A reader writes:
I was recently offered a job at a small company doing what I love as a graphic designer. The offer was originally meant to be picked up in person (the hiring manager/company owner is particular with not sending it over email), but I was out of town and unable to pick it up at the requested time. He agreed to send it through email, and the offer letter stated if I had any questions, to ask. I only had one question (about the way the salary was written), and mentioned pre-planned vacation time in October/November. I figured that it was better to mention it before the offer was finalized. Together, I was asking for less than a week off between the two times, just to give you an idea.
He responded back saying: “Your questions are exactly why I do not like to email an offer letter. Yes this is a salary position. Now that you have read the offer letter, I think we need to meet face to face to make sure we are both on the same page. The vacation request is an issue that I’m not sure will work with what I’m looking to accomplish. We will need to discuss this request. Please check your schedule for next week and let me know when you can come in and discuss this job opportunity with me.”
I don’t know if it is just me, but I felt shaken by this email. I responded back with a time next week that I will meet with him in person, but I am worried. When I met him for the interview, he actually does seem like the type to be controlling and aggressive when it comes to something that doesn’t match what he wants. I’m not worried about physical harm, more that I’m worried about the verbal harm that may come, or possible job threats in the future.
Now, I’m really unsure of how to move forward. I could just be overreacting to all of this, and reading the email with the wrong tone. I understand it’s very possible to have vacation time denied because it doesn’t work out well for the business. I really need a job, and all the steps up to this point have gone well. The company is good, the team I’ll be working with is good, and the pay is good. I just feel nervous and still a bit shaken. On one hand, this is a good opportunity, but on the other, if he is acting this way about these small things, what will he do about the bigger ones?
I remember reading from one of your posts saying to “trust your gut.” The problem is that I really don’t know what to do.
Well, let’s tackle that email first. It’s possible that he’s just not particularly good at communicating in email, as plenty of people aren’t. And you really could read that email in two different ways: as inappropriately chastising, or as just very matter-of-fact. So I’d say the email is a toss-up.
But combine it with the feeling you already had during the interview that he’s controlling and aggressive? That’s the part that would worry me more.
But that doesn’t mean that you should just turn down the offer; it means you need more information. So go to the meeting he asked for and pay extreme attention to his tone and manner and how he seems to operate. Ask him straight out to describe his management style, if you haven’t already. And ahead of the meting, try to figure out what was reading to you as “controlling and aggressive” and see if you spot more of it in this meeting. I’d also look into whether you can talk with anyone who currently works for him, or used to (try LinkedIn) to get a better feel for what he’s like.
But yeah, I’d strongly consider that this might not be the boss for you. That doesn’t mean he’s a bad manager in general — maybe he is, maybe he isn’t. But what you might be picking up on is that he’d be a bad manager for you because you’re feeling afraid of him before you’ve even started working there. While we can’t definitively interpret all of the signs here, that’s a clear one about how you’re feeling about the prospect of working for this guy — and that’s a pretty key thing to pay attention to.