updates: can I ask my boss to lunch, telling someone to arrive to work earlier, and more

Continuing our annual December “where are they now” series, here are six more updates from people who had their questions answered here this year.

1. Can I ask my boss to lunch? (#3 at the link)

I followed your advice and asked my boss if she had time for lunch. She did – we went to lunch yesterday! It was nice to get to know her better, and the casual setting was a good change of pace too. She shared a lot about her professional background, and I realized she has a lot more experience than I thought she did. She was also pretty candid with her thoughts on what roles would suit me well in the future and gave me some new ideas. It was definitely a good use of time. As I figured she would, she insisted on paying even though I was the one who asked her to join me for lunch.

2. Should I tell a low-performing employee that she needs to arrive at work earlier?

After your advice and input from readers, I decided to talk with the employee about her lateness, mentioning how it was damaging her reputation and how it also meant she wasn’t working the full week for which she was paid. She got better. Not perfect, but better.

The low-performing employee continued to not meet expectations, and I wanted to let her go. Unfortunately, we were planning a reorganization around the same time, and the powers that be wanted me to wait until other layoffs happened. I worry that she may not have learned the lesson – that she really wasn’t working at an appropriate standard – as she was laid off in a group rather than let go because it wasn’t working out. But, for better or worse, that decision wasn’t open to me so I try not to spend too much energy on it.

I have to say, I am extremely grateful to those who commented with the perspective of a colleague of this low performing junior person. I have another staffer working in the same position who is a superstar. Hearing from commenters about how being in a similar situation to her impacted their morale was really helpful. She is absolutely fantastic, and keeping her happy and still working for us is key to making my life run smoothly!

In the period between when I knew low-performer wasn’t working out, but before the lay offs, I focused on trying to make sure that superstar knew that she was valued, and addressing the aspects with the low-performer that were most visible and had most impact on others. I also advocated hard for the superstar during the reorg planning process and I think she’s happy where things turned out.

3. How can I avoid talking about my wedding at work? (#2 at the link)

After reading your and other readers’ responses I realized that I was being overly-anxious about the situation. But I can probably chalk that up as being a side effect of the stress of planning a wedding.

When I got back to work after my week off for the honeymoon, it was just like some readers had suggested it would be: no big deal. A few coworkers noticed my ring and asked if I had gotten married. Per your advice I kept the answer informative enough but short as well. “Yes I did! We had a small ceremony up in [scenic town just outside of the city]. It was a great experience!” worked great as a response. If they asked any further questions I just shifted into talking about our honeymoon to Rocky Mountain National Park which provided a lot of topics to talk about while still not getting too personal for me.

The only exception was my direct supervisor. He and I have always had a personality conflict, and as such I rarely engage with him on anything that’s not directly work related, so when he inquired about my ring and I told him what it was, he actually gave a pouting response of, “No one ever tells me anything!”. I was a bit caught off guard that he was apparently hurt by that. I simply responded by assuring him that I hadn’t told anyone, so he didn’t have any need to feel left out.

Other than that odd interaction, it was smooth sailing after I got back to work. Thanks to you and the AAM readers for helping me calm my nerves!

4. Job candidate called me four times in one day (first update is here)

I wrote in a couple of times concerning the job candidate who called me four times in one morning, used our company’s instant messenger to get in contact with me, and sent a couple aggressive follow-up emails throughout the hiring process. I have an update that I honestly didn’t see coming.

We hired her (that part wasn’t surprising. She had an in from a long time ago.), and she has been one of the sweetest, easiest people to work with! I was definitely biased when she started but I mentioned my concerns to a coworker, who told me to give the new hire a chance. I’m so glad I did. We’re not great friends or anything but we get along well and I have yet to receive any egregious demands from her. In fact, the first time she’s asked me for help with something was this week, and it was a simple question that didn’t detract attention from the project I was working on when she came in.

I still have no idea what was going on with the interview process. The secretary working here when the candidate left was (from what I’ve heard) absolutely useless. I’m very clearly a different person but maybe there was some residual uncertainty that the interview would be set up correctly, based on the information the candidate had about the last person. I could see how that and the general eagerness about the job would have had her exhausting her resources to get in touch. I still don’t care for that behavior, but in this instance, it just goes to show that first impressions aren’t everything.

Thanks to you and the commenters for rallying with me on this one! Although this didn’t have the intended impact, the support I received on this issue has encouraged me to be more vocal about other issues around the office. I finally feel like my voice is being heard.

5. I lost an offer over salary, and I’m regretting holding firm during negotiations

I hoped to have a “happy ending” aka new job by now, but I’m still on the market.

Since this letter was posted I got another job offer from a different company that paid quite a bit more than my current position. I had to turn it down as so many red flags kept on popping up during the final rounds of the interviewing/vetting process. For example, when I would ask about access to tools that would allow me to do my job more efficiently, the hiring manager was quick to say no, but their boss would say yes. This made me feel like I was the boss’s pick, not the hiring manager’s pick and being such could potentially make my job more difficult. I was hesitant to step into what seemed like another issue ridden workplace. I don’t think that I wouldn’t have had the resolve to turn down this job offer if it wasn’t for the advice you gave me and the feedback that I received from the Ask A Manager community.

Another thing to come out during this job hunting process was finding out how woefully underpaid I am at my current job. When I would list my range (current salary plus 20% more, but negotiable depending on benefits) hiring companies would often say how that’s much lower than their current range they are looking to hire for. This is for positions similar to what I’m doing now. It definitely was a major bullet that I dodged when I turned down the the original job I wrote about because I would have taken a major pay cut. Also, for what it’s worth, I have adjusted my quoted range to the rates quoted by these other companies.

Things haven’t changed at my current job and it doesn’t look like it will anytime soon. If things were to change though and now empowered with the knowledge of how underpaid I am, I will still leave. I wouldn’t have gotten to this mindset about appreciating my value and what makes me happy if it wasn’t for the helpful advice and feedback that I received from Alison and all of the commenters at Ask A Manager.

6. Is it okay to be Facebook friends with people I manage?

Since you’re looking for updates, I wanted to let you know what happened. After reading your response, I unfriended the employee. He had also just left for a 2-week vacation, so we didn’t address it directly until he got back. When we discussed it, I used the approach you suggested, and he remarked that being Facebook friends with his boss was uncomfortable, but he didn’t know if he should unfriend me. So, he was glad that I did that. The twist at the end of this story is that after we talked about this, he gave me his 2-week notice and sent another friend request once he was gone. After this, though, I’m much more comfortable enforcing the manager-employee boundaries since it helps both me AND my team.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. The Rat-Catcher

    OP #4 – glad things worked out! I’ve been the annoying job candidate in the past (though not since discovering AAM) and I don’t think I’m generally an annoying person to work with – I just never realized how I must be coming across. It makes me cringe to remember it now.

    Reply
  2. Sabine the Very Mean

    I’ve had a very different experience where the hiring manager, when she offered me the job, said, “well the person we really wanted took a job at the high school and you were the only qualified candidate.” I was just out of school so I let that go. But she then kind of ghosted me which led to me needing a little more communication from her. So questions like, “when can I expect to start?” came at her maybe 6 or 7 times before she finally got a secretary to answer me. It was BS.

    Reply
  3. Jill

    OP#4, I would bet the new hire in question received some questionable advice from someone or somewhere about being Persistent. If you wanted to be really kind, you could share with her that the amount of contact was off-putting and clearly didn’t reflect what a lovely person she is. (Frame it, of course, as you’re so happy she’s here now but that kind of behaviour up front could stop her from achieving opportunities in the future. Since she’s very eager and motivated you wanted to let her know how her persistence may be received.)

    Reply
    1. Roz

      Yeah, this was my first thought, too. Since she’s turned out to be such a great worker, I feel like it’s really good advice to gift her with, and you’ll be able to come to it from a positive place. (“You’ve been really great to work with and I want you to have a great career, so I want to let you know how my first impression wasn’t great so that you can put your best foot forward in the future.”)

      Reply
  4. The Bimmer Guy

    I think the lesson regarding LW No. 4 is this: When a otherwise-excellent candidate has been laid off or out of work for some time and is looking at mounting bills and dwindling bak accounts, she may resort to some very desperate, aggressive and counterintuitive (to her own cause) methods to get noticed and get an interview. It doesn’t mean that the person will display the same lack of order or tone-deafness while in the role. But from the hiring manager’s perspective, all she sees is that this pushy person is trying to circumvent the hiring process, and she has plenty of equally-great candidates who *aren’t* pushy; therefore why deal with this particular candidate? It’s a sorry situation for everyone.

    The solution, then, is not to just take abuse from pushy candidates, but rather to continue to circulate helpful advice from experts like Alison, who will tell candidates how to get noticed the *right* way, so that they don’t inadvertently shoot themselves in the feet.

    Reply
    1. Annonymouse

      But that doesn’t apply here as the candidate was working within the same company in a different team at the time she was being interviewed.

      There isn’t the same “I’m desperate, I’m perfect for this and if I don’t get this I’m screwed” mentality because well if they didn’t get this they have their old job.

      It was just weirdly rude and aggressive.

      Reply
      1. Jessesgirl72

        I reread both the original letter and the update and don’t know where you got the idea that the person was an internal candidate. She had an “in from a long time ago” and might (might- even the OP isn’t positive) have had knowledge about the person who help the OP’s job before she started, but there is nothing that says she came from another department unless there was some kind of update in the comments I missed.

        Reply
        1. Looby

          Third paragraph in the original letter:

          “She is apparently a current employee for our workplace in a different department”

          Reply
        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          My understanding was that it was an internal candidate in a different department, as well. That’s why she was able to send OP an instant message “reminding” her to respond to her 4 prior emails, which was kind of the final button-pushing behavior from OP’s perspective.

          Based on OP’s email, I’m way more inclined to believe the candidate (now coworker) was being aggressive because she was familiar with the previously incompetent admin that OP replaced.

          Reply
        3. Less anonymous than before

          The first update, Alison’s first sentence “remember the letter writer who had an internal candidate…”
          and a couple mentions in the other letters as well.

          Reply
  5. Allison

    #4, I’m glad you hired her! I myself tend to get anxious during the process, and while I’ve never called 4 times in one day, I am the type to wait for an e-mail from my contact at a company and think “AAAAAH PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE JUST TELL ME WHAT’S GOING ON!” Because I know these things take forever, but it’s so much better to know where I am in the process than be left to wonder if things were delayed or if they decided not to hire me, but don’t want to tell me for fear I’ll come poop in their lobby or something. Anxious people aren’t necessarily crazy, sometimes they are just anxious and a quick update is all they need to feel at ease.

    Unfortunately, as long as it’s commonplace for employers to ghost candidates, people are going to get worried when they haven’t heard back for a while.

    Reply
    1. Elizabeth Bennet

      I actually had to let someone go (I was producing a TV show, and it was a freelance writer) because after they completed their initial step (an outline of the script) THEY NEVER STOPPED CALLING ME, or my assistant “Did she like it? When is she going to call? What do you think?” They then could never get the outline right, and I had to take them through three drafts. I still would have let them take a shot at the script (and the script fee) if it hadn’t been for their endless pestering. Literally, their inability to handle their anxiety and their expectation that a busy Executive Producer and her assistant should somehow deal with it endlessly, cost them the job.

      They then mishandled the whole “being cut off at outline” thing. This is something that happens all the time, and I not only spoke with their agent but actually called them personally (over and above in our business), and wanted to be encouraging, to tell them this time it didn’t work but maybe another time (and if I’d tried again with them, I would have told them kindly not to keep calling), but they wouldn’t take my call! They ghosted the showrunner of a hot TV show! They worked on a couple of shows after that, but I heard that their behavior was execrable. So some people let their anxiety and emotions destroy their careers.

      I’m an incredibly anxious person myself, but I’ve learned, years ago, never, never to let Anxiety take the phone or control my behavior. I even try to picture it as a separate sort of “demon” that I am almost physically keeping away from the phone! I call friends and vent and angst to them, but I never, never, NEVER show it to executives or producers or even to other writers.

      Also–honestly, I’ve also learned over the years, that most of the time, nothing’s going on, things take longer, people have tons of other stuff to do, fires to be put out, and yes, sometimes you won’t be hired and no one will tell you, and you live. Expecting other people to manage your anxiety for you is a path to unemployment (believe me, I’ve learned this the hard way!!). You have to deal with it yourself and figure out how. Seriously, this is the best tip I could possibly give you, and I hope you take it! I wish someone had told me this years ago.

      Reply
  6. Jessesgirl72

    The sad thing about #2 is that employees like that just think they have bad luck, and don’t realize that it’s their bad work habits that get them moved to the top of the layoff list whenever there is reorganization happening. The OP is right in that if she’d been allowed to say something, the woman would have a chance at avoiding these problems at her next job.

    Reply
  7. Erin

    #6 – For what it’s worth I think it’s fairly normal to friend someone after you no longer work together, so you can more or less keep in touch.

    Personally, I have no problem being friends with coworkers or even a boss, but I never initiate the friend request for obvious reasons. If they friend me, cool. But I have friended former coworkers.

    Reply
  8. Melliflu

    OP #5:

    The process of looking isn’t easy, but I’m glad you are actually screening your potential employers and actually turning some down. When you are in the position to do so, I think it’s empowering and saves a lot of discomfort later on.

    Reply
  9. Becky

    #6 I deleted my facebook account more than 3 years ago, but when I had one, I only friended coworkers who I did things outside of work with. Most people understood that when I mentioned it and didn’t get upset over me not accepting a friend request.

    Reply
  10. Less anonymous than before

    #4 —
    I’m glad that it all worked out in the end. It doesn’t sound like you ever raised your concerns with your boss about her behavior though, did you? I guess I’m a little disappointed about that because I don’t think people should treat people any kind of way or dismiss them or tell them how to do their jobs. But I am glad to hear she is turning out to be easy to work with and your first impressions of her aren’t her regular character, at least for now. I hope this doesn’t change once she’s more settled in.

    Reply
    1. OP #4

      Oh, I definitely recognize the missed opportunity here. I have a really hard time raising this kind of stuff, especially when I knew the candidate already had a strong relationship with the person I’d be raising my concerns to. Their team is really tightly knit, so my decision was a huge balancing act of “do I want to help them learn professional norms or do I want to keep my own relationship strong with my direct supervisor?” I assure you, it was not taken lightly, but I think it would have been a lot more damaging because of the dynamics at play here to actually raise it.

      Besides, I was irrationally angry about the entire thing and I do NOT communicate well when I’m mad, so it was probably wise that I didn’t speak up at that time. At least I’ve shown the candidate/employee since that I’m not only competent at what I do but I’m a pretty good ally to have in the office (I mean, I do stock the coffee ;) ).

      Reply

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