short answer Sunday — 6 short answers to 6 short questions

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

1. I missed an interview and didn’t call or email

I missed an interview due to illness, and because of my drug-induced stupor, I forgot to call or email (I was in no shape to do anything but not die). What should I do? I really wanted that job.

Ugh, that sucks. You should absolutely contact them ASAP to explain what happened, but they may or may not reschedule; they’re likely to think that if you can miss an interview without calling or emailing, you could do the same with a client meeting or something else important. But it’s worth contacting them to explain and apologize anyway, so that you’re not that guy who was a no-show for an interview and never followed up. Sorry about this.

2. Company won’t let me change office space

I’d like your take on this: I work in a large office where directors and VPs get an actual office with a door, the senior mangers get a large cube with work table, and the assistants share a cube space. I was hired a year ago as a senior manager and because of space issues was given the same workspace as an assistant. I took it in stride and didn’t complain. In time, when the appropriate space opened as an office was freed for a director, I asked to move and was given the lamest excuse I’ve ever heard. I was told that future moves were “frozen” even though the space remained empty for the past two weeks. Is this normal thing that happens at companies? Or is their way of letting me know how little they value me? I’m stumped.

It’s certainly possible that it indicates that they don’t value you much, but it’s more likely that it indicates that moves are currently frozen for some reason. Ask why, and when they expect that to change.

And meanwhile, look at other signs of how you’re valued: What kind of feedback do you get? What kind of assignments? Etc. Those are going to be more reliable indicators than whether they let you change office space.

3. Overcoming interview nerves

I graduated with my masters in December and have since been looking to transition out of my current field into a field more related to my education. I have had several interviews the past few months but I always seem to bomb them. I research the company, practice potential questions and know the job description inside and out, but I get so nervous that I can’t seem to form coherent sentences or answer the question completely. I am starting to get really discouraged and absolutely dread interviews. I am wondering if you have any advice for calming nerves,or at least looking like less of an idiot at interviews. Any advice would be much appreciated! Thanks.

Yes! My free “how to prepare for an interview” guide has a whole section on dealing with interview nerves. You can get it here.

4. Working out a transition plan if you think you’re going to get fired

I was interested in your recent article on how to transition out a dud employee – someone who was trying hard but just not making it. I was particularly interested because I’ve been that dud employee. In my last job I was hired at the wrong level. I didn’t have enough industry-specific knowledge for the role, I ended up doing a lot of firefighting, and I just couldn’t do it.

It was a hellishly stressful situation, both because I could see that the end result was going to be me being out of a job, and because the job itself was dreadful. I never thought of asking for a transition plan, though – I hung on while despite rapidly declining mental health, trying to find a new job to move into.

Being helped out of this situation would have reduced the stress for everyone, possibly saved my sanity, and saved my former employer the enhanced pay off they eventually paid me to leave quietly. If you know that you’re in the wrong job and aren’t cutting it, would you recommend asking for a transition plan? If so, how should navigate the political minefield that is inevitably involved?

Sometimes — depending on what your manager is like. If she’s likely to use this as an excuse to get you to leave immediately, then perhaps not. But if your experience with her is that she’s reasonable and likely to be open to an idea that would let her avoid the unpleasant business of possibly having to fire you at some point, sometimes a candid conversation can be exactly what’s needed. I have some advice on how to do that and what to say in this very old post from 2007.

5. My boss won’t stop using me as an emotional crutch

I enjoy my job. I manage a team, and I’m proud of the work we do as a group. My one big issue is my own boss. He uses me as an emotional crutch, and while I like being in his confidence, I dislike hearing office gossip and feel the amount of time we spend talking is a waste. Most of the people he directly manages are in remote locations; I am the only one of his direct reports in head office. He has a lot of issues with his own boss and is coping with a lot of stress.

He comes into my office 4-5 times a day and sits down to talk, and sometimes won’t leave for an entire hour. Occasionally I make up fictitious meetings to move him along. Anytime he meets someone else in the organization he wants to review the discussion he had with that person with me. He also talks about how stressed he is and everything he dislikes about his job. I also find it despairing that he is very negative and is always pointing out what’s wrong with everything and never suggests solutions. How do I change this to a positive working relationship?

I doubt that you can. He sounds like a mess.

You can certainly make up more fictitious meetings to move him along, or tell him that you’re on deadline, or use all kinds of other excuses to get him out of your office, but ultimately you’re working for a boss who’s a bad manager. It’s possible that you could have an honest conversation with him and tell him that you’re uncomfortable hearing office gossip, and that you want to focus on the positive things about your job and your company, but will that solve the problem? Maybe, but more likely not. What you really need is a more competent boss.

6. What’s a strong hit rate for hires?

What would you consider to be a strong hit rate for hires? To get more specific, if we made ten hires this month, what should we reasonably expect in terms of performance of those ten hires a year from now? How many are still employed, high performers, are any on PIP’s, dismissal, etc.

I know this is a murky area but I’d love to hear from people about what they’d feel comfortable with.

It depends on how much energy you put into to ensuring that you’re hiring well — how thorough you are, how much you probe, and how much you have candidates do exercises that simulate the work before hiring them. If you put a lot of energy into all that — and if you have a high bar for assessing performance, which not everyone does — you might hope at least 7 will be some mix of great and pretty good, and 1-3 will have not worked out for various reasons. And if you didn’t put a lot of energy into hiring, then all bets are off — your number of people not meeting a high bar is almost certainly going to be greater.

{ 82 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    #5 sounds like my old boss, and he would also use his emotional problems as an excuse to delegate 95% of his job to his subordinates. The only reason I still work for the company is because I convinced the big boss to transfer my position to another division in a recent reorg.

  2. YALM*

    #2, office moves can require time from other people and cost the department money, (yes, really) if your phone and voicemail need to be changed, for example. Or they may be looking to put someone else into that space who for reasons of seniority has a better claim to it. Is this move something you want purely for status reasons, or can you make a business case that being where you are negatively affects your ability to do your job and having the other space will alieviate those problems?

    #5, I’ve had a boss like that, too. Two things that helped were to tell the boss directly that the constant interruptions made it impossible for me to get my job done, and to schedule a once-weekly bitch session at the end of the week. The second provided an opportunity for the boss to unload a bit, but it also focused the unloading. We were able to discuss and address some of burdens being passed down from his boss and to plan for how we might address issues buried in the gossip picked up from his peers and others in the office.

    #6 it’s impossible to know based on what you’ve provided. What kind of jobs are you hiring for? How experienced are the employees you’re hiring? How good is the hiring pool? What effort is put into screening and interviewing? What effort is put into training and mentoring?

    1. Josh S*

      For #2, I think the LW is just put off by the fact that there are some ‘standard perks’ for certain titles, and he’s not getting that perk. Like, if every company Director got a reserved parking spot except you.

      It’s not that the world will collapse without it (though as a manager, I’d think that having some sort of private room for some of the more frank conversations would be helpful to have), but that he’s not getting the benefits associated with his title/status. And if you’re not getting the perks associated with a title, especially if everyone else *is*, it makes you start to wonder if they don’t really think of you as deserving of your title.

      The thing to do, as Alison suggests, is to ask “why” the ‘location move freeze’ is happening. It’s possible they’re looking to move the department to a different wing of the company, or to do a total reorg of departments for whatever reason and don’t want to distract the building ops guys with one-off moves in the run-up to that, or even that they’re going to have layoffs or massive hirings or something that will require reevaluating the ‘office perks’ of different titles, etc. Or heck, they may have had 3 of their 5 building ops guys quit in the last month, and the other 2 guys are running ragged until they staff up again, and they don’t want to overwork them even more with ‘low priority’ office moves.

      The possibilities are pretty endless. You won’t know until you ask. So ask.

    2. Josh S*

      For #5, you raise a good point — it might be possible (though unlikely) to turn this into an opportunity to take on greater responsibility/visibility in the department by understanding the issues that the boss is dealing with and giving him an opportunity to let him delegate them to you.

      Hard to pull off…you’re more likely to end up as “Assistant to the manager” rather than “Assistant manager” (/obvious Office reference), but it might be a way to salvage something out of the crappy situation.

    3. AB*

      I disagree with this statement:

      “#6 it’s impossible to know based on what you’ve provided. What kind of jobs are you hiring for? How experienced are the employees you’re hiring? How good is the hiring pool? What effort is put into screening and interviewing? What effort is put into training and mentoring?”

      Measuring results such as the ones mentioned by the OP (number of high performers vs. in PIP, etc.), can be used precisely to create a business case for better screening/hiring/interviewing/training/mentoring practices.

      If you can find a good benchmark (e.g., a company of similar size, industry, etc.), and verify that your talent retention rates, accuracy in hiring the right people, etc., is low, then you are in a better position to justify investments in improving the recruiting and developing processes you have.

      In other words, you don’t need to base your benchmark on what processes you currently have (justifying poor hiring performance with the lack of good hiring practices). You can measure your current results and compare against a reasonable benchmark or targets, and then go back to the root causes (lack of qualified candidates, low quality recruiting process, etc.) you need to address in order to improve your results.

      1. YALM*

        AB, I respectfully disagree. I don’t need an outside target to build a business case around improving my hiring practices. I need to know what my current hiring practices cost me in dollars, in work that gets done poorly or not at all, and in management overhead.

        That said, it doesn’t mean that an outside target might not be nice to know. And that target will vary depending on the answers to at least my first three questions. Josh S hit on some of the details in his comments down thread, so I won’t belabor the points here.

        1. Josh S*

          The first 3 questions are outside your control as a hiring manager, and will necessarily impact your ‘hit rate’ in ways you can’t really control for.

          Your last 2 questions (effort put into hiring/screening, effort put into managing/training) are within your control. And these are the levers you push to change the results of your ‘hit rate’.

          I think that’s where you and AB are seemingly at odds (though I suspect you actually agree with each other).

      2. Josh S*

        You’re both right.

        YALM is right because it’s impossible to know a good ‘hit rate’ given the information provided (we don’t know industry, experience level of positions/hires, etc etc etc). All of those things form a baseline to work from.

        You’re also right, because you should be determining what you *want* your ‘hit rate’ to be, and then changing your hiring practices to meet that metric. If your hit rate is lower than you’d like (or lower than your industry average) because you’re not adequately screening candidates — then change your screening process.

        Sometimes it amazes me that people/companies think that they are handcuffed into doing things a certain way, but aren’t getting the results they want. Sure, a part of that is corporate inertia and getting buy-in from a bunch of different people to actually change (which is no simple thing). But too often, “We’ve always done it this way” is a refrain used as an excuse to justify the bad results you’re getting, rather than seeing it as an opportunity to use change as a catalyst to get the results you want.

        1. AB*

          “Sometimes it amazes me that people/companies think that they are handcuffed into doing things a certain way, but aren’t getting the results they want. Sure, a part of that is corporate inertia and getting buy-in from a bunch of different people to actually change (which is no simple thing). But too often, “We’ve always done it this way” is a refrain used as an excuse to justify the bad results you’re getting, rather than seeing it as an opportunity to use change as a catalyst to get the results you want.”

          Exactly. And that’s where having an external benchmark can be useful, because it can serve as evidence that *it is possible* to get better results (but it may require changing how things are done).

          1. Writer*

            I am the writer of number 6. Some more background:
            -I work for a school network and hire across all positions, including teachers, teacher leaders, office staff, clean team, etc.
            -I am in a competitive city. There is a limited pool of strong candidates and several strong organizations that generally vie for many of the same people.
            -We have a thorough process. Online app, pre-screen call, reference check, performance task (teach a lesson, office task simulating work, etc.), debrief of performance task, and a focused interview with multiple team members. Given competition, sometimes a step in this process is missed but we try not to.
            -Due to the fast growth of the organization, we have to hire a lot of people each year. 25-30 people annually, as we’ve grown each year. With that, we provide quite a bit of training to all new employees, regardless of past experience.

            Alison’s answer actually was very in line with where we’ve been. We have an 85% retention rate from year to year, and about 5% of the turnover is terminations. Compared to the market averages, we are in a strong place.

            I’d love to hear from others what the #’s look like in other industries. I found the comments about call centers to be what I expected for that role, but I’d love to know across some other types of jobs and industries.

            1. Joey*

              5% terms is really low, some would say too low. Although I’m guessing some of that is due to a bureaucratic environment? Or maybe you’re not counting forced resignations as terms?

              1. Josh S*

                Wait– do you mean that 5% of the turnover is terminations, and 95% of turnover is people who quit?

                Or are you saying that your turnover rate is 15% (100-85% retention), and 1/3 of that (5%) is terminations and 2/3 of that (10%) is voluntary?

                1. Writer*

                  Thanks all. I was saying 5% of the hires, not of the total turnover. As Joey said, that figure does not include forced resignations, or folks who see the writing on the wall and decide themselves to leave. It’s a bit different in our field because there is a very set time where people make these decisions (from school year to school year, leaving in the summer) so there are people who we arent asking back but aren’t terminating either. The overall figure is more like 10% if you included these folks.


  3. Nameless*

    4. Working out a transition plan if you think you’re going to get fired

    I think you should ask for a transition plan. I once had a job where I was a bad fit, the manager started to be mean to me in an effort to have me resign. It was horrible. I picked up on it and started to look for a position somewhere else. The only thing I needed was reference later on.

  4. girlreading*

    #3- I know this feeling! When I graduated from college, I was so nervous in interviews and ended up having to get a job through a staffing agency where I started as a temp. I would get an upset stomach the day of interviews and be physically shaking and when I was in the interview I felt like such an idiot because I couldn’t think of things to say. Since then, I’ve worked as a recruiter and that experience has really helped me cut down on anxiety in interviews because I’ve been on the other side of it. I still get a bit nervous, but I try to think of it as talking with one of my co-workers because I’m not nervous around them.

  5. Anonymous*

    #1 Wow, better luck next time. I try not to do any type of partying the day before an interview because like poster in #3 scenario I have so much anxiety leading up to the day of the interview — and that’s enough to wreck my nerves and make me forget to answer questions coherently…
    I don’t know what’s worse forgetting to show up or showing up and forgetting how to formulate thoughts… You just might have the edge here if you call and apologize. But what would you say?? Maybe you could say you wrote you mixed up the day and dates??? Or show up at the same time of the first interview but on different day….

    #2 That sucks. It could be a battle going on between who can claim that space. That happen to me a few months after accepting an accounting position at a hotel. The GM, at the comptroller’s request upon my hire, approve the partial removal of a wall that separated the accounting office and and unused sales office at the time–giving accounting an enormous space (even I thought it was a bit much). But I had a semi private office space which was great. Needless to say the sales team were pissed and the sales manager within a few months started interviewing for a new sales position and he would bring perspectives by my space–and say things like “we can put the walls back up” …And shortly after hiring a new sales woman, the walls were erected again and I was moved into the original accounting office.

    #4 While at the time, I didn’t consider it a transition plan but I was once so overwhelmed with tardiness and call ins (due to personal problems) I met with my GM and like AAM said– I had a candid conversation with him. I believe I went in wanting to quit that day. But he convince me not to. I didn’t go into too much details just that my personal life was causing me to not perform at my best. I wanted to bring up the issue before he brought it to me in the form of a write up or verbal warning. We agreed to modify my schedule until he could hire someone else. The downside, I didn’t transition to new employment which made it worse because I really needed to be employed. The upside, I had my mental health in tact.

      1. Waiting Patiently*

        #2 to add to that the comptroller and the hr manager had more seniority and were in good with the GM, the nicest fairest manager I’ve known. I think they were in cahoots for a while to get that office space away from the sales team. But sales argued not only did they need all sales offices staffed with a sales person because of the size of the hotel but they need to have an actual office space to bring clients. There were pretty much no arguments that could justify me needing that space though the comptroller tried her best by saying I needed the space to make collection calls on all the past due sales accounts… She hated just about every dept in the hotel! lol I miss her!

    1. Josh S*

      #1: I don’t think you can make up an excuse. You have to be honest, at least in this situation. “I was deathly ill and couldn’t even stay conscious longer than it took me to take medicine. I’m mortified that I didn’t get in touch with you (or even have someone else get in touch with you) to let you know.”

      If you make up an excuse like “switched the date and time”, that just makes you look unorganized and unreliable. Especially for something as important as an interview. It’s a definite deal-breaker.

      Now, if your “horrible illness” is a hangover (which it seems like you’re alluding to above), you should call and apologize and never expect to hear from that company again, because you totally did that to yourself. I have little sympathy for people who reap the consequences of their (very voluntary) choices.

      1. Peaches*

        I wouldn’t assume Hang Over.

        I was a young and pretty healthy person when I got hit with Mono…BAD! (No, I wasn’t kissing anybody at that point in my life) My throat almost swelled shut at one point and I had to be rushed the the ER, my ear drums exploded, and I was soooo tired all the time. I had headaches so bad they made my vision too blurry to even watch TV. It took two weeks to get back to vaguely normal. And another four for the the fever, internal organ swelling and everything to be completely gone.

        Nowhere in that initial two weeks could I have made a phone call or sent an email that would have done anything but reflected even more poorly on me.

        Sometimes, you really do just catch a nasty, nasty bug.

        The likelihood of it happening again is infinitesimal. S/He might be a great employee going forward.

        1. BW*

          Yeh I was taking #1 at face value – the LW was really really sick, not out partying. There is a nasty stomach bug going around right now. The flu knocked me flat on my butt this season, and it was sudden. I agree he should just call and be honest. Missing an interview and not getting in touch due to sudden illness is understandable. Giving an excuse like “I mixed up the days.” makes a person look like a flake.

          1. Waiting Patiently*

            the mixed up day excuse does come off as flaky (something I would never do) –just wasn’t sure what they could possibly say in their apology in that instance esp when I thought the op was out partying and engaging in reckless behavior.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Totally agree. If you mixed up the days, that’s going to reflect really badly on you. (Also, not sure why it sounded like the OP was hungover; I assumed it was a legit illness.)

            1. Waiting Patiently*

              My eyes immediately went to the drug induced stupor part and totally missed the word illness before that.

                1. Kathryn T.*

                  “I am so sorry I wasn’t available at our previously-confirmed time. In my defense, I was *really, really high.*

                2. Min*

                  I used to work with a woman who would call in at least once a month stating she was too hung over to work. I could never decide which was more astounding – that she didn’t even try to pretend that it wasn’t her own fault or that the company let her get away with it.

                3. ThursdaysGeek*

                  I worked with a guy who would often not come in on Mondays. We referred to it as “brown bottle flu”.

          3. Rana*

            Agreed. The flu this year was bad. The first few days I had it, I was barely able to leave my bed, let alone think coherently. I would imagine anyone who’s had it this season would be sympathetic to the OP’s situation.

            1. BGirl81*

              Yup! I actually had the same thing happen to me 3 years ago and I sent an email the next day explaining what happened and saying how terribly sorry I was for any inconvenience. I closed by saying that I truly appreciated her invitation to visit the office. You could have knocked me on my tuchus with a feather when they were willing to reschedule! So sorry the OP has to deal with this!

        2. Zed*

          Agreed! I had mumps in college, and for the first couple of days all I could do was sleep. At one point I slept for 30 hours straight. For the better part of a week I could barely talk or eat, and just being awake hurt so badly that I couldn’t imagine having to make a phone call or send an email.

  6. Anonymous*

    #2 – same thing happened in an office I used to work in, each move would cost the company something like 500 -700.oo, and if there wasn’t money in the budget, then moves were often put on hold, despite the empty spaces. Plus if the OP is a senior manager, and the space was formerly occupied by a director, there may be reluctance to place the OP in that space as other senior managers would complain ( office space vs. large cube)

    #4- try recording your interview ( I used my phone to record) and then listen to your answers. It’s pretty remarkable what you think you hear, and what you actually hear on the recorded script. Then try to fine tune. It just takes practice.

    #5 – those types are emotional vampires, and leave a person exhausted working in that enviroment. They are toxic to your general wellbeing – I call it the Eore effect ( remember Eore from Winnie the pooh) Anyways, you can’t change those types, you either have to learn to cope with it ( try to seek help with EAP, if the company has that option) or choose to leave and work elsewhere.

    1. Vicki*

      > if the OP is a senior manager, and the space was formerly occupied by a director, there may be reluctance to place the OP in that space as other senior managers would complain ( office space vs. large cube)

      I had this happen to me.
      When I joined Company X, they were short on space and I was placed in a 10×10 cubicle with another person. We were told that “after we all move upstairs’ we wouldn’t need to share.

      We moved upstairs. Everyone got a “single” cube except the two of us. We were now in a shared 12×8 cubicle with high walls and a door. But still shared. And both of us tended to talke to ourselves while working.

      What? Were you talking to me? Huh? Oh, no, the computer. Oh. What?

      There were some very small (4×4) cubicles available fro data entry people and some were empty. I asked to move.

      I was told I couldn’t move for two reasons:
      * my job title was “too senior” for a 4×4 and (worse)
      * neither of us was senior enough to warrant having the 12×8 as an individual cube.

      (I worked out a way to move which I probably shouldn’t share because it was sneaky and devious and underhanded. :-)

    2. Jamie*

      same thing happened in an office I used to work in, each move would cost the company something like 500 -700.oo, and if there wasn’t money in the budget, then moves were often put on hold, despite the empty spaces.

      I’m really curious as to what the expenses involved are? Moving people from one desk to another (and as an IT it doesn’t matter to me if it’s a cube, office, or hallway) is a matter of having the computer equipment moved, and going into the phone system and swapping that person’s extension over to that jack.

      I need lead time on this – I’m not going to drop what I’m going on a whim to detangle cables – but I can always schedule it within a day or two. If you’re moving from one connected area to another I don’t know how costs are incurred?

      1. Colette*

        Some places have people who do the actual moving (boxes, computers, etc.), which would add to the expense. It would be interesting to know whether that’s what they figure the cost is (lost productivity, time spent having someone from IT reroute things, etc.) or whether it’s an actual bill they have to pay.

      2. KellyK*

        Is it maybe a situation where departments are billed for other departments’ time? That is, if it takes IT an hour to do a move for someone in department X, then an hour’s worth of your pay is billed to the Department X budget.

        That’s about the only way I can picture a cost.

      3. Jazzy Red*

        Yup, it can be pricey to move people. My company is planning a complete reorg (175 people over 4 floors). We have one maintenance guy who’s close to retirement age, and everyone wants their wall-hung work surfaces raised. They’re not the easy ones, either, so everyone can’t do their own. It should be an interesting week.

        We should probably review our first aid training…

  7. littlemoose*

    OP #6, in addition to Alison’s answer, I think a lot depends on how well your new hires are trained. If they’re thrown in with little or no training, surely their performance will suffer, and they’re more likely to leave the job, either voluntarily or involuntarily. You could even lose people with a lot of potential that way, as high performers will recognize when they’re not being set up for success and may jump ship. If you are looking to boost retention and performance of new employees, I think an assessment of your training and mentoring would be helpful.

    1. PEBCAK*

      I have mixed feelings about this. If you have very little formal training, that might be okay, as long as you hire people who don’t need a lot of formal training.

    2. Lulula*

      +1 What I find interesting about the current hiring environment of “we’d rather have the position open for 6 months than train someone new”, is that most of the jobs I’ve had have provided zero formal training, and I’ve had to just ask a million questions and figure things out myself every time. I was surprised to find out that other people did get training in new positions sometimes! If these employers had bothered to have some kind of training planned, I probably would have ramped up more quickly and been more successful initially in those positions. And it can be pretty disheartening to be stuck floundering on your own with no support. So don’t forget to address things you have some control over when evaluating new employees’ performance!

  8. Josh S*

    #6 Good ‘hit rate’ for hiring:

    This absolutely depends on the level of the employees, the industry, and a slew of other factors. Blue collar vs white collar, retail vs office job, the competitive-ness of the pay/benefits offered, etc etc etc.

    If you’re hiring for a call center, getting 1/10 as a high performer, and 3/10 to be there for a year is likely a really good result. Then again, many call centers hire for “ability to pick up a ringing phone,” “shows up on time,” and “can work a computer mouse” rather than actual indicators of how well the person is likely to do — they just want warm bodies sometimes.

    If you’re hiring for mid-level, non-management, independent thinkers, Alison’s metric is more likely to be correct.

    If you’re trying to figure out whether your own hiring process is doing a decent job of weeding out bad candidates and a good job of attracting stable, high-quality talent, you really need to figure out what the turnover rate is for the industry/area/skill set/experience level for which you’re hiring. You can typically find or buy reports that give you some idea of this. Then use that as the basis for your metrics.

    For instance, IIRC, call centers (of any sort, though telemarketers are worse) have turnover rate in the high 90% range (as of 10 years ago, when I was in that industry). So if your hiring process is getting you a turnover rate that’s lower than 70%, you’re doing really well.

    However, you also need to decide (or figure out) what the cost of hiring new people is to your company, and whether it makes sense to square that with the industry ‘norms’. For some positions, having a new person come in means a LOT of work for HR, hiring managers, etc, which is a cost. Not to mention the lower production as a person gets trained (AND the person doing the training), etc etc. It very well may be worth ditching the industry ‘norm’ and making a strong case to the powers that be that it is worth being more selective in the hiring process, offering higher pay/benefits, etc so that you have a stronger continuity in your work force for the results of higher quality, less turnover costs, etc.

    It all depends on your company.

  9. Sharon*

    Re #2: Great question and a topic that I’ve been wanting to discuss here for ages!

    I’m firmly convinced that companies need to stop using work space for status symbols and just assign the same space to everybody below executive level. I’ve seen many places that purchase cubicle arrangements in different sizes depending on the employee ranking; for example, large cube for managers, medium cube for bottom level employees and teensy cubes for contractors. The problem is that over time the staffing demographics change all around and you’re forced to put people wherever you can find the space, and then feelings get hurt when Joe contractor has a bigger space than Susy employee.

    Personally, I don’t really feel like it’s a statement of how I’m valued, but I do worry that others feel that way. I’m in a teensy contractor space right now for the very reason I mentioned above. I don’t really need anything larger for practical reasons, but I do wonder if people think I’m a contractor. (And that’s bad because my company is one of those who hires and fires contractors like they’re a disposable commodity – no offense to contractors here, but some companies do that and it sends a poor message. The way you treat people actually DOES tell them how you value them!)

    Another example is a company that I short-term contracted for. They were extremely short of space so were doubling and even tripling contractors into cubes. There was a director-level dude with an actual office-with-a-door near me, and whenever he was in, I could peek in his office as I walked by. He had enough space in there to easily fit SIX cubicles without even moving his desk. And we were doubled and tripled up. It was pretty ludicrous.

    The other issue I have with that is that higher level executives in many companies (like the director above) tend to travel alot. It makes more sense to me to have more space for people who are in the office every day, and less space for those who show up one day a month.

    1. Josh S*

      The flip side is that some of those managers/directors need to have office-with-a-door so they can close that door and have strategy meetings, voice disagreements on direction, talk confidentially about performance issues, etc etc etc, even if they’re only in the office for a few days a month.

      Now, the size of that office is another matter entirely. But still.

      1. Sharon*

        Oh, yeah, absolutely some people need private spaces with doors. It’s just the size of the spaces that I think is problematic, and as in the last case I described carried to ludicrous proportions.

        1. Jamie*

          Oh, yeah, absolutely some people need private spaces with doors. It’s just the size of the spaces that I think is problematic, and as in the last case I described carried to ludicrous proportions.

          I know it’s impractical and will never happen but I’m of the opinion that productivity would skyrocket if everyone who wanted one had an office with a door. I don’t mean those who want them for status, but those who truly work better without distractions.

          Unfortunately it’s too expensive to set most workplaces up this way, even if tptb wanted to.

          I’m fortunate in working for an SMB which is small enough that space is doled out based on what makes sense for each position and not rank. I have the second biggest office solo (21 x 25) and it’s just because I have the most stuff to store plus the data center.

          I do think the door thing is a red herring in someways, though. I have never worked anywhere where people with their own offices and doors kept them closed as a matter of course. I close mine when I’m on a call/webinar, in a confidential meeting, or working on a really sticky problem as a signal. It’s the same for everyone else – so if the office has an open door policy it’s not like going to work and having 8 hours of quiet in which to work. On the other hand people do tend to wait at the door to get your attention and you aren’t assumed to be as readily available as people assume those in cubicles are (ridiculous, because people in cubes are also engrossed in working. It’s weird mindset I’ve seen at various places, though.)

          I don’t see it as a perk, because it’s not about that here, but it is something that I would want if I ever moved on to another company. I don’t want to go back to ear plugs when working on a development thing and the more frequent interruptions. I consider it part of a productive work environment for me like my customized monitor set up and having a powerful workstation.

      2. Jen in RO*

        We have a couple of meeting rooms for that. Everyone, including the bosses, works in an open space and they just book a meeting room for confidential conversations.

        1. YALM*

          Same here. One advantage that I have, though, is that I can work from home any time I need to. I will often take calls of a more sensitive nature from there so I don’t have to take up meeting room space or worry about who can hear through the paper-thin walls. I know that’s not the case for lots of other managers, and I image that it’s a bit limiting at times.

        2. K*

          Some jobs this is literally going to be every day (may be calls of a sensitive nature with people outside the organization instead of face-to-face conversations with people in it), though, and it’s just much more efficient to give people their own offices. Honestly, the calls at my office aren’t even that sensitive – though it’s still better for everyone not to be hearing them – but if I had to listen to my co-workers on the phone for as much as they’re on the phone, I would go stark raving mad.

          1. Lulula*

            That was my issue with cubes. In addition to the nearby population who felt that regular use of speakerphone in that environment was not at all problematic. Upside: I knew way more about the business than I would have otherwise. Downside: Way harder to deal with my OWN stuff. And I frequently wanted to punch people.

        3. JT*

          Same with my org – everyone from CEO on down has the same desk, except the receptionist. Many small private meeting rooms with phones.

          Oh, we have some smaller desks for interns and visitors.

          1. EngineerGirl*

            It also keeps those lower down the food chain from being bumped from the conference room. Directors have tight schedules so need a meeting when they need it. Better to have a dedicated room (office) instead of repeatedly bumping people from regularly scheduled meetings.

      3. Jamie*

        At the barest minimum the heads of HR, IT, and Operations should have their own locking offices to maintain confidentiality both in meetings and in stored records.

        1. -X-*

          Our heads of IT and HR both have locked storage (and server rooms for IT), but not offices. We’re totally open plan. If they leave their computer for any extended time, they lock it or log off. And IT tends not to be logged into admin account except when necessary.

          Ditto operations and finance. They have locked storage, including a safe, but not locked offices.

          When any of these people need confidentiality for talking they use a small meeting room.

    2. Lulula*

      Space-management (or lack thereof) used to make me nuts – we had a couple of people who were primarily in a different city/state, but occasionally worked out of our building, and they got offices assigned to them despite the fact they were hardly ever there and we were dealing with an extreme lack of space. Made zero sense.

      I don’t think I could even work doubled/tripled up like that! I had a hard enough time being in a cube space with a lot of adjacent foot traffic: I was constantly being interrupted, and it was hard to even make a phone call due to the noise & distractions and not wanting to be overheard (which is one of several reasons I hardly ever used the phone). There is a point where theoretical space “solutions” are counterproductive to the reason why people are using the space in the first place…

    3. jesicka309*

      When I started my current job, we were a brand new team, and were waiting for a reno to go through before we could move into the main office with the rest of our office.
      We were housed in a tiny little conference room off the kitchen. There were six of us all crammed in there. Three had their computers and phones on the main conference table, two had theirs on a side table, and our team leader had a tiny round rolling table for his. Our main job was taking calls, in that tight little space with no windows…in summer. Ick.

      It was only a temporary thing, but the biggest problem was that it cast our new team as ‘outsiders’ from the rest of the department. It took a good six months in the new office for this stigma to wear off, and there was significant division between our team and the existuing teams, who thought of themselves as ‘better’ because they had always had the better desks.

      Sometimes office set ups can have a huge effect on office politics, and managers need to be aware that even having the percieved benefit of a ‘better’ cube or desk can be enough to cause bullying and exclusion amongst the team. It should be even steven for everyone of the same rank, imo.

      1. Lisa*

        “Sometimes office set ups can have a huge effect on office politics, and managers need to be aware that even having the perceived benefit of a ‘better’ cube or desk can be enough to cause bullying and exclusion amongst the team. It should be even steven for everyone of the same rank, imo.”

        I feel like this is such a common overlooked issue in offices. My company has the 4X4 cubes for rank and file, 4X8 for managers/directors and offices for exec directors and above. But likes someone said above, due to changes in personal demographics these rules cannot always be maintained.

        My group was just reorged, I had to be moved off to another floor with my group(I’m a manager) due to the fact that we are being “squeezed” in, I now have a 4×4 on the end of a main aisle near a set of bathrooms.

        Is that fair that a manager with my seniority (8 years) has to sit in this crappy cube while the summer temp they just hired as staff 10 minutes ago has a cushy 4X8 next to the window, just because she got there before me. I don’t want to the the B*itch that says to my boss “move her, I should sit there!” But what else is there, I know I shouldn’t be annoyed about this, but I just can’t help it.

        1. jesicka309*

          But it’s not even the ‘fairness’ thing. It’s the perceived value to the company. It’s more important to the company that the summer intern has a comfortable space to work, than their manager of 8 years. That is a great way to generate resentment and unhappiness over a long period of time, yet who will they miss the most when they quit? It’s such a no-brainer there.
          It’s the same with companies that squash the new staffer into a crappy corner on their own, then wonder why they aren’t ‘connecting’ with the other employees? Or why the existing employees won’t respect the new manager that’s shoved into crappy cubicles like them, because the company is signalling they’re just glorified team leaders? Or managers who wonder why their employees don’t acknowledge their ‘open door policy’ when the whole team, managers and all, sit in an open space where everyone hears everything?
          Sometimes seating has a huge impact on operations.

          1. Sandy*

            I understand that there does need to be consistency with cube assignments, but sometimes people can take it a little far.
            At my last job, one of our Recruiters had an office, but transfered to a Generalist role (writing policies and updated the handbook, etc), and the office she was in needed to go to the new recruiter (for phone interviews, etc). She whined and complained so much that she didn’t want to sit in the empty cube in the HR area, they ended up putting cubes in the HRIS Analyst’s office so they could share an office. I felt really bad for the HRIS Analyst who had her office cut in half because the other lady was whiney. It put a bad taste in the rest of the department’s mouth because her new role didn’t require an office and we all had the impression that she was being a brat. It was funny having them crammed into an office together and this big empty cube was available.

  10. fposte*

    On #1–how long ago was this? I still think you should acknowledge your miss now, but in general in a case like this you email or call the *moment* you realize (even before you contact AAM :-)); the more delay, the less effect the followup apology has.

  11. Not So NewReader*

    OP #5. Energy vampires. Some people really do get a day’s worth of energy by hopping from one crisis to another. (Some of us eat right, exercise and get rest- hey there is an idea!)

    I had a drama queen boss- one crisis after another. I questioned her skills as a professional. I started believing I could actually do a better job than her. Then my coworkers said “you could do a better job….” sigh.

    This is kind of an odd thing to say- but here is one thing I found out. My skills and abilities had, indeed, grown. I was able to deal with more difficult issues. And I did a lot of problem solving. My boss’ neediness caused me to bloom. I realized that I could consider jobs that I would not previously consider, because I had grown on the professional level.
    Not sure if this is useful to you, but thought I would throw it out there.

  12. De Minimis*

    #4–I’d only bring it up to them if I had a job lined up or otherwise knew what I was going to do. When you bring something like that up to management you have to be prepared for the possibility of them letting you go immediately.

    I can speak from experience on that one….at a former employer all I did was ask if I could find out the result of my evaluation sooner rather than later, in order to do things like give notice to my landlord, etc., if the result wasn’t going to be good. I was let go the very next day. I think most companies would rather just cut low performers loose instead of trying to do some kind of gradual transition. It might be different for upper level people, I don’t know.

    1. EngineerGirl*

      I’d say you waited too long to have the conversation – things were so bad that they already decided to let you go. Approaching management earlier rather than later opens up the conversation lines when emotions are at a lower level. This allows for a longer lead time on the exit

      1. De Minimis*

        That particular company/industry was a little different, they hired a ton of people each year with the expectation that a certain number would probably be let go/otherwise leave after a year or two, so the wheels were in motion for me to be out of there after around 7-8 months. I wanted to hang on for a year in order to meet the experience requirement for my CPA license, so it was imperative that I hung on till then. I think in a way they were doing a transition plan over the last 3-4 months by keeping me on.

  13. Martina*

    #3. Do you know why you get nervous? When I started interviewing after school, I’d get very nervous because, during the interview, I’d think about what getting this job would mean, how much I need it, etc. I’d be so stuck in my head that when they’d ask me a question, I couldn’t think of anything natural today but just stuttered responses I’d practiced. And when they’d ask me something I didn’t prepare for, I’d ramble or give a very short response.

    I think it’s helped me to not place as much emphasis on the job (even when I’m not in the interview) and go into it with the mindset, as AAM writes in her guide, to learn more about the position. Secondly, when I practice for interviews, I try to talk about myself/my experiences in different ways so that it sounds more natural rather than rehearsed. I’ve also noticed that I’m less nervous when I click with the people I’m talking to, which is a good sign for the job itself. I don’t know if any of this is helpful, but at least you know you’re not the only nervous interviewee!

  14. Blinx*

    #2. Yes, it’s entirely normal for moves to be frozen. Frustrating, but normal. There may be changes coming down the pike and want everything to wait until all decisions are made so that no one has to be moved twice. Like others posted, all moves, no matter how small, incur X amount of charges to the department.

    At my last place, after a major re-org, moves were STILL frozen, so people just took their laptops, forwarded their phones, and started working in the new area (sometimes in a different building), until things were unfrozen. But this was for convenience, not status.

    But for now, you’ve made your views known — be patient. But as a senior manager, wouldn’t you never be assigned a director’s office? Just a larger cube?

  15. Lulula*

    To chime in on #2, we would occasionally have to do seating reorgs of the department, floor, or (once) entire building. Those took a while to ramp up, and while they were being planned, it would have made no sense to use resources on individual moves that we knew would just be undone in 2 or 3 weeks. That said, I worked with a pretty self-sufficient crew, so sometimes it would work out that someone would be allowed to move into a different space if they schlepped everything on their own, with the caveat that it might be temporary. Either way, if it came up, I would usually explain that there was reorg planning in progress so they needed to sit tight, but others might not have bothered explaining the issue and just said “no”.

    I agree that the best way to handle it is to find out why there’s a freeze if you can, make a business case for the move if there is one, and look to other areas to evaluate how much you’re valued there. Unfortunately, I’ve found that people aren’t always conscious of the importance of office settings &/or “perks of the position” unless it directly pertains to them, especially if they’re really busy with other things, so it could easily be that they don’t see it as a very important issue.

  16. Rana*

    #5 – One thing to think about is what you can change on your end to discourage this situation (you can’t change your boss, so you have to focus on what you can change). Presumably they’re coming to you not just because they need to vent, but because they get something out of the interaction. The less positive feedback you can provide, the less likely venting to you will be rewarding for them.

    For example, rather than trying to offer solutions to their problems, make vaguely sympathetic noises in a matter of fact tone that shift the burden of the conversation back to them, like “Wow, that does sound difficult.” “What are you going to do about it?” “Huh. I can see why that would be frustrating.” The goal is to be pleasant without reinforcing the draaaaamaaaa and to acknowledge the problems without making them yours (unless it is something that is actually part of your job). Since there’s nothing you can do about the bad attitude of Jane in the San Antonio office, there’s no point in offering suggestions, for example.

    Your goal is to diminish the rewards your boss gets from venting at you: sympathy, confirmation that they’re correct to be so worked up by all this stuff, and solutions. Provide as little as is reasonably possible, and stay as emotionally neutral as possible.

    In combination with a scheduled “vent session” as suggested, so they don’t feel you’re blowing them off, this should help reduce the gab sessions. (And even if it doesn’t, it makes it easier for you to bear them, since you’re reinforcing that this is Not Your Problem by being bland and boring.) If you’re lucky, they’ll seek a more sympathetic audience for their complaints.

  17. Jamie*

    #5 – I think I win the award for biggest opportunist, but in reading this one all I could think was you have way more information and insight to higher/other levels of the organization than most people.

    File it away. It may not come in handy now, but if the boss leaves or implodes you have a lot of inside scoop. The more you know and all that.

  18. none*

    #3. I know what you mean :( I have never been overly nervous but recently I have become shakingly nervous during interviews and seem to ramble or forget my answers. It’s awful! I haven’t found a solution yet but as someone else mentioned, I too am less nervous when I “click” with interviewers.

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