I branched out at work and was criticized for it, boss wants me to follow up on everything with emails, and more

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

1. I branched out at work and was criticized for it

I’m with a small company of about 25, and work in software development. Luckily, my company is very open minded and flexible about participating in the work you’re interested in. Last fall, we decided to hire three summer interns through the local university, and when the resumes and cover letters came in, I jumped at the opportunity to participate. I was involved in the entire process from culling the stack of applications, to interviews, to call backs, and was very interested in being on the other side of the table for once! I learned a lot and was able to put a lot of what I’ve read here to use. I think my colleagues who were also involved were surprised to see me so energetic about it, I genuinely found it fun!

Fast forward several months, and it’s time for my performance review. The feedback I received was spun to be negative! “It was great that you were so involved in the hiring process, and we loved seeing you become so flared up and passionate about it! How can we make you feel that passion for software development?”

I was thrown for a loop! I thought I’d done good work and added value to my role and it was only used to contextualize a lack of energy in my day to day! For context, in those between months I had been through a pretty awful breakup which impacted my performance, so this was layered on some unpleasant (but fair) feedback. Even with that aside, I absolutely do not dislike the work that I do, though my energy level IS lower there.

I would like to continue participating in these decisions in the future but I’m worried that it’s impacting me negatively. Should I tone down my involvement or try to put forward a more tonally appropriate level of enthusiasm? I can’t help but feel a little cheated!

It’s hard to say without knowing exactly how visibly enthusiastic you were about the hiring work, and how engaged you seem with your day-to-day work. The latter in particular is really key in being able to answer this. If you’ve seemed a bit checked out / not invested, it’s understandable that your boss would note the contrast and ask about it.

That said, unless there was more to it than you’ve described here, I wouldn’t take her feedback as criticism of your involvement in the hiring work. I’d take it at face value: She liked seeing you get so engaged with that work, she’s observing that it was markedly different from how enthusiastic you seem about your normal work, and she’s wondering if there’s a way for you to be as invested and engaged in the latter. That’s actually useful feedback for you. Even if you disagree with it (because you think, for example, that it’s natural to get more excited about a short-term, more novel project and you can’t see sustaining that for your long-term day-to-day work, no matter how much you like it), it’s still useful to know that people around you might note the enthusiasm gap. Maybe there’s a legitimate point there — maybe you do need to reflect on whether you should bring more energy to your work. Or maybe it’s just a perception thing, and so it’s an opportunity to say to your boss, “No, I actually really love my day-to-day work. What you saw in my enthusiasm on the intern hiring was just my excitement about learning a new area. I don’t think I could sustain that level of visible enthusiasm day-to-day, but I do want you know that I feel deeply invested in my regular work here.”

2. My manager makes me follow up on internal conversations with emails

My manager makes me follow up on conversations I have with other members of the business with an email. Is this odd? If I have a conversation about the way something is done with a colleague, this must be followed up in writing via an email. It’s a small office and people tend to get along, although most people do not like my boss as she is a micromanager. It just feels like my boss does not trust anyone and wants everything in writing after the simplest of conversations. I find this hard to deal with, as I trust people at their word most of the time, especially if I have an established working relationship. Any suggestions on how to deal with this or is it normal?

It depends on the issue in question. If your manager wants you to follow up in email to say things like “so to confirm, you’ll be a few minutes late to the staff meeting today,” that’s overkill and weird. But if it’s about more substantive things — deadlines, project plans, processes, and other key details — that’s actually both normal and a good practice. It’s not about not trusting the people you work with. It’s about the reality that people are usually juggling lots of things and sometimes details fall through the cracks or get misremembered, and summarizing it in email makes that less likely to happen. (It also creates a record that people can consult later if there are questions.)

3. I started a new job and accidentally found my interview ratings

I started a new job about two months ago, and it’s been mostly wonderful. One of my side projects is reorganizing a shared folder that my department uses to store documents. My boss asked me to familiarize myself with it and make suggestions next week of how to organize it better, i.e. find any redundancies, declutter, etc. I’m also supposed to be putting together some documents to help onboard our next team member in a few months, using my own feedback from my hiring process.

While browsing through the various folders in the shared drive, I came across one folder named “job.” Inside are two separate folders full of scanned documents from my interview. These include dozens of pages of individual feedback and scoring from my four-panel interview, including matrices of comments and numerical ratings for both myself and another interviewee! Now I’m torn about whether I should let my boss know that this folder is sitting in the drive for all to see. Should I just wait to bring it up later once I’ve built some more rapport with my boss? Or mention it now so that the same doesn’t happen with future hires? Is it common for these sorts of documents to be made public within a department?

Side note: I couldn’t help but read every word, and overall I received really good comments, especially from my direct manager! I had been deeply curious about who else they interviewed, and it turns out the other interviewee was much more qualified but lacked energy and passion for the industry, which I scored highest in. This solidified my confidence in my interviewing skills, and gave me a bit of a confidence boost!

Yes, bring it up. It’s not a big deal, so you don’t need to wait until you have more rapport. It might actually be weirder if you do wait, since you were assigned to organize that folder and so at some point your boss may realize that you saw it.

Just say something like, “While I was reorganizing the shared folder, I found a folder of interview assessments and scoring. I wasn’t sure if you’d want those to be accessible to everyone, so I’m flagging it in case you want to move it or restrict access to it.”

(Some teams do make that stuff available to everyone, especially if they’re small, and who knows, maybe yours does. But it’s more typical to restrict access to that kind of thing to people involved in the hiring.)

4. Our salary grades are going down because of a department reorg

My brand new manager is reorganizing the department to make it “flat.” She has zero experience with the type of work my department does. In order to make our department flat, a number of employees are having their manager titles stripped and while we are keeping our current salaries, our salary grades will be dropping by one or two grades, which affects our future earning potential and cuts our bonus eligibility percentage by 5%.

Is this legal? None of the managers have had bad performance reviews. They’ve all met or exceeded expectations.

Yes, it’s legal. Employers are allowed to lower your pay or, in this case, your salary grade. They just can’t lower your pay retroactively (meaning that you can’t be told, for example, that the last few weeks of work you just did are going to be paid out at a lower amount than what you agreed to).

You and your coworkers can certainly try pushing back, perhaps by showing her data on competitive salary ranges for the work you do and explaining that your team won’t be able to attract or retain good people under these new policies. And if you have an HR department, you can attempt to enlist their help. But it’s possible that your employer is actually okay with these consequences — they may be happy to lose people who are getting paid more than what they’ll pay when they rehire for the roles, if it’s convinced that the reorg actually makes sense for the organization. If that’s the case, you’ll have to decide if you’re willing to stay under this new structure or if you’d rather go elsewhere.

5. Did this HR person lie when she said my emails went to her spam folder?

I applied for a job at a local, growing small company. The position seemed well-suited to me and my experience, and I even knew a former colleague who took a position there in recent months. After applying, I reached out to the colleague and told him that I had applied and he said he would personally send my resume to the hiring manager.

Within a week, I was emailed by HR (on a Thursday afternoon) asking me if I was available to speak about the position over the phone on either the following day (Friday) or the following Monday. I emailed back a few hours later on the Thursday night and said I could make myself available on either day at her convenience. Friday passed. Monday passed. I took your advice and emailed Tuesday apologizing for missing the times she suggested and let her know that I was available Wednesday-Friday to speak about the position.

Two weeks pass, and on a Thursday I receive a voice message from her saying that she had lost my emails in her spam box and would like to set up time that day or the next day to chat. I decided to call her back instead of emailing, and we set up a phone interview for the following morning. That interview went well and she immediately set up an on-site interview for the following Monday, where I met with her, the hiring manager, and his team. During the interview, the HR person said she would know next steps by “Wednesday.”

I guess my question is, she made up the spam box thing, right? If I was responding to her initial emails, why would my emails be flagged as spam? She probably doesn’t want the organization to seem disorganized. And I am still interested in the job, especially after meeting the team. But it is now Friday. What was the point of her telling me I’d hear back by Wednesday? Is this normal? Or a red flag for the job?

I suppose it’s possible that she made up the spam thing, but that’s not the most likely explanation. The most likely explanation is that your emails actually went to her spam folder and she found them there later. That’s a thing that happens even if earlier emails went through, and it’s not always clear why. I’ve definitely found emails from job candidates in my spam folder before and they’ve found mine in their spam folders too (which was the topic of my very first blog post here 11 years ago!). People who are hiring and people who are job searching should regularly check their spam folders for that reason, but not everyone thinks to do it regularly.

As for her saying you’d hear back by Wednesday and then missing that deadline, that’s very, very common. Hiring frequently takes far longer than people expect it to, and employers regularly blow their own timelines. It’s so normal that I tell people to take whatever timeline an employer gives you and mentally add two weeks to it. It’s annoying, but it’s a reality of how it works.

If you otherwise like this job and the people you met with, I wouldn’t consider any of this red-flaggy.

{ 261 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. LouiseM

    OP#1, I wonder if you’re taking this comment from your boss more personally because you’re feeling tender from your breakup and from the criticism you received. Like Alison, I didn’t necessarily read it as a negative reflection. Personally, I would take it at face value. But why not ask your boss what she meant? I’d say, “I’ve been thinking about what you said the other day about enthusiasm. It’s true I did get excited about hiring because I’ve never done it before, but I also like software development. Does it seem like I’m not enthusiastic?”

    Reply
    1. The Office Blooper

      You could say “I’m not normally demonstrative about work, even though I really enjoy what I do, but because I was new to this kind of work, and was dealing with potential new hires, I wanted to appear enthusiastic and passionate about the company, so applicants would see that it’s a great place to work.”

      Reply
    2. Software Consultant

      Something that has worked very well for a colleague of mine, but could be a risk in different situations, is to say “Actually, I’ve realised that software development isn’t my real passion. I am still interested in working for Wakeen’s Chocolate Teapot Software, but can we explore ways for me to see more X?”

      In Arya’s case, this was a success because (a) she is a high performer generally and (b) the company had real vacancies in an area of more interest to her. The move in her case was from QA to user interface design; she’s now a company expert on a bunch of stuff.

      Reply
      1. Akcipitrokulo

        It can work to ask to be involved in things you’re interested in, but it is very much a know your company thing. Where I am now I’m very comfortable doing that (boss/big boss both claimed credit for giving me GDPR requirements to do because I’m a bit of a fan, and when I applied for promotion I didn’t get because of not quite enough experience in teapot handles, big boss arranged for me to go on course so that I would have it next time) but I have worked in places where that’s one of last things I’d do.

        Reply
      2. Naptime Enthusiast

        This is a great point. My current manager has been very good at asking about my long-term career goals, and knows that what I’m doing today isn’t what I want to do forever. I want to be a project manager, but right now I don’t have the experience or all of the skills needed to move into that role today, at least not at my company. However, doing well in my current role will give me the credibility to work up to the kind of role I want to do in the future, and my manager is helping me to find the right types of tasks to develop those skills.

        I would not have dared to be so candid with my previous manager because he had his own ideas about what the career path for people in my role should be, so YMMV.

        Reply
      3. Fiennes

        It might be useful to frame this as the discovery of a new professional interest—not in a way that detracts from the current job, but might show a way OP would like to grow. “I’d never realized that I might be interested in this side of the work and working toward that in the future,” or some such. Personally I don’t think it’s odd that OP might’ve seemed less enthusiastic during a rough personal period, or that novelty might’ve provided a pick-me-up at work. As long as OP is coming back at full power in her core job, this shouldn’t be problematic and might provide good insights for future professional development.

        Reply
      4. SoftwareFeedback

        (I’m OP#1!)

        I’m not sure this is a route I would really want to go down! For one there really isn’t that much hiring here and two, I just don’t think this powerful flame of energy and spirit is really something that is as easily attainable for development work! At the very least I don’t see it in my higher performing colleagues!

        Reply
        1. SoftwareFeedback

          (And to clarify, I do like my job! I’m not sure if I would take the career shift even if it were available.)

          Reply
          1. akaptur

            Perhaps I’m too cynical, but I would read this feedback as a negative comment on your productivity in your core job role. For me, one of the hardest things to learn as a new software engineer was how to focus on my core work and walk by other tasks that didn’t matter. My tech lead and other senior engineers I respected were involved with lots of different projects and followed everything going on in our team, so I was trying to do the same – but that wasn’t appropriate for my level and role. (In any software company, there will be lots of tasks that aren’t important! Interviewing is important, but you still don’t get credit for doing extra work if your core work isn’t done or isn’t done fast enough.)
            Stay focused and don’t let yourself get nudged out of the technical track unless that’s really what you want.

            Reply
        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

          I’ve been working in software development since ’89 (with a few years’ break from work in the 90s), and, while I enjoy my work a lot more than I would doing anything else, I agree with you that an energetic showing of enthusiasm just isn’t sustainable long-term! How can one show up for work every day for 25+ years acting SUPER! EXCITED! about their workday, unless there are powerful drugs involved? I don’t know! And I don’t think it should be a requirement! And I’m pretty passionate about that, come to think of it!

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    3. Jill

      I think it’s very clear what the boss meant. She’s telling the OP that she doesn’t seem very enthusiastic about her job, and it’s more noticeable because of the enthusiasm she showed on the other project.

      I don’t understand how the OP is spinning it to be a criticism of her work on the other project. It’s clearly a compliment about that.

      As for what to do about, that’s simple. Try to show more enthusiasm with her regular responsibilities.

      Reply
      1. prof-lc

        Another option for the OP is to do some intense thinking about where she would like her career to go. Getting excited about hiring and maybe not so excited about the regular job could be a sign that recruiting fills a significant interest for the OP that could be worth pursuing career-wise. The question for the OP to explore is whether the recruiting/hiring is only exciting because it’s new (and might be less engaging if it was the main focus of the job), or whether it’s something to pursue as a greater focus for her career.

        Reply
    4. EditorInChief

      OP1: I’ve had employees who have expressed interest in projects outside the scope of their normal job duties. If they are meeting all the requirements of their core jobs, and kicking butt there, then I allow them to volunteer themselves for other projects. Based on your description of events OP1 I would have given you the same feedback. I want to see the level of commitment and enthusiasm for your core duties, not just the things you want to do that are fun or interesting to you.

      Reply
      1. Catnpoodle

        Absolutely agree with your point. Would also like to add that OP views her organization as one whole entity, whereas it’s often not the case. Her purpose at the company is first and foremost the job she was hired to do under her manager. Any passion projects while they benefit the company, do not necessarily benefit her manager or department. It’s easy to understand the manager’s frustration at having an employee who does not seem to make a lot of effort at her job, being unavailable due to other projects and being more enthused about them than her actual work.

        Reply
      2. SoftwareFeedback

        (I’m OP#1!)
        Yeah, this is perfectly reasonable, and is something else that arose in my review. There ARE other more “soft” things that I would be interested in being involved in at work, but until I demonstratively pick that up I understand that there’s not really space for it. I’ve been working hard to do so!

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    5. Specialk9

      One thing I do is to make a habit of barely-smiling and standing straight when walking the halls. Always – it says confident and positive.

      The other thing is to mention in passing that I love my job, or to mention what I like about it. You could find a natural way to work that in – eg, I really enjoy the challenge finding solutions to complex problems, and this one was a doozy!

      People pay attention to other people with 1/4 of their brain at most, usually – make it so the stuff that makes an impression is positive.

      Reply
      1. Triumphant Fox

        This is a good point – I also use the technique of working in enthusiasm to clue in my manager and others as to what I do/don’t like to do. My job can be super fluid and I’ve been wearing all the hats as they are needed, so I get a lot of comments like, “I know you’re slammed and I’m sorry to give you this, but…” or “I hate to pull you into ANOTHER meeting, but…” I take those comments as opportunities to say, “Actually, I love being involved in these top-level meetings where I can get more insight into the organization,” or “I’m a lot happier when I’m slammed, so keep things coming” or “We should think about this kind of work for the next role that we hire – it would free us up for more important stuff.” All of those comments have been well received (in part because my boss and I are trying to figure out how this department should be run) and have led to more things I love and less things I’m not as skilled at, while still communicating that I’m upbeat about the work overall.

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      2. Oxford Coma

        I get where you’re coming from, but this sounds exhausting and frustrating. If I’m doing my job well, I don’t want to have to cos-play Cheerful Employee too. It feels like another incarnation of “everyone who isn’t a maniacally extroverted cheerleader isn’t a team player”.

        Reply
    6. Escapee from Corporate Management

      OP#1, your letter reminds me of an employee I once had as an Operations Director. He did his job competently, but never showed enthusiasm and seemed bothered by day-to-day tasks. One day, we were on-site at a client and he was different person. Happy, personable, knew everyone by name. I asked and learned he had been a sales assistant on the account before he was promoted to Operations. While now he was monitoring details on a computer, before he interacted with people whom he could help. It was clear he belonged in Sales. I arranged a transfer at the same level he had attained in Operations. He went from mediocre to a star.

      Does this reflect the gap that your supervisor described? If so, it’s a positive. You learned what makes you passionate and found a role that has the most precious quality: fun! Follow that passion into those types of roles. It will not only make you a better employee; it will make you a happier person.

      Reply
      1. Snark

        This is an awesome point, and closely matches what happened when I went from a role very involved with preparing contract documents to one more directly engaged in environmental compliance work.

        Reply
    7. SoftwareFeedback

      Oh! I’m OP#1! I can talk to this!
      I think being candid here is probably the right answer, yeah. Mind I did go through that breakup about a month before this particular review so there certainly was a dip in my personality and functionality- there was in every aspect of my life! So I can understand the feedback I did receive to an extent.
      I guess I just felt the table was turned on me a little bit and solid work I’d done was compared against something new and fresh, which felt a little unfair!

      Reply
      1. Delphine

        I can understand how it’d feel unfair. I love my job, but it’s true that the day-to-day is stuff I’m very used to, so I don’t get outwardly excited about much of it. I’m not unenthusiastic, but I’m not bright-eyed and bushy-tailed about it either. When there’s a new opportunity–for example, my company is currently doing some branding work and a bunch of employees are able to participate in the conversations–that is fresh and new, I enjoy the change in the routine and look forward to it. I would also feel a bit miffed if my strong day-to-day work was judged against my reaction to a new opportunity.

        I think employees who do good work in their day-to-day and then react with passion and enthusiasm for new tasks on top of that are doing it right. It’d be impossible to maintain that enthusiasm for all parts of a job. What I wouldn’t want to see, as a manager, is an employee who was passionate about their day-to-day, but then couldn’t muster up an enthusiasm to step out of that role, even for a short time.

        Reply
      2. Traffic queen

        OP#1 —

        I completely get where you are coming from in your letter. Those types of reviews drove me mad in my former job. You are being punished for doing something that should have been a bonus for you.

        I agree with all the commenters who have said that you need to be at a minimum pleasant and positive about all your tasks. But it is inevitable that you will be more excited about some tasks than others. Bosses that want you to be Maximum Cheerful about every.single.thing you do are emotional vampires. I agree with Oxford Coma above that it’s weird, unnecessary emotional labor.

        Unfortunately, the only solution I found was to a) stop being enthusiastic about anything and b) leave.

        Good luck!

        Reply
    8. Stranger than fiction

      Great suggestion. The Op even admits their performance has been down, so it was probably not a surprise but still jarring realization it was noticeable to the boss.

      Reply
  2. SignalLost

    OP 5, the number of emails from potential employers I’ve found in spam is ridiculously high. I don’t understand the logive behind it, but it definitely happens. And as a side note, one of my favorite contracts hired me even after their interview request languished in my spam folder for basically all of finals week. (Academic institution; I was teaching at the time.)

    Reply
    1. Jen S. 2.0

      Worse yet, in my office, we have both spam and a middle ground folder called Clutter. Now I have two places to search for important messages :/

      OP5, it is very likely she was 100% telling the truth.

      Reply
      1. straws

        I gave the clutter folder a try, but it basically ended up like what you said – a second spam folder. I was able to turn it off in my mail settings.

        Reply
        1. spock

          You might also be able to turn off the spam folder. It’s possible in Exchange though maybe your IT department can disabled that option. I did it after realizing I got very little spam to my work email and it never ended up in the spam folder anyway, only real emails were.

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      2. StarHopper

        You can turn off the Clutter folder! A colleague in IT did it for me, but I’m sure it’s easily Googleable.

        Reply
      3. RabidChild

        I’ll bet that is where it landed, OP. I can’t see why a reply to an email that originated with the HR person went to spam, but clutter is def a likely culprit

        Reply
      4. Observer

        Many of us find the Clutter folder to be useful, especially if we’re not in the habit of using rules. But, although our spam filter almost never filters out real stuff, a LOT of stuff winds up in clutter that shouldn’t be there, especially when you first turn it on.

        Reply
        1. KarenK

          I get an email from our system every day with a list of emails that have been flagged as spam. Most of them are not really, but they are usually things that I don’t need to actually see – marketing, newsletters, stuff like that.

          On the other hand, obvious spam just sails right on through! Stuff in foreign languages (not English), financing offers, Nigerian prince scams. I don’t understand it at all.

          Reply
        2. LBK

          Yeah, I do like Clutter because it sorts out stuff I don’t really want to read every day but I also don’t want them deleted. I just want them sitting there if I want to look through them at some point without “cluttering” up my inbox.

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      5. jo

        Yes, OP5, I recently had two messages go into spam–from a colleague I work with regularly. And my inbox is actually a relabeling of the email accounts of the 3 people who came before me, all of whom also did regular business with this colleague. She’s been emailing my account for years, and her messages still went into spam.

        Reply
        1. soon to be former fed

          I use gmail. My legit bank messages go to spam, despite me flagging them as not spam a million times. That’s a useless button to press, LOL.

          Reply
    2. PB

      Yep. Spam folders are greedy little beasts, and often eat things they should not. Emails from friends and family, people who have been in my address book for years, sometimes get sucked into the spam folder for no apparent reason.

      It’s possible she made it up, but I don’t think it’s likely. I’d take her at her word, and assess the interview as you would any other.

      Reply
      1. Seriously?

        I think it would be an odd thing to lie about. I have had many emails end up in spam for no identifiable reason and have also had a job where many of my emails went to people’s spam folder since they were automatically generated. When people asked me why I hadn’t contacted them, I told them to check there spam folder and they always found it there.

        Reply
        1. OP5

          You’re right. It’s definitely an odd thing to lie about. I guess in my initial excitement about the job and not hearing back after some time, I concocted a story in my mind that I wasn’t a top candidate and HR came back to me later but needed “a reason” to explain the delay. All of your comments are completely reassuring me that that probably wasn’t the case. Phew. Thanks all!

          Reply
          1. AMPG

            Think of it this way – they don’t owe you anything in terms of an explanation, really (besides a simple “Sorry for the delayed response”), so why bother to lie? Therefore it’s probably true.

            Reply
      2. The Original K.

        I just found an email from my mother in my spam folder not long ago. She’d sent me a link to an article (from a major news outlet) and I guess that’s what triggered it, though I have no idea.

        My former employer was messing with the spam settings at one point and a lot of my vendor emails were going to spam (it caused me to nearly miss a deadline; thankfully the vendor followed up with a phone call). The IT department got a LOT of angry phone calls about it.

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      3. Snark

        I’m expecting an emailed job offer, and I’m checking Spam twice a day. I never knew how many Nigerian princes there were.

        Reply
        1. AMPG

          I once wired several hundred dollars to Nigeria for a legit reason (my office made a donation to the small non-profit founded by one of our program participants), and I got some VERY pointed questions at the bank about it. I had to promise them that I had met the recipient in person and knew that her business was legit.

          Reply
          1. The Other Dawn

            Yes, I’m a banker and our branches do that when they see anything going to Nigeria. Actually, they typically question the customer when they see anything out of the ordinary. They’re always looking out for the customers to make sure they’re not being scammed. We see lots of attempted romance scams, advanced fee, international lottery, etc. It’s part of my job to file a report when a customer falls victim to something like this (or a large dollar amount scam is attempted), and I’m happy to say we don’t file many of these reports for those particular scams. Wish I could say the same for customers that are doing, or try to do, things they shouldn’t be doing…

            Reply
            1. AnOh

              I’ve always wondered, when it’s an attempted romance scam and the person claims to know/be in a relationship with the receiver, is it common for the person to realize they’re being scammed or do they double down and find a different way to send the money? If you have someone saying “Hey this is a common scam, we’re making sure this is a legitimate person and trying to protect you” at some point you’d have to realize you’re not an exception.

              Reply
              1. The Other Dawn

                I would say most people don’t realize they’re being scammed. Some of them insist it’s real and will eventually find another way to send the money. Some come to see that it’s a scam and thank us for looking out for them. And some…they suspect it’s a scam or even know it’s a scam, but they’re very lonely and so desperate to believe it’s real and are happy to have someone to communicate with that they try to get us to send the money anyway. They, too, will usually go elsewhere and send the money.

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    3. Kittymommy

      Yep, I’m sitting here looking at my junkbox folder (what are place calls spam) and there are emails which are responses from people who I originally emailed. It doesn’t happen all the time, but frequently enough that I’m aware of it.

      Reply
      1. OP5

        This is so interesting! Now I’m curious to know what kind of filter settings are the default for junk and spam boxes. Thanks to everyone who replied, this is really helpful. And I suddenly have the urge to check my junk/spam boxes for all my different emails…

        Reply
      2. Brandy

        I get emails from our company, we get daily spreadsheets, that wind up there. No reason why and every day I drag them into the Indox to get the attachments. Theyre from our company. Weird.

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        1. zora

          We have an internal daily email that comes through an HTML mailer system, that goes to my Spam folder every single day no matter how many times I whitelist it.

          I don’t actually need to read it for my role, but it still irritates me.

          Reply
    4. Grizzzzzelda

      OP3- Wholeheartedly agree with Alison’s script. May be awkward if boss finds out later that you saw the docs and didn’t speak up.

      On a related note. When my boss was hired, the process was extremely long. There were about 20 candidates, half of whom got 2nd interviews. 3 of whom got 3rd interviews. And 2 of whom got 4th “interviews” (which was really just a lunch meeting with the CEO).

      The person they hired (who became my boss) was terminated 6 months later. Rather than hiring someone new, they decided to just see how I managed…

      Going through all the files, I found the hiring notes on all the candidates…and found out that my boss was not the first choice. The position was initially offered to the other candidate who made it to the 4th interview, but that candidate unexpectedly declined. In this file, there was a long email chain about whether to continue interviewing, or offer the position to the 2nd candidate. Apparently the CEO liked the 1st candidate so much, that he would have rather continued the search than hire the 2nd candidate. Two other execs ended up vouching for the 2nd candidate, saying that she would just have to do because filling the role was taking too long.

      I’ll never know if my (former) boss found that email chain (I can’t imagine how she wouldn’t! The file was labeled HR Manager Interviews)…but how detrimental to one’s confidence would that be?!?

      So OP#, be glad that your file had some real positives!

      Reply
    5. Ama

      The most important set of emails I send every year are the emails I send to the people we are giving grants to. This year, every.single.reply to the award emails I sent out wound up in my spam folder. These were replies to emails I created and sent individually — some of them were even to people who were in my address book already – and I’ve never had a problem with this in the five years I’ve been sending these emails.

      For quite a while I didn’t realize it was happening because we have a separate external junk mail filter that sends email notifications if it quarantines something, and the emails were getting through *that* filter just fine — it was just Outlook’s internal junk filter deciding it was a problem for some reason.

      Reply
    6. Someone

      There are apparently some legitimate reasons for “normal” mail to be flagged as spam. Just a few days ago I mentioned to my boyfriend – who has an own domain and set up an email account there for me – that some of my emails had ended up in spam folders.
      He was VERY interested in hearing so, and could name a number of things he should check to solve the problem.
      Tbh I have only very, VERY limited knowledge of such things, so anyone who knows more please do correct me as I might have misunderstood many details, but:

      One reason he mentioned was that there might be actual spam sent from his domain, and he’d have to kill the process and then just wait till whatever machines check “spamminess” of domains to consider his domain ok again.

      Yesterday evening I think he actually checked into the problem, and I heard him mutter about something that I think could be some email protocols or such like – that his domain wasn’t using a protocol that another domain was using, so they couldn’t communicate properly.

      When he comes home I’ll ask him to explain it to me, I’m curious now.

      Reply
        1. Someone

          So he’s home now and I did ask.

          The problem was with SPF, which is a way of confirming that the IP address the email was sent from is the same as that of the server that corresponds to its domain.
          But he had only enabled that for the internet protocol IPv4, not the newer IPv6. The domain to which I had sent (gmail) apparently does the SPF via IPv6. So gmail was not able to verify that his domain his harmless non-spam as it could not proof its harmlessness via IPv6… so it ended up in the spam folder.

          Another problem that he had considered was that his domain had been blacklisted. Servers can be hacked so that they send spam, and a server that is suspected to be sending spam is put on a blacklist. These blacklists are checked by email servers in the process of identifying spam.

          So, two reasons why a harmless email could be flagged as spam by a perfectly reasonable spam filter.

          Reply
    7. Stranger than fiction

      Also, in a lot of companies, like where I work now, emails get blocked by a quarantine program at the server level and may never even make it to your individual machines spam folder. I get periodic notifications that something’s in the quarantine, but don’t always remember to check if it’s actually something from a customer. I’m so used to seeing some bit of obviously foreign junkmail in there about how to improve my seo or whatnot, that I often just give it a cursory glance and move on. Although, if I was involved in hiring, I would probably pay more attention. I just wanted to point that out about spam blocking though, because there’s some automated reports that our customers receive and they often call complain they didn’t get it and very emphatically say they already checked their spam or junk folder and I have to explain it wouldn’t be there and they need their IT dept to allow those emails through.

      Reply
  3. LouiseM

    OP#2, is it possible you have reached that b*tch eating crackers stage with your boss, where every conversation feels like just another example of her micromanaging? Alison is right that following up by email *is* often best practice. It’s not about not trusting someone–often the email is as much for you as the person you’re sending it to.

    Reply
    1. JamieS

      Good point. Although given OP’s distaste for the email request I’m curious if the manager is actually going overboard like Alison’s example or if OP and colleagues are used to a more laid back environment and the manager is trying to implement some policies that are pretty usual in offices but more stringent than OP’s office is used to so it feels like micromanaging when it’s really not. Those two options are the only ones that make sense to me for OP to be hung up over email.

      Reply
    2. Lynca

      I’m actually glad someone pointed that out. I find writing out the follow up email cements the issue in my mind so that I’m clear on what is being expected. Occasionally I have misinterpreted something and it gets caught immediately instead of 2-3 weeks later when the work is in it’s final stages.

      Reply
      1. Seriously?

        The misinterpreted part is key. Sending an e-mail does not mean that you do not trust the person to actually do what they say they will, it is to make sure that there are no misunderstandings. Also, a written record is very helpful for double checking things.

        Reply
        1. Naptime Enthusiast

          This. I prefer to have emails from suppliers rather than phone conversations because this way I get all the information and can forward it to the right people. Otherwise I would have to draft up my own email and possibly forget a key detail.

          Reply
        2. Breda

          Yeah, especially things like deadlines and dates: I usually try to put them in my calendar right away, but sometimes my brain latches onto a different date, so if you asked me when something was happening, I would very confidently and without hesitation give you the absolute wrong day. Writing it down (or getting an email about it) lets me go back and double-check without bothering you about it again.

          Reply
        3. LBK

          Yeah, I follow up many conversations by asking the person to summarize the request in an email or doing the same myself. It’s just so helpful to have the details in writing both as a double check that you’ve understood each other correctly and so you have it as a reference, especially if you it’s not something you’re going to do right this second. I can’t tell you how many times I get back to a request 2 days later and am very glad I have the details that seemed so easy to remember at the time written down.

          Reply
      2. Jules the 3rd

        oh yeah, I email responses to a very large number of my conversations, to ensure that everyone understands goals, tasks, timelines.

        Reply
    3. You're Not My Supervisor

      I was wondering this too. I personally track all my “to do” items by flagging emails, so having an emailed copy would be super helpful for me as a manager.

      Reply
      1. Trout 'Waver

        Ditto. I am terrible at remembering action items from informal conversations. But I’m great at doing them when I can flag them in outlook.

        Reply
        1. Kelly L.

          Yes! And I hate when I’m trying to remember some small detail, can’t call it to mind, search my email for it, and then with a sinking feeling remember it was a phone conversation…

          Reply
      2. Wonderland

        I request that all work/assistance requests be made in to me in writing – it’s not because I don’t trust my team, co-workers, and our leadership, but because I have a busy revolving door of people who need assistance on a daily basis, and I don’t want to lose track of anyone! Even if I have a conversation with someone to resolve their request, I always make sure to put it in a brief writing. It really helps to reflect back exactly what you discussed and make sure both parties understood one another. Also, so many times an identical situation will arise to one that happened a few years prior, and we were able to find the solution documented in an email.

        Reply
    4. Stranger than fiction

      I have a manager that doesnthis and I get it. He often is too busy to respond if I email in the first place, so I’ll go by hos office and talk about how we need to do such and such, and he’ll say yes, great idea, please email me that and put X innthe subject so I remember.

      Reply
      1. zora

        But it seems like the OP is saying the manager wants the employees to email each other, even when it doesn’t include the manager at all. I do see how that could be a little frustrating, instead of letting the employees decide how they want to handle communication among themselves.

        People here complain about getting too much email all the time, so if I have an opportunity to spare their inbox by having a quick in person conversation, I do it.

        Reply
        1. GM

          Even in that case my experience suggests its far better to document the tasks in an email after the phone or in-person conversation. The manager might be requesting this as it helps her later avoid a situation when one of the team members comes crying and says ‘But he said he would do X and he didnt!’ or some such.

          Reply
  4. sacados

    OP5:
    I agree that it seems a bit sketchy — if you replied to an initial email from the HR person, your response would be in that same thread so it seems odd that it would somehow end up in spam.
    But Alison is right that sometimes spam filters work in strange ways …. and anyway the question is kind of moot.
    Whether the HR person was actually fibbing about it or not, it doesn’t change how you would proceed (ie you definitely don’t want to tell her you think she might’ve been lying) so just be diligent about making sure no further communications get lost in the void.

    Reply
    1. Pollygrammer

      “Accidentally got sent to spam” is also a kind of “kick the dog.” Something everyone should accept on face value no matter how improbable you find it.

      (For those who don’t know their old-school country sayings: “kick the dog” is something to say when someone audibly farts at dinner. Everyone knows it wasn’t actually the dog, but everyone can pretend it was).

      Reply
    2. OP5

      Thanks for this. It is definitely moot now. But I also wonder if my post-interview “thank-you” may have got moved into spam, too (as it wasn’t a reply from a previous email). Or if my 2 week post-interview follow-up email (on my calendar for this coming Monday) will get lost as well? Maybe when I follow up 2 weeks post-interview it should be as a phone call?

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Noooo, definitely not! That would be annoying (becasue you’d be interrupting them, unlike with an email, which they can read at their convenience). Ultimately it’s up to her to manage her email, check her spam, etc.; you can’t try to over-manage the process to avoid email flukes.

        Reply
      2. hbc

        If you think all of those are going to spam, either their spam filters are aggressive to the point of incapacitating the business, or you’re doing stuff that makes your emails look more like junk. I think the latter is unlikely, but for peace of mind, you could do a pass over your next email and make sure you’re not unintentionally hitting any red flags, like a subject line of “re: job opportunity” or an industry-specific abbreviation that also stands for a prescription drug.

        Reply
    3. Someone else

      Hi, IT person here, this:
      if you replied to an initial email from the HR person, your response would be in that same thread so it seems odd that it would somehow end up in spam.
      is generally not odd or uncommon at all, depending on a number of factors of how various spam filters work.

      Reply
  5. Kathlynn

    Yeah, depending on the email service, it can be really easy for emails to be marked as spam. Often enough that checking my spam folder for interesting emails is part of my email checking routine. And that’s just for web comic alerts or other bulk emails.

    Reply
      1. sunny-dee

        FWIW, I run a small group at my church. After months of sending out weekly updates, all of a sudden, my emails started going to everyone’s spam folders. It’s not a huge list (6 people) and we’ve emailed about other things. Just … one day it happened.

        Spam filtering is a (dark) art, not a science.

        Reply
  6. Traveling Nerd

    OP1 –
    As a manager in tech, in some companies “soft skills” like managing and hiring are looked down upon. Especially if you are in an underrepresented group in tech. Depending on your office’s culture, you may want to abstain from doing too much work in those areas.

    Reply
    1. Mommy in STEAM

      Yes. If you’re a woman, a mother, physically disabled, a person of color, etc and you still have the GALL to work in technology realize you’re pushing the envelope. Under no circumstances should you display soft skills or pursue an interest in helping out with hiring if you find it energizes you more than staring at line after line of code all day. Never be true to yourself; your obligation is to subvert stereotypes no matter how much it stifles you.

      Reply
      1. Traffic_Spiral

        It’s not “never be true to yourself,” but rather “understand that you’re probably already looked at as ‘the help’ so you should be careful about how giving people more ammo.”

        Reply
      2. Woman in Finance

        Right, cause people who are already facing an uphill climb at work are definitely do not need to take any notice of things that could make their careers even harder, and definitely being aware of others’ perception of them is totally unnecessary!

        Reply
      3. Guacamole Bob

        I thought Traveling Nerd’s point was interesting and helpful. There have been a number of discussions on this site about women taking on more of the “optional” office things like party planning and recognizing birthdays and whatnot, and how women may want to think a bit and get to know their office culture before bringing in baked goods.

        The point here seems to be that the gender divide in some industries extends beyond those aspects of office life to more work-related things that fall outside of core job duties, like being involved in hiring. I can think of a variety of other things, too, like participating in formal mentoring programs, being involved with professional organizations, etc. Those things can all be professionally valuable, but there’s a trade off in time and attention to core job functions. It’s worth thinking about whether the benefits to doing these “optional” things are worth the potential sacrifice in terms of time and energy to achieve results in other parts of the job. The answer varies among people, companies, and industries, of course, but it’s a good question to be asking.

        Reply
      4. Manager-at-Large

        My career is as a female in IT / Software Development.
        We used to call some departments the Pink Ps: payroll, personnel, public relations – these were departments where you *might* find a female exec.
        I’m not saying these endeavors are still thought of this way, but it was unfortunately mostly true at the time.

        Reply
    2. OP1

      (I answered a few above comments as “SoftwareFeedback- changing to OP1 for clarity)

      I definitely agree that this is a thing, and it also kind of sucks. However, at least in our company, we are pretty small and aim to be as “flat” management wise as possible, in the sense that we try to avoid hierarchies whenever possible. That said, several developers are always involved in hiring, so I don’t think this is a huge problem necessarily!

      Reply
    3. smoke tree

      Sadly, I kind of assumed that the LW for this question was a woman based on how much the manager was focused on her emotions. I’m sure it happens, but I’ve never known a male colleague to be emotion-policed and I’ve seen it happen to women all the time.

      Reply
  7. LittleRedRidingHuh?

    OP3’s story reminded me of a time a good 15 years ago, when I was hired for a job by the CEO against the Head of Sales (my boss then) wishes. I was never sure why he didn’t want me on his team until I came across the documents from the hiring process. While others had written some insightful and relatable stuff, all that was on his page, in big letters, was ‘too fat”. He fired me 1 day before the end of probation time. That haunted me for quite a while.

    Reply
    1. Rosemary7391

      He’s an idiot in more than the obvious way. That stuff is kept in case of discrimination claims. I can think of two ways you could claim that based on that comment…

      Reply
    2. Envoy

      Ugh. I’m sorry you had to deal with that, but you definitely dodged a bullet. I used to work at a place where the Sales Director would regularly call the only overweight salesman on the floor “fat boy” and “fattie” and mock his lunch choices. The salesman somehow lasted longer at the company than I did, but I can’t imagine it was a pleasant experience for him. (Never got to know him well enough to ask him about it or offer support, but looking back I wish I had.)

      Reply
      1. Triplestep

        I am not sure what is more WTF about this … That he thought “too fat” or that he memorialized it on the hiring documents!

        I am sorry, LittleRed, that you had to work for someone like that. I would ask how you knew you were hired against his wishes, but I can probably guess.

        Reply
        1. RVA Cat

          This. I really hope someone else he did this to sued. While “too fat” on its own may not be illegal, if he was making appearance comments on all the women but not for the men….

          Reply
        2. LouiseM

          I thought the same thing! I can’t believe he chose to write that down and enter it into the company computer. On the other hand, I guess it’s good that he’s direct? Some of the most vicious anti-fat bigots I’ve been unlucky enough to know mostly hide behind concern trolling and cruel comments about exercise so you’re never *quite* sure where they stand, unless you know the dog whistles.

          Anyway, sorry you had to work for that creep, Little Red.

          Reply
      1. smoke tree

        I had a boss in retail who would do this as well–he would veto hiring any women who he didn’t perceive as attractive enough. He would only hire very young women (generally under 20). He also had a policy against hiring smokers, just because he thought it was gross/unladylike.

        Reply
  8. Dan

    #1

    If you ask me, it’s kinda hard to show passion for software development on a day-to-day basis. When you’re in meetings and people ask you to do things, a flat “yeah sure” is probably going to get noticed. But that’s almost a body language thing more than anything — us engineering types aren’t known for our ability to outwardly gush at routine things. Never mind that a vast majority of actual programming is done independently.

    Hiring, OTOH, probably does lend itself to more interaction with internal people, so that alone can be a reason why the OP “appears” to be more interested in that.

    However, I think the reality lies in this statement from the OP: “For context, in those between months I had been through a pretty awful breakup which impacted my performance”, as well as “I absolutely do not dislike the work that I do, though my energy level IS lower there”

    So, OP knows their performance on their day job had been impacted, and that his/her energy level for their primary role is lower than that for the side assignment. In some ways, OP answered their own question, but in other ways, how to show more enthusiasm for this isn’t quite so obvious, and very much depends on the particulars of the role.

    All that said, often perception is reality, and it wouldn’t hurt the OP to have a talk with his/her manager about things that can be done to change that perception.

    Reply
    1. MK

      Maybe. Or maybe the OP’s boss is thinking that they are not enthusiastic about their work and is actually right about that. I mean, “I absolutely do not hate my job” is not particularly reassuring to a boss who finds you disengaged.

      And I note that the OP took their boss’s comment and, instead of thinking how she should be engaging more with her main work, she is worried about how she should handle involving herself with projects that aren’t her main work in the future. Maybe I am reading too much in this, but it looks like an indication of where their focus is.

      Reply
    2. Seriously?

      I think that the “lack of passion” comment stemmed in part from the drop in performance due to personal issues. Depending on how much her boss knew about what was going on, it may have looked to her like the OP was getting distracted from her core job by the hiring process. This does not seem to be the case and the OP can probably correct that impression by getting back on track with her software development projects before taking on any other additional projects.

      Reply
      1. AMPG

        I think this is probably what was going on. To an outsider, the sequence of events goes:
        1. OP #1 does good software development work.
        2. OP works on external project, is enthusiastic and high-energy
        3. OP returns to software development work and shows a noticeable drop in performance.

        Even if the boss knew about the personal issues, it’s easy to see how the outside project could be blamed for the drop in performance. I think just laying low and doing really solid work for a few months on her core responsibilities will resolve this.

        Reply
        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

          Ahhh, I think you’re right! I was so confused about why OP1’s boss wanted “more enthusiasm”. I assumed it to be a case of workplace positivity gone wild, but you’re right, it’s the sequence of events that matters.

          Reply
    3. OP1

      I think that this comment really hit the nail on the head!

      A part of my frustration in all of this is that as Software Developers we tend to be introverted regardless, and when I think of the high performing colleagues in my office absolutely none of them display fire-under-the-butt gung ho about any of the assignments they’re working on!

      It felt a bit odd to have this asked of me and I think this comment gets at the heart of why- it’s a bit of a strange thing to expect! All of that said, you were also correct in that that “darker” period had also affected me personally, and that I was falling below even “neutral” when it came to my responses and general outlook in my day to day.
      I’ve since picked this up! And I plan on having a one to one about it sooner rather than later.

      Reply
  9. Bee Eye LL

    #5, as an IT person I can tell you spam filters catch all kinds of random legit stuff while still letting Viagra ads and phishing stuff through. It’s an imperfect science.

    Reply
    1. Just Employed Here

      Yeah, I just checked my spam folder (inspired by this thread). Among other legit and even important things, I found my most recent pay stub (we get those via encrypted email nowadays). For as long as we’ve received them via email, they have always been delivered to my inbox, but not this month, apparently. Oh well.

      Reply
    2. DragoCucina

      Agreed. We have internal messages end up in the SPAM folder. I have emails I’ve sent to myself from a different, whitelisted address end up in there. It’s very common.

      Reply
    3. Rosemary7391

      Yeah, it’s also a known problem with some email address providers. Every single email I got from one contact was marked as spam until I set a “never send to spam” filter up for him. It happened so frequently it was a talked about thing in our organisation (we all use different email providers). Might be worth a little googling to see if it happens to anyone else.

      Reply
    4. EvilQueenRegina

      I used to have it where one particular friend always used to get sent to spam (he had more than one email address and even though I would add him to a safe list, if he emailed from another address it went to spam) and all the Bank of Nigeria rubbish still went to my proper inbox. So I can easily believe that OP’s email did go to spam.

      Reply
    5. sssssssssss

      There was a recent Windows update on our network and all of a sudden, stuff that never went to Junk/Spam suddenly started to do so. So, changes to your system can do it too. A very imperfect science.

      Reply
    6. Nyltiak

      Yeah. My workplace (a university) spam filter has sent listserv emails to spam, but always lets through the phishing “click here to reset your password!” emails.

      Reply
    7. Murphy

      Would it catch a reply to an email like that though? I’m genuinely curious. I’ve never seen that happen.

      Reply
      1. Someone else

        The filter grabs things both because of what it thinks it knows about the sender (either the individual address or the domain) or because of things related to the message itself (specific flagged terms, malware, blahblah blah). I’m simplifying. Anyway, if the filter has decided this sender is bad, it’ll grab anything from that address. It doesn’t matter that it’s a reply. You could tell it to stop flagging things from that address if you know it to be good, but otherwise, if one of someone’s emails goes to spam (barring anything about the email itself that seems flag-worthy) do not be shocked if all that person’s emails are also flagged. Even replies. It probably means that person’s domain has been flagged as a spammer.
        Sidebar: this is also why, if you sign up for emails from a company and want to unsubscribe later, please use the actual unsubscribe. One reason some companies’ domains end up as greylisted is because they send (double-opted in!) legit marketing emails, and later people just hit the “junk” button instead of unsubscribing, and suddenly, since the staff and the marketing emails come from the same domain, everyone suddenly has trouble sending emails because they’re all ending up in the recipients’ spam filters.

        Reply
    8. paul

      It’s one of many banes of my existence, particularly the tendency to falsely flag emails with attachments (like, announcements, PDF maps of a region, copies of official announcements, forms, etc). I have to resend so damn many of those…

      Reply
    9. OP5

      Haha! As a subject matter expert, I really appreciate you chiming in. It’s very reassuring that she was most likely telling the truth.

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        I want to point out that even if she wasn’t telling the truth and it was a small lie to cover up that she’d missed the email, it’s not a big deal. That stuff happens, and it’s really not anything you should read into.

        Reply
  10. Akcipitrokulo

    OP3… definitely speak up! It’s good to let boss know about things you find!

    Depending on where you are (all EU countries and any with similar data protection) it will also be a legal requirement to restrict access to this!

    Reply
      1. Akcipitrokulo

        No, DPA also covers it (in UK, similar elsewhere) :)

        Difference is after 25th May you don’t have to prove you were harmed to claim compensation!

        Reply
    1. Ali G

      Yeah definitely speak up – you never know what your boss can see that you can’t. Some shared file systems show “last viewed by OP3” so if your boss sees something like that before you tell her – you will look bad!

      Reply
  11. Akcipitrokulo

    OP1 – obviously lose something in text, but I’m really not seeing that as a negative comment. You mentioned that there was some legitimate criticism in other areas – in that context, it’s more likely to be a suggestion or opening for discussion on that, tied in with a really positive comment. Maybe it could have been better if they’d separated the two thoughts a little more…. maybe… but overall I think taking it as “you did this really well… this one not so much… can we transfer anything from the bit you totally killed to another area?”

    Reply
    1. Loz

      That’s one possible interpretation and the way to find out is to have a conversation. I don’t understand this reluctance to actually address the perceived problem that I see all the time on this forum. Got a problem? a) Sweat away, laying in bed at night wondering about some nuance of a fleeting comment. b) Go and ask what they meant and what to do about it (if anything). It’s really not that hard. Even if your boss is an asshole, simply have a chat and remove all doubt about what was intended!

      Reply
      1. MK

        That’s unfair, I think. To begin with, it’s all very well to say “it’s not that hard, even if your boss is an asshole”, but it can depend not only on the boss, but ypur relationship with them. Some bosses do not cultivate an environment where their employees feel comfortable to approach them for clarification or are generally unapproachable. Others are dismissive about the concerns and asking them doesn’t actually clarify the situation all that much. And with some, it will actually count against you if you keep asking for more explanations.

        Ideally, one should ask in the moment, but if you are caught by surprise it’s easy to miss the mark, and then it feels awkward to reopen the conversation. I agree asking is the thing to do, but it’s pretty common to hesitate.

        Reply
        1. Loz

          A huge part of being a “boss” is to fix things and therefore you have to be approachable to find out what those things are.
          Not being able to have conversations with your colleagues (up, down or sideways) is a strange place to be and, hopefully, very unusual especially in people management.
          As the one being appraised, I agree it’s not uncommon to think of all these things when the moment has passed so a quick 1/2 hour “review of my performance feedback” in Outlook with some specifically directed agenda items should not “count against you” whatever that might mean.

          Reply
          1. MK

            Unfortunately not all bosses are good at or comfortable with this aspect of their job, and advice should be given with reality in mind, not an ideal version of a boss.
            A conversation about a negative review would be inherently awkward for most people and it has nothing to do with your general ability to talk to your coworkers.
            As far as I know, scheduling a half-hour meeting to review your performance review is not common or expected. Asking for one is pretty much stating that you think there is an issue to be addressed; and if the boss hasn’t actually meant that they see this as a big deal, it is bringing minor drama into the relationship that wasn’t there before. Doing this enough times will deservedly brand you as high-maintenance.

            Reply
      2. mrs_helm

        Some people have more difficulty parsing meaning out of how things are said. Other people may be aware that their past experiences are coloring how they are perceiving comments. Either may be trying to decide “was that a suggestion, or a warning”. And if you’re a person in either of those camps, this confusion may happen often enough that you don’t want to follow up every time because you don’t want to look insecure or needy or dense. So, maybe you ask someone else what they think it meant. :)

        Reply
        1. Sharon

          Agree with this 100%. I’m one of those people who has difficulty. I mean, I’m great at soft skills in general, and my communication skills are very high, but after 30+ years in corporate America what I am convinced of is that there is a lot of coded language, and I somehow never got the code-book. That’s just a facetious way to say that I rarely pick up on the coded messages, but take things at face value all the time and by now I’m pretty convinced that’s why I’ve never been promoted.

          Also, in my experience, many companies have a thing about going outside your “approved boundaries”. This is one of the things I struggle with, because the coded messages sound like hypocrisy to me: it’s the “we love employees who take initiative!” but you watch and see that they only like it when certain people take initiative, or only do certain things or only do things at certain times. I’ve never been able to figure that out in order to excel to my full capabilities in my career.

          Reply
  12. HR here

    #2, I’ve dealt with similar attitudes from staff about putting things in email as a manager and it drives me nuts. Trust your manager.
    I prefer emails so I can easily re-reference something without having to ask again. Especially if I’m working out of office. Sometimes I might need info timely, and you might not be there the minute I need it. If you’ve emailed me, I can usually easily find it. If you’ve told me behave, and I can’t remember the outcome, I’ll have to ask again and wait.
    Conversely, I think this shows a lack of trust in your manager and I also tend to assume not wanting to commit things to writing is a desire for lack of accountability.
    Assume your manager has a good reason. This is very standard.

    Reply
    1. Just Employed Here

      Also, I’ve seen lots of situations where an email summarizing a conversation or meeting has led to misunderstandings or misinterpretations being discovered *on time*, as opposed to when everyone has already gone ahead and done the stuff they thought we’d discussed and agreed on.

      It may feel like a waste of time, but making a quick summary will probably save you time in the long run.

      Reply
    2. ronda

      sometimes.

      but if you want them to document *everything* then you are not trusting your people to do their jobs.

      Reply
      1. LQ

        Much like drivers on the road it’s not always about you. A little defensive driving can save a lot of pain from people, none of whom are malicious, who make errors.

        It depends on what you mean by everything, if by everything they mean the times you go to the bathroom then yes, but if by everything you mean all of the deliverables, things that are expected to be done, and agreements? Then yeah, that’s really fine. If I’m having a casual chat and someone asks me to do something for them I will frequently say yes and can you email me because I may get grabbed another 4 times before I get to a pen and paper to write it down. I don’t mean to forget your thing, you’re great I like you and want to help you do your job better…but the 4 other people who stopped me to also ask me to do a thing or root through my brain banks to find an answer are the same and I am not that great at remembering something. So yes. That’s really reasonable and it isn’t that they don’t trust, it’s that you’re providing the correct tools to do your job. One of those tools might be an email with the details that are actionable.

        (I just had a 2 hour long conversation and finished writing up the actionable things out of it to send back to the person I talked to. It isn’t that I don’t trust him, it is actually a part of building a relationship of trust. Being transparent and not sweeping that conversation under the rug like we didn’t have it. Saying, hey we talked about a and I’m going to b by c, and you said you’d x by z, is helpful. Not untrusting.)

        Reply
    3. Christmas Carol

      and if you win the lottery, or get hit by a bus on your lunch hour, the people left behind still need to know what’s going on

      Reply
    1. Jemima Bond

      I did just check when I read your comment…just an ad for Tesco homewares and one from apple about the new iPad though lol

      Reply
    2. Not Australian

      Me! It was only three days old, thank goodness, but it was a pretty important e-mail and I was very glad to have found it!

      Reply
    3. March mardness

      I have a very important client whose emails land in my spam filter half of the time, despite the fact that I added them as a contact and sent hundreds of emails back and forth with them. Drives me nuts!

      Reply
    4. Naptime Enthusiast

      A prince is promising me millions of dollars if I wire him $100! I wonder if it’s too late?

      Reply
    5. Applesauced

      All I found was crap….
      But “Mr Warren Edward Buffett Billionaire investor” (seriously, that’s how they signed the email) wants to give me 1.5 million dollars!
      My favorite part is this quote “Visit this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warren_Buffett or You Can Google my name for more information:( Warren Buffett ).”

      Reply
      1. Rusty Shackelford

        That’s why he’s so rich. He doesn’t waste his time providing information that you could just google.

        Reply
      2. Nolan

        I once found a spam email offering training in “illegal self defense techniques” taught by Frank Castle. It is my favorite spam ever.

        (If you’re not familiar, Frank Castle is also known as The Punisher)

        Reply
    6. Who the eff is Hank?

      I check my spam folder weekly because I work a customer facing job and legit emails end up in there all the time. I hadn’t checked this week, and a customer I’d been waiting to hear back from apparently emailed me on Tuesday. Oops.

      Reply
  13. Elizabeth H.

    I guess others really do have different experiences but I get almost all my emails and the spam filter catches a non-spam email only about once every two weeks or so. This is in my workplace outlook but I find Gmail is even more accurate about only catching true spam (and once in a while, unwanted but legitimate newsletter type mail) These things work on a systematic basis, they don’t just wave a net around blindly, so there has to be an actual reason that an email goes to spam, even if it’s faulty reasoning. I think it’s possible she was being euphemistic for losing it in her *inbox* which I genuinely do from time to time and try to explain as such. But anyway, agree that none of this actually matters because hiring virtually always takes much longer than initially forecasted.

    Reply
    1. Nothing in the middle of the road but dead armadillos

      I would consider one legitimate email going to spam every other week to be way too much!

      Reply
      1. Elizabeth H.

        When it happens, it’s virtually always a case where somebody sends me a one-line email where the body is a link – like my mom sending me a link to an article or video she thought was interesting, with no other body text. I don’t think it’s bad that the spam filter catches those. The other legitimate emails that they tend to catch are cases where it’s something automatically generated such as mail from our copier/scanner when I scan something to my email, or automatically generated messages telling me that I have a new application to review. Because these tend to be repetitive and sometimes have alphabet salad in the subject line, I think it makes sense that they might get occasionally flagged as spam. It’s very easy to set rules like that mail from a sender should always go to your inbox or whatever.

        Reply
  14. Bea

    Our HR email gets caught up in spam boxes frequently. I assume it’s because you see a lot of form letters and such words that set off the algorithm they have set up. Especially the subject lines and that we’re transferring email attachments, I used to get so many phishing emails labeled “job opening” and “resume for position”.

    Reply
  15. z7

    What OP1’s feedback is saying is “We are not paying you an engineering salary to be a recruiter.”

    Without implying anything about OP1’s identity, this is something that puts women / underrepresented minorities in a bind all the time: career panels, outreach events, and interview loops are eager to find a woman / URM; we try to be good citizens / open the gates, but then we have fewer hours in the day to adhere literally to our job description (ship the features! define and maintain the SLOs!) and get dinged for it.

    Reply
      1. MK

        I don’t think so; at least, not entirely. OP has apparently been unenthused about their actual work for months, and then they seemed to have developed a (disproportionate?) zest for an incidental aspect of their job. It’s not unreasonable that maybe the boss is thinking “why aren’t you putting your energy towards the work you are actually hired to do?”.

        Reply
        1. Falling Diphthong

          I think the recruiting may have pulled up her overall performance review, by giving them a glimpse of how good she could be… but it’s fair that they want to see that in her other work. And from the job point of view, I think a bad breakup is something you expect to give someone a couple of bad days in terms of noticeable impact on work–by the time performance reviews roll around, that weepy Tuesday should be outweighed by months of normal.

          Reply
      2. Mommy in STEAM

        As a physically disabled mom in Tech… it really isn’t. To boot, ANY time I show an interest in anything non-tech related (a pic of my kids on FB, a fiction book on Goodreads and GOD FORBID I leave work early because my 6 yr old was rushed to the ER), I’m torn to shreds by colleagues. “Stay In your little corner and be grateful your Breeding XX-butt was ever even interviewed!” It transcends companies.

        Reply
        1. Juli G.

          Without derailing, I think your experience might be much more dire. I have lots of friends in tech and STEM fields and it’s certainly not easy for women but no one is ripped to shreds for reading a book or watching a movie about an unrelated field. LW’s experience seems inline with the type of concerns a company might raise that are tinged with sexism. Your experiences seem outright hostile and I hope you won’t accept it as the norm.

          Reply
          1. Lora

            Hate to tell you this, but if you’re not getting ripped for it directly, it’s very likely because they’re saying it behind your back. Somehow, mysteriously, you’re on more and more of the Team Building Committee meetings and Fun Event Committee meetings and crap like that…none of which lead to promotion or plum projects, because those go to the less qualified yet somehow “more interested,” “more serious” men.

            Reply
            1. Juli G.

              Oh I’m not in STEM or tech but I just never heard someone being torn to pieces for posting they saw Black Panther on Facebook.

              Reply
              1. Juli G.

                I’ve been in HR in those fields and yes, the fun committee/team building stuff is true and a complaint I heard a lot. I was expressing more concern about the inability to have personal interests, which I haven’t heard before.

                Reply
              2. Academic Addie

                I can’t say I’ve ever been torn to shreds, but as a professor, there is certainly a type of person who will comment on my outside of work activities, if they’re anything other than work. Over our spring break, I took my daughter to a state park one day (I still put in 4-5 hours of work during her naps and after she went to bed!). I mentioned it to my colleague, who gave me crap for weeks. “Oh, must be nice to be able to just leave one afternoon and go have fun,” “Wish I could take a day off”, and some comments obliquely about family getting in the way of the important things, etc. For time we weren’t expected to be in the office. Ironically, he worked himself so hard that he got really sick and had to be out for two weeks.

                Academia, start-ups, big law can really have this sort of overwork culture, and it often becomes a de facto wall along which to separate out anyone who doesn’t fit a certain mold.

                Reply
              3. Jules the 3rd

                I am in STEM (tech manufacturing now, game dev in the past) and I’ve heard people getting long-term, regular ‘teasing’ for having lives, in ways where the ‘teasing’ has a clear unfriendly subtext. It happens a little to men if their interests are not ‘Manly’ (ie, Sports, Alcohol, or Action Movies) and a lot to women if their interests are ‘Womanly’ (Family, Non-Action games like Candy Crush, or non-SpecFic). I have once seen it affect job prospects, though I left that company quick.

                It’s a common tactic in trying to enforce the ‘Norm’, whatever that group’s Norm may be. At work, I don’t mention my love of Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer or mysteries, I stick to Black Panther and Tolkien, and my mention of family is limited. I consciously work to stay outside of the ‘Feminine Norm’, because people treat you different when you’re in it.

                Reply
            2. Kate 2

              I agree with Lora and the others. I don’t even work in tech, but finance. Once it was discovered that I had Traditionally Female Hobbies, like knitting and embroidery, I got shuffled into the Sweet Little Girl category immediately. I tried to hide it for as long as I could, but it got out anyway. I already am extremely short with a baby face, this made everything worse. Suddenly I wasn’t called “efficient” or a “hard worker” anymore, I was congratulated on being “kind” and “friendly”. Things that are never said to my equally pleasant male colleagues with Traditionally Male Hobbies like sports and cars.

              Reply
          1. Annie Moose

            This has not been my experience either. We frequently discuss outside interests at work (both men and women), and I’ve never heard anyone criticized in any way for this, either to their face or behind their backs.

            I’m certainly not denying that in some companies, in some industries, in some locations, this happens! But I don’t think this is ubiquitous.

            Reply
            1. Lora

              It depends on what the outside interests are. Outside interest in a new programming language, learning Mandarin, skiing or other male or neutral-coded interests? Those are fine. Trade makeup tips with someone or talk about knitting or sewing or cats and it doesn’t matter if you’re sewing a costume for a gaming convention and lion-taming on the weekend, you were talking about Icky-Poo Girl Things and you are then Unserious.

              It’s similar to this: https://hbr.org/2016/12/research-how-subtle-class-cues-can-backfire-on-your-resume
              Except substitute “lower class hobbies” with “female-coded hobbies”.

              In my experience it may vary in intensity from company to company but it’s never nonexistent.

              Reply
              1. tangerineRose

                I’m in software and am female. I like to draw and paint, usually colorful pictures. No one’s ever hassled me about it, and no one has put me on a “fun” committee. Maybe it depends on where you work.

                Reply
        2. Specialk9

          I hope you can find a workplace that is less toxic. Your work sounds like a bee hive, the kind where everybody walks around with a thick coating of bees like a down jacket.

          Reply
    1. Naptime Enthusiast

      This could be true if the recruiting is truly taking away from OP’s “real” tasks. If OP is salaried and all of the regular work is still getting done, or if OP isn’t charging a ton of time to overhead then it SHOULDN’T matter, but sometimes optics (UGHHH) matter more than the actual deliverables.

      I fell into this at work when I first started and was on every outreach and engagement team available, and I had to severely pull back before it impacted my actual work. It did, however, get my foot in the door and I had the chance to meet some great mentors and connections outside of my department, so it’s a tricky line to walk.

      Reply
    2. OP1

      To clarify, my company is pretty small and we are encouraged to participate and get our hands dirty in whichever area we feel! That said, I DO also understand that you should be meeting the baseline criteria of your role first and foremost.

      There are always, always developers involved in the hiring process here at the very least, and I doubt that each of them received this same feedback.

      Reply
  16. Mad Baggins

    Not sure if this applies in OP#2’s circumstance, but wanting things in writing can definitely be a cultural difference as well. I am reading a book(1) that tells the story of a German boss working with Indonesian subordinates, and the boss requests that all meetings and confirmations about who will do what happen in writing. The Indonesian liaison sends out meeting notes, and the other Indonesian workers freak out, saying, “I said I was going to do it, doesn’t Boss trust me?” This was a miscommunication based in differing expectations in work culture.

    Even if you and your boss are from the same country, your situation reminded me of this one. I think it’s not helpful to jump from put things in writing->my boss doesn’t trust me, and will create unwarranted resentment on your part. It sounds like you are chafing at the larger issue of micromanagement, and this is one symptom/aspect of it.

    (1) It’s called the Culture Map by Erin Meyer and I recommend it!

    Reply
    1. LJL

      Agreed. It’s a workplace culture issue. I had the opposite problem: a boss that got irritated that I followed up with emails. She said it implied that I didn’t trust my co workers. I adjusted to it for the time being but am glad that I’m back in a place where it’s more normal to follow up than not to.

      Reply
  17. Legalchef

    Op5: I’m always flummoxed by the things that get caught up in my spam filter at work. I’ve had emails from “normal” email addresses (gmail, yahoo, etc) get caught. I’ve had conversations go to spam in the middle of them. I’ve had INTERNAL emails get sent to spam, which is absurd. And we have 2 spam filters – the junk mail folder in outlook, and another external filter that emails us when there is (alleged) spam, and that’s always a little delayed. Really, don’t think too much into it.

    Reply
    1. OP5

      Thanks for sharing. I don’t typically check my spam box so I had no idea these things were a common occurance.

      Reply
    2. soon to be former fed

      My legit bank messages get sent to spam in gmail despite me flagging these messages as “not spam” a million time. Fake action, LOL.

      Reply
  18. CursingHRlady

    OP 5: Not only is the “spam” story likely true (It happens all the time — even on ongoing threads), it is also possible that a harried HR person simply had an “oh crap” moment and overlooked your resume and then made up a little white lie so it wouldn’t seem like she’d overlooked you. Crap happens. HR peeps get busy.

    RE OP 3: Early career in HR, I was asked to clean up a set of “secret” files in the HR department. This large law firm did a version of 360 performance reviews, but the employee was never allowed to see the full version – these were kept separate from personnel files. I found the most horrible notes in people’s files! “her laugh is so annoying” “she is too overweight to project the image we require”, etc. Of course I looked at my own file! One person from a remote office said that I was “very sweet but my handshake for far too weak to be in the HR profession”. Next time I saw her I crushed the hell out of her hand. :)

    Reply
    1. Bea

      That kind of secret file is like a million lawsuits treasure chest. What a despicable find, you must have worked for Regina George and Partners.

      Reply
    2. LW #3

      Wow! After reading all of these comments I’m so glad that I didn’t find anything incriminating. My only negative feedback is that I wasn’t very concise with some of my answers, which is helpful since I do tend to ramble when I’m nervous!

      Reply
  19. Lynca

    OP #2- You don’t say what your workload is like but I work in a small office that has a heavy workload. Similar departments in the private sector are at least twice our size. Even minor conversations about me delegating an assignment are something we follow up on because it’s very easy to forget deadlines or details when you have 10 projects going on at once. Same goes for people outside the office. I don’t know their workload or how they manage it. Some people are better with verbal conversations, some people are better with written. I deal with a lot of people so I can’t keep track of personal preferences.

    I look at it as just reaffirming what we have talked about, either in person or over the phone, so there’s no confusion about the expectations. By having both, you’ve covered your bases for how they may process information. It’s not about not trust but a more general understanding is that people are busy and this is another type of organization tool to help you (and them) get the work you need done.

    I’m the type of information processor that needs a written follow up. I don’t retain information as well if it’s given over the phone or in a face to face. I even take notes over the phone so I don’t forget the important parts.

    Reply
  20. Marcy Marketer

    When I was in academia, I found an acceptance letter to present at a very prestigious conference in my spam folder months after it had been sent, after I had already booked a vacation for that date (I assumed I wasn’t accepted after the notification date passed). I was so, so, so disappointed! Always check spam :(

    Reply
  21. MLB

    #4 A company reorg generally means mass layoffs, so the company probably did what they did to avoid that. Yes it sucks, and I would probably start looking if my pay grade had been lowered, but I’d rather have a job with a crappy salary, then no job at all (been laid off twice and don’t recommend it).

    Reply
  22. Argh!

    Re: #4

    I lost a job this way. My hiring line was redefined for someone with less education and less experience and half the pay. Guess where the other half of that money went?

    The survivors now have to supervise three times the number of people they used to supervise.

    So… LW I feel your pain. If you can keep your salary after being reclassified that’s at least something.

    Reply
  23. WellRed

    LW 1, have you considered that maybe you’d prefer a different type of job than software development? One with more people interaction?

    Reply
  24. Mari

    OP #5 – I sent an email to a recruiter I’m working with just this Monday and his reply to my email went to my spam folder where I found it on Wednesday. I then marked it “not spam” and forwarded it from my inbox to my other email address (for organisation purposes), where it again went to the spam folder. Something about the contents was triggering the spam filter.

    Reply
    1. OP5

      Thanks for sharing. I have always wondered if the spam filter is triggered by the subject heading, email content or the email address itself.

      Reply
  25. Just Someone

    OP1: I like Alison’s point about the “visible” excitement. I mean, when you’re working in an HR role it’s VERY EASY TO LOOK EXCITED because the job is 90% interacting with people/talking with people/getting them excited about the role. When you’re programming, you’re probably either receiving directions or focusing on the work, and I doubt getting giddy at your computer screen is actually going to make you more productive. In other words, its about 80000 times easier for ANYONE to seem excited when they’re interacting with people than when they’re interacting with a computer — not just you.

    If you think I’m on to something, and you also feel like you are enthusiastic about both types of work, maybe you could ask you boss how you could show her your enthusiasm in your regular day-to-day work?

    Reply
    1. EB

      I second this– directly asking is really helpful in these situations. I’m a designer and people seem to get really bent out of shape about the fact that I’m not smiling while working on my computer (?!) on projects that ARE really fun. My manager gave me similar feedback once and I asked how she’d like me to show enthusiasm– she had no idea what that would look like and realized it was a weird thing to ask me to smile more while staring at a screen! It WAS helpful to have that conversation though because I think she would have assumed I was unhappy otherwise.

      Reply
    2. OP1

      I think this is the correct move, yeah.
      As I’ve mentioned above, I was definitely down in the dumps for the month or so leading up to my review, so I absolutely understand where they’re coming from, but at the same time I think you’re completely correct in that there isn’t so much opportunity to.. DISPLAY that in front of your machine alone.

      Reply
  26. FD

    #5- I sort of see where the LW is coming from. I mean “Oh, it must have gotten caught in my spam” is so often used as a white lie for “I missed it/ignored it but I don’t want to tell you that.” It’s right up there with “I was just about to call you!” in Common Office Lies. (Which would be a great Friday thread, no?)

    But it’s partly a common white lie because it does actually happen, just like “traffic on the way in” happens. So there’s not much to be gained by assuming malice without other clues.

    Reply
    1. kb

      It’s also a good white lie for when the reason is more complex than the OP needs to know. It’s easier to say that something went to spam than explain your inbox sorting rules and what exactly went wrong in this instance because of some system update.

      Reply
    2. OP5

      This is true. I think it was me being excited about the job/proposed chat about the job that made me concoct a story about why she never followed up after the interview request (i.e. I wasn’t a top candidate so they moved forward with others first).

      Reply
  27. Mari

    it turns out the other interviewee was much more qualified but lacked energy and passion for the industry

    As a shy/introverted person currently in the midst of a job search, this is discouraging to read.

    Reply
    1. Guacamole Bob

      I’ve been looking through resumes for a hiring process recently, and even without getting to the phone screens we’re wrestling with what we need from candidates. There are a lot of qualified candidates who have fantastic technical skills but who have clearly never given any thought at all to our industry, and some who have fewer technical skills but whose resumes demonstrate an interest in the subject matter we work with. It’s a tough tradeoff to balance.

      I think it depends on the kind of job. If I’m hiring an accountant, I’d probably care about things like small versus large company and nonprofit versus private sector experience, but I don’t think I’d demand a passion for teapots or prior experience at a teapot company specifically. Same with HR, administrative staff, IT, etc. But if I’m hiring someone to do work on the teapots themselves, I might want to go with someone who actually drinks tea.

      Reply
    2. Bea

      You can be shy and introverted while having passion for your industry! I’m quiet and it takes time for me to warm up to just about anyone, so I’m not bubbling over in an interview by any means. However my love for my work is visible and comes through when I talk about my career and goals.

      My overly excitable partner was once told he lacked enthusiasm for a job he was offered and they pulled the offer. That place seemed miserable and he felt it so yeah be was more subdued and in the end, that’s a terrible fit for him if they want fake excitement over skills and education.

      Please stay encouraged and know you’ll find the right spot soon.

      Reply
    3. LW #3

      I’m so sorry if that anecdote came off that way! From the notes left about us both, I think that the lack of passion was because the other interviewee didn’t ask any questions that demonstrated research on the company or industry current events. The job involves staying on top of the news and speaking frequently with elected officials, so interest in the field is key.

      Reply
    4. March Madness

      Indeed. :-( I’m really bad at showing excitement, some people are just a lot more low-key.

      If it’s any consolation, there are others like us out there! And some of them are even hiring managers.

      Reply
  28. Falling Diphthong

    #5, at one point our email decided that notes from the high school–which my husband and I had both received for literally years at that point, neither of us marking them as spam–were suddenly spam, and it started eliminating them well upstream. One of the risks of modern life is the friendly fire of rogue spam filtering.

    Reply
  29. Oilpress

    LW2 – I disagree with the advice offered. I do think requiring employees inform you of internal conversations is micromanagement. Not only is the employee spending time writing down details of the conversation, but the manager is spending time reading those details. It’s just a lot of extra effort spent with very little reward. Yes, you might avoid forgetting something once in a while by doing this, but that doesn’t erase the annoyance of the task and the time wasted performing it. Perhaps most importantly, you destroy the sense of autonomy an employee might have over his or her work, which generally just stinks for the employee and their career development.

    Give your employees a bit of freedom. They might just do a good job for you. Or you can tell them to loop you in on everything so that you can be the workplace equivalent of a helicopter parent.

    Reply
  30. esra

    OP #4: Ugh, don’t get me started on flat orgs. I’m sure it works well, somewhere? But nowhere I’ve ever been. Especially since the transition always seems to be led be someone who: 1/ has never worked at a flat org, 2/ has no idea what half the staff actually does, 3/ some bummer combination of 1 and 2.

    Like a couple posters above, the last time I worked at an org that was tried to transition to flat, it just led to layoffs. When we approached HR + leadership around why our processes and hierarchy worked, it came out that they were trying to reduce staff #s.

    Reply
    1. Nanani

      Flat org: We want to PRETEND we’re all equal but actually we just want to pay you less while also making it impossible to actually manage things.

      Reply
    2. Argh!

      Studies have shown that the ideal number of people for someone to supervise is 6-8. So naturally, eliminating middle management and having someone supervise 18 is a logical way to do business. The people at the bottom are happy because nobody pays attention to their work, and their supervisors are happy because they can now say “Supervised a staff of 18” on their resumes.

      Reply
    3. PersephoneUnderground

      Yeah, this was my thought too- I’ve worked in really hippie egalitarian clubs that originally didn’t have official titles or structure. Guess what? Even there, an org chart emerged naturally based on who worked on what with who- we most definitely have an org “president” even if she doesn’t use the title, and we evolved a set of three leads we call the group “admins”. Hierarchy isn’t a bad thing, it just organizes the chaos! If extreme pinko commie liberals like us (/s) even use it, it’s probably because it just makes sense!

      I’m really suspicious of pretending differently, especially when it oh-so-conveniently means people are getting their future pay cut. And if they have graded pay that depends on titles, they need to either keep the titles or change the pay scale to not correspond to titles that won’t exist anymore! I mean whut?

      Reply
  31. Something Witty

    #5 – we have seen a lot of work emails hitting our spam folders recently. Apparently Microsoft released an update, and even email addresses that have been in our contacts, including replies to emails, have been ending up in Spam!

    Reply
  32. voyager1

    LW3:

    Definitely let them know you found the notes.

    I think I have told this story before, but if not…A few years ago I had a manager leave and a new one come in. There was tension at higher levels of management so the new manager was excited to clean out the old desk. Anyway in the process she took a folder and left it out in a unsecured room, inside was every employee review the previous manager had done for 10 years. There were other things left in that room too. In the end she was demoted a couple of years later (after I was gone). Goes to show just because someone has years of management experience, doesn’t mean they are good at it!

    Reply
    1. Bea

      This reminds me of the person brought in to replace me. Instead of focusing on learning essential duties and the business, she tore apart my organized chaos on my desk to reorganize it and familiarize herself I guess. Nothing there was important enough to trying any stupid political stunts but there were sensitive documents and they were strewn about the shared office in her attempts to make sense of it all. Had she learned the job first, the stuff eventually all makes sense. I NEVER clean an office or desk until I’m trained and know junk from important documents for that very reason. Needless to say Replacement was replaced very soon afterwards because she lacked such fundamental management skills, I saw it from day one but my name was mud and they had a tendency to not fully interview or understand who they were hiring, whoops.

      Reply
  33. JB (not in Houston)

    #3, I understand wanting to read your own information, but you really should not have been reading the other interviewee’s. Just because you find you have accidental access to information you shouldn’t have doesn’t mean you should read it. It’s not clear to me from the letter whether you just know the comparison to the other candidate because there were remarks on the materials about you. But if by chance you read the other interviewee’s file, that’s not cool.

    Reply
    1. LW #3

      Oh I totally agree. I would have shown more restraint if the notes from both interviews weren’t all the in the same folder. All of the interview notes were mixed into the same file, and the final scores were also scanned into the same document.

      Reply
  34. michelel

    Regarding #2 – I frequently find myself wishing I’d taken better notes after spoken conversations, whether by email or in a shared document. Things that make perfect sense when you’re talking about them don’t necessarily stay in everyone’s brain!

    For example, two weeks ago I was part of a cross-team call to schedule testing of a complicated change, and we all agreed on the plan. Yet last week, two different people expressed confusion over why we weren’t doing certain things yet, and I finally had to mail out a “this is what I remember us agreeing to, and if anyone else has better notes they should refine it”. (The only other person who answered agreed that I’d gotten the details right, which was gratifying … but if the coordinator had made those notes after the call in the first place, we could have just pointed her to them when she was one of the confused people later ….)

    Reply
  35. Pollygrammer

    On finding files you weren’t supposed to: I came across a coworker’s personal budget (on the second page of an actual work spreadsheet!) She had her monthly income broken down:
    Salary: $XX
    Parents: $XXXX

    It explained a lot. People, be more careful.

    Reply
  36. Allison

    I work in hiring, and I’ve definitely had an email from a candidate go to my spam folder at my last job. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen! I know that “sorry, it went to spam” sounds like a convenient excuse, but it’s best to give someone the benefit of the doubt here.

    Reply
  37. publicista

    OP #5, my guess is the HR person did not lie. I once emailed back and forth with an HR person for weeks setting up an interview, and after the interview, when I emailed to thank her, I received no response. Two days later, I found her email in my spam folder saying she had heard great feedback. It made NO sense that someone I had been conversing with, and my inbox should have recognized, would be diverted to my spam folder. But there you have it! It happens.

    Reply
  38. Detective Right-All-The-Time

    #5 emails get sent to my junk folder, or get caught in mimecast ALL the time. Even if they’re responding to an email I sent. I’ve even had to enlist my IT department to get an email released before and it’s taken 2 weeks. It’s infuriating on our end as well, so please don’t assume she lied.

    Reply
  39. Terbz

    OP 2 | OP2 | #2
    I’m not sure how long you’ve worked with your current employer. If you are fairly new to the organization, maybe less than 2 years or so, it is possible that your manager has had some issues in the past with certain employees completing tasks. If conversations are followed up with via email, there is a written trail that your manager may need to call on at some time to prove that an employee was not successfully completing their tasks.

    Reply
  40. Interested Bystander

    LW3, I had an interesting find similar to this. I was told by my current employer that I was their second choice, but their first choice turned them down. A year later I found the file for the candidates for my position (not looking, just came across it while filing other candidate information.) I was the only candidate for the position. I’m not sure why they told me that I was the second choice… Not sure what they had to gain from that little lie.

    Reply
    1. LW #3

      That is so weird! The hiring process for this job was so long that I actually thought I might have been the second choice, so I was relieved to find the opposite!

      Reply
    2. Antilles

      That’s doubly odd because not only do they not have any reason to lie…I’m not even sure what the motive would be to mention “you were our backup option” *even if that was true*.
      Like, I just don’t get what the benefit is in letting you know that “you’re only here because we had an offer out to a better candidate who turned us down”. I mean, that might be true, but what’s the purpose in saying it?

      Reply
  41. FrontRangeOy

    #5 – My boss and I communicate through text and email frequently. On occasion, my inbox decides to flag emails from boss as spam. My inbox will sometimes provide a brief explanation of why something was flagged and in boss’s case its “received too many emails from this address,” which is, well, laughable given the circumstances. Boss’s inbox does all kinds of crazy things from sorting work related emails into the spam folder to showing headers in the inbox but not actually able to open the body of the email. And these aren’t obscure email servers either. I use a big name free provider and boss uses one of the most popular business programs. I’d be inclined to take the HR person at her word. Email algorithms can wreck havoc on occasion.

    Reply
  42. Ray Gillette

    OP5 – My spam filter seems to catch everything with an attachment that comes from like a gmail or a yahoo. Even when it’s stuff I’ve sent myself from home. The spam folder explanation is entirely reasonable.

    Reply
  43. palomar

    OP 5, just as a reference point, lately my spam folder has been catching internal “service outage” emails sent to an employee distribution list explaining why internal tools are suddenly not functional. Seems like those should not be going to spam, but that’s the thing about technology: it’s not actually foolproof, and weird shit happens.

    Reply
  44. C.

    OP#5, at my last job, I would have e-mails from internal colleagues (with the same @ work extension as me) go into my spam folder! Crazy. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen enough where I wouldn’t assume that she was intentionally lying to you. Good luck with the position!

    Reply
  45. Mr. Bob Dobalina

    OP#1: About ten years ago, I experienced something similar during a performance evaluation. I have never forgotten it! The feedback that I received was that my work was consistently good and high quality, but I only went the “extra mile” and shined when I was interested in the project/task, and that I should endeavor to do that all the time, even when I don’t personally find the work interesting. I was pretty floored by that feedback, which seemed like someone describing human nature! We try harder, do better, when we are interested in and engaged with our work. In my case, the tasks that I was interested in were (1) the complex tasks and (2) the tasks that were outliers and required me to go outside of the normal scope of my job, and in particular required creativity.

    My take-away was that, in fact, yes, I was bored with some of my core work, and I was doing the wrong type of work to be highly engaged. Unfortunately, we cannot always make a living doing things that we love and that are truly engaging. But the experience did reinforce what I knew about my own strengths, and showed me that I would probably be better off with an increasingly complex workload where I felt challenged. The experience also said a lot about my boss and my employer. They say that performance reviews are as much about your boss’s bias as they are about your performance.

    Reply

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