7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s short answer time — seven short answers to seven short questions (but secretly eight, as you shall see). Here we go…

1. My boss has terrible breath

I just recently started a new job. My boss is really chill and relaxed. So that’s the good news. The bad news is that he has bad breath every day and just loves speaking really close to me. Heck, sometimes even when he’s feet away, I can still smell it. It makes me want to puke, honestly. I tend to lean back in my chair or cover my nose in some way, but I can’t help but feel like there’s a tactful solution to this. If I offered him some gum, there’s no guarantee that he’d eat it, but If I knew he liked gum, I would. Can you offer some insight here? I’m sure more people deal with this than just me.

Eeuww. Honestly, I don’t know what the solution to this is or if there even is one. Everything I can think of is either too unreliable (offering mints) or pretty impossible to do in a situation with power dynamics like this one. At the same time, if I were that boss, I’d sure as hell want to know. Who out there is more tactful than I am and can figure this one out?

2. Why would an employer extend the closing date for a job?

I applied for a job that I’m extremely interested in. The original closing date was August 3. But when I checked the status, the closing date was extended to August 17. What’s the purpose for employers extended closing dates? Does it mean I’m no longer being considered? Would it be appropriate to email someone and inquire?

It could mean all kinds of things — that someone got the date wrong initially and simply corrected it, that the person running the hiring process is going to be unexpectedly away so there’s no point in closing the position until they’re back, that they don’t think they have enough strong applicants in the pool, or probably other things that I’m not thinking of too. Don’t contact them and ask though — be patient and wait for their process to play out.

3. How much turnover is too high?

When I started working at my current company 4 years ago, we had around 160 people. Now we have around 70 of those people left. What would be the normal turnover percentages? Does that seem high to you?

It totally depends on what was causing the turnover. If the company was attempting to move out low performers, the turnover could be good and intentional. If the company employs a lot of entry-level workers who they know will need to leave in order to move on, it could be normal and expected. On the other hand, if people are fleeing bad management or low wages, it’s obviously a problem. But turnover isn’t inherently bad; you need to know the context for it.

4. How can I ask my manager to send me to industry conferences?

I have been out of college about three years now and have been at my current job for about a year. I’m very eager to continue learning more about how I can do my job better, and in the pursuit of that have joined two industry associations. Over the past few months, I have noticed two conferences that I think I’d be interested in attending and would certainly help me pick up some valuable skills. From listening to my coworkers talk, it seems like my office has a pretty minimal or possibly non-existent training budget, and both of these conferences are out-of-state. However, I have yet to directly approach my supervisor about my interest in attending either of these conferences or potentially getting some help from the office to pay for them. (Not that I would expect them to pay for everything, especially with them being out of state.)

I am wondering two things: 1) Am I too new to be asking my office to help me pay for out of state trainings? 2) How would you suggest I approach my supervisor about this?

Nope, you’re not too new. Just be direct with your manager — “I’d love to attend these conferences because they will help me with X, Y, and Z, and I wonder if it’s something the company would pay for as professional development.” But make sure X, Y, and Z are benefits to your company, not just to you, and make sure they’re concrete (“learn how other organizations our size are handling ABC”), not fuzzy-sounding (“network with peers”).

5. Reference letters for recent grads

I understand that you’re not a big fan of reference letters (from reading some past posts), but what about for college graduates or soon-to-be graduates seeking internships for their first piece of relevant work experience? I’m going to be graduating with my degree in accounting next year, and I was wondering if it’ll be helpful for my cause to include a letter of recommendation or two from some of the professors in my major, since I don’t have work experience in the field currently. If not, do you have any other tips for someone in my situation?

Nope, all the same reasons why reference letters aren’t useful apply to you as well (references in most industries will want to actually talk to people, not read something they wrote for your eyes, etc.). And  in most fields, professors are the bottom of the barrel when it comes to references — they’re rarely able to speak to the kinds of things managers want to hear about when checking references. If you have managers from any previous jobs, use them instead — it doesn’t matter that they’re not in your field.

6. HR manager sounded interested, then went AWOL

I applied to a Director of Sales and Marketing position recently. I was contacted by the HR manager from corporate. We had very good rapport, and she thought after speaking with me that I would be a good fit for the position. She told me she was going to send me the job description, tips for the interview with the hiring manager etc. She gave me the tentative date that the hiring manager would be coming into town and what the whole interviewing process would be like if I advance. Then, nothing. I have called her to let her know I have not received her email yet. I have texted her on her cell (yes, she gave me her cell and I was given permission to contact her anytime). I called again on her office phone and left a message inquiring if I was still being considered as a potential candidate. I would like to know what your thoughts are as to why the sudden cold shoulder?

Do not ever text a prospective employer. Ever. It’s way too casual and unprofessional. (The exception would be if they directed you to — not just told you that you could, but specifically directed you to do it — in other words, not just “call or text me any time,” but “text me on Tuesday with your availability.”)

In any case, the ball is now in her court. You’ve followed up (at least one time too many if you weren’t in sales). It’s now up to her, and you shouldn’t contact her again or you will cross the line from interested to overly aggressive. Unfortunately, employers sounding interested and even saying they want to set up another conversation and then never contacting you again is not unusual in job searching — it’s fairly common. It’s rude and inconsiderate, but it happens all the time, and all you can do is accept it and move on.

7a. Feeling guilty about considering another job

This is a two-part question:

I have a full-time job that I really enjoy, and I have been with my employer for more than 11 years. However, a friend is trying to recruit me for an opening at his company. I have never been in the position of applying for another job when I am satisfied in my current position. It would be a much longer commute, but it might also be a raise in pay. The new potential job does sound interesting. Of course, there is no guarantee that an offer will be made. I am struggling with two areas here:

First, how do I deal effectively with feelings of guilt that I am being a traitor / not loyal to my employer / should leave well enough alone (i.e., it’s wrong to be looking when it wasn’t my idea)? I have been told I have “an excessively developed sense of loyalty.”

Yes, you do. People leave jobs, usually much sooner than 11 years. It’s normal. Your employer expects it. Their business will go on.

7b. Mentioning to my employer that I recently turned down an offer

This is part 2 of the question above:

Assuming the new company makes me an offer, and assuming I turn it down, how do I leverage that with my current employer? I am strongly against using the ploy of “I got another offer and if you don’t match it, I will quit.” Does it help me or my career for my manager to know that someone tried to recruit me and I am staying? I know how to resign because I got a new job…but not how to say “they tried to recruit me but I am staying.” What’s the best way to leverage this information?

Don’t think in terms of leveraging it. If you’re thinking you can use it to push them into giving you more money, that’s a very dangerous game. But if you want to use it to increase your appearance of value in general — not tied to a specific discussion about pay — you can say something very casual in passing where it fits on its own. For instance, if the company comes up in conversation: “By the way, they actually approached me recently about their marketing director position. I told them no, obviously, but I thought it was interesting that they’re looking.”

Do not try to force this to come up — it has to happen naturally or it’ll be obvious you’re doing it intentionally. That means that you might not be able to raise it at all, and that’s fine. At a healthy company, you prove value to your manager through your work, not by citing someone else’s interest in you.

{ 129 comments… read them below }

  1. twentymilehike*

    Ooh boy, do I have experience with that first one! I feel REALLY awkward bringing up bad breath to someone that I’m not super friendly with. My husband? No problem! A new boss? Not so much.

    I always carry a pack of gum on me, and if someone has bad breath, I’ll casually grab a piece for myself, and of COURSE to not be rude, I will offer some to the offending party. Most of the time they’ll take one. I am now the one in the office that everyone comes to for gum. I ALWAYS act happy to hand a piece out. I consider always having a stash of gum a small investment for my nose’s benefit.

    Alternatively, if you’re boss is the kind of fella that will eat from a candy dish, put one on your desk with those cute little yummy mints everyone loves :)

    1. sharon g*

      I’m always afraid of having bad breath, so I always have a stash of gum/mints in my purse & desk.

    2. Anonymous*

      I would carry both mints and gum, if he refuses the gum, next time offer the mint, try things like yorkpeppermint patties as well, or any other chocolate dainty. Keep trying different brands, eventually he’ll accept something he likes, then bingo you’ve hit the jackpot. There is no nice way to tell someone, especially your boss that they have bad breath, without offending them.

    3. Dorothy*

      I love this — always having gum is a small investment for not having to smell stinky breath! On the other side, I very rarely refuse gum or mints, unless it’s a brand I really don’t like — and then I will get out my own favorite gum. Never refuse gum or mints, you just never know…

    4. Andrew*

      I once had a colleague (not a boss, thank God) who had terrible breath; someone mentioned it to her and she tried to cover it up with chewing gum. Unfortunately, she chewed it with her mouth open while making smacking sounds.

      My vote is for the mints.

      1. Jamie*

        People can smack mints, too. Actually, I’ve worked with people who can slurp pretzels, so I don’t underestimate the ability of people to make disgusting noises.

        This is why one of my favorite perks is a drawer in the ladies room. We spend so much time at work it’s nice to be able to go in and have your own stuff – so you don’t have to bring your purse all the time. Toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, facial cleanser, moisturizer, deodorant, hair stuff…and various other personal items. Noxzema wipes are fabulous for a little facial refresher and it can be really rejuvenating to go in and freshen up.

        It’s the true sign of a workplace friendship when you get to the point where you will share your toothpaste. We won’t talk about the witch hunt I conducted in my head when someone was using my mint Listerine and I didn’t know who. It ended with a stern rebuke that the men stay out of our bathroom and stock their own darn drawers!

    5. Antoinette*

      There is a website called http://www.badbreathogram.com that you can use to send an anonymous email telling the person they need to clean up their act. I used to work with a woman whose breath smelled like moldy Starbucks coffee, and after I sent her one of these, she invested in chewing gum.

  2. Lexy*

    Accounting new grad references:

    Accounting programs can be a bit different… but not by much and Alison’s advice (don’t include them) still stands.

    However, it’s worth noting that in accounting good relationships with the right professors can be HUGELY beneficial. I know for a fact that I got my internship and first job out of accounting because a professor with ties to the firm recommended me. However it wasn’t in the application materials (lame). It was direct email/phone call/lunch with managers/partners.

    For example, a senior manager at the big 4 firm I was hired at told me explicitly “I talked to a professor I have a lot of respect for [I suspect I know who], and they told me I would be missing out if I didn’t bring you in for an interview.”

    However it probably depends on the school, and definitely depends on the professor. Many accounting program faculties are chock-full of Big 4 alum who have some range of weight with their former firm.

    1. Anonymous*

      Agreed. And business schools also have a habit of hiring adjuncts who have day jobs at various firms.

      1. Anony Mouse*

        Yes, you should absolutely use your professors (especially your adjuncts) for their networks as much as possible. The problem comes in with actually providing the type of reference that a hiring manager wants. I can attest to students being good students; I have no idea what they will be like in the workplace.

        1. George*

          I was the one who submitted the question, actually. First off, thank you Alison, for this blog and for answering my question. Thank you to everyone who has commented on the issue also.

          I have built pretty good relationships with some of my professors so far. One of them actually asked for my resume so he can send it out to his contacts, but nothing has came of it so far. I’ve been applying for internships over the past two weeks, but nothing has came up so far, so I’ve been looking for different ways to gain an edge for future applications.

          1. Lexy*


            I’m assuming you are looking for a traditional CPA job? Probably at a largeish firm (Big 4, Nat’l firms, Large local, etc)?

            The best advice I can give you is to meet people. Email the recruiter and ask if they’re having any recruiting events (our firm does a summer BBQ every year for students interested in internships/entry level full time positions), collect business cards, follow up and accept all coffee dates that come your way.

            Be yourself and show some of your (professional) personality… firms hire people they want to work with, not accounting automatons.

            If you’re not going through the traditional public accounting recruiting process this may not apply, but since that process is so structured there’s a lot of ways to work within it.

            1. Tax Nerd*

              Hi George,

              Lexy is dead on. Meet as many people from the firms as you can, particularly at any campus recruiting events. There’s a definite preference for getting new hires via campus recruiting, so go to all the accounting recruiting events that you can. (Missing an exam is the only acceptable excuse, and your accounting professors might be persuaded to move the exam if there’s a big event at the same time.)

              Look at the Careers section of all the websites and set up a profile on all of them. Try not to just apply online and sit back and wait. Ask your professors if they have email addresses for the recruiters that come to your school so you can send a friendly email, but follow AaM’s advice and don’t overdo it.

              (Lexy is particularly correct that the firms want a bit of personality, not just an automaton. If they’re going to be in a smelly conference room with you for 14-hour days, they want to like you.)

              Side note: If the firms don’t come to your campus, you will have to be more aggressive in contacting them via email, and following up. They tend to recruit at large schools with well-established accounting programs. If you’re at a small liberal arts college where you get lots of individualized attention, you will need to subtly convince them that you’ll be okay with being one of a large number.

              Also check out the Careers and Students sections of GoingConcern (dot) com. Ignore the snark and sarcasm while digging for nuggets of good advice – some people have done too many 14-hour days in the aforementioned smelly conference rooms.

              Good luck!

              1. George*

                Thanks for all the advice, everyone! I’ll keep the advice about networking in mind as recruiters visit the campus in the upcoming year.

                Like Lexy said, I am looking to land at a larger CPA firm (Big 4 or national). Right now I’m looking into the summer internship program at Deloitte, and I’m going to check out similar opportunities with other large firms. Meanwhile, I’m applying for various other internships (government, corporate) that take place over the next school year so I can gain some more relevant experience.

                1. Tax Nerd*

                  Government isn’t the most relevant experience, since they do some things fundamentally different from the for-profit sector. (Don’t turn it down if that’s what you get, but there aren’t a lot of relevant government jobs.)

                  If you can’t get a formal internship, consider being a night auditor at a hotel, temping through an accounting staffing agency if your school schedule allows, or doing tax returns in the spring through a Voluntary Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program or even a tax prep shop. You might also email small CPA firms in your area about working for them part-time in the spring, since that’s when they are busiest. All those things count as good accounting experience, and are better than a .5 bump in your GPA on your resume.

                2. Jamie*

                  A lot of times the small firms also have contacts with other types of businesses, in the accounting department.

                  And the awesome thing is a recommendation from a good accountant is worth a lot more than your average reference. After all the good accountants tend to be sticklers for detail and have exactly standards. If our accountants think something passes muster, it’s good enough for me.

                3. Anonymous*

                  VITA is great on a resume! I particpated earlier this year and recently applied for an admin job. Even though its not related, some accouting is part of the Admin job, and at both interviews it caught the interviewers attention enough for them to mention it and sound impressed. Plus I had a really great time doing it and met a lot of experienced individuals, not just other students.

                  I’m not sure how accurate this is as I’ve not been in this situation, but my accounting professor informed us that when a firm is hiring and two canditates are otherwise equally qualified, they will show preference to the one with the VITA experience. I’m sure Tax Nerd could weigh in on that, if relevant.

                4. Laura L*

                  Oooh! I’m a non-accountant who did VITA this past tax-season for the first time. I really enjoyed it. And the majority of the other volunteers worked in accounting, econ, or finance-related fields, so I was kind of the odd one out.

                  I definitely recommend it, if you have the extra time.

  3. Lee*

    I’ve experienced #1 before too, not with my boss but with another higher-up I interact with frequently. Have tried the gum/mint offer, but he never accepts. It is SO disgusting, you can sometimes smell it standing in the doorway of his office while he’s sitting at his desk.

    These people go home to husbands/wives at the end of the day…why doesn’t anyone tell them about this?!

    1. Your Mileage May Vary*

      If it’s every day (not just having onions with lunch today), it may be a medical or dental thing. I take a prescription that really dries out my mouth in a way that drinking water just won’t fix. I have to be very careful about my breath because of it. My husband and I have a pact that if he tells me I need to fix my breath, it isn’t an insult, it’s just life.

      If you have to have a meeting with bad-breath-boss, you could take a cue from forensic people and dab a little Vicks under your nostrils.

    2. Anonymous*

      I have to agree with Your Mileage May Vary– it probably is a dental or medical condition. A friend of my mine said that she has tried everything in the book- from brushing 5 times a day to spending tons of money on expensive mouthwash, but nothing helped. She also seen the dentist, but that didn’t help either…She said she’ll pay anything to never have bad breath again.. SO, yes, it MAY be disgusting, but some people really cannot help it due to medical/dental problems.

  4. Anony Mouse*

    #4: Two tips:

    1) Is there a local chapter or a local event for the big national trade organization? If you can get funds to go to something local, and then come back with something like “hey, I’d like to schedule a meeting to share what I learned with the team”, it later makes the big conference an easier sell.

    2) Get in as a presenter, so your conference admission is covered. This is often a LOT easier than you think, at least on the conference end (your company’s policies may be trouble, though). Lots of the submissions they get at these things are from consultants doing a half case study/half sales pitch, and they love to get people from actual companies doing the case studies instead.

  5. Jamie*

    #4 I would look and see if there are more local conferences, etc. to attend as well.

    There are people who are very excited to go to out of state events (EspVegas, California, Florida,etc.) but you can’t pay them to go to the same when it’s local. You need to make it clear that its about the content, because the foremen ruined people are prevalent and cause such requests to be viewed with skepticism.

  6. Vanessa*

    Talking about breath is really tricky!

    I might decide to congratulate the boss on a recent accomplishment (even if it’s small) with a gift – glass dish or candy tin filled with mints. I would attach a small note “Here’s a little token to say Kudos! You’ll always be prepared for (state a task involving talking to others).”

    Another thought is to try the gum or mints- but be careful as people might have mint allergies. I think the key here is being consistent – offer the gum every time you talk to him, and I think he’d quickly the hint…especially if you’re not offering it everyone else with the same frequency.

    If he refuses the gum, another thought is to continually pop gum for yourself and make a comment each time you do. “I’m pretty obsessed with breath! I had an experience once where I was told mine wasn’t too fresh and I would be mortified of a repeat. ” “Never can freshen up too much.” “I switched to sugar-free gum because I heard it keeps your breath fresher.”

    If you think your boss would be receptive, you could always try a personal quick word with them. “I hope not to offend you. You’ve done a great job at establishing a culture of communication which is why I feel that I can say this to you. I think you and I share a similar struggle. I’m pretty self-conscious about my breath which is why I am always popping breath mints and gum. It turned out that last year one of my cavities lost its filling and my tooth wasn’t doing too well. I didn’t figure it out until a coworker approached me and I went to my dentist. I got in to get the dental work that I needed, but I am still a fanatic about my breath…we need to be as we talk to people all day! So feel free to stop by my desk for a quick freshener whenever you need it.”

    1. Cube Ninja*

      [Quote] If he refuses the gum, another thought is to continually pop gum for yourself and make a comment each time you do. “I’m pretty obsessed with breath! I had an experience once where I was told mine wasn’t too fresh and I would be mortified of a repeat. ” “Never can freshen up too much.” “I switched to sugar-free gum because I heard it keeps your breath fresher.” [/Quote]

      This, to me, is exceptionally rude and has a high likelihood of causing drama. I recall another thread from a few months back in which a boss made similar “polite” comments regarding an employee’s eating / exercise choices.

      Bad breath doesn’t mean that someone is unsanitary any more than my being fat means that I’m not intelligent. Chronic halitosis, while the subject of many jokes, is a real thing. If that’s what’s going on here, let’s take a minute to sit back and think about how this type of commentary on a medical condition would be received (both in a professional setting AND on this blog) if that medical condition were that a person were bound to a wheelchair and a suggestion was made that they should take the stairs.

      There are quite a few medical conditions that immediately come to mind that people may opt not to talk about in a professional setting. IBS, Crohn’s and, because of the social stigmas attached, damn near every mental illness.

      IF (and it’s possibly a big if) that’s what’s going on here, it’s very possible that not only does the boss know about it, they’re hyper-sensitive about it. Couple that with some type of anxiety thing and that “friendly” offer of gum turns into a full nervous breakdown in the middle of the office.

      Don’t address it from the angle of bad breath – treat it like a personal space thing.

      “Hey , it makes me a little uncomfortable when you stand so close when we talk – would you mind keeping a little more distance?”

      Someone else can probably phrase that better, but it’s far, far safer, free of drama, and you aren’t likely to get asked about it too much for the same reasons as above. :)

      1. Vanessa*

        I think so much of it depends on the relationship between the boss and the employee. And I think you brought up a good point that it’s important to recognize that what one person thinks is less invasive another person might think is rude.

        The trouble with making it an issue about personal space is that actually might not correct the issue as the OP said the boss’s breath is so strong that it can be smelled from feet away. What about private conversations when low voices and proximity are necessary for discretion?

        I also don’t think that telling someone they need to keep their distance is free of drama. I think that space issues can easily translate into thoughts surrounding sexual harassment (and I think this possibility is underscored if the interaction is between a man and a woman). The thought could be why else would I make you “uncomfortable?” Personally I would become panicked about this “uncomfortability” and wonder if other coworkers thought that I was making overtures.

        It’s really rough situation, and I wish it were easier to have these adult conversations with honesty without fear of losing ones job or alienating a person.

        1. Joey*

          I saw someone deal with something similar by saying mid conversation ” what is that? Do I smell?”. And then acted perplexed and self conscious. Not sure if this would work in the ops case but it worked.

          I think no matter how you bring it up it’s going to be at least somewhat embarrassing. The only question is if it’s worth bringing up.

      2. starts & ends with A*

        Ohmygod, it does make me uncomfortable when people sit (essentially) on top of me. If you pull up a chair and are somehow using my armrest, we are tooclose! But I have no idea how to put that into words without being a bit of an a-hole. Seriously…

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Sometimes in these situations it works to blame it on yourself. For instance: “Sorry, I’m weird about space” as you move your chair back.

    2. Spiny*

      Um. No.

      Offer gum, sure, but no over and over if not welcome. You’ll come off as either incredibly obsessed with your own breath or crazy passive aggressive.

      The guy either has a medical condition or is completely oblivious. So you either ignore it or bring it up. Once.

      It’s hard because you’re new. Humor can make these things less awkward but only works if you know the person. I would make joke or something with my boss (offer the gum and if refused -‘No, really, I think you want a piece’).

      When someone comes in to talk, take a step back at a slight angle or roll your seat back (end up facing them). This widens the conversational space naturally without looking like you’re jumping back, particularly if you talk as you do so.

    3. Jamie*

      “I might decide to congratulate the boss on a recent accomplishment (even if it’s small) with a gift – glass dish or candy tin filled with mints. I would attach a small note “Here’s a little token to say Kudos! You’ll always be prepared for (state a task involving talking to others).””

      Totally aside from the breath thing, I wouldn’t recommend giving a boss a gift for a work related accomplishment ever.

      First thought would be to wonder about the ulterior motive, second thought would be to wonder if a subordinate thinks that’s appropriate then what does she expect from me when she does something well…and have to have a “we don’t do gifts here” chat, which will be awkward.

      I’ve bought a former boss a gift when his wife had a baby once, and but it would never cross my mind for a work-related kudos.

      That said I’ve gotten gifts from my employer for a job well done (actual tangible gifts outside of a bonus) and those were lovely gestures (and surprisingly personal and well chosen – seriously, one of my bosses is way better than my husband at knowing what to get me to make me go all twee.) But I think that kind of thing only works going down the ladder …upward gift giving is a bad idea, imo.

  7. Angela S.*

    #7 – AAM, is there a magic number to consider when people should consider changing jobs? I know that we should attempt to stay at our current position for at least 2 years or our resume will look bad. Recently, my sister got a few comments about her having been at the same position for 5 years. Many people said to her that she had been in the same position for far too long.

    To OP – I just changed jobs after being with the same employer and same supervisor for almost 5 years. I can understand the guilt that you are talking about. But really, you should think about what is the best for you. Besides, never think that you are not replaceable.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There’s no magic number, but keep in mind that the 2-year rule is a minimum. I get nervous when I see candidates with a bunch of 2-year stays and not at least a few longer ones. In most industries, by a certain point in a career, you expect to see at least a couple of long (4+ years) stays. (Obviously not when someone is in their 20s, but beyond that it starts to raise questions.)

      1. Anonymous*

        Is that only when they left voluntarily before ~4 years? I’ve been laid off from my last three jobs and they only lasted 3, 2, and 1 years respectively. I’d have stayed longer if I could, but obviously that choice wasn’t mine to make. I’d hate to think I’d be judged for that on top of everything else against me in this market.

        1. Long Time Admin*

          That happened to me. I had a series of long-term temp assignments (almost one entire year at each), and started each the Monday after the previous assignment ended. One HR person called me a job-hopper and wouldn’t listen to an explanation.

          They really are looking for reasons not to hire people.

          1. KellyK*

            Were you employed by the same temp agency for all of those? Can you list it as a single multi-year job with that agency, with the specific placements and their related accomplishments as bullet points?

              1. Long Time Admin*

                They were all different agencies. Now I just lump them all together as Various Temporary Assignments/Various Agencies. It was a long time ago.

        2. Joey*

          It depends. I think a lot of employers will at minimum start to question your choices and at worse question your performance if they see a lot of your jobs ending in layoffs. That’s not to say they’ll necessarily hold it against you but I think at some point they’ll start questioning whether you should have seen it coming.

          1. Jamie*

            Not if layoffs were rampant in a specific industry.

            A few years ago in manufacturing people were getting laid off left and right, jumping to other companies only to go through another round of layoffs as those plants closed or moved out of the country. It was like playing hopscotch for some, looking for a place to land temporarily.

            If it’s an industry thing the hops just show you can hustle and have the skills to keep getting hired.

            1. Joey*

              Or it shows manufacturing jobs are going away and you didn’t want to or couldn’t change gears.

              1. Jamie*

                I was speaking of the line jobs in my comment – and no, some people who are great machine operators don’t have other transferable skills and couldn’t change gears. Fortunately, things have somewhat stabilized and people are once again able to stay someone long term.

                In regards to other jobs in manufacturing, I would tend to agree with you. I’m IT – I’d prefer to stay in mfg because it’s where my knowledge base in the strongest, but if I had to I could go into another industry. I could see my failure to do so being a red flag.

                1. Anonymous*

                  Manufacturing is growing faster than other sectors. It was very hard hit during the last decade especially, so to a certain extent large percentage swings involve fairly small numbers of people. But it’s old-fashioned to say it is dying. It’s like quoting Thomas Friedman :)

                2. Liz*

                  Sorry that was from Liz – I dOnt know what happened to my preferences but usually I don’t have to type them in to show up!

                3. Jamie*

                  “Manufacturing is growing faster than other sectors. It was very hard hit during the last decade especially, so to a certain extent large percentage swings involve fairly small numbers of people. But it’s old-fashioned to say it is dying. It’s like quoting Thomas Friedman :)”

                  Quoted for truth. We are definitely and finally on an upswing. We were in trouble for a while, and have a way to go yet, but from what I can see the last year and a half or so have been really encouraging.

                  In 2008 companies were trying to stay afloat without laying people off. Now, it’s hard to find enough candidates for all the open positions on the line.

              2. Kerry*

                That’s a bit harsh – there’s not an imperative to totally change careers every time a field goes through a downturn! Especially since nearly every field was going through a downturn during the recession…

                1. Joey*

                  It doesn’t have to be a career change , but it does have to be about proactively adapting to the job environment when jobs in your profession are going away. That could mean any number of things, but for people looking for a long term career it doesn’t mean continually jumping between sinking ships.

            2. KellyK*

              I think it might also depend on the extent of layoffs at a particular company. Being in the bottom 10% that was let go is much more of a red flag, than being part of a company that folded, or a whole department that was eliminated when the company was bought. Granted, that assumes that they’re interested enough in you to want to find out the details.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Agreed. I generally try to find out the situation — was their whole area eliminated or just their job? That’s not conclusive, but it provides more context.

      2. Anonymous*

        This is also industry-specific. I know in IT one year is normally the minimum, and ~6 months starts to make you look bad. Less than 1 year is considered acceptable for post-docs, 3 years is a maximum, and just under 2 years is normal.

        I could see most stable jobs, like managing a store or accounting, expecting a 2-year investment minimum.

        Really, though, that’s not normally the kind of thing that you worry about when you’re looking for a job. I’d think it’s worse to spend 2 years at a job you can’t stand than to move on and take a minor blemish on your resume. If you can never seem to find an acceptable job, then that points to a problem with you and how you apply for jobs, and that’s when you should start worrying.

        1. Jamie*

          If I saw an IT resume with a succession of shorter term (1-2 years) job hops I would wonder which of the following applied:

          1. Hired gun who takes on companies in a hot IT mess to get them back on track…then once all is running smoothly is bored and leaves. Not necessarily a bad thing, depending on the need and position.

          2. Someone better in theory and interviews than in practice. Due to the specific nature of many IT positions it can take a while in some cases to shake out the “new guy learning the network” from “oh crap, this guy can’t do half of what he said he could.”

          Too many jobs at ending at that year mark could have other explanations, certainly, but those two would cross my mind first.

          1. Anonymous*

            That’s lovely for you, but I can assure you that it doesn’t slow my IT friends down from getting new jobs once a year. I’m sure there are a few companies that don’t like it, but I’m frankly astonished that you can find IT guys who aren’t hopping around once a year.

            1. Jamie*

              I don’t know why you would be astonished when the average tenure for an IT job is between 3-5 years early-mid career.

              And there are plenty of people in IT who aren’t guys…just saying.

            2. Wilton Businessman*

              I hire a few IT people every year (although it’s getting harder and harder). I wouldn’t even look at somebody with several 1 year stints in succession. That tells me you’re not going to be happy in my organization where I want to immerse you in the newest technology and make you an expert in your field.

          2. Anonymous*

            Even with option (1), my boss has commented that that person will not have had to ‘live with their mistakes’ much – the transfer period from one cauldron to another can feel really quite comfortably cool.

      3. Anonymous*

        I was wondering about this, too. Thanks for the answer. I’ve been at my first post-school employer for six years, but in different positions because I’ve been promoted several times here. I always wondered how that would look if/when I go back on the market, because I still have no plans to leave so long as I am continuing to grow professionally and enjoy what I do. I’m hoping it won’t look bad on my resume.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I should also add — there’s a point where staying too long can start to raise questions about how you’ll adapt to new environments. I can’t pinpoint exactly when that is — it’s somewhere more than 8 years but definitely well before 20. That doesn’t mean you must leave a job before that point, especially if you love it — just to balance it against other factors.

      1. Joey*

        I have a slightly different perspective. As long as you’re progressing in skills and keeping up with the current business trends I see no problem with staying somewhere for 10, 15, even 20 years, especially if it’s at a large company with a good reputation. It’s only when youre off on some island for a long time does it become a concern for me.

        1. Jamie*

          I do think it’s different if you’re with a large company and would tend to agree with you that it’s less of an issue if you’re coming from Motorola or Allstate as opposed to an SMB.

          Ironically in a well run SMB where you have little turnover you can lose your market value faster. There is less of an infusion of new ideas and while you increase your value to the company because you are not only the resident expert, but Lord and Emperor/Empress) of their processes – it can be insular enough to make you less appealing to other companies.

          1. Emily*

            I’d agree. I recently accepted a position which will be my third out of school. My first job downsized half the staff after I was there a year, my second job with a very small org (4 staff) I stuck around for about 2-1/4 years. When I came in with 1 year experience, there was still room for me to grow here, but I quickly hit the small org’s ceiling. I was very conscious of this when choosing my third job, and I found a very large org (400-500 staff) where many of the staff have not simply been promoted internally, but where the org has been willing to reorganize departments, modify job scopes, create new positions, etc. in order to allow their high-performing employees to progress into more challenging roles without leaving.

            An example would be if Sally managed high-level A and B, while Bob had responsibility mid-level C. Sally is great at A, but could be seeing even more results if she didn’t have to worry about B, and Bob is so great at C that he’s always helping out with other folks’ projects since he has the time to spare. So following their reviews one year, Sally’s job description is changed to allow her to focus only on A, and B is shifted to Bob’s job. Both of them see this as a forward step in their own careers, and the org is getting more results out of the same amount of staff and can afford to give them modest raises with their new job titles.

            It was a big plus to know that I’ll be able to stick around this next place for a while without stagnating professionally.

    3. S*

      I have the opposite problem :( I’m 27 and I’ve been out of college for 3 years. All my jobs since college have been temp/seasonal (some due to minor health issues but mostly due to personal issues) and it definitely comes up in job interviews (IF I’m lucky enough to get an interview!). Now I am committed to working long term, but I also don’t want to do the first thing that comes my way; am I being unrealistic or snobby?

  8. AB*

    #2–You definitely don’t want to contact the company, and you may not be out of the running at all. My current new position went through the same thing…a day or two before the closing date, they bumped it back another week and a half. It turns out that they don’t even GLANCE at applications until after the closing date, so they had no idea that such a fabulous candidate (read: me) had already applied at that point. They simply made that decision on all of their open positions because it was falling near a holiday and they had just held a company wide job fair because of the number of positions they were recruiting for. (Note: This was due to a large number of summer retirements. The place is fabulous and people rarely leave once in the door.) So…don’t assume anything. Just take a deep breath and prepare for a longer wait.

    1. Anonymous*

      May be the person who was supposed to get the job forgot to apply and the hiring manager is not willing to consider any other candidate – happens a lot in the public sector!

  9. Jules*

    My husband is diabetic and when his blood sugar is out of whack his breath stinks pretty bad. He is fanatical about his dental hygiene, but some days his breath can knock me over. He can’t help it- it’s a symptom of the disease. I say offer the boss a mint and be sensitive to any possible medical conditions that may be contributing to the problem.

  10. Anonymous*

    Here’s a nonconfrontational trick that could help you deal with the bad breath. My job requires that I work one-on-one with clients/patients in a medical setting (for 2-3 hours at a time). Sitting across a table from someone who has halitosis, body odor, (or worse) occurs periodically, so here’s what we do to make that a bit more tolerable: hand lotion (for yourself, not your boss!). Buy yourself a tube of scented lotion and rub it on your hands shortly before you meet with your boss. Then just occasionally touch your hand to your face while you’re meeting with him, so you get a whiff of Tropical Breeze or White Citrus instead of Bad Breath Boss. You can even try rubbing a little bit right under your nose. It’s not going to cure the problem 100%, but it can take the edge off. Depending on your office culture, you might even be able to casually pull out the lotion if your boss stops by your desk unannounced and apply a little lotion while he’s talking to you. I know some offices have pretty strict rules regarding perfumes/colognes/scents, in which case this might not be a viable solution. (And at the risk of sounding sexist, this technique might work better for a woman than a man…..not sure how many “manly” scents Bath & Body Works stocks……)

  11. fposte*

    On #1, I’m thinking that if I did say anything, I’d treat it as a one-off and mention it before (though not, like, the minute before) he was going to meet with clients or big bosses–that way you’re helping him prep, not just randomly bringing stuff up. And if he ever drinks coffee, I’d blame on that whether it’s true or not–“FYI, George, I think there’s some post-coffee effect going on in your breath today–do you want a mint before you meet with Lisa?”

    But would I mention it as a daily problem unless he brings it up himself? No, because I can’t figure out a way that would be okay if it turns out he does have an underlying medical problem, and I don’t want to tell somebody that I’m revolted by an aspect of him he can’t change.

  12. Anonymous*

    Re 7a (guilt over leaving): You have to do what’s best for you. If your employer decided to downsize tomorrow, they’d cut you without a second thought. (Well, maybe a second thought, but they’d still do it).

    I’ve learned the hard way that loyalty never pays off. I stuck with two jobs through the proverbial thick and thin only to be cut off with no consideration, and this was after I’d turned down other, better jobs because I knew my leaving would place a huge burden on them.

    No one is going to look out for you but you. Be professional about giving the proper notice and not leaving behind a mess, but do not feel guilty.

    1. Jamie*

      I don’t agree that loyalty never pays off – within reason.

      I’m a big believer in professional loyalty, but I define that as giving them my best work, acting with integrity, and if/when it’s time to move on working with tptb for the smoothest possible transition.

      Loyalty to me doesn’t mean disregarding what’s best for my career and putting the companies needs ahead of my own best interests. Then again, a company that expected that loyalty to them would take precedence over my loyalty to and need to care for my family and myself isn’t a company that would engender my loyalty in the first place – if that makes sense.

      I totally understand the OP’s situation, though. You have every right to see what else is out there and pursue whatever options come your way – logically there should be no guilt involved because there is nothing malevolent about that.

      However, the human part of it where you like the people for whom you work and no one looks forward to inconveniencing people who have been good to them – so it doesn’t feel as clean as when you’re cloaked in the self-righteousness of looking for another job because your employer sucks and you’re miserable.

      So I totally agree that it’s business and you should pursue the other opportunity if it interests you, I do understand that it feels more personal and that some employers will take it personally…and that sucks.

      Do it – just remind yourself that you aren’t doing anything untoward and if you do leave make sure they know you are grateful to have had the opportunity to have worked there and do what you can to make the transition as smooth as possible.

    2. Joey*

      A few points of disagreement
      1. Loyalty with high performance almost always pays off. You’ll typically be one of the last to go.
      1b. Loyalty by itself still pays off, but not as frequently as it used to. A lot of companies that do layoffs and severance base them on date of hire.

      I think what youre describing is blind loyalty which frequently doesn’t pay off. I can’t think of any good reason why you would ever want to turn down a better job. Sorry but if you think you’re that critical that you can’t leave within a reasonable amount of time you’re either a bleeding heart or too cocky.

      1. Anonymous*

        Loyalty with high performance almost always pays off. You’ll typically be one of the last to go

        As has been made repeatedly plain here, by both AaM, EHRL (both from direct experience of disposing of the superfluous workers) and others, this is not the case if the organisation “decides to move in another direction.” Whole divisions are shut down, even if profitable. Happens even down to the individual level.

        1. Anonymous*

          And yet she’d apparently “never even interview someone who changed jobs every year,” because I guess you’re supposed to know when you interview that the company will downsize in a year. And . . . stay unemployed, I guess? So you can have that on your resume instead?

          It’s all so simple. I can’t imagine why anyone would be struggling.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I didn’t think we were talking about layoffs; I thought we were talking about deliberate job hopping.

            But even with layoffs, if you’ve picked 10 jobs in a row that all laid you off after a year, something’s going on. Two in a row, even three? Sure, in some contexts. But someone with a good amount of experience who has lost a job every single year over a significant period of time? Yes, that’s a red flag.

    3. Vicki*

      Sadly true. I’ve experienced this as well.
      I was at my most recent job for 5.5 years. I would have stayed longer (and did fight my way free of one manager rather than just leave) because I liked the job and my internal customers needed me. Then we had a reorg, I got a new VP who didn’t understand why what I did was valuable and Poof! Goodbye job.

  13. Just Me*

    This just happened to me. I had an interview about 3 weeks ago and the GM/VP actually called another manager to come in and meet me. He was not at his desk but another manager was and I met her. It all sounded really positive that he wanted me to meet these people just in the first interview. He told me when 2nd interviews were being held and the usual stuff that sounds positive.
    I sent the thank you and follow-up a week later with a very casual follow-up.
    Well. I am still waiting for even an email or letter to say no-go. OK so I am not waiting as such but you get my point.
    Never heard another word.

    Generally, I have a fairly good idea of when I stunk in an interview and am not surprised I didn’t get a job or second interview.

    This one I was a little more disappointed as I think I did well as he kept prompting me to ask more questions as well as wanting to meet other team members.

    I had one interview where I asked when they think they’d be making a decision and he said.. somewhat loudly as he was obviously annoyed with the question …. ” I will tell you what I am telling the rest.. if you don’t hear from us by Friday you didn’t get the job… “. Ok.. A simple you will hear form us either way would have suficed. I think I am glad I didn’t get the job there. He was a little rude.

  14. snuck*

    I don’t think gum at the office is very professional, so I’d steer clear of it.

    What I would consider is asking someone who has been at the office a fair while, over coffee/somewhere quiet/in passing, whether there’s ever been anything said. (And I’d pick that person carefully – someone who is not a gossip, stirrer or even slightly catty, because you don’t want this to rebound.) They might say “Oh yeah, we all know about it, did you know he’s got X condition?” and there’s an answer… (Some medical conditions can result in really bad breath and are hard to manage.)

    They might say “Yeah, none of us are game to say anything to him about it” and you can take your cue from this more experienced and longer working employee. If your casual and relaxed boss is someone that the rest of the office isn’t prepared to approach about it, then take note of that for this and future ‘personal’ issues.

    They might also say “Come to think of it, you are right!” and you can say “Well… what do you suggest? I’m finding it hard to work close to him!” and see what comes up?

    They’ve got the advantage of working with this person a long time – use it to your advantage.

    1. Jamie*

      “I don’t think gum at the office is very professional, so I’d steer clear of it. ”

      I thought I was the only one who felt that way.

      If you can chew gum so no one knows, that’s one thing…but I really hate having to hear it or see it. Alternately flipping it through your teeth where it’s visible stopping only to crack it is a sure fire way to cut short a conversation with me.

      1. Anon*

        I second that! I sit behind a guy who would constantly twirl his gum around his finger and put it back in his mouth. He did this in meetings too! So disgusting… And highly unprofessional.

      2. fposte*

        I hate gum, and mint makes me sick to my stomach (my dentist is thoroughly trained on that). I’d probably offer the OP’s boss garlic.

    2. twentymilehike*

      I just have to say I like this answer. Whether or not gum is an option is definitely dependent upon the environment. I had not really considered the inappropriateness of gum in some offices, since that isn’t the case in my office. Today the only people I will encounter are the mailman, three warehouse workers and a graphics guy who regularly takes his shoes off in his office. I’ve chosen flip-flops for today’s adventure …

      1. Jamie*

        Wow – is your contact with people so minimal every day?

        If so, how are your IT needs being met? Perhaps you would take a look at my resume…

        Kidding of course, but I am kinda jealous – that sounds awesome.

        1. Anonymous*

          I would LOVE an in-house IT person! Instead when something goes wrong we all panic, complain, drink coffee, head-scratch, then google; most often in that order.

          I’m pretty isolated here. Its a small manufacturing office, so we do 99% of our business over the phone or through email. I tried “dressing up” for a while, but it didn’t pan out. Its awkward wearing a skirt and heels when your boss is in jeans asking you to help climb scoffolding so he can find his christmas decorations in the warehouse.

          1. Jamie*

            “when something goes wrong we all panic, complain, drink coffee, head-scratch, then google; most often in that order. ”

            That’s pretty much a day in the life of an in-house IT person :)

            1. KellyK*

              I thought your special IT skills allowed for drinking coffee *while* panicking, head-scratching, and googling.

    3. Diane*

      Ooooh . . . gum in the workplace is one of my pet hates. Gum chewing is disgusting and unprofessional. Most people I encounter can’t seem to keep their mouths closed and their gum out of sight. It’s the facial equivalent of toenail picking at work. If I wanted to see that sort of mouth action, I’d go back to the farm.

  15. Jamie*

    #1 – I don’t have an answer for you – but I liked the suggestions about the hand lotion. I do that when something smells yucky. I wish I could use Vicks or Noxema – because those are my two favorite smells in the world…but not worth people thinking I’m sick.

    I wouldn’t say anything, but that’s me.

    This conversation did have a collateral benefit of making me completely paranoid, though. I’ve been at work for about 1.5 hours and I’ve already brushed my teeth twice (once after each cup of coffee) and gone through six Breath Savers.

    So I don’t know what to do about your boss, but if others are like me and react to reading posts like this, then across the world you have made strangers extra minty-fresh for their co-workers…and I am sure they thank you!

    (One word on the gum – if you offer something sugar free mints are a safer bet. A lot of people don’t chew gum because of fillings, veneers, or whatever.)

    1. danr*

      Have both sugar free and regular mints. Some of the sugar substitutes can cause bad reactions in sensitive people. If a person is sensitive, all it takes is one piece to trigger a reaction.

      1. Emily*

        I stopped eating artificial sweeteners years ago and it’s insanely hard to find mints or gum with real sugar in them. They pretty much don’t exist anymore. (Tic Tacs are the only reliable option.) I don’t get it. A mint/stick of gum with real sugar still only has like, 1-3 calories in it. Are we that obsessed with calories?? Are people just pouring back an entire pack of mints in one sitting? What gives?

  16. Anonymous*

    I’m going to be the contrarian and say that #1 should just meet privately, briefly with the boss and come right out and tell him he has bad breath. The hints & mints approach will only work on a very certain type of people, whereas being direct works on nearly anybody.

    “Hi, Boss. This is awkward to bring up, but if it was me I would want to know. You have very strong breath, and this happens frequently. If it’s not something you’re already aware of, then you might want to hit up a doctor about it. I hope you’ll understand I’m not trying to be a jerkface, and I promise I’ll never bring it up again. Thanks for listening, see you later!”

    Then beat a retreat if he doesn’t try to question you. If he does ask further questions, frame it as a concern you brought up so that it doesn’t hurt his career – don’t mention your personal discomfort unless he specifically asks, and be compassionate about it instead of making a joke about it. If he makes excuses for his bad breath, take them at face value and don’t push anything. Then, don’t bother him about it ever again unless he specifically solicits your opinion.

    1. Ivy*

      I agree with bringing it up, but I disagree with the formality of the situation. It’s one thing to quickly say “Boss your breath is a little strong” and offer gum, it’s another thing to go to his office to discuss it with him. I mean, it almost comes off as saying “you’re breath is so bad that its interfering with the ability of people to work and it requires a private meeting to deal with.” It takes the casualness of the situation away and has the really big potential to make him embarrassed (which isn’t a good thing with a new boss). As well, that’s quiet a speech you have there. The longer it takes you to say something like this, the more awkward it gets. One line should suffice.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I would love to endorse this approach, but depending on the boss, you risk it making him forever uncomfortable with you, which isn’t a good thing in a boss.

      1. Jamie*

        I think the forever uncomfortable aspect is a good point.

        If this is one of a thousand conversations you have with your boss, maybe a “hey would you like a mint…oh, sure you do!” might not redefine your relationship. However, if you have little meaningful contact with your boss it could brand you forever as the person who made him uncomfortable.

        I work with “guy who once parked in my parking space” and “kid who called me his IT girl when he had been on the job all of two hours.”

        I’m sure those aren’t the names their mother’s gave them – but that’s why they are to me. Good thing for them I have no power, and even less interest, in deciding their future.

        1. Jamie*

          why = who which is a different word with a completely different meaning. I need to learn to type.

      2. Anonymous*

        I expect bosses to put up with very mild discomfort on occasion. If you are a boss, at minimum I expect part of your job requires hiring and firing people. If part of your duties require you to look me in the eye and tell me I don’t have a job any more, should that situation arise, then you can put up with me looking you in the eye and saying “You have bad breath. I just wanted you to know in case you weren’t aware because this is as awkward for me as it is for you.” Any boss who feels uncomfortable to the point of being unable to work with me after this isn’t a boss I really want to work for.

        It’s completely different if you make it a public issue, or mock him in front of clients, or gossip about it behind his back, or something similar and undermining. AAM, you talk about so many other uncomfortable situations that managers have to deal with that I’m surprised that you’d cover for a manager on this one awkward but business-related issue. If managers need to step up to enforce dress codes, body odor issues, and all manner of petty office squabbles, then they can step up to accept some very mild well-intentioned personal criticisms when it’s job-related. Heck, just the other day you had a letter about a guy confronting his boss over substance abuse! But it’s time to chicken out when the subject is bad breath?

        Of course, I might have a think skin for this because I once had to look my boss in the eye and say, “I’m not sleeping in your office.” Every other issue I will ever discuss with a boss will pale in comparison.

        1. Joey*

          This logic totally baffles me. Please don’t compare taking away someones livelihood and confronting someone’s well being to dealing with things like bad breath.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’m not advising the manager, I’m advising the employee. And the reality is that there are some managers who would indeed forever feel uncomfortable with the employee who told them they had bad breath. Whether or not they should is beside the point; reality is what we’re dealing with.

  17. Lisa*


    Similar situation, I was told I was getting an offer 3 weeks ago after meeting with the CEO. Literally the VP walks in after talking to the CEO and says he will have a written offer to me the next day. VP emails, sorry by monday. I have since received 7 emails claiming one reason or another why the CEO hasn’t sent me the formal offer. Big deal happening, vacations, deadlines, etc. VP keeps telling me the offer is coming, and appreciates my patience. Now VP is on vacation, so he is no longer annoying the CEO to send me my offer. If he went AWOL, I would think the CEO didnt want me or want to pay my salary, but the VP sends emails every 2 days telling the offer is coming. Still waiting…

    1. Jamie*

      Ugh – I feel for you and can imagine how frustrating that is for you.

      If it makes you feel better I’ve seen this play out on the other side and it really was because stuff came up and people were unavailable, etc. The hiring manager himself was totally frustrated, because he was itching for the person to start and was nervous each day that they would get sick of waiting and pull out.

      Still sucks though.

      1. Lisa*

        I was going to take this versus going back to my old job since the old job said it would be a wait, now it seems that the old job may pull through faster than Mr. VP Offer guy.

          1. Lisa*

            it may work out as i would prefer the old job, and i am being forced to wait anyway. I will prob get both offers at the same time now, so i am not pushing it as i would prefer the old job.

  18. Ivy*

    I don’t know if this is advice on #1 or what, but I was talking to my friend who has dealt with this situation several times. I’m not really suggesting you do what she does, since it takes a lot of guts and some risk, but its worth bringing. Apparently she has a no tolerance stance on bad breath. She keeps gum in her office, and if someone with fierce breath ever comes in to talk to her, she’ll stop them for a moment, tell them their breath stinks (probably not in so many words), and give them gum. When my friend told me this I was a little flabbergasted! But she says that every time she’s done it the people have been really thankful that she let them know. I think this is mainly because she did it nonchalantly and didn’t make a big deal out of it. Its one of those “hey, we’re only human” things. I would be grateful as well. I think the problem with this method, is if the person has chronic bad breath (unrelated to the morning coffee :P), then they might have a medical condition (as was previously mentioned) in which case I don’t know if they would be grateful or just embarrassed?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I could see how “dude, you need some gum” in a really casual manner could work, especially with peers. I’m not as sure about with a boss, although there are probably people who could totally pull it off.

    2. Lisa*

      the gum thing can work pretty well for anyone that goes into the bosses office or runs into them, when talking to the boss bring out some gum and take one for yourself then offer it to the boss. No discussion, just an offer while you are taking a piece for yourself. My boss does this with chocolate all the time, he has a sweet tooth and uses me to eat the rest of a bar that he knows he shouldnt eat. Every time someone goes to talk to him, he uses them to remove the tempting chocolate so that he doesnt eat too much.

      1. Ivy*

        I agree. I think the simple offer of gum works in round one. If the person really isn’t taking the hint though, and its as bad as OP described, then I feel like the casual quick statement of bad breath is your best bet…

  19. starts & ends with A*

    On reference letters – in certain fields (ahem education), applications ask specifically for you to attach 3 reference letters. Being married to an educator, I can tell you that these reference letters tend to be written by the candidates themselves (“Sure, I can give you a reference letter, can you write it and send it to me and I’ll add my signature?”). Granted, they will still call your references to do a reference check if they want to hire you, but it’s weird weird weird.

  20. Anonymous*

    #2 – I work for a career website and many of the employers who advertise jobs on our site don’t have specific closing dates. However, we find that people are more motivated to apply if a closing date is listed, so we assign an arbitrary date 2 weeks in the future. If that date passes and our client is still recruiting for the position, we just extend the deadline another 2 weeks. So, it’s possible something like that happened with the job you applied on.

  21. Liz T*

    I just want to put in a TOTALLY unsolicited thought for #7: Commute time is strongly tied to life satisfaction. I don’t know if you’re partnered, but it also affects the happiness of long-term relationships. When I saw “…much longer commute, but it MIGHT also be a raise in pay,” [my emphasis] I recoiled. If I were satisfied in my current job, it would take a BIG raise to extend my commute that much.

    Can you tell I had to travel an hour to middle and high school every morning? It has left me with a life-long hatred of travel time. Now excuse me, I have to get on a train from Brooklyn to my job in Long Island.

    1. OP #7*

      I totally agree about the commute. I’m not sure how far Brooklyn to Long Island is.

      This is how far the commute would be extended: when I started at this job, it was 20 minutes away. The company relocated three years ago and ended up 1 mile from my house. The new job would have been more than 22 miles each way (45 minutes to 1 hour), twice a day, with no public transportation or work from home option.

      1. Liz T*

        Yeah, that’s a big change.

        (My particular Brooklyn-to-Long-Island journey is two hours each way. Mostly not during rush hour, and I get reimbursed for travel costs, but still–goes to show I like this job.)

  22. Lils*

    About 7b: my cash-strapped organization maintains a pot of money with which to make counter-offers. Current employees are even aware of the standard amount of the offer (through hearsay, but still). Is there a legitimate reason why a business would want to consistently make counter-offers? (Other than panic, as you mentioned in your other post?) I can’t understand why they do this. I did notice that the amount of the counter-offer roughly corresponds to the cost of a job search for a position at this level.

    1. Wilton Businessman*

      IMHO, once a person decides to go, he’s gone. Maybe not physically, but in spirit. Very rarely does someone who accepts a counter last another year.

  23. ImpassionedPlatypi*

    #1- If it were me, I would just get the boss in private at some point and first say, “Hey, can I speak freely for a minute. Not employee to boss, but one human being to another?” That way the boss (a) has a chance to refuse the casual contact before you make them uncomfortable, and (b) has a chance to adjust their perception of the encounter if they choose to hear you out. If they say sure I would continue with a simple, “I don’t mean to embarrass or offend, but I’ve noticed you frequently have fairly strong breath. I thought that if you didn’t already know, you’d want to. Especially since this kind of thing can sometimes be connected to medical issues.” Then after any questions or excuses from the boss I’d just end with something kind of jokey and lighthearted, “Ok, that’s all I wanted to say. We can now transition from awkward people back to mighty signer of paychecks and lowly henchman.”

  24. NoLooknBack*

    #2 I poised this question and I thank all of you who commented. Well, I applied for the job on 7/10/2012 and the closing date was for 8/6/2012. Every few days I would go to the website, log on and check the status of my application. Of course, it stated that my “application was under review with hiring department” but then I noticed the closing date was extended to 8/17/2012. I was concerned because I thought maybe I was no longer in the running. But on 8/6/2012, I recieved a phone call from the department and was pre-screened (phone interview) by the Administrative Coordinator (that was a first). I was asked about 7 questions or more and that was it. She really was’nt pressed for questions on my behalf but all she stated was they were conducted phone interviews and there is no time frame when they would like to hire, but they are mainly focused on finding the right candidate. So there you have it!!! Hopefully the next time I post, I’ll have some good news because I really want this job!!!

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