wee answer Wednesday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

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

1. My boss banned sugary foods from the office

Today my boss, who is also the buisness owner, tried to tell our office staff that we are banned from bringing in sugary foods, and she told a coworker who brought in doughnuts for the office that if they weren’t gone in an hour, she was going to throw them away. She has no health problems when it comes to such foods; she just has no will power to not partake in them herself. Is is legal for a buisness owner to ban certain foods from the office?

Yes. But you can still make a case to her for changing the policy, and offering to keep these foods out of shared spaces might help if her concern is that she’ll be tempted. But ultimately, it’s her call. A silly call, but hers to make.

2. Being asked to take a public speaking course when you have a history of stuttering

My company has asked everyone at my job level to take a public speaking course. I think we are all being asked to go because two of my four teammates are terrible public speakers.

This would be fine, except that I have had a stuttering problem since I was a little girl, and the thought of taking a class like this makes my anxiety go through the roof — not because I am afraid of public speaking, but because I am afraid it will aggravate my stuttering and cause it to return with a vengeance. I had many years of speech therapy, and I am able to hide my stutter now to the point that most people do not know I do it. I have developed my own personal techniques for preparing for public speaking over the last 30 years, and I feel I do a very good job. In fact, it was noted on my lastest performance review what a great job I do in communicating with clients. I just don’t want to risk a recurrence. Do I have the right to ask my manager if I can skip out on this training, or should I suck it up and attend?

Talk to your manager and explain what you said here. If you explain that you’re concerned that this will cause a return of a problem that it took you years to overcome, any compassionate manager will recuse you. If she seems hesitant, offer to bring in documentation from a speech therapist or doctor. (Employers aren’t legally bound by doctor’s notes, but even just offering one can be helpful in persuading them that something is both real and serious.)

3. Asking for feedback after a job rejection

I know you’ve talked about asking for feedback after receiving a rejection. I was wondering do you think it’s better to call or email?

Email, always. First, whenever you can email an employer rather than calling, you should — because calling interrupts people and demands an answer on your schedule rather than theirs, whereas email can be answered at their convenience. Plus, in a case like this, you want the person to have time to formulate their thoughts and not be put on the spot.

4. Manager only gives feedback when there’s a problem

I was hoping you might shed some light on a tough work situation I have. I have multiple supervisors (a challenge on its own to deal with), but my on-site supervisor is the one I struggle with most because she doesn’t show any emotion besides displeasure. I’ve been told by other people that she will never give anyone positive reinforcement for good work done. The best sign of her approval, they told me, was if she doesn’t say anything to me at all. I don’t need a lot of praise, but her stoic demeanor makes me uncomfortable and I constantly worry that there is feedback I am losing because of a lack of communication. The few times I have suggested improvements to methodology have provoked negative responses to other things in the past, so I am hesitant to bring it up to her. How can I best work with her if I cannot read where she stands on things?

You can certainly ask her for more feedback — asking her what she thinks is going well, where you could do better, etc. But it sounds like your best bet is to believe what your coworkers told you: With this manager, hearing no feedback is good feedback. That’s not good management, obviously, but it’s not that uncommon either. Some managers simply don’t see their job as to give praise; they see it solely as ensuring that work gets done, and correcting people when needed. Not a great approach, but not unheard of.

Since you can’t do anything to change her, your options are to (a) accept that this is how she works and interpret accordingly, or (b) be upset about it, which won’t result in her changing but will result in you being unhappy. Go for (a).

5. Telling prospective employers that I’m doing some career soul-searching

I’m early into my career and am wondering, is it ever alright to admit to potential employers that I’m still doing some career soul searching? Specifically, I’m applying for internships at the moment, and one company is hiring for several departments, but only has one job posting. I feel that I should mention which departments interest me most, but I find myself listing a multitude of departments that are quiet different. My plan was to write a cover letter that emphasizes my desire to work with the company in question, but what’s a good way to say I’m open to working in a variety of departments without sounding overly immature or flaky?

It’s fine to say that you’re at the start of your career and not yet committed to going in one particular direction, and that your goal right now is to do useful work and get experience. But I’d stop there — don’t give a long list of departments or explicitly say that you’re soul-searching. Employers want to feel that you have some sense of direction, so that you won’t end up pulled in a different direction than whatever they hire you for.

6. Telling retail employers I have complete availability

I graduated from college in May. Apparently I’ve taken a lot of bad advice from all of my well-meaning relatives, so thank you for writing your blog. It confirms what I always suspected! I’m sure there are dozens of questions I could ask, but what I’m pondering right now is how to apply to shift work, like at a coffee shop or retail.

Since I am unemployed, I don’t have many scheduling demands. Since I just graduated, my sleep schedule is completely destroyed. I wake up before class, go to bed when projects are done, spend all day studying, regardless of actual time. It doesn’t help that I’m a night owl living with family who wake at 4:30. Once I get a job, I plan on settling into a pattern, but until then it could go either way.

If I mark that I am available for all shifts and all times, or 80% of them, does it come across as desperate? Will the employers believe me? Should I pick a time slot and stick with it? I really just want something to tide me over until a better position, plus give me much needed work experience.

No, it doesn’t come across as desperate, and food service and retail employers will love it. They want people with open availability; those people often go to the top of their stack of applications. You can find more advice on applying to these jobs here.

7. My email was hacked!

I was contacted by two amazing companies that I’d love the opportunity to work for. After I interviewed for both positions, a few days later I woke up to find that my email account was hacked. A link (I’m not sure if it was a virus or just spam) was sent to everyone in my contact list, including everyone who I interviewed with over the last few weeks.

You can imagine how distraught I was. I spent two hours emailing those who received this bad email telling them my account was hacked into, apologizing for any inconvenience this may have caused, and to not click on the link that was sent to them.

Do you think this hacking situation affected my interviewers’ impressions of me, putting me in a negative light? I know it wasn’t my fault and these things happen to people all the time, but out of all the people I interviewed with (a total of 7), I only received a response back from one person telling me not to worry about it. Bad sign? Or do you think they already made up their minds about me as a candidate before the email was even sent to them?

They didn’t care. They deleted the email without even thinking about it. Unless they’re really odd, it’s not going to affect their impression of you at all. Put it out of your mind.

{ 85 comments… read them below }

  1. Jaime*

    Totally agree with #3 – I’ve always preferred this type of request over email. Anytime you’re asking people to give you info that they may be uncomfortable giving already, it’s great to give them the space/time to respond vs. putting them on the spot.
    Also, #7, so true – I usually delete spam without even considering who it came from! Love your wee answer Wednesday posts.

    1. Elizabeth*

      Even if they feel totally comfortable, you’ll probably get better feedback if you give them that time/space to think about it. I know that as a teacher I can give more specific and thoughtful information about a student if their parent schedules a meeting or phone call with me compared to just dropping in or calling unexpectedly. I have time to look back over my notes and think about how to phrase things best.

  2. Lulu*

    #6 I recently did some holiday retail work and since I am otherwise unemployed, decided to leave my availability wide open for them. Hard to say whether that made a difference or not, but I think they get so many people with specific scheduling needs that it probably gave me some kind of edge, if only with my manager. I also ended up with day shifts (when I was getting regularly scheduled), so not the crazy hours one might assume the Most Flexible Person would receive – I think sometimes those shifts are less popular because of either lower customer traffic or employees having daytime responsibilities to work around. Other than inventory time, which was just crazy for everyone (and from which I’m still recovering!). So if you truly are available at all times, I say leave it open for them, and just make sure you’re clear on how to cover a shift if you have an interview or something similar.

    A word on your sleep schedule: I wouldn’t wait until you have a job to start trying to “settle into a pattern”. Obviously, you know your body best, but if you’re used to having an erratic schedule, it can take time physically and psychologically to get into something more regular – may as well go through the rough part when you’re not dealing with the potential of being in trouble for oversleeping etc. I think most people find keeping a regular sleep/wake schedule also helps them deal better & more productively with being unemployed, as you’re more in sync with the larger portion of the office-working world. I happen to have a lot of sleep problems, so I may be on the cautious side here, but as a night person who has to work hard at regularly keeping to “business hours” (and who did work a 3:30p-12:30a gig after college so I could keep weird hours as long as possible!) I know what a challenge it can be to make the switch.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      That’s good advice, and I wish I’d taken it. I’ve let myself get into a much later schedule and getting back on regular office hours is going to be tough.

  3. Josh S*

    #2: Stuttering and Public Speaking Course

    I obviously don’t know your history or the steps you’ve taken to deal with your stutter, so please take this with the grain of salt it deserves: If your company is offering to send you to a Dale Carnegie Course, I’d highly recommend that you at least try it out for a few weeks. Not only is it helpful for public speaking, but it works on a lot of ‘soft skills’ as well: leadership, interpersonal skills, stress management, etc. Seriously, I can think of a lot of people who would benefit (even good communicators), and every facilitator I’ve ever known has been terrific at meeting everyone at their level of comfort.

    I worked for Dale Carnegie Training for a year as a sales rep, going through the course three times in the process. I kind of hated it as a job (sales is decidedly NOT my cup o’ tea), but loved the course and seeing the impact it had/has on peoples’ lives, both professionally and personally.

    Can’t vouch for other programs, just wanted to give this one a positive shout-out and encourage you that it may not be as bad as you fear (again, not knowing your situation).

    1. Carolyn H*

      I was just coming in to say, essentially, what Josh S is saying–give the training a try. You are judging the course before you even know what it is all about. I am sure you are not the only person who takes the course who stutters. Just give it a try and see how it goes.

    2. Ellie H.*

      I don’t think the issue is so much what the course involves, it’s just that the LW wants to avoid any activity with a psychological focus on speaking ability, because that is anxiety producing. That seems pretty understandable to me.

      1. OP #2*

        Ellie, you hit the nail on the head. After reading Alison’s comment, I decided to explain my situation to my manager. My company is now going to allow me to take an online public speaking techniques course as an alternative, which will be far less anxiety-producing. They also agreed that they really didn’t think I needed to take the course, but I was lumped in to avoid offending the others at my job level who actually need to take the class. I am very glad I spoke up. I do appreciate everyone’s insight, and while I would like to be brave enough to forge ahead and take the class, in my heart I know it would only cause more negative/unnecessary focus on a speech impediment I have worked so hard to overcome.

        1. Josh S*

          I understood the anxiety-inducing nature of the public speaking course for people with a stutter. I saw it firsthand.

          I also saw those same people leave the course with no anxiety whatsoever when facing similar situations and the huge boost in self-confidence it gave them.

          I wouldn’t presume to know that’s how you would respond. Just wanted to encourage you that it might be better than you fear it would be. Clearly, you know yourself better than this stranger-on-the-intarwebz does. :)

          I’m very glad you were able to find a good solution/compromise with your boss. I imagine that feels pretty awesome just by itself. Congrats!

  4. KayDay*

    #1 – sugary foods: Is the ban against bring food for yourself (ie in your lunch) or only for shared food? Although I would assume both are legal, the former would be really extreme and definitely worth talking to your boss over, while banning sugary shared food sounds somewhat reasonable to me if people are bringing that sort of stuff in frequently.

    #7 – Assuming they use email on a regular basis, they probably get those stupid emails all the time. Some people’s spam filters probably caught it, and if not they probably deleted it.

  5. Ash*

    #7: Make sure to change your account password to something very hard to guess, change all of your security questions (with hard-to-guess answers) and then run both a virus scan and a spyware scan on your computer. If you have Windows, Microsoft Security Essentials is all you need, and Spy-Bot is a really good (free) spyware scanner. Make sure you also check any accounts that you use that e-mail address for (like Facebook, Twitter, etc.), especially if you use the same password for both that e-mail and whatever site’s account you’re looking at (which you shouldn’t do anyway).

    As a mini-rant, if you have a Hotmail/MSN/Yahoo e-mail address, these are terrible and get hacked ALL THE TIME through the simplest ways. The companies don’t care and won’t upgrade their security, but make it very easy to reclaim your account…because this happens all the time. You should get a GMail account (or if you have an e-mail address with your ISP, like SBC Global or Comcast). They all have much better security, and GMail has a new two-step verification login process if you want the extra security.

    1. the gold digger*

      Yeah, but gmail gets in your business in ways you might not want. I stopped using gmail after I realized they were looking at how I used my blogger account (which they now own) and my google searches and my gmail. I know privacy online is not possible, but I would like to maintain the illusion.

      PS I am also convinced that linkedin somehow gets into my gmail and my hotmail for connection ideas. I promise you, linkedin, that I have no interest in connecting with my husband’s mother and I have never looked her up on linkedin. Quit suggesting her to me.

      1. Ash*

        There are ways to set it up so that Google ignores your search history, doesn’t bring up your personal contacts in web searches, etc. It just takes maybe five minutes of effort to take care of.

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      This! I had a Yahoo account that was hacked, and because I was dumb enough to have used that password all over the place, not only my Yahoo account but my Gmail account was hacked. My husband, the IT guy, shook his head and told me to use a different password for Gmail than I use for other sites, and I haven’t been hacked since.

      As for your original concern — no worries. The hacked email may not even have been seen by the hiring managers, if their spam filters kicked it out. And if it did somehow get through, most likely they’ll ignore it entirely or recognize what’s going on and not blame you. (Unless you’re trying to get a job in their IT department, that is.)

    3. some1*

      My comcast email was hacked three times, and I have had no problems with the yahoo account I’ve had since the 90’s.

  6. Not So NewReader*

    OP#1- Did your boss ban the sweets from your lunch kit or just from common areas? I am thinking she just does not want them out in plain site. I bet if you brought in cut up fruit she would have no issue. It’s not the whole thing about sharing food that is the issue here- it is what kinds of food.
    I worked for a place where there was no caffeinated coffee. (What would be the point of that, I don’t know.) So I just brought my own thermos.
    OP#2. Josh has some great feed back. I also add Toastmasters to this list. If you have an understanding person leading it- perhaps they will just let you observe. That would take away the intimation factor. It is amazing what we can learn just by watching others do something. I am not a public speaker but by watching others I was able to pick up a few pointers.
    OP#6 Some retailers will ONLY hire you if you have open availability. Look at the hours on the store door. Some of these 24 hour stores put you on shifts all over the clock. In my state they only have to give you 8 hours between shifts. This means I would get off work at midnight and be back in at 8 am. Totally legal. A friend of mine wisely chose a retailer that closes at 8 pm. She knows she will be out of there at 9 at the latest and not have to be back in until 7:30 am. Be strategic about who you apply to.
    When you go in, remember they are watching you. Be nice to everyone you meet. Front line people will tell the boss what you said after you leave. Show them that you are personable and willing to converse with anyone. It’s a people business above anything else.
    OP #7. Did you change your password? I am sure others will chime in here. What is working for me is a password with a combination of letters, numbers and punctuation. Start out with a word you will remember and add numbers and punctuation to it.
    I remember the first time I got hacked- it went right through my whole address book. I wanted to crawl under a rock. Actually, it is fairly common and most people did not think twice about it- except to show concern that my computer was having a life of its own and wanted me to be aware. Not much different than when my dog slips his lead and is loose, running through the neighborhood. I grab my dog and bring him home- the episode is OVER. Same deal here- find your fix for you email and the whole thing is over and forgotten.

    1. K*

      The boss has the right to do it, but that doesn’t make it stupid. Adults should be allowed to make the decision to share food with each other and to partake of that shared food or not. (I can imagine banning food from home in special circumstances like a research lab with dangerous chemicals around but an ordinary office? Your boss is not your mother, you’re not 10, and they shouldn’t insert themselves into that role.)

      1. fposte*

        Sure, but it’s not your house; it’s the business owner’s house. Your friend isn’t your mother either, but if she says you can’t eat fish in her house when you’re housesitting, you don’t eat fish there, because it’s not your house.

        1. Anonymous*

          Yes, but it’s also not the business owner’s house; it’s their business. I’m not disputing their legal right to ban what they want; I’m saying it’s idiotic and it’s a terrible dynamic to set up with your employees.

            1. fposte*

              Oh, I’m not saying it’s a good policy (and let’s see what she does with sugary coffee). But even as adults, we recognize that there are times other people are entitled to say about what we can do, and I think the fact that it’s her own establishment (I don’t think it makes much difference whether she sleeps there or not) gives particular force to her right to do this–her place, her rules.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                My lunch–off limits. It wouldn’t be a temptation for the manager anyway, because if she tried to take my Little Debbie’s Star Crunch, she’d be missing a hand.

    2. the gold digger*

      a retailer that closes at 8 pm.

      Note that at Christmas, those hours might change. I worked at Macy’s and was there past midnight a few times. And to the lady who showed up at my register at 11:54 and wanted me to price 12 items (ha! as if Macy’s had real-time pricing in their systems!), didn’t take any of them, bought three other things, and wanted me to give her the coupon discount for the coupon she did not have – “Oh, I know you have one behind the counter!” – No. I am not going to give you the discount.

      And thanks for keeping me there and attracting four other customers, including two college girls with dad’s credit card who had several items without tags and didn’t understand why I couldn’t tell them how much they cost and wanted me to wait while they ran back to find tagged items.

      Yeah, I know I was being paid by the hour, but I like to use the hours after midnight for sleeping, especially when I have to be at work again at 8 a.m.

          1. the gold digger*

            The moral of the story is if you want the cashier to give you the coupon discount if you are still in line ten minutes after the store has closed, you need to be really nice to her.

  7. Anonymous*

    #7 would be a concern if you were in network security or another tech/security crossing kind of position. Unless this is something that it would be your job to prevent, don’t worry about it. (I also might worry if it were someone who I was hiring to be a social media person, but even then I’d mostly not worry.)

  8. KellyK*

    For #1, I like Alison’s suggestion about suggesting a solution that involves keeping it out of shared spaces, and I think you can approach it in a polite, problem-solving way. If it bothers her to have donuts in the kitchen, I’d say as the business owner, it’s her prerogative to have a donut-free kitchen. At the same time, it’s kind of petty and tyrannical to want to control what everyone else eats because of her diet.

    1. Jamie*

      Yeah – I’d actually be embarrassed to issue an edict about what other people can and can’t eat at work based on my own lack of self control.

      People need to manage their own food issues and expect others to do the same. Because if we can legislate what people can and can’t eat at work based our own idiosyncrasies I’m going to go clean this place out of everything I can either smell or hear.

      It will be nothing but silent marshmallow eating if I had my way. :)

      1. fposte*

        Wasn’t it Ask Amy that had a husband writing in about how horrible his wife’s office was to have snacks out that she couldn’t resist eating? That was an interesting confluence of inappropriateness.

        1. Jamie*

          I haven’t read her in years – I really should pick up a paper now and again.

          And if my husband inserted himself into either my workplace or eating habits enough to get outside advice he’d have a lot more to worry about than snacks!

      2. K*

        Right? If we’re banning workplace foods that annoy me, tuna fish is gone looooooong before donuts. Don’t even get me started on gefilte fish.

        1. Esra*

          Fish with any odour period. Gone. Also, if you can’t cover your pasta sauce dish properly in the microwave, banninated!

  9. Minous*

    #4 In my 40 years of working I’ve found that most managers don’t give any positive feedback, except at the performance evaluation. I’ve learnt to figure out what I do well and where I need to improve on my own. I’ve also learnt that I have to acknowledge my own work and unpaid overtime with my own sense of pride in a job well done because it won’t be acknowledged by managers.

    I don’t think it’s a good way to manage because after a while every time a manager wants to talk with me or a colleague I assume it’s because they are displeased. It doesn’t create a dynamic that’s externally encouraging.

    I’ve personally found that letting staff know when they’ve done something well or have gone beyond the expectations is a good policy and creates loyality but I don’t find that the working culture in many places lends itself to this.

  10. Liz in the City*

    #6 I’m echoing Lulu’s comments above. During college breaks (summer, winter) and right after college, I worked in various retail jobs. I think having total open availability gave me a bit of an edge, if only because when a shift suddenly opened up or the opportunity for OT was available, I could say yes since I had no other conflicts. More money for me and more brownie points in the eyes of the managers. At no time did I think the managers felt I was desperate — just someone who wanted to work (hard) for money. That said, at one point, I was consistently scheduled to close the store at 11 p.m. and open again at 8 a.m., which wasn’t fun. But then again, I didn’t have much else going on, besides a job search in my off hours.

  11. littlemoose*

    OP #6, I’ll echo what Alison and everyone else has said – open availability is a tremendous asset. I worked retail for several years, and the store often had trouble finding people for certain shifts, especially day shifts. We employed a lot of students and people who had other full-time jobs (including myself for a while), so daytime available was often the toughest to come by. Don’t be afraid to list open availability if that’s truly what you have. Good luck!

  12. Andy Lester*

    I always wonder at the “Is this annoyance legal?” questions. What does the OP hope will happen? Does OP think that AAM will say “No, that’s not legal”, thus allowing OP confront the boss? “Hey, I’m legally entitled to my donuts!” Or maybe OP imagines some sort of “wrongful deprivation of snacks” lawsuit?

    I don’t mean this to sound glib, but I’m genuinely curious. If OP is reading this: If AAM had said that no, it’s not legal to deprive you of donuts, what was your next step going to be?

    FWIW, my office has bans on certain types of foods outside of the cafeteria, not because of concerns over management’s lack of willpower but potential pest problems.

    1. jill*

      It seems to me that most people who ask these questions in “is it legal?” terms are looking for external validation that what they experienced is wrong. It’s much harder to go to your boss and do the problem-solving thing, especially with something like this where the boss is pretty obviously overreaching, than it is to stop by and mention that actually, legally, s/he CAN’T do whatever the offensive behavior is. It takes off the table the need to advocate for yourself and negotiate.

    2. Jane Doe*

      I agree. I wonder if it’s based on a misconception that there are just so many laws that one of them must deal with whether an employer can ban certain food in the workplace/whether your manager can be a dick/whether you can be prevented from wearing silly ties on Friday.

      1. fposte*

        I think also a lot of us grow up with an idea of The Tules and a ready authority to enforce fairness and never realize that wasn’t for any legal reason, it was just because the teacher/parent/whatever felt that was important. It can be really startling as an adult to discover those weren’t laws in the legal sense, just in the civilization sense.

  13. giraffe*

    In regards to number 6…

    Does anyone not find it sad that a college graduate is being given the same advice as a 16 year old as to how to apply to retail jobs? Why even go to college?

    These are the times we live in….

    1. JamieG*

      As a college graduate posting during my break from my full-time retail job, I agree. But a paycheck is better than no paycheck, so I’m not complaining (much).

      More on-topic, open availability puts you to the top of the puke, basically, and makes it easier to get hours even when they’re being cut store-wide.

  14. perrik*

    #4: You are aware that it’s your manager’s style, not just her way of working with you. As you probably cannot change her style, you’ll have to either accept her lack of positive feedback (no news is good news) or look elsewhere.

    I had a professor like that – he gave detailed feedback on weaknesses in papers or projects, but his approval was a simple “ok”. This was disconcerting at first, but eventually I learned to translate “ok” as “well done”. By the end of my second class with him I had been upgraded to “nice work” for earning a perfect semester score. And that was… ok.

    #7: Tough passwords unique to each website can be a pain to remember, but essential for security. I use 1Password and just have to remember the master password.

  15. DA*

    For #2, I’d recommend finding a local Toastmasters club. They generally meet once a week and you can go at your own pace. I’d even suggest that you ‘shop around’ to find a club you feel comfortable with. Once you do, give it six months or so and you will find yourself being a better speaker without even realizing your improvement.

    Of course, everyone reading this could benefit from this as well. I’ve been in Toastmasters for about a year and a half. I enjoy every meeting and have been improving my public speaking this whole time.

  16. First Time!*

    I’ve always wondered why retail and the like don’t do a set shift schedule, like in manufacturing. There would be no confusion for the employees and tons of time saved for the person responsible for creating a schedule every week. Does anyone know why the don’t do that?

      1. Jamie*

        Yeah – a part time position in manufacturing (entry level) is like whatever the elusive flip side is to the purple squirrel.

        I’m not entirely sure those jobs exist, but even if they do most people may go their whole lives and not come across one themselves.

      2. First Time!*

        I would assume so, but that shouldn’t matter. I just mean having the same people work the same times, everyday rather than switching it up every week.

    1. some1*

      Because their scheduling needs change. For example, a clothing store in a shopping mall needs more coverage on Saturdays and Sundays, because that’s when they have more customers. And they need more people working during weekend afternoons then they do right at 9:00 when the mall opens. They need more coverage during the holiday season, or other times of the year specific to the type of store. (Kid’s clothing needs more coverage during Back to School time, a men’s clothing store gets busier right before Father’s Day, etc.)

      1. First Time!*

        Oh I totally understand the busy times as I have worked retail in the past. I don’t think I’m explaning myself correctly…Why not schedule it so that the same people work the same time everyday? So Susie works 10-2 everyday, John works 2-6 everyday, etc. Why have Susie work 2-6 today, 10-2 tomorrow, 6-10 next, etc. and change it all up again the next week? Does that make sense?

        1. BL*

          I think in addition to coverage needs changing, it allows retail to not give anyone all of the “crap shifts” because if someone always has terrible shifts they are more likely to quit. Of course what is a “crap shift” varies from person to person but there are some universally disliked shifts. When I worked in fast food, they often scheduled people from 11:00 AM-2:00 PM to cover the lunch rush. Everyone hated it because it was in the middle of the day and only three hours so they tried not to schedule any single person with that shift more than once a week. Unless of course they ticked off the scheduling manager.

        2. Josh S*

          It does make sense though. Because while you may have a schedule that’s relatively similar week-to-week, the staffing needs also change week-to-week (especially if you work for a chain, where they track metrics). So this week, it might work for that set schedule. But next week, I might need to take 8 employee hours off the schedule. And I want to give those hours to John (who gets the best upsell rate) to keep him happy/employed with me, instead of Susie (who is mediocre). So the schedule shifts.

          Or someone asks for a particular day off so they can spend time with sick grandma in the hospital, but you’d still like to give them their normal hours. Or, or, or …. there’s a LOT of reasons that it works out that way.

          When I worked retail we had a typically reliable schedule. But I’d say about 50% of the weeks (possibly more) had one day or another that was out of whack (hours shifted earlier or later, one typical day I’d be off and the next day on, etc).

          Scheduling isn’t nearly as simple as many people think, especially when you have hours, OT, responsibilities/training, budgeting, etc to keep track of.

        3. KarenT*

          I think part of the reason set schedules don’t work in retail (at least not always) is student avialabilty changes frequetnly (semester to semester), sucky shifts (Friday night, Saturday morning) need to be rotated, and staffing needs change (more staff during big sales, inventory, or the holidays). And one person calling sick/taking off a day has a rolling effect (John called in sick, Suzie’s gonna cover his shift, so Jeff covers hers, and Lisa covers his…)

  17. PPK*

    #1 — I can sort see a “public” ban on sweets in the office. It’s not a great idea, of course, but I can see cutting down/out on group treats. I can’t imagine a “personal” ban on sweets. I keep snacks in my desk for myself. If someone brings in a lunch and has a dessert….I can only see a ban if the Boss is the lunch stealing boss.

    “I can’t control myself so when I steal your lunch, there better not be any cookies in it.”

    1. K*

      I can see cutting down on employer-funded treats. Anything else, I think, is highly inappropriate for a boss to be inserting themselves into (legal, but inappropriate).

      1. fposte*

        And if there’s concern about there being too much junk food in the office, the boss can always fund a fruit bowl.

        1. Morag*

          But why should there even be a fruit bowl? Provided by the employer? It’s really not mandatory for food to be available while you’re working.

          1. fposte*

            Because if the manager is concerned about the nature of the foods, an alternative is going to be more successful than a ban, and her funding it will make clear that she’s committed enough to put her money where her mouth is.

  18. Morag*

    As someone who struggles with food, I have to say bravo to the boss who’s nixing the sweet treats in the workplace. Why the heck are we so attached to eating during work hours, anyway? There’s something not quite right about how attached we are to always having food available every minute of the day. It wasn’t always considered normal to bring food in to work.
    Personally, it’s not good for me, it’s very difficult to say no to, and people do tend to push it on you. It would be a great relief not to have to be distracted by it all the time so I could concentrate on work. Just me, I know most people will disagree, and I’m not trying to work anybody up, but I felt like I had to say something, since it’s not PC to talk about it at my job.

    1. Andy Lester*

      Why the heck are we so attached to eating during work hours, anyway?

      Because that’s the way our bodies work. I’m also attached to drinking during work hours as well.

      it’s not good for me, it’s very difficult to say no to, and people do tend to push it on you.

      Those are all fine decisions for you to make for yourself. It seems short-sighted of a manager to define the working environment so it best suits her without considering others.

      If the boss likes listening to Megadeth during work, should she play Megadeth throughout the office for everyone else to listen to as well? I would say no (especially if it’s any album after Rust In Peace).

      1. Morag*

        I’m not saying people shouldn’t eat meals or take a break to eat during the day. I’m trying to (gently) suggest it is not physiologically necessary to have food available during work hours.

        1. Jamie*

          Actually, some of the fittest people I know eat continually throughout the day in lieu of larger meals. And a lot of people do function better being able to eat as they are hungry rather than by the clock – but that doesn’t mean there is a need for a tray of muffins. But people should be able to eat as they see fit.

        2. K*

          You would not want to be at a workplace with me if I didn’t have food available during working hours. Trust me. It may not be “physiologically” necessary, but it is conducive to avoiding violence.

        3. Esra*

          In general, it’s healthier to snack rather than eat 2 or 3 big meals a day. That aside, for many people it is physiologically necessary to eat during work hours.

          But besides those points, for (I would argue) most people, having baked goods or treat or fruits or whatever brought in by staff or provided by the employer can boost morale and just be a nice treat. As a coworker of mine says when someone brings something in, it’s nice to have a little bit of sunshine in the office.

          1. Morag*

            I understand. Just wanted to throw out the concept that eating while working in an office is a cultural, learned behavior, not a basic human right. Phew, being provocative is so tiring!

            1. K*

              Dude, nobody said it was a basic human right; if they had, you’d be getting much, much stronger responses than “your boss has a legal right to do that but it’s stupid to do so.” Plenty of things are perfectly legal but also bad management. This is one of those regardless of whether you’re actually causing permanent physical damage to your employees.

        4. fposte*

          I actually agree with you that it’s not physically necessary–and certainly in America eating patterns have changed in some ways that aren’t necessarily good for us–but neither are most of the other things we do to pad our daily grind. That’s just not reason enough to say it shouldn’t happen.

        5. -X-*

          Morag, I can’t help but wonder if it is “physiologically necessary” for there not to be food in the same office as you?

      2. K*

        (Also, people pushing food on people is also wrong and should not be equated with people merely bringing food in. The key here is that everyone should get to make their own decisions about when they eat, what they eat, and how much of it they eat. Co-workers and managers should not be attempting to influence that one way or another. Bringing food to share is not “influence,” but harassing a co-worker for not taking it – or even asking after they’ve declined or asked not to be asked – is and isn’t okay.)

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I have no problem saying no to anyone. No, you cannot have one of my truffles. No, I do not want any nasty pecan pie. :)
      If she doesn’t want it in the break room, as Alison said, it’s legal. If it starts to extend to people’s lunch, then I would say something. That’s none of her business if someone wants to bring a chocolate chip cookie to eat after their sammich.

  19. Lisa*

    #6 (open availability in retail)

    As someone who currently works retail, and has set the schedule for their store before, we LOVE LOVE LOVE people with open availability!!!! However, be fore-warned that “anytime” availability will read as ANY TIME availability…i.e. – Bob just called out…hmm….hey can you stay an extra 5 hours? Susie is sick…hmm…hey can you come in and work the morning shift tomorrow? Yea I know you just worked a double, but you’re the only one that can do it.

    If you need the money and can handle a volatile schedule, then go ahead and put any time/open availability. However, if you have specific quirks or things you like/need to do at set times, then factor that in as well. If you know you’re crabby before 10am or will ALWAYS be late to any shift starting before 9am (because you’re like me and snooze 7 times before actually getting up), then list your availability as 10-close. Have a TV show you have to watch Thursdays at 8pm and if you don’t see it you’ll die? List Thursday as open-7pm and every other day as open.

    Managers don’t really care so much about why you have a certain availability as they do about you honoring the one you listed when you applied. So if you put down open availability every day, and then always have an excuse to need to leave early Tuesday evenings, that’s the quickest way to get your manager a little more than miffed. They’d much rather know in advance that you have to leave by 530 Tuesday evenings, so that they can schedule accordingly (versus having to scramble at the last second to find someone to cover your shift).

    A reasonable manager knows that people’s schedules change; they just want as much advance notice as possible. Planning on going back to school? Note on the application that for now your availability is open, but will change once school starts (and you’ll let them know asap what shifts you’ll be available). Something unforseeable happens once you start working? Let your manager know asap that your availability has changed (ie, Great Aunt So-and-So just got out of the hospital and we’re rotating care shifts, so I can no longer work on Wednesdays).

    Also, having an open schedule will DEFINITELY give you the work experience you’re looking for. An 8am customer is different than an 8pm customer, weekend customers differ from weekday customers, some customers are…jerks…no matter what time of day they come in, and at some point there will be 5 customers for every 1 employee available to help them. Learn how to master all of those situations, and it’ll be an asset in whatever field you go in.

  20. mc*

    I was wondering if Alison made up #7 about me! My email account recently sent out sketchy-looking links to a bunch of people I have been in contact with, including the Ask A Manager account and faculty from graduate schools I’m in the process of applying to. I changed my password and spent ~5 minutes sending a brief email that I bcc’ed to everyone. I’m glad to hear that it probably won’t be held against me.

  21. mc*

    I used to have a supervisor like #4. It was very frustrating because the job involved a lot of learning at first and he would only give me feedback if I did something wrong. If I didn’t hear anything, I didn’t know if I was doing it correctly or if he didn’t notice my mistakes. It probably took at least twice as long to learn how to do everything without any positive feedback. This person also never made eye contact so I think he had social skills issues in general. Fortunately, I was able to transfer departments and I have a much better supervisor now.

  22. OP #6*

    Thanks for the advice everyone :) I’m very relieved to know that, in fact, retail and food service would be elated to have me! I decided not to drop off my application YET. One of the jobs I applied to emailed me today for an interview, which was surprisingly fast turn around time for them. I’d hate to apply under full availability only to yank the rug out from them in a few weeks. (On a tangential note, I’m not even sure I want this job, it’s not 100% in line with my field, but this isn’t the time to be picky!)

    It’s kinda sad that everyone I talk to scolds me for even considering retail. I graduated college, so I’m “selling myself short.” If I had applied right off the bat I would already have 7 months of savings!! Lesson learned.

    1. hindenburg2002*

      Don’t listen to those people anymore…at least not about employment matters. A lot of places consider a college degree (congrats by the way!) a basic requirement nowadays. Just because you have one doesn’t mean they’re going to start you off at $30/hr in some high-powered position…you still have to work your way up in the industry and the company you get hired at.

      I have a college degree (and some grad school). I also work retail…part-time now. Why? Because the work I did, the skills I acquired, and the promotion I got became achievements on my resume and impressed the heck out of the hiring manager of the company I work for now (who also happens to be a founder and owner of said company). I started off doing inventory (nowhere close to what my degree is in)…and leap-frogged over everyone else to become the Assistant Manager. That promotion added a whole laundry list of items to my resume, what you’d call “transferrable soft skills” – being able to stay calm under intense pressure, dealing with a variety of personalities from a variety of people associated with my store (vendors, customers, and our own corporate office), meeting deadlines on time and under budget, being able to take over as the manager in their absence and everything run just as smoothly as when they’re there, etc. Plus, you never know who you’ll get to meet when you work retail because you constantly get new customers…maybe one of them will be your ticket to getting the job you really want.

      Final note – if these retail nay-sayers meant you were selling yourself short because you won’t make as much money in retail as in other professions…store managers make $80k a year or more…just saying.

  23. Cassie*

    #1: The cafeterias in the medical school associated with our university has banned fried foods, as part of their healthy initiative. No more french fries or fried chicken :( I get that they want to provide more healthy choices and that’s great, but why can’t us adults make our own choices?

    I also remember an article a while back about a public agency in New York (I forget which one) who issued rules on what foods could and could not be ordered for catered meals/events. It was pretty specific, if I remember correctly.

  24. Hazem*

    I have a written agreement with the company to give me an incremental effective since 1 jan 2012, but the manager he told me that he still waiting the green light from the CEO, finally i found 2012 passed without any incremental .
    Know the manager want to give me the salary which i suppose to take it since one year back.
    can I ask for a retroactive raise to be effective since jan 2012?

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