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

1. One of our bosses got invited to our rowdy beach weekend

I am good friends with three of my coworkers, let’s call them Billy, Goat, and Gruff. The four of us are distributed across three different teams, but we work together a lot on various projects and also hang out with some regularity outside of work. As such, we are planning a big beach weekend getaway in August.3D Lotus leaf fish 565 Floor WallPaper Murals Wall Print Decal 5D AJ WALLPAPER We’ve all invited various friends, booked a giant house for the weekend, and have been making plans for a super fun, rowdy weekend of drunken shenanigans (as beach excursions tend to be).

Billy is also friends with Goat and Gruff’s boss, Gabby. Like us, Gabby is in her 30s, friendly, fun, lively, and would logically be friends with all of us if she weren’t Goat and Gruff’s boss. She has been to dinner and drinks with us, and on one occasion the whole group went back to Billy’s house to drink more beer and eventually play a well-known boundary-pushing party card game. We all had fun, but Goat and Gruff both left early-ish, and didn’t drink much (as you’d expect).3D Lotus Leaves Pond 8 Kitchen Mat Floor Murals Wall Print Wall Deco UK Carly

This is where it starts to go sideways. Billy, in a fit of generosity, invited Gabby to the beach weekend. Since then, Gabby has asked me for additional details and if there’s room for her to join. My hostess/planner self is screaming that Gabby really, truly cannot come. That there’s a world of difference between the equivalent of a rowdy happy hour with coworkers and a whole weekend of road-tripping, mostly-naked (swimsuits!) heavy-drinking shenanigans, communal living, and collective reckoning with rampant hangovers and sunburn. Regardless, what was a smooth-sailing fun weekend is now embroiled in office hierarchy drama.

It seems to me like my options here are a) ask Billy to tell Gabby not to come, and run the risk that he’ll blame it on Goat and Gruff for being spoilsports, b) be the bad guy myself and tell Gabby that she can’t come, blaming it on my delicate/old-fashioned sensibilities about mixing work dynamics (possibly damaging our relationship in the process), c) pray that she won’t attend, either because her schedule will prohibit or because her sense of decorum kicks in and she decides to bow out, or d) be a terrible hostess, stew in my own stress, and let things play out as they may. I could use some help figuring out how to approach this.

3D Lotus Paint 72 Wallpaper Mural Paper Wall Print Wallpaper Murals UK LemonGabby can’t come. It’s crossing too many professional boundaries for a manager to attend a “rowdy weekend of drunken shenanigans” with two people who report to her. Presumably, Goat and Gruff are going to have to be on guard if she’s there, and it’s just not the weekend you planned. Ideally you’d do choice A — have Billy tell Gabby he didn’t think it through and since it’s going to be a rowdy weekend, he shouldn’t have invited two of the organizers’ boss. If you don’t trust him to do that without blaming Goat and Gruff (despite your explicit instructions), then you need to move to choice B — deliver that message yourself. Do not just hope she won’t attend or suffer in silence.

But really, Billy messed this up and he should fix it.

2. My wife doesn’t believe me that cold-contacting people on LinkedIn is annoying

My wife has been on the job hunt a very long time (nearly two years). She is currently employed on contract as a scientist with a large pharma company. During this time, she has been interviewing constantly and has had a few offers made, but with our family and financial situation, none were palatable enough to accept (though she did attempt to negotiate, and in our opinion the concessions she had asked for were reasonable). 3D Lotus Plants 583 Risers Decoration Photo Mural Vinyl Decal Wallpaper CAAt this point, she has started just spamming employees via LinkedIn in departments at institutions she wants to work at, asking about positions she has applied to or feedback on her CV.

She asked me about it and I gave her my opinion that (1) what she’s doing is kind of annoying; I know I would not appreciate being bombarded by some stranger, (2) I think she would have more success if the people she was reaching out to had stake in her success, and (3) I think she should try to go to networking events and do some heavy research on the networking process and figure out what other methods may lead her to her goal.

Was I incorrect in my assessment? I love my wife and want her to be happy and successful more than anything, but I think her approach is taking away her allure as a candidate, and the advice that I have given is not well received.

Yeah, cold-contacting people via LinkedIn is going to be annoying, especially with those particular questions, and it’s not likely to get any results. If she doesn’t believe you (or me), though, she’ll probably figure that out pretty quickly when she doesn’t get helpful responses.

If she’s had a few offers that weren’t financially right, it’s worth looking at whether her expectations are realistic for the market. Maybe they are, and these were just bad offers — but it’s possible they’re not.

If she’s getting lots of interviews, the problem isn’t her application materials. And if she’s getting to the offer stage repeatedly, it’s probably not her interview skills.3D Lotus Pond Nature 8484 Floor WallPaper Murals Wall Print Decal 5D AU LemonSo you may be exactly right that leaning more heavily into networking (good networking, not LinkedIn spamming) is what will help. But again, urge her to check her expectations against the reality of the market and make sure that’s not the issue.

3. Manager let me go but said he wants to create a new job for me

After two months of unemployment, I got hired to do freelance data wrangling at a major company by Dale, who saw my resume and said I had great potential. However, since I had never worked at such a large company before, it was on the condition that I would have a one-month trial period. I would be on a two-week trial first, then a two-week hold and if I did well during both those periods, I would be kept on until the end of the year. So I worked incredibly hard. I came in an hour early, stayed late, took shortened lunches, wrote detailed notes, asked tons of questions, and always offered to help out the rest of my team. But at the end of my third week, Dale called me into a private meeting and said that he didn’t realize how green I was and that the project I was put on was too intense for someone of my skill level so I was to be let go early.

However, he said that I had great potential and that he wanted to talk to his bosses about creating a position for me directly under him, but that it would take a while — “hopefully before the end of the season” — and I should take short-term positions until then. How much can I trust that this will happen? Should I ask Dale to get this in writing? Dale kept repeating that I wasn’t fired, but I feel like a deadbeat who can’t keep a job.

You shouldn’t rely on it at all. Dale isn’t saying it will definitely happen; he’s saying he’s going to try to convince his bosses to do it. So it wouldn’t make sense to ask him to put it in writing; he’s telling you clearly that he can’t commit to it

Since it might or might not happen, you should proceed as if it isn’t — and let it be a pleasant surprise if it does happen (if the offer is one you want). That means that you should not only pursue short-term work meanwhile. You should pursue whatever type of work you want to pursue, not put your job search on hold for something he’s been up-front that he can’t guarantee. (Frankly, even if he did tell you he could promise it, I’d tell you the same thing — because until there’s a firm offer, stuff like this can always fall apart.)

4. Switching to a gender-neutral nickname at work

I am a nonbinary AFAB (assigned female at birth) person who is not out at my workplace. I present as female at work, including going by my very feminine wallet name (e.g., “Katherine”). I don’t mind it, but a few of my coworkers recently started calling me by a gender-neutral nickname — think “Katherine” to “KC.” It’s caught on with some of our user community, and I kind of love it!

Do you or your readers have any tips for encouraging people you’ve worked with for a while to start calling you by a new nickname, especially if you mostly interact with them through phone or text? I don’t think it’d be appropriate to completely change my email signature, since I’m still “Katherine” in all of our directories and official communications, but I’d really like if more people started calling me “KC.” (I work in IT at a fairly large university in the Midwest, if that helps.)

The easiest way is to start signing your emails with KC. If you don’t feel comfortable charing your official email signature, you can still do it like this:


Katherine Mulberry
Company info

And with emails to people you work with frequently, you can leave the official signature stuff off anyway. They know who you are! And if they’re confused, it sounds like the “from” field of your email will still say Katherine.3D Lotus Starfish Fish 75 Floor WallPaper Murals Wall Print Decal 5D AU Lemon But by signing KC, you’re signaling “this is what you can call me,” just like a Jennifer signing her emails with Jen or so forth.

And even though people don’t normally sign text messages, signing those KC for a while might help as well. You can also do the same thing on the phone — “hey, it’s KC” — to anyone who will recognize your voice and not be confused about who they’re talking to. And whenever you’re ready, start telling new people you meet, “Hi, I go by KC.”

5. Everyone wants to know why I don’t work for the department that ghosted me

I work in academia (let’s say the field of Teapot Studies) but not as a professor. I have been active in my field, working in Teapot Research, focused mostly on Handle Design. I was moving on from a job after a grant finished and I applied for a job at another university in the School of Teapot Studies within their Handle Design department. I got an initial Skype interview. Then two months later I was invited to an in person interview. Then I heard nothing for two more months, even after two (very well spaced) emails. A job opened up in Teapot Studies but in the Department of Lids, which I applied for, interviewed for, and was offered a job in less than two weeks. I took that job because I wasn’t soon going to be unemployed.

Now I’ve run into a problem. EVERYONE asks me why I am not in the Departments of Handle Design because of my background and I’m not sure what to say besides “They ghosted me after multiple interviews.” Additionally, I run into the people who interviewed me in that department at least once a week in meetings and they are either acting like they don’t know me or actually have forgotten me. It’s super awkward and my coworkers have pointed out how weird it is since “you have so much in common!” How do I navigate being in close contact with people who were so rude and other people’s questions about the situation?

To the people who ask why you’re not in the Handle Design department: “I actually talked to them about a role there, but this is where I ended up!” Say it cheerfully and matter-of-factly and people will likely move on.

3D Lotus Teich 688 Mauer Murals Aufklebe Decal Durchbruch AJ WALLPAPER DE LemonTo the Handle Design people who seem not to recognize you: Break the ice yourself. Go up to them confidently and say, “It’s good to see you again! I’m Jane Warblesworth — we talked a few months ago about the open role you had on your team. I’m working in the Lids department now.”

To people who comment that it’s weird that you’re not on closer terms with the other department because you have so much in common: “I’d like to get to know them better at some point, but I’m happy being here in Lids!”

That’s it! I think you’re feeling more awkward about it than you need to because of the ghosting, but you can leave that out of this completely. Just be matter-of-fact and it’ll be fine.

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A reader writes:

I’m in a tricky spot with a long-time employee of mine, “Bob,” and I need advice on how to deliver a potentially devastating piece of feedback: “You just don’t have what it takes to succeed in this role.”

Back story:

Bob is interested in growing from his current position (let’s say teapot painting) into a teapot spout design manager role.3D Luce Sole Parete Murale Foto Carta da parati immagine sfondo muro stampa He has studied spout design for about two years now, including reading several books and taking a few training courses, all paid for by the company. He’s been provided a few mentors, some inside the company and some through a network of industry contacts.

Bob has been given oversight of several small design projects as part of his learning process. He works hard, but there are a few problems that we keep coming back to, including a lack of communication skills — he frequently mishears or misunderstands initial design requirements, which means that he spreads misinformation and leaves the rest of the team playing catch-up when the correct information filters through – and a completely misguided sense of urgency. For example, a non-urgent request was tacked on toward the end of Bob’s current project. It was made clear when the request was sent that it was out of scope for our current targets, but that it should be addressed by the end of next quarter. Bob immediately rounded up several team members, phrased this as an urgent request, and asked them to step away from their current tasks to ensure that this request was completed within the week. I received several confused and panicked questions from team members asking for additional resources, overtime, and so on.

Bob struggles to receive feedback, even mild course corrections. Each coaching session, no matter how focused on concrete, actionable requests, leads to a spiral of anxiety, depression, and irritability, which ends up impacting the team. Bob has damaged relationships to the point that a few coworkers refuse to work with him or even acknowledge him without me signing off on the legitimacy of his requests. Plus, the mistakes Bob makes as he learns are sucking up so much of my time and energy that I’m not completing other tasks such as developing other employees or growing my own skills in any of my functional areas.3D Luna, Orso 843 Parete Murale Foto Carta da parati immagine sfondo muro stampa

Bottom-line: as eager as Bob is to learn this role and develop his skills, he’s bad at this stuff. A few of his coworkers have picked up a more solid understanding of the fundamentals of spout design simply by spending time in meetings with Bob than Bob himself has acquired. He lacks many of the innate skills that anyone who wants to work effectively in this role require, including communication, time management, and collaboration. He’s willing to train in these areas but hasn’t shown any improvement, and I spend many hours per week clarifying his messages and dealing with conflicts he’s created among his coworkers over what are essentially extra credit assignments. That, plus the inability to respond professionally to feedback makes me think that he’s fundamentally unsuited for this role.

My company won’t spend more resources on Bob, and individuals who had previously offered to mentor him implied that teaching him is kind of a waste of time. So how do I tell Bob that this is not a role he can excel at, at least in our company? How do I say, kindly but truthfully, “I’ve stuck my neck out for you as far as I’m willing and unfortunately, you just don’t measure up. Find another goal”?

Yeah, unfortunately just wanting to do a particular job doesn’t mean someone will be well suited to do that job. It sounds like you and your company have taken Bob’s interest seriously and invested significant resources in helping him gain the skills he’d need for the job he wants — and it’s just not working. That’s okay. That’s not anyone’s fault; it’s just how it goes sometimes.

Hopefully you and the people who have been mentoring Bob have been giving him feedback all along, so this won’t be the first time he’s hearing that there are problems with his work. (If not, this is a harder conversation — and you’d want to resolve to change that for everyone you manage going forward — but it can still be done.)

The best thing you can do is to be direct with Bob. Sit down with him and say this: “I want to talk about where we are with your interest in spout design. I know you’ve worked hard to build expertise, and I appreciate the energy you’ve put into training and working with mentors. Unfortunately, we’re not seeing the skill level we’d need to see to move you into a design role. 3D Lush Forest River 2 Wall Murals Wallpaper Decal Decor Home Kids Nursery MuralWe’re at the limits of what we can invest in training you, and we’re at the point where I need to move those resources to other projects. I think you’re a great painter and I’m happy to have you stay in your current role, but I want to be up-front with you that I can’t keep you on a training path for spout design any further.”

Bob may have questions — answer them as honestly as you can — and he may be upset or defensive. You noted that he’s traditionally struggled to receive feedback, and that it often leads to “a spiral of anxiety, depression, and irritability,” so I’d expect that to be the case here as well. Being irritable with team members post-feedback really isn’t okay — and I really, really wish you’d addressed that with him earlier on, because it’s not ideal to to address it for the first time right after what might be the biggest blow to him of all. But you do need to step in if he’s rude or irritable with people; that’s not okay and you can’t let him subject colleagues to that. He can be disappointed or upset, but he does need to treat people respectfully while he works through this.

Speaking of other things that I wish we had a time machine for: It’s great that you invest in employees and try to help them meet their own goals. But two years of investing your own time without much payoff, letting it bump other important priorities, and letting Bob damage relationships with people is too long. I’m curious about why this was the priority — versus developing other people and investing your time in other projects — and why Bob was allowed to cause the sort of problems he’s caused. It sounds like you might struggle to set boundaries with employees (any chance you’re a people pleaser, or someone who avoids having tough conversations?) and if that’s been the case here, it’s probably not limited only to Bob. It’s worth taking a look at how that might be playing out in your management more broadly — in particular, what the impact of all this investment in Bob has been on your other staff members and whether there are other tough conversations/decisions you’ve put off too long.

One other thing: It’s possible that Bob will ultimately end up leaving your company over this. If that happens, that’s not a sign that you somehow failed. This might be the nudge that Bob needs to realize he’s not going to meet his goals there, and that’s okay. 3D Lustig Hai 753 Mauer Murals Mauer Aufklebe Decal Durchbruch AJ WALLPAPER DEOr he might just want to try pursuing them in a different context, and that’s okay too. Your obligation isn’t to make this work out for everyone (you probably can’t do that) — just to be direct and straightforward with him about what he can and can’t expect at your company, so he can make good decisions for himself.