manager wants me to pick up coworker’s slack, raises went AWOL, and more

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

1. Manager wants me to pick up my coworker’s slack

I work at a company that faced serious downsizing a year ago. I was fortunate to not only survive the restructuring but to have become the head of a newly-formed department. My old position was dissolved and split among several staff members, including me.

One coworker has consistently avoided the part of her job that used to be mine, which is convenient for her because it means suppliers keep contacting me when they don’t hear back from her, reinforcing the general opinion within and outside the organization that I am still responsible for this area. (She’s also a department head, and we report to the same person.) I recently approached my supervisor about this issue, and received a very disappointing response. He focused on subjective aspects of the issue, telling me that I am probably treating her like a baby and that’s why she isn’t performing, and that the only way for the job to be done right is to do it myself. I have a huge amount of respect for my manager, but he places such a high value on getting along that he his happy to let the more efficient, energetic employees carry a heavier load rather than confronting non-performers.

Since the downsizing, when lack of performance in this area has become apparent to him, he has turned to ME for a solution rather than the co-worker who is now responsible. I told my supervisor that I am now taking a hands-off approach even if balls drop, and he has endorsed this strategy. However dollars to donuts he will be coming to me when everything stops working.

When people email you because they don’t hear back from your coworker, respond with, “Jane is now the contact for this area and should be able to help you,” and cc Jane (so they have her email) — and your manager if that feels necessary. If your manager eventually comes to you for solutions to your coworker’s failings, you can simply say, “Yes, I’m concerned about that Jane isn’t handling that too, but I don’t have the authority to address it with her.”

And I’d downgrade that “huge amount of respect” for your manager, because he has abdicated some of the most fundamental responsibilities of a manager — addressing performance problems and ensuring that high performers don’t get penalized by his negligence there.

2. Should I tell our new director about our manager never being around?

My department recently changed directors. She would like to meet with us individually to “find out more about us” and to “address any issue you might have.” Our current manager is rarely at work and when he is, he’s not really here, just out to meetings or lunches and can’t be reached. Should I share this info with the new director? There are plenty of other issues that should be addressed as well. When is too much too much?

If it impacting your work? If so, you could say something like, “Sometimes our inability to reach George causes X, Y, and Z to happen. I’d love to find a solution to that.” But if it’s not affecting your work and you just want to report his behavior to her, this isn’t the time — she doesn’t know you yet and you don’t have credibility built up with her.

3. I just realized I didn’t get the raises I assumed I’d received for the last two years

I have been with this company for almost 12 years. Every year, I have received my raise on time and have received the same amount (3%). I did not notice until a couple months ago that my raises had stopped coming and I had not received a raise since 2011. I immediately notified the general manager and found out that my last two years’ reviews had not been completed by my manager, who had just left the company a week prior to my noticing. The new manager submitted my reviews, and not only did I get less (2%), they did not give me retroactive pay for the 2 years I did not receive a raise. Also they still have not gone over the reviews with me.

I don’t think this is fair since it was the manager’s mistake, but what can I do? Am I entitled to retroactive pay? I have always gone above and beyond and don’t think there is any legitimate reason for them to not give me the full 3% but am still waiting to see the reviews to find out why.

No, you’re not entitled to retroactive pay (which doesn’t mean they might not give it to you, but there’s no general entitlement to it). In fact, you weren’t even entitled to raises during those years, unless you have a written agreement that requires them. Raises are generally at the discretion of the employer, so unless your company does automatic raises for everyone (which they certainly might), I’d take this more as a signal that your manager wasn’t prioritizing retaining you … which was her prerogative, particularly since you didn’t push back.

And the thing is, you’re responsible for managing your own pay — if you, the person most affected by this, weren’t paying attention, it’s not all that reasonable to be angry that they didn’t either. And that’s going to make this hard for you to argue — the fact that you didn’t notice it for two years makes it difficult to be outraged.

(I would also give up on getting those reviews. Your new manager isn’t in a position to review your performance for periods when she wasn’t managing you. Sorry!)

4. I don’t think I can do the job I’m interviewing for

I applied for a job recently and have an interview. The job is ICT system manager in a local high school and will involve managing my own (if small) ICT team and having overall responsibility for the schools ICT infrastructure and systems. I’ve only ever done ICT technician work (mostly in the schools sector), but I am aware — due to a shining reputation in the local school/public sector and numerous unrequested endorsements — that I’m well in the running, if not the frontrunner for the job.

But I’m having second thoughts, I’m not convinced my skill set is up to the job, that I’m mature and if I’m mentally ready for the new challengers that the job presents. I’m 25 and only been working in the ICT support industry for 5 and a half years. Also if I was to take the job I would need to excel. I would find it very demoralizing knowing people were thinking I’m inadequate for the job. I would hate to be “that guy who doesn’t know what they’re doing”.”

I’m looking for advice on how to decline the job should I be offered it. Is there an etiquette? Am I at risk of damaging my reputation or future job prospects in the area? Should I pull out of the interview now? I would really like the experience of the interview as its my first management level one.

Well, if you’re sure you wouldn’t accept the job, you can certainly withdraw now (“thanks so much for offering to meet, but I’ve decided to pursue other positions”) or wait to withdraw after the interview (same wording) or simply turn down the offer if it comes (“I admire what you do, but after much thought have concluded it’s not the right fit for me right now”).

But … are you sure? Because what you describe sounds an awful lot like a case of impostor syndrome. Why not simply be open with them about who you are and what you can offer, and believe them if they end up thinking you’re the strongest candidate? That’s not to say that employers never make bad hires, but you seem to be taking yourself out of the running because of nerves and self-doubt, and it might be worth listening to their assessment of your strengths (as well as thinking about what your awesome reputation says about you).

5. Should I tell my boss I’m job searching because I need more schedule flexibility?

I’m currently employed by a job that I dislike, but of course I’m holding on until something better comes along. However, my children’s school hours have changed and I now have to leave 15 minutes early every day to accommodate this new schedule. I spoke with my supervisor regarding flexibility with my schedule, and he was ok with the whole thing but he wants me to make an exception every other Thursday, or at least try to make an exception, in order to work late due to a community meeting. I haven’t gotten back to him, but it’s simply not going to work. It’s been difficult relying on other people to pick up my children and I simply do not want to go through the stress.

So because of this, would it be wise to inform my supervisor that I’m looking for other employment due to a necessary change in work hours and because I need a job that can provide this level of flexibility? I’m my children’s only responsible means of transportation and I cannot expect for someone else to rearrange their schedule.

No. Tell him you’re leaving when you have a job offer that you’ve accepted and not before. You have little to gain by telling him you’re job searching, and plenty to lose — he could push you out earlier than you’re prepared to go, for instance.

However, have you told him directly that you cannot do what he’s asking? It’s possible that he’d be willing to negotiate a different arrangement with you if he knows that it’s not something you can be flexible with.

6. How will my last paycheck be calculated?

I am on salary and am finishing my job in the middle of a pay week. How does that work? If, say, I have worked 27 hours that week, which is my last?

They’ll prorate it. So if you normally make $X in a one-week period, you’d get 67% (27 divided into 40 — because of a normal 40 hour work week, or whatever they use) of X for that period.

7. Why would an employer check references after making a hire?

Just got a request for a reference check after an organization decided to hire one of my (terrific) former employees. Any idea why a company would check references after a hire? The questions they asked were pretty standard — no searching for red flags or anything like that.

Terrible hiring practices, where they (a) treat reference-checks as rubber stamps, like a bit of paperwork to be completed as part of the offer process, and (b) jeopardize people’s livelihoods, by getting them to accept job offers (and often quit existing jobs) when they haven’t actually finished their vetting process yet and could technically still pull the offer. It’s a sign of lazy, thoughtless hiring practices.

{ 209 comments… read them below }

  1. RedStateBlues*

    OP #1, I have no advice to offer, just my sympathies as I work for a very similar manager; she doesn’t even bother to ask the low performer in our group to do anything extra at this point.

    1. Meg*

      Same here :( Most of the admins in my group are fantastic, wonderful workers. Who have all tried to speak to our manager multiple times about the one weak link. She refuses to listen, though.

      1. sMiles*

        Me three. I have no constructive advice to give but sometimes it helps to know you are not alone! My manager is aware of the problem, expresses frustration at the problem but never takes action to solve the issue. My coworker makes $10k more a year than I do, has a more senior title and has years more experience than I do and yet I am functioning in both of our roles right now.

        It likely will be the reason I eventually leave this job.

        1. Jackie*

          Me four. This manager has showed you how he manages. Believe him, he won’t change. If you don’t react to this issue you won’t have a problem. Ignore…

        2. Esra*

          That’s the reason I just left my job! I wonder if the managers who do this realize how demoralizing it is.

          1. RedStateBlues*

            My manager knows it, has said as much and talks a good game, but actions often speak louder than words and its become clear she has no intention of dealing with this. He literally runs his side business from his desk and nothing is done!

    2. J*

      Same. I used to work for a unionized employer where bad workers were very hard to get rid of. For a while, my manager basically made it my job to just keep the ones in our department from causing harm, since he’d given up on getting them to do any good.

      1. RedStateBlues*

        My manager also expresses frustration that he’s so lazy, yet does nothing (no, this isn’t a union job).

        The real kick in the crotch is my company basically doesn’t do merit raises, so if we get a raise, its pretty much plant wide and everybody with the same job title gets the same raise despite performance or lack thereof.

        so yeah, I’m looking for a better job hopefully with a better manager.

  2. Julie*

    Regarding 4. I don’t think I can do the job I’m interviewing for: I felt the same way when I became a manager for the first time. I only got about a week’s worth of transition from the previous manager, so I worked late every day for several months just to keep track of everything. I was so stressed out, thinking that I couldn’t do the job and that I would get fired. Finally, in order to relieve the stress, I stopped worrying about getting fired and decided that if I got fired, I got fired. There wasn’t anything I could do about it because I was already doing my best and working really hard. I wasn’t going to quit, so there wasn’t anything to do but give up the worrying. Eventually, I was able to accomplish everything during normal workday hours; I didn’t get fired; and it turned out to be really enjoyable. I also enjoyed the challenge of doing something that was a stretch for me. I sure as h*ll wasn’t bored! I strongly agree with AAM that you should be clear with the potential employers about who you are and what you have accomplished, and let them decide if they want you for the job. If they do, then I think you should really consider giving it a shot.

    1. Pussyfooter*

      At least go to the interview and learn more before you decide.
      The first time I managed people, nothing went as planned so I assumed everyone was disappointed in me. But it turns out my boss and coworkers were impressed that I kept things running through all the impromptu craziness. I didn’t have anywhere near five years’ experience.

      What’s that quote I got from this blog? It amounted to: learn when stress is from a good cause, rather than a bad cause.
      Double check whether this is good stress or bad stress before you decide.

    2. Confused*

      I agree. Learn more, give it a try. Every job has a learning curve. If you are offered and accept the position, I suggest going in with a positive attitude. Don’t go in worried and afraid. I know it sounds a little silly, but make a conscious decision to be positive. I’ve surprised myself with what a difference it can make.

    3. Fee*


      I was really glad Allison mentioned imposter syndrome as that’s what I was thinking all through this email, especially when OP mentioned 5 1/2 years’ experience. If you’re presenting yourself honestly and they think you’re the right person for the job, then maybe you are.

      For what it’s worth, every single person I’ve ever known who worried that people see them as “the guy who doesn’t know what they’re doing”, knows what they’re doing. If you’re conscientious enough to be worrying about doing a good job before you’ve even got the job, you’re going to do a good job. In my experience those who are genuinely incompetent tend to be blissfully ignorant of that fact.

      1. Jamie*

        I totally had this with my first job in IT – I was practically trying to talk them out of hiring me because I didn’t feel qualified.

        I’m lousy on that side of the interview desk.

        But I took a lot of comfort in the fact that I was completely honest about where my skills were and it turns out they were honest about being cool with someone learning some stuff otj. It worked out really well…but I totally get the feeling. Heck, sometimes I still wonder how I ended up where I am because I’m always focused on the million things I don’t know rather than what I actually bring to the table.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I had it with this job. I seriously thought I would never get the hang of certain things, especially since I had no industry experience, and how the hell did my boss justify hiring me? It’s a lot better now. Stuff that was completely baffling is starting to make sense, and stuff I’m learning in school is directly relating to what I’m doing. I guess that means I’m on the right path….FWIW.

    4. Erin*

      I agree. OP, you sound like a thoughtful, hardworking, and honest young man. If you’ve represented your credentials honestly, trust the people doing the hiring to know what they need. This is a great opportunity for you. It might be tough in the beginning, but this is the only way to grow. Your concern about making sure the school has the services it needs is a great asset and it sounds like any employer would be lucky to have you.

    5. Zed*

      This! OP, be honest with yourself and with the interviewers. Represent yourself honestly – and that means not over- OR understating your skills and accomplishments – and let them evaluate you based on what they know they need.

      If you get to the interview and hear more about the job and you STILL feel unsure about your ability to perform the necessary tasks… well, ask. Ask if they will provide documentation, training, professional development, or whatever else you think you would need to develop your skills. Most administrators will respect someone who says, “I want to make sure the school’s ICT system runs efficiently from day one, even while I am settling in.”

      1. JP*

        I’m seriously going through this right now…I have a third interview with the VP on Wednesday for my dream job (yes, rip that apart as much as you want, but it’s literally everything I want from a job right now in my life). It’s for a web content producer job. I’m worried because I have absolutely everything they want, content-producing-wise, I’ve only ever worked on web stuff for fun. I pick it all up easily and have used many, many different softwares, but “web” has always been secondary to “content producing” for me. I have lots of experience with this division, being an internal candidate, and have a million different great ideas for how to grow this position and help expand their marketing efforts. I know that I can easily LEARN the web stuff that I don’t already know (which, by their own admission, is messed up and anyone who comes into it will need extensive training)…but I’m still terrified that I won’t live up to their expectations. I was actually incredibly happy to see this letter today because it’s exactly how I’m feeling now.

  3. Pussyfooter*

    OP 3,
    I do hope you get your “back pay.”
    I’m adding that I’d feel sheepish for not knowing my own income for so long. Maybe make a note to check it at tax time each year, from now on?

    1. WWWONKA*

      After 2 years you didn’t notice your pay even after you have not had a review? God luck with that one.

      1. wondering*

        If you recvd. your pay raise in writing, I think you have a case. Each year we get a statement % = so much more a year. And it doesn’t matter he didn’t notice, they didn’t pay it….and 3% isn’t one of those ” I can go and buy a new car” raises generally.

        1. Anonymous*

          I agree with this.

          It’s not clear if the OP was told that they would be getting a raise.

          In my experience pay rises are announced around the same time every year (and it sounds like that was the case here – receiving raise “on time”) so the general chatter in the office/shop floor always turned to finding out what the cost of living increase was going to be and paychecks after that announcement were the only ones anyone bothered looking at.

      2. SevenSixOne*

        At first I scoffed at being oblivious to a raise, but then I did the math.

        If the OP is earning $45,ooo and getting paid every other week, a 3% raise is only about $50 more gross pay per check. After taxes and other deductions, that may not make much difference in net pay.

    2. Lanya*

      I do hope you get your back pay. Having worked at a payroll company, I learned that it’s good to get in the habit of at least taking a quick peek at your check/check stub with every single pay, just to make sure you are getting the money you are owed and that it’s going where it’s supposed to go. Mistakes happen, and if you don’t speak up, your employer probably doesn’t even realize there is a mistake or exclusion.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I don’t think this was a mistake though — it doesn’t sound the OP was ever told she was getting a raise; she just assumed it because she had in previous years.

        1. Chinook*

          But if she had been checking her pay stub regularly and knew when she should have had a pay raise by, then it wouldn’t have taken 2 years to catch it. Atleast then she could have raised the question with her manager.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Agreed. My point is that she’s not owed back pay because there’s no indication that she was promised a raise that just never made it into her check; she wasn’t promised a raise at all.

            1. Fee*

              I’m not sure that this is quite the situation OP is describing, but I can see how it’s possible to expect a raise that hasn’t been overtly promised: if ‘raise’ means ‘increment’. When I first worked in the (non-US) public service we received annual incremental pay raises until we reached the top of our grade. Once there, we had to wait 3 and then 5 years for the next increment. For the first few years at least there was zero performance management, so the ‘review’ to get your raise was basically an email from your manager saying ‘Give X her annual raise’. I had to chase for this to be done a couple of times at least and when the 3-year one fell due you can bet I missed that for a while. It was a couple of months, not a couple of years, (and they did backdate) but I could see it having gone on that long if I hadn’t remembered. It was an absurd system for lots of reasons, but if this is how the OP’s organisation works I can (kind of) see how she’s peeved.

              1. Anna*

                Yeah, I read it as similar to how my company handled raises, based on what she said about reviews and percentages. Standard was 2%, above average was 3% and stellar was 4. If she went through the review process, even if her manager didn’t finish the paperwork, at some point her manager probably told her what her raise would be, so yeah, I think she did have a reasonable expectation of it. I think you may have missed the mark on this one, Alison.

                1. Anna*

                  Also, the best people to ask about this is either HR or payroll because they handle the input for pay increases after the paperwork has been finalized.

      2. Chinook*

        As someone who once saw DH’s pay get zeroed due to an administrative error based on a mistranslation, I second always checking your pay stubs to ensure you are getting what you are owed. No one cares as much about your money as you do and errors do happen.

      3. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        This. It’s the biggest piece of advice I give on the payroll side that isn’t followed: check your stubs, know what you get paid, what your benefits are, what you are paying for. It’s crazy to me that people don’t do this. It’s much easier and quicker to fix a one-time error than to back an error out over 3 quarters. Or to have to have a new W-2 issued because your SSN was wrong on your pay stubs for a year.

  4. Pussyfooter*

    Per #7’s question:
    Is it too pushy to ask an interviewer whether their company does reference checks before or after hire? I want to add this to my list of potential questions to ask interviewers (and things to be aware of when considering job offers).

      1. KellyK*

        That’s a pretty harsh assumption, honestly. Because if you do references after making an offer, that’s asking me to give notice before you’re really and truly sure you want me. I think that’s a reasonable thing for the candidate to know about.

        And you don’t have to be hiding a thing for that to be a concern. Even if I’ve done a fantastic job every place I’ve ever worked, what happens if one of my references blows you off because she’s really busy, and you decide you don’t want to hire based on that? Or you talk to a bunch of coworkers to get a fuller picture, and you talk to that guy who has me mixed up with the office’s *other* Kelly, or the one who dislikes me because I voted for the other guy and root against his football team? Or any number of mix-ups, mistakes, or whatever.

        Unfortunately, your view is probably common, and I wouldn’t ask the question. (I would, however, not give notice at the old job or a start date for the new until references were completed.)

      2. Pussyfooter*

        Wilton, I’m confused. How would this hide anything?

        I’m not withholding the references (I’m quite proud of what some people have to say about me, actually). I think it’s a bit looney, irrational, and unfairly risky to expect me to quit the security of ExistingJob when a potential employer has no intention of bothering with due diligence *before* my start date at the new place.

        If it’s an ok–not stellar– offer, AND the company had this policy, I might decline. Whereas, I’d be willing to take an ok offer that had a better chance of follow-through, and demonstrated better consideration for employees’ needs.

      3. Collarbone High*

        Thank you for the opportunity to quote a great Jack Handey joke: “In a job interview, I think a good thing to ask is if they press charges.”

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I wouldn’t ask it that way; it does look like you’re worried yours won’t be good. Instead, at the time of the offer, I’d ask whether there are any contingencies remaining, such as reference or background checks, and ask that they be cleared before you give notice.

      1. J*

        I have a related question. I really don’t like giving my references’ contact information up front, because I’d have to bother them with a reminder email about a phone call that may or may not come at some vague time in the future. I generally try to be careful with people’s contact information, and I value my relationship with my references. Is there a way to stall giving references until after an interview without looking sketchy in this way? I accept that this can take me out of the running for not following instructions, but I don’t want to give off the impression of being untrustworthy because I work in a small industry in a small town.

        1. some1*

          I wouldn’t provide references on a resume, but I think you are stuck providing them at whatever point the company asks for them. If you tell them you will only provide them at the offer stage, you risk looking like you have something to hide or being high-maintenance.

          It’s good practice to contact potential references at the beginning of a job search, to find out which phone number or email they want you to use, and let them know they may be contacted. If someone would be bothered by this basic business convention I don’t know why you want to use them as a reference. These should be people who want to help you succeed. Every time I’ve had my references checked, I always heard from my references and they were all telling me out of excitement.

          1. J*

            Well, I’m essentially asking for favours from busy people. It may partially be my own insecurity, because my references always tell me they’re happy to speak on my behalf, but you can burn out or fatigue people asking them for favours all the time. I developed good relationships with my references through work I did in the past, to maintain them in the future I need to be respectful of their time. I can’t usually build up more good will by doing additional work for them.

            I like to let them know specifically which companies may contact them and when so they’re prepared and can tailor their responses. Being able to estimate /when/ the phone call will happen with some accuracy also allows you to deal with logistics like vacation time.

            Additionally, when someone trusts you with their contact information, you’re supposed to give it out selectively. Would you give out your references to a blind job ad, for instance? That seems like way too high a risk of getting your references spammed. Maybe I’m willing to take on the risk of getting spammed myself, but I don’t want to assess that risk for people that I want to maintain a good relationship with.

            I do understand if there’s really no script to delay reference giving, and I have to vote with my feet. I’m just checking.

            1. Colette*

              I try to be selective with giving out my references contact info – I’ve explained that I don’t want to give it out until the company is ready to check the references, and I usually am assured they’re about to check and … they don’t.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            I would add, check with your references periodically throughout your job hunt, so they know they still could receive a call. You’ll also find out if they can’t continue being a reference for some reason (too busy; moving to Iceland) or if their contact information changes.

        2. NylaW*

          I don’t provide them on my resume. I just added a line that says references available upon request, and in the course of interviewing, when it comes up, I email them to the hiring manager.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Can you write that on a job application, Alison? Many companies still use apps with a section for that…would they throw it out if you say “Available upon request?”

              City/county/state/federal government apps are not included in this question, btw–I always fill out everything there. They WILL throw it out if it’s not exactly the way they want.

              1. Contessa*

                Thanks, that’s exactly the question I wanted to ask. I just filled out an online application for a state agency (I interned there before and one of the local supervisors is one of my references, so here’s hoping that pans out), and I agonized over the references section for a good 30 minutes before filling it out and submitting the application. The only red asterisks for “required” fields in that section were the first and last name of each reference, but I eventually concluded I was better off putting all of the information in now, since it’s highly unlikely anyone will be contacted without an interview, and (like you said) they may toss the application without the additional information.

              2. Mrs Addams*

                Surely the company is requesting the reference info on the app though, so writing “available upon request” seems a bit.. strange to me. It’s akin to my asking how much you’re selling your car for, only for you to tell me that you’ll give me the price on asking. I’m already asking, so please just tell me.

  5. Jessa*

    I think number 7 is outrageous. Especially since Alison is right, what if the person has quit their existing job and now doesn’t get the new one that they were just promised.

    1. Jessa*

      Sorry – entered before done system is weird tonight.

      Especially since they can TELL you “offer pending background check” or something so you know not to quit your “day job.”

        1. ADE*

          I’m OP #7–

          Glad Alison (one l, I think?) felt the same way I did- that something is really wrong with checking references after a hire. I think the company is good for my former intern, though, and will try not to judge the company for their HR practices.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Me too, but the dope test isn’t usually done until you accept the offer. I’m always terrified an error will occur, or a prescription will read wrong, and I hate avoiding poppyseed bagels/dressing while job hunting just in case.

      1. Twentymilehike*

        This happened to me and I was really in a tough spot. My offer letter had been signed and made official, but they don’t do their “background check” until after that. I put it in quotes because it was not at all what I expected a background check to me. They essentially confirmed that I wasn’t a liar: they called my old employers to confirm that I worked there and made sure I wasn’t a felon. When I initially expressed my concern about the background check being done at this time, after I had confirmed a start date, the HR rep assured me that unless I lied on my résumé I was fine. She told me that the poeple who fail, generally know ahead of time that they will. In the end they couldn’t even get in touch with one employer so I ended up just sending copies of a pay stub and that was that.

        Yes, it still feels a little like I took a chance, but in the end it really worked out fine. I guess my point is, it depends on what sort of “check” they are doing.

    2. Joey*

      Those employers that do this are typically just looking to verify what you stated on your résumé/app. That is, they’re usually just making sure you didn’t lie about your employment history, job duties, etc. So as long as you were truthful you probably have nothing to worry about. They’re typically not trying to get opinions on your performance, work ethic, strengths/weaknesses, etc.

      Chalk it up to hiring managers who feel like their assessment of you over the 1-2 hours of interaction thus far will be more accurate than someone who’s managed you for a long period of time.

  6. Allie*

    Not to sound money-grubbing, but how do you not notice for two years that you didn’t get that raise? And I thought I was absent minded…

    1. Loose Seal*

      I can think of a couple of reasons why OP might not have noticed:

      1. If you don’t have a very high salary (and I don’t know if OP does or not), 3% isn’t that much difference in your take-home pay each week and easy to overlook.

      2. If she works some overtime, the pay may be different every check anyway.

      3. She trusted the manager to do what the manager said — get her the raise. I used to think I could trust managers and was lucky that I got screwed over early in my career so I could watch out for things like this in the future. Now OP knows she has to keep an eye on this stuff and follow-up immediately.

      1. Gjest*

        I would argue that it would be more likely to not notice a difference if your pay is higher, not lower (the opposite of #1 on your list). When I was living paycheck to paycheck, I noticed if my paycheck was off by a couple of dollars, because that made the difference of whether it was ramen or real pasta for dinner.

        Now that my salary is much higher, I would be more likely to miss a 3% difference.

        1. A Bug!*

          I agree completely. The amount in question might be larger for a high earner, but for a low earner, the amount makes a much bigger difference in a person’s ability to make ends meet.

          (Ramen with an egg in it! True luxury!)

          1. QualityControlFreak*

            Soup and ramen. A complete meal (and enough sodium to last several lifetimes). But we lived on the stuff, back in the day. Thank heaven those days are over….

            1. Chinook*

              Canadian equivalent is Kraft Dinner macaroni and cheese. You know you are making the big money when you can buy the brand name version at full price rather than waiting for a sale or having to buy the no-name brand. for special occasions, you can even splurge on the “fancy” versions with white cheese or the ones made with caulifolower for your serving of vegetables.

              1. QualityControlFreak*

                Is it wrong that I still love both those things (ramen and Kraft Mac & Cheese)? But the sodium is bad for my bp.

                I really do love the stuff. Occasionally. I just like my diet to contain some form of actual food….

                1. Chinook*

                  What…flourescent orange sauce that is created from margarine (because who can afford butter), milk and powder isn’t considered “real food.”? But how could I live without it?

              2. Felicia*

                I love Kraft Dinner! I will love it no matter how much money I have. Though I prefer Wacky Mac, which is a brand just as cheap, and just as bad for you, but the noodles are weird shapes so it isnt really macaroni, but it still has the fluorescent orange cheese.

                I also really love ramen and if it wasn’t so bad for me, I’d eat it every day even if i didn’t have to

        2. Natalie*

          I don’t think Loose Seal was making a conclusion about the OP’s budget, but rather about the actual dollar amount a 3% raise would be per paycheck.

          A 3% raise on a $50,000 salary is only $57 per paycheck (assuming bi-weekly pay) and that’s before taxes, 401K draws, and so forth. Particularly if you sometimes work overtime or otherwise don’t have an exactly uniform paycheck, it’s going to be pretty easy to not notice $35-40 per check.

          1. Gjest*

            That’s really my point, though. When you make very little money, you notice any little bit that is missing. I would have totally noticed $35-40 on my paycheck when I was making around $50k (in an area with high cost of living). An extra $80 (2 paychecks) would have meant that I could easily afford my electricity bill versus worrying about not being able to. If you make enough that you don’t have to stress so badly over the electric bill, you might not notice that 3% extra.

            1. Loose Seal*

              Look, I’m not the best at math. Apparently, I got the relationship backwards even though I’ve never made more than $50K myself.

              But my point really was that there are a lot of reasons why someone might not realize they didn’t get a 3% raise, not to quibble about how much one has to make in order not to “feel” it. Sorry my poor math brain got in the way of the conversation.

              1. Pussyfooter*

                It’s ok seal. When I read your post, I just assumed you “said” it backwards. You made your points fine.

                Since OP has worked at the job 12 years and has multi managers/reviews, I assumed s/he was a salaried employee. *If* that’s the case, do paychecks go up and down with hours, or just stay the same each pay period? (per example #2)

                I’m sure OP is a reasonably intelligent person and that there are plenty of ways for someone to mistake their pay. I still think that not checking that the amount is correct for two whole years was a very silly error.

                (BTW, OP, maybe you could approach the situation like someone who just learned that their pay is below industry standard, and make a factual case to your employer that you are worth a merit raise.)

            2. Natalie*

              I suppose our experiences have probably been different – in my area and my particular stage of life (single, renting, no kids) I don’t consider $50K to be very little money. I make around that much and I don’t have to count my pennies so carefully that I would miss $80 a month. FWIW, I believe the median income in the US is around $50K per household.

              I do check my paystubs, but that’s a habit I developed when my company accidentally forgot to pay me for 4 days of vacation. That was noticeable!

        3. Kit M.*

          I’m very thrifty, but I couldn’t tell you exactly how much my paycheck is. I’ve set a budget that’s below how much I make, and that’s not going to change because my pay went up by less than 10%.

          I would likely notice if my pay got lower, though, because it would mess with my budget.

          1. Pussyfooter*

            I don’t remember my hourly wage (!) without double checking the stubs, but at tax time I make sure everything is what it ought to be.
            Do you have some kind of periodic check you do to make sure no human/computer errors have snuck in?

            1. Kit M.*

              I don’t check; I should. But I do look at my bank account frequently and I’m confident I’d notice if something was really screwy.

      2. tcookson*

        I don’t have a high salary (university admin assistant — need I say more?), and I notice the difference even when I get a 2% raise. It’s not that the raise is that much more on each paycheck, it’s that every little bit helps. Even just $20/month is an extra boost for the groceries or gas or a monthly payment — or even just to go out to lunch with coworkers a time or two.

        I always think it’s higher-paid people who don’t notice modest salary increases, because a change of $50 – 60 month doesn’t significantly change their comfort level.

      3. Mike C.*

        The overtime issue is what came to my mind. At my last job I had actually been given a small raise but I didn’t realize it because I was already working a bunch of overtime and no one had said anything.

        1. Twentymilehike*

          Your overtime rate is listed separately on yr pay stub … At least it should be. Maybe the OP works for a company that hand writes checks and doesn’t give out pay stubs. I’ve seen it happen …

          Honestly though, I check every single pay stub I get because when I worked for a small company it wasn’t uncommon for the bookkeeper to make mistakes. Plus I just like to see the breakdown. All those tax and deduction line items are individually entered in my check register.

      4. Colette*

        Did the manager say she was getting a raise, though? It sounds to me like the OP assumed that the raise would be in line with previous years (3%). I’m not sure that it was actually promised by anyone.

      5. Anonymous*

        A lot of people don’t look at their pay stubs or the company only lets you log in to look at them so they never do. 3% is nothing especially if OP have had 401 k changes, healthcare cost changes, and that tax thing that took out $11 for a bunch of people. Your pay has changed for a number of reasons that have nothing to do with raises, you may have thought it was a raise when it was a diff reason like i am mentioning here.

        1. Jamie*

          If someone works for a company that doesn’t even allow you to print your pay stubs I would say that’s a serious question for HR.

          It’s not unreasonable to want copies for your records…in fact I would be very wary of a company that didn’t want me to have this information.

          1. Anonymous*

            My last company made the switch to be a log in system so that you have access, but you have to log in to print them yourselves. Its not unreasonable to never log in, especially if you opt in to paperless.

            1. Chinook*

              My current company makes me log in to see my pay stubs and it is a pain in the butt. I did it the first few times and now monitor the direct deposit amount. If it changes from the norm (my last one was short $5), I will make the effort to check. But, I am still watching it like a hawk.

          2. ExceptionToTheRule*

            I remember having to cough up several months of pay stubs when I applied for a mortgage. I doubt the bank would have been forgiving if I’d have said “sorry my employer doesn’t give them too me.”

            1. Joey*

              Making available check stubs online usually qualifies. Usually the language is to “provide access” to a pay statement. Only a handful of states specifically require access to printed check stubs.

          3. anon..*

            I was recently let go from an office that did not give me a paystub the entire 7 months I worked there. I did get him to send me a financial statement but I see that he has my start date wrong by a few weeks. I wrote back to him to ask him to change it to the correct date and he is ignoring me . In addition to the incorrect numbers on my statement, I fear that when I have to use him as a reference (which I am loath to do for many reasons) that he will not confirm the real start date and I will look like I’m being dishonest. I’m not sure what I can do if he doesn’t respond. I haven’t applied for unemployment yet as I was waiting on correct numbers. I’m in NY.

      6. Lynn Whitehat*

        #4 if you change withholdings, health insurance selections, fitness rebate, or anything else at the same time, a 3% raise could easily get lost in the shuffle.

    2. Anonymous*

      Or, their pay stub, like mine, includes 10 different taxes and deductions – I kid ye not – their employer sends opaque communications not-explaining them, and tracking down someone who can in a large organization is a major undertaking.

      1. Yup*

        Exactly. Why am I $20 short? Oh, that’s the once-a-year township tax I always forget. What’s this extra $38.43? Half overtime, half reimbursement for office supplies. Where did $72 go?? Health care premium went up on August 3, because the plan year runs on a lunar cycle. I got a raise of 2%, why is only 1% showing up in my checking account? Duh, I forget to calculate the part of the increase that will automatically go to my 401k contribution.

        I’m sure there are people who manage this all just fine, but sometimes I wonder if you need to be a freaking actuary to track it correctly.

        1. Pussyfooter*

          I’ve only worked for lump sums and hourly. All my 20 years of hourly stubs from quite a range of employers list my “pay rate,”
          so regardless of whether the total amount paid to me is correct, I know what my wage is.
          Salaried pay stubs don’t give some equivalent?

      2. Natalie*

        Argh, this was so frustrating when I had domestic partner health and dental coming out of my check. Domestic partner insurance isn’t pre-tax, so they had to add the employer premium to my check, tax it, and then subtract the employer premium, and then subtract my premium. No one told me that would be happening so I panicked and thought I had gravely miscalculated how much the premium for my partner would be!

    3. Anonymously Anonymous*

      I thought the same thing because I track every penny. But maybe they didn’t realizes raises were being given at all or that performance reviews had been done over those last 2 years. Salary discussion are usually hush hush. My company does performance reviews annually and the topic of raises are usually always discussed but I suspect this may not be the case for all companies.

    4. Joey*

      Most people dont notice small changes in their Direct deposits especially when employers give electronic check stubs instead of paper ones.

      1. Judy*

        And at least in my case, the company doesn’t “give” electronic check stubs. The company makes available electronic check stubs on their intranet site. So I have recurring reminder set up in my calendar on the next work day after payday to log in through 3 levels of intranet portal to get the pdf of my paystub.

        1. Judy*

          When we had mailed confirmation of the direct deposit, it was mailed to home. Now with the electronic confirmation, I don’t have access at home unless I fire up my work laptop and VPN in. So I have to at least do the gathering at work, and then drop in on a thumb drive to take home and analyze.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I download mine every payday, although if I forget, it’s still up there. I don’t know how long they keep them available, however, so I try to get it every time.

          It was the same at Exjob when we went electronic. The original owners had resisted that because Ladyboss liked the personal touch of putting everybody’s paycheck into our hot little hands.

          1. Chinook*

            “The original owners had resisted that because Ladyboss liked the personal touch of putting everybody’s paycheck into our hot little hands”

            Could be worse,w hen I was in Japan the company was bragging about how they just started dong direct deposit. Before that, they were giving their employees actual cash for their pay cheque. Problem was that that we worked until 10 pm at night at the bank machines were not 24 hour (they closed when the bank closed), so the foreign staff lobbied hard to have it direct deposited and won.

            I still had to pay my monthly rent in cash, though. I was always paranoid about dropping a bill or losing my wallet on rent day.

          2. RJ*

            Ooh, this reminds me… my employer uses ADP, and they have everything available going back 3 years. My husband’s employer uses a different system and they don’t go back as far.

            We do our taxes online, and I always save the pdf of the returns naturally. But recently we needed a 2011 W2 for my husband, and we had to pay $15 for his employer’s contractor to retrieve it for us since I couldn’t find the paper version they had sent us that I used to file the electronic return. Now I try to remember not only to download and save the electronic files, but to also scan in any paper documents we get.

  7. Poster #1*

    Hi, poster number 1 here. Thanks for answering!

    For the past 6 months I’ve been emailing vendors who contact me, telling them that “X is the new manager for this activity” and CCing her. For 6 months I have been getting up to 6 emails per transaction, each more frantic, until I eventually would have to take action myself a day or two before delivery.

    A week ago I started CCing my manager, and lo and behold! The other manager confronted me today and we had a nuclear blow-out, which unfortunately focused on procedural issues such as me CCing our supervisor, me not communicating with her the way she’d like, and me not passing on messages to vendors on her behalf with good humour.

    I’m still feeling a bit bitter that in avoiding that task, my co-worker not only gave the work to me to do, but quadrupled it due to inefficiency! But ultimately, I am learning that I was trying to cooperate with an essentially unworkable situation and the responsibility ultimately lies with my manager. If he couldn’t bring himself to manage her, then he should have managed me by lowering his own expectations of the outcome.

    1. Anonymous*

      To Poster #1,
      My heart goes out to you.
      Why are you even doing the work? Why do you continue in picking up the slack?

      Here is something that I learnt along the way:
      >>getting up to 6 emails per transaction, each more frantic, until I eventually would have to take action myself a day or two before delivery
      Why would you “have” to take action?? Your action is todo nothing.
      Er… forward those “frantic” emails to your manager… and then leave it alone… let the manager handle the delivery.
      Then your manager will be forced to deal with that avoiding colleague.

      If your colleague goes nuclear again, then your answer is … “You do your Own work, you pass Your Own messages to vendor…” Repeat and repeat and repeat. Do not change your text, and do not engage. Both manager and colleague have got away with it because YOU were willing to pick up the slack. See what happens when you do Not pick up anymore.

      1. LW1*

        Thanks for the answer! The part of my job that got passed on to a colleague was dealing with groups and companies that made ‘in-kind’ donations of food.

        When we went through our down-sizing, we took a serious ‘hit’ in terms of our reputation and subsequent donor support, and if we allowed groups that contacted us with offers of food donations to languish and their donations to rot in a delivery van somewhere because we never contacted them about a delivery date, it could literally mean the end of our organisation and 60 jobs lost.

        However, between the time when I sent in the letter and when it was posted, I did actually start CCing our manager with the ‘frantic’ emails, and it did make a difference.

    2. Anonymously Anonymous*

      “A week ago I started CCing my manager, and lo and behold! The other manager confronted me today and we had a nuclear blow-out, which unfortunately focused on procedural issues such as me CCing our supervisor, me not communicating with her the way she’d like, and me not passing on messages to vendors on her behalf with good humour.”

      Ha! How funny of her. It seems now she understand you will not be doing her work for her. FWIW, I didn’t see anywhere that you tried to take the issue directly to her, before ccing your manager, but I wouldn’t be bothered too much because handling that part wasn’t your job anymore. You also state that you took action on her behalf a ‘day or two before delivery’. IMO, sometimes you gotta let her sink on her own. I would have had a chat with her first and then if everything still failed, then I would gracefully step back and let it go. Maybe this is why your manager said you were babying her–you are still taking ownership of this work even when it’s her responsibility.
      Also she could be struggling with the new assignment and need some guidance.

      “I am learning that I was trying to cooperate with an essentially unworkable situation and the responsibility ultimately lies with my manager. If he couldn’t bring himself to manage her, then he should have managed me by lowering his own expectations of the outcome”

      But you stepped in took action when it wasn’t your responsibility. He just see you willing to do your work plus hers. And he’s okay with that. Unfortunate but it happens. I hope she learned her lesson and now take on the responsibility. Good luck!

      1. LW1*

        Thanks a lot for your reply!

        It was clear during our ‘blow-out’ that she had felt I was remiss in not sitting her down and telling her that she wasn’t doing her job.

        But in our office two colleagues sitting down and discussing the deficiencies of one of them is discouraged, in favour of unsatisfied staff approaching the manager of the person who is remiss.

        I had brought up the issue several times to my manager, and he had done nothing. In fact, in the same conversation where he told me I was ‘babying’ her, he said, “Why didn’t you talk to me?”, and I answered, “I did! Several times over the past few months!” and his answer was, “I didn’t realise it was bad enough that I had to do anything about it.”

        She was faced every single day with ample evidence that she wasn’t doing her job. Every time I responded to a vendor who had never gotten a response from her, I CC’d her.

        I feel that I met all my obligations to her regarding supporting her in doing the new tasks she had acquired… it really isn’t my job to get any of my 60 colleagues to do their work, and these tasks were so far outside my new responsibilities that it wasn’t even that she was letting me down.

    3. anon*

      Were you shocked about how defensively she responded, especially in regards to the procedural issues? I would love to hear what she would consider to be a proper response to vendors in “good humor” and what her perception is of “good communication” between the two of you. I would bet it is from her POV things continuing as they were with no consequences for her come annual review time. As long as the essential tasks and communication was getting done without her having to do her job, she was happy. She probably didn’t care that it meant you had to do tasks that were not a part of your position description, all in the name of making sure the shit didn’t hit the fan and deadlines were met.

      Also, do you think that your CCing your mutual supervisor might have forced them to take some corrective action regarding her avoidance of her workload? Good luck in dealing with her and them and having the workflow redistributed to the proper individuals.

      1. LW1*

        Thanks for your reply!!

        I wouldn’t say I was shocked at her hostility, but at focusing on procedural issues yes. To me it just underscored how she was trying to rules-lawyer her way out of taking responsibility by making it all about how *I* had been the one causing the problems by dealing with her the wrong way, instead of focusing on the one simple fact that all the angst was caused by *her* inaction.

        CCing our manager was the *only* thing that worked, sadly.

  8. Chocolate Teapot*

    I tend to find that “good humour” negates itself when you are trying to pull in somebody else’s work. Especially if there shouldn’t be any need for you to be doing the pulling in.

  9. MJ of the West*

    On #7:

    I’m afraid I might need to disagree with Alison on this one. It sounds to me like this wasn’t a references check as much as it was part of a background check, which often happens after a hire decision is made (and an offer issued).

    The background check can include things like criminal history, credit report, and public filings. But it also often includes job history and education verification. It sounds like this was the nature of the call that the current employer received.

    1. ADE*

      I’ve gotten those kinds of calls before. Usually they’re name/title/dates/pay range and I’ll verify almost anything that sounds right :-D

      This was not a criminal background check, either, this was, “What are candidates strengths/weaknesses” and “would you recommend them for this kind of work?”

      They should have asked me before they hired her, and I could have given her all sorts of praise then!

      1. Brett*

        That’s almost exactly what we ask professional references for our background checks, except our second question is, “Do you know of anything in X’s background that would impact their ability to do work for our organization?” (We don’t disclose the job title.)

        And we normally have a question asking for two additional people who know the candidate -unless- you were one of the “two additional people” on another reference’s question sheet.

        We give a conditional offer before the check, which takes 6-16 weeks. But we do not allow the candidate to start working for us until the check is done. Since the offer must be accepted to start the check, I have seen people interpret this as a full offer and quit their current job, even though told not to. They can accept the offer without resigning their other job yet.

        That can get tricky though, because the current employer may find out about the background check. So, you have to figure out how up front to be with that employer. You are job seeking and planning to leave. But it might take 4 months, and you might not pass the background (I think pass rate is about 60%).

        1. KellyK*

          Wow, ouch. At least you’re up front with them that it’s not a real offer yet. (Please tell me you don’t contact their *current* employer.)

          1. De Minimis*

            Seems like the fed government is even worse, I didn’t even start to fill out the various background check paperwork until my first day on the job. The entire thing was not complete until I had been working a few months. Had they decided I was unsuitable, I could have lost my job at that point.

            They only did the most basic criminal record check prior to my getting a firm job offer.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              My ex bf is in federal law enforcement. Their background checks are insane (for good reason). He had to do all kinds of screenings, and then of course they have physical requirements for that job also.

            2. Collarbone High*

              The federal agency I worked for didn’t start the paperwork for my security clearance until I’d moved to Japan for the job, which struck me as utterly insane. What if I hadn’t passed? I guess they would have moved me back to the States?

              That same agency once discovered during an audit that it hadn’t performed required employment verifications on all the employees, so it just went ahead and did them all in one big push so the agency could check off boxes on a checklist. Some of us had been working there for five years, and they were just getting around to verifying our previous employment. I got a lot of puzzled phone calls from previous employers about that.

        2. ChristineSW*

          Wow…up to 4 months for a background check?? Unless it’s for the federal government, that seems like an awfully long time to keep the candidate hanging.

          1. Chinook*

            I know for some of DH’s security clearances, it would take up to a year for them to finish. In that time, he was working but wasn’t allowed in certain rooms or to do certain tasks until they were completed.

        3. Joey*

          6-16 weeks? What can possibly take 4 months to complete in a background check? In that amount of time I could personally fly to every city and have a sit down discussion with every manager he’s ever had and still have time to personally drive to the credit bureaus and background check places to obtain those reports. Heck by the time you start someone all of that stuff you did in the first month is already outdated.

          1. Brett*

            It’s not just a professional check. Typically 20-30 personal references are -interviewed- covering at least 10 years of the applicants life (roommates, co-workers, acquaintances, etc).

            Background checks go longer when something complicates them. For example, there is a question about illegal drug use. If you state that you do not use illegal drugs, then your college roommate discloses that you used to smoke pot, there is going to be a separate investigation by a police detective to determine whether or not you currently smoke pot. You might end up on an FBI polygraph if the position has police authority.

            The longer the check goes, the more likely you are to fail it.

            1. Arbynka*

              “Typically 20-30 personal references are -interviewed”

              What ? Your candidates have to provide 20 – 30 personal references ?

              1. Sophia*

                I think this depends on the type of government job, and what kind of security clearance that person needs. CIA, FBI, DOD – top secret clearance? Yep – probably 20+, but Department of Health, perhaps not as many

                1. Arbynka*

                  “If Brett is dealing with people that need security clearances, this isn’t unusual at all”

                  Wow. I don’t think I could ever get security clearance job. If I was asked to provide 30 personal references I would have to start pointing to my Facebook friends :)

                2. The IT Manager*

                  It’s not easy. the form is long and complex. You have to provide a different reference for everywhere you lived and worked in the past X years. Then you provide three personal, non-family references.

                3. Chinook*

                  “If I was asked to provide 30 personal references I would have to start pointing to my Facebook friends ”

                  Arbynka, they actually let you explain why you don’t have that many references and will even accept your neighbour who knows you in passing. DH had that issue because he was from a military family and moved a lot. He struggled to find someone who actually knew him his whole life that wasn’t related, but when they took all the information about him, they saw that these lack of references were logical.

              2. Jenna*

                They may not be asking for all those names. They may be asking the neighbors questions, and then asking the neighbors if there is anyone else that might know the applicant. Maybe.

              3. Brett*

                The candidate provides 10 personal references. Each personal reference is then asked to provide two additional personal references. If all ten provide two additional unique references, that brings you up to 30 total. Typically though there is some overlap in the extra references, so that’s how you end up with 20-30.
                This isn’t federal, but the positions involved do have access to law enforcement sensitive information.

                I think I have mentioned before that our application is 20 pages long, and nearly all of that is background check information (including signing over rights to get your last three years tax records from the IRS). Unfortunately this discourages applicants, but it has been even more of a disaster when people with background problems have slipped through in the past and then been discovered by the press.

                1. Brett*

                  I went back and checked the app process.
                  It’s 4 unrelated personal references, up to six immediate family references, up to 3 “department” references,and a manager and co-worker reference for each job in the last 10 years up to four total of each. There are also thirteen different criminal records checks.

                  So it could be as few as 6 and as many as 21 initial background references.

            2. The IT Manager*

              I think you must be referring to a governement background investigation for a security clearance. And I think the “10 years” means you’re talking about a Top Secret clearance.

              That’s not the same background check AAM is talking about.

              Security clearance investigations are a huge PITA. And very expensive for the tax payers. And they still determine people like Eric Snowden are trustworthy enough for a TS clearance.

              1. Chinook*

                That’s because Snowden never did anything to raise flags in the past. As the Canadian military recently found out the hard way, security clearances should be redone every few years so new issues, like large gambling debts and new friends who happen to work at the Russian embassy, can be disclosed and dealt with.

            3. Joey*

              I hope you work for the FBI or somewhere equivalent. And I’m curious, wouldn’t a drug screen disclose the same thing-whether you currently smoke pot?

              1. De Minimis*

                A lot of clerical jobs in the government require some level of clearance. I am lucky, I’m an accountant and only have to do Minimal Background Investigation, which is the lowest level–probably because although I have access to records and financial information, I don’t have actual custody of funds or goods. I think the purchasing agent and the shipping/receiving person may have to do a bit more than I do.
                But even then I was required to provide references for every address and job I’d held within the last so many years [seven if I remember correctly.]

                The HR person gets the most stringent investigation in our office, because they have access to so much confidential information. I don’t know about the healthcare providers where I work, a lot of their background check may be done through their licensing board.

                1. De Minimis*

                  Oh, and I also had to do an interview with an investigator that came to my work. It was basically to follow up on anything else they wanted to know. It was kind of stressful, even though the guy was nice—he definitely had that “cop vibe.”

            4. Chinook*

              “The longer the check goes, the more likely you are to fail it.”

              I think it would be better to say that it is harder to hide something, not fail it. I don’t know what it is like in the US, but with Canada they are looking for information of not only current illegal activities but areas where you would be vulnerable to blackmail or coercion. So, you may no longer smoke pot but, if you did it when you were in high school, your old buddy could threaten to tell your boss about it if you don’t do X. But, if your boss already knows about it, then it isn’t a threat.

              As for the time thing, I was part of the reason DH’s security check took a year because they also checked out me and my family (this was for NATO clearance). My dad is an immigrant and I lived abroad, so they had to verify things with other countries, which just multiplies the delays. Add to that the fact that the people doing these checks are doing them for multiple people at once and playing phone tag with nmost of these references, and I can fully understand the delay.

        4. ADE*

          OP #7-

          The HR told me she was starting that Monday. Email came to me a Thursday or Friday before she was scheduled to begin. *facepalms*

          1. Brett*

            That is bad. Hopefully you are just one of the last people in a chain of references and they already know she will probably pass. Still sounds like they clearly gave her a final offer before completing the check.

    2. Anon*

      It could also have been a situation where the employee (candidate) requested that her most recent employer not be contacted before an offer was made. It happens. Often, in this case, the offer is contingent on receiving a positive reference. The OP would not necessarily know these were the circumstances.

    3. edj3*

      My current employer does this as well. They’re clear it’s a conditional offer and contingent on passing the drug screen and background check.

      Since accepting this job involved a cross country move, I didn’t book anything or buy a single packing box until both the screen and background check came back clear. I knew I was OK but I have a very common last name and mistakes happen.

      I ended up planning and executing that move in about five days and two of those days were spent driving across the country. But if something had happened, and I hadn’t got the job I didn’t want to have spent the money on moving stuff and finding a place to live in the new location for nothing.

        1. edj3*

          In my situation, I’d been RIF’d so that wasn’t a consideration. However if I’d been employed, I would have told the hiring recruiter that I would be available to start X weeks after clearing all contingencies.

  10. WWWONKA*

    #6 Why are people so afraid to ask these questions of their manager or HR department? What’s the big deal?

    1. College Career Counselor*

      Because they don’t necessarily trust the manager or the HR department to act in the legal (or “fair,” if we must) manner. They’re asking for a 3rd party objective/neutral opinion so they know what to expect. Because HR and the manager do not act in the individual’s best interest, especially if that employee is getting ready to leave the organization.

      1. Joey*

        Personally, Id ask HR this question. They’re the ones who know the law and that adhering to it is cheaper than a wage claim through DOL or the state.

  11. Ann Furthermore*

    #3: Sorry, I just don’t have much sympathy for anyone who is so oblivious that it takes 2 years to tumble to the fact that they didn’t get the raise they were expecting. You are responsible for reviewing your paycheck and if you see an issue, it’s on you to address it. There are easy ways to make sure it’s correct, like dividing the gross pay by the hours in the pay period. If you’re eligible for overtime then it’s a 2 step calculation, but still quite simple.

    1. Brandy*

      Have to agree here. I’d be pretty surprised if someone came to me looking for 2 years of back pay all of a sudden. Unless, of course, it was something like, “I had assumed the change in paycheck was due to changes in my retirement contribution/HSA/medical benefits, but I spoke to HR who confirmed the change was actually due to a lack of annual increase….”

      Even then…two years? I check my paycheck every week to make sure the number is right!!

      1. Anonymous*

        My first paycheck at CurrentJob, which included a substantial hiring bonus, was delayed because of a direct deposit error and I forgot to verify its deposit for a week. This meant that I had to resolve the error 36 hours before leaving for a remote mountain research site overseas; meanwhile, most of Accounting was on vacation. Ever since then, I’ve balanced my checkbook every weekend.

    2. The IT Manager*

      Yes, #3. If you didn’t notice the missing raise for two years, I do not understand how that money can be that critical to to well being. Plus is sounds like you didn’t actually get a raise. You expected one, but without a performance review you were not even eligable for one. You also didn’t notice that your old manager had not reviewed your performance reviews with you for two years. You have my sympathy; I actually understand how this can happen, but I don’t think you have any leg to stand on to demand “back pay.” You aren’t owed anything from what I can tell.

      This is am example of a “stupidity tax” or “procrastination tax.” It’s a somewhat harsh term but I’ve found it accurate and I applied it to stupid things I’ve done that cost me money. Learn from this mistake to pay closer attention to your pay from now on especially when you are expecting a raise.

      1. themmases*

        I love that term! And seeing it used here reminded me that there is an expensive issue that I’ve been putting off looking into, too… Checked it out and found the problem in 5 minutes, dashed off an email in 5 more. I too have paid the “stupidity tax” a few too many times and seeing it put that way is actually really great.

        As an aside, any time there is something like that that I’m not looking forward to dealing with, I always pretend that it’s work. I would never put off a work email or returning a call from a coworker as long as I’ve put off my own personal stuff. Once I started pretending that the person at the cable company or the admissions officer (or whoever) is my counterpart in another department, it became really easy to respond to it all right away.

    3. NylaW*

      I deal with HR issues and sometimes payroll and we’ve had this situation several times. I feel no sympathy for people who don’t notice that their pay rate or other items on their paychecks are wrong. Maybe one or two pay periods, especially if you work overtime or have extra/special deductions coming out, but multiple months or years? Yeah, no.

      Retro pay really depends on your organization’s policies for raises and payroll changes. Our performance reviews and subsequent raises/COLAs have a universal effective date and regardless of when the evaluations are completed and signed off, the pay change is effective on that date and if not entered timely, is always retroactive.

      1. Joey*

        Oh c’mon Nyla,
        Surely you know there are hard working people out there who no matter how many times you explain it can’t understand the details of or how most things are computed on a paycheck stub. How many people would notice a small error in the computation of FUTA, SUTA, or SS taxes?

        Heck, lots of people forget when exactly the pay periods begin and end.

        1. NylaW*

          Not sure if you’re being sarcastic, but yes, I do know this, most of us know this. And sadly those people continue to be employed and we continue to have to hand hold them through basic things.

          1. A Teacher*

            So its sad that a lot of us are employed and a lot of us don’t notice minor errors–when are paychecks are consistently not the same pay–in things like FUTA and SUTA? I think that’s kind of judgmental.

            I know the range of my pay but it varies on paycheck to paycheck for a whole host of factors. We also have to log into an intranet to see the check stub, which is a pain but that’s a separate issue.

            1. Ann Furthermore*

              True, but still, if you start with your gross pay, divided by the number of hours in the pay period, that rate should not change. What gets deducted may certainly vary paycheck to paycheck, but the gross pay should be static (excluding overtime pay).

          2. Natalie*

            There may be many basic things in life, but you may be the only person who thinks that includes the US tax code.

            Unless you are working with CPAs, I think you are setting yourself up for never-ending disappointment if you expect everyone to be able to tell if a minor error has been made to their withholding. If they don’t know the parameters, how on earth are they supposed to even recognize when those parameters are being broken?

        2. Forrest*

          Ignorance isn’t an excuse.

          And no one’s expecting #3 to know the details of how things happen. We’re just expecting #3 to have picked up on this at least a year and a half ago.

          On my paycheck, it says my hourly rate breakdown even thought I’m salaried. I’m sure not everyone’s paycheck is broken down like mine like that, but I would notice if it wasn’t changing and I know nothing about taxes, paychecks, etc.

          1. Joey*

            You’re right it’s not an excuse. But, neither is it an excuse to say “too bad, you should have noticed you didn’t get your raise so we’re not going to make it right.” Because if a company accidentally overpaid you chances are they wouldn’t say “our bad, we should have noticed.” Chances are they’d say you need to repay or they’d fire you.

            1. Forrest*

              Ah, but we don’t know if the OP got a raise to begin with. All we know is he didn’t ask about it for two years.

              If someone did everything correct and still didn’t get their raised when promised, that’s one thing. And even then, I can’t image justifying how you didn’t notice after two years.

              Companies aren’t here to baby their employees in regards to paychecks anymore than they are in any other areas of work.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Exactly. My reading of the letter is that the OP wasn’t told she was getting a raise; she just assumed it would happen on its own since it had in previous years. If she was told she was getting a raise those years, my answer would be different — but it doesn’t sound like that happened.

                1. Joey*

                  Eh, you don’t have to be specifically told for it to be an expectation. For example if everyone else in the company got at least 3% then to me that’s on the employer. Especially if they’re handed out year after year after year. I know we don’t know that’s the case for sure, but that’s what I’m inferring when someone gets the same amount for that long.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  But what if no one got raises that year because of a salary freeze? Or even if not. I think it’s on her to ask — or at least to not expect back pay if she doesn’t ask.

    4. The Other Dawn*

      I agree with this. It’s your paycheck. It’s up to you to check and make sure it’s accurate. And if OP didn’t get a review for two years, why wouldn’t he/she say something?

  12. Anonymously Anonymous*


    I’m wondering if it would make a difference if a raise was tied to having a particular certification or degree. So let’s say the company had a pay structure for levels of certification or degrees held, would that person have the right to back pay. For example they achieved the level at the beginning of the year was told that a raise wasn’t in the budget, then later in the year the budget gets approved along with raises, the then person get the raise but no word is mentioned about retroactive pay. Never mind, I think I answered my own question. Gotta love frozen budgets.

    1. Brett*

      This is really common for teachers, and unfortunately the answer is often not just “no back pay” but “no pay bump, ever” if you get your degree during a pay freeze.

      1. KellyK*

        Wow, that’s a shame. The school district where I taught did retroactively give me a pay bump, though the situation was slightly different. Pay was frozen because the contract was still in negotiation, so I didn’t get my “step” during year 2. They sent me a check for the amount even though I had stopped working there. (I’m guessing that’s *really* not the norm.)

      2. AP*

        I’m envisioning a horde of teachers waiting at the edge of the platform to accept their degrees but holding back until the end of the pay freeze is officially announced! (And then they all run across the stage together.)

        1. Anonymously Anonymous*

          I did it kinda. I needed a CDA credentials for my position but I was on track to complete my degree in Human Services, I chose not to complete the fast track CDA credential courses offered by my company because 1)I didn’t want to derail my degree plan 2) the bump in pay was less then what I would get with my degree plus the 12 credit CDA. I plugged away taking 1-2 classes a semester and then got a bigger bump in my pay. And from what I understood some only got the raise to the next whole dollar. Where I achieved mine during a ‘good budget’ year and got the bigger raise. I guess I careful thought, timing and luck was on my side.

  13. Daisy*

    5. I agree with AAM that you shouldn’t say you’re looking, but I also think your given reason is a bit off anyway- to say you need a job with flexibility when your supervisor has just agreed to your flexible schedule. He’s asking for one day, and you haven’t even bothered to reply to see if there’s any way round that.
    (Frankly I’ve never known a working parent who personally picked their children up at the time school lets out every single day anyway. These hours sound pretty decent).

    1. IndieGir*

      I have to agree — that really rubbed me the wrong way. It sounds like OP’s manager is really very reasonable and understanding, but needs her there for a meeting which cannot be rescheduled because it involves outsiders. If I were the manager, I’d be irritated that I am being flexible 9 out of 10 days, and you can’t even give me 15 minutes on that one day every other week. If there really is no work around, OP best move on to another company.

    2. Anonymous*

      I agree, the manager seems to be really reasonable. Yes it’s fine except for 2 times a month because we have a meeting he wants everyone to be at? And it doesn’t even sound like if something came up that was an emergency every couple months it would be that big of a deal.

      If this is the worst part of the OP’s job here I’d be doing the happy dance in the street. Seriously.

      1. Colette*

        Agreed – frankly, the statement “It’s been difficult relying on other people to pick up my children and I simply do not want to go through the stress.” is a little off. If she has been relying on other people to pick up the children, she should be able to make arrangements for the children twice a month – paid care, after school programs, hanging out with friends. It’s not an unreasonable request from her manager.

        1. Heather*

          Yeah, I understand that it can be difficult to juggle a job and raising kids, but that’s a price you agree to pay when you decide to become a parent.

        2. fposte*

          I would also suggest she scope out future employers very thoroughly before she jumps ship–many of them wouldn’t be able to offer even this degree of flexibility.

          1. Colette*

            Yeah, I’d have reservations about hiring someone who expects the business needs to adjust for her childcare issues. There may be some roles where that would work, but in many it wouldn’t be possible.

        3. Forrest*

          I really wanted AAM to say “I get it. You have kids you have to pick up.” But she’s far nicer than me.

        4. Ethyl*

          I think what’s really rubbing me the wrong way is “I simply do not want to…” It’s one thing if plan after plan has fallen through and you really don’t know anyone else in the area who can help you and the school has no programs and you’ve tried EVERYthing and you just really need to be there. But just not wanting to…… Yeah, no.

          1. fposte*

            To be fair, she was saying that about the level of stress, not staying at work itself. But it does sound to me like her other frustrations with the job have affected her view of this particular question and that she doesn’t hear that this is actually quite a strong challenge to a very reasonable limit to flexibility.

            1. Ethyl*

              Oh no I get that, but I guess what I’m objecting to is that she said basically that she “simply did not want to” do what would be required to attend this meeting. That’s what I was objecting to — and I have no disagreement at all about your interpretation!

    3. Ivy*

      Agree. OP 5, you say you don’t like the job, but while you hold it you owe them making the effort to find mutual ground. Have you suggested that you work later that day from home to finish the work for the community meeting? Or coming in early that day or the following day? Or on the personal side, arranging a permanent switch with another mother – you do the pick up with her kid(s) one day, she does Thursdays for you.
      You may have done all this and some, or it may not be feasibly. Just saying that from your post it seems you want to work 15 min less every day and it’s OK-ed with a single exception request that sounds reasonable.

    4. Ann Furthermore*

      I agree. The manager has been quite accommodating. 15 minutes every other week is really not asking much in exchange for letting the OP flex her schedule.

      I get that childcare/school/pickup/drop-off can be a real house of cards, but just from the way the OP’s letter was worded it doesn’t sound like she made much of an effort.

  14. AdAgencyChick*

    OP 1, I’d couple Alison’s advice of consistently reminding those who contact you about Jane’s job duties to contact Jane, with a hefty dose of “If I do X, I won’t have time for Y” with your manager. “Wakeen, I keep getting calls from suppliers, and it’s interfering with my ability to do [insert one of your new job duties here]. What can we do about this?” This forces your boss to either tell you to do your old job and assign your new duties somewhere else, or find someone else (whether it’s your slacker coworker, someone else on your team who’s willing to be a doormat, or doing it himself). Of course, an unreasonable boss might say, “You should do both of those things,” but keep repeating “Unfortunately there aren’t enough hours in the day to do X on top of A, B, and C — how can we reprioritize?”

    1. Rebecca*

      And to this question ( I tried this), my boss just waves her arm and says “it all has to be done, so find a way”. She subscribes to the Captain Picard method of management. “Number One, make it so”.

      We also have one of those people in our office, consistently low performing, lots of mistakes, goofs off, etc. but since she’s our manager’s friend, she gets a pass. The latest pass? Manager assigned someone to sit with low performer to monitor her while she works on certain projects. Why? So if low performer makes a mistake, she can be quick to point out that the person watching missed it too. It’s no fun working in a grade school classroom environment.

        1. Chinook*

          Your right – Cpt. Picard would just assign the slacker a red shirt and let nature take care of itself.

  15. Brett*

    In defense of #3.
    Payroll taxes went down two years, making lots of people think they got a raise. The ATRA went into effect least year, making some people think they got a pay raise. Many states cut their income taxes last year during a wave of “competitiveness”, particularly in the Midwest, making lots of people think they got a raise.
    So basically, income and payroll taxes have been chaotic enough over the last two years that if you expected a pay raise at the start of the year it would be difficult to figure out your raise just looking at take home pay.

    Of course, #3 could have looked at gross pay, but if your take home pay went up, you probably assume that was your raise.

    1. ExceptionToTheRule*

      This is very true – taxes have been up & down and all over the place the past couple of years but if you’re an hourly employee, I would still suggest you look at your pay stub every pay period to verify that your hours and deductions are correct. Mistakes do happen.

      Calculating your base hourly pay is as simple as dividing the number of hours into the gross pay and if you don’t know what your base hourly rate should be, you need to be asking.

      And if you don’t understand all of the deductions being taken from your check, you should be asking until you get answers you understand.

  16. BCW*

    #2 What you don’t make clear is WHY your manager isn’t ever in the office, and that makes a big difference. Depending on the field and role, for some jobs it makes more sense for the manager to be at meetings, lunches, or travelling. Now if he just works from home everyday for no reason, thats a bit different. But as Alison said, is it affecting your work or are you just tattling on him because you aren’t a fan of his schedule?

  17. Jubilance*

    #2 – don’t tattle. If the topic comes up, share that your boss’s absences make it difficult to reach him and complete your work. That’s it. Anything more will seem like you’re just trying to get your boss in trouble.

    #3 – here’s a tidbit of advice that I got when I started my career: YOU own your career, not anyone else. You have to stay diligent about reviews, raises, promotions, training, etc because its YOUR career. If you don’t own and manage it, no one else will. Yes your manager dropped the ball on not doing your reviews, but so did you in not reminding him and continuing to ask to be reviewed. And you should want to have a review, and review it with your manager, not just to know what he thinks but also for your own development. How can you grow and learn if you never get that feedback?

  18. EM*

    #5 — All I can say is I’d be really cranky if I found out a co-worker was able to consistently get out of a company/department-wide meeting just because they had kids. Your kids are not the responsibility of your employer. I’d say your manager is being quite reasonable with flexibility and you need to work something out.

    1. Sophia*


      Asking for 2 days every month seems more than reasonable to me. Just because you have kids doesn’t mean your time is more valuable than anyone else’s

    2. Ann Furthermore*

      I agree. The OP is lucky that her manager is accommodating her need to flex her schedule, there are plenty of jerks out there who wouldn’t.

      In that situation, I wouldn’t be peeved if the person had truly exhausted every other possible alternative, and had no choice but to be excused from the standing meeting. But that doesn’t sound like the case here.

  19. ali*

    I once had to provide letters of reference after I’d already started working in the job. My manager said it was “we just have to have them on file”. I guess they wanted to make sure it looked like they’d done their due diligence.

    (I did get the job through networking, and several members of the hiring committee had worked with my parents who both have stellar reputations, so they did trust me. Small university where everybody knows everybody, I couldn’t avoid interviewing with people who knew them.)

  20. Audiophile*

    I had a company check references after I was offered and had begun working my new job. Thankfully, no one gave me a bad reference. If fact, I’ve often wondered if this company received any references for me at all.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I’ve wondered if some companies even bother. In the past, I’ve spoken to my references after I got jobs and they have told me no one EVER called them. I figured the hiring manager just called the companies and spoke to whoever answered the phone.

      1. Audiophile*

        Yeah it was strange. They asked for information for references, sent out a form to be filled out, but didn’t hold off on having me start while they waited for those forms to come back. Equally as strange, this company did not ask me to be fingerprinted even though the job involved working directly with children.

  21. NewJobRisin'*

    Regarding #5, I just gave notice to my boss. I waited until they gave me an offer and I decided to accept it. My boss called me sneaky for not telling him sooner and had some choice words about my character. I thought to myself, wow, this is a prudent thing people choose to do – and it IS a choice I get to make for myself – and yet another reason on top of the huge pile of reasons why I’m leaving. Can you imagine what would have happened if I’d td him sooner? Goodbye, crazy egomaniac boss.

  22. Ruffingit*

    #5: Almost never are you going to get the desired result by telling your boss that the inflexibility of your schedule has caused you to job hunt. Unless your desired result is to have A LOT of job hunting time since you’ve now been fired.

  23. LW1*

    Hi all:

    I’m LW1, and I wanted to thank everyone for your comments and give an update. My issue did not receive a resounding, satisfying resolution, however the ‘new’ status quo is much more tolerable.

    AFTER the big blow-up that I believe I mentioned in the comments, my colleague kept pressing, and the ‘climax’ of our conflict came a few days before a major event, where she made one last-ditch, very public attempt to offload a specific job back onto me, via inventing a very wily way to make it seem like it was really my responsibility and confronting me aggressively right in the middle of a busy corridor in front of our manager’s office.

    I realised that one of this person’s tools for offloading work is to make a general statement, “X needs to be done, right?” And taking any affirmative response as an offer to take responsibility for X.

    I had therefore adopted the blanket response of, “Well I’m sure you’ll figure it out,” or a non-sarcastic, “Good luck with that,” instead of anything that she would be able to use to offload responsibility.

    In her heated state, getting that response in public REALLY got her going, and she pushed back with several escalatingly-hostile attempts to wedge the task into mya bailiwick, and finally threw up her hands and marched off in a snit.

    She figured out a way to get the job done herself, and she has been completely docile since.

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