It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. Manager says if I get a raise, fewer of my coworkers will get raises
I have a salary that’s presumably on the higher end of non-management in the department I’m in. I also have about a decade or more development experience than those I work with, so my spot in the range seems justified.
What’s your opinion when a manager says “You’re near the top of the range. If we give you a raise then that means fewer of your coworkers can get raises too,” as a reason for me not getting a year-end raise?
Part of me thinks it’s fair and makes sense, but part of me thinks that my employers defined my salary to fit my experience, and I shouldn’t be penalized for what I’m being paid because it’s in line with what I bring to the table.
That response from your employer is manipulative, whether intentionally or unintentionally so. They’re distracting you from the question of what’s a fair salary for your work and raising the specter of taking money from your coworkers. It’s entirely reasonable for you to ask to be paid a salary that’s commensurate with your value and the market price for your skills; it’s not reasonable for them to make their ability to pay your coworkers your problems.
I’d ignore their statement entirely and bring the focus back to what your work is worth. If they bring up the coworker thing again, say this: “I can’t speak to that, but I think my work is worth $X because ____.”
2. Job candidate called coworker “annoying”
I had a phone interview with a candidate who kept referring to a coworker as annoying. For example, he said, “She was known to be annoying” in a response to the question “can you describe a time when you’ve worked with a group to collaborate on creative approaches?” He mentioned her as annoying twice. Everything else in the interview went great. I feel like “annoying” isn’t really a professional way to describe someone, and maybe he should have opted to describe examples to hint at annoyance would have been better. Is that a red flag?
I’d say it’s a yellow flag. Not an absolute deal-breaker, but a flag to slow down and get more data (both by probing more with him and by talking to references later in the process). At a minimum, it says he lacks some amount of professional etiquette/decorum and understanding of professional conventions (in that you don’t describe your coworkers as “annoying” to a job interviewer).
Ideally you would have followed up more in the moment: “You said she was annoying. Tell me more about that.” … “When you have to work with people who are challenging to get along with, how do you approach that?” … and so forth. But you can do that in the next stage of your process too, and see how he handles those questions. You might end up concluding that his comment was just him being overly candid but not indicative of anything beyond that, or you might end up concluding that it was indeed a sign of deeper poor judgment or difficulty getting along with people. Right now, it could be either — so your job is to probe more deeply.
3. My office insists on celebrating my birthday, despite my protests
I’m a middle-aged woman who has decided many years ago that I do not wish to celebrate my birthday. It’s not for religious reasons, I just personally do not wish to have streamers and balloons at my desk and the constant attention though out the day….ugh …I just hate it! I will participate in other birthday celebrations, just not mine.
I have been able to successfully avoid this by approaching the work office party planner and politely ask to be removed from the birthday list – all my employers and co-workers were very respectful and there was never any pressure to celebrate my birthday.
However, my new employer is a different story. I have been employed here for two years, and even though I have explained over and over again that I do not celebrate my birthday they continue to probe and ask questions. I work at the same company as my husband and they even approached him to ask him my birth date. He knows not to tell and made a joke “If I tell you she will kill me.” They have now added me to the company birthday list with a made-up birthday, and when that day came they had a potluck and cake for the celebration. I explained to everyone who wished me a “happy birthday” that it wasn’t my birthday – which was very awkward.
I love my job and I really do like my coworkers. But, this birthday thing is just getting out of hand. How can I get them to stop celebrating my birthday?
Apparently you can’t. I don’t know why they’re so aggressively insistent on celebrating it when you’ve asked them repeatedly not to, but apparently they have a bizarre commitment to doing it anyway. You’ve done everything you can do, short of making it a bigger issue than is warranted (unless you are inclined to become a Jehovah’s Witness and make it an issue of religious accommodation), so I’d just assume that as long as you work there, this is going to be a thing that they do. They are weird.
4. Is this an odd reference question?
I just received a reference request for someone I used to manage. In addition to the usual “What were this person’s job duties?” and “Would you hire this person again?” questions, there was this: “What advice would you give as to how to manage the candidate in order to get the best results?”
That struck me as an odd question: I certainly haven’t seen it before. Is this a common thing to ask? And it raises another question for me: is it OK to just leave questions blank when completing a reference check? The person in question has already been hired and has started work, so this seems to be a mere formality at this point.
It’s actually not an uncommon reference question, and I’d argue it’s a good one that can produce lots of useful insight into the person. It’s also, frankly, a way to get more candid information out of references because it requires them to say something other than a canned “she’s great!” type of answer.
It is indeed okay to leave a question blank when filling out a written reference form, although be aware that (a) if you do that with multiple questions, you’ll be diminishing the value of the reference, possibly significantly, and (b) a blank answer can send a message too, so you’d want to think carefully about that (for example, if you leave “what are her greatest strengths?” blank, you’ll be conveying “no strengths that I can think of”).
And last, yes, it’s weird that they’re asking you to spend time on detailed questions like this after the person has been hired. The time for them to do this is before they extend a job offer, unless they don’t truly base a decision on your responses, in which case they shouldn’t be wasting your time.
5. I was fired by a board of directors
Is it legal for a nonprofit’s board of directors to terminate an employee other than the executive director? Until recently, I was working for a nonprofit in a role that reported to the executive director. Then the executive director retired, with his last day being a Saturday, and an interim executive director was scheduled to start the following Thursday. On the Monday of this in-between time, I was called into a meeting with two board members and told that my position was being eliminated and so I no longer had a job.
From my experience with nonprofits, I was under the impression that the board only had authority over the executive director’s position, and no others – although I recognize that this happened during a time when technically there was no executive director. However, quite frankly, this decision was not made in the best interests of the organization, because no competent executive director would have eliminated my position. My job was critical in terms of responsibilities (almost every organization in our field has someone in this position, and my colleagues in the field are flabbergasted that they would eliminate the position), organization structure (I has six people reporting to me, and they now have no one supervising them), and manpower (our organization was very understaffed so losing another full-timer would have been hard for the organization and the remaining employees).
Do I have any case for wrongful termination, or any form of recourse?
Not based on what’s here. The answer would only be yes if you were fired because of a protected characteristic (i.e., you were fired because of your race, sex, religion, disability, etc.) or as retaliation for legally protected behavior (i.e., you were fired for complaining about harassment or discrimination).
It’s true that nonprofit boards typically only directly manage (and thus hire or fire) the executive director, but that’s not a law, just a best practice. It’s surprising that the board didn’t wait for the new interim executive director to start and let her handle the situation, but they do have the legal ability to fire staff members, unless there’s something in the organization’s bylaws that specifically denies them that ability, even at a time when no executive director is in place (which would be fairly unusual).