I don’t want an intern, I’m dating my boss, and more

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

1. I don’t want an intern

I need to find the appropriate way to tell my supervisor that I do not want to supervise another intern next year. I work for a nonprofit that contracts with schools to provide services in the schools. Last year, we had an intern and I ended up shouldering the “burden” of training her, answering many questions on a daily basis, maintaining her daily schedule, attending any meetings she was required for (which doubled my meeting caseload), and dividing up and overseeing our work assignments. I wasn’t given any reduction in my normal duties for this, and it was not something I’d offered to do. It was a lot of work and was stressful because we have to share the same space which made working with student one-on-one very difficult. While I shared this with my supervisor, he still found an intern for this year and now I am supervising another intern without any reduction in my normal duties. It’s been two weeks and I want to explode from the stress.

I need to speak to my manager soon as people start looking for internships early in the school year. Is this something that I can opt out of? I know newbies need training and supervision but I do not want this to be a continual assignment for me. If I do have the option to decline this, what is the best way to state it? I don’t want to come off as lazy or not willing to help, but I can’t keep doing this.

Whether or not you can opt out depends on factors I don’t know, like who else is available to manage them, what the reasoning is for having interns is in the first place, how committed your boss is to the internship program, and how open your boss is to push-back. But you can certainly talk to her about it and see where it goes.

You could start with this: “I’m finding that managing interns effectively is taking up a significant portion of my time, and it’s making it tough for me to spend as much time on X and Y (name some important priorities here) as I need to. I typically spend about X hours a week training, answering daily questions, attending meetings, overseeing their work, and giving feedback. The meetings alone have doubled my meeting caseload, and overall my weeks have become much more stressful. Is it possible for me not to take on future interns after Jane leaves us?”

If your manager presses you to continue, it’s reasonable to say, “Given that it takes about X hours of my time each week, can we look at what projects we can take off my plate to make room for it?” If your manager tells you that you should just devote less time to the intern (i.e., be a less attentive manager), you can point out that you can’t responsibly take on interns without giving them the oversight and support that they need. She still might not agree, but it’s worth having the conversation.

(Do keep in mind, though, that if you don’t currently manage (non-intern) staff and you want to some day, managing interns is a good way to begin getting that experience and build your management skills in a lower-stakes context.)

2. How to handle a workplace competition when only one person loses

I wanted your take on a situation I was witness to a few years ago. At an old workplace a team of four had the job of turning inbound enquiry calls into appointment bookings. It wasn’t a full-on sales thing (the service we were offering was free of charge to the client), but there were targets and performance measures related to number of calls and number of bookings made.

The team’s manager, Ned, set up a competition whereby the person with the most appointment bookings in a set period would win an unspecified prize. The competition was close throughout (and well-received by all the team – there was a lot of good-natured banter flying around), and the final results were calculated and announced in front of the whole office – around 30 people.

It was a three-way tie, with Robb, Sansa and Arya each having booked the same amount of appointments. They were congratulated and presented with a small box of chocolate and a low-value giftcard. Bran had booked one less appointment than the other three, despite having worked just as hard, and received nothing. Not even a verbal thank-you or acknowledgement.

Bran – to his credit – said nothing at the time, and joined in with congratulating the other Starks on their prizes. However, I can’t help but feel this was a bit unfair to Bran, being the only person on the team to not receive any acknowledgement despite being so very close to the level the others achieved. I think if I had been Ned, I would have presented Bran with the chocolates at least, in recognition of how close the competition had been and his hard work.

What would your advice have been to Ned in this situation? What should a manager do if they’ve set up a competition, but the results of that competition mean that most of the team “wins” and only one person loses?

Yeah, ideally it would have been nice for Ned to give Bran some sort of back-up prize (although not the same prize the winners got, or that’s devaluing their win) with some praise for how close he came. But I don’t think it’s a huge deal that he didn’t. This is how contests work — someone will lose. And yes, it sucks when it’s just one person, but most people in Bran’s position wouldn’t be devastated … unless it’s in a context where their work was always being overlooked, but then that would be the bigger issue than the contest.

That said, the fact that he didn’t get any thanks or acknowledgement for his work at all is pretty crappy — but again, that’s less about the contest and more about how to manage people in general (you should acknowledge their work, contest or not).

3. Should I do extra work in addition to my assigned hiring exercise?

I’ve applied for a copywriting position at a well-known global company. The interview went well (I believe) and I sent the hiring manager a meaningful, personalized thank you letter afterwards.

I have been given a few short (but challenging) writing tasks to complete so they can judge how well I would be able to do my job. Now, these tasks are testing my ability to do the less creative, run-of-the-mill work I’d be doing for the majority of the time, but I know I’d be writing some more creative blog posts occasionally too.

My question is, should I include a blog post when I send back the tasks they assigned to me, even if they didn’t ask for it? I am incredibly keen on this job and want to show them that I’m willing to go the extra mile.

You can do that. There’s some risk to it because if it’s not exactly what they’re looking for, it could hurt you (even if you’d be able to do exactly what they’re looking for after some coaching and feedback). I’ve had people include extras that actually weakened their candidacy. On the other hand, if they like it, you’ve just given yourself a leg up.

Plus, some hiring managers will love that you went above and beyond what they asked for, but others will be mildly annoyed (although generally not enough to really impact things) or just not read it.

All of which is to say, there’s no obvious answer here.

4. I’m dating my boss

I’ve been working for my current boss for nine years. Everyone in our team has always had a professional but very friendly relationship with each other and our boss, since he’s the kind of employer who inspires camaraderie and open conversation. Two years ago he had serious marital difficulties, and one year ago he got divorced and we starting seeing each other, without telling anyone on our team. Just to clarify, his marital difficulties had nothing to do with me, and he’d never considered a relationship with me until things were truly over with his ex-wife. Our relationship is not a concern.

Due to the obvious issues of employer-employee relationships, I’ve been searching for another job since we began our relationship (since I’ve wanted to get a new job anyway), but the economy has been in a steady decline and there is almost nothing available. We have moved in together and jointly own several assets, so it is unlikely we’ll be able to keep this from our workplace for much longer. We understand the concerns my coworkers would have related to favoritism, unfair advantage, and potential hurt feelings, as well as HR department issues, but I don’t know what we can do.

In your experience, what would the repercussions be within the workplace if we were to acknowledge our relationship? How would HR potentially respond (understanding that you’re not aware of the specific regulations in our organization)? What steps can we possibly take to make our relationship public?

It sounds like you don’t realize that this serious misconduct on your boss’ part. But it’s really serious.

By dating (and moving in with!) an employee, he’s opened the company up to potential sexual harassment allegations, and he’s abdicated some core responsibilities of his job. He can’t credibly manage you (for all the reasons here and here), and by not disclosing that to your employer, he’s betrayed them in a pretty major way.

What’s likely to happen depends on your specific workplace, but it’s very possible that they could fire one or both of you, demote your boss, and/or tell you both that one of you has to find another job within X amount of time. Personally, I’d move him out a management role at a very minimum, and potentially would let him go.

Your best bet is for one or both of you to leave the company ASAP before this gets out.

5. Is it worth applying to older job postings?

I’m starting to apply for jobs, and I’m seeing a lot of jobs that have been posted for longer than what I would consider the likely amount of time they’ve been actively recruiting. For example, I saw a job posting today that was posted in early June. I’m reluctant to spend my time tailoring my resume and writing a cover letter if they’re already on their way to hiring someone. Do you think there’s an amount of time after which it’s unlikely that the screening/interview process is still going on seriously? Or do you think that if a job post is still up, it’s still worth applying for? For context, these are mostly for nonprofits and think tanks in D.C.

It depends. I’m working on hiring for a position that’s been posted for months because it’s really hard to fill, and others that have been posted seemingly forever because we’re basically always hiring for it if we can find good people. But it’s definitely true that other get filled more quickly, and employers don’t always remove their ads. Sometimes you can try looking up the position on their website; they may haven’t bothered to remove it from external job sites but will have taken off their own company jobs page. That’s not always 100% reliable, but it’s worth checking.

But for nonprofits and think tanks, you can probably just call or email and ask if the position is still open; they’ll generally tell you. If that doesn’t work, though, and you’re very interested, I’d go ahead and apply and see what happens. More here.

{ 339 comments… read them below or add one }

        1. Admin Amber

          In the group that was competing I would be more annoyed with the crappy prizes. Chocolates and a low value gift card – big whoop!

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          1. Anna

            My husband’s company in the past has given “appreciation” gifts of $5 gift cards to the store he works for. I always found that incredibly lame.

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            1. Jadelyn

              *To the store he works for*, that’s like the lowest effort possible, lol. “Here, we’ll give you $5 store credit!” “Uh…thanks, I guess?”

              I worked at a call center once where they brought a cart around with mini candy bars and everyone got *one*. Specifically just one. That was their big monthly employee appreciation gesture.

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          2. AMPG

            The way the competition is described, it sounds pretty good-natured, and like bragging rights were the real prize. Think of it as “The Great British Baking Show” of workplace competitions.

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            1. Grumpy Mouse (OP #2)

              Haha, pretty much!

              To be fair, the prizes came out of Ned’s own pocket, and he’d set aside a certain amount. He did explain that if one person won (which was what he anticipated), they would have received the full amount in prizes. It still wouldn’t have been much – around £50 ($65) but he had to split the prize fund three-ways so they ended up with £15 gift cards each, and a box of chocolates.

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              1. AMPG

                I think if I were him I’d have printed up a “runner-up” certificate or something similar, just to acknowledge Bran’s work.

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          3. TootsNYC

            well, when the prize is unspecified, as this was here, you’re really competing for the satisfaction of winning, and the prize is a token.

            And, chocolates and a $5 gift card to Starbucks is a token.

            I miss the idea of competing to win, just to be able to say you won.

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  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#4, even if you leave, there’s a high likelihood your boss/partner will also have to leave. At a minimum, there’s a strong chance you’d both be fired.

    Alison summed it up well—this is major, instant-firing-level misconduct on your boss’ part. It was a massive abuse of his position, and the fact that he hasn’t disclosed it for over a year (2 years?) is a BFD. Frankly, it could get him blacklisted as well as fired.

    There isn’t a (career) safe way to “come out” at this point. The faster you two can find new jobs, the better.

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      1. Geoffrey B

        Depending on the company, it’s quite possible that none of their co-workers has ever seen both their addresses.

        My employer has my home address on record, but I can’t remember the last time they sent mail there – not for years, IIRC. All the paycheque-type stuff is done electronically by automated systems, and there’s not much reason for a co-worker to look at my address other than the two who come over occasionally for board games.

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        1. NCKat

          My company still sends out benefits materials to the employees’ homes. So someone could notice the same address for the two employees.

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          1. Antilles

            My old company did the same thing, but at my current (one-office firm), our HR rep just walks around and personally passes it out rather than mailing it. However, even if that’s the case here, it’s still surprising that nobody has yet noticed because it literally just takes one mistake to blow the cover.

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            1. PB

              I think it depends on the employer. Mine never sends anything to my home. My former employer did, but the labels were machine-generated, and I don’t think a person ever looked at them. I can see this slipping through the cracks. On the other hand, it would just take one report on the database to catch the duplicate address.

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              1. Rusty Shackelford

                If you happen to live on a numbered street, it’s easy to write out your address in different ways so it looks like a completely different address to a computer (i.e., 4th St. vs. Fourth Street). I mean, a more complex search could find this kind of duplication, but they wouldn’t do that unless they were actually *looking* for it. (So, a word to the wise… if you’re going to move in with your boss, find a place on a numbered street. Your life hack for the day.)

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                1. Ellen Ripley

                  Eh, most computer systems will ‘regularize’ addresses based on the USPS’s preferred format for each address/street/town (it’s searchable on their website if you ever need it) so that’s not going to help much these days, at least in the US.

              2. Sarah

                Yeah, I’m with a big employer and I really don’t think a “real person” ever looks at addresses (maybe unless they were going to need to do a welfare check or something). Technically someone could look things up, but I think it’d be very unlikely. Still a risk though! And smaller companies obviously might not be as automated.

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      2. SignalLost

        I’m amazed no one in this thread thinks it’s possible either or both of them has a separate PO Box so they aren’t receiving mail at the same address.

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        1. Cleopatra Jones

          I’m amazed that LW thinks that their other coworkers don’t know that her and the boss have a thing. No matter how professional you think you are, people can tell. There are always so many obvious signs of an intimate relationship.

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          1. Snark

            People always think they’re being sneaky, and there’s a thousand little tells. How they stand next to each other, the degree and duration physical proximity they tolerate, how long they hold each others’ gaze…it’s SO obvious.

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            1. Jadelyn

              The coworker I had a brief fling with a few months ago waited until he’d transferred to a different office an hour’s drive away before propositioning me for that exact reason – if we’d still been in an office where we’d see each other every day, we both knew people would’ve picked up on it. We don’t even talk much on the phone at work anymore after he slipped once and answered the phone with “hey there, blue-eyes”, which while not exactly explicit, is still not quite how one greets a coworker. I called him after work that day and was like “Dude, really?” and he was like “Oh my god, yes, I realized as soon as I said it, sorry!”

              Thankfully nobody heard him as far as he could tell, but all it takes is one observant person to notice a tiny detail like that, and your cover is blown. It really doesn’t take much at all. The kind of smiles you give each other, finishing each other’s sentences (which couples tend to do more often than they realize), etc…

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            2. AnonSummerCamp

              I totally agree in theory. At the same time, my partner and I met working at a summer camp (so 24/7 hours, officially) and one summer I was promoted and he was not (already more than three years of relationship at that point). We never actively kept the relationship hidden from the rest of the staff and the first summer we were there together we notified our boss, but lots of people only found out after a couple weeks of being around us (again, for many hours each day) when told by someone or when one of us said something that made it obvious – even then, sometimes the person being didn’t believe it. We did actively keep it hidden from campers, and in the three summers we were both at camp and together, one camper figured it out and mentioned it, and one other said she really wanted us to be a couple but was pretty sure we were just good friends.

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              1. AnonSummerCamp

                Though worth noting that while technically I was his superior, we made certain I didn’t have direct oversight over his work (he was in a slightly different program within the camp anyway) and in the areas of counseling that I did have technically have oversight, it was really comparable in degree to previous years when I’d had more experience at the camp than he had rather than true supervisory like it was a certain subset of other counselors. And I didn’t deal with payroll or anything whatsoever, for him or anyone else.

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          2. Lindsay J

            People are surprisingly oblivious.

            I worked with my ex-boyfriend (he wasn’t my ex at the time) for several years side-by-side. We didn’t do any sort of “couply” things at work, but we also made no effort to disguise the fact that we were in a serious relationship and living together. (We’d both talk about our dogs, both talk about the same trips we went on together, occasional “hey since you’re leaving first can you pick up a gallon of milk on your way home”.

            I never formally told my staff because I thought our relationship was sort of self-evident. And many of the people on my staff knew about it as they were there when he and I met and initially started dating (we met at work and were in different departments at the time. He transferred into my department at the same level I was the season after we started dating, with my boss’s and HR’s full knowledge) so they knew.

            Every couple of years there would be someone who took weeks or even months to catch on. Usually I would hear about it because they would approach one of the other employees and ask them if they thought me and the other boss were in a relationship, and my employees would laugh and relay the conversation to me later.

            However, most to most people it was obvious. And I do feel like I can generally pick out couples just based on body language, etc. I think I have a good success rate (haven’t been any false positives that I know of, but who knows how many people were in relationships that I never noticed so kind of hard to tell.)

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          3. Annonymouse

            Agreed.

            At my work, teapot sports club where we have many different flavours or types of pot, there is a strict “no dating anyone at the club” rule if you’re a coach.

            You coach the raspberry spouts and want to date one of the raspberry spout participants? Too bad. Not gonna happen and you’d have to leave us if you’re that serious about dating them.

            You coach raspberry spouts and want to date a caramel lid member? Nope. More leeway but still a huge no.

            Work as a coach but want to date one of the admins or other staff? Oh boy that’s the biggest no of all.

            The only time it’s allowed is if the relationship existed well before the coaching or them joining.

            And even then we’d either have them in a different style or in groups with different coaches so there’s no interaction between them at the club.

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      3. EvanMax

        My wife and I both just took jobs in the same department at the same firm, working with the same recruiter, even, who had no idea we were married. We work on the same floor of the same building.

        We have the same address and last name, and the recruiter sent her a start date on the same day that she sent me a contingent offer letter, but when I responded to the offer letter by disclosing our relationship (I did not want to do this until my wife’s employment was certain, because if it were some kind of issue, why jeopardize my employment if they didn’t end up hiring her?), she said the thought had never crossed her mind.

        This is a large company with thorough background checks. Ultimately, our relationship is a non-issue (different divisions within the same department; one of us would have to get promoted pretty high up before we’d be in the other’s chain of command,) which may be why it never flagged anywhere, but the point is that just having the same address and a couple of shared assets isn’t to make things obvious to everyone.

        Or, on the other hand, maybe their management does have an inkling, they just don’t have enough evidence to prove anything yet if the couple denies it, but they are waiting to pounce.

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    1. Safetykats

      I have worked for several companies that have employed married couples, or couples in a relationship. I have also worked for one company that didn’t prohibit a subordinate from working for their spouse or significant other – they just would t allow the management level person to have the authority to do performance appraisals or salary actions. So it’s possible that the relationship itself isn’t a problem.

      However, the failure to disclose the relationship is really likely to be a problem. Even the companies that had a pretty liberal policy about these types of relationships required disclosure. Waiting this long to tell anybody is probably not only a problem, but a big problem – because at the very least the manager should have known and understood whatever policies applied.

      You can certainly try throwing yourself on the mercy of HR and pleading ignorance – and if you want or need to keep working there, you should do it as soon as possible – before they find out on their own. But I agree that you should be prepared to be let go for this.

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      1. neverjaunty

        The relationship itself is a problem, period, both because a boss shouldn’t supervise a romantic partner and because a boss should not date a subordinate.

        Even if the OP feels she was 100% able to say no to the relationship, this places the company at a huge liability risk in so many ways. Not to mention how it affects the OP’s work situation day to day.

        OP, I know you love this guy, but he made an extremely stupid decision to date you while you stil reported to him. (Yes, you agreed to it too, but he’s the boss and has the responsibility to back off.)

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        1. MK

          Objectively, yes, the relationship is a problem. But what the OP is asking about is how the company is likely to react, and in that context, safetykats comment is on point: some companies don’t forbid relationships, even between subordinates and managers, but expect disclosure. Others might not have any regulations spelled out, not anticipating the issue. Frankly, I think it’s a toss up what the repercussions are. They might get fired, if one of them might simply bget reassigned, if they haven’t technically broken any rules, and given that they are both employees of long and presumably good standing.

          What baffles me is how unsure the OP herself is about this. I mean, she asked AAM’s opinion “understanding that she is not aware of the company’s regulations”. Well, OP, do you know what these are? If not, why didn’t you find out as soon as you started dating your boss? Because that is crucial to the potential repercussions.

          Regardless, there is another issue which maybe the OP hasn’t considered: the reaction not the rest of their team. I would prepare myself from blowback in that quarter,not matter what the company decides.

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          1. Triceratops

            Hmm, I read that as understanding *Alison* isn’t aware of OP’s company’s regulations…but on the other hand, OP probably would have mentioned any relevant company policies if she knew about them.

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            1. MillersSpring

              Yes, I read that as the OP *did* know her company’s regulations, but that Alison would have to frame her answer without knowing them.

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            1. Rusty Shackelford

              I’m sure the OP does know. I interpret How would HR potentially respond (understanding that you’re not aware of the specific regulations in our organization) to mean “Alison, while you’re not aware of the specific regulations, what’s your theory on how HR would respond?”

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          2. MK

            The OP might or might not know, but it’s baffling either way.If she does, why didn’t she mentioned them? Alison’s answer would have been a lot more useful with more information. If not, why didn’t she find out?

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        2. Real life is stranger than TV

          I think it depends on the business, particularly the size of the business and the field they are in. I can’t tell you how many companies I know of where the big boss decides to employee his wife or girlfriend as a secretary or a bookkeeper. In those circumstances though the relationship usually happens first and then the job. It is certainly problematic but it is not this rare thing. What gets really muddy though is when the person handed the job stops performing and needs to be terminated around the same time the relationship is going off the rails. That’s when you get into very muddy legal territory just because of how the whole thing looks.

          And as far as sexual harassment goes, you need way more than a consensual relationship. He would need to threaten her job if she didn’t maintain the relationship or give her benefits that the other employees were not getting (and that would be discrimination, not harassment). The law is really clear that the behaviors must be unwelcome. It’s not as simple as boss+subordinate=money or I would be a very rich lawyer by now.

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          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Right, the relationship itself isn’t sexual harassment; I don’t think anyone intended to imply that. The problem is that it opens the company up to legal liability later (for example, “I wanted to break up with him, but he said it would affect my standing at work”). Smart companies won’t even open the door to that happening.

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            1. Kathleen Adams

              Ah, thanks for explaining that – I definitely get it now. There was an explosive suit here in Indiana involving the state’s lottery commissioner and what was either, depending on your point of view, a consensual affair between a man and a woman or a woman who agreed to a sexual relationship because she believed that was the only way to keep her high-paying job. The woman eventually lost the suit because there was just too much he-says-she-says evidence, but it took *years* (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1995-12-22/news/9512220052_1_firing-evan-bayh-sexual-harassment-scandal).

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            2. JacqOfAllTrades

              Or, other employees can claim sexual harassment because of their relationship. They could perceive they are being treated unfairly because of their *lack* of a sexual relationship with the boss.

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            3. neverjaunty

              Exactly. Or when another direct report complains they got less favorable treatmenr because Boss favored his live-in girlfriend.

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      2. Cherith Ponsonby

        At a company I worked for, senior staff members X and Y (both in risk/compliance roles) were living together – X was in a role that would usually have reported to Y, and therefore reported to even more senior manager Z instead. There was no problem with the relationship in itself and it was not against any specific company policies, but it was disclosed to everyone, even the lowliest n00b (that is, me at the time). I think HR would have had kittens if it hadn’t been disclosed. Not to mention the auditors.

        OP, is there any way you can change teams?

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      3. LQ

        If my boss can’t do a performance appraisal or salary action then they aren’t really my boss. That’s a problem. If the company thinks that isn’t a problem then the company is a problem.

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        1. Lil Fidget

          And think of this person’s co-workers! I’m sure they have zero confidence in the boss’ ability to evaluate their performance fairly. He’s … literally comparing them to his live-in girlfriend!

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      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Sure—there are organizations that let people date. But it’s less common in large organizations to allow one person in the couple to manage someone in their chain of command (usually someone is transferred or their supervision structure is shifted). Even when it’s allowed, it’s with HR’s approval. The relationship itself is troublesome, but not the biggest part of OP’s problem. The “right” thing to do was to report the relationship as soon as it started.

        The failure to disclose for multiple years, during which time the line manager continued to be extremely involved intimately and professionally in his subordinate’s life, is a nightmare for most companies. I think it’s that failure to disclose that makes this a BFD, and the fact that they now cohabitate makes it that much more of a BFD than if they were dating (still a BFD, but a lesser BFD on the scale of Very Serious Deals).

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    2. Falling Diphthong

      Anyone else assuming that one or more people in the office have noticed the 1 year old relationship, even if they haven’t passed it on to upper management or HR (yet)?

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      1. AnonForThis

        I’d be amazed if nobody knows. I’m a close (platonic) friend of my boss and I’m pretty sure SOME people think we’re a couple… It would take a serious poker face for nobody in OP’s office to suspect something.

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        1. Barefoot Librarian

          I ran into the same problem not long ago, AnonForThis! One of the professors I work closely with on several projects and I are also good friends outside of work and pretty casual with each other. Evidently the rumor going around the faculty is that we were having an affair lol (we now openly joke about being work spouses to much eye-rolling of our actual spouses). Considering that people will read things into a relationship that aren’t there sometimes, I can’t imagine that no one has caught on that something is going on when there IS something there.

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        2. NotAnotherManager!

          On the other hand, I recently found out one of my closest work friends has been dating someone at the office for years, and I had absolutely no idea. They do not come to work events together, they treat each other as friendly colleagues, and they never talk about each other outside of a work context. You could have knocked me over with a feather when I found out. There is no direct reporting relationship, but he’s much higher up in the org chart, though I believe that they did disclose to those who needed to know and HR.

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          1. Decima Dewey

            Sometimes the effort to conceal the relationship can tip coworkers off. Two librarians at one location I worked at were dating and trying to keep it a secret. Believe me, people noticed when they entered the breakroom and Fergus and Lucinda were standing close to each other, then suddenly they were two yards apart.

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      2. Health Insurance Nerd

        You’d be surprised what people do/don’t notice. I met my now husband at work, and after dating for more than three years there were still coworkers of ours who didn’t know. Of course, we were pretty discreet, and work in completely different departments, but it’s not something that we were keeping secret.

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        1. Falling Diphthong

          I wouldn’t be surprised if some people missed it–my husband would be one of these–but shocked if everyone in the office has had no idea. (To nod back to the beer run letter, the manager didn’t know subordinate and supervisor had a private duck club, but plenty of other people on the team did.)

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    3. Detective Amy Santiago

      Expanding on this…

      What do you think will happen if you get a job elsewhere, leave, and then bossfriend is like “surprise, OP#4 and I are together and now I can tell you since she left the company”. It’s incredibly naive to think that won’t still cause a world of trouble for him and possibly effect both of your reputations.

      You really should both work on getting out of there ASAP and there may not be a way to easily recover once this information comes out.

      Reply
      1. MashaKasha

        “bossfriend” *snort*

        This is a really good point. Yes, it’s like he can never come clean now while either of them work at this company.

        Reply
      2. Rusty Shackelford

        He might be able to get away with it if they pretend they didn’t get together until after the OP leaves the company. But otherwise, yeah. “We did a bad thing and didn’t get caught” isn’t any better than “We are currently doing a bad thing.”

        Reply
      3. RVA Cat

        Also, I would caution OP4 that she needs to look out for herself and try to be financially independent of bossfriend. If nothing else, he’s still on the rebound from his divorce.

        I can see this turning into a real s***show as I am certain his ex-wife knows – especially if they have children together – and even if it’s amicable, she could easily use this against them.

        Reply
        1. Anna

          I don’t think it’s a good idea for us to speculate on that end of things. Whatever is happening with the ex and the bossfriend is not really on the table for discussion since we literally know nothing about the nature of their relationship and the OP is asking about professional implications that don’t involve the ex at all.

          Besides, if he is on the rebound or avoiding the single life or whatever emotional state he’s in, we aren’t anywhere near a place to know, so it shouldn’t be up for discussion.

          Reply
      4. Midge

        The OP is also creating trouble for herself down the road when she’s job hunting. It’s pretty typical not to use your current boss as a reference, so she’s probably ok for now. But the next time she looks for a job, companies will want to talk to her boss. And if she doesn’t want them to talk to him (because, duh, you shouldn’t have your boyfriend be a professional reference), then she’ll have to give a reason why.

        Reply
        1. Jadelyn

          I think in that case “we started dating after I left the company” would work, but I also think they won’t give as much weight to the reference in that case.

          Reply
          1. Anna

            Yeah, it’s probably going to be best to ask a coworker to be a reference, and even that might be untenable if OP’s coworkers don’t take the news about their relationship well.

            Reply
      5. Artemesia

        They might be able to finesse it if it is ‘she moved to another company and we started dating’, but I would think there is zero likelihood that there are not already all sorts of people who know and just aren’t saying and once she leaves, they will be ‘saying’.

        I have worked with many gay people over the years when they needed to be in the closet to protect their jobs. Most people were aware — you run into Bob and Bob at the hardware store and put two and two together etc. I know two men who married former graduate students, then professional colleagues when their wives died. They had clearly been very close for years but not willing to divorce; I remember someone saying ‘Bob got married’ and someone else saying ‘oh whom did he marry?’ and everyone else rolling their eyes and saying ‘well who do you think?’ There aren’t many secrets when it comes to affairs.

        Reply
    4. caryatis

      >Due to the obvious issues of employer-employee relationships, I’ve been searching for another job since we began our relationship (since I’ve wanted to get a new job anyway), but the economy has been in a steady decline and there is almost nothing available.

      LW#4, if you can’t find another job, your boss/boyfriend should. It’s surprising that he hasn’t been considering that. Since he initiated the misconduct, if anyone’s career is going to suffer, it should be his.

      Reply
    5. Koko

      Yes, the part that stuns me the most is that they allowed the poor job market to excuse why they’re still working together after all this time, and yet they made a conscious decision to move in together. That is a big decision and a big undertaking, and shows the extent to which these two are prioritizing their relationship over company interests. They decided their being in love and wanting to live together shouldn’t be held back by this silly inconvenience that she happens to still be his direct report. Honestly, this has such a gross look.

      Reply
      1. Long Time Reader, First Time Poster

        Yeah, I’m calling shenanigans on the poor economy excuse. The order of operations should have been new job first, THEN move in together.

        Reply
        1. RB

          Hearing “poor economy” in this context, or really in any context nowadays, really rubs me the wrong way. Unless you’re in a really depressed part of the country, the unemployment rate is 3.5 – 5.5%, compared to 12+% at the height of the recession, some nine years ago.

          Reply
      2. Blue Anne

        Ehhhhh. Well, I’d prioritize my relationship over company interests too. Being in love is more important. But beyond that, the way they’re going about this, and the fact that she doesn’t seem to think it’s a big deal, are all wrong.

        Reply
          1. MashaKasha

            Right, I would frame it, not as prioritizing love over company interests, but as prioritizing being able to put food on my and my children’s (if OP has them) table, long-term, over love.

            Reply
            1. MashaKasha

              Or rather, the other way around. Employers really do come and go, but one’s professional reputation stays with them. And after reading AAM’s response and everyone’s comments, the way I’m seeing this is that the current situation is almost the kiss of death as far as either one’s professional reputation is concerned.

              Reply
        1. Rusty Shackelford

          Whether you decide to prioritize love or work, the point remains that lying to one in order to accommodate the other is probably going to bite you in the rear at some point.

          Reply
          1. Blue Anne

            I don’t disagree?

            I just don’t think it’s “gross” to prioritize a big, rewarding romantic relationship over the interests of the company I work at. Personally, I would do everything I could to have them not affect each other – way more than the person OP wrote in about is doing – but I also think it’s pretty understandable.

            I mean… maybe it’s just that I’m about to get married, but… “prioritizing their relationship over company interests”? Yes. Duh. Of course.

            Reply
            1. Danger: Gumption Ahead

              I’m with you. I 100% prioritize my personal relationships – familial, friend, and romantic – over the interests of my employer. Jobs come and go, but the people you care about are long term.

              That said, LW, don’t be surprised if your HR department either transfers one of you or tells you that one of you has to quit. Odds are, if they are remotely competent, they are not going to allow one partner to supervise the other.

              Reply
            2. Naruto

              I mean, I care more about my wife than my company. But it’s not like an either/or, where you can either be an ethical, professional employee, or you can be in love. You can do both! Without behaving in a way that is massively unethical!

              And when these people got together it wasn’t a big, rewarding romantic relationship; they were just starting to date, when they had no romantic history and didn’t know if it would work out, and it was a huge lapse in judgment already at that point.

              Reply
            3. Koko

              I mentioned downthread that it’s not that they’re bad people or weird for prioritizing their relationship over company interests. It’s that they’re operating in incredibly bad faith by not making an effort to resolve a grievous ethical conflict of interest.

              If the relationship is so important, then it should be important enough for one or both of them to have quit their job by now. They could have plead “poor economy” as an excuse if they were making a good faith effort to minimize the impact of the relationship on the company, but they couldn’t be doing more the opposite of that when they decided to move in together.

              What’s gross is that they have decided their relationship matters more than conducting themselves ethically in the workplace. What’s gross is imagining being one of their coworkers who I’m sure is fully aware of what’s going on, watching your coworker and boss move in together and play favorites with each other at work. Because if they couldn’t stop themselves from moving in together for the sake of business ethics, there’s no doubt in my mind that they haven’t been holding themselves back from anything else for the sake of business ethics.

              Relationships are important, and we all have the right to choose our relationship over our job – but we should not be able to continue holding our job once we’ve made that choice. Our job has just as much right to not want employees with massive conflicts of interest on payroll as we do to prioritize a relationship over the job.

              Reply
        2. Koko

          I think it’s reasonable that they prioritize their relationship, but that’s exactly why boss-subordinate relationships are frowned upon and usually forbidden. The company rightly expects that they will end up making poor decisions in their roles at work because of their relationship. It takes the wind out of any argument that what they’re doing by hiding their relationship is harmless or that they’re the exception to the rule about bosses not being able to manage their subordinates effectively.

          Reply
      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        I think it’s ok to prioritize a relationship over the company’s interests. But the consequence of doing that is that you might lose your job or have to find another one. If OP is ok with those costs, then she should feel free to keep prioritizing the relationship. The tough part, here, is that she’s trying to have the relationship without the potential costs, and I don’t think that’s realistic in light of (1) how long they’ve been hiding the relationship and (2) the level of intimacy in their relationship.

        Personally, I think the burden should be on the bossfriend to find a new job, not OP, but I realize that they likely both need to be actively searching.

        Reply
        1. Koko

          Yes, that’s it exactly – they’re trying to have their cake and eat it too. This isn’t a good faith effort to work towards a more appropriate situation in the face of a crummy economy that’s making it difficult for them to do so. They doubled down and actively made the situation less appropriate.

          Reply
    6. TootsNYC

      I’m also wondering, why is it HE hasn’t been also looking for work?

      Sometimes people higher on the org chart actually have an easier time getting new work!

      Reply
      1. Specialk9

        I mean, considering he’s dating a subordinate, moved in with a subordinate, and is letting her look for a job to fix his ongoing huge ethical lapse… It kinda seems to be quacking like a duck, here.

        Reply
    7. Where's the Le-Toose?

      At my current job, we have an anti-nepotism policy. We didn’t when I started 12 years ago, but after only a couple of years here, the policy was implemented. Now married coworkers, family members, etc., can’t have the same supervisor and managers, supervisors, etc., can’t supervise their spouse, blood relative, and so on. The reasons we did this were simple–not having one is really bad for morale.

      We did have a married couple working for one supervisor. The married couple caused a scene when Spouse A was granted a week off for vacation but Spouse B was denied because we needed minimum staffing and other employees’ had that time off too. Rather than reschedule, the spouses tried to brow beat the other employees into changing their schedules. We didn’t fire them, but we moved one of the spouses. And they both left within 18 months.

      We also had a manager supervising her younger brother. The brother was having performance issues yet he kept getting raises, he would get more favorable shifts than others, he would get more mentoring, etc.. The younger brother ended up being fired and the managing sister retired soon thereafter.

      OP, the mere fact that you’re dating your boss is soul crushing for your coworkers and they will feel like anything you receive, regardless of merit, was given and not earned. And the lack of thought on your boss’s part plus the secrecy in hiding the relationship will get your boss fired. In a heartbeat.

      If I were in your shoes, and if you really love your boss, then I would quit tomorrow. And then your boss should find a different job too.

      Reply
    8. New Poster

      Agreeing with everything posted above. Have seen this roll out before and it is such a hit -professionally- for the manager/employer. Reputations usually take a nose dive once the things are ‘discovered’.

      Reply
  2. Cambridge Comma

    If #1 is stuck with having an intern next year, perhaps you can have input in the tasks assigned to that person to reduce the burden on you? Does an intern need to have duties that lead to ‘required’ meetings, do you need to go, can the intern instead shadow you at meetings? It’s always going to take time training an intern but perhaps there are a couple of simpler admin tasks you could hand over that the intern could be expected to learn quickly and that would also save you time?

    Reply
    1. persimmon

      This was my thought too. Obviously I don’t know your industry or workplace, but from what you described it sounds like there is room to make the intern position more self-sufficient. In addition to the meeting suggestions, schedule the intern’s time to ask you questions instead of being available anytime (and coach the intern to make a serious effort to find out the answer herself first), let the intern make her own schedule and then have you approve it, etc. Counterintuitively the best intern supervisors I know think more about how the intern can be most useful and a little less about what the intern needs or wants–because this gives the intern the real and valuable experience of doing a job that’s necessary. One more suggestion: even though you’re supervising the intern’s experience overall, she can still take on tasks supervised by others, to add some variety for her and because maybe coworkers could use a little extra help, and you then don’t need to worry overseeing that part of her work.

      Reply
      1. GermanGirl

        Yes, it certainly depends very much on the industry but in my line of work (software development), college level interns can usually be managed so that they save you about as much time as they cost.

        Reply
        1. TheNotoriousMCG

          This is what I was thinking. I interned a lot in college and cannot think of anytime that I was in a meeting that my immediate boss wouldn’t have been a part of anyway. It’s odd that the intern has their own meeting burden

          Reply
          1. Anononon

            Yes, agreed. I generally only went to meetings my boss had. If anything, if my boss wanted me to see more things, I would tag along with someone else to there meeting. But, I would find it super weird if my boss always shadowed me in meetings that had nothing to do with her.

            Reply
          2. Danger: Gumption Ahead

            The immediate boss might have required internship meetings. Last intern I had was through a federally funded program, so the host site was required to do weekly 1:1 with the intern and a separate meeting with their internship coordinator.

            Reply
          3. CM

            I was thinking the meetings are with the intern, to answer questions. I think these can be time-bounded — I spent a lot of time in internships working independently on projects, and would store up my questions for a half-hour checkin during the day. If your work allows this, maybe try to come up with a structure where the intern can be more independent and interrupt you less.

            Reply
      2. Mary

        >>Counterintuitively the best intern supervisors I know think more about how the intern can be most useful and a little less about what the intern needs or wants–because this gives the intern the real and valuable experience of doing a job that’s necessary

        Hm!! I am currently supervising several student interns for the first time (only a few hours each a week), and this is a really useful thing to bear in mind, thank you!

        Reply
        1. nonymous

          yeah, when I was an intern, I was basically treated like any other employee but with a nod towards my experience and school schedule. Of course my work required closer supervision, but that was because I was minus the X years of experience/education that my now-colleagues had. I also have some technical skills/experience that is different from my coworkers so that helped in the sense that I got assigned tasks that they would have have found challenging, but seemed straightforward to me.

          Reply
        2. MsM

          I find giving the intern an overarching long-term project at least somewhat in line with their interests that’s been languishing because no one on staff has time, and then filling in with day to day tasks you need them for works well.

          Reply
          1. Koko

            This was the approach we used at a previous gig. Usually the overaching project was some sort of research project, compiling information from a lot of sources, writing a synthesis/summary. It was usually very time-intensive work because there was a lot of compile and no easy ways to streamline the process, but the only skills really needed were research and writing which most interns come in pretty well-equipped to do.

            The intern got to become intimately familiar with whatever the research topic in their field was was, and by picking up other random tasks here and there they got a really broad view of how an organization operates, how decisions are made, what things are considered important, and how to work in an office.

            Reply
      3. Turquoise Cow

        Yeah, my thought was, can another employee take on part of the role of intern supervisor? Or multiple employees? Maybe OP does the majority of the work, but another person(s) could surely take on parts of that role, unless OP is the only person on the company who does what the intern is there for, in which case I’d wonder if it’s wise to take on an intern in a field where you have only one employee doing it – maybe you need a second employee. Or perhaps the intern could learn other parts of the business. The intern is interning with the spout supervisor, but surely it wouldn’t be a bad idea for them to shadow a glazer or a lid maker, so they learn all the aspects of teapot making.

        Reply
    2. Intern Soup

      I’m OP1. I’m the only one in my position in my building since we are contractors, so I am the only one who can oversee the intern unfortunately.We’re here to do a professional service, so there’s no admin tasks or anything that she can do, and her responsibilities always lead to parent or teacher meetings, which I have to supervise.

      I am going to take Alison’s advice and keep track of the time I spend with the intern and ask for some relief in my duties if the program will continue.

      I hadn’t given thought to how supervising an intern could be valuable management experience for later, so thank you for bringing that up, Alison. I am not sure if that’s something I want to get into in the future but I will keep it in mind. Thanks for pointing out the silver lining I missed in my whininess.

      Reply
      1. Cassandra

        I don’t think you were whiny. Your concerns are entirely legitimate, and as a sender-out of interns, I appreciate how hard you have been working to give your interns a more valuable experience. Not everyone does!

        Reply
      2. nonymous

        I’m having a hard time understanding how your ordinary tasks can’t be further broken down into sub-tasks which can then be assigned to the intern. It sounds like instead, what is happening is that the intern is being assigned tasks that run parallel to your workload (e.g. you handle X cases routinely, and intern gets N cases, so now you’re responsible for X + N cases in the same time period)

        I have no idea what services you are offering, but in a casework scenario it might be that intern do some preliminary background research (it’s research for the intern, but an experienced staff member wouldn’t have to do this much research) and present a plan of action for some N cases while you focus on the remaining X – N cases. The model I have in mind is the clinical rotation of a veterinary student, where from the customer perspective not only their case is being evaluated 2x (once by student, once by supervisor) but the eval by student – and any research/review they have to do to come up with a plan of action – inevitably takes 3x longer than by the professional. As the student matures they graduate from being only able to summarize the situation (to the supervisor, who then has to explain what treatment is best and why) to proposing a full course of treatment (which the supervisor approves) to presenting the treatment plan to the client (in a supervised setting).

        Reply
      3. It happens

        It sounds like you’re describing a situation where having an intern allows your employer to have two of you, but you have to work double to make it happen. Maybe the intern should be considered more of a shadow-you instead of a double-you, meaning that the intern just does everything that you are already doing, not additional client work. To give the intern valuable experience you can gradually allow her more responsibility in there meetings that you are already having.

        Reply
      4. Bye Academia

        I agree with others that the intern should be working on subsets of your projects, at least until you trust her enough to do most of the work on her own. Then she can build up to her own projects with your supervision. It’s much less of a time suck to supervise someone who at least knows the basics. And then she’d be able to demonstrate growth in the position.

        Also, it sounds like you are not involved in the hiring at all? That is huge for someone you are working so closely with all summer. I used to work somewhere that interns would just appear one day with no warning and some of them were AWFUL. My boss liked to give everyone opportunities to learn, which is great in principle, but…there needs to be a baseline of common sense or they won’t learn anything anyway. Plus, an intern that picks things up more quickly will take less time to mentor. Maybe being involved in the hiring process would help you feel more excited and less resentful since you chose the person you are investing in.

        Reply
      5. MillersSpring

        I got great management experience by managing an intern. It is something for your resume if you later want to manage a department/team. I also got similar experience by managing some part-time seasonal employees at one job and by being a team lead at another job. I also managed a large project that required work from people in many different departments. Look for management experience at every turn!

        Reply
      6. Tobias Funke

        I was kind of figuring you were a social worker or something like that because it describes supervising interns in my field so well. It really is good management experience. It’s also really hard to get good at (I’m not; I’m not experienced enough) because interns are something else sometimes.

        Good luck OP!

        Reply
      7. Laura (Needs to Change Her Name)

        I am wondering if you are in something like school psychology or mental health care? In that scenario this makes total sense to me. The organization would probably have longstanding relationships with programs/schools that need internship sites/practica for their students, and the organization benefits from maintaining those relationships. And those kinds of interns are a HUGE time suck. Like, it’s the same word that people use for interns in other industries, but it’s … not really the same thing. You’re basically teaching a class + apprenticing someone and their work is zero helpful to you and also to do a good job you have to be an active mentor which is a ton of work to do well. But if that’s the kind of scenario you’re in, having interns and supervising them might just be a regular expectation of the job and trying to push back on it could not only be pointless but could actively be harmful, if this is an organization that has interns on a regular basis.

        Reply
  3. Mike C.

    With regards to competitions, if your results are always going to be that close, then you end up rewarding luck and circumstance over effectivity.

    It’s like watching a close championship game in soccer that has to end in penalty kicks – sure, there will be a winner at some point, but it’s more based on the luck of the keeper guessing where the ball might go over than any sort of long term effectiveness of the team or who most “deserves” to win. So unless your business needs to have winners and losers, maybe award people in proportion to their effectiveness and a small bonus to the overall winner rather than winner(s) take all.

    Reply
    1. Mike C.

      And I should add that this of course is all in proportion to the stakes of the contest, like AaM pointed out. If you’re going all “your prizes are a new car, a set of steak knives and your job” then that’s a much different discussion.

      Reply
      1. Sarah

        I agree — if this were a giant monetary prize, I think people would feel upset. A few chocolates and a low-value gift card? I feel like that’s small enough that who cares! You could give these things out in a random drawing and it would be fine, because no one NEEDS those items. It’s just a little something fun.

        Reply
    2. Engineer Girl

      I’m going to disagree. You have some close competition but it was based on skill – just like the Olympics. And Bran came in 4th place.
      That’s how competition goes.

      Reply
      1. 539

        An engineer should quantitative enough to understand the concept of “statistical noise.” Which is not the same thing as skill.

        Reply
          1. Engineer Girl

            Unfortunately the comment section has slowly devolved where people equate logical fallacies such as ad hominem attacks as “discussion and debate”.
            It’s suppressed good discussion. Worse – it’s suppressed good problem solving.

            Reply
            1. Jesca

              It also scares a lot of people away. The point being made isn’t incorrect as this competition is based on call center type situations where there is a whole slew of variables to consider that would skew final numbers. Unfortunately, all the competition found was that everyone basically was distributed customers evenly when they called in and that everyone functions on the same ability level to close. It doesn’t consider that maybe Bran may have missed out because he took a particularly complicated call and was still able to close it. Not considering the qualitative sometimes especially in situations where there are pretty unpredictable variables can lead to this.

              Basically it was an arbitrary competition to try to get everyone to do their best and it really had no conclusion at all. Because in the end, everyone just found that their best was the same across the board haha. No need to try as hard next competition.

              But yes, attacking people personally shouldn’t happen as it just meant to make people mad.

              Reply
        1. Engineer Girl

          Statistical noise means that there’s just as much a probability that Bran could win the next competition. So no need for an extra prize.
          “Luck” and “circumstance” are unknown in this assessment, which is why I disagreed. It seems to me that the skill sets are fairly close – especially if you end up with a three way tie.

          BTW, you could have disagreed with the point without making the comment about “engineer should”.

          Reply
          1. Mike C.

            Of course it’s unknown, that’s why I said “if your results are always going to be this close”.

            I’m saying it’s something to think about and watch for going forward.

            Reply
      2. Roscoe

        Yep I agree. And its sales. I know the OP said not exactly, but its close enough. As someone who is in sales, I can attest, some of it is just luck, and some is skill. That’s life basically. But a competition is a competition.

        Reply
    3. Ramona Flowers

      I think it depends on what you want to be the purpose of the contest. Is it to find out who is best and reward that person? Is it to motivate everyone to do as well as possible? What’s the payoff? That determines the validity of the contest.

      If it’s any consolation to Bran, he didn’t miss out on much of a prize. The lack of thanks sticks in the craw though I’m sure.

      Reply
      1. Engineer Girl

        That depends on the person and how they viewed the contest. From what was written people enjoyed the challenge (well received with good natured banter). When it is a close skill set a challenge like that can hone your skills and you come out better for it – mastering your job, so to speak.

        Reply
    4. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.

      Yeah, I agree, especially in sales. The competition was poorly designed, which, it’s not as if I haven’t implemented a poorly designed incentive system that didn’t seem poorly designed until I saw the results, but, then you adjust the next one to be better.

      In something like this, you want (and usually get) 1 or 2 break out stars or that’s all just flat (and poor Bran). After these sub par results, I’d compare month over month or year over year and see if the contest improved people’s individual results over all. If it did, switch to an incentive system where people are then competing against themselves, and everybody wins.

      Really, with results this close, they should just be competing against themselves period.

      Reply
      1. Wakeen Teapots, LTD

        and P.S. I think the way Bran was handled in this was self defeating & stupid. The purpose of the contest was to improve overall results during that time period and going forward. I don’t care if it was “unfair” to Bran or not, it was a poor business decision. Dumb.

        Reply
      2. Florida

        Agree with Mike’s comment and your suggestion of competing against themselves. Unfortunately, I don’t think OP can change it.
        Given the way the contest was set up, the boss was correct to award all three, but maybe the contest wasn’t the best idea in the first place.

        Reply
        1. Wakeen Teapots, LTD

          It’s a speculative question because the OP was talking about something that happened a few years ago.

          Designing contests and incentive systems is HARD. You have to adjust, adjust, adjust. We have a large order instant reward system (above commission which is paid later), that has lasted for 5+ years with no adjustments because it’s such a winner, but there was at least 5 years of failed or weak sauce seemed like a good idea the time ideas before that. Sometimes we’d get so discouraged we’d give up for awhile which, hindsight, was a poor choice.

          Reply
          1. Florida

            Yes, if anyone figures out a fail-proof way to motivate salespeople (and similar positions), they will become a millionaire. I think the biggest challenge is that what motivates you may or may not be what motivates me. And sometimes we reward you because we want to increase A, but the blowback is that now we have decreased B.
            In terms of adjusting things, I think the key is to only adjust one thing at a time. If you have a spiff where you have to sell 5 teapots in a week to get an extra $500, and it fails. So you change the spiff to selling 3 teapots 3 days to get an unnamed prized. You just changed all the variables. So if spiff #2 works, you don’t know if it was because of the goal, the time frame, the prize, or luck. It doesn’t need the same level of control as a medical trial, but sometimes managers change the spiffs or contests willy nilly without thinking through how to measure it.
            But I agree that designing contests and rewards seems like it would be super easy, but in practice it is very difficult. Also agree about the need to constantly adjust until you get it right – you just have to be logical about your adjustments.

            Reply
            1. Jesca

              The only effective way I have ever seen is to set a goal, a solid number, everyone needs to reach and reward each when they get there. Then have a really stupid award that gets passed around each month for the person who did something above and beyond the solid number goal. Usually this is based on something really qualitative as opposed to quantitative. That way, people are like “I’m winning that garden gnome trophy this month, Wakeem, so don’t let that gnome get so comfy”. LOL people generally get very creative about this as well, like decorating up their desk around the trophy etc. Seems to work pretty well while developing a competitive (and not ENRON competitive) environment.

              Reply
            2. the gold digger

              I totally misread the culture when I set up a sales contest when I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Chile. I worked with a group of indigenous women who wove and sold their traditional textiles. Several of them went to summer festivals to sell product.

              I set up a contest pitting the saleswomen against each other. The woman who sold the most would get a prize.

              Sales did not budge over the previous year.

              I had set up a group of people who had survived only by working together to compete against each other.

              I should have said that if total sales increased over the previous year, everyone in the group would be rewarded.

              Reply
              1. Jesca

                That is cool that you noticed that, though! I don’t think a lot of people would have, after the fact, been flexible enough to realize that mistake. Definitely understanding the process better helps determine motivation tactics.

                Reply
              2. Roscoe

                Yeah, it really depends. I’m in sales now. Everything about our commission structure is based on individual sales. But they keep trying to make us care about department wide sales. Its like, I don’t really care about department sales until you incentivize me to care about that.

                Reply
                1. Mike C.

                  I really dislike it when folks do this. I can’t do anything to change what the department as a whole does or even what other departments do so what are you expecting?

                2. Florida

                  Yes gold digger. I always heard that the things that get rewarded get done. Sometimes we inadvertently reward the wrong things. Sometimes we even tell people to do one thing, then reward them for doing the opposite. (For example, tell them that dept wide metrics matter the most, but reward individual metrics)

              3. Specialk9

                Gold digger, that’s an incredible real world example. It’s like a diamond – boom, yeah of course, makes perfect sense!

                Reply
    5. Wednesday Mouse (OP #2)

      ” you end up rewarding luck and circumstance over effectivity.”

      Yes, this is exactly how it felt. Had the competition closed a day or two earlier, it could very well have been Bran who won and the other three lose out, or any other combination of winners/losers.. it just seemed arbritary that at the specific cut off, those were the results.

      FWIW, the competition was hastily concieved and implemented, and there was no history of any sort of incentive contests like this. It was all meant to be a bit of fun in the run up to Christmas. By-and-large it was exactly that; I think it just got to me as if I’d have been in Bran’s shoes I’d have been incredibly disheartened.

      Reply
    6. Grumpy Mouse (OP #2)

      ” you end up rewarding luck and circumstance over effectivity.”

      Yes, this is exactly how it felt. Had the competition closed a day or two earlier, it could very well have been Bran who won and the other three lose out, or any other combination of winners/losers.. it just seemed arbritary that at the specific cut off, those were the results.

      FWIW, the competition was hastily concieved and implemented, and there was no history of any sort of incentive contests like this. It was all meant to be a bit of fun in the run up to Christmas. By-and-large it was exactly that; I think it just got to me as if I’d have been in Bran’s shoes (and knowing how hard he worked) I’d have been incredibly disheartened.

      Reply
      1. The Cosmic Avenger

        You also are rewarding results rather than quality, which can lead to things like fast-talking people who don’t need appointments into booking them, or even outright cheating. I don’t know your process, but what should be rewarded is good, thorough service, and satisfied customers. In other industries I’ve been in, it would be the completeness of paperwork, not the number of [things] filed. You get the idea. But all that is assuming that competitions are a good idea, and that is not a given; they need to be handled so that everyone knows that their regular efforts are appreciated, but this is a special recognition for the person who does the best job for a short amount of time.

        Mostly I came here to say that since Bran was short by one, Ned should have given him the same box of chocolates….but eaten one out of it first. :D

        Reply
        1. Jesca

          Exactly. This is what caused the whole Wells Fargo issue. Friends worked there during this time, so I knew a lot about the culture long before their internal investigation become national news. People were not rewarded for quality at all, so the culture eventually turned toxic as even managers were scored on their employees numbers. It was pretty obvious that the top was not paying attention and the lower level regional managers were creating and carrying over to other districts highly unethical and illegal practices in order to receive bonuses. It didn’t help as well that most people were paid lowly and had to rely on the excessive amount their bonus paid them (10 to 20% of their total annual income!) But, that is a whole other issue.

          Above I mention the gnome thing. Because it is creating competition and rewarding the individual efforts (qualitative) actions of others. It also is allowing the company to set “competition” standards on hard target numbers that anyone can reach if luck and circumstance and skill combine in the right way.

          Watching that fallout go down second hand through friends was very interesting. All of their incentives changed.

          Reply
        2. Xarcady

          At my retail job, you are rewarded for every store credit card you open. Mostly with store coupons, but if you open enough cards in a set period of time, there are small cash rewards.

          Some people want those $5 enough that they will lie to the customers who say they don’t want a credit card and have them fill out the info thinking they are just taking a “survey.” (Here’s hoping none of those customers is applying for a mortgage any time soon.) Other salespeople have perfected the knack of spotting when someone is about to open a credit card, creating an “emergency” on the other side of the floor only that salesperson can handle, promising to ring up the sale and open the credit under the other salesperson’s number, and then stealing both credit and sale. (Total sales are a huge part of the annual review.)

          It’s a bit disheartening for those who play by the rules. Management knows, because people call the store complaining that they never agreed to open a card, and “counsels” them, but doesn’t really do anything to stop it.

          Reply
          1. Chalupa Batman

            One of the big reasons I decided I couldn’t make a career in retail at an otherwise very good employer was the focus on getting as many “credits” as possible. I lost a lot of contests and got dinged in a performance review because I couldn’t ethically bring myself to schmooze people into opening high interest store cards. The behavior of those who could wasn’t as outright unethical as what you saw, but more than once I had to power through a long line while another cashier tried to harangue a reluctant customer into opening a credit card. It didn’t matter that I helped 5 customers to their 1, only that they scored a credit. I like to think my acceptance of their “no” and quick service made the store more money in the long term than what that person spent (and paid) on their new credit card.

            Reply
          2. nutella fitzgerald

            Recently, I was waiting in a line for the cash register at a big box store. There was one customer ahead of me, and she was signing up for a credit card. A front-end manager bounded over and started cheering about how this cashier was on a hot streak of 4 cards opened in a row, and it actually made me feel really bad that I would definitely not be signing up for one! Not bad enough to open a credit card, but still.

            Reply
            1. Turquoise Cow

              I worked retail for a long time, and while we were never made to sign up people for credit, we did have a number of other questions we were supposed to ask, like “did you find everything you were looking for,” and then we were supposed to help them find whatever it was if they were unable. Usually, they couldn’t find it because we didn’t carry it, or it was out of stock. And when we followed procedure to ask a manager or whoever to find the item for them, it took up more and more and more time, and usually they just wanted to leave the store at that point, not wait 5 or ten minutes for a manager to go and look and then come back and confirm that, yeah, we were out of stock.

              I personally don’t care if a cashier asks me how I am and starts a friendly conversation, I want to get in and out as quickly as possible. We had one super friendly cashier who was also slow as anything – her line was usually the longest, but some people preferred that. I feel like the people who don’t want to wait in long lines and want to get in and out quickly are kind of not being prioritized by management these days.

              Reply
              1. Kelly L.

                Yeah–I feel bad moving toward more online purchasing, because I know it harms people and businesses, but the internet doesn’t (usually) badger me for 10 minutes before it will let me check out.

                Reply
                1. Jesca

                  Well yes it harms those trained workers, but then also opens of new types of work in the area (warehouses). I know a lot of cashiers in my area have moved into warehousing. It is just like them pulling your merchandise for you and then bagging it up. It actually pays a lot more as well. But at the same time, there aren’t as many jobs to give to everyone. But it might actually balance out as some stores will always be around. Who knows. My point is, those friends who left years of retail and went into warehousing are in all feeling like they know have a better quality of life, so don’t feel TOO horrible.

                  But to stay on topic, I hate store practices that hold up check out lines. Like holy crap if I wanted that, i would have asked long before I got here. And who are these people who are making sudden decisions to open up credit cards right at the check out anyway? And why in the hell are they rewarding the cashiers for holding up lines? AND why would you just want any old cashier handling something as sensitive as SS# information?

              2. Tasha

                My husband’s rule, which is a good one, is that when the cashier asks if you found everything, you must reply YES regardless of if you did or not. If I hesitate or hedge by saying well, I guess so, they feel compelled to hold up the line–or they really can’t help someone who says no I didn’t.

                Reply
              3. Rusty Shackelford

                I always get asked “did you find everything you were looking for” when I check out at Walmart, and I always answer yes, even though the answer is often no, just because I don’t want to go through all that. (Or have them say “oh, sorry” and not do anything about it, which is just as bad.)

                Reply
            2. Kelly L.

              Oh, wow, that would be so off-putting to me as a customer! It comes off as gloating that they’ve gotten one over on the customers, like Ursula singing “the boss is on a rollllll!!!” right in front of Ariel.

              Reply
          3. RJGM

            Yes, my retail job did something similar too — the top people didn’t always get prizes, but there were a lot of passive-aggressive “oh, card sign-ups were really low last week” talks before each shift. It’s hard to get people to sign up for credit cards anyway, but it’s way easier at the register than on the floor; I was always one of the lowest performers in this particular area because my department didn’t have a cash register. (As far as I know, lying and stealing weren’t common, but some of us were still at a serious disadvantage week after week.)

            Reply
        3. Kelly L.

          Yep, when I briefly telemarketed (technically, “telefundraised”), the people with the best numbers were the ones who weren’t being strictly honest about what the customer’s money was going toward.

          Reply
        1. Jesca

          Well I don’t think that is actually her question. She is saying how she would have felt putting herself in Bran’s situation. It is not really about Bran’s feelings at all. It is more about the OP saying, “Hey, I watched this happen, and it seemed off to me. I think I would have been upset in this situation. What do you think.”

          Reply
          1. Roscoe

            But her word didn’t seem like Bran was distressed. Nothing about it said he was. And I think its important to treat individuals as individuals. Feeling bad for someone isn’t always necessary. Bran could’ve been just fine with how things turned out. So the OP feeling bad for Bran is kind of unnecssary. Now its a valid discussion to have about how others would feel. But that doesn’t mean that this was a slight to Bran at all. As I wrote below, if I were in Bran’s position, I would feel more patronized to get a consolation prize than I would have just losing.

            Reply
          2. Jesmlet

            The letter writer said nothing about Bran feeling distressed. In fact, what they said was “I think it just got to me as if I’d have been in Bran’s shoes (and knowing how hard he worked) I’d have been incredibly disheartened.”

            Reply
            1. Kelly L.

              Yes, this.

              I think we have to remember that it’s entirely possible for someone to write in to AAM without anyone being devastatingly upset! :) Sometimes a thing happens, and nobody’s upset, but it gets the wheels going in someone’s mind and they wonder, “can this thing be done better, and if so, how?”

              Reply
    7. Purplesaurus

      Personally I hate the idea of competition like this in the workplace at all, but especially in situations where individual efficiency is contingent on so many other moving parts.

      Reply
      1. Engineer Girl

        Retail apocalypse is happening most in the rust belt. I grew up there and it’s sad to see entires Malls empty with maybe only 4-6 stores left.

        Reply
    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      Lots of places! At the regional level, many parts of the country are hurting (see, e.g., Appalachia). This can also be affected by your specific industry—the local economy may be stable, but a specific sector in that locality may be experiencing job loss.

      Reply
      1. Manders

        A lot of new media companies and newspapers with a lot of online readership look like they’re doing well from the outside, but their revenue from ads is dropping and they’re making hard choices about staffing. I can see this happening in a company like that, where people work long hours and start treating their coworkers as friends and potential dates.

        Reply
      1. Caledonia

        That goes for Scotland too re: oil. Well, specific region of it.

        Also, anywhere with traditional industry – mining etc.

        Reply
    2. Temperance

      I’m from northeastern PA, and the rural parts of my state have been suffering for years. If you have an education, you can’t get a good job there to use your degree unless you’re a nurse or teacher, and all of the “good” fracking jobs went to Texans brought up by the oil companies.

      Reply
      1. Anansi

        I’m from northeastern PA as well, and my mother was actually complaining to me just yesterday about my brother and me moving so far away from home (6-7 hours by car, which in my family considered far). I pointed out that there are literally no jobs there in our fields. My brother is in engineering and I’m in research, and we both had to move to cities out of state to find jobs. The rest of my siblings went into nursing so my family doesn’t seem to realize how badly the economy has been for those of us not in that field.

        Reply
    3. Lora

      Tornado Alley. Someone mentioned Appalachia. Most rural areas tbh. Kansas has been in notoriously rough shape due to years of unfortunate budget choices which did not yield the jobs promised/predicted.

      Reply
    4. Mike C.

      Wages also haven’t risen as expected with the decline in unemployment rate. Things aren’t 2008 bad, but there are serious lingering issues.

      Reply
      1. Elizabeth West

        This—where I live, there are a lot of jobs but they’re still near pre-recession pay, for the most part. When I bought my house in 2002, I was only making $8.40 an hour. I cannot make ends meet on that now. My mortgage payment has not gone up, but everything else has.

        Reply
    5. This Daydreamer

      I think Texas and Florida just joined the club. How about the parts of New York and New Jersey that were hit by Sandy? I bet there are still some lingering economic issues there. And Kansas is a real mess.

      Reply
  4. Ramona Flowers

    #3 No. I’m going to disagree with Alison and say you shouldn’t send anything that wasn’t in the brief. Why? Because this isn’t just a test to see if you can write in X and Y way. It’s a test to see if you can follow a brief. It will be your job to write to specifications and supply what’s agreed with clients. Including anything you weren’t asked for is a real risk to your candidacy. If they wanted a sample of this kind of blog post, they’d ask for one. Just follow the instructions and stop there!

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I tend to agree personally, but I’ve heard so many managers over the years sound impressed by candidates doing extra that I can’t give an across-the-board no. It’s a judgment call.

      Reply
      1. Ramona Flowers

        Were they for copywriting jobs, though, or jobs that specifically involved meeting client briefs? Genuinely curious, because I know quite a few people (albeit outside the US) who would see this as a gigantic red flag.

        Reply
          1. Ramona Flowers

            I’d say when client briefs are involved you really need to stick to what’s asked. That is an important behaviour in itself.

            Reply
        1. Barefoot Librarian

          I agree with this. There is *some* chance that they will be impressed, but I don’t think that outweighs the potential risk of them perceiving you as someone who can’t follow basic directions. I wouldn’t do it.

          Reply
      2. #3 Candidate

        Hi Alison! Thank you so much for replying to my question. I’m still unsure about this. Maybe what will be the deciding factor is that time is limited and perhaps it’s unwise to add extras when I could rather be focusing on the required tasks.

        Reply
        1. Antilles

          The latter is a really key point:
          Even if the manager is someone who’d appreciate the extra materials, they’re still going to judge you first and foremost on what they *actually asked for*. So you should only be spending time on extras if you’ve already completed the required tasks as best you can.

          Reply
      3. Rusty Shackelford

        If the LW hadn’t already sent samples, and wanted to provide an example of creative writing while still sticking to the letter of the request, would it be appropriate to simply mention her blog? “Attached are the writing samples requested. For an example of my more X style of writing, you may also visit my blog at {link}.”

        Reply
    2. #3 Candidate

      Hi Ramona. I am the candidate who asked question #3. Thanks for your input. Yeah, unfortunately it’s hard to tell how the hiring managers will react… When I applied they also asked for writing samples and I suppose it’s obvious from those that I can write copy that is more creative.

      Reply
        1. #3 Candidate

          Ah! Okay, that settles it, then! Totally forgot to mention that in my original email. Great, one less thing to worry about.

          Reply
      1. Ramona Flowers

        Definitely don’t send more then. Also, the danger there is that you may end up suggesting you don’t want to do the more routine stuff and are overly focused on a x kind of work and not Y. That could backfire. Good luck with your application!

        Reply
        1. Falling Diphthong

          Yes, if they already have more creative writing samples, then this risks looking like in your head you’re applying for a different job. (Also what Alison said about dinging you if it’s not exactly what they’re looking for–even if you could produce great blog posts with some feedback and coaching, which is what the idea of writing to a brief is measuring.)

          Reply
          1. Former Copywriter

            Exactly. To add to this, my previous role was senior copywriter at an agency, and we were looking to hire a junior copywriter. One of the candidates who applied provided a writing sample that went well beyond what was outlined in the brief. We had asked for email and social post examples, and she provided a comprehensive campaign plan — strategy, positioning statement, the works. Rather than making us think she was a broad-thinking go-getter, it just seemed like an overreach, particularly considering that the role was advertised as junior level and heavily focused on nuts-and-bolts writing.

            Reply
      1. fposte

        Job applications are already tests to see if applicants can follow directions, though. Specific hidden tests are really a lot less common than people apparently suspect.

        Reply
    3. alanna

      I just sent out writing tests as part of a hiring process in a related career field, and including an extra piece that’s more complex than the assignment given, rather than just trying to go above and beyond on really delivering what was asked for, would be a red flag for me. Probably not enough to knock you out of the process, especially if the basic tasks were quite good, but enough to raise an eyebrow.

      Here’s why: The reason we ask for the less creative, run of the mill work is because it IS what you spend the majority of your time doing, and we want someone who will devote themselves to doing that work as well as possible. Everyone wants to do the big creative stuff, but some roles are really about the run-of-the-mill, day-to-day writing, and in those roles we need someone willing and able. Of course everyone is happy to get the opportunities for the bigger work as they arrive. But showing a clear preference for that kind of work this early doesn’t show you’re a go-getter; it suggests you might not be a great fit for the role. (The best way to get that kind of work, if you’re working with me, is to do the little stuff consistently, excellently, and without too much eye-rolling!)

      Reply
      1. alanna

        Also, part of the reason we send out a writing test is to make sure that people understand what the job really is and what they’re really going to be doing day to day. Some people see it and decide they don’t want the job after all, and that is working as intended! If you don’t want to do the test, you don’t want to do the job, likely as not.

        Reply
  5. Ramona Flowers

    #5 Are you by any chance finding these on Indeed? I’ve found that often pulls in older adverts. I’d do two things: look to see if there’s a closing date, and look to see if you can find any other jobs advertised by the same employer and if so what kind of timescales they seem to have.

    Reply
    1. Five after Midnight

      Not just Indeed. I’ve been searching for a while and often see jobs that were posted, removed, and then reposted a few (anywhere from 1 to 4) weeks later at the same job site by another aggregator engine. Alison is spot on with the advice, but in cases were the company in question does not have a career section on their website or does not answer the phone, I would suggest sleuthing a bit on the internet and cross checking the posting with other sites. Generally, if it’s only on one and not any others, it’s old. I’m looking at for-profit $500m+ revenue companies, though, so YMMV.

      Reply
      1. MJH

        We just interviewed 5 people for two roles and ended up only for hiring one because the others either didn’t seem to actually want to do what the job is OR interviewed really oddly or both. And we’re not even picky! So our job is being reposted AGAIN.

        Reply
        1. Elizabeth West

          I keep seeing the same jobs I saw in 2012 posted over and over–they’re crappy entry-level jobs with high turnover and low pay. I can literally match them to jobs I applied for back then and didn’t get. Same company and everything.

          Reply
    2. Lora

      Current employer is notorious for searching out purple squirrels and will only give up after YEARS. Even for critical positions. It’s maddening. It took four months for them to agree to hire for entry level jobs because they insisted on people who weren’t even going to be working with the person, who had never even DONE hiring in their whole lives, agreeing to the experienced hiring manager’s choice.

      Reply
      1. NotAnotherManager!

        We have purple squirrel jobs that we will leave posted for long periods of time because we’ll hire them whether or not we technically have an open position if the skills are that rare and on point. I have two purple squirrels that we got this way, both amazing. I will not NOT fill a position waiting for one, though. That’s what training is for.

        I’m almost certain that I have shared here that I was trying to hire an entry-level person once, and the combined “requirements” of the hiring team amounted to someone with a 3.75+ GPA from an Ivy League school or Stanford, preferably in business or economics, that also played an NCAA sport (showed time management abilities!) and had substantial volunteer time. This ridiculousness drove the not-crazy people on the team (and my HR recruiter who was mediating) insane, and thankfully, they prevailed. We hired a political science major from a solid school with a 3.3 and a well-rounded set of extracurriculars, though no sports. It didn’t hurt that he was personable, hard-working, and relentlessly positive. Even the academic snobs came around by the time evaluation time rolled up. He remains one of the most highly regarded people I’ve ever hired (and, FYI, my no-competition worst was a 3.85 Ivy League grad).

        Reply
  6. nnn

    Building on Alison’s last paragraph in her answer to #1, is there someone else in your organization in a similar position with managerial ambitions who might appreciate the experience of supervising an intern? If so, your messaging could be “Jane would really benefit from supervising the next intern as a developmental role”, as opposed to simply “I don’t want to do it because it’s too much work.”

    Reply
  7. PumpkinSpiceForever

    #5: one data point here, but: my most recent gig involved a job listing that had been online for 8+ months when I applied. Turned out that they’d not found the right person, and then I became that right person. :)

    Reply
    1. Ceiswyn

      Make that two data points; my last employer had been looking for a year. (And after interviewing me the hiring manager cancelled the other interviews he had lined up and started negotiating with his boss to increase the maximum salary offered. And six months later gave me a pay rise. Clearly I am not still smug about this.)

      And then when I started looking for my replacement (I’m off to do a Masters), it took three months to find someone even halfway plausible, and if we hadn’t desperately needed a warm body in the chair we’d still be looking. (Err, they. I mean they. I keep forgetting I don’t work for them anymore.)

      Some roles are just hard to fill.

      Reply
    2. Kelly L.

      I also once got a job from an expired posting. It was kind of a mess of a job in the end, but it did work out for me, at least temporarily.

      Reply
    3. PumpkinSpiceForever

      Thanks, all! I actually just accepted the job offer last week. When offered the position, I expressed my amazement at how long the job had been open to the HR rep, and he told me that I’d be surprised how difficult it’d been to fill. Living proof of the “apply anyway because you never know” advice. ;)

      Reply
  8. MommyMD

    The very big company where I’m employed has nothing against personal relationships on any level as long as they are disclosed. While her situation is not ideal, it may not be as dire as all that.

    Reply
    1. neverjaunty

      It is, in fact, as dire as all that. At least in the US, quid pro quo sexual harassment doesn’t go away because “but we disclosed it!”

      Reply
      1. AndersonDarling

        Yep, we had a high level manager who dated his admin. They were not discrete and they were both asked to find new jobs in a month. The relationship continued for a while but then ended very badly. The manager dumped the admin. The company was bracing for a sexual harassment lawsuit. Even if it is completely consensual at the time, when things turn sour the perspectives change.

        Reply
        1. Alli525

          It’s true that they, as a couple, were not discrete, but I think you meant discreet ;)
          SORRY! I couldn’t help the pun.

          And this is why management training should be much more common, and dedicate a HUGE portion of it to sexual harassment training. So many things don’t look like sexual harassment on face value, but peel away a layer or two and you’re like “holy god that is DEFINITELY harassment, I can’t believe I’d never looked at it like that before.”

          Reply
      2. PersephoneUnderground

        Yep, this is a huge deal, 100% consensual or not. The CEO of Lockheed Martin was fired in the past year or two (or was denied the planned promotion to CEO then fired? I don’t want to look it up, but anyway) for EXACTLY this. He was in a relationship with a subordinate. No indication she had any problem with it, but that is beside the point- the power dynamics are seriously screwed up and it makes the whole company look bad. I personally give them kudos for firing him- shows they’re deadly serious about professional ethics, especially sexual harassment issues. (Especially important in their field of IT given its reputation for excluding women.)

        Weird how many people are coming up with completely or significantly different scenarios to defend dating at work. That’s not the issue. The issue is the boss sleeping with his secretary (or other direct subordinate) – classic bad power dynamics, leads nowhere good. Sorry to unvarnish it since OP is in love and everything, but it makes you both look pretty bad. Not a pre-existing relationship, not one of former equals who make sure there isn’t a problem when one is promoted, this is the classic BIG DEAL sleeping with your direct report/your boss territory.

        Reply
    2. SchoolStarts!

      I worked at a place where there were several romantic relationships on the go, and several were between a boss and his direct report or his secretary. They were generally seen as poorly kept secrets.

      I know it happens – you see Person A five days a week, seven to eight hours a day, etc. But it’s not ideal.

      Unless the direct report changes department, there will always – always! – be a suspicion of favour between the lovers. One director secretly then openly was dating one of his four project managers, P. Director had scheduled reviews with all of the managers and manager M had to reschedule hers four times because each time she arrived to his office for their review, P was there…and she wasn’t leaving either to respect the schedule. She had his ear first each and every time.

      I wish you both luck.

      Reply
      1. FiveWheels

        I don’t know that there’s ALWAYS that suspicion. In the few boss/employee workplaces I’ve seen it’s the opposite – the parties go out of their way to be clear there is no favoritism, to the extent of other members of the team getting better assignments etc. That’s a whole other can of worms of course.

        Reply
        1. Shop Girl

          True I supervised my daughter for a time and she always complained that I treated everyone else better. As in Susie next her needed to go home sick and I would be “Oh sure feel better” My daughter needed to go home sick and I would be “suck it up”.

          Reply
        2. Lil Fidget

          Sure, but that’s setting up exactly the kind of sexual harassment claims discussed above – the girlfriend being treated worse than other employees at the same level is still a big problem, especially if he dumps her someday.

          Reply
        3. Lil Fidget

          That’s just as big of a problem, for the discrimination reasons discussed above. If she’d being treated worse, compared to other people at her level, just because of their relationship, it’s a problem. She’d have a case later if, for example, he dumps her. She’ll wake up and realize her career was ruined.

          Reply
          1. FiveWheels

            Yes, like I said, it opens a whole different can of worms.

            Any of these situations are very much not ideal but in my industry, which is incredibly conservative and close knit (and therefore everyone knows everything about everyone) it doesn’t seem to be damaging. And there are a lot of people who prioritise a serious romantic relationship over their career.

            Things may be different in the USA, but here, a boss and subordinate being involved in a romantic relationship would not if itself be evidence of sexual harassment.

            Reply
            1. Observer

              Here, it isn’t either. But it’s a huge risk.

              Also, it can create the liability that someone ELSE says “I was discriminated against because i was a woman that my boss liked better than his sweetie”. They might not win, but it could get quite problematic.

              Reply
    3. cncx

      in my company it would be the non-disclosure that would make higher-ups mad, as well. this should have been mentioned at least when they moved in together.

      Reply
    4. Mike C.

      Just because they don’t have a policy against something doesn’t mean that it isn’t bad.

      If you’re on a team, and your coworker is sleeping with your boss, do you really expect to be treated fairly?

      Reply
      1. anon for this

        This happened on a team I was on. Boss wanted to be “special friends” with me, I said no, so he “special friended” another teammate, who was all in favor of it. (Worth mentioning that all three of us were married with kids at the time.) Next I know, Boss pulls me into his office and tells me that New Special Friend would be taking over a project I was working on, “because you’ve had your exposure to new technologies and now she needs some too, otherwise it’s not fair”. The optics were not good. It looked literally like you had to sleep with the manager to get quality work assigned to you, and if you didn’t, you were SOL. I threatened to start looking if he’d follow through with it, and he changed his mind (probably realizing how this would look to everyone). Of course now (20 years later), I’m wondering how he gave that juicy assignment to me in the first place. Was it supposed to be in exchange for something? That’s the kind of thing everyone on the team will always be wondering about if the boss is sleeping with a coworker.

        Reply
    5. Observer

      Well, they didn’t disclose, so there is that.

      Beyond that, given that the OP is living with a manager, I suspect that they didn’t disclose because at least the manager knows what the policy is – and the policy is that YOU DO NOT DO THIS.

      Reply
  9. Rosie

    Re #1, you can also point out that this is most likely difficult on the intern too. I am currently an intern with very busy / stressed supervisors who haven’t been given time in their schedules to manage me. I don’t want to make their lives difficult but there’s lots of things I can’t do without their help that I’m supposed to do. At worst you might end up with an intern ‘taking initiave’ and doing something to damage the company.

    Reply
  10. Steve

    I managed an intern a couple years ago. It was a lot of work but our employer recognized that and I (more or less) wasn’t expected to get as much regular work done. If they do insist, you can approach it using any of Alison’s “assigned more work than I can complete” advice. They assigned the next intern to my teammate. This year they asked me and my teammate if we wanted to mentor another intern and we both said no, so we just didn’t have an intern.

    Reply
  11. Oilpress

    If I managed an employee who was dating and living with their own subordinate, I would fire them. I don’t want anyone with crappy judgment working with us, nor do I want them managing other people. My first thought, however, was for the other people on the team whose boss was dating their teammate. That’s just so unfair to them.

    Reply
    1. Shadow

      That’s not as easy as it sounds. In some places if there is no policy violation they won’t fire. Or what if others have done it without being fired? Just saying as a manager you can’t just decide in a vacuum what the correct course of action is.

      Reply
      1. JB (not in Houston)

        Sure, we could make up all kinds of hypothetical facts that, if they existed, would lead Oilpress as a manager to not fire them. But I think we can trust Oilpress to know what they would do based on the facts that were disclosed. And based on those facts, I’d probably fire them, too.

        Oilpress didn’t say “this is what the OP’s managers will do.” They said “this is what I would do if I were their manager.”

        Reply
        1. Lil Fidget

          Also you can’t have rules about everything! Good managers also don’t pick just one employee to take on vacation, or to rent their home to, or to set up with their daughter – and those things are probably not prohibited in a rule book somewhere.

          Reply
  12. Close Bracket

    On boss-direct report romance:
    A former employer hired an established couple with the same specialty as group leader and group member. The group member got her assignments from her group leader but got her reviews from her grand boss.
    Any thoughts on this kind of arrangement?

    Reply
    1. PollyQ

      Still seems iffy to me. I can see a situation where the kind of assignments given to an employee would greatly affect success, or at least perception of success, on the job. I could also see other employees grumbling about perceived unfairness even if there wasn’t any.

      Reply
      1. Snowglobe

        Agreed. Also, how is grand-boss going to write the performance review? Likely will need to get feedback from the direct supervisor who sees her work on a daily basis.

        Reply
    2. Kiwi

      Seems iffy to me too. I suspect group member will do better at her job because of greater access to Leader, and that by itself could be unfair.

      Reply
    3. AcademiaNut

      Iffy because there is still room for judgement – the leader could hand out better assignments to their spouse (or be seen to be doing so).

      Reply
    4. MK

      Why would the employer intentionally put themselves in this position? It might turn out ok, and I actually think an established couple coming at the same time to work on a team has less potential for drama: the relationship is already settled, so no awkward courtship phase enacted in front of the whole office, and everyone knows the score upfront. But it still has the potential for problems down the line.

      The only way I can understand it is if there is some other consideration for this choise. E.g., my organization has strict rules against couples and relatives working together, but there also many geographically undesirable locations that people often transfer in and out of; ocassionally, couples choose to ask for a joint transfer to such a location, with the understanding that they will remain there for several years. It usually works out fine, because they are aware that they need to be very careful about their work behavior.

      Reply
      1. TL -

        it doesn’t need to be down the line. It can cause problems right then and there – who are the coworkers going to go to if they have a problem with the wife? It certainly is going to take a lot to get them to escalate to grandboss, so that is going to cause tension. And they’re not going to be able to vent about boss at all in front of her, so that’s also going to cause tension.
        I worked for a husband and wife that had a similar structure going on. And while, yes, they were absolutely professional with each other all the time – I wouldn’t have know they were married by how they treated each other – it caused huge problems within the department.

        Reply
      2. Close Bracket

        Employer *really* wanted the person who they hired as group leader. I believe they made the offer to the other person as part of convincing GL to take the position. I’ve seen this happen in academia w faculty positions, but never outside academia either before or after

        Reply
    5. Wander

      I watched a similar situation go down a while back (group member dating group leader with grand boss giving official reviews), and it went poorly. Everyone else had less access to the leader and required resources. Meanwhile, the grand boss was pretty disengaged from day to day operations and got all reports about the group member from the group leader, who had a pretty serious case of blinders on. Eventually things got shuffled around so that neither was supervising the other, but even the aftermath was messy (the group member, who had been receiving reviews full of gushing praise up until that point, suddenly started getting more realistic reviews. It didn’t go over well).

      Admittedly, I think they were bad at being professional, but why invite that kind of drama if you don’t need to? There’s reasons dating in lines of report is generally frowned upon, and hiring them in those positions to begin with doesn’t alleviate it.

      Reply
    6. Doreen

      There was a couple with almost the exact same arrangement at my job , although they weren’t hired at the same time. He was the director of training and she was promoted from another job into a supervisory position in the training unit. She allegedly did not report to her husband but to his boss ( ironically the Director of Human Resources). Nobody believed for one minute that she got her promotion for any reason other than who she was married to, and neither did anyone believe that anyone other than her husband gave her supervised her in any way, no matter whose name might have been signed on the performance reviews. It also did not go unnoticed that her peers were often sent around the state to conduct training at locations where they could not keep to their normal schedule ( multiple overnights, leaving early in the morning or returning home late at night etc) while her work was restricted to the city where her office was located. Just one example of my employer’s dysfunction with married couples – and it wasn’t even the worst.

      Reply
  13. Cherith Ponsonby

    I can tell you how my current workplace would handle a competition where most of the team were winners: the three would have had to do something like rock-paper-scissors to determine a single Most Winner, who would get all the chocolates while everyone else had to clap politely and swallow their disappointment. (I think it’s intended to motivate us all to try harder, and I’m sure it works that way for some people, but it’s just made me resolve not to try at all.)

    We had an internal team contest last year which involved five entrants out of a team of ~25 making a work-related presentation (I’m fudging some details to avoid being identified). The voting criteria weren’t announced until after all of the presentations, and because of the nature of my job compared to everyone else’s, it was virtually impossible for me to win. The team leader called a special meeting to announce the results: the winner got a gift voucher on the order of $500, three other people got specific shout-outs, and I didn’t get a word of feedback, then or after the meeting. And I hadn’t even finished in last place!

    I tend to go with “reward the behaviour you want to encourage”. If Bran had slacked off, that would be one thing, but if he tried just as hard as the others and fell short by the smallest possible (and possibly statistically insignificant) margin, he deserves at least an attaboy for his effort (I would have given him the chocolates but not the gift card, but even a shout-out would be better than nothing at all). Alternatively, the manager could set up the competition so that people were rewarded for meeting specific goals (10 signups gets you a Freddo frog, 20 signups gets you a nice box of truffles, etc) rather than for beating each other. In my presentation example, the goal wasn’t to find the best presenter but to encourage us all to have a go; the company could have given a $25 giftcard to everyone who participated and still had $400 for the winner.

    Reply
    1. Cherith Ponsonby

      And because it’s knock-off time here and I’m tired, it occurs to me that #2 is somewhat analogous to the 50% rule: either less than 50% of the team is a winner, or all of the team is a winner.

      Reply
    2. Engineer Girl

      Announcing the voting criteria after the presentations is flat out wrong. It could so easily rig the competition. Moving goalposts and all that.

      Reply
  14. SusanIvanova

    Is it possible for mentoring the intern to be a group effort? The way we’ve done it, there’s been one main contact person for the basic “here’s your office, here are the other team members” administrivia and answers in their area, but we expected that person would hand off questions to whichever of the rest of us was best equipped to answer it. The interns worked with several engineers depending on what project they ended up on, and we’d never have someone go to a meeting just because the intern was there; they’d go with the engineers that worked on it.

    Reply
  15. Recruit-o-rama

    Many external job sites pull job listings from company sites with notifying or asking the employer. They also do a poor job of monitoring the company website to see if the listing is still open. I frequently get calls on job listings long since closed from candidates who found it god know where on the internets.

    On the other hand, a listing posted in June could be legit for a million different reasons. I would try to company website or calling into the main number to see if you can get a yes/no on whether it’s still available. If you do happen to get someone on the phone, stick to the “is it still open” question and try to resist asking much more about it.

    Good luck!

    Reply
  16. CoffeeLover

    #1 Okay, so I think this is coming from personal experience on my part, but I’m kind of surprised by how much time the intern is taking. When I interned (at 2 places), I worked fairly independently on a lot of stuff. I was basically like any other employee. I had regular checkins with the bosses and went to them for help as needed, but that was after trying to figure things out myself. I had many meeting with others by myself unless it was “high profile” or it made sense for my boss to be there. Of course, I’m sure this all depends on the maturity of the intern and the nature of the role.

    Something Allison didn’t really mention is restructuring the intern’s role. Since this is a new internships, it makes sense it would evolve over time. If you find the interns aren’t capable of handling certain tasks with the level of autonomy that you need them to, then I don’t see why you can’t go to your boss and say that you’d like to take that off their plate in lieu of something else. Look at the role and ask yourself, does it make sense for the intern to do certain tasks? Can you have the intern work on things that require less of your time? If you really need to be in all the meetings with the intern, can you cut back on the amount of meetings they need to have? I think it’s important to still give the intern a meaningful work experience, but you don’t need to kill yourself in the process.

    I also think it makes sense to encourage interns to problem solve and be more independent as much as makes sense, which benefits them and you at the same time.

    Reply
  17. SchoolStarts!

    Re: older job postings. How they reply when you check if the job is still available could give information as to whether or not you want to work there.

    I found a job posting on the company’s website, it looked interesting, but it was several months old. I called to ask about it, was told it was filled so I told them, oh, thanks, but it’s still on your website. Their reply: “That’s not my job to remove it from the site; that’s IT’s problem.”

    I felt a better response would have been “Oh! I’ll make sure that gets removed right away.” or “I’ll look into that.”
    I didn’t need to know it wasn’t her job specifically. Imagine if you went to HR with an issue and their reply was “That’s not my job/problem…”

    Reply
  18. Longtime Lurker

    Since everyone loves clueless intern stories:

    My husband used to work at a company that offered a full-year paid internship to a recent grad. It was a high-profile company and so they got tons of applicants. Most of the interns they hired were very strong.

    Until Joffrey.

    Joffrey didn’t come through the usual route. Instead, it was because his father was a huge deal in the industry (if not a household name to everyone, than to anyone who has ever worked in this particular field). His father called the CEO to get his son this plum job.

    Joffrey was just as much of an entitled brat as you might expect, and treated the work as completely beneath him. But one story really stands out.

    A few months into the internship, Joffrey called a meeting with his bosses. He told them that he wanted a raise. Of 50% over his current salary! The reason? His wealthy parents were buying him an apartment in a swanky Manhattan coop building and even though they were paying cash, the coop board had a minimum income requirement and he did not qualify. Hence, he needed a raise, ASAP.

    Reply
      1. Longtime Lurker

        No — the boss told not only was he not getting a raise but even asking for one that large for that reason was inappropriate and could be taken as a sign of poor judgment. She didn’t start laughing until he was out of the office, my husband says.

        Reply
        1. Observer

          The boss certainly has some strong self control. As for Joffrey…

          Hopefully it was a strong clue that having a hot shot father is only go to take him so far.

          Reply
  19. Roscoe

    #2 I really think this depends on the personalities at play here. I’m a pretty competitive person, so if I were Bran in this case, I wouldn’t want a “consolation” prize, even if I just lost by 1. They won, I lost, end of story. They deserve the accolades, and I would feel like its a bit patronizing to bring up something like “But Bran did great too”.

    However, there are other people , including many I know personally, who would feel like this was a slight to them. And it that case the other prize or acknowledgment would be good for them.

    I would just trust that the manager knows his team and how best to handle that. I think your heart is in the right place, but thats just not something everyone needs

    Reply
  20. Temperance

    LW1: I regularly manage interns, and I’m concerned that your org is doing it wrong in a way that makes the experience unfulfilling for both you and the intern and is frankly a waste of your time.

    I find that in most cases, it’s better to treat them like adults and full staff members with some autonomy. So, for example, if you send them to another team, you don’t have to babysit them at the meetings for that team. I had one intern very part-time this summer, who was working in another department and asked to work with us as well. What I did was clear his availability with his manager on the days he was with me, and then when he was with me, he checked in with them but not about the work I assigned. Could something like that work for you? If she’s attending meetings for another team, you don’t need to be there.

    Reply
  21. Sunshine Brite

    #1 Tell your boss ASAP. The school year is going and if you’re not able to offer internships then the colleges need to know now. I know I’m projecting because of the way social work internships are generally handled in my area. Both years I had to go to the second round; the first because the internship that I accepted only had one potential supervisor (with the appropriate license) which I didn’t know until she went out on leave unexpectedly and the internship was cancelled and the second due to matching. So if you’re the only one to supervise for some reason like that your employer needs to know to get taken off the school lists.

    But in the meantime, your supervisor needs to be more flexible with your current caseload. The point of the internship is to attract talent down the line and that doesn’t happen when your internship supervisor is unavailable, burnt out, and clearly overworked. That’s something people look for when considering/re-considering fields and employers.

    Reply
  22. Oy to the vey

    Dating the boss: Fwiw, your team probably already knows.
    Repercussions: In academia, it’s not unheard of to have a spouse supervise a partner. Usually you just get HR to say okay, and HR does. That’s the procedural response. In reality, it often turns out horribly. Which is your priority: your relationship or your department? Because they will conflict at some point. I’ve seen this play out three times on my campus- that I know of! So it’s probably way more. Joe and Jane are married, and Jane is Joe’s boss. Joe is low man on the departmental totem poll, but because Jane and Joe have personal responsibilities (childcare issues, eldercare issues), Jane gives Joe the best, most flexible schedule and fewest students so that he can take care of things at home. She also fights hard for Joe to get the biggest raise because she can see up close and personal how much he works- and wouldn’t it be nice if they had a little more money to travel? Ugh.

    Reply
    1. Caro in the UK

      I’m amazed Jane has anyone left in the department other than Joe, because that is so unfair to the rest of the team it’s mind boggling.

      Reply
      1. SouthernLadybug

        Acadmic jobs are tight, particularly for tenure track ones. If you have a department of folks with tenure or on that track, it’s really hard for them to move. Even in cities with multiple colleges, it’s not all equivalent or easy to just find a new job. Especially if you can’t uproot your entire family to move across the country.

        Reply
    2. J

      All this is calling to mind that awful story out of Stanford’s business school a couple years ago. Faculty spouses in the middle of a divorce and the husband sues because his wife is sleeping with the dean (their boss) and says the dean pushed him out of his role.

      Reply
  23. Frustrated Optimist

    #5 – I just had a similar situation. It was my first time browsing an organization’s job postings, and I found one that seemed like a good fit….but it had been posted for 2.5 months already.

    I e-mailed HR, and I worded my question carefully: I asked if they were still considering *new* applications.

    HR replied, and said the job would be “posted until filled.” So that could mean from anything from “No, we haven’t found anyone at all in 2.5 months” to “Someone has accepted the job already; they just haven’t started yet.”

    I went ahead and applied – including tailoring my resume and writing a well-crafted cover letter. When you’re job-searching, and particularly if it’s a tight market – sometimes you just have to take a gamble and know that you may or may not be wasting your time.

    Reply
  24. Bea

    This is why I told my boss straight forward that I wanted to hire my partner to work in the other department I oversee. He then conducted the interview. We have had couples before and ownership are spouses. By keeping things so hush hush you bring on suspicions and heavy handed reactions. I hope it doesn’t ruin anyone’s career, this stuff is rarely left out of employee handbooks for a reason.

    Reply
  25. BethRA

    OP 3 – for what it’s worth, if I gave a candidate some test work to evaluate their “ability to do the less creative, run-of-the-mill work [they’d] be doing for the majority of the time,” and they did that, but threw in an unasked-for item highlighting their “higher skills,” it would make me worry how happy they’d be doing those “run-of-the-mill” tasks long-term. It’s great to know someone’s really eager to get the job, but by throwing in that additional piece, you may come off as keen on a different job than the one they’re trying to fill.

    Reply
    1. Lil Fidget

      Agree, I did get the sense (entirely speculative!) that OP might be less interested in the “daily” stuff and really wanted to do the creative work. I don’t know, but it might be telling that the job requested less-creative assignments specifically. If they really want someone who rocks at that type of work, it would almost be a red flag that someone sent in an additional assignment that was on the more creative end – demonstrates where their enthusiasm is, and that may be … not for this job. On the other hand it’s good to be honest if OP really is looking mostly at the creative parts as the bits she’s interested in and is basically willing to do the other stuff to get there. Depends on the needs of the company how it would play out.

      Reply
      1. alanna

        I said this upthread several days late, but I hire for roles like this with a test much like this (it almost made me wonder if it were one of my candidates, although I’m in media, not copywriting) and this is exactly how I would interpret it, for exactly that reason.

        Reply
    2. Kathleen Adams

      That was exactly what I was thinking (and I am an editor). It might be possible to overcome this impression, but I would definitely wonder a bit.

      Reply
    3. Elizabeth West

      I have to agree with this. If you have any experience in the field, you’d probably have a portfolio with the creative samples in it anyway. If there’s a link to it on your resume, they can look further if interested.

      Plus there’s the whole how-well-do-you-follow-directions thing. If you don’t follow them to the letter, some employers will throw your application right out. Same with agencies–when I query, I’m suuuuuuper careful to do exactly what the submission guidelines say, even if it seems weird.

      Reply
      1. designbot

        yeah if it seems super weird I might include a note with the email back to them like “I’d be really interested in hearing about how you’re faring with the X strategy–I’ve always seen it done like Y. Looking forward to talking about it with you further!” That way you get to put in your two cents but leave room for the possibility that they know their business best, and show you can in fact follow directions.

        Reply
    4. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

      Yes! Just recently I was in on a team interview for my grand boss’ new executive assistant in the Public Affairs and Marketing department. During the interview the candidate brought up several times how she loves doing creative work and how great she is at using Publisher (just…no). The thing is, we have 4 graphic designers, one web programmer, and 3 events professionals on staff (she was introduced to us all at the beginning). Not everyone in a “creative” department gets to be creative. We need the EA to help us with budgets & finances, purchasing and materials management, database management, scheduling, booking travel arrangements, communicating with other departments and external clients, assisting during events, etc. The EA will never be doing any invitations or flyers in the Public Affairs and Marketing department. It comes across as naive about the job duties, and an orange flag (I’m thinking Pantone 144) that she might try “taking initiative” in areas that aren’t in her lane.

      Reply
      1. Lil Fidget

        I think this is especially common in creative-adjacent jobs. You get a lot of people who actually want to be authors/artists/musicians but they will apply for something editorial/administrative in the field – and it CAN be great for everyone … OR it can mean they really don’t want to be answering phones or whatever and will do a crappy job. Hard to know when you’re the employer and it may just feel safer to hire someone with a passion for organizing as your secretary instead.

        Reply
      2. Kathleen Adams

        Oh, it totally would with me, too. I’ve worked several times with non-designers who love design (and have always, so far at least, had a much higher estimate of their design skills than is deserved) to such an extent that they will try all kinds of dodges and tricks to create situations in which – surprise! – something needs to be designed and they are the only ones who can get it done! How did that happen?!?

        And you canNOT talk them out of it nicely, either. Either their supervisor turns a blind eye and they end up designing things that they most definitely are not qualified to design, or they get a stern talking to and their feelings are hurt and they walk around with a gigantic chip o’ resentment on their shoulder for the rest of their time here. I’ve seen this with a couple of different admins, one of whom still works here and *still* tries to maneuver herself into design projects, and once or twice with higher ranking folks too. Everyone likes to fancy him/herself a designer.

        So my reaction to someone in a non-design role who talks about how much they enjoy being creative is “No. Just no.”

        Reply
        1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

          Years ago we had a different assistant who went to great lengths to try to wrangle access to the stock photography login. She kept insisting that our photographer had requested it and apparently she would be the one to pass it along. So…our professional photographer needs to download stock photography…why? That was a no — our subscription has 3 users and if someone else needs a stock image we can get it for them.

          Reply
  26. Widgeon

    #4- Nobody is going to believe that your relationship, after 9 years of working together, miraculously happened right after his divorce with no reason (or before, as “it was truly over” would imply he was still married). So, yeah, credibility completely gone on his part as a manager. Perception DOES matter here..

    Reply
  27. Zuppa da Clams

    OP #5, as a former serial dater of bosses (I KNOW, OKAY, YES, BAD) trust me, everyone knows and it is creating resentment on your team. Everyone always thinks they’re different but you’re not. EVERYBODY KNOWS. You should 100% leave your job ASAP. With good effort, you will find something. Don’t make excuses. Job hunting can be hard, but let’s face it-you just don’t want to leave your job or leave him there without you at your job.
    And your boyfriend should also job hunt and leave. Because his credibility at that job is BLOWN. Even if you leave, anyone that works there will never trust him, they will tell other people, and everyone will always think he has the potential to repeat this offense. I don’t care if you think you’re the exception all this. Many people will not understand this. You’re both better off getting out before they kick you out, which they will.

    I’ve been in this situation and I’ve seen this situation many times (it happens in retail, hospitality, restaurant industry quite a bit) and it never ends well, and if it does, there are lots of issues along the way.

    If you’re worried your relationship can’t survive outside work, where one or both of you are working in different places, there’s a good chance it might not. But, appealing to the side of you that clearly cares more about your relationship than your job, you may want to see if your situation can exist beyond you two working and living together.

    Reply
    1. Zuppa da Clams

      I’d also like to throw in, as a some relationship-related advice, you are likely not the first employee he’s been with. I’m not saying he cheats on you, but it’s such a serious lapse in judgment that he’s likely done it some point before or may do it again. Obviously, there are exceptions, but nearly any boss I’ve dated/seen date employees has done it more than once. Just something to keep any eye on.

      Reply
      1. K.

        Yeah, an acquaintance of mine once dated her boss, thought she was special, and found out that he basically dated a different employee every year (it was an industry in which there was a fairly consistent stream of recent college grad hires). She had to leave.

        Reply
        1. Zuppa da Clams

          True Awful Story:
          I recently was in a short-term relationship with someone who came to help the owner of my work with consulting. We dated for about 6 months and then parted ways amicably because he was becoming more involved in the business. A couple weeks later, I had an employee, who was previously very courteous and sweet (not an excellent performer but always meeting standard as per punctuality, hospitality) had a very sudden change in attitude. She began to be disrespectful at work and treating me more like a peer than her manager. She was calling out, coming in late, using her cell phone in front of clients, annoying her coworkers by begging to switch shifts. She was resisting any chats concerning the issue (as in the vein of Allison, “I’ve noticed x, can you tell me how you’re doing, etc.”) I literally was totally bewildered by the change.
          I recommended her for termination and the day we planned to have the meeting, she switched shifts with a coworker. That same day, the higher up and I took the sales team to an impromptu dinner at a restaurant in our building.
          Long story short: I had a 19-year-old employee screaming outside by my car assuming that he and I were having a romantic dinner. She did not realize several coworkers had been there with us. Mystery of her attitude problem solved.
          SO many factors at play-one of which being that the higher up is apparently related to the owner, that the incident happened outside of work, and obviously that my authority with the employee had been compromised. The higher-up was totally unapologetic-he was a serial employee dater at other jobs and usually the girls just quit. He just didn’t understand why the girl couldn’t “just be cool and not bring it to work.” She did end up quitting, which was a relief, because although I was trying to be fair and understanding, the misbehavior was not stopping, she was openly hostile, and I couldn’t discipline her, per the owner. She slashed my tires and I had to file a police report. The higher-up never dealt with ANY of it.
          Do not $h*t where you eat, people.

          Reply
  28. NW Mossy

    I know it’s been mentioned in other dating-at-work letters, but wanted to add it here for the OP – you need to figure out how you’re going to navigate reference checks in your job search. It’s not going to reflect well on you if a new company hires you and later learns that the person who spoke so well of your work skills is also your romantic partner. You may very well need to be very under-wraps about the relationship into a new job as well.

    Reply
  29. J

    OP #1, I sympathize. Also a non-profit employee who has had interns. It’s particularly hard because the organization was trying to adhere to the guideline that an internship should be a substantive work experience–not just filing papers and doing data entry–but also could not be analogous to a full-time professional staff member (because if we need a professional, we should pay a professional salary). Building a “curriculum” and offering appropriate coaching was not easy to do on top of regular job responsibilities. Some semesters, I could get out of it because my workload was too great. Other semesters, I had to make it work because someone higher up felt we needed to offer the experience.

    I wonder if your boss is being pressured to have the intern, despite your feedback? I wish you luck in working this out.

    Reply
    1. Lil Fidget

      Agree, we stopped taking interns after we realized we just didn’t have the capacity to manage one correctly. We didn’t have any tasks we could give them without needing to increase our own workload beyond what was sustainable.

      Reply
  30. DeeDee

    Response to question 1—-
    Interns are popular in todays business world. Its all about getting free help while getting the job done. If you are assigned a intern….nothing much you can do about it. These people are working for free at the same time making your organization prosper. I have been in your same shoes before. You may as well “woman up” and accept it.

    Reply
    1. designbot

      There’s a lot of assumptions in this comment… in my industry, interns get paid. Also, they are a lot less useful than they think they are, which sounds like it’s the case for LW too.
      If you can demonstrate that the labor you get at $15/hr actually takes you away from being able to bill $100+/hr, then that’s the start of a conversation about how to use intern labor effectively.

      Reply
      1. Kathleen Adams

        Our interns always get paid too – we don’t accept the free kind ’cause, you know, you get what you pay for, generally speaking.

        Although now that I think about it, I was an unpaid intern back in college – and this was long ago, well before the “today’s business world” DeeDee mentions. But my employer was required to pay my tuition for that summer (internships were required and I got college credits for it), they had to pay my expenses, and they had quite a bit of paperwork to turn in. I think they still got a bargain, but I didn’t feel exploited then and I don’t feel exploited now. I learned a lot.

        In any case, I agree with Alison that there are things the OP can try. I don’t think she should resign herself to this situation (which does sound untenable) just yet.

        Reply
    2. Specialk9

      Whoa, where did interns work free these days?? We pay ours pretty nicely. I was told it was illegal to have unpaid interns. (Not my field so I can’t quote exact laws.)

      Reply
  31. DeeDee

    Response to dating your boss–
    Never date your boss. This only equals to large difficulties. First off if higher ups finds out the employee will be fired and the boss will continue being a boss. Also…the boss could become tired of you and find ways to fire you. My rule #1 is ****NEVER date your boss!!!****

    Reply
    1. RVA Cat

      The OP made it worse by moving in with him. That way she has to be “on” all the time and has no escape from him. Worse case scenario is that he fires *and* evicts her.

      Reply
      1. RVA Cat

        Note also that I’m seriously side-eyeing him for having and wanting this level of control over a partner. He wouldn’t happen to be a bad-boy CEO with some NSFW hobbies….?

        Reply
  32. Biff

    A better way, IMO, to handle workplace competitions is to set a bar. “Okay, everyone who gets 100 new orders in the next quarter gets a prize.” Make the goal attainable, but a real stretch. And then say that ALSO, the person with absolutely the most new orders will get a small additional prize. Then there’s a clear goal, not just a race to a moving goalpost.

    Reply
  33. designbot

    #3: NO! Don’t do it! First, you are signaling to the company that you would rather be doing this other work that you’re submitting than the type of work they’re asking for. It’s a signal of a mismatch–just the fact that you’re assuming the blog post would be more interesting and a better way to judge your talents, etc. shows them that you think the work they’re actually asking for is beneath you. And if they’re right, just don’t do it in the first place, bow out.
    Secondly, your work will be judged to a higher standard. If everything you submit isn’t absolutely perfect, it will be judged more harshly for it. If there’s anything wrong in the assigment requested, it becomes “well she rushed through this to get to that.” If there’s anything off-base about the extra you’re submitting, it gets interpreted as tone-deafness.
    Just do what they asked, and do it well.

    Reply
    1. #3 Candidate

      Hi, the candidate in question here. Yeah, everyone seems to have similar opinions on this issue – i.e. No. I’ve already given them writing samples (something I didn’t mention in the original question), so I’ll do what they ask and leave it at that. Time is running out anyway.

      Reply
  34. JM60

    Re #2

    I’m not sure if I agree that the boss should’ve acknowledged him coming in second, at least not publicly. If I came in second out of four people behind a three way tie, announcing that in front of a crowd would probably make me feel like you’re announcing that I came in last. I would think it would be very embarrassing. Even if the boss announced that it was a close second, I think it would still feel like being announced as the looser.

    Reply
  35. bookish

    Probably this has been mentioned already – but in reference to #5, this is normal for D.C. Especially the government. The “hiring process” just takes a reeeeeaaally long time. I’ve totally applied to jobs that have been posted for a while but the application window hasn’t closed yet.

    Reply
  36. peanutbutter

    #4 – Regarding office relationships, I always feel like the two people in the relationship think people don’t notice, when to everyone else, it’s totally blatent. Thoughts?

    Reply
    1. Kathleen Adams

      Oh, yeah. I won’t say everyone has noticed, because some people (e.g. my husband) just aren’t good at noticing this kind of thing. But lots of people have noticed, and they’re gossiping about it, too. And although I’m not a big fan of gossip, it would be hard to blame them this time because this is Hot Stuff.

      Reply
  37. Argh!

    Re: #2

    Extrapolate all the presumed and possible feelings people might have about this and multiply by about 1,000 times and that’s what it’s like working in an office that’s “merit-based.” Imagine that merit score being based on performance evaluations, which are subjective. Then add a supervisor who is biased.

    This is why merit pay is a bogus idea. Employee satisfaction suffers for both winners and losers.

    Reply
  38. Marley

    Re: DC non-profit jobs

    I recently applied for a job wondering the same thing about a posting date–but since I knew someone at the organization, I asked, and it turned out they were still really early in the process.

    It’s worth applying–workload at non-profits can mean hiring takes a looong time.

    Reply
  39. Bookworm

    #5 on older job postings: I find that it’s usually better not to apply. Sometimes it turns out it’s a good idea (none of the previous applicants made the cut or the interviewed candidates also didn’t work out, etc.). But I’ve found that most of the time the sooner the better. Speaking only from personal experience, I’ve found that applying later has only led to no response at all (not even an acknowledgement of receipt, which is fine since that’s not unusual), once the organization asked if I was willing to be considered for a similar position that would have required a move and a few responses saying they’ve filled the position but haven’t taken down the posting. That last one really irritates me.

    I suppose at worst you end up spending time crafting an application that goes nowhere but I’ve found it just isn’t worth it. Good luck!

    Reply

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