people keep telling me how hot my field is, I got a bad reference but don’t know who it was, and more

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

1. People keep telling me how hot my field is, while I’m unemployed

I’m unemployed and making a huge effort to network. I work in scientific computing in an area with a ton of scientific industry, but I’ve been looking for eight or nine months. It’s starting to seem likely that the reason I’m not getting much interest is that I don’t have a PhD, but that’s not what I’m here for (I figure commenters will be curious). Because I’m in a “hot” field in a “hot” industry, whenever I go a-networking (be it official events or just socially), when people ask what I do and hear my answer, the reply is INEVITABLY “Oh, that’s so hot, you should be able to get a job really quickly/easily!”

I know you’ve already written pieces addressing how annoying and unhelpful this is, but my question is: How do I respond politely/cheerfully/productively? I know these probably aren’t the people who could help me anyway, but I don’t want to appear negative or bitter.

Ah, this is tricky because you’re there specifically to network. If you weren’t, I’d say to just give a quick, breezy response (“one hopes!” or “ha, if only”) and then quickly change the subject (“so tell me about Norman’s new rice sculpture!”). But if you’re networking, you probably do want to talk about your field/your job search/possible leads. So in that case, how about “You know, it’s not as bursting with job openings as it can seem from the outside!” (Or whatever is accurate — maybe it’s that there aren’t as many openings for people at your level, or maybe you want to mention the PhD thing and get more input, or whatever makes sense.) Say it cheerfully rather than dourly, obviously.

And if anyone insist that they’re right and you’re wrong, then hey, take advantage of that and ask them to tell you about some of these openings.

2. Should I be asking my staff for daily updates?

I manage a staff of three people, and we are all housed in different locations (one is even in a different city). We meet twice a month, once in person and the other via conference call. I also call staff members to talk one-on-one as needed. It is not my desire to micromanage, but I do want an idea of what they are working on regularly, so I have them send in daily updates (what they’re working on for the day, what they accomplished the previous day, any questions/comments/concerns). The updates have been successful for the most part. I am able to distribute additional tasks or remind staff of important meetings.

However, lately there have been a couple of issues. My newest staff member sends update in late (I ask for them at 8:30 a.m. and sometimes get it by 11 a.m. or not at all). To be fair, she is housed in an office where a lot happens in the mornings, and I recently asked her to just send them for the next day the afternoon before. Another staff member is starting to just send what is scheduled for the day but not anything else (and sometimes late as well).

Essentially, I want to know whether these daily updates are the best way to manage remotely? What might be a better method? I had suggested weekly updates but staff said they liked the daily ones.

Well … daily is pretty hover-y! It’s possible that the nature of the work your team does makes this reasonable, but for most jobs, that would really be overkill. After all, the power of having a staff is that it allows you to get a lot more done (there’s four people rather than just one of you!), but you’re giving up a lot of that advantage by managing everyone at this micro of a level.

For most managers, remote or not, I’d say to do weekly one-on-one’s with people, and in preparation for those meetings, ask each person to send over a weekly list of priorities for the week and where key things stand (so that you can use the meeting time for real discussion, rather than just running down a list of updates). I’ve got more advice on managing remotely here and here.

I’m curious to know why they like the daily updates, so it could be interesting to ask them more about that. Maybe there’s good reason for it … but it’s worth considering that you might have inadvertently created a situation where they’re overly dependent on you and feel safer being hand-held (apologies if I’m wrong).

3. I got a bad reference from someone who used to work with me at the company I was applying to

I recently applied for a position with Company B through my job placement service. I was turned down for an interview based on a negative reference given by an employee of Company B who had worked with me at Company A more than six years previously.

Company B’s HR refuses to allow me to interview or address this negative reference, and its content is unknown to me. What recourse do I have in dealing with a negative reference from a former coworker? I have no idea who it was or why. There were no incidents I can think of that would cause this.

I’m a working professional and have consistently received above average and superior performance reviews. I left Company A’s location on a promotion at the request of the company to take on an urgent project at another location. I received good reviews from supervisors. I’m no slacker. I also work well with others, holding ethics and honesty as key principals.

There’s not really much you can do, especially since you don’t know who the reference was. Companies are allowed to put a lot of weight on the opinions of their employees, and are especially likely to when someone has firsthand experience working with an applicant. And the reference might not have been “she was a horrible employee” but rather something like “she was good at X, but I don’t think Y was a strength” or “she did good work, but I don’t think of the caliber this role needs” or “she was good, but the other two candidates we’ve already interviewed are stronger.”

If you knew who the reference was, and if you knew that what she said was intentionally false, it’s possible that it could be defamation … but since neither of those things is the case here, all you can really do is move on. And I’m sorry — that does suck.

4. Asking for a more senior position than the one you’re interviewing for

I recently moved to a very large “headquarters”-type city to follow my husband who got a job here. For the last three years, I had a director-level position at the field office level, managing small staff and operations at a country level in various positions overseas. Now that I am back in a country and city where industry headquarters tend to be located, I am not finding any jobs that fit my years of experience in the field and the higher level positions with line management that I had there.

I am, however, finding lots of jobs that are just one or two pay and responsibility grades below what I have been doing, and many of these are with great companies and projects I would like to work on. I’ve had a few interviews for some of these lower level positions, but have not had anything pan out yet. If I do get to final rounds for one of these positions, is it ever ok to say, “I would love it if this job could be expanded in scope or responsibility so that the title and paygrade would be just a step higher to match my past experience?” (And how could I say it professionally?)

I feel like I may have to take a step back in my career progression since I am only finding quite junior positions — either that or I guess I have to stay unemployed, which is not great either. Also, the pay cut I am talking about here is to the tune of $15,000-$20,000, so it is not insignificant. The pay cut does not matter to me as much as the title and scope of responsibilities of the job so that I can keep going in my career progression. I worked so hard to get where I am in my career and now I’m worried I may have to take some giant steps back unless I can negotiate something, which I realize is likely pretty unorthodox. Any advice?

In 99% of cases, if they wanted to hire someone at that level, they would be advertising that job or they’d mention it to you when considering you for the lower level role if they thought you were a strong match for it. Very, very rarely, it is possible to make a pitch for yourself to do a job that’s higher level than the one advertised — but we’re talking like 1% here, and it’s pretty hard to spot from the outside when a situation will be in that category. It’s more likely to just come across as “I know I we’re talking about a different job, but how about paying me more and making me more senior?” … which is not terribly effective.

Your better bet might be to focus on networking (ugh, I know) with the companies where you’d like to work, which would allow you to get a better sense of their landscapes and where you might fit in, and would help make a more effective pitch as more of a known quantity (as opposed to being an outsider saying, “no, give me a better job!”).

5. Update: struggling to accommodate coworkers’ medical leave in a small office

Thanks again for answering my question, and thanks to all the readers who chimed in with helpful advice. Just wanted to give you an update.

Things are pretty much the same. Cersei’s lateness and overall attendance improved somewhat, but as we moved into cold season, two of my other coworkers, Sansa and Dany, began calling in frequently due to their children’s illnesses, and I myself had to take time off due to a death in the family. At this point, another coworker mentioned her frustration and so I discussed this with our boss. We worked together to come up with a schedule to cover most of the tasks that need to be done on a day to day basis when people are absent. This has helped, since we’re not all scrambling around trying to figure out who can cover what every time someone calls in.

But just this week, both Cersei and Tyrion called in two days straight, on the same two days. Unfortunately, it was two days where we had several meetings and were pretty busy in general. After my second day in a row of eating lunch while covering the phones, I realized that this situation is unlikely to ever change, and it’s unsustainable for me. (To add insult to injury, the county I work for is in bad financial shape. Most years we haven’t had raises, and when we do, the most we can ever get is a 1.5% increase.) I love my boss. most of my coworkers, and the work I do, but I think it’s time for me to start seriously looking for a new job! My field is very competitive, so wish me luck!

{ 154 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. The RO-Cat

    #2 (daily updates) I used to work in field sales and manage remote sales reps. Sales is one of the fastest-moving fields (the are faster, but not many) and still one-a-day seems to me quite hover-y. I did that, but only in emergencies or for special situations (a remote team ready to resign in corpore once, a newcomer who needed to get up to speed fast, this kind of things). I talked on the phone almost daily, but on specific things, as needed. The rest, it was a once-a-week occurrence.

    #4 (asking for a higher position in interview) For me, it would sound like “I won’t be here long, unless there’s a path up pretty quickly”. Not exactly what I’m looking for in a candidate. I like candidates that aim up, but I need one that I can rely on for a decent amount of time, first.

    Reply
    1. Neeta(RO)

      I’m a software programmer, and all but my first job required some sort of daily updates. So that would be about 6 years worth of work experience.
      These were done mostly by sending short and concise status messages to pour clients regarding our work, and any possible impediments. Even now, we provide daily updates within the team at the start of the day (what have I worked on yesterday, what I will work on today, and any impediments I have/had). It doesn’t really seem so outlandish to me, to have all this.

      Reply
      1. Elkay

        Yeah, it sounds like scrum/agile type management. I had to do it when I worked in a software company as it was the culture (even though I wasn’t a developer). The idea is with the impediments update is so that the team can “swarm” and help you get through the blocker. This only works if the team can help cover off the work of each other without too much hassle.

        #2 if you insist on doing this daily set it as a 15 minute start of the day call.

        Reply
        1. ThatGirl

          My department got a new boss and overhaul a couple years ago, and one thing the new boss guy wanted was a daily 8:15 a.m. conference call* with managers. That went on for about a year? before for whatever reason he phased it out, along with weekly check-ins for the whole department. For him I think it was helping him get a grasp of what everyone’s challenges and opportunities were, but he didn’t see it as necessary in the long run.

          *most of us work in the same location but it allowed people who were working from home or commuting to be on the call as well

          Reply
        2. Paige Turner

          Same, I’m also a non-developers working with developers on an agile/scrum team. I think OP would get a much better response from her reports by doing this as a conference call (that’s what we do). It’s can also be useful for coworkers to briefly hear what others are working on.

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      2. Stranger than fiction

        See, now that makes sense. But the company I work for wouldn’t know what agile meant beyond a way to describe a cat (nor do we have any developers). I have to send a numbered list of what I do every day to my immediate (middle) manager and all of upper management. It’s a silly task as far as I’m concerned, and I know for a fact that upper management only reads them once in a blue moon (after all, they’ve got bigger fish to fry). I know this because sometimes I’ll sneak something silly in just to see if anyone’s paying attention and they haven’t caught it yet. My immediate manager does and she has a great sense of humor and thinks it’s funny, so at least there’s that.

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      3. MashaKasha

        A 15-minute stand-up meeting in an agile team (or a call, as suggested in the comments here) doesn’t seem outlandish to me, either.

        However, OP appears to want email updates, in writing, listing “what they’re working on for the day, what they accomplished the previous day, any questions/comments/concerns” every day by 8:30. That, to me, is a lot to get into writing every day by 8:30. Especially if there’s other work cropping up, urgent questions from clients/users that need to be addressed, etc. as is often the case first thing in the morning. We used to have weekly email updates and I liked those, because I was able to set aside a whole day to put one together; I’d leave the email open and add to it during the day when I had time. Not sure if I’d have been able to do that every day vs. weekly. For that same reason, OP won’t be likely to get any “questions/comments/concerns” from her reports, since they will be in a mad rush to get anything out by 8:30 AM.

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        1. Evan Þ

          That depends on how many details OP wants, though. I keep a running list of what I’m working on in general – things like “Write up instructions for testing teapot handles. Talk with Wakeen about automating lid-making.” – and it’d be maybe three minutes to copy-paste them into an email and add any questions I have. Even if I didn’t have this list already made, it wouldn’t take too long.

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        2. Rachel

          At a previous job, we had to check out with our supervisors at the end of the day, and provide very similar information: what we had accomplished that day, what we were planning to do the next day, and updates on any unresolved issues. (We were not allowed to leave until our checkout was approved by the supervisor.) Most of my supervisors were satisfied with something brief, such as “Today I worked on X, Y, and finished Z. Tomorrow I will continue to work on X, should finish up Y, and start on A and B.”

          But the supervisor I had for the longest time when I was there wanted an insanely detailed report. It had to include things like number of phone calls, number of emails sent/responded to, amount of time spent on calls and emails, and amount of time spent on every individual task worked on that day. And if it did not add up to 8 hours (or however long I was there that day), I would get questioned – because to her, that meant I was obviously slacking for the unaccounted time. And if there was anything that seemed to take a longer-than-normal amount of time, I had better have a damn good, specific, and documented (or at least verifiable) explanation. (For example, let’s say I usually spent around 2 hours per day on calls and took around 20 calls per day, but one day I spent 2 and a half hours on the phone and only took 15 calls. I would have to provide an explanation such as: “Phone calls: 15 calls, 2.5 hours. This included an hour spent resolving a delivery issue with Wakeen’s Teapots, who only received half their required amount of copper teapots that were due in today, Teapot Warehouse insisted they sent the full amount, but after they tracked the shipment, it turned out that the other copper teapots were accidentally delivered to Wendy’s Teapots an hour away. Fortunately, the shipper was able to pick up and redeliver them to Wakeen this afternoon.”

          It was just a monstrous waste of time. I literally would start the checkout email as soon as I got in each morning and add to it all throughout the day.

          Reply
          1. MashaKasha

            Good lord, sounds like a second job just to write those gigantic emails every day.
            And the supervisor had to approve them, too? Yikes.

            Reply
            1. Rachel

              It was a real pain, especially since I almost always had several things in progress at once. My teammate and I started putting in a line item on our checkouts for time spent putting together the checkout each day – it always took at least half an hour per day.

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          2. Vi

            Yes, I had a similar manager once, I had to have my daily schedule broken down to the minute, my goals (how many calls if i had a call goal, the math used to calculate my projected rate of return, etc), any progress on current weekly/monthly/general goals (even if they hadn’t changed since the day before), and an update on how the previous day was. I tried to explain how much time this was taking away from my schedule with blocking out a 30 min chunk of time for “creating email schedule for manager” on my schedule, but still had to do them. Along with weekly one-on-one meetings and bi-weekly department meetings.

            I truly believe in some fields daily updates can be great, but most of the time, it probably isn’t, or phone calls are more productive than emails.

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          3. pop tart

            AHH I HAD TO DO THIS TOO!! EVery day I had to email with what I did every single minute of the day… how many emails I had in my inbox when I arrived, how many I replied to, how much time I spent going over submissions and how many there were total, how many recruits i contacted at which point in which process, the exact amount of minutes I took for lunch and when… it would take me at least a half hour every day to round all this stuff up even though I kept a running list throughout the day. She made every employee do this. It was horrible and a huge waste of time and also a way to make everyone feel worthless.

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    2. Eloise

      Our company has a couple of different approaches to remote workers. Our devs and product management teams have daily updates. The updates are brief, just a line or so about each task they tackled yesterday, and what they’re planning to do today. They’re posted in a company space that anyone can access. I really like this as it allows other teams to see who is working on what and what stage they’re at. I can be in the loop without having to interrupt someone’s process to ask for the 18th time if they’re going to get to my thing today.

      We also have remote workers that do the same repetitive tasks every day. These employees don’t have to do daily check ins, but they have metrics they need to meet. Those are posted where anyone who wants to check can. Since those metrics really don’t make a difference to most of the other departments, people rarely bother to monitor unless they’re supervising said employees.

      Reply
  2. Dan

    #3

    Hiring is a real… beast. As AAM says, it’s impossible to know what’s happening on the other side. Many of her scenarios are quite realistic. Let me give you an example “from the other side.”

    My previous employer was a company small enough where everybody knew everybody. There’s few people there that if I didn’t know personally, I knew by reputation. My current company is much larger, so much so that my own department is about half the size of my former entire company. My last employer is struggling, I came to my job through a layoff. Seven of my former coworkers now work at my company, two of them were personal referrals.

    My last company and my current division work in the same space. (Current company as a whole works in a much broader set of disciplines and employs thousands.) All of my former coworkers are qualified to work in my division. When my former coworkers apply to my company, our recruitment team reaches out to us and asks about the people applying. Our upper management has made it clear that we’re only going to hire the cream of the crop from those applicants. If one of us can’t given an “enthusiastic two thumbs up” (my words) then the hire is a no-go. And yes, when I talk with the recruiters, I ask about the skillset the hiring manager is looking for, because to me, it’s not my job to give a “thumbs up/thumbs down” on a person, but to help inform our recruitment and hiring teams.

    Public Service Announcement: Use your networks when applying to jobs. Even if you didn’t work closely with someone who now works at your prospective job, reach out to them and ask what the application process is like. I know who the strong performers at my last company are, and those people are going to get a “send me your resume, I’ll talk to some managers.” Even if we weren’t the best of buds or worked together all that much. If you weren’t? I’ll direct you to the website. My company eats up internal referrals, and if you claim to know people who work there, will wonder why you didn’t get an internal referral.

    As AAM says, current employees who know you can very much carry a lot of weight.

    Reply
    1. Artemesia

      People are allowed to have opinions about you. If people you have worked with have a poor impression and they work at the company you apply to, there you are. I know that I have removed potential people from the interview pool after discussing them with people I know who have worked with them. I am sure that I might not make the next step in some hiring process if certain former co-workers were at the company.

      Reply
      1. sunny-dee

        One thing that jumped out was the time difference — 6 years is a long time and can dull memories. It would also suck if the OP is Brian Jones, who was great but not someone the reference interacted with frequently, and the reference was remembering Bryan Johnson, who kinda sucked.

        It may be that the reference has a legit reason to nack the application or it could be that the reference mixed up the names or it could be that the reference had a personal vendetta the OP wasn’t aware of. There is no way to know (and therefore no way to fix it), except to shrug and move on.

        Reply
        1. Stranger than fiction

          Well yeah, and six years is a long time for that company to depend on the word of their one employee that worked with a candidate that long ago. I see how giving weight to current employees’ opinions is valuable, but if it was that long ago, I wouldn’t give it that much weight, unless it was something very specifically negative the employee remembers, like “oh yeah, I remember Jane, she was always late and taking time off”.

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  3. Dan

    #4

    TBH, a position at “headquarters” that is one level below what you had “in the field” is likely going to be seen as a lateral move. Many companies evaluate you based not just on your title and responsibilities, but how many people you managed. I mean, take for instance somebody who as an ED of a 30-person non-profit. My division director overseas a staff of about 200, and has six department heads reporting to her. By title, moving from ED to director is a step down, in our org that’s actually two steps down. In terms of responsibility? They’re now managing six times as many people.

    If you can’t find something that is by title and pay equivalent to what you had before, I’d take an HQ job managing lots more even if the title is lower. (As I’ve written before, titles many times don’t mean jack, I wouldn’t die on that hill.)

    Reply
    1. misspiggy

      In addition to that excellent point, the relatively high salary of field posts overseas is often there to compensate for being away from extended family and friends, grappling with unfamiliar rules and institutions, and paying higher living costs because you don’t have the money-saving strategies of locals. Fewer people might choose to work overseas, so the salary incentive is higher.

      Reply
      1. Dan

        You make a good point as well. As an example — I used to do some work with Airbus, the big airplane manufacturer. Airbus has a very large North American division, staffed based on US standards and norms. They’d have guys come over from the European offices on multi-year assignments. Those guys kept their European compensation and benefits packages, and once let it slip how much better it was than the “American” package.

        So, while in this case it wasn’t that “overseas” assignments paid better, the punchline is that there are sometimes simple locale differences.

        Reply
    2. BRR

      That’s a really good point. The LW acknowledges that they are looking for the same responsibilities. It seems like jobs that are good matches might have just not posted. That the lw appears pretty high up and those jobs might be fewer in number and less frequently open.

      Reply
      1. AnotherHRPro

        Good point. Often the higher you go up in an organization, the more likely they will fill those positions internally.

        And I have to agree with Dan as well. I’ve worked in field positions as well as Corporate. The reality the levels of responsibility are significantly different even if the titles are the same. Compensation tends to help understand relevant level better, but you need to take into consideration the cost of living.

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    3. Green

      We also have people who had very senior titles at much smaller companies and move down several rungs by jumping to a larger, more competitive company. Running a legal department of 10 may get you a great title, but you can expect to move “down” in titles if you’re jumping to a multinational.

      Reply
  4. MK

    OP2, you say your employees prefer the daily updates, but are you sure you gave them room to express an unpressured opinion? Or that you really listened to their views? I don’t mean to read too much into your letter, but if I had a manager who instituted daily updates and made it an issue when the update was a couple of hours late, I doubt I would feel comfortable saying that I find the system disruptive and micro-managing and a waste of time.

    Reply
    1. Graciosa

      Bingo.

      Monitoring daily reports is *not* the same thing as assessing employee performance. A manager should understand what the employee needs to accomplish, and ensure that they have a means to evaluate that. Daily tracking of exactly how the employee is doing it (“Today, I’m going to work on section 3.2 of the technical manual, and will move on to section 3.3 once section 3.2 is complete”) is a waste of everyone’s time.

      But if you have a manager who believes otherwise, it is not unreasonable to shut up and fill out the stupid report – and yes, even to tell the manager it’s a wonderful system (especially if filling out the stupid report keeps an otherwise clueless manager off your back in an even worse way).

      The scrums described above can serve a totally different purpose, and the information is being shared with the full team who can all act to assist each other. An emailed report *daily* that goes only to your manager does not accomplish the same thing at all, and is likely to be perceived as a wasted effort disappearing into a black hole.

      Please don’t ask me to stop working to tell you I’m working.

      If you really want to assess performance, find another way to do it. If you want to build a relationship with remote employees so that you can manage them effectively, most of it is the same thing you would do on site. Treat them like professionals until they show you otherwise.

      Reply
      1. Red Wheel

        “Please don’t ask me to stop working to tell you I’m working.”

        +1.

        Also, consider the possibility that despite what you think of your management style, your employees may see it differently. It sounds like you are micromanaging. You say the “updates” have been successful” but it may be that they have been successful for you, rather than your staff. Most of your staff members are toeing the line but the new employee, who’ve you admitted sometimes has other work priorities in the morning, isn’t quite there yet. I suppose if you plan to stick “everyone must give me daily updates no later than 11.30”, then you will need to work through it with this person, but I recommend you consider adjusting your approach and perhaps introducing additional flexibility into your management techniques.

        Reply
      2. Stranger than fiction

        Also, they may have said they prefer daily over weekly because then they think it’d be more of a pain to track their activities and save them up all week. And really, they’re still having to do it every day anyhow, but just sending once/wk. I presume, other wise they’d have to sit their and try to remember on Friday what they did all week.

        Reply
    2. The Cosmic Avenger

      Yes! I hate writing narratives in general, and to me it feels like time that could be better spent actually solving problems.

      However, I also wonder if there’s a better compromise. If a lot of the work is conducted in back-and-forth emails, ask the staff to CC the OP on all email, or maybe use a ticketing/helpdesk or project management system. The former takes almost no additional time. The latter may take additional time, but I find that it helps me also, whereas writing a freehand summary of what I just did only distracts me from my actual work. Ticketing or helpdesk systems might take some time to set up, but once they’re customized it should be much faster to document your progress and process than writing an email summary.

      Reply
  5. CharlieCakes

    #4

    Aren’t there headhunters or agencies that work exclusively with higher level candidates? Would that help LW4?

    I agree with Dan (above), don’t get stuck on the title (although you also mention responsibility level – I think those are two different things). A 20k pay cut though…. IDK, my company pays $22K in benefits just for me and they call it total compensation (salary plus benefits)…still not the same as cold, hard cash money! I know you didn’t write in about this, but maybe these companies offer great benefits, bonuses, flexible schedules, a five minute commute, or insert whatever else is important to you here. Think about the bigger picture =] I got stuck (offended even) on my new job’s title and pay grade, but my new hours and change of role has been the best thing that could have ever happened! Good luck on your search.

    Reply
    1. Stranger than fiction

      Yes, this is so true. Benefits can sometimes equate to a lot of extra compensation. I agree to not get stuck on titles, they vary so greatly. My BF is in one of those categories, and he was actually invited to interview for a higher level position than the recruiter initially contacted him about. But, he didn’t ask, the conversation just naturally went there after they spoke about his background for a bit. It turned out there was a higher level/higher paying role for a different product. But, I agree with Alison this is rare, and must’ve been one of those 1% situations.

      Reply
  6. Middleman

    #4 – As a hiring manager I would be seriously annoyed and I’d feel that a candidate was wasting my time if during the selection process they expressed immediate interest in a higher level job (as opposed to interest in working their way up there). I’d directly tell them if I was hiring for a higher level position I’d have been advertising for that instead of the position that the candidate actually applied for, and then I’d remove the candidate from consideration on that basis alone assuming I have other candidates who are actually qualified and interested in the role.

    Don’t apply for a job below the level that you want, unless you’re willing to actually work it for some time.

    Reply
    1. Ann Cognito

      Exactly! If someone asked about a higher-level position than the one they’re interviewing for, I’d immediately be turned-off them as an applicant. My thinking would be that they’re not going to last long, and that they’re going to continue looking outside the organization for a higher-level role.

      Reply
    2. Random Lurker

      And it is even more annoying when someone tries to negotiate this at the offer stage. OP didn’t say she was thinking of this, but I’ve heard this (very bad) advice by some bozo on a LinkedIn column before. Make them fall in love with you then see if you can get what you want. Nothing makes me fall out of love quicker than wasting my time.

      Reply
      1. Middleman

        Oh man, that’s ridiculous. I’d feel like they were making a fool of me if they pulled a bait-and-switch at the offer stage…that’s a good way to turn off a potential employer indeed.

        Reply
    3. INTP

      Yes, this would remove them from consideration entirely for me. I would read it as a situation where this person wants a job, any job, but will keep looking for something in line with her experience if I hire her.

      Reply
  7. Nico M

    #3


    Dear company B

    Our former employee Smith was turned down due by you to a bad reference from someone at our company.

    But our records show Smith was super.

    So, please send us a copy of the reference so we can investigate further. Im sure youll appreciate the importance of accurate references.

    Thanks
    Company A

    Assuming A writes a perfect message, would B usually respond?

    Reply
    1. Colette

      Why would they? I’m not even sure why company A would care.

      I also don’t think there us such a thing as a super employee in all contexts. It’s possible the OP was great in her previous job, but that she’s not great at something that is more important in this role – or that she was great at her work but was an abrasive colleague, or that she used to date someone who would prefer not to work with her again.

      Reply
      1. RVA Cat

        I think the OP needs to just move on. The fact that Company B is giving so much weight to a reference from someone who worked with her *6 years ago* is kind of strange to me.

        Reply
        1. MK

          It’s possible that it wasn’t the only, or even the main reason the OP was rejected, especially given that the OP doesn’t mention how we got the information.

          Reply
        2. Stranger than fiction

          See, me too. And that’s another reason why I don’t think it was merely a casual, neutral “Oh she was really great at A and B, but not as strong at C” but something much more negative. Otherwise, it’d be crazy to give it so much credence. Actually, I still think it’s crazy.

          Reply
        3. INTP

          It was suspicious to me too. For one, most HR people would never tell someone that they were not hired due to a bad reference, especially in a way that reveals specifically which reference it was. People who handle contact with job candidates know how crazy people can be when they feel entitled to a job and don’t get it!* If they let that slip, it raises my suspicions that they’re covering up a different secret, or that the content of the reference was so egregious they assume that the OP had to know that the person would say it.

          *I’m not implying OP is one of these crazies, just that within a few months of contact with job applicants you learn that there are a lot of hostile, entitled weirdos out there, and it’s just common sense to never tell someone about a bad reference for the reference giver’s protection.

          Reply
          1. TootsNYC

            well, I’m not so sure the OP isn’t one of the crazies:

            “Company B’s HR refuses to allow me to interview or address this negative reference”

            The OP thinks she should be allowed to interview the person who gave the negative reference. I can’t imagine anyone thinking they ought to be able to confront the person who gave the negative reference.

            Asking to address the substance of the reference, or to know what it is, might be a bit more reasonable, but really, once the company has decided not to hire you, or not to interview you, you don’t get to argue them into it.

            It’s like dating–the other side gets to say “no,” for any old reason they want to. It’s not like, oh, unemployment benefits, where you’re entitled to them, if you can prove you are.

            Reply
            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              Please be kind to letter-writers here or I won’t have any (I’m referring to saying she might be one of the crazies).

              I don’t think she’s saying that she wants to be able to confront the person who gave the reference — by “address it,” I assume she means hear what was said and respond to it. Which is a pretty normal thing for people to want, even though they usually can’t have it!

              Reply
            2. Blanche Devereaux

              I read that as “Company B’s HR refuses to allow me to interview [for the position] or address [the content of] this negative reference.”

              I didn’t get the impression that she wanted to speak to the person who gave a negative reference. It seems she was hoping for the opportunity to interview for the position and address any concerns during said interview.

              Reply
          2. TootsNYC

            I agree with the idea that it’s ultra-weird for HR to say “you weren’t interviewed/hired because a reference said something bad about you.” You just never reveal why. You say, “We’ve decided to move on.”

            Reply
      2. fposte

        Yeah, this would be pretty crazy–that would be a former employer who’s way out of bounds. I mean, I have student employees job-hunting and I’m prepared to do a workplace-unusual amount of advocacy for them, but the most I’d do is counter a negative reference if the prospective employer directly told me about it; I wouldn’t chase them down to argue about it.

        Reply
    2. Coffee Ninja

      Once Company B got feedback from their employee (known quantity) about the applicant (unknown quantity), they aren’t going to invest time into investigating further. They’ll have nothing to gain by doing so; it’s better for them to move on to other applicants.

      Reply
    3. AnotherFed

      That would be incredibly weird. I think Company B would assume the applicant had borrowed letterhead/forged a letter, and blacklist the candidate.

      Reply
    4. Katie the Fed

      Um no. Why would they respond? Company A implied there will be penalties for the employee who gave the reference. It has a chilling effect on references, which should come from different people who worked with the candidate.

      This is an employment reference, not Law and Order.

      Reply
        1. Snork Maiden

          In the employment system, there are two separate yet equally important groups. Those who are hiring and those who are hired. These are their stories.

          Reply
    5. Graciosa

      Round file.

      Also extremely unlikely to be anything other than faked. This letter would never be sent from a normal business, so I would assume that if it wasn’t faked, it was only sent because former employee Smith was related to (or otherwise involved with) someone very unprofessional attempting to use their job to do Smith a favor.

      In either case, I’m not touching this with a ten-mile pole.

      Reply
    6. Minion

      Op says that the employee that gave the bad reference doesn’t work at Company A now. She works at Company B, which is where OP was applying. She worked with OP 6 years ago at Company A. So, what would Company A be investigating? There’s nothing Company A can do about the bad reference even if Company B did respond. And, honestly, would Company B throw one of their own employees under the bus like that just because Company A asked them to?

      Reply
    7. INTP

      I don’t see why they would. Besides Company A and Company B both having nothing to gain from this exchange, references given by employees or former employees tend to be regarded as strictly personal opinions and activities not affiliated whatsoever with their employer. Otherwise they are open to all kinds of liabilities when people claim their negative reference was incorrect. If I were on the receiving end of this request, I would view it as a) not my business, b) my job to protect my current employee’s privacy rather than a no-longer-potential employee’s wish to know the content of the reference, and c) a can of worms that the company doesn’t want to open from ANY point of view – legal, personal, or otherwise.

      Reply
  8. Susan

    #2
    I’m actually not a fan of regular one-on-ones. It feels very hierarchical to me to have to sit down and update the manager. I could be getting more done instead. My last job had weekly one on ones and weekly group meetings and they were painful. Now my team meets once a month and one on ones are rare. I get a lot more done and don’t feel overly ‘managed.’ It feels like a team effort instead.

    Reply
    1. Coffee Ninja

      My boss & I have regular one on ones and I love it (sometimes weekly, sometimes every other). I think the difference, though, is that you mention yours were about updating your manager. I do talk to my manager about what I’m working on, but we focus on what’s going well, next steps, and troubleshooting issues. Our work also intersects on quite a few projects, so that probably helps as well.

      I think I would pull my hair out if I had to just sit down and say, “Here’s what I accomplished this week.” In a previous job, at the end of the day *every day* I had to submit a written list to my manager detailing what I worked on and how long it took (no, we didn’t bill clients). That was so awful.

      Reply
      1. Stranger than fiction

        Wow, that’s nice. I’d be grateful if my one manager would meet with me once a month, let alone once a week. I think we had two one-on-ones in 2015 :/ It’s actually really been bumming me out lately. I feel like I’m an afterthought.

        Reply
      2. lfi

        this is what my boss and i do. and then about every month i have a check in with her manager on general “hey how’s it going” things.

        i’ve only been here since sept if that helps..

        Reply
      3. Susan

        Well, I guess it was more than ‘just’ updating; it did include troubleshooting. For me it was that I’d leave a one on one with a long to do list of things to do. With 2.5 hours of meetings every week it felt like I could have been spending that time actually doing work instead of talking about it.

        Reply
    2. AnotherFed

      I would hate scheduled one on ones, but when they are conversations to work out how to deal with something, they are useful. At least where I work, the idea of saving up topics for a meeting or having no topics is just nuts. If it were low priority, I would just send an email.

      I had one boss who made me send weekly status emails, which really irritated me – I was already annoyed that the boss had no clue what I was doing, and I felt like they just got dumped in the circular file because we never got responses.

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Right, the point is very much not to provide updates, but to use it as a time to talk stuff through, get feedback, debrief recent work, use the manager as a resource, and have a structured time to step back and reflect on how things are going.

        Reply
        1. Susan

          Our agenda would include updates on each area of our work, but we also talked stuff through. I did feel like it was just her time to give more suggestions and things to do, when I was already lacking time, partly b/c of so many meetings (2.5 hrs/wk total). “Well have you tried this? Have you tried that?” I don’t know if maybe it was just the manager’s approach / personality or the work itself that I didn’t like rather than one on ones in general. Generally sitting down for an hour a week feels a bit awkward & like wasted time. It feels too long. Maybe if they were more infrequent or as someone mentioned, a longer meeting less often.

          Reply
    3. ExceptionToTheRule

      I have an every other week one-on-one with my manager, primarily to remind him that he’s my manager.

      Our part of his department is at the other end of the building, small, and frequently forgotten. We take 10 minutes every other week to fill each other in on stuff that’s going on – potential issues that are creeping up, overall trends or changes that he or I need to know about, etc.

      Reply
      1. Jinx

        Yes, this – I have daily stand-ups with the immediate project team, but my manager usually can’t attend every daily call on his team. I might not talk to him for days, so it’s nice to check in now and then just to let him know “hey, I’m doing things!”.

        Reply
    4. TowerofJoy

      I think it depends on the manager. At a couple of my jobs one-on-ones are the only way I could insure that my manager paid attention to the issues I’d found and approve the resources necessary to fix them. Honestly one-on-ones were more about us managing up then micro-managing, though I agree, I’ve had that too and its irritating.

      Reply
    5. Chocolate lover

      I’ve never worked in a job with frequent one-on-one meetings with my supervisor. The only predetermined meetings are for annual reviews, anything else is as needed. Not sure what I would talk about in a weekly meeting. Our priorities are pretty consistent from week to week.

      Reply
    6. Lily in NYC

      Oh, I’ve never thought about it this way. In my dept., it’s the direct reports who want the regular 1:1s with our dept. head because they generally need her input and approval on all of their projects – and it’s really the only way to get uninterrupted face time with her (because she is so busy).

      Reply
    7. Koko

      I have a weekly-ish (gets bumped sometimes during short weeks) one on one with my manager. We’re a very non-hierarchical department in our workflow, although we have a traditional reporting structure. We’re all individual contributors who are subject matter experts and our work is about 75% self-generated with respect to what goals and KPIs each person is responsible for, and 25% something a coworker requested in order to further one of their goals that requires that person’s subject matter expertise. So my manager very rarely assigns me work, and often doesn’t know the intricacies of the tasks on my list.

      Her primary functions as my manager are: to advocate for me up the chain and make sure I’m appropriately rewarded for good performance; to identify and suggest opportunities for me to further develop my skills; to keep me informed when discussions higher up the chain are going to impact me; to ensure that I have a manageable workload; to make sure I’m happy.

      Those are the things we talk about in our weekly check-in. Although I send her a copy of my task list before each meeting, we only really discuss the projects where we’re working together the way I do with my peers, or if something noteworthy/frustrating/exciting happened with my work that I want to make sure she knows about. Maybe I encountered a huge unexpected problem and solved it and I just want to make sure my manager knows that I do those kinds of things. Maybe one of my routine tasks is cumbersome and there’s an opportunity to improve things but it requires purchase of a service or equipment that I’m not authorized to buy, so I want her to know about how it could help improve processes. Mostly she just asks how I’m feeling about my work, if I’m feeling over-burdened, and if there’s anything she can do for me. She also spends some time filling me in on department news and reminding me to take a professional development day (where you spend the day in training or reading training materials instead of working on your routine tasks) because I haven’t taken one in a while.

      Reply
    8. Almond Milk Latte

      I love my regularly scheduled 1:1s. It’s my time to remind my boss that I’m kicking ass, to get all the company news, to talk frankly about clients and projects. I’d feel so out of touch otherwise.

      Reply
    9. Hiding on the Internet Today

      I’m a manager with a pretty large team and I do 1:1s. I think they can be really valuable (like any meeting) if you keep them focused on a purpose and don’t just waste time with them.

      Project updates are for email, unless something has gone off the rails and team needs to me step in to iron something out, give direction on other ideas for how they can iron it out, or get them help. Unless I’ve gotten feedback about a project or my team comes to me asking for help with it, as long as milestones are being hit appropriately, I don’t need to see the sausage factory.

      1:1s are for development and people management, not usually project management. It gives me time to make sure I’m focusing on each member of my team, that I remember to pull up and deliver the feedback I got on their last teapot from the C-suite, time for us to talk about career development and what sorts of work and results will get them to their goals, make sure we talk about goals and values and the hows and whys of their work, not just the whats. Mostly, I know my schedule it nuts and I’m not going to be able to support my staff by just happening to be around when they need to get my opinion or help with something, so I schedule time that is theirs.

      How much of a 1:1 someone needs depends on their work style and how tightly cordinated they need to be with me – I have staff who prefer a 10 minute check in a couple of times a week where I work best with a longer discussion with my manager once a month.

      Reply
  9. In the field

    #4 I am currently “in the field” at Director level of a large INGO, but have also worked at HQs. Typically when you work in the field, at least in many cases (I do emergency response), you basically work 24/7 . Many times you do get paid more in the field whether it be based on salary, R&R /more vacation, per diem, danger pay, housing etc, because of the circumstances. You are also meant to have a home or family elsewhere and these extras help with those costs.

    At HQ you don’t always get all of the benefits, but you have a better work/life balance and can actually leave at a normal hour! It is tough in the field when those at HQ usually work 9-5ish while we’re not, but that’s the sector and it can show in the salary/benefits. I would say go for it and apply for jobs at your level and ones you are interested in that are one or two grades lower. I speak from experience. I took a job at a larger organization that was a grade lower, but worked hard and in less than a year was promoted. That doesn’t always happen, but if it is at an organization you love or that is larger/more established than your previous employers it might actually be better in the long run. Good luck!

    Reply
  10. Kathlynn

    For number 2, I don’t know what programs/etc you use to keep in touch/track of things, but since the main thing you seem to be concerned about is progress, why not move to weekly plans, and daily/task completed updates. This seems more efficient then doing this every day.
    So, every week or with the completion of all tasks, you lay out what needs to be done, how soon/priority of each task, etc. then at the end of the day, they let you know what they got done, if they are on track, or anything else (maybe before that, if they’ve hit a wall/been delayed by something).
    Also, just because something works good with the other 3 coworkers, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be willing to try some other arrangement with the 4th worker, unless it’s vital for the report to come in first thing in the day. For example, the worker might be more likely to send the report at the end of the day, rather then the next day.

    Reply
    1. AnotherFed

      +1 to being willing to flex your approach. If your employees are generally good performers and take the initiative to solve problems (including asking for help when needed), see if there is a style one or more of them would like better. You may like it a little less, but if you are getting the data you need it is still better (and faster!) than chasing/nagging people for their daily reports.

      Reply
      1. Koko

        It’s interesting that she says she offered them the option of weekly reports but they said they preferred daily.

        The makes me think that they find logging their tasks sufficiently annoying that they know if they didn’t have to do it every day, they wouldn’t do it and would find themselves on Friday going back through their email trail trying to remember what they did. They want the daily deadline to motivate themselves to actually do the logging every day.

        Which is pretty much how I’ve felt in jobs where I had to give updates that detailed – if I didn’t write it down every day, it was much harder to do, but it was really hard to make myself spend time on that when I had “real work” to do. I would ask OP to consider whether they really need blow-by-blow updates (maybe they do) or if it would do for the employees to just gives an “everything’s humming along”/”there’s a problem with X”/”project Y is complete” broad update that doesn’t require them to have to do a lot of logging.

        Reply
  11. Blanche Devereaux

    #3 While I can appreciate the value in getting feedback from a candidate’s former coworker, 6+ years of separation sounds too long for the comments to hold significant weight to me. Some of the former coworker’s concerns may no longer be valid more than half a decade later. A lot of professional growth can take place in that amount of time.

    Of course, a lot of this depends on what the comments were (which we don’t know) and how far along OP3 was in their career when they worked with this person (who cannot be identified).

    Reply
    1. Artemesia

      It depends on what you want to know. It is hard to get good information on an applicant that you can trust, so when you know someone and have confidence in their perceptions that is a real plus. People’s skill level changes over time; their work ethic, their personality, the way they do or don’t take direction, their character — those things don’t tend to change much.

      Reply
      1. Blanche Devereaux

        I’d agree with that depending on the candidate’s career stage at the time of assessment.

        If the candidate was a seasoned professional with many years of experience and exposure, sure, it’s not likely that much would change over time.

        On the other hand, if the candidate was new to the workforce or a corporate environment at the time, I’d take the assessor’s insights with a grain of salt. Seemingly immutable characteristics can change drastically while a person is still young and learning. A current employee’s opposition would have to be pretty damning for me to roundly reject an otherwise strong candidate without an interview.

        Reply
    2. catsAreCool

      It might depend on how long the 2 people had worked together. I can think of a couple of people I used to work with for several years who I haven’t worked with for a while who I would not recommend (and several people I’d recommend enthusiastically).

      Reply
  12. The Other Dawn

    I’ve only been in one job where I had scheduled one-on-ones, and I hated it. Mainly because my manager would save up a pile of stuff and lay it all on me during the meeting. So it wasn’t about updating her, really; I could barely get a word in edgewise. It was about her giving me more work. This was outside of weekly department meetings that regularly ran almost two hours, when only one hour was scheduled. And since I hated that job and she was a micromanager who thought we were all 5 years old, that made me hate these meetings even more. Also, she would schedule an hour. But it was NEVER an hour. It was usually an hour and half, or more. Anyway…..

    I think daily is a bit much, even via email. I think weekly would be better. But OP knows her industry, company, and staff. If daily is really necessary, then she should sit down with the two employees that need to improve and explain the importance of why they need to update her daily. Or as someone else said, work out a different approach for those two people.

    Reply
      1. moss

        I’m gonna go ahead and give my thoughts on this, this is maybe not at all what you are looking for or want to hear but I have opinions that I sprinkle around liberally so here goes:

        Have you been asked if you can write in SAS before and said no? I see below that you’re in bioinformatics and although I have not worked in that field professionally I have some classwork there. SAS and R are the standards but I think very few places in the private sector use R. SAS is in general much more validated than R. Basically what you’re saying by being an R person is that you’re qualified to work in academia and nowhere else. This is just my opinion and others may disagree. But maybe take a look at what the demand is in the areas you would want to be in.

        Reply
        1. Jenny Next

          Just want to say thanks! I am a SAS person (actually, a statistician who uses SAS) in academia, and I’m a bit appalled by the prolific use of R, especially by people who are in fact very weak in math / stats. So it’s very interesting to read that R isn’t necessarily taken all that seriously outside of the ivory tower.

          Reply
          1. moss

            Thank you! I hesitated to write that because I feel like I’m coming off as a snob. And R is very very valuable in its way… it’s free, it’s very customizable, and SAS is very expensive. But at my previous job we started looking into switching from SAS to R and it was pretty clear right away that would be a terrible move. When we get clients (pharma companies) our selling point is that we use SAS because the algorithms have been thoroughly tested and validated (Excel has computational problems for example). Using R would just be way too Wild West since everything in R is kind of written from scratch or from a package put together by someone.

            I’ve honestly never known anyone working outside of academia who uses R professionally.

            Reply
        2. OP #1

          I have only seen a job listing asking for SAS instead of R about once in probably hundreds of listings, including many pharmaceutical companies, and all the academics I know use MATLAB. Must be a local and/or field difference.

          Reply
  13. Allison

    #4, please don’t do this. The level of a job has already been determined for a reason, they need someone who can do the work laid out for that role at that level, and that’s the level they’ve budgeted for, usually through a painstaking process with the finance department. They may already have someone in the role you’re looking for, and they need someone who can work under them. Working in recruiting, we don’t consider vastly overqualified candidates because we know that they don’t really want the job they’re applying for, they’re hoping to get our attention so we’ll hire them for the job they do want, or they plan on getting hired at the role we’re looking to fill and then immediately try to move up, and it just doesn’t work that way.

    Reply
  14. Koko

    This is one reason why I believe your staff should only be at 80-85% capacity on a routine basis. When things are normal, they can use the extra 6-8 hours a week to innovate and improve processes, educate and train themselves in more sophisticated skills, and work on the kind of long-term it’d-be-nice projects that never get done in a company where everyone is at 100% all the time. And when things are crazy-busy or you’re crazy-short-staffed or something last minute blows up, everyone has breathing room in their schedules and workloads to pick up some of the slack.

    Reply
    1. F.

      Oh how I wish! Unfortunately, in a small company that is often an unaffordable luxury (no matter how much sense it seems to make). Cross-training is great, but it does not add more hours to the day to get things done.

      Reply
      1. Dasha

        Oh yes with small companies this never happens and I feel like that’s why they have such a high burn out rate in their employees and low morale (not all but I’ve seen it in my small company career). But I do really agree with Koko!!

        Reply
    2. fposte

      Unfortunately, I think that’s a luxury that most employers can’t afford. It’s kind of like telling people they should have a year in emergency funds and max out their tax-deferred space every year; inarguable, but hard to achieve.

      Reply
  15. Trainer

    For a sec I thought OP 2 was my manager. She supervises a team of 3 and some of us are remote. She recently started scheduling a daily meeting at the end of the day where we go over what we completed that day, what we plan to do the next day, and what obstacles are in the way. We’re each given 5 minutes and despite working an 8 hour day beforehand, we don’t really have anything to say for a whole 5 minutes since we often work on the same thing all day and there’s not always an update. We’ve been filling the time by stating everything we’ve done right down to individual emails.

    Up until this started 2 weeks ago she was super hands off, almost infuriatingly so. One-on-ones every other month and occasional face time for 5 min a week. It would be so long between touching base we’d have no idea if we were straying off course. But we genuinely did like the autonomy. Now she’s gone the extreme opposite and we all feel completely micromanaged.

    OP, my coworkers and I were just saying yesterday that we’d prefer weekly meetings. But if my manager asked us if daily was ok I don’t think we’d say no. She’d have to just go ahead and change it and we’d be secretly relieved.

    Reply
    1. LQ

      This is Agile at work again. It’s sort of amazing to me how many times I see this pop up and it sounds like the manager went to a seminar or read a book about how it was transformative and then just implements it without talking about it or considering how it can be useful for that group (or not). If you do Agile, or steal Agile ideas then make sure to tell people you are doing it! And why! And if it doesn’t work then stop!

      (Hopefully this will just be a trendy phase for your manager and she’ll move onto the next trend soon.)

      Reply
      1. AVP

        My manager did this when he missed something and didn’t notice it for a few weeks (everyone else had noticed and corrected for it). He made it into a whole big deal, it lasted three weeks, and then he got bored and found that he did not enjoy reading about the minutiae of our days any more than we enjoyed writing about it. Thankfully we managed to taper them off without him really noticing!

        Reply
      2. Catherine from Canada

        rant on/
        Oh lordy, I hate Agile management – primarily because it doesn’t encourage WRITING THINGS DOWN. Instead, you’re supposed to share information in conversation and at best, meeting notes, instead.
        The whole “Agile environment” plan forgets that as a technical writer, I NEED things written down, I need engineering specs and functional specs, and trouble reports and you know, all that stuff that actually says, in detail, what the product does.
        I’m not an engineer, I’m a writer, I don’t have to understand it all as well as the engineers, I just need to understand enough if something doesn’t make sense, and well enough to explain it to a Grade 10 level reader. And I’m hamstrung if I don’t have reference material.
        /rant off

        Reply
        1. Dr. Johnny Fever

          Agile promotes documentation that provides value. This is often misinterpreted as no documentation across the industry.

          I’m sorry your experience seems to be with those who misinterpret the principles.

          Reply
      3. Stranger than fiction

        Oh boy, you just described my BF’s workplace. He’s working for a bunch of younger executives with MBA’s and not much work experience (most have only worked there) and they’re constantly attending Agile seminars and trying to apply it to everything, even where it doesn’t make sense. They’re also constantly attending Leadership training, and sending out employee surveys, but the thing is, they never apply any of it and their projects are barely moving forward. They need to just stop stalling and get the work done before they run out of revenue. Beyond frustrating.

        Reply
      4. Dr. Johnny Fever

        Seasoned, certified Agile practices and coach here: I feel for you. Many coaches have only academic experience and no ability to understand theory in practice. It seems like that the case for many of you, even perhaps the OP.

        With the right understanding and guidance, one can create amazing teams Agile principles.

        Reply
    2. Dasha

      “Up until this started 2 weeks ago she was super hands off, almost infuriatingly so.” Can you tell me more about this? I’m kind of going through something similar. I don’t want to be micromanaged but I’m kind of in the situation where I’m not a manger myself, and I don’t feel like I have a manager- if that makes sense? My manager comes in once a month for three days and has no idea what I do on a daily basis and I have no support. I keep telling myself being micromanaged would be worse but this is also very stressful!!!

      Reply
      1. Trainer

        Sorry, I just got a chance to get back to this.

        It has not been easy to deal with. The job feels a little trial by fire. You get one vague sentence about a new project and then you’re expected to put the pieces together and hand in a deliverable on time with absolutely no guidance. There have been a number of times I get told to make something a priority and then my manager is wondering why something else wasn’t finished.

        The best advice I can give you is to find some allies. I’ve learned that a lot of people at my company feel this way just by being honest that I need help. Once that conversation is out there you’ll start developing an arsenal of people who can guide you when you need help on something. And I don’t mean you should complain about your manager, but specify that you need more info before moving forward. Find out what people are really knowledgeable about so you can turn to them when you have a project that they can help you with.

        Also, take the initiative yourself to keep your manager appraised of your activities. Send her a weekly email with updates on big projects and questions that need to be addressed before you can move forward.

        In my opinion, the micromanaging is worse. I’m accountable for things in ways that are not reasonable. For example, if I say I have something planned for tomorrow, it looks bad if I don’t get to it, which usually is because of a variety of factors that don’t equate to me ignoring the task. And I sort of feel like a child.

        Reply
  16. Former Retail Manager

    OP#2…..without knowing the industry it’s hard to make a blanket statement that daily updates are too much. As another poster mentioned, apparently this isn’t unheard of in sales based positions. However, assuming these are considered professional positions, even if the employees are entry level, daily updates would be a deal breaker for me personally. And this is amplified by the more experience, tenure, seniority, etc. that the employees have. If there are no performance issues, and I’m assuming there aren’t, I think you’d be well served to move to weekly updates or implement some of the other options suggested here by other commenters.

    And when I say daily updates would be a deal breaker, I would feel extremely resentful and offended that you didn’t believe that I could do my job without being monitored like a child and I would be looking for something else so fast it would make your head spin. To be clear, I’m not saying that you believe this about your employees, but that is the impression it would send to me and, especially in remote management situations, where the employees don’t know your personality particularly well due to a lack of interaction and nonverbals, it wouldn’t be worth it for me to stick it out and deal with this.

    I think you’ll find your own time is more productive as well if you switch to less frequent updates. Best of luck!

    Reply
  17. TotesMaGoats

    #2-Yes, once a day is too much. My previous boss who managed several remote staff across our small state did once a week email reports with just a few bullets. Major activities and major accomplishments type of report. Like I’m going to chamber events A, B, and C next week. Hosting important person Y on this day. Sending out email blast #3. Short and quick but gave her the info she needed to report up. Obviously we’d email more frequently with questions and she’d call us regularly. And we’d see each other at least every other week for meetings. I would dial it back. I think the once a day is getting to be a burden and that’s why you aren’t getting them. That being said, if you have this as an expectation, you should be getting them. Whether it’s a good expectation is the real question.

    Reply
  18. Not Karen

    #1 OMG I had the same thing happen to me! Though I wasn’t networking, it was from random people who apparently thought they knew better than I how supposedly easy it was to find job in my field. It was incredibly demoralizing and obnoxious, so I feel you.

    Reply
    1. Green

      My response to sound cheerful (take a sarcastic edge out of your voice) in networking situations would be: “That’s great! Can you help connect me with some of the openings you know about?”

      Reply
      1. Elizabeth West

        This made me think of the job/dating analogy–I’ve asked that question in both situations (for the dating thing, I said “That’s great! Do you know anyone?”) and gotten “Oh no, sorry; I really don’t know anyone/any actual openings.” But it did shut them down!

        People are just trying to help, but when they make suggestions with nothing to back them up, it can be very irritating.

        Reply
    2. CM

      Instead of going on the defensive about this, I’d take it as an opportunity. “I keep hearing it’s a hot field, but I’m looking for a job at a tech company that uses my skills X, Y, and Z and I’ve been having trouble finding one. Have you heard about anything?”

      Reply
  19. Allison

    #2, in my first job, each team in the office would have a daily “spotlight” meeting where everyone went over what they were going to do that day. Before the meeting we also had to fill out a form with our plan for the day and send it to the manager for approval. They were supposed to hold us “accountable,” the idea being that we would say what were gonna do and we’d have to do it by the end of the day, and if we didn’t get it done people would know. On top of that, my manager also asked me, several times a day, how this or that project was going. It felt like kindergarten, like we couldn’t be trusted to get our work done without it.

    I know that stuff isn’t super uncommon, but I’m not a fan, and I think most people would rather not have daily touch-base meetings unless there was a demonstrated need for them.

    Right now, my manager and I have weekly one on one meetings, our team has a weekly status meeting, and then one of my coworkers has multiple meetings with me throughout the week to “touch base” on a couple projects we’re working on together. Weekly meetings make sense.

    Reply
  20. Mockingjay

    #2: OP, do you have a task tracking system? It can be something as simple as an Outlook task (if that’s your email client), a spreadsheet, or whatever tool your company may have.

    Assign the task, assign a due date, and let the employee update the status as they work. At the end of the week, they send it it to you or you pull a report, and you can see what they’ve done. If you have some sort of server, they can post it there and you can look daily at status if needed.

    Of course, ensure that they know they can contact you if there’s a problem, and that you will notify them of task changes (due date, change in scope).

    Reply
    1. Callie30

      There’s also programs like Google Keep for shared lists. If the lists are created at beginning of week or late the week before, the Staff can update their list for the OP to review. That way, there’s a ‘working’ list weekly and not a new list composed daily.

      Reply
  21. LQ

    #2
    Do you respond to people? Or only when they are late? If you only respond when they are late you’re kind of telling them that all you care about is that they get in on time and the only way to get your voice on things is by doing the wrong thing.
    I assume most of the time when they come in you look at it go, ok this is fine and don’t do anything. Can you do that once a week instead?

    There is something incredibly disheartening to doing a daily list of stuff you’re going to do AND hearing nothing except “You got it to me late!”
    Why would you care, I don’t even know that you look at it?
    Now maybe you are stopping and reviewing them and responding with adjustments in priorities or questions to every single one, every single day. But wouldn’t it be a much better use of your time to do that once a week instead?
    If your business does need daily information then something closer to Agile (with explanations!) would make sense.

    Reply
  22. Prismatic Professional

    Hi Alison – I’m still having trouble with the ads re-positioning the screen when they switch from one company/event to another. Firefox this time. It’s happened twice during the writing of this comment. :-(

    Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Also, in case useful, based on reports from other people, the ad causing the problem is the one right above the start of the comments (in case you’re not sure) — that’s the one that I need the topic for when it happens.

        Reply
  23. Gawaine

    On #2 -I don’t think asking for status it daily is a terrible thing. I’m in software development, and one of the leading methodologies used these days, Scrum, requires a daily meeting – although it’s not focused on giving a manager status as much as making sure the whole team knows what each other are doing, and are working as a team – so there are an awful lot of people doing things daily. We do daily conference calls, and keep them to 15 minutes, at 11 Eastern – it’s the start of the day for people in other time zones, and before lunch/workout time for many in our office. Even before we used Scrum, many of our more dynamic projects have had start of day meetings.

    I’d suggest that you might put the status email on their calendar, so they have time blocked off for it (assuming you use a calendering system), or that you change it to a call. Either a joint conference call – so everyone knows what each other are doing – or just calling up each of them in turn.

    Reply
  24. The Wall of Creativity

    #2

    If I were an investment, I’d be an equity. I’d give fantastic returns over the long term but I don’t come without some risk. I’ll be up and down. I’ll have good days and bad days.

    But if you wanted me to report back every day on what value I’ve added, I’d turn into cash. I’d give you a positive return every day but it would be tiny.

    Reply
    1. Dasha

      Wow, I really like this answer!!! This is a very good point and you’re right no one can operate at 100% every day, it’s just not realistic.

      Reply
  25. Gawaine

    On #1 – Realizing that you’ve already self-edited to email a public forum – Is there a way to be more specific about what you’re looking for? For example, “I’m looking to do RF signal processing using Matlab” or “I’m into massively parallel processing with a graphics processing unit, I really enjoy CUDA coding” or “I do bioinformatics, and I’m really more into the implementation side than writing research journals” or whatever. People who don’t know what you’re talking about will have their eyes glaze over, but at least won’t tell you that there are a bazillion jobs for it – while people who do know what you’re talking about might be more helpful.

    When you’re networking in general for a job, any job, you want to be pretty generic about what you can do so people don’t assume you won’t take some opening they have. But if you’re really focused on a specific field and skillset, and have already decided that’s all you’re interested in, make sure you lead with enough specifics that they can realize that you’re not going to jump at the job they’re telling you about.

    Reply
    1. OP #1

      This is a super insightful comment! Unfortunately it turns out with scientific computing (okay, bioinformatics, lol) that it actually IS the people who don’t know what I’m talking about who tell me there are a bazillion jobs for it (it’s a field with a dizzying number of unique issues). If someone has never heard about it, they ask me to explain, and once I explain, all they hear are the buzzwords (“software”,”next gen sequencing”,”personalized medicine”) and then BOOM. But I also go to field-specific events, and I am able to be more specific there.

      Reply
      1. aphrael

        Just out of curiosity, do you have a master’s degree? I’m looking at graduate programs right now, and am strongly leaning towards master’s over Ph.D., but if your experience is that in practice, all the jobs want a Ph.D., that would be good information to have.

        I see a lot of postings for MA required, Ph.D. preferred, types of things.

        Reply
        1. OP #1

          Yes, I have a MS. I also see a lot of MS required, PhD preferred – which is part of why I went through with the Masters after doing the same “market research” you are doing now. I’m still trying to figure out for sure whether that’s the problem, but I AM sure that my geographic market is full of PhDs, so if yours isn’t, it might be a different kettle of fish.

          Reply
      2. Cath in Canada

        My org (academia, but not a university – we’re an independent but uni-affiliated research institute) hires bioinformaticians for exactly this type of work, many of them without PhDs and not on the PhD track. The pay isn’t as good as in the private sector, but lots of our staff move on to industry jobs after getting a few years of experience under their belts. If there are any similar research institutes or universities in your area, they might be worth a look.

        Reply
  26. Dasha

    #2 I think weekly updates or meetings would be good. I tried for a while to keep a log of everything I did every day for a while just for me personally, to see how productive I was but it was way.too.hard. I would get so busy and I’d forget or wouldn’t have time or I’d miss a few things but maybe on Friday afternoons I could see myself thinking of what I wrapped up during the week, what still needs to go on, some reflection, etc.

    #5 I’m glad you are looking for something else and recognize that in the long term that isn’t sustainable! I hope you find something soon.

    Reply
  27. Mando Diao

    OP2: Are you asking for a cut-and-dry to-do list or are you asking for something that goes a little deeper? At my old job, my boss would want “updates” at around 10 am, but then he’d be there for the rest of the day to see everything else that happened, so I’d have to scramble for something new to say the next day at 10 am. So I’m going to say that I don’t think early morning “check-ins” are bound to yield any info that you didn’t already get at 4 pm the day before.

    Reply
  28. Quirk

    #1:
    Working in a “hot field” sadly doesn’t necessarily mean that you yourself are “hot”. Having hired in such a field, it’s not hard to get recruiters to give you CVs for roles; the problem is getting CVs that match what you’re looking for. There are certainly many individuals in such fields who are ridiculously in demand, but if you’re stuck in some less mainstream niche in the field or lack experience or even have just been out of work for a while, it’s perfectly possible to have difficulty getting interviews.

    #2:
    Daily updates are fairly standard in some of the agile workflows widely followed in software development. The focus there is very much not micromanagement, but getting highly autonomous team members to communicate any potential areas of overlap where people could step on one anothers’ toes, and to identify any blockers to upcoming work. A key element is that they are supposed to be very short meetings.

    Daily one-on-ones feels like it might be a bit much.

    Reply
    1. Kyrielle

      Yep. I’ve seen agile done really well and done really badly. (At the same place, with different managers.)

      Really well was 8 of us in a room and we went around, each of us was supposed to list things done that were either major or impacted other team members, what we were planning to work on that day (major things, no detailed descriptions), and any roadblocks. If someone had a task or roadblock that another person had relevant data for, the other person would say so and they’d talk about it after the meeting. Meeting time: less than 15 minutes.

      Really badly was pulling in the QA team and merging the two engineering subteams, 15-20 people in a room, and the boss wanted details so each person went exhaustively through everything they did (including phone call followups on ongoing issues that didn’t get any results but didn’t yet constitute a roadblock), what they were going to be doing that day, and any roadblocks. If someone had relevant data for another person, it was hashed out in the meeting, and only tabled for afterward if it got ridiculously extensive.

      Doing it via email loses the input of other team members, though, and that is half the major benefit (the other half being visibility to the manager, of course).

      Reply
  29. Lizard

    OP #4, you definitely can’t go to an interview and ask for a more senior job than the one they’re offering. It’s sort of the inverse of the guy who wrote in a few months back after going through a long interview process for a communications director job only to be offered an entry-level job. It’s a waste of everybody’s time and a bait-and-switch maneuver. (Of course, if they ask you what your five year plan is, you can say that you’d like to move up eventually). You may just have to take a lower level for a couple of years and network until something at a higher level opens up. (As others have pointed out, a director level job in the field may be a very different role with a different pay scale than the same job at HQ, but I’m going to assume that you know the norms of your field and that the jobs you’re seeing are truly a step down). You can, of course, network intensively and let people know what you’re looking for.

    I had a similar dilemma 18 months ago when we decided to move from a very large city to a much smaller city for family reasons. I had been promoted internally to a director level job at my old workplace, but I knew that I didn’t have the national profile that I would need to be recruited into the same level at a new place that didn’t know me, plus there were no openings–there are literally 6 people in my new city of 650,000 who have my old, very specialized job. So I interviewed a bunch and ended up taking a job one level down. It’s worked out very well on the whole, and now that I’m a “known quantity” I’m getting signals that I’ll be a serious candidate for promotion as things open up.

    Reply
  30. Workfromhome

    #2

    While I recognize that daily updates may work in some specific instances (agile software development was an example) I’ve been living this kind of micromanaging task tracking nightmare for years.

    My department is not sales. We do a lot of work consulting with clients , troubleshooting complex enterprise wide issues and a TON of times coming up with new solutions to problems. We often have to react to some issue caused by an outside vendor or unforeseen software bug. For years now they have tried to force us into a “box” by using a popular CRM website to track what we do so we can show our “value” internally and to clients. Its been truly horrific at times. Spend 20 minutes on the phone ..record it. Sit for an hour trying to figure out why something is failing..record it. All this in a system that is truly built for sales. Even recording a simple 15 minute phone call can take 2 minutes plus just to find the right record and write in a one line note saying “called x to arrange new teapot delivery.

    Some of us stated a passive aggressive protest by including an entry every week 2 hours internal time- task – enter updates into CRM system. We literally logged the time it took to log the time! We even did some unofficial time studies that concluded that we were spending the equivalent of 4 work weeks a year simply entering stuff into the system.

    To make it worse I’d often get call or emails asking what is happening worth X? When i replied “All the information is entered into the CRM system” the reply would be Oh I didn’t look there just tell me what’s happening i don’t have time to search for that. Several times they have also tried to have us supply a list of key tasks for the week on Monday and then an update on the completion of the tasks and new ones at the end of the week. It was a miserable failure as crisis items constantly pop up during the week that push items ahead until your task list is just a bunch of incomplete tasks. We resorted to just making up stuff that we had already done so we could show some completed tasks.

    We eventually figured out that upper management doesn’t bother to look at most stuff anyways and that many people who just never bothered because they were high performers or critical were actually the ones being promoted or rewarded. So now we basically do enough to keep people off our back with the understanding that about every 6 months to a year someone will say “you guys need to enter your stuff” at which point we do it for a couple weeks to they move on and rinse and repeat.

    I know this was long but the moral is daily or even weekly updates are only useful if they actually cause some action and if the process of creating them isn’t so onerous that it actually detracts from time actually ACCOMPLISHING tasks rather than recording them.

    Reply
  31. Callie30

    #2 – I’m surprised that your staff wants to do daily updates! My boss wants daily updates (I work in the office and she works remotely) and I find it burdensome and unnecessary. If I had the choice, weekly is more ideal. Especially since many tasks may not be completed or finalized in 1 day and that time that is spend on daily lists and updates could be put to better use. I’d personally rather outline clear goals at the beginning of the week, or Friday the week before for the following week.

    Weekly is more manageable and more efficient – or perhaps if 1 work week feels too long, having people check in mid-week would also be a good compromise. If the Staff still want to keep daily logs for themselves, they could use their logs to write up their updates mid-week and end of week. Of course, this depends on the field and what ‘projects’ people are working on – and on how long projects take to complete!

    Reply
  32. OP #2

    Hi all,
    Super late response but thank you for all your feedback! To clarify a few things I started the daily updates because I came from the newspaper industry where we had daily meetings and updates, so it seemed like a natural fit when I started working in this industry. The updates are not detailed, but bullet points and I stress that it doesn’t need to take longer than 5 minutes to finish, and they usually do put questions/comments/concerns. Of course if it’s something major they call. I do respond to the updates and provide feedback to help give focus. I set up 8:30 a.m. as the time because usually I’m out of the office for most of the day. None of our schedules align that well to actually meet more than once a month individually or as a group, although we do talk regularly on the phone. Did I answer everything? Anyhoot thanks again!

    Reply

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