The Workplace – Annual Review

by Louise

This is the time of year when it’s time to take stock of different things related to our jobs. It’s open enrollment season, getting ready for performance reviews. It’s also time to look at changes in culture – impact of the MeToo movement (the Google walkout was notable), diversity efforts, different working arrangements and spaces.

We could also discuss impact of individual company performances (trouble at GE).

Totebaggers the company town hall or water cooler is open for discussion.


57 thoughts on “The Workplace – Annual Review

  1. I guess this is a good topic to give a personal update. I had been at the point that I was looking around at outside opportunities – feeling that it was time for something a bit new. I’ve been in my current role for almost 3 years & things were changing a bit to make me feel like it was the right time. A bit out of the blue – I was offered a new role within my organization. It’s a bigger role with more responsibility, and a pay bump. And no need to learn a whole new organization/systems. I am pretty excited about it!

    I concurrently (the same day!!) got an outside offer, but I turned it down. That one was interesting, but would require heavy travel – and not to glamourous places. Regional jets to small flyover towns & 2-star hotels. :)

    When it rains it pours I guess.

    Not sure how it will affect my time here yet – but if you don’t see me as much, that will be why.

  2. Ivy – awesome, congrats!

    Work is going well – we added 2 new people and are interviewing a 3rd. I have moved to doing more reviewing/managing and less drafting, so it is harder to carve out time to do my ‘own’ work, but apparently I am the only person in our department who has good time management skills. ;) Knock on wood, I am apparently in line to becoming a boss this year, so I will finally BE THE MAN instead of just working for him. :) We’ll see, I have to ask them about how the $$ works and get some assurances that it will actually happen.

  3. I’m still getting along with my boss, at least usually! ;)

    Knock on wood, it’s been a good year so far. Hopefully it will be strong to the end. I’m curious about how DH’s and my income taxes will play out this year, since I think I can deduct 20% of my business income (because my business is a pass-through entity). Being Totebag income under-achievers might be a good thing this year for DH and me, since if we made as much as many of you do, we wouldn’t be able to take that 20% deduction.

  4. We do our reviews in September, ahead of the federal fiscal year (to which we adhere). Well, we’ve been 1 year without a director and I’ve been stepping up taking on some of that role. That came through in my review, which was great.

    If I do 4 things (which I was going to do anyway because they are in my work plan), I’ll be in line for a title change and a merit raise. I can’t get a promotion without becoming director, so a title/responsibility change will be welcome. I’ve been at the same title/responsibility for 4 years now. I’m not holding my breath on the merit raise, my company is not known for them at all.

    We will probably be without a director for another 6 months, so just more time for me to shine.

    A little more on topic – HR has been giving some very interesting lectures in light of all the cultural shifts in society. Not a bad thing at all.

  5. Yay Ivy!

    Turns out DH can’t take the established “dialing it down til retirement” path that his firm provides, because he is not yet 60. So he told them, “Fine. I plan to only bill X hours” and they said “okey dokey”. So that startled him a little, but hopefully it will all be fine.

  6. Congrats Ivy!

    My job is going great, I’ve had three reviews in the past year, most recent one was an 8% raise :) I have very flexible hours and am up to 5 weeks vacation.

    DW is struggling. Her company has been doing lots of layoffs, and she escaped the latest round by taking a position in another group, but she is pretty miserable with the job. On top of that, she was diagnosed with a chronic illness a couple of months ago that is totally sapping her energy.

  7. Congrats Ivy!

    My work has been fairly steady this year. No news. I’ll start taking stock of where I am in mid-2019.

  8. Congrats Ivy!

    I got a significant pay bump earlier this year with essentially no change in responsibilities. Occasioned by me pushing for it and my boss recognizing how much I have smoothed his entry here over the prior two years since he joined without any industry experience. DW got an even bigger raise and a lot more responsibility so I expect our comp will change minimally over the foreseeable future. I continue to look at opportunities internally but nothing enticing has come along in a while.

    Other update: DW’s arthritic hip pain took a big turn for the worse a week ago; (bad news re the pain but) it caused her, in her words, ‘to cry uncle’ and relent to calling and setting up an appt with the doc who did my hip (which is all I have been asking her to do for months, to have the initial consult). Fine, but the soonest a new patient can get in is February. I had been traveling so Tuesday when I got home I convinced her to let me take her to urgent care, mostly to see if they could get her anything to deal with the pain which had basically rendered her immobile. She agreed. The initial diagnosis from them was one thing and she was told to go to orthopedic urgent care (which – sidebar – is run on appointment system…kinda defeats the purpose, right?), so I contacted an ortho friend of ours who saw her Thursday and said she needs a new hip, stat. He had his secretary call the hip guy’s secretary and now DW is seeing him next week, where we’ll learn next steps (hah!) and timing. And he wrote her a different Rx which she says isn’t really helping, but she was actually walking (with a cane) much better this weekend than last Tues/Weds. Her big goal is to be able to walk far enough to be able to vote tomorrow (all this happened after the absentee ballot deadline). I really hope she can get the work done this year to (1) relieve her pain but also (2) it’ll be a lot less out of pocket since we’ve already met our deductible for this year.

  9. I am of course, retired, but I have a front row seat to my in-house 40 year old’s process of developing a niche business with no boss to do a review, rather the make or break “review” of clients and their dollars. So I am going to share/brag about a different sort of risk taking and paying ones dues from anything I could have done. She just landed a 6 mos gig with a very traditional non metro area HQ Fortune 100 public company as a strategy development “partner”, focus on investor relations but really with access to the entire C suite operations group and ability to influence actual corporate strategy, not just the spin on it. They want results and frank person to person type of advice, not just another McKinsey report. She said she was so blunt in the trial engagement she wondered if they would toss her out midday. All this developed from mom’s basement and a WeWork cubicle, with a previous client book of local entrepreneurs that after the gateway meeting have a 50 50 chance of ponying up a few K on a business strategy evaluation.

  10. On top of that, she was diagnosed with a chronic illness a couple of months ago that is totally sapping her energy.

    I’m very sorry to hear that.

  11. Denver and Fred — I’m sorry to hear about your respective wives. Wishing them and you the best as you go through these challenges.

  12. To all who are moving up and getting raises, congrats. And good thoughts to the posters and spouses with serious health issues.

  13. Mémé, congrats to your daughter. I never understand what people talk about when they say stuff like “strategy development regarding investor relations”, but it sounds well-paid.

  14. A very dear friend has a Linked-In profile that starts with “Senior marketing leader focused on business growth in partner ecosystems, services and software.” I kind of know what she actually does because I talk to her and say stuff like, “And then what did you do? And then what did they say?” but I otherwise find descriptions like that impenetrable.

  15. I’m joining in with Fred on the annoying delays in the heathcare system. DW needs a series of infusions. The neuro (whose office staff just plain sucks) said they would submit the request to insurance in October. So we though we we’ve been waiting on the insurance review. Last week (three weeks later), DW got a call from the infusion center telling her that they have received all the info from the neuro’s office and were now submitting it to insurance. They said it could take up to three weeks for approval, although they requested an expedited review. At least it’s the infusion center handling it because they have to be more competent than the neuro’s office staff.

  16. The health system is so impenetrable, even for high bandwidth folks. DHs issue is thankfully one only of money not access, but it took someone like me who is all over it to notice. He takes a Medicare Part B drug. That is one administered in a drs office. list price 2000 a quarterly shot. His medicare advantage plan tier is changing from 0 to 20 percent copay, so he has to go up a tier. I had to 1) know the diff between part D and Part B drugs, unlike the telephone screeners, 2) identify the coverage change mailing as not junk mail, open, read, and understand it, 3) know he takes a Part B drug and the list price, because I open and read the monthly ins summaries, 4) do the math on the next tier, 5) inform him and explain all of the above, 6) sit with him as we went through 45 min on the phone and two different offices to make the open enrollment change, 7) explain to him what EFT means and that we already have it. And he will be competitive in a national bridge event later this month.

  17. DD and Fred – my hope for a speedy recovery for both your wives. And my sympathies on navigating our health system (you too Meme).

    The amount of stuff I have to know, and the amount of time I spend doing my doctor’s office job is absolutely astounding. I am thanking my lucky stars that this is winding down for me – I had to do it for myself during fertility issues, and then high-risk prenatal care. Then with DS1. (I fear for DS1’s future to be able to get insurance because of his birth issues/defects).

    RMS – those words don’t belong together in a sentence. What is a partner ecosystem? I use those words far differently.

  18. Meme –

    I totally agree. My mom has needed a drug this year that costs four figures a month. Her insurance won’t cover, or will only cover some percentage (really not clear). She has been able to contact the manufacturer and get the drug for free. However, the amount of legwork and executive function that has required is far more than the average person has available. And now the drug company (and the insurance) can claim that their high prices don’t hurt anyone because it is available for low cost for anyone who asks (and anyone who has a fax machine, a copier, the ability to make multiple visits to the specialist’s office). It makes me sad and frustrated.

    We are toying with the idea of an overseas move – unfortunately neither of us are in a position where that is a lucrative or even easy step. However, I am continually disappointed in the health care system here (among other things) and would like my kids to have the opportunity to gain citizenship in a place that has a functioning plan to provide care to all the people that live there. If we make a change, we’ll have a plan in the next 6 months. So, updates to follow (or just more disappointment in the status quo).

  19. As a group, we assume that those of us with high bandwidth can navigate processes that directly affect our financial and physical health. We also do not let anecdata define a trend. Meme’s post at 11:49 just shot a hole in both.

  20. Fred & DD, best of luck to both spouses. DH will have a partial knee replacement in January. I am dreading it and looking forward to it at the same time. Dreading the post-op pain for him, he does not do well with opioids, he vagles (vagals?) out. But hoping that it will bring long term relief of knee pain and that he can get back to frequent hiking and hopefully skiing.

    Work-wise, boss’s boss was replaced recently with a known entity who is a decent human being, which is very important to me.

  21. My employer does reviews in the summer to get raises/bonuses to take effect either just before the fiscal year ends or to start a new pay rate with the new fiscal year. Unfortunately, our prior agency head was not aggressive in requesting money in the budget for pay increases. Our new one used the “end of year money” to do a tiered merit reward (varying small cash bonus + up to a week extra PTO). I did receive the top tier. Our new agency head has asked for more in the next budget cycle, but only time will tell if it is granted and, if received, how it is distributed.

    My department has been down a person for several months. My boss has not been in a hurry to fill the spot, but it looks like that process is finally underway. On the plus side, I may get to give back work that I have been doing in the interim. On the down side, I likely have to train this person on how to do part of it and hand-hold on the other part. And, none of that will happen until the new person gets all their basic training and can handle the day-to-day part of the job, which I doubt will be before the new year. In a weird turn of events, because of the vacancy, I have been working on a project, which will go to the new person, that gives me access and face-time with our executive managers. I hate to lose that part, given my boss situation.

    My boss has been making noises for awhile about retiring, with a target date the end of 2019 – mid 2020. I am thinking it may be sooner given that I think full on burn out likely hit about year ago. The likelihood that the new boss will come from outside the agency is 95%. Change isn’t always bad, but it is likely to impact my flexibility and autonomy while the new relationship is being forged. It is also typical to reorganize a department and shift duties around, which may not be what I want to do. This is why that project was useful as I know what a couple managers are thinking about and I might be able to create a new position for myself.

    Having seen this coming I have gotten a certification to do something totally different just to keep some other part-time employment options open. An opportunity to get my feet wet has presented itself. The problem is my current employer has an “outside” employment policy that requires my boss to sign off. Given the boss’ current funk, this is currently at a stand still.

  22. ‘he does not do well with opioids’

    caveats: everyone’s different and knees are not hips

    My ortho really pushed the idea of acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) or the both in alternation with a 3-hour time span between doses vs the opioids (that they did give me a prescription for and I took much less frequently and for a shorter duration than prescribed)

  23. DD – a few. There are not many places in the world where my license translates seamlessly (somewhat surprisingly). What’s tricky is that places I can find work, DH has difficulty – both on the country and local level. He can find work in European countries, I can’t. On the local level, he is employable in large cities, I generally would be restricted to smaller towns.

  24. “I have been working on a project, which will go to the new person, that gives me access and face-time with our executive managers. I hate to lose that part, given my boss situation.”

    Austin – can you negotiate keeping/seeing the project through to the end? The continuity might be better for everyone else while maintaining the senior management viz.

  25. Sorry for the non-sequitur. I know we just talked about this – can anyone recommend an *outdoor* prelit fake Christmas tree with white lights? I am going to put one on the top of the front entry this year (flat roof).

  26. Ada, I’m not surprised that your license doesn’t translate well. The U.S. isn’t very accommodating to foreign-trained physicians either.

  27. Congrats Ivy! And DD and Fred – good luck to both your wives. And DD you’re killin’ it on the work front!

    I’m moving to a two-year-ish project doing work that I enjoy and they are splitting my job in 2.5 and hiring contractors for the two years. I had posted earlier about my concern about hiring a friend. The agency we were going through wanted roughly triple what they were going to pay her, so my management decided to staff it in one of our offshore locations at a fraction of the price. I felt really bad because my friend was excited about the position. This position is not a promotion for me, which is a question that I (annoyingly) keep getting asked. I am looking forward to getting to work on the project full-time, but still have probably at least a month of transition trying to get the new people up to speed. My life should get much more sane at that point.

    DH has again ended up as last man standing in his department. I hope he can continue with them until retirement, but this is getting old. I hope he gets absorbed into a group he likes and lands in a less stressful position. 2019 could potentially see a little better work/life balance for both of us.

  28. DD- True that. However, we’re not that friendly to foreign-trained anything. I do think that we have vastly better training for MDs than much of the world (not all of it, but close). It’s interesting to me that countries I would consider second-world (back when that term was more in vogue) won’t allow practice under any circumstance – i.e. Thailand, most of South America, etc. I think it is often trade protection, not specific concerns about quality.

  29. “We are toying with the idea of an overseas move”

    So Canada isn’t under consideration?

  30. Thinking back, the one positive of having no director is that I get along fantastically with the director’s boss. She’s stepped down while I’ve stepped up. We work well together and I will be sad when she returns to the home office. I do find it slightly odd to work for someone who is about 3 years younger than me, but I got over that quick.

    Other fun workplace conversations are “we will wait until we have a director to do XYZ.” and I usually look at my current boss and say “no judgement here, but how well has that worked out?” And then we go figure out how to get XYZ done without a director (which is harder than it sounds at times… politics runs strong here).

    L – have you checked out target? They usually have something like that. I’ve also seen artificial trees at “At Home” but I think they are all indoor. What about the little spiral guys?

  31. Congrats Ivy!!! DD and Fred – I hope that your wives get the care they need and start to feel better soon.

    I do not miss the review process. 360 reviews, mid year reviews and year end reviews. I think reviews are helpful for younger or inexperienced staff, but they start to be redundant for some senior staff that have been in the same jobs for years.

  32. Becky: How stressful for your family! Hope your DH finds his way to a more stable department.

  33. L – have you checked out target?

    We got our tree from Target.

    I do not miss the review process. 360 reviews, mid year reviews and year end reviews.

    We don’t have a formal review process. I just get an email or call from my boss telling me I’m due for a review and then we do it over the phone. I’ve never seen any paperwork from them other than getting a contract addendum with my updated salary and PTO.

  34. Fred and DD – hope things get better for your wives. And congrats to all who have advanced on the work front.
    There is tremendous restructuring to prepare the organization for the coming and/ or lean years. So though the economy is doing well, I don’t really feel it. DH was mentioning my looking for another job but that means I will have to give up flexibility. I hope I can continue on till at least one of my kids goes to college. After that I have two options slow down or ramp up. I hope I have the energy to ramp up.

  35. Here’s a new career for your kids: Video Game Coach.

    You could be a video game coach, if you’re good enough

    The growing popularity of games like Fortnite have created a new job: video game coach.
    Some background: In the past decade, e-sports have exploded. Tournaments structured more like those of professional sports are drawing massive in-person and online crowds. Recently, one aired on a primetime spot on ESPN. The best players can make millions. Is it any surprise, then, that gamers are hiring coaches just like any other athletes?
    Life as a video game coach: Troy Hanson is a coach of the popular game Fortnite. He estimates he averages 50-60 hours of coaching a week, with back-to-back coaching on the weekends. And this is in addition to his life as a college student working towards an education degree. “Four or five years ago, gaming was the nerdiest thing you could do. But now, it’s cooler, and that’s yielding a larger audience of people looking to get better,” says Hanson.
    His clients: Many of his students are aged 12 or younger, which could be problematic seeing as his standard rate is around $13/hour. Luckily for them, a growing number of parents now view video games as character-building hobbies just like football or guitar. In that light, it makes sense that you’d hire a coach to improve your game. Hanson used to do all of his own advertising to find students, but these days he listed as a top coach on Gamer Sensei (one of several websites connecting students with experienced coaches) and the students come to him.

    Want to learn more about what a video game coaching session is like? We hired a Fortnite coach to teach us his top tips.

  36. I looked at Target but couldn’t find any big ones that were coded for outdoor. I did find that if you add “commercial” to the search a lot more things come up! Unfortunately I don’t think I can convince DH to get a 30′ fake tree to put in the yard. ;)

  37. Our reviews come with all the paperwork necessary to be truly spectacular. There’s a self-assessment scale of 1-5 (which is reversed from common use… the higher the number, the worse you are doing). There’s a bunch of questions assessing if you’ve had the correct training (coupled with the vaguely worded questions that force you to review your job description to make sure you really don’t need that particular set of training). THEN there’s a slew of open-ended questions. Since all the drama with the director leaving, I’ve been keeping meticulous notes on what I’ve been doing outside of my usual responsibilities and in addition to the goals I set up for myself last year. My boss didn’t want everything written down. I took it as a “hold my beer” challenge. And I did it. I wrote a novel about it all. Yes, I’m an a$$ some days. Finally, your boss reviews you, and you get to rebut the review. I’m pretty sure my review packet was 8 pages this year.

    L – if all else fails, amazon.

  38. Fred – I am not sure. There are good reasons for me to continue to follow through (expertise, relationships, and efficiency), but there are good reasons for me to hand it off (in about Feb it will start to conflict with my other job duties, the person whose job it is needs to learn it, and I am a part-timer who already retired once).

    I think it mainly will hinge on the personality of the new hire.

  39. Regarding potential gaps in health insurance when switching jobs, any thoughts or personal experience on the “hack” of electing COBRA when you quit your job but not paying the premium once your new job’s coverage kicks in? Apparently since there is typically a delay from the time you elect COBRA to the time you must make the first premium payment, you effectively have the option to retroactively elect or decline COBRA coverage even after your regular employee insurance expires.

    So if I quit my job effect Nov. 15 but my new employer coverage doesn’t kick in until Dec. 1, I can opt in to COBRA immediately but the first premium payment may not be due until December. If I get hit by a bus during the gap of two weeks I will be covered. But if I don’t have any medical expenses during those two weeks I just don’t pay the premium because by then I will be covered by my new employer. I read about this on Reddit and on Bogleheads so it must be true. Asking for a friend.

  40. July, that lines up with what my sister did. Luckily, she didn’t have an ‘event’ that tested this approach, but it is what she did.

  41. Our reviews come with all the paperwork necessary to be truly spectacular.

    Not ours. Every manager I have had has hated to write reviews. Also, they are forced to use a template and have to align their feedback with stated objectives. The faster they can get them done the better with most getting them done just under the wire. Lots of copying and pasting of praiseworthy prose :-).

  42. One key is if possible to leave a job right after the first of the month. Coverage is prepaid monthly so you should be covered to the end of the month. Coverage at the new employer may be delayed a full month depending on their system, but the 60 day Cobra loophole is completely routine. Everyone I know who has left a job takes advantage of it. It is just important to fill out the paperwork and inform a responsible person in case the event is incapacitating. Even though you will have an uninsured “gap” in coverage if you don’t get sick and don’t pay the retroactive premium, 60 days (or sometimes 90) is the grace period for all of the continuous coverage traps on pre-existing conditions that might very well come back into the health care system if ACA is gutted or repealed.

  43. OMG, RMS, I will have to share that idea with my DS. “Fortnite Coach” would be his all-time ultimate dream job. It’s also reasonably possible, since he’s pretty good at that game (which he should be, given all the time he spends playing).

  44. , I can opt in to COBRA immediately but the first premium payment may not be due until December.

    Double check all this before acting as I don’t have the paperwork in front of me. But IIRC You have several 45 days(?) to sign up for COBRA after you leave your job. So if you left 11/9 and your new coverage didn’t kick in till 12/1 you don’t have to sign up. If you got hit by a bus in 11/29 you could just sign up then. It’s retroactive to the date you lost coverage. Please confirm this before acting on my advice.

    If I get hit by a bus during the gap of two weeks I will be covered.

    Eventually. Coverage doesn’t kick in (retroactively) until the check clears and it gets processed by both your insurer and the benefits administrator. This will take several weeks. In the mean time if you show up at the ER it will show that you’re uninsured and you’ll get a bill for the wildly inflated list prices. Eventually the system catches up and it all processes.

    Also if you’re going to be quitting make sure to fill your family’s prescriptions before you leave. I had to pay out of pocket before the coverage kicked in and there is a bunch of paperwork to file for reimbursement.

    Also, if you do end up signing up for COBRA for a few weeks and your new coverage kicks in on 12/1 that you tell your doctor’s office, CVS etc. as they will still be charging your old insurance.

  45. On the video game coach and tournament play – my fairly introverted homebody DS got out of shell, did all the paperwork and administrivia to get a passport and went to Canada for an international tournament this summer, sharing an Airbnb with 4 friends and mastering public transit in another city (not an option in our suburb). At baggage claim when I picked him up, he went over and talked to a guy who had been a competitor at the event. The guy’s team came in fifth, so they split $1.1M (four ways). The first place team split $11.2M. Not bad for a 19-20 year old kid.

  46. I guess I’m paranoid and conservative, because I always paid the first month’s COBRA even if it meant overlap. On the other hand, I always had some savings, so I could do it.

  47. Becky, that’s totally awesome. It’s the social aspects that are the best. When Olde People talk about how kids today don’t know how to socialize, I roll my eyes. Often online connections lead to actual real-life connections.

  48. RMS – my DS loves video games. He talks to his friends as they play along. I realized that his way of socializing is very different from traditional socializing.

  49. Thanks for all the COBRA insights.

    “I guess I’m paranoid and conservative, because I always paid the first month’s COBRA even if it meant overlap.”

    That’s me. But if I signed up and then did not get the bill until I was covered under my new employer I would be inclined not to pay it.

  50. I got an overdue promotion last year, which is good because there have been a number of changes since then. 1) company merger from 2+ years ago finally shaking out and promotions are harder to get, 2) boss out (working from home) because of medical treatments, 3) group got a new boss that is bringing in his own people (he worked for competitor). Add in some eldercare/family/personal issues that arose, and I need some stability, which this job currently gives.

    We shall see what next year brings. Reviews aren’t taken too seriously in my department, particularly since they got rid of rankings and moved to quarterly “discussions.” I think I have had the same “goals” for about 5 years, literally by cut and paste.

  51. I am NOT telling DS about the video game coach career path. ;-) Although those tourament wins are about two orders of magnitude higher than I would have believed!!

  52. I have two friends (both MDs) that made an interstate move this summer. They did not COBRA, despite one having significant chronic health care needs. They got insurance through the next employer (that started on first day of the month after they started) and weathered their 45 day period just fine. My understanding is that the onus is on the employer to prove that you rejected COBRA (or that the time period to sign up ran out). I think most jobs send cobra paperwork a few weeks after you depart – so you couldn’t elect to continue coverage right away under any circumstances. I would do the same – unless, as Meme notes, the pre-existing condition stuff come back into play.

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