It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. People are stealing my tea
I have a cute tea display in my cube. A few weeks ago, I noticed two boxes were gone from my display. I later found them in a kitchen cupboard. Then an few weeks later, I saw an empty tea box in the kitchen trash. Sure enough, that exact box was missing from my display. Then I have received reports of a specific coworker who comes into my cube when I am not there and takes my tea bags. Out of politeness, I have told people that they can help themselves, usually when they have asked. Is it me or is it understood that you don’t take all of an item just because you used it once? (And this particular coworker never asked and I never OK’d her taking any.)
No, you’re not wrong. It’s rude for people to come into your office and take your tea if you’ve never given them permission to do that — and it’s even ruder for them to take entire boxes and relocate them into the kitchen!
On the other hand, “help yourself” is sometimes interpreted as “help yourself anytime.” That doesn’t excuse the box relocation, but it might have opened the door to people grabbing a tea bag when they want one and you’re not there.
You may need to put your tea in a drawer.
2. Do I have to respond to recruiters on LinkedIn?
How bad is it not to answer recruitment messages on LinkedIn? I get maybe one every couple of weeks lately and I almost never respond. Every once in a while if it’s in another state, I just tell them I’m not looking to relocate but to keep me in mind in the future, but sometimes I don’t even do that.
I’m torn because I don’t want to appear rude, but they’re so low priority for me that I’ll forget about them for weeks, which is when it gets into that weird area where responding could look worse. So, I need advice! Is it okay to not respond at all? Am I potentially undermining my chances with future employment at those companies by not doing so? Should I respond even after weeks? Am I over-thinking this? (Probably).
It’s totally okay not to respond at all. Recruiters send out tons of those messages every day; it’s basically the equivalent of cold-calling, and they’re used to not getting replies. They’re highly unlikely to remember or care that you didn’t answer them if you happen to apply for a job with their company in the future.
The only exception to this would be if it’s clear that someone took the time to really understand your work history and sent you a truly personalized message. In that case, you should probably respond — that’s a recruiter who might be worth working with in the future.
3. My manager wants to keep trainees “hermetically sealed off” from other staff
I am one of about 20 designers for a very technical company and also one of the trainers for new designers. We have a lot of turnover, partly because the only jobs we offer are contract, and partly because training is so intense that only about one in four trainees make it. To try to increase the percentage of trainees that succeed, we’ve implemented a bunch of effective strategies. The latest, however, is concerning to me; my manager decreed the other day that in addition to the trainees only being allowed to direct questions to the trainer/designers (which sort of makes sense), they are also only allowed to have lunch with the trainer/designers, specifically, the person assigned as their trainer. Other designers and members of the team are not allowed to join the table. Usually most of us eat lunch together, so this is huge departure from the norm.
My manager said it was to keep trainees “hermetically sealed” (presumably from “contamination” from other designers, with something vague about so we wouldn’t have to un-train bad design habits picked up from lunchtime conversation).
I am really uncomfortable with this, but I can’t really put my finger on why, other than I think it’s just going to make the turnover worse (I’d certainly bail if I were a trainee presented with this and had other options). I am going to speak with my manager about this, but I wanted to see if I am off base in pushing back on this. Am I?
You’re uncomfortable with it because (a) it’s treating adults like children whose social relationships can be managed, and (b) in addition to making trainees feel infantilized, it’s going to make them feel like your company is hiding something.
You’re not off-base in pushing back.
4. Cover letters for a stay-at-home father returning to the workforce
My husband has been a stay-at-home dad now for most of the last six years and is beginning to look for work outside the home now that the kids are older. He would of course never think to put his role as a stay-at-home dad on his resume and in fact has plenty of other experience and achievements to detail (high-profile/responsibility community volunteering and a personal business he does part-time from home). I know it’s usually not a good idea to mention kids/family in cover letters either, but you’ve also shared at least one cover letter example where you thought it worked. That made me wonder whether addressing staying home with the kids in his cover letters could be a good idea under some circumstances, and whether it you think something like that may even be perceived differently by hiring managers (either more positively or more negatively) when coming from a man instead of a woman.
If he’d spent time out of the workforce, it would be smart to explain in the cover letter, saying something like, “After taking some time away to care for my kids full-time, I’m now eager to return to full-time work.” But in his case, it sounds like there isn’t really a gap — he’s been running a business, after all. So he might not even need to explain the whole context, unless the business is far afield from what he’d been doing previously and what he wants to return to now.
I suppose it’s possible that some people are still weird about stay-at-home dads. Where I live, it wouldn’t raise many eyebrows, but different areas of the country can be different on this and you’ve got to know your own area on this one.
5. I was fired for lying about a degree and now they won’t pay me
I landed my dream job, but I lied on my resume and said I had a degree (which had nothing to with actual job function; it’s just what employers look for). For whatever reason, they had me start my job, then did a background check after I was employed for two months. I was asked to resubmit paperwork, and I fessed up. They terminated me on the spot. Then they with held my final two weeks pay, even though I had worked. I get why I was fired but can they withhold my pay? And no one had a problem with the quality or content of my work.
Yeah, you will absolutely be fired if you lie about having a degree that you don’t have (or lie about other pieces of your background). It doesn’t matter that they didn’t have a problem with your work; they had a problem with your integrity, and that’s huge.
But no, they can’t withhold your pay. They’re required by law to pay you for all time worked. If they won’t, contact your state department of labor for help.