weekend open thread – June 3-4, 2023

This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand.

Here are the rules for the weekend posts.

Book recommendation of the week: Bad Summer People, by Emma Rosenblum. Badly behaved rich people get into various forms of trouble while summering on an exclusive island. It’s gossipy and fun. I saw a review compare it to White Lotus, and that’s spot-on.

* I make a commission if you use that Amazon link.

it’s your Friday good news

It’s your Friday good news!

1.  “I have been a reader of your site since 2009, and I finally put your advice about negotiating salary to work! I received an offer for a position at a base salary that I would have absolutely accepted at face value, but I gave myself a moment to ask, ‘Is there any chance you can come up a bit on that?’ and then stopped talking. I didn’t present a specific number as a counter (note to self for next time), but even just the ask was a big step for me.

The hiring manager got back to me the next day with an increase of about 4.5%, which I gladly accepted. Obviously I would have had a target number in mind in the ideal situation, but even just the open ask meant that I wasn’t leaving money on the table.

Thanks for your easy scripts and reminders to advocate for yourself!”

2.  “For a while I was actively avoiding Friday Good News posts, because I was so unhappy and pessimistic about my own situation. Obviously, since I’m writing this, things have changed significantly.

I have ten years of experience in my field, and it’s one with a lot of positions in a lot of different organizations in my area. So it should be relatively easy to find a decent role. But I had two major obstacles: 1) that 10 years of experience was spread over 15 years of my life, because I have a chronic health issue that has caused attendance problems at every job I’ve ever had, and my job history has a few gaps where I was on disability, and 2) I am desperately bored with my particular field and have been wanting to get out for years (but kept getting reeled back in because when you’re trying to overcome a potentially problematic history, it’s a lot easier to get hired for something you’ve been doing for a while.)

I ended up working with a temp agency that specializes in placing people with disabilities, and in December I finished a two-year contract (in the field I’m burned out on, at a lower level than I’m qualified for, at 2/3 the pay I would ordinarily be making, but it’s a good length to have at the top of my resume). There have been some lifestyle and treatment changes that had me feeling better about my chances of actually working all the days I’m supposed to work, and of course to qualify for unemployment you have to apply for jobs, so I didn’t/couldn’t wait around for another contract to come available.

This is when the good news starts. The contract ended at the beginning of December, and I knew that any responses to job applications were unlikely until after the holidays. Sure enough, not a peep on anything until February. And then, in the space of three weeks, I interviewed for four jobs (only one of which was the type of role I’ve been trying to escape). And got two offers.

I’ve been reading AAM for several years now, and I credit that with helping me do well in (most of) the interviews, being able to accurately assess how well I did, and not feeling devastated about the one I bombed while dealing with a lot of personal stress. It also meant I had a plan for managing multiple offers.

I’ve been at my new job for four weeks now, and I am thrilled about it every day. It’s different enough from my past experience that I’m able to challenge myself and learn new things, but it still plays to my strengths and my experience gives me a perspective that adds value to the team. It’s a very Goldilocks situation – my boss is neither a micromanager nor negligently hands-off, she is just right. The team is neither indifferent nor overly involved with each other, but just right. It’s a very flexible hybrid schedule, which is better for me than either 100% in office or 100% remote. And so on. I could write a whole letter on how excellent my boss is, but for brevity’s sake I’ll keep it to: if you and I weren’t both Jewish, Alison, I’d say that I wrote you a letter with everything I wanted and you came down the chimney and dropped her off.

All that and the pay is decent too! I haven’t taken any sick time at all this month, which is unremarkable for most people but very exciting for me. And I’m back to happily reading the good news posts.”

3.   “I’ve been reading your blog for about 4 years, since I graduated college with my bachelors in math at the end of 2018. I started out as an administrative assistant for a large shipping company in Pittsburgh at $42k. I job-hopped after a year and a half to an insurance company for a $10k increase. I have been working on my Master’s (fully paid for by my company and which is not required to be paid back) in business analytics over the past two years and just finished yesterday! A year ago I applied for a job as a fully remote data analyst at another company, but there were several hiccups in the process, where they told me back and forth twice that they had decided not to hire. But the third time was the charm! I was extended an offer yesterday for the position. And thanks to your blog’s wonderful advice, I negotiated my initial request of $68k last year to $75k this year, and they offered me the position at $72.5k! Currently seeing if I can get a few more vacation days in line with my current position (I haven’t quit yet, but fully plan to accept the offer!), but I should be starting in less than a month!”

4.  “A few years ago, I was talked into applying for a job I was well-qualified and well-suited for, but didn’t want. It’s a service-based organization, so when the pressure came from our seniors that I should apply — down to bribery with cookies! — I caved. I can do anything for a few years, right? I’m known for fixing things and solving hard problems. How bad could it possibly be?

Nightmare fuel, that’s how terrible. I’ve redacted a lot of identifiable information and examples that would also have given you fuel for a thousand short responses and fits of indignant rage.

I knew it wasn’t good, but I was invested in the system after so many years. No one ever leaves! It’s normal to handle everything, that just means you’re ready for the next step! I had the power to enact occasional small changes that made life marginally better for others! Those major, terrifying health issues are normal!

Then a friend prompted me with a job advertisement. Why not apply?

That’s when I was able to start distancing enough to realize that my normal was neither normal nor good. My confidence, resilience, and self-esteem were all gone. I was exhausted after years of ridiculously long days and perpetually snappish after constant interruptions in a job that required deep work. I even understood why my predecessor had left a bottle of alcohol in my office cabinet – which horrified me when I found it. (It still horrifies me. But I get why he went that direction. Last heard, he’s enjoying a happier retirement.)

In other words, the more I looked at Old Job, the more I realized the entire organization had transitioned from idealistic goals into a stagnant monstrosity that sucked and wasn’t going to change. It was this situation, complete with all the consequences of burnout.

New Job was a good deal. Old Job was shocked, shocked! that I would ever walk away from power and influence. During exit interviews, I discovered they’d been about to pile still more on my plate, because I’m The Person Who Fixes Things. I guess they thought I would just keep fixing things forever. Rather than planning the transition to an acting (title), my manager kept asking if I’d rescinded my resignation yet. It’s fallen apart, since I was handling everything, so I’m told rumors are a mix of what I’m being blamed for, when I’ll come back to fix it all again, and hateful gossip about when (not if) I’ll fail.

I genuinely wish Old Job the utmost success, but love my new job. I’ve been there just long enough to take the rose-colored glasses mostly off, and it’s a lot of adjustments – but it doesn’t matter. The contrast between the two organizations was obvious the first day. And I’m me again.”

open thread – June 2-3, 2023

It’s the Friday open thread!

The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on any work-related questions that you want to talk about (that includes school). If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet*, but this is a chance to take your questions to other readers.

* If you submitted a question to me recently, please do not repost it here, as it may be in my queue to answer.

my employee keeps venting to me about his divorce, trust-building activities that actually work, and more

It’s four answers to four questions. Well, three questions and one story. Here we go…

1. My employee keeps venting to me about his divorce

I manage a team of 20. I have two supervisors on my team and one is going through a divorce. He (male, 55) calls me (female, 33) constantly wanting to vent, and he sends me long-winded emails telling me how great a manager I am and how much he feels valued and appreciated. It’s gotten uncomfortable. I try to redirect conversations and only keep them about work because he will consume my time and end up telling me all about his wife and their troubles. I don’t want to hear about it, it’s a waste of my work day, and I’m not his therapist. He often asks for advice and what I would do in a relationship, which I try to deflect.

I don’t want to be mean and I try to support everyone on my team, often letting staff cry in my office when they are going through a tough time (death in the family, difficult customer, project failures, etc.) but he is draining, I feel like he’s crossing boundaries, and honestly the guy has an unhealthy crush. He’ll call multiple times a day asking if he can vent about his wife! He even started texting me after hours! I never respond to the texts and only halfheartedly say things like “that sounds tough, I’m sorry you’re going through this.” How do I professionally let him know that I’m not his sounding board without damaging the professional relationship I need to maintain?

“I know you’re going through a tough time, but since I need to be your manager I’ve realized I can’t be your sounding board about this. I need to keep our conversations focused on our work.”

And then if he keeps bringing it up after that: “I’m sorry to interject, but I’ve got to keep my manager hat on here so we can’t delve into this. But I did want to ask you about (work topic).”

You might feel awkward saying this — it’s inherently a bit of an awkward message to deliver! But the only way to address it is by saying it and getting it out there … and it’s in his best interests to have you clearly set that boundary before he goes even further with it.

Also — keep in mind he might be waylaying other colleagues with this as well (especially female ones, if he’s the type of guy who sees every woman as a potential therapist) and keep an eye out for that too.

2. Trust-building activities that actually work?

My fully remote department is about to have its first-ever in-person retreat. The pandemic has been a roller coaster for my team in many ways (high burnout and turnover, abrupt changes in leadership, crises of values/mission, etc.), and our department lead has asked us for suggestions for activities. I am hopeful that this might be an opportunity to restore trust, build comraderie, and create a more sustainable foundation moving forward. However, I am well aware that many team-building or trust-building exercises are ineffective, invasive, or inappropriate (having read as much from others who have written in over the years), and would like to avoid that. Do you or other readers have any suggestions for trust-building activities (or other types of team-focused exercises) that actually work?

I honestly don’t think they do. Trust-building exercises won’t fix the damage from the sorts of things you describe; your organization needs to address the core issues themselves. Even in companies without those kinds of deep-rooted problems, the only real way to build cohesion and morale is by creating a positive, cooperative culture year-round, not just for the duration of a team-building event. In fact, when companies try to use these events as a substitute for more meaningful work, they can end up lowering morale instead.

One thing you might try instead is using some of the retreat time to listen to what people think is needed to move forward in a more sustainable way, and coming up with actionable steps from that. (But if realistically nothing will change as a result of that, doing it is likely to add to the existing problems by just increasing people’s cynicism.)

3. Should I ask interviewers if they have internal candidates?

I’ve seen some viral posts on social media advising job candidates to ask interviewers whether they’re considering any internal candidates. The idea is to have a more realistic idea of your chances, or possibly to know whether you should emphasize traits an internal candidate might not have. Do you think this question is a good idea? It’s definitely tempting, but I don’t know if hiring managers would appreciate it.

Most of the time it won’t tell you much. Sometimes there are internal candidates who have no chance of being hired (see yesterday’s letter about that). Sometimes there are solid internal candidates but the company wants to hire someone external with a fresh perspective, or they’re committed to hiring the best person regardless of whether they’re internal or external. So the answer won’t really tell you much about your chances, even though a lot of candidates are convinced it will.

4. A cautionary tale about using your internet username on a resume

A humorous horror story and healthy reminder to never use your personal username/email on anything related to your professional persona:

A few years back, I had a friend who made an impressive amount of money through her side hustle of making custom Funko Pop toys. She was very good — people got Pops of themselves to use as wedding cake toppers, of their favorite characters from old shows, of people they knew to give as gifts, etc. It took up all her free time, so if I wanted to hang out with her, it made sense for me to learn to make some, too.

To make them, you pick the head and body that most closely resemble the character you’re building (typically two different Pops), boil the dolls to soften the rubber, pull their heads off, swap them, cut off unwanted parts with a heated knife, sculpt new accessories in clay and attach, and then paint the whole thing. Kinda cool. I did three sets before I lost interest, and saved the photos in some Picasa-style online album (not a social media site) so I could show other people.

Fast forward to this year, and I was making some new business cards for an upcoming conference. I’ve always used the same email address and username for everything and it’s never been a problem. I’ve googled the email address to make sure that nothing bad came up, and it was always fine. But this time, I decided to google just the first part of the address (the part before the @) just to make sure.

There, on the top of page 1: doll parts. Vats of boiling dolls. Dolls with their heads ripped off. Dolls getting body parts chopped off with hot knives. Tubs of dismembered doll parts that had been cut off but saved, just in case they fit the need of a future custom. I looked like a full-blown psychopath.

I wasn’t in the photos, and it was my friend’s home instead of mine, but the username is distinct enough that there could be no mistaking whose account it was. The photos have all long since been deleted and I had thought they were all set to private, but the internet has a long and pervasive memory. I guess they’re going to stay on Google indefinitely, despite the files not actually being hosted on the site anymore. I have to wonder, now, how many hiring managers took one look at that and decided to file my resume directly into the trash.

So let this be a reminder to all: select a unique username for all your weird hobbies, and make sure no part of it (no matter how small) is re-used in your email or on your resume!

Oh noooooo. Consider the reminder issued.

my bosses praise me so much that it’s embarrassing

A reader writes:

I realize this is not the worst problem to have, but here it is:

My bosses — and even some of my at-level peers — talk a lot about how good I am at my job. It is a steady stream of praise that seems like it should be gratifying but is actually grating. I just heard from the people who took over my previous job when I started on a new project that they have been told over and over again how big the shoes they have to fill are which is probably not very motivating to a new team. And it’s embarrassing. And it isn’t particularly true — I ask for help, I make mistakes, I muddle through things I don’t really know how to do just to keep things moving forward.

Being well-respected has its upsides — promotions, training opportunities, interesting work. But it has its downsides, too. Workwise, it means people don’t push back on my ideas, while we work in an environment where pushback is essential to ensuring that our thinking covers all the angles. I also worry that coworkers will — or already do? — resent me for how much focus I get.

Is there a way to change or downplay overbearing praise? I can’t just tell people three rungs above me on the hierarchy that I don’t want their praise. Nor can I just stop doing good work. If I am in the conversation, I aim to sort of laugh it off in and give “it’s all a team effort” type responses, but even that’s not an option if I’m being lauded to other people when I am not even there!

Should I be doing something else?

Can you share the praise? By which I mean, can you cite specific contributions of others? By name? If your boss is talking about how talented you are at X, can you say, “I’ll tell you who’s been crucial to that — Patricia, because she’s amazing at (specific thing that contributes to X)”? Or “I appreciate that, and I should note that Waldemar was a huge part of that too”?

You probably can’t do that in a natural way every single time, but you can do it a lot! You can also look for other opportunities to make sure other people on your team are getting credit for their work. If people see you as someone who’s diligent about recognizing other people’s work, it’ll go a long way toward mitigating any resentment they might otherwise come to feel.

You’re right to worry that this kind of professional status can mean your ideas will get less pushback than otherwise. One way to combat that is to actively solicit pushback on your ideas, while simultaneously working to make it safe for people to offer it. For example:

* “I think this would be stronger if we know where its weaknesses are. Can we try to poke some holes in it to see if it stands up or not?”
* “I’m sure there are downsides to this, though — can we focus on that for a minute? If it’s six months from now and this hasn’t gone well, what do you think would be the most likely reason?”
* “Lucinda, you’re really good at seeing pieces of this kind of thing that I miss. What would worry you about this?”

Make sure you actively appreciate pushback when you get it, too. People who respond with “I’m so glad you spoke up, that’s a really good point” get more candor in the future than people who seem annoyed or dismissive.

Beyond that … look for ways to use all this capital in ways that benefit others, even if it’s behind the scenes — whether it’s advocating for a resource someone needs, or pushing back on an onerous policy, or suggesting an overlooked colleague for a project you know she’d like. People tend to pick up on it when a respected colleague works as a force for good in their office. Having significantly more influence than others isn’t always a 100% comfortable place to dwell, but using influence wisely can be a real reward (both to you and to people who work with you).

Ask a Manager in the media

Here’s some coverage of Ask a Manager in the media recently:

I talked with the LA Times about talking to your boss about mental health.

I talked with the Review of Journalism about advice columns.

I talked with Vox about people who don’t do any work at their jobs.

This piece in Medium analyzed data from the Ask a Manager salary survey.

people lose their minds over free food: discuss

People are weird about free food at work. Really weird.

Free food can make some people lose all sense of decorum and manners (and interestingly, the employees who get the most vulture-like are often the highest-paid). Some reports of free food havoc that have been shared here over the years:

 “I had a coworker who thought any treats were just for him. If breakfast tacos were ordered for my department, we’d usually offer other departments nearby any leftovers. If he hadn’t already, as soon as he heard that leftovers were being offered he’d go through and get all of the ones he wanted (example, all the brisket) and hide them in his desk drawer before the other department could get any. He’d also get in line first or near-first (he volunteered to help with setup), and would take massive amounts of what was there. If some folks didn’t get firsts while he was loading up his second, he’d say folks should have gotten there faster. Management did talk to him, but his answer was that he didn’t care.”

 “Pre-pandemic, my larger division moved to new office space and the building management ordered trays of brownies to welcome us. My physical office was near the kitchen and I witnessed someone from another group walk by with the entire tray that had been put out for the whole floor and carry it back to his desk. There were probably at least 75 brownies on it. Soon I heard everyone being very confused that we were promised brownies and there were none to be had. This lead to people from our floor going to other floors to find brownies, which caused its own drama. Finally, when I saw the same guy walk past my office again on his way to a meeting, I ran to his cube, grabbed the tray, and placed it back in the kitchen for everyone to enjoy as intended.”

 “At a previous job, staff were allowed to take food left over from client and other meetings. People would aggressively lurk or pace around the conference rooms waiting for the meeting to be over. Some of the conference rooms were all glass, so these lurkers were extremely conspicuous to everyone in the meeting, including clients (and this was a finance company that worked with high-wealth clients). Certain staff members were referred to as ‘the vultures.’ It became so awkward and embarrassing that the company established a new rule that people were not allowed to get food out of the rooms when the meeting was over. If there was anything left over, the office manager would bring it to the cafeteria and then people could take some.”

Let’s talk about free food debacles you’ve witnessed (or committed?) at work. Please share in the comments.

my predecessor comes back every year to celebrate her success, team lead spends hours venting to us, and more

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

1. My predecessor keeps taking over the event that’s supposed to honor my work

I’m in year 2 of being a support clerk with my city’s planning office. Every year we celebrate the huge numbers of applications we’ve processed. The very extroverted person who held the position before me created the role from scratch and was very effective. Therefore, she has been invited two years in a row to attend our celebration dinner. The problem is that she takes over the dinner and praises all of her past work accomplishments and very little, if any, space is left for me to be given credit for the work I’ve done keeping everyone on track since (which includes modernizing all of her paper-based processes). Trying to speak up for myself at this event or prior seems like being petty as she’s retired and was a staff favorite. Am I just being a small person here? Could this mean I’m not as effective as I think in my job and should just suck it up and accept that this party will forever be a downer and leave me questioning my value there?

I wouldn’t take this as any indicator of your own performance; it sounds like it’s about her, not about you — and she’s being allowed to run roughshod over you, possibly because of the strength of her personality or possibly because people are just happy to see her and aren’t thinking too deeply about it beyond that. (It’s also possible that a third year of this will start to seem strange to people, who knows.)

Can you take some control of the agenda ahead of time? Approach your boss or whoever organizes the event with a list of the program’s achievements that you want to make sure are recognized at the event (you can call them “the program’s achievements” even if they’re all yours; there’s an event being held to celebrate the work, so it’s completely normal to frame it that way). Frankly, if you have decent rapport with your boss, you could also say, “The last two years, Jane ended up running the presentation and focused on the work she did while she was still here. Since we have two years of new accomplishments to talk about now, I’d like to propose we do X this year.” (X could be you running the event, having a set list of speakers that doesn’t include a long-gone employee, having a slideshow focused on this year’s achievements, or anything else you think would work well.)

And ideally someone would be ready to intercept Jane if she does try to take things over and/or to tell her in advance that the program for the night will be X and the org will be hosting her as a guest but not a speaker since the focus will be on more recent work. Arranging that would require a pretty candid conversation with your boss, but if you have the kind of relationship with that allows for that, it’s a very reasonable thing to raise. It’s not petty in the least to point out that the event should honor the team’s current work.

2. My team lead spends hours venting to us — but tells our boss he’s training us

After being at my job for one year, things have started to go sideways. I recently rotated to a new team with a different team lead, Henry. Henry will video call me without notice and without asking if I’m free to chat. He is an absolute chatterbox! One of these unscheduled video calls will last around 30 minutes to an hour, usually multiple times a day. The meetings turn into a vent session for Henry while I sit there quietly until he stops talking.

We bill our clients and set a budget before we start an assignment, but with these unscheduled, long, irrelevant meetings, my work has been severely affected. Unfortunately, Henry “cold calls” each of us on the team (there are 3 of us) and our budget is severely dwindling.

Due to the budget problems, Henry mentioned to my manager that the reason the assignment is taking so long is because “there are three new people on this team who ask a lot of questions.” I feel like Henry is completely throwing the team under the bus and not realizing that his ineffective meetings are part of the problem. My manager is unaware that Henry is conducting these calls to each of us. The other two people on my team are new as well and we are afraid to mention something to our manager. Should we say something or are we overreacting?

Whoa, no, speak up! Frankly, you should talk to your manager about Henry’s calls even if he weren’t throwing you under the bus, simply because they’re so numerous and distracting. But with him claiming the budget shortages are due to your training needs, you really need to say something. (And if you’re worried about being believed, your manager probably already knows Henry is a talker and it’s likely to ring true.)

You could say, “I feel awkward raising this but Henry calls so regularly to chat — usually multiple times a day, for up to an hour each time — that it’s significantly slowing down my progress on the X project. These calls aren’t for training or to answer questions, and we don’t accomplish any work during them. I can see how much it’s slowing down our work, but I haven’t been sure of how to handle it.”

3. Hiring externally when staff expect an internal hire

I am in charge of youth services and have one direct report, who has been here since before I was hired but will soon be moving on. This means I will need to hire for the first time since starting. After working for a number of years with a youth services assistant who has no experience working with children (and has frankly stated that they don’t like kids), I have a clear idea of the experience I’m looking for in a new hire and how I’d like the position to evolve, both of which will be the biggest factors when I interview.

My organization has a very strong culture of promoting within — in the six years since I started, the only external hires in my department have been for part-time entry-level jobs and a position that requires a specialized degree. The general rule is that if someone within the department is interested in an open position, they get the first opportunity to apply and interview before we open to external hires, which makes sense most of the time and almost always results in an internal hire. My issue is that there is no one in my department who has the skills or experience that I am looking for in this position. Normally, we would hire internally even if they don’t have all the requisite experience and then train them up to the level we need (that’s how my current assistant got their job). However, my service area works heavily with children and families and I can’t train people into having experience working with kids and parents or enjoying that type of work. (My director agrees with me that no one in our department would be a good fit for the position.)

I’m hoping people will self-select out, given my service area, but I’m afraid that the desire to move up within our department will cause people to apply even if they aren’t interested in family programming and don’t have the skills needed. We haven’t announced the open position yet, but most of the potential internal applicants work in the same service area and every time my soon-to-be-open position comes up in our management meetings, their supervisor makes a point of talking about internal applications and how great their reports could be at this position. If they do apply, I would be obligated to give them an interview, but I don’t want to make anyone feel bad about not getting the job, especially since I know I don’t plan on hiring internally.

How can I temper my coworkers’ expectations that I will hire internally, when I know that I definitely won’t? Besides being very clear in the job description and in my expectations for the position, is there anything I can do to keep people from getting their hopes up about this job opening?

Being very clear in the job description is the place to start, including explicitly labeling specific skills and experience as “required.” From there, be similarly clear with anyone who approaches you about the job (“I want to be up-front with you that I’m committed to hiring someone with XYZ experience, which could mean an external hire if we don’t find that experience already on staff”) and in those required interviews (“you probably saw that the position requires XYZ and I want to be up-front with you that that’s an obstacle for your candidacy — would you like to talk more about that?”). You should also fill people in on your thinking at those management meetings when it comes up — let them know you’re holding a high bar on XYZ and haven’t been able to find that in internal applicants.

4. How to quit when my two jobs are related

The short version: I work two jobs and I want to quit one of them. The sticky part: Job 1 introduced me to Job 2, and they sometimes work together on projects (but sometimes are competitors).

I’ve been at Job 1 for almost two years, and it’s … fine. It was a nice place to land after leaving a toxic job with a mercurial boss. But I’m a contractor with zero benefits and my hours are the first thing cut when times are lean. Which brings me to Job 2. When Job 1 had to halve my hours recently, they asked if I might want to go help out at Job 2, where they needed someone with my talents.

Job 2 is amazing. I’m an actual employee for the first time in my life, with some benefits even as a part-timer. There’s a real culture of appreciation there — bosses and coworkers constantly thank me and praise my work, even though I’m the lowest-level employee there. They also praise each other’s work and strengths. I keep being given more responsibilities and interesting tasks to work on. I feel like my opinions and ideas are respected and like I’m seen as a whole person, rather than a tool to get tasks done. While Job 1 has kept my hours reduced for months, Job 2 is happy to give me as many hours as I want, while remaining flexible about Job 1’s needs and my personal needs.

Every sign in the universe is pointing to me needing to quit Job 1. My spouse thinks I should quit. My friends ask why I haven’t quit yet. I got a tarot reading for the first time in my life on a lark, and even the cards said I should quit my job.

But again, Job 1 and Job 2 are friendly. They work together. I often get info from Job 1 for Job 2 and vice versa. I read enough advice columns to know I can’t control how other people react to things and sometimes there’s no way to not hurt feelings. But do you have any advice to help soften the blow for Job 1 when I leave them for their cooler, more successful counterpart?

It sounds like Job 2 is willing to offer you full-time hours or at least consistently more hours than you get from Job 1, so that’s the easiest explanation to lean on — “They’re able to offer me full-time work, which I really need.” That’s a very clear, easy-to-understand reason and people will understand the need for more hours. Plus, any job that halves someone’s hours is well aware that it means the person might seek work somewhere else, so they’re unlikely to be shocked.

5. Why are recruiters asking about where I am in my job search?

I am not aggressively looking for a job at the moment as I’m currently employed, but have recently had a few exploratory recruiter calls. They each ask some version at the end of “where are you in your job search?” or “are you actively interviewing/fielding offers that we should be aware of?” For the most part I’ve been honest: I’m still in my role currently, just starting to look, but no real urgency on my end. But what are recruiters looking to learn by asking this question, and what is the right answer for someone in my current position?

They want to find out whether you’re in the final stages with other employers/expecting an offer imminently/already have offers, so they know if they need to try to expedite their process with you. Your answer is completely fine.

should I be worried by how pushy an employer was with a job offer over a holiday weekend?

A reader writes:

I found out about two weeks ago, verbally, that I was the chosen candidate for a job. It took them two weeks to send me the offer letter, which was sent past 9 pm on Friday night in their time zone (Pacific time). I am located in Eastern time right now, so it was after midnight. The email actually said, “Please give me a call to talk about this tonight or tomorrow morning.” WHHHHAAAT?

My out-of-office responder was already on and said that I was away from email for Memorial Day weekend and would likely not respond to emails until my return on Wednesday.

On Monday, Memorial Day, their office was closed, yet I received an email from the person who would be my supervisor letting me know they were available that day to talk about the job offer.

While I understand that I am a high-value candidate and they’re eager to have me accept the offer, this is freaking me out. My personal and family time is extremely important to me, and I conveyed that repeatedly in the FIVE interviews they put me through to get this job. I asked repeatedly about work-life balance because my current workplace has zero boundaries (my current boss once told me that because I’m exempt, that means I’m supposed to be available and answer emails 24/7, which I squashed flat). It deeply worries me that they expect me to respond to them on weekends and on holidays.

I’m strongly opposed to any workplace creating an expectation that employees should be available at midnight or on weekends or holidays unless it’s actually written into their job description and is actually necessary. I have zero intention of responding to them until Wednesday. But this is upsetting and frustrating, to the point I may turn down the job as a result. I like these people, and I know them. I work in a small industry and I have kind of always idealized their organization and wanted to work there. But I deeply value my ability to separate my life from my job and have time to myself to decompress and throughout this process they have made me feel that if I choose to work there, I will never have free time again outside of work. If I don’t accept the job, I can expect some career fallout because of the tightness of the industry, but if I accept it, I’m afraid I’ll be miserable and end up quitting, so same result.

Side note: These incidents are not isolated. The recruiter has contacted me at absurd times 6-7 other times throughout the process.

Yeah, that’s concerning.

I’d feel differently if they had caveated it — like if they’d said, “I realize it’s a holiday weekend and you may not be available, but if there’s any chance you could connect before Tuesday, I’d be grateful because ____ (I’m heading out on Wednesday for a three-week leave and won’t be reachable by phone/you’re our strong first choice, but our second-choice candidate needs to respond to another offer by mid-week/our phones are all scheduled to self-destruct on Wednesday).” I’d feel even better about if it they apologized for the rush.

The fact that they didn’t acknowledge it was the weekend or that your auto-reply said you were away is worrisome.

And asking you to call them back “tonight or tomorrow morning” when it was past midnight your time is A Lot. (I’m guessing they might not have thought about the time difference. But even at 9 pm their time, that’s A Lot.)

I’m curious how they responded when you brought up your boundaries around your time when you were interviewing. Did they seem to hear you and give credible-sounding replies that convinced you they’d respect your boundaries? Or is the reason you were bringing it up repeatedly in those five interviews because you weren’t hearing responses that convinced you?

Either way, it’s a reasonable thing to ask about now, and even more so since you know them outside of the hiring process. When you call to discuss the offer, you could say, “I wanted to ask about the urgency around the offer over the holiday weekend. We talked in the interview process about how important it is to me to disconnect outside of work hours, and I want to be up-front that asking me to call about the offer so late on Friday night and then on the holiday on Monday has wondering if I’m the right match on that front.”

It’s too late for this now, but I’m torn on whether it would have been worth responding over the weekend with, “I’m away through Tuesday but will give you a call on Wednesday morning.” On one hand, your auto-reply already made that clear. On the other hand, if you might end up wanting the offer, it’s usually smarter to acknowledge you received it and give a timeline for replying back (especially since there was going to be a full workday in there, Tuesday, before you planned to respond). And it might have been interesting to see if they immediately backed off or stayed pushy.

In any case, how much due diligence have you done on this employer as far as culture and expectations around off-hours availability? Have you talked to people who work there (outside of your formal interviews) about those expectations and tried to get a candid read on it, especially since you know people there? If you haven’t done that yet, I’d prioritize doing it now, regardless of what they say about this past weekend.

In general, though, it’s usually pretty safe to assume that if you’re seeing things that alarm you from the hiring manager during the hiring process — not necessarily the recruiter, but the manager themselves — you’re not going to see less of that once you’re working for them. But have the conversation and see what they say.

update: my team excludes me from lunches because of my dietary restrictions

Remember the letter-writer being excluded from lunches because of their dietary restrictions? Here’s the update.

I am happy to report that I am no longer at the company that excluded me from lunches.

I ultimately didn’t take your advice because I was being kind of a chicken. I thought about talking to my manager, but he was so hands-off with me (like, we only talked for maybe a total of three hours in the year and four months I was at the company) that it felt weird to try to set up a meeting with him just to discuss the food issue. As for submitting receipts for reimbursement for food, it was a little tricky due to the fact that managers would often use their own money to pay for lunches. So, I just kind of let it keep happening and started actively job searching.

As you can imagine, there were a lot of big reasons I started looking – not just the pettiness of being excluded from lunches. (The lunch thing definitely lit a fire under my belly every time it happened, though!) The team I was on (and from what I could tell, the company itself) was totally chaotic and disorganized. In my yearly review I asked my manager to clarify what our team’s strategy was and what larger business strategy we were serving in our work, and he didn’t have an answer. And he was a VP!!! Plus, they were dragging their feet on giving me a raise that was MUCH deserved and well overdue, despite me massively outperforming expectations on a consistent basis and doing essentially three jobs for the VERY low price of one. It was just time to leave and find a job that didn’t stretch me thin while making me feel like I had to beg for the pay I deserved.

I found my way to a really amazing company that is actually mission-oriented and walks the walk, pays me 40% more than what I was making, and has INSANE benefits. The people are lovely, too. I’m really happy with how things turned out and I’m no longer steeping in my own resentment over being underappreciated and underpaid, so all in all, this is a very happy update! :)