tiny answer Tuesday — 6 short answers to 6 short questions

It’s tiny answer Tuesday — six short answers to six short questions. Here we go…

1. When can I leave my job to join my fiance?

I started my first job out of college this August. I perform it well, it pays nicely, I have a friendly and compassionate manager, and it is all around pretty great. However, I also just got engaged to my college sweetheart, who is committed for 2 years to a job in New York. We’ve been doing long distance since August, but as you might know, long distance is horrible and we really want to move in together ASAP. I’m planning to tell my boss the news and ask if I can possibly work remotely, but if that isn’t possible, how long should I be working at my current job before I can realistically look for work in NYC?

I’d start looking now, using your fiance’s address, which is soon to become yours. It can take many months to find a job, so by the time you’re going on interviews, you may have been at your current job a year or longer. Just make sure you stay at your next job at least 2 years and ideally 3+ so that you don’t look like you have a pattern of leaving jobs after a short time.

2. Recognizing coworkers several levels above you

This is a nice problem to have. Sometimes my superiors will go above and beyond to do something that really helps me get my work done or feel motivated, and I’d like to recognize it the same way they do for me when they like something I’ve done. I’ve typically done it in the same way they do — on group emails — but what’s appropriate? Are there things I shouldn’t do?

Recent example — a remote manager emailed my group with a lot of tasks, and one person was asked to provide information, but she was on the road in a place where she didn’t have internet. And, she didn’t have the information. But, somehow, she still managed to contact someone at another organization, find it and get it to us ridiculously quickly. She could have just as easily said no, or even “here’s what you should do because I’m not there.” So in my response to manager and my group with some questions on these tasks, I called out this person.

Appropriate and appreciated? Not following appropriate boundaries? I’m about 2-3 ranks below this manager and the person who helped, and about ~14 years behind in experience. I do want to promote a positive team environment and am always looking for appropriate ways that I, as the most junior member of the team, can do that.

It’s nice to cite other people’s contributions publicly, but in at least some of these cases, I’d just thank the person privately. It’s really nice to recognize people’s work, but it doesn’t always have to be through a public message (just like your manager should be praising you privately some of the time; it doesn’t always have to be a public announcement). Plus, be aware that at 2-3 ranks below the person you’re praising, and many years in experience behind them, you may not be seeing enough of the picture to realize that what they’re doing is pretty normal for their job, and it’s potentially weird if you’re always publicly praising people for doing what’s expected of them — but that doesn’t mean you can’t thank them one-on-one when they make your life easier.

3. I declined to give 360 feedback on my boss

I received a request to give 360 feedback on my boss. I have heard that giving negative feedback to your boss is fraught with danger! My boss has only two direct reports (me and one other person). I declined this request for feedback.

Just yesterday, I discovered that if a request for 360 feedback is declined, whomever requested the feedback received a notice. The person that requested the feedback could have been either my boss or my boss’s boss. Either way, someone received notice that I declined.

How does this look? I declined the request because I had nothing good to say and was afraid of retaliation if I was honest. I am worried my boss would still retaliate because she knows the “if you can’t say something good, don’t say anything at all” rule. Did this make my boss look bad?

It’s true that declining to give feedback on someone usually implies that you don’t feel comfortable speaking negatively of them. What I want to know, though, is whether you have reason to fear retaliation from your boss if you gave honest feedback. If she’s never done anything to make you feel that way, and you feared that based only on hearing that this can happen, then you’ve done her a disservice. If, however, you have reason to worry about her reaction, then you were perfectly entitled to decline to participate.

4. My boss won’t keep meetings with me

I am a paralegal and my attorney keeps pushing back the weekly review meetings we are supposed to have. It’s been nearly two months since our last “weekly” meeting. His boss, the head attorney, has already admonished him repeatedly that he needs to have these meetings with me (otherwise, how will he know what’s going on with the case). I feel like I’ve tried everything I can think of — setting an appointment, emailing and texting reminders, asking nicely, explaining why they have a purpose, and even just standing inside his office tapping my foot impatiently. It’s not that he is intentionally putting off the meeting, it’s just that he always thinks whatever he happens to be doing at that moment is more important than the meeting, which is rarely true.

When we do have meetings, they are slow and painful because, instead of looking at the case file of discussion on his laptop, he’s responding to unrelated emails. This means I have to repeat myself often, gather him back on track, and an hour-long meeting takes a full 8-hour day and still isn’t done.

Our cases are suffering because of this — the cases that have MY name attached to them also. How can I truly make my attorney understand that, no, really, you do need to sit down and review the cases with me?

You can’t make him get that if he doesn’t get it on his own, especially after being admonished repeatedly by his boss. He’s a crappy manager, and it’s very hard to change that, especially from below. Your best bet is probably to go back to the head attorney and ask for advice about how to handle the lack of meetings and the lack of attention when you do have the meetings. (Note that you’ll be asking for advice, not complaining, but it should get you to the same outcome.) And if you can ask to be transferred to a different attorney in your office, that’s probably worth doing.

5. Employer is telling staff that I was fired, but I quit

I quit my job three weeks ago without notice. I know that is something you shouldn’t do, but it just got too much for me and was putting me through emotional distress. Anyway, I quit and have now found out they are telling other staff that they fired me for calling in sick too often.

Background: I took four days off for illness in May and June. I didn’t call in sick again until the day I quit. I was abused over the phone, saying that I do this too often and if it continued my position would be in jeopardy so I quit instead. Could this affect my future employment? I am currently in university with another 2 years to go so am not looking for a job straight away.

It’s hard to know what they’re saying to people when you’re hearing it second or third hand. It’s possible that people heard that you were told you were calling in sick too often and that it was jeopardizing your job, and they interpreted that as “and she got fired as a result.” Of course, it’s also possible that your employer is lying to people. We can’t know for sure from what’s here. However, the real question is what they’ll say to prospective employers who call for a reference, and the way to find that out is to (a) have a professional-sounding friend do a reference check for you there, and/or (b) call them up and ask them. If you find out through either of these avenues that they’re misrepresenting things, then it’s time to do #2 in this post.

Either way, though, you probably don’t want to use this employer as a reference when you’re applying for jobs anyway, because it doesn’t sound like they’ll give you a glowing reference, which is what you want from reference-giver. If you can simply leave it off your resume (which sounds like a possibility since you have another two years of school), that might be your best bet.

6. My coworkers aren’t responsive to me

There are several coworkers who do not get back to me in a timely manner, if at all. How do I deal with this? Because we are in home offices, our main method of communication is by email. Many times, the information I need keeps me from moving forward on my work, completing a project, appropriately scheduling my time or passing along information to customers who are waiting for information from me through these coworkers. I even tell them from time to time they are keeping me from completing something. Help!

First, talk to them: “I’ve noticed that I”m not always able to get the information I need from you when I email you for it. Is there something I could do differently to make it easier? Do you prefer phone calls rather than emails? Do you want me to follow up if I’m waiting on something? What would help?” If the problem continues after you’ve talked to them about it, then you need to alert your manager or theirs (depending on what makes sense in your particular office culture). The basic formula with any problem with your coworker that affects your work is to talk with them first, and then escalate if that doesn’t fix it.

{ 65 comments… read them below }

  1. Jubilance*

    4 – Maybe emailing a weekly status update on your projects would be more efficient than trying to have a face to face meeting with your boss. It sounds like its more of a status update than a working session & emailing serves two purposes: you keep your manager in the loop on what you’re doing & you also create a paper trail, so if there’s ever an issue of “I didn’t know you were doing that, blah blah blah” you can reference the email. Pick a regular day & time & just start sending them out each week.

    6 -I agree with starting with those coworkers & trying to find out why they aren’t getting back to you in a timely matter. Do their projects have higher priority? Are they just unaware that you are literally at a standstill until you get the information? Are they simply pulling data from somewhere? If they can teach you where to find the info you need, that may help as well. If all that fails & you still can’t get your info, I’d follow up with your manager & then also CC your manager on requests – creating a papertrail so that everyone sees when the request went in.

    1. Jamie*

      Maybe emailing a weekly status update on your projects would be more efficient than trying to have a face to face meeting with your boss

      I was just going to suggest that but Jubilance beat me to it. This is great because it’s not only a CYA move for you, but will give the information to your boss so he can reference it when he has time.

      There is one thing that kind of bothered me from the OP’s letter:

      It’s not that he is intentionally putting off the meeting, it’s just that he always thinks whatever he happens to be doing at that moment is more important than the meeting, which is rarely true.

      It’s true with co-workers and even truer with bosses that one doesn’t always have the information to judge someone else’s priorities or the urgency of what’s on their plate. I know it’s a pet peeve of mine, but I do triage requests and I try to explain to people why they may have to wait…but if someone doesn’t understand that an issue with the server takes precedence over a request that can wait I can’t worry about that.

      Be careful of judging your bosses workload, there may be a lot going on of which you have no idea.

      1. Stephanie*

        I had a boss that did exactly this. It was infuriating–he wanted to have weekly update meetings and then always cancelled them (or would sit there checking his email on his phone when we did have them). I would just send out updates prior to the meetings as a CYA measure. The only one this was resolved for me was that that particular boss left the company.

        1. the gold digger*

          I had a boss who did that, as well. He would set up the meetings and then cancel. I would try to talk to him about what I was doing and he would tell me that it was “boring” and he didn’t understand it.

          He solved the problem by laying me off.

          1. FreeThinkerTX*

            I had a similar situation: Boss auto-scheduled weekly meetings with me on my Outlook calendar. We never even had the first mandatory (according to him and upper management) meeting. Nine months later I was laid off. Three months after that, Boss committed suicide.

            It was the last Inside Sales job I will ever work. And it’s where I adopted the business philosophy: “Just because you can measure it doesn’t mean you should.” (A close correlation to, “Be careful what behavior you reward, you just might get it.”)

    2. bycrookedsteps*

      #4 those aren’t your cases. They are his. He is the attorney, not you. If something gets screwed up because he refuses to hold meetings with you, you are not responsible. He is. His refusal to pay attention to what is going on with his cases is negligent, unprofessional behavior. If I were you, I’d start looking into getting a better boss. Oh, and don’t you dare let him blame you for anything. Keep every reminder email you send him, so you have a paper trial.

  2. Lisa*

    #3 – AAM – What about getting retaliated for declining to give feedback? Since someone was notified, now your boss’ boss thinks that your manager is such a bad boss that his / her subords are afraid to give feedback. I would think declining to give feedback, #1 makes the boss’ boss look tyrannical if his workers are declining to talk about their manager (even if not true) and #2 that the manager could think his / her boss is thinking they are a bad manager if there are 360 feedback declines at all.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Hard to answer without having more context — is the manager a bad manager, or did the OP just not want to participate at all? How she should proceed will depend on the answer there.

      1. Diane*

        The OP said, “I declined the request because I had nothing good to say and was afraid of retaliation if I was honest,” so I assume the manager is a bad manager.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Ah, you are right. In that case, the OP has a few choices, depending on what she knows about how her company operates and how these 360s will be used: She can say that she wasn’t comfortable with the idea of the feedback structure (supposedly anonymous, but clearly not with such a small department), she say that she’s not comfortable giving feedback in this area at all, or she say she didn’t feel she had the time or anything useful to say.

    2. The IT Manager*

      My first thought when someone declines to write any kind of performance review is that they’re too busy. I don’t immediately jump to “has nothing good to say.”

      I think this is why the 360 degree feedback is mandatory in my organization because people are very busy and would not get to it if not reminded many times and forced to. BTW it really is 360 degree. In my matrixed organization it’s for supervisors, subordinates, and peers on the project.

      1. Jamie*

        I’ve always had a fascination for 360 reviews. I’d love one done on me, but maybe that’s because it’s not available and I’d probably cringe in reality.

        I love the concept of this so much – but it’s so hard to keep politics and personal feelings out of it.

        1. Elizabeth*

          In my first job (part-time registration clerk) in my organization, my boss at the time did that for my very first review. I was making just above minimum wage, and we spent nearly 3 hours going over the feedback from my co-workers and the people downstream from me in the information flow. For a $0.07/hour raise.

          This was the first indication that I really needed to get out of his department and into one that didn’t have that level of scrutiny. It took about 8 months, but I got the move to IT, and I’ve never looked back.

          1. Jamie*

            Few people scrutinize IT – they’d have to know what we do for the scrutiny to have any effect.

            You seriously got a $145.6 a year raise? For not walking out immediately you are a far better woman than I.

            But the good news is you’ve come over to the side of good and righteousness that is IT :).

            1. Elizabeth*

              Yes, I did. It was a percentage increase over what I was already making. It ended up totaling less than than that, though, because I was only working 25 to 30 hours each week, and I was scrounging for as many hours as I could put together. Walking out wasn’t an option, because as paltry as it was, it was about all I could find at the time.

              My first full year, I didn’t net over $10K. For a job that is nit-picky in detail and that functions in a fishbowl. And for which there is no one ever satisfied about it is done.

              That particular experience led our HR department to creating a universal evaluation process. They realized that some departments were doing things like the 360-feedback for positions that really didn’t need it, while others were doing almost nothing and needed a lot more. The only position that gets the 360 treatment now is the CEO, because the governing board specifically solicits information from all levels of the organization on their performance.

              I tell people that I’ve lucked into my dream job. I’ve had consistent forward movement in my career, and my boss thinks I virtually walk on water.

              I get head-hunters calling me all the time, since healthcare IT is heating up thanks to an major influx of federal money, and I have skills that are in high demand. My response is that if they’re willing to pay off my mortgage & find my husband a job in his field (networking) that isn’t in healthcare, we can talk. So far, no one will take me up on it.

              My last promotion, in August, 2012, the per hour offer came in higher than I was planning on asking for, so I didn’t negotiate. If they want to give you more money than you think you deserve, you take it & run!

              1. Jamie*

                Hee – money sure went further back then.

                I remember reading an article once about the Dick Van Dyke Show. Carl Reiner took great care to have production make his home realistic to Rob’s income. Which as a head writer of a tv show in 1963 would have been about 28 K.

                On the Mary Tyler Moore show one episode showed Murray’s nose out of joint because Ted had just gotten a raise to 35K per year. As a news anchor of a midsized market – wow.

                Jerry Robinson, the orthodontist on the Bob Newhart show, said in one episode he had a very good year as he cleared 50K.

                Whenever I watch one of those old shows I tell my husband more than anything I want a time machine. I want to work and live in 2012, but go back to shop and buy real estate.

                I think I’ll still get my haircut in the current day though – a flip or a shag would totally give away my whole time machine access thing.

                1. Jamie*

                  and for the holiday season…

                  The $8K that Uncle Billy lost in It’s a Wonderful Life would be $132,1811.14 today.

                  The 25K Sam Wainwright instructed his office to advance George would be $413,066.07 today.

                  The $2000 Mary offered up to avoid the run, which they had saved for their Honeymoon would be 33,045.29.

                  The 20K Potter offered George to come work for him would be $330,452.86.

                  I would totally have taken Potter up on that – no question. I can be bought and that’s a decent price for my dignity.

                  The inflation calculator is just about my favorite thing in the world, but I’ll stop now.

    3. Jennifer*

      Either way #3 loses. S/he will get in trouble if they say anything bad about the boss, and s/he may also get in trouble if they don’t say anything.

      1. Jamie*

        There is another option – since the OP isn’t comfortable being negative, she could shoot for neutral. And it’s rare that you can’t think of anything good to say about someone. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but if you objectively look at someone’s work performance there are very few people who would fall completely in the negative column.

        In a perfect world total honesty would be okay, but in some cases that can hurt your career so I’d veer neutral and try to find some positive things to say as well.

        1. Steve G*

          As per your inflation calculator, I need to add one – the $38K Christina Applegate got as Rose’s Assistant would be $63K today!

  3. Stephanie*

    #5-If you were to get a friend to call an old job to check what an old employer is saying, what should he or she say? Just make up a company and position?

    1. Wilton Businessman*

      “Hi, this is from and I’m calling about a reference for . Can you tell me about ?”

      If they are insistent about knowing about knowing the position you can always say that you just got his resume and are exploring where he might be a good fit in your organization.

      1. Wilton Businessman*

        Argh, website sucked up my brackets. I meant:

        “Hi, this is (your real name) from (your real company) and I’m calling about a reference for (slacker’s name) . Can you tell me about (slacker’s name) ?”

  4. Wilton Businessman*

    1. You need to think about what happens after your fiance’s two year commitment in New York. Is he staying? If he’s in one of these companies that he’s going to get bounced around every two years, you need to take that into consideration. Lets say you find a job and move in the Spring of 2013. Then your fiance gets bounced to Sheboygan after his two years are up. Now you’ve been in a job for 8 months and a job for 14 months. You’re now a job hopper and nobody is going to touch you with a 10 foot pole. Something to keep in mind.

    2. I like to praise people on the same level or below me. The people above me are expected to do excellent work and my my job easier.

    3. Probably does not reflect well on you.

    4. I love the tactic of going a level above (or even to another attorney in your case) and asking for “advice” on how to handle it. It’s really a win-win for you. You get advice on how to deal with your problem and somebody else knows about it and may offer prodding from the top/side.

    5. I would just leave the job off your resume since you’ve got two more years to go. You’re not going to get a good reference from them anyway regardless of what you did.

    6. People need to use their phone more. Perhaps if so many people weren’t on cell phones it would be easier, but I digress…. ;)

    1. Jamie*

      2. I like to praise people on the same level or below me. The people above me are expected to do excellent work and my my job easier.

      This is my approach as well. A private thank you is always appreciated and if positive comments come up in casual conversation I don’t filter them…but imo public formal praise is best lateral or downward. I would be uncomfortable if someone a few levels below me were sending out emails giving positive evaluations of my work. YMMV though.

      Again – private thank yous are always appropriate.

      1. Long Time Admin*

        A private thank you is much better when dealing with people above you, and with much more experience.

        Constant praise emails that are copied to other people will look a lot like brown nosing.

    2. kasey*

      Re #1 +1 Good points WB… and I’ll add a bit a someone who has been in your shoes and lived a long time in NYC. It’s hard to be apart, I know . NYC is crazy expensive, you (likely) won’t have a car, but you won’t need one either, you might not be able to afford to do the things you do now-whether you are working or not, NYC is ferociously competitive, it’s just way different than the rest of the country. People move there all the time and end of hating it, or loving it. I am the latter, I loved it. It’s a tough place to live with tough people and you have to be prepared for that. It’s crazy exciting though, especially for a young person. Does your fiance love it? Want to stay there after the two years are up? I assume you’ve visited several times, taken the subway, done “regular” stuff, not just glossy touristy stuff. It seems like a big sacrifice and since you are a new grad with a job (!) good on you!; lightning might not strike twice. Could fiance’s income support the both of you for an extended period of time if need be- can’t find job/lose job? Sorry to be a downer.

      1. Zed*

        You’re not a downer, kasey – or, if you are, I am too! I am thinking along the same lines you are about the OP’s situation. OP, obviously this is your life and your decision, but if I were you I would NOT be comfortable giving up a new position that I like, that pays me well, and where I am liked and valued. Especially as a new grad, because jobs? Are not that easy to come by these days. Especially in high volume urban areas like NYC, where there are a lot of new grads and a lot of transplants. Definitely do not move to NYC without a job, a budget, and a clear sense of what you and your fiance will do after those two years are up. If he is going to be moving on to another company and geographic location, you might be better off suffering through the time apart so that you have two years at your current employer and a solid reference when it comes time to move again. But of course your priorities matter, and your happiness matters, so if you will truly NOT be happy without your partner, and you will truly BE happy in NYC, then start looking for a job now and notify your boss when you have an offer. (But keep in mind that leaving your first job after four months may not look so appealing to employers, and also that “I want to be closer to my fiance” is not what those employers want to hear when they ask you why you’re interested in their position.)

        And congratulations on your engagement!

      2. Steve G*

        I would NOT want to live here on a fresh grads salary here. However, they probably can double up on rent. Salaries for new/low level workers have not been keeping pace with costs, especially housing, for maybe 5 years. Rents increased despite a recession.

        I WOULD move here if you consider it an adventure. I lived in Europe for 3 years after school and did many jobs and traveled alot, but it set back my career a bit here, but was the best time of life when I was young, goodlooking, energetic, and carefree (besides working so much!) to take advantage of it. But remember that your 20-something adventure will be of being broke in a big city. A nice summer day? No beach for you! Hang out on a crowded boardwalk. Like eating out? No! Only once/week on your lousy pay. Your fav band in town? Oh wait, it starts at 10 on a work night, can’t go. Want to go to bed early? Someone will decide to beep 100X in front of your building for no reason. There little things add up and wear on you, especially if you come from a beautiful place and have a good standard of living where you are…..

        I WOULD move here if I had some years of experience and could get a high salary and nice job title on my record…as there are alot of lofty or at least solid mid-level jobs here that don’t exist elsewhere.

    3. Ryan*

      4 – I’d be careful about approaching your bosses peers – you don’t always know what their relationship might be like and instead of prodding him to straighten up and fly right he might prod him to fire the assistant for spreading gossip…I’d stick to his boss for the “Do you have any advice about how I can handle my slacker boss” talk.

    4. Chinook*

      #1 I agree with Wilton that you have to look at the long-term progression of your fiancee’s career, but I disagree that it may make you untouchable. As someone who did just that, I learned that this is where a great cover letter comes in handy. After every move, I would apply to professional office jobs and point out that I have experience in a variety of different office environments, adapt well to new ideas and have skills that are transferable and can back it up with my experience and my references.

      I also point out that, due to the nature of DH’s job, I often get a couple month’s notice before transfers (even if I don’t know where to) and am willing to give that much notice to my employer and help with the transition/training of my replacement. And then I would offer to give as references my last 3 supervisors in different provinces.

      It is all about the spin, baby!

    5. Kelly O*

      I cannot possibly agree more with you on point #1.

      I wound up moving halfway across the country twice in the course of four years.

      It certainly makes my resume challenging (especially since I’d finally found a position I loved before the second move, and had to leave after less than a year.)

      1. Kelly O*

        Forgot to add – one move was my choice. The other back and forth was related to my husband’s job. Definitely something to consider.

  5. AnotherAlison*

    #1 -“I’m planning to tell my boss the news and ask if I can possibly work remotely”

    I was curious about this part of the OP’s question. Should she even approach the boss with this request? If the boss says no, and it takes her another 6 months to find the job, that’s a long 6 months to hang around as a known short-timer. The boss might not want to keep her.

    Without knowing what the OP’s job even is, it’s hard to say how receptive the boss would be to this request, but in general I can’t imagine a new grad who’s been there 4 months being valuable enough for me to be willing to work with them remotely. (It would also matter if the OP was the only one with this arrangement, or if there were already several remote employees with the company.)

  6. kdizzle*

    #6 – I used to work with this woman who was nearly always non-responsive. I’d have to corner her in her office before she’d even consider doing what I asked of her. …And then when she did follow up with the request, she would be really nasty to me saying things like, “I can’t believe you’re asking me to do this on such short notice. You need to have better time management skills.” …Even though I had been asking her for weeks and weeks. I talked to her boss, who was totally uninterested and did nothing to solve the problem. This lazy/crazy woman was a total roadblock in our organization…for some reason, essential functions always seemed to funnel through her.

    So, I started nominating her for customer service awards at every opportunity (non-anonymously). Her entire attitude changed and she suddenly dropped whatever she was doing to help me when I needed it.

    Granted, that certainly doesn’t solve the problem for everyone she interacts with, but it certainly helped grease the wheel with our relationship.

  7. Not So NewReader*

    OP#5. This sounds like a retail job. If yes, be aware that many retail jobs can get nasty. I am not saying I agree with what happened to you, but I have seen it happen so much that I figure it is just the way that cookie crumbles. They constantly threaten people with termination. It gets to the point where the threat is on a par with “Oh, I think it might rain today”, the threat is used that much.
    I have quit a job that way also- just called up and quit, no notice- it did not feel good to me. I resolved to do everything possible to work through my notice. I don’t know if it is this way in every state, but they cannot fire you once you give notice, in my state. They can ask you to leave the building but they must give you severance pay. So a lot of employers opt to keep the employee.

  8. Dan*

    #5: “I was abused over the phone, saying that I do this too often and if it continued my position would be in jeopardy”

    Nobody else has said this yet, so I will: Uh, you call that abuse? Really? You’ll need to grow some thicker skin. If the guy was yelling at you, *maybe* I’d call it abuse, but honestly, a calmly delivered “if this continues, we’ll terminate you” sounds like a pretty reasonable response to someone the boss thinks calls out too much.

    1. Jamie*

      I just assumed that was the gist of the abuse – not that it was stated calmly. I agree that if that’s all it was, it’s just a statement.

    2. LL*

      I assumed that the boss was yelling and that the OP thought they were being irrational about the sick days. It’s hard to know if the manager’s response was warranted without more info about company culture, job responsibilities, and the OP’s other performance issues.

  9. The IT Manager*

    an hour-long meeting takes a full 8-hour day and still isn’t done.

    Let me just say that this sounds very close to my definition of a nightmare. You have my sympathies.

  10. jill*

    #6 is a problem I have regularly too. For me, it has been really helpful to shift my mindset (because I have a horrible tendency to grouse) and remind myself that I can’t make my colleagues change their behavior, but I can anticipate it. In my case, it’s nothing malevolent, just a lot of overworked people who don’t necessarily have the same priorities.

    Some things that have been helpful for me:

    – Anticipate and build in time for review. This is probably obvious, but every project plan should contain all the touchpoints you will need with others to move forward. I also plan my workweeks around this – e.g., send something out for review on Monday, plan to spend Tuesday & Wednesday on other projects, and pick back up on Thursday when it’s likely they will have gotten back to me.

    – Consolidated emails. Rather than sending 20 emails throughout the day with questions, I keep them all in One Note and send them out at the end of the day. One email is much easier to keep track of, and then it comes back to me like a built in to-do list! This has also worked for more than “quick questions” – I’ve consolidated a few data review tasks into one email, clearly noting the deadlines for each, and had that work well too. Again, much easier with just one message to refer to!

    – Make the instructions for what you need explicit; make it as easy as possible on your colleague to reply. Include every attachment or link they will need to do what you’re asking them to do, and clearly detail precisely what they should do and when. I know I put off tasks when I have to go searching for the relevant documents, too. Make sure the questions you’re asking are very, very clear, and as exhaustive as possible, to avoid a long email chain.

    – Provide deadlines/timelines and priority levels. This has been HUGE. It helps your colleagues put your request in context (e.g. think about the difference between, “I need your Q1 projections” versus “I need your Q1 projections by Friday so that we can create the X report for the CEO by next Tuesday”). This has also helped me to recognize the difference between me FEELING urgent and the task itself actually being urgent!

    All this is obviously in addition to communicating with your colleagues and their managers as necessary. But I have felt much greater satisfaction in my work when I started to structure it to anticipate these challenges, rather than putting all the onus on my colleagues to suddenly change how they tend to operate.

    1. Jamie*

      “I need your Q1 projections” versus “I need your Q1 projections by Friday so that we can create the X report for the CEO by next Tuesday”).

      QFT – because it can’t be said enough.

      “Please send me your cycle counts for inventory reconciliation by Friday.” That? Means nothing. It reads like a suggestion, or a favor. Perhaps I am requesting help with my inventory control hobby and I want to include them if they are interested.

      “We need to have the month closed by close of business Tuesday. Please send me your cycle counts for inventory reconciliation by Friday so as not to delay month end close. If this timeline will be an issue for you please see me asap. Thanks.”

      That makes inventory control seem less like my hobby and more like part of the job. Which, it is.

  11. #1 OP*

    Hey all, decided to comment given both my personal stake and the number of questions; thank you for all your insights!

    WB, kasey and Zed: these are all good points. Her employer is indeed a multinational and it’s conceivable she would be placed elsewhere at the end of her two years, but employees going through this process generally get to choose where they end up. Good thing to be wary of though. We both love NYC, and with combined incomes would love it even more! The point about making sure we both have incomes is also well taken; together we could get a place, but with just one of us netting 50k it’d be harder without an awkward living situation.

    AnotherAlison: this is a great question I wish I had asked. I’m a bit confident though. Context: the department I work in is a very small and new one in a rather large company. My boss herself has only been here about 10 months. We’re a bit overworked and understaffed right now — in fact there was an episode while back when someone quit unexpectedly, causing much grief — and I know it would be far from ideal for me to leave and have to go through the recruitment process again. So I figured that, worst case, I’d be giving multiple months’ notice; best case, I keep doing my job in NYC and she avoids the rigmarole. Weekly checkins have only confirmed that I’m a valued direct report; but it is true that I might be sacked prematurely once they find someone. I also know it isn’t completely my manager’s call. Finally, I do believe the possibility is small–no one else in my department works remotely, and those in the company that do have been here for years.

    Another lingering question from me; I’m sure interviewers will want to ask why I left so early if it comes to that. Is honesty the best policy here? How would a prospective employer take that? Of course I would make clear that my reason for leaving the first firm is different from my reason for joining the next.

    Thanks again; and this was written on a phone so sorry for any errors!

    1. Chinook*

      If an employer asks why you left early, it is best to answer honestly. IMO, this is the only time where your marital status/spouse’s job is relevant as it gives a legit reason for your leaving. Just ensure that you follow up with the assurance that you plan on sticking around for as long as you are able. When I had one employer ask about DH’s job postings for the future, I pointed out that,a s far as we knew, we were there for the time being and could give her no more assurance than any other person could give that she won’t be out on Maternity leave this time next year (as an example of how stuff happens).

      And remember that you are also interviewing the employer to see if you want to work there. The one advantage to legit job hopping is that you gain experience spotting red flags a mile away and to learn what you are willing to put up with. Personally, I have taken less money with a good atmosphere instead of great money with poor management. If they aren’t willing to take a chance on you only because you may move in a year or two, do you really want to work for them?

      And, in the meantime, you can also try looking for work in high turnover industries to put food on the table while looking for a better job. I may hate working retail and food services, but they have allowed me to pay bills while looking for something more 9-5ish in a new city.

    2. Wilton Businessman*

      I’m sure interviewers will want to ask why I left so early if it comes to that. Is honesty the best policy here? How would a prospective employer take that?
      You can never go wrong with the truth.

      You will need a great answer to this question, so prepare. It needs to be genuine and it needs to be true. I think for some employers your explanation will be fine, some will not like the situation at all. It’s going to limit your choices, IMHO.

      1. KarenT*

        Agreed, but the OP doesn’t need to overshare. He can say I’m moving to NYC to be with family, or start a family, or whatever. He doesn’t need to mention it’s for his fiances job or for only 2 years.

  12. Jesicka309*

    OP#6 if you are finding that people are ignoring urgent requests, sometimes it helps to turn on read receipts. Sure, it can be construed as passive aggressive, but if you save it for super urgent requests, you’ll at least know whether they’re ignoring all emails from you regardless of content, or whether they are assuming all emails from you are unimportant. A simple ! can do wonders too. Just use them like salt – you’d never put too much on, it’s best to have a little sprinkling over your whole dish.

    1. KarenT*

      I’d really caution against read reciepts, but that’s just my opinion. I find them annoying, and if you are using Outlook you can configure it to just automatically deny the requests (which I have done). I also find it presumptuous that people who aren’t my manager are tracking how long it takes for me to read an email and to respond.
      Besides, all a read receipt can confirm is that the person read your message. This doesn’t help get you what you need any faster. If the issues was her co-workers were saying they weren’t getting her messages then I would agree she should use read receipts.
      As for the urgent exclamation mark, I would be wary of this also. If you use it too often, it’s really easy to become the boy who cried wolf.

      1. jesicka309*

        We use them at my work when we are sending notifications to sales, as quite often they turn around and complain that they weren’t properly notified about a late change. It’s more about having a trail. If they decline to send the receipt then complain, we pull it out saying well you didn’t read our email, why not? And if they do read it and complain, we say that they must have read the email, so it’s their fault not ours. And we do get notified if someone doesn’t send the read receipt, so there’s that.
        It’s about covering our own butts and leaving an email trail that we can refer back to.
        Though you would only use if in scenarios where you REALLY need to make sure they got the email, especially if it’s to a shared inbox. If no one responds within an hour, we have to call and ask someone to action the email, so it’s pretty critical that they return the receipt.
        As I said, a sprinkling of salt is perfect, too much will ruin your food. A little bit can go a long way if you prioritise it’s use well.

        1. Jamie*

          This is the use for them, when you have to CYA. I hate them and if I use one it’s a pretty clear signal I’m building an e-trail for something…but you do what you have to do.

          I like the salt analogy – but I like salt a lot better than read receipts. :)

        2. KarenT*

          Completely agree if people are saying they aren’t getting notified about stuff it’s fair to use read receipts.

      2. Colette*

        I’d agree that read receipts won’t really help here.

        I never send them, but even if I did, knowing I’d read the e-mail won’t really help. I typically read e-mails soon after they come in, but I don’t answer them until I have time. If it’s a quick yes/no, that will be soon, but if I have to spend time compiling an answer, it could be days – depending on the priority of the issue vs. everything else I have to do. You’d be better off making the overall business priority clear.

  13. Lulu*

    Combining #6 & #4 (slightly), I previously had a boss who not only would not make our 1:1 meetings, but it wasn’t even clear he was reading any of my communications (or checking email, period). So I set up the read receipts in Outlook, mostly so I’d know if I needed to continue to try to communicate on certain issues or if he was just choosing not to reply. Slightly CYA, but mostly helped me strategize on how to work around him if necessary.

    In #6’s situation, I agree first steps are to determine whether they just operate better with a different communication strategy, both re: contents and methods. Context sometimes makes a significant difference, as others have already noted, as does calling Phone People or emailing Email People.

    #4 I feel your pain, as I was frequently in this situation; most recently, my boss was doing two high-level jobs in two different locations, and ended up hardly ever being in the building to even blow off the meeting, and I knew he was totally slammed with 1000 other things. However, his crazy situation did not negate the fact that I needed to interact with him in order to get things done.

    Ultimately, the best solution I found was similar to Jubilance’s suggestion earlier, only they were combination status report/question emails. Sometimes daily, if necessary, but basically I’d save up everything I needed to ask about or report on and send at appropriate intervals during the week. If there were things I urgently needed to take action on that he hadn’t responded to, I’d send an email detailing the scenario, what the options were to handle it, and then just say “You can just reply Yes or No” or ask him to give me the number of the option he preferred. I also indicated what I’d do and when if I did not hear back from him. Basically made it as easy as possible for him to give me some kind of answer. Not sure if this is helpful in your situation, but it kept me limping along for awhile before I left, so maybe it could help in the short term. Longer term, it sounds like you’re better off seeing if you can find someone there more willing to participate in the partnership that is supposed to be taking place. Even if you come up with methods to attempt to get this person to change their approach, I’ve found that can be rather an uphill battle at best, and in the meantime you’re stuck in a position where your reputation could be affected if things are slipping through the cracks.

  14. Anonymous*

    Regarding #1…is it really OK to use an address in the town or city you are looking for a job in, even if you are not living there yet? What if they do a background check and see that you are not living there? Or is the idea to tell them you will be moving immediately after being hired?

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