anonymous complaint about politics, student workers keep interrupting my lunch, and more

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

1. I received an anonymous complaint about politics

I’m a relatively new manager at a nonprofit where the nature of the mission means that most people share liberal political views. The new administration has specifically stated that it intends to dramatically curtail our ability to do our work, so many people feel a professional stake in the politics. Many of the staff participate after hours in various political activities. To be clear, none of these are sanctioned formally or informally through the workplace.

I recently received an anonymous complaint that one staff member shares different political views and feels uncomfortable when other staff are talking about their after-hours plans. The same staffer member also feels uncomfortable that people are putting political gatherings on their work calendars.

I’m at a loss. In any normal workplace, people are bound to discuss what they’re doing after work. It’s also the norm here for people to put things on their work calendar such as dentist appointments, book clubs, or other personal items. At the same time, I want everyone here to feel comfortable doing their job and not like they’re under personal attack. What should I tell the staffer? (Because the complaint came via our union steward, I could relay a message to the staff member through the steward.) Is there anything I should tell the rest of the staff?

Yeah, on its face that’s not reasonable. It’s possible that there’s more to it than that, though, so when you respond, you should allow for that possibility.

Ask the steward to pass along to the person who made the complaint that people are allowed to discuss their after-work plans and use their calendars to record appointments outside of work, but that if there are workplace conversations happening that are hostile in nature or distracting the person from doing her job, you’d want the opportunity to address that, and that you encourage the person to come talk with you if so. You can also say that you’ll make a point of watching on your own for times when that may be happening, but that you’re more likely to be able to address it effectively if she’s willing to talk with you and share specifics.

And it does make sense to keep an ear out for a heightened level of political conversation in the office, and redirect people away from that if you judge that it’s become a distraction or that it might be wearying for people who have to listen to it (allowing, of course, for whatever might relevant to your work). But that’s a different thing than people putting their own plans on their own calendars.

2. Student workers keep interrupting my lunch

I work in university administration and I supervise two student employees. Our policy is to let the student take the lead in setting their work schedule, as long as it’s consistent, within normal working hours, and fits the required number of hours for the position. My problem is that my students always want to work over lunch, which makes it hard for me to peacefully eat lunch at a normal time.

Because classes are rarely scheduled from noon – 1pm, students like to use that time for on campus work. The type of work my students do doesn’t require my constant supervision, but I do have to check in / check out with them every day, and they do frequently have questions. When I eat lunch, I usually eat at my desk because our break room is incredibly depressing. I am hourly so I get one unpaid half hour lunch and my boss doesn’t care when I take it, but office culture strongly encourages taking lunch sometime between 11:30 and 1pm.

It really bugs me to be interrupted from eating my lunch with questions from my students, but I feel like I can’t ask them to wait until I’m done since that might hold up their progress on their work (often time-sensitive). They could ask my boss instead, but my boss often has lunch meetings and doesn’t always know the details of what our students are working on. Sometimes I make an effort to eat early or late to avoid the problem, but that doesn’t always fit in my work schedule given meetings, deadlines, etc. What do you suggest is the best way to guard my lunch time? Should I be more firm with my students about interruptions? Should I discourage students from working over the lunch hour? Schedule lunch for myself before/after students are in and don’t accept meetings or other responsibilities for that time? Something else entirely?

You should eat when you want to eat, and you should let your student workers know that when you’re having lunch, they need to hold their questions until you’re back to work. They can handle going half an hour without access to you. I mean, if you were in a half-hour meeting, they would find a way to make do, right? Half an hour is just not a long time to ask them to wait. (If I’m wrong about that and it truly is crucial that you be accessible to them at all times, then yeah, you need them to not work when you’ll be at lunch … or in meetings, etc. But I’m betting there’s flexibility there.)

Say it this way: “In order to get a real lunch break, I’m going to ask you to hold any questions for me until you see that I’m back to work.” (If you want to keep eating at your desk, come up with a way to signal them that you’re once again open for business, like a sign or another system.) And then if you get interruptions after that, say, “I’m taking my lunch right now, but come see me at 1:00 when I’ll be free.”

You should also think about what types of things they interrupt you for and figure out if there any themes that you could address with additional training or guidance, to cut down on how often they need immediate assistance from you.

3. Can I contact the person who got the job I was applying for?

I recently made it to the final stage of a competitive search for a small nonprofit that included multiple stages of interviews and a flight. I did not get the job and I have no current relationship to the board or the winning candidate or the region.

A part of me wants to reach out to the person who did get the job and say something along the lines of: “Dear Fergus, Congrats on your new role. I also was competing for this position and I am genuinely looking forward to your success in the community. I have been in a similar role and would be happy to provide any support or perspective as you move forward. My main interest is in x and y across the board. Let me know if you ever want to chat or if you find need of an expert in x and y.”

I am genuinely happy for the person who got the job and I am confident in my own placement potential. But while visiting this community, I did feel like I could add to the narrative and my personal goals align with the nonprofit whether they are paying me or not. I also wonder if there could be a role for me there if they are successful and have new leadership tiers.

On the other hand, I feel like not being offered the job might condemn me to a world of silence in this regard. I don’t want to appear unprofessional by sticking around past the point of invitation or by being the one that won’t go away.

I did have very complimentary discussions after the search with the board. I want to keep doors open with them and the winning candidate. The last thing I want to do is come off as weird, threatening, or emotional.

Yeah, don’t do that; framing it as “I was competing for this position too” is too likely to come across as strange.

However, you could reach out to your main interview contact and say that you’d be thrilled to work with them in a volunteer capacity if that’s ever something that would be helpful to them. Then leave it in their court to follow up with you about or not. (And if they don’t follow up, take that as a “no thank you” and let it go.)

4. How do I ask my boss to let me manage our new hires?

I am currently the sole member of my team, but we’ve recently been given permission to hire two new staff people who will do the same editing work that I do. I have almost four years of experience doing this work (and 15 years in the workforce/as a writer), but have never managed anyone before. I honestly do think I’d do well at it, and it’s something I’d enjoy.

In my goal-setting discussion last year, I told my boss that I would be interested in supervising new staff who do my work, should we get permission to hire them (something my boss has been pushing for). She seemed to think that would be a possibility and said as much. Now, however, the go-ahead to hire has been given and she will handling the hiring process and phone screens before bringing me in for feedback on the short list. Nothing more has been said about the supervising part. My boss sits in an office three hours from me, so I will be sort of the default team lead since the new staff will sit in my location, but I’d like to make it more formal than that if possible.

So now I guess I have to use my words. Do I send an email so it’s in writing saying “I am interested in supervising the team and I think I would be good at it”? Do I do it over the phone? Do I wait until she is here at my location doing the in-person interviews to ask? I’d be happy to take it on on a trial basis just to prove that I would not be a disaster (as the previous supervisor was) … should I say that, too? How the heck do I become a manager?

You work in separate locations, but do you have regular meetings by phone? If so, you should bring it up at the next one (if it’s in the next week or two). You can say it this way: “We’d talked last year about my interest in taking on some management responsibilities. Now that we’re hiring new staff, would you be open to talking about me managing them?”

If you don’t have regular meetings, email her and say this: “We’d talked last year about my interest in taking on some management responsibilities. I’m hoping to set up some time to talk with you about whether that might be possible with the new hires we’re bringing on.”

I don’t think you need to offer to do it on a trial basis (that isn’t necessarily great for the people you’d be managing), but if she seems hesitant, you could ask if she’d be open to putting you in a sort of deputy role, where you’d have formal authority to delegate work and give feedback, while she remained their official manager. That can be a good way to start getting management experience, which can then make it easier to move into a more formal management role in the future (and it can also help you learn how to manage in a lower-stakes context, which can be a good thing).

5. Indicating citizenship on a resume

I’m a U.S.-Canada dual citizen, living in Canada. But my partner just relocated to the U.S., and I’m hoping to join him once my contract here in Canada ends. I’ve been living in Canada for a long time, so all of my education and work experience is from here. I’m worried that U.S.-based employers will toss out my resume if they think they’ll need to sponsor me (I’m a recent grad, not high enough in the ranks to warrant a sponsorship yet). How can I signal to them that I’m legally eligible to work in the U.S.? Is it tacky or inappropriate to include a line on my resume or in my cover letter stating that I’m a citizen?

Nope, it’s super normal to do that when your work history or current location might raise the question. Typically people in your situation will put a line at the top or the bottom of their resume that just says “work authorization: United States citizen.”

{ 288 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Elizabeth the Ginger

    OP #2, I’m sure you’ve thought of this, but is there any third location you could eat your lunch in aside from your desk or the depressing break room? Being physically not there would keep you from getting interrupted by the students.

    Reply
    1. Freya UK

      Yeah, I hide in the archives to eat mine… If I stay in the office I get asked work stuff, and the lunch room is noisy and crowded.

      Reply
    2. Toronto IT Grunt

      It sounds like OP really wants to eat at her desk. I personally LOVE eating at my desk and reading the news. I can’t do that in the lunchroom or another room. I’d be furious if someone told me to stop eating at my desk (given the super casual nature of my office). My routine is sit at desk and read news/blogs then go for a walk alone to decompress. People’s lunch routines are really personal and important to them.

      Reply
      1. Czhorat

        That’s very true, but it also makes it hard to set the expectation as “off to lunch” and “available”. If you’re physically not at your desk, you’re not available.

        Some places discourage eating at desks for sanitary reasons, for distracting smells and sounds, etc. “Take your lunch break away from your desk” is not an unreasonable suggestion.

        Reply
      2. Antilles

        People’s lunch routines are personal and important, yes. The problem is that if you’re at your desk, that automatically signals “I am working and available”. Especially given that every office has at least a couple people who do working lunches or snack constantly during the day or just aren’t seriously bothered by an occasional two-minute question while eating.

        Reply
        1. Lemon Zinger

          Yep, good point. I eat at my desk almost every day and I have no problem answering a quick question or two, especially since I have a unique skill set that my coworkers rely on. If I am seriously disrupted, I’ll just add on the time I spent on that task to my lunch hour.

          Of course, we all have days when we just need a total break from work during lunch. On those days, I go out for lunch or up to a balcony outside of my building.

          Reply
      3. LizB

        That’s true, but since OP2 is currently trying to change an unwanted part of her lunch routine (the part where students interrupt her all the time), it’s possible that sacrificing one wanted part of her routine (location) to make that happen would be an acceptable tradeoff to her. It wouldn’t be acceptable to you, but it’s just one suggestion.

        Reply
      4. MK

        Eh, I don’t think most people consider their lunch habits ”personal and important”; some do, and if they are that important to you, fine, and of course workplaces should let people do what they like, as long as there is no reason to regulate their habits. But not being able to read the news on your lunch break is not a violation of your rights and a company might have valid reasons to make a rule against eating at desks.

        In any case, if one chooses to have lunch at their desk, I think they need to accept there will be some interruptions and that you might need to remind people you are not on the clock. I mean, if I go to discuss something with a colleague and see them eating, I won’t expect them to drop their food and attend to me, but neither will I turn back as if they were not there; I ‘ll tell them I need to talk to them about X and get back to me when they are done eating.

        Reply
        1. OP#2

          Hi, OP#2 here. It’s true that I could and perhaps should physically relocate for lunch. There’s just not really a good alternate location besides our shitty break room. When the weather’s nice, I do eat outside sometimes, but I live in a northern state so it’s not possible all year long. There’s a building with a nice courtyard nearby but it’s probably a 5 min walk each way. Not bad for my health, but practically it means only 20 mins for lunch. Still, not the worst. Maybe I’ll try doing that for a week or two and see how it goes.

          Reply
          1. synchrojo

            I think you can probably come up with a solution that allows you to eat at your desk while not getting interrupted constantly. I had a former coworker (a programmer and IT guy) who mounted a set of those plastic medical door flags to his monitor, and marked them up with things like “focused-do not disturb” “interrupt if necessary” and “available.” He wore headphones often, and would flip up the appropriate flag so everyone knew whether it was OK to approach or not. Would something like this work in your office environment? you could have a “personal/break time” flag. The only trick is being vigilant about enforcing it– this coworker (with his manager’s blessing) would not respond to anyone if he had the red flag up.

            Reply
          2. Aphrodite

            Whenever I am on deadline, I post an amusing notice on my door. At the top, in large print, it says, “Please disturb if . . . ” and below are two pictures, one above the other. The top one is a shot of a building on fire and the works “if the building is on fire” next to it. Below that is another picture of Robert Redford in his heyday and the words next to it are “or if Bob is on the phone.”

            I printed the pictures in color so the entire sign amuses while getting the message across clearly.

            Reply
          3. Anxa

            I think relocating is great, but when you’re hourly and you have to meander around campus, then you’re either getting paid to wander around campus without working, or you’re walking around and it’s eating into your break.

            If it takes 7 mins to get somewhere and 7 minutes to get back, you’re down to 16 minutes to eat.

            It doesn’t sound like a lot, but I literally pack string cheese, hard boiled eggs, avocados and other high density foods just so I can eat on the go without having to take an hour, in the 3 minute speed walk between buildings.

            Reply
      5. Chalupa Batman

        The university context is important, too. At a lot of universities, there’s an expectation that if people can see you, they can ask you a “quick question.” I’ve been in a similar position at OldJob-university work, kept being bothered at lunch, and like OP, eating outside was only possible part of the year. I couldn’t afford to buy lunch every day and lived too far to go home for lunch, so most days I had to eat at my desk with the door closed. Literally anywhere else on campus left me open to interruptions, and my schedule was so hectic I had have time to decompress. More than once I ate on my floor with the light off (we had windows in our doors). It was part of the reason I started looking for a new job. When you’re super busy, sometimes lunch isn’t about food. It would be nice if there was an easy option to eat elsewhere, but if OP can’t or would rather not, I think Alison’s suggestions are reasonable.

        Reply
      6. LDG

        But it doesn’t sound like people bother you while you are eating lunch. What if people kept interrupting you while you read news/blogs?

        Reply
    3. Jennifer

      In my experience, the only way to be left alone at lunch in this kind of setting is to physically not be there. Yes, it sucks that she can’t eat lunch at her own desk without being interrupted, but…that is not gonna happen. We had people at my office put up signs saying “at lunch” but everyone still interrupts anyway. Signs don’t work. If you’re there and a student’s desperate with a question (and god knows nothing can wait), that’s not really going to deter anyone.

      Though if you work at a university, you can probably find various places that aren’t your office building to go hide out at. That’s the only solution I’ve found.

      Reply
      1. Lemon Zinger

        I definitely recommend a sign. One of my colleagues is in the same position as OP and a sign works perfectly for him. It just says “On lunch, please do not disturb”

        Reply
        1. Formica Dinette

          Agree. A few of my colleagues who are hourly employees use “At Lunch” signs and people generally respect the boundary.

          Reply
        2. Michele

          I would want to put up a sign, but then I can see someone writing into AAM about the weirdo who put up a “do not disturb” sign during lunch.

          Reply
          1. Amy G. Golly

            I wonder if it would help to frame it different? Not “Do Not Disturb”, but rather “FYI, I’m Eating Lunch Now.”

            When I first started another job, I frequently ran into the problem of disturbing my senior coworkers while they were on lunch: I needed to ask them a question, I was starting my shift at 1:00 while they were eating at 1:00, and “sitting at the computer for personal use during lunch break” looks identical to “sitting at the computer for work reasons during working time.” After several incidents (during which my coworkers kindly explained they were on a lunch break and did not like to answer work questions when doing so) they started closing their cube “doors” during lunch. When I saw the closed door, it was a signal to me to wait.

            Not everyone has a cube door, but if the OP explains to her students that she doesn’t want to answer non-emergency questions during her lunch break and puts up a sign that says “On lunch, back soon” (or similar) I think most of the student works would be able to come around!

            Reply
    4. Amy G. Golly

      Our “break room” is just a table in a back room that is also a work space. It’s very common for those of us eating there to be approached with work questions. For the most part, we just kinda deal with it, which is…yeah, it’s not ideal.

      I like to listen to music or podcasts during my break, so that helps cut down on the number of interruptions: I usually can’t hear the person who’s trying to talk to me. And if I can hear them, sometimes I pretend not to…hey, if the bowl of soup and open Kindle weren’t enough of a hint, sometimes the awkwardness of asking me to take out my earbuds is a better deterrent! Are there people completely undeterred by soup, Kindle, AND earbuds? Yes. Yes there are. I have a mental tally of their names…

      Reply
    5. LDG

      I completely agree. It’s about association. If someone is eating at their desk, it might look like they are multi-tasking work/lunch. It might be easier to have the student workers come after lunch then say, “oh sorry. Please leave all questions and concerns after my last bite of food.” However, in a break room it’s more obvious “break time! keep out!”

      Reply
  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#1, also be careful about partisan political activity during work hours. Generally, having after-hours calendar listings for when an employee is off the clock is reasonable, and I don’t think your staff should have to sanitize their calendars for the sake of the anonymous coworker. But if folks are signing up to phonebank or throw candidate parties or organize actions while at work, I’d encourage them to save it for non-work hours outside the workplace. Depending on your tax-exempt status (assuming your nonprofit is exempt), it can be important to avoid the IRS’s bright-line rule against electioneering.

    Reply
    1. Patrick

      This is more of a practical thing and doesn’t solve OP’s ultimate dilemma, but I use my work Outlook calendar as a personal calendar too and anything non-work is set as private. I send out separate markers to my work team if it affects them, since usually I have addresses, phone #, etc saved in my personal marker.

      It’s also something you can sell to people easily – does your team need to know when your bills are due or when your next haircut is? Again though, I realize this is tertiary to the ultimate problem here.

      Reply
      1. OP #1

        I do the same: I keep two calendars and one is just for personal stuff and isn’t visible to others. I don’t think I could sell it easily to staff because they wouldn’t see the need.

        I mostly don’t want to police calendars. Often one staffer will cover for another, so the staffer who is out will send an Outlook invite that says “Fergus: Vet appointment”. I agree that I don’t care if you’re building rice sculptures or campaigning so long as you’re taking time off in accordance with the policy, but if someone wants to put it on their calendar it doesn’t feel reasonable to tell them no.

        Reply
        1. Czhorat

          It can be a general discussion as an expectation without devolving into policing. Something like “If you are OOO for non-business reasons, please just list yourself as “unavailable” on the shared calendar to avoid any confusion. Actual calendar entries should only be for business activities.”

          There are plenty of things which are legal yet not appropriate to share; if a co-worker had “Key Party” on their shared calendar it would at least raise an eyebrow or two, and don’t get us started on “video game tournament”. The key might be to set a reasonable, neutral expectation.

          Reply
          1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

            I think that’s an overreaction. A reasonable person would not be troubled by the existence of political activities on other people’s calendars. This organization doesn’t need to make and enforce a new rule about this.

            Reply
            1. Czhorat

              That depends on the person and the political activities.

              Let’s say, for instance, that someone was planning on protesting an abortion clinic. Or fundraising for a white nationalist group. I would be – at the very least – uncomfortable having that presented in ANY business communication channels, even as simple as the shared calendar.

              Reply
        2. Sarianna

          Clearly my coffee hasn’t quite kicked in, because I read that as, “so long as you’re taking time off in accordance with the prophecy” and was a little concerned…

          Reply
        3. caryatis

          I wouldn’t find it reasonable to put political activity on a work calendar. Why not use a personal calendar for that? The thing about work calendars is, everyone can see your appointment and everyone who is going (unless you set it to private which doesn’t seem to be happening here), and it’s understandable that the few people excluded because of their political views are feeling bad.

          It’s kind of like putting “Jane’s wedding” on the calendar–nothing wrong with that per se, but if Jane invited everyone _except_ me, I might feel excluded. Keep politics out of the office.

          Reply
          1. Vin Packer

            If Jane invited everyone, but you chose not to go because you don’t like Jane, would you still feel excluded and like everyone should cease all mentions of Jane’s wedding, though?

            Reply
          2. BethRA

            I put everything – work and personal activity – on a single calendar because I find it’s much easier to keep track of my schedule when I only have one source to work from.

            But there’s no reason not to make non-business entries private.

            Reply
            1. chocolate lover

              Ditto, one calendar is so much easier, and I’m less likely to doublebook something or set up an accidental conflict. I do make my personal activities private. (Though our admin has argued to someone else that she needs to see WHERE we are – no, you don’t. You just need to know we’re not here.)

              Reply
          3. Ask a Manager Post author

            It’s a mission-driven nonprofit. It’s really, really normal in mission-driven nonprofits for people to be open about their involvement with, say, social justice activities.

            Reply
            1. Detective Amy Santiago

              Especially when government action directly impacts their mission, which it sounds like is the case here.

              Reply
        4. MK

          Could the issue be the wording? If you are going to a protest against a proposed law that will require all chocolate teapots be made with milk chocolate, it’s one think to put “teapots law protest” in your calendar, and another to write ”let’s go crush the milk chocolate teapots law!!! Insert Emoji of a punch”.

          Reply
        5. Angelinha

          Is the issue that they’re sending Outlook *invites* instead of just putting appointments on their own calendars? I think appointments that are viewable to everyone aren’t necessarily out of line, but an invite seems way more aggressive.

          Reply
          1. KellyK

            Yes, that would definitely be a problem! At the very least, any invites should be restricted to people you know are interested in those activities. It also wouldn’t be unreasonable to have a blanket rule against using email invites for political purposes. Since that’s a work resource, that might actually run afoul of IRS rules.

            Reply
            1. Emi.

              I thought they were putting “Dentist appointment” or “Teapot protest” on their calendars for themselves, and then inviting Fergus as a way of saying “Fergus, will you cover for me while I’m at the dentist/protest?” I dunno if the IRS would accept that explanation, though.

              Reply
              1. Heather

                I hope new hires have that explained to them – I’m imagining the AAM letters. “Dear AAM, I just started a new job and my coworker sent me an Outlook invite to go to the dentist with her.”

                Reply
        6. Yorick

          It would be easy to tell employees to make their personal appointments private, but it also seems like employees could just not go snooping through their coworkers’ calendars and then be offended by what they see there.

          Reply
            1. Anna

              Yes, to schedule meetings. But if you wouldn’t be offended if they put “Dentist appointment” or “Soccer game” on the calendar, you shouldn’t probably be offended that it says “Women’s March” or “Immigration protest” either.

              Reply
        7. Brett

          I’ll add that the majority of workplaces I have been in, it was the norm to keep two separate calendars too.

          Part of that was working a lot in government, where people would routinely sunshine law our outlook calendars to police employee PTO use. Keeping a separate calendar off work servers kept your private appointment details from going public.

          Reply
          1. Observer

            Separate calendars does reduce the usefulness of the calendars, though. If I want people to be able to see when others are available, asking them to use two calendars makes that much more difficult.

            I honestly think that the idea that people should be told what appointments can go on their calendar is way into micromanagement territory. Asking people to set all private appointments to private? OK. Invites are a different matter, though.

            Reply
            1. SarahKay

              Our calendars are set (by the company) so that you can see if other people are Free, Busy, Tentative, or Out of Office, but no other details. My company is rather (insanely) fond of meetings, so to give me a fighting chance of getting a lunch break I have recurring meetings at midday each day for lunch, blocked out in Outlook. But anyone wanting to schedule a meeting will just see that particular half hour marked as Busy; they don’t see what I’ve got booked there.
              Does that help, at least with calendar bookings?

              Reply
              1. Yorick

                Yes, I can’t see others’ appointments unless I request them to share their calendars. I can see if they’re available though.

                Reply
              2. Observer

                That’s great. Let people put whatever they want in there, all anyone else needs to see is if people are available or not.

                Reply
    2. OP #1

      Thanks for responding! I’m trying to figure out how two employees having a private conversation about after work plans run into the IRS rule? I just looked it up and it appears to apply to organizations as a whole. Is there something about individual activity?

      My big problems are (1) line drawing and (2) catering too far to an unreasonable request in such a way that’s a problem for other employees. Alison’s suggestion of keeping an ear out for conversations that veer into the distracting makes sense to me. Telling people they can’t tell a friend/colleague “Want to phonebank with me?” is farther than that.

      Reply
      1. Persephone Mulberry

        Yeah, I think what you need to be on the lookout for is if there’s a pattern of “want to phonebank with me” turning into a more general airing of grievances around the current political climate. And possibly a gentle reminder that not everyone in the org necessarily shares the same political views.

        Reply
        1. Emi.

          And if it is turning into a general airing of grievances, that’s gotta be annoying and distracting to some people who do share those views, too.

          Reply
          1. always in email jail

            ^This. I’m a volunteer leader in a volunteer/lobbying group in my spare time, I phone bank, I meet with my state reps, and all that jazz. However, I don’t want to talk about politics at work. I just need a break sometimes. Work time is work time for me, personal time is when I can vent on those issues a bit more.

            Reply
          2. Koko

            +1

            I also work at a nonprofit that is negatively impacted by the current goings-on, and I share that assessment and unhappiness with it, but I also really appreciate being able to go through my days without stewing in a cloud of negativity. Bad for the psyche.

            Reply
      2. Bwmn

        As someone who also works for a generally liberal organization, I’m wondering if these after work events are protests. Like, one person has been going to protests after work and then others are like “oh let me know when you’re going, I’d like to join sometimes”. In DC particularly, the idea of some protests being an alternative “happy hour” could make it really easy to slip into normal office-personal life carryover.

        In this case, I can both understand how someone on the other side would feel uncomfortable, but that from a work etiquette standpoint – it might be hard to truly stop that kind of discussion. And while trying to control the calendars is the initial complaint, I think without knowing more it’d be tough to really manage.

        Reply
        1. RVA Cat

          The happy hour comparison is great. It sounds like the real issue may be social pressure to join in these activities, much like it could be for a non-drinker nagged to go to happy hour. Plus there isn’t really a “club soda with lime” option for a protest….

          Reply
          1. Bwmn

            Exactly, also – while many of these protests may fall on a general liberal/conservative fault line – the majority don’t have direct partisan relationships.

            To me the calendar request kind of sounds like a complaint where someone thinks there’s a quiet and procedural way to stop something uncomfortable.

            Reply
          2. Evan Þ

            I suppose you could show up carrying a sign for the other side, but that’d probably get in the way of the happy hour atmosphere…

            Reply
      3. eplawyer

        You have to be careful that the general office views are not making the person seem too much of an outsider. I don’t think it is an unreasonable request to keep the overtly political stuff to a minimum or even shield it on the calendars. Why can’t someone put on the calendar “Busy” instead of “Off to Campaign Rally to Try to Impeach the CUrrent Incumbent.”

        You also want to watch the rhetoric around the office. There has been a lot of denigration of the voters of the Incumbent in a way that is downright insulting. “Oh those stupid rednecks who voted for him. They are just uneducated idiots who don’t know any better. Bet they never even ate a falafel.” How would you like to be the co-worker who might have voted for the Incumbent and you hear that on a regular basis from your colleagues? You might not realize how bad it is because you don’t like the administration. But for someone who did vote that way, it has to have an effect on morale.

        In other words, keep the politics out of it and make this about policies.

        Reply
        1. PlainJane

          Great comment. I’m as liberal as they come, and my workplace and profession skew liberal. I’ve heard from conservatives in the field that they can feel anything from unwelcome to ostracized to belittled in this field, and I don’t want to contribute to that. So yeah, focusing on issues that directly affect the organization is a great approach. Toning down the other political talk (if that’s the problem here) would help everyone feel welcome–and probably be appreciated by even some of the liberal staff who don’t want to hear about politics all the time.

          Reply
        2. Rater Z

          And it goes both ways. One might be a non-Trump supporter having to listen all day to those who still think Trump is the second coming of Jesus. This can happen in any office/factory or social situation, profit or non-profit or family or just shopping.

          For those of us of a certain age group, it’s probably kicking up some serious PTSD so we need to remind everyone to cool it with the discussions.

          Reply
        3. Chinook

          “You have to be careful that the general office views are not making the person seem too much of an outsider.”

          This bears repeating. I did end up working, through a temp agency, for a large non-profit with a definite political point of view. While I agreed with everything they explicitly supported at the time, many on the office took that to mean that I agreed with everything everyone said in the office. this included the shop steward coming up to me and mentioning that I wasn’t required to take Remembrance Day off because “we all know it just supports the war machine” and then offered to give me a white poppy to wear.

          The only response I could give was that I already had plans for that day but thank you for the offer. What I didn’t offer was the detail that my plans were to go the National Ceremony down the street where my husband was marching in the parade while we remembered our friends and family who have died and/or are currently serving. From that moment on, I knew I would never be comfortable working there and would never be able to truthfully answer why I lived in that city without ostracizing myself.

          On the plus side, they did pay me for my time, during office hours, for protesting our Prime Minister’s prorogue parliament even though they didn’t bother to ask me what my opinion on the issue or the PM in general was (they thought he was evil incarnate). It meant two hours outside instead of an office, so who am I to complain?

          Reply
      4. Morning Glory

        Hi OP,
        I work in a similar kind of organization, both in terms of political lean, and impact due to the election. Our legal team has sent a note on this describing the line, which is basically that employees cannot use company resources for this type of activity or we may be in danger of running afoul of the law – so basically people could talk about it, but not communicate about it via company email, even though we can communicate about other non-work events like a concert etc. via email.

        I don’t think, from your letter, that this is an issue for your org though (although I am not an expert).

        Reply
      5. Sfigato

        If you are a 501c3 public charity, employees should not be conducting any partisan activity on work equipment and/or during work time. Period. Especially if you are in a politically sensitive area, which means you are more open to opposition attacks. If employees are organizing around legislation (ie lobbying) during work time or using work equipment, it could count against your organization’s lobbying limit.

        Bottom line, they need to be very careful to separate their personal political activities from their work activities. It could damage the organization if many of your employees are planning events to promote or oppose specific candidates on work equipment or during work time. They should not be getting emails to their work email about this stuff, or using their work calendar for this stuff. The last thing you need is for an opponent to foia your org and turn up a ton of emails about stopping specific legislation or fighting a political candidate, or calendar invites to protest senator whosit. Speaking as someone who worked at a nonprofit that had a lot of opposition from the oil and gas companies. Our lawyers were really insistent that we not talk about politics or use work equipment to do anything partisan.

        Reply
        1. Big10Professor

          AFAIK, lobbying restrictions only apply if you are endorsing/opposing a specific candidate or policy. Something like the Women’s March or would not fall under that. I’m sorry (not sorry) if it makes someone uncomfortable, but hings like women’s rights are not partisan issues.

          Reply
            1. Detective Amy Santiago

              How does that work if your organization’s mission is intricately tied to something political?

              Like, if my mission is to make sure that public school kids have access to Chocolate Teapots and they are trying to pass a law outlawing Chocolate Teapots. Would protesting that fall under general advocacy work?

              Reply
              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                If you’re a 501c3, you can’t engage in “electioneering” — supporting or opposing the election of a particular candidate for office. They can, however, spend money (up to a certain percent of their budget) on lobbying for legislation and ballot initiatives. They also can do things like voter registration and public education (and that public education can be strongly in favor of issue X or opposed to issue Y, as long as they’re not urging you to vote for or against a particular person).

                So in your example, yes, you could protest that proposed law and you could work to pass a different one.

                Reply
              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                DAS, under the situation you described, assuming you’re on-the-clock or using organizational resources (e.g., for making signs), you would be able to participate in the protest. If it’s for a specific law, then your time might count as lobbying, but it depends. And it’s ok to lobby—your organization just has to make sure it tracks the hours staff spend engaging in “lobbying” versus non-lobbying activity.

                If you go to the protest as you are, not on the clock, and without anything that identifies you as a member of your organization, then there’s no problem.

                Reply
          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            You’re 100% correct. The lobbying restrictions apply only if you’re working on a specific policy as a representative of the organization or with organizational resources—they don’t apply to people visiting their elected official or testifying on their own time.

            And “electioneering” usually only applies to candidates. “Partisan” does not mean “political”; it’s about preventing the misuse of a public charity’s resources for the benefit of a private individual. There are any number of social issues and forms of assembly (e.g., protests, marches, rallies, press conferences) that are entirely legal for a (c)(3) to engage in.

            Reply
        2. Jessie the First (or second)

          “If you are a 501c3 public charity, employees should not be conducting any partisan activity on work equipment and/or during work time. Period….. Our lawyers were really insistent that we not talk about politics or use work equipment to do anything partisan”

          I really just want to ditto the responses to this comment, because this is way, way, way more broad than the law requires. I’m sure your firm’s lawyers are doing right by your firm given whatever specifics go on at your firm. But in general, the law limiting politics at 5013c orgs is nowhere near that broad. You’ll notice there are 501c3 organizations all over the place that are advocating on political issues – look at the International Rescue Committee to name just one; they have been all out in front since the immigration ban, talking about it and advocating on the issue. That is certainly political, and certainly also ok, and they are a 501c3 org.

          But the point is that people using work email to sometimes notify someone that “Hey I’ll be out at the Women’s March tonight, can you cover my shift” or whatever it is, is not a problem under the IRS rule. The rule is about supporting/campaigning for particular candidates.

          Reply
          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            Yes—I think Sfigato might be conflating “political activity” and “partisan activity.” There’s very few limits on “political” activity for (c)(3)’s, including things like organizing marches, etc., and there’s certainly no limit on “talk[ing] about politics.” Your firm may require that because they’ve decided they don’t want to be associated with any political position, but that’s a political choice that they’re making, not an IRS-required restriction.

            The electioneering restriction is intended to prevent doing things like printing election materials for a specific candidate for office or a specific political party—that’s the same anti-corruption principle that requires (c)(3)’s to have conflict of interest policies. It does not limit things like voter registration, voter education, or other advocacy on political issues.

            Reply
          2. sfigato

            I was broad. I know charities can lobby, and they all should. I also know there is a line between lobbying and advocacy and charities should get as close as possible. However, I firmly believe that you should not be doing partisan political activity on company equipment or during company time, and you should be careful about how you are using work time and equipment to lobby. I’m thinking especially of groups like Planned Parenthood or NPR etc. that have a ton of scrutiny on them and are more likely than not to be foiaed or audited. Talking about going to the women’s march or science march is one thing. Talking about opposing this or that bill is one thing. But if it seems like you are using your charity’s resources to oppose or promote political candidates, that could bite your org in the butt in a big way, particularly if your opponents are big and powerful enough to make a stink. Then again, the Johnson amendment may be repealed and this will all be moot.

            Reply
            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              I think there’s a legal distinction between the groups you’re identifying, though. It’s forbidden for any 501(c)(3) to support a political candidate for office, but that restriction doesn’t apply to 501(c)(4) organizations. In many cases, “big” nonprofits will incorporate a charitable entity that provides direct services as a (c)(3), and a separate “social welfare organization” entity that engages in political activity as a (c)(4).

              Planned Parenthood has a 501(c)(3) and a separate lobbying organization, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, a 501(c)(4). So the medical centers operate under the “no electioneering” rules, but the Action Fund is allowed to endorse candidates, lobby, etc. But of course, it’s not the Action Fund that gets audited—it’s the medical centers. NPR doesn’t engage in electioneering, but you may have been referring to the NRA? If so, they’re also a (c)(4) that’s authorized to engage in lobbying, etc. Also, none of those organizations can be FOIA’d. A person could certainly ask for copies of anything they submit to the government, and assuming there’s no FOIA exception, those filings may be publicly disclosed. But 501(c)(3)’s have to publicly disclose their tax returns, anyway, and many voluntarily make them available to the public.

              Reply
              1. Sfigato

                My understanding regarding having emails foiaed (and maybe I’m using the wrong term, maybe I mean subpoena’d ) is that if your organization emails public officials, and there is an investigation into said emails, then potentially much of the org’s emails could be requested during the investigation.

                Which isn’t something most charities have to worry about, but someone like Planned Parenthood or the sierra club or NPR (or the NRA for that matter) who have intense opposition from particular political parties should be cautious. Again, i’m going on one case in which lawyers for a c3 i worked with specifically instructed staff to not use work computers to do any electioneering or “political” work because there was an attempt to paint the org as being in cahoots with politicians from a specific political party, and having a bunch of emails regarding political campaigns in company email on company computers was going to make it harder for the lawyers to make their case that the organization was nonpartisan. For this particular org, it was vital for their effectiveness that they not be seen as closely aligned with a particular political party, since they needed both liberals and conservatives to support their issue. The org also had an affiliated c4, and a lot of care and attention was made to ensure that we weren’t being sloppy with how staff who worked for both allocated their time.

                Other people’s comments are interesting – I was under the impression that it was pretty standard to separate pretty cleanly one’s political activity from the charity one works at. In my twenty years working for charities and private foundations, I’ve rarely heard staff be super open about their personal political activism. Maybe it’s because I work in the funding community, most of whom are private foundations and thus can’t lobby.

                Reply
        3. Observer

          The regulations don’t work like that at all. The organization faces zero risk from people actually using their calendars the way they were intended to be used – ie putting their schedules in there so people can keep track, and allowing others to see availability.

          As for getting emails about political stuff to their work email – unless they have very strict and strictly enforced policies against ANY sort of person use of email, rules against getting notices in their work email is more likely to get them in trouble than if they didn’t have those rules.

          Neither of these is remotely a matter of the organization doing politics, nor does the individual use of organizational resources rise to the level where it would be on anyone’s radar.

          Reply
          1. sfigato

            My understanding from our counsel was that if the orgs emails were foiaed, and it showed that we had a bunch of emails in our work emails to support or oppose candidates, it could look bad for us and would generally make it hard for our lawyers to argue that we were engaging in nonpartisan advocacy.

            I think in general, especially for orgs working on controversial issues who are likely to come under scrutiny, it is better to as much as possible divorce your work from any particular political party and make it as nonpartisan as possible. The more your employees blur their worklife with their personal partisan political activity, the harder it will be for your org to make the case that you are truly nonpartisan.

            Reply
            1. Observer

              There is a difference between getting some notices of activities and a “bunch of emails”. Also, your counsel seems to have forgotten that FOIA is not the only rule you need to deal with. And, especially for a government entity, banning speech based on content can be a real issue.

              So, if you decide to ban ANY personal email, then political emails of any sort would also be forbidden and that would not be a problem.

              Also, since when can a foia request cover any and all emails?

              Reply
            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              I’m confused; is your organization a governmental entity? Because if it isn’t, it’s not really FOIA-able.

              Reply
      6. Anna

        It wouldn’t run afoul because the two employees attending aren’t attending as representatives of your org. They’re having what amounts to a personal conversation about personal activities, which people do.

        Reply
      7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Hi OP#1!

        It honestly depends on the circumstances (I know, terrible) and if you’re a 501(c)(3). Assuming you’re a (c)(3), if there’s a private conversation about after-work plans, that’s usually going to be fine 99% of the time. But if folks are spending more than 10-15 minutes/day of “on the clock” time talking about engaging in off-the-clock partisan activity, the reason the organization runs into trouble is because you’re paying for their time (i.e., using (c)(3) resources) as they engage in a prohibited activity. So I wouldn’t worry too much—especially about people’s personal calendars—unless you end up in “restricted activities” land.

        I also want to clarify that “partisan” refers solely to political candidates for office and to political party activities. An employee talking to others at work about participating in the Women’s March, protesting/counter-protesting at an airport, or drafting an amicus brief to the Ninth Circuit, or gathering signatures for a ballot initiative is not partisan activity (and it wouldn’t be a problem even if you paid them during those times). Electioneering is a much narrower definition—it’s about using a 501(c)(3)’s resources to do things like attend the DNC Convention, endorse candidates for office, or phone-bank/fundraise for a specific candidate for office. And what employees do off-the-clock truly doesn’t matter, so long as they’re not holding themselves out as a representative of your non-profit while participating in electioneering (i.e., wearing your t-shirt or giving out an organizational business card).

        I used to work at an organization where folks were trying to flip the district. As vital as we believed that was to our ability to do our jobs, we coordinated off-the-clock because we knew it was a prohibited activity. Our organization gave us guidance on what is/isn’t prohibited, and then they let us take PTO to do whatever political work we wanted (and almost everyone did).

        Reply
    3. stevenz

      That rule isn’t such a bright line. It allows more “political activity” than most people think. Sure, it’s best to err on the side of caution, especially when one’s employer’s existence is on the line, but nothing mention in the OP letter comes close to the furry line.

      Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        The electioneering rule is pretty bright-line, and it doesn’t apply to most “political activity” (conversely, “lobbying” has a much more fuzzy definition). I raised the issue because, while I don’t think discussing political issues at a mission-based organization or making plans for after-work political activity is a problem, the one exception to that rule is electioneering.

        Reply
  3. Lord of the Ringbinders

    #3 Tone of voice gets lost on email and this could end up sounding sinister. I would find it strange, would not reply and would forward it to my manager. If you’d like to volunteer, there will be a more appropriate route for that. It’s great that you’re enthusiastic but this isn’t the way to express it.

    #4 I’m not clear on whether you’d like to line-manage them or rather to oversee their writing but not be their manager? Is it possible that you meant the first option and your boss heard the second one? I ask because I’ve had roles where I assigned writing and editing work to people but wasn’t their line manager. Maybe something to clarify?

    A tip for if you do go with the arrangement Alison suggests: the person who assigns the work and sets the deadline should be the person they are required to ask if they need an extension on a deadline. This is based on my own bitter experience of a manager who granted such requests without talking to me or redirecting them to me, when I was the one planning the editorial production schedule and I knew the impact of moving the deadline. It meant that I had zero authority as nobody took me seriously when they could just ask someone else and get an answer they liked better. So based purely on my stuff I would be very clear about who has what authority. Even in a functional workplace with productive colleagues it’s helpful to be really clear about this so you ask the right person.

    Reply
    1. Lord of the Ringbinders

      PS I realise there may have been reasons to grant extensions, it’s just that my boss never talked to me about it or asked if someone else needed to cover the work or etc. The first I heard of it would be someone telling me the boss said it was okay. When enforcing deadlines was one of *my* KPIs.

      This is hopefully not what it’s like where you are, but it can’t hurt to define things clearly.

      Reply
  4. CreationEdge

    Re: OP 2, doesn’t working at one’s desk (by answering student workers’ questions) legally invalidate a bona fide meal break?

    It’s pretty much the only federal rule regarding meal breaks: that if you’re given an unpaid meal break, you can’t work on it.

    Reply
    1. Gene

      Absolutely, look at it as a way to introduce the students to the world of employment law. There are certain things that are should be absolutes, like you can’t do work when you aren’t being paid for it.

      Reply
    2. OP#2

      When I eat lunch at my desk, I’m almost always just reading the news or checking social media or reading a book or something. I don’t actually work through lunch.

      Reply
      1. Anna

        Right, but you are interrupted and asked work-related questions, which does go against what the law is trying to address. I have an office that is has a door that closes. I keep the door closed on lunch, but that doesn’t prevent me from being interrupted sometimes by students, which means (if we go by a strict interpretation) means that my lunch break is interrupted, which means I’m not following the law.

        Reply
        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          Yes, and in some states, you have to be compensated for working during your break (or you have to receive an uninterrupted lunch break right after your interrupted lunch break). It may help to be able to rely on things like “the law” to explain why you’re not able to assist students during “X-Y hours.”

          Reply
  5. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

    #5 – I always put on my resume = “U.S. Citizen, valid passport”

    This is especially important if you’ve got an ethnic-sounding name. From what I understand, an employer is not supposed to address issues of eligibility until the individual shows up for work on day 1. At least that’s the way I understood it when I did the interviews a long time ago.

    That one line says = “yes, I can work for you, I don’t need sponsorship, or a visa, or a work permit. I’m here legally, and my U.S. passport is better than a green card! Oh, yeah, if you need me to travel, I can do that, too, no problem.”

    Yeah, you can say – “well, they can’t ask those questions until you’ve completed the job candidate cycle”… sure. Uh huh. But if they see an ethnic name of some type, and no indication as to whether you’re able to work in the U.S., or wherever — they may just bypass your application without comment.

    Reply
      1. AcademiaNut

        Yes – I’ve worked in the US on a work visa, and they definitely had to know that well before I started work. I entered the US with my visa paperwork in hand, to be stamped at the border as I crossed, and one of the very first things on my first day of work was going to apply for a social security card. It can take quite a while to get all the paperwork done for the visa, particularly if security clearances are involved.

        Reply
        1. AcademiaNut

          For the student works, it sounds like the workers are part time with a flexible schedule. So it’s not a case of them being there for hours, with a half hour period unsupervised, but rather that they are working 12-1, and the LW is taking a lunch break for half of that.

          If that’s the case, what about taking a lunch break from 12:15-12:45. That way you can check in with them when they arrive, and check their work or answer questions before they leave.

          I definitely think it’s a good idea to explain the half-hour unpaid lunch break situation explicitly, for the students’ own education in workplace practices, because it’s quite possibly something they haven’t considered.

          Reply
      2. Alton

        Yeah, I think every job application I’ve filled out has either asked if I’m eligible to work in the US or asked if I would need sponsorship.

        Reply
      3. hermit crab

        I think people get confused because “national origin” is a protected class. But “national origin” covers very different ground than “work authorization status.”

        Reply
        1. Gaia

          And even then, they can ask about national origin – or any protected class – they just cannot make hiring decisions based upon them. Which is, of course, why it is a bad idea to ask because people will assume (and really, why does it matter? The real question is work authorization).

          Reply
      4. Just Another Techie

        I’ve been told when I do recruiting events that if I ask anyone if they are legally allowed to work in the US I have to ask everyone, to avoid the appearance of racial or ethnic discrimination. That’s a pain so I just assume everyone I talk to at, eg, a college career fair, has work authorization and figure if a hiring manager likes them enough to do a phone interview they can ask the question then.

        Reply
        1. nonymous

          It can also be included in any material on particular jobs. A requirement bullet, just like any skill: “authorized to work in the US”, “3+ experience with C++/Ruby on Rails”, etc

          Reply
        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          I think the reason they’re asking you to say it to everyone is because people run the risk of asking the Selena Gomez’s of the world if they’re authorized to work, but they don’t ask the question of the Justin Biebers of the world (and of course, Bieber is the immigrant in this situation). So what your organization is probably trying to avoid is any racial/ethnic stereotyping of certain groups as “likely to be citizens” versus other groups as “likely to be immigrants and/or lack work authorization.”

          Reply
    1. Allison

      I work in recruiting, and a colleague at my last job was very hesitant to talk to candidates who looked like they would need sponsorship. She once told me, as I was going through applicants, that if they didn’t do their undergrad in the US, reject them. I realize there are certain things that indicate someone might need it, but to me, if someone looked like a strong candidate and it wasn’t clear on their resume that they’d need visa assistance, they were still worth a call.

      Reply
      1. KellyK

        “Reject them if they didn’t do their undergrad in the US” doesn’t actually accomplish that goal. Plenty of people get degrees in the US on student visas.

        Reply
        1. Lily Rowan

          And I’ve hired multiple US citizens who went to school abroad. I’m really glad our online application system asked everyone up front if they would need sponsorship — took it out of my hands!

          Reply
      2. wouldloveyourtake

        Given that you work in recruiting, do you mind me asking what the general attitude is towards candidates who would need sponsorship? I’m gonna be in that boat pretty soon and although I’ve done my undergrad and masters (finishing up) in the states I’m terrified that I’ll be considered “too much work” or be on the receiving end of biases given the current political climate. It’s literally giving me panic attacks

        Reply
        1. Allison

          Most of the companies I’ve worked at have told me they’re not set up to provide sponsorship. And I’m sorry to say, I never really found out exactly what that meant. I’m not actually a recruiter, I just work in that world in a research-based capacity, immigration and sponsorship issues don’t really come across my desk, so I can’t offer a whole lot of expertise (I know, I know, you need help, I seem like someone who should be able to, I promise I’m good at my job, I just honestly and truly don’t have a know of knowledge in that specific realm and I am sorry). I think providing sponsorship does take a lot of resources that some companies just don’t have, it’s not solely a matter of whether they want to deal with it or not.

          Reply
          1. wouldloveyourtake

            NP :) and I’m sure you’re great at your job. It seemed like a good opportunity to get some inside info. I might send the question in to AAM for her take. Thanks though!

            Reply
        2. Wehaf

          This will depend on your field, somewhat. If you are in a STEM field and applying to mid-sized or large organizations, it will likely not be a major issue. If you are looking to work at a university, likewise.

          Reply
        3. BananaPants

          I work for an engineering organization of a Fortune 50 company. I’ve been doing college recruiting for engineering and IT, both interns and full time hires, for the last decade. Our HR department’s rule for career fairs is that we have to ask every candidate seeking full time positions if they are legally authorized to work in the US. If they aren’t or say they need sponsorship, we’re supposed to decline even taking their resume.

          There are very limited cases in which we sponsor for an H1B, and to be totally blunt we reserve that for people who worked for us as interns – we already know them and the quality of their work, so the risk is really low. There have been 3-4 cases that I know of in the last 15-odd years; typically the employee applies for the H1B lottery while working during the OPT period, then after several more years on H1B we sponsor for a green card. Others have worked for us in their home countries and come to the US on an L1 intracompany transfer visa, followed by the company sponsoring a green card if they want to stay.

          It’s not a matter of bias given the current political climate or not wanting a diverse group of employees – it’s the fact that for companies that don’t abuse the H1B program, sponsoring someone is expensive and time consuming. There’s no shortage of entry level talent that doesn’t need sponsorship, so we’re not going to do it unless someone has a truly unique skillset or we already know that their work is high quality from a previous internship/co-op.

          Reply
      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Ugh, that’s so annoying! She should just ask people if they’re authorized, not assume that a foreign grad lacks work authorization. This is why people get sued for national origin discrimination—they use the wrong proxies instead of just asking for the information they need.

        Reply
  6. OP #3

    Original poster #3 here. Thank you, Alison, for the directness and utility of the response.

    Lord of the Ringbinders, I agree about tone. There is no manager other than “fergus” and the diverse board they report to.

    Not to be melodramatic, but after reviewing this question here and with some friends of mine, it seems the best bet is to leave it be. I did end up adding several interviewers to a prominent employment related social networking site. That will have to do for now.

    Reply
    1. MommyMD

      Good luck to you. I’m glad you changed your mind. I don’t think it would have come off well at all. I hope your job search is fruitful.

      Reply
    2. hbc

      Sounds like you made a good decision. I know you meant well, but if I received the email you were thinking about, I wouldn’t take it well. It implies that they’ll need your help to perform their job well–almost like offering a mentoring role to a person you don’t know, which looks like a power play since you didn’t get the position.

      Maybe I’m just closed off, but there are exactly two people who could send me that email and be well received: the two people who had this job previously and worked closely enough with me to know that I had weaknesses in X and Y. I think your current approach is a great way to stay connected, and if you end up networked into contact with the person who got the job, that’ll be much more natural.

      Reply
      1. always in email jail

        Agree with you, hbc. If I received the email, I would take it as you offering to mentor me or that you think you can do a better job at the role than me. I know from reading your letter that that’s not what you intended, but it’s how I would receive it.

        I think you made a great choice to network with the interviewers, and I’m sure they’ll think of you and reach out if they have a new role come up!

        Reply
        1. Koko

          Thirding. It read to me (obviously unintentionally from the context of OP’s question) a lot the same as the letter we had the other day from the older man who was working in a mid-tier position as a way of slowing down after a career in executive management, and who wanted to offer advice to a young woman at his manager’s level about how to better present herself.

          No matter how well-meaning, it just usually doesn’t come off right. Advice flows from those who know to those who don’t know. Treating someone you beat in a contest or someone who ranks lower than you in the org hierarchy as someone “who don’t know” is a helpful offer because your greater relative success indicates you know a thing or two they don’t. Treating someone who beat you in a contest or ranks higher than you as someone “who don’t know” comes off much more like you doubt the legitimacy of their position, because if you know and they don’t, then why did they get the job instead of you?

          If you do get an opportunity to connect with the person they selected instead, you gotta come proper with a little bit of humility. Tell them you’d love to hear more about the work they’ve been doing and the results they’ve been getting, or that you’d love to be kept in mind if they ever need volunteer help or open up an X position. Caveat: I would wait until the new person has been there several months before asking to be considered for a new role, because it’s unlikely a brand-new director is going to immediately decide to create a new role, but an established one who is getting good results might start to think about it.

          Reply
          1. OP #3

            One interesting thing is that the interviewers noted that each of the final candidates had such a different approach and a different set of skills useful to the position. My takeaway was that the strengths that the new candidate were hired on are in a different paradigm than mine. The reality is that in small nonprofit settings many people are wearing different hats. There are components of the position that they will definitely excel at relevant to my experience but the opposite remains true. I like your approach but I am going to “move on” MommyMD suggested and wait to see if there is another opening in time. Would your advice change if I had to apply to the current candidate for a job one tier under them in the future?

            Reply
      2. OP #3

        Thanks. I do want to avoid the impression of trying to make a move. The questions came from a brighter world where motives could be removed and we could all be happy with open hearts… you are all bringing me back to reality on this point :)

        I like when two football teams or two boxers shake hands after the fight. Is there no professional equivalent?

        Reply
        1. Angelinha

          I think there’s no professional equivalent in this case because when you’re applying for a job, you’re not “competing” against the other candidates. There’s no fight to shake hands about after; one of you got the job and the rest didn’t.

          Reply
    3. Bibliovore

      I know you have followed up on this but as someone who has been on the other side of this question. It was awkward, strained, and felt tone deaf.
      Basically it felt like (although not said) As we were both finalists for this position, why do you think they picked you instead of me?

      On the other hand- if one of the shortlisted candidates reached out in a collegial way- say with a request to review their CV or with help prepping for a a job interview in my field, I would be happy to build on our professional/collegial relationship. Mine IS a small world and we will be moving in the same professional circles for years.

      Reply
    4. AthenaC

      I think that was a good decision.

      Years ago, I interviewed for a government position in a small town, and they actually did me the courtesy of calling me and telling me who got the job over me. It was a person that I knew somewhat casually, but thought he was a great person and a really good choice for the position. So I thanked them for calling and told them what I thought of the guy they picked.

      The rest of the convo was short and awkward, so in hindsight I’m kinda thinking that even thought I meant it well, it must have come across strangely.

      Reply
      1. OP #3

        Previously, Alison has indicated that it would be appropriate on an intra-organizational level with someone who was competing for the same position. Example – one writer was working in an administrative capacity but tried to move up, only to have an external candidate get hired. In that situation, which is admittedly contextually different, the intent was to help cement a good working relationship. Here, as I do not personally know the candidate, it would be like a cold call. Thanks for sharing your personal experience in this regard.

        Reply
    5. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

      OP3, whatever your intentions, read your words here from the perspective of the person who did get the job:

      “Dear Fergus, Congrats on your new role. I also was competing for this position and I am genuinely looking forward to your success in the community. I have been in a similar role and would be happy to provide any support or perspective as you move forward. My main interest is in x and y across the board. Let me know if you ever want to chat or if you find need of an expert in x and y.”

      There is absolutely no way that wouldn’t come off as “they really should have hired me, because I know I’m smarter and better at this, so give me a call once you get over your head and I’ll help you and ingratiate myself to your bosses.” Again, I know your intentions weren’t anywhere close to that, but your wording can be read as a mix of condescension and sour grapes, and it would damage you professionally to send a message that could be received that way.

      Reply
      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

        Again, I really don’t doubt your intentions and the spirit you wrote that comment in! Just want to make that crystal clear. I’m wanting to call your attention to how it could read to someone without the additional context you provided to Alison.

        Reply
  7. MommyMD

    Uh, no. You do not contact a stranger who got the job you wanted. I also doubt the company would want you offering their new employee advice. Rejection is painful but you must move on. It’s over.

    Reply
        1. Uzumaki Naruto

          I totally agree with MommyMD. Do not contact the person who got the job you wanted to say “hey you got this job I wanted, can I help you?” You didn’t get the job, end of story.

          However, if you want to volunteer without making it about that, AAM’s suggestion seems like a good one.

          Reply
  8. cncx

    re OP 5: i work in a country where sponsorship is also an issue, and it has served me well to put a line indicating my immigration/work permit status at the top of my resume. I got less interviews when i left it off, especially early in my career. So just cosigning AAM’s advice, this does work.

    Reply
  9. MommyMD

    LW 2: just inform said students you are taking an uninterrupted 30 minute lunch each day and then do it. They will survive. Don’t overthink it.

    Reply
    1. Tuckerman

      I think in addition to that, it may be helpful if LW takes lunch at the same time each day (or puts it on her calendar so they can see when she plans to be out) and checks in with them before lunch to see if they have any questions, especially since LW says some of these tasks are time sensitive.
      When I supervised work study students, I touched base at the beginning of their shift to talk about what needed to get done and to answer any questions. It worked well for me.

      Reply
      1. Applesauced

        Yes, a consistent lunch would be helpful.
        If your students work 12-1, could you do 12:15 to 12:45? That give students time before and after you’re “off” for questions.

        Reply
    2. INTP

      Agree, and let them know what time you plan to take it if possible. Most of these questions can probably be addressed before or after OP’s lunch if the students know when and can plan ahead. Planning around others’ availability is an important work skill anyways, so you can think of it as part of the work program.

      Reply
      1. OP#2

        Thanks, I’m leaning toward doing this and then physically just going somewhere else.

        RE: the kinds of questions… our office works with alumni records and communications and a lot of the questions I get from students aren’t about the nature of their projects, but rather about how to interpret what they’re seeing in our database. The most important alumni and donors have the most complicated records so that’s the kind of thing I want them to ask me questions about rather than just proceeding. I guess I worry if I’m not there they’ll just proceed to meet the project deadline rather than wait to till I’m back to ask for clarification.

        But maybe that’s a groundless worry and I should try setting the expectation that they hold those kinds of questions till later and we’ll just see how that goes. Don’t know till you try it, right?

        Reply
        1. zora

          It’s helpful to know what kinds of questions you are talking about. With students, you might have to do some further coaching about *how* to move on without you for 30 minutes. This isn’t as intuitive for some young workers, I have found. So, actually walking them through it. If you have complicated questions like A, B, C, you should put this aside in a pile over here. Continue with the next record, and only do ones that look straightforward and simple. When I’m back from lunch, you can then bring me the whole pile of records you had questions about, and I can go through them all at once.

          In fact, it might be good to coach them how to do this on a regular basis, and to come to you one time during your shift with questions. Having someone stop you each time they have a question can be very disruptive and make it hard to get your own work done! And this is a good thing to learn how to manage for all workers.

          Reply
    3. Newby

      If they truly do need so much supervision that you can’t take a half hour break while they are working, it is reasonable to tell them that they can’t work during your lunch because you are unavailable. I have done that before and it worked much better than when I was bending over backwards to make their desired schedule work.

      Reply
      1. Sarah

        I tend to agree here. After all, if the students wanted to come in and work from, say, 8pm-10pm, you would presumably be able to tell them no, the office is closed. I would do the same here — pick a set lunchtime, and say “The office is open from 8-1 and 1:30-4:30, so you must schedule your hours between those times” (or whatever the case may be for the hours you work).

        Reply
  10. Foreigner

    For number 5, I live on the French/Swiss border where people may have dual citizenship, French citizenship with authorization to work in Switzerland, or just French citizenship seeking a Swiss employer to sponsor them for a work permit. It’s an important piece of information to note because Swiss employers may not want to take the time to ask for a work permit, or even want to inquire about permit status if it’s unclear. Once, I had an interview set up in Switzerland and the day of the interview, they called to ask if I had authorization to work in Switzerland and when I said no, I got an e-mail ten minutes later saying that they needed someone “with more experience”. This was for a 50% office manager job (and I have 3 years experience as an admin).

    What people do here is to include a line under their name, telephone, e-mail and address, etc. that lists their nationality or work authorizations. That way, hiring managers know immediately if they can hire you right away or if they want to invest the time in applying for permits.

    Reply
    1. aelle

      This is what I do as well – citizenships and, when applicable, current visa / work permit at the top with my personal information. I’ve had a very international career and employers can’t guess based on my education or work history.

      Reply
    2. Jessi

      I am a NZ and UK citizen and when sending out CV’s I ALWAYS state on the top of my CV that I am allowed to work in the UK.

      People still ask me when my visa expires…..

      Reply
      1. Not Karen

        Even though my entire work history and undergrad is in the US, people still ask me if I’m Canadian because I went to grad school there. Some people can’t think logically, I guess.

        Reply
    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      My impression is that it’s more common for folks outside the U.S. to list citizenship/authorization, unless they’re going into academia or a field where foreign hiring is common. But I do think for transnational moves like this, it makes sense to disclose information that will help ensure someone actually reads your application.

      Reply
  11. Cambridge Comma

    OP#2, are the student workers coming in for one hour only? That wasn’t entirely clear to me from the letter (and also I’m not from the US so can’t quite imagine what kind of job the student workers might be doing).
    If they are either coming in for a single hour or are starting their work during your lunchbreak, it would seem reasonable to require them to get set up with everything the previous time they are in the office, if that’s possible with the type of work they do. For example, that they look through the tasks they would have to tackle and ensure they have all the information to complete them.
    If they are staying longer than an hour, can’t they move on to something else and come back to it after your lunchbreak?

    Reply
    1. Jennifer

      Student workers come in and out depending on their course schedules. It is entirely likely the students are only there for 1-2 hours at a time during lunch. The advantage to working at their own college is that they can usually schedule jobs that way.

      Reply
      1. Cambridge Comma

        Wow, then it definitely seems that they would need to scope out their plans and think ahead at the end of their previous working time. OP could be on the phone or in a meeting or otherwise unavailable to them, as well as at lunch.

        Reply
    2. OP#2

      It depends on the day and schedules change each semester. Right now I do have a student who comes from 11:30 am – 12:30 pm on T/TH (in addition to other more convenient times during the week) and that’s the hardest thing to manage. I do try to make sure they have work waiting for them when they arrive on those days (either previously discussed or instructions by email) but that doesn’t mean they won’t have questions about it.

      Usually they’re working with electronic alumni records, mailing lists, correspondence, or prep for events. It really varies by the day. No matter the case it’s pretty detail oriented work so I guess part of the deal with me wanting to be available for questions is like… would I rather have them interrupt me in the moment and know that they’re doing it right? Or would I rather have to commit more time to reviewing their work later?

      Reply
      1. Government Worker

        Would it be easier if you had a 2-hour minimum for student shifts? As a former student worker and frequent part-time volunteer that seems totally reasonable, and might make it easier to deal with your lunch break.

        It always takes me a few minutes to settle in to a work task and a couple of minutes to wrap up. Having people drop in for only an hour at a time seems really inefficient and irritating to deal with.

        Reply
        1. Elizabeth H.

          It doesn’t seem like a terrible idea to have a two hour minimum just for other reasons too. It’s probably more effective to work in a 2 hour increment than a 1 hour increment. I also agree that it could work to say that shifts can’t start at 1pm or end at 1:30pm (or whatever 1/2 hour increment you decided to be lunch). If you are the only full time employee at the office and you are at lunch, basically the office IS closed from 1-1:30, as if you went out for lunch, no?

          I am a people pleaser and my knee jerk, instinctive response to situations like this is always if someone needs something from me, it immediately becomes my responsibility to do it. And I’ll start feeling guilty if I don’t. So this would be incredibly difficult for me too and I sympathize.

          Reply
      2. Elizabeth H.

        As much as your office culture is against it, it seems like the easiest solution might just be to have your lunch be from 1:00-1:30pm every day and perhaps indicate to your boss that you need to take a later lunch because you need to be available for student questions during the 12pm-1pm hour. That seems really reasonable to me. Unless it’s really typical to have meetings that start at 1pm. Would it be too prohibitive?

        Reply
  12. Valegro

    Regarding #1, my boss lets my coworker broadcast very extreme, yelling political radio shows across our very small office. It makes me really uncomfortable and when I shut my office door to block some of it out I can hear them making fun of me. Soon my boss will be forcing me to share with 3 other people several rungs below me who don’t need office space so this could get difficult to do. It’s hard working in an environment where you’re not on the same side politically.

    Reply
    1. Sparrow

      I think that has less to do with being on different sides of the metaphorical aisle and more to do with a behavior that is generally considered distracting in a workplace (i.e. playing music or radio loudly where it might disrupt others’ work). That’s unreasonable regardless of what they’re playing. This is the kind of thing Alison was getting at, I think – a conversation about weekend plans is fine (even if the activities are political); something that is clearly disruptive of other people’s efforts to get their job done is not.

      Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Yes, exactly! I think sometimes folks feel uncomfortable about “political activity,” when in fact they’re uncomfortable with rude workplace conduct. The problem here is blaring a radio and distracting your coworkers. That would be a problem whether it were NPR, Lou Dobbs, or your local top-40 radio station.

        Reply
    2. Temperance

      I would start playing Justin Bieber and One Direction on repeat, loudly. Since your coworker gets to listen to angry extremists, you can listen to delightful music at a volume appropriate to drown out the shouting.

      Reply
      1. Beancounter Eric

        Bagpipes. Go with bagpipes.

        Pipes and Drums of the Black Watch are excellent.

        Either you love them, as I do, or they will drive you batty.

        Barring a good pipe band, Sousa, preferably by the US Marine Band should work well.

        Happy listening!!

        Reply
        1. nonymous

          I find oddly that less obtrusive music – think classical symphonies, opera, instrumental folk – played at slightly loud for work volumes seems to drive the talk radio folks batty. As an alternative to the bagpipes :-)

          Reply
        2. TeaLady

          My parents used to use an album of the pipes and drums of the Black Watch against noisy neighbours.

          And then go out, leaving it on repeat…

          Reply
        3. Christmas Carol

          Eric, you are a man after my heart. Bagpipes are wonderful, especially when used to perform authentic Celtic melodies, but I will grant that they can be a bit of an acquired taste. Special bonus points will be awarded to anyone responding to complaints about the volume of ‘Stars and Stripes Forever’ with the phrase “What’s the matter, aint you a good ‘Merican?”

          Reply
  13. Delta Delta

    #2 – I can see where student workers may not understand the situation. It may look to them like you’re available since you’re at your desk. That, and I can see a thought process along the lines of, “I just have a quick question. I’ll ask Lucinda since she’s at her desk. She’s just eating a sandwich, she won’t mind.” They probably have no reason to know that OP is hourly and is unpaid at lunch. And chances are they’ve not encountered this before. I’d suggest re-structuring lunch to a different time if the students really need OP during that hour, or letting them know you’re genuinely not available during lunch time even if OP is physically visible.

    Reply
    1. the gold digger

      I asked our office manager a question once while she was eating lunch and she almost bit my head off. She was livid that I was bothering her while she was eating and on her lunch. I was on my third corporate job and had no idea that unpaid lunch existed – I had been salaried from day one after college and was “at work” every second I was in the office. And any hourly jobs I had had – cashier, waitress, lifeguard, swimming teacher – were jobs where breaks could not be taken where I was actively working. That is, I didn’t have a desk to sit at.

      So yeah – just tell them. They probably have no idea.

      Reply
    1. Becky

      A guy in my department eats lunch at his desk and watches Netflix while doing so. So on his second monitor he has a big ON LUNCH sign displaying just so nobody gets the idea that he’s watching Netflix on the clock.

      Reply
  14. BTW

    OP2, would it be workable for you to take a later lunch at 1:00? You mention your office culture encourages an earlier lunch period, but, if you have duties to attend to, in this case, supervising employees who are only there from 12-1, it would be entirely reasonable to take lunch before or after that. Discouraging student workers from talking to you while you are at your desk (especially if there is rapid turnover and you have to go through it again with new employees every semester) seems like fighting a losing battle. Per AAM’s advice, it might be doable. But if lunch at 1:00 is also doable, it seems like an easier solution to me. Plus, if part of your job is supervising these students, how can you do your job if you’re not there half the time they are there? (and if you say you *are* there supervising them, since you are at your desk, well then you are working and you have no lunch break.)

    Reply
    1. KellyK

      I think that does sound easier. Eating lunch at 11:30 or even 11:15 might also work, since you’d be done as they’re coming in.

      Reply
    2. Jennifer

      Good point. Discouraging student workers from doing things is really really difficult, in my experience. Especially when there’s a lot of them going in and out and they really need you during the time they are there. Though it does suck for your stomach if you’re hungry earlier.

      Reply
    3. fposte

      Yes, I agree with this.

      If they’re mature enough to work independently, in some jobs you could make the work more modular; we have recurring tasks for some positions, so you could just have a standing list and you just point to the day’s priority when they come. But usually they have to have enough training to be able to do the work unsupervised, and it sounds like these folks aren’t there yet.

      Reply
    4. OP#2

      Well… actually that last part is a good question and I think gets to the heart of some of my uncertainty. I haven’t been thinking about the lunch break at my desk as actual work time since I am usually just reading news online or whatever (not working!), and so my irritation is just about having that interrupted. But if part of the reason I don’t enforce “no interruptions” is because I feel like I’m expected to be available…then you’re right, I’m actually still supervising them, still working.

      But how does that work for normal managers in a non-student context? Like my boss is technically always responsible for managing me but does that responsibility disappear when she takes lunch?

      Reply
      1. Stellaaaaa

        How does your school structure work study/student employment? When I was in college, my school handled things like…the government had allotted this work-study money for us to earn and the school had to find a way for us to “earn” it, even if it meant that the schedules had to be monkeyed around. But the point is that the school couldn’t keep that money. It had to find work for me. If I had 1 hour a day (so 5 hours a week of work study, which is fairly common) to work and my supervisor was unavailable for 50% of my working time (making it impossible for me to work and earn my government-provided money) that would have been a huge problem. It has also been my experience that the student employment office doesn’t necessarily communicate these details to the people it sends the student workers to. I think you need to find out more about how these things are managed by the school and figure out your own schedule from there. As lousy as it is, you can’t just take your lunch break whenever you take it if you have to work around work study schedules. That said, the fact of working with student workers means you have grounds to push back against the office vibe that pushes you to have lunch before 1. If your particular office is going to be utilizing student workers, you need to work around them.

        Reply
        1. Xarcady

          I’m not sure that rule applies at all colleges. It might; it has been 7 years since I supervised students. But at my university, there was no guarantee that any student would make all their work-study money at one on-campus job. And some students didn’t want to work that much.

          I was very much able to pick and choose students whose schedules fit my scheduling needs–I needed so many students at the Circ desk at certain hours, so many students at the Reserve Desk, so many students resolving books. More students in the early evening, fewer students after 10 pm. If the students’ schedules didn’t fit my needs, they simply looked for another job on campus. Or went off-campus.

          It sounds like your college assigned students to certain offices/departments? That is not the case everywhere.

          Reply
          1. Stellaaaaa

            That’s all fair. My point was more like, if the students have been assigned to that department without much flexibility and they’ve decided that they want to make back as much money as possible, it might not be within OP’s power to limit their working time or to decide she’s unavailable during this particular chunk of time. She might need to put in for students with different availability or make the determination that student workers aren’t a good fit for the tasks at hand.

            The issue seems to be that there’s a “no classes” block of time (my school had one) during which a lot of students like to make an hour’s worth of pay. If you’re going to be supervising student workers, it doesn’t make sense to always take your lunch break during the one time when students will always show up to work. Getting new employees wouldn’t fix this particular part of the problem. She needs to convince her boss that if she’s going to be supervising students, she needs to eat a bit later.

            Reply
      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        To answer your last question, in most non-student contexts, the assumption is that people don’t need access to their managers every minute of the day. Think about when you’re in an important meeting and can’t be interrupted, or when your boss is. Lots of managers are in lots of meetings throughout the day. They have systems in place that people hold their questions for a weekly meeting, or once during the afternoon, or whatever makes sense for the context.

        Reply
        1. LBK

          I think the difference is with a normal boss, you have 40-50 hours in a week to find an hour or two where your availability overlaps. If I’m interpreting her letter correctly, it sounds like they only work a couple hours a day, often around lunch hours since that’s what’s most convenient for them, so the OP taking a half hour for lunch is actually a significant portion of the few hours their schedules overlap.

          I think the crux of this is actually that she’s giving the students too much schedule flexibility. She can’t say “work whenever you want between 8-5” if she can’t follow through on being available during that whole time – which is perfectly fine and reasonable! No one should be expected to be free all day, especially at the cost of having a lunch break. But if the students only need to work a couple hours a day, I think it should be more firmly established during what periods those hours can take place.

          Maybe it’s as simple as “8-12 or 1-5” just so there’s a built in lunch break; it wouldn’t be as convenient for the students but it would still give them plenty of flexibility without conflicting with the one period of the day the OP will always be unavailable.

          Reply
      3. Marty

        One other thing that is somewhat common, set up some kind of process wiki or other shared document. Then people can search the wiki for answers to their questions. Finally, when someone needs to ask you something, have them update the wiki with your answer, so that the next person won’t have to ask.

        Reply
      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        OP#2, could you set “office hours” the way professors do, but for your student workers? That way they would have designated times when they can come to you with questions instead of constantly popping in during your lunch or when you have other demands on your time.

        Reply
  15. KellyK

    OP #1: I think Alison’s answer is perfect. The only thing I’d add to it is to make clear that that their political leanings are their own business, that it’s important to you that they aren’t hassled about them, and you won’t treat them any differently if they come to you to discuss this issue. Also, can they pass more specifics through the steward if they don’t feel comfortable talking to you personally? It’s tough enough being the political outsider in your workplace, but when the politics directly affect the work, that complicates it even more.

    I’m also curious why people put personal, after-hours activities on their work calendars? Is it because coworkers might need to get a hold of them after hours, or is it more about the convenience of having just one calendar? If there’s a work reason for doing it, I’d include that in your reply, so the employee who made the complaint understands why it’s happening. Especially if making all those things private would make the calendar less useful for work purposes. (For example, I might text someone whose calendar says “dentist appt” because that will include some time sitting in the waiting room, but if it says “phone banking” I’m going to assume they’re busy for that whole time, and probably using their cell to make those calls.)

    Reply
    1. Judy

      I was involved in a shutdown of a site for a large corporation, nearly 300 people decided not to move. I personally helped 10-12 people transfer their work calendar to google calendars. I also made a step by step guide as the word got out that there was a way to do this.

      Apparently there were lots of people who tracked their dentist and doctor and whatever appointments only on their work calendars.

      Reply
    2. Cordelia Naismith

      I put personal appointments on my work calendar all the time. I mean, I put them on my personal calendar too, but when I’m at work, I don’t have my personal calendar open, just my work one. If I don’t put that 5:30 haircut (or whatever it is) on my work calendar, I won’t remember to go until I get home and look at my personal calendar, at which point it will be too late.

      Reply
      1. bandit1970

        I put my personal appointments on my Outlook calendar all the time, but I also mark the appointments personal. No one else can see what the appointment is for, but the time is marked “Out of Office.” And no, unless DH and DD are involved, I don’t send invites.

        With work schedules, practices, games and tournaments, various after school/work appointments, et al…I need to have it all in one place.

        Reply
        1. SarahTheEntwife

          Yeah, my office uses Google Calendar and I have a sidecar calendar for personal stuff. If I’m actually out during the day I’ll put an out-of-office version on my work calendar, and otherwise the sidecar calendar is invisible to other people. It’s also useful for when I need to block off time to work on something for my own time-management reasons, but I’m fine with people scheduling over it.

          Reply
      2. KellyK

        That makes sense. I think I worded my question poorly. It wasn’t so much “Why would anyone do this?” There are lots of personal appointments that you go to straight from work, and it’s easier to keep things organized if it’s all in the same place.

        It was more, “Does this serve a business purpose rather than just a personal one? Because if it does, you should explain that to the employee who complained.”

        Reply
    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      As someone with 3 calendaring platforms (Google, office calendar, hard copy calendar), sometimes it’s just easier to put this all in one place. But it’s also not strange in a lot of places to have your personal stuff or personal time on your calendar, especially if you work with a team. It helps folks plan for off-hour events and for deadlines on group projects.

      Reply
  16. Emi.

    OP #1, the fact that this complaint came in anonymously, through the union steward, makes me wonder whether the political talk is more pervasive or high-pressure than you realize. It sounds like this staffer may concerned about professional consequences if they’re outed. Is there any way you can dig around and see if things have become more hostile?

    Reply
    1. Spoonie

      Having previously been at a job where my political views were in the minority, it’s also a matter of not wanting to be one of the only dissenting voices against the many. I was respected for my ability to do my job, but if I had said “I disagree Senator Wakeen on Issue X; we should vote in Jane instead,” I would have gotten an “oh honey, you’re so young…” pat on the head and been told about all the ways I was wrong. Sigh.

      Reply
    2. Temperance

      I think in this political climate, things are really different than before. I’ve been in the minority politically in a few different workplaces, and just kept my head down and did my work. The difference was that my employment wasn’t really related in any way, shape, or form to politics.

      I can see how a person who voted for a party that opposes reproductive choice for women (as an example) might not exactly fit in if they work at a women’s clinic, and how it might be a fairly hostile environment if the person chose to openly state their political opinion.

      Reply
      1. Relly

        This is what I’m struggling with. I know it’s unprofessional of me, but if I worked at a non profit that was dedicated to cuddling puppies, and a new government was elected on the platform of arresting puppies, I’d really, really side eye anyone who admitted to voting for the would-be puppy incarcerator. I know your job is not your beliefs, I get that there can be a disconnect, but I would straight up feel like, if you’re okay throwing puppies in jail, what are you doing _here_?!

        Reply
    3. That Would Be a Good Band Name

      I have never been one to shy away from stating who I voted for previously, but this time things were really heated on all sides. It seems like there are constant casual conversations on both sides about how (stupid, crazy, etc) someone would have to be to vote for (whoever). I heard these conversations on both major sides and about people who supported 3rd party. It would be hard to be (or feel like) the lone person that voted a certain way and have to hear co-workers talking about “how could anyone support that person?”. That may not be what’s happening, but it’s a conversation I’ve heard over and over again and I don’t work in anything political or even have politically active friends. This is just one election/political period that has everyone talking.

      Reply
  17. Former Retail Manager

    OP#1….while I agree with Alison that the complainant’s request isn’t really logical, I’d consider instituting a policy (if you can) that staff either leave personal appointments off their work calendars altogether or that they make them private. If this person felt strongly enough to speak with their union steward, which says something in and of itself, I don’t foresee this being the last of the issues with this person feeling uncomfortable.

    For what’s it’s worth, I have zero sympathy for people that take jobs at organizations that lean heavily one way politically knowing that politics, and thus funding, impact the organization’s ability to accomplish its mission (and it’s employees to get paid and remain employed) and then get upset when people espouse political views in line with that leaning. What did you expect? If you aren’t liberal, maybe don’t take a job with a liberal leaning organization. The failure of this employee to see this point, and then complain, also says something about them to me which leads to me to believe that this may not be the last you hear of their being unhappy with political related issues. Best of luck!

    Reply
    1. Koko

      There is actually a scenario where that mismatch happens somewhat frequently in the NGO world. And it’s the good-hearted libertarians. They truly believe that social services should be provided by the private sector instead of the public sector, and rather than just give lip service to that idea while slashing wages and lobbying for corporate tax cuts, they go to work in the private sector trying to provide social services. It’s an admirable consistency and willingness to live one’s beliefs, even if I don’t agree with them.

      But unfortunately it means you end up with these small-government libertarians working surrounded by big-government liberals. They agree that there’s a problem and they both want their organization to be solving it, they just disagree about whether the government should also be stepping in.

      Reply
      1. Former Retail Manager

        Interesting information…thanks for sharing. I admit that the nonprofit world is one with which I am unfamiliar and this scenario didn’t enter my line of thinking.

        Reply
      2. anonderella

        *smacks forehead SO hard*

        read that as librarians. Not once, not twice.. I reread it several times. As librarians.
        Not being involved in US government or librarians in general, I kept shaking my head thinking “these poor, misled private-sector librarians and their good-hearts..”

        Reply
    2. Emi.

      It doesn’t sound like this person is upset about people *espousing* those views–they’re upset about the way those views are being expressed in the office. And all we know is that s/he “feels uncomfortable when other staff are talking about their after-hours plans.” If that means “I don’t like it when Fergus mentions he’s going to the teapot protest,” then I would agree that they’re being unreasonable, but if it means “I’m sick of Fergus saying that people who don’t want to go to the teapot protest with him are jerks who hate tea,” then that’s way past “what did you expect.” It’s probably somewhere in between, but we don’t know where. To me the fact that they felt the need to go anonymously through the union means it was probably a little more on the aggressive side.

      Reply
    3. Anon for This

      Agreed, especially when people don’t seem to get that in such organizations politics isn’t just an abstract sport but is basically your co-workers worrying about their jobs.

      (Someone at my office was shocked and upset when he came in to work cheering the election results and was greeted with stony silence. It’s well-known to anyone who checks the organization e-mail that a conservative SCOTUS is likely to lead to a significant funding loss for us. Ironically, Happy Trump Supporter’s job is non-essential and will probably be first on the chopping block.)

      Reply
        1. Anonimouse

          I think this site is showing such a left-leaning bias. The safety and health of loved ones was a concern for people who voted for Trump also. IE my police officer husband.

          Reply
          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            One doesn’t preclude the other.

            But this site does have a bias toward health care, the environment, reproductive freedom, human rights, and civil liberties. That’s nothing I’m trying to hide.

            Reply
            1. Emi.

              I mean, if my coworkers were equivocating between their political views and “human rights,” I’d go to my union rep too.

              Reply
            2. Alivr

              I wasn’t aware America had restrictions on the freedom to reproduce (other than incrst, non-consensual and age). Learn something new every day.

              Reply
              1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

                I realize that you’re being facetious here, but you should actually look this up. Protecting the right of all people to have children is a significant aspect of the work of the reproductive justice movement; many people are prevented from doing so. (As is protecting the right to not have children.)

                Reply
              2. Temperance

                Reproductive freedom isn’t just the right to have children (which, btw, is shockingly much more limited than you believe – google Buck v. Bell for an idea), but access to contraception and abortion services.

                Reply
          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            I’m not sure why you feel that the “safety and health of loved ones” is a liberal or left-leaning issue.

            Reply
            1. Emi.

              You don’t see the implication that conservatives “don’t seem to get that … politics isn’t just an abstract sport but is basically your co-workers worrying about … the safety and health of loved ones”? I.e. that it’s liberals who make political choices based on “the safety and health of loved ones”? The bias is in that assumption.

              Reply
                1. Emi.

                  Oh, I read it (and thought Anonimouse did too) as a follow-on to the statement about the Happy Trump Supporter–i.e. he was being criticized for not knowing or caring that other people were worried about their or their friends’ jobs and safety, without any consideration that he might be Happy because he’s also worried about his or his friends’ jobs or safety.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                The comment doesn’t refer to liberals or conservatives at all, but rather, to people’s feelings of anxiety when big-picture policies are enacted. I think folks are reading in bias because of our current political climate, the comment it responds to, and personal assumptions regarding “how liberals think/talk.” But I don’t think there’s any indication of bias or assumption made in the comment itself.

                Reply
          3. KellyK

            No one is saying it wasn’t. But it’s clueless to come in cheering for something that *you know* is going to make your coworkers’ jobs harder and possibly eliminate those jobs entirely, then be surprised that those coworkers are upset. And there has been *a lot* of “It’s just politics, get over it, what’s the big deal?” this election, predominantly from people who aren’t directly affected, telling those who are to shut up.

            Reply
  18. always in email jail

    OP#2, is it possible for you to A. take your lunch at the same time every day and B. set a pattern of giving them a heads up for the first week or two? Something like “I’m going to be off the grid for lunch in about half an hour, everything going OK over here?” to give them an opportunity to think ahead and ask any questions they have? Once they get in the habit of thinking “OK in half an hour, supervisor is going to be unavailable to me for 30 minutes. Let me run and ask her this question before then” it might make things easier on you.

    Reply
    1. OP#2

      Yes, what you suggest is possible. Some of my reluctance to do this is that I would be the only person in my office with a strict, consistent lunch time. My colleagues are all very flexible about when they eat lunch, which is kind of an unspoken expectation that allows us to more easily schedule meetings. But I also think my boss would understand the practical reason for doing something like you suggest. And people would get used to it. So it’s something to consider.

      Reply
      1. T

        I don’t know that you would have to have a consistent lunch time. I think that if you give them a 10-15 minute warning before you take your break, then they could ask any questions that they need to ahead of time. Of course, that would mean waiting until they’ve settled in for work before taking your break.

        A couple other ideas occur to me. One is to think about the types of questions that tend to come up. Then you could say, when x happens, set it aside and come back to it after my lunch is over. Maybe you could check with them at the end of your break to see what such concerns have come up. The other idea is to have side work that they can do. If not having you to answer a question creates a true impasse, could they do filing or other tasks when you are unavailable?

        Reply
  19. TJ

    This is the first time I’ve heard the deputy manager role described that way, but I think that’s basically what my job is. Now I have a post for Friday’s open thread, but in the meantime, I’m curious what other responsibilities that would entail in the OP’s situation.

    Like, besides for delegating work and giving feedback, what other management-related responsibilities might they have?

    Reply
    1. OP#4

      Since my boss doesn’t sit here, I think deputy manager responsibilities would include things like watching to make sure they work 8 hours, letting me know if they’ll be in late, and dealing with minor frustrations and frictions. My boss does not do our work or work with our systems, so system malfunctions or things holding up the processes would (and will) come to me whether I’m a deputy or not.

      Reply
    2. Tabby Baltimore

      I’m thinking tools, like, could you be the person who negotiates the new licensing agreements for newly 0btained software? Or could you do the review of any preexisting agreements your business has with outside vendors?

      Reply
  20. Machiamellie

    #4 – I’m in that exact same position myself. At my one-year review, I set as a goal for myself that I would like to become a manager eventually. My boss said that was a good goal. There’s not usually turnover, so late last year when we hired a new person, I asked if he would report to me and my boss said no. He acted like he’d never heard that goal from me, when he had, and he’d said at the time that it was a great goal. Ok then. That person did not work out (because my boss isn’t really a very good manager), and we’re hiring a new person again. Still not reporting to me. Very frustrating.

    Reply
    1. OP#4

      Yeah, I’m kind of afraid that’s what’s going to happen here, too, but I guess I won’t know until I ask directly. My boss is a pretty good manager, and has expressed interest in helping her reports advance, but I really wish she was more forthcoming with me about how this particular thing is going to go.

      Reply
      1. Machiamellie

        I genuinely think my boss forgot that that’s what I wanted – definitely better to get it out on the table! Ask for what you want! The worst that can happen is she says “no.” I have my 2-year review coming up and I’ll be asking for it again.

        Reply
      2. nonymous

        I think it’s worth asking for “Lead” designation (my current lead also handles performance evaluations, but in a previous job the lead duties were purely troubleshooting).

        Regardless of how your manager sees your promotion potential, some of your time is going to get eaten up with training and other onboarding activities. Going forward it makes sense to designate one person to troubleshoot issues that affect the team as a whole – it would be redundant for each member to devise their own unique solutions. Also as the most experienced at the technical level, you are the best candidate for identifying trends that make systems solutions value-added. It also sets a very clear hierarchy for new hires to pester you instead of manager for stuff that is below her pay grade (seriously, some personalities will not listen to you without formal designation). For all of these very practical reasons, there should be a discussion about how your duties are changing, and getting those changes formalized. You don’t want to walk into a performance evaluation to find that you’re getting a low score because someone thought your writing output would increase from last year (in addition to the increased responsibility), right? Once the leadership activity is in your job description, it makes the acquisition of a title more of a natural next step. Although you may find that you have to move to a different group or employer.

        good luck!

        Reply
  21. yo yo yo

    #4 – I highly recommend asking for formalized management training before becoming a manager. I have seen too many companies turn good people into hot messes because they were thrown into a management position without any training.

    Reply
    1. always in email jail

      Agreed. The best thing my last (toxic) job did for me was send me to Supervisor/Manager training (I wasn’t a supervisor or manager.. they “trusted my opinion” and wanted me to “check it out” and report back to executive management on whether it was worth sending “top brass” to). It was very valuable and I felt better equipped once I became a supervisor down the line.

      Reply
    2. PlainJane

      +1000. Management is its own specialty. For your own sake and that of people you supervise, please get good management training. It makes such a difference.

      Reply
    1. fposte

      Among people legally allowed to work in the U.S., yes. It is legal to choose not to sponsor somebody who doesn’t already have the ability to legally work here.

      Reply
    2. Jessie the First (or second)

      It is illegal to discriminate based on national origin. So that means if you have two people who are authorized to work in the U.S., and one is from England and the other is from Egypt, you cannot refuse to hire the Egyptian citizen because she is from Egypt (you can choose not to hire her because she doesn’t know C++, or whatever, but not because of her citizenship). If you have one person from England with no visa and in need of sponsorship to apply for one to work in the US, and one person from Egypt who is already authorized to work in the US, you can refuse to hire the English citizen because she is not yet authorized to work here.

      If you are making your decision based on authorization to work, that’s fine.

      Reply
  22. Allison

    #3, definitely not a good idea. E-mailing someone you don’t know, who got what you wanted, to offer help and guidance in their new job, comes off as very . . . weird. Not sure what the right word is here . . . condescending? Passive aggressive? You’re suggesting that even though they were selected, you were more knowledgeable and have more to bring to the table. It doesn’t sound like it’s coming from a place of goodwill.

    If you really want to keep the door open, connect with the people you spoke with on LinkedIn, tell them what you’re hoping for. Don’t expect the new guy to help bring you on.

    Reply
    1. OP #3

      I had thought as much which is why I introduced the question here. There is too much room for misinterpretation of what I had imagined to be an olive branch. Although I did not get the job I do have objectively valuable skills that would be relevant to the new candidates goals in the area but I certainly do not want to be weird/passive aggressive/condescending.

      Reply
      1. OP #3

        I will say that I would welcome unsolicited mentorship if I had a large task before me if it was introduced in the right way. Ultimately a nonprofit serves a public interest. By not emailing them and not offering my services I do feel in a way that I am “watching the struggle” passively. But skills and strength are often built this way and I see now that I owe it to the candidate to work through it as I would have had to without interference.

        Reply
        1. OP #3

          Which is to say that the nature of the position will require struggle by anyone, not that they will inherently struggle more than any other.

          Reply
        2. Allison

          The fact that you’re still insisting they need you is unsettling. Confidence is good, but you need to drop this idea that this company is somehow in desperate need of your unique skills and expertise at this time. If that were the case, if they needed you in order to be successful, they would have made that known. There’s a reason they found the other candidate more pertinent to their needs right now.

          Reply
          1. OP #3

            The issue at hand is whether to contact the candidate or not. But I appreciate your response. I apologize if my approach is unsettling. Whether I got the job or not does not change whether those skills were applicable. I understand now that this mode of communication is inappropriate. Unfortunately I cannot easily drop the idea that what I offer is and continues to be pertinent and relevant.

            Reply
            1. Uzumaki Naruto

              If an organization needs help they will ask for it. If a person needs help, they will ask for it.

              Why can’t you drop the idea that they need you? Yeah, I’m sure you have the potential to contribute, but you don’t have a role with the organization, and the ball is in their court if they need contributions. You’re giving off a really weird vibe here that makes me think you will be best served not by contacting anyone over there, even to offer to volunteer — I think it’s too likely that you rub someone the wrong way and it backfires.

              Reply
            2. fposte

              That’s why the offer to volunteer is the good way to handle this–the organization can decide whether they’re in a position to use those skills or not. But it’s also worth thinking about other places that might value those skills if this org doesn’t–I’m sure this isn’t the only place that could value your contribution.

              Reply
      2. Uzumaki Naruto

        What do you mean you were thinking of this as offering an “olive branch”? You weren’t at war with them; why would you need to make peace?

        Reply
        1. OP #3

          There is a good chance they will be able to identify Mme based on company records. If I ever do work with the company in a consulting, employment, or volunteer role I figured it would be better to have had a clear acknowledgement of my previous application and my positive perspective on their employment rather than the candidate being told “by the way, this person wanted your job.”

          Reply
  23. Smiling

    #5 – Maybe I’m out of the loop, but I thought Canadian citizens just needed a sponsorship letter and could get a stamp at the border.

    Reply
    1. noncitizen scientist

      I think you’re thinking of TN work status, which is a possibility for certain skilled professions – Canadians apply for this at the border with certain documentation (including a letter from their employer among other things) and can get it for up to 3 years at a time. However, there is no guarantee that TN status will be granted (especially if there is an issue with the supporting documentation)! Basically, though Canadians have an easier time getting work authorization for TN-eligible positions than citizens of other countries who need to apply for other visa categories, there is still no guarantee of work status and so the OP is still probably better off indicating her citizenship on her resume if she is concerned.

      Reply
  24. Xarcady

    #2.
    In the beginning, as you start to train the student workers not to interrupt you while at lunch, it might be a good idea to use the break room, however depressing. If you aren’t at your desk, the prompt to interrupt you simply isn’t there. A week or two of the break room might give all of you a fresh start.

    If you do that, you can leave instructions for the students if they aren’t there when you leave your desk.

    I don’t know what work you are doing, but I used to supervise students at a university library. Most of the students needed some coaching on what to do if a problem came up while I was on break (sometimes I’d even leave the building).

    Give them some basic problem-solving tips for common issues. Maybe a list of who they can call for other problems, or some documentation for common problems. Help them learn what issues need to be dealt with Right Now–and how to get help for them, and which can wait until you get back. Do some role-playing on how to tell people, “My supervisor needs to deal with this. She’ll be back in X minutes, and will be able to help you then.”

    Keep a record of their questions for a few weeks. If any patterns emerge, see if you can give them instructions on how to deal with things. Or if you can work with your boss to eliminate any issues that continually cause problems.

    Of course, with new hires, you will start the learning curve all over again. You might want to make a rule that new students can only work while you are present, until they have reached certain training goals. So for a student’s first month or two, they have to accommodate your schedule, as well as theirs.

    Reply
    1. OP#2

      I like your suggestion about new hires not being able to work over lunch. That makes sense and I might start doing that in the future. Thanks!

      Reply
      1. Stellaaaaa

        As per my other comment, check with student employment before making this rule. If the work study students have been authorized to work, their schedules are the ones that matter. They need to be given a certain amount of work a week, no exceptions. The government has given the school the money to pay the students and the students absolutely have to log those hours.

        Note: This is how my school handled work study…yours might handle things differently but it’s worth asking. If you can’t work with students during the free block of time, you might not get student workers at all. Which is fine – lots of departments on campus can’t make it work.

        Reply
  25. Anonymous for this one

    Wow! I am in the *exact* same spot as LW #3 (although I do have mutual friends and have attended conferences with the winning candidate), but I never once thought about doing something like that. In fact, the board has asked me to “keep in touch”, and I was like, “Ummmmm, wouldn’t that be super awkward for Fergus? So, no, thanks.”

    I liked them, they liked me, but they picked him and it’s my place to bow out now and go a different way. If he finds out I was the other finalist and ever mentions it (we will almost certainly see one another at industry events in future), then whatever, but I’m sure as heck not going to bring it up.

    Reply
    1. OP #3

      Haha, some of us need to ask the manager and some of us don’t from time to time! I’m sure there is a home for you out there and good luck on your continued search.

      Reply
      1. Anonymous for this one

        Sorry, didn’t mean to sound judgey, just that I went the absolutely opposite way in my thinking. More in the “life is a rich and varied tapestry” vein.

        Good luck with your search as well!

        Reply
  26. I GOTS TO KNOW!

    OP1:
    Are the calendars their own calendars the the anonymous employee is looking at for XYZ reason, or is it a shared calendar? Are the events listed similar to a simple “women’s march” or more like “SMASH THE PATRIARCHY”? Are they sending out invites to everyone for off-hours events?

    For the political talk, is it “Hey Jane will we see you later at the Refugee Rally?” or is it “Jane aren’t you stoked to go to the refugee rally? Man, people who don’t go are racist a-holes who should get incurable gonorrhea!”

    Answering these questions helps answer the question of if the anonymous employee is being unreasonable or not. If it is the latter examples, asking other to tone it down a bit is within reason. Hearing constantly that your coworkers think you are a terrible person for how you voted probably makes work not so great. (There is a reason I don’t talk about politics at work because I am in the opposite situation – one of the only blue leaning individuals surrounded by a sea of red).

    However, if it is more like the former examples, it seems like the anonymous employee is trying to silence stances they don’t agree with, and that’s unreasonable and uncool.

    Reply
    1. chocolate lover

      I know this isn’t the point, but the idea of cursing someone with “incurable gonorrhea” made me laugh.

      Reply
    2. OP #1

      These are their own calendars. Others can look at them. People look frequently to see where other people are or to schedule meetings.

      Regarding the example I gave above about sending an invite for “Fergus and the vet,” that is much more rare but does still happen.

      Reply
      1. Observer

        It sounds like your employee is being unreasonable about the calendars. That also impugns her credibility on the conversational front. On the other hand, if you can set things up so that people don’t actually have to look at each others calendars, but can just see availability, that would be a good thing in the long term.

        Reply
      2. I GOTS TO KNOW!

        OP #1: So ya, it seems like anonymous employee is being unreasonable if s/he has to seek out the other calendars and is complaining. To be safe though, perhaps suggest that calendar requests for coverage only state “Cover for Fergus” instead of “Fergus is out to smash the patriarchy” with the implication that the request is for coverage?

        I hate to make assumptions, but with this knowledge, it does seem to me this employee is merely trying to silence dissent and isn’t actually uncomfortable. Please do your due diligence and keep an ear out for conversations that are inappropriate or distracting, and ask the middle-man to tell the employee they should come to you in person to discuss specifics if it is bad. But you can’t put a blanket ban on talking about activities without more than just “people are talking about after work activities that are related to politics I don’t agree with.” You need more.

        Reply
        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          It’s not inexperience—it’s the usual practice in the U.S. not to include citizenship on one’s resume (with an exception for academia/universities/colleges, but even then, it’s not the norm if you’re an American candidate applying to an American school). I’ve only seen folks include it if they’re on the international market or work in an international context.

          Reply
            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              I think folks who don’t get the reference will think you’re a sovereign citizen and consequently, a potential wingnut.

              Reply
  27. stevenz

    #1 Politics are a major consideration in many fields, to the point that the subject can’t and shouldn’t be ignored. If your organisation works in areas that are generally supported by liberal-leaning people/policies then it’s inevitable that politics will be a consideration. Anyone working in that field will know going in what the political culture will be. If a vegetarian takes a job in a meat-packing plant, they can’t expect their coworkers to not talk about sausage. I think all that’s needed is a little sensitivity on the part of the majority, and a lot of forbearance on the part of the exception. And the exception should not be made to feel stupid or unwelcome or hostile. But if everyone is looking forward to all the ribs you can eat night, they shouldn’t stifle their enthusiasm because one person won’t be there.

    There are a lot of ways where one can feel like they are out of place in a job, only one of which is political belief. I would feel really uncomfortable working at the Cato Institute, for example, so I would never apply for a job there. That’s part of the vetting process when considering where to apply or what offer to accept. Knowing the work of Cato as I do, if I took a job there I go in knowing that I am going to keep my head down and be very careful what I say, and when they get all het up about tonight’s Pin the Tail on the Obama party, I just have to have other plans. But I would hope that those people treat me as a respected professional and work with me for what I bring to the organisation.

    Reply
  28. Cassie

    #2: Has the OP simply told the student that she’s taking lunch from X time to Y time, and that she’ll check back with her at Y time? And that if he/she has any questions about a particular task, to set it aside? I think that would prevent most students from interrupting, especially if (after the first time) the OP says “I’m eating lunch right now, I’ll come see you at Y time”? If you keep answering when they ask, they’ll assume that it’s okay.

    I was a student worker in college. My boss was a little disorganized so she didn’t take the time to put aside a stack of work for me to do. She’d hand me Task A, I’d do Task A. Then she’d hand me Task B, and I’d do Task B. I didn’t like that, because I felt like she had to keep stopping her work to give me something to do. So sometimes I’d take a little longer with a task, and hope she’d have my next task ready for me soon. We basically shared a cubicle (she in one corner, me in the other) but even then, I didn’t want to interrupt her.

    For our student workers nowadays, they have their own cubicle (not far from their bosses’ offices) – most of them seem to have no qualms about sitting there and waiting for their boss to hand them work to do. And if the boss doesn’t come find them, they don’t go seek them out.

    Reply
  29. amy

    The word “snowflake” better never cross LW#1’s lips.

    That said, no. If the co-workers are bandying about some equivalent of “libtards”, or making the atmosphere genuinely harassing, that’s one thing. But “they might not like me if they knew how I really felt” or “their views aren’t mine and it makes me unhappy” — no.

    A couple of semesters ago I taught a former intern in the office of Bigly GOP Senator, one of the ones instrumental in blocking Garland’s nomination to SCOTUS. Nice kid. Terribly wrongheaded about lots, but a nice kid. He wanted extra help for his grad school application, so I gave it to him. I’ve since decided I’m never doing a thing like that again. However, that’s one of those “job requires X, I will not do that job” decisions. Nobody’s forcing me to do the job, and I’ve taken no medical-type professional oath requiring me to treat all comers. And it’s not the first time I’ve said “nope” to a job that involved crossing my own sense of ethics. If the employee feels that doing the job cuts straight against the grain of her own interests and views, then the thing to do is to find another job.

    Reply

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