talking to job candidates about our kickball league, handling complaints about an employee, and more

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

1. How should I handle my employee complaints about her coworker?

I’m a budding supervisor and there is one employee who has brought forward many complaints against another employee. She claims that our clients have felt written off or discouraged by this other person but the clients do not want to come forward. The employee who’s being accused doesn’t seem to be doing these things but I am not fully sure now that these complaints have been brought forward. How should I move forward with this employee bringing up issues that are not her own?

You can ask the employee for more details about exactly how she knows this and weigh it against what you know of all parties (including her credibility), you can talk with clients yourself (saying that you’re checking in to see how things are going and in order to get feedback that will help your team do their jobs better), and/or you can observe things more closely yourself for a while — or some combination of these things.

You asked about how you should handle the employee “bringing up issues that are not her own.” I don’t think you should tackle it from that angle. If there’s a problem with her routinely raising issues without much merit, then yes, that’s something you’d need to address. But you want an environment where people feel safe talking to you when they have legitimate (to them) concerns, including worries about how clients are being treated. There’s certainly a point where that can become disruptive (such as when it’s constant or they keep bringing it up after you’ve told them you’ll handle it or the complaints are about things that don’t impact anyone). But imagine if it turned out that an employee was being rude to clients, and no one mentioned it to you because they thought they didn’t have standing to?

Of course, if you don’t think she’s operating in good faith, that’s a very different issue.

2. Is my coworker on shaky ground talking about our kickball league in interviews?

My office hosts a kickball team. The organizer of the team, who is very passionate about it (he sends weekly all-staff emails detailing the results of every game) is also in charge of hiring our entry-level employees. I found out that he may be discussing the league in interviews – maybe as an example of office culture? – and there’s a joke going around that he hires people who will help the team win. (This is a joke. I do think he would like new employees to join the
league, but I doubt he actually makes hiring decisions based on that.)

I worry about the perception applicants might be getting, that their desire and ability to play on the team could affect their hiring. The job has no relation to physical fitness – it’s an office setting. Could this be a liability for our organization, in terms of something like the Americans with Disabilities Act? Or am I way overthinking this?

It depends on what he’s actually saying. If he’s just mentioning the league as an example of office culture, which is what it sounds like you think it is, that’s fine to do. If he’s actually making hiring decisions based on athletic ability, or leading people to believe that he is, then yeah, you could have some ADA issues.

Even if that’s not happening, though, if he’s talking about it too much, he could be inadvertently alienating job candidates who aren’t athletic or aren’t interested in an office culture that is.

But it doesn’t sound like there’s actually reason to think any of that is happening. You say he “may” be discussing the league in interviews, which isn’t really enough to go on. If you’re worried, though, why not just ask him and tell him what you’re concerned about? He probably hasn’t even considered that angle.

3. How many vacation days can I take at once?

What is the maximum number of vacation days that should be taken at once?

I recently requested a two-week vacation, which my manager approved without hesitation. My company allows three weeks of vacation time per year, and it appears that most of my coworkers use their full allotment. I gave several months of advance notice and ensured that my trip would not coincide with any major deadlines. However, when I told my parents about my plans, they thought that two weeks was too long, and I should only take vacation in installments of one week or less.

Flights are already booked, but I’m wondering for future reference – is two weeks too long for a vacation?

There’s some variation on this, but nope, in most offices that’s not too long. There are some offices that prefer people to limit it to one week, but if you work in one of those, they’ll tell you if you’re asking for too much at once (and even then you can usually get exceptions made — some trips really can’t be done in one week).

But the most relevant question is what’s okay in your office, and it sounds like this is just fine with them. Tell your parents that it’s fine with your boss, who approved it without hesitation.

4. Before taking time off, we’re supposed to email our whole team to see if anyone objects

I recently started with a new company as a manager, and I work directly for the director, who is also a good friend of mine. He requires that if anyone in our department of nine wants to take time off, they have to email the rest of the team to see if any of them have any issues with the time off request and they need to reply if they do or not (of course nobody ever replies with “yes, I have an issue”). What is your opinion on this?

It’s pretty odd and feels like it’s giving other people more power than they should have. I mean, if Cecil has an issue with you going to the doctor on Friday, does that mean he gets to veto it?

I assume he thinks that this will help prevent scheduling snafus — like if Cecil was counting on you to help with a project that absolutely must happen on Friday, now he’ll be able to speak up and tell you that. But a better system — and the more typical system — would be for your manager to expect you to manage your own workload and alert people who might be impacted by your absence. After you’ve been there longer, I’d suggest that.

5. Letting employer pay for future expenses when I think I might be gone by then

I have what I think is an ethical question. I’m interviewing for a position outside of my company. I’ve had two interviews with different companies, and I think they went well. My professional association membership fee is due that my company pays, but I feel a little weird about having the company pay if if I’m leaving. Also, we have some training scheduled in a few months and now is the time I’d usually buy my plane ticket. I’m wondering if I should wait and not buy the plane ticket until I know what happens with these interviews.

What’s the right thing to do when you might be leaving your job but have expenses that are customarily paid by your employer?

Act as if you’re not leaving until you know for sure that you are (meaning that you have a job offer that you’ve accepted). It’s just not practical to put things like this on hold while you wait to see how your job search plays out. You could get an offer tomorrow, or you could still be at your old job in six months. (You could also get a job offer and turn it down, if you can’t come to terms on salary and other details.) The only reasonable course of action is to proceed as if you’ll still be there until you know otherwise with certainty.

Your employer is very used to having people leave after they’ve already paid for plane tickets, conference registrations, membership dues, training classes, and all sorts of other things. That’s just how this stuff goes. It’s a slightly inconvenient but very normal part of doing business, and no reasonable employer will hold it against you.

{ 308 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Christopher Tracy

    4. Before taking time off, we’re supposed to email our whole team to see if anyone objects.

    What?! Way to abdicate management responsibility there, sheesh. Sympathies, OP – that’s ridiculous.

    Reply
    1. Jeanne

      If I read the letter correctly, OP manages 7 of the people. Who is going to reply “No” to their manager taking vacation? What an odd system. I think as soon as possible OP should discuss changing this policy.

      Reply
      1. Christopher Tracy

        Ha! Glossed right over that (that’s what I get for posting before bedtime). That just makes this weirder. OP definitely needs to talk to the higher-ups about getting this policy changed.

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      2. Stranger than fiction

        I wasn’t clear on the reporting structure of the nine. Like do 8 managers report to the director or do 7 report to Op? Or some to Op and some to director? It’s still odd though.

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    2. The Cosmic Avenger

      I think either the OP’s employer doesn’t use Outlook, where you can view other peoples’ work calendars (and control who sees how much detail) and create group calendars, or the director doesn’t understand how Outlook works, because it sounds to me like he is trying to make sure everyone on that team is aware of the rest of the team’s schedule, but assumes that they don’t share schedule information unless prompted. We have both individual calendars and a group calendar. My individual calendar has stuff like webinars and task reminders in addition to days off, and the group calendar only gets “Cosmic out” for the day or hours I am off. I make sure those directly affected have seen it, although everyone should be checking the calendar every few days for changes.

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    3. Schnapps

      Hm. Well, here’s the thing.

      For our major time off (e.g. – full days, chunks of vacation) that has to be approved by our manager. We’re expected to look at the work calendar before we ask for it to make sure there’s reasonable coverage.

      If we need just a little time off, and need to leave an hour early (no more than an hour), we’re to check the work calendar, check with our team, and if no one objects, then we just send an email out saying that we’re leaving early.

      We’re good with this because otherwise it feels like micromanaging and that they don’t trust us to ensure there’s coverage. We’re all adults, so its expected that we can figure this out ourselves. It’s not worth our manager’s time to have to approve every 30 minutes or hour that we would like to take off.

      Reply
      1. Random Lurker

        I run a very similar system with my team. I don’t want to get involved in every single “can I leave early for a dr appointment” conversation. They are adults, they are capable of looking at the workload, and making sure they aren’t leaving the team high and dry. But rather than making sure that the team is OK with it, I ask the time off requesting employee to find someone to cover their work. Nobody wants to feel like they are asking a peer for permission, and I also feel this method encourages accountability and ownership of tasks.

        In 2 years, there has never been an issue.

        Reply
        1. QualityControlFreak

          Yeah, we had this system, where you had to find your own coverage before asking for time off. If the only person who can cover for you is the office slacker, you’re screwed. They don’t CARE if their teammate never gets time off, or about leaving them high and dry. They simply do not care. So, in effect, I WAS asking my peer for permission. Didn’t work well for me. Management knew and didn’t care, and I’m sure it made it easier for them, but for the rest of us it really sucked. That policy has since been revised.

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          1. Ife

            Reminds me of working in restaurants in high school, where you had to call all your coworkers and beg them to cover for you if you were sick. I understand the though process behind it, but it’s usually terrible in practice.

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      2. Ama

        When I was on a team of three where one of us needed to be in the office to cover the phones, we did informally consult each other before making our request to our manager for either time off around major holidays or vacations that would require someone else to cover more than just the phones (evening events, taking minutes at a meeting, etc.). But for a team of nine, it seems like there would both be enough redundancy to not need that and that there are so many people no one would want to be the one person objecting to someone’s vacation.

        At my current work, the practice is to share days off in Outlook with your immediate department, and also email any other colleagues you work closely with the week before several days out of the office (both business and personal travel) so if someone needs your input they know to ask before you leave. But the actual approval of the request has already been done by the manager at that point.

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    4. AMT

      My guess is that there was one incident in which someone didn’t alert someone else about their vacation, and rather than manage, OP’s boss just instituted a blanket rule. This is usually how dumb office rules get created.

      Reply
  2. Christopher Tracy

    OP #5 – A little different, but I had a friend who worked at a major product manufacturer in their lab, and she let said company pay for her masters even though she knew she would be leaving soon to apply to medical school. Well, “soon” ended up being almost a year and a half after she graduated – she didn’t anticipate how long it was going to take her to study for the MCAT and apply (and wait for decisions from) various medical schools. I absolutely think what she did was fine – her company offered tuition reimbursement and she took it. Your company is offering you an opportunity to advance your skills with this training class, so you should take advantage of it because you never know how your exit strategy timeline’s going to play out. And depending on the association you belong to, your company can always transfer that membership to another employee if you do happen to leave before the end of the year (they can also probably give your ticket for the training class away as well). It’s not a hardship for most places to do this.

    Reply
    1. JessaB

      Yes, if the company had an issue, the policy would have rules to it, such as if you leave within x time after we spend this money, you owe it back. Or if you take x degree you owe us x years after you get it. Most companies who are worried about this kind of thing are pretty specific before they give out money. If the rules say you’re entitled to it, take it. It’s not just to keep you going forward, it’s also a reward for being there prior to you taking it.

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      1. RVA Cat

        Yes, there’s usually a schedule for things like tuition reimbursement where you pay back a prorated amount if you leave within a certain time frame.

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        1. Jerry Vandesic

          That’s exactly what my company does. I had someone resign this week, and when I notified HR they indicated that this employee needs to reimburse the company $1100 for a course they took last fall.

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    2. KarenD

      I would schedule the training. I would not buy the plane tickets just yet. Plane tickets are almost always non-transferable and often non-refundable, meaning the company just loses that money. At one point, buying a ticket a few months in advance got you the best fare, but that’s no longer true (especially with carriers like Southwest and JetBlue) so why commit the company to tickets now?

      Reply
  3. Graciosa

    To #3, two weeks off is smart.

    It can take the better part of a week to decompress enough to start enjoying the remainder of your holiday – and really relax.

    You’re taking care of yourself – everyone needs a break – and you’re not getting any sign that this isn’t acceptable under the company culture (which saves me from recommending that you do it anyway because your mental health is more important).

    Ignore your parents, or parry any comments with an explanation acceptable to them that flatters either you or your employer (you’re so valuable that the company wants to take care of you, good employer with a generous policy, whatever).

    Enjoy your vacation.

    Reply
    1. Green

      If you’re traveling to somewhere distant, you can spend a day or two just flying each way. Two weeks is fine in my company, ideally not at a time where you have reason to suspect you’ll be busy. (For example, I have a big project next year with an uncertain date, so I’m not planning a 2-week trip for 2017, but I did one in 2015 and plan to do one again in 2018.)

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      1. Wendy Darling

        If we could only take vacation in one-week increments we’d never visit my SO’s family again! They live a 11-hour flight away if you fly direct, and as it turns out there are no direct flights from our city. Realistically you blow a full day getting there and a full day coming back, and you’re jetlagged for two days after on either end. So if I could only take off one work week, even if I left first thing Saturday morning I wouldn’t arrive until sometime on Sunday, I’d be a jetlaggy mess until Tuesday, and I’d have to leave on Friday morning to have time to unpack/sleep it off.

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    2. Gene

      In our workplace, two weeks at a time is common; personally, I’ve taken up to 4 weeks fit a trip to Australia.

      If you asked for two weeks, got it approved, and no one batted an eye, you’re golden. Enjoy your time off.

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      1. Stranger than fiction

        Your last sentence exactly. Op’s parents likely work somewhere where the culture frowns upon employees taking more than a week, which we do hear about here often. But there’s just as many companies that are ok with it as there are ones that discourage it.

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    3. Engineer Woman

      Completely agree that two weeks is perfectly acceptable in a reasonable organization, which you seem to be in considering your manager approved without hesitation. As an FYI: it was not uncommon of my European colleagues to take vacation in a block of 3 or 4 weeks.

      Enjoy your two weeks off!

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      1. EU-RO-Cat

        Right. At least in my country the law mandates at least one 2-weeks block of vacation (and the minimum by law is 20 or 21 days plus national holidays).

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        1. Revolver Rani

          I’m in the US but I work in a company that hires a lot of foreign nationals (and sponsors their visa, and those who stay typically end up with permanent resident status after a reasonable amount of time). It’s very common for folks from the other side of the world to take 3 weeks off at a clip (even 4, occasionally, if they have enough vacation time) to visit their home countries. And that just helps to make it a part of the culture that we work around people’s longer vacations – wherever you are from, and wherever you are going.

          So I second what Alison said to the OP – acceptable length of vacations depends entirely on office culture, and while there are offices in which what the OP’s parents said may be the dominant view, there are just as many offices in which longer vacations are not uncommon at all.

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          1. Clewgarnet

            I’m in the UK, so people typically have 5 weeks of leave a year. It’s not unknown for people to arrange their leave to straddle the ‘rollover’ and take 10 weeks at a time, especially if they’re visiting family. As you say, it’s just something we work around.

            Office culture varies so much that it’s just a case of figuring out what’ll fly where you work.

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            1. Snargulfuss

              Oh wow, I wish I could swing this! I’m one of those who can and does take two-week vacations, but I love to travel internationally so I’d love to have more than two weeks to explore a part of the world I may never return to.

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          2. RKB

            Yup, my parents still visit India time to time, so they take off 4-6 weeks. However it’s not all paid vacation leave — I believe they use their accrued sick time in lieu.

            They both work for companies where this isn’t unusual though.

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        2. Ama

          My dad’s accounting firm gives all of the senior level employees a month long sabbatical every five years they are with the company. It’s largely for audit reasons — if you have to hand your clients to someone else for a full month any errors or intentional fudging in the books is likely to come to light — but it’s also a really nice perk for employees that work incredibly long hours at certain times of the year. He had his first one last year and timed it to when my mom’s school was out — it was the longest vacation he’s had since college and he had a great time.

          Reply
          1. Nerfmobile

            Yes, my company has a sabbatical program (6 weeks after every 4 years), and people tend to stay for years and years so people are regularly going out on sabbatical – even directors, VPs, even the CEO takes a sabbatical. It goes a long way towards normalizing longer vacations and leaves of absence, for things like maternity leave and so on. People don’t freak out when someone is going to be out for a long time – we just figure out how to cover for someone.

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      2. Murphy

        Yeah, here it’s not uncommon for people to take 3 or 4 weeks off at a time (especially if they’ve been in one place for a while and are accruing a lot of vacation – for example, starting this year I get 6 weeks vacation a year).

        Hell, my boss is taking 6 straight weeks off this summer.

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    4. Jinx

      I’m taking a two week vacation in July to visit family twelve hours away – I don’t like to feel rushed when I travel. It’s definitely not uncommon to be gone that long in my office.

      Reply
    5. bkh

      When it comes to my workplace and career, I politely listen to my parents, nod and say, “that’s something to think about”, and do what I was going to anyways. My work habits and ethic to date have been formed by them, and I’m thankful for what they taught me. However, it’s now more important that I adjust what I’ve learned to how my workplace actually functions and deal with the expectations of my manager (who is most definitely not my mother).

      I do, however, give a lot of weight to what my wife says as she’s the one who is reacting to what the workplace is doing to me, and provides valuable feedback as to whether I’m in a toxic environment. I also have to discuss with her, and come to an agreement as to when to schedule my vacation.

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      1. Laura

        Great insight. My parents are both kind, well-meaning people, but my dad has worked for the same company for nearly 30 years, and my mom hasn’t had a real job since the 90s. Their input about workplace norms tends to be dated, so I try to politely thank them for the advice… then do what I know to be right.

        Reply
  4. Sourire

    #4 – Is this for ALL time off requests, or just for longer vacation-type requests? Not that it should really matter because either way this is a horrible idea, but I guess it seems (somewhat) less horrible if it’s the latter, and maybe it functions as more of a heads up in that case..? (Though if so, why not just actually make it a heads up versus a request)

    Also, you say that you were hired as a manager and this is required of everyone in your department of 9. So, are you emailing subordinates to get their approval on your time off? That just adds a whole different level of craziness to this.

    Reply
    1. Just Wondering

      My company has a generous time off policy (one week or two paid, but up to three months unpaid, and many of us take close to the full amount.) They want us to have every member of the team sign off on the vacation request, with no more than one teapot designer per team on leave at once. In practice, that means we all cheerfully sign off for each other, and we theoretically know which dates are available for our own vacation because we are part of the process. It’s two minutes out of my day a couple of times a month, and the policy is flexible enough that if two of us have big trips planned for the same time period, we can adjust our dates well in advance to ensure coverage, or arrange for HR to move someone over from another team.
      Some people hate the policy, but I don’t mind it too much.

      Reply
      1. Sourire

        To me, that is somewhat different. Your policy is due to coverage issues, whereas nothing in the letter indicates that. It also sounds like in your case “signing off” mostly means you’re just confirming you’ve seen that the time someone else requested is now blocked off, versus having veto power, though I suppose I could be wrong about that.

        It just strikes me as so odd that someone at my peer level (or below me!) could have the power to veto my vacation request. It should be the manager’s job to decide when and if there is enough coverage and/or if there are going to be conflicts with something like a joint project when they are approving time off.

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      2. Stranger than fiction

        But what if someone does object? What if two people want the same week off? Who moderates that??

        Reply
        1. Just Wondering

          I’ve taken the same time off as another teapot designer on my team, and it wasn’t a big deal, it seemed. We acknowledged the issue and brought it up to our managers, but neither of our plans was flexible enough to change (family wedding for me, semi-professional sports tournament for her) and we ended up arranging for HR to bring in someone from another team to help out for the three weeks in question. By total fluke, not only did we need the same dates, but we bought tickets on the same flight to the same destination.
          I can’t remember which of us requested it first, but both of us signed off on the other person’s paperwork with a note indicating that there was a conflict. The policy is worded that we should avoid requesting days off if another team member in the same role has already booked those days, but I’ve found that as long as you give enough lead time, you can negotiate anything.

          As an aside, I’m not in North America, I’m in an Asian country where relationships are much more important than contracts. I’m always relieved when the policy isn’t spelled out, because it means I can suggest ways to make it work rather than simply following the guidelines.

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  5. Mike

    Re #3: I have a friend that works for a bank and he has to take a two week block off per year. The way it was explained to me is that if a person is engaged in some illegal activities the two week block without access to cover it up should expose it.

    Reply
    1. JessaB

      Yeh most financial institutions require at least one or two weeks of consecutive leave because of that. It’s pretty common in that industry to the point that I think auditors require it. I’m not sure it’s a LAW per se, but it’s definitely an industry requirement.

      Reply
      1. Chocolate Teapot

        My company handbook says something about taking at least 1 2-week block of holiday each year and I work in finance as well. It is a recommended guideline rather than a legal requirement.

        Also for the question about asking the rest of the team if it’s ok to to take time off, I might ask a quick question to everyone, but then it is more to check with the people with families, who might want to be off when it’s the school holidays, or around a bank holiday.

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    2. Sarahnova

      Yes, this is now a part of regulations covering banking in the UK/EU (Sarbanes-Oxley?). It follows a few banking scandals where individuals managed to cover up massive losses through subterfuge and never taking time off which might have allowed their figure-fiddling to be noticed.

      In any case, it’s good for the physical and mental health to take a solid block off every year.

      I always find these questions interesting in the cultural differences. I think if any company in the EU tried to prevent/limit people taking a two-week block off, there would be a mutiny.

      Reply
      1. Mreasy

        I think I exploded my UK colleague’s mind yesterday when I explained to her that the US doesn’t require employers offer any form of paid leave at all by law. Even still, at a more senior level, I was brought in at a smaller # of vacation days because UK legal requirements & cultural expectations are so much different.

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        1. Sarahnova

          Not even paid maternity leave! It STILL blows my mind!

          FWIW, though, although I typically have 30 days a year to play with, I wouldn’t ask for more than a solid two-week block off without making sure I was well-regarded by my manager and I was taking at a reasonable time. I took three weeks for my honeymoon, but I managed to set that up so that I was between jobs :) This may be my over-conscientiousness though. I certainly think nothing of taking two weeks during/near the summer, and weeks off at other times.

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        2. DoDah

          The HQ of my org is in Europe. They get approximately 3x (with holidays) that we in the US. They also work 8 hour days (compared to our 10-12 + weekends).

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    3. Wambui

      When a bank bought my firm, they changed the vacation to rules so that anyone with 3+ weeks of vacation had to take two consecutively. I was really irked at first because I couldn’t spread my vacation time out. However, after my first two week vacation, I absolutely loved it. It’s a lot more relaxing because you can go away for a week and have a week to decompress.

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    4. Laura

      Yes, even my roommate, who worked part-time as a teller in college, was required to take a couple of weeks off every year so that they could check up on his work.

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    5. Elissa

      This is so strange to me! I’ve worked for a large bank in the US for 15+ years and never encountered this requirement in any of the retail or corporate finance positions I’ve held. I wonder if this is more common for certain companies or certain positions?

      Reply
  6. Sarah

    Ugh OP #3, don’t worry about it and enjoy your time! The US makes me so frustrated with the PTO situation! 2 weeks it’s a perfect amount of time to do some traveling. Especially international travel, otherwise the expensive flight hardly seems worth it. I’m American and have had some really great benefits packages with unlimited PTO, plus living overseas, and other such things so I’ve gotten used to the privilege.

    But I recently moved back to the US from the Middle East and already had a 2 week trip planned to Europe this summer to meet up with some of my friends from where I was living. I am a Director and have team members I supervise and who can backfill my duties plus beginning of July will be a slow period, my 90 day no PTO period will be up a couple weeks before I’m gone, and I told my boss about my leave when I got my offer. STILL I got some major pushback from the EVP our group who apparently sent my boss a note saying “Who approved this?!?!? She just started!” when I added it to the shared team calendar. He replied, “um we did when we hired her? also I’m her boss so I’m aware of course.”

    He’s told me it’s totally fine and not to worry about it but I’m kind of annoyed. I have the days, we don’t have to wait till they’re accrued, I just have a pro-rated amount this year of course and I’ll complete an extensive coverage plan. The mentality is just so frustrating. I’m not anxious that I think it’s inappropriate or anything, I’m just annoyed at our EVP but glad my boss backed me up. And yeah I just started but I went directly from one job to moving across the world to starting my new job — within 1 week! We all deserve a break.

    This mentality did shed some light on why when I talked to one of the team members I inherited who is in her first job but has been here a couple years and told me she hasn’t taken more than 3 days off at a time since she started. I told her to please take a full week this year and to go chill out, even if it’s just in the city.

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    1. Fjell & Skog

      I’m worried about this in the future. I’ve been living/working in Europe for the last 3 years, and have gotten quite used to my 30 days PTO, unlimited sick leave (which I don’t use, but it gives me comfort that it is there), and many state holidays. I routinely take 2+ week holidays multiple times a year, which is so nice. I’m considering heading back to the US in the next year or so for personal reasons, but I’m definitely going to miss the European vacation (and just work/life balance) mentality.

      Reply
      1. AvonLady Barksdale

        While I can’t speak to your exact situation, I can tell you that, yes, it’s a tough adjustment! I worked at a place where I started with only 10 days, but I also had personal days and Summer Fridays (each person in the department took a certain number of Fridays off every summer), so I was able to take my first 2-week vacation only two years in using a combination of vacation, summer Fridays, and an extremely reasonable and supportive manager. I was there for over 8 years, and by the time I left, I was a Director with 20 days of vacation, plus personal days, plus summer Fridays. I took several 2-week vacations and many more 1-week vacations. I could take a day or two any time I wanted.

        Then I moved to a company where I only had 10 days and 3 personal days. No more two weeks off in a row. Technically I could have done it, but I wanted to have extra time available for long weekends and one-offs. I was there for 13 months.

        At my current company, I get 10 days off and no personal days, which means that I have to take vacation for things like the Jewish holidays. So I really only get about 7 days total. I really, really want to take two 1-week vacations this year and I simply can’t. My Fridays are flexible and we do get the week off between Christmas and New Year’s, but it isn’t the same as being able to take that 2-week chunk. Not at all. My grandfather wants to plan a transatlantic crossing with me, my boyfriend and my grandmother (who used to travel extensively but now has mobility issues– we think she’d be more amenable to a nice trip if bf and I were there), and I get really anxious over working out the details if we do decide to do it. I don’t even know if my company would agree to unpaid leave. I think I would have to offer to work from the ship, which defeats the point of such a vacation.

        The moral to this story? Vet the vacation policy very, very carefully. My experience shows that yes, there are places with generous leave, but there are also places that aren’t so generous.

        Reply
          1. JoJo

            Yes, I’ve seen the letters from managers outraged because their employees actually used their sick and/or vacation time.

            Reply
            1. TootsNYC

              sometimes those negative optics aren’t coming from on high.

              My cousin was a manager at Best Buy, which had unlimited vacation. He had to badger his team to MAKE them take time off.

              Reply
        1. Snargulfuss

          Yes! Behind salary and retirement fund contribution (and perhaps medical insurance cost), PTO and the ability to actually use PTO is the benefit I care most about. When I accepted my job I specifically asked about being able to take large chunks of time (2 weeks) off for vacations.

          Reply
      2. Sarah

        It is an adjustment… I moved back to the US into job that offered 20 PTO days and the office closed between Christmas and NY and we didn’t have to use our days then. It ended up being an epically bad fit so I immediately left and accepted a freelance gig which then became a full-time job in April. My new job has 18 PTO days (leave, sick, whatever — that’s it) and 2 summer days. Since I didn’t become a FTE till April, I’ll only get 13.5 days this year and it’s making me itchy to think about. I’m basically using all of mine this summer for this trip, what if I get really sick or something? These policies are what encourage people to show up to work with the flu.

        I would just vet the policy of wherever you go pretty early. I work at digital agencies and most places have pretty generous leave but this new place isn’t quite as great, but I love so many other things about my job and was freelance for 6 weeks before I made the decision to go full time and really didn’t want to walk away from a good situation because of this. But I thought about it.

        Reply
      3. newlyhr

        Yes, it’s pretty amazing. American companies will tell you that they can’t make any money if they offer these kinds of benefits, but apparently European companies manage to survive pretty well. I think the more correct statement is that American companies can’t make as much money as they *want* to make.

        Reply
        1. Gaara

          I don’t think it’s even true. It’s more: American companies don’t *think* they can make as much money as they want to make if they offer these kinds of benefits.

          Reply
          1. TootsNYC

            yeah, I’m not sure those vacations actually cost them that much money.

            OK, maybe w/ teh receptionist, or other support staff–you might have to hire someone to cover the gap.

            But most of the people I’ve ever worked with, there was no cash cost. The vacationing employee just worked harder before and after, and her colleagues worked harder during. Then when it was someone else’s turn, that first employee would be working harder during their vacations. Everybody got a turn.

            Reply
  7. Cecily

    Can we switch parents, #3? My mom was livid at me for a while for thinking it was unreasonable for her to expect me to take 3 weeks off at once for a Christmas trip. Uh, hi, being a full-time freelancer doesn’t mean you just get to take off whenever.

    Reply
    1. Jeanne

      I think we need a parental advice rule. Something like: The parent must be currently working in a similar industry (arts vs science vs business) and must have a similar education level. Otherwise, go to parent only for praise or sympathy, not advice. Add your own caveats. My mother gives some odd advice but she hasn’t been an employee for 50 years.

      Reply
      1. OfficePrincess

        The problem is that a lot of parental advice, especially the terrible advice, is unsolicited, but said so confidently that you may begin to question what you thought was normal.

        Reply
        1. Allison

          How very disrespectful. Your parents raised you, they’ve been around longer, they have wisdom they want to impart onto you to help you become a better person, it seems a bit rude to scoff at your parents’ advice. Crossing your arms and shutting your parents out when they only want to help you is something a petulant teenager does.

          Respect your parents.

          Reply
          1. Zillah

            Not taking your parents’ opinions as gospel and acknowledging their limitations/flaws =/= being a petulant teenager. It’s also really not in to make broad statements about how others should interact with their parents.

            Reply
            1. OfficePrincess

              I do respect my parents, but I also know that if I were to follow their advice 100% of the time, I would severely restrict my opportunities. I’m not going to refuse working over 40 hours in a week (42-45 normally, busy season approaches 50, nothing outrageous) and threaten to quit if I don’t get a bigger raise for doing it, nor am I going to go door to door with my resume in hand when I lose my job for going so strongly against what is expected of me professionally. That’s the kind of advice my mom, who worked for the state most of her career and hasn’t job searched in over 30 years has to offer. We all know that that won’t work now, but, if you’re brand new to the workforce and have a parent telling you those things in a confident tone, you can easily find yourself questioning what is right.

              I know that my parents’ experiences in the work force are very different from what I encounter as a low-level manager in the corporate world, so I don’t ask them for advice on work issues. But sometimes, they offer it anyway.

              Also, it’s all in how you handle hearing your parents advice. There’s a big difference between “hmm I’ll think about that” and behaving like the petulant teenager you seem to think I was suggesting as a way to handle it.

              Reply
          2. the gold digger

            You can respect your parents while disregarding their opinions on how to find a job and how to conduct yourself at work. My mother is a lovely woman, very intelligent and accomplished, but she has never worked in a corporate environment. She just doesn’t know.

            Reply
            1. Observer

              That doesn’t necessarily mean that everything she says is wrong.

              Believe me, I do get that you have to figure out what is and is not good advice. But the mere fact that someone hasn’t job hunted in x years, has been in y industry vs z or whatever doesn’t really mean that that person person has no useful advice to give. For one thing, some things are fairly universal. EG Insubordination can get you fired in any industry. And, if you are no longer working for someone you are NOT required to answer their emails and help them out (outside of some narrow exceptions related more to expedience or being nice rather than requirements.)

              Also, some people actually do get it, either because they are just good at figuring things out or because they know people who operate in different fields than they do, or due to other reasons.

              Reply
            1. OwnedByTheCat

              *Slow clap*.

              And at the risk of adding fuel to the fire… not all parents are worthy of respect, raised their children, were loving and supportive…the list goes on. Instead of slapping someone’s wrist let’s assume that as adults we can navigate the often very challenging relationships we have with our families – parents included.

              Reply
          3. Temperance

            Uh, no? My parents and grandparents give horrible, outdated career advice, have no idea what white collar jobs and professional norms are, and they are the type of people who think that you walk into a place and ask for a job. They do not have “wisdom to impart” on this subject.

            My grandfather told me that my best bet for a good career after college was to “work my way up” at the movie theater where I worked in high school – something I could have easily done without a degree. My mother insisted that the legal job outlook was “booming” in Scranton, and emailed me a job posting that only paid $35k/year and was in a VERY undesirable area (less desirable than Scranton, actually!).

            Reply
                1. Allison

                  Oh man, what if that company did open an office in Scranton? How much would that mess with people?

              1. Temperance

                I left officially 12 years ago! It’s so nice to get out of there!

                You will appreciate this – the job my mother wanted me to apply for was working for Legal Aid and it was based out of Tunkhannock. lol

                Reply
            1. embertine

              Yep, my mum actually asked me if she should ring my employers and tell them I don’t want to go down to London once a week any more. I am 37 and in a relatively senior professional position. I told her that she would utterly destroy my reputation within my industry if she contacted my employers for any reason, ever, unless it was to tell them that I had died. I think she got the message.

              (Particularly odd as I have no complaints about having to do site visits and client meetings, and rather enjoy my visits to our nation’s capital – but she herself would hate the travelling and I think she was projecting a bit)

              Reply
          4. hbc

            If the parents are worthy of respect, they know that simply having been on the planet longer and sharing DNA does not make them wise in all areas of your life. Or at least that when they give unsolicited advice, their offspring are not obligated to treat it as The Truth.

            I respect my parents, so I expect them to behave like reasonable human beings if I disagree with their advice.

            Reply
          5. Sarahnova

            I can respect my parents without taking their unsolicited advice.

            My parents simply don’t have the knowledge to give me career advice. They’ve never worked in the private sector or really had to job-hunt *at all*. It would be like me giving my surgeon advice on where to cut.

            Also, lots of parents may want to help, or want to “help”, but are not in fact being helpful.

            Reply
          6. neverjaunty

            I’m a parent, and I don’t co-sign this comment. For one thing, lots of parents do not “only want to help”.”

            Nobody appears to be advocating rolling your eyes and sneering “okay, DAD” at anything one’s parents say.

            Reply
          7. Artemesia

            LOL A parent (and I am a grandparent) who offers unsolicited advice to adult children especially if they offer any particular advice more than once, has grossly overstepped their parental role and should be politely deflected. i.e. ‘that’s interesting, I’ll consider that’ while ignoring the advice.

            My adult approaching middle aged children listen to my advice and my husband’s all the time WHEN THEY ASK FOR IT. We each have a lot of work experience and specialized knowledge that can be useful to them and so they seek us out as sounding boards or for specialized advice. BUT they also both work in fields where we do not have specialized information or experience and work norms have changed a lot over the decades. We would not presume to tell them how to manage their work lives.

            And respect just calls for not laughing in their faces, it does not require following silly advice or listening to it over and over and over again.

            Reply
          8. Oryx

            I love and respect my parents. I will take time to listen to their advice, but that doesn’t mean I have to actually follow it.

            Reply
          9. LBK

            Parents are still humans that only know what they know. There isn’t some magical encyclopedia downloaded into your brain when you have a kid. I’d say part of growing up is realizing that your parents aren’t always right and starting to view them as people rather than demigods that always know what to do. They can obviously still be helpful guides because generally they have your best interests at heart, but a) some people have horrible parents and b) good intentions don’t make you automatically right.

            Reply
            1. Pam Adams

              There isn’t some magical encyclopedia downloaded into your brain when you have a kid.

              There isn’t?

              Reply
              1. Another anon for this

                Don’t tell my kids that!

                (Joking, they are in their teens and twenties and know parents are fallible. The 13 yo is a world-class eye rolling champion, over the terrible cluelessness of everyone over 20.)

                Reply
            2. I'm a Little Teapot

              This, so much. Also, Allison’s implication that having children automatically makes you a better person has pretty unpleasant implications for those of us who don’t or can’t have children.

              Reply
          10. BananaPants

            I nod and smile and then do what I think is correct. I’m a financially independent grownup and I’m allowed to make my own choices in life even if they end up being the wrong ones. I’m not rude about it, but my parents have no idea what life is like in a white collar, professional environment or an upper middle class social circle and I’m not about to torpedo myself in either environment by following their advice.

            My job as a parent is to raise children who’ll be able to leave the nest and fly when the time comes. I won’t hold it against them if they consider my advice (or at least pretend to) and then do what they think is right.

            Reply
          11. parenting =! careering

            LOL. My dad has worked for the same company for 40 years on a different continent in a different industry from me, my mom has gotten fired from almost every job she’s ever held. They have both given me tons of terrible advice that would adversely affect my career.

            Being a parent–or being older–doesn’t mean that one can offer good advice in general or good career advice in particular.

            Reply
          12. Alix

            I respect people who demonstrate that they are worth respect. I don’t respect people just because they happen to have some blood relationship with me.

            In other words, if my parents are worthy of my respect, they’ll act like it and therefore earn it. They don’t get automatic respect and deference just because they had sex – especially not if their unsolicited advice is wrong or dangerous, or if it demonstrates that they don’t respect me.

            Reply
      2. ThursdaysGeek

        My mum had great advice when I became an adult. She asked that I would listen to her, and then make my own decisions. She has experience that might benefit me, but it’s my life to live, and she expected me to do so.

        Reply
      3. JMegan

        My father once wrote a book on job searching, and another on “networking,” so he feels like something of an expert in this area. I’m sure his advice was good twenty years ago when it was current, but things have changed quite a lot in the meantime (not to mention, it was never applicable to my industry anyway.)

        So I just smile and nod, and do what I was going to do anyway. It works for both of us – he gets to feel useful, and I get to job search in a way that is appropriate to my industry and time period.

        Reply
      4. Cafe au Lait

        I’m on the other side of the coin. My Mother is reentering the workforce leave it 10+ years ago. She’s done stuff in-between–went back to school for photography and started her own business. But the business didn’t pick up at all (too narrow of a focus), and she’s now looking for a job. When she tells me about her job hunt, I often need to burst her bubble and tell her that’s not how it’s done anymore.

        Reply
        1. Artemesia

          And if I were your Mom I’d be thrilled to have advice on what has changed and on how to negotiate this — and I would probably appreciate being directed here.

          Reply
      5. TootsNYC

        I think we need a parental advice rule. Something like: The parent must be currently working in a similar industry (arts vs science vs business) and must have a similar education level. Otherwise, go to parent only for praise or sympathy, not advice. Add your own caveats. My mother gives some odd advice but she hasn’t been an employee for 50 years.

        I kind of agree with this, and as a parent, I’m going to try to remember it. (Along with the “unsolicited advice is not effective, and it’s damaging to your relationship.”)

        I know that I often asked my mother for advice when I was job hunting, and when I was managing. Especially when I was job hunting, she often said, “I don’t know what the norm is in your industry. Can you think of someone you’ve worked with in the past that might give you some advice?”

        She was best at giving sort of “blanket life advice that could apply here.” Example: I had been offered a job, and I was having trouble accepting it. i was really torn–it was a paycheck and a start in the industry, but I didn’t want to work in that niche. And she said, “I can’t tell you what to do, but I can tell you this: Not saying ‘yes’ is saying ‘no.’ ”

        She was a good example.

        She also did a lot of saying, “You can recover from this,” or “I’m sure that when you stop panicking and actually start dealing with this, solutions will seem to appear as if by magic,” or, “No decision, short of suicide, is final. You might not like that job, and then you can quit.”
        Miss my mom!

        Reply
        1. Cordelia Longfellow

          Your mom sounded amazing. Something that I find helpful in a lot of my relationship – friends, family, coworkers – is, if they tell me about a situation, to explicitly ask if they want a sympathetic shoulder, or for me to make suggestions to help, or simply listen to them vent, or something else. If I’m the one talking about a situation and unsure about my audience’s impulses, I will start my conversation by saying, “I’m only looking for emotional support here, not solutions to my problem.”

          Reply
      6. Observer

        A rule like that will keep you from hearing or listening to a very large percentage of really good advice, and expose you to some very bad advice. I’ve seen some truly terrible advice from people who DO fit your rule, and excellent advice from people who do NOT fit your rule.

        You don’t have to be in the same field to understand a lot of things about it. That plays out in a lot of ways.

        I once had a conversation with a coworker about how a certain policy at my employer was so horrible, terrible, awful, unfair and inappropriate. I tried to talk her down just a bit, but it only helped somewhat. Then my husband came to pick me up and I walked out to the car, saying to him “Gosh I just had this ridiculous conversation with Susie.” Then I gave him the condensed version. For background: My husband works in a TOTALLY different field, with a utterly different population and different organizational structures. Yet he immediately understood where my co-worker (who had been working for company for several years already) was wrong. According to you, people should listen to her advise about job searching in our field, not my husband’s. But, the reality is that he is far more on the mark than she is. Of course, he’s also smart enough to know his limits, so that help

        Reply
    2. Sarahnova

      My mum is of the opinion that I should be careful not to claim expenses or ask for anything at work, lest I get fired.

      She has never worked in the private sector (she’s a doctor), and what she perceives as its instability terrifies her. I used to argue (“You think my worth to the company is so little that they’ll sack me because I asked them to reimburse a train ticket?”) but now I just nod, smile, and remember it’s her own insecurity talking.

      Reply
      1. AvonLady Barksdale

        Whoa– mine’s a doctor too, never worked in a true corporate setting (private practice, then government office job) and she also gives very strange business advice. Kind of oddly gratifying that someone else has to deal with this! Mine, however, goes kind of the opposite way– she doesn’t understand that I don’t have 1000 days of vacation and can’t just go on some big trip with her several times a year. She has never had to answer to anyone, which, in the long run, is not actually a good thing.

        Reply
        1. newlyhr

          my parents were in higher education—summers off, extended holidays, dad got regular sabbaticals. They are always so concerned about “how much” I have to work. I actually have a great employer with good work/life balance. My brother just got a job and my parents were fretting about how he is ‘only’ getting three days holiday at Christmas. They mean well, but their own experience is pretty unusual in today’s workplace if you are not in education.

          Reply
        2. Sarahnova

          Mine is just terrified that asking for anything, ever, or making any kind of mistake, will spell disaster. It makes me sad.

          Reply
          1. Fuzzyfuzz

            Same here. My mom grew up in a very blue collar/domestic service-y environment, and this has continued to influence her heavily even though she’s been working in white collar jobs for 40 years (thankfully not managing anyone, yikes). Last week, when I took a long lunch to take care of a family errand with my boss’s permission and blessing, she told me that that kind of thing would cause me to get fired. :/ I’m a top performer in my department and incredibly reliable–so, no. My husband, who has a yuppy background through and through, has been the one to teach me that it is OK to take time off and have a life outside of work–this from a lawyer who works 60 hour plus weeks!

            Reply
      2. OwnedByTheCat

        My mom has owned her own small business since the early ’90’s. She hasn’t had a boss, written a resume, asked for PTO, etc for 25 years.

        We could get into some really festive arguments about what I HAVE TO DO but I just nod and move along.

        Although my favorite moment: I wanted to get Alison’s resume review for my youngest sister. My mom “well, I helped her write her resume (read: my mom wrote it) and I think it’s quite good!”

        I did push back on that, pointing out that the last time my mom looked at a resume was before my sister was even born. She was so dug in. A year later my sister asked *me* for help with her resume and ended up completely rewriting the whole thing. Oh, mom…

        Reply
        1. Kelly L.

          I remember my dad’s resume from the last time he job searched (he’s now been at the same place since I was in middle school). It had his height and weight and the ages of his kids. He’d probably write it the same way today.

          Reply
          1. Observer

            That’s never been particularly appropriate information to put on a resume in most industries. So, the issue isn’t that he hasn’t job hunted in years. It’s that he was able to get an apparently decent job with a weird resume.

            Reply
      3. BananaPants

        My parents are from borderline blue-collar/pink collar careers (fast food restaurant management and nursing) and they’ve often expressed surprise that I don’t need to ask for vacation for the year during the first week in January, that I can flextime/work from home when I have a family-related commitment, that people in my line of work don’t get “written up” or have similar means of workplace disciplinary action, that white collar professionals often successfully negotiate more salary or vacation as part of the offer process. Stuff like that.

        I let them give input into issues I deal with at work, but I only rarely take their advice. They don’t have experience in a professional, white collar environment and a lot of their career and workplace knowledge just doesn’t apply to mine very much.

        Reply
    3. TootsNYC

      My mom was mad that I had to call in when I was on vacation during a crunch time. It was a major concession to be able to get away at all, which also made her mad. I had to point out to her that there were only 24 weeks in the entire year that were the reason I had a job. To miss one was a big deal. And they *did* have to hire someone to cover.

      Reply
    4. Laura

      Ain’t that the truth! My mom was outraged when I told her that I couldn’t be at her house for more than five days over the holidays. Like… sorry, I have a job…

      Reply
  8. newreader

    #4: One place I worked had a fairly good system for requesting time off that took into consideration the impact to coworkers. We had a shard calendar that contained all requested time off (of at least half a day), including time away from the office at conferences. The calendar could be used by the employee when planning to vacation to see what had already been approved time off. It could also be used by each manager when reviewing employee requests when determining whether to approve the request or not.

    The key piece though was that we were all expected to communicate at least a few weeks (or whatever time frame was appropriate) ahead of our vacation with our coworkers. That allowed coworkers to plan accordingly if there were deadlines or tasks that would be impacted by our time off. I could let coworkers know that I would be out during the week of X and to let me know by Y date any work they would need prior to that vacation.

    It wasn’t a perfect system, but did at least have managers doing their job of making the determinations for time off requests while also allowing for pre-planning within the team to address key tasks and deadlines prior to scheduled time off.

    Reply
    1. ThatGirl

      We have a similar system, with a shared Outlook calendar where people can see what days off have already been claimed. It’s especially helpful around the winter holidays.

      Reply
  9. Lionheart26

    #OP5 Don’t forget, too that part of their responsibility as an employer is providing you with access to professional development, regardless of where you work. Because I work in an expatriate field, we are required to give at least 6 months notice before leaving. This usually means that we are not able to attend any training or conferences for the last 6 months of our contract, even if they are essential for our role. It is sooo frustrating. My employers will only hire new staff with appropriate licenses and certification (presumably paid for by previous employer) yet will not provide training unless they are sure they will benefit from the investment.

    Reply
    1. Nicole J.

      As a small employer I can sort of understand the reluctance to invest in training/development especially if you have been burned before. There’s not an unlimited budget and it makes sense to try to use it in a way that will help the business going forward.

      Reply
      1. DoDah

        I worked for a 200 person ISV. They wouldn’t invest in training because 20 years ago CEO paid for the MBA program for an employee who left 1 year after program completion.

        Talk about holding a grudge.

        Reply
      2. neverjaunty

        But it doesn’t help the business going forward to hope that people with the right training will fall into your laps, or that current employees need no training.

        Reply
      3. Fuzzyfuzz

        You need to be judicious with resources, sure. But beyond the fact that it makes sense to make your employees more valuable while working for you, it’s also worth your while to treat them well and do what you can to help them get where they want to go. You want people who’ve worked with you to speak well of your company, recommend their qualified friends and colleagues for positions, recommend your services to potential clients, etc.

        Reply
        1. Nicole J.

          Just to clarify, I’m not saying that no-one should ever invest in their employees, just that I can see why people start to be cautious especially when they feel they’ve been previously burned. That’s all. Of course being overly rigid about it is a bad idea.

          Reply
          1. Lionheart

            It’s a fine line for sure. And I am with the OP – I wouldn’t want to take advantage of my employer if I knew that I was leaving. Especially if it was a small business. But I feel like PD perhaps needs to be viewed more as an investment into the training of the whole company. Employer pays for training for Employee A, who is then replaced by Employee B who has the exact same qualifications. From the employer’s perspective what’s the difference? But for sure I would feel differently if I had been burned in the past and people were taking advantage of that.

            Reply
        2. Lionheart

          Exactly! I missed out on a dream job because I had only been trained in-house and had not received formal certification for a new system. I was first in line to get that training, but the offer was retracted when I informed my manager that this would be my last year (12 months before I left). Needless to say, now when people ask me about that company, my response is quite different to what it otherwise would have been. I still mention all the strengths, but I do say that I was disappointed that after 5 years with them they refused to invest in my own professional development.

          Reply
      4. designbot

        Every small business I’ve worked for who used that excuse treated their employees terribly in one way or another. If you know you’re going to drive people away anyways, then I agree it makes no sense to invest in them. The whole idea of investment assumes that the employee is someone you want to keep.

        Reply
  10. Neeta

    #4 This is the case in my company as well, and it really is not as complicated as you make it sounds.
    Basically people are always saying “OK, have a nice trip”/”Sure, get well soon”, and it’s the Team Leader’s job to ensure that not too many people are taking time off at the same time.

    In my case, it’s a team of about 6 people, and we’re always careful to make sure that at most 2 people take more than 1 week time off in the same time period. I should probably mention that we work in 2 week sprints (I’m a web developer), so basically as long as we know people’s time off at the start of the sprint we can plan our work accordingly. I realize that this is probably not feasible in all work places, but if you give people enough heads-up, then even in stricter workplaces it is possible for your boss to plan ahead, taking your absence into account.

    Reply
  11. AnotherFed

    It’s probably industry dependent, but it would seem weird to me if an employer wasn’t talking about culture things like sports leagues, engineering society meetings, clubs, and other activities! That is part of the overall package, and it also helps learn whether coworkers generally get along well enough to voluntarily see each other after hours, whether they think work is your new family and you should spend every spare minute with them, or whether they don’t socialize at all outside of work.

    Reply
    1. One of the Sarahs

      If they’re talking about a whole range of things, I agree with you – but if it’s just about the kickball league, I’d get some serious red flags as an interviewee. Especially if it was along the lines of talking up the great office culture with *only* the kickball as the example….

      Reply
      1. Roscoe

        Why would that be a red flag though? I mean even if it is the only example, what about that would make it somewhere you would be wary about?

        Reply
        1. Temperance

          Speaking as a non-athletic person who hates team sports with a passion: I would feel like the place wouldn’t be a good cultural fit for me. I would worry that my colleagues would all be sports bros, and would bond over being sports bros, and that it could limit me in the future.

          Reply
          1. AnonEMoose

            Yes, this. Team sports are emphatically NOT my thing, either playing or watching. I was actually a little proud of the year when not only did I not know who won the Superbowl, I had no idea who played.

            Plus I have some rather unpleasant memories of kickball from my school days. I’d be worried about pressure to join, whether I wanted to or not, and being accused of “not being a team player” when I declined.

            Reply
          2. Roscoe

            Thats fair. It just seems a bit, judgmental, for lack of a better word. I mean I play sports, along with a lot of other interests. Its a shame that if you found out that there was a kickball league, that you would just assume that everyone there has nothing more to offer than being “sports bros”. Maybe you could be the one to start a yoga club, or whatever your interests are that other people may share.

            Reply
            1. neverjaunty

              If it’s clear that office culture revolves around activity X, and the interviewer talks about how great it is that everybody does X but mentions nothing else, it’s entirely reasonable to conclude that, if you work there, you’re going to either have to participate in X or be the odd man out. And it doesn’t seem reasonable to say “oh, go ahead, because maybe you can persuade some people to do Y instead!”

              You seem to be taking this as a personal attack on your hobbies for some reason?

              Reply
              1. Roscoe

                In a way. Mainly because its saying that people are essentially judging me because I happen to like sports and would just be a “sports bro”. It seems odd that from the letter saying he might mention it, that people are saying they would see it as a red flag about a company and the people there. It doesn’t say that the culture revolves around it. It says that he mentions it as an example of office culture.

                Reply
                1. fposte

                  No. It’s saying that people would assume focus in an interview on a single cultural bonding item could mean that people not into it aren’t going to feel very included. That’s true if it’s family or pub quizzes, and it doesn’t mean family or pub quizzes are horrible.

                  I think you’re overreading people responding to something that would be a sign of bad fit for them as a general condemnation. People get not to like stuff.

                2. neverjaunty

                  Nobody said that if you like sports you are just a ‘sports bro’. Nobody said that liking sports is inherently bad. The commenters you were responding to were explaining why they would react negatively if it seemed that a group sport were central to that office’s culture. You keep ignoring that and treating it as if people had said “I would never work at an office where anybody liked sports”.

                  People are allowed to dislike activities, and to be concerned about working in an office where it seems everybody is so enthusiastic about that activity that they would be a bad fit if they worked there. It’s not a personal insult to you if that activity happens to be sports.

                3. One of the Sarahs

                  I do feel like you get very defensive about the “sports bro” thing on this site, so here’s some background on me, specifically.

                  I am currently a freelancer making all my livelihood from media about one sport (I am SO LUCKY!) and I love it, and I always loved finding people in my off-season temp jobs who love my sport too, and can talk about it for days…. BUT if I was in an interview and I found out that my sport, which I adore was the lynchpin the whole office culture revolved around, I’d worry, for all the reasons other people have explained above.

                  While of course I’d be happy that this would mean we could slack off and watch the major events on the sports calendar, I’d worry that it was a one-sided culture that excluded lots of people on a spurious ground. I don’t do much actual playing of my sport (or only in a very low-key, leisurely way with friends) so I’d worry that my worth in the office would be affected. And I’d definitely worry about sports-esque arguments bleeding into the culture and end up ostracising people (esp where people support the “wrong” team – I’ve seen this in training, where the trainer has used the local football team as a way to bond the trainees, only to end up forming blocs of “us & them” for people who have allegiances to other teams).

                  It’s not at all about judging “sports bros” (I’m British, so I don’t even know what this means, culturally), it’s about office cultures, and it would be the same if the office culture was obsessive around bake sales, a specific TV show, a computer game, knitting, or anything else. Office mono-cultures (heh) are always red flags to me.

            2. Temperance

              If the only thing I heard about was a kickball league, and how AWESOME it was, and how everyone was a part of the team etc., I would know that this wasn’t the place for me.

              It’s not about assuming everyone has “nothing more to offer”, but that I would be left out of a significant part of the culture and it could harm me professionally. I can just see all the athletic types getting together to play, going out for a beer after, etc. … while I either humiliated myself in front of colleagues or got left out.

              Reply
            3. Rusty Shackelford

              It’s not “finding out” there’s a kickball league. It’s finding out there’s a kickball league and it’s REALLY FREAKING IMPORTANT TO PEOPLE. :-)

              Reply
            4. LBK

              I think you’re conflating people’s worries about cultural fit with people specifically being worried about working somewhere that has a lot of sports fans – feels like maybe you’re taking it personally as a sports fan. It’s not about you being an undesirable coworker, it’s about your entire team being made up of people like you and then a new person coming in who doesn’t like sports; you don’t think that would be a little awkward? It was certainly awkward for me to be on a team of 4 other guys who could talk all day about football when basically the only thing I had to contribute was how much I hated Tom Brady’s long hair.

              Reply
              1. Roscoe

                Being the odd man out happens in a lot of ways. I used to be a teacher. Know how many 20 something men there were? Very few. But I still found ways to bond with my female co-workers even if they spent a lot of time discussing the bachelorette.

                Reply
                1. Ask a Manager Post author

                  But people are allowed to decide for themselves what kind of work environment they do and don’t like, and to use the information they gather during the interview to inform their thinking. Why would that be a problem?

                2. neverjaunty

                  If you know you’re going to be the odd man out, that’s something you may very well want to take into account when deciding to take a job at a particular company. Because being the “odd man out” isn’t just about finding things to chat about around the water cooler.

              2. INTP

                Yeah, exactly. As someone who has sat nearly silent through a whole company happy hour because the conversation was about sports and I could not understand enough to contribute anything (beyond “So the Packers, that’s football right?”), I can confirm that being surrounded by sports people can make things awkward. I don’t have to share interests with all my coworkers, but at least when people are more diverse in their primary interests, the small talk stays at a lighter level where people who don’t know much about the topic can still participate. Some people don’t mind sticking out like that – I would imagine it’s easier to be odd man out if you’re naturally outgoing and charismatic and bond easily with people – but some of us find it difficult.

                Reply
            5. Marcela

              Well, your example about a yoga clubs keeps the theme in sports. I just don’t like sports. However, I practice pilates every day, although for me it’s something similar to my visits to the dentist: something I do because it’s good to my body. It’s not a hobby at all. So if in an interview all I could hear about culture was sports, ugh, obviously I would be a horrible addition to the team, for not only I don’t like sports, I’ve purposely ignored sports since I was a teenager, which means I don’t know about the World Cup (very important for my culture), and I don’t even know what sport the Super Bowl is about. And no, I don’t want to learn.

              Now, I truly believe it would be awesome to start a sewing club in the places I’ve worked with all-male scientists/developers. If I could do that, I guess I could die happy =^.^=

              Reply
            6. One of the Sarahs

              Hey, I think there’s a massive difference with me saying something’s a red flag, and being a judgemental person. When I’m in interviews, I’ve got an eye out for green flags and red flags that I use to make a decision. So, eg, a bad commute can be cancelled out by a great salary, or a low salary cancelled by work I really want to do, with a team full of awesome people.

              Maybe “judgmental” has different connotations in the USA, but it’s a negative word over here. Using red flags to make a value judgement does not make someone a judgemental person, and I find it a bit of an aggressive word in that kind of context. YMMV of course.

              Reply
          3. Anna

            I don’t know. I’m not sporty, but my husband has been on a kickball team. So if someone brought it up in an interview I could at least relate. It’s not a red flag, though. It is a data point.

            Reply
          4. Daria

            Seconded! Hearing a lot about kickball would be an alarm for me because I am so not athletic and have zero interest in sports of any kind. It’s not that kickball is bad, but it would signal to me that this was a sports loving company where it was in the culture, and that would not be a good fit for me.

            Reply
        2. Sarahnova

          I wouldn’t consider it a red flag, but I feel like there is a cultural thing in the US/some other places whereby being REALLY INTENSE about sports is acceptable, and I might anticipate a place really into sports being a place that wants everybody to be really into sports.

          Reply
          1. Fuzzyfuzz

            Yeah. A coworker of mine at an old job was palpably irritated with a couple who scheduled their wedding for Superbowl Sunday, and most of our colleagues agreed that he was right to be put out. I was shocked! No one would think it was normal for someone to be annoyed about having to go to a wedding during the Oscars, for example!

            Reply
            1. Roscoe

              Ha, I’d be annoyed by that too. But in general I get annoyed when people schedule weddings on holidays anyway (aside from New Year’s Eve). For many people, even non sports fans, the superbowl is like an unofficial american holiday. People get together to watch (the game or commercials), bring food, and drink a lot. Ive even seen joking petitions say that the Monday after should be a day off work.

              Reply
            2. CheeryO

              Maybe my sports barometer is way off since I grew up in a football city, but I would give serious side-eye to anyone who scheduled a wedding during Superbowl Sunday. I think it’s on a completely different level than the Oscars – don’t the vast majority of Americans watch, even if just for the commercials and halftime show? I wouldn’t say that it makes your coworkers sports-obsessed to think that it was a little selfish of that couple. (Yes, weddings often happen just once in a lifetime, but there are 52 weekends per year, and it’s not like February is a busy time of year for weddings.)

              Reply
              1. Anna

                Yeah, even if YOU aren’t a sporty person you probably have friends who are and it feels very deliberate.

                And yeah, I know people who would have been bugged about missing the Oscars for a wedding.

                Reply
                1. Chameleon

                  I don’t even know when the super bowl is, other than “some time in January? Or February maybe?” I have literally no idea when the Oscars are. And it certainly wouldn’t come up on my radar when planning a significant life event– and I’d be giving a serious side-eye of my own to any of my friends or family who thought a football game or awards show were more important than my wedding. (Exception for anyone actually *playing* in the Super Bowl.)

                2. Ameriquia

                  Re: Chameleon, its not that your friends or family would think that the super bowl is more important than your wedding. I bet they’d all show up, but they’d all be much less happy to be there than they would have otherwise, because everyone is less happy than they could be when they are at one important event that is double-booked over another important event. Ultimately, it’s the feeling your guests would have that they are missing something that’s important to them, and you don’t care. Which is absolutely your right to do, and like I said I doubt anyone would sit out your wedding to watch the superbowl, but if your idea of your perfect day includes a bunch of people gathered around someone’s phone cheering and jeering over streaming video or scores for the whole reception, that’s something to consider!

                3. One of the Sarahs

                  But how are you supposed to know when these things are, if they’re not on your radar? Here in the UK, football is huge, but the World Cup takes me by surprise every time it happens, and I’ve no idea when the season actually is (because it feels like forever) – and while my family love the Bake Off (which is a huge cultural thing in some quarters), it just wouldn’t occur to me to check I wasn’t accidentally putting my event on the finale night – or on Eurovision night, eg.

                  Similarly, I would never expect my friends to schedule around my own Major Sporting Event, because why should they know?

              2. LBK

                Yeah, I am about as non-sporty as can be (I think the only parts of it I’ve ever seen were the Beyonce performances) and even I would know better than to schedule a wedding for that day. I think it’s more set in stone than the Oscars, too, because it tends to be its own event – I know Oscar parties exist, but I don’t think they’re as ubiquitous as Superbowl parties, and people don’t assume you’ll be making plans for the Oscars the way most people make a plan for where and how they’re watching the Superbowl.

                Reply
                1. Fuzzyfuzz

                  Maybe this is a function of where I grew up and whom I run with, but most people I know don’t make plans for the Superbowl. Until I was an adult, it would never have even occurred to me that the vast majority of Americans care so much about that game. Funny how culture can vary so much even within the same country!

                  I personally don’t see the appeal of sports or why they take such precedence in American life, but to each their own.

                2. Lily Rowan

                  I can definitely imagine planning 6 months out (or longer!) and being thrilled that the place I wanted was available, and maybe even cheaper on some random winter Sunday, and never thinking about the Superbowl at all. Until I sent out the invitations and started getting pushback from sportsy relatives.

              3. Retail HR Guy

                I just Googled some numbers, and while you are right that it far surpasses ratings for the Oscars, in fact only about a third of Americans watch the Superbowl.

                I know it is super common for sports fans to think that EVERYONE pays attention to their hobby because their hobby is SUPER IMPORTANT!!!! But us non-sports people really don’t. I never have any idea when the Superbowl is, or what teams are playing in it, or what advertisements it had. My wife is the same way. So we totally could have accidentally booked our wedding during someone’s sportsball leagueplayoff tournamatch thingy without realizing it. (Especially if that was the only open weekend at the preferred venue…)

                Reply
                1. Ameriquia

                  TBF, there is very little else that a third of the country does! There is no TV show that a third of the country watches, no other event, nothing other than, well, major holidays!

              4. Crystal Vu

                I’m an American and I don’t watch the Superbowl at all, not even for the halftime stuff. If I were decided what weekend to have my wedding on, it would never occur to me to worry about what weekend the Superbowl is held.

                Reply
          2. INTP

            Yeah, exactly. I don’t care if my coworkers are intense about sports (and keep bad feelings out of the office). I do care if I’m expected to play sports, converse about sports, know things about sports, etc, because it is beyond boring to me. Even if no one is intentionally disliking the coworkers that aren’t into sports, if the small talk is about sports, and the out-of-office socializing is about sports, then someone who doesn’t participate will essentially be the super quiet person who never participates in social events and that’s not a great position in the office.

            Reply
        3. INTP

          For me personally, if the interviewer was enthusiastically talking about the kickball league as an example of the company culture with NO other examples, I would be concerned that the opportunities to participate in company culture are not that diverse, and I might have to play sports to be seen as a “team player” or network with my coworkers. And I do not want to play sports or do anything athletic with coworkers.

          Reply
      2. Laura

        Right, and the kickball league really isn’t the best example of office culture because it happens OUTSIDE the office. I would want to know more about how employees interact with each other day-to-day. How do they pitch in to help out with big projects? Do they eat lunch together? What kinds of staff training/development are available?

        I love sports and staying fit, but I’m not about to do that with coworkers. I need a healthy work/life balance, and spending time with staff outside of work is NOT something many of us would like to do.

        Reply
  12. Roscoe

    #2 Just seems odd to me. Why would that be an issue? I understand sports aren’t everyone’s thing, but I can’t see why mentioning a kickball league would turn away someone who otherwise would want the job. Sure, if he is going on and on about it in the interview, or if you really did think he was hiring people for their athletic prowess, that would be an issue. But neither of these seems to be the case. There seems to be a weird thing with sports where that is an interest that would turn people off, but other things wouldn’t, and I don’t get that. If I was applying somewhere and they mentioned how family friendly they are, and I have no kids, I wouldn’t be turned off. Similarly if an office mentioned a book club, something I have 0 interest in, I wouldn’t be turned off. Why should someone be turned off by a sports league?

    Reply
    1. Important Moi

      I suspect OP#2 is not on the team and doesn’t think highly of being on the team.

      I don’t know…people who show this type of concern make me uncomfortable, they tend to assume that their perspective rules the day.

      Reply
      1. Roscoe

        Thats kind of the vibe I got as well. And I agree, it just doesn’t sit right with me that people who aren’t into that stuff want to assume it shouldn’t be discussed.

        Reply
    2. Boo

      Personally I’d be wary because it sounds like the sort of thing which could end up being unofficially compulsory in a way that a book club (not dependent on numbers) or having kids isn’t. People choosing to be in a book club or start a family won’t really affect me, but if there’s a kickball thing then I could see there being pressure to join in or make up numbers if someone’s sick, then there’s potential for embarrassment if I’m not fit enough or side-eye because I’m not seen as not a team player if I don’t want to give up my spare time/lunchbreak to “be a good sport”.

      I think it really does depend on the context here – who’s involved in the team (if senior/management could also potentially mean colleagues who play get networking opportunities/advantages the others don’t) , do they approach others to get them involved, is there pressure to sign up…or is it just a thing that a few employees of the same level like to do in their spare time which is kept separate from work and if I want to sign up I know who to ask, etc.

      Reply
      1. Allison

        And I’d wonder if the people who didn’t want to play were expected to attend the games.

        I can see how these company activities can seem really fun to people who don’t do much outside of work. If they just leave work, go home, make dinner, and watch TV until bed every night, and maybe want to get active but have trouble finding the motivation, company-sponsored athletics (or company trivia nights, bowling, etc.) can be great!

        Reply
        1. rock'n'roll circus

          Is it that common? My company has a soccer team and a softball team. I play softball but not soccer. I have never been to a soccer game nor played, but lots of my coworkers have asked me. It’s nice to be asked! But then, I am one of those I didn’t do much after work kind of people as I recently relocated and didn’t know anyone.

          Once a month on Thrusday’s we go to a brewery and grab dinner and some beers. It’s fun. My old company did friday night parties occasionally, it was a really good time for someone who is brand new to the area and doesn’t know anyone. When you’re 30ish in a new place it’s oddly hard to meet people so I really apperciate it.

          Reply
        2. Sunflower

          Ehh this comment really irks me. Do you think it’s not possible to have a life outside of work and also enjoy company sponsored activities?

          Reply
            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              Hey, that’s really unfair. There are plenty of people here who talk about enjoying various social activities at work. The issue is with them being mandatory.

              Reply
              1. Roscoe

                But on this topic there has been no mention of anything being mandatory. It is saying someone may be mentioning something in an interview. But the way that statement above read was basically like “well, it could be fun if you have no other life outside of work” It was pretty condescending.

                Reply
                1. Ask a Manager Post author

                  Right, there’s been no mention of it being mandatory on this post, but I assume your statement about the site as a whole was based on more posts than this one. And while it’s come up a lot in the past, people’s issue about “fun at work” has been if it’s officially or unofficially mandatory, or if it’s so prevalent that you can’t avoid it if you wish to — not that fun activities exist at work at all.

                  It’s really not true that the people here think fun = bad, so that reads like a straw man.

                  I think everyone here agrees that statement about no life outside of work was condescending; it’s not representative of general opinion here.

              2. Allison

                It can sometimes be really tough to figure out if something is truly optional, or if it’s technically not mandatory but everyone’s expected to do it anyway. Very often I get the “we want you to want to” attitude from employers, and if someone opts out of an activity because it’s not their thing or they have a commitment to a different hobby (I say “I can’t, I have a dance thing” A LOT these days), they risk people questioning their cultural fit and commitment to the company.

                Reply
            2. LBK

              Really? I have loved every fun event my department ever organized. None of them have been sports-related because no one here likes sports or is remotely athletic. There is not a single definition of fun – frankly, this is part of why people are reacting so strongly, because I’ve found that culturally as a whole, the US tends to define “fun”as physical activity. That reinforces the idea to people like you who enjoy sports that your way to have fun is the only way to have fun, and anyone who doesn’t enjoy sports doesn’t like fun.

              I don’t want to be in an office where I’m considered a boring loser because I don’t care about sports; I’m not saying all sports fans are like this, but I’ve seen happen way more consistently with sports fans than with other hobbies, and you’re kind of serving as an example of it right now.

              Reply
        3. CheeryO

          I have a fairly fulfilling social life and have no problem motivating myself to be active, and I enjoyed the hell out of my boyfriend’s work kickball league this year. I liked making friends with some of his coworkers, and it was just the right level of competitive to be fun for everyone, not only the super-athletic people.

          Reply
        4. Anna

          Uh. There is so much wrong with your entire second paragraph I wouldn’t know where to start. I think you’re making a lot of fairly unkind assumptions.

          Reply
      2. Roscoe

        I suppose, it just seems that people like to jump to worst case scenario. I’ve been at many offices that had a work softball or other league. At no point was anyone ever pressured to play or attend if they didn’t want to. I’m not saying it couldn’t happen, but I think that happens far less than people like to make it out to. Sometimes its “Hey, the team is playing, if anyone wants to come out, great”. And people take that as an expectation.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          I think you may be right that when we’re talking a hypothetical that we imagine it in the most offputting way. But in general, it’s good not to be a single-point advocate when you’re talking about your workplace’s culture in an interview–if all you enthuse about is the kickball team, the Friday bar night, or the childcare flexibility, that does give the impression that that’s the limit of the culture. Wise applicants will tactfully explore further (“Wow, kickball, eh? And everybody goes to the games?”), but in general it’s good for interviewers to remember that they’re ambassadors for their employer as well as an interviewer and to represent accordingly.

          That being said, we have no idea what kickball guy is actually saying in interviews, and it’s fine to mention a kickball team. It’s just better to make clear that that’s not the only social opportunity (unless it is, in which case it’s good for people to know).

          Reply
          1. Roscoe

            Also, another thing with “social activities” is that someone always has to take the lead on organizing them. So unless there is a dedicated social committee, it is often one person taking the lead. So if that is the only thing happening at the company because the only person interested in spearheading it is interested in that, there isn’t anything wrong with it.

            Reply
            1. fposte

              That would come under “if it’s the only social opportunity, that’s good for people to know.” The fact that it would put some people off doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with it–that’s the “hiring is like dating” thing again, where there’s nothing wrong with spending every weekend going to Saved by the Bell conventions and there’s also nothing wrong with people who think that means maybe dating somebody who does that isn’t for them.

              Reply
        2. eplawyer

          I think the concern here is that the one guy who is really into it might be overstating it to the prospective employees. Then the prospect might think the whole office is sports mad when it’s really this one guy.

          Reply
      3. AnonEMoose

        This is where I land. Depending on how it was talked about, I would be asking some further questions to see if it’s “fun thing some people like to do” or “this is One of The Things We Do Here.”

        A lot of talk about how “family friendly” a workplace is would have childfree me trying to figure out if that also means they’d be understanding if I needed to care for my parents or spouse, or are those who don’t have kids just expected to support the flexibility enjoyed by parents.

        Because, as much as I don’t enjoy jumping to worst case scenarios, I’ve been burned before. So it makes sense to me to try to get a sense of “what do they actually mean when they say X”?

        Reply
    3. Jinx

      Like Alison said, I think a casual mention of the league is different than going on about it and asking the propsective hire to join. Particularly because it’s an interview, which is one of the job seeker’s few opportunities to feel out culture. If noticeable emphasis is placed on the kickball league in that situation, I’d start to wonder exactly *how* important joining is.

      Reply
    4. Kyrielle

      It depends, for me, on whether I like the activity and whether I worry I might be pressured to take part. I think there’s a significant minority of people, like me, who have Issues around sports and sports pressure from PE in school, too.

      And I absolutely know people who would be wary of a “family friendly” office if they thought that meant that people with no children would be expected to pick up the slack for people with children, work the holidays, etc. It depends on how the “family friendly” exists, and what impression is being given, same as with sports.

      As long as it sounds optional, and like something that doesn’t envelop the whole office (so you won’t be the Odd Person Out by not taking part), I don’t think the sports or the book club are a problem. Family friendly isn’t a problem as long as it’s friendly to all kinds of families, rather than leaning on those who don’t have kids at home to allow more flexibility for those who do.

      But if there’s an office-wide book club reading, say, business books – and everyone takes part and it’s expected, whether mandatory or not – I could see people also being worried about that.

      Making sure the coworker isn’t selling it so hard that candidates end up thinking they’d have to take part is a good idea, IMO. I see no reason the coworker shouldn’t bring it up, though. (And if there are other neat things in the office, say a book club, also mention those to show balance.)

      Reply
      1. Roscoe

        Im glad you brought up the PE thing, because its exactly what I was thinking, but didn’t want to bring up. It seems people had some bad experiences in gym class and now are very anti-sports and anti those who get into them. Oddly, I feel sometimes that its somehow acceptable to make negative generalizations about people who are into sports whereas if I were to make negative generalizations about people into Harry Potter, it would be seen as rude.

        Reply
        1. Kyrielle

          There’s some reason for that, though. Team sports are scored on a team basis. Being not-good or not-interested but forced to take part in school meant getting picked on by your peers because you were *damaging their score*. Kids are already not the kindest people on the planet (they’re learning!), add the competition factor and their dependency on you, and you’re not going to have a good interaction when someone is not performing well.

          Even non-team sports can be problematic, assuming there’s still a winner/loser or perception of it, because honestly losing isn’t fun. I’d rather lose at single-person foot races or singles tennis, because at least then no one is mad at me for tanking their score, it’s true, but I still have a negative view of those things I wouldn’t have chosen to play but was required to. Not only was I required to do something un-fun (for me!), but then I got to lose at it, which is also not fun. (Not surprising, though. Generally one doesn’t develop great skills at something one doesn’t enjoy!)

          The same thing doesn’t really happen in Harry Potter, because there’s no dependency on people who are having to take part but who aren’t good (whether it’s because they don’t care, or lack of skill). So the backlog of bad interactions is far less for those who don’t want to take part, and there’s fewer bad memories.

          Reply
          1. Kyrielle

            Also, I know someone whose parents forced them into mock trial, who weren’t good at it / weren’t invested and consequently had their teammates unhappy with them, and who have a very similar hatred of that. It’s just that one doesn’t normally encounter mock trial teams in adult life!

            Reply
            1. Anna

              I think a better analogy was if they hated the whole legal system because of their terrible mock trial experience. :)

              Reply
              1. Kyrielle

                Not really – that’s comparable to hating professional football because playing football in high school was awful. But hating a scenario where you are pushed into playing football or standing out as “not fitting in” is a little different. I can’t think of a scenario where anyone is forced into a lawyer role in court, though, or an equivalent scenario, which is what mock trial generally does, I think.

                Reply
        2. Temperance

          The difference is that with sports, you’re expected to be part of the team. If you fail, the team fails. I am very uncoordinated and unathletic, and have been humiliated by sports types pretty much every time I have tried. That’s the difference.

          It’s always going to be the case that someone is like “oh, hey, we’re just having FUN / all you have to do is TRY” or some other BS, and then when you actually DO suck, you aren’t trying hard enough.

          Reply
          1. Anna

            It depends. I’ve seen a lot of the kickball teams and they are NOT serious and the people playing wouldn’t be described as super athletic. You’re playing kickball. There’s no way to take it seriously because you’re a bunch of adults playing a kid’s game.

            But I know there are people out there who can’t separate the fun from the hardcore competition. I just haven’t seen a lot of them playing kickball.

            Reply
            1. Temperance

              Ah firm softball and kickball leagues are a Thing here, which is why I would be super uninterested in working at a place that encouraged everyone to compete in sports. We’re lawyers, we are competitive by nature, and we don’t like to fail. lol

              Reply
        3. LBK

          I think it probably just depends who’s around. You’ll probably get more dissent for bashing HP than sports here because I suspect we have a lot more HP fans than sports fans here; it would probably be the reverse on a sports-related forum.

          Reply
          1. fposte

            And in general sports does pretty okay, culturally; it’s not in danger of disappearing any time soon.

            Reply
            1. neverjaunty

              Seriously. The idea that sports fans are a persecuted minority who have the last mockable hobby is so ridiculous, I’d expect to see it on The Toast as a send-up of the “majority person feeling picked on because only 99.9% of people are like them” mentality. And I say this as a baseball fan.

              Reply
            2. Another anon for this

              I think this is a big issue. There is a lot of moral baggage around fitness and a lot of cultural virtue to be fit and/or good at sports. Pretty much Western culture as a whole has your back if you are sporty and if not, you are culturally a bit defective (what, you don’t exercise? Don’t you care about your health?).

              Schools don’t usually have compulsory courses in knitting, nerd culture or chess, the way they do for PE. It’s also more culturally OK to hate your English reading than to be the dweeb who can’t run. Schools, colleges and towns in the US (and sometimes over here in Australia) cut arts programs to build massive stadiums, signalling that sport is more important than other activities. People can disclose playing sport on the weekend and expect frequent approval, but people who do other nerdier activities know that they will regularly be judged as odd , frumpy or lazy.

              People who are disabled or who are fat or just hate sport have written reams of blogs and cultural analysis about how being disabled, fat or unsporty are disadvantages in modern Western culture. So, there is a subtext that sporty people (who have culturally supported activities) may miss, compared to those who have been derided for not being sporty.

              As a non-sporty, middle aged woman, I would be a bit concerned by someone pushing kickball and nothing else for company culture in an interview. I would be concerned by colleagues who didn’t get why mentioning of sport in an interview, if it was over enthusiastic or the only thing mentioned, might be concerning as a bad fit issue for someone like me (would I be too old, too fat, too disabled etc to fit in and advance if a company rep/manager is so openly gung-ho about sport rather than work generally). I would think it might be a great place for some, but maybe not for me and evaluate carefully.

              I would also be concerned if colleagues got defensive, as you’re doing Roscoe. You probably don’t mean it this way, but it makes this nerd feel that my dislike for organised sport is being read as an attack by someone used to universal approval. It would make me concerned that I would be the butt of teasing or as being stereotyped as lazy and ineffective (therefore missing out on opportunities). I have seen this play out in legal offices (where 2 managers were into football: a state rep footy person clerk got a double sized, good view office to himself while qualified lawyers shared smaller offices to make room with no other justification than “he has potential”, non sporty men were openly mocked, eg a manager inhaling helium and mocking someone’s voice etc).

              Reply
              1. Lissa

                I think the Internet has kind of skewed my perspective here, because absolutely you’re right that in the general culture it’s more acceptable to hate reading than football, but among my own friends and the sites I read online, the exact opposite is true. (Though I’m also not American so maybe less sports obsession overall). Like…I am friends with nerdy people, I work with nerdy people, I go to nerdy places online, the only reason I know that people are in general more likely to be derided for being sporty than for being nerdy is because I’ve been told so! I have got way more crap for not having read/watched certain nerd culture obsessions than for not liking sports, personally.

                Reply
    5. neverjaunty

      Because it may not just be “mentioning”. When people are joking about this guy maybe selecting hired based on their kickball skills, even though they’re joking, it’s because the joke is only funny if you accept how enthusiastic Ferguson is about kickball. And if he’s communicating to new hires that they won’t fit in (at a minimum, with him) unless they also like kickball, THAT is a problem.

      Also, kindly keep in mind that there is a difference between liking sports and doing sports.

      Reply
      1. One of the Sarahs

        Or in doing sports and doing all sports. I love my personal sport, I love swimming and my ridiculous wii fitness things (Just Dance OMG!) but I couldn’t hit a ball in rounders (erm, like baseball, ish?) if my life depended on it. No one in the world loves ALL sports!

        Reply
    6. TootsNYC

      I agree. And in fact, as the interviewee, I wouldnt’ assume that my potential boss’s emthusiasm for the spots team would be indicative of the culture at all. Because i think most people wouldn’t have time or be interested; most sports teams at companies are a small subset.

      I suppose I might worry that this particular boss might not have as much time for me if I’m not on the team, or that my colleagues who ARE a=on the team will simply get more face time, and become more of a known quantity, and they’ll get the promotions (I saw that happen– not with sports, but with the fact that the top guy traveled regularly at the same time as two other out-of-town department heads. Meanwhile, the third dept head didn’t travel, and went straight home after work instead of hanging out at the hotel. So guess who got promoted? It wasn’t even so much favoritism–just that he knew the other two well, knew how they thought about the company and the industry, so they were a safer bet for him.

      But I could probably gauge that by probing in return–“How many people in your department are on the team?” etc.

      Reply
    7. neverjaunty

      People have told you over and over why, but you can’t get past “but what’s WRONG with liking sports?!” (which is not the issue). At this point I’m not sure what kind of answer you’re looking for?

      Reply
    8. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night

      I actually felt very excluded at my last job because everyone who worked there except me LOVED football. I personally can’t watch any type of sport with the exception of American Ninja Warrior. The day after a great game for our home team (I live in a huge football state) it was all anyone would talk about and no work ever got done. We had dress down days where you could only participate if you wore a jersey for this team. I went out and bought the cheapest one I could find because I didn’t want to stick out like a sore thumb any more than I already did. After I quit I immediately gave it to Goodwill.

      Because of this baggage, I would be turned off by an interviewer who raved about their company’s kickball team. Mention it along with other fun stuff the company does? Sure! But if it was more than a sentence or two I’d be thinking the culture wasn’t a good fit for me.

      Reply
    9. BananaPants

      I agree. Especially with sports there seems to be a lot of disdain for sports fans and/or athletes from some circles (calling it “sportsball”, for one) and I don’t get why that happens. Maybe it’s the stereotype of the dumb jock?

      I’m not into professional sports at all, but I don’t get offended when the water cooler discussion turns to football or baseball. I’ve never played in the company’s big charity volleyball tournament but that doesn’t mean I get grumpy when they send out all-hands emails asking if employees want to participate. I don’t run marathons but I enjoy following coworkers’ bib numbers on race day when they run Boston or New York. I don’t change my own oil or recognize the make and model of my boss’ sports car, but I don’t begrudge colleagues chatting about cars when we’re waiting for the coffee maker.

      Reply
      1. neverjaunty

        Nobody is talking about being offended at co-workers talking about sports at the water cooler, or companies having sports teams.

        Reply
      2. Roscoe

        Exactly. I never have understood why mocking those who like sports (your sportsball example is exactly it) has become ok. Whereas for every other hobby we are supposed to be accepting of.

        Reply
        1. CS Rep by Day, Writer by Night

          Yes, because so many workplaces are staffed by people who are wholly suppotive of co-workers who enjoy RPG, cosplay and writing FanFiction.

          Reply
  13. Important Moi

    OP#1: I was that co-worker who didn’t know that a (now retired) co-worker was complaining regularly to my boss about me. Though my co-worker had no supervisory authority over me, she felt among other things, I didn’t move fast enough. She and I worked on many projects together. Our group was small so not working with her was not an option. Based on our interactions, I suspected my retired co-worker didn’t like me but I didn’t know she was going to my boss regularly to complain. I didn’t care for her but it wasn’t affecting our work output as far as I could tell, so I said nothing to my boss. I can only assume my boss didn’t think the complaints were valid as my boss never said anything to me.

    Oh, how did I find out? My boss’s assistant told me after the complainer retired. That irritated me because at that point, it didn’t matter, the complainer was gone! What was the point? It did affect how I looked at my boss’s assistant. It also affected how I looked at my boss. When plans were being made for the retired c0-worker’s sendoff, my boss kept asking me if I wanted to deliver a speech for the occasion. I demurred stating that I was shy and would prefer to keep my good-bye private. I am bothered that my boss knowing that this co-worker was complaining about me would keep pestering me about giving a public good-bye speech.

    Reply
    1. Engineer Girl

      Well maybe the boss thought it was a fine way to poke to coworker. You know, have the congratulations be done by someone you hate.

      Reply
      1. Important Moi

        I considered that. I even came up with a speech and presented to a friend (outside of work). My friend said it too obvious I didn’t like the coworker. I decided to demur my boss’s request. I do strive to be professional in all encounters. I didn’t wish to risk damaging my reputation of conducting myself like a professional at a retirement party.

        Reply
  14. Dawn

    #3: definitely depends on your office culture. I work with a lot of people who are originally from another country (close to half of the staff at my small company), and almost all of them take 3-4-5 weeks off at one go to go visit their families. At my last job taking two weeks off at once had everyone going “whaaaaaaat oh my god oh my god oh my god whatarewegonnado”.

    Reply
    1. Dawn

      Also the President and CEO are both included in the 3 weeks off at one go category, and the office doesn’t implode while they’re gone, so it’s definitely possible!

      Reply
    2. Sarah

      I feel like this is a good rubric for do we expect people to work too much, are we pushing people to burn out. My company is considering hiring a freelancer to cover for me when I’m gone for 2 weeks in July. My workload has been insane of late, but I’m working on unloading stuff to my team / getting them up to speed. So for 2 weeks? In our slower period? I’m sure they’ll manage! If you feel like you need a temp to cover someone’s work for 2 weeks then that person maybe has too much work.

      Reply
  15. newlyhr

    I worked as a private sector recruiter for many years and I cannot tell you how many candidates shot themselves in the foot trying to plan for things that had not happened yet and might never happen. They would refuse job opportunities that they said they liked, because “I might go back to school next year and they said they wanted a two year commitment” or “I just applied for this job online that I really want, and it feels wrong to take your job because if I get the other job I would quit your job.” Fortunately most of them were able to follow the logic of “consider this position as though those other things were not going to happen, and then make your decision.” There are always possibilities, and we can remain open to them without putting our entire professional lives on hold.

    Reply
  16. Allison

    #2, I’m not a sports person – I’m active, but I’ve never been interested in organized sports. If I was in an interview and the interviewer talked at length about the company kickball league, I wouldn’t be turned off but I’d definitely worry whether my not wanting to play kickball would make it seem like I wasn’t a good cultural fit. I’d worry that if I did say I wasn’t into that stuff, it might count against me, and if I didn’t say anything and got the job, I’d worry about running into trouble when I did eventually reveal that I didn’t want to play. As it is, I often worry what my coworkers think of me not wanting to play company sports.

    Reply
    1. neverjaunty

      Yes, my favorite is when you have a medical condition that’s not obvious which makes it difficult or impossible for you to play sports, and some clueless numbnuts won’t lay off with “but whyyyyyyy” when you politely decline.

      Reply
    2. Anna

      The OP didn’t say he was talking at length about it. In fact, the OP isn’t at all sure what the guy is saying in the interviews. I think the first thing is to figure out what he’s saying and go from there.

      Reply
  17. Lindrine

    I’m about to take a two week vacation in June so we can travel out to Yellowstone. It’s not easy to set aside this time but it is not unusual in my office either. If your boss didn’t seem worried then don’t sweat it.

    About the calendar – the group I am in uses Outlook calendars to view vacation blocks. Our company has a separate PTO system, but it does not integrate with our calendar.

    Reply
  18. CR

    #3. God, it kills me when a letter writer throws in something about their parents’ opinion. It seems like there’s been a few of these lately. Your parents are not your boss, your parents shouldn’t be involved in your work life. Who cares what your parents think about you, an adult, taking the vacation to which you are entitled? Good grief.

    Reply
    1. Allison

      Probably because some young people still have the sense to respect their parents. I think it’s awful how many millennials roll their eyes at the people who made sacrifices to raise them.

      Reply
      1. CR

        I’m not a “millennial” and it’s possible to respect your parents while establishing boundaries.

        Reply
        1. Azul

          Exactly – challenging information that may be incorrect or outdated (if you do it respectfully) is not inherently a bad thing.

          Reply
          1. Temperance

            I don’t think that people are “owed” respect just because they are older. IMO, most people who crow on about getting respect for being older are not often people who deserve that respect.

            Reply
            1. the gold digger

              My husband’s father was really ticked off that I did not respect him as my elder (one of the many reasons he told my husband to get me in line or else he would disinherit my husband anyhow), but he also took great joy in telling the story about the time he got to tell his kindergarten teacher – when he was a kindergartner – that she was wrong. He was stunned – even at the age of 81 – that she had not appreciated being corrected.

              You get respect when you treat others with respect. Not just because you are old.

              Reply
              1. Brisvegan

                Sly was a jerk. I wouldn’t respect a jerk just because he was older and demanded it.

                I find people behaving in nasty disreputable ways tend to lower my respect (surprising, I know!). When they then demand respect without earning or deserving it, after being rude or abusive, I cannot respect them at all, because they will not take responsibility for their own behaviour or accept that other people deserve decency, too.

                Reply
      2. Temperance

        I don’t respect my parents. My mother was far too mentally ill to have children, and both she and my father were abusive to us. So please cut out the mommy martyr stuff.

        Reply
        1. Allison

          I’ve always believed it was one in the same. Respecting someone’s opinions is part of respecting them as people. If you dismiss what someone has to say about a topic, that’s rude.

          Reply
          1. Sarahnova

            So you have to do everything your parents say, even as an adult?

            Boy, I would have one miserable (and unsuccessful) life in that case.

            Nobody’s talking about telling their parents they’re crazystupid, they’re just talking about recognising that many people’s parents don’t have the perspective and up-to-date information required to give good career advice. Most people don’t suffer from an excessive tendency to disregard their parents’ input; rather the opposite – which is why it’s *hard* to shrug off bad parental advice.

            Reply
            1. Allison

              I’m under the impression that in cultures where respect for elders is important, people do what their parents tell them even after they’ve reached adulthood.

              Reply
              1. fposte

                Sometimes, anyway :-).

                Here’s the problem–you’re talking as if cultures where kids don’t do that are horrible and rude. And they’re not, and they’re not inherently disrespectful–they’re just balancing respect for parents with other cultural values of independence and individuation. (Lots of us were raised by parents who *wanted* us to learn when to ignore their advice, if you want a really complicated message about parental respect.) I don’t condemn a culture where the family unit takes priority over the individual–it can work great in that culture and for the people in it. But it’s not the only decent way to be, and I’d hope people from that culture would be willing to similarly respect the possibility of other cultures having value.

                Reply
              2. TootsNYC

                I’m under the impression that in cultures where respect for elders is important, people do what their parents tell them even after they’ve reached adulthood.

                And every time I hear about those cultures, they sound really screwed up. And the adult kids sound really screwed over.

                I think the “respecting people” goes the other direction as well.

                Reply
              3. Temperance

                And if I did that, I wouldn’t have a degree. My mother demanded that I quit undergrad and tried to trick me when I didn’t “respect her” enough to comply. She wanted me to quit school to “work my way up” at Wal-mart, because this woman she knew and liked quit college and did that. Instead, I’m doing work that I care about, and I have two degrees, great friends, and a job I genuinely enjoy.

                You seem really set on parents getting to control children into adulthood. You might want to explore that more.

                Reply
                1. I'm a Little Teapot

                  Yup. The sort of parents who make a lot of demands of their adult children and expect total obedience often end up cut off by those adult children, and rightfully so. Your children are human beings with their own lives, not your possessions.

                  I love and respect my parents, and I take their wishes into account. I often wish I’d been a better daughter to them, as a child and an adult. But sometimes they’re wrong, and I know that and they know that too, and I can say, “No, Mom, that wouldn’t work around here because…” They don’t know any more about my career than I know about theirs.

                  Sadly, there are other parents who are abusive and unworthy of respect, as Temperance pointed out. And telling abuse victims (as in, their kids) that they’re awful people if they don’t meekly take that abuse is not even remotely okay.

              4. Alix

                Ah, I see. So I should not have an education or a job, and I should still be living as my father’s live-in servant, because that’s what he wanted. I should also agree with him every time he makes a racist comment and get rid of all my non-white friends, and I should also never cut my hair because it makes me, in his opinion, suddenly gay, which is, also in his opinion, inappropriate. Oh, and I should of course let him scream at me and throw things at me, because that’s what he thinks women are for, even his own family.

                Is that what you’re saying? Or would you actually acknowledge that some parents shouldn’t be respected?

                I don’t give that kind of unilateral power to anyone other than myself. And my father, who you would have me obey unquestioningly, is exactly why.

                Reply
              5. Observer

                Sometimes. But, you know some cultures really do have significant issues – and I’m not talking as someone with Western Liberal blinkers on here.

                I haven’t seen a culture that I consider reasonably healthy that doesn’t limit the point at which you can stop doing what parents tell you to do. There is also, even in cultures that are very heavy on respect for ones elders, a differentiation between respectful behavior, respect for the person and respect for specific advice.

                Reply
          2. Badlands

            You can respect someone’s right to HAVE an opinion, without respecting (aka agreeing with) the content of the opinion.

            And I can dismiss someone’s opinion without being dismissive. Being dismissive is the rude part, not ignoring uninformed advice/opinions.

            Reply
          3. fposte

            Can’t agree with you on that. Plenty of opinions don’t deserve respect, no matter who they come from. That doesn’t mean you have to be rude to the person, but you also don’t have to respond respectfully to your racist uncle’s opinions about those dirty Slobovians who are poisoning the water, or that my doctor has to listen respectfully to my whacko opinions about vaccination. We’re none of us infallible, and it’s important to be able to distinguish good information from bad even if they’re both coming from a beloved and honorable connection.

            Reply
          4. Murphy

            But setting boundaries with your parents is an important part of becoming an independent adult. I don’t take all the advice my parents (or in-laws) give us and will push back if it’s becoming too much (when they’re trying to tell us how to parent our child, for example). I have no problem respectfully setting those boundaries and they have no problem respecting them. We’re all adults now so it’s a relationship of equals (they’re no longer the boss of me).

            Reply
          5. themmases

            I find it very weird that you keep jumping into this thread, insulting strangers and reading their comments in the worst possible light, and that your justifiction for that is that you value respect and deplore rudeness.

            Reply
          6. Oryx

            Uh, no. No it’s not. Especially not in this political climate.

            I can respect my family member’s right to have an opinion that differs than mine and I can also respect them as a person despite that opinion.

            But I do not under any circumstances have to respect the actual opinion they hold.

            Reply
          7. Temperance

            What? Absolutely not. I’m an attorney, and my husband is a developer, and if I started crowing off about his job, it would not be well-received and he shouldn’t respect it.

            Reply
          8. Sadsack

            Alright, I am starting to wonder if you are a troll here. This line of thinking does not feel genuine to me.

            Reply
            1. Sadsack

              Well I kind of take that back, maybe it was unwarranted to call you a troll. I certainly disagree that people are due respect based solely on the fact that they are your/anyone’s parents.

              Reply
          9. BananaPants

            No, it isn’t rude. I can respect the sacrifices that my parents made to raise us into reasonably well-adjusted and financially independent adults, and still recognize that advice they give me may not be great. They’re good people but they’re not perfect; they make mistakes and I disgree with them without disrespecting their feelings. I’m good at the “nod and smile”.

            Reply
      3. ThatGirl

        Yikes. Everyone has different experiences with their parents. Let’s not lump all parents together as self-sacrificing angels and all Millennials as entitled brats.

        Reply
      4. Artemesia

        As a parent and grandparents, I’d be mortified if my adult children felt I had to give them permission to take a vacation or required my advice about whether it was wise to do so.
        The hallmark of a good parents is that they honor the adulthood of their adult children. I used to have to deal with parents of college students who seemed to have their entire being invested in their child’s college choices and career; it is sad to see what this does to their kids being forced down paths that don’t fit them. Almost always overbearing parents are trying to live through their adult children and are relatively clueless.

        Reply
      5. Laura

        I AM a millennial. I respect my parents as individuals, but they are extremely negative, judgmental people. I moved away from them to establish boundaries. They don’t know anything about my work and frankly, it’s none of their business– just like the rest of my life.

        Reply
      6. adult child of narcissists

        You need to take a step back and realize that not every parent is a good parent, that not every parent can or should be respected or even loved, and that your strong feelings that every person who has kids should be unfailingly respected and obeyed by those kids are weird and unhelpful to people who have different experiences than you.

        Reply
      7. Dot Warner

        Good grief. Nobody’s suggesting people “roll their eyes” at their parents. I love and respect my parents, but in terms of career advice, they tend to be really off base since neither has worked in my industry or been job hunting in the last decade. And even if they had, I’m at my job every day and they are not, so of course I have a better idea of what’s going on than they do.

        Also, you and I were blessed with loving and supportive families. Please bear in mind that many people – including some of the commenters here – are not as fortunate as we were and the way we deal with our families may not be healthy or safe for them.

        Reply
    2. calonkat

      CR, I think this is just an indication that their parents are still an important part of their lives. My mother lives with me (much easier to care for her that way), and she has expressed concern about the number of hours I work, the amount of vacation I take (or don’t), etc.. It’s just one of the things that people close to you will comment on, and of course, you can’t help but hear them.
      Now, whether a letter writer should put much emphasis on their parent’s opinion, well, I think the consensus is “probably not” :) But especially if you hear it ALL THE TIME, due to frequent communication, it can be hard not to absorb it.
      That’s part of why this blog is so useful. It provides other (hopefully more informed) opinions that can help a letter writer ignore the less useful advice.

      Reply
      1. TootsNYC

        Also, it’s one thing to express concern, or to discuss work norms, etc., as an intellectual exercise ; it’s another to say, “You should do this.”

        My mom annoyed me once by complaining that I had to check in during a deadline week when I was on vacation. What she said was, “that seems unfair. This is supposed to be vacation. Do you -really- have to call in?”

        It wasn’t a “you should do this, and I know because I’m Your Mother”; it was “I see how this affects you, and I mind because I’m your mother, and I’m asking you to question some of your assumptions.” And she didn’t argue with me when I explained it; she just said “I see that this is true, but I don’t like it. That’s now how it should work. I get that it does. I don’t approve.”

        Reply
    3. Another Academic Librarian

      But this question wouldn’t really have been all that different if it was “my mentor, who works at another company” or “an old classmate and peer” or anyone else. In this instance, the LW is receiving advice that conflicts with her own experiences from adults who have, presumably, been in the working world for a while now. I think it is reasonable for her to do some reality-checking, which is exactly what she did. The fact that the advice in question is from her parents is irrelevant.

      Reply
  19. JoJo

    LW#1 – I wouldn’t automatically believe the complainer. If as you said, you personally haven’t had any complaints from customers and you haven’t observed the alleged behavior, I’d take the complaints with a huge grain of salt.

    People have been known to lie to get someone else in trouble – some people never leave grade school.

    Reply
    1. TootsNYC

      Especially with a new manager, people may be looking for an “in,” for a way to gain some power for themselves.

      But they may also be telling the truth.

      That’s why it’s so important for the OP#1 to use this only as a heads-up to a potential situation, and to investigate carefully on her own.

      Everything a manager acts on should be that manager’s own evidence and thought-out decision. That’s how you have credibility and authority.

      Reply
  20. Lily in NYC

    #2 – My office has a major softball rivalry with our sister agency. The top boss at the sister agency was the team’s pitcher and was obsessed about it. He actually lured our best player to come work at his office by hiring him for a job that was a huge step up for him. It was so unbelievably blatant. My coworker ended up doing fantastic in his new role and only stayed on the team for one more season

    Reply
    1. CC

      One of my softball buddies is an attorney, and he had a softball game against a firm his firm had a case against. Both sides immediately got as many ringers as possible and it was probably one of the most intense work league softball games the world has ever seen.

      People take work league softball very, very seriously.

      Reply
      1. Lily in NYC

        Oh my gosh, that is ridiculous. When I worked in journalism, I played on a media league and it was hard core (except for my team, we were pretty good but not cut-throat and played for fun). I don’t know if John King from CNN is a household name but I’m still mad at him for purposely cleating me with metal cleats (we weren’t allowed to wear metal cleats and he sliced up my ankle because he was pissed I tagged him out). It started a bench-clearing brawl! It was the first and only time I had men fighting over me.

        Reply
    2. Laura

      This makes me think about the episode of Grey’s Anatomy about the softball rivalry with a neighboring hospital! So funny!

      Reply
    3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      My father-in-law has a story like that, from back when he worked his way through college in a steel mill. The rival mill hired some minor league baseball players so they could dominate their softball league.

      Reply
  21. LQ

    #4
    Is there a chance this is a poor way of explaining “send an appointment to everyone on the team so they can see that you’re out”? Technically someone could reject it but they don’t.
    You shouldn’t need to do this if you just keep your calendar up to date and share it with your team. But our boss has us send appointments to the whole team. It isn’t really a “is everyone good with this”, but more here’s what you need to know. (they are all sent as “free” appointments all day so they don’t block off the calendar.)

    Reply
    1. Poohbear McGriddles

      That’s how we do it in my office. It’s not putting it up for a vote, although if Fergus objects to my Tuesday colonoscopy he is more than welcome to go in my place!

      Reply
  22. 2 Cents

    #2 Maybe it’s different because I work in advertising and touting the company culture is part of the benefits package (if you’re putting in long hours, you want to know you’ll be taken care of in certain ways). My office has margarita parties, summer cookouts, supports people in spartan races–and does a good job of not pressuring people into doing what they don’t want. The company is clear on the website that they do these things, and it was definitely talked about in the interview. Even though not everything appealed to me (and compulsory participation was a concern), I thought it was just showing that the powers-that-be in the company recognized we’re not just cogs in a machine and appreciate letting steam off once in a while. Made everything sound a tad less rigid and formal at all times.

    Reply
    1. Kyrielle

      It can be good or bad, depends on how it’s coming across and whether a good spectrum of what’s available is mentioned. If, for example, your company only mentioned the margarita parties in interviews, that would be odd and lead to an unbalanced review. (But if a company that only has margarita parties as social activities does the same thing, that’s a useful data point….)

      If, in his excitement, the coworker makes the kickball team sound like it’s mandatory, or like the only thing if it isn’t, then he does the company a disservice. If he’s sharing it briefly as company culture, along with other applicable examples if they exist, then that’s really useful.

      I got a laundry list of things my current company does mentioned to me in the interview. Not all of them are of any interest to me, but some were, and the way it was presented it was very clear I didn’t have to worry about any of them being mandatory. (Which is good, because there are definitely sports opportunities here that I don’t want to take part in. I’m glad they exist – some of my coworkers love them, and they’re a great benefit. They’re just not _my_ great benefit, and that’s fine.)

      Reply
      1. De Minimis

        I think I would want to know about things like that, though if the activities all seemed to be athletic in nature that would probably be a turn-off for me.

        Reply
  23. Poohbear McGriddles

    Re #2, we don’t even know to what extent, if any, he mentions the team to interviewees. If it’s like yeah we have free artisan coffee in the break room, unicycle parking, and a kickball league that plays on Tuesdays and Thursdays – no big deal. If he’s having them kick a few balls (no pun intended) or run some bases, or asking about their athletic prowess, then yeah there could be a problem.
    There is also the possibility that the subject never comes up in interviews.

    Reply
    1. neverjaunty

      When it is to the point that people are joking (or possibly “joking”) about it bleeding into interviews, that is time for the OP to check. Maybe it really is nothing, but that is the whole point of checking in with the dude, yes?

      Reply
      1. Roscoe

        There isn’t really a non-accusatory way to “check” though. You are basically asking him if he is hiring people based on them being on a team, which is a huge insult to his professionalism. I’m curious how this started. Was someone in there and heard it? Or did he come out of the interview joking about it? It would also depend on OPs role in the company. If they are just a peer, I’d say don’t even “check ” because its not your place. If they are a supervisor, maybe sit in on an interview and see how it goes.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          I think you can ask if you’re not being an ass and if you generally get along with the guy. “So the jokes from people who were at the interview with you that you’re hiring for the team–that’s just joking, right? You talk about other stuff we do socially here too? We trivia folks need to swell our numbers as well.”

          But you’re right that you can’t come across as the interview police, because you’re not his manager and this isn’t a big legal deal that needs investigation.

          Reply
        2. neverjaunty

          Of course there are non-accusatory ways to check. Here’s one: sit down with him and have a discussion of how interviews are going, what areas are touched on, what information is being communicated…. which is a discussion that helps improve the interview procedure generally, and catches problems beyond “are you talking about kickball like it’s a job requirement”.

          Reply
          1. fposte

            That sounds more like a manager approach, though; I think that’s a little comprehensive for a co-worker.

            Reply
            1. Roscoe

              Exaclty, this person is a co-worker. If my co-worker decided to sit me down and ask me about my job, I’d have some issues with that.

              Reply
              1. neverjaunty

                Fergus’s co-workers are already joking about how he’s using interviews to recruit kickball players. I suspect asking him ‘hey, how are those interviews going’ or ‘so what are the new interviewees like?’ is a lot less intrusive, and questioning his professionalism, than those jokes.

                Reply
  24. voyager1

    LW1: I think you need to put an end to this really quick. Look the next time the complainer comes in just flat out ask which customers are complaining. Explain to the complainer that you want to reach out to the them. When complainer tells you some BS excuse about the customers not wanting to say anything call them out on it. As a manager you want to know what your customers think!

    You are basically enabling this complainer with what you are doing.

    I had someone do this to me and man did I lose respect for that manager. This kind of childishness is why people leave places. You can count on the victim finding out about this eventually.

    Reply
    1. KarenD

      I agree, and I come at this from a different perspective – we had a co-worker who was excellent at putting on a good front and producing work product that looked as though it met professional standards. But the other members of his team started to become suspicious of his work, and then to encounter evidence that not all was as it should be.

      When the team members went to management with their concerns, they were taken seriously but management asked for details and the names of specific external contacts that could provide corroboration. Because they had more than just vague suspicions, it didn’t take long to uncover the very real problems with this employee (who had started out just cutting corners but, by the time he was fired, was actually starting to flat-out fabricate work product).

      It seems to me that someone with legitimate reason to be concerned about the performance of a colleague should be able to offer something concrete as backup.

      Reply
    2. Sadsack

      It seems like you are immediately assuming the complaints are without merit and the employee is a liar. That may turn out to be true, but I think OP should be open-minded when she starts investigating this issue.

      Reply
      1. voyager1

        Sadsack,

        There is not reason for the complainer not to say which customers are upset with work and who produced it. And a good manager would have asked to know which customers were upset because in the end he/she is responsible for the actions of who they supervise.

        Reply
        1. Sadsack

          Unless OP pushes further for info, all she has is assumptions. Again, I am just suggesting that OP be open-minded until she gets evidence either way. And with that, I definitely agree that she needs to do more digging.

          Reply
  25. TootsNYC

    #1—do be careful here. I think you’ve got such good instincts to stop and think about this before acting.

    I worked at a place that turned into a gossipy, back-stabbing place for the longest time, because the new uber department head (let’s call her Janice) took any criticism that came to her as gospel, and acted as though it was something she needed to immediately act on.
    She did no investigating to verify; she did no thinking about, “is this -really- important? Is it something I should -really- act on?” Example: one thing Janice criticized–no, scolded–me for was a comment I had supposedly made that was awkward in a meeting with the top-most person in the company. Before Janice started.
    I didn’t even remember the incident, and if it had been awkward, it wouldn’t have been a really big deal–it would have simply been socially awkward, not insubordination or rudeness. Plus, the topmost person was not the kind of person who really held onto those sorts of things, and I’d had several other good interactions with her. So it just wasn’t a thing that *I* would ever scold someone for.

    What really fueled this, made is SO worse, is that the first time someone complained, “this person isn’t doing his job right, he isn’t meeting deadlines” (he mostly did, and if he ever didn’t, it was something he asked for an extension on, and it was granted because there was plenty of time). And so I was instructed to chastise him and warn him.
    The gossipy people saw that, and they just turned it into a stream. They saw their actions as being rewarded, and they’d take any little thing straight to her with as negative a spin as it could be. As fast as possible–once, it was only an hour between a conversation, and her calling me in to scold me about that conversation, which she hadn’t been in on, and she hadn’t asked me to tell her anything about it; she just accepted the report from someone else as completely truthful. It gave them power, and they just ran away with it.

    The funny thing is that midway through the “OK, look for work so I don’t have to fire you” period, she called me in to say, “You deserve to know that the people you speak to run straight to me with whatever you say, with a negative spin. We have such a gossipy culture, and I need you to help me tamp it down.”
    But I don’t know that she ever realized what she did to encourage that gossipy culture.

    So, I think you’re smart to give yourself time to deliberate, and to keep in mind that there’s a possibility this is drama- or power-seeking. Or, that even if it’s legitimate, you want to handle it in a way that keeps YOU in charge of these sorts of issues. For everyone’s sake.

    It’s a tough balance, because often that sort of “intel” from your employees on the ground is really valuable; someone’s colleague may have a far more accurate picture of their strengths and weaknesses than a manager does. So you want to honor that. (I know that for me, this kind of “parallel evaluation” is really valuable; I listen to it.)

    Good luck!

    Reply
  26. Brett

    #2 Current employer talked a bit about the company cricket league in the interviews, and had a whole section on the league in the orientation.
    It did signal a bit about the culture, but really it just ended up meaning, “If you like cricket, please come watch our team!” (The team is actually so good that few employees are actually competitive enough to play on it.)

    For me personally, it actually prepared me for knowing that our workers come from all over the world and I should expect to run into a range of cultures inside the company. It didn’t translate into any pressure to play or be athletic.

    Reply
  27. designbot

    I can’t think of a single instance where someone’s told me what their parents think about their job or work habits that I’d agree with. My parents thought I should list my GPA on my resume, that getting anything more than a single ear piercing would make me unhirable, and that I should have a job lined up by spring break before graduation. Guess what? Not a single one of those pronouncements was relevant–they are not only of a different generation, but in a different industry than I am, and the way work has been for them is just completely different than for me.
    Stop letting your parents judge your work habits.

    Reply
  28. Captain Bigglesworth

    #3 – This came at a great time for me, since I’m about to head off on a 2-week camping trip (Hello mountains! Goodbye cell phone & laptop!) In my office culture (and I work in a year-round higher education program), it’s not unusual for our faculty members to take 1-2 months off of the year. They’re usually still available by email for emergencies or if they’re teaching an online course, but otherwise they’re off limits.

    However, I’m a staff member and it’s rare that we take more than 4-5 days off at a time. It’s not that we are discouraged to take that time off or postpone taking it until we lose it, but rather that the staff feel like we can’t take that time off or else we’ll never get caught up. My co-workers will take more three day weekends or an afternoon off here and there, but not really take two full weeks off in a row. One woman I work with hasn’t taken a vacation in about 3 or 4 years. When I asked two of my bosses (I have three) for this time off, I was told if that’s what I needed to recuperate from the stress of this last year, then I needed to take that time off. I think they can tell I’m starting to get burned out, am stressed out, and they don’t want to lose me (we’re in a hiring freeze and have had 14 people resign in the last 18 months).

    Reply
  29. AnonyMeow

    Sadly I’ve never taken a vacation longer than 10 days as a working adult, and honestly, I can’t imagine what it’s like to take full 2 weeks off. It sounds awesome, but I just can’t imagine what it’d feel like in the middle of it and how I’d adjust back to the “normal” working life when I come back. I feel almost anxious just thinking about what to do with that much free time! I might have a problem…

    Reply
    1. Laura

      I was temporarily unemployed a while ago. I was fine financially, but I didn’t have a job to go to for almost a month! It drove me crazy, and I was so happy to finally start my new position, I was counting down the days!

      Reply
      1. AnonyMeow

        Unemployment occurred to me, too–and retirement (if we can ever!). I do think, though, that being unemployed and being on vacation are quite a bit different, since a long vacation doesn’t come with the anxiety of unemployment. I guess I’m wondering what I’d do with a big-ish chunk of free time with a clear end, without the anxiety of not knowing what’s next. Hmm…

        Reply
    2. BananaPants

      The only time I’ve taken more than a week off of work was during my two maternity leaves. Honestly, it was pretty great to have a break and then come back with some fresh perspective and ideas.

      I’m feeling burned out and overloaded right now and was joking with a coworker that I should have another kid to get the 12 weeks off. :D I obviously wouldn’t base my childbearing on getting a break from this place, and there’s a ~9 month lead time in that case, but a little part of me wasn’t really joking. I’d so be on board with a sabbatical program where employees got a 3-4 stretch of extra paid time off in a block every 5 years or something like that.

      Reply
    3. ThursdaysGeek

      Isn’t a two week vacation just 10 days off plus weekends? Really, since you have the weekend in the middle plus both the beginning and ending weekend, 10 days off is a 2 week + 2 day vacation.

      Reply
  30. NicoleK

    #1 I was the employee that complained about a colleague. The complaints were legitimate. And I only made the complaints because it affected my programs. Old Boss didn’t take me or the complaints seriously. I left and three months later Boss decided to part ways with said colleague. I had breakfast with Old Boss recently and she admitted that I was right.

    Don’t automatically assume that the employee is a liar. Do your due diligence.

    Reply
  31. Lizard

    #4 – Is this a big deal? This is exactly what my team of 6 does. My colleagues are really supportive of making sure people can take PTO when they want it, without having to explain why we want it.
    Is this a big deal because it feels nosy? Colleagues can’t be trusted to be supportive of PTO requests? Something else?

    Reply

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