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16 August 2017 04:01 - Limpet

Posted by Robot Hugs

New comic!

Maybe this is more aspirational than descriptive.

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16 August 2017 18:19 - 35 Kid Friendly Vegan Recipes

Posted by Richa

Kid Friendly Vegan Recipes . Everyday Easy Meals, Breakfast and Snacks to eat as a family. Hidden Veggies & Beans, Cheesy things, Choose your own toppings!

35 Kid Friendly Vegan Recipes! Everyday Easy Meals, Breakfast and Snacks to eat as a family. Hidden veggies, Cheesy things, Choose your own toppings!

Kids can be tough to feed at times. Let’s try and make it easier with this compilation of kid friendly vegan recipes! If you have a favorite from the blog that you all love, let me know in the comments!

Continue reading: 35 Kid Friendly Vegan Recipes

The post 35 Kid Friendly Vegan Recipes appeared first on Vegan Richa.

Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

Last week’s question about workplace dress codes reminded me of a question I’ve been long meaning to ask.

Let’s say you have a workplace that allows nice sleeveless blouses or dresses. What constitutes acceptable showing of a bra? By this, I don’t mean the actual cups themselves, but the straps. Bras are expensive, and even the best fitting ones don’t always have straps that fit perpendicular to the floor, meaning most of the time they’ll sit a little lower on the top of the shoulder.

I’ve always been under the impression showing a plain white, black, or tan bra strap, depending on the outfit, wouldn’t raise an eyebrow (so long as there aren’t any bows or anything), but I’m curious to know your opinion on this.

Nope, your bra straps shouldn’t show at work. It falls under the “no visible underwear” rule.

Now, no one should freak out if your shirt shifts and they get a glimpse of your bra strap; sometimes that happens.  But if you’re talking about the strap being visible even when your outfit is positioned correctly, it’s probably not an outfit you should wear to work.

That’s not because bra straps are somehow shocking; they’re not. But there are loads of relatively arbitrary rules that go into what we consider professional dress. (For example, why is a skirt okay but shorts of similar length aren’t? Who knows, and yet it’s the case in most offices.) And visible underwear, even something as unexciting as a bra strap, is pretty well-established as Not Professional.

Caveat: As always, your particular workplace may be an exception to this. Workplaces have varying degrees of formality and a single answer can’t account for all possible variations when it comes to something like dress. I’m giving you the answer that’s most often true, but not The Only Answer Everywhere and Always.

is it okay for your bra straps to show at work? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I’ve recently become a manager at my workplace and I oversee two people, both of whom are really great workers and I’m thrilled overall to have them. They both do one thing that really annoys me – when they don’t know how to do something, they immediately ask. I am talking fairly inane things, e.g., how do you tell what page size a poster is in Microsoft Powerpoint or how you drag and drop a folder. They are such bright people that it really surprises me they wouldn’t automatically think to search how to do these things on the internet before coming to me for help. I would like to politely suggest they do this but I’m wondering what the right way to phrase such a thing is. Any ideas?

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

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • How to avoid socializing with a coworker’s kid at work
  • I wasn’t included in a meeting I’d asked to be a part of
  • Hiring manager said he’d call me if his new hire doesn’t work out
  • Can you really leave a job off of your resume?

how can I get employees to find answers for themselves? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Posted by Lou Doench

Happy Wednesday Readers! The Hellions are back in school for the 2017-18 school year. Which means I get my house back from two mopey tweens and one hyperkinetic 8 year old who think it’s too hot to play outside. Bwahahahahaha!

After four hours of deliberation a jury ruled in favor of pop star Taylor Swift in her countersuit against former radio talk show host David Mueller, who was accused of groping Swift at a photo op in 2013. A win for the sight of light against the douchebags!

Japanese born actor Diane Huey, playing Ariel in the touring company of the musical based on The Little Mermaid, got a rude welcome from middle America when the show opened in Memphis…

Diana Huey doesn’t seek out negative social feedback. But too often, it finds her.

That’s what happened one recent day in Memphis, where Japanese-born Huey was set to perform the role of Ariel in a touring production of “The Little Mermaid” at the historic Orpheum Theatre.

Before the show, scrolling through Facebook, she came across outraged comments from Disney fans criticizing the casting of an Asian-American in a role they expected to be played by a white woman. That’s despite the fact that the character is based on an animated film featuring a mythical creature who cavorts with singing crustaceans.

“It’s hard not to take it personally,” Huey said in a phone interview from Nashville in advance of the tour’s visit to Shea’s Performing Arts Center from Aug. 15 to 20. “I had kind of a funky first part of the show and I was like, how do I get out of this? I can’t let that affect me.”

Teen Vogue is once again taking point in the battle against bigotry, explaining How “Nice White People” Benefit From Charlottesville and White Supremacy. 

White people benefit from white supremacy. Period. Peggy McIntosh spelled this out for us in 1989, but apparently we’re still not quite getting it. Her famous piece, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” lays out undeniable ways that it is simply easier to be white in this country, like always having a boss who is a fellow white person, or, you know, being able to eat Skittles at night without getting shot. Most white people didn’t ask for this privilege. Actually, that’s the whole idea. White privilege is an inherent advantage that easily goes unnoticed and unacknowledged. Rather than stuffing down the sense of shame associated with this obvious unfairness, why not work to even the playing field?

Look, getting a job because your name is Geoff is not the same thing as joining the KKK, but that privilege is precisely the thing white supremacists were working to reassert in Charlottesville. They chanted about not being “replaced.” Their very existence is grounded in insisting on a moral claim to this country as a superior race. They want to continue having every possible advantage based on the color of their skin; that’s practically the mission statement. Most white people are at least aware that they benefit from white supremacy, and yet we stuff down these painfully obvious truths, tending to our cognitive dissonance like a paper cut that won’t heal, worrying more about being called racists than the effects of racism itself.

Libby Anne has an answer for Donald Trump’s question from yesterdays pathetic press conference…

In a press conference today Trump posed the following questions:

“George Washington was a slave owner. Was George a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? Do you like him? OK, good. Are we going to take down the statue? Cause he was a major slave owner. Now are we going to take down his statue?”

You do not ask questions like this in a press conference. These are questions you find answers to before you go into a press conference. It just so happens that these questions do in fact have answers. In a strange twist of fate, I answered these exact questions myself in a blog post back in May. In that post, I was responding to an article in which slavery-apologist Doug Wilson posed the same questions. Here is an excerpt:

 

Hey, actual parenting content! Megan Leahy answers a reader question… My 6 Year Old has a Fun Comfortable Life, Why isn’t She Grateful? 

If you follow the Grounded Parents Facebook page (and you should,) then you’ll see a lot of links we share over the course of the week. Here’s a round up…

Renegade Mama responded to this weeks events in Charlottesville… Dear White Women: This is Definitely Us. 

In somewhat more inspiring news,  Toddler Spills Massive Slushee In Target. When Witness Sees Dad’s Reaction, She Whips Out Her Phone. It should be noted that the bar for decent parenting in this story isn’t that high. And readers should consider whether a Mom would be receiving internet acclaim for the same actions.

Our own Steph writes… Sorry, But I’m so Happy World Breastfeeding Week is Over. 

This week’s video is because we can’t not talk about Charlottesville. Stephen Colbert explains what should be an easy choice for the Cheeto Tinted Tyrant.

Featured Image Credit: Mark Tracy Photography

Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I have a question that I’ve been getting mixed advice on from my normal go-to work people.

I don’t have to travel very often for my job, but when I do I’ve generally been by myself or in a group of three or more. Same thing with any business lunches I take. But it’s getting to the point in my job where I will have to do some more short-term business travel (as in hours traveling in a vehicle, not a flight) because of accounts I handle, and I’m handling more and more interactions with vendors at business lunches, and sometimes there’s just no one else going but me and one other person.

The issue is that I have a pretty strong objection to attending travel or lunches by myself if the vendor rep or person I’m with is of the opposite sex. I just honestly am not comfortable with how it might appear to others who don’t know it’s business-related (The company is located in a small town, and it’s not uncommon to see many people who I work with if I go out to lunch.) There’s also the problem that things can happen between consenting adults, and even though that’s the last thing on my mind, I’d prefer to not allow the question to form in anyone’s mind (again, small town, smallish company, lots of scuttlebutt) or to create an opportunity for anything. My husband has also admitted that it would make him uncomfortable too, and holds himself to the same standard I do. My supervisor, who has to travel with me on occasion, is male and close to my age, so that makes it worse.

I have no issue with anyone who doesn’t object to this like I do. But I’ve talked to others (my grand-boss included, who is female) who make it seem like I’m way outside of the norm. Is there a way to tactfully say no in these cases? Am I way off-base here? I searched your site but can’t find much that fits this case.

Yeah, you’re pretty outside the business norm. It’s a normal part of work life to travel and dine with colleagues who might be of the opposite sex. In general, at work the expectation is that you’ll work with other people without regard to what sex they happen to be, because their sex should be irrelevant. You’re there to work and interact professionally.

Declining to do it will potentially limit your professional opportunities and is likely to be at least somewhat of A Thing that gets connected to your professional reputation.

There’s a reason Mike Pence’s refusal to be alone with any woman other than his wife has drawn so much ridicule — and, frankly, offense, given the implications it has for women’s professional access to him vs. the access that men get, and how that hurts women professionally. Unlike him, you’re not disenfranchising others — because men are not a traditionally marginalized group at work — but you’ll be disenfranchising yourself.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t do it. You can do whatever works for you and your marriage. But you’d want to be aware that — like your grand-boss said — it’s not the norm and it’s going to strike a lot of people as odd. To be blunt, it’s going to come across as if you’re injecting Sex Potential in a place where it doesn’t belong, and that’s going to feel very weird to people who weren’t thinking about sex in relation to work conversations at all.

I don’t want to eat or travel alone with people of the opposite sex was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Posted by Ask a Manager

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

1. Our summer intern is awful

We are an extremely small satellite office of larger company which hires a paid intern every year. Usually, these interns have just finished graduate school in our field, and the internship has been a launching board for a number of successes, including many of the current employees. It’s not a coffee-fetching internship; it’s basically a temporary job doing the same creative work as the rest of us.

Our current intern is Not Great. It feels like having a high schooler in the office despite her being in her 20s. She makes rookie mistakes in her work, she takes an extra hour-long break just about every morning and often schedules appointments during work hours, and she just really doesn’t seem to care about making a good impression, doing the best possible job, or this field in general. The rest of us have been trying really hard to make sure that she’s having a positive experience and gaining as much experience and knowledge as she can, but she’s not great at accepting constructive criticism and hasn’t really adapted when we’ve brought up problems. She doesn’t seem willing to work hard and improve, which is what internships are for.

I don’t know if she hates us, hates the job, or just isn’t ready to have a real job with constraints and responsibilities. We have to work with her every day, just the few of us, so anything much harsher than “you need to be fixing these mistakes and behaving professionally and here’s some advice on doing those things” might cause problems for the next several months. Our manager is across the country, so he hasn’t experienced most of the problems firsthand and having him speak with her seems like it wouldn’t be useful. If I had the authority to, I’d be thinking about firing her, but I don’t.

Do we just have to suck it up? Is there a kinder way to say “if you don’t behave professionally and work to improve, this is a tight-knit industry and without recommenders you will leave this internship with worse employment prospects than you came in with”? I know that this is a short-term irritation, but I feel less charitable toward her every day and that makes it harder to keep wanting her to gain everything she can instead of just letting her be unhappy and do mediocre work for the remaining time and then never communicate with her again.

Talk to your boss, lay out the problems, and ask if he’ll deputize one of you to manage her — definitely including giving her clear and direct feedback, and potentially including ending her internship early if she doesn’t make sustained, significant improvements. (Or if he’s a good manager, he could handle this from afar — managers are increasingly managing people remotely, and there’s no reason he can’t address this himself.) If I were your boss, I would be pretty dismayed to find out that no one had told me about these problems.

Beyond that, though, any of you could have the kind of talk with her that you propose — the “hey, this is a small industry and you are hurting yourself professionally and here’s how to fix it” talk. You can frame it as “I want to see you succeed, and I hope someone would say this to me if I were in your shoes.” But I don’t think you should worry about that causing tension for the next few months — you’d actually be doing her a favor by saying something, and it’s unlikely that she’s going to go into a months-long snit. (Although if she does, at that point you can pass that on to your boss as well, and also stop going out of your way to help her out.)

2. My boss asked me to make a PowerPoint to support her raise request

I’m a temporary/contract employee at a medium-size company. When hired, I was told that my position would be temp-to-perm, but was later told that they cannot bring me on as salaried/permanent staff at this time due to budget issues.

Today my manager asked me to create a PowerPoint deck for her. She specifically noted that the deck was confidential. The text she sent me for the deck revealed that this is a personal project for her, as she wants a visual aid to bring to a meeting with HR and senior execs, where she’s asking for a significant raise and a senior role in the company.

Ethically, this feels very wrong. This is a personal project for my manager, which she’s asking me to complete on company time. Personally, it feels like a punch in the gut. Just last month this same manager told me they couldn’t afford to bring me on permanently, and now she’s asking for a raise? (Also, many of the things she’s noted under her accomplishments are tasks that I completed or did the bulk of the work on, but she’s taking credit for!)

My friends say to tell her “No way!” or let her know that I’m not comfortable completing this task. But I need this job to pay my bills, and I’m a temp in an at-will state. My manager could easily say, “We don’t need you anymore” and let me go. (Maybe I could fight it, but that’s still weeks or months where I can’t pay my rent…) What are my options here? Doing the project, quietly billing my time for it, and keeping my mouth shut seems like the only option … but it leaves a really terrible taste in my mouth.

How much time is it going to take? If it’s pretty quick, I’d just do it. It’s an inappropriate request, but that’s on your boss, not on you — and as you note, being a temp makes your position particularly precarious.

But if it would take a significant amount of time that would interfere with other work, try saying, “I’d need to bump back X and Y to fit this in today — do you want me to do that?” The more assertive version of that is “I’ve got to finish X and Y today so won’t have time to do this Powerpoint by when you need it” … but whether to go that way depends on how reasonable your boss is about being told no.

You can also ask, “How should I bill my time for this?” if you’re supposed to log your time to specific projects (but someone who would make this request is likely to tell you to bill it to admin or whatever your general overhead category is).

If it makes you feel better at all, I actually don’t think it’s inappropriate for your boss to spend her own work time on this; making a case for how she’s paid is a work activity (especially since she’s presumably exempt). It’s gross for her to ask you to work on it for her, but if you’re having major ethical qualms about this being her personal project, I do think it’s different from if she was asking you to spend company time doing her kid’s homework or something like that.

3. My boss is insisting I disclose my miscarriage

I became pregnant in the spring. It was a high-risk pregnancy so I didn’t want to disclose it to anybody at work until after the first trimester. At my most recent ultrasound, it was determined that there was no fetal heartbeat. I’ve scheduled an appointment with my doctor to deal with the aftermath. I put in a time off request under sick leave, stating that I had a minor medical procedure that day.

My boss keeps asking what I’m having done, and I keep declining to tell her, just reinforcing that it’s a minor thing and I’ll bring a doctor’s note stating it’s okay for me to return. At the end of the day, she said she wouldn’t approve my request because she “didn’t know when I’d be back,” even though I only requested one day. Per company policy, if I call out after my time-off request has been denied, I’ll be disciplined. What am I supposed to do? This is hard enough for to deal with.

What the hell? Your boss is being awful. Try saying this: “It’s a private medical situation that I don’t want to discuss. Skipping the appointment isn’t possible; it’s medically necessary. Are you saying that I need to disclose private medical information in order to have the time off?” If she says yes, talk to HR if you have them; they should intervene. If your company is small and there’s no HR, I’d seriously consider making up another medical explanation; she’s not entitled to honesty about something that’s none of her business.

4. Etiquette when the wrong person is included on an email

What is the proper etiquette when you are on an email on which someone put the wrong person (e.g., added Billy Smith but meant to add Billy Jones)? Is it better to alert them in private, add the right person yourself, ignore it, or something else? Does it make a difference if the person who made the mistake is your superior, your peer, someone unrelated, etc? What if you are the wrong recipient?

Email the person back and say “I think you meant to send this to Billy Smith but it went to Billy Jones.” That way she can fix it herself and do any follow-up with Billy Jones that needs to be done (to say “hey, please ignore this” or whatever).

If you are the wrong recipient, it’s fine to just respond back with “Wrong Billy! I think you meant this for someone else.”

You can handle it like this for people of any rank relative to yours — although if it’s someone above you, it wouldn’t hurt to also add “I’ll forward it on to Billy Smith.”

5. Should I apologize to my former boss for my role in our bad relationship?

My boss and I always locked horns. She is very good at executing her job but terrible when it comes to managing people. Long story short, I quit. I miss the benefits and the pay and feel like I shot myself in the foot. I haven’t had a job on that level since I quit.

Should I write her an apology for the part I played in our sour relationship? Even if one person is a demeaning jerk, it takes two to tango. I let her bad management bring out the worst in me. I wouldn’t want to work for her again and would mainly be apologizing because it is the right thing to do.

I don’t know enough about what happened between you to know if you have anything to apologize for, but if you believe you do, then yes. There’s no harm in being gracious about the situation, and it could potentially help you in the future (for example, if she happens to know someone who you’re applying for a job with).

I’d just be careful to word it in such a way that you’re not reopening old wounds — don’t rehash the details of what went down or get so into explaining your actions that you put her on the defensive. Focus on the “taking responsibility for my actions” part.

summer intern is awful, boss wants me to make a PowerPoint for her raise request, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.



Sending lots of love to all my friends in Charlottesville VA

Keep Kimchi Cuddles (and my other projects) going strong by becoming a patron! Thank you SO MUCH for your support!! ♥ https://www.patreon.com/kimchicuddles

Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

After the Charlottesville violence, I’ve been watching discussion on one of my professional organization’s Facebook groups and would appreciate your opinion about it.

People are discussing the ethics of figuring out the identities of white supremacists from news photos, and then reporting them to their employers. Apart from the “ethics” of white supremacy, and associated domestic terrorism, what do you think are the HR/management implications?

At first I’d wondered if it was appropriate to report somebody if it would result in his removal from a job for participating in protected political speech. But then, thinking about it longer, I wondered if instead a person would be creating a hostile environment in any job, once his coworkers saw that he’d participated in a protest that argued against the value of races other than white. How could a minority employee be expected to feel safe around someone like that at work?

So, purely on an management basis, what do you think?

I think that as a society we’ve chosen to treat racism, bigotry, and hate speech as different from normal political discourse, and that smart employers will do the same.

I believe strongly your private life is no one’s business but yours, as long as you’re not hurting anyone else. But if you’re publicly espousing hateful, racist views, your employer is entitled not to want to be associated with that or to expose their other employees and their customers to that. (And indeed, in most states there’s no such thing as “protected political speech,” unless it’s about wages or working conditions.)

Whenever this comes up, people ask whether that means that it’s okay for employers to meddle in other kinds of speech too, because it’s important for people to be able to speak out for social or political change without jeopardizing their employment, and what if an employer wanted to discipline or fire someone for protesting against the president or organizing for health care access? But again, hate speech is different, and as a society we’ve chosen to treat it differently.

Everyone in the U.S. has a constitutional right to hold whatever opinions they want to hold, and to voice those opinions as long as they do so peacefully. But that right to free speech means that the government can’t punish them for that speech. Private employers, on the other hand, have the right to say they won’t be associated with hate speech (or in this weekend’s case, violence), and can choose to keep that kind of vileness out of their workplaces. I’d argue that employers who do that — and who choose to stand with their black, Jewish, Latino, Muslim, and other non-white employees — are on solid moral ground.

the ethics of firing racist protesters was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

15 August 2017 16:30 - I hate my new employee

Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I’ve worked for the same organization for about five years. We recently hired a new person who reports directly to me. I was told I’d have some say in the hiring process, which wasn’t true – we only interviewed four people, two of whom decided not to pursue the job further, and the other one had no relevant experience. I wanted to continue our search, but our director insisted the remaining candidate would be fine.

I really don’t like her. Part of it is a personality mismatch, and part of it is that she’s a really immature person. She can’t handle any direction or feedback, however carefully put, without becoming angry and defensive or tearing up. She’s also pretty passive aggressive and will do stuff like CC my supervisor on emails for no reason (that I can see) on pretty straightforward requests that I send her.

She hasn’t been here very long, but we’ve gotten into a cycle where I just try to avoid her, because any instruction I try to give her will make her really defensive (and this isn’t necessarily feedback, it’s really just me trying to teach her the job), while she gets progressively more and more anxious about needing stuff to work on.

I’ve been documenting everything, but I don’t think I’ll get much traction because my immediate supervisor seems to really like her (I think mostly because my supervisor never interviewed the new hire since she was sick that day, and I think is worried that making a bad hire will reflect badly on her).

The new hire isn’t a bad person, I just really don’t want to work with her! I don’t have the energy or the inclination to baby this person, her personality grates on me, she would not have been my choice for this position, and she seems completely unaware of how she’s coming across when she does stuff like CC my boss. I think some of this is rookie job mistakes because she’s pretty young, but I’m not sure how I’m supposed to manage this person when just interacting with her makes me cringe.

Any advice? She hasn’t done anything fire-able and actually has a good work ethic, but if she quit tomorrow I’d be overjoyed.

You can read my answer to this letter at New York Magazine today. Head over there to read it.

I hate my new employee was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I’ve got a question regarding how much “mistake tolerance” is expected in the workplace.

Just to give you some background, I’m a (tech) team lead, which, in my case, means my daily job is not very different from that of other team members, except for the part that I get to make technical decisions concerning the projects we are doing. That includes, deadlines, technologies, methodologies, features to be included, etc. and most importantly, I decide whether a piece of work by any team member is acceptable. However, I don’t “manage” people; that is, I don’t give time off, I don’t give them feedback, I don’t decide their raise, etc. There’s a manager to do that.

Now to the main question. I have very low, almost zero, tolerance for mistakes. Whenever I see a mistake in anyone’s work, especially trivial ones, I will get very angry. The rationale in my head is always “We have ONE job and one job only, and that’s to get this done! No excuses.” As such, I will remove the person from the project, in addition to having a detailed (sometimes heated) conversation with both the person and our manager on why such mistakes are not allowed in my team.

So how bad is this? I know my intolerance could probably be attributed to some sort of OCD, and sort of know it is not good. But I just cannot forgive mistakes easily. Do you have any advice?

Yeah, what you’re doing sounds pretty bad.

I see two issues here: First, your expectations about normal amounts of errors are off. And second, you’re taking it really personally when mistakes happen and you’re having an emotional reaction where one isn’t warranted, rather than handling it professionally. (Which, as people are pointing out in the comment section, is a mistake in itself! So there’s some irony there.)

On the first issue, people are going to make mistakes because you work with humans, not robots, and humans make mistakes. If someone makes a mistake occasionally, that is normal — and you should see it as normal and not an outrage. Perhaps you’re the very rare person who truly never makes mistakes in your work. If so, you’re something of a unicorn. That’s not typical. If you are that unicorn, good for you — that’s a rare talent. But if you want to work with other people, you have to recognize that you’re not normal; if you expect others to be unicorns too, no one will want to work with you, because you’ll be out of touch with reality.

Now, obviously there’s a point where someone is making too many mistakes. And that brings us to the second issue, which is how to handle it when that happens.

Right now, you’re reacting very emotionally: you’re getting angry and having heated conversations. There should rarely be any need for that at work, and by doing it, you’re almost certainly alienating people and making no one want to work with you. That’s a big deal — not only are you making working with you a bad experience for other people, but you’re also impacting your own professional reputation. That will matter when you’re looking for a promotion, a raise, or a new job, or even just when you want to be included on something that other people don’t want to work with you on.

Here’s the thing that you’re losing sight of: At work, you have the tools you need to solve problems calmly and rationally. Getting angry and emotional says to other people that you don’t know how to do that. It makes you look out of control, and it can make you look inept. You don’t want that.

Your goal needs to be to solve the problem, not to punish people or let them know how wrong they are or how much they frustrated you. Instead of having a heated reaction, you just need to deliver information calmly and clearly.

That means that if someone makes a single mistake, all you need to do is say something like this: “I found mistake X. Can you take a look at it and fix it for me today?” If relevant, you can add, “Let me know if you’re not clear on what I’m talking about and I can walk you through it” and/or “Can you figure out how that happened so we can make sure to avoid it in future rounds?”

And if someone makes mistakes regularly, that’s a pattern you need to talk to their manager about, since their manager is responsible for addressing it. And that should be a calm, matter-of-fact conversation — as in “Fergus is regularly making mistakes like X and Y. I’ve pointed it out to him, but it’s continuing to happen and I’m concerned about the pattern. It’s causing me to have to redo his work and making me reluctant to keep him on the project.”

But there’s almost no reason to ever have a heated conversation over a mistake. This stuff shouldn’t be so emotional.

If you find that you can’t control your emotions about mistakes, it’s probably worth exploring with a competent therapist — because a pattern of strong negative reactions to something that doesn’t warrant that intensity is usually connected to something more deeply rooted, and likely isn’t about work at all.

I get angry when my coworkers make mistakes was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Posted by Ask a Manager

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

1. My boss chastised me for forwarding some of her emails

My boss is in the habit of sending emails that fall in the category of “asking me to ask someone else to do something/a question/etc.” I am perfectly fine with this as I understand my job is to carry out what she asks and I am often a liaison for her on matters at my location or with certain departments.

In the past (at other companies/jobs too) I have often forwarded requests with my summary of the request in my message. My reasoning is to leave the forwarding chain below just in case the recipient of my message wants to understand context/doesn’t get my request or my request carries more weight if the recipient can see that my superiors are asking for whatever it is.

The problem is, my current boss has chastised me for doing this, because a couple of times she has, far down in the email chain, said something she is embarrassed about or talked about someone. I hadn’t thought of this because her comments weren’t explicitly bad but just might be interpreted as a little unprofessional. I was wondering is it bad form always to keep a chain below my summary? Or is it a situation where I just need to comply with her desire to have nothing forwarded because she doesn’t do what I do, which is basically don’t email anything you don’t want a colleague seeing?

Well, at a minimum you need to comply with this because she’s your boss and she’s told you to.

But beyond that, yes, her position is reasonable. Sure, in theory you should never put anything in an email that you don’t want the world to see, but in reality many people talk more causally and candidly in emails to their team than they might to someone else, or they use shorthand that they might not use more widely (and which might sound bad without more context, etc.).

It’s considered common courtesy not to forward someone’s words along when they clearly weren’t meant for others to see. (The “don’t email anything you don’t want the world to see” means that your boss wouldn’t be absolved of responsibility if the email did make its way to someone she didn’t want to see it, but she’d still be entitled to be annoyed with you for forwarding it.)

There are times when it’s helpful to forward along the previous email chain as context for a request, but if you’re doing that, you really need to review the entire chain and just include the parts that are clearly okay to share.

2. Did this candidate really work on the project she claims?

Someone has applied for a position in my department, who I will interview today. In looking at their LinkedIn profile, they claim to have worked on a project with which I am intimately familiar (at a previous company), and I don’t recall their involvement. Should I interview this person, or should I point out the inconsistency to the hiring manager, or contact HR, or …? There is a possibility that I simply do not remember the person, so should I reach out to people at the previous company and ask whether they remember this person?

Start by asking the person about it when you interview her. Ask about her role and the work she did and see what she says. If it sounds off to you, then yeah, at that point I’d reach out your former colleagues to see if you can verify what the candidate is telling you — but it’ll be more effective to do that once you know exactly what she’s saying she did.

It’s also okay to be up-front with the candidate that you’re familiar with the project and explain whatever your own involvement was. Not in a “gotcha” way, but in the normal way you’d do it if it you didn’t have any suspicions. That may or may not lead to any further light being shed on the situation, but it can make it more likely.

3. I went part-time but my boss acts like I’m still full-time

I recently went back to school, but was able to become a contractor at my company where I had previously been salaried. I felt lucky to have this arrangement, considering that I am pursuing a degree completely outside of the field I had been working in professionally.

However, I’m having a difficult time setting boundaries with my boss about when I am offline and at school and when I’m not. She will frequently send me emails when I’m in class and expect an immediate response or assign me large projects despite the fact that I’m only in the office two or three days a week. At time it feels like I’m doing the exact same job I was before I started grad school, just with less time to get everything done. Because I am now an hourly contractor, I appreciate the work, but it is making it difficult to focus on my school work, which I feel like should be my priority. I think if I had come on only as a contractor and had not been working for my boss before, I would have an easier time communicating that I can only take on X projects or waiting to answer email until I am back on the clock. I have repeatedly sent emails reminding my team of my schedule, but to no avail. Can you think of a way I can respectfully communicate to my boss that I really am a part-time contractor now?

Stop sending emails to your team and call your boss and talk to her about this. Say this: “I’ve noticed that I’m getting emails that need an immediate response, and that I’m still being assigned the type of large projects that I did before I went part-time. I want to make sure that you’re not counting on me for things I’m no longer able to do. In general, I can promise to respond within two days but not always sooner, and I can do up to X hours of work a week but not more. I need to start being really disciplined about sticking to that, and since it will be a change from before, I want to make sure that it will work with what you need.”

If she says that’s fine, then start sticking to it. If you’re assigned a project that’s too large for the hours you work, point that out immediately: “I’m only working X hours/week now, which means I wouldn’t have this finished until October 30. Will that work or should someone else take this on?” Or, ““I’m only working X hours/week now, so I can’t meet that deadline and it should probably be assigned to someone full-time.” And when you get emails outside of your hours, don’t answer them immediately; if you do, you’re training people to assume that you will. Instead, wait until it’s convenient and then include a line like “Just to remind you, I no longer see this stuff immediately; I only look at these emails during (hours).”

Give that a few weeks and see if it changes anything. If not, it’s time for a more serious conversation with your boss: “This is continuing to happen, and I want to talk about whether this arrangement makes sense, given the limits on my time now.” (Of course, you’d want to be prepared for her to conclude the answer is no, so make sure that’s an outcome you’re willing to risk.)

4. I ran out of paid time off — can I still take my upcoming vacation?

My employer approved my vacation a few months ago, and now says I can’t take it because I ran out of paid time off. I don’t mind taking the time with no pay. Can he take back the approval?

Yes. Legally, he could take it back even if you still had vacation time left, although that would be crappy to do. But generally you’re expected to manage your own stock of paid time off, and if you have a scheduled vacation coming up, you’re supposed to ensure that you have enough accrued time to do it. Some employers will let you take unpaid time if you need it, some will allow it only in case of emergency, and some won’t allow it at all. But in general, the amount of paid time off your employer gives you means “we expect you to be at work minus the X number of weeks of vacation we give you each year.” Once you use those X weeks, you’re not expected to take more.

Now, if you used up all your PTO on something unavoidable like an emergency or sickness, a considerate employer might try to work something out with you so you could still go on the vacation (generally either letting you take the time unpaid or giving you an advance on future PTO). But they’re not obligated to do that, and they’re especially unlikely to do it if you used up your PTO on more optional things.

5. Bringing a service dog to a job interview

I’m disabled and have been out of work for five years. I’m currently combing your archives to brush up my resume since I’m able to work again, but I have a question.

I have a service dog (trained to assist with both my mental illness and my physical disabilities). If I’m lucky enough to get an interview, should I mention him beforehand? If so, how should I phrase it? I don’t want to ask if it’s okay to bring him — legally he’s allowed. But neither do I want to startle someone who may be uncomfortable around large dogs. Also how do I handle addressing my disability? Obviously not disclosing it isn’t going to work. I plan on targeting my job search to jobs where my service dog is the only accommodation I need.

I plan to groom my dog within an inch of his hairy life and clean and polish his gear so he looks like the professional he is, but beyond that I’m really nervous about how to go about finding a job while so very visibly disabled, and any advice is welcome.

Yes, mention it in advance — not only in case someone is startled around large dogs, but also in case your interviewer is allergic. (In both cases, they should find a way to work around the situation, but advance notice is going to make that a lot easier.)

Usually being very matter-of-fact is the best way to handle this kind of thing, since it makes people more likely to respond that way themselves. When you’re setting up the time for the interview, I’d just say, “By the way, I have a service dog who will accompany me.” If you’re willing to disclose a little bit more, you could say something like, “By the way, I have a neurological condition that requires a service dog, and wanted to let you know ahead of time that he’ll be accompanying me.”

I’m in trouble for forwarding emails, did job candidate really do the work she claims, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

This email arrived in my inbox more than a week after I was supposed to be notified of this organization’s decision in hiring a higher-level volunteer position. The first sentence is the only one that seemed personally written for me.

I feel like I should respond politely but I’m angry that in all of this poetry they never state outright that they went with someone else nor that they are rejecting me. It’s so much language but completely indirect. Like, we decided? We decided what?!? I mean, I’m not obtuse so I know what they decided (also because they actually sent out an announcement about what they decided to all the org’s members).

Am I wrong to feel insulted by this form letter? Can I respond in a way that makes it clear that I don’t appreciate the mass message and the lack of directness, or is that just a no-go? Here’s the message:

Hi!

Thank you so much for your application and time on our call!

On the bright side, you can wake to birds chirping. Not beeping texts.
On the bright side, you can stay out longer. Instead of going home early to get on a call.
On the bright side, you can have a bit more time to do other stuff — for your Org family!

In our search to revamp Org’s XYZ Program, we had a plethora of applicants and love.
That made it competitive. After much talking, texting, emailing and thought, we decided.

The bottom line: on the bright side, you have more time.
And we thank you so much for your desire to serve.

But wait don’t go! There are many other ways to be an awesome, active Org’er.

Reach out to your chapter president and board leaders. You could organize a city event.
That could be as easy as a drinks social on a Friday night. That could be a professional speaker spotlight with someone you’ve been wanting to meet – for a selfie or possible job. That could be a big fundraiser, like New York’s trivia bowl.

What we’re saying is, more opportunities await you.

What the hell? This is incredibly patronizing and weird.

Bad things happen when organizations try to get creative with rejections.

Three basic sentences is all it takes — some variation of this: “Thanks so much for your interest in the X role and the time you spent talking with us. The hiring process has been very competitive and after much consideration, we’ve decided to offer the position to another candidate. But we’re really grateful for your interest and wish you all the best in whatever comes next for you.”

Saying “on the bright side, you have more time” in place of a direct rejection is kind of awful. And yet it sounds like they genuinely thought it would be a nice message, so someone there is very, very tone-deaf.

Anyway, since this was a volunteer position and they’re trying to encourage you to stay involved with the organization, I do think you have room to say something to them about it. I wouldn’t complain about it being a mass mailing — form letters are really normal with rejections — but you could say something like this: “I appreciate you notifying me of your decision. For what it’s worth, I’d strongly prefer a straightforward rejection. This message felt pretty indirect, and even a bit patronizing. I wanted to mention it since I support your work and thought it might be useful feedback to have for future rejection letters. Thanks again for talking with me, and I look forward to staying involved with the organization in other ways.”

what’s up with this patronizing rejection letter? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

14 August 2017 17:48 - Worldcon News

Posted by admin

Several amendments to the World Science Fiction Society constitution were ratified during Worldcon 75 in Helsinki, Finland:

  • “Best Series”: makes the Best Series Hugo Award permanent
  • “Young Adult Award”: creates a new award category for Best Young Adult Book
  • “December Is Good Enough”: moves the deadline for Hugo nominations from January 31 of the current year to December 31 of the previous year
  • “Two Years Are Good Enough”: limits nomination to members of the current or immediately preceding Worldcons. (This amendment contains a grandfather clause which applies to members of the 2019 Worldcon.)
  • “Defining North America”: creates a definition of “North America” for WSFS purposes
  • “Retrospective Improvement”: replaces and adds text to the current “Retrospective Hugos” section of the WSFS constitution
  • “Universal Suffrage”: extends WSFS voting rights to further membership levels

For the full text of the ratified amendments, see the 2017 WSFS Business Meeting Agenda.

The site selection for the 2019 Worldcon was also announced: Dublin 2019 – An Irish Worldcon, the 77th World Science Fiction convention, will be held at the Convention Centre Dublin in Dublin, Ireland, August 15-19, 2019. James Bacon is the convention chair. Guests of honor include Ginjer Buchanan, Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Bill & Mary Burns, Diane Duane, Steve Jackson, and Ian McDonald. For more information, see the Dublin 2019 website.

Posted by Ask a Manager

Remember the letter-writer whose boss told her she wouldn’t be considered for a promotion unless she and her coworker both promised not to leave if the promotion goes to the other? Here’s the update.

I wanted to write to let you how this panned out. I’m happy to say that I received the promotion. The selection committee announced my new position back in June and I’ve since been transitioning into the new role.

Looking back, I see that I let my boss get into my head and unnecessarily complicate an already very stressful process. I later learned that the selection committee went into the process believing that I was the perfect candidate for the position. According to one of them, the rigorous interview process was just a matter of “kicking the tires” to be sure I was ready for the role. Furthermore, I learned from a member of the committee that permitting my coworker to continue through the interview process was a mere professional courtesy and that they didn’t take her seriously as a candidate. They were evidentially well aware of the shortcomings and the idiosyncrasies that I saw in her work and her management style. I think they did everyone a great disservice by not being more forthright, not to mention sharing this information with me after the fact, but that’s in the past.

Funnily enough, my relationship with my coworker improved once the company announced my selection for the new position. She stopped jockeying for position and stepping on my toes while trying to prove her worth to the company. We established a good level of professional respect and worked well together. Yesterday she announced her resignation, which was not a huge surprise.

Thank you to everyone who offered very sage advice and encouragement!

update: I won’t be considered for a promotion unless I promise not to leave if my coworker gets the job was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Posted by JenniferP

Dear Captain,

I am a man and I have a problem: I’m a creep.

I’m 30 years old, and I haven’t had a whole lot of romantic experience. I’ve been shy my whole life and dealing with anxiety and depression since my teen years, so I haven’t put myself out there as much as I could have, and haven’t had the self-confidence to be a good prospect in the past.  My social skills have been getting better, and I’m getting treatment for my mental health issues.  I think I’m capable of dating now, and I’ve met a few interesting women to connect with in the last year or so.  These days, I even manage to gather up my courage and ask them out/confess my feelings.  However, I never to seem to get a straight “yes” or a “no”, and I end up responding in a bad way.  Some examples:

I met a friend-of-a-friend a few times before, and we had flirted with each other, so I was feeling confident about our connection.  Our group went to a party a while back, and I ended up asking to kiss her when we alone at one point.  She said “I don’t know” and it looked like she was nervous and didn’t know what to do.  I backed off physically, but I pressed the point: mostly questions in the “why not?” vein.  We parted without incident, but met back up at the end of the party (the group was riding back together).   For some reason, I tried to flirt some more, and I just ended up creeping her out.  I’ve had enough self-awareness to keep my distance ever since, though the damage has already been done.

Another scenario: I saw a woman on a regular basis at an activity.  I liked her, and told her so one day.  Confronted with the news, she became very awkward and didn’t give a clear verbal response (“oh…uh…”).  We ended up having a good conversation (about
everything else), but my declaration was left hanging.  Before I saw her again, I e-mailed her to ask to talk again—I had been flogging myself for not knowing what to say.  Her response was a clear “no”, and it was obvious that my e-mail had been unwelcome.  I was glad to get the straight-up answer, but I had to push her boundaries to get it.

There have also been a couple of recent instances where I’ve asked a woman out and didn’t take her “I can’t make it” as an “I don’t want to”, and have ended up pestering them again.

It’s clear that I’m establishing a disturbing pattern: I get interested in a woman; I make a move; she gives a non-committal response; I don’t take it as the brush-off it is and end up making unwelcome contact (i.e. asking for a date again, “but why?”, continuing to flirt beyond its welcome).  I know intellectually that getting a non-answer in these situations means “no”.  It’s also clear in retrospect that I should’ve just backed off in these cases, but I seem to panic in the moment and not act on that knowledge.  Through some combination of wishful thinking, inexperience and brain weasels, I’m pushing women’s boundaries and acting like a creep.

Any thoughts, Cap’n?  I feel so guilty about these instances, and I’ve reaped the personal consequences—burnt bridges and cold shoulders—but I’m still not getting it right.  How do I remember to bow out gracefully in such a moment?

– Don’t Wanna Be A Creep

giphy (24)

Image description: A giant panda sits in a pink rocking chair. It covers its face and slumps down in a convincing imitations of human shame.

Hey Friend, I see you and I used to be you. No, really. Lest we forget, I once left a multi-page letter on someone’s pillow in the bedroom where they sleep.

Media portrayals of romantic pursuit reward persistence. This is doing you (and many, many, many other people) a grave disservice.

You’re not doing anything wrong by asking people on dates, asking them to kiss them, or telling them you like them. There are exceptions – I think teachers hitting on their students is always pretty creepy, for instance, and your cute barista smiles that way at everyone because she is trapped at work and capitalism demands her emotional labor – but feeling attracted to someone and asking them about it isn’t creepy. Also, you are asking, not doing that “making a move” thing in movies where men grab women and mash their faces together that is romantic in fantasy and consensually in established “grabbing” relationships but not actually in real life. So, you haven’t crossed all the way over into creepy. It’s not too late!

So let’s work on your follow-up. Next time you feel that spark of interest in somebody, keep doing what you’re doing and ask. You’re not naturally smooth, so don’t try to become smooth at this. Just be yourself and be direct.

You:I’d really love to kiss you/take you on a date/get to know you better.”

Nice lady:Hrm…I don’t know about that.”  

You:Ok! I hope you don’t mind me asking. If you ever change your mind, let me know.

Your “creep” self-label is probably 99% you being really hard on yourself, but I sense a little resentment or confusion on your part about not getting “clearer” answers. This is actually pretty simple to handle going forward. Treat anything that is not “Yes!!!!!” like “No.” Can’t make it = no. Let me think about it = no. I don’t know = no. Not now = no. You don’t need to push for a clearer answer or settle the question or codify the rejection. Did she say “Yes, I’d love to!?” No? Then drop it. Stop auditing her answers for the yes.

Rejection doesn’t mean you have to hide your face in shame forever or get all weird and Firthy about it, though! Go back to being polite and friendly and never mention it again until or unless she does. You can show that you are safe and trustworthy by being safe and trustworthy. If she flirts with you, it’s okay to flirt back, but don’t renew the request for a date or a kiss. Let her come to you with that. If she doesn’t, that’s your answer.

If it gets too uncomfortable for you to be in limbo with someone, it’s okay for you to pull back on the interaction. Just because you were comfortable with it once upon a time doesn’t mean you have to be comfortable with it when your feelings are hurt.

Women don’t forget when dudes ask them out. We don’t need reminders. If a lady really is on the fence about the whole thing and her “hrmmm…interesting” reaction was a genuine “I don’t know,” she is perfectly capable of coming and finding you later and asking “Is that offer still good?”  I once suddenly needed to check my mail in another part of campus at two in the morning so I could keep walking in tandem with the gentleman I was walking home from a party with so we could mutually and consensually maneuver ourselves onto the Couch of Let’s Put On Some Portishead Now That I Have My Very Important Postal Material That Could Not Wait For Daylight. A woman who genuinely wants to look at your etchings will find a way to ask you about them.

You say you are shy and you don’t have a lot of confidence. This is how you build/practice/get confidence: You say your piece, you let the other person make a decision, and you trust that once in a while someone will decide you are worth risking an awkward conversation for. Until that happens, you trust in yourself, in your own worth and good and valiant heart, and pour your love and your time into your friendships, your family, your work, your education, your hobbies, and your community. Live to date again another day.

Another suggestion? Make your date requests more specific. You say you aren’t getting clear yes or no answers, so, make your requests for dates or whatever easier to say a clear yes or no to. “Would you like to be my date to this comedy show on Thursday?” vs. “Can I take you out sometime?”

If the person says “No thanks” that’s your answer!

If someone says no to Thursday, specifically, but yes to the idea, you are cleared to ask again, one time. If it gets super-hard to make plans and it feels like there is never the right time, 1) Stop:I’d still really love to get together, why don’t you call me when your schedule opens up and we’ll figure something out?2) Drop (the subject) and 3) Roll your attention somewhere else.

Maybe someday I’ll stop gushing about Mr. Awkward but today is not that day. He asked me out on Ok Cupid. I said “Yes, but I am sick and busy, can we try this in a couple of weeks?” He said “Sure” and (this is key) then he left me alone. He assumed he was never going to hear from me again and moved on with his life. In a couple of weeks, I got in touch with him and asked him on a date. What if I had never written to him? We might never have met. What if he had written to me repeatedly to get me to go out with him? We also might never have met. Read on for a cautionary tale.

Pickup Artists and other dregs at the bottom of the dating pool talk about something called the “shit test” – where women say no to an early request to test to see if the guy will persist, and they encourage you to push back on this early no. One of my early dating tests that I didn’t realize was a test at the time is the “Hey will this stranger take no for an answer because I kind a need to know” test. I once mentioned to a dude from an online dating site that I would call him over the weekend to confirm plans for a date. Some actual big deal life stuff came up and I forgot to call him. At precisely 9:00 am Monday morning I got a text that said “You didn’t call. 😦” and I had a strangely visceral “Nope!!!!” reaction to reading it, like, ugh, this is already too much work. I was like “Oops, I had some family stuff, sorry” and He was like “My time is very valuable, I don’t like reserving time in my schedule for flakes” and I was like “I hear that, okay, sorry again, let’s skip getting ice cream after all, good luck out there” and then

he

kept

texting

me

all

week

until

I

blocked

his

number

I get from the interactions that he’d been really looking forward to the date and that I hurt his feelings by being less interested. It was probably never gonna happen after that initial 😦 but it was definitely not gonna happen after “Why did you say you’d go out with me if you didn’t intend to follow through?” He was cute and smart and we liked the same geeky stuff but he put my shoulders up around my ears and once they went up they weren’t coming down.

Don’t be Sad Emoji Guy. Persistence is overrated. Pushy people get my back up and if you’re a shy guy who is not very experienced at dating your best dating pool is going to be your fellow shy people who are not so experienced at dating and they are not necessarily going to enjoy feeling hunted by you.

Additionally:

  • Stop asking for women’s phone numbers or emails when you meet them in bars or group settings. “I’d love to chat with you more, can I give you my info?” Hand them a card (or literally a scrap of paper with your name and a way to contact you on it, please do not overthink this)Remove the anxiety of “when do I call/should I call/how do I call/what do I say when I call” from your life completely right now. Change up the idea of pursuit in romance. Whenever I give this advice some dude points out “But he won’t get any calls that way” and it’s like “Maybe not! But if someone does call you’ll know she really wanted to, and in the meantime you made the world suck less by not pressuring women for contact info.” If she loses it, so what. If she doesn’t like your font, so what. The whole point is to stop worrying about it once you give her your info instead of pressuring her for hers. If she met you and she really liked you, chances are she’ll tuck it in a safe place.
  • Don’t be Social Media Hover Guy. Let’s be clear, I would always, always Google potential dates and get an idea of their general online vibe and how well it matched up with what they’d told me, and I think everyone should do this (It’s one way to figure out early on if someone is a Nazi, for instance!) And we’re only human, and photos of our crushes are fascinating. However, when you are trying to connect with someone, don’t monitor their feeds and mention everything they’ve ever done back to them, don’t become the person that “likes” every single thing they say (Really you “like” when I wished my Mom a happy birthday 2 months ago?), DON’T click “like” on all their old pictures. It’s about as subtle as skywriting, and it just feels, as you said, creepy to know someone is monitoring you to that extent.
  • Watch for reciprocity. If you are sending 5 emails or texts for every 1 of hers, and yours are like Tolstoy wrote them where she is more Dorothy Parker, ease off a bit.
  • Read more books by women and take in art by women. If you already read books by women, great? Keep doing that. Ashley C. Ford just had a great Twitter thread on books by black women people are reading & excited to read if you need to refresh your list. Watch movies by women. Listen to music made by women. You want to love women and be with women? Recognize the ways that the world is out of balance for us and look for stories and creative works that address that.
  • Be politically active about things that are important to women. In the spring it was reported that women are making 86% of the phone calls to resist the current administration’s policies. Do you want to be with women, sleep with women, love women? Have you noticed we’re kinda busy right now? Love us by doing your part so that we can survive and thrive and have some free time to think about dating a nice fellow like you. I will stop adding this advice to dating threads when I see that number move to 50%.

You can’t logick someone into loving you. There is no series of perfectly executed steps that get you there. You’ve reached this moment of self-awareness about what you’re doing and it doesn’t feel good but growth never does.

This is all very fixable and I wish you luck in fixing it.

Captain Awkward

 

Comments closed as of 10:17 pm.


Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I just have a quick question for you regarding professional dress code due to a comment from my boss. Is it unprofessional to wear to same pants twice in a row or more during a work week? I have been working here for well over a year and this is the first time my boss has ever commented on my habit of doing this.

After she noticed I was wearing the same pants in the same work week, she said something in the vein of “It’s not professional for you to do that. If someone notices someone, say, wearing the same dress or shirt multiple times, they might assume things about their finances or that they aren’t taking care of themselves.”

Upon reflection, I can see where she’s coming from. However, the fact that it was pants I wore twice made me more confused, since while I can follow the logic for a shirt or a dress, I can’t understand the logic with pants.

Some facts on my wardrobe: I have about five pairs of pants that are not jeans. Three are nearly identical black slacks, one pair has pinstripes, and there’s a a gray pair that I was wearing when this comment was made to me.

While I have been slowly building up a closet professional items, my living location does not have any true shopping locations that are not an hour’s drive away or more. It’s not practical for me to have bottoms for every single work day. But since her comment implied that it’s as much of a faux pas as wearing the same dress/skirt/shirt for multiple days, I now feel maybe my instinct was in the wrong. What do you think?

Tons of people re-wear the same pair of pants within a work week.

Hell, tons of people re-wear the same shirt within a work week.

(Also, lots of these people are men, and I bet your boss doesn’t even notice when they do it.)

It’s true that if you have a really distinctive clothing item — like a green dress with white polka dots — it’s going to stand out, and people will notice if you wear it Wednesday after just wearing it on Monday. Even then, though, it’s not scandalous. It’s just … noticeable.

But pants? Plain black or gray pants?

No.

Even if someone did notice, there’s no way for them to know if it’s the same pair, or whether you — like lots of people — have multiple pairs of basic clothing items. Lots of people have several pairs of similar-looking (or identical) clothing items. It’s really not a big deal.

Your boss sounds like she has some kind of hang-up about money, since most people really aren’t “assuming things about your finances” just because you wear the same pants twice a week. (And even if they did, being on a budget isn’t some kind of terrible character issue.)

is it unprofessional to wear the same clothing item twice in a work week? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Posted by Ask a Manager

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

1. My coworker wants to pull me into her counteroffer

I am a junior-level employee at an small (25 people) consulting firm. I have worked there for about two years. The company has been going through some rough periods due to personality/management conflicts between employees and management. I have personally been frustrated with one project manager (above me in the hierarchy, but not my supervisor) who is very intelligent but lacks control of his temper and various other people skills (Greg). A few months ago, three other employees and I filed a compliant to the company president about cumulative incidents with Greg and as part of this, I had said that if things didn’t change with Greg I would leave. Things have improved with Greg in that I rarely have to work with him anymore, which solved my problem.

Yesterday, another project manager (Rebecca) approached me and said that she had a job offer from a competitor and would be negotiating for a counteroffer with our company and wanted to bring me with her to our competitor if she left, or negotiate for increased perks for me to stay. She asked for me to give her a list of demands for the president on Monday.

I am really conflicted by the whole process, as I plan to leave for grad school in about a year and don’t want to start over at a new company before leaving. I don’t know whether she is trying to help me with Greg or whether she is just trying to use me as leverage with the president to help her bargaining. I don’t want to burn a bridge with Rebecca but I also don’t burn a bridge with our president and I don’t want to work at our competitor (but I would like a larger salary). I am thinking that I prepare a vague list of company improvements (more communication between departments, improved employee morale, etc.) that I had planned to share during my performance review next month anyways? Not sure what to do. For what it’s worth, I’ve been told by other people with lots more experience than me how oddly our company management/operations are.

Yeah, don’t do that. First of all, Rebecca should be sticking to negotiations for herself, not pulling you in (and yes, I do think she might be trying to use you as leverage for herself). You don’t want someone else making statements about your willingness to stay on your behalf; you won’t have control over the messaging, and it could end up really hurting you (if, for example, Rebecca tells them you’re ready to leave). It will also look odd that Rebecca is having this conversation on your behalf. Second, asking for vague improvements like better morale is not the way to go — those aren’t easy changes, you’re not likely to get them this way, and you’ll end up looking naive for asking for them in a “this is what I need to stay” context.

Leave Rebecca and her timeline out of this. Do you want to leave? Do you want to stay? (It sounds like you want to stay, which would make this whole thing moot anyway.)

Handle this on your own, and let her handle her situation without making you part of it. You want to serve your own interests, not hers.

And be aware that there can be some real problems with counteroffers.

2. My boss is going to trash-talk me when I leave

I’m a young professional working at a startup organization that, to say the least, has its issues. Our two bosses are husband and wife (don’t even get me started), but the husband most often takes on the CEO role. He’s eccentric and opinionated, a terrible manager, and over-friendly with our small staff. But the worst thing about him: he talks about past employees in disparaging ways. A lot.

We had two employees quit over the summer, both of whom were close friends with our bosses. Just recently, I overheard a conversation in which my boss called them “ungrateful” for asking for higher salaries, and then disparaged them for quitting. Their first COO quit last year, and since then, I have heard my boss call him everything from a “f*cking idiot” to a “total a**hole” who stole from the company by asking for an “exorbitantly high” salary. The low salary is exactly why I’m quitting, as it’s not a livable wage and I can barely make ends meet while working there. So here’s my dilemma: how do you quit a job knowing full well that there’s a 99% chance the boss is going to talk badly behind your back about it? None of the previous employees ever gave notice (they just quit on the spot and walked out), so I’m nervous as to what my work environment will be like while I serve out those final two weeks. I’ve been a good worker, with no substantial issues during my time there, but I don’t think that will matter– my boss gets so defensive, he makes up issues that weren’t really there. (Thank god I’m leaving, right?) I’ve thought about doing the same, just quitting on the spot, but the notice is necessary for both professionalism reasons and because I’ve taken on lots of responsibilities and will have multiple ends to tie up before being able to move forward. I want to leave on a good note, but that almost seems impossible at this point.

My spouse suggested I offer to volunteer for the organization to soften the blow and not burn any bridges, but, honestly, I really just want to be able to focus on my new job, which is in a brand-new field for me and will require all of my time and attention. I’m worried that the act of quitting itself will initiate his smack-talking, potentially damaging my reputation with my coworkers and the influential people on the board.

Is there a way for me hedge this off, or is it just something I’ll have to deal with? I don’t anticipate needing him as a reference for any future positions, so does this really even matter at all? Thoughts? Strategies?

Yeah, don’t volunteer — make a clean break and devote yourself fully to your new job. New jobs are exhausting. You don’t need to be volunteering for a jerk on top of that. You are not obligated to volunteer or otherwise continue working just to leave a job without being trash-talked. You get to leave, whenever you want and without continuing to be tied to your old job, and having it be a clean break will be a lot better for your happiness. Why give that up to appease a jerk?

Here’s some advice on dealing with your manager if he reacts badly during your notice period.

And keep in mind that if your boss is known for trash-talking everyone who leaves, your coworkers and the board already know that.

3. My coworkers drink at lunch, so why can’t I smoke pot?

I work for a company in Oregon that specifically states in the employee handbook that no one is allowed to be under the influence of anything, including alcohol, at the workplace, yet the entire group except me all have a cocktail or two at lunch. Almost every lunch. Why then should I not be allowed to smoke some medical or even recreational cannabis and return to work? I find this arbitrary rule quite discriminatory and think it should be illegal if it isn’t. Even though Oregon and Colorado (where this company has offices) have legal medical and recreational cannabis, I was told I could be fired if there were ever a reason to test me for it. Is this even legal, as these coworkers are all under the influence upon returning to work, yet I am ostracized and forced to fear for my job if I partake in an equally legal substance even OFF the job?

Well, it’s actually not equally legal, because marijuana is still illegal under federal law, even where it’s legal under state law. (This is setting up a weird state/federal conflict, but the federal government can indeed arrest marijuana users even in states where it’s legal.)

That is incredibly stupid, but that is the current situation. So yes, your employer can treat marijuana differently than alcohol. The best thing you can do is to work to change federal law.

4. Employers calling my secondary phone number

I have a question about employers calling my secondary number. I filled out the basic contact information form and put my cell as the primary and my home phone as the secondary. I share the home phone with other people and I cannot always rely on them to give me messages ASAP.

The other day, my employer called my home phone to tell me when my orientation is be scheduled. I was not delivered the message until two days later and in addition they did not attempt to call me on my cell phone. This is very annoying because I marked my cell phone as the primary for a reason and my home phone as the secondary (I want to be called there second). This is the second employer who has done this and it just grinds my gears. How should I address this?

Stop listing your home phone number at all, and just list the cell. You have complete control over messages left on your cell, so there’s no reason you need to give a second phone number at all.

5. Putting MOOC certificates on a resume

I’d like to improve my skills and have been looking into MOOC platforms such as edX and Coursera. As you know, these are generally free but some also offer students the option to pay to receive a certificate once they pass their course. They claim that it improves job prospects and shows potential employers that you’re skilled and dedicated, but I’m wondering how accurate that is. Are certificates from online courses meaningful enough? Do they belong on a resume, and is it worth paying for one (other than for motivation)?

Eh. This can vary by field, but in most cases, certificates aren’t going to be hugely helpful. The skills you gain from the courses can be quite helpful, if you’re able to show real-world application of them, but the certificates themselves aren’t hugely impressive.

But again, some fields are exceptions to this, so this is one you’d want to ask someone in your specific field about.

my coworker wants to pull me into her counteroffer, boss is going to trash-talk me when I leave, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

14 August 2017 02:16 - Vegan Black Forest Shake

Posted by Richa

Black Forest Shake. Summer Ice cream Blizzard with layers of Vanilla and Chocolate shake with cherry compote. Vegan Gluten-free Recipe. Can be nut-free. Add protein powder to make into black forest smoothie. 

Black Forest Shake. Summer Ice cream Blizzard with layers of vanilla and chocolate shake with cherry compote. #vegan #glutenfree #soyfree #vegandessert #veganricha Vegan Gluten-free Recipe. Can be nut-free. | VeganRicha.com 

The heat has been creating all kinds of problems in the PNW, mainly trapping the smoke from the wildfires up north, which adds to the breathing issues. I think the oven has stayed off for about 4 weeks now which is a record. 

No cookies or cakes means they get needed in alternate forms. Cookie Dough Blizzards or this Black Forest Shake. 

Chocolate ice cream, frozen non dairy milk and some cherries blended in to make the chocolate cherry layer. Vanilla ice cream blended in for the creamy vanilla layer. Add some cherry compote between the 2 and boom!

The shake can be easily made into smoothie or protein shake for breakfast with frozen banana instead of ice cream, some protein powder and seasonal fruits frozen. Easy and Amazing! Whats your favorite Summer Dessert?

Continue reading: Vegan Black Forest Shake

The post Vegan Black Forest Shake appeared first on Vegan Richa.

13 August 2017 00:18 - So, about those pesky Nazis again.

Posted by JenniferP

This is an amalgamation of actual letters in my actual inbox:

Dear Captain Awkward, I’m dating someone wonderful who really loves me, he (IT’S ALWAYS HE, DON’T @ME) but he has terrible political views, like, he thinks immigrants and black people and women and gay people and trans people aren’t really people something something about biological inferiority and it’s okay to violence them but only when they deserve it? I know it’s just how he grew up, he has a good heart and doesn’t really mean it, Confederate flags/”traditional” views are just part of his heritage. I’ve tried discussing this with him but he always talks over me. Can you help me explain my views better? I’m sure I can convince him if I just try hard enough? Can this relationship work?

Go look at some photos from Charlottesville right now.

BTW there’s one with the Confederate flag right next to Nazi flags that really rung some bells after last month’s discussion.

(Nazi flags and Confederate flags are best buds they like to go drinking together and talk about wars they got their asses kicked in and remember the good old days of being giant fucking racist losers.)

The heart wants what it wants but I gotta ask what would it take for you to break up with a dude who talks about “many sides” and “yeah but free speech is important” and “we can’t waste time with identity politics” right about now? I guarantee some of those tiki torch Connors and Trents and Wyatts are going home to cuddles and pie tonight. Maybe with you.

I know how you got here even if you don’t. They know how to hide this stuff in “polite” company and save the nastiness for anonymous forums. They use dog whistles. They make jokes that aren’t jokes. They play the Devil’s advocate. They say ridiculous things on purpose so that you can think to yourself “He can’t really believe that, can he?” They trick you with occasional actual orgasms and doing their fair share of the dishes and decent hygiene and god, you were alone for so long, and you finally found someone who is not repulsive in the shallow dating pool where you live, do you really have to dump this living, breathing human being who likes the same geeky stuff you like and who holds doors open for your mom and who probably is just doing his best, all to prove some abstract point? How can these people know better if no one will teach them how to be better? Can’t that be you, and in return you get to keep this nice boyfriend who smells good and who has a decent job and who and checks all of your other “don’t be a giant racist turd” boxes? There’s good in him, you’ve felt it, surely this can be fixed?

They wait until they’ve charmed you, until they’ve met your parents, until things are all comfortable between you, to show their true colors, betting on the fact that you’d be too far in to leave.

I know you’re embarrassed and it’s embarrassing as fuck but it’s not too late to get out of there. I know it’s not fair. Cut. Your. Losses.

I’m not making fun. I am deadly serious. It is only getting worse. At least one person died today behind this. We can’t lose you, too. Make a safety plan. Go quietly, but go.

It’s half-past Lysistrata time.

Love,

Captain Awkward

 

 


Posted by LocusHQ

Winners for the Hugo Awards, the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and several others were announced August 11, 2017 at Worldcon 75, the 75th World Science Fiction Convention, held in Helsinki, Finland, August 9-13, 2017.

Best Novel (2,078 nominating ballots)

WINNER: The Obelisk Gate, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US; Orbit UK)

Best Novella (1,410) 

WINNER: Every Heart a Doorway, Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing)

Best Novelette (1,097)

WINNER: “The Tomato Thief”, Ursula Vernon (Apex 1/5/16)

  • “The Art of Space Travel”, Nina Allan (Tor.com 7/27/16)
  • “Touring with the Alien”, Carolyn Ives Gilman (Clarkesworld 4/16)
  • Alien Stripper Boned from Behind by the T-Rex, Stix Hiscock (self-published)
  • The Jewel and Her Lapidary, Fran Wilde (Tor.com Publishing)
  • “You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay”, Alyssa Wong (Uncanny 5-6/16)

Best Short Story (1,275)

WINNER: “Seasons of Glass and Iron”, Amal El-Mohtar (The Starlit Wood)

  • “Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies”, Brooke Bolander (Uncanny 11-12/16)
  • “The City Born Great”, N.K. Jemisin (Tor.com 9/28/16)
  • “That Game We Played During the War, Carrie Vaughn (Tor.com 3/16/16)
  • “A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers”, Alyssa Wong (Tor.com 3/2/16)
  • “An Unimaginable Light”, John C. Wright (God, Robot)

Best Related Work (1,122)

WINNER: Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000-2016, Ursula K. Le Guin (Small Beer)

Best Graphic Story (842)

WINNER: Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening, Marjorie Liu, art by Sana Takeda (Image)

Best Dramatic Presentation — Long (1,733)

WINNER: Arrival

  • Deadpool
  • Ghostbusters
  • Hidden Figures
  • Rogue One
  • Stranger Things, Season One

Best Dramatic Presentation — Short (1,159)

WINNER: The Expanse: “Leviathan Wakes”

  • Black Mirror: “San Junipero”
  • Doctor Who: “The Return of Doctor Mysterio”
  • Game of Thrones: “Battle of the Bastards”
  • Game of Thrones: “The Door”
  • Splendor & Misery

Best Professional Editor Short Form (951)

WINNER: Ellen Datlow

  • John Joseph Adams
  • Neil Clarke
  • Jonathan Strahan
  • Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas
  • Sheila Williams

Best Professional Editor Long Form (752)

WINNER: Liz Gorinsky

  • Vox Day
  • Sheila E. Gilbert
  • Devi Pillai
  • Miriam Weinberg
  • Navah Wolfe

 Best Professional Artist (817)

WINNER: Julie Dillon

  • Galen Dara
  • Chris McGrath
  • Victo Ngai
  • John Picacio
  • Sana Takeda

Best Semiprozine (857)

WINNER: Uncanny Magazine

  • Beneath Ceaseless Skies
  • Cirsova Heroic Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine
  • GigaNotoSaurus
  • Strange Horizons
  • The Book Smugglers

Best Fanzine (610)

WINNER: Lady Business

  • Castalia House Blog
  • Journey Planet
  • nerds of a feather, flock together
  • Rocket Stack Rank
  • SF Bluestocking

Best Fancast (690)

WINNER: Tea & Jeopardy

  • The Coode Street Podcast
  • Ditch Diggers
  • Fangirl Happy Hour
  • Galactic Suburbia
  • The Rageaholic

Best Fan Writer (802)

WINNER: Abigail Nussbaum

  • Mike Glyer
  • Jeffro Johnson
  • Natalie Luhrs
  • Foz Meadows
  • Chuck Tingle 

Best Fan Artist (528)

WINNER: Elizabeth Leggett

  • Ninni Aalto
  • Vesa Lehtimäki
  • Likhain (M. Sereno)
  • Spring Schoenhuth
  • Steve Stiles

Best Series (1,393)

WINNER: The Vorkosigan Saga, Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen)

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer [Not a Hugo Award] (933)

WINNER: Ada Palmer

  • Sarah Gailey
  • J. Mulrooney
  • *Malka Older
  • *Laurie Penny
  • *Kelly Robson

The Big Heart Award was presented to Carolina Gomez. The First Fandom Hall of Fame Awards went to Les and Es Cole. Jim Harmon inducted into the First Fandom Posthumous Hall of Fame. Also presented were the previously announced Seiun Awards and the Atorox Award, a Finnish award for notable short story, to “Itkevan taipan temmppeli” [Temple of Heavenly Tears] by Maiju Ihalainen.

* Finalists in their 2nd year of eligibility.

 

11 August 2017 17:09 - More Dragon Awards News

Posted by LocusHQ

As reported earlier this week, Alison Littlewood and John Scalzi requested their works be removed from the Dragon Award ballot, and the awards administrators declined to do so.

N.K. Jemisin then requested that her book The Obelisk Gate (Orbit) be removed from the Best Apocalyptic Novel category, citing concerns about the voting process, among other issues.

President Pat Henry reconsidered his decision to refuse the withdrawals, and chose to honor Littlewood’s request after all, as well as Jemisin’s.

Meanwhile, Scalzi reconsidered his decision after discussing his issues with the award administrators, and his book The Collapsing Empire will remain on the ballot.

Those who voted for Littlewood’s and Jemisin’s books will receive new ballots to fill out. No new works will be added to the ballot.

The revised ballot is below. Voting is being extended by two days, to midnight on September 1, 2017. For more, or to vote, visit the Dragon Award site.

 

Best Science Fiction Novel

Best Fantasy Novel

Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel

Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel

Best Alternate History Novel

Best Apocalyptic Novel

Best Horror Novel

Best Comic Book

  • Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season Eleven
  • The Dresden Files: Dog Men
  • Monstress
  • Motor Girl
  • Ms. Marvel
  • Saga
  • Wynonna Earp Legends

Best Graphic Novel

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy TV Series

  • Doctor Who
  • The Expanse
  • Lucifer
  • Marvel’s Agents of Shield
  • Stan Lee’s Lucky Man
  • Stranger Things
  • Westworld
  • Wynonna Earp

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Movie

  • Arrival
  • Doctor Strange
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
  • Logan
  • Passengers
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  • Wonder Woman

Finalists in various gaming-related categories were also announced. For more information, visit the Dragon Awards website.

 

Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

Can you suggest a few phrases I can use to redirect my team during quieter periods of time when they all get chatting about their personal lives? I work in a veterinary office, and I’d like my team of client service representatives to be a bit more professional, especially when there are clients in the waiting room.

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

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • My manager told me to take guests for dinner but not to pay for it with a corporate card
  • How can I get to know people in my new office?
  • Do I have to reply to recruiters’ emails?
  • Can I keep my current company’s name confidential on my resume?

how can I get my employees to stop socializing in front of clients? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

11 August 2017 15:00 - open thread – August 11-12, 2017

Posted by Ask a Manager

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

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

open thread – August 11-12, 2017 was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Posted by Ask a Manager

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

1. Customers talk about our sizes

This question is for my coworker, Jess. We both work at a women’s plus-size clothing retailer (national chain) in the midwest. I do wear some clothes from here, but to most, I probably do not look like the average plus-size person. Jess is a little larger than myself. This is unfortunately relevant because customers try to relate to Jess in such ways like “Oh! You have a big butt you can help me [pick out something that would look good with my own big butt]” or “Oh, you get it with how big your hips are!” or the most common: “I’d rather you help me due to your size!” And recently there are new skinny jeans, which we are supposed to be promoting, and when Jess tells customers about them, they laugh at her for presumably suggesting that plus-size women can wear skinny jeans. They also have complained to her about other people who work here due to their size, such as Andrea, who is very slim and petite, and even our store manager, who wears some things from the brand but is more my size in that she doesn’t necessarily “pass” as a plus-size women.

Apparently these comments have happened before to coworkers who have since left and would more fit in to the “plus-size” image. I asked Jess if there was a certain demographic who give her comments like this since she said that she can tell who will say these things. She said it was mainly women in their 40s-50s.

I have not had any of these comments made to me. These are obviously putting a mental strain on Jess and making a thankless retail job even harder. I do not think she has spoken with the store manager, so I will today and our district manager is also visiting.

It sounds to me like the “I’d rather you help me due to your size!” comments capture what’s going on — that your customers feel particularly comfortable with Jess since she’s closer in size to them. My hunch is that the comments stem from the camaraderie and relief of shopping somewhere that actually caters to them, unlike a lot of other stores that ignore the fact that people come in a range of sizes. I don’t know that there’s anything she or the store could do to stop that without making customers feel unwelcome; it sounds like it may come with the territory, unfortunately.

But the store should give you all some guidance about how to handle customers who complain about smaller-sized women working there, even if it’s just to say that you all love fashion, regardless of size. (They should have better messaging than I do, but I’d imagine it would be something along those lines.)

2. Sending candidates the interview questions in advance

I work at a small non-profit with 10 staff members. We are about to hire five new employees. Our COO has insisted on doing all of the screening interviews herself even though she won’t be directly managing any of these new staff members (that’s another story). She’s been sending me candidates she likes to interview (I’m a director) and asking me to send them questions in advance. I’ve never been sent interview questions in advance and asked a few friends who have also never had this experience. Is this a standard practice I just haven’t come across? For me, it seems like a terrible way to get a good feel for someone.

I definitely wouldn’t send all your questions in advance, but doing it with with a few key questions can be a useful way to get more thoughtful answers — especially if you’re (a) interviewing relatively junior people who don’t have a lot of experience interviewing and will otherwise be scrambling to think of answers to “tell me about a time when…” questions on the spot or (b) interviewing senior people and want to see how they handle complicated questions that benefit from deeper advance thinking. Here’s a description of how I’ve done it in the past.

The key, though, is to really probe into whatever answers you receive to the sent-in-advance questions. You need to ask a bunch of follow-up questions (what was the biggest challenge with that? why did you approach it that way? did you worry about X? how did you handle Y? what would you do differently if you could do it again?) or otherwise you may just end up getting canned answers that won’t be very useful to you.

That said, though, my hunch from your letter is that your COO isn’t doing it this way.

3. Should my friend get a recommendation from the hiring manager’s lawn guy?

My friend is looking for a job at one particular company. He knows the hiring manager’s lawn guy, and the lawn guy has offered to give the manager my friend’s resume instead of my friend applying online. Is this weird? Should my friend take the lawn guy up on his offer?

Does he just cut his lawn, or is the relationship deeper than that? If he just cuts his lawn — and if the company where your friend is a applying isn’t a lawn care company or in a related industry — it’s not likely to be hugely helpful. And yes, possibly weird.

Caveat: There are some people who place a huge amount of weight on personal recommendations from people who aren’t particularly connected to the work they do and who aren’t in a position to evaluate the work of the person they’re recommending. The people in this group tend to place enormous emphasis on character references and less on evidence of work skills. If it turns out that the hiring manager is one of them, then who knows, maybe this could pay off. But in general, it sounds like too tenuous of a connection to use.

4. When exit interviews are shared staff-wide

My company has recently, in a bid for transparency, started to publish the results of exit interviews each quarter. That means they present pie charts of the reasons why people are leaving and graphs of people’s opinions of upper management. I don’t have a problem with those. But I do have a problem with their publishing quotes directly from the leaving employees. They do remove names, but we aren’t that large of a company and people tend to do very specific jobs, so it makes it fairly identifiable. I had a work friend leave the company recently and I knew right away what quotes were hers. Heck, every time we’ve had someone leave the department, I’ve been able to tell what quotes were theirs.

I am planning on leaving the company in the next month and I am considering if I decline an exit interview altogether, given this policy. I’d like to help the company; it is a nonprofit that does some good work, while also struggling to meet the needs of employees. I’d love to provide some feedback, but I don’t want my coworkers knowing exactly what I said. I’m not going to say anything bad, but I will say where the problems are in my experience.

What do you think about this approach to exit interviews? Am I crazy to feel a little annoyed about this? I would have no problem is a report was complied in HR and used there and by upper management, but the report is emailed to all staff. It is great fodder for speculation about who said what.

Yeah, I can see why you’re concerned. Their attempt at transparency is a good thing, but when you have a staff that’s on the smaller side, you’ve got to consider whether people will be able to stay anonymous.

Frankly, that’s a great thing to give feedback about at the exit interview! They may have no idea that it’s playing out that way. You could explain your concerns and that it’s been clear to you in the past who quotes had come from, and say that you’d like to give feedback yourself but that you’d want assurance that your quotes won’t be widely distributed if you do. It’s reasonable for them to share what you say with senior management, but it’s also reasonable for you to ask that they confine it that group. (It’s also reasonable for you to limit what you say if they won’t promise you that.)

our customers talk about our sizes, sending interview questions in advance, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Posted by janet

It’s a well-known fact in my family that I startle easily. My husband and kids are often met with a gasp or shriek if they walk into a room unannounced, or even address me from a direction that I’m not facing. I’ve been known to leave the ground. Sometimes, if I’m deep in thought, the slightest movement (real or imagined) in my peripheral vision can set me off.  I’ve been startled by my own eyeball floaters.
These reactions and over-reactions are geeky and odd, for sure, but they have nothing to do with me literally being afraid. As a child, I don’t remember feeling particularly fearful or fragile, but I appeared that way because I was sensitive, pensive, cautious. I cried easily and often. My vulnerability created problems because it made my parents feel a little sorry and afraid for me. Naturally, they were protective, which wasn’t a good set-up for me to believe in myself as a strong, self-confident person.
All that said, the note Melaine shared with me struck a nerve.

Hi Janet,

I have a two and a half year old son and am wondering how I can guide him to be less shy and less fearful.

I’ve read both of your books (some parts multiple times), and I love the respectful, patient and consistent philosophy of parenting. It really seems to work well for my son so far — tantrums are mostly under control, and he follows direction pretty well.

One thing I have not yet been able to improve on is his cautious/shy/fearful personality. He is most comfortable with me and my husband, and then his four grandparents. Around us, he is very talkative, social, and FUNNY! Around everybody else, he really goes into a shell. Till about age two, he would cry when someone (other than parents or grandparents) approached him to carry him. Now he doesn’t cry anymore, but he won’t let anyone carry him.

He also speaks about 10% of his typical speaking around ‘strangers’. Definitely not the funny guy he is around me. He does eventually warm up, but that takes a couple of hours (and even then, he will probably be 25% of his typical self). He dislikes when people approach him. He prefers to be the one to approach others. I take him to My Gym and Wondertree classes and around other kids. He lets kids go past him for the slide and never ‘fights’ for a toy (he will give his toy if another kid wants it). He will go around the crowd (instead of through the crowd of kids) to put away things. He will also say he’s scared when people are acting out dinosaurs or other loud animals or loud scenarios. He won’t tell people “hi” and sometimes will say “bye.” He used to do high fives but not anymore.

Again, with me, my husband and his grandparents, he acts tough, silly, energetic and is a chatterbox. I’m not worried about his physical strength or his intellect. Just wondering how I can gently guide him to be less shy and fearful.

Sensitive children can be the most misunderstood. Their openness is mistaken for weakness. Their caution and reactiveness are seen as fear. Their thoughtfulness and awareness are perceived as reticence, and their introversion as lacking in social skill and self-confidence. They’re regarded as needy and deficient rather than innately blessed with an excess of perceptiveness, learning abilities, empathy, and intuition.

But please don’t take this as judgment or blame!  Parents’ concerns and misreads are perfectly understandable and come from the most loving, caring place. Ultimately, though, they do sensitive, “shy” children a disservice. Here’s why:

Parents’ fears create self-fulfilling prophecies

In these early impressionable years, children tend to believe whatever their parents see in them. For instance, if parents see their child’s silence when approached by a stranger as fear, the child can begin to feel less capable and more uncertain in those situations. Labeling children as shy can only make them feel even more self-conscious and tentative. Sensitive children tend to retreat further when they sense parents trying to force or coax them out of themselves and into more assertive behavior. When we react out of fear as parents, we are never going to have a positive, encouraging effect.  The only way to do that is to calm ourselves so that we can take the path of trust.

I would trust this, Melaine: “Around us, he is very talkative, social, and FUNNY!” That’s your boy when he’s with people he knows and is comfortable with and can be fully himself.

The frightened dog on the beach

We’ve been blessed to have a section of beach near our home where dogs can run freely. Lately, we’ve been taking a large mixed breed puppy we adopted there to exercise and socialize. He’s a lover. Despite having been neglected prior to rescue, he’s never met a person or dog he doesn’t like. But another recently rescued dog frequenting that beach, a small Chihuahua mix, has seemed seriously afraid. He barks and growls whenever other dogs are in the vicinity, and so his owner immediately scoops him up and holds him protectively, which tends to make matters worse, because dogs like mine become even more curious. The little dog gets so freaked out that all other dogs end up needing to be restrained until his owner leaves with him. As sweet, apologetic, and obviously concerned as the owner has been, it’s not fun to run into this dog.

So I was floored when the owner recently announced, “He’s okay now!” And sure enough, the change in her dog was miraculous. He still yipped and could easily be perceived as scared but was actually on the offensive, even assertive, and initiating play. At one point, he jumped up on my dog, who is several times his size. Thrilled and incredulous, I asked his owner, “What happened?!”  “Well, our vet said, ‘You just have to start trusting him with other dogs.’” And so, she decided to trust him rather than shielding him, and that was that. In other words, her misperceptions and fears had been exacerbating this issue in a huge way.

Sensitive reactions make sense

I can relate to your son. Why would he want to let someone else carry him? That’s an intimate activity — letting someone touch his body, trusting someone to hold him safely and comfortably in the air.

Why would he want to speak with strangers? What would he have to say? Small talk? He is being authentic, not rude.

Yes, it takes a very long time to get comfortable sharing yourself with people when you are sensitive to all their energy. That’s the definition of perceptiveness, and it’s a healthy trait. And what if you don’t entirely like what you see? “Please wait until I come to you.” That’s not weakness. It’s discernment and selectivity.

My Gym and Wondertree… Yes, those overstimulating places… Imagine being the attuned type of person who takes that all in, and wow, it takes a while to get a grip on these kids and what they’ll do… they’re so unpredictable. And why fight for a toy? It’s just an object. If you want it that badly, go for it. Squeeze through a crowd of kids? Uh, no, I don’t think so!

I guess, like me, your son will never be one for mosh pits.

Misunderstanding disconnects and distances us

Jumping to conclusions about our children blinds us to all they are doing. It’s natural to want to guide our children to the results we perceive as better. But our efforts can unintentionally teach children that they’re not quite enough just as they are. Magda Gerber advised the perfect antidote: “Do less, observe more.” And she acknowledged, “We all need someone who understands” and appreciates us as is.

A negative spin on positive traits

Sensitive young children may not seem impressive and smooth. They’re awkward and halting and sometimes blush at the drop of a hat. Why is that negative? I’ve come to appreciate my sensitivity as an asset without which I could not do the work I do today.

Children like yours, Melaine, are actually strong and present, patient and generous, aware and in tune. My recommendation is to embrace this guy. Trust his process. Encourage him to express whatever he’s feeling, and don’t judge or wish he’d improve. It’s perfectly normal and appropriate to feel unsure and want to hang back in social situations. Proceeding with caution is intelligent.

What if blushing were cool because it’s so caring and real? What if awkwardness were seen as endearing and brave? What if vulnerability were considered deep and powerful? It’s all in the way we perceive, and our kids need us to see through a lens of acceptance and appreciation, to celebrate and delight in all they are.

Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.” – Brené Brown, Daring Greatly

I share more on these topics in my posts: Empowering a Passive or “Shy” Child and What Children Know and Might Hurt Them.

(Photo by Lance Shields on Flickr)

11 August 2017 00:06 - SFWA Market Report For August

Posted by David Steffen

Welcome to the August edition of the SFWA Pro-rate Market Report. Please note: Inclusion of any market in the report below does not indicate an official endorsement by SFWA.

NEW MARKETS

Mother of Invention

OPENING MARKETS

Arsenika
Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores
Deep Magic
Pseudopod
Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide Series

TEMPORARILY CLOSING MARKETS

Aliterate
Diabolical Plots
Escape Pod
Story Seed Vault
T. Gene Davis’s Speculative Blog
Women Up To No Good Anthology Series

PERMANENTLY CLOSING MARKETS

Agents & Spies
Intelligence in Fiction
Pirates & Ghosts
Strange Beasties

UPCOMING MARKET CHANGES

Cast of Wonders‘s “Artemis Rising” Limited Demographic Window: Women/Nonbinary authors begins soon.
Escape Pod‘s “Artemis Rising” Limited Demographic Window: Women/Nonbinary authors begins soon.
Fantasy & Science Fiction (F&SF) opens soon.
Mother of Invention permanently closes soon.
PodCastle‘s “Artemis Rising” Limited Demographic Window: Women/Nonbinary authors only begins soon.
Pseudopod‘s “Artemis Rising” Limited Demographic Window: Women/Nonbinary authors begins soon.

 

The SFWA Market Report is compiled by David Steffen, editor of Diabolical Plots, and co-founder and administrator of the Submission Grinder, and publisher of the Long List Anthology.

10 August 2017 04:01 - Privacy

Posted by Robot Hugs

New comic!

This comic was originally published on Everyday Feminism.

Privacy and surveillance are pet topics of mine both personally and professionally and I keep trying to figure out ways to contextualize them in accessible ways. Privacy as consent is a framework that works really well to break down ideas that things Should or Can’t be ‘private’ and that different people will make different decisions about their own privacy!

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Posted by Ask a Manager

Remember the letter from the person who worked with her cousin, whose helicopter parents were interfering with his work life and she was concerned it would reflect on her? Here’s the update.

Thank you for answering my question and for the support from you and the people who commented. There was at least one comment about how I don’t interact with my cousin or can’t possibly know what is going on with him but that is actually not true. When my parents, my cousin, my aunt, my uncle, and I immigrated here, we lived in the same apartment together for years. My aunt, uncle, and cousin currently live one street over from my parents and me. The six of us were the only ones who immigrated, both mine and my cousin’s maternal relatives and our shared paternal relatives all live back in Wales. The six of us see each other quite often. My aunt, uncle and cousin tell us about the things they do.

On the day my cousin interviewed for his job at the place I worked, I saw my aunt in the lobby and she told me why she was there. My cousin has no mental health issues or learning disabilities, he is not on the spectrum, and he is not developmentally delayed. There is no reason for his parents to run his life they way they do. He has never had a DUI and has a driver’s license and two vehicles. Although (contrary to what the comment said) our families are extremely close, I am not going to try to convince my cousin otherwise because he doesn’t think there is a problem with what his parents do and he is happy to have them help.

I ended up getting another job. I had thought some people might possibly associate me with my cousin and what my aunt and uncle do, but it turned out to be much more than that. I wasn’t aware there was lots of gossip about it and lots of people thought I was his sister and my aunt and uncle were my parents and come in for things related to me as well. (I’m guessing the rare Welsh surname on our desk plates, email addresses, and work ID’s and our Welsh accents, in an area where there are not many immigrants, made it obvious we were related.)

I talked to my direct manager once I became aware of the gossip and he had also heard it and assumed my cousin was my brother too until I told him otherwise. He let me know a different manager had decided not to choose me to work on a project because of it. That was my clue it was time to find something else. My manager was really helpful. He set the record straight with the project manager and was supportive to me in my job search. I didn’t acknowledge the gossip and just kept my head down while I job searched.

I was four months shy of the two-year mark when I left, and my manager said it was more than enough time not to raise red flags on my resume for length of time in a job. I started my new job in April. I work at an independent insurance brokerage now. The job is related to what I went to school for but not so much for my cousin and it is a small office with low turnover, so I’m almost certain I won’t have to deal with working with my cousin. I am enjoying it so far, I like the work, and my boss, peers, and clients have been great.

update: my aunt and uncle are extreme helicopter parents — and I work with their son was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Posted by Ask a Manager

Remember the letter-writer in 2015 whose coworker kept caressing people — including the kids they worked with — even after she’d been told to stop? Here’s the update.

First, I’ve been working at another (wonderful) organization who does something similar to the place that I left, and I’ve been there for almost 10 years (yes, during the time that I worked at the other place; both gigs were/are part-time). This place is wonderful and would not stand for any of the shenanigans that Kim was pulling.

One time after the Kim fiasco, I was talking with a coworker who I hadn’t seen in a while (differing shifts) and we were catching up. She asked me if I was still with the old organization. I said no and alluded to some issues, to the point where I didn’t feel that I could stay there. Before I could even get another word out of my mouth about anything specific that went on that led to my departure, she started telling me a story about when she’d worked with a different organization (still the same type of recreational programming; this one was an offshoot of a school district). She said that Kim had worked there quite a few years ago, when my coworker (Shelly) was kind of a floating supervisor. If there was a complaint about a staff member, Shelly would go around to different sites (there were several) and investigate. There were a lot of complaints about one of the staff and she had to talk to this person repeatedly….yup, you guessed it: it was Kim. Shelly had volunteered all of this information to me, knowing that I had worked with Kim. From what she told me, it was pretty clear that Kim pulled the same types of things (overly emotional, clueless, manipulative, inappropriate, etc.) back at this other job. She was reprimanded for it way back then, years before she started working with me. So she knew about all of these issues, and she knew that it wasn’t appropriate behavior, yet she apparently just moved along to fresh pickings at a new organization and started the same bullsh** all over again. And kept on with it because at the new place she found a gold mine in that nobody would hold her accountable.

But wait for it….there IS some justice in the world.

The second thing is the bigger one. Once again, it wasn’t anything I witnessed personally, so I want to make that clear. In one of the comments on the original thread, I acknowledged that this was a sports team. That comes into play for this story. So before the next summer, I heard that Kim had been offered the head coach job for one of the local teams. I was informed of this and the only thing I could think of was “Wow! They didn’t do their due diligence in hiring her.” She probably got a glowing recommendation from our non-confrontational supervisor, and they didn’t check much after that (I’d heard long ago that she was on ‘do not rehire’ lists for places she’d worked in the past so they couldn’t have checked with them). I verified this with the team’s website…yup, she was their head coach. So fast forward a couple of months, and one of the people I know from wonderful organization told me what she’d heard from her client. Client was on the governing board of this particular summer team. Kim was not doing well at the head coaching job. She’d always had a problem with yelling/screaming at the kids when we worked together. Unfortunately, I didn’t touch on this in my letters to AAM because 1) there were so many other things, and 2) being in the same area as her day after day, I perfected the ability to tune her out. However, it was still a major thing.

Well, the parents at the new club weren’t so keen on having their kids yelled and screamed at, and more than one kid wanted to quit rather than deal with that all summer at what was supposed to be a fun team. So the client and the board had a meeting with Kim and told her that she can’t coach that way (by yelling and screaming). She can change her methods or they would accept her resignation. Kim apparently said that was the way she coached and that’s just too bad if they don’t like it and they don’t know what they were talking about because she was a good coach! So she had to “resign”. Now, this is a very short season, only about 8 weeks. This happened halfway through. So for the club to take the approach of getting rid of her halfway through that short season….well, you know her behavior had to be pretty egregious. I, again, verified this on the team’s website; presto! She was no longer listed as the head coach after that! Of course, Kim was weaving a different story for anyone else, that she was the wronged party; they wanted her to change the way she coached and by golly, she wasn’t going to do that because she was a good coach!. However, knowing what I know of her, I tend to believe what I heard. I think that she didn’t have anyone at the club to cover for her and look the other way (like our old supervisor would do and still, apparently, does), so once they got onto her, there way no way for her to win.

That was last summer. I haven’t heard anything about her since then. It’s a memory in my life now; though not a pleasant one, I think I learned something from that experience. The vast majority of the families that I worked with left for other organizations. I’m doing well and since leaving that organization, I’ve expanded my horizons to try to make a hobby into a part-time business, so that’s a wonderful diversion and way to carry on. I fully expect to run into Kim again at some point….the world can be a small place sometimes. I really hope that when that happens, I have the presence of mind to tell her to go stuff herself. I don’t have the time or inclination to feed into her delusions even one tiny bit anymore.

update: my coworker won’t stop caressing me — or the kids we work with was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

10 August 2017 16:14 - YA Discourse: Witch vs Vulture

Posted by fozmeadows

For days now, social media has been abuzz over Kat Rosenfield’s recent Vulture essay, The Toxic Drama on YA Twitter, which focuses almost exclusively on reactions to Laurie Forest’s debut novel, The Black Witch. Overwhelmingly, the responses I’ve seen are binary: either Rosenfield is a terrible, malicious person who doesn’t know what she’s talking about, or she’s the only person brave enough to speak truth to power. Not having read The Black Witch, a book I can’t recall hearing about before this week, it was news to me that its reception was news at all. Now that I’m all caught up, however, I feel rather like the doomed bowl of petunias falling through space in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: oh no, not again.

The recent history of online SFF, fandom and genre discourse rejoices in an abundance of brilliant trashfires, but even in that context, there’s something about YA that routinely spurs the community to knock things up a notch with the Spice Weasel of Greater Fuckery, BAM! YA is so predictably riven with terrible arguments, in fact, that I made a Venn diagram of them. (In MS Paint, obviously. Because I am secretly nine thousand years old.) THUS:

YA fuckery venn diagram

Or, to put it another, slightly less tongue-in-cheek way: as with anything primarily intended for teenagers, it’s necessary to acknowledge that not all teens either need, want or can handle the same things at the same time, in the same way or to the same degree, while simultaneously accounting for the fact that both teens and adults are frequently unreliable narrators about where these boundaries lie. This creates a maelstrom of seemingly paradoxical, highly contextual arguments about what is or is not “appropriate” for a given audience: in the case of YA, the usual moral arguments about content are further complicated by both literary snobbery and a continual back-and-forth about whether YA authors have an obligation to “teach” their readers, whatever that means in context. Throw in the invariable clash between older, outsider commentators with only superficial genre knowledge and young, frequently inexperienced critic-readers making their first forays into public commentary, and it’s a recipe for disaster. Which isn’t to say that there’s never any insightful, engaging or otherwise fruitful YA discourse to be found online – far from it! It’s just that, when things do go wrong, the pattern of arguments tends to be as predictable as it is explosive.

Rosenfield starts her article by describing how early, glowing praise for The Black Witch was abruptly curtailed, thanks to a single negative review:

The hype train was derailed in mid-March, however, by Shauna Sinyard, a bookstore employee and blogger who writes primarily about YA and had a different take: “The Black Witch is the most dangerous, offensive book I have ever read,” she wrote in a nearly 9,000-word review that blasted the novel as an end-to-end mess of unadulterated bigotry. “It was ultimately written for white people. It was written for the type of white person who considers themselves to be not-racist and thinks that they deserve recognition and praise for treating POC like they are actually human.”

As Rosenfield notes, Sinyard’s review consists largely of quotes from the book, interspersed with reactive commentary. That being so, it’s striking that Rosenfield neither attempts to engage with the substance of Sinyard’s objections nor addresses the text itself. Her defence of the book, inasmuch as she bothers to mount one, consists entirely of pointing out that, well, other people liked it!, the better to malign Sinyard for daring to disagree. This approach irritates me for three reasons: one, obviously, because people disagreeing about the merit of books is the literal function of reviewing; two, because it situates as irrelevant the rather core matter of whether the original criticism was warranted, or at least reasonable; and three, because it ignores a critical aspect of how Sinyard’s piece was received.

Never having encountered Sinyard before now, I can’t say whether this particular review is representative of her usual writing style, nor can I speak to the breadth of her experience. What I will say, however, is that this particular review is easily mistaken for a conflation of depiction with endorsement. While Sinyard clearly and extensively references the text, and while the immediate reasons for her dislike are clearly stated, her overall argument is sloppy, not because she doesn’t know what she’s talking about, but because she assumes her readership can fill in the relevant blanks.

To me – and, I suspect, to anyone with a solid background in pro-diversity criticism – it’s clear that she’s angry, not at the mere presence of bigotry in the narrative, but at how Forest has chosen to handle it. With few exceptions, Sinyard is asserting a specific failure of depiction, not depiction-as-evil, full stop. This is, to put it mildly, a really important distinction for any critic to make, not least because it’s the difference between saying (for instance) “I hate that you wrote about drug use” and “I hate that you wrote about drug use badly.” One is a judgement of content; the other is a judgement of execution. Sinyard is so angry at the book as a whole – as, indeed, is her right – that she hasn’t much distinguished between elements which create the problem and those which, with the problem established, serve to compound it, such as the presence of toxic tropes. But then, she likely felt it unnecessary: to those in the know, additional explanations were superfluous.

 

Not having been involved in the initial furore, I can’t speak to which readers thought Sinyard was arguing that depiction equals endorsement, therefore The Black Witch is Bad; nor can I state how much agreement or disagreement with her review was forged on that basis, compared to the number of people who took her as critiquing the execution. Nonetheless, it’s clear that this misapprehension did circulate, and – I would argue – played a salient role in what happened next. When, as Rosenfield points out, the book was positively reviewed at Kirkus, the ensuing comment thread made multiple references to Sinyard’s conflation of depiction with endorsement, both from her supporters and from those who disagreed. This confusion is also apparent in editor Vicky Smith’s follow-up essay, which manages come within spitting distance of recognising Sinyard’s point while still missing it spectacularly. To quote:

Yep, it’s pretty repellent stuff, and readers are in narrator Elloren’s head almost all the way through all 608 pages. She expresses her thoughtless bigotry over and over. She is racist as all get out… And she is homophobic, telling her brother when he comes out to her, “You can’t be this way. You just can’t. You have to change.” While I’m not sure I’d say that Elloren is misogynistic, her culture certainly is, and she is not one of those standard-issue fantasy heroines who rejects her culture’s strictures from Page 1.

But over the course of those 608 pages, as she studies, works, eats, and sleeps alongside those she’s been taught to hate, fear, and revile, Elloren undergoes a monumental change. It’s a process much like that experienced by Derek Black, godson of David Duke and son of Don Black, white supremacist and creator of the white nationalist internet site Stormfront. Black walked in lockstep with his elders’ agenda until he went to college and got to know the sorts of people he had previously vilified, eventually publicly disavowing white nationalism.

Here’s the thing about the redemption of real-world extremists: as happy as we are when they cross the fence, their pre-enlightenment point of view is not something everyone either can or should be asked to sympathise with. For those of us on the receiving end of bigotry, knowing that a particular person has been indoctrinated against us since childhood doesn’t mean it stings any less when they go on the attack. In much the same way that an abuser’s past victimisation doesn’t exonerate their present sins, we understand that, yes, even if a vehement bigot was raised to bigotry, they are still hurting us now, and we are allowed to be angry. That being so, comparing the protagonist of The Black Witch to a real-life white supremacist does more to prove Sinyard’s point than Smith’s. If a reader belongs to one or more of the marginalised groups so profoundly and constantly reviled in the text by Elloren, why on Earth should they want to read six hundred pages about a fictional bigot struggling to view them, the actual living reader, as human? Why wouldn’t that be upsetting?

In real life, anyone might be curious to read up on Derek Black’s white supremacist transformation, because he’s a real person who actually exists, but even so, no black reader is going to come away from that narrative thinking, “Wow, I really do deserve to be treated like a person!” because they literally already knew that. Which is what Sinyard means when she says The Black Witch “holds no regard to the feelings of marginalised people” – the big emotional reveal is seemingly predicated on the reader either learning from, being surprised by or sympathising with Elloren’s transformation, which means caring enough about her – caring more about her than those she victimises – to feel invested in the first place. And if you, as a reader, are one of those she victimises, then that’s unlikely to be a fun experience.

Returning to Rosenfield’s piece, she writes:

In a tweet that would be retweeted nearly 500 times, Sinyard asked people to spread the word about The Black Witch by sharing her review — a clarion call for YA Twitter, which regularly identifies and denounces books for being problematic (an all-purpose umbrella term for describing texts that engage improperly with race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and other marginalizations). Led by a group of influential authors who pull no punches when it comes to calling out their colleagues’ work, and amplified by tens of thousands of teen and young-adult followers for whom online activism is second nature, the campaigns to keep offensive books off shelves are a regular feature in a community that’s as passionate about social justice as it is about reading. And while not every callout escalates into a full-scale dragging, in the case of The Black Witch — a book by a newcomer with a minimal presence online — the backlash was immediate and intense.

There are several salient criticisms to be made of this paragraph. To begin with, it’s a staggering act of wilful bad faith on Rosenfield’s part to act as if Sinyard’s decision to tweet about her negative review was, in and of itself, a malicious decision. This is quite literally what book bloggers do: they opine about books, whether positively or negatively, then share those reviews with others. But Rosenfield, like Sinyard, is sloppy. In failing to acknowledge the necessity of criticism in any genre, she acts as if YA authors are uniquely entitled to good press. At the same time, by neglecting to mention the current ubiquity of pro-diversity criticism, not only within SFF, but across the board, she creates the false impression that the phenomenon is unique to YA.

Rosenfield’s further claim that YA Twitter is “led by a group of influential authors who pull no punches” is as nebulous as it is frustrating. Not that she names these supposed leaders, of course: how could she? There’s far too many “influential authors” on Twitter to sensibly imagine any of them forming some shady cabal with dominion over the others, and that’s before you attempt to define what “influential” means in context. Better to leave it unsourced, along with her “tens of thousands” figure for YA readers “for whom online activism is second nature”. I’m honestly fascinated to know where she got that number: has someone done a survey? If nothing else, “tens of thousands” stands in stark contrast to the stated nearly 500 retweets of Sinyard’s “clarion call” and the 6000 notes on a related tumblr post. The fact that the review itself apparently garnered some 20,000 views does not evidence make.

More salient than all these numbers, however, is the fact that, as of the time of this writing, The Black Witch has 2,266 ratings on Goodreads and roughly a third as many reviews: if Rosenfield is going to invoke the ugly spectre of “tens of thousands” of angry strangers damning the book to purgatory, she could at least have the decency to be consistent about it. Instead, we get this:

Based almost solely on Sinyard’s opinion, the novel became the object of sustained, aggressive opposition in the weeks leading up its release.

Allow me to nitpick Rosenfield’s word use, here: the reaction to the novel wasn’t based “solely on Sinyard’s opinion”, but on her review. Opinions, by definition, aren’t necessarily founded in reality: Sinyard’s review, however, was extensively sourced from the text. Whatever qualms I have about Sinyard’s commentary, her review demonstrably gained momentum on the basis of its quotes, which included several full screenshots of various pages. Those who shared her ire weren’t trusting blindly in a familiar voice, but were judging actual excerpts from the book, and whether or not those passages were ultimately representative of the whole, it’s not unreasonable to use them as a gauge for potential interest.

That being so, it’s important to note that much of the frustration expressed towards books like The Black Witch  is the product of a still largely homogeneous mainstream YA market. While progress has been and is being made to diversify the field, the front-and-centering of books which, as per Sinyard’s review, are written more for the privileged than the marginalised – and more, which are often either dismissive of marginalisation or laden with stereotypes – is still a very real problem. Indie authors, who are frequently stigmatised by simple virtue of their “failure” to achieve mainstream publication, but whose books often feature far greater diversity than their traditional counterparts, have to fight hard for readers and recognition both, which makes the seemingly effortless hype afforded books like The Black Witch a bitter pill to swallow. In that context, anger at this particular title isn’t just about the book itself, but the extent to which it represents a wider structural bias – one which, unless actively identified, has a tendency to pass as a silent default.

Its publisher, Harlequin Teen, was bombarded with angry emails demanding they pull the book. The Black Witch’s Goodreads rating dropped to an abysmal 1.71 thanks to a mass coordinated campaign of one-star reviews, mostly from people who admitted to not having read it.

And now we hit the crux of Rosenfield’s argument: the money quote, for all that she’s lacking in sources. After all, there’s a difference between Harlequin Teen receiving five emails and fifty, and in light of the fact that the majority of her selected links are now dead, in the absence of any confirming screenshots, we’ve only her word that there really was a “mass coordinated campaign,” as opposed to a smaller number of angry readers engaging in bad behaviour.

Even so, regardless of your thoughts on The Black Witch in particular, it should be a no-brainer that leaving 1-star reviews of a book you haven’t actually read is a terrible thing to do. It is, quite literally, a Sad Puppy tactic, and even if it wasn’t just plain bad manners, that fact alone is enough to make it verboten. Even on Goodreads, it’s entirely possible to discuss the failings of a book you don’t want to read without falsely claiming to have done so. Similarly, and as little faith in the novel as the quoted sections inspire, the idea that The Black Witch ought to be pulled for its sins is needlessly excessive. Bad books exist, which is why reviews exist: to tell us not to buy them.

Or rather, to suggest we don’t. Bad reviews are not mandates of Thou Shalt Not Read – they are, to quote Captain Barbossa, more like guidelines. While I agree that voting with your wallet plays an important part in shaping what the publishing industry sees as viable, making blanket declarations to the effect that Buying This Bad Book Makes You A Bad Person For Contributing To Harm is, frankly, both toxic and unhelpful, not least because there is no absolute, definitive line in the sand about what “bad” is. As I’ve had occasion to say before in a fandom context,  you can’t ban stories that feature “bad” elements uncritically without also banning a great deal of content you’d much rather keep – and besides which, it’s entirely possible to both criticise a story and enjoy it.

Not having read The Black Witch, I can’t speak to its other qualities, but then, as both Sinyard and Smith have made clear, it’s likely not a book for me. I was never the intended audience, and thanks to how widely circulated Sinyard’s review has been, it’s easier than it would otherwise be for readers who dislike its approach to avoid it. Which is – again! – exactly what reviews are for. And, look: I know this is a delicate point to make, but nobody who’s currently angry about The Black Witch came into the world, Athena-esque, possessed of their present wisdom. As a teenager, I absolutely adored the Axis trilogy and Wayfarer Redemption series by Sara Douglass: they were my first, formative foray into adult fantasy novels, and they made me consider a lot of things I never had before. As an adult, however, I find much of the material horrifying – there is so much gratuitous rape in those books, you guys! So many racist, ableist tropes! But as critical as I am of the books now, at the time, they helped me to start being critical: and everyone has to start somewhere.

Particularly in the present political moment, I can well understand why Harlequin Teen’s decision to release a novel whose protagonist is the fantasy equivalent of a white nationalist is being criticised. I can also understand why, given the same political context, those responsible for the book might have thought, “Here is a story which teens raised by bigots, who are still in the process of unlearning their own bigotry, might find meaningful.” Returning to the Derek Black example, while no African American reading about his break with white supremacy would learn anything new about their own humanity, the same isn’t true for a reader who shares his background – and if such a person can be converted, isn’t that ultimately a good thing?

There is, I feel, a tension on the left about bigots who cross the floor and recant: we want it to happen, but we don’t want to give people cookies for finally meeting the most basic standards of human decency, because – we argue – they should just be doing that anyway. But the difficult, prickly truth is this: if accepting the humanity of people you’ve been raised to hate, fear and devalue was really as simple as flicking a mental switch, the world would be a damn sight better than it is. Personal change is a messy, imperfect process. From an emotional remove, it’s easy to laugh at that guy who thinks he’s a hero for loving his wife’s curves, but for a lot of people, that’s exactly what their first forays into better personhood look like. I’m starting to feel like we need to apply that xkcd strip about not making fun of people not knowing basic things to the pro-diversity movement: yes, it’s often frustrating to have repeat runthroughs of Diversity 101, but without the basics, how is anyone going to progress?

ten_thousand

But then – and this is getting slightly away from The Black Witch, but bear with me – I also feel like this used to be what happened. The pace of internet discourse and the evolution of its various subcommunities moves so fast that the passage of a year is practically an epoch, such that patterns and behaviours which feel set in stone are objectively quite recent. Once upon a time, as memory serves, the etiquette was to respond politely to newbie queries about feminism, diversity and whathaveyou until or unless the questioner proved themselves hostile, the better to catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Less than a decade ago, it was still new and exciting to be building social media communities online, discussing books and politics and shared interests with people around the world. But what absolutely ruined that optimistic approach – the tactic that was developed and perpetuated with the direct intention of emotionally exhausting the opposition – was the nascent alt-right, MRA, 4-chan-and-reddit-sanctioned rise in trolling.

Offline, we talk about how the culture of particular communities – their character, language and rituals – can be shaped by traumatic events. I would argue that the same is also true of digital communities, and that a great deal of what is now held to be standard discursive practice in left-wing circles was drawn up to circumvent being trapped in bad faith arguments by trolls who deliberately used “polite” language in their initial exchanges as a bait-and-switch tactic. The term sealioning was coined in response to the practice of nicely, “cluelessly” importuning the target with requests for sources the questioner never intended to read, and that’s just one permutation of the phenomenon.

Almost every person I know who spends any time arguing about diversity and feminism on the internet, myself included, has experienced burnout at the hands of trolls who mimic sincere engagement with the express purpose of draining their interlocutor. The cumulative effect has been a bit like the Boy Who Cried Wolf: we’ve all encountered so many terrible assholes masquerading as Polite Bigots Who Are Genuinely Curious About Your Arguments that now, whenever an actual Diversity 101 student wanders in asking beginner-level questions or failing to recognise the higher-level ingroup shorthand or jargon for what it is, the default response is to either laugh or tear them a new one. And if I were a cynical person, I might be given to wonder if that was the real end-goal all along, the better to drive rebuffed fence-sitters back towards MRA forums. (But that’s another essay.)

The point being that, aside from every other valid personal and historical reason why those with limited emotional energy to expend on the induction of baby lefties are disinclined to focus on redeeming bigots, the recent digital past has pretty firmly entrenched that course as folly. So when a fictionalised account of that process comes along, all wrapped up in a fantasy setting for teenagers, and presents itself as a narrative both for and about the group we’re least invested in working to redeem or in viewing sympathetically before that point – well. We’re exhausted. Of course we are.

I say again: I haven’t read The Black Witch, and I came away from Sinyard’s review with a poor impression of it. I don’t think it’s for me, or for a lot of people like me, and without having attempted the text myself, I don’t feel qualified to speak about what value it might or might not have to others – and particularly teenagers – whose background more closely mimics that of the protagonist. But even if you hew firmly to the idea that the book is terrible, arguing that nobody else should be allowed to read it lest they do harm to strangers is completely absurd. Good values and intelligent opinions aren’t formed by simply reading the “right” books and putting a blind, uncritical trust in whoever sets those parameters, but by engaging critically and intelligently regardless of what you’re reading.

When the awful Otto objects, indignant and vehement, to Wanda calling him a stupid ape in A Fish Called Wanda, snapping, “Apes don’t read philosophy!”, Wanda shoots back at him, “Yes they do, Otto. They just don’t understand it.” More than once in the shamefully recent past, I’ve fallen into the trap of uncritically adopting an opinion just because people I thought were Good Guys had expressed it, and damned if that has ever led to anything but me, belatedly, realising I was an ass.

By the same token, I can think of plenty of equally recent instances where I’ve had a wildly different take on a given book or series to friends whose judgement and acumen I respect enormously. A huge number of people in my circle loved Uprooted; despite my affection for Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series, I ended up ragequitting when I’d barely started. Ditto my reaction to Saga, a wildly successful series beloved of many friends which, from what I’ve seen of the later issues, is doing a lot of great stuff: even so, I never made it past the first issue. The same thing happened with Seth Dickinson’s The Traitor Baru Cormorant, a polarising but popular book: I couldn’t get past chapter two, but plenty of others loved it.

One of my very first forays into online YA discourse happened back in 2011, a full six years ago: remember the blowup when Bitch Magazine put up a list of 100 feminist YA novels, then removed several of them after individual commenters objected to their inclusion, at which point all hell broke loose? Critics disagreeing about the feminist and/or diversity merits of various YA novels is not new. What is new is the rigid insistence in certain quarters on One True Interpretation, never to be questioned or gainsaid, such that 1-starring a book you haven’t read or asking the publisher to pull it is presented as a sensible course of action.

Back when Benjanun Sriduangkaew was still operating as Requires Hate, I remember tweeting a photo of a stack of newly-purchased SFF books and receiving an instant, scathing rebuke from her about the racism inherent in having bought something written by Libba Bray. While I don’t think we’re anywhere near her levels of toxicity in the current discourse overall, I’m as annoyed by the clear comparison between her stance then and certain reactions to The Black Witch now as I am by the identical decision of Sad Puppies and diversity advocates alike to suggest that 1-starring unread, “objectionable” books is a good idea.

Which brings me, once again, to Rosenfield’s article, the latter half of which is, by and large, more cogent than the start. That being so, I was surprised by the amount of anger I saw directed at her on social media for those sections in particular, deriding her decision to quote people “without consent”, or without warning them beforehand that she was going to link to their Twitter accounts.

To be clear: the fact that some of the people named in Rosenfield’s piece were subsequently subjected to new vitriol from strangers who disliked their opinions is awful. That sort of abuse helps no one, and I hate that it’s become so ubiquitous as to frequently be written off as just par for the course. But by the same token, when it comes to suggesting Rosenfield had no right to link anyone without permission – and to quote the formidable Roxanne Gay, who responded to the piece herself – that’s not how journalism works.

Tweets are part of the public record: both the APA and various university systems have established referencing protocols for their citation. The internet is a public space: what we say and do here, in writing, is always on the record. One tweet I saw objected to Rosenfield quoting minors without permission. I have no idea if that’s true – her one professedly teenage source is given a pseudonym – but even so, as best I can tell, the usual journalistic standards about requiring a minor’s guardians to sign off on their being interviewed doesn’t apply to quoting online content, which has – as stated – already been made public.

(I’m happy to be corrected on that point, by the way, but given how many widely-circulated BuzzFeed articles – to name just one outlet – consist almost entirely of screenshots of content from Twitter and tumblr, much of which is made by teens, it doesn’t seem like that sort of journalistic restriction exists in any meaningful way.)

As someone with Diagnosed Mental Health Issues (TM), I completely understand how finding something you said unexpectedly referenced in a prominent publication – especially when it results in a sudden influx of angry digital contact – can be not only upsetting, but actively stressful. But at the same time, strangers are not responsible for setting additional boundaries in anticipation of your unknown mental health needs. In making the decision to engage publicly online, either despite or because of our personal issues, all of us are consenting to being on record: to being quoted, and potentially contacted in response to those quotes, regardless of the convenience.

In those rare moments when we do consider potentially going viral, it tends to be the mental equivalent to clicking “agree” on yet another set of iTunes terms and conditions: yes, yes, risks and blah and whatever blah, just let me keep using the thing! But that doesn’t make the potential consequences any less real – and when we’re writing under our actual names, in our professional capacities as authors or critics, about literary issues, in a medium which is expressly designed to allow strangers to talk to us, being outraged that someone actually linked to what we said in a critical way makes as much sense as going for a long walk when the forecast is rain and crying foul when the clouds open. Someone disagreeing with your opinion and linking to what you said is not the same thing as a person deliberately encouraging their readers to engage in harassment: while the latter is certainly bullying, the former is merely a basic journalistic standard. That it can sometimes have the same effect when assholes show up to mouth off on their own volition is gross and angrifying, but that doesn’t mean the reporter has acted either badly or in bad faith.

That being said, I can’t let Rosenfield’s summation of other recent YA “controversies” pass without examination. Near the end of her piece, she says:

Twitter being Twitter, that outcome seems unlikely. In recent months, the community was bubbling with a dozen different controversies of varying reach — over Nicola Yoon’s Everything Everything (for ableism), Stephanie Elliot’s Sad Perfect (for being potentially triggering to ED survivors), A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas (for heterocentrism), The Traitor’s Kiss by Erin Beaty (for misusing the story of Mulan), and All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater (in a peculiar example of publishing pre-crime, people had decided that Stiefvater’s book was racist before she’d even finished the manuscript.)

Given the context of the article, these issues are presented as being similar in nature to what happened with The Black Witch – and again, I’m annoyed by the number of unsourced claims on offer (and, just as equally, by yet another person 1-starring an unreleased, unread novel). But as in her earlier arguments, what Rosenfield misses here, whether wilfully or in ignorance, is the vital distinction between critics actually doing their jobs – which is to say, pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of various books for the edification of potential readers – and an uglier sort of backlash. As previously mentioned, it’s entirely possible to find fault with one aspect of a book, or to make note of any potentially triggering content, while still endorsing it otherwise, and it’s to Rosenfield’s discredit that she’s happy eliding this distinction.

All of which is a very long-winded way of saying that, as pissed off as I am at the sneering, editorialised, biased way in which Rosenfield addresses criticism of The Black Witch in particular, her remarks about the pitfalls of online YA discourse in general have some merit. Writing this blog, I don’t expect that everyone who reads it will agree with me. I don’t have some masochistic urge to be yelled at on Twitter,  and nor – for the record – do I think I’ve gotten everything here right. There are times when writing an essay comes naturally, the whole thing flowing onto the page in a single, cogent burst. Writing this piece has been harder, more fragmented, the process full of deletions and revisions. Whenever I act as a critic, I always feel achingly aware of the potential for an argument to twist out from under me: for a single elision or botched turn of phrase to derail my intent into error. Which is why shoddy criticism, bad arguments and poor reasoning invariably raise my hackles: online, there’s a frequent and terrible conflation of opinion with analysis, and while both can be equally valuable – and while they can certainly overlap – we give them different names for a reason.

The objections of marginalised people to narratives which take a “we’re talking about you, not to you” approach to their lived experiences are, and always will be, valid. Likewise, it’s important to consider the impact of particular tropes, not just within an individual work, but as legacies of a wider cultural history and movement. No book, no reader, no author and no critic is an island, and while we’re still individually entitled to our personal preferences, our tastes are nonetheless informed by the world around us, which means that we, in turn, can potentially influence others. Discussing a book you haven’t read or stating your reasons for not doing so is perfectly acceptable practice, and always has been, and always will be – indeed, as I’ve said multiple times already, this is what reviews are for.

The question of what makes good YA is never going to have a consistent answer, no matter how finely you parse the politics of moral purity. That being so, I’d far rather encourage readers to form their own opinions on the basis of the evidence – even if they end up drawing an existing conclusion; even if they’d rather assess reviews than the book itself, or vice versa – than to simply trust whatever they’re told implicitly. Because sooner or later, everyone disagrees about something, and if your only response to a conflict between two trusted authorities is to wait for one of them to make your mind up for you – well. I’d say I’d be frightened to live in that world, but truthfully, I think we already are.

The real trick, then, is to change it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Posted by JenniferP

Dear Captain Awkward,

I have a friend, who is a wonderful person and who I love hanging out with, but she stresses me the hell out. My issue with her is she constantly changes her mind and changes plans, which drives me crazy – which I realize is partly a personal issue, and I’m working on being more flexible, but she goes above and beyond what I think I’ll ever be able to deal with. Right now there are two main issues with her I’m grappling with:

1. I’m a planner by nature, and am the type of person who, when I make plans with someone, put them in my calendar and schedules other things around those plans. This friend CONSTANTLY changes plans, which irks me because then I’ve planned my day /week around our plans that then get changed or cancelled. I know this about her, and have basically told her twice now, “It stresses me out when you change our plans. Please don’t.” Each time she apologizes and says she’s going to be less flaky, but it never sticks. I’m to the point now where I avoid making plans with her unless it’s something I intended to do anyway – i.e., I’ll invite her to an event I’m planning to go to solo anyway, or invite her to group things where I know other people are going, so if she bails it’s not a big deal. But I feel like it’s affected our relationship, as I’m turning down invites from her to go do stuff because it may or may not actually happen, and thus don’t see her as often.

2. In a more recent development, this friend got engaged. I was asked to be a bridesmaid. Reluctantly, I said yes, after deciding saying no and probably damaging our relationship wouldn’t be an outcome I am okay with. But with wedding planning comes, well, planning, and again she is constantly going back on decisions that I think are set decisions, and it drives me nuts. For instance, when I said I would be a bridesmaid, she said she was buying our dresses. Then she said her dad said she couldn’t buy our dresses, and we had to buy our own. Fine, whatever. Then she texted all the bridesmaids that she had decided on an outfit and told us to order it, and to coordinate with each other if we wanted to go a group order (they do discounts on group orders so it would be financially advantageous for us to do so.) But she didn’t help coordinate a group order other than suggesting it. Then the next day she said she was still looking at other dress options. Then a few days later she sent us a text saying she made up her mind, order the first outfit she sent, do it in the next week, and if need be she’d pay for the group order and we could pay her back. THAT SAME DAY, like literally three hours later, she said no rush on ordering dresses, she was still looking. This entire exchange and the fact that I can’t take her at her word stresses me out to no end, and I know this is just the start – there are still many wedding logistics to work out that I will be involved in, such as the bachelorette, and the rehearsal dinner, and the day of the ceremony itself, and I don’t know if I can handle a year of this. Also she’s told us she’d pay for other things, like our hair and makeup, but I don’t know if I can take her at her word or if she’ll change her mind and I’ll be responsible for paying for those things too.

So my questions are this: What are some scripts I can use to reiterate, once again, that changing plans stresses me out? And how can I explain to her that I feel like I can’t take her at her word with the wedding decisions, and she needs to put a stop to that too if she wants me to be a part of her big day?

Please Help!
Reluctant Bridesmaid

Dear Reluctant Bridesmaid,

You are handling your question #1 perfectly. You have figured out that she is who she is, you have made the inviting easy on yourself, and the result is sometimes you spend less time together, which, okay? There is a deep incompatibility between you, and yet your love for her moves you to cross that chasm the best you can and enjoy the time with her that you have.

Let’s talk about question #2: Bridesmaidery

What if you got a beautiful card and wrote this note in it and sent it?

Dear Friend, I’m so happy for you and so excited to celebrate at your wedding, and so honored that you asked me to stand up with you, but I’m realizing that I can’t serve as your bridesmaid. I want you to have exactly the wedding you want, and I’m so sorry that I can’t be there for you for the ups and downs of planning it, but I wanted to let you know now so you can make other plans. Congratulations and love to you.

Will peace-ing out hurt her feelings and damage your friendship? Yes. Probably.

Is she hurting your feelings and damaging your relationship by constantly changing her mind? YES.

Will there be a friendship left if you have to read the words “rush order your dress/no wait, don’t” one more fucking time this month?

 

If she asks you why you quit her wedding, can you tell her the truth? “Well, it’s not a secret that we have very different planning styles, and this whole thing over the dress already has me so stressed out that I know this is the right decision for me. I’d love to be at your wedding as a guest and a friend if you’ll have me, but I can’t be a bridesmaid, I’m sorry.

Will it be easy? No. She’ll try to reassure you that it won’t happen again but you 100% know it will happen again with literally every decision. You asked for how you can make it clear that she can’t keep changing plans if she wants you to be a part of her big day, but even if you make an agreement like that you’ll still end up where you are (stressed out, broke) down the road. She can’t make or keep commitments to you! You already have all the evidence you’ll ever need for how this will go.

Be nice to yourself. Get out of this wedding party.

And, for everyone reading this, one possible answer to “Will you be in my wedding?” is “Oh, I’m so happy for you, but I can’t commit to that.” Or, “Let me think about it – I’m so happy for you and I’d love to be a part of it, but I want to be sure I really can do it before I say yes.” Some people will take that very badly and it might affect the friendship, but the Venn diagram of “people who take ‘No, I’m sorry’ as ‘I hate you forever!'” and “people who will make the wedding planning process a death by 1,000 cuts” has some overlap.


10 August 2017 14:59 - what benefits do you get?

Posted by Ask a Manager

A couple of years ago, in an effort to take some of the mystery out of salaries, I ran a post asking people to share how much money they make, their job, and their geographic region. It ended up being one of the most popular posts on the site, and we did it again early this year.

Now let’s do the same thing for benefits.

If you’re willing to play, here are the rules:

1. Put your job title in the “user name” field, which will make it appear in bold, which will be easier for people to scan.

2. List the following info:

  • your job (the more descriptive the better, since job titles don’t always explain level of responsibility or scope of work)
  • your geographic area
  • your years of experience
  • a description of your benefits — how much vacation and sick leave you get, retirement matching, what portion of your health insurance premium your employer pays for you, and any other interesting benefits you might get

(If you want to be anonymous, don’t put your email address in the email field if you don’t want it linked to your Gravatar, if you have one.)

what benefits do you get? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Posted by JenniferP

Dear Captain,

Every year I go on holiday in a cottage somewhere with the same group of 10 people. It’s lovely and a really important chance to catch up with old friends I don’t see enough. But every year I end up resenting the half of them who don’t pull their weight with the chores.

Not all of us are decent cooks, and it seems perfectly reasonable that only the people who are good at it cook dinners. And we have a “you cooked, so you don’t have to clear away after dinner” rule. But that’s only a tiny fraction of the cleaning that goes on during the week. We also need to load the dishwasher at several other points in the day, do the shopping, plan what we’re going to do, keep tidying things away, organise the holiday itself… All of this emotional and logistical labour and the majority of the cleaning/ cooking is done by the same small group of people.

As you might have guessed, there’s a strong correlation between gender and whether or not people do their share, although it’s not clear cut. My (male) other half is one of the cleaners, and one of the worst shirkers recently came out as non binary, so I don’t want to make a thing of the gender issue as it isn’t as simple as just the women doing the work and the men avoiding it.

I have in the past said something like “it feels like the same people do the majority of the chores, partly because a lot of it isn’t noticeable unless it doesn’t get done, so please be aware of whether you’re doing enough”. This has increased the amount of chores the shirkers do slightly, but not to their fair share, and it hasn’t changed the balance of emotional/ logistical labour. It also resulted in one of the shirkers hiding in a corner not talking to anyone for a couple of hours. (They’re in bad mental health and will do this occasionally throughout the week).

Policing other people’s chore is a) annoying and b) yet more emotional labour I don’t want to do. I’ve tried just not doing the chores, but this results in them not getting done until one of the people who already does too much work does them.

Lots of my thinks this is just one week a year and I should just deal with it and not make a scene or sit there stewing when half the group aren’t contributing. But I’m really pissed off by the injustice of it, especially given the gender divide. And as a friend, I also think my heterosexual male friends are much more likely to have happy romantic relationships if they learn how to divide labour more equitably.

Any advice?

Yours,
I Am Not Your Mother
(She/ her pronouns)

Dear I Am Not Your Mother:

You can’t fix the balance of labor inside your friend’s relationships or make your vacation a way to model a different balance. I get where you’re coming from, but please let that go for now.

You probably can more evenly distribute holiday chores among your friends if you plan and spell it all out in advance. This is somewhat counter-intuitive advice because it means that you will do more emotional labor up front but it might be worth it so you can enjoy your vacation at the time. General messages like “We all need to be aware of x…” never work, they are the equivalent of post-it notes on the office fridge. The people who need to be told never actually think it applies to them, and the people who don’t need to be told resent being told.

I go away with a group of friends at least once a year. They are planners and it is great. (SO GREAT ❤ ❤ <3) We are very explicit about money (two of us are accountants and at least one is an office manager, I am like, the least organized/planner person in the group), which meals will be eaten at the house, who is making them, who is bringing what, which stuff will be grocery shopped for, and what’s involved in getting the rental in shape before we check out, etc. Being so clear and specific about everything means the actual trip is fun because we can relax knowing that we’re doing our part and everyone else is too and there doesn’t have to be a lot of negotiation at the time.

My suggestion for you is to divide up the days of the vacation and make a list of the days and the stuff that needs to be done each day, like:

  • activities – planning, transportation, logistics
  • meals – planning & shopping
  • meals – preparation & cooking
  • meals – cleanup and what that means (dishwasher run, counters & cooktop wiped down, table cleaned, etc)
  • daily tasks – garbage out, dishwasher run nightly & unloaded each morning

You could try dividing up the tasks day by day or you could try dividing up the days between teams of people. Maybe three people take on activity planning, meals, and cleanup for each day, so you can get a team of a good cook, a sous-chef/cleaner, an activity planner doing what they are best suited to. When it’s not your day, make sure your personal dishes go in the dishwasher and your stuff gets back in your room from the common areas and relax the rest of the time – you’re just along for the ride, no need to stew. When it is your day, you & your teammates take the lead on care & feeding of the friend group. However each team of three divides the work up between them is up to them as long as it gets done (even if that means some gender binaries creep in). Depending on how long the holiday is everybody might get two days they are “on duty,” mixed & matched into different teams.

What system you institute isn’t as important as clearly communicating the system to everybody and giving everybody some agency within it. The people who aren’t getting it won’t magically get it without being told. Also, some days the work might not be awesome or done exactly the way you would do it or divided fairly between the three people. It might take a few go-rounds for this to work like clockwork, so, be gentle.

I will also give you my super-secret guide to making groups in film production classes now if it helps. Most of the time I let people make their own groups, but sometimes for specific projects it’s best if I design them.

I used to try to balance the groups regarding abilities, like, spreading the really ambitious students out and also spreading the less ambitious/focused students out. Then I stopped. The ambitious students were used to carrying the load group projects. The less ambitious students were used to hiding behind other people. Now, while this is not a perfect science, I try to split them this way:

Ambitious students = all together! Let them experience the novelty of having fellow organized & assertive people working with them, and people who will challenge their ideas.

Least ambitious students = all together! They can’t hide. The project might falter, but more often, at least one of them will rise and get yon shit together.

Most introverted students = all together! They get to experience not being talked over and also break the cycle of “whatever you want to do is fine.”

I would never, on pain of death, tell you which group is which. (My colleague SK has a little survey where she asks students to self-identify re: “I am here to have fun and learn a little bit” vs. “I am here to make the greatest possible film”)

I leave this here for you if it’s useful, and if you end up creating the chore groups. Maybe it’s worth having a day where nothing much gets done and y’all order in vs. “balancing” the skills.


Posted by Richa

BBQ Sweet Potato Pizza. Easy Summer Pizza with Sweet Potato, Corn, Jalapeno tossed in homemade BBQ Seasoning and dressed in Barbecue sauce. Grill or bake or make into a quesadilla. Vegan Nut-free Recipe. Soy-free Gluten-free option

BBQ Sweet Potato Pizza. Easy Summer Pizza with Sweet Potato, Corn, Jalapeno tossed in homemade BBQ Seasoning and dressed in Barbecue sauce. Grill or bake or make into a quesadilla. Vegan Nut-free Recipe. Soy-free Gluten-free option | VeganRicha.com

Sometimes you just need a simple veggie pizza with good drizzle of bbq sauce. My summer meals have been vegetable heavy with less beans. They just seem to feel better on the tummy. So this Pizza is just veggies. 

The pizza uses my 20 Minute Pizza Crust and barbecue sauce tossed with some cooked sweet potato, corn, peppers, onions and jalapeno. The veggies are then sprinkled with my from scratch Barbecue seasoning(which needs to be used in many other ways!). Many of the ingredients have a sweetish profile. I was wondering about that when I made this the first time but surprisingly that is what I wanted to eat. It also helped curb the sweet craving post lunch. Use your favorite bbq sauce, I like this Annie’s Smoky Maple bbq Sauce, or use my soy-free bbq sauce. Add other veggies like small florets of cauliflower or broccoli or some black beans or chickpeas tossed in the fabulous bbq seasoning. 

Easy, flavorful and Summery! 

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Posted by Ask a Manager

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

1. A hiring manager accidentally sent me an email calling me the weakest candidate

I recently interviewed at a financial services company that has a great reputation. I interviewed with an account executive VP who has been in business magazines and written articles on financial trends. I was impressed with her in person and sent a heartfelt “thank you for the interview” email, with a few follow-up questions regarding the role. I was surprised when she replied back to me (with what was obviously meant to be a forwarded to one of the other interviewers and not a direct reply) a short email, lacking punctuation, to to the tune of “funny, weakest candidate is the only one who sent thank you, how ironic!”

I was upset and insulted. I replied in a professional manner, stating I believed this was sent to me in error but I appreciated the feedback, and asked if there was any specific interview feedback she could provide me as I continue my job search. She sent a response back but did not apologize. She admitted the email was obviously not intended for me, and to wait to hear from their HR department for next steps in the interview process, that she appreciated my passion for the industry, and that I was “so thoughtful.” In her email, she said she was too busy to answer my follow-up questions regarding the role at the time, but she would get back to me by the end of the day. It has been a couple of days, and she has not yet gotten back to me.

My question is, do I do anything about this? Should I report this to her HR department? If for some reason I make it to the next round of interviews, I feel obligated to decline. This position works very closely with this VP, and I am stunned at her carelessness, and inability to apology for mistakes. I am honestly no longer interested in the position. I have discussed this with a few friends who suggest I “report her.” Do you think I should report her behavior to her HR department, or the talent acquisition associate I have been working with in the hiring process? If I am contacted for another interview, I feel it could be appropriate to explain why I would decline, but I also do not want to seem like a troublemaker.

Let it go. Emails like this get sent in hiring all the time; the issue here was that she accidentally sent it to you instead of to the people she intended to send it to. Sometimes that happens — people misdirect emails. It wasn’t done with malice; it was an accident. I’m sure it stung to see she thought you were the weakest candidate, but hey, now you know that, and it’s useful to get that kind of glimpse into how candidates are being assessed behind the scenes.

Reporting it would make you look a little out of touch, because what’s HR going to do about it? HR doesn’t manage VPs. They advise on hiring, and the most they could do would be to say, “Hey, this wasn’t great.” And she surely knows that already. “Reporting” her would make you look like you don’t quite get how this stuff works.

People make mistakes. This one sucked, but it’s not the kind of thing where you can or should try to get some sort of justice. All you can do is move on.

2. Haven’t heard back about a volunteer position

About a month ago, I applied for a remote volunteer position at a nonprofit organization. The position was supposed to start yesterday. I didn’t get any direct response about my application, so a few days ago I emailed the volunteer manager (we had previously emailed back and forth about some different volunteer-related issues) asking if she had any updates on my application. She responded almost immediately by telling me she was CC’ing another person who she said would be able to give me more information. However, this second person has not responded at all to my email.

Should I just take this silence as a rejection and move on? Also, would it be okay to reapply to the same volunteer position or a similar one?

Yes, assume it’s not happening and move on. This kind of unresponsiveness is really common around volunteering, unfortunately. Sometimes it’s simple disorganization, but a lot of the time it’s that nonprofits (especially smaller, volunteer-reliant nonprofits) are stretched really thin and constantly in triage mode.

That said, since you do have one responsive contact there, you could email her again and say something like: “I haven’t heard back from Jane. I know you all must be very busy, but I’m really interested in helping out so I wanted to try just one more time! Either way, though, thanks for all the work you’re doing and I’ll continue to look for other ways to support you as well.”

And it should be fine to reapply to other volunteer roles there in the future (including this one if you wait a while, like at least six months). But go into assuming that they might not have their act together when it comes to volunteers, and make sure you’re okay with that before putting significant energy into it.

3. Offering to let candidates talk to the previous people in the job

I’m in the process of hiring a new assistant. I’ve had three assistants in about two years; the first two both worked from home, and that set-up turned out to not work for the duties and timing I needed. All separations were amenable, we’re Facebook friends, chat occasionally … My current assistant is leaving because she’s pregnant and moving out of state to be closer to family, so also amenable. Still, it looks a little funny, in my opinion, that there’ve been so many in the position. So is it weird to offer to have prospective candidates talk with my former assistants for assurances that I’m not some ogre (after my morning coffee, anyways)? If roles were reversed, I’d wonder what was up too but would be trying not to be weird about it either.

It might not even come up. Some people do ask what the turnover has been like in the role, but a lot of people don’t. And some people will just ask why the current person in the job is leaving, without asking about anyone before that. So it may not come up at all, in which case I don’t think you need to bring it up proactively, and doing so could look defensive.

But if it does come up, I’d just explain what you’ve explained here — that the first two were remote and you’ve since realized that doesn’t work and the most recent person is moving out of state. And then you can say that you realize that might raise some red flags about the job and so you’d be glad to put them in touch with people who have been in the job previously if they’d find it helpful to hear firsthand from people who have done the work. They may or may not take you up on it, but it’s fine to offer — just don’t get so explain-y about the whole thing that you make them think you’re protesting too much.

4. Asking about a seven-year gap in experience

Same person, second question:

One of the candidates seems to be very qualified. I noted, though, that she didn’t put dates on her prior experience, and it turned out it ended a long time ago — seven years earlier. I asked for a little bit more in terms of why, and she got a little mumbly, said something about family support being lovely, and that was that. In our next interview, can I ask for more details without being intrusive? If she was a stay-at-home mom or tried a new field or something else, it’s really fine, but my overactive imagination now has me wondering if it was something more ominous (clearly I’ve been watching too much Netflix, lol). Where does the line of needing to know divide from intrusive?

I think you can ask again. Just be more direct: “I asked you a bit about this last time but realized I didn’t quite know the answer: What have been doing in the seven years since your last position?” And if the answer is vague again, it’s okay to ask her to elaborate by saying something like, “I’m sorry, I’m actually not sure what that means!” You could add, “It’s not a big deal to me if you’ve just been taking time away from work; I just like to have a sense of what you’ve been doing and how that fits into your overall work trajectory.”

5. Employer asked for pay stubs during salary negotiation

Is it normal for a job to ask for your pay stub during salary negotiations? My sister was negotiating with a company, and did not want to take a pay cut. The recruiter asked for her pay stub, and got angry when my sister questioned her about it. She ultimately ended up declining the offer because it was too low for her experience and education. Something about this seems weird, but I’m not a recruiter, so I wanted to ask you.

This is a thing some companies do. It’s dumb and kind of offensive, but it happens. The idea is that they’re negotiating in part based on what you’re currently making (which is a problem in and of itself), and so since they’re putting so much weight on that, they want to make sure the numbers you’re giving them are real. So they’re using crappy, outdated practices for setting salaries, and they’re implying you might be a liar. It’s a lovely practice.

Companies that do this will sometimes ask for pay stubs and sometimes for W2s. What’s more, sometimes they won’t even ask until after you’ve accepted the offer, and then they spring it on you then. It’s BS.

interviewer called me the weakest candidate, being asked for pay stubs during salary negotiation, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

9 August 2017 17:52 - Dragon Awards Refuse Withdrawal

Posted by LocusHQ

As reported yesterday, authors Alison Littlewood and John Scalzi attempted to withdraw their books from consideration for the Dragon Awards. Littlewood reports that Dragon Con president Pat Henry has refused her withdrawal. Henry told her,

While I appreciate your sense of fair play, I must decline your request to remove The Hidden People from the Dragon Award Nominations.

We are aware of the rabid puppies and justice warriors  efforts to effect the voting and we go through a number of steps to avoid ballot stuffing or other vote rigging behaviors.  While we didn’t start the Dragon Awards to foil these two groups, we believe that as we add voters, they will become irrelevant in the our awards.

Littlewood concludes, “I tried. I have never heard of any awards keeping writers on the nominees list against their wishes, particularly when those wishes are surely the same as the organisers’ – to ensure that the process goes forward fairly and without interference. However, it seems in this case there is little more I can do.”

Both Scalzi’s and Littlewood’s books remain on the Dragon Awards ballot.

Posted by Lou Doench

Happy Wednesday Readers! The Hellions and family are back from a week in Maine. We stayed in a lovely cabin on the western edge of Mt. Desert Island and had a wonderful time. Our rental cabins were once the summer vacation residence of Benjamin Welles , biographer and journalist and son of Sumner Welles, a former Undersecretary of State in the FDR Administration, so the cabins were chock full of little mementos, letters and photographs from their fascinating lives. It was a bit like spending your vacation in a time capsule or history museum. We woke up to the sounds of the ocean every morning… at 5:00 AM because Maine gets up hella early! Now lets get to them links!

I was astonished and fascinated to read about this isolated Dominican Republic community where little girls turn into boys around age 12…

The rare genetic disorder occurs because of a missing enzyme which prevents the production of a specific form of the male sex hormone – dihydro-testosterone – in the womb.

All babies in the womb, whether male or female, have internal glands known as gonads and a small bump between their legs called a tubercle. At around eight weeks, male babies who carry the Y chromosome start to produce dihydro-testosterone in large amounts, which turns the tubercle into a penis. For females, the tubercle becomes a clitoris.

But some male babies are missing the enzyme 5-α-reductase which triggers the hormone surge, so they appear to be born female with no testes and what appears to be a vagina. It is not until puberty, when another huge surge of testosterone is produced, that the male reproductive organs emerge. What should have happened in the womb happens around 12 years later. Their voices deepen and they finally grow a penis.

Netflix has a new series called “Atypical”,  about an autistic teen played by Keir Gilchrist. It is getting awful reviews. They look well deserved…

As I watched the series with Gilchrist’s sentiment in mind, I recalled an observation by autistic actor Mickey Rowe who said about “Atypical” that “while exposure is great, if the creative team does not have leadership from the community they will inevitably misrepresent it.”

We need to be better at letting people feel things…

Teen Vogue continues to fight the good fight, first by featuring  two Planned Parenthood videos explaining abortions, both chemical and in clinic, to young people.  Then they provide unapologetic pushback against recent waffling on abortion rights by Democrats trying to retake the House…

“There is not a litmus test for Democratic candidates,” he (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Ben Ray Luján, ) told The Hill. “As we look at candidates across the country, you need to make sure you have candidates that fit the district, that can win in these districts across America.”

Luján’s position marks a betrayal of every woman who has ever supported the Democratic Party, and a rejection of the progressive values that supposedly define it. Being pro-choice is not a “requirement” of being a Democrat, but valuing equality ought to be, and true equality is impossible without abortion access. A win for a Democrat who opposes abortion rights is a loss for human rights. Honestly, if that’s the plan, maybe we should just scrap the two-party system and do a Democrat–Republican combo ticket. Tentative title: The White Supremacist Patriarchy.

A quick trip through the Grounded Parents Vault will show that we here at GP have our minds made up about corporal punishment, whether at school or at home. Which is why this report is so alarming, as a school district in Texas has voted to reinstate paddling as punishment. 

Speaking of school, Suzanne Calulu at the home of the ex-Quiverfull Movement No Longer Quivering takes on a pernicious myth amongst homeschooling parents, that somehow 20 minutes of homeschooling is equal to an hour of regular school. 

It is hard enough being single parent or a poor parent, but it is even worse when you find out that Children’s Services is using the foster care system as a way to punish parents, a burden that falls especially hard on minorities.

“It takes a lot as a public defender to be shocked, but these are the kinds of cases you hear attorneys screaming about in the hall,” said Scott Hechinger, a lawyer at Brooklyn Defender Services. “There’s this judgment that these mothers don’t have the ability to make decisions about their kids, and in that, society both infantilizes them and holds them to superhuman standards. In another community, your kid’s found outside looking for you because you’re in the bathtub, it’s ‘Oh, my God’” — a story to tell later, he said. “In a poor community, it’s called endangering the welfare of your child.”

Kotaku tells us all about how the creators of the dating simulator Dream Daddy  avoided turning homosexuality into a joke. 

I Have to Keep a Neat House Because Clutter Triggers My Anxiety… I feel you Scarymommy… I feel you.

Our society discourages boys from continuing the kind of deep emotional connections they make with other boys as they grow up, and we are starting to understand the devastating impact that can have on the men they become as men in America suffer an epidemic of loneliness.  

In America, men perform masculinity within a narrow set of cultural rules often called the Man Box. Charlie Glickman explains it beautifully here. One of the central tenets of the man box is the subjugation of women and by extension, all things feminine. Since we Americans hold emotional connection as a female trait, we reject it in our boys, demanding that they “man up” and adopt a strict regimen of emotional independence, even isolation as proof they are real men. Behind the drumbeat message that real men are stoic and detached, is the brutal fist of homophobia, ready to crush any boy who might show too much of the wrong kind of emotions.

And so, by late adolescence, boys declare over and over “no homo” following any intimate statement about their friends.

And so, there it is, the smoking gun, the toxic poison that is leading to the life killing epidemic of loneliness for men, (and by extension, women,) look no further. It’s right there: “no homo.”

And finally, have you seen the new short film “In a Heartbeat”?   It’s wonderful… and you can see it here because we live in the future…

Posted by Ask a Manager

Here are three updates from people who had their letters answered here recently.

1. Could my acne be keeping me from getting a job?

I’m the one who wrote to you a few weeks back about whether or not acne was affecting my job search. A lot has happened since then!

First, unfortunately, I was not able to talk to my GP. My health insurance ended when my current position ended, and I was not able to keep the appointment because my GP does not take my secondary insurance. However, I cut back on the harsh products I was putting on my face and began just using regular soap and water, and that seems to work well for me! I haven’t had a bad breakout like I was having since I started that. Thanks to all the comments and suggestions — it really made me realize there’s no “one size fits all” cure for acne, and that a lot of us deal with it!

Second, I ended up getting two surprise interviews with different schools back to back, and they both seemed to go really well! I made sure that my suit fit me well and that my face was done up as well as I could – nothing too outlandish, just coverup and neutral eyeshadow. I think I carried myself very well during the interview and answered their questions well, and I was so excited to get to demonstrate my lessons that I wasn’t even thinking about my face!

I guess the school thought so too, because I was formally offered an educational position! The best part is that there’s stability and room for growth in the position, which is something that I haven’t had in quite a long time. Alison, I cannot thank you enough for all the advice – not just what you’ve directly given me, but from what I’ve absorbed as a daily reader of your site. I would never have known how to conduct myself in interviews or good questions to ask, or even how to accept the feedback they gave me in the interview. I’ve also learned a lot more about confidence and not getting so caught up in how my face looks, and I think I carry myself a lot better since reading your response. I’m so excited to start at my new school!

2. My boss texts me constantly and blows up if I don’t respond immediately

It’s been almost four months since you’ve answered my question and I had been reading the comments in the post. I thought I’d just write in to give you an update on what’s happened since.

Not long after I wrote in, there was a rather large incident about replying to messages and that sort of was the final straw. I’ve since resigned from the place – and there were waterworks when I did submit my resignation letter – but I’ve found a new place that is very chill, has a boss who is pretty awesome, and doesn’t expect me to acknowledge every single message that is sent.

I do keep in touch with some of my ex-colleagues though, and it seems that nothing has changed.

3. I ghosted on a reference and mentor (#2 at the link)

I finally worked up the nerve to send that email off this week and WHEW! All is well. She was very happy to hear from me and had just been completely confused about what went wrong.

3 updates from letter-writers (the acne, the ghoster, and the texting boss) was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

What is your feeling on using emoticons (smiley faces, etc.) in professional emails? My first reaction is “no, they are too childish and unprofessional,” but then I find myself sometimes wanting to use them to add some levity to an email, or soften some language, or convey a friendly message. Since emails can be sometimes taken the wrong way, I feel like it would be sometimes easier to just add an emoticon versus spending time trying to word something perfectly so that the recipient gets my meaning. But I usually stop myself unless I know the person quite well and/or they have used them in an email to me. What are your thoughts?

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

is it unprofessional to use emoticons in work emails? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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