short answer Sunday: 5 short answers to 5 short questions

Five questions, five answers. We’ve got a smelly boss, a CEO who takes up more than his share of parking spaces, and more.

Smelly boss

I’ve worked in an “open space” office for a year. My superior (who works at the desk right next to me) doesn’t wear deodorant. This bothers me less in the winter as she doesn’t sweat but in the summer I can smell her throughout the day. Last year I didn’t want to bring up the issue as I was an intern and was still worried about being offered a better contract here. This year as I have a bit more seniority and have developed a friendship with my superior, I want to say something to her about it. I don’t want to embarrass her, I just want to be able to work and breathe at the same time. How should I broach the subject?

This is a difficult enough conversation when you’re the boss. Bringing it up to your own boss adds a whole new challenge to it. Is there an HR department that could handle this instead of you? If not, whether you should raise it yourself should probably depends on (a) your boss’s likely receptivity, (b) your relationship with her, and (c) your own ability to handle awkward topics. If you decide to try, there are some tips here, but I’d take this one to HR if at all possible.

Verifying my degree after school closed

I’m about to do a marketing push to get some more clients so I am updating my CV, website, etc. The problem is that the school where I received my Associates Degree, which is the one that gave me the skills to be a Graphic Artist, went bankrupt and closed about 2 years after I received my degree. So if someone tried to contact them to confirm that I have an AS in Multimedia Design, they’d get nowhere! Of course, I’m in the UK now (the school was in California) so the likelihood of someone checking is probably slim, but still…

Generally when a school closes, its academic records are sent to a state licensing agency, which stores the records. You can find a statewide listing of these agencies here.

CEO is hogging our parking spaces

I work for a company that shares an office building with a number of other tenants. Our company has our name on the building as part of our leasing agreement, and I would assume that entitles us to some perks. Parking is currently adequate, but with new tenants moving into our building, the parking area is getting more and more full.  There are no reserved parking spaces, save for handicapped parking.

Our CEO parks of in the far corner of the parking area, taking up two spaces.  This action is, in my opinion, socially unacceptable.  In addition, the general consensus amongst the employees is that this is a display of extreme arrogance, and is bringing down company morale even lower than it already is. Normally, this would be something to be addressed by Human Resources, but we currently do not have any HR staff to bring up a subject such as this, let alone any other HR-related issues. Is it appropriate to point out to the CEO how his actions are affecting the morale of the company (leaving out my own personal opinion of him, of course)?  If so, how would you recommend broaching a sensitive topic such as parking without coming across as being petty and whiny?

Like with the smelly boss above, I’d want to know more about your CEO’s personality and your relationship with him before giving you a definitive answer (because if he’s prickly and/or a jerk, it’s probably not worth harming your relationship with him over parking). But you could also just approach him about the limited parking problem without mentioning his own habit of taking two spaces, and hope he’d make the connection on his own. Ideally this would be done by someone immediately under him in rank, rather than several levels down.

Should I be temping so I can explain what I was doing with my time in between jobs?

I was let go from my job in advertising 6 months ago. Since being let go, I’ve focused on finding another full time position in advertising. While I have not yet landed another job, I have been fortunate to go on many interviews. However, now that I am at the 6 month unemployment mark, more and more interviewers are asking me what I’ve been doing these last few months. So far, my answer has been that I’ve been focusing on looking for another job, volunteering (which I have been doing) and being more involved in my synagogue (also something I have been doing). But, now I wonder, should I start temping so that I can have a more solid “this is what I’ve been doing” answer? I’m currently receiving unemployment and am not yet close to running out. So, unless I get a long-term assignment (4 months or longer) would it make sense to give it up? (I’m in NY State). Also, many times when I do get called for interviews it’s last-minute, so wouldn’t temping, especially a long term assignment, hinder my availability for interviews and in turn, my chances at a full time job? Finally, there are very few temporary assignments in advertising at my level, so if I were to temp it would be in a completely unrelated industry. I should add that I did apply to a temp agency a month ago and have not been contacted for any job assignments.

If you wouldn’t be temping for financial reasons, but rather only to be able to mention it when interviewers ask what you’re doing, I don’t think temping has strong advantages over some of your other options, like volunteering. However, give some thought to the type of volunteering you’re doing: Are you stuffing envelopes one night a week, or are you taking on a substantial role or project? Ideally you’d take on something substantial; if it’s substantial enough, it’ll be way more impressive to an interviewer than temping for an unrelated industry anyway. If you’re having trouble locating the right volunteer project, check sites like Volunteer Match or your local volunteerism agency (most local governments have one).

Ruined job offer by asking for more time?

Can you weigh in on this?  I’m waiting to hear back from an interview with company A, a massive entertainment corporation.  Company B extended a job offer and gave me two days before the offer expired.  I asked them if I could have a week to decide and they pressed me on why and I mentioned that I was waiting to hear back from another company.  (Probably shouldn’t have done that, huh?)  To this, the hiring manager said “It’s OK.  I want to make sure both parties are comfortable.”  Pretty vague.  I emailed her, asking if she could extend the expiration date of the offer to next week and she said responded (copying HR this time) that if I really wanted the job, I wouldn’t wait for another company’s offer and should contact her after I hear from the other company and we’d discuss if the job offer would still be extended.  Being realistic, if I don’t get the job from company A, I really can’t (or shouldn’t) contact company B again, which is akin to sulking in with my tail between my legs.  What do you think?

Well, you don’t have anything to lose with Company B at this point, so if you don’t get the job with Company A, you might as well give it a shot. However, when you do, I’d try to find something to say to assure them that you really are enthusiastic about the job and not just settling for something you’ll be unhappy with. You could even just say, “You know, I haven’t had to juggle two different offers at once before and I wasn’t sure how to handle it. In trying to juggle both, I mistakenly gave you the impression that I wasn’t as excited about the job with you as I am.”  Meanwhile, I’m hoping you’ve already contacted Company A so that they know you have some time pressure here; if they’re not speeding things up in response, that’s pretty telling about the likelihood of an impending offer. (And you definitely don’t want to assume you’ll hear back from them within a week if you haven’t told them you have another offer; if they don’t know you have a deadline of your own, it’s very common for them to take longer than you expect them to.)  More on this here and here.

{ 24 comments… read them below }

  1. Wilton Businessman*

    re: Ruined job offer by asking for more time?
    Ask yourself if you really wanted the job at company B. If you do, you should take it and worry about what to do if A comes through with an offer. If you don’t really want the job at company B, what’s the problem? Politely decline and say you don’t think your heart is in it.

  2. Melissa*

    I have the smelly-female-boss-problem as well. In the winter, not so bad, but in the summer, every time she walks in the door, or walks by my desk, whew! There is no HR and there’s no way I’m bringing this up with her. I see it as something to endure, rather than saying anything, because in an office with only 6, I fear I’m the only one who notices. Besides, the Army has decided to move us yet again this summer, so I only have to put up with it for another month, but I “feel the pain” of the original poster and I’m hopeful he/she will be able to address the situation in his/her office without too many problems. Good Luck!

  3. Charles*

    per the CEO taking up two parking spaces:

    Is this really the issue?

    The reason I ask is that the OP states that the CEO parks in the “far corner;” which makes it sounds like he is aware of what he is doing.

    I know a few people that treasure their cars and intentionally take up two spaces because they don’t want dents on their cars. They all park away from others when there is room; they also have a longer walk to the store or whatever building they are going to. (On my old clunker, new dents might be an improvment, so I don’t do this; but certainly understand how those who treasure their cars do.) The fact that he is parking away from others means that he is trying not to be a problem. (unless I am reading that “far corner” wrong)

    So, I would suggest that the OP ask herself if the parking issue is the real issue. Or is it “projecting” on her part?

    If it is a real issue, then other tenants will complain to the building owner and they can handle it. Afterall, it really isn’t the OP’s issue unless she and her co-workers have trouble finding a parking space when they come into work. Or unless he were doing it in a handicapped spot or some other spot near the door. But, if he isn’t bothering other people (other than busy bodies) why make it an issue?

    1. Suzanne Lucas*

      I agree. I don’t think the parking is the problem at all. If the CEO was taking two spots near the front and some people were forced to park on the street, then that would be a problem. But, the OP said there was adequate parking.

      The problem is the OP perceives the CEO as being a parking lot jerk. In reality, the CEO may just really value his car, so he’s made every effort to protect the car without inconveniencing others.

      If it really was a problem, the building owner/management company would be the people to talk to about it.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        You know, I glossed right over the OP writing that they weren’t having parking shortages yet. If parking is currently sufficient, there’s no reason to say anything to the CEO, and I agree with others that OP and colleagues’ anger over this is about something else.

        1. Jamie*

          I thought the same thing, that this was masking a bigger problem. Phrasing like “socially unacceptable” and “extreme arrogance” don’t typically crop up when talking about routine parking issues.

          When I was learning to drive my brother in law (who taught me to park as far away as possible to protect your door from dings) told me that if you take up two spots you can end up with your car keyed. 20 some years later I’m still a far-away parker who has never taken up two spots…I like to think of myself as a paranoid pragmatist.

          And I am definitely not protecting a high end car – she isn’t even that fabulous (except to me, I love her) – but my point is parking, like a lot of driving practices, can stem from habit and are rarely intended to make a statement.

          Regarding this situation – as soon as parking starts to get scarce, if he’s still taking up two spots believe me when I say you won’t have to do a thing. People will be flooding building management with complaints…I know if someone was taking up two spots and I was street parking I would be beside myself with fury.

          But then when I was last on the job market I would swing by every place pre-interview and decline anywhere without off-street parking.

  4. Imran*

    CEO parking is really it an issue. Seriously! Mind tourism business. He is parking in ‘far corner’. If space is problem, land lord will tackle it.

    Need I remind he is CEO? He signs your paycheck?

  5. Anonymous*

    On the degree issue: I appreciate that this might vary between fields, but I suspect the questioner need not worry about verification of a degree from a bankrupt university. The mere fact that the university is bankrupt might tell the prospective employer all they wish to know.

    1. Natalie*

      Unless the university administration was teaching classes (hint: they weren’t) the fact that the university is bankrupt says absolutely zero about the quality of the education the LW received.

      1. Anonymous*

        The faculty are responsible for getting grants from external sources. It would appear that they weren’t very good at it, which in turn suggests that this wasn’t exactly a leading edge place.

        1. Robyn*

          That doesn’t mean I didn’t learn what I needed to learn when I was there. Yes, I’m the LW.

          I happen to have a fairly successful business thanks to that failed, private, institution and what it taught me. And it wasn’t a university. It was basically a vocational school.

  6. Anonymous*

    I used to work in an office where one of the men would run at lunch. That’s great to take charge of your health. But then, he’d be hot and sweaty, and there’s no point showering until you stop sweating, right? So, he would walk around the office carrying his sweaty t-shirt, and wearing only those little men’s running shorts. LOL. We did have a suggestion box that no one ever used. Finally someone typed an anonymous suggestion about office attire. Problem managed!

    1. Anonymous*

      I dated a woman who ran at lunch and then returned to work without showering. I have no idea what the odor situation was since I was never around her after lunch but I found it very odd. It reminds me of my mother who is a middle school nurse. She has a zillion conversations with kids who don’t quite get that they need to bathe every day and especially after gym class. I guess some people never get it. Working with stinky people is no fun.

    2. AZ*

      I had a manager who would run/exercise during lunch and then use a muscle pain gel which had Menthol in it… you could smell it two rooms away. Obviously no one felt ok about saying anything about it.

      I also had a manager who when we had a work social would put on so much perfume you could practically see the trail of her path through the office and could cut the air in the ladies loos with a knife. Again no one would confront her.

      /I hate having allergies/asthma – one of which is perfumes, and I can’t stand Menthol either – because if I mention such things I’m the one being awkward. The asthma attack after going into the ladies loos isn’t fun either..

    3. Jamie*

      I have never worked in an office with an anonymous suggestion box, but I’ve worked in plenty where it would have come in handy.

      I don’t understand walking around the office in stinky work out gear, but then I don’t understand changing into said gear in your office…with a window and no blinds…and then telling the woman who complained (okay, me) that she was too sensitive.

      I think there’s a bigger issue here when it comes to the working out thing, and it’s the blurring of boundaries between work and home.

      When people spend so much time in the office – over and above the 40 hours – it’s only fair and reasonable that the employer be okay with some flexibility for a phone conference with a child’s school, or being flexible when the odd appointment cannot be scheduled off hours.

      And I do understand why some people treat work as an extension of home, we’re here more than we’re home and if you typically answer email and take calls during most of your waking hours away from the office (and some non-waking hours) it is harder to draw the line.

      But if you’re gross at home your family loves you, and also probably feels free to tell you to take a shower when you get home from the gym before you sit on anything and get your funky sweat everywhere…your co-workers can’t. Your co-workers may like you, but they don’t love you…so I think everyone would be happier if we all remembered to use our company manners at work more often.

      I’ve noticed this about myself as well, the longer hours I put in and the more unappreciated I feel at a given time the less I filter my sarcasm. Tired + put-upon (even if it’s just my perception) will equal a blurring of boundaries for me every time.

      Nothing horrible has happened, yet, but I’ve driven home enough times kicking myself for not keeping my mouth shut that I’m really aware of it.

      Maybe things were better back when people were really off the clock at the end of the day.

  7. Mike C.*

    That’s one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen written here.

    An institution of higher learning can go under for many, many reasons that have nothing what so ever to do with the quality of education. So long as the accreditation is there, it doesn’t matter. You’re simply trying to find reasons for fault where none exist.

    1. Robyn*


      You said what I wanted to say above only without the childish name calling I was about to resort to!

      No idea why I care, it was 20 years ago and I’ve done continuing education since then, but I did learn a lot there!

  8. KellyK*

    If you decide that bringing up the body odor thing isn’t worth it, can you make your own immediate environment smell nicer? A little gel air freshener on your desk maybe?

    1. Jamie*

      I think this is a great idea. It’s not a perfect solution, and it really stinks (pun intended) that it’s necessary – but personally the alternative isn’t a conversation I’d be willing to have.

      I just don’t know how I would ever be able to have a professional conversation with someone if we’ve once discussed my being offended by their odor.

      I know I’m wrong, and a huge wimp, but I will do anything to avoid having personal conversations at work – even if that would mean keeping an air freshener within sniffing distance at all times.

      Oh – and since some people are super sensitive to scents (I’m among them – migraines from certain fragrances) some of the light air fresheners like clean linen and ocean breeze from febreze do work well without being overpowering.

    2. Aimee*

      Something with a citrusy scent will help – I used to keep hand lotion with lime or grapefruit scents at my desk and would just put some on when people decided to eat lunch at their desks. It worked to cut down on the odors for me, but it wasn’t enough to bother anyone who might be sensitive to a spray or other air freshener. Plus, my hands were always nice and moisturized.

  9. Anonymous*

    Re: School. At this point in your career, your clients will not be checking into your degree. Your work speaks for itself! The positions that would require a degree most likely also require a higher level of education; i.e. a BFA, MFA or some such

  10. Interviewer*

    There are plenty of jobs that require background checks, even ones that do not require university education. Many of these checks are conducted by outsourced companies who will confirm degrees granted directly with the institution and report the findings back to the potential employer. Passing these background checks would be a condition of employment. Clients do conduct background checks on consultants or contractors as well – my company does.

    So no, the work does not always speak for itself.

    An institution that has folded would increase the level of difficulty in checking on a degree, but it happens and we work around it. I’ve made copies of original diplomas and certificates. Report cards or transcripts would be good, too. Be proactive to have these things ready for the client who asks.

    1. Anonymous*

      Are you in the UK as well? I am only asking as I never worked with a client who required background checks on degrees. I did work in high end advertising, where most things are freelance, job to job.

Comments are closed.