my manager won’t manage, applying when you’re overqualified, and more

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

1. My boss is rude to another department head

Another department in my organization has a bad rep over the last few years for not having clear budgets, changing program names randomly, etc. They’ve gotten a lot sorted out in the last 18 months, and have a good vision of where their program is going now. My department is fundraising, so we need to understand our organization’s programs to be effective at raising money for them.

My supervisor and others managers in the department approach any interaction with the other department with skepticism and veiled hostility, as a result of the previous years of bad communication. My supervisor also has a loud personality, including often an aggressive tone in meetings. In a recent meeting with the other department, my supervisor was pushy and confrontational in asking questions about their structure and programs, but did it under the guise of “this is a great program and I want to raise money for it, but (insert aggressive question).” You could see the other people visibly tensing up and getting defensive. I know this other department has presented on their new structure before and none of this should have been new to my supervisor. It’s like he ignored the last 9 months of meetings and updates from this department. He tries to pass off his confrontational attitude as being from New York (compared to our passive-aggressive midwestern norm). I think that at times, he’s confusing being direct with being a jerk. Since this other department needs us to fundraise for them, it’s an imbalance in power where they have to play nice and take all of his aggression, and he and the other managers can be as big of a-holes as they like.

I get along pretty well with my supervisor and our work styles complement nicely. But this attitude towards the other department (and increasing unwillingness to learn the details of our organization’s programs) is getting on my nerves and come across as unprofessional, to me and others lower in our department. How, in the future, can I help make these interdepartment meetings more productive and not get overrun with patronizing hostility?

I think your best opportunity here might be behind-the-scenes: Talk to your boss about the changes that you’ve seen in that department and how differently they’re operating now than they used to (assuming you think that’s true). Try nudging him toward a different viewpoint on that department than he currently has.

But beyond that, this probably isn’t your battle to fight. The head of the other department should be tackling it head-on if it’s crossing a line — and the head of the organization should be picking up on your manager’s attitude toward this department and addressing it forthrightly as well. There’s only so much you can do as someone working for this manager.

2. I’m picking up my coworker’s slack and my manager won’t do anything about it

I work at a small printing company. There are only seven of us, including my manager. I am in charge of the newspaper; my coworker is in charge of the print jobs. My responsibilities are 90% newspaper, 10% printing. I currently do 90% newspaper, 75% printing. My coworker not only procrastinates, but screws around and gets behind in her work. I need to pick up the slack or we will have unhappy clients. If I don’t do her work, my manager does it.

I’ve approached my manager about this situation five times. He says he sees what my coworker is doing and things will change. Nothing has changed. My assistant manager has the same concerns as I do. I finally told the assistant manager I was frustrated and at the end of my rope. He said my manager knows what’s going on, but is not going to say anything about it because my coworker “knows too much.” She’s been there five years. I think my manager is just too nice and doesn’t want to cause conflict. The assistant manager agreed.

The owners know about my coworker. I was told they want her gone. They’ve been watching her and know I’m carrying her. Do I speak with my manager again? And say what? Do I go directly to the owners? Or to the HR consultant? Help! I am exhausted, overworked, and am getting burned out. I’ve only been working there for 15 months.

Your manager doesn’t want to manage, so unless someone or something intervenes and forces him to (i.e., his manager forces him to or your coworker is, say, caught stealing), he’s not going to fix the problem. You have a terrible manager. You can (a) accept that and live with it, (b) find a job with a manager who manages, or (c) take a chance on talking to the owners, which could work or could backfire horribly, depending on the politics in your workplace. (Even if you do the latter successfully though, and it results in the abolishment of your coworker, you will still be stuck with a horrible manager who won’t manage — do you want that?)

3. Can I apply for a position “for new grads” even though I’m more experienced?

I had been working in the west coast and moved to the east coast because of my husband’s job a year ago. I started my job search three months back. I have a degree in engineering and looking for technical jobs. Recently, I saw a job position that mentioned the job type as “new grad non-co-op.” I understand that this is a full-time opportunity. Can I, an experienced professional, apply for this job? I really like the job description and it will be a very good start. Are the new grad type jobs meant only for the new graduates or can the experienced professionals also apply? Why does the job description specify the job type as new grad?

Well, they’ve pretty clearly stated the profile of who they’re looking for, and you’re probably not it. Their wording tells you that the level of work and responsibility is lower than what you’re used to and qualified for, and that they’re planning to pay far lower than what you, with more experience, would normally expect. It’s not impossible that they’d be willing to hire someone with significantly more experience, but it’s going to be an uphill battle.

4. Manager is making housekeeper work off the clock illegally

I work at a hotel and have for the past three months. Everyone here, from the front desk to housekeeping to van drivers, dislikes the manager. She has worked here for about six months and several people have quit because of her. She seems to have some sort of control freak problem and often talks condescendingly to us front desk agents. No one in the room can know more than her or offer to fix a problem in a different way than she suggests. She also seems to try to find things to write people up on around their three-month mark to discourage anyone asking for a raise (and they pay pretty poorly as well; other hotels in town offer up to $3/hour more).

Anyway, I recently found out she makes the executive housekeeper clock out while she works to avoid going into overtime. This housekeeper works really hard (on top of being in college) and probably averages 45-50 hours a week. But the manager requires her to clock and and continue to work. I’ve told the housekeeper this is illegal and she should stay clocked in anyway, but the housekeeper said she doesn’t want to get yelled at anymore. This, quite frankly, makes me angry. Is there anything I can do that won’t endanger my coworker’s job?

Yes, it’s illegal. I doubt that talking to the manager is going to change anything, so your next step would be to report it to your state labor agency. (You could also let the housekeeper know to track her hours carefully, because after she leaves she could file for back pay for the hours she wasn’t paid for, including the overtime she should have received.)

5. Does school count as training?

I found a job that I would like to apply for, and it says a minimum of five years of experience and/or training is required. I only have about two and a half years of actual experience, but if you count my schooling as “training,” that would bump me up to about six and a half years. So is school considered “training”?

I don’t know — it depends on the job and the employer. In some fields, it would; in others, not. In some companies, it would; in others, not. Go ahead and apply and see. (That said, if you’re counting all four years of college as “training” in this particular field, that’s unlikely to fly, unless you went to a very unusual college that focused all of your coursework on this one subject.)

Keep in mind, too, that these figures are rarely exact requirements; they’re giving an approximate idea of the experience level of the candidate they’re looking for, not performing exact tallies.

6. References when you can’t get in touch with people you used to work with

How do you handle job applications or interviews that ask for contact info of previous managers/supervisors, if a previous company or companies you worked for have gone bankrupt or out of business and you no longer have a clue as to how to get in touch with anyone you worked with?

You do your best to stay in touch with managers so that you’ve maintained contact even if they leave the company (likely to happen eventually, after all) or if the company itself closes. If you haven’t done that and can’t track them down now (through LinkedIn, the Internet more generally etc.), you’re not in a great position. But you really want to put in this effort, because plenty of employers are going to be wary of hiring you if they can’t speak to anyone who’s managed your work. (And yes, that can feel unfair when you can’t locate them through no fault of your own, but it’s reasonable for employers to pass if they can’t get some outside verification before making the fairly large decision to hire, train, and employ you.)

7. Has this site ever been used to subtly bring a problem to light?

Do you know if anyone has ever deliberately used your blog to bring an issue in their workplace to light? (Example: having a question published in AAM in hopes that the guilty/offending party will see it and realize changes need to be made.)

I hope that they use it to bring issues to light all the time, by using the advice to address issues directly with people themselves! But if you mean someone just hoping that a coworker or boss will see their letter and recognize themselves, I’m not aware of that ever happening. I’d say it’s possible but unlikely — in part because few letters are specific or unique enough for people to identify themselves (with a few obvious exceptions), and in part because it would be like those offices that send all-staff reminders about the dress code when there’s really one offender, and that offender never thinks that they’re the one being talked about. (That said, I’d be very interested in any accounts of this, and I often wonder if anyone just prints out a column and leaves it quietly on someone’s desk.)

{ 125 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    “I often wonder if anyone just prints out a column and leaves it quietly on someone’s desk.”

    I wish I had the balls to do that.

    1. KarenT*

      I’ve never done it, but I’ve fantasized about it. And not questions I’ve asked, but often questions that relate to my workplace situation.

      1. Kara*

        I’ve never printed it and left it for anyone to see, but I have forwarded links to my boss, as well as to some of our consulting clients. We do financial consulting (CPA firm), and occasionally run across clients who have management issues, which is usually outside our scope. In these cases I like to provide suggested resources, and AAM often makes it onto that list. Thanks, Alison!

      2. Jessa*

        Yeh I’ve wished I had the guts to do that in the past in some circumstances. But I’ve never actually done it.

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, I was remembering that one and wincing. Anonymous notes can bring more trouble than they solve.

            1. ThursdaysGeek*

              Because if the person stopped her behaviour after reading the anonymous note and comments, she probably would have also stopped with a less extreme method. If the OP had been willing to speak up, or get a manager to speak up, the bad behavior would have probably stopped without the woman having to suspect everyone in the office hating her, not knowing if there was anyone safe to talk to.

              Rather than taking the chance on making a bad situation better, the OP juat made a bad situation different.

              1. Anonymous*

                Oh, jeeze. I see your point. And now that I think about it, I guess it would be embarrassing to realize that your situation was posted on a website, and that a ton of people were commenting on it.

                On the other hand, if you’re berating someone and making them cry, I feel like protecting your feelings shouldn’t be a high priority. Getting your own feelings hurt probably makes more of an impact than nicely pointing out you’re being rude and mean.

                1. ThursdaysGeek*

                  Yeah, but a true bully, someone who really doesn’t care about others, would probably become defensive and certainly wouldn’t change her behaviour. So, if the woman changed, then perhaps she would have also changed with a less nuclear tactic.

                  Sure, she had it coming, but sometimes it’s better to not lower yourself to the same level.

      1. Ellie H.*

        I just clicked through to the original post and noticed it was those comments that featured a brief discussion of the epithet “all summer’s eve” which I think has been used on here before (I’ve only ever seen it here). I wanted to say that I recently saw an actual ad for Summer’s Eve products here on this blog! It was a BlogHer network ad. I was kind of taken aback that BlogHer was advertising such a product and I also wondered if it were due to keyword hits stemming from those comments!

    2. Gjest*

      At my last job, after the receptionist disappeared (and rumors flying about a major argument with her and her boss, the HR manager) I printed out a posting about how weird it is when people are fired and the employer doesn’t say anything- and then I put it in the “employee suggestion” box. It was really weird, because the receptionist did a lot of stuff for us, like receive all of our timesheets, for example, but they didn’t tell us who to give them to for 2 pay periods (I just left mine in my boss’s box).

      But HR was the ones who emptied the suggestion box, and they sucked at that place, so it probably got circular filed immediately. But it made me feel slightly better.

      1. JR*

        YES! We’ve had like 3 or 4 people leave lately and literally NO ONE has said anything about it. These people are responsible for major products and services. It’s really awkward. And now there are a few temps filling in, again no introductions.

    3. Silent*

      I once printed an article and left it in the printer room because I know my coworker reads anything left on the counter. She didn’t get the hint or change her behavior.

  2. KarenT*

    I tend to take a profile that specifically wants a new grad to mean the position pays very, very low.
    That being said, there is crazy competition for jobs right now. Our “entry level” jobs are going to PhDs from Cambridge with five years industry experience (true story).
    I’d apply and explain in your cover letter why you’d be happy with lower level work.

    1. Jessa*

      My one issue with that is the way the OP says “it will be a very good start.” The problem here is that they may want someone in this lower level position for a couple of years or so, learning the business, etc. before they are ready to promote/move them. Someone with experience coming in would want to move up far more quickly than that. It depends on what the OP means by “good start” I think.

    2. Chinook*

      When I see someone requesting a new grad specifically (especially stating that it was non co-op), it makes me wonder if they have special funding tied to the position that requires them to hire a new grad. I know that my university education was paid for mainly by jobs that were partially covered by government grants that required the employee be enrolled in school in the fall (these were for non-profits like museums that paid for half the salary and the government agency paid the other half). In that case, that condition was non-negotiable.

      1. Felicia*

        I know there is a government program, I think provincial, that creates jobs for people who have graduated within the past 2 years, and I think also don’t qualify for unemployment and a few other things. The jobs are created in non profits and are one year contracts, and the candidates need to meet those qualifications to be hired.

        1. Chinook*

          Felicia, those would be the ones and they are usually funded by the provincial lottery programs (in Alberta, the Heritage Fund, created in the 70’s from oil money, also funds it). So buy those Lotto 6/49 tickets and support out new grads!

  3. Elise*

    #5- Does the ad also mention a degree as a requirement? If so, your school time will not count toward the experience. But, I see many jobs that say something like 2-5 years experience or a BA/BS degee. It just depends on the field.

    1. Jessa*

      I could see school counting if it was some kind of technical degree where the classes were some kinds of hands on thing like a lot of lab work or computer work or even the old secretarial school model where you did a lot of office tasks as part of the class work. But a regular university or college? Unless a lot of the coursework was directly related to the job in question you have a lot of filler in there. A lot of general work needed to get a degree that’s intended to fill in basic knowledge.

  4. Robyn*

    #2: Stop picking up her slack. Just stop doing it. I know you said your manager will then pick it up, but that’s your manager’s problem.

    And start looking for a new job.

    1. Liz*

      I agree with the first part. A good friend of mine gave me similar advice: sometimes you need to let something break before management will actually realize there’s a need to make a change. (This particularly applies if you’re understaffed but work all hours to keep everything going, because then they don’t think there’s a real problem: everything gets done, after all.)

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      Agree. OP, your manager has an easy solution to the problem of your coworker right now: you. You can stop being his easy solution — when it comes time to pick up your coworker’s slack, remind your manager how busy you are with your own stuff. He will then either have to manage this person or do the work himself. It sounds like he prefers to do the latter than the former, but that’s not your problem. And if he tries to start getting you to do the work, keep responding with, “If I do that, I can’t get [insert task you actually are responsible for] done on time.”

      Your manager doesn’t want to manage, but at least you can quit enabling him.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Your manager doesn’t want to manage, but at least you can quit enabling him.

        This, +100.

        1. Ruffingit*

          There should be some kind of Al-Anon group for those having to deal with these kinds of enabling issues at work. TPS-Anon maybe?

        2. samklh*

          #2 is an idiot! I can say that because #2 is me, as in “that’s my letter” me! And I never thought of it as enabling! Go figure. My ex is an alcoholic so apparently I’m a professional enabler! Ugh.

          Today, THREE projects were pushed back by my coworker because a walk-in came in with a rush job. (A wedding program – she loves doing them.) Those three jobs that were pushed back? They belonged to my big boss, as in the owner! They’ve been hanging up for a week. My manager came up to me and said, “don’t do anything else. I gave her strict orders to get those three jobs out today and she ignored them. I’m calling her on it. Let her finish everything else.” I hope this is a sign.

          1. Ruffingit*

            I hope it’s a sign too. And don’t be too hard on yourself for enabling, we’ve all fallen into that trap at work. It’s hard to set boundaries in general, but it’s especially difficult at work where boundary setting can get you fired. Hang in there!

    3. Anonymous*

      Alison was absolutely right when she said that this manager will not deal with the situation until forced to do so. OP, you are saving the manager from having to take care of it.

      I will add one additional comment – I would talk to your manager before you stop doing the additional work. “You know, I really want to step in and pick up the slack when additional help is needed with other function – even thought it’s really not part of my job – and I’ve been doing an enormous amount of that over the last 15 months. I want you to know that I just can’t keep it up. As much as I would like to help – and I really hate it when something slips and we disappoint our clients – I’m not going to be able to continue. Even though I won’t be able to [do other job] going forward, I want you to know that I am fully committed to [doing my job].”

      It can be incredibly difficult to set these kinds of limits – especially when you’re a true professional committed to serving your customers. “Not my job” is not part of this thinking, and in almost all cases that’s good. It’s not here.

      You need to remember that your manager is responsible for getting the projects done and the work to the clients – either by managing the team members properly so that the work is completed by those assigned to do it, or by doing it all him or herself. That is your manager’s responsibility – not yours – and the consequences for your manager’s choice belong solely to your manager.

      Putting your manager on notice will – I hope – make you feel a bit better for alerting him or her that “old reliable” is no longer going to step in to save the team, so he or she had better come up with another plan. However, if you’re afraid you’re going to cave, make sure you can’t. Sign up for a class, volunteer somewhere, schedule time with your friends – do whatever you have to do to make sure that when the manager asks if you can “just stay a little later, just this once, just tonight” you have another commitment to give you the strength to turn him or her down. You may need to do this for at least a few weeks to form the habit – and retrain your manager – but you need to for your own sanity.

      Good luck.

      1. Chinook*

        “do whatever you have to do to make sure that when the manager asks if you can “just stay a little later, just this once, just tonight” you have another commitment to give you the strength to turn him or her down.”

        And remember that catching up on episodes of “The Dome” or playing hide and seek with the cat count as commitments!

      2. samklund*

        Thanks for all of the comments. Truthfully, I’ve been thinking about doing ALL of these things. I’m as bad as my manager when it comes to confrontation. I have told him (2 months ago) I’m getting tired of carrying her and I was told she’s being watched…by him and the owners. I had a chat today with my assistant manager (AM). Apparently the reason my coworker isn’t gone is because 1. She carries a lot of information about the business in her head and 2. It would put all of the workload on me. I said the former could be figured out easily enough…and I laughed at the latter. What’s another 25%?

        I did tell the AM I was burned out and if my only alternative was to find another job, I’d do it. Unfortunately, I live in a small town and there aren’t any other jobs in my field around here. I am looking. It’s sad, though, because I do like the work.

        By the way, I never have to stay late. I can get my work done and most of hers in 8 hours. It’s not that she has more work than I do; it’s because I don’t get distracted every five minutes and I stay focused. I’m also a fast worker. I now have clients request me because they know I’ll get there projects finished. Yeah, I’ve dug myself a pretty good-sized hole…Hopefully I’ll find a big shovel. And soon.

    4. Pam*

      Yes, I was also wondering if this is ever a viable solution. I would like to hear from someone who was juggling 2-3 projects when they should only be doing 1 and let a project drop completely.

  5. Mike C.*

    OP #4 – File a report with your state labor board, and tell them everything you’ve told us here. They’ll be very, very interested to hear about this.

  6. Vee*

    #3- Does wording like “new grads” open the company up for age discrimination claims? I realize that people of all ages start or go back to school, but new grads gives me an immediate visual of someone in their early 20’s.

    1. Laufey*

      I think people generally understand “new college grads” to mean those without much experience but training or education related to the field. I can’t imagine they would have a problem unless they refused to interview people who were non-traditionally aged college students (though you might still be able to make an argument for them being over-qualified if previous experience is tangentially related).

      1. Joey*

        I’m not picking on you because I know employers use this defense, but that’s a bunch of BS. That’s like saying we are looking for people with light skin and as long as they interview minorities with light skin there’s no problem.

        1. Laufey*

          Actually, I don’t think it’s like that at all. It’s illegal (and morally wrong) to discriminate based on race/ethnicity, but it’s not illegal (or morally wrong) to say “We need an entry level worker with a college degree. Statistically, this will be a recent grad (of whatever age), so that is where we should focus our search.”

          1. Joey*

            Exactly. If they said entry level worker with a degree that could encompass anyone of any age who’s interested in entry level work. Don’t tell me you don’t believe recent grad is code for young

            1. Laufey*

              We may have to agree to disagree on this one, because I don’t believe it is, and in my experience, it hasn’t been.

              As Felicia states below, entry level can mean many things. “Recent” and “new grad” tags in job listings are just one way for employers to communicate the desired level of experience/education for the position. If someone with a degree and (relevant) experience wanted to do entry level work for an entry level salary, it would be up to the employer to to decide whether they wanted to interview the person, knowing that they’re accustomed to more autonomy/better benefits/better compensation/etc. and might be a flight risk, but that has nothing to do with the person’s age. A similar degree-holder with non-relevant experience would have to be run through similar questions – is this person certain they want to change fields? Will this person be okay with going from a higher-level position to a lower one? Will this person be willing to stay at this level and proceed through the normal promotion track, or does he/she expect to be fast-tracked (beyond anything related to merit)?

              These are all perfectly fair questions for the interviewer to ask, and none of them have anything to do with age. Statistically speaking, a degree holder at an entry level will be a younger person, but that doesn’t mean an employer is discriminating against older workers. It just means they’re looking for an entry level worker who is actually entry level.

              1. Joey*

                I’m not saying advertising for “new grads” by itself is age discrimination, but it certainly would be supporting evidence of an age discrimination claim. It would be the same as advertising “we won’t hire you unless you’re of ‘college age’.”

                1. Laufey*

                  No, it wouldn’t.

                  First off, what is “college age”? Just among my friend who graduated at the same time, our ages ranged from 19 through 32, at a fairly standard 4-year liberal arts institution. As people take fewer loans and work through college, people taking 5+ years or matriculating late is becoming increasingly common, pushing the average “college age” even higher. My company routinely recruits and hires “recent grads.” This year we hired three – two aged 22, one aged 29. All of them graduated within a year of their start date.

                  Employers wanting “new grads” generally don’t care what age you are – they want cheap labor that can be trained to their own desires. By and large these people happen to be young. That doesn’t mean the employers are discriminating against older workers. It just means they need someone for data entry, and they can hire either a junior analyst or a SVP to accomplish the same work. It’s a better allocation of resources to higher the person with less experience.

                2. Elizabeth West*

                  I disagree–it would need something else to back it up. By itself, that’s not enough evidence to support that claim. It’s like the race post yesterday, where Alison mentioned the person may be treated poorly, but it may also only be how she perceives it.

                  In a suit, it would be easy to say someone claiming age discrimination on the new grad designation alone might only be operating on his/her perception, unless he/she could prove the company is actually using it to screen out older workers. A good lawyer would absolutely ask for more proof and could rip it to shreds in two minutes. Hell, even I could, and IANAL.

                3. Joey*

                  Are you seriously arguing that people don’t commonly interpret new grad as young?

                  How many “new grads” over 40 did your company hire? Im not saying your company did, but this is a tactic that companies use to attract the young and discourage older workers from applying.

                4. Chinook*

                  Joey, I agree with Elizabeth. I think you are claiming discrimination where none exists because youa re seeing it through your own experiences. As I stated earlier, where I come from there are government programs to fund employment for university students. While this does help mostly those from 18-24, it doesn’t limit who it helps by age as the only ones eligible are those returning to school. In fact, if you are in that age group and not returning to school, you also are ineligible.

                  Just because something happens to disproportionately help or hinder a certain group doesn’t mean something is discriminatory as long as the criteria is applied evenly to all applicants.

                5. Joey*

                  I’m not saying that advertising for new grads alone is age discrimination. I’m saying its frequently a piece of supporting evidence of age discrimination and its frequently a tactic to discriminate.

                  Obviously whether or not they actually only hired young people would be a key piece of info.

                6. Laufey*

                  How many “new grads” over 40 did your company hire?

                  We didn’t hire any because we didn’t have any new grads over 40 apply.

                  You are obviously very convinced that companies are using graduation status to discriminate based on age. Fine. It is well within your rights to feel that way. But several people here are saying that, in their experience, companies use “recent” and “new” grad status to screen for experience, not age.

        2. Elizabeth*

          But “new grad” is a classification actually related to being a certain kind of worker (lower salary, less likely to be bored by the work). Also, time elapsed since graduation isn’t a protected class.

          I think it’s more like a job posting saying they will only consider applicants who speak Japanese. Such a posting would get more Asian applicants than Hispanic, but as long as the company didn’t exclude qualified applicants based on race, and as long as speaking Japanese was actually part of the job, it wouldn’t be illegal discrimination.

          1. Felicia*

            I think if someone with more experience got a “new grad” job they’re also more likely to want to leave sooner because they’re working below their level. If a job requires a degree, then I see entry level and new grad being synonymous. If you want someone with a degree and less than 1 year experience, it’s highly likely that that person is a new grad. I can’t think of a situation where they wouldn’t be a new grad, unless they were doing something totally unrelated for years after their degree. Also sometimes entry level means 3-5 years experience, which Ive seen far too much, so that job would indicate that people who cant possibly have much industry experience are still welcome to apply.

              1. Laufey*

                This is true, and no one’s arguing it’s not (though said people better address in their cover letter that they’re willing to accept the reduction in autonomy/flexibility/compensation that would accompany such a change.).

                We’re just saying the using the phrase “recent” or “new” grad is not inherently discriminatory due to 1) changing standards of normal for college students; 2) it be becoming shorthand for “entry-level” as the definition of “entry-level” has changed, and; 3) recent and new grads generally refers specifically to people with a degree and less than a year of experience in that field, which can apply to almost anyone, at any age.

            1. Chinook*

              I also think that, if you are hiring for a “new grad” you are expecting to have someone with limited work experience and may even have set up your own training process to include things that you wouldn’t normally cover with a new employee.

            2. Elizabeth West*

              I agree with Joey on this comment. If someone is changing careers, they will most likely be working below a former level, but that’s to be expected.

            1. Felicia*

              but they can and often do say they prefer college students. That doesn’t mean anyone of a certain age, that means college students.

              People of many different ages are also recent grads.

              For someone changing careers, when their new career required a degree they didn’t have, after obtaining that degree, they too would be recent grads. For example, if a career path required a degree in science, someone changing careers would have to first get that degree. At that point they would also be a recent grad in that subject, regardless of when they got their first degree and regardless of how long they’ve been working doing something else.

    2. Joey*

      Absolutely it opens them up to age discrimination claims. Its code for young. If they wanted entry level they should just say entry level.

      Now whether or not an age discrimination claim is successful is another story. It depends on a bunch of other stuff like who they’ve actually hired, whether or not they seeked out other age groups, etc

      1. Felicia*

        Just like entry level doesn’t mean a certain age, recent grad doesn’t mean a certain age. And if they say entry level, most people who are entry level are of a certain age, though of course not everyone, so I don’t see how that’s any different. Entry level is just starting out in your career, and recent grad is someone who recently graduated. Both of t hose things can be of any age, but tend to skew younger

        1. De Minimis*

          I’ve started to see “entry level” ads where they still want at least 1-2 years of experience.

          It’s certainly anecdotal, but I have also seen ads/companies where they distinguish between “new grad” and “entry level,” with new grad being for someone with no prior experience and entry level being for those with at least the year or two.

          1. Manda*

            This is exactly what I’ve been thinking throughout this whole discussion. Entry level is a misnomer because they usually ask for a year or two of experience. New grad typically means they’re willing to consider people with no relevant experience. That being said, I did once see and ad that said something like, “Are you a recent business admin grad?” but later said “1 year of experience required.” In other words recent, but not [i]that[/i] recent. That’s a case where they shouldn’t have bothered mentioning recent grads.

      2. De Minimis*

        I worked for a company that performed de facto age discrimination, simply only hiring entry level via campus recruiting. They got around it by occasionally hiring a token career changer, but usually that person left after a few years. But the nature of the industry was that the vast majority of new hires left in 2-3 years, so the high turnover rate allowed them to continue.

        It changed when people got to mid-level and above, but a lot of those employees were recruited from other companies/agencies.

        1. Chinook*

          But how is it age discrimination if an employer only does campus recruiting? Unless they are refusing to see “mature students” (as anyone who started as undergrad after the age of 21 is called at my unviersity) at their recruiting events, all they are doing is limiting their recruitment to those who are graduating this year.

          1. Joey*

            Its age discrimination if they only hire via campus recruiting which results in only young people. Disparate impact.

            1. De Minimis*

              You could really see it at the national training for new hires. Barely anyone over 30, much less 40. Some offices didn’t even have the token hire.

            2. Jen in RO*

              Then is it race discrimination if they hire via website, which underprivileged people, who might be of certain races, can’t access due to their economic situation? (no money for internet or computers)

            3. Chinook*

              But you are once again assuming that a great majority of people on campus are below a certain age. Even 15 years ago when I went to university, there was a growing group of mature students.. Easily a quarter of my classmates were older than me (and I wasn’t fresh out of high school either). I think I am having an issue not with your arguement but the fact that your arguement is based on a perception of college students being of one age group and that those of other ages who graduate with them are treated differently by the workforce.

              1. Felicia*

                When I was an intern, the requirement was that the person be going into their final year of university in the fall (it was a summer internship). There were 3 interns that year. I was 21, and my fellow interns were 25 and 31 respectively. I think the best analogy would be the language one. A job that requires someone to speak Mandarin will attract more people of Chinese descent but that doesn’t mean it’s racial discrimination as long as anyone who speaks the language is considered. In my experience, new grad means new grad. And people who graduated in May 2013, for example, come in a whole lot of places. I’d say about 20% of people in my program were mature students. And some jobs require a college post grad certificate, and people i know of in those programs range in age from 22-55 or so, and the majority of people in those programs are in their 30s. so a recent grade from those types of programs usually doesn’t mean early 20s.

                1. Joey*

                  When its a true job related qualification that’s justified. But I can’t think of any jobs that really require you to be a “new grad” to do the job successfully .

                2. Manda*

                  @Joey: I don’t think I’ve ever seen an ad that required a new grad. When they say new grad, they’re just letting new grads without relevant experience know that they’re welcome to apply.

              2. Joey*

                Are there student populations with older students? Sure. Would it be discrimination if they hired old and young students? Probably not. But commonly “new grad” job advertisements result more frequently in disparate impact against older workers.

                1. Laufey*

                  Yes, and any job requiring experience results in disparate impact against younger workers. Does that mean that employers should not be allowed to use any type of screening process and that all jobs must be allocated to workers via a lottery system?

                  Also, just for the record, disparate impact is not the same thing as disparate treatment.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Laufey, the law does make disparate impact a legal issue, not just disparate treatment. (And age discrimination laws don’t kick in until age 40, so it’s fine to have a disparate impact on younger people.)

                3. Laufey*

                  So it does. I stand corrected. I think I was thinking of something else. My apologies, Joey and Alison.

                  I still stand by my statement that recent/new grad recruitment/hiring is not inherently discriminatory.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        As I said above, it’s possible, but they’d have to have stronger evidence than just new grad on the job posting.

    3. TK*

      As has been pointed out here before, age discrimination laws, at least at the federal level, protect only those 40 or over: It’s perfectly legal, at least on the federal level, to discriminate against someone for being too young. Of course, some states probably have more all-encompassing age discrimination laws. I’m not sure how much a claim based on this would actually hold up in court, though.

      1. De Minimis*

        With so many people returning to school I’m not sure if “new grad” can necessarily be associated with the early 20s age group anymore. I was technically a “new grad” at 36!

        1. Laufey*

          This. Similarly anecdotal story, when my father changed fields from programming to teaching, he became a recent grad at the age of 53. Throughout his interview process, he never had a problem (at any of the schools to which he applied) when they wanted a twenty-something and were disappointed to get him.

    4. Rayner*

      I don’t think it does because you frame it as ‘new grad’ as in, new to your field, and probably with limited real in the field experience. That’s what you’re looking for – someone to teach, and someone who’s very ready to work from the bottom up, learning those techniques or skills, and it doesn’t matter if they’re 23, or if they’re 40 and going back to school to change careers, or 30, and a mature student with a family.

      If you frame it as a “we only want people under forty” then you have issues.

      It’s part of the criteria – like if you want a degree, if you want X years of experience, if you want them to know Y programme. Just another thing.

      And what it gives you as a visual is fine /as long as you don’t allow it to affect your choice of candidate./ As in, you don’t exclude people of protected classes etc just because they’re a little (or a lot) older than your vision of a new graduate.

    5. VictoriaHR*

      Yes, it does – I was just coming here to post that. Companies are better off leaving any mention of “new grads,” etc., off of their job postings. They’re trying to say that they want to hire young people rather than older people, without explicitly saying it.

  7. Adrianne*

    Reporting to the state labor agency is something I hadn’t thought of. I will talk with my coworker and see if she can keep track of her hours and file for backpay later. I wonder if there’s a deadline for that sort of thing? And how do you prove you worked those hours?

    1. Jazzy Red*

      Well, for one thing, there’s a witness. You. And if both of you tell the truth, it’s very likely that you’ll be believed. If others come forward, the claim will be even more credible.

      The world’s largest retailer has gone through incredibly huge lawsuits about having employees work off the clock in the past. They’ve paid millions of dollars in back wages and penalties. It’s considered serious business now.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I would also start looking for a job at one of the other hotels that pays better and doesn’t have a crappy idiot manager. Check with some of the people who left, if you can; they may know of an opening and would totally understand why you’re asking.

  8. Yup*

    #1 Rude boss — Another thing you can do is speak positively about the other dept when discussing them with or around your boss. When giving him an update on your work, say stuff like, “I’ve sent all the letters for the Teapot Campaign, so we’re on target. Program Dept did a great job on getting the stats we needed for the print materials.” Or if he’s talking about an upcoming project, you can say, “Right, I’ve written the plan and I’m going to review the details with Program Dept to get their thoughts. Susan usually has excellent suggestions for describing the Teapot Campaign outcomes.”

    I used to do this with a VP who hated a different dept. Sometimes just my matter-of-fact “I have great experiences working with them” tone stopped him in his tracks by interrupting his negative mental groove. Also, I think it rattled his Tough Talker posturing because he wasn’t so sure that his “they stink and I’m just calling it like it is” narrative was accurate anymore. I don’t know that this approach actually changed his real attitude, but he definitely got more polite and less accusatory in meetings.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      I think this is a great idea. OP, you can’t change your boss’s mind, but if you react to his comments in a sincerely positive way, that may at least get him to be less nasty in public.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Ooh, good tactic. The OP boss is obviously still operating on an outdated assumption, so this might snap him out of it.

  9. Colette*

    #3 – At a company I used to work with, there were 2 kinds of job reqs for permanent jobs – new grad and regular. You could hire a new grad using a regular req, but if you wanted to hire under a new grad req, the person you were hiring needed to have graduated within the last year.

    1. Gjest*

      I see this often in STEM postings, usually called “early career” positions. They might refer to undergrad, MS, PhD, or recent post-doc and usually say that whichever level the job is, that level must have been completed within X years.

  10. April*

    #2 – I agree with the advice to stop doing your coworker’s job, to force the manager to figure it out. When you do it, don’t make a big deal out of it, “I won’t be doing Jane’s job anymore.” Only do the parts of the printing job that fit naturally in your workload/schedule. If there’s a special effort going on for a specific project, I would pitch in on that, but no more of the day to day workload. Just let it increase, overwhelm the manager, and not get done.

  11. Felicia*

    #3 The jobs for “new grads” that I often apply to often end up going to someone with 5 years experience, because they’re happy that they can get someone with more experience at the same price.

    Also new grads to me means someone who just graduated (and therefore is unlikely to have much experience). That can be someone of any age, and they generally want to both not pay a lot and have someone they can mold to their liking in such position. A classmate who graduated the same year as me graduated at age 40 with about the same level of experience in that field as I had and ended up getting one of those new grad jobs.

  12. Kacie*

    #7 I recognized my former place of work in a question, and a colleague confirmed that she wrote it. I think word got around that it was posted and answered. I don’t think there was much fallout, and the questionable HR practice ceased when the questionable head of HR left the organization.

  13. Felicia*

    #6 I’ve had that problem before. I’d kept in touch with my former manager once in a while, but then she left the company and I couldn’t figure out how to contact her. And I had last spoken to her about 3 months earlier. I ended up using someone higher up at that company ho wasn’t as familiar with my work, but he was involved in the same projects, so he could confirm that I had worked there and that I was reliable and met deadlines, which was better than nothing.

  14. Lindsay*

    #7 – I recognized my sister as the OP once, but we had talked about the issue in question and I sent her this website as a resource.

    1. Jazzy Red*

      My sister recognized me at a different website, a long time ago. It blew me away because she NEVER listens to me!

  15. nyxalinth*

    #6 has been a problem for me. Two of my former call center jobs either outsourced everyone or went out of business and ceased to exist long before LinkedIn, etc. OP, I think the best thing is to take what you can, and do volunteering. Volunteering will give you some good references as well as additional experience.

    1. Cathy*

      Even if your past employers are long since defunct, you can still find your former coworkers on LinkedIn. If you have a profile there, they probably do too, and they’re still good references.

      If you don’t recall the names of the people you’re looking for, there’s an advanced search link on every LinkedIn page in the top nav, next to the magnifying glass icon. You can use that to search for people who have a specific company name in their past. If you get too many results, narrow the search to people located in your area. Once you reconnect with a few past coworkers, you can rerun the search to include their contacts and connect with those people as well.

      1. nyxalinth*

        Mind, this was a huge call center (200+ people) and in the 1999-2002 range for one and 2006 for the other. I don’t think anyone would remember me, but it never hurts to give it a shot. thanks!

  16. Anonymous*

    I’m not positive, and this wasn’t my original intent in writing, but I was the person whose de facto boss was bringing her elderly uncle with dementia to work with her. A day or 2 after AAM published my question, the behavior stopped. I hadn’t yet spoken with my boss about my concerns, so it wasn’t anything I’d said. To this day, I have a strong suspicion that Boss saw my letter, and that’s what prompted the change. (This also explains why I didn’t write back with an update at the time.) I never asked, and it’s possible someone else spoke with Boss and raised an objection, but that didn’t seem likely.

    I left that assignment about 6 months ago, and the temp agency 2 months ago, and have accepted a non-temporary position that’s a better fit all around (very good salary, benefits, & a structured, attentive management team that wouldn’t stand for Uncle Bob at work for a minute). The company where I worked with former Boss has a new, full-time on-site manager/director now, though I haven’t heard anything one way or another about that person’s skills or style. No idea what became of Boss.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Interesting! I had you on my list to reach out to for an update.

      Did your boss seem any different with you after that, aside from not bringing the uncle in?

      1. Anonymous*

        No, Boss didn’t seem any different with me afterwards (and I’m usually very sensitive to even the smallest variations in behavior, especially from a supervisor), and when I left that assignment, she actually sent me a very nice “goodbye, it’s been nice working with you” letter. This suggests that either someone else spoke up about the Uncle Bob thing, or that if she did see the letter, it made her step back and look at the situation objectively and realize how bizarre it was.

      1. Jazzy Red*

        Yes, it would be difficult.

        I’ve been around a couple of people with dementia (including my parents), and I’m completely UNcomfortable with it. It would bother me if my boss was bringing Uncle Bob in to our office.

  17. Chinook*

    #6, speaking as someone whose only recent references at one point were either in Japan (where I worked overseas) or family members (from when I helped my mother one summer), I feel your pain. But, I agree with Alison that it is possible to mitigate the pain if you plan for the future. When it came to my Japanese references, I had a reference letter available (in both japanese and translated into english) as well as contact information available (complete with time zone and best hours to reach them explanations) if someone really did want to try contacting them. The fact that I could show I wasn’t hiding them seemed to help.

    Of course, when someone is looking for local references and you have only lived in that time zone for less than a month, you just have to accept that you have raised a red flag and be willing to either charm them into trusting you or move on.

    1. Felicia*

      I did have a reference letter from the person I could no longer locate, and I think that helped as well and is the one case I found reference letters useful.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        I know Alison doesn’t like letters of reference, but it does seem like having them wouldn’t hurt, as long as you also provide contact information for references, including those with letters. “Here is the contact info for my 3 references, and I also have current contact info for 5 of these people who provided letters of reference, if you would like to speak to any of them.”

  18. Marie*

    OP #2: Get out, get out, get out! Having been in a similar situation at OldJob, I feel your pain. When you have a manager that won’t manage, NOTHING you do will change matters. I stayed far too long in a position with Jellyfish Manager and tries everything under the sun to improve the situation….sooo frustrating and futile! It seems utterly unfair that you should be the one to leave (instead of your slacker coworker or your inept manager), but take comfort in knowing that they will be the ones losing out when you take your talents and your work ethic and find a new job. The longer you stay in your current position, the more invested you might be in your determination to make your manager “see the light,” but it’s not gonna happen. Like I said, I was in a very similar situation as you are, and I tried to effect change for YEARS because I didn’t really see that the root of the problem was my manager. Unfortunately, I was ultimately fired in a crazy turn of events, largely stemming from my efforts to try and get my manager to manage. Do yourself a favor and run. The stress isn’t worth it. And once you find a new position with a good manager, your quality of life will dramatically improve. Good luck!

    1. samklund*

      Thanks :-) Sorry you went through a similar situation, but knowing I’m not alone is comforting. I hope you have found a good job/manager!

  19. brightstar*

    In regards to #2, my last position had a manager like that. Two co-workers constantly fought over who did more, complained about picking up the other’s slack, and the assistant manager wanted to fire them but didn’t have the authority. It corroded the entire atmosphere and still the manager refused to do anything. And fairly quickly it became apparent that his refusal to manage affected every aspect of the job.

    1. Ruffingit*

      And fairly quickly it became apparent that his refusal to manage affected every aspect of the job.

      That is usually the case with bad management. It bleeds into every aspect of the job. Unfortunately, with many bad managers, the only answer is “Sorry your manager sucks, here’s some resume paper…” IOW, leaving is the only real solution and that’s a bummer especially when you enjoy the work.

  20. Donna*

    #1 – Here’s one option that hasn’t been mentioned yet. If you have any contact with any members of the other department, make that contact as pleasant and happy as you possibly can. In one of my first jobs, my manager was not exactly a people person, and her interactions with a key person had damaged our ability to do our jobs well. To her credit, my manager realized what had happened, and assigned me specifically to handle interactions with that person. I was able to change things for the better.

    Most companies have safety committees, events to plan, and other volunteer opportunities where different departments interact. If any members of your department interact with any of the other departments, try to expand those relationships. There’s nothing to lose from making sure that your people have good connections throughout the company, and those good relationships may eventually rub off on your managers.

      1. JJ*

        What if someone hasn’t been having luck getting a job – how long does the “new grad” title last (I guess that would’ve been a better way to phrase it)?

  21. Kou*

    #1 There might be more to the New York vs Midwest thing than you’d think. I grew up in the South and moved to New York in my late teens, and I remember being so uncomfortable with what felt like the hyperaggressive way people talked to me. I remember thinking, “is EVERY person here just a jerk??” For a long time all my friends there were only transplants like myself because I found their mannerisms more palatable. The way the OP describes it is similar to how I did at the time when I was trying to adjust.

    It also might be a major copout. “This is just how I am so you all have to deal with it” style copout.

    1. Lindsay J*

      +1. I made the opposite move and came down to Texas from New Jersey. A lot of my friends down here are other East Coast-ers.

      I’ve also had to make a conscious effort to soften a lot of my mannerisms because otherwise I come off as unladylike or overly abrasive to the people down here in a way that I wouldn’t have to worry about if I was still in NJ.

      Not dealing with it, though, is a copout. If I was just to say, “I’m like this because I’m from NJ and you just have to deal with it,” I would still be being a jerk.

      1. Kou*

        Hah! I moved from Texas to New Jersey, but then to New York. I tend to lump them together.

        It is bogus to say “well I’m from x so I do x and you have to live with that” but it’s also extremely difficult to change such deeply-ingrained mannerisms and it takes a long time. I only left Texas about 6 years ago and I’m just now getting out of some of those regional type habits, but most of them are still around because it feels *so wrong* not to do them, I can’t tell if I’m being everyone else’s normal because it’s still not normal for me. And that’s *after* I realized something actually needed to change– a point in the process this guy doesn’t sound like he’s reached yet.

  22. J*


    STOP doing your coworker’s job. If your manager picks up her slack when you don’t do her work and he doesn’t want to manage her, let him deal with the workload. You’re overworked and burned out because you’re letting these people take advantage of you.

    1. samklund*

      BULLS-EYE! You are correct! This happens in my personal life, too, so imagine that? Me being taken advantage of at work! I have slowed down starting today! I asked how much I was supposed to do and was told, “only when we’re swamped and she’s behind.” Ha. That’s every day. Technically I’m supposed to do 25% or less. I was told today to stop helping. Period.

      Thanks for the kick in the pants. Believe it or not, it really helps to read these comments! It makes me realize I am being taken advantage of – by both of them – and it’s not right.

  23. Manda*

    RE #3: You might piss off a lot of new grads who can’t find a job because everybody else wants experience and this place wants to give them a chance.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Such a good point! Leave the new-grad/entry level jobs to those who are actually in those categories.

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