fast answer Friday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s fast answer Friday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. Email address when job searching

When looking for a job, do you have to get a new email addressed based on your name as opposed to a nickname, or do hiring managers really not care? I’m not talking “imhot4U” or anything. But I don’t have an email with my initial/last name, or first name.last name. I’ve gotten conflicting advice and I don’t necessarily need another email account.

It depends on what the nickname is, but in general, email addresses based on your name are going to sound the most professional. (And also will be the least confusing. It’s always mildly confusing when Kate Jones emails her resume from

2. Isn’t booting up my computer part of work time?

I want to know why I’m expected to have my computer up and running by my start time. I work at a call center and am told that I must get my computer programs open and be ready to answer phones at the start time. In order to accomplish that, I need to log in and open programs. Isn’t this considered working? If I give only 5 minutes a day to this task, it adds up to 25 a week. Over the course of a month, that would be over an hour and a half. When I expressed this issue, I was told that being on time and adhering to the schedule is crucial to my retaining this job. Am I wrong to think that starting up the computer is part of working? I feel like this seems to be a petty issue, so I would like clarification.

Are you clocked in while you’re booting up your computer? If so, and you’re being paid for that time, this is perfectly legal; it’s just a question of realizing that your “start time” is actually five minutes earlier — 8:55 rather than 9:00, or whatever. However, if you’re not clocked in and not being paid for that time, that’s illegal.

3. My boss is angry that we didn’t question her own managers

My boss was sick for five weeks and is now picking apart how our office handled things in her absence. She’s been at this for about three weeks now. In her absence, her bosses gave us templates emails and instructions on who to send them out to. My boss is telling us we should have questioned them as to why they were being sent to those people and possibly even the content their templates contained. Her bosses both have PhDs and are privy to a lot of confidential information. I looked them over and corrected grammar and spelling if it needed to be corrected, but basically my coworkers and I see it as our job as admin assistants to facilitate doing what they say and not question certain things. Is it our job to really be questioning them on who to send emails to if they say to send them to “X” group? She’s been picking apart many, many things we had to handle while she was gone, so I could be overreacting. Does she sound right in this?

If it was abundantly clear that the instructions your boss’s bosses gave you were problematic, and you didn’t say anything solely because you didn’t feel it was your place, even though you had context that they didn’t have, then I could see your manager being concerned that you didn’t speak up. However, even then, she should understand why you didn’t and should simply explain to you when and how it’s appropriate to push back in that kind of situation in the future. And if that’s not the case — if you couldn’t have known that there was a problem with what her bosses were asking you to do — then she’s out of line.

4. My boss is a jerk

We recently won a new contract on a tight budget. They created a position that is two positions in one, every day running of the service and addressing minor issues with staff. I took this position to progress within the company and because I had achieved all I could in my previous job.

The expectations of this new job are unrealistic, but I do my best to try and met them anyway. I stay late at work and work weekends to try and get it all done. Occasionally something will slip through the net and my manager goes nuts. Rather than excepting it’s a part of human error, he addresses it by humiliating me in front of my colleagues. He will joke I’m going to lose my job or make general comments implying I’m incompetent. When this happens, he will berate you over it, and he gets annoyed if you try and explain why it’s happened and gets annoyed if you say nothing. He also has a new level of micromanagement that didn’t occur in my previous position. He will even get annoyed about things that aren’t my fault. He once said I didn’t do a piece of work when it was agreed I would do it in a meeting. I then pointed out I wasn’t even at work that day!

I have tried to talk to him and he just says I shouldn’t have taken the job. It’s not the job that’s making me unhappy, it’s his way of management. How can I address this?

Your boss is a jerk and a bad manager and probably isn’t going to change (especially given his response when you tried to talk to him about it). So you have to decide if you want the job on these terms and can find a way to work with him and still be reasonably content … or if you don’t.

5. I want to go back to the company I left after six months

I am looking to get back in working for a corporation I used to work for, but in a different city. I only worked for this company for 6 months before I quit, as I accepted an offer from another company that I had applied at long before I had a job (not same industry). The new job didn’t work out (the supervisor is the owner’s young son) after a few months and I left that company. My manager at the first company wasn’t too happy that after months of training I walked out and left the company. I gave 2 weeks notice, etc. and left the company on good terms as much as possible. My coworkers weren’t that great (they were unionized and I wasn’t), which is why I accepted the other offer. Now a position that I had with the first company has opened up in another city far away from my current city and would have a different manager (no union BS in that area either). What should I say in my cover letter to regain the new job with the old company?

Don’t attempt this. You left a job after they trained you for six months; they have no reason to hire you back and plenty of incentive not to. You’ll come across as if you don’t understand that doing that means you won’t be welcomed back — which means now you won’t just be the guy who left after six months; you’ll be the guy who left after six months and doesn’t think it’s a big deal.

6. Is this a good sign?

I know that every situation is different, but I had an interview for an HR position and it lasted 2 hours. Is this a good sign? I keep going back and forth on it. At the end of the interview, I was told they would be doing second interviews, and the HR Director took me around and introduced me to the other members of HR. It has been almost a week though and no word. Any thoughts?

I know it’s tempting to believe that a long interview and introductions to other employees is a good sign, but unfortunately it doesn’t really mean anything you can count on. A long interview could just be an unskilled interviewer or someone poor at time management. Being introduced around might be something they do with everyone, or with everyone they remotely like. Or both of these things could be good signs — but that’s no guarantee of an offer.

Did you find out their timeline for next steps? If that passes without any word from them, you can follow up at that point. Or, if you didn’t ask about their timeline, wait another week and check back in.

7. My coworker isn’t working the same hours as everyone else

How do I let my manager, the fire chief, know something without looking like a tattle? Our hours are 7:30 – 5 M-F, with every other Friday off because we all work a 9-80 schedule. The chief’s assistant comes in at 8ish everyday and then sits at her desk to apply her makeup for the next 30 – 45 minutes. The chief is not in the office that early so is unaware. I feel she should not be on the 9/80 schedule if she is not going to work those hours. How do I let the chief know without looking like I am tattling? I am so upset with this that I have gut rot because of my anger in everyone not being treated the same.

If this doesn’t impact your work, it’s not your problem to solve. Unless you have a very close relationship with your boss, I can’t see any way you could bring this up without looking petty.

The reality is that everyone is not always treated the same at work. Work isn’t really about fairness; it’s about your organization meeting their goals, and the details of how they do that may not always look fair or even reasonable to you. If that’s going to give you gut rot (which sounds terrible), your gut is likely to be in danger anywhere you work. It’s going to be far better for your quality of life to let this go.

{ 131 comments… read them below }

  1. Anon*

    #2… Sigh same for me. But even if something is illegal, it’s really tough to complain lest you be seen as a complainer and be put first on the chopping block. The instability of this economy lets a lot of employers get away with this.

    1. Elise*

      My office has the idea that you are supposed to start taking calls and your first caller just has to be patient while your systems load.

    2. Elizabeth*

      My mom is in a similar boat – her office tracks hours using time clock software. But when she gets to her office, before she can clock in, she has to boot up the computer and open the time clock program. Then she’s supposed to shut down her computer at the end of the day, but of course she has to clock out on the program first. It doesn’t add up to much (just a few minutes a day) but it’s one more slightly dysfunctional thing about her office…

      1. Anonymous*

        As a little hint, most computers will turn off immediately if you hold the power button for ten seconds or so. Of course, this slows the boot a bit, while the drive gets fscked.

        1. A Bug!*

          I’m not really qualified in IT at all, but I was led to understand that turning your computer off that way carries the risk of bigger problems down the road, such as the corruption of critical files. I was told never to do a hard shutdown unless the computer freezes and doesn’t recover itself. Was I misinformed?

          (Regardless, with respect to the problem at hand it sounds like cutting an inch off the head of a blanket and sewing it onto the foot. It doesn’t make a bigger blanket!)

          1. Anonymous*

            I’m not the anonymous above, but while what you say is true, for the most part, with modern operating systems, as long as you fully exit from the programs that you’re using, there’s generally little harm (I wouldn’t want to do it to my personal computers though, as there are background processes that could be interrupted) YMMV.

      2. ChristineH*

        Oh I hate time clock programs. At a previous job, we had to use a swipe card that would let you in and out of the building (if doors were locked) as well as certain parts of the building. I think even if the doors WEREN’T locked, my manager wanted us to swipe the card upon coming in each morning and leaving at night, which I didn’t always remember to do. It was the biggest pain in the tuckus ever!

    3. Henning Makholm*

      If the employer is that concerned about “wasted time”, they could just decree that employees are never to shut down their computer, but simply lock the screen when they leave for the night and unlock it in the morning.

      That would take about 15 seconds.

      Of course the employer would then have to pay for electricity to keep the computers running all night …

      1. hindenburg2002*

        This was going to be my suggestion. At my job, we lock our computers during the week and only do a complete shutdown for the weekends. Even if it isn’t company mandated, you could do it yourself since you’re the only one aware of the extra hour and a half of work per month.

  2. BHB*

    #2 I had a similar problem when I worked at a call centre. Our clocking in/out was all online based, so we weren’t even clocked in before booting the PC and loading the correct software (something which could take 5-10 mins due to the age of the machines). It meant if we started the computer at 9 on the dot, we wouldn’t be shown as clocked in until 9:10 and so would have pay docked because we were late.

    The way we got around this was to use the PC of a co-worker who was already logged in on an ealier shift to clock in. That way, we could clock in for 8:58 and still boot the PC within work hours.

  3. Rob Bird*

    #1-We encourage people to get a different email to use just for work search. It’s free and looks more professional to have your name (or something similar) for an email address.

    1. jennie*

      I agree with this and also be cognizant of the name associated with your email. That’s what the recruiter sees when it comes up in their inbox and it’s needlessly confusing if it’s your husband’s name or some variation on your real name that’s not obvious. You don’t want a hiring manager searching for your email and unable to find it.

    2. Louise*

      I fondly remember when someone applied for a job using the email “

      Nope. Didn’t call them.

      1. Juana*

        At an hourly food service job a few years ago, I remember someone turning in an application with the e-mail address It wasn’t the most professional environment and we had a few high school kids, but still. I know that person was not invited for an interview.

          1. Victoria*

            I’ve gotten the “hotmama4ya@…” emails. Even if it’s something innocuous like “lotusflower3@…” it can be confusing if I’m trying to dash off a quick email to a candidate and can’t remember his/her email address. Typically in Outlook I try typing the person’s first name, if that doesn’t bring it up, I try the last name, then first initial + last name … if all else fails, I have to open up my ATS and drill in and find it. I wouldn’t think any candidate would want a recruiter or hiring manager rolling his/her eyes every time he/she has to email said candidate, because it’s taking too much time to find the email address.

      2. reader*

        I once received a resume from I can’t believe the things that don’t occur to people.

        I also once received a cover letter that read:

        “I am writing to express my interest in (put job name here). This job is a perfect fit for me because of (whatever.) My relevant experience includes (blah blah blah – be technical).”

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          Are you a recruiter, or do you just work at a small enough company that no one screens that stuff out of the pile before you see it?

          I thank my lucky stars that there are recruiters at my company who weed anything that terrible out before I spend time looking at it…though it does make a damn good cocktail party/AAM story!

        2. ChristineH*

          Whaaat….the cover letter actually said that (as opposed to you masking private info)?? Sounds like someone forgot to personalize their template. lol.

          1. Victoria*

            Yep recruiters get good stories to tell our friends :)

            I once received a resume where, in the header where she should have had her contact info, she had “That was dumbb waste of time.. 5 plus years is wat they want… Ugh hello im trying to get experience!!!!!123XXXXXXX”

            Very odd. I did wind up giving her a heads up and she was properly embarrassed.

      3. BHB*

        I currently work with people to improve their CVs/resumes and I’ve seen so many with inappropriate email addresses:,,… all sorts. Some couldn’t even see why they’d need to change it or why it would look bad… “it shows my sense of humour, innit”.

        I despair at some people.

    3. Judy*

      A lot of universities have email addresses available for alumni. Both my husband and I have them, from a large state school (me) and from a small private school (him). It’s just a forwarding service to our email, but most email allows you to send “from” another address as long as you have verified it.

      1. Anonymous*

        Do be aware that your “real” address information is still there. For instance, if the recipient is using Outlook, it will show as “ on behalf of

      2. Anonymous*

        (Tried posting already, but my comment seemed to have disappeared)

        Do be aware that your ‘real’ address is still there – if the recipient is using Outlook, for example, it will show as “REALADDRESS on behalf of XYZ@University”

        1. Anonymous*

          Only if you use Outlook. Plenty of mail programs let you change the From: address to anything you want and it’s completely invisible. I do it all the time (I have 3 email addresses that all go to one account).

          1. Anonymous*

            Actually, it should always be there in the headers – if not, someone is running an open mail relay (on offence generally punishable by termination of internet connection). There are three headers related to this which can be used: Send, From and Reply-To. Gmail has a note on their workaround for Outlook.

          2. Anonymous*

            There are both Sender and From fields in an email (and for good measure, Reply-To). One of them (I don’t remember which off the top of my head should always be the “real” email address (i.e. not the alumni one[1]), and it’s the recipient’s MUA which will control the display (I’d argue that Outlook is doing exactly the right thing here). If one of those fields doesn’t contain the “real” email address, someone is running an open mail relay – and such behaviour is generally frowned upon.

            [1] Of course, the university might allow you to use their servers for outgoing mail, but that’s going to be an extra level of complication.

    4. Pam*

      I recently had to decide between two similarly-skilled candidates. However, one applicant’s address was something like “” and it really stuck out for me. It made me question her professional judgement. That may seem harsh, but it’s the truth.

      Create a new email address using your name. It’s worth the time.

      1. Anonymous*

        +1. It doesn’t take long and shows good judgement. Or rather, the absence of bad judgement. Why risk it?

    5. Hari*

      I use my nickname (a shortened version of my name) and my initials only because my first name is nine letters and I have two last names. I’ve never had any problems with it.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        My last name is long. The name you see on my posts is a shortened version of it, which is also my pen name. I use that part in my email and only use that email for job hunting, querying and related information. My Yahoo email is a more nerdy LOTR thing. I used to have that one on my resume, but people would ask “What does this mean?” and it was embarrassing to explain that it was my Elvish name. :}

    6. LCL*

      Glad I’m not job hunting now! My real name is the same as the working name of someone in the adult entertainment industry…

      1. Kelly O*

        You could alternatively use initials, or first initial last name, something like that.

        I mean, I have a long and sort of different last name (thank you, Husband) so mine are normally available. Not too many Kelly Onomatopoeia’s roaming about. My brother has a much more common name, and he’s used initials, or first and middle initials, last name, some sort of combination of those things.

        I guess I just don’t get where it’s super-hard to get a Gmail account and just reroute it.

        I just realized how cranky that probably sounds. It’s not intended to, I guess I just figure why make a problem out of something that isn’t really a problem? Because I know for sure that “Shortiepie(at) xyz (dot) com” is probably not going to be taken quite as seriously as “JaneSmith77 (at) xyz (dot) com”

        1. SurlyHRGirl*


          My first and last names are the same as both a.) a city in a country (think London England), and b.) a queen in said country (think Elizabeth England).

          It really doesn’t take hardly any time at all to create a yahoo account that is first name.last name @ yahoo.

        2. twentymilehike*

          Onomatopoeia?? Is that your real last name?! It’s FANTASTIC!!! I would call you by your first and last name every time I talked to you … just because it is so much fun. Until I’m sure you would become really, really tired of it.

        3. some1*

          “I have a long and sort of different last name (thank you, Husband)”

          You could have kept your maiden name.

          1. kasey*

            was that comment serious? yikes, obviously, she could have kept her maiden name, but she changed it. (and got a cool name.) maybe I am being prickly or tone deaf to snark today ;)

            1. Kelly*

              Yeah, obviously she could have, and either is fine, but it sounds like she likes the unusual name, so some1’s snark seems misplaced.

        4. Bridgette*

          I don’t even think it needs to be rerouted. For me, having an email account just for job stuff is helpful to keep everything organized. I don’t have to worry about accidentally deleting an employer email or writing something I intended for someone else (which I have done in less-than-lucid moments). Also my personal gmail account gets so much crap now that it’s possible an email from someplace I’ve applied would go straight to the spam folder, whereas a “fresh” account wouldn’t have that problem as much.

    7. Omne*

      #1- You can also get an email address that forwards to your regular email at places like I got one years ago that consists of, very easy to remember. It also stayed the same even when my ISP changed a few times. You can get one for $5-$20 per year.

      As far as #5, not a chance. We wouldn’t even consider this unless they left for a very compelling reason such as personal health or family member care etc.. A different job wouldn’t qualify.

  4. businesslady*

    re: #5–I agree that it’s unlikely this person will get hired again, & the story here suggests some larger responsibility issues (since it sounds like they left another job after only a couple of months).

    but…if the training they received was really in-depth, & would be transferable to a role at this new location, I suppose they could try writing a mea-culpa cover letter that positioned them as a ready-made employee that wouldn’t require the same training as a typical new hire. depending on the work & the effort involved in getting a new employee up & running, I could possibly see a manager deciding to give this person another chance–especially since it’s a different office than the one they worked at previously.

    in all honesty, though, I’d probably question the judgment of a manager who hired someone with this kind of flighty history.

  5. Dan*

    #7 – Holy crap, if you were my coworker, I’d scream. AAM is right — if it’s not affecting your ability to get your job done, mind your own business. Big Time. Want to get a reputation as an office snitch, or would you rather be someone who plays nice with others?

  6. Andie*

    Life is not fair. The sooner you accept that the better you and your gut will be! Everybody has a “Snooki” in their office. The grass is not always greener on the other side it is just a different type of grass.

    1. Michelle*

      +1 Or another version: “If the grass seems greener on the other side, focus on watering your own grass and it will become just as green.” This guy needs to water his own grass.

      1. Kelly O*

        Or the Erma Bombeck adage – the grass is always greener over the septic tank.

        This comes from someone who was recently asked “are you okay” because apparently I made three more trips to the ladies’ room than usual one day. I wasn’t even counting… why on earth were you?

    2. Another Emily*

      I agree with you guys but I do feel for OP7. I don’t think he/she is being petty or silly. It’s kind of demoralizing when a coworker slacks off and you play by the rules.

      However there’s no good way to actually do something about this like Alison said. So the best thing is to firmly decide that you don’t care about this, then proceed on to actually not caring. (This sort of thing really bothers me and this mental redirect really helps me.)

  7. callcentre*

    #2-I think all call centres are like that. They know that their employees are desperate if they’ve settled for working there and they get away with it. At the one I worked at, it took 20-30 mins to get all the programs open (usually we had to reboot the computers 2 or 3 times as well) and that was all unpaid time before the shift started.

    I got in trouble all time for not being on the phones right on time, even though I’d been at my desk, trying to get my dinosaur of a computer running, for half an hour.

    I quit. (It was a very satisfying day).

  8. Joey*

    #7 think about it this way. Bringing this kind of issue up when it doesn’t affect you is the same as telling the chief he’s not doing his job. Do you really think its smart to tell the chief he’s not doing a good job managing his assistant? Now it’s different when it affects you because you can frame it as a problem you need help solving. But this isn’t your problem to solve if it doesn’t affect your work.

  9. Sydney*

    At my company, our time clock is online software so you have to login to the computer before clocking in. However, I (as the “IT” person of the office) tell them to only lock or log out of their machines instead of shutting them down so it should only take 30 seconds, tops, to clock in. I also keep our machines in good order so boot time from shut down is less than 2 minutes.

    Something else to consider about this is that most employees do personal activities while on the clock, such as web surfing, checking your Facebook or talking on your cell phone. Less than five minutes a day would even out in most circumstances. More than that and it definitely is a problem.

    1. Natalie*

      I have to clock in online, too, so every evening after I clock out, I restart my computer before I leave. When I get here in the morning it’s booted and waiting for me to sign in, and it gets restarted on a regular basis which seems to help its performance.

    2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      While it’s true that many employees do Facebook, talk on the phone, whatever, *most* of the call centers I’ve heard of disallow that. Completely. You only have access to the software you need to make calls, and in some places your time is tracked to 10 or 15 minutes. Most call center employees just can’t do that much other stuff outside of designated break times (and then, often, have to physically leave their desk to do so).

      1. Sydney*

        I’ve worked in call centers that blocked all websites and ones that allowed you to surf. For the former, people would still find excuses to avoid work – extra long bathroom breaks, wandering the aisles, extended DND time to document calls while they simply sat there. Not to mention people with smartphones whose browsing activity can’t be tracked by the company.

      2. Kelly*

        Yup. When I worked in a call center (and yes, also had the dinosaur computers that took forever to boot), there was nothing we could access except the program that ran the phones. We couldn’t even get online to look at reference material–we had a binder of it next to our computer. (One of the reasons I quit was that they were distributing obsolete information in that binder and thereby making us look shady and/or incompetent every time we tried to use the reference, but that’s another story.)

        They also chewed us out if they thought we took too many bathroom breaks, by which they meant more than one during your shift, which was especially “fun” since you have to drink fluids to keep from losing your voice doing this job.

      1. Sydney*

        I wasn’t trying to justify violating labor laws at all, but I do feel that each situation is different and warrants a close look before deciding. That said, at my company, there is, at most, a 30 second delay at most from when an employee sits at their desk to when they are clocked in.

        I’m going to use this situation as an example why I don’t think 1-3 minutes per day of non-paid booting up time is a problem:

        At my company, we weren’t getting the sales number we wanted so we looked into finding out why and started tracking computer usage (among other things). We discovered that our sales manager (who is a producing manager, meaning she was required to make sales) was spending about 1 hour every day on non-work related web surfing. She is also a smoker who takes a 5 minute smoke break during the workday, in addition to her regular breaks. So we’re looking at about 1.5 hours every single day where she is being paid and isn’t working.

        Since our revenue is entirely sales-based, should we value her effort (for lack of a better word) or her results? We decided her results were more important so we started implementing solutions to get her sales numbers up. We haven’t addressed the web surfing or smoking (which I feel most people would agree is egregious) because we feel the value should be placed on sales numbers. If she continues growing her numbers and meets the sales goals we’ve assigned, she won’t get in trouble for her considerable slacking off.

        Now back to booting up time: if she complained about the boot up time it takes to clock in, then I can easily pull the logs and show her how she’s really on the winning side of this whole scenario because it’s balancing in her favor to an incredible degree. And I’d address it by adding the 30 seconds per day to her timesheet and then I would start blocking all non-work related web surfing. No one is winning in that solution.

        I realize this situation is unique, but it gives a perspective of why the boot up issue isn’t really an issue. Most employees everywhere have some non-work related time throughout the day and employers understand that and value their overall work than a few minutes on a personal call, or a few minutes here and there on Ask a Manager.

        To go down a slippery slope, if a company is going to pay an employee for boot-up time, then what about the time it takes to walk from the front door to your office and sit down? What about employees who have to unlock their office or turn on the lights in the building?

  10. fposte*

    On #7–OP, is it possible that you have some other reservations about the job? (Or, with that schedule, are you having trouble getting enough rest?) It seems unusual to be generally happy in a position and have such a strong reaction to this.

  11. Chuck*

    RE: #1 – I would also suggest that one avoid using the number ‘1’ in an email address as it is often confused with the letter ‘l’.

    The same suggestion can be made for the numeral ‘0’ and the letter ‘o’.

      1. Lore*

        A related issue: my last name is a fairly common name with a very unusual spelling. I’ve found it causes enough glitches that it’s easier to use an email based on my first and middle names–otherwise it’s invariably spelled incorrectly.

      2. Ellie H.*

        Hmm, this never occurred to me to worry about before. My first name has an *extremely* common misspelling (so common that, I’m not kidding, the majority of people who have ever written my name have misspelled it at least once, including people who know me really well. It’s a real misspelling, too, not a variant). Now I wonder if I ever don’t get email due to people misspelling my name in the address. To say nothing of how irritating it is to get an email with my name spelled incorrectly when it is spelled correctly in my email address displayed above.

        1. Anonymous*

          Not to add to your worry :), but on my brief internship at a global company, I’d get email intended for an employee who’s first name was off by a bit (think elle vs ellie, for example) every couple of weeks.

        2. Lore*

          I should add, I have that with my first name as well, and I’ve gotten to the point where it only annoys me when I’ve sent a email *with a signature* so that my first name is spelled correctly both in the address and in the email itself…and people still reply with it spelled incorrectly. But at least my first name has only two possibilities, both reasonably standard, whereas there are four or five more common versions of my last name!

          So, yeah. I might not be avoiding the problem entirely.

  12. Ali_R*

    #7 How is this any different from the discussions on this forum of management techniques? It has been repeated here that poor management makes the good performers resentful and you risk losing good employees when bad employees are allowed to skate.

    The OP does have a valid point and should not be called out on the carpet so harshly here. This is a result of those poor management techniques often discussed here that disenfranchises the good employees.

    The fire chief’s assistant is receiving benefits she is not entitled to. She is getting paid an hour+ extra daily. If this were a private sector position it would be a serious employee morale issue.

    But this sounds like a public employee. That escalates it, IMHO, to a big deal. I pay her wages. When bond measures come up and I have witnessed an employee at a public agency with that level of work ethic, I am much less inclined to vote to pass them. So yes, this does impact the other employees.

    We’re a union family (non public sector) and it kills us when we see union employees taking advantage of the protections afforded them. It is not okay, it not only damages the morale and lack of productivity, it affects us personally in the way the union is perceived by the contractors.

    I can certainly understand coaching the OP to not let it ruin them emotionally; but their issue is much more valid than to be brushed off as, “Not your problem, Dude.” I agree, an atmosphere of Big Brother watching and reporting is terrible, but I really feel this is a significant enough waste of resources it merits addressing. And no, I am not able to define where that line is but an hour a day is over it in my book.

    What are the possible ways the OP can address this as professionally as possible? That is why they’ve come here.

    1. A Bug!*

      But the writer’s not a manager; the writer is a peer. AAM’s advice is that she does not know of a way that a peer could address such a concern without looking petty, because the assistant’s lack of work isn’t directly affecting the writer’s ability to perform. What the writer can do that will produce an immediate benefit to the writer, is to learn healthy coping methods, because “nnnnnnnnnnngh that’s not faaaaiiir” shouldn’t be producing abdominal distress.

      The advice AAM would give to the manager if the manager wrote in would probably be significantly different and I’m sure it would address general office morale.

      1. A Bug!*

        On reviewing my comment I realize that the “nnngh” might have sounded a bit mean. I didn’t intend it that way; it’s the sound I make in my head when I’m faced with similar frustrations.

    2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      I can see your point. If OP is no the only other person in the office, an anonymous note in the chief’s desk could be the way to go.

    3. KS*

      I think if OP7 had written “as my coworker doesn’t complete ABC on time, I cannot complete tasks DEF as ABC must be completed beforehand”, there would be a different reaction. The way the letter is written seems the main complaint is her coworker isn’t working and the OP feels it is unfair.

      And as usual, 100% agree with AAM as the LW is a peer and it doesn’t sound like she’s unable to complete her work due to her colleague’s behavior, I don’t see any way to bring it up to a supervisor without appearing petty.

      And if the chief’s assistant isn’t completing her work or is otherwise holding others up from completing theirs, the chief needs to address that (if s/he is a good manager).

    4. KarenT*

      I completely agree with you. I’m really surprised at the number of people reacting negatively to OP #7. I agree with advice there is not much she can do since the OP is a peer, but I’d be surprised if there was a person among us who wouldn’t be angry if they were busting their butts working while their co- worker was spending 30-45 minutes applying their make-up. I’m also surprised the often said ” if I were her manager I’d want to know about this” never came up.

      1. Jenn*

        What if you were told that this situation would never change? Would you stop busting your butt? I mean, there comes a point where you have to let some things go, and if a coworker’s work ethic (or lack thereof) doesn’t affect your own work, what else is there to do? Grow increasingly more resentful? Develop gut-rot, for pete’s sake?

        1. Mike*

          I was more or less told that the coworker who performed poorly wasn’t going anywhere. That motivated me to find a new job. I start Monday.

        2. KarenT*

          No, of course not. As I said, there’s not much the OP can do. And having co-workers like that is a lesson we all learn. All I’m saying is how surprised I am by the number of people who jumped on the OP. Some (and of course, not all) commenters have said negative things about the OP that I think are unwarranted. Is the OP overreacting with the gut rot? Yes. But that doesn’t mean that any reasonable person wouldn’t be frustrated by a slacking co-worker.

    5. Ali_R*

      What about the fact this is public resources being squandered? That chaps my hide the most of all.

      We are all stewards of public funds, public employees more so as they have better access to discern waste and fraud. This employee is stealing from the taxpayers an hour or more a day. Let’s say her wages are $30 an hour (on the check + benefits & taxes) x 5 days/week = $150. If the OP wrote in saying her coworker was taking a printer from the store room every week, would the advice be the same?

      1. Colette*

        How do you know she’s stealing? How do you know she’s not working different hours or responsible for things the OP doesn’t see? And if she were stealing, wouldn’t that be her boss’s job to deal with?

        Frankly, if the OP is watching her for 45 minutes every morning to be sure all she’s doing during that time is putting on her makeup, the OP as wasting as much time.

        1. Chinook*

          I have to agree with this point. If she is an assistant, the OP may have no idea what she is doing when. Is it frustrating to watch? Of course. But, Assistants can fall into an exempt category.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Ali R, I see what you are saying. I find myself running similar arguments in my head.
        Where do we draw the line?
        One slacking coworker. None of my business, I should move on.
        But what about a department/company wide culture of slacking off? Perhaps I need a new job.
        It just does not set right with me that monies are wasted. I do agree that we are all stewards- does not matter where we work.

        Interestingly, I sometimes see news articles that say something to the effect of “This business failed because of a corporate culture that allowed employees to spend all day at the mall shopping and still get paid.” And the running commentary is “How could this have happened???”

        I have never come up with an answer on the question of where do we draw the line between stewardship and tattle-tailing. The only thing I can think of is that it is up to me to role-model good work ethic. I can BE that good employee. So I go about my job and do my best each day.

        The flaw in this thinking is that it is very hard for other employees to learn good work ethic if they are walking through the mall and shopping. I guess if the situation is that wildly out of ethics the only thing to do is look for another job.

    6. Colette*

      I agree with Alison – there’s no way for a fellow employee to bring this up without seeming petty.

      There’s also no way for the OP to know what the assistant’s duties or hours are. (Is she, for example, responsible for picking up office supplies on the way to work? Does she stay after the OP goes home or work other hours when the OP’s not in? Does she have enough work to do when the chief’s not in?)

      I do volunteer work with kids, and the first week of the year I always end up saying “It’s your job to make sure you’re doing what you should be doing. It’s not your job to tell me when someone else isn’t doing what they should be doing.” The same thing applies here.

  13. Anonymous*

    #2, not sure what kind of timeclock system you have, whether it only allows you clock in or out or if you can select a time, but if it’s the latter, can you just make note of when you arrived at your desk and set your clock-in time to that? I used to work on a dinosaur computer that would take 5-10 minutes to boot up every morning and I had the same concern as you. My manager gave me the go ahead to clock in at the time I had arrived once I was in my computer and opening software, etc.

  14. kristinyc*

    #1 – Also, keep in mind that the email provider you use says something about you as well. If you’re applying for anything that requires you to be up to date in technology (which would be most jobs, you shouldn’t have an AOL email address. You’ll be perceived as either old or wayyyy behind the times. Same goes for Yahoo, Hotmail, and MSN (but to a lesser extent – they’re still the most popular providers). If your email address is @comcast or @sbcglobal or anything like that, you’ll also probably be perceived as less tech-savvy (not by everyone, but definitely by companies like mine) because you’re just using the email address that came with your internet provider, and it’s possible that you’re sharing it with your spouse or something weird like that.

    You’re pretty safe with Gmail or your own personal domain.

    Oh, and DO NOT use your current company email address to apply for other jobs. Your company owns it and can see everything you send/receive, and you’ll lose everything in it when you leave the job. And, it makes you look like someone who has no problem with blatantly using work equipment for personal use.

    1. PL*

      Hah! YES
      I’ve had different email providers change with the times, it’s part of being up to date! I use Gmail now, and to be honest, I judge anybody with the hotmail, sbc, comcast.

    2. Anonymous*

      I’ll bet you must be really impressed with people who know how to put extra @ symbols in their email addresses then…

    3. KS*

      Yes!! I am completely shocked at how many candidates will list their work e-mail address or direct work line as a contact method to make it “easier to contact them”.

      We’ve had several do this in the past 3 months.

      1. KarenT*

        Yes! It looks so bad. I tend to discount resumes that come from what are blatantly people’s work email accounts. It shows such poor judgment–using your employers resources, company time and not realizing your company may be monitoring.

        1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          Although, to be fair, you have no idea what the candidate’s relationship is with their boss, or possibly if anything was even done on company time. I could easily use my work email for job searching without it happening on my org’s time (if I were so inclined).

          I agree that people shouldn’t do it, because it *looks* bad, but I do also disagree that you should make any judgements about people based on what email they use.

          Well, no job-related judgements. In my brain, I’m always making fun on candidates (in my head) that have, say, Yahoo or Hotmail addresses. I just don’t let it affect their candidacy.

    4. Al Lo*

      I defer to The Oatmeal to explain it best.

      Also, yes, I totally judge based on email provider.

      (And for the record, my personal email is I get so many comments on how easy it is to remember when I verbally give my address to people.)

      1. kristinyc*

        Yes, I love that Oatmeal infographic! There have also been a few studies about the general demographics of people who use different email providers. Like I said before, it will only matter in some industries, but I work at an e-commerce website with a pretty young demographic, and if I interviewed someone for an email or Web job who had steller qualifications but an AOL address, I’d definitely ask about it.

        And just to clarify from people who think I’m being judgmental about this – I have data to back it up. I work in email marketing, and I definitely see trends by domain. My company’s customer base skews toward the trendy 18-35 year olds, mostly in NYC, and our email list is 70% Gmail users. AOL, Hotmail, and Yahoo users are the type who tend to think the way to unsubscribe from an email list is to click ‘Report Spam’, which drives legit email marketers BONKERS.

        (Note: if anyone reading this doesn’t know, there legally HAS to be an “unsubscribe” button in any commercial email. If you want to stop receiving emails from a company, click that. They’ll remove you from their list. If they don’t have that link, THEN you can click “report spam”. It’s not our fault if you signed up for an email and then changed your mind!! Clicking “report spam” hurts a company’s ability to send an email to someone who actually wants it.)

        1. Anonymous*

          Of course, if it’s not a legitimate piece of spam, then the ‘unsubscribe’ link will simply confirm that the address is genuine (and hence more valuable). And that’s at best – at worst, the target website will promptly launch an attack on your machine.

          Clicking “report spam” hurts a company’s ability to send an email to someone who actually wants it

          And how is that the problem of the person adjusting their Inbox filters?

          1. kristinyc*

            If it’s actually spam, it probably won’t have an unsubscribe link.

            But if it’s a retail store or a newsletter you’ve signed up for at some point, and you decide you don’t want to receive those emails anymore, just unsubscribe. It’s not the problem of the person trying to clean out their inbox, but you’re reporting something as spam when it’s actually NOT spam.

            1. Anonymous*

              Again: how is the misreporting a problem if it keeps the email out of my inbox?

              Besides, some spam does come with ‘unsubscribe’ links. The “help me smuggle $1M out of my country” kind not so much, but the “Bank of America Security Notice” types…. most definitely.

              1. danr*

                Some ISPs use the ‘report as spam’ link on the ISP’s email screen to create blacklists by domain. Then they block all emails from that domain to everyone. It then takes time to remove the domain from the blacklist. The blacklist is automatic, the removal is not and is time consuming to the organization.

                1. kristinyc*

                  Also, clicking “Report Spam” won’t actually unsubscribe you. I have feedback loops setup, so if someone at Yahoo, Hotmail, or AOL clicks on “Report Spam”, then those providers send me an email and I have to manually unsubscribe that user. Not every email marketer has feedback loops set up, so you can click “report spam” tons of times without being unsubscribed. On the other side of it, Aol/Yahoo/Hotmail see that I unsubscribe the person who reported as spam because I stop sending to them, so they know that I’m a legit sender who is following the CAN-SPAM laws.

                  If you just click on Unsubscribe, you’ll stop getting the emails, and other people who DO want them will continue to. Why wouldn’t you want to do that?

    5. The IT Manager*

      I don’t hire people, but I had a bit of a qualm earlier in the week. I was picking a new doctor. They had an awesome web site, but their email address was Yahoo, really? But I picked them anyway. An IT department is not a necessity for a small doctor’s office, but gmail wouldn’t have caused such a reaction.

      People will judge you even if they try not to let it bias them.

    6. Mike*

      Work recently brought in a consultant to “help” manage some tech projects. He has an address. My fellow programmers and I took it as a sign and started really looking into this person and were way under impressed. This put us in a certain frame so when he started asking us questions we were overly blunt in our answers.

    7. Tara B.*

      I just got hired at a technical job with an earthlink email address. Make of that what you will.

      And no, Earthlink is not my ISP…the email address is a holdover from the days when they were. Sometimes people really don’t want to change their email address, especially if they’ve had it for years (or in my case, more than a decade).

      1. Blinx*

        That’s me too. I’ve had the same email address for about a dozen years, a holdover from the days of the dial-up modem, from a local provider in my town.

        1. Chinook*

          Me too. I can proudly say that I have moved 10 times in the past 10 years but my email address has never changed. It makes it easier to be found when I forget to update someone.

          And if I saw someone with an “old” email address (like in Alberta) I think that they are open to new technology that works because they were an early adopter, don’t go after the latest fad unless it is an improvement and, if I knew it was an ISP, that they don’t move addresses that often and are stable.

          Judgements can work both ways.

          1. Anonymous*

            Always remember that, in the IT industry (or at least in sales), “legacy” is a pejorative term meaning “it works.”


            Sorry, can’t remember the author of that quote….

    8. Jenn*

      I do a lot of hiring, and I could care less if someone’s email address is Hotmail, Yahoo!, Google, etc.

      However, I do notice (and judge you accordingly) if you either use an email address like “” OR if you use your work email under your current employer. In both cases, it takes two minutes to set up an appropriately-named, NON WORK email address.

    9. Jess*

      In my previous job, I used to do business with a small company that used AOL for their email. They had a website with a domain name, and it blew my mind that they used AOL for the email instead. As a young person of the gmail era, AOL email screams unprofessional to me.

      Of course, we still hired these people to do work for us, so I can’t say the AOL addresses hurt their business!

    10. Some European*

      Hmm, somehow people seem to read a bit much into email-adresses here. As long as its something like name@knownemailprovider.topleveldomain or name@someonesowndomain there should be no problem with it.
      Also it seems weird to me when people especially recommend gmail when to me personally if I would try to be nitpicky that just seems to tell irresponsible person sharing all his personal data with biggest datacrawling ad-company in the world?

  15. Anonymous*

    Regarding #2, every office I’ve worked in has had the policy that start time means you need to be ready to answer the phones and help customers when the office opens. That means computer is ready, we were logged into the phones, and prepared to take calls at 9am.

    (And I’ve never worked in a call center.)

    1. Another Emily*

      Dusting off some memories of working at a call centre ten years ago, we could clock in at the start of the shift but not be on the phone, boot up the computer, then switch our phones over to accepting calls.
      The time when you had your phone set t0 not accepting calls was recorded. This included any bathroom breaks or if you had to chill for a minute after being screamed at. Basically any time you weren’t answering the phone that wasn’t an official break (these were assigned).
      So it was fair, but Big Brother was watching your every move…

    2. Twentymilehike*

      I have worked at a bank where that was the case, but we were paid beginning when we walked in the door, not when the doors opened at 9. I would expect to be paid for the boot up time also, but I would probably not have a problem either way since I prefer to have anew minutes to settle in anyways before doing any actual work. I come not my office now 30 min before we open so I can get some coffee going and read AAM :)

  16. Henning Makholm*

    #7 — in addition to what everyone else has said, are you even privy to which hours your coworker is paid for? The fact that she’s physically present doesn’t necessarily mean that she’s on the clock.

    Perhaps (speculating wildly here!) she wants her makeup to be perfect when she’s working, thinks her commute is going to ruin it, and therefore arranges to be at work 30-45 minutes before her set hours start.

    That’s not the choice I would make (being a guy and all), but I will not infrequently stay at the office for several hours after having clocked out, because I’m waiting for the rain to stop and, living alone, I can surf the web from my desk just as well as I can from home. And I don’t think it’s anybody’s business (except possibly my boss) to complain that I’m present in the building while not working.

  17. Vicki*

    Has anyone else noticed that #7 made a point of the fact that “The chief is not in the office that early” and yet, there’s no complaint that the Chief isn’t properly working a 9/80 schedule.

    OP: you are not the assistant’s manager. You don’t know how she is paid. She could be salaried. She could be on a different schedule. She could be ready to answer the phone. You are guessing and it’s causing you undue stress.

    Breathe. Drink plenty of water. Stop worrying so much about other people. Do your own job.


      I wouldn’t really concern myself as to when my boss comes in….with coworkers however–I’m not sure what a 9/80 schedule is, but I know in my other jobs, I’ve known exactly what my coworker’s schedule (and how much their pay is) and if they’re hourly or salaried coworkers. OP wrote that the shift is 7:30 but the assistant comes in at 8ish. If it happens frequently enough, anyone would get upset and feel like it’s unfair.

  18. KM*

    #2 — My call center too. It was expected that we all get there about ten minutes early to set up the computer so that we could take calls exactly when our shifts started — actually, because my managers were crazy and/or not very smart, it was expected that our computers would magically load everything the instant we sat down and that we therefore had no reason to get there early… even though we had to be logged in exactly when the shift started.

    We also had fewer desks than there were people so, during certain parts of the day, someone else would take your station while you were on break or lunch, and you would then have to wander around trying to find another computer and then boot that computer and load all the programs on it. The managers also couldn’t understand why that meant there was a 10-15 minute (or longer, if there were no available computers) gap where you weren’t taking calls, because if we were all interchangeable, teleporting robots who could patch directly into the computer system with our minds, their schedule would have worked PERFECTLY.

  19. danr*

    #1… as others have mentioned, get a gmail account, using your name (you may need to add some numbers to make it unique). If you are worried about missing some emails, set up an autoforward to your regular email account. Just be sure to reply using your gmail. And use the gmail account for all of your professional online links.


    #7–I’m surprised at some of the harsh responses towards the OP and the situation.

    At a previous position, I was managing a few people. To put it succinctly–a coworker was having issues–I addressed them–issues stopped. (these issues were along the same lines as the one in #7). A few weeks later, my manager got wind of those issues (thanks to another coworker who went ahead and told her despite the problems having stopped after I addressed them). boss was pissed.

    Why am I mentioning this? I remember posting about this in the comments section of another blog post a few months back and the overwhelming response was that the coworker who “tattled” was in the right and had every right to do that. My own feelings and lessons learnt from that job put aside, and I really don’t intend to be obtuse but I’m genuinely bewildered about the advice given and why OP is being considered petty and told to mind his/her own business.

    1. Victoria*

      So don’t you wish that someone had told the tattling coworker in your case to mind her own business, like what is being told to the coworker here? I agree with what’s been said to him/her here, in that the assistant’s work is none of his/her business.


        well, yes, I do. but in that post, everyone was saying that coworker who “tattled” was correct in doing what he did, hence my confusion over the advice given in both situations.

  21. Anonymouse*

    #7– I can see both sides of this and agree that sometimes you have to “tattle”, depending on the “crime”. (Also depending on the boss, overall workplace culture, etc.) That said– if you’re gonna tattle, best to phrase it in the form of a question: it’s less “tattle-y” and it’s closer to the truth because *YOU ACTUALLY DON’T KNOW* whether there are some extenuating circumstances you don’t know about which explain the situation and maybe make it more “fair” than would appear.
    And as a general thing, I like the point AAM makes that the workplace isn’t necessarily “fair”— at least not as in: “equal on every measure at all times”. Certainly, the workplace should be JUST, humane and as considerate of everyone’s needs as is possible & reasonable. I see this as different than an ideal of workplace “fairness” where every person is treated exactly the same. As AAM points out: it’s ultimately all about the bottom line and whatever it takes to reach it. If handled right, that doesn’t have to be incompatible with a just, humane workplace– in fact, keeping the end-game in mind like that seems to be the MOST fair because it strips away personal gripes & vendettas as irrelevant and everyone is on the same page about what they should be focusing on and working toward.
    We’re hired to *perform our jobs* for our bosses and if, for example, someone in the office requires a 45-minute makeup session and then does an amazing job because of it, they’re not gonna suffer any consequences– nor should they. On the other hand, just because someone else shows up early and never dares upset any apple carts, never utters a cuss word, makeup is perfectly, safely “underdone” before clock-in, etc. doesn’t mean that person’s work performance is stellar or even adequate. The person might even be on the way to getting canned and have no clue it’s coming because, after all, *they’re* not the one putting makeup on at work! (Guess this ties into the “myths employees believe” conversation, too.)
    Now, of course, it could very well be that Makeup Lady really is a waste of money and that the boss would appreciate the tip-off: maybe it would be the last nail in her coffin. But here’s another question to ask yourself: even if, technically, she’s squeezing some extra hours out of the deal, even if she’s misbehaving a bit, do you really want it on your conscience that you got somebody fired, especially in this job market? Would seriously harming someone’s livelihood make your life all that better? Especially since, if she is really a terrible employee, other aspects of her job performance will show it and she’ll get fired without you having to help it along. Or she might not get fired but if there’s no real extenuating circumstance to explain the makeup ritual, she likely comes off pretty silly and unpromoteable regardless, and it’s unlikely she’s taken as seriously as she could be. Isn’t that a form of fairness?

  22. Tomas J*

    To the person who had a 2 hour interview – I once had an interview that was supposed to be three consecutive people, but it turned out to be 7 consecutive people, the last of whom was obviously just called over to meet me at the last second. That last person then took me on a rather long tour of the facilities, and even told me some things that, in my naivte, I thought sounded proprietary. The whole thing took more than 4 hours.

    The HR person called me later that afternoon to inform me that they weren’t proceeding with my application. So, you never know.

  23. M*

    To #1 – You should use your real name, but IMO there’s one big exception to that rule – if you’re one of those people with a really long, unusual, and/or foreign sounding name that might be easily misspelled if a person had to type it all in. (My spouse is Thai, and I took his name…it’s enough to make peoples’ heads spin! I simplify it to make my email address a manageable length.)

    Getting a separate email just for job hunting/career related things is also smart because it’s less likely to accidentally end up in someone’s spam folder.

  24. nervousapplicant*

    #6 – I was the question in #6 and I got a call back for a 2nd interview. Yippie. Downside, I was warned in advance to expect 2 hours so I will worry once again! Ahh. Thank you so much for the advice and input. What a great thing you are doing.

Comments are closed.