,* my physical therapist recommends moving to different spots/seating positions throughout the day to save your back/knees/wrists.
Socially speaking, you are the extrovert in a sea of introverts, ergo, you are probably now your friend group’s new self-appointed Minister Of Fun.
- Possibly you are the arranger of Virtual Happy Hours.
- Maybe you are the person who is going to figure out the Netflix Party extension for Chrome.
- I have not tried this app/site, but it is one of many I have seen linked for people who want to have a long-distance karaoke night.
- Is it time for Virtual Iron Chef involving your weirdest pantry staples?
- What games lend themselves well to play over Discord or Google Hangouts or another chat program?
- You probably aren’t going to be able to get everyone together even online as much as you want, so may I suggest “small, regular, predictable windows of time” and “calendar invites to specific people at specific times.” It’s easy to miss or ignore a general “Hey everyone” event, so, target that stuff.
- When you make a daily schedule for yourself, can you put “look at/engage with social media” in specific blocks of time and use one of the apps that blocks you the rest of the time, so you can be more intentional about it?
- Can you use your social media to find other extroverts? Things I’ve seen in my feed over the past few days (but do not have time to go back and turn up at present – kindly use your own Search-fu and judgment): A virtual prom where people are going to get all dressed up in their best clothes and take photos and videos, at least ten separate groups/lists that parents & teachers made for stuff to educate and amuse kids, including one (I think) that’s just “We’re scientists who will Skype your child for up to x minutes to talk about y subject, reserve your time block.” Numerous online DJ listening sessions, at-home dance parties.
- Write letters, postcards, make phone calls to people you love who live far away from you. Maybe people can’t feed your need for contact just now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try to feed them and see if making the effort and taking action feeds you in return.
- Use calendar invites to plan actual dates with partners and friends (for phone calls/FaceTime and mutual fun). “Let’s catch up sometime” isn’t going to cut it right now. Vagueness isn’t going to cut it for you.“I know that at 8pm we are going to eat an edible and watch CATS together” can get a person through a day.
Possibly your extrovert love and energy can be adapted to other kinds of organizing:
- Mutual aid/errands/for neighbors.
- Does your building need a rotating schedule for disinfecting doorknobs, railings, mailboxes, light-switches and who should walk their dogs when?
- Are you going to the pharmacy, does anybody need meds or other supplies picked up, can there be Google doc and agreed-upon way to pay?
- How will people know if someone gets sick and/or tests positive? Perhaps you are the maker/keeper of your building or block’s spreadsheet and phone tree and balcony choir.
- Look around for local mutual aid Facebook or other social media groups where you live. I got added to one last week, it’s amazing, and I think it’s where tons of extroverts are channeling their energies. That’s where I found out about online karaoke, for example. Maybe another friend group’s lone extrovert is your new plague-buddy.
- Phone-banking for a cause or candidate and bugging your elected officials.
What are some things you could do to be very nice to your body and your living environment right now? If you’re physically up for it, stress-cleaning is useful cleaning that will pay off if you or someone in your household gets sick. Change the sheets. Do the laundry. Hang up the art you’ve been meaning to. Moisturize. Find some sexy playthings for idle hands. Find one of the many, many yoga (or other exercise) instructors who are running free online classes right now.
Finally, if you’ve ever wanted to take up a hobby/learn a skill that takes practice and dedicated concentration, this is probably the time. But also, REST IS OKAY. REST IS NORMAL. REST IS NECESSARY.
I can’t lie – it’s going to get worse before it gets better, and there are some instances where virtual interaction and immersion in the arts/hobbies, etc. won’t be enough – but you are being so smart right now. You are reaching out, asking for help, making plans, taking your meds, doing what you can. We are social animals (yes, even introverts) and we are resourceful animals and you are not going to be alone at being alone. Speaking of which: The author of How To Be Alone is hosting a regular talk show on the topic of How To Be Alone.
Comments are open. Here are some of the things I’d like to read today:
- One thing you are personally doing to help or stay connected with other people during necessary social-distancing or outright quarantine.
- One thing you are personally doing to take care of yourself during necessary social-distancing or outright quarantine.
- If you’re somebody who must go to work, what’s one thing you wish the inside kids knew that could help you be/feel safer and do your job well?
- One link per post of an online event or group or resource you think might help either letter writer with a brief description of what that is and why you like it.
- Short questions you have about manners/social life/etiquette/scripts for being good to yourself and other people during this weird time, and community answers to those questions. Let’s do some mutual aid right here!
- One or two concrete suggestions specifically from people with experience having to do most or all of their social life remotely.
If I could limit comment word count/characters with WordPress I would, but I cannot, so I must ask this enthusiastic, helpful, and wordy bunch to help me out: We do not have to cover every possibility here. If you start making long lists of everything cool you saw on the internet or that you are doing as you write your comment, that’s a sign that you are probably writing your own blog post – GREAT! – Definitely write it, then link us to that post and a brief description of it as your contribution instead of posting 1200 words and seventeen links as a comment.
What I do NOT want to read in this comment section this week:
- Medical advice.
- Medical articles.
- Medical facts.
- Medical theories.
- Medical tips.
- Medical statistics.
- Medical questions.
- Medical anxieties.
- Medical descriptions.
- Medical rumors.
- COVID-19 facts/details/tidbits/explainers/news.
- Medical anything.
- I AM FULL UP ON MEDICAL FACTS, QUESTIONS, AND WORRIES, AND ALSO HAVING TO DOUBLE-CHECK AND DEBUNK THOSE THINGS, THANK YOU. #familygrouptext
- Please hold off on recipes for food, food complaints/issues, details about food allergies, dietary restrictions, or eating. (It’s personal to me, I Just Can’t Right Now, Thank You, there are many sites/communities/social portals ABOUT food, that stuff is useful/necessary but this isn’t the spot). “This site with recipes for pantry staples is what’s getting me through” + a link = okay. “Here’s my recipe for _____. /Does anyone have a recipe for ____?” = Please take it elsewhere, thanks.
- Electioneering. (Text- or phone-banking reaches actual voters, probably do that!)
- Introverts venting or complaining about extroverts. (You heard Letter Writer #1259 – LET’S JUST NOT. Also, introverts, check on and appreciate your friendly extroverts, they’re not okay right now and they could use some love in exchange for the 10 parties they threw and invited us to even if we didn’t go to eight of them.)
I’m sending everyone love, solidarity, hope, and gratitude. Our lives are going to change so much in coming weeks, and I know it’s so scary right now, but even amid the scary news and administrative failures, everywhere I look I see people organizing, helping each other, and brainstorming ways to connect and give back. We’re going to do our best to get each other through this, and our best is pretty good.
With the quarantining and indefinite working from home, will there be more COVID babies or COVID divorces?
I actually was wondering the other day whether we'll get a baby boom (social "isolation" togetherness) or a baby bust (damn this will be a hard economy/environment to bring a new baby into)
With the quarantining and indefinite working from home, will there be more COVID babies or COVID divorces?
Reply All is one of my favorite podcasts. This was definitely a good episode.
This latest Reply All episode is *delightful*. It’s about a man in California who is haunted by the memory of a pop song from his youth. He can remember the lyrics and the melody. But the song itself has vanished, completely scrubbed from the internet. PJ takes on the Super Tech Support case.
this is a thing that happens to me - people LOVE to tell me all the things I/my organization should be doing. Colleagues, acquaintances, strangers, etc...
Even if I agree, it gets old.
A reader writes:
I’m a teen librarian. I work directly with kids in grades 6 through 12. This lends towards a fascination with my job. It’s sort of specialized, as far as library services go, as teens are a bit odd. My coworkers keep having ideas of how I can interact with the teens who come in. It’s nice that they want to get involved but these ideas are often things I’m either already doing, things I know would not work with our population or things that would be so much work for me that I wouldn’t be able to do anything else.
It’s been almost every flavor from “we should have coloring books out for them” to “let’s partner with this big city organization and create a conference!” The people asking are all levels too. Paraprofessionals to department heads. It’s not necessarily frivolous suggestions, it’s more that I am already overworked and they want me to do the heavy lifting. I’ve had someone approach me and say something along the lines of “vampire dance party!” And then expect me to figure out literally everything else. They said they just liked the way it sounded and “teens are into vampires.”
How do I respond to them? It’s often in person and they’ll corner me and talk to me for quite some time about the great idea they’ve just had. I’ve tried every form of noncommittal answer I can think of but they don’t take the hint and will often state and restate the idea trying to get a more solid answer from me. Sometimes I can, quite literally, run away, but sometimes we are both covering the same desk.
How do I gracefully disengage? I’ve tried “Oh, interesting, I’ll think about it” or saying I’ll have to talk to someone else to get it cleared or even “That won’t be possible” but nothing has helped. I often get emails or more in-person follow-ups that I don’t know how to respond to. Please help!
I wrote back and asked, “Are the people who keep following up with you after the initial conversation ones where you’ve clearly said the idea won’t work (and they’re following up anyway), or just ones where you had been more non-committal?”
Probably the ones where I’m more non-committal if I’m honest with myself. Though it doesn’t stop the talking in person, being more firm does stop follow-ups after. But I don’t always want to shut it down because cross-departmental collaboration is important to my boss.
I think this is a thing whenever you’re doing work that’s remotely interesting to people and/or feels like it overlaps with something they understand, even just slightly. People muse over the topic slightly, have an idea that feels plausible to them, and supply it with great excitement without considering the realities that (a) the logistics of implementing ideas are often more complicated than they look from the outside, (b) doing it probably means you’ll need to not do something else, and (c) unless the idea is especially creative, then you, the person immersed in this work all day long, have probably already thought about it and aren’t doing it for Reasons.
To be fair, sometimes the ideas are good ones! Sometimes there’s real value in getting outside input. But the best outside ideas are ones paired with an understanding of the factors above. (Here’s an old column I wrote in 2009 while feeling particularly aggravated with a coworker who didn’t do it that way.)
As for how to respond…
I think you’re probably being non-committal in situations where the person’s cues mean they need you to say something more solid.
Of course, if the person doesn’t seem terribly invested in having a deep conversation about their idea (if they’re just yelling “vampire dance party!” as they walk by or whatever), then go with a mildly positive but fully non-committal response, as you’ve been doing:
* “I’ll put that on my list of ideas to think about!”
* “Fun idea! Not sure about the implementation, but let me spend some time thinking about it.”
* “Interesting! We’re swamped the rest of this year, but I’ll make sure it goes on our ’someday’ list.” If you work in a culture that’s big on goal-setting, sometimes you can use that to your advantage — “we’ve got our goals locked in for this year and no resources to spare, but I’ll put it on the ideas list when we’re planning for next year.”
In other words, you’ll think about it. You might even write it down. That’s it.
But when that’s not working and the person pushes for something more solid, then it makes sense to share some quick context for why you’re not pursuing it:
* “I thought about doing that too, but it didn’t work out because of X.” Or if you don’t want to get into a detailed discussion, just say, “it didn’t work for a bunch of reasons.”
* “Our age group actually doesn’t use coloring books.”
* “I agree that would be great, but it’s nearly a full-time job to do that well, so we’d need to cut a ton of other stuff.”
If someone is looking for a lengthy conversation about their idea, it’s okay to say, “My initial reaction is that it’s not well suited to our population because of X (or it would take a ton of resources to do it well / we wouldn’t get the same bang for our buck as other initiatives we’re focusing on / we’ve learned our resources pay off the most on things like X and Y but not Z” / etc.). But let me think about it some more and I’ll let you know if we decide it makes sense to take it on.” You can skip that last sentence if it seems likely to cause follow-up you don’t want. In that case, just end with something like, “But thanks for suggesting it — it can be hard to know from the outside what works with this population!” Then immediately change the subject if the person is someone who you know to be especially tenacious.
I hear you on not wanting to totally shut people down because cross-departmental collaboration is important to your boss. But collaboration doesn’t mean you have to accept whatever ideas people offer. It means that you take the time to listen, consider their viewpoint with an open mind and a reasonably warm demeanor, and explain when something isn’t workable. It can be frustrating to have to do a lot of that when it’s coming at you from a bunch of different people — but that’s the part that’s probably important to your boss.
You may also like:
my coworkers won’t stop telling me about their ideas for my work was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.
100% would buy
Re: LW2 and taking video calls in a coffeeshop.
This is a bit different, but I'd love for TOR to weigh in. I am trying to do more cardio, which I loathe. I don't mind classes but in the event I can't make it to one for various boring scheduling reasons, I then end up on an elliptical machine at my gym: BORING. So... I sometimes call a friend and chat. I'm a little breathy obviously but not huffing and puffing into the mic. And anyway I mostly just want to listen to my favorite people tell me about their lives, and I interject with questions (rather than me telling long involved stories, which are reserved for other calls). Two key things: if the gym is packed I don't do this - I wait until I can have at least a gap of one empty machine on either side of me. And I always alert the friends I call that I'm at the gym and ask if it's ok... and thank them for keeping me company during one of my least favorite chores.
It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. My contentious ex is now my coworker
Today, my ex (mom of our two kids) showed up for orientation at the hospital were I work (without any heads-up). She’s contentious (especially lately since my new wife and I just had a baby) and she loves starting public screaming matches at inappropriate times (daycare, pediatrician’s, etc). I’m a private person and non-confrontational so I just walk away. I prefer not to work the same shifts in order to avoid conflict and embarrassment, especially since she will resent that she must defer to my directives (doctor vs nurse). I want to go to HR, but don’t know if she disclosed our former relationship and I’m afraid they’ll think I am creating trouble since no conflict has happened, yet. I’m also nervous that if I request not being on the same shift, they’ll send me to back to nights (I transferred to days a month ago after finishing a PhD and with a new baby, I’m enjoying the regular hours). Should I go to HR? How should I approach this and how much should I share?
Whoa, yes, you should disclose it, if only for your own protection in case she causes problems. Say this: “I just learned that my ex-wife, Jane Warbleworth, has been hired here as a nurse. We share two children and the relationship since our divorce has been a contentious one, despite my efforts to minimize that. I wanted to make you aware of the relationship and ask if it’s possible not to have her assigned to my shifts given the difficult dynamic. I’m particularly concerned about her ability to take direction from me.”
You could add, “My strong preference is to keep my current schedule. Is there a way to do both of those things?” There might not be — but my guess is that if you’re the doctor and the longer-term employee, it’s likely that you’ll be given at least some priority.
2. Taking video calls in a coffeeshop
I recently started a new, fully remote job. I love it. Now that I’m back home, I want to meet up with old colleagues for lunch on occasion. However, my house is a good 20-30 minutes away from where I’d meet them. Also, this job is more demanding than any I’ve had in a while, and I have a lot of back-to-back meetings. We’re a cameras-on meeting culture. I know how you feel about it, but I actually really appreciate it as we’re all remote.
So, in order to get out of my house from time to time, I would like to drive to a coffee place with wifi in the morning before my meetings, work, then meet my colleague for lunch, and then drive home or back to said coffeeshop to finish my meetings.
Besides the obvious — make sure I order something (or multiple items), don’t take up a ton of space, don’t talk about confidential information, use headphones — what else do I need to know? I’m especially concerned I’ll be looked at as rude for having conversations while there. I would try to get a spot against a wall, so there aren’t random cameos on camera. Anything else I should be considering/aware of?
Well … I’m writing this from a quiet coffeeshop where just a few minutes ago I was feeling mildly annoyed by someone having a cell phone conversation next to me. They’re not in the wrong — this isn’t the quiet car of a train — but there is something about hearing only one side of a conversation that’s more jarring/distracting than two people talking in person, particularly in an otherwise fairly quiet room. So I don’t love the idea. (It does depend on how quiet the space is though — if it’s a loud, bustling restaurant, it’s going to be far less distracting. Although the background noise may make it unworkable on your end.)
What do others think?
3. When people say their boss yelled at them, how do I know if they mean it literally?
How would you you suggest reacting when someone says their boss yelled at them? Of course, the literal interpretation leans toward an abusive boss, but it feels like just about everyone I’ve interpreted it that way with was using hyperbole to refer to being corrected or the like. My standard approach so far has been to assume an abusive boss unless I witnessed the exchange in question (which I’d normally only be able to do with coworkers rather than friends), but that seems to be coming across as naivete and overreaction rather than kindness in the face of a potentially abusive situation. Any thoughts on how to navigate this more adeptly?
Yeah, a lot of people use “I got yelled at” when they really mean their boss expressed a concern or told them to do something differently. While it can be just a colloquialism, it can also be a problem (one that people who aren’t managers don’t always understand) because yelling is abusive, and it’s not cool to give the impression your boss is out of control and abusive.
If it’s not clear from the context which version someone means — and if it’s a situation where it really matters (as opposed to just a friend venting about work) — you could try saying, “Just to make sure I’m understanding, she actually yelled at you? As in raised her voice?” Or you could say, “Did she literally yell or do you mean that figuratively?” If the person says no, it was just a correction, you could say, “Okay, good. Yelling is awful, and I’d be really concerned to hear Jane had done that.”
4. Is this employer being too persistent with their job offer?
I was hoping to get your take on a job offer I recently got from a start-up. My first offer from them was below my salary expectations. I countered with a salary figure that was quite a bit (10-12%) higher than what they originally proposed. They ended up raising the salary offer by about 1%. I declined the offer. Days later, I got a call from the recruiter, asking me to reconsider. She met my salary expectations. I still wasn’t totally sold on the job from the start, and PTO was really low. I tried to look them up on Glassdoor/Indeed, and it became clear pretty quickly that upper management had made some fake reviews to inflate their scores. However, almost all former employees left negative reviews. Ultimately I couldn’t bring myself to accept the new offer. I went with my gut and declined again. Hours after I declined, the recruiter emailed asking me to reconsider again! This time, she offered an increase in some other benefits that I had asked her about after my final round of interviews.
I’m exhausted by this process, and I can’t help but think that the company seems a little desperate. I’m pretty young and recently graduated, so this definitely isn’t a managerial or executive role. However, I’ve been searching for jobs for two months, and there aren’t a lot of options right now in my field. I’m not in dire need of a paycheck just yet, and I’m hoping to find another job that is more exciting to me. My friends and peers have said that it’s generally easier to explain a gap in employment than to leave a nightmare job after a month (hopefully that’s good advice!). (Note from Alison: Yes, although typically you’d just leave the one-month stint off your resume.) But overall, do you think that this amount of persistence on a job offer (on the part of the company/recruiter) is a red flag, or is this situation more typical than I realize? At this point, would it be wiser to walk away, or to hear them out one last time?
There’s no harm in hearing them out, but maintain high levels of skepticism when you do, for the following reasons:
* They do seem desperate, and I’d want to understand what’s behind that. Do you have very hard-to-find skills? Or are they underpaying or having trouble attracting candidates for another reason?
* A 1% increase to their offer when you countered with something much higher is pretty ridiculous (especially when they then met your salary request a few days later).
* Low PTO is a bad sign. Especially if they’re desperate, since why hasn’t it occurred to them that might be something to fix?
* The fake online reviews are a very bad sign and the mark of a company with serious culture issues (and little real interest in fixing them).
* You already weren’t sold on the job itself.
Persistence from an employer isn’t always a bad sign, but this kind of persistence is. It would be different if it came across more as, “We respect your decision, but we also genuinely believe you’d love it here because of (reasons tailored to what you’ve told them you’re looking for) and would love a second chance to talk through your concerns if you’re open to that.”
In any case, two months isn’t an excessively long job search, and you don’t sound like you’re in a spot where you need to accept anything that’s offered to you. Proceed with deep caution.
5. Asking my employer to pay for a standing desk when I work from home
I started a 100% remote job with a small company several months ago and I love it! I have a home office but my set-up isn’t ideal. My desk is really short and my old office chair isn’t very comfortable so by the end of the day I’m feeling sore.
Would it be appropriate to ask the company to subsidize or pay for the cost of a standing desk? I don’t have a medical condition that would require it, I’d just like to stop sitting all day. My company subsidized the cost of my phone plan and sent me a state-of-the-art laptop when I began so I think they have pretty generous policies, but I don’t want to sound entitled or like I’m demanding equipment I should just go buy myself. Should I ask my boss? HR? Any tips on wording? I’m new to working from home and I’m still learning to navigate it.
Some companies would cover this and some wouldn’t, but it’s not unreasonable to ask about it. I’d word it this way, probably to your boss: “I’m not sure what our policies are on equipment for remote workers’ home offices. I’m interested in getting a standing desk — is that something I could talk to the company about covering?”
You may also like:
difficult ex is my new coworker, taking video calls in a coffeeshop, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.
“There’s a ton you can get in life if you’re willing to submit yourself to the mortifying horror of asking for it.”
relevant to the recent discussion housing/families/coops/communes etc
It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. This one isn’t strictly work-related, but it intersects with work and is an interesting change of pace. A reader writes:
We’re a family of adults, who all live in places we love with jobs we love, but want to live in the same city (or same state, at the very least). How can we possibly make this decision? What factors should be weighted the most?
I’m a 32-year-old woman, and my husband and I hope to conceive our first baby in the next year or so. We live in a medium-sized city. I moved here for a job five years ago because I couldn’t find anything in the state where I grew up, and now have a new career that I really like, also teach dance in the evenings at an amazing local dance school that’s become a great community, and my husband started what has turned out to be kind of the dream job (and is literally one of a kind) a few months ago. It’s a great city and we have good friends here.
But! My parents (in their early 60s) live three states (a two-hour flight) away, where I grew up, and my brother lives in a third state, a 1.5 hour flight away. I’m really close to them, and hate living so far apart, as do my parents. Especially once we have a baby, AND as my parents get older and will eventually need more help, I’d really, really like to all live in the same state. My brother also wants to live close once we have kids. But who moves where??
My mom will be retiring in a couple years, but my parents have really close friends where they live and are a little nervous about moving somewhere new. My husband would have to leave this dream job if we moved. My brother’s job, which he also loves, is something that literally doesn’t exist where either my parents or I live (think something like sea captain). None of us are wealthy, so having multiple dwellings, or flying once a month or something, are not options. We all like where we live, but also want to be near one another, basically. I feel like there should be some kind of checklist to work through to decide which state we end up in!! I wonder if you or commenters have a list to consider…
Readers, what are your suggestions?
You may also like:
my family wants to live near each other — how do we do this with work? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.
I love Humphrey. #catcontent
This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand. (This one is truly no work and no school.)
This is Humphrey, our new foster cat. He was found crying in a parking lot on a freezing cold day. He’s clearly used to being an indoor cat but his family could not be found, so we are fostering him until someone adopts him. He is an older, sedate gentleman with a strong interest in napping and windows, and he has markings on one side like a cow.
You may also like:
worlds collide. loving this.
I met up with the wonderful Jennifer Peepas of Captain Awkward while she was in town and it was lovely!
We decided to collaborate on answering a few questions together and crosspost them to both sites, and this is the first of two posts from that joint effort.
1. Can I talk about my boyfriend’s other girlfriend at work?
“Adam” is dating both me and “Jane,” and we all live together. We aren’t really into any sort of “polyamory scene” sort of thing; this is simply an arrangement that happened because it’s what works for us and our happy little family.
Moving in with them coincided with a new job, and I really don’t know how to talk about it at work, or if it’s even appropriate. I’m so used to talking freely about Thanksgiving plans; but it feels overly personal to say that we’re flying out to spend Thanksgiving with Jane’s family (because that would lead to: Jane? Who is Jane?).
Jane has some work-appropriate, performance-related hobbies, so weekend plans often involve going to shows that are in that sphere; it feels oddly dismissive of Jane and her place in my life to say, “oh, I’m watching my friend’s performance,” but at the same time, overly TMI to say, “oh, this weekend I’m watching my boyfriend’s other girlfriend’s performance.”
Thus far I’ve just… kind of avoided the details, but have mentioned “Jane” or my “friend” or “housemate” a bit. I’m comfortable and confident with my household arrangement in other spheres of my life, but work is a place where I like to abide by the rules, and I really don’t know what the rules are here! It feels so weird to have this person who is so integrated into my life, and then not really know how or if to talk about her.
I know my workplace is at least a little bit open (I’ve got a trans coworker, and that’s No Big Deal), but it isn’t particularly progressive. Very much a Normal Office.
P.S. I think a coworker thinks Jane is my daughter. If this ever comes up, should I correct them?
Jennifer (Captain Awkward): To me, there are three things in tension here:
- The more non-traditional romantic and family structures become boring and routine, probably the more safety and comfort people in non-traditional relationships will have. You’re harming nobody, secrecy increases stigma, so why not share it without making a big deal the way anybody would talk about a spouse or partner at work?
- Unfortunately, depending on where you live and work, there is stigma and legal discrimination against people in any relationship that isn’t one man and one woman that can have real professional and legal consequences, and privacy isn’t a thing anybody can get back once it’s out there.
- Who specifically is in your workplace, what is the culture there, and how many questions about non-traditional relationships do you want to answer from your coworkers if you bring this up? Do you want to take on an educator/ambassador role, do you want to risk releasing the kraken known as That One Guy Who Is Just Very, Very Curious About Your Exact Sleeping Arrangements? And do you want to do this at work?
Really there’s no one right thing to do and no wrong one either. Asking Jane and your boyfriend how they’d like to be referred to and specifically how much of their private business they are comfortable with your coworkers knowing is probably a good idea before you make any detailed corrections, as in, you’re worried about being “dismissive of Jane” but Jane doesn’t have to work where you work nor does she necessarily want to be a topic of discussion there.
When in doubt, “Oh, she’s not my daughter, Jane’s my close friend and also our housemate, we think of her as family” works just fine.“Partner,” “Part of the family,” “My boyfriend’s other partner,” etc. might work if you want to disclose more in a way that people familiar with polyamory will pick up.
The good news is that this most likely be fascinating for a week or so and then probably nobody will care because they aren’t that interested, and That One Person can always be told it’s none of their beeswax.
Alison (Ask a Manager): I’m so glad Jennifer answered this first because I’m really conflicted on this kind of question. On one hand, I am all for reducing stigma about personal choices that harm no one — especially when it can be done by people who are in a relative position of safety. And I’m acutely aware of how “you must hide this core thing about who you are when you’re at work” often plays out in ways that are harmful and oppressive, especially when your coworkers don’t have to hide parallel things from their own lives. On the other hand, the reality is that there is still a stigma against polyamorous relationships, and it very well may affect your career if this becomes a gossipy thing that gets mentioned ahead of your work when your name comes up.
So I think you’ve to figure out (a) how your specific office is likely to respond to this, and maybe your broader field or network, since at some point you’ll change jobs and people talk, and (b) how much you care, which is a combination of how uncomfortable/unhappy you’ll be if you hide the nature of the relationship and how concerned you are about potentially dealing with weirdness or bias from people in your professional realm.
I’ll also note that whenever this comes up, some people like to argue that coming out as polyamorous is TMI — that it’s “sharing things about your sex life that they don’t want to hear.” So I want to state for the record that this is no more that than sharing the existence of any other partner is. It’s about sharing who you love and who you are in an important relationship with. The culture as a whole hasn’t totally figured that out yet — which is why this is still a question — but it’s worth flagging in any discussion here.
2. I like my job but my company is postponing a promised promotion and cutting everyone’s pay. Should I stay or go?
I’m an entry-level employee at a small company of about 40 people in a major city with high cost of living. Despite my previous three years of experience in the industry, I was hired at the lowest level in the company and told I would be eligible for a promotion within a year if my performance went well. Fast forward a year and a half and my performance has been stellar and I was on the track for a promotion. However, the company is undergoing dramatic financial issues and last week management cut everyone’s salary by 10% to preserve our financial stability. A lot of the entry-level employees were baffled and asked that we be exempt from the cut since we make the least and have the least amount of decision-making power that led to this situation. To accommodate us, management cut entry-level pay by 5% and everyone else received the 10% cut. They’re planning to maintain the cut throughout all of 2020. In addition to the salary cut, they’ve frozen all new hires and promotions for this year.
I feel defeated because my promotion (and accompanying raise) will not happen in 2020. I also feel angry because management is planning on creating more products to boost our sales and revenue, which means everyone will be working harder for less pay in the hope that our sales improve next year. Management is adamant that this difficult time is for staff to “give back” to the company and make sacrifices for the whole.
All my friends and family say I should run, quit, and find a new job ASAP. I feel hesitant because I did really like my job before this happened and felt like I had a career trajectory at this company. I’m also struggling to determine if I owe it to the company to stay, put in the work, and weather the storm of 2020 for $3,000 less a year than what I was making. I think my manager is sensing my hesitation because he offered me a title-only promotion without an increase in pay. It feels like a consolation prize and the more reality sets in, the more I’m concerned about my financial and professional future if I stay. Am I selling myself short if I stay? Am I a traitor if I leave?
Jennifer: Imagine for a moment that you are an investor considering putting money into your company. Does a firm “undergoing dramatic financial issues” that forced even its most junior staff take a pay cut, froze all hiring and promotions for a year, and then still thought it could develop and launch new product lines sound like the safest bet? The company is gambling that that this move will pay off and maybe it will, but a smart investor wouldn’t put 100% of their money and hopes into this place and probably neither should you. What’s the harm in looking around to see what’s out there and applying to interesting opportunities? You’re not obligated to take any offers that aren’t a better fit than you have now, but if things “dramatically” deteriorate you’ll be glad you have options.
If you decide to accept the title boost (it’s good for your resume whether you stay or go), ask for something in return and put it in writing. Could be a retention bonus (“I’ll stay in this role for one year in return for $X now and $Y at the end of that year”), could be a retroactive raise in 2021 (“On Jan 1, 2021 the company agrees to raise my salary to $X and pay me retroactively for the months I worked as [title]”), could be more paid vacation, could be more flexibility to work from home, could be offloading your most hated tasks to someone else and taking on more of what you want to do with your time. Negotiate something in consideration for taking on more work and I’ll repeat it again – get it in writing. It doesn’t have to be a contentious thing, you can tell your boss how much you appreciate him for going to bat for you to have the new role and just add in that it would be foolish not to ask for something in writing about compensation given how much the industry and company finances fluctuate. If he gets mad at you, calls you “disloyal” or “entitled,” or tries to manipulate your emotions to get you to forgo money, it is a sign that you should quietly accept the promotion and start sending out your resume IMMEDIATELY.
Finally, I want you to excise the word “traitor” from your vocabulary when you think about this problem. The company broke a promise to promote you and also cut your pay because they’ve decided that it saves them money. If they need to lay you off to make their numbers they will, so consider that when this employer talks about “giving back” and “loyalty” they mean a thing you owe them so you’ll work more for less. How can looking out for your own money – i.e. the whole reason you work there – possibly be “a betrayal”? If you stole their proprietary information and sold it to competitors, that would be betrayal. If you find a new job with more money and a better title, you’re making a business decision the same as them.
Alison: Yes! Excellent, excellent.
And also, re-think your ideas of what you “owe” an employer. This isn’t a marriage, where you’ve taken vows. Here’s what you owe your employer: good, focused work while you’re there; clear communication when there are problems if your employer has a track record of handling that sort of input well, and a reasonable amount of notice when you decide to leave (for most people, that’s two weeks). You do not owe them a commitment to stay for longer than would be in your own interests. I promise you, they will act in their own interests — and that’s as it should be! That’s not, like, a sneering commentary on them; it’s just a recognition that this is a business relationship. Each side should treat the other with respect and integrity, but you don’t sacrifice your own interests for theirs, just as they wouldn’t for you. That’s the nature of it! You get to walk away when you want to walk away and when it makes sense for you to walk away. (And it sounds like it’s time to start thinking about doing that.)
Tune in later this week for Part 2 of this conversation and the answers to three more questions.
You may also like:
can I talk about my boyfriend’s other girlfriend at work? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.
I haven't even watched this yet, I will save this for the weekend, but god I love Claire.
Check out Claire's Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/csaffitz/
Illustrations by Logan Tsugita
Want Bon Appétit shirts, hats and more? https://shop.bonappetit.com/?utm_source=youtube&utm_brand=ba&utm_campaign=aud-dev&utm_medium=video&utm_content=merch-shop-promo
Still haven’t subscribed to Bon Appétit on YouTube? ►► http://bit.ly/1TLeyPn
Want more Bon Appétit in your life? Subscribe to the magazine and score a free tote! http://bit.ly/2n0gbmu
ABOUT BON APPÉTIT
Bon Appétit is a highly opinionated food brand that wants everyone to love cooking and eating as much as we do. We believe in seasonal produce, properly salted pasta water, and developing recipes that anyone can make at home.
Pastry Chef Attempts to Make Gourmet Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream | Bon Appétit
OOOOOOH it's been too long since I've had a dose of PFT as LALW. I dipped out of CBB a while back but this sounds promising, gonna add it to my queue
On this week’s Comedy Bang Bang I’m joined by comedian @moshekasher, whose crowd work album is out now!
Plus! Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber (@PFTompkins) stops by to discuss what happened with CATS, and contest winner Jim the Shim (@trondynewman) bursts in!
Listen and subscribe wherever you get podcasts!
When your dreams are bigger than your pockets!
Someday, women will be able to have it all — cute pants and pockets you can fit an actual whole wallet into. Until that day, here’s a handy list of items you can easily store in your lady trousers.
- TSA-friendly vodka bottle
- Finger condom
- Succulent plant
- Multi-tool that supposedly protects you from rapists but mostly you just use it to open beers
- 1 wireless earbud
- Eyedropper of age-defying serum, available at Sephora for $39.99
- Day vibrator
- 4 pennies
- Thing you found in your toddler’s mouth
- Fortune cookie fortune that really resonated
- Tiny sushi roll made out of Sculpey from your friend who has an Etsy store
- Rock that looked cool when you picked it up but now just sort of looks like a regular rock
- Battery you’re not sure how to recycle
- Receipt you kept because it seemed rude to throw it away right after the cashier handed it to you
- Gossamer bralette thing that Brandon thinks you actually wear in real life
Elizabeth Arant is a writer and educator born in the Midwest and currently based out of a roving Honda with pink hubcaps. Her writing has appeared in various publications including McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Cricket Magazine, and the Iowa Source. She does her crosswords in pen and hopes someday to see an octopus in the wild.
LIFE HACK: What to Store in Those Super-Tiny Girl Pockets was originally published in The Belladonna Comedy on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
saying the Pledge of Allegiance at work, asking a coworker to chew with their mouth closed, and more
Buffalo is WNY not upstate
This has been your petty minute.
It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. Saying the Pledge of Allegiance at work
I have a long-standing issue at work and am at a loss over whether I should raise this, and if so, how. I am a full-time permanent federal employee. At my agency we honor monthly presidential declarations (think Hispanic Heritage month, Black History month, etc.) by holding a one- or two-hour event, which I fully support and attend. However, as part of our performance evaluations, to receive Fully Successful, we MUST attend at a minimum of two of these events per year. If you want to receive Outstanding or Superior, you attend more.
My issue is that at the beginning of each of these events, an employee performs the national anthem (totally fine!), and then we recite the Pledge of Allegiance, which I feel is not only unnecessary because we are the federal government, but also alienating to certain groups. If these weren’t required as part of my performance evaluations, I would seriously consider not attending because of this.
I don’t know how to address this. There is a feedback submission system, but it is not anonymous. I am willing to raise my voice, but am worried about retaliation and being marked for the rest of my career, and I have a significant amount of time left before retirement.
I think expecting people to ritually pledge allegiance to their country during the course of their normal workday is bizarre, even for the government, but because this is government I doubt very much that you’re going to get it changed. I suspect, though, that you’re not actually required to recite the pledge — you can probably stand and say nothing while it’s occurring. (If you don’t want to stand at all — and the Supreme Court has supported your right to remain silently seated during the pledge — you’d need to decide if you’re willing to spend the capital that would probably be involved.)
2. My company won’t order meals I can eat at upcoming meetings
I have a week’s worth of company meetings coming up where we will be staying in a hotel. Lunch will be pre-planned by the meeting organizer. I asked her to accommodate my dietary restrictions (health issues). She forwarded my request to upper management and I received an email response back that he suggests that I pre-buy lunches for myself and bring them with me or call the hotel to see if I can order special lunches while there. Is this acceptable for meetings that I am required to attend? I felt like my company should try to accommodate my needs. I can’t very well bring lunches as the hotel doesn’t offer rooms with refrigerators.
Yeah, this is BS. They should absolutely be attempting to accommodate your dietary needs. I’d respond this way: “I can’t bring my own lunches since we won’t have fridges in our rooms. Typically in the past, meeting organizers have ordered me a dairy-free (or whatever) meal because it’s easier for it to be part of the overall catering so it shows up at the same time as everything else. It’s usually easy for caterers to adjust what they’re serving; they get these requests all the time. Is there a reason we can’t just wrap this into the meals you’re already ordering?”
But if she pushes back, ask them to reimburse you for delivered meals that you’ll order yourself (and know that this is crap).
3. Asking a coworker to chew with their mouth closed
Is it ever okay to ask someone to chew with their mouth closed at work?
It depends so much on the relationships involved. If it’s someone who you have good rapport with or who you know wouldn’t take offense, or if they’re junior to you, in many cases you could indeed say, “Bob, would you mind chewing with your mouth shut?” And definitely if you’re their manager, there’s more room for it. But in a lot of other cases, it’s going to come across as not your business (you’re not their parent, and in general you shouldn’t scold other adults about their manners), in which case you’re better off just trying to position yourself so you’re not getting a full frontal view while they’re doing it.
4. Which address should I use on job applications in a new city?
My boyfriend moved upstate for a job and I’m going to join him up there because there are better opportunities for me as well. He’s settled into the apartment we’ll be living in together (so I could get mail there).
Which address should I use on my applications for jobs in the new city, my current address or my future one?
I’d prefer to have a job before moving just to keep my health insurance coverage. My fear is being eliminated from consideration for not being local.
Some people in this situation will use the future address. That can be helpful since some employers favor local candidates (often with good reason), but it can also be tricky if they assume it means you can appear for an interview very quickly. If you actually can appear for an interview as soon as someone local could, it’s fine to go ahead and do that. That will, after all, be your address soon — and since it’s the apartment you’ll both be sharing, it’s not too far of a stretch.
But the other option if that weren’t the case is to do this:
(Relocating in March to Buffalo)
5. My call with a recruiter disconnected and I couldn’t call back right away
I applied for a job that was a reach for my skill set. A few days later I received an email from a recruiter saying I might be a good match for the position, but to please fill out the skills section of their website so that they can be sure. I filled it out and less than an hour later the recruiter called to let me know that one year of experience was a hard minimum, so that position wasn’t a good fit for me.
Unfortunately, I made the mistake of taking the call in the car and it disconnected. I was unable to call back because Driving, and I was also unable to call back when I reached my destination because I was driving to work. Instead I emailed the recruiter this when I got to work: “I apologize about the disconnection earlier, I was using Bluetooth in my car to answer the call and couldn’t call back because I was driving. Can I schedule a time with you to finish the conversation?”
It’s been a day and the recruiter, who previously responded to emails within an hour of receiving them, has yet to respond. I’m wondering if he thought I hung up out of anger and blocked my email and blacklisted me before I had a chance to explain what happened. But I also wonder if maybe he was only responding so quickly before because I was a potential candidate, and now that I’m not I should expect slower responses.
I thought about calling him if I don’t receive a reply back in a week, but that also seems to be overkill? What is the proper thing to do if I get disconnected from a potential employer or recruiter in the future and can’t call back?
You did exactly the right thing — emailed him to explain what had happened. It’s pretty likely that he hasn’t responded to you because he’d already relayed the crux of his message: that the position wasn’t a match for you. There isn’t a conversation to finish, because to him that closed it out.
It’s super common for people involved in hiring to communicate only when they have a new message to deliver to you (which already happened here) or when they have a question for you. If you’re already out of the running, it’s not surprising that he’s not getting back to you. In a more social setting, it would be a nicety for him to respond to the email you sent, but in a hiring setting there’s nothing more he needs to say.
So it’s not that he thinks you hung up in anger. It’s just that he already told you the position isn’t a match and now he’s moved on (and assumes you will too).
You may also like:
saying the Pledge of Allegiance at work, asking a coworker to chew with their mouth closed, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.
Fellow baking-lovers... have you seen this kitchenaid attachment?! I'm very very tempted.
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and I'm SO ready for the holidays to arrive! Aside from being able to slow down and spend time with family, my favorite part of the holidays is all of the delicious treats...like Neapolitan cookies! I love how they mix in THREE different flavors. So today, we're sharing a twist on the classic recipe for a festive version perfect for the holidays. The recipe calls for matcha instead of chocolate, making them a bright pink, white, and green! They're so colorful, tasty, and keep well so you can gift them for the holidays, too.
In partnership with KitchenAid, I'll show you how to whip up these Matcha Neapolitan Cookies with the KitchenAid Artisan® Series 5 Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer and Sifter+Scale Attachment. My Stand Mixer has been a key player in all of my baking over the last several years, and the Sifter+Scale Attachment is a total game changer. All I have to do is attach the Sifter+Scale Attachment to the power hub of my Stand Mixer, and voilà! HANDS-FREE sifting. The attachment also has an easy-to-use digital scale for a level of precision way beyond me. Come see how...
For the Base Dough
- 2-1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 egg + 1 egg yolk (room temperature)
- 1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1-1/2 Tbsp flour
- 1 Tbsp strawberry jam
- optional: pink food coloring
- 1 tsp matcha powder
- white melting chocolate
- shredded coconut
1. With the KitchenAid® Sifter+Scale Attachment attachment, sift flour, salt, and baking powder into stand mixer. Gently transfer dry ingredients to a medium bowl, set aside.
2. With paddle attachment, mix together butter and sugar until creamed. Add in eggs and vanilla extract. Mix until combined.
3. Divide dough evenly into thirds.
4. To make the strawberry dough, add one portion of dough back into the mixing bowl, add flour, jam, and food coloring (if desired), and mix until fully combined.
5. Make sure to clean out the mixing bowl before beginning to make the matcha dough, to ensure that none of the doughs mix. Place another portion of the dough into the mixer and add matcha powder. Mix until fully combined.
6. Line a 5x9" loaf pan with parchment, using enough so that the paper comes up over the edges of the pan. Begin layering dough, starting with the strawberry layer, followed by vanilla, and then matcha. Using your hands, try to make each layer as even and level as possible. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and freeze for 1 hour.
7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
8. Remove dough from pan and peel off parchment paper. Trim the edges of the dough to get cleaner sides and then cut the dough in half lengthwise. Cut each half into 1/2" slices (about 16 per side).
9. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper, and place dough squares about 2" apart. Bake for 12 minutes, or until the edges are just slightly turning golden brown. Let sit for 5 minutes before moving cookies to a cooling rack
10. Melt chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. Dip the cookies and top with coconut.
This recipe makes about 32 cookies. If you're going to prepare the dough for more than an hour in advance, place them in the refrigerator (rather than in the freezer!) to harden. Dough can be made up to three days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.
Ta-dah! They're so colorful, fun, and make great gifts. Giving (and receiving!) treats for the holidays has always been one of my favorites, and these cookies are perfect for that because they don't crumble easily and bring that extra dose of holiday flair that I love. Enjoy! And, let me know if you make them this holiday season!
my coworker is trying to manage me so she’ll get promoted, reporting my husband’s coworker, and more
#2... oh boy...
It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. My coworker is trying to manage me so she’ll get promoted
At my workplace, like at many workplaces, in order to be promoted one needs to demonstrate that they are already doing the work of the level they wish to be promoted to. A colleague with the same job title and level as me has recently made it known that she would like to be promoted. Without warning from her or from our manager, she emailed me an invite for a recurring monthly meeting for us to “discuss” my performance goals for the year and for her to “make sure I am supporting you in any way that I can.”
Am I right in thinking this is patronizing and obnoxious? I don’t have the kind of working relationship with her where we normally talk about work tasks, much less discuss individual performance goals. Is there a way I can get out of being her stepping stone to a promotion?
Yes, this is patronizing and obnoxious — and very much an overstep.
I don’t much agree with the “you need to already being doing the higher level work before we promote you” philosophy, but you’re right that it’s a common practice. But it definitely doesn’t work when you don’t have the authority or standing to take on that higher level work, as is the case with your coworker. She can’t just decide to “manage” you on her own, just like she also can’t decide to write company checks or fire the receptionist without being given the authority to do it.
I’d respond this way to her meeting invitation: “I’ve already got this covered with (manager) so am declining this invitation.” And if she pushes beyond that, say, “I’m confused. Jane is my manager. Why are you asking for this?”
And if you have a good manager who won’t mishandle it, you might also give her a heads-up about what’s happening, so your coworker doesn’t report that you’re welcoming her help or anything like that.
2. Can I report my husband’s coworker to their HR department?
My husband was friends with a coworker who became obsessed with him. While we were separated, she showed up unannounced where he was living because she needed “water” while out on a run, made numerous social media posts insinuating they were in a relationship, told people they were dating, made a Pinterest board labeled with his (unique) name with pins about love and boyfriends and such, and other alarming incidents. He has to work with this person on numerous projects and hates conflict so he wanted to just ignore everything so as not to cause problems at work.
When I asked her about her behavior, she made false claims that he had picked her up from the airport and they discussed my concerns, then used sexual innuendos to suggest they had sex numerous times. She also told me that I needed to “move on” and “let him live his life” even though we are together. She seems unbalanced and brazen. Can I anonymously report her for behavior that is stalking/harassment to their HR department? My husband would not want that, but when he once asked her “what the hell?” she claimed that she had to rush off to a meeting and has never apologized.
No, you cannot report someone to HR at a company you don’t work with. It would be wildly out of line, and it wouldn’t get you the outcome you want anyway. An anonymous report from a non-employee isn’t likely to be taken seriously, but to the extent they act on it at all, the first thing they’ll do is speak to your husband.
Your husband is the only one who has standing to address this — and you definitely don’t have standing to override his decisions about how to best manage his own work life. You can talk to him about he’ll handle it, but it’s his to deal with (both at work and with this woman directly), not yours. (I’m assuming you’ve considered the possibility that the coworker isn’t actually lying, but if not … you do need to.)
3. Can I ask someone to stop tagging me on LinkedIn?
Almost a year ago, I interviewed someone for a position and ultimately decided to hire someone else. I let this person know, kindly, and figured that would be that. However, she’s been tagging me and others in these weird public LinkedIn posts about her skillset and experiences ever since. Is there an acceptable way of asking her to stop including me?
LinkedIn does let you turn off the feature that lets people tag you, but you can only do it site-wide, not for one person, and you may not want that. You could try blocking her on the platform; I haven’t been able to find anything indicating whether that’ll stop her from tagging you or not, but you could give it a try.
But you can also just ask her to stop. I’d say it this way: “Jane, I enjoyed meeting you last year, but could I ask you to stop tagging me in your posts on LinkedIn? I get a notification every time, and it’s a lot in my already crowded in-box. Thanks for understanding.”
4. Does everyone get fired at some point in their career?
I’m a long-time reader, in my 30s, great job, no issues at work. But the more I read AAM, the more I think about something I was told when I was younger. My mother’s twin sister had just been let go from a job and told me, “Everyone gets fired at least once in their life.” This hasn’t happened to me, but I’m wondering if you agree?
Nope. Lots of people have never been fired. But what is true is that being fired is very common, lots of successful people have been fired at some point in their careers, and it doesn’t indicate that you’re a failure or that you’ll be marked by it forever. I suspect that was more of what she was getting at — and, having just been fired herself, it might have been a bit of a self-pep-talk too, or even an attempt to put it in context for you.
5. My former employer says I quit, but they really laid me off
Earlier this year, I went through the hiring process at a new employer, which included a background check. As part of that background check, my former employers were contacted and my reason for leaving was verified against my application — standard stuff. I’ve gone through a similar check before, as recently as two years prior, without issue. This time, though, was different.
A couple of days into the check, a team member from my future employer called to tell me they had gotten ahold of Past Employer X and their records show I quit on Y date in 2017. But I didn’t quit; I was asked to leave and was given a payout upon leaving. My position was eliminated as a result of a merger that resulted in a full house cleaning of management six months post-merger.
I explained and all proceeded smoothly. I have now been with Current Employer for nearly 90 days. I wonder, though, if having the “quit” vs. “position eliminated” designation on my record at Past Employer X may cause issues in the future. If it is going to cause issues, do I need to just start saying that I quit? It feels disingenuous.
Don’t start saying you quit when that’s not true! Get in touch with the past employer and ask them to correct their records. This could be as simple as someone making one wrong keystroke when your departure was recorded, and it might be something you can get fixed with a single phone call.
If for some reason you’re not able to get it fixed, you can proactively explain the situation to reference checkers in the future (and I’d hold on to your separation paperwork for that reason): “I was laid out as part of a mass layout after a merger. I learned from a past background check that for some reason their records say I resigned, but I’d be happy to show you the layoff paperwork if you need it.”
You may also like:
my coworker is trying to manage me so she’ll get promoted, reporting my husband’s coworker, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.