the reality check post: does your job suck or are you being too picky?

If you’re early in your career and still learning what is and isn’t normal, it can be really hard to judge whether your employer is great, fine, or shockingly awful. New grads, for example, often put up with boundary violations, illegal practices, and terrible bosses because they don’t have enough of a frame of reference to realize what is and isn’t normal. And on the other end of the spectrum, they might end up thinking practice X is horrible and worth leaving over, without realizing that it’s normal and common.

Last week, a reader made this brilliant suggestion:

I wonder if we could have a post/discussion where we can get a “reality check” on whether things are awful or we’re just being picky. I’m also working at my first professional job after graduating from college and often wonder whether things really are dysfunctional/unhealthy here, or if I’m just being a sensitive snowflake and need to suck it up. I’d love to be able to ask people who have been working for longer “Is this normal?*”. I think a lot of us at our first job might not have a reference point to compare to.

* Note: Not so much wondering whether things are “legal”, especially since that’s something I can look up if I want to. I’m more curious as to whether certain things are normal and expected at most companies – if I were to switch jobs, should I expect to see something similar?

So, here it is: the reality check post. Here are the ground rules:

  • If you’re wondering if something your employer or manager does is pretty normal and par for the course, describe it here.
  • To make this as useful as possible to people, limit this to genuine requests for input — not stuff that you already know is horrible.
  • If you feel you have a helpful perspective on someone else’s question, post your answer. (“All employers suck” is not a helpful answer. “That practice isn’t unheard of, but you’ll usually only encounter it at lower-tier firms” is helpful.)
  • If you’re giving input on someone else’s situation, keep in mind that this post is to help people figure out if something is normal, not if it’s fantastic. The difference between “that sucks” and “that sucks but it’s pretty normal” matters here.

{ 1,206 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Fawn

    I’m in higher ed on contract. Often (as in 3 of the last 4 times) my contract is not extended until very close to the deadline (1 – 14 days). Is this normal in public secondary education?

    Reply
    1. AnonInSC

      It can be normal – at my local Uni people may know a semester in advance. But I know of it being really cut close with people with 1-year contracts in the past. If you are talking about adjunct contract work, if a class doesn’t make the numbers, it will be cancelled at the last minute.

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        1. Sunflower #2

          At my University, we are unionized (even part-time employees), so even temporary positions require 90 days notice. Term appointments require one year notice for nonrenewal. If you don’t have a contract, you are at-will and at the mercy of the school and your administrator. Sorry.

          -Administrator at University

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          1. justcourt

            If your school normally has contracts or offers tenure, then faculty without a contract or tenure is probably at will. However, if a public school has kind of a de facto tenure, then faculty might have a property interest in their job and would be due some type of hearing before termination.

            That’s a super simplified explanation, though.

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    2. Murphy

      I don’t know eduction well, but I do know government and I believe there are some similarities. When I was on contract they were usually extended either the day before or the day after the deadline. So it seems pretty normal in that large public institution setting.

      Reply
    3. super anon

      There could be budget issues with the position. We have an admin position that we extend every few months at a time and it’s because there is uncertainty about funding, and often we don’t find out about if the funding will continue until the last minute.

      Reply
      1. Bon

        I’ve experienced this as well. Funding and also workflow prediction heavily influenced my contract renewals to the point where I would get my contract renewed for a month at a time about 1-2 days before the contract was due to expire. Thankfully my boss was honest with me when he was discussing the department’s budget and how my contract was weighed against the other standard running costs.

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    4. Xanadu

      I work in higher ed and it’s pretty common here. The layers of paperwork are daunting and a lot of managers put it off until the last minute. In some cases, there also seems to be some issue with funding/account management where if you try to put in the new contract too early it causes issues.

      Reply
    5. Admin of Sys

      A lot of Universities do this, if they’re having to wrangle state funding to support the position. It’s not very nice to the employee (ie You) but the funding structure can be so mangled that they can’t tell if they’re going to get renewal on the position until the last minute.

      Reply
      1. JessaB

        Also it’s possible some funding depends on student levels, so if at the last minute they don’t get the enrollment and they cancel courses, they may have less budget for support personnel.

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    6. MorganLizzie

      Have you spoken to your manager about your contract security and their process for extending? I worked on a contract with a large IT company and my contract was extended every 60 or 90 days (I can’t remember) and was always extended one of the last days. The first time it was happening I was really nervous to talk to her about it because I was scared I was just completely out of a job with no warning in a couple of days, and she clarified that they would definitely tell me ahead of time if it wasn’t being extended but that it was just the way the process worked in their system. It may help to get clarification on how/why they do things so you don’t feel as anxious about it every time it’s coming to the end of their contract terms!

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    7. Ash (the other one)

      I work in a non-academic research organization. You don’t specify if you’re on contract doing teaching or research, but I can say this — until I know what funding I have in the door, I can’t guarantee my contract staff work. Funding determines everything.

      Reply
    8. Mallory Janis Ian

      I work in higher ed, and while we don’t have administrative positions on contract, I can tell you what happens with faculty on year-to-year contracts, and it may be comparable. With adjunct faculty, we may know absolutely that they will work on contract for the next academic year, and we know that the contract deadline is such-and-such date. The deadline is not a “real” deadline (i.e. if we submit contracts after the deadline, there aren’t any real consequences; the contract still goes through). So filing the contracts isn’t much of a priority to the department head or the dean. I, as the department head’s assistant, will prepare the contract for him to review and it will sit and sit in a folder for him for a while. Then once I’ve finally gotten him to sign it, I pass it along to the dean’s assistant, and the same process happens in the dean’s office. The only person who is antsy about the contract is the professor whose contract it is. Everyone else considers it a foregone conclusion that the professor will teach next year (barring a class that doesn’t make its numbers), so nobody get in any kind of hurry over it.

      Reply
    9. BRR

      Generally yes. If you’re an adjunct definitely yes. I would ask yourself where your salary comes from as well as your role in the departments. It’s common for certain types of positions to be this way.

      Reply
    10. Anon2

      I worked for a major private research university in a research role for several years and my contract was once officially renewed a few weeks after it had expired (though I continued to get my paycheck during the gap). When I expressed concern, people said it was pretty par for the course.

      Reply
    11. Jellybish

      I’m a staff member at a large public university (student-facing, but not instructional staff) on an annually-renewable contract, and I never get my reappointment letter until right before the end of my contract term. Sometimes it’s come a few months into the next appointment year. It’s assumed that renewal is pretty much automatic for these contracts (although if it were a new position paid for by soft funding, I’d be nervous about late notice of renewal.)

      Reply
      1. fposte

        That’s where I am, too. And since our appointment letters started being posted online I don’t usually even notice when it happens. Raises aren’t surprises, since they adhere to the campus program, and there’s nothing else that would be news in the appointment.

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    12. Lia

      Absolutely normal. At my institution, if you do not get notice of non-renewal, you will be automatically extended — they have to notify you if you are not renewed. Read your union contract, though!

      That said, you are not eligible for pay increases without a valid contract, so ensuring you have one is important.

      Reply
  2. I'll start

    Manager (two levels above my position) will not offer advice or become involved in problems if there is any chance of blowback or resistance. Her response is that her employees should be the ones taking risks and limiting her exposure.

    Reply
    1. Roscoe

      2 levels up, that is pretty normal, depending on the size of the company. Your immediate supervisor probably should get involved, but the one above that, probably not. If it needs to be escalated, HR is probably the best route.

      Reply
    2. Katie the Fed

      That is not normal or acceptable. Risk-averse managers cannot effectively manage. Are these tasks your direct supervisor has the authority to take on? Or does everything stop with Captain Spineless?

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      1. WorkingMom

        I tend to agree here. I work in a massive corporate environment. My Manager has my back. If I get a request to complete a task that I think is risky, or I’m not sure if I should be the one to complete it because of the risk level – I have no qualms about reaching out to my manager. Often she’ll take the lead and either be the one to push back on the request or to complete the request. Along the same lines, I am also a manager and I don’t want my employees in a situation of taking risks. If someone is going to take a risk and say, agree to waive a fee for a client or something – I’d prefer that I be the one to do that, rather than put it on them. As a manager, I can absorb an executive decision gone awry better than they can. I’ve made a judgement call before that my manager actually disagreed with. She let me explain my logic and how I arrived at my decision, and then shared what she would have done, and what she would prefer I do next time. That was the end of it. Had one of my employees made that judgment call, they don’t have the tenure that I have – and my manager would have come down harder on them for making a judgement call she disagreed with. In my role though; I have enough accountability banked that one decision she disagreed with is not going to make much of an impact. I think good managers should be willing to shield their employees from potential blowblack – assuming of course that it was a good business practice or ethical decision in the first place.

        Reply
    3. Bookworm

      Can you provide some more detail? Maybe an example?

      It’s not unusual for a manager (particularly one who’s two levels above you) to abstain from weighing in on issues that shouldn’t be on her radar.

      On the other hand, I think it would be unusual if she was actively telling employees that it was their job to take risks on her behalf.

      It depends, I guess, on what you mean by blowback or resistance, since that can cover all manner of sins.

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      1. Rat Racer

        Yeah, I’ll second bookworm here. I think we need more context. If the question is “Can you help us settle a dispute between two co-workers” then absolutely not, the 2-levels up manager shouldn’t even be asked. If the question is “I think we should start a new line of teapots as a source of revenue diversification,” then it’s insane that the front-line employee would make that decision independently.

        Reply
        1. I'll start

          It’s more in align with the second one where projects and/or revenue is potentially impacted.

          Examples are too many to name so let’s start with a few of the most recent ones:
          Data security would have been potentially impacted for a few thousand users exposing us to hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. I asked for direction from her at which point she responded “Figure it out” and wouldn’t help coordinate a meeting between directors and the CIO then got pissy when I threw it together (with help from my immediate supervisor) and left her out of the meeting invite.

          Need help coordinating cross application support and project assistance – she refuses to do anything more then send an email leaving us to figure it out.

          Very much do as I say and not as I do manager (uses work from home time freely and openly abuses it i.e. repair people coming but then refuses to grant it for employees as it’s not to be used for that)

          Openly reports you to HR for using too many unscheduled days but will then disappear for a week on end with no communication.

          Actually writing all this, I figured she’s a terrible manager and this isn’t / shouldn’t be normal but luckily she’s retiring in a few years and the rest of the job isn’t bad. I”m just always going over her head which makes me look great and gets me decent reviews/raises.

          Reply
          1. Bookworm

            Yeah…that sounds unusual.

            The first example you list is particularly egregious. Some of the following ones (depending on severity) are a little more commonplace.

            Either way, she sounds like a lousy manager. If going over her head makes you look great and gets you good reviews, then I imagine she’s not well-regarded at your company.

            Reply
            1. Doriana Gray

              If going over her head makes you look great and gets you good reviews, then I imagine she’s not well-regarded at your company.

              Yeah because in any other workplace, going over a manager’s head for something that isn’t about illegal or unethical practices would not make you look good.

              Reply
              1. Mallory Janis Ian

                And that is the danger in learning abnormal norms in an early-career job. Imagine thinking that going over one’s manager’s head is the way to get ahead at work, and then doing that at a normal company where that is definitely not the case.

                Reply
          2. BusSys

            I’m actually reading this as her wanting proposed solutions to choose between rather than just being informed there’s a problem or difficult decision. At the level I work at, it’s totally my job to present those options and seek their guidance when looping in my 2 executive level bosses and not just say “help, there’s a problem”. Could it be that she wants that from you and hasn’t clearly explained? Because that’s fairly common.

            Reply
            1. Irishgal

              I agree with this possible interpretation and wonder also where the direct line manager is in this. Maybe “figure it out” means “please go speak your manager to come up with a proposal to sort this out and include me at the appropriate levels” or maybe it doesn’t and she’s a bad manager not just one with poor communication.

              As for stuff about her use of working from home etc .. well that’s none your business. She’s 2 tiers above you and you have no idea what agreements or arrangements she has with her bosses about how she works. That has nothing to do with whether you get to misuse unscheduled time off.

              And what is not normal is routinely going above your direct manager’s and the tier above that manager’s head except in the most extenuating circumstances. In most companies this would be a career tanker.

              In fact your lack of mention of your direct manager at all and their role your list is also not normal; they should be the one you are approaching with/interacting with about all your listed matters.

              Reply
          3. Bon

            To be honest, the more risk something exposes your company to, the more the higher level management/directorate should be getting involved, both because they are presumed to have more knowledge of the bigger picture, legal implications, et al., and because they are often required to authorise some risks to the business, i.e. major contract cancellations, data breaches, damage to company reputation, potential legal fall out.

            The fact that your (two levels up) manager does this would make me worry that if something did go wrong, that she/he would have no hesitation in scapegoating you as the source of the disaster. You’re definitely right to loop in your line manager and take things higher if necessary.

            For the working from home stuff, it happens. Some managers have a do as I say attitude and you never really get away from that.

            Reply
    4. rd

      You have a bad manager. Limiting exposure to what? Risk? You never get better without taking risks.

      Unfortunately bad managers are par for the course, so it’s reality. It takes a while to find good ones. Don’t stop looking.

      Reply
      1. Sadsack

        I am confused though because this is a manager 2 levels up. Why not go to your immediate manager, why are you going above?

        Reply
    5. Juli G.

      It’s not normal to be that open about it! Wow!

      It’s not totally uncommon but it is a sign of a bad leader. The good leaders I know absorb hits for their team while still holding the appropriate people accountable.

      Reply
      1. Karowen

        I think this is the right answer. There are a lot of managers who would do that, but they realize that they’re trying to pawn off an essential function of their job, so they try to keep it quiet/turn it around so you don’t realize. The good managers are the ones who are willing to stick up for their employees/stick their necks out as appropriate. I could never imagine a scenario where I asked my boss for assistance with something out there and he told me to do it. The options are (1) it’s too risky and no one should approach it, (2) it’s risky but he’ll handle it, or (3) he doesn’t see it as a risk so I can handle it (but he’ll back me up if his assessment was wrong).

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      2. Sadsack

        My manager says that when we do well, it is a win for the team and when we make a mistake, it is on him. He’ll take responsibility for it, no matter who on the team was at fault. This is, of course, after discussing the issue to determine how the mistake occurred and making changes so it doesn’t happen again.

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    6. WhiskeyTango

      I think it would depend on your department and industry — I’m in Legal. It comes back to me no matter how low on the totem pole the mistake was made. Same thing for Compliance and Accounting. Sales or operations though? It might be more normal in those groups.

      Reply
    7. Mike C.

      Managers should be enabling the employees under them to succeed and to intervene when appropriate. You being successful means they are successful.

      Sure, they might not get involved with everything, but they should be willing to step in if other options have been exhausted. Also note that they’re going to focus more on larger picture stuff, so it’s helpful to be able to tie whatever you’re doing to that overall vision.

      Reply
    8. Sunflower #2

      Normal for politically-unsavvy and poor managers. I don’t agree with it as a manager myself, but I see it all the time. You can’t guarantee not having this at your next job, but you can ask questions about their managerial styles at interviews to get a sense for how they roll.

      Reply
    9. NK

      Not OK. In fact, the opposite is true – good managers will encourage employees to take risks, but will absorb the exposure to their employees (assuming it was a reasonable risk to take). One of the qualities of every manager I’ve had who I considered a good manager was that they would protect their team rather than throw them under the bus. Again, we’re taking about normal and reasonable risks and mistakes – not recklessness, neglect, etc. on the part of the employee.

      Reply
    10. The Rat-Catcher

      It’s ineffective because in reality, when a lower-level employee makes a mistake, their managers are held accountable. That’s because an inherent part of managing is not just doing your own work, but knowing what’s going on with those you manage. Lack of awareness of a problem, or an intentional lack of contribution to its resolution, does not absolve you.

      If it were mine to categorize, I’d put it in “common, but definitely not okay.”

      Reply
    11. Koko

      Opposite of normal by my reckoning. My managers have always made it clear that one of their functions is to shield their team from upper management. There are times I know for sure we have made mistakes that our managers paid for, but all I ever hear is a vague comment or two about the VP having talked to the Director about how this can’t happen again and you can kind of presume it wasn’t a pleasant conversation, but when Director talks to us about it he’s all constructive and much kinder than you imagine the VP was to her.

      Reply
    12. Anxa

      In the case where my managers have made significantly more money than I did when I felt I often worked harder, I always thought of that extra money as being decision-pay.

      I don’t think it’s that uncommon for some managers to feel like they need to protect themselves more than their employees (especially if they feel they have more to lose…a living wage, benefits, what have you), but I don’t think it’s the way its supposed to be.

      That said, I think this strategy can be effective when used once in a while, but only in some organization structures. For example, I look young and work alongside student workers. There are a lot of disadvantages to that, but sometimes I can leverage the perception that this is a more developmental role to my advantage. I’ve also advocated for a few things as a volunteer or intern.

      Reply
  3. I'm Not Phyllis

    In the non-profit world, how normal is it for managers to expect their staff to work overtime without any compensation in the form of extra pay or time off in lieu? And by this I mean regularly – not something that only happens once a year during crunch time.

    Reply
    1. TCO

      For what it’s worth, I’ve worked in several nonprofit agencies and uncompensated overtime was very rare. I was always exempt in these positions (so they didn’t have to pay me overtime), but I was encouraged to take unofficial comp time for anything I worked beyond 40 hours. The comp time was intended to be used in the following 1-2 weeks. There was no official policy or tracking system, but informal comp time was supported from the top levels down, even when we had tight budgets and a need for more staffing.

      Reply
    2. Non profit in College

      I volunteered for a non profit it college, and it seemed like most of the employees consistently worked overtime. While I don’t know if they were paid overtime or not, I know a lot of them groused about it – so my thinking would be probably that they were not compensated for it.

      Reply
    3. Enginerd

      I’m not sure about the non-profit world but I’ve worked both defense and manufacturing as a salary exempt and it’s been pretty much expected in both worlds. We were even sent an email from higher up at my last job that you could not get anything above satisfactory on your performance review if you averaged less than 50 hours a week.

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      1. Finman

        “We were even sent an email from higher up at my last job that you could not get anything above satisfactory on your performance review if you averaged less than 50 hours a week” I don’t think that should be considered normal

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        1. Green

          Requiring hours above 40 for exempt positions in order to succeed or be bonus-eligible is indeed normal in lots of industries. We’re not looking for normative (how it should be) but descriptive (how it is) here.

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        2. Bon

          This is one situation where what’s normal and what’s right are at odds. Yes, it’s normal. People are often supposed to sacrifice their own time to put in that little bit extra to show they are dedicated.

          Is it right? No. But there is very little you can do about it. I’ve worked in companies where being the first one out the door was a sign of weakness and you were almost asked what the emergency was when you were leaving at 6 on a standard 8-5 day. I’ve also found that it leads to burnout and doesn’t help your attention to detail at all.

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      2. Kira

        In my nonprofits exempt workers don’t get overtime/comp time, but all the non-exempt workers definitely would (so they’re discouraged from working past their 40 hours). We’re super-sensitive to the risk of legal troubles, though, so a place that’s not paying attention to the legal risks might have these issues.

        Reply
    4. Roscoe

      Depends on the non-profit. Many of my previous jobs were at non-profits, but big ones. Think museums in major cities. At those types of places, no it is not normal. However, if you have a place with like 5 staff members who are all stretched thin, I’d say its pretty common

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      1. WorkingMom

        I agree that it depends on the nature of the NPO. In my experience, a service-based non profit is going to have more expectations of employees who are willing to put in extra hours “to support the cause” so to speak. And also, in service-based organizations, most donors don’t want their money supporting administration, they want their money to go towards the cause. These are the types of NPO’s that will have lower pay, generally speaking. Also – you’d have to be exempt. In my personal NPO experience at a service-based organization, we were salaried and just worked however long it took to get the job done, no set hours. On the flip side, when I worked at a non profit Association – that organization ran more like a corporation, in terms of managing employee hours.

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      2. North

        Yes, absolutely. The larger the organization, the less overtime I’ve worked (when salaried). Previous job, medium sized museum in a major city, part of a HUGE larger nonprofit – overtime was extremely rare.

        Current job, small museum, small town, small state: I’m entering my 12th hour at work today, it’s 3pm est, and I’ve got ~2 more hours to do tonight after I get home. Granted, today is extra-awful, but I have many weeks out of the year where I work corporate lawyer hours on…basically admin assistant money.

        Now I am depressed all over again.

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      3. I'm Not Phyllis

        I agree with you there. This organization is a national one (though not incredibly large in numbers) … think more than 50 but less than 100 employees.

        Reply
      1. I'm Not Phyllis

        Almost everyone there has the title of “manager,” and they seem to believe that this means never having to compensate overtime. I know that simply having a title and legal definitions mean different things though …

        Reply
    5. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      A lot depends on the role, and whether it is exempt or not. Obviously, if you are legally entitled to overtime pay, you should get it.

      Otherwise, working more than 40 hours a week? Very normal. Working evening and/or weekend events, without getting equivalent “comp time”? Crappy, but very normal.

      Reply
      1. Not the Droid You are Looking For

        My first boss used to give us comp time if we worked evening or weekend event. Like, if we stayed late for a board meeting we could come in at 10 am the next day. The week after the Gala, we all got Friday afternoon off.

        It really, really spoiled me for future employers.

        Reply
    6. Andy

      I don’t know if it is normal across the board in np but here’s my experience…
      I did non-profit in a position where Saturday events were part of the job, but taking comp time was brought up in PMPs as ‘unsupportive’ of the rest of the staff/mission. This meant that if I worked a 40 hour week (non-exempt) I was seen as slacking. It was normal, but extremely unhealthy and sucky, and part of why I jettisoned from non-profit work after 4 years and did NOT look back.

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    7. Mona Lisa

      Great question. I worked at a non-profit that made all of its workers exempt partially so they wouldn’t have to pay overtime anymore because they were spending so much on it. We weren’t “required” to work all events, but it was “highly suggested” we volunteer to help at larger events throughout the year. Sign up sheets were passed around on company-wide e-mails to which everyone replied all so people would notice who was and wasn’t volunteering.

      Reply
      1. Tyrannosaurus Regina

        I worked at a place like this, where 3/4 of the staff were considered salaried/exempt so they could work as much OT as needed. Except, oops, turned out most of us were working in positions that didn’t meet the criteria for being salaried/exempt—so nearly everyone had to be converted to hourly.

        …and were still pressured to “volunteer” outside normal working hours. Because of The Cause. :/

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    8. Ruthie

      In my experience, it depends on a few factors. If the employee is salaried and exempt, they are not paid by the hour, but by the job and will not receive “overtime” pay for longer work weeks. If there is an expectation of work outside the standard 9-6 working day will depend on the organization’s culture and the field. From what I’ve observed working in non-profit communications in DC, it is not uncommon for there to be the expectation that staff put in a significant amount of hours a week. I have a lot of friends, for instance, who like to “brag” about the extreme hours they put in to their job.

      That said, if a reasonable work-life balance is a priority to you, there are many non-profit organizations that do not expect their staff to work long hours. It’s something you can ask about in a job interview to get a sense of what the culture is like. At my organization and our partner organization, everyone is typically gone by the close of business.

      If the employee is non-exempt, they are entitled to overtime pay by the Fair Labor Standards Act for working more than 40 hours. Unfortunately, it is not unusual for that policy to be ignored in competitive work environments. I used to work on Capital Hill in a non-exempt position and it was sort of understood that those of us at the bottom of the totem pole would only report our overtime hours if they really piled up, not for staying up to an extra hour a day. My boyfriend works in well-known non-profit where most employees are exempt. Only the senior staff accurately report their overtime pay. Junior staff only report their overtime when they are literally working around the clock so that their superiors will eventually send them home. It’s not really legal, but it does happen.

      Reply
      1. Bwmn

        Here to second the DC nonprofit exempt bragging.

        I will say though that typically speaking the emphasis on working more than 40 hours (as basically all of my experience comes from being exempt) – often comes from peer pressure and talk about commitment to the cause. So staying late in the office or attending evening/weekend events – the impetus to do that is because “everyone” is doing it. And sometimes that’s accompanied by having your manager say “It’s 5, go home”. I’ve found the DC nonprofit world to very much so be a case of “go home means stay late” where no matter how much work/life balance is proactively pushed, those who stay late and go to evening events are rewarded.

        At least in the nonprofit world, I’ve found it to be rare to have bosses push overtime in the office. However, even when attendance at an evening event is mandatory – I’ve never been directly offered additional time off aside from being told to feel free to come in a little late.

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    9. babblemouth

      I worked 7 years at a large NGO. Overtime was frequent, and never paid. However, you could get in lieu, though it rarely matched the amount of overtime you had done. A large reason for that is that decent managers knew all the overtime was a recipe for burnout, and turnover is their worst enemy.

      I wouldn’t hold out for financial compensation, but you can normally make a good case for in lieu.

      Reply
    10. Tom

      “Exempt” vs. “non-exempt” is an important distinction. Assuming that you are or should be classified as “non-exempt” I would have to say that in my experience it’s sadly common. And also illegal. But it’s very hard to be the one to have the courage to hold your employer to legal standards when you are relying on them for a paycheck. I pointed out to my last employer that I was working unpaid overtime, and I don’t think they believed me. I chose not to push the issue, because I felt there were good odds they would want to renegotiate my position and/or salary if I did.

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      1. I'm Not Phyllis

        Yes – this. I accumulated what amounted to about 10 extra days of work in one month, and when I asked for time in lieu, I was told that I could have 2 days. But what threw me was that this was told to me by HR, who also said I wasn’t really supposed to ask for time back. They made it sound like I was the only one who would think of asking – so I thought maybe I was out of line and this was just normal practice?

        Reply
    11. Rex

      Depends what you mean? Checking emails evenings and weekends, and maybe having to work late once a month or so, not uncommon, especially as you get more senior. Frequently putting in 80 hour weeks, unfortunately not uncommon at some orgs, but really bad management if you want to not burn out everyone. Comp time is a good idea, but some orgs are wary of it.

      Reply
    12. Chinook

      “In the non-profit world, how normal is it for managers to expect their staff to work overtime without any compensation in the form of extra pay or time off in lieu?”

      I think it happens too often and is not right. When I ran a day camp, my manager made a point of making sure I knew that they couldn’t afford overtime for me so, if I ended up spending time as my choice, she insisted I log it in as volunteer hours. Still not with the spirit of the law, but at least I could justify it because I usually ran into OT on the days it was warm and sunny out and I joined the kids in whatever they were doing and was hiding from paperwork. I could then justify that time as volunteer (because we did have adult volunteers working with our camp counselors) and then my paperwork time as just being flexible. But, if the tasks were similar enough to what I am normally paid to do, then they are overreaching.

      From a business perspective, working off the books gives the board and donors a false sense of the real cost of what you are doing. At the very least, they need to give you credit for volunteer hours so they can say it takes “X (wo)man hours to run Program A – Y are volunteer hours and Z are paid.”

      Reply
      1. JessaB

        My understanding is you cannot volunteer extra hours doing what is essentially your job. That dodge against overtime hours does not hold up to scrutiny if it’s reported to the labour board.

        Reply
    13. NJ Anon

      It depends on how your job is classified. If you are exempt from over-time laws, this is normal. If you are non-exempt this is not even legal.

      Reply
    14. Chicken

      In my experience (mostly at legal nonprofits), it is typical to expect exempt employees to average significantly more than 40 hrs/week without any additional compensation.

      Reply
      1. De Minimis

        Same at the nonprofit where I work..everyone is exempt [all employees meet the salary test due to it being a high COL area and everyone also meets the test for administrative duties–we have a temp that handles the traditional receptionist/admin duties, all of the regular employees are performing essential program work.]

        It’s been tough for me to make the adjustment…my boss always stays late and I think there is a sense of disappointment that I don’t do the same. Other departments seem to generally stick to a regular work schedule, but I’ve been unlucky in that respect. It’s also annoying to not be eligible for anything like comp time.

        Reply
      2. addiez

        Every non-profit I’ve worked for has expected exempt employees to work more than 40 hours a week. It isn’t considered overtime, it’s just considered the standard expectation of behavior. We don’t consider it overtime, we just consider it working. When I do something like work on a holiday, I’ll get comp time, but not for going over 40 hours a week.

        Reply
    15. Anonymous in the South

      I work for a non-profit and it is very much NOT done for non-exempt (hourly) workers and in fact, illegal for non-exempt workers to work overtime without being paid for those hours.

      Exempt (salaried) staff can work as much as needed and take comp time for any hours worked over 40. Which unfortunately is/can be abused, at least at my company.

      Reply
    16. B-Bam

      I’ve worked in the non-profit world (in HR specifically) for about 10 years and I would say this is very common. It is a problem I think is rooted deep in general non-profit culture that employees at the entry level absorb it and carry it forward as they move up, keeping that cycle going. From what I’ve gathered, this seems to come from a combination of resource scarcity and a misguided belief in what it means to be passionate about the work. It makes me see red – not only is it a compliance issue when it’s at non-exempt level, it increases the pace of an already high burn-out rate for employees at all levels who are working often at lesser wages for incredibly demanding work.

      Reply
    17. Lily in NYC

      Very, very, very normal. Unfortunately. We do get more vacation time in general, but we don’t get extra for working long hours. I also see a lot of admins working free overtime here, myself included (I’m not asking for advice on this, just relaying how it is in my nonprofit). It also depends on the department (and nature of the nonprofit, I guess) – we have a few departments (like IT) where no one works late, but there are also some groups who work until late at night and come in on weekends to catch up without distractions.

      Reply
    18. intldevt

      I think it is fairly common. My experience is also fairly limited (have only worked at two organizations), but it was the case at both positions. My current job has a time off in lieu policy which our managers tell us we’re allowed to use, and sometimes we are, but it’s simply so busy that we often give up trying to find any free time to take off in lieu.

      Reply
    19. fposte

      The use of “in lieu” makes me think you might not be in the U.S. However, based on the U.S., I’d say you might be misunderstanding what “overtime” is. If you’re exempt, there’s just time. Your job may want you working later than you like, but work hours over 40 are pretty common.

      Reply
      1. I'm Not Phyllis

        You’re right – I’m in Canada! I believe the law here is that your employer cannot ask you to work more than 48 hours per week without special permission from the Ministry of Labour (unless special circumstances apply – none of which would apply to me). I don’t mind working overtime at. all. when it’s required, but when it’s required every day so much that you can’t even take your vacation time that is part of your benefits – you get tired.

        Reply
        1. mousie housie

          Dependent on province. In Ontario, managers and supervisors are exempt from hours of work and overtime legislation. :(

          Reply
    20. non-profit manager

      If you are exempt, this is very normal in many industries, at least in my experience. If you are not exempt, then it is illegal.

      Reply
    21. Amo for This

      Where I work it’s pretty common. The only exception is when I travel and I’m on the road working over a weekend, I get time off in lieu.

      Reply
    22. Zillah

      I’ve never personally been in this position, but in a previous job at a non-profit, my boss (who was exempt) definitely got comp time for the same week when she had to work on Saturday afternoons or at evening events. I’m not sure if she had to use it the same week, but she typically did.

      Reply
    23. Different Here

      I’ve worked for several national and local non-profits as exempt employee. It was rare that I worked over 40 hours a week. When I did, comp time was available to me take for that same week.

      Reply
    24. Massachuset

      I work in the humanitarian sector for a non-profit and this is very common, though depends on what you consider overtime. We have contracts that state 37.5 hours = full time, but no one actually works that. I think most people work 45-50 hours/week regularly, and others often (like once a month or more) put in more than that. That seems standard for my sector, though at the best places you’d work out other perks with your boss. It’s not necessarily normal you’d get an official perk (like compensation days) and if you’re salaried you definitely wouldn’t be paid overtime usually, but more normal that a good manager would work out something with you informally.

      Reply
    25. megj

      Definitely normal for non-profits to expect evening and weekend hours beyond the 40hr work week, especially orgs that have events. Organizations I’ve worked for give comp time (same as time off in lieu?) for full days worked but not for a couple extra evening hours. In fact, I’m writing this response while lounging on a comp day for my (regular, expected) Saturday work but I definitely won’t get comp time for the board meeting that lasted until 8:30 last night and the 8:00pm event I attended on Monday.

      Reply
    26. Al Lo

      Reasonably normal in my job. I work at a small-ish non-profit arts org (~$2M budget; 5 FT employees; 60 contract artists), and I definitely work more than 40 hours many weeks. However, my boss is very cognizant of what the industry asks of people, and tries to help us juggle where possible.

      I’m a salaried FT employee, so I juggle my hours accordingly. I’m still owed lieu time, but I also have many days where I work, say, 5 hours after a busy week.

      However, our artists have pretty set contracts for what they are expected to do and what they get paid for. The nature of the industry and the personalities, though, is that many people want to put in more time and effort than their contract. We rarely say no, because many people benefit from more artistic talent, but they’re made aware that choosing to take on additional work doesn’t mean a contract bump.

      Reply
    27. cbq

      I’ve worked in the arts in a major city, at organizations ranging from 5 to 100 people (all salaried positions). Unpaid overtime has been required at every job I’ve had – the good employers offer informal comp time in exchange, the bad ones post it in the job description as par for the course.

      Reply
    28. Koko

      Career NPer here. It varies wildly. Most of the smaller places I worked awarded comp time in some fashion for OT. My current large employer doesn’t officially compensate for OT, but also doesn’t make us charge PTO if we arrive late or leave early by <3 hours. I've also often been encouraged by manager to take a day without charging PTO after working a weekend or evening event, so that's sort of like informal comp time.

      You may have heard the term "Founders' Syndrome" as it relates to nonprofits. It is essentially a problem that arises in organizations that are still headed by a founder who may or may not have any background, training, or skill at running an organization. In the early years when they were the only staff person working out of their apartment that didn't matter so much, but eventually the organization grows enough that the founder becomes a big obstacle to success because they have bad business instincts and won't relinquish control to someone who does. These organizations are the ones where I have observed the most rampant labor abuse, with EDs/CEOs who work their staff to the bone 50-60 hours a week for $35,000 a year plus guilt trips.

      At Founders' Syndrome orgs, what you're experiencing is crappy and normal. At well-run orgs, it is crappy and not normal.

      If you plan a career in the NGO world, I urge you to think long and hard before working for an organization headed by its original founder.

      Reply
    29. pnw

      I am a manager in a non-profit and I would never expect my staff to work overtime uncompensated. Sometimes it is inevitable that work has to be done after hours (server upgrades, training evening staff, etc.) but I usually encourage the exempt staff that have to do that to take off time at a later date. I also don’t track the time staff come in or leave – I am more concerned with results. I know that in most cases they work approximately 40 hours a week so if they are meeting their deadlines I don’t worry about them coming in 15 minutes late or occasionally taking a long lunch.

      Reply
    30. Anonvocado

      From my experience (6 years in not for profit arts organizations) this is super common. Many organizations (even large reputable ones!) either don’t know the laws or don’t follow them to the letter. I know a local arts company that gives everyone a “manager” title because they think just having manager in the title makes an employee exempt. I’m not sure about other parts of the not for profit sector though – my experience is very arts specific.

      Reply
    31. saf

      It was constant in my last nonprofit job, and one of the reasons that my dream job turned out to be not so dreamy.

      The job could have been flexible, as there was a lot of community work requiring night and weekend meetings, but one high-level manager who was afraid of people getting over insisted that everyone be in the office or using leave M-F, 9-5.

      Reply
    32. Megan

      I’ve spent 5 years in the non-profit world. I think it’s very normal to work 1-2 hours of overtime in non-crunch periods when things come up. (In non-profits things often come up.) At a good non-profit you will be compensated with either flex time or a manager that recognizes your willingness to do a little extra an encourages you to take easy and leave early. In a bad non-profit they will tell you that’s what you have to do or guilt you into doing it anyway. Good non-profits exist, go find one with work life balance!

      Reply
    33. YawningDodo

      As others have said, it really depends on the type and size of the nonprofit, as well as which kind of role we’re talking about. I work at a mid-size museum and my projects are generally very long-range, so I’ve ended up being under little to no pressure to put in extra time throughout most of the year. When we do work extra time, we’re allowed/encouraged to take an equivalent amount of time off within the same pay period. That being said, a number of my coworkers who have shorter-range projects with lots of deadlines to meet have ended up racking up a lot of technically unpaid overtime because the work simply has to be done. One in particular I’ve encouraged to push back and reduce the amount of overtime she does (and thankfully she has) because I believe that if it’s impossible to do a typical week’s work in forty hours, it’s too much job for one person. I’m sure that cuts me out of the list of contenders for a lot of well-paying jobs out there, but maintaining a work-life balance has always been much more important to me than making the big bucks. Anyway, even the overworked coworkers are generally encouraged by their managers to balance it out by taking weekdays off when they come to the end of a busy period. Another coworker who typically racks up a ton of unpaid overtime in the spring works thirty-two hour weeks over the summer. There’s generally an effort to balance things out.

      Reply
    34. stevenz

      Legal distinctions between exempt and non-exempt aside, it does, as has been said enough, depend on the non-profit. I have a lot of experience in the non-profit world and I would describe the approach to hours as flexible. The employer and employee are mutually flexible, that is. If you work overtime because that’s what is required – evening meetings, a gala dinner that you host, fundraisers, etc. – then you understand when you take the job that that is acceptable to you. But the employer should, and in my experience has, expect that you have given up some of your home life and that you can be trusted to make up for it in a responsible way, such as coming in late the next day, leaving a bit early here and there, staying home for the plumber, etc. In other words, everyone treats everyone as adults and professionals. If this sounds too ideal, it is actually practiced at enlightened work places which usually means non-profits. Or non-profits that are well-funded which has been my experience. (I worked at one that didn’t even have a vacation policy – decades before Richard Branson – but it was abused and then a policy was enacted but a very liberal one.)

      Reply
  4. I'm Not Phyllis

    And second question (then I’ll stop, I promise!) how normal is it for employers to give staff the title of “manager” but none of the responsibilities? (and why do this? – but that might be a discussion for another time.)

    Reply
    1. Rat Racer

      I work for a fortune 50 company, where titles mean absolutely nothing because they’re so vague. I think it may vary by company – at my previous job (also a large, national firm), the title “Director” was the golden apple on the glass hill. Here, everyone and their dog is a director.

      Reply
      1. annonymouse

        A manager doesn’t have to manage people – they might be the person in control of a specific role/process/department and earned it that way.

        I.e account manager at my work is responsible for making sure at teapot club everyone’s accounts are current and chase up arrears. No one reports to them but they are in charge of this very important process and the only one authorised to do it.

        But calling your receptionist “front desk manager”, your pa/ea an assistant manager or something fancy? Weird.

        People might want to make their company seem more formal/prestigious/appealing to outsiders.

        Also the reverse can be true. My official job title was “Admin Assistant” but I did all the day to day running of the business and was closer to office manager.

        The litmus test I’d apply is
        Is this person in charge of people?
        Is this person in charge of a department? (No matter how small)
        Either would qualify in my book as a manager.

        Reply
    2. Mark M

      At my department in a large bank in Canada, the “pecking order” which is usually followed for promotions is Analyst > Senior Analyst > Manager > Senior Manager > Director > etc…

      Typically, employees only start working as people managers at the Senior Manager level – so the Manager title doesn’t mean people manager. In the finance world at least, it seems that Manager often refers to other types of management besides people management (eg. portfolio management).

      Reply
      1. Finman

        In corporate finance, it can also mean a higher level of authority/responsibility for something (budget, departmental support, etc) than an analyst where you may not need a team to help you.

        Reply
        1. anon corp fin

          Interestingly, I work in corporate finance at a Fortune 100, and they will not give the title of manager to anyone who does not have people report to them, even though every other part of the company gives a manager title to those in the same numbered level, direct reports or not. So we have 2 levels of Sr. Analyst (indistinguishable to anyone since our numbered levels are not public), and then jump to Sr. Manager. It sucks from a resume perspective.

          Reply
          1. Finman

            I’ve been in fortune 300 and fortune 30 and both had individuals who were Finance Manager or Finance Director without any direct report due to the nature of the business. They were responsible for supporting business units and needed to have the experience and authority to be the “CFO” of that business unit.

            Reply
      2. Electron Whisperer

        UK merchant banks used to be really funny this way, but it did kind of make sense.

        Since they wanted to be able to post people overseas at need, and since the US (in particular, but not uniquely) had annoying visa requirements, which mostly went away at director level, they made basically **Everyone** a ‘Director’ as getting a work visa for a ‘Director of information retrieval’ (Aka, the backup tape monkey), was easier then getting one for ‘Low level IT grunt’.

        The magic phrase for the real thing was ‘Executive Director’.
        Those places (while generally toxic to work for) rocked for polishing a CV.

        In truth it varies very, very widely by company, and the meaning of the works in a job title are massively variable, look at what people did not at the title as that is far more meaningful (I have been a ‘Technical Manager’ with neither budgetary authority nor minions, both of which are kind of important to a title including the word Manager in my view).

        Regards, Dan.

        Reply
    3. Nother Name

      I think this depends upon how the title is used. Can you give an example? (For example, sometimes it’s used for people who handle social media or online content. You’re managing content, not people.)

      That being said, I’ve known of smaller places that sometimes give their staff impressive titles to look good on a resume or business card.

      Reply
      1. Not the Droid You are Looking For

        I did some contract work for an Arts organization where everyone had a Director title for this reason.

        Reply
        1. overeducated and underemployed

          Yeah, I interviewed for a department director position at a small organization this winter, and I was shocked to find out *at the interview* that it was a half-time position. Since it would’ve required relocation, obviously it didn’t work out. That was a learning experience.

          Reply
      2. Just me

        My old boss made everyone “director” of something. With barely any staff to report to us. It was all chiefs and no Indians. He just wanted us to look good… to whom, I’m not sure.

        Then again I could write a book on “Is this normal? NO!” about him.

        Reply
      3. Stranger than fiction

        I was once a Business Development Manager, but nobody reported to me, we were all called that, and the only thing I managed was my territory.

        Reply
      4. I'm Not Phyllis

        So my title was “Executive Assistant” but they said I was classified as management, even though my work was 100% administrative.

        But also there was a “Manager, Accounting” who didn’t have any staff under them and reported up to a director … things like that. There are also program directors and program managers – but I understand these to be different.

        Reply
    4. HRG

      Sometimes “manager” can mean managing a program, a process, or particular piece of the organization – not necessarily people. Not sure if that’s the case here but something to think about.

      Reply
      1. Bookworm

        Yup. It’s pretty common for someone to be, say, a “Northeastern Teapot Operations Manager” and they don’t have any direct reports but are directly responsible for managing the operations.

        Especially as some career paths don’t lend themselves to ever being a boss, the title can be used to convey more seniority than a “coordinator”.

        Reply
      2. Not the Droid You are Looking For

        I have often been “X Manager” or “Manager, Y” without actually managing people.

        Reply
      3. sunny-dee

        Yep, I was going to say this. Program / project manager is a really common example. My new title is “senior marketing manager” and I don’t manage people — I create marketing content.

        Reply
      4. LD

        So true. Account manager, program manager, project manager, systems manager, product manager, are all examples of titles that don’t necessarily come with staff, but are titles for those who manage a function, a relationship, a product, etc. At places I’ve been, even the manager title was more about level in the organization and not people management. I’ve been a manager with staff reporting to me and I’ve been a director without staff. Titles do not always connote level of responsibility and are often inconsistent even within organizations.

        Reply
      5. skyline

        Yup. In an earlier job, I was a marketing manager with no direct reports. We were a small organization, and I managed many activities and a budget. However, the lone marketing associate reported to my boss, the marketing director. My title reflected my level of work.

        Reply
    5. Eliza Jane

      If it’s a customer-facing position, this can also be done to make customers feel they’re dealing with someone higher in the pecking order than they are,

      Reply
      1. Kelly L.

        My first thought was fast food. There were days almost everyone on the shift was some kind of “manager” or “supervisor.” You didn’t necessarily get much authority, since so many other people were also managers, but the company got to switch you to salaried and not pay you overtime. Totally worth the fancier work shirt…not.

        Reply
      2. el conejo de fuego

        +1

        That’s the case here. Well, that and some of what HRG said above about managing processes instead of direct reports. We have a team here that works with clients and all 12+ team members have the title “[position] manager.” I think it helps lend an air of authority and experience.

        Reply
    6. Ruthie

      Depending on the field, salaries can be pretty specific, or vary wildly from company to company. At my non-profit organization, titles are utter nonsense. Entry-level staffers start as directors. It’s especially common in the non-profit sector to offer automatic raises to people who are good at their jobs and they become managers without actually having any managing skill or responsibilities.

      Reply
    7. Lizzy

      Where I work (a large community foundation), we have a ridiculous amount of staff with the title of “Director” and many (if not most) of them do not even have direct reports. In fact, I think there are more directors or assistant directors than their are employees with titles like associate, coordinator, assistant, etc.

      That being said, the structure of my workplace is very siloed and many of these directors are overseeing divisions or special projects within their departments; however, they are generally doing it alone.

      Reply
      1. Irishgal

        This is my “norm” in practice; in the 10 or so workplaces I’ve experienced Director is a person in overall charge of a division so they would only “line manage” the very senior staff directly under them (and at that level those people would be expected to pretty much manage themselves on a day to day basis); so you have Director of HR, Director of Customer Services, Director of H&S etc.

        Manager titles varied even within the same company so I’ve worked with a Customer Services Manager who managed the customer service processes but had no direct reports and the Customer Services Staff Manager who managed the actual service agents themselves.

        Reply
    8. Guam Mom

      (Assuming this is in reference to the non-profit sector given your first question, but disregard if not). I found this to be pretty normal in my non-profit experience (9 years in non-profits, higher education and institutions/museums). I have been a “manager” and an “associate/assistant director” without any of the responsibilities to manage a team or direct a program. As to why, I have been told by two different organizations that we “give our employees good titles to compensate for pay/lack of benefits/some other trade-off.” Which is nonsense to me but some of my colleagues feel very differently. What I think it has helped me with (although I have no direct evidence) is the job search–I have an inkling that hiring managers, for better or worse, have seen those titles on my resume and put me on the “call” list vs. someone with the same experience but a lower sounding title. It may have helped get my foot in the door when when looking for for-profit work or when switching non-profit industries.

      Reply
    9. Slippy

      It is very common now for titles to be vague and unhelpful outside of the C-Suite. Some places have a rank structure for pay purposes, but the individual’s authority and scope of work may be drastically different.

      Reply
    10. Sunflower #2

      Sometimes manager can mean “project manager” not “manager of people.” When I worked in the staffing industry, this was done often.

      Reply
    11. Ihmmy

      last job was a non profit and our ED grumped about a previous staff who she had given the title of Office Manager to, but all she wanted was a glorified admin assistant. Not uncommon, especially if the title is “office manager” or something similar where there aren’t actually people to manage

      Reply
      1. Chinook

        “ED grumped about a previous staff who she had given the title of Office Manager to, but all she wanted was a glorified admin assistant.”

        I am confused – I thought an Office Manager WAS a glorified admin assistant. When I have been given that position, I did not only Admin Asst type work for an executive but also was responsible for managing the logistics of the work environment (everything from accepting deliveries and planning international trips for the boss up to helping plan renovations and the move to a new office).

        Reply
    12. Chinook

      “how normal is it for employers to give staff the title of “manager” but none of the responsibilities?”

      Depends on how organized the company comes when it comes to their org chart. Most places I have worked, “manager” means you are managing humans (and it is actually listed as such at a payroll/hr level). But, I have also worked in places where a manager doesn’t manage humans but projects. But, if you are given no responsibilities and decision-making powers, then I would say that is quire unusual and might be worth to ask whomever you gave that title what exactly you are expected to be managing.

      Reply
    13. Serin

      My company will use the phrase “people manager” to distinguish people with supervisory responsibilities from people with ‘manager’ in their title for some other reason. (We employ a ton of project managers; that might be why they feel the need to do this.) So, pretty normal from my POV.

      Reply
      1. Not the Droid You are Looking For

        I worked with an org that used Director for people who oversaw an area (Marketing, PR, etc.) but then used Managing Director for people who oversaw an area and staff.

        Reply
      2. nerfmobile

        Yes, my company has Product Managers, Program Managers, Project Managers, Community Managers, Marketing Managers, Contract Managers, Sales Managers, Event Managers, Operations Managers, and more, none of whom (may) manage people. But they all have decision-making authorities for Things, so they get a manager title. People managers may also have the decision authorities for Things (the ones above, but also functions like QA, Development, Customer Support, User Exerience), but also do the supervisory work of managing people.

        So it’s not JUST the title you need to look at. But if you’ve been given a manager title and don’t have final decision-making authority for something, then that’s a problem.

        Reply
    14. NJ Anon

      They may think that by giving them a “manager” title, thinking they can then classify them as exempt from overtime. There is more to being classified as exempt than that but it’s frightening how uninformed higher-ups at nonprofits can be with regard to labor laws. My executive director actually asked an outside HR expert whether the labor laws were different for nonprofits. I was mortified but glad he told her the same thing I already had-a big, fat, NO. Only size matters, ahem.

      Reply
    15. InterviewFreeZone

      When I worked in higher ed and someone deserved a promotion but there was no vacant position to promote them to, they often became a “manager” even if there were no direct reports, etc. Very normal in that industry.

      Reply
    16. Mando Diao

      My job does that. I’m Marketing Director. My coworker is Data Manager. Part of it is to help us out for future job searches, and the other part is to butter us up and make us more willing to fix 11th hour mistakes that are outside our job descriptions.

      Reply
    17. Green

      I’m at the Director level but I have nobody under me to direct. However, I’m in a professional role with lots of responsibility, just don’t manage anyone.

      Reply
    18. AEB

      In my industry “manager” means something totally different. Basically you start out as an associate, then you’re a manager, then a director. As a director you actually manage people.

      But there isn’t any consistency.

      I think it’s sort of like you “manage” projects and whatnot.

      Reply
    19. Koko

      What do you consider the responsibilities of a manager?

      At my workplace we have two types of jobs in the Manager job tier: individual contributors who manage budget/strategy/etc for a sub-program within a department, and project managers who run lead on all of the discrete projects that pop up in their department. Neither type of manager needs to have any direct reports to be in this job tier, if that’s what you’re thinking of as being the responsibilities of a manager. The title has more to do with the amount of responsibility and autonomy they have, being able to set their own budget and strategy, and being held accountable for their program’s successes and failures in a way that lower-ranking staff aren’t.

      Manager is just a step on the ladder somewhere between “Specialist” or “Coordinator” and “Senior Manager” or “Director.” It doesn’t necessarily mean you manage a team of staff.

      Reply
    20. One of the Sarahs

      We used to joke in my civil service job that the more impressive the job title sounded, the lower down the ladder they were. We had standardised grade titles, but people would create their own job titles too…

      Reply
    21. Kira

      I’d say normal. Where I work, “manager” doesn’t mean “somebody who manages other staff members” it’s more of a word stuck onto the title because you need a noun somewhere in there. You can’t just say “Operations person” so they went with “Operations manager/director/coordinator” based on whatever they felt that day. After all, that person is managing operations, right?

      Reply
    22. AdAgencyChick

      Very common in my industry (although the title usually includes “supervisor” instead of “manager”). Junior creative types get promoted REALLY fast because they can so easily get jobs elsewhere, so giving them a shiny new title is one way to justify to upper management why they’re being paid more money even if they’re doing the same work as they did when they started, just better.

      Then you get a bottleneck right about at my job title!

      Reply
    23. Anonvocado

      Piggybacking on your other question – I think not for profits do this because they think calling someone a manager makes them exempt from overtime. (Which is not true.) I’m in Canada too, and I know several organizations that do this so as not to pay proper overtime to employees.

      Reply
    24. Honeybee

      This happens all the time, and I think it’s because sometimes the term ‘manager’ refers to managing responsibilities/administrative duties/a specific project rather than managing people. There are lots of project managers running around my company who are fresh out of college. Here we call people managers ‘leads’, and manager can me anything.

      Reply
    25. NaoNao

      Super, super normal. Every job I’ve had as a professional is a “manager” and I manage no one and nothing. It’s based on “levels” and often differentiates admin or support personnel from call center, customer service, or “team lead” type posts within the same company. It absolutely can vary from job to job, but most of the time if there is no direct reports or management duties it means “This level of work/salary/overall comp” and not much more!

      Reply
  5. Amber T

    We’re not given the option to negotiate anything. All decisions about raises and bonuses are discussed and settled by the partners, then it goes through layers and layers of supervisors until I’m told what’s new. Everything is behind closed doors and hush-hush. They’ve been generous with both in the past, but I’m disappointed with my (lack of) new numbers with my promotion. Our HR rep (we outsource most of HR) had to ask me what my “new” salary was (didn’t change) and if I was exempt or not.

    Reply
    1. SMT

      That’s how my raise (at a supervisory level) has always been. The managers have a meeting to discuss the amount they have for raises, and then allocate it. We are told, and that’s that.

      Reply
      1. ElCee

        Yes, same at my org. The department head allocates merit increases from a pool. For promotions, dept. head discusses with organization directors/HR and states a number to the promotee(sp?), no negotiating.

        Reply
      2. MAB

        That is also how my raises worked at my old job. However if there was a promotion, negotiations where expected

        Reply
      3. TootsNYC

        ditto.

        In my job as a manager right now I get consulted on category (“exceeds expectations” sort of thing), and that’s it. I sometimes don’t even get consulted on that.

        Reply
        1. Girasol

          We used to have that but with a neat sheet from HR showing the pay curve for a job and where on the curve corresponded to “meets” or “exceeds.” If am employed was ranked “exceeds” and was paid at, say, “needs improvement” there was a specific minimum percent raise required. I always liked the transparency of that.

          Reply
      4. Koko

        That’s how it works at my current job, too. But after a few years I figured out that the place to do the negotiating is with your own manager before they have that meeting. If your manager knows you’re unhappy and seeking a large increase they’re more likely to fight for you and make the case to the other managers that you need the raise in order to retain you, than if they think you’re just fine and will be happy with any raise at all.

        Reply
      1. The Rat-Catcher

        ^This. They will lose their best people this way. It sounds like they are hoping if they offer “enough” money and advancement opportunities, people won’t complain – which will work for some, but chase others out the door.

        Reply
    2. Bookworm

      In my experience, raises and bonuses have always been allocated behind closed doors.

      That said, people were able to occasionally negotiated higher raises if they could make a strong argument. But it was a slow process.

      It is weird that your HR rep doesn’t know your salary or classification.

      Reply
      1. Nother Name

        I agree. The raise process is pretty secretive where I work. But HR should know what the salaries and classifications are for people who they’re providing services for.

        Reply
        1. Bookworm

          Yes. At least in my experience, part of the reason was that there was a certain amount allocated for raises and bonuses, and it was distributed based on performance.

          So of course it would be weird if the managers openly discussed that with all their employees.

          Reply
    3. Enginerd

      Depends on the promotion. If you went through the internal job postings and applied for it usually they allow you to negotiate, if your boss comes to you and says they’re giving you a promotion to roll X, there’s usually no negotiating.

      Reply
    4. AnotherAlison

      Totally normal here. We only get our annual raises, no matter the promotion. No negotiating. Had a guy leave last week for a 60% raise because he was being paid as his Technical Role 3 salary, despite having 18 months in a Sales role. You might get a big annual raise if you change jobs (at annual raise time, not at the time of the change), but you won’t get a 60% raise, even if that’s perfectly appropriate for a new title. It sucks.

      Reply
      1. Sans

        That may be normal at your company, but not at any company I’ve worked for. If you get a promotion, you get a raise, in addition to your annual raise. I’ve seen people get significant increases as they move from manager to senior manager to director.

        Reply
        1. Bookworm

          Agreed. Raises and bonuses being allocated behind closed doors is normal (in my experience)…but it would be odd if your company gave you a promotion but made you wait for the corresponding salary jump.

          Reply
    5. AFT123

      Experience at a few gigantic global corporations – this is normal in my experience. It sucks, but it’s normal. I think this is also why a lot of people decided to switch back and forth between companies, because coming in new is the only way to negotiate anything and/or get paid actual market value.

      Reply
    6. Ruthie

      That’s normal in the government and non-profit offices I’ve worked in. I’ve actually received a raise and a bonus that I wasn’t told about in advance, it just showed up on my paycheck. I began managing in the last six months, and spoke with my boss about how I was excited for the opportunity, but that I was expecting my salary, title, or workspace to be reconsidered because of the increase in responsibility. A few weeks later I was told what my salary increase was without another conversation or negotiation taking place.

      Reply
    7. hbc

      I think it’s pretty normal for big companies (or even smaller ones) to do those closed door sessions and then present the information. Much rarer to give a promotion without at least a token increase, and very rare to not have an explanation because everyone associates more responsibility with higher pay.

      For example, it would be okay (but not great) if they said they wanted a trial period of X months before bumping you up. Or if you were maxed out at pay for Level 1 and need to start at the bottom for Level 2 and there’s some overlap in the pay bands. But they should definitely give you that information.

      Reply
      1. nerfmobile

        My company does the behind-closed-doors thing. We’re a big global corporation. If you waited to try and make a case for a raise or promotion at the time the info is given out – you’re way too late. The time to actually make your case is 3 to 4 months prior. Our cycle this year looked like this: Lets say they inform people about raises in the first week in December. That means that during November, managers were haggling behind closed doors about how to allocate the merit increase pool they were allocated. And they are allocating those numbers based on performance rankings that were negotiated behind closed doors during meetings in October. Which were based on 360 degree feedback, and mid-year performance conversations that were collected and held in August and September.

        So, if you want to influence your raise (no direct negotiating in this model), you have to make your case with strong data about your performance in August. Not just to your manager, but to inform other managers who your manager will be haggling with during those closed-door sessions, too.

        Reply
    8. Mando Diao

      That’s pretty common. On one hand, it’s very fair to know that you’ll get your flat 5% raise every year and no one is being shunted or favored.. On the other hand, some people really do deserve more.

      Reply
    9. BusSys

      This may be unfortunate, but it’s common. The most transparency I get is my manager assuring me a glowing review if I’ve earned it, but the numbers come from top down as is.

      Reply
    10. ThatGirl

      At my job, during annual review our managers determine what raises they’d like to give us and then it’s approved through upper layers of management. There’s no negotiation. So I’ll say normal.

      Reply
  6. Rat Racer

    General question: for those of us who are further along in our career but reflecting on jobs we’ve held in the past, is it OK to post here? As in, “I once had a job where the Employer did X, and I thought it was untoward, but now wondering if I was naive/too picky.”

    Reply
    1. Mark M

      I would think that’s fine! Alison has occasionally posted questions from readers that refer to situations in the past.

      Reply
      1. Okay then

        My first job out of college I worked in a 2 person satellite office as a recruiter for a staffing agency. The ‘manager’ of the office was a huge micro manager. She wouldn’t let me talk to anyone in the corporate office directly without her permission. She would travel a lot and required me to text her when I left office for lunch and text when I got back. She counted if I was even a minute or two late. Sometimes she’d act very motherly and kind towards me (mother/daughter age difference) and sometimes she was rude and mean. If she was ever traveling she called me office line every hour at random times to ensure I was ‘there’ and if I was ever in the bathroom even I’d get read the riot act for not answering. Once I was at the bank for an hour over lunch and left my cell in the office and had 17 missed called and 32 texts when I got back to my office.
        After 4 months a colleague from corporate finally called me directly and we got to talking. I finally mentioned what was going on and she said that everyone was wondering how long until I spoke up! Apparently the woman had run off 4 recruiters in 2 years with her actions and I was her last shot. But, I put up with it for another 4 months until I left – I didn’t know any better!
        Is this really common though? I have only had good managers since then who do not micromanage (I screen for that when I interview places and say if you micromanage we won’t work together well) but it’s a horror story of all horror stories.

        Reply
        1. Dawn

          Not common AT ALL, however, I think that everyone who has ever had more than about 3 jobs has had at least one horrible micromanaging and/or a trainwreck of a boss. It’s like a rite of passage in the job world.

          Reply
          1. AMT

            Yep. It brings to mind the boss that would keep the stamps locked in her desk and require everyone who needed one to come in and justify our need for a stamp. And then she’d give out…one stamp.

            Reply
          2. Wendy Darling

            I had a temp job with a boss who wouldn’t give me a day off (unpaid) to sit at the hospital with one parent while the other parent had a major and terrifying surgery with a significant chance of leaving her permanently disabled. Then he threatened to dock my pay for going to the bathroom at times other than my break.

            TMI: I was going to the bathroom a lot (by which I mean every 2-3 hours) because I was having an unusually heavy period and was changing my tampon to avoid having my workplace turn into a scene from Carrie.

            Reply
          3. YawningDodo

            Yep. Had one boss who got very angry if we talked to anyone else in the department about a project without going through her, despite the fact that going through her for every little thing 1.) delayed things ridiculously and 2.) resulted in her acting all harassed when we went to her for permission, because she was overworked and didn’t actually have time for us. Overall the result was that we’d either talk to each other secretly or we would just leave smaller tasks undone indefinitely.

            I’m pretty sure she also made literally everyone in the department cry at least once.

            Reply
            1. Wendy Darling

              Slightly off-topic but one time in grad school I forgot my phone but remembered my laptop. I have software that lets me see missed calls on my computer, but I cannot use it to make calls. I ended up rushing home after class because I had 15+ missed calls from a strange number and thought there must be some emergency.

              Nope, flower shop wanted to deliver some flowers and decided to BLOW UP MY PHONE because I was not at home.

              Reply
        2. Anna

          I would say that’s not even normal for a micromanager. It sounds like borderline obsessive-compulsive disorder (not the rude and mean part, but the compulsive checking in).

          Reply
          1. Okay then

            Honestly I think it was just severe trust issues; she said the 4 other recruiters she’d ‘chased off’ (not her words, I learned that part later) were all ‘gunning for her job.’ I know she’d also had a nasty divorce at some point with infidelity, from the ‘good’ days where she was motherly and nice. It just wasn’t cool for that part of her to overflow into her professional life. She also treated our contractors at the client site similarly and had habitually bad reviews from them.

            Reply
          2. Doriana Gray

            No, that just sounds like someone who’s a controlling pain in the ass. No mental illness required.

            Reply
          3. Leisabet

            Nah – I have OCD, and while I can’t speak for everyone who has it, I’d be happy to write that off as “super controlling, deeply insecure weirdo”.

            Reply
        3. Okay then

          Actually that was when I fell in love with AAM – As I began to job hunt I stumbled across this website for career advice. That was a long time ago! I don’t have an ‘account’ but I still follow fairly frequently – when it’s not busy season at work :)

          Reply
        4. Triangle Pose

          She read you the Riot Act for not being able to answer because you were in the bathroom? How do you even respond to that?

          While I can conceive of a reasonable response to general calling and micromanaging “Jane, you seem to be calling to check up on me and whether I am here often and it’s disrupting my actual work – can we walk about whether we can schedule check-ins a less disruptive way that still alleviates any concerns you might have? To that end, is there anything in my actual work product that is driving this?” But if she’s chewing you out for being in the bathroom, I’d have a hard time keeping it cool.

          Reply
          1. Okay then

            Yea, I did have a hard time keeping it cool. Being used to college/sorority #DRAMA when I gave my notice and had to hand in my computer and give an exit interview – to her – I half expected her to confront me and #HASHOUTOURISSUES but she was very civil and professional, to her credit. The bridge is thoroughly burned though – I got a mean email from her about 3 months later going over how untrustworthy and terrible I was (I learned from the colleague that she’d been let go, since I was her last shot)

            Reply
            1. LD

              It was so unfair of them to put you in the position of working for a manager who apparently didn’t get the coaching and feedback she needed to even manage you appropriately. Unless, of course, they did tell her what was expected and that’s why she didn’t want you talking to corporate…even then they should have called you earlier to probe about your experience. Hope you are in a much better situation!

              Reply
        5. Kate M

          I think the thing about this, and probably a lot of other workplaces where there is abnormal behavior, is that SOME of the behavior might be ok in certain circumstances. Which makes you rationalize it, and then think that if A and B are ok, C and D must be too. Like, not wanting you to reach out to corporate in some instances might be warranted (if she didn’t want you bothering higher ups with problems she could solve or something). And if it’s a 2 person office, letting her know generally when you’ll be in and out of the office is reasonable. But then add on everything else, and these become symptoms of a larger problem.

          Reply
        6. Observer

          That level of micromanagement is NOT common, fortunately. But, some level of micromanagement is not uncommon, although good managers generally do NOT do that.

          Reply
        7. LD

          Not uncommon, and in the way you describe, so inappropriate! When a person is new in a role, then it makes sense for a manager to check in regularly to ensure the office is covered. I have a friend who worked in a remote office with no other colleagues around. She said that for the first couple of months in the job her manager called the office every Friday at right about 4:55 p.m. After her answering the phone every time, the regular Friday afternoon calls stopped. He trusted she was doing what she needed to do and not skipping out just because he didn’t have eyes on her. He wasn’t exactly micromanaging, just setting expectations. And then when she did need an afternoon, he trusted she was managing herself and her time appropriately.

          Reply
    2. Nervous Accountant

      I posted a smilar question down below, but I’m not sure–can I post my question here or should I start my own post??? Don’t want to piggyback or add clutter!

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Either.

        Also, I’m not necessarily going to see all questions in this post, so as a blanket statement to everyone, err on the side of assuming that if you feel like you’re following the rules at the top of the post, you’re fine. (I don’t want anyone waiting on an answer from me to “can I do this?” and not getting one).

        Reply
  7. TaxAnon

    So timely!

    Is it normal to have a terrible time trying to make time to take time off work? I’m not talking during busy season (those are blackout months anyway) but on normal months, I end up having to work overtime in the week leading up to PTO to be able to actually take off. I took 2 days off last week and had to work late the week before plus Saturday to be able to do it. There’s really no flexibility (things are due when they are due) and no sharing of responsibilities for someone to be able to help out. It’s both stressful and exhausting, even to take just 2 days off.

    Reply
    1. Bookworm

      I imagine this would depend on your industry.

      My experience is mostly in tech. What you’re describing would be unusual, but not unheard of (especially with smaller start-ups.) However it’s uncommon enough that someone could leave their own company and search for one with better life balance.

      Reply
            1. De Minimis

              Can be the norm for that particular field, depending on the work culture at your firm.

              Most people just put up with it for a few years and go to better positions.

              Reply
        1. BRR

          My best friend is an auditor at a big four firm. She basically always works overtime (including asking to have a Saturday off). Taking PTO doesn’t seem to affect her.

          Reply
        2. Former Retail Manager

          If you’re at Big 4, then yes, I would say this is pretty common. If you are a recent graduate and only staff, they will work you to death. Big 4 doesn’t really care about burning you out. They will just re-up with the next round of graduates. If you stay long enough and move to senior, manager, etc. it gets a little easier to take time off. This also tends to become more and more of an issue the larger the firm you work at. Smaller firms tend to value work life balance a little more.

          Reply
          1. TaxAnon

            Thanks – I’m not at a big 4, but senior level in a regional firm. I guess I’m more curious whether this is specific to where I am now in my career or if it’s just a norm that I’ll always have to work around.

            Reply
            1. De Minimis

              From what I saw, seniors usually had a higher workload than most other employees, even some higher level people, so I would say it’s somewhat typical…but seniors are generally in a good position to move to better jobs outside of public after a few years, or else move to a different public firm with better balance.

              Reply
            2. Former Retail Manager

              Not sure if you get comment notifications…..I’m a little slow. Sorry. As De Minimis says below, some seniors have higher workloads, but I think it really is a firm to firm issue and definitely something that you should ask a TON of questions about during the interview and, if possible, network with some people who actually work at the next firm/company you want to work at to see if the firm actually practices what they preach. Many don’t.

              I routinely visit various accounting firms (small and mid-size, but not Big 4) in my current position, although I don’t work in public accounting. I’ve had the opportunity to observe the culture/work environment in many and I hate to say it’s a crap shoot, but it kind of is. I’ve seen mid-size firms that work you do death leaving you in the situation you’re presently in, while others allow employees to take a week off, sometimes with short notice, without it being a big deal. It really seems to depend upon the attitude and values of the managing partners and how they choose to run things.

              As for other jobs on the outside, after you’ve spent 3 to 5 years as a senior, or possibly even in total, I’d definitely consider positions in industry or government. Most CPA’s I’ve known in industry have some busy times but it’s nothing like public accounting and government virtually always guarantees you a 40 hour work week. Best of luck! My personal opinion….do a great job, secure some good references and get out. Public accounting is a beat down.

              Reply
            3. Crystal

              It’s normal for the accounting industry. Unless you are in a situation where there are multiple people at the same level with the same job description, you are going to end up working extra before you take off and after you get back.

              I don’t even work in public accounting. Passed the exam 26 years ago and have worked for a variety of employers since, and this seems to be the norm everywhere. It’s just a job where you live by the calendar and die by the calendar.

              Reply
          2. Liz

            I’m a Manager in a Big (Consulting) and its totally normal to work a lot of hours leading up to PTO. I always expect to have long hours and work the weekend before taking off. PTO is hard to take–I can take it, but often end up working during PTO because things come up or people keep emailing with questions assuming I’ll just take care of it. So, I go out of the country, and can’t bring my laptop (government clients). Best way to get off.

            Reply
          3. bopper

            My husband worked at a Big 4…they knew you at least wanted to work 2 years to get the required experience for the CPA license…and if you were not deemed worthy of moving up, you were “counseled out”…but that was okay because other companies would want to hire Big 4 “alumni”.

            Reply
    2. Connie-Lynne

      It depends? I’d say it’s not uncommon to have to push harder the week before a one or two week vacation to make sure your coverage is covered, but to have to exhaust yourself for a 2-day break seems extreme.

      Reply
    3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      Do you mean that you are not *allowed* to take time off, or that in order to take time off you have to do all that work before you go away? I’d say the first is not normal, and the second is.

      Reply
      1. TaxAnon

        It’s policy that deadlines that occur while you’re gone must be met before you leave. So taking a week off means that I have one week to do two weeks’ worth of work before I leave. Because of the cycle we work on it’s rarely possible to spread the work over multiple weeks prior to PTO.

        Reply
        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

          Hm. I don’t know about the level of specificity you’re describing, but in my experience it’s pretty normal to have to get done the same stuff you would have gotten done if you were there (before you leave, or shortly after).

          Reply
          1. Engineer Girl

            In this case it sounds like a recurring task that will recur while OP would be on vacation. That means it is impossible for OP to go on vacation if there is no on else to do the task.
            It is still a sign of bad management if no on is cross trained on other jobs. It would be reasonable for another person to pick up that task while OP is gone. In a well managed office that would happen.

            Reply
          2. Bookworm

            I think it must depend on the work. In some of my past work, having to meet the deadlines that took place while you were gone would effectively ban vacation.

            As such, it was customary to put things in good order and hand off specific tasks to coworkers. Everyone had to do it, and no one grumbled (provided the work was well organized.)

            TaxAnon, hopefully someone who’s worked in your industry can chime in. It sounds unsustainable to me…but then, I’ve no experience in that area.

            Reply
          3. Green

            Yes; I always get stuff done I would have gotten done if I were there. I push up meetings or push back meetings, and provide an emergency back-up for each of my subject areas I handle if stuff hits the fan before I’m gone, but generally I’m just compressing that work into the weeks around it.

            Reply
          1. Lily Rowan

            Totally.

            I’ve also found taking a full week to be easier than taking a couple of days. With a couple of days off, you’re still trying to do a week’s worth of work in less time!

            Reply
          2. fposte

            I think that’s too broad. Some of what I do can’t be covered for, and it’s not unusual around my department. It’s one thing if a large portion of the work is compressible, but if it’s not, 40 extra hours for the week is more than most co-workers could handle even if they had the expertise.

            So while nobody hands that to me as an official policy, yes, I have to get the work done before I go or else cover it on vacation. Usually I do a bit of both.

            Reply
            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              Agreed — in some jobs it would actually be far less efficient to train someone to cover for you, particular more senior-ish jobs where you work with a lot of autonomy.

              Reply
            2. neverjaunty

              Okay, it would have more accurate to say that in a functional workplace, people cover for each other where it’s reasonable to do so. It’s not a healthy environment when a vacation just means “tons of extra work before and after”, and where nobody else can pitch in because they’re overworked too.

              This is, btw, one of the reasons I end up arguing with AAM when she firmly insists vacations are a must; there is pretty much no point in taking vacations in a workplace where “vacation” really just means “pushing the work down in the middle so it squeezes out on either end”, and where you end up spending vacation doing extra work or worrying about it.

              Reply
          3. Turtle Candle

            Yes, or at least in my industry there’s a mix. There are some things that only I can do that have to be done before I leave (so I may pull a few extra hours before vacation), some things that my coworkers cover for in a pinch, and some things that will wait for me to get back. If I had to get all of them done before I left, I wouldn’t be able to take vacation at all; as it is, I might have a bit more to do before and after, but I don’t have to do two weeks of work in one week to be able to take the next week off.

            Reply
        2. Michelenyc

          My step mom is an accountant and given her area of expertise when she took time off before she made partner she really had to bust her butt to get everything done before she went on vacation or took time off. I am still shocked by how much she works even though she has a full staff to delegate too.

          Reply
        3. Sunflower

          To an extent yes. Basically there is someone in the office who can kind of push things along but I have to set everything up for them to make it as easy as possible so it pretty much always necessitates putting in some extra time.

          Reply
    4. Tom

      I have found this to be common. It is always “crunch time” for me before or after taking time off, and I sometimes don’t take my vacation because I will be more stressed at work as a result.

      Reply
    5. Engineer Girl

      It is common in badly managed offices (and there are a lot of them out there). Good managers put padding in deadlines so that people can take time off as needed. Another tactic is to ask for the dates a good 4-6 months in advance. I used to include that information in my weekly activity report to my manager as a reminder. Good managers would honor those dates because they knew about them long ahead of time. Bad managers would still grouse about how I was making it hard for them by leaving 3 days.

      Reply
      1. Crazy Dog Lady

        I echo this – I think while the ability to easily take time off depends on the industry, it’s even more dependent on the management. I’ve had two bosses at my current company, and the first made it incredibly easy to take time off. The current boss will approve time off, and then weeks later (like days before vacation starts) take it back. There are other management issues now, so it’s the new normal, unfortunately.

        Reply
    6. Ad Astra

      This is a common experience, but I’m on the fence about whether you should expect this in every job. It depends a lot on your function and the staffing situation at your office. Typically, you’ll have better luck in larger departments or larger companies, where there’s adequate staffing and support for cross-training so that someone can cover for you while you’re gone. If you know people in your industry who work for different companies, you might try picking their brains a little to see if this is an industry-wide issue or just particular to your company.

      Reply
    7. MaryMary

      I’d say it’s not unusual, but not good. In large professional services firms like accounting, law, and consulting, I’d say it’s actually pretty normal. One of the primary reasons I left OldJob (consulting) is that my workload was like yours: I’d end up working late(r) nights or weekends just to take a few days off. We tried to implement summer hours (work at least 9 hour days and leave at noon every other Friday), and I only managed to leave before 3:00 once or twice all summer. My role was chronically understaffed and I had no real backup, so if I wasn’t there things just did not get done.

      Reply
    8. Hannah

      This is normal in the tech world I’m in. Project managers often have a mental block about plugging vacation days into a delivery timeline – they think work should keep going, whether that means the person on vacation has coverage, or just makes up the missed time before or after vacation, they don’t care. No allowances are made for vacations that were earned or the fact that people aren’t interchangeable. That doesn’t make it right but that is a really really common attitude.

      Reply
    9. Serin

      In my experience, the larger the company, the easier it’s been to take time off.

      e.g.

      – tiny little tri-weekly newspaper? “Vacation” was a thing that was paid out at the end of the year because if anyone was missing it would be impossible to put together an issue.

      – Monthly trade magazine? Sure you can take a week of vacation — just get the entire issue to the point where it’s a week ahead of schedule.

      – Giant multinational corporation? Antonio is your backup, and Janet is Antonio’s backup, so double-check that their training is up-to-date and then go on and have fun. On the other hand, don’t forget that you’re Mike’s backup and every year he spends all of February and two weeks of March in Vietnam.

      Reply
    10. AnotherTax

      I’ve heard of this, so I do think it’s fairly common, but it doesn’t happen in all firms. I’m also in tax at a large public accounting firm, and in a junior manager position. Ignoring busy season (as you said, blackout months), we generally request time off well in advance for anything more than ~2 days off. We may work some OT leading up to and/or after the vacation, but less than what you’ve described, and not in all cases. We have enough people in my office doing the same types of work that partners and/or senior managers can reassign new work on their clients while someone is away.

      Reply
    11. Chicken

      I’d say that it’s not unusual, but it’s not standard either. Well functioning workplaces have systems in place so that people, especially junior staff, can take time off without a ton of stress to prep for it. Mediocre (but not terrible) workplaces often don’t. In most offices, the more senior you are, the more difficult it becomes to take time off without a lot of pre-planning and extra work.

      Reply
    12. just another techie

      In my experience that only happens at places with other dysfunctions. At a reasonable workplace you should be able to find coverage for your tasks, especially for such a short vacation!

      Reply
    13. BusSys

      In my finance experience, this is unfortunate but normal, particularly if you’re a key player in certain processes. But the key to making it work in those environments is to be straightforward with your manager about when you’d like to take vacation and how long you’ll be out and present/work together on a plan to make it happen.

      Reply
    14. Another TaxAnon

      I also work in tax at a public firm and I would say that sounds the same as my experience, although it may vary by level and team. I generally try to cover for my teams when they are off, but when I am away while my team members can help keep things moving, ultimately I do have to get involved and weigh in on things or review.

      I have had very bad luck taking one or two days off, for the reasons you mention. The deadlines don’t move, clients still expect answers, and nothing will be reallocated based on a single day off.

      I will say I’ve had more success taking midweek days off, since on Fridays clients/partners tend to want to wrap things up. On a random Wednesday, most things can wait until Thursday and I can ignore my emails. This doesn’t change the fact I still have to work several extra hours elsewhere.

      I often take full weeks (or multiple weeks) off instead and that works better, although still involves some work while away.

      Reply
    15. Another Lawyer

      I have a friend at a Big 4 and even if she’s taking time off, she works overtime. I’d say she averages 80 hours, even on a week with vacation. If we’re at dinner, she will need to work after the dinner and then be up for a call at 6am most days.

      Reply
    16. Doriana Gray

      This is normal in my industry (risk management). Our division is growing faster than they anticipated, and the higher-ups are cautious about hiring more people in the event that things slow down and the newbies not have any work to do (thus, layoffs begin). So in order to take my PTO this week, I too had to work late and through lunch on some days last week to have things caught up enough so I wouldn’t be behind (it helps that I’m new and didn’t have much of a caseload anyway).

      Reply
    17. Koko

      Probably varies but in my job it’s normal. We have some cross-training, but honestly that’s just so my coworkers can cover for me on pop-up situations while I’m away without having to disturb me. We all strive really hard to add as little work as possible to our colleagues’ plates while we’re away out of consideration.

      In general, taking time off requires some combination of:
      1) Pulling some long days or putting in weekend hours in the week or two before and after the trip
      2) Tabling all non-time-sensitive projects until after vacation
      3) Deciding some optional/voluntary things don’t need to get done during that time (things like, say, a weekly status update to collaborators on a project – they appreciate and use the updates when I send them, but nothing is going to break down or fall apart if they don’t get my update for a week or two, so I’m not going to ask someone else to do it)

      So I wouldn’t say I put in 1 hour of OT for every 1 hour of vacation I take, since there are non-essential tasks that can be foregone, but it’s typically maybe 1 hour of OT for every 2-3 hours of vacation I take.

      Slightly related but I also find that it’s critical to send an email to your team about 7-10 days before your vacation to remind them you’re going to be out and give them a deadline a few days before your vacation to get you any items they’ll need before you go. Really helps avoid being slammed with a mountain of work in the final 2-3 days if you can do some of it earlier.

      Reply
    18. Anxa

      I think so, but probably depends on industry.

      Some places had a no weekends off policy. After a couple months you may be able to get a Saturday off if you had found coverage and a backup coverage (which wasn’t too bad, they were more coveted shifts). But you could not take off for any holidays.

      Reply
    19. stevenz

      It’s the way the workplace culture has been going for a long time – dehumanising. They are going to get everything they can out of you and you can’t do a dam thing about it. It’s a Puritan macho work ethic that has no basis in reality. It reduces costs by keeping staff numbers down, and keeps a steady flow of eager, new, young lower-paid people coming through the door when the less-young (smarter) ones leave.

      Reply
  8. Bonnie

    I work in the restaurant world – but on the corporate side. Is it normal to have to “babysit” chefs and managers at restaurants (reminding them of every. single. thing. several times) and is it normal to get zero holidays besides Thanksgiving & Christmas Day?

    Reply
    1. Mythea

      I worked in several restaurants and all staff, even corporate worked all holidays (and weekends). That part seems completely normal. I can’t answer the babysitting question though

      Reply
    2. Bookworm

      Hahaha. I also did some work with restaurants at a corporate level.

      In my experience, the answer is yes.

      It’s not always necessary (some chefs are awesome) but the restaurant world is a bit odd in terms of it’s professional norms, and hand-holding is much more common in that scene. I found that a lot of people loved it or hated it.

      I did get holidays off, but a lot of people were expected to be available on holidays as those are really busy days for restaurants.

      Reply
    3. Sunflower

      Not getting holidays off is pretty standard. Some places will give you one and make you choose between 2 biggies.

      Managers it depends. Some places hire managers by taking their best server and promoting them- not always the best solution. I mostly worked FOH so we obviously bickered with BOH a lot. I’ve only seen good chefs at higher end places.

      Reply
    4. Q

      The place my friend works for all managers work every holiday. They may only have to come in for 2 or 3 hours but every manager has to be there every holiday. I find this crazy but I guess its normal for that industry.

      Reply
    5. Mando Diao

      The restaurant industry is pretty packed with people who either
      1) Are just starting out and don’t have much experience
      2) Are not great fits for more professional jobs, for a variety of reasons.

      By no means am I casting aspersions on people who can’t land fancy office jobs, but if you’re trying to figure out the norms in restaurants, a major feature of that industry is the constant turnover on the entry level of either serving or cooking. There are a lot of people who knowingly work for three months at a time in between traveling stints, and restaurants are one of the very few places that will hire people on those terms. There is also a subset of people who are constantly being fired from their current cooking jobs and then moving on to the next kitchen, and they don’t get weeded out because the interview process is “informal” at best.

      Reply
      1. Sunflower

        Management can be people like that but depending on the restaurant, a lot of managers are recruited out of hospitality programs in college and are making it their career. If you’re hiring these managers out of these programs, they should need obvious guidance but not babysiting.

        Reply
        1. Gabriela

          Agreed. The hospitality industry is full of people who could certainly “land a fancy office” job if that’s what they wanted, but have chosen hospitality management as a career. There are definitely some service-specific idiosyncrasies in this industry, but it’s not fair to assume that everyone who is in the hospitality industry is there because they are transient or because they can’t hack it in other industries.

          Reply
    6. Rat in the Sugar

      Normal for managers at least. They have about 10-30 different people yelling in their ear at any given moment and are always putting out (metaphorical) fires in the kitchen, so they get distracted constantly and have to be reminded of things.

      I haven’t worked on the corporate side of things so I don’t know if they worked holidays with us line workers, I’m afraid.

      Reply
    7. The Rat-Catcher

      Normal in restaurants and retail, unfortunately. A great place would give you other days off to compensate for at least the more major holidays you worked, but most places aren’t great, they’re…well, they’re normal.

      Reply
    8. HR Recruiter

      I started laughing when I read this. Yes, our managers/chefs have to be babysat. I’m new to the restaurant world but from what I’ve heard from others that’s pretty normal. We are a bigger company and we get the standard holidays paid like Labor Day, Memorial Day, etc. But not as many as when I worked in other industries.

      Reply
  9. JazzyisAnonymous

    This is my first job out of college. My boss is semi-retired and spends most of his time in Florida. Whenever there are conflicts among he employees he asks us to work it out ourselves. Is that normal? Some of these conflicts never get resolved, and have been ongoing for months.

    Reply
    1. Bookworm

      This is your direct manager? He’s semi-retired? That is weird.

      Is there no one in the office in a supervisory capacity?

      Reply
      1. Elizabeth West

        I wondered the same thing. I worked for a small business (a lab) once whose owner lived in Pennsylvania and ran it from there, but we had an actual office manager on the premises, and someone who oversaw scheduling and such for the chemists.

        If he’s not-managing from afar and there is no one else to oversee things, then yes, that’s weird.

        Reply
    2. Not a Real Giraffe

      Not normal. Managers are supposed to manage people, problems, etc. Your boss sounds like he’s more retired than semi-retired and has checked out of the management part of his job.

      Reply
      1. JazzyisAnonymous

        Some combination. Our boss isn’t really involved in the work itself, but when issues arise around it and conflicts between staff about how work is getting done, he doesn’t really get involved.

        Reply
        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Pretty normal to expect you to work out personality conflicts on your own (and to intervene if you can’t — but be pretty damn frustrated with at least one party that he had to). But work-related conflicts he should be involved with, unless there are managers between you and him.

          Reply
    3. Nother Name

      Asking staff to work out minor conflicts is normal – you should be working together as a team. However, some things do require a manager to get involved. (For example, if Esmerelda always leaves a ton of work for others to handle while she’s on vacation, or when you are splitting up workload, Wakeen always takes the “best” assignments, then the manager needs to step up.)

      Reply
    4. Sunflower

      Are you in a small office and hes the owner? If so, I could see this as kind of normal as my mom’s office is kind of like that. However he should really have someone else in charge in the office to be making decisions(what my moms does)

      Reply
    5. JazzyisAnonymous

      He is the owner- there are 7 of us and we all have the same job title. One of us has more leadership inclination than the others, but no authority. It’s issues like one person who spends all of her time on her cell phone and ignores the customers, and another pair who get into screaming blowouts in which one of them often leaves the office…

      Reply
      1. non-profit manager

        It might be normal in small, closely held businesses. I have seen this many times myself. My husband is experiencing it now. Normal is not necessarily good.

        My husband’s situation is such that there are a lot of performance problems that are affecting the company’s ability to serve their customers. The owner constantly reminds everyone that he’s the owner and he’ll deal with them, but he never does. Very frustrating.

        Reply
      2. OhNo

        In that context, definitely not normal. It sounds like even the interpersonal issues are bad enough where whoever is in charge should be stepping in. It sounds like this guy is just a really bad manager.

        Reply
      3. KH

        It’s not “normal” from a professional office perspective, but it’s typical from a small business owner perspective. Most small business owners who have become just successful enough to semi-retire but not much bigger are TERRIBLE at running a business and managing people. The only way you’re going to escape that type of situation is to not work for a small business with an individual owner, IMO.

        Reply
    6. I'm Not Phyllis

      I think it would be normal for employees to try working it out amongst themselves before involving the boss … but if you guys are already doing this, then he needs to step in when asked.

      Reply
    7. GOG11

      I was an assistant director at a small nonprofit and the director was semi-retired. He was very hands off, but he would step in or take things on when called upon to do so. I can’t say whether it is or isn’t normal across the board, though.

      Reply
  10. Grapey

    I’ve actually been employed at one place for about 10 years -my first job out of college- and STILL wonder how normal this is:

    We have many common job titles like “project manager”, “business analyst” …but oftentimes the people in these roles do more company-specific stuff and REALLY not what you’d think if you were hiring a “Business Analyst”. For example our ‘business analyst’ never actually talks to different stakeholders but is more of a scrum master for his own tiny team. What someone else would think is a BA we call the ‘systems administrator’. I’ve always hated it. It’s difficult to be called one thing here but then not have an obvious “in” when networking. First time contacts very commonly assume I have skills I don’t actually have. (And forget about if I ever decide to leave and need to market myself!) Is this normal?

    Reply
    1. AFT123

      I’ve experienced this more times than I thought could be coincidence as well and always wondered if it was normal. It will sometimes have an upside – like when your title is paid better than what your title should be – but it sure makes career moves a challenge.

      Reply
    2. Bookworm

      It’s not unusual. Job titles are sort of notorious for being vague and being applied differently at various companies.

      It does sound like your company might be a little weirder than most, but it’s still a common problem.

      Reply
    3. Sunflower

      Very common. Just look at job postings. You’ll see 2 jobs for a Business Analyst that share zero of the same qualifications.

      Reply
    4. Penny

      I think that’s not super unusual, especially in the tech world. I’ve definitely run into people in similar situations when looking to hire a technical writer.

      Reply
    5. Mike C.

      I work at the sort of place where you could spend decades working here and the same thing happens!

      One thing that might help if/when you leave is that companies of that type usually have written job descriptions – use those to help better define what you actually do and what your skill set is.

      Reply
    6. MaryMary

      I feel like this is pretty common, and so is the flip side of having a “unique” or company-specific job title that doesn’t match the titles everyone else in the industry uses (for example, if the internal financial software your company uses is called ProfitTracker, and your title ProfitTracker Analyst instead if Financial Analyst).

      This came up in the open thread a couple weeks ago, and Alison’s answered similar questions. She suggests putting your functional/common used title in parenthesis next to yournactual title on your resume. You could take a similar approach when networking “my title is business analyst, but the work I do would make me a sys admin at most other companies.”

      Reply
      1. Nicole

        I love this suggestion and have been doing something very similar. I once had the title of Telecom Tech II but I didn’t work on the technical side – I just paid the telecom bills. I put my official title on my resume and in parenthesis added “serving in an Accounts Payable role” because I didn’t want to be declined for roles I was qualified for just because my title was misleading.

        Reply
    7. Triangle Pose

      Huh, thanks for giving me a reason to look up “scrum master?” I’ve never heard that term before and now I know it!

      Reply
      1. Shishimai

        It’s a really cool role! At least, from the perspective of a scrum team member.

        A good scrum master is a true BAMF. A bad scrum master can make the entire team’s life miserable.

        No idea how to make that title work in a non-scrum system, though.

        Reply
        1. Johanna

          Scrum Master can sometimes be translated to Agile Project Manager. That’s not totally accurate, but it helps get the point across.

          Reply
    8. Almond Milk Latte

      I was once a Business Process Analyst, but I was more product than process. Aside from background checks, I always used the title that most of my business partners used to refer to my team, which more accurately explains what I do.

      Reply
    9. OhNo

      I agree with everyone else – this is very normal. It seems to cross almost every single field. There’s always a slight difference between companies, of course, but there’s always a few that are way out in left field with how they assign job titles to different positions.

      Just as a side note, if you know the title that most companies in your field would use to describe that job, you can use that on a resume with your actual title in parentheses if it would help. My office just hired somebody who did that on their resume, and it was pretty easy to figure out what they meant and it helped a lot to figure out exactly what their job was.

      Reply
    10. Ros

      I just left a job that had this same issue. While some of the titles matched up, the actual structure of titles was very weird. 3 departments went from Coordinator ->Director->Chief and then Analyst or Officer thrown in there randomly depending on the department, one department had it’s own progression that started at Officer, and the other was just random titles it seemed.

      Anyway, before leaving this job a couple months ago I spoke with our department “Analyst” about this. His title as Research and Policy Analyst was very misleading as his tasks were very different than if he had that title anywhere else in our market. He was also concerned that by being in this position for so long with this inaccurate title would screw him over when he decided to leave (there is no way of moving up, so you must leave to move up).

      Honestly, I’m glad my title fit what I actually did, but I feel bad for those who have to struggle because of poor title development.

      Reply
    11. themmases

      Normal, unfortunately. “Associate” and “coordinator” are two titles that tend to get tacked onto a topic area and just mean whatever the organization wants them to mean; I think “analyst” might be starting to go that way too.

      I had one of these titles at a previous job and it makes things very confusing! My organization created a title between entry level and the standard title most people in the field have (the one they would just start tacking “senior” and “lead” onto most places). Unfortunately this title actually means something in our field– a role quite different from what I actually did. It’s hard to explain to people what my job was without describing it as higher or lower than it was, and two years later I still get recruiting messages on LinkedIn for that other role I never had and don’t want.

      That said though, obviously it’s not universal or there wouldn’t be a “normal” meaning of these titles to deviate from. If you have a weird title somewhere that titles are negotiable, I think it can be worthwhile trying to get it changed to something that is understandable or at least not misleading. My organization had strict descriptions for these titles and I think people found it awkward to complain that this title wasn’t understandable to outsiders without sounding like they were job searching.

      Reply
    12. J-nonymous

      This is pretty common in general, but unusual in the specifics you mention. Scrum Master is pretty significantly different than BA (which isn’t to say a BA couldn’t have the role of Scrum Master on a scrum team). Similarly, Functional Analyst has been a more common crossover with system admin than BA has (in my experience).

      It almost makes me wonder if your organization had decided to adopt scrum without taking on scrum roles and terminology? (Which is common in its own right.)

      Reply
  11. Dawn

    I love my job, but I do have one question: Is it normal to not have an office manager in a smaller (40ish) office? The 2 owners (President and CEO) are very hands on and like to do things themselves and so they will do things like order office supplies from Costco themselves (and they’re busy so they sometimes forget and then we run out of coffee and paperclips). I’ve mentioned having an office manager to them before (in my capacity as Business Analyst) for things like office supplies, initial resume screenings, dealing with building management, piddly paperwork, that kind of thing but my suggestions have been rebuffed. I KNOW that having even a part-time office manager would free up SO MUCH of their time and brainpower it wouldn’t even be funny, and it would skyrocket their productivity and halve their stress levels.

    I was under the impression that an office manager is the first thing you hire after you have about 5 people but apparently not. How weird is this?

    Reply
    1. EA

      Do they have assistants? I don’t think its normal for an office of that size to not have admins or an office manager. I think its weird for them to be doing ordering themselves. The point of support staff is to do things other people are overqualified to do.

      Reply
      1. Lily Rowan

        Or underqualified! I would not want to be responsible for office supplies, and clearly these owners should not be, either.

        Reply
      2. Okay then

        My second job was a Marketing Assistant, (basically admin for marketing) and I served as backup for our office admin. We had 60 employees at the time. And he had a FULL TIME job, and even needed me for backup/assistance quite a lot.

        Reply
      3. Z

        That overqualified comment stung little bit as I am in administration. I prefer to think of it as things that aren’t part of their core responsibilities, or things someone else could manage better, as opposed to things for dumb low level people. :(

        Reply
        1. Crazy Dog Lady

          Administrative jobs are so important! I was a secretary in college and I was TERRIBLE. I would forget things all the time, get overwhelmed, and I’m pretty sure all of the attorneys (rightfully) hated me. Thank goodness I never made any horrible mistakes.

          I’m a marketing writer now, and I’m good at my job – but I’m never going to pretend that I could be an admin. I am not cut out for handling travel, supplies, schedules, expenses, etc. I’m glad that I work with people who are, and who are good at their jobs!

          Reply
        2. OhNo

          I’m in a partly admin role, too, and I agree that the perception that admin work is for a certain type of person does sting a bit. Unfortunately, framing the work that way is very, very common across the board.

          And can I say for the record that I think it’s super that the CEO and President are totally okay with doing all that admin work themselves? I mean, obviously it’s not working out that great for everyone else, since it sounds like things are getting missed, but it’s so uncommon to hear about high-level employees not pawning off such work. I like it!

          Reply
        3. Annonymouse

          It less crapping on admin people and more thinking “They’re a president/CEO. Is this the best use of their time?”

          I know because I’m an admin/office manager at a small business. One of the owners used to call up potential new members all the time but not have enough time for upcoming schedules and events.

          Since I took over the process he has enough time to get his other work done. Doesn’t make my job less valuable, in fact it makes me more valuable since he can see the value in what I do for his schedule and the business.

          Reply
    2. LisaLee

      That’s normalish. I think office managers are one of those positions that some people think is nice but not necessary. I don’t have one at my current job, and we’re a large department.

      Reply
      1. NJ Anon

        I think it depends on the nature of the business. I am in a nonprofit with many silo positions. If we didn’t have an office manager, we would be in trouble!

        Reply
        1. mousie housie

          I work for a non-profit (15 full-time and 20 seasonal employees) WITHOUT an office manager and it is not fun. “Shared responsibilities” = guess who’s stuck taking out the trash after working unpaid overtime.

          Reply
      2. Okay then

        Yea, Office MANAGER is generally a senior-ish role (our company hired an office manager to be over the office admin after we grew to 100 employees), but an office ADMIN I think would be helpful to do the day to day office management tasks.

        Reply
        1. PizzaSquared

          This probably relates to the question above about differences in job titles between companies, but nowhere I’ve worked in my ~20 years in the workforce has considered “office manager” to be a senior role (or have had anyone managed by the “office manager” – they manage the office, not people).

          Reply
          1. Melanie

            In my experience Office Managers often manage anyone in a support roles’ e.g. PAs (unless they report direct to their principals), office juniors, receptionists, mail staff, etc.

            Reply
      3. Annonymouse

        Also depends on the business and level of growth. If it has recently gotten bigger and the CEO/president used to do general tasks it makes sense they’d have trouble letting go.

        My bosses (owners of the small business I work for) are guilty of this.

        Reply
    3. MorganLizzie

      I don’t think that’s very weird at all, especially on a team with only 4 people. It’s often going to be very dependent on the budget available to actually pay someone to do those things. I see where you’re coming from with saying that it would free up their time and be worth it in that capacity though if they really are spending that much time doing it (however, I feel like running out of coffee probably ins’t the best argument in the world). It may be helpful to see if you can talk everyone into tracking their hours doing admin/office management type work for the week and work out with how much you’re paid “hourly” (I’d assume on salary) how much you’re actually paying yourselves to do that work and if it would make sense to hire someone. However, I’ve worked in much larger companies where there wasn’t an office manager because it simply wasn’t fiscally responsible to do so. It’s also pretty dependent on industry…that company was a web based platform, so there maybe wasn’t as much going on admin-wise as if it were a small doctor’s office or law firm or something that required more formal paperwork and client interaction.

      Reply
    4. Dawn

      Thanks for the replies so far- to clarify, CEO and President do not have dedicated assistants. There are a few people around the office who help out with admin stuff when it comes up but the CEO and President take a lot on themselves. Our office is looking to expand headcount over the next year or two so I’ve really been trying to bring it up as a good idea NOW before everyone gets completely overwhelmed with admin stuff.

      Reply
      1. Michelle

        I think an office of 40 would benefit from an office manager. My “official” title is administrative assistant but I do most of the things you mention- order office & break room supplies, resume screens, “piddly paperwork” like background checks, E-Verify, new hire paperwork, check request, etc, in addition to regular duties.

        P.S. I think “office manager” is really more in line with what I do but we have this weird requirement where you have to be managing people to get the manager title. I’m non-exempt and being a manager would be make me exempt and we already have a combination of 18 managers (7 directors and 11 with the actual title of manager) for an office of 85 (full time w/o manger title and part-timers).

        Reply
      2. TootsNYC

        In your shoes, I might suggest they ease in to the whole idea w/ a part-time solution. Probably not a part-timer, but someone who has that as a core part of their duties. An Admin for the whole office, maybe.

        Reply
    5. Ad Astra

      It’s not unheard of, but I do think an office of 40 could benefit from hiring an office manager. I work at an office around that size and we have one fantastic office manager (who also functions as our receptionist) for the whole place but no other admins. She schedules business travel, orders office supplies, handles mail and FedEx, and probably does some other things I’m not aware of. It gives the office a more professional feel, imo.

      Reply
      1. Elizabeth West

        At Exjob, we had roughly fifty employees total, including shop personnel. People scheduled their own business travel (not often necessary) but the Accounting/HR manager (my boss) also functioned as an office manager of sorts. I, the receptionist, did all the supply ordering and odds and ends stuff. Nobody had an assistant after my first boss left and her assistant was promoted into that role, and I became the only clerical person (ugh). The Accounting/HR person was absolutely swamped. Both she and a subsequent person ended up quitting.

        If you have more than forty people and are adding more, an office manager makes sense. I hope they see how valuable such a person could be.

        Reply
        1. Chinook

          Dawn, I worked for a company that sounds a lot like your. The boss was used to doing a lot of office admin stuff for himself and our HR, payroll and accounting departments were in the US, so he didn’t feel the need to hire a f/t admin assistant or office manager when he had just 6 people working in his Ottawa office. He had also been burned previously by an office manager who hoarded information from him in hopes of guaranteeing job security, so he was reluctant to let go of a lot of it. I started as a p/t temp admin assistant and was able to slowly pry stuff like ordering supplies and managing invoices out of his hands by showing iniative and demonstrating how I documented what I did. Within six months, I was offered a full-time, permanent position.

          So, if the executives seem reluctant to see the need for an office manager, it might be worth it to pitch the idea of a part-time position and/or using a temp agency. When looking, you will want to emphasize with applicants that this position is a trial not only for them but for the existence of the position as well. With luck, you can get someone with the right personality who can show the value of an office manager.

          Reply
    6. Quirk

      Speaking for a couple of smaller past companies:
      ~12 employees: no office manager, and very hard to think what we would have done with one. Office supplies just didn’t occupy that much time to sort out, resume screening needed qualified eyes, building management was sorted by the organisation we were renting an office from, and our paperwork was generally meaningful.
      ~150 employees: office manager, whose time was not always well spent (emailing the whole office to tell them not to stand near a cracked window in case they fell through it was… dubious), but I would assume she probably had a reasonable quantity of things to do.

      At 40 employees there might start to be a case for one, but I certainly wouldn’t be thinking of hiring one at the 5 people mark.

      Reply
      1. Doriana Gray

        I worked at a for-profit school six years ago in an office of 14 (including myself) as one of two Office Assistants (we were both supposed to be part-time, but I needed full-time pay, so I just found things to do to keep myself busy). We did the typical office supply orders/receptionist type duties, but then we also had to order textbooks and equipment for the students and instructors, create ID badges, administer and grade entrance exams, and my coworker did some light janitorial work as well. It was such a huge weight off our Director’s shoulders to not have to deal with that stuff when she was constantly battling with our corporate office for more resources and dealing with high employee turnover (due to our insane enrollment goals set by corporate).

        I also worked as an admin/office manager/receptionist hybrid for an office that had a Director and two direct reports. Granted, I was a part-time student worker, but it was a real help to the office as a whole having me there.

        Reply
    7. Quinalla

      This is very normal in my experience, though I’d say much more common for places that are in the 20 or less employees. But, for a 40 employee office, the owners may just not be willing or desiring to start making the transition from “small company” to “medium company” where you start hiring office managers and HR and so on. It can be a hard transition to make

      Reply
    8. NJ Anon

      Not weird. Most of the places I have worked in my long and not so industrious career did not have an office manager.

      Reply
    9. Busy

      We have about 60 office personnel in this company and no office manager (though not for my lack of trying!)

      Reply
    10. Lily in NYC

      I have never worked at a place with an office manager! In my experience, it’s the admin assistants do the work that you mentioned.

      Reply
    11. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

      It’s probably more normal than not to see weird “hands on” things from company owners when you’ve got under 40 employees.

      Our principals (brothers at the time) did all kinds of things when we were a small business. The one brother always shoveled the snow, came in at 6 am to clear the walks. The other brother, who was writing many millions of dollars of business at the time took forever to accept an assistant. “I’ll ship my own packages until the day I die!”

      That was close to 30 years ago and now that we’re over 200 employees, those days are long gone. Eventually they wanted to grow more than stubbornly hang on to snow shoveling and package shipping. (Principals will still run out and do below job grade things, tho! Like, run out of plastic silverware….)

      Reply
    12. LAI

      It might depend on how many other tasks there would be for an office manager to do. In my current office of about 40, we have an administrative assistant who takes care of most office management duties like ordering supplies, but we have a hard time coming up with 40 hours/week worth of tasks for her. She constantly gets assigned random side projects just to fill her day.

      Reply
    13. Mando Diao

      Office Manager seems like a position that’s associated with older business configurations. They’re being phased out as start-ups and small businesses simply aren’t creating those positions.

      Reply
    14. Stephanie

      When I worked in an office of 50-60, we had an executive assistant AND an office manager/receptionist. This was in part because the staff did a LOT of business travel, however a senior team is rarely self-sufficient enough to really be productive at their actual tasks without someone to support them with the minor tasks. Being able to drop off receipts and have someone else fill out a reimbursement form so they can focus on the strategic plan… that just sounds like money well-spent. I’d rather they focus on creating new business than how much copy paper is in stock, or how to unjam the copier.

      But, like I said, there was a LOT of business travel; I can see the case being made that the office is theoretically small enough to absorb those tasks around the office, but really, I’m pro-support staff once you get above maybe 20 employees (just a rough estimate, it will changed based on each company’s needs!).

      Reply
    15. nerfmobile

      I worked for a company of about 35 people and we definitely needed our Office Manager. She was also the admin assistant to the CEO and supervised the receptionist. That said, we were an agency-type company and had a lot of clients coming in and out. So physically keeping the building looking good and being able to provide amenities for client meetings was important. Later on I worked for a software-startup of about the same size and the closest we had to an administrative person of any sort was the marketing assistant, so it really can vary by company type.

      Reply
    16. Ros

      I worked a a mid-sized health charity and we didn’t have an office manager until the office was nearing 80 ppl. It was mayhem. Several admin staff had parts of what would be considered “office management” tasks, but coordinating these things began to get ridiculous so they hired someone part-time. Then it went full-time.

      Office management is not something to be taken lightly I have learned.

      Reply
    17. CanadianDot

      Our office of 12 has an office manager AND an admin, but then again we’re government, and we’re *supposed* to have about 30 people.

      I think that having an office manager makes everyone else more efficient, but that’s ultimately their choice.

      Reply
    18. LD

      It can be normal…for all the reasons others have shared; regular admin staff have the responsibilities covered, managers do their own work or split the responsibilities, etc. We have about 30 people in our department and we have an office manager. She handles dealing with the landlord of our office building, works with our corporate IT, does billing for our services, schedules front office staff, assigns admin duties (one of them tracks and orders supplies, for example), and acts as our systems administrator and general IT support. And the five or six admin staff all report to her.

      Reply
  12. M

    Is it normal to never be given an opportunity to make a case for a promotion or raise? We have annual reviews at my company, but decisions about raises and promotions are made prior to the reviews and by someone above our manager’s head — so even if we knew when the discussion was taking place, our direct manager has no involvement/power over that decision.

    Reply
    1. Sascha

      I don’t think so. I worked at a university where that was the case, and everyone I knew told me it was not normal. In fact, that university did not even do performance reviews so that people wouldn’t get the idea that they *could* ask for a raise or a promotion.

      Reply
      1. Tardis

        I agree – I work at a very large private University in the U.S., and that is our standard practice. It is pretty awkward, though.

        Reply
    2. LQ

      Have you ever tried to ask about it? Even at the review, like “I’d really like to be considered for a promotion to Head Teapot Maker, what do I need to do that?”

      Reply
    3. KathyGeiss

      This is how my company works too. But, we also have active discussions with our managers about career development. My bonus is determined by a formula and my performance review ranking. My merit raise is determined by who knows what in the background. But, my manager knows where I’d like to go in my career and we actively talk about professional development opportunities and internal jobs that are open and whether I should apply. So, I don’t have a say in bonus or merit raises but I do feel like I’m being given opportunities to discuss my future. That help?

      Reply
    4. Tom

      I expect this varies widely by industry and company size, among other factors. In my own experience (18 years working, if relevant) I’ve never been asked to discuss the matter, and usually (but not always) when I’ve brought it up myself, it has not gone well. When I want a promotion/raise, I look for another employer.

      Reply
    5. Not the Droid You are Looking For

      We are allowed to give each of our employees up to a 5% raise each year. So I budget that all of my staff will get 5%, and then give everyone 5% (and general push HR when someone is in the pro-rated time frame to ensure they get the full amount).

      So from my perspective, even if you came in and made a case for a 6-10% increase, I likely won’t have it in the budget and would have to get sign-off from the entire c-suite to go around company policy.

      It’s the same thing with promotions unless we have an opening, I don’t have a promotion to give. So even if you came in and made an excellent case for a Senior Teapot Designer position, I don’t have it to give you.

      But we are pretty upfront with all this.

      Reply
    6. Green

      This is normal. In my company you’d need to have a sit-down very early on to request a salary review. You can always talk to your manager about it (and ask your manager to advocate for you at a higher level), but it’s not a formal opportunity. It’s also very common for promotions, grades, reviews, and raises to be sorted out on a higher level.

      Reply
    7. Michelle

      Normal for my company (nonprofit). They even changed the language in the employee handbook about what annual performance reviews were for . They use to say something like “to recognize and reward good performance” to “meeting the expectations of the position and to discuss any needed improvements”. We don’t get a raise every years, we’re lucky to get them every 3 years, but our part-time employees make $2 above minimum wage in the door and full-time employees have much more flexibility with their hours vs. other businesses. (Of course we do have people who abuse it).

      Reply
    8. fposte

      This is kind of like the question upthread and kind of like previous discussions on negotiations. In general, you don’t get given an official opportunity to get yourself more money. Your situation doesn’t make it easy, but it doesn’t necessarily make it impossible–you ask if your manager can go back and request a change, or you ask your manager before your review.

      There are some systems where it’s top down–I’m in one, where the state sets a percentage raise I get or don’t get. But even in that system, I can go to somebody and say “Look, the job has changed, the salary isn’t right, I’d like more.”

      Reply
    9. Emmy

      I work in higher ed, staff side. There aren’t formal opportunities to ask for a raise/promotion. I’ve brought it up as part of my weekly check-ins, or at this year’s performance review to lay the groundwork for getting the promotion next year.

      Reply
    10. martinij

      Ooo, I wonder if anyone at my company (large private university in the U.S.) is commenting here! We receive poor feedback from top performers who want a raise, but the underperformers seem agreeable with this strategy as it allows them to skirt performance reviews.

      Reply
    11. Happy

      I had a similar situation at my old work place. I actually found out ahead of time one year with a few higher up that I wanted a raise and I got it but it took a lot of speaking to various prior to see who handed what.

      Reply
  13. EA

    Hi all-

    New job- 5 Months. I have an administrative supervisor (AS- my official boss but she does not assign me work), and I support 2 executives. My AS is pushing me to get more projects from the executives, she is thinking non administrative longer term things that I can use to develop. When I talk to my executives about this they want to give me that work later – they don’t think I am ready or it is necessary so soon. I don’t know what to go back to my AS and say. If I tell the truth, she will go to my executives and demand more work for me (she told me she is ready to do this), and this will annoy/bother the executives. It is a highly political environment and everyone has competing priories. I think my AS doesn’t want me to get bored and leave (which has happened with others), so she is pushing this hard. I understand it is my job to keep them all happy. This has happened in other situations (AS wants me to take a class, my executives do not).

    Is this normal? Do I accept politics? It’s hard to balance making everyone happy when everyone has wants different things.

    Reply
    1. Not a Real Giraffe

      First: What do you want? Do you want the longterm projects? Do you feel ready to take these things on? Are you happy for the time being to learn the administrative side of things and hold off on the big projects? Answer that first.

      I was in a similar role a few years ago, except it was one of my executives who wanted to give me more project-oriented work and my AS wanted me to focus on the administrative items. For me, it was important to make the executives happy because their input mattered the most when it came to raises and promotions. If they want you to focus on administrative stuff, and you’re relatively happy with that for now, that’s what I’d do. I’d broach the long-term project topic again in a few months, when you have a proven track record of multitasking, organization, etc.

      Reply
      1. EA

        Thanks. I would like to do more, but the way the AS is pushing it is very off putting. I would rather have more work be gradual. The AS just keeps saying I am not doing ‘enough’ and I need to get more. So I look at it as a problem I need to solve for my boss to be happy with me. Would you suggest I just be honest with my AS and have her talk to the executives? I think they each have a different vision for me, which really they need to figure out among themselves.

        Reply
        1. Dawn

          I’d just tell your AS exactly what the executives have told you, and say “I would like to do more but I do not want to upset the executives since they have explicitly told me not to ask for more right now. How would you like me to handle this?”

          Reply
    2. Ash (the other one)

      That is what your AS should be doing for you… she is there to advocate for you even if you don’t see that as what she’s doing.

      Your structure is similar to what we have at my org: your manager is different than your project managers (often, though they sometimes overlap) and it is your manager’s job to serve as an advocate to make sure you have enough work, are being utilized at your skill level (not just given grunt tasks if you’re capable of more and at a higher level) and are not being taken advantage of or are committed.

      Reply
        1. EA

          Thanks. I am fine with her advocating for me. It is just that the executives are much higher up in the organization and I am worried this advocating will end in them being irritated with me. I know its probably a problem the 3 of them need to work out among themselves, they just each have a different vision of my role.

          Reply
    3. some1

      This is par for the course in every admin job I have ever had, except this one, because I report to the same director of the people I support.

      Reply
      1. EA

        See that is the situation I need, reporting to the person you support. I’ve never had a job where this has occurred.

        Reply
        1. some1

          It is nice because I don’t have to deal with conflicting agendas, except that come review/raise/promotion time, you have to advocate that much harder because your boss either A) doesn’t know [all of] what you do &/or B) has never had an admin/clerical job.

          Reply
    4. Mike C.

      Yeah, this sort of thing is very common. Don’t worry so much about the executives getting upset since it’s your AS that will know how beset to approach it and will take the brunt of any fallout, not you.

      Reply
  14. Ashley

    I was hired at my first office job about 2 years ago. I loved my first manager, but he left the company very shortly after I started, and therefore for my first year here, I had almost no guidance or feedback about how to do my job. I figured things out the best I could, and while it was frustrating at first, I adjusted to working independently and actually heard great things at my one year review. Then, about 8 months ago, my new manager was hired (outside hire). Joe seemed great at first, but quickly I learned that Joe is very authoritarian in his management style. I was looking forward to having feedback and collaboration on my decisions, but instead, Joe hands out orders without any explanation. When I try to ask for clarification about why a decision or policy change was made, he views it as me questioning his authority and being disrespectful. I’ll provide one example out of many:

    In November, I traveled to one of our satellite locations to visit a partner we’ve been working with for several years. Joe is determined to promote this partnership based on the history we have with them; However, after this trip (and also a previous trip in 2014), my recommendation to Joe was that we seriously look into whether or not to continue this partnership because of many major concerns I had with the way they operated (lack of transparency with funds, not delivering on the product we asked for, etc). I mentioned I was hesitant to keep promoting this partner because their lack of professionalism could reflect poorly on our organization. Joe replied, “So, you’re saying you don’t want to do your job, then?” (because my position is in partnership promotion), and also said that I “need to have more faith in our partnerships.” I asked if we could implement some sort of accountability system to make sure the partner was following through on the contract in a timely manner, and he said, “Don’t worry about it, I’m handling it.” Anyway, fast forward four months. Yesterday, Joe and I were called into a meeting with the VP of our company. The VP said she had heard from a reliable social contact that this partner company “did not have their act together” and strongly recommended that we cut ties with them. The VP repeated the exact same concerns I had mentioned in November. My manager, Joe, acted completely surprised by this news and thanked the VP profusely for the information and agreed it would be wise to sever the relationship. So in other words, Joe refused to listen to my input four months ago and actually chastised me for it, but will happily accept opinions from people outside the company he doesn’t even know.

    This is one example, but as I mentioned, there are many more. Am I being unreasonable to think working for Joe is going to drive me crazy? Or is this a normal boss/subordinate situation that I just need to get used to?

    Reply
    1. Simplytea

      Honestly, I’ve had a lot of bosses who are (unfortunately) like this, and don’t know how to take possible decision-guiding information from people under them. A lot of them are very focused on hierarchy, so it’s better to present information to them in a way that… gives them the end result in a way that they think they thought of it. So you might want to “incept” your ideas by adding a lot of “well you told me this, and so on that same vein I figured out this” instead of saying “I think we should do this”.

      This may, indeed, drive you crazy, and it’s neither ideal nor conducive to good business practices. But, it is sadly normal with people who don’t know how to manage.

      Reply
      1. Doriana Gray

        + 1 Simplytea (although I’ve been fortunate to only have had two managers like this in my nearly 11 year work history).

        Reply
    2. Dawn

      Not normal. A good manager would trust your word as someone whose job is partnership promotion, and have a back-and-forth conversation about why you felt the way you do about this particular partner, reasons why Joe might not agree with what you think, and you would both come to a mutual understanding of how to proceed with this partner moving forward.

      Also it’s absolutely petty of Joe to respond to you bringing up a completely valid point about this partner with “So you don’t want to do your job then?” NO, you imbecile, I’m doing my job RIGHT NOW by telling you my concerns about this partner! Joe sounds like someone who’d be very difficult to work long term with.

      Reply
    3. Mando Diao

      Ugh, I’ve had bosses like this…You try to gently tell them that you think something won’t work and they write you off as a Negative Nancy, but then when things predictably go wrong, your manager wonders why no one gave him a head’s up. Do you think you can build a boundary that allows you to not care when things explode at the office? If not, you’ve hit the two-year mark, so you can start looking for new jobs in good conscience.

      Reply
      1. Ashley

        You described my situation perfectly! I have tried to set up boundaries to not care when things go badly, but I really do care a lot about my job and the partners I work with, so it’s hard to maintain a carefree attitude. I really don’t think I am a Negative Nancy–when I have a concern about something, I always propose possible solutions or alternative routes, like in the example above, but these other ideas are consistently ignored.

        Reply
        1. Mando Diao

          I work in marketing so it’s something I deal with all the time. People will come up with ~great ideas for promoting their products, and I’ll say, “I anticipate that this campaign will result in a lot of people asking such-and-such question or being confused about [whatever].” Then they get mad that I’m crapping on their GENIUS IDEA. And they get madder when they start getting thousands of customer service emails from people asking the very questions I predicted.

          Anyway, you’re not alone. In some industries you can’t avoid it, but it’s common enough that you can identify it and try to not work with people like that.

          Reply
    4. Stephanie (HR)

      I have been in this situation with a manager in a previous job. I think it is relatively common, however, I was not able to function in that kind of work relationship, and I found a new job.

      The only advice I can give you if you want to stay, is to sit down with your boss and have an honest conversation with him. Something along the lines of, “I feel that I have strength in areas x, y, and z, and before you were here, I had some autonomy (or voice) in x, y, and z. I would like to continue to be (able to give in put, have autonomy) in these areas, but I haven’t felt that you have been receptive. Can we talk about your expectations for me in this role?” It may simply be The New Rules of the Job, and he really just wants a worker bee. This is most likely the case. However, if your manager is open to allowing you to grow in your role, he may have some thoughts on how you can earn his trust and respect and be able to have that level of voice/autonomy again. Some people just need it said to their face before they see what you are trying to do. He may be suffering from Previous Bad Employee Syndrome, and needs to hear that you are a capable employee.

      Best of luck!

      Reply
      1. LD

        I love most everything about your script, but I’d suggest that instead of saying …”but I haven’t felt that you have been receptive.” that the person says, something more like, “what would you think about that?” or “How do you feel about that?” I think it would come across as more collaborative that way.

        Reply
    5. Anna

      Your manager sounds like a jerk, but that’s not so uncommon.

      The situation that I infer from your description is that he’s new and had a plan to improve business by building up a partnership that he didn’t know at the time was faulty. Is it possible that he sees you as a naysayer who is trying to undermine him when you were actually just giving him a reality check?

      I’ve had decent results delivering bad news to these types of people (i.e. immature and defensive) by first stating my willingness to support them, then giving them the bad news. I end by reiterating my support, as in “I’m happy to help you any way I can, but I do want to give you a heads up about this company’s past behavior…I just thought you should know. Again, I’m here to help, whatever you decide.” It’s even better if it can be done in an email because if Joe goes down in flames, you have documentation that you did bring up your concerns with him.

      When I was in that situation, I found it easier to survive when I mentally separated myself from my manager’s stupid decisions. I stopped asking question or offering opinions unless it was about something really serious, did my job, and then enjoyed the fail show that followed. That’s not really sustainable in the long-term though–if you are someone who wants to be a valued team member rather than a “subordinate”, you should probably start looking for a different position.

      Reply
      1. Not So NewReader

        I agree. Start looking around and seeing what other positions are out there. This boss is not going to help you grow and develop. Over time he is going to give you a distorted perspective of how workplaces function. Look for a boss that has mentor/teacher tendencies. This boss is afraid you will out shine him.
        Argumentatively, he could have a bad case of new-boss-itis, where he is more worried about his standing in the company and not worried about your standing. He could be intimidated by the fact that you have been there longer. Or it could be that you are actually cutting in to his ability to be a boss. I kind of doubt any of this is true. But these are the types of things that go wrong when there is a new boss over an old employee.

        Reply
    6. Afiendishthingy

      Certainly some bosses are like this but it’s not the norm. You’ve been there two years which is respectable; Id start looking if I were you.

      Reply
    7. anonandonandonamous

      Your manager sounds like a jerk.

      One suggestion that might help is to present facts without giving him any conclusions and then look concerned and ask him what he thinks.

      Reply
    8. stevenz

      There’s an old saying something like how much you can do if you don’t worry about getting credit. It’s BS. Your boss is a serious egotist and suck-up. If he wasn’t he’d find a way to say “ya know, Ashley had that same concern. This must really be a problem …” (Don’t hold your breath.) His need for control, or his ego, or ambition keep him from sharing credit. But this is extremely common behaviour in the management class, especially middle managers who are climbing the ladder.

      It’s *extremely irritating* to not get credit for good work, a good idea, a timely caution, etc. We need to get credit to succeed, for our professional reputation, for marketability, and as an important part of the compensation for doing good work. I feel for you, but neither you nor I should expect this to change any time soon.

      Reply
  15. Simplytea

    Is it sad that I know the answer is “the people you work with suck, and what they’re doing is weird, but that’s pretty normal”?

    I’m in my mid-20s, and it’s all about thickening your skin, and separating work from personal. You can’t let it get to you, and you have to work your way up the ranks to gain respect. Not ideal, but that’s the way it is. I have a lot of friends who can’t let it go, and think they’re better than XYZ or something isn’t fair. Fair isn’t the name of the game my friends. And it’s all good fodder to help you figure out how you would like to manage others in the future.

    Also, I have started telling my friends that “askamanager is bae”. No regrets.

    Reply
    1. ElCee

      There’s a difference between being the bottom of the pecking order, so to speak, and subjecting oneself to abuse. Personal attacks are never cool. Sometimes it is just a matter of thickening your skin (if it’s not egregiously personal…I’m thinking of, say, a notoriously crusty newspaper editor who is grumpy to everyone but has a heart of gold and really just wants to see them succeed…why yes I stole that from a fictional movie) but paying your dues don’t need to mean accepting total dysfunction.

      Reply
    2. Rabbit

      Are you in the apparel manufacturing industry? The stories I have about being screamed at, disrespected and sabotaged are unreal. I have a family member in HR and her jaw literally falls open when I tell her my latest story.

      I’m with you thought–someday I’m going to be a kickass manager, because I’ll know all about how NOT to treat people like garbage.

      Reply
  16. LisaLee

    Ooh, I have one. I’ve been applying for jobs and one of them wants me to submit my ACT scores. This is not an academic job. Is this a thing, or am I right for thinking it’s a bit of a red flag?

    Reply
            1. Elsie

              I work in consulting for a major firm and our firm asks recent college grads for their SAT/ACT scores. I think it’s fairly typical in consulting/finance/investment banking for recent grads (and for recent MBA grads, some firms ask for your GMAT score).

              Reply
        1. ThatGirl

          This is more or less my field and I’m gonna say super, super weird. Nobody here gives a crap about my college GPA, much less high school college entrance exams.

          Reply
        2. Just me

          EXTREMELY weird. Experience matters way more than arbitrary test scores in content management/development/editing.

          Reply
    1. Sascha

      That seems odd even for an academic job. I’ve been working in higher ed for ~10 years, and have applied to many higher ed jobs, and while they do want transcripts from every school you’ve attended, none of them wanted standardized test scores.

      I think you should watch out for other indicators that they do hiring strictly by the book and don’t take a flexible, holistic approach to hiring.

      Reply
      1. Ad Astra

        And transcripts would even be an unusual request for a content development and editing position, I think. Usually applicants will have a portfolio of work that’s much more helpful in assessing someone’s skills. I get the impression that STEM fields are more likely to want transcripts.

        Reply
      1. LisaLee

        You could submit SAT, LSAT, or GRE scores too. I suspect they might be using it as some sort of crude IQ indicator.

        Reply
    2. TCO

      The only time I’ve ever seen ACT/SAT scores requested was for tutoring jobs, which kind of makes sense. That’s weird everywhere else.

      Reply
      1. katamia

        Yeah, I’ve had to either supply scores or take a practice test (sometimes both) for all my tutoring jobs, many of which included test prep.

        Reply
    3. Rock

      There is a local Tech Giant in my area (Midwest) that hires predominantly recent grads. They require college transcripts, test scores, and (wait for it) high school GPA.
      They employ something like 8,000 people I think?

      Reply
    4. voluptuousfire

      Odd. I worked in test prep recruiting for teachers, so it was appropriate for my role. I have seen such requests before for roles that were looking for candidates right out of school, so in some ways that may make sense.

      Id skip it.

      Reply
    5. Sara

      I had to do this for a job once, but it was an ACT/SAT tutoring gig. I’ve never seen any other job ask for that.

      Reply
    6. Laufey

      Ugh. My company asks for ACT/SAT scores (finance industry). I hate it, but I’m not high enough to have any input on the matter. Fortunately the recruiting team does seem to be understanding if the scores are no longer available. Still annoying that we ask for them in the first place.

      Reply
    7. Tris Prior

      I recently was asked for this too, along with the year I took the test. I figured it was a sort of roundabout way to make us disclose our age. This was for a writing/editing role too.

      Reply
    8. Elizabeth the Ginger

      Also even more weird if you’re not, like, 19 years old. If you’re even 22, then there are a multitude of more-relevant, more-recent measures of your achievement and skills.

      Reply
    9. Green

      Super weird. You don’t even have to submit your LSAT scores for law internships and it is weird if you volunteer them… They are for getting into schools and getting scholarships. That’s it.

      Reply
    10. sam

      Very weird – as someone noted above, I’ve never even had to submit my LSAT scores for a legal job. Transcripts, sure, but other than my very first job, they’re mainly to prove that I graduated. Of course, I’m so old now that I took the SATs back when they were still a 1600 max score AND before they were recalibrated the first time (and the only reason I know about *that* is because my six-years younger brother took them on the post-recalibration but still 1600 scale. Nothing like a little sibling rivalry to create COMPLETELY random memories). So my score would be completely meaningless at this point without a giant asterisk anyway.

      Reply
    11. MommaTRex

      Wha…? I’m not sure I can even remember my SAT scores. Or where to find them. I can’t even remember my scores for the CPA exam – which not even any CPA jobs have asked for. At least I might be able to find them . . . nope . . . nevermind.

      From what I’ve observed in the CPA world, all CPA test scores boil down to two: passed and going to pass it next time! :D

      Reply
    12. Searching

      I was asked for my SAT scores in a job interview for a think tank position. It was at a college-run job fair where they were getting a pool of candidates. I honestly said I couldn’t remember, and mentioned my ACT score but that they were high enough to admit me to several schools and were commensurate with my excellent college GPA. My mom had a theory that this was a “throw you off” question. But my reaction was more- why on earth would you want to know that? Its either super pretentious or just weird.

      Reply
      1. Searching

        Anyway, just wanted to say that this does happen, but it super weird to everyone I talked to. Haven’t been asked since college and gaining more work exp. though. I will say I’ve mentally marked off that think tank as “not to apply to in the future” though.

        Reply
    13. Brett

      The only time I ever had to submit my SAT/ACT/GRE scores for a job was for a position writing test questions for ACT.

      Reply
      1. Brett

        Oh, but my job was definitely content development and editing. All the editing was in house, but large chunks of the content development were outsourced, and the outsource contractors had to submit test scores for their employees.
        Is it remotely possible that this company has contractors with ACT, SAT, or NCS Pearson?

        Reply
    14. Jane

      Gross, but not that weird. I know international development NGOs that do this (with SAT scores). I think it’s a fad among “data-driven” orgs looking for ways to measure intelligence of prospective hires, or to imitate Google’s tricky employment questions.

      Reply
  17. LQ

    Not early in my career but I feel like my history doesn’t help me. I’m at a government agency (unionized if that matters) where the only promotions occur from within. No one is ever hired into any kind of a higher level. We never hire outside supervisors. We never hire people for positions like: Business Analyst, Project Manager, Trainer, Elearning Developer…etc etc. There is occasionally some training (like going to a local college to get a 2-4 days crash course on project management or business analysis), but mostly it’s learn as you go. People are exclusively hired though client facing “entry level” positions. There are a couple of kinds of these jobs (we have a call center, but not just a call center).

    Personally I wouldn’t have ended up here if I hadn’t been desperate for something in the middle of the recession and took the job where I got promoted pretty quickly to something more fitting my skills (one of the above), but it feels kind of lucky, and we have a really hard time finding new people for the team I’m on right now since the economy is so good.

    Is this normal? Is it good?

    Reply
    1. MaryMary

      I think this happens at organizations with specialized (or unique, or proprietary) processes and systems. OldJob had a habit of developing its own software internally, and we worked in a fairly specialized subject area. It was hard enough finding external candidates who had expertise in our subject area, but it was very difficult for them to succeed in an environment where all the software and processes were specific to OldJob. They tried to improve training and documentation, but external hires spent way too much time trying to get up to speed, and then would stumble into some non-documented, happens once every ten years problem. When I left they were trying out a hybrid senior non-manager role where experienced new hires could kind of go through an apprenticeship before moving into a real managerial role, but they had a hard time selling candidates on that idea.

      Reply
      1. LQ

        This is really helpful. This is very much how our leadership thinks of our work (including our own software). I think it would be good to get outside eyes in, but maybe I’m underestimating how much it would take getting people up to speed on things. Thank you.

        Reply
        1. Anon for this

          My current workplace is similar. We rarely hire externally for supervisory or management positions. There are benefits and downsides to this. On the one hand, we aren’t a huge organization and there aren’t many opportunities for advancement besides these roles (which aren’t vacant all that often), so hirinng from the outside could quickly eliminate any real chance at internal advancement. Also, we do have a lot of very specific rules and regulations we have to follow, and understanding those is a big part of what is involved in those management, fundraising, etc. roles. So internal hires are at an advantage in that regard. That said, if we never hire people with experience from outside, we become like an echo chamber. We want an external perspective or skills you get from other organizations, but we have to hire from the outside to get those.

          Reply
          1. LQ

            I’ve been trying to advocate for things like more user testing and using some vendors to bring in outside perspectives, so I think I’ll focus on those pieces. I have some limited capital but I think it sounds like that is a better way to get those outside perspectives.

            Reply
    2. Thinking out loud

      I worked at a software company for a few years. Almost every new hire had to do tech support when they were first hired, and then they moved into other places in the company if they did well – the goal was to make sure that people were familiar with our software and how our customers used it as well as the frustrations our customers were going through. In that case, I think it was good.

      Reply
      1. LQ

        Thank you this is very helpful. This is a part of the idea that is happening here I think. Better perspective on things.

        Reply
    3. Former Retail Manager

      I also work for a unionized Government agency and your question about hiring supervisors from the outside is the case here as well. It is a unique environment that cannot be replicated anywhere else and, unless you learn the basics of the job at the lower level, you really cannot manage effectively. Even the lowest levels of management who supervise people in my position are promoted from within. This is not the case for EVERY operating division, but 90% work this way.

      In terms of having a hard time recruiting in a good economy, that is common as well. Keep in mind that your agency’s hiring is also very likely budget driven and, good or bad economy, if there’s no $$, there’s no $$. As far as whether it’s good or not, I can’t say. I personally perceive my agency’s lack of hiring as a good thing as it ensures my job security. When people retire/quit/are fired in Govt you can’t just post the position and hire. So as time goes on and the ranks dwindle, they become more inclined to keep the employees they have and there have been concerted efforts in my division for managers to really try and make employees happy to try and keep them around.

      Reply
      1. LQ

        Very good to know.

        I know for us hiring means that during a recession our pay is pretty good and we get a much higher quality of applicant (yo! plus all the coworkers I know who are at higher level positions, management or not, came in during one recession or another) but when the market is good we pay well for the jobs we hire for, not for the jobs we aren’t hiring for.

        I’m not worried about my own job (like you, I feel very secure in it because it will be a long time before they hire another me) but I do worry about the quality of the people I work with. And having enough people to fill the gaps as people retire or move on. Plus I think I’ve had a feeling of we just need people with outside eyes to come in sometimes. People forget that we are incredibly laden in jargon and making words mean things they don’t mean to anyone outside our office. I will have to work more on other ways to bring that up.

        Reply
    4. CMT

      I’m in state government, and this is very common in my division. For the most part it makes sense, since the people coming from the field have the program knowledge necessary. It’s not mandatory, though. And for more technical jobs, like systems operations, they hire from outside.

      Reply
    5. Master Bean Counter

      When I worked for a government agency the over all theme was to promote from with-in when ever possible. mostly for institutional knowledge. But as the economy improved and there was a change in elected officials it became clear that they would have to go outside to find people actually skilled enough to do the higher level jobs. Then it was a new era of bringing on people who had the skills and requirements that they wanted into higher positions. I also think there was a touch of not wanted some of the lifers to think they could just skate unqualified into those higher positions.

      Reply
    6. doreen

      In my experience , promotions coming from within is typical for government agencies. There are generally some number of “entry point” jobs – and I don’t say “entry-level” because depending on the agency, there may be various entry points for different fields (physicians, social workers, lawyers, janitors, clerks etc). After that entry point, promotions are from within until a fairly high level is reached , which can again be filled from the outside. Those high level jobs filled with “outsiders” are often the jobs that change with a new administration.

      Reply
    7. MommaTRex

      I work at a local transit agency, and I would think this is NOT normal. We very much try to promote from within, and we have a few positions might be advertised only internally – – for example, positions that would be the most likely to have coach operators as the best candidates (like coach operator instructor). But most of our positions are competitively recruited.

      Reply
    8. Blitz

      Chiming in as another state government employee. Very normal. But , is it good?

      As a newer employee, I’ve found it helpful to work with others (my level and higher) who have been around a long time to pass on the history (and quirks) of the department. I wouldn’t have that if turnover occurred often. But then it does feel like an echo chamber at some point.

      Another problem is that all supervisors became so not because they are actually gifted at the job, but it was because a body needed to fill a spot and the division only hires a position like that internally. But the supervisors do need to understand the day-to-day of their employees, which really is only possible if you’ve been there yourself.

      Reply
  18. Tom

    Hope I’m using this thread correctly, apologies if not. I’m suspicious that toxic jobs are the norm in my industry, and am considering a switch. Here’s some things I regularly encounter (all have been present in my last 3 positions):

    – A wide pay disparity (for example: manager makes $90k + benefits, other 4 staff-people combined make $80k w/o benefits)
    – Managers who do not “practice what they preach” in terms of effective communication, forward planning, or direct conflict solution.
    – Failure to classify “exempt” vs. “non-exempt” staff correctly, or acknowledge the problem when presented.
    – Lack of accountability across the board: manager does not enforce standards with staff, nobody holds manager to standards.
    – Poor hiring practices, leading to conflict with new hires that could have been avoided.
    – A minimal approach to staff management that quickly leads to burn-out and low morale.

    I’m pursuing a degree to go into a line of work, but I’m a little concerned that in a different field, I will encounter “more of the same”. I’ve tried to watch for red flags and avoid them, but every job I’ve interviewed for exhibits them as well. Is the grass greener in some fields? Have people managed to find jobs where they don’t deal with these? Or am I just being overly sensitive to problems we all face?

    Reply
    1. AFT123

      I can tell you what I have an haven’t experienced… not sure if overall these things are normal or not. If it helps, my experience has been in sales orgs for a few gigantic global tech companies as well as a mid-sized tech company.

      A wide pay disparity: I have not experienced this. IMO, managers were paid better, but their reports were paid decent as well and got benefits.
      Managers who do not “practice what they preach”: Every.single.time. Even good managers. I think maybe this is human nature sometimes… I’d assume this can be summed up as “normal”, with varying levels of severity.
      Failure to classify “exempt” vs. “non-exempt” staff correctly: I don’t have experience with this.
      Lack of accountability across the board: Every place I’ve ever worked, again to varying severity. Normal IME, especially with management.
      Poor hiring practices: Mixed bag for me. Larger corporations I’ve been at seem to have rigorous and long interview processes and it seems to yield better results. Mid- and small- sized in my experience hire more quickly and with less due diligence. The tradeoff is that in the gigantic corporations, it seems to end up being a very homogenous workforce, which sucks in a different way.
      A minimal approach to staff management: I feel like this is more and more common. A lot of people I know and in my own experience – seems like managers are now too tied up on meetings and stuff to have time to really manage, and so many positions are really self-directed now. I really prefer clearer expectations, but I’ve gotten used to this type of environment, and I’d be willing to say now that this is pretty normal. Gone are the days of hands-on training, feedback, and employee development! Maybe others can chime in on this one though.

      Reply
        1. AFT123

          Seems like it!! Or maybe it’s just that the standards for what qualifies as “effective” have changed. I’m not sure. Seems like the role of managers has totally changed these days.

          Reply
      1. Steve

        I’d say it’s quite common, though illegal!, to incorrectly classify staff as exempt or non-exempt. Similarly between 1099 (independent) and w-2 contractors.

        Reply
    2. Ad Astra

      The “80k without benefits” detail is probably the oddest bit of your whole post, at least in my eyes. Not a lot of full-time (non-contract) jobs come without benefits, and $80k is an awfully high wage to be making without benefits. Is it possible these employees are incorrectly classified as contractors?

      Reply
      1. Tom

        Sorry, I could have been clearer. $80k is the combined pay from the rest of the staff: two full-time and two part-time. Highest of any of us is $35k.

        Reply
        1. Ad Astra

          Ah, ok. That is a little more normal, but it’s still not all that common for full-time, professional positions to not have benefits.

          Reply
            1. MaggiePi

              Not if they have less than 50 full time equivalent employees. We have less than 10, so no benefits for anyone. :-/

              Reply
          1. Steve

            It seems odd for a manager’s salary to be higher than the sum of their direct reports. But it really depends on how many reports they have and what the specific roles are.

            Reply
    3. Slippy

      Which industry?
      Anyways based on my experience when managers have a large pay gap between themselves and their direct reports it fosters bad behavior from the management. This happens because it is much more expensive to replace the manager than their subordinates; therefor bad managers will be kept in place as long as they meet their goals.

      Reply
      1. Tom

        I work at a nonprofit doing creative/marketing work, looking toward something more mathematically oriented in the business world.

        Thanks for your feedback! In general, I think bad behavior is fostered in these jobs from everyone, because nobody wants to go through the hiring process. (Also because the idea of “goodwill” seems to count for a lot here… I could be terrible at my job, but if I’m pleasant and claim to do my best, I suspect I wouldn’t be fired for years if ever.)

        Reply
          1. Ordinary World

            Agreed, my experience has been the same. Which is why my job search isn’t focused on that industry anymore, as much as that breaks my heart.

            I’m quite sure there are good NPOs out there, I just haven’t been fortunate enough to work at/interview with them as of yet.

            Reply
        1. Not the Droid You are Looking For

          NO! NO! NO! This is not normal…says the Creative Director! Your points made me absolutely cringe!

          The pay difference between me and my lead graphic designer is 10k. And quite honestly, he’s the one with talent.

          All those things are just really, really bad management and if the non-profit is letting him get away with it then there is a larger problem!

          Reply
            1. Not the Droid You are Looking For

              I think I was reacting to more of the overall than the pay discrepancy. You are right, my salary vs. a starting writer is about that much…but we give them benefits!

              Reply
        2. A Non

          Ah, yeah. I’m in tech and have worked in both for-profit and non-profit organizations. The non-profits were significantly worse about all the issues you mentioned. The smaller they were, and the longer the leadership had been there, the worse they were. I don’t know why non-profit apparently means people don’t have their act together – you’d think it should be the other way around.

          That said, there are decent non-profits. (I work for one now.) They’re just harder to find.

          Reply
          1. Anon for this

            I think it’s probably something that is more common in smaller employers, in employers where upper management has had a long tenure, and in non-profits. Start combining those factors and the odds of these problems starts to increase exponentially.

            I suspect that the underlying issue is a lack of training in management and HR issues. A small business or non-profit is less likely to have the resources for that type of training and less likely to have dedicated HR, legal, compliance, etc. professionals on staff. A business or non-profit where the leadership has not changed in a long time is more likely to be stuck on older ways of doing things.
            And non-profits in general (although certainly not all non-profits) come from a tradition of lower salaries, heavy reliance on volunteers, “scrappiness” and “dedication to the cause,” etc. that can make it harder for them to get into that business mindset.

            To be fair, a lot of non-profits are really pushing to be be more “business-like” but a lot of the perception of non-profits is external too. So non-profits are in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” position. Don’t pay competitive salaries and offer competitive benefits = can’t attract and retain competent staff; pay competitive salaries and offer competitive benefits = not “good stewards” of donor funds. Know you need to hire dedicated HR person; don’t have enough unrestricted funds to pay HR person’s salary. Need to hire person with very specific skill set to fill special, one-year, grant-funded position; only person with those skills who applied and is willing to work at special, grant-funded low salary with no job security is a an absolute mess of an employee (thankfully grant is only for one year….)

            Reply
        3. Chickaletta

          I think it depends on your manager’s title vs. your title. At one job I was a graphic designer and my direct manager was a VP, so we probably had the pay difference that you’re experiencing, maybe even greater. If your manager is a creative director or a marketing manager, then I can see how that pay gap would be infuriating.

          I have worked for all kinds of poor managers, so what you describe is not unusual. At the above described job, for example, I was excluded from staff meetings about marketing because they didn’t feel I had anything to add to the conversation. I was basically their glorified keyboard.

          Reply
    4. F.

      If you hadn’t specified the salaries, I’d have sworn that you were my coworker. Common, especially in small companies, but totally not acceptable on any count.

      Reply
    5. Rabbit

      Unfortunately yes. In my industry, yes yes yes. Crappy yet pervasive.

      – A wide pay disparity: oh yeah.
      – Managers who do not “practice what they preach” in terms of effective communication, forward planning, or direct conflict solution: do some managers NOT do this?
      – Failure to classify “exempt” vs. “non-exempt” staff correctly, or acknowledge the problem when presented: Definitely. I don’t even want to calculate how much I would have earned in my years if I got paid overtime as I should have.
      – Lack of accountability across the board: manager does not enforce standards with staff, nobody holds manager to standards: yep.
      – Poor hiring practices, leading to conflict with new hires that could have been avoided: Definitely. I can’t believe that I’ve been offered jobs after speaking to hiring managers for 20 minutes! That’s a huge red flag to me. You hire people that quickly!?
      – A minimal approach to staff management that quickly leads to burn-out and low morale: definitely. :/

      Reply
    6. Tom

      Really surprised how many people see managers not practicing what they preach as a pervasive part of holding a job. Some examples I’m thinking of from recent managers:

      – Manager stresses the importance of deadlines, but unapologetically pushes them back if his work is not done on time.
      – Manager makes “improving communication” the goal of the year, but her e-mails and agendas contain so many spelling errors, incomplete sentences and side notes for herself, that it is hard to discern meaning.
      – Manager teaches that conflicts need to be resolved directly instead of behind-the-scenes gossip and complaining, but has a closed door meeting with a co-worker about my personality, and puts down members of the board for no reason while speaking with me.

      I’m so hopeful that these are at least extreme examples of what others have experienced. None have really made my job harder to do, but all have made me lose respect for the people I work for. And that, in a way, does make my job harder, or at the very least less pleasant.

      Reply
      1. Anna

        Yes, all of that’s very common. From what I understand, meetings about co-workers are usually just between the manager and the employee at first. However, a good manager should give you a chance to tell your side of the story after the initial meeting has taken place.

        Reply
      2. Not So NewReader

        Deadlines: It could be the manager’s job to adjust deadlines. That maybe within his range. Additionally, he maybe getting adjustments because he is expected to manage on top of doing his own work. So he may be allowed wiggle room that is not given to non-managers.

        Improving communications. To be fair, I don’t know what other ways he is messing up. If his other methods of communication are okay, I would let this one slide. And by slide, I mean I would go instance by instance, in private email to him and say, “I am not sure what you want me to do here.” I would do this until his emails started improving.

        Managers talk with employees about personality conflicts. Honestly, I think a closed door is better than in the middle of the work area, I’m not being snarky. I have had some bosses bellow out criticism at the top of their lungs for all to here. It’s painful. Yes, he should be encouraging you folks to talk things over with each other and no this is not two faced. UNLESS, she is encouraging these gripe sessions- then my answer is waaay different.
        Board members: People talk about people. People like to gripe about board members. I am not saying it’s right, but I am saying it’s not the end of the world, either. Part of the griping comes because people think board members should cure all problems. And that is not the function a board member serves.

        I am not saying you have a good boss, so please don’t misunderstand. I have had good bosses do these things and I have had bad bosses do these things. I really don’t see enough here to be able to tell which one you have. I can see that you are very unhappy at the job. It could be that you just do not have the setting that is right for you. You might do the same work some where else and be as happy as a clam.

        Reply
    7. Anna

      Yes and no. I’ve worked for a university and as a government contractor before and there was a lot more structure than what you describe. The pay disparities between an employee and a direct manager were usually under $20k, exempt and non-exempt were classified correctly, and hiring practices were mostly reasonable. I felt like the university was the best place to work, but there was dysfunction there too.

      Bad management can be an issue in every sector. A lot of managers have had no training to manage whatsoever.

      It used to really bother me how there were different standards for different staff members, and that was one of the reasons I went into a field were I could work more or less independently. I was the only person at the site who had that position, and while I supported other staff members occasionally, I mostly worked alone. It was nice to get away from the drama and constant reminders of unfairness.

      Reply
    8. MsChandandlerBong

      I think it depends on your industry. I used to work for a small company in the oil industry, and the pay disparity there was shocking. One of our managers made $250K per year, there were a few people making around $100K, and then everyone else made about $9/hour. Everyone had benefits, but how much you paid depended on your level. Executive staff got free benefits, managerial staff only paid for maybe 25 percent of their premiums, and then the people who could least afford it at $9/hour paid 50 percent of the premiums. I left shortly after I had to tell all the workers in the third group that their premiums were doubling, some of them from $400 to $800 per month.

      Reply
      1. LD

        That’s a sad and shocking story, and not uncommon. I’d like to share a more compassionate version from a place I worked several years ago. The company had been paying all medical benefits and when they determined that they could no longer do that, instead of passing along the costs equally to all employees, those of us at a higher level in the organization paid a little more so those at lower levels, with correspondingly lower salaries, wouldn’t have to pay as much. I’m proud of my executive team who helped advocate for that and I’m proud of the board who agreed that it was a suitable thing to do.

        Reply
  19. Anon for this

    I work at a for-profit company that is part of the tea industry. Is it normal to get political propaganda for only one party every week or so from executive management? They haven’t explicitly said ‘Vote for Teapots’, but during November’s election we were given info on how a certain organization is voting (down to vote yes on Issue 1, no on 2, no on 3, yes on 4, for example). It is all very skewed towards Teapots, and Coffee Makers haven’t been represented at all. It makes sense they would be very pro Teapots, but it just seems strange to me that it’s being shoved down our throats. Is this normal?

    Reply
    1. Dawn

      Not normal. Any good employer will know that politics has ZERO PLACE in the workplace. It’s super backwards/unprofessional for an employer to espouse a particular political viewpoint and share it with the staff- almost like saying “yeah so this is what WE think, the unspoken thing here is that it’d be better for you if you thought this way as well…”

      Reply
      1. Green

        Difference here is between politics and policy. It is common to send out a “Write your Senator about X issue [related to our work], and here is a button to do it!” vs. “This person running for office is endorsed by all the Teapot-friendly organizations.”

        Reply
    2. KathyGeiss

      My company got a lot more political during the last election (we’re Canadian) and it was weird. They didn’t outwardly push one way or another but their stance was pretty obvious.

      We’re a global company and I always got the impression this was more common in the US. I know my company supports PACs related to our industry and the like. But up until this past year, talk of politics from the company was non existent. When it did happen, a lot of people didn’t like it but no one said anything openly (that I know of)

      Reply
    3. rek

      I’d say that’s another thing that depends where you are. At the private sector places I’ve worked (for-profit and not-for-profit) this was pretty common. As you said, it’s all heavily skewed toward that particular corporate viewpoint. Sometimes there was even information enclosed on how to contact our representatives to support this corporate view. (Although that was more related to specific legislation than to elections.) What made it OK, or at least not noxious, was that there was no pressure to actually *do* anything with the information. I think that’s important in evaluating this on the “normal” scale. Where I am now (public sector, state government) any sort of politically biased activity is strictly forbidden in the workplace. What a relief!

      Reply
    4. Judy

      The only political issue I’ve seen in emails at work over 20 years was one specific time when there was one ballot initiative that was very directly related to the Teapot Industry. There was one email with some propaganda about a month before the election and one email the day before the election basically just reminding everyone to vote and consider the initiative.

      I have worked at places that send out a reminder to vote the day before, especially one place that gave a bonus 2 hour PTO to let you vote, but there was no mention of the parties/candidates/ issues.

      Reply
    5. Mike C.

      It really, really depends. My company certainly sends out stuff regarding specific legislation that directly affects us, but it’s always presented as “this is how this legislation directly affects our business, please call your reps, write a letter, here’s a form letter for you, etc” rather than as a partisan, vote for Coke not Pepsi type thing.

      No records are kept if you do it or not and it’s just an occasional company-wide email regarding mostly economic rather than social issues, so it doesn’t really bother me. Anything beyond that can get asinine really quickly.

      Reply
      1. Mike C.

        Oh, and I want to add that there was never a request to donate money or time phone banking or anything like that.

        Reply
      2. Green

        Agreed here. We have an employee PAC but there are pretty strong rules in place (i.e., solicitations can only go up the chain, not down), there are no communications about individuals standing for elections, and only occasional “Here is an issue that impacts us, and a link to contact your legislator.”

        Reply
    6. Elsajeni

      I’m a little unclear on whether Teapots and Coffee Makers are representing political parties or industry issues here, but I’d say I agree with Mike C.: normal to send out information on a political issue that affects your workplace, including promoting a certain position on that issue (example: I work at a university in Texas and we certainly heard from the faculty senate, staff council, etc. about their position on campus carry and how we could make our voices heard on the issue, with strong implication that of course we would agree with their position); not normal to tell you whom to vote for or push the issue in partisan terms (“Vote Republican to support X issue,” etc.).

      Reply
      1. Anon for this

        Political parties, sorry. I wanted to remain vague and neutral.

        It’s more like “The current administration is limiting tea growth. They are trying to pass a bill that will further limit tea growth and put 1000 tea botanist jobs out of work!” -insert link to OPINION article written on a news site here-

        Reply
        1. Elsajeni

          Yeah, that seems both unusual and inappropriate to me. “If passed, SB1234, the ‘Teabag Protection Act,’ will limit tea industry growth and put 1000 tea botanists out of work; please consider contacting one of these senators who support the bill to share your concerns” would be within normal range (although even then I’m sure opinions will vary on whether it’s appropriate), but what you’re describing sounds more explicitly partisan (“LIBERALS HATE TEA!”) and also less focused on a specific bill or issue.

          Reply
    7. Hlyssande

      I work for a giant industrial corp and we’ve received political stuff officially in the past, though nothing recently as blatant as the 2008 letter telling us that if so and so was elected there would be workforce reductions (really wish I’d saved a copy). Thankfully, I’ve only ever experienced one other incident (in a meeting where one of the dept supervisors brought up recent legislation to the CFO which opened a discussion I wanted to walk out of). It’s definitely been toned back around here.

      I’d say that it varies from company to company, but it’s in ridiculously poor taste and they shouldn’t try to influence your vote.

      Reply
    8. F.

      At the very large financial services corporation where I used to work, everyone at VP level and above (think many levels of VPs) were expected (forced) to contribute to a banking and finance industry PAC via payroll deduction. Many of the VPs (including my boss) were also required to give an fundraising speech to their peers. As her admin, I had to take attendance at these mandatory meetings and record who pledged and who did not. It was definitely held against anyone who did not contribute.

      Reply
      1. Mike C.

        That’s incredibly illegal, you should report this anonymously to the Federal Elections Commission.

        Reply
        1. F.

          I worked there from 2000-2004, and it was a Fortune 500 company. I am sure they made sure it was set up so that it was technically legal, despite what happened in actual practice.

          Reply
        2. Green

          That’s very illegal, and that is not at all appropriate. We have suggested contributions based on org levels, but you’re not allowed to solicit down the chain at my company to avoid the implicit pressure; the PAC is completely voluntary, and the only thing I get out of a high level of participation is a a day each quarter to travel to the meetings. My involvement (and others’ lack of involvement) isn’t considered for my evaluation and never would be. And nobody sees the donations or the membership except the PAC administrator. We can see high level data about X % of this part of the org has joined, but that’s it.

          Reply
    9. AnonForThis

      It depends on your industry – if you’re directly impacted by policies, executive orders, or proposed legislation of one party or the other, it is very normal for that to be communicated down to people, even if it’s just rumored legislation. It’s weird if it’s not relevant to your industry or if it’s about everything teapots, instead of just teapots issues that specifically relate to the business.

      Reply
    10. Not So NewReader

      Not the same, but I have seen unions send information to my home via mail TELLING me which candidates to vote for and making it sound like the union could find out who I voted for.

      Reply
      1. Mike C.

        First off, no one can ever find out who you voted for. If they’re threatening people, go up the chain and get them to knock it off. You’re a member after all.

        Secondly, there’s a much closer alignment between you and your union’s interests vs you and your employers interests. You ultimately make the final choice of course, but it’s still useful information.

        Reply
    11. Spunky Brewster

      I sure hope it wasn’t skewed towards Tea Party (sorry, couldn’t resist the bad pun with your teapots references).

      Reply
  20. Emmie

    My prior company would never disclose a position’s salary range when they offered me a promotion. Is this normal?
    I had several promotions over the 10 years I was there, always asked the question, and they always refused. (Non-union publicly traded company, professional positions.)

    Reply
    1. Engineer Girl

      Not normal that I know of. All jobs have salary ranges and you should be able to go to HR to find them out.

      Reply
    2. KathyGeiss

      This is how it works in my company. I’ve also asked and always been told a non-answer like “you’re just starting out in this role so there is lots of room to grow!” (Translation: your at the bottom of the band).

      I work for a large, global corporation.

      Reply
      1. Doriana Gray

        So is mine. We have a performance management guide that shares the job grades and corresponding pay grades, plus breaks down in minute detail how things like bonuses and promotions and reviews are supposed to work corporate wide.

        Reply
    3. Nell

      My company never discloses salary but instead says vague things like “You should be happy you’re making this- this is on the higher end of the range” when there’s no way that can be true (other people in my same role have been in field for 10+ years more than me)

      Reply
    4. No Longer Just a Lurker

      I think it is more normal (although not very smart) for internal candidates based on my experiences. Internal candidates salary with the promotion would be based more on their current salary rather than what was budgeted or was the norm/market rate for that position and many times was a lot lower than what they would willingly pay an outside candidate. When I inquired about salary for my last role there, which really was more of a job change than an inline promotion, they told me it was a calculated based on several factors and never really gave me a number. When the offer did get made I pointed out that it was more than $5K below the low number on the external posting (as well as about $20K lower than the person leaving the post which isn’t a fair comparison since he had more than twice the experience I did as well as a professional certification that I do not have but was also not a requirement or even a “plus” for the position) and I had more experience than they were looking for as well as the system knowledge that was critical to the job. They came up another $1500 and when the one year mark hit and they denied me a merit based on that I left within 3 months for a position that paid 20% higher. For some reason they were shocked (eyeroll).

      Reply
      1. Hlyssande

        That’s such a short-sighted way of doing things. They’re only shooting themselves in the foot in the long run. Ugh.

        Reply
        1. Steve

          I worked at a company that capped promotion-related raises at 10% maximum. Supposedly you could get exception up to 15% with CEO approval (as if the CEO of a public, multinational company is going to spend his time giving some peon an extra 5% pay).

          Reply
          1. Hlyssande

            I seriously don’t see what the big picture view of this is other than ‘make sure our employees leave’.

            Reply
    5. Stephanie (HR)

      Not normal, but probably not unheard of. Most places will share the range, some are more transparent, some less, but not even sharing the starting wage for the position is a good way to lose good applicants.

      Reply
    6. KH

      Not normal in my experience. In fact I just had my annual review and money talk with my boss. Not only did he tell me the figures, but I got a written documentation that says something like:

      The range for Sr. Technical Teapot Manager is $XX ————$Y————–$ZZ. $Y is where your salary falls on the scale.

      Pretty much every job I’ve ever had has given me something similar to this – even as a contractor.

      Reply
    7. Observer

      Bad practice but not uncommon, especially if there are pay disparities that someone wants to obscure.

      Reply
    8. Steve

      Do you mean that they won’t tell you what your new salary will be before you accept the promotion? That would be weird.

      Or that they won’t tell you the salary range for people in that role? That seems normal to me. I don’t think I’ve ever been told the full salary range for any position I’ve ever held, neither before nor during.

      Reply
      1. Emmie

        The company told me my salary, but refused to tell me where in the salary band it fell. (Good point. Did not think it could be interpreted this way!)

        Reply
        1. CuRey

          I don’t think that’s unusual. I work in HR and we keep the salary bands very much under wraps. If you’re told the band is between $X and $Z, and your salary is $Y – wouldn’t you be dying to know who was getting $Z and why? Or even who was getting $X and why? Or you’d extrapolate that someone in the next level up was definitely making more than $Z (not necessarily true since bands could overlap). It gives you info about other people’s salaries you don’t need to know.

          Reply
    9. Emmie

      Keep the feedback coming. This is so helpful. At my resignation, I found out from others in my role that they were making 1.5 xs as much as I was w/ less experience, lower performance ratings, less company outcomes, and less education. Confirmation that moving on was the right choice. :) I really wonder if holding back salary bands is common in other non-union public companies.

      Reply
    10. HR Recruiter

      Totally normal, but not a best practice. Some companies feel they need to keep everything on a need to know basis. I prefer companies that are completely transparent.

      Reply
    11. Zahra

      Depending on where you fall in the management/non-management position (I think), you would be totally justified and protected by the law if you asked your future coworkers what their salary is. If they are uncomfortable naming numbers, you could always ask “Here’s what they’re offering me. Compared to your experience level and salary, do you think it’s fair/on par with what you make, or is it significantly lower?” You might find a pattern of higher salaries for external hires/people from some departments/etc. Or you might find a pattern of discrimination, which why the law was created in the first place.

      Caveat: as a woman who is determined not to be victim of discrimination, I have no qualms divulging my salary if gets me/others better tools to negotiate.

      Reply
  21. Anon for this

    I work in marketing as a content specialist, and have recently started cooperating closely with an art director. Every discussion I have with that person on assets that need to be produced feel like an ordeal to me – if I share the size a specific asset must be to go on the website, they will argue that it should be a different size *even thought that simply will not fit on the website*.
    When I raised this with my manager (different from the art director’s manager) he said it’s a strength for an art director to be pushing boundaries, and my role is to counterbalance that.
    Normal or not normal?

    Reply
    1. justsomeone

      That is weird. The specs are the specs. The box can only be so big. They’re really pushing back if you say I need a banner that is 27p h x 340p w? Bizarre.

      Yes an art director should be “pushing boundaries” as it comes to the actual art – but not as it applies to the size of the canvas!

      Reply
    2. Dawn

      I agree with ElCee, I think this is totally normal for an Art Director. You’re in charge of the content (the actual words and images) and the Art Director is in charge of making it look good. Now, it sounds like the Art Director has a mental block around reality for some reason, because you can’t put a 2000px image on a 1000px website in any universe, but I think what they’re doing is normal for their position.

      Reply
    3. Naomi

      I’m not in marketing, but I am a tech person working with artists, and this dumbfounds me. When I send a request for assets, the artists might push back with their own opinions (e.g., “If we make it that small the user won’t be able to see what it is”, or “That would be confusing because it looks too much like X other thing”, or “I have a better idea, let’s do Y”). But that then becomes a conversation about the best option, not a stubborn refusal to change. And it goes in both directions–we listen to their point of view, and they listen when we explain which constraints are flexible and which aren’t.

      And pushing *artistic* boundaries does not mean refusing to acknowledge practical concerns. Especially at work!

      Reply
      1. pomme de terre

        Seconded what Naomi said. There will be a push-pull between words and images, but your artistic director isn’t pushing creative boundaries by trying to put a square peg in a round hole.

        If I asked our designers for a blue square and they sent me a turquoise square because turquoise is better for a bunch of design reasons I don’t even understand, I will be grateful for their skill and experience.

        If I ask for a blue square and they send me a red square, I’ll live with it if we’re on deadline and it physically fits what I’m trying to do.

        If I ask for a blue square and they send me a blue dodecahedron with yellow stripes, that’s not something I can use even if it belongs in the MoMA and I have every right to be pissed.

        Reply
    4. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

      Normal? Not abnormal. The tug and pull between marketing and design is frustratingly normal.

      Healthy or productive? No.

      I actively hire for and manage marketing and design people who can work together. I think without someone above managing for that, it’s “normal” for the relationship to be a lot more the way you describe.

      (I think your manager is closing her eyes and wishing the problem away because she doesn’t want to tussle with the art director’s manager. I think the problem is “normal” because each of you reports to a different manager.)

      Reply
    5. Not the Droid You are Looking For

      Art Directors are a-holes…says the Creative Director :)

      Honestly, a huge part of my role is being the connector between my designers and our clients. I find myself saying, “I agree that this would look better in blue, but Teapots Unlimited’s brand guidelines specifically say no blue.”

      The one thing I find helpful is asking “why?” when someone says it has to be a different size/shape/color.

      Reply
    6. Karowen

      From what you’ve said, it seems like a contrarian artist and a manager who doesn’t want to deal with it. Not abnormal, by any means, but annoying as crap. Have you been clear each time that you have no control over the size?

      Reply
    7. Also anon for this

      Sadly normal.

      I once had a highly artistic boss who wanted a bunch of small cards with various bits of text on them. All the cards were to be the same size. All the cards should be in the same font size. The amount of white space should be about the same on each card.

      The bits of text were not the same length. So, one would say “lorem ipsum,” and the next would say “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit,” and they were supposed to go on the same size card with the same size font and have the same amount of white space around each one. THE LAWS OF PHYSICS PROHIBIT. PICK TWO.

      Right now I’m dealing with bosses who all want Their Thing to be front and center when you first land on our website. If I put everything there that they wanted there, it would look like when your mom downloads 50 malware toolbars.

      Reply
    8. Emmy

      Totally normal for an art director. I’ve had lots of arguments with designers who think design should drive the content. And yes, I do think it’s a strength (to a degree). Those arguments have pushed me to think carefully about my opinions and often led to better work.

      Reply
    9. Cath in Canada

      I’ve experienced this in a former job, marketing products that purify a specific type of cell from a mixture of multiple types, selling exclusively to research scientists. Every single ad / label / flyer / booth graphic was a battle with the art director:

      “Why did you use the basophil image on a T cell product?”
      “It looks better”
      “But it’s wrong”
      “But it looks better, and that’s the most important thing”
      “No, wanting scientists to be confident that we know what the hell we’re doing is the most important thing”
      “But it looks better”

      Reply
    10. Lady H

      I’m a (senior) graphic designer and function both as an art director and designer in my current role—and this does NOT seem normal to me. The only thing I can think that could be happening with your example is that the art director needs to be able to think about using assets on multiple platforms and for some reason they’re not communicating that to you, which is annoying, but sounds like something you can raise with them.

      For example, let’s say I’m trying to get an asset to use on a web banner that’s 728 x 90, but I’m going to leverage the banner design for print pieces. In that case, I can’t use something sized for web and I’ll almost always request assets that are print-ready (hi-res, CMYK, TIF/PSD files) so that I don’t have to come back to you for every single format we need because my team can take care of that. That’s really, really common but I’m not sure from your example if that’s what’s going on. In any case, it sounds like the art director isn’t communicating with you about why they’re fighting you on specs and that’s really annoying. I tend to overexplain (can you tell?!) because after years of working with people who give vague directions, I strive to let production artists know exactly what I need in the long run so I don’t waste their time.

      Pushing boundaries doesn’t seem to have anything to do with what your art director is doing, and it sounds like your manager gave you one of those “oh, designers are just stubborn and artistic, haha” type reactions that many people have when dealing with creative folks. Design is about communication, not making things look pretty!

      Reply
      1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

        It really is normal.

        Because we do customized teapots for companies, we’re exposed to literally thousands of marketing & design departments across the US (as customers) and hundreds of marketing & design departments from our vendors. It’s a common dynamic. You’re completely right that it’s not desirable, and it’s not the only way, but it is a thing we run into daily and have to compensate for.

        Reply
        1. Lady H

          I should have said that while it may be common, it is not an acceptable way to interface with production artists and to urge the OP to try to prod the art director to communicate their needs more clearly instead of just accepting that all art directors are going to be argumentative for mysterious reasons. That’s what I meant by “not normal” to me; an art director should be able to openly communicate about what they need from others because that’s basically the whole of the job.

          I understand where you’re coming from, I know that one of the reasons our firm gets so many word-of-mouth (and awesome!) clients is because we check our “artistic” egos at the door and just act like, well, professionals. Every client I’ve worked with in my current role has commented on how unusual it is that we’re so responsive and helpful. On the flip side, for us, it’s more often clients who hem and haw about giving us what we need to do our jobs, so it does go both ways. :/

          Reply
            1. Lady H

              Y’all need a design agency? ;)

              Just kidding, we’re so busy right now that I’m stress-reading AAM instead of dealing with the pile o’ work ahead of me!!

              Reply
              1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.

                If you want to drop an email addy in this thread (you can make it a throwaway gmail or whatever you like), I’ll connect.

                We have 15 in house artists but we contract some things out sometime. Always a good idea to connect with people who can communicate!

                If it’s not convenient for you, (we’re all anon), that’s fine too!

                Reply
                1. Lady H

                  Absolutely! (And thank you! We really do get virtually all clients by word of mouth, so I’m out of practice with promotion and networking these days.) We support a lot of in house departments and do what we can to make it painless, we know an in house team is hard to beat in terms of convenience and expertise! Here’s a throwaway gmail: aamneedadesigner@gmail.com.

          1. OP anon

            Actually, we do work from one principle design that then gets translated into a bunch of smaller assets, so the art director is getting all the elements needed before I even start talking about website specs. I’m dealing with “this will look better as portrait so I’m making portrait” when the spot on the website is landscape.

            Reply
            1. Lady H

              Arrgggghhh, wish I could tell the art director to knock it off and stop perpetuating the reputation of us all that we can’t take direction! That’s terrible, anon. Honestly, that is really out of line for the AD and I’m flabbergasted that your manager won’t back you up because it’s such a waste of time and money for everyone involved.

              I have occasionally had to ask the ad buyers to reconsider the purchased orientation if, say, they wanted to feature an image that just would not work cropped for landscape but would look perfect in portrait, but that is so incredibly rare and I would never assume it was my call to make.

              Best of luck dealing with that madness!

              Reply
    11. Zahra

      Do you have mock-ups? You could keep them in a mutually accessible location and tell them/show them why it won’t work. You might get push back on how the site/page is designed, though. Maybe keep a collection of (recent) best practices?

      Reply
  22. Amber

    Is it normal to be made to do things way outside your job description under the title of “other duties as assigned”? I was hired into a tea-pot support position. Recently, my manager has been assigning me tea-pot promotion and marketing tasks. She expects me to continue with my hired duties while also adding on these new duties which would typically fall under a totally different job description in a different department. I get no choice in the matter, no change in title, and no raise. The tea-pot marketing tasks will require me to travel quite often with no input into where or/when I travel. I’m not opposed to travelling or learning new skills because I realize it will help my career in the long-run, but I’m irked about the lack of control I have in how these new duties are assigned. For example, I now have to miss an important personal event this summer because my manager is sending me to Japan (I live in the US) for 3.5 weeks for marketing purposes, and when I explained it was not a good time for me and perhaps I could go earlier/later, I was reprimanded for “resisting the responsibilities for my position.” This seems crazy to me–am I out of line here?

    Reply
    1. babblemouth

      It would be normal if it was smaller tasks, and not super often.
      However, here it’s becoming a consistent change of your role, and additional responsibilities, so not normal.
      If these are duties you think you could be interested in furthering, you could ask for formal training, as well as a formal change of your job title (and assorted pay raise if applicable).

      Reply
    2. Engineer Girl

      It depends. “Other duties as assigned” can take up 10-20% of your normal tasks. Your total job adds up to 100% work. It sounds like your manager wants to take your 100% work and add other tasks on top of that – job scope creep. In that case it is fair to argue for a pay raise or promotion after 3-6 months of performing the new job.
      It is not unreasonable to work with your manager to find good times to travel, but many business travel tasks are last minute and therefore hard to negotiate ahead of time. Travel for 3.5 weeks is extensive. I can see doing it once or twice as part of your normal job duties. After that they should acknowledge the impact with a salary bump
      It would not be unusual for you to participate in planning sessions about upcoming activities that affect you. It would be unusual for your manager to know about travel weeks ahead of time yet dump it on you in the last minute. Good managers know that people have lives outside of work.
      BTW, I find your managers wording interesting. She referred to your position as a new position. If that is the case then you should be able to negotiate on salary.

      Reply
      1. Amber

        No, actually my manager meant that these responsibilities fall under my current position because of the “other duties as assigned” clause. I don’t think she meant to imply this was a new position.

        Reply
    3. Mike C.

      Is it just me, or does it almost always seem like whenever there is job creep, it’s always into sales/marketing?

      Reply
      1. Karowen

        Everyone thinks that if a person can string a sentence together, or knows a product, they should be able to do sales or marketing, which frustrates me (a content specialist) to no end.

        Reply
        1. Mike C.

          This must be it. Sales/Marketing/Design/etc are all actual skills which need to be developed over time just like everything else.

          Reply
      2. Cat like that

        Yep, I’ve experienced this in the last 3 of my jobs. I am terrible at sales and not a great marketer, hence why I did not pursue careers in those fields. But somehow excellent at managing vendor and client relations = ability to do SEO and sell products.

        Reply
      3. NJ Anon

        Try working at a non profit. We take out the garbage, stuff envelopes, do all kinds of “other duties as assigned!”

        Reply
      4. MommaTRex

        I work in accounting/budgeting at a local government agency. Job creep galore. But that’s what happens when you do a good job with a task – hey, give it to MommaTRex! She’ll do it! I’m sure she can squeeze it in with the other 75% “other duties as assigned”. Actually, we did update my job description and it seems to me like it is a crazy mix of who would have all the skills to do all these things? Me. Been here 20 years and it grows…

        Reply
    4. Tardis

      I think it is a lot more normal for smaller orgs than larger. I worked for a very small (>5 staff) non-profit, and my role continually developed based on what we needed. I was hired to do research but also ended up writing contracts, paying vendors, organizing events, hiring staff, developing strategic plans, starting up and running social media, managing our website, etc. etc. etc. It made sense since we were such a small team. Because my responsibilities were so broad, I ended up making a pitch to hire on additional staff to take on some specific areas and offered to manage the hiring/interview process. We now have additional staff to do almost every single one of those tasks (and are no longer a >5 staff org :))

      Reply
    5. Terra

      It can be normal, usually in a temporary capacity, in the period between someone being let go and a new person being hired. If this is going to be longer term/more permanent then at the very least there should be a conversation regarding how to prioritize everything as well as if there will be a new title/promotion/raise.

      Reply
      1. Amber

        Yes, actually that’s exactly how this came about. The person who used to do international marketing trips left the company last year. It took awhile to replace her and train the new person. In the interim, I picked up several of her responsibilities and was happy to do so, but didn’t understand that it was going to become a permanent new assignment without any raise or job title. The rationale now is that “you did it before, so you’re the most qualified to continue doing it”–even though I don’t have any formal education or training in marketing.

        Reply
    6. Pwyll

      I think this is the type of situation where you want to go to your manager and ask for clarification on your role. Something like, “When I was hired last year, my responsibilities were xyz, which did not involve a lot of travel. Recently I’ve been assigned a lot more abc, which involves a lot more travel than we originally agreed upon. I am, of course, happy to help where I can. Do you believe my new travel/marketing/etc. responsibilities are going to be a permanent part of this position? If so, can we discuss whether I should make abc or xyz my priority?” A change that involves a lot of travel like this is not normal, however.

      Reply
      1. fposte

        “And if so, I’d like to request my salary adjust to reflect the greater responsibilities.”

        I don’t know that it’ll happen if you ask, but it definitely won’t if you don’t.

        Reply
  23. extra anon

    I think I know the answer, but that’s only from doing a lot of scouring on AAM as specific issues come up so I may as well ask it for anyone else who has been in the same situation.

    My job is a newly created position in a new department operating within a much larger organization. I’ve been here 10 months and have never met with my direct supervisors, who are the heads of the organization, 1 on 1 in that time. Others at my level have a weekly meeting with them and I do not, and have not been able to get one. We communicate by email, and I am often ignored – even with emails are titled with URGENT (when things are genuinely urgent). They need to sign off on everything I do, but they don’t reply to requests in a timely fashion making it very difficult to do my job. When I do manager to get meetings scheduled with them they have been cancelled or I have been bumped for other people with more pressing issues. When I was hired there was never any conversations about process, institutional rules, etc and I’ve been making things up as I go along. I have a coworker who I am to take direction from, but most often the direction is “talk to our bosses”, which isn’t helpful when you rarely receive replies to the emails you send. The heads of the organization do the roles off of the sides of their desk and there is no managing director on site, they are rarely in the office. In the 10 months I have been in my role I have yet to receive a budget and get mixed messages about spending – there is a significant amount of funding that needs to be spent this fiscal year, but when I try to spend it on traveling (which is a significant part of my job description and duties) or events, etc I receive significant pushback. I rarely receive feedback on my work, but when I do it’s usually positive. I didn’t receive my 3 or 6 month performance reviews.

    Earlier this week I found out I made a pretty egregious mistake due to the lack of communication at all levels, and when I realized it in a conversation with a coworker I brought it up to her asap and tried to figure out how to fix it. Instead of working with me she got very angry with me and hasn’t spoken to me since. I emailed our bosses explaining what happened and what I would do in the future to ensure it didn’t happen again but received no response other than to let me know they would talk and decide what to do with me. This reaction makes me think hiding mistakes would be the best thing to do – even though I would never want to do that and am big on accountability and taking ownership of your mistakes.

    There is a coworker I work with who hasn’t come to work for months. In the 4 months since we moved to our new site I have seen her in the office twice. There has seemingly been no consequences for this. There was recently a meeting with her about attendance, and rather than any kind of PIP, etc they instead have decided to let her work the remaining 3 months of her contract. Another employee quit shortly after being suspended by HR after a lengthy complaint process was filed against her – her coworkers accused her of bullying them, but from what I saw they ganged up on her. When I first started the position I was accused of lying about my race to get the job more than once, and there have been comments made since about how I don’t deserve to get the same benefits as others because I’m “not from here”, even though I was born in this country the same as them. One of my female coworkers touches me incessantly and insists on calling me pet names like girl, lovely, etc. I’ve asked her to stop but she continues to do it. It makes me uncomfortable but I feel like there’s nothing else I can do about it, as when I complained about the racism I experienced nothing was done.

    Oh, and I get paid 50% less than people who do this job both in and outside of our organization.

    I feel like all signs point to “get out!”, but this is my first job after graduation and I love what I do. I also feel like I’ll look like a job hopper if I try to leave now.

    Reply
    1. Dawn

      Uhhh… the first complaint is weird enough- you should absolutely expect things like the ability to talk to your boss and get direction and get approval for your budget. However after all of the other things you listed here, RUN. Run far, far away. This is all not normal and very much toxic.

      Reply
    2. babblemouth

      Definitively Not Normal. However, if you’re worried about job-hopping, you can try to stick it out a few more month so you have a full year of work there to put on your CV. Since you say you love what you do, it should be alright to survive, also knowing for sure what is going on is not normal.

      Reply
    3. Ad Astra

      Bad news: None of this is normal or something you should expect to put up with.

      Good news: Your next job is likely to be much better — because almost any organization will be better run than this one. So go find that next job!

      10 months is not a long time to be at a job, but everyone gets one freebie before taking on job-hopper status, and this would be a good time to use that free pass. When you’re early in your career and applying for jobs that are a good fit for your skills and experience, people are pretty forgiving about short tenures.

      Reply
    4. BuildMeUp

      I don’t think you’ll look like a job-hopper as long as you have a good, non-negative reason for leaving that you can use in interviews. Do try to be careful not to jump to the first job you can find – you want your next job to be one you’ll stay in for a while! But one shorter stay is not the end of the world, and it sounds like this workplace has a lot of issues. Good luck!

      Reply
    5. caligirl

      Extra anon, yes, you are right – “get out”! This is not healthy for you or your career. Use AAM’s 1 short stint job advice and move on as soon as you can. You deserve to speak to your bosses (!) and to get paid a comparable wage (!) as your colleagues. The whole place sounds like a mess and you can do so much better. Good luck!

      Reply
    6. Pwyll

      Um, not to mention the racial comments are likely an EEO violation. None of this is normal. I can’t even imagine working somewhere that I’ve never even been able to meet with my boss. Outrageous.

      Reply
    7. NJ Anon

      GET OUT! Not even remotely normal. Are you in the US? You could file a EEOC complaint against these a-holes.

      Reply
      1. extra anon

        I’m Canadian, I don’t think we have the EEOC here. I also can’t go to my HR department, as I don’t really trust our HR manager here. On my first day she asked me a really inappropriate question about my race right out of the gate, and then she didn’t give me the opportunity to negotiate my offer. I thought maybe that was standard for the organization, but I found it later everyone else had been able to negotiate when they started.

        Reply
        1. Zahra

          We do, it’s called the Human Rights Commission (as Headachey points out) and, good news, regardless of the company size, they are subject to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which includes protection against race, sex, sexual identity (and more) discrimination.

          I know Wikipedia isn’t a perfect source, but, along with the commission, it will give you a head start on what the courts deem necessary to prove discrimination.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Section_Fifteen_of_the_Canadian_Charter_of_Rights_and_Freedoms

          Reply
    8. Ros

      Start gather evidence of all of this, make a file of evidence, contact your provincial human rights board and file a grievance.

      Seriously this is horrendous. At first I was nodding along thinking that this wounded very much like a place I worked at. I would have to chase down my supervisor and hold him accountable for my reviews or to get him to sign off on things. But once you got to the bullying and absence and race stuff, it’s now time to get prepared for a battle.

      Gather that evidence, look for a new job, get a new job and get away from that place.

      Reply
    9. I'm Not Phyllis

      Definitely not normal. I don’t believe that saying “we’ll decide what to do with you” and then leaving you hanging for days is appropriate. They should decide and then act.

      I hate to agree with you because you love with you do, but I believe that all signs point to “get out” as well. Sorry!

      Reply
    10. LD

      If no one else has mentioned this, start writing things down. March 2, 2016, 9 a.m. Inappropriate Jane stroked my hair and when I asked her not to do that she said in a creepy voice “you look lovely today.” March 3, 2016, 2:30 p.. Inappropriate Wakeen called me a liar and accused me of being “a different race.” etc. Keep track of all of it and keep a copy of your notes at home. You may never need this, but if you’ve complained, and nothing is done, you’ll have records to share with your manager or with HR if anything comes back on you. Email yourself and blind copy your personal email on messages you send to your manager requesting help dealing with the Inappropriate Team and requesting feedback or support for your job. Then you’ll have a personal record that they can’t delete from the system, just in case they are evil that way.

      Reply
    11. Not So NewReader

      OP, I think you have talked about some of this before here. Please, please say you are seriously job hunting. Please make a plan to get out of this place. While I do not see cause for worry about your physical well-being, this job is teaching you ALL the wrong things here about work and work places. Everything is wrong. Screw the ten months and salvage yourself- get out.

      Even if you get a job in two months that will mean you have been at this one a year. A year sounds better than ten months, right? Don’t worry about longevity, what is going on here is a much bigger concern. Go ahead and make a plan. Get to another company as soon as possible.

      Reply
    12. YawningDodo

      It’s been said, but no, this is not remotely normal or acceptable. The time to start job hunting is *now,* for two reasons:

      1. It’s probably going to take you a while to find your next job. If you start searching now, you may well be at the one year mark before you land something and get out, especially if you follow BuildMeUp’s solid advice on not jumping ship for the first job that will take you.

      2. With all the HR-approved racism being directed against you, the bullying, and the refusal to give you the tools and feedback you need in order to do your job, they’re setting you up to fail and/or be bullied out of the organization. Get started now on your exit plan so you leave on your terms, not theirs.

      Reply
  24. Rat Racer

    OK – having gotten the green light, here’s my “Was I being a Prima Donna” question from long ago:

    I used to work for a University department that acted as its own non-profit. The executive director started a charter school in inner-city Baltimore and hired me to write grants, conduct program evaluation, and manage other operational issues on the back-end. Finding it difficult to keep the school appropriately staffed, she mandated that I station myself on the campus and serve as everything from a hall monitor to a substitute teacher. I had zero teaching experience, and the kids walked all over me. It was humiliating.

    After several weeks of miserable, I confronted my boss with a “this isn’t what I was hired for” conversation, which didn’t go well — this is probably the part where I was acting entitled. Upshot: she fired me, but not before telling me that my unwillingness to work with the kids at the school was indicative of an attitude that I was “too good to get my hands dirty.”

    Question: when you sign up to work for a small non-profit in your first job out of grad school, how far should you take the “I’ll do anything” attitude? Is it fair to set up boundaries between front-line versus back-end work? Obviously, if this was a role that required clinical training, it would be illegal/crazy to put an unqualified person out in the field, but education is (unfortunately for this country) a grey area.

    Reply
    1. LQ

      I think this is entirely reasonable. I planned an event where we had a lot of musicians, some years we had a hard time finding acts. But me getting up and singing would NOT have helped the cause, it would have hurt it. It sounded like you serving as a hall monitor and sub took away from your regular duties and didn’t improve the school (sorry, just going with what you said!) that’s hurting your cause, not helping it.

      I don’t know that I would phrase it as front line vs back end, but I would focus on the aspect of to succeed we need GOOD teachers, and good grant writers, I can be a good grant writer or a bad teacher.

      Reply
      1. Nother Name

        I agree. I don’t think you were being a prima donna, but being young and new to the workforce you didn’t know how to phrase your (very valid) objections to staff (you) being mis-assigned.

        Reply
    2. Ama

      It’s possible that your approach to the “this isn’t what I was hired for” conversation might have been tonally wrong (can’t say without having more details), but I don’t think you were out of line for having that conversation. There is a huge difference between handling operations for a school and actually teaching/staffing the student serving positions and your boss should have understood that a shift that large might result in you having concerns.

      Reply
      1. Rat Racer

        Oh, yeah, I totally botched that conversation. I still cringe when I think about it. Even if I nailed the tone, though, I don’t think it would have mattered. She was desperate for warm bodies to keep the school going, and would have probably monitored the halls herself, if it came to that. That school was her life-long dream, and the fact that I was having nightmare flashbacks to my own high school days was not a compelling excuse.

        Reply
        1. Observer

          Nice vicious cycle there, and one almost certainly leading to a crash and burn. Shoving anyone into roles they are unsuited for is not a way to keep staff or run an organization. That school may have been her dream, but she clearly had no idea how to run it.

          Reply
    3. LizB

      All the charter schools I’ve interacted with have been anywhere from mildly to horrendously disorganized, and everyone pitching in for big events/light hall-monitoring duties wouldn’t have been unheard of. But I think even the worst of them would have balked at the idea of having a staff member without a sub credential or any classroom experience sub for classes on a regular basis and try to deliver instruction. As a one-time, emergency, “just sit there while they watch a video” thing? Maybe. But actually having you try to teach with no experience? That seems abnormal even in that field.

      Reply
    4. Chinook

      “Finding it difficult to keep the school appropriately staffed, she mandated that I station myself on the campus and serve as everything from a hall monitor to a substitute teacher. I had zero teaching experience, and the kids walked all over me”

      My experience in (Canadian) schools is that everyone who works there (even if they are processing invoices like my sister does) are expected to interact with the kids and pitch in when it comes to supervision (especially if you are understaffed otherwise some of the teachers may not be able to get a bathroom break or lunch break during the day). In a pinch, they would also be asked to supervise a classroom if a teacher had to leave for an emergency and/or no qualified substitutes were available. But, in that case, they would be expected to be more of a babysitter than a teacher (and the teacher they were covering for would be required, under the terms of their contract, to have left detailed instructions on what was planned).

      That being said, it is a more principal that puts a support person back into a classroom to supervise kids after they have shown no classroom management abilities. Not because it is bad for their employee but because it creates a real risk to the students in the classroom. If she was so short staffed that it was her only option to use you repeatedly, then she also has bigger issues she needs to deal with.

      Reply
      1. Elizabeth the Ginger

        I agree with all of this. Our office staff members all have one recess supervision duty a week, for example (which, frankly, they seem to like, as it’s an excuse to get out of the office and just stand outside in the sunshine for 15 minutes). But they would never be asked to substitute teach – they’re not trained for it! I could envision one of them supervising a classroom for a short time in a true emergency (e.g. teacher suddenly has to go to the hospital!) but not actually teach, and definitely not regularly.

        Reply
      2. Rat Racer

        I think the key difference though is that I was not an employee of the school itself, I was an employee of the non-profit that started the school, which was only one of several programs in their portfolio.

        Reply
    5. Argh!

      It would depend on whether you were required to have a degree in education or teaching experience. If you were, then the “other related duties as assigned” could apply. But in general, if your actual job was so irrelevant that you could be spared for whole days at the charter school, you were lucky to get fired!

      Reply
  25. Anonneeee

    I was told that my manager is to be fired, and I will be offered their position (already know that this is not ideal…).
    Question is related to compensation: I was told that I will be offered the minimum of the pay scale (slightly higher than my current comp.), despite taking on most of my manager’s responsibilities for last year. Manager that will be fired will have made 30k more than salary offered to me. I would make less than 65 percent of his salary and less than 60 percent of salary of another manager in equivalent position.

    I’m told that there is no room for negotiation (we are state gov and compensation is determined by head of our organization – 4 levels above me). Also, performance raises are not offered in organization. Is this normal/acceptable?

    Reply
    1. rek

      Depends on your state, but that sounds pretty much like my experience. Where I work (also state government) promotions come with a 5% increase OR an increase to the minimum salary of your new grade, whichever is higher. It doesn’t matter what the previous person in the role made, and it doesn’t matter what other people in that grade make. Increases are annual and *not* merit based. As a result, people who have been in a particular grade longer will make more. The only way to increase your salary, other than those annual raises, is to post for a job in a higher pay grade. I am a fairly recent transplant from private sector to public sector, and that was a difficult adjustment for me.

      Reply
    2. AnonInSC

      In my experience, state gov’t will have a cap on the percentage a salary can be increased in moving positions. However, these can be worked around with extra paperwork and justification. In many cases I saw, the attempt just wasn’t made. So it should be possible, even if the rule is there in general.

      No merit raises in years in SC (or very, very few). In general the state and grant budgets are set. No changes.

      Reply
    3. Amy

      I work at a (unionized) state job, and this is essentially how we work. There is a pay scale set by the union contract. You start at the lower amount, and work up through the tiers yearly (at least that is how ours works). You cannot really compare your salary to someone else in the same position, because it’s based on how long you have been there and what scale you reached. So for example, Person A might have been working for 10 years and reached the top of the scale at, say, $80,000, but when they leave and Person B takes their job, they start at the base of the scale, and make only $65,000. That’s completely normal. You can’t negotiate (in our case anyway) because the salary scale is set by the union. There are no “performance based raises” because raises are built into the contract yearly.

      Reply
    4. Murphy

      Yup, that’s pretty normal for government. Pay scales are set and generally so are pay changes for promotions/job changes. For us it’s 8% for a promotion in manager class (or going from non-manager to manager) or one (maybe two) steps for non-management along the pay grade. Pay isn’t based on what someone else is making, it’s based on where you are now and the formula they apply. Crappy, but what it is (and why one of my managers makes $15K less than another or my managers for the same job).

      Reply
  26. justagirl

    I was recently out of work for 5 weeks for PTSD/Panic disorder. I work for a 10 office organization, at no point did anyone at work see me have a break down, I am a very professional person. I kept this very private telling only a few family members and never posting about it on social media.
    Upon returning to work my supervisor suggested part time rather than full time at a different office, it sounded good to me so I did.
    Today I called an office that neither I nor my supervisor work at regularly and was greeted with “oh Jane, so happy to talk to you, we were all so worried about your mental break down”
    that’s the third staff member at 3 different offices that has confirmed that they have some false idea of what happened and she said “WE” my boss told people that I had a mental break down which isn’t even accurate. I would call it just a rumor if it wasn’t somewhat related, with the vague info my boss has she could think mental break down would be the appropriate term.
    I’m furious and considering just quitting. am I being petty?

    Reply
    1. Tom

      I feel like some details are missing here for a complete picture, but that sounds incredibly out of line for your boss to tell people you had a “mental breakdown”. Not sure if that should lead to quitting or not, but I would definitely feel personally and professionally betrayed by said boss. And I would ~not~ expect this type of behavior from a boss. Not everyone is appropriately aware of or sensitive to mental/emotional health issues, but that’s a terrible thing for your boss to tell people behind your back (or even in front of it!).

      Reply
    2. Dawn

      I don’t think you’re being petty, but I think your desire to quit is definitely born out of anger. I’d suggest sitting down with your boss and seeing what she has to say for herself- “Cerce, three offices now have said they heard about my ‘mental break down’, do you have any idea why they would have that opinion of my leave of absence?”

      Reply
    3. babblemouth

      You have every right to be furious, and your boss was out of line. What happened is not ok.
      However, no matter how wrong their information is, these coworkers sound caring (correct me if I misunderstood). Before quitting, try to put an end to the mental health coversations (“Thank you for your concerns, but that’s not really what happened. I’d prefer to move on, though”). Also, tell your boss what he/she did was wrong, and that in the future, such information should be kept confidential.
      If things don’t end at that point, then yes, go ahead and quit.

      One caveat: obviously your health is the most important thing. If the well-meaning but inaccurate wishes make you feel worse, do quit right away.

      Reply
      1. Nother Name

        Actually, I did work with a woman who had a (very obvious and public) mental breakdown. When she came back, we all treated her as if she had been inpatient in a hospital for any other type of illness. Welcomed her back, asked her how she was doing in general terms, but never brought up the exact reason for why she was gone, only discussing it if she brought it up. To me, this seems like the most tactful way to handle it when a co-worker is absent for a long period due to any health issue. (I’m not your doctor – I don’t need to know the details of your illness.)

        Reply
        1. A Non

          Yeah. Whoever spread this info was WAY the heck out of line, but the other coworkers aren’t handling it well either. You don’t discuss mental health stuff unless the person in question volunteers the info and wants to talk about it.

          If the OP has a trustworthy HR department, it may be worth bringing up with them. That’s definitely reprimand-worthy behavior from her boss. Unfortunately if their organization already has a highly-functional rumor mill, I’m not hopeful about HR.

          Reply
          1. LD

            Yes, and not just mental health, but any kind of health, I think it’s best to err on the side of a generic, “Glad to see you’re back.” and “Hope your doing well.” and maybe, “Anything I can do to help catch you up?”

            Reply
      2. fposte

        I would agree with this. Have you liked the job otherwise? Then I don’t think this is worth quitting over unless it really ramps up your distress.

        Reply
    4. Mando Diao

      I think that reading sites like AAM can sometimes give people the false security of thinking that all decent, open-minded people will be aware of the verbiage for every little thing. There are a lot of left-leaning, caring people who nonetheless don’t know the proper terms for talking about mental illness. I’m not even sure if my mother (a Bernie supporter whose facebook is full of Rachel Maddow memes) would grasp the concept of an anxiety order the first time she came across the term.

      Obviously you can gauge whether you think the statements were made out of care, but I wouldn’t focus on the language of “mental breakdown” or look for linguistic distinctions that still only exist in internet or academic circles.

      I’m glad you’re feeling better.

      Reply
      1. Nother Name

        I think the term “unwell” covers a lot of ground. People who have been ill know what was wrong with them, they don’t need others to share the details with them.

        Reply
        1. Mando Diao

          I agree. I guess I can just imagine a lot of older people saying something like, “I heard you had a mental breakdown, and I’m really glad you’re feeling better.” A lot of people, especially people who missed out on the internet for a large chunk of their lives, don’t have the vocabulary to articulate, “I heard you were struggling with issues that weren’t physical health problems, and I care for you, and I’m happy you got through it.”

          Reply
          1. Nother Name

            But if you get to the people who are old enough, then you end up back at “unwell.” (I’m talking the generation that considered “cancer” a whisper-worthy word.)

            Reply
      2. Salyan

        A fair number of decent, caring, right-leaning people probably don’t know the best terms to use either. ;)

        Reply
  27. Mona Lisa Saperstein

    I work in entertainment as an assistant to a director who owns a production company. She pays me and all of her other employees as contractors with flat day rates and no overtime, and since we routinely work 18-hour days, this often breaks down to less than minimum wage if we were being paid by the hour. Is this normal in Hollywood? And/or legal?

    Reply
    1. Jean Ralphio

      This isn’t totally out of the ordinary but it is possibly illegal depending on whether or not you meet the legal requirements for being a contractor. Bigger studios and companies with more resources are less likely to pull things like this, but it’s not uncommon at smaller operations. My former partner is in the industry and it wasn’t until he had enough pull with multiple producers and production coordinators that he could be sure work wouldn’t dry up (about 3 years of steady work in NYC) that he could actually do anything about productions illegally classifying him as a contractor and underpaying him. When he did start walking away from jobs that did things like this, a simple mention of the labor board (“Oh, my understand is that I need to get paid for these hours, but I’m sure the labor board can help us clear it up”) was usually enough to get him his backpay.

      Reply
      1. Elizabeth West

        As I understand it, there’s been some pushback lately on this kind of thing (and egregious working conditions that often go along with it, like not getting any bathroom breaks for twelve hours).

        Reply
        1. Rabbit

          Paramount PAs were “forced” to “poop in their cars” because they were not allowed bathroom breaks.

          I could not make this stuff up. Only in LA.

          Reply
          1. martinij

            Paramount also wanted to pay their Mid- to Senior-Level Data Analysts $17/hr with no benefits, no negotiations about two years ago as well. Hollywood.

            Reply
          2. AVP

            That was actually in New York! :)

            I actually have a lot of opinions on that particular case because I work with similar people a lot and I can 100% see how it happened and how the producers can claim “we had no idea!” but I will withhold them here.

            Reply
            1. Rabbit

              Wow! I truly thought this happened in LA–it’s close to horror stories I’ve heard from PAs I know here out west. Pretty horrible regardless of where this happened!

              Reply
      2. Mona Lisa Saperstein

        Thanks–yeah, it’s a pretty small company. I sort of figured there wouldn’t be much I can do about it until I’ve built up more connections and have a bit more pull than, you know, a bottom-of-the-totem-pole assistant.

        Reply
        1. anon for this

          Former producer here. If you’re an assistant, what your boss is doing is probably illegal (though sadly not uncommon). Flat day rates even for non-exempt positions are common in production to simplify budgeting and payroll, but those flats should back into an hourly rate that is at least minimum wage, with time-and-a-half after 8 hours and double time after 12. (E.g. – day rate for an assistant might be $150/day. If you’re regularly working a 12 hour day in California, that’s 14 pay-hours factoring in the OT, so 14 x $10/hr = $140/day at minimum wage. Your $150 rate would cover that, but it’s cutting it close and your employer should be keeping an eye on your work hours.)

          Also, you should still be paid as an employee, even if your employer of record is the payroll company. Are taxes being withheld from your paycheck? Are you being paid through a payroll company? If not, if you’re just getting a flat check with no deductions each week, you may not be covered by worker’s comp. That is a huge personal risk for you, especially if you’re working excessively long hours and running errands as part of your job.

          I hear you that you feel like you need to stick it out in order to move up, but you really do need to protect yourself. Also, seconding AVP on “walk away from the crappy ones” – lots of good ones are out there. If I were you I’d try to network my way into a better job ASAP. Good luck!

          Reply
          1. anon for this

            *to be clear, the example I gave is the kind of deal I used to see in LA production, but of course what you’re entitled to depends on where you’re working and whether you can be classified as an independent contractor or not. YMMV quite a bit.

            Reply
          2. AVP

            Seconding that I don’t think she needs to wait until the “one year” mark to start networking and trying to find a better situation…crazy turnover is expected in this part of the working world especially if you’re a contractor. I don’t speak for everyone but I wouldn’t blink an eye if I got a resume of short stays like that. If I knew the company and thought they were a good place to work, I would second guess it, but I think it’s assumed that most of these places are terrible and dysfunctional and people are trying to get out.

            Reply
      3. AVP

        +1 to this. The big goal is to build up enough of a reputation with good producers and PM’s that you can walk away from the crappy ones, who are unfortunately prevalent in a lot of the industry.

        And once you find a really good PM or producer willing to follow the rules and pay what they owe, do what you can to get in with them! Even if you have to give up 5 days of work with a crappy company for a 3-day job with a good one, try to swing it if you can – getting to know the better players is absolutely worth it.

        Reply
      4. fposte

        Points for the user name in the response :-).

        And it’s probably not legal, and it probably is normal.

        Reply
    2. AVP

      It’s hard to comment on the legal aspects (my impulse is you should be getting overtime but she’s probably paying you as a contractor to avoid that, which means your big legal problem is that you are classified incorrectly). You should be getting minimum wage.

      But I would say this is reasonably common in smaller and more independent production companies, less so once you work for bigger companies and the names get bigger – for companies working with famous people or major brands this kind of working arrangement is a liability and PR disaster waiting to happen so they try to curb it.

      IMHO the end game is to use the experience you’re getting now to get into a bigger company ASAP. And get into one of the guilds or unions if it’s in your career trajectory.

      I have ten years’ production experience but in NYC, although many friends have similar careers in LA.

      Reply
      1. Mona Lisa Saperstein

        Thanks–you’re right, like I said above, it’s a very small indie company.

        I’m getting really good experience and making a lot of connections, so hopefully I can stick it out for a few more months to get past the year marker, and then find something better. I just wish I could be fairly compensated–I’m afraid to say anything because I was lucky to land this job, and there are SO many great applicants to our company (I know, I get to sift through their resumes) who would be completely willing to do this job for less or free.

        Reply
        1. AVP

          Oh, she knows what she’s doing. They all do. Unfortunately the system is built to take advantage of young people and there are so many people willing to do jobs like this for cheap that they get away with it!

          Reply
    3. BuildMeUp

      It’s unfortunately pretty normal in the industry when you’re working for indie/smaller filmmakers. Larger productions are usually better, although I think it’s fairly standard for it to be framed as a flat rate for x hours and 1.5x the rate after that.

      Reply
    4. Not the Droid You are Looking For

      Unfortunately, this is really standard :(

      I have friends who have horror stories of working for certain production companies that would contract them to do ten movies in twelve months for SyFy and just run everyone on staff ragged.

      Reply
  28. Sunflower

    Is it common to take a cross country red-eye home and be expected to come to work the next day? Last job I had to either come in the morning and leave early or I could come in late but still had to go in that day. We weren’t allowed to stay the night and fly home in the morning. (This was OldJob so just wondering)

    Reply
    1. Nell

      I travel often for work and even if we get home at 1am, we are just allotted a 2-hour delay to our arrival into the office the next day. I think the expectation to work the next day is common. You are saving the company money on a hotel room for the night but you’re technically “spending” it, too, if you take a whole day off.

      Reply
    2. Elizabeth West

      Every job I’ve ever had where people traveled, they would come in, even if it was only for a few hours. If they routinely worked remotely, they logged on. So I would say normal. Red-eye flights are often cheaper and of course there is the extra night in a hotel, so this was probably a cost-saving measure.

      Reply
    3. AVP

      I’ve gotten a pass on coming in the next day but typically only when traveling with my boss – if he’s exhausted and doesn’t want to come in then he’ll say I don’t have to either. If he’s not there, I can generally ask for a late start but that’s it.

      Reply
    4. Kristine

      I travel often for work, usually every other week. If I get home any time after midnight then I work from home the next day. I have to wake up at 5:15 to get to the office by 8, and NO ONE benefits from me getting only 3 or 4 hours of sleep.

      If possible, I try to schedule my flights so that I arrive home mid-day and then work from the airport/plane in the morning and from home in the afternoon.

      Reply
    5. Liz

      I’d probably be expected either in the office (but later that day) or to work from home that day. Expecting a full day’s work after a redeye would be unrealistic, but I wouldn’t at all be surprised by a half-day expectation.

      Reply
    6. Anonymous Educator

      I don’t know if it’s common, but I used to have a job like that, and it didn’t make any sense. There was absolutely no reason people working several nights cross-country should have to come into work the next Monday, let alone after a red-eye.

      Reply
    7. fairyfreak

      Normal. I used to travel a lot in my old position, and we only got a comp day to catch up on personal business if we were out of the country 2+ weeks.

      Reply
    8. AnonForThis

      Normal. Late arrival is also pretty normal, because they want you to get some sleep, but occasionally if there’s stuff you have to do or be at first thing, then you have to be there at normal time.

      Reply
    9. Doriana Gray

      I don’t travel often for work, but when I do, if I’m coming back on a weekday, I can take the next day off. I try to schedule my return flights on weekends though so I won’t have to waste a PTO day.

      Reply
    10. Almond Milk Latte

      I’ll say this is normal but awful. I used to run into the same problem flying from the West Coast (departing 11pm their time) coming to the East Coast, which after my connection got me home around 8am. Management saw no problem with me working a full day in Seattle, spending an evening at the airport, a night flying, and then having me work the next day. Jerks :(

      Reply
    11. Jane

      I worked several international non-profit jobs and they all had 1-2 days off as policy following any international flights. Culturally, few took the time but it was in the manual. In practice is looked like taking some flex time (late arrival, leaving early).

      Reply
  29. ElCee

    Large nonprofit, the PTB seem to be attempting reorgs/major changes with varying levels of effort and success. However they are not really letting the information flow downward, that is, to those of us whose jobs would be affected by these ideas. I like it here otherwise and have accrued good benefits (6mos maternity leave) so a new organization would have to be really attractive to entice me to leave. Am I being stupid by rolling the dice and staying, when there is a possibility my job might go *poof*?

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Hmmm, this sounds like it’s less about “is this normal?” and more “what should I do?” — so I’d say it would be better to email it to me directly or save it for a Friday open thread.

      (I do want to keep people on topic here or it will get really unwieldy.)

      Reply
  30. Nonny

    I never have anything to do at my job. I have daily and weekly tasks that may take up the first few hours of a day, but unless it’s busy season, I end up just sitting here and pretending to work (read: reading AMA, etc.) for the remaining 4-6 hours. Also, I work through a contract and am no longer really sure who my direct supervisor is since a change in contract. Plus, no one really checks in with me (forget on a regular basis, I mean at all) even though I’m the most junior person in the place. Maybe I got used to regular check-ins at a previous non-pro job, and I’m just being weird, but is that typical? This is also a Super Serious environment (and not for any practical reasons like “this is the court of law and we need to be super serious all the time”; it’s just the culture here) — probably normal for some places, but still makes me sad.

    Reply
    1. babblemouth

      Not normal, but also non completely unheard of.
      It’s hard to give specific advice without knowing more about your job, but could you volunteer for some tasks? For instance, if Jane says her life would be so much easier if she had stats on Teapots Production, could you go to her and volunteer to do the research? The key is to not make it sound like you’ve been slacking “Hey Jane, I have some extra time, and I heard you needed some stats. Would you like me to research them for you?”
      It will fill your time, AND make you look like a useful colleague. Even if Jane is not your boss, she’d remember.
      Alternatively, maybe it’s time to start putting your CV out to find a more stimulating job.

      Reply
      1. Nonny

        I have asked for more to do, but those requests have been pretty much ignored. I’ve been looking for something new since about three months after I started. But it’s comforting to know I’m not being unreasonable in my expectations. Thank you!

        Reply
        1. babblemouth

          Since this will be ongoing then, for your own well-being, try to make goals for yourself in the meantime. Spending time on personal development could be nice. If no one is looking over your shoulder, pick a free online course (take a look at Coursera) and learn about a topic you find interesting but never had time for! It will help tide you over til you find a new job.

          Reply
          1. Nonny

            I’m a bit limited on that because online usage is monitored. I’ve done some writing, though, some of which I hope will help reach some professional goals.

            Reply
            1. Chrissie

              Can you bring files from home? Coursera lectures etc can often be downloaded. Of course this doesn’t work if all USB slots are blocked for security reasons.
              But I agree, use the time for self-development!

              Reply
    2. ZSD

      In my experience, this isn’t terribly unusual for low-level employees, or at least it’s not unusual to have a lot of downtime at certain times of the year. But it stinks! I second what babblemouth suggested about asking others how you can help.

      Reply
    3. Chicken

      I’d say that not having (nearly!) enough work to do is normal in some types of positions, mostly lower level positions without much autonomy. It can happen if the company needs you to be available for crunch times or last minute requests, but doesn’t figure out a way to give you background work to do when you don’t have a pressing task. It’s not a good use of company resources in most cases, but I’ve seen it a lot.

      Reply
    4. justsomeone

      Somewhat normal. I run out of things to do at work pretty regularly, and I’m an FTE. Since you’re on a contract, reach out to your agency’s contact and ask them who your on-site supervisor is. Ask that person if they have more work you can do and for semi regular check ins.

      Reply
    5. twenty points for the copier

      This was really typical for me early in my career. I am a very efficient worker, which exacerbates it, but a lot of my first couple of positions involved doing reactive work – I didn’t have much that I was able to take the lead on on an ongoing basis, so it was more responding to requests from clients or supervisors. I think in some situations, I could have done a little more to be proactive and really try to position myself to others around the department who were swamped and may have needed help. But ultimately in some positions, there’s just not that much to do.

      It definitely made me sad as well! I know it could have been much worse – getting worked hours and hours of overtime without pay, being in a toxic environment, etc, but feeling like nobody noticed me and each day was a new challenge in finding stuff to fill the time does become very frustrating.

      Reply
    6. LawPancake

      It took me about 2 years at my position (full-time not contract) to get enough work to regularly fill up my day. That’s just kind of how the work flow in this department goes, when I started I was given 5 or 6 long term-projects to work on but those only took a couple hours a week (if that) but now, as additional project come up, I’ve got 30-40 different areas or projects to handle. The first year or so was brutally boring though and I’m still trying to unlearn all the bad work habits I picked up trying to kill time.

      If you have essentially the same tasks, have been there for awhile, and don’t enjoy that pace I’d start floating your resume elsewhere.

      Reply
    7. Ife

      Hey, me too! My actual work takes only a few hours per day, and I have been spending the rest of the time trying to look busy. Asked for projects, and was basically told, “chill out.” It has been over a year, and it’s getting a little better. I actually have a project or two, so I am idle about 50%-60% now, instead of 80%-100%. Some glorious days, I’m actually busy all day!

      It pains me, because I’m really not wired this way, and I have a real problem with saying that you need my butt-in-seat for 8 hours, when you only give me about 3 hours of work to do.

      Reply
  31. Ihmmy

    Ok, my job is mostly awesome, but I have a question about this – I’m unionized, so apparently that means we cannot negotiate for merit raises ourselves, we only get whatever the union negotiates for our annual change. We don’t have annual reviews either, though I meet about once a month with my manager (and discuss other issues along the way as they arise). Does this seem relatively normal? Canadian union if that makes a difference.

    Reply
    1. LQ

      I’m union (US) and I can’t negotiate merit raises either. But I do get annual reviews, and I have got promotions that came with raises. I think trying to make a case for a promotion might be the way to go. (No reviews seems very strange to me, is that an HR policy? Union policy?)

      Reply
    2. CV

      Very very normal for a Canadian unionized environment. The trade off is that your union rep is supposed to go to bat for you with management in case of problems, and the pay and benefits negotiated in the CBA are usually better than what is found in non-unionized employers.

      Reply
    3. Ama

      I don’t think it’s unheard of for unionized positions, but when I was in a unionized clerical position I saw a lot of managers get super conservative when it came to anything that might cause an issue with the union, so if it’s your manager telling you this, double check with your union rep to make sure she’s not misinterpreting the CBA.

      Reply
    4. Jake

      100% normal in a US union. In fact any other way would likely be a violation of any union CBA I’ve ever dealt with.

      Reply
    5. Not So NewReader

      Right no merit raises, just the standard raise that everyone gets. Reviews are more or less a formality and not much else. (Old job was unionized, located in US.)

      Reply
    6. Mike C.

      I work in a heavily unionized environment, and the unionized folks do have merit raises but that’s because it was made part of the bargaining agreement. Essentially it’s a formula combining a flat percentage, an additional amount based on company performance and a final amount based on managerial rating. Suffice it to say, it’s a good deal higher than for those of us who aren’t part of the bargaining unit. Like lots of things, it all depends on the contract and the creativity/practicality of those sitting at the negotiating table.

      First, understand that merit raises are historically a very, very tricky thing to deal with. A classic way to bust a union was for management to blatantly play favorites (remember the saboteur manual?) by handing out raises and bonuses to certain individuals to convinced them to break away and eventually decertify the union. Once that happened, all those bonuses and raises were gone.

      Look, if this is something that you feel strongly about, get involved with your union! Go to meetings, become a steward, make your case, that sort of thing. A union is nothing more than it’s members acting collectively after all.

      Reply
  32. Kai

    I work in academic administration and saw a job posting at another local university. Didn’t apply for it because as part of the online application process, you had to submit your official transcripts (yes, official!). I’ve never encountered this, certainly not at my current job. Is this a common thing for universities to ask for? It was a public institution, if it makes a difference.

    Reply
    1. ZSD

      I used to work for a public university. No, I don’t think this is common. If the position was combo administration and academic, such as a dean position, then *maybe*, but I still don’t think it’s common.

      Reply
      1. Kai

        Yeah, if I recall correctly it was for a mid-level writing/editing job, so it seemed pretty extreme to me. Thanks!

        Reply
    2. AnonAcademic

      I had to provide proof of my degree for my research job that’s supported by a federal fellowship. Since the degree is a requirement, transcripts are one way to provide proof. In my case they accepted a letter from the graduate school and the registrar instead. I wonder if in your case, the school has been burned by staff who overstated credentials?

      Reply
    3. Newbie

      There are two different colleges in the city I’m in (U.S.) and neither one requires a transcript during the application process. The transcript may be required later in the process for confirmation of degree completion, but not from every single applicant. This seems odd to me.

      Reply
    4. fizzchick

      I’m on the professor side of things, where requesting transcripts is totally normal. One thing that’s common to a lot of places is that their online systems are set up with one default format, which is not changed for different jobs. So because they need transcripts from the adjunct professors (many places require at least X graduate credits in the field to teach a class), they just have that in there for everyone. It goes the other way, too: because they request a complete job history from everyone, I have to spend ages typing in all the info that’s already on my long-form CV. tl;dr: academia is weird. FYI, if you have a copy of your transcript, they will often accept a high quality scanned pdf for the online application, and may or may not need official printed ones later.

      Reply
    5. Lia

      Yes, this is normal if it is a unionized public. All of the ones partner or I have worked for have minimum degree requirements for staff/faculty, and verification via transcripts was required. This is in 4 different states, FWIW.

      Reply
    6. Pwyll

      The thing that boggles my mind about this is that official transcript usually means it’s in a sealed envelope with a stamp/seal/signature over it. For you to open it and scan it into the system, it would automatically become unofficial, would it not? In any position that has required official transcripts, I’ve needed to pay to have them sent in directly by the university, and that only happened after I’d accepted the job offer (also needed to prove my licenses as well).

      Reply
      1. fizzchick

        For many places, that used to be true, but they’ve gone to accepting scanned copies. Many schools will also now send a digital version directly if requested, which is faster and sometimes cheaper. My “favorite” experience was a job I applied for a few years ago where I’d sent the scanned version but they insisted I needed to bring a sealed version to finalize hiring paperwork. So I brought it, the HR person opened the seal, made a note on her worksheet, and offered me back the envelope and transcript. Gee, thanks. She didn’t even make a photocopy/scan for their records, just ruined that copy for future use.

        Reply
        1. Midge

          I had something similar happen with a digital transcript. I was very excited to see that the department where I was applying to be a non-degree student (to take advantage of my employer’s tuition assistance program) accepted official copies of your digital transcript. So I requested the transcript be emailed to me, saved it for future use, and uploaded it to my application. Everything was fine the first semester. But when I went to sign up for a second semester there was a hold on my application because they hadn’t received my official transcript. Finally they told me that it’s only considered official if the school sends it directly to them. So I had to re-request it, and pay for it a second time.

          Reply
  33. Beth

    Recently switched over to the PR field working at a ~40-person agency. On the first day, they had me sign a non-disclosure agreement as well as a non-compete. A non-disclosure agreement seems normal, but what about the non-compete? From my memory (didn’t receive a copy for my records), the non-compete bars me from working in any sales, marketing, or communications/PR role within the U.S. for one year after the end of my employment with them. Is this normal for agencies to require? Should this have been a red flag?

    I have a feeling that this agency deals with a lot of turnover, so I’m wondering if the non-compete is related… Then again, I’m new to PR. I’ve tried to research where former employees have gone and it seems either 1) it’s fine to go against the non-compete specifications as long as you’re not actually in direct competition with the agency and clients it represents, or 2) the non-compete got put into place after those employees left. I’m happy with my job, but might see myself moving cities (still in the U.S.) in the next 1-2 years and want to know if I’d have to wait for the non-compete to expire.

    Reply
    1. Dawn

      Non-competes are pretty common in most industries, however, in the research that I and my partner have done on them in the past they are notoriously hard to enforce and almost always are judged in favor of the employee.

      IANAL, and I don’t know what state you’re in, but I’m willing to bet that based on what you’ve said here your non-compete is way too broad and would not be enforceable in court. Also, GET A COPY FOR YOUR RECORDS, like right now- a truly shady operation could easily change the non-compete while it’s out of your sight then pull it back up with your signature after you leave and use it as leverage against you.

      Reply
      1. Busy

        Going with normal on this one, but I’m with Dawn … and I am a lawyer, but this is of course isn’t legal advice because I am not YOUR lawyer, but my initial thought when I read your comment was “holy broad, Batman!”. Get thee to a lawyer; this might not even be enforceable.

        Reply
    2. Ad Astra

      That is a pretty broad noncompete. It would be more common to have you sign a noncompete saying you can’t work for a competitor or former client in the same capacity that you’re working for your current company now. IANAL, but your noncompete is probably way too broad to be enforceable — because how would a PR professional be able to make a living if they’re barred from the entire industry for a year? My guess is that people who’ve left the agency for other agencies have violated the noncompete, knowing it’s unenforceable.

      Reply
      1. ElCee

        Yeah. I read some horror stories about companies going after employees anyway, but at a smaller outfit I don’t know they’d even have the resources to do that. Still, I would recommend becoming more familiar with the NCA itself.

        Reply
        1. Ad Astra

          Yes, and it’s possible that other firms won’t want to hire someone who’s under a noncompete — even an unenforceable one — because they don’t want to deal with the hassle. Even confirming that it is, indeed, unenforceable would mean involving lawyers to so some extent. But the fact that people from Beth’s firm have moved on to competitors makes me think it may not be a huge deal in that market.

          I would definitely recommend having a lawyer look it over when you can, and definitely make sure you’re covered before you decide to resign or accept another position.

          Reply
    3. Quirk

      Check your local laws, but in the UK these conditions are both a) common in job contracts and b) more or less flat illegal/unenforceable where they are seen to operate as a restraint of trade – i.e. they’re forbidding people from continuing to be employed in the trade they’re currently working in, which is seen as a social ill. In the US I gather it varies state by state.

      The breadth of the clause sounds like it would be struck down in most places.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-compete_clause#United_States

      Reply
    4. ElCee

      IANAL but recently dealt with this–I got a job offer (and verbally accepted) before seeing in the written offer that they required a noncompete. I declined.
      The gist I got from everything I read was this: noncompetes aren’t great but they are becoming more common. If you are in California they are not enforceable. On the other hand, if the agreement is as you state, it’s EXTREMELY broad and therefore will be difficult for them to “win.” (The entire U.S.? Really?) Most noncompetes that have been successfully challenged in court have been ones that are overly broad on the basis that a company cannot prevent you from making a living. On the other, other hand, if they do attempt to sue you, you might have to spend some money defending yourself. On the other, other, other hand, who knows whether it’s something they even have any intention of enforcing.
      Again IANAL but I think NCAs in general should be talked about more. I’d get a copy of your NCA and have a lawyer take a peek.

      Reply
    5. No Longer Just a Lurker

      Its normal to sign a NDA and in many places a non-compete but the scope of the one you signed seems a bit wide and I doubt they could uphold it in court. In general non-complete agreements have to be very specific to a region, specific role, and industry. For example The Office – Michael Scott opened the Michael Scott paper company in the same town and targeted the same customers. That would be a sufficient reason to sue had he signed a non-compete because the scope of his company as well as the region put him in direct competition with his former employer. Another example would be if someone left a medical practice to open their own but the non-compete indicated he/she couldn’t open a practice within 50 miles of the current office. I can’t see them being able to enforce that unless you opened your own practice (or joined one) that was a direct competitor for all of your current accounts where you might have built up a relationship with a customer that could influence them to move with you.

      Reply
      1. Enginerd

        Get a copy and check the dates. Every non-compete I’ve ever signed was only valid for X years after I signed it and usually only valid for certain competitors under certain circumstances. Usually something along the lines of for the next 5 years from signing this agreement if you leave our teapot manufacturing you cannot go to company Z and make teapots. You can go to company Z and make lawn mowers but no teapots. As a side note I’ve never seen them enforced unless you worked on something that was deemed critical information, like the recipe for coca-cola or something along those lines.

        Reply
    6. Sunflower

      Agree with everyone else. Normal to sign non-competes that specify specific places you can’t go but this is way too broad so legally wise it’s probably not enforceable. It’s so broad that I’m guessing they are using it for a scare tactic in which case I’d say it’s a red flag. They basically are saying ‘sign this and then you can’t ever leave here’. It could be a sign of other bad things going on or it could mean nothing.

      We had a joke non-compete at my old company. It was put into place after one of the employees left, literally went down the street and started his own, same exact business. I forget what exactly mine said but I was slightly nervous when I left. I think they would only go after people who did this or went to work for him. Also IDK what level you are in your career but if you’re newer, it might not be worth the $$ it would cost to go after you anyway.

      Also ask for a copy NOW. And in the future, don’t sign anything without getting a copy yourself.

      Reply
    7. Recovering ED

      Non-competes are common in the startup tech world, in my experience. Not necessarily enforceable, however.

      Reply
    8. PeachTea

      I can’t even come close to seeing how this is legal. The 1 year limit is fine, the entire United States is way too broad. Non-competes cannot “prevent you from making a living.” Ruling out your entire country is most definitely preventing you from making a living.

      Reply
  34. Laika