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. Asking to move an interview up

Just today, I was invited to interview for a position that I am very excited to be considered for. The interviewer let me know he wanted to get the ball rolling as soon as Monday. I picked a day later in the week because I had a bit more flexibility for that day. But as today has progressed, I’ve become more and more excited about the position. Would it be inappropriate to call the interviewer back and reschedule for Monday? Citing my growing excitement as the reason? Obviously if the interviewer has filled those slots, I understand that I would wait until the initial agreed upon time and date.

My original answer was going to be: Don’t do that. In a job search, you don’t want to look even remotely flaky, and citing your growing enthusiasm as your reason for wanting to muck with his schedule will look a little off (and also make you potentially look desperate/impatient). You scheduled a date; stick with it.

However, you could send him a note saying something like, “If you still prefer to meet on Monday, it looks like I’d be able to schedule it then. Please let me know if you prefer that, but otherwise I’ll look forward to sticking with our meeting time on Thursday.”

2. Is it ethical to write someone else’s cover letters for them?

I have helped several of my friends and family members with their job search materials (resumes and cover letters). My background is in English and writing, so I am a good copy editor and can help my friends clarify their ideas and accomplishments. Is it at all deceptive or unethical to completely rework their writing? For example, a friend of my husband’s cover letters were so poorly written, they almost read like a spam email. I am trying to coach him and explain my rationale for corrections rather than just writing a letter for him, but I find myself wondering if I am doing him or his potential bosses a disservice by “hiding” the fact that he is a poor writer. I taught English at the university level and take written communication very seriously. Put frankly, I wouldn’t hire him if I saw these letters cross my desk. (If it makes any difference, he is seeking work in an artistic or sales job.)

I think you’re doing both him and any prospective employers a disservice. They need to know who they’re hiring, warts and all. (At least when it comes to a common job skill, like written communication — not so much when it comes to his gum-popping penchant or whatever.) And your friend needs them to know too. That’s because if they care about getting a certain level of writing skill (and many employers do, even for jobs that don’t revolve around writing), there are going to be problems when they discover that that’s not who they hired. He could end up in a job he struggles with or even gets fired from. Coach him, but let him write his own letters — just like you might coach him on interview skills, but not do the interview in his place.

3. My coworkers make more than me

Two coworkers recently divulged their salaries to me, and I was shocked that they were $15k & $25k more than I am making. My education level is a bit higher (BS vs AS) than one guy ($15k guy) and more industry certification than the other guy ($25k guy). I have 20 years experience as compared to their 20 – 25. They are both about 15 years older than I am. Am I wrong in thinking that I am underpaid? If I were to approach my boss for a raise, is comparing myself to my coworkers a bad strategy? If he asks where I obtained that information, I am concerned that there could be repercussions for them and possibly for me.

Salaries should be based on the value someone brings to the role. I don’t know if your coworkers are more valuable to the company than you are, but it’s notable that your arguments for why you shouldn’t earn less are based on education and years of experience, two things that don’t automatically translate into increased value.

What’s more, people’s salaries often vary simply because one person was a better negotiator than the other when first being hired, or the job market was tighter when she was hired. In any case, if you think your performance warrants more money than you’re currently making, talk to your boss. But make it about your value, not about your coworkers’ salaries.

4. Coworkers won’t clean up their food mess

I need some advice. My coworkers bring in food on a regular basis. It is very nice; however, I seldom partake as I watch my diet. They constantly leave food out, or leave behind the mess that it has created. I have sent a note out regarding an issue regarding mice, somewhat hoping that this would send a clear message about leaving food out. Apparently this has not worked. As I am the administrator for the team, and being the low-man, I feel as though they always leave me to clean-up duty. Any suggestions?

There’s tons of input on this issue in the comments on this post, but realistically, this is an issue that chronically plagues offices and few people are able to solve it. That said, what about simply directing people to clean up on a case-by-case basis: “Jane, can you put away those muffins you brought in before you leave today? Thanks.” While ultimately this stuff will fall to you as the team’s administrator if no one else does it, it’s reasonable for you to exercise that duty by alerting people when they need to clean something up, rather than cleaning it up yourself.

5. QR codes on resumes

I’ve been considering placing a QR code on my resume that would lead back to a simple website I’d create. The website would have copies of my resume in several formats, a photo, and some work samples. In my line of work (communications/marketing), samples are fairly important, and I think this might be a more efficient approach than emailing a huge PDF file every time I apply for a job. In addition, I’m hoping that the inclusion of a QR code, plus the website, will show employers that I have some basic knowledge of tech-based communication techniques. What do you think? Is this something that can help me stand out from the herd, or is it one of those gimmicks you keep warning people to avoid? Also, would this make it harder for scanning software to read my resume?

Too many people have no idea what a QR code is and won’t know what to do with it when they see it. (For readers who don’t know, it’s a barcode that you can add to your business card or your resume. If someone scans it with a smartphone, it will link them to your online portfolio or your LinkedIn profile page or whatever.) Plus, few people are reading resumes on their phone; they’re reading them on a computer. Just include a URL that goes to all the same material (minus the photo, which is inappropriate to include).

6. Asking for a raise after saving the company money

I have been working for this company for roughly 3 months, and aside from my normal duties, given a personal hobby in automating processes, I was able to use that skill to save the company over $80k per year in terms of tedious work for employees. The application basically saves time on every task we perform during the day. Given that I worked for over 150 hours of my own time over 2 months on this side project and that my department plans on using the same skills for other projects, I am wondering if this makes me eligible to have a discussion about a raise. Note that I work in risk assessment and this was more of a technological initiative. Further, I am unsure of how to discuss the raise if yes. I am also a recent graduate and this is my first job out of University.

You’ve only been there three months. Wait until it’s been a year before you ask for a raise — but highlight this accomplishment when you do. It’s part of what will make your case for being a valuable employee at that point, but asking after three months is too likely to be seen as naive and premature.

7. Love my job, hate my boss

I am the only employee in a private practice criminal law office. I have been here 4 years and I love my job – problem is my boss has narcissistic personality disorder (undiagnosed). He has screamed, thrown things, threatened to fire me if I try to leave the situation (separate myself), and has in the past, pretended to fire me to see my reaction and to “teach me a lesson.” I am at a loss, and as with most narcissists, talking things out is not an option as everything is viewed as a threat or criticism. He has said that he would give me a raise after two years, then a bonus, etc., none of which have happened – I have not received a raise since starting here. What do you suggest, other than finding a new job (I have already applied elsewhere), as I don’t want to leave because I love what I do and the autonomy I have?

This is like saying, “I love my marriage, except my husband beats me.” You do not love your job, because your job involves working for an abusive madman. You cannot separate the two. You can’t even hope that your boss will move on to a new job eventually, because he owns the practice.

You can stay and put up with continued abuse (not recommended) or you can find something else and leave (recommended). When you’re dealing with someone at this level of insanity, there’s not really a third option.

{ 152 comments… read them below }

  1. Andy Lester*

    #5: Yes, a QR code would “help [you] stand out from the herd”, but so would sending a framed photo of yourself, or printing a resume on pink paper, or FedExing your resume to the company, or any of a number of bad ideas.

    It’s not about standing out, but about why you stand out. You have to stand out in a positive way that shows that you bring more value to the company. Putting a QR code on your resume says nothing about the value you would bring.

    Think of it this way. Is someone reading your resume going to say “Hey, this guy put a QR code on here, we’d better call him in for an interview?”

    1. Karthik*

      I think the QR code would be great if you’re in a tech-y industry. Sometimes I’ll be reading resumes on the train or bring em outside when its sunny and sit at a bench. The QR code might entice me to browse the linkedin profile right there…

    2. Hari*

      I have to disagree, I think it would depend on the industry and job and is in no way on the same level as the photo frame guy who will forever go down in history (on this site at least) as the poster child of “what not to do” while job searching.

      Any job that has to do with social media management, mobile applications or interactive advertising/marketing would probably appreciate it as an extra. It would show understanding of the industry and its potential applications. It looks like OP is in the comm/marketing industry so I would give them the go-ahead but only to certain jobs or employers they know would appreciate this kind of thing. It wouldn’t disqualify you from a corporate or traditional company off the bat but they probably would be more thrown off by it which doesn’t work for you either. When in doubt I just would leave it off. Also like Alison mentioned it wouldn’t be the deciding factor of you getting brought it, you would need to be a strong candidate regardless (this might just help you shine a bit more). I would also add a link as well so they can get the full effect of your portfolio in a larger resolution that does it more justice.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        I completely agree. Advertising is moving in a digital direction at light speed, and if I saw a resume with a working QR code that links to a good portfolio, I’d consider it a plus (although it would not make me ignore any issues that the resume itself was telling me, such as a history of job-hopping). Do it only if your portfolio is really solid, though. If your QR code doesn’t link to something good, then it really is a gimmick and I’ll see it as “this person wants me to think they understand digital marketing, but s/he doesn’t.” (I’ve had too many clients who put the cart before the horse this way to put up with it from a job applicant.) A QR code that links to solid content, on the other hand, would make me perk up and want to know more about this person.

        1. Piper*

          Agreed. In digital marketing, QR codes on a resumes can work. The key is to take the user to content that they couldn’t easily access otherwise. For example, instead of taking them to an online portfolio that you could easily just give them the URL to, take them to a specific project, presentation, marketing video, or campaign you’ve created that lives somewhere in your portfolio (or elsewhere on the web) but they would otherwise have to click several times to get to.

    3. JT*

      But Andy, the QR code is totally different from those gifts or bad resumes design – it’s an example of using new technology that may (*may*) be useful or even important in the field in which the OP is working.

      I don’t think it’s *that* useful in this case because most resumes are read on screen nowadays, but a small QR code code could be good, and signals some forward-thinking. I would not use it instead of a URL but in addition to one.

      “Hey, this guy put a QR code on here, we’d better call him in for an interview?”

      If mobile outreach was part of planned communications, it would help.

    4. Anonymous*

      Some companies keep trying to make QR codes be a “thing” but IME, most people working in the trenches think of them as a huge joke. The reason is that you *have* the consumer’s undivided attention right then, and you are asking them to switch gears, open up an app, and then wait for a web page to load, and if any step fails along the way–which is quite common–you’ve totally lost the consumer’s focus. The companies that are most excited by QR codes also say things like “We need a presence on Twitter! We need fans on Facebook!” without any knowledge of what to do once they are there.

      In terms of a resume/job searching, I’m sure demonstrating knowledge of QR codes can be beneficial, but I would keep in mind what happens when someone clicks on them. For example, you are asking a hiring manager who may have 200 resumes to sift through to stop, pull out a smart phone, click a picture, and then wait for a page to load up. If the content is so strong that you feel it’s *worth* that delay, than why are you risking that the hiring manager might not bother following the link? And if it’s second tier information, then how is a good hiring manager going to feel if they’ve spent extra time to go see something that doesn’t improve upon what’s already in the resume? IMHO, if QR codes are important to the work you are doing, then include professional examples of them as part of a portfolio that a manager can browse (with details about what content they link to so that the manager doesn’t have to go following the links to see what the payoff is). Then you demonstrate that you understand the technology, but you communicate it directly to the hiring manager rather than hoping they’ll go through the process of following a link.

      1. JT*

        The jury is still out on QR codes. I could see an argument for making it easy for the reader of a document, who is giving you attention, to go deeper for more info on the web.

        We’ve seen this happen in poster presentations in academia, where there is a QR code on the poster for more info.

        If the QR code is clearly a link to supplemental information, and not the only way to view the resume or essential information, then you’re not asking a hiring manager to do anything. But if you resume piques some interest, then she can learn more. That’s a good approach. That’s about the same as a URL to an online portfolio, or perhaps a little easier for someone reading a stack of resumes on a train w/o a laptop with them.

        Application instructions for general communications jobs often do not ask for a portfolio to be sent, and in some cases it would be presumptuous to do so.

        1. fposte*

          But it works on poster presentations because you’re not viewing posters electronically–they’re providing a link between physical presence and online information. They’re superfluous as links between digital and digital, because those are, well, linked by links.

      2. Piper*

        I think QR codes are walking a fine balance. I work in the industry and I don’t see people thinking they are a huge joke, but I do see people questioning validity and really trying to figure out the best ways to use them to drive sales or conversion or whatever the goal is. They can be used and used well, but they definitely fall into the used and abused category as many people don’t understand how to use them correctly, and they just slap a QR code on for the sake of slapping a QR code there. If it doesn’t make sense for the user, it doesn’t belong there.

      3. Mike C.*

        I’m not sure why you think QR codes are a fad. They’re incredibly useful when you have a something physically printed and want someone to be able to easily transition to an electronic link.

        Now whether it would be useful on a resume or not? That’s an entirely different question.

        1. KayDay*

          It’s funny, I always think that QR codes are used in all the wrong places. Are they helpful on a ad on the bus for a hamburger store? No. Would they (as JT mentioned) be an awesome way to link to a full academic paper or online platform for research, while only distributing a one-pager at a conference? Yes–but I’ve never (personally) seen them used this way (of course, I’m not in a tech heavy field).

          1. Jamie*

            In all the wrong places, yes.

            On a poster, as someone mentioned, sure – saves typing in a url. But most resumes are viewed electronically in which case it’s not the most efficient way to get someone to a web site – a link is.

            I guess I just don’t understand the question because I can’t remember ever sitting there with my phone in hand viewing a hard copy of a resume where this would have come in handy.

          2. Anonymous*

            And if you are trying to get deeper information, unless you are viewing it on a tablet device, a smartphone is going to be terrible for viewing either dense technical data or a portfolio. So you are then adding another step of having to open the link on a smartphone and send it to email so you can see it.

          3. danr*

            Just picture the scene on a NYC subway… There are ads with QR codes, but you can’t take advantage of them due to connection issues… and the urls are too long to copy down, if you weren’t jammed in anyway.

      4. Jess*

        I think they can work well in some circumstances. Places I’ve find them useful: QR code on a concert series poster that links to the full schedule; signs for a guided tour of exhibits at an arboretum; links to more information a particular topic. But I would agree they’re not terribly useful for advertising bleach and laundry soap.

        1. fposte*

          I think their role is limited to when you’re viewing something in meatspace rather than online–the conference poster is another great example. If you want to be prepared at a conference or something with print resumes, or you’ve got a concrete product/portfolio element, I could see them being used there, but for an application that you’d be viewing electronically anyway, it’s too long-way-aroundish. I get there are fields that love QR codes, and I realize the question is slightly different there; I wonder, though, if the upside of people going “Hey, he knows how to do QR codes!” isn’t cancelled out by people saying “But apparently not where or why.”

      5. Hari*

        For the sake of my stomach QR codes better stick around! If you aren’t in the Seattle or San Fran bay area this wouldn’t apply to you yet as they haven’t expanded but the Pirq app is literally the best QR app ever, I call it my fatkid app. But I agree with JT that it depends on its usage. Of course some companies don’t know how to use it, but that same note follows with any app or social media in general for that matter. Having it means nothing if you aren’t properly utilizing its effectiveness for your consumers.

        (unsolicited advertising: omg if you can get the pirq app).

      6. Vicki*

        The “best” QR code I’ve seen is painted on a wall, some 30-ft tall, that the Caltrain commuter trains pass on their way into San Francisco.

    5. Ivy*

      I agree with JT and Hari. QR codes are HUGE in the marketing world (best thing since sliced bread mentality). When I was reading your letter it kind of sounded like you were planning to JUST send the QR code. You’re QR code will subtly say “portfolio available for your viewing pleasure.” I think it’s a great addition to a resume, but not a replacement for one. Unlike Andy, I really think putting that QR code there will show the value you can bring. It shows you understand how to actually USE innovations and trends in the communication/marketing industry. If a guy effectively used a QR code on his resume, I would definitely call him in for an interview. All that said, this is totally industry and position specific.

      1. Ivy*

        I wanted to add a couple things:
        As others have said, be careful about the company. If you’re applying for a communications job at Google, then you’re fairly safe to use a QR code. If you’re applying for one in an oil company, it’s a little riskier.

        Also, I would much prefer to see a QR code over a website URL. A QR code is so much more progressive and innovative!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          But if you don’t use them (most of us), you’ll still need the URL, so the person needs to provide both, if you go with a QR code. Plus you risk confusing people who have never heard of them, like most people.

          1. Ivy*

            Not in communications/marketing… I would be hard pressed to find someone in that industry who doesn’t know what a QR code is…. It’s just… industry common knowledge. It’s these people’s jobs to know what a QR code is. I agreed that OP should be careful about the company and only use it as an addition to the resume, just in case. (But really even in oil companies the PR/Coms people know QR codes.)

            1. Ivy*

              He could write something like:
              “Scan this QR code to view my portfolio”
              This way people could do a quick Google to find out about it, if need be. Though to reiterate, it would be rare to find someone who would need to.

              1. Malissa*

                The minute I have to google something because I don’t understand it’s place on a resume is the minute I lose interest in the applicant.

                1. JT*

                  So in an otherwise complete resume, with a QR code next to a URL for supplemental material, you’d toss that resume based on that alone?

                2. Malissa*

                  No if it had an URL I would definitely click it, but if I was instructed to “scan this QR code” I’d skip. If I didn’t know what a QR code was, it would definitely turn me off an otherwise qualified candidate. Then again QR codes are not common in the accounting field. YMMV.

                3. JT*

                  Malissa, I’m responding to your note of 11:50 which may appear above or below this:

                  Do you mean skip the resume or skip scanning the QR code?

                  Those are very different outcomes.

        2. fposte*

          Nothing’s progressive and innovative in isolation, though. What progress would it bring to this situation? What newness is an advantage here? If there aren’t answers, it’s not progressive and innovative, it’s just gimmicky. (Granted, that doesn’t mean marketing wouldn’t like it :-).)

          I think the real problem is that it requires the user go to a second piece of hardware for a process that otherwise works fine on the first piece alone. That’s not elegant or progressive, that’s clunky. Even in marketing, some people are going to see that as taking some of the shine of the shiny new thing.

          1. JT*

            It’s not a problem if it’s a supplement. It’s really not that complicated or the big barrier some of yall are making it out to be.

            I put QR codes on the back of business cards in my organization that allow a smart phone to download contact info. If the recipient doesn’t have a smartphone, nothing is lost. If they do and know how to use it, great. Some people have smart phones and don’t know what it is — sometimes they ask and sometimes they don’t.

            Here’s an example – http://www.johntomlinson.com/images/synergoscards2012.jpg

            Note – this does not lead to a webpage – the contact info is embedded in the code. it’s quite impressive when users snap it and the info loads into their phone. And if they don’t try, so what?

            Now it is possible QR codes will fade away. They might be fad. The have had big growth but haven’t fulfilled the hype. I’d be on the lookout for them becoming “tired.” We’re going to re-evaluate this in year or two.

            PS – I see people review resumes in print – they look at them on screen and then they (or assistant, or HR) print some those of likely candidates out to review more carefully, or as reading on the next commute.

    6. Lanya*

      Absolutely do not put a QR code on your resume.

      QR codes are on their way out. They were a bad idea from the beginning, because they make the constituent jump through hoops to get to the info a company wants to share with them…and then when the user finally gets through all of those hoops, the content is rarely the kind of cool ‘bonus’ content that QR codes were meant to provide. Instead companies often improperly use the codes to drop users off at their company website homepage. That, and they are still not being recognized by the general public (and they have been around for a few years now).

      I can’t wait until these things go out of style for good.

        1. Hari*

          Not a very good example. QR codes are very helpful for companies that know how to use them for proper engagement. It would take more time to find a contact in your phone book than to pull up at app so there really isn’t any “jumping through hoops”.

          The main point that kept being reiterated through the article was stated in the second paragraph “But evidence suggests many people don’t understand what QR codes are or what to do with them.” The article didn’t say they couldn’t be effective just that companies were not using them effectively, which btw was a lot more true a year ago when this article was written. Granted like any form of social media though if a company is not utilizing it properly it can be more detrimental than helpful. QR codes are never going to be as used as much as Facebook or twitter and because of that are going to have much higher learning curve before some companies start getting it right. But then again it serves a purpose as separate function on a much smaller scale as part of an overall social media engagement plan, not a standalone.

          1. Lanya*

            I think it was a great example. And it reinforced my point which is that not enough people are using them effectively – companies or end users. Additionally, I think asking a user to:
            1. find a QR code reader app to download
            2. open the app and use it to take a picture of the code
            3. load the content
            constitutes three hoops that they have to go through. It’s time consuming and asking a lot unless the content delivered in the end is really worth it.

            1. Hari*

              Just because people aren’t using it effectively doesn’t mean its not an effective tool. I don’t see how you can say just because people haven’t figured out how to use it its bad. (Imagine if people had kept that notion about computers when they first came out?) It was the same when Facebook and Twitter appeared, companies didn’t know how to use it, if they did at all. Only over the last 2-3 years have they really been getting serious about it (I laugh when I see social media jobs requiring 6 years of social media experience like its even been relevant for that long). I could point out a dozen errors companies have made with interactive advertising and marketing because still a relatively new area for business. Not to mention its ever-evolving, so there is no “time-tested method” on how to approach new technologies like QR codes, its going to be trial and error until someone comes up with something that works and everyone follows suit.

              Also I don’t know how technology savvy you are or what kind of smartphone you have but on my iphone it took me under 10 sec to find a QR app and even less to open it to take a picture (opening the QR app is essentially like opening your camera and no one ever complains about that being slow). As far as waiting for the content to load, take it up with your provider but sprint has always loaded things super fast when I haven’t been connected to wifi. Also its technically only 2 “hoops” as they only would have to download the app once so I don’t really see this process as being arduous unless you are just being lazy and don’t want to do it in the first place.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Those are an awful lot of hoops to expect a hiring manager to jump through when screening resumes; realistically, it’s not going to happen in most fields.

                1. Hari*

                  I said in my first comment, I wouldn’t use it if I wasn’t 100% sure it was relevant to the job or the company. Like most social media its existence itself isn’t what makes it relevant its the utilization of it. Lanya and I weren’t discussing its use on resumes as much as the general relevance of QR codes (response to her posted article). To a hiring manager who probably has a stack of resumes to go through it probably is too tedious but for the average tech savvy consumer who has a smartphone? Not at all.

              2. Anna*

                If the goal is to get people to access the information that you’ve placed behind the QR code, then yes, people not using it effectively does mean that it’s not an effective tool. A tool’s effectiveness is determined by how well it accomplishes the task for which you are using it. The task of a QR code is to get people to access additional information that you want them to read or know. If they’re not doing that, they’re not getting the information, so the tool has failed its task.

                1. Hari*

                  The problem isn’t the technology, it functions properly so as a tool it works. Its job is to link to certain information and if used, it does it. If a consumer does not know how to use it, or think it isn’t worth the “trouble” of using it that simply means the company failed (in terms of marketing strategy). It is the responsibility of the company to figure out how to use QR codes (and if they are at all applicable to their goals/product) in their over all strategy and have foresight of how consumers will respond to it. Not every new technology is relevant to anything just because it can serve a function.

                  So no, just because you don’t know how to use something, or aren’t using it properly, doesn’t mean its broken or doesn’t work.

                2. Anonymous*

                  It’s true that just because you don’t know how to use something, or aren’t using it properly, doesn’t mean its broken or doesn’t work.

                  However, the toy you can’t figure out is the toy that is going to sit in the corner dusty and un-used until it ends up in the family garage sale. Which is exactly what has happened with QR codes and the American public. Only 6% of Americans use them successfully.

                  That’s why the OP shouldn’t use one on his resume.

            2. JT*

              I’m nearly certain that every new iPhone and most other smart phones have the reader app built in.

              I was present when my CEO gave his card to the CEO of massive company (Forbes global 500, $9 billion market cap). And that person saw the QR code on the back, and said “What’s that?” and then we told her and she scanned it and was all “Ohh, cool.” Maybe that was a waste of time – it was off-message for what the meeting was about. But it only took a minute and if she hadn’t done it, I don’t see the loss.

    7. RJ*

      I can’t decide which level of comment to respond to, so I’ll just put it here. I don’t have a smartphone, but I know what a QR code is. And by googling, I was able to find a free site where I could create and download a QR code in about 5 seconds to link to my email address, website, blog, etc. Perhaps that code isn’t as sophisticated or streamlined as one a marketing person would create, but based on that experience, it doesn’t seem like just its inclusion would be all that impressive.

  2. NT*

    I think LW2 is helping her husband’s friend with the cover letter, not her husband. Not that that makes a difference for the advice.

  3. A Bug!*


    When you work for a sole practitioner, your job is your boss. No matter what else you like about your job, your boss is the only thing you can’t change without quitting and going somewhere else.

    But have faith! Most sole practitioners who have assistants rely heavily on them to be independent and capable. Since you’re in a criminal practice I guess you don’t get to interact much with assistants from other practices, which is what I’d normally suggest for discreetly getting feelers out on potential openings. If you’re in a large enough city a legal recruiting firm might be a good bet.

    By the way, I don’t know if this is as common outside of the legal field, but it just blows my mind how common it is for legal assistants to get a weird sort of Stockholm Syndrome thing going on. Legal assistants so often put up with so much and just treat it as part of the job. You don’t have to! There are lawyers out there who actually treat their assistants like human beings and, you know, don’t throw staplers at them.

    1. Anonymous*

      Totally agree about the Stockholm syndrome. That’s exactly what it is – thanks for nailing that for me.

  4. JT*

    If the salary difference in #3 is from differences in negotiating ability during the hiring process or by difference in the job market at time of hire that no longer exist, then by definition the current differences in salary are not related to differences in value to the organization now.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yeah, two separate points there. My point about value was that the OP’s arguments against the disparity didn’t mention value at all, only things like education that didn’t actually say anything about relative value.

      1. Pat*

        Thanks for the responses. I had been placing less value on our perceived value because, although we don’t do the same exact job we are all considered peers. I was trying to surmise the salary disparity because me and the +$15k guy started at the same time. FYI, he does identity management (user accounts) and I do network security.

    2. Anonymouse*

      A lot of your salary has to do with how much autonomy you can handle. If you have tons of education and experience, but you take-up a disproportional amount of my time as a manager, there’s no way I am paying you the highest salary. Some examples:
      1. You have poor communication skills and I am constantly doing damage control. I cannot leave you alone with a client.
      2. Despite being an MBA, you won’t even try to solve a problem yourself before you come to me.
      3. You have chronic conflicts with your colleagues.
      4. You won’t put in overtime when the team is under pressure.


  5. jesicka309*

    OP #7. Your boss pretended to fire you to see his reaction?
    That’s crazy. Run. Run so far away right now. This kind of boss isn’t the kind of guy who you can trust to give a good reference, or give you a raise, or anything that would be worth sticking around in a crappy situation. Get out and start somewhere new where you won’t be subjected to pretend firings, and don’t waste anymore time there! :(

    1. Anonymous*

      It’s so sad how all the things I have endured over the years, fake firings and all, have become the norm and I have questioned whether its me and whether I am being unreasonable. Another commenter said, Stockholm syndrome….
      I now see things for what they are. He is not a bad man, just very sick – and very brilliant and manipulative. He had me convinced that all lawyers were horrible to work for…
      Thanks for further confirming my feelings.

      1. Anonymous*

        That’s a disservice to sick folks everywhere.

        Mental illness isn’t an excuse for this type of behavior. Most mentally ill people are much better behaved than your boss. Most mentally ill people, when they understand what’s going on, ultimately don’t want to hurt people. Many try to get better by seeking out treatment, if they have the means to do so.

        Your boss knows he’s hurting people and doesn’t care. He has the means to seek some treatment, but opts not to. He may very well be mentally ill, but he’s also a bad person for harming you. It’s a bit like drug addiction – some addicts seek treatment and try to get better. They recognize that there’s a problem and try to fix it, with sometimes imperfect results. Other addicts just revel in their addiction and are perfectly willing to hurt everyone around them in pursuit of their drug of choice – this is the kind of person your boss is. That’s not to say that such people can’t recover eventually – they can, but only after they admit there is a problem.

        1. Anonymous*

          Thank you. A lot of what you say I think is true, there are many layers to his behavior. I think the main issue is that he has NPD. Its a very interesting disorder but a very sad disorder – virtually untreatable because of the nature of it….

      2. Anonoymous*

        My father has NPD (diagnosed), and much as it pained me, I was forced to sever ties with him because of his illness a few years ago. If this man you’re describing truly has NPD, you need to leave ASAP and have no further contact with him beyond what is absolutely necessary. You are right in saying that he is very sick rather than a bad person, but that’s no reason to let him make your life miserable, especially since chances are slim to none that he will ever change. I’m sure when you first met him he was the most charismatic, wonderful person you’ve ever met- be prepared for him to morph back into that person when you tell him you’re leaving and DO NOT FALL FOR IT. If he starts to try to convince you that you’re the problem, do not listen, because if you listen for very long he *will* succeed. To say these people have silver tongues is a huge understatement. Try and remember that one of the characteristics of this disease is that they are unable to empathize anyone else, but they are masters at faking it. He does not care about you because he CANNOT care and it has nothing to do with you. If you have to, just walk out the door and do not come back. Do not shrug off any insane threats he makes as being idle, report them to the police. Most threats *will* be idle, but some might not be. This may sound overly dramatic, but believe me, getting far away from him and never looking back is the best possible course of action.

        1. Minous*

          Well said Anonoymous!
          This person is dangerous. The day may come when he throws something and it hits and physically injures his employee.

        2. Piper*

          This. I’ve dealt with two people in my life who had this issue – one was an old boss who behaved very similarly to the OP’s boss and another was a very good friend. I don’t speak to either of them anymore. Severing ties with the boss was easier than severing ties with the friend, but I know I’m better off for doing so.

        3. Anonymous*

          You are describing him to a “T”. Thank you for understanding how convincing and manipulative he can be and how that’s ALL it is. I don’t think I’m an idiot or naive, he is really mentally ill and brilliant (which a lot of brilliant people are) and is so very good at what he does.

        1. class factotum*

          And bad spelling is a sign of 4 hours in budget fiction meetings since yesterday afternoon. I think I would betray my country to get out of going to another one of those sessions.

        2. Anonymous*

          Yes, that’s true but one has to consider the reason and motivation for the constant manipulation. It’s just not normal – and he really isn’t a bad guy. I prefer to get the hell out, while having compassion for him at the same time.
          I enjoyed your misspell, with its accompaniments.

          1. Jamie*

            Ha! A lesson I learned yesterday when I desperately tried to correct that fact that I typed companies when I meant company’s. Twice. I’ve decided to embrace the lack of edit. It’s kind of freeing!

          2. danr*

            Just delete everything in the box and then hit ‘cancel reply’. Otherwise, the reply stays live, but moves to the end of the thread. So remember to scroll down to the end too, before leaving.

      3. Hannah*

        I’ve worked for 2 different attorneys in the past and both have been nothing like this. They had a few grating habits, but overall, both very nice people.

      4. Mishsmom*

        yeah, if he really was mentally ill he would treat EVERYONE that way – but if he knows not to treat certain people that way – but treats you like s***, he’s not mentally ill, he’s an a**. trust me, i’ve been there – RUN! he’s like an abusive partner – convinced you that you have anything to do with his treatment of you. you don’t. get out. you can do better!!

    2. fposte*

      I actually initially read this as “*set* fire to me,” and the rest of it was so crazy that I didn’t even question it.

      Go, OP, go. You can find autonomy and sanity in the same place.

    3. K.*

      OP #7. Your boss pretended to fire you to see his reaction?
      That’s crazy.

      Bat-s*** insane. I’d have quit that day. Get out, now. Any hiring manager will understand why you left when you run the lowlight reel of your boss’s abuse.

    4. Gene*

      “Fake fired”?

      I’d have my stuff packed to the point where I could be out the door with everything in under 5 minutes. The next time I got “fake fired” I’d say, “So long, I’m filing for unemployment on my way home.”

      He’s an attorney, so I’m sure he understands (or should understand) the concept of verbal contracts. When he says, “You’re fired.” he has constructively fired you, even if he follows that with, “Just kidding.” IANAL, so I could be wrong, but I doubt a jury wouldn’t agree with me.

      I’ve always found the best way to handle a bluffer is to call them on it.

    5. Ryan*

      Speaking of which…maybe Allison could link to any previous posts there might be explaining how to describe this job/supervisor in a resume/interview since you won’t be able to use cRaZy as a reference.

      1. Anonymous*

        I think it’s fair, in my interview tomorrow, to speak from my own experience, without labeling/bad mouthing him personally. To state that he can be volatile and that I felt it was time to go in order to preserve my own well-being. What do you think?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I wouldn’t get into that — raises too many questions. You’ve been there four years; I’d just say you’re ready for new challenges … and if you’re applying somewhere larger, say you want the challenges of a bigger office.

          1. Anonymous*

            I thought that initially – problem is that this is a small enough legal community (and one of the partners in the firm I’m interviewing knows him very well and his neurosis) that they may be very well aware of his behaviors and patterns. Would you still suggest not mentioning it at all?

            1. fposte*

              Yes. If they know him, you don’t need to say anything, and in fact this is a slightly bigger trap, because then you’d be badmouthing somebody they actually know. You’ll look even more professional for leaving his personality out of it. If they press, go with something vague like “Every office has its challenges.”

  6. Anonymous*

    OP #2.
    I totally agree with Alison, but it’s clear that you want to help. Rather than writing all of their resumes and cover letters for them, write one (ideally yours) as an example, then TEACH them how to apply this to theirs. Teach them a skill; don’t do it for them.

    1. Bobby Digital*

      I like this suggestion (which I think is similar to what Alison was saying about “coaching”). Bonus: in the long run, it’ll probably save the OP a lot of time.

  7. Anonymous*

    OP #7.
    I had a business partner like this once. That made it even harder to leave, as I loved my company and the other people who worked for us. But it was a decision that had to be made, and my life has been amazing ever since I left. I know you can get used to a situation like that, but it doesn’t make it any less terrible. Start planning, and just the the fact that you’ve made the decision to leave will help lighten things up for you in the meantime.

  8. Tiff*

    #2 – I feel your pain. I’m the writer/editor for my friends and family, and you can definitely feel when you’re entering into “doing the work for you” territory. It’s a little funny feeling in the pit of my stomach. In the case where I had that happen, I gave her a really clear outline, let her plug her information in, and just skimmed for spelling and grammatical errors. The final product was somewhat better than what she would have done by herself but not the quality of work I would put out under my own name. It felt like a reasonable compromise to me.

    1. Bridgette*

      That’s a good plan. I’m a freelance writer/editor and I run into this often. It’s especially tricky when I edit academic work – I don’t want it to sound plagiarized, so I really have to rein myself in if I get the urge to do a lot of rewriting.

    2. Patti*

      That’s a good approach. It almost physically pains me to see poorly written/formatted/spelled documents without editing and correcting. Hard for me to not take over and make it perfect (or at least better).

    3. OP #2*

      Yes, the whole “give a man a fish” thing! That’s a great suggestion.

      One thing I love to do to help people is reformatting their resumes– so few friends seem to know the value of white space, bullets, and a clean layout. That is where I spend a lot of my time when I help (and I find it to be fun). The rest of it is cleaning up errors and asking questions– such as, “What did you accomplish here?” or “Any sales numbers?” Doing so helps the resume-writer to give more details about their experience.

  9. Cheryl*

    #4 My first reaction to this was throw it all away. Dont clean out the bowls, toss it and that goes for the condiments and silverware, etc. If you cannot outlaw the food, then each time you get stuck cleaning it up…throw it all away. Unless your team is beyond dense, they may eventually figure it out.
    I work in a building where we all share the break room and each month a team is assigned to clean it for the entire month and like you, I work with a bunch of pigs. Gross stuff in the microwave, moldy stuff left in the fridge…once folks figure out that an item left in the fridge with no date on it gets tossed, things start changing.

    1. S.L. Albert*

      As someone who does clean up after themselves, please make sure you advertise that you will start throwing things away before you actually do it. I will never forgive the manager at one place where I worked who announced *after* she threw out things that she was going to do so, and my lunch and its tupperware got trashed and dumpstered despite having my name and only having been there since the morning. She argued that since it didn’t have a date, it was fair game, and I argued that she threw it away when only names were required. Frustrating, to say the least.

      So, throwing out, okay, but be fair about it you you don’t mess over those who actually do clean up after themselves (and they do exist, I promise).

      1. Bridgette*

        Yep, send some warning announcements. One guy in my office set a deadline for retrieving fridge contents, about two weeks before he went on his cleaning rampage. He sent regular reminders, and if you were too late, then too bad. That way conscientious individuals retrieved their stuff, and anyone who didn’t wasn’t able to say, “You never told me.”

        1. Kelly O*

          Whenever I’ve done the “toss everything” fridge clean, I have always put a sign on the fridge, saying the date and time the cleaning would be (usually Friday afternoons, late in the day) and that if did not have a name and date on it, it was getting tossed.

          (And even then, I was kind enough to not toss generic things like salad dressing or condiments that had not expired yet. And any tupperware that didn’t look like a science experiment gone wrong was emptied and put in the dishwasher, and the clean containers put back in the cabinet. You can do a deep clean without being a jerk about it.)

    2. Been There*

      I agree. Set up a schedule where everyone rotates cleaning on weekly, daily or monthly basis, and hold people accountable if they miss their shift.

    3. Malissa*

      I agree. And it does work. Give fair warning that anything left in the sink for days, growing mold in the refrigerator, or left on the break room table for more than 48 hours goes out. Then start tossing.
      I implemented a plan like this at my office the day I had to move dirty dishes in the sink to get to the hot water tap first thing in the morning. I walked through the office that day telling everybody that if they cared about their stuff it should be out of the kitchen by Friday.
      Everybody assured me it wasn’t them and they had no idea who was doing it. Yet some of the bowls disappeared. Which also means I work with at least one liar…

  10. Anonymous*

    #3 – If you are a woman and you have 2 men doing the same job making substantially more than you, that raises the issue of whether you are being paid less because you are a woman. I understand delving into this subject could send this thread out of control but keeping it a general level, I understand AAM’s take on the salary disparity issue which is not to focus on what other people are making but if that approach is applied in every situation, it would tell people who are making less because of their gender not to do anything about it.

    I do understand it’s a complex issue because the answer could be that the men negotiated higher starting salaries so it’s abotu that and not gender. But that can be misleading too – it could be the woman negotiated as well but the company pushed back harder then they did with the men and so her salary was lower. Does that mean it’s about negotiating skills or gender?

    I don’t have the answers to this issue but I raise the possibility that saying “never look at what your peers are making” has some potential pitfalls.

    1. KGB*

      I came here to post almost this exact thing. I’ve been thinking a lot about pay disparity this week. I believe there are studies that show that women ask less during negotiations and consequently receive less, which helps explain some of the pay disparity. But when does tough negotiations cross a line over to unfair and unequal treatment?

      I understand the point that companies value employees differently and salary is a reflection of that, but doesn’t the employer, at some point, have a responsibility to pay their employees fairly across the line – fair being based on education and experiences, not negotiating power? Saying that it’s solely the employee’s responsibility to ensure equitable compensation during negotiations where they have no solid idea what other employees of their level are paid at that company doesn’t seem practical or fair.

      I have no idea what OP #3’s gender is, but this is a real issue facing many women in the workplace, and blaming it on poor negotiation doesn’t seem acceptable to me. It seems like a cop out.

      Like the above poster, I don’t know the answers. But I think it’s an important issue that is only solved by talking about it. Sunlight = best disinfectant.

      1. Anon*

        I think this is a good point. I believe there are also studies that show that women who negotiate are viewed much more negatively than men who negotiate the same way. I.e., the view is “He’s tough; she’s a b*tch.” So I agree – it is a good idea to look at what your peers are making and consider whether you’re being treated fairly in that context, even though you also have to consider factors like whether or not you negotiated as part of that.

        1. Anonymous*

          Yes, this is what I was thinking. The traits that go along with negotiation are encouraged in men. Women have more societal hurdles to overcome to not only be *comfortable* with negotiating but also to, in some cases, be successful at it. Does that mean giving a higher salary to someone who negotiates it is always unfair? I don’t think so. But I think that’s one reason why, even if negotiation is the SOLE REASON a man makes more than a woman, shrugging about it is stupid. You can say “negotiate!” all you want but that doesn’t change the fact that negotiating requires more from women.

          1. Malissa*

            Wow! I never thought negotiation was harder for me even though I am a female. In fact negotiation is a sport for me. I have never paid full price for an appliance. I have gotten car deals that make other people jealous. Negotiation is a skill that has to be honed.

            1. Anon*

              That’s certainly true, but that doesn’t change the fact that – as a group – women who negotiate are perceived differently then men who negotiate. That doesn’t mean individuals won’t get widely varying results all across the spectrum based on their own skills combined with factors particular to their environments.

              1. Malissa*

                When a woman stops caring if she is perceived as a bitch is a very freeing moment. Then she can get down to just doing business.

                1. Anon*

                  I’m not disagreeing on an individual level. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t also look at broader social attitudes and do what we can to change those attitudes. We should be figuring out how best to further our own goals as individuals while also looking at how to create the kind of society we want to live in.

                2. Jamie*

                  Amen! And being perceived as a bitch is very different than actually being bitchy.

                  I am a woman in a male dominated industry and a male dominated field. If you ask me if some people think I’m a bitch, the answer is probably – who knows. If you ask if I’m bitchy at work the answer is no.

                  I’m responsible for my actions, they are responsible for their perceptions.

                  It amazes me how little my gender matters at work. Judging by all the articles out there about women in the workplace I feel like I should be fighting some civil rights battle everyday…but it honestly never comes up.

                3. JamieG*

                  Whether you care about being perceived as a bitch is irrelevant to whether you will be treated differently if other people perceive you as a bitch.

                  Say Bob and Sally are both negotiating their pay, and they do so equally on their ends. For Bob, negotiating is seen as being a good thing – evidence of being strong and confident – because he’s a man. For Sally, negotiating is seen as being a bad thing – evidence of being a bitch – because she’s a woman. That perception, regardless of how Bob and Sally feel about it – even if Bob feels really awkward negotiating and Sally feels completely okay – could affect the employer’s attitude towards them as well as the amount that they’re ultimately willing to pay.

                4. Chinook*

                  Really, Jamie G? I accidentally negotiated a pay raise once (I mean, I really was planning on quitting because there wasn’t enough money and my boss offered me a raise and f/t status to stay) and have never had a negative reaction. And this is being in the “pink collar” ghetto in many industries (due to moving). The men I negotiated with took it as normal but the women always thought I would walk without getting what I want (or so they told me after). Maybe the difference from other experiences is that I look at it as the same as giving references – part of the job. And when I have told other female coworkers that this is what I do, they are shocked that it works. I think that your attitude towards it may be the key.

                5. Anon*

                  Yes, really, Chinook. No, it doesn’t happen every single time. But studies do show that, in the aggregate, women who negotiate are perceived more negatively than men who display the same behaviors. Individuals are individuals, though, so there is, of course, variation. And I don’t see why it should surprise you that women also internalize social messages and act on them the same way men do.

                6. Malissa*

                  If what you say is true, I see that as a good way to avoid working with misogynistic jerks.

            2. Jamie*

              I need an agent for my review in January. Malissa, if you’re available send me an email with your rates.

              Seriously, this is the one work related area I wish I could outsource. I am horrible at this. I’m great at going to bat for other people, but when it comes to me I fold like a cheap suit.

              It’s not a question of self-worth – I think rather highly of myself and I think I have a very accurate read on my worth to the market and my company – I am just so uncomfortable with the whole process that I want it over with as quickly as possible.

              Fwiw, I suck at negotiating because I suck at negotiating. Not because I’m a woman. I’ve heard the implication before and whether or not there is any merit in childhood conditioning of little girls (and there may be) I refuse to blame that for my own shortcomings in this area.

              I’ve done a lot of things in my career that go against gender conditioning so if that’s a factor it’s one I need to overcome.

              1. Malissa*

                Just state what you want and shut up. My favorite raise story is when I was working in an auto parts store. I took a crap-hole looking store and turned it into a shinning jewel. the district manager kept saying just how wonderful everything looked. Almost to the point that it was annoying. I turned and looked him straight in the eye and said, “If you keep telling me how good I am I’m going to expect a raise soon.” And that is how I got a $1.50 an hour raise (22%) in just six months after starting a job.

                The moral, don’t wait until your review. Put the idea in your head now, when you get a compliment, that you are worth more.

      2. Bridgette*

        The employers have a responsibility to ensure fair pay, of course. But will they do it? In many cases, no. So the individuals need to do what they can. It’s not solely the individual’s responsibility to ensure fair pay – ideally it should be both parties. But in most of these very un-ideal situations, the employee has to take on a large share of the responsibility in order to make sure her compensation is equitable.

    2. Natalie*

      And a PSA for the OP, and anyone that has discussed salary with a co-worker: despite what it might say in your company handbook, in the US chances are your employer cannot forbid you from discussing salary and working conditions with your co-workers. (Some exceptions for industries and small workplaces not covered by the NLRA.)

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      But that’s not always what’s happening. In this case, for instance, the letter-writer is a man (if I’m remembering correctly). If we’d been quick to assume there was discrimination going on here if the OP had been a woman, the fact that he’s actually a man undermines that tendency to jump to that conclusion.

      1. Anonymous*

        As the original Anon poster on this, I was super careful to say IF you are a woman and you are in a situation where men are being paid more than you, then the advice to never look at what your co-workers make wasn’t feeling right to me.

        I wasn’t making any assumption about the OP in this case being a woman, but as this issue of equal pay is on my mind this week, this post made me think about it. I was making a general point that the advice on salary (not comparing yourself to co-workers) doesn’t take into account this specific issue.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Right, but my point is that it’s important to not assume that if you’re a woman earning less than others, it’s linked to your gender. There are plenty of men earning less than their peers too. That doesn’t mean there aren’t gender-related pay issues, but it’s not as simple as “if you’re a woman earning less than others, it’s BECAUSE you’re a woman,” and sometimes people are too quick to jump there.

          1. Anonymous*

            I understand your point that it’s not always gender, we agree. But your answer to this poster caused me to think of a question on this topic of salary that was on my mind this week. So I was curious about how you saw your standard advice on salary (don’t compare with co-workers) in light of this issue. Understanding your caveat that no one should jump to that conclusion, would you change your advice at all for women? Or would you always advise that it’s not wise to compare with co-workers, which would mean any true cases of unequal pay would get ignored? Or do you just not want to go there because it could get too political (which is fine and I will drop it)?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I don’t have any problem with people comparing salaries (and they’re legally entitled to in most cases), but generally you shouldn’t use your coworker’s salary as part of an argument for why you deserve a raise. If, however, you have real evidence of gender discrimination in your workplace, that’s different — but just discovering that someone who happens to be a man earns more than you isn’t compelling evidence to me.

    4. Bobby Digital*

      It’s like deja vu; I know it’s election season, but Alison has already tried to untangle the presidential debates from advice to her OPs.

      I’m not saying anything about the relevance or accuracy of your opinions/insights; what I am saying is that the OP didn’t mention “binders full of women,” and isn’t asking us for our opinion about it.

      1. Anonymous*

        And no one is giving their opinion on it. It make sense the issue is on people’s mind because it’s in the news. And some peopel thought it an interesting related topic to question #3 — how to reconcile gender pay disparity with the advice the AAM gives about never comparing your pay to your co-workers?

        If you don’t find that to be an interesting related topic to question #3, that’s 100% fine. As long as it’s 100% fine it other people do.

        1. Bobby Digital*

          1. It’s not related (as Alison said above, the OP was a man).
          2. Alison hasn’t said that one should never compare their salaries with their coworkers’; what she suggests is that, in negotiating raises, the only relevant factor is an employee’s personal job performance (not degrees or age or gender).
          3. What Alison has said before (and it’s something that, as a woman, I very much agree with) is that gender pay disparity could be due to a variety of reasons. And people are giving their opinion about it if they suggest that the sole cause is that bosses don’t like girls.
          4. All of this is moot because the logical conclusion from injecting it into advice to this OP would be that this OP, if female, should go to their boss, bring up gender disparity, and demand more money based on their gender. Obviously, that would be a terrible idea.

          1. Anon*

            Huh? Nobody said there’s only one factor in pay inequality, and nobody said that anyone should go into their boss’s office and demand they get a raise because they’re a woman. Ridiculous. Acknowledging that discrimination – conscious and unconscious – is sometimes a factor in women getting paid less than their male colleagues does not imply any of those things.

  11. Bridgette*

    #5 – Why would a photo of yourself be inappropriate on a digital portfolio? I could see how some type of photos would be inappropriate (your pop-star Halloween costume, a vacation photo, Glamour shots, etc.), but how about just a small, professional image on an “About me” page or something? I ask because I use a portfolio website where I’ve uploaded a small profile picture. I use this portfolio for both full-time job applications and to send to freelance clients. Is that inappropriate? Should no image of myself be on there at all?

    1. Ivy*

      I have this question too. On a resume it’s definitely out of place (not to mention a waste of space), but on a website? No one should be hiring based on looks (hotness level), but you still want your person to have a professional appearance. Will a professional (linked-in type) picture, really hurt?

      1. Bridgette*

        I think a nicely cropped picture would be okay. Mine is very small and it’s just my head, so really just a profile picture. Hotness really couldn’t factor into something that small, although my hair does look amazing, which is why I chose it. :)

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If it’s a website that you use for more than just resume/portfolio, I think a professional looking photo is fine. But if your website is really just your job search stuff, then having a photo comes across as if you’re presenting as part of your overall candidacy, and that’s odd. Some may disagree though — I could see the argument on the other side.

  12. KayDay*

    For #1, I really don’t think it would be a big deal to offer to reschedule for the hiring manager’s preferred date, just cite a change in your availability. (and of course, state that you are still free to meet as currently scheduled.)

  13. KayDay*

    #5 QR codes (and my apologies for two posts) – I’ve never really gotten into QR codes (as a consumer) too much work for too little reward, so I would definitely include the URL instead of a QR code.

    However, if the job you are applying to specifically states that they want someone with experience making/using QR codes for marketing, in that case I think it would be an appropriate way to “show vs. tell” the hiring manager than you have experience with them. But again, only do this if the job is specifically looking for this sort of thing.

  14. Regular Poster Incognito*

    #3: AAM’s response:
    Salaries should be based on the value someone brings to the role. I don’t know if your coworkers are more valuable to the company than you are, but it’s notable that your arguments for why you shouldn’t earn less are based on education and years of experience, two things that don’t automatically translate into increased value.

    Education and years of experience shouldn’t matter. But, what I see happen in my own role is that I bring a lot of value to my position. I have caught up to my 25-year senior coworker and can provide everything he can provide for our role. He worked on the client side of things for most of his career and can do a lot that I can do in that role, but we can provide similar value here. We have both been in this role for the same number of years. I was not entry level upon beginning this role, either. (I know someone out there will say, but RPI, you don’t have 25 yrs additional experience, you’re blind to what he’s doing that you aren’t. Not true. I have had conversations with executives about our value. I did not unfortunately take these conversations to the salary discussion level.)

    If I did ask for a raise on the order of magnitude needed to bring us to par, how does the company overlook the 25 year age gap? I imagine that’s what happeend to the OP. The coworkers reached salary X, perhaps just by being in the workforce for 15 extra years of COLAs, and the value each brings isn’t really being considered. It’s about where they started and +3% per year from then on.

    1. Jamie*

      Unfortunately, in many cases good employees aren’t being paid what the company would pay a new hire walking in the door if they were to leave. This is for a variety of reasons but it’s the basis of the most infuriating (to me) catch-22 of job hopping being a very real way to get the major pay bumps…

      but then too much job hopping will make you a risk. And it sucks to love a job, love a company, and feel like you have to consider hopping because someone else might be in desperate straights and willing to throw buckets of money at you to come on board.

      I know none of this was helpful – just that I understand your frustration.

      I also don’t know, but would love to learn, the answer to longevity and the effect on salary. Two people, similar roles, add similar levels of value – both high performers. Employee A has been at the company for 25 years, Employee B for 3 years. The loyalty Employee A has built up is worth something, to be sure, but how much more?

      1. LL*

        +1 to Jamie. This is a situation I’ve seen quite often. In some cases, people were hired during the recession when salaries were down. Without a post-recession salary adjustment, these folks just aren’t making market rates anymore. It’s painful to see a great performer earning 5-10% less than what the company is offering to new employees, simply because that high performer was hired in lean times. From what I’ve seen, these folks have had a difficult time trying to negotiate that post-recession salary bump and often hit the job market as a last resort.

        Then there’s the less-experienced workers who perform at the same level or better than their much higher-paid co-workers. Like Jamie said, experience and company loyalty are worth something, but how much is really fair?

      2. RPI*

        In my case, the coworker has had a shorter tenure at this company, just longer time in the industry and older. That person’s role was originally supposed to be something different and have a leadership role, but we’ve evolved over time to doing the same thing, so now the gap doesn’t make much sense.

        1. The IT Manager*

          So … your co-worker is being paid more than you because he was originally hired for a different/leadership role? He changed roles within the company and even though he’s not a leader they didn’t cut his salary?

          This makes comparisons hard because maybe if they had hired him to do the job you’re both doing now, he would be paid less.

          I hate this about jobs. I wish jobs paid a certain amount and it wasn’t up to people neogoiate when they are hired, but that’s the system we have and you have to deal with it. But all you can do is neogiate for a raise yourself and see if you cna get it.

          1. RPI*

            There’s a lot more to it than just that, but that’s basically it. It was complicated in such a way by various corp level changes happening over time that it makes sense how things have happened, although it’s still not particularly equitable.

          2. Grace*

            I agree! I wish there were set, publicized ranges at more companies. I’ve fought for it at my workplace. Even with promotions, people at my workplace typically only get a few percent raise. Not a bump to the next title plus a raise, literally just 4% more than you made as an assistant. When I finally received a real bump to a management position, I was penalized (i.e. did not receive anything) on the next company-wide raise because I had received a jump in salary from the promotion. And since I was promoted 3 years ago, we’ve been in a wage freeze.

            I’m in the boat that Jamie mentioned. I like the work I’m doing but it’s clear that I’ll never make any more money here. With expenses going up (food, gas, etc) and employee contributions to our health insurance increasing, I’m effectively receiving a pay decrease every year that we don’t have raises. I don’t want to leave this type of work, but I feel like I have to move jobs to earn anything.

  15. Anonymous*

    #6. If you gave the company 150 hours of personal time which saved them $80g, and the company is interested in your continuing to do that kind of work for them, I hope that you’ll be putting in that time as part of your regular workday going forward. Also, make sure you have a personal file (at home) of compliments & copies of or notes on discussions of using your additional skills/work and the value brought. Not just for your salary negotiations, as Alison said, but to use to discuss the additional skills and progression of responsibilities at this job in interviews for other positions or to ask for a reevaluation of the current position.

    1. Anon*

      If #6 is hourly could this be an issue? Also, if #6 is hourly and the program was created on 6’s own time, 6 would own the program, not the company. Could there be some conflicts there?

  16. Forrest*

    For #2, where’s the line between proofing and what this LW is doing? Asking someone to review your cover letters and resume for errors isn’t bad, right?

    1. Bridgette*

      The line is when you are rewriting significant portions and the voice of the piece changes. Proofing is vital, not just for errors but also flow and making sure the language is clear and concise. Pointing out a different word or phrasing is okay, but rewriting whole sections is not.

      1. OP #2*

        I agree that proofing is vital, and often we look at our own materials for so long that we become blind to our own typos and errors. My concern was along the lines of rewriting– more than copy editing or proofreading.

  17. Liz in the City*

    LW#7 PLEASE get out now! I worked for a company where the head honcho abused everyone, including his right-hand assistant. (She was a good friend of mine at the time.) She was very reluctant to leave because he paid her a huge salary to put up with his BS and abuse and she had control of a lot–and loved that aspect of her job. But she couldn’t see how horrible this man was to everyone, especially her. When the rest of us left, she finally did and much to her surprise, found that not every place was run in this crazy manner–and she’s much happier. BTW, it’s been 6 years and I still refer to that job as “hell job.”

  18. Elizabeth West*

    #4– food mess

    No. No, no, no, no. Do NOT clean up their messes. You’re not their mother. You’re not the office maid. Unless you were hired to clean up after pigs on a farm or in a restaurant, just NO. You start doing it now and you’ll be doing it forever.

    Exjob dealt with this when it appeared in the refrigerator by posting that the cleaning people would throw all mess away on a weekly basis, including containers. It stopped pretty quickly. Nobody wanted to lose their Tupperware.

    #7 – hate the boss

    Your boss is an asshole. Leave, before something he throws hits you. You may love what you do, but you can do it someplace else with someone who isn’t a complete jackass.

  19. Sara*

    #6 – 2006 Sara? Is that you?

    Seriously, I could have written this question 6 years ago when I started working full-time after college. Risk assessment – are you an actuary? I don’t have anything to add regarding your question, but this skill that you have and the way you are applying is AWESOME. Don’t forget that. You will run into people that actually want to stop you from automating things because it “causes errors.” Really. Run away from those people. Whenever you can, estimate the value you are adding. It seems like it should be self-evident that you are adding tremedous value, but some people view that type of work as a fun science experiment that isn’t really useful and takes time away from “real” work like manually typing numberse into spreadsheets. Really. Keep at it!

    1. K*


      Thanks for the feedback. I have been automating more and more and you are right, it’s often a challenge until they finally see the final product.

      Did that skill help you in the long run? Do you still apply it?

      Best of luck!

      1. Sara*

        It absolutely did help me in the long run. I actually found that automation was “what I couldn’t *not* do,” and I set about making it my job.

        I’m in a specialized professional field which focuses more traditionally on theoretical analysis, but I have been able to create a role for myself as a more applied, technical support specialist. I build models and utilities to support all of the other professionals in this field at my company, and I love it.

        I still spend more of my time than I think should be necessary “selling” the value of each new project, but in general, my bosses and coworkers understand how indispensable my work is to the successful operation of the department. I have a lot more flexibility and freedom today than I did when I first started.

        Keep fighting the good fight! Even if this isn’t what you want your entire job to be, just being able to incorporate it into your wider role is super helpful and gives you an edge in your work.

  20. Rob Bird*

    #2-We had a person who did this tell us that, when she got through the interview, they asked her to send them the person that wrote her resume/cover letter, because that is the person they really want to talk to (ouch)!

    1. OP #2*

      Wow. That proves that helping too much is a true disservice to the job-seeker. Thanks for sharing that.

  21. Beth*

    I am in a situation similar to #7’s. What do you say in your interviews for the new job. I’m a terrible liar. TERRIBLE. Turn red, start sweating, start smirking. It’s awful. What’s a good “line” that’s not a lie for my boss is cray-cray?

  22. Bryan*

    #7: Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the show?

    But seriously, find a new job, run and don’t look back. It isn’t worth working for someone like that and he deserves to be left in the rut of suddenly (2 weeks of course, if he allows you to finish them) being employee-less.

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