I’m a finalist for a job where it sounds like people work a ton of hours

A reader writes:

I have been interviewing with a company and after a successful in-person interview, they want to proceed to the next stage. As yet, they haven’t formally made an offer, and we haven’t talked money, but it seems like they will offer me the role: they invited me to meet with them on Monday to “talk through the offer” (their words).

The company has many strengths: a smallish place that is growing fast (but not a start-up), a commitment to training and learning, nice people, up-to-date technology, etc. I’m a career-changer who is looking for my first role in tech. Apart from the fact that it’s really difficult to find those entry-level/junior roles, a place that grows their staff and commits to training juniors would be a great start to my career.

However, a number of comments that were made during the interviews (one on Skype, one in person) indicated that they work a LOT, as in long hours. For example, various staff members who I met or who interviewed me made comments like:
– “Biggest challenge? How to fit a year’s work into three weeks!” (said as a “joke” that was obviously not really a joke)
– “The dev team are great, they’re a tight-knit bunch — they were here coding til midnight the other night!” (hmmm)
– “People arrive around 8:30 and stay til …. whenever” (rather than “around 5:30” or anything like that)
– “If you are busy and have a lot going on in your life … ” I don’t remember the exact phrasing here, but the implication (really, it was an outright statement) was that that wouldn’t be compatible with working there. (This comment was by far the biggest red flag to me.)
– The fact that my first interview (via Skype) was on a Saturday.

Mostly things that would be totally innocuous on their own, but together it forms a certain pattern. (I could add several more examples too, but won’t bore you.)

I’ve been thinking about all this a lot more since the interview, and it seems like a big red flag to me. I work hard and yeah, sometimes you can’t be out the door on the dot of five if you have a big release. But work-life balance is really important to me. And I do have a busy life and a lot going on outside of work, just as everyone does: commitments to family, friends, volunteering, hobbies, etc. Even if that wasn’t the case, it’s important to me to have time to live, not just live to work. I think that is a reasonable position.

So in retrospect, it seems like quite a red flag. I want to probe them about this, but I’m unsure how to do so. Do you think it’s appropriate to ask them about their expectations re: hours worked? Or do I just need to suck it up for a couple of years and pay my dues, being quite new to this work?

Important context: I’m in New Zealand, where we have a much more laid-back work culture than the States – a 40h week is the norm. Even tech companies are (mostly) quite into work-life balance. We don’t have the concept of ‘exempt’ workers, and working a lot of overtime is unusual here. When overtime is worked, it’s traditionally paid at time-and-a-half (although this is not legally required).

Yeeesssh, huge red flag.

Actually, it’s not even a red flag in the sense of “hmmm, this is concerning and you should investigate further.” These people are directly telling you that they work really long hours.

This is exactly the kind of thing that people wish prospective coworkers would be open about, because too often no one mentions it until after you start the job and discover that the job that you thought had reasonable hours actually has horrible ones.

These people have been up-front with you! That’s a good thing. Believe what they’re saying.

If you don’t want to work really hours, you should not take this job.

And no, I don’t think that you need to suck it up and deal with this for a couple of years. You said pretty clearly that most companies where you live have reasonable hours. Don’t pick the one place you’ve found that doesn’t.

employer doesn’t want me to support any other charity, my employee doesn’t use enough words, and more

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

1. Employer wants me to agree not to support any other charity

Thanks to your tips and advice, I have been offered a full-time job at a nonprofit, charitable organization. I have received my formal offer, but before I accept I have a question about the statement I am required to sign. It reads:

“Upon the acceptance of employment at *nonprofit name* the employee agrees that they shall not volunteer for, donate to, promote, facilitate, organize, or otherwise have involvement in any other charitable, nonprofit, or fundraising event that is not related to or run by *nonprofit name*. If any employee is found to have donated to, volunteered with, worked for, or otherwise had involvement in any charity besides *nonprofit name* they will be subject to immediate dismissal without notice or severance. No exceptions to this policy will be made under any circumstances.”

I asked for clarification after I received this statement and I was told they want employees who are committed to their mission and don’t want their employees distracted by any other kind of charitable work. It was confirmed to me that any kind of donation or volunteering with any other charity or nonprofit would lead to me being fired without exception. They also assured me this is a normal practice in the nonprofit world and that it is a standard statement. I finished my classes in December and didn’t need any credits this semester, and my college graduation ceremony is in the spring. I have never had a job besides working in an ice cream store at a camp over my summer holidays when I was in high school and college. This statement raised a red flag for me and I just wanted to know if it really is a standard requirement for nonprofit employment.

Noooooo, it is not a standard thing at all. I’ve worked in nonprofits my whole career and now coach nonprofit organizations, and this is not a thing that normal organizations do. It’s not normal at all.

I’m actually more alarmed that they they’re trying to convince you that it’s standard than that they have the policy in the first place. If they’d said, “Yes, this is unusual, but our reasons for it are ____,” then at least they’d have some credibility. But now not only do they have a bizarre (and rather horrid) policy on this, but they’re also lying to you about it being normal.

It’s none of their business if you donate to or support another organization, and it’s a really odd thing to try to control.

2. My employees doesn’t use nearly enough words

I supervise a person who doesn’t use enough words. For instance, “Hey Suzie, what about that invoice?” she will exclaim over the cubicle wall out of the clear blue sky. I have to then ask, “What invoice?” She responds, “From McMaster.” I have to then ask, “Which one?” There are 20 a month.

Sometimes, she will stand up and look at me and with an inquisitive expression, and she will say, “Remember that…” and then she just trails off waiting for me to complete her thought. The whole time she is looking me square in the face. I have to say to her, “Please finish your sentence.” Sometimes, I get more clues and sometimes I get, “You know, that thing.” Regardless of how she responds, it’s like pulling hen’s teeth to get all the information I need to understand what her question and/or need is.

It’s making me crazy. I have never encountered this before. It goes on like this for days, when all the while I’m trying to focus on my work. An immense amount of time is consumed with me trying to understand what she is asking. I would like to counsel her on this poor form of communication, but I’m not sure how to say it.

The basic formula when you want to give feedback on something is to name the issue, explain the impact, and explain what you want the person to do differently. So in this case, you could say something like this: “When you approach me to ask questions, you often assume that I know the context that you’re referring to, so you’ll ask me about ‘the invoice’ without telling me which invoice you’re talking about, or you’ll just say a few words and wait for me to finish your thought. It means that we end up spending extra time going back and forth as I try to figure out what you’re referring to. Going forward, can you make a point of giving me complete information in your initial question? So instead of ‘the invoice,’ you’d say right up-front ‘the Nov. 15 invoice from Warbleworth Inc.’ Can you try working on that?”

This is such an odd habit that I’m not confident she’ll get it without more coaching, so you should be prepared to coach in the moment too. If she starts with “the invoice,” stop her and say, “This is an example of what we were talking about. Can you take a minute and figure out what info you need to give me so that I know what you’re referring to and we don’t need to go back and forth with lots of questions?”

3. Did my cousin mishandle this negotiation?

I’m relatively new to the professional working world, so I had a question about something my cousin faced recently.

She graduated this past May with a degree in engineering and got an awesome job offer in Texas (we live in Michigan) with a company that interned with this past summer. Because she was moving so far away, they offered to pay for her moving costs. They also said that in place of a higher salary, they’d give her a company car. She was okay with it and went on planning her move. A few weeks before her move, her contract still hadn’t been finalized and they were backpedaling on the company car part. She didn’t have a problem with bringing her own car down there but wanted the pay compensation in place of it because of the way previous negotiation conversations had gone.

My parents and I were talking about it and they said something along the lines of our generation expecting to get things even though we hadn’t earned them yet. I tried to explain from my cousin’s point of view that the company car was one of the bargaining points in deciding her compensation. I know that a lot of people look down on Millenials as just expecting things to be the way we want but not all of us are. My cousin worked very hard for her degree, internship, and job offer.

Was my cousin right to continue to negotiate when the company car didn’t come through? Or were my parents correct in making a general statement about “our generation?

Your parents are wrong. Your cousin was offered the company car in lieu of more money. When you’re offered something in lieu of money, the implication is that money would have been appropriate to expect. So when the car fell through, so did the “in lieu” part, thus reopening the question of what salary was fair. It made perfect sense for your cousin to ask for more money at that point, and in fact it would have been pretty negligent of her not to!

Good for your cousin for advocating for herself. (And really, whenever you hear someone painting an entire generation with the same brush, meet whatever they’re saying with some serious skepticism.)

4. Company is pressuring us to leave positive ratings on Glassdoor

My company (where, frankly, the morale is quite low) has a terrible Glassdoor rating. Our CEO gets a lot of negative feedback. The recruiters are struggling and we need to hire at the executive level (or just below). Recently I have noticed more positive reviews that are all shorter and not very detailed. I suspect some employees have been asked on a one-to-one basis to help our ratings.

Today everyone received an email that appeared to be a Glassdoor app asking people to rate the company. My gut feeling is that this is inappropriate. We have a lot of non-native English speakers, and I especially worry that they would feel coerced. I am curious to know your thoughts on this.

Yeah, they should stop trying to manipulate their Glassdoor rankings. People rarely appreciate being pressured to leave positive reviews that they don’t actually stand behind, and it’s going to leave a bad taste in people’s mouths. Plus, it’s not even in the company’s interest to have a bunch of fake glowing reviews out there; they want to hire people who know what they’re getting into and are okay with it, since people who feel hoodwinked will leave more quickly. A transparent conversation with candidates about the company’s problems and how they’re addressing them would be a better hiring strategy.

You could discreetly let your coworkers know that they’re not obligated to rate the company, and that since the site is anonymous, in theory your company shouldn’t be able to track who did and who didn’t.

5. Interviews are being scheduled for the promotion I applied for, and I don’t have one

I recently applied for an internal promotion for a job I have been acting in for two months. I put together a good quality application that I had vetted by my referee, who does a lot of hiring. I have a large amount of very relevant experience, but it’s likely that for the level of the job, more extensively experienced applicants came along.

I am almost completely certain that interviews have been booked for in two days time. While not overtly marked, it is clear to me from accessing calendars I need to for booking appointments that they are happening and I don’t have one. I have not received any update on the process from my supervisor.

I am disappointed I haven’t been shortlisted, but what hurts more is that interviews have been scheduled and my supervisor hasn’t let me know that I was not successful in obtaining an interview. At the moment, it is just the two of us in our department and has been for the last few months.

I feel like my contributions as a team member are not being valued with the courtesy of telling me that I haven’t been successful reasonably promptly, but I also want to handle this whole situation as professionally as I possibly can. Am I being unreasonable to feel like I’m not being valued? Can I ask for an update on the process to trigger the discussion? How do I handle providing feedback that I am disappointment about the way the process has unfolded?

You’re making a lot of assumptions here! It’s entirely possible that she wants to talk to outside candidates first before she talks with you. That’s particularly true if you’re a strong candidate, since by talking to the others first, she’ll have a better sense of where she might particularly want to probe with you. Who knows, she may not even feel she needs to do a formal interview with you in order to consider your candidacy. But there’s nothing here that indicates that you’re out of the running.

Why not just ask her? You could say, “I have the sense that interviews might be getting scheduled, and I hoped you could give me an update on the process and when you think I should expect to hear about any next steps.” Hell, you could even say, “Could you let me know if I’m in the mix of candidates you’re considering?”

weekend free-for-all – February 18-19, 2017

This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand. (This one is truly no work and no school. If you have a work question, you can email it to me or post it in the work-related open thread on Fridays.)

Recommendation of the week: The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain, the story of Ernest Hemingway’s marriage to his first wife, told through her eyes. Ultimately they both annoyed me, but it was an enjoyable journey.

my ex-boss has gone from best friend to petulant child

A reader writes:

I am early in my career; my last job was my second job out of college. It was a small association (seven people) and my boss and I were the only two people in marketing. I really enjoyed my work during my time there, but there was a lot of interoffice drama that I made a point to stay out of.

My ex-boss, D, is approximately 15 years older than me, has lived in the same area her entire life and has no friends, and transferred colleges four times because she “didn’t like the people.” This should have raised a flag, but she referred to me as her best friend, etc. I know better now, but at the time, it seemed like being close to your boss could only be a good thing. For the most part, she was supportive of me at work, but she wasn’t a great manager and was bad at setting boundaries (for example, she updated me on how long it had been since her and her husband had sex…).

After two years, I started looking elsewhere — there was no room for growth for me, and I wanted a new challenge. I accepted a job which I’ve been at now for almost five months and cannot say enough about how much I love it. I gave my two weeks fearing that D was going to freak and stop speaking to me (a pattern of hers when people upset her), but she handled it much better than I expected. She cried and said I’d better stay friends with her, that we’d open our own company someday, etc. I left on what I thought were great terms, as I created a full handbook for my job duties, helped find and train my replacement, etc. D texted me as usual after I left and everything seemed fine.

…and then I started my new job. On my first day, she reached out to ask me if I was enjoying it. I said yes but made a point to say I missed her as well. She never responded to me, and soon after, I noticed she had unfollowed me on Twitter and Instagram and UNLIKED EVERYTHING SHE HAD EVER LIKED ON MY FACEBOOK. I ignored it. She texted me a few weeks later and asked to go to dinner, I said I would love to and we made plans. The night before, I texted her to confirm — no response. Called her the morning of, and texted her later that night to ask if everything was okay — no response. I was fairly upset because I thought we were on good terms, but I decided to let it go.

This week, I noticed she blocked me on Twitter (after previously unfollowing me). I unfriended her on Facebook because I decided I’d rather not have her keeping tabs on my life given her recent actions — and by the end of the day, she had blocked me on Facebook and Instagram as well.

I’m baffled. Everyone close to me says to just ignore it, that she’s an unhappy person and jealous that I was able to move on to a new job (a sentiment she expressed to me), etc., but now I’m concerned that I won’t be able to get a reference from her down the line, which bothers me because I worked so hard to leave a good impression. I think it’s important to note I do not post about work on social media as a rule, so I don’t think I could have upset her that way. I can’t figure out what I did to cause this or what the most professional way to handle this is.

Yeah, she’s just a weirdo. You didn’t do anything to cause this.

When someone behaves this bizarrely (systematically unliking everything of yours she’d ever liked on Facebook is some serious devotion to Letting You Know she’s upset), it’s okay not to go searching for how it might your fault.

Even if this hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t trust her to give you a good reference because for all you know, the next time you were job searching and needed a reference, she’d be petulant because you weren’t interested in coming back to work with her and would have taken it out on you then. She was a time bomb of petulance waiting to explode, and if it didn’t happen now, it would have happened later.

Is there someone else from your old organization who can give you a reference? It doesn’t sound like D was the head of the organization, so what about the person who is? It’s a seven-person organization, so whoever’s running it presumably knows your work well enough to be a reference for you. You can be pretty straightforward about why: “D took it personally when I left and cut off contact with me.” (Or you could just reach out to that person right now, tell them how much you enjoyed working with her, and ask if she’d be willing to be a reference for you in the future. If she responds that D would be able to give you a more detailed reference since she worked most closely with you, it’s fair game to say, “I agree, but unfortunately she took my leaving personally, disconnected from me on all social media, and has refused to speak with me.”)

And yeah, avoid bosses in the future who want to be your BFF.

open thread – February 17-18, 2017

It’s the Friday open thread! The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything work-related that you want to talk about. If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet*, but this is a chance to talk to other readers.

* If you submitted a question to me recently, please don’t repost it here, as it may be in the to-be-answered queue :)

I’m trying to get fired, I’m supposed to bid against another job candidate on salary, and more

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

1. I’m trying to get fired

When you resign from the company I work for, you get 20-25% of your commissions backlog (outstanding commissions from on-site sales). However, five people have recently been fired and all received 90% or all of their backlog, and some worked hard to get fired. It is definitely not in my nature, ethically or professionally, to get fired but in this instance doing the “right” thing gets you less money and I don’t need the reference.

I have taken more than 10 days off for a fake injury. I sent them an x-ray off a website and they called me out on it, saying my picture was similar to stuff on the web and they wanted a letter from my doctor saying that I was under medical care. I made an appointment that day with my doctor. He faxed a letter saying that I was under his care and could return in four more days.

How should I address the x-ray or should I just give it up and don’t show up for another week, resign, and take a HUGE loss. Trying to get fired is exhausting!

Well, if they find out you sent them a fake x-ray, that’s going to get you fired really quickly.

Look, I get that this is a ridiculous policy — it doesn’t make sense that you’d get more commissions paid out if you’re fired than if you resign. But what you’re doing is terrible for your integrity — faxing fake x-rays? You really don’t want to be that person, or at least I hope you don’t. Plus, you never know who you’re going to run into in the future, and if you run into someone from this job, you don’t want this to be a thing they know about you.

If you’re really determined to get fired, you’d be better off just doing it through no-showing rather than going through this sort of rigmarole.

2. Company wants me and another finalist to bid against each other on salary

I just received a verbal offer. Well, maybe. They’ve narrowed it down to me and another candidate and are making the final decision based on salary requirements. It feels like if I do get an offer, it will be because I was the lowest bidder and not because they decided I was the best candidate.

I realize that hiring managers often make decisions based on salary, but it seems off to make that explicit. The recruiter did specifically say that salary requirements were going to be the tiebreaker between us. Is this weird or am I being oversensitive about this?

No, it’s messed up. They’re intentionally making you feel like you need to outbid the other candidate, which is likely to lower the number you each ask for. If that weren’t their intent, they wouldn’t have needed to tell you that this would be the tiebreaker.

Good employers don’t auction off jobs to the lowest bidder. They determine what they want to pay, and they offer it. They don’t rely on candidates driving each other’s prices down.

I urge you to name a salary you’d truly be happy to take and not worry about trying to play their game.

3. Are these normal working practices in the U.S.?

I live in the UK, and recently saw an interesting job with an American company here that I wanted to apply for. However, once I got to to the part of the info where it stated they ran criminal record checks and reserved the right to run regular drug and alcohol checks on all their staff, and reserved the right to run a credit check, I was massively put off and decided not to apply. This isn’t because of my heroin habit and long run of murders, but because it seemed creepily invasive.

Here is how it normally stands in the UK:

Criminal record – if your job requires solo contact with children/vulnerable adults, a central agency will check your records and issue a certificate that you are clear of any crimes that would make you a danger. I already have one of these certificates, but only because I worked in schools. For other jobs it’s just standard to be asked if you have certain convictions on an application form, and that’s it.

Drug and credit tests – unusual and only if specifically required by your job for safety/legal reasons — i.e., pilots, financial advisors. I have never had one.

The job was design for a company that produces items for children, so it wasn’t anything high security or that could put people in danger, so this all seemed very paranoid, and I’m actually not sure if it’s legal over here. It just seems massive overkill for an office job. Is this normal in the U.S., or is this company just very paranoid? Either way, I don’t think I want to work with them.

Regular alcohol checks? No, not normal. Really, really unusual.

Drug tests aren’t uncommon in some fields here, but you can also easily go your whole career without ever encountering one, depending on what type of work you do and who you do it for.

Criminal records checks aren’t unusual in the U.S., particularly with larger companies. Employers are allowed to consider criminal convictions in hiring decisions, but they can’t have a blanket ban on hiring anyone with a criminal conviction unless they can show the policy is truly job-related and rooted in business necessity. More commonly they’re required to individual assessments that consider the nature of the crime, how long ago it was, and how it relates (or doesn’t relate) to the job.

Credit checks are generally only done for positions that handle money, although some employers use them more broadly. (And at least seven states prohibit employers from running credit reports or limit how they can use them in hiring decisions.) But often a credit check will be included in all the other standard language you sign off on when you okay a background check, even if they’re not actually going to run one for your position.

Overall, I’d say that this doesn’t sound terribly unusual except for the alcohol part. For a design job, the alcohol part is quite odd.

4. Having to receive packages for a coworker

I am an office manager in an office of about 40. One of my duties is reception, although there is no official reception location — I walk away from my desk to receive packages and visitors. One of my colleagues, who is senior to me but to whom I do not report, receives about one personal package per week, which I then bring to her office. When she first started working here, she had recently moved and received five packages a day for a week and a half (really). She doesn’t want to have items delivered to her home because she is afraid of theft.

Is this reasonable? Should I ask her to make other arrangements?

One package a week is no big deal. And many people consider it a benefit to be able to receive packages at work. If she starts getting five packages a day again for a sustained period of time, it might be reasonable to speak up at that point, but not when it’s just one a week.

5. Giving no notice when company policy says you’ll be made to leave the day you resign

A friend of mine (Mary) quit her job recently and gave no notice. I know normally that would be less than ideal, but her boss (Lucinda) had previously told her that it was company policy to immediately fire someone without severance if they gave notice. When Mary quit, Lucinda was very angry and told her that she should have given notice. Am I right in thinking that this is unreasonable?

Yes. If an employer makes it known that their policy is to fire you on the spot without severance when you resign, why on earth would anyone give notice?

I’m wondering if it’s not actually the company policy and is just something Lucinda said once to Mary and that’s why she’s pissed off now, but who knows.

I’m running my department but can’t get promoted into the director role

A reader writes:

I am at a crossroads right now. I joined a small nonprofit organization with about 25 employees in September 2015. When I accepted the job, I knew I was taking a step down from my position as a development director at another organization, and I ignored some red flags in my hiring manager because I was so excited about the mission. Six months later, my director resigned (in other words, got pushed out). But, rather than replace him immediately, my executive director tabled the position because she was considering reorganizing my department.

In the meantime, while we were absent a director, I took on many leadership responsibilities.

Finally, after five months with no director, my ED decided to repost the position, keeping the department as it was. She dropped several hints that I was a contender for the position, and even gave me paperwork to enroll in new supervisor training. I was one of the final candidates for the position, and I treated the interview with the same respect I would an outside company.

They wound up offering the position to an external candidate with more experience. Though I was heartbroken, I recognized the value she could bring and prepared to support her hire. However, she wound up turning down the position.

But to my dismay, the position was reopened and I wasn’t even considered for the next round of interviews. It has now been over nine months since my director left and I have been holding things together, with perfect qualifications for the job and proven success implementing elements of our strategic plan for other organizations.

I am a very self-reflective person, so I have asked for feedback on things I need to work on and legitimate reasons I have not been hired for the position, but the senior leadership team basically keeps telling me I need to keep doing what I’ve been doing. I feel like I’m being yanked around and taken advantage of and that they are capitalizing off an excellent employee stepping up and managing things during the leadership transition and hoping to “double down.” I think they know it would be harder to replace someone with my skills in my current position rather than find someone with my skills in a higher position, and that makes me very angry.

My question is, when do put your foot down and determine if you are being taken advantage of? Isn’t that crazy to go nine months without a director when there is a qualified person in a support role who has received exemplary reviews? I get doing what is best for the organization, but when is it a red flag you are dealing with poor leadership and a dead-end wall for growth opportunities?

It’s hard to say what’s going on without knowing more.

It’s possible that they have legitimate reasons for not wanting to promote you into the position. They might think you’re good at the development work, but not have confidence in your management skills or your ability to build relationships with other departments. Or they might think that you’re good at executing the basics (which is what you’ve probably been doing) but not as strong as they want on bigger-picture strategy. Or they might think you’re perfectly competent but that your vision for the department or the work just doesn’t line up with what they want. Or who knows — my point is that there are lots of reasons why they could legitimately conclude that you’re doing a good job of keeping the department running while it’s without a director, but still not think that you’re the right hire for the head position.

However, they absolutely should give you more feedback about their decision than what it sounds like they’ve given you. “Keep doing what you’ve been doing” is in no way an answer to “can you give me some insight into why I’m not the right candidate for the director role?”

That assumes, of course, that you asked the question that explicitly. If you haven’t, it’s worth doing that now.

You asked if this is a red flag that you’re dealing with poor leadership and a dead-end wall for growth opportunities. The lack of explanation and feedback to you is poor leadership; the decision not to promote you may or may not be, for the reasons above. But yeah, it does sound like you’re looking at a dead-end here as far as promotions, and I’d assume that you’ll need to look outside the organization when you want to move up. They’re indicating pretty loudly that they’re not going to move you into that director role anytime soon.

update: coworkers are ranking the attractiveness of women in the office

Remember the letter-writer a couple of weeks ago whose male coworkers were ranking the attractiveness of their female coworkers (#2 at the link)? Here’s the update.

Like you and many commenters, I was incredibly angered by and upset that this was happening in my workplace. When I brought this up to our defacto head and my boss (both women), they were both similarly unhappy about it, and encouraged me to bring it up with our HR liaison. I did so, and I was given compliments all around for doing the right thing and knowing what to do. (As many guessed at in comments, this is my first “grown up” job and unfortunately not the first time I’ve dealt with misogyny in the workplace, which is why I think I was the only junior willing and ready to make an official report.)

As for the two offenders, they are receiving counseling. They both have this written up in their files and are on warning. I have been told that they have both apologized and it seems like they finally understand how serious an offense this is. HR is keeping me anonymous as the person who stepped forward, which I prefer.

Thanks to everyone who commented and to you Alison for encouraging me to make an official complaint. This was really what convinced me to step forward; I wanted to do so immediately but the concern from other juniors was making me second guess myself. Thanks for giving me the courage to do what was right.

I’m sick — why are you calling me?

A reader writes:

I work directly under my boss, who is the director of my department, as the scheduler and office manager. I don’t manage anyone.

Every time I have ever had a day off, whether it is a scheduled vacation day or a day I’ve had to call out sick (while being actually sick and unable to work productively not just playing hooky), he calls and texts me with questions, many, many times throughout the day.

It wouldn’t be bothersome if his questions were ones that only I would know the answer to, but they are not. He will call and ask me about tasks completed where he could just look in the log we keep in the office and see for himself. Oftentimes, he will ask about something very minute (which he could still see for himself in this log) that I cannot even remember.

I’ve told him multiple times that I can’t remember these things off the top of my head and that since I’m not in the office to look myself, I don’t know and couldn’t tell him, and even where to look to find the info himself. All of this to no avail.

I’ve tried not answering is texts and calls, but he just gets angry and calls and texts more telling me it’s extremely urgent.

I don’t want to tell him flat out “please do not contact me when I am not in unless it is a serious emergency” because that feels out-of-line since he’s my boss, and he would probably become more angry with me. I’m at a loss here. Do I just sit and deal with the calls and texts even though I’m off? I work hourly, so should I start clocking these calls to add to my payroll even though I am already using my PTO?

He’s totally out of line here. And it’s actually perfectly reasonable for you to hold firm about this — not necessarily that he can’t contact you outside of work at all, but definitely that he can’t expect you to respond when you’re out sick or on vacation, unless that’s something that the two of you have negotiated ahead of time.

(Speaking of which, I should note that all of the advice that follows is based on the assumption that you’re not in a field where constant availability is part of the deal. There are fields like that, but typically you know if you’re in one of them.)

I’m going to recommend at least one thing, and possibly two things.

The thing that you should definitely do is this: Starting now, whenever you take time off, state explicitly beforehand that you will not be available. For example:

* “I wanted to remind you that I’ll be on vacation tomorrow and Friday. I will not be somewhere with reliable phone service, so I won’t be able to respond to calls or texts.”

* “I have the flu and will be out sick today. I’m hoping to sleep this off, so I won’t be answering calls or texts.”

Then if he tries to reach you anyway, you ignore those calls, as you told him that you would. If he gets upset that he can’t reach you, talk to him when you’re back at work and say something like this: “I reminded you before I left that I wasn’t going to be somewhere where I’d be reachable by phone or text. Is there something you’d like me to do differently when that’s the case?”

If he’s unreasonable enough to say “find a way to be reachable,” then you say, “That won’t always be possible with everywhere I might go when I’m on vacation and not working.”

But if the conversation does go in this direction, then you definitely need to do the second thing I’m about to suggest too — which is to have a big-picture conversation with him about his expectations for your role. That means sitting down with him and saying this: “You’ve seemed frustrated when you haven’t been able to reach me by phone or text when I’m out sick or on vacation. I understand that in rare cases an emergency might come up that means you have to contact me, but in general, I’d like to know that when I’m taking time off, I’m able to fully disconnect and that you’ll understand if I’m sick or busy and can’t respond.”

If he pushes back here (saying that everything he contacts you about is an emergency, or anything else ridiculous), then you say this: “I really need to be able to take leave and have it be real leave — days where I’m not expected to work. I know that you of course need to be able to keep your own work moving on those days, but my benefits package gives me X days off a year, and it’s important to me to be able to use them. When I’m back in the office, I’ll attend to anything that’s come up right away. Based on what I know about the types of things that come up when I’m away, I think that should keep us in good shape. But if you need someone available for this work every single day of the year with no exceptions, then we need to train someone as a back-up for me when I’m out. Should we figure out who would make sense for that, or would you rather try seeing how it goes with the understanding that I won’t always be available when I’m out?”

And as for logging any work that you do when he contacts you when you’re out, yes, you should definitely log it and ask how to handle that. This isn’t entirely straightforward because while they have to pay you for that time, that’s already happening since you’re on paid leave. Ideally they’d decrease the amount of PTO you used up on those days, but some places have rigid rules about doing that, or will only lower it in half-day increments or so forth. If your workplace doesn’t have clear rules on this, then ask, “How should I handle it when I’m out on leave but Boss contacts me to do work for an hour of it?”

anonymous complaint about politics, student workers keep interrupting my lunch, and more

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

1. I received an anonymous complaint about politics

I’m a relatively new manager at a nonprofit where the nature of the mission means that most people share liberal political views. The new administration has specifically stated that it intends to dramatically curtail our ability to do our work, so many people feel a professional stake in the politics. Many of the staff participate after hours in various political activities. To be clear, none of these are sanctioned formally or informally through the workplace.

I recently received an anonymous complaint that one staff member shares different political views and feels uncomfortable when other staff are talking about their after-hours plans. The same staffer member also feels uncomfortable that people are putting political gatherings on their work calendars.

I’m at a loss. In any normal workplace, people are bound to discuss what they’re doing after work. It’s also the norm here for people to put things on their work calendar such as dentist appointments, book clubs, or other personal items. At the same time, I want everyone here to feel comfortable doing their job and not like they’re under personal attack. What should I tell the staffer? (Because the complaint came via our union steward, I could relay a message to the staff member through the steward.) Is there anything I should tell the rest of the staff?

Yeah, on its face that’s not reasonable. It’s possible that there’s more to it than that, though, so when you respond, you should allow for that possibility.

Ask the steward to pass along to the person who made the complaint that people are allowed to discuss their after-work plans and use their calendars to record appointments outside of work, but that if there are workplace conversations happening that are hostile in nature or distracting the person from doing her job, you’d want the opportunity to address that, and that you encourage the person to come talk with you if so. You can also say that you’ll make a point of watching on your own for times when that may be happening, but that you’re more likely to be able to address it effectively if she’s willing to talk with you and share specifics.

And it does make sense to keep an ear out for a heightened level of political conversation in the office, and redirect people away from that if you judge that it’s become a distraction or that it might be wearying for people who have to listen to it (allowing, of course, for whatever might relevant to your work). But that’s a different thing than people putting their own plans on their own calendars.

2. Student workers keep interrupting my lunch

I work in university administration and I supervise two student employees. Our policy is to let the student take the lead in setting their work schedule, as long as it’s consistent, within normal working hours, and fits the required number of hours for the position. My problem is that my students always want to work over lunch, which makes it hard for me to peacefully eat lunch at a normal time.

Because classes are rarely scheduled from noon – 1pm, students like to use that time for on campus work. The type of work my students do doesn’t require my constant supervision, but I do have to check in / check out with them every day, and they do frequently have questions. When I eat lunch, I usually eat at my desk because our break room is incredibly depressing. I am hourly so I get one unpaid half hour lunch and my boss doesn’t care when I take it, but office culture strongly encourages taking lunch sometime between 11:30 and 1pm.

It really bugs me to be interrupted from eating my lunch with questions from my students, but I feel like I can’t ask them to wait until I’m done since that might hold up their progress on their work (often time-sensitive). They could ask my boss instead, but my boss often has lunch meetings and doesn’t always know the details of what our students are working on. Sometimes I make an effort to eat early or late to avoid the problem, but that doesn’t always fit in my work schedule given meetings, deadlines, etc. What do you suggest is the best way to guard my lunch time? Should I be more firm with my students about interruptions? Should I discourage students from working over the lunch hour? Schedule lunch for myself before/after students are in and don’t accept meetings or other responsibilities for that time? Something else entirely?

You should eat when you want to eat, and you should let your student workers know that when you’re having lunch, they need to hold their questions until you’re back to work. They can handle going half an hour without access to you. I mean, if you were in a half-hour meeting, they would find a way to make do, right? Half an hour is just not a long time to ask them to wait. (If I’m wrong about that and it truly is crucial that you be accessible to them at all times, then yeah, you need them to not work when you’ll be at lunch … or in meetings, etc. But I’m betting there’s flexibility there.)

Say it this way: “In order to get a real lunch break, I’m going to ask you to hold any questions for me until you see that I’m back to work.” (If you want to keep eating at your desk, come up with a way to signal them that you’re once again open for business, like a sign or another system.) And then if you get interruptions after that, say, “I’m taking my lunch right now, but come see me at 1:00 when I’ll be free.”

You should also think about what types of things they interrupt you for and figure out if there any themes that you could address with additional training or guidance, to cut down on how often they need immediate assistance from you.

3. Can I contact the person who got the job I was applying for?

I recently made it to the final stage of a competitive search for a small nonprofit that included multiple stages of interviews and a flight. I did not get the job and I have no current relationship to the board or the winning candidate or the region.

A part of me wants to reach out to the person who did get the job and say something along the lines of: “Dear Fergus, Congrats on your new role. I also was competing for this position and I am genuinely looking forward to your success in the community. I have been in a similar role and would be happy to provide any support or perspective as you move forward. My main interest is in x and y across the board. Let me know if you ever want to chat or if you find need of an expert in x and y.”

I am genuinely happy for the person who got the job and I am confident in my own placement potential. But while visiting this community, I did feel like I could add to the narrative and my personal goals align with the nonprofit whether they are paying me or not. I also wonder if there could be a role for me there if they are successful and have new leadership tiers.

On the other hand, I feel like not being offered the job might condemn me to a world of silence in this regard. I don’t want to appear unprofessional by sticking around past the point of invitation or by being the one that won’t go away.

I did have very complimentary discussions after the search with the board. I want to keep doors open with them and the winning candidate. The last thing I want to do is come off as weird, threatening, or emotional.

Yeah, don’t do that; framing it as “I was competing for this position too” is too likely to come across as strange.

However, you could reach out to your main interview contact and say that you’d be thrilled to work with them in a volunteer capacity if that’s ever something that would be helpful to them. Then leave it in their court to follow up with you about or not. (And if they don’t follow up, take that as a “no thank you” and let it go.)

4. How do I ask my boss to let me manage our new hires?

I am currently the sole member of my team, but we’ve recently been given permission to hire two new staff people who will do the same editing work that I do. I have almost four years of experience doing this work (and 15 years in the workforce/as a writer), but have never managed anyone before. I honestly do think I’d do well at it, and it’s something I’d enjoy.

In my goal-setting discussion last year, I told my boss that I would be interested in supervising new staff who do my work, should we get permission to hire them (something my boss has been pushing for). She seemed to think that would be a possibility and said as much. Now, however, the go-ahead to hire has been given and she will handling the hiring process and phone screens before bringing me in for feedback on the short list. Nothing more has been said about the supervising part. My boss sits in an office three hours from me, so I will be sort of the default team lead since the new staff will sit in my location, but I’d like to make it more formal than that if possible.

So now I guess I have to use my words. Do I send an email so it’s in writing saying “I am interested in supervising the team and I think I would be good at it”? Do I do it over the phone? Do I wait until she is here at my location doing the in-person interviews to ask? I’d be happy to take it on on a trial basis just to prove that I would not be a disaster (as the previous supervisor was) … should I say that, too? How the heck do I become a manager?

You work in separate locations, but do you have regular meetings by phone? If so, you should bring it up at the next one (if it’s in the next week or two). You can say it this way: “We’d talked last year about my interest in taking on some management responsibilities. Now that we’re hiring new staff, would you be open to talking about me managing them?”

If you don’t have regular meetings, email her and say this: “We’d talked last year about my interest in taking on some management responsibilities. I’m hoping to set up some time to talk with you about whether that might be possible with the new hires we’re bringing on.”

I don’t think you need to offer to do it on a trial basis (that isn’t necessarily great for the people you’d be managing), but if she seems hesitant, you could ask if she’d be open to putting you in a sort of deputy role, where you’d have formal authority to delegate work and give feedback, while she remained their official manager. That can be a good way to start getting management experience, which can then make it easier to move into a more formal management role in the future (and it can also help you learn how to manage in a lower-stakes context, which can be a good thing).

5. Indicating citizenship on a resume

I’m a U.S.-Canada dual citizen, living in Canada. But my partner just relocated to the U.S., and I’m hoping to join him once my contract here in Canada ends. I’ve been living in Canada for a long time, so all of my education and work experience is from here. I’m worried that U.S.-based employers will toss out my resume if they think they’ll need to sponsor me (I’m a recent grad, not high enough in the ranks to warrant a sponsorship yet). How can I signal to them that I’m legally eligible to work in the U.S.? Is it tacky or inappropriate to include a line on my resume or in my cover letter stating that I’m a citizen?

Nope, it’s super normal to do that when your work history or current location might raise the question. Typically people in your situation will put a line at the top or the bottom of their resume that just says “work authorization: United States citizen.”