short answer Sunday: 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s short answer Sunday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. Am I still entitled to severance pay if I find a new job quickly?

Am I still entitled to the severance pay promised to me if I find another job immediately after I was let go? A couple weeks ago, I let my boss know that I was going to start job searching. She had told me numerous times she likes to know if someone is thinking about leaving so she’s not blindsided. She agreed that I could stay until I found a job and she would help me search. A week and a half later, she called me and told me she was letting me go because she couldn’t risk me sharing company secrets/ trying to take clients with me. She offered to pay me for the week and give me an additional two weeks pay and told me I would be able to collect unemployment. Amazingly, that afternoon I got called in for a job interview and the next day I went in and got the job to start the following Monday (thanks in large part to all the tips on your blog!). My question is, am I still entitled to keep the severance pay/ chase after it if she tries to stop the check if she finds out I’m starting a new job? Nothing was in writing except for a brief email from her saying she was waiting on the checks to come and would send them in a couple days.

Generally, if you’re getting a severance payment, it’s independent of how quickly you find a new job — unless you have an agreement that says otherwise. You don’t have that agreement, so you’re still entitled to that severance. Of course, since you don’t have any agreement, you’d also probably have no way to chase after it if she changes her mind. This is why it’s smart to put things in writing. (It’s also smart for the employer; most employers make severance contingent upon you signing a “general release” promising not to sue for anything in the future.)

If what you’re actually asking is less about what’s legally required in this situation and more about whether employers view severance as something that should be rescinded if you get a new job … in general no, but there are certainly employers who would see it that way. But there’s no reason you need to announce your new job to your old boss.

2. My coworker was allowed to transfer and I wasn’t

My company has a relocation policy of not being allowed to transfer until you have worked there at least a year. My coworker and I started working around the same time. Now, eight months into the job, due to family reasons, she applied for a transfer and was given an exception—she is moving to another office. I tried the same thing, in order to be closer to my significant other, and was denied because I have not been here long enough. Would it be out of line to bring up that coworker and question why she was given the exception and I was not? I understand exceptions are exceptions, but this just seems blatantly unfair.

I don’t see any harm in bringing it up. Clearly they do make exceptions to the policy, so it’s reasonable to say, “I understand the policy, but I also understand that there’s some flexibility, as there was for Lucinda recently.” You may learn that they see your coworker’s situation as different from yours, of course, so be prepared for that.

3. Does “we’ll be in touch” mean “you’re not getting the job”?

I recently went on a second interview which lasted about an hour and forty-five minutes. I met with two department heads (the hiring managers), their boss, and that person’s boss, along with his number two person. Overall I thought it went extremely well, but in hindsight I realize that I might have put my foot in my mouth once or twice, though I’m not sure how much of a turn off it was. Once the interview wrapped up, one of the managers escorted me down to the lobby. Before we parted ways, we shook hands and the interviewer said, “We’ll be in touch either way.” My stomach dropped to the floor when I heard that. To me, “We’ll be in touch” usually means “We’re not interested and you probably won’t ever hear from us again.”

You’re reading too much into it. It might mean that, or it might mean nothing at all. It’s not a code phrase. I wouldn’t give that another thought.

4. Following up to reiterate your interest after applying for a job

Just wondering if there is any point in trying to follow up when a job posting specifically states something to the extent of “Due to the volume of applicants, only those selected for interviews will be contacted”? I don’t want to seem obnoxious or appear to be ignoring their instructions, but I also don’t want to miss an opportunity to reaffirm my sincere interest in a position, particularly if it is expected of a good candidate.

They already know you’re interested in the position, because you applied for it and said that you were in your cover letter (right?). It’s certainly not expected that you’ll follow up (unless you’re applying for a sales job, in which case the rules are often different), and it’s generally considered annoying. But if you absolutely must do it, make sure that you do it by email, not by phone.

5. Working with an over-sharer

I’m in the running for a job where I will be working closely with one other person under a supervisor. This other person would be someone who I met in graduate school (we are graduating together) and have taken courses with. I don’t know her that well, but I know her well enough because she is a person who shares. A lot. I am hopeful that this is due to the fact that we were classmates and not coworkers. I am a person who does not share a lot, especially with work colleagues — I want to have a mostly professional relationship with them. Do you have any recommendations for how to build a professional relationship with someone who (a) seems hell-bent on oversharing and who (b) views me more as a classmate then as a teammate? Is there hope for this job? (It is only a year position, so I may risk it anyway.)

You’re getting a little ahead of yourself here, but you’d just need to set boundaries from the start: Model the behavior you’d like to see her display, don’t do anything that would appear encouraging if she does overshare (such as asking questions, etc.), and make it clear that you need to focus on your work, including by explicitly saying it if necessary. Do this all from the start, so that you’re not stuck trying to have to correct her down the road, after the behavior has become entrenched.

And keep in mind that you’ve got more power in these situations than you think you do. It’s actually easier to set boundaries on this kind of thing at work (where you can cite deadlines or a need to concentrate) than in social situations (where you can’t always as easily bow out).

6. Pre-planned vacation when job-hunting

Last week, I applied for a full time administrative assistant job with a local health care services company and I found out yesterday that I have been shortlisted for an interview. I am really excited because this is the job I have been looking for but there is one concern — I have two pre-planned vacations coming up. The first is July 3-9 (I will be attending my cousin’s wedding vow renewal ceremony interstate) and the second is August 4-7 (I have to attend my godson’s christening – which is also interstate). Both of these were booked five months ago. My question is, when do I tell my potential employer about these trips because I don’t want to hurt my chances of getting this job.

Don’t bring this up during the interviewing process. Wait until you get an offer — at which point mention that you have these trips pre-planned and ask if it will still be possible to take them. If not, then you’ll have to decide if you want the job more than the trips, or vice versa. But this is a very normal situation, and it comes up all the time. Your employer won’t think anything of it. (Keep the reasons out of it though; they’re irrelevant, and attending your cousin’s vow renewal isn’t going to sound super urgent to most people).

7. Explaining that you left a job on ethical grounds

How do you explain to an interviewer why you left a job if the reason is that you found out that the business wasn’t managed ethically, so for your own personal morals you left? I’ve been working for a hair salon as a receptionist for six months, but I want to leave it now because I recently learned a number of things about the way the salon runs its business is fraudulent. To name one, the wages of a few of the other employees have been misrepresented on tax forms purposely to abide by state law, when in actuality they aren’t earning those amounts. So morally I don’t feel comfortable associating with such a business. How best would you suggest I explain this at a job interview?

“There were some problems with how they were handling payroll and taxes.” You don’t need to provide more information, and in fact shouldn’t, since you should show that you’re discreet and not someone who’s going to badmouth a former employer.

I wouldn’t get into talking about your morals, because (rightly or wrongly) that’s a good way to make an employer wonder if you’re going to find something to object to there as well.

{ 94 comments… read them below }

  1. Kimberlee

    On number 7, the moral concerns, I’m not sure if I agree. I mean, I think AAM’s advice is solid and won’t get you into any trouble. But ethics and morality are always sticky, and I often run into the problem of feeling like I’m lying if I’m not honest about unethical things…..

    Also, I can’t help but feel I would like to hire people who object to unethical and illegal things their employer does. It seems like, in every business, there’s a certain level of things that are either not done correctly (illegal, but due to oversight rather than profit motive), or things that are outright illegal, and I’m just not OK with thinking that you’ve got to be willing to endure that sort of thing to work in America (which I know is not what AAM is arguing, but it seems like the natural extension of that sort of thinking… that it’s not a problem as long as nobody talks about it!).

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I’m definitely not arguing that it’s not a problem as long as no one talks about it, but I don’t think a job interview is the place to talk about it — both because you’ll come across as willing to harm this business’s reputation to the person you’re speaking to when they don’t have a chance to respond and because since you’re probably not going to have an in-depth discussion about the problem, you risk the employer wondering if you were making a bigger deal of something than was warranted (and thus if you’ll do that when working for them too). There are lots of places that you should talk about this, but I’d avoid doing it in a job interview, unless you’re in a position to be very selective.

      1. moe

        One other thing that might pop into the interviewer’s head is that the candidate probably did (or had to) participate in some unethical things prior to leaving, so it could bring their integrity into question as well. It’s like when someone complains about their ex having some lifestyle (drinking/drugs/etc.) problem; they were presumably okay with it for a time, until it just went too far, and you wonder what their involvement was too. (Well, I do at least–unless I know the person and the situation well.)

        I agree with your advice, though I don’t “like” it on an emotional level, either.

      2. KellyK

        AAM, I agree with your take on this rather than Kimberlee’s (though I tend to feel like I’m being dishonest if I don’t mention every slightly relevant thing, so I can sympathize.)

        I think there’s no point in sharing information with someone who a) can’t do anything about it and b) may judge you negatively because of it.

        If you want to report them to the IRS, that’s reasonable, but telling your job interviewer doesn’t really serve any purpose, except possibly making you look either backbiting or holier-than-thou.

    2. mh_76

      #7 – According to a support group that I go to when in-between, less is more in terms of interview answers. I don’t entirely agree with that but in your case, it’s probably the best advice.

      Kimberlee, sometimes you do feel like you’re lying in job interviews, even if you’re telling the truth. You’ll get used to it over time, not to worry.

    3. Long Time Admin

      I have to say, AAM’s suggestion will actually tell the interviewer that there were ethical problems that you could not live with, without actually saying that. Anyone who cares about business ethics will catch that right away. It will be a point in your favor, plus another point for not bad-mouthing your current or former employer.

      Less is more, as long as they are the right words.

  2. K.

    Re: “We’ll be in touch,” I am a nationally ranked over-thinker and I don’t read anything into it. Although I do assume that they will not notify me if they don’t want to move forward because that’s the way it’s gone for the vast majority of my job search.

    Just curious: what would you rather hear? What would make you think “That went really well and I think my chances are good”? In my experience, interviewers tend to play things close to the vest, so I wouldn’t expect effusive praise at the end of an interview (although I’ve heard things like “It was a real pleasure to meet you” or whatever).

    1. AD

      Also, the managers haven’t even had time to compare notes yet. Even if the one who walks you out loves you, he/she really has no idea if you are the top candidate until she talks to the other interviewers.

    2. mh_76

      AAM and K right. “We’ll be in touch” is one of those generic phrases that people use, somewhat along the lines of “Have a nice day” and “How are you…Fine thanks, how are you?”. Don’t worry about it and I think that there’s some advice about a good follow-up timeline on other AAM posts…of course I don’t remember which post or what the guidelines were…or if I’m confusing this with advice from a support group I go to when I’m in-between jobs…I’ll try to remember what that advice was.

        1. mh_76

          I just “found” AAM a couple of months ago but that’s great advice. What I’d heard was something to the effect of: after sending the initial thank-you snail-mail-letter/email, follow up about a week later (email or phone), with a max. of 3 follow-up contacts over the course of 4 (6?) weeks, and that it’s OK to ask when to expect a response / inquire about the timeline.

          1. I submitted question 3.

            I just realized that I provided an incorrect phone number for my supervisor on the online application. I also got her first name wrong, but managed to at least get the last name right. I work remotely and rarely ever contact her, but it was still a total brain fart on my part. Anyway, I’ve already sent the interviewers a thank you email a few days ago, and I’m wondering how it would be received if I contacted them a second time (within one week) to provide them with the correct name and phone number of my current supervisor. How should I go about this without looking like a total idiot?

            1. mh_76

              Just do it. We all make mistakes and it’s better to catch and fix them (ask for help if you need to…though you won’t in this cas) than to ignore and hope that nobody notices.

            2. moe

              If there was an actual error in the materials you provided, I think that would be a good reason to contact them. Short and breezy, no explanation, but quickly apologetic:

              “Hi ____, I’ve just realized I inadvertently provided some inaccurate information in the reference list [or whatever], and I wanted to correct that right away. My remote supervisor’s name and address is [_____]. I apologize for any inconvenience. Should you need any further information fro me, please let me know. Thanks in advance, _____”

              I think it would depend on your read of how well you were received, whether you included something like “I look forward to discussing the role with you further” after the quick apology. I’d tend to leave it out.

            3. Ask a Manager Post author

              I agree you should send a quick note correcting the information.

              That said … I would also use this as a lesson that you might need to bring more care/attention to things related to your job search. Getting your manager’s first name wrong isn’t going to look great, and you mentioned in the original letter putting your foot in your mouth a few times during the interview. Taken together, these things can paint an overall picture that isn’t going to be flattering to you — so I’d take this as a sign to slow down and bring more care to the process, or at least to ask yourself if you need to.

  3. $.02

    5. Working with an over-sharer

    I work with 3 former classmates I took classes with from freshman. All 4 of us got offers from the same employer, mind you we have been partying together since freshman. It was difficult to be truly professional but with time we are managing to separate the two.

    Be straightforward so that it will not be an issue later,

  4. AD

    I’m a little concerned about #6 asking for TWO vacations, especially when the first one is a week/end that lots of people take off, or want to take off. This is one where, even if she were to get a technical “yes” from management, it could leave a bad taste, not just with her supervisor, but with coworkers as well. I’d seriously think about deciding which one is a priority, and asking for that, rather than trying to take both.

    1. Kimberlee

      Or, alternately, knowing in advance which one you are willing to abandon if it comes to it.

    2. Interviewer

      My concern is that the candidate would be asking for 2 full weeks off in a month’s time, when that’s all the vacation time my company would grant in an entire year to a new hire. Of course, the OP may be from a country that gives far more time off as a standard, but in the US for a current employee, this would be a huge request. For a candidate, asking for the time off might even be a deal breaker. In my head, I would wonder, would you be planning on taking this much time off every year? Or even every month? And at my company (US), it would mean going without vacation for the rest of the year from your hire date. Would you be prepared to do that?

      Good luck to you.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        You can offer to take it unpaid; a lot of employers will understand that vacation plans you made before you accepted an offer are a special circumstance and will try to work with you … but you’ve also got to be clear on whether you want the vacation or the job more, and if the job wins, then it should impact the way you talk about this with the employer (making it clear that you can change the plans if needed, etc.).

        1. Elizabeth West

          What if you can’t change the plans? I have the same situation–but it’s only three days around Memorial Day, and the Friday before Labor Day. I can’t change the plans because the airline tickets are already paid for. I’m working around another person’s schedule on the first trip (it’s my long distance bf, but they don’t have to know that–I can just say family) and the other is a very special gathering I can ‘t miss.

          Most of the jobs I’m applying for are clerical so they’re pretty interchangeable. I can certainly take it unpaid; in fact, I would expect to at that level.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            You explain that you have these prepaid plans and offer to take the time unpaid. If they refuse, then you have to decide if you want the job or the trips more.

  5. Angela S.

    Re: #6 – During my last job hunting, I let my hiring manger know about a pre-planned vacation during the 2nd interview (I went in to be interviewed twice). I got hired anyway.

    I would say it depends on how the interview goes. If during the interview you aren’t being asked about how you are going to be compensate (i.e., salary, benefits, vacation time), you don’t have to bring up your pre-planed vacation. During that job interview, the subject about vacation time was brought up, so I told the hiring manager.

    I think what AAM said was right. If you are a strong candidate the hiring manager should be willing to work with your schedule. If the hiring manager is not willing to work with you, you might not want to work for that place. And if you aren’t a strong candidate, you aren’t going get hired anyway.

    1. fposte

      I think employers are often willing to work with you, but I don’t know that it’s the measure of the employer that you suggest. Sometimes employers need people there during certain times (as in that previous AAM column where a new hire had a previously scheduled conflict with her job’s biggest annual event).

      As was suggested upthread, I think two absences might be pushing things a little, too. I imagine, given the duration, both of those are actually longer gatherings around a particular event, so it might be possible to trim one of the trips back to just attending the actual event–if the christening, for example, is actually on the weekend, you might plan to be back on Monday.

      1. Angela S.

        Oh of course you are right! You should always know what you are hired for and why. The best example I can give here is that if you are hired during the pre-Christmas season to work at a retail store, don’t ask for a day off on Boxing Day….

  6. Karen

    #6 – This just happened to me. I planned a 10 day vacation starting over Memorial Day weekend in January, not knowing how long my job search would take, knowing that if I stayed in my current job through the summer, I had a lot of use or lose vacation time. Then I applied for dream job, kept getting called back, felt good about it and got an offer in mid-March. When new boss called with the offer, I just told her that I had a pre-planned vacation and that I’d take it unpaid. She said it was fine, no one else in the department had time off scheduled during that time.

  7. Just Me

    #7
    AAM advice is right on. The interview is not the place to discuss morals and values in the business world and ones view on it.
    Less is more like another poster said. State the reason like AAM said and be done with it.
    I am not sure why the need to prove your ethics and moral opinions are needed if the interviewer is not asking.

    #6 prep-planned vacations – yes wait until you get an offer. See how they react and go from there. I think asking for 2 vacations is a little much for a new person but certainly if they can accommodate don’t worry about it. If they look hesitant then I do think you need to evaluate which one vacation is more important.

    My sis-in-law works for a place that you have to fill out vacation requests months in advance, like you have to put your name in a ” slot” to secure the time off. If there are people in that slot already, it might be hard to get that time off because the dept needs the coverage at that time. Coming in new you are probably the low person on the totem pole for getting time off. Just something to think about…..

  8. Mike C.

    Ok, I’m really confused about OP #1’s situation.

    Let me get this straight –

    1. Your boss wanted you to tell her when you were going to start looking for a new position.
    2. You complied, despite the risk to yourself.
    3. She promised you help and thanked you for being upfront.
    4. ??????
    5. A week later she lays you off, because she is afraid that you’re going to violate federal law and steal client lists and company secrets.

    What in the heck happened at step 4?! Isn’t laying off an employee out of the blue going to encourage the former employee to do something rash – like say ? Doesn’t it prevent the business from hiring someone new in time to be trained in the former role?

    I mean OP, I’m thrilled that everything worked out for you, don’t get me wrong. But you went out of your way here to stick your neck out on behalf of your boss and you received suspicion that you would commit a federal crime.

    Can I make the inference that these sorts of decision making patterns were part of the reason you wanted to leave in the first place?

    1. Liz

      I think it’s just another example of why you should never tell your current employer when you’re looking.

    2. Josh S

      I see this as a situation where the direct manager has a good relationship with the OP, wants to help the person’s career, and generally wants the relationship to end on good terms. In short, a GOOD manager.

      BUT, there’s always the direct manager’s bosses. Someone up the chain of command said, “No way! What about client poaching!?! This is a HUGE risk!!” and nixed the whole arrangement.

      So in this case, Step 4 = Boss talked to her bosses and they said, “Don’t care that the person was up front and has been loyal, trusted, etc. FIRE THEM NOW!”

      It sucks. But it’s true.

      Honestly, the situation is a pretty big clue that the big bosses won’t let managers do their jobs the way they see fit. All the trust-building and seeking to be open for the sake of not getting blind-sided goes out the window because the upper-upps in the company say so. If I were the OP’s manager, I’d be getting my resume together too, and I would not be sharing that with my boss.

      1. I Submitted Question #1

        Hi Josh S. That would make sense, and I could understand if it played out that way, except my boss was the owner of the company and no one is above her.

        1. Josh S

          Oh. Well, then that’s kind of a jerkish thing to do. Sorry to hear.

          Take the severance and enjoy it!

    3. I Submitted Question #1

      Hi Mike, In response to your #4, I have had to talk her down from a lot of situations because she always imagines the worst is going to happen, even if there is no evidence to support what is going on in her mind. She was always constantly worried that someone wasn’t going to pay her money owed, clients were going to leave, something was going to go wrong even if it never had. I think the thought popped into her head and then she got really paranoid and the idea grew, but there was no one to talk her down from this since it was about me. But the thought didn’t even cross my mind that me telling her would play out that way. And yes, this was one of the many reasons I wanted to leave. I was definitely angry with how she handled the situation, but it all worked out in the end, I guess.

      1. Under Stand

        Congrats on the new job.

        Keep the money.

        She canned you and in so doing returned your good deeds with evil. She deserves every bit of the karma of you getting the new job, starting immediately and getting to keep her money. Further, after doing you this way, may all her other employees know what a liar she is and deal with her accordingly.

  9. Josh S

    Regarding #2:
    First of all, exceptions are exceptions. They really don’t have to explain why person A gets one while person B does not. (Though it would be a nice thing for them to do, especially if they are giving lots of exceptions.)

    But my honest guess would be that the company values “family reasons” more than “moving for a boyfriend/girlfriend”. It’s one thing to give exceptions for family–which is generally considered a permanent relationship (divorce notwithstanding)–and quite another to give exceptions for significant others. The SO is often/usually a temporary situation, and who is to say that you wouldn’t be breaking up and wanting to transfer BACK in a few more months…

    So sorry, it’s not “blatantly unfair.” Each person has a different situation and wants an exception for a different reason. The company responds to those differences with varying results. End of story.

    1. Mike C.

      I really take exception to the tone and content of this post.

      First of all, who are you to say that a relationship between “significant others”, “boy/girlfriends” or a married couple is anymore or less important than another? Why is marriage so valuable when in same places gaining that status is as difficult as ordering a cheese burger from my car and dissolving it takes as long to consume said burger? To reverse your question, but who’s to say that after the first decision the employee won’t file divorce papers and want a transfer back in a few more months? Who are you to say that the relationship of the OP and the relationship of her coworker are any more or less stable?

      Secondly, have you not considered the fact that for many, marriage is an expense that many cannot afford and put off until they can afford such an expense? You know, that terrible economy that’s been going on for a long while? So they stay in a monogamous, adult relationship but folks like you won’t take them seriously because they don’t have the money to afford some jewelry, a fancy dress and a huge party. Do you not take people seriously if they do not own homes or have children either?

      Thirdly, what if it’s not legal in their area to get married? I guess that means the relationship is meaningless, regardless of how long the couple has been together?

      Finally, where is heck is the business case for deciding which employee relationships are important and which are not? Do you really believe that the luxury of judging others’ private lives is worth the Pandora’s Box it would open?

      Frankly, we don’t know why the exception was given. But for you to wander in here and speak as if all relationships outside of marriage are “easy come, easy go” temporary affairs is incredibly naive and offensive. If you think that a ring and a fancy dress and a piece of paper are the necessary and sufficient conditions for a long term, stable relationship, you have a lot to learn.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        I think Josh was explaining why how many employers would view this and why they might make an exception in one situation and not the other, not arguing about the inherent merit of either.

        1. Mike C.

          If that’s the case, it’s still not a good business reason because it’s akin to given benefits out for non-business reasons. A business shouldn’t give a raise to someone just because they have children, right?

          Benefits and pay are supposed to be handed out based on the value an employee brings to the company, and marriage status is not something which affects the value of an employee.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Agreed, but in this case an employer might choose to retain a good employee who is going to move to be with a spouse, because people generally see marriage as something that means you’re going to be in the same geographic location. The issue here is about how employers usually operate, not whether those decisions are rooted in widespread cultural assumptions that are sometimes flawed.

          2. fposte

            You’re making me curious–how do you see that philosophy fitting with company-provided insurance? Would your ideal be that the company automatically provides each employee with insurance for x number of people regardless of whether they have family or not? Because insurance is a very expensive benefit that currently accrues with no correlation to employee value.

            1. DC

              Also, I really take exception to the tone of YOUR post, Mike. To say that you “flew off the handle” at Josh S’s comment is putting it mildly.

            2. Mike C.

              I would say that something like health insurance is a cost which allows an employer to be able to hire a minimum quality or type of employee.

              My ideal company would have a tiered system for health insurance:

              1. Cost for single coverage.
              2. Additional cost for spouse/domestic partner.
              3. Additional cost for children.

              Some companies have sliding scales based on wages and I don’t really think they apply here (greater participation lowers costs vs. higher earners being asked to pay more, etc). But the main thing is that the nuclear family just doesn’t exist anymore. Systems can be fair for employers and employees while remaining flexible to modern needs.

              1. fposte

                Sure, but that’s a little different from what you were saying before–I was a rather startled to hear you talking about businesses making decisions strictly on the value of the employee, because to me that’s the opposite of flexibility toward individual needs.

            3. Under Stand

              In answer to your question, I say yes I would prefer that. The company pays for the insurance of the employee. If the employee wants to add dear daughter, dear son, dear wife, dear husband, dear shack up, etc. that should be paid for 100% by the employee and the insurance company should only require proof that they are living together.

              Just MHO anyways!

      2. Nichole

        Speaking cautiously here, because I really do see your point, but marriage IS a bigger deal than having an SO. Maybe the OP just hasn’t gotten around to getting married, but it’s coming. Maybe the OP is opposed to marriage in general. Maybe, as you point out, the OP is unable to legally marry their SO (in which case much of what I’m saying here won’t apply, and the exception is warranted, in my opinion). Or maybe the OP isn’t sure yet that s/he wants to be married to this person. The company doesn’t know which it is, but they have to make their decisions based on what they do know: that at the current time, this person has not made a permanant legal committment to the SO. Contrary to popular belief, the “ring and fancy dress” aren’t necessary to get married, just the piece of paper, which is not particularly expensive. Until you get married, you don’t have the benefits of marriage, including the automatic acceptance of your relationship as “serious.”

        I don’t intend to imply that non marital relationships are not as valid as marital ones, just that people on the outside won’t make certain assumptions with unmarried people that they make with married people, so the OP may have to do a better job of explaining why s/he needs an exception to the rule to someone who had already taken the step of getting married would have to. Marriage as a status has assumptions attached automatically, the OP may have to actually show the connections for her situation before her employer will understand.

        1. Anonymous

          Everyone is assuming that “family reasons” means spouse. It could mean ex-spouse with shared custody of children. It could mean ex-significant-other with shared custody of children. It could mean parents who are elderly and need care. It may have been a matter of “either I move to a different office or I will need FMLA time.”

          And yes, I know that FMLA time doesn’t apply here, because they’ve been employed less than 1 year, but I live in Oregon, and we have OFLA, which is a state law very similar to FMLA and which kicks in after 6 months, not 12. So maybe these two live somewhere with a similar law.

          1. Anon.

            That’s exactly how I read family reasons.. elderly parents needing care. Now maybe I read it that way because at my age so many of my circle have elderly parents (and children too.. sandwiched).

            I also have many friends in very long term relationships who cannot get married/must do so in states not close by and so I see Mike C.’s point too.

          2. Long Time Admin

            My first thought was someone’s elderly parent(s) need care. Many employers would give precedence to someone wanting to care for a dying parent over someone wanting to be closer to their “significant other”.

            1. Diana

              This is the exception I find most persuasive. A dying parent may have a limited time left and it would be a humanitarian exception to let the employee move before their normal time limit to spend those last days. A SO or even spouse will presumably still be there after the year time limit so are less of an reason to make an exception.

        2. Anon

          I think the thing here is that both employees knew that the rule for transferring was a year. If someone needs to move for family reasons, and gets the exception, to me that implies that something has changed for that employee and the company recognizes it.

          For the OP, we don’t know if anything changed. Did the SO move away or get transferred? If yes, then the company is being unfair. If no, then you knew the rule was one year. Try again in a few months.

        3. Lauren

          I actually applied to a job in Maine recently, when I live in Boston. I specifically wrote that my boyfriend “of nine years” and I have a goal of moving to Maine permanently. I totally agree with Mike that SO are discriminated against versus married / partners, which is why I spelled out 9 years in my cover letter, as I wanted to emphasize that I wasn’t just following a boy after 3 months of being together. BF / GF tends to give that temporary connotation even if it isn’t true, and I wanted to demonstrate that my relationship was stable, and that I really meant to move to Maine to take this job. Although, the company said it was odd that I was so adamant about stressing our goals, I wanted to make sure that 1) my resume wasn’t tossed based on geography and 2) that I wasn’t coming across like I was following a temporary boyfriend / would “go home to boston” after a break up.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            I’d probably just say “partner” since otherwise you risk coming across like you’re sharing inappropriately (i.e., many hiring managers will think “I don’t care how long her relationship is,” just like it would be weird to say “my spouse of 9 years”).

            1. Anonymous

              I agree – that wording would strike me as very odd. And when people try to “over prove” themselves, it raises questions for me. (Not just in their personal life, but professionally too – you have to sell yourself, but stop before it starts to backfire!)

      3. The gold digger

        marriage is an expense that many cannot afford and put off until they can afford such an expense?

        I’m not trying to be pissy here, but marriage is not expensive. It cost us $100 for our marriage license. I don’t know what a JP costs, but we made a $400 donation to our church for the pastor. I suspect a JP would cost less.

        All other expenses were optional. We had a $600 wedding dinner for our family and trust me, I would rather have eloped. If you had my in-laws, you would want to elope, too.

        I spent $39 for my dress at Macy’s and have worn it several times. I almost never wear my wedding ring and I have an engagement trash can, not an engagement ring. None of the fancy stuff and yet, we are just as married as people who have $30,000 weddings. I’m not trying to badmouth people who do that – it’s their money and they can spend it as they wish – but we didn’t have that kind of money. So we didn’t do it that way.

        Now I return you to your regularly-scheduled programming.

        1. Mike C.

          I was expecting this. Just because you did it doesn’t mean that everyone else can do it too.

          I think what you need to understand is that marriage means different things to different people. For some, a wedding like yours would be just fine. For others, there are familial, religious, community or traditional obligations which require a more formal and more expensive situation. And without that ceremony, without that ring, many won’t treat your relationship as “real” or “serious”. This includes the workplace, and has real consequences when it comes time to assign vacation or overtime.

          The fact of the matter is that people today who are in their 20s and 30s are putting off many of the so-called “milestone” events – marriage, buying a house, and having children. They are doing so because for them the unemployment rate is incredibly high and they are getting burned by all the advice they were given on the way.

          To say, “it can be done inexpensively” doesn’t solve the problem. People need to quit being so dang judgmental on the status of private relationships. Most of the married people I work with are on marriage two or three, so I find the idea that “just having” a significant other as being less meaningful to be a joke.

          1. fposte

            In private life, I agree with the notion that judging less would be a good thing. But this is actually based on a work situation where somebody’s called upon to exercise judgment. And you really can’t have a situation that allows flexibility to individual needs–including the needs of the co-workers–that doesn’t involve judgment. The only way to take judgment out of it is to say no transfers for anybody, no exception.

            I get what you’re saying about the SO issue in particular (though we don’t actually know it’s relevant in this particular case–maybe the person who got the transfer was moving to take care of her little sister while her mother was dying, who knows), but I think that part of flexible, individual treatment is that some people get a no while others get a yes, and the difference isn’t necessarily going to be a bright line.

            1. Mike C.

              But that judgement should be based on a business case. That the issue we’re all discussing never comes up.

              1. Josh S

                Here’s the quick-and-simple business case.

                Situation A–Family Reasons:
                Employee asks for a transfer for family reasons. Company policy says not until 1 year. Because the motivation is family, the person has a higher likelihood (though NOT a certainty) of quitting to take on those responsibilities (caring for elderly parents, moving with a spouse, etc). Even at the cost of losing a job and needing to look for a new one.

                If the employee quits, there’s the expense of hiring, the cost of training and getting a new person up to speed, etc etc. And you’ve just put 8 months into the employee/they’re just getting up to speed that you don’t want to lose them.

                So it makes business sense to approve an exception for the employee seeking a transfer for family reasons.

                Situation B–Boyfriend/Girlfriend:
                Employee asks for a transfer to be closer to boyfriend/girlfriend. Company policy says not until 1 year. Because the motivation is to be closer to a significant other, the employer has no idea what the level of commitment is between those two people. It is not the employer’s place to judge that (as you’ve noted), and really none of the employer’s business. But the fact is known that the relationship (for whatever reason) is less formalized than a marriage. So it seems less likely that the employee will quit for the sake of living closer to a significant other. They’re more likely (though not certain) to value gainful employment over the inconvenience of traveling farther for date nights.

                So it makes business sense to deny the employee seeking a transfer to be closer to a significant other.

        2. anon

          Weddings are expensive. Believe me, after working in retail where wedding spending provides a good portion of the sales, I wouldn’t have a traditional wedding. I’ve lost track of how many ancillary relatives and “friends” of the couple complain about what is on the registry. Most couple don’t have time to add items just so Aunt Bessy or Uncle Frank can give them a gift rather than cash or a gift card. Most newlywed couples don’t have a lot of space to store stuff and that money or gift card will be more useful. Also, so many couples are so young. I’m in my mid 20s and wouldn’t even think of getting married until I’m in my 30s when I’m more secure in my career.

          I’m one of the single, childless and unmarried people who get tired of having to cover for coworkers whose kids get sick or have constant family “emergencies”. I’m sorry but just because you can’t trust your 10 year old to be left alone for a couple of hours doesn’t not make it okay to beg me to give up my one day off that week. He’s not going to burn the house down. If he does then that is a reflection on you as a parent that you didn’t raise him with enough common sense to be left alone. Sorry about the rant, but it is frustrating that people with families get better scheduling, holidays off, and more consideration when it comes to vacation time.

          1. The Other Dawn

            Anon, don’t apologize for the rant. I am in my late 30s, married, and childless. I totally get what you are saying about having to cover for the endless appointments, “emergencies”, etc. Not to mention never being able to have any time off around Christmas, because someone without reliable childcare already blocked out the whole two weeks up through New Year’s. Luckily that doesn’t happen anymore (kids are older), but it always drove me nuts.

      4. Josh S

        I really take exception to the tone and content of this post.

        I apologize if my tone was harsh. It was not my intent to be derogatory toward any groups of people. I know that I have a tendency toward brashness, and though I’m trying to work at that, it still creeps in sometimes. Sorry.

        First of all, who are you to say that a relationship between “significant others”, “boy/girlfriends” or a married couple is anymore or less important than another?

        I did not previously say that the relationship between boy/girlfriends is more or less important than between married people. I specifically said that a company treats those relationships differently–they place greater value on an excuse of “family reasons” rather than “significant other.”

        However, I will state that marriage has a greater authority or formality or status than boyfriend/girlfriend. It’s not permanent (see: US Divorce Rate), but it is more permanent than a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. (Please note, I am making no claims to the VALUE, quality, or rightness of any of those relationships–just the status our society attributes to them. Those who take the formal, legal step of obtaining a marriage certificate are given greater rights and responsibilities than those who have the exact same relationship, but lack the piece of paper.)

        Why is marriage so valuable when in same places gaining that status is as difficult as ordering a cheese burger from my car and dissolving it takes as long to consume said burger? To reverse your question, but who’s to say that after the first decision the employee won’t file divorce papers and want a transfer back in a few more months? Who are you to say that the relationship of the OP and the relationship of her coworker are any more or less stable?

        In my original comment, I was explaining the view of the employer. Most companies place a higher value on family–whether spouse, parents, siblings, or kids–than they do on boyfriend/girlfriend relationships. It’s just the way it is. This is why you can add a spouse to your medical insurance (company-provided and company-subsidized benefits) but not a significant other. That formal relationship carries with it certain privileges that a dating relationship (or engaged couples, or live-together couples) do not.

        Secondly, have you not considered the fact that for many, marriage is an expense that many cannot afford and put off until they can afford such an expense? You know, that terrible economy that’s been going on for a long while? So they stay in a monogamous, adult relationship but folks like you won’t take them seriously because they don’t have the money to afford some jewelry, a fancy dress and a huge party. Do you not take people seriously if they do not own homes or have children either?

        Marriage is a pretty cheap process. In my area, it’s like $20 at the county office to get the certificate, and another $50 or so if you want a Justice of the Peace to perform the ceremony. …Oh, I think you might be talking about the expense of a wedding. Yeah, those can get pricey. But they’re not necessary for marriage, and you can always throw your fancy-party-with-the-dress-and-dancing when the economy recovers.

        And for the record, I don’t care whether you own a home outright, owe tons of money on a mortgage, rent, live in a hotel, or struggle to find a place on the street where you won’t lose the clothes off your back. I don’t care whether you have kids or not. I don’t care if you’re married or not. There’s 320 million people in the US and they’re all different, and that’s great.

        But when it comes to making a business decision, you better believe that different circumstances elicit different responses from me. The high-performer who got all her work done for the week wants to leave a little early on Friday afternoon might get the exception over someone who barely does the minimum. Different situations call for different responses. That’s all this is about.

        Thirdly, what if it’s not legal in their area to get married? I guess that means the relationship is meaningless, regardless of how long the couple has been together?

        I assume you are referring here to same-sex domestic partnerships. This is a valid point. Many states don’t recognize such arrangements. Most companies do not either (though that’s changing). As a business owner, I would probably look at the situation and company policy and see if an exception was warranted.

        Again, I’d like to note–NONE of this has ANY bearing as to the value I place on the relationship between two people. I don’t know if the OP’s significant other is the flavor of the month or has lived together with the OP for 10 years. They might be the best couple in the county, for all I know. But it doesn’t mean that a business has to treat them the same as a married couple.

        Finally, where is heck is the business case for deciding which employee relationships are important and which are not? Do you really believe that the luxury of judging others’ private lives is worth the Pandora’s Box it would open?

        It’s not about deciding which employee relationships are important. It’s about deciding if that relationship justifies an exception. And companies draw this line all the time. With benefits–spouses qualify (and sometimes same-sex domestic partners) but roommates and significant others don’t. Kids are eligible up until a certain age (I think the new Health Care Reform upped this age…) but after that, the kid is on their own–even if they are still dependent upon their parents because of disabilities, etc. Lines get drawn.

        Frankly, we don’t know why the exception was given. But for you to wander in here and speak as if all relationships outside of marriage are “easy come, easy go” temporary affairs is incredibly naive and offensive. If you think that a ring and a fancy dress and a piece of paper are the necessary and sufficient conditions for a long term, stable relationship, you have a lot to learn.

        You’re right. I was speculating. Hence the words, “…my honest guess…” in the first line of the second paragraph. And no, I never said, I never believed, and I don’t think I ever implied that all relationships outside of marriage are temporary affairs. Nor did I ever state that the piece of paper (because the ring and the dress are superfluous) makes for a long-term, stable relationship. I made a generalization (I even noted the exceptions!) about the perception that businesses have about the difference between married couples and dating couples.

        And while the divorce rate of married couples in the US is around 50% these days, I’d bet dollars to cheerios that the ‘break-up’ rate among dating couples is much, much higher. (Though admittedly, I have no hard data on that ‘break-up rate.’ If you have data to the contrary, please let me know.)

  10. Ann

    Yeah, the boss in #1 seems like a total sleazebag. I wouldn’t mention you got a new job to her.

    1. Josh S

      I really think it’s not the boss, but the upper management. I can’t imagine going from “let me HELP YOU with your search so we can have an orderly transition” to “You’re FIRED” in the space of a week or two without something significant happening.

      That would either have to be the OP collecting lists of client names/contact info and emailing them to a personal account (HUGE signs that he’s trying to poach clients), or someone else issuing a diktat about what the OP’s boss MUST do.

      I’d even bet that the 2.5ish weeks of severance were the result of the OP’s boss going to bat for the person.

      1. I Submitted Question #1

        Nope, it was my boss. See my response above. And the thought NEVER crossed my mind to poach clients (i’m not even at the level yet where that would even be a possibility). But I was very involved with the clients (something she wanted and nurtured while I was in the position) and it is a small company.

        1. EngineerGirl

          “And the thought NEVER crossed my mind”
          I find that people that come up with these super wierd accusation / scenarios fall into 2 types:
          1) They are honest people that have been blindsided in the past by a dishonest person. From that point on they are paranoid. Because they didn’t see it coming the first time, they are terrifed that it can happen again. They become hyper-vigilent.
          2) They are dishonest people that would do this to others, so assume that you would do it to them. But like you said, an honest person normally would never even dream of that scenario, let alone act on it.

  11. #5

    Thanks for the answer to my question, #5 – I am jumping the gun a little, I appreciate that, but I also work in a small enough field that this situation will come up sooner or later and I realized that I wasn’t quite sure how or if I could create a professional relationship from a non-professional one. I’ve only ever done the reverse (from colleagues to friends). Thanks, Alison!

  12. Lucky Dog

    RE: 4. Following up to reiterate your interest after applying for a job…How are sales positions gotten with different rules…just what are those different rules? Not to sound naive, but if I keep contacting a sales manager for a position, won’t s/he gettired of hearing from me?
    Just curious.

    1. KayDay

      IMO (I’m not actually in sales), sales positions value more follow-up than other positions. They are going to value the idea of you *convincing/selling* them that they should hire you; as opposed to many other companies that see the hiring process as you showing them what you have to offer once, but then it’s their decision once you apply. (This not a dichotomy but rather where the different fields fall on a continuum.) That’s not to say that you can call for a sales position twice a day every day, but sales positions draw the line between “follow-up” and “harassment” differently. I think a lot of job seeking advice is actually geared towards sales, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find some info about how much to follow up.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Exactly. If you’re applying for a job that requires fairly assertive sales skills, employers often expect you to demonstrate that in the way you handle the hiring process. I think that’s kind of ick, but that’s that industry.

  13. Gene

    Re: #6:

    I had a similar situation when I started this job. I had a family reunion several states away and had planned a 2 week vacation for it. When the job offer came we sat down and discussed it. Luckily the start date was a week before the vacation; we just delayed my start date 3 weeks and I turned in my 3-week notice a week before I left for vacation. We got stuff wrapped up at the old job and I left for my paid vacation with the intent to never return.

    One advantage was when anyone asked where I was working, I was “between jobs” and relatives felt sorry for me and offered to pay for things for me. :-)

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      One thing to know is that lots of places won’t let you take vacation time once you’ve put in your notice, because they want you using that notice period to actually wrap things up and get them ready for your replacement. So make sure you know where your company stands on that before assuming it’ll work!

      1. Gene

        One note on my sutuation, I was working for a county government with a union contract, so I got paid for the vacation time even if I didn’t take it.

        The other main reason I did it that way is my first wife had significant heart issues and we were going to be spending time at relatively high elevations. Being on vacaton ensured there would be no questions about health insurance coverage. She was fine; I discovered pushing a wheelchair around Yellowstone made me wish I didn’t live at sea level.

    2. Anonymous

      I have seen several people retire/resign this way where I work, though they were required to be present at work on their last official day. So they wrap everything up, are gone a few weeks, and then come back one more day for a party and to answer any questions that have come up in their absence.

      1. KayDay

        That’s interesting…I know two people (my mom and a co-worker who left) who finished and then took vacation as a part of their departure. However, they gave extra notice (in both cases over a month) prior to the time they took off for vacation. So, essentially they gave notice that their last day in the office would be in 4 weeks, followed by 2 weeks of “vacation”. However, both of them worked in small-ish/more flexible organizations.

          1. Esra

            Most places I’ve worked at want you out as soon as possible + to not have to pay out vacation. Do Americans get their vacation paid out if they leave part way through the year?

  14. Lucy

    Re: Vacation time

    Would it be worth stating the reason if the trip is a honeymoon instead of a regular vacation?

    1. Josh S

      Absolutely. At the risk of getting Mike C. all over my case again, a lot of people/managers will give high priority to honeymoons. I’m sure it’s some sort of nostalgia thing (“I had such a good time on MY honeymoon, I ought to give them the same chance–they might never get it again!”), but it happens.

  15. The Other Dawn

    In regards to #2, “family reasons” could be having to care for a sick spouse/SO/child/in-law or it could be having to relocate elderly parents, etc. If that’s the case, the employer is going to see that as being more important that OP wanting to be closer to the SO. That’s the reality of it. If two employees both asked me about relocation and had been there the same amount of time, I would give priority to the employee having to deal with a sick or elderly family member.

  16. Anonymous

    #7: I think I would be very cautious stating you left this position for ethical concerns, but for a different reason. You were there for six months as a receptionist, not in payroll or accounting (Based on the short question). I would wonder how you knew, but more importantly if you knew the right information. I might follow up more with your background in payroll and taxes – that could be a great benefit to you if you have experience/training in those areas.

    Where it could be a hindrance is if the interviewer develops the sense that you acted in error, even if in good faith. Honestly, I feel that if you had cause to leave the position for these ethical reasons, report it to the appropriate agencies.

  17. TMM

    For those of us who are AAM fans up here in the northern part of North America (aka Canada), here are a few comments:
    #1 – That is a weird situation but sounds like your boss did get paranoid and reacted to her paranoia. If she gives you the money, I’d suggest you keep it unless you signed an agreement to give it back. In my experience, it’s common for the severance agreement to have a mitigation clause-particularly when you’e been fired. This clause usually says the former employee must work hard to find a new job and when you do, you are required to tell your former employer and will lose part or all of your severance still to be paid out. Note this is only for severance over and above the legally required amount. Usually this extra severance amount is contingent upon the former employee signing an agreement with clauses about no poaching, confidentiality, no lawsuits, etc.

    #2 – sure, it’s appropriate to mention that Lucinda was allowed to transfer but that in no way means the Company must allow you the same flexibility. Be careful not to sound like you’re whinging. Perhaps it was in the company’s best interests to transfer Lucinda but for some reason, it doesn’t suit them to transfer you. It may have nothing to do with you or your family reasons. Also don’t expect the company to explain why they transferred Lucinda but not you. I always tell employees who use that argument (you did it for HER, why not me?) that each case is unique and it’s not appropriate to discuss other employee’s situations with them.
    #3 – I agree with others, you are reading too much into it. (I do the same thing when looking for a job, analyzing every single word said!) I find hiring managers often don’t know how to end an interview elegantly so they end up saying something cliche. I always try to be the one who walks the candidate out to avoid this type of awkwardness or at least coach my hiring managers what to say and what not to say.
    #4 – As discussed at length in another AAM post, following up by e-mail is okay but don’t stalk the HR person or expect them to reply to your follow-up. Sometimes too much follow-up just makes you look desperate and frankly, turns me off of you as a candidate.
    #6-if an employee takes their vacation just before leaving, they are still an employee. This has ramifications for things like disability, insurance, benefit coverage, etc. so sometimes a company wants the employee to leave and pay out their vacation so it reduces the company’s liability in case the employee gets hurt while on vacation. That said, different companies have different policies. btw, California is more generous about paying out vacation than Canada since California forces an employer to pay out any and all vacation the employee EVER earned in their time with the employer…so if you earned 10 days vacation in 2008 but never took it, the company must still pay out that time. I learned about this when our Canadian company terminated an employee in California. Here in Canada, employees may lose the right to take/be paid out some of their previously accrued vacation as long as it’s more time than what is legally required, company policy notwithstanding.
    #5,7 – AAM is right on the money as usual :-)

  18. Kat M

    Glad to see #7 here. I’m in a similar situation with one of my jobs (they’re being investigated for insurance fraud), and I’m wondering whether to even bother putting it on my resume, as I was only there 3 months. I have another part-time job, so it’s not a hole in my resume, but the experience in that environment was a resume asset I was happy to have. :(

  19. Shauna

    I, too, am job hunting and am concerned about my upcoming scheduled vacations. In three weeks I’ll be going on a 1-wk long mission trip to a third world country. Therefore, I wont have access to any sort of technology. I just applied to my dream job and am now worried that if I do get an interview, what to do if they call during my mission trip. My concerns are valid having gotten invited to two interviews during my 5 weeks of jury duty (which I didn’t know was going to last that long at the time.) And was told that rather than wiat for my jury duty to finish, they decided to move on. I know 5 weeks is a long time for an employer to wait, but was still hoping to work out an interview. I feel like I could be in the same situation with this mission trip, but I also don’t feel I can pass up on sending resumes for jobs that I’m qualified for and really want…

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I’d leave an auto-repsponder on your email and a voicemail on your phone that explains you’re out of the country without access to technology for one week, so that they know what’s up if they contact you.

  20. Adora

    Greetings! I love your blog, and come here often for sage advice re: employment matters. I have a question which (sort of) relates to Q&A #1 here that I hope you might have some insight on…

    A friend is currently in negotiations with a former employer re: wrongful dismissal. Counsel acting on behalf of former employer is requesting detailed notes of all efforts to mitigate loss of wages — including names and contact info of all potential employers my friend has applied to since her position was terminated.

    Do they have legal authority to demand this information? My initial thought/reaction would be “No way! That’s between you and the government!” but I wanted to seek out another opinion.

    Thanks for the great posts — please keep it up!

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Oh sorry — I just re-read your question. I thought they were asking for her earnings since termination. Asking who she’s applied for work with? Very different. Her lawyer should know the answer though.

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