weekend free-for-all – July 14-15, 2018

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.)

Book recommendation of the week: Less, by Andrew Sean Greer. Desperate to be away when his ex-boyfriend gets married (and not thrilled about his impending 50th birthday), a novelist decides to accept every invitation to out-of-town literary events that come his way. Beautifully written, smart, and funny.

record a question for the Ask a Manager podcast

There are now two ways to ask a question on the  Ask a Manager podcast:

1. If you want to come on the show yourself to discuss your question with me in real time, email your question to podcast@askamanager.org. The advantage of this option is that we get to have lots of back and forth and refine the advice to make sure it works for your situation. We record over Skype and it’s quite easy.

2. If you just want your question to be answered on the show, but don’t want to come on yourself, you can record your question on the show voicemail at 855-426-WORK (855-426-9675). Any question you leave there might be played and answered on a future show. This is a good option for questions that seem shorter/simpler (stuff like the daily “short answer” posts), or if you’re just not up for lots of back and forth or having so much focus directed on you.

open thread – July 13-14, 2018

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.

how confidential are job searches, I’m the office nail trimmer, and more

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

1. How confidential are job searches?

My question is about job searching when you’re already employed. Considering people are well connected to each other in many industries, how confidential are job searches, really? I’ve been applying and get the feeling that my employer knows! I’m suddenly offered a promotion and given several other perks/recognition unrelated to the promotion. Do contacts give each other a heads-up?

If they’re ethical, no. Job searches are generally understood to be confidential, and thoughtful people understand that they could jeopardize your current job by revealing to your employer that you’re job searching.

That said, certainly not everyone is thoughtful or ethical, and it is possible that someone could share the information with a contact, without realizing or caring about the position they’re putting you in. (PSA to hiring managers: This is terrible behavior! Do not do this, even if you’re sure your contact will handle the information well. It’s not your info to share, and you’re abusing the trust that you’re asking applicants to place in you!)

2. My boss overshares her personal life to an uncomfortable degree

I recently started a new temp job. The office is small and disorganized, but it’s mostly a fine work environment. Except that my supervisor is a wild oversharer. I’m also an oversharer, so when I say she goes too far even for me? It means something. She shares things with me I won’t repeat here, both because of the sheer amount of private detail she gave me and because some of it could easily be triggering. These are things she should be seeing a therapist about, or at the least talking with a close friend.

Not with the temp.

It started on my first day and as it was my first day and the power dynamics between temporary employee and supervisor are such that I have … not very much, I just sat there and made sympathetic noises. I’m not alone with her often, so it took a couple weeks for it to happen again. But it did. And I made some more sympathetic noises and reminded myself the job would be over in a few weeks.

I don’t know if she does this with other employees, or just me. For whatever reason, it’s not uncommon for strangers to open up to me about their life stories and problems. Normally I don’t mind, but I’m at work and the detail she goes into has been frankly inappropriate.

This job only goes to the end of the month. It might never happen again, and then I’ll be gone. Other than this, she’s kind and and supportive, and has given me projects designed to help me learn new skills for my resume as she knows I’m seeking permanent employment. She also, frankly, is going through a VERY rough time. (Trust me. I know all about it.)

Since I’m not here much longer, I don’t know if it’s worth it to talk to her about the behavior or to go to someone else about it, though please tell me if you think I should. I’ve never had problems in a workplace and am pretty unfamiliar with the appropriate steps for different issues. As a Step One, could you suggest possible escape routes if I get caught being her therapist again?

If you weren’t about to leave, you might need to find a more direct approach, but since you’ve just got a couple more weeks, I think you can exempt yourself from having to have a very awkward conversation about this and instead just look for ways to extract yourself if it happens again. For starters, I’d find reasons to physically exit the conversation when it takes such a personal turn — for example, excuse yourself to go to the bathroom or get something to drink. Or, if your job involves phone work, you suddenly have some calls to make. Or, if you can say it credibly, you can try, “Wow, that sounds really tough. I’m sorry you’re going through it. Well, I better get back to these reports — I want to make sure I meet the deadline.” Or even, “That’s awful — I’m so sorry! Hey, while I have you, can I ask you about (work question)?” That last one might sound a little callous, but really, what she’s doing is not appropriate, given that the power dynamics make you a captive audience, and it’s okay to steer her back to where she should be.

3. I’m the office nail trimmer

I have a compulsive habit regarding my fingernails and cuticles. I’ve had this habit since a very young age. It started as nail chewing, but thankfully I kicked that habit in early middle school. Keeping them painted was useful, even though painted nails are really not my thing. For the past 10+ years, the compulsion has manifested in picking at the skin surrounding my fingernails.

I’m working on killing this skin-picking habit, but it’s been about 20 years in the making and I hardly ever realize I’m doing it, so it’s not easy. Because of this, I’ve started using a cuticle clipper (looks just like a normal nail clipper, but the edges are curved differently) to satisfy this urge in a way that’s safer and tidier for my fingers, and it seems to be helping me be more aware of when the compulsion strikes, since I have to reach for a tool instead of mindlessly fidgeting. The problem is that now when I feel the need to do this at work, it’s way more obvious than when it had just looked like I was fidgeting.

I have my own office with a door that closes, so I always do that, but the outer wall and the door to my office are glass. I am conscientious of trying to put the clippers away when I hear someone coming by (the glass isn’t terribly soundproof), but occasionally I’ll miss it. I worry I’m grossing people out, but don’t want to go back to picking with my hands. What say you?

The fact that you have an office with a door is hugely helpful here, even though the door is glass. Being seen occasionally clipping a nail in your office with the door closed isn’t a huge deal. If they see you in there doing it all the time, yes, it’s going to look odd, but if you’re mostly stopping when you see through the glass that someone’s approaching, you’re probably fine.

4. My boss is requiring me to greet him

At work we are under some tight deadlines. I was unfortunately called away for a week. While I could not come in to work during the day, I decided to come in to the office to pick something up to help me do work at home. I was tired, didn’t want to talk with anyone, and was hoping to get in and out without any conversation if possible. However, my boss noticed me and while on my way out called me into his office. He told me that as the boss he expects me to say hello to him. Not that it would be nice, but it’s expected. I can understand exchanging pleasantries in the morning out of politeness. But to require it of your subordinates seems excessive. In the case above, I just wanted to get in and out. On other days if I am there first and busy with projects I don’t necessarily want to stop what I am in the middle of just to give a required hello.

I know to some, this may seem rude or petty, or some may even view it as not being a team player. However, I find it irritating to stop my train of thought and interrupt my work flow to exchange pleasantries. I know I’m not the only one who feels that way. Anyway, the question I have is, can my boss really REQUIRE me to say hello to him?

Sure. He can also require you to wear only blue or to sing him a lullaby as a condition of keeping your job if he wants to. All of those things would make him an ass and a ridiculous person, but employers can set any conditions of employment they want as long as they’re not explicitly illegal (for example, as long as they’re not rooted in discrimination based on race, sex, religion, disability, or other protected class, or as long as they don’t subject you to sexual harassment, etc.).

Your boss is being A Bit Precious by requiring you to greet him, but it’s a minor enough thing that you’re better off just greeting him, while internally rolling your eyes that he’s requiring this.

5. Should I send a cover letter even if a job posting doesn’t ask for one?

I was reading the job description for an internship. It ended with “please send your resume to Firstname Lastname at email@address.com.” There was no mention of a cover letter or other documents to send. It did not say to not send a cover letter either. I was wondering if I should add a cover letter with my resume in those circumstances. Some advice I saw said that if they do not explicitly say to not send one, I should send a cover letter even if it’s not requested, to stand out as a candidate. Other advice said to not add the cover letter, as it might look like I cannot follow instructions and that the recruiter or hiring manager would have asked for a cover letter if they wanted one.

I opted to send my resume with a very short paragraph in the body of the email with the main points I usually underline in my cover letters that are not apparent from my resume alone. I would like to know what you think would have been the best thing to do.

Unless they specifically say not to send a cover letter, send a cover letter. Lots of hiring managers read and are influenced by cover letters, but whatever job posting system their company is using neglects to ask for one. It’s a very rare hiring manager who will penalize someone for including an unsolicited cover letter, since they’re such a standard part of a job application. It’s not like you’re sending a poem or a link to a future performance review you’ve written for yourself, which would indeed be odd and a turn-off. You’re just including a normal part of an application.

interviewer wants me to write a fake performance review for my future self

A reader writes:

I am currently in the running for a position I think could be an excellent fit for my career, and I for the company. As part of the interview process, they have asked me to complete a performance review. Basically, I am supposed to pretend that I have been at the company three months and fill out a review based on what I have achieved, what I want to achieve going forward, my strengths, and areas of opportunity. After speaking with the hiring manager, this is meant to get a grasp on my writing skills and self assessment, but I am really at a loss for where to begin. I have the job description and after the phone interview I have a pretty good idea of the position, but I just don’t know where to start!

You’re not sure where to start because this is ABSURD. It’s one thing to ask you to talk about your plan for your first three months (frankly even that often isn’t rooted in a ton of reality, but it’s at least a more reasonable question), but asking you to assess your future hypothetical self on work that hasn’t happened yet is in the realm of … fan fiction. They’re asking you to write fan fiction about yourself.

Is this someone you really want to work for? At a minimum this is a warning sign that they don’t know how to hire, and it may also be a warning about their critical thinking.

If you really want the job and aren’t deterred by this silliness, you might as well indulge in the rampant speculation that’s being requested and fill it out as if you’ve had an outstanding three months. Take a look at the goals of the position and whatever knowledge you gained in the interview about how your success would be measured, and have at it. Keep it reasonably realistic so that you don’t look comically out of touch, but look at it as a chance to reflect back your understanding of what a successful initial performance would look like and what the challenges of the role are likely to be.

But seriously, this is pretty silly. If they want to see your writing skills and ability to self-assess in action, there are easy, obvious ways to do that: they can have you do a job-related writing exercise, and they can ask you to self-assess work you’ve already done.

my employee says her errors are just “enthusiasm”

A reader writes:

I have a new employee who just finished grad school but is not new to work because she worked a few years between college and grad school. Some of the people we work with have been put off by her behavior.

She is asking a lot of questions in meetings and making a lot of suggestions about things she knows nothing about yet, rather than sitting back a bit, listening, and learning.

She seems to believe that everything has to be done quickly and does not check her work before giving me a “finished” product that has not been checked for errors or to see if it looks okay. As a result, I am getting a lot of things that are not finished enough for me to review them and have to give them back a couple of times. In addition, her writing skills are substantially below what I would expect from someone with her level of education, but she does not take feedback on her writing well.

She has also taken it upon herself to do some things I told her I would do and offended a couple of good clients in the process. She annoyed these clients enough that they mentioned it to me.

When I have spoken to her about these issues, she has said she is enthusiastic and just wants to get things done. She always uses the term “enthusiastic” to describe what comes across as pushiness. I am planning on sitting down with her and nicely telling her that this behavior is not productive. However, how much should I invest in a new employee with what seems to be ingrained behavior?

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

is it better to love my job or love the money?

Per Thursday tradition, I’m throwing this letter out to readers to weigh in on:

I’m a writer, and I like what I do. I know how lucky I am to be in a job that many others would kill for. And I’m alright at it, I guess. I’ve written for some good UK publications. But I know I’m not the best. I’ve previously had interviews at places like Elle and Grazia but have never progressed any further. I know how competitive this industry is and I know that there’s always going to be someone who’s better than me.

I’ve been in the journalism industry for three years and in all my positions, I have never been promoted (that could be because I haven’t been at the companies long enough). I currently earn £26,000 in the job I’m in and have been there for around 3-4 months. I took a small pay cut to move from my previous writing job, which I hated. But it’s hard to survive in London on £26,000, and as I approach 30, I just feel like I should be earning more.

My partner and I are trying to save for a house and so I’m left with very little money at the end of the month. When I hang out with my non-writer friends who earn a lot more than me, I get jealous. They can afford to go on fancy holidays and have plenty of weekend city breaks. They live in nice flats and fill it with nice furniture. They go out for dinner on a weekly basis and are able to buy nice bottles of wine when we meet for a drink. I can’t do any of these things, because I never have any money.

I have one friend who is a bid writer. The job sounds terribly dull and office-y. But three months ago she was on £30k. Now, she’s moved up to £50k. She’s been there less than a year. She has told me that if I wanted to make the switch, I’m pretty much guaranteed to get in with a company, as they’re always looking for ex-journalists.

I guess what I’m asking is: Is it really worth doing a job you love, if you can’t afford to have a life outside of it? And is it ok to work purely for the money? Or will I regret leaving a job that is more fun, for something that will likely be stuffy and corporate?

As I progress through my late twenties, my priorities feel like they’re changing. I want to be able to go on holidays with my partner where we don’t have to worry about how we’ll live for the rest of the month. I’d like to buy a nice house and live a comfortable life. But I love lifestyle journalism, and I’m worried that I could be giving up on the thing I dreamed of doing since I was young. What if I hated something more corporate? I imagine it would be incredibly hard to get back into journalism – it’s hard enough to survive when you’re already in it. But what if i never progress in journalism and remain on less than £30k for years? Even now, it’s almost too hard to live that way.

Readers, what’s your take?

employee is pushing for a job she’s not qualified for, my boss sent me a job posting from another organization, and more

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

1. My employee won’t stop pushing for a job she’s not qualified for

My boss, who oversees the entire division, is hiring for an opening on another team. “Elizabeth,” an employee I manage, wants the job. She has no experience and doesn’t have the education or certification required for it. If she were given the job it would be like hiring a person who never went to law school, never passed the bar exam, and never set foot in a law firm to be a lawyer. My boss is looking externally since no one who works here is qualified. The job wasn’t posted internally but Elizabeth still applied for it and she also emailed her resume and cover letter to my boss and HR. She was immediately rejected since she isn’t qualified. HR explained why she wouldn’t be considered for the job. She emailed HR telling them she disagreed with them and she has emailed my boss asking him to reconsider. She thinks showing initiative and being a quick learner is enough when it isn’t. Besides an internship when she was in university, this is her first job.

I’ve tried explaining to Elizabeth why she can’t have the job but she still wants it. My boss is getting fed up with her badgering him and he wants me to make her stop it. I don’t know how since she won’t listen to anyone who says she can’t have the job. It may seem obvious but I am out of ideas.

“I know HR explained to you that you don’t meet the minimum qualifications for this job. Bob is on board with that decision as well. That’s not a decision that’s going to change. You’ve continued to raise this despite that explanation, and it’s becoming a distraction from our work. You can’t continue to approach Bob or anyone else about this, and I need to know you understand that.”

If she pushes back, say this: “Continuing to push after you’ve been told this isn’t a possibility is raising pretty serious concerns about your judgment. This isn’t something we can continue to spend time on. If I hear that you’ve continue to approach people about the job after this conversation, I’ll consider that a pretty serious problem.”

Also, how’s her work and her judgment aside from this? This behavior is weird enough that I suspect this isn’t the only sign of trouble with her, and you might need to take on any other issues with her more head-on as well.

2. My boss sent me a job posting at another organization

I’ve been working at an arts organization for 4.5 years straight out of college. The workplace is somewhat dysfunctional, but we’re fundamentally a small family. Yesterday my boss asked if I would be interested in what is essentially a dream position at a much larger and well-known arts organization, and of course I said yes.

She said it was in no way an indication that she wanted me to leave, but I’m not so sure. I have doubts that I would even be the most qualified person for the job, so if I don’t get it, I’m worried that I would need to find a new place to work anyway. Additionally, the person my boss sent my CV to is her friend, so in the event I do get the job, I wonder if there would be any issues negotiating salary, etc. since she can easily ask my current boss about what I’m making here. I know it’s bad practice to look a gift horse in the mouth, but I can’t help but feel like I should have declined. Is this a common practice? How do people deal with this sort of thing?

The more I think about it, the more I wonder if it’s a nice way of telling me she wants to fire me. When I sent her my CV, she responded with some tips on how to make it better for the future. I know that it could genuinely be her looking out for me, but it seems really weird! Am I crazy for being so sketched out?!

This isn’t that weird!

It’s possible that it’s your boss trying to push you out, but that’s pretty unlikely. It sounds like she’s just looking out for you — she learned about an opening that she thought might interest you and she told you about it. Some managers do that, and it doesn’t mean they’re trying to get rid of you; it just means they’re not territorial about you, and that’s a good thing.

There’s no reason to think you’d need to find another job if you don’t get this one; you can just tell her that it didn’t work out, but you’re okay with it because you’re happy where you are. She’s not going to assume you were actively seeking to leave, because she knows that’s not how this came about.

As for negotiating salary, it’s possible that the new employer could get info on your current pay from your manager, but you shouldn’t let that freak you out. It might not happen, and regardless, you can negotiate based on the market rate for the new job, not what you’re getting at the old one.

3. Is it normal to advertise for a replacement before someone knows they’re being fired?

I have a question about the act of firing someone. I am a copywriter for a small agency and there is a trend in my office that disturbs me. My boss has repeatedly put up hiring ads to replace my coworkers without telling them that he’s planning on firing them or giving any warning. Thrice my coworkers have found the job postings online and were horrified and devastated to realize they were being replaced. Every time I believed my colleagues were hard working and of good character, and were being blamed for other flaws in the business.

I find this extremely heartless and sneaky. However, this is my first job out of college so I’m not sure what’s “normal.” Is my boss a snake? Or is it normal to quietly try to replace your employees while they’re still working for you? I find it weird that he tries to overlap so that there’s no time with someone empty in my coworker’s seat. I feel on edge like I could be next any minute, that if I googled the company name I’ll find an ad for a copywriter job. Am I overreacting, or is this business?

You’re not overreacting. This is a underhanded way of going about replacing people, and it’s not the norm. It’s unfair to the people being fired, and it’s generally going to seem shady to the people applying once they realize the entire interview process has to be kept under wraps. It’s an excellent way to destroy trust with his other employees too, since they’ll see this happening and realize that it could happen to them at some point.

And it’s even worse if your boss is gearing up to fire people without having had straightforward conversations with them about his concerns about their work, and without conveying to them the seriousness of the problems and what they needed to do to improve. It’s possible that he does have those conversations since you wouldn’t necessarily know if he did, but I’m inclined to think that he doesn’t, based on the rest of this and the fact that he seems overall quite cowardly.

4. Our coffee system is stressing me out

I work in a small office of between 10-15 people, and somebody is always getting Starbucks, or ordering lunch, etc. It’s been the custom to ask around the office if anyone else would like a drink or food, even if that means the asker is collecting eight or more coffees at Starbucks and bringing them back for distribution. Most people offer to go and collect food as often as they ask someone else to grab something for them, so it’s a fair system. Sometimes we order delivery using an app — free to download and easy to use, and no one has to leave the office and struggle back with a bunch of orders.

Here’s the issue: it’s getting out of control. When I pick up a coffee for myself before work, there’s semi-joking, semi-serious talk of “Where’s my coffee?” as though I’m selfish for getting coffee just for myself. If I run to the corner store for a soda, I hear cries of “Why didn’t you ask me what I wanted?”

Additionally, there’s one woman in the office who doesn’t have a driver’s license or a car, so she can’t offer to pick anything up, but she is always eager to have people get her something when they go and never offers to help collect the drinks/food. She often goes office to office asking what people are doing for lunch, and immediately asking them to bring her something if they say they’re going out.

Today she came to my office asking if/where I was going for lunch. I replied that I was going out to grab something, and she “put in her order” as expected. I offered for her to come with me and order her own food; she said that she couldn’t afford the time away from her desk. That’s fine — I was going anyway and I know she’s busy. She leaves my office … and returns shortly with other orders from other people. She had asked several other coworkers if they wanted anything, although she had no intention of coming with me and hadn’t asked me if I was willing to order for the office.

Am I being oversensitive? I hate being volunteered for things without being asked; I already know that it’s a sore spot for me. I don’t want to be rude, but it seems like some people feel increasingly entitled to delivery service. Is there a nice way to say “I’m going to grab lunch, and I’m not taking orders”?

I don’t think you’re being oversensitive, but it also sounds like this is just the culture of your office. It sounds like the chore is more or less being shared, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with having this system; it just doesn’t work well for you.  (The exception is your non-reciprocating coworker, who we’ll get to in a minute.)

In response to the “why didn’t you get me anything?” chorus, you can just say, “Sorry! I was in a hurry!” or “My hands were pretty full.” Don’t treat it like it’s a big deal or a serious complaint. That will probably go over fine.

But unlike everyone else, your non-reciprocating coworker isn’t putting in her share of labor, so I’d handle her differently. When she tries to give you a lunch order without you offering, it’s fine to say, “Oh, I can’t bring anything back today.” You don’t need to give an explanation for that, but if you want to, you can say, “I’ve got to do some other errands afterwards” or “I need to get back ASAP” or “I’ve already got more orders than I can easily juggle.” You could also pointedly add, “But you can come with me and help me carry things if you want.”

And at some point, you should try, “Hey, could you be the one who goes today? I’ve been getting it a lot and I think it’s your turn.” (That won’t work if she’s senior to you, but if she’s not, have at it.)

5. How much editing should I do?

I’ve recently started a six-month rotation at a new office as part of a fellowship program I am in. The job is mainly data analysis and visualization, and my coworkers are mainly people who focus on data analysis and web development. I like the job and my coworkers, and am looking forward to this six month stint. I might even try to turn it into a permanent position, though that is not my main goal at the time.

One of the first tasks I’ve been given is to do a final edit on a report that we will be publishing soon. The instructions were to do a thorough proofread for grammar, typos, spelling, make sure all the numbers match the results, and check language and tone consistency. I’m doing this, and making edits based on those instructions. However, the writing style is one that I find quite poor. I have a lot of writing experience — I have an PhD in a social science field, and my previous jobs included writing long reports. My writing style has been complimented by all of my previous supervisors, and my most recent supervisor turned to me for all writing-related questions. But my writing skills are not what I was hired for in this job, and I don’t know how much style editing I should do. Even if I simply limited the edits to fixing places where the style made the substance less clear, it would be a lot of changes. I don’t want to start out this job by being the person who tells her colleagues their writing style is poor.

Should I just stick to proofreading and basic editing, or should I also suggest edits to style?

You should ask! Some people will welcome style edits and some people won’t. But it’s a reasonable question to pose to whoever assigned you the work. You could also do style edits on one or two pages and use that as an example of what you’re asking about, saying something like, “I made some suggestions on these pages, but didn’t want to do it throughout before I knew if you’d want those sorts of edits as well.” That’s particularly helpful because it can be hard for someone to say “yes, do more editing” without first seeing if they like the types of edits you’d be making.

But if for some reason you can’t ask — if the person is unavailable all week or something like that — then stick to just the literal instructions you were given and skip the style editing. In that case, it’s better to err on the side of just following the instructions rather than do something they might not want.

I don’t have enough work for my employees and it’s stressing me out

A reader writes:

I am the owner of a small business and responsible for my team of three employees. As a tour operator, our work is seasonal, with a very busy period for seven months of the year and little to do for the other five.

During the quiet period, I feel a huge amount of stress to create work for the employees to keep them busy. So much so, it interferes with the quality of work I produce (I take care of sales for the tour operator and community directly with clients; the employees look after the operational side of things).

I dread going into my workplace every morning having enough work only for one employee, knowing the other two would be sitting there twiddling their thumbs. It gets me all panicky and I know that for them, it must be boring and demotivating.

The workload is such that one employee would be sufficient during the quiet months, with three at our peak. I have thought about seasonal employees but don’t think this would be a good fit for our small business. Sourcing and training new staff members every year would be a drain of my time and money.

I have researched into the problem and know that many suggest getting other tasks out of the way that normally don’t get accounted for, such as filing and organizing. We’ve done all that at the beginning of the slow season and now I’m at a loss as to what to projects to give them. So much so, I gave everyone a month off in the middle of the slow season just to give myself a break from the stress of it.

I wish I could relax a little and enjoy the slow season before things get mad again later in the year, but every day I now dread going into work and having to pluck out of thin air things for the employees to do. It would be a lot more productive for me to use that time developing the business. What do I do?

You were on the right track with that one-month vacation. Do more of that!

If you don’t need them there right now … let them not be there.

If there are five months of the year where you really only need one person and you don’t want to hire seasonally — and thus you need to pay people year-round even if you can’t keep them busy — why not let them take more time off? A lot more time off?

If you divided this five-month period evenly, you’d need each of the three people to work about seven weeks during that time. The remaining time would be a huge amount of paid time off to offer … but you’re paying them as it is right now, and having to devise ways to occupy them is making your life worse. The whole point of paying people is to help your business and make your life easier. If you’re going to pay them regardless, why not structure it in a way that doesn’t make things harder on you?

Plus, you’ll likely to be able to attract and retain really strong people if you’re offering that much paid vacation per year.

I know that it might sound crazy to give people three months of paid vacation a year. But really, you are already paying them for months where you don’t need them, and if that’s the model that’s right for you, why not make it easier on you (and awesome for them)?

If you did this, you’d want to talk to a lawyer about creating a contract that protects you — so that you don’t have people taking the months of paid vacation and then quitting right when they’re supposed to come back. But a lawyer can help you structure it so that you’re both protected and everyone’s being fair with each other.

Aside from this, though, how about enlisting your employees in helping solve the problem? They’re probably aware that you’re trying to scrounge up work for them, and they might even feel uneasy about that (since they may not know that you’re committed to keeping them year-round and may worry that at some point you’re going to realize there’s not enough work and lay them off). Also, it sucks to feel like you’re being given busy work. Lay out the problem for them and ask for their ideas. Who knows — they might have great ideas about ways to use their time that you haven’t thought of, or they might have creative approaches to the time off question so that it’s not as extreme as what I’m proposing. But even if they don’t, they’ll likely appreciate a straightforward conversation, and it’ll be interesting to get their perspective. (And maybe they’ll tell you, “Hey, we will happily read and watch YouTube all day — if you’re cool with us doing that until you need us, problem solved.”)

the lazy coworker — with Han and Matt Know It All

On the latest episode of the Ask a Manager podcast, I talked with Han and Matt of Han and Matt Know It All, which is a very fun and useful podcast about advice columns. We talked about all sorts of things, including what it’s like for them to do a podcast as spouses, and we answered several letters together, including one from someone who’s friends with a very lazy coworker and wondering if she has an obligation to intervene and one about diet talk at work. We also revisited the recent letter here from someone wondering whether to date his boss’s daughter.

It’s 33 minutes long, and you can listen on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever else you get your podcasts (or here’s the direct RSS feed). Or you can listen right here: