I’m working a flexible schedule for a 10% cut in pay but producing 100% of what I used to

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A reader writes:

I have a question regarding flexible schedules and salaries. To give some background, I’ve been with my employer for a little over two years as a mid-level manager. I love my job and have been told that I do a great job and am valued. The company is a bit old fashioned, is big on “face time,” and does not offer much flexibility in terms of working remotely or creating special arrangements.

In the spring, I had a baby, and prior to that had asked my manager (a corporate VP) for more flexible working arrangements – namely, I was hoping to take one day off every two weeks and “make up” the time, mostly in the office (by skipping lunch, coming in early, or due to work-related travel). They were very kind but declined this scenario, instead offering me a “90%” schedule where I would have every other Friday off at 90% pay. There are a few other people in the office who also have this schedule and it seems to be working well for all of us.

I understand their discomfort with the ambiguity around making up the work hours and was appreciative of this new schedule. However, now that I’ve been working under this schedule for about seven months, I am starting to resent the decrease in salary. My work has in NO way decreased, and in fact, I feel that I am being entrusted with more responsibility than ever. My work is project-based, so things need to get done by deadlines regardless of when I am in the office. Although I do not work on the days I am off, I always check email and respond to questions. I make a point to be “extra” efficient when I am in the office, often skipping lunch or water cooler talk to get all of my work accomplished before my day off.

One other point is that I felt my salary was a bit low to begin with, but I overlooked it due to love of my job and team. Now, 10% feels like a big cut. I just generally don’t feel properly compensated for my contributions.

We are coming up on the annual review period in my office, and I am sure I’ll have a positive review. Given that, I’m not sure how to handle my concerns around salary. Ask for a raise? Ask for my old salary, and consider it an annual raise? Ask to “meet in the middle”?

I don’t want to rock the boat because I really do love both my job and schedule………but I want to feel fairly compensated and recognized, as well. Can you help guide me on how to handle this situation? Am I right to bring it up, or should I just let things lie and be happy with my more flexible schedule?

It’s absolutely reasonable to bring up. You’re being compensated at 90%, but producing 100% of the work you used to. That’s not how this was intended to work.

Or … maybe it was. It’s possible that your company sees this as a fair trade for letting you be off one day every two weeks — similar to negotiating extra vacation time, where you’d get more days off but usually wouldn’t get an accompanying reduction in workload. In a way, what you negotiated is extra vacation time — just staggered on a regular schedule. In their eyes, it’s possible that you agreed to work fewer hours for less pay, but that a different workload was never agreed upon.

And yes, this might sound crazy — after all, if you’re working 10% less, shouldn’t everyone expect that you’ll produce 10% less? But actually, it doesn’t always work that way. There’s even a school of thought that people can produce just as much in a four-day work week because they’re more focused and efficient. Your company might have been looking at it like that. (I’m pretty sure I don’t agree with that, but there are indeed intelligent people who do.)

But regardless, you’re not happy with the current arrangement and so it’s worth bringing up. I’d present it pretty much as you have here: “I’ve found that despite working 90% of the time, my workload — and productivity — has stayed where it was before my schedule change. I’d like to talk about adjusting my salary to reflect the fact that I’m producing at the same level as before we cut my salary.”

See what they say. You note that they’re old-fashioned, so they might just not be open to paying you the same as someone who’s there every day, regardless of the results you’re getting. But it sounds like you’re due for a raise soon anyway, so this is a totally reasonable thing to roll into that conversation.

what to do when 2 people on your team don’t get along

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You thought you had a smoothly-functioning team – but now a personal dispute between two staff members is threatening your team’s stability and creating unpleasantness for people around them. What can you do when two people on your team don’t get along?

I tackle this question over at Intuit QuickBase’s Fast Track blog today. You can read it here.

my coworker went through my trash can to get me in trouble

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A reader writes:

I recently started on with a new company where the office/corporate culture is really negative but my director is amazing – he was the reason I accepted the position. I have been been there only three weeks, but it has quickly become apparent that several people in my department (small office, seven total on my team) do not like me! These women (late 20s, early 30s) are catty and unprofessional, seemingly for no reason whatsoever.

I also started at the same time with someone who I have built a rapport with and both of us have shared our concerns about the environment we work in.

During a conference call last Friday, fellow “new person” and I were sitting side by side and occasionally writing notes/commentary to each other in my notepad about things being said in the meeting (these notes were NOT complimentary toward the organization). It was poorly thought out on my part, I admit, but I assure you that we have every reason in the world to vent: we haven’t yet received computers or even phones for our desks (crucial to our work), corporate refuses to stock post-it notes because they are “meant to be thrown away” (?!), there’s public criticism of employees during conference calls, etc.

After the conference call, I crumpled up and threw out these notes in my personal garbage can. After I left for the day, one of the lovely ladies on my team went over to my cubicle, went through my garbage can and retrieved these notes!

I was called into my director’s office the following Monday morning. As mentioned previously, my director is amazing – he was only concerned if I was unhappy in my position (I’m not!) and wanted feedback if there was anything he could do (until he has more pull with corporate, there isn’t). Worse yet, he does not know who specifically got the notes from my garbage – because this garbage-rifling coworker went directly to corporate!

My boss and I addressed the issue head-on. I told him that I was frustrated with many things and concerned about my future there, but that I enjoy working for him. I also apologized for any difficulties that it caused for him, and assured him it wouldn’t happen again. He shared with me that he shares many of the sentiments expressed in the notes, and hopes to work together to enact positive change.

But none of this addresses the tremendous violation of privacy committed by my coworker. Nor does it cover how corporate now sees me and my colleague, who are both starting out and establishing our roles! I feel like the issue was put to rest between my boss and me, but I feel violated by my coworker and have concerns about what she may do in the future. Should I bring this matter up again?

What?! No, absolutely not.

You were majorly in the wrong here. Writing notes with a coworker mocking your colleagues and criticizing your organization? It’s incredibly juvenile, and incredibly poorly-thought-out. You’re lucky that it didn’t end in a far worse manner for you.

As a manager, I can tell you how I’d see this: as a sure sign that you’re not making an effort to acclimate, that you’re not giving others the benefit of the doubt, that you’re creating a toxic us-vs.-them dynamic, that you’re willing to attack your colleagues and the organization in the most unproductive of ways, and that you’re engaging in immature behavior (note-passing!) during a conference call that you should have been engaging in quite differently. That’s not someone I’d want on my team. (And frankly, that’s not someone who would stay on my team.)

And sure, of course your coworker shouldn’t be going through your trash — that’s totally out of line as well — but you’ve committed the larger offense here, or least the one that’s going to concern me way more as a manager. That means that you’ve really forfeited the right to complain about her going through your trash. I do think your manager should talk to her and find out what the hell is going on that prompted her to do that, but that’s his call, not yours.

Also, your manager isn’t doing you any favors by being so sympathetic here. It’s fine if he wants to tell you that he shares some of your concerns, but it sounds like he neglected to explain to you that your actions weren’t an acceptable way of handling your concerns, and that’s a real disservice to you and is allowing you to focus on the wrong pieces of the situation.

As for how corporate now sees you: Well, yeah. You’ll have to work to rebuild the trust there, but that’s really on you, not your coworker. Your coworker just reported something factual; it’s on you that the behavior happened at all, and you’re wrong to shift the responsibility for that to her.

Drop all of that, and focus on figuring out whether or not you want to stay in this environment. If it’s bringing this kind of behavior out in you, you’ve got to either pull it together and find a way to stay professional while you’re there or you need to get out before you damage your reputation.

my interviewer asked me about personal items from Facebook, coworker insists on special email subject lines, and more

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

1. Interviewer asked me about personal items from my Facebook page

I’ve recently started a job search. I had a scheduled phone interview with an attorney for an executive assistant position. When she called, she put me on speakerphone with herself and a colleague. The first thing out of her mouth was, “Do you like horeseback riding?” I said, “How do you know that?” She didn’t answer and proceeded with more questions, like, “Describe yourself in three words” and “Where do you see yourself in 3-5 years?” I was surprised and not prepared because I haven’t heard that question in about 15 years! They asked some other questions and she ended by saying, “Well, it matters if you can make a good potato salad.” I was so dumbfounded I didn’t know what to say!

It was only after I hung up that I realized she went to my Facebook page and was commenting about a horseback riding trip I took recently and a picture from about 10 years ago about potato salad. I was so weirded out. Where do we draw the line? My Facebook/personal life doesn’t have any reason coming up in an interview! It’s not relevant! My Linkedin does, not Facebook. Where are we going with technology and the professionalism of interviewers?

She was a bad interviewer; I wouldn’t read anything into it beyond that. (Well, actually, I’d also read into it that you might want to adjust your Facebook privacy settings.)

The “where do you see yourself in 3-5 years” question is a little hackneyed, but not terribly shocking; that’s one I’d be prepared for when interviewing because it’s a common one.

2. Colleague wants me to use special subject lines in every email I send her

I am working on a new project, which requires me to work with a contractor who has been working with my new client for years. Its been made clear to me that the contractor feels like I’m imposing and stepping on her turf, but I’ve done my best to be professional and polite.

I’ve noticed that she seems to be missing many of the emails I send to her, which are generally replies to emails from her or our client. When I followed up with her today to alert her that she missed an email, she responded by asking me to change the subject line in every email to her which requires action. She said my emails are getting lost in her inbox and that the new subject line will be easier for her.

Am I wrong to think this is a crazy request? I understand doing this for urgent actions items, but it seems ridiculous to do for every single email. 99% of emails I send to her have some kind of required action! And this totally defeats the purpose of replying to an email chain to keep all emails on the same subject together. How do I respond to this request in a way that is understanding and accommodating to her, while also explaining why this isn’t an ideal system?

It’s probably crazy. But your’e a new contractor and she’s a long-time contractor and unless you’ve come in at a much more senior level than she is (or unless the client has already expressed reservations to you about her work), you probably just need to suck it up and do it. But you can certainly say, “99% of what I send to you will have a needed action attached. I can try to do this, but can’t promise I’ll remember each time and it would probably be more efficient for us both if you assumed our emails will usually be things to take action on.”

3. I have a job offer in email — should I push for something more official?

I accepted a job offer yesterday from Company X, but haven’t put in my resignation to my current job yet. About a week ago, I was sent an offer from Company X through email stating that I’m being offered the position and the amount it pays annually, with some details on orientation date and first date in office. They also mentioned that their HR would be contacting me regarding next steps. All this was written in the body of the email.

From conversations with the hiring manager, I have been told that it’s an exempt position with benefits but I have nothing in writing. When I accepted the offer, I asked whether I will receive a formal offer letter. The hiring manager told me that her email is the official offer.

I’m afraid to ask her again to send me an official offer letter because I fear this will start off the relationship between us on the wrong foot – she’s already a bit condescending towards me. However at this point I’m very hesitant about leaving my current job and moving cross country for this position. What to do?

You already have the official offer — the one in email. That’s perfectly sufficient and there’s no need to press them for more. There’s nothing about one written in a separate document that would be any more official. You have the details in writing, and that’s what matters. The point of getting an offer in writing isn’t to create a binding contract — because it doesn’t do that — but rather just because it reduces the risk of mistakes or misunderstandings. You have the details in writing, so you’re covered there. (And this is a pretty common way to do it.)

That said, I’d think long and hard about whether you want to move across the country to work with a manager who’s already condescending to you. This is usually when people are on their best behavior, on both sides.

4. Is this mileage reimbursement policy weird?

I have a question for you about mileage reimbursement policies. I work for an agency that commutes about 50 miles away once a week to work onsite at the client’s office. Our company recently let us know that we are eligible for get reimbursed for this mileage when we use our own vehicles.

However, here are the details of the policy they just sent us: “If an employee business travels to a client that is a 40 mile one-way trip, the employee should deduct from this, the number of miles that represents a normal commute from home to the agency’s office. Thus, if a normal commute from home to the office for a given employee is 10 miles, the employee should submit an expense claim for the net of these two figures, which is 30 miles.”

This just seems…weird to me. I never drive to our office, and don’t expect to be reimbursed for regular commuting costs, but a 100-mile roundtrip drive once a week is very out of the ordinary. Also, my home is closer to the client’s office than the agency’s office. I don’t see why the two should be related at all, in this case. Is my company’s policy legal? Or just a way to save a little money?

Perfectly legal, and very common. The company is saying that they’ll reimburse your mileage for these trips, minus whatever your normal commute might have been. In other words, they’re paying for the portion of your drive that’s over and above what you would have doing anyway. It’s actually pretty fair.

5. Including work info in my email signature when applying for jobs

I am emailing potential employers my resume and cover letters. I was wondering what you think about email signatures in this situation. Specifically, should I include my current title and employer? In this case, it relates to the position I am applying for.

No. You’re not applying as a representative of your current employer, which is what signing your email with your title and employer would convey. You’re applying as a private individual, so you do that from your personal email account, without your work info attached. (And they’ll of course see your work info in your resume, which is the appropriate place for it.)

I’m in trouble for pushing back on a Boss’s Day gift collection

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A reader writes:

A few weeks ago, on Boss’s Day, one coworker had initiated a boss day gift for our director, and made an executive decision to get a $50 cake and flowers without soliciting any of our input. I really have never heard of Boss’s Day before and feel like it’s a totally manufactured holiday. I’m all for celebrating birthdays, holidays, and general team rah-rah’s, but this event raised an eyebrow for me. Anyway, my coworker sent an email, went out during lunch, and then by 1:30, the cake/cards/flowers were purchased. She then proceeded to email the entire department (except the director and VP), asking for contributions.

This scenario sounds similar to the advice you had given in this article.

This had particularly frustrated me because a number of us don’t particularly care for our director (she just parks there and collects a paycheck) and the way that my peer had initiated the request made it sound as if contribution was mandatory. I replied all, asking why we were just doing this for our director and not our VP and then stated that contributions really should be voluntary if we have not had a say in the gift. A number of coworkers and managers had thanked me for speaking up because they felt the same way.

My peer was really upset at me for replying all, and word got escalated up to my VP. The VP called my boss on Friday, saying she had concerns about my professionalism and that she is concerned that I am causing a division among the team. My supervisor then called me on the weekend, telling me about his conversation with the VP. He had mentioned to the VP that I had nothing personal against my peer (which is true; I didn’t want to feel forced to contribute, but I have nothing else against my peer), this incident is water under the bridge, and that I shouldn’t try to air things out with the VP. I asked why couldn’t I approach the VP, and he said, “Oh, it’s all handled – you don’t want to make it seem like it’s still an issue.”

What bothers me is that my peer’s supervisor ran this up the chain without even trying to talk to my supervisor about this situation or try to clear things up with me. That, compounded with the fact that my VP is only hearing one side of the story, I’m more inclined to talk to the VP one on one and approach her from the perspective of clearing the air. However, I also feel that I don’t want to make a mountain out of a molehill, lay low, and only talk to the VP if she approaches me first. Thoughts?

Way too much drama! Let it go.

The drama isn’t your fault, but now that it’s been created by others, your best bet is to dial it down rather than fan its flames.

To be clear, your coworker was indeed out of line in implying people were obligated to chip in for a gift they hadn’t already consented to give.

And your manager was wrong to call you on a weekend and get you alarmed about this. And the fact that he was telling you not to take any action makes it even sillier that he dumped this on you over the weekend. (And that just makes it all the more drama-filled: “This is such a big deal that it can’t even wait for Monday! … But, oh, don’t do anything about it. Instead, just fret on your own.”)

However, your manager has told you very clearly that it’s been handled and that you shouldn’t approach the VP about it. Given how very minor this situation really should be, that’s probably good advice. Plus, openly ignoring your manager and doing the opposite of what he asked you to do is generally a bad way to proceed. If you really feel strongly about it, you could go back to your manager and say, “Hey, I really feel like I need to set the record straight myself — is that okay?” But I don’t think you should even do that, because this is so minor – and everyone involved should just let it go.

Your manager is telling you that it’s handled, so let it stay handled.

And you are correct that Boss’s Day is a silly, made-up holiday.

our manager periodically flips out and jams her authority down our throats

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A reader write:

I work on a team of four – our manager and the three producers. Our manager is not very experienced with managing, and we tend to pick up a lot of the slack for clarifying directives, managing vendors, setting plans, etc. Personality-wise, our manager is typically very playful and her goal is for us to all be friends. However, every now and then, she’ll flex her authority in a very authoritative fashion, as if to say, “Look. This is not up to discussion. It’s the way it is.” It’s not the words, but the tone of voice, the anger, and power that she flexes in the moment. This happened today during a team meeting that caught all three of us off-guard.

In this particular situation, she asked how necessary a particular vendor was because she was wanting to cut the resourcing. We let her know how vital their work was and started brainstorming how to cut costs. She fumed and went off on us about how “THIS IS THE WAY IT WILL BE” and stormed out. We were completely befuddled and confused about what happened. I felt extremely disrespected and protective of my two team members, who are younger and less experienced. I don’t believe in taking verbal abuse from anyone, especially when unwarranted.

In what ways can I nip this in the bud with my manager without coming across as threatening, overstepping my role, etc.? Also, if I do address it, how do I ensure I do not place myself in a place where she might hold it against me?

Ah yes, the manager who wants to be friends — until she doesn’t and flips out in an over-display of authority, instead of just calibrating things correctly from the beginning. It’s likely that she’s not sure what normal, calm authority looks like or how to exercise it, which is why she’s cycling back and forth between two bad extremes.

Usually people who act the way your manager is acting are incredibly insecure about their own authority. She doesn’t know how to use it normally (and at some level, she realizes that about herself), and so instead she over-compensates, beating you over the head with it when she doesn’t need to.

As for what to do about it, your best bet is to talk with her about what happened, calmly and rationally. This will signal that her blow-up isn’t a reasonable way to operate, but rather was something that took people aback, and thus is now A Thing That Must Be Discussed. And if you do it right, it can also shore up her ability to use authority correctly, by highlighting for her that you’re perfectly happy to do things the way she wants and that she doesn’t need to freak out on you to make that happen.

I’d use this an opener: “What happened yesterday? I was surprised by your reaction and wondered where we went wrong, so that we can avoid it in the future.”

And I’d be ready to also say things like:

* “I got the sense that you felt like we were ignoring what you wanted us to do. But we weren’t. If you’d told us that we needed to find a way to make things work without (vendor), that would have been fine. It felt like you were frustrated that we didn’t realize that that’s what you were saying, but we just needed it clarified.”

* “This sort of thing is your call. We’ll go along with whatever you decide, but I’m hoping we can communicate about these things without being yelled at. If you have concerns about how the team is working, we should of course address it, but yesterday felt like we were being berated, and I’d like to figure out how we can avoid that in the future.”

* “Is there a different way we can handle this sort of thing in the future?”

You want your tone to convey, “Look, you call the shots. But we got yelled at and that’s not cool, so how can we figure out how to avoid you wanting to do that in the future?”

Also, you should be totally calm during this conversation (not scarily calm, like talking-someone-down-from-a-ledge calm, but just normal-person calm). You should sound concerned, but don’t sound flustered or angry. You want to model how competent professionals talk, and you don’t want to reinforce the idea that wild displays of emotion are appropriate.

Ideally, this conversation will help her realize that what she’s doing isn’t working and that people aren’t okay with it — or at least start the process of that happening. Of course, if she’s a truly horrid manager, it’s possible that she’ll dig in her heels and you’ll be the target because you pushed back. But that’s a fairly rare response to a reasonable discussion like this.

That said, keep in mind that you’re dealing with classic new manager issues here. Those don’t usually go away overnight, and you’re unfortunately her training ground, which is rarely fun.

I was called “mean” for reporting a coworker for stealing, not asking questions at an interview, and more

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

1. I was called “mean” for reporting a coworker for stealing

I’m a civilian office worker at a military-run veterinary clinic where I work with other civilians and military personnel. One night I noticed our civilian veterinarian gathering supplies in a bag, with a total supply value of about $6. (I purchase all the supplies with a government credit card so I know what everything costs.) I asked what she was doing, and she said she was visiting a friend after work and needed some stuff to work on the friend’s dog. I have no supervisory authority but told her she couldn’t take supplies; if she took them or not, I have no idea, but I did call our military supervisor and tell him what happened.

His first response (he’s not the sharpest tool in the shed, and English isn’t his first language so we have some communication trouble) was, “If she needs supplies, tell her to make a list and we’ll get them for her.” I had to explain to him that we can’t fund her charity work and taking supplies from the clinic shouldn’t be allowed. We ended it with I’ll send him and his boss an email.

Two weeks later and not a word about the incident, the military supervisor and I are talking and he says that was mean of me to tell the doctor she couldn’t take things. I know I’m right that nobody should be taking supplies and that it’s stealing, but why am i the only one in my office who understands that? How was I being “mean” by looking out for the business?

I suspect the military supervisor sees it as a matter of scale — that $6 isn’t a big deal, whereas $100 would be. (Or at least I hope that’s what he’s thinking; otherwise, his reaction is inexplicable.) Whether or not $6 in supplies is a big deal depends on who you ask. There are certainly some office cultures where it’s totally okay to take $6 of post-it notes home with you, as long as you don’t go hog-wild with it. And there are other offices where that’s absolutely Not Done. You need to know the culture where you’re working.

It’s possible that this guy is telling you that he sees $6 in veterinary supplies as de minimis. Hell, for all I know, he’s seen your coworker bring in supplies that she’s paid for herself, or knows that she routinely does extra work for free in the evenings and doesn’t want to nickel and dime her, or he’s not going to give her a hard time over taking supplies to treat a sick animal.  I don’t know — but if you want to get clarification, it’s entirely reasonable to say, “Hey, is that kind of thing actually not a problem? If so, I won’t make a big deal about it in the future.”

2. Employee refuses to share login info for the company Facebook account

We are a newly formed company in the UK. I’m a director, and one of our employees has consistently refused to give me the login details for our company Facebook page. On the last request, she replied asking me why I wanted them and what I intended to do with them. I feel it is extremely important that I have a copy of them, as she is the only person in the company who has these details. Does she have a right to withhold them from me? Does it warrant a written warning?

No, she doesn’t. Assuming that you have authority over her, stop framing it as a request, and instead say, “Jane, I need access to the Facebook page by the end of today. We need a system where that type of information isn’t accessible by only one person. Please set me up with access today.” Then, if she doesn’t, you handle it like you would any other outright refusal to comply with a work assignment, which in this case presumably means that her manager makes it clear that it’s not optional. If she continues to resist when it’s made clear to her that it’s not optional, she probably shouldn’t be working for you.

3. Is it bad not to ask questions at the end of an interview?

Is it necessarily a bad habit to not ask any questions of the interviewer at the end of the in-person interview? I explained that I felt the website/previous interview had provided answers to any questions I might have and it seemed okay. Are they any questions you think should definitely be asked?

Yeah, it’s pretty bad not to ask any questions when given the opportunity. It signals that you aren’t being especially thoughtful about whether this is the right fit for you, and that’s alarming to savvy hiring managers, who want to make sure that you’re doing a good job of your side in this assessment process so that you don’t end up in a job where you’ll be unhappy or not excel.

Do you really not have questions about a job and company where you’re contemplating spending 40+ hours a week for the next several years? I think if you think about it like that, you’ll realize that there’s plenty that you want to know, but here are some questions you might think about asking.

4. What should my office door say?

I have been asked to submit my name as I want it to appear on my office door. I am wondering if I should put just my name, my degrees, or title?

What do other people in your office do? Follow their lead. (But in general, it’s typically just your name, and rarely would it be appropriate to include degrees.)

And if you’re not sure what other people do because you haven’t started yet, it’s completely reasonable to reply to the request by asking. You could simply say, “What do others typically do — just their names, or titles too?”

5. Has long-distance job searching become any easier in the last few years?

I just found your blog by accident while I was researching how to make a move from one city to another. I came across a post about long-distance job-searching dated back in 2010. Now that the economy has somewhat improved, what do you think my chances are of moving from the east coast back home to the midwest (Chicago) in particular? I am willing to pay for interviewing and such but got a little worried after reading your blog. To your knowledge, have conditions improved? What would your advice be four years later?

My advice is still pretty much the same, unfortunately: It’s still much harder to job search long-distance than it is if you’re searching locally, unless you’re in in-demand field with in-demand skills. When they have plenty of local candidates, employers don’t have much incentive to deal with the hassles or risk of long-distance candidates. However, the more senior you are, the easier and more accepted it is to search long distance, so the picture is definitely less gloom and doom if you’re fairly senior in your field.

should I let a company pay to use my resume in a job bid?

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A reader writes:

I am an IT professional with 10 years of experience across consulting, public service, finance, and software. Typically I contract into companies for periods ranging from 3 months to 18 months to work on projects and then move on again. Recently I have realized that I am my brand – in other words, given that what I offer is “me,” I have to be careful to protect both my reputation and what projects I attach myself to.

I have recently been approached by a large company who have asked if they can use my CV in a bid they are putting together. They would use my brand as part of their brand to enhance the attractiveness of their bid. I have neither worked for (or with) this company before, but they have a good reputation. The quid pro quo they offered was that at some unspecified point in the future, if they win that contract bid in a form that would require someone like me, they may hire me to work with them. In other words, the quid pro quo is a lottery ticket with very long odds. Now, given what I have recently realized about my brand, my problem with this is twofold: First, I invest a lot in my brand through training and certifications which I pay for myself and which is not cheap. Second, I see it as a company gaining immediately from my brand and giving nothing concrete back.

My own thought is to propose charging them a professional consulting fee of, say, $2,500 to use my CV. It would be small amount for a company of that size but would keep the value of my brand intact. If I were to charge nothing, it would mean I value my brand at $0, which I believe damages it. To put it in perspective, $2500 would be roughly the equivalent of a week’s work. It would not matter much to me if the company rejected my request for a fee – it’s unlikely they would see it as majorly out of line (although they may reject it as their bid could ultimately be unsuccessful).

Friends and mentors cannot agree that this is the best approach and I would love to hear your opinion on the matter.

No, you absolutely should not let them use your resume in their pitch, not without a solid agreement that you’ll be part of doing the work if they win it. Otherwise, you’re engaging in a joint fraud with them — allowing them to present you as part of their team when, in fact, you aren’t. This is pretty black and white: You don’t work with them, there are no plans for you to work with them, and yet they’d be presenting you as part of their team. This is pretty damn fraudulent. And that doesn’t change even if they pay you for the right to include your resume.

So no, you shouldn’t do this. It’s unethical and wrong.

As for considerations about your brand — I have to admit that I cringe every time I hear someone use the term “brand” in this way. What you have is a reputation, and that’s absolutely worth something — quite a bit, in fact. But “personal branding” tends to be the snake oil sold by questionable career advisors.

my boss thinks I made a mistake — but I didn’t

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A reader writes:

I’ve been at my current job as an editor for two years now and so far I have had a very nice experience. I report to a manager who reports to the director. The director assigns me work often. She doesn’t really work with any of the other editors directly so I feel like she really trusts me. In all the time I’ve been there I’ve never been reprimanded. Many of my coworkers complain about the director’s attitude but to me she’s always been very nice.

Earlier last week she called me into her office and gently let me know that I didn’t catch something I should have and e-mail her to let her know. She was really nice about it and basically said it was ok because I usually always do catch things like that. The thing is I DID catch it and I DID e-mail her about it. I also sent her a follow-up email when she didn’t respond. She misses e-mails often because she gets so many but she usually sees it when you send her a follow up. I wanted to lightly mention that I did e-mail her but instead I just apologized since she didn’t make a big deal out of it so I didn’t want to look overly sensitive.

Then last Friday a very similar mistake came through and again I caught it and sent her an e-mail. First thing this morning she sent me an e-mail asking why I didn’t catch it and e-mail her when we talked about a similar scenario last week. This is the second time I did e-mail her and she didn’t see it. Again, I didn’t say anything because I wasn’t sure how to let her know without sounding like I’m saying she didn’t check her e-mail. If this happens again, how can I handle it?

You’re actually doing yourself and your boss a disservice by not correcting the record in each of these two cases. You’re allowing your boss to have incorrect information, and no sane boss wants that.

The thing to do the first time it happened would have been to say, “Oh, I actually did email you about that. Did you not receive it? I can check to make sure I’m not misremembering.” And then you could have checked and, assuming you did indeed find the sent email, you could forward it to her with a note saying, “Ah, just wanted to confirm that I did send this — sounds like it might not have made its way to you though!”

The idea here isn’t to play a game of gotcha, or even to defend yourself — it’s to simply and matter-of-factly correct the record so that she’s not working off of bad information.

Giving your boss correct information isn’t accusing her of not checking her emails. People miss emails for all sorts of reasons — a tech error, a simple oversight, a crazily overloaded inbox. It’s not a moral judgment on her. (But you know what is a moral judgment? Thinking that she couldn’t handle you just explaining that you did send the email. I’d be totally taken aback if I found out that an employee wasn’t speaking up when I criticized them incorrectly on something so objectively black and white.)

But you can actually go back and correct the record now. Say something like this, “I could have sworn that I did email you about X and Y, so I went back to check — and I was able to find the emails. I’m forwarding them along just in case there’s an issue with my email or yours!”

You really need to do this — if no other reason than if you make an actual mistake in the next few months, you want it to look like number one, not number three.