short answer Saturday — 6 short answers to 6 short questions

It’s short answer Saturday — six short answers to six short questions. Here we go…

1. Taking a separate lunch break after a working lunch

I work in a union position at a college. We get an hour lunch break during the normal school year. My question is, when you have a work event where lunch is provided, is it still okay to take your lunch break? Yesterday, we had the college president’s “Welcome Back Remarks” and lunch was provided. I still took my lunch break later in the afternoon like I usually do. I needed to run off campus for a preplanned errand which took the full hour. I don’t think any of my colleagues took their lunch breaks. What are your thoughts on this?

Are you asking about the law or workplace culture? If the latter, it really depends on how things are done at your employer, and that’s a question I can’t answer from the outside. (Although a good employer that treats employees like adults would have no problem with you running errands later.) If you’re asking about the law, it depends on what state you’re in. If your state requires breaks (many don’t), the law would say that you’re still entitled to a break because the work lunch was “work,” not your legally-mandated break.

2. Where’s my raise?

I am a college student who works part-time at one of my university’s administrative offices. My salary is $8.5/hour. A month ago, my supervisor told me that she had decided to raise my pay to $10/hour. I was really excited and appreciative. I am paid every 2 weeks. Since I was told of the raise, I have received two paychecks, and both of them were still at $8.5/hour.

I want to talk to the office HR manager about it (she is the one who handles paychecks for all student employees; my supervisor doesn’t oversee my paychecks at all), but I feel embarrassed about bringing it up because 1) I have mediocre social skills and am not used to confronting people with my problems and 2) I feel like I might come across as greedy and accusatory if I don’t say the right thing in the right tone. How should I go about talking to the HR manager about this? And should I let my supervisor know that I am not being paid $10/hour?

Start with your manager, because she’s the one who gave you the raise, and she may not even realize that it hasn’t been implemented yet. Don’t think of this as a big deal — it’s not. She said you’d get a change in pay, it hasn’t shown up yet, and you’re just letting her know: “Hey, I wanted to check with you on my raise. It hasn’t shown up in the two checks since we talked about it.”

3. Following up on an application

I applied for a job with a large national magazine a month ago this week. I am excited for this opportunity and I went online to check my application status. It says I am “Still Under Consideration” and my resume is currently being reviewed for this position. I know they are a very large company. Is it worth trying to find the HR department’s information and send a follow-up email or should I just leave it alone and trust the process?

You can send one follow-up email if you want, but they have your application. You really just need to wait for the process to play out.

4. Broken application site

I would love some advice on how to deal with a broken online application site. I found a great-sounding job I would love to apply for, but every time I try to get through the online application, I am held up in one section that appears to have a glitch. It asks for a piece of required information to be entered, but then never saves it, and thus, won’t let me progress to the next section. So it is impossible to fill out the online application. There is a technical support contact listed on the site, so I submitted a ticket, but I’m afraid that they won’t resolve the issue until it is too late and the posting will close before I can submit. Do you recommend emailing HR and explaining this situation, along with my resume attached, or should I just hope that tech support will fix it in time?

Yes, you can try emailing them directly with an explanation, and you could also try calling and explaining the problem.

5. Mentioning a firing from 11 years ago

Eleven years ago, I was fired from a job for missing more days than allowed in a calendar year. I am now much older and wiser, and am a stickler for being at work…I haven’t missed a day in over 3 years. That job is no longer on my resume.

When applying for a job recently, I was asked in the application if I had ever been fired for cause, and answered yes and gave a brief explanation of what had happened. Was this the right thing to do, given that it happened so long ago? I don’t want to get caught in a lie, but because of the nature of the firing I’m worried it could hurt my chances now. Is there an expiration date on these things, or will bad decisions from a decade ago haunt me forever? I also didn’t bring it up in my interview, and am now wondering if it would be okay to email my interviewer and let her know that I am not that person anymore?

I wouldn’t email about it — you already addressed it on the application. And explaining that you learned from the experience and haven’t missed a day in three years should put most employers’ minds at ease about this if it ever comes up.

However, just so that you know all your options, the reality is that you could feel pretty safe just erasing the entire experience from your resume and never mentioning or thinking about it again. Chances of it coming up in the future are very low, unless you work in a tight-knit industry where someone who would remember you from that old job is likely to be at your prospective new employer.

6. French words

First off, let me say that I realize that this is a stupid, minor thing to complain about, but this grammatical issue is driving me kind of crazy! I work in a French-speaking organization with offices around the world. As the assistant to one of the heads of post, I frequently am in cc on emails to all the heads of post mentioning that they should advise the assistants to reserve a room in their particular office for an upcoming videoconference. But the assistants (the vast majority of whom are female) are always mentioned as “adjointes” (the female plural) instead of “adjoints,” which would be the gramatically correct way to refer to us as a group. I really don’t understand what’s up with this since I correspond regularly with the people who send these e-mails who would presumably realize that I am a male assistant. Do you have any advice for how (if at all) I should respond to this pet peeve without sounding like a jerk and/or a chauvinist?

Ignore it. Why does it matter? (And it might be worth keeping in mind that for centuries women have dealt with being lumped into the generic “his” and “he.” Perhaps you could consider this turnaround fair play.)

{ 129 comments… read them below }

  1. Shelly

    “And it might be worth keeping in mind that for centuries women have dealt with being lumped into the generic “his” and “he.” Perhaps you could consider this turnaround fair play.)”

    I cannot explain why, but I think this made my day.

    1. JT

      Ditto.

      Also, I remember a discussion here about using “they” instead of he or she as a strategy to avoid being gender specific. I’m reading the Microsoft Manual of Style and that book recommends against this as potential confusing to non-native English readers. Which made me a little sad.

      1. Jamie

        I know it’s not correct, but using they as a gender neutral singular is my default – its a pretty common habit, not that that makes it any more correct.

          1. Jamie

            I don’t know how I missed this post in RSS yesterday – thank you! All vestiges of guilt have now fallen away for me.

        1. KayDay

          Can we all start a petition to make “they” the official gender neutral singular pronoun? Languages change overtime, and this change is long overdue. It’s so common in daily use that it really wouldn’t be much of an issue for 90% of English speakers.

          1. Jamie

            I’d sign up for anything that would make me correct by changing the definition of incorrect.

            I’d love to suddenly be less flawed with no effort required on my part. :)

          2. Vicki

            Yes yes yes.
            (From some things I’ve rad “they” as a generic plural has been around for hundreds of years, pedancy notwithstanding…)

      2. Ellie H.

        I will never give in to the singular “they.” It’s laziness and just plain incorrect! Just say “he or she”! This is my largest grammar pet peeve; I inherited it from my middle school Latin teacher.

        1. sciencegirl

          “He or she” excludes people who don’t identify as male or female, whereas “they” is inclusive of them. That said, if I am going to avoid “they”, I typically write “she or he”, to help counteract the traditional marginalisation of women in language.

        2. Anon21

          “just plain incorrect” does not apply to widely-used innovations in living languages. Sorry about your prescriptivism condition; I’m sure you can get help with that.

        3. Anna

          How about bringing back “thee” as the pronoun for second person singular? Language changes: things drop out of use (like “thee”) and other things start being used (“they” as a singular pronoun). It’s part of being a living language.

        4. M-C

          Latin is a dead language (had 6 years of it myself, not to mention Greek :-)). English is a living one. Therefore a relatively graceful way to incorporate changing social mores to express openness and intent not to discriminate is imho an excellent thing. I single=they ALL the time, and encourage everyone to do the same.

        5. Rana

          Use “one,” then.

          But, honestly, the battle against the singular “they” is pretty much lost; most of the editors I know shrug and don’t think it’s a big deal, and many of them advocate its use.

    2. Anonymous

      Same!

      Relatedly, where I work, the name of the admin support staff meeting was recently changed from “Secretaries Meeting” to something else because, supposedly, “secretaries” implies female and there’s one male in the group. I seriously had to suppress my urge to go “Oh my gooodddd get over it” when I heard this.

        1. Anonymous

          Yes, because we use “secretary” as a title. It’s only the name of the meeting that changed. I don’t understand it.

      1. Jamie

        Maybe I’ve watched too much Agatha Christie, but I while I think of ‘secretary’ as an archaic term, it applies to both genders for me.

        I know in the Mad Men era it’s women who type and schedule, but in Hercule Poirot’s world men did those things, too.

    3. Elizabeth

      Also, the way Romance languages deal with gender in plural nouns always bugged me. I don’t know French, but assume that while “adjointes” means “an all-female group of assistants”, “adjoints” can either refer to an all-male group or a mixed -gender group. It’s like that in Spanish – there’s a specific form for all-female groups, e.g. “ellas” = “them”, but then “ellos” could refer to a mixed group or all men. So one man in the group changes the ending to the masculine style, while adding women to a group of men is linguistically invisible. Never seemed fair to me.

      1. Zee

        ^^ Exactly what I was thinking, and I was also going to use the Spanish angle to explain it.

        It doesn’t seem fair because when you study World History, you will find the theme of patriarchal societies. The language will reflect the culture and ideas of society.

    4. clobbered

      Actually I really disagree with the “turnaround for fair play” comment. First, two wrongs don’t make a right. Secondly, if anyone thinks that it is actually good for it to be assumed that an administrative assistant is a “woman’s job” and that only a woman would be doing it, a refresher of Feminism 101 is order.

      OP. I’d find one of the offenders who you have reason to believe is approachable and have a quiet word about what is said and how it comes across to you.

      1. JamieG

        I don’t think it’s a matter of them not realizing there’s a man in the group. But really, look at it this way: Most women wouldn’t complain about being addressed as a group as “guys”. E-mailing or having a conversation about that would come across as weirdly nitpicky (“You keep referring to the group as ‘you guys’ but I’m actually a woman so you should stop”). In his case, he’s wanting all of the women in the group to be made linguistically invisible because of him. French (and Spanish, and I assume many other languages I’m not familiar with) are biased in that fashion, and it shouldn’t be a big deal to ignore that convention.

      2. M-C

        Oh, but I really agree with the “turnaround as fair play” for the same reasons! Women in France sometimes attempt to correct the incredible language inequities that contribute to them being perceived as incompetent, unreliable, disposable, etc. And the main one is the obligation for one single man to turn an entire group masculine, because “the masculine primes the feminine in all cases”. Which all men think is just fine, it’s just a convention not based on fact, and we should just shut up and enjoy it, we’re so over-sensitive blah blah blah. Till the opposite is done to them of course, revealing their true feelings about how unimportant it really is.

        So I think “adjointes” it should remain, and the #6 whiner should just shut up and enjoy it too. I’m just hoping some adjointe somewhere is doing it on purpose, and enjoying seeing him squirm.

  2. Angela S.

    To #1 OP – if it’s a unionized position, I’ll check with the union rep as well. I would think that the union governs how much break you should be entitled to from your employer.

    I think AAM points you to the right direction. I believe it’s up to the workplace culture. At where I work, people don’t take a separated lunch break if there’s a working lunch. We have a few people who by their own choice don’t take lunch breaks. Our boss is at his wits end in encouraging us to take a break and to take a walk outside of the office. I even once told my boss that these few people made me feel guilty to leave work on time (there are 2 evenings per week that I have to leave at 5pm sharp because of other commitments), and he told me not to make that border me.

    But if you see other people taking their breaks after a working lunch and don’t get trouble for that, it’s safe to assume that it’s okay for you to do so.

    1. NewReader

      I agree with Angela , OP #1, definitely talk to your union rep. Sometimes a small misstep can result in write up (or worse) and the union will not back you up nor bail you out.
      You should have received a union handbook outlining where union and management are in agreement on how things should be handled. Look for a section on employee break periods.
      If you do not have that handbook ask the union rep when you see him regarding the working lunches.

      Just as an aside- do yourself a favor and read the handbook cover to cover. Try not to rely on other people’s interpretation of what the hand book says.

    2. Anonymous

      Check with the rep definitely. I know some places demand the person to actually clock-out for the union mandated lunch break and clock-in upon returning. At least in my state, I know the shift has to be over 5 hours in order to qualify for that lunch break; otherwise, it’s a 15 minute break without going over to the clock.

    3. JPT

      If you’re paid an hourly wage and not exempt, you’d need to know whether they expect you to claim that hour or not. If they do, you’d need to be compensated for an hour of overtime if you go over 40 hours that week, or take an hour off elsewhere. Was this event voluntary, or would you have been able to do whatever you wanted and not go? I’d say a mandatory event means they should pay you. If not, you took two lunches.

      I guess that could be different depending on the workplace policy? But I’m thinking from a legal standpoint of recording your time properly.

    4. mh_76

      Yes, definitely ask your union rep. If you weren’t in a union position, then it would depend on the state/area’s laws and on your boss.

  3. B

    #4 – It may not be a technical glitch. Try it with a different browser (if you are using Firefox try explorer). That has happened to me many times and it is because the browser is not compatible with the application system they are using.
    If that does not work then send quick email to tech support.

    1. NewReader

      I would be interested in knowing what you guys are keeping for browsers. I have ended up with three. One activity requires I use IE, I prefer FF, and then I had to get Chrome because I found another activity that did not run well on the first two browsers. SIGH!

      1. Jamie

        I run ie, safari, Firefox, and chrome for web development testing purposes.

        I need ie for updates and certain sites, but Firefox is home to me. I just visit the others as needed.

        1. Josh S

          Don’t you just look forward to the time when IE’s 14% share drops to <1%?

          I mean, I understand the enterprise desire to have "everyone on the same software/software version control/software support", but does that *really* require the use of IE? (Let alone people who are still using IE6/7 because of these reasons?)

          Business enterprise and woefully uninformed users seem to be the only things keeping IE alive. Can't we just let it die already?

          /rant

      2. Jen in RO

        At home I use Firefox 99% of the time. At work I use IE (since it’s the officially supported browser) and Opera. Never tried Chrome.

      3. Natalie

        My preferred browser is Chrome, but I’m required to use IE at work (bleh) and I have Firefox and Safari on my home compuer just in case.

      4. CatB (Europe)

        Default browser: FF. Alternate (for website design checking): Chrome, Opera and Safari. I do have IE, but I haven’t started it in ages.

      5. MentalEngineer

        I use FF for work. I used to use it for everything but ever since FF10 it’s been bloated and slow on every machine I’ve tried it on. And it won’t play nice with the Juniper client my school uses for authenticating us on the network, and Flash was bugged for 2 months so I had to downgrade Flash versions or disable it, etc etc… Chrome just works and I use that for all my personal browsing

      6. NewReader

        Thanks for all your answers folks! An interesting read- to find out what others are doing. I guess I am not crazy for still liking my FF. But I can see me switching to Chrome in the future just so I don’t have to keep changing browsers.

      7. Josh S

        I used to use Firefox, but switched to Chrome when the rapid update cycle on FF broke all my apps on a weekly basis. (I hear they’ve fixed that, but now I like Chrome…esp. syncing bookmarks between my Android phone, etc.)

        For those who need to use IE, there are IE extensions for Chrome/Firefox (and I’d guess Opera and Safari as well) that allow you to use IE for that one task without having to run an entirely different browser…

    2. Laurie

      Came here to say this. Update your browser if it’s an older version, or use a different browser, and/or a different computer.

      And @NewReader, I’m using IE, Chrome and FF too. IE for all the work websites, web-based applications and anything Microsoft-related, Chrome for everything except what doesn’t work on it and Firefox for what doesn’t work on Chrome.
      My personal laptop has a similar situation since I use a Mac – that one needs Safari, Chrome and FF. And hair-pulling for when none of them work, though that has happened only once or twice in 5+ years of using Mac.

      1. B

        I have a mac and use Firefox for almost everything but also have safari. However, you just reminded me I need to update my explorer for those times when neither of those work.

        1. JT

          Most of the time I use Chrome and the rest with Firefox and Opera. I have Opera set to not take cookies, so do some random browsing with that. Oh, and I have Safari dedicated to Facebook – I don’t like the way Facebook follows you around the internet, so I avoid that by dedicating a browser to it. I have IE but use it rarely – less than 1% of the time.

            1. Penzy

              You can also download DoNotTrackPlus as a browser extension. It prevents Facebook, google, and all of the other sites from tracking you.

              1. mh_76

                Me too. It’s much easier when I’m checking email online (vs. using Thunderbird) because I see only what’s relevant for that email address’s purpose, not every email under the sun.

  4. ChristineH

    #5 – Just so I’m clear for my own purposes: If a firing was over 10 years ago, you’re saying there’s no point in even mentioning it on an application if asked? I had two jobs that each lasted around 2 weeks before I was let go (both were more due to lack of fit, as opposed to being fired for misconduct). The jobs were in 1997 and 2000.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Jobs that lasted two weeks? I’d forget they ever happened, personally. It’s very unlikely that they’d ever come up in a background check; the only way it would come out would be if by some fluke, someone at the new employer knew you from the old employer.

      1. Colette

        And that someone from your old employer remembered the name or face of someone they worked with for 2 weeks 15 years ago. Unless you did something spectacularly memorable, that doesn’t strike me as likely.

    2. Aly

      I agree, leave them off. I was fired from my first job – at an ice cream shop when I was 14 (I was told I wasn’t enough of a people person and was fired after a month). It’s an amusing story that I don’t mind telling people, even at work, but I’ve never ever listed it on a resume or said yes to the “have you ever been fired for cause” option on online systems. Admittedly, that’s not the same as a ‘real’ adult job, but things that are that short term from so long ago aren’t going to be a big deal in a hiring process.

  5. Diane

    OP #1: Ask YOUR manager first. Your manager is responsible for your time and duties and for helping you navigate workplace culture and expectations. I would be beyond pissed if one of my employees decided on her own to take a second lunch break without asking.

    You have no idea whether you’re expected to attend all welcome-back activities that day or cover for people who are. At my workplace, welcome activities are usually scheduled over 8 hours, including a lunch, so people can leave a little earlier.

    1. And if

      I disagree. If this is a union position, then the manager has nothing to do with it. Nor does workplace culture. If the union contract requires a 1 hr lunch unpaid then they have to give it to you. If you work through that lunch (a working lunch) the company (or in this case the school) is in breach of contract.

      Maybe you like to work for free, I do not. I value my time more.

      1. doreen

        If it’s a unionized position the OP may not be working for free. One of my first jobs was a unionized position in a trade school. During registration , the school provided lunch and we didn’t get a lunch break- but according to the contract ,we were paid for a 40 hour week even though we normally worked 35.

        1. And if

          If they are not getting paid for the working lunch, that is working for free. Any hours that you are not getting paid for is working for free.

      2. class factotum

        I get beyond pissed if I have to attend a working lunch or dinner instead of doing what I want to do. Usually, I go to the gym at lunch. After work, I want to go home.

        If it is a mandatory work event, it is work, even if there is food.

      3. JPT

        It may be a breach of contract not to get that lunch, but the manager still has something to do with it! Your manager should be able to have a say in when you take that hour off and approve you not being there during time when you normally work. If it were me I would say absolutely yes, take an hour break, and tell me when you’re going to take it.

        I agree with “And if” that workplace culture has nothing to do with it. If you’re working through lunch and still leaving at your normal time you should be compensated.

        1. And if

          If you are union, the manager cannot do jack to you if his so doing is creating a breach in the union contract. If your manager tells you that you do not get a lunch and contract says you do, guess what: you get a lunch. She cannot fire you, yell at you, or in any way discipline you for demanding your rights under the labor contract.

          1. JPT

            No, she can’t fire you for taking a lunch. She can, however, say that you have to confirm the exact time you are taking your lunch. And if you just decide to leave and not tell anyone and be defensive about it up front, she sure can think you’re pretty terrible. The first step is simple: “Hello Manager. Since I was required to go to this work event over my usual lunch break, I would like to take my break before or after that, whichever is most convenient.) A good manager will say “Yes, you can take your break at X time.” And as others have said, depending on the state, they may not be required to give you a break as long as you’re not going over 40 hours at the end of the week. If there’s a required lunch break in your contract, and you have a good and competent. manager, you’re going to get your break. Sometimes for others who don’t take breaks because they’re exempt, they just don’t think of that sort of thing until you ask for your break.

            1. And if

              And sometimes, like the manager who pitched a fit over the employee exercising her legal right, managers can be jerks who think they own their employees. I am saying let them know you will be taking a lunch, do not ask there permission because they do not legally have a right to deny you the lunch. Of course you let them know that you are leaving, only an idiot would not; apparently there are a lot of those here as they think you deciding you will take a lunch means you do not tell anyone where you are going. That is just unintelligent.

              Further, any manager who has an issue with you exercising your rights is a jerk. Because if you are union and hourly, you ain’t exempt and his or her wanting you to work for free is just begging you to turn the company in to DOL.

              1. JPT

                No need to call anyone an idiot. The permission would be for the time of your break, not yes or no, and there’s nothing wrong with being nice about it. And yes, there are idiots who would just go without asking and not realize that’s a problem. Happens all the time.

                As Alison said, we don’t know how they report their time. There may not even BE a legal issue. (Although a good manager would give them a break anyway if it’s possible.)

    2. Jamie

      If I take up someone’s lunch time with a mandatory meeting I make sure they know they can take the time later that day.

      For me the food part of lunch is incidental, people are entitled to a mid-day mental break and my ordering in some sandwiches doesnt change that.

      1. Diane

        Oh, I agree that everyone is entitled to a break during the day, and mandatory lunches just aren’t the same. But I still expect employees to talk to me, rather than disappear. They’re entitled to a break, but they need to work with me to decide when and how so the rest of our work can happen.

        It’s also a practical matter of reputation at the workplace. I work in a union environment, and I’m very pro-union. The employees who go to the union before talking to their managers get a reputation, deserved or not, and they don’t move up. It’s not always fair, but that’s the culture. As a manager, I want to support my employees and help them advance. An issue as simple as this should be easily clarified with a manager. Now, if a manager no, tough luck, that was your lunch, THEN ask the union rep. But ask.

        1. NewReader

          “But I still expect employees to talk to me, rather than disappear. They’re entitled to a break, but they need to work with me to decide when and how so the rest of our work can happen. ”

          This. Plus one more. Isn’t it just common sense to let someone know where you are? Crimmers, a person could be laying in a heap at the bottom of a flight of stairs. Someone ought to have and idea of when Susie or Ted should be returning to the workplace. To me it is just basic safety to tell someone where you are going. If I was unusually long returning from somewhere, I would hope someone would question that. I have had a couple experiences where injured coworkers could not get help for themselves and simply laid on the floor(or ground) waiting to be found. It does happen.

          Sometimes people baffle me.

    3. Natalie

      If the OP is in a state that requires lunch breaks, the manager isn’t in a position to give or revoke permission. And honestly, the manager might not actually know the law. I just ran into this at my workplace within the last month – our state requires a lunch break, and no one in my office was aware of it.

      1. Risa

        California has pretty strict employee rules when it comes to lunches and breaks. However, many people may not be aware of the recent Brinker decision (http://bit.ly/HG0J1f). Essentially, it says as an employer I have to make a lunch break available to the employee, but I cannot force the employee to take that lunch break. If the employee does not take the lunch, or cuts the lunch short, there is no penalty for the employer, and I have to pay the employee for the time the worked that would have otherwise been a break. I cannot dock their pay because they came back from lunch early. Also, in California, employees can waive their meal break but it needs to be done so in writing. The issue that this raises with hourly employees is overtime. The courts did reserve the right of the employer to also control their overtime costs, so that if an employee does waive their meal break, the employer can end their shift early to compensate for waived break.

    4. Anon

      Ugh this resonates with me. We had a company all day training with a half hour working lunch (it was work trust me.) Training ended an hour early and most people went home (most people are also salaried.) I was expected to go back to work and did (I’m hourly.)

      Thing is I normally have a 1 hour unpaid lunch to do whatever I want and I normally use that lunch. So I worked 9 hours that day and was paid for 8.

      This still irritates me but to keep up with company culture, I never complained or said anything about it and acted happy is ever. But boy do I hold it against my work place when they do things like this (often) and they lose out on a lot of my motivation – I’ve probably been unpaid for 20-40 hours.

        1. And if

          It doesn’t suck, it is illegal. Check out Department of Labor. Your company can be fined and ordered to back pay if you have proof of working the extra hours.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Right, but in reality, most people aren’t going to take legal action over one hour. I’m not defending the employer, but you’ve got to be realistic about how people will/should handle this stuff.

            1. Natalie

              True, although it probably would have been worth bringing up with the employer. I brought a time-clock issue to my employers attention and they (wisely) added the uncounted hours to my next check.

              1. JPT

                I’m with Natalie. Some people don’t feel comfortable asking about this stuff and just do what they think is expected (when it’s probably not and if they found out, they’d realize it’s a liability). Examples like Natalie’s would be more common if more people spoke up and paid attention to policy.

      1. JPT

        Anon, did you ever ASK if you could make up that hour by leaving early another day, coming in late the next day, or taking a long lunch combined over a few days? They probably would rather you do that then have to compensate you for overtime. But you shouldn’t be working without pay. When you say you were “expected” to go back to work, does that mean you were explicitly told to, or you just felt like you had to? If you were told to work overtime, I would suggest immediately pointing out that this is above and beyond 40 hours and ask how you’ll be compensated. If you just feel like you have to so you do, don’t assume people know you’ve worked 41 hours instead of 40.

          1. JPT

            Right–beyond that it’s more of a culture or policy issue for that workplace, i.e. whether the exempt people usually take a break anyway, whether they’re expected to work more than 40 hours, etc.

  6. Diane

    OP#2: Ask your manager. It’s not greedy to ask about a promised raise. Think of it this way: speaking up about a promised action is good, safe practice for advocating for yourself, which you’ll have to do later in less clear situations. It’s not a reason to be embarrassed, especially if you approach it as a point of clarification (“Do you know when the pay raise will be processed?”) rather than entitlement (“Where the hell is my money?!?!”). You don’t sound entitled, so you’ll be just fine. Good luck!

    1. EngineerGirl

      I want to echo Diane. Speaking up for yourself is a life skill that you absolutely **must** master in order to be successful as an adult. University is a great place to try new things, as there are usually less consequences than there would be if you did them in the real world. I’m going to once again advocate “Crucial Conversations” as a great book to learn how to speak up nicely but firmly.

    2. Zed

      I like the idea of asking for clarification. If this is a student job, might the raise may be processed on a *semester* basis? Your manager probably would have told you if that was the case, but… it’s definitely possible that the raise will kick in at the start of the next semester.

      It’s also worth noting that in academia everything is slow.

    3. The IT Manager

      I understand your hesitation, but you need to ask. I’m actually betting (hoping for you) it’s one of two things (1) you should be seeing the raise by now and your manager will check with or tell you to check with HR (2) she’ll tell you it takes a while to process and you’ll see it on your next pay check. She also might say that she didn’t do what needed to be done yet or quickly and she will.

      Wanting to get paid your promised pay raise is absolutely NOT a sign of greed.

      1. Kinrowan

        I would also definitively bring it up with the manager as a clarification; I would not go to HR at this point. Based on where I work, it would probably be just because of the internal bureaucracy. For example – when we give our student raises, we need to terminate the old contract, write a new contract, that has to be signed by the the manager, the director, go to HR, etc. The manager has probably done all they can do but if they know it hasn’t been implemented, they can go and ask and see where the paperwork might be stuck, if that is the case. I’d say something like “remember that raise you promised, it has not shown up on my paycheck yet, do you know when it might be come into effect?” it’s factual and just asking a question, it’s not hostile, so unless you have a crazy manager, they probably will appreciate knowing this as they may think the raise happened already.

  7. Jennifer

    I’m kind of with OP #6 on this one. It’s essentially the difference between “ladies” and “people.” If you’re a man, I would imagine that it gets old pretty quickly to see all the e-mails that read, “and then the ladies [lady assistants] will collect the materials after the meeting” or “the ladies will arrange coverage among themselves when one of the lady assistants will be out of the office”
    I don’t have a great solution, because when women in IT complain about the same e-mails that read “ask one of the IT guys” or “the guys over in IT will handle the software update tonight” they get the same “get over it” type of response, but I think it still stinks.
    But I’m a woman in a gender-balanced position (though in a male-dominated field) so I don’t have a lot of firsthand experience. If an employee called me out for using gender-specific language to refer to a group, however, I’d be embarrassed and would stop.

    1. Jamie

      I agree with Jennifer. Whether its fair or not calling a group of mixed gender people “guys” isn’t typically seen as offensive as calling the same ladies. It’s just that we’re used to male verbiage applying to both.

      To me this would be the same as someone addressing a memo to “the gentlemen in IT.” Yeah, that would bother me.

      It happens here fairly often, where a poster will comment about the guys in IT. Its so common that women in male dominated professions do spend a lot of time getting over it, because it would be a waste of energy to get worked up about it.

    2. The IT Manager

      I agree with your point, Jennifer. If the OP is a French-speaker, then he being called a “lady” everytime he reads this.

      Annoying as it may or may not be, women have had to put up with accepting that “guys” or “he” can sometime refer to them for a long time and it’s not the same insult, slap in the face that calling a male a lady or woman might be.

      But OP, if you want this changed and I can understand why you might, you have to point out the error to the people that do it and for the ones that don’t get it you may have to keep reminding them. So the question for you becomes “is the speaking up going to impact you less than putting up with something that drives you crazy?” By staying silent you’re quietly annoyed. If you speak out, you risk become some sort of grammar Nazi correcting things the higher ups write and that could annoy someone enough to complain to your boss.

      1. Camellia

        “Annoying as it may or may not be, women have had to put up with accepting that “guys” or “he” can sometime refer to them for a long time and it’s not the same insult, slap in the face that calling a male a lady or woman might be.”

        So just because we’ve had to put up with it for a long time, that makes it okay?

        And I will take it one step further – you are correct, it is NOT the same insult. Because as long as it is a slap in the face to call a man a “lady” or a “woman” or the “noun that can also be used for cats”, then women will never truly be equal.

  8. Ellie H.

    I am a stickler for language precision so I would be a little annoyed by the impreciseness. In most non-English languages (at least Indo-European ones . . . I don’t know any that aren’t) the “correct” form for a mixed gender group is the same as the masculine plural. However, I am admittedly on board with “turnabout is fair play” and it seems petty to say anything about it. If the vast majority of the assistants are female than it seems like a reasonable shorthand to me.

  9. Cassie

    #1: Our faculty frequently have lunch meetings and that sometimes requires certain staff members to stick around for 15-20 minutes into their lunch break. For a particular set of meetings, one staffer has to take notes so she doesn’t get a lunch break at all. She asked her manager about taking 30 mins in the afternoon and her manager flipped out.

    I believe our law (in CA) requires a 30-min unpaid break by the 6th hour on the job, so in the above situation, she’s entitled to getting a half-hour off. Technically it could be after the lunch, but if I were the supervisor, I’d let her take it before or after. I’d probably even offer to let her go home early in the afternoon, but I’m not sure about the legality of that (since she would be working over 6 hours without a 30-min break).

    Managers/supervisors should be aware of the law (and I’m pretty sure the above manager does know) but sometimes they forget. So it comes upon the employee to “ask”/inquire about taking a break. I say “ask” because you don’t want to go in with guns ablaze demanding your break (in case they truly just forgot). At the same time, I wouldn’t advocate just disappearing and hoping the supervisor will automatically know that you are taking your legally-entitled break at a later time.

    #2: I would go to my supervisor first, rather than HR. It’s possible the supervisor forgot to submit the paperwork so if you go directly to HR, she will just send you back to your supervisor.

    1. Cassie

      Sorry, that should be a 30 min break by the start of the 5th hour (not 6th). Unless the employee’s shift is less than 6 hours – the the lunch break can be waived with mutual consent.

  10. mh_76

    #6. When referring to only you (in the singular), do they use adjoint or adjointe? If the latter, then it’s worth mentioning. If they use adjoint, don’t worry about whether they use the feminine version for the whole group. Technically, they should find a gender-neutral way but because the French language is very gender-specific, that may not be possible. Also (somewhat of an aside): Male assistants are also the minority in the US.

  11. The French Translator

    #6 –
    feminine singular – adjointe.
    masculine singular – adjoint
    feminine plural – adjointes
    masculine plural – adjoints
    ***if there is a group of 10 people, and 9 are female, and only one is male, the male plural takes over, making it adjoints.

    1. Your Mileage May Vary

      But that assumes that you know the gender breakdown, right? Or do you usually assume male if you don’t know the breakdown?

      I do understand your frustration, OP. When you are in the gender minority, these things add up and can get you down. Some day (I hope), we’ll have such gender equality that no one will need to assume that one gender does certain jobs more than the other.

  12. Smithy

    #6 – when the accounts department was preparing the annual figures, they talked about ‘man hours’. I just mentioned that bearing in mind that half our employees are female, it was a bit off. The main accountant looked stunned – it had actually never occurred to him! He immediately changed the term to ‘workforce’ and has used it ever since.
    #1 – if I am in a lunch break situation, I word the conversation thus ‘because we will be working through lunch, I need to take by break later – would it be more convenient if I go from 2pm – 3pm, or from 3pm – 4pm?’ This completely skips the question of ‘if’ and moves straight to ‘when’. Even better to put it in an email, so you have a written record (I’m a great believer in getting things in writing).

    1. Eva

      Out of curiosity, if you protest against ‘man hours’, how do you feel about terms like ‘mankind’, ‘manning the desk’, ‘manhole’, etc.?

      1. Rana

        They’re lazy, is what I think. I doubt most people intend anything by them, but given that decent gender neutral terms for each do exist,* why willingly lump yourself in with sexists if you don’t have to?

        *humankind/humanity; run/handle/take charge of the desk; sewer access, etc.

        1. Nicolew

          I think I’m going to start a campaign to change manhole to “sewer access”. I don’t know why, but I love this!

      2. KellyK

        At work, I tend to refer to “person-hours” or “covering the desk.” I try to use gender-neutral terms where they exist. Outside of work, I play with language a little more. For example, I’m in an all-female choir, I might jokingly refer to “womanning” the fundraiser table rather than “manning” it.

        1. Eva

          I’m not suggesting that it is particularly hard. Nor is it hard to stand on one foot for ten seconds. But I would roll my eyes at being asked to do either of these things. See my rationale below.

            1. Eva

              I am indeed interested! Thanks for the article.

              It seems to me the author is using circular reasoning, answering the question of why this is a big deal by asserting that it is a big deal. Specifically, she claims that ‘making women linguistically a subset of man/men through terms like “mankind” and “guys” … makes women into objects’ which impacts expectations for and thereby the reality of how women will be treated.

              I don’t accept that claim. I don’t feel objectified, excluded, or ‘undeserving of my place in humanity’ when I hear these terms, and I am not aware of research to give me reason to believe that I am merely oblivious to a subconscious damaging effect when someone addresses me and others as ‘you guys.’

              Her proposed thought experiment of replacing ‘man’ with ‘white’ – e.g. freshwhite instead of freshman – frankly leaves me cold. As a woman I don’t have a problem with being a freshman at university; if I were not white I would not have a problem with being a ‘freshwhite’. In either case I would have a problem with actual discrimination – and, as mentioned, I see no link between the word choice and the outcome.

              Those of you who do see that link: What’s your take on the euphemism treadmill phenomenon I mentioned below? If words are so powerful, why did the once-PC term ‘retarded’ eventually get the same negative connotations as ‘idiot’?

  13. Amy

    if OP #6 reads this, I’d love to know what organization you work for, if you dont mind telling me (provided my email so you dont have to broadcast it if you dont want)!

    [I’m a french-speaker looking for work in the non-profit sector, and would love to check the jobs board for your organization]

  14. Shelly

    To post # 1. I think this very much depends on the culture of your company. Where I work folks generally take lunch at their desk and/or eat lunch during lunch time meetings. We are expected to manage our time and produce results. If I work through lunch everyday, but don’t get my work done my boss would balk. If I take an occasional long lunch, but work gets done everyone is happy. In fact, I have a standing appointment on Thurs., and take a two hour lunch every week. No one has ever even noticed. On the flip side, when I travel for work I’m expected to work weekends, 12 hour days. I also work with folks who are international so I’m expected to join conference calls at odd times (very early or very late) without complaint.
    If I ask my boss about how to manage my time/lunch hour, she would think I was I nuts. She probably wouldn’t even know how to respond. In my office, the faux pas would be not managing my own time and pestering my boss about this sort of pesty stuff.
    If the culture of you office is similar to mine, your co-workers didn’t take their lunch because they already ate and they didn’t have errands to run like you. If the culture is different, perhaps there is another explanation. I’d run it past a trusted co-worker who’s been there for a long-time before asking your boss. There are the “rules” and then there is the company culture. They aren’t always the same. A trusted colleague with good judgment should be able to clue you into the culture

  15. Smithy

    to Eva:
    ‘Mankind’ – I cannot recall ever having to use it and it is a very generic term.
    ‘Manning the desk’ – they can just say ‘staffing the desk’. Been there – had the discussion.
    And strangely enough (and this is absolutely true) I noticed a flow of water outside the office the other day, which I reported to facilities – and I refrained from writing ‘manhole cover’ and wrote ‘drain cover’.
    There are, of course, times when it is not necessary or appropriate to alter the word (mandarin orange, manacle, mandolin, Manchester), but where it works with something different, just write something different.

  16. Eva

    Thanks for answering my question. It’s always fascinating to realize just how differently other people think. It would never occur to me to raise an eyebrow at these terms. It’s not that I have a strong aversion to replacing them with gender-neutral ones; it’s just that I fail to see the point (and in the specific instance of ‘manhole’, I would argue that ‘drain’ is inadequate as a synonym). What difference does it make? I’m not asking in a dismissive way; I’m genuinely curious.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      It reinforces gender inequalities. If you accept that language influences our thoughts and perceptions, then rendering women invisible in language has a real impact. For instance, there’s been a lot of research done that shows that when we use “man” as the generic, people picture a man, not a generic person.

      1. Eva

        I see the point of, say, switching between ‘his’ and ‘her’ when gender is unspecified, but when it comes to terms like ‘man hours’ or ‘manhole’, I would roll my eyes at being expected to care.* While I acknowledge that language influences our thoughts to a certain extent, I don’t believe it matters to this extent. As a counter-example, consider the phenomenon of the euphemism treadmill (from Wikipedia):

        Idiot, imbecile, and moron were once neutral terms for a developmentally delayed adult with the mental age comparable to a toddler, preschooler, and primary school child, respectively.[15] In time negative connotations tend to crowd out neutral ones, so the phrase mentally retarded was pressed into service to replace them.[16] Mentally retarded, too, has come to be considered inappropriate by some, because the word retarded came to be commonly used as an insult of a person, thing, or idea. As a result, new terms like mentally challenged, with an intellectual disability, learning difficulties and special needs have widely replaced retarded.

        The point is that words can only go so far in shaping our perceptions. To take an example, there are relatively few women with jobs that involve getting in and out of a manhole. Will it do anything to lower the ratio of men to women in those jobs if we start calling it a ‘personhole’? I’m very skeptical that it will, but I’m be interested in hearing arguments (or seeing research) suggesting that it will.

        * I’m actually more inclined to sympathize with OP #7 since he’s a concrete person being robbed of his gender.

        1. Rana

          The thing is, Eva, that whether or not you buy the idea that gender-neutral language matters, other people do care about it. As I used to tell my students, if you use unnecessarily gendered language, you are lumping yourself in with sexists who use it deliberately to exclude, and you’ll offend people who dislike it (and those who dislike it really dislike). Why alienate your audience from the beginning, when it’s so easy to prevent the problem by using gender-neutral language?

          1. Eva

            Please believe that I’m not being contrary for the sake of being contrary. I’m just trying to understand.

            Why alienate your audience from the beginning, when it’s so easy to prevent the problem by using gender-neutral language?

            That’s a question of diplomacy. In general I’m perfectly willing to make an effort and compromise in order to keep relations harmonious, and as mentioned I don’t have a strong aversion to using gender-neutral language. I’m just saying I don’t share the concern and don’t see why I should.

            From my perspective, you all ( :) ) are saying that it’s important to stand on one foot for ten seconds. If it’s important to you that I do it, sure, I’ll do it so as not to alienate you. But I won’t understand why it’s not a trivial and hence silly issue unless I hear some logically sound arguments for why it matters.

            1. Editor

              @Eva — Different people have different levels of sensitivity to language. Consider the debates over whether various obscenities and curses should be published or broadcast or censored.

              Just because you don’t feel insulted by some generic terms doesn’t mean other people aren’t sensitive to them. You say trivial, I say substantive. At one time your view may have been the majority view, but my guess is that now it is the minority view.

              Maybe my stories will help explain why some people are more sensitive, since the male staff member’s story about being uncomfortable when being portrayed as a woman didn’t show you that some people prefer gender accuracy or full inclusiveness in language.

              When I applied to the university my parents had both graduated from (long ago; I’m over 60), I wanted to apply early decision. But I couldn’t, because early decision was limited to boys.

              The next year, the policy was changed. I told my dad, and he thought it was a bad move. I was puzzled. He said men have families to support and their economic importance trumped the importance of women, who wouldn’t stay in the workforce. He, of course, meant women in general.

              What I felt was that my father thought I was of less importance — destined only for marriage — and that he wouldn’t stand up for me. When I went to job interviews and had women ask me if I had plans to get pregnant — a question interviewers wouldn’t have asked men — I had to discuss decisions I considered personal with people outside my family.

              Perhaps you would have reacted differently to my experiences had they been yours, but I have been in a situation where, in a meeting that was 90 percent men, the older man leading the meeting said, “Well, men, after the meeting there are drinks downstairs.” The women looked at each other — all three of us — and couldn’t tell if we were invited or not. Asking that question was not as easy as you might imagine, because we were in a group of volunteers having an organizational meeting at a volunteer host’s business and didn’t know what the culture was at that company. We did kind of trail along but all three of us left early. The guys reportedly had a great time. If one of us had raised a hand and asked if the women could go along with the men, some of the men would have replied with hooting catcalls and locker room jokes. And when the host leads the charge down the stairs, there’s no discreet way to ask who’s invited.

              U.S. workplaces have changed a lot since the 1970s. So have some of the ways we use language. Alison has tried to point that out.

          2. Jamie

            “As I used to tell my students, if you use unnecessarily gendered language, you are lumping yourself in with sexists who use it deliberately to exclude, and you’ll offend people who dislike it (and those who dislike it really dislike).”

            This really struck a chord with me, as up until this discussion I hadn’t really considered this issue at all. I don’t often talk about manhole covers, or mankind so much while at work – and have always defaulted to labor hours instead of man hours, etc. But the more seemingly innocuous stuff (seemingly being key) like using “you guys” to mean men and women or just women – I never thought about before.

            So for the last couple of days I’ve been very conscious of how often I do this – and it’s a lot. I keep correcting myself now. Even last night when talking about dinner I asked the kids (2 boys and a girl) “what do you guys want for dinner?” and corrected it to “what does everyone want for dinner?”

            Now, do I think my daughter’s equality was threatened by being lumped in with the guys? No, nor is mine when it happens at work because we’re very secure in our inherent equality…but from this discussion I see the problem is the external message it sends. It doesn’t matter how secure we are internally – it’s a good thing to help change the language to reflect that.

            And language can change. 40 years ago I might be referred to as a ‘career girl’ without anyone batting an eye. I can’t imagine that happening now. In fact there were a lot of things that were okay to say in polite company 40 years ago that would get you (rightfully) shunned today.

            Does that mean I am going to fire off an angry letter to HR whenever someone asks “what do you guys want for lunch?” Nope. But I will try to be aware of my own language and change my own behavior – and that’s how language changes – one person at a time.

            However, I do hate when people substitute “guys” for “guys and gals.” I really hate the word ‘gal’ and always have. It’s even more dismissive in my mind than girl is – maybe because I used to be a girl but I reject that I’ve ever been a gal. That’s probably just a personal weirdness, though.

            I just think discussions like this are important. It’s made me think about things in a way that wouldn’t have occurred to me otherwise. Thanks.

  17. Smithy

    Eva: Actually, when they came to investigate the leak – it turned out to be the cover over the water meter, so neither manhole or drain cover was accurate. For the purposes of my report however, it was perfectly adequate. The reason I did not write ‘manhole’ is that where I am working at present, almost anything generates ribald humour, and I could not be bothered with it.
    Slightly off topic – but did anyone else do a double take at the news reports the other day about a soldier in Afghanistan who gave birth unexpectedly – she had not realised she was pregnant.

  18. Vicki

    #5 worries me a little. The OP says “I am now much older and wiser, and am a stickler for being at work…I haven’t missed a day in over 3 years.”

    I hope this means you haven’t been sick at all in 3 years, not that you’re so paranoid about missing work that you go into work sick and potentially infect (not to mention annoy) your co-workers.

    Wiser should mean that you’re capable of knowing when you _need_ to miss work. You’re not missing work because you’re lazy or decided to take the day shopping. But sick days, when provided, are there for a reason.

    1. Emily

      The OP may have a job that allows her to work from home rather than taking a sick day. I take reasonably good care of myself and though I get a cold or two each year that I don’t want to bring to the office with me, it’s indeed been several years since I’ve been too sick to sit at home with my laptop.

  19. some1

    Fwiw, I consider myself a feminist and I use the term: “you guys” all the time, even when I’m talking about a group of females. I am just used to saying this. I probably wouldn’t use it in a work email about scheduling a meeting, though, just because it’s a casual term, not because I think of it as sexist.

Comments are closed.