boss doesn’t attend staff meetings, managing teenagers, and more

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

1. Asking for a week off when company asks to extend my contract

I started my job 4.5 months ago. At that time, I was told I would work for a 6-month trial period, after which my contract would either terminate or be extended to one year. After one month of working, I was told my trial period would be shortened to 3 months. Then, I was told my contract would end, but after 4 months of work (due to a lack of business, not because of my performance).

During my 4th month of work, my mother-in-law booked a family vacation for the second month of July, thinking that I would be unemployed at that time. The week before my four months were up, I was asked to work for one more month. Now, it’s possible that I’ll be asked to work an additional month at the last minute again, but I have this week-long vacation already paid for next month. I have asked my bosses about the possibility of working next month, but they have not committed to anything.

Would it be appropriate to request this week off if I’m asked to stay on for another month? I’m hesitant to ask because I will have only been working for this company for five months by that time, and I’ve been advised to not ask for vacation time until I’ve been working for a year. (However, I am technically allotted 15 days of PTO per year.) I also have already asked for a day off here and there to attend interviews for other, more stable jobs. I don’t want to lose favor with my bosses because the job market in my field is absolutely terrible right now and obviously I’d like to avoid becoming unemployed. However, I had been told definitely that I wouldn’t be working for them at the time my mother-in-law made our vacation plans, so I feel like it could be fair to ask for this time off in light of that. What do you think?

You can absolutely say, “I’d love to work the additional month, but when I thought my contract would be ending on DATE, I booked a trip for one week in July. Would it be possible for me to take that week off while working the rest of the month?” No reasonable person is going to have an issue with that. They might tell you that they can’t approve the time (at which point you’d need to decide whether you want the trip or the extra month of work more), but they shouldn’t have a problem with you asking.

2. Can we do anything about our awful company?

I’m currently employed at a company that has a history of casuistic activities when it comes to their dealings with employees. I was recently copied on an email where a former employee was sent a request from our CEO, requesting they give back a necklace purchased for them earlier this year. The CEO was clearly careful not to use the word “gift” in the communication, though what would you really call a necklace being given to another person if not a gift? Similarly, we often have employees who after calling in sick will be requested to resign due to their “possible” health issues (our executive team wants to see employees in the office, even if they have a cold and may infect others). We have had eight employees come and go within the last six months — our total company is less than 40 employees. In addition, former employees who have left are often talked down about in passing by the senior members as people who “couldn’t cut it” or were “dead weight.” Besides this, employee bonuses are often reevaluated each month so that the company does not have to compensate for them; for example, a goal may be set to accomplish a certain amount of sales within a given month, yet midway through, if it looks like the target may be hit, a new higher goal will be set and the bonuses go unpaid.

Is there anything we employees can do besides quit?

No. Changing this type of thing has to come from the top.

Your company sucks and isn’t going to change. I’m sorry.

3. Coworkers aren’t happy that I’ve been promoted

I’ve recently been promoted at work. The position that I landed wasn’t posted, and no one else was given the opportunity to apply for it. I reached out to the department heads to inquire about any possible openings, set up a meeting with the department heads, gave a presentation, and a few days later was offered the position after one of the department heads resigned and there was an immediate opening.

I’m over the moon about it and can’t wait to start. However, my coworkers are pretty upset about it. I get it; they don’t know all the work I put in and think that this position was just “given” to me, but they are going out of their way to let me know just how upset they are about it. Is there a classy way to tell them to quit ruining this moment for me? I wrote a post for my blog about it…but I’m afraid to post it, because I’m worried about the backlash I might receive from anyone in the new position. How can I make my co-workers realize that I was not given this position…I worked crazy hard for it, while not burning any bridges?

Well, first, it doesn’t matter how much behind-the-scenes work you put in. Even if you didn’t, it would have been perfectly feasible for your managers to decide you had earned the position through your work and qualifications and offered it to without all those preliminaries. Your coworkers are out of line in complaining to you — and if you’re going to be supervising any of them, prepare now for how you’re going to make it clear that those types of comments aren’t okay. Otherwise, though, just be calm, pleasant, and professional: “I worked hard to get this promotion, and I’m excited that it’s being recognized.” That’s it — you don’t need to explain or defend yourself. But you also can’t demand that they “not ruin the moment for you” — that’s not really the point here.

And do not write a blog post about it. That’s passive-aggressive. (In fact, if you’re going to be managing people, eliminate all such tendencies now. You’ll need to be direct and straightforward, and not take things personally.)

4. My boss keeps missing our staff meetings

My boss hasn’t attended our last 7 staff meetings (now held about every 6 weeks, reduced in frequency from monthly) — she has something else arranged or is on holiday or whatever. I think this is very strange, not to mention rather rude given that she decided we should meet monthly, then less frequently, and she sets the dates (about 12 months in advance). Is it odd or is it just me?

I’m not sure; it depends on what the purpose of the meetings is. If it’s to update each other on what you’re working on so everyone’s in the loop, she may not need to be there, since she probably is in the loop already from her individual work with each of you. If it’s to do project planning or something like that, it’s possible she doesn’t need to be involved. That said, why not say something like, “Do you want us to continue having these meetings without you, or should we reschedule when you’re unable to attend?”

I’d be much more concerned about her repeatedly missing one-on-one check-ins with people; those tend to accomplish a lot more.

5. My boss keeps promising me things that he never delivers

I was hired in a continuous improvement type of role, as an engineer. When I got the job, I was so excited since it appeared to be my dream job. However, due to the poor economy, many of our raw material suppliers have cut off their supply to our company and I am not doing work I was hired for.

I have expressed to my boss that I am not utilizing my talents, and while he recognizes this, he says that business needs come first, which I completely understand. So here’s the problem. He has promised many things to me — training, conferences, etc. — that he never delivers on. I was to go to a conference this year, but instead he and his boss went. He told me they wanted to send me to training but there was no money in the budget for it. Lately, he involved me in an all-day meeting with another division for a project that would utilize my skills, I brought a lot to the table but I was not invited to subsequent meetings and now he says he can run the project himself.

I find him dangling a carrot in front of me constantly, only to renege on his offer, saying he will do the opportunity (training, run a project, etc.) himself. He tells me that I am a highly valued and respected employee, but I am getting tired of him saying things and not delivering on them. I recently came up with a cost-cutting idea that could save the company quite a bit of money. My boss turned around and told me what a great idea it was and “I gave the project to Bud.” I don’t feel as if I have the energy to have another heart-to-heart talk with him since I don’t want to come off as complaining, but does it seem to you like this guy has a hidden agenda or a tad bit of a narcissistic side?

I have no idea if he has a hidden agenda or a narcissistic side, but I do know that he’s sending you very clear signals that you’re not going to get what you’re asking for any time soon. Stop believing what he’s saying to you — believe what his actions are telling you. And his actions are saying that this stuff just isn’t going to happen. So knowing that, what do you want to do?

6. Employer hasn’t checked my references after saying they would

After a second interview, I was told a reference check would be conducted the following week. It’s been nearly two weeks and I have heard nothing. I asked around to my references and they confirmed that no one had contacted them. My previous employer has not been contacted either! Is it safe to assume that I did not get the job? I am a recent college graduate, so I am thinking that maybe they thought I was too young and just didn’t want to tell me. This entire process has left me feeling very frustrated and dejected.

Ugh, I’m sorry. The frustrating answer is that there’s no way to know what it means. It might mean that they chose a different candidate instead and haven’t bothered to tell you. Or it might mean that you’re still in the running but things are moving much slower than they anticipated (a decision-maker or reference-checker is out of town, or busy with higher priorities, or they need to rethink some aspect of the position before they move forward, or someone just quit and they’re dealing with that vacancy first, or whatever). There’s no way to know, unfortunately.

However, you can absolutely email your contact there and say that you remain very interested in the position and wonder if they can update you on their timeline. That may or may not get you a response, but there’s a decent chance that it will. Good luck!

7. Managing a teenage stepson

I don’t know if you’ll be horrified or pleased to hear this, but I wanted to tell you a story. I recently moved in with my beloved, who happens to be blessed with a 17-year-old son who is here summers and for a few weeks every winter. I have younger kids, who are girls, and have no idea really how to relate to a kid who I haven’t known long enough to be in a parental role. My fiance’s been trying to get his son to do yard work for the last 3 summers straight for at least a little bit each day, but I doubt he spent three hours out there in the last three years. The son is a good kid, but would prefer to watch Doctor Who reruns on Netflix 18 hours a day, if left to his own devices. I don’t blame him, I could probably do the same if I didn’t have to work and parent and live in a clean house. But anyway.

I realized that A: the kid needed to do something productive. B: Nagging never works on anyone. C: A managerial role was probably something he would respect, much more than a substitute parent. So I’m using your principles, and getting results. Each day, we cover the (attainable) goals for the day. I’m holding him accountable to them — he gets rewards (dollars, plus extra TV time) if they’re completed. He has well-known consequences (I change the wifi password) if they’re not. It’s only been three weeks, but after the first consequence, he started asking me for his goals for the day as soon as he’s up, gets his work completed, and is free to watch The Doctor and his hijinks for the rest of the day.

I don’t know if that means your next foray should be a parenting (or a step-parenting) manual, but it seems to be working really well, and I thought you might like to know. :)

Ha! I suspect that your success here has a lot to do with your own skills at presenting this plan to him.

Also, this is pretty funny, considering my roots as an obstinate teenager who could not be cajoled into doing chores.

{ 118 comments… read them below }

    1. Anonymous*

      Haha I saw that and was excited for a second because I thought Saturday had come early:)

  1. EngineerGirl*

    #3 – Never feel embarrassed that you saw and created an opportunity. This wasn’t “luck” – you earned it through hard work. If they start razzing you again just state the obvious. “Yeah, I saw an opportunity and presented it to the leads. I’m so thrilled that all my hard work paid off”.
    I hate to say it, but this kind of “jealousy” is a form of Dunning-Kruger. They don’t have the skill set to see all the extra things you did to earn your promotion. If they continue the bullying it is time to start saying “this is inappropriate”.
    But like Alison said – it is time to look them in the eye in a non-emotional way and let them know that their behavior is out of line. Calmly draw boundaries.

    1. WWWONKA*

      NOT every promotion is based on skill and ability. Sometimes it IS based on WHO fits the mold.

    2. OP #7*

      TBH if I was in the coworkers’ position, I’d be pretty peeved too. Not to say that the OP doesn’t deserve the promotion at all, and it’s stupid to complain outwardly about it. But if there has been a relatively established way of moving through the company, whether it be through seniority or ‘paying your dues’, to having to wait for an internal posting before you can apply, I can see how someone that has gone around that system would annoy the others. For all you know there is another worker who has been waiting for ages for an internal posting to go up, only to find that they never even got a shot. If I’d been told ‘yes, we want you at this company long term, keep an eye on internal postings and I’ll go into bat for you’, then saw someone with less experience/time at the company get around that requirement, I could be annoyed. And if a department head’s role only comes around once every 5-10 years like many businesses…some workers might feel like a door has slammed in their faces.
      Congratulations to the OP on the promotion, because I’m sure that they’re very deserving – but just remember that you may be dealing with some bruised egos and managing people who are looking for other work now. Blog posts and complaining that they’re ‘ruining the moment’ isn’t good management no matter how the employees are acting.

      1. EngineerGirl*

        This is ridiculous. There are “rules” and then there are “guidelines”. Many people confuse the two. Breaking rules = bad. But there’s room for movement with guidelines. In this case the OP showed initiative, went forward, and got a new job. Good! Promotions should NEVER be based on seniority or paying your dues. Promotions should be about doing a higher level of work and getting a higher level job because of that work. And the OP showed just that.
        “Getting around the system” can be the key to getting things done in a large organization. The problem solving skills of “making it happen” are a major skill set.
        People who sit on their butt and just wait for things to happen don’t deserve that promotion.

        1. jesicka309*

          But we don’t know if any of the other workers have just been sitting on their butts doing nothing. We don’t know what kinds of carrots management have been dangling for other people. If the OP has switched departments, there are going to be senior people in that department who have been aiming for that role for many years, and couldn’t have known they should be pitching for it before the current head quit.
          Sure, ‘paying your dues’ and seniority should never be a factor in promotions, in a perfect world. But in many organsiations where it’s been the norm for a long time, it can be hard to convince people who are finally nearing the ‘front of the line’ that it’s the wrong way to do things – to them, they just feel used and cheated. I’ve definitely missed out on promotions due to seniority – it stinks, but what can you do?
          All I was saying was that the OP needs to be aware that he’s going to be managing people who may be feeling disgruntled or peeved – OP needs to deal with the nasty comments, but they should also be aware of the difficult decisions some coworkers may now face (similar to OP5)

          1. jesicka309*

            And by ‘deal with’ I meant take action and put an end to the nasty comments, not the stop being a baby ‘deal with it’. :) Just in case my tone gets misread there haha.

          2. Lindsay J*

            However, I feel as though if the more senior coworkers were serious candidates for the job, management would likely have said something to the extent of “I appreciate your initiative in coming to us, however, we’re going to open the position up to everyone in the department. You are more than welcome to apply, but we want to give everyone a level playing field.”

            Sometimes there is just one person that stands out above the rest in a group, even if they have less senority. When I did promotions I almost never posted the position, because I pretty much always knew who I was going to pick based off their previous work, attitude, and other things that I knew from working with them over the years. Anything said or done in an interview was not going to change my mind, and so opening things up to have people interview for positions they were not going to get seemed disingenuous to me. (I did have private conversations with the people I was planning on promoting to hear about their management style and other things that might not be obvious based on their previous work, and if red flags got sent up there it could mean they weren’t getting promoted, but it also might mean that in that case the vacancy remained open until somebody else proved themselves more.)

            1. Joey*

              But at the same time you owe it to everyone else to tell them what they need to do to get promoted. And it helps tremendously if you can say” you want to get promoted? Be like Jane and do things like x.”

        2. Anonymous*

          “In this case the OP showed initiative, went forward, and got a new job.”
          Respectfully, I don’t think we have enough information to know that her co-workers didn’t show initiative or try to go forward. To imply that they were sitting on their butt waiting for things to happen is unfair.

          1. Coco*

            If we take the OP at face value, I doubt the other co-workers took the initiate to set up their own meeting with various department heads and create a presentation.

            One thing I’ve learned is that if you want to get ahead, you have to step out of the box. Maybe the co-workers were just looking at all of the regular positions that get posted. Not all jobs or promotions are posted.

            What the OP was get her name and face in front of the right people. When these people had an opening, they knew who to go to.

            You have to let management know you want to get ahead even before anything is ever posted. It may look like sucking up to other people but it’s really just being smart and shrewd.

      2. Anonymous*

        It would be nice to know exactly what the field is in too. If it was outside sales, say, then it makes perfect sense to go for the person who took the initiative. Other fields may be better suited to “paying your dues.” In my case, I’m in mechanical engineering and people get passed over for promotions all the time. Not that they aren’t great at being engineers…but the skill set you need for engineering isn’t the same skill set you need to manage other people. For the people I work with, they have trouble seeing that sometimes.
        I agree about the blog post though, if it’s not anonymous. It would ruffle feathers unnecessarily.

        1. Meg*

          I don’t think any field is better suited to earning a promotion through “paying your dues”. That may be how some fields work, but it doesn’t make it a good thing – it just means those companies need to reevaluate how they promote employees. Promotions should be earned by having the necessary skills – whether it’s in mechanical engineering or something else, a neccessary skill includes knowing how to manage others.

        2. Long Time Admin*

          I work in an A/E firm, and they promoted people with absolutely no managerial or business skills into management all time. And it stunk! Dissention within the ranks and poor business decisions almost did the company in. Last year, the biggest manager-bully we had was let go, and the second biggest one gave his notice and will be leaving, too. It’s like a breath of fresh air!

    3. AK*

      Thanks! It’s been hard handling the backlash…but I’m taking the highroad and moving on and looking forward to the next step. Won’t be working with that group of people much in the new role!

    4. Katie the Fed*

      Eh, I have to disagree with you there. It’s definitely not the OP’s fault, but the whole thing happened with no transparency. Lack of transparency is what can really destroy morale. The other coworkers didn’t even know there was an opportunity and now it’s been filled. I’d be miffed if I were a coworker – not at the OP but at management.

      I missed out on a job I really, really, really wanted because of a similar kind of backroom handshake and it took me a long time to get over it. The person who got it is someone I really like and respect a lot, so I made sure he never felt like I was upset at him. Oddly, he was upset about the process too -he felt like had he been allowed to compete for it in an open and transparent competition, then people would respect him more. He also commented that as a minority he really didn’t want people to think he got any kind of special treatment. So it can hurt a lot of people when management acts without transparency.

      1. EngineerGirl*

        I agree that transparency helps minimize charges of favoritism.

        But based on how the OPs coworkers are acting they didn’t deserve the promotion. It would be a whole different story if they had reacted in a professional manner.

        1. EngineerGirl*

          Just an FYI, you need to get over the “ruin the moment” mentality if you are going into management. As a manager you will have to do some things that may be unpopular with some of the work force, If you are seeking the approval of others for your actions you will be crippled from doing the right thing.

      2. Rana*

        I’d be miffed if I were a coworker – not at the OP but at management.

        That’s what I was thinking, too. There’s no value in being snide or unpleasant to the person who got the promoted, because, ultimately, the decision didn’t lie with them but with their higher-ups. It’s only going to make you look unprofessional if you take out your disappointment on a former co-worker.

        That said, if such a person was spending a lot of time gloating in my presence (not to say that the OP is doing this), I’d be hard pressed to be as polite as I’d like, let alone congratulatory.

  2. Mike C.*

    RE #2:

    There’s nothing you can do?

    Bah, if all 40ish of you can trust each other to keep your mouths shut, you could get back at your bosses for the way they treat you by forming a union.

    It’s not easy, but it’s better than “nothing”, and if nothing else it will feel good to be treated like a human being again.

    1. WWWONKA*

      You would be smarter to start looking for a job. They obviously do not value their biggest asset.

    2. Joey*

      If you’re going to recommend organizing you might want to point out that doing so comes with a lot of risk like the risk of being fired or pressured into quitting.

        1. Mike C.*

          It is, during my efforts I was made aware that the owner of the business did so a year prior to my joining the company.


    #5 If your suppliers have cut off yor company there are most likely financial problems going on. Time to keep an open eye.

    1. Jane Doe*

      Yep. Also, the boss is deciding to take training and conference opportunities himself, and giving the OP’s proposed projects to a different worker. It sounds like the boss is either trying to convince the OP to take another job, or making it so that he/she becomes redundant. It’s possible that the boss is cutting the OP out of the loop so that when it comes time to lay them off there isn’t a ton of knowledge/resources/projects that have to be transferred.

      1. Brett*

        It is also possible that the boss is looking for a new job, and trying to boost their own resume before worrying about other workers.

    2. Jenna*

      Agree. At my last job, I sat near the purchaser and overheard him on the phone trying to get materials from companies that had cut us off for non-payment, and argue with accounting to get bills to certain suppliers paid so that we could get things required to complete a job. As the situation got worse, I started job searching. Sure enough, they closed down our whole division and a bunch of people, including me, were laid off. Eventually the company went bankrupt.

  4. Eric*

    When I saw “Managing a teenage stepson” I was expecting it to be someone who hired their stepson at work or married their employees parent. This was so much better.

    1. Josh S*

      Though, to be honest, I’d love to watch Doctor Who reruns for 18 hours a day too. :)

    2. Lindsay J*

      Yes. I was expecting a potential horror show, but it actually turned out to be nice.

  5. Rich*

    #7- I love your solution. If he is willingly coming to you and providing results, I’d say you can chalk it up to ingenuity and great leadership (which are great traits for parents).

    1. Camp Director Kim*

      #7, thank you for treating your teen like a human being. Teens frequently get a bad rap for being obnoxious/disrespectful/rude/lazy/you name it..but to be honest, I think that behavior is caused by adults who don’t understand how to treat their teenagers like adults. The minute you give them trust, freedom, and responsibility within a structured framework, the attitude disappears. It’s amazing. This is how we have run our camp’s teen program for 10 years, with no major problems and no attitude from the kids.

      1. Jamie*

        I’ve always liked my kids as people, and I think that helps too.

        I know all parents love their kids (well, most) but sometimes the way some talk I don’t know if they like them all that much.

        But a big this to all of Camp Director Kim’s post. Teenagers aren’t stereotypes – they are people – keep that in mind and you can establish mutual respect that goes a looong way in helping navigate the more difficult moments.

        (Because while they are people, they are people whose main job it is to transition into adults which means emotionally separating on some level from the extreme dependence of childhood and that tough on everyone.)

        1. Chinook*

          You also have to remember that teens are going through huge physiological changes, some of which aren’t visible. There are parts of their brain that are developing more slowly than others which is why teens seem to sometimes make illogical or short term beneficial choices. I joke about looking at teens as toddlers with a higher intelligence and vocabulary, but it some ways it is true. So, giving clear directions with obvious, short term positive and negative consequences and then following through is often the best way to get them to do something. Congrats to the OP on doing just that!

        2. jesicka309*

          I’ll always remember as a teen, my parents sitting me down for a talk – apparently, I had been awful to live with over x months, and it had to stop.
          It was so much better as a discussion, rather than Mum screaming at me to do my washing, and me screaming back etc. Talking to me like an adult made me want to act like an adult….funny how that works, right?

      2. Kou*

        Absolutely. I feel like a lot of people want their teens to have responsibility and consequences without the possibility to get rewards or freedoms in the process. All chore charts and no autonomy makes *anyone* obnoxious and angry.

  6. Jessa*

    #5 – he’s either using your ideas for himself, or he really doesn’t care what you want. Honestly I’d have started looking around the 2nd or 3d time the boss gave me the runaround or handed my ideas to someone else.

    1. Peace*

      I think it’s a little of both. My boss is a glory seeking hound that is always trying to make himself look good to upper management. He told me once he has to get a promotion every 4-5 years or he’ll leave a company. I wish he passed that promotion “concept” on to the people that work for him. He continues to saddle me with projects that are not continuous improvement since I am known at the company to get things done quickly and efficiently. Yep, I have applied elsewhere, for a job that utilizes my skills. Phone interview went well, upcoming interview in a week. I really like most of the people at this company which is why the decision to apply elsewhere was so tough. As far as raw material suppliers cutting us off, we have about 400+ products and never buy a lot of any one chemical. What we’ve been seeing is that with the economic problems, the suppliers are dropping the low volume chemicals that don’t make any money or the company shuts down completely and we lose our supply.

  7. Elizabeth*

    #3, if you’re moving into a more prominent role, I think you should be careful about the topics you choose for your blog. Blogging can be a great tool to build yourself up professionally (AAM being the most relevant example, of course!) but it also has the potential to undermine a professional reputation. I think part of the trouble is that writing a blog can feel like writing a diary – and there are plenty of things that could go in a diary that shouldn’t go on a public blog. (I definitely made this mistake myself as a teenager with things I wrote about my friends on my blog… even though I knew those friends read the blog. The drama that ensued was not pretty.)

    The rule of thumb I use is, “If someone asked me to read this aloud at an all-staff meeting, is there anything I’ve written that I would hesitate to read?” If there is, for a reason other than it being off-topic from the standard meeting agenda, then I don’t post it.

    1. Ag*

      That’s a great rule of thumb! I’m thinking of starting a blog… and I’ll do the same with my posts. Thanks!

    2. anonalupagus*

      Definitely agree here. When I changed jobs out of a management role at a small business and moved to a larger company, I didn’t have management responsibility and was a blogger. As I’ve been promoted back into managerial positions in the much larger company, I stopped. There are plenty of other ways to express myself that don’t run the risk of misinterpretation by the very people I’m talking about. No matter how heavily cloaked you think it may be, it’s just not wise. I could have just made some rules for myself about off-limits topics as Elizabeth did, but ultimately, my innate snarkiness would not be denied, and it was smarter to just take it offline into a private journal where I could snark and bitch and blather to my heart’s content.

      (A corollary…as was discussed extensively yesterday in terms of kids and teachers, it’s also wise to be extremely careful about your social media presence. One slip and you can make your professional life really difficult. Just…don’t talk work, unless it’s positive, and be wise about what you post about your personal life. )

      1. ExceptionToTheRule*

        Wise, wise advice. Even if you’ve blocked your boss (or your boss has blocked you) the word gets around.

    3. Long Time Admin*


      If the OP made it more of a “how to promote yourself at work” post, it might be OK.

    4. Rana*

      That’s an excellent point. It helps, before you write even the first post, to get it very clear in your own head what the “rules” of your blog are, so that you don’t accidentally make mistakes you later regret.

      For example, on my own blog (now in hiatus), I decided early on to write under a pseudonym, never name anyone or any company or organization specifically, and if writing about a friend or family member, to ask their permission beforehand. Even though I wrote under a pseudonym, I valued (and still do) my online reputation, and always asked myself if I’d be willing to live with whatever fallout a particular post might generate, because once it’s on the net, it’s there forever.

      (It also helps to clarify for yourself – and your readers – what your commenting policy is, what your philosophy of blogging is, etc. And to remember that a gracious and genuine apology when you screw up goes a lot farther than getting defensive.)

  8. Job seeker*

    As a mom of three sons, boys can be a handful. I only had one sister so that made it even tougher for me. With no brothers for a reference, I had to wing it a lot. You have to be strong but fair. You have to also put a lot of caring and love in the mix.

    Teenage boys are really no different from girls, they need to know you care. I would not trade my boys for anything. They have taught me so much. Keep up the good work, teenagers need rules and to know you care enough to make them. You can’t be his mom but you can be his friend.:-)

    1. Jamie*

      Two sons and a daughter and I wouldn’t trade any of them for the world…but boys never steal your flat iron and leave it in their room for you to hunt down and never, ever use the last of your good eye make-up remover without telling you.

      Then again the boys have never kept me company by getting a mani pedi with me – so there are trade offs.

      1. Elizabeth*

        boys … never, ever use the last of your good eye make-up remover without telling you.

        You don’t have goth or punk kids. I don’t have any kids, but I’ve gotten to hear from a colleague about how her then-teenage son stole her black eyeliner & makeup remover. Almost 10 years later, she still buys a set for herself & a set for him.

  9. Lily*

    #3 It sounds like your former peers are going to be difficult. I suggest taking notes during phone calls and meetings, so you can document that “I asked X to please behave professionally, because he …” on Y date. I suspect some of them are going to see how far they can go.

  10. Joey*

    #3. Your staff has a legitimate complaint. The process at best appears unfair. And the perception is just as important as the outcome as you’re finding out. Can you guess who is going to be labeled as a favorite?

    And I think its kind of sad that you’re not sympathetic to that from what I can tell. Obviously you had no say in the process, but your staff feels wronged. At minimum I would tell them how you did it and what they could do to put position themselves to be promoted.

  11. Glen Harness*

    If I see the phrase “dream job” one more time, my head is going to explode.

        1. De Minimis*

          I like that show too! Think Netflix has a whole slew of them, which is where I first saw it.

        2. ThursdaysGeek*

          My dream job would involve re-reading most of the books in my library, with a cat on my lap and a cuppa hot tea next to me, mixed in with some work as a professional listener. Since I already listen to people now, it would be nice to be paid for it.

          1. Chinook*

            ThursdaysGeek, I had your dream job while I was unemployed. After I did my daily internet search for job and applied to them, the only thing I could afford to do was sit, read, drink tea and play with my cat and dog. It was fun at first but I soon learned that it was no where near as fun in the long term. Maybe it would have been better if there was someone to wash the cup when I was done?

            1. Chinook*

              I should add that I was on unemployment, so I was even getting paid to sit in the sunny spot and read!

            2. Vicki*

              I’m still looking, drawing unemployment, and reading with the cat and the tea. It hasn’t gotten old yet. I hink the reason is that I didn’t realize houw stressful LastJob had been over 5.5 years until it was no longer there.

              I really do need to get a new job but right now I can Breathe.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        Then instead of a dream job, it is a nightmare job. Nightmares are dreams too, so it’s still a dream job.

      2. FRRibs*

        I was going to say “Dreamscape” came out before “Nightmare on Elm Street”, but it seems they both were released in 1984.

        My father’s father retired and spent 40 years in a recliner in front of a fireplace with an English Setter at his feet, a Meerschaum in his mouth, tea at his elbow and a book in his hands. It may not be my dream job, but it is definitely my dream retirement.

    1. danr*

      I did have my dream job for awhile… I was paid to sit and read almost all day and I got to read stuff that I would have read anyway. There was some actual work to go along with the reading, but it was interesting too. But… I didn’t go looking for it, the location certainly wasn’t perfect and the commute was long. However, I was in the country by the time I got home. There were colleagues who commuted for the same amount of time and never got out of the city.

  12. Ruffingit*

    I really feel for OP#2. I’ve been in some horrible work environments so I know what it feels like to deal with true insanity. That said, the only things you can do besides quit is sit with yourself one evening and really decide what you can handle.

    For example, would you be OK with quitting this job and taking one or more part-time jobs outside of your field to make ends meet?

    Would you be OK with staying in this job while aggressively hunting for another one and if so, for how long do you feel you can handle that?

    Would you be OK with leaving the job without another one to go to and can your savings account back that choice?

    And so on and so on. Basically, when a person is in a horrible work environment, they often get stuck on the “how can I change things here” idea. As AAM so aptly noted, you can’t. Therefore, it’s important to shift your focus to what you CAN do for yourself. Put the concentration on what you’re able to handle and make a list of possible solutions to the problem that you actually have control over. Basically, that is what YOU can handle/do because the job is terrible NOT how to make the job less terrible because you simply cannot do that.

  13. Lisa*

    #7) I love the changing of the password idea. Its brilliant if they don’t have a data plan on their phones. Alas, my 11 yr old niece got her first iPhone before i did though at the age of 10. I just got mine this week, and I am 32. Her sister is almost 8, but on her 6th birthday was given an iPad2 with wifi so she wouldn’t be bored at her sisters hockey games / practices, etc. This consequence can work though on TV too. Password Netflix.

    1. Chinook*

      Limiting access to an iPhone is easy – confiscate the charger (and various cords that go into a computer) and only let them recharge it after completeing their work.

      1. Jamie*

        Ha – genius! After a couple of rounds of Candy Crush and Angry Birds that battery should be dead in no time.

  14. Kacie*

    #3 – I saw this behavior at a previous job. “I’ve been here longer.” “She’s only been doing this for 6 months, how did she manage that promotion.” “Who’s he for moving up so quickly.”

    I interviewed many internal staff for promotions and lateral moves, and many of them were out of practice on interviewing. I heard how they didn’t get along with certain co-workers, their family situations, how they just felt like they deserved a move.

    I really wanted to have some sort of internal training on how to interview and work towards promotions. A lot of these people were long timers, and it was obvious they didn’t know how to apply or interview for new positions. You should treat an internal interview as seriously as you do one for a new position at another company. The ones who did this were the ones who stood out and got promoted.

    1. Joey*

      I don’t know if you did this or not, but giving feedback to internal employees who weren’t selected is the perfect opportunity to share the kind of feedback you’re discussing. Obviously their manager should be helping people reach their career goals, but when that hasn’t happened its a good teaching moment to give people some constructive feedback when you tell them they didn’t get the promotion.

      1. Kacie*

        Unfortunately, the HR director at the time didn’t allow for this kind of feedback to internal staff. As for my own staff, if they were looking to move internally or externally, I tried to coach and support them the best I could.

        1. KarenT*

          Wow that HR director needs a new line of work. Everyone deserves feedback but that goes x 1000 for internal candidates.

    2. Jack*

      Sometimes those can be legit questions – when the coworker with seniority is told she needs more experience, then they turn around and promote someone with less experience (and neither has an prior experience in the field) then I think “She’s only been doing this for 6 months, how did she manage that promotion?” is a valid question.

      Transparency is important in this sort of situation because it can cut off a lot of resentment before it has time to build.

    3. AgilePhalanges*

      Wow, I know what you mean. I’m on the committee to interview (just in pairs) people for a perk at our company–a service trip for which all expenses are paid, including the time “off” (not out of your PTO bank) to go somewhere for a week and do volunteer work. My co-worker and I finished the first interview and agreed the person aced it, but we remarked how unlike a real job interview where there are plenty of open-ended questions that aren’t “right” or “wrong,” just a matter of fit, with an opportunity like this, and the questions drafted by the person in charge, it’s pretty easy to give the expected answers and make it in. Well, the next few interviews proved that that’s not so true. We’ve had a couple of no-shows, and plenty of people saying that their perception of teamwork is how great a natural leader they are and people just tend to look up to them to they end up bossing people around, and the reason they want to go on a trip like this is to get a paid trip elsewhere, and oh by the way will there be any personal time? Yeah.

    1. iseeshiny*

      Right? I had to google it. There’s my ‘something new’ today. And so early, too!

    2. junipergreen*

      Ditto – also sent me to the (online) dictionary. Love new words, will be looking for a way to work that in conversation soon so I don’t forget it.

  15. MiketheRecruiter*

    Question #2 – do we work at the same company? We’ve lost 8 people in 8 months, everyone can’t cut it, and people are expected to be in office unless they might give the rest of the team the ebola virus. Love it!

    1. Felicia*

      #2 sounds like where I used to work too, though I was on of the 10 people in 6 months who “couldn’t cut it” , which for me was probably impossible expectations and being asked to do things I had no experience in perfectly , the first time I tried it, with no training. Sucks being unemployed but it’s still better than that toxic environment

      Sadly there are probably quite a few offices that fit that description.

  16. RubyJackson*

    OP#7- Kudos to you for having the guts to implement a form of discipline. A lot of parents can’t or won’t enforce rules and impose consequences for fear of angering their children. The pressure to chum up to a step child must be even harder. You are doing him a big favor by teaching him lessons of responsibility and it can only help solidify your relationship with the boy. Your fiance must be super impressed with your results, too, if he’s been trying for years to get the boy to pitch in! Congratulations.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Absolutely – and when it’s time for him to get a job outside of the home he will be so much better prepared.

  17. Nikki J.*

    #7: 17 years old? Sounds like he’s old enough to get out of the house and get a real “job”.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      That seemed harsh. Have you not heard how difficult it is for teens to get a “real” summer job because they are competing with adults desperate for work?

      1. StevieS*

        Not to mention that many of these jobs are being replaced indefinitely by computers and technology. How can a teenager work as a retail clerk if everyone is buying things online?

        1. Chris*

          All of the jobs in my area have phased out most of the less than 18 year old workers. Even labor intensive jobs like farming seem angled at an older worker than previously. Baggers used to hire in at 14 (which I did several summers of) now they have to be 18 so they can use equipment. So I’d cut him some slack if he can’t find anything quite yet. Love the internship suggestion though -he may find better luck with that. And look totally prepared if he attends college later on.

    2. Jesse*

      He might have tried. Also, if he’s staying with his secondary parent only during the summers and for a few weeks in the winter, then jobs might not even look at his application since its out of town.

      I do agree with looking for an internship. Still develops work experience on his “off” time.

    3. Kou*

      In this market, not likely. Huge competition for not a lot of jobs, so if he doesn’t have any experience he’s meeting some big hurdles.

      At that age I didn’t have a car to borrow during the week when my parents were at work to go to a job anyway (I did not grow up in a transit-accessible city), which actually drove me crazy because I really wanted a real job.

  18. Brett*

    #3: The only thing that raised a red flag with me was “set up a meeting with the department heads”.

    How common is it for your coworkers to be allowed to arrange a meeting with multiple (all?) department heads? Not even our CEO and COO have this ability here (but then again, I’m public sector so that’s not unusual at all).

    This was clearly a critical factor in receiving your promotion, and if only certain workers are allowed this ability, then you did have a clear advantage unavailable to your co-workers. Of course, that’s yet another reason not to blog about or even really talk about why you were promoted. That will only increase the perceptions of unmerited favoritism even if you earned the ability to call that kind of meeting.

  19. Revanche*

    #3: Ditto Alison. Sometimes you’re just working for crazy or terrible (or both) people. After 5 years of that, I can attest: there’s nothing you can do to change them if they don’t think they’re wrong and will find increasingly unpleasant ways to prove it.

    #4: This was in the history of one organization I worked at and led to an “all positions must be posted and all existing employees’ applications entertained no matter how badly disqualified they are forever” policy. In some few ways, not terrible. In others, a bit time-consuming. People resent not being given an opportunity no matter how much they were never going to get it (in this case, the job was orders of magnitude above some of the employees’ abilities and their constant bitterness was doing them no favors).

    #6: Or they don’t check references even though they say they will.

  20. Meg*

    @ #7 – that’s amazing. I don’t have kids but I am absolutely keeping this in mind if/when I ever do.

  21. Elle*


    Please god, no parenting. The entire internet is basically one huge parenting blog. I’m begging you. Once it becomes clear that AAM is open for cutesy stories about baby diarrhea and husbands who won’t do the dishes, we will never get rid of them. Please Alison, please! No parenting stories!

    1. Long Time Admin*

      Come on, Elle, this was more about management than parenting. In fact, she got the idea from AAM.

  22. Dahlia*

    #6- The manager may not check your references. I’ve known a few managers in large corporations who never “get around” to checking reference, but hire the candidates anyway.

    1. Lucie*

      I am hoping this is the case in my situation! I had two seemingly positive interviews within a City Department and have been waiting around for 2 weeks for a response. I was just wondering if it is appropriate to email the hiring director since I haven’t heard back? I’m new to the job market and unsure of normal practices in this situation.

  23. Kou*

    #7 Oh I can’t even tell you how hilarious I find this, as I too was (am?) an obstinate teenager (adult…) who never did anything my parents wanted me to over the summers. I sometimes did other things– especially in high school, I volunteered full time some summers because I was bored. But not in college, oh no, the projects my parents set for me before I moved out at 17 are still left unfinished now that I am years out of university.

    What’s funny is that I’m a fabulous self-starter (to use the corpspeak) professionally, I manage my time extremely well at work, and I did as a student as well. I keep my things at home very organized. But the second anyone, my parents before and my partner now, tells me *when* I have to do a particular chore? Hah. I blame it on Montessori school.

  24. Jessie*

    #6 – I have had 12 professional jobs since 2001. (I was a serial job hopper in the early to mid-2000’s, before the economy tanked) These were GOOD jobs too – anyways, out of all 12 jobs that I have had, I have only been reference checked 3 times. Most of the companies I worked for ASKED for references, and then never called. Quite annoying, because I always prepped my former managers and peers that I was being reference checked. And when you’ve had 12 professional jobs in 12 years, it gets really annoying asking someone to be a reference and then having the reference checker never call!!!

  25. Anonymous*

    #6 – I was the asker of this question and unfortunately my suspicions were correct – They had not contacted my references because they had decided to proceed with “more qualified” candidates. Thanks for your insights, though! I’ll remember not to be so hopeful next time I get to the reference check stage. I assumed that because I had gotten to that stage that my references would for sure be contacted and seal the deal…What a bummer!

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