fast answer Friday: 7 fast questions. 7 fast answers.

It’s fast answer Friday!  Today: you’re about to manage your best friend, your coworkers call you “missy,” you can’t drink what you damn well want to drink at work, and more. Here we go…

1. Stuck at the front desk past the time I’m supposed to leave

I am a recent college graduate working as an unpaid intern at a small mental health agency. I am very grateful to have found a position in my field, working with good people, and I have been learning a lot. The problem is, I sometimes feel I am being taken advantage of. Most afternoons, I am asked to sit the front desk of either of our two offices and answer the phones while one or both of the receptionists step out for lunch or to pick up their kids from school, etc. I don’t mind doing this, except that they leave around 2pm and often don’t return until 3:30 or almost 4pm. The schedule my boss and I agreed to when I was hired was 9:30am-3:00pm because I work as a waitress at night and my shifts start at 5:00. Is there a professional way of asking them to either take their lunch break a little earlier or return to the office sooner? I don’t want to overstep the boundaries of my position, and I want to continue to show that I am willing to do whatever task is needed around the office, no matter how big or small. But I really can’t stay at the office that late. How should I address this situation, and with whom?

You’re not overstepping by letting them know that you’re supposed to leave work at 3:00. Just say this to both receptionists: “I leave at 3:00 every day, so I can only cover the desk until then.” Then, if that doesn’t fix the problem immediately, go to your boss and say, “How should I handle it when it’s 3:00 and I’m supposed to leave but Jane and Bob aren’t back from lunch yet?” Your boss will almost certainly step in and fix this for you.

2. What does indirectly managing someone mean?

Recently I applied to a job where I would be indirectly supervising eleven employees. In my current position, I supervise student staff. Depending on the shift, I have three to six student staff working with me at a time. Between my five co-workers and I, we have a student staff of up to sixteen depending on the semester. How should this be worded on a resume? Should I put “I directly supervise up to six employees” or “I indirectly supervise up to sixteen employees”?

I’m sort of confused by this question, but here are the definitions you need. People who you directly supervise are people who report directly to you. There’s no other layer of management in between. People who you indirectly supervise are managed by someone you manage. So for instance, if you manage Jane and Bob, and Bob manages Kara, you indirectly manage Kara. See? So you only “indirectly supervise 16 employees” if those 16 are managed by people who report to you.

3. Drinks on the desk: is this legal?

In California, is it legal to tell an employee that she is not allowed to have any drink on her desk that isn’t a clear water bottle that was purchased at work? My logical mind says this can’t be legal. Her desk is not visible to customers but she is still told that she cannot have coffee, soda or a bottle of water she brought from home at her desk – only a clear water bottle that she has purchased at work. Help!

California has a whole set of employment laws that are different from the rest of the country, so who knows. But generally speaking, yes, this is legal. They don’t even need to let you have drinks on your desk at all.

4. I’m about to become my best friend’s manager

I’m about to become the manager of my best friend. We have been equals/coworkers for 5 years and she will be demoted during our re-org. I have little hope that this will go over well, but the reason for my question is this: She frequently leaves work early to pick up her son from school. Her husband dabbles in part-time work, but he’s always been available to pick up their son from school. He’s frequently at doctor appointments and schedules the appointments in the late afternoon, which “requires” her to take off work to pick up the son from school. I’ve briefly mentioned that they should look into after-school care if this will pop up frequently, or even a few days a week so the husband can schedule his appointments on days the son goes to after school care. Both options were met with a “this hardly comes up, so why bother?” So far, she’s taken off 30 days early to pick her son up from school, over the last 7 months. These days do not include her own doctor appointments, days worked at home for the plumber/electrician/roofer to come over (husband doesn’t want to deal with house stuff), or sick days. We are all exempt employees in this department. How should I handle this when she reports to me?

Ooooh. This is either going to destroy the friendship or your ability to manage her. Either way, it’s going to be a bad situation. Anyway — you should set standards for her without regard to your knowledge of her husband’s situation, which is irrelevant. Let her know what you expect in this area, and then hold her to that standard. If your office is one that allows people to work flexible schedules, that might be an option her — but the main point is that you need to treat her like you would any other employee and not let your knowledge of her husband play a role. Your bigger issue is going to be the transition from peers to manager/managee — it’s hard/impossible to manage your best friend under any circumstances, but a best friend who’s cavalier about this stuff when you’re not is a much bigger problem.

5. Applying with an employer who recently rejected you

If I applied for a job, interviewed, was not chosen, and saw a posting for the same place a month or two later, how would you feel as a hiring manager at seeing my application come across again when you were not interested at a different time? Would it be awkward? Would you be willing to interview them again? Would you want to talk to other candidates and ignore them altogether? I just see these positions where I know who the managers are and I wonder, since I wasn’t chosen one time, should I try again?

Yes, try again. There are plenty of reasons why you might not have been chosen last time but could be this time — often there’s one slot and multiple good candidates, so lots of good candidates are getting rejected. However, mention in your cover letter that you’ve spoken previously; it would be weird not to note it. And if you get rejected twice, you can always ask for feedback and if it’s worth your continuing to apply.

6. Phone interviews when you have a cold

I have several phone interviews coming up this week, and I’ve caught a cold that is affecting how my voice sounds (think: frog). I’m going to try to control it the best I can with medicine and hot tea, but I’m worried about how my tone will come across to someone I’ve never spoken with before. I hate to start an interview off by making excuses for myself, but should I mention to the interviewer that I have a cold?

Yes. Nothing weird about that. It’s not “making excuses”; you’re simply explaining why your voice sounds froggy.

7. My coworkers are calling me “missy”

Several of my co-workers are older than I, but I am in a higher position on a small staff. I am very much a team player and am always willing to help with tasks for the team, even ones which aren’t on my job level, because it gets the work done. They know I support them and it builds camaraderie. Lately, two of them have made it a point when I have been in error, which I certainly am occasionally, to call me “missy.” Here is an example: “Well, missy, you approved that without seeing you have it on the other calendar.” In fact, the one person knew the other had fixed it so she was waiting for me to mess up. The reality is, it was my AND her error. My feeling was, no big deal as long as it got fixed before others were included, great. That’s why we cross check, but it felt just nasty. Am I being overly sensitive? It seems to be happening more frequently, or maybe I am just noticing it more.

No, it’s weird and inappropriate for the workplace and I wouldn’t like it either. Just say something the next time she says it — “Hey Jane, I don’t like the ‘missy’ thing. Thanks.” Assert yourself before it gets worse!

{ 92 comments… read them below }

  1. Pamela G*

    #2. I think the OP is saying that out of the 16 student staff they employ, she will supervise 3-6 of them each shift (and who they are will change each shift). So she’s supervising all 16 of them at some point, but only a maximum of 6 at one time (but would presumably need to know their personalities, quirks, and how to manage all 16). How would the OP go about describing that on her resume?

    #3. I’d purchase the water bottle at work and then keep taking it home and refilling it!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Ah, okay. If she manages each of them, just at different times, but in any given week there are 16 of them who report to her, she’d say she “manages 16,” because just as you said, she’s dealing with 16 separate people as a manager.

      1. EB*

        I’ve actually worked at a academic library and been responsible for hiring students/assistants for the circulation desk.

        In both the libraries where I worked (one of which I was not the supervisor in charge of hiring), there is actually a person who is in charge of hiring and scheduling all student/assistants for particular departments. When I was that person, I would list myself accordingly as directly supervising all student staff (and my manager as indirectly supervising them).

        However, in many circulation departments of larger libraries staff trade off manning the desk {as they usually have other duties as well that go better without interruption). While manning the desk, that staff person is supervising X number of students/assistants each shifts. However, these staff members are not responsible for hiring, firing, and scheduling the students/assistants. Furthermore, they do not supervise them beyond the scheduled shift and particular duties assigned during that shift (and mistakes or stats issues regarding charging and discharging books are reported to the hiring manager because these are often caught after the student/assistant has finished his/her shift).

        When I was one of those people I listed myself as supervising only the number of students/assistants who worked per shift, even if the students/assistants rotated, because I only was in charge of X # of students/assistants per shift. I did not list myself as indirectly managing all students/assistants because I did not supervise them in any capacity or regarding duties outside of the shift they worked with me. These assistants were just assigned to supervising staff at X number per shift (even a lot of discipline is handled through the hiring manager).

        Maybe my characterization of indirect reporting is wrong and I really indirectly supervised all the assistants, even when not in charge of hiring. However, the OP library person needs to be careful about how their experience is portrayed and look at how assistants are hired within their library. If moving to another library, listing yourself as supervising all the students, even indirectly, could give the wrong impression of your job duties.

  2. Guy*

    Unpaid interns being taken advantage of!? Say it ain’t so!

    I’ve been put in a similar situation and unless I was feeling really nice that day, I would just let them know “this is the time I am supposed to leave and I have other things to do, so I have to go.” Then I would do exactly that.

    Anyone that wouldn’t be understanding of the fact that you don’t want to put in overtime doing something that you’re not getting payed for to begin with is just unreasonable. I know most people say you should go above and beyond the call of duty with internships to increase your chances of getting a job, but I feel that you shouldn’t let people start treating you like an employee but not pay you like one. A line needs to be drawn.

    1. Anonymous*

      I agree with this. Too often, the “go the extra mile” advice is used to guilt people into doing things that are beyond reasonable, but you can be sure that the extra tasks won’t be seen as anything extra when review time comes; by then, it’ll be expected. Why can’t the people at lunch go the extra mile and actually come back from lunch when they’re supposed to?

      I remember that post about the girl who was walking around her retail store during her break and got stopped by a customer. Her supervisor said she should have helped the customer and “adjusted the time later” (translation from someone who works retail: “Spend your whole break helping them and come back exactly when you were supposed to. You won’t get in trouble for working off the clock, but you sure won’t get a break either.”) Comments here indicated she should have found someone to help them, which sounds reasonable unless you actually work retail and know that she probably stored her radio if she even had one and would have to wander around hoping to run into a coworker, thereby losing her break anyway.

      Unfortunately, in this economy nothing is seen as extra anymore. You need to run twice as hard just to stay in the same place.

      1. Anonymous*

        The way I see it, the ‘extra mile’ should be something you do when you’re already there and it wouldn’t interrupt your own work (or make you miss lunch) to make someone else’s day easier. Staying late one day because Nancy’s husband was in a car accident is one thing, provided I didn’t have something important I needed to do. Staying late every day so Nancy and Brenda can take 90 minute to 2-hour lunches isn’t the extra mile, it’s a systematic extension of the hours I agreed to when I started there. Doing this to an intern is even worse because now they’re essentially taking the place of a paid employee for those extra hours, which is a big no-no.

  3. JT*

    The other thing about unpaid overtime is that it’s great to do it occasionally, in an actual crisis or exceptional circumstance. That’s showing you care and can make a good impression.

    That’s totally different than doing it all the time, which is being taken advantage of.

    1. Anonymous*

      Yeah, and unpaid interns should never be doing work other people are PAID to do… FLSA anyone?

    2. Mike C.*

      No, it’s not “great to do”. It’s not showing that you “care”, it’s showing that you’re either a doormat or being taken advantage of by terrible labor laws.

      1. Esra*

        I <3 your comments, Mike C.

        I agree that you can make a great impression for being there in a pinch, but you should still be compensated.

  4. MaryTerry*

    #4 – Since you mention the reorg isn’t going to go well, I would especially work hard to be a good manager. Document everything. If it helps you, work out ahead of time what you expect from her and your other direct reports, in writing if necessary, and go over it with them one-on-one. In addition to you not taking into consideration her husband’s situation, is she likely to pull the “friend” card?

    I worked for my best friend for 3 years, but she hired me with us both knowing she’d be my manager, and we mainly kept work & personal separate. We discussed up front and frequently how we would deal with things. Thinking back, it was probably harder for her than for me, and we both were professional, conscientious and proficient. Incidently, she was the best boss I ever had, and I wasn’t the only person who ever said that.

  5. The Other Dawn*

    2. What does indirectly managing someone mean?

    What about people who report to someone else whom I do not manage? I directly manage two people, but I frequently give direction to others in the company that are managed by someone other than me. Would this qualify as indirectly supervising?

      1. Liz in a Library*

        Would this be the same terminology if you manage staff that are direct reports of your manager (not you), and who the manager also manages? I know that sounds more complicated than it is…

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Who do they report to? (Who assesses their performance, makes hiring/firing decisions about them, etc.?) That person is their direct manager. If you are in charge of assigning them work, etc., but without being their direct manager, “functional supervisor” is accurate.

          1. SCW*

            I was an assistant manager and was told I had firing power and was a manager, and did evaluations, but the staff was not really divided into direct reports and I typically would work with my manager when there were serious problems I’d been observing with staff, before a decision was made. Neither of us did hiring, and let me tell you it took a LONG time when we wanted to fire someone, and it was a decision made by those above both of us. I’m excited that in my new position I will have a more clear cut position. But during the interview when they asked about how many people I supervised I told them the number that I assisted my boss in managing.

  6. Joey*

    #4. Remember she’s exempt so keep your focus on the work that’s not getting done or any other negative impact to the office instead of what time she leaves. And you can’t treat her like every other employee, only like every other exempt employee.

      1. New Boss (OP)*

        Yes, we are all exempt in this department.

        She recently told our current boss, during her review, that she had a few things coming up that she needed to leave work early for, but it shouldn’t matter since she wasn’t that busy. It’s this type of mentality that I’m struggling with on how to manage. My firm belief – if you are bored or do not have enough work to do – come ask for more, I’ll find it for you. It doesn’t justify leaving early, consistently, exempt or not.

        If I need to leave early – even for dr appointments, I try to either come in early, work through lunch, or both – simply showing good faith.

        1. Vicki*

          Oh gods, save me from someone who will “find work” for me to do. And “showing good faith” can also mean “butt in chair” which is just plain silly.

        2. Joey*

          It really depends on the type of management philosophy you subscribe to. I like ROWE or results oriented work environment for exempts. Basically only results matter, not face time. Of course there are jobs that require face time but if you can give workers flexibility with their hours while focusing more on results you’ll have a more productive environment. It’s a great way to retain top performers also.

          But it sounds like you’re struggling with how much work she should be doing. It’s hard to say exactly without more details.

          1. New Boss (OP)*

            I agree results should be more important than face time. But, we’re not low wage earners in our department. So, there’s a certain level of assumption that you should actively search for new opportunities and you should attempt to utilize a 40 hour typical work week to your advantage.

            Vicki – I don’t see why management would pay someone a high salary if there weren’t some sort of return. If I see someone barely producing results, physically in the office for 5 out of 8 hours, wouldn’t I have the right to question them, exempt or not?

            1. Joey*

              That’s fine if she’s required to be there 40 hours but you can’t assume she should know that as an exempt employee. Might want to actually tell her.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yes, you can require her to work certain hours even if she’s exempt (exempt just means that you can’t dock her pay in this situation for the hours that she missed). I do think that if someone is getting amazing results, it’s silly to require them to watch a timeclock (unless the job requires being available for meetings, client calls, etc., which many do). But unless someone IS getting amazing results, it’s totally reasonable to say, “hey, these are our office hours, we expect you to be here for them” (and as Joey said, do say this directly because maybe no one ever has). But it’s even more important to focus on their actual performance — how they approach their work, etc., which sounds like an issue here, and the hours part is just symptomatic.

  7. Anonymous*

    How do you feel about a much younger “supervisor” calling you “hun” evey time you speak with her? This is a professional environment with educated women. I feel that is a form of age discrimination. Also, it seems to be the way this twenty something convinces herself that she is superior to her subordinates. all it did for me was cause the loss of respect. I felt it was demeaning and disrespectful to be addressed this way, so I made her aware of it in a diplomatic fashion. She stopped only for a short period of time!!!

      1. Bonnie*

        My mother, who is in her seventies, told me that once she got to her late sixties, people stopped calling her ma’am and started caling her honey or sweetie. It drives her nuts. I think that is where the age discrimination thing is coming from.

        1. Avril*

          My dad, who is turning 70, said that he gets called ‘Honey’ all the time now and would appreciated it more when he was younger!

    1. LiberryLady*

      Ugh! Most of my coworkers are 20-30 years older than me, and I get this occasionally. One even calls me “Girly-girl.” As in, “Good morning, Girly-girl!”

      I am 32 years old. This makes my skin crawl!

    2. Nichole*

      I’m in the process of breaking a “sug” habit, so I used to warn students that I fiddle my pen and tend to call people sug, so if you have a problem with either one, you’d better let me know. FWIW, calling someone hon in a work setting, especially someone older, is inappropriate and disrespectful, but it’s a hard habit to break, and some people even find it endearing (my old “work mom” used to call me Girly all the time as an affectionate thing). By all means, say something, she may not be aware she’s doing it. I rarely do it at work anymore, but the pen fiddling (and foot tapping…sigh) stays.

    3. mh_76*

      #7 – that is completely unacceptable and I agree with AAM’s answer. I hate being called “miss” for a few reasons: I am a grown-up, I am very comfortable with my age, and I find that it comes across as condescending even when that is not the intent.

      The general public should call me “ma’am” and your colleagues should call you by your name.

      Workplace nicknames are one thing but only when the colleagues’ have a very good working relationship and a lot of respect for one another. It sounds like your colleagues feel some animosity towards you and you’re not being overly sensitive at all.

      “hun”? from anyone who’s not a friend/relative? Creepy (mostly). Sounds like she’s grossly overemployed and is not nearly mature enough to be supervising anyone. Good grief!

      “Girly-girl” ?!? ouch! Unless you & the person using that are “workplace friends” (friends but don’t socialize outside of work) or friends (who socialize outside of work). Sounds like it’s an attempt to be cute/friendly that is backfiring badly. Also, workplace standards were much different when your colleagues started working…but if you don’t like it, then that’s what matters and do ask that person to use your name instead.

      Nichole, are you originally from the South? “sug” is generally more acceptable in the South but people in other parts of the US might raise an eyebrow. Personally, I wouldn’t mind so long as I wasn’t the only one being called “sug”…then again my Dad’s from the South. And if your colleagues do mind then it’s time to ask for their help breaking you of that habit.

      1. Nichole*

        My dad is southern, I think I picked it up from a gaggle of aunts. I live in the midwest, we’re not known for being particularly PC here. No one has complained yet, and I’d like to quit while I’m ahead, so the gag order on “sug” is self imposed.

      2. Jen M.*

        “Hun” (or, locally, “hon”) can also be a regional thing. I’m in Maryland. “Hon” is very much a Baltimore thing. If someone around here calls me “hon” in a particular way, it does not bother me, because I can tell by the accent that it’s regional.

        “Honey” or “Sweetie,” on the other hand, would make me want to punch someone in the neck. Only one person is allowed to call me those things (Ok–2. Mom gets a pass!) and he’s not at work with me. ;)

  8. AD*

    Re: #5, I have to disagree, if we are only talking about a month later. If they JUST interviewed you, and you were not a good fit, what could possibly have changed? Even if they hired someone else, it didn’t work out, and that person quit, already (though unlikely in only a month), they remember the people who they just interviewed, and could definitely call one of them back.

    It sounds like, if the job is reposted in such a short timeframe, you weren’t a good fit, not that you lost out to a better candidate.

    1. SCW*

      The poster didn’t say it was the same job, just the same org. I can see lots of times where someone wasn’t a good fit for a specific job, or there were people who were a better fit, but they may be a better match for a different position. Or maybe there are two similar position, and they decided they wanted someone who was strong in one area when they hired the first one, but are willing to look at other strengths to balance it out on the second go round. I figure that if they didn’t like you in the first interview it will be easy for them to pass you by the second time, but unless the first interview was the worst interview ever I’d say give it another go!

      1. Nichole*

        Agreed. I really wanted to work at my current workplace, but I interviewed twice and applied to multiple positions before I was hired. If the org’s a good fit for you, you can make adjustments to be a good fit for them. OP should continue to build marketable skills and send applications whenever a position OP is qualified for and would do well in comes up. The only way this could hurt is if the application/resume is poorly done, and the OP reads AAM, so it should be fine. :)

    2. Tamara*

      I’ve definitely been in situations where a person has had to leave after just a month or 2. I agree that a lot of businesses would likely tap into the pool of interviews from the original hire. But, there’s no way to know for sure, especially with some of the weird hiring processes out there. If the person wasn’t specifically told why they weren’t hired, I don’t see the harm in trying. What’s the worst that could happen?

    3. HL*

      Re: #5 – After interviewing well for a position, for which I was not hired, I noticed the same position posted a few months later. Still feeling it was a good fit and opportunity, I contacted the organization to let them know, with a reminder of the first interview.

      I was granted another interview, and then offered the position.

      I learned during the second interview the reason the position reopened is that the individual hired could not stay, due to personal circumstances. Also the only difference between us was slightly more experience in one area (not past my ability to compensate and gain the skill in question).

      If the OP still feels the position is a good match, I would definitely let them know, and that you interviewed previously – it shows resolve, and saves them the time reviewing “resumes saved in their files” and helps to relieve the burden of culling the latest pile of “incoming”. You won’t know unless you try.

      PS: It was through this organization I met one of the most wonderful supervisors.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      AD, not necessarily at all. Yes, employers should remember people they interviewed a couple of months ago, but they don’t always do it. Also, maybe the person who interviewed her has left the organization or is on vacation, or whatever. There’s no reason not to try.

      1. AD*

        I didn’t realize she meant a different position in the same organization.

        I also wasn’t clear on the timing. A few months is one thing; the hiring manager may not want to reach out to you anew, but one month is very similar to a recent letter where someone said “I didn’t get the job, but the posting is still up, should I try again?”

      2. Kimberlee*

        Also, while this admittedly might not be the best process, if I hire someone and they’re out a month later, I’d probably just assume that the other people on my short list have already gotten other positions. If 2nd place was truly stellar, I’d probably remember and contact them, but if they were merely “pretty good” and re-applied, I’d probably grant them a second chance.

        1. ncd*

          I also wouldn’t go back to my short list after a month. I assume they’ve moved on as soon as I send out the rejection notices.

    5. Natalie*

      “what could possibly have changed?”

      The applicant pool. The letter writer may not have been hired simply because someone they interviewed was better, not because the letter writer was lacking in any way.

    6. fposte*

      An interview suggests there was at least a reasonable start to a fit. I’d definitely suggest reapplying. If it was a “we can’t hire ’em all” situation, they’ll be delighted to have another crack at a strong candidate.

      1. HB*

        Sorry, a little late to the party here, but wanted to agree with everyone who said to definitely reapply. We hired 3 people this summer, and 1 had to leave within 90 days of accepting the position for personal reasons. We would have loved to offer the job to the #2 choice for this position, but our organization has a rule that you can only do that if your #1 choice turns down the offer. Once #1 has accepted an offer and started the job, even if she quits after 1 day, you have to re-post the position and go through the formal hiring process. I believe our manager reached out to the #2 and encouraged her to apply for the position again! As other people have said, however, they might be assuming all the people from the last round of interviews have accepted other jobs.

    7. Jaime*

      Another late response ….

      A friend’s husband was recently hired after applying twice. He didn’t make the cut the first round, but the hiring manager knew they were hiring more people in 2 months so he was told to reapply (he was just barely edged out). So sometimes companies are filling a lot of slots, or realize after a month or two that they need to add more slots – so definitely keep applying.

  9. fposte*

    #4: is her getting a demotion out of the reorg related to the issues you mention? Do you have numbers at your fingertips about her attendance because somebody else tallied them and shared them with you? Does she know about any of this? Because right now it sounds like it’s been a problem but not one that a manager has actually talked to her about–just you as a friend.

    Which sort of sucks, if so–it gives her the “it’s never bothered anybody before” card–but it also gives you a chance to put this on the table proactively as a topic. Right now, she’s not providing the reliability the company is ultimately looking for, and you’ve got the numbers to support this. What kind of a track does she want to be on at the company? If there’s a part-time possibility, would she want that? See if you can find a way to set up a job that’s a success for what she’s prepared to give while making it clear that she’s not being a success at the current model. (She’s not otherwise a superperformer, right?)

    1. New Boss (OP)*

      The more thought I’ve put into it, yes, I do begin to think the demotion is a result of our current boss being fed up. I think 2 people are at fault – one, my best friend who is pushing the envelope with no end in sight and #2, our boss who has never confronted her about this (he is anti-confrontational about all things). Yes – our boss let me know the numbers when he told me I was becoming her boss – with a big smirk on his face.

      And I do believe that she’ll pull the “it never bothered anyone before” card. She is the sole earner/benefits carrier for her family. There’s no way she could ever go PT. As part of this demotion, she will also lose her bonus. She has always had this mentality of seeing how little time she could put in the office – but it has severely escalated in the last 6 months, when her son started Kindergarten.

      1. fposte*

        Well, you sound very clear-headed and perceptive about the whole thing. But the whole thing does kind of bite–you are being handed a problem and you’ll be the first person breaking the news that she’s a problem, which would be unpleasant even if she weren’t a friend. So…ouch.

        I think you can be straight about the fact that management has been concerned–that somebody’s been documenting this, that it’s not good, and that it’s got consequences. If she’s the sole wage-earner of a household with a small child and a husband who has, it sounds like, health problems, then she’s risking a lot by endangering her job security the way she is. I think it helps to identify what’s wrong beyond merely not being there–what projects has she been sidelined on, who has to do extra work to cover her, what kind of revenue impact does it have? If she genuinely thinks the answer is “None,” even in the face of stats about her absences, then she’s functionally suggesting that this job is doable at less than 100% time–is that really what she wants to suggest? (And of course, as Alison says, be very aware of what company policies are in general on attendance and absences and make sure you’re not deviating.)

        Basically, the status quo is off the table–she can no longer get paid full time for a job she’s not giving full attention to. What does she want to do?

        1. Joey*

          I think you’re missing the point. Im sure the employee believes she’s getting 100% of the job done faster than what’s expected so as an exempt employee shes not so worried about face time because shes not on a time clock. I think the problem might be that her manager is treating her like an hourly employee who needs to keep working because it’s not closing time.

          1. fposte*

            That’s possible too–that’s one of the reasons I asked if she was a super-performer while she was there (and also why I suggested the problem be discussed in terms of what work wasn’t getting done). And I definitely work in a field where achievement time isn’t the same as office time.

            But not all fields are like that, and there is something to be said for being there while other people are being there. In most organizations I’ve worked, there’s a large amount of stuff that comes in without anybody’s name on it, and it gets dealt with according to who’s there and ready–or hungry. And you’re there less of the time, you’re going to need to be aware that you’re missing opportunities to advance your role. ( That’s the challenge part-time telecommuters face, too.)

            And, honestly, this sounds to me not like an employee that’s getting all the work done in a lesser amount of time, but one who determines the work being done according to whether she has something outside of work she wants to leave for.

  10. Malissa*

    #7 Having grown up with the nickname Missy, I still think it’s weird when people outside of my family refer to me by that. I have a person in my office that still occasionally will try to call me Missy, as in young girl. I “functionally supervise” (thanks for that term Joey!) this person. In fact all of the people I functionally supervise are older than me. So yeah, being referred to in this manner really does irk me.
    The way I deal with it is either pretend I didn’t hear what she said and say, “I’m sorry, what did you say?” or I shoot her a look that usually stops further comments of that nature. The look is a combination of I don’t believe you just said that and I’m not putting up with this behavior, otherwise known as the “mom look.”

  11. YALM*

    #4, this is going to be hard.

    Several years ago, I was moved in to manage a very good friend of mine. We talked about the ramifications of the change before it was made official. We agreed at the time to scale back the friendship side and focus on the business side. We agreed to keep the lines of communication open and to trust each other. It’s worked out well–we have a great professional relationship and the friendship is still intact–but the first six months were bumpy.

    What made it possible is that she is an excellent employee. who doesn’t require a lot of hands-on management. This is an advantage you clearly do not have. I’m guessing you will also not be able to discuss this in advance if she’s being demoted as part of a re-org.

    Will someone else handle the demotion discussion? Or will that fall to you?

    AAM is exactly right. You’re going to have to define the standards you expect in the office, and you’re going to have to stick with them. Make them consistent across your team. Don’t waiver. Expect push back, and be prepared to respond professionally. You’ll have to address the issues that lead to the demotion, make a plan, and manage it. Keep the conversations around this strictly business. Whether she lines up after school care, or her husband changes his schedule, or she finds another suitable solution, it’s her problem to solve and not yours, but she needs to solve it and meet the (fair and consistent) expectations of the workplace. She’s going to have to apply herself to make this work. You can’t save this situation on your own. Don’t think that you can, and don’t let her leverage the friendship to make you think that you can.

    And be prepared to lose the friendship. Alternatively, if the friendship is more important than the job, one of you needs to find a new place to work.

    I wish you luck.

    1. New Boss (OP)*

      The conversation about the demotion will thankfully fall to our current boss and possibly the VP. There’s a fairly big gap between her current level and the one she’s being demoted to (bonus, office size, travel, etc.).

      I could be completely wrong, but I’m guessing (and maybe hoping) that this will lead her to find a different role in the company and/or a different position outside of the company.

      Thanks for your thoughts and advice !

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Can you ask your current boss to explain to her that the reason for the demotion is her performance? It seems like it would be obvious, but since this is a boss who didn’t take on her performance issues earlier, it’s possible that he’ll attribute it solely to the reorg and not explain that that’s motivating it. Tell him that you need him to be very clear with her about that, because otherwise you’re anticipating hearing “no one else ever had a problem with it” when you try to take on her attendance issues.

        1. Mike C.*

          This right here. It feels like a secret punishment and I would be incredibly bitter if I had all these benefits taken from me just because of a “re-org”.

          And “no one else had a problem with it” is a perfectly fine complaint to have – it’s management’s job to evaluate and correct poor performance.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            The employee would be justified in complaining that no one gave her feedback previously, but it doesn’t give her a blank check to continue that behavior once she does get feedback about it. So yes, that’s a legit complaint, but once the problems ARE brought up, she still needs to deal with them!

  12. New Boss (OP)*

    I’m fairly confident that management will use the re-org as an excuse. I have not been told what the reasoning will be, but based on prior examples within our department, they have shown a history of evading the truth in favor of the less painful (to them) approach.

    There is a lot of behind the scenes I haven’t been privy to – how it will go down is all speculation on my part. The re-org announcement is expected in another week or 2, and I’m not sure when the conversation will occur with management.

    1. Tamara*

      Hopefully management will come through for you, but it doesn’t sound like they have a good history of that. One thing that has helped me in the past is sitting down with the friend and being very, very clear that I am going to treat them like anyone else, they don’t get free passes, etc. In one situation, the friend still didn’t come through. He was late to the office, made a ton of mistakes, and made comments that were far from work appropriate. He would then make jokes when I discussed it with him. Unfortunately, he had to be let go. It was hard (and annoying!), but I was at least able to feel comfortable with the situation because I knew that I was very clear and gave him every chance to know and respect the boundaries that were needed. It may not keep you from feeling bad for her or about the situation, but it can keep you from feeling bad about yourself.

      1. New Boss (OP)*

        Tamara – thank you for your words. I keep internalizing this as if I did something that deserved punishment and this is my punishment. This is where I’m failing the most – I want to stick my head in the sand (which I cannot and will not do – just sounds nice!).

        1. Tamara*

          Oh, do I know that feeling! Never let someone else’s shortcomings make you feel bad about yourself. Her performance is on her shoulders, you didn’t make her do anything and it was never your responsibility. Direction and honesty is probably what she needs to grow (and move herself back up!), although it’s likely not what she wants. Hopefully she can realize that after the emotional aspects die down, even if she does decide to move on. At least you can know you did the right thing and not regret your actions, even if you regret that the situation occurred to begin with.

          1. YALM*


            The boss was complicit in the friend’s professional backslide because he didn’t do his job as her manager. But at the core, it’s her performance that’s setting her back, and she needs to own this.

            Maybe she will, and maybe she won’t. Even if she’s willing to, it’s going to take some time for her to get to that place–to process through the denial and the blame, and possibly, the mortification. OP can’t do that for her friend, and she can’t feel guilty for doing her job as the friend’s new manager.

            If OP is honest and direct and stays the course, she’s offering her friend an opportunity to salvage her career.

  13. The Editor*

    #5–Apply. I have been offered positions with two companies that I previously interviewed with. The first I took and enjoyed for the next 4 years or so. The second I turned down after receiving a better offer. I think the key is to ask for feedback and then show how you have improved.

  14. Anonymous*

    For whatever reason, I have frequently been called Missy, Girly-girl, Hun, Sweetie, and other terms I consider inappropriate in a corporate office from the time I was in my mid-twenties to late thirties. I have even seen these actually written as a salutation in an e-mail. In all instances, these are other women, including my former immediate supervisor. Yes, I work in the south. No, it’s not okay. Yes, you have to tell them it’s not okay. Personally, it makes me feel like I’m a waitress in a truck stop.

  15. mh_76*

    #3 – what is the rationale for not allowing drinks on the desk of someone who does not deal with the public? Or even for someone who does? I can certainly understand requiring that the container be closed. And why on earth must she purchase her water at work?!? In this economy, people are looking to not spend extra money on something that can be free (like water) or cheaper (like coffee made at home). That is a petty rule put in place by an insecure “manager”.

    1. Vicki*

      One possibility: a clear water bottle purchased at work is “clearly” water. Something else could be (gasp!) anything. The ramifications are chilling. Do they think people will try to sneak in alcohol?

      1. mh_76*

        — LIKE or +1 or… —

        I’ve worked in a place (bookstore) where that rule was in effect…of course, the head manager could walk around with her large coffee held at arm’s length away from her body! That’s one of the reasons I didn’t go back when subsequent (mostly contract) jobs came to an end.

        I figured out that if I used a colored but still transparent water bottle (I recommend a dark color), I could “sneak” juice in and could have gotten away with cold coffee (steam from hot might have alerted the H.M….pun intended). If a company-branded water bottle had been required, I would have obliged and bought one, even if I had to go online…the company color is dark green so it would have worked beautifully!

        People who sneak in booze should go to rehab and get a fresh, dry re-start.

      2. Jamie*

        Depends on the workplace. My husband is a police officer and they can’t bring beverages in with them when entering some correctional facilities. It’s applied to both law enforcement and civilian employees – because, yes, some people will bring contraband in.

        I can see other workplaces where it would make sense as well – certain counseling centers, etc.

        I don’t know why you couldn’t reuse a clear container and refill from a water cooler though.

        1. mh_76*

          Good point. OP3 mentioned “customers” which led me to believe that the person in question works in retail or other customer-service industry. In -most- industries, though (I can think of a few other examples where that rule would make sense), that’s a silly rule that should be done away with.
          Let’s see what OP3 has to say…

        2. Kimberlee*

          It can also be a “grossness” thing… if a Coke or juice spills, you have to clean it immediately and throughly or it will get sticky and attract bugs. Water is much less damaging and you can wipe it up with whatever is nearby…or, if there’s not a slipping hazard, just let it dry on its own.

    2. Jen M.*

      There was a post about this here on AAM a while back. In that case, the person worked in a rehab or something like that, where the staff were dealing with people in recovery from drugs, alcohol, etc. It may be that type of situation.

  16. Another Brit*

    Other names I get called on a regular basis: “trouble” “shorty” or “youngster”.

  17. Vicki*

    7. My coworkers are calling me “missy”
    You say: They know I support them and it builds camaraderie. Lately, two of them have made it a point when I have been in error, which I certainly am occasionally, to call me “missy.”

    I’m not sure I agree that it builds camaraderie. If they’ve started picking at errors and using that opportunity to call you missy, I think you have a bigger manager/employee relationship problem than just the nickname…

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This is a good point. I don’t have enough information to support this hunch, but I do have a hunch that the OP might be too nice and not asserting herself enough with these coworkers.

  18. Anonymous*

    For the “missy” post…the situation is different in my office. I supervise (functionally and directly :)) 8 people. All of them are at least 10 years older than me (I’m 30) and some older than that. We are a very close group of ladies (i’ll be honest, the only men I have on staff right now are my security guards). I have one woman who calls me girly or missy on a regular basis. The first time, I was a little disconcerted but since I often call them “honey” “dear” or other versions of their names like “Mar” for Mary, I count it as a term of endearment. It doesn’t sound like that is the case in this situation though. I think this can be a “depends on the office” situation.

  19. Laura L*

    Gah! I hate endearing nicknames. I wish people would stop using them. They’re only acceptable from my mom when I’m sick.

  20. Michelle*

    #5 – A couple of years ago I applied to a position and was rejected. 3 months later, I saw the same position on a job board again, so I re-applied and was interviewed. I asked why the position was open and they said the person who they hired 3 months ago was so great that they were promoted. The company passed on me again but called me back a few weeks later for two more interviews for positions in different departments. Both of those positions were cancelled before they could hire anyone, but I never would have gotten the opportunity if I hadn’t re-applied. You never know what will happen, so I say go for it.

  21. The25thrule*

    Along the same line as #7

    How do I politely correct an interviewer or HR when they mispronounce my first name? I don’t want to come off as petty or rude when I get called Marie, Mary, or Mariah instead of Maria.

    1. JT*

      Say, after they stop talking, “It’s Maria” and the responding to the rest of their statement/question?

      1. JT*

        Correction to brain fart:

        Say, after they stop talking, “It’s Maria” and then respond to the rest of their statement/question.

  22. anon.*

    I did not see this mentioned in the comments but to #4 who will now be supervising her best friend, please make sure that all your conversations regarding the demotion/expectations/etc are in a business setting – i.e. in an your office/an office at work. That way she will (be more likely to) see you in your ‘boss’ role, not your ‘best friend’ role.

    Sounds like a really sticky place to be in.. good luck and please keep up posted!

  23. Charles*

    #1 – Not that you are doing this; but, don’t get a “bad” attitude about this. Unless there is other stuff going on, I don’t think that they are trying to take advantage of you (your words). Most folks leave work at five and you leave “early.” They might forget that, so, yea, a gentle reminder is needed. Then ask your manager how to handle it if the reminders don’t work.

    In a recent contract position, I only worked 4 days/week and left at 4:00 pm each day. This was there choice due to budget reasons. But, still, everyone would forget that I wasn’t there all the time. My boss’s boss and I would have to constantly remind everyone else – If I needed to be included, don’t schedule a meeting on Wednesdays (my day off), don’t keep me past 4:00, etc. It wasn’t that they were trying to take advantage – they just couldn’t remember MY schedule. It would have been nice if they did ; but, they just couldn’t.

  24. MJ*

    #7 – I worked in a temp job for a month when I was 17, and the only person I shared an office with was another woman ~20-30 years older than me who, from the moment I started, called me “honey”, “honeybun”, “love”, “sweetie”, “dearie” – anything but my actual name. In fact, I overheard her talking to colleagues about me a couple of weeks in, and she didn’t actually know my name. I tolerated it because she was friendly with the person signing my timesheets, but because I’ve always hated any kind of nickname anyway, it made our working relationship a lot worse than it could have been. I still have no idea if she called me nicknames because she couldn’t remember my name or because she thought she was being friendly and reassuring. I ended up gritting my teeth every time she spoke to me, waiting for “honeybun”.

    Since that job, I’ve had another where another older female colleague calls everyone on the team “Fruity” (no, I have no idea either), and I have casually and politely said that I’m really not keen on nicknames. She understood and doesn’t call me that anymore.

    Pleasantly explain to these ladies that you’d rather they didn’t call you Missy before you end up hating them for it! It’s also not great for your image, particularly if it’s an office dominated by older colleagues, as they start thinking of you as the silly younger person. If you’re not keen on confrontation, just say that you’re not really keen on nicknames. They may persist out of habit – just keep mentioning it, casually and offhand and with a smile, and they’ll stop eventually.

Comments are closed.