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. Best time to start a new job

I am currently interviewing but have a question around start date. Do you think mid-December is a good time to start a new job? Any implications (financial, bonus, etc.?)

It really depends. At some companies, most people would be out and it might be hard to get the training you need; at others, it would be a good time to start because things would be quiet and you’d have time to acclimate. I’d just ask the employer if you get an offer; they probably have their own ideas about this. As for bonuses, you’re not likely to be eligible for a bonus right after you start so I wouldn’t take that into account.

2. Interviewer wouldn’t let me speak

A recruiter contacted me last Thursday, and by the end of the day, I had a phone interview with the manager of the department I’d be working in set up for Tuesday afternoon. I did not formally apply for the position, as I have worked a bit with this company as a client before and have many contacts from within.

The interview was NOT formal at all. I rehearsed and prepared all weekend for this—it’s my dream job. The manager only asked one brief question about my experience, and the rest of the 2-hour long interview, we just talked. Well… SHE talked about 90% of the time. She told me details about the position, which was great, but she also told me some travel stories and her family structure. I really never had much of a chance to sell myself because I surely wasn’t going to interrupt her. We had good “conversation,” I guess … I interjected a “mmhmmm” and “exactly” in there where I could. Towards the end, I said, “I feel bad because I really haven’t told you a lot about myself. Do you have any specific questions you’d like to ask? I’d be happy to elaborate on my experience and my abilities.” She said no and that her style is just to talk because you can find out a lot about a candidate just by talking. Well… that’s great… except she barely let me talk at all and would interrupt me when I would try to speak. At the end, I told her I’d love the opportunity to meet her in person, and she acted very weird. We had been getting along well throughout the interview but didn’t seem interested at all to set up a face-to-face meeting. Is this a bad sign?

It’s a bad sign about her as a manager, yes. This is no way to conduct an interview or figure out whether to hire someone, and the fact that she operates like this bodes very badly for what it would be like to work with her. This isn’t your dream job, not if she’s running things.

3. Gifting a boss when you leave

You’ve mentioned many times on your blog how gifts should always go from a boss to their employees, and not the other way around. I’m just wondering if it’s ever not weird to give a gift to your boss. I’m in my final days at the company I’ve been working at since August. It’s just a co-op work term, and I’m going back to school in the new year. The last co-op student (who trained me during her final week) gave our boss a bottle of wine on her last day. I feel like I should give my boss a present on my last day as well. I was thinking of just getting a little Christmas ornament (maybe she could put it on the tree we have in the office, I don’t know) with a note saying something along the lines of “thanks for the great work term, merry Christmas!”

There are only 6 people, including my boss, that work at this company and we all work within a few feet of each other if that makes any difference.

Don’t get her a gift. Give her a note about what you’ve learned from her in your time there, what you admire about her, whatever you can say genuinely. That’s a thousand times more meaningful than any gift you could give a boss, with the added bonus of having zero chance of making her feel odd about accepting a gift from an employee. Believe me, she’d much rather have the note than the Christmas ornament — wouldn’t you?

4. We get docked vacation time for unapproved trips to the bathroom

This may fall under the “Is it legal?” category, but here goes: The managers at my company, a call center, have decided the workers are taking too many unscheduled breaks. They’ve stated that if everyone was away from their desk 10 minutes a day, 5 days a week, etc… That it is costing them too much money, so instead, if we take unauthorized breaks for whatever reason (getting a glass of water, stretching your legs, using the bathroom, possibly smoking, or taking a personal call) the time is docked from our accrued vacation time. Now, can they do that? Is it legal? Is it smart? Can I really be punished for using the bathroom outside of my break times?!

I’m so not surprised that you work in a call center, because this kind of silliness is commonplace there.

Anyway, it’s probably legal, because they’re not required to give you any vacation time at all so they can deduct from it from whatever reasons they want. There might be OSHA issues if it could shown that they’re penalizing people for taking necessary bathroom breaks, but my reading of OSHA on this is unclear. But regardless, it’s incredibly stupid to signal to your employees that you don’t want them to use the bathroom and that you think 10 minutes a day away from their desks is unsupportable. This is one of the many reasons why call centers have such high turnover.

5. Recruiter invited me to lunch to give me feedback

I recently received an email informing me that the hiring manager for a position I’d been waiting to hear back about had decided not to hire me. I responded by thanking both the recruiter and her assistant (who sent the rejection email) for their kindness during the interview process and I ended the email by requesting interview feedback. The recruiter’s assistant quickly replied to my email and stated that I was the candidate of choice for both she and the senior recruiter. In the email, she shared that she was disappointed that the hiring manager didn’t select me and that she would like to provide me with feedback over lunch.

Is this out of the ordinary and should I accept her invitation? It seems I’ll have to if I want the feedback. Also, should I ask her if it’d be inappropriate for me to email a thank you note to the hiring manager?

You don’t need to ask her if it’s inappropriate to thank the hiring manager; you can go ahead and do that.

As for the lunch meeting, if you want the feedback and/or to build your relationship with her, accept her invitation. It’s certainly not common, but who knows what insight she might want to give you. (On the other hand, if you go to lunch and you get vague feedback or feedback that could have been delivered in five minutes on the phone, I’d be annoyed. But there’s no way to know unless you go.)

I’m assuming, by the way, that you’re not getting “date” vibes from this invitation. If you are, that’s a whole different issue.

6. Manager fired me after a string of scheduling errors

I was hired as a floater for a medical lab in May. My supervisor’s way of scheduling and communicating was through text message. The problem is, she often made mistakes with my schedule sending me either to the wrong location on the wrong day or at the wrong time. I complained about it but nothing was done the mistakes kept happening. She made the mistake once again the week of Thanksgiving, I drove 45 minutes to a location just to see the person I was covering was there. I complained again to human resources then I later got a text from my supervisor apologizing and telling me to go back to that location the next day. I did not go because I was originally off that day and already made plans.

When I went back to work after the holiday, my supervisor had someone else at the location. I went to human resources, spoke to them, and they put my supervisor on speakerphone. I explained to her my frustrations with her constant mistakes. She was very defensive and nasty and terminated me. I filed for unemployment but they said in a letter I may have been separated from my job due to misconduct. A friend of mine said that was wrongful termination and I should file a complaint. Is this true?

It sounds like they fired you for not showing up the next day, when you were told to, and I assume that’s why your unemployment was denied. Your manager sounds like a mess, but I don’t see anything here that’s illegal. “Wrongful termination” doesn’t mean that you were fired for an unfair reason; it means that you were fired for an illegal reason — that you were fired in violation of some legal right that you hold. For instance, wrongful termination would include being fired because of your membership in a legally protected class (race, sex, religion, etc.), or because you complained about harassment or some other legally protected conduct, or because you refused to perform an illegal act. None of that was the case here, so I don’t see a legal issue, just an incompetence issue with your manager.

(In general, though, it’s a safe bet that if you simply don’t show up on a day you’re told to come to work, bad things may happen — no matter how justified you might feel.)

7. Possible instability in a prospective company

I’m currently employed, but looking to transition and it has taken a long time (3+ years). I think part of my problem is that I’ve spent my entire career working for the government and the corporate world doesn’t seem to see that my experience is transferable. Anyway, I’ve been invited for a round 3 interview next week in the healthcare industry, which I think could be the most awesome move for me.

Here’s the problem: while doing research, I found a recent article (November) in the local newspaper the said the hospital I’m interviewing with is considering selling. Ouch! In my second interview, I asked if the hosptial is selling and the response I got from the VP was “the article you saw wasn’t accurate, but in healthcare, a sale is always on the table.” So now I’m terrified. I have a good job, great pension and stablility where I am now. The problem is that I have no room for growth. ZERO. And I’m still young and have a lot of years left in me to work so I know deep in my heart I have to move on. If the hospital makes me an offer, do I go for it with the risk that it could be short-term? Or do I stay in my comfort zone and hope something else comes along?

Well, if you’re leaving government, you’re going to have to deal with this to some extent wherever you go. (And there aren’t always news articles to warn you when it might be coming!) Companies get sold, or lay off whole departments, or lose funding — there’s never a guarantee that that won’t happen. So you’ve got to make a calculation about whether you want the benefits of leaving more than you want the more certain stability of where you are. That said, I’d proceed pretty cautiously with this particular job, given what you read. The VP likely wouldn’t tell you if a sale was imminent, not before employees and the public had been told, so I’d do your own research rather than relying on her word.

{ 140 comments… read them below }

  1. quix

    #6, It’s not wrongful termination, but you can certainly contest the denial of your unemployment benefits.

    1. quix

      I don’t see refusing to come in to work with no notice given on a day you’re scheduled to be off as “misconduct” in the unemployment law sense.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Depends, I think — if it’s a job where you’re routinely scheduled for different days each week without a ton of notice, I could see it. (And that’s probably the case here since she was hired as a floater.) Also, unemployment staff tend to operate in really black and white terms and “didn’t show up for scheduled work” is precisely the kind of thing that will be an instant denial of benefits for them. That said, the OP could definitely try appealing it.

        1. Noah

          That black and white can also bite an employer in the butt on occasion. We had an employee who fell asleep during a shift. This caused him to miss several phone calls and then to really mess up another call. He was fired the next day. The response from the unemployment office was “show me your policy that says employees cannot sleep while on duty”. We did have a policy that said employees should arrive at work well rested and ready to work, but we did not have a policy that prohibited sleeping. We lost the case.

            1. Jamie

              I wouldn’t be surprised if the answer is Illinois.

              It’s ridiculous the level of “gross misconduct” which needs to be reached in order for a UI claim to be denied.

                1. Jamie

                  I had to work last weekend – and the weekend before…and this weekend…so my husband is going to give it a shot tomorrow.

                  I wanted to make it for him but I’m not looking at any downtime until after the new year so he’s going to have to cook it himself – I’ll let you know. :)

          1. Construction HR

            I lost one b/c we couldn’t prove that we told the former employee that if he did not come to work, we would fire him.

            1. Anonymous

              Massachusetts is a nightmare like this. We fired an employee for consistently coming in late to work (between 15 minutes, and 2 hours late, every day), after issuing her a number of warnings (she would arrive on time for like a week after warnings, then start up again). They gave her unemployment because she argued that since she always showed up late, she didn’t think she’d ever face real consequences and would just get another warning. Legit, she is on our unemployment bill now. It is disgusting.

          2. Joey

            You don’t necessarily have to have a policy that says no sleeping. Any policy that addresses theft of time, clock in/out, work breaks, neglect of duty, or a policy on answering phones could have been sufficient. You just have to find a policy that addresses some aspect or result of the sleeping. But they do look for a policy that’s been violated.

          3. Kate

            A fire dispatcher here in Massachusetts was fired for sleeping on the job. He was reinstated with full benefits after his lawyer successfully argued that beds placed in the firehouse meant that it was OK to sleep on the job.

          4. anon-2

            Is that the whole story? Is there anything else (employee worked eight days straight, was recovering from an illness but ordered to work, etc.) — a mitigating factor, which might get an arbitrator to rule against you?

            I worked in a place – where a guy fell asleep on the job – a 3rd shift worker – all work was done, he was asleep on a table. He had 17 years with the company (can you smell “pension milestone”) – and was fired.

            He appealed – back pay, pension settlement. Turns out in 17 years he had no prior disciplinary action against him. The manager tried to plead, “Duh, but this wasn’t the first time….” and was then told “if you didn’t put it down in writing, we have to rule as if it didn’t happen.”

            Which is why they always tell you in these management seminars –

            – address disciplinary action IMMEDIATELY
            – document it
            – document corrective actions
            – if the situation persists, keep documenting
            – if it does not persist – acknowledge that it’s resolved

            Two other things –

            – Make sure your facts are correct. I once received a written reprimand for something I not only didn’t do, but was 2000 miles away when it happened! And because it was in writing – I had to respond to it!

            – In a company with a progressive disciplinary policy – (written warning, another one, another one, firing) – don’t write the memos in advance. If they’re ever discovered, YOU will be in trouble.

      2. Brett

        Misconduct generally needs to be either very serious or repeated despite warnings to result in denial of benefits. Every state’s manual of precedents will probably be a bit different, but they should all be similar in the broad sense since there is a set of federal standards that state law has to be based on.

        Some quick googling found a pretty good explanation on the Vermont website:
        http://labor.vermont.gov/Businesses/UnemploymentTaxBenefitInformation/DismissingandEmployeeforMisconduct/tabid/1614/Default.aspx

        A single missed shift, mitigated by the employer’s own failures in scheduling and communication, doesn’t seem likely to be considered substantial misconduct.

        If #6 has filed for unemployment and was denied they need to look at the paperwork ASAP and figure out appeal procedures. Usually you have a limited timeframe to file…between 7-30 days in most states. Sometimes from the date the letter was MAILED and not received. So file an appeal as soon as possible. You will have a chance later to submit evidence in more detail, and have a hearing (probably by telephone). It’s probably also smart to try to write down in detail each problem you had with your shifts before you forget. And make some kind of record of the text messages…photos or whatever you can get.

        I had UI claims that spanned 2 benefit years, two states, and extended benefits and getting all the effective dates for the claims correct required 3 appeals! I won all of them, the hearing officers are fair, but there are some strict requirements on time periods to file an appeal of any decision letter you receive.

    2. Tami

      It really, truly depends on your state. However, most generally speaking, the unemployment laws are interpreted in favor of the employee. Employers have a higher burden, and must dot their I’s and cross their T’s to win unemployment claims. With that being said, please review your appeal rights, and take the matter to hearing if you can. If you missed your appeal window, and can show good cause as to why you missed it, you may still have a shot. Personally, it does not sound like this rose to the level of misconduct by any stretch of the imagination….unless we are not getting the whole story.

      If you do get a shot at your appeal submit as much documentation as you can. If you an supply any proof that you raised the issue in writing, or if you have specific dates, all of that will support your case. Pull together witnesses to corroborate your story. Truly, as a claimant you have the easier job.

      Finally, you can often request a copy of the State file so that you can review what the other party said. Obviously knowing what your employer said can help you prepare for hearing. Read the paperwork you received and call your unemployment office, so see what your options are.

    3. Katie the Fed

      #6 really confuses me – why wouldn’t you just say “oh, I’m actually scheduled for leave tomorrow. Do you want me to go to that location the day after?”

      1. Nikki

        That’s exactly what I was thinking. If my boss said that to me I’d have said, well I’m scheduled off that day….not just not show up!
        Especially knowing my boss was a hot mess…

        1. Victoria HR

          And especially since the communication was all through text. No-brainer to show the text wherein you reminded her that you had the day off, and she didn’t respond.

  2. Maria

    #6 – well, if you contest your unemployment, usually that means that there’s a phone interview between yourself, the company, and UI. If the company misses the interview, you automatically get the benefits.. so, seeing that your manager can’t get scheduling in order, maybe she will miss the unemployment office telephone call!

    1. Long Time Admin

      Yup, that happened to me. My former psycho boss refused to talk the UI lady, so she ruled in my favor.

  3. Noah

    #4 – The fun of call center work. In general, call center supervisors/managers are usually promoted with little training and feel the only way to manage employees is with strict, unbending rules. I’ve worked in one and it sucked. It seemed like management was always playing “wack-a-mole” by creating new rules to cover every situation instead of actually removing poor performers directly.

    OSHA doesn’t regulate breaks, so they would say as long as your employer provides adequate facilities and reasonable access they can place restrictions on restroom use. They would probably refer you to the Dept. of Labor for breaktime or vacation docking questions.

    1. Anonymous

      #4 a friend worked in a call centre as a student where her excessive use of the bathroom was noted, 3times over an 8hr+ shift. After suffering repeated UTIs from not drinking and urinating her doctor gave her a note recommending sipping a volume of water throughout the day and urinating frequently. It gave her a medical reason to use the facilities a reasonable number of times per day and the ability to drink water without comments on how if she didn’t do that she would be more productive.

      1. Anonicorn

        Three trips to the bathroom in 8 hours was excessive to them? Good grief! I’m glad your friend found a way around that.

    2. LPBB

      I used to work in a call center and know exactly what you mean. By the time I left, a particular young man had been promoted to Asst Mngr. I had trained him, so he mostly left me alone, but he was determined to make an immediate impact and began enforcing crazy rules that had never been enforced before. He ruffled *a lot* of feathers.

      He’s been manager of the call center for several years now and I’ve heard through the grapevine that he is super hard-core and will fire you at the drop of a hat. When you talk to him, he seems like a nice easy going guy, but appearances are very deceiving.

      1. Peaches

        #4- On a slightly more positive note (though it won’t help you immediately) I’ve never been accused of job hopping when listing short stints at call centre on my resume. I only listed them to prove I wasn’t unemployed. I’ve been an international student many times and sometimes the best job you can find quickly to pay the bills is at a call centre. I think most employers realize that it’s a stop gap measure for some people just to get the bills paid. I actually had one interviewer who complimented me on my work ethic and willingness to do what needed to be done. He said he’d worked at a call centre when he was younger for the same reason. So, don’t be afraid to start looking and leave before X amount of time.

      2. Steve G

        One of my friends has made a career of managing call centers. Whenever we meet we talk alot about our jobs and inevitably end up arguing (in a friendly way) over how he handles the call center. Wherever he’s managed, it seems like all they do is push more and more responsibility gets pushed on the CSRs and the managers take credit for it. And they always play down whatever responsibilities they give the CSRs so they don’t have to pay more. From what he tells me the call reps do, you’d think they’d earn $40K-$60K, not the measly $13-$17/hr they get.

    3. Elizabeth West

      I am so trying to avoid working in a call center. I wouldn’t last a week. I’d rather go back to food service, seriously. Plus I have a teeny tiny bladder, and I would have to go like 20 times a day. Not happening.

  4. jesicka309

    OP#1 – a lot of places will do their hiring now, but push your start date until ‘after’ the New Year shut down. It’s a lot easier to set up a training schedule if you don’t have random days off, particularly if your training procedures are pretty rigid (Day1: Admin and orientation, Day 2: Calls and computers etc.).
    That being said, I don’t think you have to worry about it at this point, unless the job is starting ASAP – even with two week notice, you wouldn’t start until after the new year by now, unless you got a job between asking the question and getting published. :)

    1. Anon

      Be careful of a start date after January 2nd…if any benefits are calculated by calendar years, you want to be sure you get in there on time. The same is true for health insurance: it often starts the first of the month following 30 days of employment.

      1. Coelura

        Health insurance is a really, really great point. I started my current job 5 years ago on 12/31, although it was a company holiday as was 1/1 – so I didn’t actually go into the office until 1/2. But I wanted my health insurance to start 1/1, not 2/1.

        1. AgilePhalanges

          I’ve had an employer be nice enough to do that in the past–first day of work was a Monday, 12/3, but they entered my start date as 12/1 in the system so my benefits started a month earlier than they would have if the start date was 12/1. Can’t hurt to ask, if you’re starting 1/2 (0r even 1/3 if they want some time to settle in themselves on the first day back before beginning training of the new person).

    2. Angela

      #1 – If you start in Dec, will you get additional vacation days on January 1? At my employer, everyone gets 4 personal days if they are on the payroll as of Jan 1. If you start Jan 2 or later, you only get 3. Could be a small incentive to go ahead and start in December.

    3. jp Mpls

      #1 – At my current company – vacation days are calculated based on YEAR of hire, so a person who starts on 12/31 gets their ‘bumps’ a year sooner than someone hired after the new year as they move up the schedule.

      1st of the month after 1 month of service is a common benefits start date. So 12/31 hires start benefits on 2/1 and 1/2 hires start benefits on 3/1.

      It pays to know these details. I was able to negotiate a 12/31 start date.

      1. Jamie

        This is really good information to know. I’ve always worked at places were vacation was accrued per anniversary date and accrued incrementally per pay period, so this is something I never would have thought of.

        1. Natalie

          Now all I can think of is Archer – Kreiger realizing he hasn’t used all the money in his flex account.

          “Are you date of employment or calendar year?”

          “CALENDAR YEEEAAAR!”

      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        While that’s great for the December starters, it seems like a really good way for the company to sow discontent with the people who started in January and get less vacation than someone who, for all intents and purposes, started basically at the same time. I would think the signal would be that it’s a rigid place to work.

        1. Judy

          The three places I’ve worked all had the policy that the vacation amount was based on years of service, and the definition was based on the January 1 after your Xth anniversary date. So if you joined on Dec 31, you would get the additional week of vacation a year earlier each transition. It’s no different than when a child is born on July 31 they start school a year earlier than a child born on Aug 1. I have a cousin 3 weeks older than me, and she started school a year before me.

    4. Liz

      A mid-December start date might help you get a bonus…. next year. At an old job of mine, you got a Christmas bonus if you had been working there 1+ years as of December 25th. So in this case, if you started Dec 26th, you would not get a 2013 bonus, but if you started Dec 23rd you would. Of course this was something people learned after they started. Bonuses were really tiny anyway. $30 – taxes = $17 and change.

  5. Anon

    #5 Something is really weird to me about the fact that the recruiter said the OP was her first choice. I am really shocked that someone would admit to the internal conflict like that. This whole thing of meeting for lunch sounds fishy, for that reason, unless the recruiter has another position in mind. But still, I would think that an e-mail or phone call would be sufficient. It’s like the recruiter is trying to tell her something off the record.

    1. Another Day, Another Dollar

      I had the same thought that the recruiter’s assistant wanted to keep the conversation off the record, maybe because of the internal disagreement. It sounds like feedback from the hiring manager might be more helpful since they made the decision…

      1. Jamie

        My first thought as well – that there’s some feedback she doesn’t want on record. I’d go just to see if that’s the case.

        1. Pam

          This – I will often offer to meet with people or ask them to call me if they want specific feedback on the company I previously worked for. I don’t need to write my thoughts in an e-mail where it can easily be printed/forwarded.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      The thing that’s weird to me about it is that the recruiter shouldn’t have a “first choice,” because they shouldn’t be implying that they know better than the hiring manager does — who by definition, as the person managing the position being hired, is going to know what she wants better than the recruiter does. But maybe they didn’t word it quite that way. (And admittedly, I despise it when recruiters act like they know better than the manager overseeing the position.)

      1. Anonadog

        Perhaps the recruiter works for a third-party company that does placements? They often get paid commissions, and only when a candidate they place gets hired. She might be trying to make him more “hireable” for the next company and reassure him that she’s a good recruiter to work with.

        1. H.R. Pufnstuf

          As a recruiter who has also been a hiring manager I can honestly say I’ve been surprised by some poor managers poor choices.

      2. Joey

        I agree the recruiter shouldn’t have said it, but are you saying you don’t like recruiters to name a top choice at all? I have no problem with it as long as they’re basing it on who they believe my first choice would be.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          I don’t have a problem with them telling the hiring manager who they think the top candidate is, just with them stubbornly sticking to that opinion once the hiring manager disagrees — let alone saying it to the candidate!

  6. Another Day, Another Dollar

    On #3, another option is to bring in something for the whole group to nosh on, but truly, AAM is right on the money. No present necessary.

  7. Anonymous

    OP#1: I know at my last company they went by calendar year, so even if your start date was 12/31, it counted as “1 year” for 401K vesting, earning extra vacation time, etc. Not every company does that, but of you have a choice, I’d go for the Dec start date just in case.

    OP#5: I think the question about thanking the hiring manager directly is bc of working with a recruiter. I was working with a recruiter during my last job search, and she sometimes would encourage me to send my thanks directly, and other times would send them for me–it would depend on her working relationship with the companies and whether or not her role was to cut down the amount of follow up for the hiring manager or just prescreen candidates.

    1. Shay

      Yeah, that’s exactly my issue. The senior recruiter has at times advised reaching out to the hiring manager but also let me know that she’d hand off correspondence. I’m not used to working with recruiters; I typically only work with hiring managers for jobs I apply for. – OP # 5

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Is it an internal or external recruiter? I’d assumed internal, and if it is, send the thank-you note straight to the hiring manager. If it’s external, ask the recruiter first.

        1. Anon

          OH. If it’s an external recruiter, then that changes the whole thing about getting feedback. OF COURSE the external recruiter wants to give you feedback; she gets paid if you get the job.

            1. Yuu

              I think it can’t hurt to meet with the recruiter assistant to further your relationship with the company for next time, but it sounds like maybe this person has “loose lips” so perhaps to try to be as diplomatic as you can.

  8. Anonymous

    #1- When interviewers ask you when you can start, they aren’t asking for you to name a date…. they are asking you to name a time frame (immediately, two weeks, 4 weeks, etc.). Most will assume you will want to give notice to your employer, etc., so that is what they are asking for…. they aren’t expecting you to say “December 17 would be good for me.” Thus, you shouldn’t worry about when would be a good time to start– if they think mid-December is a bad time for them to train you, etc., they’ll say how about Jan 1, etc.

  9. Victoria HR

    #1 – I started my current job on Dec 3rd. On Dec 4th they had their annual rah-rah meeting where they handed out bonus checks. I stood off to the side because obviously I didn’t expect one. To my surprise, the HR gal later came over and gave me my bonus check for $50. That’s just how awesome of a company it is. Smaller private companites FTW!

    1. Jamie

      That was a really nice gesture. For a minimal (to the company) $50 they generated a whole lot of good will in a brand new employee.

      That is really nice – and something I could see mine doing as well just because they are inclusive that way. Definitely private SMBs FTW!

      1. DeAnna

        I agree! I had only been at my place for 2.5 months, but I got the same $100 bill in my Christmas card from the CEO as the folks who had been here a lot longer.

        1. AgilePhalanges

          Wow, those are nice gestures. At our company, bonuses are for the fiscal year (and are usually tied to the company’s performance, i.e. profits). The FY ends 10/31, and bonuses are handed out in mid-December (after the audit and the books are completely finalized, but it does happen to coincide nicely with they typical “year-end bonus” type schedule). Since it’s tied to the fiscal year, however, and is pro-rated for people who started within that year, someone who started on 11/1 wouldn’t get a bonus, though they were working for the intervening six weeks. I’m not saying our system isn’t “fair,” but I would be as shocked as Victoria HR and DeAnna were, if I switched from this company to one of those right at bonus time.

    2. esra

      That was really nice of them! I worked for a company that had a contract with a giant multinational. Our whole team, with the exception of me and one other fellow, worked fulltime for this company. Unfortunately for me and the guy, they decided to do hiring through a firm when we were hired and refused to buy us out despite us both having worked there for years.

      Anyway, my last Christmas party there, they had a speech, told everyone they appreciated us all so much they wanted to give a little gift, turned off the music, turned up the lights send proceeded to hand out 75+ cheques to everyone but me and this guy. We just sat there as they fumbled through handing out everyone’s envelope to find we weren’t getting one. Seriously so awkward. Our workmates at the table felt awkward and we felt totally embarrassed and undervalued.

      Icing on the cake: the coworkers who did get cheques found out some got 50, while others got 100. So everyone eended up feeling like crap.

  10. Anonymous

    Contest the unemployment determination, they’ll make you appear to explain, and then you’ll get unemployment… believe me. What you did is nothing compared to what I see constantly, and most people we let go get unemployment.

  11. Coelura

    On the whole question of giving a manager a gift – please don’t. I ask my employees not to give me a gift every year, and every year they get together and give me a gift. And since all of my people are remote telecommuters in two different countries, they go to a great deal of trouble to collect the money and send the gift. I’d prefer them to spend the same amount of time collecting comments and sending them – or just a really cool e-card from each of them. Its just so weird to get a gift from employees. It would be even weirder to get one from an intern, particularly if the intern was unpaid. I’d feel bad.

    1. Victoria HR

      How do you feel about homemade gifts? I make soap at home and sell it at craft fairs, and so I have nice professional looking packages but everyone knows that I make it at home. I do like to give it as gifts at work.

      1. Jamie

        The problem is for a lot of people it incurs an obligation – even in this instance where it’s something you enjoy and want to give, it puts the boss/co-workers in the spot of wondering how to reciprocate and for the boss, if she does for you does she need to do for everyone because people might not know it’s reciprocal – and that’s how these things start where you end up dropping money on gifts out of obligation.

        IMO anything besides baked goods for the office or team, left out to share at work, makes me uncomfortable.

        1. Victoria HR

          Hmm maybe I will just leave a basket of soaps out with a note “please take one – Happy Holidays!” :)

          1. Jamie

            Oh – I think that would be absolutely lovely!

            And I’m jealous – because specialty soaps along with lotions and bath soaps are my favorite gifts. (Note to self to start dropping hints at home as the kids are shopping this weekend.)

              1. Jamie

                Are you on the linkedin group? If so can you send me the link through there? I have presents to buy and I’d love to see what you have.

          2. Coelura

            That would be an awesome idea!! And I’m jealous right along with Jamie – I’d love such a gift!

            My problem is that my employees get together and get me a $200 Visa card every year. Although that is only roughly $12 per person, I don’t feel comfortable with it.

            Part of the discomfort is that this gift is given right before I have to make bonus & merit increase decisions – like a week or so before those decisions. Its very bad timing for this type of gift.

            1. Joey

              Turn it down. They feel obligated and shouldn’t. If they refuse to take it back spend it on them and tell them what you’re doing.

              1. Coelura

                My problem is that they are getting a Visa gift card, which isn’t returnable. And I can’t spend it on them very easily because they are located in many different states & in two countries.

                I have told them not to get me a gift, but I haven’t made a really big deal out it. I have just told them it is really not necessary. If they do it again this year (3rd year), then I’ll tell them in January thank you & ask them to please don’t do it in 2013!

                1. Joey

                  You could donate it to a family or organization in need. I have teams that go shopping and buy presents for less fortunate kids instead of gift giving.

                2. Jamie

                  You could donate it to a family or organization in need. I have teams that go shopping and buy presents for less fortunate kids instead of gift giving.

                  That’s a pretty good idea. I dropped a gift card in a Toys for Tots box once because I was mad I had to go to the Holiday party…but to donate it to one of those angel trees, Toys for Tots, a food bank, or something else to help underprivileged families this time of year and then tell your team what you did with it…then inform them of the new policy to never do this again.

                  I like that idea a lot.

                3. Zahra

                  You should make a note in your agenda to talk about it again in early November. If you only tell them in January, they’ll have forgotten by the time December rolls around. Also give them suggestions for things to send you instead. Even a real card mailed to you from each office could be nice, because you could display them and/or scan (and email) them for others to see.

                  Also, you could decide to give the Visa card to your favorite charity, couldn’t you? Many charities taking care of poorer people are doing fund drives in December to help with the holidays.

            2. Jamie

              Part of the discomfort is that this gift is given right before I have to make bonus & merit increase decisions – like a week or so before those decisions. Its very bad timing for this type of gift.

              Right there is a perfect reason to have a policy in place. Of course no reasonable manager would factor this in, but we all know there are shady people out there who would use this opportunity to shake down their staff. A policy against removes even the appearance of impropriety.

  12. Minous

    #2 I used to work with someone like this. This person was in a higher level than most of the staff and felt that the staff was there to listen to her talk about her life. She saw us as counsellors.

    I was with her once when we were supposed to be discussing the set-up of the shop as an introduction to a new hire. She spent over an hour talking about her life starting around 30 years prior. The highlight was all of the problems she had experienced with her ex-husband. At the end she just sighed in satisfaction and summarized to the effect that it was great that this person was going to work in the shop and if there were any questions to just ask.

    I was so mortified while this was going on that I took out my pen and drew up an org chart and summarized the lines of business and at the end gave the summary to the new hire and said just ask me if you need anything and then checked every couple of days for a while.

    This was her style. She would dump her work on to someone and then spend another 20 minutes talking about her life; including private washroom stuff (ahhhh scream!!!).

    If someone said they couldn’t listen because they had to do the work, she would feel slighted and then attempt to retaliate by telling lies to management about how the person was doing something wrong.

    I agree that it seems to be a bad sign if this person would be the direct report.

  13. Jamie

    That it is costing them too much money, so instead, if we take unauthorized breaks for whatever reason (getting a glass of water, stretching your legs, using the bathroom, possibly smoking, or taking a personal call) the time is docked from our accrued vacation time.

    It seems to me the administrative costs in this (tracking the time and then processing it through vacation accruals) would be more prohibitive than allowing adults to go to the bathroom when they see fit.

    If you have someone abusing any system then address that person – but these draconian policies are such overkill. I cannot even imagine the morale in a place like this.

    I’ll tell you that if my boss started policing how often I need to use the bathroom if I had any other options in the world I’d start pursuing them. It’s just so degrading.

    1. Heather

      My guess is that the goal is to reduce the amount of vacation time their employees have while still being able to tell new hires “oh, we offer X weeks paid vacation.” Or maybe I’m giving them too much credit for being strategic (in an evil way) and they’re just control freaks who couldn’t manage their way out of a cardboard box.

      Either way, I can’t wait until the economy picks up again and there’s a mass exodus from places like this.

      1. Kimberlee, Esq.

        The thing is, many (if not most) call centers contract with other companies, so in the eyes of those companies, they can pay this call center $X and get 1000 calls, or they could pay this other call center (with draconian break policies and time tracking to the minute) the same amount for 1,250 calls. It’s all about having the best metrics to show prospective clients. And those clients do not care in the least how happy those employees are.

        And given that call center work is generally pretty shitty (I’ve known like 2 people my whole life that enjoyed it to any degree), I actually doubt that turnover has any appreciable effect on the results for those companies, and that’s the only reason you would do things like offer more breaks, more vacation time, etc.

        Might get better when the economy picks up… but I doubt it. In my hometown, the call centers are actually the good gig; for the level of education and experience needed, they pay the best wages in town.

    2. Kelly L.

      That’s the same reason I quit my one call center job–bathrooms. We got lectured if they thought we went to the bathroom too much. (Of course we went to the bathroom too much. We all drank fluids constantly to keep our throats from getting raw from talking on the phone for umpty-odd hours straight.)

      The bathrooms were shared with a coffee shop and were kept locked, and at one point when a key went missing, they threatened to just not let us ever use the bathroom rather than have another key cut, and we were also lectured not to borrow the coffee shop’s key to address the problem. (This didn’t actually happen, and I wonder if someone pointed out the potential OSHA violation.)

      But the loo-policing was so dehumanizing and infantilizing that it was the last straw with me.

      1. Jamie

        In these places are there exceptions for those with doctor’s notes? Because I would think this policy, as horrible as it is for everyone, has the added element of forcing pregnant women to disclose before they want to.

        Frequency of urination increases long before a woman is showing – it’s often the first symptom even before the test comes back positive. Decreasing fluid intake would be the last thing a woman should do in that event.

        Also people with diabetes, IBS, and I’m sure there are a host of other issues where if the only symptom that affects work is how often you need to use the bathroom you should be able to do that and maintain privacy. Not to mention some times of the month where women need to use the bathroom more frequently anyway – do you have to disclose your cycles to your boss as well and somehow prove up you used a tampon while you were afk for 5 minutes?

        I don’t like that they monitor the getting up to stretch thing, because sometimes a minute or two to do that can really reboot the brain…and the smoking thing – IMO people shouldn’t take extra time to do that anyway so that’s an entirely different issue – but this bathroom thing is just an invasion of privacy on so many levels.

        1. Kelly L.

          That I don’t know. unfortunately. I wasn’t there for long and didn’t fall under those categories myself during my time there, and I didn’t take note at the time of how others dealt with it.

          1. Jamie

            I was curious about the OSHA standard and googled it – found this interesting bit of horror:

            http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=INTERPRETATIONS&p_id=25304

            It’s about restroom access in call centers:

            Would OSHA deem it a violation if the employer instead of docking pay imposed an admission fee on the use of toilets during non-scheduled breaks and the fee was calibrated to equal the employee’s wage for the number of minutes she was in the bathroom?

            I’m just speechless. In which circle of hell are these little policy gems dreamed up?

            And OSHA only deals with the facilities being available – the other stuff gets into labor relations which OSHA does not regulate.

        2. Jenn

          It was common for pregnant women at my call center to bring buckets with them to work so if they needed to vomit, they could do it at their desk instead of being written up for running to the bathroom.

          I hated that place.

  14. Brandy

    I definitely feel like the OP in letter #6 has a reasonable chance to appeal the unemployment decision. Is there any chance you have an email confirmation of that being your day off? If so that would definitely put you through. If not, as another commenter stated, you would more than likely be scheduled for a meeting with someone from the company and the unemployment rep. That’s when you would have a chance to tell your side of the events and about the inconsistencies in scheduling, as well as the MANY times you were sent wrong and told wrong so it was easy for you to misinterpret the situation, not out of malice but out of a severe lack of organization on you manager’s part.

    That being said, I definitely agree with another commenter that you should have confirmed with your manager that in fact the next day was an approved day off but that you would be glad to go to whatever location was needed on your next scheduled day. That’s just smart and covering your butt, which you can NEVER do enough. Good luck!

  15. AP

    For #5 – sometimes when you REALLY want to hire someone and can’t for whatever reason (overruled by CEO who insists on hiring his clueless best friend, to use an example from my own life) there’s such a feeling of letdown and disappointment, especially after you’ve gone through the whole recruitment process, that you need some sort of post-mortem closure. Maybe thats what’s going on here? It’s almost like a post-break-up brunch.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Yeah, I just don’t think recruiters should have that strong an opinion — the hiring manager is the person hiring and the person who will be working with and managing the person doing the work, and it just doesn’t make sense to me when recruiters feel like they know better than the hiring manager. But I might be reading something into it that isn’t there, particularly since this is a pet peeve of mine.

  16. Anonicorn

    #4 – I wonder if a Pee-In-Your-Seat initiative would make them change their minds about restroom breaks. :p

  17. Just a Reader

    RUN from the interviewer in #2. I worked for someone like this and it was awful. He also didn’t recognize social cues and would dominate meetings with clients by running his mouth about himself. It was mortifying and unprofessional.

    He would also find ways to ding us individually if we didn’t listen with rapt attention. I was penalized once for being dismissive when I didn’t respond enthusiastically to a story he told.

  18. JC

    #2 – In my previous job as an AA, I wish I had picked up on several red flags during the interview process. What you desccribed was one of them. The time I spent with my prospective boss was essentially her gabbing on and on about her stressful life. I had little room to speak or get an idea of what the job would be like. She seemed pretty well-balanced, however, despite her personal and professional stresses, as if she was taking it all in stride. But something threw me off about her anyway. After I was hired, I realized what a complete mess of a manager she was. She lacked organization, time management, and an ability to effectively lead. She was so wrapped up with what she needed to do next she couldn’t keep up with the needs of her team or projects. I was usually behind her with a dust pan trying to pick up what had fallen behind. It was incredibly stressful and distracting to have her burst into my office all the time (or over the phone) exasperated by how overwhelmed she was.

    It doesn’t seem like your prospective boss came across stressed out and a bit nutty, but from the relationship with my old boss, it was mainly her talking and me awkwardly listening the entire time. It was difficult to communicate ideas when she wouldn’t let me get a word in edge-wise, and heaven forbid if you disagreed with her! It wasn’t an effective manager-assistant relationship. This may be your dream job, but if the relationship with your boss is an awkward and struggling one, you won’t be happy there. Listen to your gut (I wish I had!) and good luck!

  19. Shay

    Hi All,

    I’m the OP for #5. I feel like the recruiter is going to offer vague feedback as a means of getting me to come out to lunch. She’s been mentioning us having lunch together since the day I interviewed and
    I get an odd vibe from her, like her interest isn’t totally professional. She asked me if I was a Christian the day I interviewed and I felt like I was being quizzed for romantic purposes but I didn’t tell her boss, the senior recruiter, for fear of losing my chance with the company. We’re both women so I starred mentioning my fiance as a way to kind of get her to ease up. The thing about her is that she’s professional at times and then ubber unprofessional. I just want a connection to the company but I feel uncomfortable going to lunch with her due to the date vibes.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Ooooh, that changes things. The religion question alone makes her behavior suspect. I might tell her that you’d love to speak with her but that your schedule makes it hard to do lunch, and that ask if you could speak by phone instead, reiterating that you’d really appreciate her feedback (so that it’s clear that’s where your focus is).

      1. Shay

        Thanks Alison, will do. She’s been pretty persistent about meeting up and making it clear that she’ll work around my availability, also weird. Going to circle back to her with what you’ve suggested, later today.

          1. Victoria HR

            Or you can email her that info and copy the Senior Recruiter on it. That way her boss is in the loop that she’s trying this.

        1. Jamie

          I don’t like when people cross boundaries in the workplace, but I think it’s even worse when it’s people in a position to help people find jobs using their position/information for their own purposes…if that’s what this turns out to be.

          It can range from the skeezy to the truly predatory and looking for work is hard enough without that.

          I would love to see an update, too, when you have one.

    2. twentymilehike

      I get an odd vibe from her, like her interest isn’t totally professional. She asked me if I was a Christian the day I interviewed

      Personally, I think she’s going to preach to you. I used to belong to a “high pressure” religious group, often referred to as a cult. We went about our daily business with the number one priority of trying to get people to meet us for lunch or dinner and then start in on a pre-planned serious of bible studies that were to end up with us proudly baptising the person and then moving them into a shared apartment with other members. I can recall many bible studies ending with people telling us they were upset that we weren’t clear about our intentions and assumed we were just meeting for a meal. Colleges hand out pamphlets warning new students about these people. I’m not proud of my involvement in anyway, and it’s taken me a long time to “recover.” I wouldn’t go if it were me, or if you are really curious, try just coffee?

      1. twentymilehike

        Oh, plus that explains the “romantic” vibe …. I remember being really young and naive and hugging everyone even it was the first time we met, because that was the standard among the people I was surrounded by daily. Also, asking a lot of personal questions, because that’s how you know if a person is a “sinner!” Eeek!

    3. some1

      If she asked you if you were a Christian in that context, I’d be more inclined to think she wants to go to lunch to proselytize as opposed to starting something romantic. Which would be even more inappropriate.

  20. Jamie

    So you’ve got to make a calculation about whether you want the benefits of leaving more than you want the more certain stability of where you are.

    QFT from Alison’s answer. I work in the private sector and my husband for the government (law enforcement) so I see up close and personal that there are definitely pros and cons.

    He’s got job security, great benefits, a pension plan…and no one is going sell the Sheriff’s Dept nor will they go out of business.

    On the other hand, he only gets raises per union negotiations and promotion is a very linear path and it’s not fluid. He can’t just see an interesting project someone is working on and get involved in that for a new challenge. I can. I will never know that kind of stability which comes from knowing you have a job till retirement for sure, but I really like being able to control my own career and that my raises and advancement are based on merit and my own hard work and not that of a third party negotiator.

    It just really depends which is more appealing to you.

    1. Blanziflor

      To what extent is that willingness to take risks influenced by the stability of your husband’s position? IIRC, you’ve previously said here that you don’t care about a company’s health plan – presumably for this reason?

      1. Jamie

        Oh there’s no question that there is a lot of freedom in not caring about benefits. That’s a big consideration for most people when accepting a position and one point of contention not in play for me.

        1. Jamie

          Oh and to clarify, I’ve said I don’t care about the health plan for me. If I were in a role which decided which health plans were offered (which I’m not) I would certainly want the best possible plan in place for employees. I’ve seen what illness can do to finances even with good insurance when my mom battled cancer, I think providing excellent coverage speaks well of a company and it should be a priority.

  21. Ellie D.

    OP #2 – I had a similar experience, and it was definitely a bad sign! I sat through a phone interview very similar to the one you just described (I was asked 2-3 brief questions, and then listened to her talk about herself and her career path for 15 minutes), but decided to attend the in-person interview anyway since I needed to relocate for personal reasons and the job was just outside my target city. The second interview was more of the same – I heard all about the hiring managers hobbies, interests, family etc. before she finally announced “By the way, I just want to make sure you aren’t looking for a job with opportunity for growth. Our company structure only allows for one manager in this department. I am the manager and I don’t plan on leaving any time soon, so theres zero opportunity for advancement.”

  22. Ellie H.

    I asked a similar question to #2 here – mine was #7: https://www.askamanager.org/2012/04/wee-answer-wednesday-7-short-answers-to-7-short-questions-4.html My interview was only 20 minutes, though, and it was for a relatively lower-skill receptionist position, so this situation seems much weirder! I can sort of see how some people would value the “just talking” interview (that was more of my approach to college admissions interviews) but obviously only if both people talk and the interviewee talks more.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Even then, for a job it’s a really risky approach to hiring. Getting a feel for someone’s personality and how they interact and fit with the culture is important, but you’ve got to focus most of your time on probing how they’ll do the work. Otherwise you could end up with a lovely employee who gets along perfectly with everyone but doesn’t get you the results you want.

  23. ooloncoluphid

    #4

    Get out as soon as possible. If this is their idea of a good way to save money, they’re doomed as a company. Before you leave, you should organize a mass walk-out to protest this sort of stupidity.

  24. Cindy

    Just to offer a different perspective on question #2–I had an interview like this. Like you, I was already a known quality in the office, although I didn’t know the interviewers. I got the sense that they liked what they’d heard about me and just wanted to explain the position to me and have me say yes. It was very odd, but the job did sound great, so I took it.
    My manager did end up being a massive overtalker/oversharer, but she was actually a good manager other than that and I really enjoyed the work. The oversharing seemed more like a compulsion or tic than just cluelessness–anyway that was what I told myself in order to feel compassionate instead of annoyed at her, since she clearly couldn’t control it.

  25. Kou

    #2 Most of the comments on this one are negative, so I’d like to share a really positive experience I had after a very similar interview. Same deal for me– it was a dream job and I’d practiced very hard for a typical interview. Then I got in and we just chatted, with him doing almost all the talking. Some of it was personal, most of it was him explaining the organization and the position. At the end I was kind of confused, asked if there was more he needed to know about me, and he said no. Then he told me he already thought I was fully qualified, so what he was looking for was fit (hence the chatting) and he also wanted to make sure I fully understood the org and the position so I could tell if I liked the fit myself.

    I left VERY uncomfortable because I had no idea how well I had performed. Two more interviews later I was hired, and I love it here and he is a fabulous manager. Other people in the organization that I’ve met have looked excited when they found out he was my manager and told me he’s great, and he really is. And everyone else in this department is similarly lovely, so the fit really was perfect.

    So I guess trust your gut on this one. Despite the fact that I was uncomfortable not knowing how I did, I never got a weird feeling from him as a person (like the people above have mentioned), just with the structure of the interview. It was unusual, but not inappropriate. And it was actually helpful to me because I had a very clear picture of what I was getting into well before I got here.

  26. Jenny

    #7 – My company was recently sold, and a few months prior to the sale they pretty much put the kibosh on hiring new positions. I’d proceed with caution and do your own research though. It’s possible the hospital isn’t ripe for sale YET but they are trying to increase it’s value based on the work force.

  27. Anony

    Re: 7. Possible instability in a prospective company

    I work in the healthcare industry too and from my experience with hospitals/hc facilities going through acquisitions, etc, it’s always a bad thing especially if you are in upper management.

    From what I’ve seen, I know someone that worked under Hospital A and few months later, Hospital B takes over. You are generally in good-standing for about 1 yr under Hospital B and after that, you are done. After an acquisition, the new company wants to turn the hospital into their culture and mission which usually means getting rid of whoever was hired under the old one. Seen it in hospitals and retirement homes especially.

    1. Blanziflor

      I take it that I’d be grossly naive to assume that a hospital’s mission would be some variant of “healing the sick?”

      1. Anony

        I should have been a bit more clear. My description was made on the administration, I don’t have much experience with the clinical side.

  28. byR0n

    Ugh. I once worked at a company that threatened to put electronic locks on the bathroom doors so that we’d have to use badges and they could track the time.

    This is the same gaggle of idiots who put a large board in the breakroom with our new uniforms, listing our pant/shirt/belt sizes for all to see, then when there were complaints told people that they needed to get “thick skinned” and lose weight if they were embarassed.

  29. Melissa

    Hi, Everyone! (I’m the OP for #2)
    Sorry it’s taken me so long to thank everyone on here for your wisdom… been moving all week. Ugh!

    Well I have an update: the recruiter contacted me saying I’ve made it to the second in-person interview. I’ve been thinking a lot about all this, and it appears there are two possibilities. I will better be able to judge the situation once I interview in person:
    1. She has already spoken with mutual colleagues and knows my capabilities and was just testing me on “fit” and the ability to socialize normally. (This is a senior consulting position, so I can understand how chatting would be appropriate to judge how well I would interact with clients.) OR
    2. She is completely self-absorbed and would be terrible to interact with. If this is the case, the position is 80% travel, so I wouldn’t be around her (physically) that often. However, it would definitely prove difficult to have a strained relationship with a manager when I genuinely want to do a great job for this company. I love a challenge, but is it worth my emotional stress?

    Either way, I’ve agreed to the second interview. I suppose all I can do now is wait and see how it goes. Thank you again, Everyone. I truly appreciate the wisdom and advice! =)

  30. Shay

    UPDATE
    Hi All, I’m the OP for #5. I emailed the recruiter and declined the lunch invite but let her know that she could share feedback from the hiring manager with me via phone. She never responded. My guess is that she was dangling a carrot.

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