wee answer Wednesday — 6 short answers to 6 short questions

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

1. Giving notice when your job has changed

Up until 4 months ago, I loved my job. I was hired for a very specific channel of communication and I was passionate about the work I was doing. I thought I was doing a good job, and I was meeting my benchmarks. But then I was told that since I had been in my role for 2 years (as had my colleagues) that we were to switch responsibilities and I watched my passion and love go to a colleague while I took on a new role. Had the new role been advertised on a job board I would never have applied. I had literally no interest in my new work and unfortunately my poor attitude showed. I take responsibility for showing my disdain and lack of interest in learning my new role. Due to that, during my review I was put on probation/performance review for the end of the year where I struggled with the new role.

I had been looking for a new job ever since the role change. I am very close to receiving an offer, we are working out the details. At the same time I have a review to for my progress in 3 weeks. Do I still give the normal 2 weeks notice? If I am already on probation, is it likely I will get canned immediately? Also, my boss will be away for the next two weeks on assignment. I don’t find it fair to push my start date back for my new employer based on her being out. If it was already planned on her part, can I still give two weeks even if she won’t be in?

Your employer just assigned you to a whole new job because you’d been in your old one for two years and it was “time to rotate”? Did you have any warning that your company operated this way, and have you seen them do this with others? Because that’s bizarre if you didn’t know that was part of the deal when you accepted the job.

In any case, yes, you should still give two weeks notice, because not doing so is generally seen as unprofessional and would give them legitimate reason not to give you a good reference in the future (which hopefully you can still get for your first role there). That said, you should be prepared for them to tell you that there’s no need to work out the full notice period and to leave earlier. But you certainly don’t need to delay giving notice until your manager is back in the office. Call her, or if you can’t do that, give your notice to her manager or HR.

2. Should you list your desired salary when it’s optional?

I just applied for a position at a large, internationally known nonprofit. The competition to work there is intense. On their web application, they have an optional box to fill out your desired salary. I left it blank since it was optional, but now I’m wondering if I cut down my chances to work there. I understand that there are probably many people applying for the position and I may not get an interview based on others being better potential fits. But I do want to know for the future — should I list my desired salary, even if it’s an optional choice?

I wouldn’t list it. If you name a number without having even spoken with them about the job yet, you might potentially under-cut yourself and end up with a salary lower than what you might have obtained if you had waited until you could negotiate later in the process. Or you might be taken out of the running altogether for asking for too much or too little (the latter sometimes signals that you’re at a more junior level than they’re seeking). They made it optional, so I’d treat it as truly optional.

3. Do I have to take my break when my boss tells me?

I arrived to work for a 8-10 hours shift, and my boss said that I have to go on break an hour after I get there. I said to him, “Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of a break?” He said, “It doesn’t matter, go on break.” I said, “I want to take a break when I’m tired a little later when I need one.”

I went on break but am not happy with this as it happens a lot. I was wondering if this was ok. It doesn’t seem right and we don’t like when it happens. I live in upstate NY.

Depending on the time and length of your shifts, you might be in luck. New York’s laws on breaks are a lot more specific than many other states’ break laws. (And many states don’t require breaks at all.) In New York, you have to be offered a 30-minute lunch break between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. for shifts six hours or longer that extend over that period, and a 45-minute meal break halfway through your shift for shifts more than six hours starting between 1 p.m. and 6 a.m. (If you’re a factory worker, the breaks have to each be 60 minutes.) For shifts that start before 11 a.m. and last later than 7 p.m., you’re also entitled to an additional 20-minute meal break between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

That’s pretty unusual though. In most states, your manager can tell you when to take your break, whether that’s when you want to take it or not.

4. Interviewing for your own job during a restructure

Due to the current financial strain at my current employer, our department is to be restructured. We are reducing the number of staff but will be performing the same duties, requiring the same skills. Nothing else will change. How do you approach a competitive interview where you already know the candidates as they are all your work colleagues? They know you equally well. We all have the same strengths and skills. We are all highly qualified with equivalent qualifications. We can all perform the job very, very well and have all been very successful in our careers.

Do you have any advice on how you can be successful in a competitive interview under these circumstances?

Prepare for it just as much as you’d prepare for an outside interview; don’t make the mistake of thinking that because you know the job and the organization well, you don’t need to do much preparation. Spend some time following the advice here on how to prepare for behavioral interviews — you want to do a lot of advance thinking about how you’ve excelled in different types of situations related to the job: how you’ve handled difficult customers, how you’ve taken initiative to solve problems, how you’ve handled a large workload — whatever specific situations are relevant to the job. You want to go in prepared with a bunch of examples of how you’ve done these things awesomely. You also want to think about why you should be one of the people hired — what is it about you that’s fantastic? Figure out how to communicate that as well. And last, you might be asked for your thoughts about internal matters that you know about first-hand (related the company’s operations, challenges, etc.), so come prepared to talk knowledgeably (to the extent possible) about those types of things as well. Good luck!

5. Why didn’t this hiring manager get back to me after I was personally referred and she said she’d schedule an interview?

Last month, I applied for an opening that I’m highly qualified for. I have experience working on the organization’s issue and I meet both the general and preferred qualifications. The hiring nonprofit also happens to be a coalition partner of the nonprofit I recently interned for. Three people from the organization I interned for recommended me to the hiring manager — the president, a department director who is also my former supervisor, and a mutual contact. The mutual contact also introduced me to the hiring manager at an event we both attended. When we spoke, she asked me to send a follow-up email. She said she would review my application materials and schedule an interview.

I followed up that same day. Five weeks have passed and I haven’t received a call or email. I haven’t followed up again because I don’t want to seem pushy. What should I do and what do you believe is going on?

She’s disorganized, or she decided to move forward with other candidates instead, or the job is on hold, or all kinds of other possibilities. It’s not being pushy to send a follow-up when you’ve been personally referred to a job or when the hiring manager told you she’d be in touch to schedule an interview. Both of these things are true here, so you have double reason to not feel pushy. Follow up right now, today, with an email telling her that you’d still love to talk if the position is still open and she thinks you’d be a strong candidate.

6. Can employer forbid me from drinking water until my break?

Is it legal for my boss to tell me that I cannot drink water until my break? I work in a factory that gets extremely hot, and recently my boss implemented a rule that we can’t drink anything until we go on break. We already have people passing out from the heat and several other questionable rules.

OSHA worker safety regulations require that employers to maintain safe working conditions, including access to drinkable water. However, OSHA makes determinations in this area on a case-by-case basis, rather than having one blanket rule. A receptionist in an air-conditioned office with regular breaks may not need to drink water at her desk, and in most cases employers could legally prohibit it. On the other hand, in a hot factory without frequent breaks, OSHA would probably require that you be allowed more frequent access to water. (Although that’s strictly a guess on my part; a lawyer could tell you more definitively.)

One complication: OSHA regulations also require that employees NOT be allowed to have beverages in an area where they could be contaminated with toxic or infectious materials, so if that’s your manager’s concern, it would make more sense. (Although then OSHA would presumably require that you be given more frequent breaks to drink water, given the heat.)

{ 56 comments… read them below }

  1. Terra*

    RE #6: You may want to look into state laws on this issue as well. AZ for example has very clear laws about access to drinking water.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Hmmm, I’m not able to find an Arizona law on this. Access to drinking water, yes, but that’s required at the federal level on OSHA. Haven’t been able to find anything saying that Arizona has a stricter requirement than the federal regulation. Do you know which law it is?

  2. Anonymous*

    6# We recently changed rules in our business and gave everyone a sports bottle to drink out of rather than cups. It was for health and safety reasons and so that nothing could be spilled over the machines. Also the sports bottles are large enough to enable them to fill them up at the start of the day or end of a break and not have to be running back and forth a lot for refills.

    1. KellyK*

      That’s an excellent idea. I love that you addressed the issues (water spilling, frequent interruptions) specifically instead of just saying “no beverages.”

      1. Jamie*

        We did the same thing – everywhere I’ve worked. Factories can get wicked hot with the machines running and whether the law requires it or not, I have no idea, but decent employers want people to stay hydrated because it’s a humane thing to do.

        We have those giant 30 gallon coolers filled with Gatorade and ice and people can refill their water bottles – which we also supply.

        Weird story – my first job I ordered a case of those giant Gatorade powder pouches which is over a hundy – they aren’t cheap – and I didn’t lock it up because who would steal these huge pouches …it’s not like people have 10 gallon coolers in their fridge. Wrong. Not only was the entire case stolen but so was the case of toilet paper. That was a lesson in locking up everything – and it makes me sad to this day.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Seriously, industrial/commercial facilities always buy the scratchy, one-ply. Who would want it? But, you are right, when I worked in a plant, the TP was on lockdown.

          1. Jamie*

            Right?! Committing a crime to get crappy (pardon the pun) tp and LOTS of it. Unless you’re on a winning team after homecoming and are making the rounds of your team mates trees and bushes who on earth needs 36 rolls of toilet paper?

          2. LCL*

            When I had a minimum wage factory job, I did a good deed and bought a large package of sanitary supplies and left them in the women’s restroom. The cost was almost 2 hours wages at my fifty-cent above minimum wage salary. The whole package of 40 was gone by the end of the day. There were less than 10 women working there, spread out over 3 shifts.

            1. Min*

              I used to work nights in a place that actually supplied them – a box in every stall in the ladies room. I was so appalled to learn that one of my co-workers got all of her supplies from work and never bought any herself, just stuffed her pockets full to take home.

          3. TheSnarkyB*

            College students who are used to the same crappy stuff but are also used to getting it for free…. People who run out but can’t afford to go to the store til after the next paycheck, etc..
            Sometimes just cuz. I think a lot of people don’t think of corporations as “needing” it or having budgets. Obviously, we all know that they do, but there’s a big psychological/emotional difference between stealing a whle box of bic pens from your office that has 40, and going into your best friend’s house and taking the same $12ish dollars out of her wallet.

            1. Jamie*

              People who run out but can’t afford to go to the store til after the next paycheck, etc..

              I would have a lot of sympathy for that – but it’s really hard to justify an entire case of 36.

        2. Henning Makholm*

          Machines running … and Wikipedia lists among the symptoms of mild dehydration dizziness and confusion. Doesn’t sound like a good combination, independently of what is humane or not.

        3. Job seeker*

          Oh my! Who wants to steal toilet paper. How did they even leave without being seen taking it?

      2. Juni*

        That’s exactly how I’ve seen it. Sport bottles or cups with click-on lids, no open liquids of any type. Metal thermoses sometimes forbidden depending on electricity situation, plastic only. Glass sometimes forbidden.

    2. Jazzy Red*

      One of my former employers would have an assistant go around the shop floor a couple of times a day with a cooler of various DQ items, in addition to providing bottled water. They were nice people to work for.

  3. Mike C.*

    I have a special hatred for bosses who make up arbitrary rules which risk or cause harm to their employees. There’s no excuse for a factory to be so hot/humid that employees are regularly passing out and then on top of that restricting access to drinking water. I’m as anal about safety as they come, and this is simply unacceptable. Call OSHA or a related state agency (WA has WISHA for instance) and file an anonymous complaint.

    And as much as you can, document what you see with whatever tools you have at hand. Time/Date of folks passing out, temperature/humidity if that’s easily available, that sort of thing. I really hope they aren’t hiding these incidents.

    1. Factory worker*

      Thanks for your concern. But yes, they do hide these incidents due to the fact that their employees are mostly illegal immigrants. Which is also the reason they treat them so badly. They don’t think that anyone will report them, so they intimidate and do as they please

      1. EM*

        Wow. It sound like access to drinking water is just the tip of the iceberg. If your company employs more than 15 workers, it must report h&s incidents to OSHA. It’s a federal law and not optional.

        1. Jamie*

          Is H&S Health & Safety? Because the bar is pretty high for that to be reportable…the bar for a recordable incident is much lower but the employee in question still needs to have missed a days work and/or received medical treatment “beyond first aid.” At least that’s how it was when I was involved in this.

          I’m not saying it’s okay to have people passing out at work – that’s crazy and if environmental that’s a sign of a very bad employer…but if people were passing out but not missing work it’s not recordable – although I am sure it’s something OSHA would be interested in I’m in agreement with an anonymous complaint.

    2. BeenThere*

      Actually I have worked in environments that are that hot and humid, steelworks and energy generation places. It’s a given that within a certain radius of a blast furnace or a turbine it’s going to be warm. Of course in all those places I always had access to clean cool drinking water.

  4. tangoecho5*

    “I am very close to receiving an offer, we are working out the details.”

    OP#1: don’t give notice until you receive and accept the final offer. It sounds like it’s still being worked out and as such, might fall through. And if you give notice and they tell you go already and the new company decides after all for whatever reason they can’t work out the details, you’re unemployed.

      1. LK*

        You are both right! I did not give any notice until I had the firm offer and had passed the background check!

  5. VictoriaHR*

    #1 – I’m picturing a nurse who might be working in, say, neonatal intensive care, and who got rotated to geriatrics or something. Same basic skill set but different focuses. I could see that happening in a large hospital.

    1. Jamie*

      We have a position specifically designed to rotate. It’s entry level for people still in school who will one day have a management role so they do x number of months in each of the production departments so they can experience the similarities and different challenges of the different processes and how it all fits together.

      But that absolutely know this coming in and there is a schedule by which they know where they will be throughout the year.

      If that is not the case with the OP I’ve never heard of this for other types of positions. I’ve had to cover for other departments (my stint as interim HR was very nice of me…talk about a bad fit) but I can’t imagine showing up and being told that I needed to hand over the password db to the accounting admin because she’s IT now, and btw I’m learning to edit engineering drawings. I’d quit, too.

    2. LMW*

      I would hate to have that nurse caring for my grandma.

      Since OP#1 mentioned communications, I can see it being something like starting in PR and being rotated to internal comms or vice versa. Or starting out writing detailed research reports and being switched to copywriting (that happened to me once, and I hated it. I switched jobs within 5 months). I know that when I went through a couple company shuffles in recent years a few people on my team ended up in roles they hated. And even though I work in marketing and communications, I’m completely not cut out for PR or straight up marketing roles. Yet, some high up people who haven’t actually held these roles (like our VP who started as an analyst and then was exposed to marketing initially at high-manager-level) don’t understand that they aren’t interchangeable.

    3. Chinook*

      That would make no sense as nurses specialize as much as doctors to the point of being able to be certified specialists. I worked with the certification program in Canada and saw the tests they took – there is a world of difference between pediatric and geriatric nursing.

      There are jobs, though, that could be rotatable. As an administrator at an accounting firm, I could see being moved from audit to small business support and hating the change even though my skills were transferable.

    4. AP*

      I think this occasionally happens in hospitality, such as in nice hotels, but generally with people who are being groomed for upper management – in which case they know whats going on and are happy to be on housekeeping duty for a few months!

  6. Blinx*

    #1. I’ve had this happen twice in my last job, but for different reasons. Once, the department was dissolved, and many of us were absorbed into a different department (in a different division), but in our same roles. As it was, it worked out for me in that case, since the work in the new department was more interesting. If we refused, we would have been “laid off”, with severance.

    The second time was due to a reorganization — all of our old jobs were outsourced, and those of us that had those positions were now given new positions. Yes, it saved our jobs, but like you, I would not have gone after this position. These were more of project management positions, where many of us were more suited to doing the actual work. We were unhappy, and it did affect our performance. We hung on (for years) until the eventual layoff, which also got rid of the people who WERE happy with their new positions.

    We felt like pegs just being put into holes, instead of human beings.

  7. OP #2*

    Thank you for answering my question AAM! I recieved notification that they are not processing me to the next stage but there are always a lot of positions open in my field. Hopefully I’ll gain a little bit more experience and can try again in a year or so!

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Hi #2. I work someplace that sounds very much like where you applied – it’s very difficult to get hired here and we receive a ridiculous number of qualified resumes for every open position. We have a non-mandatory salary field on our jobsite, and I don’t even look at it when I screen resumes. We really use it as a tool after we narrow them down – if someone looks good but requested 50K more than the range, we will email the person with the range and ask them to get in touch if they can work with the salary. It saves time for everyone involved. Good luck with your search!

      1. OP #2*

        Thank you! I would appericate any advice at getting hired at an organization like the one you know – the one I applied to I’ve admired for years.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          We aren’t the type of non-profit that performs noble work – to be honest, we are pretty disliked. My company does economic development – let me know if it’s similar to where you want to work and I’ll see what I can come up with…

            1. Lily in NYC*

              That sounds way better than where I work. I used to work next door to the World Wildlife Foundation when I lived in DC. I think the problem getting jobs in those types of places is that there is just so much competition because everyone would love to work there and there are so many people willing to do the job for peanuts. All the fun/noble industries pay crap! I wish you luck – I don’t have any advice because we mainly hire finance/consulting types…

  8. Allison*

    #3 happened a lot when I was working at a movie theater, and I’m sure it’s not an uncommon practice in an environment where only one person can go on break at any given time. Even if the shifts are staggered a little, some unlucky people are going to have to take their breaks wicked early or wicked late in order to make it work.

  9. nyxalinth*

    #3 happens in call centers, too. Once I was scheduled for a break half an hour into my shift, then lunch was 5 hours later, followed by last break an hour later! Home wasn’t for another 3 hours after my break. That day was jacked up. dragged on forever, too.

    the only bad time I ever had was once the call center director decided–right before my lunch no less–that no one could take lunch or break until the call queue was smaller. Two hours later it was still bad, and I started feeling crashy and shaky from not eating. I still couldn’t go, because I didn’t have a note on file regarding that sort of thing. Of course I didn’t: it had never happened before!

    Finally four hours after i was supposed to have lunch I was ‘allowed’ a ten minute break. I shoved as much food in my mouth as I could and got back on the phone.

    I turned in my two week notice and called the labor board the next day. Nothing was ever done about it, so far as I knew.

    1. Jamie*

      This is crazy to me because it defeats the whole purpose of a break. To kind of reboot your brain and refocus which rest does. Not to mention get some food and maybe use the bathroom for jobs where you can’t just leave your desk whenever.

      I just makes no sense from a management standpoint.

      Factory work is clearly different, but for our people on the floor breaks and lunches are scheduled and all go at the same time. Lunch is midway through the shift. First break is halfway between start and lunch and second break is midway between lunch and end of shift. That way no one is ever going too long without a rest.

      1. Broke Philosopher*

        My state has mandatory breaks–I believe a 30 min lunch break (unpaid) and a 10-minute (paid) break every 2 hours for an 8 hour shift. Numbers might be a bit off, but that’s the gist of it. A friend who worked as a waitress was told to come 30 min early to her shift, clock in, and immediately clock out for her “lunch” break. She then had to come back and do the whole shift without a break. I’m not sure how legal that was, but it clearly violated the spirit, if not the letter, of the law. I thought that was ridiculous.

          1. Broke Philosopher*

            Wow, that was a really useful link. thanks. Here’s what it says for my state, re: meal break: “½ hour, if work period is more than 5 consecutive hours, to be given not less than 2 hours nor more than 5 hours from beginning of shift.”

            So spirit and letter violated, I guess.

  10. Jane Doe*

    #1 – I had a manager who changed the job duties for everyone in our department, which was okayed by upper management (they were totally out to lunch). We didn’t know until it officially happened, so we were given no information about what our new duties were or what our options were (and there was no chance to negotiate salary).

  11. Factory worker*

    I am the employee that asked number six (thank you for answering and publishing btw). The company I work for has about one hundred employees, and the vast majority are illegal Hispanics. The owner of this company is a white older male and his young white wife. They treat the employees like than, they yell at them, call them names, and make fun of them. they implemented the no drink policy, because a customer called and reported a water bottle in their package. It has only happened once in the two years I have worked here, so it’s not a common occurrence. I could go on and on about how they treat their employees, the violations, and obvious illegal activities, but it would take more time than I have.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      And if you turn them in, there’s a good chance that instead of having no water, you and your co-workers will have no job. :(

      I had a friend in college who worked for a motel that paid less than minimum wage, but she wouldn’t complain because it was still better than no job at all.

      What is the best option in cases like the OP’s?

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      It doesn’t make sense to ask a “is this legal” type question on something small when the company is obviously illegal on somethimg much bigger. If they’re not going to follow the law on the big things, why expect anything better on the smaller things? And, you won’t be able to get a normal recourse on the smaller without the larger coming to light. I suppose OSHA could close their eyes to conditions that don’t directly relate to them, but I wouldn’t count on it.

      So, as KellyK says, if you want decent (and legal) working conditions, you’re going to need a different job. I don’t see much hope for the non-legal workers, except for finding a different job with someone who is willing to hire them but still not so much a jerk as to abuse them.

      1. Factory worker*

        We (my co-workers) and I try to over look most of the things that go on, but when they take away our water and sacrifice our health for the sake of a dollar, we aren’t able to turn away as easily. Thats why I asked. I may have to just turn them in and risk my job

    3. Rana*

      Is there an immigrants’ rights organization in your area? They might have some suggestions on how to handle this.

    4. Jamie*

      Your concerns are valid and it’s horrible when people have to work in the kind of conditions you’re describing – however I fail to see the relevance of the race and ages of your boss and his wife.

      It’s unconscionable when people take advantage of the fact that a group is less likely to seek official recourse to illegal activity – but it’s sadly common and it’s not limited to any one race. It bothers me that this was just thrown in there like it was bolstering the argument and unfortunately bad bosses come in all races.

  12. Michelle*

    #4 Interviewing for your own job during a restructure

    I recommend that you be prepared to discuss how you see the role and the department evolving given the reduction in resources. They might be interested in knowing the individual(s) selected will be forward thinking and capable of adapting as the work will need to change. Good luck!

  13. Dan*


    “Re-interviewing” seems kind of dumb to me. I mean, if management knows you and your work, what exactly is a bunch of “tell me about a time” questions going to say about you that they don’t already know?

  14. Elizabeth West*

    I work at a desk, but I HAVE to have water with me all the time. I have allergies and my throat gets dry, and if I don’t drink enough water, it will set off a migraine. Sorry, you’re not taking my bottle away from me. I’ll take myself elsewhere.

    OldJob used to make Gatorade for the shop guys during the summer, and would open the shipping bay doors to help get a breeze in there. They really appreciated it. They were pretty conscientious about them drinking enough when it was hot.

  15. Nanani*

    Late comment but maybe still helpful –
    For #1:
    this “rotating through all the jobs” thing is completely standard in Japan, and possibly other Asian countries too (though I only personally know about Japan).
    The idea is a combination of corruption prevention (you can’t call in favours or bribes when your inside contacts aren’t in the job anymore) and training everybody for eventual management (the lifetime employment mentality still exists here, so yeah).

    So… is there any chance your company is an overseas branch of a Japanese one? If so, this is a cultural difference to be aware of going forward.

  16. LK*

    #1 – Well I gave notice and they are keeping me on for the full term
    It is a lateral move financially but I am so much happier just knowing that I will be doing something I enjoy again.

    However, I did have to give notice while my manager was out. The boss has basically deferred all my transitioning to someone else. So either she doesn’t care, or had known I would leave since I was on PIP

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