terse answer Thursday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

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

1. Should I accept my former HR person’s LinkedIn request?

A request to connect has been steaming gently in my Inbox on LinkedIn for the last two weeks. It’s from the HR person at my former employer (she’s still there). I’m not sure what to do about it.

On the plus side, she was always professional with me. On the minus side, she was the one managing all of the paperwork and the negotiation regarding my termination and severance. So I have mixed feelings about connecting to her. I can decline the connection without stating a reason, and no harm done. My network’s in OK shape; she wasn’t someone I knew at all aside from our connection within the company. Thoughts?

If you don’t want to connect with her, don’t connect with her. If you want to stay in touch or think the connection could be useful, connect. But stop agonizing over it.

2. Asking for a raise after breaking something on the job

The 6-month anniversary of my being employed with my company is coming up in 3 days, and I would like to ask for a raise, but am apprehensive to do so because two days ago I accidentally broke something. The item i broke is something immobile that I ran into and accidentally tore through. I’m not really sure if the repairs are coming out of my check, as I am afraid to ask. Other than this incident, I’m rather good at my job. My question to you is, should I ask for a raise even after breaking something expensive?

You shouldn’t ask for a raise because you’ve only been there six months. Wait until it’s been a year. However, generally speaking, don’t ask for a raise when you’re in the doghouse; ask for a raise when your boss is feeling particularly good about your work. (I have no idea if you’re in the doghouse or not; breaking whatever you broke might not have been a big deal.)

And the repairs should not be coming out of your check — the company should cover it as a cost of doing business.

3. I don’t want my coworker’s wife on our team

I work in a small group of 5 that takes care of the implementations of a specific software. We have one new coworker who is very sensitive and stubborn and who keeps to himself. Our company currently needs to hire at least 4 people in the next 2 months within our group, so he’s been pushing hard for his wife to join because he believes she is qualified. One of my coworkers and I have been called in by the big boss to voice our opinion on the hire. My coworker voiced his concerns about the possibility of the group becoming too cliquey. I am not sure what to say because i like her personally, but I am not comfortable with her in the company. Is it wrong to not want her to join? This coworker is very stubborn and I don’t want any conflicts in my team. How can I say that diplomatically? What is your experience with couples working together?

If you’re not comfortable with having a couple on your team, say so. That’s really normal — many companies prohibit it, because there’s potential for all kinds of problems, as described here.

4. Should I address my interviewers by their first names?

I’m in the process of writing up my follow-up e-mails to the 3 people I interviewed with yesterday. I was told to address them by their first name in the interview. Should I address them by their first name in the follow-up e-mail or by their last names?

First names. Talk to them like you’d talk to coworkers. You want them to envision you as a colleague.

And for the record, unless you’re in a very unusual industry (or geographic region?), or dealing with very stodgy elders, address everyone by their first names; you don’t need to wait to be told to. In this day and age, most people find it bizarre to be addressed as Mr. or Ms. Whatever in the workplace.

5. Asking salaried workers to clock in and out

I love your blog, and actually just got a new job out of listening to your advice. On my first day, I learned that the work schedule had been changed literally that morning. We will be moving to a four-days/ten-hours schedule, which is great for me. My question is this: they are asking everyone, hourly and salaried employees alike to clock in and out. Can they do that?

Sure. It doesn’t make logical sense for do it for exempt employees (and sends an annoyingly infantilizing message), but yes. They can’t dock exempt workers’ pay, but they can require them to track their hours however they want.

6. Salary negotiations when you’ve already discussed the posted range

A job at a nonprofit I applied to had a small range listed for the pay ($30-33k). In interviews when asked, I replied that I understand nonprofits have different limitations on the salaries they can offer, but if possible I would appreciate being considered on the higher end of the range, as I’m not quite entry level and am bilingual. Well, I was offered the job (yippee!) and the offer is slightly more ($35k) than what was listed. In this situation, is the possible negotiation already over because they had initially declared a number? Is it just a case where you would accept or reject?

The possible negotiation is already over because it already happened. They listed a range, you made a case for more, and they gave it to you. In fact, they gave you more than you asked for — you asked for the high end of their range, and they gave you $2,000 over that. The negotiation is done.

7. I asked for a raise four months ago and haven’t heard back

My recent review, like all previous reviews, went well, and I also recently completed my Master’s degree. Unfortunately, the raise that accompanied my recent review was not so well. When I asked my manager what I could do to improve the raise, I was told to put together a case. So I presented to him my case, which included recent projects, cost savings, salary surveys, and comparable posts from local job boards that included salary. My manager said he would have to discuss with his director and HR and that they would get back to me.

That was four months ago. Every so often, my manager will e-mail an “update” that he hasn’t gotten an answer from the director. Additionally my manager is now out of the office for a month for personal issues. I’m at a loss for how to proceed with this one. In my mind, I’ve accepted that the answer is probably “no” but I still want closure. Do I talk to the director, talk to HR, or do I wait for my manager to return?

Don’t let stuff like this drag out four months; assert yourself. It doesn’t take four months to get an answer from the director. At this point, you need to wait for your boss to get back, because this is really between you and him, and HR is unlikely to move on it without his involvement. But ideally you would have talked to him months ago and asked for a specific timeline for resolving this. If you’re unassertive about it, you signal that you’re not really going to push the issue. You’re entitled to an answer — you’re not entitled to a “yes,” but you’re certainly entitled to an answer. When your manager is back, tell him (professionally and pleasantly) that you’re frustrated with the delay and you’d like a timeline for getting it resolved.

{ 100 comments… read them below }

  1. Brian

    First, love the site and visit often!

    So about number 5, regarding the salaried employees clocking in and out. I have been told, by our HR staff, that this is because of auditing measures that can take place by benefit providers and other regulator types.

    Not sure as to its validity, however it was how I was told to explain it to my staff. Any thoughts?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Sure, they may have decided to implement the rule for that reason, but there’s no logical reason why they’d need to do it that way. Other companies deal with those audits too and don’t make exempt employees clock in and out.

      1. B

        It could also be, probably not this reason, used as a safety measure. This way, should an emergency arise, they will know who was in for the day and who was not.

          1. Long Time Admin

            We do that, too. It’s kind of reassuring to know that they would at least be able to tell the fire dept. that someone is still in the building. It’s especially good if there are people with physical challenges who can’t run.

        1. starts & ends with A

          This is true – many many places (often state govt buildings?) require this in case of emergency so they can keep track of everyone.

      2. Marie

        We do that 2 ways.. for salaried that workin the plant, they have a different punch that is not linked with pay, but that permits us to show the ins and out for audits.

        For other salaried (marketing, HR and what not), we have to write down out ins and out at the front desk.

    2. Anonymous

      I worked for a large defense contractor recently and they required not only time keeping but it had to be entered at the end of each day or by 10am the following day. Very annoying but I believe this is because they have to have correct and auditable records for billing the government.

  2. Phyllis

    Another perspective on #5: we have a new check-in system even though 90% of our staff are salaried (school district). While it was acquired to some extent to have a more efficient system of tracking our hourly employees, we also look at it from a safety & security standpoint. We need to know who’s in what buildings if there is an emergency evacuation or other event.

    1. Student

      Why?

      It sounds like a decent idea if you don’t think about it, but I’m not sure that really makes sense. Measures like this make some sense for places where you could be exposed to something dangerous without knowing it, for the purpose of informing people – radiation, chemical releases, etc. Measures like this also make sense for places with tightly controlled access and sensitive material.

      I ask you – can you give one example of what you would do with this information in any emergency at all? Are you going to really rely on an attendance list if you’re checking for victims at a school in a fire, tornado, shooting, or even a theft? Do you think that, in an emergency, this information will be available? Do you think that, in an emergency, this information will be reliable? If you need to contact teachers or administrators in a major emergency, would it be more realistic to just contact them all, or will you check an attendance log to make sure you don’t call the principal to inform her of a school shooting during her vacation by accident?

      1. Natalie

        The idea might be more like how a plane’s manifest is used – if something bad happens, you can at least confirm that the people who weren’t at the building aren’t dead in the rubble somewhere, and concentrate on confirming the whereabouts of everyone who was in the building.

      2. AN

        Some firms will check the data by a certain time of day to ensure everyone is clocked in or confirmed as out (in a workplace with set times anyway) so there might be an accurate list available to use as a check.

        It can be a second checking system to assist with fire safety.

      3. Mike C.

        I’m a safety focal at my place of employment and the answer is yes. There are procedures for sweeping areas during an emergency and for dealing with attendance records to perform crew by crew counts to see if everyone got out ok.

        This is a fairly standard practice for all sorts of businesses of all sizes and I’m a bit shocked by your incredulity. Also, you attitude that these sorts of things aren’t needed for “safe workplaces” like offices and schools is really off base. Plans like these are common sense and I’m ore than happy to expand on this if folks are curious.

      4. Phyllis

        Yes, the info will be available because the system is cloud-based and can be accessed remotely. The fo is very important under any of those circumstances, and I can assure you, we keep school building access tightly controlled. As we should.

      5. Long Time Admin

        “I ask you – can you give one example of what you would do with this information in any emergency at all? Are you going to really rely on an attendance list if you’re checking for victims at a school in a fire, tornado, shooting, or even a theft? Do you think that, in an emergency, this information will be available? Do you think that, in an emergency, this information will be reliable?”

        At my company, yes. Of course, we’re in a private building on our own property, not in a city office building, or a school. We’ve practiced this several times, and our office manager and HR people just log in on a laptop, open one progam, and they have all the information about who swiped in that day. We assemble in the back “yard” away from the building in groups by department, and the emergency contact for each floor checks with each department manager to see if any of there people are not accounted for.

  3. Craig

    Maybe it’s because I’m from Canada and we have different terminology, but what is an “exempt employee”? I’ve heard you mention it a lot in your blog. Is this just a salaried worker?

    Exempt from what?

    1. Lexy

      Exempt from overtime. It is a salaried employee who does not qualify for overtime if they work over 40 hours a week (they must also be paid for a full week if they work less than 40 hours per week)

      1. Anon

        This is the reason some exempt employees at my last firm tracked their hours, without being requested to. The boss designated most employees (everyone but manufacturing and interns) as exempt. However, part of the exemption status is that you must make more than $23,600 per year ($455 per week), and he did NOT pay all of the exempt employees this amount. So they were actually still entitled to OT pay, even though they were designated as exempt. Not that he ever paid OT pay to anyone, ever, even non-exempt employees because it was “company policy” not to do so. Yes, that’s a violation of federal law, I’m aware. He still didn’t change when I pointed that out.

      2. fposte

        And just to be fussbudgety, I’ll note that you can be salaried and non-exempt, or paid hourly and exempt–it’s just more common and convenient to do salary for exempt and hourly for non-exempt.

  4. Jamie

    “Sure. It doesn’t make logical sense for do it for exempt employees (and sends an annoyingly infantilizing message), but yes.”

    Actually, while I agree if it’s just to track time, there are times it makes sense.

    It’s very common in manufacturing when people are in and out of various locations as it’s a very easy way for the front desk to know if you’re in the building (and which building) or not when tracking people down. Also, in many plants (including all at which I’ve worked) require it in the safety procedures as if we have an accident, fire, drill, etc. I can pull up a list of clocked in people from my phone and we can make sure everyone is out of the building.

    It also helps when people work staggered hours to see, empirically, where you need more staff. It gives you data in the system to run the numbers and show that department X has constantly averaged 60 hours per week per employee – get them some additional people or restructure some of the responsibilities.

    Could that be better handled by direct communication – absolutely – but sometimes, especially when people work different shifts and don’t see the hours people are putting in – being able to pull the numbers in black and white can help make the point and help strive toward balance.

    It’s not always about monitoring for the sake of it.

    1. Jamie

      Sorry – cross posted with Phyllis who said the same thing but much better and more succinctly.

    2. Student

      Dear god, why? Why wouldn’t you contact everyone? I know forgetting to clock in isn’t a frequent occurrence when your pay depends on it. However, why would you gamble with someone’s safety (or, in some emergencies, their life!) on that bet? Yes, it takes more time, but do you really want to miss one person just to find out they’d forgotten to clock in, or happened to be stopping by just to pick something up quick, when an emergency occurred?

      I mean, I work at a nuclear physics building. We keep dangerous radioactive and chemical stuff around. But, I know for a fact that these people ghost each other in and out of buildings, forget their access cards and sweet talk their way in, etc. all the time. At a factory, I imagine the conduct is the same, possibly worse because the stakes are lower.

      1. fposte

        Because we’re talking situations where making sure people are out of the building can physically put the notifier in danger.

        1. Jamie

          This. And of course you have to allow for people forgetting to clock in or out – it’s not a perfect system.

          But when followed properly most of the time it can allow the person working the front desk to track down 100 some people in various buildings without each having to personally check in.

          Regarding emergencies – it gives you a list to work from in the parking lot while getting a headcount. It’s part of the evacuation process – it’s not the only part.

          1. JPT

            Also, what if an employee is injured while on the job off site? You’d want to know when they were working for you and when they weren’t and whether your company might have liability.

      2. Brett

        Actually I would expect most employers would have much stricter standards for the factory than you would see in a university setting. You have no idea the world of pain a company can find themselves in if they have injuries and deaths among their workforce. OSHA does not play around (at least in most industries), and EHS departments can be really strict.

        1. Blinx

          Larger corporations DO use badge in/out systems that track everyone, including visitors, but I imagine that it is very expensive. When we had fire drills, everyone had to meet up at mustering (?) stations on the grounds to badge in. The system would know instantly how many people were unaccounted for. It also tracked just how long it took to empty the place out. Still, there was room for error if you didn’t feel like waiting in line to badge in!

        1. Anon in the UK

          Where I work, we do not have overnight security staff – the building has alarms, double locks etc. You therefore need to know who is in so that you do not assume you are the last person in, set the alarm, and lock someone in the building, because – as was discovered once – when the locked-in person leaves their office and starts moving round, the intruder alarm will sound. This cannot be shut off, the police will turn up, and a senior staff member will have to come out to agree that this person really is a member of staff and has a right to be in the building.

          1. Mike C.

            That’s an odd system. The last place I worked had something like that, except that when the alarm was tripped the phone would ring. If the person picking up said a password, the police wouldn’t show up.

            But different companies have different security needs.

  5. Jen

    I really appreciate your site and all the valuable information I’ve received from it.

    There is value in just about every answer you give but occasionally I do find the answers to be a bit dismissive in terms of the anxiety aspect, if you will, of looking for a job, especially long-term. Even if a person takes all the advice given in solid sites like yours, accepts criticism, works with a mentor, it is still a very stressful situation to be in, being unemployed or looking for work. So I take pause sometimes when I read “you’re overthinking it” or “stop agonizing over it” (notwithstanding the “short answer” format). Perhaps it’s time to do a substantive post addressing mind-body connections or anxiety issues while job searching?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I appreciate the feedback — thank you!

      The thing is, I really think sometimes people do need to hear that they’re over-thinking it or need to stop agonizing over something; it’s not intended to be cruel, just a reality check. It’s truly part of the answer to what they’re wondering about — that this thing isn’t a big deal and that they shouldn’t devote so much brain space to it because it is harming rather than helping.

      That’s the kind of thing I personally find helpful to have pointed out to me when I’m the one agozining, and I think that’s very often the answers with some of the questions I get here.

      (That said, I’ve also addressed anxiety issues in the job hunt in posts of their own.)

  6. VintageLydia

    For number 2, I’m guessing this is a retail job where 3 and 6 month wage increases are more normal (usually around 5-10 cents and hour. Yearly increases will garner you a whole quarter!)
    There is also a lot more threatening of things being taken out of paychecks when you do something wrong in retail. Not in all jobs. Not even most. But more often than other industries. This also tends to be SOP in a lot of restaurants where if you break an expensive plate or something, the you have to pay for it. Servers also usually have to pay for guests who walked out on their checks. I don’t think it’s legal but every friend I have who works in restaurants has had to deal with that–even mid to high end restaurants.

    1. Kim

      Ohh, that makes sense! I was thinking it was a regular 9 to 5, salaried job and I thought it was so presumptuous to ask for a raise at the 6 month mark!

      1. Jamie

        There are times it’s scheduled at that point when you take the job though, even for regular office positions.

        When I took my current job this position was changing from what it was to what it would become and no one really knew exactly what that would look like – so it was hard to put a solid price on it. So a salary reevaluation at 6 months was promised in my offer letter.

        I’ve seen this happen in several positions.

        1. Kelly O

          Just chiming in that my husband just took a new job, and part of his deal is “here is where we can start you, but we want to evaluate in six months.”

      2. VintageLydia

        It was the fact s/he ran into something and broke it that made me think retail. Like s/he was moving pallets or something (pallet jacks and forklifts are really unwieldy and if you DON’T break or damage a fixture at some point in your career, I gotta give you mad props!)
        It’s also possible s/he works in a warehouse or something but coming recently from a retail environment and (understandably) not knowing SOP in those situations.

  7. Malissa

    #5–Yet another perspective. Cost accounting. They me be using hours worked as a basis for applying the salary expense to various projects or locations.

    1. Judy

      At least where I’ve worked, we had a system for logging our time that was used for that. Because as it has been explained to me, you can’t charge, non-project training to projects. I don’t put in time of day, but I do have to log 4 hrs to x project, 2 hrs to y project and 2 hrs to training for example. For salaried, we have to log at least 40 hrs (including the vacation/sick/holiday time) each week, but it doesn’t matter to that system whether we log 5 x 8’s, 4 x 10’s, or 4 x 9 + 4 on Friday. Now whether your boss allows flexibility in schedule is something else. And if we don’t have 40 hrs by Sunday evening for the previous week, emails are generated by the system.

      1. Thomas

        That sounds exactly like the system at my company. The “timesheet” software we have is mostly meant to tie hours worked to projects for budget purposes. If I’m doing some work for two different projects, the money needs to come out of two different buckets in the budget.

      2. Phyllis

        Same here. I work on several different grants, mostly federal. But I have to track my time on each project, because my salary is charged to each one based on the time spent.

        1. helen

          Ditto, or possibly tritto. I work in an accounting firm and we track time as a way of knowing what to bill to whom.

      3. Kimberlee, Esq.

        Oooh, can you tell me of this system? I’d be curious to know if it would be good for my organization!

        I think tracking time in general is a good thing, as long as the purpose is clear. More information is good, and if employees know their hours won’t be used against them. :)

  8. Wilton Businessman

    #1: If there are hard feelings, decline it. However, I can tell you that after the initial cooling off period, I try to work my network to find jobs for people that have been laid off from my company.

    #2: Nobody gets a raise after 6 months unless that was part of your hire package. You don’t pay for stuff you break at work (which is a good thing after I toasted $200K worth of disk drives one day).

    #3: Tough spot, but if you don’t want her there, don’t have her. Quite frankly, I’d see if you could get rid of him and take her instead (he sounds like a head case).

    #4: If they asked you to call them by their first names in the interview, that’s pretty much going to carry through on the rest of your conversations.

    #6: You’re done negotiating. I find it hard to believe that when people get what they ask for and more, they still think they left something on the table. If you are out of my range and I meet your requirements, that means I’m done.

    #7: I disagree with Alison on this one. Your manager is out for a month, I’d go to the director. (that being said, I also wouldn’t let it go four months)

    1. Blinx

      “I toasted $200K worth of disk drives”… Wilson, really? Just what did you DO?? I’m guessing that all of the data was backed up somewhere, or you’d be toasted yourself!

      1. Wilton Businessman

        Lets just say it involved a hand cart, three boxes of improperly packed drives, and thinking I could get down the stairs faster than the elevator.

  9. cf

    My new job requires me to sign a timesheet every pay period, even though I am salaried. I have been instructed to leave the sheet at the default, which shows 8 hours a day, even if I work more than 8 hours. That hasn’t happened yet – thank goodness – but one co-worker has worked the past three weekends and had to travel to South America last week.

    I find it annoying that I am being told to sign a timesheet even though my pay would not vary with extra hours. My fear is that I will be expected to take PTO to do something like go to the dentist, even though I won’t see any financial benefit from the extra hours that I will be accruing once I start traveling.

  10. nyxalinth

    #4 I occasionally run across job ads prompting the reader to “Ask for Mrs. Jones” or “Mr. Smith”. I always wonder if they’re on the Starship Enterprise or so overinflated with own sense of power that they won’t be addressed by their first names. Either way, I always get a “Stay away from this place.” vibe from those ads.

    1. A Bug!

      It seems to me like a very convenient way of immediately knowing who’s calling on business and who’s calling on the posting. My number’s listed just first initial last name, so I know a telemarketer right away when they ask for Mr. or Mrs. Bug.

        1. A Bug!

          No problemo! You can do it yourself when you sign up for stuff by using an alias (or, like me, your legal first name which you never go by).

          Shibboleths: fun to say, handy to use!

    2. JPT

      The only exception I’ve come across is that in academia, most faculty are called “Dr” or “Professor” out of courtesy. (I prefer “Dr” because it would apply to other researchers who aren’t technically faculty as well.) I’m typically fine with that because it’s a title they’ve presumably worked hard to earn, and most aren’t likely to correct you if you don’t do it, so it’s not like it’s degrading. (That said, I’ve called many PhDs by their first names, but only when I’ve worked closely with them and it’s obvious they prefer that.) But it’s off-putting when these titles aren’t understood or used correctly. I’ve received job applications and inquiries for student jobs that call me “Dr,” though I’m clearly listed as staff and identify myself as such, not to mention that information is on our website–which they should be looking at closely if they want to work for us. I’ve also gotten a Mrs. when I wasn’t married, which I’d rather they left out than assume. If I publicly identify myself as Jane Doe, don’t respond with anything but Jane unless you have additional information.

      In conclusion, if anyone I worked with, or interviewed with, asked me to call them “Mr” or “Mrs,” I’d probably laugh in his or her face.

  11. TheSnarkyB

    #5: This must be annoying for you, especially since you’ve ostensibly been given no reason for the hours-tracking. I think we see a lot of this on here- readers writing in about a situation that could have been completely avoided by higher ups giving just a little reason or justification.There’s always the possibility that they can’t tell you why they’re doing it, but seriously, if they had just said “Hey guys, help us out here- we’re trying to collect some data. We know it’s not convenient.” wouldn’t you have felt much better? I hate seeing examples where people in positions of power withhold info out of carelessness or to maintain control.

  12. Kelly O

    A couple of things regarding #5, in no particular order –

    – As an hourly employee who clocks in and out every day, the whole process of clocking in and out and needing someone else to sign your time card is just… it’s not that it’s humiliating, but I feel like I’m back in high school and need my mom to sign my report card. I have to answer if I go below 40 hours (what happened again? And rehash my kid and her pinkeye) or get a lecture if I go over 40 hours (because 15 minutes every once in a while will totally kill us financially even though we’re opening new stores like mad.)

    – That said, I understand people who use check-in systems for safety. I worked for a while in a building with quite high security, and we had to check in and out whenever we left our area. It wasn’t for pay purposes, but in case of emergency. And in this particular instance, the in/out was something that was on a portable device and was definitely referenced. I personally watched that during fire drills (which we did religiously.) It can work quite effectively.

    – I wish people would just take the less than five minutes it would probably take to say “hey, we need everyone to check/clock in or out every day. We’re looking at our cost/capital differently (or we’re putting new security features in place, or whatever) and appreciate everyone cooperating with the new procedure. If you have questions, please feel free to ask Jane Actually Has the Answers.” Communication, y’all….

  13. Ann

    “And for the record, unless you’re in a very unusual industry (or geographic region?), or dealing with very stodgy elders, address everyone by their first names; you don’t need to wait to be told to. In this day and age, most people find it bizarre to be addressed as Mr. or Ms. Whatever in the workplace.”

    Oh please. In law school, even students get referred to as “Mr.” or “Ms.” Yes, in this day and age. It carries over to the profession. Any profession in which honorary titles are given, using “Mr.” or “Ms.” is not “bizarre.” A medical doctor is Dr. Smith, not Jim. Your judge is Judge Doe, not Jane. Professionals in those industries will not be taken aback by being referred to as “Mr.” or “Ms.” upon first meeting.

    It’s hardly as bizarre as you made it sound.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Some industries are exceptions; those are the exceptions, not the rule.

      It doesn’t really matter what law students are referred to; in every law office I’ve ever been exposed to, people call each other by their first names.

      1. Blinx

        AAM, since email might have a different etiquette, how should I address an email to someone that I don’t know at all, but I know their name? This happens frequently when applying for jobs. I usually put “Dear Ms. Smith” (although I loathe the term “Ms.”). It sounds a little stilted, but “Dear Jane” sounds too familiar. I always use “Dear Hiring Manager” when I don’t know their name. Or am I over thinking things too?

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Personally, I’d always write “Dear Jane” because I can’t think of the last time I called another adult “Ms. ___,” but no one’s going to be offended if you write “Dear Ms. Smith.”

          1. JPT

            Ugh, sorry, didn’t read this far down and reiterated some of the things everyone has said! I agree, there are some situations where it’s more appropriate, but they are exceptions to the rule. Although it’s not really offensive to err on the side of more courtesy, it might come off as unprofessional/ignorant in some cases.

        2. Jamie

          Especially for names which can work for either gender – Chris, Lee, etc. it’s safer to use just the first name.

          Playing the odds when addressing a Jamie in IT and manufacturing you’d go with Mr. – but in some cases that would be wrong (or so I’ve heard.)

        3. JT

          In email with people I have not met or corresponded with it’s “Dear Ms. Smith.” Occasionally I’ll dive in with no salutation or name.

          After a dialogue is started it’s usually a salutation or greeting plus the first name (“Dear Jane,” or “Hi Jane,”) or a just a greeting “Hi” or name alone “Jane.” Or neither – just dive in.

          A few times I’ve written to people with only one name (a huge rock star is one example) and that Dear “[star’s name]” seemed overly familiar….

        4. Rana

          There was a discussion of this on one of the freelance forums I follow, in the wake of a would-be client chewing out a prospective editor for referring to him by his first name in the first e-mail. We all agreed that he was a bit nutty, but diverged as to whether first-name on the first email was a good idea or not. Some people thought it was fine; others were more cautious. A few split the difference with things like “Dear Ms. Green (is it okay if I call you Alison?).” On the second and follow-up emails, they followed the lead of the client.

          Personally, if I’m soliciting a client I’ve not communicated with, it’s always Mr., Ms. or Dr., depending. If it’s a client who was recommended to me by a friend or other client, I generally am a bit more casual and use the “Dear Jane (is it okay if I call you Jane?)” formulation. And if it’s a client I know well and/or am in active communication with over a project, I tend to drop the salutation entirely and get right to it.

      2. Katie

        FWIW, an oil and gas recruiter once chastised me for addressing a thank you letter with a first name. I’m not sure if that’s an industry thing, 0r if this particular recruiter was just a bit old-fashioned. But I think it goes to show that professional norms can be pretty hard to peg.

        1. GeekChic

          My Dad’s in oil. It is a fairly old-school industry and I’m not surprised that you got chastised for using a first name.

          When I attended business events with him it was Sir / Ma’am level of formality a lot of the time and Mr. / Ms. for the rest. First names were unheard of except between hierarchical equals that had known each other for a really long time.

          Not quite military… but close.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Yeah, it’s a case of knowing your industry. If you’ve worked in that industry and people call each other by their first names, assume you can do it with your interviewer. If you’ve worked in that industry and it’s old school, assume the rules may be different. But in general, in most fields (again, not all), first names are typical these days.

            1. saf

              In any field where you work with older folks or any culture, or in a majority African-American group, it is a good idea to start with Mr and Mrs and Ms and sir and ma’am. It is very important in AA culture.

              1. Blinx

                SAF — That really puts a new spin on it, since I’ve no way of knowing the race or age of the addressee! I guess it’s best to err on the side of caution. At worst, someone will laugh at the over-formality of it all.

                Thanks to all of the above responses, glad to know it’s not just me agonizing over salutations! And yes, I did have a gender neutral issue once, where I just said “Dear Chris Smith”, but that sounds like a junk mail salutation!

                1. KLH

                  Yes! I once worked at a public library in a predominantly African-American community, and we were all addressed and called each other Mr./Ms. Lastname, from the Director down to the cleaning staff.

                  Personally, I loved it. It felt egalitarian and mannerly because it was consistent and ingrained in everyone’s vocabulary.

  14. Happy

    Regarding clocking in and out for exempt employees. I recently worked at a place that had you electronically track every minute of your day, it was extremely annoying and even though i wasn’t salaried my hours had to total 8 every day or i would be asked to make up the time before the week was over. BUT if i worked overtime (which was often the case) i wouldn’t be compensated for the extra hours with being able to leave early on another day. Maybe this is typical, but it seemed unfair to me. Fortunately i got a much better job offer just 3 weeks in and no longer have to deal with, but i wondered if this practice was fair.

    1. Jamie

      It’s not unfair, exactly, in the sense that it’s not a violation of any kind…but it’s a really crappy way to manage people.

      As mentioned above – cost accounting/job costing will require time being tracked…but that’s not what you’re talking about here.

      The thing is most salaried people typically put in 40+ and don’t get paid the OT. I personally don’t begrudge this because it’s offset by being able to arrange my schedule with more flexibility than if I were hourly. If you start keeping track of every minute, then so will I…and it’s rarely in a companies best interest to keep salaried employees this acutely aware of the give and take.

      1. Happy

        I agree, and I don’t mind doing overtime at all, but being forced to track every minute during the day (and i wouldn’t have minded having to do a time sheet at the end of the week) just seemed to take away the upside of being a salaried employee, because our schedules weren’t at all flexible. I agree its just a bad business practice, if not a violation of anything.

  15. clobbered

    #3 I have a different take.

    You should go through the process of evaluating the spouse like you would do any other job applicant. You can not deduce anything about her from her husband’s work habits.

    Interview her, evaluate her skills, evaluate if you would like to work with her and judge her on that.

    This is the only subject I consistently disagree with Senior Eminent Glorious Blogger Green. I work in a niche field where couples in the same workplace and/or the same team are not uncommon (including myself) and in my experience potential problems are overstated. The only consistent issue I am aware off is that you are likely to lose two good employees instead of one if they want to relocate.

    People don’t marry their clones. You should assess them individually and trust that they will behave professionally like with everyone else.

  16. Avid Reader

    #5 – As a salaried, exempt employee, I have to log 8 hours a day 5 days a week. Our non-exempt employees clock in and out. In reality, so long as I work 1 hour, I am paid for the entire day.

    We recently changed some of the requirements. HR stated that one reason for us to log in was to track the codes used (how much training, sick leave, vacation, work). Another was to determine why someone was paid for a day when records show that the person did not badge in (basically to cover for audits).

    This is an improvement over actually clocking in and out despite no benefit for being on-site more than 40 hours per week. Now if I have to work a weekend, I can take a day off the next week.

    1. anon-2

      It likely has to to with SOX (Sarbanes-Oxley) requirements.

      It also lets people know when you’re putting in extra hours.

  17. Cassie

    #3: if you don’t want to hire the wife, please say something! Under pressure from her boss, my friend hired the boss’s friend. My friend didn’t think it was a good idea and references were only mediocre. My friend asked me what she should do and I told her if she didn’t think the candidate was qualified, don’t hire her – regardless of how much the boss wants to bring her bff on board.

    My friend didn’t feel she could voice her opinion and hired the boss’s bff. Fast forward a year down the line – the employee’s work is not good, and the boss & bff are no longer friends. The bff is leaving so my friend is once again looking to hire someone. The boss has someone in mind – again, my advice would be not to hire someone if they are not qualified! Maybe, if there’s a chance the boss will fire you for not hiring their bff, but this was not one of those situations.

    At the very least, make sure you voice your opposition – don’t think that just because the boss wants to hire so-and-so, it has to be a done deal.

  18. Seth

    I got lot of spam from Linkedin via people who had me in their inbox. It happened four or five times, I asked them if they’d sent me invitations to join Linkedin and they said no way.

  19. Anonymous

    #1- You are SO over-thinking this. The HR person will not have any hurt feelings if you don’t accept the request, and likewise accepting her request is not a big deal at all either.

  20. anon-2

    #7 – I was in a situation like that once — finally, push came to shove.

    “Are we going to resolve it? Because I have two job offers in hand right now.”

    Manager = “How long do we have?”

    “Three months and ninety seconds.”

    Manager = “Huh? What’s this cryptic ****”

    “Oh, the three months are up. We’re down to the last 90 seconds. When I get up from this chair and leave, your opportunity to negotiate ends.”

    Shockingly – the counter-offer was already prepared. Apparently the place had a “don’t bid against yourself” policy. Pigheaded.

  21. Anonymous

    In all sincerity, I don’t understand #1 and why some people agonize over LinkedIn. I’ve heard some people won’t connect to others unless they’ve had an actual working relationship or if they are in the same field. I don’t quite understand this. If anyone here does that, could you explain why? I think I must be missing something. Thanks.

    1. Jamie

      I’ve heard some people won’t connect to others unless they’ve had an actual working relationship or if they are in the same field.

      I’m one of those people. Linkedin is for networking professionally, so it doesn’t make sense to me to connect with strangers or people outside of my industry.

      I would (and have) made an exception for someone I would feel comfortable vouching for, or passing along a resume, but not a stranger.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      I’m one of those people too. I don’t connect when I don’t know someone, for the same reason Jamie says — I wouldn’t feel comfortable vouching for someone I didn’t know.

      1. Vicki

        I don’t think of LinkedIn as solely for “vouching for” someone. It’s a network. Sometimes, you vouch for someone. Sometimes, they vouch for you. Sometimes, it’s just a case of asking “do you know of any jobs in your company that fit what I do?”

        That said, if you have a knee jerk feeling of discomfort about this person, don’t connect. (I actually disconnected from an HR person at a previous company. We got along well and I wanted her in my network… right up to the time when she was responsible for telling me that I wasn’t a fit for the company. She didn’t just handle the paperwork for the layoff. She handled the layoff itself (no manager to be seen). So I sympathize totally with the OP’s question. I’d say, don’t connect with this one.

    3. Rana

      I’m not as stringent as some people about it, but I understand the logic of that approach. If I don’t have at least a starting connection to someone I won’t add them. I don’t want a bunch of random people I don’t know or know only slightly in my network; if I don’t know them personally, there had better be an obvious reason for me to reach out to them professionally.

      Basically, I want people who add value to that network, so there’s little incentive to add people who don’t do that. In practice, my connections are a mix of family, friends, former co-workers, colleagues in my field and related fields, and people I’ve done business with, and that makes for a pretty decent-sized network. I don’t need to add people just for the sake of making my network larger.

      So, I can see how someone whose primary work relationships are all within one industry would be disinterested in reaching out beyond it.

  22. anon

    #6 I have a different take. It sounded to me like the salary was discussed vaguely during an interview setting, and OP gave a general response about how she thought she should be on the higher end, and gave reasons. That discussion should be considered separately from the actual negotiation once an offer is made, no? And it’s not clear from the post that she accepted the offer; it sounded to me like they had made it and she had likely asked to get back to them before accepting.

    I think she could respond to the offer saying something to the effect of, “I appreciate your recognition that I would provide more value than the original posted salary range – Could you make it 37? If so, I think we have a deal.” I guess my view is that the negotiation isn’t over until you accept, and even if the hiring manager might be miffed to think that he had already made a concession, that irritation isn’t going to be significant enough to start the employment off on the wrong foot.

    These early-career negotiations can matter quite a bit to the employee in terms of feeling valued in the job, setting up long-term salary history, and developing negotiation skills.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Except they gave her a range, she said I’d like to be in the higher part of that range, and then they came back and offered her even more. Many/most employers would be put off to then have her try to negotiate a second time, when they’d already discussed salary, taken her at her word, and even gone beyond that.

      1. anon

        Sure, they might be “put off,” but I don’t think that’s a compelling reason for the OP to accept a lower salary than the company would be willing to pay. If $35 is the limit, the employer can say so, and it would make sense to accept at that point.

        Employers shouldn’t parse a candidate’s comments made about a salary range in an interview setting as if they were already in negotiations, although it can give an indication of a candidate’s leanings. In this case, saying something like “I think I should be considered at the higher end of that range” should be an indication that the range is probably too low, not that the top of the range would definitely be acceptable.

        Candidates are already at an emotional disadvantage during a salary negotiation – women in particular can find it very difficult to negotiate because they don’t want to “put off” the employer, and then they end up with lower salaries throughout their lifetimes. In this case the candidate might be foregoing $2000 to prevent the employer from feeling put off.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          When you discuss salary in an interview process, employers are taking you at your word — just like you’d be put off if they told you they’d put you at the top of their range and then later offered well below it. It’s a good way to leave a sour taste in their mouth.

    2. OP

      I originally emailed about #6 – it was largely out of curiosity, because I agreed with the answer (that it would be risky and unnecessary to ask for more) – but I was encouraged by friends and family to say something if I felt it was appropriate. I am also relocating myself for the job (we had also discussed this at the outset). So I was not decided when I went into the meeting, but I was clearly given an opening when asked if I had any questions or doubts about the offer. I simply asked if there was possibility for more while making it clear that it wasn’t a deal breaker, and he graciously said he would ask. By the next day I had a higher number than they had originally offered.

      That said, I can see a LOT of situations where this would be too risky. Fortunately for me, they were very understanding and wanted to bring me on board quickly and happy. After this experience, I think you have to feel out the situation to know.

  23. Vicki

    Senior Blogger Green: I’m surprised that your reply to #4 didn’t reference the letter about Senior Staff Nurse Smith.

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