stealth interviews, being paid for being stuck at work during snow, and more

by Ask a Manager on February 10, 2014

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

1. Interviewing for the job of someone who doesn’t know they’re about to be fired

I have been on a interview that was kept confidential because the current employee in the position has not been fired yet. I’ve been told (by my recruiter) that this is the first time this company has done confidential interviews. He also noted that efforts were made to help improve this employee’s performance, but to no avail. During my interview with the department manager, he did acknowledge that this was not the preferred scenario, but that he would do whatever he could to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Regardless, I’m leery about accepting the position. Yet, when I compare it with other job opportunities, there are some pros that make it worth considering. This would be my first management level position (more money, more responsibility, etc.), and it’s close to home. My other job prospects are lateral moves and would require me to relocate. Do you know of anyone who has been in a similar position? If so, did they accept the position and how did they handle the transition? Any thoughts or suggestions you can share would be greatly appreciated.

I can see why you feel a little leery about it, but if they’ve been candid with the employee about the performance problems and explicitly told her that her job is in jeopardy if she doesn’t make specific improvements, then I wouldn’t be too worried. The question, really, is whether they have — and how explicitly. If they’ve tried to help her improve but haven’t actually told her that she’s on the path to being fired — while they themselves are miles ahead down that path because they’re interviewing for her replacement — that’s shady and doesn’t say anything good about how they operate. But if they’ve been clear with her, such as putting her on a performance improvement plan with a specific timeline and clear consequences attached, then it’s not crazy that they’re starting to talk with other candidates. I’d try to get more information about which of these it is, and how they handle stuff like this in general.

2. I got stuck at work during a snowstorm — do I have to be paid for the time I spent stranded there?

I got snowed in at work. Does my employer have to pay me for time that I wasn’t actually working, like at 2 a.m. when I was asleep, if I’m an hourly associate?

No. If you performed work while you were stranded, you must be paid for the time you spent doing that work. But your employer isn’t required to pay you for time that you weren’t working — such as when you were sleeping — even though you were stranded there. In other words, the law treats this the same way as if you were stranded anywhere else during the storm; in your case, it just happened to be at work.

3. Should I discourage my team from including personal details about why they’ll be away from work?

I’m the manager of half of a 15-person technical development team within a Fortune 100 company. I’ve had this role 3 years and love it.

The team is made up of experienced salaried people, and our time management policy is very liberal – if your work is on track and you are reachable and responsive you can set your own hours and work remotely. I’ve noticed many people on the team communicate their scheduling plans with a lot of personal detail, e.g. “My little Johnny has to go to the orthodontist so I’m leaving at 3 today” or “My lunch did not agree with me, my stomach is really upset so I’m heading home.” I am generally a more private person than most and never detail out my life this way; I just say I have a personal appointment and note when and how I will be reachable.

Should I advise my reports that they can but don’t need to offer justification/explanation in this way? We are a pretty close-knit team and have good rapport, which is great. However, in a different or future work environment, I think this might be disadvantageous to them in the hands of a controlling boss or nasty coworker. Am I being overly cynical, or correct in trying to raise their awareness of less warm work environments?

I would tell them that they can cool it on the details, but not out of worry that they’ll be in less accepting environments in the future — I’d do it because all those details imply that justifications for managing their own time are required, and might make future team members assume that they’re obligated to provide a similar level of detail.

I’d say something like, “I trust you all to manage your own work and hours, and I don’t want anyone to ever feel they have to disclose personal information to justify why they’re out. So, as interesting as some of these emails are, please don’t feel obligated to include details.”

4. My husband and I work for the same hotel and can’t take vacation at the same time

My husband and I work at a small hotel, in a big city. We got married last year, and since then we have not been on holiday together or even on a honeymoon. The company keep refusing our holiday request together, saying “you are both full-time workers, we cannot replace you” and “this is the price you have to pay if you work together.”

We understand that in a small working environment it is hard to replace someone. But there are another 3 members of staff who are on the same duties as us. And I find it unbelievable that for the rest of our life (or long as we stay in the same place), we are not going to be able to go on a holiday together. In the hotel industry, we have just 2 days a month to spend together, and I find it really difficult to maintain a good relationship when I can not even see my husband. Can you give some advice regards to the law for couples working in the same environment?

There aren’t any laws addressing how couples must be treated when working for the same employer, or that would require your company to let you vacation at the same time. I would believe them when they tell you that this is indeed the cost of being married to a coworker, and it sounds like one of you will need to look for a job somewhere else if you want to be able to take vacation at the same time.

(It’s worth noting that there are many other reasons not to work for the same employer as your spouse. Others include the risk of both losing your jobs at the same time if the company has layoffs, the cost of feeling you have to fight each other’s battles if one of you has conflict with a manager or coworker, and the risk of a manager feeling tension with both of you when conflict arises with one of you.)

5. Capitalizing job titles in a cover letter

In a cover letter, should the title of the job you are applying for, like, say, Senior Teapot Manager, be capitalized? Aka, “I was interested in the position as a Senior Teapot Manager” or “I was interested in the position as a senior teapot manager”? And what if it’s a really common job title like administrative assistant? I don’t like random capitalization, but I’m not sure if this counts.

Jobs are only capitalized if they are part of a person’s title — e.g., President Obama, Dr. Warbucks, etc. You wouldn’t call someone Senior Teapot Manager Smith (unless you worked in a very weird place), and thus you can tell that the role is not capitalized. While some companies do it anyway, they’re doing it out of self-importance rather than correctness.

I have Strong Feelings on this, as does the Chicago Manual of Style, which is the arbiter of all that is holy and good in this world.

{ 137 comments… read them below or add one }

Ann Furthermore February 10, 2014 at 12:44 am

#4: I would also add another reason for spouses not working together, or at least for the same company, and that is that there is such a thing as too much togetherness! At least that’s true in my case. I love my husband with all my heart, but if we worked together I think we would drive each other nuts.

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The IT Manager February 10, 2014 at 9:15 am

Unfortunately it sounds like the LW and her husband get too little togetherness, but you have a point for certain couples.

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Dan February 10, 2014 at 10:40 am

The lack of togetherness makes me wonder how they were able to find enough time to court each other in the first place. It’s not like their schedules got stricter *because* they are married.

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L McD February 10, 2014 at 1:45 pm

No, but at least one of their schedules could have easily gotten stricter after they married for unrelated reasons.

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Chinook February 10, 2014 at 2:26 pm

Speaking as someone who met, dated and married someone while he was confined to a military base and I lived in town, it is possible to choose to marry someone while having mainly public interactions with them (in fact, it forces you to focus on coonversation and problemn solving). In our case, it involved dates where we would work out at his gym (with his buddies) and movie nights at the mess with him, me and 100 infanteers in-training. Oh, and his buddies had my number to call if anyone was looking for him (it was a big base) and he always made it back before curfew.

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Ann Furthermore February 10, 2014 at 1:49 pm

You do have a point, IT Manager. My husband and I rarely even talk or text during the day — we both have things to do, and we talk when we get home. So if we drove to work together each day, and then saw each other throughout the day, or ate lunch together each day we’d probably get sick of each other’s company!

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Elizabeth West February 10, 2014 at 1:53 pm

I couldn’t do it either. I’ve worked for two separate husband/wife management teams, and just…no. I don’t know how they did it.

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Noelle February 10, 2014 at 5:22 pm

I have the best of both worlds – my boyfriend and I work in the same building but for separate employers. So we can walk to work together, get lunch and coffee together a few times a week, but still have some alone time.

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Sunshine DC February 10, 2014 at 12:50 am

Re: #2, here’s a followup question to that for you, AAM – I think I’ve seen, in prior questions you’ve addressed here, the scenario where bosses are asking hourly employees to come in early and wait around to see IF there’s work for them, or even order them to arrive early or leave late, and do certain tasks off the clock. before/after (like cleaning up, etc.) It seems that these could add to confusion about this current OP’s question.

Also, if people work in an area where the local municipality or the company owner him/herseld are required to clear snow from certain areas (perhaps sidewalks, lots, etc.) and, if they failed in doing this, would actually be the cause of an employee getting stuck somewhere.

Do you have any furthere relevant advice for these scenarios, too? Thanks!

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Ask a Manager February 10, 2014 at 12:53 am

I think this is what you want to know: If you’re required to be there and/or you’re doing work, you must be paid for that time. If you’re not required to be there (you’re stuck because of snow, etc.) and you’re not doing work, you’re not required to be paid.

(This all assumes you’re non-exempt, obviously.)

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Anon for this February 10, 2014 at 9:30 am

I work in a hospital in a non-exempt role, and I have a situation where the bad weather started while I was at work. We had all the standard warnings that it was coming and it was clear that it was going to be as bad as they said. I asked if I could leave a little bit early (about 1 hour) while the roads should still be driveable. There was enough coverage for that hour, and I was the only one on shift who lived outside of town and had to drive rural Wisconsin roads. My boss said no and I ended up stuck at work. They put me up in an empty patient room, but I wasn’t able to leave and get home until almost noon the next day (I asked to leave at 3:30). I was supposed to work that next day but obviously wasn’t able to since I hadn’t been home to change clothes or shower or anything. (In a pinch I could have showered at the hospital in a patient room that is equipped with a shower, but we do not have staff showers. But I wear a uniform that the hospital does not have on hand so I would have had to wear the same clothes I’d worn for 24 hours. Eww.)

I asked my boss if there was going to be any compensation for this time, and the fact that because of it I lost out on a whole shift, and he basically laughed at me. Is it worth it to follow up with HR on this? I did help out while I was there, mostly because I was bored and figured if I’m there and someone else can’t make it in at least I can help. I am being paid for that time (at least right now) but that doesn’t really make up for losing a whole shift or not being able to go home.

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Kimberlee, Esq. February 10, 2014 at 9:47 am

I’m kind of unclear on some of the specifics here. I think it truly sucks that you had to stay that extra hour and as a result ended up stuck and work. But it sounds like losing a shift was a choice you made, not them. You admit that you could have showered at the facility, and you could have worn your same clothes (which I get is less than ideal, and I would totally understand if, say, you had blood or something on them, that warrants a wash. But if it’s just a refusal to re-wear clothes once, I’d say that’s more of a germaphobe issue than an actual hygiene issue. I re-wear clothes all the time without feeling gross, including to work, but again, I don’t know what kind of stuff your clothing is exposed to in a medical facility).

Which is all a long way of saying that it doesn’t sound like the company did you wrong. They’re paying you for time you worked, even when you were not scheduled, and they’re not paying you for a shift that (it sounds like) you refused to work.

Did you have the option of running home, changing/showering, and coming back? Or did they just cover your shift after a certain amount of time had passed?

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Anon for this February 10, 2014 at 10:03 am

I felt I could not wear the same uniform I had on. It was “soiled” while I was working (not bodily fluids, but still gross) and my boss basically said if I wear them it’s technically a violation of policy. But he also doesn’t seem to care much about that stuff and was willing to let me work. Yes, I guess I could have worked, but frankly, I felt completely disgusting and my uniformed smelled. I really didn’t think I was sanitary enough to work in a hospital environment (and one that goes up to patient units and has contact with nursing staff), but my boss said if I left to not come back. This was at 7:30, before my shift started. It took me until noon to get my car dug out in the parking lot and get home safely. At lot of that time was because I could not use my normal route and had to take other roads that were in better shape.

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JoAnna February 10, 2014 at 12:03 pm

Could you have used the hospital laundry facilities to launder your clothing, and worn a pair of scrubs in the meantime?

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The IT Manager February 10, 2014 at 10:03 am

Here’s what I don’t understand. Did you have a change of clothes that wasn’t your uniform? If not you were wearing the same clothes for 24 hours anyway. What did it matter if you showered and then appeared in for work in the same clothes you wore for 24 hour prior?

From you description it seems you made two odd choices
1) Refusing to use a patient shower which was offered
2) Refusing to work a shift because you did not have a clean uniform.
3) Asking to be compensated for not working (especially because it seems to methat your reasons for not working were odd).

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NylaW February 10, 2014 at 10:23 am

Depending on the department and position this person worked, how soiled their uniform was, and what their facility policies are, it could be a violation of health department guidelines for them to work while wearing that uniform.

It’s also, generally, really really bad practice to have a healthcare working going around in the same clothes from yesterday.

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KAZ2Y5 February 10, 2014 at 10:23 am

I work in a hospital also, and honestly the HR department is probably going to react just like your boss did. Although hopefully they won’t laugh at you to your face. I just got off a 7 day work week and for 5 of those days I kept a suitcase in my car in case I had to spend the night at the hospital (and I did one night).
You were given a room for the night, you had a shower available to you and while I am unclear on the hospital not having the uniform you usually wear, I would guess there were surgical scrubs you could have worn. And unless your uniform offers some special type of protection (and in that case, the hospital should provide it) I would guess that your hospital would have turned a blind eye considering the circumstances.
It was your choice not to work and I am not surprised that they won’t pay you for refusing to work.
If you are considered essential personnel the hospital can make you stay (or write you up, etc if you leave anyway) so I would start checking the weather and keep a bag in your car if necessary.

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KellyK February 10, 2014 at 11:14 am

I think that if you were at work and ready to work but didn’t have a clean uniform, they should’ve provided you with one, or allowed you to work in something clean that’s not your standard uniforms (e.g., borrow a random pair of scrubs). (Because it’s not like you forgot it at home.) But that’s a matter of decency, not legality.

Even if we’re just talking ethics, I don’t think they’re obliged to pay you for a shift you didn’t work.

I do agree with you that not letting you leave initially was crappy, if they actually did have the appropriate coverage for that hour. But it doesn’t really affect the end result. They didn’t *require* you to stay when your shift ended–that was the weather, which is beyond their control.

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Ann Furthermore February 10, 2014 at 12:50 am

Darn it, I hit the submit button by mistake….

#5: So if my title is, for example, “Staff Accountant 5″ or something similar, then I would refer to my job in emails or other correspondence by saying, “I am a staff accountant,” or simply, “I am an accountant.” That makes sense. But in my email signature I would list it as:

Ann Futhermore
Staff Accountant
Chocolate Teapots, Inc.

And on a resume, I would list it as “Staff Accountant 5.” Is that correct? Just wondering.

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Josh S February 10, 2014 at 1:32 am

Cover letter:
“I’m writing to show my interest in the administrative assistant position, because it’s awesome. In my previous job as an office manager, I did some stuff, because I’m awesome. Give me the job.”

(Do not write your cover letter like that.)

Resume:
ChocoTeaPot Inc – Office Manager – June 2012-Present
-Awesome stuff I accomplished

CaramelCoffeeUrn Ltd – Office Assistant – Febterday 2010-June 2012
-I won on celebrity Jeopardy

That’s it. If you’re listing it as a heading for a section of your resume, use Title Case as you would with any other heading or title. If you’re writing the job/position title in a sentence you do not need to capitalize.

Now, I doubt any employer is going to either a) be aware of any of this pedantry, or b) care a particular amount, even if they did (unless it’s a job as editor of the MLA or CMS, in which case it might be important). So don’t sweat over it.

I’m not a fan of random capitalization, but it wouldn’t kill your chances to capitalize a position.

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Anon E Mouse February 10, 2014 at 3:48 am

I’m totally writing my cover letters like this from now on. That’s awesome.

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Adam V February 10, 2014 at 10:23 am

Everything is awesome! Everything is cool when you’re part of a team…

(Sorry, your posts got the song from the Lego movie stuck in my head again.)

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A Cita February 10, 2014 at 12:11 pm

Yes, this. Unless it’s part of your title, it’s considered vanity capitals. I see it all.the.time in my industry. I am not a fan.

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A Cita February 10, 2014 at 12:15 pm

Also want to add, since not everyone has access to the Chicago Manual of Style and since there are a lot of style manuals out there which might give conflicting advice, I recommend folks visit grammar girl’s quick and dirty grammar tips website. The advice is compiled from different style sources and each manual is referenced when the advice conflicts or for context (for instance, depending on what you are writing for, you may want to use AP style instead of Chicago, etc).

http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/grammar-girl

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Ann Furthermore February 10, 2014 at 1:46 pm

Ha!!! This reminds me of when I was in college, and my friends and I were putting together our resumes. This was back in the dark ages when you still put an objective on your resume.

So late one night, before midterms or something when we were all sleep deprived, we started talking about how dumb it was to have to put an objective on a resume, because really, what is everyone’s objective? To get a freaking job and to make money. So we were all laughing about how funny it would be to submit resumes to all these stuffy Big 6 accounting firms with an objective of, “To make a sh*tload of money.”

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KarenT February 10, 2014 at 1:00 am

#5

I share Alison’s feelings regarding Random Capitalization, but for some reason I feel compelled to mirror the job posting. If they are hiring a Teapot Designer that’s what I’ll refer to in my cover letter, and if they are hiring for a teapot designer then that is how I’ll write it.

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Jen in RO February 10, 2014 at 3:37 am

That’s how I do it too. Even though I know that the person who wrote the ad and the person who will read my resume are probably two different people… and many times the interviewer doesn’t even know what’s in the ad… hm, I guess I can stop using random caps.

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Ruffingit February 10, 2014 at 12:13 pm

I do the same thing. I figure they know best what they want to call the job and how they want it written, so I just use that.

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Anonymous February 15, 2014 at 7:17 pm

Exactly what I was going to say. If the job title is capitalized in the body of the job description then I will capitalize it in my cover letter.

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kas February 10, 2014 at 1:00 am

I always wondered about #5. I know titles are suppose to be lower case but I always capitalized job titles in my cover letter. I guess I just followed the format of the job description.

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businesslady February 10, 2014 at 6:59 am

yeah, I’m a big CMoS devotee too, but down-capping the job title in the cover letter can feel like you’re trying to correct the job posting (if it was capitalized there) & that seems like a bad note to start off on.

if it’s lower-case in the description, though, then by all means leave the shift key alone.

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Ask a Manager February 10, 2014 at 8:51 am

I think you’re assuming more thought to this stuff by the hiring manager and/or HR than they really give it.

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Fiona February 10, 2014 at 8:10 am

I like this response from grammarbook.com (who also follows CMoS):

“Capitalization is a fuzzy area when it comes to rules vs. preferences. Yes, ego plays its part in capitalizing titles like Executive Director in a job announcement. But capitalization should serve this function, so I think it’s fine (and preferable) to capitalize the position title in your response.”

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Lillie Lane February 10, 2014 at 8:13 am

I didn’t know this, and just corrected my email signature!

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Artemesia February 10, 2014 at 1:36 am

Question about the blog and how it works. Sometimes I will respond to two different issues on these posts where 5 issues are discussed. I notice that often people will post more than once on a threat and yet even when my second post is on an entirely different section/issue, the system will tell me that this is a duplicate post and not post it.

What am I doing to trigger this? The information or comments I am posting are absolutely not duplicated or even addressing the same problem? Or are we only allowed one post per larger blog posting?

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Jen in RO February 10, 2014 at 3:37 am

That’s weird and probably a bug.

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IronMaiden February 10, 2014 at 5:56 am

You can directly adress a particular comment as I am doing here, by clicking the small “REPLY” underneath each comment or you can post more generally by simply filling in the dialogue box and pressing “submit”. That will put your comment in its own section.

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Ask a Manager February 10, 2014 at 8:54 am

Hmmm, yeah, probably just a random bug.

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Not So NewReader February 10, 2014 at 7:17 am

aYeah, I have had a couple of my comments fly off into outer space. I end up with a message saying it is a duplicate comment. Sometimes- not always- I can hit the refresh/reload button and my comment is posted.
OR I can hit the reply button again and my supposedly posted comment is still in the reply box. (The reply box should be empty if my comment has gone through correctly.) Oddly, when this happens, I can hit any reply button anywhere on the page and get my comment that I already sent.

It doesn’t happen often enough to annoy me. I have been ignoring this… until now that you’ve mentioned it. I thought it was just me or my fluky cable connect or whatever.

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Artemesia February 10, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Odd. This is what happens to me every time I try to post in the same thread a second time. The post is still in the box but won’t post. I will try the refresh next time and see what happens. Maybe it is a time lapse thing; since this post is a day later, I’ll see if it goes up.

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ChristineSW February 10, 2014 at 9:39 am

Not to detract from today’s topics, but that’s weird because I noticed a duplicate post in this past Friday’s Open Thread (yes, I capitalized it ;) ).

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Not So NewReader February 10, 2014 at 6:22 pm

I thought I saw a couple dups but it was late and I was not at my best.

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Sandrine February 10, 2014 at 2:06 am

About number 4 :

The problem is your bosses have made it clear what their expectations are. And quite frankly, even if the hotel is “small”, two people out at the same time out of five seems like a lot.

Were I your boss, I would try to let you guys do it at least once because honeymoons are important, but if your boss won’t for whatever reason, you do indeed need to have one of you find another job.

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Fucshia February 10, 2014 at 2:46 am

I thought 2 out of 5 taking time off at the same time was a lot, too. The only reason the OP would have any reason for feeling like the situation was unfair is if it is okay in general for 2 people to schedule vacations at the same time. It is not the business’s fault that someone married a coworker.

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IronMaiden February 10, 2014 at 5:59 am

“Were I your boss, I would try to let you guys do it at least once ”

I’m sorry, I’m very immature but this struck me as hilarious.

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librarian February 10, 2014 at 7:14 am

I once worked in a small department of 4 managers that was available to the public 7 days a week. 9 am to 9 pm. 2 coworkers were dating. Often when one had time off the other would call in sick. I would look at the schedule, Jane is scheduled off, I bet Pete calls in sick. I carry this resentment 20 years later.

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fposte February 10, 2014 at 9:25 am

It didn’t strike me at all until your comment!

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A Cita February 10, 2014 at 12:20 pm

Me too (to fposte)! Which is surprising because I usually do notice stuff like that (and chuckle to myself).

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Sandrine February 11, 2014 at 9:29 am

… hahahaha, indeed xD. Now I see it lol!

Immature as well. Most of the time. It’s a miracle I even have an “adult person” status :p

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Lindsay the Temp February 10, 2014 at 11:29 am

I would guess, in a staff of 5, that you’re on some kind of rotation, not necessarily that 4/5 of you are there all the time? If you have a close enough relationship with the other 3 staff, maybe you could organize some shifting of the rotation where you would get some time off together and the others would get some extra (or bulk) time off in the preceding/following weeks? Be careful not to go over Boss’s heads about the guidelines they’ve already set, but maybe this could be a group/boss conversation.

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Not So NewReader February 10, 2014 at 7:23 am

This. I have never seen married couples do well with the time off requests. That seems to be a norm.
It could be that because of your experience/longevity the boss feels uncomfortable with both of you being gone at the same time. It is difficult to be without your key people. So that factor could be making the whole thing worse for your opportunities to have time off together.

I am sorry to say this but do not expect this to change and make plans as to how you will handle this.

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Jerry February 10, 2014 at 7:52 am

The employer does need to be consistent though. If the rule is that two people cannot take vacation at the same time, it should apply to all, including the three others.

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Elizabeth West February 10, 2014 at 1:59 pm

That’s exactly what I was thinking.

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Anonymous February 10, 2014 at 8:38 am

A honeymoon isn’t any more important than Somebody else’s vacation.

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AdAgencyChick February 10, 2014 at 9:56 am

“And quite frankly, even if the hotel is ‘small’, two people out at the same time out of five seems like a lot.”

This is exactly what I thought. Do they EVER let two people take the same week of vacation? If yes, then you have a better rationale to take back to the owners — but even then, I wouldn’t phrase it as, “Wakeen and Jane got to take off the same week, why can’t we?” I’d phrase it as, “When Wakeen and Jane were both off for a week, we made it work, so I’m sure we could arrange a plan that would work if Husband and I were out.”

But if they’re big on only one person taking off at a time — and with a staff of only five, I wouldn’t be surprised if they are — I don’t think you should have special treatment because you are married. Sorry.

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Carrie in Scotland February 10, 2014 at 2:59 am

#4 I have some friends who are married and work in retail and while they didn’t get days off together every week, they did usually get one or two days together or if they had anned a holiday together they would be able to take the time. So it can happen but from what you have said here, your place of work isn’t one of them.

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NZ Muse February 10, 2014 at 4:18 am

I’m a journalist. Capitalised job titles make me twitchy. DON’T DO IT.

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Not So NewReader February 10, 2014 at 7:44 am

#3. Part of the work place culture maybe caring and concern for each other. Tread softly here because you don’t want them to read your message as “we don’t care about you as a person”.

Back in the 1950s my father lived by himself out in the sticks. One day it came on the news that there was an escaped convict hiding in his area. He told his coworkers “You guys are going to be the first to know that something is wrong because you don’t see me showing up for work. If I fail to show up for work please call the police.”

Yes, it’s an extreme example but there are many little ways that coworkers help each other. This involves sharing details. So, I am advocating for hitting that balance that Alison is talking about where people feel that they can mention x, y or z is going on but it’s not because they feel they must explain themselves. I would start by asking them if they feel they must explain their absences. It could be that a previous boss micromanaged them. Then you can go into the part about how you believe everyone here is an adult and can manage their time in a responsible manner.

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Chinook February 10, 2014 at 8:00 am

I think that there is a difference between unexplained absences and preplanned ones, though. If I am taking time off to see a doctor or a lawyer, I don’t want to give details. But, if I don’t show up and no one else knows why, it is totally appropriate to ask questions, call me and even contact emergency contacts if they can’t contact me.

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ExceptionToTheRule February 10, 2014 at 8:21 am

OP #3 – Not So New Reader has a point being careful with the message you’re sending and offers a great script for addressing.

If I were on your team, and this was the way we’d been doing these out of the office announcements for the past 3 years, I’d wonder why you hadn’t said something sooner & what else I was doing that bugged you that you haven’t addressed.

Is there a particular business reason you want them to stop doing this or is it because your personal preference is to not share?

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Anonymous February 10, 2014 at 8:38 am

I’m assuming they’re sick of the “I’m going home early because Timmy has violent diarrhoea, here’s a picture of the diarrhoea” type emails!

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AdAgencyChick February 10, 2014 at 10:29 am

Now I can’t help thinking of that early (season 1, I think) South Park episode where Mr. Garrison demands to see Kenny’s sick note, threatens to read it to the class, and then stops short when he sees the words “explosive diarrhea” on it! Golden.

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Dan February 10, 2014 at 10:57 am

Heh. In college, my room mates and I had the “Please excuse me for being late, I have explosive diarrhea” poster hung up near the bathroom.

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Kimberlee, Esq. February 10, 2014 at 9:58 am

Actually, I get the impression that OP is entirely altruistic here. She doesn’t care about details one way or another, but is worried that either people feel they NEED to share details to be considered legit, or that that level of sharing isn’t the norm elsewhere and doesn’t want her company “training” people to do something that might hurt them later.

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Cat February 10, 2014 at 9:17 am

Yeah, I think the tone is going to be tricky on that one. The boss doesn’t want to come off looking like (a) she wants her employees to be mindless automatons who never share anything; or (b) she is condescending (which “I just want to make sure these seasoned professionals are prepared for the cold harsh world” kind of comes off as).

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Fiona February 10, 2014 at 9:42 am

I agree with NSNR – Based on the OP’s description of their team dynamics (“experienced professionals”, “close-knit”), and the examples given, this just sounds like people who’ve known each other for a number of years sharing friendly, not really that graphic details about their lives while communicating their availability – e.g. I would assume that I can reach Johnny’s mom on her cell but that she might not have the answer at her fingertips if she’s away from her files, and I would try and avoid disturbing Bob if at all possible, since he might not be in a position to answer the phone at all. To me, none of these read as “I feel the need to justify my time away from my desk.”

If you have a newer employee who may not quite be comfortable with the level of freedom yet, or one who *really* overshares, those should be addressed on an individual basis.

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Lynn Whitehat February 10, 2014 at 10:39 am

I do understand what the OP is getting at, though. You don’t want to create a norm where people feel like they *have* to share the details. Some people are naturally more private, and even people who “live out loud” want the option of not sharing about their colonoscopy or marriage counseling.

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KellyK February 10, 2014 at 11:01 am

Definitely. The trick is making sure people are aware that that kind of sharing isn’t needed, without giving them the impression that it’s a problem if it isn’t.

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Ruffingit February 10, 2014 at 12:17 pm

Not such an extreme example actually because (crime show watcher here) many murders and kidnappings have come to the attention of police because co-workers call them to report the absence.

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Elizabeth West February 10, 2014 at 2:01 pm

My boss would definitely notice if I didn’t log in.

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TychaBrahe February 10, 2014 at 7:51 am

Ah, a sister worshiper at the feet of Kate Turabian.

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Diet Coke Addict February 10, 2014 at 8:26 am

If it’s not Turabian, I don’t believe in it.

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Ask a Manager February 10, 2014 at 2:22 pm

The Chicago Manual just retweeted a link to this post. My heart is aflutter.

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Ms Enthusiasm February 10, 2014 at 4:42 pm

LIKE!!!!!

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Anonymous February 10, 2014 at 8:08 am

#4 have you talked to your coworkers about covering for you? I work in the same industry and the only way anybody gets a holiday is if they go to the boss with a plan for who is going to cover for them. I’ve worked 7 days a week or longer shifts so somebody can take a holiday.

If your coworkers don’t like you or the boss still says no then you’d better start job hunting.

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Diet Coke Addict February 10, 2014 at 8:25 am

What is the best way to try to winkle out information from a company that is stealth-interviewing replacement employees? I would be concerned that if they are going to manage that in a somewhat sneaky fashion, that things in the office may be somewhat sneaky as well.

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Yup February 10, 2014 at 9:18 am

I’d probably just ask “How do you typically handle performance issues if they should arise?” flat out. A good answer would show that regular feedback is already a thing and that managers are hands-on about it. A lying answer would be fluffy nonsense about how they don’t have performance problems.

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Not So NewReader February 10, 2014 at 6:41 pm

OP could also assess what she has seen so far. Do they keep mentioning the upcoming firing? Are they speaking in a disrespectful manner of that employee? (That jerk, I can’t wait to see her gone.)
I replaced a lousy worker. I guess he knew the firing was coming so he quit instead. I was not on the job very long and I could see all. the. problems. oh my. It took me over a year to get most of it cleaned up.
I think the one thing that helped (and I could have used more of) was being shown what NOT to do. I could have started the job by candidly saying “I do not want to be that type of worker, tell me how I can excel at this job. Tell me what I can do that is meaningful to the group and the processes.” I should have insisted on these types of conversations.
What I did do was something I call negative learning. “Don’t do x or y.” OR “See, this? This is WRONG. Don’t do it.”
But I attribute that to the struggle to climb out of a pit. It was a desperate, on the fly type of training. But I knew from the start that I could conquer the situation, so I took the job and stuck with it.
Sometimes you can see the boss is a good boss that just fell into a pit for a bit. Once the pit is cleared up, the job/boss will be fine.
I don’t see anything in OPs post that would make me back away from that job. It could be that there are subtleties not mentioned in the post, though.

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Audiophile February 10, 2014 at 8:31 am

I almost always capitalize job titles, just because I see it so often. It used to bug me a lot more than it does now. I think I’ve just become accustomed to it.

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Kimberlee, Esq. February 10, 2014 at 10:14 am

I’m the opposite. I capitalize them all the time for aesthetic reasons… drives me nuts to see them lower-case. But alas, we all must make sacrifices. :)

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Sharm February 10, 2014 at 1:32 pm

Me too! I had no idea people felt so strongly the other way (i.e. to make them lower case). On all my business cards, email signatures — the title is ALWAYS capitalized. I appear to be wrong on this, but I am not going to change my tune on this one.

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Ask a Manager February 10, 2014 at 2:02 pm

I have no objection to that — as Josh said, in those uses it’s sort of like a headline, which would be capitalized.

Where I care about it is in the middle of a sentence — like “I work as a Teapot Designer,” which is wrong.

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Sharm February 10, 2014 at 4:36 pm

Ah, okay. Thanks for the clarification.

I take it that saying something like, “I worked in XYZ Org’s marketing department for 10 years,” falls under a similar umbrella? I always struggled with that one more than position titles, for some reason.

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Ask a Manager February 10, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Department names are are capitalized, but “department” is lowercased when used alone:

the Marketing Department

I worked in that department for 10 years.

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Anonymous February 10, 2014 at 8:36 am

I almost got stranded at work this winter, but sadly they let me go home just before the roads closed. I work at a fancy hotel so I would’ve got a $500 room for free!

For people who have office type jobs, where do you sleep if you get stranded? On the floor, with no blankets?

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Anne 3 February 10, 2014 at 9:18 am

I think I’d try to get into the hotel up the street because I’d rather spend the money than try to sleep on our filthy carpets.

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Kimberlee, Esq. February 10, 2014 at 10:16 am

I’ve never been stranded, but yeah, I’d probably curl up on the floor. At least coats and whatnot sort of count as blankets. There is a hotel sorta close, definitely walking distance, but I’d probably just cheap out and sleep on the floor.

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Anonymous February 10, 2014 at 10:21 am

That’s horrible. And makes me not want an office job!

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Cat February 10, 2014 at 11:18 am

Well, I mean, it’s not like this is a regular occurrence . . . or even something that is likely to happen to any given worker ever.

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Elsajeni February 10, 2014 at 11:27 am

Exactly — the closest I’ve ever come was camping out at the office during a post-hurricane power outage, because the office had power (and therefore AIR CONDITIONING) and my home didn’t, and I doubt even that will ever happen to me again, let alone actually being stranded at work without the opportunity to run home and grab a sleeping bag or whatever.

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Kimberlee, Esq. February 10, 2014 at 11:56 am

Yeah. The closest I’ve come is napping in an empty office one morning.

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Mephyle February 11, 2014 at 11:21 am

Makes you not want an office job? Rather it should make you not want to live where there might be paralyzing snow or ice storms.
Oh, wait, earthquakes and hurricanes.

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Elizabeth West February 10, 2014 at 2:03 pm

There’s a hotel close to us too, but no sidewalks and a freeway entrance between, so walking is out of the question. I would just take my chances and go home (not on the highway).

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some1 February 10, 2014 at 10:25 am

Where I live, there are blizzards in the winter and some tornadoes and bad thunderstorms in the summer. I have never been in a situation where getting home would be impossible, just very delayed.

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Anonymous February 10, 2014 at 10:34 am

Do the roads never close? One road near me had ten feet of snow blocking it.

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some1 February 10, 2014 at 11:33 am

I’ve always lived and worked in urban areas. Because it snows here very frequently, the plows respond immediately to make major roads passable.

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Dan February 10, 2014 at 10:59 am

Back in the day, when the DC sniper shooting was all the rage, I knew the helicopter pilot for Fox 5 news. During that time, he had to be on call 24/7 and ready to fly at a moment’s notice. He put a folding cot in his office and brought a mini fridge.

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Gene February 10, 2014 at 12:54 pm

I have an office-type job with regular field work.

As part of our disaster preparedness we have enough food (MRE equivalent) and water stockpiled for everyone here (~45 people) to stay for a week; and that’s not counting food we have individually stashed. We also have emergency bedding in the warehouse. The Animal Shelter just up the road has the same, as well as pet food for a week.

Seems to me that this should be normal preparedness.

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Katriona February 10, 2014 at 12:59 pm

I work at a nursing home that considers EVERY employee “essential”, so if it looks like we’re going to have trouble getting into work the next day we’re expected to come in the night before. There are a limited number of cots on-hand but once those run out, people sleep on office floors. Luckily I have yet to experience this myself.

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L McD February 10, 2014 at 2:02 pm

I’ve also heard of crashing at a nearby (saintly) coworker’s house. Not always possible, of course, but it does happen from time to time.

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Elizabeth West February 10, 2014 at 2:04 pm

I had to do that for a night during our ice storm.

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ThursdaysGeek February 10, 2014 at 2:05 pm

I’ve wondered that and looked around at our office: thin industrial carpet over concrete floors, chairs with arm rests, all hard surfaces. I’m sure we could scrounge up food for a day or so, but there is no where to lay down.

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The Other Dawn February 10, 2014 at 8:45 am

RE: #1

I don’t see how the OP can attempt to get more information about the departing employee and how the situation was/is being handled without seeming nosy or inappropriate. I also don’t see how it’s OP’s business how the employer is handling it, beyond what was already mentioned. They said attempts were made to help the improve to no avail. I think OP has to take this at face value.

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KellyK February 10, 2014 at 8:53 am

I think you’re right that asking specifics about the person leaving will seem nosy. But asking about the job you’re walking into, and asking about their general procedures for dealing with performance issues are both really relevant.

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Ask a Manager February 10, 2014 at 9:00 am

If things get to the finalist or offer stage, I’d say something like: “I have to be honest, I feel a little odd about the fact that the person currently in the role doesn’t know we’re talking. Can you tell me a bit more about how that’s being handled?” … and then I’d listen to what they say, what they don’t say, and how they talk about it.

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The Other Dawn February 10, 2014 at 9:19 am

I think asking about how performance issues are handled in general is fine, as KellyK said. I just think that asking about the specific person and how’s she’s being handled risks blowing the interview.

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Ask a Manager February 10, 2014 at 9:22 am

Right, you don’t say “tell me the details about this specific person.” You say “I feel a little odd about this” and ask about the situation itself (meaning the stealth interviewing, not the details of her performance management) — which is totally reasonable to say you feel odd about — and wait to see what they say in response and how they talk about it.

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Ella February 10, 2014 at 10:48 am

I have seen this procedure taking place a few times for exec roles (I am in HR).

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Ms Enthusiasm February 10, 2014 at 12:25 pm

I also think the OP might possibly want to try to get more specific details about the transition. Will the old employee still be there when he starts? Will the old employee be expected to train him? Will he need to still keep it a secret at that point? If they do fire the employee before the OP starts then what training plan would be in place? The OP mentions in his letter that the company told him they would try to make the transition as easy as possible so maybe they already gave him these details but, if not, I don’t think it would be unareasonable to ask.

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Sunflower February 10, 2014 at 9:08 am

#4 I’ve worked in hotels/restaurants before and getting more than 3 days off in a row was a miracle in itself. When one person took off for more than a couple days, the 4 other managers basically never left and barely slept. And the person taking off worked themselves insane for 2 weeks before the trip. So for those reasons it wasn’t something that happened a lot.

You can attempt to talk to your other staff members about covering for you and see if they would want to work something out. It could work out, it could not. But I feel like you’re treating this as your boss doesn’t want to make accommodations but in reality he can’t because it would be incredibly unfair to your co-workers for you two to take off that long together.

Seriously one or both of your start looking for a new job now. It sounds like your marriage is really important to you and I don’t see how both of you continuing to work at this place and not get time off together is going to do you any favors.

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Lia February 10, 2014 at 10:57 am

This. When my ex and I were married, we worked for the same hotel company very briefly (maybe a month total of overlap) and realized very quickly that due to the nature of the work, the odds that we’d get much time to spend together were poor. I found another job elsewhere and a few months later, so did he. The red flag for us was that although the company offered generous vacation, no one working there had taken more than 2 days in a row off in years.

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Dan February 10, 2014 at 11:02 am

Makes me glad I do what I do… In a five-year span, I took three vacations of three weeks or more in duration.

I started a new job, and already have a spring vacation lined up that is just shy of four weeks.

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Anonymous February 10, 2014 at 11:11 am

What do you do?

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Anonymous February 10, 2014 at 12:02 pm

What do you do and how do I get in on this??

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Dan February 10, 2014 at 1:03 pm

I do applied math for a non-profit who provides services to the federal government. A graduate degree in a technical field would help your chances immensely.

Previous job was more or less doing the same stuff for the same federal agency, although the employer was for profit.

When you see those “best jobs” surveys, they aren’t kidding when they say that mathematics is a ticket to a good QOL job with decent pay.

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NylaW February 10, 2014 at 9:34 am

I work at the same company as my husband but in completely different departments and roles. We really could not be more dissimilar and we rarely see each other during the work day. Despite me knowing some crappy things that go on in his department, we’ve never had an issue with the situation. So I would say that if you are separate enough while at work, it can be just fine.

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LisaLyn February 10, 2014 at 10:51 am

I think it can, but the OP’s situation is not like that. They are on a team of five. I don’t see this working.

But, yeah, at the large university where I work, there are all sorts of married couples and there just isn’t a problem at all (except in a few rare circumstances).

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NylaW February 10, 2014 at 11:16 am

Oh I agree they are very different, but there seems to be a lot of people that think you can’t or shouldn’t do it at all. I just don’t see it as that extreme of an issue.

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Hlyssande February 10, 2014 at 9:35 am

re: #3

I think I always err on the side of providing too much information when I’m calling in sick or taking an otherwise unplanned absence, probably because I’m worried that the boss won’t believe me if I don’t provide at least some form of detail.

I’ve never actually had a manager be nosey about details, but the thought that mine might does the trick.

It may be that the OP’s employees think the same way.

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LisaLyn February 10, 2014 at 10:53 am

Yes, that could be and I think the OP doesn’t want them to feel as though she doesn’t trust them. I think a blanket statement along the lines of, “Hey, guys, I just want to make sure that you all know that I trust you and you don’t have to convince me that you need to be away” or something would work.

My current boss actually stated point blank when he took over that he wants to know if/when we will be out of the office, but NO DETAILS.

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Joey February 10, 2014 at 9:40 am

I’m not getting what’s so weird about stealth interviews. This was pretty common when I worked for a staffing company. Typically someone was on a PIP or wouldn’t pass probation, but they did it because they couldn’t afford to have the position vacant (for example a receptionist).

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ChristineSW February 10, 2014 at 9:55 am

Ooh good point…in the situation I posted about below, I think part of the position entailed answering phones.

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Ask a Manager February 10, 2014 at 10:10 am

If the person is on a PIP or has otherwise been warned, then that’s fine. The concern is about whether they make plans to fire people without giving them direct feedback and warnings. Which of course could be the case in any job you’re applying for where the previous person was fired; in this case, it’s just brought to the surface more because they’re interviewing behind her back. It’s one more data point for the OP to think about and do due diligence on.

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Mike C. February 10, 2014 at 10:17 am

Because for folks who aren’t used to it they’re afraid that instead of a boss coming to them with an issue they’ll walk into work one day to find their replacement sitting at their desk.

Many folks are going to have several questions in the back of their minds. Things like “Will I be told there were problems?”, “If they do this in secret, what else will they do in secret?”, “Sure they answered my questions, but were they being honest?” and so on.

In a functional work place this isn’t an issue, but given many people’s fear in naming names when it comes to dysfunctional workplaces, you don’t really get to find out until you’re already in the job.

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Dan February 10, 2014 at 11:05 am

Irrational fear: Are the co-workers going to resent ME for taking his spot?

Slightly more rational fear, although you kind of expressed it: If they did this to him, will they do it to me?

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Ruffingit February 10, 2014 at 12:26 pm

That last one would be my fear. I’m all about transparency. I mean, I get that there are times where you can’t be transparent, but knowing someone is going to be fired before they know it AND I’m going to take their job? Makes me wonder if I need to be worried every time someone walks in the office with a suit and a resume.

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ChristineSW February 10, 2014 at 9:54 am

#1 – Ugh you have my sympathies OP, I know what it’s like to be in a stealth interview situation! I don’t remember how much the to-be-fired employee was aware that her job was in jeopardy (this was 15+ years ago), but in hindsight, it just felt so awkward.

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Hawkeye February 10, 2014 at 10:47 am

Reply to #1

I went through this exact situation (3) years ago. According to the hiring manager, the person did an excellent job at setting-up this remote site from scratch, but when it came time to execute the day to day business, things fell apart. They did try a PIP to keep the person in the position.

The person’s manager flew into town, conducted a stealth interview with me in the evening that included a tour of the facility after hours. After discussing the current state of affairs and the situation with the manager, I accepted the position. When I traveled to headquarters for training, everyone there thought I was there for training for a different position. It was a bit stressful but I understood the manager’s reasoning. The person was let go in the morning and I took over the same afternoon. No problems with management or staff since I took over, if anything they are very supportive and understanding.

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Ruffingit February 10, 2014 at 12:27 pm

That could work if the rest of the staff disliked/had a hard time with the previous person. I’m glad it worked out for you. I can definitely see though how it could create some issues with existing staff members.

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Dan February 10, 2014 at 11:07 am

Stealth Interviews

At my last job, they stealth interviewed for the HR director role. At the time, HR was just one guy, and management had aggressive growth plans and didn’t think he could handle it.

He found out he was being replaced when one of his buddies called him up and said, “Hey Tom! What’s up with the HR director role? Are you getting promoted?” Hmmm… I know nothing about this, thanks for the heads up!

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Dan February 10, 2014 at 11:11 am

Re: Married Co-workers

Same last job… it’s a company of about 200, which means most people know each other. We’re a government contractor, which means funding year to year can be “touchy”. We had a few husband/wife teams. My company had three rounds of layoffs, while one of the couples was delivering twins… oh what fun.

AAM mentioned that when you work at the same job, you run the risk of *both* people getting laid off. Along those lines, you run the risk of either of you getting laid off, and then having the other hold resentment.

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Ruffingit February 10, 2014 at 12:29 pm

Agreed. I worked at a place once where the husband was laid off and the wife continued working there. She still does. Thing was, the husband was fired for a very unfair reason. This manager was notorious for doing that kind of thing. Anyway, I always wondered how they wife could continue on there when that happened. It’s one thing to be professional and know that perhaps it wasn’t the right job for the husband, that happens. It’s another thing entirely when your boss was totally unfair to the husband in firing him. I would definitely carry some resentment on behalf of my spouse on that one.

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Ugggh February 10, 2014 at 1:05 pm

I always thought you were supposed to capitalize a job title in a cover letter and have done so against my instinct! So happy that I can stop doing that in the future!

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anon-2 February 10, 2014 at 2:19 pm

#1 situation — it’s not so bad –(almost) every time I’ve seen someone hired to replace someone being fired, demoted, or “sent out to pasture” — that individual can be a complete bozo – he/she is going to get the red carpet treatment, and “can do no wrong”.

That person will “walk on water” (frozen or not) if the person being fired is competent – and being fired for a personality conflict or vendetta….

So interviewing for a job that someone’s getting fired out of isn’t necessarily all that bad… it can be good , albeit awkward.

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KarenT February 10, 2014 at 6:36 pm

Also, I’m sorry to harp on an older post but if Alison is recommending following Chicago on resumes then that means no periods on sentence fragments.

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me February 11, 2014 at 6:05 am

If my boss calls me in for a potential snow storm to make sure enough staff is on hand, requires you to come in. Off the clock, just to wait on a shift yhat you may have to work. I dont get compensated for that time. Or after working 16 hours clock out cant leave via orders, to clock bk n 8 hrs later. Shouldn’t i get compensation for being required to come n and stay ?

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LCL February 11, 2014 at 12:20 pm

If he is asking you to report to work, tell him he has to pay you. And he can’t keep you from leaving! Are you doing restaraunt work?

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