weekend free-for-all – February 15-16, 2020

Foster cat Humphrey (on couch) is tolerating resident cats taking over his room.

This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand. (This one is truly no work and no school.)

Book recommendation of the week: Followers, by Megan Angelo. In 2016, two friends seek fame, and find it with unanticipated consequences. 35 years later, the government runs a strictly controlled, 24/7 reality show with stars who can’t leave. This is a dark, utterly engrossing story about technology, fame, and lack of privacy.

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

a Valentine’s Day round-up

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, here’s a round-up of some past posts that involved romantic relationships — some good, some bad, and some really weird.

My dad is dating my boss, and they want me to go to couples therapy with them (and the first and second updates)

I ghosted my ex, and she’s about to be my new boss (and the update)

My coworker wants to send flowers to all the women for Valentine’s Day

My husband’s boss/our friend is sleeping with their married department head

How can I convince my husband I can’t accept a job offer on his behalf?

My office wants us to bring single friends to a Valentine’s Day singles mixer

A possible coworker turned out to be my date’s wife

If you’re thinking of asking a coworker on a date…

open thread – February 14-15, 2020

It’s the Friday open thread! The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything work-related that you want to talk about. If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet*, but this is a chance to talk 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.

should you mention an employee’s smell during a reference check, and more

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

1. Should you mention an employee’s smell during a reference check?

A few years back, I managed an employee who was on a performance plan and was on the verge of being let go. A new position opened in a different department and much to my chagrin that department manager hired her. Her performance was no longer my concern, but I know she continued to cause problems in the new department for a few years. She left on her own about a year ago. She had three different jobs in the course of the year. I had never been listed as a reference and neither was the other manager here.

Recently, she applied for a job with a company that both I and her former manager at my same company work with quite frequently. We were obviously on her resume as she had been here a total of six years. A third manager for a department she never worked in here was a reference and they provided a glowing recommendation. The hiring manager, who I know, called me and asked about this employee. I was honest and straightforward in my assessment, as I had good and bad things to say about her. She also contacted the other manager, who said much of what I did — the good and bad.

Fast forward and this company has hired her and she’s been there a week. I received a call today from the hiring manager, who was livid that my coworker and I didn’t mention this employee’s smell. She was the smelly person at our company, for sure. (While she was in my department, I addressed it with her several times. After leaving my department, the new manager had HR address it with her a few times.) At the time I was giving the reference, I had not seen her in over a year and would not have commented on her hygiene after that amount of time. Was that wrong? It never even crossed my mind to mention this, but should it have? Is it different since the hiring manager is someone I know personally and they expected more candid information? Now that this person is mad at me, do I need to do something to repair that relationship?

Hygiene is something lots of people wouldn’t feel comfortable mentioning in a reference, especially for someone they hadn’t worked with in years. Hygiene can also be linked to medical issues (including things like depression), which isn’t an appropriate area to comment on in references.

It’s also reasonable for you to assume that if it were still an issue, the hiring manager would have been able to pick up on it herself in the interview (assuming it was a consistent issue and not a sporadic one).

And honestly, it’s pretty crappy for a manager to call her new employee’s former boss from years ago to complain they weren’t warned about the person’s smell.

I don’t know. I can see why she’s frustrated — no one wants to have to have that most awkward of all awkward conversations with an employee — but I think her anger is misplaced. Whether you should try to smooth it over depends on how close the relationship is, how often you talk, and how much you depend on her good will, but it would be awfully petty for her to hold this against you long-term.

2. I almost knock people down every time I’m walking around the office

I work in a large office that was converted from a warehouse — we have many areas of cubicles. My department has probably 60 configured all which way. It can be kind of a maze. It seems like I cannot walk anywhere without almost slamming into people. It just happened again, I was walking to and from the restroom and almost barreled into two people coming out their doors, two different times. I’m not a big person, like 5’3, 130 pounds. Is that the problem? Too short to see what’s coming? And I am admittedly a fast walker. Any advice on how to avoid collisions?

The maze configuration probably isn’t helping, but if you don’t see it happening to other people, I’d bet money it’s the fast walking — it’s not leaving enough time to sense and make way for people coming out of a door or around a corner. You could test that theory by decreasing your speed one day and seeing if it makes any difference.

But I doubt it’s your height unless the people you’re bumping into are disembodied heads, in which case that’s just a hazard of working in a maze filled with disembodied heads.

3. Am I being a scrooge about my employee’s lunch break?

I am a first-time manager with one direct report. I am exempt but she is not. Her role is a mix of solitary work that she does at her computer and user-facing, but she needs to be available to our users if someone needs something. We work standard 8-5 days, and the expectation is that we are generally available during working hours. Our state requires non-exempt employees to have at least a 20-minute break after five hours of working, but our company policy provides everyone a one-hour lunch break that is pretty well respected at our office. Some people will read and eat at their desks, some people go to the lunchroom and socialize, some people eat out, etc.

My employee likes to eat her lunch at her desk while she works and then use her “lunch break” much later (around 2:30) to run errands, talk on the phone outside, watch YouTube videos, etc.. In the past this has been fine since she has plenty of work she can do at her computer while she eats, and I want to do my best to allow her to use her breaks however she wants.

Recently though, I’ve overheard her saying to people who approach her for assistance while she’s eating, “Can I help you with that after I eat?” Because lunch hours are nearly sacred around here, people immediately apologize and say they’ll come back later. The issue is that later she’ll actually be on her lunch break. Because the eating and the lunch break are not one and the same, I’m becoming irritated that she’s doubly unavailable. I’m worried that I’m being too much of a stickler here because I know that she is actually doing work while she is eating. My sense is that she doesn’t want to get up from her desk or talk to someone in the middle of it. I’m hesitant to bring it up because a) I’m not sure that it’s really a problem, and b) she has a hard time taking feedback in general without taking it extremely personally (which is something we are working on).

Should I let it be, or is this something that is worth a course correction conversation even if it will mean a week of frosty demeanor from her?

You need to address it. If she’s not taking her lunch break until later in the day, then she needs to be available when people come up to her while she’s eating, since the role does require that kind of responsiveness while she’s on the clock.

To be clear, there are lots of jobs where it’s fine to manage your own time and to tell people who come by while you’re working on something else, “Can I finish what I’m doing and come by your desk afterwards?” But since you said she needs to be available if someone needs something, that’s not really in line with the expectations you laid out for her role.

But the frosty responses to feedback are a much bigger issue, especially if it’s making you hesitant to address issues like this. Don’t put off tackling that — it’s got to be addressed right away and it’s got to stop.

(Separately, your state law requires a 20-minute break after five hours of work, which is 1 pm if she starts at 8 am. Legally you need her to take that, which means you might want to ask her to take lunch no later than 1 pm.)

4. How do employers feel about unpaid vacation?

How do employers feel about people taking unpaid time off for vacation (rather than illness, family emergency, etc.)? I love to travel and for the moment have no personal obligations like kids to prevent me from doing so. I work at a government agency where we each manage our own caseloads, meaning that me taking time off doesn’t create more work for others. I’m extremely efficient, get all of my work done ahead of time and done well, and volunteer to take on additional projects. I also burn through my vacation time every year.

Because I work for the government, there’s no real possibility of negotiating for extra paid vacation time based on my performance, but I’m fortunate enough to be in a financial position to absorb a week of unpaid time off here or there. I would like to ask for this occasionally (once or twice a year), but I’m concerned that it may send the wrong message to my employer. I plan to work here for a long time and I do want to advance within the agency. Do managers see people taking unpaid extra vacation as a sign of lack of commitment to the work?

The bigger issue is that employers usually hire for jobs assuming they need you at work a certain number of days per year. If you get, say, four paid weeks off a year, they assume you’ll be there the other 48 weeks, and they plan their staffing levels accordingly. If people are taking unpaid leave on top of their PTO, then the employer ends up with fewer person-hours per year than they planned on and can end up understaffed.

This is also one of those things that isn’t necessarily a problem when one person does it but can become a big problem if lots of people do it, which is why a lot of employers don’t allow unpaid leave except in unusual circumstances, like sickness or getting married or a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

That said, you can ask and see what answer you get! If you’re a good worker who’s known to be conscientious, asking isn’t going to make you look uncommitted. I suspect working for the government makes a yes significantly less likely, but that’s just a guess.

5. Can I remove older, less relevant work experience from my resume?

I graduated in 2010 and had an internship for six months. However, I couldn’t find a permanent position for about two years. I did some freelance work, but it’s not relevant to what I do now. Now that I have seven years of permanent experience, I want to remove that period after graduation from my resume. I will list my education without the graduation date and then provide my work experience from 2013. If a potential employer asks me about the graduation date, I will tell them and explain that I did freelance work. Is that a good idea or will it look like a red flag? I just don’t want to have irrelevant short-term experience on my resume.

That’s totally fine. Your resume doesn’t need to be an exhaustive account of everything you’ve ever done; you’re allowed to choose to include only the most relevant jobs. It often makes a lot of sense to let older, less relevant work drop off.

I’m still not doing the job I was hired for two years ago

A reader writes:

I’ve been at my current job for two years, and have been doing … okay. No big issues, but in previous reviews my boss has talked about me in terms of good, not great. I’m definitely struggling with efficiency, and am generally bored and disengaged.

The problem is, I’m struggling because the skills I was hired for (user training and product management) have nothing to do with the job I’m being asked to do (technical support). My personality and preferred work environment are also really at odds with what I’m doing; I have ADHD and excel in a social team environment, but am rarely given work that requires any engagement with coworkers.

I brought up my confusion about this during last year’s review, and my boss assured me that product manager was the goal for my position, but I needed to show a little more drive first. Is there a professional way of pointing out that I’m not dazzling him in this role because it’s not what I was hired for? Or do I just write this off as a bad fit and start job hunting again?

It’s been two years! If your boss were telling you this after two months, that would be one thing — but after two years?!

“We need to see you prove yourself before we’ll put you in the job we hired you for two years ago” is just a tremendous line of BS. Either they didn’t see the skills in you they expected to see and so they put you in this other role (in which case they should be up-front about that) or they never intended to and for some reason keep stringing you along. Either way, after two years, there’s no reason to think it will change.

You could try a conversation along the lines of, “The work you hired me for is X. The work you’ve had me doing is Y, which is not my strength. You’ve told me I can’t move to X until I prove myself at Y, but Y isn’t what I excel in. Given that, can we talk about exactly what you need to see from me in order to move me to X, so that I can figure out if I can meet those goals?”

If you’d had that conversation four to six months into the job, I would have told you to frame it as, “Can you tell me the timeline for moving me to the role I signed on for?” But it’s been so long that that’s mostly moot. Two years in, they think of you as this role, not the one they hired you for.

Definitely start looking outside your company.

updates: the conference expenses, asking to move back to an old job, and more

Here are three updates from people whose letters were answered here in the past.

1. Should we let an employee pay their own way to a conference in an exciting location? (#2 at the link)

Thank you for answering my question and to all the commenters for their advice as well!

I dropped it on my end and what we ended up doing was telling the employee that they could attend on our company registration (which lowers the fees compared to registering as an individual) but they would have to cover their portion of the cost. We also do not ask staff to use PTO when they’re attending professional training or conferences so this was still paid work time (this was something that was expected by everyone here, but since there were a few passionate comments about policing vacation time I wanted to address that). They had been hoping the company would be able to cover more of the costs (they asked if the funds from the other events they are scheduled to attend this year could be used for this instead, but I need someone to attend those events so I can’t reallocate), but they still seemed excited to attend. Then something happened (and unfortunately I can’t elaborate more) and they have now backed out of attending so I’m working with the conference to get that portion of the registration refunded. Now we have a plan in place in case this happens again, though I think this is unlikely to come up again for us any time soon. Thanks again for your response!

2. How can I ask to move back to my old job? (#3 at the link)

I didn’t want to go around my boss, “Joe,” to talk to my director Ned directly, so I told Joe directly but professionally that I wasn’t happy in my new role and that I wanted to move back to my previous role, as Ned promised. He said he understood, and he promised that he’d bring it up to Ned the next time they met.

Well, long story short–Ned said that moving back to my old role was not going to happen. This was disappointing and frustrating, as they hadn’t even filled my old position yet. I started looking for a new job immediately, including internal jobs suggested by contacts/colleagues who had a high opinion of my work.

When I began applying for transfers Ned started trying to convince me that I’d “hate working in [that department]” and I “wouldn’t find the same flexibility elsewhere” and so on. I immediately recognized that he was being manipulative, and it really solidified for me that I needed to leave.

I did get a happy ending though! Five months after my letter I ended up getting a promotion in another department. It’s been really great. My team is amazing, and my work has been well-received. I’m less stressed, have a better title, and I make more money. Even though I didn’t get the outcome I originally wanted, I think I ended up where I needed to be! Thanks for your advice!

3. I might not have the skills for the job — should I point that out to my interviewer?

You answered my letter earlier this year about a job I was applying for that stated in the JD that the ideal candidate would have a “high level” of excel skills and I wasn’t sure what that meant, if I should pursue this job, and if I had that level of Excel skills.

Turns out I got the job! And I love it and I’m so happy I didn’t let the “high level” piece scare me off. So many of your commenters said something along the lines of, “there are so many different things you can do with Excel that asking for a “high level” of skill is so broad as to be almost meaningless.” Well, not entirely meaningless but you know what I mean. Don’t ask me to conditionally format anything but let me make some pivot tables and I’ll show you what’s up.

I would say that your answer and your commenters suggestions made me go for it and I’m so glad I did. Good companies are going to look for the right fit and experience and not just check skills off boxes to determine who to hire. I do have enough Excel skills to do what I need to do and I have also learned a lot in the few months I have been there because there are so many easy online ways to learn what you want to know. I was pretty upfront when I started, saying that I didn’t have a lot of experience with X, but I know Y and I’m good at figuring stuff out. I’m also taking some Excel courses early next year so I can get even more skills.

Hopefully someone else will read this and feel empowered to go for their dream job – I’m so happy I went for it. Thank you and thanks to the commentariat here. You’re all awesome.

ask the readers: how can we help gender transitions at work go well?

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

I’m a leader in my company’s LGBT employee group, and we are working on a set of Gender Transition Guidelines to be used by transgender employees who transition while at our company, as well as their managers, coworkers, and HR to ensure a positive experience.

We’ve based the guidelines on industry best practices (Human Rights Campaign and others), and as I’m working on the document I’m wondering what others have experienced in their own workplace transitions, both good and bad.

I’d love for readers to weigh in — those who have transitioned at work or been part of a employee’s transition. I’m sure there are plenty of stories about what went wrong, but I’d also love to hear about anything that was done right. Was there anything that the manager or HR or others did that was especially meaningful? Any advice on how to handle the issues that inevitably arise?

The last time someone at our company transitioned (a few years ago), it was handled pretty terribly by leadership, and I’d like to do everything I can to make it different for the next person that comes along. Clearly there’s an element of culture change and education here — which we’re working on — but this document will be what folks rely on when the situation arises.

Let’s hear in the comment section from people with direct experience with this — people who have transitioned at work or have observed how a workplace handled an employee’s transition well or not so well.

I got my dream offer right after starting a new job, coworker is a jerk, and more

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

1. I just started a new job — and then got a PhD offer from my dream school

I started a new job six weeks ago. It’s at my alma mater and it’s an incredible place to work. The culture is awesome and I love my colleagues. Yesterday, I received an offer from my first choice, and the best school in my field, to enter a PhD program in the Fall. I’m ecstatic and plan on accepting the offer. This is life-changing and career-changing.

Here’s what I’m bugging out about: I am still in my six-month introductory period and I don’t want to lose my job if I tell them now. I need the money, especially before I have to move and take a substantial pay cut. In any other circumstances I would just hang in and give notice maybe a month before I need to move in August or September. But this is a community I belong to and it’s important to me to do right by the students, faculty, and staff.

I will need to ask for time off to handle a number of things: (1) Pulling permits, meeting and hiring contractors, and everything else that needs doing to prep my house to rent it out while we’re gone for the next several years. There are a ton of headaches there due to shoddy and non-permitted work by the folks who flipped the house when we bought it. (2) Taking time to visit campus before I accept the offer so that my partner has some idea of what our new city will be like.

However, I already missed six days of work due to the flu (had documentation from MD). I am about to miss another three days for a pre-planned vacation. I don’t feel like I can ask for more time off without some explanation, but I’m hesitant to say anything that might F me over.

Oooooh. Yeah, even if they’re willing to keep you on knowing you’re leaving later this year, they almost definitely won’t be happy about doing that and giving you a bunch of time off to facilitate that earlier-than-anticipated departure. Is there a way your partner can do the brunt of the house prep? I realize that’s not ideal (especially when they’re already moving for you), but if they have flexibility in their schedule in a way you don’t with a brand new job, that might be the safest path. Alternately, you can probably be straightforward about the work on the house, without explaining you’re doing it because you plan to rent it out later this year. With the campus trip, can you confine it to a weekend so you’re not missing work (or even have your partner take the trip alone if that’s feasible)?

“I’ve been here six weeks and I’m leaving this summer” isn’t great, but a lot of employers will work with you on it (especially when you’re working at your alma mater and leaving for a PhD). But “I’ve been here six weeks, I’m leaving this summer, and I want lots of time off meanwhile” is a much harder sell.

The trickier question is how transparent to be. I hear you on wanting to do right by your community there. Is there a middle ground where you don’t announce your move now, but give more than the month’s notice you mentioned — like telling them in May or June? Often with resignations, there’s not a lot they can do with seven months that they can’t do just as well in three months.

Plus, if you wait, you’ll be earning your keep at that point in way you aren’t right now (because six weeks in, you’re still learning the job) and there’s less of a chance their disappointment will be of the “let’s end this right now” variety. Also, by then you’ll have a better sense of how likely they are to push you out earlier than you want to leave, and can factor that in when May or June rolls around.

2. Coworker keeps making hostile comments about me being temporary

I started a job with a temporary contract for six months, which has been extended once for a further three months. When I joined, I was told there was a good chance I’d keep getting extensions or be made a permanent member of the team. Last time I got renewed, I didn’t find out until the last day on the old contract. Right now, I have three weeks left and it’s been incredibly stressful trying to job hunt just in case and prepare for possible unemployment.

I have one coworker, Bob, who keeps making comments to me about how I’m only a temporary employee. He’s been that way since I started, and I’ve mostly ignored him. Think, sending out emails to the team, including me, but with a note at the bottom that I should disregard because it’s only for real employees. Or asking me about why I’m not using a certain benefit only to say, “That’s right, that’s not for you” and giggling. A few days ago, he said something to me that I can’t get out of my head. We were walking to the parking lot, and I came to my spot and said I hoped he had a nice night. He cocked his head to the side and said, “In just three more weeks, I think I’ll ask for this spot. You won’t need it, you’ll be gone.” I’ve been obsessing over it ever since.

My boss is out of town at a conference so I can’t talk to him about it, but even if I did he’d just say that he won’t tell me anything. Is Bob trying to tell me I’m getting fired? Why would Bob, who is decidedly not my manager, know this before I do? I’m paranoid that everyone on the team knows I’m getting fired and they’re all laughing behind my back. I can’t focus and I keep almost crying at work. I’ve stepped up my job hunt, but I can’t think of anything else to do.

Bob is a horrible person who takes pleasure in being deliberately cruel to a colleague. Something is very wrong with Bob.

But this isn’t new! He’s been horrible to you since you started, and there’s no reason to think his behavior now indicates he has new information. He’s trying to rattle you because that’s what he does.

Keep in mind he hasn’t told you anything you didn’t already know, which is that this company may or may not keep you and likes to keep you in the dark until the absolute last minute.

If you do get another extension, it’s worth saying to your boss, “Can you shed any light on why Bob is so hostile about me being on a temporary contract? He keeps making truly nasty comments about it and I’m at a loss about how to take that.”

3. Bathroom breaks during video calls

I work remotely on a distributed team. Sometimes I have video meetings with other team members, either one-on-one or with several people at once. I’m wondering what to do if I am on a long call with coworkers and/or a supervisor and I need to take a quick bathroom break.

This hasn’t come up yet, but I have a medical condition that requires me to drink a lot of extra fluids, so I expect it will at some point. (I have no desire to disclose this to my employer. But it may help to explain why I feel the need to be prepared.)

If I need to step away for a minute to use the bathroom, and I can’t wait until the end of the call, what should I say? Do different rules apply if I’m on a call with several people? Will my coworkers think I’m rude? This all seems much more awkward in a remote setting.

“Excuse me, I need to step away for a moment.” Or if it’s been a very long call, “I could use a bio break — could we break for two minutes?” (I don’t generally love that term, but it’s helpful here — gets the point across without announcing I HAVE TO PEE NOW.)

If it happens a few times or if you feel self-conscious about it, you can discreetly mention to your manager, “You probably noticed I’ve needed to briefly step away on a few long calls recently. So you have the context, I have a medical condition that sometimes requires a quick bathroom break.”

It should be fine!

4. Reapplying after blowing an interview because of illness

Back in October, I applied for a job with an organization where I would really like to work. This job or a similar one was my five-year goal because of the way my field is structured, so I was thrilled when they got back to me immediately and enthusiastically. I made it to the final round of interviews in December, and I prepared for weeks.

Alison, I completely blew it. I had a nasty cold and was nervous about rescheduling because it had been hard to schedule around their holiday vacations, so I didn’t ask to have it moved (almost all their employees are remote and it was a video interview, no germ concerns here). I thought I would be fine, but between being doped to the gills on cold medicine and the general stress of my first video interview, I am confident I didn’t represent myself well.

They didn’t hire me, and after that interview, I wouldn’t have hired me either! The rejection was pretty standard “many impressive applicants” and “will keep you in mind” fare. I still really want to work there, and the same hiring manager is now actively recruiting for a different but similar job. This one is a slightly better fit than the first job.

Part of me thinks I expressed my interest recently enough that if I had a shot at this position they would have reached out directly, but I don’t hire and don’t know how realistic that is. I’d like to email her and ask if it makes sense for me to apply to this new position and maybe apologize for my Dayquil-fuzzy thinking in the last interview, but I have no idea how or if I can say that. Is it worth applying for this other position? And is there a professional way I can/should explain my thinking to the hiring manager?

Apply! They might think your last interview was prohibitive, but they might not — and you have nothing to lose either way. You can also send an email to the hiring manager letting her know you’re applying and saying something like, “I want to acknowledge I was not at my best when we last spoke in December. I’d been sick that week and could tell it impacted my performance. If you think this new role could be a match, I’d love to have another chance to talk, this time without the congestion and fuzzy head.”

how do we handle firing an employee in an open plan office?

A reader writes:

I’m an HR administrator at a company with about 150 people across a few offices. I’m the only on-site HR person at my location, which has about 25 employees. Our office is entirely open plan, with the exception of a few fish-bowl style, glass-walled conference rooms. There aren’t even dividers between desks, just one big room, so everyone can see everything that’s happening.

Unfortunately, we have had to terminate a few people over the course of my time here, typically for not meeting performance goals (as opposed to gross misconduct or misbehavior). Typically, the terminated employee gets the news in a conference room and is escorted out by their manager, which has had varying levels of success. There was one mishap where the manager allowed the terminated employee to return to his desk to collect some things, which ended in an awkward conversation with some of the folks at the desks surrounding his.

Obviously, people may immediately need to collect items at their desks (coats, wallets, etc.), but that can be mitigated by someone else taking those items. My question is then, what is the best way to handle employee termination in an open office, where it can become obvious what’s happening?

Honestly, you need at least one private space, preferably more than one.

Not just for firings, but for all sorts of things — for example, nursing mothers who need to pump, or sensitive or upsetting conversations where people don’t want be in a highly visible fishbowl, or someone who just got devastating personal news and needs a private place to fall apart.

People need the ability to get privacy, even at work. At a minimum, you should have blinds installed that can be pulled down when necessary.

If that’s just not an option, then yeah, your terminations are going to be extra crappy! That means that it’s extra important to ensure that people aren’t ever blindsided by being fired — ensure that they’re given clear warnings, chances to improve, and clear statements about the timeline they have for doing so. (Really clear — like, “We’ll meet at the end of the month to review your progress against these goals. If you’ve made the changes we’ve discussed, we’ll just move forward. If you haven’t improved, though, we would have to let you go.”) You should always do this! But it’s especially important here so that at least when people are being fired in full view of their coworkers, it’s the final step in a conversation that has already been ongoing — not a complete surprise that leaves them having to process their shock in front of an audience.

You can also try being thoughtful about the time of day you do these meetings. If everyone in your office usually goes to lunch at a certain time, that can be a compassionate time to do it, since the person will be able to collect their things and leave without having to run a gauntlet of curious coworkers along the way. Doing it at the end of the day can sometimes work similarly.

Or, for the same purpose, sometimes there’s a way to call everyone else into a different meeting so that they’re not at their desks and the fired person has some privacy.

One other thing to consider — however you decide to handle firings, try to avoid establishing a pattern of signals that make it really obvious to everyone what’s happening. Like if you only ever pull down the blinds in those glass-walled conference rooms when someone is about to be fired, that’s going to suck for everyone — your employee who sees they’re walking into the Blinds of Doom, their coworkers who have to sit there uncomfortably, and the poor person who gets called in there for something else one time where the blinds are actually down for a different reason and assumes they’re getting fired when you just wanted to ask about their sick dog.

But really, create a truly private space. There are so many moments in work life that shouldn’t be in a fishbowl.

I just found out my great employee lied on her resume

A reader writes:

We recently hired an employee for a non-professional position who told me after she was hired that she lied on her job application. She said she had her high school diploma when she doesn’t, and if she had answered that question in the positive, the online application would have booted her from the application as it is required for the position.

She is a hard worker, a great team member, and really needs the job, so I am not sure if I should ever bring this up.

I answer this question — and four others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • How to tell candidates that the position they’re applying for is unpaid
  • I gave an interviewer a salary figure, but then got a raise at my current job
  • I want to take a week off in between jobs
  • Can I hold people’s paychecks until they turn in their time sheets?