Shared posts

26 Aug 18:17

What’s Your Fav “Secret” Dinner?

by grace at the stripe
Kate

Ok TOR, time to dish.

For me this is def breakfast for dinner. Or open face toast with PB&J. A decade or so ago in the time of the tart fro-yo boom, it would be a giant serving with graham crackers and chocolate chips.

Whats Your Fav "Secret" Dinner?
What’s Your Fav “Secret” Dinner?

Something that has come up with friends recently has been the meal you eat alone, when no one is there to judge you or comment. Like the anonymous friend who loves her “wine and cheese:” drinking a glass of wine while she bites into a string cheese (bites, not pulls, that’s the key). This conversation is one that I relate to very much… and always love hearing other peoples’ answers!

What’s Your Fav “Secret” Dinner?

When it’s hot, I will literally eat a bowl of tomatoes (like one or two whole tomatoes cut up into chunks) with olive oil and some salt. I really, really love tomatoes.  And burrata or mozzarella if I have it. (But that isn’t weird… tomatoes + mozzarella is totally fine, borderline gourmet. It’s eating two whole tomatoes cut up that might be a little strange.

My weirdest one is that if I am feeling like a snackmonster sometimes I will eat a whole container of Whole Foods’ tzatziki dip with pretzels and veggies as dinner. I mean… it’s mostly greek yogurt? The best snack but a whole container does feel just a little excessive.

Least weird but still important to list: I’ve always loved breakfast for dinner. Nothing is more satisfying than making a homemade breakfast sandwich for dinner: an egg or two and cheddar cheese on a buttered English muffin. My friend Molly felt the same, saying she loves to make a few scrambled eggs (with as much cheese as possible) + some greens (to not feel like a total monster).

(Please, please… tell me yours… I’m so curious!)

The post What’s Your Fav “Secret” Dinner? appeared first on The Stripe.

24 Aug 21:44

A Catskills Home Full of Storybook Charm

by Jenny Rosenstrach
Kate

Went to the Catskills for the first time earlier this month. It was dreamy, and we had some great meals out too.

heather ross catskills house tour

Artist Heather Ross lives in Forestburgh, New York, with her husband, TC, and their daughter, Bee. “When we first walked in, this house was a ruin,” she says.… Read more

The post A Catskills Home Full of Storybook Charm appeared first on A Cup of Jo.

19 Aug 19:03

I secretly moved people’s desks 2 inches and they freaked out, late-night work emails, and more

by Ask a Manager
Kate

Re: #2 and the timing of sending work emails after hours. I know when my boss is crazy busy and sending emails over the weekend or late at night, even if she uses the delay-send feature... so I just feel bad that she took an extra step in her already busy life to try and spare my... feelings? Also, my org is trying to encourage us not to email coworkers we know are out of office on PTO, so that they don't return to a swamped inbox. But is that any better than getting a flood of emails the morning of my return? Meh.

This post, I secretly moved people’s desks 2 inches and they freaked out, late-night work emails, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. I secretly moved people’s desks two inches over and they freaked out

When I joined a new team several years ago, I was told by my new manager that I should move my things to their area on a different floor so I could sit with my team members, ASAP. Only they didn’t actually have a free space for me, and every table was occupied all the time.

I started asking people to get that done. I went to the office manager, who told me they could/would do nothing. I asked everybody on the floor how they felt about moving around teams — which already was happening every few months at that company, and since the floor I had to go to was now super full, there was enough room on other floors to hold several of the smaller teams, which everybody also said no to.

Nobody would budge. I spent an entire work week going around talking to people, trying to get a desk, all while my managers told me I had to move there RIGHT NOW or they would start to doubt my allegiance to the project, but would not do anything themselves to make that happen.

But hey, turns out there was actually enough room to seat more desks! If they were spaced a bit better, that should be doable! But a few people in the corner were steadfastly defending their space, which was almost twice as much as others had, whose backs were almost touching.

In all this stress, I hatched my plan: If I came in early and moved every row of tables 1-2 inches to the side, the added up space would allow us to squeeze in two more tables.

The day comes and people notice immediately. They get very angry and start blaming the cleaning crews. I confessed right then, and everybody was pissed at me.

How wrong was I? I do regret doing it, and wish there was a better way but it seemed like the only option. I feel like the anger I received is at least slightly out of proportion, and nobody ever said “finding a desk is not your job, your boss should be doing it” or “yeah, these people already here are not moving because they have seniority / a special deal / some other good reason and we must allow them to have twice as much real estate as everybody else.”

I don’t think you were wrong at all. What did your bosses expect you to do? You’d exhausted all other avenues, and they were threatening your job over it! And really, each person losing two inches is not an outrage when the alternative was you having absolutely nowhere to sit or getting fired for lacking the magical ability to conjure new space into existence. So no, you weren’t wrong. Your bosses were ridiculous and put you in an impossible position.

I do wonder if you went back to your bosses and laid it out really clearly: “I understand you want my desk in the X area. There’s currently no room there and no one is willing to move. The only options left that I can see are for me to sit in Y or Z instead or you could tell people they need to make room for me there. What makes sense?” If you didn’t do that, I would have advised it — but otherwise, this isn’t on you.

2. Sending work emails late at night

As a manager, new parent, and generally busy person, I work some strange hours. For example, yesterday I was online at 2 am (as my daughter woke me up during the night and I decided to use some time to clear my work inbox ahead of a busy Monday) and 10 pm (as I finished early to play with my daughter but needed to meet a deadline). I absolutely don’t expect these kinds of hours from my team or want to encourage people to work outside of hours if it doesn’t suit them, but sometimes these are the hours that suit me!

What can and should I do to make it clear that what I do isn’t what I expect from the team and that following my example won’t have any impact on my opinion of them or their performance? Working hours is part of my “welcome to the team” conversation and I do talk to each person about it periodically using phrasing like, “You may see some emails from me at strange times. This is because I don’t have a set working pattern and sometimes work early or late to allow me flexibility. I absolutely don’t expect anyone to reply to me or be checking their emails outside of their normal working hours so please work whatever hours suit you.” I feel like that’s clear but I just keep having “actions speak louder than words” going round my head.

I strongly recommend scheduling your emails to send during normal business hours! Write them as late at night as you want, but have them send the next morning.

I work strange hours too, and I used to send emails to my staff at all hours and think it would be enough to just tell them emphatically that I didn’t expect responses at that hour, that it was just my own preference and didn’t need to be theirs, and all the rest. I learned over time that it didn’t really work; people see you online then and worry it’s expected of them regardless. Or they happen to be up and online but not working, and then they see a work email come in from you on their phones so they decide they might as well answer it, and now other people are working at 2 am too. Or they don’t answer it but now they’re thinking about work at 2 am. It just creates pressure on people, no matter how diligent you are about telling them it shouldn’t.

Schedule your emails and it’ll be a non-issue. (Or, if you can’t schedule them, save them as drafts and send them the next day.)

3. How to quit at the same time as a teammate when we’re both going to the same competitor

After three years at my first post-college job, I’m ready to move on. My teammates and I have been consistently overworked for over a year, to the point where several of us have had mental breakdowns. The company doesn’t seem to care even as we repeatedly ask for help and more manageable workloads, so when an opportunity appeared to do a similar job at a competitor, I applied.

The work I do is a relatively new methodology, so there’s not a lot of people with the experience I have. I know from your blog not to assume you’re getting the job, but in all of the interviews I’ve had so far, the company has made it very clear they’re interested. I have a final interview coming up soon.

I feel a lot of guilt about quitting my job, even though I know I shouldn’t, but this is the first time I’ve left a job for a reason other than “I’m graduating.”

What complicates matters is that a teammate of mine applied for a different job on the same team at the competitor company and seems to be moving along in the process just as quickly. If one of us left, our whole team would be scrambling. Two people gone (and especially us in particular as the two most senior people on the team), and they won’t be able to function.

Assuming we both get the job (and I know that’s an assumption), what advice do you have for how we resign? Should we go to our shared boss at the same time? If one person goes first, how should we handle the conversations about replacing that person knowing we’re leaving too? Should we keep it a secret we’re going to the same place?

Definitely don’t jointly resign; do it individually. If the other person resigns before you’re ready to quit and you’re pulled into conversations about the plan for their absence, handle it exactly the way you would if you weren’t leaving. Until you have a job offer that you’ve accepted, you’ve got to proceed as if you’re not leaving (because you might not get the offer or you might not like the details of the offer). If you go second, it’s fine to say “I know this is bad timing,” but you also have nothing to apologize for. People leave jobs! It’s normal! Your company will make do. That would be true even if your company had treated you well, and it’s extra true when they haven’t.

You don’t need to keep it a secret that you’re going to the same place. You don’t need to proactively volunteer it if you think that will cause weirdness, but if you’re asked, there’s no reason you need to hide it. Do keep in mind, though, that some companies have people leave immediately without a notice period if they’re going to a competitor (still paying out their notice period unless they’re jerks), so plan for that if you think it’s possible.

4. How to find out a salary range

As a longtime reader (and occasional poster), I know one of your pet peeves is job listings that don’t include a salary range. A new law in Colorado addresses this and Lifehacker had an article today about how jobseekers can to use it to figure out what a job is worth no matter where they are, at least in the U.S.

This is a good tip.

5. The Mortification Week finale

I’ve been top heavy my whole life, and finally I had to have a significant breast reduction. I saw my body when they changed my bandages, and my new tatas were the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen, even with all the stitches and drains. This was major surgery so I was on a morphine drip. For some unknown reason, my husband thought it would be fine, just fine, if he let me have my cell phone while I was stoned out of my skull.

It’s good that my boss and I are close, because apparently, he was my first call post-surgery. He knew what I was having done – it’s not something I’d be able to hide and I was out of work for a few weeks – but I don’t think he was ready for a call like this:

Him: Hey, how are you doing? I’m surprised [Hubby] let you have your phone.
Me: (slurring badly) I made him gimme it. I hadda call you. I quit.
Him: You what?
Me: (enunciating carefully). I. QUIT.
Him: …Wait… what?
Me: I juss gotta look at my new girls and they are FREAKING HOT. I don’t needa work for you annymore. Me anna girls gonna go work at HOOTERS.
[sounds of choking laughter coming through the speaker as my hubby realizes his mistake and grabs for my cell phone]

Don’t think this hasn’t been mentioned a time or two in seventeen plus years together.

And with that, we say goodbye to Mortification Week.

Let’s end with this quote from Cringeworthy: A Theory of Awkwardness by Melissa Dahl: “The things that make you cringe are usually the things worth sharing, because they can help others feel less alone. … Little humiliations can bring people together, if we let them. The ridiculous in me honors the ridiculous in you.”

06 Aug 15:04

I Feel This

by swissmiss

I feel this sentiment by Martin Creed, Work No. 2210.

06 Aug 14:58

this is why you need a good cover letter

by Ask a Manager
Kate

Went through some hiring for my team this summer and was astounded at the number of people who didn't even submit a cover letter.

This post, this is why you need a good cover letter , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I wanted to offer some testimony on why cover letters are so important.

I am currently reviewing applications for several positions with a government agency. Our online application system doesn’t require a cover letter, but applicants can add them if they want. I have a relatively small pool of applicants and quite a few of them have varied work histories that don’t obviously lead to the position that they’re applying for. Reviewing these resumes, I keep thinking, “Huh, I wonder why this person applied for this job. What in their work experience do they think qualifies them for this job? Are they even interested in this job in particular, or just blanket applying to any job in our system?” For the few folks who have cover letters, these questions are usually immediately answered. Several times, I was about to dismiss an application based on not understanding how the experience in the resume would make them a good fit, but then I read the cover letter and it suddenly made sense — into the interview pile they go! In one case, the only four people who wrote cover letters are the only ones getting an interview. Some of them definitely wouldn’t have gotten an interview without the connections that they made in the letter.

Occasionally, a poorly written cover letter means that I don’t interview someone. If the writing isn’t good (and I need writing skills for the position) or if it’s extremely generic and doesn’t answer those questions that I’m asking, that might disqualify someone. But an honestly written letter that explains why you think your years as a llama wrangler actually have prepared you quite well for chocolate teapot design because of skills x, y, and z, and that you’ve always had a passion for hot beverages? As long as you proofread it, it’s almost certainly going to land you in the interview pile here.

Thinking back, one of my strongest employees now was someone who almost didn’t make the interview pile because of her odd work history but she had a really great cover letter, so we gave her a chance and she blew us away in the interview.

Anyway, just wanted to give some perspective to job hunters about why it’s worth making the extra effort to write cover letters, and what I’m hoping to get out of reading them on the other side.

Amen amen amen.

I get so many letters from people asking how they can stand out in a sea of applicants, and this is how. I suspect people are hoping for gimmicky tricks like “send a chocolate bar” or “take out a billboard with your picture on it.” You definitely should not do those things. (Please do not.) What you need is a compelling cover letter that doesn’t just summarize your resume, and you’ll be better off than 95% of your competition.

21 Jul 15:53

Summer candle roundup: fruit, tennis balls, lies

by sarahbrown
Kate

Because we need to bring back #CandleTalk, recap our feelings on tomato scented candles, and also validate my feelings about Tana French.

"It smells like the apartment of someone who has made occasionally doing burlesque their entire post-college personality."

Aromatique Agave Pineapple: This is my number one summer candle, four years going. I would drink this candle if I could; it just smells juicy. I have these in every room of my house, and I don’t do that with any other scent in any season — this guy is my number one boy. My brother walked into my house recently when I had these lit and shouted “Why does it smell like the best year of my life in here?!” This scent is available in an entire range, from potpourri to room spray to wax melts to diffusers to several sizes of candle, but do not buy the room spray. I don’t know how such a lovely candle got translated to such a bad room spray but someone dropped that ball big time. But the candle scent is beautiful! You can get the votive sizes if you want them for bedside or bathrooms or just to make sure you like them before committing to a bigger size. These babies are always stocked on the shelves next to the escalators at Macy’s or Dillards, or you can find them on Amazon. If you get them from a department store, they’re almost always included in some 50% off sale which makes them extremely affordable.

drink me jkjk

KOBO Wild Tomato Vine – I love a tomato scent, but it has to be just right — I like it a bit more sweet than bitter. I’d love to smell Boy Smells’ Gardener. Same with Apotheke’s Tomato Tarragon. There are so many candles I want to smell in person post-pandemic! Jonathan Adler also has a pretty good tomato candle, but my favorite tomato is this one by KOBO. It smells like an actual tomato, it’s $28, and it comes in a plantable package that will actually grow brandywine tomatoes! What?? I know! This was my go-to summer hostess gift for years. This is the ideal kitchen candle from April to August.

Lycopersicon Esculentum y’all

If you love tomatoes so much then why don’t you marry them?! Or just try CB I Hate Perfume’s Memory of Kindness, which is a spray or roll-on scent made by the same nose that created Demeter Tomato but has more depth, notes, and longevity. It starts out pretty green but grows into a sunnier scent. There’s an element of wet dirt in this one but if you like the way tomatoes smell, that’s probably a plus for you, not a minus.

Jonathan Adler Champagne: I think the Jonathan Adler Pop candles are for the most part overpriced, but I have to say that Champagne (and the discontinued Earl Grey) smells fantastic. It does not smell like champagne because how could it, but it does smell exactly like its scent listing, which is delicious: pink grapefruit, raspberry, French cassis, violet leaves, rose petal, grape leaf. It also somehow smells fizzy, but don’t ask me how. It’s crisp and zesty, a great frou-frou summer scent — like a party in an air-conditioned beach house that’s way nicer than your actual house. My friend Sarah once texted me from an art show afterparty she ended up at a stranger’s house in the Hamptons just to let me know they had those giant $300 Jo Malone candles burning in the bathrooms. I’d take this candle over those things any day.

This candle costs about as much as an actual bottle of champagne so congratulations I guess?

Apotheke From a Rooftop in August: Every August rooftop I’ve ever been on smelled like hot tar, weed, sweat, American Spirits, bottom shelf vodka, Lancome Juicy Tubes, and Boca burgers, and I would bottle that scent and huff it because being young on a rooftop in the summer is better than almost anything in the world. This candle’s ingredients are white amber, crisp vetiver (get your soggy-ass vetiver away from me) and cedarwood balanced with wild lavender and green apple, and is “inspired by the artwork of sun and surf captured by Matt Schwartz (a.k.a. She Hit Pause).” Ok? They’re going with a beach thing but then why bring the building into it? This candle smells… humid. It smells like the apartment of someone who has made occasionally doing burlesque their entire post-college personality. I know these aren’t compliments I’m giving here but I’m also not blowing out this candle either. It’s really growing on me. It’s got a languid, smoky, sweet spiciness that I can’t stay mad at. It comes in an iridescent glass that’s giving me late 80s Cherry 7Up commercial vibes? Look, these are just facts. You can do with them whatever you have to do.

This candle without a doubt went to Sarah Lawrence

Otherland Matchpoint: Ahh, my old nemesis the Tennis Ball Candle. (You should read Kelly Conaboy’s 2018 review of this because her candle reviews are some of the very best things on the internet.) This candle has tempted me from all over the internet every summer for years, and last week I finally broke down and bought it — and promptly returned it. This candle claims to smell like cucumber, freshly cut grass, and tennis balls, which are all things I’m into, but I had severe doubts about its ability to deliver and I was right to be leery. Like Kelly Conaboy, I also love industrial scents; I don’t play tennis and I’m not a golden retriever, but I get that the whiff from inside of a new canister of tennis balls is an experience that makes you glad to be alive. It’s easy to rep cucumber, and while the scent from a freshly-sliced cucumber is one of the best and most simple scents on earth, it’s hard to replicate unless you’re Hendricks Gin. No one seems able to capture the actual, delicate scent of cucumber (or watermelon); instead they’re translated into some overpowering scratch-and-sniff sticker simulacrum. People always want to pair cucumber with snoozy melon or sneezy aloe, so tennis balls are at least an attempt at a new and fun partner. But sadly, this candle does not deliver, not on any of its three counts. I don’t get rubber or cucumber or wet lawn: I get 90s shower gel. Less Wimbledon, more Bath & Body Works. This is strike three for Otherland with me. Their candles are just more style than substance; a candle made for Instagram but not for your nose. I feel like Otherland is the Tana French novel of candles for me: they never give a satisfying delivery on their premise, and I’m always annoyed with myself for giving them another try. The packaging on this candle is very cute, but that’s the only good thing I have to say about it. It’s a “great to give as a gift but don’t care for my house to actually smell like it” situation. A gift for someone you don’t truly connect with, maybe? Just buy them a can of tennis balls instead.

Lies

16 Jul 19:26

Yoann Bourgeois

by swissmiss
Kate

must click through!

16 Jul 18:16

A Big Beautiful Life

by swissmiss

“I want to have a big, beautiful, happy life, and let great art flow from that. I reject the idea that we need to be miserable, alone, and/or dysfunctional in order to make great work.”
Casey Gerald

16 Jul 10:21

my trust fund coworker bullies staff for being “poor”

by Ask a Manager

This post, my trust fund coworker bullies staff for being “poor” , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

We just got a new team member a few months ago, “Lucy.” Lucy makes no secret about it that she’s a trust-fund kid: private schools, Ivy League, owns a fancy horse, the works. She’s like a stereotype from a bad sitcom.

She’s in a role parallel with mine and we have to work together pretty frequently. We’re about the same age but I have a higher level of education (masters’s) and more time in our field than she does and this seems to annoy her. She always makes comments about “working hard” and “picking yourself up by your boot straps” and gets frustrated about “hand-outs.” She usually brings this stuff up in tandem with someone’s work she thinks is poor quality and it has nothing to do with the situation at hand — “Ted better fix this software glitch. Some people are just afraid of hard work and want handouts.” … “Laurie better not keep buying that Starbucks if she wants to save cash. Makes sense though with her work ethic.” Just awful, ignorant stuff.

We all live and work in a smallish city that’s been predicted to become a start-up boomtown but it’s very blue-collar and the median income is about $40k a year. The company we work for doesn’t pay more than $10 an hour at entry-level. None of us are making what we should be, but that’s a different story. I can’t help but feel like Lucy took a job here to lord her money over the poors. She makes it really clear she’s just gracing us with her presence and that she doesn’t need the paycheck.

In the beginning, it was annoying but now it’s downright baffling and infuriating. Our manager, “Sally,” hangs on her every word and has started mirroring Lucy’s socioeconomic ideas. Before Lucy came, Sally used to be very kind and well, normal.

People in our area struggled during the lockdown and a lot of my friends and family are in a financial bind through no fault of their own. My husband and I got by on luck and the skin of our teeth. Lucy overheard me make a comment about my landlord in conversation with another coworker and she gave me a disgusted look and said, “Oh my god, you still RENT? At YOUR age? That explains so much.” She then immediately ran to Sally and they spent the day whispering and looking over at me. For the record, Lucy owns three houses, two condos, and a beach house. There’s been rumbling that she’s given Sally keys to one of her vacation homes — a subordinate lending her expensive vacation home to her boss. That’s a problem.

Lucy and Sally now both make comments about people’s clothes, the cars they drive, and what they bring for lunch and have dismissed it all as obviously trashy or poor. Someone had ramen for lunch the other day and Lucy gagged and said, “Oh, gross.” It’s enough to make me start bleeding from the eyes, I’m getting so frustrated and angry. There is no reason for this kind of behavior ever. Is this a bad 80s movie?

Before I go to HR (because I have a lot of this documented), I want to make sure I don’t sound over-sensitive. I grew up poor and on food stamps. My husband was homeless as a teen. I’ve seen the drastic emotional, physical, and fiscal impact of poverty and am still recovering from it as an adult. To come to my place of work and hear someone like Lucy talk about her beach house and then call someone’s lunch “poor people food” makes me see red.

How can I approach this like a professional and not like my blood is boiling?

What the actual F.

Lucy is a terrible person and I want to banish her to a small and unpleasant island surrounded on all sides by oceans of ramen as far as the eye can see. (Although personally, I would love that island because ramen is delicious and eventually she would end up learning that out of desperation, so maybe that’s an insufficient penalty.)

And no, you are not overreacting or being overly sensitive.

It would be one thing if Lucy were just clueless — like if she were surprised to learn a colleague rented. That would still be quite obnoxious, but what takes this to a new level of awfulness is that she’s nasty about it. She’s gagging when someone eats inexpensive food. She’s giving people disgusted looks for renting and calling others trashy. She’s obsessed with the idea of “hand-outs.” She’s like a caricature of a villain in a teen movie, one that you’d roll your eyes at for being portrayed so unrealistically.

(Ironically, the only trashy thing here is Lucy’s behavior. She sounds like someone who thinks she herself is the epitome of class and taste, while daily showing herself to be classless.)

Has anyone tried calling her out on it? Like just saying, “Wow, you are really rude” or “What an grossly uneducated thing to say” the next time she makes one of these comments? If you haven’t, you should feel free to. Sometimes social shaming is warranted and effective. If nothing else, it might just feel good.

Of course, the more troubling part is that she’s sucked your boss into this now. If that weren’t the case, you could talk to your boss and ask her to tell Lucy to stop being hateful and obnoxious. But since Sally is apparently enjoying her proximity to wealth (or something?) in a truly screwed up way, you’re right to go to HR. I’m not normally a big fan of HR for interpersonal stuff — normally you should handle that stuff with the person directly or, if it needs to be escalated, with your boss — but in this case your boss is participating in really gross, classist, offensive behavior and has compromised her ability to effectively lead your team.

When you talk to HR, frame it this way: “Sally and Lucy have both been mocking employees’ clothes, food, and housing, and making fun of people for being what they consider poor. Some examples are X and Y, and this is happening daily. It’s made the working environment unpleasant and it’s difficult to trust Sally as a manager. I figured the company wouldn’t want this happening, especially from a manager. Is there a way for you to intervene and make it clear this isn’t okay?”

Sally and Lucy suck.

25 May 21:13

For a Night Out in NYC: Where to Stay, Where to Dine.

by Helena
Kate

NYC TOR friends...further combo recommendations?

interior of a restaurant with NYC view for Night Out in NYCWilliam Vale Hotel via Hotels.com

New York has been through a lot in the past year, but as things are opening up, the city is starting to, slowly, but surely, feel energetic again. It’s not going to happen overnight and it’s going to take some time for the “for rent” store signs to, well, not be for rent. But, if we don’t have hope or optimism, what do we have?

But I digress.

This post isn’t about what the city has been through, but rather, to share some recommendations of what hotels to stay at and where to dine in the city.

A couple of my girlfriends and I (all moms so all especially tired) are planning a night out. We brainstormed and figured that just going to dinner and coming home wasn’t enough. We wanted a nice hotel so we could have a few drinks, dance in our room, get ready and then head to a fun dinner.

Being kind of out of the loop of what’s happening, I do what I do, I turned to all of you to ask where we should stay and where we should dine. Of course, so many incredible recommendations.

Here are the suggestions that came recommended the most.

For a Night Out in NYC: Where to Stay, Where to Dine.

Stay at the William Vale (Williamsburg) and dine a Leuca or Lilia. For a spa day, go to Bathhouse. 

Stay at the Wythe (Williamsburg) for amazing views, dine at Lilia followed by drinks at Le Croc. For breakfast, walk up to Chez Mante for amazing pancakes.

Stay at the Greenwich Hotel, drinks at Bar Pisellino  and dine at Locanda Verde. Greenwich has an amazing spa, but AIRE spa is also nearby and open. You can also uber to any of the incredible restaurants in the West Village, like two personal favorites: American Bar (great martinis) or  L’Artusi.

Stay at the Equinox in Hudson Yards and dine at either Estiatorio Milos, The Edge or Electric Lemon.

Stay and dine at the One Brooklyn Bridge, especially as it gets warmer.

Also, you can stay at the brand new ModernHaus Soho where they have a rooftop restaurant and bar.

Stay and dine at the Baccarat Hotel for an amazing luxury experience. They’re also known to have a out of this world spa.

If you feel like I’m missing a hotel/restaurant combo, please let me know in the comments and I’ll add it in!

07 May 17:39

how to fire a jerk, is it OK to drink with the team I manage, and more

by Ask a Manager
Kate

Found this little nugget from L2 very good advice generally:
"You also might find it interesting to talk with peers or people senior to you in your organization about how they handle this. Bring a critical eye to those discussions because you’ll probably encounter some philosophies/practices that aren’t wise to emulate, but it might be a useful discussion."

This post, how to fire a jerk, is it OK to drink with the team I manage, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. How to fire a jerk

One piece of your advice I’ve made use of many times is to think of a person struggling in their role as “miscast.” It’s not like they’re a terrible person or failing on purpose, they’re just in the wrong role for their skills. When the conversation turns to ending their employment, I can be kinder and more compassionate, as you’ve written, even when they have frustrated me greatly throughout their time with us.

But I worry I’ve gotten stuck when the reason someone’s been let go is for attitude. I’m thinking particularly of a time, awhile back, when I fired a person who no one could stand to work with — arrogant, smug, judgmental, correcting others’ work, and no self-awareness whatsoever of the way they came off. This person had middling skills, no star, but the reason they were let go was the “no assholes” policy, not because they weren’t right for the role. That’s not being miscast, so how should I approach that sort of termination meeting? It’s probably about to happen again, and I don’t want to be a jerk to somebody who’s getting fired and will stop being a problem for my team soon. But they’re not miscast — they’re a jerk! How on earth do I “kindly” tell them so?

I think it’s still about being miscast! While there are no job where it’s okay to be an asshole, there are jobs where it matters more and jobs where it matters less. (Jobs where it matters less might be jobs with almost no interaction with others or jobs in companies that don’t care about jerks.) This is a job where it matters and a company where it matters, so the person doesn’t match the needs of the role and thus is miscast.

As for how to talk to them in the termination meeting: with respect and dignity, as with any firing. You’re not there to teach them a lesson. You’ve made a business decision, one that will probably be unwelcome news to them, one that might cause serious stress and upheaval in their life. That alone is reason to be kind, even if they themselves are not. (And hopefully this won’t be the first time you’re talking with them about the problems; presumably there have been conversations about the issues before now, and so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to them. If that’s not the case, that’s something to remedy first if at all possible.)

2. Is it OK to drink with the team I manage?

I am a recently promoted country director for a global organization, working in an African country with a very challenging security situation. My team is about 50 people and consists of both nationals of that country and staff members from across the world. Many of my staff are on the young side, with the majority aged 25-35, but I am particularly young for my role at only 27 and have been rapidly promoted after doing well in previous roles within this organization in two other countries. As country director, I am overall management responsible for everything to do with programs, security, HR, finance, etc. and I interact regularly with every staff member in a professional context, although only a subset are my direct reports.

My question relates to how I should socialize with my team. While this situation below might seem strange to your readers, it’s not abnormal in my field. Quite a lot of socializing in this sector revolves around the organization, and international staff are also obligated to live together in organization guesthouses. I like to have fun and I’m a pretty big drinker, and for these reasons, I don’t feel comfortable socializing with staff in situations where I (or they) could be drinking heavily. However, they invite me to events all the time, including birthdays, after work drinks, cultural celebrations, etc. and I don’t want to seem cold or aloof, particularly because I’m the same age or younger than many of them. In my previous (more junior) management roles, I have received extremely good feedback on my management style, and I have never struggled with the balance between social and professional relationships before. I did go to parties and drink with my staff in those roles, but I was not the country director then!

Is it acceptable to spend time with groups of staff outside of work, as long as there is no drinking? Is it okay to spend time with some staff, for example, the upper management team? If I socialize with some, do I have to socialize with all of them? Or should I avoid all interactions outside the office?

From what I know about this set-up, it’s just not governed by the same norms — in large part because you’re living together and you’re often going through an intense experience together. But while the norms are different, a lot of the same risks of blurred boundaries still apply (more so, in many cases).

Ideally you’d show up to some of these events, have a drink if you want one (but only one), stay for an hour, and then head out to let them have fun without you. That way you’re getting some bonding in and not seeming aloof, but you’re still maintaining some boundaries. Do be careful not to create the appearance of favoritism within your team; don’t go to the events of some people under you but not to other people’s. You want to be equal opportunity with your attention and time. (You also don’t need to show up every time! It’s good to give people, and yourself, some space.)

You also might find it interesting to talk with peers or people senior to you in your organization about how they handle this. Bring a critical eye to those discussions because you’ll probably encounter some philosophies/practices that aren’t wise to emulate, but it might be a useful discussion.

3. How can I tell a good employee she’s not likely to advance here?

I’m relatively new to a management role. I recently received an email from an employee wanting to discuss her future with the organization and opportunities for advancement. I responded that we will be reorganizing the team soon (which is true) and relying heavily on her input on what responsibilities she wants to take on (also true).

My issue is that it’s unlikely there will be any opportunities for advancement on our team. My organization is very hierarchical and positions are determined at an organization-wide level with little flexibility for job duties or pay increases. Her current position is at the bottom of the org chart and any opportunities to advance her up the org chart would probably be in a different geographic area. The organization has a culture of employees working here for their entire career and turnover gets even lower the further up the org chart people get.

This employee is very valuable and has a lot to offer. I’m just concerned that she’s looking to be promoted on our team, which is unlikely. We’re a small team and I’m unsure if the positions she would advance into will even remain after some impending retirements.

How do I let her know that I think she does have a lot to offer, but would have my full support looking for opportunities elsewhere and would serve as a reference if she needed it? I want to be honest and understanding of her concerns and desired career path, but I don’t want to seem like I’m pushing her out. I’m also happy to give her more responsibilities in the meantime, but that would likely not result in additional compensation or a promotion here. I can advocate for her, but those decisions aren’t mine to make.

Be straightforward with her! As in, “I want to be transparent with you that there isn’t a lot of room for advancement on our team because ___. You’re very valuable to us and play an important role here, but I recognize that at some point you might want growth that we can’t offer. I hope that’s not in the near future, but whenever it does happen, you’ll have my full support in looking at other opportunities and I’ll do whatever I can to help you at that point.”

Truly, the most supportive thing you can do is to lay it all out for her so she can make good decisions for herself with maximum information. You won’t seem like you’re pushing her out as long as you frame it this way.

But also — while there’s not room for her to advance on your team, is there more room somewhere else in the organization? If so, offer to support her in applying for internal roles too. (It sounds like those might be in other parts of the country, but don’t decide on her behalf that that rules them out; explain the situation to her and let her decide.)

4. How can I share information about a sexist interviewing experience?

I work in tech as an engineer and am a woman. A while ago, I received an email from a company about a job and interviewed with them. During the all-day interview, it felt more like the men (and only men interviewed me) explaining things to me rather than them actually trying to understand my professional experience. They gave me a job offer. The job offer was basically entry-level despite my many years of experience. The offer was 60% of my current base salary with no stock options, which I currently get a lot of. I did not accept the offer and told them why. To me this reeks of sexism. I want to publish this information so other women do not waste their time interviewing with this company. How and where should I do this? Is it a good idea?

Glassdoor is made for this kind of situation. Write up your experience and leave it as a review there!

5. Why is hold music so bad?

Not so much a question as a rant. Are companies aware of how suckage their call waiting music is?

I have to make multiple calls to various business (large and small) during the day and I rarely have a pleasant experience. The on-hold music blasts in your ear, not to mention the choice of music or giant amounts of static going on. I actually don’t mind gentle repetitive background music — just make it static-free, not high pitched or with whistles.

It’s really, really terrible. So you call, wait, put the music on quiet, but then the speaker suddenly comes on and doesn’t give you time to jack the volume back up. What gives? .

I don’t know what gives but googling it turns up a lot of interesting info, like that (a) supposedly people are more likely to hang up if you don’t play hold music, possibly because they think the line is dead, (b) people estimate their hold time as lower if you play them music and more if you don’t, and (c) classical music rarely sounds right over phone lines because it has to be compressed into a low-quality format to work. (This is a particularly interesting article about what companies look for in hold music.) Some companies, like Apple, give you the option to choose music or silence, which I very much appreciate.

05 May 20:09

my coworkers said they’d write me LinkedIn recommendations — but never came through

by Ask a Manager
Kate

........ lol

This post, my coworkers said they’d write me LinkedIn recommendations — but never came through , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I am in a puzzling situation. I only have a few days left at my current job, and I am exchanging LinkedIn recommendations with a lot of colleagues. I ask people if that would be okay to do so before actually writing these to make sure that they are on board with that.

About a quarter of my colleagues though (including my bosses) very quickly “forget” that they agreed to write and exchange recommendations, just a few weeks after they enthusiastically agreed to do so.

This isn’t limited to my current employer. In the past I had similar encounters with people who agreed immediately, and then later behaved as if our exchange never happened.

What is going on here? Are people agreeing for show and hoping that I forget, or are they genuinely unable to remember and are then insulted when I mention that this is something we had planned?

The most likely explanation is that it’s just not a high priority for them, and so they’re either forgetting or they keep putting it off and meaning to get to it later but then never do. A lot of people finding writing recommendations to be kind of a pain and so they’ll drag their feet on doing it, especially if there’s no clear deadline.

For what it’s worth, LinkedIn recommendations don’t carry a ton of weight. Employers who want to know what other people think of your work will do reference checks … and will usually figure that a recommendation written for public consumption may not tell the whole story anyway. (Think of all the people you’ve worked with who were Not Great and yet still had a bunch of recommendations displayed on their page. Some of that, to be frank, is because of recommendation-trading endeavors like yours! So they just don’t hold a lot of sway.)

So your coworkers just might not put that much weight on them.

If that’s the case, they still shouldn’t agree to do it and then not follow through, but people are notoriously bad about this kind of thing. They agree in the moment because it sounds okay in theory (until it comes time to actually do it) or they feel put on the spot and don’t know how to politely say “eh, LinkedIn recommendations aren’t my thing” or they really do still mean to do it and just haven’t yet.

The other possible explanation — though it’s much less likely — is that they don’t want to write a recommendation for you because they have concerns about your work, and they don’t know how to say that politely. It’s one thing for a manager to convey that message — they’re charged with assessing your work and giving you feedback — but peers often won’t feel comfortable telling you directly if they don’t want to recommend you … and so you can get people agreeing but then never following through. Again, that’s less likely, but it’s a thing that happens so I’m including it too.

If you want to follow up with people, you could do a one-time, “Hey, realistically, do you think you’ll get to the LinkedIn recommendation? It’s okay if not, I just want to figure out if I should ask someone else.” That language makes it easier for the person to tell you if it’s unlikely to happen, so it’ll probably get you more honest assessments of how likely they are to follow through. (Although you’ll still get some people who say they’re on it but never do it, because that’s just how people work.)

After that one follow-up, though, I’d let it go. There are other more effective ways to lean on people in your network anyway (like asking for job leads in the future, a connection to someone they know, a real reference where they speak to a reference-checker, etc.).

03 May 18:23

I’m about to be the manager of an employee who made my child cry

by Ask a Manager
Kate

I also really like this advice about coming into a management position with people you've interacted with as a client or community member. Regardless of past history, there's some solid recs in there for how to get to know a team.

This post, I’m about to be the manager of an employee who made my child cry , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I am about to take over in a management position for a nonprofit of which I am currently a client. The organization involves rendering a service to my children, so naturally, I hear a lot about the employees from my teenage daughter.

Recently, my child asked an employee of the organization a question which he misunderstood and became very defensive about. He was somewhat hostile and accusatory towards my child in front of several other children. My child cried when the conversation occurred and when telling me about the interaction, and she cried again a week later when I asked her some follow-up questions.

I felt that I couldn’t let my child handle it herself because of the unbalanced power dynamic and the intensity with which he responded to her question. This employee knows that I am going to be his direct supervisor in a manner of months, and he still was harsh and unfair with my child! This gives me serious questions about how he interacts with other children.

I took my husband with me when we had a discussion with the employee, because I wanted to be clear that I was coming to him as a parent and not as his future boss. I also wrote down all of my questions and had my husband make sure that I wasn’t asking “manager-employee” questions and that I stuck to “parent-service provider” questions. He was apologetic to my husband and me and to our child, and he admitted that he did not handle the situation well. He even became emotional when I explained to him what our child meant by the question she had asked (he had completely misunderstood).

As a parent, I am satisfied with the outcome. If I were his boss, I would have noted this incident in his performance evaluation (for any child).

On an unrelated note, there is another employee who is known to be pretty bad at her job. Thus far, she has been protected by management, but I am replacing the management who protected her. I have had other clients of the organization come to me and ask how I plan to handle her as they have not been pleased with her performance when working with their children.

Do these employees get a clean slate with their new boss? Do I just pretend that I don’t know about these serious gaps in performance? How do I handle knowing that two of my employees need to make some serious changes if the organization is going to advance?

First, was the incident between the employee and your child a misunderstanding that could have happened to anyone or a clear-cut case of terrible judgment on the employee’s part? If it’s not clearly the latter, be careful not to let your understandable protectiveness of your child affect how you’re assessing the employee before you’ve even started. Dealing with kids can be tricky — dealing with people can be tricky — and unless it’s clear that the employee was deeply in the wrong, I’d try to set it aside until you know him and his work better.

In fact, even it’s clear he was in the wrong, I’d still try to get to know him with an open mind. You owe him that as his boss.

Of course, you also owe a strong duty of care to the kids you serve and to the organization you’re working for. But you can meet that responsibility without coming in with preset conclusions about him or the other employee you mentioned.

The key is to do a ton of observation once you get there. This is a smart thing to do as a manager coming into any new job, but it’s especially critical when you’ve heard there are problems you’ll need to solve pretty quickly.

Look for ways to get to know people’s work by observing them in action. Sit in on sessions with kids, watch how conversations go, ask to attend meetings you might not normally be a part of, and so forth. Do this for everyone, not just the two you have concerns about, and explain you’re looking for quick ways to get steeped in the context of everyone’s work and how the team does things. Debrief afterwards too: “is there a history I should know about with X?” … “has Y come up as a concern before?” … how you decide what to do when Z happens” … etc.

Do this for a few weeks and you should learn a ton about how things are done in your new department and get a feel for areas you’ll need to take a closer look at.

That way, you’re not coming in primed to act on problems you’ve only heard about secondhand — you’ll be making your own observations. You might end up agreeing completely with what you’ve been told, or you might realize there’s context that changes things, or you might find other pressing problems you didn’t even know about (which could even intersect with the first set of problems in a way that will need to impact your approach).

From there, you’ll be in a better position to address whatever needs to be addressed, and you won’t be basing it on what happened with your own kid or what other parents have relayed.

Meanwhile, it might also be useful to address the situation explicitly with the employee who had the conflict with your kid. If he has any sense at all, he’s probably a bit freaked out that his new boss is someone who saw him mess up with her kid, to the point that she called a meeting with him about it. He might even figure he should be job searching. It would be good to clear the air by acknowledging the history and telling him it’s resolved and in the past and not something he needs to worry about now. You can say you’re going to be doing a lot of observation with everyone on the team, and that it’s an opportunity to show you how he likes to work with kids normally. In saying that, make sure your tone conveys that this is a good thing, not an ominous “I will be looking for further ammunition against you.” Obviously if you find problems, you’ll address them, but you don’t want to sound like you’re going in expecting them. You want to sound like you’re hoping to be delighted with what you learn. (And sometimes people rise to meet higher expectations when given the chance.)

03 May 17:31

my boss is having an affair with our assistant — and I’m friends with his wife

by Ask a Manager
Kate

WHOA this is juicy one. Hope there's an update.

This post, my boss is having an affair with our assistant — and I’m friends with his wife , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

I work as a project manager at a small business (~25 employees) and have been in this role for more than six years. I was referred to the position through Katie, a friend from a hobby club I belong to. She learned I’d been laid off from my last position and offered to introduce me to her husband (John) who owns a consulting firm in my field. After a standard interview process, I was hired and have been here ever since.

About 18 months ago, we were looking for a new administrative assistant for the business. Instead of advertising the position like we normally would, John hired Tammy, the “daughter of a family friend.” She was supposedly a recent grad, very eager, would need some training, but would be a great addition to the team. From her first day, it was clear that she was not the right fit for the position. Her computer and communication skills were quite poor, she took forever to do basic tasks, was dressed inappropriately for an office, and played on her phone frequently. She was also coming in late or leaving early every day. Every attempt to provide her with instruction or feedback was met with confusion or eye rolling. Another manager asked her for help in stuffing envelopes for a promotional event, and she laughed in his face!

I went to John and asked him what exactly Tammy’s role was supposed to be since she was refusing to do much of anything. He said not to worry, he would have a word with her. The next day he told me he would be managing her directly from then on and if I needed something that fell under the assistant’s umbrella, I could email him and he would see to it that it was done. He had never taken over management of an assistant before this, and it felt like something was amiss.

Within a few weeks, it seemed clear that John is having an affair with Tammy. John has never admitted it to me, but they drive in together every day, have hours-long meetings in his locked office every afternoon, and whenever she is at her desk, she is shopping online or browsing social media. If anyone asks Tammy to do something for their team, she goes straight to John’s office and a few minutes later he sends a message that someone else will need to do that task. My emails to John regarding my team’s administrative needs just get ignored, and I wind up doing those tasks myself or handing it off to one of my team members (who have enough on their plate as it is). I’ve tried to talk to John about how this is impacting our workflow and how we really need a true assistant, but he snaps that these tasks are not so urgent that we can’t handle them ourselves within our own teams. John’s reliability as our CEO and decision-maker has plummeted as well, and morale is low.

I’ve been quietly trying to find another job since early 2020. Covid threw a wrench in those plans, and I have very few prospects at this time. My dilemma is what to do about Katie (my friend/John’s wife). I am very confident that they don’t have an open marriage. She truly thinks Tammy is an assistant at our workplace. I have not told her about the affair, partly because it’s not my business and partly because I need to protect my job. I am the only person at work who would possibly tip her off about this, and it would be obvious it was me if I were to tell her. I feel absolutely awful keeping this secret. I feel so guilty when she earnestly asks me how work is at our hobby group. What do I do?

Readers, what’s your advice?

28 Apr 20:31

my coworker quit but our CEO is pretending he’s still here, having to pay to work at an event, and more

by Ask a Manager
Kate

I think I disagree with AG's answer for Q1. Her recommended approach DOES sound like a sort of "gotcha". I feel like the better thing to do would be to say (in a one-on-one setting with the CEO) "Oh hey I randomly caught up with Rupert the other day and he said he's no longer with us! What's the plan going forward?" and allow the CEO a chance to react from there.

This post, my coworker quit but our CEO is pretending he’s still here, having to pay to work at an event, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. My coworker quit but our CEO is pretending he’s still here

How do you navigate a situation where an employee leaves the company but management is pretending they still exist?

I have a colleague who worked for less than six months for my firm. He left because he was extremely dissatisfied by the micromanagement of our CEO and found a better opportunity. He agreed to stay on as a contractor until the company could hire someone to fill his position, but then he was offered less than he asked as a contractor and severed ties with the company completely.

I know all of this because this colleague called and filled me in, but our CEO is pretending he still exists and is contracting with the company. His email address is still active, and every time someone asks to have something done that was formerly his responsibility, the CEO responds with, “I don’t think we’ll have that done in time” or some other diversion tactic. Our CEO is a younger, pragmatic millennial and we are just emerging from start up status to full-fledged business, and so I believe he’s doing this because this employee was the first to leave the company in five years and he’s worried it might damage morale or make people question why this employee left.

This has been going on for months now. I’m the only one at the company that knows that this employee no longer works for us in any capacity, so he is often discussed in meetings and assigned tasks while I have to awkwardly sit in silence with this knowledge. Help! How do I handle this?

What on earth. Has it not occurred to your CEO that at some point people will figure it out, when the employee hasn’t been seen or heard from in months? Or when he talks to a former coworker, as people do and as actually happened? And why not … just replace him?

In any case, you’re not obligated to keep what you know a secret! The next time someone talks about assigning this guy work, speak up and say, “Oh, he no longer works with us!” That’s a completely normal thing to say in this situation! You don’t need to pretend it didn’t happen in an Emperors New Clothes kind of way — you can just speak up the same way you would if this weirdness weren’t happening.

Frankly, you’d also be doing your company a favor if you asked the CEO directly in front of others, “What’s the plan for covering XYZ now that Rupert is gone?” This wouldn’t be a gotcha; it’s a normal question to ask when someone tells you they’ve left! And you’d be doing the CEO himself a favor if you nudged him to deal with it like a grown-up — but given that this is someone who is engaged in an elaborate farce to cover up an incredibly routine part of doing business, you should first think through whether that’s likely to backfire on you or not.

2. I was required to pay to attend the event I was volunteering at

A few years ago, I worked for a medium-sized nonprofit organization that held a yearly fundraiser at a brewery. I volunteered to be on the fundraiser committee, and I spent a lot of time preparing for the event, including soliciting and collecting donations for raffle baskets, food/refreshment donations, attending meetings, creating decorations, etc. The fundraiser was on an evening outside of work hours, and committee members were expected to volunteer for one hour of the three-hour event, as well as set up and tear down.

During the planning process, I was informed that all committee members were also expected to pay the entrance/ticket fee for the event, even though we would be working half the night and not truly able to participate in the festivities. A few of my work friends also thought this was ridiculous. When I gently (and I believe reasonably) objected to paying to volunteer, I was met with criticism, and I think this tarnished my reputation a bit — not being a team player or caring about the mission. Upper level employees eventually decided to cut the ticket fee in half for volunteers. When I (maybe stupidly this time) still resisted to paying anything, volunteers were told that if we did not want to pay, we could not eat or drink any of the food or beverages provided to paying guests. We were not serving anything expensive like steak and there was no open bar — we had a buffet of appetizers and desserts, and a cash bar once you used your three drink tickets. They strictly kept track of which staff paid and how much they paid, and some veteran staff on the committee made a show of paying the full price. I had been so passionate about helping make the event fun and lucrative, and felt like my efforts were unappreciated. Several years later, and I’m still a bit salty about this. What are your thoughts?

Yeah, this is crap. First, you don’t charge people to attend the event they are working at (!). Second, you feed your volunteers, even when they’re employees. You should have been admitted for free, and you should have been fed and profusely thanked for your help.

3. Resigning when I never see my boss and don’t have his phone number

I’m working part-time in food services while in school. I realized I have to quit, but the issue is the boss is hardly is there. Like he will unexpectedly drop in for like 10 minutes twice a month. So I don’t think I can quit in person. So I thought then to quit over the phone but I don’t have his phone number either. Usually if we communicate, it’s over Facebook messenger. I don’t have his email either. The only thing I can think of is to message him to ask for his phone number and to talk. Is this what I should do? I’ve never had a job before this one, so I’m really confused and have been looking everywhere for an answer.

Do any of your coworkers have his number? I’d check with whoever runs things while he’s away (if anyone); that person probably has a way to reach him. But if that doesn’t work, then yes, send a message over Facebook messenger telling him you need to talk in the next day or two and ask him to call you or send you his number. And if that doesn’t work for some reason (like if he tells you to just use Facebook), go ahead and do it there. It’s ideal to resign in person or over the phone, but if there’s no practical way to do that in the time period you need, it’s fine to use the method you have.

4. When should a crafting business go on your resume?

I’ve recently started a new hobby making what my government considers a cosmetic. Because of the regulations around the product I make (I’m not American), I basically have to start a business in order to make it, with proper labeling and everything. (If I were making just enough for personal use, I wouldn’t. But even if I’m giving away/gifting my product, I’m required to follow the regulations as if I were selling it. And it’s really easy to make more of it then I could use in a year.)

I was wondering when you would advise people in a situation like mine to move their hobby of craft making to a business making crafts on their resumes? (Think making/selling lip gloss, soap, or lotions — things like that.)

If it’s a hobby, it probably doesn’t belong on there; typically you’d want it bringing in regular income first.

But if it does get to that stage: Will including it on your resume strengthen your candidacy for the jobs you’re applying for? If not, I wouldn’t necessarily include it at all (and it could use up resume real estate that might be better spent on other things). But if showing that you successfully marketed a product, handled invoicing, sourced ingredients, researched and followed regulations, and so forth would be a strength for the jobs you’re applying for, I’d include it once you’ve done it long enough — and in enough volume — that you can genuinely say you’ve done those things successfully, and can point to numbers that demonstrate that.

5. Are reference letters useful?

We learned recently that our entire department is being outsourced. While this has been tough to hear and I feel that the initial communication could have been made with more compassion, we have received the plan for the transition and it includes a nice severance if we stay until the transition is finalized. While I am planning on possibly staying until I earn the payout, I have started to reach out to recruiters that I have worked with in the past.

Since many in my department are talking about job hunting, the topic of references has come up. One team member mentioned that she has reference letters from her past managers. Is this a thing in the U.S.? I have been in the work world for 10+ years and have never asked for a reference letter to keep on file. Is this something I should do going forward?

It’s a thing some people do, but it’s a thing very few hiring managers want (with the exception of a few industries, like academia and parts of law). Reference checkers generally want to ask their own questions, and usually (although not always) they want to do it over the phone, where they can hear tone of voice and hesitations and ask follow-up questions. A generic letter that doesn’t speak to their specific questions and which was written knowing the candidate would read it isn’t very useful in most fields.

26 Apr 19:29

Pandemic New Yorker Covers

by Joanna Goddard

Pandemic New Yorker Covers

Illustrator Tomer Hanuka asked his students at the School of Visual Arts to draw pretend New Yorker covers looking forward to the end of the pandemic.… Read more

The post Pandemic New Yorker Covers appeared first on A Cup of Jo.

13 Apr 02:51

Spring scents

by sarahbrown
Kate

CANDLE/SCENT CONTENT

There is a lot to unpack here, and I'm still reeling over the cilantro bombshell.

Hello! Yes it’s been three and a half months since I last updated this blog, but I’ve emerged bleary-eyed from my hibernation cave singing Susannah McCorkle’s “Waters of March” and I’m ready to talk spring scents.

BUT FIRST we have some old business to attend to: in my fall candle post, I sang the praises of Skandinavisk’s KOTO candle. This is my all-time favorite cozy candle, the one I automatically re-buy, but when I re-bought it this winter, it smelled different. I wrote the company and asked if maybe I’d received a weird pour or mislabeled batch but no: they’ve changed the formulation. They now only sell the “New Generation” of KOTO, and their explanation is “For this new collection, Skandinavisk tightened their house rules on fragrance creation to prevent the requirement of any environmental warning symbols on the finished product. In some cases, KOTO included, this has meant that the fragrance itself has a slightly different scent profile as before. For KOTO, the scent is less sharp, a little softer, but it should still do a similar job as the original after lighting.” Join me in pushing the “oh shit what bad environmental thing was in the original scent” thought to the back of your mind and mourning this lost friend. The new scent is fine! It’s fine. I wouldn’t buy it again but it’s fine. I just didn’t want anyone to have bought this based on my glowing review and think THIS was the hot guy I was raving about. He’s nice! He’s very nice. I’m sure your mom will love him.

So! It’s spring, and you want to smell like the new season, minus all the animal rutting, but indoors. Which traditionally means flowers, but I don’t really do florals for spring the same way I don’t do pumpkin for fall, so let’s get that out of the way. I like my spring scents fresh and clean. (I’m saving my tomato scents for the summer version of this post.) I also included more room sprays on this list because I learned a trick recently from my friend Rosalie where you spray a scent over your lamps while they’re on and it lasts longer? Lightbulb magic! It works! Can you believe we’ve been inside for a year!!!

Everyone is baby now

Laundress No. 247 Home Spray: I don’t really care about The Laundress’ actual laundry products; I like my grocery store Persil Fresh just fine and don’t feel the need to get John Mayer involved. But I love their $10 No. 247 scent and I own it in the surface cleaner, all-purpose cleaning concentrate, and home spray. I actually buy the home spray three at a time and stash it in bathrooms and bedrooms. It’s just a very gentle, fresh, clean scent. It skews a little bit “baby” but in a totally inoffensive way. I would totally bathe in it if they made a body wash. I spray it on our ancient sofa before movie night and over our bed before we get into it, just to pretend like we’re way more genteel than we are (we are people who regularly find popcorn in our coat pockets).

Hearth & Hand With Magnolia room spray in Rattan: I am not personally into Chip and Joanna Gaines or any of their design choices but I will admit that some of their candles smell pretty nice for Target prices. This is a good bathroom spray. It’s a clean, light, lemony wood scent but a bit bitter, like the way a cocktail smells. They also did a handwash earlier this year called “Love” that came in a giant glass bottle and smelled AMAZING, but it sold out. Goddammit, Joanna! Quit shiplapping the universe and get this back on shelves.

Everspring: Speaking of Target, I really like this line. I buy their foaming hand soaps all year round (our faves are Mandarin & Ginger and the unscented, uncharacteristically). Their seasonal scents are nice too, but don’t bother buying them in candle form — they have zero throw. I had a hard time smelling it even if lit right next to me, but their hand washes are very nice and nicely priced too.

I’m a sucker for both gin and a mythology reference

Redwood & Co Persephone: I am such a fan of all of Redwood & Co’s candles with gin involved. This new scent is like a light and lovely spring sister to Christmas Cheer, their candle that smelled exactly like a holiday party. This one has both pomegranate and gin so it smells light red and sparkly. You also read certain scents as colors, right?

Beauty Pie Reves d’Eze: This could be categorized as a summer candle but I feel like it hits harder for spring. You know that first day you notice that everything is finally but suddenly green and when you see it, it feels like you’d been holding your breath without realizing it? This candle smells like that. It smells green and fresh and very herbal. I get a lot more basil than mint. It has a strong throw even when unlit.

CB I Hate Perfume Wild Pansy: This is what spring actually smells like to me. It smells like wet grass, cold dirt, and the first flowers starting to poke through. It’s a very tender scent, and only sweet at the very end. It smells like playing outside as a kid in March and you’re wearing your winter coat but no mittens so your hands are frozen but smell like fresh, sweet soil when you come inside. I can’t wear anything floral but I love this — it’s very gentle and mossy. I’ve owned my bottle of this water perfume for over 10 years and it hasn’t gone off!

I guarantee the richest girl you went to high school with loves this now

If you want to get fancy and need a non-groundbreaking fruity floral for spring, Diptyque Baies is not Queen Basic for nothing. It’s very bridal-shower-at-a-rich-lady’s-house, and while that scenario is my own personal hell, I definitely don’t object to my bathroom smelling like it. Consider the room spray instead of the candle.

Molton Brown Delicious Rhubarb and Rose Bath & Shower Gel: Wild Pansy perfume aside, this is as floral as I get. It’s more zesty than sweet. It smells like bathing in a nice rosé minus all the Scott-and-Zelda headache. They make it in a candle too but I prefer the shower gel — I think the candle would be too sneezy for me.

HerberryCandles Cilantro: You either love cilantro or hate it and I absolutely love it, but it’s very hard to find a true cilantro scent. I finally found a candle that nails it: just cilantro, all by itself, not having to share the spotlight with pineapple or some other assigned dance partner. I put this on our kitchen shelf and every time I walk by, my brain turns into a cartoon animal smelling a pie cooling on a windowsill.

Beauty Pie Clean House: I’ve reviewed this candle before. It’s a mainstay at my house year-round, but it’s especially nice in the spring. They recently upgraded the size and made the glass prettier, a fate I would have preferred for my old friend KOTO.

RIP/honorable mention: the very best “fresh cut grass” candle I’ve ever found was Votivo Deep Clover but they discontinued it. You can sometimes find the candle or room spray on eBay for ~$20 if you want to join me in being obsessive about it. (I bought one last week.)

See you at the crossroads
08 Apr 17:11

my partner made a latchhook featuring JLP and our cat has...

by ajlobster
Kate

Needed to add something to the shares to balance out Robby's highbrow stuff.

#catcontent





my partner made a latchhook featuring JLP and our cat has claimed it

22 Mar 16:08

my employees ignore my wife

by Ask a Manager
Kate

lmao that post script.

This post, my employees ignore my wife , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I own a small business, with about seven people working in our local office. My wife runs accounts payable, accounts receivable, payroll, and handles all the books. Besides my wife and me, there is my assistant and four IT techs. We are all within the 25-36 age range, with my wife and I the oldest.

We used to be in a very small office, so my wife would work from home. Early last year, we moved into a new office where there finally was space for everyone. But then Covid hit, so my wife only started working in the office in August. Besides her regular tasks, she also now takes care of things around the office such as ordering coffee, milk, etc.

My wife, my assistant, and I work in one area of the office, while everyone else works in a different large room. However, the other employees need to walk past our area a lot, especially when they come to talk to me. And we have to pass their area a lot when we go to the kitchen, etc.

My wife is very friendly. She walks into the office in the morning and says “good morning” and she is ignored. If she passes an employee and says “hi,” 95% of the time she is ignored. The only employee who says good morning on a regular basis is my assistant. But they have no problem coming to her to tell her that we need more milk, or if they have a business-related request. My wife says that “it’s ironic that the office that she feels the most uncomfortable in is her own office.” When she used to work at other offices, people were friendly with her. And the two of the employees who don’t work out of the office itself but stop by once in a while to pick up things do say “hi” to her when they walk past her office.

I thought at first that it may be because they are intimidated by the boss’s wife. But while she may not be the most outgoing person, she has a very easy, friendly personality. And shouldn’t they be more afraid of getting on the bad side of the boss’s wife?

To be honest, sometimes when she is under pressure for a deadline, she can be super-focused at work and not that talkative, but when she says a direct good morning, there should be at least a response.

It has reached a point where she does not want to come to the office anymore because of all the times she is ignored.

To add insult to injury, it happens with clients too. My wife sits in in the office just next to my office, with her door wide open. Directly outside my office is where my assistant sits. A lot of times, when clients visit me, they of course acknowledge my assistant as she is sitting right outside my door. But they almost never acknowledge my wife. This is even if my wife is standing near my assistant when they walk in. And a lot of these clients know that she is my wife. One morning, the client walked in, said “good morning” to my assistant, and completely ignored my wife who was standing four feet away.

Any ideas or suggestions? How can my wife be more comfortable in her own office? Why in the world is she being ignored?

I think you both are taking this far too personally!

The most likely scenario is that people are just focused on their own stuff, not deliberately freezing her out.

But it’s also possible that this is about the fact that she’s the boss’s wife. The social dynamics with the boss’s spouse are often going to be weird. That’s just the reality of having your spouse work in your business.

Or who knows, it’s also possible that they do dislike her! But since actively snubbing the boss’s spouse generally isn’t the smartest career move — and would take pretty bad judgment — my guess is people are just caught up in their own work. Maybe they don’t feel terribly warmly toward her, but that’s okay.

If I’m wrong and these are active attempts to snub her, then something has gone very wrong: Has she alienated them in some way or done something that’s made them feel their trust was violated? Has her tendency to be “super focused” translated as rude? I don’t know what it is, but if people are going out of their way to be rude to the boss’s spouse, something is going on.

But the fact that she feels clients are also snubbing her makes me think that no one is, and instead she’s just reading way too much into how people do or don’t greet her. It’s very unlikely that your clients are deliberately ostracizing her! It’s much more likely that they’re there to get some business done, and they greet your assistant because she is your assistant and sits right outside your office (and may have been the one to set up their appointment, etc.) but they don’t greet your wife because she’s not part of what they’re there for.

If this is not true about clients, that would mean your wife has somehow alienated them to the point that they are deliberately ignoring her, which would be an extreme response … and if your wife is pissing off both clients and staff to the point that they are pointedly freezing her out, you both need to figure out what’s causing that. But that’s probably not the case; it’s far more likely that your clients — and everyone else — are just focused on their own stuff, and she is taking that too personally.

Ultimately, you just can’t have this kind of social expectation or hurt feelings when you have your spouse working in your business. Bringing a spouse in only works if you’re both able to stay low-key about it and accept that the dynamic might be a little weird for everyone. If your employees are doing their jobs well and are reasonably pleasant to work with, they’re meeting their obligations to your business, and the best thing you and your wife can do is to not stress about greetings.

P.S. When Jennifer of Captain Awkward and I were looking at letters for our collaboration last week, she pointed out this could be a Sixth Sense situation, and that is worth considering as well.

05 Mar 22:03

manager’s toxic positivity, why you can’t badmouth your boss in an interview, and more

by Ask a Manager
Kate

#4 - guesses on which musician? Also, what does the LW expect Alison to say in the event the optics were bad? "Don't marry him, LW!"

This post, manager’s toxic positivity, why you can’t badmouth your boss in an interview, and more , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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

1. Manager’s toxic positivity is getting us down

I’ve been a high school teacher for about 15 years. Obviously, everything about education has had to be drastically adapted in the past year and many of us are still struggling to keep up with the constant changes in expectations, combined with our own family crises. My new principal sends daily emails dripping with toxic positivity, such as pointing out the beautiful weather that we should be thankful for, or encouraging us to take time to practice self-care. These instructions are starting to feel more like extra responsibilities, especially when coupled with “here are three articles I thought you’d all enjoy reading before tomorrow’s staff meeting.” I sort of understand that she’s trying to keep our spirits up, but honestly, most of us would rather just not get an email like that at all. It’s just one more thing to see in the inbox and have to read, you know?

In staff meetings, we’re put in breakout rooms on Zoom to share our self-care ideas with each other, when we’d rather discuss professional things like concerns about specific students’ progress (face-to-face discussions with colleagues, even remote ones, are so much more valuable than emails for this sort of thing), so we feel like it’s wasting and disrespecting our time. Our union representative for the school has the responsibility of bringing teacher concerns to the principal, and she forwarded an article about toxic positivity which clearly outlined several examples of behavior she was guilty of, with the tip that several teachers felt bombarded in this way by her emails. Since then, nothing has changed. Can you suggest some ways to deal with this?

Yeah, I’m thinking someone who thinks this is a good idea isn’t necessarily going to stop just because she hears secondhand (even from a union rep) that some people don’t like it; it’s too easy to dismiss as, “Oh, maybe a couple of people don’t like it.”

How receptive is your principal to feedback? Ideally you and other teachers would tell her directly that you’d rather use meetings to discuss work-specific concerns and you’re not finding the self-care break-outs helpful. I’d focus your capital there rather than on the daily emails (annoying as those sound) because in theory you can skip the emails or quickly skim them, whereas the staff meetings use significant time and sound excruciating.

As for how to deliver that feedback, it depends on how communication usually works there, but one option is for a group of you to raise it at the next staff meeting — maybe at the end of a meeting and framed as a request for the next one. One person will have to be the first to speak up, but if you decide ahead of time that others will chime in with agreement, it’ll probably have more of an impact than hearing it secondhand.

2. Why is it taboo to tell an interviewer you’re job-searching because of your manager?

I was reading an article this morning talking about how managers are the reason people leave jobs. Not the first time I’ve heard this or experienced it. If people are always leaving jobs because of their managers, why is it such a taboo to use it in interviewing as a reason why you’re leaving your job?

The big thing is that the interviewer doesn’t know you well enough to know if your assessment of your boss is reasonable or if you were part of the problem. For example, if you say your boss was a micromanager, maybe she managed you closely because your work wasn’t great and required a lot of oversight. Maybe you have unrealistic expectations of a boss or you’re a prima donna or impossible to get along with. (Think about some bad employees you’ve known and what complaints they probably had about their managers.) It’s not that interviewers don’t know there are legitimately bad bosses out there; it’s that they have no way of knowing what the other side of this particular story is. And while good interviewers will of course know your account could be entirely correct and objective, it raises enough of a question mark that they’ll have to wonder, and it’s not in your interests to have those sorts of questions hanging over you.

Also, rightly or wrongly, the convention most of us have been taught is that it’s considered indiscreet and a little tacky to badmouth a previous employer. So if you do, your judgment will feel somewhat questionable.

More here.

3. Did I cheat on this hiring test?

I am writing about an interview experience I had a few years ago that I think about often. I work (more loosely now, but strictly back then) with data, and I interviewed at a company that, after the initial phone screen, asked me to do an at-home Excel exercise and then come on-site the next day to continue the testing, all of which was based in Excel, and the finished product was a worksheet I submitted. The exam asked about some obscure macros and formulas, and I used the Help tool within Excel (you might remember him as the little paper clip!) during the exam to clarify some of the details of the formulas they were asking about. It was the kind of thing where you would need baseline familiarity with the concept to even set up the formula, which I had, but sometimes the correct order and definition of the variables needed a little bit of refreshing.

Was this a huge error? Could they “tell” somehow that I used the paper clip to help me? Would that have been construed as cheating? I had a hard time thinking so at the time because there is no planet on which someone would have to use Excel at work but wouldn’t have the help tool or even the broader Internet at their disposal. I think about it a lot because they completely ghosted me after this interview — which between the at-home and on-site portions took about four hours of my time (that is what it was anticipated to take), so it stung and felt like I completely wasted my time. And in fact, when I called the hiring manager to follow up about the position after many emails being ignored, he straight up hung up on me as soon as I said who it was on the phone.

Nah, that’s not cheating. You used the tools that were available to you through the program itself! That’s fine. And if for some reason they didn’t want you do that, they could have said so. I doubt they could even tell you did, but if they did see it and objected to it, they would have just concluded you didn’t have the expertise they wanted and that would that — it wouldn’t be cheating or something that would get you hung up on in outrage!

The hanging up, by the way, was incredibly rude (obviously), but it was almost certainly about him being caught off-guard/panicking/not knowing what to say to someone he’d been avoiding because he’s incapable of delivering a professional rejection (but very capable of being a jerk).

4. Will it look bad that I’m earning an upper-level nonprofit salary and married to a millionaire?

I am mid-level management at a nonprofit that has a religious slant. The organization pays well for the nonprofit world and the culture of the organization is not without its flaws, but the pros far outweigh the cons (and their handling of Covid has been amazing).

The issue at hand is that I am now engaged. My fiancé is a musical artist with a loyal fanbase and has earned a net worth in the lower level millions. He also lives a very modest lifestyle so what he’s been able to save and invest has garnered quite a bit in returns.

I am good at my job and have worked and will continue to work my way up in this company. I am worried about the optics from the public should anyone make the connection between me and my husband once we are married. I know I am well worth what I am paid, but all of us are worried about any possible backlash from me being married to a millionaire and making a higher level salary in a nonprofit organization.

Am I overthinking this? Is there a way to potentially spin this if someone investigates our financials and decides this seems wrong? I would hate for my presence to bring any negative press to an amazing organization.

Yes, I think you’re overthinking it. There are plenty of people working in nonprofits who are married to high-earning spouses or have family money; it’s not scandalous! In fact, it’s no one’s business. (Interestingly, it’s especially common among fundraisers, at least in some parts of the sector.)

Your salary is set based on your employer’s salary structure and the market rate for the work within your field. There’s no norm that organizations shouldn’t hire people who don’t “need” the money, and there’s no expectation that you should turn down a job or a salary for that reason either. Your salary isn’t a charitable gift from your employer; it’s appropriate compensation for the work you perform. Anyone who took issue with you being paid the same as others at your level simply because of your personal finances would be a real outlier.

5. How do I thank my manager without seeming like a suck-up?

Two members of my family died of COVID within a month of each other. Needless to say, it was devastating and I’m only now coming around to feeling somewhat “normal.”

My manager was TERRIFIC through the whole thing. Our official policy is three days of bereavement leave but she basically reduced my workload to no more than 1-2 hours a day for two whole months telling me “only do these tasks when your personal stuff is taken care of.” They were very easy and low priority tasks—much simpler than the complex tasks I normally do. I made my full salary during this time.

Long story short, I reached the point I was READY and excited to return to my regular work, which requires a high degree of concentration and thought and have pretty much gone back to being the good worker I was before.

During our 1:1’s, I’ve thanked my manager for being so helpful and understanding. Is that enough? I feel like I should do something more for her for being so exceptionally understanding during a really bad time for me but also don’t want to make her feel weird or seem like I’m being a suck up (reviews are coming up).

Just thanking her is enough! That said, was it like a one-sentence “thanks for being so understanding” or was it something a little more substantial? If the former, you could go back now and say something more substantial — or, even better, you could put it in a written note. Managing can sometimes be a relatively thankless job, and notes like that are often cherished for years. (I have a file of them that I look at from time to time, and it really does mean a lot.)

You’re not going to seem like a suck-up if you do that! It’s a gracious thing to do.

23 Feb 18:10

update: my new team is taunting me because I have a nut allergy

by Ask a Manager
Kate

oh dang a truly satisfying update

This post, update: my new team is taunting me because I have a nut allergy , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Remember the letter-writer whose new team was taunting her because of her nut allergy? She had repeatedly found Snickers bars lined up on her desk, and her manager knew and wasn’t stopping it — and thus become a Worst Boss of the Year nominee. Here’s the update.

I just wanted to say a massive thank you for your advice. I genuinely was going to quit a job that I have been in for years and that I love over it. Your advice and comments from readers gave me the confidence to tackle it.

I did approach HR, who advised me to speak to my boss if I felt I was being bullied. Obviously that wasn’t feasible as the boss was fully aware of what was going on.

I scheduled a meeting with the head of site who is second-in-command to the CEO and laid out everything that been happening — the bullying, but also the toxic environment.

I was promoted to implement training and coaching because the department wasn’t performing and it was having a knock-on effect on other departments and ultimately customers. He wasn’t aware of any of the issues with the department — it’s a small department which has flown under the radar for years.

He promised me the situation would be investigated and to log every single incident in an email to him personally. I felt incredibly stupid having to send email after email listing the many incidents that occurred. But I logged everything.

He came in personally one morning to catch the person putting the nuts on my desk. She was fired instantly. It was the boss’s right-hand woman who believed she should have got the promotion not me, and this was her attempt to make me leave.

The boss was suspended pending investigation. It turns out that for the last four years, he has not been doing any paperwork — return to works, 1:1’s, PDP, CPD’s, nothing. During the investigation, they also looked into staff turnover and there have been numerous accusations of bullying which have been ignored and a high number of staff have quit. He resigned last week before they could fire him, and I know it’s unkind but I’m absolutely thrilled!

It’s been hard work making changes within the department. There has been some pushback and major changes have needed to be made. Two staff have quit because they now actually need to perform. But we have two staff from different departments and a new manager who are all incredible. The head of site has been incredibly humble about it, which I did not expect. He apologized and acknowledged this should have been picked up years ago and assured me that going forward the business will be putting more measures in place to ensure it can’t happen again.

11 Feb 16:53

my employee told me “I prefer not to” when I tried to give him a new project

by Ask a Manager
Kate

lolol A+ Bartleby reference.

This post, my employee told me “I prefer not to” when I tried to give him a new project , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

A reader writes:

I am a senior manager in an industry highly affected by the pandemic (performing arts). Because we are affiliated with a parent organization, we have not suffered the same budget cuts as many of our peer institutions, and have been lucky to retain all of our benefits-eligible staff throughout at their pre-pandemic compensation. Of course, many people are under-employed or have been asked to pivot in new directions temporarily. We’ve been up-front that we can’t adjust compensation at the moment — but again, all of our peer institutions have gone through multiple rounds of layoffs, salary cuts, and/or furloughs, and no one is being underpaid for the field. Nor have any of the pivots been dramatic — no one is managing additional employees or budgets or anything.

Most people have been amazing and willing to learn new skills (figuring out how to adapt for a virtual environment). Some people (including me) have complicated caregiving situations at the moment, and we have been flexible and accommodating given the pandemic.

Today I got a response that really baffled me. I sent a cool opportunity to collaborate with a partner agency to a direct report of mine who I know is currently under-employed. (He’s non-exempt and has been clocking in for a shorter average week than he’s budgeted for. I’ve asked and this is not due to a change in his home schedule, but rather just due to not having as many projects as usual.) It would be working with people at his level doing something slightly beyond the scope of what he usually does for us, but in line with his existing skills and talents. It should not take more time than he has available, and of course would all be on the clock and paid. He replied “thank you for thinking of me, I would prefer not to.”

I don’t know what to do with this. “I would prefer not to” seems like … an incredibly inappropriate response? I would never have dared! The only thing I could think of is if one of the people at the other agency is someone he can’t work with, but even so he could have disclosed that.

Questions that are swirling for me:
– Is there some generational difference? Does he think he’s setting an appropriate boundary? (I’m GenX, he’s a Millennial.)
– Is it unfair for me to think that our employees should be grateful to still be employed and therefore jumping at the chance to do literally anything? I am not trying to be exploitative, but is this something where I’m wildly out of step with the norms?
– I think this reflects badly on him! Is that fair?

I think it’s possibly symptomatic of a larger disconnect, as I feel so fiercely loyal right now, given the disruption to our industry.

I wrote back and asked these questions:

1. Is he still being paid for full time work even though he’s working less than that?
2. How far outside his usual role is the project you suggested?
3. Is it anything that a lot of people find unpleasant/uncomfortable — like public speaking, sales, etc.?

The response:

1. He’s a part-time employee, budgeted for 25 hours a week. He’s currently working closer to 17 on average. In the first 6 months, we paid part-timers up to their schedule, though we are now just paying for time worked (but have encouraged things like professional development workshops and networking on the clock for those who are coming up short on hours). I am not aware of any other gigs or responsibilities on his plate.

2. It’s basically the same role, just on a different project. His regular job is running two programs, one of which is on hiatus entirely and the other of which has pivoted to virtual. I can’t imagine this project would require anything that he hasn’t done with the other programs.

3. Nope! No sales, no public speaking, nothing that raised a red flag for me at all — unless there’s something about the partner organization or a person there that I don’t know anything about, but I would hope he would have brought that up to me. And it would of course all still be virtual.

Okay, well, Bartleby the Scrivener is alive and well and working for you! This is very exciting.

I agree that a flat “I would prefer not to” when asked to take on a new project that you clearly have room for in your schedule is not usually a thing that’s done. It’s is fine to say “I would prefer not to because of X — is it something someone else could do?” or so forth. What’s weird here is the complete lack of anything else in his response.

Is this guy, by chance, very literal? Is he someone who’s normally not super forthcoming with context or details without prompting? If so, I’d just figure this is in keeping with what you already know about how he communicates. Odd, but not necessarily alarming.

Or, could your wording have given the impression that you weren’t saying “here’s a project I’d like to assign you” but rather “is this something you’d be interested in and excited about?” If it was the latter, maybe he just took at at face value and gave you a literal answer. (His wording would still be a little … sparse, but not everyone speaks Office really well.)

In any case, regardless of the explanation, the next step is the same — go back to him and talk some more: “I was hoping you’d be up for taking on the X project because of (reasons). Can you tell me a little more about why you’d prefer not to?”

Who knows what you’ll hear. Maybe he’s happy with his decreased hours and doesn’t want to add to them. Maybe he’s stressed AF right now and having to learn something new in the middle of it is more than he can take. Maybe he feels like his role has already expanded more than he’s comfortable with and he’s trying to set a boundary (unskillfully, but still). Maybe his family has an intense blood feud with the family of the person he’d be collaborating with. Or maybe he just misunderstood and thought you were gauging his interest level. Who knows — but ask. From there you’ll have a better idea of where to go next.

And it’s still your prerogative to just assign him the work if you need to, although you shouldn’t do that without finding out where he’s coming from.

To answer your questions:

– Is it a generational difference? I don’t know, it could be! I’m Gen X like you and a flat, context-less “I’d prefer not to” seems bizarre to me too. I think a lot of generational stereotypes are BS, but it’s true that there’s a trend toward younger employees advocating for themselves more … which is a good thing when it’s done well (the problem here is that it wasn’t). There’s also more discussion in the culture about setting reasonable boundaries with employers, although I don’t know that it’s really happening more in practice.

– Is it unfair for you to think your employees should be grateful to still be employed and thus happy to do literally anything? Well … yes and no. Being grateful for employment in an industry that’s facing massive cuts is one thing, but being grateful to a specific employer is a different thing — your organization isn’t keeping people employed out of altruism, but because it’s presumably good for your business. It does sound like you’re going out of your way to treat people well and you deserve kudos for that, but don’t fall in the trap of expecting employees to be grateful to the organization itself. That’s a recipe for all kinds of messed up dynamics where people feel pressure not to act in their own interests. And “happy to do literally anything” — I think that was probably hyperbole, but in general during circumstances like these most employees will be glad to be able to contribute productively as long as the work is reasonably within the scope of what they signed on to do. Some will be glad for opportunites outside that scope as well, but not always — and that’s not unreasonable.

If this is the same role your employee has been doing all along, just on a different project — and still virtual and within the hours he’s agreed to work — it sounds pretty reasonable to think he’d take it on.

– Is it fair for his response to reflect badly on him? Too early to say! Talk to him and learn more before you conclude anything.

– Is it symptomatic of a larger disconnect because you feel fiercely loyal right now, given the disruption to your industry? It could be! In situations like this, some people will respond like you have — with increased loyalty and a determination to work hard, given all that’s going on around you. Other people won’t — sometimes because they aren’t that committed to the industry to begin with, sometimes because they have other things in their lives they’re focusing on — and that’s okay. Both responses are legitimate; they’re just reflective of people coming from different places.

But talk to him and see what’s going on.

22 Jan 17:08

MasterClass Review!

by grace at the stripe
Kate

Have been loving MasterClass but so far we have just watched cooking ones. I've got to check out the Bobbi Brown classes!

MasterClass Review

This post was originally published this past winter but I have updated it as I’ve taken quite a few new classes and it’s something that comes up quite a bit in today’s episode of Bad on Paper, which (in the spirit of back to school)  is all about the importance of being a lifelong learner. Becca and I had both separately renewed our Masterclass subscriptions and are huge fans of the platform… we both talk about our favorite classes in the episode but it’s one of my favorite ways to learn something new and they’re constantly adding new classes.

I have talked about Masterclass in my 2021 goals post and also on the podcast, but a big goal of mine is to spend a couple hours a week learning something new or exploring an interest. It can be any interest or random thing I’m feeling curious about, but I think that continuing to learn is so so important. For me, this looks like watching more documentaries, listening to educational podcasts, reading non-fiction, actually reading all those beautiful art books, and of course… MasterClass!

MasterClass Review

I love MasterClass – it’s been a great way to pass the time during quarantine, and I have learned so much from taking their classes.

What is MasterClass

MasterClass offers courses for students of all skill levels, across a realllllly wide array of interests: everything from screenwriting (Becca LOVED Shonda Rhimes’ class) to writing thrillers (Dan Brown has a course!), interior design to cooking (there are so many really specific cooking courses) and beyond. If there’s something you are even vaguely interested in, there is probably a MasterClass for it! A one year membership is $180 ($15/month but it’s billed all at once) and with that you get access to TONS of classes. There are a lot of online courses out there but in my opinion, MasterClass is the best one.

You can stream Masterclass video anywhere (I like to watch them on my TV) or even download the courses to watch them offline, and each course is also accompanied by a PDF workbook. There is literally everything you could ever want to learn about… from acting with Natalie Portman and comedy with Steve Martin to the nerdier more niche stuff (I’m kinda tempted to take Space Exploration with astronaut Chris Hadfield?).

And it never gets old: every month they add new classes. This month they added several new ones but I’m particularly excited to learn more about the science of sleep with Matthew Walker. Also: Art and creativity with Jeff Koons!

How MasterClass Works

Once you get a membership, you can take any class and watch Masterclass courses at your own pace. The classes feature pre-recorded content, broken down into short lessons. Each course is about 3.5 hours of video, which in my opinion is manageable enough to not be intimidating… but still enough time to go deep. On average, each course is about twenty lessons, and each lesson is about 10 minutes long. It’s easy to take one or two during your lunch break, or first thing in the morning to get inspired, etc.

One thing that Becca mentioned on the podcast today is that she knows a lot of people who will listen to Masterclass without the video… like you would for a podcast. You can’t do that for all of them (some are really visual) but it would work for a lot of the courses.

The Best MasterClass Courses

Here are a few of the best (in my opinion!) MasterClass courses. Note that this is just a quick list, and as I take more courses (I’m pretty hooked!) I will absolutely update this! (Please leave your favs in the comments section, if you’re a member!)

Effective Communication with Robin Roberts

A few of you suggested taking this course and I was so excited for it.. I am always trying to improve my communication skills, especially for the podcast and the interviews that we do there.  So I really enjoyed this course. I will say that (as with a lot of Masterclass courses) she definitely gets to the good stuff in the end. The segment on TV interviews was probably the most impactful for me when it came to purely tactical advice, as were the last couple segments about optimism. I love how she says that optimism is a muscle that gets stronger the more you use it!

Interior Design with Kelly Wearstler

This was the first MasterClass I ever took. I have several of Kelly’s books (and a lamp) and love her style and taste. I learned a lot from this, especially around creativity and defining your aesthetic.

Screenwriting with Shonda Rhimes

I will admit that I have not personally watched this one (and honestly I probably won’t, as it isn’t high on my list of priorities/interests) but Becca swore by this one up and down and said she learned so much from it before she wrote RomComPods. I will take her word for it!

Creativity and Leadership with Anna Wintour

I mean, talk about learning from the best. To get to get this level of access to Anna is very cool. She shares her management tips, decision making tips, and advice for developing your own personal brand and vision. I really loved this one.

Malcom Gladwell teaches Writing

Malcom Gladwell is one of my favorite writers (he wrote The Tipping Point and Blink, amongst other things) so I loved hearing from him. From research to character development to grabbing and holding your readers’ attention, this book has it all. I will note that Masterclass has a TON of writing courses, I hope to eventually take them all. There is creative writing with Margaret Atwood, writing thrillers with Dan Brown, writing with James Patterson, fiction and story telling with Walter Mosley, more story telling with Neil Gaiman… I could go on! If you want to up your writing game, MasterClass is definitely for you – you can learn from so many of the greats!!!

Bobbi Brown teaches Makeup and Beauty

I loved this one. Bobbi Brown is a genius when it comes to beautiful, natural makeup and her course taught me SO much, just in terms of skills and techniques to applying simple makeup. I loved the smoky eye tutorial in particular as that is something that’s always been challenging for me.

Cooking Techniques with Thomas Keller

Thomas Keller (the chef behind The French Laundry) has a couple different cooking technique classes with MasterClass. I took the class about meats, stocks, and sauces (making dad proud!) but there’s also a great one with vegetables, pasta, and eggs. I am big on the cooking technique classes as they really help you to up your game. Gordon Ramsey has a knife skills class and that is high on my list to take next!

Anna Wintour teaches creativity and leadership

I loved hearing from Anna. Whether or not you like her, she is both a creative visionary and a leader. I’ve always just been curious about her as a person so really enjoyed this. It’s incredible to hear how she makes decisions, nurtures upcoming talent, and built such powerful brands.

Bobbi Brown teaches makeup and beauty

If you ask me, this class alone makes a Masterclass membership worth it. Learning all the makeup basics and techniques from Bobbi Brown was invaluable. From foundation tips and tricks to more advanced stuff like editorial makeup, transitioning from day to night, or creating a statement lip. SO hands on and helpful, way better than Youtube if you ask me.

Sara Blakely teaches self-made entrepreneurship

I loved hearing Sara Blakely’s story. As the founder of Spanx she is actually the youngest female self-made billionaire… pretty incredible. I think anyone even thinking about starting their own business or brand could benefit a lot from this one!

Is It Worth It?

In my opinion, MasterClass is absolutely worth it. A one year long membership is $180. So broken down per month, it’s just $15 per month which is about the same as a Netflix membership. (And frankly, I would like to spend more time watching this and less time on Netflix… but I’m not always sure my brain is ready for that!) If you are disciplined and use it regularly, you can easily take a course or two or even three a month… maybe even more. That’s a lot of learning and a lot of access to some of the most incredible and inspiring people in the world.

I’ll add that it’s probably more valuable to certain interests and careers. Writing is a big one, as is FOOD and cooking. There are also a lot of great courses about entrepreneurship and finding your purpose.

It’s important to note that you can completely try before you fully commit. There is a 7 day free trial and also a 30-day money back guarantee too so if for some reason you are unhappy or hate it, they will refund you in full.

Have you tried Masterclass? What are your favorite classes?

DISCLOSURE: IF YOU BUY SOMETHING THROUGH MY LINKS, I MAY EARN AN AFFILIATE COMMISSION, AT NO COST TO YOU. I ONLY FEATURE THINGS I TRULY LOVE HERE. THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!

The post MasterClass Review! appeared first on The Stripe.

30 Nov 18:32

a happy ending

by Ask a Manager
Kate

While it's never good that the kindness of strangers came to the rescue here instead of reliable and accessible social safety nets, this is still really touching.

We’re not quite into update season yet (that starts December 1), but I thought this letter was a good way to send us off into the Thanksgiving holiday.

This is from a reader who had commented on a post earlier this month about kindness at work, about her sister and nephew who both had Covid. Her sister, a single mom whose ex is behind on child support, couldn’t work while quarantining and wasn’t being paid. The reader had been assisting with her bills and groceries but had nothing left to keep helping with, and a kind coworker had offered some help.

Several other readers got in touch with me to ask they could help and sent along money. Here’s the letter I received on Monday.

Hello AAM community! This is an update to my post on “Kindness at Work” regarding my sister and nephew who both tested positive for COVID. My sister had been unable to work for a month due to quarantine, was struggling to pay bills, get necessities and I was out of funds to help her. A coworker had overheard part of our conversation and gave me a check for her, even though she had a daughter who had been sick and required several medical procedures.

First, I would like to say THANK YOU to all of those who offered my sister assistance. It was truly a blessing for them. With the assistance of the commenters and some additional resources, she was able to pay all of her bills, purchase groceries, get her medicine, get her heater fixed and has a small bit leftover in case anything comes up before she gets paid. She actually returns to work today and her manager is offering her as many hours as she feels up to through the holidays.

I took the morning off after the post and made some calls on her behalf. I called the nutrition department of the school district to inquire about any possible resources, as they had been giving out food boxes for student families during the summer. They have a program to deliver food boxes to student families who are in isolation/quarantine because of COVID. It is a mix of nonperishables and fresh vegetables. They call to let you know they are on the way, put the box on your porch and honk the horn. They were able to order some things online and have them delivered. They will get another box Tuesday or Wednesday. His high school is currently 100% virtual due to a COVID outbreak among the band (100 plus students tested positive), so he may or may not go back next week. He had been home for almost three weeks when that outbreak happened.

I also found out that although her employer does not participate in FFCRA, they have an emergency fund you can apply for. So I had my nephew take photos of her bills and email them to me. Then I put her on speakerphone (at home, not in the office!) and asked her the questions on the online application and typed in the answers. She was approved and they deposited the money into her account.

Using social media, I made contact with my nephew’s paternal grandmother. She said she doesn’t speak to her son much for various reasons and she was quite upset he wasn’t paying his child support. I explained the situation and she wired money to my sister. I gave her my nephew’s phone number (with his and my sister’s permission) and they are talking, texting and video calling each other now.

Things are definitely looking better for them. I don’t think I can sufficiently express my sincere appreciation for the help provided. My sister and nephew are extremely grateful and moved by the compassion that this community showed them. You are awesome people! I’m so glad that I found this site years ago when I wanted to know if I needed to buy my coworker a gift for her third wedding since I had bought gifts for the first two!

Alison- thank you so much for this site! This is not the first time your people have helped other commenters in need and I’m sure it won’t be the last. In case I haven’t said it enough, let me say it again- this is an amazing group of people!

Stay safe AAM community!

Me again. For more ways to help others, please consider donating (food or money) to your local food pantry or using any of the ideas here!

a happy ending was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

29 Nov 02:11

"Was Google’s decision to kill Google Reader actually the key turning point in the destruction..."

“Was Google’s decision to kill Google Reader actually the key turning point in the destruction of western civilization? Kills the decentralized web, gives rise to Twitter and Facebook becoming the algorithmic overlords. Maybe…”

- Vinay Gupta
20 Nov 00:09

How many holes does a straw have?

by noreply@blogger.com (Minnesotastan)
Kate

It's definitely two. A coffee cup has one, and if a straw had just one hole it would essentially just be a looooong tiny cylindrical coffee cup.

Also all socks have at least one hole.


After you ponder that one, decide whether a coffee cup has a hole.  If you think not, is a coffee-cup-shaped depression in the earth a hole?  For answers (and more questions), start at Neatorama.
13 Nov 19:06

my boss’s boss asked me a fantastic question

by Ask a Manager
Kate

Nice, totally great language/tactic to steal here. There are infinite examples of bad management so it's nice to see some examples of something that can empower a team.

A reader writes:

I wanted to share this amazing question I got from my boss’ boss not too long ago because it stopped me in my tracks, it was so good and helpful.

Setting the scene: My boss Perfuma was enjoying some much-deserved time off for a few days, and we ran into a tricky situation with a handful of customers in a public setting who were upset about how we were advertising our, let’s say, unicorn grooming. I let Perfuma’s boss Glimmer know, and after a little back and forth with some other teams, Glimmer sent me this message:

“About the messy unicorn responses, I don’t want to be prescriptive toward you and the Unicorn Response Team, because I believe you know best in many instances like this. So before moving forward with a plan, I’d like your perspective on two things:
• What do you think Perfuma would recommend in this situation?
• Do you have a different or additional recommendation?”

I have a really great relationship with Perfuma, but we do have dissimilar communication styles and tend to word things differently, given free rein. This is well-known and something of a running joke on the team. So I had to consider how Perfuma would soften the language and touch on broader ideas, as well as how I would focus on facts and transparency.

Anyhow, maybe this isn’t rocket science, but it really impressed me in the moment and helped me organize my thinking a lot. (I think it would have worked if Perfuma and I were peers and Glimmer was our supervisor as well.) I know you get a lot of letters about awful management, I just wanted to share this example where someone really nailed it. Maybe it’ll be helpful to someone in a similar spot!

Yes, this is excellent! In addition to what you noted, it also does all of the following:

* expresses confidence in your and your team’s expertise, rather than being heavy-handed

* bakes in respect for Perfuma’s role as the team’s leader

* makes it clear that she knows your perspective may be different than your management’s and she wants to hear that if so (which is not always clear to people several layers down, and is a signal that can meaningfully affect things beyond this one interaction)

* is perfectly calibrated to make you feel respected and valued

It’s a great approach.

my boss’s boss asked me a fantastic question was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

13 Nov 17:14

what do we do about end-of-year celebrations during the pandemic?

by Ask a Manager
Kate

Anybody's orgs doing something nice this year? I have a hunch one of our board members is going to send us lunch (ie, arrange for lunch deliveries to all WFH staff) on a specified day and that day that will almost 100% guaranteed coincide with an emergency project that destroys the schedules of at least one entire department and renders the gesture moot, because that's Rule #287 of Staff Recognition Initiatives.

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question:

I work for a multinational company. Normally at the end of the year, various geographic offices would have holiday parties/dinners. Obviously this won’t happen this year due to the plague. One of our teams in the UK is investigating online escape rooms, which sounds fun! But are there other ideas people would suggest?

Readers, how are your offices handling the holidays this year? Has anyone found a fun way to celebrate without being in-person?

(Note: I know some folks hate holiday parties even during normal years. For this post, I’m asking that we stay focused on ideas for offices that do want to do something.)

what do we do about end-of-year celebrations during the pandemic? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

06 Nov 15:18

am I going to regret not pursuing a more high-powered career?

by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I graduated from college about two and a half years ago, and have worked at least part time in my field for closer to five years (but have been a full time employee since graduating). I used to have very high career aspirations for myself and always imagined I would be a VP or C-level executive.

I am not sure if it’s the crushing weight of this year, if I am having a reality check on what’s important in life, or something else entirely, but I find myself with little to no career ambition aside from just making a living. I could maybe see myself moving into a managerial role at some point (I currently perform as an informal team lead on several projects and enjoy this aspect of my job), but I truly just don’t have an interest in getting a bigger workload and more responsibility that could potentially take me away from my personal life at the moment. I do want to add that I generally like my job, I have a great team and receive good feedback on my work, and I realize how incredibly lucky I have been in terms of employment this year.

However, in the past months in quarantine, I have found tremendous value added to my life when I’m not working (i.e., nights and weekends) so I can unplug and cook/bake, focus on personal relationships, or work on home improvement projects. Spending the majority of my days in front of my computer feels more and more like I’m wasting my time, and honestly sometimes leaves me feeling resentful. I feel like I might be burnt out, but I am lucky in that my job allows me to completely unplug after work hours (including hard stops in the afternoon), so I’m not constantly surrounded by it. I also am taking some PTO around the holidays for extra time to unwind.

I guess my question here is, should I push myself to pursue the career I once dreamed about? Sometimes I worry that I will regret not achieving my previous career goals (especially since I’m still relatively new to the workforce), but I just don’t seem to have the will to do so anymore.

I don’t think you can conclude anything long-term from this year.

We’re in a highly stressful crisis! Nothing is normal. For lots of us, life as we knew it changed in a matter of days or weeks. We’re separated from family and friends, our safety nets feel far more tenuous, we’ve had to second-guess things we always took for granted (like our ability to get toilet paper), routine encounters have become risky, people are dying needlessly, and in many ways it feels as though we’re living through a slow-motion apocalypse.

Those aren’t optimal conditions for making long-term career decisions.

Or, maybe they are. Maybe with all of that false security stripped away (because it always was false, to some degree), it’s easier to see what matters. Maybe you’re getting a clearer look at what matters most to you, and how you do and don’t want to spend your time.

You don’t need to decide for sure right now. If you feel differently in a year or two or five, you can adjust course then. But don’t push yourself to chase the dreams of old-you, when current-you wants different things. (You have to temper that with knowledge of yourself, of course. If current-you always wishes that yesterday-you had made different choices, you should pay attention to that. But when current-you has been pretty consistent in your values for months on end, that’s pretty reliable info.)

If you had sent me this letter and we were not in a pandemic, I might have suggested that your shift in thinking could simply be a response to having been out of school for a couple of years and learning more about what you do and don’t value at work — something that can be hard to predict with certainty before you’re working full-time — or that it could be worth exploring other companies in your field before concluding anything for sure.

But right now? There’s such an obvious explanation for wanting a lower-pressure job at the moment that I wouldn’t really conclude much about what it means for you long-term. Cut yourself some slack for now, keep finding joy where you’re finding it, and trust yourself to adjust down the road if what you want shifts.

If you’re worried about making decisions now that would cut off that option for you later: You’re probably not going to. You’re not talking about quitting your job in spectacular fashion or letting your work performance lapse in ways that could harm you later. You’re just talking about not pushing yourself to be super driven during a hellish year, and that’s very unlikely to close off the options available to you later. Lots of people have slow starts professionally and are very successful later — and you’re not even talking about a slow start. You’re just talking about giving yourself room to hear and adjust to what you really want. That’s a smart thing, not a reckless one.

am I going to regret not pursuing a more high-powered career? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

05 Nov 16:56

giving people a heads-up before a coworker is fired, telling your boss he’s unapproachable, and more

by Ask a Manager
Kate

Umm, #3 is completely pranking Alison, right???

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

1. Is it okay to give people a heads-up before a colleague is fired?

I am working with HR to let someone go. The person is directly involved in a number of active cross-functional projects.

Typically terminations in our organization are communicated post-event, but I feel a bit like I will be blindsiding several team members. The termination shouldn’t be a major surprise as this individual has had performance issues, including interpersonal issues.

Would you ever recommend giving select team members — potentially managers and project managers — a heads-up that this event is coming so they can somewhat prepare? I thought about communicating it vaguely, e.g. “change is coming that may affect this project,” but that would just create more confusion and paranoia. Or, do I just sit tight and deal with the teams after the deed is done?

As long as you trust the people you’re talking with to be discreet and not share what you tell them with others, you should be able to give a confidential heads-up to managers and project managers when there’s a real need to know. I’d try to avoid sharing it with peers of the person but sometimes it’s unavoidable, depending on the details of the situation — but keep the number of people you discuss it with to a minimum and on a truly need-to-know basis. And ideally this heads-up would be within days of the firing happening — you don’t want colleagues knowing for weeks when that person doesn’t know themselves. (And really, once you know for sure you’ll be letting someone go, you should do it quickly anyway, not let it drag out.)

2. Telling your boss he’s unapproachable

Due to COVID, our company had to lay off some people, and re-org those remaining. I was on a team that got re-orged; as a result, another teammate and I were split from our really great manager, Tom, and given to a totally new one who is the polar opposite personality-wise, Brad. While Tom was very warm, supportive, and easy to talk with, Brad has an overall demeanor that is best described as very serious/intense bordering on cold. He’s not a malicious person, but he’s not someone you ever feel comfortable around. I’m always relieved when our one-on-ones are over.

I have occasional skip-level meetings with his boss and indicated that I found Brad to be rather unapproachable. Next thing I knew, in my next one-on-one with Brad, he asked me point-blank if I found him unapproachable or difficult to bring issues to (the answers being “yes” and “yes”). I was so uncomfortable and basically stuttered for a bit until he moved on. I’m also irritated that his boss clearly told Brad I’d said this. I never specifically said it should be confidential but I guess I assumed that was common sense to at least anonymize the feedback or something.

I’m struggling with how to approach this. I am usually a fairly forthcoming employee overall, and am comfortable giving more concrete feedback like “When you changed that deadline to X, it made it harder for me to do Y” or whatever. But this feels more personal, like attacking the person instead of the work. How do you give actionable feedback on soft skills? Also, is this even my job to deliver it?

Nah, it’s not your job to tell an unapproachable manager that you find them unapproachable. It’s useful if you can, but it’s also the kind of feedback that his own manager should be delivering, and without pinning it on specific people. So his boss messed this up.

Now that it’s out there, though, it might be useful to revisit it in a future one-on-one and say something like, “You asked me earlier about whether I found you hard to bring issues to. I was caught off-guard when you asked, but having had some time to think it over, I do find it difficult to raise some things with you because ____. I feel awkward giving that feedback, but I also didn’t want to ignore the question since you’d asked about it.” Obviously, temper this advice with what you know of Brad; if you think he’d react badly, skip it. But there can be value in having this kind of open discussion if you’re up for it and don’t think you’ll be penalized in some way. And some managers who fit Brad’s description genuinely don’t know they’re putting people off and can become better managers from hearing it. But again, it’s not your job if you’d rather not take it on.

3. In which I am stumped

I’m a newly-promoted manager (yay!), and AAM has been a great resource for me during the last couple months of learning to manage. Lately, I often find myself thinking up resolutions to various scenarios so I can try to be prepared in unexpected or outlandish situations. I’m interested in your take on how to professionally handle something that’s stumped me.

A few jobs ago, I had a coworker with severe priapism (persistent erections not caused by sexual stimulation). He always carried a doctor’s note with him and was extremely open about his condition; usually whenever we had a new hire, he’d take that person aside and explain that if they ever noticed anything, it wasn’t personal. It was a very small company, and since he was a genuinely nice guy, there was never any trouble there.

But it got me thinking on how to navigate something like that if someone with this condition wanted to keep their health private (as would be their right), and a coworker complained of sexual harassment. What could be done then?

Wow, I have no idea! You’ve stumped me. If I were the employer in this situation, I’d consult with a lawyer. But I’d imagine it’s easier to handle it internally within an office; it would be much harder more difficult if the person had a job that required him to deal with various members of the public on a regular basis.

4. Application systems that won’t accept a cover letter

I know the importance of cover letters from your blog, and also because for me in particular, I have a wide variety of experience and it helps me explain which aspects are aligned with the job I’m applying for. However, I recently applied for a job at a major media organization, and the online application system didn’t seem to have a way to attach a cover letter. There was only space for one file (resume), and I kept thinking throughout the process that there might be a place at the end to attach more documents, but of course, you don’t know that for sure until you’ve completed the entire application process. I even paged back through to see if I missed something – I didn’t.

Is this some kind of new normal? If so, and sometimes you don’t get to submit a cover letter (but you don’t actually know that you won’t be submitting one until you’ve completed the process), how do I explain how my experience aligns with the particular job I’m applying for? I thought about PDFing the cover letter and resume together and attaching that as my file, but the system parses your resume into individual jobs. Also, if you later apply for a different job at the same organization, the cover letter would be wrong since it would be for the first job you applied for.

It’s not really a new normal; there have always been employers who just don’t care about cover letters and don’t set up their systems to invite them.

Sometimes when this happens, you can just include a cover letter in the same PDF as your resume, and that’s the best way to handle it. But when there’s no way to do that, that’s a clear sign that this employer doesn’t want cover letters — and if that’s the case, you’ve just got to work with that. It does mean you won’t be able to explain the things a cover letter would let you elaborate on, but that’s the weird choice those employers are making. (I say weird, but certainly some managers simply don’t care about cover letters. I think that’s a mistake for most jobs, but they’re out there.)

5. Can I tell interviewers I’m leaving my job because of how they’ve handled Covid?

Part of the reason I’m job searching is that my management team is getting very antsy about getting us all back in the office. Our CEO is old school and hated the idea of letting us work from home to begin with.

In the event a hiring manager asks my reason for leaving, is this a bad answer? In general, I try to avoid badmouthing any of my previous employers in response to this question. Is there a good way to answer the question to this effect? I imagine discussion of precautions going into a new job is inevitable, but I’m concerned about framing that conversation coming from this angle.

I wouldn’t get into all the details (like that the CEO is old school or hated remote work — ultimately that stuff isn’t the point) but it’s fine to say something like, “My office is reopening faster than I think is safe for our area, and I’m looking at employers that are taking a different approach to the pandemic.” Of course, that will likely screen out employers that are doing the same thing as your current one — but you presumably want to do that anyway.

giving people a heads-up before a coworker is fired, telling your boss he’s unapproachable, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.