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. Applying for a job when the company’s email is down

I applied yesterday to three positions at an organization whose offices are in Lower Manhattan. The application deadline is today. A little while ago, I got a message indicating that my emails containing my application materials couldn’t be delivered. I suspect that this organization may have had its power knocked out by Hurricane Sandy, and that that could have taken out their email system if it’s hosted in house. The only phone number I have for them is giving me a busy signal.

In this situation, should I 1) try to resend the applications; 2) hold off until next week, hoping that I’m right about what happened and that they’ll be willing to accept a “late” application with explanation; or 3) something else? On 1, I’m a little worried about being perceived as spamming and unprofessional if my original messages do get delivered later.

Try to resend the applications now, just to make sure it’s still giving you an error message. It’s not going to look bad if they later get a second version; they know they’ve been having computer problems. Assuming it bounces again, yes, hold off until next week. I’m sure hiring is the last thing on their minds right now.

2. How to thank your manager

I truly admire my boss. On top of being a brilliant attorney, she’s gracious, cheerful, polite, professional and respectful to everyone. She has the ability to remain calm in high stress situations and she has a natural talent for being able to validate the angriest of client’s while making them feel completely understood (even if their demands are completely ridiculous). Mentoring comes as second nature to her and I for one take full advantage of everything she teaches in both word and example. She’s the reason I love my job and I truly enjoy seeing her walk into the office each day, as she smiles and greets each person by name. The grace with which she carries herself encourages me to grow both professionally and personally.She is the best example of the power of positivity. Let me also add that amidst all her outstanding qualities she suffers from severe Rheumatoid Arthritis and she experiences chronic pain every day. Her motto is ” it could always be worse.” She is pretty amazing.

I would truly like to express my appreciation for all that she gives to me professionally and personally. In your opinion would writing her a letter accompanied by a small gift be appropriate? I might also add that I have a second boss (her law partner) and I’m not certain how my gesture would be perceived by her ( I admire her too, but for different reasons). Although, I would do my best to be discrete in my expressions to my positive boss, I would not want to be perceived as having altering motives by my second boss or my coworkers.

As a manager, how would you have liked an employee to express such sentiments to you? Any thoughts you have on the matter would be greatly appreciated.

Note, no gift. What you wrote here is beautiful; turn it into a note and she’ll be moved far more than any gift could move her. Receiving gifts from employees can make managers feel awkward, but receiving sincere appreciation, particularly when accompanied by specifics like this, is awesome.

3. Applying directly for a job when the employer is using a staffing agency

I am looking for a job in fundraising in the nonprofit sector. I recently saw a listing for a fairly senior level job (Director of Development) with a family foundation. It was listed through a temp agency (unusual) and I tried to apply through their website, which was awful and tedious, asking ridiculous lower-than-entry-level temp agency type questions. I gave up on it and did a google search with the information provided (a lot). I know exactly which foundation it is — no doubt. There is no information about the position on the website and I think it is probably a first hire for them. Is there any reason not to apply directly thru the foundation?

Well, they might not be doing the hiring in-house and might simply forward your materials to the temp agency, but there’s no real harm in trying.

4. Why was I asked about salary twice?

I was asked about my salary requirements during the phone interview, and I responded. During the in person interview, towards the end, the hiring manager asked about my salary requirements. I’m curious why this question was asked twice?

Was it the same person who asked you the question twice, or two different people? If it was the same person, I’d assume they forgot they’d already asked (and didn’t take good notes). If it was two different people, they each wanted to hear your answer (either because the first didn’t convey the information to the second, or because the second simply wanted to hear how you talked about the question).

5. How should overtime pay be calculated?

I am a non-exempt employee for my company. I was told that I get paid overtime for hours worked over 80 hours in a two week span. Your article in Yahoo! says overtime should be paid for any time exceeding 40 hours in one week. I’ve been with the company going on 6 years now and have been told this since day one. Who should I talk to at my job about this? I am afraid if I speak up, I will be reprimanded.

It depends on what your job is. Federal law requires overtime to be paid if a non-exempt employee works more than 40 hours in one work week. However, there are some exceptions in the law for medical care providers, police officers, and fire fighters, who can have overtime calculated when they work more than 80 hours in two weeks. But if your job doesn’t fall in one of these categories, then your employer’s practice doesn’t comply with the law. I’d raise this by simply saying to your HR or payroll department, “I actually think I’m owed X hours for overtime for this period, since it looks like the regulation says to calculate it based on one work week rather than two.” Be matter-of-fact and non-accusatory about it, you should only have issues if your company is slimy. If that turns out to the case, alert your state labor agency.

6. Company is changing our commissions

I work in the jewelry business. Starting this fiscal year, my company started a new rule saying that they will withhold a percentage of our commission per quarter if we do not sell two diamond engagement rings. Is that legal? They made us sign a form to acknowledge this rule.

I don’t have any particular expertise in this area, but as far as I can tell, this is legal because your company can structure their commission pay any way they want. No law requires commissions, so in a sense it’s sort of like offering paid vacation time: It’s not required by law, so they offer it, they can decide how they’ll restrict it. They do, however, need to pay you at least minimum wage, as well as any overtime if you’re non-exempt, and if withholding part of your commission puts you beneath those levels, that would be a legal issue.

7. Is it ever okay to give less than two weeks notice?

I work for a company that manages foreclosed properties for a bank. I was hired on as a temp 6 months ago with about 30 other people. There was no interview process, I applied through a temp agency and got the job. Since I’ve been hired, about 60 more people have been as well. This job is impersonal and it’s just important that I meet my quota every day and get the job done. There is a high turnover rate with people being transferred to different departments, fired, leaving etc. Recently, my company was bought out and now is under new leadership, which has thrown everything up in the air while they try to re-organize everything. I was going to give my 2 weeks notice tomorrow, but am reconsidering because I think they would have no problem letting me go right then, and I really need these next 2 weeks’ pay check. Is it ever appropriate to give less than 2 weeks notice?

When your company has a track record of asking people to leave the day they give notice, they give up any standing to expect employees to give the usual notice period. However, if you haven’t actually observed them doing this and instead just suspect they’ll do it to you, you’re in a stickier situation. Because you can’t point to how they’ve handled this in the past, you risk simply appearing unprofessional and damaging future references from this job. However, if you’re a temp working through an agency, you might be able to talk to them about how to handle this.

{ 47 comments… read them below }

  1. Sonata*

    Wow, #2 was so refreshing! The poster is blessed to have such an outstanding boss! Even after 30 years in business, I’ve never had a really good manager (and I didn’t even realize it until I started reading Ask-A-Manager). Most managers UNDER-react 95% of the time when they should be confronting ongoing problems. Then they tend to OVER-react when things reach a crisis stage, and that makes things even worse.

    1. Andie*

      On the flip side…….
      What is the best way to tell your boss you do not want any gifts from her? The Director of my department is rude and condescending and treats people poorly on a regular basis. To make up for her poor behavior she is always bringing gifts to the person she has most recently offended. For instance, if she treats the Admin Assistant poorly the next day she brings in her favorite candy or flowers or something like that. She never apologizes for her behavior she just brings in a gift. In general, I refuse all of the make-up treats she brings in but the holidays are coming and I really want to tell her beforehand no gift now or ever. I’m generally known as the feisty one in the bunch that says what she thinks without the sugar coating but I am trying to give her a little bit of respect (even though it is underserved) and not come out and say I don’t want your guilt gifts that are really for you so you can feel better about yourself. Last Christmas I tried to get out of by telling her “I really don’t want you spending money on me and I don’t need anything so please don’t buy a gift and she did it anyway. She actually said “I’m giving you a gift even if you don’t want it.” I feel it is hypocritical to take gifts from someone you don’t like and I don’t want to have another hypocritical Christmas at the office.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        The issue here sounds less about gifts and more about the fact that the director treats people poorly. If you’re willing to raise an issue, I’d make it that one, not the gifts.

        1. Andie*

          You are very right! I should and have raised that issue with her when it comes to how she has responded to me in the past but not the department in general. I have done this a few times in the past and she always says it was not her intention to be that way. I guess it is time to raise the issue again………

          1. Not So NewReader*

            And if you do end up with candy again, be sure to be seen passing it around the department, offering to others, etc. (giggling…)

            Recurring bad behavior is never negated by recurring gifts.
            Like yourself, I do not want a bunch of meaningless gifts, I just want basic respect each day.

  2. Construction HR*

    #7. If they ask you to leave early, ask them if they are going to pay out the notice. I did and they did. (Of, course I didn’t get the ~3 weeks vacation pay the company handbook said I was entitled to).

    1. person who wrote #7*

      I get paid hourly, so if they asked me to leave I wouldn’t get any more money. And AAM, I haven’t witnessed same day firings, but I highly suspect it’s going on (one day I’m talking to an employee and they tell me a bit below quota and the next day they’re gone). Within the past month, my team of 6 and I have been transferred twice to different departments and they have let us know the same day. They don’t have much respect for or trust in their employees and I could easily see them just letting me go. I won’t need them for a reference in the future. I’ve thought about going through the recruiting agency, but I’m afraid they will tell me employer and I’ll be let go either way.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Ah, but you’re taking about same-day firings. With firings, it’s typical to have someone leave the same day. What’s relevant to you is how they handle resignations. Talk to the recruiting agency; they should be able to advise you. And if you don’t, you’ll burn your bridge with the agency too, not just the employer. And you never know how this can impact your reputation in the future — you could be applying for a job two years from now and the hiring manager could be someone who used to work for this company and will know you as the guy who quit without notice.

        1. anon o*

          You never know who might be out there, I had someone apply for a job this week who claimed she’d worked for someone I frequently hire on a contract basis (who has been close friends with my manager for over 30 years). So of course I called her immediately and was told that although the applicant claimed she’d done a 3 month internship, she’d only lasted 2 days. So, yeah, you never know!

          BTW for this position I’ve contacted people concerning at least 5 different applicants just based on the fact that they used to work with the person submitting their resume, they weren’t provided as references (and we’re not at the reference stage anyway). But if I see they worked somewhere and I know someone at that company I’m for sure going to call that person!

        2. person who wrote #7*

          I just called my recruiting agency and they told me I have to give two weeks, but there is a chance that my manager will let me go and not finish out the two weeks, just depending on who my manager is. This confirms my suspicion that they may just let me go on the spot….Would this be an exception to the 2 week rule?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Not really. If they wouldn’t let you go on the spot and you don’t give notice because you think maybe they would, you look bad and burn the bridge.

          2. bob*

            Don’t forget to ask people for their contact info (if you care) around the office or anything else you might need off your computer because they will most likely rip your network credentials immediately.

            1. Person who wrote #7*

              Right, but if the temp agency cannot guarantee that once I give my two weeks notice, I can continue to work for those next two weeks, it puts me in a very awkward and ethically challenging situation. I cannot afford to potentially lose this money, and if they cannot guarantee my ability to work for the last 2 weeks, then it’s not reasonable they expect a 2 week notice.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yes, I understand. It doesn’t change the answer. The only time that it’s reasonable to resign without giving notice is when your employer has a track record of forcing resigning employees to leave early. Otherwise you are likely to burn the bridge and damage your reputation. That’s just the reality of it.

                (Actually, one more exception: major illness or other unavoidable/unforeseeable catastrophe.)

                1. Person who wrote #7*

                  I’m unable to determine if the agency has a track record of forcing resigning employers to leave before their two weeks are up, as no one has told me if this has ever happened to them. I understand that this will burn two bridges: with the recruiting agency and my current employer. However, it’s most important to me to get paid until the end and if necessary, I will take this job off my resume for the future and/or won’t list this company on my resume.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  “Unable to determine if they have a track record” = no justification for not giving notice.

                  I know that’s not the answer that you want to hear, but do recognize the reality of the situation. You may very well never run into any of these people from this office or your temp agency ever again … but you also might. Applying for a job you really want and finding out that you won’t get it because someone knows you’re the guy who left without notice is a high price to pay for not just giving two weeks. But obviously it’s your call — just do the calculation understanding the risks.

      2. Parfait*

        You are a temp. The one saving grace of temp work is that it’s TEMPORARY. You owe them nothing. They made no commitments to you and you need not worry about leaving them in the lurch. They’re churning through people anyway; you don’t need them for a reference. Quit on your last day and don’t look back.

        1. Rana*

          The problem with that approach is that while she may not be the employee of the client, she is the employee of the temp agency. Most temp agencies look askance at temps who quit assignments early without getting approval from the agency first, and they may well have expectations about how resignation notices should be handled too. If the OP wants to keep working with this agency, she should have them in the loop regarding all such decisions.

    2. Tami*

      In many states, if you put in your notice, and the employer fires you prior to the end of your notice period and does not pay you your notice, you are entitled to unemployment. In some states it is just for the notice period, and some states the unemployment is for the full period. This is why I always tell employers to pay out the notice, even if they want the employee to leave immediately, rather than work out their notice period.

  3. Applications...*

    #3: I had a similar situation. A position was initially listed through a temp agency and then later through the organization (with the same description, so it was easy to tell it was the same job/organization). I applied to the direct ad from the organization, which replied that they were hiring through the temp agency and I needed to fill out a (lengthy) application. So, you might be asked to complete the application anyways.

    BTW: The application I filled out had to be returned to the organization and not the temp agency. Is this normal?

  4. MaryTerry*

    #5. I’ve heard of companys with a 9/80 schedule have their work week start at noon on Friday – and the time sheets were set up that way. (9/80 = 80 hours of work across 9 days, every other Friday off).

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That’s perfectly fine to do, but the company still needs to pay overtime for any hours over 40 worked in a one-week period (if people are non-exempt and not in any of the exceptions listed in the post).

    2. The IT Manager*

      That’s a point. I have co-workers working a compressed work schedule where they work 80 hours in a two week period by working 9 hours Monday – Thursday, and 8 hours on one Friday with the other one off. One week only has 32 hours scheduled and one has 44 (non-OT) hours scheduled. We’re non-exempt and there’s some juggling when a person has a weeklong training or a trip where they work on their Friday off.

      I was also a student at an organization that had everyone work 9.5 hours M-F, and their working Friday was a only a 4 hour day. they did not stagger this; absolutely everything shutdown on the “down Friday.”

      1. Anon*

        That seems like one of those things that’s technically against the law (i.e., they should be receiving OT for those 4 hours in the 44-hour weeks), but which everyone is better off ignoring. I mean, as a lawyer I’d tell my client it was against the law, certainly. But as a manager, I might well decide that the Friday off schedule is unlikely to get me into trouble, is going to improve everyone’s morale, and that the arrangement falls within the spirit of things.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Agreed. However, if you ever have a disgruntled employee (and everyone does, sooner or later), this is handing them a very easy way to take action against you and collect back pay and penalties.

          Frankly, the law hasn’t caught up in some areas with more modern ways of doing things; it was originally designed for a much different workplace. This may be one of those areas, where overtime laws are making it harder for an employer to legally offer a benefit that many employees want.

        2. The IT Manager*

          I’m fully confident it’s legal. I’m a government employee and I’m fully confident that government agencies are not breaking the law by following established rules and policy; although, maybe there’s some government exemption so commercial company’s can’t do this, but I kind of doubt it.

          An agency may implement for its employees an alternative work schedule (AWS) instead of traditional fixed work schedules (e.g., 8 hours per day, 40 hours per week). Within rules established by the agency, AWS can enable employees to have work schedules that help the employee balance work and family responsibilities. There are two categories of AWS: flexible work schedules (FWS) and compressed work schedules (CWS). CWS are fixed work schedules, but they enable full-time employees to complete the basic 80-hour biweekly work requirement in less than 10 workdays.

          For full-time employees, all hours worked in excess of the established compressed work schedule are overtime hours.


          1. The IT Manager*

            For full-time employees, all hours worked in excess of the established compressed work schedule are overtime hours.

            What this means is that an employee only gets OT if they work more than 80 hours in the two week pay period.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Government workers are often exempted from many of the labor laws that apply to other employers. So don’t take government practices as indicators of what’s legal in other sectors; they sometimes aren’t! And in this case, it sounds like it’s not — with the exception of a small number of professions, as described in the post, overtime must be calculated based on hours worked within one work week. You can see the law on this here.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                According to the Dept of Labor, “FLSA rights cannot be waived, by collective bargaining or otherwise. (Generally, employees are entitled to the benefits of the FLSA or their CBA, whichever is more favorable.)”

    3. Omne*

      However the FLSA calculates a work week on a 9 hour flex schedule as going from mid day on the day off to mid day on the 8 hour short day in the following week. It still can’t go over 40 hours during that weekly period. Other schedules can be set up differently. Ours normally runs from Wednesday through the following Tuesday for 8 hour and 10 hour schedules.

  5. Colette*

    For #1 – I agree with re-sending. If you’re concerned about duplicates, you could add a note acknowledging that you’re resending because you got a message that your application materials couldn’t be delivered. I’d only do that if I got a message telling you your mail system will keep trying to deliver it – if the message says that it will not re-try, they’re unlikely to get the original message.

    1. LW#1*

      Yes, this is what I ended up doing. And the bounce message did say it would continue to attempt delivery for 2 days, although in this circumstance I’m not entirely certain that will be long enough.

  6. zemkat*

    #6: Yikes! This reminds me of my friend who is working at a jewelry store (a small shop in a grocery store) where they are required to get a certain number of customers to apply for credit through them every few days; if they don’t meet the goal, they get written up! They are encouraged to get their friends to apply, or to approach customers in the grocery store.

  7. Mike*

    With regards to #1: Make sure to read the bounce email to see if it was a notice or permanent error. Email is actually a very resilient protocol and most servers will try to deliver for several days (sometimes up to 5 days) before giving up completely and will often generate bounce notices to the sender to inform them of what is going on.

  8. Anon*

    #7-I agree with the advice given. Unless you know, for sure, that your company is going to short you, please give notice. I work really hard to develop good relationships with my staff. They all know up front that my goal is to help them get from their entry level position to where ever they want to go next, hopefully in my office, but generally up. So, they are usually up front about job searching, which I really appreciate. It helps me plan.

    I had a young woman give me 1 days notice that she was quitting and moving up to a better job. If she’d told me that the half days she’d randomly taken were for an interview, it would’ve been fine and I would’ve had my paperwork for refill ready to go. Instead I had to have the “this wasn’t a very professional thing to do” conversation. I do think she learned a lot from it.

    1. person who wrote #7*

      Anon, normally my initial reaction would always say to give 2 weeks notice- I wouldn’t just up and quit a job. My hesitation is that there is a lot of behavior that goes on at this job that shows a lack of regard for employees and I could easily imagine them just letting me go. But others on this blog seem to think differently, so it looks like I need to re-think my decision.

  9. Ariancita*

    Oh, wow. I was going to comment: “Why is this post titled Fast Answer Friday when it’s only Tuesday?”

    I work too much. :(

  10. kelly*

    #1, this happened to me recently in a different way. I applied to a job and got an automatic response from gmail saying my message couldn’t be delivered because the recipient’s inbox was full. I guess they had recieved a lot of applications! I held off on resending it because gmail was going to automatically try to resend it for a few days in a row. I send an informal email to a different address at the company (jobs@companyname vs. name@companyname) and asked if they had received it, and if they hadn’t, I’d be happy to send it again. They responded and said “go ahead and send it again just in case” but it turns out the first try got through eventually on it’s own.

    I wouldn’t worry about resending it and looking like spam, if they are a decent company they will understand the circumstances.

  11. Mary*

    Isn’t the company able to let you go why hey want to because you’re a temp, and vice versa you could go whenever you want? At least that’s how it was for me here in RI, and it sucked. If rather go work at Taco Bell than do another temp job. It drained my soul.

  12. pidgeonpenelope*

    Aww! I love my boss too! Sometimes she frustrates me but in general, she’s thoughtful, funny, kind, and innovative. I’m also still grateful she hired me (it’s been four years).

  13. AG*

    Re #4: My interview process often asks about salary twice, because we often receive two different answers. For example, a candidate is interviewing for an opening which has a compressed hiring schedule. Usually this happens when the position is currently sitting vacant and is critical for support. I typically recommend candidates for hire, and then my supervisor does a second round interview with one or two finalists. So I ask the salary question once, then he asks it again. And often, candidates think that because they made it to the second round, they are more valuable. I’ve had candidates increase their asking requirements by about $5k for an entry level position because they are talking to my supervisor now rather than me. Not a great way to win favor with a future manager.

  14. NYC*

    Regarding #1, I was in a similar situation. I applied for a position on Friday 10/26 and Sandy hit on 10/29. My email (as far as I know) went through, but I know that the company that I applied to was heavily impacted by the storm and has only recently gotten back on its feet.

    I’ve been encouraged to follow up on my application, but I feel conflicted about doing so – on one hand, I think the job is a great match for me (and vice versa) and I want to make sure that my application didn’t fall through the cracks per se. On the other hand, I generally follow the rule of “If they want me, they’ll get back to me on their own accord.” I should also note that the application period ends on 11/16, so it is possible that my application is in a holding pile with the others until everything comes through and the period ends. Any thoughts?

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