It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. My manager has been really accommodating about my medical issues, and I feel guilty about resigning
I work for a small (less than 10 people) nonprofit in a role with a pretty rare skill set. I’ve been in the position for just under two years, and for almost the whole time I have been struggling with a mental health condition that’s strongly harmed my work. I’m looking at intensive medical interventions, which will require some form of work accommodation (either a 2-4 week leave of absence, or me going 4/5-time). My manager is on board with these options — I’m honestly surprised I haven’t been fired already, but she’s an incredibly understanding person.
However, because of unrelated reasons, I’m also strongly considering resigning about the end of this year. It seems like poor form to take a generous accommodation and then turn around and resign. Because I think I’d be difficult to replace, I had always planned to give a lot of notice, package up my work neatly, and train my replacement if asked. But I feel like I owe my workplace a lot for putting up with my mental health condition and being willing to extend further accommodations.
How can I figure out what’s fair here? How can I navigate between “my mental health needs are genuine” and “I owe my workplace for putting up with my crap”? And beyond being an ideal resignee, what could I give my workplace in payment of this debt, real or perceived?
You’re dealing with medical issues here. You haven’t been jerking your employer around. This isn’t them giving you tons of flexibility to let you pursue a hobby or some other passion outside of work, or okaying a travel sabbatical with the understanding that they’d hold your job open as long as you were going to return to full-time work afterwards, and then you saying “never mind, see ya!” This is a situation where they were accommodating to you because you were dealing with a serious medical situation. Sometimes those end with “okay, everything’s great and I’m back to work at full speed” — but any sensible manager knows that sometimes they end differently.
Don’t let your manager’s willingness to help you turn into an albatross that guilts you into not doing what’s best for your health. You say she’s kind and understanding, so I feel certain that she wouldn’t want that. (And even if she did, it wouldn’t create an obligation on your part to give in.)
Plus, it’s pretty likely that you’ve been providing more value than you think during this time, and I suspect that’s part of why she’s been so willing to accommodate you — so don’t sell yourself short there. If you weren’t providing much value on a tiny staff, you probably would have heard about it by now.
As for being an ideal resignee: Giving lots of notice, leaving your work in good shape, and training a replacement is pretty much the best thing you could ever do when you’re resigning and have a boss who has treated you well. That’s a great plan. But you could also talk it through with your manager and get her input too — “here’s what I’m thinking; is there anything else I could do that would make this an easier transition?”
2. Buying alcohol on a break from work (to consume later)
I have a birthday party I have to leave for immediately after work, and so I thought I would go ahead and buy the alcohol I needed for it over my lunch break. I also (stupidly) happened to mention to the cashier where I worked, and it’s a place that definitely frowns on drinking while on duty and is concerned about the appearance of their employees. So my question is, do you think it was a big mistake to do that over my lunch?
Not at all. This isn’t drinking at work, or even drinking at lunch. You bought a perfectly legal product on your lunch break. It would be really strange — to the point of bizarre and outrageous — for anyone to have a problem with that.
Go forth and worry no more.
3. Was I fired or laid off?
I lost my job today. Well, I know where my job is, I was just asked to stop doing it. I’m not too terribly upset by it. It was a fantastic job, but they were having a hard time finding work for me to do. It’s also a great time to be a developer in Seattle, so I don’t expect that it will be all that difficult to find a new one relatively quick, and I’ll probably make more money too. Fingers crossed, anyway.
One thing stood out when I was being ushered toward the door. My now former manager told me that I wasn’t being fired because of anything I did or did not do. He said that he’s got something like 20 developers in the company, that he couldn’t find a project to put me on, and that the company has changed a lot since I started last year and doesn’t have the capacity to train a junior developer (which I am). He specifically said that I was being fired rather than being laid off, but from what I’m reading it sure sounds more like a layoff to me.
It sounds like the definition of a layoff to me, but a lot of people are confused about the difference between firing (let go for performance or other cause) and laying off (position eliminated for lack of work, restructuring, or other business reasons). I can’t tell from your note if you mean that he went out of his way to stress that it was a firing and not a layoff, or if he just called it a firing. Assuming the latter, I’d figure it’s just a terminology problem and that it’s in fact a layoff. But if it’s the former, I’d contact him and ask him to clarify.
Actually, you might contact him either way, because you don’t want him telling future reference-checkers that you were fired if in fact you weren’t. You could say something like this: “Fergus, I wanted to check back with you about my termination. You called it a firing, but also said it wasn’t due to anything I’d done, and that it was because of lack of work, which sounds more like a layoff. I want to make sure that I describe it accurately in future interviews, and that we’re both telling reference-checkers the same thing — am I right in thinking this is a layoff, since you’re eliminating the position?”
4. I found out from a coworker that I got a promotion
I was going for a promotion at work that report to a different executive and management chain. I was waiting for a yes/no answer and received an email from a peer who was also going for a promotion. The email essentially said “our director (neither’s direct manager) told me we both got the job.” This was the first I had heard of my promotion. Besides the fact that he told many colleagues and new teammates we both got the job before I received the offer, the director never told me I received an offer; no one did for a week after.
I’ve since received an offer directly from the hiring manager but am still negotiating salary. I am upset about the way I was told. Is it appropriate to bring this to HR? I mentioned how I was told to my manager and she brushed over it. The director makes me uncomfortable and plays favorites but is highly popular with her bosses.
That’s weird and was mishandled, but unless it’s part of a larger pattern of concerns about communication with your director, I’d let it go. If it is part of a larger pattern of concerns about communication, I’d start by talking to your boss about that, with the focus on the pattern, not this one incident. HR’s job isn’t really to be an intermediary if you haven’t already tried to address this kind of thing on your own first.
5. My paychecks have been late for five years
Five years ago, my employer had asked me to hold off on depositing my paycheck due to lack of funds from business slowing down. Being a small family-owned and operated business, I wanted to be helpful so I agreed to hold off. Well, here we are, five years later and I am now sitting on four paychecks! Each pay period I deposit the oldest check while retaining the newest. Every time I inquire about depositing them, I get told a slew of excuses and that I need to wait. I’m done waiting, so what can I do? I’m in California.
Say this to your manager: “I’ve tried to be patient with the paycheck situation, but I really need to get it taken care of this month. I’m currently owed four paychecks. We could get in a lot of trouble with the state government for this; California actually requires employees to be paid within two weeks of performing the work, and comes down pretty hard when labor laws aren’t followed. Can we set up a plan to get fully caught up on my pay with the next check?”
(You can find out the exact number of days that applies to you here.)
I’m not hopeful that it will actually happen; if they don’t have the money, they don’t have the money (although this could motivate them to move it from something else). But it’s a reasonable thing to say. And meanwhile, give some thought to how comfortable you are tying your livelihood to a business that’s having this much trouble paying you what you earn. It’s been happening for five years — I think you can safely assume that it’s going to continue happening.
Last, you can file a wage claim with the state here.