short answer Saturday — 6 short answers to 6 short questions

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

1. Do I have to attend this work training?

My boss recently announced that they “strongly recommend” that everyone in our group get a certain certification. She has told us multiple times that she really wants everyone in our group to get this certification this year. The certification consists of seven two-day courses — always on Fridays and Saturdays.

Using seven of my Saturdays for this course wouldn’t be my ideal use of time, but I was fine with it. However, my boss has now come back and said that since we are getting a certification out of this course we have to a) pay for everything oursleves upfront, and only get reimbursed when we pass the course b) use vacation days for the course. So now this course is taking 14 days of my personal time (over a week of vacation time alone!), AND I have to do the several-thousand dollar cost on my own for most of the year. The thing is, I wouldn’t take this course if it weren’t for my job. And I’m pretty sure I don’t want to stay in this area long-term. I am looking for other oppurtunities within the same company, but it may be a while until I can move. Until them, my boss is expecting me to complete all 7 of these courses this year. How do I discuss with her the fact that I am not willing to use 1/2 of my vacation (I get 15 days) plus 7 Saturdays to complete this course? I don’t want to come across as a trouble-maker- I am just coming back from 2 months of modified work duties due to an illness, and I don’t want to become the employee who is always creating trouble.

If the training is truly mandatory, your employer is required by federal law to pay for the time that you attend the training. They can, however, require you to deduct the time from your accrued vacation, believe it or not. (That’s because no law requires them to give you vacation time at all, so they can put whatever rules they want on it.) If you’re exempt, this doesn’t really help you at all. If you’re non-exempt, however, they’d need to pay you for that Friday in class — as well as extra pay for the Saturday (if that’s an extra work day for you), plus overtime pay if that puts you over 40 hours that week.

I’d ask your boss to clarify whether it’s mandatory or not and what would happen if you don’t attend. You should also explain your concerns about the money and the significant amount of vacation time you’d lose. Sometimes just pointing these things out can chance the decision. But if it doesn’t, I’d figure out the likely consequences of simply saying that you can’t afford the time or price and skipping it.

2. Hiring large groups of people

I wanted to write you with a question about a hiring process. I’ve been in my current role as a manager with a large research group at a university for about a year now. We run several large-scale research projects for which we hire large numbers of graduate research assistants every summer. We typically interview over 100 people for about 60 spots in the span of 2-3 months. Because of sheer quantity of people, we do 20 minute interviews and check references. Since these people are students seeking to fund their graduate studies, the university requires us to interview all applicants in person (I know…). These are all young people in graduate school, so many of them don’t have much formal work experience.

I’ve read your posts about hiring entry-level people, and thought that was very helpful, but I wondered if you had any specific advice about hiring large quantities of people at the same time? I don’t think that our system is working very well—my peers joke that we’d be better off pulling names out of a hat! To illustrate, on my project this academic year, we’ve had two people quit (one without notice) and fired two people for poor performance. We have a group of people performing at a high level, some who are fine, and a frustratingly large group on whom I have to keep really close tabs because of their poor performance. What can we be doing better in our hiring process to avoid some of these issues?

20-minute interviews aren’t nearly enough to tell you to hire, but if you’re required to interview all 100, I can see why you can’t give them more time. However, it sounds like you’re not giving the any exercises or simulations to see how they actually perform, and adding in that component could give you much better information. Have your candidates do some kind of exercise related to the work they’d be doing on the job — I guarantee you that you’ll get much better insight into who to hire.

That said, whenever you’re hiring 60 people, some of them aren’t going to work out. So I’d go into it expecting that too.

3. Is there a contracting blacklist?

I was fired from my last job at a government contractor in the area. I was wondering if there is black list that government contractors have to prevent you from working with another company. Do you know?

Very unlikely. People talk informally, of course, but you’re probably safe from a black list.

4. Mentioning current employer’s financial instability in an interview

When answering a question about why I want to leave my current job, is it wrong to cite concerns about the company’s financial stability? My employer has been throwing up a lot of red flags (massive layoffs, a way scaled back Christmas party, late payroll) and I’m worried they’ll lay me off or go out of business altogether. Will mentioning concerns about their viability make me appear disloyal or overly negative?

Nope, that’s a completely understandable reason to be looking for another job. Don’t go into detail or reveal things you shouldn’t, of course, but it’s fine to say that you’re company is having layoffs or having trouble meeting payroll and so you’re looking for something more stable.

5. My company has a ridiculously arduous decision-making process

I work for a company that in the past has made a lot of mistakes when it came to decision making. They’ve purchased the wrong software and wasted enormous amounts of money, they’ve hired too many people, they’d fired the wrong people, etc. Due to the past mistakes, they’ve acquired a more micromanaged “chain of command.” Meaning, we have process analysts, team leads, supervisors, managers, directors, vice presidents. Now the problem I’m having is that because there is so many people in charge, they are all in charge at the same time, if that makes sense. If the supervisor has to be in a meeting, so does the manager (just in case), and the director (just in case). It seems that all decisions must be taken as a “team” of leaders, rather than escalating.

In my past jobs in college, I’ve had to report to a single person, I presented my work to them, and they were allowed to make decisions according to their level. But here, I have to present to ALL leadership. It makes the process more arduous. Because there is so many people in charge, decisions are a painful process. The leadership does not seem to trust one another in the making decisions. I feel overwhelmed with the amount of work a decision takes.

It stresses me out to work in this environment. I like the work I do, but I don’t like the pain of working with a team of leaders, one higher than the other, but essentially doing the same job. Is this normal? This is my first job out of college and I feel like I should quit, but I want to consider some advice and know if this is a norm at other companies as well.

No, it’s not normal and it’s terribly inefficient. Your company sounds badly managed.

6. Background check when you have an arrest for an unpaid traffic ticket

I have a question regarding background checks and how important is it to have a clean record. I just got a job offer, and they mentioned conducting a background check. I’m concerned about getting too excited or saying anything to my current employer because I know that I have an arrest on my record. In 2008, I got a ticket for not wearing a seat belt. I paid the ticket with a money order through the mail as per instructions. Two years later, in 2010, I was pulled over and arrested for driving on a suspended license. The license was suspended because, according the court, the ticket had not been paid and that is “failure to appear” and an automatic suspension of license. At the time of my arrest, I had received no notice that my payment had not been received nor that my license had been suspended. Furthermore, in that same two year time-frame, I had renewed my license.

The end result is, on my record it says that I was arrested for driving on a suspended license. I want to email the HR manager so he knows to expect it. However, I’m really worried about whether this is cause to rescind the offer. I’m also concerned with what to say to HR. I want to keep it as factual and concise as possible, but at the same time explain that the arrest for driving on a suspended license is not due to anything more nefarious than not wearing my seat belt.

It was a horrifying, humiliating experience, and a dash to my squeaky clean record. (I had previously held jobs requiring federal security clearance). And, I’m terrified this is going to ruin my chances for a job I’m really excited about.

This will almost certainly be fine. Email or call the HR manager and just explain what you said here. Lots and lots of people have weird little blips like this on their records. The important thing is just to proactively explain it to him. You should be fine!

{ 106 comments… read them below }

  1. Construction HR

    #4. That was one of the 3 reasons I gave for leaving my last job. I was concerned that I’d walk in one day and not have a job. ‘Course the primary reason, as is the case with the vast majority of folks who leave, was that my supervisor sucked.

  2. #3- Blacklist

    There is not a blacklist to my knowledge. However, Alison is right, people talk and this is a closely connected industry.

    1. Suzette

      Well i was thinking that in the Office of Personnel Management, somehow somewhere you can put something in the system to deter people from hiring you, ex. like the government or government contractor. It is indeed a small community but their are terrible managers that have been put in a position of power that do not belong there and will harass contractors simply because you won’t be a part of their click or you choose to do your job instead of kissing up someone in fear of their retailation. It has nothing to do with the contractor, just the ignorant and unprofessional manager that represents the government. This happens quite often frankly.

  3. Gemma

    #2
    It strikes me that a variation on a military method might work for you. In short:

    Take a week for prelimary interviews, with 20-30 candidates per day. Start early and have them all perform aptitude testing (by recreating the main tasks required by the role, eg complete a report log, etc). At the end you can dismiss those applicants that fail to meet the basic standard.

    Then identify traits you want (those shown by the high performers) and those you don’t (as shown by the poor performers). Again devise a test for this (eg discussion groups, timed tasks, etc). You can then dismiss those that display the unwanted traits.

    You then do initial face to face interviews on the remaining candidates to create a viable pool to select from.

    It’s worth mentioning that this method relies on you adequately knowing what skills and traits you need, and devising appropriate testing. You may still end up with poor performers. You may be interviewing 100 poor performers in the first place.

    1. Josh S

      It’s the simple math of this process that seems, to me, to be at the heart of the problem.

      You’re interviewing 100 candidates for ~60 open spots. At most positions these days, there’s way more than 100 candidates for a single spot, and only a handful of those candidates make the first cut, let alone make it to final consideration.

      So by the simple nature of the math, you’re not able to screen out a significant number of low- to middling-performers during your interview process. I mean, you’re hiring 60% of the candidates! Of course you’re going to have a decent number of lousy folks, even if you do a perfect job of getting the top 60% of the candidate pool!

      Certainly adding some more task-oriented screening tools can help strengthen this process, but it won’t fix the fact that you’re going to have some low performers that make it through.

      IMO, the best thing you can do is set very clear expectations with every person hired, up front. Tell them they are expected to do X, Y, and Z by $Time each week, with Quality Standards A, B, and C followed strictly. And if they do not, they are subject to discipline including a negative reference for the future or termination. Put it in writing and give it to each grad assistant. Like a syllabus, only for the expectation of their work product. (You may want to run this past your University’s HR department to make sure it doesn’t run afoul of any school policies, like student ombudsman review or something, in the process.)

      1. Mike C.

        Wait, so if the employer can’t screen properly, and the hire fails despite their best efforts, you recommend punishing them with a negative reference when they try to find employment elsewhere? You do realize that sometimes a hire just doesn’t work out because it turns out the person just isn’t good at the particular job, right?

        What the heck is wrong with you?

        1. Josh S

          There are a lot of things wrong with me, but that’s between me, my wife, and my therapist. I’d kindly ask you to keep the ad hominem attacks out of it when you disagree with me.

          As to your actual criticism, I see your point. I’m not trying to suggest that the OP ‘punish’ people — I’m suggesting that she be very clear that the position holds high standards and that there are consequences for shirking responsibilities or doing a crappy job.

          One of those consequences would be a stance that the OP is unable to provide a positive reference for future employment. This is something that should be a matter of course, since it would be somewhat shocking (from my perspective) to ask that a supervisor give a good reference for someone who did mediocre work. Letting the students know up front that they will not get a good reference if they do mediocre or poor work is fair, does not set them up to think, “All I have to do is show up and I’ll have a reference and a job for my resume,” and is generally a good practice, IMO.

          Likewise, if the person is particularly poor, they should be fired from the position (which, it seems, has happened in the past).

          I’m not saying that the mediocre ones must be given these consequences, but that it is a good thing to be up front about the fact that such consequences can be potentially expected if the (clearly-spelled-out) standards are not met.

          The fact is that the employer cannot do a sufficient job of keeping low performers off the team. So the way to counteract that is to set clear expectations up front.

          “You do realize that sometimes a hire just doesn’t work out because it turns out the person just isn’t good at the particular job, right?”
          Yes, I do realize this. Do you realize that if a person ‘just isn’t good at the particular job’ that they aren’t going to get a recommendation saying that they *are* good at the particular job? What’s wrong with that?

          1. Mike C.

            A person can still be a good employee while being terrible at a particular job. Giving them a terrible reference means that you clearly recognize that they don’t fit their current job, so as punishment you’re going to make it harder for them to find something new to do instead.

            I’m not suggesting you not tell the truth, but you imply that poor performance means you’re going to do everything you can to prevent them from getting a job elsewhere through a poor reference. What you’re suggesting is incredibly unethical.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              Except that you can’t really give a good reference if they did a bad job for you. Josh isn’t suggesting that they proactively try to mess with someone getting an employment in the future — just that they make it clear up front that they won’t be able to be a good reference if the performance doesn’t meet certain standards, because that’s true.

              Declining to give a reference (or declining to give a good reference) isn’t the same as “doing everything you can to prevent them from getting a job.” It’s just saying you won’t be able to help them with a good reference.

              1. Sunshine DC

                I wonder about the challenges of hiring students. Some grad students are 21 year olds with no work experience. Some are 41 years olds with 20 years of experience (as all ages go to grad school – many people in the misdt of careers, deciding to go for a PhD.) If the programs of the OP only hired the best in terms of skills and experience, then it would seem likely young grad students would never get the chance to learn and grow. On the one hand, there is important work that needs to be dome, on the other… they are required to hire students (many of whom may have to drop out if they don’t get a tuition waiver this way.) So at the same time, it kind of implies that there is a “training” element to this. Outside the university sector is different, in that you wouldn’t “need” to hire students at all.

                1. STUDent

                  I’m an old grad student, and I can tell you that I am not competing with the grad students who have no work experience. Having worked in my field for quite some time, the “internships” I get are more like full-fledged consulting gigs.

                2. fposte

                  There’s juggling going on, but I don’t think I’ve ever factored in professional or financial need in hiring for my student staff–these are real jobs, with a high level of autonomy, and I need them done well. My staff do get a lot of enrichment possibilities and support for their progress, which is foregrounded in a way it might not be for non-student jobs (though actually I’m pretty aware of it for my non-student staff as well). But the fact that it’s a student job really doesn’t mean anything additional as far as training goes.

                  Our program does have a lot of other opportunities to gain experience (though not always paid experience), so if you don’t receive an assistantship, you still have ways to get your CV solid before you head out into the job world. However, you can’t assume those opportunities will just fall into your lap–you’ll probably need to take some initiative. Which doesn’t seem to be a problem in my program.

              2. Jessa

                The problem with this is often times the person who is not performing isn’t doing so because of laziness or anything but a genuine bad fit. And the company should not penalise an employee for them hiring the wrong person. There’s a difference in review between “works very hard,” and “is a total jerk and never shows up,” and both those people might be dismissed from the job.

                Especially when a lot of jobs that hire that many people are NOT accurate about what the job entails. Not what the requirements are but what the actual work is about.

                1. fposte

                  It’s fair to honestly report that somebody didn’t do a good job, though, and fit is not only the responsibility of the employer. (And in a summer research GAship that happens to 60 people every summer, the actual tasks are going to be pretty well known, and are unlikely to be something that isn’t required for scholars in the field, so poor performance at them has real implications for their academic progress.) Additionally, references are not simply binary for “excel/suck”–you could say that they worked hard but failed to demonstrate the autonomy that you’d expect for somebody at that level.

                  I disagree with Josh’s framing this as a penalty or a disciplinary measure; I think this is part of what you were talking about in being clear with people up front about expectations, benefits, and consequences. Come and get experience, understand that we expect you to demonstrate initiative and autonomy commensurate with your being a scholar in the field; your performance here will be considered and shared with the faculty as part of your progress toward your degree, and we will require you meet our standards if you wish to use as a positive reference.

                2. Josh S

                  @Fposte: Lest there be any confusion, Mike C was the one framing this as a punishment/disciplinary measure.

                  I’m the one trying to frame it as being up front about expectations and consequences.

                3. fposte

                  No, I’m responding to your own sentence about an up-front warning that they are “subject to discipline including a negative reference for the future or termination.” I think that’s an unnecessarily threatening way to frame it, especially in the absence of discussion of benefits as well as consequences.

                  I think we’re on the same page about the underlying principle of information in advance, but this was skewed to me.

                4. Josh S

                  That’s entirely fair. I wasn’t going for aggressive in my initial comment, but it certainly comes across that way. I was trying to find wording that emphasizes the work nature of the position — it’s not something that can be treated casually.

                  It *would* be better to frame it in terms of benefits alongside any talk of consequences.

                  Thanks for keeping me sharp! :)

          2. Rana

            I think what Mike C. is getting at is this:

            If a manager hires a person for job A, when there’s ample evidence that they will suck at it, should they be penalized for the hiring manager’s bad decision? They were set up to fail; is this their fault?

            Suppose a company is hiring people to design the spouts for chocolate teapots. Since these people are entry-level, the company expects to train them, and it’s reasonable to expect that they don’t yet have a reliable or complete sense of what they are or are not good at.

            So Wakeen applies for the job. He has no direct experience in spout-making, or teapots, having only worked on handles for coffeepots. He knows this, but has been told that they train, and this is entry-level, and that if he’s not qualified he won’t get the job, so why not apply?

            This is the sort of candidate who should be screened out right away, correct? He’s not qualified for the job, and it would take a lot to get him up to speed.

            But let’s say the hiring manager Jane is terrible at her job, and she decides to hire Wakeen despite his lack of qualifications and experience. Wakeen, not knowing any better due to inexperience, happily accepts the offer.

            So now there’s poor Wakeen, struggling to meet the expectations of a manager who wants him to do something he’s never done before, alongside colleagues with extensive experience in teapot spout design. He tries very hard to keep up, seeks out mentors to improve his skills, takes classes in spout theory and practice at night, and so on. But he’s still not up to the par of his co-workers, simply because he doesn’t have the experience they had starting day one, and what’s easy for them he still finds challenging.

            So. At this point Wakeen has done nothing wrong, aside from being inexperienced. It was Jane that decided he was fit to do the work, and she’s the one who has the experience and expertise to make a judgment Wakeen is too inexperienced to make.

            Yet Wakeen can’t complete the tasks he’s given as quickly as his more experienced co-workers, and as a result, he’s not doing his job as well as it needs to be done.

            So, two facts: Wakeen should not have been hired for this job in the first place (Jane’s fault); Wakeen is struggling.

            Is it then fair for Jane to give a bad reference to Wakeen that focuses only on his poor performance, and not on his efforts to get up to speed for a job he shouldn’t have been offered in the first place?

            Basically, Jane put Wakeen in a position where he was guaranteed to be a poor performer, no matter what he did.

            1. fposte

              Sure, that can happen. But it’s not what’s happening in the case the OP’s describing (unless we’re talking students who are also manifestly unfit for the program they’re in, which they bear a fair bit of responsibility for).

              The Jane/Wakeen scenario seems to me to be another version of “sometimes management sucks,” but it’s still fair for Jane to tell somebody asking about Wakeen that he wasn’t up to snuff on the spout-making (and the odds of somebody who’s so clueless in hiring to become wise come reference time aren’t great). If hiring is at the reference stage, Wakeen’s probably had an interview and has had a chance to say “It turned out they wanted a spout-maker when I was hired to do lid work.”

              I guess I don’t see who we’re trying to advise here–the Janes, to hire better or to be more thoughtful in their references? The Wakeens, to be clear on the context when they move on? Reference checkers?

            2. Josh S

              +1 Wakeen reference.

              A reference that focuses *only* on his poor performance would be unfair in this situation. You are right that Jane should also talk about the efforts that Wakeen made. But to suggest that Jane not also mention that “Despite the efforts he made, he was not able to meet the expectations of the position,” is likewise an inaccurate portrayal of Jane’s knowledge of Wakeen.

              The OP is suggesting a number of employees who fall well before Wakeen on the performance scale — those who simply fall short of expectations regarding professionalism, effort, and results. It’s like Wakeen but without the effort.

              It seems as though Mike C is still saying such an employee should not be threatened with a negative reference since it was Jane’s fault. But if Jane is called for a reference, I think all she could say is that Employee was not a good fit; he didn’t meet the expectations of the position.

              In Wakeen’s case, there’s something to be said for the efforts made that can offset that ‘failure to meet expectations’.
              In Employee’s case, there’s nothing to offset it.

            3. Ask a Manager Post author

              Rana, sure, but that doesn’t mean that the employer could responsibly give Wakeen a good reference. You need to answer questions about his performance when you’re giving a reference, and while you can certainly acknowledge that it was a bad hire, there’s no way to give a largely positive reference in that situation.

              You guys are acting as if giving an honest reference is somehow punitive. It’s not. It’s a simple report on how someone did when they were working for you. It should be an honest assessment. If someone does poorly, no matter whose fault it is, that’s going to have to be part of the reference. It might include things like “but I think he’d be good at X, even though our job was Y,” but you can’t give a good reference just because of extenuating circumstances. (You can opt not to give a reference at all, of course, and that might be the better choice.)

              1. Rana

                Oh, I get that. I just think that part of the hiring manager’s responsibility is to make sure they don’t hire someone for whom a bad reference is inevitable (both for the company’s sake and for the employe’s sake).

                I was reading Mike C’s comment as a protest against the idea that a bad reference is something entirely within an employee’s control, and pointing out that sometimes an employee can do everything humanly possible to avoid a bad reference, and still fail as a result of having been hired to do a job they were not suited for.

                A good manager would recognize this, and account for it in an honest reference that acknowledged Wakeen’s efforts as well as his shortcomings. A bad manager, though, would say, “Well, I told Wakeen that if he didn’t do a good job, he should expect to get a bad reference,” and not see (or admit) the role they played in setting him up to fail.

                That’s pretty awful for Wakeen, especially at the start of his career, and the scenario that I think Mike’s objecting to.

                My opinion on this is that such a possibility is best to be avoided, and being as diligent as possible during the hiring process – as well as by warning candidates that they can’t slack off or work poorly – can go a long way towards preventing it.

              1. Your Mileage May Vary

                Ha! I actually know someone in real life who is named Shavonne (rhymes with Yvonne). I didn’t think anything about it until she mentioned one day that she has an Irish name.

                1. Josh S

                  Are you sure that’s how it’s spelled? Siobhan is Irish origin and it’s pronounced “Shavonne” despite the way it’s spelled. :)

                2. Your Mileage May Vary

                  @Josh — Yes, I see her write it all the time. It took me a while to make the connection to the Irish name she meant, though.

            4. Victoria Nonprofit

              I just wanted to call out fposte’s important comment upthread: “Fit” is not only the responsibility of the company. In this scenario, Wakeen should have asked about training opportunities, what skills they expected him to have, etc. He did a poor job of selecting a position, just as Jane did a poor job of selecting an employee.

              My only point is that the fact that a manager didn’t screen adequately doesn’t let a poor employee off the hook from the consequences of being a poor employee – including bad references.

              1. Anonymous

                To be fair, the training that my boss/hiring manager thought I would get and the training I actually got were two quite different things. And since it was my first job, I didn’t know that I should maybe speak up and instead just felt like an absolute failure.
                It was a bad fit (it got better, thankfully) but I don’t think it was my fault. And worse, others got better training than I did (they hired me at a godawful time and the person who trained me had only been working 6 months; the rational was “S/he’s good at their job, so they’ll be good at training.” No, they were terrible at training) so the person who came before/after me looked much better in comparision; ironically, I was one of the main forces making sure the person who was hired after me got good training.

          3. Kimberlee, Esq.

            For what it’s worth, I think that noting somewhere in the hiring paperwork that a negative reference IS a consequence of poor performance is a good thing. I recently added this to materials I made for interns. People new to the workforce often genuinely don’t understand that if they perform poorly, quit without notice, or do other bad things in their job, that it comes back to them. That’s the real world. They don’t need to be coddled because they’re students, or else they go into the next job thinking its OK to half-ass it and quit without notice. Telling people, in the plainest terms, the consequences for their actions when they’re entering into employment is a BIG favor!

        2. Victoria Nonprofit

          … And it’s reasonable to tell the next employer who might hire that person what the employee could and couldn’t (or did and didn’t) do. Saying “Even with extra support, Wakeen never finished his assignments on time,” or “Although we provided extra training to catch her up, Jane couldn’t master the chocolate teapot tempering technique” is not punishment. It’s a statement of what that person accomplished.

          1. Mike C.

            Who’s suggesting it’s not reasonable?

            I’m suggesting that it’s unethical to go out of your way to give someone to did everything they could to do well at a job and failed to ignore those efforts and hinder their job prospects elsewhere.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              But are you suggesting they be given a good reference when they didn’t perform well (even if they tried)? Because that’s pretty contrary to the whole idea of how references work. I mean, I could certainly say “she tried hard and showed up every day,” but the reference checker is going to ask questions about the quality of her work, and I’ll need to answer those honestly.

              1. Jamie

                Yep, if the best you can say when going a reference is “they were prompt and they really tried” it’s the equivalent of hearing “they have a wonderful personality” when you ask what the blind date looks like. It’s not really answering the question.

              2. Ask a Manager Post author

                I mean, if the employer were saying, “If you don’t do well, we’re going call up every employer in the field and badmouth you to them,” then yes, that would be unfairly punitive. (And weird.)

                But just explaining up-front (to students who may not otherwise understand) that they won’t be able to get a good reference — which is the exact same as the consequences of bad performance at most companies — seems pretty reasonable.

              3. Mike C.

                I’m suggesting that all references be honest. If an employer is saying that they are going to give out bad references as punishment for not meeting a particular metric (regardless of why) it implies a serious deviation from the norm.

                That deviation as punishment for not meeting metrics is what I find to be unethical.

                1. Josh S

                  Nobody ever suggested that the OP “give out bad references as punishment.”

                  I suggested that the OP be clear up front that if a student fails to meet expectations of the position, they cannot and should not expect a positive reference. To the OP, and to future employers, the reason for “failing to meet expectations” doesn’t matter nearly so much as the fact that the student “failed to meet expectations.” Yes, the reason can be explained if there are extenuating circumstances (eg. “Jane was really good with the record keeping, but not particularly good with being consistent in applying the same method to the experiment every time.”), but low performers [for a given job description] are low performers [for that job description].

              4. Jessa

                Except there’s a difference between someone who can work and just can’t do this job. And at some point a good worker may be a “bad hire,” not a “bad employee.” And there’s a difference.

                Sam is a hard worker, sie is always on time and works well with the team. However despite meeting our hiring requirements, those requirements were not sufficient to let us or Sam know that this would be a bad fit. We should not have hired Sam, but Sam would probably be an asset to your team, as this is an entirely different job.

                1. Josh S

                  “Sam is a hard worker, sie is always on time and works well with the team. However despite meeting our hiring requirements, those requirements were not sufficient to let us or Sam know that this would be a bad fit. We should not have hired Sam, but Sam would probably be an asset to your team, as this is an entirely different job.”

                  This is the sum total of what you can say about Sam in this case. As a person giving a reference, you have no experience regarding whether or not Sam would be an asset on another person’s team or not. Or whether or not he would be a good fit because it is an entirely different job. Those things are completely outside your experience or knowledge of Sam, and best left to the next hiring manager.

                  All you can do is report your experience of Sam in the position for which you oversaw him. And in this case, all you know is that Sam was a bad fit for this position and you should not have hired him. Whether that is his fault (for applying for a job he wasn’t well-suited to) or yours (for having insufficient screening in place during hiring) is unknown. What *is* known is that he did not do well in the position, and that’s what you can share.

                2. Ask a Manager Post author

                  I was just coming here to say exactly what Josh said. You can’t say the person would probably be an asset to the new employer’s team unless you genuinely have reason to believe that.

        3. fposte

          I take your point, Mike, in that there seems to be undermanagement here as well, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable for people who perform poorly at their job to get a bad reference. There’s nothing in evidence that the employees’ failure is “despite their best efforts,” and twenty-something adults should be able to stick out a job for three months once they’ve agreed to do so. (In my experience, university employment tends to simultaneously infantilize student hires and undermanage them, which is a bad combination.)

          It may take more time and effort to fix this than to live with it, given the circumstances. However, I’d suggest two things in addition to what Alison said: one, include a focus on independent work in the interview and tell them how much guidance the job is going to consider acceptable; and two, tie this more into the program. If a student in my program walked away in the middle of an RAship, they’d be seriously burning a departmental bridge. Would their advisors even know in yours? Are the students told that they will if so? If they’re stars, what does that look like, what does it do for them, and have you told them that?

            1. fposte

              I don’t understand what that means or has to do with the discussion, but I think you’re seeing a victimization here that I really don’t.

          1. GF, OP #2

            We do give bad references, if asked. Anything from “Jane was fired for being consistently late to appointments with subjects” to “Sue is a terrific person and really great at X. But she really struggled with Y, which is a deal breaker for this position, so she was let go.” But I don’t call up future employers to bad mouth our RAs, not even the ones who are fired and have to find other on-campus assistantship or TA positions. (Although I really wanted to, for the person who quit without notice for another on-campus position.)

            Also, I would love to be able to tie this more closely to the program, and I wish that advisers knew about some of these more unprofessional behaviors. I’m not sure if we could do that– we hire students from many different programs within the same professional school.

            I always try to give feedback, and our stars know who they are and why we value them, and that we would bend over backwards to give them glowing references, etc. and help them with post-school opportunities.

            1. fposte

              I was wondering if they were from different programs–it would be a lot to pull from one. But I might still keep in touch with the student deans from the relevant programs and let them know at the end of each summer about their students, including people who excel and people who tank. They also might be good allies in identifying a stronger cut of candidates from the get-go.

              1. GF, OP #2

                All the department chairs/deans/program directors refer their students to us, since we’re the biggest game in town and can fund a large number of the students in their respective programs, but I agree that it would be good to work more closely with them on this matter, especially for reporting on the bad apples.

                1. Kimberlee, Esq.

                  In my experience (with interns), if a hire that is specifically offered up by a school or by a program within a school turns out to be a bad performer, the people that offered them tend to be VERY interested in this fact. They don’t want to burn bridges with employers by sending them bad candidates. It’s really helpful for them to learn when people are either really a terrible fit, or perform very badly.

      2. GF, OP #2

        Thanks for the reply, Josh S. I think you always have insightful comments on this blog and I enjoy reading them.

        Yeah, clearly the numbers are not really in our favor and we’re bound to have some bad apples. What’s really most challenging about having these bad apples is that when one quits or is fired, it creates a significant problem for our ability to collect data in a timely and organized way (we work with kids and schools). So we end up weighing whether it’s less painful to keep someone mediocre or find someone else and train them, which sucks, because obviously it would just be better if we had all high performers.

        And I assure you that everyone, from the PIs down to the project managers like me, is VERY clear about the expectations we have, from attire to timeliness to adherence to the research protocols. It’s in writing and beaten into people’s heads, especially since people can have to repay their tuition waiver if they are let go.

        1. fposte

          I’m curious about how the waiver works–is it only for that summer, or can it apply to a regular-year semester?

          1. GF, OP #2

            I think my wording in the original question was unclear– we hire people over the summer (so it’s a pretty short timeframe) for a full academic year position.

            We pay all tuition and provide a modest living stipend. It’s a sweet deal if you can get it, and so it really is mind boggling that people behave in ways that can risk it.

            1. fposte

              Oh, that does change a lot of my thinking–sorry for my confusion.

              Can you get some input from the RAs themselves? We actually have ours involved in hiring their successors, but that’s not something that all funding and scheduling situations would allow; however, you could still do some informal exit interviewing that might help you get some front-line feedback about triage tips.

              Overall, though, you’re doing a big gate cut (tm jmkenrick) from a limited pool, and I think you may not be able to improve your success percentage much in the situation.

    2. GF, OP #2

      Thanks for these thoughts, Gemma. I like the idea of waves of interviews like this. I do feel very clear about the skills we are seeking and how to identify those. I agree with the general consensus that if you hire 60 people then you’ll probably end up with some bad apples, especially with people coming from different backgrounds and levels of experience.

      Also, I think your idea might be more complicated since some people have to come in from out of town for the interview (they happen in the summer before many people have moved to town to start school.)

      1. fposte

        Have you ever gone back later to your interview notes and candidate applications to see if you can find anything different between the candidates who met your standards and those who didn’t?

        1. GF, OP #2

          Yes. I have done it and the people who’ve been hiring for this position for the last decade have done it and there was no pattern. People who I/we thought would be phenomenal because of their skills in X and their extensive experience in Y have crashed and burned. And people who we thought would be just fine have been spectacular. Heck, one of our best people was someone who accidentally received an offer and we felt too bad to rescind it.

          1. fposte

            Heh. When s/he comes back . It really sounds to me like you’re at the mercy of your numbers here–you have to take such a high percentage of your pool that you don’t have a lot of sway over your sampling. (I suspect also that the common currency element of the assistantships could be leading to them being underappreciated, too.) Something like group interviews that at least limit the amount of time you spend to get the results might be the best gain you can hope for.

            1. fposte

              Oops–what I was going to say is that when this student comes back in a couple of decades as a roaring success to deliver the convocation address, that’s going to make a great story.

            2. Data Monkey

              Yes, I agree– hiring 60% of the pool is very likely to yield some bad fits. You also are getting the grad students who are not being funded by their department so I imagine that they are not the most competitive students (at least on paper) to begin with.

              I do like the suggestion of having them perform a particular job-related task to assess their skills. We starting doing this in my office when we needed to hire student workers to fulfill a research capacity and it yielded us better hires. Sure, there were definitely ones that we still had problems with, but that was mostly due to personal/life problems that arose in their lives than being poor performers.

  4. Not So NewReader

    OP #6. This sounds like a clerical error. I think when you have time to put into the matter you might be able to write to the court that reported you as not paying and explain the situation. Be sure to explain that it comes up in background checks for employment. Ask what can be done to remove the charge from your driving record.

    Barest minimum you should be able to get something from the court that says the charge was in error. You can keep this document handy for these types of situations. It may or may not cost you a couple bucks to get this document.

    Key part: be sure to tell the court clerk that it MAY interfere with your process of seeking new employment. Saying that can help to speed the process along.

    Unfortunately, your situation is not that uncommon and court clerks are fairly used to dealing with these issues.

    This is not a waste of time- because of your car insurance being impacted by your driving record, too.

    1. AP

      #6, this happened to my mom! It turned out that a certain city in NJ had reissued thousands of paid tickets “accidentally” and then, instead of contacting anyone, just waited for everyone to get pulled over and tried to take away their licenses.

      Luckily my mom is an obsessive archiver and had a copy of the original check she paid the ticket with. She started keeping a copy of it (and the rest of the related paperwork) in her glove compartment. It’s probably all still in there.

      1. Jessa

        I once had my licence suspended. By the time I found out about it (by mail months later, luckily not by being arrested for no licence,) the letter they actually sent me explained they were reversing the suspension after a review.

        Yes I got a letter reversing an action I never knew they took.

        I got in an accident for which I was NOT at fault. (Long story, but the City ended up paying to fix my car.) However, the accident involved a police car. With numerous officers already on the scene. I was supposedly suspended for failure to report this accident, which involved a POLICE CAR. How on earth it would have been possible to NOT report an accident with a police car? I have no clue. But an audit at the ticket office realised this and reversed it.

        This happens all the time. Even if you no longer have the paperwork, contest it.

        1. Not So NewReader

          WOW.
          What a thing to have happen to you! It sounds like more than one person failed to read the paperwork and just mindlessly pushed the paperwork through “the system”. This is very unsettling.
          Am glad you got it resolved.

        1. Ann

          They don’t always allow you to write a check. In this case, you could pay cash in person or money order through the mail. Those were the only options.

    2. EngineerGirl

      OP, I would also recommend a challenge to get things expunged:

      * Did they send you a letter when you paid your ticket but NOT send you a letter when it was revoked?
      * Did the county run public service announcments in the newspapers and on the internet after the judge’s ruling to let people know things had changed?
      * Did you renew your license *after* the judge issued the order?

      Any of these could be arguments that the county was negligent in notifying you of the change. The constitution technically doesn’t allow secret trials (at least in theory) so this change without notification could be deemed as not allowing you to have representation. At a minimum, it is negligence on the county’s part.

      Definately pay a lawyer to fight this. Consider the cost an investment in the future. It isn’t fair, but it is the cheapest in the long run.

      Standard disclaimer: I’m an engineer, not a lawyer. Law isn’t always as logical as I’d like it to be.

      1. Ann

        I’m the OP, I had tried to respond earlier to this… Unfortunately it somehow ended up below instead of a reply. However, I received NO notices. I didn’t get a letter informing me that the ticket was unpaid. I didn’t get a notice informing me that there was a bench warrant, or that my license was suspended. Nothing. Sadly, I did not keep the $15 receipt for the money order. I contacted a lawyer, they told me that, because of the way this was being handled, without definitive proof that I had paid (something showing the money order had been cashed by a recorders court employee) they would convict and it would be a waste of time and money to fight it. I also found out that the court does not have to notify you that there is warrant out for you or that your license has been suspended. There were stories in the news. It was a big deal at the time, and it said in the paper that the judge was going to pursue the tickets (it was worth millions to the county). I realize this means that there are hundreds of thousands of people in my city that have this exact same problem, and I’m being paranoid that a misdemeanor bench warrant for a seat belt (!) violation probably isn’t going to lose me a job. But, I am really excited about the job and there’s always that niggling little fear that something will mess it up.

        1. Not So NewReader

          Sadly, OP, every thing you are saying here is true. They do not have to notify you that they received your payment, nor do they have to let you know your license is suspended.

          HOWEVER, courts do have to keep financial records for a period of time. You might get lucky that they still have those records for the time you mailed in the MO. That financial statement might even show your last name next to the payment. If you recall the month and year that you sent that payment in, you could be in luck.

          My opinion is don’t bother with a lawyer. Call the court yourself and talk to a court clerk. Bonus points for talking nicely and sounding like a kind person. (Which I am sure you are, so just let that show in your voice.) Briefly tell your personal story. You might be able to get the clerk to look at the records for that month and year to see if the payment was deposited. Once the clerk sees clear proof of payment, the clerk might be able to erase it from the system entirely.

          I totally understand your “paranoia”. I had a medical bill for $35. “Don’t worry about it, not a big deal.” Yeah, okay. My mortgage app would not go through because of the medical bill. The medical bill was in ERROR- it was not a real bill. I never received a collection notice and was not aware of any problem. It took weeks to get the medical office to understand they were holding up my mortgage app. SIGH! Finally, they fixed the problem.

          Sometimes these little things work into big deals. So your concern does not seem unfounded to me.

        2. BW

          UGH. Really that law needs to change, not just to avoid this dastardly unfair kind of situation, but what is the point of suspending a license and NOT notifying someone? So there are all these people out there driving on suspended licenses, and some of them may be guilty of only forgetting to pay a one-time fine, and then it’s made 100x worse the next time they get pulled over because they are committing a crime they had no idea they were committing. It’s the epitome of stupid.

          I know what you mean about the little fear. Everytime someone mentions a background check, my head always transports back to my not-so-good days 20+ years ago even though I’ve never failed a background check for employment, ever.

  5. Ann

    Thanks for the advice. If this were a normal situation, I would take it. As always though, there’s more to the story. To try and make a long story short, the county discovered there was an embezzling/ticket fixing ring at the courthouse (yes, seriously, some of the people are still at large). Hundreds of thousands of tickets were found in boxes that hadn’t been put in the system, going back 10 years. The judge that came in to oversee it all declared that the tickets should be entered and charged as non-paid (an automatic bench warrant) unless the people could prove they had paid it.
    My wrinkle is, I didn’t save the receipt when I purchased the money order. It was for $15. I talked to a lawyer at the time, he said there wasn’t anything I could do. I had to pay the fines, and it was going to be on my record.

      1. Not So NewReader

        Ok now I see this comment. Sorry, did not see it when I wrote the above comment.

        This sounds like “guilty until proven innocent”.

        It would be interesting to get a group of people together that were caught in this fake dragnet of charges.

    1. Josh S

      An Arrest does not equal a Conviction. While both will turn up on the background check, they don’t typically have the same impact to an employer.

      It might be worth contacting your county to find out if you can get a copy of your ‘rap sheet’ to see what, exactly, it says. Sometimes the information on there is surprisingly different from what it ‘feels’ like it would say given what you’ve heard at court or from the lawyers, etc.

      And you can always look into the possibility of getting your record expunged (mostly for misdemeanor crimes…not sure what yours is classified as). That can be a lengthy process, but can also put your mind at ease that the whole debacle won’t show up in the case of future background checks.

      (Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. I am certainly not YOUR lawyer. This is not legal advice. You should assume that everything I know about the Law I learned from watching The Good Wife, which is a really good show.)

    2. Anonymoose

      Ann, I also was arrested for non-payment of a ticket. Mugshot, fingerprints, the whole 9 yards. (This was back in the early 1990s when I was young and stupid.) (And yes, it was a humiliating, miserable experience!) Anywhoo, it has never once come back to haunt me. If employers have found it on a background check, it has never deterred them from hiring me. I think, in the grand scheme of things, having something like this on “your permanent record!” is like a 1 on a scale of 1-10. In other words, nothing to really worry about. Since yours is so recent, I think AAM’s advice is good, but as you get further away from this I think you can safely stop fretting over it.

      Are there newspaper articles about the whole fiasco (embezzlement ring, etc.) If so, you might want to keep some PDFs as part of your defense/explanation about this mess. Sorry this happened to you – what a crap deal.

  6. Josh S

    #5. Arduous Decision Process

    Don’t quit until you have something else lined up. (If this economy has taught us anything, it’s that it’s a really tough job market, especially for recent grads who are just getting established.) But start looking NOW. Be sure that you ask about management styles during your interview process — you want to make sure you’re not going into a similar situation, and you have now learned about a (poor) management style that you don’t work well under.

    But you’re right to think that this is strange. In my experience, good managers support their underlings so that they are free to make decisions (within a range of responsibility/seniority that fits their respective positions). Good leaders/managers set clear expectations for results and direction (or goals), and then support their teams to get that stuff done.

    If the VP and Director and Manager and Supervisor all have to be present to make a decision, why not cut out the middleman and just have the VP? All that mid-level management (which can be very useful in dealing with the day-to-day) is basically doing nothing in this sort of situation.

    In short, this is a company that is overreacting to a few bad decisions (which happen everywhere) and is hamstringing themselves in the process. Eventually it will make the work that you love extremely difficult to execute on, and you’ll end up resenting the whole thing.

    Try to find a place to move on to. But don’t quit until you have something else lined up!

    1. EngineerGirl

      I’ve been on a program like this. It increases the possibility of more bad decisions because the experts opinions get muddled with every one else. That and the fact that not making a decision is actually making a decision. Look for a new job. The same lack of critical thinking skills that allowed them to make bad decisions has now put this new review program in place

  7. glennis

    #4 – I’m looking for a job because my department at a public agency is being axed. The reason has to do with a state funding withdrawal, but the recent history of our department is one of failure. Essentially, officials decided to privatize it because it was perceived to be too costly.

    As an upper-level manager, responsible for sales and revenue, I have a problem avoiding the perception that I’m responsible for its failure. Really, that’s not true – our business structure was mandated by officials and it didn’t work well. I regularly exceeded revenue expectations. But even a brief narrative of my department history shows contraction, diminishing stature, and eventual failure. How do you deal with these issues when there’s a perception you had decision making authority?

    1. Josh S

      Focus on your accomplishments on the team. You exceeded revenue expectations. You implemented A, B, or C that led to X, Y, Z results.

      During the interview, you can talk about the ways in which you surmounted the obstacles put in place by well-meaning but non-expert politicians who pre-determined how things should run. “Despite $Obstacle, you still got $Accomplishment done.”

      Ultimately, you do share some (a small amount) of the culpability for the end result of the department. But you can talk about what you learned about the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the other strategy, and/or what you would have done differently had you been given free rein to manage things your way.

  8. girlreading

    #1- sounds like you have a sucky employer! They are really not endearing themselves to any employees by doing this this way- vacation may not be required, but when you are hired, they sell it to you as a perk of the job. So now they want to take away something that may have been part of your reasoning for taking the job and take away half of your weekend as well. There’s a reason many companies tout their work/life balance- it makes for happier and refreshed employees- sounds like your company could end up with some bitter and tired employees for the next couple months. But I think AAM gave good advice for what you should do.

    #6, I don’t think it will be a big deal, just explain it and do it before the background check. This way they won’t feel you were trying to hide something that you’re trying to make sound better after the fact.

  9. Another Day, Another Dollar

    #2. Wonder if you’ve considered doing group or panel interviews. With such a large group, it might be more efficient, but would still give everyone a chance to interview. I’ve seen these done well to identify the top candidates for developmental programs or jobs with a meet and greet component,, but I think it depends what you are looking to get from the interview.

  10. EngineerGirl

    #1 – I have found that employers use the term “strongly encourage” instead of “required” to get out of paying people. I would ask what the consequences are to not taking the class. If the consequences are harsh (can’t stay in job, first to be laid off, etc.) you could make a fairly strong argument that the class is required, not encouraged.

    The only argument I can see for enouraaged Vs required is that the certification is needed for promotion (which is another job). But if it is needed to keep your current job, that is required.

    1. Not So NewReader

      Really good points, EG.
      I wondered if OP could take the expenses incurred as a tax deduction. Perhaps asking that question or asking for supporting documentation for tax records would make management wake up and smell the coffee.

  11. Henning Makholm

    #3 — if a group of employers used a formal shared do-not-hire list, wouldn’t each of them easily end up liable for policing whether a different employer put someone on the list for discriminatory reasons? At the least I suspect they’d be on the hook for proving that there were some “reasonable measures” put in place to avoid that.

  12. Jessie

    #6 – What state do you live in? In Massachusetts, we are a “ban the box” state, where an employer cannot ask if you have been arrested on a background check form. However, we do have to give consent to them to do a CORI check. (criminal offense record inquiry.). An unpaid ticket is not a criminal offense, so that would NOT show up on a CORI check. This is Massachusetts, but other states have similar laws. I wouldn’t worry about it!

    1. Josh S

      The trick is that OP6 didn’t get arrested for failure to pay a ticket. She got arrested for failure to appear in court.

      My understanding of events:
      -OP got ticket
      -OP paid ticket
      -Ticket sat in a box somewhere, unprocessed
      -OP got license renewed
      -Administrative judge declared ticket had not been paid
      -Judge issued call for OP to appear in court to defend that she paid the ticket
      -OP failed to appear in court (likely because she hadn’t been notified)
      -Judge issued bench warrant for failure to appear
      -OP got arrested

      Now, whether that bench warrant and arrest appear on the OPs criminal record, or what form they appear in, we don’t know. We also don’t know if the arrest is also treated as a conviction, or if there is a misdemeanor conviction on the record for failure to pay for the ticket in the first place, etc.

      The list of the OP doesn’t know is pretty lengthy, which is why it’s important to get the ‘rap sheet’ from the municipality/county/state in whose jurisdiction this all happened. That way, OP knows exactly what’s going on, and can proceed with an expungment (or can just shrug it off if it shows up as just a misdemeanor traffic violation).

      1. Jessie

        right. and in Massachusetts, only criminal convictions show up on a background check. Misdemeanors, DUI’s, etc don’t show up, because they are not criminal offenses.

        1. Anon

          Whoa, what? Misdemeanors absolutely show up on a MA CORI. If an employer is doing a CORI check, they’re going to see misdemeanors (actually, anything that’s arraigned is going to appear on your CORI, I believe, even if it’s subsequently dismissed).

        2. BW

          I’m in MA, and I was told that any court appearance where you were charged with any crime for any reason regardless of outcome would show up. I was arrested for trespass and disorderly once while I was being 17 and stupid. The charges were dismissed at arraignment, but it was on the check. I quickly looked this info up. It still seems to be the case in MA. The CORI will list the date, offense, and outcome.

          Misdemeanors are still “crimes”. Crimes are categorized into “misdemeanors” and “felonies”. So, yes – all those stupid things you did in a moment of whatever – warrants for unpaid tickets, getting drunk and having a little too much “fun” – as long as you were charged in court, it will show up.

          Having a warrant out which hasn’t yet led to an arrest and charge won’t show. I had one floating out there many years unbeknownst to me, but since no one had arrested me and charged me with the crime (alas, more substance-induced trespass and disorderly which I never did remember), there was nothing to report.

          What most employers are looking for in CORI depends on the job. My last CORI check was related to a driving job (for which I was hired), so a suspended license charge would have probably raised eyebrows. In other jobs, it could be that no one will care.

          There are also different levels of background checks. They may or may not include a CORI. Sometimes employers use background checks to verify education, professional licenses, and past employment but don’t do a criminal background check. This is common in the field in which I work now. In every job I’ve applied to that required a CORI in addition to a general background check, I’d been informed of that upfront in the interview, and I had to fill out a separate special form for it.

          Check with the employer what they include in the “background” check. You may have nothing to worry about.

      2. Ann

        You have it pretty close Josh, only the judge didn’t issue an order for me to appear in court. When the unpaid tickets were processed in 2010 it was an automatic “failure to appear” because you get a court date when they issue the ticket. If you pay the ticket prior to the court date, the issue is considered closed. If you don’t pay and don’t show in court, it’s failure to appear.
        I have seen my record, or at least a version of it. It all depends on who they use as to what they come up with (I have done an FBI check and a county one, they come back with different things). The arrest and conviction (yes, conviction) was for driving on a suspended license. That’s what the federal check says. The county one has more detail. So without any explanation, it looks like my license could have been suspended for any number of reasons.
        Getting it expunged will be difficult because I honestly don’t have any proof that it was paid. At the time, you had to pay with money order, which you had to buy with cash. Without a receipt or a copy of the money order, I’m pretty much SOL.

        1. dejavu2

          I’m not a traffic lawyer and I don’t know what state you’re in, so this definitely is not legal advice… but my instinct is that you have a chance at making this go away if you sink good money into the best local traffic attorney you can find. I’m talking about someone who has been doing this for decades, who has a good relationship with the judges and DAs, and can basically talk them into doing you a favor. There is probably someone in your community who can do this, you just have to find them – and be able to pay for them.

        2. Josh S

          Even the conviction can typically (depending on state/local laws) be expunged after waiting some length of time. It could be worth talking to a lawyer, or even just Googling “Expunge Misdemeanor Conviction [State]”

        3. EM

          Would western union or the company that issued the money order still have a record of you buying a money order? That might be an option.

        4. Anonymous

          You said you’ve already talked to a lawyer, but have you contacted a news agency (TV, newspaper) about this? I don’t know about where you live, but where I’m from the county judges here get elected, so any bad publicity especially right around elections (also this is when the news is most likely to report on these things), might mean a change in how the courts dealt with those tickets. Also, it sounds like you tried the local courts (city, county or whatever). You could try to take it higher, to the State Supreme Court. Where I’m from, if a judge is caught doing something that is bad, but not something you could charge them with, the court system here can issue a reprimand and demand a fine from the judge who did.

  13. Jamie

    #5 – this sounds like a classic over correction in response to a problem. Things to loosely managed? Lets have everyone manage everything and see how that works. If this is a recent thing I’d ride it out for a while…pendulums have a way of settling in the middle.

    If its been a while and it’s a cultural shift, that’s another story.

  14. Julie

    #1. OP, are these specific courses the only possible path for the certification? Can you study on your own, perhaps using other materials that you pay for and can access at a time convenient for you–that do not require you to destroy your weekends and vacation? This is how I handled a certification that was “strongly encouraged” by my employer, and I managed to not have to shell out $5,000 plus for training courses (they would have given me the time, though).

  15. Beka

    #3- I used to work for a non-profit and we received some government funding. They technically didn’t call it a blacklist, but they did have a list of contractors you could not use if you were getting funding from them.

    I believe the only way a contractor was put on the list was if they did something illegal. I think the list is made public. You should be able to find it on hud.gov

  16. Alyssa

    Yikes- In regards to #5, I strongly advise the OP to start job searching ASAP! I was with a company like that for a little over 4 years (though didn’t realize how terribly micromanaged it was until year 3), and it totally drained me until I reached a breaking point. I have now started a new job with a company that appears to trust its employees and all decisions we make! I couldn’t be happier, and I guarantee you will feel the same way when you find a new, better position with a SANE company.

  17. Hugo

    I find #1 to be a ridiculous request by the employer. If this certification is so important to the company, it should be doing all the heavy lifting on paying for and scheduling the classes.

    It sounds like the employer is saying that the certification will benefit you professionally, which is not rooted in any fact. A lot of certifications are a dime a dozen these days and are just a 3- or 4- letter abbreviation you get to use after shelling out a couple thousand dollars. Funny how 20-30 years ago we got all our work done without 90% of the “certified” people that exist today. Sorry, it’s just that personally I think that many of these “independent” agencies granting certifications are rackets bilking both companies and individuals out of millions of dollars each year.

  18. Nicole

    I asked #1. The certificate is through a college and there is no way to get it without taking the courses. And I am not sure if other companies would really care if I had it or not. I don’t think it will help me progress my career- but I don’t know what the consequences of not taking the course are. But I was not impressed at all by the first of the courses (I took it before my boss told us we had to use vacation) and don’t think I will learn much from them.

    1. Your Mileage May Vary

      Nicole, if you do decide to take the course, is it possible to work 4 10-hour days those weeks so you have Friday off naturally? It wouldn’t take away the feeling of injustice for having to take the course when it’s not really necessary but at least you’d save your vacation.

    1. Ann

      If it were just a traffic violation, then I wouldn’t worry about it at all. It’s just that there’s an arrest and license suspension (and a general check only goes that far, it doesn’t have any particulars). I wasn’t sure how worried I should be.

  19. Ann

    This is OP for #6. I just wanted to follow up. I did tell my HR manager a short version of what happened, and was told it wouldn’t be a problem. In the end, the background check came back completely clean (no mention of the traffic ticket or license suspension at all).

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