my volunteer role has become full-time and I want to be paid, jobs without benefits, and more

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

1. My volunteer role has become full-time and I want to be paid

I am a stay-at-home mom who has volunteered for ten years at my church. I started just helping with a flyer and then little by little doing more. I am bilingual, so I started helping as a interpreter/translator. As this required more time, they started paying me something just as a token of appreciation.

In September, we got a new pastor, and since then I have been working such extensive hours that I feel it is a full-time job – just not paid. I’ve been taking all that weight because I didn’t want the foreign community to feel lost. Many people have been commenting, even at the church office, about the load I have, and that I should get paid. A bilingual associate priest is going to start soon, and I want to speak up that if I am going to keep doing all that I do – which I really enjoy – they need to start paying me. But I am clueless how to do it. I’m feeling very down because I am very qualified: I have a degree (from a foreign country), I speak fluently both languages, I am computer literate, have people skills, and also really care about the community here, but I don’t know how to approach this, much less what salary to negotiate.

Definitely speak up. But realize that they’re giving you more and more work because you’re agreeing to it; it’s not fair to resent them for something that you’re agreeing to and haven’t told them you’re not happy with. So definitely talk to them. You could say something like, “I really enjoy the work I do here and think providing interpreting services to our members is crucial. However, I’m now averaging X hours per week and can’t keep that up without a real salary. Is that something the church would be open to working out?”

When you say, this be prepared for the possibility that the answer will be no. In many situations like this, a volunteer is doing valuable work and the organization is glad to have it done, but if it becomes something they need to find room for in their budget, it will lose out to higher financial priorities. If that happens, then your next step is to let them know what you are and aren’t willing to continue doing. You just need to be clear with them about what you’re willing to offer.

2. Managers and the possessive tense

I have a new manager who has placed his desk in the middle of the room, and conducts all of his conference calls in a rather loud fashion. In doing so, he constantly refers to the employees (myself and my peers) as “his” — e.g. “my team,” “my testers,” “my people.”

Am I wrong to feel a bit demeaned that my new manager is placing himself as a king among the common employee? His self-placement of prominence above those that he rules is causing quite a bit of resentment amongst “we the people.”

Eh. I wouldn’t do it myself, but it’s a far from uncommon way of speaking. Focus on the way he actually manages — does he set clear expectations, give useful feedback, recognize good work, ensure you have the resources needed to do your job? That’s what matters.

3. Jobs that claim to be career-track but don’t offer benefits

I’m currently job searching, and I recently came across an odd job description. In the title, they specifically ask for people who are looking for a full-time career, not just a job, which is definitely something I am in the market for. The posting looks fairly interesting and I meet most of the skills. However, they post at the bottom of the ad that “benefits are not available for this position.”

It strikes me as a bit disingenuous to ask for people looking for a career, but not provide them with any benefits. It doesn’t specify which kinds, but I’m assuming PTO, insurance, and other things fall in that category. I would not be willing to move from my current position to one that provided no benefits, so would it be a waste of everyone’s time to apply? If I did apply and got to an interview stage, is there a way to tactfully point out that a job with no benefits doesn’t really make for a “career” in many people’s eyes?

Hell yeah, it’s disingenuous. What they’re telling you, very clearly, is that they want professional level skills and commitment, but they’re not willing to compensate you in accordance with the market norms for those things.

I wouldn’t bother applying on the hope that you could convince them to change their mind; it would almost certainly be a waste of your time. Plus, they were at least transparent enough to tell you their terms up-front, so you should do them the courtesy in return of taking them at their word and not taking up their time if you’re not willing to accept those terms.

4. Misdirected emails when you have a common name

I have a very common name – both first and last. I recently started an entry level job at a large international company, and I’ve been periodically receiving emails that are very clearly intended for other people. It’s an easy mistake to make – our email addresses are all name@company format, and the address book will autofill with the closest match when you type a name.

I’m comfortable sending a reply of, “Sorry, I think this was sent to me by mistake,” to an individual, but sometimes I’m copied into group emails. I don’t know how to handle that. Should I response privately or reply all so I don’t get copied into responses as well? What if the president of the company is part of the group or the original sender? (That’s actually happened.)

To complicate matters, I don’t have access to the email outside of work, and my hours don’t overlap with corporate hours. If something is sent on a Tuesday morning, I won’t see it until Friday night. Does the time gap change how I should respond? I’ve mostly been ignoring these emails, but I really doubt that’s the correct way to handle it.

Just write back (to the sender, not the whole group who received it) with a quick, “I think you meant this for a different Jane — wanted to let you know so you can get it to her.”

Doesn’t make a difference if the sender is the company president; she still needs to know that the person she meant to email hasn’t received it and needs to. And yes, say it even if you’re only seeing it days later; it’s not ideal, but it’s still better than the person assuming the other Jane has seen the email and not realizing that she hasn’t.

And definitely stop just ignoring them — that could end up reflecting badly on you if someone realizes it’s been happening and you haven’t bothered to point it out.

5. Back and forth when scheduling a start date

So my sister is 16, and she just got this job at a breakfast place. Her new manager originally wanted her to start her training this Friday, but she couldn’t – she’s going on a band trip with the school. Then they suggested Wednesday, but she can’t do that either, since she’s going to a track meet, and if she doesn’t go to that one, she won’t qualify for regionals. The place is only open until 3 PM most days, and the training is an hour and lasts from 3 PM until 4 PM, but obviously this track meet would take all day.

When you’re scheduling a start date, is it generally better to lay out all the days in the near future that you won’t be available up front? That’s what I’m kind of thinking, because so far both days that the manager has suggested have not been an option for her. She’s treating this worryingly casually, because even though one of her friends is the daughter of the owners, it’s still a business, right? I don’t think it would make sense to pull the job offer over it, but I don’t know how this all works.

I’m 17 and in my first job myself, in a retail environment, (and funnily enough my best friend’s mom is my manager), but I didn’t have to deal with this kind of run-around when I started my job (there were three or four training shifts that I had to go through, and I wasn’t available for two of them, but I was in the office with her when she was scheduling me and I was able to list everything out right there). Maybe it varies from job to job. I don’t know. Does it look pretentious or anything if you list all of your unavailable days right away?

Your instincts are right. It doesn’t look pretentious, but it does make you look unnecessarily difficult if you end up in a back and forth that gets dragged out because you didn’t just explain all your availability right away. In your sister’s defense, I can see why she didn’t think to do it in the first exchange, but by the time there was a second scheduling conflict, she should have said something like, “I apologize! I already have a commitment Wednesday as well, but I could do any other afternoon in the next two weeks except for May 17 and 20. Is there another afternoon that would work?” The idea is to make it as easy on the employer to schedule as she can, without requiring more back and forth to pick a date — and also to make it look like the training really is a priority for her and something she’s helping to make happen, rather than just passively relying on them to make it happen for her. Please advise her!

{ 174 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Chris80

    #2 – Your manager put his desk in the middle of the room? I can’t say that there’s anything wrong with having his desk in the middle of the room, per se, it just seems awkward somehow. That part stood out to me far more than the use of “my”. The “my” part doesn’t bother me. If I were introducing my manager to someone, I’d probably refer to her as just that…”my manager”. That doesn’t mean I have some sense of ownership over her or anything. And if my manager referred to me as part of her team or as her employee, it wouldn’t bother me. How would you prefer that the manager refer to you and your coworkers?

    Reply
    1. #2's Writer

      Chris80. When I speak with customers I typically use “The team” or “[My Company Name]” or use a reference to the customers project or product. I get that it’s personal preference and that there’s rarely any ill intentions behind it. Andrew, another poster in this thread, nailed the impression given by the reference in this case: [My people]“who must submit to all of my whims”

      The reality: Desk in the middle, shoes off, feet up to be seen by all, hands clasped behind head. Wants to talk to someone? Yells a name across the room and waits for response. Will yell a name two or three times until someone says something. (we have phones with individual extensions and everybody has email).

      How can I help my cohorts look past the do-it-or-else manager and help them to be successful?

      Reply
      1. Sharon

        “Yells a name across the room and waits for response. Will yell a name two or three times until someone says something.”

        Made me think of this:

        Archer: Lana
        Archer: LANA!
        Archer: LANAAAAA!!!!
        Lana: WHAT?

        LOL! It would be fun if one of your bolder coworkers did this just once, just to see what happened.

        Reply
      2. Lamington

        that’s our VP and he doesn’t wear socks so he puts his bare feet on the desk even on meetings and yells for us to go to his office

        Reply
      3. Ask a Manager Post author

        All right, so this guy has a style you don’t really like. But aside from that, is it causing real problems? I ask because so far the stuff you’ve complained about seems to fall in the realm of “annoying but not substantive issues” (and the original complaint, the wording, is really so not a big deal). What about my original question in the post — what about substantative stuff that matters?

        Reply
        1. #2's Writer

          My apologies, I didn’t mean to make it seem like I was trying to hammer the personality points and not the substantive issues. In reference to your questions: No, there is little or no positive or useful feedback. I’ve yet to hear him offer anything but criticism. He verbalizes his contempt for our customers and their needs. Clear expectations are only the reminder of customer driven deadlines. I’ll take the advice of a couple of posters here, and agree that he will likely find something else and move on. I’ve outlasted a couple rounds of layoffs and a CEO swap. Sidney and Christine have both offered solid advice: “Just do your job well and wait for them to implode” , (And encourage my work-mates to do the same.) “If the whole team mutinies from the start over several trivial things*, you might get into more issues with TPTB. Keep everyone, and especially yourself, above the fray, and who knows, you might be promoted into that position when he gets bored/fired/picks up a new shiny toy.” I can accept that and move on. Thank for your help.

          Reply
          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Okay, so this stuff is more substantive: “No, there is little or no positive or useful feedback. I’ve yet to hear him offer anything but criticism. He verbalizes his contempt for our customers and their needs.” That’s the issue — but this is the first time that we’re hearing it (after one letter and seven comments). So what’s going on that’s causing you to focus on the minor cosmetic stuff rather than the actual issue?

            Reply
            1. #2's Writer

              I’m a technical lead for a small group of individuals. (The org chart here is about twenty levels deep…) The department manager’s personality quirks are taking focus away from the tasks at hand while adding heat to the simmering pot of resentment/discontent. The quirks are the visible symptoms of a deeper issue that I’ve had some trouble putting my finger on. My lack of experience with a manager who displays these quirks made me reach out. I’m trying to find a way to help keep folks motivated and the work moving forward. I recognize that I can’t change his habits. I recognize that I don’t want a war or a mutiny. I want happy customers that will come back over and over, and experienced employees that will hang around rather than hit the door… As for me, I’m not good at keeping my head down and mouth shut, leading me to look for someone to offer constructive ways to interact with the guy rather than lock horns. Alternatively, I can hit the door myself.
              I think that perhaps we’ve beaten this topic into submission and can step away from it.
              The repeated posts were my mistake. I now know that I was unnecessarily responding to individuals rather than just make a single comment. It was an effort to avoid being overlooked and not an attempt to hijack the whole thread. Ask a Manager, feel free to moderate/delete any of my posts that seem redundant.

              Reply
              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                No, no, that’s fine! Reading the comment thread from start to finish, I was seeing lots of focus on the small stuff but no explanation of the bigger stuff I’d asked about in my original answer and figured there was some other issue but couldn’t figure out what it was. This makes more sense. (I will also say, since we’re discussing it, that it can be frustrating when an OP begins commenting without even acknowledging or responding to the issues raised in my answer, even if just to say that my initial answer was off-base; it can feel I never spoke, and it’s baffling. But you’re far from the only OP who has done that.)

                In any case, I think your best bet is what fposte, Wakeen, and Syndey have advised: Wait and see how this plays out, don’t feed any drama or angst with your coworkers, and have your role be to keep people focused on the work and stay above the fray.

                Reply
  2. CanadianWriter

    #4 is the worst. My parents cursed me with an incredibly common name, and I get soooooo many emails that are meant for other women. I feel your pain, letter writer.

    Reply
    1. Elizabeth

      My mom worked for my college (in the administration… nothing student based) alphabetically my name comes first (and my sisters is between ours). Want to guess how manY emails I have gotten over the 11 years I’ve been in the system? Including an irate one post graduation when I didn’t respond? It definitely made me check every email I’ve ever sent that wasn’t a direct reply.

      Reply
    2. Lily in NYC

      I’m laughing because I doubt there is another person with the same first/last name as me in the entire US. But even I get tons of emails not meant for me – there is a guy here with the same first name (my name is used for a male 99% of the time, it’s not really lily) and I get a lot meant for him. I think the moral of this story is that people just don’t pay attention.

      Reply
  3. Kat

    #1 – I’ve been in your position. If they can’t pay you and you try to cut back your hours, be prepared to be given a giant guilt trip. That happened to me. Instead of appreciating all that I did for them, I was made to feel like an awful person for daring to consider my own needs and those of my family. I finally had to stop volunteering at that place altogether and don’t regret it one bit.

    You’ve done more than enough for them. Do what you need to do now.

    Reply
    1. azvlr

      Kat, I couldn’t agree more. When the internet was new (dial-up), I gave my email address to some folks at my church for the sole purpose (which I stated up front) of sending information about choir meetings. I started getting huge files containing large chunks of the Bible. Everytime I opened my email, my whole computer would lock up. When I went to them again requesting that I not get these emails, I caught all kinds of grief and was made to feel very unwelcome.

      Reply
      1. Ruffingit

        Seconded. The guilt often shows up when you dare to ask for remuneration for services that have become a full-time job. Be prepared for that and be prepared to walk away as well. You deserve better.

        Reply
    2. Felicia

      That’s happened to me to. They tried to make me feel guilty for even asking to be paid, and even guiltier saying I had to cut back my responsibility. I still volunteer there, and am still semi-interested in the cause, but they still sometimes make me feel guilty for not doing what I once did there. I’m not employed right now, and currently juggling several volunteer commitments, but once I get a job I’m quitting that one entirely and never speaking to them again…I know they’ll make me feel guilty for that too.

      Reply
    3. Ask a Manager Post author

      The thing is, if you’re convinced of your right to cut back (and of course it’s your right to cut back), they shouldn’t be able to make you feel all that bad. The result of guilting from them should be you adjusting your opinion of them, since that’s obnoxious behavior, but it shouldn’t impact your own sense of what you owe them. (If anything, it should make you owe them less, if they’re anything other than gracious.)

      I know that’s easier said than done, but it’s worth striving for.

      I’ll also add that there are plenty of situations where people don’t get that kind of response, so the letter-writer shouldn’t assume it will happen to her. Be prepared for it, sure, but I wouldn’t assume it’ll definitely play out that way.

      Reply
      1. Chinook

        OP #1, if the priest(s) do more than just guilt trip you if you pull back your hours, don’t forget that you have the right to go to their bishop with your concerns (if you are part if a religion with that type of structure). We often forget that priests do have an (earthly) boss who often doesn’t realize what is going on or that the needs of a parish has changed.

        As well, if the office staff are the ones who pressure you, go to their boss, the priest (though deacons are also answerable time the bishop and not the local priest), and explain that, as a parishioner, you are being made unwelcome and give specifics in an emotional way. Then, if you are brushed off, you can go to the bishop.

        It is hard because you probably can’t leave your local parish (I am assuming a lot based on your usage of “priest”) if you are made uncomfortable which is why you may have to bring it up to the local bishop.

        Reply
          1. Chinook

            True, Catholics aren’t required to attend their local parish, but that only works if there are other parishes near by whpo aren’t served by the same priest (but then my experiences are more rural/remote. I hear big cities have more than one parish with more than one priest. Here, usually priests have more than one parish within a one hour drive).

            Reply
            1. Chinook

              And if you were going to change parishes, you shpould contact the diocese office so they can take you off the “official roll” and ensure that you are counted among your new parish for the same reason you would want top be considered part of your new town if you moved one town over.

              Reply
            2. Felicia

              I’m in Toronto, and it would be quite easy to find a different priest at a different church for a Catholic that’s super easy to get to . Sometimes there are like 5 Catholic churches all within 15 minutes driving. But even in the smaller surrounding cities, which are not really rural or remote, there’s only the one parish and priest. And then in some other smaller cities, there are 2 or 3 Catholic churches each with a different priest. So finding a new Catholic church to go to would range from super easy to impossible, to somewhere in between, depending on where you live. There are actually roughly 150 parishes within the archdiocese of Toronto

              Reply
      2. Ruffingit

        Agreed, hence my saying be prepared to walk away if they start in on the guilt tripping. That is something that would make me dump a volunteer gig no questions asked. I refuse to be guilted or manipulated especially when I’m the one doing the favor for someone, which is what volunteer work is.

        Reply
  4. Artemesia

    For the volunteer. It is easy to overestimate one’s value because people will take free help as long as people give it freely — doesn’t mean they are willing to hire someone. Also because a new bilinqual minister has just been hired, it would be natural to assume s/he will be picking up much of the core load you are carrying.

    So be prepared to be told that a salary isn’t possible. If I were you I would consider looking for a paid position in another church which has the same needs. It is easier to hire someone with your skills as a new hire than to suddenly start paying someone who has done it for free. Another church may be pleased to make you a part time or full time employee and you would not come to them with volunteer baggage BUT your resume would show tremendously valuable experience gained in your volunteering.

    If you want to stick with this church then you need to draw a bright line between what you can do for free and what needs compensation — it is hard to do though when you have already established that you work for free.

    Reply
    1. rando

      I also thought the new minister would probably take over some of what OP is doing.

      OP, you should know that it is okay to say no to additional work as a volunteer! Ask yourself if you want to be paid or if you actually just want to do less. Then have that conversation. They may not be able to pay you, but they can’t force you to volunteer more than you want to.

      Reply
  5. K

    Common email name- I was in the same position when I started my last job- I was constantly getting emails for a different person with my same name. I always forwarded them to her, and also replied to the sender that they probably wanted **** and not me. We have vastly different jobs, so many times it was funny and I always told them I was 100% willing to way in on the issue but I’m highly unquslified and they probably want the other person’s opinion. By forwarding all emails and replying to the senders everyone has been straightened out, and I actually forgot it was ever an is due until now.

    Reply
  6. K

    I just remembered that our email addresses are so similar she accidentally once emailed me a “list of ideas”- I forwarded them to her with a note that they were fantastic – not too often that you send yourself an email and get a reply – ha ha

    Reply
    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      That’s great.

      My first name is not super common, but happens to be the same first name as one of the family members of the family that owns our company. She doesn’t work at Wakeen’s so the emails I get for her (from Outlook prefill fail) are all family related and it’s pretty funny.

      I get Christmas lists and dinner plan/family vacation details. The patriarch sent me an email last week telling me what time the water service installation guy that he set up for the family member’s houses would be arriving. (I replied that I was thrilled and would be awaiting my free water service.)

      It’s a fun look on the inside of a family that I admire a lot. The closest I’ve come to juicy is “my husband” crabbing at me mildly for forgetting to tell him something.

      These people are squeaky clean!

      Reply
      1. Ruffingit

        These people are squeaky clean!

        What a disappointment. Too bad you don’t work for the Kardashians. ;)

        Reply
        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

          Right!

          Then I’d know what the real deal is with Bruce Jenner.

          Alas, all I know now is the state of health of aging family pets.

          Reply
          1. AnotherAlison

            Ack, no aging family pet details! I spent much of Mother’s Day hearing about the 15 y.o. yorkie. . .my mom’s in denial that this is an ancient dog on death’s door.

            Reply
        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

          Most people do at first. I didn’t think about that when I grabbed onto the Wakeen meme.

          Reply
      2. Lisa

        I have a gmail doppelganger. She is a teacher and we share the same first and last name, but her email has a middle initial that no one remembers. I get emails from her students, the students parents, i got her annual review from the principal. I get wedding invitations, and RSVPed once for her – she got the chicken by the way. Her mom sends me pictures of end tables that will look great in her house. The parents of students were the one thing that bothered me. I knew too much info on her students, addresses, names, medical info, class schedules. The email chains wouldn’t stop, so I finally emailed the principal asking that they not use the gmail address for school information. It stopped really quickly, but I still get a few. Got a recent email about a job for her, and I felt bad so LinkedIn to her and told her the interviewer wanted her to call him. She was grateful for this and she told me that the emails will stop as she is getting married and changing her last name. Alas, not until 2015.

        In the meantime, her bridesmaids dresses are blue…

        Reply
    2. Anonalicious

      My work email is almost the same as a previous employee, but I have a number at the end of my address (like: jsmith and jsmith1 both at company.com). Almost no one remembers that employee had email, now that she’s been gone 10+ years, so they often type in her email instead of mine and wonder why I didn’t get their email. I have to wonder if they noticed the giant error message that our email server sent them saying that address is invalid and their message was not sent, but apparently not.

      Reply
      1. De Minimis

        At a previous position [big 4 firm] my office mate had the same name [a somewhat common first and last name, although the combination itself was not that common] as one other person in another location. Apparently it was a huge headache setting up his e-mail, because our system was configured to do the firstname.lastname@firmname.com and it required a lot of tweaking by IT to have add my buddy’s middle initial to his e-mail.

        Reply
      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        Could you ask them to set that old email address to redirect to you? It’s been 10 years, so it sounds like it shouldn’t cause problems to do that.

        Reply
      3. Colette

        My work email us on the internet associated with a fictional big wig in IT. I get requests for interviews, emails from people who can solve my staffing needs, invitations to lunch, ….

        Reply
  7. Andrew

    Regarding #2, I don’t think the possessive phrasing is a problem by itself. It really depends on the attitude of the manager that uses it whether it should be seen as a good, bad, or neutral phrasing. It could just be thoughtless like if I said “these are my co-workers”, I wouldn’t be necessarily claiming I own them, just that they are the people I work with. Purely descriptive and therefore neutral.

    If it comes with an attitude of these are my people, who must submit to all of my whims, work-related or not, then it could be a bad sign. I think this is probably rare, or at least I hope it is.

    It could also be a good indicator if the manager in question views his team as the people whose interests he looks out for when possible and makes sure to stand up for them because they are his people/team.

    Reply
    1. #2's Writer

      Tragically, it is “who must submit to all of my whims”. I’m struggling to help my peers to look past poor management and reamin successful in their efforts. Any advice you’ve got to help me help them is welcome.

      Reply
      1. BethRA

        I don’t have suggestions to help with his general jack-assedness. He doesn’t sound like the kind of person who’s going to change his behavior because it’s disrespectful, but you could try talking to him about how his conference calls and shouting across the room are disruptive to the work of “his team”

        Reply
      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        But the poor management is the issue, not the way he phrases this stuff. The way he phrases this stuff wouldn’t bother you if there weren’t other issues, so your focus should be on those other issues.

        On the question of helping your peers, what’s your role in all this? If they’re truly peers, it’s not really a problem you need to solve for them, and it might help your peace of mind to realize that (although you certainly might want to solve it for yourself).

        Reply
  8. Tinker

    There was at least one person at my former employer who had the same first and last name as me, and went by a variant of their first name that is one of my least favorite. So I got emails that started out “Hey, VeryWrongName, can you look at this?” and I’d be firing up the ol’ woodchipper before I realized — oh, that thing has nothing to do with me, it must be the other one.

    Funny thing, I was looking at the unclaimed property thing and apparently my former employer owes money to someone who shares my first name, middle initial, and last name but is not me.

    (I recommend looking at the unclaimed property, y’all. I found out that two companies I thought I was entirely square with had put a nice chunk of money in there for me. I intend to blow this on ale and loose women, of course.)

    Reply
    1. Prickly Pear

      Believe it or not, I looked at your post and went to my state’s unclaimed website. I wasn’t on there- but my mom was. Someone’s going to wake up to fantastic news! Thanks Tinker!

      Reply
    2. NW Cat Lady

      Thanks, Tinker! I just went to my state’s website and have 5 pieces of unclaimed funds waiting for me! I also checked the other 2 states I lived in, but alas, they have no love for me…..

      Reply
    3. teclatwig

      I had never heard of this! I found a number of family members — all in small amounts, but still. Thanks. :-)

      Reply
      1. De Minimis

        My wife has a fairly large amount in our previous state’s fund [earnest money from a house purchase that fell through] but both she and the other party both have to agree to have it released and neither of course wants to do that, so it continues to sit…..

        Reply
        1. De Minimis

          Whoops, guess that one is gone–it may have just reverted to the state as it was a long time ago. We’d decided a while back we’d be okay with that as long as the other party did not get it.

          But she does have some kind of premium refund from the insurance compnay, woo hoo!

          Reply
        2. unclaimed property

          Hey, I work in this field – I think only one state has a statute of limitations (Idaho?? though they might have changed the law recently) so the money is probably still there, but just not on the website.

          I find unclaimed property for other parties all the time but never for myself. :(

          Reply
    4. Jennifer

      I have unclaimed money, but they won’t let me have it back without presenting them with the original check. Which, guess what, I don’t have in the first place.

      Now you know why it’s unclaimed.

      Reply
      1. fposte

        There’s unclaimed money in my state belonging to my late father. I would need to get relevant documents from about four different past residences going back forty years to claim it. I’m guessing that the amount isn’t going to be worth it, so I’m not trying.

        Reply
        1. unclaimed property

          you could always call the state and ask about the amount. :) depending on the state, if you have reasonable documentation showing that it belongs to your father (such as proving the ssn if it was reported with one) you might not need to verify the address.

          Reply
    5. C Average

      Whoa! Three different states I used to live in owe me various sums. Two of them wanted some pretty ridiculous paperwork, but offered the option to provide an explanation for why the paperwork is unavailable. We’ll see if “because I lived there 15 years ago and didn’t save any of the mail I was receiving at the time” will suffice.

      Reply
  9. K.A.T.

    For #4 – I’m a supplemental nurse at one of my jobs so I don’t log into my email there very frequently (our managers know this and usually email our personal email addresses when hours come up for that very reason). Every once in a while I get an email to a different person with a similar name (which is weird for me because I have an incredibly uncommon name!). Since I might not see it for days or even weeks I always write back, but I include a note saying “Sorry I didn’t see this earlier; I haven’t logged in in a while since I’m supplemental.” You can always include a note saying “Due to my schedule I’m just now seeing this but wanted to let you know as soon as I saw it.” or something to that effect. They’ll know you’re not slacking and you took care of it as soon as you could, even if it wasn’t as soon as they might have liked. Of course ymmv, we have a pretty forgiving culture at that job.

    Reply
  10. Coco

    #2: It’s actually the possessive case, not tense (or genitive case if you want to sound technical about it). Can also just call it “possessive form” or “possessives” (as a plural noun) if you want to be casual about it.

    I agree with the LW that this phrasing can feel a bit demeaning, and I have always avoided using it when managing other people.

    Reply
    1. #2's Writer

      I genuinely took time to decide if I was using the phrasology correctly. Thanks for pointing me in the right direction. We’re an employee owned company and the CEO extolls that we’re all one big team. When the new manager placed his stake in the ground and claimed his domain, it seemed to clash with what we had been told to date. Thanks for your input.

      Reply
  11. James M

    #3: It sounds like this company is looking for a career peon.

    If I were truly curious, I would contact someone there and ask directly how they reconcile advertising a “career track” job while stating “no benefits” up front. I’d also have my BS-o-meter active.

    Reply
    1. OP #3

      Yeah, part of me wanted to set up a separate, more anonymous email to ask something like that because if I did end up wanting to apply, I don’t want my (albeit very legitimate question) to inhibit my ability to send in an application worth review.

      Reply
      1. Lily in NYC

        I see ads for “real” jobs with no benefits a lot where my parents live (southern FL). There are tons of retired people there who still want to work and have insurance and other benefits through their pensions – so these companies probably feel they will get enough candidates willing to accept their crappy terms.

        Reply
    2. AVP

      This is just based on anecdotal evidence / friends / what I’ve seen in the market, but it does seem like smaller companies are starting to see benefits and insurance as optional. Particularly in competitive industries. It’s really lame, and you should know your landscape and your industry, but if you’re applying for a job in something like entertainment or fashion, this is unfortunately industry-standard these days.

      Reply
      1. OP #3

        For context, the position is a Legal Assistant position. I have a feeling it’s a very small firm, but many other positions I’ve looked at do appear to offer benefits.

        Reply
        1. GH

          I don’t know how likely this is, but maybe if they’re a small company, they prefer to pay a higher salary rather than dealing with the logistics of health insurance or 401Ks? In which case, you could figure out the number you’d need to buy your own benefits and see if they’re paying in that range.

          Reply
          1. OP #3

            That is a thought. If I were to work up a $ amount that it would cost to supply my own benefits, that could be a reasonable solution.

            Reply
        2. neverjaunty

          Avoid. Even small firms offer benefits to their staff – they may not be as fabulous as large firms, but legal associations like the ABA and state bar groups regularly offer ways for small firms to get affordable benefits plans for their employees. I read this as “we’re kind of struggling, we have been through lots and lots of people turning down jobs because we offer no benefits, so we’re selecting for the desperate at this point.”

          Reply
          1. Elizabeth West

            Yeah, this was a deal breaker for me. I had an interview where they did tell me there was no insurance. I ended it right then–I knew there was no way I would take the job without it. I was really nice about it and so was the interviewer. Here’s hoping they got a hint and put it in their next job posting.

            Reply
      2. Paige Turner

        All of the small businesses that I’ve worked for (so, three) didn’t offer any benefits- no insurance/retirement, but also no PTO or paid sick days.

        Reply
  12. FMLW

    #4: I too suffer from the very common name email delivery fiasco. As I am also part time, I make sure that my out-of-office message is on when I not there and that it includes enough info about me to let the emailer know who she emailed.

    Usually the bounce-back email is enough to get the message sorted out.

    Reply
  13. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

    2. Managers and the possessive tense

    I think context is the key. “My family” and “My subjects” both use the word “my” . One feels good and the other one you only get to use if you are the Queen of England.

    I’m a my-er. I use the word with intention about employees, business, customers, even suppliers because it internalizes my personal responsibility to same. I’m also big on “our”. I tend to use “my” when speaking outside the group (say, to suppliers or PTB management) and “our” when speaking inside the group.

    I think the OPs boss is a bit of a dunderhead. I wouldn’t like someone coming into an established group and throwing around “my” either. Start with “our” and work your way up to owning “my”.

    *That* said, it’s just a word. Give him a chance to prove he is awesome in other ways.

    Reply
    1. #2's Writer

      You’ve spoken to the heart of how I feel about this, THANKS! I’m struggling to find virtue as are my compatriots. My tenure amongst the group has most of the employees coming to me for advice with this particular conflict and I’m having a hard time helping them to look past personality and remain positive and confident in their skills and work. If you;ve got some sage words for me to pass alsong, I’d love to hear them.

      Reply
      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

        Hmmmm, well, I am personally annoyed by big talkers. The strategy that has always worked for me is to outlast them.

        Somebody comes into my space, moves in the center, starts talking loud about “my” this and “my” that, my strategy is to be quiet, cooperative, very good at what I do and wait for them to blow themselves out.

        It’s always worked for me. Big talkers and self aggrandizers always blow themselves out.

        (For context: I’m dialing back on 28 year career, starting as a low paid admin assistant > running a division of the company now)

        Reply
        1. Sydney

          I also agree with Wakeen’s strategy here. Big talkers tend to spend way too much time talking.

          As the de facto leader, I would concentrate on trying to get everyone to give him the benefit of the doubt and see if there are good qualities that will shake out. If there are none, at least y’all can say you tried. If the whole team mutinies from the start over several trivial things*, you might get into more issues with TBTB. Keep everyone, and especially yourself, above the fray, and who knows, you might be promoted into that position when he gets bored/fired/picks up a new shiny toy.

          *I’m not diminishing the complaints; I agree that he sounds like a jerkface, but to an outsider, these complaints on their own aren’t enough to warrant a mutiny.

          Reply
        2. Christine

          This! I’ve had a lot of crappy bosses in my 10-year career, and I have outlasted every one of them. Just do your job well and wait for them to implode. Remind your colleagues that his time will come, and if they want to outlast him, they need only keep their heads down and do their best work despite the bad situation.

          Reply
    2. Sydney

      Like Wakeen and her teapots, I tend to use “my team” when speaking outside the group, and “our team” when speaking inside the group.

      I also think Liane said it well down below, about protecting your people. I don’t feel ownership, per se, but I do feel responsibility and pride. If you make a mistake that affects someone else and she doesn’t want you to clean it up, I’m the one who steps in and takes care of it. If our company received recognition, I would be the one to say, “Yes, Milhouse did an amazing job on your new Squishee cup! My team is full of talented people and we loved working with you on this project.”

      Really, I think the words are symbolic of how you feel about this guy on the whole. If he were an otherwise good manager who would go to bat for you, you probably wouldn’t care that he called y’all “his people.”

      Reply
  14. Kate

    I would mention the issue to your manager #4 since you aren’t there often and maybe they want to look into changing your email address. I don’t have this issue at work but one of my personal emails is fairly common apparently. I recently got an attachment from a company that listed their employees names/addresses/socials/birthdates. I emailed back at let them know (I thought it was rude they never responded, but whatever). If you could potentially be getting sensitive info accidently your manager might want to know.

    Reply
    1. Zillah

      Wow. That’s pretty ridiculous – if those employees had found out, there could have easily been lawsuits, I’d think.

      Reply
      1. Kate

        I get the craziest emails. One gentleman (and his wife sometimes) use it as their junk mail I believe. One political organization (he and I disagree with everything) provided a link in an email to login to the account. No password or anything. It allowed me to view his credit card, addresses, company. I emailed the support for that company as a heads up and they just replied “thanks” and from continued emails I know they haven’t changed it. I also could have ordered stuff from his wife’s avon account to myself and changed several of her magazine subs to my address just by clicking links in emails with no password barrier. Also text books from another person. I know also about Karl, Kelly, other Kelly, and Kristine who apparently mistype their email addresses a lot.

        Reply
        1. Jen RO

          I keep getting emails for various women called Jennifer. One of them made a B&N account with my email. I resetter her password and I could have ordered stuff using her credit card.. (I deleted it from the account , of course)

          Reply
    2. short'n'stout

      Presumably #4 already *does* have a different email address to their namesake; getting IT to change it again wouldn’t fix the issue, which is how to manage the poor observation skills of one’s colleagues.

      Reply
      1. Kate

        By different I mean change from the standard format. If everyone has firstname@company make hers lastname@company.

        Reply
  15. Liane

    Q.2: Putting his desk in the middle of everyone and everything would bug me more than the My wording, because it is a bit odd.

    Another reason I don’t see using My this way is that in my experience it is very common for current/former military to talk about “my people” and mean that they are responsible for them and have their back.
    Civilian work example. A good friend of ours, former Ranger, owned a game store. A few times I ran it for a day so he could have a vacation day. Once, a mail order customer called and was very nasty, using the F Word, etc. When my friend learned how I had been treated, he made a return call to the customer and explained *very* seriously that letting His People get verbally abused was not the way he did business, let’s say.
    That day I learned what military meant by My People and something else about good managers. Alas, few of my managers since understand the concept.
    Finally, if you are going to call your reports My People, you better mean it and take care of them.

    Reply
    1. #2's Writer

      Agreed. The posessive tense can be a fantastic thing in the proper context. Thanks for your input… Desk overlooking a cube farm: Odd. Stocking feet on his desk at 2 in the afternoon: Unprofessional. I’ve written another post here in the thread looking for advice to pass along to my cohorts. If you’ve got some input, I’d love to hear it.

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        OP. This is like the 4th comment I’ve seen from you in this thread about this stuff — but having his shoes off and the placement of his desk are not major issues. There has to be more going on in this situation to cause this frustration, but if you keep framing it this way, it’s not going to be helpful to you in getting clarity on what’s really going on.

        Reply
    2. Sydney

      That attitude about protecting your employees is incredibly important to me. My people (hehe) talk on the phone all day, and sometimes they talk to jerks. I am always glad to take over a call when the customer is being mean to one of my people, and I will say That Is Not Okay. I’ve fired customers before because they are mean and don’t treat my people with respect.

      Reply
      1. Not So NewReader

        I remember the first time I saw a boss tell a customer “take your business elsewhere.” It was an awesome moment. I learned so much. Most importantly I learned how to say it without shedding my professionalism. The longer I go the more powerful this skill appears in my mind. Not too many bosses know how to do it.

        Reply
  16. MissM

    I have a fairly uncommon name, but a woman with the same first name and similar last name (similar pronunciation, but different spelling) used to work at our company. She always got emails for me, but I almost never got emails for her. At first she forwarded all the emails, but eventually must have got tired of it and I stopped receiving them. Every so often I’d get a frantic email from my boss “Why aren’t you on this conference call??” Um, what call? No one invited me.

    The funniest was when the other MissM forwarded an email to me from the head of our risk department, in which it was repeated throughout the email that this is a very confidential situation, do not forward this email to anyone else in the company. And I had to tell him he sent it to the wrong person.

    Reply
      1. fposte

        There’s a guy in the university directory whose last name starts with “Help,” and I wonder how many messages for university help desks he’s gotten for that reason (several of mine, I can tell you).

        Reply
    1. Pip

      Ooooh, me too! When I started at GlobalMegaCorp, there was exactly one more “Pip” there, “Pip Smith”, who had been around forever and was a total rockstar by the way. Since I am “Pip Jones”, I became the first Pip in the company Outlook directory, so I got quite a lot of Pip Smith’s mail. And once a memorable chat message: “Pip I neeeed you!!!!!”

      I always replied as fast as possible stating they got the wrong Pip. The funniest thing was that with 50+ offices on four continents, Pip Smith and I were in the same one. Different companies in the group, but nevertheless, we shared coffee maker. “Pip” isn’t even a common name in our culture, so I’m not as used to dealing with this sort of confusion as a John or a Jane would be.

      Reply
      1. Judy

        My husband was once on a team with another guy that shared a name. A name that’s not unusual as a first name or last name, think of it as Gregory. So one guy on the team was Bob Gregory, and my husband was Gregory Smith. The admin in procurement had the hardest time sending emails to the right guy. They still laugh about it, and sometimes others who were on the team at the time called them Bob Gregory Smith as one entity. “Go ask Bob Gregory Smith that, I think one of them might know.”

        Reply
        1. Jerry

          I once worked in a company with both a George John and a John George. Both had similar roles, but in different departments. Lots of confusion.

          Reply
  17. #2's Writer

    Attitude really is EVERYTHING, and I’m truly looking for ways to help my peers handle a delicate and difficult situation. I started an email to Ask a Manager and the possessive tense thing spilled out onto the page. I should have included that he often will have his shoes off, and his stocking feet up on his desk, hands behind his head as though surveying his domain. If he wants to talk, he will yell your name and ask you to come to his desk. I can overlook the personality flaws. But his leadership style is causing the gears of the larger machine to rust with anxiety and discontent. I’ve got the longest tenure here and a fair number of the group have come to me with their concerns. The hallway gripe sessions are sometimes necessary venting sessions, but I’m looking for guidance to help my friends and co-workers look past the troll under the bridge and help them find success in their projects and ultimately, their careers. ReadySetGo.

    Reply
    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      Lookit, if you are going to be a leader you have to be above the controversy, not part of it.

      One of my trademark sayings is: “Let’s see what happens next.”

      Stipulated: the guy is annoying as hell.

      Now, let’s see what happens next.

      Reply
    2. fposte

      Agreeing what Wakeen. Right now what you’re ruffled about is entirely cosmetic. He can do everything you’ve said and be a really good manager, and I think you’re slotting him into a self-fulfilling prediction at the moment–he’s not a troll under the bridge, he has a couple of mildly annoying behaviors that are currently being read as if they were far more significant than they are, probably because there’s a lot of anxiety over the change. The way to help your cohorts is to point that out and encourage them to wait to see what he does that actually matters. Right now this stuff doesn’t.

      He might suck, but he might also be Lou Grant. Don’t refuse to acknowledge that he could be decent, and don’t convince yourself he’s not if he turns out to manage well in his stocking feet.

      Reply
  18. Ruffingit

    #3 – No benefits for professional job

    I always wonder about employers who do this. You really do get what you pay for. You are not going to find a professional person who will accept this arrangement. Not generally anyway. I suppose you might find someone who will, but most people who are that good are working for places where benefits are offered. It’s amazing that some employers want the moon and more, but refuse to give anything in return that would make it worthwhile.

    Reply
    1. OP #3

      Yeah, I mean, I said in my letter I wouldn’t move for no benefits (and I wouldn’t), but my current position doesn’t have “benefits” either. It’s part time, so I’m not eligible for insurance there. The benefit is it’s flexible and I get to pick my own hours. That allows me to focus more on my side job which I enjoy more, but isn’t quite as stable of an income. If I were to take on a full time job that would definitely limit my side job and so it would need to give me something besides just a paycheck to make it worth giving up parts of my side job.

      Reply
    2. Sydney

      We currently don’t offer benefits because we can’t afford it (cost is the biggest reason, but there’s some other factors). I am clear up front that it’s a straight hourly position with no benefits, so candidates can self-select out. Our line of work is call center-esque, and we make up for no benefits by paying a higher hourly wage and having beter working conditions than the call centers in our area. Currently, all my employees have insurance through a spouse or parent, although our owner is currently uninsured because he just pays his own medical bills.

      We are atypical though, that’s for sure.

      Reply
  19. EvilQueenRegina

    Re emails, I used to work with a guy who shared the same name as a guy in HR, and used to get a lot of his emails about things like other people’s sick leave. My co-worker just used to reply to the senders and correct them. He took it quite well but the HR man didn’t and he went to IT to ask for my co-worker’s email to be changed to display as Smith, Wakeen (Housing), while he was Smith, Wakeen (HR).

    Someone else in that same team had the same first name and a similar surname to our chief executive. He used to get his emails and was in a similar situation to OP in that the nature of his work meant that he didn’t check his emails often. I don’t think he replied to them though.

    Yet another member of that team used to get emails to his personal account which were meant for a guy of the same name. I think the other guy must either have been a practical joker or there was something going on in that family, because when my co-worker replied saying he wasn’t the right Apollo Warbucks, the sender didn’t believe him and kept sending them. I think he must have figured it out though because it did tail off in the end.

    I also work for the same company as my mother, although in different teams that don’t interact, and sometimes people send her my emails, although the only time I ever had hers was from my predecessor in my current job who used to do a piece of work with her team, had reason to email us both and just put in the wrong name on autocomplete. (He had done it the other way around as well but another coworker copied in had replied “I think you copied in Cora instead of Regina there”.)

    Reply
  20. Volunonymous

    OP#1 – As someone who used to be very involved in her church administration, with sitting on committees and helping to organize groups, providing tech support, doing office work because the secretary wanted to go down to part-time… it will never end. This is so so common with churches and I know a lot of people who have gotten really burnt out, pulled back on what they were doing, and then got guilt tripped out loud by the pastor in his Sunday sermons (not by name, but let’s be real when specific positions are mentioned everyone knows who is being talked about). It became so awkward some of them left for another church, and our church suffered for not having them around anymore. I made my own out by deciding to go back to school full-time, in another state. They couldn’t really argue with that, but I found out later things were said behind my back. Be prepare for that kind of drama, because it happens all the time in lots of churches. For all the talk about God and Jesus, churches are often among the most drama-filled, petty places.

    Reply
    1. Artemesia

      This is why I suggested she look for a similar paid position in another church in the area. There is no way this will end well if she just dials back her volunteer work. They have come to expect her to be the serf and they aren’t likely to want to pay her and they are not likely to be graceful if she cuts back. The only way to do it that might lessen the snap back is to actually take a job elsewhere and thus not have time to volunteer. Just cutting back because you are being exploited is likely to engender guilt tripping.

      Of course I have a very negative view of how churches operate having observed my mother as the kitchen drudge in our church growing up and also learning that my grandmother’s pastor started dropping by a couple of times a week when she was in early dementia obtaining duplicate checks because she would forget she had already donated. She had a considerable amount of her modest resources stripped away by this church before one of her sons discovered what was happening and put a stop to it.

      Reply
      1. Chinook

        I know a few people have mentioned that OP #1 should try another church but, depending on their religion, this may not be an option which can make this situation even more difficult. If she were Catholic, Episcopalian/Anglican or Orthodox Christian, there is often only one parish in the area and other Christian churches may not be willing to hire her or have a need for her linguistic skills. The concept of changing “churches” for this group (which I am part of) is like changing faiths and so not something you do to get out of volunteer work pressure.

        This is why I like AAM’s advice and being aware that you can go to the priests boss if the situation becomes unmanageable. This is one of the few times when leaving completely is an absolute last resort. On the plus side, a bilingual priest coming to the church means the bishop is aware of the situation and is doing their best to take some of the load of the OP without knowing her specifically.

        Reply
  21. Nethwen

    Any social-scientist types have ideas on why feeling ownership of a project can be interpreted as good (people are likely to do a better job), but feeling ownership of people can be interpreted as bad (demeaning, condescending)?

    Reply
    1. Elysian

      Because you can take control of a project – you can ‘own’ it and attribute its success entirely to you. You can’t own people or attribute their success to you. That’s slavery. People have free will, and make choices. You aren’t entitled to control another person’s choices. Taking ownership of people diminishes their agency over their own lives and minimizes their free will. Projects don’t have agency or free will to diminish.

      I even get annoyed when my parents try to attribute my success entirely to themselves – they may have helped but I did those things with my own choices. It’s demeaning for them to minimize my own role in my accomplishments. Projects don’t have a role in their own success or failure. So you can claim it as your own, because it is yours.

      Reply
    2. Camellia

      I lost a similar battle many years ago when the business jargon changed to referring to people as ‘resources’. We were actually added to the requisition forms along with laptops, etc. I used to say things like “I’m not a resource, I’m a person”, and “I can’t get you a resource but I can see what person can help you with that”, but to no avail.

      I work in IT, by the way, and I think attitudes like this contribute to what we call the ‘plug and play’ philosophy. That means that any person can be picked out of one group and plunked down in another and immediately be productive.

      Reply
  22. The Reader

    In response to question 4, when I was in college our e-mail address was our first initial, last name, and four numerical values (0016). It would make it simpler and not have to share the same name.

    Reply
  23. Bluefish

    #4. Definitely don’t reply all. Your purpose is to alert the sender of their mistake. I have a common name too, and this happens to me occasionally. It’s the sender’s error so just alert them of that. On a related note, I don’t understand why some people seem to default to the reply all. It should be the opposite. Always hit reply in the first instance. Not everyone needs to see your, “thank you” email.

    Reply
  24. Prickly Pear

    #5- I’ve had the same summer ‘vacation’ my whole life. Not in actual dates, but there’s always been a week that I’ve been gone. I’ve always just come right out and asked about it during the interview, just in “how big of an inconvenience for you if I need this week off?” When I was interviewing for my current job (centuries ago) I actually had to leave right around that time. Nothing like a disappearing act right when you need to be in contact!

    Reply
  25. CatholicWorker

    #1 I think it’s great what you have done, but you have to serve your “domestic church” too. JPII wrote quite a bit about of the importance of the home and its needs. So no guilt, you are needed now closer to home :)

    “Marriage is an act of will that signifies and involves a mutual gift, which unites the spouses and binds them to their eventual souls, with whom they make up a sole family – a domestic church. ” -JPII

    Reply
  26. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

    Using the possessive to describe people at work is one of my biggest pet peeves. “My people” can sometimes be charming (like the story about the ex-military manager above), but the one that gets me every time is “my admin.” Gross.

    Reply
      1. fposte

        It sounds neat as an aphorism, but I find it pretty unconvincing. Do you say “my friend” or “my parents”? The possessive is an identification of connection, not of ownership. I say “my staff” all the time, because there are lots of other staffs in my organization, and it would take too long to list their names and nobody would know who I meant anyway.

        Where it can get eyebrow-raising is when it’s the generic term absent a name in a situation where a name is expected. In a case like that, I think the problem isn’t the “my” anyway–”Give your coffee order to the admin there” isn’t better than “Give your coffee order to my admin there.”

        Reply
        1. Liz in a Library

          Yeah, I think this is no big deal if the boss saying it doesn’t have other issues going on. I constantly refer to the work team I am part of as “Boss’s team,” and she calls us “my team” often. It has never bothered me, and she is a fantastic, supportive boss, not a narcissist at all.

          Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Does “my assistant” bother you the same way? Because that’s pretty common (and factually correct) and I’d think “my admin” would be basically the same as that.

      Reply
      1. Feed Fido, Feed Fluffy

        I think if one says “my admin”as a matter of definition then refers to the person by name , that’s OK. Or if the boss is speaking to someone outside of organization, that’s OK because it is done to clarify etc. Inside the org. we know who that person is, so why not use their name? I have heard management use these terms in objectifying tones, so it is a matter of hearing the intent too. Tone.

        Reply
    2. EM

      My (heh) boss refers to me as her assistant all the time and I can assure you she is not a narcissist. It doesn’t bother me at all. I don’t know what else she is supposed to say…?

      She will introduce me to clients as, “My assistant EM will be contacting you…” What’s offensive about this?

      Reply
      1. Eden

        It doesn’t bother me at all to be referred to as “my admin.” It would seem strange for someone I work for to give just my name to someone without explaining my function. I feel like this is accepted shorthand, not demeaning at all.

        Reply
  27. MissDisplaced

    Maybe I’m being a tad bitchy here, but for #5 if your sister says she wants a part-time job, but she is not “available” to start when they ask her due to all her other school commitments, it appears as though she really doesn’t really WANT a job.

    I know student jobs are supposed to be flexible, but if I were the owner I would have serious doubts about hiring this person as they seem over-scheduled with too many sports and band activities. And most of those no longer stop over the summer!

    Reply
    1. Jennifer

      I’ve never worked retail or food service, but from what I’ve heard from folks who do, those employers want you to have nothing but free time so they can call you at any time to come in. They want NO outside activities or other jobs to schedule around, and if you tell them you’re not available on Tuesday, that guarantees that you will be scheduled on Tuesday and will be fired if you don’t show. The folks I knew working retail in particular could never make plans in advance for anything.

      (This was big drama when an ex of mine threw shit fits at the idea of me going to a wedding without him, so I finally ended up declining going…and then the day before the wedding he was given the day off, after being told he couldn’t have it. Naturally, too late for me to go now.)

      So I read this and thought, “She’s told them she’s busy with school activities twice? Forget it, he’ll hire someone else who’s not that much work.” You’re not the only one being bitchy. (Though I’m not saying that’s right behavior, I despise it myself and I’m so glad I’ve never done that kind of work because I would be their scheduling nightmare.) But the only student jobs that are that flexible are in college, if you work for the college. A restaurant? Forget it.

      Reply
      1. Canadamber

        Oooh, I never specified – since this place is only open in the mornings, high schoolers can only work on the weekends. It’s just the training that was a PITA to schedule :)

        Reply
      2. CanadianWriter

        +1 They want you to be available 24/7. When I was in college, my boss would schedule me in the morning on school days. She also called me when I was out of the country, to ask me to fly home for a four hour minimum wage shift. Spending $1000 to make $40 seemed like a bad deal so I just laughed at her…

        Reply
        1. Beth

          Once my then-boss called three times while I was in a lecture, then when I called back, pointing out that my schedule, which she had been given twice on paper and once by email, had me unavailable that day, she yelled that I should think about whether I valued my (relatively prestigious) degree or my (part-time kitchen and cleaning duties) job more, as if obviously the job was the right answer. I laughed too.

          Reply
    2. MJ

      As an employer hiring people part-time, I would assume they have other commitments in their lives that we are going to have to work around in scheduling, especially if I am hiring a student. And in the on-boarding period, there are usually prior commitments to work around even with full-time people.

      Reply
    3. Not So NewReader

      I think you are reality based: these retail jobs are a bitch. They want 24/7 availability so they can schedule you for 13 hours per week. Certain people get consistent hours or are allowed to request time off. Everyone else – too bad, how sad. On top of this they expect you to be in constant motion. Except there really is not that much to do.

      These rules are brought to you by people who suddenly decide to take the afternoon to go golfing or take 2 hour lunches every other day. They seem to miss the irony on that one. Which, in turn, makes the resentment grow bigger.
      /rant.

      Companies bring about their own demise and have no clue how it happens.
      But, yes, I would fully expect the new job not to go well for the younger sister. Companies are tough.

      Reply
  28. Artemesia

    yes one of the hallmarks of lousy exploitive jobs is the total disregard for the lives of employees. They expect to pay diddly and have the person available at the drop of a hat so they can’t plan on a second job or around anything else like say daycare for a child. It is one of the many ways being a low wage earner in the US is demeaning.

    Reply
    1. Not So NewReader

      The irony of it is, if they had set schedules their business would run better on many fronts.

      Reply
  29. Another Job Seeker

    #2
    Actually, it bothers me when supervisors and team leaders use the phrasing “my team” and “my area”. During my work life, I have had 1 manager and 1 team leader who used that terminology. They were both manipulative and controlling. They also made it difficult for me to do my job. However, I have learned to use online resources and networking opportunities to get the training I need. I also try to use creative ways to solve problems if I am not provided with tools to do so. While doing business this way is neither ideal nor efficient, it does allow me to get the job done. Although I’m not saying that all supervisors who use that language are intentionally disrespectful, the language seems disrespectful and demeaning to me. I do agree with Alison’s recommendations, though. If an otherwise effective supervisor uses “my” language, it’s probably best to simply ignore it.

    OP #2, your supervisor does sound unprofessional. Placing his bare feet on the table? Yelling? Not cool. I would suggest that you and your co-workers ask yourselves the following questions.

    (1) Does he provide clear expectations? (2) Does he provide you with the tools (training, software, hardware, etc.) that you need to do your job well? (3) Does he pay you what you are worth? (4) Does listen to your concerns? (5) Does he attempt to block your progress? (6) Is he interested in your career? If the answer to most of those questions is yes, I’d say to try to ignore the 13-year old behavior. It’s annoying, but things could be much worse. If the answer to most of those questions is no, I’d say it’s probably time to look for another job. Not because of the yelling and and bare feet…but because those other items can impact your career both short-term and long-term.

    In either case, I’d also suggest that you and your co-workers do your very best and learn as much as you can. Support each other. Be sounding boards for one another, but try not to dwell on the nonsense. (I know – it’s much easier said than done)! However, dwelling on the negative is not healthy for your mind, spirit or body. Recognize the negative aspects of your job. Do what you can to address them without dwelling on them or brooding about them.

    Hope this helps! Happy Weekend!

    Reply
    1. Another Job Seeker

      Something else just came to mind. Who are your customers? Both internal and external, if it applies. How do they benefit from what you do? Maybe your work provides them with food, education, insurance, transportation, entertainment, health care or something else. Think about how you are helping them to achieve their goals. I find that this helps me sometimes when I am dealing with politics and childish people at work.

      Reply
    2. fposte

      I’m curious what you’re contrasting the “my team” use with–what’s the reference you prefer? I’m not seeing a better way to identify the people who work for me to the people who don’t–is there a situational aspect that you’re thinking of?

      Reply
      1. Another Job Seeker

        Phrasing like “Chocolate Teapots Analysis” or the “Chocolate Teapots Review Area” identifies people based on the roles they have in the organization instead of the person to whom they report.

        I mentioned that I had worked for a team leader who used the “my” phrasing. Let’s call her “Annie” (not her real name). Annie and I reported to the same manager; however, Annie gave me most of my work assignments. I did not have a problem with that arrangement – I would suspect that it is fairly common.

        Before Annie and I were formally introduced, I was talking to our supervisor, and Annie was standing a few offices away from us. Annie said, “is she mine”? I thought to myself, “your what? Your slave – no”. Of course, I did not say anything – I waited for our supervisor to introduce us. It would have been completely logical for her to want to know whether I had been hired to address a need in her area (I had been, of course). I worked for her; I was not owned by her. I did not appreciate her wording or her attitude.

        Reply
        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          I think you’re reading into these constructs something that isn’t there. People use shorthand like this not because they feel ownership over a person but because it’s a common shorthand for “on my team,” “working in my area,” etc.

          I don’t think I’ve ever heard a manager not say “my team,” “my staff,” etc. It’s a way of identifying the relationship — just like “my friend,” “my boss,” etc.

          Actually, “my boss” is a good example — everyone says “my boss” or “my manager” or “my coworker” and it doesn’t indicate ownership.

          Reply
        2. fposte

          But my staff don’t all share the same role or title, and that’s pretty common–I count 6 different titles under three different budget streams without even thinking hard. I think it’s overscrupulous for me to list the titles of everybody who reports to me when I just want to say “my staff,” and it’s going to be rather disrespectful of the time of the people who just want to know if I have given instructions for something to be handled.

          It sounds like this is more of an issue when you don’t really want to be working for the person, and the problem isn’t that they refer to you as their staff but that you *are* their staff.

          Reply
          1. Another Job Seeker

            The manager of the department called “Chocolate Teapot Analysis” could refer to the department as “my team”, “the Chocolate Teapot Analysis Area”, “the Chocolate Teapot Analysis Unit”, “the Chocolate Teapot Analysis Department”, etc.

            I guess it’s really a combination of things. I have had some excellent supervisors and team leaders who I enjoyed working for. I would not like it if they used the “my team”, “mine”, etc. terminology. However, since their leadership/management was beneficial to both the company and me, I probably would not think too much about it.

            Reply
              1. Colette

                Yeah, I’d hear that as someone else’s team.

                I’m not a manager, but I refer to “my team” – I.e. The team that I’m a part of.

                Reply
                1. C Average

                  Same here. I think nothing at all of saying “my team” when I’m referring to the team of which I’m a member. I usually use it to reiterate that anything I do affects them. And if we’re meeting with someone for the first time who knows our manager but not the rest of us, we’ll say, “Hi, great to meet you. I’m C Average. I’m the chocolate melting point expert on the CTP team–you know, Alexandra’s team.”

            1. fposte

              As I said, I manage at least three different budget streams, so I’d have to say three different units, all with quite long names, every time I talked about the people who work for me. And the fact is that they *are* my staff. That doesn’t mean they work for me if I leave the institution any more than calling my job “my job” means I get to take it with my when I go.

              I get that if people have had histories where they really have been treated like objects this can leave you with kind of an allergic response; if you worked for me, I might try to avoid the locution in front of you if you told me it bothered me. But that would be in the interest of personal taste, not because it’s a problematic use, and I would still call you and your co-workers my staff when talking to other people.

              Reply
            2. Daisy

              I think constantly eliminating the use of “my” for something one is technically a part of makes the person seem like they’re above the group- they don’t want to be associated too closely.
              Kinda the opposite of “There’s no ‘I’ in team” or something.

              Reply
    3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd

      I encourage everybody in my world (yep, my world) to think in terms of “my” and “our”.

      One of the signals to me that a rep is going to make the leap upwards is when she starts referring to “my customer” vs “the customer”. What wouldn’t you do for your customer? I don’t insist on the terminology or even mention it. I wait for it to naturally occur and get a big smile when it does.

      My marketing folks: when an individual takes ownership of a product or market segment, or a particular vendor, that’s when magic happens.

      I was looking for an owner for Strawberry Teapots for years. Nobody cared. Our Strawberry Teapot selection and sales were weak. Somebody came on board who loved strawberry. I said, “they are yours!”. Boom, magic. And now every sale that comes through we say, “Hey, we got another order for Gwen’s teapots”.

      So, I believe in the Culture of My. (Damn, that’s a good title for a book, isn’t it?)

      Reply
      1. Daisy

        So, I believe in the Culture of My. (Damn, that’s a good title for a book, isn’t it?)

        It is good. Now, go snap up the url !

        Reply
  30. Erika

    I have totally been known to call the employees I manage “mine,” saying things like “my staff” or “my team.” On the other hand, it’s usually in their defense. We work in hospitality, which means people are often frustrated with something beyond our control and tend to take it out on the person at the front desk, and I frequently tell people that it’s not okay to “talk to my staff that way,” when they call my employees stupid or incompetent or cuss at them. It never occurred to me that the staff might find this offensive.

    Reply
  31. Puddin

    #2 My mom did this as a manager. I would hear her on calls from home. I began to chide her in a fake Spanish accent, using a line that Che speaks from the musical Evita, “The people belong to no one.”

    Reply
  32. Not So NewReader

    Personally, I am not in favor of using the possessive “my” if there are other ways to say the same thing. There aren’t always other ways.

    One suggestion I have for OP is for the team to start using the expression themselves. It takes the sting out, if you hear it all the time. Or you could go the opposite way and use the word “our” excessively- hopefully role modeling speech that sounds inclusive.

    I have thought for a while now that in decades to come we will move away from this way of speaking because, as mentioned above it has too many negative connotations. For me it was easy most of the time to speak more inclusively. All I had to do is think about doing all the work by myself- I instantly knew I would drown, I would not make it alone. (This is actually quite funny, if you saw the amount of work you would know that no sane person would attempt this alone.)

    Reply
  33. Student

    #1 Best of luck getting a paid position.

    If the church won’t go forward with that, then consider another option to deal with all the work: recruitment.

    Instead of getting overwhelmed, get some helpers and start delegating. Recruit other members of your church. Ask for volunteers during services. If you are doing a lot of written translations, farm some of it out online to other members of your denomination. Try to get high-school members of your congregation involved if they are taking the appropriate language class.

    The only way other people will get as adept and fluent as you is if you push them to practice in a way that is meaningful to them.

    Reply
  34. Jane Smith

    #4 – This gets even more fun with instant messaging. I’ve started working with a new business unit recently and not long ago the person-in-charge told my manager how rude I am over Lync. Which got relayed to me, and I told my manger I have never ever spoken to her over Lync. There are two other people at our company with names similar to mine, and she’s been instant-messaging one of the other two, and interpreting her comments of “I think you have the wrong Jane” as me being rude to her! This was recently solved when my employer enabled a feature in Lync where you can see a picture of the person you’re chatting with. I guess the equivalent of this in email is to set up an auto-responder for when you’re out of office, and to set up a signature with your full name, location, position, and any other personally-identifying info made perfectly clear, so when people email you on Tuesdays, they’ll figure out right away they’ve reached the wrong person. Good luck!!

    Reply
  35. ECH

    #2, my condolences on your bad manager.

    I always refer to my employees as “my people” or “my three.” However, it is most definitely a term of endearment and I think they know that I care about them and their success.

    Reply
  36. Sandrine (France)

    About the “my” question… err, sure, a boss might say “my admin” or “my assistant” …

    But I do say “my boss” or “my coworkers” or even “my company” when speaking of work… it’s just a connecting word.

    That, and if you (general you) have had a bad experience where the language was used in a demeaning way (indicating a real feeling of ownership in a bad way or something) then don’t let that color your impression of the next job. Just like Alison said a few times, just because you went through Hell at Job A doesn’t mean Job B will be the same :) .

    Reply
  37. Lindrine

    I have to say the only time being referred to as “my team”, etc bothered me was when I was having a challenging relationship with the person who said it. Now that I manage someone, I frequently have to answer questions about the person reporting to me. As their “Ganesha”, it is much easier to say they are on my team and that I am on my boss’ team. I know it is frustrating reporting to a boss with obnoxious behavior, but things will get better. Start looking for new opportunities and know you are not alone, most of us have been there.

    Reply
  38. Kelly L.

    I have a common first name (heck, there are usually about three of us per thread) and a few years ago, my work hired another one. I started getting emails and calls meant for her all the time. The most nerve-wracking was when the institution’s president called me angry about something. There had been some weirdness with my timesheet around then and I was sure I was in huge trouble over it. But as she continued speaking, I realized she was talking about an issue that had happened with the other Kelly’s department. Whew! (And yes, I did mention at that point that she probably wanted the other one.)

    Reply
  39. VictoriaHR

    #5 – I hire a lot of high school students for a call center, and I’d say 75-80% of them automatically assume that the hours and work days of the position will be adjusted to fit their busy after-school sports and activities schedules. The amount of kids who apply and then say they can only work 1-2 days a week, max 6.5 hours a week, only alternate Thursdays, etc., is staggering. I’m sure in many of the cases, their parents are pushing them to get a job, but they’re not willing to give up their favorite activities to do so.

    Reply
  40. Lily in NYC

    #2 – (Manager calling the team “his”) – the boss where I used to work repeatedly called us “the overhead” -you can imagine how much we “liked” him. He also had a bumper sticker on his motorcyle helmet that said “The B!tch Fell Off”. I hated that guy.

    Reply
  41. KC

    OP #2 –

    I’m a PM and am guilty of using the phrase “my team.”

    For me it doesn’t come from a “I’m the ruler of this caste of peons” place. Or any delusion that I “own” them. Rather, I feel like I’m a part of the team. It’s my job to make sure they have what they need to get their work done and protect them from superfluous interruptions. I’m proud of my teams; I’m proud to be a part of my teams. So–I call them “my team(s).”

    Reply
  42. JMegan

    #4 – one thing you could do is set up your out-of-office reply with a message that includes your full name (and title, or whatever differentiates you from the others with a similar name.) It’s not a bad idea if you’re working outside corporate hours in any case, but in this situation it could serve a dual purpose – both telling people when they can expect a response from you, and confirming your name so they know if they have sent it to the right person.

    Something like:

    Thank you for your message. Please note that my regular office hours are X-Y, and I will respond to your email as soon as I am back in the office.

    Sincerely,
    Jane E. Smith
    Teapot Handles Night Manager

    Reply
  43. sapphire

    Regarding #4: I have this issue too. I’m a low-level “Jane Smythe,” and this company has a very very upper-level “Jayne Smithee.”

    Jayne made a point to come by and introduce herself to me my first week on the job — the first time she accidentally got one of my emails. She gave me her number and her email address, and told me “Just forward ‘em, and don’t worry about it.” I probably send her two or three emails a week.

    Can you send a quick email to your Jayne, and ask her what she wants you to do?

    Reply
  44. Anna

    I regularly refer to “my students” even though I don’t teach them in a classroom setting and don’t work directly with them normally. I see them as “mine” though because I do spend some time with them and talk to them regularly.

    Reply
  45. Anony

    Re 4. Misdirected emails when you have a common name

    You might be able to set “rules’ in Outlook (assuming you are using this email program) to auto return or send messages with the keywords of the names of people who sound similar to yours.

    Reply
  46. MagP

    Thank you very much for all your answers, and for you, Ask a Manager, for telling me how to express what I wanted. It’s perfect, I wrote it down. I couldn’t respond before because May is one of the busiest times in a church. All the big events past, and this week the new priest came. I am not frustrated with the pastor or the office staff, but with myself. I know, I am the one who has allowed it. I hope that the new priest takes a big part of the load. I have been hinting the pastor and the new priest that I am looking forward to giving all my files to the new priest. I liked the idea of recruiting, but in my experience, that means a whole new load to train people. The new priest told me to give him a month, and yes I plan to giving him little by little the extra load, and I also told him he needs to teach and train other people. The downside of the new priest is that his English is not fluent, so I think interpreting and translating is still needed. I think I have my mind clear now, if they ask me to continue doing what I do, I’ll recite the lines I have written down. If they tell me it’s not possible, then I’ll tell them what I can still do, and leave the rest to whoever wants it. They can’t guilt-trip me I know all what I have done, and I know they do know too. Before, I would feel guilty only because many people want to do things, but then they’re not organized, dependable, etc. But not now, they will learn or not, the church has to deal with that.

    Reply
  47. Canadamber (OP #5)

    Hey, all! My sister finally figured out her training schedule – the manager agreed to do it on a Friday, after school, when she doesn’t have anything. :) The restaurant is only open until 3 on weekdays, so she can’t work then, but she can work the mornings on weekends (because it’s open until 3:30 on weekends), and during the summer, so it’s seemingly all figured out now. Thanks everyone for your help, and thanks especially to Alison for publishing this! :)

    Reply

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