my staff keeps going to their old manager, horrible time-keeping rules, and more

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

1. My employees keep going to their old manager, rather than coming to me

The person who formerly held my position was promoted and works right down the hall from me and the three people I supervise. Rather than come to me, the people I supervise go to their former supervisor with problems and questions. If she tells them something, they will do it, even if I say something different. I have been here almost two years now and this has gotten very irritating. What do I do?

Um, manage? You tell your employees that they need to stop going to the old manager with problems and questions and to come to you before taking assignments from her, effective immediately, and then you create consequences if they continue. The first consequence might be a serious conversation about why they’re disregarding your instructions, the second might be a more serious conversation (“I’m concerned that this is continuing, and it’s becoming a serious problem that could affect your job here”), and the third might be a final warning that if they aren’t able to work with you as their manager, you will replace them. And then you’d really need to follow through — if this staff can’t see you as their manager, you need to replace them with a staff who does.

You should also talk to the old manager and tell her clearly to send them back to you when they come to her, and not to assign them work rather than going through you. Also, make sure you  do some soul-searching to see if your own behavior has played any role here — are you as able to help with their questions as she is? Do you delegate as well as she does? Are you accessible? If not, that’s something to work on too.

2. My employees expect me to cover the shifts they don’t want

I manage a new bookings department in my family business. I’m a young manager in my early 30s and I’ve included my working hours in the new roster to help the new staff with the workload. But I’ve noticed that some of the new staff expect me to work the shifts that they don’t want to work, such as Saturday shifts. I think the reason for this is that it’s my business and people in general think that it’s normal for managers to work more hours than the average employee. However, that means I’m working in some cases six shifts a week. Is it worth hiring a new staff member to do my work so the current staff don’t rely on me and I can then just manage? Or should I worry about the staff not wanting to work the shifts that they should be working?

I think you’re coming at this backwards — you’re working too many shifts because you haven’t created clear expectations or communicated well with your employees.

Figure out what shifts you need covered. Find out what shifts your employees can work. See where the gaps are. From there, figure out whether you need to hire a new employee (and whether you can afford to) or whether you need to tell your employees that being available for certain shifts is mandatory (which is not unreasonable to do, particularly if they were told when you hired them that Saturday shifts could be part of the deal — although you also want to balance this with making sure that you don’t lose a great employee who just can’t work weekends).

3. I want to be exempt and escape my employer’s ridiculous time-keeping rules

I’ve worked for nine years for a large manufacturer as an assistant buyer, but labeled non-exempt. I’m in an office surrounded by exempt employees. If I clock in 1 minute late, I get a point. 10 points in a 1-year period, you’re fired. My exempt coworkers come and go as they please. One new upper-level employee (9 months) has only been to work 60% of the time. I’m rarely late, but there are days I would like to come in half an hour early or stay half an hour late to get work done or to make up for any lost time. “No.”

If I do not give a 2-day notice for a doctor’s appointment, dentist, etc., I get a point and lose a half-day vacation, which means that if suddenly ill, you cannot go to a doctor during working hours.

I make over $40,000/year, receive bonuses depending on profits, 1-1/2 times for overtime. I do not manage anyone, but 80% of my day is spent ordering chemicals, corrugate (cardboard for shipping the finished product), labels, reviewing and approving art work for the labels to be printed, and ordering labels, pallets, containers, down to mops, gloves, and toilet paper. HR insist I do not qualify to be exempt.

Yesterday was the ultimate insult to an employee who works in the plant. He was shot in the leg by a random shooting (wrong place, wrong time). The police caught the person responsible. The prosecutor subpoenaed him to be at court the next day to testify. This employee gave the information to the HR Department. You can guess it. He did not give a 2-day notice and he was docked a point and a half-day vacation.

They’re not required to treat you as exempt, whether or not you qualify, if they prefer to treat you as non-exempt and pay you overtime. The requirement is only in the other direction — they can’t treat you exempt when you are non-exempt.

In any case, your employer clearly sucks for how they manage people’s time, but these are apparently the terms of your employment there. You can accept the whole package, or you can decide it’s not for you and go elsewhere (and you should — they suck and you’ve been there nine years; it’s time to move on). But it doesn’t sound like you can change the way they operate.

4. Taking a day for bereavement right after starting a new job

I recently relocated from Texas to Massachusetts to start a new job that begins on Tuesday. A friend who has had stage IV breast cancer just passed away today, and while I do not yet have details on her memorial service, I am hoping to attend. I know that my institution only provides bereavement leave for family members who have passed, but my vacation days start right away. Will it look “bad” if I take a day off to attend my friend’s funeral (depending on when it is held and what airline tickets are available)? I feel that if my new employers are upset that I go, that says more about them than it does about me, but I would appreciate a manager’s perspective.

I’m sorry about your friend!

Explain the situation to your new manager and ask if you can either use a vacation day or take unpaid leave to attend. You might not have any accrued leave yet, but if they won’t allow you to take even a single day unpaid, I agree with you that it will say something about them.

5. My manager shared my resignation letter with others

I handed in a two-week notice letter of resignation in a personal and confidential envelope. After my meeting, the director who I reported to shared the letter with other subordinates. After inquiring with HR about my confidentiality rights, I was informed by director that I didn’t have to work until my resignation date and could leave at lunch with pay. While the being paid part was nice, I felt very sad and disappointed. HR never followed up with me. Were my rights violated?

No. There are no “confidentiality rights” that would prevent your manager from sharing your resignation letter with others. (Also, what was in this letter that made it worth sharing? The only thing a resignation letter needs to contain — if you even write one at all — is one or two sentences explaining that you’re resigning and what date you’ll be leaving.)

6. Should I go back to the place I worked for 26 years?

I voluntarily left my prior employer after working there for 26 years. I was looking for a change and was having some disagreements with my manager. She has recently left the company. I took a job in a similar position 9 months ago, but I am not happy working there. My prior position is now open at my former employer — in fact, they have been unsuccessful in filling it. Should I reapply?

Well, you shouldn’t just apply like a stranger would. You know these people, so you should reach out to them and ask informally about whether they’d be interested in talking to you about coming back.

That said … if you were there for 26 years and you go back after the job you left for didn’t work out, if you ever apply for other jobs at other companies in the future, you’re likely going to face some skepticism about whether you’ll thrive anywhere else. The 26 years would raise some of those questions on its own, but returning will strengthen them. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, but you should be aware that it’s going to cause some questions when you’re job-searching in the future.

7. I don’t like how close my coworker’s salary is to mine

I’ve been working for a company for nine years, have huge responsibility, and receive no assistance. A coworker of mine has been there five years, with a third of the responsibility and a full-time assistant, and is earning only 5% less than me. My responsibilities have increased significantly over the years, while she is performing the exact same duties as when she started.

I don’t ask for pay increases every single year because some years I have received without needing to, but I usually ask if one isn’t going to be given. I have voiced my concerns in the past and have used my education, knowledge of industry, and efficiency in order to compare to her and received a very small increase. I have the advantage of seeing the accounting records and it’s obvious from recent transactions that favoritism is present within the corporation. Her husband is very close friends with the owner. Could this be the reason I am earning only 5% more than her?

Sure it could. It could also be that she negotiated better when she was hired and/or for raises, or that they value her work more than they do yours, or that the work she does has a higher market rate than yours does, or that your assessment of your own work versus hers is off-base.

Would you be satisfied with your salary if you didn’t know hers (which frankly isn’t really your business)? If not, then go make the case for why you deserve more. But arguing for a raise based on what someone else gets is usually a weak argument.

{ 122 comments… read them below }

  1. Jane

    #1) I’ve done exactly what you’ve described, I recently was moved to another department and put under a new manager (someone not new to the company). There are a few reasons I continued to rely on my old manager so you may want to look at your behavior and see if you’re doing any of these:

    * My old manager was very easy to talk to. On our first 1 on 1 we had an in-depth discussion about my career goals, what I needed to do, what he could do, etc. So from the first meeting, we were on the same page. My new manager however wasn’t as easy to talk to. He didn’t seem to pay much attention (didn’t take any notes), didn’t follow up when we emailed and he was tucked away in an office which made him removed from any work that I did.

    * Old manager would have our 1 on 1 meetings in an average meeting room, desk between us. The new manger would have our 1 on 1s in his office which had no desk between us. For some reason that environment made me very uncomfortable and exposed.

    * Old manager had regular contact with his team members (regular stand up meetings, chat channels), this meant that if I had a question about my day to day work, I could go to him. My new manager had almost no contact with his team, I might as well have reported to someone in another city, it felt the same.

    Long story short, make sure you are accessible, approachable, involved, and providing a neutral environment when you have 1 on 1 talks with them. Also taking into account that from an employee perspective, trying to tell your manager how to manage is sometimes very intimidating, YOU need to be the one to bring up the discussion and find out why and what you can do to help them.

    1. Cat

      I don’t think by itself that having meetings in a private office is a problem. With a decent manager, that should be a space that feels safe and open; if it’s not, it’s because of the way the manager is conducting herself, not because of some power dynamics inherent to an office vs. a meeting room.

      1. Michele

        I agree cat. An office is for small 1 on 1 meetings. If my manager took me to a conference room I would actually think I was in trouble. I also don’t understand why the direct report is not being more proactive in setting up meetings with the manager. I have also been in this situation before and learned if you don’t speak up nothing will change. Of course it would be nice if the manager tapped a weekly meeting on the calendar but you can also do the same thing. Like any relationship it is a 2 way street and everyone is responsible for keeping the lines of communication open.

        1. Ruffingit

          I agree that communication is a two-way street, but the manager is typically the person with the busier schedule. I’ve been in situations where I needed to have weekly meetings with the manager and I asked her for specific dates/times I could do that that would work for her. She would always make a show about scheduling those “Oh yes, we need to do that, let me get back to you…” and then I’d never hear anything regardless of my many follow-ups. Finally, I just gave up and slogged along as best I could. I just didn’t have the time or inclination to chase after her. And since she was the owner of the company, there was nowhere to go to address this with someone above her. So yeah…sometimes you can set up those meetings if you have a responsive manager, but if you don’t…

      2. Nichole

        I think the lack of desk was more of an issue for Jane. I understood exactly what she meant when she said she would feel exposed, even though I feel very comfortable around my boss. I’m also a chronic fidgeter and pen fiddler, and often I look very nervous when I’m exposed, even when I’m not. Making people feel more comfortable could be as simple as adjusting your setup so there’s the option to sit across a desk if the employee wants to.

        1. Elizabeth West

          I had this thought also. I felt the same way in interviews when there was no desk, just the two chairs the interviewer and I sat in, usually facing each other. It was very uncomfortable. I’m Catholic (though non-practicing, mostly), and I hate face-to-face confession for the same reason. Too formal for such an informal arrangement.

    2. Ruffingit

      You make a good point regarding office design (no desk between you) and how that affects people psychologically. There is research out there that talks about the psychological effects of how offices are designed. Having a buffer of a desk between you can be a helpful psychological tool because it doesn’t make you feel so exposed.

      1. fposte

        Interesting–I don’t like meeting with staff when I’m sitting at my desk because I feel very enthroned.

        1. Chinook

          If you don’t like feeling “enthroned” behind your desk but still want something between you and your report, that is when you move into a small meeting room. That way, you are both in the same style chairs, psychologically putting you on the same level.

          1. fposte

            We don’t have small meeting rooms, unfortunately, and what meeting rooms we do have are far enough away that it would make the conversations a much bigger deal than they are. So mostly we just talk in my office without the desk.

        2. Anonymously Anonymous

          try adding a small round table in a corner of your office. Both my director and supervisor both have a small round table in a corner for the 1:1 chats–it’s much more comfortable.

          1. tcookson

            This is what I was going to say . . . my boss and a few other people have small round tables with a couple of chairs in their offices, and it provides a comfortable, informal space for 1:1 chats

  2. Jessa

    Regarding the employee who was subpoenaed. You may have to check for your state laws, but in some cases you cannot be penalised for jury duty OR for being subpoenaed IF you are not a party to the case (IE if it’s not a thing where you are being sued, or you’re not suing someone, you didn’t cause the case to happnen.) The idea is that someone testifying in a criminal case is doing it for the public good, even if they’re the victim and the laws are set up not to penalise them for that in order to make them more likely to report crimes.

    I would have your friend check with the court clerk or the district attorney to see if there are rules in your state. They may not be required to PAY the friend, but they may not be able to punish either. Just as if your friend was called to jury duty, they’d have to let them attend. Attending may fall under the same rules as jury duty.

    1. Brett

      Even if there are not such rules in place, the judge has a lot of leeway in what they can do to maintain their court.
      The DA can inform the judge; and the judge can bring those HR staff into court (wonder if they will dock themselves vacation for getting subpoenaed), and that is where it gets interesting.

      1. fposte

        Is that likely to happen, though? I live in a state with no protection for court appearances other than jury duty, and I’ve never heard of it happening here.

        1. Chinook

          Just because you haven’t heard of it happenning doesn’t mean the threat of it, by the judge, didn’t happen. It is definitely worth asking a local DA about.

          1. Jamie

            Maybe I’m cynical, but I have a hard time seeing he courts here getting involved in vacation time of a witness – as it’s not regulated by our courts. And calling HR in as witnesses to make a point? Not here…our courts are so back logged with real and serious stuff and no states atty would call anyone as a witness not germain to the case. Not that we’re immune to waste of public resources, lord knows, but I just can’t see a judge humoring this.

            Not that I think it’s right to dock the vacation time, I don’t, and a decent employer wouldn’t do it…but I just can’t see a court even attempting to address a perfectly legal but crpy action.

            1. fposte

              Exactly. And I’m not sure it would even be appropriate for the court to suggest a policy is requisite when the law doesn’t require it.

              I think there may be some ancillary situations where there could be some intervention–I could see a victim’s rights counselor talking to a boss to make it easier for a victim to testify, for instance. But a DA or a judge? When the law has already said it doesn’t care? And would they be doing it for all of the employed witnesses in the state, and if not, why not?

              1. Jessa

                I did not mean ask them to intervene. I MEANT ask them what the law in the state you reside in is. There may already be a law in your state just like the one that requires your employer to allow you to attend jury duty. They do not have to pay you but they cannot fire you or discipline you for attending that law required duty.

                All I meant was say “hey DA, while you’re prosecuting my case, can you tell me I know if I was on the jury my boss would have to let me be here, can they fire me/discipline me for responding to your subpoena?” and if the answer is “not in this state/jurisdiction, no,” “can you tell me what the statute is so I can tell HR? thank you.”

                That’s all I was talking about.

            2. doreen

              I can’t see a judge actually calling people from HR into court- but I can actually see DA’s or judges sending letters meant to imply some vague consequence for interfering with their witness by punishing him for his absence. I say this because my actual work intersects with criminal cases often, and I frequently receive letters from ADA’s and judges which imply , for example, that I am prohibited from speaking to a witness , although the ADA or judge doesn’t have any authority to do this.

              1. fposte

                Ooh, that’s interesting. And you’ve also put your finger on another question–if they don’t actually have any authority to do anything, what can they actually do aside from send a letter?

                1. doreen

                  Nothing. But it can work – in my case, I treat it as a request and grant it or not depending on my own assessment. In other cases, I’m sure people comply because they don’t realize there’s no authority backing it up.

          2. Anonymous

            It happens. I was a juror on a trial. A fellow jurors boss kept calling him and demanding he be available for work questions. The bailiff found out. The bad boss then started to call the clerk. The judge told bad boss to stop it or he would be in contempt. Bad boss continued to call and threaten. Bad boss spent two days in jail for contempt.

            Bad boss was Indian so I don’t know if he really understood that the US takes the court system seriously. But he found out that it did.

            1. fposte

              That’s pretty different, though. For one thing, it’s jury duty, which is, as far as I can tell, protected legally in every state (though what protections are afforded can vary), so the boss was actually in violation of state law. For another, calling the court is going to irritate the crap out of the court, which is never a good plan. We’re talking about the possibility of the court intervening in a situation that *doesn’t* violate state law; as long as nobody’s interfering with court operations there, I’ve never heard of the court intervening in such a case.

              1. Ruffingit

                Agreed. When the boss is actually interfering with the jury’s ability to do his duty, that’s a major issue and when that interference involves calling the court? Yeah, the judge is going to take control there because now the boss is interfering with the judge’s workplace. Otherwise though, they don’t care how businesses manage vacation time/pay regarding subpoenas and such.

                1. Jessa

                  Um a quick Google showed that in at least one state (Kansas) there can be consequences for making it hard for an employee to respond to a subpoena, and that the DA will help with that. The question in the FAQ is “what if my employer won’t let me come to court?” It specifies that in the particular county I looked up that the DA WOULD call the employer. This was some kind of victim’s/witness’s right’s FAQ for one jurisdiction only however.

                  My point is that I don’t know all jurisdictions. I do however know that the public good is served by having victims/witnesses come to court when asked to by the court under a duly issued subpoena. The same public good that is served by the group also called to the jury.

                  There is some sense then that at least SOME jurisdictions would make plans for this. Just as most do about jury duty.

                2. fposte

                  Sure, in the locations where there’s law behind it, the court may well get involved. Brett’s suggestion was that they may get involved where there *is* no law behind it.

                3. Cat

                  If an employer was making it difficult for a DA to prosecute a case, I could imagine the lawyer calling the employer regardless of whether there was a specific law behind it or not, to be honest. That’s the kind of thing a good lawyer doesn’t want to have scuttle his case, and it’s frankly egregious behavior on the part of the boss regardless of whether there’s a specific law.

                  I can’t see a DA misrepresenting the law on the matter, but I can see her willing to extend some useful influence on the matter. Judges probably have to act more circumspectly because of their position.

      2. Ruffingit

        As a former lawyer, I can say that the judge is not going to bring the HR staff into the courtroom. There is no reason to do so. The judge does not care about how a company manages its employee’s time regarding subpoenas. She only cares about whether the witness is in court or not.

        1. Ruffingit

          Jessa,

          If an employer will not let an employee come to court at all, you’ve got an entirely different problem compared to “making it difficult” in that they make the employee use vacation time or what have you. A subpoena is not a request, it’s a demand so if an employer is not allowing an employee to come to court, yes the courts may take an interest in that. But just making it difficult and/or how the employer decides to handle the time off (not paying, using vacation time)? No, the courts don’t generally care about that.

          1. Jamie

            Exactly. I can see a DA making the call if a boss was refusing to allow the day? But to merely preserve a day of vacation time? I doubt it.

  3. Ann Furthermore

    #7 – Most likely your co-worker was hired at the market rate. You were too, but 9 years ago. The fact that your salary increases during that time have kept pace with the market rate is actually pretty unusual. The much more common scenario is a junior person being hired for more than what a long-time employee is making.

    Alison’s advice is good here: were you happy with your salary before you knew what your co-worker makes? If so, then keep in mind that you felt you were being fairly compensated for the work that you do, until this other information came your way. If you do decide to make a pitch for a higher salary, you need to base it on your responsibilities, productivity, and get some comps for similar positions. The most important thing is to present quantifiable reasons, like, “I have increased sales on product line A by X percent,” or “My work on project Q has resulted in a cost savings of Y amount.” If you present vague statements like “My workload has increased significantly” with nothing to back it up, you’ll be less likely to get the result that you want.

    And going forward, take great pains to avoid having that kind of information come into your possession. I worked on an HR project a few years ago, and due to the nature of the work I was doing I was one of the few people authorized to access confidential employee information. But I very rarely accessed it, because quite honestly there are some things I am just better off not knowing, and things like how much my co-workers make is right up there towards the top of the list. Whenever possible I used my own employee record for testing, and when I needed to use someone else’s I went out of my way to pick someone whose name I did not know, in a department I don’t normally work with.

    1. Felicia

      I totally agree. Although I understand why your coworker’s salary might upset you, but their salary really has no place in your salary negotiations. I think you should always figure out the salary you’d be happy with based on your responsibility and what you think would be fair compensation. You shouldn’t compare yourself to other people that way. It’s hard not to, but “Well, Jane makes too much” is never a good basis for negotiation

      1. Anonymous

        I totally disagree with both of these comments. Knowing what other people make within your organization tells you exactly what they think you are worth. Knowing HR related information regarding your coworkers (not just about salary) gives one a huge advantage. I have had opportunties to find out this type of information and have always taken advantage of it. Never stick your head in the sand. I have learned a lot and it has helped me tremendously in my job. However, I would not go to the boss telling her you know how much so-and-so makes because that will just make her mad. Knowing what the other person makes lets you know how fair they are being with you and gives you a gauge. Knowlege is power so use it to your advantage.

        1. Ann Furthermore

          The only statement your salary makes is that it represents what you’re willing to work for. If the market rate is $50K a year, but you make $40K a year and you don’t complain, neither HR nor anyone else in your company is going to go out of their way to give you that additional $10K per year. Why should they?

          And that’s not a bad thing, necessarily. I’m happy with my salary, but I’ve been at my company for almost 9 years. I know that I could probably go someplace else and my salary would take a pretty sizable leap upward. But there are alot of other factors that keep me where I am. The benefits/insurance offered by my current employer are outstanding, and I’m able to get excellent coverage for my husband and kids. My company is one of the few out there that still offers a pension, and the longer I stay, the larger that monthly payout gets. Between my vacation accrual and floating holidays, I get about a month of PTO every year. I have a great manager, and I’m allowed to flex my hours or work from home when I need to. Today is a good example – I have no daycare and my usual alternative babysitting arrangement is not available either, so all I had to do was email my boss last night and let her know that I would be working from home today. And on top of all that, I continue to be challenged in my job, learn new things, and expand my skill set. So all those intangible things are worth some amount of money. Exactly how much, I can’t say, but enough that the lure of a higher salary elsewhere has not yet proven to be enticing enough to get me to leave.

          It is incumbent upon you, the employee, to figure out what you’re willing to work for, and if you don’t do your homework to determine what a fair and competitive salary is for your skills and talents, then that’s on you. I worked with a guy a few years ago who squawked very loudly about the fact that he was underpaid. He talked to our manager about it. He talked to the director of our group about it. He talked to the VP of our organization about it. He even talked about it to the CEO! Everyone just nodded and smiled and sent him on his way. Finally, he got fed up, and gave his notice. He deliberately timed it to happen right at the end of the year, and at the time we were understaffed and another member of the team was dealing with some personal issues and using some FMLA. I’m pretty sure he thought the management team would make him a counter-offer to stay, but that didn’t happen – and the fact that he’d been such a pain in the backside about it was the reason why. They were happy to see him go, so they wouldn’t have to keep hearing him whine about his unfairly low salary.

          Fast forward a few months, and I moved into the manager role over that group. I was going through some old files in the office I moved into, and came across one with applicant information and resumes, including this guy’s. Guess what? The salary that he whined about, the salary that he felt was so unfairly low, the salary that he felt was so far beneath the market rate was smack in the middle of the salary range that HE HIMSELF listed on the company’s website when answering the question about his salary requirements!! So what it all came down to was that he had not done his homework, low-balled himself, and didn’t realize it until it was too late.

          1. Jessa

            Actually it is a bad thing necessarily. It’s one of the reasons that certain groups have salaries far lower than others. Because historically they STARTED lower.

            And because nobody had really complained and said hold up here, market rate is 10k higher now across the board, new people are getting 10 k more than anyone else here. And that does have a knock on to women’s salaries and the salaries of POC who back when they started years ago, started lower than their peers.

            You may be happy in your job, but the fact that you’re not getting paid what it’s worth and are still happy there means that someone else might also not be,but might not be happy, and in the short run someone can be pointing to you being happy there ANYWAY as an excuse to keep doing that.

            And about that guy who was underpaid because his research was bad, that’s outrageous. I’m glad there are some places that require salaries to be posted because it’s horrible that just because someone isn’t smart enough, doesn’t know enough they get paid less? Market rate, is market rate. And when someone finds out that they’re being cheated and it IS being cheated out of a reasonably tied to market salary even if they agreed to it, and they try to change that, that’s not making them whiney or bad. That’s making the company look bad and they knew it and pretty much got to under pay him for however long. The whole salary thing in general is immoral. For people who are in the same general job in the same general amount of time and experience to not be paid the same thing is outrageous.

            This is why women and POC have been suing for years. Because you’re supposed to guess with no real proof of anything. We get told look at this site or that site for salary info, but then we get told no that site is not so good. We get told ask, but no, don’t talk about salary. The fact that the guy lowballed it due to lack of info and then suddenly found out? GOOD ON HIM.

            The fact that the company was too cheap to actually do something fair and reasonable. Well that’s just business in America (I bet it was an American company.)

            1. Ann Furthermore

              Yes, it was an American company, and whether it’s right or wrong, that’s the way the game is played here. If you want to be successful you need to figure out how to work effectively within those parameters. I don’t particularly like it, but it’s just the way things are and there’s really nothing I can do about it.

              Market rate is *not* market rate, in my opinion. Market rate fluctuates wildly for any given position, based upon your industry experience, background, level of education, years of expertise, and so on. With a reasonable amount of research you can get a ball park figure, and then skew upwards if you’ve got specialized skills or many years of experience, or skew downwards if you’re a recent graduate, and so on.

              Many people focus purely on salary and don’t take other factors into account when evaluating the big picture of compensation, which I believe is a mistake. There is a company in my city which is well known for paying its people top dollar. Sounds great, right? In fact it’s not great. Even though the pay is great, the benefits are awful, and people are worked to death and expected to be on call 24/7. Many people have left my company to go to this other one, only to regret that decision later and wish they could come back. Some would even be willing to come back for their old salary, in exchange for good benefits and reasonable work/life balance. The number on your paycheck is not the only factor to take into consideration.

              Medical insurance is a good example. My company’s insurance plans are truly outstanding. The co-pays are reasonable, and I have never had a claim be denied – not even when my medical bills exceeded $100,000 when I experienced complications during my pregnancy. Our out-of-pocket expenses related to the birth of our daughter was about $500. In total. There was never any question about whether this or that would be covered, no required hoops to jump through for specialist referrals, and so on. Plans with other companies would not be as generous or easy to work with. So does the fact that my current job provides me with the peace of mind that if my husband or children become horribly ill, or have some sort of catastrophic accident, we’ve got great insurance and astronomical medical bills won’t drive us into the poor house make me think twice about moving to another company just because they dangle a higher salary in front of me? You bet it does.

        2. Charlene

          In the past I tried to use my benchmarks and goals reached as negotiating factors for a raise however that seems to no longer work at my organization. I’m senior accountant and she is payroll. The reason I told them I knew what she made was because nothing else was working in order to get an increase otherwise I would have to agree that normally this knowledge that I have would never have been told to them.

    2. Elizabeth West

      Ha ha, me too; I had access to employee health information. It was my job to schedule periodic screenings (not just dope tests) required in environmental work. I did not want to know any more than whether the employee actually did the screening and what the date was, nor was it anything I needed to know.

    3. Charlene

      I have used the pitch based on responsibilities and productivity but have been told that there is no money for raises. In the same year, others have received 10% increases. I’ve even asked if they would take the time out of their day to actually see what we each do because I don’t believe they understand our roles. I think if they sat down with each of us they would get that my responsibilities and efficiency as a senior accountant are far beyond her capabilities as a payroll administrator. I have worked in her position before and could do it with my eyes closed. She doesn’t even do T4’s and she’s the payroll administrator for heaven’s sake. I know the market rate for her position and she is making significantly more than it. It just tells me they don’t believe in my worth.

  4. HR Personal&Confidential

    I get mail all the time “in a personal and confidential envelope.” Promising low mortgage rates, pre-approved credit, and noting I’m a finalist in a big financial sweepstakes. They all go straight to the recycle bin.
    Resignation letters and junk mail share the same rules for confidentiality- none exist.

    1. Chloe

      Seriously? I’m starting to wonder if your winning streak of no trolls is over Alison. I don’t really see why a resignation letter cannot be treated confidentially, but to equate it with junk mail is pretty ridiculous.

      I get there is no ‘right’ to privacy in the US (I am so grateful I live in a country that does actually give people rights to privacy), but surely it is just kind to respect that a letter of resignation might not be suitable to pass around the office. In my part of the world resignation letters are required (because contracts of employment are also required, and therefore a resignation must be in writing), and I have always written short, but gracious letters. There was nothing exciting in any of them, but I would still be offended to find it being passed around to anyone other than the recipient and HR.

      Reading the comments to this blog used to be as enjoyable as reading the Q&A.

      I’m starting to avoid them now.

      1. Erin

        …We actually do have rights to privacy here. However, a resignation letter does not fall into that category. It may have been tacky for the director to share the letter, and I can see how that would be galling to the OP, but to take it to HR as a confidentiality violation? It was an over-the-top reaction, and I can’t blame them for choosing to terminate early. She was lucky to get the two weeks paid as well, since that would not be required here.

        1. FiveNine

          Well, of course it’s an implied rather than stated right, and generally speaking, the U.S. Constitution applies to what the government can and cannot do in relation to its citizens or other levels of government.

          1. fposte

            Exactly. There’s no default right of privacy in all things. We have some laws that do cover privacy rights in specific non-governmental situations, FERPA and HIPAA being the best known, but in general I’d say that this is a classic example of somebody believing workplace myths. That’s something I think Chloe doesn’t realize–that there’s a considerable tendency for American workers (it’s not limited to them, I’m sure, but those are the ones I’m familiar with) to believe they have protections they don’t have, and that one of the things this blog does is clarify those beliefs.

            1. Jessa

              Truthfully if we did have an actually encoded right to privacy, it would probably encompass a lot of non governmental things as well, just as a lot of the other clauses do (commerce clauses, etc.) But we kind of don’t.

        2. Jessa

          We don’t have a right to privacy per se. And if a certain Supreme Court decision had been made on the Equal Access clauses or some OTHER clause that was actually in the black letter of the Constitution instead of a nebulous semi-invented right to privacy that is not, the amount of currently attempted laws to overturn it would be impossible.

          And please for Alison’s sake let’s not get into an argument as to whether or not we think that’s a good or bad idea. My point is not about WHICH law that was or whether it was good or bad. My point is that the so called “right to privacy” is a thinly drawn up construction of a Supreme Court decision that a lot of Constitutional Scholars readily admit stands on VERY shaky ground.

          So we kind of have a right, that’s sort of there, sometime, but not always, depending on WHAT the private thing is. Because if privacy was black letter Constitutional law, we would not need HIPAA or FERPA or any other specific privacy legislation because the DEFAULT would be private and we’d need only legislation that says x item would NOT be private.

      2. Meg

        Well first of all, the U.S does have right to privacy laws, which have been upheld numerous times by numerous courts. Second of all, just because “HR Personal & Confdential” disagrees with you doesn’t make him a troll. A troll is someone who posts nonsensical inflammatory statements that don’t contribute to the discussion. His comment actually was relevant – although FWIW, I don’t particularly agree with the analogy.

      3. HR Personal&Confidential

        ” I’m starting to wonder if your winning streak of no trolls is over Alison.”

        What does this mean?

        To clarify, I’m not equating resignation letters with junk mail, I’m equating only that they have the same level of confidentiality- none.

    2. Not So NewReader

      I am wondering what people are writing in their termination letters. I use two sentences. I don’t care who reads it.
      When people no longer see me at work then the cat will be out of the bag anyway. It’s just not something that is a secret.

      I would expect many people need to know when I intend to leave- boss, boss’ boss, payroll, personnel, benefits people, etc.

  5. nyxalinth

    #3 I had a co-worker who got stuck in the elevator coming back from lunch. it took 45 minutes for someone to get him out. Totally not his fault. They docked his pay for it.

      1. fposte

        “These days”? The question took me right back to “Drill Ye Tarriers, Drill” and “You were docked for the time you were up in the sky.” That stuff’s long been part of the work structure.

        1. The gold digger

          Read “The white slaves of England : being true pictures of certain social conditions in the kingdom of England in the year 1897” by Robert Harborough Sherard if you want to know about miserable working conditions.

    1. Elizabeth West

      Wahaaaaat???

      Oh man, I think about that every time I get in our elevator. I have to take it because my knee is blown. It’s my practice to make sure I don’t have to pee before I get on the thing.

      1. tcookson

        OMG — we had two people, on two separate occasions over the long holiday weekend, get locked into the conference room and not be able to get out. We’ve recently moved into a new building, and the magnetic lock system hasn’t got all the kinks worked out yet. The security company was here all day today fixing the locks.

  6. Stephen

    Sounds like OP 5 decided to use his resignation letter as an opportunity to tell his boss to go to hell and got worried for his reputation when he found out it was being shown to other people. Am I close, OP?

    1. Chloe

      And another…

      This is just a weird comment. To me it sounds more like OP’s manager is a jerk who decided to embarass an employee who decided to resign in a more formal manner than is apparantly common in the US.

      And for this, you decide the OP is at fault and must have written something offensive?

      What a delightful perspective on the world.

      1. Gemma

        I don’t think it’s that weird. Alison’s assumption – and mine too – was that there was something in the letter that made it worth showing to other people. A standard resignation letter with just the info that you’re resigning and the date of your last day would not be show-worthy (and certainly wouldn’t “embarrass” the employee if it were shown around). It seems likely the employee listed reasons for the resignation or something else that would prompt that behavior.

      2. MissM

        There is nothing weird about this comment.

        If the OP had written a basic two sentence resignation, there would be no reason for the manager to pass it around. If it had been a longer gracious letter saying things like “I really enjoyed my time here, the team I work with is wonderful and I appreciate all that I’ve learned from everyone” etc., then I can see why the manager might share it, but there is no reason the OP would be upset that the letter was shared. The only reason I can think of that the OP would be going to HR about rights being violated is if there was something in that letter that they didn’t want anyone else to see. The most likely thing is that OP listed all the reasons he/she was glad to be leaving that place.

        1. Mrs Addams

          The OP may not have gone to town in insulting the company/listing reasons why she was glad to be leaving. She may have just been naive and written the reasons why she was leaving in the letter, which could have included details of health issues, family or personal problems etc.. Whilst we all know this is completely unnecessary (even in countries where written resignations are the norm), I can easily see someone new to the workplace doing this, and then feeling upset that it was shared when the (wrongly) assumed privacy/confidentiality wasn’t there. Why the boss would feel the need to show this around the office is another matter, but it’s not unheard of.

          OP – If the contents of the letter were simply innocent, then no-one’s going to care or remember in three months time. If the contents weren’t exactly positive about the boss/company/co-workers then you’ll probably be remembered and you’ll have to accept you’ve burned a lot of bridge, but if that’s the case, you knew you were burning bridges with the letter in the first place even if only the boss/HR saw it.

          Consider this whole thing a lesson learned, enjoy the two weeks off with pay and move on with the next stage in your working life.

          1. Stephen

            My thinking was along the lines of Miss M’s, but I guess you’ re right that a more innocent form of over- sharing could possibly be the reason why OP is embarrassed to have her letter shared. In any case, she should realise that a letter of resignation is business correspondance. You aren’t sending it to your boss as an individual, but to your employer as an organization, and obviously it will be directed to whoever in the organization needs to see it.

      3. Jamie

        Why the personal criticism because others have a POV different from yours? Disagreement doesn’t make someone a troll.

        I’m also curious as to what was in the letter, as if it was a typical resignation letter (date of last day, thanks for the opportunity. Two sentences, max) there would be no privacy issues.

        I think it’s a good lesson for readers to realize that if your resignation letter contains a purge of emotion about the job or the phrase “and another thing…” It needs to be rewritten. A regisnation letter should never be more than a statement of intent to leave, date of last working day, and cursory polite closing statement.

      4. Cat

        Just writing a resignation letter isn’t embarrassing in the U.S. just because it’s “formal”. It’s not unreasonable to think that there must have been something more to the letter. That said, it might not have been an attack on the company; it might have been personal details about why the employee was resigning.

        It’s also hard to know why it was shared. The manager might have thought it was innocuous and forwarded it to colleagues as an FYI; or she might have been out to embarrass the OP with something. I have no idea, but I think there’s a variety of reasonable possibilities here.

      5. Anonymous

        […]who decided to resign in a more formal manner than is apparantly common in the US. [sic]

        I’m not understanding why between this comment and the one about the US not having privacy laws allegedly (see above) are being made by Chloe. It is either a misunderstanding of the US or completely unwarranted statements by a troll.

      6. Elizabeth West

        Really? Because I was wondering the same thing. The OP’s letter says nothing about what s/he wrote in the letter, or why the manager shared it. Judging by HR’s reaction, I can only imagine that the OP used the letter to air some grievances, and that pissed everybody off. Even if they were respectfully written, some companies/managers cannot take any kind of feedback. Thus Alison’s advice to simply put the intent to resign and notice period is warranted.

        The manager was stupid and a jerk to share the letter, no matter what it contained. I agree with you there.

    2. A Teacher

      I agree. Keep the resignation letter to 1-2 sentences and keep it generic if you don’t have anything nice to say. The manager sharing it with others isn’t that uncommon–now if the manager had sent out an e-mail to the company or department or put the employee down at department or company wide meeting–that’d be really stupid and rude (that’s what they did at my old company–so to circumvent it, after you did your generic e-mail the resigning employee would send out their own department e-mail, usually alluding to the reason why they were leaving but keeping pretty (in most cases) professional)

  7. Chloe

    Sure, if it were a two line resignation letter there would be no reason for the manager to pass it around. Alas, human beings do not always behave in a completely rational and understandable way, so it is of course perfectly possible that the manager just felt like handing it around for no obvious reason.

    Maybe the OP disclosed some personal information in the letter that she didn’t want everyone to know. Maybe she had wanted to tell people in her own time, shortly after her formal notification.

    Who knows? None of us.

    What bothers me is both the casual attitude to privacy (and I’m not talking about legal rights, just basic good manners really, and whatever cultural norms may exist I find it hard to believe anyone thinks a resignation letter is genuinely public property) and the automatic assumption that OP wrote something offensive or out of line in the letter.

    It just seems more and more that OPs are copping a lot of flack in the comments to this blog, and that in the absence of detail
    commenters feel free to imagine the worst possible behaviour. It doesn’t surprise me how few OPs put their head above the parapet after their letter is published and acknowledge the comments made in response to their letter.

    Maybe I should just stick to the Q&A and avoid the jump in future.

    1. EM

      I do actually agree that it seems like some people here have automatically assumed the OP wrote something negative about the company, etc in their resignation letter.

      To me, the tone of the question sounded hurt rather than angry. I took it to mean that the OP probably wrote some additional details in that letter about why she was leaving, possibly relating to family or personal matters. I can see why someone wouldn’t want that kind of letter shown to a bunch of other people.

      I do think it was an unkind thing to do , but it’s a good reminder that you can’t have any expectations of privacy with regard to this.

    2. Jamie

      Of course no one knows any more than what was in the letter. But it’s a reasonable assumption that if the only thing in the letter was the last date the OP wouldn’t be raising a privacy issue – since that is information the team would need. Surely telling people of a co-workers last day wouldn’t be private.

      And no a resignation isn’t public property because why would the public care? But the information regarding a team member leaving? I don’t understand the thought that it should be automatically privileged information. Now, if the OP erred and put personal information in the letter perhaps the manager should have used discretion, but as you point out we have no way of knowing what was in the letter so sans details I don’t feel a resignation letter falls into the category of personal details (home address, SSN, etc.) or medical information.

      I don’t understand the vitriol for the comment section, either. There have been plenty of instances where the OPs have a lot of comment support, and even when disagreed with its usually quite civilized. And there has been nothing nasty in this post. There is a big difference between disagreeing with someone and vilifying them. Online as in life, when people opine or give advice we’re all free to take in that which is useful to us and disregard that which is not.

    3. Cat

      You don’t have a right to tell your co-workers when you’re leaving the job in your own time. If the boss thinks they should know earlier (perhaps to facilitate the transition), the boss can distribute that information at will. Not everything that concerns you is actually something you get to control. And once you communicate your resignation to your employer, that is in the category of information about you that is not in your control. That’s just the way it is.

      Now, if OP told the boss “I’m leaving because of X medical issue that I would like to keep private,” and the boss distributed that information, the boss is an asshole. But we don’t have any information that that’s what happened here.

    4. Clever Name

      Wow, Chloe. You seem to be taking this really personally. I’m glad you are deciding only to read Alison’s answers. I do that with some blogs where I disagree with many of the commenters.

      Of course, I don’t post in a huff about how everyone who disagrees with me is a troll and then declare I’m never reading the comments again.

      1. fposte

        And this is what she’s indignant about in American workplaces? Not the guy who’s docked vacation time to testify against the guy who shot him?

  8. Rebecca

    #3 – I know two people who are stuck in a job like this. The company reduced sick days to 5 per year, but if you use a sick day by calling in sick, with no preauthorization, you get an “incident”. You actually have to schedule sick days. Too many incidents, and you get fired.

    Both these ladies are 62 years old and terrified of losing their jobs at this stage in their lives.

    More and more I think companies are using the high unemployment rate and people’s absolute fear of losing their jobs as excuses to be just a pain in the behind about nearly everything.

    1. Jamie

      What goes through people’s minds when they make policies like that? Are they written by people who have never woken up with the flu, or been up all night after eating questionable seafood?

      I’d like to schedule all of my emergencies ahead of time, also…unfortunately I live in a world where that’s just not possible.

      1. doreen

        I think it depends on how many “incidents” are too many. My job has such a policy- the details and enforcement of it are fairly new to some of us , since we merged with a larger agency about two years ago. An employee doesn’t even get spoken to until there are 8 unscheduled absences within a rolling 12 month period and it takes 12 to get to formal disciplinary action, FMLA absences don’t count, and generally only the first day of longer absences count (as long as my supervisor knows before close of business Monday that I won’t be in Tuesday it’s a scheduled absence. So when I took two weeks off for bereavement , it was one incident). The only effect I’ve seen is that certain people have to plan better than they did before- I no longer get phone calls at 8 am from people wanting to take that day off because their apartment is being painted or because it’s parent- teacher conference day or they want to take Mom out for her birthday.

        1. Anonymous

          DOL rule prohibit counting FMLA as an absence, FYI. You make your employer sound generous by stating that the don’t count toward incidents. In truth, they are just staying legal.

          1. doreen

            Didn’t mean to make them sound generous- just pointing out that these policies do not equate to being expected to pre-plan every illness or emergency. Although if anything was going to make them look generous, I would have thought it was either the 12 incidents before disciplinary action or that multiday absences usually only count as one incident

    2. Anon Today

      How about this one! For new employees at my company, they get 10 PTO days a year. Period. PTO means vacation, sick, whatever. 10 days total. And that lasts for five years. You increase to 15 per year after that. No unpaid time is allowed.

      Also, no one in the company, no matter how many PTO days they have, is allowed to take more than 5 days in a row ever. This rule gets broken regularly by men but so far has never been broken successfully by a woman.

      If you get 20 or more PTO days, you are specifically told you can’t take 5 of them. They also can not be rolled over into the next year.

      And we have fewer than (whatever the threshold is) for FMLA, so you can’t have 12 weeks maternity or any other family leave. You are allowed to get an advance on your PTO for maternity.

      1. Jamie

        Whoa – FMLA is about protecting your job, which isn’t the case if you’re just advancing future leave. If the company meets the criteria to be required to follow FMLA they have to comply with the law.

            1. Anon Today

              Correct, we have too few employees to count under FMLA… and we actively ensure we stay under that limit by hiring dozens of contractors that we treat as employees. Who wants to come work for us?!?!

      2. EM

        I had one job where I had EIGHT PTO days for the entire year. Same deal — that was for sick/vacation/personal/etc. It was pretty miserable.

        I think you increased to 10 PTO days after 3 years, but I don’t recall exactly as I only stayed in that place for about a year and a half.

        And I agree with Jamie about FMLA. I JUST had to have this conversation with a friend of mine. Her HR department was trying to tell her that the company goes by the date the doctor signs off on the paperwork as medically safe to return to regular activity as when they end FMLA. Yeah, they don’t get that choice, seeing as how FMLA is a federal law.

        They were trying to force her to return to work 6 weeks after she gave birth. It was appalling to me that an HR dept either didn’t know the law, or was outright lying to her. Not sure which scenario is worse.

        1. Contessa

          There’s a CHANCE (probably a long shot, from the way you described your friend’s situation) that they meant *paid* FMLA leave ends as of the date the doctor clears the person to return to work, because their disability insurance (or internal paid leave program) runs out as of that date. She would, of course, still have any remaining time available as unpaid leave. But, if there isn’t any paid leave at that company, I can’t think of any legit reason why FMLA leave would run out 6 weeks after giving birth unless your friend also took off 6 weeks before the birth (or earlier in the year for something else). My company gave me a print-out of the FMLA rules when I scheduled my maternity leave–did your friend get that? She can go back in and point to the 12-week rule and be like, “I’m confused, this clearly says 12 weeks, not 6.”

        2. Audiophile

          Hey that sounds like the job I have right now.

          We get “vacation” time ONLY, which is really PTO, if you ask me. No sick time, no personal time. You have to work a full year with the company, before you start to accrue vacation time. I found out later on, that I could have taken “vacation” early and was lied to, even though I presented information and read directly from the handbook. I was not thrilled about this.
          I’ve worked sick more times than I care to remember. Last year I had to use my remaining days, because the building was closed due to the hurricane. This year I took a vacation, but came back sick and worked straight through, so as not to lose any time/pay and to avoid being accused of “extending” my vacation. This pretty much sums up why I’m constantly job hunting.

          1. Elizabeth West

            Back in 2005, we were talking about this in my chat room, where there are a lot of European members. One of them, who is from Paris, said “That’s barbaric!” All the Americans agreed with her.

      3. Clever Name

        I used to work for a company that only had 10 PTO a year. Sick, vacation, everything. It was insane. That’s one of the many reasons why I no longer work there.

        1. Twentymilehike

          Not to boast, but I was at my last job for 8 years. After the second year I received 5 PTO days per year. That was it. My only benefit. Yay.

          They let me go negative after both of my parents died, and thankfully they just let it go when I resigned.

    3. Felicia

      So they’re basically saying they don’t want to allow people to get sick? They must have been sick before and realize you don’t plan when you get sick! It makes me sad for the people at that company:( It just encourages them to come to work sick , or fear for their job all the time.

      1. Ruffingit

        Unfortunately, the people who make these policies often do not apply them to themselves. Sure, they’ve been sick before and when they’re sick again, they will take whatever leave they want, with or without notice, but by GOD THOSE DAMN EMPLOYEES better not think they can just call in sick with no notice…

        It’s amazing how many people will make rules for everyone else, but not apply those rules to themselves. Because sometimes people do view themselves as special in some way and therefore not subject to the rules and this is even worse when they have the power behind them (manager, owner) to do that.

        1. Cat

          I think a lot of it is not that they think they’re special; they think their employees are – well, not fully realized people. They’re assets that have to be kept under tight control. So sure, THEY might get sick at the last minute. Employees are probably just malingering, and on the off chance they’re not, well, surely it will never happen again so no problem writing them up for an incident and taking away a bit of vacation time to make sure they know you’re serious, right?

          It’s a failure of empathy, I think, that’s encouraged by a short-sighted view of one’s own self interest.

          1. Felicia

            that makes a lot of sense. I’d think that the only way such a policy woul make sense is if the people making it didn’t have to follow it, and they didnt see their employees as human beings who can get sick at the last minute just as much as they do. Who gets sick iin a way that can be planned anyways? too sick to work generally happens to me very quickly.

          2. Ruffingit

            You make the point I was trying to make, but better. This is what I was trying to get at, that they don’t see employees in the same light they see themselves. They believe employees are malingering, not actually sick, etc.

          3. fposte

            I think also these are the same people who never allow for delays in their travel time or emergencies in their financing.

            1. Cat

              I doubt that, actually. Most people I’ve run into like this have no problem accepting that fate can happen to them; at least not on the small stuff. It’s accepting that fate affects people in a category of people they place outside the category of “like them” that they have trouble with.

      2. Rebecca

        This is what happens. People come to work sick and pass the sickness around. Parents with children are most at risk, as someone has to stay home with the kids if they get sick, and we all know that can’t be scheduled. I’ll have to ask how many incidents result in termination. And it’s not just the calling in sick, it’s for being late as well. A snowy morning, and the school bus is 1 or 2 hours later? Too bad. And no making up time, either.

        The problem is, there are people who take advantage, but I think they make up a small percentage. This is a one size fits all policy that punishes everyone.

        1. Felicia

          Even if it takes a certain number of incidences to result in termination, insisting that all sick days should be preplanned seems so wrong. I’m pretty sure not illegal, but wrong. You cant plan for being sick, and a single time of calling in sick shouldn’t be counted against you. Maybe a certain number of sick days without doctors’ notes is more reasonable, even if I don’t like it. But someone could call in sick that morning, and actually end up with a doctor’s note , so it makes sense to pay attention to how long they were out and how often.

          My dad’s former workplace counted his 2 weeks off after a heart attack as an incident , and didn’t want to give him any more time off – when he barely ever took time off before and that’s as “legitimate” as reasons get. They also gave him a hard time about having to go to monthly doctor’s appointments after that

          1. FreeThinkerTX

            I worked for a small startup in San Francisco back in the 90’s. They got upset with me when I called the owners at 6:30am to tell them I was too sick to come in (start time of 8:30am). It was a huge inconvenience, they can’t get a temp on the short of notice, blah, blah, blah. 11 months later I was feeling worse and worse one day at work (tickle at the back of the throat, sinus congestion, headache, muscle pain that typically accompanies a fever, etc.), so I told them at 4:00pm that while I would stick it out for the last hour, I wouldn’t be in the next day – which would give them ample time to line up a temp. Were they pleased and grateful that I was able to give them advanced warning? Oh, *hell* no! I got chewed out because everyone knows you can’t *predict* when you’re going to be sick!! It was a lose-lose situation for me, no matter what I did.

            And, naturally, these contortions of logic didn’t apply to the owners themselves.

  9. Anonymous

    I’m wondering whether the director in #5 could have been trying to do the right thing by sharing the resignation letter. For example, if the OP was feeling left out (Alison gets letters about cliques in the work place so it does happen) the director might have decided to do something about it along the lines of “Your childish behavior has cost the company a good employee and it needs to change.” If the letter contained some kind of complaint, it’s hard to object to the recipient choosing to try to rectify the situation before another employee is affected.

    Even “Jane has suffered a recent tragedy and turned in her resignation, but because of this tragedy we’re letting her leave immediately while paying her for the full resignation period” might have been quite well meant, intended to explain why an employee suddenly disappeared (no, Jane wasn’t caught surfing the web for porn or stealing from petty cash) and show that the company cares. Or it could have been intended to allow co-workers to send sympathy cards.

    All of these are completely hypothetical, of course, and I have no idea what the letter really contained. However, I did want to point out that what the OP perceives as a violation of confidentiality might not be the product of evil intent.

    And in a litigious world, you should never commit to writing (including email, by the way) anything you don’t want to headline in the New York Times. Most people’s writing is not interesting enough to merit that kind of coverage, but it’s not a bad assumption to live by.

    1. Contessa

      “you should never commit to writing (including email, by the way) anything you don’t want to headline in the New York Times”

      I just wanted to say that’s a great way to put it, and I’m going to start using that line. Living by that maxim is a good way to stay out of trouble.

      1. Editor

        Apparently a newspaper in Aspen, Colo., has a slogan that goes: “If you don’t want it printed, don’t let it happen.”

        1. tcookson

          Ha! That sounds a lot like what my husband and I tell our kids: “If you don’t want us to find out about it, don’t do it!”

    2. Elizabeth West

      Good point. I understand if the OP didn’t want to share the contents of the letter with us, either.

  10. Girasol

    #3 IIRC, if the poster were exempt he could be given points and have his vacation time docked as long as his paycheck were not docked. I have worked for a company that is remarkably strict with attendance requirements for exempt workers at quite high levels. People complained of being treated like schoolchildren. But the solution is simply to choose whether to stay or go.

    1. Anon1

      Question for you. Does the staff reciprocate in terms of attendance. Arrive at 7:59 am and leave at 4:31 pm regardless of whether a crisis is brewing? This would be my tendency if I’m being strictly evaluated by time. The adage you get what you measure/reward comes to mind

  11. EB

    I’m the OP in #4 but wanted to comment on #1 and #7. I was in a position once where two coworkers were supposed to come to me with questions about a certain program but allegedly continued to go to another coworkers, whom they had gone to before I joined. They didn’t report directly to me but their supervisor did tell them to go to me. However, I got penalized for their not coming to me in my performance evaluation. (Their supervisor was also my supervisor, until I thankfully got switched.) What would one do in this situation, where you have no real authority to tell someone else’s direct reports essentially what to do? (Which made me feel very uncomfortable, because I didn’t want to cut them off from someone who had been there longer and might have more institutional knowledge.)

    Regarding #7, I used to work at a public institution and we were considered state employees. As such, all of our salaries were public and were listed in a database ran by a local publication. Before they were made available online, it was very difficult and cumbersome to find out what people made, but once the salaries were posted online – yikes. There was a lot of resentment over disparities in salary, and sometimes with very good reason. Personally, I like having salaries be transparent (especially as I will now be going to a private institution where they will not be) but it’s definitely both a blessing and a curse, especially when people feel that there is nothing that they can do about what they perceive to be unfair compensation (with reason).

    Thank you so much for your advice, Alison, and for including my question in your post. Would it be helpful if I send my new supervisor an e-mail before tomorrow to let her know about the situation? (Although she’s likely not going to see it until tomorrow, due to today being a holiday.)

    1. plain jane

      WRT #4 and your similar situation – I’d bring this up in one-on-ones with my supervisor. “I know that you’ve asked A & B to come to me with these questions, and I’ve tried tactics 1, 2 & 3 to help them feel comfortable doing so, but they still seem to be going to you. Do you have any suggestions as to how I could help take this responsibility off your plate?”

      Also, you seem to be uncertain as to your own ability to answer their questions “I didn’t want to cut them off from someone who had been there longer and might have more institutional knowledge.” I’m sure this didn’t help them in feeling confident going to you. If it was about institutional knowledge, I’d try to get the person to come to me with the question, and then take the leadership role and walk over with them to the person who has more knowledge. That way you’re showing that you want to learn the standard approach, so you can apply that to future questions.

  12. A teacher

    As a public school teacher, you can look up my salary too. What gets me is that people see the total I make and don’t understand that I also coach and serve on a paid committee so I get some extra duty pay. I also have multiple graduate degrees which makes me earn more. My districts contribution to my pension is also factored in, although in my district we pay most of our pension contributions out of our own pocket. I guess what I’m saying is that it’s easy to look at a number and not factor in reasons why someone may earn differently than you.

  13. Anonymously Anonymous

    #1
    The times in the past where I had to go to an old manager was when the new manager simply couldn’t answer even the most basic of questions without implying he would have to check with the old manager and get back to me…–(and he never got back to me) This became a regular habit even among other employees too. So we would just skip new manager and take our concerns to the old manager who was over all of us.

  14. Lily

    #2 Have you been accommodating everyone else? Are you putting your needs last? I did this for a while. The worse thing is that I made up rules to show uncooperative employees that I wasn’t singling them out. However, managers have to treat people differently based on performance. Now that I am only retaining cooperative employees, I’m realizing I don’t need all these rules, because the cooperative people will give me X if I ask for it.

    Sorry, if I’ve jumped to conclusions that don’t fit you and your situation!

  15. Not So NewReader

    For OP 1- From the management and leadership reading I have done, this is a fairly common experience. If the old manager remains on site the employees tend to seek out the old manager rather than approach the new manager.
    In some cases it could be as simple as they feel it would take too long to explain the situation to a newbie and the old manager is familiar with all the details running behind the scenes on a particular question.

    I took over for a previous boss and, sure enough, my group went running to the previous boss every day. It’s not personal. It’s human nature.
    Alison’s advice is right on the money. It’s a two part problem. Go to the old manager and tell her that the people need to come to you. Old manager needs to point blank say “You need to talk this over with Jane, now. This is no longer my area.” Privately, the old manager might actually be happy to have this convo with you. She probably has enough to do with her new job.
    Then go to your people. Let them know that they need to bring their questions and concerns to you now. Tell them that is your job to handle this stuff and if they by-pass you then they are not allowing you to your job.

    Here’s the key: One or two of them will test the waters with you. They will come to you with a question or concern and they will watch and listen to every single thing you say. Whatever happens in that conversation will probably be repeated entirely to the rest of the group. Know this- again- it’s human nature. Speak in a manner that you would use with anyone in the group. Don’t talk about others in the group. Be fair. You don’t have to know all the answers- don’t pretend you do. But be willing to help them find answers. And finally, give some indication that you are glad they stopped to talk with you.

    I am sure you will do fine. Stick to Alison’s plan and within a very short time this whole thing will look differently.

  16. Elizabeth West

    2–shifts

    — although you also want to balance this with making sure that you don’t lose a great employee who just can’t work weekends).

    This made me think of that Roseanne episode where her high school-aged boss at the chicken place, “The Little Maggot,” fired her because she couldn’t work weekends. And she was the best worker he had. I always used to wonder if it were real how that would have worked out for him. Not good, would be my guess.

    4–bereavement leave

    :( *hug*

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