"I wrote 63 songs this year. They're all about Jeter." Just kidding. The game we love, the players we hate, and more.

Culture and Criticism

From Norman Mailer to Wendy Pepper — everything on film, TV, books, music, and snacks (shut up, raisins), plus the Girls' Bike Club.

Donors Choose and Contests

Helping public schools, winning prizes, sending a crazy lady in a tomato costume out in public.

Stories, True and Otherwise

Monologues, travelogues, fiction, and fart humor. And hens. Don't forget the hens.

The Vine

The Tomato Nation advice column addresses your questions on etiquette, grammar, romance, and pet misbehavior. Ask The Readers about books or fashion today!

Home » The Vine

The Vine: May 10, 2013

Submitted by on May 10, 2013 – 8:40 AM44 Comments


I'm in a management position at work, which was fine until I was given a new department that requires a lot more…management…of people. I'm not great at people.

I'm not especially chatty. I don't have a lot of patience. I'm not that good at conflict resolution, and the group I'm working with now seem to have the emotional age of a kindegarten classroom. When talking with them, I very often find myself thinking, "You are a grown-up, why are you whining at me like she took your Barbie and won't give it back?" Which to say out loud would probably be counter-productive.

Right now, I'm sort of at a loss as to how to approach them. I just want something that will help me do my job better, so that I can help them do their jobs better, if that makes sense? 

So, I'm hoping the readers can point me in the direction of a book(s) that would give me some guidance in this area. All of the titles I've perused so far sound obnoxiously self-help-y and don't come cheap. I'd rather not spend $20 on two hundred pages of finding my inner tree to grow better leaves or some such nonsense that won't give me any useful ideas. I'm looking for some practical advice on management techniques to help keep everyone around the office sane, including me.

I work in a retail environment if anyone has industry specific suggestions. 


Enough With The Grumbling


My current and beloved everyday bag is this.

Hobo no longer makes this bag, and its current totes all lack the external pockets that made this so great for me. I've been looking around on Zappos and eBags; there's a couple of things by JP Ourse & Cie and MyWalit that come close, but I'm not completely sold. (I think my dream bag falls right at the intersection of "sleek laptop bag" and "large handbag" so I might be accidentally filtering it out or searching wrong.) I like something a little sleeker than the highly accessorized bags that seem to be very popular right now — lots of tassels and decorative zipper pulls and…whatever the leather equivalent of a ruffle is. 

The key features that I'd like to replicate: Shoulder straps long enough to be carried over a winter coat — and they could be a little sturdier or better-attached than the ones on the current bag, but no flimsier. Size: needs at minimum to be able to carry a hardcover book along with all my other crap (which…usually also includes a Kindle, as well as wallet, phone, makeup, etc.); will also occasionally double as an overnight bag so would ideally handle some basic toiletries and a clean shirt. Good array of internal and external pockets, and at least some that zip closed (doesn't have to be quite as many as the current bag, which has exterior on both back and front and five internal pockets plus pen loops, but I'd be delighted if it came close). Available in a color other than black or brown. Some sort of closure at the top (rather than a totally open tote bag).

It could be messenger-style rather than tote-style, as long as I can get into it while it's on my shoulder without awkward contortions. Leather or microfiber is ideal, but open to any material as long as it's sturdy, reasonably suitable for all weather, and a little girlier than, say, LL Bean-style canvas.

It doesn't need to be super-cheap, but I'd love to keep it under $300 (though if the perfect thing came in a little higher, I could probably swing it). 

Many thanks to the Nation! 

Abandoned by Hobos

Be Sociable, Share!



  • Clobbered says:

    Grumbling – have you checked out – she's great, not self-helpy at all. She also has a book available from her website. The last few years with the economy the questions she gets are more dominated by finding a job, but if you start with the backlog (and/or get thé book) you'll find a goldmine of practical information. You could also write in!

    No connection (except I occasionally post a comment) beside the fact that it was really useful to me when I first got a managemet job.

  • Meagen says:

    Hi Grumbling. Becoming the Evidence-Based Manager by Gary Latham is a very practical book on management techniques and strategies for motivating employees. I can't remember whether he tackles conflict resolution in that book, but it's in your price range and he's got research to back up everything he recommends.

    Good luck!

  • RJ says:

    Geez, only one comment published so far and it's the same thing I Was going to say. The book is called "Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager’s Guide to Getting Results." Alison Green is amazing; the blog is a great resource, and there seems to be a fair amount of crossover in TN readership over there. You can read more about the book here:

  • Another shout-out for I've learned sooo much from her! You may be interested in: Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High
    I've just started reading it, but it's got some good ideas (and tons of rave reviews)

  • Lore says:

    Thirding the "Ask a Manager" recommendation. I will also add that she responds to almost every email, even if she doesn't publish the answer, so definitely write in if you don't find answers in her archives. There's also a LinkedIn group, where you get a situation more like you have here–you're asking other readers, not just the blogger herself.

  • courtney says:

    I was ALSO gonna recommend Ask a Manager…whose site I was just on before clicking over to the Vine (I'm nothing if not an advice junkie).

  • Kerry says:

    Hobos – Have you checked out Fossil? They have quite a few larger tote type bags which have at least a few pockets. I have the Lena Crossbody, which has an external pocket with snaps plus an internal zip pocket and two other open pockets, and the whole thing zips up. Plus, it comes in a variety of styles, isn't too fussy and zips closed. I'm actually using it as a diaper bag (albiet a somewhat small one), so it is pretty good size.

    The Lena Tote or the Shay Shopper could work as well, but both of those are more open styles with only a single snap closure on top.

    I've had a lot of luck with Fossil bags over the years…they hold up really well.

  • Jenn says:

    Grumbling – My company publishes lots of management books, plus a couple of management newsletters. Click my name for the link. (Also, you shouldn't worry about prices – if you buy something for work, it's tax-deductible, or your company should cover the cost.)

    Abandoned – I just got a new bag on Etsy, and it's my new favorite thing. I guarantee you'll find something affordable, in any color you want, any style you want, etc.

  • Kasey says:

    Abandoned, some of the bags recommended by the Wirecutter might fall more on the side of laptop bags than you are looking for, but it might be a good place to start

  • Lucy says:

    I haven't looked through this site extensively, but Cup of Jo just featured them, and the bags look lovely.

  • attica says:

    When I first became a manager, the same thing that is surprising you surprised me: grownups behave like kids. It took me a while to learn that time and grief is saved if you accept that rather than ignore or try to develop them out of it.

    And by 'accept', I mean be clear like a first-grade teacher about what you want and how you expect them to treat each other and your customers. Say out loud and specifically: "No, you cannot wear shorts so short your cheeks show. Your shorts must be knee-length." Being vague about something everyone should understand will simply result in those boundaries being tested every blessed day. "I don't care if you hate each other. You must treat each other with respect when you're here." "No, sucking your teeth at customers is not acceptable, even when the customers out-stupid a moron convention." "Flirting with the stockboy must be saved for your off hours." "Customers get priority over your phone/text/whatever."

    Be sure to make corrections either at the moment the infraction happens, or as soon thereafter as you can (i.e. not in public). Waiting longer will just make it awkward for both of you and make it likelier to be minimized.

    And like a first-grade teacher, be sure to praise when they do things right or well. I still have to remind myself to do that; it makes a difference.

  • Sarahnova says:

    Hey Hobos: I have a Fiorelli laptop bag/portfolio that I love:

    They zip closed in the middle and have inner and outer zip pockets, and deliver to the US.

  • Emily G. says:

    Hobos — You might like Moop bags. They're canvas, but girlier than LL Bean and some styles have fun contrast-color linings. (I'm still in love with my brown messenger bag lined in teal.) I will admit that after 2 years of daily use, the bottom corners on my regular canvas messenger bag have started to wear and unravel, but the waxed canvas should be more durable.

    The Letter Bag
    The Carrier

  • scout1222 says:

    Grumbling – you have identified one of those reasons why I am pretty sure that I won't ever be in management. I'm not sure I want to deal with that kind of thing, because I have the same kind of feelings you do! Good luck.

    And I am NOT clicking on ANY OF THOSE BAG LINKS. I don't need anymore bags, I don't need anymore bags, I don't need anymore bags.

  • Shanon says:

    I absolutely second/third/fourth the "Crucial Conversations" recommendation(s). If it's offered in your area, I highly recommend taking two-day course, as well. You not only get the book and the benefit of discussing/learning with others, you get lots of practice.

  • Maggie says:

    The Wirecutter piece Kasey pointed to recommends Lo and Sons (, and I just wanted to rave about my Lo and Sons OMG bag. It doesn't come in any fancy colors but it is by far the best bag I've ever owned, and it sounds like you have similar needs — mostly an everyday/laptop bag, but also EXCELLENT for traveling.

  • Sarah says:

    Hobo – I bought the Baggalini A La Carte Medium bag before Christmas to use as a carry-on purse. I wanted something to hold my iPad, a book, my umpteen zillion other little things that need holding for flying. I love it. I don't use it as a purse everyday, but I could. I used it as my purse yesterday because I had jury duty and packed like I was flying: scarf, snacks, iPad, paperback, water bottle. Zips closed, has three external pockets, and a wristlet the clips inside. Long shoulder straps (much longer than my everyday bag).

  • Rachel says:

    Hobos–You might try looking at thirty-one: they have lots of different customization options. They seem expensive to me, but are well within your price range. I, too, was going to suggest etsy. I poked around a little, and christystudio looks like she has quite a few good possibilities.

  • Anne says:

    @Grumbling – hit the public library for the management books – that way you won't waste any money on books that are irritating/unhelpful.

  • KTB says:

    @Hobo: I love Queen Bee bags out of Portland. I poked through a few of their styles and while the Chickpeas are sold as diaper bags, they pretty much have everything you're looking for.

  • c8h10n4o2 says:

    Abandoned – My step-mom just got me the Granada Pocket Tote from

    And I'm really in love with it, which means that I've been looking at their other bags. They have a lot of non-insanely bedazzled and fluffed stuff that's really affordable, and so far is holding up super-well.

  • Hobos says:

    Thanks, all! Fossil definitely has some good possibilities (and actually have gotten closer to what I'm looking for since I originally posed the question; a lot of their fall 2012 bags seemed more ornamented/tasseled/whatnot than what they're showing now).

    I've had some issues with durability on other Etsy purchases for items that get heavy use, so I'm a little reluctant to go that way, given how hard I know I am on this particular accessory. If anyone has specific recommendations for Etsy vendors that make stuff for the long haul, though, I would give them a second look.

  • Retta Niday says:

    First, Attica is 100% correct. I have been a manager for over 20 years and, while the employee maybe awesome OUTSIDE of the office, most people are just like 3rd graders IN the office. So be the 3rd grade teacher and treat them accordingly. And #1, don't try to be their friend, be their boss, period.

    Hobo- have you tried MICHE bags? they are a home-party based business but you can buy online, too. You buy a base bag with all the organization you want and then buy outter shells and handles. I love these. Change your handbag from fun summer print to sophisticated black leather in 5 minutes. Just move the base bag to another shell. and way less than $300.

  • Ashley says:

    Grumbling -I cam here to recommend Ask A Manager, too!

    Abandoned – This is an off-the-beaten path suggestion, but Timi and Leslie diaper bags are cute and have a lot of pockets and style. There are a couple there you might like. They are faux leather, but are designed to stand up to hard wear and tear. I have one that people constantly compliment as a "cute purse".

  • Laurie says:


    I have this bag:

    And I love everything about it. Besides being very affordable, it is deceivingly sized – it looks small, but happily holds my 13" MacBook, power cords, mouse, wallet, makeup bag, phones, and all the other crap I usually take with me.

    I live in Canada, so long straps that fit a winter coat are a must, which this also does.

    @Grumbling, I don't have a good book to recommend, but if you come across one that goes on about getting the right people on the bus, throw that shit out, because it's ridiculous. :)

  • Justin says:

    Hi Grumbling, Attica made great suggestions. I found when I was managing people that I got great response when I made sure to take responsibility when things went wrong. Even if they had done something maybe not super brilliant. I generally would say "I should have been more clear that what I needed was…" it is amazing how much more willing and able people become when they see you as having their back. I think you have a great attitude toward managing people, it is all about making it possible for them to succeed.
    The fact is people have different abilities and interests. I also had more success when I acknowledged that and tried to work to use people in ways that played to their strengths and interest. This didn't mean everybody always got to do what they preferred but they knew I was making the effort.
    One other thing. Always be glad to see them. Even if some of the people you manage aren't favorites, always greet everyone and smile at them with sincerity. Nobody wants to work someplace where they don't feel welcome.
    And if you screw up, and you will screw up, give a sincere apology, it won't undermine you in any way and you'll be amazed at what a turn around it can create even with an employee you may have had tension with previously.
    Good Luck

  • Maryse42 says:

    I *love* my Boardwalk Bag from Namaste.
    Looks like the Hermosa or the Monroe might fit your bill.

  • 'stina says:

    Hobo lover, I get my hobo bags from Zappos, and I saw this one: and thought it might do the trick.

    It's $28 out of your price range, but it's pretty comprehensive in meeting your needs.

    Zappos absolutely rules. My Hobo broke a strap 364 days after my husband gave it to me, and Zappos replaced it no questions asked.

  • Jody says:

    The entire management team in my department have taken a class called Emotionally Intelligent Leadership.
    Course Description:
    This full day workshop will cover self-awareness of one’s emotions self-regulation of one’s emotions, the ability to monitor other’s feelings and emotions, discernment of those feelings and emotions, and the ability to use this information as a guide for one’s own thinking and actions. Effective leadership of others begins with effective personal leadership.

    Sounds like all could benefit…not just managers.

  • --Lisa says:

    Levengers has some very nice bags… very pricey, but high quality, last forever type of thing. And they are very good at pockets. You might take a look at their selection.

  • HLM says:

    At last, an appropriate time to pimp Ellington Handbags! Solid leather, nice construction, prompt service, and a variety of casual/elegant styles. My hobo bag from them is my daily go-to for almost precisely the things you're looking for: pocketses, space, durability, and a strap length that doesn't interfere with big warm winter sleeves. Their colors may be a little more conservative than you're hoping for, but take a look and maybe fall in love.

  • Marie says:

    Grumbling – an oldie but still great – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Has some great tips.

    Hobos – second the Namaste bags. They are a knitting bag company but I also use the bags as purses – they fit a laptop, are made of leather and come in some super great colors.

  • Jennifer says:

    Hobo, check out Harvey's Seatbelt bags – I have three and love them. They are very sturdy (they're made of seatbelts, after all), they're cute and they're functional. Also, I have been on a rampage against crappy quality and sweatshop-produced stuff for the past couple of years and Harvey's meet my standards – they're made in the US, some are made from actual recycled seatbelts (as opposed to seatbelt webbing produced to be made into bags), and they have an awesome warranty.

    About that warranty – I tend to overstuff my bags, so the zippers on two of them started to act up. I sent them in and Harvey's replaced the zippers and put new feet on and just generally spiffed the bags up. For another $20 per bag they will do "bag spa" service which gets them new-lookingly clean.

    They're not inexpensive, but they're well within your $300 limit.

  • Melissa says:

    I have very specific rules for purses (does no one use this word anymore? Is it as outdated as pocketbook?), two of them involving length of straps and number of pockets. Tignanello bags usually fit the bill. This one looks similar to the one you had:

  • Suzanne M says:

    Hobos: Someone beat me to Namaste. I have 3 of their bags–the Harlow, the Mini Messenger, and the Classic Hip Holster–and I love them like crazy. Sturdy, well-constructed, and I can fit so much crap in them, it's unbelievable.

    Grumbling: My sympathies. I would never be able to hold my tongue. But that's why no one gives me management positions.

  • Girl Tuesday says:

    Three people have beat me to Namaste bags :) I have a Munroe which I use when travelling for work conferences because I can fit my netbook, a hardcover book, a small knitting project bag (like a sock or mittens), plus my wallet and various other junk. The straps are long enough that it fits over a heavier coat, but not so long that it dangles if you're wearing lighter layers. It has three main areas; the two on the outside close with pretty strong magnetic clasps (and one has a zipper, which I use for things needing security), and the middle one is tucked down a little and has a zipper, and I use it for my wallet and cell.

    The bags aren't actually leather – they're a "vegan faux leather" material that's pretty sturdy.

  • Haiku bags have great pockets, are extremely durable, and aren't particularly expensive:

    I've had one for several years that I use as a travel purse, and it seems to be virtually indestructible.

  • John says:

    Grumbling — definitely "Crucial Conversations". Totally practical advice that really makes for effective communication. If things get rough, I also recommend the follow-up book "Crucial Confrontations", which is about handling the really hard situations.

  • Kemmi says:

    If you can get them in the US, you could try looking at Radley bags. I'm very picky about bags, but they work for me really well.

    They have a good range, but they're all very well made, the majority have slip pockets at the front (or proper pockets, even).

    My requirements are pretty specific– I want it to stand up when I'm looking through it, I want to be able to stick my book(s) tablet, phone, knitting, huge purse, camera, notebook, brolly, newspaper in it, no ruffles, long strap, front pockets for my travelcard/keys, etc. The one I got a few backs I still get compliments for, it's still in good condition (good quality leather), no problems with the zip despite my tendency to kitchen-sink it, and I got this one:
    Which is perfect for me.

    You might find one of the barrel or multiways more useful:

    But either way, poking about the site should yield up something.

    Another option is Namaste bags:

    They're not 100% to my taste, but they are good, tough bags with useful pockets– they're often sold in knitting shops for that reason.

  • Maryse42 says:

    Does anyone else hope Hobo will end up giving us an update on what she finally chose? (:

  • Louisa says:

    Grumbling – As someone who has just been thrown into both a supervisor certificate program and a leadership program at work, I feel you. I can recommend "The Leadership Challenge" but Posner and Kouzes, it's the text for the leadership program and there are a vast number of companies that use it for teaching.

    Hobo – Seconding anything by Baggalini, which I have recommended here before. I love them, own a few in different sizes and for different functions, they wash up beautifully and I've never had one self destruct yet.

  • cjw says:

    Hobo, I second Melissa's Tignanello suggestion. I'm super finicky about pockets and theirs are the only purses I buy!

  • H., says:

    Hobos, I have become a recent convert to Alchemy Goods: handmade bags made of recycled bicycle tires (so they're practically indestructible *and* waterproof), no less. They actually started out with messenger bags, so there are other options, too.

  • Milena says:

    I second Lo & Sons! I have the OMG bag and I LOVE it! I has generous shoulder straps, but also has a cross bodystrap for when you get stuck standing on the train. Tons of pockets, looks professional and I totally love the secret shoe compartment. They are a little pricey (just about $300) but they have coupon codes every once and a while. Definitely check them out!

Leave a comment!

Please familiarize yourself with the Tomato Nation commenting policy before posting.
It is in the FAQ. Thanks, friend.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>