short answer Sunday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

Ugh, it’s the dreadful Daylight Savings! How I despise it, with its end to winter and all that is cozy and wonderful.

In any case, it’s also short answer Sunday, and so we have seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. When a company encourages applications without specific openings

What do you do when a company doesn’t advertise actual job openings on their website? They simply say “Think you’d be a good fit? Apply here!” and it opens a blank email for you. How do I apply to something I don’t even know exists?

You write a cover letter based around the type of work you do, and why you do it well. What type of opening would you want to see them have? That’s the one that you write your cover letter about.

2. Do I have to tell my manager the reason for my doctor’s appointment?

I have a . . . shall we say, “lady problem.” I assumed/hoped it was the kind of lady problem that could be resolved with an over-the-counter treatment, but since it hasn’t gone away and an at-home screening kit showed a potential issue, I may have to see a doctor to resolve it. Not sure yet, I’ll keep an eye on it over the weekend, but if the problem’s still there on Monday I’d like to see a doctor ASAP.

Of course, this isn’t something I want to tell my manager about, since my manager is a guy. Heck, my team lead is a woman and I don’t even think I want to tell her. But I’m afraid if I don’t disclose the reason they’ll think I’m up to something (or that I’m dealing with something much worse and possibly reprehensible), or that I was just faking. Is there a way I can remain vague without raising suspicions? Or should I just come out and tell my manager the reason?

There’s absolutely no need to tell your manager the reason! Person medical things are no one’s business. You can just say, “I have a medical thing that I need to deal with right away, so I need to leave early this afternoon for a doctor’s appointment.” Your manager isn’t going to think you’re “up to something” unless you have a pattern of last-minute absences or unless he’s bizarrely paranoid (in which case, you have bigger issues to deal with).

3. Unexpected reference call for a peer

I was called out of the blue by a recruiter asking me to give a reference for someone who I’ve worked with as a peer. We aren’t close, but we have done a few things socially in the past. The problem is, she was let go from my current company over a year ago for poor performance. I was not her supervisor or in any kind of position to comment on her work, so I really have no idea what she expects me to say as a reference. (And no, she did not give me any kind of a heads-up that she was using my name either!)

I feel somewhat indebted to her, however, because she referred me to my current position. We trained together for a job about three years ago. She seemed competent and intelligent and, as I said, we did go to a few social things together. But after the training we went to different departments and a year later she accepted a position at my current company. When my company had a position open, she thought of me and passed my résumé along to the hiring manager. About a month after I was hired, she was let go. I’m not even sure on the specifics because I was not working closely on her accounts, but I know it was performance related.

I pretty much told the recruiter that I was her peer, not in a position to comment on her work, but she was a reliable person and I did enjoy working with her. I did not mention that she was let go. What else could I have said in this situation? And how can I politely ask her not to use me as a reference in the future? I don’t want to damage the relationship or connection, but the situation made me very uncomfortable!

I think you handled it well. Saying that you were a peer and not in a position to evaluate her right is exactly the right thing to do.

Some people do put down references without alerting those people, and some people do use peer references (although they really shouldn’t — reference-checkers want to talk to managers, and when I see peers on a reference list without managers, it raises a red flag). But you can certainly steer her away from doing it again. Say something like this: “I don’t feel like I can give a useful reference, since we only worked together for a month and I wasn’t in a position to evaluate your work.”

4. Explaining why I don’t want a management job anymore

About a year ago, I was promoted to a supervisor role, which I have since realized is not a good fit for me. As a result, I’m looking to return to a senior analyst role, but I am finding a lot of resistance from prospective employers. In a recent interview for a position that was eerily similar to the position I had before becoming a supervisor, I told them I was looking to return to a role that allowed me to use my analytical skills and that I truly enjoyed that type of work more. But I could tell the hiring manager was worried I may up and leave, as there were no future opportunities in the department, and I think that is why I didn’t get the job, even though HR said my references were great. How can I make it clear in an interview that I have no management aspirations, at least not in the near future, without it sounding negative? Is there a good way to say you feel more comfortable as a worker bee rather than a supervisor?

You have to be straightforward about your reasons, and you have to be convincing. Interviewers are programmed to suspect that you’re just saying that because you need a job, so you need to be believable. Explain whatever it is that you prefer about non-management roles, and be persuasive. For instance, “The whole time I was managing, I was constantly thinking about how much I wanted to get back to an individual contributor level, which is where I’m more comfortable. I’m really excited about this job because ____, and I’d be thrilled to stay in a role like that for a long time.”

5. Correcting executives’ grammar when proofreading

I am a veteran administrative assistant with years of experience supporting executives at all organizational levels. The one thing they seem to have in common is a preference for using the reflexive pronoun “myself” when “me” would be correct (i.e., “Please feel free to contact Jane, Tim, or myself if you have further questions”). At times, with supervisors with whom I am particularly comfortable, I have made the edits and let them know that in similar cases that they should use “me” instead of “myself” (with a brief explanation of the grammar rule), and am generally ignored. Complicating the issue is that many people seem to think that “myself” is the correct pronoun, so when they see “me” used in memoranda and/or email, they assume it to be a mistake. This drives me bonkers. Is it worth trying to explain the rule to a superior while editing and revising documents and/or communications? Can you recommend a tactful (and perhaps more successful) way of framing the conversation, or would it be best to not die on the reflexive pronoun hill?

Stop trying to educate them. Make the correction when you’re proofreading something, but don’t bother with the explanation. Unless you think they’re going to change it back because they’ll think YOU’RE wrong, in which case I’d put a note in the margin, but you should be as un-schoolteacher as possible about it. Don’t deliver a lecture on the rule. Just say something like, “I know people think ‘myself’ is correct, but it’s actually ‘me’!” … and that’s only to ward off the likelihood of them thinking you’re mistaken and changing it back if you don’t explain.

But as for educating them in general? Not the hill to die on.

6. Help, I’ve been put on a PIP!

I work in a company and recently got a bad review from my manager. He mentioned that I will be put on a performance improvement plan (PIP), and also suggested that I find another position. This comes out of the blue, and he has been acting regularly or even nicely in the past few months.

He said this is the decision from both him and HR. When I talked to HR, the HR manger was reluctant to explain the policies and rules to me, and now I feel that everyone around me seems to know about it and act differently. I am actively looking for a job but I just need some time. What is my best strategy now?

Try as hard as you can to meet the terms of the PIP (it should spell out specifically what improvements you need to make), and if you’re unclear about its terms or how this works, you can ask HR to explain it to you again, and they should. But more importantly, be actively looking for another job — because often once you’re put on a PIP, the writing is on the wall and you’re likely to be let go at the end of it.

If you think that’s a foregone conclusion, you could also try saying to your boss, “I think it will take me X months to find a job. Would you be willing to give me that long?” Sometimes managers will agree to that because it’s emotionally easier than firing you (and often cheaper too, if it means the company isn’t paying severance and unemployment).

7. Closing early on Fridays

The president of our company often allows all salaried employees to leave early on Friday. This is normally announced by email at 1 pm or later.

Our normal ours are 7 – 4 or 8 – 5 (with an hour lunch). If it’s not announced till 4, this means some people do not get the free hour, while others get to go home early, although just by an hour.

Is this okay by law? Where some get the hour and some don’t? If an employee had previously posted 8 hours of PTO, should they get their 1 hour returned to them, or is all this based on the discretion of the company? The president of the company has that right to close shop early, right?

Yes, there’s nothing illegal about this. It’s true that the people who work the earlier schedule are missing out on the free hour on the days that the office closes early … but that’s how early closings work. They might look at part of the package that comes with choosing the earlier schedule.

And PTO is up to the company’s discretion, so they can make any rules they want on that. But really, this is an awful lot of clock-watching for exempt employees (assuming you’re exempt, which is sounds like). If people complain, their best bet is to appreciate that the company occasionally closes early, not resent it when they don’t benefit from it, and accept that sometimes they might have a day off scheduled that day and will miss out. They might miss out on a free lunch that day too, or doughnuts in the morning. This stuff happens.

{ 78 comments… read them below }

  1. EngineerGirl*

    #6 seems problematic. You were surprised and they won’t tell you what you did wrong. The writing is on the wall, but it is also reasonable to get feedback. Tell your boss you were surprised by the review and start asking for specifics. If they won’t give them to you you’ll know that they want to let you go and are just trying to back fill the paperwork. What you do need to do is get clear achievable and very specific goals on your PIP so you can show that you met all of them.
    Unfortunately it may be moot. We had a dysfunctional program that would target people this way. People were going out the door no matter what.

    1. FiveNine*

      It almost seems like the letter writer is NOT an at-will employee who the company has promised at some point cannot be fired without good cause (or the employee has some legal ground for making such an assertion), in which case the paperwork might not be a plan for the employee’s improvement at all but a workaround paper trail basically indicating the employee did not meet performance standards while never actually showing or spelling out what those standards might have been.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Usually a PIP says what you need to improve by the end of it (that’s really the point), so the OP should presumably know what the issues are.

      1. JM in England*

        When a dysfunctional employer wants to get rid of someone, some have been known move the goalposts of PIPs, especially when the person is close to achieving the goals initially set.

          1. Annie M.*

            It’s not odd if the reason they want the OP gone (which I think is probably the case) actually has nothing to do the OP’s performance. There can be a lot of factors in play here; needing to downsize but not wanting to pay the unemployment, a higher-up’s friend or relative needs a job, etc. Unless the the review and the PIP contain very specific instances of poor performance and quantifiable standards for improvement, there are other things going on here.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Sure, but we have no indication that that’s the case — just an OP who feels that a manager being nice to him beforehand somewhat indicates there weren’t performance concerns, when one has nothing to do with the other.

    3. Long Time Admin*

      This happened to my best friend last year. She was called into a meeting with HR, not told what it was about, and then scolded like a naughty five-year-old. Not long after that, she was let go.

      Best thing you can do is ramp up your job search, read up on your state’s unemployment laws and calculate your estimated unemployment payments, and stop spending money. Right now!

      As Alison suggested, follow the steps in your PIP as closely as possible, because every paycheck you get will be more than unemployment. Do not count on staying with your company. They obviously want you gone, and they are going “by the book” to make sure you never have any claim that you let go unfairly (sounds like they’re kind of paranoid).

      I’m sorry this is happening, and good luck to you.

  2. Henning Makholm*

    #4: Shouldn’t the fact that the OP is currently employed as a manager and yet is willing to accept a non-manager job indicate to interviewers that this is what he actually wants?

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      I guess it could possibly look like the OP’s current workplace environment is so dysfunctional or another problem that it the OP is willing to take any position available.

      1. Dissatisfied Supervisor*

        I’m the OP for #4. Both you and Henning are right. I am in a work environment that is very dysfunctional but I have been genuinely interested in all the jobs I’ve applied for. I never apply for jobs I wouldn’t want to do just to get out of my current situation. The main reason I’m looking to leave is because I honestly feel I’m more productive and happier when I’m doing the hands on work rather than managing other people. I just need to find a way to convey that to the hiring manager so they don’t (1) think I will leave if no promotions are available and/or (2) think I just want to get out of my current situation because I either wasn’t good at it or was miserable. It’s just a personal preference of the type of work I enjoy doing.

        1. Hugo*

          Good luck in your search. I don’t blame you one bit for wanting to move out of management / supervision. To me, it’s nothing but a constant headache. In other roles (such as an analytical position), you are mainly responsible just for delivering your own work. . .as a manager, you’re now responsible for each and every little thing that your people do. Every complaint about them is directed at you. Every complaint from them comes to you. It never stops.

          1. Dissatisfied Supervisor*

            Thank you Hugo! You nailed it right on the head why I don’t want to do this job anymore. I’m so tired of being blamed for someone else not doing their job and holding someone’s hand through a process because they can’t figure it out on their own all while I need to get all my work done. It’s so draining! I have a couple opportunities lined up this week…I hope one of them works out!

  3. perrik*

    #6 – Just wanted to note that your manager screwed up. Receiving a PIP should never come out of the blue. He should have been giving you feedback from the time he first realized there was some issue with your performance, instead of letting you think all is well and then – surprise!

    It’s possible that he wanted to simply fire you with no notice, but HR forced him to put you on a PIP first as a CYA measure. Do the issues identified/expectations to be met in the PIP make sense to you, or are they vague or unrealistic or irrelevant to your expected competencies?

    If you negotiate an exit with your manager, don’t forget to agree upon what he and HR will say when contacted by reference checkers.

    1. anonymous*

      This is pretty much what happened to me, but in the end, they ended up keeping me on.

      I still have not found a new job, and I am still miserable, but at least I can pay my bills.

      These people NEVER give me any kind of feedback until review time.

  4. Tuesday*

    The need for managers instead of peers as references comes up a lot on this blog, as does the fact that it’s normal to need to keep your job search hidden from your current manager. But what if you haven’t had a lot of managers? I’ve been in the same position for the past five years. I’m not in contact with my boss at my previous job (I even tried to find her on Linkedin without any luck.) That leaves my boss from the summer camp where I worked the summer after graduating from college a decade ago.

    What about people who have been in the same job for 10+ years and don’t want their current employer to know they’re job hunting? It seems like there are a lot of reasonable situations where you might not have a manager as a reference (much less three of them), but if that’s raising red flags in hiring managers’ eyes, what can you do?

    1. Cathy*

      What you can do in this situation is

      1) explain! When you are asked for references, bring this up yourself and discuss it with the hiring manager or the HR person. It’s not that big a deal if you have a reasonable explanation that matches up with what’s on your resume. At one point I had a manager I’d been working with for 7 years, the previous manager of 5 years was living on the other side of the world and didn’t speak English that well, and the one before that was dead. I managed to get a job offer from a major government contractor that has a strict policy of checking 3 references with at least 2 being former managers. If they want you, they will work around it.

      2) provide references from other managers who worked with you, even if they didn’t directly manage you. I’ve given these types of references myself, and I can usually talk from a manager’s perspective about the individuals who are on teams that work closely with mine. Also, be proactive and start keeping in touch with people who leave your current employer and could speak well of you later on. They should at least be connected to you on LinkedIn.

      3) don’t overlook your second-level managers. Sometimes these can be really good references.

      1. Evan the College Student*

        By “second-level managers,” you mean your manager’s manager? That sounds like a good policy for the future when I’m trying to get my second post-college job, if I don’t want to alert my first post-college job… Though in that situation, would summer internships also be acceptable references?

        1. Cathy*

          Yes, your second-level manager is your manager’s manager. As a junior person just starting out, you may not know this person well enough to use him or her as a reference though.

          Yes, you can and should use your internship supervisors as references.

      2. Tuesday*

        Thanks, that’s good to know. I do keep in touch with a few people from my previous job who aren’t managers, but maybe they’d be able to help me get in touch with managers who I did work with when I was there.

        My current company has a policy against any employee providing references beyond confirmation of employment dates, so I’m not even sure that my current boss would be a viable reference option two jobs from now, but I guess I won’t worry about that yet.

    2. Blinx*

      And what about the online application I was filling out last night? It asked for your past positions, the managers’ names and phone, and permission to contact them. That’s great — I provided 3 positions/3 managers, yes to contact all.

      THEN they asked for 3 references! At that point, I would have put down colleagues/internal customers. But since they also asked for my driver’s lic. no., date of graduation for HS and college, starting/ending salary for each position, starting/ending positions for each job… I just stopped. They wanted WAY too much information up front. After an interview? Sure. But not before their screening system has reviewed my qualifications.

      1. Christine*

        Asking for contact info of your managers AND for separate references has always confused me. ISTR Alison clarifying this issue before, but I don’t remember where, or what she said.

  5. Elizabeth West*

    #5–correcting grammar

    It really depends on the executive. I had a boss who thought one college English course made her an expert. It. Did. Not. If I or the marketing person corrected anything, she would change it back–AFTER she had asked us to edit!

    My new job is all about editing, so the expectation is that I will fix whatever needs fixing. If my boss was unhappy with a change, we would discuss it.


    Been there, done that. The best thing here is what Alison recommended. No matter if your performance has been slipping or not, you’ll make yourself look more professional by following the PIP and meeting expectations. Personally, I think your manager sucks; if he had a problem with you, he should have said something long before it got to a PIP. It’s possible other posters could be right about them using this as a way to get rid of you, for whatever reason (it could be something completely bogus). Don’t waste your energy on it, though; concentrate on your job search and on meeting the PIP.

    In my case, I WAS slipping, and when they gave me a chance to redeem myself, I figured that I would use the time to get it together, so even if they did fire me, I would be leaving on MY terms, not theirs. When my job was eventually eliminated, they assured me it was not because of my performance. And I felt a lot better about it.

    #7–closing early

    I used to work at a non-profit where we got out early on Fridays, until a board member called late one afternoon and no one answered the phone. He threw a fit and poof! No more early Fridays. >:{ Yeah, it was jerky, but there wasn’t anything we could do about it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t see any reason to conclude the manager sucks; the OP doesn’t say that there was no indication that the manager wanted things done differently previously, just that the manager has been “nice.” But you can be nice and still be asking people to make changes to their work.

      1. Lily*

        Thank you! I was thinking that managers are supposed to be nice even while they are telling you that they are firing you, so niceness is not proof that you are performing.

      2. Long Time Admin*

        Yeah, I completely agree with Liz that the manager sucks because he didn’t talk to the OP the first (or second or third) time there was something to talk about. A pip or layoff or firing should NEVER be a surprise. There was obviously no communication to the OP that all was not well and that some change(s) needed to be made.

        Of course, I’m looking at this whole thing from the perspective of an administrative assistant, not a supervisor or manager. I once got a very nice verbal evaluation as the introduction to a really bad written eval, which took me completely by surprise. My boss was really nice, never said once that I wasn’t working up to par, or that I done something he didn’t like. I was stunned into silence, but a good office friend told me they guy had a reputation for that. There was actual shouting during my co-workers’ evals. “Nice” managers don’t always manager well.

        1. Joey*

          I’m just not convinced. Yes it’s possible he sucks, but its equally possible the op is a little too focused on questioning whether his boss followed “policies and rules” regarding the PIP. There’s just not enough info to conclude either way.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          But we don’t know that he didn’t talk to the OP first. He could have talked to the OP multiple times before the PIP. The OP doesn’t say either way. (And frequently with these letters, when I write back and ask, the response is something like, “Well, yes, but I didn’t think it would lead to this.”)

          1. Mark*

            I also believe that we are jumping to a lot of conclusions here about the manager’s good faith actions up to the PIP. Speaking as a former manager who has placed a few employees on improvement plans – just because you think something is obvious and stated clearly does not mean that an employee, especially an underperformer, understands that. I’ve performed my share of terminations where the writing is on the wall and the employee in question is still aghast at the news and is bawling in my office. Some people refuse to look at hard truths in the office and you will always be “the bad guy”.

            Beyond the real threat to job security that PIPs pose, I think there is another very real concern to being put on an improvement plan that makes a job search make sense. Even if you make it through the PIP with your job intact, your future advancement at a company where you’ve been put on a PIP is very compromised. You lose a TON of professional capital by being put on one – and that might suck but I think it makes sense. Why put your faith in someone who has let their performance get away from them so badly that you’ve gotten to the point as a manager that you’re comfortable firing them. Because that’s what a PIP is. I wouldn’t readily consider advancing someone that I put on PIP. And that might be crappy, but I think it’s legitimate – you cease to be a reliable performer in the eyes of management at that point.

            Look for a new job – you’ve lost a ton of traction and credibility at that company at this point, but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t get out with a decent reference and still find success elsewhere.

  6. Kara*

    Long days + cool weather: yay (this is why early fall is my absolute favorite time of year). Long days + heat waves: nay.

    #5: I’m in marketing and have been tasked with revising some existing marketing collateral. Some of it was very poorly written, but I just revised it, explained my revisions matter-of-factly (I focused more on the strategy component rather than the grammar) and moved on. You don’t want to come across too know-it-all-y; it’s off-putting.

  7. Liz T*

    #5: I teach grammar, so it pains me to say this, but the example you give is SO common in everyday speech that it’s probably worth leaving the error as is. They’re changing “me” back to “myself” not just because they might think “me” is incorrect, but because the people reading it will think it’s incorrect. Consider biting your tongue.

    Except when they use “myself” instead of “I.” That should be illegal.

    1. The gold digger*

      Except when they use “myself” instead of “I.” That should be illegal.

      When I am in charge of the world, it will be illegal, as will using “comprise” instead of “compose” and “access” and “impact” as verbs.

        1. Jamie*

          On behalf of Outlook users everywhere – and there are a lot of us – we’re not giving that one up either. :)

      1. Julie K*

        Oh, and “importantly” almost any time. It’s an ADVERB, and it means “pompously.”

        1. fposte*

          I think that’s a bit of a hypercorrection too–it’s trying to parallel the “-fully” usages, which are often technically correct in their own right, but desperately useful in English. (Though
          “importantly” has historically been used to mean “with importance” more than “with pomposity,” and the OED uses that definition first.)

      2. Yvi*

        Huh, “access” can’t be used as a verb? “I could not acccess that area” is wrong?

        (Non-native speaker here)

        1. The gold digger*

          Yvi, it has probably become correct through usage. says it’s OK, but it uses computer examples. We have the IT world to blame for this one. But it still makes me shudder.

          Even “literally” used to mean “figuratively” is gaining some grudging acceptance, although anyone who knows what “literally” means literally cannot stand to hear the word misused.

          1. Jamie*

            I was just coming to post that on behalf of ITs everywhere we’re not giving up access as a verb.

          2. Long Time Admin*

            On Everybody Loves Raymond, Ray told Debra that he “literally” jumped out of his skin. She tried to explain how he didn’t, but she just could not make him see that this was impossible.

            Many executives are like that, too. I just think of them as Ray Barones and make the correction. If they change it back, I make sure my initials are not on the document.

          3. K*

            Plenty of us know what literally means and have no problem seeing it used figuratively. This includes Mark Twain (who wrote that Tom “was literally rolling in wealth”), Jane Austen, and Charles Dickens. If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me.

            1. Laura L*

              I don’t get using literally to mean figuratively, though.

              How can a word mean what it means AND mean the exact opposite of what it means?

              I know context is important and everything, but this is just taking things too far! :-)

    2. fposte*

      I think hypercorrections are largely a losing battle, and I mostly let them go for that very reason–people get so accustomed to them that the correct (“I feel bad”) seems vulgar and incorrect to them. (I personally can’t cope with the predicate nominative. I’m not going to knock on a door and say “It’s we!”)

      And in general, unless you’ve been invited to critique or edit, it’s best to ask very, very carefully before you give any feedback anyway. If people have ignored your feedback, that’s a clue to let it go.

    3. Diane*

      The CEO frequently says, “I feel prideful about blah blah accomplishment,” rather than “proud.” It hurts my grammatical soul.

  8. TychaBrahe*

    I used to work in a company that would frequently, on the day before a holiday, send workers home a few hours early. Like at 2:15 we’d be told we could go home.

    Problem 1. I worked the 6-3 shift; this gave me an extra 45 minutes. The guy who worked the 10-6 shift made out much better on this deal.

    Problem 2. I took the train home. There was a 2:20 train that I could make if I left at 2:00. At 2:15, I would have the privilege of standing around the train station (not enough seating) until the arrival of the 3:20 train.

    It left a bad taste in my mouth each time it happened.

    1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      It’s this sort of thing that makes me remember how, in many enviroments, the sort of basic flexibility an employer might offer it’s employees, or the sort of fun little morale boosters that many epect are not done simply because it’s better in the long term to avoid issues like the above than to get a short term morale boost that might cause major issues.

      In fast food, there were certainly a lot of times I let people leave a shift early, but I had to be really careful when I did, because there are people that see someone get let go early, and just don’t understand why they can’t also go, or why that person got to go but they didn’t. Or any situation where there is a perceived benefit to one person or set of people, and then others don’t get it, or it ends up not even being good for the people it was intended for (like the above example).

      I’d never say that employers shouldn’t try to make these sorts of things work. But it can be really *difficult* and it is useful when we all remember that.

  9. Ariancita*

    3. Slightly off topic: I have a question about something similar that was indicated by this quote: (And no, she did not give me any kind of a heads-up that she was using my name either!)

    If a potential employer can call anyone who is not on the reference list, how does a candidate deal with the potential messy fall out? It’s not ok to use someone as a reference without letting them know ahead of time and can often cause negative consequences for the candidate when the reference feels like they’ve been disrespected by not getting a head’s up prior/being asked. But if a potential employer goes off-list, there would be no way to for the candidate to warn the reference.

    Not saying this is what happened here (small chance the employer would go off-list and use a peer–though I guess it could happen). But am curious about this in general. Thoughts?

    1. KellyK*

      Good point. I would hope that a potential employer asking people who weren’t on the list would make it clear that the person didn’t just randomly add you to their reference list without asking.

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      Every time I’ve been called for a reference on someone I used to work with, the person calling has said whether or not the person needing a reference gave them my name or not. So I guess maybe a lot of people know to do this? I didn’t, but now that I read this blog, I will do it the next time I’m in that position!

  10. AP*

    ahhh #2

    Someone at my company gets sick a lot (used up more than twice her yearly allotment of sick days in 6 months) so, when she got a UTI a few weeks ago, I think she thought if she didn’t give us all the details no one would believe her or feel sympathetic. So of course, we heard it *all* And even as a woman who has had UTIs in the past, I really wish I did not know this about my coworker!! Just be vague, people will appreciate it!

    1. Anonymous*

      In my early working days, I had to come in late for a dr. appointment because I had a UTI and I also felt like I needed to justify my absence and said something to the effect of “I need to go get a test to see if I can get antibiotics for my UTI.” My boss said, “Okay…and, um, EW” and that’s when I realized “a medical issue” was probably sufficient!!!

  11. PJ*

    I am kind of curious about your statement that your manager has been acting regular and then you state ” even nicely in the past few months” ? Almost as if that wasn’t regular .

    What is his “regular”? “Regular” just says he has acting the same way as always but does it not indicate the behavior itself; nice, mean, critical, good sense of humor etc. So was he always nice or just recently nice leading up to your PIP? Or just nicer? Was there a change in his interaction with you? Just curious…

    The manager suggested you find another position? Was he was giving you a subtle heads up?

    Although the manager was wrong by giving you the PIP out of the blue, I would make sure first that you seriously have no clue where this is coming from. Really take a look at yourself and make sure you are aware of yourself about your work and if there is room for improvement. Have you missed deadlines or produced inaccurate work?

    Ask your manager for more specifics on the PIP and what were the problems that lead up to it and how to correct it.

    Regardless, start looking now. Do what you have to do on the PIP but just start looking. The fact you were put on a PIP with no warning that your worked was under par is bad management. You should have had a chance to correct the problem before being put on the PIP. The fact HR was reluctant to explain things to you is another problem. They should be able to clarify things for you if you have questions.

    I agree with another poster they might just want to get rid of you and are trying to make it look more official with the PIP.

    1. The IT Manager*

      he has been acting regularly or even nicely in the past few months

      This is odd to me too. Not that my comment has anything to do with the LW’s problem of being unexpectedly put on a PIP and being unclear about what he has to do to improve. The sentence wording is awkward, but nice or mean should have nothing to do with it. A manager should honestly provide feedback on areas that an employee needs to improve – that’s not being mean. If he had done the PIP wouldn’t have come totally out of the blue for the LW.

      The only thing I can think of to wonder is if the manager had been trying to get the LW to improve, gave up, started HR actions and then seemed “nice” all of a sudden because he stopped trying to improve the LW’s performance. That’s just wild speculation, though.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Either that, or there is something completely unrelated going on that we (and the OP) are not privy to. I actually lost a job at a video store once because the manager wanted to hire a buddy. He said nothing to me, until the night he fired me–then gave all kinds of bogus reasons. I didn’t find out about the buddy until later, but it explained the whole thing.

        Not that this is what the OP’s manager is doing, but if he’s that bad, it could be anything.

  12. danr*

    #1… In the headline shouldn’t the word be “without” rather than “with”?
    And that’s something I’ve seen a little bit of and wondered about… but not enough to ask here (grin).

    #5… Can you turn Word’s grammar checking on for your boss’s pc? Then you can say that Bill Gates agrees with you.

  13. QualityControlFreak*

    Number 2: I beg you – don’t! Absolutely, be vague. We have a well- known “slacker” on our staff and this person has mastered the technique of providing TMI when explaining their frequent absences to the boss (and coworkers) precisely because they KNOW it makes us all want to run screaming with our hands over our ears. (This is not conjecture on my part; this person has actually explained to me how they talk to the boss and the boss’ reaction.) At this point, the more gory details the story contains, the less I tend to believe it.

    Alison is right. Be kind. Be vague.

    1. Your Mileage May Vary*

      Completely agree.

      If you think you aren’t being believed, ask if they want you to bring back a doctor’s note (never mind the fact that I think doctor’s notes should be outlawed for adults).

      Your manager should know that doctor’s offices are open the same time a lot of businesses are. It’s not like you can find an urgent-care, open-late gynecologist’s office. Or can you do that in a metropolitan area? You certainly can’t here.

      1. Jessa*

        Exactly, the only time your management needs to know WHY you are going to the doctor is if you are on intermittent FMLA or disability leave for a long term but non contiguous illness. Then all they need to know is that you’re using your time for the same reason as your claim. And probably HR needs the paperwork. But they still don’t need details. As in “need to see Dr for my asthma, I’ll make sure doc signs the paper for HR.”

        (Can you tell I’ve had to do this? and always kept copies of the forms so I didn’t have to chase things down. HR appreciated this.)

      2. The gold digger*

        If I were a new doc or dentist trying to establish a practice, I would open in the evenings and on Saturdays just to capture the market of the people who don’t want to give up a half-day’s pay to see me.

        I read that the medical center in Detroit discovered that one of the reasons that people didn’t get better was they didn’t go to specialists or on follow-up visits as recommended. Then they offered evening appointments and compliance really improved.

        1. The IT Manager*

          So true. I just picked a dentist in part because they are open 7-7, Monday through Saturday.

          1. Jamie*

            Mine dentist is open at 6:00 am. It’s nice for cowards like me who will absolutely cancel every single appointment if I have a couple of hours to worry about it.

        2. Allison*

          I wish some doctors did this. While I know they’re human and no human wants to work nights or weekends, it’s not fair to the patients to only be in the office when most people are at work or in school. And banks for that matter. You’d think some people would appreciate working off hours, as they’d be able to sleep in, or stay home with the kids while the other spouse is at work, and then switch off when they get home.

  14. Elizabeth*

    OP #2, I agree with Alison and the others saying to be vague! From personal experience, I’ve found that people are very understanding when you say something like she suggests. Occasionally people will ask, “Oh, what’s up?” or “Is everything okay?” out of sympathy, but even then all you need to say is something like, “Oh, I think everything will be fine once I see the doctor.” If anyone presses you any more than that, they’re being kind of rude and you can say, “It’s actually kind of personal and I don’t want to go into details. I’ll be back on Tuesday morning.” But most people won’t keep asking like that.

  15. Vicki*

    Ahhh, it’s the marvelous Daylight Savings! How I love and look forward to it, with its end to winter and all that is dreary and dark, with its delightful addition of one extra hour of daylight to the evening.

    Bring back the sun.


    1. Heather*

      +1 I will happily sacrifice one stinking hour of sleep to be able to go for a run after work in the sunshine!

      1. Jamie*

        I will trade you my entire sunshine allotment for the rest of my natural life for one extra hour of sleep per night.

        For two hours you can have my oxygen as well.

  16. pidgeonpenelope*

    6. What a crap manager! When I was 20, I worked for a corporate coffee company. I was hired by a manager who gave her notice and the new manager wasn’t in her position for long before I was put on a PIP. I had not been given a single lick of feedback prior to that so it was a shock. I hung in there for a year but under paranoia that I was getting another write up (because they happened frequently and to everyone). Eventually, I acquired a new job and my manager voluntarily demoted herself after realizing she wasn’t cut out for management. I learned that the position wasn’t my cup of tea and sought positions in different fields. It was a stressful lesson to learn but I am better because of it.

    My point of this story is that you should implement the feedback and maybe the job is great for you and the manager is learning as he moves along too. However, if you’re struggling and you can’t improve, than this position isn’t right for you and hopefully, you can find a different job that does fit you. Good luck with it all!

  17. Jane*

    Regarding #6, what should someone in that position say when a prospective employer asks why you’re looking for a new position?

  18. Steve G*

    #7 – I have no solution, but wanted to add that one hour is not that big of a deal. Of course, if you have a dog, elderly person, or kids to go home to, different story. If those can wait or be taken care of by someone else, an hour shouldn’t be a big deal. My company regularly closes offices early as a bonus? Problem? My work is difficult, time consuming, and has a real impact on revenue, so regardless of whether you tell me to leave or not, I will be working. So such a policy can actually make some employees upset. Instead of sitting in one place and working to 6:30, I may have to pack up, saving all my sheets to a hard-drive, go home, turn on my computer, etc., then end up stopping work at 9:00. So I actually don’t appreciate the office closures at all.

    1. K*

      Do you have to leave when the office closes? I’ve had this happen, but always in situations where individuals could keep working if they want.

  19. Andy Lester*

    As a manager, I specifically do NOT want to know why you’re going to the doctor, for the same reasons I don’t want to know when you apply for a job that you’re a 57-year-old married Jewish black foreign-born pregnant homosexual woman with two children and a physical disability.

    It’s TMI and it can only lead to trouble for me to know those things. If I don’t know that you’re going to the doctor for a “lady problem,” then you can’t accuse me later of discriminatory behavior based on that “lady problem.”

  20. glennis*

    “Please feel free to contact Jane, Tim, or myself if you have further questions”

    My former manager would always write “Please feel free to contact Jane, Tim, or I if you have further questions.” I could fix it in a letter, but she used it in emails too!

  21. MNBound*

    #7 I actually had a work experience that was a bit backwards from this and I also didn’t like it. I was working a contract/seasonal job so I knew it wasn’t going to go anywhere toward future raises etc. I was working in a call center and the first thing that would arrive in your email in the morning was “put your name on the board if you volunteer to go home early”. I was carpooling so I never volunteered. Well after a few hours they would start letting the volunteers go, then an hour or so later they would say if you started work at this time or earlier go home.
    However there are people that come in LATER that this was not happening to. Why not just call those people and say hey guess what don’t come in, at least some of the time? Yep hated it so glad it’s done.

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