deleting company files, food allergies when you’re new on the job, and more

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

1. Can I delete company files that I created?

I have been employed for two years by a company to do filing and some typing. After a short while, one of my colleagues mentioned that she wanted something to calculate volumes and pricing for her surveys to make her job easier. As Excel spreadsheets and VBA scripting are a hobby of mine, I created one for her with password protection so she could not accidentally delete the formulas within it. I am the only one with the password. She used this, and it saved her a substantial amount of time. After that, many people within the office asked me to create them sheets for many sectors of their work, which I was happy to do in my own time at home. Since then, staff have left and others have joined the company and still use my spreadsheets.

A few months ago, I asked for a pay raise and was told my position did not qualify for a raise, despite the fact that they knew all departments rely on my worksheets to enable more efficient use of work time. My wages have never changed in the two years, but those of the staff that use my sheets have, due to better work efficiency.

I have now decided to leave the company. Am I obliged to leave the spreadsheets on the company common files, or can I delete them as I would like to use these towards a portfolio to offer other companies on a freelance basis?

Leaving them in the company files and using them in your portfolio aren’t mutually exclusive — you could do both, so it sounds like you might just want to delete them out of bitterness. Acting out of bitterness is rarely a good idea when it comes to your career, and that’s very true now.

You can certainly use these worksheets in your portfolio unless company policies prevent you from doing that (and check — because some do), but you can’t delete them from the company files. That would be destroying work property, which is a Big, Big Deal. It would ruin your reputation there and any future reference.

2. Food allergies when you’re a new hire being taken out for lunch

I have had several trusted colleagues tell me over the years that they (typically department managers, directors, etc.) always make it a point to take a new hire to lunch — if not the first day, at least during the first week — to make them feel welcome, part of the team, and get to know them.

Is this still common in 2013 and if so, when is it proper to let your boss know that you have a food allergy? I wouldn’t want to wait until we are walking to the car to say, “Hey, can we go to this place since I can eat there?” I don’t want to seem high maintenance or pushy with where we dine (especially if they offer to pay), or scare any new colleagues, or make them think anything unwarranted. As long as I stick to my restricted diet (not peanut related), I am fine. Thoughts on how best to approach this, whether it’s a new boss, senior leadership or fellow colleagues?

Taking a new hire to lunch is indeed common.

Are you generally able to find something to eat at most restaurants? If so, you probably don’t need to say anything — particularly if as a fallback you can ask for something like a plate of steamed vegetables or a green salad if the menu doesn’t have anything you can eat. But if it’s harder than that, and it’s likely you’ll end up somewhere where you can’t eat, then yes, speak up. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, though; when lunch is first mentioned, say, “I’d love to. I have a X allergy that makes most restaurants hard, but I’m usually fine at Italian/Asian/___ (fill in the blank) places.”

3. Leaving a job after 6 weeks

I was previously working a temp/contract job where I could at most work 900 hours at a time. Right around the time the contract job was up, I was offered and accepted a permanent job in a different department that pays fairly well. The issue is I’ve pretty much hated the new job since day one. My boss is unorganized and flaky, I don’t really think my coworkers like me, and I haven’t been doing much work at all in my almost 1-1/2 months working for the new department.

Due to the fact that I was unhappy, I immediately began to job search again and after a few applications I got quite a few call-backs for interviews that led to multiple job offers.

I feel really bad that I’ll be leaving soon but I’m miserable in this new position and it’s not at all what I expected it to be. Is it wrong for me to take one of the new offers (which by the way pay $10k more than what I make now and are essentially promotions to management positions) after only being with this department for less than two months? I have tried to have multiple meetings with my manager to discuss it, but he’s always too busy and when we schedule meetings “something” usually comes up at the very last second.

You’ve tried to talk to your boss about your concerns and he’s blown you off each time. That means he’s forfeited the right to be upset or surprised if you accept one of these other offers and leave. Go — just make sure that you do your due diligence on the next company so you’re confident you’ll stay a while. (And be aware that you might not be eligible for rehire, including contract work, at the company you’re leaving, as a result of leaving so soon, which is probably a price you’re willing to pay.)

Read an update to this letter here.

4. Interviewer ignored my LinkedIn request

I had met up with an interviewer who is pretty senior. While he had roles in sales, we both agreed that my profile is better suited for marketing, which also is under him. This was also the eventual feedback he shared with the recruiter.

I just wanted to stay in touch with him on LinkedIn. I sent him an invite explaining him that I would like to stay in touch to be considered for marketing roles in his team. He has replied back saying that he will stay in touch, but he has not responded to the connection request!! What do I make of this? Have I done something wrong?

Make of it that he only connects to people he knows better than you on LinkedIn, or that he rarely is on the site, or that he overlooked the request, or all kinds of other explanations. And then drop it and don’t spend another second thinking about it. There are all kinds of reasons for this that have nothing to do with you having done something wrong.

5. Getting reimbursed for not using health insurance

I work as a funeral director for a family-owned company. I have been here about 8 months. When I was hired, they asked if I would need health insurance through the company, and I said “no, I am on with my husband’s employer.” Come to find out, my employer will reimburse my husband for what he pays for me. I just found out and I am a little annoyed but torn on what to do. I know they will start to pay it from now on, but what about the months that I was not receiving the benefit? Should I say something or just be grateful that they do that and drop it? I don’t want to be greedy, but everyone else was receiving that. I know they are not trying to screw me over, it was an honest mistake. What would you say/do?

You can certainly say something like, “Since it sounds like it was an oversight that I wasn’t receiving this all along, is it possible to reimburse it retroactively for the months we missed?” But I wouldn’t push it beyond that — it’s a benefit that many employers don’t offer and you don’t want to sour the relationship over this. (By the way, are you sure they’re talking about reimbursing your husband directly? It would be more common for them to add to your paycheck the amount that they would otherwise be paying for you … otherwise they’d be paying all different amounts for different people’s spouse’s plans, and sending checks to non-employees, both of which would be unusual.)

6. Why haven’t I heard any more about being made partner?

I’m currently a senior engineer at an environmental firm and bring it quite a bit of business. I’ve been at the firm for 2.5 years and came on with the idea that a role as a future partner would be there if I delivered.

Well, last year around Christmas, my boss told me that another engineer who has been here for 8 years was getting promoted to partner, and that I would be too sometime in 2013, sooner rather than later. I asked if he had talked with the other owners and the reply was yes. I also asked if the short time that I worked here was a sticking point and he sort of indicated yes and that’s why we would wait until 2013. Fast forward to review time this year around April, and my boss again mentioned that he and the other partners would like to sit down at the end of 2013 to talk about partnership. He asked if I’m on board with that and of course I said yes.

From that point on, I have heard nothing about it from my direct boss, nor any of the partners. Not one word has been mentioned and it kind of has me all worked up. I should say that my boss is notoriously flighty and says a lot of things that don’t come through. I can’t believe that he would trivialize something as important as partner, but it’s tough to think about. What should I do? I guess I’d like some more talk about it or at least have someone other than him mention it. To make matters worse, I have turned down three overtures at potential jobs in the past year without even listening to salary ranges. Should I ask for a lunch in a month or so and bring up the matter? It would definitely make me feel better to hear it from another partner for sure.

Well, on one hand, he told you in April that they’d talk about it at the end of the year — which is four month away. So I don’t think they’re being negligent by not having raised it since then. However, since you’re wondering about it and you’re making career decisions based on what you’ve been told, why not bring it up yourself? Ask your boss for more information about the timeline, ask about how likely it is to happen (and how likely it is to happen on that timeline), and ask if it’s okay for you to talk with other partners about it at this stage.

7. Responding to behavior interview questions when you’ve never been in the situation being asked about

What is the best way to respond to situational behavioral questions if I’ve never been in the situation?

After graduating college, I have been job searching since January to get out of retail and land an entry-level job. I was rejected after a recent job interview and I can’t help but feel that my answers to their behavioral interview questions weren’t as strong as they could be. The reason for this is they were 99% behavioral questions and I feel I was unable to really relay why I’d excel at the job through them, though I tried to tie it back as best as I could. They were almost all a variation of “Tell me a time a customer acted like X and what did you do?” Except for some, I never actually had a customer act like X, or argue against a policy, etc. I took a moment to think, but my answers were not the complex or solid answers they probably hoped for since I’m a lowly apparel sales associate. (The most I had a customer confused about a policy was when I told them that they couldn’t try on underwear…) When I could I tied it to my more respectable past job at my university’s newspaper. I am always tactful and polite and made it clear I never argued with customers. I know how I would act in those situations, and I had behavioral answers prepared for the more common questions, but obviously can’t anticipate every question, and I can’t recall every situation I’ve ever had either!

My experience was a great match for the position, but I felt like their questions never gave me a chance to shine. Especially because I wouldn’t even be working with customers in the position. (Also one of their two non-behavioral questions felt like a trick: “Do you believe the customer is always right?” After thinking carefully I said “I would have to say no, because -” And explained that if an issue did arise or a customer is upset, it shows things must be handled differently to avoid an unsatisfactory customer or misunderstanding etc. I felt it was less about the right answer and more about my reasoning. What do you think?)

Generally, the best way to respond to behavioral interview questions (the “tell me about a time when…” questions) if you don’t have a past experience that quite matches up with what they’re asking about is to say, “I’ve never been in quite that situation, but something similar I can tell you about is…” and then offer up something that gets close to what you think they’re trying to get at. Or, less ideal but not horrible, you can explain you haven’t had that come up, but you imagine you’d handle it like ____.

However, I think you might have simply had a bad interviewer. Asking you so much about customer service for a job that doesn’t work with customers is a little off. And yes, some of those questions can be a proxy for how you deal with coworkers or challenging situations, or how you think in general, but it sounds like their focus on them was overkill.

{ 103 comments… read them below }

  1. PEBCAK*

    When I’m not actively job-searching, I probably go on LinkedIn like, every three months or so. Pretty much anyone who needs me more urgently knows how to get a hold of me in the interim.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I barely use it either anymore. I just log in every once in a while and make sure it’s up-to-date.

  2. EngineerGirl*

    #4 – everyone manages their LinkedIn account differently. Some connect to friends of friends, some only friends. But the thing is, each person is allowed to manage their account as they see fit. Just because you asked doesn’t mean that the other person has to say yes.

    1. sai*

      I am OP#4..thanks, but I was wondering if it would mean that he would still consider em for suitable roles or not?

      1. EngineerGirl*

        LinkedIn connections don’t translate to an “in” for a role. Either you are a best fit or not. And you may – or may not be considered in the future.

        LinkedIn connections are a small subset of networking. They are loose connections at best. Networking is usually stronger than that – you’ve worked with someone, or they know someone you know and are willing to recommend you etc. LinkedIn is mostly for mild connections, not strong ones.

        The best networks are established by strong performance and a “can do” attitude that is built up through the years. If you do that for 5-6 years you should start to have a good one.

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          For me, LinkedIn is simply a way of keeping in contact with former colleagues (I never connect to current ones), or interesting people I meet at networking events. I have a rule of thumb that I only connect connect with people I actually know and have met in person. (i.e. all those messages from recruiters I have never heard of, go straight in the bin!)

      2. books*

        I go on linked in occasionally to connect with people, but not all that often. When I do it, I accept requests – but sometimes it takes a few weeks.

      3. fposte*

        To be more specific, I’ve never heard of a hiring manager use LinkedIn connections as a way to signal which way she was leaning on hiring. Whether he links to you or not has nothing to do with the likelihood of your getting the job.

  3. Gene*

    For #1, not only don’t delete the files, but leave the passwords with your supervisor or with IT. At some time the formulas may need to be edited. If you don’t and they do, your reputation and any future reference from this company will take a hit.

    1. jesicka309*

      And make sure you’ve save dthem on any shared servers – I.T shouldn’t have to access your computer’s personal hard drive to get to work documents that other people need to use.

    2. Iain Clarke*

      I’m not sure I agree with this. Here’s the phrase in the OP’s letter which gives me pause:
      “…which I was happy to do in my own time at home.”

      It sounds like colleagues came up to her, and asked favours, which the then fulfilled out of the goodness of her heart.

      I do think she’d do herself more harm than good by removing these files. A little bit of righteous file smiting, vs bad references? No brainer.

      But she also does not have to bend over for them. If they want to change a spreadsheet she made as a favour, then they can put in the effort they’d have had to do if she had not been nice in the first place.

      Maybe even at a “very reasonable rate”. Maybe then they’d value her skills?


      1. Julia*

        The trouble is that a few months or years down the track nobody will remember that she did this work on her own time, so if nobody can access the files or the code behind them, she will be blamed for having left them in in the lurch – unfair though that may be.

        I think she’s just going to have to write this stuff off as a gift to the former employer.

        1. Colette*

          Agreed. Once she created the files and gave them to people to use at work, they essentially became company property, and it will look petty if she tries to delete them or refuses to save the password – not just with management, but with every single person who uses the files. That’s a huge hit to her reputation.

          I could argue that she shouldn’t have done this on her own time – she should have been paid for doing it in the first place – but that’s not what happened.

          1. KellyK*

            Totally agree. It’s a “gift” she probably shouldn’t have given her employer, but now that it’s been done, there’s no way to take it back without looking petty and sabotaging her own reputation.

          2. Anonymous*

            I totally agree, and this is a lesson for the OP going forward to be cautious about spending your own time on something. But I will say that this should not deter the OP from doing things like creating files like this in the future. You can say you created them on your resume which you can demonstrate and it will help you get a job in the future. etc.
            And some companies do reward this kind of behavior.

            Just because I once dated a guy who got mad when I bought him a gift doesn’t mean I’ll never buy a guy I’m dating a gift, it means I’ll dump him and be relieved to be rid of a jerk.

          3. A Teacher*

            It is why a lot of teachers fight posting full lesson plans to a a district’s host site for other teachers. I will post my notes in student version and assignments to my school webpage but everything I create, I either keep on my laptop or purge off of my school computer yearly. Once you post it to a host site so others can use it, you’re out of luck.

      2. Bea W*

        That’s the thing though. She did this voluntarily, of her own choosing, knowing she was not being paid for it. She could have declined entirely, or she could have done it on company time in order to be compensated for it. When you give something freely up front, it’s all kinds of wrong to go back layer and either expect payment or take it away based on not getting something. It’s no different than someone volunteering hours or even years of work for a charity. You don’t volunteer your time and talent then later either demand payment or take back your work, because you went into it with the understanding that it was being freely given, withhout monetary compensation. OP can consider it a tough lesson learned.

      3. Terra*

        If she is non-exempt, CAN it be “volunteer”? If someone her superior asks her to do something, surely she MUST be paid for all that time. Even if she says she took it like “a favor” I would imagine labor law would look at this differently. It’s one thing for a peer to ask (where one can fully feel free to decline) but if it is someone who is in management or above OP in some way, that is not truly just a friendly favor request, as clearly there COULD be consequences, directly or indirectly, for saying no.

        1. Jamie*

          No, non-exempt people need to be paid for all time worked, at home or otherwise. They can fire you for working unauthorized OT, but they need to pay for all work performed.

          A non-exempt person cannot volunteer to work and waive payment for that time – it doesn’t matter how happy they are to do it it’s illegal.

          However, if it was done years ago the question is if the money is worth going to considerable effort to prove it was done at home and not in the office and the time actually spent on it since it wasn’t being tracked contemporaneously.

          Because if the OP wanted to file a claim for back wages she needs specifics – times and dates and without verification it’s her word against theirs and so the ruling may or may not be in her favor.

          This should definitely be in the lessons learned file – if your non-exempt you don’t work off the clock.

          Also, you can’t delete things you created for the company just because you’re leaving…that’s incredibly petty. I’ve written over 1K pages in documentation at my job not to mention BI reports, apps, etc….to hit delete if I was heading out the door? I’d expect to be sued and I’d lose.

          If I were a hiring manager down the road and heard about someone having done this, I don’t care if it was one easily replicated spreadsheet…it’s unprofessional enough I’d pass on that person even if everything else is stellar.

          1. Colette*

            I’m kind of torn on this – because creating the spreadsheets wasn’t part of the OP’s job, and management didn’t ask her to do it. The OP also didn’t view it as part of her job at the time, because she said she did it as a favor.

            If neither side believed it was work, should she have been paid?

            (And I’m not in the US, so I don’t have any knowledge of US labour laws outside of what I’ve learned here.)

            If my coworker mentions that she’d be more efficient if she had a footstool, and I go home and build her one on the weekend, would I have to be paid for that?

            I realize it’s not an exact analogy, as a spreadsheet is more directly work related, and it’s entirely possible that the OP should have been paid at the time.

            1. KellyK*

              I think that there’s a difference between a work favor and a personal favor. A personal favor is from you to the other person. It might make their work easier or their productivity higher indirectly, but it’s outside the realm of not just your job function, but the business in general. (For example, I might perform better if a coworker gives me homemade cupcakes on a weekly basis, but that doesn’t turn cupcake-baking into “work” unless their boss specifically asked them to make cupcakes for the office.) A work favor is outside of your normal duties, but it still contributes to the overall goals of the organization. (As an example of that, I’m my office’s unofficial go-to person for troubleshooting Office, so I spend some time cleaning up formatting or showing people how to work with styles or build a table of contents. Those aren’t official parts of my duties, and often the people I’m helping aren’t on the same project I am, but it’s still work.)

              I think the footstool would be much more of a personal favor. Kind of like the cupcakes, the end result is better productivity, but it’s essentially more of a comfort thing. A spreadsheet that streamlines someone’s work process is definitely a work favor, so it should be paid. (Granted, if you’re non-exempt and it’s outside your normal duties, you should ask your boss before taking it on, since it may not be something they want to pay for.)

      4. Hooptie*

        If I was her manager and she was hourly I’d be really upset that she was doing work off the clock.

        If she did delete the files – no matter what her intent was in the beginning – I certainly hope she would never ask me for a reference.

      5. Ed*

        I think people feel differently because we’re talking about digital files that you can hold in your hand. It’s sort of like how nobody would steal a CD from Wal-mart but many would download a pirated digital copy without a second thought when they are actually the exact same thing. If you gave your coworkers something that helped them do there job (maybe a small tool that didn’t cost you anything but that you built at home from scrap metal), would you walk around the office on your last day and take them all back? You *GAVE* the spreadsheets to your coworkers/company, not loaned them.

        On another note, when I write a script for something at work, even on company time, the first thing I do is email myself a copy for potential use at future jobs. I can’t think of any examples of proprietary things in our scripts but I’m sure there are some possibilities. At most, if a script is highly customized for our environment, I would just need to rewrite a portion of it for another company before it would work.

    3. SJ*

      #1, I agree you should leave them and leave the passwords… in fact, is there any reason you DON’T want this company to be able to utilize that which you contributed while you were working there? I actually did the same exact thing at a company I used to work for: we used scores from standardized tests in various ways in a research environment for children with developmental disorders, and I created about 25-30 Excel spreadsheets with advanced formulas/VBA to make calculations. It made everything MUCH faster, and much more accurate.

      I haven’t worked there in years, and they still use those “autoscore” spreadsheets to this day. I see no problem with that… in fact, I think of it as my living legacy :) it feels nice to know that you made such an impact on your place of employment, even if you didn’t end up spending your whole career there! (Then again, I left because I found a better paying opportunity and am still on great terms with my ex-boss… perhaps had the circumstances been less pleasant I wouldn’t be so keen on this either).

      1. LMW*

        I think this is a great point. I used to write a lot of instructional copy for my old company. I opened up their latest book yesterday, and there was my copy – still useful 5 years later. I think it’s a great legacy to leave behind. (I also left on good terms…although it’s not like I didn’t have ups and downs while I was there.)

    4. Anonymous*

      I completely agree. Leaving the passwords and any documentation that you have will make people think fondly of you in 3 years when someone comes in to fix the documentation.

      And your position may not have been eligible for a raise, but 5 years from now you might find another position at this company that pays more and apply and they’ll go, hey! This is the person who made all those files we still use!

      Deleting these files will make you look bitter and like someone who would steal from the company. Don’t do it.

    5. JMegan*

      Also, although the docs were not necessarily work-related for you (unless you were using them for your own time-tracking as well?), they are clearly work-related for the people who are using them.

      This means that the documents, the information, the formulas, etc – all of this became company property as soon as people started using it for company business. Most organizations will at least have policies and procedures about the deletion of business records, and, depending on the sector you work in, some will actually be subject to legislation saying you can’t delete them.

      It is too bad that you did all this on your own time and without compensation. But I agree with the others, you’re going to have to put this in the “lesson learned” pile unless you want to take a real hit to your reputation.

      Definitely put it on your resume, though – hopefully you will be able to use this skills in a job that will actually pay you for them!

  4. jesicka309*

    OP # 7 I had an interview this week that had lots of behavioural questions. There is always one that never applies (like, describe a time you were in a stressful work situation and how did you cope?), and I always feel like the biggest chump saying “Actually, my current (and first and only relevant job out of uni) is stress free as I’m always up to date and I’m good at my job. I finish at 5.30 on the dot every day, and am never stressed – in fact, I’m bored, and that’s why I’m leaving.”
    Truth? Yes. The correct answer? Probably not. Sometimes I’ll explain that while I never have encountered that situation, I would handle it like this: then explain how I think I would handle an upset customer etc. Sometimes I’ll say I’m not really sure, but I would be checking in with my manager and reading company procedures to find the ideal way to handle that situation in the future.
    I think as long as you don’t don’t blank, and can describe how you *think* you would respond, you’ll be okay. :)

    1. Colette*

      In that case, I’d tie it to stressful school situations – i.e. “This hasn’t been an issue at work, but when school got stressful, I did X, Y, and Z”. Keep in mind that you can answer based on less relevant jobs, as well.

      1. Cat*

        Agreed; that one is basic enough that I’d be worried about someone who didn’t think they’d ever been in a stressful situation.

        1. Jamie*

          ITA – if someone told me they hadn’t been in any kind of stressful situation I wouldn’t trust the answer.

          1. Me*

            Absolutely. It would mean to me that they never sought out a challenge beyond their current capabilities – they are always happy with the status quo. And that is NOT something I want in an employee.

          2. KellyK*

            Yep. I’d be worried that either they’re trying to seem cooler than they are or that they don’t have a strong enough appreciation of the importance of things to *get* stressed out by them.

            Now, if someone doesn’t view the typical work stresses as stressful because their personal stress levels are calibrated differently or because they’re really good at stress management, that’s a slightly different thing.

            So if you tend to be a low-stress person and let things slide off you, it might be worth considering how you phrase that, so you come across as cool under pressure rather than unconcerned.

        2. Ellie H.*

          I would kind of love to be one of these people who never feel stress. They really do exist. I’m sure they have other challenges they face but not the same feeling of “stress.” As someone who is very susceptible to feeling anxiety about tasks I’m obligated to complete, I really envy this. I was thinking about this a lot yesterday when I called into a radio show and got on the air. It was probably the most nervewracking experience of my life and the least articulate I’ve sounded in recent memory (seriously, not just imagining the worst).

        3. jesicka309*

          Oh no, I’ve definitely been in stressful situations – they just wouldn’t be relevant to the interview situation. My current role never has been truly stressful though. I can’t say ‘well, there was one time when I thought I forgot to run a report and I felt stressed, but then I double checked, and I had run the report, so it was okay.’ I always feel like they want important examples, and day-to-day minor things feel too trivial to talk about.

    2. j-e to the double n*

      This is probably the wrong answer, and very bad. But in the past when I’ve been asked what I would do in a situation I had never experienced, I have lied once or twice. Like, if I was working with someone else who handled it a certain way or heard of someone somewhere who handled it a good way that applied to the question I would say that that’s how I would/would want to handle it. I guess it’s not technically a lie in certain contexts (i.e. saying what I would do in the future) I guess its just how the interviewer asks the question and takes the answer.

      1. fposte*

        It’s fine to say “I haven’t, but I really like what a colleague did once” and go on to explain what that would be.

    3. Bea W*

      That’s pretty much what I’ve done. If I can’t think of a work example, I try to think of an example outside of work that would apply. Barring that, I talk about how I think I should handle the situation. “I haven’t experienced that particular situation at work, but…”

      For better or worse though, my last job left me with no shortage of examples to use when interviewing for my current job. :-/

  5. Anonymous*

    I don’t think an interview with a lot of customer service questions is necessarily a sign of a bad interviewer. Every job has a customer to serve, whether internal or external, so it is absolutely relevant to assess how a candidate would deal with service issues. Many jobs, while not directly interacting with external customers, can and do have an impact on those customers’ experiences. Finally, companies that see outstanding service as a competitive advantage would want to cultivate a workforce that aligned behind this philosophy across the board.

    1. Lacey*

      Thats what I thought, if you only have retail experience, and they want to get to know you better, asking detailed questions about that experience must be helpful in some way.

    2. Colette*

      That’s true, but there is a significant difference in dealing with a retail customer (who has or plans to spend their own money on your product, and who you may only ever deal with once) and dealing with a fellow employee. There are commonalities, but they’re not the same thing, so too much focus on the first one gives you limited insight into how you’d deal with the second one.

      1. Anonymous*

        It depends in some companies departments will “pay” other departments for services and contract out if it isn’t possible internally so this could be a situation like that.

        I also think it could be that this was an interviewer trying to tailor the questions TO the applicant who had worked in customer service. You may not have had a conflict with a coworker on a project but you have certainly had conflicts with customers and that is a question you can answer so that’s the question I’ll ask. Rather than asking questions that they’d be sure the OP wouldn’t be able to answer.

        1. Colette*

          But even in that case, it’s the business’s money – there’s not the same emotional attachment that there is in the retail case. There’s also an ongoing relationship, which is different than in many retail situations.

          Obviously, some of the same skills are still relevant, but it’s a mistake to think they’re the same situation.

          And yes, it could be an attempt by the interviewer to tailor the questions to the applicant, but … wouldn’t it make more sense to ask questions relevant to the job? That seems like an odd thing to do.

    3. Bea W*

      Absolutely right. I work in a technical field, and when I interview candidates part of what I am looking for are good “customer service” type skills on top of everything else. I have to interact with a variety of people, many of whom are end users. My experience has been providing these people with a positive customer service/support type experience results in positive outcomes. If they don’t like working with you or your system, they will avoid it as much as possible, which is really really bad for data collection. It’s not in the job description, but it is definitely part of the job, and I screen for it. I also hope my colleagues are screening for it.

      Plus lots of jobs outside of retail involve outright customer service. I didn’t see where the OP specified what kind of job they were interviewing for and just assumed it would have some customer service component where those skills were either necessary or would be considered a bonus asset.

  6. fposte*

    OP#7–This wasn’t part of your question, but I hire from a pool with about your level of experience, and I’d be just as happy to hear about your sales associate work as your newspaper work. Don’t be so intent on burying that valuable piece of experience, and it’s by no
    means less “respectable” than your college job.

  7. Chriama*

    #1 – It sounds like your company is treating you pretty badly, and I don’t blame you for wanting to leave. However, you created spreadsheets for the company, so you can’t really take them back now.
    Put the spreadsheets on your resume as an example of how you went above and beyond your job duties and increased efficiency by x% in the department. In the interview you can go on to say you’re leaving your current company because, despite your stellar performance (exhibit a: spreadsheets), there is no room for advancement.

    In other words, try to look “hardworking and under appreciated” rather than “vindictive and nasty”.

    1. Katieinthemountains*

      Exactly! You can show how you were a rock star at your job and even tell them how you helped make your coworkers so efficient that they got raises. Your interviewers will doubtless ask for your current salary, and if it’s too low, they’ll put two and two together.

  8. Elise*

    #7 – I wonder if they chose to ask the customer service questions because they knew the OP worked retail and were trying to use questions they thought would best allow her to show off skills and experiences. It is odd to work with the public and not have had to deal with trouble.

    If the next interviewee had worked in a factory, they may ask how the handled machine breakdowns or issues with safety.

    1. Anonymous*

      I completely agree with this. I think saying that the interviewer was bad is a big jump here. This could have been a very good interviewer especially for someone looking to hire people brand new to this type of work and asking questions relevant to the resume instead of questions that they knew the interviewee wouldn’t have experience in.

      (Working in retail and having never had an angry customer ever? Pretty unheard of.)

      1. OP #7*

        I wouldn’t say the interviewer was bad either, but the amount of behavioral questions was overkill. I’ve absolutely had angry customers and have handled them all with tactfulness and politeness, but the questions were so specific about the circumstances I didn’t have solid answers for all. I suppose next time I shouldn’t be afraid of slightly gearing it toward a more relevant experience I’ve had.

  9. Elise*

    #2 – I have food restrictions too, and people are usually very understanding. It does help if you research local restaurants ahead of time so you can easily know which are safe.

    1. Jessa*

      Exactly. And take into account the pricing, so if they say restaurant x and you know that’s about $15 a plate you can suggest something in the same range.

    2. books*

      I have 2 coworkers with food restrictions. With a few exceptions, they can find something to eat anywhere, but it definitely helps to speak up about it.
      When they mention doing a welcome lunch say something like “I’m excited, but I want you to know I’m severely allergic to peanuts and your suggestion of thai food is one of the few cuisines where I have a hard time finding a nut-free meal, is there another alternative?”
      Trust me, your colleagues would rather accommodate the location change than rush you to the hospital on your first day!

  10. Jim*

    #1 it’s a shame your company won’t recognise your work, and it is really bad the company expects to get something for nothing, but deleting the files will make you look bad, and it’s likely the company has a back up anyway so it won’t have the effect you want. I’d be tempted not to leave the passwords (unless asked), then they might call you if the spreadsheets need updating at which point you could offer your consultancy services, but I would still handover the passwords if asked for them at that point.

    1. Steve*

      I agree about leaving everything intact and usable. I would probably leave without giving over the passwords (in such a way as not even thinking that they might want to alter your formulas). If someone calls you in 2 months asking for the password give it to them gladly and say “oh, I didn’t even think of that before I left! The password is xxx.” If they call you in 2 years, at that time you can say “gosh, Bob, I don’t think I can remember what I used back then. Try aaa, or maybe bbb and see if that works.” And if Bob really treated you well while you were there, give him the 3rd option of “I might have even used xxx, so try that too.”

  11. Kerr*

    #1: It doesn’t sound like the files were created as work property; the OP said she did them on her own time, as a favor:

    “After that, many people within the office asked me to create them sheets for many sectors of their work, which I was happy to do in my own time at home.”

    Even so, I’d chalk it up to a lesson learned and a portfolio example gained; deleting the spreadsheets would just be spiteful and bitter, and ruin your reputation. Moreover, it would directly affect your coworkers (the people you originally wanted to help!), instead of the people responsible for pay raises.

    1. Sourire*

      I would actually argue that the fact that it was done as a favor is even more reason that the OP should leave the files as is. A favor is like a gift, imo.

      I do think it was an error on OP’s part to treat it like a favor rather than making it a work responsibility which would have left the door wider open for compensation for the project (or at least the ability for it to be done on work time so OP would be paid in that way for his or her efforts), but that can’t be changed now and I’m sure OP will learn from this.

      1. Dean*

        The IP ownership of these spreadsheets is interesting. They were created outside the OP’s normal work responsibility, on her own time, and not at her boss’ direction. So unless there was a written and signed work-for-hire IP agreement that covers this case, the OP probably retains copyright to these spreadsheets. (It might be more complicated if trade secrets were used.) The upshot of this is it’s totally acceptable to take the spreadsheets with you and use them in your work portfolio.

        If the OP wants to be vindictive, she shouldn’t delete the files herself. She should draft a letter stating she revokes any and all implied licence to the spreadsheets, and offer to open negotiation to sell them a license for $$$. (With an implied threat of lawsuit if they continue using the software without a license).

        But really, that’s mean, will burn your bridges, and a lawsuit would take more time, money and energy than you probably want.

    2. Frances*

      The second paragraph is what I was coming to post. I had a boss at a prior job destroy files on her way out the door, but instead of screwing over the higher ups it meant that those of us who worked for her had to put in long stressful hours for weeks trying to reconstruct what she’d messed up.

      I was actually sympathetic to her reasons for leaving, but because of the mess she left, I would not hesitate to warn someone if I found out an acquaintance was working with or considering hiring her.

      1. Bea W*

        This is totally why I bent over backwards with documenting and making sure my co-workers could find anything and everything they needed before leaving my last job. I already knew how much the department’s upper management treated people like crap. I didn’t want to add any additional crap to my co-workers or my clients’ lives on top of that. I knew anything I left undocumented or not properly transitioned would result in pain for everyone BUT the people who drove me to leave. In fact, those people would not only not be punished, but would just have one more reason to crack the whip, and everyone else would suffer for it. I was also aware how careful I had to be to keep my nose squeaky clean to maintain my reputation while a couple of others were trying to dismantle it, but mostly I couldn’t bear the thought of incurring even more suffering on my co-workers.

        As a side effect, it also felt good to be able to walk out of their with some dignity and pride still intact knowing that I was able to keeping from stooping down to the down dirty level of the people who treated me poorly. Be better than OP #1.

  12. Lacey*

    OP #1 – when you’re dissatisfied with your job and want out, keep in mind the most important thing you need from the job – a good reference. And I don’t mean for your next job, I mean for the job after that, and the one after that.

    It costs you nothing to leave the passwords for those spreadsheets, but you are banking a good reference and a good reputation. Don’t sacrifice that for the momentary pleasure of revenge.

  13. Anonymously Anonymous*

    #1 This is unfortunate. I wonder if you had addressed it with your company earlier (when the 2nd employee asked you to create a spreadsheet) would you have gotten a little more appreciation and possibly a raise for your work. You could have said “I helped Jane create a spreadsheet that helped her with yada yada and Sue could benefit from a similar spreadsheet. I would love to sit down with different team members and create spreadsheets that suit their needs”. The result may still be the same but at least you selling your abilities. I think we forget to sell ourselves until it’s too late.

    Honestly, this happen to me before but it was really early– early on in my work life. I only replicated what I had used at a previous hotel accounting system. Most places still had auditors doing DR’s manually and the accounting clerk had to enter the information the next morning. I was working as an accounting clerk, and I decided to replicate an excel sheet for the night auditors could do their work faster and more accurate. My thinking was can’t we at least trust them to input the data in the computer—all I did was give them a replica of what we were using in accounting. The first place, management just allowed them to enter the data on the actual accounting system. The second place where I replicated the sheet, management just asked me to train the auditors to input the data on my sheet. I did it without thinking too much about it and definitely without thinking much about asking for a raise.

    Now I’m not so inclined to share processes that make things easier for me…sad but real.

    A few years ago I created a spreadsheet (not for company use) but a couple of us used it and people seemed offended that I put a password and locked certain fields. I only locked it, after I came in one morning to panicked looks on my co-workers faces because someone had called themselves entering data. I don’t think they understood the work involved… –Just don’t mess with my –ish ;)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Now I’m not so inclined to share processes that make things easier for me…sad but real.

      I’m just going to copy and paste a comment I wrote on a different post earlier this week, which is also what I want to say here:

      You can go above and beyond — suggest ideas, do the work of implementing them, have them become part of what’s expected of you — and possibly not see compensation for it immediately or in the medium-term, but over the long run you will get rewarded for it, either by your company or by the next one you go to, and have the sort of enhanced reputation that generally makes your work life easier and more secure over time and gives you more options.

      Or you can decide not to go above and beyond if you don’t see short-term pay-off. If you go that route, you get the benefit of not being expected to do “extras,” but you lose out on the pay-offs above.

      1. Jamie*

        Everyone print this out and post it in their offices and send it to everyone you know.


        When you go above and beyond you aren’t just improving your company – you’re improving yourself. You’re making yourself more valuable, more marketable, and a more attractive candidate.

        Don’t do it for them – do it for you.

        I know someone once who tried to cut a deal with tptb that they knew a sure-fire way to save the company 100k per year in operating costs…but in order to explain and implement they wanted a deal that if it worked they wanted a raise. Guess how well that went over? But absolutely and without question they’d have been generously rewarded had they actually saved the 100K.

        Letting your employer you are holding back skills that you’ll set free once they meet your ransom demands is a bad idea. And employers that don’t reward properly will have their own problems with high turnover of their top performers…that costs a lot more.

        1. Jamie*

          Sorry – they wanted the raise before even telling them the idea or a percentage of the savings after the fact…I wasn’t clear.

      2. Anonymous*

        I agree. A little back story. During this time, I was working as an full time accounting clerk at one hotel and a part time night auditor (on the weekends) at another hotel–I was previously a auditor/front desk associate at this particular hotel. They wanted to keep me on –in part because my DRs were always balanced. But I wanted to move on for better pay and opportunity. Within a year, they negotiated for me to come back full time as a front office supervisor. I was young and honestly didn’t see the value I added to company. I was just using skills I had learned. It did feel nice to have the respect of my manager–especially when he had his admin, who didn’t like me, call me and help negotiate my return. I never forget it was 12/31/1999 (Y2k) he most likely thought the system would crash. The admin, earlier that week, conveniently forgot to include me in the Secret Santa but I, and an auditor I was training, was on the front page of the morning newspaper the morning of January 1, 2000 because the local reporter was going to different businesses to check on their systems. My manager even put together a surprise birthday party for me a couple months later—that was a bit weird but much appreciated.

        I guess what I mean by I not so inclined anymore to share my processes is; I pick and chose to go the extra mile or not. However, I still find more often than not going the extra mile.

          1. Anonymous*

            “I never forget it was 12/31/1999 (Y2k) he most likely thought the system would crash. ”

            OMG ..I had back then…lol

      3. Flynn*


        For example: I’ve been pretty bored in my job since I finished studying, and started taking on a lot of extra projects that are well outside my job description. While it’s not directly going to benefit me in this role (no room to move up at all), I know that I’ll get an awesome reference from my manager. But even better, I ended up with a fantastic portfolio of projects above my job level which make my CV look a *lot* better. But it took a year or so of slowly taking on extra things before I could look back and go “hey, it’s worth listing all this stuff now”. Just doing one or two would not necessarily have been worth highlighting.

  14. Anonymous*

    OP#1 Leave the passwords in your handover notes (and keep a copy for yourself along with the files). That way when they call you up in a panic you can point out that you left them with your manager. You will come across as helpful and forward thinking.

    If they’ve lost your handover notes then you can offer to help out but in my experience it’s very rare for an ex-employee to be contacted about things like this.

  15. Wilton Businessman*

    Only feedback on a couple today…

    1. Don’t do that. It’s work product regardless of whether you got paid for it or not.
    3. Not that 6 weeks is enough time to give a new job, but these things happen and you will have to move on. Just don’t make it a habit, you’ve already got two short-term stints on your history.
    5. How much are we talking about in 8 months? If it’s $50/month then I would let it go. If it was $300/month then that is a different story. In that case I would bring it up, but not harp on it.

    1. OP #3*

      Hi I’m the OP for #3. Some of my friends and even family think that I should give the job 6 months but I seriously don’t think I could last here 6 months. When I took the job it was with a manager from my old dept that I knew of in passing and figured it would work out. I am freshly out of college and the contract job was with the dept that I worked for all throughout college who wanted to keep me (so my resume actually would only have my current job as a short stint. My previous position is over 5 years) but in the end couldn’t move me over to permanent status or else I would still be there. Due to this I took my current job because the contract was ending (and there were no better prospects in sight) plus I needed some type of income to support myself. I tried my best to do due diligence but clearly that didn’t work and I’m usually not flaky with my commitments but staying here would mean (IMO) wasted time.

      1. Sourire*

        Generally, the point of staying a position for a certain length of time (I’d argue a year actually, not just 6 months) is so that you can build a reputation of sticking to your commitments and to combat the perception of being a job-hopper so that you become more attractive to prospective employers. There are of course other reasons , but that is a big one. If you are getting not just interviews, but actual offers, I don’t think you need to stay just to hit some arbitrary time mark. You are apparently already attractive enough.

        However, like Alison said, you need to vet the new position you accept carefully, because you really should be staying there for a while. Do not take something just because you are unhappy in your current position and think *anything* would be better.

        1. OP #3*

          I tried to vet the position that I current have but there were other factors that weighed in and I decided to take it. I should’ve listen though to some colleagues who gave me the heads up before I joined this dept. This will absolutely not happen again.

          1. Wilton Businessman*

            I think she means the NEW position. The point being that you wouldn’t want to appear as a job hopper if the next one only lasts 3/4/5 months.

            But, as others have said, it’s probably a good idea to just skip putting the six week job on your resume period.

      2. The IT Manager*

        IMO, I think you’re fine to depart as long as you don’t leave your current job until you already have an offer in hand. Your previous job was always intended to be a short term contract (note that on your resume). As long as you stay with your new job for several years, you won’t be seen as a job hopper by any resonable person. After several years of solid work somewhere else, you can even remove the six week stint from your resume since it probably adds little value because you can’t accomplish much in less than two months. You might burn a few bridges with people at your shcurrent job, but if you can afford that (ie not a small industry), you should be fine.

          1. OP #3*

            Actually as it turns out it helped more than it hurt. I work for a university so instead of putting down the depts I worked for I listed the university as whole and the new position has added responsibilities so when I applied for the new jobs they made me look more attractive. I also listed the jobs separately because they have two different titles. None of the hiring managers that I interviewed with brought it up or even made a note of it.

        1. OP #3*

          I currently work in IT so it’s not a small field and my prospects are pretty good as I’ve had many interviews and a few offers already so I think I’m good on that end. I understand that I probably will burn some bridges in this dept but I don’t think I’d want to come back here any time soon.

  16. Bea W*

    #1 – Deleting them would just make the OP look (or be) vindictive and jerky. I have done a lot of extras like this over the years for folks in the office that helped everyone out, and it has never crossed my mind to delete the files or not give folks a password or detailed instructions on how to use them before I’ve left a job, even when I have left because I was disgruntled. That would just be wrong, and I’ll tell you why.

    OP – you may be pissed at your employer who did not want to give you a raise and whom you feel is not paying you or treating you fairly and what you are worth, but deleting your spreadsheets only punishes (I’d use a stronger phrase – “screws over”) other employees who had absolutely nothing to do and no say in upper management’s decisions. Please consider being the bigger person in this situation and not only leave the files, but leave someone with the passwords. If that doesn’t appeal to you, deleting things will also give you a bad reputation in your field and makes you look bitter. It’s also a bad personal business move.

    1. Sourire*

      “…deleting your spreadsheets only punishes (I’d use a stronger phrase – “screws over”) other employees who had absolutely nothing to do and no say in upper management’s decisions. ”

      Yep, especially considering OP made these spreadsheets at the request of those employees and not at the request of management in the first place.

  17. axh*

    #2 Employer tip: At my company, we always take new employees out to lunch on the first day. Knowing quite a few people with food allergies, I always tell the employee where we’re planning on going and ask if that’s ok with them.

    1. James*

      I have a phobia/hatred of cheese so I always have to ask about cheese-free options when pizza is suggested as a reward for something. Luckily pizza companies have got a lot better at catering for people like me :D

  18. Bea W*

    Anytime you’re eating out with co-workers is the “appropriate time” to inform them you have a food allergy. As soon as your new boss or any0ne mentions going out to eat, that is a good time to mention your allergies and dietary restrictions, so your new boss can plan ahead. It’s really not a big deal. Your health is more important, and people are much more aware of food allergies and special diets these days.

    Good luck in your new job!

  19. Anty*

    Re: 1. Can I delete company files that I created?

    As much as you want to delete them, I would not do it. I was in a similar situation as a receptionist and I made a lot of templates for my manager and the other receptionists to use, but I was awfully treated during my time there. Before I left, I felt like deleting them but looking back now, I’m glad I didn’t. Prospective employers often ask for work history and I wouldn’t want my old manager giving bad references. Just be glad you will be leaving and think what could happen in the long run.

  20. Kevin Long*

    I work in IT Security, and I would assume that deleting files and failing to leave the passwords would be a felony. There are Federal Laws that prohibit this, and cases where people who have failed to hand over passwords have gone to jail. Don’t do this, please.

    1. Katie*

      I feel I should point out that (almost literally) the jury is still out on whether the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act makes it a crime to use authorized access to obtain information and use it for unintended purposes.

      For example, Wakeen is a Chocolate Teapot Engineer, and has access to the Teapot Schematics Database to do his job. He takes Proprietary Teapot Design A – “Kitties!” and sells it to another company. This is theft of trade secrets, but is it also a computer crime? He’s allowed to access the database to get teapot designs, but he’s not allowed to sell them to competitors.

      The Fifth, Seventh, and Eleventh Circuit Courts have said yes, the Fourth and Ninth Circuits have said no.

      This is the federal law that Kevin is probably referring to, and I wouldn’t want anyone to get worried that they were going to get sent to jail for accidentally deleting something, or forgetting to leave a password – even the cases I referred to above have all revolved around using authorized access to commit other crimes!

      (I work in IT Security as well, and these computer/legal issues are my favorite part, even though they rarely ever *actually* come up – and now twice!)

    1. fposte*

      The big difference there is that he was creating them as part of his job and was paid to do so. That’s not the OP’s situation–she wasn’t doing it as part of her job, and wasn’t getting paid–even if the organization wanted to claim them as theirs, they’d then need to account for the hours she spend unpaid creating them.

      However, I think the legal ground isn’t what matters here–it’s the human being/reputational ground, and the OP would definitely be on shaky ground there if she pulled the plug on her co-workers.

      1. Anon - 345*

        OP #1: I would argue that the legality would be covered by patent law.
        In this case the OP would own the code aka macros that she created in the spreadsheets but she would NOT own the data in the spreadsheet. She should NOT give the business the passwords as it is how she has maintained ownership of the macros she created on her own time. If they have and issue, they can recreate them or hire her back as a consultant on a contract basis if they need fixing. She could delete the Macros if she would like with the realization that it would hurt her reputation but I think she owns this code, not the business. I think there are clear patent laws that could cover the legality since the OP was hourly and it was done on the OPs own time away from the office. I am not sure but there may be someway to determine when the macros were created/updated to prove that they were created by her on her own time to prove her ownership.

          1. Anon - 345*

            I think it depends on what she created and how complex it is. If it truly can be considered an application based on the codes she used then I think it would be covered by patent.

  21. nyxalinth*

    OP 1, That really isn’t a good idea. If you’re unhappy with how your ideas are being used, it might be better to move on, rather than screw them over. I know, easier said than done.

    OP 7 I’m often in the same boat. Working in call centers doesn’t give a lot of experience in much that isn’t related to dealing with pissed off customers. I’m also a very laid back sort, so I don’t have too many conflicts with co-workers, other than one time when me and a guy on my team wanted to have the same day off. I wanted it as a mental health day, and he wanted it to take care of things he normally couldn’t do during the week. We did sort it out eventually.

  22. Ruffingit*

    Food allergy reminds me of the time I was working for a small law firm (two attorneys who owned it and were married, but needed to be divorced, me, and the legal receptionist, plus a legal assistant). The woman owner was a narcissist and horrendously abusive to employees. For a holiday lunch, she decided we would all go out to eat. Didn’t ask any of us what we would like or where we wanted to go, she just chose. She picked a seafood restaurant. I am allergic to seafood. When we got there, I ordered steak. She said “Oh, the seafood here is great, why don’t you have XX seafood dish?” I told her I was allergic. “Oh, you should have said something.” UH, yeah. I would have if you had given us any indication of where we would be going or cared enough to ask us what we would like. Instead, you tell us one day before that we’re going to lunch the next day and you mention it when I’m about to walk in with a client to a meeting. You then leave so I can’t follow-up with you and then you show up at lunch the next day to tell us all where we’ll be eating.

  23. Ruffingit*

    OP who created the spreadsheets – No, don’t delete them. Reasons for that are covered by other posters. But, I do think you need to be cognizant of something that will be important as you move to other jobs and ahead in your career: DO NOT do unpaid work at home that benefits your company. You are not valuing your time or your skills when you do that. If someone approaches you and asks you to make a spreadsheet for their use in the office, go to your manager and let them know of the request and ask if you can do that as part of your job. You may be able to parlay those skills into a raise or some other work benefit, but no matter what don’t use your at-home time to benefit your job. You’re not getting paid for that and again, it’s you devaluing your own time. Even if you enjoy doing it/it’s a hobby, you still need to be paid. If you don’t value your skills and time enough to ask for the appropriate remuneration for them, why should anyone else?

  24. A Bug!*

    OP#1: For the record, I’m in agreement with everybody who says that you should give your employer whatever information they need to continue to administer the tool going forward.

    Now, I am genuinely sorry that you’re feeling burned on this.

    But when it comes down to it, you caused your employer to become indebted to you without giving your employer the chance to opt out of your services. While it would have been nice (and wise) for your employer to reward you for increasing your coworkers’ productivity, they hadn’t asked you to do it.

    If were your manager, and you came to me and said “Hey, I spent X hours on my own time creating this tool specifically for you, and six of my coworkers have been using it since March”, I’d be a little bit irritated over being left out of the decision making process. Why?


    1. I may not be familiar with the processes you used to create the tool.

    2. While your coworkers might find it helpful, I don’t know if that necessarily equates to benefit to my company.

    3a. I don’t know how many people are able to administrate the tool and what happens if you get sick, get injured, or leave the company.
    3b. I don’t know what it’s going to cost to hire or train someone to administrate it if nobody in the office is able to but you.
    3c. I don’t know what it’s going to cost to update the tool to accommodate changing business needs or technology.
    3d. I don’t know if the tool is created ‘cleanly’ in such a way that someone else skilled in VBA and Excel will be able to successfully support the tool, or if it’s going to need to be reworked from the ground up to meet standards.

    4. I don’t know whether or not you’ve somehow put in a back door that will pose a security risk if or when you leave the company.

    5. I don’t know if you are going to disable it or remove it if I don’t compensate you for creating it.

    6. I don’t know what effect the loss of this tool is going to have on employee morale.

    Basically, a bunch of “what ifs” and potential disasters have been dumped on my desk through your attempt to do your coworkers a favor. And based on your letter, none of the concerns I listed are addressed, and concerns 3a and 5 are specifically valid ones, as you’ve explicitly stated that you’re the only one in control and you’re considering taking your ball and going home.

    So basically, I hope you understand that by taking the initiative here you might have actually placed your employer in a tough position. The ends don’t always justify the means.

    1. A Bug!*

      And because I apparently can’t keep anything short, let me also note something else.

      If for whatever reason, the coworkers lose access to this tool, either because I as employer prohibit its use, or because you disable or delete it, or because technology changes and we can’t support it anymore?

      Picture yourself as a parent of a kid; you pick Jimmy up from his babysitter to find him gnawing on a huge cookie. The babysitter says “Oh, we went for a walk and I thought he’d like a cookie from the bakery; by the way, it cost $5.” She looks at you expectantly.

      Even though you question whether or not you’re okay with Jimmy eating the cookie in the first place, you say “Oh, that’s very nice of you, but I didn’t budget for extra expenses and he had lots of food in his backpack. I wish you’d checked with me first, because I can’t pay you for the cookie.” So the babysitter says “Oh dear, Jimmy, your mommy says you can’t have that cookie you love so much,” and takes the slobbery, half-eaten cookie out of Jimmy’s hand. “And by the way, Mom, you should probably find a new sitter.”

      Who is Jimmy going to blame here? After all, it’s the babysitter who gave him that cookie, and it was a delicious cookie and he absolutely wanted to eat the whole thing. He had a cookie, and then his mom showed up, and now he doesn’t have a cookie.

      It literally doesn’t matter why he doesn’t have a cookie anymore; it’s going to your fault, ‘Mom’, even though the babysitter was overstepping her bounds by giving it to him without clearing it with you. It’s just another facet of how you’ve potentially put your employer in a difficult spot, even though you meant well.

      Now, I’m not saying with this post or my earlier one that the employer is completely blameless here. They’re underappreciative of the work you’ve done for them. What I am saying is that you could have gone about your help in a way that was more considerate of the employer’s right to make decisions on stuff like this, before the decision is moot.

  25. Woodward*

    #1 – Deleting files

    As I was leaving my last job, my very computer illiterate manager tossed me under the proverbial bus for “deleting” files. I had a specific organizational system of folders that no one else was going to use, so I did delete a lot of outdated information and then moved what was left to my co-worker’s folders who were taking over my responsibilities. My manager was furious that I changed things because then she couldn’t find it anymore! I tried to show her, but the whole really soured the rest of my two weeks there. I had originally moved and deleted things trying to be MORE helpful to my remaining coworkers, but after my manager got angry, then stopped talking to me completely, I felt justified in what I did delete because, after all, I had created it!

    Reading these comments is helpful and I’m grateful for OP #1 for writing in this question. I’m still at the beginning of my career and am mentally filing this away: If I create something at work, just leave it there when I leave no matter how I feel towards the end. Thank you to AAM and the wise, more experienced blog readers!

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