are my mentors taking advantage of me?

A reader writes:

I have two people from undergrad that I would consider sponsor/mentors and, today, friends. They were not professors but were employed in my department and I got to know both of them very well throughout my four years. I volunteered for every open house and outreach event for the school, was hired for competitive paid jobs thanks to them, and I have met their families, attended many awards banquets and university events with them, and basically expanded my network thanks to their influence. I am grateful for our relationship, as it helped me grow and stand out in a very large and competitive program.

Fast forward five years: I have been working at a very large (>10,000 employees worldwide) company that hires graduates from my program, as well as similar programs at other colleges. I’ve been promoted within my department, but I am still basically a nobody. These mentors frequently reach out to me with resumes from students looking for internships, which I am happy to pass along if they look like a good fit but I ultimately have no say in whether they receive an offer. They have also asked me to come back and speak at different panels and forums and volunteer events as “a successful graduate,” but all of these events are during work hours and I can’t commit to attending.

When I missed one of these email requests, the mentor wrote on my Facebook wall “are you getting my emails?” rather than calling, texting, or private messaging me. I feel like he was subtly calling me out, but I am not sure if that was his intent. The other mentor has asked me to give him the contact info of a VP in an entirely different department than I work in, which is not allowed per company policy and I told him so. He then asked me to reach out to her directly and ask if she would be a keynote speaker at an upcoming banquet. I have no connection to this VP other than working at the same company and no political weight that would make the request not weird. The mentor has since followed up with me asking if the VP is available, and I really don’t want to but can’t think of a good way to say that other than “this is weird”. If it were a peer I could say no much more easily, but because of their roles as mentors and sponsors I am afraid to appear ungrateful for their sponsorship and mentorship in the past.

I don’t think that either of them is malicious with these requests, but they are asking me to support things that either I logistically cannot, or to do so would put me in a very awkward position. Are they taking advantage of their mentor relationship with me? Or am I taking these requests too personally?

A little too personally, I think, yes!

I think you’re reading these requests as having more pressure attached to them than they really do.

Most of this reads like pretty normal networking, but you’re not obligated to agree to any of it if you don’t want to. It’s okay to say that you can’t attend events during the work day, and it’s okay to say that you don’t have much influence in hiring (it’s also okay to say that a particular resume doesn’t look like the right fit and decline to pass it along at all), and it’s okay to say that you’re not connected enough with that VP to make a request of her. But it’s also okay for your contacts to ask you these things — these are all pretty standard requests that people might make of former mentees/professional contacts/friends.

Generally people make these sorts of requests already knowing that it’s possible that the answer will be no. You won’t be delivering a devastating blow when you decline! But they’re asking because they think you might be interested or willing; they can’t know ahead of time that the logistics won’t work for you. You just need to explain that no, sorry, you can’t do that.

I suspect you were already feeling pressured in an unwelcome way, and so your mentor’s “are you getting my emails?” post on Facebook felt like additional pressure … but I’d read that more as someone just taking the path of least resistance in trying to contact you (or possibly just not being very technically savvy). Unless you know other things about this person that make it likely that it was an attempt to shame you, that probably wasn’t the intent. Mildly annoying, yes, but not more than that.

If the requests are really frequent, then it might make sense to say something like, “Hey, I wanted to let you know that my schedule is crazy right now, so it’s hard for me to say yes to this kind of thing — but I’ll let you know if that changes at some point.” Or, depending on the context, “I can forward along a few resumes a year, but generally not more than that. So will you send me just the top few students who you think are the strongest matches with what we hire for?”

But often you can set your boundaries in the moment, case by case, by matter-of-factly saying no to the things you can’t or don’t want to do, and trusting that your contacts will be okay with that.

can I ask my employees to be nicer?

A reader writes:

I’m a new director at a medium-sized nonprofit that has gone through a hard year. There have been many staff changes in the past year, and I can tell that many within the organization are still struggling to negotiate these changes. Two supervisors who report to me are very unfriendly to me. They give one-word responses most of the time. They don’t say hi or bye unless I really go out of my way. They never ever ask how I’m doing or anything like that, even though I try to initiate pleasantries with them. I don’t think it’s personal — I think they just are not in the habit of cultivating a positive relationship with a superior. Their lack of warmth rarely offends me, but I do think it sends a bad message to the other people in the department for whom they should be setting an example because they’re supervisors.

Can I ask them to be nicer and more mindful of the way they communicate? I will also continue to lead by example by being very friendly and communicating thoroughly. I have never encountered people at any stage of my career who behave with such a lack of awareness for how they interact with their superiors. I think niceness is really important and it’s not about kissing ass or feeling popular; it’s about laying the foundation for productive conversations and a free exchange of ideas. I don’t mean to imply that I would threaten to give them a negative review, but they really need to be aware of the fact that how they communicate, whether they are open with me, and the example they set for their reports are all things that I could consider in a performance review. Would this come across as petty or needy?

I answer this question — and four others — 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.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • How should I fill our daily required meetings?
  • Interviewers who make no effort to sell you on the job
  • My volunteer role has become full-time and I want to be paid
  • Managers and the possessive tense

handling the government shutdown: an open thread for federal employees and contractors

A reader writes:

I’m a longtime lurker. I’m hoping you would be willing to host an open thread for federal employees and federal contractors on handling the government shutdown. No politics allowed of course. Mostly a place to share information and lessons learned from 2013 and instructions for this one. I’ve been told that I’ll go the office for 3-4 hours Monday to shut everything (lights, computers, equipment) down. Then will turn off my gov phone and wait to hear on my personal phone. One of the things I’ll be doing on Monday is making sure I have my most updated copy of my staff’s personal contact info to take home with me.

Consider it done. People impacted by the last shutdown, what advice do you have for people affected by this one? And people affected by this one, ask and share away.

And here’s a piece from 2013 by a regular commenter (thank you, Katie the Fed!) about what not to say to friends who have been furloughed by the government shut-down.

here’s the secret to a professional wardrobe that won’t drain your bank account

And now a word from a sponsor… 

If you want to assemble a professional wardrobe without blowing your bank account, say hello to thredUP. 

thredUP is the largest online thrift store buys and sells high-quality clothing for women and kids. You can shop on-trend, like-new fashion from top name brands and designers for up to 90% off.
90% off is such an enormous discount that we’re not talking about being able to buy one extra shirt; we’re talking about being able to assemble a whole new wardrobe for pennies on the dollar if you wanted to.

They have an enormous selection, and you can search by your favorite brands (like Anthropologie, Ann Taylor, J.Crew, Gap, Banana Republic, DKNY, Cole Haan, Theory, Eileen Fisher, and more) and filter by size, color, price, and style to easily find what you’re looking for, and they add thousands of items every day.

I wasn’t sure originally how comfortable I’d be consignment shopping online where I couldn’t see the quality in person, but the quality of items I’ve gotten there has been consistently excellent. thredUP triple-inspects each item by hand to ensure all clothes are like new, and in fact it’s not uncommon to order from them and have your items arrive so new that the tags are still on them. But if you’re ever unhappy with an item, they also offer easy returns.

To give you a sense of how big these discounts are, in my most recent order I spent a total of $150 and got a huge number of things: a dress and a blazer from Banana Republic; a dress, a blouse, and a skirt from Ann Taylor Loft; a Lands’ End dress; and a silk top from BCBG Max Azria. And that Banana Republic blazer was $3.99, which is … almost free? I saved a total of $589.57 off retail prices.

If you’re ready to do some serious shopping, thredUP is offering Ask A Manager readers a special discount: The first 100 people to use the code MANAGER30 will get an extra 30% off items under $150! (This applies to new U.S. customers only. Applies to items under $150 and redeemable online only.)

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by thredUP. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

my team is flipping out over a thank-you lunch, my new job told me they hired someone else instead, and more

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

1. My team is flipping out and thinks a colleague didn’t deserve to attend a thank-you lunch

My workplace holds an annual conference/event for all of the employees (250+ people). There is a committee in charge of planning and all the logistics. A few people who were on the committee had retired or left for jobs at other places, and the committee was a bit short-staffed. One of the employees in my division, “Meghan,” was asked to join and she accepted (being on the committee is completely voluntary).

Meghan was only on the committee for one month before the event. Everyone else had been on the committee for a full 12 months before the event. The event was a success. Everyone enjoyed it and the directors and members of the C-suite were especially impressed. The CEO held a lunch for the committee to thank them and celebrate the success at a very exclusive restaurant (all paid for by the company).

Meghan went to each of the committee members individually and said that if they weren’t comfortable with her attending the lunch because she was only on the committee for one month prior, she would understand. She was clear she didn’t want to seem like she was stealing the glory from all the work they did before her. Every member individually confirmed it was fine for her to attend. They also confirmed it again at the debriefing meeting they had after the event.

However, after the meeting the committee members (for reasons unknown) are shunning and talking badly of Meghan. They think she should have declined the lunch anyway. The manager of our division is included in this. He has called Meghan delusional for not realizing she “overstepped” after he himself told her to attend. She deferred praise at the lunch because she was only on the committee for a month. There are emails where people told her to come. The committee members saying all kinds of nasty things about her. The majority of the members work in my division. I’m not a manager or supervisor, I’m a lead so I have no authority to tell people to stop. They all think she should have known they were being polite when they told her to go.

It has gotten really bad here. The snipping and vitriol is out of control. I don’t know what to do or where to go since my manager is in on it and he leads our division. Meghan is confused and upset by all this negativity directed at her.

You work with really petty people, and your manager in particular sucks. Even if Meghan hadn’t asked people if she could attend, it would be ridiculous for them to be sniping at her like this — she was on the committee, and it’s reasonable that she attended. And it’s not like she’s taking anything away from them by being there — it’s a lunch, not a pile of money that she’s grabbing an unfair share of. And then throw in that she asked them if it would be appropriate to attend (thus displaying some sensitivity to her shorter tenure) and they all told her yes, and they’re still sniping at her? Over a lunch? They’re being remarkably small-minded and unpleasant.

But it doesn’t sound like you’re in a position to do a lot here since your manager is part of the problem. You can tell your manager and others that you think the reaction to Meghan is unwarranted and point out that she specifically checked with people before attending (and point out that it’s just a lunch — she didn’t steal part of their Grammy or something), and you can push back when you hear people say unkind things, and you can make a point of being kind and supportive to Meghan … and you can take note that you work with people with terrible judgment, and factor that into future decisions. But I think your question is about how to stop this, and it doesn’t sound like you have the power to do that.

2. When I showed up for my first day of work, they told me they’d hired someone else instead

I’m hoping you can help me understand a situation I was in recently. I am a graduate who has been searching for a job for a while. A couple of weeks ago, I landed a great interview with a seemingly good company in my field. The interview went well, and I was asked to come back for a second. That went well also, and the hiring manager (I’ll call her Jane) said they had decided to hire me on a probationary period to see how I do, which I agreed to. Jane also told me that they were hiring for this position because the employee who normally filled it was out on maternity leave, and they did not know when/if she was coming back. So, Jane warned me that I may be out of a job if the former employee decides to return, but I just accepted that as well.

Anyway, the following Monday was to be my first day on the job and I arrived early. When I got there, though, Jane informed me that, unbeknownst to her, someone else in the office (a higher level executive) had already interviewed and hired someone for the position that I supposedly got. And that person was already there. Jane apologized again and said they wouldn’t be needing me after all, so the only thing I could do was leave.

Well, of course there is nothing for me to do now except continue my job search. But I am still very new to all of this, and I don’t have a lot of experience in working a “real” job (only retail). Is this kind of thing common practice for most companies? I understand that no job is secure and they can hire whoever they want, but should I always expect something like this? I am still reeling from embarrassment because my mom told everyone about the “fantastic job” I just landed, and I had to tell everybody that I didn’t get it after all.

No, that’s not at all normal. That’s very, very abnormal — and horribly cavalier of Jane. She could have put you in a situation where you had quit a different job in order to take this one, and it’s lucky that didn’t happen. But this is not the kind of thing you generally need to worry about happening.

3. I’m on a PIP — can I get off it and ask about a promotion?

After being in a nonprofit support role for around two years, I was put on a PIP in November. I attribute a lot of it to being at a satellite office and having a manager who prefers to work from home, which made communication on projects and expectations not the best they could be. I’ve also been pretty vocal about wanting a promotion since about a year in.

I’ve done all of the hard deadlines on the PIP agreement we created, as well as actively trying to integrate the soft deadlines and suggestions (i.e., timely feedback). I know a PIP is usually step one in degradation of trust and doesn’t create a good working environment. However, is there a way to formally remove the PIP and continue to push conversations about promotional opportunities? What is the average timeline that PIPs stay active? In the PIP agreement where we mapped out the action items for improvement, the HR person added language saying that lack of improvement within three months could result in further punishment and/or termination.

A good PIP (performance improvement plan) will have a clear timeline by which improvements must be made and when the manager and employee will reassess the person’s performance and decide whether and how to move forward. It sounds like the timeline in yours might be three months — but PIPs can be all sorts of lengths. Some are as short as two weeks. Some can be as long as six months. If you’re not clear on yours, you can ask something like, “Is there a specific timeline for when you’d like to reassess how things are going in my work?”

But a PIP is a statement that your employer has serious concerns about your performance; it’s generally the last step before firing you. That means that this isn’t the time to push for promotions — they’re thinking about whether or not to fire you, so promotion isn’t anywhere on their radar right now, and you will look very out of touch with that reality if you bring it up (so much so that it could be a strike against them keeping you on at all).

4. Everyone is going to overhear me resigning

I have a question about how to quit. I’m leaving my first post-college job in about a month, and I’m really glad I started reading your blog recently because I was otherwise planning on giving a very long notice period (I’m leaving when my lease ends) and your words convinced me not to!

At any rate, I know giving notice should be face-to-face, but my boss is in a different location than I am. I know the next best situation would be over the phone, but I’m in the middle of a very small office and both of my coworkers (who are far senior to me, but not technically my manager) would probably hear the conversation. Is that something I should be sensitive to? If it matters at all, we also share an office space with a different organization, and they would definitely hear me quitting (and subsequently ask me about it, since we’re sociable), but my coworkers at my organization might not hear me, at least until they hear my conversation with folks from the other organization! I’m sure this has a really simple answer, but I haven’t seen any examples of other people quitting, so I’m not quite sure the best way to approach it.

Yeah, ideally this is a call you’d make in private. It’s not that it’s outrageously sensitive, but it would be a little odd to nonchalantly deliver that news within earshot of a bunch of coworkers. Ideally you’d make the call from a cell phone and do it somewhere else — the stairwell, outside your building, a coffeeshop, or so forth. If you think it’s likely you’ll need to wait for your boss to call you back (and thus you can’t just hang out in the stairwell waiting for that to happen), it’s also okay to say when she first calls, “I want to step out in the stairwell for this call, so give me just a moment to duck out.”

5. Should I invite coworkers to my wedding?

I recently moved to a new team/job at work (six months ago) and I absolutely love them. They have gone above and beyond to help me learn my new job and truly could not have been nicer. I feel really close to them and would love to have them there on my special day. My fiancé thinks it would be weird to have coworkers there since I’ve never hung out with them outside of work (they’re all older than me, with families). Would it be weird to invite them? This is a local wedding so no one would be required to travel or even get a hotel.

It’s really up to you and your fiance! There’s no reason you can’t invite them if you want them there, and some people do indeed invite coworkers to their wedding. The one caveat I’d give is to make sure that people don’t feel like they’re obligated to attend, but that’s true of any wedding invitation.

weekend free-for-all – January 20-21, 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: The Immortalists, by Chloe Benjamin. I’m on an epic family saga kick, ever since Pachinko. This one starts when four siblings in 1969 New York visit a fortune teller who tells them each what day they’ll die, information that hangs over all of them as their lives unfold.

open thread – January 19-20, 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.

employee doesn’t want to work when it snows, interview expense shenanigans, and more

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

1. My employee doesn’t want to work when it snows

I’m a manager in a medium-size nonprofit where I oversee a staff of twelve. Last year one of my employees had attendance problems related to various stressors involving family members, a personal loss, illness, car trouble, winter weather, etc. Some of these stressors were quite significant; others were the sort of thing most of us would power through and handle after our workday was over. Because the employee was stressed overall though, I was supportive and allowed the time off. However, as the year went on it became a real problem. His frequent, last-minute absences or sudden departures halfway through the workday began to have a negative impact on the clientele we help. And since I usually ended up covering for this employee with little or no notice, his absences would keep me from my own work. Using AAM tips, I had a meeting where I advised that we valued him as an employee, but his ongoing pattern of being absent/unavailable to work was affecting the functioning of the organization. I told him going forward he would have to be at work consistently or we would initiate progressive discipline. His attendance improved immediately and hasn’t been a problem — until now.

Today, my employee emailed me that he might not make it to work tomorrow because of a possible snowfall in the forecast. A number of this employee’s absences last year were snow-related, for reasons such as “can’t get out of the driveway” and “the snow is too bad to drive in.” Other employees who live in the same town came to work on those days though, which makes me wonder if my employee is unusually hesitant to drive in snowy weather.

We all know snow is part of life here and we all plan for it. We get up early, shovel ourselves out, brush off our vehicles, leave plenty of extra time to drive in at a safe speed and then … WE GO TO WORK. I don’t expect anyone to drive in crazy-dangerous whiteout conditions by any means, but in routine snowy weather everyone else managed to get here last year except this employee. My question is: can I tell my employee that he should be making some sort of contingency plan for himself so he can get to work in the winter, whether it means getting up early to shovel out, hiring a plow service, putting on snow tires, or whatever makes getting to work possible? I know his finances are tight and some of those solutions might be hard to afford, but it seems to me that getting to work in routine winter weather is a reasonable expectation. Do you have any suggestions about how to handle this problem?

Yes, all of that is reasonable. And it sounds like his own judgment is not well calibrated for figuring out what’s absence-worthy, so you’ve got to be explicit that you don’t consider routine snow a reason to stay home.

It’s very reasonable to say, “I need you to make plans to be able to get to work during routine snowy weather. Certainly in a very rare case of unusually bad weather, driving might not be safe, but in general, most of the time when it snows here, my expectation is that you’ll still come in, like the rest of us do. Is there something going on that is getting in the way of that?” And depending on his answer, you can indeed talk to him about what other people do in order to get to work in the snow — plow services, snow tires, etc.

2. Employer wants a letter from my current job before they’ll reimburse my interview travel expenses

I went on a job interview in December out of town, and the prospective employer will not reimburse my travel expenses without a letter from my current employer stating I was not on company time. Is this a common request? If I ask this from my current HR, they are going to know I went on an interview and this is not something they would take well at all.

No, that is not normal at all. And it’s very weird — are they trying to ensure that you weren’t on a company-paid business trip when you came to their town to interview with them? The chances of that happening are fairly low, and it’s a particularly odd thing for them to be hung up on.

You should be able to say to them, “My current employer doesn’t know I’m interviewing and telling them that before I’m ready to leave could jeopardize my job, which obviously isn’t a risk I can take. When I flew out to interview with you, it was with the understanding that you’d be covering my travel expenses and I certainly hope you’ll follow through on that agreement.”

3. Recruiter contacts me over and over again for the same job, then ignores me

A few years ago, I worked a temporary clerical position that paid better than any other in my area. I did well there and received good feedback from my managers.

The company contracts clerks for the same position at least twice a year through the same staffing agency. The first time I was hired, a family friend recommended me to the recruiter and I did a 10-minute phone interview that only asked about my availability before I was told when to show up for training. The recruiter had the final say in who was hired.

Since my contract with the company ended, the same recruiter has contacted me at least six times via text message to ask if I wanted to work that job again. Each time I’ve responded within an hour that I would and emailed the her my resume. Each time she has gone completely silent and never responded to my follow-up emails or texts, only to contact me and begin the cycle again the next time the company is hiring for the position.

I’m hesitant to ask her to stop this in case I do get the job at some point, but this behavior seems very strange to me. Is there a polite way to ask why she keeps contacting me if she has no intention of hiring me? I’d like to know if I’m doing something wrong.

I suspect that when she has a position to fill, she’s emailing a bunch of people to see if they’re interested. She then does her 10-minute phone interview with the first couple of people she hears from, hires one of them, and ignores everyone else who responded. This is a rude way to operate, but it’s not uncommon. People who do it are doing it because it’s more efficient for them to put out a whole bunch of feelers all at once rather than contacting people one at a time … but she should be getting back to you to let you know the role is no longer available and it’s rude that she’s not. But it’s also really, really common for some recruiters.

4. Rejecting good early-stage candidates when we’ve just filled the position

I’m hiring for a marketing role that has taken 3+ months to fill. We’re very close to closing on Jane, a promising candidate, but I’ve continued to review applications and phone screen in the meantime. You never know what’s going to happen!

There are several recent applicants who have passed the phone screen. If we close on Jane, I’ll need to tell these other candidates that we’re not moving forward with them. They’re good candidates and if the timing were different (or I had more roles open right now), I’d move them forward. How exactly do I word that email?

You don’t have to explain all of that, but if you want to, you could say it this way: “Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me about our llama groomer position. I thought you were a strong candidate and was excited to continue talking with you, but the timing ended up not being ideal — we just offered the position to someone who’s accepted it. But I’d love to keep you in mind if we have similar openings in the future, and I’ll plan to contact you if that happens.” If you’re unlikely to have similar openings any time soon, you could replace that last sentence with, “I really appreciate your interest in our work, and I hope our paths might cross again in the future.”

5. Can our pay be docked if we don’t turn in our time sheets?

I’m an exempt employee working for a midsize company in Dallas, TX, and within the department I work for, we’re required to submit a weekly time sheet. I’m pretty good about doing this, but some of my coworkers are not. That recently prompted our boss to send out an email threatening to deny PTO to anyone who was behind on their time sheets, and in some cases, to dock their pay. He indicated in his email that he had spoken to HR about this, but docking people’s pay sounds fishy to me — especially since his boss was not included on the email he sent us. Everyone on our team is exempt, and I was under the impression that exempt employees could not have their pay docked except for very specific reasons.

Is my boss threatening us with something illegal, and if so, is there something I should do about it?

Yep. He can’t dock anyone’s pay — whether they’re exempt or non-exempt — for not submitting time sheets. Exempt employees can’t have their pay docked except in a small number of very specific circumstances (and this isn’t one of them), and non-exempt employees must be paid for all hours worked, time sheet or no time sheet.

You could respond to him by saying, “We’re actually not allowed to dock exempt employees’ pay except in the circumstances described here and could get into a lot of trouble if we do — we could lose our exemption for anyone whose pay is docked and end up owing them overtime, as well as fines.” You could also just go straight to HR about this, framing it as “I’m concerned there’s been a misunderstanding here and that we’d be running afoul of the law.”

is there a best time to send rejection letters?

A reader writes:

Is there a standard for when to send out rejection letters? I deal with a lot of hiring in my job and I usually know as soon as I review a resume or hold an interview whether or I’m going to reject someone, but I have always figured that people don’t want to receive a rejection notice within hours of leaving a job interview, so I wait a few days.

A friend recently told me that she never rejects people on Fridays because it will be a bad start to their weekend and that she held a lot of rejections for longer than normal last month because she didn’t want to send them close to Christmas. Personally, I’d always rather know whether or not I had a job sooner, rather than having the employer worry about things like that. But is there a standard practice on timing these?

There’s never really a good time to reject people.

I’ve heard people complain that they were rejected right before a holiday weekend. I’ve heard people complain that they were rejected right after a holiday weekend. I’ve heard people complain that they were rejected too quickly, and people who complain that the rejection took too long.

All you can really do is strive for a timeline that feels reasonable to you. I do what you do — I often know right away that I’m going to reject someone, but I wait a few days (usually between three days and a week) before sending the rejection email. It’s still getting them an answer reasonably quickly, but if it’s faster than that, some people think you didn’t fully consider their candidacy or feel stung, like you’re saying “you’re so terrible that I didn’t even need time to think about this.”

But beyond that, I don’t think you need to worry too much. I mean, I would not send someone a rejection on Christmas — and in fact, it’s probably good practice to only send rejections on regular business days, at least if you’re in a job with standard business hours. But I don’t think you need to make the entire last two weeks of December rejection-free or worry about sending rejections on Fridays. That’s going into a level of managing other people’s emotions that isn’t required (and really, there’s no way to know if you’re dealing with someone who would rather just hear the news immediately or someone who will appreciate your delicacy around their imminent weekend).

The important thing here is that you’re sending them. Far too many employers don’t bother to send them at all, and that’s inexcusably rude.

I don’t think I’d be good at the job I’m interviewing for

A reader writes:

How can I stop myself from focusing on the aspects of a job I know I won’t be good at?

The organization has contacted me for an interview, which means they think I’m qualified. But I’m scared they’re going to smell my fear — fear that they’re interviewing someone for a public-facing position who really would prefer hiding in a back room and being behind the scenes.

There are many detail-oriented parts of the job that I know I’d be good at, like proofreading documents, doing social media, and putting together promotional materials like flyers and newsletters. It’s just the reception and customer service part that I’m scared of. I wouldn’t really say I’m a people person. I’m pretty introverted, and though no one would say I’m unfriendly or sour, I’m afraid I’m just not a front desk personality. I also become short-circuited if too many things are going on at once — I prefer to work at my own pace.

I keep trying to tell myself that I would probably be okay with these aspects of the job once I’m trained and I’ve gotten used to those duties, but then I tell myself, “No! You’d suck at it!”

Does it sound like I really shouldn’t be trying to do this type of work considering my temperament? But there is no perfect job, and this has a good salary range and is in a library, and I have a library background. I feel like I can’t afford to sabotage myself.

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.