reading into things when you shouldn’t, an overly negative staff, and more

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

1. Can I ask employers for advice on how to get a job with them?

What’s your opinion of directly asking the organizations/companies that I want to work for in the near future advice on how to increase my chances of being employed there? Would that show initiative? Or desperation and naivete?

It depends. Some will give you helpful advice, and some won’t. Anecdotally, I’d say that smaller organizations are more likely to give you a personalized response than larger ones, but it really depends on the employer, as well as on the specific person you happen to reach out to. To maximize your chances, be very specific about the type of work you want to do (don’t just say “a job”) and include information about your background. Be prepared for most responses to be focused on experience — you’re more likely to hear “we look for candidates with a background in X, Y, and Z” than to hear “we only hire people the CEO likes” or “we reject a lot of people for talking too much,” even if both are true.

One thing to keep in mind though — if you’re doing this to “show initiative,” I wouldn’t bother because it’s unlikely to be particularly impressive. I’d only spend the time (and the time of the people you’d be reaching out to) if you genuinely want the information. If it’s just an attempt to impress, you should go with a great cover letter and a resume that shows a track record of achievement in the areas they need — which is far more impressive.

2. How can I decrease negativity among my staff?

I have recently been promoted to manage a department of about 20 people within a large organization. It is in a challenging healthcare field and I have been spending a great deal of time supporting my staff through some recent changes. The last manager did not seem very supportive and people used to complain about that, so I decided that I would be very supportive in order to improve morale and performance. I
instigated an open door policy and made it clear that I was there to help with any problems, especially with our patients, who are often stressed by their situation and can be very demanding.

However, I am beginning to suspect that this has backfired. I now seem to have people in my office all day complaining about very trivial matters that I’m pretty sure they could have sorted out themselves. For example, they will come to tell me if a patient has spoken out of turn to them; I expected them to consult me if a patient was offensive, not just bad mannered. Worse still, I feel as if there is even more of a negative atmosphere than before, and one of my (positive) colleagues told me that they often spend their entire lunch breaks moaning about the patients and saying that I should deal with them more firmly. I have to say that it is only two of the staff who do this, with another who joins in, but I’m really worried that this negativity is bringing down the whole atmosphere. Several of the other staff have complained to me that they don’t like the unpleasant things that are being said about the patients. How have I got this so wrong?

People will take their cues from you, and it sounds like you made a point of offering “support,” which they took as an invitation to air complaints and vent. Now you’re going to need to backtrack and make it clear what you want to hear about (issues that require your involvement to reach a resolution) and what they should handle on their own (anything that’s just venting and doesn’t require action from you). You should also make it clear that while you want to hear legitimate complaints, and while everyone needs to occasionally let off steam after a frustrating encounter, it’s not okay to chronically complain, particularly about patients (who presumably are the reason you all have jobs). And if it continues after that, you’ll need to have a more serious conversation one-on-one with the three complainers — laying out the standards of professionalism you expect them to meet.

Your job as a manager isn’t “to be supportive.” It’s to run your department well and get the results you need. Being a supportive person can be part of that, but it can’t be your #1 goal — and that’s where it sounds like you initially went wrong.

3. Rude treatment after I was turned down for an internal position

I didn’t get the internal position that I interviewed for. While I’m dealing with the disappointment and inevitable feeling of hurt, I respect their decision completely. What I don’t respect, however, is the way they handled the situation.

I work in a-15 person office. Out of the 5 people who interviewed me, two are direct supervisors, and two are the president and vice president of the company. After learning of the news from my supervisor, I immediately emailed all of the interviewers to tell them thank you and to assure them that I understand their decision and would join them in warmly welcoming the new person. I got one response. In my attempt to be gracious and make everyone feel comfortable, I was ignored.

I understand if this sort of behavior goes on in big office environments where the HR person facilitates everything. But I’m working in a small office and I see the people that interviewed me everyday, but they are trying to play it off like nothing happened. Granted, they are awkward people to begin with, but I just feel as though this kind of behavior is off. Am I wrong? Their attitudes and behavior are making me feel incredibly resentful and I feel like I just want to leave. Am I being irrational here? Or is this just really bad management?

It’s not ideal that they didn’t respond, but your reaction seems more intense than the situation warrants. Yes, they should have responded to you, because they should want to put some effort into ensuring that you continue to feel valued, despite not getting the new position. But plenty of people (especially busy ones) don’t respond to emails that don’t ask direct questions — and in this case, if they saw your email as essentially a “thanks for the chance to interview,” it’s not outrageous that they didn’t write back.

Speaking of which…

4. I didn’t get a response to my post-interview thank-you note

I had an interview that I thought went very well. After the interview, the hiring manager gave me her cell phone number (she said she was going to be traveling), her office number, and email address. I took this to be a very positive sign that I was their top candidate. A few hours later, I sent a thank-you email to her and the other interviewer and was surprised to not receive a response. Does that mean the interview didn’t go as well as I thought? Maybe they had a chance to talk and realized I wasn’t a great fit. So nervous!

Whoa, you’re reading into things all over the place when you shouldn’t be. Don’t assume you’re their top candidate just because you had a good interview and the hiring manager gave you her contact info, and don’t assume that it means anything that they didn’t respond to your thank-you. Neither of those means anything. Some interviewers routinely give their contact info to all candidates at the end of an interview, and plenty of interviewers don’t respond to thank-you notes — it’s a thank-you, after all, and there’s no obligation to say thank you for thanking them. In other words, none of this means anything, you’re trying to read tea leaves when it’s fruitless to attempt it, and all you can really do is wait and see how it plays out. (And meanwhile, do yourself the favor of moving on mentally so you’re not agonizing while you wait.)

5. How can I avoid talking about politics at work?

My manager and some fellow employees love to talk politics. To be honest, I disagree with them, and, as the only American in the group, I sometimes feel like I’m being called on to defend U.S. policies. I’ve tried changing the subject, but it didn’t work. I tried just sitting there and not participating in the conversation, but someone apologized for “upsetting” me, which made me feel like I had to defend myself for not participating in their conversation. I could really use some advice on this one — how can I gracefully decline to discuss politics at work?

Not participating seems like your best bet. And if someone apologizes for “upsetting you,” even when you’re not participating, just say, “Oh, I’m not even paying attention. I try not to discuss politics at work.” Say it calmly and in a friendly tone, and repeat as needed.

You might not ever be able to change people’s minds about what your role should be in these conversations, but no one can force you to participate or be provoked by them; that part is all up to you.

6. How can I tell my coworker about the bad exit interviews she receives?

I was hired as an HR assistant for a contract to replace the HR assistant who was going for a maternity leave (in Quebec, so for more than a year, including training and follow-up after she came back). When my time was almost up, I started getting feedback from coworkers (peers, superiors, workers…) that they would love for me to stay (and from the plant workers that they don’t like that HR assistant because she treated them like **). My boss (the HR director) created a new position for me to stay at that company.

Shortly after the HR assistant left for maternity leave, I started conducting exit interviews. Most people are open with me as they trust me. Now that she’s back, a lot of the exit interviews include very good feedback for the HR team, except her; most people have something bad to say about her.

The thing is, she’s the one doing all the data entering in our HR system and I feel weird about writing a report saying “Marie is a 10 but Sarah is…” — well, let’s say I have to clean up the language a bit. How do I go about that ?

This is something you should discuss with your manager and find out how she wants it handled. Say something like, “I’d like your advice on something that feels awkward to me. In many of the exit interviews I’m conducting, people have great feedback for HR, except for Sarah, who they often have complaints about.” I have to give the data to Sarah to enter, and I feel awkward that she’s repeatedly seeing this. Is there a diplomatic way for me to handle this with her?” (This has the side benefit of alerting your manager to the situation, but you’d also be genuinely seeking her guidance on how to proceed.)

7. Can a criminal background check include broader checks?

If an employer specifies the type of background check they are performing (in this case a criminal background check), does that mean they can look into other aspects of a prospective hire in that check? I ask because I am past the reference checking stage but am still concerned that a “non-rehireable” status from a past employer may affect my prospective employment. The company’s offer stated they would be performing a criminal background check specifically, so should I be worried that the past employer can come back to bite me in the background check despite having no criminal history?

It’s possible, but if you’re sure that they’re passed the reference-checking and employment verification stage, it’s unlikely. If they told you that all they’re doing is a criminal background check (as opposed to using broader terminology, like “background check”), that’s probably all they’re doing.

{ 119 comments… read them below }

  1. Stephen*

    I recently interviewed with a company I have been wishing I could work for for some time, and recieved a basic one-line reply thanking me for my thank-you letter. I of course responded with a note thanking them for their gracious reply but it has been nearly a week, and they haven’t so much as acknowledged my last message. Would I be justified in hitting someone?

    1. Felicia*

      Haha for a second I thought that was real:)

      As to the original question, perhaps the OP hasn’t interviewed much lately? I’ve received a response to a thank you not maybe once out of 50 times. And for the jobs Ive actually gotten, I got no response to a thank you note;) But generally reading too much into stuff will do nothign but drive you crazy.

    2. Mike C.*

      I think you’re allowed to spit, but you only get one try. Otherwise, they’re allowed to punch you in the face. With managerial approval.

  2. jesicka309*

    Based on the last couple of interviews I’ve had, writing a thank you letter is the best way to remind the hiring manager to reject you*.

    *Yes, I know this is not the norm. But seriously. Three interviews, three thank you notes, three rejections within an hour of sending them. I’m starting to think they’re cursed.

    1. Audiophile*

      Ouch. That seems to be the case for me, as well.
      Twice in the last few months, I’ve sent thank you notes and received replies and then been rejected.

    2. Wilton Businessman*

      Maybe you’re not putting the right information in the thank you note?

      A thank you is a marketing tool. It lets you reiterate certain points and gives you the opportunity to re-address some of their concerns, or at least what you think their concerns were.

      A thank you should enhance your candidacy, not hurt it.

      1. jesicka309*

        I definitely try to put ‘something’ in the thank you note. Usually it’s a follow up question on a topic we discussed in the interview, to show my interest.
        I have a feeling that in at least one of the interviews, they’d made up their mind about who they wanted to hire before they saw me (I interviewed at 3.30 pm, sent a thank you at 9 am the next day, and phone call to reject an hour later, plus the vibe I got off them in the interview was unfriendly and adversorial), so no thank you letter could have improved my candidacy at that point. Admittedly, it wasn’t my best interview, but from what they told me, the winning candidate had come in with a fully researched report and blew them away. I couldn’t have predicted that for an entry level role.

        My thank you note really just reminded them to reject me sooner rather than later, I think.

    3. Rachel*

      Maybe y following up was the difference between receiving a rejection notification and never hearing anything.

      1. Liz in a library*

        I think this is right. I have applied (and interviewed) with a number of organizations that I never heard a word back from. I think what is likely here is that you were no longer under consideration and since you reached out with the thank you they were nudged to tell you that.

      2. jesicka309*

        Yep, I think you’re right. As I mentioned above, in at least one interview, they’d already all but decided on their candidate. I was their last interview for the day, and I would have had to really blow them away to change their minds. I didn’t, and my thank you email at 9 am the day after was followed by a rejection call an hour later. They could have easily left me hanging for a week after the interview before I got really antsy, but the thank you made them do it sooner.

  3. EngineerGirl*

    #3 and #4 – Neither of these warrant a reply. Sorry. You sent informational (not action) emails. A no-reply is not rude – especially from busy senior execs. Sure, it’s nice to get a reply, but taking offense or getting anxious over it isn’t worth the time and worry.

    I suspect that both of these letter writers are younger. The rules for business e-mails are different than social. The turn around time is different too. More senior people also tend to be less connected than junior people (in general).

    I know in the case of #3 I wouldn’t have responded. I would have thought “oh good, this won’t be an issue (I hope)”. I might then talk to the person in private later on if I had an opportunity. One-on-ones are really better for things like this.

    1. Anonymous*

      I was wondering about age too. The younger ones seem to take offense or be defensive more quickly (I’m 30 myself) and have learned that people don’t always react the way I would like them to. Use to drive me nuts but now I keep it moving.

  4. Michael*

    #2: Try reading Reality Based Leadership by Wakeman. It’s written by a former healthcare manager and spends a lot of time talking about how to handle folks who are negative for the sake of drama.

  5. Cat*

    I never reply to post-interview thank you notes (is this a faux pas? I could be persuaded; it has never occurred to me to do so). But if I did, it certainly wouldn’t only be to the top candidates. If it’s polite to do, it’s polite to do for everyone. If my motive was to signal to someone that they’re the top candidate – well, that would never be my motive; instead, they’re called in for another interview or given a job offer. And there’s no reason to telegraph either of those things before they’re actually decided, especially since they’re subjet to change.

    1. Jen*

      I have only received responses if I am offered and accepted the job. For example the job before this past one, I interviewed with 8 people and sent them all notes. The assistant who set up everything was the only initial response. I think she was happy to see that her work in arranging everything was appreciated. I was offered the job and accepted it. Once that happened and word got out, I received two responses to my thank you note. These notes were along the lines of “We heard you were accepted and are so happy that you will be starting soon.”

      But that means that 5 people never responded and I’m fine with that.

    2. AP*

      I don’t usually answer unless it’s a true follow-up, with something in there that I need to respond to – a work sample that I asked for, an article that was mentioned in the interview, a specific question, etc. And even then it might just be “Got it, thanks for sending!”

    3. Yup*

      The responses I’ve gotten to post-interview emails have typically been “Thanks, it was nice to meet you” type things. (And I’d imagine that they’re more to confirm receipt than anything else.)

      I have occasionally gotten more in-depth responses from the hiring manager, but they were instructions on next steps that we’d already discussed (send the writing sample to X, you’ll hear from us by Y) that would have been a standalone email otherwise anyway.

    4. Claire MKE*

      I sent a follow-up/thank you for my current position, and they responded with an “It was nice to meet you too, here is a reminder of our timeline” which was nice.

  6. Anonymous*

    For numbers 3 & 4, am I the only one that sees a sense of entitlement in these letters? Maybe that is the wrong word to use. I mean #3 even wants to leave the company (in this job market) b/c someone didn’t reply to a simple “Thank You.”

    #4, congrats on the interview but never assume you are “top pick,” unless they specifically tell you and that can change if a stronger candidate comes along.

    1. Judy*

      For #4, I’d say that the only thing getting that contact info means is that the interviewer hasn’t put you in the “that person is so creepy, I think they’d be a stalker” pile.

    2. Anonymous*

      I can see where #3 is coming from, I’ve been in a similar situation* and when managers ignore the fact that they didn’t give you a position it can become the elephant in the room. From my perspective not replying to the email is just fine if they have spoken to the OP about not getting the role otherwise it feels a bit like they are ignoring the fact OP applied for another role entirely.

      *my experience was tied to office politics but I always appreciated the (non-HR) interviewer who approached me in the hall within a week of the debacle and apologised for how the whole thing was handled.

    3. Anonymous*

      #3 OP here.

      Upon re-reading my question I do see how the tone gives off a sense of entitlement. I think I wrote it hastily and am also projecting a lot of other dissatisfaction with my work onto this particular situation.

      Am I going to leave a job because I didn’t get a reply to my thank you note? Nah, of course not. But in a small office where I work closely with people every day and after going through a month long interview process, I would have liked my email to be acknowledged. I think it simply makes sense as a manager to do the little things, like taking a little bit of time to write an email to make sure that your employee feels valued and appreciated. That’s what encourages people to do honest, good work. I observed the same thing as a high school student working at a small shop where the owner was cold and never gave anyone positive feedback. I saw coworkers constantly cut corners, take home more food than they should have, and treat the work without care. I’ve also worked at a small bakery where the owner wasn’t even that present, but would show his appreciation towards us through small, genuine acts. Everyone felt compelled to work hard and see the business succeed because we felt like the owner cared about us. Anyway, maybe this is all pretty obvious stuff. But that’s why, to me, it doesn’t make sense that a manager wouldn’t recognize that one of their employees may be in a little bit of an uncomfortable situation, and therefore take the 3 minutes to send an email. Not even in terms of acting courteously for the sake of being caring, but for the sake of maintaining loyal and efficient workers. Or at least to for the sake of appeasing awkwardness (as opposed to diverting eye contact and pretending the interview never happened). Again, not talking about a big company, but a 15 person office where there is constant face-to-face contact.

      In any case, I appreciate these responses because I think it’s helping me see that perhaps, yes, I am a bit naïve and overly sensitive. Gotta toughen up! Also, this is helping me realize that more than anything else, I’m frustrated with other aspects of how the process was handled, and the lack of an email response was just one manifestation of these frustrations and an easy thing for me to rant about.

      1. Anonymous*

        I completely understand, I was looking for another word other than entitlement. It really is hard to give opinions when we don’t have all of the facts surrounding your thoughts. In that aspect, I don’t want to sound judgmental.

        It would be nice if people would be more considerate but that’s not the world we live in. Shrug this off as a lesson learned and don’t dwell on it (I’m sure they have moved on in regards to this position). Learn everything you can while there, beef up that resume/cover letter and keep reading AAM. One day, you’ll be the one getting the offer letter as oppose to someone else :-)

      2. Anonymous*

        It’s me again…………I can give an example of me not thinking clearly and acting on resentment about a position I wanted at work. Just don’t do it, at best it just looks unprofessional. Sure, I didn’t get that job but I landed a better internal promotion so it all worked out. What’s for you…is for you, be ready when it comes along!

      3. fposte*

        Yeah, I think you’re struggling a little with the difference between “It would have meant a lot to me to get a response” and “They performed poorly by not sending me a response.” I don’t think they dealt with this well, but not because you didn’t get a response to your thank you note–that’s one thing they did fine.

      4. Not So NewReader*

        One thing I have found helpful is realizing that there is a difference between what people should do and what the norms are now.

        Maybe it will make it a tad easier if you tell yourself, “It’s normal for people not to reply to this type of email.”

        I worked one place where it was normal for people to leave without saying good-bye. The catch here is that there would only be 2-3 people working on a shift. So you’d look up and find out you were down a person. Totally normal.

        Do I understand this? No. But at least I knew what to expect.

  7. AdAgencyChick*

    #1: In any case, especially at large companies, if you actually get an answer, it might not be that useful — different hiring managers have different hiring standards, so one manager might stress technical skills while another cares more about personality and fit with team members.

    But I don’t think you’re likely to get a lot of results out of simply asking “what can I do to get a job here?” Lots of people are overworked, or think they are, just with the tasks that they have to do for their job — as this blog has demonstrated over and over, it’s hard enough to get companies to keep in touch with you when they’re actively recruiting you, let alone when you make an unsolicited request for information. I think you’ll have better luck doing regular networking — try to find someone who will have a reason to want to talk to you (you went to the same school, you’re members of the same club, etc.) and approach that person politely, and you’re more likely to get good advice (or any advice at all, really).

    1. Anonymous*

      +1 on networking. People ask me all the time about how to get on where I work. I am not a hiring manger and have no direct reports BUT I can give my perspective as an insider. If approached outside of work, I have a little more time to answer questions.

      I do not answer questions from randoms on LinkedIn or if it seems as though someone just wants me to pass their resume along (we are a huge company with thousands of hiring managers, so it doesn’t work like that).

  8. Anonymous*

    OP #6 – definitely approach your manager for all the reason AAM mentioned, but especially because it will alert your manager. It is very possible that your colleague is not entering the poor comments about herself and the manager is not aware of these issues.

    Of course, you could also wait a few months, claim you saw her wearing a large crucifix or Star of David and let Quebec’s new charter deal with instead ;) (That is a joke – you probably don’t work for the gov’t and using a horrible law to deal with a horrible colleague just creates bad karma).

    1. Chinook*

      Oops…that was me (among other things, a former Quebecker). I just installed a new OS and it wiped my info.

      1. OP #6*

        It never crossed my mind that she would not enter the bad reviews…

        I guess I knew I needed to talk to my boss but was trying to find another solution.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Keep in mind that talking to your boss isn’t an option you should avoid unless you have no choice. This falls squarely in the category of things she’d want you to talk to her about.

  9. Lisa*

    #2 – Why not ask each employee how they would like the situation handled? Let’s assume the workers are complaining about the same thing. Ask each of them to give their input on how to make it better, change it, etc. Then take that info and decide what is best to get the source of their complaining to go away. If they are frustrated that department X ignores them and they need something from dept X to do their job, find a solution to getting dept X to step up and work with your dept. However, if the complaints are about Tom never putting on a new coffee pot, then you are out of luck.

  10. Barbara in Swampeast*

    #2 – What you have done is normal to new managers. What you need to understand is that those two people are whiners and will whine about everything, including how they went to you and you did nothing! There is no pleasing these people and you do need to shut them down as AAM said. There was a suggestion above about a book written by a healthcare pro that sounds good.

    When they come to you with complaints about fellow workers, please, please tell them that coming to you because Amy didn’t smile at them in the hallway (or similar stuff) is totally unacceptable. And DO NOT go to Amy. There is nothing she can do about it because the whiners will NEVER be happy and will always find something to whine about now they feel you will listen to them.

    1. fposte*

      Yes. Unfortunately, the problem wasn’t what they said it was, and the action taken to fix the claimed problem made the real problem worse and institutionalized this culture of complaint. You need to change it to a culture of resolution.

    2. Kaz*

      This sounds like a great time to apply the principle of faking cheerfulness even when you don’t feel it. It is part of their job to be pleasant to one another and to patients even if they aren’t feeling particularly pleasant that day. So as their manager it is perfectly within your bounds to tell them that they need to be at least neutral towards one another and towards their patients. Deciding they’re not going to bother being nice people is no more acceptable than deciding they’re not going to do some other crucial part of their job.

    3. New(ish) Manager*

      From #2 Thanks very much to AAM and all who have given me advice – I think you are quite right, I thought that I could improve the situation by pumping in extra support, and in fact there really is no pleasing these two members of staff. It’s been part of my learning curve as a new manager and I will handle things differently in future – fair but a good deal firmer!

      1. Kou*

        I’m wondering if, since you mentioned they’re usually talking about patients, they’re actually trying to work things out and this is just how they do that. Some people are talk-through-ers when making decisions or coping with difficult issues, and since these are patients we’re talking about, your staff can’t exactly just call up whatever friend and tell them what’s going on. There’s a good chance that don’t expect you to *do* anything, they’re just talking about their day, and in healthcare a lot of your day is stressful.

        I also wonder if they’re going to you with things they could have handled themselves because you’ve newly taken over and they want to make sure that’s really how things run. I always want to go to new managers (when either I’ve just arrived or they have) with problems I’d normally handle just to make sure the way I’m doing it is the way they’d want me to. “X happened and I’m thinking to do Y, does that sound right?” Then I’m afraid they’ll think “she didn’t need to talk to me about that” and think I’m being a big whiner.

        Now they *do* sound extra loud and I wouldn’t like to have to listen to that all the time. But perhaps you should think of it as background noise rather than requests for your action.

  11. Tiff*

    #3 – You mentioned that they were awkward people. Well, that’s what awkward people do. Six years at the current gig has taught me to embrace them, and understand my own socially awkward moments better.

    1. fposte*

      But this isn’t even awkward. There’s no convention of responding to thank-you notes; they’re a period, not a semi-colon. Maybe there are other unstated reasons the OP feels the process wasn’t handled well, but this part was handled fine. She even got a bonus answer to one!

      1. FiveNine*

        It also occurred to me that the OP copied all five of the interviewers on the thank-you email — OP didn’t specify this. But if that’s the case, the other four might have thought the one response was more than enough (I know I often do if someone copies several of us at once with a question, for example, and one person replies with the answer).

      2. Pussyfooter*

        In her comment upthread, she mentions that someone has been “diverting eye contact,” as well as her comments about people pretending the month long interview process never happened, and in-person “awkward” behavior on a regular basis.
        It sounds to me like the OP’s coworkers are acting guilty for not hiring her and subsequently creating social tension themselves.

        OP, if your coworkers thought enough of you to consider you for the job, and now feel bad for you, maybe you can take that as a sort of compliment? They don’t know how to act about it, but you can re-frame the situation for them by ignoring their fear of hostility and just being clearly friendly.

  12. Mena*

    3 and 4: etiquette says isn’t necessary for the recipient of a ‘thank you’ to then thank you in return.

    1. Kelly L.*

      I get no response to my thank-you emails so universally that I almost think it might be a policy of many employers. As in, they don’t want to reply in case they accidentally say something that makes me assume I have the job, when in actuality they’re nowhere near a decision yet. It’s a CYA, maybe.

      (And I know it’s not required by etiquette either, but I kind of think at least one person might have been quirky enough to reply if there were no company rule against it.)

  13. Expat*

    #1 Strikes a chord with me. I have been pondering requesting an informational interview with the head of an organisation at which I volunteer. As background, I have pursued to the letter the experience and credentials ideal for my career path in the USA – including a PhD in the relevant subject matter. Unfortunately, events have seen me relocate to the UK, where the anticipated career trajectory is different. As the UK academic path for my industry usually ends with a BA or Master’s, I have been told that my CV looks like that of an “academic” rather than a “professional.” The informational interview would, hopefully, focus on how to overcome any obstacles thrown up by the PhD, and make my CV more “professional.”
    I have, however, hesitated about request this interview. Since my field is pretty small, I have been worried that the implied subtext of such a request would be: “What can I do to make YOU hire ME?”
    Am I being hypersensitive/ridiculous?

    1. Chinook*

      Expat, part of the rason you may be feeling hypersensitive/ridiculous is probably because you are hyper aware of not wanting to come off as a stereotypical “pushy American.” Having worked with Yanks abroad, most of them them knew the stereotype existed and tried very hard to counter it but were uncertain where the line was between being pushy and being wimpy. This is good because you are acclimatizing to the culture and working to fit in.

      I know that wasn’t helpful, but this might be. Do you know anyone in the UK who is British who can answer that question for you (hopefully those on the board from there can help)? My guess is that asking for an infotmational interview to figure out how to fit into the profession after training abroad and moving there unexpectedly makes logical sense and wouldn’t be pushy if you explained it jsut how you did. To me, it looks like you are looking for a local mentor and, if they can point you towards job opportunities, that would be a bonus.

    2. Inksmith*

      Could you talk to whoever coordinates the volunteers first, maybe? When I used to coordinate volunteers (in the UK, I’m British), a lot of my volunteers would talk about how I got into the work, how they could, jobs in the org etc. He/she might also be able to give you a sense of whether the head of the org would be okay with you reaching out to them. Plus, as a volunteer, I think it’s pretty normal to be volunteering as a way into that field, so the underlying, “I want to work for you, specifically,” probably won’t seem all that weird if it does come across.

  14. OliviaNOPE*

    I once applied for a job at a large healthcare company. I didn’t get it and a few months later, a very similar position opened up. I received an email from their HR director encouraging me to apply, or passing the notice on to anyone else in the field who might be interested if I was no longer looking for work. I thought that was a positive sign and went ahead and applied. Again, I was notified that I didn’t get the position (I never even got an interview for either position). I then decided to email the HR person again asking if she had any tips for me, as I was very much interested in this type of work and would like to work for the company. She never responded. I found the whole thing to be totally bizarre.

    1. Pussyfooter*

      Sounds like they just emailed everyone whose contact info they had in a blanket attempt to generate more candidates.

      1. OliviaNOPE*

        Probably so. I definitely got my hopes up and probably not only wasted my time but made myself look bad in the process. Sigh.

  15. LizNYC*

    Am I the only person who’s disturbed that these workers are complaining that patients are “speaking out of turn” while receiving treatment? Wow. I’m not sure what kind of healthcare you’re providing, but clearly, your workers may need to remember what it would be like to be in your patients’ shoes, if they are getting disturbing news that’s become run of the mill to you. If I was your patient and I had a choice, I wouldn’t return to your office.

    1. Anonymous*

      This. I’ve been a patient myself a lot lately and that was the first thing that came to mind for me. If there are employees this annoyed by patients undergoing stressful medical treatments…let’s just say I’m glad the people caring for me aren’t like that.

    2. themmases*

      I agree. I also work in healthcare, and unless they were truly rude or abusive I don’t consider it acceptable to complain about patients. I wouldn’t want to work around someone who consistently talked about patients in this way, and the OP’s other employees probably don’t want to either. And I’m sure patients don’t want to be around these employees, no matter how well they may think they are hiding their bad attitude.

      A lot of the things that are most stressful about talking to patients are actually ours to solve. Patients may have many different appointments for tests and procedures they may or may not fully understand, no one person can answer all their questions (assuming everyone along the chain of communication did their due diligence in explaining, which may not be the case– they probably encountered at least a few people like the OP’s employees), and as outsiders they probably don’t understand how the tech is related to their doctor or the scheduler or the outpatient center or whatever. And they’re doing all this during a stressful, expensive time for them, probably armed only with a layperson’s knowledge. Under the circumstances, I think most patients are actually amazingly nice.

      IMO, there are two kinds of people who deal with patients: those who can explain the entire visit and some basic information on what to do next, and who offer it based on the assumption that patients might not even know what they don’t know yet; and those who just shouldn’t be around patients. The OP’s employees sound like they’re in the latter group to me.

    3. Chinook*

      It doesn’t surprise me that there are healthcare workers complainign about their patients because I worked with these type of professionals (and my SIL is the worst for this). Some of them truly think that patients get in the way of doing their jobs and should be grateful for their presence. Sometimes it is because the employee is overworked and doesn’t have the resources to do their job properly which leads to stress, but, mos often, these people would be like this regardless of the workload or their profession. There is nothing wrong with them venting, in private over coffee with friends, but doing this to their boss or, even worse, to the patients, is as unprofessional as it comes (IMHO) and should be shut down just like AAM says. I believe this may even affect the quuality of their work as they obviously are not interacting with their patients but just looking at them as widgets in a factory.

      If necessary, make it a formal part of the job to remain neutral or positive when on the job (instead of just implied as it is now) and then you can write them up a PIP when they start bitching.

      1. Pussyfooter*

        The heading to the OP’s question gave the impression of a negative workplace attitude. But way into the post, OP says it’s basically three people! When I read that, I thought, “well maybe these employees s*** and OP should just fire them!”

        I’d certainly work with them first, and see which improve, but I wouldn’t ignore the possibility that maybe some of these three are just lousy employees for this job. They probably do see patients as widgets right now.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          She also said that the other workers have come to her with concerns about the Three Negateers. So it’s a problem for everyone. I totally agree with you–she needs to lay down the law to these three and if they don’t improve, can their bitchy butts.

          1. Anonymous*

            I agree, especially because I get nervous when I have to go to a doctor’s office (don’t ask me why because I have no idea). If the receptionists are pleasant, that makes it so much better, but if they’re crabby, I just get more nervous and self-protective, which isn’t the best mindset for an office visit. I’ve been telling myself for years that it’s not personal, so when I do encounter the one receptionist at my doctor’s office who’s always crabby, I know it’s not about me, and I don’t feel bad for more than a second. But if it’s a new (to me) office, or if it seems like the whole staff is unfriendly, that really puts me off. I once had a gynecologist who I really liked, but I just couldn’t go there any more because her staff was so nasty and unhelpful. Twice when I went there, they reduced me to tears! Not cool.

            1. Jamie*

              There is no excuse for nasty people at a gyn office and they need to be fired immediately.

              But on the flip side of that lately I’ve seen some of the most spectacular professionalism I’ve ever seen in the chemo facility where I’ve been getting (non-chemo) treatments. I’ve been witness to nurses dispensing critical information with compassion and I’ve seen people in very bad spots dealing with new diagnosis hold onto their emotions a little better. Nurses who treat everyone as people who have a disease, not as diseases in which the people carrying them are the annoying collateral with which they have to deal.

              If, God forbid, I am ever diagnosed with cancer I know where I’m going and who I want guiding me into the unknown.

              It doesn’t even have to be something as serious as cancer, for a lot of people anything wonky with our health and dealing with doctors and stuff is scary on it’s own. I’ve been sick for a while and just found out I need major surgery, and I don’t care how many women go through this everyday or how “routine” it is …it’s a BFD deal to me. And I’m terrified of how the time off will affect my career, I’m nervous about how my family will deal with this, I’m really apprehensive about one of the fur babies jumping on me when I get home, and I’m scared absolutely sh*tless about how much it’s going to hurt.

              Believe me when I tell you that I wouldn’t need lousy medical staff bitching about me within earshot…I’d be able to smell it on them and I’d demand to be treated by someone not missing the sensitivity chip (tm Jennifer Aniston).

              And it’s really a shame too…because if you do that job well you make a difference like few other professions. I am good at my job, well…I used to be prior to the last couple of months…and hope to be again…but I’ll never impact someone’s life as profoundly as someone who is able to help someone sick and scared get better and be less afraid. Nothing can touch that.

              My mom was a geriatric nurse and when she died tons of her patients showed up at the service just weeping that they lost her…and how special she was. I knew we thought so, she was mom, but I didn’t get it. I was too young and didn’t understand what it was like to be sick and scared and need someone like my mom to make it okay.

              I think I’m a lovely person…but my funeral wouldn’t be crowded with people who were genuinely helped by me in any real way. Maybe 5 people standing around wondering who will make snarky quips now that I’m gone…but nothing real. And I’m okay with that, because I don’t have that thing you need to be in the healing profession. I don’t have that otherworldly compassion and kindness – and I can’t stand to see anything sticky and I really prefer the vast majority of people I come in contact with to wear clothing …and not those open in the back gowns, either.

              But it’s a shame that people in that profession would choose to bitch about patients rather than give back. Karma’s a bitch and I hope they get better care than they are giving if and when they ever get sick.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                For OP #2:
                1) Fix what is fixable. Some things may have no immediate solutions. Let those things go and fix where you can.

                2) Draw your lines. Set limits. Dealing with upset patients is part of the job. If they cannot do that, then perhaps they are not suited for this work. What would you do with a couple swimming instructors that complained about getting wet? The job involves getting wet…..

                3) Insist that they come up with new ideas to deal with recurring problems. Perhaps they have no ideas. Remind them that everyone who works there is going through the same challenges. This is a good way to redirect whining.

                4) Keep an eye out for confusion – they may be operating under the old manager’s instructions and you would prefer that they have a little more autonomy. Point blank say to them- it is okay for you to decide between A and B, I have no preference which way you do it.”
                Understand, too, that if you answer their questions with consistency, in a short while the basic questions will stop. For example if they ask you repeatedly “should we do x or y?” and you always answer “y”, they will stop asking in a bit.
                Some of the questions might just be an excuse to strike up a conversation with the new boss. They might know the answer and just want a reason to chat with you for a minute.

                5) You can remind them as group that a huge component of the job is their willingness to work together and their willingness to get along with the patients. This sets the foundation for dismissing those who just plain are unwilling to get along. Remember when ever there is a change of boss, it’s normal to lose a person or more. Some people will not like the new boss or whine about a job no matter what the new boss does.

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  Was not trying to reply to Jamie with this long post. I have no idea why it landed here. I have been have trouble with the pages on this site loading. It seems like the page loads three times before it finally lands on my screen. Am thinking it’s something with my computer.

              2. Ruffingit*

                Amen. When those negateers (tm elizabeth west) are on the other side of the equation, when they are scared and lonely on the exam table, I wish them medical personnel who are more compassionate and caring than they themselves have been.

              3. fposte*

                Wow, Jamie, I hope that this will be the last exciting health obstacle for a while for you. Best wishes for smooth sailing and a speedy recovery!

              4. Elizabeth West*

                Jamie, you are in my prayers and I hope all goes well and you feel better very soon. You are NOT ALLOWED a funeral at this early juncture–I HAVE SPOKEN.

                You are absolutely right–when a person isn’t well, or is nervous or frightened before surgery (or any procedure; getting their ears cleaned freaks some people out), the last thing they need is somebody whose panties are in a twist. I remember how nice the nurses were before my gallbladder removal. And they sent me a get well card afterward too. I realize I should have called and told someone how great they were–and I didn’t.

                I wonder if it is too late….that was in November 2009….

            2. Elizabeth West*

              I had a doctor once whom I loved, but he had the nastiest nurse in the world. I was joking with the doctor once during an (embarrassing) exam and she got snarky with me. I told the front desk I did not want that nurse to attend to me any more, and if she was the only one available, I would come back. Next time I went in, I had a much nicer nurse and I never had to deal with her again. :)

  16. LCL*

    #5 Since your workgroup knows you are an American, tell them most American workplaces strongly discourage talking politics at work, and you just can’t get over that conditioning. I know many American workplaces are full of political discussion, but this argument should work.

    1. MousyNon*

      Yeah, I don’t know about this one, personally..but I admit I find the American ‘taboo’ of no-political-discussion to be aggravating generally, so I’d rather it not be perpetuated.

        1. Calla*

          I agree! I don’t mind talking politics at work (at least, not gonna lie, when they agree with me for the most part) but I’d pay money to have my family be barred from ever forcing me to listen to their political opinions again.

            1. Ruffingit*

              +1 million and one. Totally agree especially since my family member (who is particularly bad with this) doesn’t really “talk” politics. He rants and raves with half-truths and totally misinformed thoughts, talks over and interrupts others, makes unfounded assumptions about their beliefs and when he’s finally told to stop, he says we’re apathetic because we don’t care about politics. He misses the fact that we care about politics (which he would know if he stopped to actually ask us our thoughts), we just don’t care about HIS politics because we’re tired of being verbally assaulted.

              1. Calla*

                My parents are birthers (for anyone unfamiliar with the term it’s people who believe Barack Obama wasn’t born in the U.S. and, usually, is a secret Muslim sleeper terrorist) and like to bring up related conspiracy theories out of the blue, and there’s really no effective way to deal with that. “There is no evidence for that. … Can we talk about something else instead. … How about that weather. … Okay, I’m hanging up now.”

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  I had to ask my family member to stop sending me anti-Bush / pro-Kerry emails during that election (I don’t care about/discuss politics). I just very nicely emailed her back and said, “Hey, I don’t really read these; could you stop sending them please? I’m trying to clear my inbox. Thanks.”

                  She did basically the same freakout thing as Ruffingit’s family member above, and still tried to bring it up in conversation like yours. She actually stopped talking to my brother because he was pro-Bush! And then she had the nerve to ask me who I voted for!! I told her my vote was private and I did not have to tell her and I did not!

  17. MR*

    Re: #5 – There are three things I never discuss at work: politics, religion and other guy’s women.

    Whenever I find myself in one of those situations where that topic comes up, I just flat out make that statement. It usually generates a laugh but it also delivers the point and I’m never bothered again about those topics.

    I find the drama at work drops significantly when those three topics aren’t talked about.

    1. MousyNon*

      Exactly–and as somebody who enjoys amicable political conversations with colleagues, I’m certainly never offended by “I don’t discuss XX” responses. Of course, that doesn’t mean the conversation stops, just that the person isn’t expected to respond (or even remain in the discussion, if they’d prefer to leave). And anybody who pokes and prods somebody who has clearly indicated they don’t wish to respond to something is a jackass.

      1. Natalie*

        This can be extended to anyone, IMO. You don’t need a blanket rule or cultural out to politely refuse to discuss a particular topic.

        I LOVE talking about politics and social issues, but I have a few casual friends for whom this is no longer a productive area of discussion. We just end up arguing (not in a good way) and it has really ruined what had been pretty entertaining evenings. So I don’t do it anymore – if I can’t get a topic change to stick, I just absent myself from the conversation. (These are usually small groups so it’s not my place to dictate what other people will talk about, but I don’t need to be there.)

        1. MousyNon*

          Exactly! The easiest thing in the world is saying “Thanks, but I’d rather not talk about that” and, if really, really bothers you that much, exit the room.

          My problem comes with what I like to call the ‘polite police,’ those people that insist on shutting down entire conversations because they themselves find the topic uncomfortable, but of course they don’t want to leave (don’t want to miss a networking opportunity!). It makes me crazy, and I’m constantly fighting it with people in the US (and have never had to do the same in the places I’ve visited overseas, making me think the taboo is a pretty uniquely American problem, though that’s anecdotal).

          No, you don’t get to tell the entire group what they get to talk about, thanks so much.

          1. LCL*

            Well, yeah, sometimes you do have to tell the entire group what they can’t talk about. When they start the kind of conversations that lead to anonymous calls to HR. Conversations that can be PERCEIVED as being very negative about gender role/ethnic background/etc. One of the first questions HR will ask you, after if you heard the remarks, is why didn’t you stop or redirect the conversation.

            1. MousyNon*

              I should have clarified that I’m talking about political conversations that are constantly getting shut down by people who believe ‘talking about politics is impolite.’

              Sorry, I assumed it was implied that the conversations I was talking are not the type that are offensive to protected classes–since as a brown queer woman, that kind of conversation would offend the hell out of me.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                I wonder, though, if those people do that because they have had very bad experiences with those types of conversations. It’s really really easy for it to get out of control and turn into a screaming argument.

                I agree, however; if they are uncomfortable, they should simply excuse themselves.

    2. Bwmn*

      I think an important thing to keep in mind is that while that perspective works in an American work context – other cultures may not relate to it that well.

      If the OP works for an American company (or in the US), and is just part of a team/division where everyone else is international then it’d probably work out well. However, if it’s a non-American company in a non-American context, then there may be greater cultural adaptations that the OP needs to make. Not to say that the OP needs to bend over completely, but there may need to be a middle ground to find or accept that people will treat you as a bit more “precious” around those issues.

      I was the only American in a non-American environment, and after a while I just embraced that there were certain “Americanisms” about me that were going to be treated differently and rolled with that. But there may be no truly easy way to avoid politics if the organization and staff environment is to talk about it.

      1. MousyNon*

        I totally agree with you, and I firmly believe that people who insist on opting out of political conversations in the work place for whatever reason will probably miss out on networking and team-building opportunities (just like people who hate golf, or workplace happy hours, etc). Still, if those conversations really bother them that’s just the price they have realize they’ll probably pay.

        1. Bwmn*

          Completely agree. My boss (not American) used to insist on me that in the country we were in, that screaming and shouting at one another. I decided that whether or not I was being culturally off (or just off of that office culture), I would never become a shouter at work and if it made me appear soft or overly sensitive, so be it. At first my boss got even angrier at me, but eventually she just wrote it off as me being “very American”.

          I think another important thing for Americans to keep in mind when working in non-American contexts is that a high percentage of professional people abroad are pretty familiar with American politics. And are likely to be interested in American politics. How it’s dealt with will clearly vary from country to country and probably office to office – but it’s probably hard to avoid.

          During the last election I brought my absentee ballot into the office for what I thought would be a quick/fun case of “show and tell” to the coworker who sat next to me. Turned out to be a huge point of interest with many of my coworkers looking up all sorts of things about the ballot. The OP doesn’t have to engage, but avoiding it entirely isn’t a likely option.

  18. HR Manager*

    For #3 – it’s a little ironic you sent a email assuring everyone you are the very embodiment of graciousness and that your cool with the situation then go into a strop when only one person replies. You just told them everything Ok, meaning they’ve taken you at your word, and don’t think you need any extra attention right now.

    1. some1*

      Ditto. It’s sort of like assuring your significant other it’s fine that they want to spend the evening with friends instead of you, and then getting mad when s/he does just that.

    2. Anonymous*

      Hi, #3 OP again. Yup, I agree, I was being overly sensitive (I responded earlier in detail about my reflections to a similar comment above). Thanks for the feedback.

      When I reflect upon it more, the email I sent them was a means for protecting myself and my pride. In a vulnerable state, I wanted to show them that I wasn’t hurt by the decision and was seeking affirmation from them. I didn’t get any. And being a sensitive person (my best and worst quality), I overreacted, as so obviously apparent in the tone of the question that I submitted here.

      Also, despite the very positive outlook expressed the email I sent them, the truth of the matter is that I am dealing with disappointment and frustration about how the whole process was handled and the office environment in general (which is a different story in itself), and my overreaction to not receiving any responses with feedback or acknowledgement was a way for me to channel those frustrations.

      With all of this said, I do still think a response from the interviewers/my supervisors would have been courteous and considerate. But I’m learning that not everyone is not courteous and considerate.

      Again, thanks for feedback. I feel like I have a lot more clarity about the situation in terms of why I reacted the way I did to not receiving responses to my email. And I’m learning more about the kind of manager that I’d like to be and the kind of office environment I’d like to cultivate as a manager in the future.

      1. HR Manager*

        Dear Op – Kudos for you on reflecting on this, and gaining some clarity on why you reacted the way you did. However, when you say ” But I’m learning that not everyone is not courteous and considerate.” you sound like you think what qualifies as courteous behaviour is some kind of objective and universal standard when really what you referring to is your standard for courteous behaviour. There is no universal standard for courteous behaviour, since it a very personal and cultural issue.

  19. some1*

    “After learning of the news from my supervisor, I immediately emailed all of the interviewers to tell them thank you and to assure them that I understand their decision and would join them in warmly welcoming the new person.”

    I’m not a manager, but I would not know how to respond to this, to be frank. I agree with the others that it sounds naive because, while I am sure that management understands that employees who get passed over for promotions may leave for that reason, they aren’t looking for “understanding” when they make hiring decisions. And it’s kind of a given that you should “warmly welcome” any new co-worker, whether you wanted their position or not. Or at least behave courteously, respectfully, and help the new person with anything they might need from you.

    Your email has a tone of wanting credit or recognition for accepting their decision, when the decision was never up for your consideration.

    1. Anonymous*

      Hm, I never considered that it may have been not very appropriate or professional to send the email. A couple of extra details: when my supervisor told me that I didn’t receive the position, she awkwardly said “Don’t hate us” (hm, all right?), and told me that she understands if I would want to look elsewhere for a job if I felt too uncomfortable being around the new person who received the job that I didn’t (okay, would never have thought of things that way, but now that you mention it…). I thought that by sending out this email, I was also doing everyone else a favor by ensuring them that they didn’t have to feel awkward or badly about the decision, which I sensed that at least one of the interviewers did.

      But you’re right, in sending the email, a part of me was seeking validation and recognition and didn’t get it and felt upset.

      Should also mention that the one email response I did get was very positive. She said she appreciated my note and wants to provide help and advice if I need any. Short and sweet and very much appreciated.

  20. thatgirl*

    #4 – Congratulations on your job offer! I interviewed with a major entertainment company a month ago. It went really well and was told they would be doing a couple of rounds of interviews before making a final decision. I sent thank you notes to both the interviewer and HR but never received a response. I followed up via email a couple of weeks later just to see where they were in the interview process and if I was still a candidate. No response from either party. Waited another two weeks and followed up again, re-iterating my interest in the position and to see if I was still under consideration for the position. Again, no response. I was recommended for the position by a couple of former colleagues who have close relationships (personal and professional) with the supervisor who is hiring. I was hoping that communication would be better because of that connection. Even if I was no longer in the running, I thought I would have heard something.

    I’m surprised that for a major, well-known company that no one will respond to any e-mail. Even HR has been unresponsive. I understand at this point, that the position has probably been filled or I am no longer a candidate but I would have liked to received some sort of response. I think it’s rude and quite unprofessional for companies to not communicate with candidates, especially when asked directly for a status update from the interviewee. I’ve never had a company not respond to a follow up (even if it was a no).

    Any suggestions on how to handle follow-ups for future reference? I thought I handled it well but maybe there’s something I’m missing in my foll0w-ups.

  21. Foreign Traveler*

    As to Question #5, I fully understand the awkwardness of the OP’s position. I did an M.A. in Ireland and was the only American in a program that had nothing to do with politics, but the subject seemed to come up all the time even though I did my best not to participate. In Ireland, there is a curious dynamic where they seem to hate America but love Americans and they start with the “friendly” assumption that American college students automatically agree with this perspective.
    They are not shy about starting a conversation like “Well, you of course understand that the concepts underlying American government are fundamentally unjust,” without meaning to be offensive or provoke a negative reaction, but at the same time I found it really challenging to maintain a friendly demeanor in such situations. I just had to keep reminding myself that I was a guest in their country and their intentions were pure, but even so, I couldn’t keep that up 100% of the time. I suppose in a professional setting you have to, but it’s understandable if you can’t.

  22. Ruffingit*

    Answering a thank you email makes no sense at all. I barely have time to answer the emails that require a response, I’m definitely shoving off the ones that don’t. I’ve got enough to do and I’d venture to guess that busy executives are the same.

  23. Anonymous*

    There are some online forums that have default answers. On Metafilter, the standard answer to “should I dump my boyfriend” is almost always “yes, DTMFA,” and the standard answer to “why is my cat acting like this” is “cats are weird.” The default answer to so many AAMs is “yes you’re reading too much into your interview!” That said, I completely understand how when you’re unemployed you will take anything as a sign!

    1. Ruffingit*

      Agreed about the sign taking when unemployed, we’ve all been there. Still though, one of the best things I’ve gotten from AAM is the concept of moving on mentally. That has helped so much. Apply, hopefully get an interview, do your best in interview, send thank you note, and then move on! So much easier when you take that path as opposed to becoming obsessed over any and all e-mails, non-responses, etc. Not easy to do though, so I do have sympathy for tea leaf readers :)

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