calling back job applicants, looking like a suck-up, asking to be laid off, and more

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

1. Do I have to call applicants back?

Our company submitted a job position online. It says to submit a resume through a link. Now I’m getting a bunch of phone calls about the position. Am I obligated to call these people back?

No. You gave clear instructions, and these people are ignoring them. If you feel like it, you can put a message on your outgoing voicemail directing people to apply through the web link, but either way, you’re not obligated to call these people back. If you did, you could potentially spend hours on it.

2. Who pays for lunch at a recruiting meeting?

I am meeting a potential job prospect. I am gainfully employed, but another firm is interested in me. We are meeting for lunch at a restaurant on Tuesday. Do I offer to pay, and how do I do it gracefully?

No, they pay. Recruiting is a business expense for them.

3. Should I send a resource I created to my new team or will I look like a suck-up?

I made myself a reference document that’s an alphabetical list of all ~200 vendors my company works with. Having them all together on a 2-page document is a major time saver, since there was no document like this before; the only listing of vendors was in a dropdown menu in the software (listed by region, not alphabetically). Should I share this document with my boss or my team? I’ve only been at this job a month and I don’t want to look like a know-it-all or a suck up, I just know this document is useful to me and would probably be useful to other members of my team.

Unless you’ve seen signs that your new coworkers would be the type to take a helpful resource as signs that you’re sucking up or acting like a know-it-all (which most people wouldn’t; you’re looking signs of the unusual here), then by all means, send it around. Don’t send it with a note like “I was surprised this didn’t exist,” of course; instead, say something like, “I created this to help myself and thought others might have use for it too.”

4. How long should it take to approve leave requests?

What is a reasonable length of time for a leave (vacation) request to be approved once it is submitted? We have a manager who holds up everyone’s leave approval until his own plans are finalized so he can have first choice on popular days. We’d like to complain to the director and have a proposed policy in hand. There is nothing specific in the company policy – just “at the discretion of the department head or director.”

Anything longer than a week seems excessive to me — and even that’s on the long side; there’s no reason these can’t have quicker turnaround. But if you’re proposing a policy, a week is a reasonable limit. You can point out that people need to be able to make plans, confirm reservations, etc.

5. Giving your boss a baby gift

My significant other went into work today to find out that his manager of seven years is going to be out for a month because he and his wife just adopted a 4-year-old boy (nothing was said before today, and he will be out starting tomorrow). I think that it is polite and proper etiquette to get the child a gift and give it to his manager when his manager returns to work, but my boyfriend thinks that it will be seen as sucking up and weird. I’ve always thought that this is completely normal. So what’s the appropriate thing to do here?

He’s certainly not obligated to get a gift, but it would be a kind and gracious thing to do if he’s moved to — but it sounds like he’s not really moved to. And if that’s the case, there’s no need. There should never be an obligation to gift upward in the workplace.

That said, if he decides he wants to, I’d send it to his home address, if he can — but if he can’t, giving it to him once he’s back is fine.

6. Interviewer missed our scheduled phone interview and now I can’t reschedule

HR scheduled a second phone interview with me and a director. But the director never called. After 20 minutes of waiting, I emailed HR that I didn’t hear from the boss and to reschedule. HR called (I missed it) and left a voicemail saying that the boss did call me, but that I didn’t answer and there was no way to leave a voicemail. She even acknowledged that as odd since she was currently leaving me a voicemail. I’m positive the boss called the wrong number, but now HR won’t return my emails or calls to reschedule. Am I being penalized for the director’s mistake? How many times should I follow up? It’s my dream job!

You can try one more time, saying that you’re really eager to reschedule and asking if that’s possible. (Make sure you wait three days from your last contact.) But if they don’t respond after that, there’s not much more you can do, unfortunately. But I wouldn’t think of it as being penalized for someone else’s mistake — that’s just how this stuff plays out sometimes; you have very, very little control over many of the elements that go into whether you interview for and get any particular job.

P.S. It’s probably not your dream job!

7. Can I ask to be laid off rather than demoted?

I’m in my mid 20s and have been at my job for a year. I was hired for a junior position but in the first month was unofficially bumped up to mid-level, not in pay or title, but in function, when they let go of an outside agency that did the same work as I do. I am the only person at my company that performs this type of work, I’ve gotten only good feedback, and am proud of what I’ve accomplished.

A month ago, my boss was let go, which has slowly kicked off the restructuring of my department. The president has not shared any details until yesterday, so it’s been a stressful, strange time. Yesterday it was revealed that there would be three new positions in my department, one of which would be filled by the president’s good friend, who works in my field. In his list of positions for our new department, mine was not named, but a support/assistant type job to his friend was. We are supposed to learn in a week or two what these roles mean for us.

I feel like I am either being fired, or demoted. Honestly, I’d prefer the former. I’ve worked so hard over the last year, and think I’ve accomplished so much, I’m looking to move forward not back. Is there a respectful way to communicate that, with no hard feelings, I’d rather be laid off? I’m going to look for work but am also concerned about how a demotion would look on my (small) resume.

You can certainly say that you feel the new role would be a demotion and not in line with what you signed up for and ask to be laid off instead. (They may or may not agree; if they don’t, then you’d need to decide whether to stay while you search or quit.)

However, I’d think long and hard about leaving before you have another job. Job searches often take far longer in this market than people think they will (often a year or even longer), and it’s easier to find a job when you’re currently employed. Plus, it’s possible that you’ll find that the new role isn’t as bad as you think. Why not start an active search without leaving?

{ 28 comments… read them below }

  1. EngineerGirl*

    #3 – sharing is never sucking up, especially if you are gracious and enthusiastic. You saw a need and acted proactively. Good for you!

    #5 – how about a group gift? Something small but nice, like a child sized place setting, or maybe some toys.

    1. Jessa*

      Absolutely, I was the queen of the made up a document for me that everyone wanted in a lot of jobs. I didn’t usually pass them around, I would just tack them up on my cubicle or use them as reference and people would ask me for a copy. However, Alison is right, as long as you’re just “hey I found this useful, want a copy?” and not all braggy and aggressively self promoting about it, you can offer.

      OP7 – if you don’t like the job when it gets restructured, start looking, Alison is SO right in this too, it’s WAY easier to get a job when you have one and unemployment will not pay nearly enough to live on while you do it.

      1. Gilbey*

        Yes I think it is a good idea to share stuff like that. I created a form for a process at work that they actually adopted to use for the rest of the company.
        I perfected the best I could first, showed my manager with the advantages and she like it. They tweaked it for office use but I got the credit on my review for it !

        In general, if I create ways or find ways of doing things that seems to work for me I usually wait to see and hear if others are struggling with the same thing as I do not want to push.

        Then I ask if they want to look at what I do. If they want to use it fine. If not that is OK too. For me it is just a matter of timing and who you are talking to. Some people like advise some do not. Everyone process things differently so you just need to know your co-workers.

        I found out a nifty way of looking at our current vacation hours on our system from a co-worker and I in turn showed her how I calculate vacation long term since our system doesn’t do that. Worked out just great !

  2. Sourire*

    #7 — “[I] am also concerned about how a demotion would look on my (small) resume.”

    You need to balance this with how the time gap created by voluntarily leaving a position with nothing else lined up will look on your resume. Personally, I would react much better to candidate telling me that they were employed but looking elsewhere because after their role was restructured they tried it out and decided it was no longer a great fit than I would a candidate who told me they left simply because they were told their position would be restructured. Granted, I don’t know all of the details, but the second candidate could easily come across as someone who quits when the going gets tough and/or someone with questionable decision-making skills.

    1. Sourire*

      I realized after I hit send that I was replying moreso to a scenario where OP quits rather than asks to be laid off. I suppose OP could explain the unemployment period due to being laid off and just hope that the reference checker doesn’t speak to anyone who happens to mention that OP asked to be laid off rather than work in a new position (which has yet to even be determined at this point, which is an important factor). I still think OP needs to stick it out until they at least see what the new role is. It sounds like they don’t even truly know it’s a demotion or the equivalent.

    2. Another Evil HR Director*

      I agree that the OP should wait to see what the job ends up being, before quitting. I have to admit, if someone asked me to be laid off rather than accept a restructured position, it would not set well. It doesn’t really give the impression of someone willing to adapt to the changing requirements of the job/workplace. “Lay me off because I’m not getting what I want” isn’t really the impression one should be giving. If you’re not interested in the position after learning what it will entail, resigning is certainly acceptable (we all have a right to decide what is best for us), but asking your employer to accommodate you in this way, knowing it will most likely make you eligible for unemployment benefits (“lay off” normally entitles you to UI, but resigning normally doesn’t) is not something most businesses will look kindly on.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit*

        ” I have to admit, if someone asked me to be laid off rather than accept a restructured position, it would not set well.”

        Really? It seems crazy to me that someone should be expected to cheerfully accept a different job than the one they applied for, interviewed for, negotiated around, and accepted. Deciding that the new agreement – made without your involvement – is unacceptable makes perfect sense to me.

        1. Another Evil HR Director*

          I think if you read the rest of my post, you’ll see that I also said: “If you’re not interested in the position after learning what it will entail, resigning is certainly acceptable (we all have a right to decide what is best for us)”. Rejecting the job before finding out what it actually is and what it entails doesn’t seem the right way to go.

      2. Lynn*

        I agree that you should wait and see what the new position is like before making any big decisions. I have worked at places that did an annual “rank and yank”. Most managers hated the “yanking” part, and it was not uncommon for people to quietly tell their managers that they would be happy to be that year’s sacrificial lamb. That way they got severance and UI, and the manager didn’t lose anyone who wasn’t about to quit anyway.

        If the OP works in a similarly dysfunctional place, their manager might actually be happy about it.

  3. Chocolate Teapot*

    5. A team/section gift might be a nice gesture, but something small like toys or a voucher for a store for things which may come in handy.

    1. B*

      I am going to disagree with this if you are asking others to contribute. What some people consider small and what others do can be very different. As well, some may be put off or not have the money or just not wish to do it. If you wish to give a gift, and it is not being expensed, then you give it yourself.

      1. EngineerGirl*

        But there is nothing wrong with sending out a group e-mail asking if people want to donate by XX date. Then have an envelope ready where people can anonymously (more or less) put money in. As long as you are not in a position of leadership it would be OK. Then buy the gift based on what you have. There are a lot of nice small gifts out there.

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          There is usually somebody in an office who will take it upon themselves to arrange a card/contribution envelope.

          I was not suggesting that the OP’s Significant Other start an envelope, but if there happened to be one going around already, then contribute if they felt they wanted to. I did say it “might” be a nice gesture, not that it should be mandatory.

      2. SevenSixOne*

        Yep! You have no way of knowing whether someone is willing to chip in $5 or $50… or if she’s a curmudgeon with a blanket “just say no” policy like me.

    2. Anonymous*

      OP #5 could also ask around the company and see if anyone has used clothing or toys or books suitable for the child’s age. It’s hard for adoptive parents who were not parents before the adoption to have everything needed for the child, or they might not even have known what to get until the adoption is final.

  4. Elizabeth*

    For #7, I feel like others at the OP’s workplace may view things differently than the OP does. He/she says, “I was hired for a junior position but in the first month was unofficially bumped up to mid-level, not in pay or title, but in function.” I think it’s possible that the OP viewed this move as a promotion in all but name, and saw it as permanent – while higher-ups may have seen this as a temporary situation between breaking ties with the outside agency and figuring out something new. Or perhaps OP’s immediate boss did view the OP as having been semi-promoted, but it sounds like the company didn’t agree with the OP’s immediate boss on everything since that boss has been let go.

    If this is the case, I don’t think it would serve the OP well to say that the new role is “not in line with what you signed up for” because it sounds like the OP was actually hired for a pretty junior position. I think in this situation I would try to withhold judging the position until I knew more about the role (perhaps “assistant” is in the title but it is still a similar amount of responsibility, even). Then, if it did turn out to be a real step backward in terms of responsibilities, I’d say something like, “I know I was hired as a Junior X, but since we cut ties with Y I’ve been doing ABC. I’ve enjoyed this work and got good feedback from Z. Can this continue to be part of my role?”

      1. danr*

        True, and if you developed a good reputation during that time, people will ignore the real position and still refer to the good job that you did. Do it right, and you can build up both your position and your new boos’s.

  5. ExceptionToTheRule*

    #4 – I feel your pain. I had a supervisor for 5 years who NEVER gave back vacations requests, approved or unapproved. You had to wait for the schedule to be posted to find out if you got the time and no amount of pleading for advance information ever helped. Really sucked when plane tickets and hotel rooms were involved. I have no practical advice because nothing we did ever changed the situation, just commiseration and sympathy.

  6. Steve G*

    #3 – I wouldn’t send the list yet, I would share it if I hear someone complaining how hard it is to find vendors. To give you an idea, I am an energy analyst for 500 buildings and have memorized off the top of my head the town at least 300 are in, and the average energy use for each in the summer and winter. If someone sent me a list of some of these things I wouldn’t be particularly impressed because it wouldn’t help me much.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There’s definitely this possibility too. To ward it off, the OP could say something like, “I don’t know if you all have these memorized by now, but in case it helps anyone like it did me…”

      Sometimes just acknowledging that type of possibility and not seeming oblivious to it is all it takes.

    2. #3 OP*

      This was my concern– when a co-worker saw me using it, he just chuckled and said “don’t worry, you’ll have those all memorized in no time!” And he’s right; just making the document helped cement a lot of the information in my mind.

      I think I’ll share it with anyone who asks but not be all LOOK EVERYONE I MADE A LIST ALL BY MYSELF!!! about it.

      1. Cassie*

        Maybe you could pin it to your cubicle wall so if your coworkers see it and think it could be useful, they could ask you for a copy.

        In general, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to share resources (no one person knows everything, after all) but since you are new-ish, it might be a little off-putting to some people. They may have already made their own list that they use (but didn’t share with others) or whatever.

  7. bob*

    #6: The hiring boss lied about calling and was trying to cover his butt with HR. Run awayyyyyyyyyyyy!! And consider yourself lucky for dodging a bullet on that one.

  8. OneoftheMichelles*

    Hi OP #6,
    Go ahead and give that company a chance to redeem itself. Maybe someone will apologize for a mistake on their end and it’ll turn out great.
    If they don’t, then there’s a chance your would-be interviewer is so petty that he/she is willing to throw your job/his potential hire under the bus, rather than say “Oh! Maybe I hit the wrong button…”
    In this case I’d second Alison’s point that this probably wouldn’t be your dream job. Imagine if you wound up working with such an unfair and insecure person. (like “bob” said, “dodging a bullet”)

    1. Holla for that Job*

      #6: Thanks for the advice! Though, I definitely dodged a bullet! HR rescheduled and the same thing happened–after 15 minutes of waiting, I emailed HR and the boss. The boss said she tried calling three times and that I didn’t answer. Right. I called her without any problems, but the interview was awful. She seemed less than thrilled with the company and did everything but spell out how useless the position was. No thanks!

  9. Wilton Businessman*

    #3 is the IT Person’s worst nightmare. The information is kept in a centralized location but you don’t like the format of it so you copy the information and put it into your own format. Except you find out CompanyXYZ fires Bill and hires Sheryl but you never update the centralized system so it’s not out of sync with reality. Similarly, somebody else finds out Sheryl is not really the contact person, but Pete is, so they update the centralized system and now what do you do?

    The better solution here is to propose a specification to your IT people that lists your requirements. It’s probably a 15 minute job for a Jr. Programmer and everybody benefits.

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