cutting the salary of a low-performing new hire, I lied in an interview, and more

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

1. Cutting the salary of a disappointing new hire

We hired an employee almost two months ago who seemed to have quite a lot of experience in our field (which is rare in our city). She asked for a higher salary than entry-level, which we were okay with giving based on her experience. Now, almost two months in, it’s become obvious to us that she actually doesn’t have as much experience in the field as she thought she did and her work is only slightly better than what we get from candidates straight out of school or switching into this industry from another one. Essentially, we regret paying her the higher salary and feel that she isn’t worth it. Legally, we know that we can reduce it a bit, but should we? And if so, how do we handle that situation? (She is at $60k. Entry level for us is $45k, possibly $50k. We haven’t settled on a firm number yet.)

Nope, don’t do it. It’s not fair — you agreed to a salary when you offered her the job, and she may have left a previous job and/or turned down other offers because of the salary you offered her. Lowering it now would be a bait and switch, and you’d be asking her to shoulder the burden of you not doing enough diligence to really investigate her skills before you hired her. (That’s not necessarily your fault; no one hires perfectly every time.)

What you can and should do is to talk to her about where she’s falling short and what you need to see from her to improve. You could also tell her that in order to stay at this salary level, you’d need to see (specific changes) in the next X months. That way you’d be giving her some warning and an opportunity to improve, rather than just blindsiding her with a salary cut. Be aware, though, that if you do that, it’ll likely be a serious hit to her morale and there’s a decent chance that you’ll lose her — if not immediately, then pretty soon afterwards.

It might make more sense to just write this off as the price of a lesson learned about better verifying people’s skills during the hiring process. (In fact, this will be a fairly cheap lesson if it becomes that — some employers never learn it!)

2. My company refuses to let me remove the lights above my desk

I sit in a cubicle at work all day. The overhead lighting is everywhere and bright as hell. I have a dry eye condition, and the brightness dries my eyes and sometimes causes headaches. I’ve asked my supervisor if they can take the bulbs out from the lighting right above my desk. I was told to get a doctor’s note, which I did. The doctor’s note stated that the lights should be dimmed in my area due to my eye condition. The note went to my supervisor and HR. Someone in facilities came by and took one (yes, one!) bulb out. It made no difference whatsoever. I asked if they can take all three out–keep in mind that there is plenty of lighting in my surrounding area, even if the three bulbs were taken off. Anyway, so now I get a meeting request from HR to “discuss.” Really?

Okay, so me, my supervisor and HR have a meeting, and I was told by HR that they can only remove twi bulbs and if that doesn’t work there are other options. Here are the options she gave me: use eye drops (which I already use per my doctor’s recommendation) and the second option is to get glare-resistant lenses on my glasses. What?? Really? She said the reason why the three bulbs can’t be removed is “in case IT has to go under my desk for any reason” (it’s always going to be dark under the desk, with or without lights!) and the other reason is “because janitors need light to clean.” There are plenty of lights everywhere! It’s not like I’m asking them to purchase some expensive chair or desk to accommodate me. Does this sound ridiculous to you?

Yes. Very. Your company sucks. There was no reason they should have made you get a doctor’s note in the first place (I mean, really, do they think you’re somehow trying to game the system into … having less light?), and they’re being ridiculous about it now. If you want to pursue it, I’d look into whether your condition is likely covered by the ADA and, if it is, approach it from that angle since they’d be required to engage in an interactive process with you to find solutions that will work on both ends.

3. I lied in an interview but then confessed

I recently got an interview with my county to become a dispatcher for emergency services. During the interview, I was asked if I knew anyone in the department or who dispatched. I answered yes, because my friend from high school does in fact work there. But then I told a lie to make myself sound more experienced and qualified I said my “cousin” worked for the public safety office in a neighboring county. Then they began to probe, and I kept lying because I froze up.

I used a fake name and everything. But only minutes after leaving the interview, I called the supervisor back and told the truth, that I just wanted to look good to the company.

Now I’m nervous that they won’t hire me. (I’m almost certain.) Do you think that they won’t hire me, even though I told her the truth and apologized?

Yes, I think they won’t hire you. Lying is a big deal, even if you confess it later, because it says something about your integrity and how trustworthy you are. This employer knows very little about you, but one thing they do know is that you lied to look better when you felt under pressure. That’s not something employers want to knowingly invite on to their staffs.

We all make silly mistakes, but sometimes the price of them is that we take ourselves out of the running for a job/a date/a promotion/a Powerball win. Write this one off, and figure out how to avoid whatever prompted you to do it.

4. My promised promotion hasn’t come through yet

I’ve been at a big and well-known media company for about two years now, where I was hired in an entry-level position with the caveat that because of my master’s degree, I’d be looking at a promotion in a year. My list of responsibilities has continued to grow, including essentially taking over the roles that were once covered by not one, but two, senior professionals. I’ve been praised for my work and at my first annual review told I was “highly valuable” and received the highest merit raise possible. I decided to ask for a promotion back in September, and my boss (the VP of my department) told me that without a doubt, I was doing the job of the level above me and deserved the promotion and it would just depend on HR and my “big” boss (his boss).

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when my boss told me that I would be getting the promotion on my work anniversary (this week). I let him know I was excited (but also took it with a grain of salt, because my boss sometimes over-promises … and I had a feeling this might be one of those times). I come into the office today and my boss tells me that there are going to be a ton of layoffs tomorrow (I know I’m not included in this) and that he spoke to his boss and my promotion won’t happen on my anniversary date after all. He mentioned that they can’t promote someone when they do all of these layoffs. He then went on to say that my promotion was “a done deal, it’s happening” and when I asked when he thought it would be, he said “closer to February.”

Does it sound like I’m being toyed with, or should I just be grateful I’m being told I’m getting a promotion at all? Is it normal to be told when you are getting a promotion to begin with? I feel like I’ve been very patient and putting in the work, but I don’t want to get jerked around. I’d love to go to HR and discuss this, but I know that to my boss, that would like I was going over his head. I’m really at a loss for what to do – just sit around and wait for it to happen or push for a date?

I’d take him at his word. He could have easily told you that it was on hold indefinitely, but he didn’t; he told you “a done deal, it’s happening.” Unless he has a track record of lying to you, I’d be believe him. Not being able to deal with this in the middle of layoffs is perfectly reasonable.

If February rolls around and he puts you off again, at that point I’d have more concerns — but so far none of this seems like major cause for concern.

5. How to let an out-of-state company know I’ll be in their area this weekend

I found a job posting for what sounds like the perfect job for me with a company that, no joke, I have dreamed of working for since I was in high school. Of course, I immediately applied, but the catch is that this job is with an office that is part of a larger nationwide company. This means that, of course, my application went into their big, centralized system, and the person who will have the first contact with it will likely not even be in the same state, let alone the same office, as the job itself. This is a little concerning to me because I tend to struggle to present myself on paper, and the job that I currently hold is not in the same field as the one I’m applying for. (The bills weren’t going to pay themselves while I job hunted, so I had to take what I could.)

The job is in a city that is 750 miles away from where I live now. I usually make a trip up there once a year for personal reasons, and by luck, this weekend is that trip. I feel like I should do something to put myself on their radar while I have the chance, but I fear crossing the line into “gimmick” territory. My first instinct was to reach out to the person who would be my boss if I got that job, but it would be obvious that I had done some detective work to get ahold of his email, as it’s not actually published on the company website anywhere. That seemed a little creepy to me. My second instinct was to use LinkedIn, but to be honest, I am not super savvy with LinkedIn, and this person’s profile seemed sparse enough to suggest that he wasn’t a big LinkedIn user either. My third thought was to simply stop by and drop off a business card and maybe resume as I passed through town, but that seemed amateurish, clumsy, and the exact opposite of what you would say to do.

What, if anything, should I do? It seems silly to let my application sit unnoticed in HR purgatory when I’m going to be right there. I would feel better about this whole situation if there was some easier way for me to get introduced, but my main networking contact from the last job I had in that field and that city (about four years ago) brushed me off the last time I asked for his help.

Most hiring managers won’t find it creepy that you figured out who they are; having people track you down like that is a pretty common part of hiring. (I mean, don’t contact him at home; that would be creepy. But otherwise, most people won’t have an issue with it.) Send him an email and say that you applied for the X job through their online system but that you wanted to let him know that you’re going to be in town this weekend, and that if he thinks it would be useful to meet and it happens to be convenient for him, you’d be glad to set up a time to talk. Attach your application materials to this email.

From there, it’s in his court. You may hear nothing, you may hear “we’re not interviewing candidates yet,” you may hear “HR handles these early stages and I don’t know where the process stands,” or you may hear “yes, let’s set up an interview.” If you don’t get a positive response, at that point you’ll need to let it drop — do not under any circumstances just show up at their office, which will mark you as out of touch and a bit annoying.

{ 269 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Brooke

    Re: the overhead lighting issue…. are there others affected by the same lights? The reason I ask – I work in a large open area with overhead lights, and *repeatedly* there’s been disagreements over people’s preferences on how much light they need/tolerate/etc. Some people hate bright lights; some can’t work well without them, etc.

    Reply
    1. misspiggy

      A lot of the time it’s actually the cheap crappy lightbulbs that are causing the problem, not the apparent brightness. Most people don’t have a problem with daylight, which is much brighter. If attempts to get lightbulbs removed don’t work, it could be worth researching better quality bulbs for those fittings, and asking for them to be tested – although a cheapskate company won’t want to do that either.

      Reply
      1. Snowglobe

        If OP suffers from dry eye syndrome, then any bright light, including daylight, is extremely painful. I don’t step foot outside without my sunglasses on.

        I had the same issue with needing to get a doctor’s note to have lights removed. In my case, I have a private office do it didn’t affect anyone else. HR told me the issue was that OSHA has standards for lighting levels in an office environment, and they needed documentation before they would risk violating the regulations. They even required my doctor to specify how bright, in lumens, the office should be.

        Reply
        1. Stranger than fiction

          Yes, that reminds me, my friend had the opposite problem- the lumens in his office were way lower than the standard. He used some App that measured it and showed it to his boss and HR. (sorry, tried to ask which app but he hasn’t replied) and they moved him to another part of the building since he sat near Dev and they all wanted it dark. Maybe the Op can use this App and if it’s way above the standard, show his boss and HR. I just don’t get why they’re being so difficult about it. Sounds like he’s in a large area with so many lights this can’t possibly make that much difference. And if he’s got someone near him that wants it extra bright or something they’re not telling him, they should be willing to move him somewhere else. The reasons they’re giving all sound like BS.

          Reply
    2. Jackie

      I agree. I get migraines very quickly from uneven lighting. So, someone removing lights near me would cause me issues.

      OP – why don’t you wear sunglasses at your desk? I can’t imagine that removing all 3 lights would make a big difference.

      Reply
      1. Meg Murry

        It’s not the most elegant solution in the world, but when my eyes are killing me and/or I can feel a migrane coming on, my polarized sunglasses make all the difference in the world – they cut glare so very much. Do I look silly wearing polarized sunglasses at my desk? Yes. Is it better than burning a PTO day and having to play catch-up in a few days? Yes, marginally so, or it at least buys me an hour or two in order to run through my to-do list to see what I need to pass to other people in my group on the “has to get done today” list.

        Wasn’t there a post around here somewhere about lighting wars where people were taking out more and more bulbs or insisting on keeping the overhead lights off in one area of a cube farm until it was ridiculously dark? Lighting wars in cube farms can be crazy after a while.

        Reply
        1. Sharon

          Back in the day my workplaces used to have cubes with overhead cabinets, which afforded task lighting in each cube. They never were used much, and now it seems that nobody buys the overhead units in favor of just fully open-topped cubes. But it seems to me that having individual lighting controls would solve this problem. Keep the room lighting dim (but of course allow IT and Janitorial services to brighten them as needed) and allow anyone who needs more light to just light up their own cube space.

          I too, HATEHATEHATE over-bright flourescent lighting in offices, and that seems to be every place on earth. :-(

          Reply
          1. Windchime

            I’m really lucky that the row of lights above my cube has a separate switch, and everyone in our row has agreed to keep that switch turned off. It is so exhausting to sit under the harsh glare of bright lights all day long, and my migraines have substantially decreased since we started keeping them off.

            An alternative to removing bulbs is a filter. Several people in offices have requested these filters and it really cuts down on the harsh glare while still providing light. Maybe the OP could ask to try this?

            Reply
          2. Vicki

            It’s not good enough. I’m one of those people who needs overhead lights. The “task” lights are good for seeing paper n my desk but not for my keyboard/screen, paper near the keyboard (which isn;t under the overhanging cabinet).

            All of this is such excellent evidence for (small) personal office spaces.

            Reply
      2. Hlyssande

        I’ve worn sunglasses at my desk, but unless you get the sports wraparound kind, the light will most likely come in over the top of those glasses while the OP is working.

        I commented about it below, but I get around the direct light in the eyes by wearing a visor on bad days. It helps.

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      3. Yetanotherjennifer

        I was wondering about a parasol. Could the OP set up an umbrella or some sort of shade over their head to shield the light? The answer back will likely be that it’s a fire hazard. But that might spark (heh) another idea.

        Reply
        1. AMG

          We have a building like this and there are beach umbrellas everywhere. I don’t use one, but it seems to help. It’s not a fire hazard either–our company is very fire-safety conscious. And it can be moved easily if needed. Good luck.

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        2. justsomeone

          My friend’s company lets people have covers over their cube – but they’re giant leaves. It’s hilarious. They’re IKEA Lova bed canopies. She sent a photo and I laughed for a hour.

          Reply
      4. Jady

        Regarding the sunglasses, also consider trying out some hats.

        I have a small basic black hat (no logos or baseball-cap looking, very plain) that blocks light from overhead because I have the same issue OP does. It’s against dresscode of course, but I talked to my boss about it and he didn’t care. I typically wear it a few times a week, along with eyedrops and breaks away from the computer.

        Reply
        1. JessaB

          Yes or one of those lovely fancy brimmed hats you wear on the beach (the woven straw kind like the ladies used to wear with or without silk flowers,) very kitchy and pretty, and can have a larger brim that can block more light from all directions.

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    3. Paulette

      The lights I want adjusted only affects my area. And I’ve even asked the girls sitting next to me if it was ok and they’re cool with it. We have rows and rows and rows of lights everywhere! Other floors have dimmed lights and I really doubt they needed a drs note. I was told that a few years ago there was an option to dim lights on different floors but that option is no longer available.

      Reply
    4. it will happen

      This! We have about 1/2 of an area of our office that is dark. We are in the north so in the winter it is DARK. If we get a new person in that area I am SURE they are bullied into not asking for lights. I think it looks very unprofessional to customers and other visitors – ughh.. Just because there are lights ‘over me’ doesn’t mean they are only YOUR lights.

      Reply
      1. Vicki

        I’ve worked in two companies like this. In one, if was an entire wing; in another it was a large room. I refer to the people who worked in these areas as the “Clan of the CavePeople”.

        Reply
  2. Cody's Dad

    Re #3. Tough lesson learned but this ship has sailed. What’s the worse part is that the lie was not even going to help the OP much. Saying you know someone in another town in the same job isn’t going to give you enough of an edge over someone else. Lying is never good but you didn’t even lie about something meaningful enough to make a difference!

    I agree with AAM though. It’s your first impression…if an emergency response call went wrong would you lie about that too??

    Reply
    1. Tanaya

      Yeah, I really don’t get why the OP thought making up an experienced cousin would make themself look more “experienced and qualified”? They’re not hiring your cousin, right so why would that help you? I mean, they might reach out to the cousin and be influenced if they spoke really positively about you, I guess, but how can that happen if the cousin’s not real?

      Reply
      1. TL -

        If it’s a fairly small town, it could make the OP look better by dint of small town politics. Or maybe they just wanted someone who knew to a more personal degree than the average applicant what a dispatcher life looked like, so the OP thought that by saying her cousin had the job, she would come across as more prepared to deal with the stresses of such a job?

        Either way, it doesn’t actually speak to her credentials, but I can see very specific scenarios wherein it may be a point in her favor to have such a connection. Or where you could panic and think it would be a point in your favor when really it doesn’t matter at all. (If the OP is normally an honest person, this sounds like it was the product of a major panic-y moment and probably they weren’t thinking very clearly at all.)

        Reply
          1. Sunshine Brite

            In just as many places it seems, you’re not getting the job if you’re part of the family to avoid the appearance of that scenario; particularly public type jobs like emergency services.

            Reply
      2. Kat

        To me the OP just sounds young and like he panicked, I don’t see any need to pile on or dissect. It sounds like he panicked, and then when they kept asking questions, he panicked even more and doubled down and dug himself a hole.

        He obviously knows what he did was wrong and did apologize; he just doesn’t seem to realize that yes, lying will absolutely disqualify you from a job.

        Lesson learned–a tough one but a necessary one. We’ve all done incredibly stupid things (see my worst story in Alison’s round-up of ridiculous things–I photoshopped my CEO’s face onto a hippogriff). Learn, cringe a lot, move on, and be a cautionary tale in the future :)

        Reply
        1. Mike B.

          Yep. Interviews are terrifying experiences when you’re young and jobless (and sometimes when you’re older and employed); sometimes people panic and say things they shouldn’t. It speaks well that OP came clean later.

          But it’s also true that this particular job requires an extremely cool head, so someone who does something unethical under pressure (even momentarily) is probably a bad fit.

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        2. OriginalEmma

          Some sage advice from an older coworker – that some lessons have small costs and some have large ones. OP paid a small cost for this lie (losing out on a job opportunity) and will hopefully learn from it, instead of having to pay the large cost of a larger lie, e.g., continuing on with this façade or even worse, developing reflexive lying as a coping mechanism.

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          1. TotallyNotMe

            I am not trying to pile on at all, but the cost of this lie may be higher than just a lost job opportunity. This lie can also hurt his reputation. The job market can be a small place and you never know who people know. OP, please learn from this experience. It is really never ok to lie about your experience, knowledge, education, network, etc. In general, just don’t lie. Whatever benefit you think you might get from it, the cost if discovered typically outweighs it.

            Reply
            1. De Minimis

              I think that would be more likely had the OP gotten the job and been found out later on. My feeling is this will probably be the end of it if the OP never does this again [and believe me, I understand how someone can panic and just start trying to come up with what they think is a good answer.] People usually don’t remember or discuss rejected job applicants.

              Reply
        1. JB (not in Houston)

          Definitely. I haven’t lied in an interview, but I have had some awkward things that I knew–even as they were coming out of my mouth–I shouldn’t be saying.

          Reply
    2. Bob

      Agreed. I think there are many things an employer is trying to figure out in an interview. If you are reasonably intelligent and understand the core job, you can probably be taught just about anything you lack in previous experience. But the intangibles like trustworthiness, honesty, dedication, work ethic, etc can’t be taught. While it is often tough to gauge those kinds of skills in an interview (and even if they candidate tells a story that sells a certain quality, you are taking them at their word) but it can often be easy to get people to rule themselves out. Once you have demonstrated you do NOT possess a certain desired quality, there is usually no way to recover.

      Reply
  3. Panda Bandit

    #3 – I don’t get your train of thought. If you wanted to look experienced and qualified, why did you tell them about the qualifications of somebody who wasn’t you? Besides the whole thing being made up.

    Reply
    1. Justcourt

      I wish I had known about this a few years ago. My company refused to remove the lights above my desk and the desk of another co-worker who suffers from migraines. They did let me wear sunglasses while working, though.

      Reply
      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

        Let you… wow, how very generous. Was your job customer-facing or similar? I’ve gone to work wearing sunglasses before for similar reasons, no permission asked or needed! Just “Oh, Countess Boochie’s wearing sunglasses at her desk, she must have a headache or something.”

        Reply
    2. Blue_eyes

      That’s a good idea. And it looks like it can easily be removed from it’s holder for those situations where maintenance, IT, etc. need to work in OP’s area.

      Reply
    3. Hlyssande

      I wish they’d allow that in my area, but the cubes are set up with a specific aesthetic and they don’t allow any cube decorations to extend above the walls of the cubes. And they’re short.

      Reply
    4. BethRA

      I like the idea, but if OP’s company got their knickers in a bunch over removing lightbulbs, I’m not sure they’d be on board with something like this.

      Reply
      1. Koko

        Especially with that prominent safety warning about serious or fatal crash injuries if the furniture its mounted to isn’t permanently affixed to a wall. If OP isn’t near a wall I bet that the same company that needed a doctor’s note to dim the lights by 1/3 isn’t going to install a product that is explicitly said to only be used with wall-mounted furniture.

        Reply
    5. ESC

      Yeah, +1 for ikea leaves! At my workplace our cube walls are too short to anchor them (open office plan lyfe…), so the leaves are anchored to coatstands instead (with zip ties). That also has the benefit of being very securely fastened and the whole coatstand is easily moved around, in case your company is concerned about obstructing janitors or something.

      Reply
  4. Devin

    #3-I sympathize with you. I know job searches are hard and different people react to the stress differently. Please know that everyone has made some sort of work related mistake. You’re not alone. Good luck in your search!

    Reply
  5. Knitting Cat Lady

    #2: I wear a glare reducing clip on over my glasses because of insomnia. They cost all of 10€.

    Would those help and would your employer pay for them?

    Reply
    1. A

      I have issues with my own eyes and absolutely cannot do computer work wuthout glare – resistant lenses in my own glasses — I know it is weird for the employer to suggest it as a solution, but I really don’t understand why OP finds this so offensive and unthinkable. A glare – resistant screen over the computer can do wonders too.

      Reply
      1. Liane

        Perhaps she can’t afford another pair of glasses right now–you cannot just add it to your current pair–or even a computer screen? Is a company too cheap or jerky to deal with OP’s requests to remove bulbs going to cover those expenses, or even better quality bulbs? Nope!

        Reply
        1. Knitting Cat Lady

          You can just add it to your current pair. With a clip on, or goggles. Like I do. It’s 10€. Company might spring for that.

          Reply
          1. bentley

            Another option are cataract glasses (e.g., Solar Shield). They go over your regular glasses and they block light from above and the sides. Before I got transition lenses, I kept a pair of these in the car for driving on very bright days or at sunset. They sell for under US$20.

            Reply
            1. Dangerfield5

              Off-topic, but thank you for linking to those! I have long-standing stable cataracts (so not worth removing them) but really feel the glare when I’m night driving. If they work well they could relieve a lot of my problems.

              Reply
            2. Mimmy

              I’ve thought about getting those too – I am without lenses due to congenital cataracts (couldn’t get an implant) so glare is a huge issue for me. I just worry about them scratching my existing glasses and how clunky they look.

              Reply
            3. Witty Nickname

              Oh, wow, I didn’t know these exist! Thank you! Even with my transitions frames, some days my eyes get so sensitive to the sunlight that I have trouble driving. I’m going to order these and see if they help.

              Reply
      2. Hlyssande

        Glare resistant anything won’t help if the issue is direct fluorescent light in the eyes rather than glare from the computer screen. That’s my issue.

        Reply
        1. Bleu

          That’s true. Though, when I thought the overhead lighting was causing issues for me (headaches, dry and red eyes), in fact the culprit was the computer glare. (Users are looking directly at the screen for 8+ hours). But of course it could indeed be the overhead lighting.

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        1. Charlotte Collins

          While also refusing to remove a lightbulb. I had a manager who got migraines from fluorescent light, and the company was able to turn off the lights over her cube only. I would think there would be a way to do this in any reasonably new building. (And my company does not spend a lot of money in fancy buildings/workspaces. If we can do it, the OP’s company probably can, too.)

          There excuses sound pretty lame to me, too.

          Reply
            1. Words

              You had it right the first time. “I would think there would be a way to this…” is correct, “their” would be incorrect! ;-)

              Reply
  6. Merry and Bright

    #3 There probably aren’t many of us who haven’t done something a little bit crazy in job searching over the years. What makes you stand out to me is that you owned up – and quickly. I think that is a big thing. It is a difficult to do and shows you are actually quite honest at heart. Good on you for that and good luck in your job searches.

    Reply
    1. Three Thousand

      Yes, it’s good that you admitted it. Now you’ll probably just lose out on this job, as opposed to losing out on lots of future jobs if they had found out you lied and word got around.

      Reply
    1. Mallory Janis Ian

      Nice and discreet, too. And they come in a pack of four, so since OP’s coworkers have already said that they don’t mind the lights being dimmed above their cubicles, the ones on each side of her would probably allow her to install them above their cubes, as well.

      Reply
  7. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

    #1
    Been there! It happens.

    First of all, what Alison said. What bugs me most in these situations is how I feel it’s not fair to Wilma & Betty, who are kicking ass at entry level salary while Fred is delivering mediocre results at his inflated start rate. I don’t have the money to adjust everybody’s salaries to make up for the mistake I made with Fred.

    What happens with us at management level is that Fred gets tagged as an Overly Expensive Person. We’re results oriented. Fred gets a lot less less slack in returning results, Fred is hard to trade between departments “too expensive, I don’t want him”, etc. It’s not great to be Fred if he’s underperforming because he won’t last nearly as long as the next person we can afford to give less challenging duties to, to allow them to catch up.

    I like this thing that Alison said:

    You could also tell her that in order to stay at this salary level, you’d need to see (specific changes) in the next X months.

    We wouldn’t cut somebody’s salary, but I like the idea of putting it on the table that clearly for Fred. It’s been awhile since we had a Fred but, next time, I’ll make sure we say it that bluntly.

    Reply
    1. Chriama

      So I’m assuming they didn’t lie but rather didn’t evaluate their knowledge the same way you would have if you’d done a more thorough vetting process — that’s on you, not them.

      Overall, I think cutting someone’s salary is such a major morale killer that you just don’t want to risk it. I think you could deny Fred raises and promotions because you’re judging his work to a higher standard, but that’s all forward-looking stuff. Anything that looks like you reneged on a previous decision made in good faith will give you a major reputation for untrustworthiness among your employees. And even if they understand your reasoning and don’t resent you for it, if they’re afraid that you may misjudge the level of their qualifications and they’ll get the rug pulled out from them a few months into the job you’re going to have a harder time attracting good candidates for future positions.

      Reply
      1. Chriama

        Also the ‘you’ is not specifically you Wakeen’s, but the OP and all hiring managers who might read my comment.

        Reply
      2. Jen RO

        We had a similar situation recently (new hire who had previous experience so was paid at the top of the range, but who didn’t perform as expected) and, when the pool for raises was distributed, she got a very low percent so that more money could be given to the high performers.

        (In the end, the situation resolved itself because she quit.)

        Reply
        1. Chriama

          I think that’s a reasonable solution, but companies have limited budgets and I get why it’s frustrating that Fred’s 15k premium for experience could be used to reward 5 entry level people who are actually performing better than him. I think if you really want to reclaim the money it’s better to give specific performance goals, put him on a PIP and even go so far as to fire him. If the issue is just that he does good work for an entry level employee but is getting paid too much for his performance, I think you just have to leave it alone and hope his performance catches up with his salary or if it doesn’t, that he leaves once he sees he’s not getting any raises until it does.

          Reply
          1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

            Right, that’s pretty much what we’ve done in the past. Cutting salaries, that’s not a practice we want to be in. If someone doesn’t measure up to the standards of their pay (significantly doesn’t measure up), it’s better to term them and move on.

            I truly mean “significantly” btw. Competent candidates don’t grow on trees and if someone’s 5k overpaid for their performance level, that’s doesn’t meet the significant bar to me. You just adjust for that as time goes on.

            Reply
            1. Chriama

              Do you think the 10-15k difference the OP references above is significant? I don’t think it is, as long as the employee shows improvement over time. I do think I’d stop giving raises until their work caught up to their pay, but I don’t believe this is worth firing over based on the information provided. Thoughts?

              Reply
              1. Not Karen

                You don’t think 10k is significant?? According to my calculations, that’s a $600/month difference in take-home pay!

                Reply
                1. boop

                  *nod* Yeah, $10-$15k is the equivalent of my entire job. That’s employed vs. entirely-unemployed. Seems somewhat significant.

              2. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

                It would be significant for us. We hire bright people, often first job out of college, at $X. If we hired somebody we thought was bringing senior level experience at $X +15k, and they performed under the level of some of the $X folks, I’d feel too guilty to let that go on for an extended time.

                OTOH, if I brought the new person in to do more of a stand alone job, where it wasn’t as easy to see parity between people, that’d be easier to rationalize. (But then I’d still have a problem with a stand alone job not being done to what I expected so maybe not that different.)

                Bottomline: in our workplace economy, 15k of salary is significant.

                Reply
              3. could be anyone

                15k is 25% of Fred’s salary (and 1/3 of the starting salary). That is a significant amount. As far as firing. Give Fred a chance to improve and if doesn’t then firing might be appropriate. It’s just like any other performance issue.

                Reply
              4. Green

                How significant $10-15k is depends on the salaries involved. Here, I think it’s significant. At $200k vs. $210k, not so much.

                Reply
                1. neverjaunty

                  Uh, yeah, that’s still significant by a factor of an additional $10K. Of course it’s MORE significant to someone with a very low salary – but I am boggled at the idea that $10K is objectively not a significant chunk of change, even to someone making six figures.

      3. plain_jane

        Sometimes I find a person was a superstar at their last job but has trouble finding their groove in the new place. They don’t know who or where to go for mundane things, and they may have lost many of their templates (e.g. this proposal is just like the one we did for x – I can pick up a bunch of those paragraphs, the projectors are over here, just get the key from this desk), so everything is more difficult and takes longer. And it’s frustrating for them to be thinking “I’ll do x, no, that was the old job, I need to find out who to ask if we do it y, why am I so much less productive here than at my old job?”

        Meanwhile, the newbies are just creating the rule “do y”.

        Reply
        1. Biff

          This was what I was thinking when I read the letter. I just couldn’t think of how to put it. This is exactly right. Also, early in your career you don’t always know what drives your productivity. I was thinking about this two weeks ago because I’d just had an interview with a place that looked great on paper, seemed nice in person, but had one feature that I knew would cause me to stop performing well. I wouldn’t have known that high-interaction, low-privacy offices were causing me trouble 5-6 years ago because I’d only worked in one for a couple of months prior and hadn’t made the connection. It wasn’t until I worked in a bullpen for a year that I finally put it together. To me, it’s quite possible that this person moved from an environment that they not only knew, but had that one thing that allows them to shine… and this workplace does not.

          Reply
        2. OP#1

          We wondered about that too and I asked about that in the conversations I had with this employee before I wrote in. Apparently some of that is the case but there are so many other additional gaps in knowledge that it’s far more than this.

          Reply
          1. Biff

            It seems like a possibility that the employee inflated their experience, but before you make that decision it might be worth it to figure out if the employee was genuine in their belief that they had the experience and also, if their experience comes from a place with a reputation. It would be hard to confirm but they may have also been an unwitting victim of a crappy manager.

            Right now my department is recovering and rebuilding after one wimpy manager did a LOT of damage in 3 years. We were trained to do certain things the wrong way, we were given bad processes, etc. It’s been a kick to the teeth to find out that some of my hard-won experience is worthless because it put me on the wrong path. Poor information from Wimpy Boss also has caused some pretty embarrassing moments when I provide feedback based on what I think I know.

            Reply
      4. MissDisplaced

        Just curious though, if all 3 employees have the exact same job title, but Fred is paid more, how do you tell him that his work is judged to a higher standard “just because he’s getting paid more” (not because his is a more senior position)? It just sounds weird to me.

        Oh, by the way Fred, we pay you more as Teapot Designer, so we expect longer hours and harder work compared to Sue and Joe Teapot Designers.

        I can’t imagine that conversation. Now, if Fred isn’t holding his own, and under-performing compared to Sue and Joe, that’s a different story, but otherwise it comes off as Sue and Joe get a “pass” on workload because they’re paid less. I don’t know…sounds icky.

        Reply
        1. Just Another Techie

          Typically though you’d have the experience level embedded in the job title. Junior Teapot Designer, Associate Teapot Designer, Senior Teapot Designer, Principle Teapot Designer. So it absolutely would make sense to hold an Associate or Senior to a different standard than a Junior.

          Reply
          1. Dan

            In my line of work, the labels assigned to technical staff have no inherent meaning outside the company. Some places will call anybody with a masters degree “senior”, and at other places, that’s close to 10 years of experience.

            At my current company, you can have a making $70k and a guy making $130k at the same level. You better bet it’s much easier for the first guy to get a significant raise than the later.

            Reply
            1. Stranger than fiction

              This is so true. I’ve worked at mostly small companies and they had no level distinction in the job titles. Job titles are so ambiguous these days and vary greatly company to company and industry to industry.

              Reply
          2. MissDisplaced

            That’s how I’ve typically seen it too (or as numbers/grade levels: Teapot Designer I, II, III, etc.) thought OP didn’t specify. If the jobs are organized that way, usually the duties are somewhat different as well in the level of projects they take on, so for example a Junior Teapot Designer would never meet with clients the way a Principle Teapot Designer would.

            But what is everyone is simply designated the same?
            It must the case at some places. Then it’s tricky to define what “more” they should be doing.

            Reply
          3. AnotherHRPro

            If that is the case here and the employee is a higher level, then a demotion might be in order. With that, a title change and change in responsibilities would occur.

            Reply
        2. Dan

          My company does that, the more you get paid, the more you have to justify pay increases, even at the same level. But our levels are broad… seriously, my “level” has a pay range where the high end is double the low end, and the spread is about $60k.

          Reply
            1. Dan

              We have LOTS of titles, but only 7 pay bands.

              And I know this, because my company actually has division level all hands meetings where they present aggregate level pay and raise information, and why they chose to allocate raises the way they did. For my review, I was handed piece of paper that told me what my performance level was, and where my pay fell in regard to that performance level. They flat out told us that the closer your pay is to your performance level, the lower your raise is.

              Yes, our company flat out tells us that the majority of us are underpaid based on where they determine our pay “should” be.

              Reply
              1. Dan

                Mind you, I work for a non-profit as a individual contributor with a graduate degree in an analytic field. I make just shy of six figures, get a 10% 401k match, get 4 weeks PTO, and work a 40 hour work week of hours of my choosing.

                These pay and comp discussions get really interesting. I could very well be underpaid based on industry norms, but I’m not the stereotypical non profit employee who makes like $35k in an expensive city, while being told that I should be selling my soul for the mission.

                Reply
        3. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

          We don’t have many hard and fast job titles, but we do have a basic starting pay for the majority of our positions, let’s say it’s 40k for ease of example. If someone was brought in 15K higher than basic starting pay, they’d already know that. If we pay someone more because we are expecting more, we tell them before their first day.

          Reply
        4. Koko

          As an employee, being told that they are paying me more and thus expect more from me and I shouldn’t look to my lower-paid peers to gauge what’s expected, actually wouldn’t bother me at all and would make total sense. It almost comes off like a compliment: we highly value you and we’re expecting big things from you and we’re paying you at a level that reflects that.

          Reply
      5. Dan

        At my first job out of grad school, I got brought on at a good salary. Re-org happened, boss got promoted to VP, and I got a new boss who reported to VP (my old boss). New boss thought I was overpaid and told me so. I went a couple of years without getting a raise. My first year, when I got the bagel, I asked him, “are you trying to tell me to find a new job? If my performance sucks, let’s talk about that.” That year, I did get an overall “needs improvement” but no real specific things to improve on. I hated that guy. At least he was my boss for only a year.

        Reply
      6. Stranger than fiction

        I’m wondering, though, how exactly to you vet the skill-level of an entry-level candidate without giving some sort of assignment like you would for some higher level roles? I’m sure the Op checked her references and experience “time”, but you don’t really know how someone performs exactly til they’re on the job, no? (I’m being sincere here, I’m not a hiring manager). But, I agree with everyone you can’t reneg the salary, just have a serious talk with her about improving.

        Reply
    2. JenGray

      I was also wondering how hard these skills would have been to verify. I only wondered about it because the OP said that finding someone with experience with them is rare. I would also add- in addition to letting the person know that there needs to be improvement- when there is something this person is supposed to know but doesn’t have a discussion at that time could be had. If the person flat out lied or exaggerated having a discussion (if possible) at the point in time might reinforce that you were serious about improvement and also let them know that the skills aren’t what you were expecting.

      Reply
    3. Nervous Accountant

      Something like this happened at my company. The person was hired in a senior position with experience that was very much needed; however they felt that her performance was not up to par, so they demoted her (and gave a paycut) several times until she was finally let go. This was a coworker on another team, so I have no idea how it really was but this is what was told to us by managers)

      As painful and terrible as it sounds, I think it’s fair to have a discussion with the employee on what’s expected before making any decision. If they can’t perform up to the standards then present that as one consequence. I struggled with performance a few times, a paycut was never brought up, but personally I would have preferred that over getting fired. But I know not everyone would prefer the same… paycut/demotion/firing, the point is that the employee should know about this. Simply taking an action without communicating it with them would be pulling the rug out and a pretty horrible thing to do IMO.

      Reply
    4. StarGeezer

      OP#1 – If you do decide to cut the person’s salary without first doing a PIP, talk to HR about your state’s notification requirements. Some states require written notice [X] hours/days before the lower salary/wage rate can go into effect.

      Also, if you do a very short notice (e.g., your state requires 24 hour notice, so you give them a letter on Friday saying as of Monday, their pay will be $X), be prepared for them to quit – immediately. If an employer reduces the rate of pay, the professional courtesy of a 2 week notice is void (unless you are willing to extend the current rate of pay through their notice period).

      Reply
    5. OP#1

      I’d already had the “you need to improve x/y/z” conversation with her before I wrote in. No real improvement, so it was either “can we keep this person on and try to improve them but at a salary that actually matches their experience” or “should we let them go”.

      And for sure, what bugs us about this is that it isn’t fair to Wilma and Betty. Thanks!

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        If it’s at that point, I’d lay it out for her and see what she says: “Our concerns about your performance are serious enough that we can’t keep you on at your current salary, which was set on a different set of assumptions about performance. We could lower it to $X, which is the normal starting salary for this role, but we of course understand that might not be feasible for you. We’d like to keep you on though and continue working on these issues together, but that’s what it would mean. Is that something you’re open to thinking about, or should we start thinking about a transition out instead?”

        Do be aware though that she might say yes to lower salary just to buy herself time to job search and leave in a few months. Don’t offer this option unless you’re okay with that (and unless you’re really going to be happy with her performance at the new salary level; if you’re not, it’s better to end it now).

        Reply
        1. OP#1

          Thanks! I commented on this further down but since I wrote in originally, I’ve actually found some instances where there are things this employee said they knew how to do but clearly has never done them before. Combined with everything else, we’re going to have to let them go.

          Reply
          1. JessaB

            That’s entirely different. It’s one thing for it to be- we thought they could x at y level, vs they SAID they could x at y level. You honestly misunderstanding vs they deliberately misleading you is an entirely different thing to be dealing with. I think you’re right to let them go and that would be true even if you’d brought them in at the usual salary, but when it’s kind of obvious that you’ve been misled in order for them to get paid significantly more money…that’s extremely dishonest on their side.

            Reply
  8. hbc

    #2, I’d bet good money it’s not really about IT not having a flashlight but the appearance of having an overhead light out in the office. I tend not to notice or care about those kinds of things, but lots of people think it’s unprofessional, and I bet there would be a constant stream of reports to maintenance (and possibly a lot of instances of new maintenance people “fixing” the lights.) That shouldn’t trump a disability issue anymore than a complaint about noise when a blind person has their computer set to read text, but that could be why they’re not just jumping at the easy solution. With that in mind, some sort of protective cover like Sy posted is probably going to be the best option.

    Also, I’d let them off the hook for the glasses thing. It’s reasonable for them to think it would help* and to suggest it as an alternative, just as it’s reasonable for you to shoot it down because you tried it or there’s a flaw that you see right away.

    *Obviously glare-resistant glasses don’t work that way, but if they’re not knowledgeable about glasses, your condition, or the difference between brightness and glare, it’s an understandable thing to be wrong about. I doubt they were being deliberately obtuse.

    Reply
    1. Myrin

      I very much believe there’s some other reasoning behind this weird behaviour exhibited by the company and would normally be on board with your thoughts but they actually did offer to take out two bulbs, so I don’t think it’s an appearance or maintenance thing after all (because if these issues come up, whether it’s two or three bulbs removed wouldn’t matter). I don’t have anything insightful to add to the excellent suggestions above but I’m really wondering about the companies motif here. It just seems so random and adversarial and making a super big deal out of something that could and should be easy to solve (if only by an apologetic “We can’t switch off/remove any of the lights for X reason.”, but this whole hmmm maaaaybe but only two tho not three or four and the frankly outlandish attempts at reasoning as well as having two Very Important Meetings (!) about it makes me think there’s something else super weird going on).

      Reply
      1. Lynn Whitehat

        I suspect they’re afraid of starting Lighting Wars. People have wide varieties in their personal preference of how bright the lights should be, and in a large common area, the bickering can really take over if you try to make it a democracy of lighting preference. Of course, the LW’s situation is a medical issue, not just a preference. But I wonder if they’re trying to avoid a hundred other mutually incompatible requests to tinker with the lights. “Well, Esmerelda gets to. Why can’t I?”

        Reply
    2. Ann Furthermore

      Yeah, I don’t think the OP’s employer was being deliberately glib or insensitive. I was friendly with the former facilities director at my company, and let me tell you, it’s a tough job. It’s impossible to please everyone, and people are always complaining about something. For some people it’s too hot, for others it’s too cold. Some people think it’s too dark, others want all the light they can get. And so on. Then there’s the regular maintenance stuff to deal with, like plumbing, cleaning, parking issues, the list goes on. It never ends.

      So I don’t think it’s a matter of the employer being jerks, or not caring about the OP, just trying to balance her needs and requests with everyone else’s. I like the suggestion above for the leaf thing from Ikea, and the OP’s employer probably would too. Looks like its easy to install, won’t impact other employees, and it’s something that can be suggested for others who may be dealing with the same or similar problem.

      Reply
      1. neverjaunty

        But OP has a medical condition and a doctor’s note. Treating her as though she’s a fussy complainer is exactly the problem.

        Reply
        1. Ann Furthermore

          I never said she was a fussy complainer. I’m saying that the job of maintaining a clean, safe, and relatively pleasant work environment in a building where hundreds or maybe thousands of people work is not an easy job, and it’s hard to strike the right balance between accommodating someone’s individual needs with everyone else’s. Having a doctor’s note does not make the problem magically solvable in a way that doesn’t impose on others, violate other policies that may be there for a good reason, stay compliant with OSHA, and so on. It may seem like a simple solution to just remove more light bulbs, but there may be ripple effects to doing so that you’re not aware of.

          Here’s an example. About 7 years ago, a pair of geese built a nest in some shrubbery right outside one of the entrances to our building. I saw them one day, and then ran into the facilities director, and said, “Hey, you’re probably already aware of this, but there are geese nesting right outside the door.” She heaved a huge sigh and said yes, she was aware of it, because she’d been spending all day every day for the last week or 2 discussing “those effing geese,” or answering emails about the geese. I asked her, “Can’t you just have someone move them?” And she said she wanted to move them at first, but the Division of Wildlife told her she was not allowed to, since there were already eggs in the nest and the offspring would die if they were moved. We’re an aviation company, located right beside the runway of a regional airport. Many employees are ex-pilots, or recreational pilots, so they were all telling her it was unethical and unsafe to leave the geese there, because they could fly into an engine propeller and cause a plane crash. Then there was another contingent of employees who wanted to take care of the geese, so they’d bring them fruit from the cafeteria in plastic containers. Then those plastic containers would blow around in the parking lot, causing a litter problem she had to deal with (never mind the fact that these were wild animals who know how to feed themselves). Then her team put up some orange netting stuff around the geese and told everyone to leave them alone, but then someone else moved it, saying it looked like the female goose couldn’t get to the nest and was getting agitated (never mind the fact that the goose has WINGS and could easily fly over the orange netting that was maybe 2 feet tall to get to her nest). Then there was also a huge safety issue, because geese are very aggressive, and won’t hesitate to attack you if they feel threatened, so the facilities director was worried someone would get injured, which would then open the workers’ comp can of worms.

          Then to top it off, one night a few weeks later we were both working late one night, and she said her newest worry was that someone on her team had discovered a den of foxes on the other end of the building, and she was dreading the new flood of emails about how we had to protect the babies from the foxes.

          Then one Monday morning we came in to find that the geese were gone, so the eggs must have hatched over the weekend, and moved to another home.

          So, if the OP’s employer is saying they can’t remove another lightbulb, there’s probably reasons for that that she’s not aware of, that no one would be aware of or even consider or think about because if they weren’t facilities people. So like I said, the suggestion of the Ikea leaf is a good one, because not only may it help the OP and make it easier for her to work, it may help others with similar problems. Plus it looks unobtrusive and easy to set up.

          Reply
          1. neverjaunty

            “People are always complaining about something” is very different from “it’s hard to strike the right balance”.

            Reply
            1. Ann Furthermore

              Yes, but people ARE always complaining. Some of those complaints are legitimate, because of things like the OP’s situation where there’s a medical issue that needs to be accommodated. And some of those are complaints from people who complain just for the sake of griping of griping about something, no matter what you do for them. If you spend your day getting bombarded by complaints — legitimate or not — you have to sift through them, prioritize them, and then figure out what to do about them. Because invariably, addressing a complaint from one person is going to give rise to another complaint from another person.

              Reply
              1. neverjaunty

                I don’t disagree. But when you start to take the view that anyone wanting a change is “complaining”, then yes, you’re putting the OP into the same bucket as the person who wants their cubicle to have mood lighting, and seeing everyone’s requests less as a problem to be solved as part of the job than as the actual job.

                Reply
                1. Ann Furthermore

                  In the perfect world, you’re right. Hearing the debacle of the geese from the facilities manager, and all the problems it caused, and all the varying demands and points of view made me way more sympathetic than I’d ever been before about what a huge and challenging job it is to take care of a building where hundreds of people spend their days. And there’s no way you’re ever going to make everyone happy.

    3. new reader

      Quite possible there’s another reason and it would be much better if the employer was just straightforward about the reason and worked to find a reasonable solution.

      I have a coworker who doesn’t like the overhead lights. She is the front-line person for our office but keeps her office as dark as a cave. Visitors to the office see her dark office and assume she isn’t there (they see the lights before they see her desk). So they come across the hall and interrupt me for whatever they need, and in most cases I just redirect them back to her. My productivity is impacted by her preference.

      I’m sympathetic to people who have a medical issue that is impacted by office lighting. But there are also perspectives and work-related reasons for having a certain level of lighting in an office or work space. It is always best when the employer will work to find reasonable solutions for all involved (the leaf mentioned in one of the other comments, different light bulbs with softer lighting, etc.).

      Reply
      1. Rusty Shackelford

        I hate overhead lights (no medical issues, just hatred) and I keep them turned off in my office, but I have a table lamp right next to my door, so my office doesn’t look *dark* from the outside. Maybe your coworker would be open to something like this?

        Reply
        1. new reader

          Good suggestion, but unfortunately there isn’t a safe place to put a table close to the door. She has several table lamps around the room, but it still appears dark when approaching from the hallway.

          It’s relatively recent that she started keeping the overhead lights off, so I’m taking a bit of a wait and see approach. If people continue to interrupt my work because her office looks dark, then I’ll approach her supervisor with the issue from the standpoint of my productivity being lowered by frequent interruptions.

          Reply
          1. OOF

            Please approach her directly first. As a supervisor, I would absolutely want the two of you to try to reach a solution before it got elevated to me.

            Reply
    4. Hlyssande

      That’s what they told me when we moved to this office a few years ago – it would look bad if they removed any of the bulbs.

      My kingdom for an office where I can control the lights. I would put a table lamp on my desk with a bulb mimicking natural light so it wouldn’t be a cave, but wouldn’t be painful.

      Reply
    5. Stranger than fiction

      Oh that’s a great thought – appearance. I keep the light off in my office because I’m surrounded by windows and the light coming in is plenty for me. But I remember when I first moved into this office and turned the lights out, someone said to me that years ago, the owner would go around and if anyone had their lights out, he’d complain to their manager that it looks like they’re not there or not working and he didn’t like that. Thankfully that’s not an issue anymore as time has gone on, the owner doesn’t seem to care anymore.

      Reply
  9. amy

    I’d like to hear more about whether the OP#1 actually thinks the resume was unethically embellished. If this is the case and it were to come to light (i.e. an actual full blown lie on the resume) would your response change?

    Reply
    1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

      You flat out fire people for lying on their resume and post haste.

      Exaggerating? In their effort to put themselves in best light, overstating on resume and in interviews is super common. There’s a line where you can hold it against people, but it’s the hiring manager’s job to suss out things like knowledge base and proficiency and most times candidates are well meaning when they are overstating. Often they think they know more than they do, especially when it comes to things like computer programs.

      If I had a dollar for every time I got sucked into candidate’s Best Light spiel about themselves, before I got wise to divining for truth, there would be raises all around.

      Reply
    2. Nervous Accountant

      Kind of a funny or maybe not funny, but many many years ago when I was struggling to find work, I lied on my resume. In my defense, I was fresh out of college and everyone who was offering advice were professionals/had their own companies so were able to provide a reference (funny enough no one would offer me actual work but that’s another story….)

      I’m pretty sure the interviewers could smell my BS, so I had tough luck getting hired…but the one job where I did get hired when this was brought up had issues of its own…even though this job had nothing at all to do w that experience, and it would never have been used in this position, I chalked it up to career karma and I stopped putting that lie on my resume.

      My last 3-4 jobs, I got with my own experience, no lies on my resume. At this stage of my career/life, I can’t imagine doing that. But even now, if I look at my resume, I feel like it’s overstating or bragging/inflating but maybe that’s impostor syndrome too. Idk.

      Reply
    3. OP#1

      OP#1 here! Yesterday I found out something that this employee said they knew how to do they actually don’t know how to do so that was more clear cut. In general, their ability to do the work doesn’t line up with the number of years that they said they’ve been doing it. For example, someone else at work who has a few years less experience than this employee is doing a better job than they are.

      Reply
      1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

        I’d be looking at this as “keep or no keep”, with salary adjustments not in the picture.

        If you hired her because she said she can do X and she can’t do X, cut your losses. Give her some time to come up to where she needs to be, if you think it’s possible, but otherwise, I’d cut my losses.

        Reply
        1. neverjaunty

          Agree. An employee who claimed they can do X, and can’t, is very different from an employee who think’s she’s better at X than she turned out to be. There’s not a lot of reason to keep somebody who lied to get a job.

          Reply
  10. Audiophile

    #3 I lied one time in a job interview. Well, it wasn’t so much a lie, I had used the software in question, but the job where I’d used the software wasn’t listed in my resume and I didn’t really mean to bring it up in the interview. I made it worse, by saying I couldn’t remember where I’d used the software. It was obvious I was lying, though the person probably just assumed I hadn’t used the software at all. Long story short: I withdrew my application the next day. I knew I wouldn’t be offered the job and I didn’t really want it anymore.

    Reply
    1. Not Karen

      One time I mistakenly said I had used a certain software because I had it confused with a different program… Luckily it never came up on the job.

      Reply
      1. Audiophile

        Oh I think everyone’s done that. I get Microsoft products confused all the time. (Is it Access or Publisher that I used? Or was it that other software?)

        Reply
    2. MissDisplaced

      Ugh! Software is always a big issue. Yes, you may have “experience” using AccellaTeapotDesigner, but what you consider experience may not be to the level New Company wants or needs.
      I would hope a company would give a test for this if it’s a crucial component of the job.

      Reply
    3. Stranger than fiction

      It’s frustrating when an interviewer seems to be really stuck on whether or not you’ve used their specific program, because I’ve literally had to learn new software/databases/CRM’s at every single job and I came up to speed faster than they expected each time. I’ve found myself exaggerating a bit when I feel the interviewer is really stuck on that point, and also simply say “my reference will tell you I come up to speed very quickly where technology is concerned” or something like that.

      Reply
      1. Lynn Whitehat

        I’m going to admit I’ve done that too, with non-tech-savvy people who get really stuck on things like “the programmers here use (Linux) Red Hat 6.5, have you ever used Red Hat 6.5?” I’ve been using various flavors of Linux for 20 years now, the different major distros aren’t THAT different from each other, and Red Hat 6 is especially not that different from Red Hat 5.

        Reply
        1. Cassandra

          My other favorite Unwise Hiring Manager Trick is “Do you have X years of experience in {thing that has only existed for X-2 years}?”

          Reply
  11. Juli G.

    OP4, a big plus I see for you is that your boss seems to have followed up with you proactively! People often put off bad news so to me, it’s another good sign February will happen.

    Reply
    1. Stranger than fiction

      Also, if there’s layoffs, it’s kind of bad form to be promoting someone at the same time (especially assuming it comes with a raise). I know a company I worked for had to put off putting anyone in a some of the laid off roles for a year or so (forget the exact timeline) since their role was “eliminated” due to financial issues. Instead they had the responsibilities of a couple roles divied up to other employees for the time being. So maybe they’re just waiting for the dust to settle, so to speak.

      Reply
  12. Rebecca

    #2 – you could wear a tennis visor and sunglasses to cut down on the light hitting your eyes if all else fails.

    As an aside, this happened at my workplace some years back. We came in on Monday, flipped on the lights to our cube farm, and it was bright enough to perform surgery. Our regular lights had been replaced with some sort of energy saving fluorescent bulbs with a mirrored holder. It was awful. We complained, wore visors and sunglasses inside, got headaches, and on the 3rd day, we took out half the light bulbs and stood them in the corner of the utility closet. This was at a smaller company, so no facilities people and our IT staff had flashlights, as did most of us since we were in a large windowless room and we did experience power outages from time to time. To my knowledge, it was still like that when we left that building, half of the bulbs intact and everyone could still see just fine.

    The best part was when our manager tried to tell us that experts recommend this exact amount of light to work in an office environment. Right.

    Reply
    1. Charlotte Collins

      It’s possible that they do recommend that amount of light, but for certain jobs and/or from various sources. There’s a big difference between overhead lighting, a reading lamp, and sunlight from windows. If I ever were to design an office space myself, there would be plenty of natural light, lots of options for people to decide how to light their own workspaces, and very little in the way of overhead fluorescent lighting. (Although at home I use those lightbulbs that mimic natural light, and they are wonderful! So, I’d try to incorporate that.)

      Also, real offices with doors that close.

      Reply
    2. Stranger than fiction

      Ha, yeah, our electric company actually paid for us to replace our bulbs with those new ones and holy hell is it bright out in the hallway. Another reason why my lights are off in my office.

      Reply
  13. Perpetuum Mobile

    I have the same problem as OP #2, i e super bright lights = headaches. The solution for the past 5 years was that fortunately we have light switches right there on the wall, so when I come to work (as I am always the first one of four people) I flip the switch that the cleaning crew from last night had left on and have my vampire-den like bliss. Having said that, one wall of our cube area is actually 100% glass so during the day there is plenty of natural light and it fits everybody’s bill. The only issue with this arrangement that I once encountered over the years was when some of my cube mates relocated to a different floor, new people moved in and absolutely refused to have the overhead lights off. Oh well. I found myself another cube which was a two-cube set-up where I was the only one, with no neighbor and happily went on about turning my overhead lights off.
    So OP, maybe there’s a way to install the switch for these three bulbs so the cleaners and IT can have their brights and you your subdued light?

    Also a quick one for #4 – Been there done that, still no promotion after numerous – literally – promises over the last 3+ years. One time it was to the point of “Give us one week, and it will be finalized.” My industry has been experiencing a huge downturn for over a year now, otherwise I’d be out of here long time ago. My only advice would be not to wait too long, I lost a good couple of years believing what I was told. My bad, I guess I am more used to managers who don’t promise if they don’t intend to follow through.

    Reply
    1. Artemesia

      Yes I thought the OP there should be opening a job search. Not a panicked one, but I think she should quietly assume she is being yanked around and start seeing what is out there. Sometimes the act of getting your resume in shape and drafting cover letters and maybe going on an interview or two imbues one with a sort of zen quality that actually changes the way the manager relates to you. If the raise comes through in February she is good — but if not she has a chance to move on or at least knows her chances.

      Reply
      1. neverjaunty

        Agree. I do not share AAM’s optimism on this. If the promotion does come through, all well and good; if not, the OP is already in the process of finding a new job – preferably at a place that doesn’t withdraw a supposedly “done deal” promotion because of layoffs.

        Reply
        1. Kyrielle

          I think I’d go with AAM’s approach in part because February is so *close*. You haven’t lost much time if you wait, and you’ve avoided a lot of effort that may not be necessary. It depends, of course, on how long you think a search would take and your tolerance for the risk of waiting.

          Reply
            1. neverjaunty

              She will, but on the other hand, what’s the harm in starting to look now? Job searches can take a long time – and the OP might very well find not only that there are other jobs out there, but better jobs that don’t come with overpromising bosses and dubious promotion offers.

              Reply
                1. neverjaunty

                  I will freely cop to being significantly more cynical than you are, but OP mentioned several concrete facts that give plenty of reason to conclude that the boss is at best being unrealistic:

                  – Boss has a history of overpromising, to the point that OP took the statement about promotion with ‘a grain of salt’.
                  – OP was promised a promotion on a set date (his work anniversary), which didn’t happen.
                  Weeks after the promised date came and went, Boss said it wasn’t happening because of layoffs.
                  – Boss did not give OP a new date for the promotion until OP pressed for one.
                  – In response to OP asking, Boss was vague and said “closer to February”.

                  If this were a normal work environment where OP was supposed to get a promotion and layoffs happened to blow it up, that’d be one thing.

                2. F.

                  I agree with Neverjaunty. I would definitely be starting to look if I were the OP and this was a make-or-break situation. In fact, I am in a similar situation, having requested a raise/bonus before the holidays and being told that it would be discussed this week while my manager and the company owner are away on a business trip with an answer to be given to me next Monday. I have had so much smoke blown up my skirts at this job that I look like Marilyn Monroe on a steam grate, so I’m not holding my breath.

    2. JessaB

      Also what the cleaning crew needs at night with zero light coming in through the windows vs what you need in the daytime or early evening with more ambient light is totally different. This makes sense being able to flip switches and change the light levels

      Reply
    3. OP #4

      Oof. I’ve definitely already started the search…but feel that the promotion will be such a significant title change, it will greatly increase my chances of being where I need to be outside of the company. Does that make sense?

      I’m going to give my manager the benefit of the doubt but by February 1st, I’m asking questions.

      Reply
      1. neverjaunty

        That definitely makes sense, but if you don’t get an answer by February, it’s time for a meeting with the boss – not an angry threatening one, of course, but where you calmly point out that you’ve been given actual assurances that this was a thing that was happening at specific times, and it has not yet happened, so is there a date certain, or has the company’s plan changed?

        My guess is that your boss is going to make mumbly handwavy noises and tell you it’s going to be April, no, seriously for realsies this time.

        Reply
  14. Liz

    #1 – I feel for you, really I do. I’ve had a very similar situation (except I was the overperforming but now underpaid colleague training the overpaid and underworking new hire).

    #2 – I get migraines from bright light sometimes, but luckily my manager had absolutely no problem with removing 2 of the 3 fluorescent tubes above my desk. I did investigate an alternative too: look up “fluorescent light covers” and see whether that might be a more acceptable way of reducing the light in your area.

    Reply
    1. Coffee Ninja

      I second the fluorescent light covers! When I get migraines I’m extremely sensitive to light, so I use a desk lamp in my office and turn off the overhead lights (I’m lucky). In some of our other buildings, where we work with special needs kids, we use the fluorescent light covers to cut down on the brightness. They’re magnetic, so they’re easy to pop on and off.

      Reply
      1. Kyrielle

        …and searching on this led me to “decorative” light covers also, and now I’m down a rabbit hole (not literally, at least I haven’t seen one for that). I don’t even have great difficulty with fluorescent light and this is tempting. I may have to ask Facilities if they’d mind. (We’re in offices, so it wouldn’t impact others….)

        Hmmm.

        Reply
        1. Judy

          My dentist office has those, the one in the room I’m usually in makes it look like you’re laying in the forest, with treetops around the edge and a few fluffy clouds in the blue sky.

          Reply
          1. Kyrielle

            …they do custom ones from your photos if you want. I really, really need to talk to facilities. (I’m not sure whether I want the star-scape one more, or a photo of a glorious sunset sky…but all our offices have two light fixtures, so I suppose I could do both if facilities doesn’t mind. If they do, since I don’t have an actual condition that needs accommodation in regards fluorescents, I’m just out of luck. But it sounds much more pleasant….)

            Reply
    2. Anon Accountant

      Do you mind telling us what happened with your overpaid and underworking new hire? Did the new hire catch up to speed? Leave on her own? Fired?

      Reply
  15. Not an IT Guy

    #2 – So assuming that the condition is covered under ADA, who makes the determination as to whether or not an accommodation is reasonable? Everything suggested so far seems to be reasonable and low cost if the OP decides to pursue that route, but what’s to stop the company from saying “No, that’s an undue hardship to us and it’s far easier to terminate rather than to accommodate?”

    Reply
      1. BRR

        I used to have the light bulb issue, I had two of the three removed and it made no difference as there were so many other lights. I have yet to work in an office where one or two light bulbs is there difference between light and dark.

        Reply
        1. Lily in NYC

          It works for me! I’m in an open floor plan and removed 3 out of 4 of the tube lights over my desk. It’s a high traffic area right in front of a major hallway intersection. I have residual issues after having ocular shingles and it has helped so much. Facilities tried to give me a hard time about it but I just told them to go talk to HR if they wanted to do something about it (the guy is always on a power trip so I knew he was just trying to flex his muscles). That was over a year ago and he never went to HR and I still have it dimmed over my desk. My entire dept. prefers it dark but we would never get away with turning off all of the lights in our area even though we’d all like to.

          Reply
          1. Lily in NYC

            Oh, I misread your comment, oops. I thought you meant taking off one or two wouldn’t be helpful because there are still other lights. But now I get what you were saying.

            Reply
    1. fposte

      Absent federal/legal intervention, nothing, same as nothing would stop them from saying “We don’t care about the ADA or any other federal law.” Most of the time you’re also not going to have any official say on whether a condition constitutes a disability or not, either. I would suspect they’d be more inclined to let the OP quit than to terminate, though; much easier on them.

      And it’s also supposed to be an interactive process, which means it’s not necessarily simply OP asks for X and gets X. They can say “Oh, we can’t turn all the lights off there or the power goes off to the whole bank, but we could pay for an Ikea Leaf.” If the OP refused even to explore that option, that would impair any complaint she’d make. (Though I think it would be a lot cheaper just to take out the third bulb myself, and I think probably they’re just freaking out about change.)

      But in general, laws are most effective as guidance, not as a corrective.

      Reply
      1. JessaB

        Yes but in an interactive process then they’d have to buy the Ikea leaf, put it in place and try it. At which point it works or it does not work.

        If it works they’re done, whether or not it’s the OPs preferred solution or not, even if the OP hates it with an unending passion, if it works, they’re done .

        If it does not work, they’re back to the interactive process for try two. The point of the process is not to give the OP every last thing they demand NOR to give the company every last thing they demand, the point is to have the OP able to do the job in a way the company can live with and in a way that does no further harm to the OP’s medical condition.

        If at any point in the process the company says that it’s unreasonable to go forward THEN the OP has choices A: escallate the issue within the company B: provide their OWN accommodations at their own expense, C: get a vocational agency to provide the accommodations, D: sue the company saying it is NOT unreasonable.

        But most companies who are reasonable, are willing to at least begin engaging. In the case of the company with the lights, maybe there needs to be a sit down with management, HR, and facilities and a talk about A: what is their problem with taking out all the lights, B: if they cannot take out all the lights in THAT location can they physically move the OP to a place where they can, etc. in other words first find out why they’re balking at changing things at the location where the OP is. Oh, wait, that’s engaging in the bloody interactive process. Gigglefit.

        Reply
    2. Observer

      There are rules about what constitutes an undue hardship, and nothing they mentioned would fly.

      There is a government site devoted to the ADA, and the EEOC has enforcement guidance on line as well. And, if you google it, you’ll find tons of sites. As you’ll see something that is low cost and can be worked around easily could get them sued by the DOL.

      Reply
  16. Graciosa

    Regarding #5, I wouldn’t let a potential employer know I would be in town over the weekend unless I would also be available for a decent amount of time during the adjacent work week. Only referencing the weekend makes me think the candidate believes they are special enough that the hiring manager should be happy to give up their private, non-work time in order to meet with in order to meet with an applicant who hasn’t even been asked to interview. Without knowing anything about the candidate’s qualifications, I already know that this isn’t true.

    If the candidate can say that they will be in town over the weekend and available to speak “anytime after 10:00 a.m. on Friday” or “on Monday until 3:00” I think that’s a different scenario. But I do strongly recommend making that detail very clear to avoid looking like a prima donna who expects me to want to interview you for the first time on Saturday afternoon. I don’t.

    Just to be clear, I have interviewed candidates in off-hours (trying to minimize the time they must take off from current jobs due to our lengthy, multi-step interview process) but those candidates have always come to me already interviewed and recommended by our hiring panel. That isn’t the case here.

    Reply
    1. Mike B.

      I wouldn’t be thrilled about it, but I’d be open to conducting an interview over a weekend if it were the only time a candidate was available in person. My field requires very specialized skills and there aren’t enough of us (we’re currently trying to backfill 5-7 spots in a department of about 30); this person might be the only credible candidate to come along for a few weeks, and therefore someone special indeed.

      Of course, I’d like to see the applicant take care with the tone of her cover letter since this would require me to go above and beyond the normal call of duty. But it’s not as though I’d just be doing her a favor; if it worked out, I’d be far better off.

      Reply
    2. Green

      I used to do this all the time when I was interviewing to get back to my home state, but it was always with availability during the work week. If I’d already sent the application in I’d say something like: “Thank you for your confirmation of receipt. If I am selected for further consideration, please note that I will be in [state] at my own expense May 31 through June 5.” and then say something that I would be happy to return at their convenience. I booked plenty of interviews that way (and would often schedule that time around when I had another interview). My mom drove me up to the interview for the job I have now when I was visiting at her place around Mother’s Day. :)

      Being willing to travel at your own expense does remove a barrier to interviewing you if you’re out of state and re-emphasizes your connection to the geographic area that you’re targeting.

      Reply
    3. OP #5

      OP #5 here: My trip was actually a Friday-Monday affair, so there was time during the work week for a potential meeting. If that hadn’t been the case, I wouldn’t have bothered reaching out. The original letter may have been a bit misleading in that regard.

      It turned out to be a moot point anyway; the email that I sent received no response, which while a tiny bit disappointing, is overall totally OK.

      Reply
  17. Jen

    #4. I’d take your manager at his word. In fact, what is probably happening is messagig around the RIF, and there is probably a freeZe on things like hiring and promotions. Companies often layoff for budget reasons. Mine does it all the time.

    Depending on your rapport with your manager..:I’d suggest keeping the dialogue open. Hold off til Feb, see what happens. If nothing, have the conversation.

    I would also consider asking (nicely) to backdate the promotion to 1/1. May be very possible, may be out of the question, but you could ask. I was promoted last May with an effective date of Feb, so i got all the retro pay.

    Reply
    1. OP #4

      That’s a really great suggestion, and definitely a thought- just wasn’t quite sure how to go about it. Thanks!

      Reply
  18. Kat

    I’m a writer and stare at my screen all day, and for some reason I concentrate/get in a better groove when it’s dark. When I was in a cube, my coworkers called me a vampire. When for safety reasons the company decided I couldn’t disable the lights, they did let me install a cubicle tent! Sort of like the Ikea leaf someone posted above, but bigger and more all encompassing so it was very dark. It was an amazing little writing space/vampire cave.

    Google cubicle shield or cubicle tent for options.

    Reply
  19. Hlyssande

    Another issue re: lighting is that it ruins the aesthetic of the department and some higher ups get very unhappy about that, especially if important people are always visiting and getting dragged through. That was the reasoning given to me that they wouldn’t remove any of the lights that were giving me migraines when we moved into the new location a few years back.

    Fluorescent lights are the absolute worst, forever. I don’t have a severe dry eye condition, but these lights are the reason I can’t wear contacts at work. Glare glasses work for glare against a computer screen. They do absolutely nothing for light that hits you directly in the eyes.

    On bad days I get around it by wearing a visor. It’s possible that your doctor may approve that as a different workaround if you ask. It will stop the direct light hitting your eyes at least.

    Reply
    1. Mike C.

      I absolutely despise this excuse. The health of employees isn’t worth the “creative vision” of upper management.

      Reply
      1. Elizabeth West

        I work in a company that services clients in a very conservative industry. We definitely have clients coming in from time to time, and we have cube standards. If it weren’t for that, I’d have one of those IKEA leaf things on the way overnight right now. (I don’t have a measurable condition, but I do hate the glare and prefer to work in lower light.)

        Reply
  20. kcat

    I’m so happy to hear from others who get headaches from bright light! I feel crazy sometimes. I had the bulbs removed from above my desk years ago (though my desk has since moved slightly), and currently we mostly leave the lights off (4 lights in the area stay on in a dim state all the time) but it gets a bit dark in the winter. How I wish we could just have lamps instead of overhead lighting.

    My boss prefers the overhead lights on, but enough of us prefer it dark that we only turn them on if guests are coming. I love that Ikea leaf thing mentioned above, though, might have to pick one of those up. I’ve also thought of wearing a visor of some sort. A friend has told me that glare resistant glasses really help a lot too, but I’ve never found any that fit well over my other glasses (which also have some sort of glare resistant coating).

    Reply
  21. Cucumberzucchini

    I don’t have an eye condition, though my eyes do get dry from wearing contacts. My issue isn’t dry eyes though. Fluorescent lighting in stores or offices especially when coupled with a lot of things to look at (products on shelf, offices with lots of knick-knacks) make me feel crazy. Like some weird combination of having to squint, and feeling like the room is moving.

    Maybe I’m just sensitive, but I really think Fluorescent lighting is the devil. So many people complain about Fluorescent lighting causing headaches and I never feel that way with Incandescent bulbs.

    What kind of lighting fixture is above you? Just a normal office light? Wonder if there is some way to rig a dimmer switch for you.

    Reply
    1. F.

      Fluorescent lights flicker on a frequency that is invisible to most, at least to the conscious eye. Many of us can pick up the flicker at least subconsciously, and some of us (me!) can see it consciously. I physically cannot stand to be in a big box store with cheap fluorescent lighting. (I’m looking at you, WallyWorld!) It actually makes me ill. I can also hear the very high-pitched hum of some fluorescent lights (the ballast?). Makes my tinnitus that much worse.

      Reply
      1. Knitting Cat Lady

        I can see the flickering out of the corner of my eye, where the better dark/light vision is*.

        Most days I’m fine. When in the middle of migraine it drives me up the wall.

        My migraines are a bit weird. I don’t get much of a headache. All the other symptoms are hell, though.

        *Old astronomer trick. When looking at a very dim star look slightly to the side of it and you’ll see it a lot better.

        Reply
      2. Charlotte Collins

        The humming is the worst! I can deal with the fluorescent lights if they aren’t the really cheap, really bright kind (just don’t like them), but when the hum, it drives me crazy!

        Reply
  22. Kenzie

    Re #1

    I had a coworker in this situation, she just couldn’t get the hang of the systems/processes at our company even though she was coming in with a masters/other certificates and experience, rather than right our of college with a bachelors. She was paid higher then others because of this but was underperforming in comparison. She had several meetings,performance plans, etc. What they did was give her a no raise that year, while the rest of the staff got a larger than usual raise. This all was explained and accepted by her as she knew she was performing poorly.

    Reply
    1. Mike B.

      +1

      It has the effect of cutting her pay over time if she doesn’t improve significantly, but doesn’t force her to immediately slash her budget. If you’re not going to fire her, you want to preserve her morale to the extent you can.

      Reply
      1. MissDisplaced

        Probably this is the best way to handle if they are getting at least the basics of the job, but just not coming up to speed quickly enough. Then yeah, the new employee probably would not be expecting to get a raise at all that year.

        Reply
    2. OP#1

      We’re not in a budgetary position where we could do that. It’s a good idea, though.

      And this employee is actually making everyone else less profitable/productive by the amount of extra help and time she needs to complete her work, including people dropping things to help out at the last minute so we don’t miss deadlines. So not only is she not doing enough to make up for her salary, she’s making everyone else look bad too.

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Would you be happy with her work if she were at the normal entry-level pay? It sounds like you might not be, in which case this might just be a situation where she’s not right for the job, regardless of the salary issue.

        Reply
  23. Not Gloria, A.A., B.S.

    #1 Some days the dragon wins. Think about how many people in the world are over-performing and are underpaid. They might ask for a raise but are often told there’s only so much in the budget, or you accepted this role at this pay rate, or whatever else. I agree with AAM. Suck it up, move forward.

    Reply
  24. Meg Murry

    I noticed OP #2 said the new employee has been there less than 2 months. Even with experience, some jobs just take time to ramp up and learn the basics of the new office, for instance, do you file TPS reports by month or by client? Electronically or in binders or both? Etc.

    I feel like a lot of companies want to hire experienced people so the new person can “hit the ground running” but the truth is that all jobs have at least a bit of a learning curve to them – and generally what hiring someone with experience does is shorten that curve and cut back the need for the most introductory training – but it doesn’t mean a person with 3 years experience as a Teapot Maker will immediately be cranking out the same amount or level of work as an employee that has been at your company for 3 years as a Teapot Maker. And doubly so if the company wasn’t quick to get the new hire everything necessary to do the job, like appropriate IT logins and software, etc. But in my experience in a few months (maybe 6?) the new person is often fully up to speed.

    However, if the person is obviously lacking in fundamental knowledge, I think it’s worth a discussion about whether the employee exaggerated during the interview or flat out lied in the interview or on the resume (for instance, claims to be be an expert in teapot molding but when pressed can’t even explain the first step that they took in teapot molding at the last job). And if the job has levels (Teapot Maker I, II, III, etc) and it is otherwise feasible, it might be worth a discussion of whether the new hire should be demoted down to a Teapot Maker I with a salary to match – but I suspect that would be so demoralizing as to drive the person away.

    Now, I’ve seen someone completely bluff their way into a job that required a certain skill level that only comes with years of experience (think head chef who can taste a spaghetti sauce, add 5 pinches of oregano, 4 T sugar and 2 dashes of salt and it’s perfect vs newbie who adds each of those one pinch at a time and tastes in between so that it takes 3 hours to adjust the sauce instead of 15 minutes for the experienced chef, and the result 3 hours later still wasn’t up to the required level) – and it was a disaster, because the person tried to cover up his inexperience by heavily relying on the other experienced people or having an unexplained medical condition magically flare up on due dates. Eventually he was let go due to attendance issues, but it was really hard to nail him on performance. But we learned a lot from that hire, and started doing a lot more skills testing during the interview process, instead of just relying on “X years of experience”.

    Last thought – if OP is thinking to cut the person’s salary in the hopes that the employee gets fed up and quits – don’t play games like that. If you really want the person gone and you are in the US, just fire them. Even at a company with a rigorous PIP process, most allow for that to be skipped within the first 60 or 90 days for cases where it just isn’t working.

    Reply
    1. Meg Murry

      And oops, that’s for OP #1. And if you do let this person go – look at where your hiring process failed, so you can not repeat the same mistake. Do you need to do more skills testing? Do you need to do more reference checking? Do you need to acknowledge that this isn’t a skill readily available in your area and you are going to have to train entry level hires from the ground up?

      Reply
    2. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

      Really good point.

      At one time, we got so disappointed with our experiences of hiring people with “experience”, we discounted that entirely as factor. (We pretty much gave up.)

      Can’t do that forever so we worked harder on screening and also developed well defined expectations, by month, for people we hired for experience. I agree with you completely that you can only expect so much until they are oriented to your company, your processes and either your industry or your specific place in the industry.

      Reply
      1. Dan

        Do you lay out those expectations in an interview, during the offer, or after they’ve started? TBH, I’ve gone on record elsewhere here as hating technical self assessments. I am not a good judge of my own level of expertise, and if you’re expecting certain things, 1) Tell me, or 2) Test for them. Just don’t take my word for it pre-offer, we’ll save each other a lot of grief.

        Reply
        1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

          We start talking about them in the interview. That’s part of the screening.

          We’d expect a production artist with teapot industry experience to have a shorter training period, and a higher level of accuracy than someone hired straight out of art school, for example, and we’d pay them more initially. If you talk about that in the interview, that allows the interviewee to say “oh, well I have *some* experience but I spent a lot of time answering the phones, receiving proof approvals and sending finished art”….if you see where I’m going with that. Occasionally it’ll have the prospect clarifying down their experience of their own accord.

          Reply
    3. CrazyCatLady

      I thought of that too. 2 months is not a long time on the job. Like someone pointed out above, sometimes when you have experience, it’s harder to quickly learn new processes whereas if you have no experience, it’s the only way you’ve ever done it.

      Reply
    4. Dan

      I overlooked the “two months” part. Unless an employee is just flat out incompetent (in which case I’d term them ASAP without a guilty conscience), I wouldn’t be making too many assessments about their performance until they’ve been around for 6 months and have had a project or two to really test the waters.

      At two months, you’ve figured out how to turn your computer on, and where the bathroom is. (At least in my line of work, where it’s project based, and it takes awhile to assimilate into a project.)

      I’m with you on the last part, no salary games. The only exception is if the person was hired into a senior role, but is really only qualified for a junior role. If the later, have the conversation with them.

      Reply
    5. OP#1

      Yes, it’s less “you’re making less teapots” and “what do you mean you don’t know how spouts work”?

      And no, we weren’t thinking a salary cut and hoping for a firing. It was either we let them go or we cut salary and see if we can work things out. I agree that would be awful.

      Reply
  25. Bleu

    #1 contains a peripheral issue (I agree with AAM on the main issue — it would kill her morale to renege on the negotiated salary), which is the morale of those working with her. We had a situation involving precisely the same salary ranges cited here: A reporter with barely three years of experience was brought on board — three years is pretty much the minimum most places require before even considering the reporter a candidate for a junior and sometimes even basically an entry-level role. Somehow she must have had stellar negotiating skills, because she got the hiring manager to bring her on board as a senior reporter. She was working on a team with three more reporters with 4 times the experience – national professional reporting experience — who were not senior reporters and not making anything close to what she came in on. (Note too: She had no advanced degree, either.) It was a colossal miscalculation on the part of the manager, new to the role and not from the field of journalism. It could have led to the complete unraveling of the department. There is still bitterness in fact, which isn’t fair to her — she’s got all the energy and enthusiasm of someone who will become great, but frankly, she’s very green, her reporting required significant editing typical of someone pretty much entry level, and significantly, she was unfamiliar with both even the players in the field and the major issues/topics.

    Reply
    1. Dan

      That’s what I was thinking. You just can’t have an underperforming employee making significantly more money than higher performing employees, that really does lead to killing a team.

      The manager gets into a real bind, because if they screwed up, they cannot publicly say that to the person who makes too much money. While the rest of the team needs to hear that the manager isn’t perfect, it’ll certainly demoralize the person who makes too much. Nobody wants to think that they owe their existence to a manager’s mistake.

      Reply
      1. neverjaunty

        This is a really good point. Her co-workers are going to wonder why she gets paid more than they do for lesser work – and why she’s retained as an employee.

        Reply
  26. Alis

    #3 you will most certainly not get hired.

    I spent six years as an emergency services dispatcher. There is a real danger in that field regarding a psychological phenomenon where people lie (intentionally or unintentionally) to make a situation seem more “interesting”. I can’t remember the term, but it is one of the first behaviors that are screened out in new hires. You screened yourself out at the interview.

    In this day and age where protests occur over police shootings, the last thing they need is to willingly bring that aboard. People report hand gun when its obviously a BB gun, they report a wallet as a knife, etc.

    I hope others understand in this field, it isn’t viewed like telling Target you have 12 months experience in sales instead of 6.

    Reply
    1. Brett

      To add to this, one of the biggest disqualifiers in the background check that goes with the position is lying in any part of the background application or background interview. The OP lying in the regular interview would almost certainly be passed forward to the background investigator, who would likely use that to disqualify (even if the OP got past the hiring phase to conditional offer).

      Reply
    2. Aisling

      Absolutely. It’s never ok to lie in any interview, but to lie in an interview for a public safety job does mean you will not get the job. The transcripts for calls can become part of court cases, and if you were found to have lied, it would get cases thrown out of court – and bad guys could potentially go free on this “technicality”. That’s not something emergency dispatch is going to risk.

      It did take guts to call them back and admit it, but the liability is too strong here – an apology does not erase the lie.

      Reply
  27. Oryx

    Ten years ago, I used to get migraines from overhead lights and my manager at the time was super sympathetic. We worked in an office where there were different configurations of lights depending on which switches were turned off/on and she’d always be willing to lower the lights as much as possible while still allowing my other co-workers to be able to see.

    Then I worked in three different places where any overhead lights that were out HAD to be replaced immediately for aesthetics so there’s a fair chance that’s why they are refusing to remove lights.

    Reply
  28. Bend & Snap

    #1 wow. A salary cut because the employee isn’t as good as you thought would be a huge morale killer, for that employee and anyone else who found out. Plus, it’s just a jerk move. Salary cuts should be reserved for when a company is in dire straits and there’s no other choice.

    Why not do a PIP instead? What makes this employee’s performance acceptable at a lower price point? It seems to me that the standards of performance in a role shouldn’t be different depending on how much they make.

    Reply
    1. S.I. Newhouse

      Agreed 100%. A salary cut is a lose-lose for everyone. For the employee, it’s a lot more punitive and honestly, a lot less helpful than a frank discussion about their performance would have been (assuming that hasn’t already been done). And the employer is going to have an extremely unhappy employee on their hands who certainly won’t be motivated to turn in production commensurate with *any* salary level–assuming the employee doesn’t reject the lower salary outright and quit.

      I agree, the best solution is some sort of PIP.

      Reply
      1. OP#1

        There has been a frank conversation about performance and there was a plan to fix. But no improvement.

        Since I wrote in, we considered salary aside, would we be happy with this person if they came in entry level? And we think the answer is no, so between the lack of improvement and everything else, we think we’re going to have to let them go.

        Reply
    2. Dot Warner

      This. From what’s been described in the letter, it’s hard to tell if the OP has actually discussed the performance issues with the employee. The employee may think that she’s doing a great job and everything is fine. If the OP hasn’t had a straightforward discussion with her about the expectations for the role and whether she’s meeting them, that’s on the OP, not the employee. The employee can’t fix a problem if she doesn’t know that the problem exists!

      Reply
      1. OP#1

        I had, I agree that I didn’t make that clear in the letter. The employee knows that everything is not fine but when that performance conversation happened, there was definitely pushback and no real improvement since then.

        Reply
    3. Anonymous Educator

      What makes this employee’s performance acceptable at a lower price point? It seems to me that the standards of performance in a role shouldn’t be different depending on how much they make.

      Yeah, that’s the oddest thing about this letter. Either the person is doing her job well… or not. Employee performance isn’t like eating out—where you pay less for fast food and get supposedly crappier food and then pay more for gourmet food and a better ambience. You should have a level you want the employee to hit, regardless of salary (even in a commission-based position). If the employee isn’t hitting that, PIP would definitely be the way to go, not a salary cut.

      Reply
  29. Rae

    I’m sad to hear that your company’s not accommodating. My office has the opposite problem, I feel. One day someone decided the lights were too bright, then low and behold most of the lights in our open pods above our desks came down.

    Now it’s dark and depressing and if we want light we have to buy our own desk lamps. Good lighting is important to long-term computer screen use…companies should simply invest more in good lighting rather than take out bulbs. Not having a well-lit space gives me headaches, but somehow I end up having to pay for my accommodation to suit all those who want to be cave dwellers.

    Reply
    1. Charlotte Collins

      We recently moved to a new building (actually, and old building, but that’s a different story), and our desks now have less individual lighting than they used to. It’s very frustrating, since there’s clearly a place that it could be added. I think in a case like yours, the company should provide individual lighting options.

      And I would also like to call out restaurants for their lack of decent lighting these days. I like ambiance as much as the next person, but I also like being able to read your menu, and you either have to choose between adequate lighting at tables or a menu printed with high contrast and a readable font. It’s the 21st century – we don’t need to read by candlelight alone!

      Reply
      1. Artemesia

        I am old and so love those menus in dark restaurants with light red print on beige backgrounds or worse yet dark grey on light grey — and my eyesight is actually very good. My husband has vision issues and can rarely read a menu in those conditions although the light on the phone helps enormously as well as the magnifying function on the phone.

        Reply
        1. Charlotte Collins

          I always want to scream, “Form follows function!” at whoever designed these menus. Also, that it’s “avocado,” not “avacado.” (And I don’t even like avocados!)

          Reply
  30. Little Mary Moonshine

    One of my coworkers requested that the overheard lights in his office be removed because they triggered his migraines. He’s by himself in that office, so nobody else would be affected by this. Our Facilities/Maintenance people refused to do anything until he brought in a doctor’s note confirming that it was necessary for his well-being.

    Reply
    1. The Other Beebs

      I work in the public sector and we always run through the interactive process (which requires medical documentation) even for minor accommodations. It’s kind of a PITA because it requires a meeting with HR, the manager, and the employee, but I think it’s worth it in the long run because it ensures that everyone’s on the same page about what is being done. The process includes a follow up by HR to make sure the accommodation is working as intended. So while as a manager I’d have no problem letting someone in a private office take out bulbs, I know that going through the process ensures that a) my employee will get to keep the accommodation even if she ends up working under someone else; b) employees across the organization are being treated consistently; and c) the organization has good records of the process if anything goes wrong in the future. (And boy, have I seen things go wrong in the future.)

      TL;DR: There are good reasons to require a doctor’s note even for easy accommodations, especially in a larger organization.

      Reply
      1. JessaB

        Also, it shows what works and doesn’t so if employee B comes in a year later needing a similar thing you can say okay we tried a, b, and c and a was lousy so we’re not really going to try that again because this happened, let’s try b first for you because really you do not want to go through the crap. Having a specific process you use for every request means that later requests can be easier to deal with.

        You may not even have to go through a big deal because if you have something that worked in the past you can just say “hey in the past this worked, we can get this thing in again, if you think that would help your case too?” and then you just submit an order, and bang you’re done.

        I love working for companies that have specific process because it makes it very easy to submit requests and there’s a procedure to follow so everyone knows what they have to do and you’re not at the mercy of some boss who doesn’t like you or thinks whatever you have is “not a disability” or whatever. And given that a lot of things are fairly common, some larger companies have already dealt with prior requests for similar accommodations.

        Reply
  31. MM

    #1 – In a situation like this where we’re not 100% sure of the candidates experience and capabilities, at my company we’ll take on the employee at the starting rate, and put in their offer that after a 3 month probation period their salary will increase to their negotiated rate so long as they meet X, Y, Z requirements of their job. This way they demonstrate that they are “worth” that salary (for lack of a better way of phrasing it).

    Reply
      1. Meg Murry

        Depending on the experience level you are looking for, this may eliminate a lot of good candidates for you.

        I’ve been burned or seen coworkers burned by companies offering situations like “3 months temp and then we’ll make your permanent” or “lower training rate for the first X months and then we’ll move you up” and other situations like this.

        Maybe, maybe if I were at the lower end of experience (3-5 years?), your company had an excellent reputation and/or I absolutely hated my current job or I was unemployed or needed a job because of a spouse relocation I might accept a lower wage for 3 months. But currently employed candidates who aren’t absolutely miserable are highly unlikely to accept that offer. Especially if it makes it through the grapevine that the last person who held that job was let go after less than 90 days for not living up to the job – even though in your case it sounds like the person really does deserve to be let go, it would sound fishy to future applicants.

        Be cautious with things like this where the employer seems to hold all the cards – it doesn’t seem worth it.

        Can you do some basic skills tests in the interview first? Here’s a spreadsheet we currently use to track teapot inventory, can you add a column for this months numbers? Here’s a teapot design – what would be your first steps in making a mold for it? Here’s a piece of equipment your resume says you’ve used – could you please run this sample for us (or talk me through running it if you don’t want to chance them bluffing and breaking your $100,000 machine)?

        Reply
        1. Mike B.

          Now that I think about it, I was in this position once–I left a permanent job with no room for growth to take a temp-to-perm, and as the end of the temp period approached, I was told that I had not tested as well as they had hoped, and I would now be offered a much more junior role at a reduced salary (an effective pay cut from the job I had left, with the bonus of an awful commute). I was terribly disappointed in myself at the time, but after picking up some professional experience, it occurred to me: had they really been interested in giving me the more senior role, they wouldn’t have let an allegedly weak test score stand in their way. I got nothing but praise for my work, and would have done fine on their test had I known a bit more about what they were looking for. I don’t know whether it was a bait and switch from the start or whether they decided during my contract that they really didn’t need another staff member at that level, but I’m fairly certain that my test score was a pretext for not following through on our agreement.

          On the bright side, when this happened I immediately contacted a recruiter I’d worked with earlier, and he immediately submitted me for exactly the kind of job I’d given up trying to get, and I sure passed *that* test. I had accepted an offer before my contract at the first place had even ended–a big name in the industry, 5K more than the senior job would have paid, and about an hour closer to home. And I would never have landed that job without the temp-to-perm on my resume, so in the end I don’t really mind if I was being used. :-)

          Reply
    1. neverjaunty

      But then what you’re telling the candidate is “We don’t have confidence you will actually do X, Y and Z, even though you say you’re capable of it.” Instead of starting off with that level of mistrust, why not work harder to confirm the candidate’s experience?

      Also, what Meg said – from a candidate’s POV, that ‘probationary pay’ comes across at best as mistrustful, and worse, it gives the company an enormous financial incentive to continue to pay me a lower salary. Why on earth would they admit I can do X, Y and Z, when they didn’t believe me when I said I could, and now it’s cheaper to keep me on board and claim that my X-Z skills are just not up to snuff yet?

      A probationary period where you fire the candidate if they can’t do the required work? That makes sense – you want to insure people can do what they say they will. A probationary period where you pay crap wages? That screams of bait and switch.

      Reply
      1. Mike B.

        This also adds a disincentive to embellish one’s skills–if you think they’ll fire you as soon as they figure out how little you really know, you’re probably going to want to avoid putting that black mark on your employment history. If the only consequence of underperforming appears to be that you don’t get an early raise, you’re more likely to chance it if you’re desperate and/or unscrupulous.

        Reply
  32. OriginalEmma

    Musing on #2…Most modern societies are so well-lit indoors that I wonder if insensitivity to it (i.e., tolerating the brightness) is not a natural state but in fact a coping mechanism. I’m watching Downton Abbey for the first time, and my immediate thought at reading OP#2 was the Dowager Countess’s reaction to some bright chandeliers in Grantham house (“That glare! I feel like I’m at the Gaiety! I couldn’t have that electric light in my house, I’d never sleep a wink.”). Life is just so bright nowadays.

    Reply
    1. Nicole

      You could be on to something there. My office recently changed the overhead lighting and most everyone hated it… at first. Then about two weeks passed and it didn’t seem so ridiculously bright anymore. That being said, I do get migraines from bright light so I asked them to remove two of the three overhead bulbs in my cubicle and it wasn’t a problem. Benefit to working for a small company in a building that is solely theirs I suppose. There’s been a lot less red tape here overall when things come up. I’m sure it varies but it’s a welcome change from my last employer.

      Reply
  33. Student

    #2 – The lights can be annoying to you. There are symptoms they can cause. They cannot cause dry eyes.

    Removing them will not fix your dry eyes issue. If anything at work is aggravating your dry eyes, it’s much more likely related to the air ventilation, cooling, and heating system. Evaporation of moisture from your eyes is not affected in any way, shape, or form by office lighting levels – that’s the basic physics. Light can barely interact with water at all in a way that impacts the water, and offices just don’t have the kind of lights that are strong enough to be the dominant environmental factor in your dry eyes. You’d need stage lighting or special heat lamps to do that. The only reason the sun dries things out when you are outdoors is because there is a lot more light, hitting a large area, converting to HEAT and getting trapped in the atmosphere, which then dries out your eyes. The heating/cooling system is probably dehumidifying the air, which would impact evaporation rates and thus dry out your eyes (and your company probably can’t do anything about it, except maybe allow you a humidifier in your office area).

    If your doctor is telling you that lighting levels will impact your dry eyes, I suggest you find a new one who is better at his job. This one isn’t familiar with basic science and is telling you unhelpfully misleading or downright false things.

    Reply
    1. Kat

      That’s not entirely accurate–lights can cause dry eyes in other ways, particularly fluorescents. The lighting, different from natural light, can cause you to not blink as much when concentrating on tasks, so your eyes dry out faster. When you blink less, it gives less time to the tear film to operate effectively. If that happens off enough, that can cause dry spots on the surface of the cornea. And the lights can intensify other symptoms related to dry eyes, like headaches, soreness, and fatigue.

      And it’s kind of a chicken and the egg–people with dry eyes are more sensitive to fluorescents, and fluorescents can make you more prone to dryness. to dryness

      Reply
  34. Ann

    “#2 – The lights can be annoying to you. There are symptoms they can cause. They cannot cause dry eyes. ”

    I think you’re being a bit harsh and not fully thinking this through. Perhaps it’s not the direct cause of the OP’s dry eyes, but light sensitivity is definitely a known and common result of having dry eyes, at least according to Web MD and other online sources. So, whether the bright light is the original cause or not is not the issue. The issue is that it exacerbates the condition.

    Reply
  35. HRish Dude

    #1 – In a lot of instances, it’s an OSHA issue as to why lights cannot be removed. There have to be a certain amount of “lumens” in walkways and entrances.

    Reply
    1. neverjaunty

      But if that’s the case here, why not be upfront with the employee about that, instead of this stuff with “oh FINE, I GUESS, if you have a doctor’s note maybe we can remove a couple of lights.”

      Reply
  36. Hazel Asperg

    That sucks about the lying, #3. I sometimes panic under pressure and say ridiculous things, so I really empathise. FWIW, you totally did the right thing in coming forward, even if it’s (likely) not going to work out how you want.

    Reply
  37. Eohippus

    As someone who worked for several years in a field that’s very similar to EMS dispatching I can say poster #3 won’t get the job, and that’s a good thing. You can go from bored out of your skull to having to instantly analyze what resources the situation needs, keeping the caller calm, routing requests to the pertinent channels, coordinating between them, maintaining an up/down info flow, and simultaneously logging everything you’re doing. If you’re going to freeze during a job interview then this isn’t the field for you. If they’re set on this then I recommend getting some experience in non-emergency dispatching before throwing yourself in the proverbial deep end again.

    Reply
  38. Miles

    #2: I wonder if it’s appropriate to get the heads of IT and custodial services involved. If they know nothing about it, HR has effectively thrown herself under the bus by speaking for them and not to them. If she did speak to them about it and was actually relaying their concerns, then they need to be involved in the process of making sure to find something that works for everyone.

    The other thing is… there are so many more options if they can’t remove the lights outright, that still cost less than what each person spends on lunch every day, to implement. This sounds to me like a “HR just doesn’t want to do this work” situation.

    Reply
  39. HRLady

    I frequently have employees with this issue at our office as well, and we’ve found that offering cube shields are the best solution. I use the company cubeshields.com since they’re pretty cheap. If you order them in grey or black then they’re not too obnoxious. You might see if your HR would be ok if you opted to purchase this. Also, if you place a small desk lamp under the shield then it also helps filter out the bright light into more of a comfortable yellow light.

    Reply

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