bringing up your age in interviews, relentlessly negative coworker, and more

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

1. My coworker is relentlessly negative about our old jobs and our new ones

My previous employer had a mass layoff. I found a new job quickly, and then one of my coworkers from the old place also joined the new company. This person has a negative attitude toward both workplaces, and often tries to bond with me via complaining. I think the old company was fine, the new one is great, and even if I wasn’t happy, I have better things to do than sit around griping.

I am concerned that since we both came from the same place, people will naturally associate us with each other. How can I discourage my colleague’s negativity or at least distance myself from it?

Two things — how you act with your coworker, and how you act with others. With your coworker, you can nicely make it clear that you feel very differently. When she complains to you, respond with things like: “Wow, I really like it here. I’m surprised to hear that.” “I didn’t mind that at Old Company at all. It’s too bad you felt that way.” “Hmmm, I don’t see it that way.” It’s likely she’ll stop complaining to you.

With other people, be positive and upbeat. They’re unlikely to lump you in with your coworker’s negativity if you’re clearly a positive presence.

2. Can I leave the salary section of an online application blank?

If I leave the salary history and/or salary requirement section of an online application blank, what are the odds of me getting called in for an interview? SHOULD I be filling it out?

It really depends. Some employers absolutely require it, while others will take note that you left it blank and ask you about it in the interview, while still others won’t pay it any attention at all. You can’t really know which you’re dealing with from the outside*, which is frustrating, but in general, really great employers aren’t willing to disqualify otherwise strong candidates for things like that. So it probably comes down to how many options you have — are you willing to screen out less-great employers, or do you need to leave them in the mix?

* If it’s an online application and the field isn’t required, that’s a decent indicator that you won’t be booted for leaving it blank.

3. Would it be reasonable for me to ask for this time off?

I recently finished my first year in a position I love (and attained thanks in part to information on your site!). My company encourages its employees to pursue a continuing education/professional certification program (refunding our fees after we pass, giving us time off to study, etc). I’m currently scheduled to retake (it has a notoriously low pass rate — almost everyone in the office has taken it multiple times) the exam in December (the weekend after Thanksgiving).

The exam is only offered in certain cities, so I’m traveling 7+ hours to my parents’ city to take the exam. I realized the other week that I am going to be in this city the week before for Thanksgiving, and rather than drive 7 hours home and 7 hours back four days later, I was contemplating asking to take off the week before the exam. Traditionally, the company gives us afternoons and the day before the exam off, so I would only be taking a total of 2 days time (I have plenty of accrued time), and I would offer to bring my computer to check email since it would follow the days we get for Thanksgiving.

Is it unreasonable to ask for this time off? Does it seem naive? I know year-end is generally a pretty busy time for everyone and people are jockeying for vacation time, but based on my workload last year, I think I’d be able to do. I just don’t want to step on anyone’s toes or seem ungrateful for what they’re already offering.

That seems entirely reasonable, unless you happen to work in a culture that considers taking vacation time an outrage (but I assume you would have mentioned it if you do). Just explain your reasoning and ask your manager if that would be hugely inconvenient for anyone. And really, even without the exam logistics, this wouldn’t be an unreasonable request. Ask, explain why, and see what she says.

4. Should I bring up my age in interviews?

I have recently been applying to executive level technology positions and have generated some interest from the resumes I have sent out. My knowledge and experience are well in line with the position requirements, and I look great on paper. However, I look quite young in comparison to most executives I come across, and I fear this will be held against me during the interview process.

The truth is, I am young — and I believe that can be greatly beneficial in my field. I am able to quickly catch on to new technologies, and I have the energy, passion, and hunger to succeed. I know that interviewers are generally not able to ask about age, and I am wondering if I should broach the subject? I would explain to them why my age should not be considered a detractor from my qualifications, and highlight the reasons why it makes me and even stronger candidate. Would this be inappropriate?

Don’t bring up your age. It’s likely to make everyone feel uncomfortable, and if they weren’t even thinking about it until you raised it, it’s going to be extra weird. A better bet is to demonstrate that your age is irrelevant by being a great candidate — interviewing well, having a track record of achievement, etc.

5. My boss promised to pay my salary while I’m out, but now is changing the plan

My boss promised to pay my salary while I am away. I am having major surgery for uterine cancer and will be off 7 weeks total. Now, suddenly, two weeks before my surgery, she wants me to get employment insurance — she does not want to pay! I am totally stressed out as it is, and I don’t have time to fill out all the forms and run around and get them all signed, and work. Plus, even if it is approved I have to wait two weeks for only 50% of my salary, and I have to prove every 2 weeks that I need to receive benefits and fill out more forms. My surgeon is now so concerned that I am too stressed for surgery. Can all this be right?

Ethically, no, absolutely not — she messed up by telling you one thing and then changing it so close to your surgery. Legally, assuming you’re in the U.S., this is legal unless you had a written agreement that she’s now violating. But I’d try talking to her about your concerns: “Jane, I was so grateful when you said you’d cover my salary while I’m recovering, and after you told me that, I made plans based on it. This new plan will only provide half that income, and only for five of the weeks rather than seven. I realize you weren’t obligated to make your original offer, and again I’m grateful for it — but since I was counting on it, is there any way for us to stick with that?”

Note that this focuses only on the amount you’ll be receiving and not the forms — because it’s pretty reasonable for you to fill out some forms in exchange for getting seven weeks of pay while you’re out.

6. Asking the wrong person

How do I transfer my new resume and one pic from my friend’s pc to my chrome?

Seriously, that’s your question for me?

7. Am I being pushy with my references?

Last Thursday, a potential employer let me know they would be checking my references. I emailed my references a heads-up to let them know. On Monday morning, the employer called me because they hadn’t yet heard from three of my four references (one had been out of town, one was a misdial, all are extremely busy professionals), asking me to push the process along. Just after receiving this call from the first employer, a second employer let me know they wanted to check my references as well. So, in addition to having to nudge my references about the first employer, I needed to ask them all for another favor and more of their time! The second employer also requested that the references contact the organization instead of vice versa (I assume to cut down on phone tag issues).

Is there a way I could have handled this more gracefully? I let the first employer know some of my references are extremely busy, out of town, and in an earlier time zone, but that I would follow up with them. Since I had to request my references contact the second organization anyway, I emailed them, but it felt like an imposition and pushy to be emailing them twice in less than three business days about the same issue.

It’s not pushy. Often reference requests come in batches like this when someone is job searching. If your references like you — and they should, if you’re using them as references — they shouldn’t be bothered. And you can explain that the first employer is moving quickly and asked you to follow up with them.

{ 254 comments… read them below }

    1. Unanimously Anonymous*

      My own humble suggestion is that OP #6 might want to ask their IT department how to swap out the vacuum tubes in their desktop PC.

    2. Josh S*

      Ah, technology, let me count the ways:
      -Other ‘cloud-based’ (off-site server) storage
      -Thumb drive
      -External hard drive
      -SD Card
      -Micro SD card
      -USB cable
      -Burn to DVD
      -Burn to CD
      -Copy to 3.5″ floppy
      -Network transfer via shared network drive
      -Steal your friend’s PC and take it with you wherever you need your resume
      -Recreate those files by putting 1’s and 0’s directly onto the hard drive of your Chrome(book?) using a very small handheld laser
      -Will it into existence
      -Etch on stone tablets

      Also, there’s this newfangled thing called Google. You can probably ask it your question, follow the directions, and find a solution.

      Seriously. How do you email this question to someone without knowing the answer. Either this is the most technologically backwards person with an email account, or one of the most ingenious trolls to grace this site.

          1. Chinook*

            The cassete tape with computer file used to be hooked up to our Radio Shack Colour Computer that used a tv (with channels and everything) for its monitor. I still miss that data sound, though.

            1. Manda*

              Nice! When I was a kid we had an ADAM Computer. It hooked up to the TV, had a cassette drive, and played ColecoVision games! =D

      1. Erica B*

        this just about cracked me up. It’s very possible this person honestly doesn’t know how to transfer files, in which ask the friend or search the internet.

        Your forgot ZIP drives. There’s always those too

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          Personally, I favour parchment and goose feather quill pens, although a wax tablet and stylus is pretty handy for when I am on the go!

        2. Elkay*

          Is it possible we’ve stumbled across two people who don’t know how transfer a file – the OP and their friend?

        3. FormerPhotog*

          JAZZ discs, as well.

          Oh, man, I just jettisoned my ZIP drive a few months ago. I still have nightmares about that grinding sound when it would just eat your data.

          They could EFax it to themselves, too.

          1. Audiophile*

            Ah yes, the new click of death. I remember zip drives. And I will admit maybe 5 years ago, getting bulk floppy disks from BJs. I had a laptop that had a CD and floppy drive. I still have almost all those disks and they are empty. Money well spent.

      2. The Other Dawn*

        Don’t forget printing it out, putting it into a bottle, and tossing it out to sea. Whoever finds it is your next employer.

      3. GroupFeedbackOP*

        > -Recreate those files by putting 1′s and 0′s directly onto the hard > drive of your Chrome(book?) using a very small handheld laser

        I’d use a magnetic needle.

    3. Brett*

      Maybe I should put my answer up here.
      Assuming they meant a Chromebook, you should not be transferring files to it and might not be able to at all depending on the model. The whole point of a Chromebook is that you cannot store anything on them.

      Instead, log into your Google Account on your friend’s PC. While logged in, use your browser to go to your Google Drive space and upload the files you want from your friend’s PC to your Google Drive space. Now it will be available to you on your Chromebook.

      1. Laura*

        Thank you for this. I’m not the OP, but I really appreciate that you took the time to actually answer the question. It’s very easy to forget that not everyone knows “basic” computer and internet skills – or even how to use a search engine effectively.

        1. Manda*

          I was unaware of this, but then I’m pretty sure knowing how to use a Chromebook isn’t a basic computer skill. I figured they were just Android laptops. I’ve never bothered to look into them and I would never have assumed that you can’t store anything on them. That would piss me off to no end.

        2. Vicki*

          While what you say is true (and Chromebooks are a very new thing), it’s not an appropriate question for AAM.

          At least Alison posted it in case anyone here wanted to take a shot at it.

          My question is “Why is your resume on your friend’s PC and is the pic for the resume?”

  1. $0.02*

    6. Asking the wrong person

    AAM, we need a post with “random questions” to help clean your inbox? I am surprised you even posted this one.

      1. AB*

        Besides the entertainment value, I think this type of Q&A may help some clueless readers think twice about sending inappropriate questions!

          1. Ahem*

            …Although it just occurred to me you may be in a different time zone, where it is Friday! If that’s the case, my apologies, and happy Friday to you!

          1. Artie*

            Really not trying to be snarky, but hemisphere’s don’t have anything to do with the date. For example, North America and South America (northern and southern hemispheres, respectively) are on the the same date. It is the International Date Line that separates it.

            1. Evan (the old Evan the College Graduate, not the one who just answered below - do I need a new alias?)*

              To delve into even more geographical facts, she could’ve been talking about the Eastern and Western hemispheres, which I’ve heard used before as a shorthand for time zones.

  2. Evan*

    2 – Many companies use this field to screen so unless you are in a high demand position I would be hesitant to leave it blank.

    4 – Never make your age an issue. There is no way to know how your interviewer feels about your age but I can’t imagine bringing it up specifically ever helping you. Also, some companies train interviewers to not discuss age with candidates and you could potentially put them in an awkward spot.

    6 – This is really awesome.

  3. Elizabeth*

    #4: “I am able to quickly catch on to new technologies, and I have the energy, passion, and hunger to succeed.”

    I feel like if the OP brought up his/her age in this way, it would be more likely to have a negative impact than a positive one. If your interviewers are older than you, then by listing the above as reasons why you’re a stronger candidate than an older one, you’re kind of implying that your audience is technologically slow and lacks energy. Probably not what you want to do!

    1. EngineerGirl*

      Yes. Especially since some of the older ones might actually have invented those technologies. Although at this time I’m considerably lacking in energy.

      1. Anonymous*

        Now that I’ve slept a few hours I’ll add to what I wrote; if you made a statement like that I’m an interview your resume would be thrown into the reject pile so quickly that you could hear the snap of the sonic boom. Here’s why:
        * Your statement smacks of cluelessness and a lack of critical thinking. Just as correlation is not causation, being younger doesn’t guarantee tech knowledge. If your critical thinking is flawed in this topic then it’s probably flawed period.
        * I’ve had younger workers with this attitude and it was almost impossible to mentor, train, or correct them. They were convinced that since I was older I couldn’t possibly know what I was talking about technically.
        * leadership isn’t about tech knowledge. It’s about looking to the future and pulling others along in the right direction. That means experience (to avoid the traps) and people skills. Experience can only be gained in the trenches and some of the worst technical mistakes I’ve seen were made by inexperienced people that blew by all the warning signs.

        1. Chinook*

          What anonymous said – if I heard someone say that their younger age was a benefit because they “able to quickly catch on to new technologies, and (they) have the energy, passion, and hunger to succeed,” I would be so turned off wanting to work with them because they sound like they would be a pain to work with and already be prejudging anyone older than them as luddites who would rather just colelct a pay cheque than do “real” work.

          Honey, my knowledge of many thigns and hunger/passion to succeed at anything I do has only grown with age, not dampened like you seem to imply.

          1. Jessica (the celt)*

            Exactly. I’m learning that “digital natives” are actually clueless to most things that aren’t tiny-screened and on their phones. They are mostly social media natives. I work with high schoolers, and this past week alone, I’ve seen things that make me smack myself in the head regarding how they use computers and anything that doesn’t relate to social media. Some of the things are actions that I’ve always related to older people, but I’m seeing them with people in their 20s and younger more the longer I’m working with them. It’s been very eye opening for me and has wiped out a lot of my biases in that regard. I’ve always wondered why people don’t know more about the computers they’re using, but I think they know what they need to know and that’s it (mostly). I’m just too darned curious for that, so I’m always trying to find out what’s going on behind the scenes and how to do something.

            Critical thinking skills don’t hurt either. ;)

    2. Jessa*

      Exactly it sounds kind of ageist to imply that because you’re young, you’re better at new things. I’d totally leave it out.

      1. Jessie*

        I would say not just “kind of ageist”, it’s ageist full stop. Reading that made me REALLY mad, and if someone said that to me in an interview, I would tell them that they were clearly not going to be comfortable at our organization, and conclude the interview. Just as I would if someone said they could do all those things because they were male, white, etc. OP, your age is irrelevant.

    3. Female sam*

      +1. OP – in interviews, focus on the sentence Elizabeth highlighted, without mentioning age at all. Being quick to learn is a great attribute, but certainly not one that is tied in with age.

      For the record I’ve known a 20yr old who was baffled by simple email, and a 60yr old who is a coding demon.

      1. Chinook*

        “a 60yr old who is a coding demon.”

        That is not surprising – there is a good chance they have been doing it for decades, in different languages, and know tricks that aren’t even taught anymore.

    4. plain jane*

      Yes, I was coming in to post the same thing. I would not appreciate being told that because I was older than you that I didn’t have energy, passion or hunger to succeed, or that I was bad with technology if I was an older person than you.

      Also, as an interviewer, I would be concerned that you weren’t able to work well with peers (the other older execs) if that was your opinion of them.

    5. Bea W*

      Yes, I read that and immediately had a sour reaction. This is just simply not true of younger people vs. whatever the average age of people in his position vs. older people in general. People who work in a field that utilizes a lot of technology or is in a high-tech field, need to constantly learn new skills and update their skills in order to keep working. Those jobs naturally weed out people who aren’t as good at catching on to or receptive of new technologies. “Energy, passion, and hunger to succeed” doesn’t wane as one grows older either.

      Don’t bring up age, and definitely don’t spin it as an asset in this way. At best it makes a person look incredibly naive. It also comes off as arrogant, insulting, and makes one look like s/he has a negative attitude towards people older then her/himself. These are all qualities that cancel out any touted benefit of being younger.

      What matters is your skills, experience, and professional qualifications. If you can show those things are strong, being younger than average won’t be an issue.

    6. Meg*

      +1. Something about the OP’s question struck me the wrong way (and I’m in my mid-20s, which definitely falls into “the younger generation”).

      1. khilde*

        Have you ever watched a young puppy interact with a middle-aged dog? The puppy is jumping, clawing, chewing, yipping, peeing, and slobbering. But, by God, it’s happy to be alive. Nothing can slow it down! The youthful exuberance is cute, but intense. A little wearying. The middle aged dog just sits there with this look of thinly-veiled derison with a hint of annoyance. You can tell the older dog just wants to bite the little one, but it doesn’t because it remembers when it used to be like the puppy, but hates to admit they were that annoying. That’s how I feel about this.

        I think because it’s the same old tired line about being passionate, energetic and HUNGRY to succeed. I’m not making fun and I don’t want the OP to feel bad. I think I cringe because these are words I probably used when I was applying to my first jobs in my early 20s….because I *was* passionate about it! I still am passionate about the type of work I do, but I think the reality of the working world, and life in general is mellowing me out. I have seen how and where enthusiasm and passion should be unleashed. But I’ve been burned or embarassed enough to realize that it shouldn’t be emblazoned on my forehead. I’m still learning this one. I’m only 33 so I don’t think I’m old enough to be a curmudgeon yet, but I definitely want to roll my eyes at those same old tired buzzphrases. I would love to see the same thing being said in a more subtler, more interesting way.

        Wait, maybe I *am* a curmudgeon…..

        1. khilde*

          “more subtler” – Sheesh. I feel the need to post a correction on this one cause that makes me sound so stupid.

          I would love to see the same thing being said in a subtler, more interesting way.

        2. Chinook*

          “I have seen how and where enthusiasm and passion should be unleashed.”

          This is not at all curmudgeonly. Your experience has taught you how to better use your resource of passion to make the best effect. That puppy may be jumping around like crazy now with abandon, but that older dog knows from experience that in 30 minutes it will be time for the daily trip to the dog park where he can run around with abandon in a much freer space and that that same puppy will be so worn out and hungry that they won’t enjoy it the same (and possibly make it miserable for the others also there enjoying themselves).

  4. Manda*

    #2: I love it when the expected salary field isn’t starred as required. If they’re going to ignore you for not answering a non-required question, they have issues.

    #6: I hope you’re not applying for jobs that involve a lot of computer work.

  5. Been there/done that*

    after a tough day at work #6 made my night. i swear this is someone who just wanted their question posted.

  6. Angelina Retta*

    uh actually I thought posting #6 was mean-spirited. Just reply to them personally, no need to embarrass them. What’s with the OP bashing lately?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If you’re going to ask a stranger to spend their time giving you advice for free, I think it’s incumbent on you to make sure that you’re asking in the appropriate venue. Or to try a basic Google search first. (And I also think I’m entitled to the occasional comic relief.)

      1. Sissa*

        I’m really thinking you could make quite a penny from answering these questions. Even if it were 50 cents a question, or something ridiculously little (think microtransactions for apps?).

        Plus, I’d probably buy a funny AAM t-shirt. Or a mug.

        I would definitely buy a mug.

          1. The Other Dawn*

            I think it should be a Grumpy Cat mug with that sentence on it. I have one of my very own that says, “Rotten, with no emotions.” It’s an inside joke with my coworkers.

                1. Jamie*

                  You know – Alison’s other cat is just as adorable.

                  (And yes, I’m assuming both cats read this blog and I wanted to make sure Original Cat felt some love, too.)

            1. ThursdaysGeek*

              Yeah, the products need to have more inside jokes, with the AskAManager link as a subtle by-line. Perhaps some Chocolate Teapots, Inc products; the “Yes, it’s legal…” from above; and at least some of the other phrases from the magic 8 ball. And, of course, the magic 8 ball itself.

            2. ThursdaysGeek*

              How do we go about providing a design? I have the artistic abilities of a three year old, but I’m sure there are people here who can design something cool for a coffee..uh, I mean tea mug.

              1. Chinook*

                I can’t draw but I can describe. We should have Chocolate Teapot Inc. mugs with images of CFO Olive and CEO (other kitteh) batting around a magic 8-ball and 2 needlepoint images in the back of “Did you talk to the person first” and “Yes it’s legal (except in California and Quebec)” (cuz I am Canadian and Quebec is the California of Canada and it is my idea, so there!).

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                That is a good question. Anyone who wanted to could email it to me. This makes me nervous though, because I would feel terrible if for some reason I didn’t use it. Hmmm.

        1. Chinook*

          “Plus, I’d probably buy a funny AAM t-shirt. Or a mug. ”

          We keep trying to convince her to come out with AAM 8-balls and needlework for our walls, but no luck yet.

          Maybe for her next PIP? After all, look at the kitties that resulted from the last one.

      2. Jessa*

        I agree on the comic relief, and in seriousness though, it really is a bit odd to ask a question like that here. This is not in any way a tech blog.

        1. A Bug!*

          But it wasn’t a tech question, it was a resume question, because the writer was asking how to transfer a resume from one computer to another.

          1. Jamie*

            Yes, but the content of the file is irrelevant to the question.

            It’s no different than asking Alison how to set up their wi-fi printer so they can print a resume.

      3. Katie the Fed*

        Yeah I had that thought the other night on the epic Halloween Costume post. After 600+ comments, people were popping in with “what’s blackface?” In the time it took to type and submit that, they could easily have typed it into Google or scrolled through the dozens of responses that carefully explained what it was and why it was offensive.

        #6 has strong enough computer skills to write into an advice columnist; she should be able to find an answer to that question.

      1. Jessa*

        I don’t really think it’s bashing either. This is a blog about employment advice and job hunting stuff. The question, if legit and not trolling, is a completely technical one, which if put in Google or any other search engine verbatim, would provide an answer for the OP. It’s not even remotely linked up to the purpose here, I mean they didn’t even make some comment about having to get info off an office computer to home because they’re worried about office sabotage or their boss or getting laid off or something.

        OP bashing would be answering with a link to “Let me Google this for you,” with the question inserted verbatim.

        1. Heather*

          I don’t see how linking to LMGTFY is OP bashing, either – personally, I think it’s a more helpful answer than they deserve.

      2. Victoria Nonprofit*

        I don’t think Alison did anything wrong in posting the question, but I DO think some of the commenters are taking an inordinate amount of glee in their perception of the foolishness of the LW.

      3. Madge*

        It’s not bashing for calling someone out for being too dumb to know this isn’t a tech blog. It’s ask a MANAGER not an IT MANAGER!

      4. Leslie Yep*

        Can you guys say more? I haven’t noticed this at all. Which were the posts that seemed to be OP bashing?

      5. Chinook*

        I don’t think “Seriously, that’s your question for me?” is OP bashing. It is in no way rude to answer a question that is so off topic from what is normally asked here with incredulity. The unspoken follow-up sentence, though, would have been rude, which is why it was unspoken.

    2. Canuck*

      What, really? I thought that post was hilarious. Plus the fact that there’s no way to identify the OP so how is this embarrassing?

    3. Katie the Fed*

      This is her blog. She dishes out TONS of free, well-reasoned, and compassionate advice every day. She can set the standards she wants. Sometimes her advice/response is pretty blunt, but frankly, some people need to be told those things so they know how they’re probably coming across to others in the workplace.

      She also has a wedding coming up, is probably under a lot of stress, and needs a laugh from time to time.

    4. Jubilance*

      Mean how? It’s not like Alison posted the sender’s name or email address, or called them any names. Seriously, if whoever wrote that can’t figure out that’s easier to Google it than email AAM then he or she has bigger problems.

    5. Anonymous*

      It’s not like she listed their full name and email address. That would be embarrassing/unnecessary. Only they know that they’re the one who sent it in. Assuming they can even find the site again.

    6. Lynn*

      I actually agree that it came across to me as mean-spirited and somewhat contradictory to the methods you promote to correct errors in other people. My first thought was, “Whoa… Alison’s having a tough day!”

      Yes, it’s funny and weird, and there no reason for you not to laugh at it when it comes into your inbox, but this blog is usually a lot more productive and helpful. All #6 created was a bunch of snarky, smark-aleck comebacks and an atmosphere that made it ok for everyone to bash another person–you usually discourage that.

      What about a post that simply outlines the kind of questions you don’t want?

  7. EE*

    Maybe OP#4 can help out OP#6!

    I would totally be the negative coworker if I ended up working with an old colleague from EvilJob. Most of us hated it (me more than most) so occasionally rubbing up against somebody who liked it was unnerving. Unnerving the way a sober person at a party reminds you how drunk you are.

    1. LizNYC*

      Me too. In fact, most of my friends in NYC are from a place that we all lovingly call Hell Job. Fortunately (or unfortunately) none of us work together, so no one professionally hears us refer to this place as that. But it really, really was Hell. I do know some people from there who wouldn’t agree — but then again, they were part of the problem.

    2. Lynn Whitehat*

      But would you ALSO complain about the new job, at the new job? To me it seems like, if you have one “hell job”, it’s them. If you hate every job you have, it’s you.

  8. Confused*

    “The second employer also requested that the references contact the organization instead of vice versa…”
    I find this a bit odd. The employer is the one seeking info, they should be making the calls. Never encountered this. Is this common or normal in some fields?

      1. Colette*

        That was my initial reaction as well – but really, when you call references, it could be anybody as well. There’s actually more security to having them call you, because it’s easy to say a company name when picking up the phone but harder to spoof caller ID.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Ah, but you can look up the company’s main number, call that, and ask to be transferred to the person you want. Still not entirely foolproof (whole companies can be faked, and those awful “fake your references” companies offer that), but generally pretty reliable.

          This reminds me of the very old comment here about a job candidate posing as his own reference. I’ll see if I can find the link!

      2. KarenT*

        I don’t see how it cuts down on phone tag, though, unless you’re agreeing to never leave your desk. I can understand the impulse, though. I gave a reference for someone last week and it was a pretty epic game of phone tag.

        1. voluptuousfire*

          If possible, I would think giving out an email address along with a phone number for one’s reference is best. Then the reference checker can set up a proper call with the reference. No fuss, no muss.

  9. Sissa*

    I wonder what is generally a good way to bring up subjects that the interviewers aren’t allowed to ask about. For example, I’m 25 and plan on never having children (and no, it’s not a matter of “but you’ll change your mind”), but I know a lot of employers might worry about me making babies the moment they hire me. How would one take this up in an interview?

    1. Jen*

      I don’t think there’s any way to bring this up, really. And (speaking from experience), even if you tell them that no, you’re not changing your mind, they won’t believe you… so nothing positive will come out of that conversation, in my opinion.

    2. Childfree*

      You can’t bring this up in an interview. I’m childfree myself, and I would be appalled if a candidate mentioned this in an interview.

      First and foremost, it’s just far too personal to discuss in a job interview, and would seem very inappropriate..

      Even if you managed to get in “Woo. Kids? Not for me!” in there, you would still have the problem of them thinking you’ll change your mind in the future and not believing you.

      Worse, you could offend someone who absolutely loves kids / is trying to have them / just had one that they adore. (The child wanting group also happens to be the majority.)

      I do get that there are some industries that have some fairly dated notions about women and work. Instead of saying that you’re not planning to have kids, just emphasize that you’re very focused on your career, and express your desire to advance in the future.

      1. Stevie*

        OP might not bring it up, but poor interviewers do. When I was 24, I was asked point blank in an interview what my relationship status was and if I planned to stay around after getting married. This was an HR professional too!
        When I went back to my mentors to talk about this, they said the best answer is “I don’t really let my personal life affect my work.”

        1. Gjest*

          This is probably true for the US, but I just want to point out that it isn’t necessarily so for other countries. I was asked in my interview (Scandinavian country) about my relationship status. The job requires a lot of travel, and they were also paying for relocation expenses, so I am pretty sure that was their reasoning for asking. However even during the interview, I was thinking “I would probably never get that question in the US!” (I am American)

        2. S from CO*

          “OP might not bring it up, but poor interviewers do.”

          This happened to me earlier this year during an interview (with the operations manager =nephew of the designer/owner) for an assistant position with a small local jewelry company. During the 2nd interview which took place in the lobby of a hotel (since only 1 person fits in the office space in their store next door to the hotel) the OM asked me:
          – do you have kids?
          – how many brothers/sisters do you have and what do they do?
          – do you have family in town?
          I thought that these questions were inappropriate! And I really was excited about this position until my interview with the OM. They selected the other candidate and I was glad since along with the above questions there were other red flags! And I knew that this was not the job for me!

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I got the same crap from an interviewer back in 2003. “Are you married?” “Do you have kids?” That pretty much killed it right there, even before I found out the schedule was six days a week, at minimum wage. Oh HELL no.

      2. EM*

        Same experience as Stevie.

        The owner of the small business I was interviewing for asked me if I was married, what my husband did, did we have children, and if we were planning on having children.

        I knew these were all inappropriate questions, but what can you do in the moment? It was a very small business (6-7 people), so protections that larger businesses are afforded weren’t applicable.

        1. Chinook*

          “The owner of the small business I was interviewing for asked me if I was married, what my husband did…”

          I am one of those people that this question always comes up (and is in fact noted in my cover letter) because I happen to be married to someone who gets transferred to various time zones and this has affected my career trajectory (instead of a straight arrow, think mexican jumping bean). If I didn’t mention it and, once I started, coworkers either started talking about families or met DH at an event and asked him what he did, it would be obvious that we will move in the future and it would come back to bite me. By being upfront, I am able to soothe concerns by mentioning how long his current posting is supposed to be and how this constant job changing has taught me some skills I wouldn’t have got elsewhere.

          My point is that, sometimes, these “illegal” questions have to be answered to let your future employer know about any issues that may come up.

    3. Y*

      Please don’t do this. Employers should learn that whether a woman plans to have kids is none of their business – childfree women starting to use it to their advantage doesn’t help with that :/

    4. MJ of the West*

      You shouldn’t, for all of the reasons mentioned already.

      Plus, the interviewers are required by law to disregard information about a protected class. This isn’t one, at least in most states, but is close enough to fall into that category in most interviewer’s minds. You’re really just putting them into a bad position by sharing that type of information.

    5. Sissa*

      As further explanation as I can see that this divides opinions and causes some pretty ferocious reactions (sorry, mother types), I’ll tell that I live in the Netherlands, so our interviewing procedures and questions might be a little different. I was curious how other ladies of my age would treat this subject.

      I know for sure that I will mention it if it’s going to raise my chances of getting the job versus another person who will end up on a maternity leave within a year or two – and I know a lot of people will consider this a dirty tactic, but let’s put it this way: As a childless person in a relationship, I will get to choose my vacations as last too since I have no school vacations to take care of, and there are a ton of other things that people with children will get before I do. That’s just how it works :)

      Meanwhile, I’ll pamper two adorable cats.

      1. Bea W*

        I am childfree. I think using something like this to raise your chances of getting a job is just as sketchy as someone who would use their status as a parent for the same reason. This is something that is totally unrelated to having the skills and experience to best to the job. Hiring managers don’t normally (and shouldn’t if they are smart) give a poo about someone’s ability to choose vacation time last (IMHO you may find that gets old fast, childless people have lives and families to schedule around too!).

        If someone took this line in an interview, I’d consider them as naive and possibly arrogant as the person from Question #4 who thinks being younger means s/he is better “able to quickly catch on to new technologies.”

        As a woman, I also find this just disturbing. Women have had to fight exactly this kind of discrimination in the workplace because of being able to get pregnant and the assumption that they’ll be less devoted to doing their job and just get pregnant and be out on maternity leave. Men don’t encounter this kind of discrimination based on whether or not they plan to have children, and neither should women. The thought that another woman would attempt to use not having children as tool to get hired over an equally qualified women who has or plans to have children just supports this type of discrimination and gives it a wink of approval. I find that absolutely disgusting.

        1. Bea W*

          Other non-qualifications that should not be tried as leverage:

          “I am a US citizen born in the US. All my family are here. So I will never ask for 3 or 4 weeks off to visit them half way around the world. You won’t need to pay all those fees to sponsor me!”

          “I am mixed race. Hiring me will bring ‘diversity’ to your company and make you look good.”

          “I noticed you have a company basketball team. My extraordinary height could really be a benefit if you hired me.”

          “I like to workout and stay thin. So I will use less health insirance and sick time.”

          1. Ruffingit*

            Seriously. Things that are not germane to the actual skills involved in the job should not be mentioned. You risk making yourself look naive and/or insulting other people on the team.

          2. Heather*

            “I noticed you have a company basketball team. I have a GREAT Halloween costume where I dress up in blackface as a generic basketball player.”


        2. Y*

          ” Men don’t encounter this kind of discrimination based on whether or not they plan to have children, and neither should women. The thought that another woman would attempt to use not having children as tool to get hired over an equally qualified women who has or plans to have children just supports this type of discrimination and gives it a wink of approval. ”


          And this is not a “cosmic balance situation” – getting to pick vacation last does not justify being okay with getting a job while someone else gets discriminated against because of their children – we should all not be okay with this type of duiscrimination.

          (Besides, I totally love not being tied to school holidays for my vacations – so much cheaper to book flights and hotels :))

        3. Nichole*

          Eh. Dirty, maybe (which Sissa freely admits), but not necessarily sketchy. The fact is, some companies’ policies are amenable to having and raising children and some are not. For both interviewer and interviewee it may be in their best interests to address this early if it’s a dealbreaker. While I’m not suggesting that Sissa say “no mat leave for me! I’m much more dedicated than those maternal types!”, I do think if they indicate that this is not a company that is warm to the needs of a person planning to have children, there’s nothing wrong with her saying outright that this is fine with her. She’s not forfeiting her right to a life outside of work, just saying her personal life aligns in this way. I know I wouldn’t take a job where my kids had to take a backseat in my life, so what’s wrong with someone else saying so if that’s not a concern? She’s going to be a whole lot happier there that I would be.

      2. Colette*

        That’s a bad idea, for all the reasons others have already said, and also because I know several proud parents who were never going to have kids, and several people who had their kids’ names picked out in high school who didn’t have kids. No one can predict the future. It’s a “selling point” that would, in the best case, be met with skepticism.

      3. Anonymous*

        Well, I’m in your neighbouring country – Germany. I am not yet decided on whether I want children, but I think women starting to mention that they don’t want any plays into the “let’s not employ women in the age bracket where they are likely to get pregnant” discrimination and isn’t helpful. It also puts pressure on other women to also talk about this in interviews, so they can get the same advantage.

      4. LCL*

        “That’s just how it works :)”
        Not where I work and administer the schedule. I know a lot of companies try to give the people with kids the first choice on vacations. Doing so creates interoffice hatred. If it isn’t policy, you don’t have to let the people with kids have first pick of vacations.

        1. Chinook*

          “I know a lot of companies try to give the people with kids the first choice on vacations. Doing so creates interoffice hatred.”

          Ooohhh….I would be one of those who this would create hatred in. I have no children (and not by choice) but I do have neices and nephews who live in a different town. If I want to visit them or have them visit me, I too have to work around their schedules. Never mind that one of those major “kids” holidays (Christmas, though some schools also tie their spring break to Easter weekend) is also a religous holiday for me, so assuming that I will work those days because I am childless would make me VERY resentful.

          The irony is that, if given the chance, I will offer to work those days (if I can have time off for worship services) if I know my coworkers all have family and/or are travelling. But, by assuming I will be okay with it just because I have no children, I will fight it tooth and nail.

    6. Bea W*

      No way to bring that up, and it rightly shouldn’t make a difference whether or not you plan to have children. If your employer is overly concerned that every young woman who walks into an interview is going to start making babies, there’s a bigger problem there, and it isn’t with the women.

  10. Job seeker*

    #4. I really do hope age is irrelevant when interviewing. Part of me realizes that age can be a factor in a lot things. I am on the opposite end, I am middle-age but I do honestly look younger than I am. I sound young on the phone but the numbers don’t lie. On a resume when I start putting down dates that is my greatest fear. If I can get an interview, in person I know the dates may not matter. But, I have so many gaps in my life. Between being a stay-at-home mom, volunteering in the school system, caring for a parent for a year in my home, going back to school, volunteering in a hospital and now trying to find something part-time my resume is a challenge. Good luck on your applying for those positions you want. I really hope someone gives you a chance.

  11. Anonymous*

    #4 Just curious – what types of job titles are you applying for that you consider executive level technology positions?

  12. Anonymous*

    #5. I’m so sorry that your boss has backed off on her commitment to you and dropped all this on you so soon before your surgery. AAM has offered great suggestions for how to discuss with your boss and see if she will change her mind. I can see how a requirement for a lot of paperwork for less $$ than she promised and at a time when you are probably having a lot of drs appointments, clean up activity at work preparing to be out, etc. could seem overwhelming. If you need to do it, though, maybe someone like a family member or close friend could help fill it out to make it easier for you. Also, maybe there are ways to streamline so you don’t have to take form everywhere, like faxing or emailing form for doctor sign off.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Yeah, I suggested the same thing below. Definitely recruit family/friends to help out here. I feel so badly for this OP, I cannot even imagine dealing with that kind of stress when she’s getting ready for surgery.

    2. Chandra*

      If the OP is in the US, I’m guessing what they are calling employment insurance is likely short term disability insurance. And unfortuantely, the poster needs to be aware that many, many disability insurance companies require a pre-existing condition investigation once you file the claim (if you become disabled within a defined period of time after gaining coverage) and in some cases, an evidence of insurability form when you are applying for the coverage to begin with.

      Since her surgery is coming up so rapidly, it is very possible that even if she gets coverage, that her claim will be denied, based on her condition being pre-existing to her coverage.

      This doesn’t mean that she shouldn’t apply for the coverage.

      Of course it could be that she already has the coverage and has had it for a while and her boss is just telling her to use the STD coverage instead of paying her salary continuance. If so, she may be good to go (again, assuming she has had coverage for a while and/or the coverage does not have a pre-existing condition limitation).

      Her boss should not have promised that she would pay her for this time at her full rate.

        1. KarenT*

          My thought also. The downside of employment insurance is, of course, that like all bureaucracies the EI office moves sloooow. My mother qualified for EI and she received her cheque 12 weeks late.

          OP, I’m sure you’ve investigated your options, but do you have a job with benefits? You may qualify for short-term disability which would result in more money in your hand than EI.

        2. Chinook*

          I think EI in Canada will cover short term disability but you still have the 2 week waiting period (plus weekly reporting which can be done via computer), so she defintiely sounds Canadian. If that is the case, the OP should also check her benefits package to what type of short term disability coverage there is (I know some companies have coverage to cover you until EI kicks in) or if it will cover the difference between EI and her regular salary (which is sometimes done for maternity leave) and if her medical benefits will still apply (for things like prescriptions).

          As for the paperwork aspect, I don’t think it will be as much of a hassle as she imagines but she should get it started now. The government of Canada has a website to apply for EI and to make your weekly updates and you may only have to go to your local office once to drop off paperwork. Your doctor may also have forms available at her office that she can submit electronically (depending on your province – in Alberta we have e-health records which saves a lot of time and confusion).

          Lastly, check your provincial labour board/government agency website or go in and visit (an appointment may make the wait shorter). They will be able to help you through the benefits maze.

      1. Anonymous*

        From the terminology used, I think the reader might actually be in Canada, the program which is called EI or employment insurance here, is generally used when you lose your job, but you would also apply if you are off work and your sick leave has run out or when you are on maternity/paternity leave. It doesn’t cover all of your salary, but a portion, which your employer might also ‘top-up’.

        Despite what is it used for (job loss, short term disability, etc), ppl usually just refer to it as employment insurance.

        1. Chinook*

          “Despite what is it used for (job loss, short term disability, etc), ppl usually just refer to it as employment insurance.”

          I remember the explanatino they usedf when they changed it from “unemployment” to “employemnt” insurance. They said that we buy car and home insurance to protect us against losses to those items, so employment insurance is to protect us against losses to our employment income (which would include not only unemployment but illness and parental leave).

  13. Jamie*

    The age thing…wanted to stress how you think thats an asset is incredibly insulting. Some of us with exec level tech positions also have fast learning curves and implying otherwise shows an incredible naïveté. Offending the people you’re trying to get to hire you is typically a really bad idea.

    The surgery OP, first…I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I don’t have anything to add beyond Alison’s advice, but I’m just appalled that an employer would be so rude as to make such a generous offer only to renege on it at the worst possible time. Why even make a promise like that? That’s looks like its just cruelty for the sake of it and most people don’t work that way. Good luck.

  14. wondering*

    Don’t give your boss ANY wiggle room to get out of paying your leave she offered. As in don’t say :
    “I realize you weren’t obligated to make your original offer, and again I’m grateful for it” — She’s a worm and probably offered to make herself look good.

    It was a verbal contract. As far as forms, I get it. They are the last thing you want to be doing right now- plus they’re a pain. I am so sorry you work for a unfeeling, dreadful person.

    Yes, be firm, professional and grateful BUT don’t give her an out.
    I’d email her your concerns/request (outline her offer- so it’s clear) so there’s documentation of offer and hopefully she replies via email because she’s a passive aggressive jerk. Then you have her acknowledging the agreement. I would then pursue her for the $$ if she makes returning to work difficult. Or now if your job is secure.
    I’ll pray for you.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think she offered to make herself look good. I think she offered because she had a generous impulse — and then later realized the ramifications of it (cost, precedent for other employees in the future, etc.).

      In any case, I don’t think the OP can pursue this legally; there’s no proof of a contract.

      1. Ruffingit*

        It’s possible she could pursue it legally depending on the specific facts. If the OP feels up to it, couldn’t hurt to visit a lawyer and ask. I’m thinking she won’t feel up to that for quite awhile though.

        1. fposte*

          While getting a letter from a lawyer wouldn’t be a big effort for the OP, I think the problem is that it’s going to poison her at work. And that’s either way–even if they say “Hell no, tell your lawyer to bring it on,” she’s out both the money and the trust. This isn’t even a legal requirement we’re talking about, so it’s not like it’s good for her to take one for the team to teach the employer a lesson.

          If she was leaving anyway and has another job lined up, it’s somewhat less of a gamble, but that doesn’t sound like the situation.

          1. Ruffingit*

            Agreed. I’m not suggesting she needs to sue. Only that it’s hard to say there is no claim. It really depends on a lot that we don’t know and if it would make her feel better, she could always talk to a lawyer. Doesn’t mean she needs to any further than that. Personally, I’d get a friend to help fill out the forms, which are a beast a lot of the time with the documentation they require, lean on family/friends to help cover bills that she might have thought would be covered by the promised salary, and look for a new job the very first moment she feels up to it. This job is already poisoned by her boss reneging.

              1. Ruffingit*

                I don’t think losing FMLA is an issue here. If she’s using it for the surgery, she’s already 7 weeks into the 12 she’d be granted anyway. I’m looking at this as using some of the time she’s on leave to rework her resume, perhaps start crafting some good cover letters, etc. as she feels up to it of course. IOW, just putting out the ramping up to job hunt efforts. She doesn’t need to find a job and transition immediately after surgery or anything, but I would begin the process of starting it as she feels up to it while she’s out.

                1. fposte*

                  No, I mean at the new job–she’d have no FMLA and maybe no leave at all for the first year. Especially if she’s getting chemo, that’s pretty hard to deal with.

                2. Ruffingit*

                  Ah, I see. Clearly, she needs to wait to find a new job until she’s through with her medical treatments, including the chemo. Could be a year or longer that she waits, but my point is simply that I would absolutely leave this boss as soon as possible under the circumstances. The boss didn’t just make a mistake, she royally screwed this woman. I can only hope she is somehow able to pay her bills for the next 7 weeks without the promised salary. The boss has made it clear she can’t be trusted.

      1. Chinook*

        “I suspect the boss’s boss maybe set her straight. “You promised WHAT? We don’t do that!””

        That’s my thought to. My experience is that there are usually company policies set out (and even covered by insurance) for short term and long term disability. A boss may want to be generous but she may have opened her mouth before verifying what she could and could not promise.

  15. Poe*

    Alison, I think the title for #1 should read ‘relentlessly negative’ instead of ‘relentless negatively’.

    And is OP #6 my dad?!

  16. Bea W*

    #3 – Totally reasonable, and if your company has decent work-life balance and your workload isn’t crazy, there may be no problem in getting that approved, especially if you have not taken much time off.

    If you are able to work remotely, you could also offer to work some of that time you are away. Even if you aren’t set up to work remotely (with a company laptop and VPN), but you can check email from outside or can still work on things outside the office, you can offer to work on X or Y project while traveling. (You would be paid of course, not using vacation hours for that!)

    It’s true the end of the year is tough, especially if your company has a “use it or lose it” vacation policy. If you are not traveling for holidays in December and will be available to work then, you can mention this. The second half of December is by far the busiest vacation use time in my company. Children are home on school vacation, and people who have vacation time left need to use it or kiss it good-bye at the end of the year. It’s a ghost town. It might be a plus if you can be around to hold down the fort in another lean time.

  17. JFQ*

    ” …because it’s pretty reasonable for you to fill out some forms in exchange for getting seven weeks of pay while you’re out.”

    Not if the OP were promised something different.

    1. SB*

      Exactly! Not to mention, it’s not just filling out a few forms. The forms are complex and require tons of paperwork and evidence. They also take a long time to process. If her surgeries in 2 weeks, it is highly, highly unlikely that they’ll have the paperwork processed by then. And then what is she supposed to do if it’s rejected? Having had uterine surgery, it’s not something you just bounce back from or will feel up to chasing down whatever missing documentation or box you didn’t check the day afterwards. Not to mention that her boss’ offer may have influenced the decisions she made in her care knowing that she would have the money to cover it, and now it may be too late to change some of it.

      1. Jazzy Red*

        Plus the OP has uterine cancer, so she’s dealing with serious pain and possible death issues. Running around to get forms filled out and signed is tough enough when you’re healthy.

        I hope that boss wakes up and puts her money where her mouth went to.

      2. Ruffingit*

        Amen. The forms for that kind of stuff are totally ridiculous in terms of time it can take to fill them out, the documentation you need, etc. This is not a case of “oh, totally reasonable to fill out a FEW forms, no big deal.” It’s a very big deal especially for someone in the OP’s position who is now so stressed out, her surgeon is concerned about her ability to have the surgery?? This is not a few forms, this is a total obliteration of the OP’s ability to plan for the next 7 weeks so close to a major surgery, for cancer no less.

        That said, the OP’s recourse is limited. I’d suggest she recruit someone to assist in getting the forms filled out and the documentation required for the forms. Perhaps a friend or family member can help there, keeping the stress at bay as much as possible. I’d also look for a new job ASAP once the OP is recovered. What this boss did is egregious.

  18. John*

    #1 — The real thing I would watch is the amount of lunches you have with her. You learn the most about your colleague’s allegiances from whom they have lunch with.

    I had a colleague from a past job who came to work for me. Because we knew each other, we became de facto lunch buddies. When her attitude took a dive and her performance followed, I had to carefully extricate myself from the lunch arrangements because it would have reflected on me.

    I’d distance myself socially from this person. No joining up to grab a cup of coffee or anything.

    1. Mike C.*

      Yes, I think it’s also important to turn your back on them when they try to address you and encourage others to shun them at meetings and other company events.

      What the heck is this, 1750?

      1. John*

        Who’s talking about shunning? It’s 2013. Who you select to spend your free time with says a lot about you.

        1. John*

          Let me remind you her concern is that they are viewed as two peas in a pod.

          New co-workers will be alert to signs of who her allegiances are and are bound to infer a lot by who she hangs with on breaks. And, if you read it carefully, it was pretty clear she doesn’t enjoy being around the complaining, anyway, so it’s not like she’s sacrificing a friend for political reasons.

        2. Mike C.*

          Yeah, and what it says about you is that rather than showing concern for your coworkers you abandon them at the first sign of their metrics looking bad.

            1. Mike C.*

              My feeling still applies.

              You spent a good deal of time yesterday talking about one’s word, one’s reputation and so on, and a key factor of that is loyalty to others. Sure, there are lost causes out there, but simply saying, “Uh oh, Bob is coming across as ~*~negative~*~ better make sure I stop being seen with him!” is a bit much.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                If it’s a good friend, yes, then you should talk to them about what’s going on. But just a casual work acquaintance? I think it’s reasonable to decide you don’t want to be associated with an unreasonably bad attitude (although it would still be kind to talk to them about it first).

          1. Colette*

            If one of your coworkers started cleaning out the supply cabinet and selling it out of the trunk of their car, would you make a point of eating lunch with them, or would you say “hey, this isn’t OK, I’m going to distance myself”?

            If your coworker spends all of your time together talking about how much she hates her job, it’s absolutely reasonable to ask her to stop and/or distance yourself.

      2. Jazzy Red*

        John is right. We really are known by the company we keep.

        The OP does not even have the same complaints as her co-worker, so not associating a lot with her would be a normal action. Alison’s advice is good, and so is John’s.

        1. Mike C.*

          Or the person writing in could, I dunno, say something in confidence? I mean come on, if I were completely out of line, I’d be grateful for a close colleague to say something in private before things got too bad.

          1. Colette*

            It’s not clear they’re actually close, just that they used to work together at a different company.

            If it were a close friend, I’d agree the OP needs to talk to her. If it’s just an acquaintance, I don’t think it’s up to her to speak up.

            1. fposte*

              Yeah, it doesn’t sound like they’re even friends in this case.

              I also don’t think lunch is a binary. Even if you do like your former co-worker, you don’t want to eat lunch only with the person you know from the old place, but not wanting to couple up doesn’t mean she always has to be excluded from lunches you have with other people.

              1. Colette*

                That’s certainly true, and eating an occasional lunch with this former coworker and other current coworkers would be unlikely to cause problems.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        Eh, I think John has a point. Besides, if each and every lunch is going to turn into a bitchfest, who would want to listen to that on their break anyway? So even if the OP wasn’t worried about the office perception of her, she doesn’t need to hear the negative crap day in and day out.

  19. Ruffingit*

    I think the headline on #1 should be “My coworker is relentlessly negative about our old jobs and our new ones.” The ly is on negative there and shouldn’t be.

  20. Brett*

    #5 The LW is in Canada if they are applying for employment insurance. Employment insurance = unemployment insurance when you cannot work due to illness. It is not just a few forms; it is a long and complicated process with no guarantee of benefits at all.

    1. Ruffingit*

      She could also be in the US and talking about short term disability insurance. Either way though, the forms suck and it’s egregious of her boss to put her through this.

      1. Brett*

        I am almost certain it’s Canada. All the items mentioned, the 50% salary, 2 week waiting period, having to prove your benefits every two weeks, that is exactly how Canada’s Employment Insurance system works.
        The worst part is that you cannot actually fill out the forms until after you stop working. So, she might be having to do a lot of the run around work -after- the surgery.

  21. Ruffingit*

    #3 – your request is entirely reasonable, but wow does it suck that multiple people in your office have to travel 7+ hours to take an exam that apparently is required of many of them. Good luck on the test!

    1. Chinook*

      “but wow does it suck that multiple people in your office have to travel 7+ hours to take an exam that apparently is required of many of them. ”

      I laughed at that because my thought was “only 7+ hours? That is good that they have what must be a nationally recognized test available locally.” I proctor a national professional exam here in Canada and it is not unusual for some people have to drive hours to get to the exam because we are limited in how many writing centres we can set up and still keep the exam secure.

    2. OP #3*

      To be fair, we don’t have to travel 7+ hours each time we take it. The exam only offered once per year in our city, but I was so close to passing the first time I took it that I didn’t want to wait a whole year for it to come around again. But yes, to take it in between that period, or if we have something important on the local test date (say, a wedding, funeral, brother’s graduation, etcetera) it can be quite a haul.

  22. Brett*

    #6 The less complicated answer is “You can’t. It’s a Chromebook. You don’t store files on them.” The real answer is to log into their google account on the friend’s PC and upload the files up into their Google Drive space.

  23. The Other Dawn*

    Thank you for changing the headline on #1. I seriously thought I was having a comprehension issue this morning. LOL

  24. AmyNYC*

    I’m going to jump in a defend #6 – just a little. It’s possible that OP has emailed Alison in the past and that action added her to OP’s contacts. Then when OP had a question for Alison down the hall, they clicked the wrong Alison.

      1. Jamie*

        Yes, and you know what other email contact starts of with Al?

        All Users.

        Change your contact names and be careful out there!

  25. EM*

    #5 — That totally sucks. I usually agree with Alison, but I also take issue with the statement about the form-filling as reasonable.

    If she is Canadian, I don’t know the process for their employment insurance, but I used to work for an insurance brokerage here in the US and I would help our clients submit STD claims — those forms are a bitch. They require a TON of documentation, not only from the patient, but from doctors as well.

    Two weeks is a very short time to get everything together, especially when you need to rely on doctor’s offices to complete forms themselves and get you the documentation you need.

    Perhaps it would have been “reasonable” if her boss told her this was the plan from the beginning — I assume she would have had much more time to get everything together.

    In addition, you do generally have to wait some time for the insurance company to make a decision and I’ve seen them a) request MORE documentation/information from doctors; and b) deny claims. It’s not a fun process.

  26. Jenny S.*

    #4, Don’t bring up your age. It’s just weird and will make whoever is reviewing candidates become aware of your age, and aware that you’re aware of your age. There’s no need to bring it up. Just be as professional as possible and if you get an interview, dress for your career-level, not your age (i.e. no blue colored nail polish, buy well-made and well-fitting clothes, etc).

  27. Ellie H.*

    This is such a dumb and unimportant question, but I don’t totally get the logistics of #3. If the exam is the weekend after Thanksgiving weekend, how does it constitute “2 days” to take off? If the exam is on Friday and the OP therefore “automatically” gets Thursday and Friday off, that’s still three additional days off to request (M, T, W). Unless the OP’s company gives the Monday after Thanksgiving off. That would be nice . . . my family goes on a yearly vacation getting back Monday evening so I always have to take Monday off.

    1. Ruffingit*

      The OP says the exam is in December and states it’s the weekend after Thanksgiving, so I’m assuming the exam is the 30th and the 1st of December (Sat/Sun). The OP wants to take the week off before the exam, which would be Nov. 25th – 29th. She will already be getting off Nov. 28th and 29th for the holiday, which means the working days, she’s taking would be Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. The company already allows people to take the day before the exam off, which in this case would have been the Friday she already has off. They also allow for afternoons off prior to the exam, which means the OP would be taking afternoons off for two days (which equals one work day) so therefore missing one full work day (that is, she wouldn’t be working the mornings for two days) and then she would substitute that Friday she would have gotten off anyway as it’s the day before the exam and use it to take Monday/Tuesday off.

      That’s my best guess. Hope it helps.

    2. RJ*

      I read it as the exam is December 7/8. So the OP will be home for Thanksgiving. If she doesn’t take the additional time off, she would work the mornings of Monday through Thursday (Dec 2-5) and be off those afternoons and all day Friday since that’s the time off the company always allows prior to the exam. If she requests those 4 mornings off (4 half days = 2 days of vacation time), she can stay from Thanksgiving all the way through the following week until the exam is over.

      1. OP #3*

        That’s exactly how it works. We get Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving, and I was thinking of taking off the mornings. We’re working a working remotely plan, instead though, which would actually probably work better.

    3. Ellie H.*

      OK, the part I wasn’t getting was that afternoons are allowed off for the full week prior to the exam, so now I understand how if you already have Monday – Thursday afternoons off, then taking Monday-Thursday mornings off would equal “taking two days off.”


  28. camelCase*

    For #1: I used to work with someone like that and she brought me down every day. Whatever it was, it could be better. If it was sunny it was too hot. If it was rainy, it was too wet. If it was in between it was both too hot and too wet. One day I was telling a non-work friend about this coworker. She said something brilliant. She said “why do you spend your time with toxic people? If you can’t drop her as a friend, at least put her on vacation for a while.” I did put my coworker on “friend vacation” for the summer and it improved my life tremendously.

  29. OT*

    I was afraid to look at the responses to my concern about my boss reneging on paying me, in fact, I wanted to withdraw the question shortly after I had made it. But I am near tears at the support everyone has shown me. Your advice and understanding has overwhelmed me. Thank you.

    1. Ruffingit*

      You got screwed, plain and simple and I am incredibly sorry it happened. I hope you have some family/friends/savings to help you through the surgery and the money difficulties this may cause. What your boss did was outrageous and cruel in my estimation. I wish you the best of luck with your recovery.

    2. Chinook*

      I agree. Your boss screwed you over, OT. On the plus side, your doctor does seem to be concerned for you (if she is questioning the surgery due to your stress levels, then they are obviously aware of how you are feeling) and I hope someone in her office or at the hospital can help you with the paperwork. Check to see if there are any patient services where you are having the surgery that can help you with the paperwork. This wouldn’t be the first time it has happenned and a lot of surgeries do happen last minute, so they would know what to do.

    3. ChristineSW*

      What your boss did was pretty rotten. I can’t tell from your letter whether it was something she genuinely thought she could provide but later found out it wasn’t possible. Either way, I hope everything works out for you and that your surgery and recovery are successful. You know your employer better than we do, but I agree with the others that you may want to consider looking for a new job once you are well enough.

      Please keep us posted.

  30. Anonymous*

    If #5 is talking about US unemployment insurance they may not be eligible because one of the requirements for nearly all states is that you are able to work and if you aren’t able to work at your place of work you wouldn’t be found able to work at all.

    If you have any short term disability options that would be worth looking at right away or at least letting your boss know that you wouldn’t be eligible.

  31. MrsG*

    #4 Like Alison says, if they didn’t think you were qualified for the position, they wouldn’t be interviewing you. Put your age out of your mind and be confident in your abilities. If they’re going to nitpick in an interview about your age, then they’re going to nitpick you about your age while you’re working, and that’s my biggest pet peeve.

    My boyfriend became a CIO at a local bank at age 26 with only a high school diploma. You can do it, and your experience will speak for you!

  32. Diane*

    You are all wrong about #6. Nobody uses resumes any more. The correct procedure is to show up at a hiring manager’s office with homemade muffins and a framed self-portrait (preferably in oil paint or watercolors), and do an interpretive dance about your qualifications for the job.

  33. Anonymous*

    #6 My resume is on a friend’s PC and I want to transfer it to my Chrome. Is this legal? I am in California if it makes any difference.

  34. OP #3*

    Thanks for answering my question, Alison!

    I talked to my team leader, and he thinks I should be able to work remotely without a problem (which is probably better in the long run, since I will have a project with a client that can be a bit, erm, attention seeking).

    This is probably better in the long run – I can work in the morning and study in the afternoon’s like usual, plus I get fourteen hours of study time back (plus I don’t have to deal with the traffic the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Ugh).

    Thanks for letting me know it was reasonable to ask though – my generation is often accused of feeling entitled, and I find it hard to what’s reasonable and what’s entitled sometimes.

  35. sMiles*

    #5 – I don’t know if anyone mentioned it but in most (if not all) states if you are out of work on a medical leave you cannot collect unemployment. Part of the unemployment application process asks whether or not you are physically able to work. If you aren’t physically able to work then you aren’t allowed to collect.

    1. Ruffingit*

      I think OP5 is in Canada. But good info on unemployment for those who may have similar situations in the US.

  36. Paula*

    You laugh, but my father-in-law once typed out a Word document, printed it out, scanned it, and then sent the scan as an attachment to an email. I kid you not.

    1. Manda*

      That’s hilarious! I bet the recipient was quite puzzled when they got an email with an attachment like resume.jpg…or resume.bmp, lol. Was it lined up right or was it slightly rotated? ;)

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