short answer Sunday: 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s short answer Sunday: seven short answers to seven short questions.

Can my manager cc my coworker when reprimanding me?

Due to issues at my job, my supervisor and the boss have decided to “write me up.”  That’s not the reason I am writing, that’s a whole other issue. But during our correspondence (by email), the big boss decided to cc a co-worker on all the interactions. Is there some kind of law around this?  Some privacy act or something?

The co-worker came to me and stated that she wrote back about she should not be included and also added that what I was getting written up for wasn’t even factual.  So, can a boss just include co-workers when they are yelling at you?

Legally? Sure. Most of the ways in which a boss could be a jerk are actually legal. Stupid and bad management, but legal.

I’d ask the boss why she cc’d your coworker and see what she says. (Then tell us, because this is weird and interesting.)

How to address interviewers in email

I was wondering how I should address interviewers in emails if I have not met them before (such as an initial contact asking if you want an interview, have you had one, etc). Specifically, whether I should use terms like Mr., Ms., etc. if I can deduce the office culture to be more casual than formal from things posted on twitter. Is twitter something I should consider? Should I be casual and address them by their first names or should I go with Mr. so-and-so?

Different people have different preferences on this. I much prefer people to address me by my first name, but I’m not offended when people don’t — but there are still some people left who are offended if you use their first name (although I think they’re rapidly shrinking in number). So I suppose if you wanted to play it 100% safe, you’d always use Ms. ____, but you could also argue that if you don’t want to work somewhere with a very formal culture, you should talk the way you prefer to talk and let people who don’t like that style screen you out.

I wouldn’t base anything on Twitter.

Whatever you do, don’t use Mrs. for women unless you know for sure that she prefers that to Ms.

How to address interviewers by phone

When interviewing with a recruiter or the manager by phone, should I go by Mr./Ms. Last Name or just call them by their first name? Because I feel as if calling them by Mr./Ms. is really old-school, especially if the interviewer sounds young, but calling them by their first name at the interview stage is inappropriate. When I do use Mr./Ms., the interviewers never really say, “Just call me….” Also, in the past when I went in for in-person interviews like volunteer positions, I usually called them by Mr./Ms. Last Name. I ended up getting the position, but I got kind of stuck calling them by their title and it was weird to have to somehow switch to calling them by their first name. Could you please clarify what is approproate for phone and in-person interviews, e-mails and cover letters? And if calling them by their title is better, how do I less awkwardling switch to calling them by their name when everyone else who works there is using the manager’s first name?

Totally agree. See above.

Salary negotiation

I always love it when you post suggested dialogue in a given situation. Can you give some tips for what to say during salary negotiation, specifically when you want to make a counter offer?

I wish. I suck at salary negotiation. But in general, I’m a fan of just being straightforward — “I could accept this offer if you could go up by $___.”

See? This is why I never write about negotiating salary.

Online applications that require salary info

I want to apply for a job but the application instructions direct me to their online web form.  Sure enough, the web form has the dreaded required salary box.  And it MUST be filled in to proceed.  The posted job description is 2 paragraphs.  Hardly enough information to know what the job should pay.  How do I get past this?  If I find someone in the company through a connection that gives me an email address of the hiring manager, am I going to be looked down upon because I didn’t use the web form?  That’s the only way I see to get around it, because it requires numerical characters only.  Ugh.

If you can email the hiring manager directly, do it, especially if you’re able to cite a connection who suggested you do that. If they want you to use the online application (which they very well might, particularly if they use an applicant tracking system, which more and more places do), they’ll tell you.

If you do need to use the online form, then yes, you’re basically at their mercy.

No-raise policy for lateral moves

It’s too late now because I took the job, but I’m wondering if it’s standard for there to be a no-raise policy in lateral moves. I work for a very large private university that really likes internal hires and encourages its employees to apply to internal positions. I’m moving from one School/College to another, from a department-level position to a college-level position – same title, same pay grade (hourly), but very different job description (and 2.5 more hours per week).

I have never negotiated a salary before, but I gathered my guts and tried to on this one (talking to HR guy on the phone). He just flat-out said there was a no-raise policy for lateral moves. I pointed out that since I’ve been an Administrative Coordinator for ~2 years already, there should theoretically be less training involved – no luck there either. His justification was that if you could get raises moving laterally, basically, everyone would be switching around all the time, which seems a little silly to me. Any thoughts?

Yeah, his reasoning was ridiculous. The policy isn’t necessarily crazy though — presumably they’ve set the salary range for the position as one that makes sense for them, and if it’s the right salary range for the work, then it’s reasonable for them to stick to it. They should get an HR guy who can explain salary policies better though.

Does “thanks but no thanks” mean anything?

I haven’t been getting any invites to interview, but I have been getting a “thanks but no thanks”  in response to my resumes. Does this mean that at least someone is taking the time to read what I’ve submitted? Is that a good thing?

It’s good in the sense that it means those companies aren’t joining the ranks of the many rude employers who don’t bother responding to job applicants at all, but I wouldn’t read anything into it as far the strength of your candidacy goes. Usually companies will respond to everyone or to no one (or to everyone who gets interviewed or to no one).

{ 25 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    For the salary negotiator: I’m an avid reader of the blog and recently, after taking the great advise on here, was offered a new job. It’s my second out of college and my first one I took the salary they offered, no questions or discussions (something I learned not to do again.)

    In getting the nerve to respond to a salary offer with a counter offer, I responded, “I would feel more comfortable with a salary closer to $X.” I went five thousand higher than the offer and a few thousand higher than I would feel comfortable, thinking they would return with something in the middle. (Also knowing I would have taken the job at their initial offer and made it work.) I also did my homework, and responded with an explanation of the cost of living differences since I would be moving. I used a salary converter online to figure some of those out.

    They came back a day later and gave me what I asked for! So I even got a little more than I expected. (And a great new job to go along with it!)

  2. JMT*

    Hi Alison,
    Thanks so much for addressing my question about the no-raise policy. I should add that the new and old positions are both grade 26, which covers from about $17 to about $27/hour, so there is some built-in flexibility (e.g. they could have given me a bump without going outside the norm for the range).

    The new job is going ok … I really did need a change, but am currently just-grin-and-bearing-it through some truly awful ‘training.’ The person I’m replacing moved up within the same office, so she has been responsible for showing me the ropes. She seems to be under the impression that I need detailed instructions on things like ‘how to print labels’. BUT I am assuming this will pass and overall am glad I’ve moved on from the old job.
    Thanks again for taking the time to address my question! :)

  3. GeekChic*

    I truly dislike people using my first name if I don’t know them. It feels fake familiar. I try to not let it show however since it seems that this is the “new normal”.

    I was raised to address people as Sir or Ma’am until told otherwise (my bosses and colleagues find me charming if archaic in this area). Even when told otherwise it’s usually Mr. or Ms. such and so unless I’m told I can use their first name.

    Entertainingly, I often get asked if I am from the Southern U.S. (nope – Canadian, thanks) or if I am former military (yes – but I was doing the Sir / Ma’am thing as a child).

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That reminds me of something I keep meaning to write about — I was attending a job fair recently on behalf of an organization I was doing some hiring for, and I noticed that every single job-seeker who came up to my table there (with only one exception) introduced themselves by first name ONLY. As in “Hi, I’m Alison,” rather than “Hi, I’m Alison Green.” Now, this was a group that tended to be primarily people in their 20s and 30s, but really? I’m 37 and it would never occur to me to to that in that context. I am apparently older than I realize.

      1. Karl*

        Not to excuse their lack of professionalism, but were any of them people with unusual last names? I’ll sometimes use my first name at the beginning, so that I don’t start the conversation with them wondering what I just said as my last name.

        For instance, before he became famous, I wonder if Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski (sheh-shev-sky) would introduce himself by his full name…

      2. Emily*

        For context, I’m 27 and have very common first and last names (among my generation and beyond). At a job fair, where I know recruiters are meeting a number of people in a short amount of time, I might introduce myself as Emily because what are the chances you’ll remember either of my names out of all the others you’ll hear that day? Better to make an impression as a real live person there in the moment and spend the time I have with your attention making myself memorable in a more relevant way. Make the connection, get my resume in your hands, and follow up later. But you’re the expert! Do I have the wrong idea?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I wasn’t holding it against anyone, but it definitely did stand out to me as weirdly informal for the context. It’s not so much that I’m going to remember their name (I’m probably not), but more that I just consider using your full name in an introduction to be the more professional way to go. But again, I’m not going to disqualify a candidate for that or anything!

  4. Jamie*

    I don’t mind the first name thing at all among adults – I don’t love when my kid’s friends just jump right in and call me Jamie – because my kids use honorifics when addressing their parents…but I know it’s just a difference in how they were taught and not intentionally rude.

    Intent holds a lot of weight with me – regarding how offensive I will (or won’t) find something.

    I prefer my first name be used at work – it saves time over people staring at my last name and trying to figure out how to pronounce it.

    I don’t know what it is about any longish, especially ethnic, last name which makes people just afraid to try. Mine is spelled just like it sounds…couldn’t be easier – but I take no enjoyment in watching people struggle so I just cut to “call me Jamie” pretty quick.

    Although sometimes when I’m feeling spiteful I want to reinstate my maiden name with a hyphen…and refuse to answer to anything but Ms. Impossibletoprounouncecorrectlyski – easiertopronouncebutevenlonger-ski.

    That should cut down the amount conversation around the office. Although I’m not sure Outlook would accept a name with that many characters…

    1. Emily*

      “Intent holds a lot of weight with me – regarding how offensive I will (or won’t) find something.”

      I really like this philosophy. Even if I can’t always “assume positive intent,” maybe I can try assuming neutral intent before I let something bug me.

  5. Jamie*

    Regarding ccing the co-worker – in this instance it seems strange, particularly if it’s directly involving the write up.

    But I don’t think there’s anything wrong on ccing a co-worker if the issue had directly affected the co-worker and it’s the email is a objective and non-emotional directive.

    For example – if one haven’t been doing a portion of one’s job and your co-worker had been picking up the slack then ccing that person with a new directive on how now that xy and z are in place you will be expected to complete the task in question daily seems okay to me.

    Now, I wouldn’t do it that way – it’s not a particularly elegant solution, but I don’t see anything really wrong with it as long as it’s not personal.

    Sometimes when people have problems at work those bleed onto other people – and it’s a fine line between maintaining the right to privacy of those who have productivity issues and the right of those affected to know the problem is being addressed.

    This is why I way prefer managing systems to people…computers don’t have any of those messy emotions to get in the way.

  6. The gold digger*

    RE: Last names. Default is Mr/Ms Lastname for writing the first time. It’s easy to get less formal. Not so easy to go the other way.

    I am not happy when people introduce me to their children by my first name and make sure to refer to myself as “Ms Golddigger” when I talk to the kid. I am also not keen on being called “Dude,” but that’s a separate issue.

    My first job out of college, I called everyone even a tiny bit older than I “Mr” or “Ms” because that’s how I was raised. You call adults by their last names.

    After I had been on the job for a few weeks, the VP, who was my dad’s age, pulled me aside and gently told me that we were on a first-name basis at that workplace.

  7. Kimberlee Stiens*

    Regarding online applications:

    I don’t work at a place that uses them, and some are definitely bad, but I really think that if I were a hiring manager at a place that used forms, I would definitely NOT want to see an application outside of that form. The form gives me the information that I want, and I can download info on people, direct compare, etc. If your application is outside that system, and the hiring manager has to go to a different place on the computer and compare different information, especially if there are lots of applicants, I just can’t see how that would work out well for you.

  8. Natalie*


    That’s sort of what I was thinking. There are only 6 people in my office and we collaborate a lot, so we are constantly cc-ing each other. Essentially, we use it to say “Joe, this is the resolution of that issue we talked about” or “Jane, I handled that request that came to both of us.”

  9. Anonymous*

    My company uses an inexpensive software that doesn’t allow us to deactivate salary expectation as a required field. I’ve gotten some creative responses to that field. Some people put in $1. Others put in a moderate base salary but put in the notes field/cover letter that they’re looking for a total compensation package that aligns position and the qualifications they bring to the job.

  10. Anon*

    Giving a raise for a lateral would undermine the value the company places on jobs in your pay grade. Basically what youre implying by asking for a raise is that your new job is somehow worth more than all of the other jobs in that pay grade. If that’s truly the case your manager should advocate changing your job to one in a higher pay grade.

    1. Slaten*

      In this particular case the job requires her to work more hours per week than she was working. Having said that… if you’re a salary worker you’re at the mercy of your employer.

      1. Anon*

        Slaten, I couldn’t tell for sure but it sounds like the job is hourly so even though the hourly wage doesn’t change the take home pay will be higher by working more hours so that argument is moot.

        1. JMT*

          It’s hourly, so yes, take-home pay is more overall (my personal consolation prize, I guess).

          One argument I made is that since I’m coming in with 3 years experience in a similar position, they would have to invest less training time. They’re also more-or-less guaranteed that I can handle the job (if in fact they’re correct that same title and same pay grade means similar difficulty/responsibility). And to reiterate from my comment above, there is a WIDE range within this pay grade, and in my particular case I’m below the midpoint. So a bump for me would have been quite possible without making me anomalous within the built-in structure.

          But like I said, it’s over anyway. :)

  11. Emily*

    Re: the co-worker CC. I think it’s poor manners to reprimand anyone via e-mail, and downright unkind to bring a coworker into it, even when the coworker is involved in the project. It’s possible to keep discussion about the project with everyone involved separate from disciplinary messages. It doesn’t seem illegal, though, and I suppose it could have been accidental. It’s nice to hear your coworker has your back.

    At least it wasn’t a BCC, a favorite move of someone I work with, though not closely. Positive or negative, big news or day-to-day, he BCCs someone on every message he sends. I’m guessing he does it to keep a duplicate record of all his communications or to retain witnesses, depending on the situation.

    1. Anonymous*

      This is what happened. I am a social worker and I have a supervisor. I work in a residential home for substance abusers.

      My clients, a couple, had a baby and the baby was in the hospital and they would visit everyday. This couple did not do their ‘chores’ because of this.

      well, my supervisor and the big boss decided to put the couple on ‘restriction’ which means they were stuck in the program for two days and could NOT see their baby in the hospital.

      I pleaded with them to let this couple go see their sick baby in the hospital. This couple also buried a baby two years prior and currently have their two yr old living with them in the program.

      I stated I felt that the couple should be on some time constraints but to not allow them to go is just plain cruel all over a stupid chore.

      Well, I let them go see their baby anyway.

      So this is what I got repramanded for, not following direct orders from my supervisor.

      This email conversation was then CC to my co-worker. It was directed to me and all about me.

      I am actually looking for another job, I went on an interview last week and hopefully I will be getting the call this week. The place I work for is so ‘unethical’, I just cant do it anymore.

      1. Anonymous*

        oh, I forgot to mention, the wright up wasn’t the issue, it was CCing. I realize I should of followed orders, but I got to tell you, i wouldnt change what I did.

      2. anonymous J*

        Good for you!

        I hope you find something better and more worthy of your skills and compassion!

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