my boss asked a reference-checker to move my start date, creepy coworkers, and more

by Ask a Manager on July 16, 2013

It’s tiny answer Tuesday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. My boss asked a reference-checker to move my start date

A potential employer called my immediate supervisor that I had listed as a reference. have been very open with my boss about my job search, which means that I will be relocating to a different state. During the reference call, my boss asked the potential supervisor if she would move the start date to at least August 15 if she hired me. Does his asking that question hurt my chances for employment with this company? I emailed the potential supervisor to let her know again that the original start date is not an issue for me, as my company only requires 2 weeks notice.

Nah, it shouldn’t, especially since you followed up to let the manager know that the start date you’d talked about still worked. Your current manager was really out of line in doing that though.

2. My manager and I disagree about a department restructure

With a leadership change at the large nonprofit where I work, we have the opportunity to restructure some of our positions. My supervisor and I have differing philosophies about whether changes are warranted and I’m interested in how you weigh in. I have a large number of direct reports, all of whom have the title of “widget maker,” but about a third are “senior” widget makers. They all have the same responsibilities in general, but senior widget makers are assigned to larger departments where more widgets are needed. Their salaries, on average, are about 30% higher than the “junior” widget makers. Needless to say, when a senior widget maker resigns, I can be sure that at least one junior widget maker will apply for the job. In the past several years, every senior position has been filled by someone who was promoted. While it can be exhausting when the resolution to one search means starting another search, I’m satisfied with the structure because I’m happy to be able to reward good employees with a promotion.

My supervisor, on the other hand, wants to flatten the structure and make everyone a plain ol’ widget maker with the higher salary of a senior widget maker (we may have a one-time chance to increase base pay to make this happen). She’s sick of people leaving their positions after three years and wants to take away the incentive to move within the organization. I’m not sure that flattening the widget maker unit will accomplish this. My theory is that after a period of time, employees start to get itchy, even if they make a good salary — maybe they want a new challenge, maybe they want the recognition that comes with a better title, maybe their salary doesn’t feel like it’s enough anymore — and unfortunately, salary increases (beyond across-the-board cost of living increases) only come with promotions at our organization. Widget makers are in demand in our city. I feel that if we can offer at least some people a promotion, we keep them around a few more years and benefit from their institutional knowledge. Also, other junior widget makers feel like their may be a chance for them to move up. I haven’t challenged my supervisor about this because it’s all just been theoretical until the last couple of weeks. Now, it looks like I’m going to have to defend my position. Is it defensible?

I agree with you. People want opportunities to move up and see (and show) progression in their careers. If your manager is trying to avoid people leaving after three years, this is the exact wrong way to do it: People will still move on, but now they’ll leave the company in order to do it — because they’ll have to. Plus, if getting a promotion is the only way to get a merit raise in your company, then taking away the possibility of promotions in this role means that you’ll probably have even more people leaving — because people want to be rewarded for good work. Throw in the fact that they have an in-demand skill set, and what your manager is proposing is a recipe for less retention, not more.

3. Inappropriate coworker, part 1

I am the manager of a charity shop (paid). I’m in my late 20′s and one of my volunteers in his mid 50′s has sent me text messages telling me he is very attracted to me and misses me. I don’t know how to deal with this. He has mild autism/Asperger’s. It’s unnerving me because he constantly stares at me and compliments me about what I’m wearing and how I look, etc. Please help.

You’re his manager, right? Then this is simple: “Bob, it’s not appropriate for you to tell me that you’re attracted to me or miss me or to comment on my appearance. Please stop.” If it continues after that, then you say, “Bob, I asked you to stop this already. If it continues, we won’t be able to have you work here anymore.”

By the way, make sure he’s not doing this to any of your other employees or volunteers. It’s possible that he is and no one has told you about it.

4. Inappropriate coworker, part 2

I’ve been working at a restaurant for about six months now and always have been treated very respectfully by all of my male coworkers. In the last week or so, a new employee started who is either incredibly socially awkward with women or just creepy. I would like to think the former of him, but all of the other young women I work with (all three of us), as well as several of the male employees, have been made to feel uncomfortable or have noticed this employee is making the women feel that way.

Some examples of his behavior include staring in a suggestive manner, touching without permission, invading personal space, “helping” when help is not needed, trying to force conversations, etc. Is it appropriate to speak directly to the new employee before bringing the matter to management? I would hate for him to get off on the wrong foot if he really is just clueless about speaking to and looking at women. Is there any way to tell definitively whether somebody is just socially awkward with women or is indeed creepy?

The good news is that his motivation doesn’t really impact how you proceed here; the response is this same in both cases: “Bob, please do not touch me.” “Please don’t stare at me; it makes me uncomfortable.” “I can’t talk right now; I’m busy.” “I don’t need help with this.” In other words, a clear, direct statement of boundaries.

And if the problem continues after that, then yes, you should go speak to your manager.

5. Work assignments in the aftermath of layoffs

We have had a lot of layoffs this past year. Problems are continuously coming up because no one re-assigned (or even seemed aware of) some of the reports those people did. In addition to that, we had a complete restructure of our work assignments in our small (3 person) office. I am doing a work assignment that belonged to another person in this department, and our somewhat new director is blaming me for errors from last year or so, when the work was done by someone else. Also, she is asking me for reports that were previously done by people who were laid off.

If I made a mistake, I will accept the blame, but these were out of my hands. How can I explain this (over and over again) without sounding like I am trying to avoid responsibility? If it were one or two things, I’d suck it up and own it, but I’m taking about many, and major things. Any advice?

For the mistakes someone else made: “The work you’re talking about was done by Jane last year. I wasn’t involved in it. Would you like me to try to fix it now?” Repeat as needed.

For the work she wants you to do now that was previously done by others: “I’d be glad to try to figure it out. I wasn’t previously involved in this report and no one is able to train me on it, so it may take me longer the first few times, but I’ll work on it and keep you updated.” Repeat as needed.

6. Recruiter asked if I’m applying for other jobs

I recently applied for a job and received a call on the very same day from a recruiter, who asked me to change the file formats for my application (and to interview me, of course!). She stated that there were no openings at the moment, but one would be coming very soon. She also asked this: “Have you been applying for other jobs?”

I hesitated for a while, and replied while yes, I have been applying, nothing was set in stone as of yet. I didn’t see a point in lying — and after all, no one is going to put all their eggs in one basket for a single job. Did you think my reply ruined my chances?

Absolutely not. Of course you’re applying for other jobs. It’s a ridiculous question for her to ask — especially when she doesn’t even have an opening to interview you for.

7. Do I have to accept the offer if my temp-to-hire position goes permanent?

I am on assignment in a temp-to-hire position and am not sure if I want to stay with this company permanently. From what I have heard, the benefits package leaves a lot to be desired. I did not ask about benefits during the interview because I was not sure how appropriate the question would be for a temp.

The work environment is stiff and uninspiring and I do not feel like I fit in with their culture. Most of the employees are twice my age and married/settled. The company is growing quickly and I was told during the interview process that there would be growth opportunities. However, I have heard whispers from current employees that once you are in a department, you are stuck. I cannot see myself working here for a long time.

I know it is too early for me to think about going permanent but I can’t help but wonder what if? Now that I have been placed, I have to work through the assignment. What is expected of temp-to-hire staff once they have been offered a permanent position? What could be the consequences of rejecting an offer to go permanent?

You can absolutely reject an offer to go permanent, just like you can reject any job offer that you’re not interested in. If they offer you a permanent position, just thank them and let you know that you don’t think it’s a culture fit for you. (Be prepared for the possibility they’ll  move to replace you at whatever point this happens, however. Although these days many temp-to-perm jobs stay temp for an awfully long time.)

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{ 100 comments… read them below or add one }

VintageLydia July 16, 2013 at 12:33 am

Even if autism or Aspergers was in the equation for either of the two creepy questions, you need to speak up. The vast majority of people I know who are diagnosed with Aspergers may be embarrassed initially at a flub, but are generally greatful to know. They aren’t stupid people, they are just lest apt to pick up on nonverbal or passive language. Once they know how to behave, they generally will.

I’m just really really REALLY sick of creepy behavior being excused because so-and-so MIGHT have Aspergers! And we wouldn’t want to hurt his feelings, oh no! Honestly, your own mental and physical safety is far more important than someone else’s temporary(!!!) sting of rejection, ESPECIALLY at work.

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Rana July 16, 2013 at 12:42 am

Agreed. Every awkward-but-not-creepy person I’ve ever known was both embarrassed and grateful to have their gaffes pointed out, so that they could stop making them. Creepy people are creepy, period, whatever else is going on with them.

And, really, do you really want to get into the whys and wherefores of what leads a person to do creepy things? It should be enough that they stop doing them, and avoid doing them in the future. It does a disservice to people on the spectrum to assume that they’re incapable of that sort of self-control, and gives creepsters a ready excuse to keep on creeping.

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Jessa July 16, 2013 at 9:34 am

Former Special Ed teacher here. ABSOLUTELY THIS SO MANY TIMES I have to yell it. Any medically diagnosed disorder of any kind is NOT an excuse for bad behaviour. Excusing someone because x is not reasonable. They still have to be held to job standards. Even with ADA in the US. And part of the problem is that people DO NOT. If people would most workers would be glad to know. But many of them have made it into the job force without having been actually held to standards. “No you cannot touch people. Here is a mark on the floor this is how far you need to stand from people see? We will remind you if you get too close,” etc.

I have had people that I’ve worked with where I literally stuck masking tape on the floor and had them stand on it (like theatre marks) and said okay this is proper distance.

You don’t have to be loud or nasty. All you have to say is “Please don’t touch me, that’s not proper.” But please do it without acting grossed out or scared. They’re not trying to scare you 99% of the time. Most of the people in this circumstance just do not KNOW better. Or cannot tell that your body language means BACK OFF HERE. They don’t get that. The whole point of what’s at issue with them is they don’t register that stuff as communication.

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Chinook July 16, 2013 at 10:05 am

I keep thinking of Sheldon on BBT (a.k.a the world’s worst boss). Unless someone tells him what he is doing is socially unacceptable, he keeps doing it. Tell him it is non-negotiable societal norm, and he modifies his behaviour accordingly.

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Mimi July 16, 2013 at 12:47 pm

…and then offers them a complimentary hot beverage.

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tcookson July 16, 2013 at 6:12 pm

I’ve taken to offering my children “Non-Optional Social Convention Tea” when they’re upset over something very minor . . .

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Elizabeth West July 16, 2013 at 11:04 am

From what I understand, Asperger’s isn’t that common. Why do we keep saying “So and so is creepy; they must be an Aspie,” when SOME PEOPLE ARE JUST CREEPS??

Also, good tip on how to handle it when that is present.

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VintageLydia July 16, 2013 at 11:29 am

I agree, though how you handle it initially should be the same. State and enforce your boundaries. If the person doesn’t want to or is incapable of respecting those boundaries, then they need to see those consequences.

Most people who use the “socially awkward defense” to continue bad behavior are almost never diagnosed Aspies, and MOST people on the spectrum aren’t likely to cross physical boundaries to begin with. Every autistic and Aspie I’ve ever met are more likely to have a pretty firm physical boundaries themselves. Inappropriate touching or getting too far into someone’s personal bubble are usually just as or more uncomfortable for them. I’m sure exceptions exist but I’m under the impression that’s a common enough trait that it’s used in actual diagnosis.

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A Bug! July 16, 2013 at 11:48 am

I agree! Making too many assumptions about another person’s motivations is risky business in general.

Which is why Jessa’s advice is so sound! A firm expression of your needs and boundaries doesn’t have to come with any sort of comment or judgment on the other person or that person’s motivations.

And if the other person reads judgment into it, and takes offense to something as benign as “Don’t touch me, I don’t like it”? Then you have your answer: it’s not that they don’t recognize your boundaries; it’s that they don’t want to respect them.

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Jessa July 16, 2013 at 1:42 pm

Exactly, and thank you. I really do not care why you’re in my space. Or if you have a disorder that makes it hard for you to TELL where my space IS.

I am going to ask you to move back. And I’m going to politely tell you it bothers me and if you ignore me I’m going to talk to your boss about it. And if you’re a visitor/client etc. I’m going to talk to MY boss about it. And I usually have the kind of bosses that will tell you off. This is not Mad Men anymore. You don’t get to stare down their Assistants that way.

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Anon July 16, 2013 at 7:44 am

The OP works at a charity shop. I’m wondering if this volunteer employee may have a job coach and is working there for the experience? If so, the job coach can and should help. People with disabilities, and as pointed out, those with Aspergers, may not have a handle on work appropriate behavior, and may not recognize when their behavior is inappropriate. This is part of what these types of experiences are supposed to provide.

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Cruella Da Boss July 16, 2013 at 8:47 am

I am the mother of an Aspie. Subtle social cues that you or I may understand are often lost on them. Many Aspies must have direct instructions (i.e… Bob, stop staring at me because it is making me uncomfortable) before the message connects. The older they get, (or at least with my child, who is a teen now) the more they can recognize a pattern of behavior and work to correct it, but they still need some subtle behaviors point out to them.

I also agree that one should not automatically assume someone has Asperger’s just because they are acting “creepy.”And I would rather my child not be stereotyped as “creepy” just because of Asperger’s.

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The Editor July 16, 2013 at 9:35 am

Yep. I’m the dad of an Aspie, and you have to utterly direct, almost to the point of awkwardly blunt. Be gentle, of course, but aspies just don’t run on the same social cues and norms that others do.

Aspies can be a lot of fun, and the are hard working devoted people in my experience.

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Jessa July 16, 2013 at 9:38 am

This. I would prefer to ascribe behavior to unintentional reasons FIRST. However, I would not want to add in creepy etc. because of that. Because 99% of persons who have unintentional behaviour issues are NOT creepy. They just trigger the same reactions because they don’t understand boundaries. So especially in places where you are likely to work with people with behaviour issues you need to seriously stamp down on your reactions at first. Politely but firmly explain behaviour x is not okay. CALMLY. And you may have to do it many more times than ONCE. And watch their reactions.

If they act okay about it. They’re not creepy period. If they get violent they’re probably not creepy, but probably also NOT able to be in the workforce yet If they act CREEPY then they’re probably creepy, you know? But has syndrome x does not equal CREEPY person. More people without it are than those with.

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Anon July 16, 2013 at 10:22 am

Did you actually intend to say that if they get violent about being calmly explained that a behavior isn’t okay, they’re “probably not” creepy?
To me, that fits the exact definition of creepy, regardless of cause. I guess I understand what you’re trying to say but I think you have a very different definition than most.

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Ruffingit July 16, 2013 at 10:34 am

I think what she’s trying to say is that when dealing with someone who has Asperger’s or Autism or is on the spectrum, that violence does not always mean they are creepy. It may be that they react with violence to being told they are inappropriate. This doesn’t mean they are creepy necessarily (although it could), it may just mean they are not able to appropriately react to criticism and therefore should not yet be in the workforce.

Basically, the idea is not to ascribe “creepy” to everyone immediately who behaves inappropriately. Sometimes you have to back off from that knee-jerk reaction and look at the issue as a whole. Could very well be that the person is a creep. But that shouldn’t be the first place your mind goes.

I think that was the point Jessa was trying to make.

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fposte July 16, 2013 at 10:58 am

I’m kind of with Anon–if somebody gets violent when forestalled, that’s a very bad thing. I don’t know whether the notion is it’s not “creepy” because it’s not sexual, but if somebody has trouble with boundaries and it’s possible that it will play out violently, that’s pretty creepy to me right there.

Or maybe people are thinking “creepy” is limited to people whose behavior is self-aware, but I would consider it more to be behavior that indicates somebody won’t back off and could be harmful. I think possible violence would be included in that.

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JamieG July 16, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Yeah, I think they’re using “creepy” to mean that they’re acting intentionally/know what reactions their behavior will cause. But to me, creepy is more defined by the behavior. Giving people the benefit of the doubt and communicating clearly is one thing, but whether someone has autism/aspergers or not, if they react violently (physically or even just verbally)? They’re creepy, and I don’t care why they’re doing it.

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Jessa July 16, 2013 at 1:31 pm

Yeh, it was badly phrased. to me creepy has some really specific triggery bad connotations that definitely involve action with intent. and anyone with a disorder or developmental delay just doesn’t have intent in that sense.

I withdraw the phrasing as badly done. And reiterate the point that if the behaviour is driven by disorder and not generalised bad behaviour the person needs to be addressed DIFFERENTLY is all.

Yuu July 16, 2013 at 9:53 am

Agreed. I’d also like to point out, that by being factually direct with him, you are doing him a kindness.

It is as if you moved to a world where everyone else could read each others minds, but you don’t understand that, so you make social mistakes. If they would just say it out loud and give you direct feedback, you’d be appreciative, wouldn’t you? So don’t feel awkward about pointing these things out loud, even if for other people you can use body language to communicate these things.

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Ruffingit July 16, 2013 at 10:41 am

Yuu,

That’s a great way to put it! I love your description of the mind reading thing. That’s a good way to describe what Asperger’s is like. I do not have that particular disorder, but I know people who do and when they try to describe it, it’s something similar to what you said. “I just don’t understand the non-verbal language…”

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Workingmom66 July 16, 2013 at 10:29 am

“Subtle social cues that you or I may understand are often lost on them”

Thank you. Also as the mother of a child on the spectrum (PDD-NOS) I think you said that so perfectly. While the co-worker must be spoken to, even taught that his behavior is not acceptable, I am very offended by the use of “creepy” here as well.

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fposte July 16, 2013 at 11:11 am

Can we identify what we mean by “creepy”? Because I’m used to it meaning the effect on the recipient and not just the intention of the “donor,” and it seems like you’re meaning it differently.

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Chinook July 16, 2013 at 11:21 am

I would think that “creepy” means someone looking/treating you in a way that gives you the willies but, if you had to describe their behaviour on paper, it really sounds like nothing important and hard to convey from a 3rd party. If Shivon was to complain that Wakeen is staring at her or standing too close and this is making herfeel uncomfortable, I would have a hard time explainign to Wakeen what was wrong with his behaviour because all I could say is “stop looking at Shivon and don’t stand too close.” By Shivon speaking up in the moment and telling Wakeen that the behaviour he is doing right now is unacceptable (in a polite but assertive way), Wakeen is clear on what behaviour has to change and, if he doesn’t stop it, Shivon can come to me and clearly state that she asked Wakeen to stop staring at her and he refused. This makes it easier for me, as a 3rd party, to intervene as the behaviour is clearly defined.

Did that make sense?

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fposte July 16, 2013 at 11:40 am

That’s how I’m accustomed to it, but I think other people are using it differently, and I’m trying to figure that out. To me anybody can behave creepily, and many of has probably have–we’ve had reasons that the other person didn’t know about (hanging around waiting for our friend to come out, hunting for our lost cat in the neighbor’s yard, whatever), but it was a behavior that disturbed somebody because it was unusual and indicated a possible problem. To me it’s not offensive; it’s just slangily descriptive for something dubious that makes the recipient uncomfortable.

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Workingmom66 July 16, 2013 at 11:47 am

It’s the phrasing in the headline: “creepy coworkers”. The inappropriate behavior has to be addressed of course but the cause of the behavior is highly likely to be the autism which greatly affects social interactions as opposed to someone purposely being rude or thinking what they are doing is acceptable. But I’ll repeat that this young man needs to be spoken to, firmly and as soon as possible.

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Ask a Manager July 16, 2013 at 11:55 am

I wrote the headline.

I cannot agree that it’s “highly likely” to be autism in the second situation (unlike in the first, where the OP identifies the person as being on the spectrum). There is certainly the possibility of it in #4, but we have no evidence that would point to “highly likely.”

VintageLydia July 16, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Honestly, I’m less sure the person in LW4 is on the spectrum. He doesnt seem to be invading the personal bubbles of the male workers and is concentrating his attentions to the women. I think the LW only mentioned it as a possibility because a lot of women are told that they need to give Aspies and even garden variety socially inept people a pass for bad behavior. That the feelings of the individual acting creepy are more important than your own personal well being.

This doesn’t change how she should approach it–clear unambiguous language is best in almost every situation–but I get the sense that she’s almost asking AAM for permission to state her boundaries.

Workingmom66 July 16, 2013 at 12:56 pm

I’m referring to the first situation only and the blanket statement. There are times where my son will act inappropriate due to being on the spectrum, which I will address immediately as all parents of kids on the spectrum would/should, but to ever hear his behavior being described as creepy would break my heart. Meaning that a similar behavior from a typical kid might be conceived as creepy. But just as I do everything I can to correct his behaviors, the young man in the post should be spoken to and if his behavior does not change than unfortunately he may not be ready for the workplace.

VintageLydia July 16, 2013 at 1:06 pm

In LW3, the person in question is in his 50′s, so not a young man at all.

Chinook July 16, 2013 at 1:43 pm

If the man for LW3 is in his 50′s, he may still have undiagnosed Aspie issues because they were rarely diagnosed in the past. He also may be a genuine creep. Either way, your first step should be to address him and ask him to stop whatever is making you uncomfortable – his reason is unimportant. Definitely don’t ignore it if he is giving off a vibe that makes your spidey sense tingle. If, after clearly asking him to stop, nothign changes, then it is time to report it to the manager. Even in his 50′s, he still may not ve ready to work unsupervised.

fposte July 16, 2013 at 1:53 pm

I understand it would be hard to hear anything negative about your child (though my parents survived it more than a few times, as I’m sure most of ours did!). But I think it’s fair for people to describe inappropriate interpersonal behavior as creepy whether it’s intentional or not, and I think that’s different from saying anything atypical is fair game. The feelings of the person who’s having her personal space invaded are important here–I’d argue they’re more important than those of the person doing the invading, intentionally or no–and I think one unintentional effect of the “it’s bad to call it creepy” stand is that it suggests the feelings of the invader are more important than those of the person suffering the invasion, which is reinforcing the doctrine that tends to make women shut about about these things.

None of this is carte blanche to be a jackass about stuff, of course, and as Bug notes, a firm statement that this behavior isn’t acceptable is an excellent go-to suitable for intentional or unintentional inappropriateness.

VintageLydia July 16, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Chinook, agreed. Just letting her know why I thought she was talking about LW4, though I see I didn’t make that clear. The man in LW3 appears to actually be diagnosed.

Fposte +1000

KellyK July 16, 2013 at 2:21 pm

Does it change anything to use “creepy” to describe a behavior rather than a person?

It seems like describing a person as creepy implies that they actually have ill intent or mean harm. Describing a behavior as creepy, on the other hand, is just about how the recipient of the behavior feels about it. And boundary-violating behavior *does* often feel threatening, regardless of the intent.

Or does it still have the same impact to describe behavior as “creepy”?

Anon July 16, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Yeah, as referenced in the conversation with Jessa above, I think we’re operating on the same definition of “creepy.” IMO, excluding an action from the label just because it wasn’t intended to be creepy just weakens it too much.

It also reminds me of when people say things like “he/she didn’t mean it to come across that way, you shouldn’t be upset,” which is almost always dismissive and gaslight-y to the person on the receiving end of the creepiness.

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Vicki July 18, 2013 at 3:05 am

I missed the letter when Shivon joined the group… (I <3 Wakeen).

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Vicki July 18, 2013 at 3:06 am
VintageLydia July 16, 2013 at 11:35 am

I’m with you fposte. I’ve always understood that creepy was how it was received by the recipient. I think initial creepy behavior doesn’t necessarily mean that person is a *creeper* but ignoring stated boundaries *does*.

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fposte July 16, 2013 at 11:47 am

Thinking about it, parents may be emotionally fending of “creepy” as a general and heartbreaking judgment of their *child,* rather than as what I consider a pretty normal human categorization for a questionable *behavior*. I don’t know that that difference is always rigorously parsed, but I have sympathy for both sides if so.

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Workingmom66 July 16, 2013 at 1:15 pm

– This was actually for you pointing out that I missed his age (can’t reply directly)

I didn’t catch that (reading/writing fast at work). Thank you. But of course he still needs to change his behavior or face consequences.

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Workingmom66 July 16, 2013 at 1:14 pm

I didn’t catch that (reading/writing fast at work). Thank you. But of course he still needs to change his behavior or face consequences.

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Runon July 16, 2013 at 10:09 am

I agree, if you want to be compassionate toward people who are non-neurotypical then you say something directly right away so they can stop.

And then if they continue to act that way they are creepy and it needs to be handled as if the person was a creeper, not with kid gloves because they are being a creeper.

Using indirect communication and subtlety is the worst way to handle both situations.

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Ruffingit July 16, 2013 at 10:42 am

Agreed and often, indirect communication and subtlety is the worst way to handle situations with neuro typicals too. Upfront and direct can go a long way toward better understanding. I’m not a fan of the “drop some hints until they get it” type of communication.

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fposte July 16, 2013 at 11:12 am

Totally true. And in the workplace it’s not only clear but it gives you a communication history if you need to take an issue elsewhere, so it’s self-protective.

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jesicka309 July 16, 2013 at 12:34 am

OP #2 My office did a similar thing last year – they went from a junior/senior structure to a flat structure, where everyone had the ‘senior’ title of coordinator, and everyone had the coordinator pay, but did both the junior and senior jobs.

For your high achievers who are already senior, it will feel like the lowliest of juniors got the bump up to senior just for turning up.

For high achieving juniors, it will diminish the excitement of the pay increase and promotion (so everyone gets it? Why did I work so hard?)

And it rewards any middling to low performers on the team with a pay increase, which gives them a false sense of accomplishment.

That’s in the short term. Long term, you will have unhappy staff who are too well compensated to leave, you will have trouble finding new challenges for high performers, and the need to be ‘equal’ and transparent will take over individual development and opportunities.

Avoid this if you can OP.

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The Editor July 16, 2013 at 9:38 am

I just left my job because my manager operates on this flat, no internal promotion structure. She has not promoted from within in five years and yet wonders why she consistently scores so poorly on her reviews.

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Jessa July 16, 2013 at 9:40 am

Yep and long term, the seniors and high achieving juniors will be out the door leaving you with those middling juniors that you promoted for showing up.

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Brett July 16, 2013 at 9:55 am

I’m struggling with the same flat structure, no raises issue. We have even had a long freeze on across the board raises, so new hires are coming in at $12k higher than me! (Discretionary hire wage is based on market wage, which has gone up considerably since I was hired.)
Even worse, since our pay is public record, I get treated like the lowest seniority employee based on pay. I like the work, but it certainly dims enthusiasm for working here as I see my pay drift farther into the bottom decile for my profession with no hope of promotion or raise.

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Ruffingit July 16, 2013 at 10:44 am

New hires coming in at 12k more than you would be enough to completely demoralize anyone. So sorry you are dealing with that, it’s patently unfair.

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MaryTerry July 16, 2013 at 12:24 pm

And people will steer the more complicated work to the high performers because they will do it correctly and more efficiency.

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Elise July 16, 2013 at 1:10 am

#6 sounds like they applied to a fake job ad posted by the recruiter to gather resumes. (applied to job, but told later that no job actually existed at the time).

Let me guess….they wanted you to switch from a PDF to a Word format so they could remove your contact information and possibly make other edits as well.

In this economy, a good placement firm should have people seeking them out and not need to resort to such tactics. I wouldn’t rely on them to find you a job. Keep up the search on your own.

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B July 16, 2013 at 10:21 am

+1 This is spot on. If you sent it in PDF and they want it in Word for a job that isn’t even there…say no thank you and move on.

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Chinook July 16, 2013 at 11:25 am

I would worry about a temp company that wanted my resume in Word because, with the right program, you can remove or cover up the contact information at the top of the resume. Or, I could use a print screen or snipping tool feature and take the body of the resume and paste it onto company letterhead. To me, needing my resume in Word means they want to do something to the content of my resume that couldn’t be altered easily any other ways.

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HR lady July 16, 2013 at 12:09 pm

I think it’s pretty standard for recruiters to remove the contact information of the candidates they present to employers who are looking for candidates. I work in HR and every resume I’ve ever gotten from a recruiter (whether it was for a temp job or a “permanent” regular job) was on the recruiter’s letterhead with the candidate’s contact info missing (email, phone, address, etc.). I don’t have a problem with that.

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Brightwanderer July 16, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Honestly, it takes two seconds to copy and paste from a PDF to a word document – which might even suit a recruiter better if the have a format they want to use – so I wouldn’t regard it with quite so much suspicion.

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WWWONKA July 16, 2013 at 1:37 am

#7 I disagree with AAM on this one. If your position goes temp to hire and you decline, what are the chances they keep you on board when they are finally looking for a permanent. Are you prepared for that possibility? Unless you are ready to move on I would take the permanent position and start looking elsewhere. You are not set in stone to stay there.

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Forrest July 16, 2013 at 9:21 am

That could horribly back fire. Since the LW already knows she doesn’t want a permanent job, she should be looking for another job now. (Unless, she has a contract.)

Taking the permanent position takes this position from a temporary one on her resume (and thus an easily explainable reason why it was short term) to a potential short term job that will lead to a lot of questions and scare off employers.

The LW asked if she had to take the job and that’s what AAM answered. Its was a yes or no question and the correct answer is no, she doesn’t have to take the job. Its in the LW best interest to start looking for a new job now.

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Jessa July 16, 2013 at 9:43 am

It may also tank with the temp company. Because if the temp company was expecting the money for this to go permanent…and if she takes it and leaves it as a permanent employee and wants to go back to that temp company it makes her look bad (she didn’t really WANT the job permanently.)

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Chinook July 16, 2013 at 10:13 am

I don’t think it would tank her with a rational temp company because there is never a guarantee that the contract does go permanent. Heck, the contracting company can call up one day and ask for a different temp because you are truly an at-will employee as one. So, if the OP feels like this company is not a good fit for her, it would be in her best interest to go back to her rep and explain that and ask if there are any other openings coming up that might be better suited to her. It may mean changing jobs earlier than planned or going without a contract for a short period of time, but the OP has to decide for herself if that is better, in the long run, than working in a place that is a poor fit (because she has been there long enough to tell).

Now, if she has an irrational temp company or an irrational rep, all bets are off because that could definitely backfire in all the ways explained by others.

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Ask a Manager July 16, 2013 at 10:21 am

But if she accepts the permanent position planning to leave it as soon as she finds something better, it probably will harm her relationship with the temp company, who would be very hesitant to place her in a temp-to-perm job again.

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WWWONKA July 16, 2013 at 10:56 am

but there are 100′s of temp companies

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Ask a Manager July 16, 2013 at 10:58 am

There are. But it takes a while to find one that will send you on good assignments, particularly in this market. (In fact, some excellent candidates have no luck with temp agencies at all in this market.)

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Chinook July 16, 2013 at 11:30 am

I agree that it would ruin her reputation with the temp company, especially since they may have to reimburse their client or do a 2nd job search for free (when we ended up hiring a guy who later offered to sell drugs to a coworker – temp agency replaced him for free). A good agency is hard to find and I would even think that the good ones even talk to each other within their own industry.

So, I agree with you, AAM. The exception to this is if the OP knows that not taking the permanent job will cost her with the agency which, in my mind, would be like an employer firing someone immediately who is willing to give a long notice period and help with the transition. A good agency should be willing to make the best fit for both the contractor and the client because that is how they gain their reputation for putting the right people in the right place.

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Kerr July 16, 2013 at 3:32 pm

All of this, and what AAM said. It’s *not* easy to get work through a temp agency these days, and it’s even tougher if you make life more expensive for them. If a permanent candidate doesn’t work out, the agency generally has to refund fees, provide another candidate for free, etc. Yes, it’s a cost of doing business, but you’re still going to sour the relationship.

It doesn’t sound like the OP is desperate for just any job, and there are clear signs that she doesn’t want to stay there permanently. Better to move on, let the agency place her in another position once this one is finished, and keep looking for other jobs.

Jessa July 16, 2013 at 1:28 pm

I meant if she took the position and then gave it up, knowing she did not mean to stay. Not if she turned it down not wanting it. If the temp co had a deal where they got paid after so long in the position permanently and she took the job and just walked, that would look bad. The deal with the temp co was they were getting her permanently and thus paying a premium. She worked there all that time, temp. She had plenty of time to decide if she wanted the job. She needs to turn it down if she doesn’t want it.

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Newly Hired July 16, 2013 at 10:17 am

Not all temp-to-perm assignments are through third party companies. My job is actually of this type: they lost someone on *very* short notice (employee gave two weeks’ notice at start of *second week*) and a temp-to-perm arrangement worked out better for both of us: I wasn’t committed to them permanently on a week’s notice without really being able to explore my other options, and they weren’t committed to me permanently without having time to suss out if I was the best candidate.

I actually really liked the agreement, and after the initial 8-10 weeks we’d agreed on, we both decided that me staying worked out for us in the long run and we negotiated, and I accepted, a standard permanent offer.

IMO temp-to-perm arrangements of this sort would really sort a lot of people, organizations, and positions much better than the standard process does. End up not fitting in? 8-12 weeks and everyone can part with no hard feelings.

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Kerry July 16, 2013 at 11:26 am

(employee gave two weeks’ notice at start of *second week*)

Do you mean that she gave one week’s notice, or that she only worked for the company for three weeks total?

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Newly Hired July 16, 2013 at 8:33 pm

She worked there for three weeks total.

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#7 OP July 17, 2013 at 7:51 am

Thanks for the advice everyone, and thanks AAM for posting my question! The agency I’m working with is the best locally and the only one that has placed me at anything. I feel stupid right now and wish I did not accept the position, but I thought it would be different. The process went so quickly because I was hired on as a temp. The client requested someone who is ready to grow with the company. I am not that person. Should I bring this up to the agency? I will stay at this job and continue my job search but I feel bad about having them train me on so many functions while knowing I plan on leaving.

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L July 16, 2013 at 2:34 am

#6- I had a recruiter ask me the same question and had the same thought as AAM, of course I was applying other places. Then the recruiter asked me *where* I was applying because they have relationships with all sorts of companies and if she submitted my resume then it was much more likely to get looked at. Plus I should never submit one on my own that she is also submitting for me because the confusion could cause them to throw them both out. Uh huh. Right. I’m sure the finder’s fee has nothing to do with any of it either.

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Anne July 16, 2013 at 6:40 am

That’s so ridiculous. What hiring manager is going to say “Oh my god, we got the same person’s application from two sources, I can’t handle it! Just get rid of them!”

What a terrible excuse.

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Ask a Manager July 16, 2013 at 9:10 am

That part is actually true — often companies don’t want to deal with the question of who “owns” a candidate or not (for the purpose of the finder’s fee) and will indeed just not interview the candidate if their resume has been submitted by two or more sources.

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PEBCAK July 16, 2013 at 9:38 am

Agreed, but shouldn’t it go the other way? Every recruiter I have worked with has said, “I’d like to submit your resume to Chocolate Teapots, Inc. Have you had any previous dealings with them?”

Maybe I’m just lucky to be in a specialized field where the recruiters aren’t *that* shady.

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Chinook July 16, 2013 at 10:14 am

That woudl tick me off if I found out that an agency that took my resume under false pretenses was offering it around to companies without my knowledge and, as a result, took me out of the running for jobs.

I know it isn’t right but (dare I ask?) is it legal?

Kitty.

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Mike C. July 16, 2013 at 10:22 am

Is there a professional way to indicate to hiring managers that you aren’t being represented by a recruiter and to please disregard any claims otherwise?

It seems to me that some busybody trying to make a name for themselves could really get in the way of businesses and qualified candidates that would otherwise be great matches.

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Mike C. July 16, 2013 at 10:23 am

Or should I submit this as a question? I’m a long time reader, and this situation is new even to me.

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Ask a Manager July 16, 2013 at 10:24 am

Hmmm. I’m trying to think of a way to do it that wouldn’t end up looking overly cautious / a little off, and I’m not coming up with anything. Not that it should look that way — there’s clearly reason to want to state it — but I think because it would be so unusual, it would stand out as odd.

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Ask a Manager July 16, 2013 at 10:25 am

That said, one way to avoid is to not post your resume online and to be very selective about what recruiters you work with.

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James July 17, 2013 at 10:28 am

They were asking so that you would provide them with details of current job openings they could send their other candidates against you for those jobs and get a finder’s fee. My old housemate was a recruiter.

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Min July 16, 2013 at 7:31 am

#5 – My worst ever manager was at a place I worked just out of high school. She yelled at me (literally) in front of the whole office one day for a costly mistake that had been made before I was even hired. When I tried to get a word in to explain that I hadn’t even been there she snapped, “Don’t talk back to me, young lady!”

The best part was that the person who held that job before me and had since been promoted was there watching in horror with everyone else, but waited until the boss had finished her tirade & left before she spoke up and said she was the one who had made that mistake.

It was a learning experience in office politics.

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KarenT July 16, 2013 at 11:06 am

The only correct response to “Don’t talk back to me, young lady!” is, “Yes, mom.” As in, the only person who can get away with calling an adult young lady is said person’s mother.

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fposte July 16, 2013 at 2:40 pm

It’d be more fun to scream “I hate you! I wish you’d never had me!” and run from the room after slamming the door.

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Esra July 16, 2013 at 8:36 pm

“You’re not my REAL mom! /flounce”

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Sydney Bristow July 16, 2013 at 9:05 am

#7, I was in that situation once. My position was technically just a temp but my supervisor liked me and offered me a permanent position when funding came through unexpectedly. Since it was unexpected I took a little time to think about it and turned it down. I really did not like the work environment even though I enjoyed the work itself most of the time. The culture just didn’t work for me and I’m convinced I made the right decision. She let me stay on while she slowly started looking for a permanent replacement and I ended up leaving a few weeks later when I was offered something with significantly more hours and better pay.

I was nervous that is burn a bridge by turning her down, but she ended up alerting me to an opportunity at a related company a few months later and recommended me to the hiring manager. That position didn’t work out, but she called me a year later to invite me to interview for a higher position at her company. I turned that down partially because of the culture issue but also because I loved where I was currently working. If you aren’t desperate for the money or can’t trust that you’d be able to at least find another temp position, I suggest listening to your gut and turning it down if the job isn’t right for you.

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Ruffingit July 16, 2013 at 10:51 am

Your previous supervisor sounds sane and reasonable. Unfortunately, that is not the case quite often. Seems your supervisor understood that the culture wasn’t a fit for you and was OK with that. She valued your work and therefore did what she could to help you, even after you had left her company. Kudos to her, I wish more supervisors were that awesome.

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Joey July 16, 2013 at 9:22 am

#2. First you have to find out exactly why the sr widget makers are leaving. Both of you may be completely off the mark. You’ll never know until you ask the people who are leaving.

The point is you really can’t make an informed decision without data. Otherwise your solutions are a crapshoot.

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Del July 16, 2013 at 9:25 am

#7 – I would accept if they offer it, but keep job-hunting. If nothing else, the fact that they offered to hire you on permanently is something you can use in your future job-hunt to show that your past employers have found you a desirable employee to keep on. (Granted, if you get an interview RIGHT after you go permanent, that could be awkward, but in this job market that isn’t such a high likelihood that it should hold you back…)

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Chinook July 16, 2013 at 11:34 am

If OP took the permanent job offer and then left shortly after (say in less than 6 months or possibly a year), she would very much be burning bridges not only with the employer (who bought out her contract) but also with the temp agency (who would have taken a reputaitonal hit and possibly a financial one as they may have to replace her for free). If OP were to do this, I would hope it would only be a for a job she doesn’t intend on leaving for a long time.

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Del July 16, 2013 at 4:12 pm

You’re correct; I was looking at this in terms of finding a position she wouldn’t expect to leave anytime soon. That’s an important caveat to add, so thank you.

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PEBCAK July 16, 2013 at 9:39 am

#5: AAM: How do you go about discerning if Bob is doing this to other people without looking like you are gossiping with your subordinates?

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Ask a Manager July 16, 2013 at 9:43 am

You have a couple of different options depending on your context, but I’d probably talk with people individually about how things are going with their relations with volunteers, and ask if they know how they’d handle it if they ever felt a volunteer was being inappropriate with them, and then tell them explicitly that they should come to me if there were ever any issues. With a bigger staff, I might talk about it as a group at a meeting . No need to single Bob out; a general talk about the issue is good anyway, because who knows who else might be displaying similarly inappropriate behavior.

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Rindle July 16, 2013 at 10:19 am

For women who are dealing with inappropriate coworkers — I think AAM’s advice to make a clear, direct statement of boundaries is spot on. You may feel awkward saying, “Please stop touching me” or “Please don’t stare at me, it’s making me uncomfortable.” The uber-creeps will use that to their advantage, btw. You might want to practice what you’re going to say before you’re in the situation. And don’t “laugh it off” or backpedal or otherwise diminish your point when you talk to these guys. You have no reason to feel bad or guilty about asking a guy to keep his hands off you – even if it’s “just” a quick brush against the shoulders or whatever. Straightforward, to the point, serious expression, and move on.

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Elizabeth West July 16, 2013 at 11:18 am

Yep.
Once again, The Gift of Fear. de Becker says being too polite (or not saying anything) gets people into trouble.

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Anonymous July 16, 2013 at 10:30 am

Threadjack PSA:

Give your intern a desk!

I don’t have permanent/proper one and I feel a little lost :(

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Elizabeth West July 16, 2013 at 11:20 am

+1

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Chinook July 16, 2013 at 11:38 am

I had a teacher who never had her own classroom for 2 years. Take a page from her book and create your own “portable desk” (this teacher actually had a repurposed A/V cart). Ask the office manager if you can get a little basket or box (something permanent and not from the recycling bin) where you can put in office supplies and whatever you are working on at the moment. This will make it easier to move everything and keep yourself organized. If you use a laptop, make sure you a place to lock it up at night and put your office box in there as well.

Any other tips for helping keep yourself organized when you don’t have a designated space.

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Lisa July 16, 2013 at 11:20 am

1#, wow, you are moving out of state, does your boss have any clue that you may have already given up your apartment? Rented movers / vans, etc. Seriously, the world doesn’t revolve around your boss, how dare he /she think of asking them that when its YOUR LIFE.

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HR lady July 16, 2013 at 12:16 pm

#1 – Obviously I don’t know the details of your life, but it seems like it would be hard for someone to work two final weeks at the old job and then start at a new job in a new state the following Monday (or the following day). In other words, are you sure you can make the transition in just 2 weeks? Including finding housing and moving to the new state? (I’m not addressing what your current boss did – I’m just focusing on the idea that there’s no way I could finish out my last 2 weeks and move and be ready to start at a new job the next day.)

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Claire July 16, 2013 at 3:20 pm

#7 – I did this. I was on a temp assignment that just kept getting extended and extended (and switched me to part time when I found a permanent part time role) until eventually they created a permanent position and offered it to me. I had been clear with them throughout the process that I was unsure whether or not I would accept a permanent position/that my other job (which was in my field) was a priority, but I still felt awful about declining. But I knew I would feel worse/it would look worse to take the job as a stopgap and then end up leaving when I found something better. Luckily, things worked out pretty perfectly, in that they hired someone for the position and I was offered a permanent position I really wanted within two days of each other.

I’m sure that my agency was disappointed to lose the commission, but I’ve worked with them for 4+ years (all through college) and referred my sister to them (who actually temped in their own office), and made sure to thank my contact for all the great assignments and assure her that I would look to them if I was temping in the future and would refer friends there…she did sound honestly happy for me. So, it can be done!

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Ed July 16, 2013 at 4:54 pm

For #7, I agree that most temp jobs stay that way for a long time now and I think many of those companies know that when they bring you in. A 6-month-and-done position would get very few quality candidates. One 6-month contract-to-hire position I worked lasted 2 years until they let me go during a massive round of layoffs. The contract-to-hire job after that wanted to hire me but I hated working there (and told them that in a polite way). The manager there got a lot of flak for not being able to close the deal (the client hated our company but loved me) and was instructed to let me go on-the-spot when I turned down the job. I knew that could happen but I didn’t want to string them along when I knew I would never accept a job there. Either way, my next position bought out the contract early after 2 months and I’ve been there 2 years now full-time and really like it.

NOTE: Even though it sounds awful to keep bouncing from contract job to contract job, I made fantastic money the whole time and learned a bunch of cool stuff that allowed me to wow them at my current job.

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