7 short questions. 7 short answers.

Yes, it’s another short answer post. We’ve got seven short questions and seven short answers, including whether you can negotiate salary at a nonprofit, whether you should take a job at your mother’s office, what on earth is wrong with kids today, and more. Here we go…

1. When rejecting candidates, should I mention their sloppy emails?

I manage a research lab at a large university. I’m hiring for a prestigious summer fellowship and I’ve received applications from undergraduates nationwide. The job ad directed them to email me their application. I am shocked at the number of emails I receive that are written in text speak or have no punctuation/capitalization. A sample: “i applied for you program and y was wondering when you will notified the students if they are selected or not?”

Is this common? Do they really not know that it’s inappropriate? These are all undergraduates who will not graduate this spring, so they might not have a lot of application experience. Should I tell them in the rejection email not to do this? If so, what do I say?

I wouldn’t say it’s widespread, but it’s certainly not as rare as it should be. You’re not under any obligation to give them feedback (you’re an employer, not their career coach), but it would certainly be a favor to them if you did. If you decide to, I’d say something like, “One thing I can suggest that might help in future applications is to be really careful about the way you’re presenting yourself in emails. Many employers will discard your application if you’re not using correct punctuation, capitalization, and so forth; it can come across as overly casual for this type of correspondence. I hope you don’t mind my saying it, and I hope it might help in your search.” Lots of people will be grateful for the advice, but a few will send you really nasty emails back, so be prepared for that.

2. My new job wants me to only give a few days notice

My new role at a very sought-after company has offered me a job, but wants me to start in 4 days. My current role is under-staffed and although they can most likely handle it, I feel awful giving less than two weeks. The new role can be flexible with the start date, but they only have one start date a month (policy for training) and they have suggested strongly that although they respect that I want to help my current work out, they ideally want me to attempt to start next week. I don’t want to burn bridges at my old job, but I’ve only been there four months and most likely they will be omitted from my resume. Additionally, my new job is giving me a 25% pay increase among other amazing benefits and I’m worried that if I don’t accept it now that they may feel the need to fill it and push my start date out until there is another opening in the same department.

Not giving two weeks can really burn bridges and harm your reputation, so don’t get pressured into it. Instead, talk to your new employer and explain that you value your professional relationships and your reputation for reliability and don’t want to leave your manager in the lurch (and that you’ll give them the same loyalty). Ask how essential it really is that you start in four days. If they won’t budge, you must be profusely apologetic to your old employer, mortified, etc. And offer to do whatever you can to help in the transition, even after you’re gone.

3. Negotiating salary with a nonprofit

How do you negotiate salary with a nonprofit? They often start salary discussions with “You know we’re a nonprofit,” like that means non-for-pay. Is it even worth asking for more than what they offer?

Yes. Nonprofits vary wildly in their salary structures. Some pay ridiculously low, and some pay competitively. You can usually get a sense of their finances by looking at their 990s on guidestar.org, which will show you what the five highest paid people there earn (although obviously more junior roles will pay less). In any case, you can negotiate salary just like you would with any other job. Some will negotiate, some won’t, and some will be taken aback that you tried — but that’s true in any sector.

4. Applying for a job at my mother’s workplace

I am thinking about applying for an opening at my mother’s place of employment. She doesn’t always speak highly of the organization but she doesn’t speak too badly about it either. I would not think to apply for the position if it did not have the potential to boost my career into the right direction. It is an administrative position at a nonprofit organization. My goal is to one day become a director or program coordinator of a nonprofit organization. I have enough of the qualifications for the job in order to give it a try. It is a small organization and I know that I would even be working with my mother. My mother and I work well together but I don’t want this to be too much of a conflict of interest. What do you think I should do?

Have you talked to your mother about it? Personally, there is no salary on earth that could convince me to work with a family member, but different people handle that dynamic differently. The most important thing you can do is have an honest discussion with your mother about it. Talk about how you’d handle different worst-case scenarios (one of you gets fired and the other is stuck working with the person who fired her, etc.), and then decide. However, if one of you would have managerial authority over the other, this is a non-starter.

5. “Sincerely yours”? Or “Best”? Or something else?

I am job hunting, and with every cover letter and email I send, I wonder what closing to use. I have always been a “Sincerely yours” person, but it has been almost 20 years since I looked for a job, and what I see now are “All the best,” “Best” (which sounds truncated), “Best regards” (what does that mean?) and “Cheers” (cheery but maybe not professional?). I don’t really care for any of them but I don’t want to sound old and outdated by saying “Sincerely yours.” What is your humble opinion?

Any of them are fine. I use tend to use “sincerely” or “warm regards,” depending on the letter, but I don’t think anyone really cares which one you put. (If they do, consider yourself glad they screened you out so that you don’t end up working in their weird world.)

6. Disclosing a health issue at work

I have a great employee, high marks all around, who works part-time and has major and ongoing health issues, We’re a small company (15 people) and her coworkers have probably guessed, but she wants to let them know much more. Mostly because sometimes she can get very stressed and be in pain and that leads to some nasty behavior on her part. (Verbal only, stemming from low blood sugar and chronic pain.) She’s asked me whether this is a good idea, and I can think of reasons for and against. Any advice or guidance would be much appreciated!

If she wants to disclose it, I wouldn’t discourage her. Very often people are more understanding of bad behavior when they understand the reasons behind it. That said, don’t let her think that verbal nastiness is okay, even if there’s an explanation for it. It’s not fair to subject her coworkers to that regularly, and it will impact her relationships, especially if she doesn’t appear to making a major effort to control it.

7. Renegotiating a raise

I have been working at a multimillion dollar small family business for almost 2 years. I am not related. I was hired for less than I was worth, but needed work. I have received a couple of raises since then and promised a promotion in April. I am now in charge of hiring replacements for my position. My boss has given me a salary range for them which is more than I was making and not much less than I will be. My responsibities are increasing even more since being promised the promotion. I have performed very well and have tangible things to point to. Their busy season is coming and I am the only manager left as the others were fired. Can I renegotiate the raise I am going to start receiving? Should I just be appreciative to have a job and a raise?

Normally you don’t want to base a raise request on what other people are making, but these are people who you’re going to be managing, so it’s a bit different. Say this: “Looking at the pay scale for the chocolate teapot makers, and the increase in my responsibilities as teapot czar, I’d like to revisit the question of what’s fair for my position. I’m currently making $55,000, but we’re hiring people with much less responsibility for $52,000. Given the work I’m doing, I’d like to talk about adjusting my salary to something in line with the market.” (Of course, you need to go into this conversation knowing what the market rate actually is.)

By the way, one quibble — when you say you were hired for less than you were worth because you needed the work … well, I know this sounds harsh, but if you weren’t finding higher-paying work, that’s a message about what your market worth actually is. In other words, if you can’t find work at the salary you think you’re worth, by definition that means that your market worth is lower (at least right now). So I’d try not to think of yourself as working for less than you’re worth — which I know sounds callous, but it’s worth remembering.

{ 139 comments… read them below }

  1. Andrea*

    Ugh, I hate “Best.” It seems brusque and maybe even a little condescending. It’s like a brush-off. I don’t love “Cheers,” either, but that might be because my sister uses it, and she’s annoying, so it comes across as annoying to me, too. And it seems unprofessional.

    I still just use “sincerely.” Maybe that’s old-fashioned. Whenever I email colleagues, I usually just use an em dash and then my (real) name. (With students, I use a dash and my last name.)

    1. Elizabeth*

      With more casual emails, I often end with “Thanks,” followed by my name on the next line, but I wouldn’t use that in a cover letter. I’d stick with “Sincerely” for formal correspondance like that.

      1. JT*

        I’ve been using “Thanks” very very often in email correspondence, even with people outside my organization. If I’m asking for anything, even their attention, I think it fits well. Maybe it’s too informal?

        1. Michelle*

          Currently, I’m using “Sincerely” in my cover letter. I use “Thanks” in email a lot too (or “Thank-you” if I don’t really know the person). I don’t like “Cheers” though. I’m not sure what it is – I don’t even like saying it as an alternative to good bye. Maybe it just sounds overly informal and unprofessional to me.

          I tried “Kind Regards” at the end of email a few times but a couple of long time coworkers laughed at me :) All depends on the office culture I guess.

        2. Catherine*

          The letter closing refers to yourself, so I think that signing, ” Thanks, Catherine” (if I were writing), is simply incorrect. It would be thanking *myself*.

          Obviously, I do see it a lot, and I don’t take personal offense because I know what writer *intended*, but I do read it as a bit careless.

          Perhaps signing yourself “with thanks” would be a similar but better alternative?

          1. khilde*

            I never thought of it this way before! You’re right!! I think I’m going to start using “with thanks” because it’s still informal, but unique. Thanks.

    2. Anonymous*

      I use “Best” or “Best regards” a lot. “Cheers” I exchange with my European friends (because really that’s how they end it so I just mirror).

      I never answer “Thanks,” because I feel that is basically assuming someone is going to do something for me, and I also don’t believe it is a let out for not having to thank someone once they come through for you.

      And Andrea, I didn’t know who to answer and the thread was starting to get complicated so I’d just answered yours which is what started this particular thread of comments.

      1. kris*

        It could just imply that you are thanking them for taking the time to read their message in which case it’s not asking for something.

    3. Eva*

      I use “Yours” because it seems less formal than ‘Sincerely,’ but now I find myself wondering if anyone has a negative reaction to it? I’d sure like to know if I’m obliviously turning some people off with my closing!

  2. Andrea*

    That said, if I were a hiring manager (I’m not), I would never hold that kind of thing against an applicant. But I do think people read into closings.

  3. Anonymous*

    Re #2: I would do my best to find a way to make up those two weeks. I think your short tenure there could only make things worse when leaving on short notice. That being said, if possible, offer to work on weekends, or remotely to help the transition. I doubt they would take you up on it, but it would go towards smoothing things over.

    1. JT*

      Yeah, weekend or remotely in the evenings a bit would be very good and show you really care but are in a tough spot. That should create some goodwill with the old job.

    2. Julie*

      Alternatively, unless the training is all-day, perhaps you could attend the training at your new job and spend the rest of the day at the old job for two weeks.

  4. Anonymous*

    Your response to #7 made me giggle and now I’ve decided my new career goal is to work my way from Chocolate Teapot Maker to Teapot Czar.

      1. Laura*

        I want to be Grand Overseer of the Teapot Czars. We should develop an entire career track on chocolate teapot production! :-)

  5. anth*

    I dont know if HR in the new company would agree to this, but could she do the onboarding in 4 days (take that day/morning/afternoon off from the regular employer she will give 2 weeks to) but not join the new company to begin work until the later date? That’s annoying that they only do this once a month and that they haven’t yet found a reason that this is not a great policy. (Twice a month for instance, problem solved. Or after every pay period, which is presumably 2x/month or every two weeks.)

    1. NicoleW*

      I really like this idea. Complete the training (I’m guessing it’s a few days) and return to the old job to finish out the 2 weeks.
      Whatever the OP decides to do, I think being really honest with both old and new employers will help. Like AAM said, apologizing profusely to old job if you decide to leave. Or, showing your excitement to your new employer, while confirming that you can’t possibly start in 4 days.

  6. Lexy*

    Wait, is question #2 moving from one position in the company to a different position in the same company? I didn’t get that at first.

    Does that change the answer or did you (Alison) feel that way whether it’s an internal position or not?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Nope, sounds like a different company. It IS a bit different if it’s internal though — you can often work things out more informally (but then have even more reason not to screw over the old department, because you’ll be continuing to work with them).

  7. Esra*

    Does anyone know if there is a Canadian version of guidestar.org? I tried googling for it, but couldn’t narrow things down. /works for a non-profit /totally wants to know what her boss makes

    1. Holly*

      Does your nonprofit post their 990 on their website? I ask because mine does (donors are nervous about donating unless they see that, apparently, and can be reassured it’s tax deductible) so I was able to look it up really easily.

      1. Esra*

        Thanks JT! That has exactly the info I was hoping for. Alas, looking at the top ten rates, I am suddenly not hopeful about my potential for a raise hahaha.

  8. Jaime*

    #2 – short notice – This reminds me of a call I once had to monitor. The recruiting staff were actively encouraging/pressuring new hires to give short or no notice to their current jobs. Their boss was NOT happy. She, rightly so, told them to cut it out and asked them what would they think if their competitors were doing to the same thing to them. She was pretty awesome.

  9. Broke Philosopher*

    #1: as a recent grad, I am so VERY confused about this apparently widespread problem! Even unpaid internships are extremely competitive, and when I was in school, I often had to go through multiple interviews, send in writing samples, etc. It boggles my mind that there are college students out there who don’t realize that every aspect of their application, from clothes to emails, needs to be professional.

    #3: I’d never heard of guidestar but it looks like a great resource. Is it something that nonprofits actually use? I worked as an unpaid intern at a nonprofit a few years back, and there were some issues so major there that I kind of want to leave a review, since everything on charitynavigator and guidstar right now is positive, so people don’t know the truth…

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s the go-to resource for this kind of info for nonprofits (which are required to make their three most recent 990s available to the public anyway). But it’s not for individual reviews.

    2. Anonymous*

      It boggles my mind that there are college students out there who don’t realize that every aspect of their application, from clothes to emails, needs to be professional.

      I’ll give you something else that will boggle your mind. A relative of mine, who just graduated from college last year, cannot address an envelope properly. She sent my parents and me a thank you card for her graduation present. Instead of writing on the envelope “Mr. & Mrs. Doe & Family (or my name),” she wrote out “Jane, John, & Alice.” No last name, no prefixes, nothing! I’m surprised she knew the format of the rest of the address! Um, isn’t this something you learn in elementary school?

      Oh, and to top it off, the card was late (graduation was in May, the thank you sent out in late August), and the thank you card even mentioned it being late within its poem. WTF?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        For what it’s worth, I would assume she was simply being informal because she knows you. I think lots of people (myself included) have moved away from always using the formal versions that we were taught of things; it’s a more informal culture now.

        1. BC*

          Yeah, but no last name? Does she think there’s only one Jane, John and Alice in the world? lol

          1. Laura L*

            Well, there are only 1 of each of those at the address she sent it to….

            The postal service cares more about address than name. And zip code is the most important part of the address.

            I could address a letter to Vampire Lincoln at my parents’ address and it would still get there, if I had the rest of the address correct.

            1. khilde*

              Aside from the sound workplace advice, the other thing I LOVE about this blog is the irreverant and hilarious comments from other posters. Laura – your “Vampire Lincoln” did it for me today. I’m chortling so hard I can barely breathe…..

        2. Anonymous*

          Even if she just wrote “Jane and John Doe” that would have been all right. It just looked very strange and uneducated for her to send something via mail without it looking a little bit proper (and I know she’s not since she went to a great school district and great college). And even though the person below states that the zip code and address are the most important, there was just definitely awkward. It makes me wonder if she was writing home if she would just write on the envelope “Mom and Dad.” But I can see writing names without the last name if you were handing over a card, like at a birthday party.

          1. Laura L*

            I still maintain that it’s not really a problem. I’ve addressed (mailed) cards to Mom & Dad in the past. I don’t do that anymore, just because I don’t, but I don’t think it’s a problem.

          2. Nicole*

            I always address my mail to Mom and Dad, Grandma, etc. As several people already mentioned, the post office doesn’t care who it’s addressed to; they care about getting it to the correct address. To be honest, you come off as very condescending and “holier than thou” because of how adamant you are about this. There’s nothing wrong with informality in a personal situation.

            1. Anonymous*

              You are entitled to read into my wording like that as I am entitled to my opinion. I have noticed many times on this forum that my opinion is in the minority, and perhaps some of you might find me “out of touch,” “outdated,” or whatever other adjective fits. But here, with this particular example, in my opinion, it shows how informality is trickling down to many aspects of society. Our OP says it has been put into emails for applications. I’m showing you how it has shown up in personal correspondences.

              How can it make me condescending and “holier than thou” when children are still taught to put the recipient’s full address on an envelope in schools?

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Okay, I agree we shouldn’t be getting into name-calling here. To each her own, and it’s good to be reminded that some people do look askance at informality…

              2. Anonymous*

                One thing, it sounds like you are assuming that this is some newfangled thing. I can assure you as the child/grandchild of mail carriers that this is not a new occurrence as a result of “informality trickling down”. Also consider that mail has been sent to Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Daddy, Mommy, Occupant, and Current Resident for years.

              3. Vixen*

                I am way too formal. It’s because I’ve taken to listening to librivox.org (books 100 years old or more) and I rarely “talk” during a typical day. So then I say strange things…like “you shan’t question my honor”. So, you see, everyone expresses themselves differently and they don’t need to be met with hostility for doing so. Perplexity, however, is perfectly understandable.

            2. Sandrine*

              In Paris, if you send a card labelled

              “Mom and Dad
              Number, street name,
              ZIPCODE CITY”

              no one will get it unless “Mom and Dad” is on the box. Name and last name have to be on the box. If, say, you send a card to John Doe who lives with Janie Denny, but only Janie’s name is on the box, no one will deliver to John unless it’s always the same postman on the same route.

              So nope, nothing wrong with informality in a personal situation, but there are places where putting vague info on the envelope wouldn’t fly :) .

      2. Ellie H.*

        I address cards like that. I’m 24 and will address a card ‘Aunt Sue and Uncle John’ sometimes. Because it’s informal and, I think, kind of cute (it is what I call them after all). Shockingly, I do know their last name as well. It seems really weird to me that that bothers you. I am peeved by late thank you notes too and make a concerted effort to do them promptly but in this day and age it’s more rare to receive one at all!

          1. anon.*

            When I was a kid, my brother used to send for various things and he would put our cats name – but a much more formal version. We loved gettting mail for Mr. J.J. Chiquito, Esq.!

            Also, my sister has been including her cats name on family cards, evelopes etc. for almost 20 years now (yes, hers is almost 20 y.o. and mine were 22.5 and 19 when they passed away last year. All from the same mom cat!)

            Sorry to get off topic.. lol

            1. Catherine*

              When I was younger, my sister and I would share magazine subscriptions, and to avoid any fights, my mom would always order them in our cat’s name. But when mailing items to my parents’ cats, I tend to use first and last name (for the cat, of course).

              1. Andrew*

                About 20 years ago I had a magazine subscription in my dog’s name (given by a friend as a joke). Even though I’ve since moved three times I still get lots of junk mail addressed to the dog.

        1. Anonymous*

          Are you addressing the inside of the card or the envelope? I’m talking about the outside of the envelope, not the card. Of course the card will write “Dear Aunt Jane and Uncle John…”

          1. Ellie H.*

            The envelope. The USPS doesn’t care what you write. Can’t you even not write a name at all, just the house number? Of course that makes it likely that the recipient would consider it spam.

        2. Andrea*

          I frequently make up titles for people when I send funny cards or something. I put their actual names and correct addresses, but underneath the names, I’ll put “King and Queen of the Turnip Festival” or “Lord of the Dance” or “Miss Butternut Squash” or stuff like that.

          …Because it tickles me, that’s why.

          1. Kelly O*

            My brother is forever known as Captain Awesome, and yes they will deliver a birthday card to Captain Awesome, so long as his address is correct.

            When he got his job at a law firm, I put Captain Awesome, Esq.

            1. Laura L*

              Awesome! I wish my brother would call me Captain Awesome.

              Also, I love that you added the Esq.

        1. Anonymous*

          I’m just someone who believes that not every single piece of tradition should be thrown into the wind. And what’s wrong with a little bit of formality, even with family?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Nothing at all wrong with some formality. But nothing wrong with informality either, especially something as common as listing names informally on the outside on an envelope (which I do think is now quite common)!

      3. KDD*

        I’m mostly shocked that someone even mailed a thank you card! I thought I was the only “old school” person who did that.

        1. Andrea*

          Yeah, no kidding. I still send them, but then again, I like to send cards and things in the mail. Personally, I would have gotten my thank-you note sent a little earlier, but the time right after graduation can be a very busy time–most people are moving and looking for jobs and stuff. A thank-you note with a poem in it sounds sweet to me. And I usually address things to aunts and uncles like: Aunt Nan and Uncle Doug Martin, so the last name is still on there. Either way, I don’t think it is worth getting upset about.

        2. Ellie H.*

          I write thank-yous too. It’s just polite. I agree that August is a little late, but I don’t think it’s inexcusably late especially when you consider that post-graduation is so busy as Andrea said (and I too like the idea of a “Belated thank-you” card the same way there are “Belated birthday” cards! It DOES sound sweet). My mom sends something to all her nieces and nephews occasionally (all in their 20’s and 30’s) and she usually only gets thank-yous from one or two of them, which is a bit disappointing.

          1. Long Time Admin*

            I send birthday cards to my brothers, sisters-in-law, sister, nieces and nephews plus spouses, and my 22 grandnieces and grandnephews. I get two or three thank yous, and it is a bit disappointing. But I keep doing it because they’re far away and I like to remember their birthdays.

      4. Anonymous*

        As someone who graduated a couple of years ago from college and had to write thank you cards, I don’t think this is strange at all.

        You’re her relatives.

        Would YOU honestly address a letter to your parents, or your sister, or your aunt/uncle as “Mr. _____?”

        I don’t think so. To be honest, if you did, I think they would be the ones saying, “Jeez, how rude, calling me Mrs.____, clearly she does not know how to properly address a letter!”

        1. Anonymous*

          I always address the ENVELOPE:

          Mr. ______________
          1234 Street Name
          Town, ST 00000

          The card, note, letter, whatever inside will be:
          Dear Uncle Mike,

      5. The Other Dawn*

        I see nothing wrong with writing just first names. I’ve done that before. I would only do that with family and friends. I wouldn’t do it for someone I don’t know well.

        As far as it being late, I wouldn’t say 3 months is late. Beats not getting any “thank you” at all. If it was November, then yeah, that’s late.

      6. KayDay*

        Wait, this is your relative you are talking about? Why should she need to be so formal with you? I’ve addressed envelopes to “Dearest Mama” my terms of endearment for my mother) before, when sending her a mother’s day card for example. i know that there are other mamas in the world who are dear to someone, but considering that there is my mom, my dad, and their cat and that house, I don’t think there is any confusion about who the letter is going to.

        On the work side, however, I do like job applicants to show that they have knowledge of standard business procedures/formality (full names, addresses); even if that level of formality is only used for applications and communications with super-high level external people.

      7. Anonymous*

        I’m actually going to answer my own original here about my opinion that I stated here, which to some think I’m completely rude and condescending.

        First, this is solely about the envelope. Not the letter. I’m not as weird as some of you think. I do not write in the letter to my uncle as “Dear Mr. S-.” It’s “Dear Uncle F-.”

        Second of all, this is what I was taught in school to which my parents reenforced when I would send out letters, cards, etc. This was to everyone we know – family or friends. Now, to look at it from the other side, from all that I have seen sent to my house, every envelope was addressed either as “Mr. & Mrs. Soandso” or “John & Jane Soandso” with the address obviously following it. This is the first time I have ever seen an address just written as “John & Jane” – without the last name. So quite frankly, to me and other family members, it was the weird one. I have even mentioned it to others outside of the family, and they thought it was absolutely funny to hear this envelope was written by a college graduate.

        So while I do see your points – that informality is deemed acceptable to this degree (regardless of what the post office wants on the envelope) – this is where I’m coming from. If you still think that it is condescending, then that’s your prerogative as it is mine to continue as formal. It was to answer the OP who was saying how people are writing informally on applications, and to me, this was also a way of things going by the wayside.

        And a thank you to AAM for politely disagreeing with me. Others resorted to saying that I was uppity when in fact it is still something taught in schools (to have the recipients FULL NAME). If you all feel so strongly about it to say that about me, then perhaps you should go to your local schools and complain to them about halting the teaching of formalities to the children since we, as a society, do not need them anymore apparently.

        I rest my case. Do as you like with it.

        1. Charles*

          Hey, I’m “uppity” too then!

          I agree that the OUTSIDE of an envelope should be addressed in a formal manner. It would look rather “childish” to not be.

          My nieces and nephews (and other cousins) who send snail mail to me always have addressed the outside as “Mr. Charles (or Chip since that is what they know me as) Lastname.” The Mr. and Lastname are always included; inside it is something entirely different. I would also like to point out that all the folks I am talking about here are under 20. And, kudos to the kids who address me on the inside of the card as “my favorite uncle ” as I am a real sucker for flattery, sincere or otherwise ;)

          I don’t really see this as anything other than showing someone that you think highly enough of them to be polite when politeness is called for.

        2. Anonymous*

          From my perspective it’s isn’t 100% what your saying, but also your tone. Again, just my opinion, but you sound like your condemning anyone who does this as either ignorant of the formal process or unable to be formal in other circumstances. Because I send a letter to Joe or Jane who is a family member or friend, does not mean that I cannot conduct myself appropriately in the business context. I think your making a correlation that isn’t there.

          Honestly, I doubt that people who send in the kind of applications and inquiries the OP mentioned are people who make a habit of writing letters, cards, notes etc.

          One last thing that I mention above in another response, I am a child/grandchild of mail carriers and I know how to address and envelope formally. I also know that I choose note to and put something silly instead, my mail will still arrive.

          1. Nicole*

            Yes, absolutely. What didn’t sit well with me is the implication that addressing an envelope informally = uneducated and clueless.

          2. Ellie H.*

            Me too. It just seems condescending and even mean-spirited to imply that someone who addresses a card in a friendly and colloquial way, appropriate for sending to family members, is ignorant and poorly educated. Especially when this individual is a young relative!

              1. Kathryn T.*

                Fourthed, and I went to honest-to-god Charm School and read etiquette books for pleasure. Never forget that etiquette is ultimately about making people comfortable.

        3. khilde*

          I think when I was younger I probably used first and last name. But somewhere along the line, I just started writing out the last name and calling it good.

          123 Cherry Street
          XXX, XXX

          I do that for the address, as well as my own return address. It’s faster and I think still addresses all the basics.

  10. quix*

    While I agree that you shouldn’t use language like “paying me less than I’m worth” in your workplace negotiations or with your boss, but outside that area it’s not an inaccurate perspective to have.

    If you’re worth enough to the company that they WOULD pay more if they had to (you add enough value that you’re worth paying more for), but they currently don’t because they know you have no better options or there are plenty of other qualified unemployed people looking for your job, then it’s reasonable to say you’re being paid less than you’re worth.

    It’s a question of whether you consider “worth” how valuable your contributions are, or if it’s how strong your negotiating position is.

  11. mh_76*

    #1 – When I receive emails from “recruiters” (vs. real recruiters) that contain bad spelling and/or grammar, I consider them to be spam. I would move on to other candidates who can write a proper email.

    #2 – How geographically far apart are the current and the new job? Would they both be amenable to you overlapping them each part-time? I know that some employers let transitioning employees overlap a current and a new position within the same company but don’t know how that would work with two different companies. AAM, do you think that it’s worth asking?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Interesting. Maybe. I could see some employers being okay with it, and I could also see some wanting you to be fully focused on their stuff once you start. It’s hard to say without knowing what kind of vibe she’s getting from the new employer. (Sometimes I wish people would send me tape recordings of the relevant conversations so that I could know what the vibe is and give a more targeted answer.)

      1. Charlie*

        I knew there was a reason I kept my dictaphone! I will carry it round with me at all times, just in case… ;-)

        Oh hang on, I already, do, an iPhone would record that… O_o

  12. anon-2*

    I once received a cover letter that had an aura to it that is all too common these days. You see internet posts like this – that have a sentence of 200+ words or more, with no punctuation. And they follow no set rules of English grammar.

    Considering that the position required written communication skills, this candidate didn’t make the interview cut.

  13. Annon*

    on #7– How do you determine what someone is worth anyway? I’ve seen people who are paid way more than what they’re worth… You know, the ones who are on facebook and youtube all day, slips out of work 30 mins early everyday, take 2 hours lunch break, etc. They get paid more to do nothing than the people who actually do their work– all because they’re more “outgoing” and can make the boss laugh?

    here’s another example: i have a friend who worked through college- internships and such, got good grades, went to interview seminars, had teacher recommendations, etc. and just couldn’t find a good job. They did everything in the book.

    While another friend who didn’t do so well in school (never graduated for a matter of fact), pretty much didn’t do a thing to try to prepare for life after college.. but yet got a good job all because of “connections”. She actually went into the interview ( a well known company) in flip flops and still got the job. The interviewer did tell her that they normally wouldn’t hire someone like her because: #1 what she wore was not appropriate, #2 : she did not have enough work experience, #3: she does not have a degree, #4: she needs to improve on her interview skill– and yet despite all of that she got the job…

    anyway, my point is… maybe this person did try their best to get a higher paying job, but just couldn’t catch a break. So I don’t think it’s fair to say that their market is worth lower. Just my two cents!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Let me explain what I meant by that: Your market value is, quite literally, what the market will pay you.

      Now, it may fluctuate based on market conditions. For instance, during a time of high unemployment, your market value (for many fields) will go down, because the market is flooded with people able to do the same work as you. More competition for fewer jobs means that you’ll probably command a lower salary than in times where you’re more in demand.

      It’s not about your inherent worth as a person — it’s about the price your skills will get in this market. And if you’re finding that you can’t get hired at the salary that you want, that means that the market is telling you that your market worth is lower than you were hoping. By definition. That’s what market value is.

      Make more sense?

      1. JT*

        I don’t think that’s completely true. Imagine ten people with the same abilities to perform the job but different characteristics in other ways. For example, one has no savings at all and can’t afford to wait to get a job – he’s got to take the first offer that comes along. Another is a far above average negotiator. Both of those people will likely end up with different pay than the others. The market value is based on what the labor of those workers with some adjustment for the *average* “job desparation”, negotiating skill, etc of all the workers on the market. If a particular person is a much better or worse negotiator, or has other circumstances that make him/her special in terms of accepting the job (not in terms of doing the job) they may end up with pay above or below market.

      2. MaryTerry*

        It’s the same thing with houses – it may be worth more in another location or at a different time, but its market value is only what someone is willing to pay for it.

  14. quix*

    I think there’s a difference between [1] your worth as a person (which isn’t really applicable here), [2] your market value (how much an employer has to pay you to get you to work), and [3] what you’re actually worth to your employer.

    A worker brings value to his/her workplace or (s)he wouldn’t be employed there. That value may be difficult to calculate in many cases, but that’s the worth to the employer, and it’s a separate consideration from what they have to pay.

    It seems like Annon is complaining about employers misjudging both [3] and [2],the actual value the employee brings to the company for reasons of cronyism and favoritism, and by implication an overrated market value of those people.

    The value of networking and developing positive supervisor relationships is a separate question, but I don’t think Annon was really talking about worth as a person.

    1. quix*

      wish I could edit, because I’d say that you did correct a misunderstanding of what market value was.

    1. Kelly O*

      Bob, I hate to say it, but it doesn’t to me. I work all day with pretty much English-only speakers in a part of Texas that is not too keen on other languages, and I can easily see that coming across my screen in a work email.

      My personal “favorite” is the email with horrible grammar and punctuation, but with “Regards,” embedded in the signature. So you have this horrid message with a rather formal sign-off. It makes me laugh and makes my head hurt all at the same time.

  15. curious*

    re: ‘working for less than I am worth’
    Companies offering me salaries that were 1/2 of my previous salary irritated me as well, until I changed my way of thinking to

    This position is worth this much budget to the company. That is what they are willing to pay for this service, within a reasonable negotiation range. It doesn’t matter what my previous company was prepared to pay me. If I hired a rocket scientist to clean my car, I wouldn’t want to pay rocket scientist rates, because I just want them to clean my car.

    1. The gold digger*

      Exactly! The job is worth what the job is worth. I get really tired of some salary comparisons I see where the justification for certain salaries is that “X% of the people in this sector have a master’s degree!”

      If the job is cleaning toilets, it doesn’t matter if the cleaner has a degree. All that matters is if he can clean a toilet.

      There are some jobs where you get an automatic raise if you get an advanced degree, yet I have seen no evidence that the advanced degree makes the person better or more productive at the job.

      The job pays what the job pays.

      For what it’s worth, I have a master’s degree but I clean toilets for free. What a ripoff.

  16. Anonymous*

    In other news, I just received a resume that listed 7 e-mail addresses on it, as well as a photo that resembled a mugshot.

  17. fposte*

    I’m troubled by #6 and the seeming acceptance of “nasty behavior.” I know AAM already pointed this out as a problem, but if she’s being actually nasty *to* people? That’s a situation that management needs to handle on its own, and her disclosing her health problems doesn’t meet the standard of handling the situation. And again, if we’re talking real nastiness, not just impatience or quick frustration, it’s possible that her bringing up her health problems is going to be poorly received–it could look like she’s been officially given license to cut people up. Don’t forget *all* your workers need support, not just her.

    1. OP for #6*

      Thanks fposte for weighing in on this topic. Her nastiness was a single event, and prompted her to not only apologize immediately, but she reached out to the person she’d been rude to and talked about what she can do to fix the situation in the future. (The two of them have a history of not getting along in a very specific instance and they knwo that and they are working on it). So it is more that she crossed a line, realized it, did her best to fix it, and is wondering whether revealing more about her health will help people understand her perspective. I also got the impression that she is hoping people will say ‘are you low blood sugar?’ as a way to help her realize she is approaching the line, before she crosses it.

      1. fposte*

        A one-off incident that she handled well subsequently is definitely in the reasonable column, so thanks for clarifying. But I’m now uneasy about the possibility of her anticipation that that 1) other employees are responsible for keeping her in line and 2) that they’ll regularly ask her health questions, whether with that goal in mind or another. I really don’t think you want this to happen–are they then going to ask the bipolar employee if he’s off his meds when something annoys him? Have her tell them about her health issues for understanding, sure, but not because they should then bring the issue up themselves or because they need to do anything about it, and help her be clear in what’s a reasonable expectation of her colleagues upon knowing.

  18. KayDay*

    Re: #3 Non profit salaries: When I first started my career at non-profits (in an unpaid internships) one bit of advice the employees gave us was to *always negotiate*. However,to get an idea of how much more you can negotiate for, it can sometime help to keep in mind where the money for the salary comes from. If you apply to a position that is 100% funded by one specific grant (you will often find out in an interview if this is the case, these are also sometimes 1-year contract positions), definitely try to negotiate, but also understand that if they budgeted for $40K & benefits for the grant, and offer you $38K, you won’t be able to get them to go up much. If it’s a purely administrative position (and by administrative, I mean everything from receptionist to CFO) they will probably try to keep those salaries fairly low, in an effort to keep their overhead low. On the other hand, they probably don’t have the same restrictions as a grant funded position; you just need to make the case why you are worth more. If it’s a program position that works on multiple grants, you probably have the best chance of really getting somewhere with your negotiations. (These are all generalizations, of course).

    Also, I definitely second Alison’s suggestion to check out their 990. Non-profit salaries vary widely, but try to find a non-profit salary survey online (they are out there), then compare the salary’s from the 990 to the average.

  19. Catherine*

    I work in a university IT-like department, and we get a lot of emails from students, ranging from well-written to stilted to average to so bad I don’t want to answer. I know good email writing is crucial to most of these students’ futures, and I wish there was a way for us to provide feedback to these students, both good and bad.

  20. Laura*

    I’ve also noticed that “Cheers” tends to be much more common in IT areas. I’m not sure why.

  21. Siobhan*

    Well, I was the mommy question. Guess what? They filled the position! That is okay though I was not completely comfortable with the idea anyway. I have a friend who worked with her mom and after doing so they both got fired from their position not too far apart. So, I understand that there are pitfalls. Thank you for answering my question.

  22. Charles*

    I agree with Bob – #1 does sound like to might be a non-native speaker in which case a criticism of their English might not be nice; but, that is just one sample. Since the OP states that this is rather common, then it could be carelessness or unprofessionalism and a “heads up” would be nice. The real question, at least in my mind, is how does the OP decide who to give feedback to and who not to? Perhaps, a generic comment in the email to everyone after selections have been made worded in such a way as to let everyone know that this was a problem. Will those who need this not see it and will those whose emails were fine think it is about them?

    #2 – new job wants immediate start. I, personally, would see this as a red flag, doesn’t anyone else? If they are so willing to have the OP “screw” another organization what’s to say the new company would have no problem with screwing its employees? How ticked off will this new company be if/when the OP decides to leave in a few years and doesn’t give “proper” notice?

    As far as the explanation of “policy for training,” let me address that as I often do new hire training. Yes, it is nice when all new hires start at the same time; But, the reality of it is they all cannot. So, some will have to postpone their start date, others will have to spend some time at work w/o the benefit of training; and still others will have a “special” training just for them. It shouldn’t be just the new hire being flexible here – the “very sought-after” company should be too. Again, that they are not being flexible is a red flag to me.



    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Agreed — the company presumably wants her giving them proper notice when she eventually leaves. OP, you might even mention that — “I know you wouldn’t want me to leave on short notice either, and I take those commitments very seriously.”

    2. NicoleW*

      I wouldn’t jump to assume it is a non-native English speaker. I get many similar emails unfortunately. Here is one recent one (name changed):
      “Hello. Im Stacey. Recently I put my resume in and wanted to know what to expect now”
      This is the full text. There was no period at the end, no closing, no last name.

  23. Lauren R*

    I just gave notice of two weeks, but my boss is pissy that I didn’t give three. He also cut his contribution on my health insurance early even tho I am staying til the end of march (march paychecks pay for april, but he told me that i would be responsible for all of the april premium)

    I told him last thursday, he countered 20k more then left for florida. the next day, I told him no to the counter, and he wrote me a scathing email too, which i may send to you.

    by monday, he pulls me out of the office for 1.5 hours to tell me about his wonderful plans for the company, and told me not to decide right then (um decided on friday). The next morning i told him again i was still leaving. He calmly berated me with one liners, between 20 minutes of sitting across each other in silence mostly.

    my aunt thinks I should have waited til monday to tell him in person versus the email when he was away, but he is notorious for thinking notice is a negotiation and didnt want him to think monday didnt count as a full day regardless of telling him in the morning plus he has in the past with others that left deemed his final acceptance of your notice as when the 2 weeks starts. I was adamant that I was only staying until march 30th, esp after he pulled the insurance BS on me. which i didnt bother complaining about, just counting the hours now.

    every further interaction with him, in person or email since my third notice (thursday in person, friday by email, and tuesday in person) just reaffirms that i made the right decision but he is claiming that I am leaving them in the lurch with not staying thru report week (1st wk of april) even when I know he is considering letting 4 of my 7 clients go when I leave; possibly 5. He has 2 new people starting in 1-2 weeks, and i will train one of them on reports before i leave (she was hired to do reports before i gave notice), but keeps implying that I am ungrateful, making the wrong decision, hurting him personally by leaving, destroying everything i have done / learned in the last 4 years at his company, and making him regret every decision he has ever made in his career. I really need to send you that email. This is a man that on last wednesday I was only worth 52 k but then suddenly worth 72k on thursday. how i have all this power and suddenly deemed so important is rather amusing especially since i am not a manager and only says Sr. on my resume because i put it there when I was transitioned from supporting accounts to having my own clients.

    1. Mike C.*

      I think it’s time to leave. Forget this crap about “burning bridges”, with people like this the fact you are daring to leave at all is burning a bridge. They take it as a personal affront and it’s really an unhealthy attitude. In much the same way that one can be fired without notice, I feel one should be allowed to leave without notice.

      It’s interesting that we’re having a discussion on market values for labor a few posts above, yet we forget that this market idea goes both ways. Your boss should understand that, and so should your coworkers. Maybe they should have treated you better, and will use this as a lesson in the future. Hahaha, just kidding, I’m sure your boss will browbeat everyone else who tries to leave for a better paying job.

      I’ve got an idea for you: maybe your boss should have realized that paying you too little would cause you to look for work elsewhere and maybe he should have given you that $20k raise earlier. Maybe he should also put on his big boy pants and realized that if he was introducing this risk of employee flight he should have had a back up plan when people leave.

      Don’t buy into his guilt trip – employment is a mutually beneficial business deal. If you’re so damn important why is the raise coming out now? Why is he verbally abusing you? It’s bulls*** and you know it. If you can, get out today.

      I used to work in a sweatshop of a laboratory. All sorts of safety issues going on, low pay, clinically abusive bosses, the whole nine yards. When I received my offer, it was a pay raise of 70%. I clocked out, bought cake for the office and announced that I was quitting and packed up my desk in ten minutes. With the exception of senior management, I received hearty congratulations from everyone. People know when you work at a bad place, and sometimes you need to exercise your right to get out!

      1. EM*

        Heh, makes me feel better about how leaving my last job went. I got a job offer while my boss was out of town, so I respectfully waited a week until he returned (pushing my start date back) to give notice in person. There were all sorts of issues with the company I worked for and the manager of the office I worked at, so I just wrote a simple “My last date is x. I will be working for Y company.” type of resignation letter. Fast forward 3 days, and I get a cryptic phone message from my boss to come in to the office right away (I had been working in the field). Boss informs me the company will accept my resignation immediately instead of allowing me to finish out my 2 weeks notice. He then proceeds to demand I give him a government ID card I had for one particular project, saying it’s government property. It is true that the card was government property, but it was my responsibility to see that it went where it needed to go, and I frankly just didn’t trust him to do it. He had a history of lying and being generally unreliable, so I was afraid he’d either forget to turn it in or not do it out of malice. We argued back and forth a bit until I finally had to tell him that I didn’t trust him to return the card and that I would do it myself. I still laugh at the absolute look of shock he gave me when I told him that. Not a great way to leave, and I still see him very occasionally at industry meetings. Ugh.

    2. Andrew*

      Forgive me, but all I could think about while reading this was the earlier discussion about sloppy writing.

        1. Lauren R*

          He doesn’t like that I wrote in one long sentence, and rambled throughout my story.

          Dear Andrew,
          It’s a blog comment. Grow up! Is this comment more suitable, your Highness?


      1. EM*

        Wow, is this really necessary to say something like this? One of the reasons I enjoy this blog so much is the civility on the part of the commenters. Please don’t lower the generally high tone set here.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I agree. Anyone being uncivil or thinking about being uncivil, cut it out. You are basically at a salon in my living room, so act accordingly!

      2. Lauren R*

        Ok, I was wrong to go there. Getting negativity from work doesn’t justify my mean comment, and I shouldn’t take it out on anyone else.

        I’m sorry Andrew.

  24. Anonymous*

    #1 – Some people are speculating that this sounds like an ESL person, just wanted to weigh in and say that I worked for a University for 4 years in front-line customer service (dealing directly with students) and emails like this are common from native English speakers. I could write a book on the terrible emails I’ve received.

    1. Another Emily*

      I agree. I met a lot of people who spoke English as a second or third language when I went on a student exchange. They all were university students who learned English in secondary school. They would make mistakes, but more due to making a literal translation from their native language than sloppiness. The quoted phrase from #1’s letter just looks sloppy to me. I think it’s more common for native English speakers to make that sort of error. People who speak English as a second language (once they have a good command of it) tend to be more correct.

  25. HB*

    #2- Another option might be if you were able to have your official “start date” in the next month, and then work out a schedule where you do contract work for your new company a certain number of hours per week through the transition. I was in a tough situation like this when I left a job a few years ago – I accepted a new position but my old job wanted me to finish out the rest of the month (which was a little over three more weeks). Luckily, my new job was understanding and paid me hourly to work from 4-8pm a few nights per week until the official transition could happen. Usually if a company has offered you a job, they are pretty invested in you and wouldn’t yank an offer just because you need some flexibility in start date!

    1. mh_76*

      Definitely worth asking. I’ve seen a colleague leave a job and work as a contractor (including training a newcomer) for a couple of months afterwards. I think that she made more per hour as a contractor than she did as a “permanent” employee.

  26. Kelly O*

    Oh, and I have to add – no, you don’t want to work for your mom’s company.

    I left a job at a very large university because my ex-husband worked there and when I left him, he kept finding reasons to be in places that I was. (Normally our paths never connected unless we wanted them to.)

    My husband got fired from the company with which I am currently employed. It is the weirdest thing in the world to deal with his replacement, the comments I hear (because my desk is in the general vicinity of the IT department), and just generally be professional and polite.

    Oh, and then a good friend, who was also my boss, decided to take another opportunity, so I deal with that fallout too. And yes, I’m actively looking for something else. But it’s weird.

    So take advice from my experience. Just say no.

  27. Suzanne*

    #1 is something that sets my teeth on edge, too. I get personal emails from so many friends and family members who seem not to understand that the rules of punctuation DO apply to electronic communication. It’s not just the young people, either. I always hope they don’t send out work-related emails that are so poorly put together. It truly mystifies me. Why would a well educated adult think it’s ok to send an email with no capitalization whatsoever? But I get those all the time.

    1. Nethwen*

      If it’s older people, some of them are uncomfortable typing, especially on a computer keyboard. They stare at the keyboard as they peck away, so focused on finding the letters that capitalization completely leaves their minds. Or if they do remember to capitalize, they don’t remember how to do it. Then when they look up at what they typed, they don’t actually see what is there – their mind is consumed with finding the send button or remembering what to do next after typing. The problem is only compounded when someone can’t see the screen well and isn’t comfortable adjusting brightness, increasing text size, or otherwise doing things with the computer to help themselves. These people often are skilled at whatever their professions are, but their computer and typing skills are taking longer to develop than they do for most people. Also, not everyone of “grandparent” age was able to finish school, so they simply might not be aware of certain spelling and grammatical conventions. Another misconception I see is that because they are writing online, what they learned about proper written format will make them seem “old” and so they try to copy the “youngsters” and use all capitals or no capitals or whatever they think will make them fit into this new culture.

      This isn’t an excuse for bad spelling and punctuation, but knowing the context does help me be more patient when I know the kind of person the email came from. Then again, I teach a computer class for these people, so I’m talking about the ones who are working to educate themselves.

      1. EM*

        I have a friend whos mother (who is in her 60s) types emails in all caps. When my friend informed her that it is the internet equivalent of shouting, she disagreed and insisted that all caps are easier to read. Um, no.

        1. Nethwen*

          There’s an easy fix to this, unless you have a physical reason that prevents it. Never use the cap locks key. Use the shift key to make capital letters. I’m not being sarcastic; I wanted to mention it because not everyone realizes the shift key can be used to make capital letters on a computer keyboard.

      2. The gold digger*

        Yes. My dad’s 80 year old cousin sends me emails in all caps. He’s not stupid or uneducated, but in his career as a mechanical engineer, he didn’t type or use a PC. Whenever I get one of his emails, I just think, Oh well, that’s Al for you.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          My dad is in his 70s and he uses all caps. He has arthritis in his hands and it’s just easier for him. Of course, most of the time he doesn’t reply to any emails anyway since typing is getting harder for him.

  28. Suzanne*

    I’m thinking of 2 offenders in my circle in particular. One is a mid-50ish RN and the other a 20 something who is almost finished with his MBA. Both send emails that are stream of consciousness and unedited and unpunctuated. I really can’t understand where this comes from…

  29. Joanna Reichert*

    Regarding #5 and signatures, I’ve switched to using, “Cordially,” in all of my initial emails concerning business. It’s even in my cover letter. It’s polite and offbeat – just like me. ; )

  30. Sean*

    Is it bad that I feel bad for the employer in #1 that they had to read that, and embarrassed for the job-seeker that they actually had the little sense to send something like that?

  31. Carrie*

    Having worked in non-profit area for the past 4 years, I have to add my 2 cents on the last one. I interviewed for a job that would have been perfect and I was totally qualified with education and experience. Training time would have been minimal. The problem was the pay. They did not want to pay me for what I had to bring to the table and yet wanted to utilize all my experience as cheaply as possible. I told them maybe they should look for more entry level candidates once they told me what pay I “qualified for”. I was kinda insulted. I now work for a nonprofit who recognizes and pays a decent salary for my special skills. I completely understand that I won’t be a millionaire working in nonprofit, but these organizations also need to realize I’m paying for my education with what you pay me and you must make it worth my while.

  32. JuliB*

    If you’ve worked somewhere 4 months => 16 weeks, it seems a bit much to expect nearly 12% of your employment time there as ‘notice’.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m not sure what the 4-months thing refers to, but for better or for worse, two weeks is the professional norm. If you don’t comply with it, you do risk burning bridges and harming your reputation.

Comments are closed.