when a reference changes their mind, advice for new managers, and more

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

1. When a reference changes their mind about what they’ll say about you

How do you tell a prospective employer that your manager has decided they can’t give you a glowing reference?

My husband left his job a few months ago on good terms. The company was moving state and downsizing anyway. My husband had always had glowing performance reviews, which often came with bonuses and two promotions during the 3 years he was there. When he left, his manager said he was always a good worker and would be happy to give him a good reference.

My husband is now short-listed for a job and contacted the former manager for a reference. Now, the manager says he cannot give a good reference considering some of the “challenges” before he resigned. My husband has no idea what these are and is willing to move on (this manager could be petty and make mountains out of molehills), but how does he now tell his prospective employer that his recent manager has changed his mind?

“Unfortunately, my former manager is now declining to be a reference, although he’d earlier told me he’d be happy to give a strong one. I had glowing performance reviews while I was there, as well as bonuses and two promotions in three years, so I’m at a loss as to what could be causing this, but I suspect he’s unhappy that I left. I’d be glad to supply you with other references who can speak about my work there and at other companies.”

If he has copies of those performance reviews, it wouldn’t hurt to offer to share them either.

2. My old manager emailed my new manager to say bad things about me

I have started a new job. My interview, references, and first week were all good. However, my new manager told me that she got an email saying bad things about me from my previous company. I do not know who sent it, but I am guessing that it was my ex-boss. My question is: Is not it illegal that she sent an email after I already started working with another company?

It’s not illegal unless she was deliberately lying about you, in which case it could potentially be slander or defamation. It is, however, incredibly petty to badmouth you to a new employer after you’ve already started working there. In fact, it’s such a bizarre action to take that if your new manager is at all sensible, it made her see your old manager as unhinged, rather than giving much credence to what was in the email.

If you’re concerned, go back to your new manager and say, “I’m really taken aback that she would do that, and I want to make sure that you don’t have any concerns about me or my work.”

3. Recruiter asked for my Social Security number and the year I graduated high school

Today I had a phone interview with an agency recruiter. Everything was going fine during our standard discussion. Toward the end, he asked me when I graduated high school, which I answered. After that, he wanted my Social Security number to “move forward,” which I refused to give him.

During the talk, I pretty much determined that asking about graduation was the way to get around the age question. And, regarding the Social Security number, I told him I do not give that to anyone at the early stages, so I doubt we are moving forward. Was I wrong in either situation?

Nope, you were right. There’s no reason that he should need to know when you graduated from high school (!), assuming that you’re not coming across as very young and inexperienced. And there’s no reason he needs your Social Security number at this stage either, and it’s intrusive to ask for it.

4. Reapplying for a job I was recently laid off from

I was given notice in January that I would be laid off at the end of March from a job I really loved. Last week, I saw that the job I was laid off from is being advertised — likely because they finally figured out that there was no way to actually cut the service and putting the work of a team of 5 onto the one person that didn’t get laid off was completely unreasonable. Since March, I’ve been consulting. While the money is great, the work isn’t and it’s not what I want to be doing or who I want to be doing it for. So I put some feelers out to my old manager and the guy who didn’t get laid off to see if they’d be open to me coming back. My old manager has been promoted and I don’t really know the new department manager very well — I think I met him once in the year I was at the company. Both my manager and coworker think I should apply and would love to have me back.

Should I decide to apply, what does my cover letter look like in this situation? It’s only been 3 months since I left and I haven’t even added the consulting job on my resume yet. Should I reach out directly to the new manager? Or the HR recruiter listed for the job (she is the one who originally placed me at the company)? Should I mention in my cover letter that I have discussed the position with my former manager and coworker?

You should absolutely mention in your cover letter that you spoke to your former manager about the position and that she encouraged you to apply.

Send your application materials directly to the new manager, and cc the recruiter. Then forward it to your old manager with a note that you applied — and you might also ask if she can advise you on how to have the best chance of moving forward (which she will hopefully take as a cue that she should go sing your praises to the new manager).

All this said … keep in mind that they might want to go in a different direction, and that there might have been a reason for the layoff and their subsequently not reaching back out to you when the position re-opened. I have no idea if that’s the case or not, but keep that in mind as you approach all this and be sensitive to any cues along those lines.

5. I’m on the schedule beyond my last day at work

I gave my two weeks notice to my boss, stating that my final day working there would be July 10. The newest schedule for my last week is up, and he put me on for the 11th. I’m a part-time cashier/deli worker in a small store, and we’re all relatively close because there’s so few of us. But I’m concerned about the last day he has me on for because I informed him I would be leaving town and I needed to be off by the tenth. Is there anything I can do or say about this?

Start by assuming it’s a mistake, and just point it out to him: “I noticed you have me on the schedule for July 11, but my last day is July 10.”

When in doubt, just be straightforward.

6. My job refused to give me time off to interview for a different position

In my current job, I have told my manager numerous times that the work is too simple. He agrees with me and has even given me more jobs to do, but I’m simply just bored. I advised him I was looking elsewhere, and when I had the offer of an interview, he said HR would not allow me the morning off the next week, because I need 3 weeks notice. Hence I missed the interview.

He said that the company didn’t look favorably on going to interviews outside the business on their time. Can they do this? And is there not a law protecting employees from this?

Uh, yes, they can do that, and no, there’s no law requiring employers to make it easy for you to interview for other jobs during the hours you’re supposed to be working for them. Generally people are discreet when they’re looking for other jobs and don’t announce that they need time off for an interview.

7. Advice for new managers

I was recently promoted to my first supervisor position. I manage 4 people now. Can you recommend your top five past articles that give advice to new managers? I enjoy my daily reading of your blog.

I certainly can. Try these:

the most important advice for new managers

12 ways to make your employees love you

how to deal with employee performance problems and its cousin, be honest about employee performance problems

what reality-based management looks like

10 ways to appear more authoritative at work

Yes, that was six, not five, because they’re all important. But most importantly, check out my book for managers, which will walk you through the mechanics of managing well, step by step.

{ 174 comments… read them below }

  1. jesicka309*

    #6 !!!!!

    Why on earth would anyone think they should get ‘approved’ time off for interviews!?!? I take half days if I can, or schedule during my lunch break or before/after work. Sure, there are times where I’m 15 minutes late back from lunch because of it, but a) I warn them I’ll be late and b) I don’t tell them it’s for an interview!!
    Appointment. Always call it an appointment.

    And unless you’re temping/about to be laid off, you shouldn’t tell your boss you’re considering leaving. Tell them you’re not happy, sure, that gives them a chance to fix things, but not that you’re interviewing to leave.

    In my head, I’m imagining the OP standing up, putting on their coat and saying “right, I’m off to Teapots are Us for an interview. Cross your fingers for me, guys!” and flouncing out. :)

    1. Jen in RO*

      Well… I’m sort of in that situation. My line manager doesn’t know I’m interviewing, but my team lead does, so I do tell her if I’ll be late for work because I have an interview in the morning.

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      SERIOUSLY! When I saw the title of the question I immediately assumed this was a manager who was making it difficult for an employee to interview for another position within the same organization. THAT I would consider obnoxious. But your boss not being willing to give you time off so you can interview at another company? Very normal, and in fact so normal that it’s far more the usual practice to take time off without giving the reason (or, better yet, scheduling your interviews so that they don’t interfere with your work schedule). Because basically, you are telling your boss, “Let me off work so that I can pursue something that will be inconvenient to you (having to replace you), without any benefit to the company (as interviewing for an internal position might do).”

      Unless you have a very, very special relationship with your manager — the kind of boss you get once in a lifetime, the kind who puts your long-term career interests above his/her convenience and is willing to say, “I believe this is the right step for you, enough so that you should use your time off for this purpose” — why would your boss say yes?

      1. KC*

        I was VERY fortunate in my last job to have the boss you describe when I was ready to leave the company. I’d been with the company for 4.5 years and worked really hard while I was there. My boss really valued me, but he also was a great mentor and knew that moving on was going to be good for my career.

        So when the time came, I felt comfortable confiding my job search in him. Primarily, I wanted to make sure he had a heads up that he’d need to be thinking about replacing me in the near-term. When the time came, I worked out my full notice period and was well prepared to hand off documentation and in-progress projects.

        1. Liz in a library*

          I was extremely fortunate to have a boss like that in my last job, too (I think it helped that she also recognized that there were serious issues with that environment). I also think it is exceptionally rare, and when my husband recently mentioned he wanted to use his current (wonderful) boss as a reference when job hunting, I swear you could hear me hit the figurative brakes. Be so, so careful if you do this…

      2. Lucy*

        Our company is structured like this.. they take a lot of interest in our long term goals and sometimes I’ve heard of very good employees getting recommended for positions (by their manager!) with our vendors because they recognized that they have better room for advancement there…


        1. QQ*

          My boss thinks it is rude not to tell her. She is very adamant about this and I’m really not sure what to do about it.

            1. QQ*

              I’ve only been here a couple of months. The two people that have left did so without anything else lined up.

    3. Mrs Addams*

      I can (sort of) understand where the OP is coming from. I’m assuming she is new to the workforce and is looking to leave her first job, and doesn’t really know how it works (hence the telling-the-boss in the first place). That being the case, she’s never had to arrange interviews around her current work priorities. It can seem very obstructive and almost impossible to do, particularly if you have a routine 9-5 Mon-Fri job, where you either have to schedule PTO (if you don’t need much notice), or else lie about where you’re going. I know a lot of employers will interview outside of regular hours, but plenty won’t, and it can seem like an impossible situation where employees feel trapped in their current job because they can’t legitimately get time off to attend interviews for a new job.

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there *should* be laws about this, but can understand the frustration.

    4. Felicia*

      This is one of those “is it legal?” questions where I can’t understand why someone would think it’s not legal, and usually i can understand why someone thinks that. The only time I informed my boss about interviews was when it was a short term contract without possibility for extension, and even then, I didn’t expect to be given all the time off I needed to go to every single interview – I was still being paid to do a job by the contract. Even then, I thought it was pretty intuitive that you don’t tell your boss you’re interviewing/leaving until you have an offer (since they could fire you for that if they wanted).

      1. Anonymous Accountant*

        Exactly. I thought it was just understood that you were very discreet and took PTO for your interview and kept quiet about it at work to avoid jeopardizing your current job.

        1. FiveNine*

          The OP has a lot to learn — OP already has told the boss multiple times the job is too easy, and now this. I only hope OP’s lesson doesn’t come as harshly as OP is basically setting his/herself up for it with this current employer.

          1. P*

            I’m actually in a situation right now where my boss is very supportive of my leaving – I’m in a fairly entry-level position that isn’t relevant to my career goals, and my she has explicitly said that she doesn’t want loyalty to this job to keep me from finding something better. In fact, we’ve had a conversation where I told her about a great job I applied for and let her know that if I got it, I would give my two weeks. She was excited for me and told me to let her know when I needed time off for the interview. And yes, while she expressed her disappointment in losing the most senior member of her team, she offered to be a glowing reference, asked me how the interview went, and was happy for me on a personal level (though, you know, probably happy that I didn’t get it).

            That, said, I realize this is an anomaly as far as jobs go and certainly wouldn’t have assumed it to be the case unless my boss had said so explicitly, and questioning the whether it’s *illegal* to not be given time off for an interview is… well, ridiculous and naive.

    5. Ruffingit*

      +1 million. I literally said “What the F**K” out loud when I read #6. That OP is either completely naive about the working world or they have a serious entitlement problem.

      No, you are not ENTITLED to time off from your current job so you can have interviews with other companies. There is no law that states that people should allow you to miss the work they pay you for and for which they need you so you can go interview for another job. The fact that anyone thinks there’s a law protecting employees from this is absurd and disturbing.

      I do not mean to be harsh, but I don’t understand why anyone would think that such a law would exist. When you work for a company, you sign up to give them 8 (or more) hours a day in exchange for a paycheck. That’s the agreement. Those 8 hours belong to the company, not to you.

      My head is spinning. I need to stop now.

      1. EG*

        Absolutely your employer should support your need to interview for other positions…and give you the opportunity for a full-time job search since your current schedule just isn’t working out for you.

    6. Shannon!*

      Oh, my goodness, that question just made my morning. “But, Boss, why aren’t you being supportive of me leaving your company?” AMAZING.

            1. De Minimis*

              I’m thinking either healthcare is different or else my federal workplace has a lot of employees with serious performance/conduct issues, because I have not been here quite a year and I think I’ve seen at least four or five people fired.

              Think maybe healthcare might be different…I’d guess poor performance can move pretty quickly into grounds for removal.

              1. Katie the Fed*

                It’s not impossible, but it has to be pretty severe and there’s a LOT of process involved in doing it. Warnings, counseling, opportunities to improve. So most people don’t bother unless there’s a very serious problem.

        1. tcookson*

          I had low-performing co-worker at my last job who gave notice to our boss, and then the very next day she changed her mind and wanted to retract her notice. Our boss had been considering letting her go anyway, so she told her that she wouldn’t accept the retraction. Low-performing employee was shocked and hurt that boss wasn’t thrilled that she wasn’t quitting after all, but boss had seen her opportunity and wasn’t about to give it up.

          1. Nichole*

            Because I worked in the field for a while, I always wonder how situations like this would work out if she filed for unemployment. Did she quit or was she fired? I haven’t seen this situation, so I’m curious how it would play out in the UI system (understanding that there are about 100 possible answers to that question).

            1. KellyK*

              I would hazard a guess that the most she could possibly get would be the two weeks of her notice, since that’s the only time she was out of work involuntarily. (And that assumes you can even collect unemployment for only two weeks.)

            2. Omne*

              When I’ve seen it come up in UI cases in my state the ALJs have pretty uniformly held it to be a quit. In general an employer is under no obligation to allow someone to rescind a resignation. Of course that assumes that there is sufficient evidence that they did resign, such as a letter or email to that effect.

        2. Cassie*

          My friend who’s a supervisor is in this situation – she has a mediocre employee whom she would gladly help find another job elsewhere. She (my friend) was super disappointed when the employee didn’t do well on her interview in another dept.

    7. tcookson*

      I don’t know . . . the OP might have been more discreet, and it seems like with that particular boss she probably should have been, but I’ve seen environments where people are up front about interviewing elsewhere. Our current receptionist has been actively interviewing for other jobs on campus that would be a promotion for her, and she always tells her supervisor that she has an interview. There is a difference, though, between looking for a move to a different campus unit and leaving a firm entirely . . . so the situations are not completely parallel.

    8. Lena*

      Depends where you are. Legally, I’m entitled to 2 days off for job-search related stuff…but only if I’m being fired/laid off. Doesn’t apply if I’m looking by choice. I assume this would not be the case in the US (not even CA ;) but it’s a big world out there as far as what’s legal, and maybe the OP has encountered or heard about circumstances under which this is legal…

      1. Lena*

        Insurance covers it though so I would assume this is a completely different situation than OP #6

      2. Ruffingit*

        I’m confused. You get two days off if you’re being fired. If you’ve been fired, when do you get those two days? You’re not working there anymore. Or do they pay you for two days if you get fired?

        1. Lena*

          Well, contractually I’d have to be given 1-3 months notice (depending on how long I’d been with a particular employer). That is unless there had been some sort of gross misconduct, but that would be something like stealing or threatening another employee, not general performance issues (or a budget-related layoff). So presumably the 2 days would fall sometime during that period. To be honest I am not sure what happens if one is fired for something to serious that they are asked to leave the premises immediately. I’ve never heard firsthand about that happening.

  2. Quinn*

    This is unrelated to this post but I hope you dont mind me asking within the comments.

    I recently had an interview and I think it went pretty well. I followed up with both the manager and recruiter with thank you emails. For the one I sent to the manger it was perfect but the one I sent to the recruiter I signed my closing using my middle name and last name, which my family and close friends call me, but this employer knows me and refers to me by my first name. Should I resend the email with the name corrected and if so should I acknowledge the correction or just send it corrected? Or do you think I should do nothing and just let it be? I have exchanged several emails with the recriter using that email so I am hoping that it will not ruin my chances and she knows its me.

        1. Josh S*

          And FYI–Alison is (typically) surprisingly quick at responding to her emails. Looking forward to seeing this one posted!

      1. Victoria Nonprofit*

        Alison, just wanted to give you kudos – I love how you response to these kinds of questions and really appreciate how you keep these conversations on track.

  3. Jessa*

    Regarding number 4, not being an expert on layoffs, but could there be some issue legally regarding a layoff of a certain size maybe and bringing back people who had been laid off? So maybe that’s why the company didn’t specifically seek out people who had been in the job before?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I can’t think of any law that would prevent them from seeking out or rehiring previously laid off workers. I’d say the explanation is likely that the company didn’t think of the OP (possibly because the hiring manager is new) or specifically chose not to reach back out to laid off staff.

      1. Anonymous*

        There wouldn’t be concerns about rehiring at less money, or only rehiring guys or people of a certain nationality (even unwittingly) and making it look like the layoffs had been a way to push certain categories of people out? I mean, that’s where my mind would go.

        1. fposte*

          If they’re going to do something that illegal, though, that’s taking a lot of trouble to do it with getting any additional legal cover; people who are prepared to discriminate would generally not have hired or laid off fairly in the first place, because that’s a lot less complicated and expensive way to break the law. And unless there’s a union or other contract, there’s nothing illegal about rehiring at a lower rate or simply reducing wages while the employee is there.

        2. OP #4*

          They were drastically cutting the services they were offering to clients, including the service that my team offered. They wouldn’t create any new contracts, only maintain the existing ones. The problem, as they have apparently learned and any of us could have told them, is that there are far too many existing contracts for one person to keep up with. I don’t think it has anything to do with trying to get rid of specific people. Company-wide, the layoff was 150 people, we’re talking about a team of 5 within that 150.

      2. Law Student*

        If they had “laid off” an entire team and then hired back all the team members who weren’t members of a protected class (so if they laid off a group of five white men and a woman of color, then hired back all the white men), it could be discriminatory action. But that’s a huge hypothetical and probably not at all what’s happening here.

        1. OP #4*

          They did original lay off the entire team – 3 white men, 2 white women (one needing a visa, and one with a disability). One man was kept in the end because they still hadn’t found a solution for getting the work done, and he had been with the compan the longest. The two women (I’m the one with the disability), were offered positions elsewhere in the company but were required to move across the country to take them. The other did and I didn’t because my family is here – no way could I move. I was heavily encouraged to continue to apply at the company if something local came up that I was suited for. And now something has!

      3. Mike C.*

        The only legal issue here is if there is a previous contract where those laid off for economic reasons must be given special consideration. It’s fairly common in union environments where the business cycle is extremely cyclical. It ensures the company can retain trained employees and that those employees will take the job in the first place.

      4. Jessa*

        I was more worried about things that might have financial type issues more like effecting tax issues or unemployment issues or compliance with rules about layoffs, than actually “Illegal” per se. I mean if I’d applied for unemployment under “laid off no rehire,” and was hired back within a short amount of time, it could be possible that the state might say I wasn’t entitled to that money, because “not eligible for unemployment under those circumstances had I reported it that way in the first place,” and I would probably not end up in trouble for fraud, but I could have to end up explaining myself. Or if the company got some kind of breaks because of “financial problems therefore these benefits available,” but then rehired people, they could be accused of fancy accounting tricks to get their people back while still taking advantage of bailouts. Is what I meant.

        Or as someone else said if some of the layoffs were of people with foreign visas or things…I guess the issue is that it might look shady. It might not be illegal per se, but there might be other concerns that make it something that the company would need to look carefully at.

      5. Elizabeth West*

        I think you’re right on. We had a layoff once at OldJob while I was there (they tried to avoid that if at all possible), and one of the better employees was included in it. He actually asked for his job back and got it. I know for a fact one of the four people laid off was someone they wanted gone. I wouldn’t think this is the case with the OP, if her manager and coworkers all thought she was awesome and want her back (of course, you never know).

    2. Anonymous*

      Occasionally a severance agreement includes a requirement not to work for the company providing the severance (either directly or indirectly) for a certain period of time. The theory is that the company is laying people off to save money, and paying both severance and a salary, consulting fee, etc. to the same person does not accomplish that goal. The absence of such a requirement can also encourage people to game the system (please lay me off, I’ll take the severance package as a bonus and then come back as a consultant for more money).

      There is absolutely no suggestion that is a factor here, but I thought I would point out that there can be reasons for a company to have policies regarding rehiring after a layoff. There is generally a sensible way around these (give up the part of the severance that would be double-dipping, special approvals, etc.) but they do exist.

      Sometimes union shops also have contract requirements regarding rehiring after layoffs, but – again – it doesn’t seem to be a factor here.

      1. Mike C.*

        How is taking a severance and then being rehired as a consultant gaming the system? Both the severance and the hiring back on are decisions that are out of the employee’s hands.

      2. OP #4*

        I went over the severance agreement and it says nothing about rehire or working for the company again. The severance was 1 month’s pay and the bonus for the quarter I worked after the layoff was announced. It has now been 3 months since the severance was paid out, I don’t think it would be “double-dipping” at all. They were offering me money not to sue them for laying them off and for sticking with my non-compete (which specifies their competition, not the company itself).

    3. OP #4*

      I’m pretty sure they reason they didn’t seek any of us out is because they’d heard we were all already employed elsewhere and didn’t want to poach. What they didn’t know is that I have only been consulting and not a permanent employee, so I am the only one that is actually still looking for something permanent, but they didn’t know that.

  4. bemo12*

    I am constantly amazed at what some people think there are laws for/against, but this one is absurd, why on earth would there be a law forcing your employer to let you go to an interview during work time?

    I also would be careful about telling people that you are so keen to leave and are bored with your work because I’m pretty sure they’ll be showing you the door pretty quickly with that attitude.

    1. Mike C.*

      Given that labor law isn’t widely taught and there’s a benefit in asymmetrical information, why does this surprise you?

      1. Felicia*

        I would guess it’s surprising because it seems to be common knowledge that you keep your job search discrete and dont tell your employer about it because of the risk of jeopardizing your current job, which has nothing to do with knowledge of labour law.

      2. P*

        I agree that the fact that labor law isn’t widely taught does lead to a lot of gray area where people might be smart to at least inquire about whether or not something is legal. In this case, though, “employers are legally required to allow their employees time off for interviews whenever they get them” seems so clearly outside of that gray area that it’s surprising for someone to think there’s a chance of it being true.

    2. Jessa*

      In some cases there are rules like this. I know when I worked for the State of Florida if you were interviewing for another job IN the system (a promotion or a transfer,) they did have to let you do that. But that was for the SAME employer. It’s not the same as just job hunting. And in that case your supervisor knew anyway because you couldn’t apply without telling them, they had to sign the paperwork.

    3. Rana*

      I wonder if the OP is a recent graduate, and is still thinking of their boss in the way that they thought about their professors. In that context, telling your “supervisor” (your professor) that you’re planning to switch classes, or need to take time off for an interview or other class activity, is normal behavior, and sometimes even expected, especially if you anticipate needing to make up missed work.

      But, yeah, just as your professor is not your mom, your boss is not your professor.

  5. Josh S*

    A little nitpick on #2 (old manager emailing new manager):
    “It’s not illegal unless she was deliberately lying about you, in which case it could potentially be slander or defamation.”

    Slander and defamation are civil offenses, and therefore not ‘illegal’ in the sense that they are prohibited by law. Rather, they’re ‘tortious’–you can file suit over them, but (except in really obscure instances) they’re not prohibited by law.

    So even if it’s slander or defamation [shakes the AAM 8-ball of wisdom], “Yes, it’s legal.” A person can still be sued over it, but she couldn’t be tried for a criminal offense.

    /End of nitpick.

    1. Josh S*

      PS. Standard disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. I am certainly not YOUR lawyer. This is not legal advice. You should assume that I learned everything I know about the law from Law and Order: Criminal Intent.

    2. Poe*

      I came down here to post this, but you beat me to it. “I am not a lawyer, but…” is probably my most-used phrase.

      1. De Minimis*

        I heard a good variation of this at a training, conducted by an actual lawyer. “I’m a lawyer, but I’m not YOUR lawyer.”

    3. Anonymous*

      I think it’s a bit funny (?) that this was posted so soon after the question re worried my old manager would contact my new one to bad mouth me. Obviously this is an extreme case but still thought it was a bit odd

      1. Another Job Seeker*

        I thought about that, also. It’s a real issue for dysfunctional workplaces. “Jane”, a former co-worker, resigned and told us where she was going. She also said we could call her if we had questions about projects she had been working on. “Melissa ( a current co-worker) and I had a question for Jane. So Melissa called Jane so we could speak to her. Jane was not in her office. So Melissa took it upon herself to go online, look up another department at Jane’s new company, and call that person to find Jane. Fortunately for Jane, no one answered at the other office. Jane did call back, and she answered our question.

        I don’t know what Melissa would have told one of Jane’s new co-workers or how it would have impacted Jane. However, this is why I’m concerned about it.

      2. tcookson*

        I thought about that, too. It’s one of those thing where the old manager is extremely unlikely to do it — but here’s proof that sometimes people do weird things!

    4. Anonymous*

      Eh, I’d call non-criminal violations of law “illegal.” Just because it’s civil, that doesn’t make it not law. (We’re talking liability-rule protection rather than property-rule protection (h/t Calabresi & Melamed), but, you know.)

      /am a lawyer, not your lawyer, no atty-client relationship claimed/created/implied/to be inferred, contact a lawyer for legal advice

    5. Nichole*

      Thanks for the clarification on that. I knew slander/libel was bad in a legal sense, but was never sure exactly how.

  6. Chris80*

    #5 – This happened to me at my last retail job. I think some places, especially those that have a new schedule each week, see “two weeks notice” as “you can put me on the schedule the next two times you do it”. Thus, if you hand in your notice midweek, they might still schedule you for the two weeks following the current week. It’s absolutely your right to ask them not to put you on the schedule past the date you originally gave, though. I spoke up about it and had it fixed right away!

    1. JamieG*

      Yeah, it happened to me too in my last job (food service, not retail). My last day was a Wednesday and they had me on the schedule clear until Saturday. I liked them, and since our department was so small didn’t want them to be surprised by me not showing up, so I mentioned it. Just a straightforward “Hey, I see you have me scheduled for Friday. Actually, the last day I can work is Wednesday. Thanks!”

    2. The Other Dawn*

      This happened to me also. Although my manager did it purposely. She was universally known as a bitch and always seemed like a very unhappy person.

      I worked at a grocery store for 7 years. I gave my notice TWO MONTHS ahead of time and said my last day would be 12/30. Got the last schedule and there I am, scheduled until closing on New Year’s Eve. I just called her and said I gave notice two months ago that my last day would be 12/30, please remove me from the schedule.

  7. Lindsay J*

    Haha, #6 sounds like one of my fiance’s (former) employees.

    The kid called out for two days, and then no-show-no-called. They figured he was quitting, (and one no-show is grounds for instant termination, anyway). However, he showed back up for work his next scheduled shift, so they met with him to ask what happened since there may have been a misunderstanding somewhere.

    His explanation was that he was out job hunting. They appreciated the honesty, since it made it easier to fire him. Now he has all the job hunting time he wants, I guess.

    Also, #7 is timely because I just found out yesterday that I’m getting promoted at my new job. They did my 90 day evaluation and gave me a raise after the morning meeting. Then at the end of my shift they told me how impressed they are so far and offered me a position as third key, so I will be opening on the days the assistant manager closes, and am the acting manager when the manager and assistant manager are not in. (And they’re also extending the store hours so I’ll get more hours and thus more money). I’ve been a supervisor for the past 6 years, but this is the first time in a non-amusement park position and the first time I’ve really felt I’m a part of a high functioning team of people so I’m eager to get off to the right foot.

  8. CatB*

    #6 (time off for interviews): not even in an absurdly worker-centric country like mine would that be illegal. And the success of such a high degree of candidness (like being upfront with job searching) is highly dependent on a number of factors beyond a close relationship with the boss (beyond even what said boss can control, even).

    But, seeing the many “Is it legal?” questions here, I can’t stop wondering if this is just the sign of people not knowing the law, or the sign of a pressure build-up towards a more worker-centric approach of the society at large.

    1. FiveNine*

      As to the many “Is it legal?” questions, I suspect it’s more that people feel aggrieved, they’re in situations where someone else is in a position of authority over them, and they know there are all sorts of laws, rules, and regulations a company must follow but they can be unclear on what those are and if they apply. There are two things that don’t help: Companies sometimes seem to encourage this sense that laws, rules, and regulations — companies and management sometimes, especially at hire, have employees sign all sorts of things they don’t understand but that with their signature says they understand this this and that aspect of the law, or compliance, or whatever — and then proceed to apply these law, rules, and regulations seemingly arbitrarily, or with self-interested interpretations without informing an employee what his/her rights are as opposed to what the company’s rights are, so that it’s genuinely confusing to non-lawyers where the legal boundaries might be or if any at all exist. The second issue is more a societal or pop cultural thing where so many knee-jerk first reactions are to sue/see whether there are grounds for suing.

      1. Mike C.*

        The second issue is more a societal or pop cultural thing where so many knee-jerk first reactions are to sue/see whether there are grounds for suing.

        I really question this, for two reasons.

        One, you have to find and afford to pay a lawyer to take on your case. That means you have to have a case or you have to have a lot of money, and most likely a mixture of both. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a savings account full of money for whenever I feel like taking people to court, and I doubt you do either. And if you do, you have a hobby that makes fountain pen collecting look perfectly reasonable. :)

        Two, and more importantly, it’s to the advantage of highly regulated industries that people widely believe that “we sue people too much”. If everyone believes this, it’s easier to support and pass legislation limiting court awards and other regulation. It starts out with a few industry spokespeople and then gets repeated all over the place. I hear it all the time, but no one ever cites any meaningful statistics, only about one or two weird cases where half the facts are misunderstood or left out to make it seem worse.

        Look up the infamous McDonalds hot coffee case for a great example of this. If you look on wikipedia for a quick rundown on the particulars of the case, you’ll find a lot more information that isn’t usually told whenever the case is brought up – for instance the person suing wanted only a few hundred dollars for medical expenses, that the coffee was kept at a near boiling temperature or that the spill caused third degree burns.

        1. Meg*

          I always point those facts out to people who bring up the McDonald’s lawsuit as an example of our sue-happy culture. People don’t realize that the FDA had actually given McDonald’s several warnings about the temperature of their coffee (I think generally speaking, the acceptable temp limit is about 180 degrees, while McDonald’s liked to serve theirs hotter), and the fact that the customer wasn’t trying to gain a profit at all, she just wanted to pay for freaking SKIN GRAFTS that she needed as a result of her coffee.

        2. FiveNine*

          I totally agree with this, and I didn’t mean that employees actually pursue this route (I almost wrote that they don’t in fact). I think with all the law and order fictional shows, and then all the real-life legal news analysis, it’s just sort of pop cultural or something for people to naturally just wonder Is This Legal? (and ask it all the time here!) but on some level asking almost theoretically.

        3. LegalTX*

          I am an attorney (but not your attorney, obligatory disclaimer) :) I agree that many people do have a knee jerk reaction of seeing whether or not they can sue. They don’t even consider whether they have the money to hire an attorney because A LOT of people have heard and misunderstood this word: CONTINGENCY.

          So many people think you can hire a lawyer on contingency for every conceivable case. I’m not going to get into the specifics of why that is not true because I think the posters here get why it’s not. But not everyone does so often when they talk about suing, they think they don’t need upfront money to do so.

          Same issue applies when people think they can “ask for attorney’s fees” as part of their case and the other side will pay so they never have to worry about the upfront costs.

          I just want to beat my head in frustration sometimes at how ignorant the population as a whole is about basic stuff.

      2. Katie the Fed*

        In my experience, it’s also people’s parents fomenting this kind of thing. I’ve had issues at work and my mom’s all “Call a lawyer! that has to be illegal!”

        No mom. I know it hurts that someone is picking on your beloved little Katie, but it’s not illegal. If I could make it against the law for people to be mean to my loved ones, but I can’t.

        Dad, on the other hand, is more of the “suck it up, buttercup” type. :)

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Ugh, that last sentence of the paragraph should have read: “if I could make it against the law for people to be mean to my loved ones, I would, but I can’t.”

          I have to stop replying while I’m eating lunch.

    2. Mike C.*

      The law simply isn’t widely taught to people outside of the legal profession. Sure, folks know not to kill each other and generally learn the local traffic laws, but other than that it’s generally held as “information that only experts could know”.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s also shocking how few people know their basic rights in dealing with the police, such that you don’t have to consent to a search.

        1. Mike C.*

          Holy crap, yes.

          If you folks have 45 minutes to burn, hit up YouTube and search for a law school lecture called “Why you should never talk to the police”. The first half is a professor talking about all the legal issues that are involved with the police, and the second half is one of his students who is an officer confirming everything just said.

          Note: Despite the provocative title, the video doesn’t advocate an anti-police message but rather discusses why the 5th amendment is not a sign that someone is guilty or otherwise has something to hide.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Hmm, I’ll have to watch that when I get home. My things-to-frustrate-my-fictional-detective-with senses are tingling….

          2. tcookson*

            I’ll have to watch this video . . . I just saw a story on the local news last night where a mom and teenage boy were out walking the dog late at night, and it ended in the boy being tazed multiple times by a police officer.

            I couldn’t imagine how a dog-walk with one’s mom could end in a scuffle with the law . . . turns out the officer thought the boy looked suspicious because he was so much bigger than his mom and he was slouching along with his hands in his pockets. Then when he stopped to question them, both the boy and the mom refused to give their names or say anything. Somehow, it all escalated from there.

            I’m still not sure why the mom didn’t just say, “I’m so-and-so and this is my son, and we’re out taking the dog for a walk.” Or how in the world the officer got to the point of actually Tazing the boy!

            1. Jess*

              So this is terrible, but just so everyone knows, you usually can be required to give “basic information” to officers- such as your name (at least, it’s been ruled explicitly this way at traffic stops, and while I’m not going to go hunt down the cases, I’m pretty sure it applies to other stops as well in many places). Not that that isn’t still ridiculous, and not that tazing someone is ever an appropriate response to not getting someone’s name.

        2. twentymilehike*

          So true!! I recently became a naturalized American, and a good friend of mine gifted me with a book of the Declaration of Independence and other documents, along with a note that says, “read this and know it.” I was so touched.

          I think everyone should have a copy. And read it.

        3. Lucy*

          Have you seen the video that’s gone viral recently? Someone recorded a basic DUI stop and didn’t consent to a search (didn’t have anything to hide, but didn’t do anything wrong) and the cops were so angry… I think if you just google “4th of july dui checkpoint search” it’ll come up first.

          1. A Teacher*

            It’s all over FB too. You should see how angry some if the commenters got with the guy that recorded it.

          2. Lisa*

            Yeah I saw that one yesterday…the cops ended up searching his vehicle anyway because they got the K-9 to act like it had smelled drugs in the vehicle, when all it was doing was responding to their hand gestures.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Cops like that make me mad; I have known many who are good people and do their jobs without power tripping. When some cops pull crap, it makes all the rest look bad, even when they aren’t.

        4. Jess*

          I wholeheartedly think that everyone should get a lesson on your rights when confronted by the police sometime in school. It’s actually pretty amazing to me as a law student how many law students never take criminal procedure and learn this stuff.

          That being said, the issue is that even when people know their general rights, they can be incredibly hard to exercise in the moment. And exercising them may not help you, particularly if you are a person who lacks many sorts of privilege (racial, economic, ability, educational, etc). I’ve interned/worked at a few public defender offices, and even when clients know that talking to the police is a bad idea, they are afraid (of violence, of someone taking away their kids or their housing, being kept for the weekend until they get before a judge) or unable to exercise their rights.

          My current fun fact is that to invoke your right to silence, you have to verbally tell the state agent that you are invoking your right to silence. WTF?

  9. Lily*

    #7 I would love to talk about the past articles in their comment sections again, especially since they come from the days when there were fewer readers.

    1. Chris80*

      +1 If Alison goes on vacation, she should just schedule these articles to be reposted so we have a chance to talk about them. I love reading the older posts, but miss all of the insightful comments at the end!

    2. Laura*

      That would be great! Or she could start “Flashback Fridays” and repost a popular post for us to talk about.

        1. Ruffingit*

          YES! Please do this. I read the archives and would love to have a chance to talk about it with the “current crew” of posters.

        2. tcookson*

          I like that, too! And I’m with Elizabeth West — the best conversation-starters are the crazy ones.

  10. TheSnarkyB*

    Whoa, #6 has me blown away! WHAT?!

    Also, I’ve seen a lot of questions like #1 recently that make me wonder, “Why didn’t you ask?” Like.. the manager obviously conveyed it to him somehow. Are all of these questions via email and mgr is ignoring the employee’s questioning reply?
    It’s so much easier in most situations to go “What do you mean?” or “Hey Bob, this check is short. Do you happen to know why?” or “Why?” “When?” “Wherefore?” etc. Rather than to have to haul yourself into their office 3 days later looking like you’re obviously tortured over exactly how to ask something delicately and thus making it a much bigger deal than it has to be.

    1. Anne*

      Yeah, standard answers…

      “You should ask them that.”
      “Yes, that’s perfectly legal for them to do.”
      “No, you’re right, that’s totally crazy. You should start job-hunting.”

      BUT, the thing is, I think it’s pretty common to need someone impartial to sanity-check these things. Like earnestly asking a friend for advice, listening to them, and thinking “Oh man, of course, why didn’t that occur to me?”

      I’ve certainly sent Alison one or two silly, whiny-butt questions when I had myself all upset before. (Sorry Alison.)

    2. Coffee Bean*

      It’s easier for it to seem obvious when you’re at a distance and have no stakes in the situation. There are so many little unwritten rules about “how to behave at work” and “how to talk to your manager” and so forth, that it can be hard to navigate. Especially if you’ve been burned in the past by unreasonable managers.

      As a personal example, I had a seasonal job during the summer after college. Toward the end of the summer, I realized my checks had all been short and I approached my boss, expecting that it was a mistake and he would correct it. I was told “oops, I made a typo in your original offer, what I’ve been paying you is correct.”

      I went home and thought about that, and read about employment laws online. Friday afternoon at the end of the day, I reopened the subject and politely reminded him that he was legally required to pay me what he had agreed to pay me. He lost his temper and started shouting at me, claiming I had “threatened” him.

      To make matters even worse, this was a small family business run out of his home, and the only other person anywhere around was his wife. I’m a woman, and he was a pretty big guy. I don’t think I was ever actually in physical danger from him, but he was doing a good job of making me feel like I was.

      I was 22 and didn’t have the experience to understand that this entire situation was not normal and that I had done absolutely nothing wrong, except that I should have been more on top of my pay and caught the mistake earlier.

      Now, I can’t even believe I went back to work on Monday. What ended up happening was that he paid me part of what he owed me in exchange for me signing a document that essentially said I wouldn’t sue him for the rest.

      1. Coffee Bean*

        Just realized I never actually made my point, which was that for a long time after this happened, I expected all managers to behave like that, and was afraid to ask my managers for *anything.* Thanks to some great managers and also this blog, I now have a much healthier understanding of how the boss/employee relationship is supposed to work, but it took a long time to get there.

  11. Cat*

    #6- The only time I ever told a manager I needed a day off for an interview was when I worked at Target Otherwise, I would never tell anyone at my job. Very bad idea.

    #5- when I worked at Target, they made scheduling mistakes all the time because a computer made the schedule for them. They had me scheduled past my last day too. If your job uses a computer scheduling program, that is probably what happened.

    1. LPBB*

      When I was working retail we made up the schedule monthly. We used a blank template of each month and then cut and pasted from the schedule from the previous month. We had a small staff and people generally worked the same schedule week to week, but there were often changes to accommodate people’s needs.

      Anyway, it was really easy during the cut and pasting to accidentally paste someone on a day they weren’t actually supposed to work. Whenever that happened, the employee in question would always ask the manager to make sure, especially if that was a day they had requested off.

      So, the point is, just ask your manager or the person who does the schedule for clarification whenever there’s anything weird. In a functional workplace, more often than not it’s just a simple mistake.

  12. Anonymous*

    Regarding 1 & 2 – These are great examples of why you should always email yourself copies of your annual reviews. Some companies have a policy of not allowing managers to act as references (i.e. HR will only confirm work dates, salary), and some managers cannot be relied upon to provide a positive reference, even if you were a stellar employee. It’s nice to have some proof in your back pocket of your past performance.

    1. Elle D*

      Agreed. I typically forward to my personal email address and print a hard copy of my annual review and any unsolicited positive emails I receive (ie: “Thanks for your work on this project Elle D, you really went above and beyond when you did X, Y and Z” type emails) just in case I should ever run into a situation like OP 1 and 2.

      An added reason for keeping these emails/performance reviews is that it may help formulate a resume or cover letter. AAM always mentions including your accomplishments and not just duties on your resume, but I think for many of us without quantifiable accomplishments this can be difficult. Having a record of what your manager or co-workers thought were your successes can make this a little easier!

      1. Julie*

        My company’s annual reviews are in a new system that mostly just grades your performance in specific categories, and there isn’t much to print out. There is a small section for comments, but my manager is so busy (doing a revenue-producing job AND managing a team) that he doesn’t take the time to write many comments. We always have had useful conversations about my performance and my goals, but it’s not written down anywhere. I think next year I will make notes of the conversation, including quotes of positive comments from my manager and email it to myself, so I can remember more specifically what we talked about (for future reference). And I can make screen captures of the basic information that’s in the online evaluation system. Even if I can’t send it to anyone else, it could be helpful if I ever need to be reminded of my progress at this company.

      2. Anonymous*

        I’m in the same situation as Julie, reviews are done online and I can’t forward them, all I can do it print them out. And it’s not even on 1 screen, so it’s multiple pages. Then my manager typically is too busy to write anything so it’s not much use to anyone use either.

  13. Anonymous*

    Not OP6, but I think Alison and commenters are missing what the OP is asking about. It sounds like #6 can’t get approved time off less than 3 weeks in advance, but interviewers want them sooner. I’m assuming the “is there a law” is in reference to OP’s employer making employees jump through extra hoops in order to use their alloted time off.

    What if it’s something like this:

    OP starts job searching.
    OP hears back from a hiring manager. Hiring manager wants to set up an interview next week.
    OP asks for time off. Supervisor asks what for. (Either because all timeoff requests require a reason, or because supervisor is suspicious given earlier conversations.)
    OP hems and haws, but admits its for an interview. (Either because OP doesn’t want to lie, or OP is a bad liar, or because OP cracked under the pressure when Supervisor demanded a reason.)
    Supervisor insists that requests for timeoff have to be made 3 weeks in advance.
    OP realizes the catch-22. Interviewers want someone currently employed, but current employer’s policies make it impossible to interview.

    (…OP isn’t sure what to do about the catch-22, so writes in to an employment advice columnist.)

    1. Sabrina*

      Hmm. That could be. I’ve run in to that (sort of). Basically in a position you can ask for time off but you might not get it depending on how many other people are already out that day. In which case I would say call in sick, come in late, or try to do it over your lunch hour. (Though everyone says to do this and I have yet to have an interview that would take less than my lunch break when you factor in drive time and the interview itself.)

      1. Felicia*

        The only time I had an interview that could fit in my lunch hour was when I had 1 hour for lunch, and the interview was in the building right next to the one where I worked, so 30 second lunch. But most of the time I don’t understand how an interview can fit into a typical lunch break (though I’ve heard people say they have an appointment around the lunch hour, and take a longer than typical lunch break then come back).

        1. Sabrina*

          Yeah that’s only how I could see it working. I’ve only ever worked in suburban areas and had shorter lunch breaks.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      Assuming you are aware of the time off request policies (and you should be), the typical thing to do would be just call in sick.

      1. Lisa*

        Emergencies happen. Let’s start a list for OP to use:

        Sick kid
        Sick parent
        Doctor’s appt, suspect mono / strep / ebolaCar broke down
        Got a speeding ticket
        Tripped down the stairs, went to clinic not a sprain, just bruised (requires some fake elavating / ice / ace bandage)
        Neighbor blocked my driveway, can’t move car or find him, waiting for tow truck
        Kid got suspended, went to school to pick kid up
        Abducted by aliens

        1. Heather*

          But if I call in “abducted by aliens,” it totally guarantees that the next week I will be abducted by aliens for real. Then what am I going to do?

        2. AnotherAlison*

          Plumbing/HVAC emergency/appliance repair. . .always good because they always arrive 3:45 minutes into the 4:00 window they give you & take longer than expected.

        3. jesicka309*

          -Sick pet/scheduled pet appointment/dropping pet at the vet to get fixed
          -Anything to do with rentals (open house, quarterly inspection, landlord is showing prospective buyers etc.)
          -Anything involving vomit
          -Anything involving banking (setting up a new account, for example, you need to show up in person and presnet identity)

          There are infinite occasions where you need to take an extra half an hour at lunch to do business that can only be conducted during working hours. If the OP can maybe swing an extra half hour on her lunch one day (maybe take a short lunch the next), then she could get away with it. Unfortunately, she’s alerted her boss to her job search, so any absence (real, fake, or imagined) will be treated as “oh, she’s probably off interviewing. She told me she’s looking elsewhere.”

    3. tangoecho5*

      But this is a situation where the OP needs to ask the company interviewing her if they would make a reasonable accomodation to meet her after normal business hours due to the time off rules of her current company. Say an interview at 6pm or early morning on a Saturday. I think if put to a company that the time off rules are strict and she is not comfortable calling in sick when she’s not truly in order to interview, many companies will try to work with the OP if they are truly interested in her as a candidate. Not all, but some. And it never hurts to ask. The least the company can tell her is no they won’t work with her to schedule an interview during non-traditional work hours and maybe that’s something that would be good to know about the possible employer beforehand.

    4. Joe*

      For all the interviews that I’ve had lately that came up too soon to use a vacation day or lunch hour, I called in sick using the ol’ “I seem to have a case of the stomach flu from last night’s ceviche.”

      Believe me, managers don’t want to hear any more details beyond that and they’ll usually give the time off without question.

      And yes, it’s slightly dishonest, but sadly it seems to be the only solution sometimes when you can’t use more honest methods of getting the time off.

      1. Sabrina*

        You could just say you’re sick. It’s not a lie. You’re sick of working there! Ha! Buh-dum-bum! :)

    5. Liz in the City*

      Yet, somehow, many people who are currently employed have managed to interview at other companies without announcing it to their current employers. Because, as Lisa mentions below, emergencies happen. Do you know how many “doctor appointments” I went on during my interview times? Yes, I had to miss a half day of work here and there, but I got a new job out of it too.

      1. Lisa*

        I mess with my boss, and dress up for my real dentist appointments. My manager (a man) can’t stop giggling since he knows I do it to mess with people.

    6. some1*

      I suspect there really isn’t a 3-week notice to get time off at that LW’s employer. I think they are punishing the LW for interviewing. I doubt an employee of that company who had a parent pass away is told, ‘Well, sorry, you’ll just have to schedule that funeral 3 weeks out or you can’t go’ or someone who lives alone and wakes up to find their furnace is burst is not told, “Sorry, you’ll have to let your house flood all day because we didn’t get 3 week notice”

      1. Anonymous*

        There are some types of work were having to ask for time off 3+ weeks in advance isn’t uncommon. Are you going to be upset at your doctor when you can’t make an appointment in 4 weeks because they took time off to deal with a death in the family? Most people would be. Major project for big client that needs to be done by the first of August? No one is getting approval to take vacation then, and if you’re sick you better be in the hospital. I work in research in a STEM field, and so I’m the only one who know how to do my projects well (this is typical), so I typically plan my vacations 1-2 months in advance. Even routine doctor or vet appointments I schedule 2-3 weeks in advance. And sick time? I typically still work or I’m behind on my stuff.

        1. knitchic79*

          I work in retail now, I have to request three weeks out. It’s the flipside of knowing my schedule two weeks out. In another life as a daycare center manager we asked to have time off requests two weeks out. It gave me time to adjust the schedule, we only had a dozen employees so one person out could be challenging if we didn’t have notice. So #6 this timeframe is not unheard of. I’d say your best bet is try to schedule those interviews before/after work hours. Good luck!

  14. Mimi*


    And here I was thinking I was just being paranoid, that people don’t really do things like this, etc.

  15. Jubilance*

    6 – I can’t believe you told your boss you were interviewing for a new job. That was a mistake that most likely you won’t be able to come back from. As for missing the interview, were you able to reschedule it?

  16. Workingmom66*

    #2, How did your new boss react? I think that is the most important thing here. I once worked for someone who was a bit “odd” for lack of a better word and did not like me for personal reasons. Due to a re-structure I ended up reporting into someone else and a few weeks after the restructure my new boss met with my old one, not about me but she mentioned to him that I was “trouble”. My new boss was actually furious, he told me about this, said he was very happy with me and that it was obvious that her issue with me was personal and not work-related. I don’t know the situation here of course but I suggest to work hard at your new job and not worry about this old supervisor. And yes, it speaks more about your old manager than you yourself. BTW – old boss eventually was terminated for creating a hostile work environment for a different employee that she did not like a couple of years later.

    1. Yup*

      Exactly. Unless the employee was fired for cause, the former boss can only come off as totally untethered from reality.

      Old Boss: “OP was a terrible employee!! I wouldn’t let her handle a cup of coffee!! I have serious concerns!!”
      New Boss: “She worked for you for five years.”
      Old Boss: “And she never once did a good job!!”
      New Boss: “Did you fire her?”
      Old Boss: “No, she quit to work for you.”
      New Boss: “Huh. Thanks for letting me know that someone you employed long-term was consistently awful. I totally believe you and your management style is clearly awesome.”

      1. Anonymous*

        I’m laughing, too, because that sounds like something my employer would say. I hear every year at my review how incompetent and generally bad at everything I am. I’ve been with this group for about six years now. LOL!

  17. ChristineSW*

    Seriously, some of the questions (#2 and #6 specifically) asked make me shake my head. But then again, Alison would have nothing to do, and we wouldn’t have this awesome community! ;) I put some of it down to lack of good career advice in many (not all!) colleges.

  18. Sunshine DC*

    Re: #3 – For sure, we Americans find the part about highschool dates or age questions unnerving or, at best, inappropriate. However in international fields, for international organizations, most REQUIRE this info—at least about one’s age. In fact, I’ve never seen an application that didn’t. I really feel awful about having had to share that info from the start, opening myself up to discrimination, etc.

  19. GeekChic*

    I find some of the comments about #6 to be really interesting. I agree that the assumption that employers should be legally required to let you have time off to interview for other work is a bit much. That said, I really find it striking that there are so many comments about how foolish the OP is for discussing their job search with their boss.

    I’ve done a job search while employed 3 times in my career to date and I’ve alerted my boss that I was searching every time. In fact, each time my current boss was one of my references. When I managed, my staff also knew.

    I did this for a number of reasons that varied by job. In one case it was due to extreme under-staffing that made me want to help ease the transition by training people to handle my duties before I left, in another case I was a senior staff member and handled a number of tasks for my boss who was also the Director and he would have to pick them up again.

    In all cases, my bosses appreciated the alert. All of them allowed me time to interview (and they knew that was what I was doing) – they even let me take phone interviews at the office. What did this get them? Months of notice (in one case, a year) and a smooth transition.

    Now, I do understand that there are bosses that will be vindictive when told that someone is leaving – I’ve just never had a boss like that. I’ve always been told that my experiences in this area are unusual – I’ve just never had made quite so clear.

  20. anon-2*

    #2 – If your former employer is bad-mouthing you to your NEW employer —

    a) ask your new employer to forward the e-mail or any correspondence to you

    b) contact your former employer’s HR department — if they have a legal department, contact them as well. Registered mail, return receipt.

    c) if you have an attorney — have him/her write the letter for you.

    Defamation of character / slander is nothing to horse around with or laugh off. At the very worst, you’ll get it to stop.

    At the very best, you might be entitled to damages.

    Don’t “nicey nicey” around about this. If what you’re saying is actually happening – you MUST put a halt to it.

    1. Karyn*

      You’d have to prove damages, though. If you haven’t lost out on a job opportunity because of the reference (and you’d have to prove that you lost it because of the bad reference, which is hard to do) you’d have to prove how you were damaged.

      It’s also worth mentioning that truth is a defense – so if they did, indeed, discover something after he left (doubtful but possible), they can give a reference based on that.

  21. anon-2*

    #4 – oh boy, have I seen this happen so many times in my career. Either the wrong person is laid off, or someone’s laid off without aforethought to the damages that will be caused by the employee’s departure.

    I guess you COULD apply for your job back. But, keep in mind that there’s a problem.

    FACE-SAVING. In most environments, once a manager makes a mistake like that —

    a) his superiors are forced to back him up. They may have to hold their noses, but they must back his managerial decision up.

    b) if they do have you back, they are admitting – THEY MADE A MISTAKE. Now, you know they did. They know they did. Everyone else in that place knows that they did. BUT they do not want to ADMIT that they did, and bringing you back is tantamount to a confession / concession that “we blundered.”

    c) furthermore, if the powers that made the blunder are still there, that makes it even more difficult (politically) to fix the problem and ask you to come back.

    You have to assess all of these factors. Contact them, if they’re receptive to talking about having you back, be sure you smell out the political scene before committing to going back there.

  22. The Other Dawn*


    I don’t think the decision to alert one’s boss about a job search is necessarily foolish. It depends on the employee-manager relationship and the manager’s personality. Some managers are good about these things and may even recognize a bad fit before the employee says anything. Others become jerks when told their employees want to leave.

    What I think is foolish is the OP’s assumption that letting her boss know about the job search entitles her to be able to interview during working hours. Just because the boss knows, doesn’t mean he’s willing to accommodate OP’s interview schedule. And he’s not required to. OP, you’ll have to use your PTO according to your company’s policy with the required advance notice.

  23. MrSparkles*

    In regards to Number 2
    I’ve been in two situations where I told my manager I was actively looking for work:
    1. After graduating from University I moved back home and transferred to a local music store. I made it clear to my manager that I was looking for work, but would work there in the time being. It ended up working out, although I can’t see myself going back there to work.
    2. During the 2008 economic crisis I was working for a major American financial company on a contract. By the time it became obvious that our contracts weren’t being renewed (and that the company was in the process of moving its Canadian office back to the States to save funds), my manager actually TOLD us to look for new work and that, should we have an interview coming up, she’ll make sure we’d be able to go for it.
    Outside of those scenarios, I’ve never mentioned to an employer that I’m looking for another job.

  24. Cassie*

    #6: my sister works for a government agency (they have about 100K employees spread out over a large geographic area) where employees are encouraged to move up through the system. If you need to go take one of the civil service exams or go for an interview, they let you take the 2-3 hours off without even using vacation time. That’s how much they encourage people moving up.

    Of course, it’s only if you are seeking another job within the agency – you don’t get the same perk if you want to interview outside (although I don’t know if they actually check).

  25. OP#1*

    Thanks Alison, for your answer. It turns out that the manager is angry about what my husband said in his exit interview. Bad culture and bad senior management. The fact that this interview was meant to be confidential (signed NDA) has now opened a can of worms!

  26. Chad*


    I don’t know if somebody already mentioned this or not, but it could have been a fairly elaborate ruse to steal your identity. Probably pretty unlikely but possible. Get your year of birth from your graduation date (year of graduation from high school minus 18 for most people). Then getting the date without the year from somewhere else (facebook, twitter, etc.). Them already having your address from your resume. And finally getting your social security number willingly from you.

  27. Turanga Leela*

    #5, I had a vacation situation similar to that last year. I planned to be on the other side of the country for eight days. I put in my time-off request several months in advance, when I got the plane tickets, and figured it would be approved. (I work part-time, so I wouldn’t have been scheduled most of those days anyway.) When the schedule came out for the week containing the first six vacation days, it indicated my request was approved. Yet the schedule for the next week did not have the last two days approved. But it gets weirder.

    1) On the seventh vacation day, I was scheduled for a time that I had listed as “unavailable” on my availability form. Luckily I had that resolved within a few minutes of seeing it, & one of my favourite coworkers got an extra four hours that week.
    2) While I was in the security line at the airport in my hometown, I turned off my phone. Shortly thereafter, I received a call asking if I could come in that evening (despite the time-off request that day & for the next 7 days). I didn’t get the call until I landed, two hours after the store had closed.
    3) The next morning I called the store early & spoke with a manager (who knew I was 2,000 miles away) explaining the previous day’s call, & asked if the mgr who called could be reminded where I was for the next week.
    4) Two days later, the mgr who called me called *again* asking if I could come in. I explained why I couldn’t & when I would be back in town.

  28. OP #4*

    Hi everyone! Alison asked me to post my update here…I have my old job back! I sent my materials in to HR and copied the new manager. Heard back from him right away that he was going to try to see what could be done because he’d heard nothing but great things about me and my skills. He managed to get my salary and benefits (including 3 days a week working from home) back for me, and is still working on even getting me a raise for the next review period (which is when I would have been due for one if the layoff had never happened). He hired me back without even interviewing me, just on my former manager’s word (she is now also HIS boss, so it’s kind of crazy). I’m absolutely thrilled to be going back, because my consulting job isn’t working out as I’d hoped it would!

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