a garden in riotous bloom
Beautiful. Damn hard. Increasingly useful.
other gardeners 
Second paragraph of third chapter:
Henry, of course, was not the only Irish Law Officer of note during this period, and he was assisted by two Solicitor-Generals [sic]; D.M. Wilson, followed by T.W. Brown. Born in Ballymena and son of a former moderator of the Presbyterian General Assembly, Wilson had been educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution and Trinity College Dublin. Called to the Bar in 1885, Wilson had practised in the North-West Circuit, winning the West Down seat in the 1918 general election. Thomas Watters Brown was born in Newtownards in 1879, and had been educated at Campbell College Belfast and Queen's University. Called to the Bar in 1907, he became a KC in February 1918, successfully contesting the North Down constituency in the , general election of that year. Brown, in fact, became Attorney-General on 5 August 1921 when Henry was appointed Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland. The vacancy in the Solicitor-Generalship resulting from Brown's promotion was never filled, and he thus had the distinction of being the last holder of the two Irish Law Offices of Solicitor- and Attorney-General. Henry was also supported by the appointment of William Evelyn Wylie as Law Adviser, which arose from the number of legal problems that the Irish Law Officers had to deal with, and the fact that one of the two Law Officers was frequently out of the country. The position of Law Adviser had been abolished in 1883, but was revived in 1919, with Wylie's brief to act as a general assistant to the Attorney General. Wylie, born in 1881, had been called to the Bar in 1905, and became a KC in 1914. Such were the pressures on all of the Irish Law officers, it was found necessary in 1920 to employ M.D. Begley in a temporary capacity to assist the Law Adviser as well. A barrister of some repute, Wylie had designs on the vacant Solicitor-Generalship following Henry's promotion in 1919. After his close friend Sir John Maxwell wrote to Lord French on his behalf, Wylie met the Chief Secretary, Ian Macpherson, who told him that the government's wish to have the Solicitor-General in the Commons made him ineligible. However, Wylie was quite taken with the prospect of the post of Law Adviser, and recalled: 'Macpherson was empowered to offer me the appointment at a salary of £2,000 a year with the right to practise as well ... I jumped at it.' Within a year, not only would Wylie clash with Henry and other members of the cabinet over the direction of government policy, but he would also reveal his formidable powers and eventually exercise a considerable influence on the government response to the Anglo-Irish War.
A nice short monograph about a rather obscure figure of the Irish revolutionary period. Denis Stanislaus Henry was something of a paradox - a Catholic from Draperstown who got into Unionist politics, fighting four Westminster elections and winning two of them (he lost the other two by less than ten votes); he was the last Catholic to be elected to Westminster as a Unionist from Ulster, just over a century ago in 1918. He served as Solicitor-General and then Attorney-General for Ireland in the critical 1918-21 period, where he found himself defending government violence in the House of Commons without necessarily being fully in the loop himself. Then when the government of Northern Ireland was set up in 1921, he became the first Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland. An exciting period of setting up and implementing new institutions ended with his sudden death at the age of 61 in 1925. For almost 80 years after that, only Protestants were appointed as Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland (though both the incumbent and his predecessor are Catholics).

Henry is an interesting case of someone who was convinced by the economic and legal case for Unionism, and not so much by cultural considerations. It was a consistent position through his career (as far as we can tell); of course it did him no harm - the positions of Solicitor-General and Attorney-General would not have been open to political Nationalists even as late as 1918 and 1919 - but he did not push it as hard as he might have done, particularly when he lost North Tyrone so narrowly in 1906 and 1907. What I missed was an account of the internal workings of the Unionist Party; it must have been a bit of a stretch to ask the Orangemen of North Tyrone and then South Londonderry to endorse a visibly non-Protestant candidate, and presumably he had done some local footwork and/or got the backing of a significant political patron. But we don't see that here.

The story of the installation of the Northern Ireland judicial system was very interesting, though. When Henry took up the position of Lord Chief Justice in August 1921, it was not at all obvious that the new government of Northern Ireland would even survive until the end of the year. I know the Royal Courts of Justice building as a fixed point in the middle of Belfast - but of course it was only opened in 1933, and we see Henry and a very small staff fighting for space in Crumlin Road to create a new structure, Henry himself signing off on demands for office furnishings. My own dealings with the Northern Irish justice system amount to a small claims case against an ex-landlord, but I have the greatest respect for those who kept Henry's system going in hard times. Still, I feel that there is more to be told here too.

This was the shortest book acquired in 2011 which was still on my unread shelves. You can get it here. Next up after that is The Making and Remaking of the Good Friday Agreement by my old friend (Lord) Paul Bew.
20 April 2019 04:00 - No answer

Posted by rbarenblat@gmail.com (Velveteen Rabbi)

Dad says he visits you
at the cemetery
every day, except
Saturdays when the gates
are closed. (Has

grass begun to grow?
I don't ask.) We agree
you wouldn't care
about the words of kaddish
but it's what we know

to do. He says he's
mad at you for dying
asks again and again why
an incurable lung condition.
I have no answer.


20 April 2019 10:00 - My tweets

Posted by Ask a Manager

This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand. (This one is truly no work and no school.)

Book recommendation of the week: Normal People, by Sally Rooney. I’ve been dying for this to come out because I loved her first book so much,  and I devoured it as soon as it was released this week. It’s the story of an on-again, off-again relationship that starts in high school and continues into college, taking different forms as the two people themselves do. I actually think Conversations with Friends was better, but I will read anything Sally Rooney writes from this day until the end of days.

weekend free-for-all – April 20-21, 2019 was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Posted by waaseyaa'sin Christine Sy

This is a story about the heart and the brain. ode and ndib. This is a long story, short: Academia is cerebral. Most academics are settlers. White settlers. Most academics are cerebral white settlers. (Sweeping statements and vast leaps in logic are abhorrent, yes. In this case, true and sound. Do the stats if you […]

Posted by Richa

Vegan Blueberry Muffin Energy Bites, 1 Bowl 15 Minute. 8 Ingredient Lemon Blueberry Energy balls for Snacking. Gluten-free Grain-free Soyfree Recipe, nutfree option Jump to Recipe

Vegan Blueberry Muffin Energy Bites, 1 Bowl 15 Minute. 8 Ingredient Blueberry energy balls for Snacking. #vegan #Glutenfree #Grainfree #Soyfree #Recipe #VeganRicha #blueberryenergybites

When you want a blueberry muffin but not all the baking with it, these bites work out perfectly! Smooth neutral nut butter, sweetener, vanilla, almond flour, lemon juice, coconut flour and dried blueberries!

These balls need just 1 Bowl, 8 ingredients and 15 mins active time! No food processor needed.

They are soft, cakey and a delicious snack. Add some oats and seeds to make them more hearty. I didn’t add oats to keep the texture more cake like. Change them up to preference. These bites are freezer friendly! See Recipe notes to make them without nuts.

Continue reading: Blueberry Muffin Energy Bites Vegan Grainfree

The post Blueberry Muffin Energy Bites Vegan Grainfree appeared first on Vegan Richa.

19 April 2019 16:11 - Tweaking The Tail, by John Leeson
Second paragraph of third chapter:
This was perhaps quite a far-sighted move on my father's part, as my new experience would certainly bring me down to earth with a bump and put me squarely face to face with the realities of life and death on a daily basis. My very first well-remembered job was to carry the wrapped body of a three-year-old child, the victim of an accidental drowning in a local canal, to the hospital mortuary.
Yet another one of the Doctor Who books rushed out for the 2013 anniversary (in this case a revision and expansion of a 2011 book with a different title), by the actor who played the voice of K9 in both Old and New Who and also in no less than three spinoffs (K9 and Company, the Sarah Jane Adventures, and the Australian K9 series). Leeson's style is a bit twee, rather reminiscent of Arthur Marshall's Myrtlebank; but he writes about some serious subjects, most notably his own struggles with mental health as a teenager - without going into extensive detail, he makes it clear that he had a lot to overcome. Apart from that, he's had an actor's career, done a few conventions, become an expert on food and wine, been a local magistrate; curiously omitted is the fact that he stood in local council elections for the Liberal Democrats in 2002 and 2010 (and did so for a third time in 2018). Much the funniest anecdote is his attendance, at first incognito, at a convention in the USA where he came second in a competition for K9 impressions, before revealing who he actually was. A very quick read. You can get it here.
19 April 2019 15:00 - open thread – April 19-20, 2019

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 – April 19-20, 2019 was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

19 April 2019 04:02 - Four questions

Posted by rbarenblat@gmail.com (Velveteen Rabbi)

Will you and your parents sit down to seder on high
on the night when we sit down to seder below?

Who sings the Four Questions, the person in the family
most newly-arrived to the afterlife?

Will you thank the Holy One, Blessed Be God
for lifting you with mighty hand and outstretched arm

out of the Mitzrayim of your bodies,
your illnesses, cancer or dementia or broken-down lungs?

Will you dip parsley in salt water, or are the tears
you cried in this world enough to last you for eternity?


19 April 2019 10:00 - My tweets
  • Fri, 10:46: Decades After Northern Ireland’s “Troubles,” Families of the Dead are Still Seeking Answers—and Taking the Investig… https://t.co/CRIHSkEQw5
  • Fri, 10:46: RT @roisiningle: “I wanted to write it because a local evangelical pastor here made some horrible derogatory remarks about gay people, and…
  • Fri, 10:47: RT @RossalynWarren: Lyra McKee, the journalist who was killed in Northern Ireland last night, wrote a letter to her 14 year old self, about…

Posted by Ask a Manager

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

1. I bombed in an interview I asked for

I’m in a customer-facing role at a large company, and I’m interested in advancing into a management role. I’ve held management positions in the past, but happily took a “step back” in this job because it’s a great company, good job in itself, and it supported a family-related interstate move.

I recently asked my grand-boss for a 1-1 meeting to discuss advancement opportunities, and he was very supportive of the conversation. Knowing this was effectively a job interview, I came prepared to discuss staffing, training, expectations, client engagement, priorities and goal setting, etc. Unfortunately, what my grand-boss wanted to discuss was systems, metrics, repeatability — more of the systems-thinking side of the job than the human-thinking side of the job. And it’s a job that I tend to approach in a very human-thinking sort of way. That was reasonable of him, but I wasn’t remotely ready for that conversation, as I’d been very focused on the people side of it.

It wasn’t the worst professional conversation I’d ever had, but it was easily in the top three. He even left me with the advice “If you ask for a meeting like this, you really should prepare for it, which is impossibly embarrassing to hear. That he thought I needed that advice feels like I may as well have needed to hear “don’t drop your pants in front of the CEO. Of course I know that, but I’ve clearly made a terrible impression.

My gut reaction was that I’d blown any opportunity at advancement (and my current job is great, but it’s not a career). But I didn’t, exactly. Grand-boss left the door open, offering another shot at a “career development” call with him, suggesting we talk in a few weeks. He’s been gracious about the whole thing, even while reinforcing the message that the conversation itself we did have was completely unsuccessful in promoting my candidacy. (If I hear “you really should prepare…” again, I’ll probably die of shame.)

How do I recover from this? I doubt my aspirations will survive another disaster-meeting. I feel like I shouldn’t wait too long to reengage, but this has become the only interview I’ve ever been hesitant about. I normally delight in job interviews, but this was my worst interview failure ever, and I’m feeling bruised and full of self doubt. How do I approach the next round? Do I address my past failure as incorrect rather than absent preparations, or just let it go? Is it reasonable to stall for a month or two while I collect my thoughts and my confidence, or should I get back on the horse quickly? There’s no open position currently on the table, so it’s all about putting myself in position for when a seat opens up — which could be soon or could be well into the future.

I’m a big fan of just putting it out there, on the theory that if they don’t like your thought process on something like this, that might be a sign that they won’t like it on other things too, and better to just be transparent and figure out if that works for them or not. So I’d just be candid about what happened. And it doesn’t need to be a big deal (shouldn’t be, in fact). It can just be something like, “I want to be up-front with you that I’d prepared for a different conversation last time. I’d come prepared to talk about staffing, training, expectations, client engagement, priorities, and goal setting. I’m ready this time to talk about systems and metrics.” And then move on quickly — you don’t want it to sound like excuse-making, just quick context, and then move right into what you’re there to talk about. In fact, you could even could address it when you reach out to schedule the next meeting instead — as in, “When we talked, I’d prepared to talk about X — and I appreciate you refocusing me. This time I’m going to be prepared to talk about Y. Would the first week of May work for you?”

On the timing of the meeting, don’t stall — the sooner you have the second meeting, the sooner you can recover from the first. And you’ll show that you’re able to take criticism, incorporate it, and move right along without being rattled by it. (I mean, don’t reschedule so quickly that you don’t have time to thoroughly prepare — but don’t stall just because it feels awkward.)

2. Replying to the wrong optional emails on vacation

My colleague, “Sophie,” is on holiday. In our office, there is no expectation that staff should check their emails when on vacation but many people do. Sophie has been replying to emails, but only non-urgent or even trivial ones that could easily wait until she gets back. I also know that there are some more urgent requests she has received and not responded to (not necessarily labour intensive, some just need a confirmation from her).

Our manager is frustrated but doesn’t know what to do. She doesn’t want to encourage anyone to work while out of the office, but since Sophie is already taking the time to get work done, our manager would prefer she redirects her efforts.

Do you think it is worth even bringing it up? If so, how would you approach this?

I’d leave it alone. Any attempt to address it is going to undermine the idea that people aren’t expected to check email on vacation. At most, I suppose someone could reply to one of her non-urgent replies and say something like, “If you’re checking email, I’d love your thoughts on the message about X — but no pressure if you’d rather wait until you get back.” But even that is signaling that you want her to do work on vacation. And who knows, maybe she’s answering trivial emails because they’re an easy break for her brain, but she doesn’t want to deal with things that require more stress or more thought.

3. Two people giving notice at nearly the same time

I am hoping to get your perspective on how my colleague and I should handle giving our notices, when it looks like we are both going to be a leaving our professional services firm at nearly the same time.

We both work for a small company (<30 people) and have both been here for about five years, which is relatively long. We are both senior managers with some but not all overlapping responsibilities, and we both report directly to the CEO. It is likely that if only one of us was leaving, the other would assume most if not all of the other’s responsibilities, including taking on direct reports and client accounts.

We independently decided to search for new positions for various reasons, both personal and because of some concerns about the direction of our current employer. Not coincidentally, we are both good friends outside of work who are at similar stages of our careers and with similar family situations, work styles, and personalities. We are both nervous to tell our current boss we are leaving because he has taken resignations personally in the past and because we recognize the short-term disruption we will cause with our timing. We have already discussed with each other where all our work could be reassigned without overloading the team, as it has been a slow time for the past few months.

So, how do we handle giving our notice? Do we go one at a time and the first person pretends not to know about the second? Do we speak to our boss together even though our decisions were independent? What is the least hurtful way to break the news?

Don’t talk to your boss together; that’ll be weird and it will look like you coordinated more than you actually have. Hopefully you won’t get job offers on the exact same day or need to give notice on the exact same day, so whoever accepts an offer first will give notice first, making no mention of the other person. Then when the second person accepts an offer, they give their notice at that point and can say something like, “I know the timing isn’t ideal with Lorraine leaving as well, but I have some ideas for how to reassign work that might make the transition go more smoothly.”

If for some reason you both do end up having to give notice on the same day, you should still do it separately. In that case, whoever gets to go first (and thus sticks the other one with a more awkward conversation) should probably buy the other one several drinks.

4. Employee wants to skip lunch and leave early every day

I have an employee who often doesn’t eat lunch. He sometimes stays at his desk and plays on his phone, or sometimes visits with friends on their lunch hour, but seems to rarely eat lunch himself.

It is common knowledge on my team that if you need to leave early for the day, you’re allowed to skip your lunch break and leave early. This team member asked me if he could skip lunch every day and leave early. I am hesitant to agree to this as an every day option because in the past I’ve read multiple articles saying that skipping lunch breaks or working through lunch is bad for productivity, and often leads to burn-out (and I have some personal experience with this as well). Additionally, we work in a collaborative environment and while I don’t dictate set working hours, I do like people to generally be available to their teammates for questions, help, etc. I allowed this policy because I really try to be as flexible as possible for my team, but I just don’t feel right about making it every day. Am I overthinking this?

If it will inconvenience your team to have him unavailable for the last hour of the day every day, it’s perfectly reasonable to say no to this, and to explain that it’s fine to do occasionally but not every day.

But I wouldn’t base it on worries about burn-out. Some people do fine with working through lunch; others don’t. You don’t want your reason for banning this to be that it can be bad for some people, when others do just fine with it and even prefer it. Keep the focus on how it impacts what you and your team need from him.

5. I’ve been asked to give a reference for two people for the same job

I work in a fairly competitive, but still small, field, where getting a job is all about who you know. There is an opening at the company I work at that two people who I have worked with in the past are going to apply to, and both want to put me as a reference. I think both would do a great job, and I had agreed to be a reference in the past, not knowing that both would be applying for the same job at the place I am working.

Is that weird? Do I need to talk to my HR manager and explain? Should I tell them not to use me?

It’s not weird. When you give a reference, you’re not saying, “Definitely hire this person over all your other candidates.” You’re ideally saying “Here is a detailed assessment of this person’s strengths, work habits, and challenges, and it’s up to you to decide how this person fits in with your needs.” So you can definitely give a reference for two people for the same job.

The exception to this might be if you think one is significantly stronger than the other — especially since this is for a role at your company, meaning that you’ll want to be very candid. In that case, it might be fairer to say to the weaker person, “I want to be up-front with you that I’ve been asked to be a reference for someone else applying for this same job, and I think they’re a really strong match with the role. I’d still be glad to be your reference as well, but I wanted to be transparent about that in case you’d prefer to use someone else.”

I bombed in an interview I asked for, employee wants to skip lunch and leave early every day, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Posted by Ask a Manager

If you’ve worked with recent graduates who are just getting started in the work world, you’ve probably seen them make their share of professional faux pas. I recorded a piece for the BBC arguing that we need to do a better job teaching students and new workers about how to navigate an office (and I talk a little about those interns who petitioned to change the dress code).

why don’t we teach new grads about workplace norms? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Pornography meets philosophy today, in two novels both named after their protagonists.

Second paragraph of third chapter of Fanny Hill:
Alas! it was enough I knew his pleasure to submit joyfully to him, whatever pain I foresaw it would cost me.
Second paragraph of third chapter of Candide:
Enfin, tandis que les deux rois faisaient chanter des Te Deum, chacun dans son camp, il prit le parti d’aller raisonner ailleurs des effets et des causes. Il passa par-dessus des tas de morts et de mourants, et gagna d’abord un village voisin ; il était en cendres : c’était un village abare que les Bulgares avaient brûlé, selon les lois du droit public. Ici des vieillards criblés de coups regardaient mourir leurs femmes égorgées, qui tenaient leurs enfants à leurs mamelles sanglantes ; là des filles éventrées après avoir assouvi les besoins naturels de quelques héros, rendaient les derniers soupirs ; d’autres à demi brûlées criaient qu’on achevât de leur donner la mort. Des cervelles étaient répandues sur la terre à côté de bras et de jambes coupés. At length—whilst, on the orders of the two kings, the Te Deum was being sung in both camps—he decided to go and continue his meditations on the nature of cause and effect in some other part of the world. Passing over heaps of dead and dying, he came to a neighbouring village. It was in ashes, having been an Abarian village and therefore burnt, in accordance with the laws of war, by the Bulgarians. Old men mangled by bayonets watched their wives dying with gashes in their throats, clasping their children to their blood-stained breasts. Amongst the dying were girls who had been used to satisfy a number of heroes' natural needs, and had afterwards been disembowelled. Other women, half burnt alive, begged to be put out of their pain. The ground was covered with brains, arms and legs.
My various unread piles happened to throw these two books up simultaneously, which gave a fortuitously appropriate paired reading. Fanny Hill, published in 1748, is a novel ostensibly about sex which brings in some philosophical reflections. Candide, published in 1759, is a novel about philosophy in which the protagonists' sex lives are strongly reflected. Both are mercifully short. Both are by men (at least ostensibly, though I have to say I suspect an anonymous female hand assisting John Cleland).

The purpose of the two books is very different of course. Candide is satirical; we are not meant to take the adventures of the title character, or his lover Cunégonde or their teacher Professor Pangloss, as reportage of what could happen to real people, though of course they go to real places and experience real events. (My edition also includes the sequel, which is not generally thought to be by Voltaire and takes the characters to new but less well realised adventures in Turkey, Persia, and Denmark.) The point of Candide is to challenge complacency on the part of the reader, both in terms of assuming that society in general gets things right and in terms of presuming that there is an easy philosophical fix.

Fanny Hill is supposedly realistic - she doesn't leave London, but has plenty of adventures while there (meanwhile her first lover is banished to the South Seas). We are meant to take it as more or less documentary of what actually went on in the sex trade in mid-18th century London (probably not all that different from the sex trade before or since). It is of course meant to be very titllating, though I must say that the language used is a lot less explicit than you can find on Archive of Our Own without looking too far. Where Candide varies the geographical setting, Fanny Hill varies the sexual activity.

Both are Bildungsromane, but actually I think Fanny has the more interesting and convincing character arc. Candide has grown up a bit by the end of the book; Fanny has grown up a lot, and has moved from complete dependence to almost complete independence. She was also new to me (I had read Candide many years ago) and I enjoyed her adventures more. You can get Candide here and Fanny Hill here.

Fanny Hill was my top unread book acquired in 2015. Next on that pile is A Sunless Sea, by Anne Perry. Candide was top of my list of books that I had previously read but not reviewed online. Next on that pile is The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame.

Posted by Ask a Manager

Here are four updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

1. My boss brings her dog to work and he pees by my desk

I promised to update after quarter end, which comes up in July, but I just wanted to shoot over a quick update before then, because there has been at least some progress. To warn you: it’s kind of a mixed bag.

Christie has now begun to put Ricky in her office with the door closed and work in an empty space on the other end of the office so that he won’t distract her. This is, obviously, worse than the previous situation. I have on two occasions (so far) snuck him out for a walk while she’s gone and put him back in her office before she notices. I also bought him a few relatively cheap toys (a treat puzzle and a squeaky bone), which I keep in my desk and pull out when she’s otherwise occupied. Quarter end will be overtime hours, and I’m not sure it’ll be a sustainable system then, but I just wanted to let you know that Ricky is at least getting walks now.

Your commenters have also been very helpful in making me reflect on Christy as a person rather than her management style, and though it’s not a fun feeling, I have come to accept that it’s okay to not like her because of this. I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt as much as possible, but this isn’t the mark of a good person. So thank you AAM community! :)

To the person who advised stealing the dog: my friends and I have been debating the difference between “stealing” and “rescuing” and we’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not a feasible solution at this time. But it’s a good dream.

2. My boss and I keep accidentally wearing the same thing (#3 at the link)

I wrote to you earlier about being worried about dressing too much like my boss, and I’m so glad I did! Everyone was so supportive in the comments, and it really eased my mind. It’s my first office job in years (I was in healthcare before, so everyone wore scrubs) and I wanted to be sure I wasn’t being weird. But my manager thought it was hilarious that I wrote to you (I told her about it), and now we laugh about our “twinning” outfits. We’re both wearing pretty pink shirts and jeans today and my boss made a joke about our “spring time look connection.”

Thank you for all the support!

3. My coworker reacts badly when I won’t come in on my days off (#4 at the link)

I finally took the advice of everyone and laid down the law with the problematic coworker. As a result, she no longer asks me personally to fill in for her but simply has resorted to exaggerating injuries and claiming that she needs physical therapy so that she can take weeks off with no notice and continue doing whatever she’s doing during work hours.

On the other hand, I learned through this experience as well as the comments on my original ask that these things are way beyond my control and that I was not in any way shape or form obligated to fill in for her when she demands just to make her happy. Her supervisor was away on personal leave but when he returns, I will be reporting to him regarding her transgressions.

4. Is sex a bad example in a work presentation? (#2 at the link)

Thank you for answering my question. Your last point about possibly encouraging inappropriate comments from others was something I hadn’t thought of at all but I do take very seriously. So I will use other examples where I can and do without where I can’t (and thanks to commentators for suggestions). For clarification we’re not in a related field, though we work in an area where we do have to consider the occasional messiness of real lives so I’d expect colleagues to be reasonably grown up about things.

As it happens my second best examples on a number of points are around drug-taking, but this does seem to be a case where drugs are better than sex.

updates: the manager’s peeing dog, dressing like your boss, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Posted by Ask a Manager

The comments on last week’s letter from the person who had wet her pants at work were full of  hundreds of stories from people who’d had similar things happen to them. I had no idea that stories of people crapping their pants could be so heart-warming, but they were.

So, I pose you this question: What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to you at work? Please share in the comments.

what’s the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to you at work? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

18 April 2019 04:00 - Before Pesach

Posted by rbarenblat@gmail.com (Velveteen Rabbi)

The year your mother died
just before Pesach

I remember my grandfather
at the seder.

He had aged, inexplicably.
He looked lost.

But I don't remember you
that year: were you

grieving, did you struggle?
I was a teenager

and we didn't communicate
much, you and I.

I hope someone asked you
how you were.

I hope someone told you
it was okay

to grieve your father's

to feel her absence like
a missing limb.

I hope there was comfort
in the words, the wine

the songs, the soup --
how though the ground

of your being had shifted,
the seder hadn't changed.


18 April 2019 10:00 - My tweets

Posted by Ask a Manager

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

1. Can I ask my coworkers to stop praising the person who bullied me?

How reasonable is it to ask my teammates to stop praising another employee from a different department who was a bully? I am okay with speaking about this person in a working manner (“Petra suggested this on the budget issue, so let’s go with it.”), but there are two people on my own team (one is my manager) who will lavish praise on them (“Petra is a genius! She is so great at her job! This company is so much better with her around!”).

I spent a better portion of a year working with Petra, an internal client who behaved terribly to me and others assigned to her project. It was firmly bullying behavior that affected project outcomes, relationships within the project team, and my health. I’ve heard many stories of her doing interpersonal damage around the company, though I can’t deny she is strong in her realm of work.

My teammates and especially my manager know about my experiences, though it doesn’t seem like they have caught on to the extent. I feel somewhat disrespected when they speak so lavishly about Petra. They’ll add a quick acknowledgement after they’ve started because they suddenly remember whom they’re talking to: “I know you wouldn’t say this about her, but she is so amazing!” or “I know you had a bad experience, but I just love how smart she is.” That tells me they remember my experience, but choose to continue saying these things to me. It’s disheartening that her bad behavior is minimized and my experience is dismissed, especially by my manager. They can say it to others, I just don’t want to hear it myself.

Is it reasonable to say “Hey, given my history with Petra, and you may not realize the extent of the damage she did, but can I ask that we keep our talk about her to strictly business?” Or is it asking too much and I should just ignore it? I don’t expect this special consideration for any other of our clients, many of whom are difficult to work with but not bullying. Plus, I’m in the camp we shouldn’t keep jerks around just because they are good at their job.

Yeah, it’s probably asking too much. You can’t really tell people not to say positive things around you about a colleague who still works there; you’ll come across as overly precious or prima donna-ish.

At most, the next time she’s lavishly praised, you could say something like, “My experience with her was truly very different. I’d be glad to share it privately with you sometime if you think it would be useful to hear another perspective.”

But I think you’ve got to mark this down to them having legitimately positive experiences with Petra and not realizing the extent of how harmful your interactions with her were or writing it off to a personality conflict rather than something more serious. That might sound dismissive, but it’s so much more common for two people to just not get along than it is for someone to be truly monstrous that it’s understandable that people might assume that. And they might assume that even if they did hear more details, because people tend to assume there are two sides to every story, or that each person is bringing their own baggage to the situation — especially when they know and like both people involved. You don’t have to like that, but I think looking at it that way might make it feel less personal. (And to be clear, I don’t think it’s great that they’re lavishly praising her around you, but you can only control your side of it.)

2. Emergency bathroom use during interviews

About a year ago, I had a medical procedure done involving my intestines. As a result, I sometimes very suddenly have to use the restroom; waiting even a few minutes could spell disaster. I have been able to accommodate this fine in my current job, as my office is close to a restroom, but I am in the process of applying for new jobs and have had a few interviews, some lasting close to an hour.

So far it has not been an issue during the interviews — I’ve done my best to prevent it by making sure I arrive early enough that I can use the restroom either at the interview location or at a nearby gas station/coffee shop/whatever right before the interview. That said, I’m (reasonably, I think) worried that despite my best efforts, one of these days I’m going to be in the middle of an interview and experience that all-too-familiar rumbling that indicates impending doom.

On one hand, I feel like interviewers might be understanding of a bathroom emergency (we’re all human, after all), but I also feel like it could look bad for me to have to put an interview on hold for 5-10 minutes while I run to the toilet.

Anyone can have a sudden, unanticipated need for a bathroom, even without a medical condition! It might not be as urgent as your need is, but it can be urgent enough to require excusing oneself from a meeting. Because of that, you don’t need to worry too much about giving any context for it or warning your interviewer in advance. If the need strikes, you can simply say, “I’m so sorry — I need to very briefly excuse myself to use your restroom.”

That said, if you’ll feel more comfortable, you could say at the start, “I had a recent medical procedure that means I might need to pop out to the bathroom at some point while we’re talking — I’ll speak up if that happens.”

3. Our company won’t let managers suggest sick employees work from home

We have several employees who report to work ill. When I suggest letting ill people work from home, I am told our division head says no. Her exact words were “I’d like to work from home,” which makes no sense. Also, a manager states they spoke to an HR rep and the statement was along the lines of “You are not a doctor and cannot state factually that their illness is causing another worker to become ill and therefore cannot send an employee home.”

What results is other employees become ill, go to the doctor, use their PTO, their workload piles up, and when they return the germ carriers are still repeatedly deep coughing, sneezing, etc., causing relapses. Focusing on one’s work is proving difficult. Would working in our remote site be a legal alternative if one presents as a risk to another’s health and well-being?

Your division head is a bit of a jerk; just because she’d like to work from home but for some reason can’t doesn’t mean that it’s not a viable option for anyone, and she’s really behind the curve on this.

But more importantly, your HR rep is ridiculous. Letting sick people work from home isn’t about factually proving they’re definitely getting others sick; it’s about taking sensible precautions that any sixth grader could understand. Your HR rep sounds overly rigid and lacking in critical thinking skills — which is a really bad combination. Is your whole HR team like this, or is it just this one person? If the latter, try going over her head. (Although, frankly, managers shouldn’t need HR’s permission on this, and ideally could just leave HR out of it.)

To answer your question: Working from a remote site for whatever reason is perfectly legal. The law cares not one bit. The issue is an internal one with your company.

4. My partner’s last-minute work changes are wreaking havoc on my schedule

I work from a home office. My schedule has made it so that my SO can be as flexible as possible for his employer, given sufficient notice; his job involves travel and working from home at irregular intervals. I have a schedule that allows me the space and time to run my business and do elder care for his family and mine.

My SO’s employer (a large firm) has a reputation for being at least somewhat family-friendly, despite the nature of this job he does. My SO’s previous supervisor took family friendly policies seriously. My SO and I never once experienced a conflict under his leadership due to his behavior, and few things cropped up last moment.

The problem is his new supervisor, who has a management style best described as chaotic; everything is conflict-filled, urgent, and last moment and it’s causing interpersonal and scheduling difficulties between my SO and me. I did the best I could to work with this new management style and maintain my policy of never saying “no” to his professional obligations, no matter how they might impact my schedule. However, when I had to reschedule my own professional and personal obligations 10 times in the space of a month in order to support his career, I had a change of heart.

I’ve had as much as I will take of the near constant schedule changes, and my SO’s newly developed short temper, and I’m at a loss as to how to address this with him and his supervisor. How do I discuss this and bring matters about to a peaceful resolution?

You talk to him, and he talks to his manager. You shouldn’t be talking to the manager yourself, since it’s between him and your SO.

The subject line of your email to me was, “How much flexibility is too much to expect from an employee’s family?” But they’re not expecting anything from you; they deal with him, and they assume he will work out family issues himself (including speaking up if he’s being asked to do things he can’t do).

It sounds like you and he need to sit down and figure out how many last minute changes you’re willing and able to accommodate, and what kind of new boundaries you each need to draw (you with him, and him with his boss). Then he’ll need to have a conversation with his boss where he explains that because of elder care obligations, he can’t accommodate this much schedule chaos. Ideally he’d talk about how he and his former manager made it work, and see if the new manager is open to a similar set-up. But before that can happen, hash out how this will work between the two of you.

5. Client wants to make my freelance contract permanent — and I don’t want it

Recently, my long-term freelance contract came to an end. In order to make ends meet, I took up another freelance contract at a much lower rate, thinking I’ll look for something else in the interim. But it actually worked out well. The studio deals with a lot of confidential work that I’m not privy to, so I mostly help out on the overflow. My schedule is light, leaving me with time and energy to work on other contracts, as well as my long-running creative project.

They apparently liked my work, because now they’re offering a permanent position. I considered it initially, as I enjoy the work and the culture, but then I actually saw the offer. This role pays less than my freelance contract (though with benefits and leave), and I will be barred from working on outside projects. I know they don’t have much room in their budget for negotiation. As I’ll be involved in the confidential dealings, my workload will also increase significantly.

I’m definitely not going to accept this position, as it sounds like more stress at less pay. I just don’t know if there’s a way to let them down and go back to the way things were before. They presented it as a huge honor for a freelancer to be offered a permanent role, and I was also excited initially. They specifically asked me if I am dead-set on freelancing at the beginning and I said no, meaning I can’t use that excuse.

I realize I’ve been enjoying a very cushy position, but I do repeatedly hear how much my overflow work helps everyone stay on schedule with the important stuff. And of course, having this kind of steady income as a freelancer is a godsend. Can I still freelance with them without it being awkward? I feel like my friend-with-benefits suddenly wants to get married!

Absolutely, it’s really normal to consider an offer like this, decide it’s not for you, but stay on good terms and continue freelancing for the client. You can say something like, “I really appreciate you making this offer! I’ve run the numbers and it makes more financial sense for me to remain a freelancer, especially because of the bar on outside projects. But I really like working with you, and I’d love to just continue on with my freelance work for you if that still makes sense on your side.”

One thing to make sure you’re factoring in: It’s really normal for the position to pay less than you were earning as a freelancer, because as a freelancer you’re not getting benefits and you’re responsible for all your own payroll taxes. It sounds like there are other reasons this position wouldn’t be right for you, but I did want to flag that this piece of it is normal and expected.

my coworkers keep praising my work bully, emergency bathroom use during interviews, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

17 April 2019 04:01 - Nightmare

Posted by Robot Hugs

New comic!

I knew that damn thing was going to replace me. Granted, it vacuums with more skill and frequency than I ever did, but still.


Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I’m a young woman in the first few years of my career. I have a fairly bubbly personality, and pretty much all throughout my life, regular interactions with men seem to get misconstrued as being flirtatious. I’ve recently found out that two of my coworkers were planning to set me up with a colleague because they “could tell I was into him.” I’ve also had one male coworker ask me out after he “sensed we had a connection.”

In fact, I am a lesbian and nothing could be further from the truth! I’m incredibly embarrassed that my behavior has given my colleagues that impression. So my question is, how do I come across as being warm towards my colleagues without giving the impression of being flirtatious or romantically interested? I’d prefer not to disclose my sexuality to my workplace, but outside of that I’m having trouble figuring out how to alter my behavior in a way that doesn’t give anyone the wrong impression but also doesn’t come off as cold or inauthentic.


This may not be about anything you’re doing at all.

Some men are primed to assume that any friendly young woman is showing romantic interest in them, because they have their own incentives to see it in that light (sometimes it’s ego, sometimes it’s wishful thinking, sometimes it’s an inability to see woman as people rather than potential romantic/sexual partners). And some bystanders are primed to see romantic interest when you’re just being friendly, because they’ve mentally categorized you as “to be paired off.”

So it’s possible that it’s something you’re doing, but it’s really, really possible that this is just you being warm and friendly.

There are some behaviors that will feed into this, like physical contact (like a touch on the arm while you’re talking, hugging, etc.) or giving lots of personal compliments (“you’re so funny,” “your hair looks great,” etc.).

But usually when people have this problem, they’re not doing anything that’s causing it. You’re existing while being young and female.

One option, of course, is to pull back and be less warm and friendly at work. I don’t think you should have to do that. Warmth and friendliness are great qualities.

But that leaves you with having to get used to the “no thank you, I’m not interested in you like that” conversations that you’ll end up having a lot of, which also sucks — especially at work, where you then having to worry about whether the person is going to be weird around you after that (or worse). Because of that, some people will use “I don’t date coworkers,” which can work (but sometimes leaves you open to pushback, which is ridiculous).

There aren’t great options here, and I hate that. What do others think?

my coworkers think I’m flirting with them was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I need to know the proper way to handle the fact that one of our employees drinks at night while on the road with the crew. Our company pays for the hotel rooms and the guys bunk two to a room. We are getting complaints that one of the guys drinks every night and becomes loud and belligerent and it is difficult for the other employees to share a room with him.

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 job offer was rescinded — after I quit my current job
  • An employee clique is causing problems
  • Are employee referrals effective?
  • I don’t want to share a spreadsheet that I created on my own initiative

my employee gets drunk on business trips was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

I did something last night I have not done before - I went to the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival, which has been going for about as long as I have been living in Belgium. The partner of one of my colleagues at work had a short film in the mix, so I persuaded Anne and F to join me at Bozar for its session. In the space of two hours we saw ten very different films from nine different countries, all made in 2018. They were:

Stray (14 min, Australia), written by Katherine Chediak Putnam and Dean Law, directed by Dean Law

Spooky story of a returning WW2 soldier (David Breen) who finds his wife (Melinda Joan Reed) is now possessed by the spirit of a stray cat and therefore has stopped wearing clothes.

Lendemains funèbres (18 min, France), written, directed by and starring Ambroise Michel

Silly story of an undertaker whose daughter (Ambre Hasaj) starts predicting which member of the family will die next - and it's Papa's turn...

Synthia (11 min, Austria), directed by Maria Hinterkörner and Bernhard Weber, written by Maria Hinterkörner

Maria Hinterkörner was actually there last night and did a short interview before we launched into the films for the evening. This was our second favourite film of the ten, with near-future designer Pez (Lisa Schrammel) balancing work commitments over boyfriend Chris (Aksel Stasny). She ironically asks her home AI Synthia (voiced by Doris Wolf) if it can kill Chris for her. Robots have no sense of humour...

In a foreign town (11 min, USA), directed and written by Michael Shlain, based on stories by Thomas Ligotti

A chap (Yuri Lowenthal) talks to his therapist (Tony Amendola, by far the highest-profile name of the evening) and relives being taken to a strange theatre as a boy (Jack McGraw) where he saw a scary showman (Strange Dave). Even at only 11 minutes, it went on a bit.

Moriran los niños (no IMDB but here's a trailer; 21 min, Argentina) directed by Bernardo Bronstein

Longest film of the evening. Near-future babysitter (Guadalupe Docampo) is looking after the kids in a hi-tech apartment. The power fails and things start going horribly wrong. A promising premise whose ending did not really deliver.

Alien Death Fuck (They Came) (4 min, Norway) directed by Thomas Lunde

The shortest film of the night, actually originally a funders' perk for a Norwegian alien sex invasion TV series. A seduction with a twist. (Didn't note the two actors' names at the time, and now can't find a cast list online; not on IMDB, at least not yet.)

Le Blizzard (12 min, Andorra) written and directed by Àlvaro Rodriguez Areny

In wartime, a woman (Aida Folch) has been separated from her young daughter (Irene Quero) in a blizzard which appears to be on the French border with either Spain or Andorra. Gruesome violence and special effects, but yet another film with an inconclusive ending. Judging by the length of the credits, the entire population of Andorra appears to have participated in the making of the film.

Regulation (12 min, USA) written and directed by Ryan Patch

The standout of the evening, which is just as well as it's the one by my colleague's other half. In the not very distant future, a social worker (Sunita Mani) has the task of persuading a young girl (Audrey Bennett) to take the mandatory "happy patch" which stops children and adolescents from experiencing negative feelings. In a very few minutes, the details of a future society are convincingly conveyed by showing rather than telling. Here's the trailer.

Neverending Kitchen (12 min, Spain) written and directed by Fernando González Gómez

Three friends (Javier Bódalo, Carmen Ibeas, Niko Verona) talking in the kitchen after a party, with comic horror effects. Dialogue depends at one point on an untranslatable Spanish pun. Seemed a bit pointless.

Dead Teenager Séance (20 min, Brazil) directed by Rodrigo Gasparini and Dante Vescio, written by Dante Vescio, Rafael Baliú and Rodrigo Gasparini

Rather silly teenagers-explore-haunted-house story. Good make-up and effects and some funny lines that even survived translation from the Portuguese. Notable performance from Sofia Peres as Punky, the girl who gets killed near the start and spends the rest of the film plotting vengeance.

So, that was a reasonable strike rate - only a couple of them were actively bad and a couple were actually rather good. I might go again another year.

Friends in the London area might like to note that Regulation is also being shown at Sci-Fi London on 18 May at 1440, 19 May at 1445 and 21 May at 1330, along with a bunch of others.

Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I work at a medium-sized pharmaceutical company. I have direct reports and also work with associates who don’t report to me, but carry out work I create.

I have had problems with Lola, a talented associate who can be (by many accounts) thin-skinned. She has a way of speaking as though she is telling me how to do my job and we just … clash. Recently, she emailed her manager, my manager (Lisa), and our HR partner (Kate) about an incident where she said I was disrespectful to her and she is now so anxious in any interaction with me that she no longer wants to work on my projects. She says I roll my eyes at her in meetings and treat her differently than I treat the other associates. Lisa told me about this. I feel terrible — I don’t want anyone to be afraid of talking to me. Lola was right, I didn’t handle that incident well.

Which brings me to a meeting with Lisa and Kate. Lisa said I am an open book emotions-wise and Lola says “people” are afraid to approach me. Lisa then said that I make a face when disagreeing with someone and that I do roll my eyes at Lola in meetings. I started to shake my head because I couldn’t remember having done that, and Lisa said I was making the face right then, shaking my head and not listening. Kate said maybe what Lisa was seeing wasn’t a conscious thing on my part, but emotions playing across my face. Lisa, in a very serious tone, told me to modulate my facial expressions going forward.

It’s true that I am an open book feelings-wise. When I’m mad, happy, sad, whatever, it shows. I’ve been this way my whole life. People have said they are afraid to approach me because I look intense. I’ve fought against this, tried to rein it in, develop more of a poker face, and it killed my self-esteem because nothing I did seemed to help. A few years ago, I stopped fighting against it since it wasn’t doing any good and decided to accept it. I even decided being an open book could have its good points — I can’t play games, so everyone knows exactly where I stand.

I want to work things out with Lola because it is true that I have been short with her. But I now feel like the problem is really more with Lisa. I’m scared that what she wants — for me to develop a poker face — is something I am not capable of doing. And if I can’t do it to her satisfaction, she won’t let me move up or, worse, she’ll get rid of me. Kate says HR can coach me on modulating my expressions, so I’ll try that, but I’ve been working on it so long anyway, how far am I likely to get in a time frame Lisa is happy with? I’ll ask what happens if I don’t modulate my expressions enough at my next meeting with Lisa.

Am I not cut out for this kind of management? My direct reports seem pretty happy and I have always gotten great reviews on my work output. Lisa is planning to ask Lola for names as to who else has complained and then she will see what they have to say about me. I agreed to that, but it feels like a witch hunt. I’m really worried (and it shows).

Well, if you’re rolling your eyes or looking pissed off, that is genuinely a problem. Those things are overtly hostile, and you can’t be overtly hostile to people at work.

Rolling your eyes at someone is dismissive and contemptuous. It’s not that different from saying out loud “I think you’re an idiot” or “what an asinine remark” or “I don’t respect you.” And you probably agree you can’t say those sorts of things to colleagues and still be thought of as professional or pleasant to work with, right? It’s not that different when you convey those things with your face.

(To be clear, I am not talking about Resting Bitch Face here — the expression your face has when it’s naturally at rest. I’m talking about eye rolls, grimaces, etc.)

Lisa wasn’t out of line to tell you that you need to modulate your facial expressions going forward. You’re communicating when you do things with your face. Obviously there’s some room for grey here — a slight frown might not be a big deal, but eye rolls in particular are always going to be over the line.

I don’t know specifically what you’ve tried in the past to have more of a poker face, but there are some good suggestions from commenters in this post.

One thing I’d recommend that you try with Lola in particular, since she clearly pushes your buttons, is to pretend she’s either (a) an obscenely wealthy patron who pays you enormous sums of money and who you have a vested incentive to be kind to or (b) your elderly grandmother who’s in difficult circumstances and who you have compassion for. Or if you have a loved one who you know can be difficult but who you’d want people to be kind to, (c) Lola is now that person in your head.

Similarly, are there any circumstances where you do manage to control the emotions on your face? Meeting a VIP? In a house of worship, if you’re religious? At a funeral? With a child? If there are times when you do manage to do it, you have the ability to do it. And I get that you might feel like it’s one thing to control your face for an hour, and an entirely different thing to have to do it 40 hours a week … but again, you can’t be sending off hostile signals at work. You just can’t. And frankly, that’s part of what you’re being paid for — to get along reasonably well with people even if you don’t like them, to be reasonably pleasant to work with, and to regulate what emotions you display.

You also asked if you’re not cut out for this kind of management, and the answer is that I don’t know! But I can tell you that if you really can’t control how your face reads, that’s almost certainly going to cause problems for the people you manage at some point. If you’re managing someone who isn’t the brightest, is your face going to show that you think that? In other situations, will your face show impatience, anger, disdain, annoyance? If so, yeah, those are going to be problems for people you have power over.

I don’t want to ignore the issue of you feeling like this is simply impossible for you, and how demoralizing it was when you tried and couldn’t do it in the past. I wonder if it’s something that cognitive behavioral therapy might help with — and if you haven’t tried that, it’s worth considering because I do think you’ll find there are massive advantages (both professional and personal) to not having your face broadcast what you’re thinking every minute.

my boss says I’m too much of an “open book” emotionally was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

17 April 2019 04:00 - My third bicycle

Posted by rbarenblat@gmail.com (Velveteen Rabbi)

My first bicycle was hot pink.
When I was eight and skipped PE
for weeks on end you hired coach
to tutor me. She taught me

how to catch a frisbee,
not flinch from a softball,
ride a bike without training wheels.
My second was electric blue

and I rode it barefoot around
the curves of Contour Drive
past magnolia and honeysuckle
with wind in my hair.

When I grew hips I put the bike away.
I felt like a galumphing goose
next to you, perfect petite
size zero sparrow.

By college when my boyfriend
invited me to bike across Nantucket
I demurred, sure he wouldn't
want me if he saw me huff and puff.

But I remember your red Schwinn
with a tiny seat bolted to the back
for me. I remember the freedom
of skimming along Contour

once I was old enough to go
further than you could see.
Mom, today I bought a bicycle.
It's black and sturdy, German,

a bike for a middle-aged woman.
When I go riding with my son
I'll say a shehecheyanu. Maybe
I'll feel you perched behind me.

They say the body never forgets
these old motions. I wouldn't mind
forgetting how to resent
every ounce and inch

that made me not like you.
From where you are now
can you teach me how to thank
this clunky, sturdy frame?

17 April 2019 10:00 - My tweets

Posted by Ask a Manager

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

1. I have to use Legos to build something that represents me during an interview

Using your recommendations for resumes and cover letters, I landed an interview with what I believe to be my dream job. While prepping for the interview, I looked up some common interview practices for the company. Most of it was standard, but there’s one that threw me through a loop.

The company is Lego, and according to Glassdoor and an interview with a hiring manager, applicants are left alone in a room upon arriving for the interview and given a half hour or so to build something that represents them out of legos.

I’m lucky to have this tip beforehand – but I’m still at a total loss on what to do. I’m applying for a marketing position, so the work wouldn’t require artistic/design qualities. I thought about things that incorporate their core values, mission, etc., but I’m drawing a blank as to how I can actually show this in Lego-form. What is the interviewer looking for with this question? In your opinion, what would a “good” answer look like? Not suggesting providing the verbatim answer, but I just want to get the gist of what they’re actually evaluating with these types of questions.

I understand quick thinking and creativity, but is there something else on the table? In your experience, how useful are these questions at evaluating candidates, and what is the cost of a “bad” answer?

Ugh, not a fan. Unless you’re applying for a job that includes building things out of Legos, or that’s adjacent to that in some relevant way, I’m really skeptical that there’s much correlation between this and who will excel at the job.

I googled to see if I could find someone at the company talking about the practice, and I found an interview with their HR director where she talks about why they ask candidates to do this. She says: “We like to see how familiar candidates are with our product and how comfortable they are creating something fun and imaginative with our bricks and also how willing they are to be vulnerable. Watching future employees build a part of themselves is very memorable and reflective of our spirit and values. We keep the model they build in the interview and, if they are hired, we have it waiting for them on their desk on their first day of work.”

So creativity and vulnerability, basically. I think vulnerably is highly suspect as a value in hiring unless a job truly requires it, but hey, it’s their culture — and if that turns you off, that’s valuable information about how comfortable you might be there. (Similarly, if you think that’s awesome, that’s valuable information too.)

2. Can I avoid crossing a picket line while doing errands for work?

Do you have any advice regarding crossing a picket line at work? I am an admin and as part of my job I am in charge of stocking the office kitchen with drinks and snacks. Typically I will go to our local grocery chain to take care of this shopping. Their workers are currently out on strike, and personally I would be opposed to crossing a picket line. Would it be appropriate to ask my boss if it would be okay to go to a different grocery store for the duration of the strike? The next closest store is about an additional 15 minutes away from my office and is a bit more expensive, so this would mean it would take more time from my day, cost slightly more in mileage reimbursement, and overall add to the grocery bill. I generally only go about once a month, so I wouldn’t anticipate this being hugely disruptive or adding a lot of cost to my employer.

If that is not okay, could I offer to take on this increased cost myself? I am both relatively new to this job and the working world in general, so I don’t have a great sense on how reasonable a thing this is to ask. I also do not really have a read on my boss’s thoughts on unions and how he would perceive this.

Ask! But when you do, be specific about how much you think it’ll add to the bill. It’s easier to say yes to “it will probably cost about $20 more per month” than a vague “it will cost more.” If he says no, at that point I’d only offer to pay the additional cost yourself if you feel really strongly about this — like it’s something that you’re willing to use up a significant amount of your political capital on since you’re new (meaning you may not have anything left for other requests for a while). And even then, he may just say no.

But before you ask, I’d check if there are other options that could avoid the issue entirely, like ordering online. A lot of the big office supply stores let you order drinks and snacks online, like other office supplies.

3. Should I run any job I apply to by the recruiters I’ve talked to?

I’m looking for a new job and have talked to a number of recruiters, in addition to doing my own search. A few of the recruiters have told me that if I find a listing I’m interested in, I should run it by them before applying, because the recruiter might have a relationship with the company/be able to get me on the inside track. Is this a good idea? I get it that they might be able to get my resume pulled out of the pile, but on the other hand, wouldn’t a company prefer to just hire me than pay a recruiter to hire me? I’ve had bad experiences with recruiters in the past and not sure whether to trust them on this point. What do you think?

Yeah, I wouldn’t do that unless it’s a recruiter who you’ve worked with and really trust. A lot of recruiters ask this because they want to own your candidacy, so that if a company hires you, the recruiter gets a fee. That’s the case if they’re already working with the company (as they’re implying to you could be the case) or if they plan to just approach the company cold, with no existing contract — using your candidacy as their “in” to do it.. Either way, the benefit to you is likely to be slim, and the risk is fairly high: if the company isn’t working with the recruiter and the recruiter tries to present you to them, many companies will turn them down because they don’t use external recruiters (who charge companies hefty fees) or because they already have one they’re happy with. And then your application goes nowhere.

If you’re working with a recruiter who you really trust, that can be different. But outside of that situation and as a general rule, you’re better off managing your own job search; let recruiters work with you on the jobs they bring you, and continue managing the others on your own.

4. Employee quit and now keeps sending us her financial statements

One of our employee recently resigned and no longer works here. Now she keeps sending emails to management with bank statements, credit card statements, etc. We don’t know what to do with them and what she wants from us. We have cleared every everything regarding financial transactions and reimbursements during her employment with us. Can you please help us to write a notice that we do want to get any emails from her and pleasing her to stop sending emails further?

Have you tried asking her why she’s sending you those? It’s bizarre behavior, and the only explanation I can come up with is that she thinks you owe her money. So, try asking directly what’s going on — as in, “I’m not clear why you’re sending us bank and credit card statements. Are you waiting on some action from us?”

If you don’t get an explanation that makes sense, then go with, “Please stop sending us this information or we’ll need to block your emails, which we’d prefer not to do in case you need to reach us for legitimate reasons in the future.” But then block away if needed (or set her emails to go straight to the trash or to their own folder, which someone checks only rarely).

But also — what do you know about her? Has she displayed erratic, unbalanced behavior in the past? If so, you can view this in that context. If not and she’s always been reasonable, there’s something here that you’re missing.

5. I’ve never been promoted — is that a problem?

I have a general career question. Though my resume shows me in increasingly senior positions with more responsibilities and oversight, I’ve never actually been promoted at a place of work. Is this a problem? My first five years of professional experience were in an industry with very lock-step rules for promotions, so I’m not worried about that. Since then, I’ve been with three employers, for 4.5, 2.5, and now approaching 1 year. While each of these roles represents a “step up” professionally and came with better titles and more pay, I’ve never received a formal promotion with a title change and pay increase from an employer (which is part of what’s led me to move on — in one case there was a promise of a promotion that never materialized, and I’ve received some half-step promotions that included nominal raises and a bit more responsibility, but that’s it). I’m happy at my current job, but is this something I should be concerned about when potentially seeking opportunities in the future? Does the lack of an internal promotion look bad to hiring managers?

Nah, not typically. You’re showing a steady trajectory of growth, and it’s fine that it’s at different companies. (That said, I’d make sure that you’re staying at each for at least a few years, so that you have time to have real accomplishments and it doesn’t look like you’re hopping around without solid stays.)

I have to build with Legos during an interview, I don’t want to cross a picket line for work errands, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Posted by JenniferP

Hi Captain Awkward!

I came out to my parents about 3 years ago, when I was still living with them before moving abroad to start my PhD. They were horrible – and it made the next 6 months of my stay a traumatizing experience, to say the least. I think you could describe my parents as controlling, and when I came out there was a lot of ‘we HATE all the career choices you’ve made, but we had the goodness to tolerate them, and now this!’ Anyway. Moved out, moved countries, got a fuckload of therapy, and started the process of healing.

I told my mother (via a text) that I was moving in with my girlfriend and she freaked out. She is “devastated”, and my father, with whom I have not had an actual conversation since my coming out (made summer visits home real fun, if you can believe it), is “furious, and wants to disown you”. I… am not sure how to cope with this? The worst part is that I have a ticket home to visit them for nearly a month, in three weeks. Captain, I’m not sure I want to visit them (for three whole weeks!) after this terrific display of parenting. At the same time, I’m pretty sure that not visiting them will be taken as this huge display of disrespect and an indication that I *want* to be estranged from them. So the options are to either stay away for my own peace of mind and be a bad daughter, possibly irrevocably so, or to grit my teeth and spend 3 weeks at home enduring silent disapproval at best and emotionally abusive confrontations at worst.

Like I said, I don’t have a relationship with my father. My mother is the one I speak to on the phone and text with. I told her “I’m sad and disappointed that you feel this way about my moving in with my girlfriend. I don’t feel safe coming back to visit you, and I don’t think you’d feel comfortable either.” She replied and the preview contains another allusion to my disappointing career (for the record, worked at a non-profit, doing a PhD now, only a failure insofar as “not earning hundreds of thousands as a corporate lawyer” is a failure) and… I haven’t seen the rest of it because I get avoidant when I’m anxious. Do you have any scripts for like… how to respond and how to navigate what may potentially be a long, torturous process of becoming (formally) (even more) estranged from my parents?

Bad Kid

P.S. My pronouns are she/her!

P.S. Just wanted to give a heads-up that you’re almost definitely going to recommend therapy, which I know is a big part of the answer! The most recent therapist I had didn’t really work for me, and since I’m moving in 2 weeks, I might not have a huge amount of time / resources to devote to finding a new therapist.

Dear Pretty Great Kid,

I confess, I want to embroider a sampler for all of the homophobic and transphobic parents in the world. It will say “Kindly get in the fucking sea.”

How fucking dare they.

How dare they talk about “disowning” you as if “owning” you was something they get to do in the first place.

How dare they act as if there is a mold fitted with the exact specifications for “daughter” that you were supposed to climb into so you could have the inconvenient parts of yourself, the parts called “gay” and “made a slightly different career choice than they hoped for” sheared off, how dare they act as if that is the price of being loved and being part of your family.

How dare they treat their love for you like an audition that you have to pass. How dare they act like you are in danger of failing it.

How dare they respond to your good news, the news that you are in love and happy, with disapproval and threats.

Can your parents possibly, possibly, possibly be more disappointed in you, I wonder, than I am disappointed in them at this moment? (No)

What a poisonous, empty love they offer you if these are its terms.

Let’s talk about this proposed trip. I hope I’m reaching you in time to cancel it.

I think your text to your mom about the trip was perfectly stated: “I’m sad and disappointed that you feel this way about my moving in with my girlfriend. I don’t feel safe coming back to visit you, and I don’t think you’d feel comfortable either.” You were honest, clear, and specific, you shared your feelings and acknowledged hers without taking those on as your problem.

Let’s talk about your understanding of the dilemma the trip creates. You write:  “I’m pretty sure that not visiting them will be taken as this huge display of disrespect and an indication that I *want* to be estranged from them. So the options are to either stay away for my own peace of mind and be a bad daughter, possibly irrevocably so, or to grit my teeth and spend 3 weeks at home enduring silent disapproval at best and emotionally abusive confrontations at worst.”

You’re not wrong, that is exactly the dilemma that your parents are setting up for you: “Either return home as scheduled and submit to our abuse and grovel for our approval, or know that if we write you off forever we get to blame it on your latest failure to perform filial piety and tell ourselves it’s what you wanted all along.” 

You’re not wrong but also: It’s a trap. Accepting this dilemma at face value means accepting that you are at fault somehow for [checks notes] being an adult human who is happily in love with another human, pursuing graduate studies at the highest level of your chosen field, and not presenting yourself as scheduled so that your parents can download all their fears and bigotries in person instead of from a safe (distant) distance.

Listen, there’s nothing quite like flying a very long way at your own expense to visit people who think they get to be mean to you about who you are, while the knot of dread in your stomach rises until it’s a whole elaborate braided dreadloaf that fills your torso the entire trip because you know something terrible is going to happen but you don’t know exactly when or what. Will it start on the ride from the airport, when you’re trapped alone in a car and there’s plenty of time for the person to unload all their stored disappointments on you without witnesses? Or will everyone be nice for a few days and lull you into the idea that this time it’s going to be okay, maybe they are changing, maybe you can survive it, and then, SLAM, there it is, the vitriol and deep disappointment that they’ve been saving up for you all this time? Or will it wait until the last day of the visit, the way people in a long-distance romances  pick the fights they’ve been saving up all weekend to make the parting easier? Once I stood (Unless we’re in the car I’m almost always standing when it happens, the other person is seated comfortably and I’m standing there in attendance like a messenger who just ran in with important news for the King and can’t sit or leave until the Royal Decree is handed down) while a relative unloaded their saved disappointment on me only this time I spaced out completely, just looked out the window and didn’t really listen to the words (there was nothing new, I’d wager) and when asked What I Had To Say For Myself I said “Hmmmm, interesting, and you’re always wondering why I don’t visit more often” and they were sincerely and honestly shocked. And like, WOUNDED. How could I say THAT? How could I imply that how they treated me whenever I visited might have anything to do with how often I would want to visit in the future? And then I watched them, I watched them do it in real time, I watched them make me The Bad Guy in the story, the mean, ungrateful child who threatened them with estrangement when they were just trying to help me stop being such a loser. Because that’s what Love looked like to them, me standing still while they (metaphorically speaking by my 30s, at least, thanks for small favors) licked their hand and aggressively smoothed my hair down to make me more presentable for [church][representing their class and parenting aspirations to an invisible but highly critical audience][who the fuck even knows].

You don’t have to do it. You don’t have to go. If you stay home with your girlfriend and the family rift widens (the rift that is already definitely here) after that, your parents might try to sell you and the rest of your family the story that it was you who caused the rift and that you can fix it any time you want to [by climbing into the Daughter-Mold-O-Rama][by taking your medicine i.e. their verbal abuse and neglect][a series of impossible fairy-tale tasks like spinning straw into gold that are never meant to be completed, they exist only to place you into a state of permanent failure and pre-emptive apology]. Somebody who tells you that their love for you can only be found if you travel east of the sun and west of the moon isn’t planning on you making a successful quest.

If you submit to your parents’ terms, if you decide what the hell, you’ll peel off your beautiful selkie-skin and hide it under a rock or trade your voice to the Sea Witch so that you can stealthily pass for what your family defines as human for a couple of weeks — and a lot of people do submit, under threat of escalating violence, out the very real fear that being ‘disowned’ means homelessness, worrying that that “rebellion” means being ostracized from any and all family connections, or because disability, inadequate safety nets, and/or legal discrimination against queer people force a choice between abusive care-taking and no care-taking at all, or even because you still love your parents so much and you need a temporary break from being the Lost Lamb of the family and want to feel like the Prodigal One for a minute, please know: If you’re out there reading this from inside the un-safety of the Mold-O-Rama because all the other options are even less safe, I see you, friend and I need you to know that your choice to try to preserve an unfair and difficult relationship doesn’t make them right about you.

If you decide to take the trip after all, Letter Writer, please think hard about your own comfort and safety. Can you stay with Not Your Parents (siblings, friends, other relatives, a hotel)? Can you make sure you have your own local transport so you can leave situations whenever you want to? Can you cut the parent-part of the visit short and spend most of the time visiting friendlier faces? Can you recruit local “buffers” (old friends, supportive siblings, extended family, etc.) to help you be alone with your parents less than usual, possibly not at all? Do you need [noise-cancelling headphones][pharmaceutical assistance][a code word to text to a safe nearby person which means “extract me immediately”]? All I ask, as you build this logistical moat and human chain of protective kindness and the expenses and inconveniences start to total up, can you do me a favor and at least think about chucking the whole thing and running off somewhere relaxing with your wonderful girlfriend or a stack of books you’ve been meaning to read or literally a potato with googly eyes on it (the potato, unlike your parents, is guaranteed not to be mean to you).

You don’t have to go. If you go, you don’t have to accept being mistreated as a condition of belonging to your family. If they are mean to you, you get to leave. If relations deteriorate even further, you are not to blame, additionally, please know that making the other choice would not have fixed it.

As for the long run, I don’t know what your parents will do. I can’t promise you it will get better than it is right now, though I can tell you a true story about how, in my middle age, I’ve stopped standing for Why Are You So Disappointing? oral exams and I’ve mostly stopped being subjected to them. I’ve written about that long, messy process a lot here, both directly and indirectly, probably this is the best distillation of it.

As a cisgender woman whose career failures and your-body-is-the-wrong-size disappointments were stacked so deep that I never even bothered pulling out the one marked “lazy, occasional bisexuality with a hetero-romantic curse” where my family could see it,  I’m not going to pretend that my struggles have ever been on par with people navigating the kind of parental disappointment that is backed up on an institutional level by churches and governments, but I think that some of the emotional territory is at least recognizable. Here are some of the lessons I try to pass on in case they are useful to someone else navigating the possibility of family estrangement or redrawing of boundaries:

Your parents have choices about how they treat you. If they choose to lead with disappointment, criticism, bigotry, and threats, if they demand unconditional love from you but make their love conditional on your achievements and conformity to their idea of you (at the expense of the wonderful, kind, loving, thoughtful, actual, living, breathing child they are lucky enough to have had accidentally wash up in their family and were lucky enough to have the care and feeding of), that’s their mistake and their loss. You can’t “fail” at being yourself.

Estrangement is painful but it can be a great equalizer. Sometimes staying away for a good long while and severely limiting the Permanently Disappointed Parent’s access to you is the only language they understand and respond to, because it’s the one thing that reshapes the balance of power. “I can live with your disappointment if I have to, but I won’t subject myself to your mistreatment anymore.” Does “You can’t fire me, I already quit” feel childish, and selfish, and like you deeply wish you could be a bigger person than this, and all the yucky things your parents will accuse you of being if you were to say those words out loud? HELL YEAH. I mean, you’re only going against everything your family and culture have ever taught you was the Most Important Thing, Ever, what do you want, a parade? Lots of people who don’t know your life will try to tell you that you are making a mistake and that you just need to try harder. When that happens, come find me, I’ll throw you your parade, the one called “Holding onto yourself in the face of a mean family is difficult and brave work, well done.” We have glitter, and floats, and EXCELLENT costumes. ❤

It might get *better* without ever getting *fixed.* “Do you want peace or do you want justice?” is a question I often ask, when reading letters here, when navigating my own complicated situations. What is it worth it to me to excavate the past right now and receive answers for what happened there (answers that might never satisfy me because the person does not have the self-awareness or the capacity to process what really happened) vs. what is it worth to me to leave the past alone in order to have the most peaceful possible interaction in the present (Is it possible to create a history of positive interactions moving forward and push the negative ones further back?) Therapy (which I agree is useful but not something that can be implemented swiftly or is the most important thing right now, dear Letter Writer) has one of the places to sort this out, to sift through the pile of what I need vs. what I am owed vs. what can I reasonably expect vs. what can I safely live with, to grieve for the missing pieces and start to learn to show the kindness and acceptance for myself that all human beings crave and deserve.

Your family is not a monolith and your parents do not have the only say in your belonging there. Do some families absolutely enable their worst members, band together against uncomfortable truths, and punish anyone, including victims of abuse, who threaten the status quo aka their extremely fragile but necessary belief that We Are All Completely Normal And Okay And Nobody (Especially Me) Did Anything Wrong Here, Why Are You Insisting On Ruining Everything By Bringing Up Ancient History (Like A Glaring History Of Sexual Abuse) Or Inconveniently Recent Nazi Leanings?  Yes. Unfortunately yes. All the fucking time. Disappointingly, yes. I’m never gonna tell people that real and depressing risks around this don’t exist, but I’m also not going say that your only path is to give up and let the worst person in your family define all the terms of it, forever, like the final boss in a video game that you have to defeat before there’s a seat for you at the holiday table.

To counter this narrative specifically, I would advise people to not let the meanest people in your family get away with the idea that they speak for everyone and that their personal disappointment in you is a matter of settled group consensus. If a family member tells you “Plus, everyone agrees with me that gay people are icky ” I’d be pretty quick to ask, “Well, who is this Everyone and can I talk to them directly about that? If that’s how they feel they can say it to my face, otherwise I’m not going to assume that everyone is as hateful and shriveled as you, how odd, why would I insult them that way.” You don’t have to follow through with a “Do you think I have the right to exist y/n” investigation with the relatives, mind you, just stop and think before you accept that someone who is acting like they hate you is a) the boss of what you are supposed to be like or b) the sole gatekeeper to where you get to belong. (“Self-appointed truth-tellers who only say mean stuff” make up a large amount of my true enemies on this planet, please shelter here in my grudge-shack a moment while we discuss how deeply awful they are.)

“‘Forever’ is a long time, Sally.” That’s a quote from Mr. Awkward’s intensely quotable Grandpa, who I never had the pleasure of meeting, who, upon hearing of a grandchild’s possibly premature engagement said something like, “Forever is a long time, Sally and I was married* to your Grandma…forever.”  (*extremely lovingly married but definitely not always smoothly married from what I gather).

When I think about how “forever is a long time,” one thing I mean is that family situations where people are considering estrangement didn’t get that way overnight and they won’t heal overnight, either. For some people there is safety and power in the idea of permanence, the words “Fuck off and die, I am done with you forever,” and the giddy freedom that comes when you decide once and for all that you’ll stop trying to engage with someone who hurts you. If that’s what you need, and you need someone to be on your side about that, again, come find me, your parade is waiting. There are some parents who do some seriously unforgivable shit to their children in this world, and nobody ever wants to acknowledge that, but nobody else had to live through what you did, either, which means nobody else is the boss of what you should be made to put up with in the name of making everyone who is not you feel okay about what parenting should be like. Hard pass.

For me, when things were strained but not unforgivably so, I got considerable safety from knowing that permanent estrangement was an option but also in knowing that I didn’t want to go there if it was humanly possible to avoid it, and that as long as I could stand it I would try to choose another way, and the best gift I could give myself and everyone in the story was “more time.” To be clear, this was my path, I ask it and expect it or advise it for nobody else, I never think anyone is obligated to keep trying or exhaust all alternatives before they give up on something that is not working. While I traveled this path, the idea of “forever being a long time” has helped me resist ultimatums, especially the whole “what if the person DIES and you never MADE PEACE” narrative the fixers of the world are so invested in you adopting (“Idk, what if someone who is mean to me does die and they never ever made the choice to knock it the fuck off, apologize, and make amends while they were alive, yeah that would be pretty sad! Here lies an asshole who never missed a chance to double down, RIP!”) but also smaller ultimatums. It’s helped some of the “Is this the hill I want to die on?” peaks shrink into manageable little bumps and provided helpful reminders that I can make decisions to keep myself safe and intact on a case-by-case, visit-by-visit, call-by-call basis, I don’t have to stay endlessly open or close all the doors right now on the basis of “forever.” It might be like this forever, it might not be, if I give people another chance to act right that’s a gift I’m giving them, if I withhold that gift temporarily to regroup, the way we got here doesn’t automatically become All My Fault.

In closing:

There is no universe where you are the disappointing one and your homophobic (& otherwise abusive) parents call the shots of what it is possible or desirable for you to be. You are good. If you doubt that, I’m here, we’re here, this community is here, we’ve got your back, we’ve got the glitter bombs and the rainbows and the fierce unstoppable dancing and the quiet (consensual, possibly telepathic) hugs and affirmations, we’ve got your parade right here, you could not possibly un-deserve the love we have for you in a million years.






Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I changed jobs recently — my new company is a big, multinational organization comprised of lots of divisions. I recently had a conversation with a friend in a comparable role (in an entirely different division of my company), who asked to meet up to discuss salary. He has been at our company for a long time, and he had an inkling that because he hasn’t moved around much, his salary might be lower than industry standard.

Alison, it was. By a lot. This friend is technically at a higher level than I am (one step up — he manages several people while I only manage one person). But other than his added management responsibilities, we do largely the same work, and it turns out I make about 25% more than he does. Also, it’s worth noting that I’m probably five years older than him and have therefore had more years to get raises, cost-of-living increases, etc. And I’ve changed employers more frequently, getting more money each time. But he definitely has a “bigger” job than I do, with all my responsibilities and then some, so the fact he’s paid so much less than me seems strange.

He point-blank asked me what I made, and I told him. We had a good conversation, he thanked me profusely for talking about all this with him so candidly, and I think he’s gathering information to make a case to his manager at some point soon for a raise. I trust that he will be discreet with my information.

But here I am … feeling weird. I know there’s a lot of talk about creating greater transparency around pay issues, but the few times I’ve had this conversation with colleagues, we both end up feeling bad, not good (even in this case, when I sense I’m fairly compensated). It feels SO taboo to talk about money with friends and colleagues. Should I have handled this request differently? Was I correct to share my salary with him, or not? Am I at any legal risk with my company for sharing salary info? We always hear that we should be talking about these issues, but we don’t usually get much guidance on how to do it. Thanks for any advice you can offer.

It does often feel taboo to talk about salary … and that is hugely to employers’ benefit and to employees’ disadvantage.

Secrecy around salary is exactly what allows salary inequities to continue unchallenged — it gets much harder to argue that you’re being paid unfairly when you don’t know what colleagues are making, and it gets much easier when you do. And it’s virtually impossible to unearth systemic pay gaps based on race or gender when you can’t compare salary data.

So I think you should feel good about the conversation you had with your coworker, and more people should be having those conversations.

But you’re worried that this could have repercussions for you at work, so let’s tackle that.

At the federal level, the National Labor Relations Act gives employees the right to “engage in concerted activities,” which includes the right to discuss your wages and working conditions with each other. Employers aren’t allowed to prohibit you from discussing your salary, and any attempts to do so violate the NLRA (which can be surprising to learn, considering how many workplaces have this — illegal — policy).

However, this protection only applies to non-supervisory employees, so it may not cover you (you mentioned you’re a manager). But if your employer ever confronts you about it, you can say something like this: “Oh, I didn’t realize that would be a problem! There’s been such a move toward salary transparency in order to combat gender and racial pay gaps that I hope we’ll reconsider that.” (In other words, turn it back around on them.) Or, since you’re new, you can lean on that — “Oh, I didn’t realize that! In my experience, companies are moving more toward pay transparency. Is that something we’d ever consider?” (Again, changing the conversation.)

If you’re really worried, you could ask your coworker not to use your name when he makes his case for a raise. It’s still useful for him to have the information to use as background if that’s all you’re comfortable with — but it’s far more useful for him to have freer rein with the info if you’re willing to allow that.

should I have shared my salary with a coworker? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

16 April 2019 16:18 - Tuesday reading
The Botany of Desire, by Michael Pollan
Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik
The Day She Saved the Doctor, by Jacqueline Rayner, Jenny T. Colgan, Susan Calman and Dorothy Koomson

Last books finished (rather a good week - though some of these are pretty short)
On A Sunbeam, by Tillie Walden
A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara
Daniel Deronda, by George Eliot
Troll Bridge, by Neil Gaiman and Colleen Doran
Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History, by Michael Witwer, Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson and Sam Witwer
Phosphorus, by Liz Williams
Exit Strategy, by Martha Wells
On the Waterfront, by Malcolm Johnson
De Terugkeer van de Wespendief, by Aimée de Jongh

Next books
Dark Lord of Derkholm, by Diana Wynne Jones
A Sunless Sea by Anne Perry

Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I started working at my current job about eight months ago. My team is small — just my manager (a director) and myself (a manager) — and we have many projects that require us to work with other teams within our company. Most of the time, we are asking people from other teams to take time out of their daily workload to assist us. Asking people to jump in on projects is not always easy, especially when it feels like everyone is bogged down with a tremendous workload. I consistently try to be a bit lighter in my approach when asking for assistance — my manager, however, sees no problem essentially bullying her way into a quicker response.

Upon starting at this company, I noticed many people spoke warily of my manager, who we’ll call Jane. I could definitely understand their issues — she can be quite abrasive and overpowering. She is very negative and constantly micromanages just about every project she’s on. Regardless of these qualities, I’ve still been able to gel with her. Sure, she can pry too far into my personal life or snap at me for little to no reason, but I’m able to compartmentalize, and I’m happy with my position. Outside of the difficult parts of her personality, I don’t necessarily mind working with her.

We are in the midst of a large project at the moment and need quite a bit of IT assistance. The only person who can help out with this is currently on a business trip across the country. He will be back within a day or so, and advised Jane of this several times in the past week. Today, Jane asked me to call this man multiple times and ask him vague questions about the project that she had already emailed him. Unfortunately, as this is my direct boss and do not have much leeway to decline, I made the call and apologized profusely to this man. He was understanding with me, but proceeded to tell me to tell my boss to “go f*** herself” and let her know “the world doesn’t revolve around her work.”

While I wish I could say this is an isolated incident, Jane has asked me to do things like this before, like abruptly calling people to demand something that could wait until they’re able to reply via email. I have shared with her that people get frustrated by this, but I’ve watered it significantly. I haven’t shared how angry others have been, mostly because I fear she will throw a bit of a fit, go to them about it, and then my relationship with them will be damaged.

Any time I have expressed discomfort with the way she asks me to approach others, she takes it as me “being shy.” I have told her multiple times that I am not shy, but what I haven’t said is that I don’t enjoy harassing my coworkers.

How do I approach this subject without making it seem like a personal attack? I want to discuss this in a healthy way, but every time I’ve attempted to have a discussion with her, she doesn’t seem to take anything in — she is just immediately on the defensive.

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

my boss makes me hassle my coworkers for no reason was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Posted by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I wonder if you could help me with a bit of office etiquette.

There is a designer who works for my company. She is not my direct report and I don’t manage her in any way, but she does split her time between doing design work for me (she does two days of work for me a week) and the rest of the company. So I delegate, prioritize, give feedback, etc. over those two days.

Because of the way our desks are positioned — I am behind her and slightly to the side and we are facing the same direction — I can often see her work over her shoulder. On multiple occasions now, I have seen her doing something incorrectly, or working on something I didn’t want to prioritize while the priority work hasn’t been finished, or just designing something in such a way that I know I will want to change, even if it isn’t necessarily incorrect.

How can I address this — and should I? If it was just once, I’d shoot her a quick message and laugh it off as “Oh, just spotted this in the corner of my eye, actually it should be X…” but if it’s multiple occasions, that just seems like weird and creepy micromanaging to me! On the other hand, it would save us both time and her a lot of work if I did step in instead of waiting for her to send me the work at the end. There also must be a different level of appropriateness dependent on whether it’s actually doing something wrong, or just not my design preference.

If it gives any context, i’m only 23 and new to this company, and she has been here for a few years. I am not her manager at all and have never managed anyone before. I am having some other issues with her at times as well, in terms of meeting deadlines — I always give her a deadline of one to two weeks before I need to use something to leave time for revisions, but she often just goes by the final, final date and doesn’t leave any time for changes so I end up having to chase up on work all the time or risk pushing back deadlines. Addressing these issues earlier would help greatly with that.

Oooh, that’s tricky.

You definitely don’t want her to feel like you’re watching all her work as she does it, even though the reality is that you can see it. People need space to work and make mistakes and fix them, and no one wants to feel like everything on their screen is being scrutinized. On the other hand, though, if you can see her putting time into something she doesn’t realize she’ll need to change later, it feels weird not telling her that.

I think you can intervene a few times, but not on a regular basis. It’s fine to occasionally say, “Hey, I think you’re working on X, and I might not have been clear enough — can you actually take care of Y first? That one’s more time-sensitive.” Or, “Sorry to intervene while you’re right in the middle of it, but I’m hoping it might save you some time — I saw you’re doing this in blue but it’s got to match the green and gold color scheme for the event.”


If it’s something you’re doing regularly, it’s going to drive her batty, and understandably so.

I’d actually look at this from a different angle: Take this as a flag that something is keeping the two of you from being aligned on projects from the start. Think about the sorts of things that you’ve seen her getting wrong, and think about what kind of info you could have given her earlier on that would have prevented that.

It’s really, really common in any kind of delegation (and especially with design work) for the person delegating the work to have all sorts of info in their head about what they want the final product to look like … but not to give that info to the person doing the work until later on, when the work comes back to them and they have something concrete to react to. The trick in delegating well is to learn to articulate much of that info as possible at the start — so that the person doing the work has all the same info you do about what you want. Right now it sounds like you might not be doing that, so she’s making decisions on her own — and they’re not lining up with what you want. (If I’m wrong and the mistakes she’s making are things you explicitly talked about earlier, that’s a different situation, but since you didn’t mention that, I’m going to assume that’s not the case here.)

The same need for clarity is true with deadlines, in a way. If she’s not meeting your interim deadline because she knows the “real” deadline, have a clear conversation with her where you explain that you’re setting interim deadlines to allow for revisions, and that you need her to use the deadlines you give her. If you have that conversation and the problem keeps happening, then you get more serious about it: “I need things back to me by the deadlines I give you, and it’s causing problems like X and Y when that doesn’t happen. Do you need me doing something differently so that you’re clear on those interim deadlines, so that I’m not having to chase it down after the deadline I give you passed?” (And if it still continues, that’s a performance issue to bring her boss in on.)

So for now, I’d focus on your pieces of this — on how you can be more clear. And when you see her screen and she’s doing something you know you’re going to want to change later, instead of saying something immediately, I’d use that as an exercise for yourself — a chance to figure out what you should have told her up-front but (apparently) didn’t. And then use those insights as a way to get better and better at the info you’re giving her on the front-end when you first delegate something. Over time, this should cut down on how often you’re spotting her screen and realizing she’s way off-base. (Of course, keep in mind that the goal here isn’t for you to have zero edits/tweaks when the first iteration of work comes back to you. It’s normal to still need to give input and you don’t want to try dictating every tiny detail — you just want to make sure that you’re setting her up to get reasonably close to what you want on the first try.)

Also, changing the amount of constant visibility you have into her work will help too. Can you move the angle of your desk or put up a small barrier that would keep you from seeing everything she does? That’ll force you to handle this the way you would if she were off in her own office, and it’ll be healthier for both of you not to have her right in your line of sight at all times.

I can see a coworker doing work for me incorrectly over her shoulder — can I step in? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

16 April 2019 14:29 - In Memoriam-Allan Cole

Posted by KathrynBaker

Allan Cole, international best-selling author, screenwriter and former prize-winning newsman, died March 29, 2019, of cancer in Boca Raton, FL. He was 75.

Cole was probably best known for the Sten science fiction series, which he co-authored with his late partner Chris Bunch, as well as the critically acclaimed Vietnam novel “A Reckoning for Kings” about the Tet Offensive of 1968.

The son of a CIA operative, Cole was born in Philadelphia, traveling widely with his family before settling in California. He was a newsman for fourteen years, working at several LA area newspapers, ranging from the Inglewood Daily News to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, to Santa Monica Outlook where he was the city editor and national news editor.

Joining Bunch, he sold more than 150 television and film scripts, earning credits on such TV shows as “Magnum, P.I.,” “Quincy,” “The Incredible Hulk,” “Hunter,” “The A-Team” and “Walker, Texas Ranger.” They were also story editors on “Galactica 1980,” “Code Red,” “Gavilan,” and “Werewolf.”

The two writers penned an eight-volume science fiction series beginning with “Sten” in 1982. The series was a world-wide hit, especially in Russia, where it sold more than ten million copies and was on the Moscow best seller list for two years. Later, Cole co-authored a fantasy novel, “The Hate Parallax,” with the popular Russian fantasy author, Nick Perumov, also a best-seller in Russia.

He also wrote several historical and fantasy novels with Bunch, including “The Far Kingdoms,” and “The Shannon Trilogy.” In recent years his books have included “Lucky In Cyprus,” about his life as a CIA brat during the height of the Cold War, “My Hollywood MisAdventures,” a humorous look at his years as a screenwriter with Bunch, “Tales Of The Blue Meanie,” set in Venice, California during the Sixties and “SOS,” a novel about the U-boat attack in Florida during World War Two. He also added two novellas to the Sten bookshelf, “Sten And The Mutineers,” and “Sten And The Pirate Queen.”

He is survived by his wife, Kathryn (Chris Bunch’s sister), his son, Jason, Westchester, CA; his daughters Dr. Susan Beck, Santa Cruz, CA, and Alissia Bell, Washington state; his brothers David, Murrieta, CA, and Drew, Boca Raton, FL; and eight grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, please send a donation in Allan’s name to the Writers Guild Foundation’s fund for Emerging Talents. Here is the link: https://www.wgfoundation.org/donate-writing-foundation/

For more information about Cole, see his website at www.acole.com, or his entry at IMDB.com.

The post In Memoriam-Allan Cole appeared first on SFWA.

16 April 2019 04:00 - This earth our home

Posted by rbarenblat@gmail.com (Velveteen Rabbi)

When the house lights went down
I started to cry. It's just
a third grade concert -- songs

about "this earth our home"
with canned accompaniment
and four third-grade classes

fidgeting on the risers -- but
you'd have loved it. Of course
his whole life you were too sick

to travel to see him shine.
It wouldn't have occurred to him
to expect you there, but

I would have texted you a video
the minute I got to the car.
You'd have watched it later

when you woke up, when you felt
up to checking your phone.
You would have sent a string

of celebratory emojis. You'd have
laughed that he knows already
how to make a mike stand taller,

praised his stage presence...
I wiped my eyes furiously, hoping
no one noticed the ridiculous mom

in the second row who was moved
to tears by songs about recycling.
This is how I send you video now,

Mom: these poems I don't know
if you can hear from where you are,
this earth no longer your home.

Posted by Richa

Tempeh Cauliflower Potato Tamarind Curry. South Indian Coconut and tamarind curry with veggies. Vegan Glutenfree Nutfree Recipe. Can be Soyfree.  Jump to Recipe

Tempeh Cauliflower Potato Tamarind Curry. South Indian Coconut and tamarind curry with veggies. #Vegan #Glutenfree #Nutfree #Recipe #veganricha #vegantamarindchickencurry Can be Soyfree. 

My aim with the blog is to introduce flavorful new ways to add more plant focused meals to our and your repertoire. That means making some Indian cooking simpler and more approachable. Some of these options are home meals or regional recipes that are mostly never found in Indian restaurants.

Exhibit a this Tofu Amritsari Masala which keeps getting made so many times, Exhibit b Black eyed Pea Brown Rice Peanut Pulao which has amazing flavor and texture. There are several recipes in my drafts too, that I have to edit and schedule intermittently. Sometimes they take a back seat in favor of the more popular options.

The sauce today is inspired from South Indian style Tamarind Chiken Curry. I use Tempeh for the Protein and added potatoes and cauliflower because I had to use them up and all work really well in the sauce. You can make this soyfree with more of the veggies, some cooked chickpeas/beans/lentils or chickpea tofu.

As with some regional Indian cooking, sometimes the ingredient list is longer as they use whole and ground spices in combination to create their own flavor. The sauces and curries in many regional Indian cuisines are not just sauce base + garam masala. The flavor gets built up with various spices and ingredients.

For this sauce, the dry whole spices such as coriander, cumin, fennel, fenugreek and black pepper are toasted and then ground and blended with tomato. The mixture is then added to golden onions and simmered to make a deep flavored sauce. Add veggies or tempeh or anything else and simmer to infuse the veggies with the flavor. Garnish with lemon and Serve with rice or flatbread.

Continue reading: Tempeh Cauliflower Potato Tamarind Curry

The post Tempeh Cauliflower Potato Tamarind Curry appeared first on Vegan Richa.

16 April 2019 10:00 - My tweets
  • Mon, 20:22: RT @er1cmau: « Chaque face, chaque pierre, du vénérable monument est une page non seulement de l’histoire du pays mais encore de l’histoire…
  • Mon, 20:26: RT @POETSorg: The towers of Notre Dame cut clean and gray The evening sky, and pale from left to right A hundred bridges leap from either q…
  • Mon, 20:48: RT @AntonyJohnston: A reminder: Mary Shelley's FRANKENSTEIN, often considered the first SF novel, is *literally* a story examining whether…
  • Mon, 21:16: RT @GreggFavre: After my last tweet, I got a couple DMs asking firefighting related questions about the #NotreDameFire. I -like most of yo…
  • Tue, 10:45: RT @BrigidLaffan: Short thread on Ireland’s management of Brexit negs. 1. Ireland did its homework & had a contingency plan ready by 24th J…
  • Tue, 11:29: RT @VinayPatel: GDPR is my therapist https://t.co/GqsA7Fbfky

Posted by Ask a Manager

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

1. How can I be less annoying when I have to follow up with people?

Do you have any suggestions for less annoying follow-up? I have a mainly back office position and don’t work with customers or external partners for the most part, but sometimes I have to request documents for compliance. It’s a pain and I hate doing it, but we have to do it.

Let’s say it’s a signed TPS coversheet. I don’t have the authority to change anything about the process, and management wants it this way. I have to hound our partners for these stupid TPS sheets and send them a million emails.

I have frequent back and forth with several key partners. I have a decent rapport with them, but I can’t help but feel like I’m a pest when I ask for what I need. Sometimes I only get one or two TPS sheets back when I need four, sometimes it’s the wrong name, and sometimes I receive them much later than the deadline.

How can I politely ask for what I need without being annoying? I’m a young millennial woman so that is driving a lot of my thoughts here.

You know it’s a requirement, they know it’s a requirement, and it’s okay to continue checking back until you have what you need. You should do it pleasantly and cheerfully, but don’t feel awkward about the fact that you have to do it in the first place! (If anything, you might tell yourself that they should feel a little awkward that they keep not sending you something you’re clearly asking for.)

Sometimes doing this pleasantly means using softening language like “I’m sorry to bug you about this” but most of the time it’s fine to just be straightforward, as long as your tone is warm — for example, “Hmmm, I’ve got two back from you but still need two more — can you send the X and Y sheets along too?” or “Today’s our deadline for having these in, so could you send them to me this morning?”

And when someone is chronically sending them in late, it’s fine to say, “We’ve to have these in by the fifth of every month for (reasons). Is there something I can do differently on my end to make sure you can meet that deadline?”

Also! If you’re sending a zillion emails without the results you need, the very first thing to try is switching contact methods — in this case, to calling instead. Some people are much more responsive to calls, and the ones who don’t love calls may start to realize it’s preferable to answer your emails.

But sometimes this is just the job, and decent people will understand you’re not hounding them just to annoy them.

2. My coworkers keep asking “who’s in here?” in the bathroom

My office restroom has the usual share of problems, but I’m finding that I keep running into one that causes me more grief than others. For context, I have a medical condition that requires frequent and sometimes lengthy trips to the restroom. Quite a few people around the office know about it, as I also need to take time off every couple months for treatment and I sometimes mention it in passing. I have already set up reasonable accommodations involving these restroom trips with HR, so no worries there.

The problem is that many of my fellow lady coworkers use the restroom as a sort of hangout spot. People will either stand by the sinks and chat, or even carry on conversations while all parties are in the restroom stalls. These conversations are about everything from personal life events, to complaints about others in the office, to private customer information. When one of the speakers realizes that they are not alone in the restroom, they either stop talking abruptly, comment on the extra person and laugh about it, or ask the dreaded question: “Who else is in here?”

I can’t stand this. My choices feel like they’re limited to 1) staying quiet and seeming creepy or 2) sheepishly identifying myself and dealing with the embarrassment. I’ll frequently hear jokes when I go to wash my hands that “I’m eavesdropping.” When I hear certain people enter the restroom, my heart sinks because I know that they’re going to continue their conversation and I’ll eventually be involved whether I like it or not.

If I ran the country, I’d make the question “Who’s in here?” illegal in all public restrooms. Since I can’t do that, what can I do? I don’t want to take away people’s freedom to chat, but I’m tired of feeling like an unwanted presence in my own company restroom. Is there any way to get a little bathroom etiquette going?

I think that when you’re in a bathroom stall, you’re entitled to the illusion of a sound barrier, and therefore you are not obligated to respond to queries directed your way from outside the stall. In other words, stay quiet if you want to! But I can understand why you might feel too weird doing that, you could try “Someone using a toilet!” or even “Ugh, let’s not roll-call who’s on the toilet.”

And once you come out and reveal yourself, feel free to say, “I prefer to believe there’s a sound barrier in bathroom stalls, where noise doesn’t travel in or out.”

3. Interview outfits when a suit isn’t flattering

I have fashion question. I’m hoping to have some interviews in the near future, in an industry where suits are pretty typical interview attire. However, I have a very large bust, to the point where I have to purchase all of my work clothes from specialty retailers. My typical work outfit is a conservative, tailored wrap dress, which works well for my figure. Quite frankly, suits look terrible on me. Button-up shirts and blazers never fit right. They are either so loose in the waist that I could fit an entire watermelon in there, or they have to be tailored in a way that really emphasizes my bust and makes me feel uncomfortable. It would also cost hundreds of dollars, as there are only a few (very expensive!) companies that sell button-up tops or blazers that I could actually fit over my chest.

Is there an alternate outfit I could get away with? Or do I need to lean into the suit?

It really depends on your field, and the norms for your field in your geographic area. There are a lot of fields now where it’s perfectly acceptable to wear something that’s formal but not a suit to interviews — a business-y dress, a dress with a non-suit blazer, pants and a blouse, etc. Those might be perfectly fine for you. (There are fewer formal non-suit interview options for men, but they exist too, usually revolving around no tie or no jacket.)

But there are still fields where you really do need to interview in a suit and will appear inappropriately informal if you don’t — for example, a lot of finance jobs and some law jobs. So you’ve really got to know your field on this one, unfortunately! If you’re unsure, I’d check with a handful of people you respect who work in your field in your geographic region, both at your level and somewhat above it, and see if there’s a consensus. (Avoid asking anyone who’s known to have iconoclastic views on this sort of thing though; you’re trying to find the mainstream perception.)

4. How to answer “where do you see yourself in five years?”

I have no idea what I want from my career. Never have done. I have no particular ambitions or positions I want to achieve. I’m perfectly happy to be in the same position without advancement so long as that position is fulfilling for me. But I have no idea how to explain that in job interviews without coming across as a lazy or mediocre worker.

I’ve been answering the “Where do you see yourself in five years?” question by explaining that while I don’t have a set career path in mind, I know what I want from my position and then explaining what those things are, e.g. I want to work for a company that constantly improves and innovates, I enjoy working on a team, I want to be challenged and fulfilled by my work, etc. But I am not sure whether this is actually a good route to take or whether it is off-putting.

Interviewers who ask that question or similar ones are trying to get a sense of how this job fits in with your longer-term plans and goals. If it helps, you can think of it as, “How does this job fit in with where you see your career going?” They want to understand that because they want to hire someone who will be satisfied by the job and what it will do for them — which could be “help me move toward higher-level position doing X” but could also be stable, meaningful work. It’s fine to say something like, “What I really want is to stay in this field, building my skills, feeling regularly challenged, and doing work that feels meaningful. I’m very open about what that path ultimately looks like, but I’m excited about this role because ___.”

5. Should my resume mention an old internship with the company I’m applying to?

I have been updating my resume as I start to look for a new place of employment (in the same career field). During my junior year in college I was a summer intern with Company A. I interviewed with them once I graduated, but they ended up not having the budget to hire me at that time so I accepted an offer from Company B. Fast forward seven years (all with Company B), and I’m now applying to a new job with Company A. I’m not sure if I should put the internship from so long ago on my resume or not.

I have built a good portfolio of work that I am passionate about over the last seven years, and I want to make sure I have room to highlight those accomplishments. In comparison to my current skill set, the work I did as an intern is less impressive. I did real applicable work there; it was just at a level that reflected the fact I was an intern and didn’t have a degree or much work experience.

Is it a good idea to put the internship on the resume so that I highlight I have already worked there? Should I just list the dates of employment but not list accomplishments for that time? Leave it off from the resume and bring it up if I can during an interview? Forget the internship entirely and focus on more recent accomplishments?

List the internship, because it’s relevant that you’ve worked there before; it could give you a leg up, or it might just seem odd if it comes up later and you hadn’t mentioned it. But don’t devote a ton of space to it — just a single line (or maybe two) with highlights of what you accomplished there is fine.

You should also mention in the cover letter that you interned there at the start of your career.

how can I follow up without being annoying, people ask “who’s in here?” when I’m in a bathroom stall, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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