short answer Saturday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

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

1. Giving employees differently sized gift for the same milestone

We have two employees who have both been in our company for 20 years: one is an Operations Manager and one is an Admin Assistant. We would like to recognize both of them for their service at an upcoming dinner but would really like to give the Operations guy a more elaborate multi-day ski trip (including a flight and accomodations in another province) and something less expensive for the Admin person (a weekend getaway at nice hotel within driving distance). This is because the Operations Manager holds much more responsibility, works many long hours, is in charge of crews of up to 30 people, and is more vital to the company. The Admin Assistant, while performing a necessary role, does not manage people, scales back to part-time hours during our slow season, and is not in a “high-responsibility” position.

Is it reasonable to give different sized gifts for the same milestone and if so, what is a tactful way to present them without offending the Admin Assistant?

I wouldn’t. You’ll essentially be saying, “Joe’s service was more valuable than Jane’s” — which it very well may have been, but it’s not especially kind to announce it like that, and not especially wise when you’re trying to show appreciation for Jane. The risk of Jane feeling slighted is just too high.

If you absolutely must give different sized gifts, definitely don’t do it at the dinner; do it privately. But even then, I’d worry that Jane will find out and feel that you’ve just told her that she’s B-list to Joe’s A-list … which isn’t what you want to convey when you’re trying to do something nice for someone.

2. Boss doesn’t like telecommuting

I am out on maternity leave and will be returning to work next month. Two years ago, another coworker had a baby and my boss allows her to work two days at home and two days in the office. I thought that I would also be allowed to do a similar arrangement (I have been there almost 9 years and she has been there 5), but when I asked he didn’t say yes or no; his response was, “I don’t like Sarah working from home” (yet he continues to let her to do so). What are your thoughts on this?

It’s not unusual that when a manager isn’t thrilled with how Person A’s telecommuting arrangement has gone or is going, they’re hesitant to expand the practice. I’d talk to your boss about his concerns so that you can come up with a proposal that addresses them. (It’s hard to give specific advice without hearing what he doesn’t like about the current arrangement, and it’s also hard for you to respond to him, so find that out first.)

3. Prospective employer told my boss someone at our company is job searching

I recently contacted another employer inquiring about a similar position to the one I’m currently working. I work in marketing and the employer who I was inquiring with harassed me because I would not accept a commission-only position. After an awkward conversation, I declined the job. The next day I was informed by my upset manager that someone had informed the owners and him that an employee from my company (me) had inquired about a job there. I and all my coworkers were then harassed by my manager trying to find out who was on the job hunt. When questioned, I lied and told him it wasn’t me. I feel like my current job is now in jeopardy because I looked for another job. What should I do?

Wow, that employer who contacted your manager was a real jerk. And so is your boss, for that matter. What the hell?

In any case, it doesn’t sound like your manager knows which of you was looking, so I don’t think you need to do anything for now — just move on and hope he drops it.

4. Managing workers fearful of layoffs

My company announced this week that a very large number of historically on-shore roles would be outsourced over the next year or so. A small number of people in this role will get to stay, but uncertainty around job security is obviously running high. While my role is not impacted (yet), I manage some who are. Looking for advice from you and/or your readers on what to say to upset workers fearful of their impending layoff (with unfortunately, a rather vague timeline).

There’s not much you can say that is going to be reassuring in this situation. In fact, I’d argue that you shouldn’t be trying to be reassuring, because you don’t want to lull people into not job-searching when they should be. What you can do, however, is to offer your help to them in finding other roles, offer to be a reference, etc. Ideally, you’d also be able to arm them with a timeline for when information should be available and info about how the layoff decisions will be made, but it sounds like you may not have that.

5. Is my manager allowed to yell at me in front of others?

I’m trying to find out some of my rights at my job. Is my manager allowed to yell and curse at me in front of customers? Is she allowed to discuss my write-ups with other employees who are servers like me? Or send out a picture to all of the staff of it before I have even been shown it? And is she allowed to discuss and plot ways to fire me with other employees and in front of customers?

Yes, she’s legally allowed to do all that, but it’s ridiculous that she is. She sent out a picture of your write-up to other staff members? She sounds deranged. I’d start job-searching, since this isn’t someone you want to work for.

6. Interviewing with someone who would be junior to you if you get the job

I was wondering if you had any tips or advice for interviewing with someone who would be your junior, should you land and accept the job. I have an interview later this week, and I’ll be interviewing with the person who would be my department head, a person who will be slightly above me, and someone who would be my junior and who I would be expected to mentor on occasion. I’m thrilled to be meeting the team I’d be working with, but I’ve never interviewed with someone who would potentially be below me on the food chain before. I assume that the same basic tenets apply, but are there any pitfalls or common mistakes I should watch out for?

Express a sincere interest in what they think is needed in the position, and treat them the exact same way you treat the other interviewers — don’t be condescending or signal that you think their opinion is less important than the others’. Good luck!

7. Writing a resume when you’ve worked for one employer for 25 years

How do I write a resume when I have been at the same company for over 25 years? I have held various levels of employment in the same department during that time, moving up from copywriter to senior print production director in a national advertising agency. I want to relocate to a new town and, while I technically could commute to my present job, I don’t really want to do that. I would like to find another job in the new town.

The key thing is to show how you’ve grown and taken on new responsibilities at the company — ideally you can show that you haven’t been doing the same job for 25 years, but rather than you’ve done multiple jobs in those 25 years, just all at the same company. Additionally, because one concern about people who have been at the same company for such a long time is about how well they’ll be able to adapt to new environments, try to find ways to demonstrate that you’ve been exposed to a range of practices and environments and done well in that context.

{ 85 comments… read them below }

  1. AdAgencyChick

    #1: I agree, please don’t give different gifts to the two of them. Yes, the operations manager has probably done significantly more work over the years than your admin — but that has, I hope, been reflected in the size of their paychecks. I see giving them different gifts in the same category as throwing a lavish holiday party for executives and just having cake and punch in the break room for support staff: sure, you can do it, but it creates a feeling of “they don’t care about the little people” resentment among the support staff. It won’t just be your admin who is upset — anyone else at his/her level could be.

    #6: Good for the hiring company that they’re involving the juniors in the hiring process. I think it really helps junior staff acclimate to a new boss if they had a hand in the selection process, and if you’re hired, you won’t be walking in on your first day knowing nothing about the needs of the people you’re going to be managing. As AAM said, treat them with the same respect you’d accord the hiring manager. I’d recommend asking them what they’d like to learn from a new boss as well as what they liked and disliked about their last boss, for starters. (This is not to say that if you get answers that clearly indicate an attitude problem, that you then have to coddle that attitude problem once you’re their manager, but it can provide cues about how strong your possible direct reports are and what areas you’d need to focus on for their career development once you got started in the role.)

    1. Jessica

      re: #6 My employer always has the support staff interview any of their potential managers when a position is open. On one hand, we rarely feel listened to when we give our feedback, but on the other, we at least get to meet them beforehand, right? ;)

      Honestly, it is good to at least get a feel for a potential boss, even if your feedback isn’t really listened to.

  2. Katie the Fed

    #1 – It really troubles me when people think admin assistants’ contributions are somehow less valuable than anyone else’s. Go without your admin staff for a week and tell me how that works out. A good admin assistant is worth his/her weight in gold and can allow more senior folks to focus on what they need to do instead of mundane tasks. But that doesn’t make their work any less valuable.

    My dad told me when I was young to always, ALWAYS treat the secretaries well. It pays off like nothing else. I am really good to my department’s one right now – I even helped plan a baby shower for her – and she jumps on anything I need and makes my life so much easier.

    #6 The junior person in the room might be in the process of being promoted, or management might think he has great potential. I sat on interview panels when I was more junior – my manager was giving me experience I would need because I was being groomed for management.

    1. Phyllis

      Beat me to it on #1. Every job is important. I work in a school district, and am amazed at the (relatively few, thankfully) people who are downright disdainful about the jobs of our food service staff, bus drivers, and custodians. I’ve always said let them all call in sick one day, we’d certainly notice how important they are to our operations.

      1. Elizabeth West

        Yep. Hate it when people treat me like crap just because I’m the receptionist or something. Food people, even worse. They’re not slaves. I’m always really nice to the concession lady at the ice rink (even though I don’t work there) and today she made me a cup of cocoa after practice but before the ice show, before the concession was open. Yay!

    2. Peaches

      #1- times 100. Don’t look at it from a skill stand point (and really, just because s/he chooses to be an admin may or may not mean that they have skills that could make them qualified for more prestigious roles. 20 years ago, that was a pretty traditional career route for intelligent women from blue collar families.) Look at it from a time standpoint, in terms of how much she saves you and how much she’s dedicated, and things might seem a little different. (I’m also betting it wasn’t her *choice* to go down to part-time hours in the slow season. Usually management makes those decisions.)

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        I will also add, since I just thought of it, that so often admins are treated as the B-group rather than the A-group that treating her as the A-group is likely to be hugely appreciated and engender even more loyalty in her — and also in the rest of your employees who appreciate seeing her treated that way!

    3. Anonymous

      “It really troubles me when people think admin assistants’ contributions are somehow less valuable than anyone else’s”

      It’s nearly universal. Senior staff who manage dozens of others are paid more than administrative assistants. Shocking, right?

      1. Anonymous

        Hmmm. Yep, we are all equally important. That’s why our SVPs make 5x what our lower-level admins makes. It is true that we all contribute to the bottom line, but if you guys really think people managing multimillion dollar businesses can’t figure out how to do admin work…come on. We might all be equal in our value to the Universe, but in business, some poitions are more mission critical.

        That said, the company should do what everyone else does for service awards and let both pick something equivalent from a catalog. If they want to do something beyond, do it as an individual performance award.

        1. Kelly L.

          Of course a CEO can figure out how to do admin work. But would she want to? And could she be as effective in her managerial work if she had to do all her own admin work?

          And as has been said by many, many commenters, her lower status in the company is already reflected in her pay. This is an award for longevity, of which she has just as much as the upper-level employee. At my work the longevity award is the same whether you’re a 20-year custodian or a 20-year vice president. Because it’s just about longevity.

        2. Katie the Fed

          Sure, they can figure out how to do admin work, but then they’re not going to have time for all their high level important whatever.

          The point is the admin staff relieve a huge burden so others can focus on other tasks. Try having the organization function without them. It can’t.

          1. Anonymous

            Sure. But equally valuable, as you implied?

            Broadly speaking value in work is reflected in pay. There are all sorts of weaknesses in that – women tend to be paid less, jobs that are traditionally staffed by women tend to pay less compared to equally difficult jobs, people who are not good at negotiating are paid less.

            But pay is a decent rough proxy for value.

            1. Kelly L.

              We’re using different definitions of the word “value.” It sounds like you mean “how much money the person brings into the company” or “how much the upper management of this company appreciates this work,” while we mean something more like “value as a human being” and/or “usefulness in keeping the business running smoothly from day to day, even in ways that can’t be precisely quantified in the bottom line.” Tune out the word “value” if it helps you understand what we’re saying.

              1. Anonymous

                Don’t use the word “value” and you’d be clearer. First definition in dictionary on my shelf: fair return or equivalent goods, services or money for something exchanged. Second: the monetary worth of something: monetary price.

                Also 4x more is still more. The person getting 4 times more is clearly valued more.

                “I do really value what our admins do”

                I don’t think anyone here is saying admins are not valued. I’m just pointing out that they’re not AS valuable or at least clearly not as valued as someone who manages 20 or 30 other people and is paid more for it. Even if it’s “just” 4 times more, that’s more.

                1. V

                  But the point of this question is whether the OP should (publicly!) give them two gifts that are so clearly unequal (and not only are they unequal, but it’s so obvious – they’re both trips, and one is MUCH less expensive than the other – they could at least try to camoflauge this by getting them 2 different things, yeesh!), not how much the OP should be paying them. These are gifts. They’re being presented at a party. The operations manager, I assume, has a much bigger paycheck (As has been mentioned). Not everything has to remind the admin that she is low on the food chain. Really.

                2. Katie the Fed

                  I think you meant to reply to my post below, not this one (you quoted me).

                  I understand your position on this. I disagree.

                  We’re going to have to agree to disagree on this, as I’m not interested in a debate on semantics.

            2. Katie the Fed

              Well, first off, I really question if value is really reflected in pay, especially when I see CEOs making like 500x what the low-level peons make. I work in an industry where at most the highest paid people would make 4x more than the lowest, which isn’t a huge difference.

              And yeah, we can argue all day about how important an admin’s work is. To me, it’s pretty valuable because it helps me focus on what I need to focus on. Therefore it should be very valuable to the company, because a good admin ultimately saves a LOT of wasted labor, time and money, at more senior ranks.

              This might just be a semantical difference too. I don’t know. But I do really value what our admins do, and I think companies that treat them like second class citizens do so at their own peril.

              1. Anonymous

                This is in response to V who wrote “But the point of this question is whether the OP should (publicly!) give them two gifts that are so clearly unequal ”

                That’s not my point. I’m only commenting on the earlier statement “It really troubles me when people think admin assistants’ contributions are somehow less valuable than anyone else’s. ”

                Which is not true. A senior manager’s contributions are generally more valuable. That’s all I’m saying. Not that admins are not valuable and not that the two people should be given different gifts.

            3. Chaucer

              No, it’s not. What about all the people who are forced to take lower-wage jobs because their positions disappeared, or what about college graduates who make minimum wage because they are struggling to find work in their fields due to a down economy and increased competition?
              And then there’s the case of positions that lead to nowhere. I know people who have worked their butts off with nothing to show for it because their current position has no room for advancement.

          2. Jamie

            I agree with this. Especially an admin who has acquired the kind of institutional knowledge you get after 25 years…but even without the longevity.

            Few things can make me lose respect for someone quicker than when I see them treating the admin staff poorly. One, there is no difference in the value between us as human beings, so common courtesy shouldn’t differ according to title.

            Two, yes salary is dictated in large part by how expensive you would be to replace. IMO that’s fair. It’s a three pronged approach of

            1. How rare is the skill set/how hard and expensive to replace.
            2. how well you negotiate
            3. Your personal performance at that job.

            I think with admins people often forget about #3. Yes, you may well have a pool of several hundred candidates for an admin position and maybe a dozen for a new CFO. But with all those candidates your replacing the general skills but a good admin of 25 years those aren’t e important things he/she is bringing to the table. Your candidates can probably all unjam the copier and learn the phone system…but knowing how the COO wants the budget reports done, how to deftly protect the time of the president by knowing when to take the message and when to grab her out if the ladies room for an urgent matter…those are harder to quantify but should be valued.

  3. Blinx

    #1. While I don’t think that a full-time Admin should be given a different anniversary award than your Ops Mgr, you may be justified in giving her a scaled-down award because she “scales back to part-time hours during our slow season.” Not sure how long your slow season is… 3 months? 6 months? In that respect, I think it’s ok. They’re both getting weekends away (and how nice is that?!). If both were full-time, then, no, the awards should be the same.

    #4 – Impending layoffs. Hmm. I really don’t think there’s anything you can say or do that will make any difference. Be as transparent as you are allowed to be. But know that even if you say “I don’t know anything as of yet” your people will probably not believe you. I worked under those conditions for YEARS before finally being laid off. Rumors running rampant and morale in the toilet. Encourage everyone to complete a profile on LinkedIn, and write solid recommendations for them there. The recs may not make any difference in job hunting, but they will bolster the confidence of the candidate. But as a manager, I don’t think you’d be allowed to do much more than that.

    1. Stacy

      Am I the only one who sees “scales back to part-time hours during our slow season” as an important contribution, and worthy of rewarding as opposed to something that somehow makes the employee worthy of less appreciation? This employee scales back his or her hours and still remains available to the employer for full-time hours as things change, presumably taking a pay cut to do so. Not to mention an Admin Assistant with twenty years of experience and institutional knowledge is very valuable indeed – probably in a million little ways that may not even be noticed BECAUSE said assistant is so good at his or her job.

      1. Twentymilehike

        Scaling back to part time hours is a grat way to frustrate your employees and make them resent you and look for new jobs! My company did that for a few years and finally this year we kept our schedule all year because our boss finally saw how hard is was on us financially. We already got bonuses cut and raises have been on hiatus for a number of years also. If the company can afford these gifts, I think they should definitely be equal. They don’t have to be the exact same thing, but giving the employees something they will equally enjoy will let them both know they are valued.

      2. Maire

        Yeah, I was thinking this as well. I presume that it’s the employer’s decision to scale back the hours in slow season and not the employee’s. So why would the employer think that is a reason to give the admin assistant a lesser gift? They are lucky the admin hasn’t found another job which doesn’t cut their hours in slow season.

        1. Kelly L.

          Yeah, having to scale back hours at particular times of the year can deliver a serious financial blow while still making it difficult to work a second job around it. (Most employers at which she might moonlight won’t want an employee who can only work long hours during the OP’s slow season and who will want to cut back during the OP’s busy season–they will want someone who can work on their company’s schedule.)

      3. Chinook

        You beat me to the point. And excellent admin assistant looks like she isn’t doing much to everyone but the people she is assisting. If she is being noticed day to day, in my experience, she isn’t only doing assisting duties.

        And ditto on trying going a week without support staff. If they aren’t that important, why hire them?

    2. Blinx

      Good points all. I think I was looking at this more of a bonus, which would be different. Anniversary recognitions usually are the same throughout the company. At my last job, we were forwarded a link to a website where we chose our award, based on the number of years. It was then shipped to us. Some managers made a big deal of the recognitions, others were oblivious that we had been there X number of years. A trip, or the monetary equivalent, is very generous!

  4. Construction HR

    #5 Food service is rife with nitwit “managers”, whose only qualification is that they have been there longer than anyone else. GMs are complacent because the employment revolving door is always moving.

  5. Mike C.

    #1. It’s simply asinine that you’d consider giving such a huge discrepancy of gifts. You’re already taking into account the differing responsibilities with pay and benefits, so why do you feel the need to do it here?

    By the way, what was your plan for “tactfully presenting them without offending the Administrative Assistant”?

    The whole point of a milestone award is to recognize that someone has been there through thick and thin at the company. 25 years is an incredibly long time, and to diminish the accomplishments of one over the other just blows my mind.

  6. KP21

    #2
    He will not give a specific reason for not liking he just doesn’t, that was the answer. It just seems he makes accommodations for everyone else with children and now that I have one I being pushed to the side….FYI there are no policies in the employee manual regarding telecommuting.

    1. Mike C.

      Well, labor law isn’t a topic that is commonly taught, and there are lots of folks out there with bad information and are passing it on because they are ignorant or want to take advantage of employees.

      Many folks don’t even know where to start looking. It’s sad really, people should be taught these things.

      1. AgilePhalanges

        Plus I think a lot of people conflate HIPAA and attorney-client privilege and all sorts of things with labor law. Instinctively, it just feels WRONG that a boss can show someone’s write-up documentation to their peers, and in fact there may even be a company HR policy against it. But employment/disciplinary documentation are not given the same protections under the law as medical information and priviliged legal communications, as unfortunate as that is for the OP.

  7. Sdhr

    #2- I suggest that if you wan to show that there won’t be an issue weir your working from home that yo just lay it out as a proposal. We have a group of employees who work from home a couple days a week and their performance varies. Some are more productive and actually work more while some just d their regular hours and some…not s much. You may have to show that your manager and clients will be able to reach you, you’ll have child are for all the hours you work, etc. also, I’ve found that I wended to schedule an in person meeting some people say “o that’s my work from home day I’ll have to call in”. Ther better performers will say “that’s usually my work from home day and I’ll come in for the meeting.”

      1. KP21

        Yes the office manger… i am the only person in the office besides the bookkeeper other than that 90-95% of the time i am alone. thanks for your suggestions.

        1. Anonymous

          I think you answered your own question! If you are one of only a few people “in-office” it’s rather reasonable to not allow telecommuting. There may be other arrangements that can be worked out, but if someone is needed in the office….

          Though I rarely suggest looking for new work, in this case you might benefit from taking a position elsewhere, in a role that can permit working from home.

          1. KP21

            What I meant by that is that I do not have an office crew to “manage” and clients never come in so it doesnt matter if someone is physically there. When I’m on vacation or sick the job is done remotely by the other girl in the office so it baffles me that I wouldn’t be allowed to work remotely but yet if I’m sick and can not come to the office they want me to work from home I guess because its convienent for them.

    1. Anon

      Some concrete ways to do this:

      1) start with a one day/week work from home arrangement and work up from there

      2) lay out a concrete business case…why does it help your EMPLOYER for you to work from home? For me, I convinced my boss by explaining that the type of work I do requires intense focus that I couldn’t always get among the noise of the cubicle farm, so one or two days/week at home meant I was getting more done for her benefit.

      3) Put your proposal in writing: the hours you’ll work, your childcare plans (working from home is NOT childcare), what coverage might be needed in the office, etc.

  8. Sdhr

    #1. This made me cringe. Admittedly, I am sometimes overly sensitive to people of higher “importance” being treated better. I think that no gift for either would be better than what you suggest. Think not only of the admin’s reaction, but of how uncomfortable the Ops person will feel. How awkward! And then you have all those people who will hear about it and be outraged on the admin’s behalf.

    I used to handle service milestone awards. Everyone got the same thing, regardless of rank. In some places it’s a percent of pay bonus, but even though that’s not even, it’s at least a formula that can be viewed as applied uniformly.

    1. Chinook

      And don’t forget to think about the reaction of the people being assisted. They may see how she is rewarded as a reflection of their place in the company because they know her value.

  9. The Other Dawn

    RE: #5
    I had a manager like this at my first job. I worked in a grocery store as a cashier. I had finished training and was running my own register. At that time, we didn’t yet have registers that could scan coupons. They were all keyed by hand, which means you had to remember what the customer purchased, how many, variety, etc. I think I had been there maybe three weeks. It was particularly busy one night so the store manager was bagging for me. I accidentally keyed in a store coupon twice for one item and of course she caught it (I’m assuming she has one eye on me and one eye on the bag). She proceeded to yell at me in front of my customers and everyone within earshot. She asked me did I know how to read, am I stupid, can’t I see that it says ONE per customer, ONE PER CUSTOMER??!! Needless to say I was in tears (I was only 16 afterall) and had to work like that for the rest of my shift, which thankfully was only about an hour. The customers were so nice to me, though. They all commented that she was a nasty witch and shouldn’t be allowed to run a store, etc.

    Unfortunately, it’s not illegal for a manager to act like a d-bag. OP’s boss sounds like a nasty person. She seems to be creating an us vs. them atmosphere and is trying to recruit people to the “us” side. OP, start looking for a job NOW. And once you give your notice, I’d alert her boss or HR as to what has been going on.

    1. kasey

      Waaah! Your boss is a horrid, little person. So sorry. And old boss is still that way I am sure, so there’s that ;) #5, This reminds me of an odd experience. I was once asked in an interview, years ago, for a market research moderator role (I can’t remember the title exactly..) I have a pretty strong background and the interviewer was interested, but had one final question. She was serious, btw; not a test stress type thing. She was kinda quivery even talking about… They had a rather big client who (if I took the role) would: threaten, belittle, try to get physical, get in one’s face, cuss, scream – at me. That’s “just what he does” – and “how would I handle that?” Um, no he won’t. That was just normal client relations for her and that firm, or at least that client.. What?!! I asked would you let anyone talk to your staff that way, and said (knowing I wouldn’t be employed there) if he actually threatened or touched me, well… insert lame-o joke about meeting him in the parking lot. Not kidding.

      1. The Other Dawn

        That client would be fired from the company ASAP! That’s ridiculous to put up with something like that. Maybe it’s a big client, but there’s no amount of money that could justify the amount of time and resources wasted, patience tested, and humiliation suffered at the hands of this client. Wow. Guess it’s a good thing she asked that question. Otherwise you may have taken that job.

  10. Anonymous

    #1 – Agree with everyone that this is a bad idea but will add, if you want to reward them differently, why not give the a bonus of x% of their salary, instead of a trip? If you give them both a 10% bonus, one bonus will be bigger than the other because one makes more, but the approach is equitable. I also think people would prefer $$$$ they can spend rather than a trip.

  11. fposte

    #1, what do you think it would hurt if you gave them both the same thing? I imagine they get differentiated pretty clearly on their pay already, if you think the operative deserves more. But this is about honoring the length of their contribution to the company, and they’ve both contributed the same length. What bad thing will happen if you just give them the same?

  12. Chocolate Teapot

    There is a definite need for tact in the gift presenting isn’t there? I know at a previous job there was a special dinner for employees who had worked for over a number of years (5, 10, 15…). I seem to recall bouquets of flowers as well.

  13. Not So NewReader

    For OP 1- the company is rewarding longevity, period. Not longevity plus responsibility load, plus hours worked etc. No, just longevity.

    Using ten years as an example- ten years is the same for everyone. It is 120 months of commitment to an employer. Most companies have a chart that they follow. A five year person gets a nice pen. A ten year person gets a $200 gift certificate. A fifteen year person gets something of higher value. Their rank in the company does not matter, since we are only talking about the number of years of their lives they have spent with the company.

    Responsibility load is rewarded in the paycheck. Hours worked (for hourly workers) is also in a paycheck.
    Using your example, I would suggest giving them both nice weekend getaways and let it go at that. (Actually, they may prefer the cash equivalent.)

    OP 5- Yeah. And bosses can also fire us in front of everyone else, too. sigh.

    OP 6- Interviewing with a subordinate can be a prime opportunity in so many ways. Think of yourself at past jobs doing this very interview. What types of questions do you have for the potential boss? On the other side of the coin- be sure to ask what the crew needs from you. I am very optimistic that this will help you get a great start at the new job.

  14. Brandy

    #6 – this is so common! I know people don’t do it every single day but really, I have seen it many times. I’ve seen both co-workers and people that may be a direct report. I think it’s great to see their attitude and ask questions such as “what do you like best about this company”. If they’re in on an interview, presumably they would be able to answer that question. Also, I even recently saw an interview for a college instructor where current students were asked to sit in to get an impression from another perspective. Take it as a positive and chance for learning!

    1. jill

      Absolutely. Especially if the person who would report to you is an administrative support person (though likely also true for pretty much anyone who would report to you), it’s very likely that they have some unique insights into the operations of the group or division. As a candidate, it could be so interesting to hear the answer to What would “knocking it out of the park” look like in this role? from an admin or another potential direct report.

  15. Chaucer

    #1 also made me cringe. Yes, your Operations Manager might have more “important” duties and more responsibilities than your Admin Assistant, but giving a better gift to the OM might as well translate to the Admin Assistant as, “She’s above you, and therefore is worth more than you.” You might not mean that, but if your Admin Assistant were to find out, she would probably be thinking that. I’m sure the Admin Assistant is working as hard as she can at the capacity that she’s allowed to.

    And, judging by the type of gifts that you want to give, there is a HUGE gap between the two in terms of how you want to reward their long service. Just give the same, nice trip to both. Twenty years is a long time, and I think that more than justifies giving them both the plane ticket and vacation package.

    1. Chaucer

      Also, as an add on, remember this: your admin assistant obviously feels a strong connection to you if she has worked in that role for two decades. Pulling something like this can fester strings of resentment in her, especially considering the length that she has been with the company, and it’s possible that you could find yourself looking for another Admin Assistant.

      1. Chinook

        That is true. A good admin assistant can work in any industry and can even be poached by a leaving executive or an impressed customer or vendor. I can’t see that happening as often with an Operations Manager.

  16. mel

    #1 is kind of heartbreaking.

    I mean. Morale is already pretty low when you know you’re the least valued person at your workplace. And then being blatently treated as such only makes it worse. It’s no wonder that low-level jobs have high turnover.

    Wouldn’t it make more sense to treat her BETTER? I think I would be pretty satisfied at my 10K/year job if I was treated like a fellow human being at the same time. I get my hours cut during slow times too, and all that says is “yeah, we don’t really need you anymore and don’t want to pay you your poverty wages.”

    1. Katie the Fed

      Word.

      Maybe I’m more sensitive because I did admin work as an office temp during college (a job I actually really liked) but I also know I’m lost without our admin help. Plus, you know, they’re HUMANS. And deserving of just as much respect as anyone else.

      1. Tricia

        Also, an admin assistant who’s worked there for 20+ years knows EVERYONE and how EVERYTHING works. Do you really want to piss them off (I’m thinking Joan from Mad Men)?

  17. Mike C.

    Also, can I rant a little bit on #2? I hate hate hate so much that so many upper managers where I work are so reluctant to let people work from home! They already issue me a cell phone and a laptop and the security features to log in, so if I need to get some work done during the weekend, what’s the harm in doing it from home?

    Or what if I’m contagious but feeling good enough to do some excel spreadsheet or answer questions over the phone? Or maybe it’s snowing really badly (trust me, my workplace never closes).

    Really, it’s because they want the security of knowing that if they want to see me face to face at any given time they can. A videochat or phone call just isn’t good enough, and it’s kind of irritating.

    1. Jamie

      The instances you site are why it benefits the employer to let you work remotely. There is a special place in hell for forcing you to come in teeming with contagious germs when your coworkers could have gotten the same results with a phone call, etc.

      Oh and I’ll save my rant about being docked full sick days/PTO for being home sick, when you’re working remotely for another day (not my employer, but I’ve seen it too often).

      I totally get that some positions aren’t optimal with full or regular remote work. For example, HR in a factory needs a face presence because the vast majority of the employees will not just pick up the phone or Skype. But in the instances named here there is no reason not to allow it.

  18. Waiting Patiently

    #1 agreeing with everyone else’s sentiments. Then companies wonder why morale is low with certain groups of workers. This disgusts me mostly because I’ve been there. As a few people have said it’s about longevity not responsibility; as the one with more responsibility and “value” is compensated as such.

  19. Dog Mom

    #1 reminds me of the time my boss told my coworker the amount of the bonus she was receiving when I was standing three feet away. (I am lower on the totem pole and well aware of this, but really didn’t need to hear it since I don’t receive bonuses.)

  20. J Shultz

    #1 – Please give them the cash value of the trip in their paycheck instead of the trip. The trip dictates how and where the employees will spend their vacation instead of allowing them to choose. For many, it is hard enough to get away for a few days without being told where to go.

    I agree with the other posters – you are rewarding their loyalty over the years, not their individual contributions as they should be reflected in their paychecks.

    1. Twentymilehike

      Please give them the cash value of the trip in their paycheck instead of the trip. The trip dictates how and where the employees will spend their vacation instead of allowing them to choose. For many, it is hard enough to get away for a few days without being told where to go.

      My assumption is that this would be a trip in addition to their regular vacation time. Personally, I’d be thrilled to go on an all expenses paid forced vacation. If they have worked there for 20 years I’m sure they have a good idea of what the employees in question would enjoy. I’ve been at my office for half as long and I can order lunch for my coworkers from any restaurant in town without even asking what they want and get the right thing every time. If you see someone for40 hours a week for 20 years up you can probably do a good job of planning something they’d love.

      1. Twentymilehike

        Oh and I recently learned that there are different tax incentives for giving employees length of service “gifts” rather than cash. For example, my dad just got to choose his 20yr gift, but cash was not an option. … Specifically for tax purposes.

    2. Jamie

      Please give them the cash value of the trip in their paycheck instead of the trip. The trip dictates how and where the employees will spend their vacation instead of allowing them to choose. For many, it is hard enough to get away for a few days without being told where to go

      This 1000x. Reward with money and let people decide how to spend it – who knows better what will be the best use of money than the person on the receiving end. A plaque (or award) and money. Think of it this way, who has ever gotten a bonus from work and wished they had instead spent it on a gift? Constrast that to the people who have gotten gifts and would have really preferred the cash.

      I’m such a mercenary – but time and money is what people want IME.

  21. Jack

    I’d weigh in on #1 but everyone else has already said it. I know for a fact that the admins in my office work harder than almost anyone else.

    As for #4,the best thing you can do is be as honest as you are able. If anything has been said about severance, retraining, etc, tell them that too. Job hunting may not be to their benefit if the jobs are going overseas, though – if it’s a hard-hit industry, they might need retraining, and if they’re eligible that might be a better option than jumping into another job. They have to stick it out to the bitter end to qualify, though, so they might regret finding a new job right now.

    1. Anonymous

      I agree, however the rent/bills still need to be paid, regardless of how short life is. It’s a sucky situation, and one that I’d advise the OP to get out of ASAP, but in the meantime she’ll have to put up with it if she still wants to make the rent/electricity bill/car payments/whatever for the next few months.

      1. Schnauz

        Sure, but the plus side of a high turnover field is that the Op should be able to find another job as a server pretty easily. Well, assuming she’s in a decent sized town. High turnover cuts both ways.

  22. LondonI

    #1 – Everyone else has already said it but I’m another one against giving differently-sized gifts for longevity. Joe may have more responsibility than Jane but as other people have said, this is reflected in his pay, bonus and status. This gift would be for length of service and in that respect Jane is equal to Joe. I promise you now that unequal gifts will cause bad feeling among the vast majority of the support teameven if they don’t make this obvious to you. Believe me – I’ve worked in many, many admin posts.

    1. KarenT

      Agree. And I think it would anger more than just the support staff . I’m sure lots of senior management would find that cringe worthy, as would everyone “in between” the operations manager and receptionist. I think I’d be wondering if I were ski trip material or local trip material.
      I do suspect you have good intentions, but this would be a huge slap in the face to the receptionist. And probably embarrassing for her to have this mentioned to everyone. It’s like a public announcement that she is a lower tier employee. Get them both the same thing and if you must get the OM the ski trip, do it as part of his bonus, not as a service award.

  23. KpT

    Re: 1. Giving employees differently sized gift for the same milestone

    At my company, there is a luncheon and everyone receives the same sized plaque.

    Giving the manager a better and longer vacation package than the admin would be like giving a larger plaque to the manager and a smaller plaque to the admin.

  24. Girasol

    #7 I was coached to set up a 25 year resume to show that I had taken new positions every few years. That is, rather than one 25-year line item, there were six lines, each covering a job I’d held for a few years, one for each internal title and job description. They just had the same company on them. It did make the resume look more normal.

    1. Scott M

      Good idea, I hadn’t heard of that before.

      I may have this problem in the future. I work in IT, and after you reach a certain point, you can’t progress without taking on more managerial/leadership responsibilities. Of course, that isn’t for everyone, especially many people in the IT field. But at least IT people have the advantage of having to learn new skills every few years anyway, in the form of new software, programming languages, hardware and operating systems.

  25. A somewhat new reader

    Regarding #5, I’d like to mention that when someone’s conduct (such as an employer) is truly outrageous and causes harm to someone there may be a cause of action for the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress. I have no idea what is going on in this OP’s case and I would never even dare to speculate. But I do think its worth keeping in mind that just because there is nothing to prevent bad (non-discriminatory) behavior under employment law, that doesn’t mean people aren’t liable for their conduct under another cause of action. Obviously the downside to suing under a tort means an employee would have to hire an attorney and invest time and money upfront.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      That’s true, but I’m not sure the conduct in this case would rise to the level of what required to bring that type of action. The tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress requires that (1) the defendant must act intentionally or recklessly; (2) the defendant’s conduct must be extreme and outrageous; and (3) the conduct must be the cause (4) of severe emotional distress. “Extreme and outrageous” has generally been interpreted to mean that the conduct is “so outrageous in character and so extreme in degree as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency and to be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community.”

      Usually simply being a jerky boss isn’t going to be sufficient for that standard.

  26. Tricia

    I’m a little late in this conversation — but OP#6

    DO NOT show that you are unsettled/disinterested in being interviewed by a more junior employee!!! I worked at an athletic facility for three years, and during that time we have to hire a new department manager. After the other manager level employees had interviewed the two candidates, the staffers (mostly student workers or trainers) were able to conduct a final interview. One candidate clearly was unimpressed and let us see that in her responses, and the other candidate treated this as seriously as any other interview and charmed us. We (the more junior level employees) had the final say in the hiring – guess who was hired?

  27. Jeremy

    I wrote #3. since writing my manager was informed by the prospective employer of my name being that i told him my name when i called. he then called me on the phone and threatened to suspend me if i didn’t come clean to him. I ended up just telling him it was me but there is good news i’ve since quit that job and am starting a new job with more exciting opportunities and less drama on monday!

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