terse answer Thursday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

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

1. Can you submit mileage reimbursements for only a few dollars?

I’m filling out last month’s out of pocket expenses and find myself wanting to make several mileage reimbursement requests for a few dollars each. Normally I might have one or two requests a month for about $20 or $30, but last month I had to make several errand runs for work.

As a manager, would you see the low mileage reimbursement requests as petty? I hate to be seen as someone who nickels and dimes the company, but I’m short on money and get nickle and dimed a lot myself. I usually don’t request reimbursement for the 50 cents I stick into the parking meters when I have to park in the city. I also can’t request mileage reimbursement if I have to travel to our site that’s further away (because it’s considered a “normal” part of my job duties to work there several times a year.) That trip alone is 70 miles round trip extra than I normally commute and I didn’t understand that I wouldn’t get reimbursed when I took this job. I guess I feel like at least by requesting a few dollars here and there, I can make up some of the losses I take as part of work. But I don’t want to hurt my relationship with my boss or company to do so.

Don’t give it another thought. You spent the money on a work expense that they’ve told you they reimburse, so it’s fine to submit it. I wouldn’t question it at all if an employee submitted low mileage reimbursements like this.

2. I regret making a counteroffer to an employee

I am a manager of a team of four analysts in a small field office overseas. Recently, one of my staff received an outside offer at another company. I gave him a modest counteroffer, including an upgrade in title from analyst to senior analyst. While his work is decent, it is not outstanding, and I would have not promoted him under normal circumstances, although I would have considered it in the next 8-10 months. He does an equally OK job as to someone I would hire new, so I promoted him to retain him, not because of his performance.

So, I have read your posts on counteroffers, and now have a related question. As predicted, the day after this person’s promotion, another staff came to me completely demotivated. She has worked at our organization in the same role for the same amount of time. While she does have some issues, when you get down to it, she does outperform the newly promoted staff. She came to me asking for clarity about how one actually gets promoted at our organization.

I regret making the counteroffer/promotion, and realize it was my mistake. However, now I am stuck with it. How do I deal? I am trying to manage the newly promoted person to perform better and live up to his new title. But, what messages do I give to the rightfully disgruntled staff? Obviously, I can’t take her aside and say, “Hey, I know your coworker is kind of crappy, but got another job offer and I didn’t want to hire somebody else, so tough luck!” How do I manage my way out of this one?

I wish I had an answer, but I don’t. You can’t really justify promoting someone whose work doesn’t merit it, or even justify trying to retain the person by other means if their work isn’t outstanding. And because there’s no justification, I can’t think of any way to explain this to the coworker or mollify her very understandable frustration. (And to make matters worse, you might end up losing the better employee because of the attempt to keep the worse employee.) This is a clusterfudge.

3. Putting a school career day presentation on my resume

I presented at a school career day as a representative of an organization that I volunteer with. Should I include this as an achievement on my resume? I don’t have any children that attend the school (I don’t have children at all) so this was not something that I had to do. I was honored to be asked to present (although I don’t feel I really have a career at the moment) and I think that I did a great job. What do you think? For background, I would like you to know that I didn’t just talk. I created an experiment and conducted it in front of the students. In one class, I had the students separated into groups and they did the experiments with the help of the teachers and my instructions.

It’s cool that you did it (and I am sort of obsessed with school career days), but it’s not really resume-worthy. It was a one-day (one hour, probably) thing without accompanying evaluation or accountability, so it doesn’t really meet the bar for a resume.

4. Applying for a job when a friend works in the same department

I am applying for a position for a company that I am totally excited about. I meet the qualifications for the position that I am applying for, and I feel like I would excel in the work environment that they project. A college friend whom I haven’t kept in much contact with (I’m only a few years out), has worked for the company for 3+ years in the department that I am applying for. What is the most appropriate way to request her help? Ideally, I would love her to put a word in for me. How do I approach this situation without being presumptuous that she would do so?

Email her and let her know that you applied for the position, and tell her that you’d love any advice that she has. You don’t need to ask her to put in a good word for you; most people will do that on their own if they think you’d be a good candidate, and asking for it directly can be awkward, since the subtext of “I’m applying for a job on your team” is generally going to be “and I’d like the job and would love your help.”

5. Is it ever okay to call to follow up after an interview?

I’m contemplating when and how to follow-up after a final interview I had with an organization on March 19. It was 2.5 hours of back-to-back interviews with 3 people, which I thought went quite well. Of course, I have debated that issue many times in my head since. The hiring manager said that she would get back to me by the that Friday, but didn’t seem 100% sure about that. I sent my thank-you’s, and one of the 3 people said that they had one more candidate to interview that week before making a decision.

Friday passed. The following Thursday I hadn’t heard anything yet, so (based on my findings on your site) I sent an email asking for a timeline update in the afternoon. Still no response. A friend told me that I should call … Is it ever ok to call? If I were to call, I think I should at least give them a week after I asked for the update.

This is a junior-level management position at a large non-profit. Technically it is a new position that they want to fill “immediately.” They are reorganizing the management to create a more effective team.

Well, here’s the thing: If they want to make you a job offer, they are going to contact you and do it. They’re not going to be dragging their feet and only remember when you call them. So calling is likely to result only in (a) another lack of response, (b) a vague response (“we’ll be in touch once we have a decision”), or (c) a rejection. And yes, a rejection would give you closure, but frankly, you’re better off giving yourself closure right now and mentally moving on, and letting it be a pleasant surprise if they do offer you the job. Trust that if they want to hire you, they’ll get in touch.

6. Listing a childcare business on my resume when my field is accounting

Several years ago, I had to quit a job because the child custody and child support legal battle got to be too much for me to handle as a professional accountant and mother. I took a 6-month break then to plan a childcare business, which thrived for about a 16 months. Although this is a break in my accounting experience, I proudly list it on my resume because (a) I need to account for the time and (b) it shows the entrepreneurship in me. A girlfriend says I should list the childcare business in a section captioned “Other Experience.” What is your advice?

I agree with her. I wouldn’t kick off your main experience section with it because it’s not what you want to most showcase, but an “other experience” section is perfect for it.

7. Getting an MA while job-searching

I’m getting conflicting advice about this from my friends, so wanted to get your opinion. I am in the process of job hunting, and I have been looking for about 3 months now and finally got my first phone interview coming up this week. I decided a few weeks ago to apply for my MA in intercultural and international communications, because I need a plan B. If finding a job is going to take me several months (perhaps even a year), I want to make good use of my time, and getting my MA has always been on my “don’t want to call it a bucket list-bucket list.” The university is in another province, but it is about 80% online. I would have to go to the campus for two weeks in September or October for the in-class portion of the program, and the following year I will be out of country for three weeks for the placement portion of the program. But other than that, I can do the coursework at home. Therefore, I can continue to do this even if I got a job, which is why this program works so well for me.

First, does studying for my MA help bridge the gap in my resume? I am currently unemployed and have been since the end of November. I recently moved back to the country which is the reason for my unemployment. I figure the longer it takes to find a job, the bigger the gap will be since my last job. Second, when in the interview process should I bring up the part about needing two weeks to attend university classes as part of my MA? Would this be a deal-breaker for most hiring managers? In my opinion, improving my education and skills will only benefit my employer, as this program compliments most of the positions I am applying for and matches well with my skill set.

Since the program is one that you’re arguing won’t interfere with full-time work, it’s not quite as good of a resume gap-filler as a traditional program would be … but it’s not nothing either, and you can certainly use it.

As for when to bring up the time you’ll need off, I’d wait until you have an offer and negotiate it then as part of your overall negotiations. The two weeks shouldn’t be a deal-breaker for most jobs (although you might need to take it unpaid if you don’t have enough vacation accrued by then). The three weeks next year will be more unusual for most jobs, so make sure that you include that as part of your negotiations too — you don’t want to find out next year that they won’t let you take three weeks at once.

{ 193 comments… read them below }

  1. Caroline*

    I have been in a similar position to the disgruntled employee in #2, and all I can say is that it would have helped to have something tangible to reach for. The frustrated analyst doesn’t sound like a super performer either, when the first thing you mention are “some issues.” Regardless of your mistakes, is it really possible to get a promotion based on merit under your management? Are you willing to fire the senior analyst if his performance doesn’t become outstanding, when it comes down to it?

    Answering the analyst’s questions honestly would go a long way. I have been told at my work that there is no possibility of a promotion. Others have been promoted in the past just to quiet their complaints. It’s better for you and the analyst that you answer the questions as honestly as you can.

    1. Manager from Question #2*

      Yes, that is what I am working on now. Trying to really answer the passed-over analysts questions. Problem is, I am managing a field office, I need to coordinate with the e-suite folks to figure out how to really grow these analysts. It is a bit difficult because we are a small organization and not everyone can become the CEO eventually. There will always be analyst (grunt work) that needs to be done. So, I struggle with making them feel like they are growing, while still making them do the grunt work.

      But, my current strategy for dealing with this would be, yes, answer the jilted analyst’s question. Since I made the decision for the counter offer with consultation of the COO, I think they can help me in outlining a bit more of a specific career path for her.

      1. Manager from Question #2*

        Oh, and yes, it would be possible to get a promotion on merit through me. and, yes, I am willing to eventually fire the guy I just promoted.

  2. EngineerGirl*

    #1. You should get reimbursed for the difference in mileage from your home office to your remote office. So if your remote office is 30 miles away and your home office is 20 miles away you get reimbursed for 10 miles. I don’t buy that it is “part of your normal job duties” if it wasn’t disclosed prior to your offer. If you interview at an office it is assumed you’ll work there unless disclosed otherwise.

    #2 You are lucky if you don’t lose employee #2. Differing standards drive good employees crazy. At a minimum you should be spending extra time with her to make her promotable. You owe this woman the truth – sometimes it isn’t about quality of work as much as playing the game. And I have to ask – perhaps some of her “issues” are her response to poor management?

    1. EngineerGirl*

      #2 again. There are a lot of studies out there that show that an “average” woman gets marked down harder than an “average” man (it isn’t a true meritocracy). If you think that this “average” woman is better than her male counterpart is is possible that she is much better, not just a little bit. So she’ll be really frustrated by what she (correctly) perceives as unfairness.
      Unfortunately, you took the easy choice instead of the right one. As a result you’ll probably have to put in a LOT more work fixing the situation.

      1. Manager from Question #2*

        Yes, women get passed over more than men. I know. The gender component is a frustrating one in this case.

    2. OP #1*

      I was aware that there was another office but I didn’t really think I’d be working there. My job description does say something like 10% travel but I thought that was locally and would all be reimbursed.

      When I did research online, I found that some employers consider travel to alternate sites just another form of commuting (even if it triples the employee’s commute).

      1. Josh S*

        Even if the company doesn’t reimburse, you can deduct it from your income if you itemize (assuming the unreimbursed expenses are above a certain threshhold, I believe).

    3. Jamie*

      I disagree about the mileage for offices. It would be nice if they did, but its by no means customary to do so. Going to and from another location of the business for whom you work – I have never seen that reimbursed.

      1. Henning Makholm*

        That sort of depends on the distance. Say, I normally work at headquarters in Denmark; if I were told that I needed to attend a meeting in our Phoenix, Arizona office, I certainly would expect the business to cover the cost of getting me there.

        70 miles is 113 km; that’s around the limit where I’d begin consider it to be travel (and thus expect it to be on the company’s dime) rather than a commute.

        1. Jamie*

          Traveling to another country is a completely separate – I wasn’t implying that the employee should eat that cost.

          YMMV – I’ve just never seen it and it’s definitely common practice in my experience that if it’s local you don’t get reimbursed for going to and from other branches. And I consider 70 miles round trip local – I have a 67 mile round trip commute to work and I am not even close to the person with the longest commute – so 70 miles round trip isn’t unusual for us.

          If companies offer reimbursement that’s great, and employees should definitely take it…but for some of us that would be an odd request and it’s outside common practice.

          1. K*

            I think it depends on where you live; somewhere where most people have long commutes and cars, sure. Somewhere where most people live walking distance from work, not as much.

          2. KellyK*

            I had thought Henning meant 70 miles one way, which I wouldn’t consider local.

            I think that if you’re driving 50 miles over and above your normal commute, it’s reasonable to request reimbursement, unless that was an understood part of your job to begin with (e.g., you support multiple offices and have to go to all of them). It might be standard practice in some industries or companies to suck that up, but it seems to me that the 50-mile mark is where it becomes “real” travel, especially if it happens frequently.

            I think the distance is the real indication of whether it’s reimbursable, more so than whether it’s your company’s location. (My company has an office 500 miles from the office where I work, as well as a couple 60-70 miles away. I don’t mind the half a tank of gas to get to the close offices and back, especially since it’s not often, but there’s no way I ‘d happily eat the cost of a thousand-mile round trip ever.)

      2. Guera*

        I disagree.
        I had to frequently travel to the corporate office which was 90 miles round trip. Heck yeah they reimbursed…each and every time for every employee. They eventually implemented tele-conferencing but did not make it mandatory and still reimbursed those who chose to show up in person for meetings.

      3. Lora*

        Must be industry specific then, because I certainly do get reimbursed for that, and always have everywhere I worked (biotech).

        Or I suppose could be a side effect of Boston’s horrible real estate issues–lack of parking around any given office and lack of lease-able square footage tends to create situations where there will be multiple sites as a company expands, all of them with terrible commutes and $25+/day in parking fees. Most jobs around here have some sort of shuttle service to and from the transit stations too, otherwise they’d be shutting out 2/3 of their applicant pool. I’ve seen even tiny startups with multiple company cars (crummy ones, but they have them) because not one of the employees drives to the home office and sometimes they need to go somewhere.

        We do a lot of teleconferencing.

        1. Jamie*

          I’ve driven in Boston – I can’t even put a price on what they would have to pay me to commute there.

          Although I would love to live there – I’m jealous – but yeah, any commute there would be brutal.

          1. Lora*

            -Always work off-peak hours if you can. Lots of companies around here allow this because everyone hates the rush hours democratically.
            -Use transit if you can. It’s elderly and often under repair but it’s less painful than driving.
            -VPN is your friend.
            -Use back roads, avoid I-95 and MassPike and 495 as much as possible.
            They do actually pay significantly more here on account of the costs of living, including commute insanity.

    4. Manager from Question #2*

      Yes, I do feel lucky if I don’t loose employee #2, although, like I said, she is not an out of control achiever. But, she is good. That said, I don’t know if she has what it takes to be outstanding in this role anyway. And, to be honest, I can’t tell her the whole truth. I can’t disclose really that the other staff member got a promotion based on a counter offer. I mean, can I?

      I am sure that a portion of all of my staff’s “issues” are a response to poor management, as you say. However, I am writing in because I genuinely care about righting my mistake. So, give me a little credit, EngineerGirl! :) I am trying.

      But, I assure you, this girl does have issues of her own that have nothing to do with me. For example, she cannot travel to our annual meeting because of her children (she did not have kids when she joined the company). This is a whole different topic!!! Besides this issue, there are a couple others. None very extreme, but she is not, the absolute sharpest tool in the shed. But, she’s not dull.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Hmmm. Definitely don’t compound the mistake by promoting/rewarding another employee who doesn’t deserve it! I would say to think about what bar you’re holding employees to generally, because neither of these two sound worth trying to retain (and might be worth trying to replace). You can and should hold people to a high bar, and replace those who don’t meet it (after appropriately warning them). You should not settle for mediocre performance.

        1. Manager from Question #2*

          ya, I agree with this, Allison. I’ve lowered the bar once through the counter offer. So, I don’t want to do it again through promoting a jilted staff who doesn’t totally deserve it either.

  3. Cube Ninja*

    For #2, you can’t exactly manage your way out of it – you’ve created a situation where you’re likely to lose one mediocre employee and one really good one in the next 6-12 months. It’s possible you’ll only lose one of the two, but it’s probably the one you’d actually prefer to keep.

    Even aside from AAM’s excellent advice regarding counteroffers, I’m curious about how you came to the conclusion that promoting a staff member as a retention strategy was a good solution if he “does an equally OK job as to someone I would hire new”. It sounds like you could have hired someone and have them up and running within 3-6 months at this person’s level unless the work is extremely complex or requires significantly more training than most office work. Obviously, I don’t have all the facts – maybe that wasn’t an option.

    There -are- a couple things you can do, but there isn’t a “magic wand” solution to this. I’d agree with EngineerGirl that doing some mentoring with your top performers is a good plan, with some additional focus on the staff who expressed the concern. Explain what the typical requirements are for promotion and help your people work towards that, if they’re interested in doing so.

    For your newly promoted person, if you’ve made the call to retain, you can also make the call to re-train. If this person hasn’t met expectations in the past, now is the time to have that conversation – since he’s taking on an expanded role, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Set out clear goals and expectations for the next few weeks or months and hold him accountable to his performance. This isn’t to say that you should manage him out of the organization by any means, just that you need to play the cards you dealt yourself, so you may as well try to stack the deck a little more in your own favor.

    That’s probably not the best analogy, but to borrow from Tim Gunn, “make it work”.

    Here’s the bigger one:

    Learn from your mistake. It’s damned easy to forget that being management role doesn’t render immunity to screwing up. Sometimes, we screw up* pretty spectacularly. This is an opportunity for you to turn a mistake into something more positive by working with the person who (rightfully) feels like she was overlooked and for you to turn around a staff member who doesn’t meet expectations.

    It’s also an opportunity for you to reflect on your own management style and decision making process. Don’t waste it. :)

    * This one time at early-in-my-career camp, I may or may not have accidentally combined all vendor accounts for one of my company’s subsidiaries in our accounting system. Oops. Daily backups are good.

    1. Your Mileage May Vary*

      +1 for referencing my hero, Tim Gunn.

      I agree with your saying OP should hold the newly promoted employee’s feet to the fire – set standards for his position and hold him to reaching them. Give him a reasonable timeline. If he can’t work up to his new position, let him go. If you’re lucky enough to still have the disgruntled employee around and she hasn’t been slacking off her workload because she’s (rightfully) ticked at the company, then offer the promotion to her.

      1. Julie*

        This doesn’t seem fair to the employee who was just promoted. He turned down a new job offer to stay at the company, and it sounds like he doesn’t know that he didn’t earn the promotion. If the OP hasn’t been having conversations with him all along about what needs to improve, I think now is the time to start doing that. I agree that the OP should really work with the other analyst to get her to a point where she can be promoted.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          But the employee had a choice — the new job or the promotion — and he took the promotion. It shouldn’t be a surprise that a promotion comes with increased expectations and a higher bar for performance.

          1. Lanya*

            Hence the reason why counteroffers are not good for the employer or the employee! In the end, the employee is still probably going to wind up leaving, so the counteroffer really just created more of a headache for the employer.

          2. BCW*

            Understandable, but he didn’t take the promotion with “strings attached”. Essentially the manager would now be changing their performance assessments based on someone else’s unhappiness. If it wasn’t stated when he was given the option promotion that you have 60 days to achieve X,Y, and Z and then to say it after he turned down the other job is horrible.

            If I had 2 job offers and I took one over the other, then after I started they put all these other requirements on it that weren’t there when I agreed to take it, I’d be very upset.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              It should really be the manager changing the performance bar based on what the role should have, not on someone else’s unhappiness — i.e., regardless of whether someone complains or not. But yeah, I agree that this sucks and never should have happened.

        2. Cube Ninja*

          I tried to be careful in my wording – I wasn’t at all intending to imply that the manager should stick it to the promoted staffer.

          Just that there be clear expectations on how the new position is going to work, etc.

    2. Manager from Question #2*

      Oh, I definitely don’t feel immune to mistakes. (take the title of my question for example!). And, yes, my intention is to learn from this. My decision was flawed. The process was basically not thinking through some of the larger implications, and I did this under duress because I thought employee #1 was going to leave. I did not offer him a substantial counter offer actually. And, I counseled him to actually seriously consider the other offer (because it was actually a good offer that I think would have been better for him in the long term). So, I offered him what, at the time I thought was rather benign. And, there was 4 months between when I made the counter offer and when the counter offer promotion started. So I had ample time to ruminate, which led to my regret.

  4. PEBCAK*

    #4: You should also find out if they have a referral program, and if she indeed helps you, make sure she gets the credit.

  5. Josh S*

    #2: Promoted the wrong one

    You could answer your 2nd employee’s question directly without comparing her to the other employee. Just say, “If you do A, B, and C tasks/skills/etc by Date, then I think we could make a promotion happen.” Set that bar high enough that the 2nd employee will be challenged to grow into it. That would be proper management absent the other employee.

    Since the other employee probably hasn’t done A, B, or C, your 2nd employee is going to see the great injustice in the situation. And there’s nothing you can do to fix that because you’ve perpetuated a pretty severe screw-up here.

    1. Mike C.*

      But we already know the answer to that question – it’s not A, B or C, but “Get an offer from a different company”.

      1. Josh S*

        That’s what it *has* been in the past, but the Manager/OP realizes that they made a mistake in doing so. So going forward, hold people to the *right* standard.

        Because the right time to fix a mistake is NOW, rather than trying to fix it by making it again.

        1. Manager from Question #2*

          Thank you!!! That is exactly my question. I know I made a mistake. Now, I just have to deal with it as best I can.

    2. Judy*

      But you have to really mean it about A, B & C. I’ve twice in my career been told that, and once I’ve done A, B & C, I was told, but you have to do D, E & F to get promoted. By the same manager.

      That’s the time to find a new place to work, in my case both times it was a lateral within the company, where I got the promotion within a year. Because I did work to the level of the promotion already, even before I did A, B & C.

    3. The IT Manager*

      Agree. I think you have you answer if it is actually possible for you as her manager to get her a raise and new job title for merit instead of for rentention.

      While she does have some issues, when you get down to it, she does outperform the newly promoted staff. She came to me asking for clarity about how one actually gets promoted at our organization. Give her the clarity one way or another.

      1) Work with her on her issues, and if she corrects them, then promote her. Tell her this is the plan and give her a time frame. And go talk to your new senior analyst and tell him what you expect of him in his new role and if he can’t step up then you have some hard choices. You did say that you probably would have promoted him after another year anyway so maybe you can let it slide now even if he doesn’t step it up.

      2) Now you also go another route and tell your disgruntled employee that she has two options to get promoted:
      a) come to you with a counter offer
      b) wait another 8-10 months until she earns her promtion just by virtue of time in job as anyone who didn’t screw up too badly would

      Whatever you do, be honest with her, and learn from your mistake.

      1. EngineerGirl*

        Telling her to come with a counter offer may be a big mistake. If she finds out how undervalued she is she’ll be gone in a snap. Even if you counter there will still be resentment that merit means little in this organization. I’ve been in organizations like that and my biggest regret is that I didn’t leave sooner.

      2. ThursdaysGeek*

        And think ahead — what kind of work are #3 and #4 doing? Or is it only the people who threaten to leave or complain who have a chance of advancing?

        1. The IT Manager*

          I think, given the passing comment that the decent perfoming analyst would be looked at for a promtion to senior analyst in 8-10 months, that it may not be the kind of promotion that prevents anyone else from moving up. i.e. The team can have 4 analyst, 4 senior analyst or any combination in between. The “Senior” may not come with any management responsibilities over the other analysts.

        2. anon-2*

          TG – that’s often the way it is in some fields.

          The guy or gal who has mobility – and isn’t afraid to use it, often gets advanced faster than John Q. Milquetoast or Pollyanna Perry.

          When it does happen – and the manager realizes the mistake, usually the situation is compounded when he tries to rationalize his mistakes with the victi-, uh, person who was passed over.

          If I were a manager – the first thing I would do – if having to promote someone – is ask myself “Is there anyone on the staff who IS more deserving?” before doing this.

          Sometimes you may have to give out two promotions or raises. Keep in mind, when you pass someone over, and the person being passed over has a legitimate complaint about it — you’ve got a problem. And you created it yourself.

          As I said in another post – don’t worry about #3 and #4 – unless they are totally brain-dead, they now see that the wrong person was promoted, too.

    4. Lisa*

      There is no reason that the OP can’t fire the newly promoted person. “I gave you a promotion that you are not suited for”, take it back or give him a small severance to move on. Then promote the other one. You made a mistake, but it doesn’t mean you are stuck with the less-than-qualified guy until HE leaves. Managers really need to stop taking what they get in terms of employee productivity. Create an atmosphere that people want to work in. It isn’t always about salary and med benefits, but things you don’t get at other companies. Flex hours, being able to skip lunch and leave an hour early. I would stay at my company for years for 6 weeks of PTO, cause time is more valuable to me, and my salary will eventually get up there anyway.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Kind of ethically problematic though — the guy turned down a different job because she gave him a promotion. Now, if he doesn’t meet the bar for this new job, then yes, absolutely — but firing him right now before she’s seen that would be a pretty crappy thing to do to someone just to fix a mistake she made, not him.

        I totally agree, though, that she should spell out the expectations of the new job and hold him to those, and let him go if he doesn’t meet them.

        1. Lisa*

          Assumed that OP would give him a plan to follow with expectations by X date. What is a reasonable X date tho? 2 months, 6 months? a year seems way to long for me.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yeah, a year is way too long. I’d say it depends on his performance. If he’s really messing up, then 2 months at most, with a serious warning immediately. Maybe less, depending on the issues. If it’s more about mediocre performance rather than outright terrible performance, a bit longer — being clear with him that X is the bar, that he needs to do A and B differently to meet that bar, and that his job is at risk if he doesn’t.

        2. The IT Manager*

          although I would have considered it in the next 8-10 months.

          I find that this statement really muddies the issue, and makes things more problematic. The LW didn’t say that if the guy improved she should have promoted him in the future. She said that even if he stayed the same (decent, but not outstanding) she still would have considered a promotion for him within the next year. So it sure sounds like the Senior Analyst postion is obtainable by doing a decent (but not outstanding) job for a certain period of time. Since the disgruntled employee has been with the company the same amount of time and does a better job than the new Senior Analyst, she could also look into promoting her now too since she’s actually a better performer.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I think it probably implies (sorry OP!) that the OP has a pretty low bar for performance, and hasn’t really thought through what a huge impact having the right people on your staff makes. Each of these “okay but not so great” people are an opportunity cost because having great people could make such a huge difference in the results she’s able to get, and so she should be actively managing the makeup of her team and holding people to a higher bar. But I get the sense that she’s not approaching managing/building her team in that way.

            1. Manager from Question #2*

              No offense taken. The bar is lower than I would like. To be honest, I don’t have the funds to hire the folks that might have a better track record and more sophisticated educations/work experience. But, that said, I do want to work toward having the highest bar that I can for my staff. I realize in this case I have not done that. I’ll try to be aware of this point moving forward, and consider your comment about building my team under a different approach. point taken.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                For what it’s worth, whenever I hear someone say they can’t afford to hire better people, it rarely turns out to be the case. The economy sucks right now; there are tons of good people who would glad to take even a low-paying job. Your job as a manager is to find them :)

                1. Manager from Question #2*

                  yes, that is very true in the US right now. But I am hiring in an overseas market in a “developing” country. It really is just a different story. People in some overseas market bolt if they don’t get a 20% raise every year. That’s no excuse though, I do think there are some people out there that are right for the jobs we offer, including salary. It is just finding that balance, I suspect. I have actually gotten better at finding them! It ain’t easy though! But, like you said, that is my job.

      2. K*

        But there’s no real indication that she wants to fire him or that his performance is that bad. “Decent, not outstanding,” could mean a lot of things, I guess, but “someone else deserved this promotion more and I screwed up,” isn’t the same as “deserves to lose their job.”

        1. Lisa*

          OP should have let that person leave. But they didn’t and now risk losing the other person, or promote her and still OP loses out for showing that all you have to do is complain to get promoted. I hope OP fixes the situation with a performance plan for the 1st person, and follow through on what actions will be taken if he doesn’t meet the goals. Nothing makes a team feel like staying than fairness from the top down. Show that you are making #1 guy accountable for x, y, z and that he isn’t able to just do the same job for more money and a new title. OP might want to think of doing something else for #2 so she doesn’t leave in the interim. Flex hours, a salary increase, more vacation. Something to equate that OP values her but can’t give her a promotion at the moment, because actions and tangible things are better than lip service because she thinks she got screwed because she didn’t complain first.

          1. AnonintheUK*

            I just hope staff member #2 does not come to the conclusion that she missed out on a promotion for not being a man.

            1. fposte*

              I’m not sure it would make much practical difference if she did. She’s ticked anyway, and there’s no case here regardless of her personal beliefs.

              If the company gets a rep for sexism as a result, that’s another matter; that’s another argument for promotions being regularized, because if they’re not done for good reasons, it’s easy for people to suspect the bad.

            2. Manager from Question #2*

              ya, she’s great. But, she didn’t miss out on this for not being a man. That, I feel pretty confident about. Actually, not having been through this experience at the time, had she come to me in the same situation as the other guy (with a counter 0ffer), I would have done that same for her probably.

          2. anon-2*

            But when you ARE passed over — by a lesser employee – isn’t the complaint LEGITIMATE?

  6. Josh S*

    #3: Career Day on Resume

    It’s not particularly sponge- resume-worthy, unless you are headed into a career where teaching experiment-y stuff is going to be a valued skill. Because then you can demonstrate that you are able to explain and execute a lesson plan and get kidspeople engaged along the way. Which is an accomplishment, albeit a small one.

    I’m hoping you have better stuff on your resume though. Because even in the best of cases this doesn’t really stack up as particularly impressive.

    1. Yup*

      #3 – I can see it in an “other experience” resume section as part of a series, though:

      2007-2012, Volunteer with Save the Teapots: assisted with 5 annual fundraising events, prepared TPS reports on behalf of Executive Director, presented on behalf of organization at local school(s).

      I agree that it doesn’t stand on its own, but it could be a solid supporting element.

    2. COT*

      Agreed–volunteering looks impressive when you demonstrate a significant commitment (think months or years) and/or a high-level role (leadership, event coordinator, etc.). As fun and awesome as this one day sounds, it doesn’t seem intense enough to be all that impressive to a hiring manager. If you keep doing it every few months? Then maybe it can go on. My personal threshold is that the time commitment should be at least a couple of hours a month before it’s resume-worthy.

  7. Josh S*

    #5: is it ever OK to call forget the letter ‘c’?

    “… likely to result only in (a) another lack of response, (b) a vague response, or (b) a rejection.”

    OK, it’s 2am here and I’m realizing how slap-happy I’m getting in my insomnia. The frequent strikethrus are a clue. So please, Alison, forgive me pointing out the typo above.

  8. Spreadsheet Monkey*

    #7 -Since you use the word “province,” I assume you are in Canada. I don’t know the specifics of university life in Canada. In the US, however, it generally takes months to apply for a master’s program, get accepted, and start. Just applying for the MA wouldn’t help fill a 3-month gap in a resume.

    1. Your Mileage May Vary*

      It may not take that long if it’s an online program, since they generally can take more students.

      Alison, I disagree that an online program isn’t as much of a gap-filler as a brick-and-morter program. My program is one-hundred percent online (except for the internship) and they advertise that perk pretty heavily. However, no one outside that department seems to be aware of it. I have work-study on campus and at the start of every semester, at midterm, and at finals, they are asking my my class schedule so they can fit in my work hours. They are always shocked to find that I’m not taking any traditional classes. And I can’t imagine anyone in the working world will realize that my coursework was all online either, unless they did the same program.

      The difference may lie in whether you are taking coursework from an online-only university and everyone knows that from TV commercials or if it’s a brick-and-morter university with online offerings.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Based on the OP’s description of her program, though, it sounds pretty different. My thinking is that if she’s going to argue to employers that it won’t interfere with a full-time job, it makes it hard to present it as a “full time” answer to what she’s been doing during the gap. It’s still a good answer, just not as good as if it were a traditional program.

      2. Judy*

        But the OP is stating that if she gets a job, she’ll be able to do it and the coursework. I think that’s why Alison is saying it’s not a resume filler. Unless it is one of the non-traditional online programs that offer a course at a time, and you have as much or as little time to complete it, you have to choose to take 1 course or 3 at a time, that is time-bound by the university’s schedule. So the OP applies and is accepted for summer, and chooses to take 2 courses during the 8 week summer session. You can’t work full time and do that. So for work availability, the OP chooses 1 course and doesn’t fill the resume.

        1. Chinook*

          If the OP is Canadian, then it is very possible that it is offered online one course at a time. I know of atleast one online university, Athabasca University, that is respected and offers all its courses separately as a type of correspondence school. It is based out of a tiny northern Alberta town many years ago to service students who couldn’t afford to move to the city to further their education. It is also used by the Canadian Forces for those working on a university degree from anywhere in Canada, sometimes while they are posted overseas.

          In other words, it is doable with right school.

            1. OP #7*

              Any suggestions to how I can fill that gap? Taking into consideration I have two small children who would require daycare. Volunteering is out and temp work would be almost impossible. Finding daycare on short notice is almost impossible from where I am from, and VERY expensive.

            1. OP #7*

              Athabasca is great I think if you need a course here or there to help finish a program. But not sure how credible it is for a whole degree.

        2. Your Mileage May Vary*

          Yeah, but just because she knows she could do the program and have a full-time job concurrently doesn’t mean that people reading her resume later will know that.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yes, but she’s asking about using it to fill a gap that she thinks she’ll be asked about by the same employers who she’ll need to convince that she can do the program and a full-time job at the same time.

            1. Your Mileage May Vary*

              Oh I see. In that case, I’d list it as a gap filler and when talking to the potential employers, I’d say that I had originally thought that my studies would take more time but I’ve found that I can easily do them while working. That excuse would buy her a semester or two gap.

              1. OP #7*

                Sorry it took so long for me to jump in…
                This program is from a well known University not a strictly online one. For entrance to this program you need to have overseas work experience and it does take a few months for a decision to be made and I am still only in the process of applying (I have a resume and reference letters that still needs to be submitted). Anyway, so yes this will not really count as a gap filler until the program actually starts in September. And at this rate I’m not even sure I’ll be working by then. So I don’t want to give up on this opportunity just yet. My problem is I have two small children, so i can’t volunteer, nor can I do temp work because the price of daycare (and even finding daycare) is impossible on such short notice. So I need to find something that will, a) increase my skills, b) bridge the gap on my resume, c) keep me busy so I don’t go insane. Now the argument is, that I can’t use it to bridge the gap if I can do both at the same time. Well I think I am stretching it, the program head has told me I will need up to 22 hours a week to focus on the work. Which to me is cutting it really close working full time (though doable if you manage your time really well). This is not the kind of online program that I have an unlimited amount of time to finish. I have 2 years and a set time for each course. The last semester is thesis work.
                I just don’t know what else to do to keep myself marketable. The longer I don’t work, the larger that gap gets on my resume, and I have limited options due to having two small children. I feel like I am caught between a rock and hard place.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  That worries me. A full-time job (let’s say 40-50 hours a week) plus 22 hours for school is 62-72 hours a week, plus taking care of kids. Are you sure working and school and child care at the same time will be right for you?

                2. fposte*

                  I think basically you’re going to look like you have a gap because you have a gap, whether you’re doing the master’s or not; there isn’t anything that looks like it fills it without actually, you know, filling it–requiring the time commitment of a regular workload. It’s not an incomprehensible or prohibitive gap, but unless the master’s is a key credential that’s really sought after in your field, it’s not going to provide you with the perception of momentum that you’re looking to it for.

                  I still think it might be a good time to do the master’s if you really want to do it, and I do think it could shed more positive light on your away-from-work period. But I think it might be more effective to face your out-of-workforce period straight on rather than trying to spackle education over it. “I’ve always wanted to go back for the master’s, and I thought I’d take advantage of this program, which allows me to spend more time with my young children and get reconnected in the country as I decide the next step in my career.”

                  You’re not even talking a very long gap here; it’s a common length, especially with people with children (and people who’ve moved countries!). It makes sense to be aware of your market viability, but I don’t think it’s quite the scarlet G you seem to be fearing :-).

                3. Erin*

                  OP #7

                  I’m pretty sure I know which school you’re talking about because I work for it! I’m a regular reader here too and it’s super informative but maybe not always the best info for Canadian readers because the job market here is so completely different. I totally relate to your concerns about a resume gap as well as what will happen when your program starts. If you want to talk more off the board I’d be happy to as well as maybe put you in touch with more people at the university that can go into further depth. I personally work with two alumni of the program you’re thinking of taking who would probably love to talk to you. One was a single mom with a couple of small kids at home so it might help you.

                  This is all assuming I have the right school :) if you’re interested just respond here and we can figure out how to contact.

                4. books*

                  replying to AAM’s comment below –> presumably, when she has a full time job, she will also have full time childcare

                5. Yvi*

                  “presumably, when she has a full time job, she will also have full time childcare”

                  With a full-time job, the studying will have to be in the evenings and on the weekends, when childcare might not be available. I also interpret AAM’s “child care” more as ‘wanting to spend time with the children’, like putting them to bed etc., which with a full.time job and 20+ hours of studying a week, sounds like a big challenge.

      3. OP #7*

        To clarify, this program is not from an online only University. They just have a few programs that offer this option. It does take about 2 months for them to adjudicate my application, and they don’t take more students in this program because the overseas part of the program we go completely as a class.

        1. OP #7*

          Yes, Alison, it seems crazy to think I can do all that. I guess i am just looking at the option right now. If I don’t find work by August (timeframe for accepting or declining admittance, I can choose to go ahead, or decline then. At least I have some time to decide.
          And fposte, thanks for the reassurance about the gap on my resume. Right now it is small, and I do have a good reason for it. It has just never taken me so long to find work before. Getting interviews has been a challenge. But thankfully after reading this blog, I have learned to try not to take it too personally. Thankfully, I have taken a step in the right direction and sent my resume to Alison to be reviewed. It will be good to know if my resume is the reason I might not be getting interviews.

          1. OP #7*

            Erin, I would love to talk to you more about this, and also be in touch with someone at the school. It is HIGHLY likely that we are talking about the same place because it is the only program of its kind in Canada.
            Yes, the job market is very different here, but I am still finding it difficult getting interviews. I’ve applied to over 30 jobs in the last 3 months and have had only one phone interview. I am not an idiot and have a lot of strong skills and a good work background. Very discouraging, though I am thankful there at least there are jobs to apply for, even though the market seems saturated with communications people right now (since the big federal gov’t lay-off last fall).
            How should we be in touch??

            1. Erin*

              There are TONS of communications people out there (I’m also one) which makes it very competitive.

              I didn’t want to put my email address out there so I just set one up that we can use to get started. You can reach me at rrucanada2013 @ gmail . com

              1. OP #7*

                Erin, I just emailed you….be sure to check your spam folder in case. And yes, looking at your email address, we are talking about the same University.

        2. Canuck*

          I knew which University it was, right away as well. As you might be able to tell by my username, it’s in the same Province where I’m from :)

          It is a well known University that offers graduate degrees, and has several programs that cater to people who work full time or live out of Province.

          1. OP #7*

            Yes Canuck, I am quite excited at the prospect of studying at the University. It’s a beautiful city too, and the two weeks I’ll get to spend there will great. I’m in Ontario so it’s far from where I am.

  9. Chuck*

    #2 – I hope this is one of the stories that we hear about at the end of the year. I want to find out how this ended!

  10. Jamie*

    Reimbursement for the little stuff? Why not?

    Before I had a company credit card if I’d get reimbursed for bringing in half and half or non- flavored creamer and that was a couple of bucks. They could have kept the money if I could have gotten a straight answer to the eternal question of ‘why on earth do you buy 6 different kinds of flavored creamer and nothing lain so one could just have a regale cupof coffee?’ Because I still don’t get that.

    1. perrik*

      At a previous job, I submitted a reimbursement request for four boxes of Peeps. I can’t even recall why we had a business need for Peeps, but it was legit (and was reimbursed cheerfully).

      Flavored creamer, ugh.

      1. Eric*

        Somebody at my office (no one knows who) will sometimes sneak in early and make hazelnut coffee in the communal coffee urn. That is just wrong.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I love the “no one knows who” here. It implies people have tried to track down the perpetrator and failed, and that he/she is deliberately not outing herself.

        2. Bess*

          WHO WOULD DO THAT???? I count that as in the “serious crimes against co-workers” category.

      2. Sue D. O'Nym*

        In a previous life, when I worked in a theme park, the 2 weeks around Easter were our busiest time. Our managers gave us incentives to hit our capacity targets. As we would be moving our vehicles (we actually drove) from the unload area to the load area, a manager would be at the side of the road, and they would toss an easter egg to us.

        Some of them contained coupons for the cafeteria, some contained a small toy, and some (most) contained peeps.

        We did very well those two weeks. We all got sick of peeps. To the point where even today, 7 years later, I still can’t eat peeps.

    2. Elizabeth*

      Every September, I get reimbursed for 6 cases of Coke, Diet Coke & Diet Dr Pepper. Our department houses the training lab, plus we have a kitchen. The CFO is addicted to Diet Coke, and the Controller has to have her Diet Dr Pepper. So, when we’re doing 10 hours a day for a month of budget sessions in the lab, I stock our fridge with their preferred pop so that they can get through the insanity.

  11. kdizzle*

    #1- I completely agree with submitting the reimbursement for mileage; I used to approve plenty of reimbursements and wouldn’t think twice about paying someone for that.

    Now, we did have one individual who used to return from travel and submit receipts for his toothpaste. One tube, each trip. We were a university, and he was earning over $250k, so those receipts somehow got lost in my “to shred” pile. Students shouldn’t have to pay mountains of tuition to buy your toothpaste. …I guess I also informed him that although we didn’t have a formal policy on not reimbursing for toothpaste, it was a bit of a stretch to say it was critical to supporting the mission of the university.

    1. Judy*

      Our travel policy says it will not pay for personal items, except for laundry for trips lasting more than 7 days.

      1. Frances*

        Yeah, I’ve been doing university reimbursements for several years and toiletries are an unallowable expense at our school except when you are doing fieldwork for a month or more.

        I have had a faculty member try to submit a receipt for a pack of gum he bought at the airport, though, since we do cover “snacks.” Our budget manager ruled it was not a snack if you couldn’t possibly eat the whole thing in one sitting.

        1. EngineerGirl*

          Unless the person had problems with their ears popping under pressurization. But maybe a box of Hear-Os would have been better.

        2. Jamie*

          Gum? Is that even worth keeping the receipt, typing it into a line on an expense account, and having someone look at it to determine if it’s a legitimate expense or not?

          I cannot imagine being in a place in my life – financially, emotionally, or mentally – where I’m keeping receipts for gum.

        3. K*

          I would love to have a post on what constitutes acceptable reimbursement (assuming your company, like mine, just applies a general “use your discretion” policy). I feel like there are a lot of sticky situations. For instance, what about checked baggage fees when you’re extending your trip for a weekend and probably could have done carry-on if not? Or, I don’t put in receipts for snacks, but I have submitted them for airport snacks when they substituted for whatever meal I’m missing on the plane. How about upgrading your rental car to all-wheel drive when you’re worried about possible (but not certain) bad weather and are a bigger-than-usual wimp about driving in the snow? I feel like there are a lot of line drawing issues here.

          1. The IT Manager*

            I always check bags. I pretty much never fly for just a day – usually at least three. But I am not hauling my clothes for several days or more through the airport and onto the plane. Especially restricting my toiletries (contact lens cleaner and slaine solution) to a small enough amount that you can carry on the plane.

            In fact IMO since people who carry on bags take up extra time at the security check and in boarding the plane, I think they should be the ones charged a baggage fee.

            I have always worked for the US government and their policy has always been very clear.

            1. The IT Manager*

              Sorry. This came out terse and I didn;t mean to. But I needed to finish up quickly.

            2. Lillie Lane*

              ITA. I haven’t flown in years so I don’t know about checked bag fees nowadays, but it always annoyed me to see people drag huge bags as “carry-ons” and either stuff them into compartments or be told to leave them at the plane door….I would be super annoyed now if I had paid a fee for checked baggage and now saw that same thing!

              1. K*

                It’s actually incredibly irritating. Standard operating procedure now is for everyone to take their suitcases to the gate; half then have to “gate check” them, but it’s free. It’d all be avoided if you could just check them for free to begin with and let the people on a super tight timeframe or with fragile camera equipment or whatnot carry their bags on.

                1. The IT Manager*

                  I don’t think charging for checked bags is the real factor in driving the change. So many business (often) people are in a rush so they want to skip baggage claim or worry that their baggage will be lost that this problem manifested itself before the airlines started charging for even your first checked bag. But the new charges are certainly a factor and if they charged for carry-on bags then some people just trying to save money would stop and getting on a plane would speed up a bit and might be more pleasant.

                2. Laura L*

                  Yeah, I started doing this sometimes after realizing that if your bag was gate-checked it was free. It’s definitely annoying when I have to check a bag (because it’s clearly too big to be a carry-on).

                  Now, for short trips, I travel with a duffle bag that can be squished into small areas of the overhead bins. That works pretty well.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Not as egregious, but I once had someone submit a reimbursement for a hat that he bought during a long-distance work drive, explaining that the sun had been in his eyes.

    3. K*

      I imagine he didn’t want to check luggage and kept forgetting to buy travel-sized tubes, but that’s pretty ridiculous.

    4. kdizzle*

      Sometimes I think this person existed for the sole purpose of forcing us to strictly codify our reimbursement policies. His attitude was, “what do I have to lose by submitting this?” We got receipts for everything…toothpaste, hair gel, tic tacs, a tie from costco, minibar alcohol, hotel movies, etc, etc, etc. It never deterred him when I gave him a “wtf” look, told him it was ridiculous, and please don’t do that again.

    5. Lora*

      This is why it’s easier to have a per diem instead. Less receipts, people can choose to spend their per diem on fast food and toothpaste or sit-down restaurants and pack their own Colgate.

      Plus, sometimes when you travel to weird places, you cannot possibly eat in restaurants using the meal spending limits some companies have inflicted on me. I recall several trips in which I had to go to the grocery store, purchase food to stick in the hotel fridge, and lived off PB&J, fruit, carrot sticks & hummus, microwave nachos, canned soup and oatmeal for a week. And don’t get me started on the tipping rules…

      Make your life easy, make everyone’s life easy. Nobody’s going to spend $50/day on an embarrassing Charlie Sheen party, but they can at least buy a decent cup of coffee, a tube of toothpaste, and have a sit-down dinner with dessert. Plus it sends the signal to employees that you trust them to act like grownups, which is always nice.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        I once worked for a city that had very specific limits on spending. For me, a peon, it was $6 for lunch, and no I couldn’t use some of my dinner money for lunch. A manager would get more.

        I was sent to a conference in a fancy hotel away from the small town, with no transportation, so there were no options except for the hotel food, and for $6, I could get soup for lunch.

        The difference in reimbursement between managers and me helped me understand the phrase “high muckamuck” which comes from Chinook jargon and means “plenty to eat”.

        1. Lora*

          “A manager would get more.”
          This part was what really used to frost my buns. Our Sales department was entitled to spend more on meals than R&D. The explanation was, “Sales is a Profit Center, R&D is a Cost Center. When you eat, you’re just eating our money. When Sales eats, it’s a marketing exercise.” I pointed out that state law said that hosting pharma “customers” (doctors) even for burgers and fries was illegal, not much of a marketing exercise, to no avail.

    6. aname*

      I worked somewhere that due to the industry we wouldn’t allow alcohol to be reimbursed. So they’d be told to deduct the ?£3.00 drink and replace it with a £5 per day ‘per diem’ allowance instead.

  12. CatB*

    #2: I was in a position somewhat similar a few eons ago (2007, to be precise). In a sales team I had one particular Sales Rep ready to leave (not to another company, he just couldn’t stand anymore the way the owner-and-acting-CEO was treating him). As I prefer to keep people as long as it didn’t hamper the business and as this particular SR had potential, I “promoted” him from SR to Brand Manager and significantly enlarged his autonomy, as long as he produced certain results we both agreed on. I then gathered the whole team and explained that I prefer to find solutions to keep everyone on board as long as the business goals were met and / or exceeded, that I might as well do something similar for any of them in certain conditions and that we’re dealing with (a) an attempt to keep a good colleague from leaving while (b) the end result is what mattered most. I guess some SRs weren’t that happy but none of them left while I managed them.

    In the end, in my case what worked was speaking openly and explaining and conveying the sense that I did want to go to the bat (is this correct?) for any of them in any way they found useful, as long as they delivered.

    So, maybe if you can find out what analyst #2 might want and if you could provide that within a decent timeframe, you could extract yourself from the pit you (inadvertently, I guess) dug for yourself.

    1. anon-2*

      Yeah, but what’s a decent time frame for the pass-over-ee in that situation?

      If I were in analyst #2’s situation – “something we can work toward” is not going to be acceptable, if she was truly better at the job.

      I have done this – “retroactive to when it should have been done”…. with the compromise point being this week.

      I realize companies don’t give out retroactive raises, but they do and they don’t and they do and they don’t, well, really, they do. They’re called “stay bonuses”, accompanied by the promotion.

      1. CatB*

        Yeah, OP’s situation is trickier than mine because I prepared all the moves in advance and knew my colleagues well. “Decent timeframe” is a very situationally and personally specific concept and it might very well be that OP will lose one of the two (or both) in spite of all their efforts, unless the company provides all necessary resources quickly enough.

  13. Paging Q #7!!!!*

    What school is your Masters program with? I have been looking for something similar, but have a hard time finding an online program. I’d appreciate any info you can share. Thank you!

    1. OP #7*

      It’s with Royal Roads University in Victoria, British Columbia. It’s the only program of its kind in Canada, and when I researched International communications programs only Australia had one like this (that I found anyway).
      There is a mandatory 2 week in-class portion, and a 3 week overseas portion. The rest is online.

  14. Jubilance*

    #2 – What a horrible situation. If I was one of your other employees, I’d be upset too. Sounds like all you can do moving forward is try to show your appreciation for your higher performers in other ways, and be clear in your expectations of higher performance from the employee that you retained.

    #3 – the LW calls the career day talk an “acheivement” – interesting choice of words. Were they selected to talk or just asked or volunteered to do it. Using “achievement” when discussing some K-12 outreach seems like a stretch, but maybe it’s just me. Either way I agree it shouldn’t be on a resume, especially if it was a one time thing.

    1. fposte*

      The only way I can see the specific presentation as mention-worthy is if you’re transitioning to something youth-aimed, and even there you’d touch on it in a cover letter and not mention it on a resume.

  15. Hmm*

    Re #3, what type of volunteer activities deserve to be on resumes? I volunteer with several different animal rescue organizations which takes up a few hours of my time each month, but I mostly just help when and where I’m needed. I can’t decide if or how this should go on my resume.

    1. The IT Manager*

      Preferably volunteer work on your resume should demonstrate work-related skills. While it is awesome that you do volunteer, if all you do is manual labor and are apply for office jobs, then the volunteer experience is unfortunately not really relevent.

      It doesn’t have to be an exact match, though, because things like leading even a small committee or organizing an event deomstrate interpersonal and management skills.

      If you are employeed, it’s best to leave the volunteer “grunt” work off the resume. If you’re not and are looking to fill a resume hole that’s a harder question to answer. If you’re looking to fill a resume hole, you’ll definately want “professional”-type volunteer experience.

    2. fposte*

      Depends what else you’re doing and putting on your resume and what kind of jobs you’re applying for. It doesn’t need to go on just because you do it, but if it shows something about you–length of commitment, social awareness, interest in animal welfare, the fact that you’ve been busy while unemployed–that’s not otherwise obvious and would be relevant to a prospective employer, it might be worth including. I wouldn’t do a separate line for each organization, though–just “Animal rescue organizations including Teacup Yorkies Go Home, Some Bad Dogs, and Save the Geckos.”

      1. Hmm*

        It’s not a direct match, but I do project management in my day job, so I work on developing teams. For the rescues, I work on developing teams that can pull animals from shelters, transport them, and foster. So I guess it’s sort of related.

        1. The IT Manager*

          I think you can easily write that up as achievements and accomplishment to be a nice addition to your resume. “Developing teams” seems like a good start.

  16. Forrest*

    For #2, did the manager open himself up to a potential lawsuit from the female employee? Could she argue discrimination (whether the manager intended it or not?)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      A single incident of a man being promoted (or paid more, or given a better opportunity) than a woman isn’t inherently discriminatory; there are all kinds of reasons that happens that have nothing to do with sex. She’d need more evidence to show either a pattern or a discriminatory intent.

  17. AA*

    #5 – calling to follow up

    While I agree there is really nothing to be gained by calling (other than perhaps a quicker “no” — you won’t get to yes quicker), I once had a situation where a few weeks had gone by and they called to see if I was still interested before going on to the next step in the process.

    This makes me wonder if you should check in every couple weeks to reiterate your interest. It might not be the norm, but I’m sure some HMs do think, “Well, I haven’t heard from X in a couple weeks. He must not be THAT interested.”

      1. AA*

        Gotcha. . .yeah, that’s what I would do, but I guess the OP had already done that once.

    1. fposte*

      I wouldn’t be sure that some HMs think that, actually. Unless it was different than the way you phrased it, they didn’t call you because you stopped calling them, they called because things had gone on for a while and they wanted to make sure you hadn’t been hired elsewhere before they moved forward on your candidacy. They were being extra polite, not wondering where you’d gotten to.

      If you call every few weeks, you’ve got a greater chance of ticking somebody off than reminding them you exist.

      1. Anonymous*

        Thanks for the comments. It makes sense to really imagine what they would actually say to me if I called, or any other further action I would take.

  18. Joey*

    #2. You can’t manage your way out of it without some casualties. In essence you’ve just told your staff that you lowered the bar either for everyone or only one person. You’re going to have to live with the consequences. Unfortunately the only way you’ll get out of it without lowering the bar for everyone is for people leave your team.

    If you predicted it would be a problem as you mentioned why in the hell did you go through with the counteroffer?

      1. Manager from Question #2*

        Well, I had about 4 months between when I stuck the deal with employee #1 and when #1’s “promotion” kicked in. I had ample time then to reflect on what a lame decision I had made. Predictions did occur in that time period.

    1. Lynn*

      Why does this sort of thing happen so commonly? I’ve gotten weird counter-offers like this twice (turned them both down). One place I worked was really notorious for it. I had told them for *years* I wanted a promotion, and tried to develop my skills accordingly, but no promotion was forthcoming. I found a job elsewhere and turned in my resignation, and the NEXT DAY they had matched the money and said “oh, the guy who heads the Walrus Team is retiring; we could promote you to that.”

      I’d been telling them for years that that’s what I wanted! So where the hell was the Walrus Team Lead position the day *before* I turned in my resignation? If you think I’m ready, I don’t want to go through all the drama of offers and resigning and counter-offers to get an appropriate position. If you think I’m not ready, don’t do me any “favors” by setting me up for failure.

      Why does it happen so often?

      1. PEBCAK*

        I don’t want to say it’s always sexism (and EG touched on that in some earlier comments), but it’s sadly not uncommon for male leadership to not see women as “management material”, even though they couldn’t name a single objective criteria for how someone gets moved into a supervisory role.

      2. anon-2*

        In some industries (like mine, computer analysis) it’s common.

        That’s not the way the world SHOULD be, but it is.

  19. shawn*

    Regarding #1, I can understand your thought process because I was in a similar situation previously. My last job was with a non-profit. When I first started and racked up any sort of mileage I would submit for reimbursement (just like was standard and expected in my job before that). All of our jobs required semi-frequent trips out for various supplies, lunches, meetings, etc. My supervisor never denied the reimbursement, but it didn’t take me too long to find out that no one else was doing this and it wasn’t encouraged for employees to submit for mileage reimbursement. My supervisor never once made any statements like “make sure to get that turned in for your meeting last week” or anything like that. Maybe I was reading into it too much, but at that company it seemed like the expectation was not to do it so I didn’t want to ruffle any feathers. I stopped submitting for any sort of reimbursement (we wouldn’t be talking about a huge sum of money, but it’s still an expense I ended up eating).

    1. KayDay*

      I work at a non-profit as well, and have an informal “it’s-up-to-the-employee” policy for many small reimbursements. So I won’t hound people to turn in a reimbursement request for minor things; but I am more than happy to grant most requests, without judgement. I would expect junior employees to request reimbursement for metro fares and supplies, but senior employees usually don’t bother with very small expenses.

      Also, for small amounts we do one of two things–either give them petty cash immediately (no formal request needed, just a receipt) -or- the employee saves up receipts for a quarter and submits the reimbursement request at the end of the quarter. We would not normally cut a check for a single expense under a few dollars.

      1. Jamie*

        Yep – as someone said above that’s what petty cash is for, the little stuff.

        TBH I wouldn’t have even bothered, except I was trying to make a point and used it to state a case for plain creamer…because seriously.

        But for the little stuff here and there around town – I personally wouldn’t bother, but I wouldn’t look askance at someone who did. If it’s owed to you there is no shame in asking…I guess for me what amounts to a couple of dollars isn’t worth the paperwork.

        But for the little stuff I’d just use petty cash – it’s ridiculous to go through AP for a dollar or two.

  20. some1*

    Question related to #2: If someone turned down a job offer because the current employer counter-offered and the candidate accepted, would you black-ball them for hiring in the future?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Black-ball is a little strong, but I’d be wary about considering them in the future, figuring that I might go through the entire process with them only to have them decide to stay where they are. Obviously people are free to turn down offers and an employer should never assume that someone will take the job if it’s offered to them, but counter-offers are a little different. It’s fine to compare my offer to your current job and decide you like your current job better, but if all it takes is more money for you to stay where you are, I’m less interested in putting in all that work with you again.

      1. PEBCAK*

        Have you had candidates mention counter-offers? I’ve turned down jobs before, and always been pretty vagues on my reasons (i.e. “not a good fit”).

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I never have, but I like to think I do a good job of pre-qualifying candidates before we’re at the offer stage.

          But from what I hear from others, candidates who take a counter-offer do often explain to the other employer that that’s why they’re turning it down.

          1. tcookson*

            I don’t know if it’s just academia, but each time we’ve done a search for a new faculty position, there’s speculation among the current faculty about which candidates are simply leveraging a counter-offer from their current university.

            1. Lillie Lane*

              I was on a search committee that chose a candidate that was using it for a counteroffer. So incredibly annoying and he held up the hiring for the better part if a year, plus we had to re-start the search from scratch. This was a niche discipline and I still think of that guy as a douchebag; I’m sure others on the committee do too. I feel bad for the folks that were legitimately interested in the faculty position but had to wait and ultimately lost out on the opportunity.

  21. Jamie*

    I have nothing to add, except that I’ve never understood counter offers. They make no sense to me.

    If I have reasons for leaving other than money – after the excitement of the raise wears off (which is about 15 minutes after the first new amount on the stub) you have the same problems you had before.

    And if I love my job and the only reason I’m leaving is money – because I have no other areas of discontent? Well if they didn’t have enough money to keep me, but somehow suddenly found it just because someone else wanted me…well, now I’m feeling insulted and disgruntled so this caused me to have more issues than just money.

    And I know I’m kind of a hypocrite because I have quit and been talked into rescinding my resignation before – but I hadn’t even been looking and it’s easier to convince yourself to stay when you’re facing a job hunt unemployed than when you have a good offer on the table. (Not something I would recommend, btw, and I wouldn’t do it now.)

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Not all counter-offers are about money. If you’ve been stuck in Chocolate Teapot QC for a few years, and you get an opportunity to start in Chocolate Teapot design somewhere else, the counter-offer could be an opportunity to do design within your current company. If you like the company but are just sick to death of QC, it’s less risky than moving companies.

      OTOH, I don’t know why people don’t look for/get the internal opportunities like that sooner. I think it’s harder to speak up and tell your manager you no longer want to work for her, and it’s easier to ignore you if you do because you’re valuable where you are.

      1. Mike C.*

        A lot of companies are unwilling to allow employees to advance or never consider long term employees. I worked at a place like that, and it was simply crazy.

    2. S. Martin*

      Twice I’ve had companies try to talk me out of quitting. Both times I had nothing else lined up. The first company made an offer that actually addressed all my reasons for leaving, it was effectively an immediate transfer to another part of the company. I ended up staying with the company for two more years, and never regretted it. Having said that, if I’d had an offer in hand somewhere else I probably would have gone with that. Staying was a gamble that just happenned to pay off for me, but I wouldn’t expect it to do so again.

      The second company couldn’t possibly have come up with something that would have kept me. The only thing I regret is not getting out of that toxic environment sooner.

  22. Judy*

    Counter offers: We had a college intern that was great. He was a late life student, and really hit the ground running. He was here part time during school and full time over breaks for 2.5 years before graduating. When he graduated, the organization offered him a contract position. He received an offer at graduation from another company in town. He went to the manager and asked him if they could hire him full time with benefits. He was told no. So he turned in his resignation. The manager then said “If you had told me you had an offer, we could have worked with you to hire you into a permanent position.”

    Some days that still makes me mad. The wanted him, but not as a direct hire unless someone else did.

      1. anon-2*

        But that’s the way the real world works. It’s not just your skills, it’s your strength and marketability that also counts.

  23. A Bug!*

    I think everything I would say with respect to the actual questions has already been covered by other commenters.

    So I’d just like to say that I love the term “clusterfudge”. (Clusterfudge Mfg., the Goofus to Chocolate Teapots’ Gallant.)

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      Me too! And it did go with the whole chocolate teapot theme. But now you’ve revived fond memories of the really bad comics in Highlights, a magazine I haven’t thought of since the last time I was sitting in a doctor’s waiting room.

    2. Anonymoose*

      “Only I didn’t say ‘fudge.’ I said THE WORD, the big one, the queen-mother of dirty words, the F-dash-dash-dash word!”

      1. jubileejones*

        Best Christmas movie ever! The school scenes were filmed at my school and I was an extra.

    3. jubileejones*

      +1 for the Highlights reference. I keep wanting to make a Goofus v. Gallant comparison for a while but didn’t think anyone would get it.

      1. anon-2*

        Yes, but sometimes Goofus advances himself, because he’s willing to take action – and control of his own situation, while Gallant sits back, smiles, and takes whatever is handed to him.

        Think about it.

  24. Parfait*

    The only time I ever got a counter, there was no possible way I would have accepted it. Shudder. Horribly managed company, lowest morale I’ve ever seen, and a stressful commute to boot.

    Actually, they gave me a small raise shortly before I resigned, because the manager had figured out I was interviewing. I accepted THAT, but it didn’t stop me from resigning 3 weeks later!

  25. BCW*

    For #2, my question is, would being honest with the employee really be that bad? I mean we are all adults and know how business works. Its about how you phrase it. If it was phrased that “Bob was thinking about leaving, and we value him as a member of this team, so he was given X,Y,and Z to stay” I think reasonable people can understand that. Now if Bob was a slacker, which it doesn’t sound like he is, then yes they may be angry. But if he does his job well enough, its understandable in my opinion.

    If I found out that a colleague who was doing good, not great, work got a raise because they were going to leave otherwise, I don’t know that I’d be terribly upset. The reason is because it would make my job far more difficult for a while as they searched for her replacement, then I had to train the replacement, and deal with the replacement’s learning curve.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The problem there is that it’s a huge morale buster to tell an employee that in order to get rewarded, regardless of your performance, you just have to go find another job. It also sends your employees out looking for other offers, which they might take.

      1. anon-2*

        BCW – It might be acceptable to the manager attempting to rationalize his bad decision, and will probably make him feel a little better — as long as manager #2 said to employee #2 – “and by the way — I really messed up. We are making it up to you. You are receiving the same promotion – IMMEDIATELY — “.

        And a stay bonus — or some gesture — would be nice, too.

        But if he shrugs and says “and so it goes. Sorry. TOO BAD!” it’s going to make matters worse.

  26. Chriama*

    Alison, out of general curiosity what is your opinion on counter offers from the employer side? Should you offer them? Are there certain situations where you would offer them and others where you wouldn’t?

      1. Chriama*

        Those are a lot of good points. So basically, if an employee is planning to leave they should go ahead and do it, and the company shouldn’t try to keep them.

        I’ve heard about companies where you have to threaten to leave in order to get a raise. I know it’s a bad management style, but why would a company decide to go that route?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Well, broadly speaking, just really inept management with a lack of understanding of the importance of attracting and retaining the right people on your team. More specifically, I think it’s probably an (inexplicable) disbelief that anyone will really leave and/or hesitance to reward people without some kind of outside validation that they’re really worth it. That’s just a guess though.

          1. Chriama*

            My opinion would be that those employers are being short-sighted (and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are other organizational problems in such an environment).

            I think, though, this is just one of those situations where people have different opinions of ‘reasonable’. It took me a long time to understand that the most logical argument in my head can differ from someone else’s logic, and it’s not like either of us is twisting facts to suit our point of view — it’s just that we literally see the same facts differently.

  27. anon in tejas*

    #1. I dealt with this at my last job. I came up with an internal threshold of it was worth my time. I had to turn in mileage/meals/parking reimbursement with my timesheet bimonthly. I would not be remibursed for all of the aforementioned things, but there and there occasionally. I decided that for me the threshold was $10. If it would break $10, I would request reimbursement. It felt like $10 was worth my filling out the form, and I was never denied reimbursement because of the small amount. there are so many who live pay check to pay check, sometimes $10 matters. It’s not your employer’s business whether you are in the camp, but it’s your call. That might help you figure out a method to the reimbursement madness.

  28. anon-2*

    #2 – oh, have I ever seen this happen! Many, many times!

    Sometimes managers will promote someone in such a fashion – not thinking (duh!) that they PASSED OVER a better internal candidate.

    Did the manager THINK about this? Did he ever stop to think about the effects on the staff?

    Now, if I were a boss — how I would have handled it in the first place, is counter-offer with a raise but no promotion. This way no one knows.

    But in this scenario – the manager has painted himself into a corner. What I would tell employee #2 is – “OK – well, uh, the paperwork on YOUR promotion is on its way through.”

    And take care of it. NOW. Not “well by golly, gee whiz or maybe, maybe next year, yada yada yada.” If you want to keep employee #2 motivated – you have to FIX YOUR MISTAKE. And do so now.

    Or – well, make up a BS story how the other guy was better than #2, you can be like him, be like him, he’s good, oh, yeah….

    You’ll at least cover yourself when #2 resigns for another job and tells HR “why the hell did I put in all that effort for this place?”

    Don’t worry about #3, or #4, etc. They have already picked up on your mistake.

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