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. Should I submit my application a second time now that I’ve found a new email contact?

I recently applied for a position that I found on a reputable job listings website. I submitted my materials via email to an anonymous email address, which I think is standard for this website. However, I just reviewed the posting on the website’s mobile site and this version of the posting lists a specific name and email address. Should I resubmit my materials to this specific email address with a note explaining why I’m resubmitting? Or is that overkill and will it make me look crazy and desperate? Should I just trust that the anonymous email address was correct? If you do suggest that I resubmit, would it be okay to also include a little summary of my cover letter stressing why I’m interested in the position, or should I just keep it simple and explain the issue?

Don’t resubmit. You already applied, and you’ll look either disorganized or neurotic if you submit a second time. It’s very possible that the anonymous email address that you originally emailed is the same person as the the second address you saw, but either way, yes, you should trust that it was correct. Employers usually get that part right!

2. Updating your LinkedIn profile with your new title, before you’ve started your job

I am thrilled to be starting a new job in a couple of weeks that I think is totally right for me at this stage in my career (I will be a mid-level manager at a well regarded nonprofit organization). This new position is the result of an intensive four-month job search following a layoff at the end of June. The job offer is official, and I have already filled out all my paperwork with HR and had a new employee orientation. The only reason I have not already started is that I had previous travel obligations. Can I update my LinkedIn profile to reflect the new job title/company information, or is it better to wait until I have actually started? My official start date on my paperwork is not until two weeks from now.

I’d wait until you start, since you aren’t actually in that job yet. While the potential for complications from updating is now is very small, it does exist — so wait until you’re really in the job.

3. Connecting on LinkedIn to people you met during a job search

During my recent job search, I went on a lot of interviews, and generally felt that I was a strong contender for most of the jobs I interviewed for. While I’ve now accepted a job, I met a lot of great people at other organizations throughout the interview process and I’d really like to keep in touch with them, because t I liked them on a personal level, admired their work and feel like I could potentially learn from them, and would consider working with/for them in the future if the right opportunity came up. I have said as much to some of them in follow-up emails when I either did not get a job or was offered a job but turned it down. And many of them have said the same to me (in a few cases it felt more like a courtesy, but in most cases it felt genuine).

Is it appropriate to use LinkedIn’s equivalent of “friend request” to stay connected with these folks? My thought is that I would send the request with a brief note to the effect of, “Hi Jane, as you can see, I recently started working as __ at __. I’m really thrilled to have landed here and think I will learn a lot. I really enjoyed meeting you and learning about your organization, and hope we can stay in touch professionally.”

What do you think about this strategy? On one hand, networking is highly valued in my field. On the other hand, I worry that it could be misconstrued as me “wanting” something from them, or otherwise make them feel awkward. Also, I worry that I am on the young side to be initiating contact with high level people — especially when I don’t necessarily have anything to “offer” them in the quid pro quo sense.

No, this is normal to do, regardless of being more junior. Do it and don’t think twice about it.

4. Boss is a jerk

I’m having trouble getting along with my manager. I work for a mid-size nonprofit and everyone knows each other well. She will be very nice to my face, and then badmouth me and undermine me behind my back. This is the most concerning part, as I am new and trying to develop my reputation. I’ve heard this from several coworkers. She will ocassionally talk to me in a very condescending tone, and says things like, “You’re new, you don’t know anything about how things work here.” She also tells people I am her personal assistant, which I am not. She has asked me to get her a drink before. She will come over and stand very close to me and loudly tell me when I made a minor mistake so that everyone can hear. There have been three people in my position within the last two years. The last person left work one day and never came back. I have repeatedly asked her if anything is wrong, which she denies. What do I do?

Stop asking “if anything is wrong,” and instead ask for feedback on your work. Ask where you could be doing better, and where she’d like to see you improve. Regarding the comments made to other people, bring them to the surface by saying something like, “I’m concerned because Jane mentioned that you were sharing doubts about the XYZ work I did. Can we talk about how I could approach that differently?” In other words, surface it all, and do it in a calm, pleasant, matter-of-fact way, like you would if you were discussing any other business problem.

Meanwhile, though, think about whether you want to work for her. You’re not required to.

5. Managing a tyrant manager

I’ve seen several posts on your site about how to deal with a boss who is a bully or tyrant. My question for you is how can I, as an HR Director, address an issue like this with the supervisor who is being the tyrant? I’ve spoken with the supervisor about the proper and appropriate behavior that we expect, and I honestly think the supervisor wants to do better but can’t see the behavior and the effect it’s having on employees. Are there coaches out their who do this kind of work? It feels like a fundamental change in a person that is beyond being “teachable” at this stage in life.

By the way, the person’s manager is wholeheartedly on board and pushing for the change, and we are both communicating that there are severe consequences (including possibly termination of employment). We are just trying to figure out how we can support and train this person who seems not self-aware.

You’re already on the right track by addressing it forthrightly and laying out consequences if the behavior doesn’t change. You should also set a fairly quick timeline for when you’ll be re-evaluating things, so that it’s clear that the situation is high priority and serious.

There are indeed executive coaches who will work with people like this. You want to find one who’s particularly blunt — avoid touchy-feely coaches and go for someone who will be direct and not pull any punches, and one who’s willing to take this on with a pretty short timeline, because you don’t want this dragging out for months. Can a coach help someone like this? Potentially. If the person isn’t inherently mean and is just oblivious to the effect of her actions, there’s hope. But if the issues are tied up in fundamental character problems, ego, etc., it’s a lot harder.

When you evaluate the supervisor’s progress, make sure you talk with the people she manages, and make it clear to them that they can give you feedback safely, without any repercussions from the manager herself or from others in the organization. That’s the best way to get the information you need.

6. Bereavement gifts for managers

I know you disagree with giving gifts to managers, but what about from a team (above and below the employee) for an occasion? My manager’s grandmother just passed away and my senior manager wants the group to send her something at home. I’m totally fine with this (my team is really close, there are 16 of us, and I think she would really appreciate the gesture) but I was wondering if this was an exception to your “no gifts to managers” rule.

Yes, I think bereavement is the big exception.

Any theories on why we’ve had so many gift-related questions lately?

{ 36 comments… read them below }

  1. Anne*

    My theory for the gift questions is that a) Christmas is coming up and people are starting to think about gift-giving and b) there have been so many gift questions that people are reminded of their own gift questions.

  2. Chocolate Teapot*

    Yes, the major gift-giving season seems to be approaching.

    For a bereavement, I have known of sending the colleague a bouquet of flowers. Not in the funeral sense, but rather in a nice, bright “Thinking of you at this time” way.

    1. Jamie*

      I would only have a problem with this is the senior manager was taking a collection for the flowers.

      If the company/management want to do this and send it from everyone that’s lovely. If senior managers are running around collecting $ from subordinates to send a bouquet that bothers me – the power disparity leaves people little or no room to decline.

        1. kelly*

          When my grandfather passed away my company sent me a flower arrangement while I was on bereavement leave, which I thought was very nice. But it was definitely from the company, (I’m sure the HR manager arranged for it, since she would have had my parent’s address on file) and not a “pass around a collection envelope” sort of situation.

          1. Anonymous*

            Flowers are way overdone upon death, birth, whatever, why not make a donation in honor of the dearly departed to a charity that
            meant a great deal to them or their family.

            1. JamieG*

              Partially because, as a coworker, manager, etc, you might not know what charity would be a good choice. Flowers aren’t likely to offend anyone, but it’s easy to pick the wrong charity.

            2. Your Mileage May Vary*

              I overheard a former manager say once that he was in favor of sending flowers to the funeral home because it was a sensitive way of checking to see if the relative was really dead without insulting the employee who asked for time off. And that’s not even the most callous thing he said while I was working there!

              1. Hope*

                Ironic. We had an employee a few years back who took time off for his mother’s funeral. After calling every funeral home in the smallish city where he said she lived, we couldn’t find anyone with that name. Later we found out (from his ex) that his mother was live and well, but he was a pathological liar. Takes all kinds.
                That said, your boss does sound a bit cynical.

  3. Dr. Speakeasy*

    Re #5: Self-awareness is a huge mediating variable in communication skills research/training. Often people who use less competent strategies do so because they think that those ARE the competent strategies (oh, I’m just blunt, oh I’m honest). Getting someone to see the ineffectiveness of their own communication can be a very long process. You’ll have to decide if it’s worth it to invest in this process for your organization or if it would be better for everyone else to just cut one person loose.

    1. fposte*

      “Often people who use less competent strategies do so because they think that those ARE the competent strategies (oh, I’m just blunt, oh I’m honest).” That’s a really interesting point–kind of like the people who say “I’m just saying what everybody else is thinking” (which usually wasn’t what *I* was thinking). They’re thinking that they’re bringing a rare virtue.

  4. Jamie*

    #3 – there is nothing wrong with asking to connect, but don’t be offended if a request isn’t accepted. As has been discussed here before, people have different criteria for accepting. LinkedIn connection. Some people are totally fine with using it to connect with people they’ve met at conferences or a couple of times and others only connect with people they know well enough to know their work/reputation.

    No problem asking, but just don’t take it personally if any are ignored.

    1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      This. I don’t usually accept LinkedIn requests from candidates, unless they were pretty exceptional. But it’s not to be an affront… I just dread the day when my LinkedIn is full of names I don’t even recognize anymore. :)

  5. Diane*

    #5, please see #4.

    Why is it worth it to keep an ineffective manager whose behavior is likely demoralizing? What does this person offer that’s more important to your organization than the productivity and effectiveness of all of her staff and peers?

    1. Sharon*

      Diane +1000

      I’ve often wondered how bad managers can stay in the job for years churning through staff and it seems like nobody above the manager knows or cares. Kudos to this HR person for trying to fix the situation, though.

  6. Lulu*

    re: gift questions, I agree everyone’s been reminded of their own gift-giving quandries. In my last office, everyone seemed so confused about what was appropriate that there was zero continuity on what/who was “giftable”. It was a relatively casual and close-knit environment, so hierarchy lines definitely got crossed and it felt like we were constantly collecting for someone’s baby/going-away/thank you/care package. And since as The Admin I got to be the one to figure out what exactly to buy and then facilitate delivery (skills that do NOT appear in my list of strengths!), it’s definitely a hot-button issue for me.

    Bereavement does seem one occasion where sending “thinking of you”/sympathy flowers is widely supported, and may even be something the company would pay for at least partially, especially when supported by senior management.

  7. Krissy*

    I must have worked in one of the most giving corporate cultures…in my last work place it was very common place to send sympathy cards around with the flowers coming from the company.. it was never an issue most time employees would even put money in the card–it was not a requirement but a kind gesture to be used how one saw fit.

    Birthdays were the same you chip in $5 per quarter and individual birthdays were recognized no one seemed to mind.

    Of course there was the raffles, school fundraisers, girl scout cookie drive–but it was an unwritten rule just to put the sign up sheet on a community board if you wanted to support you could.

    I know you can get burned out with employer fundraiser request however, I think if the causes are in line with your personal choice it makes it easier to participate in the office since you were going to give anyway–so many of the programs were employee suggestions and the company generally matched the donations.

    During the Christmas holidays if you wanted to give and or exchange gifts you could of free will participate in the Christmas grab bag– a set dollar amount like $10 or $15 dollars .. you buy a gift and you receive one–but only if you wanted to be a part of it.

    However, I don’t think it would have ever been an issue to send a thoughtful fruit basket/flowers even if the company did not pick up the tab–since you spend so many hours at work some people bond more than others but everyone has empathy for someones loss and expressing a kind word of encouragement is priceless.

  8. Ruby*

    Re#1. Are you completely certain it is the same company advertising the same position? I would be inclined to consider them as different vacancies, and send a second application. I would obviously make no mention of the other application (because it’s going to a different company, natch), and I would make sure both of my rock star cover letters were individualised. Not resubmitting; applying for more than one job.

    1. kelly*

      Yea, it’s not clear from her letter whether the wording was exactly the same in both listings, thus the same job, and/or if the company was completely anonymous in the first posting or just the email was. (Like on Craigslist) If the wording is exactly the same, I would NOT resubmit, but if it’s a job I’m very interested in, I might follow up a week or two later to confirm if they received my application.

    2. Zed*

      I assumed she meant “anonymous” as in “not to a specific person,” rather than that the company name wasn’t attached to the posting.

      So, for example, the first listing said she was to apply to, while the one on the mobile site said to apply to

      1. Anonymous*

        One scenario that might be helpful to the OP is if Jane Smith is the actual hiring manager, not HR. While she may ‘fail’ an HR screen, the hiring manager might see transferable skills that HR do not.

        1. amanda*

          Yes! I actually got my first job out of college by emailing the hiring manager directly. I was pushed out of the initial screening by HR and followed up a week later by searching for the hiring manager’s email address. He must have seen something they didn’t, and I got a job offer on the spot at my interview.

  9. Not So NewReader*

    For OP #5.
    There are many good websites that describe work place bullying and what those behaviors look like.

    It might give you a starting point to target some recurring behaviors.
    I saved an article for a friend whose coworker routinely rolled her eyes. Eye rolling, when done frequently, can be considered a form of bullying, because the intent is to detract from or put down what someone is saying or doing.

    There are other things to watch for that apply to most work places- never joke about a person’s rate of pay; never yell across the room at a person and so on.

    I have also heard of people talking about employees being sent to “charm school.” Apparently, some companies routinely send people for classes on how to get along with others better. The problem is that in some cases the learning wears off after a while and the employee must go again. Yes, managers got sent for these classes.
    And OP, thanks. It is good to see someone stepping up to the plate. It’s not easy.

  10. Editor*


    As I’ve noted before, my husband died unexpectedly a couple of years ago and I was actively working. Time and a good support group have helped me cope. I love flowers and was happy to receive them. Here’s my experience — learn what you will from it.

    1. The people I supervised sent flowers and didn’t come to the funeral, which was held on a Saturday (not a day the office was usually open).

    2. Other people I worked with came to the funeral — including some I didn’t expect — and I still remember their presence with appreciation. Moreover, when my grandmother died when I was in high school, I marveled at the fact that my uncle’s supervisor and the supervisor’s supervisor at IBM both traveled a couple of hours to be with the family the day before and the day of the funeral, and they made themselves useful.

    3. My kids worked for a large firm, which sent them a tower of goodies (Harry & David, maybe?) at home after the fact. We got a very nice fruit basket. The fruit was a nice alternative to all the lasagne (I like lasagne — but one was great, one was ok, and the biggest of the three was meh at best — if you give lasagne, find out if the recipients like mushrooms). The other advantage of whole fruit or goodies is that it doesn’t have to go in the refrigerator or be eaten right away. We had to put some of the food in ice chests in the garage, and some went right into the freezer.

    4. One of the florist deliveries was a huge dish garden. It was very lovely and I still have the planter. But as time went on parts of it grew and thrived and parts did not. In addition, working with it was a constant reminder of why it had been sent. One of my family members worked for a florist, and said that the shop where she worked tried to steer people away from plants and dish gardens for funerals. Conversely, a couple of weeks after the winter funeral, a relative sent me a bulb basket that I just loved because it blossomed for quite a while. I never did get around to planting the bulbs, however.

    5. People are very willing to give to the American Cancer Society. They are not so willing to give to a different, possibly obscure, charity that the deceased really cared about. I think nonmedical charities don’t lead to as many donations because people give to things like the American Heart Association or cancer groups in an effort to protect themselves from the same fate and also because they’re huge, well-known charities.

    6. One group who gathered up money included a gift card to a large grocery chain in our area instead of doing a huge floral arrangement. So I got a group card, the grocery gift card, and a nice arrangement. That was thoughtful and practical.

    7. People don’t know what to say. Now that I know some workers have provided guidance for when they come back to work, I would recommend doing that. I think it would have helped me.

    8. If you have a large, extended family as we do or a lot of friends and they come to the house afterward (we did a meal at the church after the service, then came home), you will need stuff. Prosaic, but true — disposable plates and so on if that doesn’t offend your principles, a place to hang coats and jackets, lots of extra toilet paper and some extra paper towels, some carpet cleaner for emergencies if you don’t stock it, boxes of tissues in every room and parking (you may want to give the local police a heads-up or tell the neighbors what’s going on if they don’t already know). Get out the folding chairs or borrow some (the funeral home may be able to help) and “clean” the house by moving the dreck to the attic or the basement (lock the basement door so your less-than-helpful relative doesn’t show everyone where all the junk went).

    9. Lobby your employer to codify funeral leave and make it more generous. As I’ve noted before, it isn’t family-friendly to offer one day for the funeral of a grandparent, for instance, when so many families are spread out. I don’t think it is out of line to ask for a copy of the obituary or some confirmation from the funeral home if there’s no obit — but do it as a part of a written policy so no one is blindsided by this, and so that cheaters have fair warning. I think the death of a spouse or minor child merits five days off, the death of a parent or adult child at least three days, and funerals of other family members at least one full day, with an additional day for travel if the funeral isn’t local. People should be allowed to go to the funerals of friends and community members as needed, either by being allowed time off or being allowed flexible scheduling for the occasion. Companies should not expect loyalty to work to trump loyalty to family and community, and supervisors should check their priorities if their expressed-out-loud comment to a grieving employee begins with “no” or “but.” (Fortunately, not a problem I had.) Contingency planning isn’t just for a manufacturing line breakdown or a server failure, it’s also for unexpected events such as sudden illness, an unexpected death of an employee or a death in the employee’s family, and various other crises employees face.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Editor, very well said and well thought out.
      My favorite sentence is “Companies should not expect loyalty to work to trump loyalty to family and community….”

      There are still companies out there that cannot understand why a dying parent would be a high priority.

      The one thing I would add to your list is that employers refrain from defining the word “family”. Family includes more than step-siblings or half siblings anymore… it is also dear neighbors that act in a capacity as an aunt or uncle would. It could be the older woman at church that becomes an adopted grandma.

      Additionally, bereavement policies should clearly state what the limits per year are. One coworker lost both parents in one year- the coworker went into panic believing that she had used up her bereavement benefit for the year after the first parent died.

    2. The IT Manager*

      I’ve never worked anywhere with Bereavement Leave. I’ve always had to take regular leave for deaths in the family. I’m fine with that. Doesn’t bereavement leave muddy the waters and introduce all kinds of questions like did a relative really die, how close someone has to be to allow leave, how many days someone gets for the funeral and then valueing the amount of grief by assigning number of days off based on relationship of the person who died. Isn’t it easier just to have employees use normal leave for deaths and funerals?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s pretty common! The idea is that (a) someone might not have vacation days left and obviously still needs to be able to take off for a death, and (b) it’s compassionate not to make people use vacation days for something so awful and that clearly isn’t a vacation.

        1. Editor*

          Bereavement leave shouldn’t come with limits. In the last five years, I’ve had two 12-month periods with three or more family deaths. The latest round involved a six-hour drive to get there and another six to get back each time, and driving is really the only practical way to get there.

          I do encourage people to schedule funerals on weekends to make it easier for family members to come from a long distance. If the funeral is in the early afternoon, there’s time to drive for two to four hours to get there, spend the afternoon, then go back in the evening. It’s a long day, but it makes attendance easier for people with conventional work schedules.

          Now that the average lifespan in the U.S. is a lot longer and many people of working age are working, people need to realize that employees need time to deal with the crisis that a death in the immediate circle or family is. It’s not like the work of arranging the funeral can be passed off to a stay-at-home spouse. (And to those who think bereavement time off should come out of personal leave, I will note that my husband’s interment was out of town and I did take personal vacation days for that.)

          Whenever I hear the song “Drill, Ye Tarriers, Drill,” I laugh at the line about the worker thrown into the air by an explosion: “Yer docked for the time you was up in the sky!” What employers should ask themselves is whether they want to be an employer like the one in this song, a business so focused on the bottom line it ignores the role it has as part of “the village” that not only helps raise children and create community, but buries its dead respectfully.

          Now, of course, we have laws that prevent docking employees for time they spend flying through the air in industrial accidents. Why did we get those laws? Because employers chose profits over fairness and the good of society, workers objected, and legislators enacted rules. Funerals aren’t industrial accidents, but they’re also not something ethical employees fabricate so they can slack off at work.

        2. Julie*

          I was fortunate in my first corporate job to have a manager who was very close to her grandparents, so when my grandfather passed away, she told me to take the time I needed (even though the company’s policy only allowed bereavement time off for immediate family members). I had to travel across the country to get to the funeral, so I appreciated her offer. And she didn’t make me use vacation days.

      2. Editor*

        @ IT Manager:

        There were people at my late husband’s funeral who worked but had no vacation time at all because the job came without benefits. There were also a couple who only receive five days of vacation a year.

        Bereavement leave might not be as necessary in workplaces where vacation starts out at three or four weeks a year and can be accumulated from year to year, but someone with generous vacation leave could still get caught short in a year with several unexpected deaths.

    3. JessB*

      Wow, Editor, that was amazingly comprehensive and I’m sure will be really useful to people reading.

      On a slightly silly note, my eyebrows leapt up upon reading “I think the death of a spouse or minor child merits five days off…” I read that minor, as in, not that important! Thank heavens I kept reading and realised you meant ‘minor’ in the sense of ‘not a grown-up’.

    4. Malissa*

      Having just gone through the loss of my Father-in-law, I love what you have to say here. The paper product suggestion is genius. Finger foods that don’t require much prep are the best!
      One thing I would love to add is that under no circumstance should any question other than, “How are you?” be asked. If the family member wants to talk about the death they will. If they don’t, you will be perceived as annoying and they will wish they could drop you through a trap door.
      I actually had to tell a coworker that I wasn’t going to answer any more questions. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t very nice about it either.

  11. Jill*

    Re #6: Ms. Manners did a recent column on announcements for everything and the misconception that just because Something Happens to you (birth of a baby, marriage, graduation, death of a loved one, whatever) you’re somehow entitled to a gift for it.

    And, the mistaken notion that just because someone sends you an announcement or tells you verbally of Something Happening to them, that you are obligated to send a gift for it.

    Perhaps this explains the recent slate of questions on gifts in the office?

  12. Texas*

    For the last question, definitely show compassion for your manager/superior if they’ve experienced a death in the family. My father is a manager in his company, and when my brother died, many of the employees sent our family condolence notes and some even attended the funeral. It really meant a lot to all of us to see the people my father worked with share this grief. I know it might be awkward to write to your superior, especially if you work in a company where you don’t necessary have direct contact/face time with them, but it really does mean a lot.

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