short answer Saturday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

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

1. Can I tell my former employer that I want to come back?

I worked for an employer a little over 4 years. It was my first job out of college and I was feeling really tied down and restless and wanted to try a new environment, so I switched from a consulting firm to working in an internal corporate role. I’m basically miserable at my new job. I don’t really like any of coworkers and just don’t feel like its a good fit. I liked my old job better and feel like I had a little quarter-life crisis and case of the grass is greener. It’s only been 6 months since I left.

My old employer was really sad to see me leave and valued my work, so I feel like they would consider me if they had an opening. Should I and how do I broach the subject with my old boss? I feel like it would take a lot of courage since I am basically saying I made a huge mistake. And of course I would just ask them to let me know when they hire again (which they do at least once a year, or as people leave).

Sure, you can do that — people do that all the time, and many employers are glad to welcome them back. Just be straightforward with your old boss — say that you’re realizing that you made a mistake, that you’d love to return, and to please let you know if he has a opening that you might be good for.

2. My replacement is still asking me for help, six months after I quit

I left a temp job about 6 months ago. I had been there for 18 months and it became clear that I would never be taken on as a permanent employee (that’s just how the company functions; they were very happy with my work). They became rather dependent on me in the time that I was there and I expanded the duties of the job quite a bit. When I told them I was leaving, they offered me a giant raise, which I declined. I gave two weeks notice. I trained a replacement who left after a week, so I came back and trained another replacement who is still there.

My replacement emails me about 2 or 3 times a month to answer questions that, in my opinion, she should be able to figure out fairly easily. Some of the answers are explicitly stated in my notes. How long do I continue to answer these questions? How do I tactfully get out of this? They are easy questions and I suppose I don’t mind, though I am a bit bitter because she is getting paid a lot more than I was (she started at my giant raise rate). I do really like my boss and he really helped me out by giving me the job as I had been a stay at home mom for many years and was having a hard finding a job in this market. So I want to help him out, but this is getting old.

It’s been six months; that’s about five months too long. The next time she emails you, respond with something like, “I’d check the notes that I left behind; the answer may be in there. I can’t continue to answer questions anymore since it’s been six months since I left, but the notes are pretty detailed. Good luck with everything.” You might also want to email your former boss to nicely let him know that after helping for six months, you’ve decided you can’t reasonably keep doing it — so that he hears it from you, rather than hearing a potentially twisted version from her.

3. The hiring manager I was talking to has left the company

Well, this is odd: nearly a month ago, I did a phone interview for a job with a company I was really excited about. They seemed excited about me, too, and said I would definitely get a call-back. The Director (who gave the interview and would be my boss) said that I would hear from them NO LATER than two weeks later. Never heard from them, even after sending a couple of follow-ups. I wrote it off as one of those inconsiderate Job Search things that companies do and figured that they were moving forward with other candidates. I moved on with my life.

Out of curiosity, I just checked their website, and the job I interviewed for is still up…but so a new listing for the Director (the same guy who gave my interview). They’ve also just spread the news that they just got a brand new CEO. Is this a sign of volatile change? Should I send another followup in case the new boss still wants to hire for my role?

Well, that might be your answer to what happened: If the person you were dealing with left the company, some of the hiring work he was doing probably got lost in the shuffle. I’d email whoever the contact is for the job listing, and explain what happened. As for your worries that things are volatile, that’s something that you can scope out during the course of interviewing and even ask direct questions about — but I wouldn’t assume that a new CEO and a director leaving indicate anything really worrisome.

4. Employer told me that my desired salary was “near the top of our range”

I know you always say not to read too much into what hiring managers say, but I wanted to get your thoughts on this. I recently applied for an admin job at a college. The online application had a mandatory field for salary requirement (I know you hate that, I do too). After doing some research into comparable jobs, I listed $35,000. I was called and asked to come in for an interview (yay!), but while on the phone I was told that that number was “near the top of our range.” Obviously this hasn’t bumped me out of consideration — I did get invited to interview, after all — but how should I respond if they ask me about my salary expectations in the interview? (As a side note, I know that the college has “salary bands,” but I can’t find any details on them to know what the range might be.)

Stick with your original answer. The top of their range doesn’t mean outside their range, and there’s no reason to change your answer unless they directly tell you that’s it’s not a possibility for them.

5. Dealing with an impossible manager

I need advice on how to manage up. My senior manager has these lofty ideas that the team loves him, but in reality he is a terrible manager. He has been our senior mananger for almost a year. He points blame on issues on people and loves to hold people accountable for items, no matter how small. He refuses to look back and see how someone has progressed over many years, and instead thinks the team started from when he took over. Most of the team has been together since before he joined the company and know how to work with each other. He does not like the idea of observing then changing for the better either, but believes one should jump in and handle everything his way. I tend to look forward and be more proactive, while he is very reactive. He does not understand what the team does or why we do it. In the long run, I feel that these differences will prevent me and many of my coworkers from being promoted. (It has already happened twice.) I do not know whether it is time to leave my team or try to work with him to see what is going on.

He’s not going to change, so you need to either resign yourself to dealing with him or look for work somewhere else.

6. Maternity leave when you have unlimited PTO

My company just announced it is moving from a “banked time” (certain number of sick/vacation days per year) to an “unlimited PTO” policy, which allows employees to take “as much PTO as they need” as long as it’s cleared with the manager, though more than 2 consecutive weeks must be cleared with the department head.

Well, I just found out I’m pregnant. Which means I’ll need a whole lot of time off, PTO or otherwise! Under the old policy, employees used sick time to fill the 1-week gap between before FMLA short-term disability kicks in (FMLA provides 6 weeks for maternity). After the 6 weeks of FMLA and 1 week of sick time were up, employees could tack on any remaining sick or vacation time to the 6 weeks. Under the old policy, I would have had about 3 weeks of sick time and 3.5 weeks of vacation time banked…and would probably have a bit more by my due date. So under the old policy I could have theoretically taken 12+ weeks if I wanted to clean out my time bank.

The new policy states only that the company will pay the “gap week” as PTO for those going on short-term disability. And then FMLA kicks in. So my question is…once I break the news about my pregnancy, how much extra PTO should I talk with my manager about taking? I don’t want to be unreasonable and exploit the system, but I also am taking to heart that the new policy is meant to be a perk, not a punishment.

I’d probably tell him that you plan to take the same PTO that would have been available to you under the old system, since that seems reasonable, and much more clear-cut than trying to figure it out otherwise. But if he encourages you to take more, then you can do so without worry.

7. Handbook hell

I work for a small, but ever growing IT consulting firm. I have recently taken on the director of marketing position, but really I am at a stage of fixing issues. Right now, I am knee-deep in our horribly put-together employee handbook. It is extremely vague because we have so many types of employees: internal full-time, internal part-time, consultants, H1B’s, etc… Am I allowed to have more than one handbook? Perhaps one for internal employees and one for our contractors? Benefits are different so that is why I want two separate handbooks.

Sure, you can have different handbooks for different classes of employees. But keep in mind that it’s going to be a pain in the ass to update them all every time you make a change to one that also affects others, so you might want to have one main handbook that covers everything that’s the same for all classes of employees, and then separate addendums for the other stuff.

By the way, when you’re redoing the handbook(s), get rid of whatever unnecessary bureaucracy you can, and write in a casual voice, not the ridiculous corporate-speak they’re usually written in. And here’s a good article on fixing it further.

{ 83 comments… read them below }

  1. Sharon*

    Re: #4: Sometimes when companies play the Salary Game, it reminds me of this gag:

    Joe: Pick a number between 1 and 100.
    Bob: Um… 53?
    Joe: Wrong!

    1. Josh S*

      I hate the salary game. In a preliminary phone interview (didn’t even really talk about my qualifications, just a description of the job and whether I thought I was a fit), I asked the internal recruiter about the salary range. He came back with, “It depends — the range is anything from $60-120k. I see on your initial application you put down $X. Is that still accurate?”

      I told him the range I’m looking for ($X to $X+10k, since they didn’t give the option for a range in the field on their stupid mandatory online form), and said that it would depend on the value I can provide to the company and the benefits.

      He asked what my current salary is, and I laughed — I’m a freelancer and I have no good answer for the question (see for the explanation why). He pressed me and I told him that for 2012 I made $X – 7k because I had taken some time off between projects.

      Immediately after telling him my 2012 earnings, he came back with, “Well, based on our scale, you’d probably be in the range of $X-10k to $X-2k.” (Essentially, just under the low end of my expected range of salary.)

      I responded that it’s too early in the process for me to even know what a fair salary would bring, since I don’t yet know the areas that I can bring value to the company. Once I have more of an idea of that, I’ll be happy to discuss salary.

      His obvious game is obvious: He gave a super-broad range for the position, but as soon as I named my salary history he pegged the salary for this position to that.

      Games like this piss me off.

      I’m still going to interview–it’s a really cool position that seems like an ideal fit for me and seems like I have all the skills they’re looking for for the direction the company is headed. A difference in salary this early on isn’t enough to derail my interest — but it sure does annoy me that they’re willing to play games this early on.

      My hope is that the managers and managing director aren’t the same way — that it’s just the recruiter who jerks people around.

      /end of rant

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Some day I’d really like a candidate to respond to that sort of thing by saying, “Well, it looks like this won’t work out then. Thank you for your time,” and stand up and leave. I’d be interested to see what would happen.

        (Not suggesting you should have done this, Josh. But it would give me such pleasure to see.)

        1. Josh S*

          I feel like I still have plenty of room to negotiate. I never agreed to his numbers, just said, “This is too premature to stop talking about the position. I’m excited based on what you’ve told me and I’d definitely like to hear more and see what the fit is and what value I can bring.”

          If the hiring manager wants me/thinks I’m the best fit for the position, then I know that the position has a pay band that goes to $120k — WELL above what I’m asking for. Heck, my *high* end is still in the lower half of their range. So it’s simply a matter of making sure they understand my experience/skills mean that I can bring value to the team, and that value is worth my asking price.

          If they don’t want to pay what I’m worth because my previous freelance income was sporadic this year — screw ’em. That’s not the kind of place I want to work anyway, because it means they don’t place proper value on their employees, and that’s going to translate into a lot of other areas as well.

          1. PEBCAK*

            It’s often been my experience that the hiring manager has no problem paying, it’s the HR person in the middle who is trying to get your for a song.

        2. fposte*

          Or to add that since their offer is based on an income you had while having 60 days off a year, starting work whenever you pleased, and working in pajamas, you assume those conditions will continue to apply.

          1. AdAgencyChick*

            Awe. Some.

            Also — a job with a $60K pay band? Yowza! They really have no idea what they should be paying, do they?

            1. Josh S*

              Yeah, it is a position/department where they’re looking for ‘the right person’ rather than specific level of experience. They are considering people with anywhere from 1 to 10 years experience … likely with different title depending. I’m in the middle at 5 years experience in this area.

          2. Anonymous*

            This reminds me of a former manager over the training department who was legendary in defending his team. On one occasion when he was in budget and salary discussions with senior execs, he was asked why thye paid trainers more than public school teachers and if he could lower the salaries of all his training staff to the same as public school teachers, because surely their skills and knowledge were no more valuable. He responded that he would be glad to and also give them three months off in summer, two to three weeks at Christmas, fall break, spring break, and work days from 8 to 3. That stopped the discussion. Now this means no disrespect to school teachers, just a comment on salary discussions and the ever present efforts to get employees to work for as cheap as possible!

  2. Dr. Speakeasy*

    #4 – Check with the library. If the are a public university they are most likely required to post their salary information somewhere. It will either be in the library or the librarian will probably have a good idea where to find it.

  3. Mimi*

    #7, the Employee Handbook is usually (though not always) different from the Policy Manual. The handbook is meant to be a generalized overview of policies/procedures, etc., whereas the policy manual gets into the nitty gritty details based on the type of employee. You could state a policy in your handbook, explain who it applies to, then state something like “see policy manual” for more details.

  4. SAN*

    For #1, it is common in some industries – up here we call it boomeranging. I know it happens in accounting. So go ahead and talk to them.

    For #4, I agree with AAM. At the top doesn’t mean over their limit. So you might need to show why you are worth the top of their bracket. They also might be trying to do some price negotiating up front.

    1. Lexy*

      Yup, I’m an auditor and my last employer, I was with for two years, in that time 4 (four!) people left and came back :) I had everyone telling me when I left that they couldn’t wait for me to come back. Because they’re perenially understaffed they don’t even really need a specific opening (e.g. job announcement) for you to come back.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes — but also be aware that employment lawyers often take the approach that eliminating any possible legal risk trumps all other considerations — and that’s not always true. So if, for instance, they tell you that you must say X and you’re not comfortable committing to X, ask them what other options you have if you’re willing to take risk Y in the process.

  5. Sdhr*

    #1. I think you should consider giving it more time. Since you’ve only had one job since college you may not realize that it takes time to feel comfortable and like its the right fit. Of course if you are truly miserable and not just uncomfortable, that is different.

  6. Sdhr*

    #6 unlimited PTO is common in my industry. I’m sure they are putting guidelines in place. Before you talk to your boss read the policy or any communication that was sent. If there is a resource number to call (if you are a large company) call and ask them the guidelines for how PTO works with disability and maternity leave. My company has an unlimited policy as well and it just means that if you are sick with the flu for a week in Jan, then get a broken arm and need a few days in June, and then have a head cold for a day in November, you will be paid for all those days, even though none of the, are technically short term disability.

    1. OP*

      I did this already; HR only gavel the rundown I outlined about- I qualify for FMLA (12 weeks unpaid), my ST disability picks up weeks 2-7, I get PTO for the “gap week” before disability kicks in, any anything else can be taken as PTO. They told me that technically I can take more than the 12 weeks as PTO, assuming both my manager and the department head (#4 in the company) sign off on it. So it doesn’t answer my question, really, of what is reasonable to ask for.

      I will probably ask for PTO the whole time (12 weeks minus the 6 weeks where ST disability kicks in) then since that puts me smack in the middle of the holidays, might ask to come back and take 2 PTO days/ week until the 1st of the year. HR kept preaching that this new policy is a “good thing” so I may just call them on it. Worst case, I har to take unpaid leave.

      I’m in healthcare tech/IT.

  7. Anonymous*

    4. I listed $35K as the minimum I’d even consider for the job I was applying to and advised HR of that when they asked. They asked me if I was flexible on it. I said it would heavily depend on the rest of the benefit package, but honestly, I probably wouldn’t go down unless it was spectacular. I was offered that job at slightly more, the benefits are pretty decent (free school), but when I got the letter, it had the salary range and I was slightly less than mid-range. I am kind of peeved because they made it seem like they were doing me this big favor, but really I could have asked for more. I didn’t because I hated my job I was leaving so much I would have probably left for the same amount of money at that point. I like my job and am much happier now, but it still is in the back of my mind like HR got one over on me.

    1. Steve*

      “it had the salary range and I was slightly less than mid-range”

      Don’t be too upset. At least at my school that salary range covers everyone in the job title – from under-performing and been there three weeks to people who have been in the title for thirty years. These bands can be wide.

      Our practice is to hire in the second quartile – from the 25% to the 50% of the range area depending on qualifications. They might have been straight with you so please don’t assume they put one over on you. Especially if you like the job.

      1. ANON THIS TIME*

        I suspect Anonymous isn’t so much peeved about his/her place in the tier, even though he/she writes that, but about the dollar amounts involved. If $35K is the minimum, the range probably isn’t that great. I think people are more peeved in lower paying jobs when this happens, as it seems like the employer arbitrarily holding back money or finding any excuse to be a cheap-skate. For someone making in the $30-$40K range, the few extra thousand makes a huge difference in lifestyle, so one can easily become bitter having to live with one’s parents, for example, for another year, even though you could have moved out if you made $300 more/month.

        I’ve been tiffed by falling into the middle of a range not due to the dollar amount, but because I found out my equivalent in another location makes $15K more because he supposedly has a wide range of experience, even though he is bad at his job. Turns out he can’t use excel, still only half-a**** understands our technology, doesn’t talk to customers, has farmed out most of his work to other offices, and utterly abused our work from home privilege. In other words, a really bad hire.

        My division is the growing, successful one with very smooth operations given the potential # of issues (his is crisis to crisis, but it was before he started, so the higher ups are used to it. But he could really solve the issues there, they aren’t insurmountable), and I am well-known in our industry. But because he brought “more experience,” at least on paper, he is paid the higher end of our tier. That is very very irksome to me. But lets see how my review goes this year:-).

        1. Anonymous*

          I’ m not upset that I’m in the middle of the range. I’m not upset really at all. It was just the way HR went about it. They asked me what my range was. I told them. Then they asked if I was flexible on that number (like they want to pay me less). They ended up giving me a little more than I asked (like $500 more). I felt like I couldn’t ask for more after that (it’s my first real job and I was coming from a call center) When they sent me the offer letter with the range on it and I found I only fell less than 1/2 way… What was all that hemming and hawing about on their side? Aside from that, I do like my job, no major complaints (more money would have been nice, though, and I probably will move on sooner rather than later because ‘of this)

          1. EngineerGirl*

            Just to point out that you got over what you asked for. In addition, you are now below mid-point. That means that you should have no problems getting a raise later on. If you came in at the high end it would be much more difficult to get a raise, and the size of the raise would be smaller.

            1. Long Time Admin*

              Yes, this!

              It stinks to do a really great job, exceed all expectations, voluntarily take on more responsibilities, improve work processes, and then be told you can’t get a raise because you’re at the top of your range.

              Your salary isn’t horrible and you have potential for increases in the future. Try looking at it that way.

            2. Anonymous*

              I am aware I did get what I asked for, but they way HR pushed back on my range (which is obviously not a million bucks or anything) made it seem like it was an impossible stretch and I did not even negotiate because of it. Then when I got the offer letter with the range and I was not even at mid point it peeved me because… what was the fuss all about? It just seemed kind of shady.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                You said that you’re coming in with no experience other than call center work. It makes sense that they’d push back when you asked to be at a different point in the range. The range isn’t “here’s what we’re willing to pay for anyone in this job”; it’s “here’s what we’re willing to pay for all the different expertise levels you could have in this job.” Currently you’re near the bottom of those levels, and they want your place in the pay range to reflect that.

          2. Anonymous*

            It’s a perception issue as well as a communication issue from the compensation/hr department. It’s very common in many industries to have a range with a mid-point. Almost no-one, even with years of experience, will get hired at the mid-point of the range. Most people get hired somewhere well below the mid-point and closer to the bottom. Employees in this situation are often more eligible for salary increases, till they get close or at the mid-point. It is common for employees to work several years before they get near or above the mid-point. In one organization I worked at, the goal, according to the comp strategy, was that employees would get to the mid-point and unless you were an exceptional employee with exceptional performance ratings, you would not ever get above the mid-point of the salary range. It is a very common practice that is frustrating and irritating to the rank and file employee and applicant, who sees the range and thinks, “I’ve done this job before and would obviously be qualified to be hired at the top of that range!” Unfortunately, that’s not the way many compensation systems work.

        2. EngineerGirl*

          so one can easily become bitter having to live with one’s parents, for example, for another year, even though you could have moved out if you made $300 more/month.

          I’m confused by this statement, and maybe it is a generational thing. When I was young we were all expected to move out of the house around 18 or so, even if it meant living with multiple roommates (usually 3-4 to a house). While 35k isn’t rolling in money, it is enough to live frugally.

          What am I missing?

          1. TL*

            This depends very much on the region. In some areas, if you made $35k, you would be sitting pretty. $30-35k, in my area, *might* net you an extremely frugal lifestyle with an apartment (possibly without needing a roommate, if you’re lucky and/or live in a slightly cheaper neighborhood). But it’s also not a salary that you’re likely to get at 18 – you’re looking at a college graduate here,
            possibly with some work experience. And having – or getting! – 3-4 roommates at 25 can be different than 3-4 college kids rooming together. If the parents were okay with it, someone could easily prefer to live at home for a while and save up a bit (say, for an emergency fund, or a down payment).

            I think Anon This Time was pointing out just one example, to illustrate why a candidate might feel irritated if they thought the employer was being a cheapskate over a few thousand a year. Someone making $35k might be able to afford their own place, but not much else. An extra $300 a month could make the difference between having a few “creature comforts” and perpetually pinching pennies.

            1. class factotum*

              I know rents can be outrageous, but when I hear a 29-yr-old professional, who lives with her parents, telling me that once I’ve tried jeans that cost $175 a pair, I’ll never go back, I have to roll my eyes.

              And then I bite back what I want to say, which is, “Once you start paying your own living expenses, you might feel differently about how much is a reasonable amount to spend on jeans.”

              1. Luis Zach*

                It can be wise to bite back. My 38-year-old brother lives at home with our parents. He has his MSW but his job working with underserved communities pays crap with crap benefits, and he’s Type I diabetic, so his yearly out-of-pocket healthcare expenses are enormous. Our parents were not born in the States, and our culture values family so they love having him at home to help them out, but he definitely faces a stigma from native-born Americans because he’s perceived as being some kind of financially dependent adult child.

                Worst of all to an outsider, sometimes he does wear the 7 for All Mankind jeans and things like that, but what he’ll never tell you (besides that he’s diabetic, unless you’re close to him) is that he got his jeans from the thrift stores.

                1. Long Time Admin*

                  I tell people all the time that I bought my clothes at the consignment shop. The one I like carries nicer clothing, and the prices are really low.

                  I’m not ashamed of shopping thrifts and being frugal. No one should be.

                2. Luis Zach*

                  Sure, it all depends on your culture, values, etc. Money/spending can be a very personal thing and everyone’s gotta do what works within their family, situation, place in life, and so forth.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I live in the D.C. area, where housing is pretty expensive and lots of people in their mid-20s make salaries of around $35K (especially at nonprofits). It’s pretty common for them to live with a few roommates. That’s what you do when you’re first starting out. That’s certainly what I did.

              It’s also worth noting that the average salary in the U.S. is about $44,000. $35k isn’t that far below that.

            3. Luis Zach*

              In New York, we regularly see ads to rent a room for $900-1000, in neighborhoods with a couple bus lines and no train service. And some fields don’t even pay 35K to start in New York, like writing. You have to do a couple internships, many of them pay nothing or a stipend, and then your first job could pay only 25K. The math isn’t in your favor no matter how you stretch it, but the cruel joke is, this is one of the best markets to make it as a writer in the USA.

              You could pick something more technical but even that’s no guarantee. I knew too many friends turned unemployed technicians and engineers when I graduated college in Texas many years ago and we were a small generation, so…I guess it wasn’t AS bad back then. Now the graduates outnumber the jobs by a wide margin in many places. It’s worth it to negotiate for that extra few hundred each month if it means the difference between getting by and falling further and further behind on your bills every month.

            4. Anonymous*

              Just to point out, but it was ever thus with previous generations too. It is always tight at the beginning of career. Only by saving for decades do you get to greater financial freedom.

              1. Luis Zach*

                My father gave me a good rule of thumb when I graduated college: Keep 6 months of living expenses saved for a rainy day. It won’t fund your life for years but it can be a very good starting point in case of job loss, death in the family, what have you.

          2. Jamie*

            I’m confused by this statement, and maybe it is a generational thing. When I was young we were all expected to move out of the house around 18 or so, even if it meant living with multiple roommates (usually 3-4 to a house). While 35k isn’t rolling in money, it is enough to live frugally.

            I am assuming “we all” is in reference to your family – because there has never been a generation where everyone was on the same page with this.

            I’m in my 40’s and I certainly knew people who lived at home into their 30’s and they had good jobs. I moved out when I got married, but I wouldn’t have moved out to share an apartment with roomates. The people I knew who moved out on their own before they were financially secure enough to live comfortably had issues at home they were getting away from.

            Absolutely not to say that’s always the case – just that it’s so individual and everyone’s experience is so different.

            If the family home is large enough to comfortably accommodate everyone and there is mutual respect where the adult children are treated like the adults and aren’t taking advantage (helping with the cleaning, etc. as any household member should) then I don’t see the problem.

            Financially it makes sense – instead of living with room-mates who may or may not be financially reliable you live with your parents who are technically room-mates – but the kind that would rather you save for your future than have to pay rent.

            I have two kids in college and one graduating high school this year and I’m in no hurry for any of them to move out, until they are established enough to be comfortable (if frugal).

            My one rule is if they get married they’d better have moving boxes – because as much as mine are welcome forever I’m not a fan of moving the in-laws in.

            Every situation is so very different though and it depends on so many factors – most importantly the relationship – that there is no right or wrong on this. Only what works for each family.

      2. YALM*


        Organizations often don’t hire above the mid-range wage or salary (pay band) that they set for a job title. The pay bands are set for a reason (actually, multiple reasons). Organizations don’t tend to exceed the maximum wage or salary that they set for a job title. When you reach the top of the pay band, either you’re ready for promotion, or you stop getting much in the way of pay raises. So what you were told is likely true from the hiring manager’s perspective: what you were asking for was close to the top of the range they wanted to pay a new hire with this job title. Which is not the same thing as the top of the pay band for the job title.

        Think about it for a second. If you are hired at the top of the pay band, where do you go next year? Do you think that you have the skills to earn a promotion so quickly? (In which case, of course, you’ll be a low end of the next pay band.) If you’re walking in the door with less than mastery of the job, and you’re not likely to be promoted within one to two years, you’re not going to be hired at or near the high end of the pay band. There’s no room for you to grow.

  8. fposte*

    On #6–just to be clear, your short-term disability *pay* isn’t FMLA. FMLA is the law that protects your job on a medical leave for up to twelve weeks (there’s no six-week limit for pregnancy) if you qualify, but there’s nothing requiring that leave be paid. So you’ll be on FMLA because you’re taking a health-related leave and your company has to categorize it as that, but that’s not the paperwork that’s getting you paid for that six-week period.

    1. OP*

      Yes, I wasn’t clear. I qualify for FmLa (12 weeks unpaid) but also have 6 weeks of ST disability as part of it. My questions about how much of the FmLA period (and beyond?) I can take as PAID time off with this new policy.

  9. DA*

    I strongly dislike the answer to #5, but I’ve seen Alison use that in so many answers before. It just sucks that when you work for an awful boss, the only option is for the employee to suck it up or leave. It’s as though they are to be punished for working for someone who sucks (and usually the entire staff knows they work for someone who sucks).

    Are there truly no alternatives to sucking it up or leaving?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Like…. what? Complaining to someone above them? That gets results a very small percentage of the time; the rest of the time, it’s much more likely to either change nothing or to backfire on the person who complains. Talking to the boss directly? It can sometimes get very small, incremental changes, but with the scope of problems like the one described by OP #5, small changes around the edges aren’t going to be nearly enough.

      1. DA*

        Oh, I wasn’t saying your answer was wrong, I just don’t like that there are no alternatives. But maybe if enough people leave, and are honest in their exit interviews (keyword being ‘honest’), the message will get delivered and changes will be made for the future.

        1. Jennifer*

          Years ago at my first job I had a horrible manager. He was so bad that he bragged about having “hit lists” of people he wanted to fire. I was unfortunately on one of those lists. He was so bad that every mistake people made he had a “wall of shame” where he would hang up the mistake for all to see. It was also very obvious who made the mistake. Something that had my name on it was posted on the wall and the mistake wasn’t my fault. A copy editor had edited in a mistake but it still looked like my fault. I was so upset that I demanded that be taken down and he eventually did remove it.

          One day I was so fed up with his ways that I just quit on the spot. When I left I was crying but it was also such a relief. That same day a few hours later, the owners called me. They were two brothers that owned the business. The one pretty much said well it’s you decision sorry to see you go but the other one was upset over the way I was treated. I let everything out and didn’t hold back. I told the both of them what happened and what this manager was doing. They called me in for a face-to-face talk and I again told them everything, thinking I had nothing to lose because I had quit anyway.

          They offered me my job back and told me that my boss would never do that again. My boss was still a jerk but he never insinuated again that I would lose my job. He eventually got fired a few month later and when he did, everyone in the office was so happy.

          My point is even though this worked out for me, if I had just talked to the one owner it never would have. One of the owners was good friends with my former boss which is the reason he was so easy to say OK it’s your decision to leave, good-bye. If it wasn’t for the other owner, I would never have continued working there.

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            Something similar happened to my sister. She had a new manager and things degenerated to the point that he said she was doing poor work and the upper managment was unhappy with her. She finally resigned, since she couldn’t please them. The manager’s manager called her and wanted to know why, and she explained everything that she thought he already knew. He didn’t know any of it, and asked her to rescind her resignation. They got rid of her manager instead.

            But, that is pretty rare I think. Usually the bad managers thrive because the managers above them are little better.

    2. fposte*

      Sometimes there’s a “tell somebody else” option. I’ve been in a situation where that happened. But it has to be in a workplace where the higher-ups don’t already know what is going on, really would be displeased if they knew what was going on, and can give you some cushion if there’s blowback from your manager.

      But in general they’re not going to outright fire such a manager based on complaints, and it’s not likely that such a person is going to change completely even if there is an intervention from above. In that respect it’s kind of like any relationship–there’s no way of changing somebody who doesn’t want to change, so you can only decide whether to stay or go.

    3. -*

      #5 really bothered me until things changed at my job. In my case, I’ve had managers oversimplify what I do in their heads and never ask me anything about what I do. When I started, my boss was also new and acted as if I was administrative, but my job was more along the lines of heavy analysis, getting involved with legal issues, dealing with a variety of complicated problems. All my boss saw me doing most of the day was sitting at a computer or filing, so he couldn’t get it out of his mind that I was not just an administrative assistant. He didn’t get that when he saw doing data entry, it wasn’t just data entry – maybe I had been working on the data for a few weeks before that time. It took many situations where I was going way way above the role of any admin staff for it to sink in; he would seem surprised that I was taking the lead on certain complicated issues that to me obviously fit into my job, but for someone who saw me as a secretary, not so much. The surprise at what I was doing really bothered me. I couldn’t be the low level worker he thought I was, because our office would suffer, but I also couldn’t deal with the low level of respect I was getting……

      1. SCW*

        I’ve never understood this. Do you have a supervisor who is different from your boss who tells you what to work on? I know a lot of folks who don’t feel like their bosses realize what they are doing, but a lot of the time it is because the staff don’t do a lot of self promotion. If I felt my boss did not realize the types of projects I was working on, I would start doing a detailed monthly report to demonstrate what I was doing, emphasizing accomplishments.

        At my last job, there were a number of folks who thought I was an admin or a personal assistant, but not my boss. I didn’t care if the custodial staff or customers thought I was just there to do paperwork.

        1. EngineerGirl*

          This. Just e-mail the boss a weekly activity report. Mine has the accomplishments for the week, a look ahead for the next two weeks, any issues that need elevation, and an out of office reminder for any time off. I use an Excel spread sheet and do one sheet per week.
          The big benefits of this is forwriting self-assessments for performance reviews. I don’t remember everything I’ve done during the year. The reports remind me of sticky problems I have had to solve, or even small 2-3 week projects that I forgot about. The reports also help me in compiling quantitative data for accomplishments.

  10. Lizabeth*

    #7 Something to think about in the formatting and layout of the handbook – consult a graphic designer well versed with InDesign. That program allows you to have layers that can be turned on and off. So the bulk of the info is in the main layer and the more specialized in separate sections and layers by themselves. One document – several variations – easier to edit.

    1. JT*

      The problem with doing it in InDesign is that you’ll often have to go back to the designer to make text changes.

      I use InDesign daily and love it, and I guess in a large organization with an in-house person using that program for this task is OK. But I’d be wary if it involved going outside the organization for updates. In general, I’d recommend MS Word for something like this.

  11. Chocolate Teapot*

    4 – I remember when I was first entering the job world going for an interview with a large global company which had its HQ nearby. Salary was not included in the job advert, and being young, I tried to research what this kind of job would pay, and decided on a nice round figure.

    So the interview took place, and the salary question came up. I asked what the range was and was informed that “they couldn’t inform me”. Pushed further, I gave them my nice round salary number, and was told it was in excess.

    Huh? What did you expect me to say?

  12. Jen*

    #1 – I work in a creative field (design) and this happens all of the time. I did the same a few years ago and it was the best decision I’ve ever made. I’m not sure if I agree with the other commenter about giving it a bit more time. In my experience, six months is more than enough time to know if you fit in with the culture of a workplace. It’s like dating someone. When you know it’s the right person, you just know. Best of luck and please keep us posted!

  13. glennis*

    Wow, #5, it’s a hard place to be. I made the mistake of NOT going over the Boss’s head out of a sense of loyalty, and I screwed myself.

    I worked for a person who was a lousy manager – micromanaging, unable to “see the forest for the trees” – but a decent person. As it turned out, she was such a lousy manager they “demoted” her by folding her department into another, and she had to report to her former peer.

    At that point, I hoped to connect with the New Boss, but My Boss began to strictly control access. She insisted on being cc’d on every communication; on being in the middle of every assignment. Often her instructions were different from what I’d choose to do, but I felt like I couldn’t disobey her direction. Other than this frustration, she was a nice person and had always treated me well. I felt a sense of loyalty and chose not to go over her head.

    The relationship between the two of them deteriorated rapidly, and the end result I ended up on New Boss’s bad side. Not in a mean way, exactly, but more like in a exclusionary way – being passed over, ignored, not being included.

    Now My Boss has retired, and it’s been a month. I report directly to New Boss but I should say we are in two different locations, so it’s not like I run into her in the hallway or anything.

    But in 30 days, I have barely seen her in person. I communicate with her through email or through her admin – who is new, and unaware of the background.

    The Admin has scheduled me for a “transition meeting” with New Boss next week.

    I honestly don’t know what to expect, because I literally do not have any interaction with this woman – I get a vibe she dislikes me, but I don’t know why or how.

    I don’t know how I got myself in this predicament, and when I look back I can’t see where I missed an opportunity to make this turn out differently.

    1. fposte*

      You have an opportunity now–use it. Be open about the transition having been complicated, but make the point that you’re eager to support New Boss and do your best for the organization, and does she have any suggestions for you? If they weren’t already scheduling this meeting you would want one anyway just to make that point.

      It also sounds to me like going over your old boss’s head wouldn’t have made much difference–they were aware enough of her to manage her out anyway.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Perhaps you could use the meeting as a way to discuss your goals and how to move forward on them. Once New Boss sees that you are not completely tied to Old Boss, she may soften. I think maybe Old Boss’s direction was probably disagreeable to New Boss, and you are now guilty by association. If you are eager to embrace the future with New Boss, it might make a difference. I would keep it positive and focus on that, and not badmouth Old Boss in any way, though. Pretend you’re talking to a new employer about your previous boss–because you are.

      1. Anonymous*

        Absolutely talk with the new boss about how much you are looking forward to the opportunity to work with New Boss and learn about what New Boss’s expectations are and how you can support that going forward. Be prepared for New Boss to be a little surprised that you are not as difficult as the Old Boss and not resentful. Be very upbeat and excited to meet the new boss! Come in with a positive attitude as if you can’t wait to get started working with New Boss! So happy to finally meet in person! All the good positive feelings you’d have if you were excited to be starting a new job! As Elizabeth says, you may appear to be “guilty by association” with your old boss and it’s important to distance yourself from Old Boss without badmouthing him/her. Just get started on a more positive note with New Boss. Good luck!

  14. Blue Dog*

    #1 – Rather than asking for my old job back directly, I would be a little more guarded. Maybe go to lunch with an old coworker or an old boss. When they ask about how things are going, you could just say, “Well, I like it. And the money is good. But there is more to it than that. I miss our old team. I miss working with you guys.”

    My experience is that if they think they can “steal you back,” you are in a much better position. I know people will comment on this and say it is better to be direct and not play games. Do not believe them. If you come right out and ask, it gives the impression that you are crawling back. You could have it held over your heard for years that you were disloyal or that you you will likely leave again because you left before (BTW – this is why you never accept a counter offer).

    Finally, be sure this is what you really want. Every new job has a settling in period and, of course, the nice warm blanket you came from seems familiar and safe. But there was a reason you left in the first place. Remember what it is was and know the situation is likely not going to change.

    It is too easy to look back at an old job and think about the good ole days. But very often nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.

    1. Rana*

      Not to mention that their attitude towards you may have changed because you left – another reason to sound them out in a casual way, first.

    2. Anna*

      #1 – I actually was in your shoes about 3-4 months ago. I quit a job I absolutely loved but not exactly what I thought I wanted to be doing, for a company I thought was a perfect fit. After about a month and a half things were so bad with the new company I knew I needed to get out. I left my previous company on great terms and kept in touch with my former supervisors and coworkers so I asked to meet with them.

      It definitely takes a lot of courage to ask for your job back and can really make you feel like a dog with its tail between its legs. But the question is, will you regret it if you dont? Changing jobs like that can give you some good perspective that you didnt have before. I’d be prepared to answer the question of “how do we know you wont quit again?” with some reasons about why things are different for you now (if they are interested in taking you back.) Blue Dog has some really good advice though. I wish I had some of that 4 months ago.

      Even if they wont take you back, there are other jobs out there. Its tough when you loved a company and they wont take you back, but you never know the kind of experience you may gain by working somewhere else. Maybe in a few years you can reapply with the added experience.

      Good luck and let us know how it goes!

  15. Rana*

    #2 – Here’s a quick way to either get her to stop bugging you, or make it worth your while: invoice the company for consulting services.

    Obviously, you should warn your old boss ahead of time that you’re going to do this, so it’s not a shock when the invoice appears, but it works pretty well. One month of help is generously facilitating the transition; six months of help is letting them treat you like an unpaid consultant, so either stop consulting, or get paid for it.

    (And you should set the rate high enough that it either discourages future requests or makes you comfortable with continuing to serve as a source of information.)

    1. Sarah*

      #2 here. I think my old boss does expect me to invoice. But it hardly worth the time to invoice for 2 minutes. I may do this and set a 15 minute minimum time though. Replacement did email me again yesterday about where to find a file on the shared drive and I said “It’s been 6 months so I’m a little rusty on these things.”. Maybe she’ll take the hint.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Don’t hint. It’s completely reasonable to be straightforward: “Hey, I’m sorry I can’t answer these questions anymore since it’s been six months.” If it makes you feel more comfortable and helps you give yourself permission to say this, you can combine it with answering one final question — answer that question and then tack this on to the end.

      2. JT*

        If you’re going to bill, use one hour as the minimum. (At a minimum. I know people who don’t bill less than a half day.)

        For little stuff with an old boss, use one hour.

        And don’t set your price too low.

      3. Josh S*

        You have two options:

        A) Don’t hint and simply say, “No I am not able to assist any further. It has been 6 months, and employee should be up to speed.” When asked again, simply say, “No I am not able to assist any further.”

        B) Pick an hourly rate that is WAY higher than your hourly wage was. At a minimum it should be 2-3 times higher than your hourly wage was …. and if you want them to stop bothering you, make it 5x your hourly wage. Tell them that you have a one hour minimum (not 15 minutes). Invoice the hell out of the new gal. When the boss sees the first bill, the questions will stop.

    2. PEBCAK*

      I got one of these calls that was like “can you just come in for an hour?” and when I said, “sure, my rate is $XXX/hr”, they came back with “oh, great, in that case, lets do 20 hours.

      1. Josh S*

        You need to come back and say, “Oh, that’s my rate for a one-off consultation of one hour. If you’d like me to make a more long-term commitment with a greater amount of responsibility for results, my rate is _______ (much higher).”

        Your hourly rate as a contractor really ought to be 2x – 3x your hourly wage was when you worked there, too. Or higher, depending on how much you’d like them to give you the brush-off so you don’t have to deal with them any more. :)

Comments are closed.