my coworker disappears for hours every day, should I walk away from this salary negotiation, and more

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

1. My coworker disappears for hours every day

I work at a medium-sized office. Our team is four people — two remote and two in the office. It’s a “standard” office, cubicles, meetings, etc. My other coworker in the office — let’s say his name is Bob — has developed a habit over the past 12 months. Most days, he’ll come in at about 8:30, set his keys down, answer some emails. Then, at about 9:30, he’ll set a meeting in his calendar, surreptitiously grab his gym bag, and slink out the back door. Then, usually about two hours later, he’ll come back in with a Subway sandwich, as if to say, “Oh hey — I was just out getting lunch!”

It’s starting to affect my well-being. People have noticed — every couple weeks, someone will stop by and ask “Where’s Bob?” I don’t know how to respond to that question!

Our team’s manager also works remotely — she’s rarely in the office. I don’t think she’s aware of this habit, nor is she aware that he also takes off between 2-4 p.m. a few days a week, as well. He’s basically out of the office for 4-5 hours on any given day. I’m angry but also kinda jealous.

What should I do? We’re trying to expand our team and increase our output, but we can’t hire anyone because our division manager thinks we’re not all working to our full potential. (I wonder where he gets that idea, right?!) And I’m also worried that my colleagues’ perception of me might slip, as well, due to association. But, on the other hand, I don’t want to be a tattle-tale.

At a minimum, stop covering for Bob. When people ask you where he is, say, “I don’t know — he left around 9:30.” To Bob himself, consider saying, “You’re usually away for a few hours in the morning. People often ask me where you are — what do you want me to tell them?”

And frankly, you might also consider letting your manager know what’s happening, framing it as a request for advice: “Bob is out of the office for 4-5 hours most days. How do you want me to handle that when people are looking for him or I need him for something like X or Y?”

This isn’t tattling because that’s not really a concept at work. There are petty complaints about things that don’t affect anyone’s work (“Bob is three minutes late every day” or “Bob won’t stop humming to himself”), and then there are comments about things that truly do affect the organization’s work. It’s not tattling to make sure your remote manager knows someone is away from work for more than half the day, every day. More on that here.

2. Should I walk away from this salary negotiation?

I’ve been going through the archives reading up on salary negotiation. At what point in the process should you just walk away? I was told verbally two months ago by an HR recruiter (let’s call her Anne) and the hiring manager (let’s call him Bob) that they wanted me and I was their top hire. It wasn’t until last week that I finally got my offer letter, which was shockingly low. I had did research on what the salary range looks like in the industry, what values I bring, etc. and was told she’d get back to me. Anne returned through email two days later to tell me they were firm and no changes would be made as this was a midpoint salary. Before I could respond, I got an email from Anne stating that she’d escalated it and the hiring manager, Bob, was trying to work out the compensation details. She asked me again for offer letters I have and any research I’d done so that she could better “advocate” for me, which I again declined. I tried once again to explain my research and my values, which she claims was very helpful for her. She asked for a range and I broke my rule and told her.

Fast forward to today, Anne calls with great news to tell me they’ve been able to increase the original salary. Her offer, however, is $7,500 lower than my absolute minimum I’m willing to take, and I told her my range during our last conversation. Do I continue this back and forth with Anne? Should I turn my attention to Bob since he’d be the manager I’d be working under? I’m feeling like my requests are falling on deaf ears and frankly I’m becoming turned off from the company. At what point should people know to just walk away from the table?

If it’s lower than what you’re willing to accept, just explain that. Don’t go into a whole pitch trying to convince her to offer more; just explain that unfortunately you can’t accept at that amount. Say something like this: “I really appreciate you trying to increase it. I’d love to come to work for you, but I can’t accept less than $X-Y. If you’re able to meet that, I’d love to accept. If that’s prohibitive, I of course understand.” (And yes, if you’ve had contact with Bob through the process, it may make more sense to call him up rather than going through Anne. He may direct you back to Anne, but it’s not unreasonable to want to talk to the person you’d be working for. Caveat: If Anne were an outside recruiter, you’d need to keep going through her, since that would be part of what they hired her to do.)

By the way, when you’re asking for more money, it shouldn’t be breaking your rules to give a range that you’re looking for. The employer can’t give you what you want if they don’t know what that is. Also, their asking you for other offer letters is BS. Either they’re willing to pay you what you’re telling them it will take, or they’re not. They shouldn’t magically become more willing or able just because you provide proof that another company offered you more.

3. Ridiculous demands on teachers giving recommendations

I work at a large, urban high school and I deal exclusively with seniors. In addition to teaching 176 students in five sections of a core course, I have two designated periods per day to work with kids transitioning to college or post-secondary training, and I’ve done this for 26 years and really strive to stay current with changes in education policy, technology, you name it. My role includes FAFSA, college applications, employment forms, and often providing references or verifications of transcripts.

Over the past few years, though, I’ve noticed that one part of my job is becoming increasingly unworkable and I hit my limit earlier this week. I am frequently asked to write substantive references or recommendation letters (as are many of us dealing with seniors in high school) but the workload has become staggering. I can handle all the changes Common App demands—new accounts, profiles, etc.—but many colleges and even employers are now instituting their own requirements too and in the past two weeks alone I’ve been asked to create new profiles for seven individual programs, each with unique passwords and background profiles, and while this is par for the course, something has cropped up that other colleagues are complaining about, too.

Earlier this week one college asked me to upload MY OWN RESUME and a TRANSCRIPT from my college to “prove your credentials as a recommender,” which I find incredibly intrusive; one demanded my home phone number with no workaround (I prefer to use my business address and number); and one required that I provide a sample of graded work to see if I met their “stringent criteria on quality recommendations.” Are you kidding me?

I was also asked to come in person to a local employer for an in-person reference. Our front office staff has turned away college representatives and employers who show up, unannounced, demanding to see students. We are asked to write 500-700 word essays verifying student applications.

Is this a new trend in hiring and acceptances? What script do you suggest for overly intrusive requirements? I do not want to hurt a student’s chance of employment or education, but there has to be a reasonable approach to this insanity.

It’s not a trend in hiring. I can’t speak to whether or not it’s a trend in college admissions (although from your reports it sounds like it may be), but I’m throwing this out to readers with experience in education to weigh in on.

How and whether to push back depends on the larger landscape, I think. If this is> a trend in college admissions, pushing back on individual requests may hurt individual students, so I’d look for ways to speak up more loudly and more broadly than that — such as working with a group of colleagues to contact colleges about how unreasonable these requirements are in general, as opposed to tied to any one particular student’s application.

4. Rejected for one position and encouraged to apply for a more junior one

I recently applied for a content strategist position. While I advanced deep in the process (an interview with the hiring manager, completing a writing/editing test, a panel interview with the hiring manager’s team, and a panel interview with the hiring manager’s peers), they ultimately decided they hadn’t spoken to the right fit, and, sure enough, I saw that they’d reposted the job.

Here’s the email I received back after following up: “Thank you for checking in. We have completed the first round and still do not feel we have found the best fit. We may have a content specialist role opening up on my team next month. If you are interested, I will let you know when it posts.”

How do I respond to being rejected for a still unfilled position when I’ve also been encouraged to apply for a lower level position that I am not interested in?

I’ve heard of rare cases where a rejected candidate on an unfilled position eventually got the job because the company didn’t get anyone better after reposting it. I know that’s very unlikely, but I don’t want to do anything to close that door. Does the suggestion to apply for a lower level job mean that door is already closed?

I’d love to tactfully note that I’m still confident that I am the best fit for the strategist role, but am not sure how to word that or if it’s appropriate to go there (would I be refusing to take the hint in this case?). I also don’t know if my willingness to consider the lower level specialist role would help or hurt my case to stay in contention for the strategist position I applied for. What are your thoughts?

They’ve already rejected you for the strategist role, so there’s no “staying in contention” for that. They’ve already decided you’re not right for it.  You shouldn’t try to change their mind — it’s very rare for that to happen, and it’s much more likely that in trying to persuade them, you’ll turn them off by appearing not to take no for an answer. If there’s any chance of them reconsidering and coming back to you, that’s going to happen on their end, not from you pushing for it.

Meanwhile, if you know you’re not interested in the lower level position, it’s fine to say something like, “Thanks so much for mentioning the content specialist position. I don’t think it’s quite in line with what I’m looking for, but I appreciate you thinking to mention it to me.”

5. Should I expect responses to thank-you notes after an interview?

I’m in the middle of a job search and have been on a few interviews. I always send a follow-up email within 24 hours, but I rarely hear back from the people who interview me. Is it common or expected for interviewers to respond to follow-up emails from interviewees, even with just a perfunctory “thank you, we enjoyed meeting with you too” or something like that? If so, should I take it as a bad sign that I have not received follow-up emails yet? If not, am I reading too much into this?

Nope, it’s very normal for employers not to respond to these. You’re thinking of them as follow-up emails, which is great because that’s exactly what they should be — but most employers still think of them thank-you notes, and you don’t need to reply with a thank-you for a thank-you. Occasionally you’ll get a response back, but the norm is not to receive one, so you shouldn’t read anything into it.

{ 406 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. neverjaunty

    OP #2, you told them your absolute minimum and they won’t meet it. Your instincts are right and you should politely decline. Especially after all of this nonsense about wanting to see your other offer letters and “advocating” for you.

    Reply
    1. Jerry Vandesic

      Very true. Them wanting to see your offer letters means they don’t have a good sense of the market for this role.

      Another thing to be careful of is getting them to make an offer that is above their salary band. You might be able to get more money, but you could be limited in the future. I have worked for companies where any salary at or above the top of a band means no annual raises, regardless of your performance.

      Reply
      1. LKW

        This is exactly what I was going to advise. They can hold up on COLA increases until the playing field is even again. If you’re that far above what their offering, it could be years before you see an increase.

        Reply
    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      So much this. The recruiter (or hiring manager) doesn’t know the market well enough to do her own research? Instead she needs other offer letters to even argue that you should be able to move the minimum? This is confidence-game-style nonsense. Either they’re not willing to pay, or they’re trying to bargain OP down. Either way, if I were in OP#2’s shoes, I’d walk away.

      Reply
      1. Falling Diphthong

        One of the weirdest business practices I’ve come across on AAM is the idea that salary–for a new role or negotiated with your current employer–will be based on your completing multiple rounds of interviews with completely different companies where, obvs, you wouldn’t actually want to work–oh heaven forfend–but so that the confused company can figure out what to pay you.

        I go to all that time and difficulty, I’m going to work for the company that has itself together enough to come up with a salary All By Self.

        Reply
    3. Jen S. 2.0

      You don’t have to keep negotiating just because you’ve started. If they’re not going to meet your minimum, you can decline. You have the power to walk away. “Thanks so much for your time. It looks like we’re not going to be able to come to an agreement on salary, so this is not going to be a fit for me. Best of luck finding the person to fill this role.” Done and done.

      Also, not to nitpick, but heeeeeeee @ “death ears.” How appropriate.

      Reply
    4. Nico m

      No need to bother walking away.
      LW can hold their position and the employer can decline.

      Although on second thoughts I wouldn’t take the job anyway. A normal employer that was a bit hardnosed in salary negotiation will likely respect the candidate who stood firm and “won”. But a weird employer with bizarre ideas about salary levels is probably going to be weird and resentful – eg since they’re paying 50 % more they’ll want 50% more work. And you should shit rainbows in your lunch break.

      Reply
      1. High Score!

        Walking away is probably better. At one place I worked, I reached the “max pay” for my position quickly as I always got top reviews. Great? Not so much because the top was below the median. Then no more raises. I started job hunting and got a huge increase going elsewhere. Now I avoid working places that don’t want to pay employees.

        Reply
    5. Czhorat

      It also seems that they’re very far away. Unless you’re dealing with astronomically high salaries, a difference of $7,500 on the second offer is a significant percentage. Most companies are willing to negotiate, but the results need to be in the same ballpark.

      If the first number was, to throw out a number, two thirds of what you works accept then you’d be justified in walking away immediately. Either they’re negotiating in bad faith and trying to get you to accept less than market value or that can’t afford you. Either way you’re wasting everyone’s time.

      Reply
      1. K.

        Yep. It’s a little different but as I mentioned on an open thread, staying where I am would mean a $20K pay cut at best (the role is changing; the top of the new range is $20K less than what I make now). That’s a non-starter; my only option is to leave. It’s totally possible for a company and a candidate to be too far apart to meet in the middle.

        There was a letter writer not long ago who said he was grappling with accepting a salary that was too low (he said he’d be going into debt to take it) but the job was great. But the bloom will fall off the rose quickly if your “great job” won’t allow you to meet your needs. A friend of mine accepted a job that paid less than she wanted (she tried to negotiate and they wouldn’t budge), and she lasted less than a year because she really couldn’t afford to live on the salary she was earning. She left as soon as she found something that paid what she was worth.

        Reply
  2. A Teacher

    #3, as a high school teacher I totally relate. I teach about the same number of students and have five different courses over the course of the year including dual credit classes. Common app has already changed and is a pain to deal with when you have to write a letter recommendation and then turn around and answer bunch of questions that you already answered in the letter of recommendation. The other systems are just ridiculous, I’m not going to upward transcripts from three colleges (undergrad and graduate degrees) to prove who I am. The fact that some systems make you jump through hoops just to recommend a kid deserves pushback

    Reply
    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      I am stunned (and vicariously offended) by the idea that you have to submit work you’ve graded, your transcripts and your resume just to serve as a recommender for a student. Does anyone in Admissions even look at that supplemental material, or is the goal to make the hurdles so high that students with limited-resource schools won’t be able to traverse them?

      And the local employer thing is equally crazy, but thankfully (as far as I know) not common.

      Reply
      1. JamieS

        I’m also curious what the colleges/employers end game is. Are they requesting this info to verify it really is the teacher making the recommendation to prevent fraud such as students writing their own referrals? Are there minimum standards a teacher must meet to be a recommender and their recommendation is tossed out if those standards aren’t met? Is it a blatant attempt to keep less privileged students out of college? Is there some weird new regulation that requires schools to gather this info? Is there no end game at all and not even the colleges know why they ask for all this info?

        My head is spinning.

        Reply
          1. blackcat

            +1

            I think it is also likely a response to charter schools run by for-profit entities that do some super shady things. But this is punishing people for the actions of just a few bad actors.

            Reply
            1. Happy Lurker

              As a parent of both a senior and charter school attendee. I agree with your statement blackcat.
              Also, I really feel for the OP. I know from my end the whole thing is daunting. Logging into 4 or 5 different websites (SAT, ACT, FAFSA, CSS, supplemental essay, and transcript) to send the information to colleges. It does seem like every school is it’s own “special snowflake”, at least that is what they desperately try to get you to believe.
              I wanted to mention that at work I feel like every single entity also has their own “special” way of doing things, customers, vendors, taxes (every state is different and Federal). I have increasingly been feeling much the same frustrations as the OP at both my job and in my personal life.
              OP you are not alone in your frustrations. I love Allison’s advice to bring this up in a realm where it may get more of a response that can be directed back to the schools coherently.

              Reply
          2. Gracie Lou Freebush

            This was my thought, specifically when they were required to provide a home phone number. There are many many schools who will use this info to telemarket you relentlessly, it wouldn’t surprise me if they are selling off a lot of the demographic information they’re collecting from willing applicants.

            Reply
        1. Lady Olenna "Thorns" Tyrell--the OP#3

          I do suspect that this is a new form of gatekeeping–we are a Title I school (if you are out of the US, that means we have a majority of students in financial need with free/reduced lunch status and other socio-economic indicators) and a colleague at another high school, same state but different demographics, wasn’t asked for the transcript but I was.
          Reading these comments has emboldened me to meet with my direct supervisor today for some practical push-back solutions above my pay grade. She manages the letterhead. (Yes, we’re not allowed to use letterhead without permission–our school is that limited in resources.) I’m actually thinking about creating a Regina Phalange persona for the personal info requests, but we’ll see.
          Thank you to those who have commented. I think a lot of these problems are systemic.

          Reply
          1. Lora

            Oh now that is some total crap. Especially because when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was teaching college students, the ones who I routinely caught lying and cheating on exams were the middle-upper class kids and, weirdly, exchange students from Eastern European countries. Apparently it was a thing in Yugoslavia and the ex-Iron Curtain countries that cheating rules were different there. Well, 20 years ago anyway. The working class kids just took whatever grade they got and didn’t argue.

            This pisses me off on so many levels. I would love to see a socioeconomic class analysis of the college application system and how recommenders are treated all over the Atlantic Monthly or Mother Jones, I’m just saying.

            Reply
            1. Jesca

              Man this is interesting. I wonder if I can pull any data on this myself.

              My children attend a Title 1 school mostly because that is where my support system lives. You would not believe what those teachers and students have to go through, to then just get turned away from colleges due to class. How sad.

              I know I will be moving my children as my son has issues with attention and severe anxiety as it is. The teachers don’t even have time to help him through his authorized 504 plan because they are dealing with gang activity in his 4th grade class! If these kids make it to graduation, some how manage the good grades, and want to attend college, they shouldn’t be held back from it. They went through a lot more to get there than most!

              Reply
            2. MashaKasha

              Confirming that it was a thing in Eastern Europe. At my high school math final (also back in the dinosaur days), our math teachers gathered the class (25 people) the day before the exam, told us that there would be two sets of problems (to ensure that two people sharing a desk were not copying off one another), and then ASSIGNED myself to one set and one other girl to the second set, with our role being to “make sure everyone in class passes this exam”. We were to make sure that everyone had copied the correct answers off us. !!!! I have a vague memory of sneaking out to the bathroom and planting a cheat sheet there for another student to find. These were direct instructions coming from the math teacher.

              Reply
            3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              This sounds like an excellent investigative journalism piece. Maybe the NYT folks who’ve been troubling the idea that elite colleges are engines of upward mobility would be interested? Because this is egregious. It sounds like it may, in part, be based on the stereotype that teachers in low-income schools turn over so quickly… which is true for all new teachers at all schools (the only difference is the rate of turn over) and could easily be determined by asking how many years a person has been a FT teacher.

              Kids at Title I schools have enough institutional and structural barriers to becoming college-eligible, applying, and being able to attend college. They don’t need some jerk gatekeepers wasting teachers’ time and erecting additional barriers for them to traverse.

              Reply
              1. JessaB

                I wonder if many of them don’t get into school because instead of trying to push back like OP is (yay OP!) teacher are just declining to do recommendations or only doing the minimum and refusing to put in all the extra work so the recommendations don’t get counted.

                Reply
            4. A grad student

              I teach college students now- never had any Eastern European exchange students, but the ones we catch routinely today are still middle-upper class kids (and Chinese exchange students, who I’ve heard similar stories about different rules for cheating, although I’m not entirely sure if this is accurate).

              Reply
            5. Julia the Survivor

              I sent this in to Mother Jones just now. :D Here is the link to their contact page:
              http://www.motherjones.com/about/contact/#

              With the Atlantic you have to either send paper through the postal service, or download their secure software to send them a scoop. Here is the link to their page:
              https://www.theatlantic.com/tips/

              I have strong feelings about the way colleges take financial advantage (not to mention the elitism!) and would love to see them get theirs!!!

              Reply
            6. JamieS

              I don’t know about the Europeans but as far as social class the cheating observation makes sense to me. When you’re from a working class background often times just attending college is an accomplishment to be proud of and exceeds expectations. By contrast when you come from a fairly well educated middle to upper class background getting a college degree is considered a given and the accomplishment is how well you do.

              I know some may vehemently disagree, and this may be an inflammatory opinion, but basically I think students from more affluent classes face more pressure to get good grades and be successful in college.

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          2. Mary

            I think this is such a good plan, and if you or your supervisor are members of any national organisations of people working in similar roles I’d raise it there too.

            I work in HE in the UK and this absolutely raises my cynical “this is gatekeeping” hackles.

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          3. Observer

            Oh, wow. That’s even worse – but in a way, better. Because if the higher ups want to push, they have something to sink their teeth into. Assuming positive intent, it STILL stinks to high heavens that they are asking you for information that they are not asking from a different school. Someone should point out the optics to them.

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          4. MashaKasha

            OH MY GOD! This is awful! And you are probably right, this is why I’ve never heard of this happening at my sons’ school (class of 2011, class of 2014, a suburban school rated 8 on greatschools).

            I hope these are individual initiatives by overeager individuals in Admissions, not something that was planned college-wide. Otherwise, if I had any more children that were applying to colleges, I would have loved to know the names of the schools that do this, so my kids would not accidentally apply there. Utterly ridiculous.

            Reply
          5. madge

            That is outrageous. Good for you for pushing back.

            I was originally wondering if the schools requesting excessive information from you were for-profit schools attempting data collection. I work at a university that has one school which has been the #1/#2 school in the U.S. in its discipline for many years, and they only require the recommendation letter and contact information (as does the rest of the university, grad and undergrad).

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          6. Gloucesterina

            Lady Olenna “Thorns” Tyrell–the OP#3, I’m sorry that you went through this. My mind is boggling that you and your colleagues don’t already have easy access to letterhead in either print or digital form.

            Reply
          7. A Teacher

            We are that limited too. If I ask for letterhead, I get 3 pieces max. My building is the only in a district of 15,000+ students that is not title 1. We fall below the threshold by less than 3%. In my room, I own all the chairs, lamps, and one of the 4 tables personally. I only have nice tech equipment because I teach vocational classes (Health based) that get Perkins funding at the federal level and there is talk that the government is going to change that. I don’t mind helping students out with letters of recommendation but why am I being asked to jump through hoops. I have two state teaching licenses and 3 degrees, plus a national certification and a state license in a health related field. All of the licensure can be looked up on the state website to verify who I am and what my credentials are.

            Reply
            1. Lady Olenna "Thorns" Tyrell--the OP#3

              We were told that letterhead was six cents per piece and therefore not open for wide use. When I suggested we upload a PDF to use electronically the idea was shot down because “then ANYONE” could access it. ????????

              We all do the best we can. Thanks for being a great teacher, A Teacher!

              Reply
          8. irritable vowel

            Applications are also a big source of income for colleges and universities – if your application fee is $100 and 10,000 students apply, that’s a million bucks in revenue, and you don’t even have to admit most of them if you’re highly selective. I can see some places thinking that if they make the application process more challenging, they potentially have to do even less – they can get kids to pay the admission fee but then disqualify them by not being able to fulfill the super-complicated recommendation rules. And that also makes them appear more selective. So, contrary to what someone downthread said, I suspect this is more likely happening at colleges below the top couple of tiers.

            Reply
            1. Natalie

              This really isn’t a thing. The revenue that comes in basically just ends up defraying (not covering) the costs of running the admissions department. Non profit colleges have public financials; I doubt you’re going to find any where the application fees are more than a tiny percentage of overall revenue.

              [Application fees aren’t that high (average is around $40), not that many students apply to the average college, and application fees are routinely waived.]

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          9. Public School Kid

            It also gives further advantage to private school students, who have dedicated college admissions counselors who do this work. I have a few friends who work in college admissions at private schools, and they pretty much spend all of October crafting individual references for students, along with helping students with their essays and personal statements. To expect the same attention from public school teachers (with larger class sizes, fewer resources) means that those public school students’ college chances will suffer.

            Reply
          10. Student

            As somebody who came from a “Title I” school – that’s a nice euphemism, but we just called it a poor area when I was there – this absolutely sounds like a way to keep the poor folks out of good schools.

            It’s to keep white trash like me away from the better pedigreed, so the upper-class need not compete with smart poor kids for college grades. It probably means the schools don’t have to pay out nearly as much in need-based financial aide, and can give more bedazzle scholarships out to kids who don’t need it but have parents who donate heavily.

            Don’t kid yourself, either; these schools know exactly what they are doing, and your pressure is not going to make them back off. They are likely well within their legal rights to do this, and the only way you’ll change that is public pressure or political solutions.

            Your only way to beat them is to play this game better than they do. Figure out shortcuts. Round up those transcripts and keep them on-hand for next time. If they want proof of your grading, cherry-pick or fake it. If they want references for you, back up other teachers and ask them to back you up. Undermine their class-ist standard with rampant cheating to get past and around it. If they want “official” letterhead your school won’t pay for, get together with the local art teacher, make up some BS PDF letterhead to print out, and use that instead of the real deal. They want to drain your ability to recommend kids? Instead, waste their resources “verifying” false letterheads and teacher transcripts and whatever other BS they ask for, until they give up the arms race. They don’t have the funds to chase all that down; they are just checking boxes on whether hoops have been jumped through. Share your good teacher-BS-recommendations-resources with your colleagues.

            I would never have expected my teachers to do a fraction of that. I’m sorry this burden is on you, but I ask you to not give up, for your students. Instead, get angry and give them hell. Heck, some of my teachers likely didn’t have entirely legitimate credentials. Didn’t stop me from being top-ranked in my high school and beating out a bunch of better-heeled kids to get there.

            Reply
            1. Julia the Survivor

              That’s right, Student! It took half my life to realize and accept the whole American culture is about these elitist games. Way to go!

              Reply
        2. Falling Diphthong

          My head is spinning, and I have a high school junior. (And one kid in college.)

          I started reading the letter and was thinking “Oh dear, I know recommendations a lot of work but the kids have no choice here.” But every single one of those requirements is ridiculous and deserves all of the pushback.

          They’re saying “Applicants should provide X, we’ve heard of that as a good practice” and then “but how will we know X is legit? Oh dear, better pile on lots and lots and lots of hoops on, because only people who complete all the hoops will… demonstrate that they are people with massive piles of free time on their hands and nothing better to do, which sounds like it would rule out most actual teachers, coaches, etc? No, it’s a hoop! A hoop is a standard is a mark of high ones!”

          Reply
          1. Fake old Converse shoes

            I’m surprised that in the US the hoops are before you enter. Where I live it’s easier compared to such madness. You want to get in? Provide a certified copy of your High School transcript and pass the admission exam (good luck with that)! Did you pass the exam? Attend classes with 200 people in a room that is prepared for 100, wake up at 5:00 to attend classes at 8:00 at the other side of the city (Engineering has two buildings 10 kms apart because there is no enough space for everyone), bring your own water and food because the cafeteria queue goes outside the building, provide a copy of your paycheck to apply to evening classes, negotiate constantly with the teachers and your classmates exam dates, etc, etc, etc… I’ve heard of at least one person that left the US to study back in his home country because it was impossible to him to be admitted, let alone pay tuition fees.

            Reply
            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              The barriers are real and widespread, including for public universities (which in theory should at least be more accessible to their State’s residents). In my opinion, it’s absolutely unconscionable.

              Reply
        3. Agnes

          It’s almost certainly not an attempt to keep less privileged students out of college. Colleges want those kids, as long as it requires no extra effort on their part. It may have that effect, though.

          Reply
          1. Jesca

            A recruiter from an Ivy league school told my over-achieving sister that there was no way she was getting in coming from the school district we had. I was there, and I heard it myself. So, yes LOL they do that …

            Reply
            1. Dankar

              I’ve read a number of interviews with professionals who’ve moved out of admissions at top schools who say they looked for students from high-income families or schools in low-income districts. That way they could meet their demographic requirements (x number of students from y district) without moving the needle on how much financial aid the students would need.

              I completely believe that’s the case.

              Reply
            2. Sylvan

              My public, state university made the mistake of hiring current students as recruiters, and now we all know exactly how they recruit. Or how they recruited before my friends and I graduated – maybe things have changed.

              They put all their effort into recruiting students from wealthier schools. They didn’t actively recruit at all from one of the biggest schools in the area, which had high-achieving students. It also had racial and socioeconomic diversity, so I guess that took it out of the running. :/

              Reply
          2. the gold digger

            Based on my (limited) experience as an alumni interviewer for my college, colleges do not want kids who will need financial aid. And who doesn’t need financial aid when tuition is $60K a year?

            Reply
              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                I think Goldie is right for the kinda of universities she’s alluding to, however (i.e., those that have alumni interviews). Unfortunately, even need-blind admissions often proxy demographic information about your school to extrapolate whether someone will require aid.

                Reply
          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            Which universities are your referring to? Because ones built on predatory financing models do what you suggest, but in my experience, the predatory schools don’t require letters of recommendation.

            All evidence regarding “elite” universities suggests that those colleges do not really want kids from lower SES backgrounds because it affects their retention rate. They want children from higher SES homes (meaning class background, not solely income) who attend schools in low-income areas—and who theoretically need less transition support—so that it gives the appearance of socioeconomic and geographic diversity.

            Reply
            1. Zombeyonce

              Also, kids from wealthy families are less likely to have student loans to pay off, which means they’re more likely to be able to give money to the school as an alumni, even if you don’t consider the fact that they’ll probably be far more wealthy after graduating because of connections and the ability to wait to get a high-paying job instead of having to take any job available right out of school.

              Reply
            2. Sue Wilson

              I think it really depends on the type of place the college wants to be. My Ivy now prides itself on having no one get student loans AND having most people get full grants. And it can do that because per capita it has a better endowment that any other. And by prides itself, I mean this is what they’re telling their shareholders (and personally I paid nothing to go to that school and had no loans).

              Reply
        4. Artemesia

          It is a great way to assure that kids from poorly resourced schools don’t get into college. Private schools pay to have people who do this stuff.

          Reply
      2. DArcy

        I strongly suspect that the goal is to turf low and middle income students out of selective college admissions by stripping away their letters of recommendation.

        Reply
        1. Fortitude Jones

          That’s terrible, yet not at all surprising. It’s times like these I’m glad I’m long out of school – I probably would have never gone to college if this had been A Thing when I was in high school.

          Reply
              1. Maiasaura

                If you get a good professor, it’s much less terrible! I got a low C in statistics in undergrad, in a class with a huge lecture session and a good-sized lab with a TA. In grad school, I had a fantastic biostatistics professor, was older and more comfortable reaching out as soon as I got confused, and made an A. I still had to work my hind end off, but it was like night and day in terms of comprehensibility.

                Reply
      3. LKW

        Reading the comments on this one and the OPs added information – this is infuriating. I wonder if the admission’s offices asking for all of this additional work understand that they’ve placed yet another hurdle in front of students who have more hurdles than most and whether it’s intentional / systemic or simply out of ignorance/ lack of awareness of the impact.

        Reply
      4. Someone else

        I suspect the thinking is the schools have learned (or believe) that they get a significant number of fake recs from fake teachers and have decided the “prove who you are” route is the way to prevent that. I think it’s a ridiculous approach, but that’s where it appears to be coming from.

        Reply
        1. Natalie

          Aren’t teachers generally licensed? If they were really trying to prove people’s identity they should be able to do it with the license number.

          Reply
        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          I mean, that’s just a bankrupt argument (not saying it’s yours—I’m mad at schools that require teacher “verification”). In almost every state, teachers are licensed. Even folks without a full teaching credential have to receive temporary or emergency credentials, and if it’s a public school, they’re heavily vetted for their criminal background, as well. And maybe I’m off, here, but in my experience teachers also have district-based email addresses, which could easily serve as verification for submission of online letters.

          But if this were really the concern, why is it being applied unevenly between Title I schools v. all other schools? Teachers at Title I schools are no less licensed than teachers at non-Title I schools.

          Reply
          1. sstabeler

            sorry for the slight derail, but “they’re heavily vetted for their criminal background” almost sounds like you ave to have a criminal history to become a teacher! (I know that’s not what was meant- just pointing out it’s somewhat amusing phrasing)

            as for why they do it, it’s either trying to screen out Title I kids, or prejudice against teachers of Title I kids- or both,

            Reply
        3. Else

          Yeah, but is that a real problem, or is it like voter fraud? Where it would be a real problem if it occurred, but it is mysteriously impossible to actually find any number of real provable cases at the level that it is discussed?

          Reply
      5. Koko

        is the goal to make the hurdles so high that students with limited-resource schools won’t be able to traverse them?

        Certainly even if it’s not the goal, that’s the impact, and that outcome alone should be reason enough to put an end to this madness.

        Reply
        1. Anna

          Pretty much this. It’s a way of sidestepping being accused of discrimination. Examples of this abound across the spectrum. Don’t want to hire non-Christians to your company? Have a dress code that requires being clean shaven and not allowed to wear hats. Want to make sure all your students are able to give a lot of money to your school? Make the application fee outrageous and the process byzantine. These are methods that have long been used to sidestep anti-discrimination laws.

          Reply
    2. Artemesia

      I found this entirely outrageous. They know who you are, you are employed as a teacher at X high school. It is totally outrageous to expect your transcripts etc and your graded papers. Words fail.

      Reply
        1. Justme

          Yes, but sometimes hard to find depending on how the district has set up their website. I’ve had to Google teachers more than a few times for my job in higher education. We do ask the teachers to fill out an affidavit that they have a college degree since we give Masters level credits but no transcripts or anything.

          Reply
          1. Judy (since 2010)

            In my state, any licensed occupation is searchable on the state license agency’s website. I just looked up a few of my kids teachers, and it lists whether they have bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degrees.

            Reply
            1. Julianne

              In my state, you can’t see my degrees, but the state DOE has a website where you can search for teacher licenses. I’m also listed on my school’s website, but not all schools have faculty listings online.

              Reply
      1. Xarcady

        I think that’s the point. When teachers had to submit a recommendation on paper, there was some proof that the teacher was an actual person–they had to sign the recommendation, or it had to be on letterhead. r

        With an electronic recommendation, it is probably possible for a student to hack the system and pretend to be a teacher and write themselves a glowing recommendation. And the colleges are on to this.

        I can see that the colleges need/want proof that the recommendations are coming from an actual educator. But there has to be a better way of determining this. Heck, my old college charges $25 for a copy of my transcript–teachers should not be having to shell out money in order to write a recommendation for a student.

        Reply
        1. One of the Sarahs

          If these kids were hacking the system, what stops them uploading faked documents, though? There are far better ways to identify if a teacher is a real person (though these require work from the admissions office, even if it is just a basic google)

          Reply
    3. Susan K

      Next thing you know, you’re going to have to provide references to vouch for your qualifications to give a recommendation, and then your references will have to prove that they’re qualified to vouch for your qualifications…

      Reply
      1. Lady Olenna "Thorns" Tyrell--the OP#3

        This comment made me laugh, actually–it does feel this way! Proof for proof for proof.

        I have a mid-day update after meeting with my direct supervisor. She is contacting Egregious Private College #1 (the one that wanted my personal info and transcript) on my behalf to inform them that their request is not only unreasonable but violates our internal policy (which I think she made up on the spot, but I’ll take it). That should take care of that one.
        The larger issue is something we need to push back on as a collective, though. Colleges seem to want the very high-end kids AND a diverse demographic but in a world where 1 out of 14 applicants will get into one of our state schools the deck does seem stacked against kids who don’t know senators or astronauts.
        A handful of my students have told me that some of their teachers have a flat “no recommendation” policy now thanks to how long the process takes. Horrifying for students trying to get ahead, do the right thing, and seek an education.
        I have a lot of work to do.

        Reply
        1. Jesmlet

          Round of applause for both you and your supervisor. I attended a pretty poor, primarily minority public high school and I don’t remember people having all these hoops to jump through to help me go to college. Colleges like this seem to have forgotten their core purpose and lost their soul. I ended up going to a college that is “committed to providing funds to meet the full demonstrated institutional need of every student applying for financial aid on time” but I can imagine how a policy like that would lead to them not wanting as many of the low-income applicants.
          Any chance you’re willing to name the colleges? I’m sure the AAM community would be more than happy to write some angry emails if it’s their alma mater.

          Reply
        2. beanie beans

          I’m so depressed by this. As if teachers don’t already have enough on their plate. Thank you for wanting to help your students and for fighting for reasonableness!

          It seems like (from other commenters) that getting rid of Letters of Recommendation all together is the better policy. If everyone has them and they all basically say the same thing, toss the requirement out all together and use other forms of qualification that don’t burden already overwhelmed and underpaid teachers!

          Reply
          1. Jesmlet

            Do they all say the same thing though? Curious to hear more from teachers about this… If I had a ton to write, I would certainly spend more time on students that I knew better or who I felt were more deserving of my recommendation.

            Reply
        3. Happy Lurker

          I believe at my childrens’ school it is a 5-10 student recommendation limit per teacher. I had my son running around securing his recommendations in the winter of his Junior year…only to have the teacher get a new job. Thankfully he found two more teachers to replace her responsibilities.

          Reply
    4. idi01

      Unfortunately, I understand why college admissions are starting to question teacher recommendations. Too many glowing recommendations for too few admission slots.

      By the way, the “I worked in an African village feeding the poor last summer” is also no longer looked upon as a credit because you now have tourism companies that will arrange this for your child at the low price of $5,000.

      Reply
      1. PainScientist

        When I was applying this was the case. It didn’t really matter *what* you’d done, so long as you’d done *something* and could explain how it mattered, what it taught you, what you could carry on from having done it, etc. This included summer jobs, babysitting younger siblings, working minimum wage, and yes, big international trips, mission trips, big expensive athletic competitions, and so on. Every person I talked to when applying said something along the lines of “They don’t care if you went and swam with the dolphins or took a trip to a poor country to help the residents of it if you can’t talk about it properly, but if you can talk about it properly, spending high school babysitting is impressive.”

        Reply
        1. Falling Diphthong

          When my oldest was looking at colleges, that last was what I heard a lot.

          And I had a passionate loathing for the flyers that boiled down to “Give us $5000, and we will let you write ‘Chosen to attend Rare Leaders Summer Camp’ on your college applications.

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        2. Marillenbaum

          That’s absolutely the case–I worked in college admissions for several years and honestly, it was about being able to discuss what you’d done and how it impacted you. I also admit to being very opposed to the sort of poverty tourism certain types of well-off parents arrange for their kids to do as “community service”, so that rarely looked good from my perspective, because you hadn’t done enough reading to figure out that these schemes do more harm than good to the places they purport to serve.

          Reply
          1. the gold digger

            And discuss in a way that is not so clearly scripted! As I mentioned, I am an alumni interviewer for my college, which requires a personal interview as part of the application process. I was stunned last week – I interviewed a student who actually had a part-time job. She is the first student I have interviewed who has ever had a job. The other kids do really cool things that require a lot of disposable income. It’s easy to do well when your parents have money and give it to you and send you to space camp. Not so easy when you are working 15 hours a week at a fast-food place.

            Reply
          2. Falling Diphthong

            Huge pet peeve, though I’m not in a position to penalize anyone for it. You don’t need to travel thousands of miles to find people who need help. They are at most a short car ride away, quite possibly a bike ride.

            Reply
            1. eplawyer

              but volunteered at local soup kitchen at Thanksgiving isn’t as interesting as traveled to Madagascar to help install solar panels in 10 villages. (no insult to anyone in Madagascar, I just picked a place I always wanted to visit).

              Reply
              1. PlainJane

                This. I used to get irritated when the youth group at my church would raise money to work in a soup kitchen in [big city 3 hours away] or to build houses in another country, when we had plenty of hungry and homeless within a 30-minute radius of our church. I do think there’s value in traveling internationally and serving others, but sometimes it seems like these trips are thinly-veiled excuses to take a vacation somewhere. If it’s really about the work, reduce the overhead costs and direct those resources to the needy in your own backyard.

                Reply
        3. Jesmlet

          My college essay was about being section leader of our high school marching band and I’m 100% convinced it’s what got me into the schools I was admitted to.

          Reply
            1. Jesmlet

              Hands down my favorite part of high school (and college). My best friend wrote her essay on how we’d sing the Pokemon theme song and We Are the Champions on the bus after competition award ceremonies. It’s crazy how much a shared hobby can bring people together.

              Reply
        4. OhNo

          Yep. Even though I graduated high school quite a while ago, I still remember the response I got to my admissions essay for the college I attended. I didn’t have much to talk about, what with no job, no athletics, and only one extracurricular. But I got an email directly from one of the admissions officers telling me that she was deeply moved by my essay, so I must have sold it pretty well regardless.

          Reply
          1. Elisabeth

            I remember that too. I wrote a supplementary essay for the honors program I wanted to get into about how much I loved libraries, and my admission letter included a couple lines about the libraries on campus.

            Funny part is I went to the flagship school in my state; I’m not sure I could get in anymore as a middle-class kid from a rural/exurban school with a 3.5 GPA and no impressive extracurriculars. But in 1996, Flagship was considered a “safe” school for me. The whole environment’s gotten crazy.

            Reply
        5. A.N.O.N.

          My partner teaches and he called our alma mater’s admissions office to find out what it was they were looking for with teacher recommendations/student applications in general. Honestly, it boiled down to maturity. They wanted to see that the student has grown and is mature enough for college.

          Reply
      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante

        Which is probably just fine, because most of those ‘voluntourism’ efforts are unhelpful or even counterproductive. Developing communities generally need professional expertise, not unskilled hands.

        Reply
      3. Female

        Based on the OP’s comments, since her students are unlikely to afford those and colleges are selectively increasing screening for her school, I doubt that’s the motivation.

        Reply
    5. anonanners

      I work in admissions/enrollment and the kind of requirements expected here are ludicrous. Our operating budget is dependent on student tuition, and we know that teachers have influence over student college decisions. We certainly aren’t looking to piss teachers and counselors off by making our process onerous – quite the opposite, as we don’t require recommendations (although that doesn’t stop some students from sending 3+ letters…that doesn’t help, by the way….). I also haven’t heard of any colleges in my neck of the woods who have requirements like this, but admittedly I don’t keep the best track of other schools’ requirements. I’m curious as to which colleges and universities have these requirements. My instinct is top 100 private liberal arts schools with extremely low admit rates? Who the hell else has the time or motivation to request all this material and then actually look at it?

      Reply
      1. A Teacher

        Common App changed in the last few years. Before I’d answer a few questions and upload my recommendation letter. Now it is several short answer questions (that I already answer in the letter of rec), and a survey. Its annoying and that’s not even that bad. I’ve only been asked a handful of times to vouch for who I am, some small private schools–and I sent a reply stating they could look up my state licensures on the appropriate state websites–you can google my name and get my teacher website or the “rate my professor” for the junior college I adjunct at. Not sure why people make the process so challenging.

        Reply
    6. MashaKasha

      So, I’m not sure which subthread to share this on, but with one of the schools one of my kids applied to, in 2010, we had to deal with a sudden last-minute new requirement. It’s like they make them up as they go, depending on the applicant?… What happened was, he’d applied online, but their online application system was terrible and he never received any kind of confirmation that his application had gone through. Silly me decided to call admissions and double-check. I’m an immigrant and speak with an accent. Lo and behold, the moment I’m done talking to them and we all hang up, they send me and my son and email wanting to see the “proof of citizenship”. But didn’t know exactly what it was they wanted. In the end, they would only settle for the original of his naturalization certificate, so I had to come to their admissions office and hand it to them and wait there while they made a copy.

      I checked online. Not a single other school required their applicants to provide a proof of citizenship. They just randomly made it up after I called them. It wasn’t even a good school, it was University of Akron, of all places. (my son ended up going to KSU instead, because they had a stronger program in the major he wanted.)

      Reply
      1. fposte

        Funnily enough, the University of Akron is currently spamming my Pandora feed with ads that are essentially Black Friday sales for education.

        Reply
      2. anonanners

        It *could* have been financial aid-related. When we receive a student’s FAFSA results, sometimes there is a flag put on by the federal government that means we have to check a student’s citizenship documents. The point at the process at which a school asks for that information can vary, though – my current school is VERY proactive about satisfying those sorts of requirements, to the point where we collect a lot of unnecessary documentation from students who ultimately don’t enroll. It’s only absolutely REQUIRED by the time we disburse aid, though, so some other schools ask for documents much later in the process.

        That’s me trying to put a somewhat positive spin, though. Xenophobia is real, and likely what you experienced unfortunately :(

        Reply
    7. Anon Higher Ed Professional

      I just tried to post this, but I’m having trouble with the site today (see below), so I apologize if this double posts!

      Out of curiosity- can you provide information about what school this is (even if not a name, like some descriptive information along the lines of “small private college in Minnesota” or something)? I work in higher ed, and previously worked in admissions and I’ve NEVER heard of anything like this. I’m assuming it’s not a community college because I think most don’t require LORs and I can’t imagine a large public institution doing this given their app volume (i.e. a Big Ten school or a large flagship institution).
      I currently do admissions for a special program, and we are in the dark ages over here with our LORs! We still have a paper form with four short answer responses and a ranking form. We actually don’t require an LOR, but usually whoever is serving as the recommender will write one anyway since they’ve probably already answered what we’re looking for in the letter for another institution/program (and the form will just say “see LOR”).
      But yeah this is baffling to me as someone who works at a university…

      Also side note, is anyone else having problems with this site being really laggy today? I had to type this in word because it was being so slow…

      Reply
      1. Lady Olenna "Thorns" Tyrell--the OP#3

        I was advised very strongly by my supervisor not to get too specific (although she is a huge fan of AAM and supported my writing in the first place.) I will say that the school demanding my credentials is a private, expensive school that in the past fully-funded a lot of our kids and now has new management, if that helps.

        Common App is doable, despite some challenges as they shifted to the new platform, but some of the specific schools using Common App still want official letterhead uploaded through the site, and I’ve seen a few schools (again, private–but not those for-profit types we weeded out in the past) with really stringent requirements, like “must be senior math teacher” or “must submit sample of graded work.” When I asked a specific elite college why they needed a sample of graded work from the applicant the reply was “so we can assess your grading stringency.” So there’s that.
        Again, my end-goal is to find a solution that does not impact the applicants. These are great kids who just need a chance to prove themselves.

        Reply
        1. Nicole

          College Counselor at a Title I school here…asking you to verify your credentials by submitting your transcript is ridiculous. I have NEVER heard of that, from any college and I’m glad you’re pushing back. As far as the sample of graded work, could that student be applying test optional? Often if our students don’t submit SAT/ACT they are asked to provide graded work samples to prove their academic preparedness. We’ve never been asked to provide a sample of teacher graded work in addition to that, but maybe a school needed more info on a particular kid, and wanted to get a sense of the rigor of the course/grading?

          Kudos to you, this work is hard, and I’m glad you’re there to advocate for your students. If you aren’t already a member of some of the professional groups/listserves I would encourage you to join, they are an invaluable source of information.

          Reply
          1. Anon Higher Ed Professional

            That’s a good point about test optional policies. I appreciate that my peers in higher education are trying to create policies that will benefit disadvantaged students, but I’ll be honest in saying that I feel like they often backfire, and there is no perfect solution. I just had a lengthy conversation with my supervisor about how I disagreed with the direction we are going with an admissions policy change that will affect a few of the programs in our department.

            Reply
          2. JamieS

            Interesting insight. I didn’t even know that students who aren’t nontraditional had the option of not submitting some form of college readiness test.

            Reply
  3. Ramona Flowers

    #4 Sorry but yes, you would be refusing to take the hint if you said that. It’s disappointing not to be offered the role, but you just can’t be confident that you’re the best fit for anything – that’s not something you can ever know.

    Reply
    1. Princess Cimorene

      Right, you have no idea who the other candidates are and what they have to offer. It’s okay to be confident in your skills and experience, but you won’t know if you’re the best fit for a role for a myriad of reasons, including personality or work-style or experience or skill. You can’t know that.

      Reply
      1. Lars the Real Girl

        This. Especially personality and work-style. I had a candidate that we thought would be perfect until a benign but consistent comment from his references made it very clear that they would not work well with the manager.

        Nothing wrong with the candidate or the manager, just very different working styles that wouldn’t match at all.

        Reply
    2. Just employed here

      The employer didn’t hint at rejecting the OP, they straight out rejected them. So it’s not even not taking a hint.

      In my mind, it’s arguing with them that they were wrong by rejecting the OP, which is way worse than not taking a hint would have been (if hinting had any place in hiring discussions, which I don’t think it should have).

      Reply
    3. Escapee from Corporate Management

      OP#4, by rejecting you for your desired role and then offering you the future opportunity to interview for a lower-level one, the company has clearly communicated: (1) they consider you to be someone they can picture working at their company, but (2) not at the more senior role. You have goodwill there; please don’t waste it by continuing to push for a role that they have informed you is not a good fit for you. Either say you want to be kept in mind for the lower-level role or thank them and move on.

      Reply
      1. Djuna

        +1 to this, especially for a content role, where communication style is so very important. Pushing for reconsideration would come off as tone deaf and be an automatic red flag.

        Reply
    4. Janelle

      Also saying you are the best fit for the role. Not to be rude but they obviously don’t think so or they’d have hired you.

      Reply
      1. Koko

        Yeah, believe me – companies hate vacancies. If they thought any of you could work out, they would hire one of you so they could stop being short-staffed. That they’ve decided to go back to advertising means they really don’t think anyone who applied is tenable.

        One of the candidates saying, “But no, really, I still think I’d be great at the role!” is not a persuasive argument that suddenly adds previously-unseen merit to your application and causes them to re-assess your candidacy.

        Reply
    5. LBK

      I wonder if the OP is currently in a specialist role and sees the strategist role as a step up, and therefore doesn’t want to make a lateral move by taking another specialist role. In my experience it’s very hard to get a new job externally that’s a clear/significant promotion from your current one – it’s much, much easier to get promoted internally when you’ve already been working with the decision makers.

      If the OP is already a strategist and this would genuinely be a step down, then definitely stick to your guns, but if not I think you might have to rethink the idea that you’re qualified for this position; you may very well be, but it’s going to be really hard to prove to someone at another company if you haven’t already been doing that job.

      Reply
      1. OP #4

        Thanks for weighing in. I’m currently in a strategist role and also have experience as a manager. In my reply, I’ve asked for feedback regarding why I was not a good fit for the strategist role. I’m being laid off at the end of the year because my current company is shutting down the regional office and I’ve chosen not to relocate. Partly because of this, I didn’t want to dismiss the specialist role immediately. I’m confident that I’m qualified for the strategist position. I believe I would enjoy working at this employer, so if there seems like an opportunity for upward mobility I’d consider a specialist role, if offered. However, I would like to enter that situation feeling like I’d have an opportunity to move up within a year or two, assuming my performance warrants it.

        If it comes to that, do you have any advice on how to bring this up with the hiring manager? I’ve never pursued a position at a more junior level than my most recent experience. Like I said, I would be open to taking a step back for the chance to take 2 steps forward. But I would hate to come off as demanding when discussing this with the hiring manager.

        Reply
  4. Edith

    #1: I think using the “People often ask me where you are — what do you want me to tell them?” script is a really bad idea.

    I realize the intent is to let Bob know people notice that he plays hooky, but when the shit hits the fan it’s going to look an awful lot like the OP agreeing to aid and abet Bob’s malfeasance. Not even simply agreeing to help, but offering to. Bad idea.

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      It’s not “what cover story should I use for you?” It’s “I don’t know anything about your schedule — can you fill me in on the answer so I can share it with them?”

      Reply
        1. Winter Blossom

          I think that’s a pretty far reach. Perhaps you have had some bad experiences with a terrible management who would apportion blame in this way and are thus primed to be overly cautious, but this is actually a perfectly reasonable and normal thing for the OP to say to Bob.

          Reply
          1. Sue No-Name

            Hm, to me this is more something that Bob himself could misinterpret, and lead to him thinking that the OP was “on his side” at some point. I agree that avoiding the wording “What do you want” might be best, perhaps OP should stick to something like “People often ask me where you are and I don’t know what to tell them without basically saying you’re not here. Is there something going on with your schedule outside of the office that I’m not aware of?” Maybe OP could also ask to be alerted in advance to him leaving the office.

            Reply
            1. Stephenie S Labovitz

              Agreed… I read that script and my first reaction is that he’d say something like “Oh, just tell them I’m away at the copier and to try again later.” It was far too casual and sounded like “what cover story do you want me to say” to me as well.

              Reply
        2. Jule

          I completely agree. Either management is going to misinterpret it or Bob is going to CORRECTLY interpret it as a veiled threat. Why take either of those risks?

          Reply
          1. awkwardkaterpillar

            I don’t see this as a threat so much as a non-confrontational way of saying, “You are not being as careful as you think you are and people are noticing,” and hopefully a push to get back on track.

            Reply
        3. Koko

          The only person who might misinterpret is Bob. If Bob’s answer to the question is some variation of, “Lie for me,” OP’s response is, “I’m not comfortable doing that.”

          Reply
      1. LBK

        So what if the conversation goes like this?

        OP: People have been asking where you are in the morning – what do you want me to tell them?
        Bob: Oh, can you just say I’m in a meeting?

        Then what? Does the OP start (presumably) lying for him? I don’t envision Bob will honestly say “Tell them I’m at the gym.”

        Reply
        1. Someone else

          Then OP can answer “he said he had a meeting” (not, what Bob might’ve been hoping for that he “is in a meeting”). Even if Bob assumes it’s an offer to cover, if it isn’t one there’s no reason to subsequently behave like it.

          Reply
          1. LBK

            I guess I don’t see the advantage of that over just saying “I’m not sure, I haven’t seen him since X”.

            It seems like the point of asking the question is to imply to Bob that his absence has been noted, and I get that the reason to frame it that way is to make it seem collaborative rather than accusatory. But I don’t think you need to ask a question at all – when he comes back next time, you can just say “Jane came by earlier looking for you, I wasn’t sure where you were so I told her to just try back later/send you an email/etc”.

            I think that adequately communicates that people have noticed Bob isn’t around and the OP isn’t interested in covering for him, which is information he can choose to use however he’d like. It keeps the OP from involving herself further while still implicitly putting him on notice.

            Reply
            1. Starbuck

              Yeah, I think making that statement instead of framing it as a question for Bob makes a lot more sense for OP. OP may feel awkward with the answer they’re currently giving because they suspect that slacking is happening when Bob’s not in the office, but continuing to answer “I don’t know where Bob is, he didn’t tell me” seems like the best option for now- for one thing, it’s the truth.

              Reply
          2. many bells down

            I was kind of leaning toward this. “He said he had a meeting”, every single day, in the driest tone you can muster. Someone’s bound to wonder what this meeting is that only Bob seems to need to attend every day.

            Reply
      2. Flossie Bobbsey

        Regardless of how it’s meant by LW1, I interpreted it as conveying, “What cover story should I use?” – especially when viewed from Bob’s perspective and given the Bob-centric framing of the question (“what do you want me to tell them”), which asks about what Bob “wants” people to be told rather asks for the actual truth.

        Under either meaning, it gives Bob the leeway to insert his own cover story and expect LW1 to use it, which could come back to bite LW1 later, and it also creates somewhat of a dead-end for LW1 if Bob just gives a cover story and leaves it at that without further explanation or change of behavior.

        If LW1 does broach this with Bob, I think Allison’s above wording of “I don’t know anything about your schedule — can you fill me in on the answer so I can share it with them?” is preferable to “What do you want me to tell them?”

        Reply
    2. Artemesia

      I agree or at least think it is far too late for that. This needs to go to the manager who is off site now. The Bob is out of the office for 4 or 5 hours a day and I don’t know how you want me to handle that when people are asking where he is overture to the boss seems like the right idea to me. I assume if the OP had a tighter relationship with the manager, she would have already been more blunt. This guy needs to be fired; time for the boss to drop in more often.

      Reply
      1. Lars the Real Girl

        Yes. I would escalate to the manager regardless. Especially if she is remote, she probably has no idea what’s going on. In case (as mentioned below) there may be a legitimate reason, phrasing it as a question can mitigate that.

        Either Alison’s script or “hey, Bob is out for half of the day or more, everyday. I don’t know what arrangement he may have with you, but I’m finding it hard to keep up productivity because I need to work around that schedule/keep getting interrupted by people looking for him/[insert actual job detriment here].

        Reply
      2. Just Allison

        I totally agree, this same situation happened at one of my previous jobs. We where a fairly young team and it was one of the more senior team members that did this. Our boss sat us down and told us that if we notice anything strange like this happening (which we had but where to scared or unsure what to do) we needed to report it right way. Even if it turned out to be nothing it was better safe then sorry. The employee in question would come in clock in make a big show of getting to work disappear for hours and then come back and be like what day huh guys. They did this for months getting paid their salary and bonuses for working so long and hard… our manager made it very clear that the company would rather know sooner than later. So I would say talk to your boss! This man is getting paid for work he isnt doing, and making your team and more importantly you look bad.

        Reply
      3. Green Goose

        I agree that the OP should say something to the manager. If the coworker did something like this every once in a while, or was taking long bathroom breaks I would think the OP would have to just deal with it BUT being out of the office for 4-5 hours each day is very significant. What if the coworker is now part-time or was given some sort of flex schedule and the manager forgot to tell the OP? (I don’t think thats what is happening but just an example)
        If one of my team members was only in the office a couple of hours a day, I’d want to know ahead of time. A lot of things can come up and if you are unable to reach/check in with your coworker for more than half the workday, it affects how the OP needs to plan her own schedule.
        Also, as a manager myself I’d want to know if one of my employees was gone for half the day.

        Reply
      4. RobotWithHumanHair

        I had a similar issue in my last job. Coworker would disappear for hours at a time, leave early without a word, etc. Problem was, our boss was complicit in all of it, even to the point of turning a blind eye to him double-dipping in terms of pay (claiming working hours in the department while going off and teaching a class and getting paid additional for that). Hopefully this isn’t another situation where the manager is actively enabling the behavior.

        Reply
    3. Stellaaaaa

      OP wouldn’t be saying, “Let’s agree on a cover story.” OP is saying, “People are starting to notice what you’re doing, and I just might tell them the truth. How bout that?” I’d expect Bob to mutter something generic and magically start spending more time in the office.

      Reply
      1. Edith

        We know that, but the higher ups might misinterpret it. Why not just adapt a casual tone and ask him directly where he’s been? It’ll have the same intended results without leaving room for interpretation on the part of a third party.

        Reply
        1. JamieS

          I’m curious what scenario you’re envisioning that would have the higher ups investigating to the point they discover OP once asked Bob what to tell people when they ask about his whereabouts and then would form a damning opinion of the OP over it. It’s not like Bob is going to get into trouble for skipping out and exclaim “But OP once asked where I was at! OP’s really the one to blame!” Or at least if he did I don’t see that being the route to success.

          IMO most reasonable people, which we must assume the higher ups are until proven otherwise, would interpret “people are asking where you’re at. What do you want me to tell them?” To mean “I don’t know the answer, where are you?” not “Let’s come up with a cover story for your frequent absence.”

          Reply
          1. Edith

            Typically when I am out of the office the place I am and the place I want people to believe I am is the same thing. There’s no reason to dance around the subject and ask me where I want others to be told I am, so I suppose I bristle at that wording because it sounds like a tacit acknowledgment that OP and Bob both know the next words out of Bob’s mouth are going to be a lie.

            As others have said— and I both agree with and have never disputed— ideally the outcome of this talk will be Bob muttering a noncommittal excuse to OP and suddenly start being at the office a lot more. But what if he doubles down? What if he says “Say I’m at X” and keeps on as his is now? Is OP going to start telling people he’s at X? What I am envisioning is it getting out that OP has been lying for Bob. That is obviously a worst case scenario, but it’s one that can very easily be avoided by just tweaking Alison’s proposed wording a little bit. That’s all I’m saying.

            Reply
            1. JamieS

              I think your biases may be clouding your judgment on this one. If I were your coworker and said people are asking me where you are and asked what to tell them it’d just mean I’m asking for the answer to the question since I don’t know where you are.

              In your scenario, if Bob’s answer is plausible but there’s reasonable doubt (or even if there’s no reason to doubt him) I’d suggest OP make it clear they’re only passing along what Bob told them. If it’s a clear blatant lie, such as Bob telling OP to tell co-workers he was just there a second ago when he’s been gone 3 hours, OP obviously shouldn’t repeat the lie to others.

              As long as OP doesn’t knowingly lie to others there’s not really anything for OP to worry about.

              As for tweaking the wording I imagine OP would put it in their own words but regardless of how it’s asked if Bob feels the need to lie he’ll lie. It won’t really matter if OP phrases it as ‘What do you want me to tell others?’ or ‘Where are you?’ Either way Bob will lie if he’s so inclined.

              Reply
            2. LS

              The co-worker can say, “Bob said he was going to X this morning.” It’s clear that they are not colluding, if Bob is lying that’s not on the co-worker, and Bob’s got a heads-up that his absence is noticed.

              Reply
            3. LBK

              I’m kinda with you on this one – I can see it looking bad for the OP if Bob gives her a cover story to use, the OP starts using it and then the truth comes out some other way. It could look like the OP was helping cover for him.

              I don’t see what’s wrong with just continuing to say “Not sure, he left around 9:30.” You don’t owe him anything beyond that.

              Reply
              1. Wintermute

                I think we’re getting a little bit far down the “what if” chain. I work with a lot of very analytical people, it happens. A tool I’ve found helps is actually adapting a tool used for handling anxiety: looking at your assumption chain and considering its plausibility.

                Here the assumption chain is:

                Bill tells OP something that’s not true (moderately likely)
                The OP uses the information bill gave her (very likely)
                The boss finds out Bill is not in the office (reasonably likely)
                The boss finds out that OP told people that Bill was (moderately likely)
                The boss has a problem with bill’s absence (moderately likely, he might be doing legit work)
                The boss digs deeper and finds out OP told people where bill was (Somewhat unlikely)
                The boss holds OP personally responsible (unlikely)
                When confronted about this the OP tells their boss “I asked Bob where he would be, he said X” and is not satisfied with that answer (very unlikely)
                the Boss thinks this is so egregious that it hurts their opinion of OP and the OPs standing (very unlikely)

                As you can see we started with reasonable assumptions but when we started getting into the OP being blamed we went off the “what-if” rails a bit. Is there a chance OP works for a lunatic? there are always lunatics. But if you look at the chain of events it would take to get from “Hey bob where should I tell people you are?” To “Boss thinks OP has integrity issues” is a long and winding road that gets narrower and narrower.

                Reply
          1. Stellaaaaa

            A coworker absolutely can ask Bob where he’s been going if it’s affecting the work. In turn, Bob has the freedom to decline to answer.

            Reply
        2. Stephenie S Labovitz

          Agreed. I would say, “X, Y, and X have stopped by looking for you all morning. Where have you been?”

          Reply
    4. I Coulda Been a Lawyer ;)

      Yes, AAM is correct as always. This lets Bob know that many people know what’s up so he either has to come to work or double-down on the lying.

      Reply
    5. SignalLost

      Worse idea: there is a legitimate reason Bob is out this much that OP simply doesn’t know. (I am not stating I believe this or that OP should take action based on this or any other hypothetical.) Asking a totally normal, non hostile question like “when you’re gone unexpectedly, what do you want me to tell people who need you” is a good way to preserve the working relationship, should there be an innocent explanation. And even if there isn’t, maybe the manager doesn’t care. Maybe it would be nice to have a pleasant working relationship until OP can get a new job. Standing up and shouting “J’accuse!” is a good way to harm that relationship.

      Reply
      1. Steve

        I would worry that Bob would tell me to say something that is misleading or dishonest, but not clearly so. Then I would end up having to question Bob or think maybe I was kind of lying for him.

        Reply
        1. Coywolf

          I agree, maybe we’re being cynical but I work with people who don’t think twice about lying through their teeth to cover their butts and will try to fool others around them into covering for them by playing the polite, innocent coworker.

          Reply
        2. Just employed here

          You could always then tell people “Bob said he’s at X”, instead of “Bob is at X”. It’s a fine line, but one most people would recognize, especially if delivered carefully. You are not lying for Bob, you are taking his word for it and not getting dragged into it.

          But I’d certainly combine this with talking with the manager.

          Reply
          1. Feotakahari

            This is exactly how I would handle it. “Bob’s always gone at this time of day. He says he’s at [X]. He usually gets back by [Y].”

            Reply
          2. Coywolf

            Eh, I can totally see what you mean but what happens when it’s 9:35 am (bob left at 9:30 am) and somebody higher up the food chain comes by and asks where bob is and you give them the “bob is usually gone at this time of day, he says he’s grabbing lunch and he’s usually back by 11:30 am.” That’s just going to make OP look like they knew something fishy was going on and never went to their manager about it, or worse yet, like they didn’t even notice that this wasn’t ok.

            Reply
            1. Julia

              I don’t know. OP is at her desk, working, and she can’t force AbsentBob to be there.
              I had co-worker who always extended lunch, and when people came into our office right after lunch (we had set hours) and asked where she was, I usually told them to come back in 15 minutes when she would stroll in. No one seemed to blame me for “letting” her be late, and sometimes I helped that person instead and gained some favor, and sometimes they just shrugged it off.

              Reply
            2. Just employed here

              I agree that such a whole spiel would sound fishy, but I wouldn’t bother with all that.

              Literally just “Bob said he was going to X”. Or, if OP doesn’t have the conversation with Bob (which I don’t think they should have to, unless they feel like it) “Sorry, Bob didn’t mention where he was going”.

              The longer, more detailed question/explanation I would save for the boss.

              If I’d feel particularly annoyed by Bob’s behaviour, I’d probably encourage people looking for him to call his cell phone. I’m in a part of the world where we don’t really use voicemail (anymore), so that would force Bob to either a) pick up the phone and have some good explanation ready, or b) call the person back when he’s done at the gym or whereever he is, with an even better explanation.

              OP isn’t Bob’s keeper, or at least I wouldn’t want to feel that way in OP’s place.

              Reply
            3. Stephenie S Labovitz

              I would be honest. “I’m not sure where Bob is…. He’s normally gone in the mornings until about 11:30.” That makes it clear that I don’t manage his schedule, but that that he MIGHT have a work reason or meeting that isn’t my business.

              Reply
              1. aebhel

                Yep. It’s not OP’s job to keep track of his schedule, or to cover for him. If someone asks, saying you’re not sure is perfectly legit; hopefully, they’ll direct the question to Bob in the future.

                (I also like mentioning that this is his *usual* behavior.)

                Reply
        3. eplawyer

          Just because Bob says to say something, doesn’t mean you have to. If Bob says “tell people I have a sick mother” when the whole office knows his mom died 3 years ago, does not mean you have to say “Bob says he’s taking care of his sick mother.” You just nod. Then tell the manager, who you are going to talk anyway, that you asked Bob and Bob lied through his teeth.

          As for the Manager, the manager should not be so remote she doesn’t know one of her employees is gone more than half a day so often. Doesn’t she notice his work is not getting done in a timely manner?

          Reply
          1. SignalLost

            I definitely agree this all happens in the context of a conversation with the manager, and ideally the manager will do something about it. I just don’t see the harm in preserving a decent working relationship (OP is legit angry but Bob doesn’t appear to be actively hostile to her, so, decent working relationship) by using Alison’s script rather than mentally framing it as “taking part in a cover up of I ask this question”.

            Reply
    6. Princess Cimorene

      I just think it needs to go straight to “asking the manager for advice” route. I wouldn’t even ask Bob. Upper management won’t bring on new team-members because they think output for this team is poor — and clearly there is a reason why that they seem to be oblivious to. It’s time to pull back the blinds and framing it as advice is a good way to do it.

      If there is a legitimate reason for Bob to be gone so much, then that will come to light. If there isn’t then perhaps it will be stopped and Bob can begin to contribute to the teams output, or move on so someone else can be brought in who will.

      Reply
      1. Lil Fidget

        I think I actually agree with this. I would ask the manager the question Alison suggested asking Bob. “With Bob gone most mornings and most of the afternoon, how do you want me to address the people who come looking for him?” this is not tattling, this is 100% your business. If Bob has medical appointments or something, the boss will know of it and tell you the right way to proceed. And if the manager didn’t know, well, now they do.

        Reply
      2. Really Rosie

        I agree with this especially because OP is concerned about how her department is looking to other employees. So say “I don’t know where Bob is” day after day could make them all look bad.

        Reply
    7. Observer

      Keep in mind that Alison also suggested that the OP ask the manager how to handle this. At that point, even it Bob claims that she offered to cover for him, the manager knows that the OP actually was the one who provided a heads up.

      Reply
    8. Agent Diane

      As someone who remotely manages, I’d want to know you’re worried about this OP1. Either so I can confirm I know and it’s factored in to the team plans, or so I can act to resolve it. Remote management is built on trust, and it’s not just trusting my reports to do their work – it’s trusting them to let me know about problems.

      But I have questions!

      Do you pick up Bob’s phone for him? If so, what are you currently saying? Start saying “I’ve not seen him since 9.30 – do you want me to ask him to call you back when he’s back at his desk?”. This creates a bit more work for you in taking his messages but it also means callers start noticing Bob doesn’t call back till gone 11.30. If Bob doesn’t like it, he’ll need to give you a reason to say something else.

      What check-in processes do you have with your manager? How often does she call for a chat of some kind? Because I get a tingly feeling when I can’t raise one of my reports if I call around 10.00…

      What’s in place to log work hours? Because again, if a system is there Bob may be lying on it.

      Reply
      1. Agent Diane

        Forgot to say you can use the messages thing for anyone physically dropping by: “I’ve not seen him since 09.30. Do you want me to send him your way when he’s back at his desk?”. The list of calls/drop-bys he then needs to return flags to him that his absences are noticed, and works as a bonus bit of evidence for you to share with your manager.

        Reply
    9. Cordoba

      I don’t see how Bob’s whereabouts or schedule is any business of the OP. OP isn’t the manager here, and seems to have no stake in what Bob’s doing.

      If Bob’s work output is unsatisfactory that’s something his manager should be aware of and address. It’s not OPs problem either way.

      It seems that the only real impact on OPs work is that people will occasionally (once every few weeks!) ask where Bob is. When this happens I don’t see why “I don’t know, haven’t seen him since 9 (shrug)” or “It’s not my day to watch him”.

      There’s no reason for this to represent any emotional effort on the OP’s part or for it to impact their well-being. It’s a 3-step process:
      1) Every few weeks somebody asks where Bob is.
      2) OP accurately reports that they don’t know where Bob is.
      3) Done.

      I’ve worked in several “typical” office environments where I made my own hours because the boss didn’t seem to care as long as I got my work done. I would not like it if a busybody who sits next to me tried to monkeywrench that arrangement simply because they were jealous or twice a month had to say “Don’t know where they are.”

      Reply
      1. JessMindy

        I had a coworker like Bob – came in about 7, did about an hour’s work, then watched wrestling videos until 12:30 (while eating his lunch from 11:30-12:30), then left for the gym until about 2. Then another two hours of wrestling videos until he left on the dot at 4. He was one of the first people laid off at my company.

        Reply
      2. Been there

        I agree and was going to say the same thing. The only real question for the OP is if or what to say to the shared manager. The script for people who stop by is the easy part.

        Hey, I’m looking for Bob have you seen him… Nope
        Oh, any idea when he’ll be back?…. Nope
        Hmm… can you tell him I’m looking for him… Sure

        As for the conversation with the manager I will admit I’d be more than peeved, and would probably end up saying something snarky on a bad day (I don’t recommend this approach btw).

        Manager: Why don’t you and Bob get together and let me know how you want to handle the teapot account
        Me: Yeahhhh I’ll get right on that if I ever see him again. This new schedule you have him on makes it pretty hard to talk to him
        Mgr: Huh? what new schedule
        Me: You know the one where he shows up for about 20 min and then leaves everyday until 11:30 and then he’s gone between 2-4 every day.

        Reply
        1. Cordoba

          “The only real question for the OP is if or what to say to the shared manager. ”

          I genuinely see no reason at all why the OP would have to say anything to the shared manager about this.

          Somebody who OP does not supervise is working a schedule that is not actually impacting OP or their job. OP should stop worrying about what Bob is doing, where he is, or how to discuss it with their boss.

          Reply
          1. KR

            But it is impacting OP because management doesn’t want to hire them help in their department because they think they aren’t working to capacity which clearly Bob isn’t. And also, if I were a manager and found out my employee was doing this and no one told me about it, I would be absolutely miffed. Worst case scenario OP mentions something to manager and the manager says, Oh I knew about that it’s fine. And it would be a little awkward for OP. Best case Manager tells the wandering coworker to knock it off and OPs department gets up to speed.

            Reply
            1. Fortitude Jones

              But it is impacting OP because management doesn’t want to hire them help in their department because they think they aren’t working to capacity which clearly Bob isn’t.

              Quoted for emphasis since people seem to keep skipping over that part of the letter.

              Reply
            2. Wintermute

              We don’t know that Bob isn’t working when he’s gone. We’ve seen the exact flip side of this in letters in fact! “My coworkers think I’m slacking off, my boss has told them I have sales meetings all morning most days but they still make snide comments!” was the gist of one I recall.

              Reply
          2. Lil Fidget

            OP is only human – assuming they make the same amount of money s/he’s going to feel pretty crappy working 40 hours and not getting more staff while Bob whiles away the hours. This is affecting team morale.

            Reply
      3. Kate

        Completely agree with this comment. I’ve had jobs where my manager was more concerned with output than “face time” in the office. Often that may have involved me leaving midday to go to the gym – and hopping online at home at 7 or 8. I’d be rather irritated if a coworker – with whom I didn’t share responsibilities – escalated things to my manager without having a normal conversation with me about it first.

        Reply
        1. LBK

          But I’d think in that situation a reasonable manager would just not say anything to Bob about it, because there’d be no reason to. A manager should partly act like a filter; you don’t have to bring every piece of feedback you receive to your employees if you don’t believe it’s valid.

          (Also even in a job that’s not about face time, spending 2-4 hours of your day elsewhere feels pretty extreme – I’m in a similar situation and I do often log on at night or answer emails on my work phone 24/7, but half your time in the office is too much to not be spending actually working.)

          Reply
        2. Lil Fidget

          That would be my only caution to OP. In a good workplace, even a remote manager would have caught on to an employee doing THIS little work. Which implies that the manager probably isn’t very good and might be less helpful if OP brings it up. They should be prepared for a teeth-gritting conversation if they do escalate it (like “oh, that’s just Bob, what can you do? *shrug*). Signed – someone who has been there.

          Reply
        3. Turquoisecow

          If Bob has a flexible work schedule, I would think the OP should/does have that ability also. This is not mentioned in the letter. If Bob has some other personal or medical need to be away from his desk for so long, the manager can discretely share that info with OP when they speak. I don’t think it’s out of line for OP to speak up about Bob’s schedule, especially if people are asking where he is and they sit right next to each other.

          I might feel more comfortable saying something to the manager than outright accusing Bob for the precise reason that maybe he *does* have some special reason and that is none of my business. But I do think it’s valid that OP know how to respond, even if she doesn’t know the particulars. People are noticing. People will continue to notice. If Bob works flex time then Bob (or the OP, or the manager) should be able to communicate optimum times for anyone to reach him, rather than continuing radio silence on the matter.

          Already the team as a whole may be getting a bad reputation because of Bob. If people continually look for him and can’t find him, they may ascribe that unavailability to the entire team (unfairly). OP’s manager needs to either state Bon’s legit reason or tell Bob to stay in the office. It’s up to OP if she wants to help the manager or not, but clearly she’s upset enough and inconvenienced enough by his absences that it’s worth asking about.

          Reply
      4. CheeryO

        Agreed. I can see where it could affect their overall work output, but that’s on the manager to identify and address.

        I have a couple coworkers who play fast and loose with our butt-in-seat requirements, and it makes us look pretty bad to other departments. I’m constantly asked where they are since they sit across from me. I tell people what I know and don’t offer apologies.

        Reply
      5. Observer

        I agree on the emotional bit – unless the OP has fairly unreasonable co-workers “I have no idea, he left at x:00” is more than enough.

        On the other hand, the OP is most definitely being affected by Bob’s absence – their shared manager is annoyed that they are not hitting targets, and is not focusing just on Bob. That gives the OP absolute standing to ask the boss how to handle Bob’s absences, especially in terms of what to say to outside people who are asking about him, and schedule.

        Reply
  5. Princess Cimorene

    3. Ridiculous demands on teachers giving recommendations
    While it’s been a while since I was in school, all of this sounds ridiculously excessive. It’s not lost on me that you noted that your school likely is located in an under-served area for a population of students who face more barriers. Can’t help but wonder if this is not another barrier to make it harder for them to push through. I wonder if teachers in other areas face the same criteria for their students. When we say it is systemic, this could be another example of that. Where it is hidden but deliberate and harder to traverse. I don’t even have advice. If it’s what I’m thinking it could be, then I’m just frustrated and sad.

    Reply
    1. One of the Sarahs

      If this was the UK, I’d suggest writing to the Times Education Supplement, or the Guardian’s education pages, as a question for the letters page, or directly to a journalist, to see if there’s a wider pattern there. If it’s trying to put barriers up deliberately, or ‘just’ completely clueless and doing it by accident, it’s the type of thing that should be investigated.

      Or, is there a national body that oversees higher education in your country, is it worth flagging it with them? Asking for marked work and transcripts is just ridiculous.

      Reply
  6. Phoenix Programmer

    Especially since Bob may have legitimate work reasons to be out of the office. He may workout during his lunch break and pickup food on the way back from the daily TPS project meeting. It’s best to assume good faith on Bob’s part and use Allison’s script.

    Reply
      1. Wednesday Mouse

        He may have a regular meeting at 9:30; he goes to the meeting which lasts til 10:30, then goes for his lunch break for an hour to work out, and picks up his subway sandwich on the way back from the gym getting back to the office for 11:30.

        It’s unlikely, given the details in OP’s letter, but it could be an innocent explanation.

        Reply
      2. MK

        I think Phoenix meant that he might have a daily meeting at say 9:45, that lasts an hour, then takes his lunch break at 10:45, spends it working out and picks up a sandwich on his way back and eats while working. Which would be a bizarre schedule, but the general point stands: his absenses might be legitimate out-of-the-office meetings.

        Reply
          1. CheeryO

            “Slinking” is pretty subjective, though, and the gym bag could be for anything. I tend to sneak in/out when I leave early or get in late, even if it’s completely above-board, because it just seems less disruptive and I don’t feel like explaining my medical appointments to the office busybodies. It does seem likely that he is sneaking off, but I don’t think it’s helpful to approach it with that assumption in place.

            Reply
          2. Yorick

            “Slinking” might just mean leaving and arriving without announcing oneself, which I always do, whether I leave early or on time or later than usual.

            Reply
  7. Princess Cimorene

    1. My coworker disappears for hours every day

    And frankly, you might consider letting your manager know what’s happening, framing it as a request for advice: “Bob is out of the office for 4-5 hours most days. How do you want me to handle that when people are looking for him or I need him for something like X or Y?”

    Honestly I would skip asking Bob what you should say and go right to this piece of advice from Alison here. I would just directly say it to management and framing it this way is perfect. If he is abusing his freedom because his manager is remote, it isn’t fair to your team and the output that is expected is obviously harmed and the connection isn’t being made, because clearly management doesn’t know Bob is taking advantage of his situation.

    Reply
    1. Phoenix Programmer

      Or Bob is not taking advantage and his week is our of the office meeting clients and vendors etc. Allison’s script is great because it is factual and neutral.

      Reply
        1. Princess Cimorene

          haha, yes, but if his reason is legitimate the manager will answer that in explaining that to LW. If it isn’t then Bob can be dealt with, without LW feeling like a “tattle”

          Sleep tight!!

          Reply
    2. Bagpuss

      I think I’d do both.
      Speak to Bob and say something like “can you mark in your diary when you’re out, so when people call for you I can let them know when you are likely to be back” but *also* speak to the manager and raise it.

      As k the manger how she would like you deal with the enquires and I think you can raise it as ‘Bob is out for up to 2 hours most mornings, and sometimes for a similar period in the afternoon’ and then go on to asking whether there any scope for addressing what needs cover – i.e. if Bob is out meeting clients/vendors, can a case be made for more office based support, if he is out for personal reasons is there any scope for getting temporary help until he is back to being able to cover his normal hours?

      I do also think it is legitimate to raise the fact tat you understand that organisation wont authorise extra staff right now but you are concerned as to whether your own performance is being measured separately, so you are not disadvantaged if the office as a whole is under performing, and also whether, if Bobs absences are either authorised or work related, that is being taken into account in measuring the office’s needs and performance

      Reply
      1. starbuck

        Are we certain that the company is not a “holacracy” that would be OK with Bob being away if he is not immediately needed?

        Reply
    1. Fake old Converse shoes

      I don’t think Bob’s real reason won’t top the guy from OldJob that regularly escaped the office to drive tourists from and to the international airport. Oh, I wish I could’ve been present when he was caught.

      Reply
    2. Blue Anne

      Wasn’t there a post/comment from someone here who went to a grocery store to grab lunch one day, and found that their often-absent colleague was working a whole other job as a cashier at the same time?

      Reply
      1. Ferg

        Oh man this is epic! I once had a coworker who would leave work 5 hours early to work her retail job. Never got caught either…

        Reply
  8. Lars the Real Girl

    Op #2, I want to double down on Alison’s point here:

    By the way, when you’re asking for more money, it shouldn’t be breaking your rules to give a range that you’re looking for. The employer can’t give you what you want if they don’t know what that is.

    The rule is to not to give your salary range first, not to never tell them.

    I promoted an employee recently and she was really unhappy with the new salary, though she deserved more. I asked her to let me know what number she thought was fair (there was some room for negotiation here) and she said “that’s for you to decide”, and refused to give a number that would make her happy.

    Management can’t play a guessing game on what will make you happy vs just okay vs totally not happy, you have to tell the managers what you want.

    Reply
    1. Drama Llama

      I know there are employers who want to pay the absolute minimum. But there are also lots others who actually want to pay well so the good people will stay. So it’s definitely frustrating when employees expect managers to play guessing games. Just be straight up and have an open communication (both ways).

      Reply
    2. Em Too

      I see her point actually. Does she deserve more? Aren’t you in a better place to judge than she is? Do you not worry if your strong but less demanding performers are on a lower salary than their weak but more demanding peers?

      Reply
      1. hbc

        But Lars has already used the information available to determine a salary. If Lars is in a better position to judge, then she should accept the judgment and take the salary. If Lars is wrong (it happens to well-meaning employers), then she has information that Lars doesn’t, and should name the right salary.

        I’m kind of in this position with a current employee. He’s good, but not as good as he thinks, and his position is not as advanced as he thinks. If we just tweaked upwards based on our guess of what he wants and what is reasonable, he would still find it insulting, because he believes he’s worth 25-35% more than he’s getting. It ends up being a different conversation than “well, maybe we can stretch our band up a notch.”

        Reply
        1. Em Too

          I see a difference between ‘this is why I think I’m underpaid’ and ‘I’d be happy with $x’.

          I do see both sides: Lars doesn’t want to play a guessing game about her wants – but equally she doesn’t want to play a guessing game about what he considers reasonable! I’d assume the existing salary is disappointing but not a dealbreaker for her, and perhaps asking her why she thinks it’s low would be more useful than asking for a particular figure (especially in a case where she’s just got a increase, so it’s not she needs $x, it’s more an extra $5k would make her less unhappy, $10k would be kind of OK, $15k would be quite happy…)

          Reply
          1. SunshineOH

            I think the question is not what Lars thinks is reasonable – they already made an offer, so we can assume that’s what they think is reasonable. The question is, what does the employee think is reasonable. And it’s silly for her to not provide a number for that.

            Reply
            1. Trout 'Waver

              But Lars said there is room for negotiation. So this employee could get more money by simply asking for it. But she has no idea how much to ask for. Lars holds all the cards here. Asking someone with no or very little information to negotiate against someone with all the information is needlessly adversarial.

              Reply
              1. Lars the Real Girl

                Nope. Incorrect take-away. Room for negotiation means if she had specific things she could bring to the table that I hadn’t considered, we could reevaluate. I didn’t have $10 to give and only gave $5 and expect her to figure it out. I had $10 to give and I gave it, but if $11 or $12 meant a happy employee that I want to keep…I could fight for the extra.

                And my employee works in comp&ben. She actually knows more than I do about company-wide salaries.

                Reply
        2. MK

          Eh, how does him naming a salary help you in this case? Surely the first thing to de would be to correct his misapprehensions about his seniority (if not his worth).

          Reply
    3. Trout 'Waver

      On your last point, you’re asking her to play a guessing game. Or maybe you’re one of the 99% of companies that illegally has some prohibition on employees discussing salary and she knows she’s underpaid by word of mouth.

      Why not simply look at your salaries for similar roles, give her the same salary as her colleagues, and explain why you pay what you do? You have way more information about that than she does.

      Reply
      1. fposte

        But Lars probably already did that. I think this is more like a hiring scenario where the offer is on the table with $x. The candidate has been explicitly offered $x and said she’s not thrilled about $x. In general, the candidate then says “I’d hoped for something more like $X+$10k.” This candidate isn’t entering into negotiation. It’s a bad plan, because she’s likelier to get what she wants if she asks for it than if she tries to make the company scramble to figure out what it is, and since she’s an internal candidate she’s hurting existing relationships with this.

        Reply
        1. Trout 'Waver

          Or the company could have fair wages according to the local market and explain them.

          You’re saying the employee should guess a number because the employer threw out a low ball.

          Reply
          1. Someone else

            It’s not a guess though. The employee is presumably unhappy because they do actually have something else in mind, so the point is to say what that is at this point. If she doesn’t have a number in her head for what she thinks is reasonable, then she’s being a bit unreasonable to say “$X is not good enough but I can’t say what is”. You have to know what “good enough” is to know that $X isn’t.

            Reply
            1. Trout 'Waver

              But why should it be the lowest number the employee is willing to accept? Why can’t the company just say what they’re willing to pay instead of trying to lowball her? If you game theory out her position, the only way she doesn’t leave money on the table by guessing what the employer is willing to pay is if she magically guesses correctly at the company’s top dollar.

              Why make anyone guess? The company knows what they pay others in her role.

              Reply
              1. Koko

                Maybe there are no others in her role, or maybe she’s already being paid what they are.

                I also think it’s valid for a company to seek to pay the lowest fair wage they can. That’s different than seeking to pay the lowest wage they can get away with at all. Maybe her extra pay has to come out of the department’s budget for staff professional development, so if she’d be happy with $5k they will offer that to leave as much as they can in the professional development budget, but if she’s going to quit if they don’t offer $10k more, they will reluctantly move the extra money to retain her.

                Yes, in a sense she’s “leaving money on the table” if she doesn’t wring their highest offer out of them, but the employer is also “leaving money on the table” if they don’t wring the lowest offer out of her. It’s reasonable to try to meet somewhere in the middle as long as the resulting offer is fair.

                Reply
              2. Someone else

                Your argument makes sense if the conversation were happening before the company made an offer or provided a number themselves. Since they have provided a number they think is acceptable, if the employee thinks it’s not acceptable, the onus is then on her to present her own terms or reasoning. In the situation presented, the employee is making the company do the guessing, not the other way around because they have indicated a number and she has not.

                Reply
          2. hbc

            Why are you assuming it’s not a fair wage? I have done exactly what you said with my employee, but he just disagrees on our logic. I can’t even imagine how hard this conversation would be if he wouldn’t give me a number. I’m not deliberately lowballing him–he needs to change my mind about what’s fair, and simply saying “I want more than that, keep guessing” is not helpful.

            Reply
            1. Trout 'Waver

              I’m not assuming anything.

              Also, I’m not responding to your situation. I think your situation is different from Lars’s because your employee has unrealistic expectations. In Lars’s situation, the employee is being asked to guess a number in Lars’s head, as indicated by the fact that Lars said the salary is negotiable without telling the employee the band.

              Reply
          3. Elsajeni

            A company can have fair wages and explain them and I can still think they’re lower than what I want, though. You seem to be assuming the only way they could have a mismatch is if the company is trying to lowball the employee — it’s also totally possible that the employee has unreasonable expectations given the market, or that they’re both within the range of “a fair wage for this work in this market” but just at different ends of it.

            Reply
              1. Lars the Real Girl

                And in this particular situation, it’s exactly as Elsajani described. We’re not trying to low-ball anyone. A fair wage isn’t a single number. We work in a professional office environment and salaries differ based on the contributions of a specific employee.

                This is a conversation between company and employee, not a top-down dictatorship. I want my employees to feel they’re being fairly compensated (the same way I want to feel like I’m fairly compensated.) But that doesn’t mean everyone makes a million dollars a year.

                I had room to move, if she presented a convincing argument/explanation for what she thought the role was worth. She didn’t.

                Reply
    4. Lars the Real Girl

      I’ll reply at the very bottom because there were a lot of points here. I did miss in my post that I did ask my employee to give me her justification about how she viewed the new role and what it was worth (which she never did). “Room for negotiation” doesn’t mean I had a budget and tried to come in at the very bottom, it means that I had already worked out what I believed was a fair increase, but the bristling made me look at my own review and go “maybe there is something I’m missing”. We’re not government or anything so I don’t have “set” numbers, I have room to re-look at my compensation plans and see if a different number would make sense, but it needs to make sense.

      We weren’t trying to low ball in any way, and my employee does good work, and is within the bands, but I think she believes she’s doing more than she is, which is why I asked her for the justification. I honestly believed she would be happy with the increase. We pay at the high end of market for our industry and region.

      We’re a small company so there’s not a whole swath of people in the same job (the promotion was actually a creation of a new role), and if a couple thousand dollars meant happy employee vs bitter employee, I’d find a way to make it work. But I didn’t know if we were talking about a couple thousand or if she was looking for a 40% increase. At that point, the conversation would be different and our expectations and view of the role would be highly mismatched.

      Reply
  9. Imaginary Number

    For #3: I wonder if there are colleges doing this as an attempt to force teachers to be more selective with students they’re writing recommendations for? Perhaps they’re hoping that most teachers will say no to this except for a select few.

    Reply
    1. Lars the Real Girl

      I think they’re doing it to prevent “fraud” (i.e. faked references) but completely failing to think about the burden on the people who actually write them.

      A lot of applications *require* a reference or 2 so if teachers had to be more selective, whole swaths of students wouldn’t be able to get any.

      Reply
      1. Liane

        The OP has commented that she believes the colleges are trying to to keep out her students, many of whom are underprivileged, and that colleagues at schools where students are of higher SES aren’t getting all these hoops.

        Facetious. Be great if OP and her fellow teachers could send a request to the colleges. “Dear Prof. McGonagle, before I fill out the Hoops packet, I need further information. Please forward a copy of Hogwarts’ Accreditation, as well as the CV and transcripts for the president, Prof. Dumbledore. Additionally, Madame, enclose your CV, transcripts, and a year of pay stubs, so that I may can determine if you meet School’s standards to judge admissions materials, as well as prove that you are indeed the Registrar of Hogwarts University.”
        /Facetious

        Reply
      2. fposte

        That’s my thought. I’m on the grad side so I don’t have experience with the high school folks, but in general schools really *don’t* want to gatekeep out lower-resource students–they’re just super thoughtless when it comes to anticipating what’s likely to do that.

        Reply
      3. Matilda Jefferies

        But if fraud is the issue, it seems to me it would be fairly easy to get around just by asking for the teacher’s registration number. Don’t most jurisdictions already have an organization whose job it is to verify the eligibility and identity of teachers? Why not just confirm their status using the system that has already been established to do exactly that?

        I have to agree that there’s more going on here than just fraud prevention. I hope the OP can get to the bottom of it, somehow.

        Reply
        1. bridget

          Not to mention, most people writing letters of recommendation (or just regular references) can be contacted through their place of business. Suspicious this letter you are reading may be fake? Call up reception at the school and ask to be put through to the teacher/have the teacher return your call during a prep period. Have a short conversation with a real human being to verify that they indeed wrote the letter and maybe ask a follow up question or two about how the student stacked up to her peers, how rigorous the curve was, etc. This will be easier on everyone, and you can just do spot-checks.

          Reply
      4. AsItIs

        Not to prevent fraud. Fraud is easy. There are hundreds (thousands?) of overseas students at universities in the US, Canada, Europe, thanks to fraudulent applications. It’s big business in some countries. Ask any college student whether there are foreign students in their intake who can’t speak English (or relevant language).

        Reply
    2. Falling Diphthong

      Imagine this adopted by employers. “Dear ____, Smedley Feelgood has listed you as a reference. To complete the task of referencing him, you will need to spend several hours filling out our background survey—on your background, not his–thereby giving us the ability to send you many fabulous promotional emails. You will need to provide 3 graded papers or tests from when you yourself were in college, plus a transcript. In addition, before we get to Smedley, we want…”

      This would rapidly narrow your applicant pool to people who paid Fake References Inc to hook them up with three fake people they’d farmed through who were willing to, say, write a paper on the Teapot Dome Scandal, grade it, and hold onto it like “Yes, I’m a totally normal legit person who happens to have paper copies of a Chemistry test I took sophomore year of college on hand. Doesn’t everyone save those until 10 years past retirement?”

      Reply
      1. Sue No-Name

        Agreed it’s absurdly ridiculous, but the OP probably means papers they graded as a teacher, not papers they completed as a student which were then graded by a prof/teacher.

        Reply
    3. Liane

      The OP has commented that she believes the colleges are trying to to keep our her students, many of whom are underprivileged, and that colleagues at schools where students are of higher SES aren’t getting all these hoops.

      Facetious. Be great if OP and her fellow teachers could send a request to the colleges. “Dear Prof. McGonagle, before I fill out the Hoops packet, I need further information. Please forward a copy of Hogwarts’ Accreditation, as well as the CV and transcripts for the president, Prof. Dumbledore. Additionally, Madame, enclose your CV, transcripts, and a year of pay stubs, so that I may can determine if you meet School’s standards to judge admissions materials, as well as prove that you are indeed the Registrar of Hogwarts University.”
      /Facetious

      Reply
  10. Alienor

    I wouldn’t bring Bob’s habits up either with Bob or the manager; I’d just start telling people who ask that I haven’t seen Bob since 9:30 and I don’t know where he is, maybe adding “It looked like he was on his way out.” It’s the truth, doesn’t set you up to look like you’re covering for Bob, and allows for possibilities like Bob having some sort of arrangement with the manager that you don’t know about.

    Reply
    1. Princess Cimorene

      So her work and her teams work should go on to suffer (stopping to answer questions like a careless babysitter who’s lost her charger and not being able to have new hires added because her teams output is lacking) while Bob does whatever it is that Bob is doing and she’s just to stay oblivious to it and continue answering questions forever?? That doesn’t really seem fair to LW.

      Reply
      1. Lars the Real Girl

        Yea if this was just a “this annoys me” scenario, she could let it go. But this is a “this impacts my job, my perceived performance, and our department output” scenario. It’s necessary to loop in the manager.

        Reply
      2. Alienor

        Right now the LW is inadvertently helping to cover for Bob’s habits by giving noncommittal answers to people’s questions. If s/he stops doing that and just says “Nope, he left and I haven’t seen him,” it’ll become clear very quickly that Bob is the source of any problems, not LW. LW doesn’t want to be complicit with Bob and also doesn’t want to actively rat him out to the manager, and just bluntly telling the truth is a compromise between those two things.

        Reply
        1. neverjaunty

          “Ratting him out”? This isn’t a gang. Bob’s working part-time without the manager’s knowledge. If the OP doesn’t talk to the manager nothing is going to get better.

          Reply
        2. Observer

          Why does the OP have any obligation to not tell the manager. Even if you argue that the OP has no obligation to inform her employer of a potentially significant issue, this is something that is directly affecting her. She has zero obligation to not say anything.

          The term “rat out” has no place in the workplace. If it’s trivialities, or minor things that don’t affect you, that’s one thing. That’s just childish and sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong. If it’s major and affects your, then informing the person (or people) who can address this is the correct thing to do.

          This is not grade school or a gang.

          Reply
      3. Czhorat

        LW isn’t Bob’s boss; it isn’t their job to police Bob’s comings and goings.

        One is usually best off staying ones lane. Of Bob were doing something dangerous or illegal then it would be everyone’s business to stop him. If he’s possibly slacking off then that is his boss’s role to deal with.

        Reply
        1. aebhel

          Right, but if (a) the boss doesn’t know and (b) it’s effecting the department output (and therefore how everyone in the department is perceived), then someone should mention it. It’s not OP’s job to police Bob’s comings and goings, but it’s also not their job to deal with the splatter effect if his failure to do his job.

          Reply
      4. Cordoba

        From the letter it appears as though the effects that the OP and her team has to “suffer” are as follows:
        1) Twice a month somebody asks where Bob is, to which OP could just reply “I don’t know”.
        2) The OP is jealous.

        Neither one of these seems to justify getting involved here. If manager is unhappy with Bob’s work output then manager can address it.

        Reply
        1. Czhorat

          Exactly. Not the OP’s problem, and not nearly an issue requiring intervention.

          If they were in the financial industry and Bob were sending false or misleading information to clients that would require intervention.

          If Bob were wrapping cracked rails of a ladder in tape to avoid having to replace it that would merit a call to the manager.

          If Bob put sexually explicit posters in his cubicle that could merit a call to the boss.

          Taking long lunch breaks? Not your issue. The manager, I presume, has some way of measuring each employee’s work. If they have a problem with it, they will address it.

          Reply
        2. CleverGirl

          I came here to say the same thing. The letter reads like the OP is jealous and it pulling the “it’s affecting my well-being!” card to make the complaint seem legit. The only way it seems to be affecting the OP’s well-being is that OP is spending way too much time worrying about their coworker’s behavior instead of minding their own business and doing their own work. I’m quite sure that if OP and coworker were collaborating on projects and this behavior caused OP to have to do most of the work, or there was some other situation in which the coworker’s extended absences were causing OP to not get work done on time, that would have come up in the letter. Since it didn’t, and we have no way of knowing if the coworker has offsite meetings or physical therapy appointments or maybe even doesn’t actually work full-time, it feels like the OP is just jealous that they don’t get to also leave early and go to the gym and take long lunches.

          The part where OP said “he’ll come back in with a Subway sandwich, as if to say, “Oh hey — I was just out getting lunch!”” was indicative of this. It feels like the OP is assigning motivations and sneaky behavior (see “slink out the back door” as well) to the coworker with no real grounds for doing so. If I walk into my office with a sandwich, that doesn’t mean I’m doing it to try to trick my colleagues into thinking I was out getting lunch, it means I bought a sandwich and I’m walking in with it. There’s no reason to read so much into it.

          Reply
          1. Lil Fidget

            Meh, I think this would reasonably be a perception issue that’s affecting morale. This would bug me. I also assume OP is picking up more slack for Bob in some way – I know just between remote and on-site employees, I pick up all the cr*p that they don’t have to deal with because they’re not here (printer problems, deliveries, covering the desk, helping lost visitors etc).

            Reply
            1. CleverGirl

              If you get paid to do a job, do that job. It doesn’t hurt you if the guy next to you doesn’t work as much, unless you have to pick up his slack, which I didn’t get the impression that was the case. It really does feel like a jealousy thing to me. Like, “Why should *I* have to work all day when *HE* doesn’t?!” Because you’re getting paid to work full-time and you’re an adult.

              I agree it’s a perception issue, but I think the OP is the one making it into a huge thing when they don’t know the circumstances. If the coworker is not getting any work done because he’s out of the office half the day, that’s eventually going to come to the attention of his manager and come back to bite him. On the other hand, if he’s crazy efficient and he IS meeting all his goals and deadlines while also taking this many breaks, I don’t really see anything wrong with it. The old-fashioned idea that you must be chained to a desk from 9-5 every day in order to be a “good” employee needs to die. People should be paid for productivity, not for how long their butt warms their chair. Who knows if he’s working nights or weekends or any other time outside of the standard hours, or if he has a flexible schedule. I really don’t like it when people are busybodies about their coworkers’ behavior and I don’t think the OP made enough of a case as to why it’s actually their business.

              Reply
              1. Lil Fidget

                Eh, maybe, but OP seemed to indicate the department isn’t getting what they need to get done. Also, if OP’s manager is satisfied with this schedule, I’m sure they’ll tell OP that and perhaps even offer an explanation, so what does it hurt to raise it in the neutral, nonjudgmental language Alison suggests?

                Reply
        3. Merula

          Disagree. The letter says that the department is not meeting its goals (expand team and increase output), because there’s a perception that they are not operating at 100% right now. And that is true.

          It seems likely to me that the higher-up who is not allowing an add-to-staff has some reference point for the expected output for the team (maybe a separate team with similar responsibilities that she also manages). What is that higher-up more likely to think: there’s one slacker on this team, or this is a team of slackers? So it is not only impacting the team overall, there’s a strong potential for this to impact the OP’s professional reputation.

          Reply
          1. Cordoba

            There is nothing in the letter to indicate that Bob *is* a slacker or is not performing in terms of quality of quantity of work. If this was the case I expect the OP would have mentioned it.

            He just doesn’t work a typical schedule, and his boss appears to either be OK with this or to not care. Good for Bob.

            I recommend the OP stop worrying about Bob’s schedule and start taking long lunches of their own. If nothing else that should help with the jealousy.

            Reply
            1. rldk

              OP mentioned that Bob is out for dramatic chunks of the normal workday. And she mentioned that the team is not meeting goals.
              Because OP isn’t a manager, she doesn’t necessarily know that Bob is slacking, and she may not be in a position to have any oversight into Bob’s work, so it makes sense that she didn’t assume/assert that Bob is the weak link. But clearly something in this department is lacking. It makes more than reasonable sense for OP to ask the shared manager for advice on how to handle it, because it’s creating doubt on her end if Bob is the reason they can’t hire more team members.

              Reply
              1. Cordoba

                “OP mentioned that Bob is out for dramatic chunks of the normal workday. And she mentioned that the team is not meeting goals.”

                This is true, but we have absolutely no evidence that these two things are related.

                Many people work flexible schedules and do meet all their goals.

                Many people are physically present at work for a traditional 8-5 schedule and do not meet their goals.

                It turns out that (rigid schedule) and (job output) are independent variables

                “Because OP isn’t a manager, she doesn’t necessarily know that Bob is slacking,”

                This is also true. It even appears as though OP has no reason at all to suspect that Bob is “slacking” beyond him working a different schedule. This is why OP should focus on her job and not worry about where Bob is.

                I suspect that if OP had anything specific to point to regarding the actual substandard quality or quantity of Bob’s work this information would have been included in the original letter. Its absence indicates that he’s probably getting his job done to an acceptable standard and OP is just obsessing over his schedule.

                Reply
                1. tigerlily

                  Sure, we don’t know for sure that Bob’s absence is the reason they’re not meeting their goals, but since it’s definitely a possibility – and not even just a remote possibility – there’s no reason not to look into it. As you say, many people work flexible schedules and meet all their goals. But many people also work flexible schedules who don’t.

          2. Ferg

            Being out half a day, everyday… if not ok’d with manager is a big deal. It’s theft of wages… fraud? Not sure if I would speak up because eventually if this is what Bob is doing he will be found out. If this is affecting op work then I would only comment on that in a neutral way. We don’t know, I mean the op last week talked about giving her ill employee massive time off and flexibility. So who knows what Bob is set up? And I have found if you stick your neck out you become either a busy body in the eyes of your boss or your the assigned babysitter. So keep it related to work, if it is affect your work op, than feel free to alert Boss. If not than try to brush it off and keep focused on what you can control, yourself.. And perhaps work towards a work from home set up for yourself :)

            Reply
    2. Horrified

      “allows for possibilities like Bob having some sort of arrangement with the manager that you don’t know about”

      sorry, but my mind just went there……..Bob & the Manager?…….

      Reply
  11. Grad. Student

    #3 – I never understood the point of academic recommendations. Either you have the grades and test scores to get in or you don’t. Most of my teachers/professors just had boilerplate letters they would fill out with your personal info.

    Some of these colleges get almost 100,000 applications per year. Does anyone really think a person reads the recommendations?

    As for the ridiculousness of asking for your transcript, resume, graded work, etc. I would simply write a letter that states your policy is to not provide personal information due to identity theft concerns (or something) and include your contact/email/phone if they have anything questions. Upload that in place of everything that is ridiculous.

    Reply
    1. Ramona Flowers

      “Either you have the grades and test scores to get in or you don’t.”

      It’s not that simple though, as there are a lot of reasons why someone might not have the grades they need. I can’t speak to the US, but over here individual circumstances can and do get taken into consideration, and thankfully some universities do realise that grades and scores don’t necessarily reflect capability.

      I’m positive a human being read my university applications, because I would never have got in otherwise. I am perhaps an extreme case but I ended up homeless during my last year of secondary (high) school. I failed one (but only one!) of my three A-levels (taken at 18, they do more now but it was three in my day) and did some extra study.

      My university, which was a pretty prestigious one, made me a personalised offer – back then they normally asked for high grades in three A-levels, worth xx points. I had two mediocre grades and was taking two more. They asked me to make up xx points from my four subjects, instead of three, so I needed much lower grades. I didn’t get them – I just missed. They let me in anyway!

      Reply
        1. Julia

          In Germany, all that counts is the grades of your last two high school years and your graduation (Abitur) exam, which is issued state-wide now. Which means that when you have a tough teacher who refuses to ever hand out A’s, you’re screwed. When you have a maths teacher who forgets to teach you about subject X that’s in the exam, you’re screwed. When you suddenly get a new teacher right before your exam, who hates your writing style which you had carefully adjusted to the previous teacher’s taste, you’re screwed. All three happened to me. I still got into my desired program (thank the turtle lords), but it’s so unfair when people from notoriously easy schools or whole states (Hamburg has a reputation for basically handing out A’s) take your spot in college even though you learned more than them, but were graded more severely.

          Reply
          1. Myrin

            Ha, first and last one happend to me too, although not having in a severe impact, thank god.

            That being said, though, at least at my alma mater and my subject – but I know it was like that for a lot of others as well – I basically just had to show up and prove that I’d graduated. I don’t remember if I had to have a certain grade but if so, it was something ridiculously low, like nothing below a 3- or so? Many of the big subjects – like Anglistik or History – had an entrance exam as the determining factor. That being said, I’m a full-on Geisteswissenschaftler and have heard that it’s different for Naturwissenschaften? No idea.

            I’ve totally had that last feeling you describe, though – like, brah, I made my Abi in Bavaria in its old system, go away with your grade from Hamburg or Bremen which is 0.1 better than mine.

            Reply
            1. Julia

              I did Japanese Studies and English Philology, so not MINT, but I had to have a certain numerus clausus (grades above a certain average) and for English Philology, I had to take an English test to verify I knew enough English, even though it had been both one of my main (doubly weighted) subjects and one of my final exam subjects and I had really good grades. (Gotta be good at something at least. -.- ) I wanted to go to ONE specific university, though.

              I know that for medicine, your GPA needs to be ridiculously high and you often can’t pick the city in which you end up.

              Reply
              1. Myrin

                Wow, you had an NC for that? I didn’t know that! They only still exist for medicine and I believe Jura, here (although I seem to remember that you’re a couple of years older than me and that it only changed shortly before I graduated).

                The cutoff for when my as-of-April-this-year doctor friend started was 1.5, as in, anyone with an Abi better than that got in (or rather, they started from the top and if they hadn’t filled all open spots when they reached 1.5, they took those in, too); there’s also this thing where if you don’t make it first try, you’re on a waiting list for seven years and then you get in (they have this system of a X% percentage each year consisting of new people and Y% consisting of “old” people), which is why the beginners are always either 19 or 26. From what I understand, that’s all over the place though and depends on state and uni.

                Reply
          2. TL -

            Interesting! For USA medical school applications (which are incredibly numbers-driven), I’ve heard medical schools account for undergrads that grade-inflate. My uni in Texas didn’t really have a structure that allowed people to graduate with a 4.0 and it was generally understood that a 3.85 from my uni would be looked at more favorably than a school that grade inflated (made it easy to graduate with a 4.0).

            Reply
            1. Julia

              I wish Germany would do that as well, but how does it work? Does the university decide that several schools grade inflate? Surely the inflating schools don’t self-report?

              Reply
              1. TL -

                I think they just get a sense of it from applicants + talking to professors.

                If all the applicants from a school have a 4.0 (but also have a spread of MCAT scores) then it’s likely the school grade inflates. If, on the other hand, students apply with a broader range (say a 3.7-4.0) then it’s likely the school doesn’t. You would still need to meet their minimum GPA requirements to be considered, though.

                It also depends – obviously from some schools you won’t know and you’ll make an educated guess but the med schools in Texas were, from my understanding, pretty familiar with most of the Texas colleges’ grading practices and weighted applicants accordingly.

                Reply
              2. Myrin

                It is a thing in Germany, although I don’t know exactly how it works in the end. But I do definitely know that in several Bavarian unis – can’t speak for all of them -, grades from other Bundesländer (other than Baden-Württemberg, I believe?) are viewed as “less than”, not in general, but in a direct competition between pupils from different states.

                Reply
                1. Tau

                  Don’t know about now, but when I was a kid, I remember hearing that Bavarian schools forced you to repeat a year if you moved from an external school to a Bavarian one, regardless of what your grades were. This included both international and other German schools. This is actually a large part of the reason my family moved where we did when we moved back to Germany from the US when I was a kid – my dad had a job offer in Bavaria, but both my brother and I would have had to repeat a year of school when we were straight-A students and he didn’t want to do that to us. Lower Saxony let us go straight into the next year.

            2. Falling Diphthong

              The theory is supposed to be that standardized tests will act as a corrective to places where everyone gets an A. So I don’t get the point of multiple recommendations on top of that–most people are not going to have special and unique circumstances that are only going to become clear in a letter, and it’s going to be “Smedley is an attentive student who works hard; that is why has this mix of As and Bs.”

              Reply
            3. Case of the Mondays

              I was able to get a letter from my undergrad that explained their grading policies and that my GPA was equivalent to X GPA from their biggest competitor. I don’t remember the exact language but it was a standard letter that was sent with all transcripts for people applying to grad/professional schools.

              Reply
          3. Erin

            From what I understand, in Germany is that the last 2 years of high school are more like the first 2 years of college. not all students get to study in high schools, at 16 you go to high school or you go to trade school.

            Reply
      1. AnonForNow

        I accidentally applied to a drama school with the cover letter for a nearby university I was also applying to. Rather than outright reject me the head of the course read all my paperwork and talked about it in detail at my interview. He’d chosen me because my recommendations and cover letter were so far off what they normally expected, and he wanted that in his department.

        A friend of mine actually works in university admissions and yeah, they do read the documents sent in by a lot of candidates. There are filters and minimum requirements but even with that they still have way more applicants than they have spaces. That’s where excellent documents can make the difference.

        Reply
      2. Mary

        >>thankfully some universities do realise that grades and scores don’t necessarily reflect capability

        There are obviously some exceptions, but actually the Sutton Trust looked at this and their research shows that focussing on grades is much fairer and progressive than UCAS statements etc!

        Reply
    2. TL -

      Many universities are much more holistic than that – grades and test scores are not the only factor and they don’t determine who gets in, only who has a chance of getting in. And the better the university, the more difference it can make. (MIT says 60% of its applicants are qualified to be at MIT. They still have to reject the majority of those students.)

      And yes, a lot of recommendation letters are pretty neutral but a good one can make a huge difference, especially for a student who the committee is on the fence about or who is weak in other areas.

      Reply
      1. Indoor Cat

        It’s interesting that you mention MIT, because (and definitely correct me if I’m wrong, my info might be old) but among Ivies and top schools, MIT actually factors in test scores and GPA significantly more than the others. Because of this, it is the only school in the current Top Ten where white students are neither the majority nor the largest racial group, and they have considerably higher representation of middle class and low income students than the others.

        Factoring in things like extracurriculars inevitably penalizes students who couldn’t afford the fees associated with extracurriculars, and factoring in personal narrative essays means every cultural bias about what are good values to have and what’s a good way to tell a story about yourself is suddenly in play. So by maximizing the focus on test scores, they’ve actually maximized diversity in some important ways.

        Not saying they’re right or wrong, just mentioning it because it surprised me when I first read it.

        Reply
        1. TL -

          S0, 80% of MIT students come from the top 20% in terms of earners. Not sure if that’s better or worse than Ivies/Ivy-equivalents. White students make up the majority (about 35% but that *excludes* all international students, including white ones); they are also the largest racial group, followed by Asian-American students, who make up around 25%.
          White students aren’t a supermajority, though.

          MIT doesn’t necessarily like the broad range of extracurriculars Harvard might prefer, but I don’t think they’re more numbers driven, if only because it’s impractical to be so. MIT is really project-driven – they are very clear about looking for students who have a long-term investment in a STEM passion project. They also favor students whose siblings have gone to/are at MIT, but don’t otherwise weight legacies.

          Reply
        2. Anon One Time

          I applied to MIT and made it to the stage where you interview with an alumnus in your local area. The interview started off positive, but then he tried to sell my parents some of his son’s pottery. When they politely declined, the interview went downhill and became weird. I hope that’s not the only reason I didn’t get in, but it sure felt like it at the time.

          Reply
        3. Arielle

          Just anecdotally, I’ve worked with an extracurricular club at MIT for a few years and I have been impressed by the racial and economic diversity of the students. Especially for Boston, it’s notable.

          Reply
          1. TL -

            MITOC, by any chance?
            Yeah, I actually like their admissions focus – looking for projects and grades is a good way to look for kids who will have a better chance of liking the environment and they’re pretty open to different types of projects which can help to avoid the “rich kid availability bias”

            Reply
      2. Falling Diphthong

        But in cases where a good recommendation letter tips the balance, I can’t see that being because the applicant’s teacher’s essay on wheat farming from 1987 got a B+.

        I really hope some reporter picks this up and runs with it, because I’m shocked and it seems like a huge barrier to admissions. I wouldn’t be surprised if, not only is this a thing done exclusively TO poorer schools, it’s also done BY more marginal colleges as an attempt to beef up the appearance of High Admission Standards. That MIT believes, if you’re in the 60% who are qualified, then your high school calculus teacher has a lot on her plate already.

        Reply
    3. Some Sort of Management Consultant

      It’s really, really not that way in the US.

      It is that way where I live (Sweden). A common application system for all schools and it’s ALL based on GPA. It is literally “either you have the grades or you don’t”. No letters, no fees, no essays. Just the grades that are automatically entered for all students.

      See how the US system is much more than that?

      Reply
      1. Grad student (a different one)

        I would add that this is a good thing! Basing admissions decisions exclusively on grades or test scores ignores a whole slew of relevant factors that will affect those numbers and ignores that success in college (or grad school) depends on more and different things than does good test-taking. Recommendation letters are one way to get some information about these other factors.

        Reply
        1. Some sort of Management Consultant

          Agreed.

          I’m not making a judgement on either system, just saying that they’re different.

          Reply
      2. Lora

        Yeah, and you also have schools funded on a federal level. Our schools are mainly funded locally by property taxes, so in a low income neighborhood like OP’s, the school relies parents to donate pencils and chalk and paper. In a high income neighborhood the kids get a brand new athletic complex, new computers for every student, special STEM and fine arts supplemental courses, all kinds of stuff. High income schools have high teacher: student ratios and students get lots of individual attention. Low income schools have metal detectors and police on site to help prevent shootings and gang fighting.

        Relying on grades alone in the US would not be particularly fair or a remotely reasonable way to compare students. I wish we funded schools on federal level like you guys do, it would give kids a really fair opportunity and kids whose parents feel like they should get extra can still pay for private school. But that’s not going to happen for decades – certainly not in my lifetime.

        Reply
        1. Starbuck

          I just heard a story on NPR the other day about PTAs and how apparently in some areas, PTAs can raise enough money to fund extra teacher positions? I had no idea that was a thing that was done with PTA money. The story went on to describe the vast differences in funds raised between PTAs (something like $50K as a low end vs. over $1mill in a higher-income area) in the same general urban area. I’ve known forages about the affect property values have on school funding/quality & vice versa, but didn’t realize how much additional money was also in play with PTAs. The story was about instituting some kind of sharing system for PTA money (I think at the district level but I can’t remember for sure).

          Reply
    4. Phoenix Programmer

      US here. I applied to a specialized secondary school of science and mathematics and recommendations are the only reason I got in.

      My grades were good but not straight A’s and we were required to take the SAT. My SAT was low compared to others (since I could not afford the study materials let alone special classes.)

      Recommendations got me in and once I was away from my violent household I thrived and quickly rose to the top 3rd of the class.

      Reply
    5. Maya Elena

      I’d say recommendations matter in some contexts, especially for graduate work.

      But I’d bet they matter at undergrad level too, particularly at very prestigious schools, and here’s why: 1) more applicants have perfect scores than there are seats for people with perfect scores, at these universities; 2)if you just used scores or tests, you run a large risk of not getting a population distribution (racial, income, geographic, what-have-you) that you may want for its own sake, and the more subjective materials like interviews, recommendations and essays are important tools to accomplish these population-level goals.

      Also, I’d say a boilerplate rec won’t help or harm, a tepid (and certainly a negative one) WILL harm, and a truly glowing one (“this is the best student I have had in my career as an educators; he’s doing you a favor by applying; here are example upon example”) might have a positive effect over and above grades.

      Reply
  12. Emac

    Re #4 – I think it might be useful to ask for some feedback from the hiring manager or whoever else makes sense, to try to get a sense of why they seem to think you are more suited to the more junior role. I interpreted the OP’s question as wondering if applying for the more junior content specialist role would put her out of contention for all content strategist roles at the company. As in, maybe she wasn’t the right fit as a content strategist on Team A, but could be on Team B if a position opens up, but will only be seen as a more junior content specialist if she applies for that now.

    Reply
    1. OP #4

      Thanks for chiming in. I would like to work for this employer. The specialist role won’t open until next month, so I haven’t seen a description yet. While I am not completely unopposed to taking that to get my foot in the door and hopefully advance, I would also be interested in applying for positions on other teams that are at a higher level of seniority. I’m currently a strategist and was manager level positions at my two previous jobs before that.

      Feedback from someone I’ve already talked to there would be super valuable. I responded about a week ago to the hiring manager, asking for feedback and I said that I’d like to see the specialist position description. Unfortunately, I haven’t heard back.

      Reply
  13. Flexible Schedule?

    #1: OP didn’t mention if Bob possibly has a flexible schedule. I have a few coworkers that take similar breaks/work similar hours. However….. They are also the ones having to work evenings, weekends, and sometimes holidays as well; so they get flexibility to take a 2hr gym/lunch break, or leave early/come late.

    Fortunately I have insight in to the work they do and when they do it, but several people in the company don’t see this and assume they’re slacking. In cases like this, I think management needs to be more open about it so it stops all questions of the person slacking or having a flex schedule.

    Reply
    1. LS

      Yes, I had a co-worker who was often out for what looked like long, long lunch breaks three times a week. It turned out that he was having medical treatment and it was all approved by management. Of course, it would have helped if anyone had told all the people who worked with him that this was approved, or moved his workload around! Rumors were flying for ages, management didn’t answer direct questions about where he was going all the time, etc. Eventually we all found out when he brought in cake for the office to thank everyone for being so supportive while he was undergoing treatment.

      Reply
      1. Flexible Schedule?

        Good point on a possible medical issue. Either way, I’d rather work my straight shift and know my free time was completely mine. The other option is to be at the beck and call of the CEO 24 x 7 x 365, or a possible serious medical issue like you pointed out.

        Reply
    2. One of the Sarahs

      Even if this is the case, it would be useful for the manager to know that not all her staff know this, and to know that Bob’s schedule is impacting on OP’s work – so that doubles the reason to tell.

      But if it is the case, Bob also needs to be reflecting this in his diary. Right now he’s putting his time out as a meeting, and that’s really unhelpful. He needs to put something like Non Working Time, or Time Off In Lieu, so OP and other colleagues can see that, and more importantly, when he’ll be back.

      I used to work a very flexible schedule at an old job which needed a lot of travel and varied hours (it was great for studying part time). Our workplace was great for this – as long as we kept our electronic calendars up to date. I can’t really imagine how a system would work otherwise.

      Reply
      1. Yorick

        But Bob’s schedule doesn’t impact OP, as far as the letter tells us. People just ask OP where Bob is. OP isn’t required to know the answer to this, she can just say “I don’t know.”

        Reply
        1. One of the Sarahs

          In her letter, OP says the performance of the department is down, and they’re not allowed to hire anyone new as they’re seen as over-staffed, so it is totally impacting her work.

          Reply
    3. KHB

      In this case, it looks like it’s not just random people who perceive Bob as slacking but also the division manager, who is now keeping the team from having the resources they need to expand. So if Bob and the team manager do have an arrangement for Bob to work a flexible schedule, the team manager should know that she’s not doing the team any favors by keeping the arrangement secret.

      Reply
      1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)

        This exactly. If there is some kind of pre-arranged reason for Bob’s frequent absences it’s not been adequately explained to everyone. LW doesn’t need to know the details but people in the office and other departments should know that Bob has a regularly scheduled appointment during the work day and he’ll be gone during these times, and if that means that he is actually working in the evenings/weekends or is actually part time then the manager who thinks they are slackers who don’t deserve another person on the team needs to know that too.

        Of course if Bob really is slacking off then innocently asking the manager how the LW should handle Bob’s frequent absences will quickly make that obvious.

        Reply
    4. Danger: Gumption Ahead

      I have a coworker who has a similar flexible schedule and leaves with gym bag because she is doing physical therapy for a chronic, invisible condition. Only reason I know that is because I had to do physical therapy for a sports injury and mentioned it was kicking my butt and she shared her experience

      Reply
      1. Rusty Shackelford

        Yes, I had a coworker who appeared to be leaving for lunch early (we had a mandated lunch period) and was reported by a busybody who didn’t realize she was actually going to physical therapy. So I’d proceed under the possibility that Bob’s absences are legitimate and approved. Which why I like “how do you want me to handle it when Bob’s out of the office every morning?” instead of “hey, did you know Bob is out of the office every morning?”

        Reply
    5. Princess Cimorene

      I think OP doesn’t know if he does or not, that’s why they’re raising the question. I think raising it to the boss will get that question answered. If he’s not up to anything he’s not supposed to be, it won’t be a problem and framing it as asking for advice about what to say/do while Bob is away won’t make the LW appear to be petty. However if Bob is up to no good, and management doesn’t know because management is remote, then that will allow management to step in and manage their employee and team – fixing output, behavior issues and morale. I don’t see a negative outcome to this.

      Reply
  14. DG

    #2: If you are still interested in the job, you don’t have to “walk away”, but you don’t have to budge an inch on your salary, either. Let them do the work of trying to figure out how much to offer you, and just decline anything below your minimum. I mean, don’t be rude, either, but it doesn’t really cost you anything other than time to say “Thank you, but my minimum is still $X/year, let me know if you can make that.”

    Reply
  15. Properlike

    #3 – I’m trying to figure out the rationale for this, and a solution. Is there any pattern to the schools asking for more ridiculous, personal information from the teachers? For instance, if they’re all the same region or system, a complaint to the accreditation board? I also wonder about checking in with your regional union reps – if you’re NEA, maybe they can help lobby for more common-sense reference systems if they’re made aware this is a larger issue? Your district’s leadership, in any case, may also want to hear about it: Having their students inadvertently penalized because of this robs them of bragging rights and press releases. (Hope you don’t have a superintendent who would say, “Work harder.”). Maybe a call to the recruiting office for the institution, though that’s more work for you? This situation sounds bizarro.

    Reply
  16. Some Sort of Management Consultant

    LW1:
    Alison’s script is wonderful, as always.
    Like the others have pointed out, there might be a legitimate reason for Bob to be out that often (flexible schedule, FMLA, different hours…) so be neutral when you ask about it.
    It’s a completely legitimate question: You need to know how to handle his absences, regardless of their being legitimate or not.

    Reply
  17. LadyCop

    #1
    It’s not tattling because its not petty, because there are team performance issues, because you have to explain where he is, and worst yet…it’s been going on for a year!

    I realize there are the ‘oh but it could be legit,’ and ‘The manager might know.’ comments on here, but that doesn’t change the fact you need ask.

    Reply
  18. Drama Llama

    I’m in HR and occasionally discover a big problem that front line employees knew about. I’m sometimes baffled as to why staff won’t communicate big issues with their managers. For example, we had one supervisor who would work well *only* when his boss was around. Other times he would play games on his phone, call friends, go for a walk, etc and do zero work. This went on for several weeks before it was discovered. Another senior staff (who was known as a strong performer and gave no reason to suspect anything was amiss) was bullying several junior staff. Obviously this didn’t happen in public so we didn’t know until the mess got much bigger. I really, really wish I had known all this so I could have intervened earlier.

    There are some things front line staff know much better than the management team. If you have a boss who is a reasonable, decent person who wants to keep the team running smoothly, chances are they would appreciate being alerted to a potential problem.

    Reply
    1. Cedrus Libani

      I learned a big lesson about speaking up a few years ago.
      When I was in college, I worked at a summer camp. One of the permanent staff members…well, he was there because he wanted to swim in the kiddie pool, if you get my drift. We college students couldn’t fire him, and couldn’t murder him, but we could make sure he had an escort at all times, so we did. It was literally in our employee handbook (written and passed down by us students).
      This camp has a reunion. We start telling stories about this guy. He was a walking lawsuit, and still a legend at this camp nearly a decade after retirement. (And that’s WITH constant adult supervision!) The longtime camp director is also present; she overhears some things that would make HR cry, and then wants to know why none of us said anything. Cue a large table full of astonished faces. Wait, you didn’t know?!
      Sometimes they don’t know. 19-year-old me didn’t realize that yet.

      Reply
      1. MK

        This reminds me of Meryl Streep’s statement about Weinstein. When you have a certain (high) position, it can happen that you remain ignorant of a lot of things that are common knowledge aming the rank and file.

        Reply
    2. Lora

      Um, I can think of a LOT of reasons.

      Most common: employee complained, nothing happened. Confidentiality may or may not be cited.
      Also very common: employee complained, was punished for complaining or retaliated against (legality be damned, someone who wants to retaliate WILL).

      This is why I find as a manager it’s better to say as much as you reasonably can: “Bob has a flexible schedule which I’ve approved, and I’m aware that he isn’t at his desk. For confidentiality reasons I can’t tell you more, but let’s figure out a way that his hours won’t affect your work.”

      Reply
      1. Falling Diphthong

        This has been a theme of the sexual harassment deluge.

        “I never heard these things about Subordinate. I’m shocked”
        “I, Former Employee, complained twice about him. Nothing happened.”
        “Uh… totally no memory of that. It was ALL FINE.”

        Reply
      2. Catabodua

        Seriously. “HR” has trained most of us to keep our heads down and mind our own business.

        I’ve seen it played out so often that someone complains and the only outcome is the person who complained is suddenly under great scrutiny. Or that confidentiality is not held and the employee becomes a target.

        How often do we see it stated here or elsewhere – HR’s job is to protect the company, not the employees.

        Reply
      3. McWhadden

        “legality be damned, someone who wants to retaliate WILL”

        And sly managers will do this in a way that you all know what’s happening but it’s difficult to prove.

        Like filing is usually split between four people? Nope, now you do all the filing. Well, filing is part of your job…

        Reply
        1. SS

          One place where I worked sends out an annual ‘anonymous’ employee satisfaction survey…. They were only anonymous within a department…. so each department manager received a report of the employee satisfaction percentages within their area. One area had such a toxic manager that the percentages were pretty low. He called his team together, and screamed at them that if the percentages were not higher next year, people on the team would be losing their job.

          Reply
    3. McWhadden

      Even when your manager seems OK most people don’t want to be the squeaky wheel. There is always the chance that the manager will do nothing and you get put in a bad place with your co-workers.

      And on some level a lot of people are strongly against “snitching” even when it would only help them to do so. Everyone goofs off occasionally and no one wants to be told on if they do. So, even when the behavior is far worse than occasional goofing off you don’t feel comfortable doing to others what you wouldn’t want done to you.

      I’m not saying either of those attitudes are right. But they are very common. And, on top of all of that, we’ve all (or most of us) worked in jobs where complaining was useless.

      Reply
    4. Student

      It’s because we’ve complained and nothing happened, or because we have a very good reason to think complaining will not be productive. When you find this happened, look hard at the manager and how they’ve handled similar issues in the past.

      You’d like to believe you would’ve intervened. In reality, isn’t it at least possible that you would’ve sided with the strong performer over the junior staff, or deferred to the boss’s preference for strong performer over junior staff? In reality, if someone told you a worker was skipping work all the time, that generally means the worker’s boss isn’t doing her job either – which isn’t likely something the boss wants to own up to, and is likely to earn a swift kick from said manager for “going over their head”.

      Reply
  19. Bowels of Temp Hell

    Re #3, I have noticed this year hiring applications (for jobs, as an adult) becoming more and more stringent. I was part of a mass layoff earlier this year by one of the county’s largest employers. Although It had been a bit over a year since my last search, I was floored by the new hoops – work samples, video resumes, invasive personal references, multiple rounds of panel interviews for a temp job – that an employer (or I guess school!) will require when they feel they have the upper hand over damaged goods applicants. Many places want to call references before they’ll even speak to a candidate from this company. Not the same as underserved students of course… :(
    At times the process does become adversarial and overly rigorous.

    Reply
    1. AnonAndOn

      I’ve had that issue too with some temp jobs, where they wanted a thorough background check dating back 10 years for a low-paying temp job. It wasn’t like I was applying to work for the CIA or FBI.

      As for school, I graduated high school and college a while ago and am glad I did when I did. Hearing about Common Core and this Common App gives me the impression that kids today have it worse in terms of getting through high school and going to college.

      Reply
  20. Alias Fakename

    OP #1, I’d follow Allison’s script, but I would cut out the “This is affecting my well-being.” You mention people ask you, you mention people trying to track down your co-worker, but honestly… unless you’re his manager or scheduler, you’re not meant to watch him. A “I don’t know where he is, I haven’t seen him since XXXX” is perfectly acceptable. Follow his script, but I would really leave out the “well-being” part. It sounds like you have another agenda when asking. It’s affecting your work, it’s affecting your office, and it’s affecting the fact that you are in a position to have remote bosses who will trust you to do the work. But I think you’re framing it like it’s your responsibility to watch him, when really it’s your responsibility to get the job done. (That being said, yes, all of this is affecting your well-being. I’m only mentioning how it comes across when you phrase it like that. My comment was not to imply otherwise.)

    Reply
  21. Teach

    I work with high school students. Common App requires much more teacher input than the apps for area universities. It’s the scholarships that are sucking my time right now. For highly selective awards or summer programs, 2,000-4,000 words is typical. I ask the student for their activity/achievement resume, read the prompt for the recommendation lettter, and craft responses that show how this kiddo is uniquely qualified.

    Reply
  22. Narise

    I had an employee that was disappearing throughout the day whenever people try to find her they couldn’t. I talked to her about it I told her I needed it to stop and she swore up-and-down she was not disappearing she didn’t understand why people would say that even after I caught her coming back into the building. Finally I started leaving a sticky note on her desk every time I was informed she was missing with Come see me on it. I would jot down the time and wait to see how long it was before she came back. It helped because she knew I was looking for her and I had a way of knowing how long she had been away from her desk.

    I would tell your boss what’s going on but I would also have the people looking for him to leave a sticky saying hey Bob I need this and then note the time. Maybe it will wake him up but either way he should be fired.

    Reply
    1. Samata

      This is a great tactic to get to the bottom of the problem if you manage and employee where this behavior is suspected and not pre-approved.

      Reply
  23. Akcipitrokulo

    OP2 – every situation is different, etc… but one of biggest regrets in working life was not running from job that was messing me around in a similar manner during hiring process. If you have options, I’d look elsewhere.

    Reply
  24. TotesMaGoats

    #3-Loudly and often tell your students not to apply to those schools. College admission is word of mouth regardless of how much money we spend on marketing. If you and all your friends are saying doing apply to school X, Y, and Z then those apps will go down. I have a hunch these are “selective” institutions which is a choice by colleges that often limits underrepresented populations and first gen. Which are exactly the type of students those colleges need to have actual diversity. Instead push your students to the colleges where there are strong academic programs and a diverse culture. Just because you don’t have to jump through flaming hoops to get into my urban state university doesn’t mean that the academic quality is less. (And if the data has anything to say, my school (for my state) is the most diverse of all the state institutions on all factors and the social mobility index says that our students are making more money in their fields after graduation than their peers from “better” schools. so there.)

    Reply
    1. Zathras

      I agree in general that the academic quality does not necessarily correlate with the selectiveness of the institution, but this is terrible advice. There already enough barriers in these students’ way, don’t create more.

      What you *can* do is encourage the students to think carefully about their choice of major and to choose schools with strong programs in that subject. You can also tell them that for 99% of careers, in the long run their choice of major/internships will be more important than going to a prestigious school, and that graduating without loans can be a huge step up and allow you more freedom early in your career.

      Reply
    2. TotesMaGoats

      Which part was terrible? High school counselors should be pushing back at this sort of nonsense as a whole AND directing students to colleges where a first-gen background isn’t a silent disadvantage.

      I agree that ultimately the college itself doesn’t matter. It’s the major and internships. However, there are many affordable college options for students with high academic quality that get overlooked for “selectivity” and prestige.

      Reply
      1. Zathras

        I agree about pushing back on the general nonsense that the selective schools are inherently better, but I think flat out telling people not to apply to X or Y school is not the way to do it. You risk sending the message that you don’t think the student is good enough and possibly getting yourself in hot water. I do think it’s fine to talk about the benefits of a more diverse school and the fact that you can get a great education at less selective schools and (possibly) come out in a better place financially. I don’t know that it’s something an already overworked teacher has time for.

        Sorry if my first reply was overly aggressive – I am grouchy in the morning until enough coffee hits my bloodstream.

        Reply
        1. TotesMaGoats

          I feel you on the coffee. I see your point…to a point. Obviously I wouldn’t want a student to think they shouldn’t apply because they wouldn’t get in but I want them to be really informed about the nuances of these schools. Maybe much for high school but you have to start somewhere.

          Reply
  25. College Recruiter

    #3 I am a manager in a college admissions office and I am on our application reading committee. We actually just eliminated our requirement for a letter of recommendation, so these ridiculous requirements from other colleges are baffling to me. When we did require a letter, the only verification we needed was that it was sent from the institutional email address-so requiring personal contact info is even more mystifying.
    If you’re looking for ways to push back that won’t penalize individual students, consider engaging with NACAC or your local -ACAC. Alternately, if you have colleagues from several high schools in your region willing to join in, write a group letter and send it to the university presidents, perhaps in the form of an open letter also shared with the Chronicle of Higher Ed.

    Reply
  26. Sarah

    #3, as someone who works in higher ed, recommendation letters do matter. However, I completely agree with your unwillingness to provide extensive personal info or jump through hoops. I doubt it will make a difference if you refuse to include some of those, as I’m betting others in your shoes across the country will do the same thing. And I don’t see an admissions committee going, “Where is the recommender’s resume? Rejected!” Anyway, I’d still suggest making a letter template you can customize quickly for each student, if you haven’t already. Finally, I’m sure this is just the tip of the iceberg for all you do in your position, so I want to thank you for all you do for high school students.

    Reply
  27. emalia

    OP 5
    As someone who was just job searching, I came to learn that I was better off if I didn’t receive a reply.
    Every single person who sent a reply included some statement like “I look forward to being in touch” OR “I enjoyed meeting you too”. So I got my hopes up. Shouldn’t have (especially in the latter example), because the next communication in all of these instances was to tell me I wasn’t the chosen applicant.
    I understand you are looking for signs in your job search, but, as has often been repeated here, nothing is sure until you get a written offer.

    Reply
    1. Competent Commenter

      I was recently on a hiring committee at work for the first time and didn’t reply to thank you emails for this reason. Couldn’t figure out how to answer in a neutral way, and I knew the interviewees would parse every word.

      Reply
  28. Purple Jello

    #3 – Couldn’t your personal transcripts and possibly other information you’re requesting be considered “sensitive information”? How are you supposed to transmit it securely, and will they guarantee to keep it secure/confidential? Could it be used for identity theft? Will they sign an agreement accepting liability if your personal information is leaked?

    Reply
  29. boop the first

    3. Huh. When I was a student in high school, recommendation letters were considered such a nuisance that we were instructed to write them ourselves, and maybe the teacher would sign it if they agreed with what was written. Why all the hoops now? Since when did businesses/colleges care about actual people? I thought it was all about how much money is thrown at them?

    4. This situation sounds like young dating! Pester the perfect girl who rejected you, or settle for the other one that asked you out but otherwise doesn’t appeal to you? There IS a third option: wait for something that actually works for both parties.

    Reply
  30. McWhadden

    For OP #1 I really think that if you alert him to the fact that people are noticing (as in Alison’s script) then he’ll significantly cut back on his away time. But if he doesn’t that’s a good time to escalate it. You gave him one chance to do it on his own and then go to your manager.

    Reply
    1. Girasol

      This. Sometimes this happens when people are very under-loaded work-wise. Bob may be leaving because his work is done and he’s bored with sitting around. He may not realize that he’s neglecting a responsibility to be present when people come looking for him. I vote for informing him first and going to more serious remedies if that fails to change his behavior.

      Reply
  31. Fake old Converse shoes

    OP3: Aren’t graded assignments considered private documents? And wouldn’t be a violation of privacy law to provide samples to a third party without asking for the student (or student guardians, if any) permission? Because I guess that a “fake assignment” based on a compilation of most common answers given by your students on a given time frame wouldn’t be real enough for them to be accepted.

    Reply
  32. clow

    OP 1 – I had a similar situation, the guy in question would leave for a couple of hours several times a day. People did notice and I was asked several times if he actually did any work. Whenever anyone asked where he was I would say, “I have no idea, he left around X and I haven’t seen him since” or something along that vein.

    Reply
  33. Rat Racer

    LW #5: I agree with Alison’s response that you shouldn’t expect an acknowledgment of a thank you/follow-up letter you send to an interviewer.

    However, I’d like to post a thought about the concept of “follow-up emails.” I can’t remember whether it was here or somewhere else where the standard advice in an interview follow-up email is to demonstrate further reflection and ask follow-up questions. If you do that please be respectful of the interviewer’s time.

    A few weeks ago, I was on a panel interview for a senior executive position on my team. The candidate sent a follow-up email with what amounted to 10 essay questions for us to answer, with questions like “what were the greatest challenges your team faced in 2017” and “what functional roles within this team will need to be prioritized ASAP?”

    It took me the better part of an hour to get through all his questions (the other panelists and my spouse ribbed me for responding, but I felt it would be rude not to). Although his questions were thoughtful and I see that he was trying to demonstrate interest, it was inconsiderate to send this litany of questions over email, taking additional time from our workdays… ok, just my workday since everyone else blew him off.

    Suffice to say he didn’t get the job.

    Reply
    1. Gena

      LW #5 here. I understand Alison’s response, and I think it makes perfect sense. I’ll stop worrying so much (as if I needed anything else to worry about during the job hunt…). The incident you cited is way out of bounds for an interviewee, and I cannot imagine anyone thinking that sending an email like that would be a good idea, especially when I’m sure there was time during the interview to discuss those types of questions.

      Reply
      1. Lil Fidget

        I’m glad you asked this question, I have also been curious for a while around the etiquette for thank you notes. In fact I’m currently debating with my friend whether they are necessary for phone interviews – I have always waited for an in-person interview before sending one, and she is appalled! There’s a lot of ways to screw it up, I guess.

        Reply
      2. Rat Racer

        In re-reading my post, I realize that it sounded like I was talking to you, OP, when I said “please be respectful of the interviewer’s time,” but I was really just taking an opportunity to vent about that very time-consuming candidate. Not intended at you at all!

        Reply
    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      Whoa, yeah, I definitely don’t recommend follow-up *questions* in those emails. (And if you receive those again, it’s perfectly fine to say, “I’d be glad to discuss those questions if we move forward, but unfortunately limited time would make it tough to do via email.”

      Reply
      1. Rat Racer

        You know, I have some good stories from the other side of the desk about crazy things candidates have said/done in interviews. Have you ever crowd-sourced a post on that topic?

        E.G.s
        – The woman who took off her shoes and put her feet up on the conference room table.
        – The candidate who highlighted her attention to detail with a story about taking a red pen to a letter home from her daughter’s Kindergarten teacher

        I’m sure I can think of more…

        Reply
    3. Lil Fidget

      Yikes, yeah, I can’t believe you responded! In this case I think the kindest thing to do would be to indicate that this isn’t the right venue for those questions. Maybe you can at least help him learn not to do this next time!

      Reply
  34. Throwaway14

    for OP 1- I have a similar problem and it really annoys me. I agree with Alison’s suggestion to say “Oh I don’t know, Bob left at 2” but respectfully disagree with her suggestion to ask Bob what he wants you to say. In my opinion, he’s the one messing up. Asking him what he wants you to say puts you below him and also allows him to control the narrative when he’s the one being irresponsible and negligent.

    Reply
  35. Hiring Mgr

    On #3, back when I was applying for grad school, I needed a few recommendations and one prof asked if I would just write up a draft rec and he would look it over and edit a bit then submit. This made things much easier and I actually suggested the same thing to my other recommendes who were on board.

    Is that sort of thing frowned upon, or unethical in a way? Don’t mean to sidetrack just curious..I never realized how much time this process takes

    Reply
    1. Sue No-Name

      I’ve heard of this too, and I think there are people who would see it as unethical (though I am on board with the idea that people are more amenable to approving/editing a draft than writing a whole letter from nothing!) Just one person’s two cents, I’d call it a gray area.

      Reply
  36. BadPlanning

    On OP#1, I would be careful about assuming Bob is just shirking work. At least give mental headspace of 50/50 that he’s got some arrangement even if it’s been poorly handly by management.

    I say this because in the last couple of years, I’ve had a couple circumstances where I was annoyed at a coworker that was AWOL only to discover that they had serious things going on (for example, a recent family death and paternity leave). Now it is true that their managers and/or leads dropped the ball so I was left trying to get attention from said coworkers (these were persons in other areas that I needed for my parts of my project) but I was left feeling like a jerk and embarrassed that I was all “Wheeeere arrrrre youuuuuu!?”

    Reply
  37. Tod Brody

    Re #2 “They shouldn’t magically become more willing or able just because you provide proof that another company offered you more.” This makes sense, of course. It put me in mind of when I was negotiating my son’s financial aid for college (which is very much a thing you can do, btw), and the school he wanted to go to asked me to provide proof of other offers before they would improve theirs. Thankfully, I had the proof that other schools had offered more, and once I submitted it, he got a better deal. Different world, but interesting.

    Reply
  38. Persephone Mulberry

    Re #3: I haven’t read all the comments, but I’m appalled at what I have read. I have a HS senior in one of the top schools in our state, and I’m seriously thinking about forwarding this post to the head of college advising and asking what our highly visible and well-funded district can do to push back against these ridiculous expectations in order to ease the burden on other schools with fewer resources.

    Reply
  39. Manager-at-Large

    For OP#1 – my snarky response to others looking for Bob would be “I don’t know. It’s not my day to watch him.”
    My serious response would be “I don’t know. You should check with Roberta (Bob’s manager).”

    Reply
  40. GG Two shoes

    Question on #5: Recently after an interview, the person who would be the manager said that I could email to check on the progress of hiring. I told her I typically just let them dictate the messages, I don’t want to bother them! She almost insisted that I email the hiring manager at a later date to follow up if I hadn’t heard from them. They are expanding rapidly and are hiring a lot of folks right now.
    I sent a thank you email immediately after the interview, but now that it’s been a week, I’m wondering if I should indeed email her again? What do I say?

    Reply
      1. GG Two shoes

        She didn’t tell me when check back in, just that I should at some point. My thought was either today or tomorrow as holiday weeks get really crazy. Still not sure what verbiage to use, though.

        Reply
  41. ahcounselor

    OP #3, I am a high school counselor and I can absolutely attest that college admissions is a complicated nightmare. That being said, I’ve never been asked to prove I’m a valid recommender by any colleges and I also primarily work with low income students. Have you utilized NACAC or are you a member of High School Counselors’ Network on Facebook? This is would be a great place to get your question answered and to see if anyone across the US has had this experience before. I find the Facebook group to be my saving grace for both knowledge and just general support/validation. It’s no fun when you feel burnt out and overwhelmed, but you know if you don’t help the students… no one will. Hopefully we all survive and things calm down after Dec 1!

    Reply
  42. Raine

    I was in that exact same situation as OP #1 several years back, and the advice given is totally accurate. My coworker would skip out on ‘lunch’ that would last upwards of two hours. When people came around asking for her, I told them the truth: she’d left on ‘lunch’ two hours ago. I found that telling the exact truth, as I knew it – where she said she was (if she had said anything at all), and for how long – was the best policy. I wasn’t lying, so I certainly couldn’t get in trouble for it. If something urgent came up, I’d go to our boss and let him know that she was MIA and there was a problem that needed solved. And when our boss caught wind that she was disappearing so often, it started the gears in motion and she was eventually let go and replaced with someone who was actually there to work.

    Reply
    1. Raine

      (Worth noting: her ‘lunches’ usually turned out to be shopping trips and massages. I only knew this because she would talk about her plans loudly on the phone before she left for them.)

      Reply
    2. Ron's wife Sheila

      This is exactly how I handled the one at my office. The other kicker was that everyone was supposed to come in and leave through the front door in the main lobby (where I sit), but he would sneak out the back door. We suspected he was going to the casino which was 20 minutes away, because one afternoon he was showing off his wad of cash. Anyway, I did the same thing you did when his manager came out to ask me what time he left for lunch. I just stated, “well, he must have went out the back door because he didn’t leave through here and his car is gone.” That’s when they started tracking his time and computer activity and discovered hours away from the desk. He never stayed late or worked overtime either and didn’t know how to work from home because he kept asking me how to log in from another computer and I told him (the truth) that he had to go through IT first.

      Reply
    3. swingbattabatta

      I did as well. My coworker would disappear to get her nails done, go to boozy lunches, go shopping… once, she was late to a meeting because she was shopping, and she left her shopping bags with the security guard so nobody would realize where she was. People would come to me to ask for her, and I would just state that she left at X time, and I don’t know where she is. I didn’t want to actually tell people what ridiculous thing she was doing at the time, because I very much did not want to be caught in the middle. She was eventually let go, and she was STUNNED.

      Reply
  43. Bookworm

    #5: It’s been rare for me to receive an acknowledgement and I wouldn’t read anything into it. Sometimes it’s probably more of an update (like something popped up and they need more time, they’re inviting back for another round, etc.). I think it’s been maybe 2-4 times when it turned out the interviewer really liked me and was basically telegraphing to me to hold on because I was a strong candidate. Even then that didn’t always work out for whatever reason (and in some cases it might have been me misinterpreting politeness/friendliness) so I wouldn’t read much into it. Sometimes it was nice, though, because even though I figured it wasn’t going to happen or I ultimately wasn’t interested it reminded me that they were genuinely nice people and it was a pleasant conversation. :)

    Reply
  44. Mrs. Tiggywinkle

    OP#1, we have one of those. It’s tolerated. Everyone knows about it, including the Big Boss. She’s the admin assistant in our department. Finally she went to part-time so at this point, I don’t think anyone cares. In fact, none of us understand why she even bothers holding a job here, as she doesn’t do anything anyway.

    I work in a very strange place.

    Reply
  45. Jennifer

    #3: I deal with similar issues and yeah, things do seem to be getting more and more complicated. I’ve been asked multiple times this year to verify test scores (which didn’t even happen here, they should be able to get these elsewhere), I’ve been asked to verify if a program was certified/approved/accredited and I do NOT work on this program whatsoever, I’ve been asked to verify if any courses in a program were virtual (again, I don’t work on it at all). People want a special snowflake individual form for each student and school and they ask us to verify things like whether or not they have behavioral issues (again, wouldn’t know) or if they show up to every class (ditto). I’ve been told “we don’t fill out other people’s forms” for this reason, but if I don’t fill out other people’s forms, our people don’t get what they want and then I get in trouble for that too. What the hell am I supposed to do?

    Reply
  46. You are not Bob's boss

    #1: I’m very surprised at the number of comments suggesting to escalate this to the manager. Unless there is proof he is abusing his schedule, I don’t think it’s right to assume that’s what he’s actually doing. In my office, many of my direct colleagues(and I) are away from their desks for hours at a time on varying days – but that is because we often have back to back meetings, or all day trainings, etc. Everyone’s schedule is different, so nobody bats an eye for not seeing someone for even half a day.

    It’s concerning to me that OP seems to know his “habits” so well. Why is OP keeping track when he comes in, leaves, etc? I’ve sat next to my same coworker for years and I hardly know his “habits” because they change daily based on his schedule. Unless this is directly impacting OP’s work, and unless the “abuse of scheduling” can be proved, I say stop assuming and allow this grown adult to manage his own time.

    Reply
    1. AudreyParker

      #1 I’m torn, because I’ve been on both sides of this. I tend to have a lot of health issues, so have related appointments relatively frequently (though not daily). They can’t all be at 7am. Best case scenario, including travel time, each one is 2 hrs out of a day – I would try to schedule them in the vicinity of lunch time if I could, but that’s not always possible, either. (They would, however, always be blocked out as Out of Office on my shared calendar should anyone care to check.) I would try to leave the office unobtrusively for my weekly therapy sessions, partly because I didn’t feel I should have to explain my personal health situation to all of my coworkers, partly because I was afraid it would make me look like a slacker, even though I always made up the time and it didn’t affect my work. I’d be checking email constantly unless I was driving or actively in an appointment. I was always super stressed about this when I was working, even when in flexible environments, and it’s top of my worry list now that I’m job hunting, because I know so many people still judge you by face time vs work results, and many places may not be conducive to taking more than an hour out of any given day without some chain of formal permission.

      I’ve also had a coworker who would disappear for chunks of time frequently, mostly due to their own chronic health issues that were generally unplanned – they were a terrible communicator, so would not always actually say they were going home, so occasionally I’d ask if they’d been seen around lately to gauge if I needed to start sending text messages or just work around them. I felt bad for the guy in the neighboring cube, though, and certainly didn’t feel he had any responsibility for actually having an answer beyond “no idea.”

      Definitely agree that if it’s affecting work, or they’re obviously regularly only putting in 5 hours a day and taking serious advantage, it should be brought up (though maybe starting from a results angle vs an attendance angle). But otherwise, if he’s able to hit the gym when it’s not crowded, eat at his desk, and get the appropriate level of work done on deadline, and the higher-ups don’t have a strict attendance policy, maybe take it as an opportunity to appreciate that your company provides some flexibility to take care of your health during the day.

      Reply
    2. Observer

      Escalating to the manager doesn’t require that Bob is abusing his time. It could be that, or it could be that the manager has unrealistic expectations. In either case, the solution is the same – talking to the manager should help clear it up.

      But, because it could be either one, the OP can’t go to the manager and say “Bob is cheating on his timesheet”. But the OP CAN say “Bob is out of the office and unreachable x hours on a typical day and sometimes it’s as much as y. That impacts how much we can get done. Also, people sometimes come looking for him with questions I can’t answer and I sometimes needs answers from him. How do I handle this?” That works, regardless of the reason Bob is out, and no matter what his arrangement with the boss is.

      Reply

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