wee answer Wednesday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

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

1. My boss told my coworker and me to decide which of us will get a promotion

I’ve been working at a county government job for just about 10 years, and I’m 30 years old. We maintain roads and bridges for our county. My boss called me and another employee to the side and let us know that a master operator position will be available soon due to an employee retiring. The thing that I feel is strange is what he said next, which was that it was up to me and this other employee to come to an agreement about which one of us should get the promotion, because he wasn’t going to decide. He gave reasons why we both have what it takes to be a master operator, and he said he didn’t want to make the decision. I’m aggressive and other employees listen to me and respect me, which the other guy lacks, but the other guy is a better operator, which I feel I can improve with time. How am I and this other employee going to come to a decision of which one of us should get the promotion?

Your boss is a complete and utter ass. Telling the two of you to decide which of you will get a promotion, like it’s Hunger Games or something? Agree between the two of you to go back to him and tell him that neither of you is comfortable making that decision — or that you can’t reach an agreement — and that it’s something he should decide.

2. Contracting with a company that turned down my employer for the same work

I have been approached by a company to do some work for them on a contract basis. This company previously contacted my employer to get a quote on the company doing the contract work. The hourly rate was too high and they did not go with our company. (We work with this company quite a bit. They have many different departments, and this happens to be a new one. The person that contacted me is a colleague of my husband, who said they wanted to hire a person for this position, but there is a hiring freeze. My name had come up a few times as someone to talk to about doing the job on a contract basis.)

I would like to accept this job, in addition to keeping my regular job. I am paid very poorly and could use the extra money. What is the best way to approach my boss with this arrangement? I currently work 37 hours per week, and this job would be an additional 20 hours per week.

You can certainly tell your boss that you were approached about this and are interested in doing the work, but I’d be prepared for your boss to be less than thrilled about you essentially undercutting the company and moonlighting for a client. So approach it as “would this be okay to do?” attitude, not “I am doing this.”

3. Is it weird that I didn’t tell my boss my father is dead?

I graduated from college last May and have been interning for a company since my last year of school. My boss is really easy to get along with and we have casual conversations from time to time, which I enjoy. On more than one occasion, he has referenced my father in passing, such as saying something like, “Your dad probably knows what I’m talking about” after an anecdote from before my time or “Make sure your dad likes him” after I mention that my boyfriend is coming to town. Actually, my father died when I was a toddler. I have no problem whatsoever talking about it, but I’ve always gone along with/simply ignored comments like these while chatting with my boss because I know mentioning such a thing would stop a conversation with someone I don’t have a personal relationship with dead in its tracks and I don’t want to make things awkward for anyone.

However, this week, my boss asked my what my father did for a living, so then, of course, I finally told him my father passed away when I was child. His reaction was perfectly kind and somewhat embarrassed. The moment has passed and I’m not really worried about any lingering effects on our work relationship, but I feel bad because I’m afraid I may have caused some of that embarrassment by not mentioning this earlier. I’d simply like your perspective and what you would think if this happened with an employee of yours. Is it odd that I didn’t just mention it the first time?

Yeah, it’s a little odd but not a disaster. Your boss might feel a little weird that he’s been referencing your dad this whole time, but I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

For what it’s worth, though, I wouldn’t assume that simply explaining, “My dad died when I was young” will stop a conversation in its tracks or cause so much awkwardness that you should avoid it. It’s perfectly appropriate to mention it if you want to.

4. Can I waive my right to overtime pay?

I have been working at two different jobs for the past few years. One that I really like is a full-time job, and I would like to get more hours there. I have asked my boss to give me more hours so that I could quit my part-time gob. He told me he can not afford to pay me overtime and has refused my request several times. I have mentioned to him I do not want overtime pay, I just love working there, and am happy to get paid regular pay, not overtime. He told me it might be against the law. Even if I request to not be paid overtime, is this true? I just do not like my part-time job, plus this one pays more per hour and I like it.

Yes, it’s true. The law does not allow you to waive your right to overtime pay, and your employer would be breaking the law by not paying it, even if you ask them not to. (Assuming that you’re non-exempt, that is.)

5. Is this rejection letter rude?

I received the following rejection letter after phone interview and three-and-a-half-hour in-person interview (with no break; first with three people at once and then each person separately along with a fourth person): “Thank you for spending your time with us last Wednesday, interviewing for the ___ position. We enjoyed meeting you and appreciated your professionalism throughout the process. At this time, we have decided that you will not be a fit for this position and our recruitment process will continue. We wish you success with your job search. Thank you, again, for your interest in our company.”

I thought it was very cold to say I was not a fit for the position. Maybe something like, “We are looking for difference skill sets, etc.” Is it me, or was this a rather rude, standard email after four hours worth of interviews?

It’s a pretty standard rejection letter and not particularly rude. It’s not the best wording I’ve ever seen, but it’s hardly a slap in the face either. Don’t read too much into it.

6. Answering “when can you start?” on job applications

I am currently employed, but applying to new opportunities as they arise. A lot of electronic applications I encounter ask me to choose my available start date from a calendar (no option to write in text for “2 weeks after accepted offer”). What is the norm here? My instinct is to always choose a month out to allow for the interview process (which would likely be longer) and a two week notice period. I am hesitant to choose today’s date, as that may look like I am not currently employed (which I am). What should I put in this situation where they’re only allowing a date as an entry?

This is a prime example of job applications designed by someone who hasn’t stopped to consider whether the question makes sense or not. When you can start depends on when you get and accept an offer; for nearly everyone, that’s what it will be based on. Even if you use your idea of choosing a date a month away, you have no way of knowing how long their interview process will take; plenty of them takes months and months.

If you’d start two weeks after accepting an offer, I’d just put something between two and four weeks. You’re not going to be rigidly held to it (i.e., if you write “May 24” today and you’re offered a job on May 20, they’re not going to point to your application and say, “But you said you could start May 24.” Or, if they do, they’re being ridiculous.

7. What should I charge as a freelancer?

I’m in a bit of a pickle and hope you may have some advice for me. In a nutshell, I was approached by someone I don’t know via LinkedIn with a freelance proposal. After checking into his background and exchanging several emails, I’m very eager to work with him in a freelance capacity. However, I’ve never had to negotiate as a freelancer and am not sure how to continue. In our latest correspondence he pitched his proposal to me and said: “This is an investment on my part, so I need to know what rate you’d be willing to work if you were pretty much full-time for 3-4 months.”

I have no idea how to answer this question. As far as experience in the field he’d be hiring me for, I have about 3-4 years of professional experience. I’m also horrendous at math, so the thought of calculating rates for myself seems incredibly daunting and scary.

I guess my biggest concern is not wanting to low-ball myself, but also not wanting to suggest a rate that’s absolutely ridiculous and makes me seem foolish and unprofessional.

Typically people earn a higher hourly rate when they’re freelancing than when they’re doing the same work as a full-time employee. This is because as a freelancer, you’re responsible for your own payroll taxes (and they’re more than you think!), don’t get benefits like health care or paid time off, don’t have the stability of a regular job, etc.

A common rule of thumb is to figure out what a salary for this work would break down to hourly (you can use your past salary if it’s a pretty good match for the work), and then double it. If you’re like most new freelancers, you’ll feel anxious asking for that amount, but it’s really what people do, and if this guy has benchmarked freelancers at all, he shouldn’t be put off. You can also try searching for online forums for people who freelance in your field and seeing if you can find info on typical rates that way — but if you can’t, this is a pretty reliable way to go.

{ 132 comments… read them below }

  1. Josh S*

    #4: Waive OT pay
    It sounds like the OP is asking whether they can waive time-and-a-half pay and just take their regular hourly rate for the hours worked. The answer, again, is no you cannot waive the higher OT rate.

    If you work more than 40 hours/week (and are non-exempt), you must be paid for the hours worked AND you must be paid a premium rate (typically time-and-a-half) for those extra hours.

    So if your typical pay is $10/hr, your employer is required to pay you $15/hr (minimum) for any time worked beyond 4o hours.

      1. Josh S*

        Maybe my 1:30am reading comprehension is slow, too. :) I really should have gone to bed like 2 hours ago.

  2. PEBCAK*

    #2: Your company will almost certainly NOT let you take on additional work that competes with them. In fact, any large company would make you sign agreements that you won’t do this even after you leave (although many times, those are unenforceable or poorly enforced).

    1. Jessa*

      Exactly my thought. If it was a job your company waved off because it’s just not their field, I could see maybe that they’d let you do it off book. But the client waved it off due to COST? You’d be undercutting your company, I’m with PEBCAK here. No way. And if I were the boss here I’d be really put off that this would be something you’d consider. I’d also wonder if your pay was too high. Since this outside job wouldn’t pay what you were worth and wanted to lowball the job. AND you’re still willing to take it? It’d certainly factor in any decisions about your future pay. Also, it’s kind of backstabby.

      1. Yvi*

        “I’d also wonder if your pay was too high. Since this outside job wouldn’t pay what you were worth and wanted to lowball the job. AND you’re still willing to take it?”

        While this is definitely not something I’d recommend, just because it’s not cost-effective for the OP’s company to get paid the rate they were offered doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be cost-effective for the OP herself to take that pay. The company also has to pay overhead like admin staff, offices etc. from that money, which the OP would not have to account for.

        1. Jessa*

          I guess my point is more that the employee is working for a company that charges x. If they’re willing to work for x minus whatever, why are they there. There has to be some respect or something that makes it worthwhile. Because if the company was actually overcharging for the market, then the employee could go somewhere else or freelance. The employee must see value in working for that company. Why would they want to undercut that.

          Why would ANY potential client pay the company rate if they know from the grapevine that if they balk, there is this employee who will do the job for less. It would have to be a very rare and unusual situation I think for a company to put up with that.

          1. martini*

            My company charges a billable rate for my time that is almost 10x what my salary works out to on a per-hour basis, so I don’t agree with your first paragraph, since the employee could be getting paid way more charging less than his employer. However, I totally agree with your second paragraph. We have a policy that any ‘moonlighting’ has to (1) not be in the area in which we work and (2) be approved by HR.

        2. Sarah*

          The company has overhead, so that rate would probably be higher than an individual’s rate.

    2. Jamie*

      I agree with PEBACK as well. In fact, IMO it could cast doubt on your professionalism and judgement just for asking.

      Jessa is right, its undercutting your own company that comes with risk.

      1. Jessa*

        @Jamie, and I can’t decide whether the risk is greater if you ask them or if they catch you doing it. I’m more toward if they catch you because that seems sneaky. But asking in the first place is kind of a red flag to me. UNLESS the beginning of the sentence is something like “Look boss, I know it’s underbid and I know you can’t do it cause we don’t have time for such a cheap project, but it’s my brother in law, how about you let me knock it out independently?”

        The issue with that and I’d like to ask Alison, does this run into potential labour and tax issues for doing a job “off the books,” that is identical to their actual “on the books job,” can it come back on them or the company as looking like one or the other is trying to play fast and loose with labour laws?

        I remember back in the day a guy had two jobs with the same entity. The only reason it did not get into overtime/labour law issues is because they are TOTALLY separate. In one he drove a bus and in the other he was a maintenance man at their print shop. NO possible way the duties could in any way be conflated to be him working OT in either job. Two categories, two supervisors, two entirely different sets of work. Two separate interviews. Two time cards.

        But if this happens more than once at this job and the company really doesn’t mind…well it looks fishy with time and wages.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          If the client is paying the OP and not the company, I don’t see any legal issues for the company.

          But I agree the company is unlikely to be thrilled. I actually still think it’s okay to ask, unlike others here — but just be prepared to hear no.

        2. HRAnon*

          Jessa if you are in the US, your “back in the day” example is not legal. If you have two different jobs with the same employer, unless both are exempt- ALL hours worked must be counted for OT. If there are 2 rates of pay, then the avarage is used to calculate the OT. If one job is (or could be) exempt, depending on the amount of time spent at each, working an additional non-exempt job for the same employer can make that employee totally non-exempt.

          AAM- I think this is one where I disagree with you- I think this is a situation which in almost every case would be a huge no-no, and which could very well cause issues just by asking.

          1. Jessa*

            Actually not. It was a state government job and the state lawyers said it was okay as long as they were TOTALLY separate jobs with totally separate never convergent duties. It was a rare exception because most jobs had similar duties. Which you couldn’t excuse. It only worked because one was a bus driver and bus drivers never maintained the busses and the other one was a totally different class of job.

            I handled the personnel bits (secretarial-ly.) And it was a paperwork mess, he was the ONLY one. But I have to presume the labour people at the state house knew what they were talking about. It wasn’t under the table and he paid taxes and I’m sure they checked with the appropriate authorities we were a union shop and the union would have FLIPPED if it was a federal violation.

            1. HRAnon*

              Ahh- government, lol. It may have been legal at the time (or at least not specifically defined to be *not* legal) but I don’t believe that would be the case now, and definitely not allowed for a non- government employee/employer.
              I brought it up because a) it’s so unusual to have examples of “no, not legal” :) and b) to clarify so that no one would think this is a way around the OT laws.

    3. OmarF*

      #2. Absolutely do not take that work, unless you quit your own job first. You can’t compete against your own employer. Period. End of story. If you don’t make this decision, be prepared for your employer to make it for you.

      You can go to your boss to tip them off that the reason they haven’t gotten the job is strictly price. I’d probably tell the boss that you were approached but declined it.

      Moonlighting in your own industry is only okay if you are taking jobs your primary employer doesn’t want (wrong scale, whatever), or never quoted on. Make sure they are fully aware of what you are doing. If you do moonlight, absolutely make sure you aren’t using any of your employer’s knowledge resources (other than what’s already in your head), tools, vehicles, computers for any part of the work.

      I once knew of a situation where a salesman for a business would quote jobs, then quote a second rate if they hired him as a moonlighter. Then he used his employers vehicle to go to the job sites. Bad, bad, bad.

      1. Liz in the City*

        I don’t have any experience with this personally, but this would be like if someone approached my company for a copywriting assignment, didn’t like the rate we gave them (the industry standard), then contacted me separately to see if I’d do it for them instead. I’d tell my bosses while also telling them no. Unless I wanted to also be searching for a new job.

      2. Jessa*

        Also moonlighting in your own industry is only okay if you talk to your bosses about it. It still makes me feel weird about time and wages issues and it still feels like undercutting. Unless it’s VERY common in that particular industry to moonlight and your contract allows it.

        I know for instance in a lot of venues sworn officers can off duty as security guards. AND are permitted to wear their uniforms. It’s A: extra money for them when city budgets are tight, B: helps keep people safe and shows a presence of legitimate security and C: if they do have to stop someone they’ve the legal authority to. I see a lot of that at movie theatres when there are a lot of teenagers around. But there are procedures and you have to file that you’re doing it.

  3. Josh S*

    #7: Freelance pay

    At a minimum, double your regular hourly rate at a full time-type job. You could also (very reasonably) ask for more, particularly if your correspondence leads you to believe that the client is going to negotiate the rate down with you. Or heck, if you think the client might just say yes. (You may very well be surprised what they’ll pay!)

    BUT WAIT–there’s so much more that you should be looking at when it comes to this arrangement!

    Remember that you are likely to have to pay quarterly taxes to both federal and state collection agencies on your freelance income, even though it’s not April 15 or whatever. (It’s an estimated amount that’s really a shot in the dark–but do it, because you might owe big penalties at the end of the year if you don’t.) Look up IRS Form 1040-ES for more information on all that, or talk to your accountant. If you don’t have an accountant, look at getting one, since your taxes as a freelancer can get funky (you’re basically self-employed for the purposes of the government…didn’t know you were starting a business, did you?)

    Also, you’ll want to be sure you are very clear on expectations for the scope of the project. Be sure the project deliverables are specific and detailed, and the deadlines are specific. Have a set end date to the project so you don’t get sucked into working for this guy indefinitely (you can always write up a new contract in 3 months or renew the contract you have, but if you know there’s an end date that you’re working toward it can be a HUGE burden off your mind). Write a mutual-option to end the contract with 2 weeks’ notice into the contract language (so if the situation becomes untenable for some reason you can get out, but still get paid for the work you’ve done).

    Look out for non-compete clauses in the contract–they can prevent you from doing work for your normal employer or from finding other clients. The work product is going to belong to the client (it’s what you’re being paid to produce, after all), but be clear about if or how you can use your work in your own portfolio in the future.

    Make sure terms and amounts of payment are clear. Are you being paid by the hours you work (if so, you’ll have to figure out a legitimate way to track your actual time worked and what you did during those horus, like Yast.com), or for the entire project (if so, you’ll want to be sure that you have a realistic picture of the scope of the project so you don’t end up working 80 hour weeks for minimum wage to meet the deadline). How long after you invoice will you receive payment? Are there penalties for late payment by the client? Penalties for missing a deadline for you? Since you ‘met’ this person online, do you have a physical address (not a PO box or Mailboxes Etc address) where you can find this person if ever there is a need to track them down or serve them lawsuit papers? Will payment be held in escrow by a 3rd party so that you know there are funds and the client knows they will get the project delivered (not always necessary, but a good idea with a new client who you have no experience with)? Will you be able to bill every other week/monthly/upon specific deliverable deadlines/as you accomplish the work, or does the entire payment come due when you invoice at the end of the project?

    What are expectations for communication/availability while the project is ongoing? As a freelancer, you get to set your own hours, but the client is probably going to want to know when they can reach you (and the best method for doing so–phone or email). You don’t want to be available for phone calls 24/7 and get calls at 3am with silly questions that could wait til tomorrow.

    All of that needs to be spelled out in the contract in a way you clearly understand. GET IT IN WRITING WITH INK-ON-PAPER SIGNATURES FROM BOTH OF YOU, then make a copy for the client.

    There’s a lot that can go awry with a freelance arrangement, but you can protect yourself against most of that with a good contract up front. Since this seems to be your first freelance gig, don’t focus so much on the money/hourly pay that you lose sight of all the other details that go into a good-running contract. Please.

    1. Jazzy Red*

      The best advice is always the voice of experience.

      Very detailed, and I’m sure, helpful for anyone thinking going into business for themselves.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      And if you’re not very good with math, good luck on those taxes and all the other calculations you’re going to have to do. There’s a lot of math involved in freelancing, long after figuring out what you should be paid.

    3. Nat*

      OP#7 here: Gracious! That is a lot of (very helpful) information. You’ve got me wondering if I even want to foray into the world of freelancing at all. I’ve done the odd project here and there, mostly for already established business acquaintances, but this seems like a huge undertaking.

      I definitely need the money and work, but do I need it this badly?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        While Josh is right that these are all things to think about, if you’re just taking on one freelance client and not a bunch, it’s really not as daunting as everything that’s laid out here. Agree to a rate, have a contract that covers the things he outlined, and that’s really about it. I freelanced for a long time without making it a Big Official Deal.

      2. Josh S*

        Don’t freak out. Really.

        With folks you know and have a relationship with, you can very realistically just say, “Hey, what’s the project, what does it pay?” and be done with the ‘contract’. Especially if you know them to be legit with payment and stuff.

        It’s the “I randomly got asked to do this by some guy on LinkedIn” that makes me cautious for your sake. Especially since you imply it’s 3 months of FT work (which I assumed meant you won’t be working your regular gig). If it’s a business, and you’ve been to the office or whatever, that’s one thing. But if it’s all been online communication, protect yourself.

        And it doesn’t have to be an OMG moment. Just take some time to consider the other factors involved with taking a side job, and be clear in your expectation for what the work entails, and have the other guy be clear. There’s nothing worse than miscommunication on the front end that leads to problems later. Take a moment, be sure you know what you want, and say it up front. That’s all.

          1. Nat*

            Absolutely agreed, and I appreciate the concern/warnings! I’m definitely staying wary up until he can give me a detailed rundown of what he wants done.

            Also, I’m currently only working PT in retail to make ends meet while I’m job searching, so my time isn’t necessarily and issue, just everything else :)

            Thanks for all the advice! Hopefully everything else from here on out will be smooth sailing and I won’t need to return for more input, haha.

  4. Jessa*

    Number 1- Is your boss kidding? I mean I would just stare at a boss that did this going “did you really just say that, ha, ha, you’re a riot.” And I’d run straight back to them with “No. This is not our job to decide. Not going to happen. Do your own darned job.”

    1. FiveNine*

      Or they could go to the boss’s boss, explain the situation, and say that if they are to decide who is promoted it’s their opinion that X should be the master operator and Y would best fit to take over the boss’s position. (I guess that wouldn’t fly, but really, it would be tempting.)

  5. Lindsay*

    #1 sounds like a situation from a sitcom or something. Anything other than both you and your coworker going back to the boss together is going to lead to a bad situation.

    #6 I always just choose the amount of time frame out that I would be able to begin after I received an offer. So if I need two weeks, I choose two weeks out from the date I am filling out the application. If I need a month I choose a month out from the application date. I assume that reasonable companies just use this to make sure you are on the same page (like you’re not putting a date 4 months out when they need someone to start ASAP) when they initially screen the applications and that actual conversations will take precedence over what you filled out on the application once you get to the interview and offer stage.

  6. Anne*

    #3: Sympathy. My dad died when I was 16, and I have had that kind of thing come up sometimes, especially as I have just gotten married. I usually just say “Oh, my dad died actually, so it’s just me and my mom at this event,” etc. It doesn’t seem to bother people as much as you’d think, especially if it’s clear that you can just keep up the conversation in the same tone it was before.

    Often people will say “Oh, I’m sorry.” It is good to be able to cheerfully say “Thank you. It was a long time ago, I’m okay.”

    I have once or twice, when I was talking to super-nice people who I thought would be incredibly mortified, just said “Oh, it’s just me and my mom” and let them draw their own conclusions.

    But generally, it’s not as big a deal to people as you’d think.


    1. Lanya*

      #3, Just to make the observation…I wonder why your boss was making so many references to your dad, regardless. It seems weird in an office setting that an older coworker would need to bring up your family members in conversation, unless he sees himself as a father figure type and was trying to bond with you that way. In any case, you handled it well, and don’t worry about any awkwardness.

      1. Consultant Liz*

        This! The “trying to relate to you as a father figure” is misguided and infantilizing. I am hearing that you think he is a nice guy but it harmful to your proffesional development for him to see you as a younger “daughter” figure. He may avoid delegating challenging or tense situations, he may refer about you to third parties in a patronizing way coloring their impressions of you. I would firmly and politely try to shift the dynamic of your professional relationship to supervisor and junior employee. Don’t automatically smile and nod when he is talking (the granddaughter pose), don’t bring home goods, don’t allow him to “protect” you from challenges.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Agh, no! You guys are seeing this through your own lens, but there are plenty of situations where this wouldn’t be patronizing at all. And plenty of people enjoy having close relationships with a boss; there’s no reason to assume that there’s a problem here.

          1. Jamie*

            Totally agreed – people have all different kinds of relationships with others and there is no way to judge from the outside what works and what doesn’t for other people.

            My boss can get mom like and remind me to eat and I’ve been lovingly chastised for not bundling up when it’s chilly…it hasn’t hurt my professional development at all.

            Just between us I kinda like it – a little surrogate parenting every now and then makes me feel loved.

          2. OP #3*

            Thanks, Allison. And thank you everyone else for the concern, but I must have given you the absolutely wrong kind of idea about my relationship with my boss. I can say with confidence that there is no father/daughter dynamic and I am not doing any of the things you list at the end of your post, Liz :)

      2. Long Time Admin*

        I’m considerable older than almost everyone I work with (by 25 or more years), and I will mention something, realize they probably don’t know who/what I’m referring to, and will say that their parents probably remember “that”.

        When I say it, it’s funny; when other people say that, it kind of makes me wince (I don’t feel that old!).

    2. Bonnie*

      I also lost my father during my teens and I have had a very similar experience to yours. In fact the words you use with people who immediately express sympathy are identical.

      The only time it tends to be uncomfortable is with someone that recently lost someone close to them. My mentioning that my father is deceased will sometimes bring our their own grief. In which case it is my turn to say I’m sorry.

      To the OP, many people have lost someone close to them and are not made at all uncomfortable by the mention of your father’s death.

    3. OP #3*

      Thank you Bonnie and Anne for sharing your similar experiences. Perhaps I don’t give people enough credit. Thank you as well, Lanya. As to my boss making “so many” references to my father, I was worried I may have, in the letter, made it seem as though my boss mentioned him unusually frequently, but that wasn’t the case at all. It was more than once, but it wasn’t often, if that makes any sense.

      1. Jamie*

        That makes sense, it’s just a reference people make in passing.

        My parents both died within 4 months of each other when I was in my mid-twenties. I was an adult, to be sure, but young enough that when you meet new people the natural assumption is that I still had parents. When it would change the tone of the conversation, and I know exactly what you are talking about, I would just smile and say they are still with me in spirit and actively resume whatever we were talking about previously.

        Heck – that was 20 years ago and it still comes up. Bonnie is right – a lot of people know what it’s like to lose a parent and you won’t make them uncomfortable. And if people offer condolences just say thanks and accept it for the well intended sentiment that it is. Because it’s human nature to be sad when you think of a child losing a parent and so it feels like you should say something. I don’t even know you and I felt sad for toddler you when I read this.

      2. thene*

        FWIW, I have had some major awkward regarding dead parents (I’m 28 and both my parents are dead – my mother when I was a child, my father two years ago), but it’s mostly been from young people. I got the worst of it when I was at college, from young, inexperienced people who had probably barely ever lost anyone and who were in the throes of learning how to live without having their parents around 24/7. However those bad experiences from peers kinda poisoned the well for me, to the point where I slightly dread it coming up, and it occurred to me that the same thing could have happened to you.

        1. OP #3*

          Thanks, thene. I think part of it is actually due to my knowing I’m not that great of a conversationalist. Even when speaking with someone I’m comfortable around, I tend to think I’m a word away from throwing things off and I’m probably unreasonably weary of making things awkward for others.

        2. meetoo*

          I have had the exact experience and also dread it coming up. People give the dear in headlights look and stop the conversation. They usually act like you might burst into flames or worse tears. I agree that the younger and more inexperienced with death people are the worse it is. Death is not talked about much in public settings. I think people are uncomfortable because they don’t know what the correct response is so they freeze. Anne’s “Thank you. It was a long time ago, I’m okay.” is a good way to get the conversation back on track.

  7. Another Evil HR Director*

    #1. I would venture to say that a county government has some rather specific criteria and procedures for deciding not only who will be promoted, but who will even be hired. And having the employee decided isn’t among those! I’d almost consider reporting this to someone above your boss, as he is most likely violating county regulations in this area. Are you unionized? Many county workforces are (not all, of course). If so, there are very rigid rules that must be followed in promotions there also. As others have said, at a minimum, tell your boss (both of you) you are not comfortable making this decision and put the responsibility back where it belongs.

    1. Runon*

      I had this thought as well, if there is a union here that’s a whole extra level of mess but even without one I can’t imagine that this boss’s boss is in line with the extremely poor management happening. The only thought I had was the boss wanted to promote the person without seniority but the only way that he could do that is if the other person doesn’t apply. …and somehow thought this would make that happen? I don’t really know.

    2. Joey*

      Violating county regulations? Please. Just because the boss isn’t choosing doesn’t mean he’s completely disregarding the whole recruitment process. For all you know he went through his whole process and just doesn’t want to decide. And theres typically flexibility in how you actually make the final decision. You don’t want to make those type of accusations at work based on pure speculation.

      1. Anonymous*

        I had a fairly strong reaction to part of your comment – “just doesn’t want to decide.” I think (unfortunately) that it’s probably accurate, but it’s really saying that the boss considered the situation, and decided not to do his job. That (probably correct) assessment is amazing in a “What on earth was he thinking” kind of way.

        Choosing personnel for positions within the scope of your responsibility is a fundamental part of your role as a manager – this is really, really, basic. Can you imagine a bus driver who “went through his whole process” for getting the bus ready to go and then decided he just didn’t want to drive it?

        1. Joey*

          Yep. That’s pretty much a common trait of poor managers. They don’t want to make or take responsibility for difficult decisions. In this case the manager probably doesn’t want to have to tell one person they weren’t chosen for the job.

        2. Jamie*

          Good point. I don’t want to do anything today, but I’ve already done several things since I’ve gotten here because that’s my job. And when the phones went out the other day and I got 9 (yep – NINE) calls from the phone company with updates between 11:30 pm and 4:17 am (pissing off the husband and the cats) I didn’t take the calls because it was a fun filled way to expand my social life…it was my job. And issues CARS after audits sucks…but if I stop doing it I lose my job because it’s part of the deal.

          1. Jamie*

            Sorry – I did have a point and that’s that the manager’s boss should tell him to buck up, cupcake and do his freaking job.

            Or you can just give yourself the promotion and a huge kick ass raise.

    3. LCL*

      Often in municipal skilled trade shops, the persons who are promoted to management positions are the best technically at their craft, and receive little to no management training. The boss isn’t deciding because he doesn’t want to decide, wants to avoid screwing over one of his crew, and wishes all this HR stuff would go away and he could stick to making schedules, overseeing maintenance and planning jobs and solving miscellaneous technical problems.

      I would handle this by both of you talking to the manager one level above him who is trustworthy. You should know by now who this person is. Ask this person to nudge the manager into doing the right thing.

  8. Penny*

    #1-that’s ridiculous! Your boss needs to do HIS own job and as a manager sometimes that means making the hard decisions.

    #6-any reasonable professional knows that someone employed will need to give 2 weeks from date of offer. Don’t stress over the date too much.

  9. Mike C.*

    #1 Is your boss the Joker? Did he break a pool cue over his knee and ask that you settle the matter right then and there?

  10. Colette*

    #4 – I wanted to point out that just because the OP wants to work more hours doesn’t mean the business needs her to work more hours – even at her normal rate (although depending on how many hours she works now & how many she’d pick up, they’d probably need to pay overtime, as others have confirmed). Continuing to ask after she’s been told no several times is not going to do good things for her reputation at the job she wants.

    1. Op*

      Thank you every one for your input. This is OP. But isn’t it my right to work where i am happy? I love what I do, the work place is great.
      And yes they are looking for a part time person. I work 36-40 HRs. I can pick up 25-28 Hrs more. I know what I am doing , need no training. If I could convence my Boss, am I breaking the Law too? Plus it will keep me at the same place, and not have to pay for transportaion to my part time, that pays less and do not really like. But have to .

      1. Zahra*

        No, you do not have the right to work where you are happy. You may prefer it and strive to achieve that, but you don’t have any (legal) right to it.

        If you are non-exempt, it is a sound business decision to hire someone else to complete the work. That person will be paid the regular rate instead of the OT pay. If you are non-exempt, you *cannot* choose to waive OT. You must receive it.

        Also, many people have chimed here that anything over 45-50 hours per week is time that is not effectively used because you make more errors that you need to correct later. What you are offering to do is working anything between 60-70 hours per week. You may feel like you can do it, especially since you are working another job, but I don’t think it is sustainable in the long term. You only have to look at the high divorce rate in the gaming industry where “crunch time” (long periods of 10-16 hour-days, 6-7 days a week) is frequent to understand why.

        1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          It might also help OP to understand that even if they say, now, “Oh, I’m totally fine working the extra hours for the regular rate, boss, don’t worry about overtime pay,” the boss still has incredibly high liability, because if OP changed their mind later (be it a change in attitude, getting in a fight with the boss, deciding they hate the work, or simply doing the math), all OP has to do is provide some kind of evidence, and POOF, the boss owes ALL THAT OVERTIME, going back either 3 or 7 years (I can never remember which). OP could call it in at any time, even if the boss has evidence that OP was OK with the situation. There’s no way a reasonable employer would put themselves in that situation.

      2. Josh S*

        If they give you those extra hours, you’ll be working 60-65 hours/week. That’s 40 hours at regular pay, and 20-25 hours at time-and-a-half.

        So instead of paying you for 40 hours, and another person for 20 hours (60 hours total), they’d be paying you 70 hours worth of wages for 60 hours worth of work.

        Now, sometimes that can work well for an employer because it means they’re flexible with the amount of work load they can handle and they don’t have to take the risk of hiring another employee who may or may not be any good. But sometimes the boss decides that paying extra for the same amount of work isn’t worth it.

        The second one is what your boss has told you. Sorry it’s not what you wanted to hear. But if you keep pushing it relentlessly (not that you’ve really indicated that you’re being a pest about it, but IF you do), you’ll be hurting your reputation as someone who doesn’t get the business side of things.

        If your boss tells you that he’s OK with you working the extra hours, you would not (to my understanding) be breaking the law. But then he’s got to pay you the time-and-a-half.

      3. perrik*

        If your employer agreed to your request to work more than 40 hours in a week with no overtime pay, you would not get in legal trouble. The employer, on the other hand, would be *violating federal law* and would be subject to penalties. It doesn’t matter if you agreed to it – you do not have the authority to waive the employer’s legal obligation.

        So please stop asking your boss to break the law. If they can’t afford to pay you overtime, they certainly can’t afford to pay the fines for not paying you overtime.

      4. Legal Eagle*

        The explanations above do a good job of laying out why your boss cannot and will not let you waive overtime. The real solution to your woes is to find a second job that you like, instead of the part-time one that you dislike.

      5. Jamie*

        But isn’t it my right to work where i am happy?

        Of course not. If it was I would sue Alison for not actually opening a company called Chocolate Tea Pot, Inc. and then forcing her to hire me so I could work where I’m happy in an environment of logic and common sense surrounded by unicorns and purple squirrels.

        Seriously, if that ever becomes a right I will spearhead a class action suit. Who’s with me?

        Seriously though, I hope you’re very young and just starting your career because asking to waive OT was very naive and assuming you have a right to work anywhere really says you need a better understanding of how things work.

        1. RJ*

          Jamie, I read your first paragraph and said, “Oh, that will have to be a class action suit for a lot of us to join!” Then I read your second paragraph. I’m with you! :)

      6. Ask a Manager* Post author

        “isn’t it my right to work where i am happy?”

        No, there is no such right.

        “If I could convence my Boss, am I breaking the Law too?”

        It is illegal for your boss not to pay you overtime, whether you want that arrangement or not. Illegal. This is not flexible. If your boss agrees to give you more hours without overtime pay, he could later be legally forced to give you backpay, as well as fined.

      7. Colette*

        You have the right to look for another part-time job you’d enjoy more, or a job that pays better than the one you have does. But you’re not entitled to have your current employer give you more hours – and since they’ve said no several times, you should probably stop asking.

      8. A Bug!*

        It is understandable that you would like to replace your part-time hours at a job you dislike with extra hours at the job you like.

        But look at it from your employer’s perspective. Realize that as much as your employer might like you, your employer can never really know for sure what your intentions are or what they will be in the future.

        Understand that if your employer agreed to this arrangement, your employer would basically be giving you a weapon, one that you can use against the employer at any time with no negative consequences to you (and potentially significant financial benefits to you). And the longer the arrangement continued the more lucrative it would be for you to actually use that weapon, and the more tempting it might be.

        Maybe you end up with some surprise medical debts and you’re potentially facing bankruptcy. That back-pay would start to look awfully attractive.

        So while, like I said, I understand your sentiment, it would be mind-numbingly stupid for your employer to agree to your request. The risk/reward is just way, way too out-of-whack.

    2. Runon*

      I’m not sure I totally understood this question the way the OP meant it. But even if the OP here convinces the boss to give her extra hours and not pay her over time it is still illegal. It is illegal to not pay OT when it is required by law.

      (If the OT is given and paid for as OT then it is fine and dandy.)

    3. Josh S*

      It’s illegal on the Boss’s part though. OP won’t be engaging in anything illegal, and could actually have a claim against the company for back wages, etc.

      Again, this is probably a reason your boss doesn’t even want to consider letting you ‘waive’ the extra pay — she knows it opens up the company to huge liability.

  11. Just a Reader*

    #2 COMPLETELY UNETHICAL. Great way to get yourself fired and ruin your reputation. Just decline and let the company know that this client is approaching individual employees.

    1. Lynn*

      YES. The issue of who owns the intellectual property, the shadiness of underbidding your own employer, just no. Run, don’t walk, away from this offer.

  12. Runon*

    #5 All rejection letters can feel rude but this one is hardly that bad. They may have changed their requirements or the requirements may not have been clearly laid out in the ad/interview.

    This isn’t a company I’d put on my own black list from applying to again or shopping at etc.

    1. Kate*

      Yeah, given how many people write in to say they never heard back after an interview, this seems like a generic but polite way to end the process.

      I don’t blame them for the “not a fit” wording, either. If they’d put, “We’ve decided to look for someone with a different skill set,” they’re opening the door for, “What skill set? I’m very trainable,” and so on. Not that the OP would do that, but I get why the company was vague.

      1. PEBCAK*

        I also think it’s kind/useful to say “you are a bad fit” rather than “we have a stronger candidate”.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Plus, they might not be looking for a different skill set at all, and if they say that and then hire someone with the same skill set as the OP, some people in the OP’s shoes will conclude the real reason was race/religion/etc and decide a discrimination law was broken.

  13. Nicole*

    #3 Just as the voice of dissent here, in the examples by the OP, it really may have brought the conversation to a halt- those kind of comments are usually not said seriously, so you’re really changing the focus after someone flippantly says something like “your dad probably knows what I’m talking about”, not to mention, here, the person saying it is just commenting on his age or the age of the story, and not actually trying to talk about your parent. I think you brought it up appropriately when your dad, the person, was brought up in conversation, as opposed to a parent as a reference point for someone to rely on conversationally. Sometimes if I think something like that is going on for too long, I can work it into a personal story as an aside or a reference point of my own. I don’t think it would have been inappropriate at all to mention earlier, but it also isn’t necessarily on you that you didn’t interrupt his story about rotary phones to tell him your dad died. I wouldn’t worry about it too much either way!

    1. OP #3*

      Thank you, Nicole. You put it very well. It was the tone of the conversations and the fact that, like you said, the earlier mentions of my father were more reference points than anything else that made me decide not to say then that he had passed.

  14. kj*

    Am I the only one who thinks it’s a little inappropriate for a boss to make a comment like “Make sure your dad likes him”? Or am I just projecting after watching a coworker be questioned endlessly by our boss about a cruise she was going on with her fairly new boyfriend? (He actually told her that he wasn’t sure if he was going to allow her to take the time off because he didn’t approve of her going away with someone “she barely knew”.)

    1. Anonicorn*

      I can see where you’re coming from. It doesn’t seem all that inappropriate at face value, but of course it depends on how it was said.

    2. Josh S*

      “Make sure your dad likes him” depends on the nature of the relationship. If they’re cordial and banter, it could be completely lighthearted and well-meaning and non-paternalistic.

      OTOH, the whole boss questioning the cruise-with-boyfriend thing is pretty remarkably out of line. I mean, even if my personal feelings are that such an arrangement is immoral or whatever, I wouldn’t presume that A) it was really any of my business to intervene, or B) that you care to hear my opinion on the (very personal and non-work-related) relationship. Ouch.

    3. OP #3*

      I see where you are coming from, but given the rapport we’ve developed and the context of our conversation, it wasn’t inappropriate and I did not feel uncomfortable in the least.

    4. Anonymous*

      No, definitely starting to cross the line. My previous boss made comments to me all the time about how I needed to marry my boyfriend because we were living together. I was already planning on doing that eventually, thanks! (And we did get married and he’s an awesome husband, btw.)

      1. OP #3*

        I don’t think that comment (or one like it) alone is “definitely crossing the line” no matter what. I think history and context is important to consider. Unlike your situation, which I agree is/was inappropriate, my boss doesn’t comment on my relationship with my boyfriend “all the time.” When he mentioned my father liking him, it was quite lighthearted and not meant as serious advice or something he lingered on.

        1. Anon*

          Which is, of course, why you didn’t mention your father was dead. My father also died when I was a small child and I have done exactly as you have done at times! When it’s a brief comment, lighthearted and not lingered on, the last thing you feel like saying at that point, lest you sound like you’re trying to make a big thing which will embarrass the other person and make them feel awkward is “well, actually my father’s dead but it was a long time ago and it’s fine.” I wouldn’t worry about it. It’s just one of those awkward life things. As you get older it lessens of course as it’s more commonplace to have a deceased parent.

  15. Cat*

    The other thing about #1 is that I feel like there’s a 50% chance that if they went back to the boss and said “We decided that X should get the promotion,” he’d reply “but you see, this was a test! Y will get the promotion because great leaders are the reluctant ones!” In other words, he sounds erratic and crazy.

  16. Elizabeth*

    #1 sounds like something Michael Scott would do, like when he has Dwight pick the health plan, or when he can’t decide who to fire and just picks the first person who doesn’t argue with him about it.

    1. HR Guy*

      So the OP’s boss for pregunta numero uno sounds like a jerk, but I bet after he spends all day not making decisions he gives you ice cream sandwiches!

      1. Jamie*

        I disagreed with Stanley on that – I think an ice cream sandwich is the best surprise ever.

        And Ryan was totally wrong – the chocolate chip cookie sandwiches are vastly inferior to the regular ones.

        I will say it’s an interesting mental exercise though – it’s been fun thinking of people with whom I’ve worked and wondering how this crazy scenario would shake out. I know people who would decline any promotion and other pairs where this would end in a cage match.

  17. Elle*

    This may or may not be comforting to LW3: most people aren’t desperately invested in other people that they meet. I don’t mean that we all live in a Hobbesian state of nature where everyone is hateful, just that people often fall into social determined cues. For e.g. “How are you?” –> “I’m fine.”

    I just really doubt that most people actually are going to do anything other than repeat the appropriate social response and move on. Especially in a work context.

  18. Anon_this_time*

    Oh boy. Number one sounds like my boss. Except there are no promotions. MY boss wants the employees to be responsible for finding another person to cover their area if they need time off – but we’re a skeleton crew, and we have one person who is constantly MIA without prior notice. Since this person has an “ass-in-chair” type of job and I am always the person who has to cover – most frequently with little or no notice, this impacts me quite a bit. But when I asked Boss to be involved in ensuring work areas were covered, I found myself literally “talking to the hand” in a staff meeting.

  19. Meg*

    #1. If you really still have to settle this, just Rock – Paper – Scissors it. Or coin flip. Never used it to determine a promotion, but when I had two people that I couldn’t decide between for a specific task, or if they both wanted to do it if I said something like, “I need someone to do this and that,” I’d give them 10 seconds to do Best two out of the three RPS, or a coin flip. It settled disputes fairly, and the “loser” never gave any lip about it not being fair, or whatever.

    If your boss couldn’t have decided before bringing you both in, I would have told him to do that too.

    1. Jamie*

      I don’t know – I could live with being passed over for a promotion even if I didn’t agree with the factors that led the boss to conclude someone else was better suited.

      Losing out on a promotion due to a random coin flip? The impulse to quit on the spot would be overwhelming.

    2. Runon*

      I could see this working if I and a coworker had an undesirable task that someone had to do that was a quick thing. But for anything that will impact the rest of your life? Not so much. A promotion often means a raise which can impact your quality of life. A promotion means new responsibilities which means at the next step when you go to look for a new job you’ll be able to say you did those additional skills. Which means you’ll be more likely to get a higher level job more quickly. Which means the next job you get, likewise. This is also something where you can’t trade off the next undesireable or desirable task to create a situation where everyone can shine if they are able. This is creating a long term difference. And any boss who can’t make that kind of decision shouldn’t be a boss because they can’t handle the difficult choices.

    3. The Other Dawn*

      Maybe some rock-paper-scissors-lizard-Spock to settle it? Yes, I’m kidding. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to reference Big Bang Theory.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Thank you so much for this post. I just solved a crossword today that was themed rock-paper-scissors-lizard-Spock, and I had NO IDEA what the lizard and Spock were all about.

        Now, thanks to you and Wikipedia, I understand.

          1. Jamie*

            It’s funny – but surprisingly hard to play. My husband and I did it the other day to decide who was going to get out of bed to let the dogs out and we got confused. He got frustrated so I just declared myself the winner and he took care of the dogs.

            Oh please, like he didn’t know how that was going to end before we pretended my getting up was even an option!

            You wouldn’t think just adding two more variables would complicate things so much – but it’s not as easy as it looks.

            1. The Other Dawn*

              Ha! I’ve never tried playing it. I would need the rules written down so I can reference them.

              It always amazes me how Jim Parsons can explain the game in one take and get it right.

    1. Bee*

      Hah, I was about to post exactly that! As soon as I read #1 I was like, what is this becoming a trend now?

    2. E.T.*

      My mind immediately went to the KC Star situation too! Was this question actually submitted by one of the reporters there, and the story just changed a bit to throw us off the scent?

  20. Malissa*

    #1–Your boss is an ass. If the situation gets ant stickier take the issue to HR or the Board of Commissioners. He’s not doing the job they pay him to do.
    #2–Run, don’t walk away from this offer. Also go to your company and inform them of this, immediately. This could be a career killer if you are not the one that tells the company this went down. If somebody else tells the company it’ll look like you had something to hide.
    #4–Re-frame the request. From what I can figure you need more money, not necessarily more hours. Find a path to getting a raise or promotion. Ask your manager if he can recommend a way to help you do this. Volunteer to take on extra assignments.
    #5–The letter is not rude, just truthful.
    #6–I always answer that with negotiable. As in my time for starting depends on many things. Such as finding my replacement, maybe doing a part-time segue way, or a million other possibilities.

    1. Sarah*

      Man even if it wasn’t government I would hope HR has something to say about this (I say as a HR Director for a gov’t agency)

  21. Kate*

    For #5, saying that a candidate isn’t a good fit is a reasonable, polite thing to do. Believe me, I would have loved to tell a candidate that they didn’t get hired because they came across as dumb and entitled.I’m sure the OP isn’t, but many are. How you failed the interview, let me count the ways!

  22. mel*


    Add me to the list of people who think it’s weird that a boss would bring up an employee’s dad so often. Maybe if the employee talked about her dad regularly or if everyone had previously met, that would make more sense.

    So many people don’t even HAVE dads. Maybe I just live in broken-family central or something, but it’s just seems so weird to me. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a boss or coworker make random comments about my family as if they knew them.

    I kinda hope that OP is just leaving out any comments/questions about other members of her family and not just about her dad. Maybe that’s the part of the letter that seems so weird to me… like the dad is the only person who matters to boss and that everyone else is just an extension…?

    1. OP #3*

      I must have given the wrong impression. If I had to guess, he mentioned my father (as discussed above, more as a point of reference than anything else) maybe 3 times in the almost 2 years I have worked here. That really doesn’t seem odd or too frequently to me, but of course everyone’s perspective is different. As far as comments about other family members go, sure, there have been some (read: not tons or plenty). I think the only reason the reference to fathers in particular resonated with me was because mine is dead and I understand while it far from unheard of, it’s not the general assumption for someone my age.

      1. Kou*

        I’m close to your age, too, and I think my parents get brought up a lot more than they would for most people because of that.

  23. Kou*

    #3 Tangentially related: So, I have a condition that tends to impact fertility. It’s genetic and my family members with it have had to go through a special kind of hell to get pregnant. I’m not interested in having any part of that, so I’ve always just assumed I would adopt if I decided to have kids.

    Well a lot of my coworkers are pregnant or just had a baby recently, so it’s been talked about a lot casually. A lot of the time (especially from one person) there are a lot of “oh wait until YOU do it” type comments. I don’t really feel like it’s appropriate to talk about the state of my lady parts so I’ve usually said something like “I don’t think I will do it, really,” or “oh, well, I actually intend to adopt.” But it keeps coming up, and though this is highly unlikely, I keep wondering if the one who does it the most ever DID find out, she would remember all those times and feel horrible. In my experience, other people tend to get much more upset about it than I ever have, since it’s a damn tragedy to most people.

    Of course there’s no situation in which you’d ever need to tell your coworkers about this, so I assume I can just keep shrugging this one off forever. But my boyfriend and I are buying a house together, people do keep asking if we’re getting married– more questions are bound to keep coming and I’m just gonna keep going “lol idk guys,” I suppose. But the more it happens the more I want to come out with it just because it feels weirder the longer it goes on.

    1. OP #3*

      I totally get what you mean. There’s no reason they should ever find out, but if they did, the fact that there multiple references to it in the past may exacerbate any awkwardness/embarrassment on their part.

  24. Liz*

    #1, I hope you report this to HR or your boss’s boss. On top of this being incredibly unprofessional and morale-eroding, it’s an instance of an employee refusing to do his job. If I were in HR at your company I would want to know this was happening.

    What’s especially awful about this is that even if you do get the promotion, the merits of that accomplishment are now questionable. Ridiculous.

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