wee answer Wednesday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

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

1. Coworker keeps pitching in on my tasks when I don’t want her to

I’m in somewhat of a delicate situation. I work under a general boss, as well as a project manager. I do more of the day-to-day technical tasks, whereas my project manager handles budgets and dealing with vendors/stakeholders, etc. However, she is either super-effective, or there is not enough project-management requirements to keep her busy all of the time, so she helps on things that I would normally do. This troubles me in a few different ways — I have a decent amount of work to do at this point, but not to the point where I feel like I need help. It’s somewhat disconcerting to open a query that goes to our general email two minutes after it’s arrived to find that she’s already on it. Also, I either have to spend time walking her through performing the technical nitty-gritty stuff, or I have to spend time correcting things, when altogether, it would have been more efficient for me to just do it. I just wish I could do my own thing.

Am I not being a team player here, or is this non-standard? If it is unusual, how do I go about addressing it? It’s especially hard because she’s a lovely person and somewhat insecure about learning new things, so I definitely like to help. I just feel territorial over my “turf.” She is also friends with the general boss, so I don’t really know how addressing this with her would go. And if I do sound like a territorial jerk, please let me know so I can do my best to get over it.

No, it’s not typical, not unless she’s really supposed to be doing this stuff, but it sounds like she’s not. So talk to her. Say, “Jane, I so appreciate your helping out when you can, but when you jump in and help even when I don’t need it, I feel like I’m not performing my job well. I wonder if we can come up with a system for me letting you know when I need help, but let me take the lead on things like X, Y, and Z the rest of the time.”

Also, when she asks you for instruction on technical things that really should be yours anyway, try saying something like, “Oh, I really love doing that, so I’ll handle it. Thanks for offering though.”

2. My abusive boss is making me miserable

I am writing you about a dilemma I have been facing since my previous boss retired. My previous boss was a true mentor and, although I wasn’t always happy at work, I grew so much under her and I really respected her. But since she left last April, I have been feeling less empowered, depressed, anxious, and less willing to do my best and it has a lot to do with how I’ve been treated at work. I work at a small nonprofit; there is only a head director and an associate director beneath her (she is my boss). This boss has shown time and time again angry outbursts where she yells at me or other employees. She rarely keeps calm and her behavior is extremely stressful, so I often become anxious. She rarely gives positive feedback but instead gives criticism and complaints. She uses manipulation on employees, as well. She stresses that we not gossip but just recently at a staff meeting she was incredibly inappropriate and spent about an hour of the meeting talking about previous employees and clients.

No one ever does anything about her behavior, and those that have tried haven’t seen any results. I feel this may have to do with how she is best friends with the head director. I am unhappy working there and I am working on finding another job. In the meantime, though, I feel miserable and I wonder if I should just quit right now? I also feel that something needs to be done about this director who is abusing her power. What do you suggest I do without burning bridges since I need a good reference for my next job?

Don’t quit without another job lined up, because it will make it harder for you to find a new job and it might take a lot longer than you think to find one (a year or more). It doesn’t sound like there’s anything you can do about this director; your best bet is to focus on leaving with your own reputation intact and finding a job where you’ll be happier than this one. (And yes, I know that’s not the answer you want, but there’s no magic “fix an abusive boss” formula to give. Your best bet is to simply find a new job.)

3. How can I get promoted out of my internship?

I was recently hired as an intern (paid, full-time) at an organization where a lot of people, although more than qualified for more (myself included), start out like that. I’ve been looking at the Linkedin pages of the salaried, full-time staff and have noticed that for those who started out as interns, they were in that position for 3-6 months and then promoted. Plus, opportunities to move up was something that was mentioned/stressed at during my interview. One of my supervisors was promoted from my position some time ago, and I was thinking of breaching the subject with her at some point.

But my question is, how soon after working here should I be trying to move up? And how overtly should do this? Or should I be overtly trying at all? (Should I wait for them to do so?). For example, I saw a job announcement for a higher position put up, as I was interviewing for the internship, but I didn’t apply as I thought it would make me look weird, but should I apply?

Well, if it seems to be the norm that people get promoted out of internships after 3-6 months, then that’s what you should assume is feasible. (But make sure it’s really the norm — not just one or two people, and not just unusually impressive people … unless you too are truly unusually impressive). I’d wait until you’ve been there three months and then tell your manager that you’d love to move up in the organization and ask for her advice.

As for the higher level position you saw advertised, are you truly qualified for it (on paper, not just in the “I could do that job” sense)? If so, there’s no harm in asking your manager if you’d be a strong candidate for it.

4. Putting your LinkedIn profile on your resume

I’ve been job hunting for a while and have put a fair amount of time into a LinkedIn profile. I was wondering if it is acceptable to put my profile link on my resume and if so, how would you suggest doing that?

Sure. Just put it under your contact information. Make sure there’s something there that will supplement your resume though. If there’s nothing there that isn’t on your resume, there’s no point in directing employers there.

5. Should I share my ideas with a coworker who will steal them?

I started out volunteering for a nonprofit a year ago and created an art therapy program with two other individuals. The promise was that finally it would turn into a full-time position. Eventually, one person dropped out because she felt it was never going to turn into a paid position, and she was diagnosed with a illness that would affect her for life. In the meantime, the nonprofit got funding to create a national art therapy program. Once this started to occur, the person who had dropped out wanted to come back to work for the program and eventually did. She was not pulling her weight in the program and learned how to take tasks on to make it appear that she was doing a lot of work. Eventually, we both applied for a position to coordinate the program and she obtained it.

I am passionate about this program and want to see it succeed, and want to obtain a full-time position. I want them to realize that I am the best fit for the position and that they have made the wrong decision. Am I wasting my time? Do you have any suggestions as to how I can do this? What tips do you have for playing the game? I also have all of these ideas for expansion. However, I don’t know if I should share them or not at this point. I don’t want this other employee to take my ideas and steal them again or take credit for them.

Is it likely that the program is going to expand to two positions? If not, well, the position is already filled. You can certainly stay involved and make sure that your involvement and your ideas are visible to decision-makers other than your coworker, but you can’t really go to them and suggest that they fire her and hire you instead.

If you do decide to share your ideas, don’t share them just with your coworker; share them with others so that it’s clear that you initiated them.

6. How can I tell employers why I’m leaving my job so soon?

My first job out of college has been with a large multinational bank, in a highly complex role. At first I really enjoyed both the work and the company atmosphere, but things have gotten out of hand. In my first four months on the job (I have now been there 6 months), every other coworker on my team has left for employment elsewhere, making me the senior most person on a team of 7. I am now training new employees with only a few months experience myself.

The work amount/level has become completely unmanageable, and I have very few resources to get the proper training on new issues as they arise (which is frequently, as my department is a “problem fixing” department). I work closely with my boss, and he is very aware of the level of issues I am having with the job, but he seems either unable or unwilling to rectify the situation. He assures me, however, that I’m doing very well.

My personal stress level is something I am no longer comfortable with, and I am not sure how much longer I can manage the 12+ hour days currently needed to keep up with my work. My question: If I start a new job search now, how do I explain my short time at my current role? Is it even going to be possible to be hired somewhere else? And should I address it in my cover letter?

I wouldn’t address it in your cover letter, since your cover letter should focus on why you’d be a great fit for the new job you’re applying for. When you’re asked about it in an interview, though, you have a pretty convenient answer: “It’s been a difficult environment; in the six months I’ve been there, all six other people on my team have left.” When a whole team is looking for other jobs in a six-month period, most interviewers assume that whatever the specifics of the reasons, the reason is probably legitimate.

However, consider that you might actually have a huge opportunity to stay and stand out as the most senior member of your now all-new team. And if you can get through this period, you’ll have a great story to tell future interviewers about overcoming and thriving in challenging situations. Before you make up your mind to leave, I’d talk to your boss — tell him that you can’t keep working 12-hour days and ask him to help you prioritize your work, so that you’re working more normal hours.

7. Asked for feedback, got job

I wrote to you a few weeks back to ask if I should remind the interviewer about the feedback promised to me. Well, I have something good to share.

The interviewer called me back a few weeks later and said that she appreciates that I asked her for feedback. She said that she found me to be suitable for the role, but the salary that they could offer was below my expected salary. She added that she found me to be very professional and felt that suggesting a salary below my expectations might not be appropriate. I said that this is my dream company and my dream role and I did not want to let go off it just because of salary. They called me back for an interview. And, I was offered the job.

Honestly, I cannot help wondering that if I would not have ever asked them for a feedback I would have never got this job! Also, I am just a year out of college so them finding me professional is purely because of my regularly reading your blog and ebook.

That’s great to hear. Congratulations!

{ 107 comments… read them below }

  1. Jen in RO

    OP #1, I feel your pain, although in my case it’s a peer, not a manager. With my coworker, nothing seems to work (if I say I can handle it, she will push until I give in and let her do it) so I’m just trying to not get worked up about it. She’s the kind of person who turns little things into tragedies, and I decided a while ago that I will try to let her do whatever she wants as long as she doesn’t stress me out in the process. (I’m still working on it – yesterday she was “helping me” and I ended up having to provide guidance all the way, turning something that would have taken me 30 minutes into something that wasted one hour for both of us.)

    Seeing as we’re team of 5 and she is the only one who does this, I’m say it’s not standard at all. Maybe I should introduce her to your manager and see what happens!

    1. Ash

      Have you talked to your manager about this situation? No employee should be haranguing another until they give in, for any reason at all. Your manager needs to take care of this situation and help you set clear guidelines with this woman.

      In the meantime, you need to get a spine and say something like “I don’t need help, thanks for the offer though!” over and over and over again. Become a broken record.

      1. Jen in RO

        Yeah, the manager knows, he’s noticed it too and he’s talked to her… she’s just very hardheaded. Now she’s also pregnant, so she’s probably more stressed out than usual, which means that we’ll also be more stressed out than usual until she goes on maternity leave :)

        I’ve tried to be as direct as I can (not very, I’ll admit – I hate conflict and I’m in a less direct culture), but this sort of thing wears me down and I get to the point where I just want everyone to shut up and get to work already. Not ideal, but it saves my sanity!

        1. Jamie

          You work in a pretty tight knit group, IIRC, and with your boss being overseas and managing remotely I would handle an issue like this delicately also.

          I think you’re smart to try to be as diplomatic as possible and find ways to manage your stress about it. It would be different if she reported to you. And at least you’ll get a little respite when she’s on leave!

          1. Jen in RO

            Yeah, the boss being a couple of timezones away makes it a bit trickier. But we’re hanging in there – I’ll be glad when she goes on maternity leave, but also sad because she is good professionally.

        2. VictoriaHR

          You may have to start facing conflict if it’s going to cause you this much stress to avoid it.

          I would advise having a sit-down with her and your manager, and laying out each other’s duties in that meeting.

          No one person should be able to dictate the stress level of a department.

          1. Jen in RO

            I’m afraid that in this situation, having a conversation would make her feel like we’re ganging up on her. We’re having our mid-year performance evaluations these days and most of my team will bring up this coworker to the boss… hope it helps.

              1. Jen in RO

                Because it won’t get fixed and all we’ll get is an even worse atmosphere. (Though maybe she’d get angry at us and shut up for once!)

                1. VictoriaHR

                  That’s a manager suck then. It’s your manager’s job to help a problem employee become not a problem. If your manager isn’t doing it, maybe it’s time to talk to HR or your manager’s manager.

                  IMO by complaining about it but not being willing to do anything about it, you’re perpetuating the problem and enabling her to be a brat.

                2. Jamie

                  That’s something I’ve wondered about – can you ever really manage people remotely well?

                  As to their projects, sure – you can manage stuff and deadlines, etc. But the personnel issues and the weird little quirks that come up and have to be dealt with before they become issues can you really do that by phone, skype, and email from another country an ocean away?

                  I don’t think I could. I’d have to appoint someone on-site with managerial authority to deal with that kind of thing.

  2. Jamie

    #6 – I noticed in the OP’s letter that she didn’t mention the nature of the work being an issue, just the workload.

    While that kind of turnover is a huge red flag, is it possible this is being addressed? Because any time you have a team of 7 where the senior member has only been there a short time it will be somewhat chaotic and tense.

    If it were me I’d give it a full year to see how they address the workload – because I wouldn’t want to jump ship if this was just a transition period and riding out such a difficult time can really help make a name for yourself – if you can visibly help turn things around.

    When you think about it, new jobs are stressful too and most people put in a lot of extra time on new jobs as they are getting acclimated – so would a new position really be less stressful over the next six months? So if you’ll have stress anyway keeping the stress you know until you have at least a year under your belt is definitely a viable option.

    1. Ash

      I think it’s a little unreasonable to suggest that someone continue to work another six months of 12-hour days while they are stressed out and miserable. Maybe three months, and if the issues haven’t been fixed and the boss isn’t doing anything to help, then start looking for another job. They might be there 6 more months doing a job search, but at least they won’t have the long goal of six months, which might depress the hell out of them.

      1. Jamie

        Sure – that’s why I said it’s what I would do. The OP has to make the choices that are best for herself.

        In many industries, including mine, 12 hour days aren’t out of the ordinary – but if it’s a deal breaker for the OP that’s totally valid. MMV.

      1. Unanimously Anonymous

        Yeah, right. “Management notices” just long enough to:

        1. give OP’s boss all the credit for his “inspirational leadership” in “saving the department;”

        2. decide that if such miraculous results are possible with the current level of personnel and resources, then there’s obvious room to take a meat axe to same;

        3. increase the executive-bonus pool.

        1. Jen in RO

          Sadly, I’m afraid you’re right, at least partly. My views are tainted by the situation in my company, but there is a possibility that the bosses will decide that OP is doing so well on him/herself that there’s no reason to hire someone new (or that 3 people might be enough instead of 6, etc.).

        2. Ask a Manager Post author

          Sure, sometimes, in some environments. But that’s absolutely not the case in others — I’ve seen plenty of situations where firsthand where it’s noticed and rewarded.

          I’m sorry you’ve had bad experiences (it sounds like), but that’s by no means universal.

          1. EM

            I agree. My husband works for a huge corporation, and he generally doesn’t work more than 40 hours because it won’t get him noticed, and won’t really help the program. He has worked significant overtime because that was what had to be done to meet a certain deadline, but he never got any acknowledgement for it. My company on the other hand, which is a small sole-proprietorship it most definitely is noticed, and is reflected in our bonuses, and praise, which is really nice. It’s part of the reason why I want to work here forever. :)

  3. Mary

    #1 – perhaps you can set up a few biased tasks which you don’t/won’t mind if she jumps in and let her know those are it. I have been in this situation before. Maybe you can use her assistance as an opportunity to get to the things on the back of your desk, (the things you wanted to do but weren’t priority). I feel for you on the emails though.

  4. Jamie

    #1 – This hit a little too close to home for me back when I lead my first project and dinosaurs roamed the earth. Not being anyone’s direct manager per se, I didn’t know how much authority I had to talk to them about time management or other issues so I would lay out a firm time line, request that if it was going to be delayed to let me know, and then if things weren’t getting done on time I’d jump in and do them myself.

    I saw it as my job to make sure the project stayed on schedule and didn’t have the management skills at that point to do that through holding people accountable.

    I have also, in the past, jumped in to help when people were behind because people above me were pushing for things and I didn’t want to “get anyone in trouble” and if things were done no one really cared who did them. (Again – another lifetime ago. I wouldn’t do it now.)

    I’m not saying that you’re behind or have time management problems – but it’s something to rule out.

    1. Paralegal

      I thought this too, since I am in a slightly similar situation as #1’s manager (though with a more senior coworker, not a subordinate). My coworker would probably describe himself the same way – busy, but not yet overwhelmed. I would disagree. Can he handle the workload? Yes, but with delays. I am fully capable of handling much of the work (and I do it just fine when he is out), and I can learn how to do the other tasks (but he would rather do it himself every time than teach me or someone else). It is so frustrating to sit here twiddling my thumbs while work piles up, only to be assigned non-urgent housekeeping matters when I offer to help.

      1. Jamie

        This is absolutely tougher when it’s someone more senior than you rather than a report or a peer.

        Managing projects is tricky – because often you have people at all levels reporting to you regarding the project but not direct reports so it can be hard to find the right mix of authority, cajoling, and “helping” when you first start. Because politics don’t stop just because you have a project to complete.

        I would suggest asking your boss for advice on how to deal with the senior member who isn’t making deadlines. Like Alison recommends so often just ask for advice on how to accomplish X with senior employee A. Your boss may very well have more tricks up her sleeve to get some cooperation or to get the senior employee to accept help when needed.

        1. Paralegal

          Technically we are peers (at least in terms of job title and responsibility), but he has had the position for much long than I have. He has also outlasted a number of people in our job who usually return to school after 2 or 3 years of working – which is exactly what I will be doing. If I were staying here long-term I would definitely bring it up with my boss, but since I will likely be gone in 5 to 6 months I am not especially keen on rocking the boat.

          How I’m coping: the boss tends to drop things off indiscriminately in our office, since he doesn’t notice or care who does it as long as it gets done. I arrive earlier than my coworker, so I have been intercepting assignments as they come in. It isn’t ideal, but it is working.

      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        You know, this is a really good point. And if it might be happening (or even if it’s not), one way to address it would be to say to the project manager, “I’ve noticed you often jumping in to finish things that I haven’t gotten to yet, and it’s made me concerned that you’re worried about the speed with which I’m handling things. If you have concerns about that, I’d really like the chance to hear them so that I can try to do things differently.”

        1. clobbered

          Wow I have a totally different take on #1. I think it is great for managers to have hands-on technical knowledge of their projects and I personally have taken great joy explaining at length…. great length…. any technical question and taking up any offer to perform a technical task. I think it gives them a much better overview of the project and where the pain points are.

          If you end up underworked as a result fine, address that part, but I am not sure what the problem really is here – unless s/he is messing things up.

          1. Lulu

            Hmm, I understand this POV, but I think sometimes you have a strategy of how the pieces of what you’re working on will get done, and someone removing pieces without telling you throws off the way you work. This may not be applicable in all environments, but I know if I was working on something that had multiple elements and had come up with a particular timeline based on what I understood needed to happen, but someone kept removing pieces of the puzzle (and also removing the pieces’ visibility to me), I’d be irritated. I would also feel like that person possibly thought I was incompetent, or that I would be perceived as incompetent because someone else “had to” do part of my job. So I think Alison’s suggestion is a good one – who knows, maybe the manager hasn’t done a good job of conveying deadline issues. Or thinks they’re just pitching in and doesn’t realize the secondary effects.

            I do agree that giving managers a greater awareness of the nuts & bolts of what they’re directing is a good thing, though. Just that sometimes the timing of that “training” can be a little off…

    2. Tina

      Like Jamie says, project managers are ultimately responsible to ensure the quality and timelines of their project. That can sometimes lead to overprotectiveness, anxiety or micromanaging.

      I was a project manager for a year and a half. Prior to that I was in one of the roles I later managed. In that role, I frequently struggled with knowing what I was “allowed” to do myself without explicit approval because some project managers were very protective and others were AWL. I eventually learned the most important thing was to set clear expectations (i.e. I will do A, B, and C regularly; if a situation comes up that involves D, I will run it by you before committing my plan of action; if a situation involves E, I will send the issue to you immediately so you can manage it).

      Once I moved into the project manager role, I understood why their is a disconnection. Project managers are typically overwhelmed with work, so to make their load more manageable they may do things for you or with you; this gets it off their list of things to do. For me, if I know if it will incur more effort to monitor someone else’s completion of the task rather than do it myself, I would just do it. Additionally, since they may be overworked, they may be anxious that they’ll lose touch with what you are doing on their project and thereby lose control.

      The best way to manage your project manager (besides setting clear expectations) is to devise an easy system that lets the project manager know when and what was already completed. Second, be consistent in how and how quickly you complete tasks. If she sees you are consistent, she will likely start to let go and assume that you’ve done your part correctly.

      I would very strongly recommend discussing the situation directly with the project manager and only discuss it with the general manager as a last resort if a couple attempts working directly with the project manager fails. Ultimately, she is responsible for setting expectations with you, but she may not have time to focus on it. She may actually appreciate your suggestion to discuss it. Best of luck.

  5. Blinx

    #4: LinkedIn: Also add it to your email auto signature. If your LI address is one that has a lot of numbers after your name, you can edit this to get rid of the numbers, for a much cleaner link on your resume.

  6. Maria

    Hmm #1 made me think of my situation, although obviously a different industry. Are you sure she’s not helping at her supervisor’s directive? My boss tries to have me help various staff members on their time consuming and/or large projects. However, when I go talk to those people, they refuse my help, saying they have things under control, leaving me with less to do. If this position becomes permanent I will have to discuss more openly with my boss. I believe I was hired because my boss was hearing everyone say they were “so busy”, but clearly they also want to protect the work load they have. This made me think of the situation you’re describing but from a different perspective, she may be being told to pitch in and get things moving faster?

        1. Maria

          Good point. She just returned from leave (part of why I was brought on) so I didn’t want to overwhelm her on return, but it should be discussed.

  7. RE: OP #2

    +1

    AAM’s advice is the best and only you need.

    “No one ever does anything about her behavior, and those that have tried haven’t seen any results.” You will not see different results. Please understand this.

    Find an outlet outside of work; do good work; find another job.

  8. Anonymous

    Regarding #1, is there some way to redirect the project manager’s energy in a way that is more productive for the company? If she deals with budgets or stakeholders, is there a new project she could take on to improve how work is handled in these areas (automation, voice of the customer input, etc.)? Alternatively, are there additional growth projects she could work on in other areas? Is there a need for a strategic vision plan for the next five years, or can she put together a proposal for ways to market the department / products / services?
    I mention this because it seems clear that she has time available and is trying to use it productively, but directing it toward the tactical areas within the scope of the OP’s responsibility is not helping. This is also an easier conversation to have, both with the PM and the GM – “Jane, you’re so good at X, I hate to have you waste your time doing [my work]. With your expertise, you probably have a lot of insight into ways to improve [customer service, turnaround time, our department’s visibility, the efficiency of an identified process, etc.]. I can take care of this – it’s part of my job and I love doing it – while you focus on [other item].” The OP can enlist the GM’s assistance in finding more productive work for Jane with a variation on this speech. Handled correctly, it sounds gracious and flattering about Jane’s capabilities – which should not be wasted – rather than defensive and territorial.
    I will add that as a manager, I would want to know if a member of my department is being underutilized. This is a classic opportunity for a stretch assignment – and both the PM and GM will deserve your thanks if the PM is able to develop some new and useful skills or complete other projects that actually contribute to the company.

  9. Runon

    Related to #4 and a recent post what is your take on QR codes? I’ve been seeing a lot of them lately, quite a few going directly to a linkedin page.

    1. EG

      QR codes are only useful when someone would want to access a web page on a mobile devise. This would include outdoor advertising and fliers posted in coffee shops.

      I can’t think of a single time that a hiring manager would print out a cover letter, take it with them away from there desk, and want to look up your linked-in profile from their phone. Therefore, QR codes do not belong on cover letters or resumes.

      1. EG

        I guess, to be consistent with myself, if you are hanging up your resume in coffee shops around town, then maybe stick a QR code on it. But please don’t hang up your resume in coffee shops around town.

        1. JT

          Not relevant to the situation you’re commenting on, but it’s worth mentioning that QR codes can contain information other than just links to webpages. For example, they can contain contact information (vCard) , strings of text, etc.

          Depending on what is in the code, an internet connection may not be needed to use it.

          1. Josh S

            I suppose vCard could be useful. But why not just put the info in plaintext so I can see what it is instead of adding an additional, unnecessary step involving technology that not everyone has?

            1. twentymilehike

              Thank you, Josh S. My boss left ALL of his contact info off of his card except his name and phone number, and you had to scan the QR code to get our address.

              I am probably a minority on the vCard issue, but I feel like I always have to go back through the information and reformat it anyways, so I might as well just manually enter it and save myself the trouble. An even easier option … type it in on my computer and let it sync to my mobile devices. Typing is still my fastest mode of entry.

            2. JT

              I haven’t suggested only putting information in a QR code. In most situations, that’s a fail.

              In the case of business cards I’ve designed, the front of the card has name, title, and contact info in text. The back has name and title in text plus a QR code with vCard embedded.

              If someone wants to save the information to their smart phone and they have a scanner, they can scan the code and it all loads. If they don’t have a phone like that, or prefer to type, they can.

              Here’s an example: http://www.johntomlinson.com/images/synergoscards2012.jpg

              1. Josh S

                I guess that makes sense to use QR Codes as a convenience option. But more often than not I see it done so it’s the only way to get certain info — and it’s opaque as to what info is included in the code/linked to/etc.

                1. JT

                  Yes, front and back of the same card.

                  I don’t think it makes sense to dismiss a particular technology because of bad implementations of it. I evaluate things by how well they work, or not, if done properly.

                2. Josh S

                  I see your point, though I still argue that the use cases where QR codes make the most sense are vanishingly small, compared to all the other options available.

            3. Rana

              Exactly!

              I’m with EG and Josh on this. A QR code to me is only useful in situations where the person wants the information at that very moment, and will be using a smartphone to access it. So a poster on the metro, sure, or an ad in a newspaper.

              In other situations, such as resumes, business cards, emails, etc., it comes across to me as inefficient and pretentious and trend-following. Those formats are already text-based and support links, so I don’t get the point of adding a layer of unnecessary complexity.

    2. Brightwanderer

      Cautionary tale: my (not hugely tech-savvy, but perfectly competent with mobile technology and internet) manager was on the verge of calling off a print run of one of our publications because she thought there was “some sort of printing error”. It turned out to be a QR code on an advert, but to her it looked like something had gone wrong. I dread to think how she would have reacted to seeing one on a resume!

    3. Josh S

      They’re a gimmick, IMO. It’s a clever piece of technology, but ultimately not particularly useful in a practical way.

      The only time that a QR code is going to be faster/easier than typing a URL or printing the information is when A) I’m not near the computer, B) the information you need to convey is long enough that you can’t print it quickly, but unimportant enough that it doesn’t matter if someone doesn’t have a QR code reader, C) time-relevant (ie can’t wait til I get home) and D) loading the QR reader app on a smartphone and taking a clear, focused picture is faster than typing in a shortened URL directly to the browser.

      If I’m at the computer, I’ll type the URL faster than I can get out my phone, load the app, take the photo, and get to the website. (Not to mention when I see QR codes online… epitome of useless, since it would require me to use a 2nd device to take a photo of the screen and load a website on my mobile instead of the main screen. Ugh!)
      If the QR code is on paper/business card/something I can take with me, it is easier to put a URL and let me look at the site at my own convenience.
      The QR codes that are displayed in public are generally just as easy to either print/display the information instead of sending me to a webpage, or the URL can be written out so I can type it manually or remember it/refer to it later.

      The use cases for which QR codes are ideal are vanishingly small.

        1. JT

          That’s strange – I’ve tested and had other people test reading QR codes off business cards I’ve made and it’s worked reliably.

      1. Ellie H.

        I have a BlackBerry and reflexively start feeling annoyed as soon as I see a QR code. Not everyone has the capacity to use them.

        1. Jamie

          I have an iPhone 4S and I’ve yet to use one successfully. I’ve stopped trying – I’m sure the camera is adequate so it’s my own weird personal tech failing.

          Although when my daughter was in the hospital there was one on her wrist band and I was desperately trying to make it work because I wanted to know what it would pull up. No luck.

        2. JT

          I don’t have a smartphone at all, and as long as there is an easy alternative such as a printed URL or whatever it doesn’t bother me.

      2. JT

        QR codes as links on posters or physical displays make a lot of sense to me. Say you’re in a museum and there’s a code (as well as a printed URL) next to a painting that leads to a webpage with more info about the painting. In such a case, why type the URL when you can scan it? It’s like a link on a webpage we use with a computer – would we prefer to be able to mouse to it and click it, or have the link shown only as text we have to type into our browser to get to the page? The former is faster and with familiarity can lead to huge increases in use.

        We should recognize that QR codes are not understood enough to work well for everyone and that not eveyone have QR-capable phones, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea to try them if we have the physical space to put it and we think our users will be viewing things on their phones.

        1. Josh S

          If you’re in a museum, shouldn’t the information be there on the wall for everyone to see, rather than just the ones with smart phones?

          If the museum wants to provide the information, it is most likely going to try to provide it in the format that reaches the most people. And that means having text there for people to read.

          The exception I could see is if there is a ‘translation’ for one of those audio headsets, and you can scan your language of choice using QR code. That would be an effective use.

          But again, very few use cases where QR code makes sense.

          1. JT

            “If the museum wants to provide the information, it is most likely going to try to provide it in the format that reaches the most people.”

            You can reach the most people by providing whatever text can fit in your display area as text or visuals, AND give bonus or interactive info in other places that some of your audience can access. Or the code (and print URL) could link to a call to action – to request more info, or sign up for talk on the object on display or something.

            There are leading-edge museums have supplemental information that there is not enough space to display to be read – at the moment, typically via voice narration to a mobile phone. I was in major botanic garden (not strictly a museum) that did just that, and did it well.

            It’s easy to envision supplemental visual/screen information as well.

            Certainly we should not be trying to make it hard for people without smartphones to get info. But it seems to me that if people are walking around with internet-enabled devices it would be well to provide them with bonus information. I’m certain this is part of the future of museums and similar displays.

            ” very few use cases where QR code makes sense.”

            Yes, yes, you’ve said that. I’m reminded of objections to websites in the early 1990s. I’m not saying QR codes are anywhere nearly as awesome as the world wide web, but it seems to me it’s important to think where they can help – either by offering extra-convenience or extra information that cannot easily provided in other ways. Even if there are a few, dissing QR codes in general may be missing the boat in those few.

            Your idea of translation is excellent BTW.

            1. Josh S

              The more I think hard at it, the more useful applications of QR codes I can come up with.

              The problem is, I’ve never seen most (any?) of them in real life. Instead, it’s all the crappy implementations that add an unnecessary barrier for the sake of jumping on the bandwagon (or something).

              I’ll concede the point in theory, but the practice needs to follow. (Ain’t that the case with so many things?)

  10. AnotherAlison

    #3 – Intern looking to move up

    Just for my own curiousity, should an intern or entry level person, particularly one who has been told about opportunities to move up, be applying to internal job postings?

    I am admittedly not aggressive in promoting myself in my career, but I was in a similar situation as an entry-level hire, and I felt like you basically should let your manager know you’re interested in moving up and feel ready to take on more responsibility, and when the opportunity is available and they think you’re ready, you’ll be given a promotion. You just let things follow normal career progression, rather than try to pursue new internal jobs.

    I was in a situation where I was told my entry-level job was a 1-2 year thing, and then I’d move on. Instead, my industry tanked for a while and I was lucky to hang onto my job for the next 4 years. It didn’t seem appropriate to ask for a better assignment under those circumstances, so maybe that [wrongly] colors my thinking about entry level jobs.

    1. Runon

      The more I am around the more I think that that is the exact opposite of how to go about it (despite how much I’d like it to be true). If you don’t go after those things they’ll never come to you. You have to actively and aggressively pursue promotion/new responsibilities/better pay. If you don’t people assume you’re cool where you are at and let you keep at your dull job/bad pay. Which is frustrating and not fair because you’re busy working while the guy next to you is busy talking about how good he is at working, but life is far from fair so take a book out of his page and apply for the internal spots, tell your boss you want more responsibilities, and explain why you are worth more money.

      1. Josh S

        I agree wholeheartedly, but I’m going to nitpick the word “aggressively.” There’s a difference between being assertive (confidently and directly putting forward your desires) and being aggressive (being pushy, trying to force your desires on someone).

        Perhaps in some fields, aggressiveness is needed. But I think most people are more comfortable being assertive with their desires, and most bosses are more receptive to assertiveness rather than the demands and ultimatums that tend to come with aggressive behavior.

        Like I said, I’m nitpicking. I totally agree with everything you’ve said, and I suspect you intended “aggressive” to have the flavor of “assertive” and I’m just reading too much into it. :)

          1. Runon

            Yeah, aggressive isn’t the exact right word. It feels aggressive to me. (For a whole host of reasons.) But assertive is a much more accurate word (and one I should use because maybe it will help me, and others, not feel like we are being aggressive but rather simply stating the case for awesomeness.)

            1. Josh S

              Assertive is the happy middle ground between passive and aggressive. :)

              One of the fantastic distinctions I learned to make from Dale Carnegie Training.

    2. fposte

      I lean more toward the “you don’t get if you don’t ask” school myself, but if somebody’s uncertain if they should apply, couldn’t they just ask their manager or whoever first?

    3. Jamie

      Regarding pursuing internal jobs – I don’t work in an environment where there is a formal process per se – like some of you in large organizations where they are posted and you apply, etc.

      However, I do work in an environment where people have tons of opportunity to move up or learn new skills – it’s highly encouraged. And one of the biggest complaints I hear is how hard it is to get people to throw their hats in the ring. Even people who want it, there is a reticence amongst many to just ask. So managers have to try to assess who might be interested amongst those who are qualified and then bend over backwards to make sure they know it’s an offer and not required and staying where you are is a perfectly fine option – because not everyone likes change.

      Asking professionally is always welcome – ime

      1. AnotherAlison

        In my environment, there’s a difference between asking for new assignments and applying for the internal position. Maybe that’s why I’m struggling with this topic.

        Let’s say you wanted to go from project design engineer to estimator, and there is an engineer-estimator position posted. You don’t go apply for that. You talk to your department lead, tell him your interested in that as your next assignment, and at some point (1 month -1 yr?) when your current project can spare you, you can go to estimating. In the interim, that online position may remain posted and possibly even filled by an outside hire. The number of people in estimating, on projects, etc. is always fluctuating.

        However when I moved from engineering to the mysterious non-engineering job I now have, I actually had to interview with HR and everything, so that is what I think of when people apply for new jobs internally.

        (And to Runon and Fposte, I’ve done some thinking & I think I agree with you. It is to your advantage to ask & be “that guy” who is promoting him/herself. People may not love you, as I had a guy who worked for me and was hell-bent on a new assignment, but you get to do what you want to do.)

        1. Runon

          I do want to mention that when I say aggressive I don’t mean like really overly aggressive, I just mean what feels aggressive to me as someone who wants to just do my job well and be recognized when I do my job well and my job isn’t promotion of how awesome I am (that was no where in my job description!) and why can’t that simply be recognized?
          I do think the guy who brings it up every single day at every chance isn’t going to get it. But the person who regularly says, hey I’m doing a great job here’s why and btw I want more responsibility because I can handle all this or I am ready to do new job because it would be better for the company? Yeah. He’s going to get the job, even if I would be great at it too. (Heck better cause I’m busy doing the actual work!)

        2. Ask a Manager Post author

          I don’t think you should be “that guy,” and in the right environments, being “that guy” isn’t useful — good managers don’t promote annoying, overly aggressive people. But you can absolutely promote yourself and ask for what you want without being “that guy” — just by being normal, open, direct, and explaining what you’re interested in taking on.

    4. Victoria Nonprofit

      I’d guess it depends on the company or organization. Coming from the small nonprofit sector I was surprised that at my husband’s company he had to apply for every promotion, even when he knew the job had been posted essentially for him. There was no other way to move up.

      1. SCW

        Victoria has a really good point. I think this is a cultural thing–when to put yourself out for promotion/apply for internal postings is very different between places. Even where there was a formalized probation period, sometimes there would also be a cultural time in job standard. When I started working at my current organization last April, I was told that they liked people to be in the position I was in for a while before they promoted them, but they also wanted you to apply for any openings so they knew you were serious. Ironically, I applied for an opening in December, thinking it was just part of this process of applying for any openings and that it would be the 3-5 yrs they told me to expect when I was interviewed, but they actually gave me the promotion! It mostly was a factor of who else applied, so I guess culture isn’t always certain either!

    5. Josh S

      Being glad to keep your job while your industry tanks for 4 years is likely the exception.

      Yes, communicate to your boss that you want to move up, and ask her advice to see if there are any areas in which you need to improve/gain more experience in order to make yourself a strong candidate. Then work on those areas/seek that experience.

      Ask her to let you know if she hears of appropriate-fit positions in other departments.

      When a position opens up, don’t just apply for it. Talk to your boss again. Tell her, “Hey, I’ve been a Chocolate Teapot Maker for a while now, and I’m interested in the Senior Chocolate Teapot Maker position that just came open. I’m planning to apply. Do you think that I would be a strong candidate given my experience in Handle Design and Spout Work?”

      That way you’re actively asking and asserting your desires instead of passively waiting, AND you’re doing it in a way that allows the boss to guide you to the most fitting position without ‘demanding’ that you be promoted.

  11. Cara

    #4 – Linkedin – make sure you have a customized linkedin URL. You can do that by going into your settings, then to “edit your public profile, then down on the bottom right hand side it should say “customize your public profile URL.” Change it to something that includes your name!

  12. fposte

    #5–just to expand on Alison’s relatively diplomatic answer–going to people to tell them that they hired the wrong person instead of you would make you look very, very bad. It would be a big strike against your ever being hired in the position you want. Not only would it not get you what you want, it would make getting it more unlikely.

    You *can* say, if it’s true, that you’re really interested in this program and that if there’s any other way you can help, you’d love to be involved. But the moment anything other than praise about the person they’ve chosen crosses your lips, you’re a jealous competitor acting unprofessionally, so don’t do it.

    1. Jamie

      That’s a really good point.

      I don’t know the specifics in this case – but whenever people are adamant that the person chosen over them isn’t as qualified or that it was the wrong call…many times they don’t have all the data to make that determination.

      People have skills and responsibilities that aren’t going to be readily apparent to all co-workers. That’s a factor in the recent thread about transparency in salaries as well. It’s easy to think Jane in department X is overpaid, but it’s possible she has tasks and responsibilities that are valuable but they are only relevant to upper management and don’t require input from co-workers – so you have no idea about this amazing thing she does which the company needs.

      Sure, if you work closely enough with people and are fair you can make an assessment that a wrong call was made and you might very well be right. But stating it as fact will only harm you – because it just looks like hubris.

      But it is good to keep in mind in hiring, salary, promotions, etc. that if we’re not involved in the selection process it’s likely that there are factors being considered to which you’re not privy.

  13. Anon

    #2: I agree with AAM: It’s time to shore up your resume and find something else. Abusive boss, small company, best buddies with the people in charge who know she is a jerk. The best you can do is take comfort in the fact that by working on your resume, getting work samples together, networking and job searching you are taking control of the situation and believe me, that helps a whole lot. Do not spend anymore energy trying to figure out ways to make it work or change things at this company. Focus on YOU. I’ve had these types of bosses before and I can’t work under those situations. I find it hard to believe anyone can deliver their best with a boss that’s a jerk.

    Anyone want to answer why is it that it seems that small companies seem to be a haven for personalities like the one described in letter #2? Not all the time, but I’ve seen it enough to notice a definite trend.

    Oh and you probably won’t want to use this person as a reference. But I am sure there are other people at the company that can do this for you. Good luck.

    1. Jamie

      ITA – polish up the old resume.

      I have worked for people that were impossible to others – and didn’t mind them because of a weird convergence of their awfulness happened to be in areas where I am not sensitive.

      The yelling thing, the belittling thing? That’s unconscionable to me and it bothers me that this exists anywhere. I can and will discuss anything in a professional manner – you can come in and fire me and I won’t be thrilled but that’s a business transaction. But the yelling and the humiliation – I’ve seen it more often than I like (which would be never) and it absolutely stops my ability to function while this is happening and triggers an immediate flight response in me that is very hard to fight.

      And it’s not just if it’s at me – it’s if I hear anyone being screamed at on the job. It physically sickens me like nothing else. I work really well under most stress – pressure is something I handle pretty well most of the time but this particular stress paralyzes me in a very real way.

      And there is NO reason for it. Everyone who does this should knock it off right now.

      1. Anon

        I think what is really problematic are the organizations that put up with these types of personalities. They make excuses for them, etc. Maybe you can argue they are “star employees” but with the people I’ve seen that do this – they really weren’t that great. People who are all that and a bag of chips don’t have to act like this. So I have to assume that upper management just doesn’t care. In which case, I don’t either, and I need to find a new job and put in my two weeks.

        Believe me, there are many companies that will NOT tolerate this behavior. I’ve only had a handful of these types of bosses.

        1. Jill

          #2: I’ve been in your shoes. Heck i was in a situation so similar that could have been me writing it. I am so sorry, all of the advice I spot on. I actually tried to address the situation with the executive director and ended up getting in more trouble with my boss. As far as references go I used a manager (not mine) that was aware of how miserable I was. I had worked with her on a couple of projects so she knew my work ethic etc. You just need to get out and hopefully find a organization that would find that type of behavior unacceptable. Word to the wise: be VERY careful in interviews about why you left your last job, and the “tell me about the worst manager you’ve ever had question”. You don’t want to speak ill of them even though you’re thinking it.

          1. Anon

            Exactly! I’ve seen people go to HR (in bigger organizations) or talk to Directors, etc., in smaller organizations and it just makes matters worse. I mean they are keeping those people there for a reason. Just find another job and go. Don’t try to fight Town Hall.

            1. AMG

              Agree. I could have written that too. Going to HR was thoroughly useless. I really believed it was so bad that they would try to help. Nope. I had seen so much illegal activity that I became the liability. Just go find something else and thank your lucky stars that you are away from the nasty boss. She will be stuck with herself forever, though.

        2. Anonymous

          I currently work at a place that loves to make excuses for my ridiculous boss. My favorite was that he just has a “unique communication style”. Um…what? He is 55 years old and hasn’t learned to communicate effectively at work? Houston, we have a problem.

      2. East Side Tori

        “And there is NO reason for it. Everyone who does this should knock it off right now.”

        You are so right. I couldn’t agree more with this sentiment. For me, it’s not just about the stress it causes, but also about how completely unprofessional it is to lose your cool at work. I mean, these people who love screaming at work, would they cry at work? Probably not, and, to me, it’s the exact same thing. Any outward indication that you can’t control your emotions in a professional setting is a bad thing. I know that mistakes happen and people have bad days, but when it’s a pattern, or just how that person operates: not cool.

        1. Jamie

          I agree that both can hurt your reputation at work, but to me crying is different in that the only person I’ve really hurt if I lose it and tear up at work is me.

          The yelling and bullying is cruel and humiliating to others. So the collateral damage to the innocent is much worse. And yet seems to harm a reputation less in some instances, which baffles me.

          I’ve read here before the difference between doing something and doing something AT someone. I hate that I’ve ever cried at work but I’ve never cried at anyone. The yellers are yelling at people who have feelings. That’s the difference, IMO.

          1. Job seeker

            I agree that crying and yelling at someone is very different. I wish with all my heart I could be a tough person. But I am not. I have never cried out loud at a job, but I have teared up. I would not and have never yelled at anyone on any job. I think to be tender-hearted and get your feelings hurt is hard to get past in a professional situation. I agree with you Jamie, yellers are yelling at people who have feelings. It is hard to understand if you tear up you are maybe thought of as weak, but a yeller isn’t.

    2. FormerManager

      As far as why these people seem to cause problems at smaller companies, there’s many reasons that I’ve seen. Often the person is good at some specific task and the company doesn’t want to invest in onboarding someone else. Plus, smaller companies can have this “family” dynamic where higher ups can be afraid of letting go of someone they see as a “family member.”

      Not saying this is the case but I’ve heard of some bad managers being kept on because the higher ups were scared of letting them go! Or situations where the person has some dirt on the CEO or upper management.

      Not saying these are excuses but they are reasons unfortunately.

      1. Anon

        No, I totally understand your explanations. And this is why it is often better just to get your resume together and find another job. No entry-level/mid-level person is going to come in and solve THOSE types of problems/issues. It’s very naive to think that. Better to spend energy finding a new gig.

        Thanks for the insight.

    3. Ask a Manager Post author

      They’re there in big companies too, believe me. At smaller companies, though, they’re often more visible or have more power, and there are fewer options for getting away from them but still staying with the company. But small companies don’t have a monopoly on them by any means.

  14. Andie

    In regards to #2 should she at aleast tell her boss she will not be yelled at? Just because they are the boss doesn’t mean she can yell at you. That is something I would never stand for. I once had a boss try to do that to me and I set her straight very quickly. I think you can be respectful in your delivery but if you allow someone to constantly yell at you they will keep doing it.

    1. Anon

      Hmm. I tried that before. I was mocked. And it continued. I think it really depends on who you are dealing with. There are some really nutty “bosses” out there. We don’t know to what degree #2’s boss is.

      I do agree with standing up for yourself, but just know that it might not stop. That is just how they are. They know they can get away with it, and will keep doing it.

  15. SJ

    For LW#3: Not to be a niggler, but ‘breaching’ should be ‘broaching.’ An important distinction to bear in mind for future use!

      1. SJ

        Hah hah. Won of my BIGGEST peeves is ‘peak’ and ‘pique.’ Things don’t ‘peak’ your interest. It’s won thing too misspell a word without thinking, it’s another two consistently use the wrong word without stopping too consider weather it makes any cents. ‘Pique’ and ‘peak’ is especially bad, because you only no their misusing it if you sea them rite it! How can we battle invisible enemies? It’s a terrible cross we half two bare.

        ^^It took me so long to write that.

          1. SJ

            If that was the only misspelling you noticed, I am a little worried for you!! BTW, you missed ‘cents’ in there too. :)

      2. SJ

        Oooh ooh how about flush vs. flesh – when people say ‘flush things out’ when they actually (and definitely) mean ‘flesh things out,’ I can only think of unpleasant procedures designed to improve digestion/digestion parts…colonics, enemas, etc.

        1. Min

          I once spent a good half hour trying to convince a friend that the term is “deep-seated” not “deep-seeded”. I was unsuccessful and it bothers me to this day. (And, yes, I know how sad that is!)

  16. Matt Henderson (@CareerCounMatt)

    #4 — LinkedIn profile on resume

    Also may be worth mentioning if listing your LinkedIn address on your resume to make sure it is a personalized link (with just your name) instead of the default (z9003skhse0.html for example). This is more of a general tip, but especially if listing it on a document.

  17. just another hiring manager...

    Re: #7: Congrats OP, I just hope you’re being paid a fair, market-value-appropriate wage!

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