fast answer Friday: 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s fast answer Friday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Today, you’re wondering about your coworker’s bathroom habits, you want feedback from your employees, you have more salary questions, and more. Here we go…

1. Coworker takes iPad into the bathroom throughout the day

I have a weird question. We have a new guy on our team. He has only been there a few weeks. I have noticed some odd behavior from him and I’m not sure if I should just write it off as “weird” or actually raise it as a concern.

As i was exiting the women’s restroom the other day, I noticed that he was going into the private men’s bathroom with his iPad. I thought this was pretty weird but decided to write it off as a once off bizarre action. Since then, I have noticed that he actually goes into the private men’s bathroom about every two hours (four times a day) for roughly 15-25 minutes at a time, always with his iPad.

I don’t like knowing this but I can’t help thinking that he is doing something rather…inappropriate. Regardless, it also seems like an abuse of company time. Is this something that I should even care about? If it is something to raise as a concern, any advice on how to escalate it? I do not feel comfortable talking to him about it.

Let’s not beat around the bush here (unintentional inappropriate pun) — you think he’s in there looking at porn, right? But isn’t it possible that this is the modern-day equivalent of taking a newspaper into the bathroom for more typical bathroom activities? Needing to do that every two hours seems excessive, but I don’t think you really want to get into the business of monitoring or judging how often someone else answers that call. I’d leave it alone.

2. Getting honest feedback from workers

I currently oversee a group of 30 summer staffers at a mid-sized camp. Most of the workers I supervise are recent high school graduates who spend the summer working in non-counseling positions, like lifeguarding and running handcrafts. We traditionally ask these workers to fill out an end-of-summer survey asking for feedback, but the current survey questions are bland and don’t generate useful comments. I’m really eager to hear truthful, insightful feedback about what works and what doesn’t — how do I tease this out of them? Are employee surveys ever a good idea to begin with, or should I be conducting more formal exit interviews to get this kind of information?

Surveys have the advantage of being anonymous, but they’re only as good as the questions on them. So it sounds like you need a different survey, at a minimum. On the other hand, in exit interviews you can probe and ask follow-up questions, which surveys generally don’t allow. But whichever option you choose, the key is to make sure that people understand that it’s safe for them to give honest feedback and that it won’t impact their future references or work with you — something that’s probably easier with recent high school graduates than with more jaded workers, so you have that going for you!

3. Interviewer asked my ethnicity

I recently went on an interview where I was asked by the interviewer — who is also the executive director of the organization — what my ethnicity is. It was simply casual conversation and I am used to the question, but it surprised me coming from a potential employer. Then the interview went on without a hitch. I completed a writing sample and sent a thank-you email the next day. After about a week and a half, I received an email from them saying they had filled the position and that I was no longer being considered.

Is asking about ethnicity typical in job interviews? I have been on quite a few lately and it was the first time I was asked that question. How should I react to the rejection in the light of the fact that I might have been discriminated against?

No, it’s not typical — and it’s really dumb for an interviewer to ask that even if there’s zero discriminatory intent behind it, because it opens the door for exactly what’s happening now: You’re wondering if it’s related to why you didn’t get the job.

Here’s some advice on handling it in the moment if it happens again. As for what to do now, absent some evidence that this is why you didn’t get the job (which is very hard to prove in a tight job market where people are being rejected constantly), I’d move on. I realize that may rankle some people who prefer to see every potential injustice challenged, but if you have no way of proving it (or even knowing if you’re right to be suspicious), your practical options are limited.

4. What does this email mean?

I recently sent my CV with a covering email to a company that I want to work for. A week later, a job was advertised on their website that I applied for, as it is exactly what I do now and have lots of experience in. The job application was an online application with no option to upload a CV.

Today I received an email from the firm thanking me for my CV but saying they have no suitable positions. I find this odd, as they definitely do have a suitable position — the one they are advertising and I have applied for. Do you think this means I won’t be selected for interview even though I have all the qualifications they are seeking? Also, should I follow up if I don’t get an interview and ask if my application/cv was lacking in some way?

Yes, it probably means they’re not interviewing you. Simply having all the qualifications doesn’t guarantee you an interview; there are tons of qualified candidates, and they can’t interview all of them.

Don’t follow up to ask if your application was lacking in some way; you can certainly try asking for advice on what they’re seeking in new hires (notice the different phrasing), but you’re more likely to get feedback when an employer has actually interviewed you. When they’ve never spoken with you, the answer is less likely to be useful and they’re less likely to want to spend the time explaining their thought process.

5. Interested in two jobs at the same company

In my recent job search, I came across a fabulous company, with an open position that fits my current skills. This would be mostly an administrative job, which I’ve done before, but I’m looking to work with the merchandising branch of the company. Also, this position is entry level, which I am almost out of (in terms of skill level). However, there is another job with the same company, one level up. I’m much more interested in this “higher” job, but it would require more learning on my part (which of course I am happy and excited to do). I’m not sure which position to apply to, however. This is a smaller company (100 people), and I want to make a good impression, so I don’t know if applying for both jobs is really the right way to go. Should I aim for the higher one, and be prepared to offer myself for the lower one (should I get an interview and they find me not quite qualified), or just aim for the entry-level position and theoretically work my way up in the company? I’ve received conflicting advice (reach! settle! trying for both can’t hurt!) and its really stressing me out.

You’re getting conflicting advice because there’s no good answer. You can make a good argument for any of your three options. Personally, I’d apply for the higher-level job — but only if you’re truly qualified for it, which I’m admittedly a little skeptical of from your description of it. If it’s really a big stretch, then go for the lower-level one instead.

6. Correcting a mistake in salary negotiation

I just returned from a job interview and made the mistake of saying what salary I want up-front. Rather than give a range, I just gave my very, very low-end number. (Don’t ask me why … I got caught up in the moment.) The number is 19% more than I make now, but I like my job now and the move would be to a start-up and I have the security of a huge company behind me, plus I think I’m going to get promoted in a few months. I don’t think I would feel comfortable leaving for this number. Is there anything at all I can do to fix this, or do I just have to wait and see if I get the offer and take it from there?

Wait until you get an offer, because you don’t want to be negotiating salary before they’ve decided they want to hire you. And at that point, just be straightforward: You’re very excited about the job, but your current job has security and you’re due for a promotion, and so it would take $X for you to leave it.

And always be prepared for the salary question so that you’re not caught off-guard. If you wing it, you’re much more likely to do this to yourself.

7. Negotiating a signing bonus

I am heading into the final round of interviews for a VP position. I am one of three finalists, so I am trying to prepare my response in case I am fortunate enough to get an offer. The base salary negotiation is relatively straight forward, but it is complicated by the need for a signing bonus to make up for lost stock grants. How would you suggest I approach this issue? It isn’t their responsibility to pay off the stock that I’d be walking away from, but I’ll have 3-5 years before my stock vests in the new company which will amount to a significant loss of income that might sway my decision.

Just like with the question above, simply be straightforward: You’ll be losing $X in stocks, so is it possible to do anything with compensation so that you’re not taking that loss? Obviously, you need to be worth it to them — they’re not going to pay you extra just to make up your loss; they’re only going to do it if they want you enough — so make sure that you’re impressive enough to them by the time it gets to that point.

{ 89 comments… read them below }

  1. Anon

    #1–writing this… In the bathroom… While on the iPad. :-)

    Oh, and just for the record, not every guy looks at or even likes porn. I personally find it distasteful to the extreme.

    1. Another Emily

      I think it’s more likely he wants a private place to goof off and read stuff on his iPad. He figures he won’t get in trouble in the privacy of the bathroom.

      1. Anonymous

        Although that may be true, please keep in mind that many of us do suffer from not-very-visible illnesses. Irritable bowel syndrome (often characterized by frequent bathroom trips, among other things), for example, is actually one of the leading causes of lost workplace productivity.

        1. Kate

          Yep, agree with all of the above comments that there could be any number of explanations other than a porn habit!

          I think the only basis you have for approaching your manager would be is if his absences from the office are impacting on your workload. I would leave the bathroom and the iPad out of it alltogether. I’d just focus on the fact that there is a shortfall while he’s out, and talk about how the team can handle it.

          I think I’d only raise the iPad/bathroom thing if there’s a rule against bringing personal electronic devices to work, like if you work in a security-classified environment or something. A lot of government offices have such rules.

            1. Liz T

              Agreed with all of this. I frequently bring my iPad to the bathroom a la a newspaper, though when I do I bring my whole bag. (Because otherwise, it does look like I’m goofing off. It never occurred to me, however, that someone might be looking at porn. Especially every two hours!)

              Also, it doesn’t usually take a man 15-25 minutes to fulfill his porn-related needs. Or a woman for that matter.

            1. Jamie

              They are – but they can’t win. They can mock with their little pig grins all they like…but a couple of viewings of a walk-through video and some determination and they don’t stand a chance.

              I personally think Angry Birds and Words with Friends are the most important additions to our technical lives, and yes, that is my official opinion as an IT professional.

              1. sparky629

                Yeah!! I love both of those games. If you are ever so inclined you can look me up on WWF, my username is sparky629 as well.

                1. Jamie

                  I’m either Jamie-IT or Jamie_IT…I can’t remember how I formatted the screen name.

                  I’ll look you up!

        2. Elizabeth West

          Yeah, I had a coworker who had extensive surgery and had to visit the men’s room a lot more than usual. I’m sure he would have taken an iPad with him if he had one.

          1. Jen

            Same here, I had a coworker who had diverticulitis and had to have surgery and he made several trips to the restroom a day (and brought the newspaper in with him every time). Anyone in this situation should just be thankful if you don’t have to go in the bathroom after that person :) I work at a small shop and there’s only one unisex bathroom here.

      2. Anonymous

        Or has a Wi-FI only iPad and there’s a good signal from the next door coffee shop’s hotspot in the men’s.

    2. anyonymous

      I WISH I had the cojones to take my iPad into the bathroom at work. Man. I’m a big, big fan of reading in the bathroom at home, it killed me in college that it was somehow “wrong” or “weird” to take reading material into a public restroom with me. That first time someone saw me bringing a Cosmo out of the bathroom scarred me for life. There’s no way I would attempt to bring my iPad into the bathroom for fear of receiving another one of those “oh. my. gosh. what. are. you. doing. how. disgusting.” looks.

  2. Eric

    #5 (Two jobs at the same company)
    While I absolutely agree with AAM that there is no “right” answer, if you do go ahead and apply for only the entry-level position, don’t do it expecting to be able to move up in the company. At a place that small, it can be very difficult to move up within. So, unless the interview gives you reason to believe otherwise, don’t take an entry-level job there that you would only be happy with if it was followed by a promotion.

    1. Jamie

      Maybe this depends on the industry, but in mine it would actually be easier to move up in a company this size. The leaner a place runs the more hats people may be expected to wear which often leads to opportunities to stretch that you might not get at a larger company.

    2. EM

      I was going to say the opposite. I work for a small company (less than 30 people), and people definitely can grow and expand in their roles. I hired on as a mid-level type technical staff, and a year later, I’m starting to get my own small projects to manage. My coworker who was hired to do fieldwork the same time I was hired has moved on to stuff a step above fieldwork since we’ve hired entry-level field staff. He’s now managing their work.

  3. Anonymous

    @Anon: I wrote the first question. I don’t think every guy looks at or likes porn. I was just taken aback by the length and frequency of such visits AT WORK. Seems a bit excessive but I appreciate the advice not to care about it!

    1. JLH

      AAM’s other stock phrase in addition to “Yes, that’s legal” should be “If it doesn’t affect you, leave it alone.” Which is something a lot of people could learn. Please.

      1. Rana

        Agreed. Bottom line (heh) is that you don’t know what he’s up to, or what his reasons are. Maybe he’s watching porn. Maybe he has an intestinal disorder. Maybe he’s searching for another job and this is the only way he can do it during work hours without being caught. Maybe he has a school-age child who needs regular reassurance. Maybe he’s using an app to help him monitor insulin injections. Maybe he’s running a drug ring from the bathroom. Maybe he’s in the Witness Protection Program and needs to check in with his handlers. The possibilities are endless! *grin*

        So your options are either (a) spend more of your time and mental energy watching him and wondering, (b) ask him and risk learning the answer and/or having to deal with his reaction, (c) tell your boss and risk having your boss wonder why this matters and what *your* agenda is, or (d) shrug and let him be his mysterious odd self.

        Obviously, if his activities seem to be affecting your own work, that’s one thing, but it doesn’t sound like he’s doing anything other than going into the bathroom a lot with an iPad for some reason of his own.

        1. Nikki

          “Maybe he’s running a drug ring from the bathroom.”

          *Tee-Hee* I needed a giggle this morning.

        2. Sparky629

          Lol. The reason he maybe in the Witness Protection Program is because he was running a drug ring from the bathroom at his last job. :-)
          I’d totally stay out of that because when the cartel finds him you don’t want to be in the middle of those illicit activities.

          Oy Vey, I watch way too many cop shows. *smh*

      2. ChristineH

        +1! Where was this blog 10 years ago??! I used to obsess about a coworker’s phone conversations, thinking he was up to no good, and it made me pretty miserable right off the bat.

          1. Elizabeth West

            I wish you still were, or combined the two. “How to tell if the guy you’re dating is going to dump you while you’re job searching!” I could have used that advice recently. :P :'(

    2. Anonymous

      Unless someone happens to go into the bathroom (assuming its multiple cubicle and not individual rooms) and notices something out of sorts I’d assume that either the person has a medical condition or is goofing off and thinks no-one is realising.

      If it affects the amount of work they get done then perhaps their manager should artfully mention that they are noticed to be away from their desks a significant portion of time and leave it up to the employee to mention where they are spending that time.

    3. Lisa

      Maybe he has a medical issue that makes him poop a lot, and he feels bad about taking so many poop breaks at work, so he takes his iPad to answer emails or do other work while on the toilet. Leave it alone, but avoid ever touching his iPad ;)

        1. Charles

          Okay, that’s it!

          From now one, I want you IT folks to always give me brand-spanking new, fresh out of the box equipment. No more of this “refurbished stuff”! That is icky.

    4. Long Time Admin

      How would you like it if a man was keeping track of *your* bathroom habits? I’ll bet you would be in to see HR like a flash.

      Let It Go.

      The world does not need one more Bathroom Monitor.

      1. Charles

        Actually, that was my first thought – reverse the genders and some woman would be writing to AAM asking how she should approach HR about a “stalker.”

        Then everyone here would be calling him a perv!

        1. Anonymous

          This!

          I can’t believe I had to read this far down before someone pointed out the gender bias here – SMDH! >:-[

      2. Liz T

        THANK you for pointing this out. My bathroom habits depend very much on the time of the month. Once a (male) semi-supervisor noted that I’d been in the bathroom a long time. If I’d been older, I would’ve said, “Do you want to know the details?” As it was I just said, “So?” and he shrugged.

  4. Anonymous

    15-25 minutes every 2 hours, regular like? I couldn’t agree more, this guy’s Farmville habit IS concerning (and, frankly, a bit disgusting in the year 2012…doesn’t he know that Farmville is so 2009?).

  5. Tater B.

    Re: Question 3

    There is so much I could say on this topic, but my experiences on the internet tell me exactly what this will turn into. But I will say this: people are quick to roll their eyes when you mention possible discrimination, but it is so obvious when an interviewer has an issue with the color of your skin. Some things have been asked of me that literally made me want to stop and say: “…..Seriously?” It makes that rejection letter in the mail hurt twice as much. If you’re going to reject me, reject me because I’m not the right person for the gig….and NOTHING. ELSE. Those who have never experienced this cannot possibly understand how painful the experience is.

    *And I’m not saying this was the case here–but let’s be honest, it does happen.

    I agree that moving on is the best option. Sadly, I have resorted to looking for signs of diversity on the company website. If I see a certain “look,” I don’t even waste my time.

    1. Danielle

      Agreed.

      You tell yourself not to look at the situation through that lens, but when it’s happened to you (and TRUST I know when it’s happening) then you get sort of jaded and mistrustful.

    2. EngineerGirl

      Yes. One of our engineers (who is absolutely brilliant and looks like Halle Berry) was asked by one of our leaders what race she was. She told him she was Indian (as from southern India). From that point on he called her “that Indian girl” while the rest of the team sniggered.

      While many companies have anti-discrimination policies, it is hard to eliminate hidden personal biases. That is so hard to prove at the individual level.

    3. Joey

      You might try looking up your local minority business associations to see if they are members. For some reason a lot of companies don’t list those affiliations on company websites.

  6. Tater B.

    And as for the iPad question, I’m just getting the ickies thinking about the potential germs. That’s one tablet I’d never ask to touch! LOL

    1. Anonymous

      Related: I also hate it when people try to show you something and stick their greasy tablet or phone in your face. Aside from gingerly trying to only use one finger and washing your hands soon after, I don’t really see a good “out” in these situations.

    2. Another Anonymous

      I was thinking about germs, also. Is there a good way to raise the issue indirectly? Would it be beneficial for the OP to find an article about cleanliness that includes tips? One tip could be to “wash your hands with warm water and soap for 30 seconds”. Another tip could be to “avoid bringing work-related materials into the restroom”. I do know that some people read professional magazines and newspapers in the bathroom, but I do not believe that it is a sanitary practice.

      1. fposte

        If I’m understanding your suggestion correctly, I’m against it. Unsolicited hygiene guidance from coworkers does not generally contribute to a more pleasant workplace, and the attempt to tactfully bury the part that concerns you would just make him think you believe he doesn’t wash his hands, which is going to make coworker relations pretty rocky.

        Just go with Tater’s approach and don’t touch the iPad if it concerns you. There’s not really any intervention a co-worker can do without becoming a bigger problem.

      2. Anonymous

        Not all of your co-workers wash their hands after using the bathroom. Studies show a fairly wide range of hand-washing vs. not, but the general trend is that men are much less likely than women to wash their hands, but neither gender does it 100% of the time anyway. Observer tests get results with men washing ~75% of the time and women washing ~90% of the time. Unobserved tests get men washing 1/3 of the time and women washing 2/3 of the time.

        If you are worried about germs, bring your own bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer in to work with you. Or get it through your skull that you have an immune system for a reason.

        1. Jamie

          There was a study done that showed there are more germs on an average keyboard than the typical toilet seat.

          I’ve touched so many keyboards in my career I actually credit that with having a better than average immune system. I have no idea if there is a correlation, but it makes me feel better about my indiscriminate typing habits.

          Seriously though, I am one of those people who gets very freaked out by the germ thing when it comes to the bathroom or food, so I just assume everyone is gross and I just worry about myself. Although if I see someone doing something horrific I will go back to planning my emigration to the arctic circle to get away from everyone.

          Oh, and a little tip, styli are very handy if you have to routinely work with others touchscreens. Not even so much a germ thing as a gross thing, because everyone’s screens are always so disgusting. A stylus also comes in very handy for avoiding fingertip pain from too many rounds of Angry Birds or Words with Friends. Is there a medical name for this injury, yet? If not, there should be.

          1. Charles

            RSI finger, ipod finger, blackberry thumb, gamer’s thumb, trigger finger, Rubik’s wrist (old school), etc.

            Will any of these do? (Sorry, I don’t know “Angry Birds”) Or should we just stick with stylus finger?

    3. Blinx

      Thank you for bringing up the ice factor!! I was getting the heebie-jeebies just reading the post! There are still advantages to reading disposable newspapers and magazines.

      I also keep thinking about logistics… unless there’s a shelf in the stall, it can get tricky taking care of, um, things. I’d also worry about hearing a big “kerplunk” if the iPad fell in. He could be MUCH more discreet and do whatever reading/browsing necessary on a smart phone. No one would ever know.

  7. Anonymous

    #1 Whether this guy is looking at the naughty, playing farmville (or angry birds for the more modern crew), indulging gambling habits, reading the newspaper online, or having medical issues unbeknownst to any of us, all I have to say to the OP is – It’s none of your business!

    There have been issues already on this blog where we see HR noting when people go to the bathroom (didn’t someone get fired for going when she wasn’t supposed to?), and most of us find it utterly ridiculous. If you are monitoring this guy’s bathroom usage (number of trips and duration of time), then you need to find something else to do – like your work! I highly doubt it’s in your job description to monitor the bathroom passes. Otherwise, to use your own words about your behavior: Regardless, it also seems like an abuse of company time.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      To be fair, it is weird that he’s taking his iPad in there and that the visits are so long and so frequent. I agree it’s none of her business, but let’s not jump all over the OP, who accepted that advice quite readily (early in the comments).

      1. fposte

        Right, “weird” isn’t always the same as “your problem.” On the previous post somebody suggested an answer flowchart–now I’m seeing a Venn diagram with percentages, like xkcd.com would do: “96.3 percent of Weird Behavior does not overlap with Your Problem.”

      2. Anonymous

        It’s weird, but the only thing I would think of is that if I knew he took into the bathroom, I’d make sure not to touch the iPad (because we don’t know if he has cleaned it). Yes, we as humans notice weird or at least what is our norm, but to be completely observant as to how long he has been in the bathroom and wondering if she should report him is showing that she is more focused on that situation than her own work. If it became a situation in which she had to work with him on a project, and he was in the bathroom all day everyday, then maybe she has a problem because he was constantly indisposed. But otherwise, no.

        Also, others above made a good point. What if it a reversed situation in which a man was noticing a woman’s bathroom habits?

    2. Anonymous

      I really hope she isn’t worried that he might be looking at porn. Newsflash: lots of your co-workers are doing that in their offices. They don’t actually need to go to the bathroom for it. Sorry to burst your bubble. Just make sure they don’t do it in front of others, that’s really the most you can ask for.

      Unless, of course, you go with strict whitelisting of approved websites, no phones or outside computers in the building, no outside papers allowed in the building, body cavity inspections, plus a faraday cage around the whole place – but so far no one’s found the porn productivity hit to be financially worth the needed countermeasures.

      1. Jamie

        “Just make sure they don’t do it in front of others, that’s really the most you can ask for. ”

        I disagree. The most you can (and should) ask for is that people don’t do this at work. Period.

        The office equipment, the network, and the personnel who maintain said network are paid for by the company. IT has better things to do than clean up the mess left behind by people who can’t put aside their own sexual proclivities during their work day.

        There is no porn surfing without risk to the network – none. And no one has the right to put their own prurient interests ahead of IT. And speaking for IT, we don’t care enough about any of you to know what interests you sexually. Ever.

        Seriously, if you really work in a place where lots of co-workers are doing this in their offices either IT is asleep at the wheel or doesn’t have the authority to do their job properly.

        I’m sure I’m not the only one with a zero tolerance policy on this stuff – it’s the fastest way to get my name signed to your termination letter.

        For the record I couldn’t care less what people do on their own time, with their own equipment (so to speak – ha), and on their own networks with or about other consenting adults. It’s when you bleed it onto your workplace’s network that you have a real problem.

        1. Charles

          “I disagree. The most you can (and should) ask for is that people don’t do this at work.”

          I’ll disagree further – you shouldn’t even have to ask or tell folks to not do something like this at work! They should just know not to do such “stuff” at work.

          (I am always amazed when I hear local TV news stories about a school principle or such being busted for looking at porn on the school’s equipment – what on earth were they thinking? that they wouldn’t get caught?!)

          1. Anonymous

            Unfortunately, I have come to learn that with many, many people, you have to spell things out for them.

          2. khilde

            I was doing a training session at a hotel one time (common venue for us) and at break I walked out of the room and passed a bank of computers open to guests. So, I’m just toodling by this guy sitting at the computers and my eyes naturally go to the screen and I saw a bunch of images on it. It was a delayed reaction but I realized as I walked past him that he was looking at porn! In broad daylight when people where around!! I was more shocked that he didn’t even have the decency, the shame to hide the screen when people started coming out for break!! It just blew my mind. And it wasn’t just me being snoopy – when we got back into class some of the guys in my class mentioned it because they saw my shocked reaction. I detest porn but know that people look at it. Fine. But have never seen someone doing it so blatantly.

  8. ITforMe

    #2: Ideally, you’d have some process for getting on-going feedback throughout the summer. Short staff meetings with some time to probe, one-on-one conversations with your staff, whatever. This is how really good managers know what is going on.

    1. Summer Camper

      OP #2 here. Through staff meetings and one-on-one conversations, I’ve uncovered some discontent with certain aspects of the program here at camp. The problem is that I don’t know how pervasive these feelings are, and the elements of the program that are being criticized are very near and dear to my boss’ heart and the traditions of camp.

      My gut instinct is to put this on a survey, gather the numbers, and then go to my boss and say “hey, 90% of these staffers don’t like x, y, and z. What do you think we should do about it?” Is this passive-aggressive on my part? I feel that the only way to get him to reconsider the way we do things is by proving mass discontent, but I don’t want to seem disloyal. I’ve tried to bring up my concerns before, but he brushes them off with a, “but the staffers love it!” even though his job keeps him rather insulated from the staff members and their true opinions.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Well, for starters, when he says “the staffers love it,” are you responding, “No, actually, they don’t — I’ve heard widespread complaints about it”? That’s the first step. If you’ve already done that, it could certainly be something you address in a staff survey, but you don’t want to come across as if you’re trying to manipulate him by doing it — i.e., undertaking a fairly significant project just to get data on this one item, without him agreeing it’s worth delving into more.

        But I also think it’s worth approaching it from a totally different perspective: He’s convinced these program elements are great, and some of the staff disagree. I wouldn’t automatically assume that he’s wrong and they’re right; it’s possible that he’s actually right, but something needs to be communicated better. Why not say to him, “You’re really committed to these elements, but a lot of the staff doesn’t understand why. What can we do to better convey the value of this stuff to them so that everyone is on the same page?”

        This doesn’t work if the problem is something like bad food or lack of feedback, obviously. But if it’s his commitment to, I don’t know, the archery program, it might.

        1. ITforMe

          And at the end of the day, shouldn’t the concern be more about whether the CAMPERS like the archery program?

      2. starts & ends with A

        Oh, is this the camp I used to work at? Everyone wins, you can’t play any games where kids get “out” (Wonder Ball included, seriously)…. Yeah, the staff did not love that one and only the kids who were helicoptered and coddled did.

  9. fae ehsan

    i am the writer of #3. thanks for this! i’ve been confused about following up with them and how to respond to the rejection. i typically ask for feedback, but i think i am going to avoid it in this situation because i might say something related to the ethnicity question.

  10. Anonymous

    My first thought with the iPad bathroom guy was: introvert. At parties and even at work, I take more-than-normal bathroom breaks just to get a few minutes by myself. And yeah, sometimes I play on my phone (more easily hideable than an iPad!). I don’t think it’s as long as 25 minutes or as often as every 2 hours, but the general idea is the same. I need it to get through a day in the world of cubes, where folks are talking and interrupting and generally soaking up my reservoir of social interaction all day.

  11. Anonymous

    Thank you all for the morning giggle about the person’s possible bathroom break activities. Although reading “poop” when you’re eating your toast isn’t the most pleasant thing hah!

  12. Anony

    3. Interviewer asked my ethnicity

    This happened recently in an interview I sat in on. My boss was interviewing someone and he said, “I detect an accent. If you don’t mind me asking, where are you from?” The man flinched and then answered the question. I wanted to crawl under the table. I know there was no prejudice behind it. He was just being curious (I’ve know him for a long time). But all I could think about was what would happen if we didn’t hire this person. Even if we rejected him based on lack of skills, poor fit, etc., it would look as though he was rejected based on his ethnicity. We did hire him based on his qualifications and glowing recommendations and he’s doing well.

      1. Anony

        Yes. He said he always asks that question as a way to make conversation. So I reminded him that it’s risky and comes off as him asking because he’s prejudiced. Hopefully it won’t happen again.

    1. Tel

      It is risky. I have volunteered my ethnicity/country of origin during some interviews because it was relevant to the position. For example, I was a native speaker of a language that would have been extremely useful to them since they did lots of business in another country. On another interview, it had to do with international work and my experience abroad was an advantage. (I was offered both jobs, by the way).

      However, if someone had asked me, I would be uncomfortable.

  13. Anonymous

    #5: I once applied for a job that I was qualified for, but maybe was a bit of a reach. I had a phone interview, but didn’t make it to the in-person interview level. They ended up hiring internally from the position below, and then contacted me to apply for that position once it was open. I did, got that job, and spent four happy years with the company. I say apply for the job you want, with the understanding that might not be the job you end up with!

  14. Katrina

    #7 – a subject near and dear to my heart – valuating stock options. The only thing I have to say here is make sure you account for growth in the stock over the vesting period on the options you’re about to lose before you come up with a $ figure so you don’t short change yourself! Especially if you have options awarded in say, 2009 at the bottom of the market that vest next year.

  15. Anonymous

    #3
    Is the job in any way related to government work? Or contract work for the government?

    I ask because many such organizations are required to report your ethnicity, gender, and disability status to The Gov. Usually they’ll give you a form to see if you’ll self-report it first. Then, if you don’t fill out the form, they are required by the government to try to guess your ethnicity/gender/disability status.

    If you applied at a place like this, it could be that you didn’t fill out the self-report form (or perhaps they don’t bother with one) and the guy interviewing you was trying to guess for the sake of the paperwork. Since your letter suggests that your ethnicity is often a subject of questions, it could be that the guy looked at you and said to himself, “I have no idea how to report this person. I’ll just ask.”

    I fully admit, either prejudice or naive curiosity are both possible, but I thought you should know about this alternative potential explanation.

    1. Anonymous

      That’s a self-report option, usually, and is generally administered by HR, not by the hiring manager. At least all the ones I’ve seen or heard of. I don’t think they’re allowed to ask you anything in order to fill out the form; you do it or don’t do it, and they report the results exactly that way. I’ve never heard of anyone (any company or agency) being required to guess the status of an applicant when the applicant chooses not to complete the form. The company is required to offer the forms and track/report the results from them, but that’s about it.

      1. ChristineH

        Exactly. Plus, I think they’re supposed to keep those stats separate from the actual application.

  16. Wilton Businessman

    #1) MYOB
    #2) Garbage in, Garbage out. If the questions are bad, the feeedback will be bad. Realistically, you should have a rapport with your staff so you know what they are thinking and helping to guide them.
    #3) Uh Oh.
    #4) They consider the position still open, they’re not interviewing you.
    #5) It depends on what your situation is. If you are out of work and out of options, I’d apply to the lower level job and get my foot in the door and try to work my way up. OTOH, if you already have a job and are looking to move up, I’d apply to the higher level job. I wouldn’t apply for both.
    #6) You blinked. While an offer is still an offer and up for negotiation, you already half-committed to the salary. If you do get promoted in the mean time, I’d bring that up.
    #7) Let them know that you’re walking away from $X. Maybe they can throw you more stock and have it vest on an accelerated schedule.

  17. Liz in the City

    #4 it’s possible that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. That is: you sent in your CV, but the person handling it didn’t know what kind of position it would be applicable to, so sends you the email. Fast forward a week when another person in the company (with the power to post ads online) advertises the position you’d be a perfect fit for. It’s a possibility (and I’m basing this on the general disorganization that I see in my current place of work.)

    1. David Gaspin

      I agree. Many companies have so many unsolicited applications that they tend to almost-automatically reject them if they’re not for a specific, posted position and through the preferred channel. My advice is to apply for the posted job through the requested means, and see what happens. Chances are that you still won’t be contacted for an interview. But getting your qualifications in front of someone who is specifically looking to fill this job gives you the best fighting chance.

  18. Writer of question 1

    I am the writer of question #1: What an entertaining post! I have to admit that it’s funny that people think that noticing a behavior is synonymous with obsessing/monitoring it to the point of not doing my work. I also notice what people wear, what time certain people come in (we have flex time), and what they usually eat. It’s just what happens when you exist in a world with other people… You notice things. I’m also a writer and just consider myself to be highly observative. Trust me, this is not inhibiting my hectic 12-14 hour work days. I asked if I should care. AAM said no. So I don’t!

    1. Anonymous

      Noticing your co-workers habits has nothing to do with being a writer. You should take your nose out of their business.

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